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Tyralak

Galaxy of War (Chapters 1-16)

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(Note: Replaced with Michael January's Master Copy 9/2/2000 – RPD)

 

 

 

Blah blah blah about using the creations of Paramount and Lucasarts for purposes

 

of entertainment. No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit is

 

sought from this work, unless it be in the form an Executor-class Command Ship

 

of my own. Well I can dream, can't I.

 

 

 

 

 

JEDI LUKE SKYWALKER: Vader is on that ship.

 

 

 

GENERAL HAN SOLO: Now don't get Jittery on me Luke, there are lots of Command

 

ships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The freighter captain couldn't help feel a small twinge of almost guilt when he

 

recognised the new arrival from hyperspace, an Imperator-class Star Destroyer.

 

He glanced nervously over his manifest to make sure that nothing in his cargo

 

was illegal. Somewhat assured, he continued about his affairs.

 

"Boys, hurry up with that cargo back there." He called. It wouldn't hurt

 

to get out of here sooner rather than later anyway.

 

He didn't mind dealing with the local security forces. Like most planetary

 

nations, this one maintained a small fleet of ships for it's own defense,

 

including several euphemistically labelled cruisers and battle-cruisers

 

purchased from Sienar and Loronar. The local military was friendly enough, and

 

didn't turn up their noses at the odd bit of Imperial credit included with

 

shipment crates from questionable destinations, but Imperial forces were another

 

story.

 

The local military however, didn't dare stand up to the Kuat drive yards

 

Destroyer, which easily outgunned them, despite their euphemistic labelling. He

 

smirked at the thought, the local military would probable pee their pants if

 

they saw a real cruiser. The freighter captain almost choked when his thought

 

materialised into a real Imperial cruiser, flickering in from hyperspace. It was

 

an Allegiance-class, at least fifty percent larger than the Imperator-class at

 

2.2 kilometers. The larger ship had the distinctive dagger shape of a Kuat Drive

 

Yards product, but there the resemblance ended. With only a small combination

 

docking and launch bay placed far forward on the ventral surface, it's reactor

 

bulge was shifted much further forward, and the engines were significantly

 

larger than an Imperator's. The larger ship was also riddled with twenty and ten

 

meter turbolaser turrets, and several dozen 1 meter and half meter turbolaser

 

turrets.

 

The Allegiance's official classification was ambiguous. Some called it a

 

heavy destroyer, others a light-cruiser. In the navy it was more realistically

 

called a Destroyer-killer, and probably played that role in the fleet

 

engagements for which it was designed. It carried only one squadron of TIE's,

 

but nearly three times the firepower of the multi-role Imperator.

 

"Boys! Damnit! I said hurry up. There's something going down in this

 

system, and it definitely aint pretty."

 

One of the crew-men wondered forward to see what the fuss was about. He

 

was about to open his mouth to tell the captain to shove his commission when he

 

caught sight of the viewscreen.

 

"Holy shit." He said, and disappeared into the back of the ship again.

 

There was several minutes of shouting, and frantic movement, as the

 

crewman egged on his companions. It was rare indeed for a Star Destroyer to

 

bother to visit such a backwards world as this. For it to be accompanied by an

 

Allegiance-class could only mean trouble.

 

By the time the cargo was stowed, the Captain was frantic. The Imperial

 

presence had grown by four more Imperators, and five Victories. There had been

 

several frantic communications from the local planetary governor to the Imperial

 

fleet, but they had just told him to get stuffed. Apparently relieved that the

 

Imperials were not interested in his planet, the governor had withdrawn his

 

cheap navy to the far side of the planet, probably to prevent any

 

misunderstandings which might result in the 'accidental' destruction of one of

 

his precious miniature cruisers. Something big was going down.

 

The instant everyone was strapped in, the freighter launched itself into

 

the relative safety of hyperspace. Meanwhile more ships were still flashing into

 

the system from various directions. This was obviously a rendesvous point for

 

whatever the Imperials were up to.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Leahcim Xris burned with impatience. He paced over to one of the

 

transparisteel windows, battling to project an air of calm indifference. In the

 

distance he could see the other ships of the fleet. He wondered if any of the

 

other captains knew what was going on. He doubted it. That was not the way the

 

military worked. By now, the fleet had grown to eleven Victories, six Imperators

 

and another Allegiance class light-cruiser besides his own. Xris had graduated

 

at the top of his class, and had therefore started out as captain on a lowly

 

Imperator, but the navy had quickly promoted him to the Allegiance class, the

 

largest destroyer design in the fleet.

 

It was a clear sign that he was marked for bigger things, and provided he

 

didn't screw up, he might bag himself a cruiser one-day, perhaps even a

 

Vengeance-class battle-cruiser. There were much bigger ships in the fleet of

 

course, but the chances of being assigned to command one of those were nearly

 

astronomical. One could dream of an Executor or Sovereign, of course.

 

Xris was looking right at a particular nebula when it suddenly twisted out

 

of shape. In the centre of the distortion, a massive grey object surged into

 

view. By the time the distortion cleared, the object had also slowed

 

sufficiently to be recognisable. It was the slender 10 kilometer long dagger

 

shape of a Vengeance-class battle-cruiser, with the distinctive wing-like hull-

 

plates providing additional protection for it's engines and reactors, as if

 

anything could penetrate it's massive shields. Accompanying it were two more

 

Allegiance class destroyers.

 

"Captain, incoming transmission."

 

Xris stepped over to the holo-board, and punched in his ID code. Instantly

 

the board was filled with holo-images of other captains. In the centre of the

 

group, was a significantly larger figure, wearing the distinctive epaulettes of

 

a rear-admiral.

 

"I am rear-Admiral Jerec Harrsk. Your new orders are being transmitted to

 

your ships now. You can read them in hyperspace. Assume defensive formation and

 

prepare to jump on my mark to these co-ordinates."

 

Harrsk pressed a button, and a beep from the nav-console told Xris the co-

 

ordinates had been accepted.

 

"Dismissed." Harrsk said, and terminated the conference.

 

Xris glanced at the system display, on which all the ships were listed,

 

along with seniority ratings for captains. He was third in seniority. He issued

 

the appropriate orders, bringing his ship into a close-screening position above

 

and to the rear of the immense battle-cruiser. The other Allegiance class

 

destroyers moved into diametrically opposite positions, while the Imperator's

 

spread out and encircled the formation, with the battle-cruiser in the centre. A

 

jump timer appeared on the display, giving a three-count. When the count hit

 

zero, the fleet jumped.

 

 

 

Xris sat down in his command seat, and called up the coded orders. He knew

 

he had about two hours to study them, having glanced at the co-ordinates they

 

were jumping to. He wondered why they had not jumped directly to the supplied

 

co-ordinates. He downloaded the mission orders into one of his memory modules,

 

being a cyborg had it's advantages. The mission orders explained everything to

 

him. Xris re-read the orders, then read it again. Interesting, he thought.

 

Allowing them to jump directly to the gate would have been an immense security

 

risk.

 

Apparently New Republic scientists had developed a hypergate, using

 

information derived from studying the hypergates of the Bree. The hypergate

 

though, had produced some unexpected results. It had proven to be

 

uncontrollable, and had locked onto a wormhole in a remote galaxy.

 

Imperial agents had procured a copy of the technical readouts of the gate

 

in the early stages of construction, and the Empire had constructed their own

 

gate, which had then promptly locked onto the far end of the same wormhole. The

 

race was now on to dominate the remote galaxy.

 

While the New Republic controlled 75% of the galaxy, their systems were

 

mostly Rim worlds. The Empire's small fraction of the galaxy included some of

 

the richest core worlds, and much of the old Imperial fleet had been restored or

 

rebuilt in the decade since the cease fire between the two factions. An entire

 

new galaxy to explore and control and exploit could swing the balance of power

 

back to the side which won, although neither side could afford open war, yet.

 

The proximity alarm beeped, and Xris looked up just in time to see the

 

starlines coalesce and rotate into the familiar forms of local nebulae and star

 

clusters. Their trip had deliberately ended in deep-space. The holo-display

 

showed a huge interdiction field ahead of them, maintained by several Dominator-

 

class Interdictors. Patrolling inside the interdiction field were several

 

Allegiance-class destroyer killers, and a few of the rare star-cruisers and

 

battle-cruisers which the Empire had managed to hang onto. Towards the centre of

 

the interdiction field, two of the last three Executor class ships of the Empire

 

stood guard on either side of an immense ring-like structure which appeared to

 

be slightly out of phase. Patrolling throughout the formation were several tiny

 

(by comparison) Imperators.

 

Xris couldn't help but be surprised. The fleet assembled here in defense

 

of the gate must be close to a fifth of the Empire's total fleet resources. No

 

wonder they hadn't jumped straight in. They would have been caught in the

 

interdiction field and might have been destroyed out of hand.

 

The Vengeance transmitted a security code, and a gap was opened in the

 

interdiction field, allowing the Vengeance task force to micro-jump to the

 

centre of the formation. The Vengeance led it's task force directly into the

 

huge gate structure, disappearing in a fury of multi-coloured energies.

 

Xris didn't perceive any change or time-loss. The instant they entered the

 

gate the starfield ahead of them re-arranged itself. They were in another

 

galaxy.

 

The sight on this side of the gate was pretty similar to the one they had

 

left behind though. The third Executor-class patrolled the gate entrance here,

 

supported by several destroyer-killers, a star-carrier, and yet more Dominators,

 

Imperators and Victories. The combined defences on the two sides of the gate

 

would have comprised fully a third of the Imperial fleet, an almost unheard of

 

commitment of resources.

 

The wormhole the gate had locked onto loomed nearby, it's entrance marked

 

by the wreckage of several unidentifiable warships, and a small space station,

 

no larger than an Imperator, with several bits obviously missing. The wreckage

 

was all of obvious alien manufacture. Xris knew from his mission intelligence

 

reports that the far side of the wormhole was similarly defended by the New

 

Republic forces as it was the site of their Gate's location in this galaxy.

 

Nearby, a brown husk of a demolished planet still orbited the nearby star. It

 

had been known as Bajor according to reports.

 

Apparently, there were several alien races in this galactic quadrant which

 

had aligned themselves into a Federation, and they were preparing an attack on

 

the Gate so that they could regain control of the effectively sealed wormhole.

 

The New Republic forces on the far side were similarly being faced by a grouping

 

calling themselves the Dominion. The job of the Vengeance task force was to pre-

 

empt the attack of the aliens , possibly by incorporating the Federation into

 

the Empire, and gaining their support. Failing that, their orders were to

 

destroy their star-faring capability, and enslave the populations until they

 

could be properly inducted into the Empire's war effort.

 

According to Imperial intelligence, the New Republic's efforts to

 

assimilate the Dominion into the Republic had failed miserably, and the New

 

Republic was now engaged in a total war with the Dominion forces.

 

 

 

 

 

The comm-desk beeped, and Xris nodded to a nearby lieutenant, who

 

activated the holo-board as Xris stepped up to it.

 

"Our patrols have mapped out a sphere extending two thousand light years

 

so far, and the rate of mapping is slowing down as the size of the sphere

 

increases. We have identified several dozen worlds belonging to various alien

 

species, known as Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Ferengi, and even a Human

 

sub-species. The dominant forces seem to be the Humans of course, closely

 

followed by the Romulans and Klingons. The Cardassians used to be part of the

 

Dominion, but have now committed themselves to the Human controlled Federation

 

along with the Romulans and Klingons. Intelligence suggests that the Ferengi may

 

prove to be the easiest people to subjugate, but they are a weak race,

 

insignificant even amongst the local enemy forces, and their starmaps are of

 

insufficient quality for hyperspace travel. We will however start by subduing a

 

few of their worlds, starting with the capital world of Ferenginar."

 

The co-ordinates followed, and seconds later, joined by two Dominator-

 

class Interdictors, the fleet jumped. It was a short jump, barely a few minutes.

 

Ahead of them loomed a greenish disk, the world of Ferenginar. A few small

 

corvette sized ships were in orbit. There was no sign of jamming of any sort.

 

Xris shrugged, that merely made things easier.

 

"Lock weapons onto the fourth corvette in line. Hold fire until my

 

command."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Weapons locked."

 

The Vengeance probably had all the corvette's covered anyway, it certainly

 

had enough guns. If Harrsk wanted them dead, those corvettes would have been

 

dust by now.

 

"Sir, the Admiral has opened a comm's channel to the lead alien corvette."

 

"Repeat on my console."

 

Harrsk was demanding to speak to the head of the local government, but an

 

obviously frightened alien was trying to explain that their government was in

 

disarray, seeing that several top government officials had been aboard the

 

destroyed space-station at the site of the wormhole. Harrsk demanded to speak to

 

the head of the local military, which turned out to be the frightened alien

 

himself.

 

"Very well. You will surrender or be destroyed. The terms of surrender are

 

as follows: The command of your ships will be turned over to Imperial officers,

 

and your ships officers will be relieved of duty. They will be brought onto our

 

ships to act as advisers on local technologies. All orbital and planetary

 

defences will be turned over to our troops, and a small garrison of Imperial

 

army units will be established. Behave yourselves, and they won't be replaced

 

with stormtroopers.

 

"My tech crews tell me there are no traces of planetary shield

 

technologies amongst your defences. A pity, we will have to install our own

 

equipment. Do you accept these terms, or do you wish to be destroyed?"

 

"We accept. We accept." The Ferengi quickly answered.

 

"You will not regret your decision." Harrsk's tone softened slightly,

 

"Being a part of the Empire means that no-one will dare attack you, for fear of

 

incurring our wrath. If your technology reaches significant proportions to

 

warrant trade with Imperial worlds, you might even make a profit, there are few

 

restrictions on trade within the Borders of the Empire."

 

At the mention of the word 'profit', the Ferengi's eyes lit up.

 

"Profit. Trade. Why didn't you just say so? By all means, we will happily

 

join the Empire. Good citizens, that's what you'll find us to be."

 

 

 

Within the next few hours, the Ferengi officers were distributed

 

throughout the ships in the Imperial fleet, ostensibly as advisers, but more

 

realistically, as hostages against good behaviour in the crucial hand-over

 

phase. A number of low-ranked Imperial fleet officers were placed in charge of

 

the tiny Ferengi corvettes - Marauders, they were ambitiously named. The few

 

orbital defences were also taken over by fleet operatives, and a regiment - two

 

thousand troops - of the Imperial army were garrisoned on the planet below.

 

While this was being done, the Imperial fleet experimented with the

 

Ferengi warp drives, versus the Dominator-class Interdictors. In the few

 

previous engagements with warp ships, other Imperial ships had discovered that

 

interdiction fields were only partially effective against warp vessels. The

 

distortion wave on which the warp ships rode was tachyonic in nature, and the

 

warp ship was forced to slow down drastically or risk destruction. However, at

 

slower superluminal velocities, the warp ships were capable of withstanding the

 

effects of the interdiction fields.

 

By experimenting with the Ferengi marauders in mock attack runs, the

 

Imperials were also able to determine that an interdiction field plus high-

 

powered sub-space jamming at low frequencies was slightly more effective,

 

reducing the fastest warp speed of the Ferengi ships to about twice light-speed.

 

Other Federation ships might fare slightly better, with better tuned drives or

 

more powerful warp cores.

 

The high warp velocities would be advantageous to the Federation ships in

 

combat, but their weapons systems were weak. Greater protection had to be

 

assigned to the Dominators, as they couldn't risk standing off without escorts,

 

since the Federation ships might easily intercept them. The Interdictors would

 

also play a crucial role in tracking cloaked ships. A powerful sub-space pulse

 

could detect distant cloaked ships with an accuracy of only five hundred

 

kilometers over half a light-year. However, Imperial engineers predicted that

 

modulating the interdiction field with random graviton wave effects would

 

interfere with most cloaking mechanisms, possibly even to the point of negating

 

the cloak altogether.

 

The Imperial ground forces exchanged recognition codes with the fleet, and

 

established a coded protocol for subsequent communications with a patrolling

 

destroyer assigned to this sub-sector. The take-over of the Ferengi world

 

complete, the Imperial fleet prepared to jump to a nearby Cardassian colony.

 

 

 

 

 

Six Galor-class Cardassian cruisers were orbiting the colony. They had no

 

illusions, knowing an attack was coming soon. The colony was only a dozen light-

 

years from the Bajoran system, where the invading Imperial forces were

 

congregated. Even so, they were nearly caught by surprise. Nearly two dozen

 

ships appeared, barely a few planetary diameters away, with no forewarning.

 

Somebody in the background was shouting about a flash of Cronau radiation, and

 

the Gul waved them to silence, as he barked out orders. His thoughts consumed by

 

the devastation unleashed upon the Bajorans, and having no intention of the

 

nearby colony being subjected to the same, at least not without a fight, he

 

ordered his ships forward. They broke into two groups, warping to either side of

 

the enemy fleet.

 

The Gul paled at the sight of the behemoth at the centre of the enemy

 

fleet. It was several hundred times the size of his cruisers, even the small

 

ships escorting it were several times larger than any ships he had ever seen

 

before. The smallest ships in the enemy fleet were on the same size order as a

 

D'deridex battleship, but rather more massively built.

 

A warning shout behind him preceded a shudder in the ship, as it seemed to

 

caught in the grip of some giant hand. He noticed that their warp speed was

 

falling drastically, as the engineers cut power to the warp engines. They were

 

in some kind of anti-tachyonic field, graviton related most likely.

 

"Disengage warp, full impulse. Target that, that, thing," He said, for

 

lack of words to describe the dagger shaped behemoth at the centre of the enemy

 

formation. "Torpedoes, fire!"

 

Several torpedoes streaked towards the enemy formation. Suddenly, the

 

bridge crew was forced to cover their eyes as the viewscreen was momentarily

 

overcome by bright flashes of light. The enemy was firing dozens of some kind of

 

beam weapon, which detonated violently for no apparent reason right in the path

 

of the torpedoes. Most of the torpedoes were destroyed by the violence of the

 

detonation, others smacked into the remains of the detonations, what appeared to

 

be clouds of green incandescent plasma, and detonated uselessly.

 

"Disruptors, fire."

 

The beams lanced out towards the immense dagger, but spattered uselessly

 

against it's immense shields.

 

"Sir, the enemy is attempting to open a communications channel."

 

"On-screen."

 

"Cardassian vessels. Your attack is pointless. Surrender now, or be

 

destroyed, my patience is already at it's limits."

 

"We will die first." The Gul spat, angered by the imperious tone of the

 

human on the view-screen.

 

"Very well." The human answered.

 

Any hopes the Gul had had of bargaining or arguing his way out was swept

 

away as the channel was cut.

 

"Sir, energy build-up on the big ship."

 

The view-screen changed back to an image of the enemy fleet just in time

 

for the Gul to see hundreds of green streaks lance out towards his task force.

 

He opened his mouth to order evasive maneuvres, but was knocked to the floor as

 

the turbolaser fire swept through his formation. The enemy had targeted the

 

general area of the formation, and with the sheer number of bolts, engulfed the

 

three ships before they could clear the targeted area.

 

The other three Galors veered away, frantically broadcasting their wish to

 

surrender. From the planet, somebody was also frantically hailing the Imperial

 

ships with requests to surrender.

 

Harrsk let them sweat for a few seconds, then acknowledged the surrender.

 

He dictated similar terms as he had for the Ferengi, but with a smaller

 

occupational force, seeing as it was only a colony world. In the next few hours,

 

the Imperial task force assimilated two Ferengi colonies and six more Cardassian

 

colonies. They returned to the site of the Gate, where a number of bulk

 

transports had arrived with additional troops. Already, the Gate was a hub of

 

traffic, with merchant marine freighters heading out to the new worlds with

 

additional equipment for the troops, in support of a permanent occupation.

 

Amongst the equipment were a number of small theatre shields, developed by the

 

Gencor Corporation and first used by Rebel Alliance forces at Hoth. They were

 

smaller and less powerful than conventional planetary shields, but sufficient to

 

defend against any except the most powerful orbital bombardment.

 

The generators were coded with specific instructions in obscure Imperial

 

dialects, and the software embedded with trojans to prevent them from being used

 

by any unauthorised personnel. The task force only waited long enough for their

 

troop complements to be brought back to normal, many ships were even crammed

 

with additional troops. The next group of worlds being targeted would include

 

one Human world, and two Romulan worlds. By then, it was hoped that the patrols

 

would have mapped out enough space to enclose the Federation capital worlds,

 

where it was suspected they were assembling a fleet to counter-attack the Gate.

 

 

 

Xris was woken from his nap by a light buzz on the bed-side console. He

 

had set a five minute warning for the scheduled jump-time. He quickly rinsed his

 

face (Imperial warships were not short of water), pulled on a fresh top and

 

stepped out onto the bridge. The bridge crew had been rotated twice in the time

 

since they had entered the system, but Xris had stayed on duty, except for short

 

naps. He stepped out onto the bridge as the two minute buzz sounded.

 

His first officer had already brought the ship into position with respect

 

to the Vengeance.

 

"Captain on the bridge." The officer stationed outside his door called.

 

The first officer stiffened, turned, and saluted in one fluid motion.

 

"The ship is ready and at your command, Sir!"

 

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

 

Xris marched past the officer, and stepped up to his command seat. He sat

 

down.

 

"You may proceed with jump preparations."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

The Lieutenant continued his duties, ensuring all was ready for the jump.

 

The news had been passed that the Federation world would be a subject for a

 

field test for the ground-forces. If the results were not up to scratch, one of

 

the Romulan worlds would be chosen. The response of the citizenry was irrelevant

 

to the invasion, what was important was to give the troops some much needed

 

battle seasoning.

 

 

 

 

 

The Federation world was the furthest world from Bajor in the group that

 

the Imperials were hoping to use as listening posts. Capturing it would provide

 

a one hundred light-year safety zone around Bajor, with all these worlds forming

 

part of one larger tachyonic net, tracking all starship movement around Bajor.

 

The world had a relatively small population of only half a billion people, with

 

nineteen major cities, and several dozen small towns, farms, mines, and other

 

industrial facilities. Already, an Imperial Intelligence hyperspace orbiting

 

scanner was observing the system.

 

The fleet dropped into realspace several light-minutes from the occupied

 

planet, and a Dominator swept the nearby space with a brief cone of gravitons.

 

The hyperspace orbiter popped out, and immediately dumped it's observations into

 

the local ships databanks. An intelligence droid-ship immediately set out to the

 

probe, and prepared to service it, in preparation for either retrieval, or to

 

place it back in hyperspace should it be necessary.

 

"The orbiters scanning data indicates the orbital approaches of the planet

 

is mined, there are several weapons platforms in orbit as well, and possibly on

 

the surface too. No enemy ships in the system."

 

On the holo-board, the miniature representation of the Admiral ordered the

 

Dominators to clear the minefield. Xris observed as one of the Dominators

 

advanced on the enemy planet, and swept a gravity-cone through the orbital zone

 

of the planet. The other Dominator jumped to the far side of the planet, but

 

still well clear of it, and swept it's cones through the orbital zones on the

 

far side. The mines were cloaked, but had no inertial compensators, and many of

 

them detonated as they were swept into the atmosphere. Others activated their

 

maneuvring thrusters to attempt to keep station in the face of the fluctuating

 

gravity field sweeping them towards the planets atmosphere.

 

"Victories alpha through delta, clear the mines."

 

Four Victories jumped in towards the planet, their jumps terminated by the

 

edge of the gravity cones, and then systematically targeted and destroyed the

 

mines as their maneuvring thrusters revealed their positions. The Victories were

 

careful to stay several light seconds clear of the planet, out of effective

 

weapons range of the orbiting weapons platforms.

 

Several seconds went by without another mine revealing itself to the

 

sweeping gravity cones, or to successive sub-space pulses by active scanners.

 

"Dominators, hold position, power down interdiction fields. Victories echo

 

through india, clear the orbital platforms." The Admiral ordered.

 

The five Victory-class ships jumped in to within a few tens of thousand

 

kilometers of the planet, nearly point-blank range to the orbital stations, and

 

immediately fired a full broadside. Three of the stations immediately returned

 

fire, the other two breaking out of orbit as jets of superheated atmosphere

 

boiled out of their shattered hulls. The damaged platforms only had two seconds

 

of clear fire at the Victories, before the second broadside slammed home. The

 

Victories had come away unscathed, their initial point-blank broadsides having

 

put paid to the orbital platforms.

 

Even Golan III weapons platforms would have been hard pressed to withstand

 

those initial broadsides, Xris thought, that some of the platforms had survived

 

the first broadside was testament to their immense shielding. Perhaps these

 

worlds would not fall as easily as he had first believed. The fleet advanced

 

slowly on the enemy world, as the first of the landing barges were launched from

 

the ISD's. The Victories were already moving into lower orbits, scanning the

 

surface of the planet for signs of ground-based resistance. The word had

 

obviously reached this planet that the Imperials were prepared to accept

 

surrenders, and the sub-space comms desks were flooded with requests for

 

communications channels to be opened.

 

Xris ignored the requests, and waved to the communications officer to

 

switch off the audio prompts on the desks. Silence returned to the bridge. In

 

the distance, the Victories hung above the planet, their noses pointed at the

 

surface below, the odd streak of green ripping into the atmosphere as they

 

softened or destroyed whatever defences there were below. The Imperators

 

launched several waves of TIE bombers, which tore down into the atmosphere at

 

hypersonic velocities. One or two red streaks reached out to them, but were

 

answered with green bolts from the Victories, and quickly silenced.

 

Following close behind the TIE bombers were several waves of assault

 

shuttles, followed by larger, slower landing barges. The assault shuttles

 

carried stormtroopers, and were bound for crucial strong-points or strategic

 

positions on the surface. The barges carried Imperial army regiments, which,

 

supported by their AT-AT's and AT-ST's would advance on the cities and occupy

 

them. They had been ordered to try and keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

 

This was of course just an exercise, not a real invasion.

 

The Imperator's were now also in orbit, and between the six Imperators and

 

eleven Victories they formed a comprehensive sensor net around the planet,

 

making sure no-one escaped from the invasion forces. The Vengeance battle-

 

cruiser and the four Allegiance-class heavy destroyers defending it kept their

 

distance. Their role was fleet combat, not planetary invasions. The Imperators

 

and Victories were not specialised planetary invasion ships either, but their

 

multi-role design was adequately suited for this type of operation. The

 

Dominators also kept their distance from the planet, powering back towards the

 

protection of the battle-cruiser.

 

Xris checked the time, a twinge of frustration beginning to make itself

 

felt. On the holo-board, a new figure appeared, General Darklighter, the senior

 

army officer in the fleet.

 

"Stormtroopers report all primary objectives achieved. Thirty seconds

 

behind schedule."

 

He blinked out of existence. Xris waited patiently, knowing that if

 

anything on the surface demanded his attention, he would be notified. Nearby,

 

the Victories and Imperators still surrounded the planet, their noses pointing

 

like daggers at the mottled surface below. Very few shots were being fired by

 

these ships now, as the rate of requests for orbital support slowed down.

 

"Audio to the surface." He ordered.

 

The silence of the bridge was now punctuated by staccato bursts of

 

communication. Most of the orders were automatically filtered out by the

 

computers, only high level command orders being allowed, and the odd request for

 

orbital fire-support.

 

"Colonel Deerborn, keep that flank straight."

 

"Lieutenant Antilles, I want that hill now!"

 

"Orbital strike, level five, grid reference blue five, fifty eight by

 

seventy nine."

 

"Strike successful, target destroyed, advancing."

 

General Darklighter made another appearance on the holo-board.

 

"Mission time has expired. Eighty two percent of secondary objectives

 

achieved."

 

"Continue," the Admiral ordered.

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Minutes later. "All objectives achieved," Darklighter reported. "Total

 

mission time was optimum plus four minutes, as calculated by the Covell

 

Planetary Invasion Simulator. Casualties are negligible, thirty percent within

 

limits predicted by the Covell program."

 

"Your men are obviously short of battle experience," the Admiral

 

admonished, "they're too squeamish. I expect you to beat the Covell program on

 

the next planet in all respects. You may complete the securing of the planet.

 

Leave two regiments behind as an occupational force, and give the local

 

government the usual guarantees of Imperial protection and trade. Moff

 

Jerjerrod's people will be here within a couple of hours."

 

"Yes, Sir." Darklighter answered.

 

Xris was unsurprised at the speed and efficiency of the Imperial

 

bureaucracy. The Moff's task was to establish a political presence, to regulate

 

all sectoral affairs, and to see to the adequate defences and patrolling of

 

Imperial held worlds in this sector. The few worlds held in this galaxy hardly

 

warranted the label of a sector yet, but it was of course geographically

 

unrelated to any other sector in Imperial space, and so warranted it's own Moff.

 

Already, the first barges were returning to their mother ships, and the TIE

 

bombers were already landing. In a few minutes, the fleet would be prepared to

 

hit the next world. For Darklighter's sake the next invasion had better proceed

 

more smoothly, or he could expect a demotion.

 

 

 

 

 

The fleet dropped into the edge of the Romulan system. Immediately,

 

several active sub-space pulses were broadcast, as the Imperials sacrificed

 

stealth in the search for any cloaked vessels. Immediately two blips were

 

detected, patrolling the outer fringes of the system. The blips were almost

 

immediately turned into elongated streaks by the computer as they raced to put

 

themselves between the planet and the invading forces of the Imperials. Another

 

streak appeared as a previously undetected ship also powered up it's engines and

 

raced towards the defence of the planet.

 

"Nine ships positively detected, all of them sized in the same category as

 

small destroyers. Eleven possibles, all much smaller, corvette sized."

 

"Track those ships down now." Xris ordered his com-scan team.

 

The Dominators were also powering up their interdiction fields, and would

 

soon have the entire area around the fleet covered.

 

"Move in, velocity sub-two, vector zero-zero-zero by zero-one-five." The

 

Admiral ordered.

 

"Helm, keep us within weapons range of the Vengeance, we don't want

 

anything slipping in between us and them. Com-Scan, if a single graviton in that

 

interdiction field is interfered with I want to know about it."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

The fleet moved in towards the planet, angling about fifteen degrees above

 

the ecliptic plane. On the tactical display, several Romulan ships disappeared

 

as they disengaged their drive mechanisms close to the planet.

 

"Project all trajectories, based on last known course and velocities.

 

Correct for gravitational distortion."

 

On the holo-display several overlapping cones appeared, most of them

 

tracking out towards the Imperial fleet.

 

"What is the likely area of intercept if the enemy continues to drift

 

towards us?"

 

A large cube appeared on the display, encompassing all the cones,

 

including the Imperial fleets approach path. It quickly reduced size, until it

 

encompassed an area of space where intercepts were likely to occur.

 

"Likelihood of detection through graviton disturbance of interdiction

 

fields?"

 

"Very low sir. Most of the enemy ships are at low relativistic velocities,

 

and their graviton influence would be very low, given their mass-lightening

 

fields."

 

"Drive emissions? Power fluctuations? Black body comparisons?"

 

"Computing all now."

 

The tactical display updated with likelihoods of detection and successful

 

intercepts. Xris didn't like it one bit. The Romulans were hiding behind their

 

cloaks very effectively.

 

"All gunners are to track to zero position. The enemy requires a

 

significant amount of time to decloak, acquire his target and fire his weapons.

 

Any gunner who allows the enemy to fire first will be reprimanded. Two

 

reprimands will result in a charge of dereliction of duty."

 

An official Imperial reprimand was not that severe, merely a docking of

 

pay or a demotion of rank. However, dereliction of duty could result in

 

extensive prison time or summary execution at the discretion of the commanding

 

officer. A bit harsh on the gunners, Xris knew, especially seeing that they had

 

several hours ahead of them as they cautiously approached the enemy planet, but

 

the alternative might be a worse punishment from the Admiral if any cloaked

 

ships got through.

 

Xris contemplated all the approach vectors. There were too many unknowns.

 

He considered the implications of making a suggestion to the Admiral, but

 

thought better of it. Insubordination could be as career damaging as dereliction

 

of duty, more so depending on the personality of the Admiral. He didn't know

 

Harrsk well enough to take the chance.

 

The Admiral's face appeared briefly alongside the tactical display on the

 

holo-board, "Fleet course change, come around to vector three-four-zero by

 

three-five-zero."

 

Apparently it wasn't necessary, Xris thought, as he ordered the course

 

change. The Admiral had seen the dangers himself. Now the Romulans would be

 

forced to adjust their approach vectors to set up a new intercept. Unless they

 

were happy to outwait the Imperials.

 

"Com-scan, keep your eyes peeled." Xris warned. He knew it was an

 

unnecessary order, but he couldn't take any chances on the crew not realising

 

the implications of the vector change.

 

On the tactical display the fleet approach vector shifted out of the cube

 

denoting intercept ranges. For several minutes there was silence on the bridge.

 

Then a blip appeared, along one of the Romulan approach cones as an impatient

 

commander ordered the course change, then cut his engines again, drifting along

 

a new vector towards an intercept position. Immediately, his projected path was

 

re-calculated.

 

"Victory alpha, take him." The Admiral ordered.

 

The fleet was right in the Cerenkov cone of the Victory, which facilitated

 

tracking it across the system, and there was a brief flash across the tactical

 

display as the Victory jumped to within 10 units of the projected position of

 

the cloaked ship, and directly behind it, in the classical cloak-intercept as

 

taught at the Imperial Academy. Green and blue lines tracked along the projected

 

path of the Romulan as the Victory opened fire. For several seconds nothing

 

happened, as the Victory widened it's cone of fire by a few nano-radians. Any

 

more, and the chance of a hit would be astronomically small. The Victory got

 

lucky though, as a blue ion cannon bolt deflected off something unseen. The

 

Victory immediately concentrated fire on the new position, and was rewarded with

 

a glimpse of a Romulan Bird of Prey momentarily decloaking as another ion cannon

 

bolt scored a hit.

 

The Romulan powered up his engines, and attempted to evade, but it was too

 

late. The Victory fired a broadside into the position, and several shots on the

 

edge of the broadside cone smashed into the cloaked vessel, even as it attempted

 

to change direction. Discarding all attempts at stealth, the Romulan deactivated

 

it's cloaking device, and powered up it's shields. A second broadside was fired

 

by the Victory, and it scored more hits, the Romulan's shields flickered wildly

 

as it took fully a third of the broadside in it's flank. It's shields could not

 

have totally deflected the impacts of the bolts, and the Victories sensors were

 

picking up several micro-fractures at the base of one of the wing-like sections.

 

The Romulan vessel attempted to change direction, but a third broadside

 

slammed home, blowing the shields aside like they weren't there. The ship

 

detonated spectacularly. The Victory immediately jumped back to the fleet,

 

taking up it's screening position.

 

"A poor performance by your gunners, Captain," the Admiral admonished,

 

"you should have kept some of your weapons in reserve, and as soon as the cloak

 

was compromised fired your first broadside. Your incompetence nearly allowed him

 

to escape."

 

"My apologies, Admiral Harrsk. It won't happen again."

 

"See that it doesn't. Allegiance Charlie, Captain Xris I believe, the next

 

one is yours. I trust you will provide a proper display of how to track and

 

destroy a cloaked vessel."

 

"Yes, sir." Xris answered.

 

Xris turned to his com-scan team.

 

"I will personally flay the skin off each and every one of your backs if

 

we mess up. Keep a comet watch out. Guns," Xris turned to his gunnery officer,

 

"I want ion cannons only to track the enemy vector. Small, light and medium

 

turrets will fire alternating broadsides on a positive track, heavy turrets will

 

only fire on my mark. Navigation, the jump is to be made according to classic

 

cloak-intercept doctrine. Helm, as soon as we make the jump, I want you to bring

 

the ship around, and put the enemy dead ahead of us, in ideal full broadside

 

position."

 

The small, light and medium turrets were identical to those installed on a

 

Imperator, except that they were called light, medium and heavy on the

 

Imperator. The Allegiance 'heavy turrets' were in fact twice as large as those

 

on an Imperator, and it carried sixteen of these, ten on the dorsal surface, six

 

ventrally.

 

All eyes were on the holo-display, waiting for the next Romulan ship to

 

change track, as the fleet crept closer to the planet. Battling cloaked warships

 

was a tricky proposition, and nerve-wracking to both sides. The Romulans though

 

made no attempt to close in on the Imperials, happy to just drift closer, even

 

if not on intercept positions. Xris wondered if they were playing into the

 

Romulan's hands. For all they knew, there were other ships drifting around in

 

the system, which they hadn't detected in their initial scan. The interdiction

 

fields of the Dominators continued playing all around the fleet, with no

 

indication of interference with any mass object. The silence dragged out.

 

"Fleet, jump to these co-ordinates, on my mark."

 

"Yes, sir." Xris answered automatically, hoping the Admiral was not

 

getting too hasty.

 

The jump brought them to a position 140 degrees around to the far side of

 

the system, and much closer to the planet. Whatever drift vectors the Romulans

 

had been on, they were now almost as far from their planet as the Imperials, and

 

drifting in the wrong direction. Brilliant, thought Xris, it would force them to

 

come about onto new vectors. Several blips on the tactical display indicated

 

just that, as the Romulans powered up engines and brought their ships onto new

 

vectors. Several of them changed course at the last instant as they cut engines,

 

hoping to prevent a positive track.

 

"Xris." The Admiral ordered.

 

"Yes, sir. Sensors, select targets on the basis of track confidence."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Navigation, execute jump."

 

The stars briefly flickered as the ship jumped, but the jump was barely

 

one second long, then the stars re-appeared.

 

"Ion cannons, fire along confidence cone, helm bring us around."

 

Several blue streaks ripped outwards in a very narrow cone, quartering the

 

projected paths of the enemy vessel. They immediately scored hits, and the small

 

turbolasers fired a broadside into the same region, followed a split-second

 

later by the light turbolasers. The medium turbolasers hesitated, as something

 

detonated violently dead-ahead, and a Romulan Bird of Prey took shape before

 

their eyes, already breaking up.

 

"Medium batteries, fire." Xris ordered, making sure of the kill.

 

"Sensors feed second target track to Navigation, stand by for another

 

intercept."

 

The stars flickered again as the ship jumped one more time, and again the

 

ion cannons searched the projected track for the Romulan ship. The blue bolts

 

interacted violently with something dead ahead, and the shape of a D'deridex

 

formed as it's cloaking field failed. Xris' gunners fired three staggered

 

broadsides in quick succession, as different calibre guns fired in stages. Even

 

as they opened fire, he released the heavy batteries as well.

 

It might not have been necessary to open up with the heavy batteries, as

 

Xris could have sworn that the ship was already detonating by the time the

 

sixteen heavy bolts ripped into it. Still, it was better to be sure than sorry.

 

"Take us back to the fleet, resume formation."

 

"Well done, Xris, Victory alpha, your turn on the next track. Don't

 

disappoint me."

 

"No, sir." A determined voice came back.

 

 

 

The Imperials crept ever closer to the planet, trying to draw the cloaked

 

Romulan fleet into an open engagement before invading the planet. The battle

 

lasted several hours, as the Romulans and Imperials played cat and mouse with

 

each other. In the end, the Romulans didn't stand a chance, they were seriously

 

outgunned by the Imperials. As the Imperials drew within a few light-seconds of

 

the planet, Admiral Harrsk ordered a few ranging shots to be fired randomly at

 

the planet. At first, the Romulans took no action, then, realising the Imperials

 

didn't care about loss of life, launched an all out furious attack on the

 

Imperial fleet.

 

There were at least eight D'deridex class ships and twelve old Bird of

 

Prey's in the system, but their attack was seriously hampered by the

 

interdiction fields. The graviton interference with their ships served to

 

neutralise the cloaking field, and three of the D'deridex ships and several

 

BoP's were destroyed in short order as they tried to break through the screen of

 

Victories and Imperators to attack the Vengeance. The rest of the fleet

 

retreated, and Harrsk let them go.

 

"Darklighter, it's your turn."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Once again, no surrender option was offered to the planet below, and again

 

the Victories and Imperators formed up over the planet in low orbit. The attack

 

was decidedly more vicious this time. The Imperators and Victories were kept

 

busy as the invading troops made extensive use of orbital support. Xris wondered

 

what motivational elements had been offered the ground forces by their

 

commanders, or more to the point, what threats Darklighter had made.

 

The Romulans had no intentions of playing along though, and fought back

 

viciously. They were fierce fighters, and cared little for loss of life

 

themselves, often attacking en masse using their own civilians and wounded as

 

body shields. It was not an effective tactic against Imperial troops, who had no

 

qualms about shooting the civilians first anyway, especially given their

 

determination to meet the Covell curve on this attack.

 

"Stormtroopers have reached all primary objectives," Darklighter reported,

 

"We are fifteen seconds ahead of schedule. The army units are within minutes of

 

achieving all secondary objectives. Casualties are two percent over the Covell

 

curve."

 

"Thank you, General. I am glad you were able to motivate your forces." The

 

Admiral answered coolly.

 

The General reported the planet secure, only one minute behind schedule.

 

"Casualties are four percent higher than the Covell curve, total casualties are

 

twelve hundred dead and three thousand wounded."

 

"That is insignificant, General," Admiral Harrsk responded coolly, "We

 

were carrying too much troops anyway, and we have another forty regiments ready

 

to come through the Gate. As your troops gain experience, we will no doubt

 

suffer fewer casualties due to ineptness."

 

"Yes, Sir." Darklighter replied evenly.

 

"When we return to the Gate, see that new troops are spread evenly through

 

the experienced troops, so that a good ratio of experience is maintained in all

 

units."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"You may recall your men. Moff Jerjerrod's forces will complete the job of

 

securing this planet. They are already on their way into the system, and will be

 

here in minutes. We are at least two hours behind schedule already."

 

"Yes, Sir." Darklighter responded. He obviously wished to say more,

 

probably about Harrsk taking his time winning control of the system and then

 

goading his troops to their deaths, but retained his peace. Harrsk cut the

 

communications, and if he gave any sign that he had noticed the tightness around

 

Darklighter's mouth, Xris did not notice it.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

Xris stood at attention in front of the holo-board. The board was split

 

into two. On the left was a strategic display of the mapped out portion of the

 

galaxy, on the right was a conference sphere, with holograms of all the ship

 

captains, the Admiral, and General Darklighter arranged in the sphere.

 

"Gentlemen, matters will be coming to a head soon in this quadrant. Our

 

patrols have extended our safe navigational zones to 2400 light years, and have

 

just recently located the capital world of the Humans in this quadrant. We have

 

located several dozen Romulan and Klingon worlds as well, but have not located

 

their capitals yet. However, a massive fleet is being assembled at Earth, the

 

human capital, which includes several Klingon vessels.

 

"Our troops have performed admirably so far, but I am not satisfied yet

 

that our fleet has the necessary battle experience against these aliens, despite

 

their primitive technology. As a result, I am withdrawing the Vengeance to

 

Bajor, and the remainder of the fleet will be split into two task forces. I want

 

each task force to capture three systems in the next twenty four hours.

 

"Your systems have been designated on your strategic displays. They are of

 

strategic importance to this sector. The task force will be split as indicated

 

on the conference grid. I want no easy surrenders here, these missions are meant

 

to be for training purposes. Gentlemen, the clock is ticking."

 

The Admiral's hologram clicked off, as did most of the captains and

 

generals. About half remained, with Xris's icon at the top of the display. He

 

had been designated task force leader for one group. Suppressing a momentary

 

feeling of light-headedness, he started belting out orders.

 

 

 

Beyond the transparisteel window, starlines whirled, broken occassionally

 

by a flash of a nebulae or cluster of stars. An experienced navigator could tell

 

exactly where he was by observing the swirling patterns. To Xris they were a

 

mere background to his thoughts. In fifteen minutes they would arrive at their

 

first target. The three worlds they had been assigned were Klingon, Romulan and

 

Human worlds respectively. Naturally. The Intelligence corps was still building

 

a psyche profile on each, and these training missions were also to form part of

 

those psyche profiles. The psyche profile would aid in choice of tactics, and

 

would refine the accuracy of the Covell curve for planetary invasion for each

 

respective race.

 

Xris' task force consisted of his own Allegiance-class heavy destroyer,

 

the 2.2 kilometer long ISD Render, as well as it's sister ship, the ISD Ripper.

 

The task force was completed by three Imperators, five Victories and a

 

Dominator. The Dominator was essentially a modified Imperator, with weaker

 

shields and weaponry, but the gigantic gravity-well generators of an

 

Interdictor.

 

"Thirty seconds to deceleration, Klingon system coming up." A navigator

 

called.

 

"Shields standing by."

 

"Weapons standing by."

 

"Com-Scan standing by."

 

"ECM standing by."

 

"Acknowledged. I want full active scanning for four seconds the moment we

 

mesh in."

 

"Aye, Full active scanning. Four seconds."

 

Xris turned away from the spectacle of hyperspace, and leaned against the

 

railing of the command deck. On the level below him, several rows of fleet

 

officers sat stiff and upright in front of their consoles. Dominating the

 

spectacle, was the huge holo-display used for active combat displays. Xris sat

 

back in his command seat, the bridge laid out before him, with the holo-display

 

projected directly ahead of him. Behind him, and on the same level, senior

 

bridge officers monitored the data collected by the junior officers below,

 

filtering and controlling what was relevant to the command situation.

 

"Decelerating, Now!" The navigation officer called.

 

On the tactical system display, several planets were indicated, with

 

orbital vectors, markings for signs of technology, population, population

 

density, etc. the display flickered slightly as several blips were added,

 

starships, with vectors of motion, trajectory cones, energy readings, size

 

indicators, life-form indicators.

 

"All ships, execute ambush one, Victories by two, on my mark, then

 

rendezvous at position three. Execute."

 

The Ripper, Render and the three Imperators each jumped to intercept

 

positions to execute ambush attacks on the larger ships, the Victories paired up

 

and ambushed the smaller ships. This was a manoeuvre designed to destroy or

 

disable as many enemy ships as possible before they could assemble into a

 

defensive fleet formation, especially given that many of them had been spread

 

out across the system, and separated from each other. The Dominator waited five

 

seconds, the maximum duration of the ambush regardless of results, then also

 

jumped to the rendezvous point.

 

Three seconds later, all the ships were in position at the rendezvous

 

point. In the system, two Klingon ships had been totally destroyed, one badly

 

damaged, and another two lightly damaged. The Klingons were pulling back to form

 

a defensive screen on the fourth planet.

 

"Wait for them to form up." Xris ordered. He wanted the Klingons clustered

 

all nice and close to the planet for this one.

 

"Imperators, slash attack on my mark only, the right flank. Fleet, jump to

 

confront position, range twenty clicks, stand by for co-ordinates." Xris nodded

 

to his navigator, who punched the fleet transmit as soon as he finished his

 

calcs. The acknowledgement indicator lit up on Xris's command padd.

 

"Fleet, Execute."

 

The fleet jumped in, the Dominator protectively placed between the two

 

huge allegiance-class ships, and the victories forming a screen around them. The

 

Dominator immediately began powering up it's gravity-wells. On the holo-display,

 

the space between the Klingon and Imperial fleets were cris-crossed by multi-

 

coloured markers showing lines of fire. A few torpedoes were launched by both

 

sides, but at this range (two thirds of a light-second) there was adequate time

 

to shoot down torpedoes.

 

Xris waited for the Dominator's gravity cones to reach critical density.

 

He ordered one of the cones to be angled across the right flank of the Klingons,

 

with the edge of the cone a mere ten thousand kilometers from the flank of the

 

slowly advancing formation. He had to admire the tenacity of the tiny Klingon

 

ships, they were obviously outgunned, but were bulling their way towards the

 

massive ships ahead of them. Well, too bad for them.

 

"Imperators, Execute."

 

The Imperators, which had been waiting for their mark on the edge of the

 

system, jumped in on a vector that brought them onto the gravity cone, so that

 

they re-entered realspace mere thousands of kilometers away from the Klingon

 

ships. The Klingon ships were not expecting them. The Imperators were expecting

 

to find the Klingon ships right there. All three Imperators got off full

 

broadsides, as they turned in towards the Klingon formation, which was hastily

 

reforming. One Klingon ship lay dead in space, and one of the Imperators made

 

sure of the kill with a brace of proton torpedoes. By the time the Klingons had

 

re-aligned their formation, several squadrons of TIE's had been launched.

 

One squadron tore into the atmosphere of the planet below at hypersonic

 

velocities. A gunboat sized Klingon capital ship attempted to follow them, but

 

was balked by a one hundred megaton detonation in the upper atmosphere directly

 

ahead of it. The atmospheric shockwave flung the Klingon ship around like a leaf

 

in a high wind. An Imperator was pushing it's way between the Klingon's and the

 

atmosphere, firing it's light tactical weapons on the planet below, and it's

 

heavier weapons at the Klingons above.

 

The TIE's were already ripping past a city on the horizon several hundred

 

kilometers away, not bothering to fire, but just allowing the shockwave of their

 

passing to do the necessary damage, shattering of windows, flattening of trees

 

and light structures, and knocking people to the ground.

 

Several Klingon ships broke away from the main formation, and attempted to

 

warp around the Imperial formation, but the Dominator swept a gravity cone

 

across their path, causing at least one of the ships to jettison it's power

 

core, while the others slowed down drastically, but retained their cores. A

 

volley of light turbolaser fire from one of the Victories detonated the core,

 

causing a huge matter/antimatter detonation just below the errant Klingon

 

formation.

 

The main formation of the Klingons broke up, as they attempted to dart in-

 

between their behemoth attackers. The Klingon forces were virtually surrounded,

 

with TIE's in the atmosphere, more TIE's in orbit attacking the Klingon gunboats

 

and corvettes, and causing mayhem if not significant damage. The other two

 

Imperators had outflanked them, and the Victories and Allegiance ships ahead of

 

them were outgunning them, with a few of the Victories working their way towards

 

the left flank of the Klingons. At least one of the Victories was already firing

 

it's light tactical turbolasers at the planet below.

 

Another of the Victories jumped out to a stand-off position on the edge of

 

the system, it's shields depleted. The Klingons had no such option, and one

 

after another, they were destroyed as their shields gave in under the barrage of

 

hundreds of turbolaser blasts.

 

"Status."

 

"System secured, shields at 71%, all ships reporting in, no damage."

 

"The Victories?"

 

"Two of them lost shields during the battle, but withdrew to the edge of

 

the system, to re-charge."

 

"TIEs?"

 

"Seven destroyed. The others are flying cover for the assault shuttles and

 

landing barges. The Victories are providing tactical support for the assault

 

teams."

 

"Remind them to only provide level three support. We don't want to make

 

this too easy for the grunts. Everybody's got to work in this fleet."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Get Colonel Jostve on the line. I want to know how long he'll be."

 

Seconds later a grim colonel appeared on the holo-screen. In the

 

background was the command room of an AT-AT, and the unmistakable sound of it's

 

light turbolasers and laser-cannons.

 

"We are meeting with heavy resistance. The entire civilian population has

 

joined the army in defence of the invasion, and we have had to make extensive

 

use of stun gas and electric stunners to control the populace. There have been

 

extensive civilian casualties. We are currently one point two minutes behind

 

schedule. Imperial casualties are heavier than expected, about four percent over

 

the Covell curve."

 

"Casualties don't concern me, Colonel. See that you don't fall any further

 

behind schedule. If I have to resort to destroying one or two cities to stay on

 

schedule I will see that your record reflects your incompetence."

 

The Colonel bristled slightly, but kept his cool. "That will not be

 

necessary, Sir."

 

Xris cut the transmission. They were already five hours into the twenty

 

four assigned. The troops were doing very well, and Jostve was proving to be a

 

good commander. The combat experience was beginning to make a difference. No

 

doubt the Covell curve would have to be adjusted somewhat for the Klingons. The

 

holo-board lit up.

 

"The system is under our control. Sir." Jostve reported.

 

"Thank you, colonel. Casualties and mission progress?"

 

"Casualties were nine percent higher than expected, and the mission time

 

was one point one minutes longer than expected. These Klingons are vicious

 

fighters, but their weapons are useless against a mobile armoured force."

 

"Your opinion is noted, colonel, but unnecessary. Your recommendations

 

regarding garrisoning this planet?"

 

"At least four regiments of stormtroopers, or seven regiments of regular

 

troops, with ground armour and air support."

 

"That's ridiculous. Are you suggesting we leave half our combat troops

 

here as a garrison force, Jostve?"

 

The colonel hesitated for a second, then stuck his chin out.

 

"Sir. It is my recommendation that anything less would see the Klingons

 

overthrow our forces before Moff Jerjerrod arrives to consolidate the planet."

 

The colonel stared straight back at Xris. Xris considered his options.

 

Execute Jostve on the spot for insubordination, or accept his recommendations.

 

He had a funny feeling that either way, it could be a career breaking decision.

 

He suppressed an urge to glance at his chrono, he knew precisely how many hours

 

they had left.

 

"Very well. Do it. Do you have any senior Klingon officers in detention?

 

Or any other leader I may speak to?"

 

"Yes, sir." Jostve answered, still with the look of a condemned man, but

 

with a glimmer of relief beginning to show. He nodded to one side, and the

 

picture expanded to show a greater portion of the AT-AT's command room. Squeezed

 

in nearby, two stormtroopers held a captive Klingon between them. The Klingon

 

was at least half a head taller than the stormtroopers escorting him, and there

 

was no such thing as a short stormtrooper.

 

"Sir," Jostve said, "This man was the commander of one of the Klingon

 

garrisons. He is the most senior surviving officer, a wall collapsed on him, or

 

we might not have captured him alive. We don't know his name."

 

The Klingon was shoved forward. Xris looked him over. Lavender fluid

 

streamed down from a head wound, and probably from one or two other bodily

 

wounds as well. His hands were handcuffed behind his back, his legs shackled

 

together, and several straps kept his arms bound to his body.

 

"I am captain Leahcim Xris, leader of this task force, and the senior

 

representative of the Galactic Empire. Be advised that your world is now a

 

subject world of the Galactic Empire. You will find that to be not such a bad

 

thing. The Universe is a very dangerous place, join us, and your survival is

 

guaranteed. You may even be allowed to retain your own government and laws, your

 

people their identity, in return for the appropriate levies."

 

"Levies?"

 

"Your young men will be subject to conscription, to serve in our armed

 

forces, free trade is allowed within the Empire, except of course for various

 

substances and technologies which are outlawed, and as long as the appropriate

 

taxes are paid. In return, your people will have an equal say in choosing a

 

senator to represent this sector in the Galactic Senate, where all major

 

decisions of policy are ultimately made. In time, you may even expand to other

 

worlds, colonise nearby planets, and establish industrial and mining centres as

 

you wish. All of these will remain properties of your government, but ultimately

 

property of the Empire. An attack on you or your properties will be an attack on

 

the Empire, and the Empire does not tolerate it's citizens or properties being

 

attacked by outside forces. The Empire guarantees the maintenance of trade

 

routes, the protection of merchant vessels, and the survival of your species on

 

this planet as long as you wish to remain here."

 

"If I refuse?"

 

"Dissidence is subject to harsh punishment in the Empire. It is within my

 

power to have this planet ripped apart atom by atom. Give your word of co-

 

operation now, or be destroyed."

 

"Your threats mean nothing to me. It is better to die an honourable death

 

than to live a life of servitude."

 

"Spoken like a warrior. I'm impressed." Xris said dryly, "Jostve, you have

 

two hours to see that your garrisons are properly secured. They are to accord

 

the Klingons every right of any citizen of the Empire, but any sign of

 

resistance is to be put down, harshly."

 

To the Klingon, Xris continued, "Your execution will be stayed, for now.

 

Pray that I won't be moved to change my mind. Take him outside, and release

 

him."

 

"Jostve," Xris answered, "I don't want to lose this planet through

 

stupidity on the part of some idiot, not in the next twenty four hours anyway,

 

or until it's in Jerjerrod's lap."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Xris resumed his position on the command deck of the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

They hit the Human world next. Xris was worried that he might run out of

 

time, fully nine hours had elapsed since the start of the mission, more than a

 

third of the total time allocated. A databank update had included the news that

 

the other task force had subdued the Romulan world in short order, and was

 

already engaged with the Human world, their second target. That put them several

 

hours ahead of Xris' group.

 

As a result he changed his tactics around completely in his attack on the

 

Human world. The three Imperators were ordered directly into low-orbit, where

 

they commenced the invasion despite being under enemy fire. Their only

 

protection was an interdictor field set up by the Dominator from high orbit,

 

where it was protected by the two allegiance-class heavy Destroyers who provided

 

covering fire from high orbit as well, preventing the Human starships from

 

directly attacking the invading forces. The Victories stood by outside the

 

system, ready to jump-intercept any Human ship which got caught in an

 

interdiction cone or disengaged it's warp drive. This forced the enemy to attack

 

from long-range only, and to stay on the move at warp, effectively reducing

 

their firepower.

 

At first the Federation starships launched torpedoes from long-range at

 

the Imperators, but as soon as the torpedoes hit the interdiction field and

 

slowed down, they were shot down. The starships themselves could maintain a weak

 

warp field against the interdiction field, but their reduced speed made them

 

vulnerable to concentrated turbolaser barrages. The Imperators were left

 

virtually free to provide tactical orbital fire for the invading troops, who

 

were meeting minimal resistance. In fact, the troops beat the Covell curve by a

 

full two minutes, with reduced casualties, before the fleet units had secured

 

the system. Battle experience was beginning to tell.

 

The Human starships were left with two options, continue to uselessly

 

attack the gigantic Imperial ships even though they had already lost the planet,

 

or retreat. They made up their minds quickly, leaving the system at high warp in

 

the direction of the recently located capital, Earth. Xris detailed a Victory to

 

track them and make sure they didn't double back. Two army regiments were

 

garrisoned on the planet, and a transmission sent to Jerjerrod to inform him

 

that he had another planet to manage in this sector.

 

The task force was relatively low on troops now, and Xris jumped for the

 

Gate next. Thirteen hours had passed so far. The trip to the Gate was one hour,

 

and it took them several minutes to load up the fresh regiments. In the hour it

 

took them to Jump to the Romulan world Jostve ordered the regiments broken up

 

into units, and reassigned his forces to mix the green units with his veteran

 

unts. By the time they arrived, they were more than fifteen hours into the

 

mission.

 

 

 

"We will take the fight directly to them again," Xris told his men, "the

 

Romulan fleet can watch us invade their world, or come out and fight. It's up to

 

them. I want full-spectrum jamming, a large interdiction field around the fleet,

 

and the Victories to stand by outside the system for possible jump-intercepts."

 

Once again, the troops broke the Covell curve, with minimal orbital

 

support. Jostve was rather pleased as well, his troops had vastly improved co-

 

ordination between forces, and had fully overcome their earlier squeamishness.

 

They steamrollered over any and all opposition with utter ruthlessness in

 

dealing with the Romulans.

 

The planet was secured with four hours of mission time to spare, and Xris'

 

task force joined the Vengeance at the Gate with three hours still on the clock.

 

The other task force hadn't arrived yet. Apparently they had secured the Romulan

 

and Human worlds without too much difficulty, but had vastly underestimated the

 

Klingon tenacity. The ground-forces were involved in a bitter struggle for

 

dominance on the planet.

 

Admiral Harrsk wasted no time in ordering the fleet to the Klingon world.

 

Having to bombard the world into submission from orbit was not an appealing

 

prospect at this stage. The Imperials knew from experience it tended to

 

strengthen resolve amongst surviving worlds rather than cow them into

 

submission.

 

By the time the fleet meshed in though, the Klingon world had submitted.

 

The Imperial task force in orbit had made a short demonstration of firepower,

 

and told the Klingons in no uncertain terms to surrender or be destroyed. While

 

the victory had been achieved, Harrsk was livid. The Colonel in charge of the

 

ground-forces was only saved from execution by the fact that he had been ordered

 

in against his recommendations, because of an over-commitment of ground forces

 

on the previous two worlds invaded. Apparently, the captain in charge of the

 

task force had miscalculated how much troops he would need to invade the Klingon

 

colony, and refused to return to the Gate for more troops before launching the

 

attack.

 

Naturally, the captain was severely reprimanded, and relieved of his

 

command. He would be accommodated in the brig on the Vengeance until a court-

 

martial could be arranged. In the meanwhile, the fleet needed to prepare for an

 

attack on Earth.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

Xris enjoyed his new found seniority. He was the most senior captain in

 

the invasion fleet, subordinate only to Rear-Admiral Harrsk himself. As such, he

 

was privy to a conference between the three major Imperial representatives in

 

this galaxy. Rear Admiral Harrsk, who led the invasion force, Rear Admiral Piett

 

who was responsible for the defence of this side of the Gate, and Moff

 

Jerjerrod, who as sector governor, was responsible for the security of the

 

captured worlds.

 

"Harrsk," Piett was saying, "your priority should be to destroy the

 

enemy's fleet. They have assembled a fleet numbering nearly two hundred vessels,

 

and are preparing to attack this Gate."

 

"Your forces can easily handle such an attack, and besides it is not my

 

responsibility. My orders are to expand Imperial control through this galaxy as

 

fast and as far I see fit. I have twenty two ships with which to accomplish

 

this, and I have no intentions of losing any of them at this stage. I have

 

determined that if the enemy capital world were captured or destroyed, it would

 

be a tremendous blow to their industrial strength, and seriously cripple their

 

war effort. This will ultimately enable us to expand faster, and will be best

 

accomplished by launching an attack after the huge fleet they have assembled

 

leaves the vicinity of Earth."

 

"I don't doubt the capability of my forces to withstand the enemy attack,"

 

Piett replied, "but their attack will be a distraction. The real danger will be

 

from any New Republic raids through the worm-hole."

 

"We are at peace with the New Republic," Jerjerrod interjected, "they

 

wouldn't dare attack us. A war between the Empire and the Republic would be as

 

disastrous to them as to us, and they know it."

 

"What you believe is irrelevant. It is well within the capabilities of the

 

Republic to launch an attack here, and any distraction by the Federation would

 

interfere with my defensive arrangements, possibly even cripple them. That

 

cannot be tolerated. Harrsk must destroy their forces before they get here."

 

"You underestimate the power of your defensive fleet." Harrsk stated.

 

"You know very well that the Federation attack force does not concern me,

 

but a well-timed Republic attack could be devastating."

 

"The Republic has no contact with the Federation, or Intelligence would

 

know. Their movements are as limited as ours, by the extent to which they have

 

mapped the galaxy. Unless they come through that worm-hole, they have no way of

 

reaching this quadrant, and won't for years." Harrsk replied.

 

"All of our orders ultimately require speedy settling of a large region of

 

this galaxy." Jerjerrod stated, "Harrsk is right. Destroying Earth will

 

ultimately allow speedier expansion through this galaxy."

 

"And none of that will happen if this Gate is compromised," Piett

 

interjected.

 

"It appears you are outvoted." Harrsk said. "You have adequate resources

 

with which to defend the Gate, and there is no reason to believe a New Republic

 

attack is imminent or even likely."

 

"Very well, but remember that this conference has been recorded. Should

 

this Gate fall, then I will ensure that responsibility will be shared between

 

all three of us."

 

"The Gate will not be destroyed," Harrsk laconically informed Piett, "You

 

will make sure of that. It is your responsibility, ultimately."

 

 

 

 

 

The fleet lay to at the Gate for half a day, while the majority of the

 

crews slept, and the droids replenished the stocks. The few days of operations

 

had not seriously depleted the stocks on-board, but military policy required

 

that ships be kept fully stocked as far as possible at all times. Merchant

 

vessels were still pouring through the Gate, ferrying supplies to the few dozen

 

captured worlds. The supplies included additional armaments, maintenance droids,

 

military construction equipment, theatre shields, and food-stocks for the

 

Imperial garrisons.

 

It appeared that the alien worlds were extremely impoverished, and the

 

civilians were quite happy to eat recycled food or replicated food. Imperial

 

troops - and most imperial citizens - would never stoop so low, much preferring

 

genuinely grown food, preferably preserved in stasis fields rather than merely

 

refrigerated. The aliens had no time-manipulation technology like stasis fields,

 

and relied purely on archaic refrigeration technology for food-preservation.

 

Xris was sleeping when the notification came through. The Human fleet had

 

set out, and was being tracked by two Imperial Intelligence drone ships, which

 

had also dropped several hyperspace orbital scanners in or near the Human home-

 

world.

 

Imperial military vessels maintained four separate crews, graded according

 

to seniority. The two junior crews kept most watches during inoperative times,

 

while the two senior crews were retained for operational conditions. Xris gave

 

orders that his senior crews were not to be disturbed yet. The fleet would no

 

doubt embark on their raid in the next hour or two, and Earth was nearly ten

 

hours away via hyperspace. Ample time to do a watch-change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOL III - HIGH ORBIT.

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Picard woke with a start. Such dreams! He had not had such dreams in

 

ages. He stepped over to his mirror and looked at himself. He willed the

 

haggardness away, staring into the mirror until the face he saw was the one he

 

wished his crew to see. The calm, determined, confident commander, who feared

 

nothing. Finally satisfied, he got dressed, and made his way to the bridge.

 

"Captain," Riker greeted him, a vague questioning look in his eyes. He

 

knew something was troubling Picard.

 

Picard greeted him, but waved the unspoken question away. Such

 

conversations were not for the bridge. He glanced at the view-screen, only

 

vaguely surprised by the comparative emptiness of the space around them.

 

"The recovery fleet?" He asked unnecessarily.

 

"They left an hour ago." Riker confirmed.

 

Picard nodded. The vague unease hadn't left him yet. It was nothing to do

 

with the fact that he had been assigned to the Earth Defense Fleet, and not the

 

recovery-fleet heading for Bajor. There was something else bothering him, and he

 

relaxed, trying to recall the dreams of the previous night. On waking, the

 

dreams had vanished like morning mist, but if he could reconstruct his thoughts

 

of the night before, then maybe he could reconstruct the dreams too. He had been

 

thinking about Cisko's account of the invasion.

 

 

 

 

 

The sudden lack of traffic returning through the wormhole had raised fears

 

of another Dominion offensive. The Defiant had just departed through the

 

wormhole, in order to investigate. Worf, Dax, and several other officers had

 

been aboard. Cisko and Kira had been on a shuttle to Bajor, with several

 

youngsters including Jake, when the first indication of trouble came. A brief

 

burst of Cronau radiation of immense intensity had set off every alarm on the

 

shuttle, signifying the arrival of a structure that had initially looked like a

 

gigantic copy of DS9. It was an immense ring, easily 30 kilometers in diameter

 

[not radius, Edam smile.gif]. There the resemblance to DS9 ended though, the structure

 

was immense, with the ring walls easily 2 kilometers thick, with immense bulbous

 

protrusions sticking out all around. The centre of the structure was a perfect

 

black disc, at least 25 kilometers across, according to the scale indicator on

 

the view-screen.

 

A metallic device briefly registered on the shuttle's scanners, but was

 

lost against this blackness on the view-screen. The shuttle was racing back to

 

transporter range of DS9, several minutes away. The device disappeared, and

 

seconds later was replaced by another metallic device. This one too immense to

 

be lost even against that perfect blackness. It was easily a mile long, and

 

several hundred meters broad and tall, with a massivity that dwarfed the nearby

 

doughnut shape of the DS9 space-station, which itself was a ring with a diameter

 

of barely a mile.

 

Cisko was momentarily paralysed by a fear of another Borg attack, before

 

sanity prevailed.

 

"Can you open a communications channel to it?" He asked Kira.

 

"All channels are flooded with static the instant I open it. They are

 

deliberately jamming all communications."

 

"DS9?" He asked.

 

"The same, I can't get through to them."

 

On the shuttle's control board, one console after another was reporting

 

problems as the jamming started interfering with sensors, weapons, targeting,

 

transporters, the mass-lightening field was showing signs of strain, even the

 

warp-core was showing signs of reduced stability.

 

"Get us to the station as fast as possible." He told Kira.

 

"Maximum warp has been reduced by 20%, the jamming is extremely heavy."

 

Kira said, but she accelerated as hard as the shuttle could against the

 

interference. The range to DS9 decreased rapidly as the shuttle warped across

 

the system. All possibility of transport was dashed by the jamming, and they

 

would have to take time to dock the shuttle.

 

"What the ..." Kira started, as something spiked on the sensor board.

 

"It's firing on DS9." Cisko said, unbelievingly.

 

On the view-screen, several streaks of green and blue flashed across

 

space, into the shields of the station. Large parts of the station was lost to

 

sight as the shields glowed with re-directed energies. The shield-glow quickly

 

spread around the entire station, as the shields battled to re-direct the

 

energies faster than they were being poured on. Judging by the intensity of the

 

shield-glow, the shields wouldn't hold out very long. There was also no chance

 

for the shields to be dropped to allow the shuttle to land.

 

"Turn around, Kira, head back to Bajor. Maximum warp."

 

Kira didn't bother telling him that they were pushing the safety limits by

 

running the warp core at such power levels in the face of the sub-space jamming.

 

She turned the shuttle around without a word, and egged more speed out of the

 

small ship. It looked like Bajor would need every warrior.

 

Cisko took over the communications. The strength of the jamming was

 

decreasing as they put distance between themselves and the immense warship

 

battling DS9. They would soon be able to burn through the jamming, and establish

 

comms with Bajor. A face appeared on the comm-screen, distorted by static, it

 

was Bajoran.

 

"This is Cisko. Launch all your fighters, prepare to defend the planet."

 

"The fighters are already being launched. Come in on approach path nine,

 

the fighters are launching on your vector."

 

Kira nodded, and changed direction slightly. If they could land, her first

 

order of business would be to get a fighter for herself. If that warship got

 

past DS9, Bajor would need her more than Cisko would.

 

"A second warship has entered the system!" Cisko said incredulously.

 

An identical behemoth of a vessel had joined the first one. The two ships

 

were moving to flanking positions on the station, each of them firing from

 

dozens of weapons emplacements. The picture on the view-screen was filled with

 

static, and waves of distortion, but Cisko could see that some bolts were

 

beginning to slip through the over-extended shields, and rip into the hull of

 

the station. Several tiny detonations marked the failure of the shield

 

generators, and several of the massive bolts slammed home without any deterrent.

 

Explosions wracked the station, a docking spine was blown clean off and sent

 

spinning into space. Then the entire station broke into three pieces, rolling

 

and tumbling off into the darkness, their position marked by glowing metal and

 

incandescent gases.

 

One of the immense dagger-shaped vessels accelerated in the direction of

 

Bajor, the other turning towards the worm-hole. Some kind of a metallic probe

 

came through the wormhole, definitely not of any known design. The alien warship

 

destroyed it. A second probe made a brief appearance, and fled at the sight of

 

the warship. Cisko wondered what Defiant had run into on the far side of the

 

worm-hole.

 

"Bajor control, can you establish a link to Starfleet, and relay the

 

communications to me."

 

"We have already hailed two nearby starships, they will be here within the

 

hour. All scanner data is being transmitted as we record it."

 

Cisko nodded. He felt helpless. At it's moment of greatest need, he had

 

not been aboard DS9. He thoughts briefly touched on the people who had been

 

aboard, O'Brien, left in charge, Quark, Odo, thousands of others.

 

He glanced at the huge alien ship angling towards Bajor, strange that it

 

hadn't activated it's warp drive. It was several light-hours away, which might

 

mean that they would have time to prepare a defense. The Bajoran fighters were

 

assembling in high-orbit, ready to defend their home-world. Cisko battled with

 

the sensors, but was unable to penetrate the enemy jamming to get a clear scan

 

of the huge warship. He was momentarily distracted by the sight of a third

 

warship entering the system. It too headed towards the wormhole, taking up what

 

appeared to be a defensive position.

 

The warship heading towards Bajor suddenly appeared to elongate, and for a

 

brief fraction of time it appeared to Cisko that it was in two places at once.

 

It had warped across half the star system in a fraction of a second, at an

 

incredible warp factor, if indeed it's drive mechanism was warp based. The

 

Bajoran fighters were caught totally unprepared. The immense warship had

 

appeared right in the middle of their formation, and opened fire with what must

 

have been more than a hundred weapons. A few fighters smashed into the shields

 

of the immense structure, unable to avoid it in time, others were blown away by

 

the initial barrage of fire.

 

The shuttle itself was approaching the upper atmosphere of Bajor, and Kira

 

had slowed down, preparing for re-entry. The battle was barely two or three

 

planetary diameters away, and the sensors feeding the view-screen provided an

 

almost clear picture, with only a hint of static distortion. They could clearly

 

see at least a dozen tiny shapes detach from the lower half of the immense

 

warship, then another dozen, and another. The tiny fighters, if such they were,

 

moved to engage the remaining Bajoran fighters. Then it happened. An event which

 

shocked Cisko to his emotionally ravaged core. The gigantic warship opened fire

 

on the near defenceless planet below. A barrage of green energy streaked into

 

the atmosphere, which seemed to recoil away from the energy bolts.

 

The cloud formations seemed to shudder and come to a stand-still as the

 

initial blast wave swept through the thin upper atmosphere. On the surface below

 

the alien warship, an immense orange mushroom cloud was forming. The cloud

 

formations were ripped apart, as large sections of the upper atmosphere visibly

 

boiled away into space.

 

A scream of intense pain tore Cisko's attention away from the riveting

 

sight. He punched in a command, and the view-screen cleared, all visual cues

 

blanked out, replaced only with navigational cues. Grabbing the controls from

 

Kira, he wrenched the shuttle around and pointed it towards deep space, and

 

pushed the power control to the maximum. The shuttle surged away from the

 

planet, heading out of the system.

 

Kira viciously punched a command into the view-screen control, lighting up

 

the view-screen again. Her face was white with shock, and she brought her hands

 

to her face as the image took shape. The alien warship had expanded it's cone of

 

fire as the orange mushroom cloud spread over the surface of the planet. It

 

poured yet more energy into the devastation, feeding it, forcing it to spread

 

over the surface. A significant fraction of the hemisphere already engulfed in

 

the destruction. On the view-screen, a second warship joined in the attack, then

 

a third, and a fourth.

 

Kira attempted to grab the controls, trying to swing the shuttle back

 

towards the doomed planet. Cisko grabbed her arm, and she prepared to punch him,

 

but caught his glance over her shoulder. Rolling out of the way of the possible

 

attack, she came to her feet in a crouched position to face Cisko and whoever

 

was behind her. There was no-one, except for a handful of children, staring

 

wide-eyed at her, the view-screen, and the rapidly expanding cones of

 

destruction sweeping across Bajor.

 

Cisko cut the view-screen, and waved the children back. He sealed the

 

hatchway, while Kira curled into a foetal position. He merely took time to put

 

the shuttle on a course for the nearest Federation world with a starfleet base,

 

and activated the auto-pilot. He crouched over the silent form of Kira, and

 

gathering her into his arms leaned back against the bulkhead separating the

 

children from the cockpit. Through the bulkhead, he could vaguely hear the voice

 

of Bashir, and Keiko O'Brien, speaking to the children. Keiko O'Brien, who's

 

husband had just died on Deep Space Nine.

 

Kira was pushing him away, he allowed her to break free. They stepped over

 

to the control panel, and she stabbed at the view-screen controls. She waved his

 

hand away as he reached to stop her. The view-screen was filled with static,

 

their sensors barely able to penetrate the jamming from this range, but they

 

could see well enough. Almost the entire planet was one glowing orange ball, and

 

still the alien ships were firing into it. Cisko counted a dozen of the gigantic

 

warships, and even as he watched, three more came in through the immense

 

structure near the wormhole.

 

These were slightly smaller, but no less massive. The sensors spiked

 

alarmingly as another vessel appeared, then blanked out as the static

 

overwhelmed the sensors. Cisko reached for the controls to replay the last bit,

 

but stopped halfway. It wasn't necessary, he knew what he had seen. The last

 

ship to enter the system before the sensors were overwhelmed had been truly

 

gigantic. He hadn't time to get an exact measurement on it, but knew that it

 

would dwarf even Starbase 74, the largest artificial structure known to the

 

Federation, and still come out with change. It had to have been at least 15

 

kilometers long, possibly as much as seventeen kilometers.

 

He glanced at Kira, and saw the confirmation in her eyes. She had seen it

 

too.

 

"I could find no trace of any of our fighters. Not even one survived." Her

 

mouth remained open as if to say more. She didn't have to. Cisko knew exactly

 

what was in her mind. She slumped into one of the flight-seats, and buried her

 

face in her hands. "I should have been there." She finally managed.

 

Cisko stood helplessly behind her. Part of him shared her pain, Worf 359

 

flooding back into his thoughts. Another part of him exulted. He had survived

 

again, and Jake had survived. A slight wave of guilt washed over him, that he

 

had survived, while many others had not, forcing him to re-evaluate his actions.

 

There was nothing he could have done, he knew, survival was their only option.

 

He stepped over to the hatchway, and unsealed it. In the room beyond, a dozen

 

wide-eyed children sat, with Keiko and Bashir chatting to them. Jake came

 

charging across the room, and threw his arms around his father.

 

In the background, Cisko spotted Nog, Jake's classmate. His father had

 

been aboard DS9 too. Cisko held out his arm, but the Ferengi boy turned away. He

 

looked to see how Keiko was doing, but she turned her back to him, but not

 

before he saw the accusation in her eyes. Or had he imagined it. He closed his

 

eyes and held on to Jake. Around him, he imagined the accusatory looks of the

 

children, and Keiko, and Kira, and Bashir, cutting into him like knives. Like

 

Dagger shaped warships, pouring green hatred into him. He shut out the vision

 

and pulled Jake even closer.

 

 

 

 

 

"The Borg!" Picard blurted.

 

"The Borg? Jean-Luc, are you alright. What are you talking about?"

 

Picard came to his senses. He glanced around the bridge. Everyone was

 

looking at him. He remembered his dreams of the night before. He glanced at

 

Riker, decided to overlook the familiarity of the use of his first-name on the

 

bridge.

 

"The Borg. I heard them in my dreams last night. Somehow, they have

 

detected this new presence in the galaxy, and they are coming. I don't know how

 

they detected it, but the Borg are coming."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

"Shields standing by."

 

"Weapons standing by."

 

"Com-Scan standing by."

 

"ECM standing by."

 

"Acknowledged. Active scanning, four seconds, the moment we mesh in. Keep

 

a comet watch out for cloaked ships. They may have modified some of their ships

 

by now."

 

"Aye, sir. Active scanning, four seconds."

 

The stars rotated and coalesced, with one star significantly brighter than

 

the rest. Sol, barely a light-day away. The ships of the Imperial fleet spread

 

out, assuming a defensive formation waiting for the Admiral's pleasure. The

 

active scan would have broadcast their position for at least a hundred light-

 

years, but was necessitated by the pervasiveness of cloaking technologies in

 

this galaxy. There was no such thing as a perfect cloaking field, even the

 

cloaks used by the Federation and it's allies. There was always one way or

 

another to detect such ships.

 

Drive emissions, the odd long-lived pion from an antimatter reaction, an

 

occasional release of gamma rays from a poorly shielded reactor, various

 

leakages through the windows of the cloaking shield that was necessitated if you

 

wanted to see where you were going, or if you wished to allow your weapons to

 

break through the shield. Even in-direct methods such as observing the stellar

 

background for lost photons, or sudden transitory gaps in the spectra of

 

background radiation, the odd flicker in sub-space caused by immersing a ship

 

partially or totally in sub-space. Some shields naturally radiating energies in

 

obscure frequencies, which could be detected if you knew what you were looking

 

for, like the solitrium waves of a phased shield.

 

Many shields could not totally negate the effect of mass, gravity and

 

velocity, either radiating gravitons, or interacting with them, or refracting

 

them. And there was little the Empire did not know about gravitons, the sub-

 

space detection of gravitons, or the hyperspace detection of a graviton's

 

tachyonic counterpart.

 

Then of course, their was the disadvantages of cloaking devices, such as

 

being a drain on the ships power supply, the necessity of having to drop or

 

reduce shields, the inability to do an active scan for fear of giving your

 

position away, and the secondary effects, like not being able to get a positive

 

target lock without an active scan. And the more effective the cloak, the more

 

drastic the disadvantages. All-in-all, cloaking devices were not all they were

 

built up to be.

 

"Bingo, two cloaked ships, seventy two uncloaked ships."

 

"Detection confidence of cloaked ships?"

 

"Position accurate to seven hundred kilometers, velocity accurate to

 

within thirty percent. As we get closer, we will be able to track them more

 

closely. If they hit an interdiction field, we can track them by the graviton

 

distortions."

 

"Excellent. Watch them carefully."

 

"Sir, Admiral Harrsk is in communication with the Federation."

 

"Repeat the channel."

 

On the holo-desk two figures appeared. There was the hologram of the

 

admiral, and a 2-d vid of some bald guy.

 

"Federation officer. I am Admiral Harrsk of the Galactic Empire. This is

 

your last opportunity to declare allegiance to the Empire. Resistance is futile.

 

You will be made a part of the Empire, one way or another."

 

The officer's eyes widened at this, as if he had read more meaning into

 

Harrsk's words than met the eye.

 

"I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard ..." the man started.

 

"A captain?" The Admiral interrupted, "I don't speak to captains. Put your

 

commanding officers on the line."

 

"I am the captain in charge of the defence of this system, and I have been

 

specifically authorised to negotiate with you. My commanding officers will abide

 

by any agreement we come to."

 

"Negotiation and agreements are not an option, you will surrender, or be

 

destroyed. Captain!"

 

"There is something you need to know," the ageing bald guy insisted, "the

 

Borg are on their way here."

 

"The what? And why should that concern me?"

 

"The Borg are the most powerful and most relentless foe we have come

 

across in this galaxy. Somehow, they have discovered your presence in this

 

galaxy, and they are coming. They consume everything in their path, assimilating

 

it into their cyborg overmind. They will destroy us all if given the chance.

 

They are a race of ..."

 

"Enough! I have no time for your childish fears. Surrender now, and you

 

will be under the protection of the Galactic Empire. Refuse, and I will destroy

 

you where you stand. Your answer!"

 

"We will not surrender! Not to you, not to the Borg, nor anyone else. The

 

line is drawn, here!" Picard finished, his eyes blazing with determination.

 

The Admiral cut the channel without another word.

 

"Proceed with the invasion." He said to his captains.

 

The Imperial formation split into two forces. The Vengeance battle-

 

cruiser, one of the four Allegiance cruisers, a dominator and half the victories

 

formed one group, under Admiral Harrsk. The three remaining allegiance cruisers,

 

another dominator, the Imperators and the remaining Victories formed another

 

group under Xris. The two task forces sychronised their jump co-ordinates and

 

jump-timing, then vanished into hyperspace.

 

 

 

 

 

Picard slammed his fist into the armrest of his chair.

 

"You tried your best, sir." Riker said.

 

Picard just glared at him. "All ships, we fight for our survival. Remember

 

Bajor."

 

"The enemy forces are splitting into two groups."

 

"Be prepared for anything, they can jump in anywhere."

 

Having heard the reports of how easily the Imperials had overcome earlier

 

minefields, and not wishing anything to impair their ship's maneuvrability,

 

Picard was placing full reliance on the Starfleet ships. He had organised them

 

into several flights of six or more ships, which would attack as a unit to

 

maximise firepower.

 

"Contacts, in orbit, over the moon."

 

The Imperial ships had flashed into existence, spread out in a net

 

encompassing the moon. As one they opened fire, large green and blue and tiny

 

red bolts smashing into every trace of human existence on the moon.

 

"Flights A and B, strafing runs, their escort ships. Flights C and D, the

 

battleship."

 

The Federation ships swept forward, breaking into four groups, while

 

Picard held back the rest of his forces over Earth, under cover of the orbital

 

weapons platforms. The platforms were heavily shielded, and spread out in a net

 

as they were, their shields were interlocked to cover most of the planet below.

 

On the planet itself, large populated areas were all covered by theatre shields

 

of the type used to defend asteroid bases. Starfleet had been manufacturing and

 

installing these shields ever since the raid by Dominion forces some years back,

 

which had resulted in tremendous loss of life. The Founders returning the favour

 

of a similar raid on their home world some years before no doubt.

 

The first two flights swept past the moon, firing quantums at the smaller

 

ships, concentrating their fire on one ship at a time as they swept past at

 

close to half the speed of light. The point-defences of the Imperial ships were

 

phenomenal, they couldn't have had more than a third of a second to track the

 

incoming torpedoes, yet still managed to shoot down more than half. The

 

torpedoes that made it through impacted with devastating effect, the blast

 

temporarily adding to the static obscuring the view-screen, blinding the view-

 

screen filters, before adjustments could be made.

 

"Damage?"

 

"Their shields held, one ship dropped down to sixty percent, but it's

 

shields are recharging at a phenomenal rate!"

 

The second wave was sweeping towards the battle-ship taking advantage of

 

the momentary concentration of fire after the quickly departing first wave. The

 

battleship, which had not opened fire yet, saw them coming. Picard turned cold

 

as the battleship seemed to erupt in a blaze of green energy. The blaze started

 

near the point of the dagger, and swept backwards over the battleship as it's

 

guns fired in a sequence which rippled along the length of the gigantic vessel.

 

The weapons were not targeted on the incoming ships though, but at a point well

 

ahead of them. And the bolts streaking across space terminated in violent

 

detonations directly in the path of the attacking ships. They had no time to

 

avoid or dodge the myriad explosions before them, between them, and to all sides

 

of them.

 

Picard lost sight of the ships as they swept into the immense barrage of

 

flak-bursts. Something tightened in his chest, as if a hand had gripped his

 

heart. Static filled the speakers as the energies of the detonations plus the

 

incessant static-jamming momentarily overcame the audio channels. Then the ships

 

burst through the far side of the barrage. The audio feed resumed.

 

"Shields down! Shields down."

 

"Warp core failing."

 

"Where is the Frenchman?"

 

"Turin, come in, Turin, Turin!"

 

"Jettison the core, Jettison the core!"

 

"I can't, the computer's not responding."

 

The devastated formation had at least three gaps, ships which had not made

 

it through the barrage. The ships which had made it through were all damaged,

 

some had just lost shields and got a bit cooked, others were trailing plasma,

 

with jets of air being lost through hull breaches, at least one ship had totally

 

lost a warp nacelle. Even as Picard watched, it detonated in a blue-white

 

antimatter explosion.

 

"Get into cover now," He ordered the damaged ships, "fall back behind the

 

orbital screen."

 

"Sir, I am detecting a sub-space disturbance. It appears to be originating

 

from that ship." Data indicated one of the smaller ships, which had several

 

bulbous protrusions spoiling it's lines.

 

"It's an artificial gravity well, somehow confined to a conical region.

 

And it is sweeping towards the damaged ships." The sensor operator warned.

 

On the view-screen, a grey cone appeared, representing the position of the

 

disturbance. It swept right onto the tattered formation attempting to turn back

 

towards Earth. The ships immediately seemed to stop dead in space for a second,

 

then engaged their impulse drives and pressed on. Suddenly, nine of the wedge

 

shaped warships were right there, on the edge of the cone, dead ahead of the

 

damaged ships, firing furiously at them. It was a wholesale slaughter. Caught

 

unawares for the second time, many of them with no or very little shields, they

 

stood no chance. Every single one of the ships, eight in total, were ruthlessly

 

destroyed. And then the Imperial ships were gone.

 

"Twenty two contacts, Sector nine, range 24 light-hours."

 

They were probably preparing for their next attack. Picard glanced at the

 

moon. Large areas of the moon was obscured by huge glowing dust-clouds. In the

 

moon's low gravity, they would take days to settle. Every vestige of human

 

presence had been wiped from the face of the moon in somewhat less than ten

 

seconds, and he had lost twelve ships in the same time.

 

"We don't stand a chance against such firepower!" Riker exclaimed. "That

 

ship must be a thousand times larger than the Enterprise."

 

"Two thousand seven hundred and forty four point six times larger, to be

 

precise, by volume." Data interjected.

 

"Hell, even those small ones must be at least 3 times larger than this

 

ship, they make a D'deridex look small by comparison!"

 

Data started to say something, "Don't!" Riker warned him.

 

"Enough. Mr Data, any weaknesses?"

 

"If it was just one ship, we could attempt to outmanoeuvre it, and attack

 

from a weaker quadrant. However, given the enemy's fleet formations, that may

 

not be possible."

 

"Their shields? Propulsion mechanism? This confounded static?" Picard

 

asked.

 

"They employ multiple independent shields, angled to protect different

 

surfaces of the ship. The shields are interlocking, and are layered, with

 

separate layers focussed against different types of energy, radiation or energy,

 

and magnetic or deflector shields. Their propulsion system is similar to ours,

 

but employs a continuous fusion driven and field enhanced particle ejection

 

system instead of an impulsed fusion system. The static is caused by broadband

 

jamming on sub-space and electro-magnetic frequencies."

 

"Why doesn't it interfere with their own targeting?"

 

"They obviously know which frequencies they are jamming, and their own

 

sensors select an alternate frequency, and filters out the jamming."

 

"Can we detect this frequency, and tune our sensors to the same

 

frequency?"

 

"Yes, given time, but they will probably just switch frequencies. Their

 

targeting systems and jamming systems are obviously very well synchronised. It

 

appears that they are used to operating in environments where jamming is

 

intensely used."

 

"And their drive-mechanism is impervious to jamming, obviously, where-as a

 

strong enough sub-space disturbance can drastically affect the performance of a

 

warp core." Riker added.

 

"I wouldn't say their drive mechanism is impervious to interference. When

 

they executed the ambush-attack on Flights C and D, they made deliberate use of

 

the artificial gravity cone."

 

"Explain." Picard ordered.

 

"I noticed that their ships came to a stop almost directly on the edge of

 

the cone. When I replayed the sensor data, I noticed that they had engaged their

 

stardrive on a vector that would intersect the gravity cone. They obviously

 

expected to be stopped when they hit the cone."

 

"And you didn't see the need to relay this bit of information, Data."

 

Picard snapped. "is there anything else you noticed but haven't mentioned?"

 

"No, sir. I am sorry sir, I just did the analysis, I just haven't had time

 

to relay everything yet."

 

"That's ok, Mr Data. I didn't mean to snap at you."

 

"I understand sir."

 

"Mr Riker, relay this information to the fleet. Maybe we can use it in

 

some way, or at least predict the attack vectors of the enemy."

 

"Sir," Data suggested, "It may be that we can reconfigure the deflector

 

dish to project a graviton field similar to that used by the Imperials. It might

 

not be as dense or as powerful, but it may serve."

 

"A graviton field will also reduce the efficiency of our warp cores."

 

Riker speculated.

 

"Yes," Picard said, "but we may be able to prevent them from jumping

 

directly into Earth orbit, or ambushing any of the defensive ships. That will at

 

least give us some breathing space. Make it so."

 

Data rushed off to do whatever he deemed necessary. The information was

 

also relayed to the fleet and the orbital defences. Picard didn't know if they

 

would be able to set up the field soon enough, the enemy wasn't going to wait

 

for ever before launching the next raid. He was right.

 

The next target of the Imperials was the impressive Earth-Dock. Well, it

 

was impressive compared to the Federation ships, but only a third of the size of

 

the immense dagger shaped vessel which suddenly flashed in to point-blank range

 

of it. The battle-cruiser fired a broadside that would have obliterated the

 

Enterprise several times over, directly into the flank of the massive bulbous

 

structure. The structure had a power core to match though, and although it's

 

shields flickered wildly, they settled down, and the massive station returned

 

fire. It was armed with multiple banks of Type XII phasers, and several torpedo

 

launchers, most of which could be brought to bear on the enemy battle-cruiser.

 

The battle-cruiser was obscured by multiple nuclear detonations, the range too

 

close for it's point-defences to knock down the torpedoes.

 

The battle-cruiser fired another broadside, many of the bolts detonating

 

short of the station, forming a protective screen of flak, in an attempt to

 

block the station's torpedoes, while even it's point defences were firing at the

 

station. The Earth Dock, although massively powerful, was no match for the

 

battle-cruiser which dwarfed it, and it was clear which of the two gigantic

 

duellists' shields would fail first. The battle-cruiser, immediately on firing

 

it's second broadside, flipped over by 180 degrees, bringing it's opposite guns

 

to bear, and presenting a fresh shield. It immediately fired a third broadside,

 

and as the Federation fleet rushed forward to the defence of the huge station,

 

the battle-cruiser powered away, firing nearly every weapon that could bear on a

 

target, be it a nearby starship, the dock itself, or the Earth below.

 

Several orbital weapons platforms were also powering around on their

 

thrusters, starting to fire on the immense battle-cruiser, as they intensified

 

the shields on the planetary hemisphere facing the battle-cruiser. Then it

 

flickered out of the system.

 

"Contacts," the sensor operator called, "far side of the planet."

 

"Get those platforms back in position." Picard ordered. "All ships are to

 

stay on station unless ordered otherwise."

 

"One orbital station was destroyed, and two starships damaged, in a raid

 

on the far side of the planet," the communications officer informed Picard.

 

"Damaged ships are to stay below the defensive grid. Mr Data," Picard

 

tapped his comm-link, "how far is that modification to the deflector dish."

 

"Thirty seconds, captain."

 

"Damage report on the Earth Dock? Any shots get through to the surface?"

 

"No sir, no damage to the planet below. Orbital platforms are re-aligning

 

their orbits to close the gap left by the destruction of platform 71. The Earth

 

Dock reports no damage, but their shield generator is severely damaged, and

 

several circuits have blown. They may not survive another such attack."

 

"The enemy ship?"

 

"By rolling, it spread the energy load across it's independent shields.

 

Their shields never dropped below forty percent. They could have survived for

 

several more broadsides if they wanted to."

 

"Any thoughts on why they pulled out so early?"

 

"All reports from outlying systems indicate that the enemy's forces are

 

concentrated around the Bajoran system," Data supplied. "They have a defensive

 

net around their portal to this Galaxy. All planetary raids and invasions seem

 

to have been conducted by the same ships attacking this system. It appears that

 

their fleet resources may be limited, and they are reluctant to risk damage to

 

their ships, especially the large ones. The battle-cruiser is the only one we

 

are aware of. It is not the same ship that Commander Sisko observed coming

 

through the portal though. That ship was significantly larger than the battle-

 

cruiser."

 

"They have ships bigger than that thing?" Riker asked.

 

"Yes, Sir." Data answered, "Commander Sisko's shuttle recorded a ship

 

estimated to be 17.1 kilometers long entering the Bajoran system, accompanied by

 

at least eighteen of the smaller escort vessels. Our last intelligence report

 

indicated this ship was still in the Bajoran system, along with a total of

 

thirty smaller ships ranging in size from 900m to 2200m each, and three ships of

 

similar size to the battle-cruiser attacking us, but rather more massively

 

built."

 

"For some reason," Riker said drily, "I am suddeny glad we are not part of

 

that attack force. When are they scheduled to arrive there?"

 

"Six days." Data answered.

 

The conversation was abruptly interrupted by another proximity warning.

 

"Contacts, vicinity of Earth Dock."

 

The battle-cruiser had returned, with fully recharged shields, to launch a

 

second attack against the Earth Dock. Four of the orbital weapons platforms had

 

been moved into the Dock's vicinity as fire-support, but the battle-cruiser

 

jumped to a point on the far side of the Earth Dock, so that the platforms had

 

to shoot uncomfortably close to the Dock to hit the slender dagger-shaped alien

 

ship. Again, the alien ship was virtually obscured by it's own batteries when

 

they opened fire.

 

"Flights A and B," Picard ordered, "attack on vector three, Flights E and

 

F attack on vector seven. Flight G, stand by, attack on my mark."

 

The Enterprise itself was the lead-ship of flight G. There had been twelve

 

flights of six ships each, but two flights (C and D) had been totally destroyed

 

in the first engagement, leaving seven flights of six ships to defend Earth. In

 

reserve, defending the Martian shipyards, were three flights of ships, with his

 

trump-card, two cloaked Defiant-class ships.

 

The first two flights curved around towards the giant battle-cruiser, also

 

using the bulk of the Dock as cover on their approach path. They burst clear of

 

the Dock, and opened fire with phasers, launching volley after volley of

 

quantums as they went. The space between the Dock and the cruiser was a

 

nightmarish hell of energies and exploding nuclear weapons, cris-crossing bolts

 

of green and blue and red, and long orange and red streaks of phaser fire. It

 

seemed unbelievable that anything could survive the energies unleashed, but the

 

twelve ships swept clear unscathed. None of the fire had been directed at them.

 

A second double-flight of twelve ships swept in from a covering angle, and

 

repeated the attacking maneuvre.

 

"Enemy shields down to 30%."

 

"Flight G, now!" Picard ordered.

 

The Enterprise leapt out of it's defensive position in Earth orbit, tailed

 

by five other ships.

 

"The enemy is banking away."

 

"Stay on course," Picard ordered.

 

The battle-cruiser rolled over, presenting it's dorsal surface to the

 

Earth Dock, and for a heartbeat, as Picard's ships approached, it lay silent.

 

The Earth Dock's shields were virtually non-existent.

 

"Weapons free, bank left," Picard ordered.

 

Flights E and F had cleared the ship, their weapons impacting uselessly on

 

the nearly fresh dorsal shields. Still, the battle-cruiser's guns were silent.

 

Time seemed to stand still for Picard, the deck thrummed as a volley of quantums

 

were released. On the view-screen, several orange lines of phaser fire rippled

 

across the shields of the immense ship, hardly seeming to have an effect.

 

"Enemy dorsal shields, 62%." Riker was saying.

 

The entire dorsal surface of the battle-cruiser suddenly erupted. Picard

 

knew there at least four dozen very heavy weapons, and about six dozen heavy

 

weapons, then several hundred light and medium weapons emplacements on the 10

 

kilometer length of the enemy ship. It seemed like every single weapon

 

regardless of size or power level had opened fire, all of them directed at the

 

Earth Dock. A full wave of quantums from Picard's flight, probably twenty or

 

thirty in all, were engulfed by the eruption of energy, none of them reaching

 

their target.

 

"Enemy dorsal shields, holding at 60%," Riker was saying.

 

The Enterprise rocked to one side, throwing everybody to the floor.

 

Several bridge panels erupted as circuits overloaded. For a second Picard

 

thought they must have been hit by something, but catching sight of the view-

 

screen, he saw it wasn't them. The Earth Dock had ceased to exist. Well, not

 

quite, it had been turned into one mass of glowing and fast-expanding scrap

 

metal.

 

"Power surge from the battle-cruiser."

 

"Keep firing," Picard ordered.

 

The battle-cruiser flickered forward, as if accelerating out of the

 

system, then came to a dead stop.

 

"The graviton field," Data's voice came over the comm-link, "appears to be

 

working."

 

"Their shield status Mr Riker?"

 

"Starboard shields 48% and climbing. Dorsal shields down to 58%."

 

"Flights A and B, attack the starboard shields, Flights E and F the dorsal

 

shields. Flight G fall back. Mr Data, what is the effective range of the

 

graviton field."

 

"I estimate effective range to be two light-seconds, sir."

 

"Flight G, maintain range of one point nine light-seconds from the enemy.

 

We will keep him here as long as we can."

 

The Enterprise and it's supporting ships fell back, allowing the battle-

 

cruiser to pull away for now. It was accelerating hard for open space, and

 

attempting to put distance between itself and the Enterprise. The four flights

 

of ships Picard had assigned swept towards the battle-cruiser on low warp,

 

easily overtaking the behemoth. They launched several quantums, then broke away

 

at low warp, evading the return fire.

 

The battle-cruiser's point defenses attempting to set up a wall of flak

 

between itself and the attacking ships, which helped, but against twenty four

 

fast moving ships attacking at low warp, there were too many angles to cover.

 

The point-defences were incredible, but the torpedoes were coming in too fast.

 

"Starboard shields down to 28%, dorsal shields 32%"

 

"Come on." Riker shouted, urging the ships on.

 

 

 

 

 

Xris had been watching the attack with indifference. The strategy was to

 

avoid damage, by concentrating on short concentrated jump-intercepts, knocking

 

out the earth defences one at a time. The enemy had two cloaked ships, and

 

eighteen others defending the Martian shipyards. That could wait for later. The

 

Imperials had firstly taken out all lunar defences, so that they could attack

 

Earth with impunity. The next obstacle to attacking Earth, was a medium sized

 

space-station, which was probably heavily armed, and a web of more than seventy

 

orbital platforms, forming a make-shift planetary shield. Lurking under this

 

web, were at least fifty-four starships of various sizes.

 

Twelve of them had been destroyed in their first attack run, when they

 

underestimated the capabilities of the Vengeance during the attack on the moon.

 

The remaining forty-two would no doubt be more circumspect.

 

The Vengeance had launched a solitary raid on the small space station,

 

which had lured out several flights of the enemy gunships and corvettes (they

 

appeared to have few ships larger than corvettes). The Imperators had used this

 

distraction to launch a concerted attack on three of the orbital weapons

 

platforms on the far side of the planet, destroying one and possibly damaging a

 

second. The make-shift planetary shield had proved capable of withstanding a few

 

testing shots fired at it.

 

Harrsk had been understandably protective of his battle-cruiser, the

 

Empire had few enough of such ships, and had pulled out early in his attack on

 

the small space station. Subsequent scans had revealed that it's shields had

 

been severely damaged, and as soon as the Vengeance's shields were adequately

 

charged, Harrsk had jumped in again to destroy the space-station. At first the

 

attack had proceeded as expected, and the Vengeance had prepared to jump out to

 

the stand-off position.

 

"Sir, the Vengeance is trapped in an interdiction field!" Somebody

 

shouted.

 

On the holo-display, Xris could see it for himself, a light grey cone,

 

very short, and barely powerful enough to serve, but effectively trapping the

 

Vengeance. The battle-cruiser was accelerating away from the planet on ion-

 

drive, but the ship generating the field was keeping pace with it. For a half-

 

second, Xris considered letting the Admiral sweat.

 

"All ships," the Admiral's voice came through, with just a hint of

 

urgency, "I am caught in an interdiction field, jump to support positions."

 

On the tactical-display, Xris saw the enemy had committed more than half

 

it's forces to an attack on the battle-cruiser, and the Vengeance's shields were

 

approaching critical levels. A glimmer of an idea came to him, but the Admiral

 

wouldn't like it. Well tough, if it worked, the Admiral wouldn't be able to

 

touch him without looking a fool.

 

"Sir," Xris said, "Draw them out a bit further, if you can. I have an

 

idea."

 

"Xris. This had better be good. We can't afford damage to this ship."

 

"Just a few more seconds sir, I am aware of your shield conditions."

 

The Admiral glared at him, but was forced to turn away to give orders to

 

his bridge crew. The battle-cruiser was corkscrewing like a fighter, attempting

 

to keep it's wasp like attackers away from it's weakened shields. The violent

 

maneuvring was barely slowing down the rate of accretion of the shields. Just a

 

little bit more, Xris thought, at the same time marvelling at the ability of the

 

inertial shields and molecular enhancement fields to withstand the immense

 

torque that the battle-cruiser must be experiencing. Now, he thought.

 

"Imperators, I want you to punch a hole in the planetary defences at grid

 

reference green five nine. Execute. Victories, prepare to bombard the planet the

 

moment that hole appears. Restrainor to high orbit and set up an interdiction

 

field to cover them from strafing raids, execute. Stomper, Smasher cover the

 

Restrainor, and provide high orbital cover for the Victories and Imperators,

 

execute.

 

"Dominator, join them, and set up a cone to slow down the ships which have

 

left Earth orbit, I don't want them back too soon. Ripper and Render, we'll go

 

after that ship generating the interdiction field. Execute."

 

 

 

 

 

"Just a few more seconds." Picard was saying. The battle-cruisers shields

 

were somehow still holding, three or four more volleys of torpedoes and it's

 

hull would be naked, exposed to phaser fire.

 

"Orbital platforms 52, 53, and 54 under attack."

 

"Flights H and I to support positions." Picard ordered, all his Earth

 

forces were committed now.

 

"Two platforms destroyed, the planetary shield is compromised, repeat,

 

planetary ..."

 

"Flight F, break off attack on battle-cruiser, return to Earth defense."

 

The view-screen momentarily burst into static, then partially cleared,

 

half the picture still snowed out.

 

"We're under attack, experiencing heavy jamming."

 

"Maintain graviton field."

 

A bright flash again obscured the view-screen.

 

"Sir, Canterbury has been destroyed, I suggest evasive action."

 

"Order remaining ships of this flight to cover us, we're almost through

 

their shields."

 

"Platform 54 destroyed, the enemy is bombarding Central Asia. Platforms 48

 

through 62 are moving in to attempt to close the gap. The enemy has seventeen

 

ships over Central Asia. Flights H and I request support, they are taking

 

damage."

 

"Flight E, return to Earth. Flights A and B, continue with attack on the

 

battle-cruiser, what is status of Group G."

 

"Canterbury is destroyed, Marseilles has taken severe damage, and is

 

retreating, the enemy is trying to break through to us, but are being held back

 

by the rest of the flight. Without going to warp, we will not be able to hold

 

them off."

 

The Enterprise rocked as several green bolts struck the shield square on,

 

but the Arkansas placed itself directly between the attacker and the Enterprise,

 

giving them a few more precious seconds. A blue-white detonation on the other

 

side marked the death of the Florida. Again the Enterprise rocked, as one of the

 

attackers got a few shots through. Only the Arkansas and the Sussex remained to

 

defend the Enterprise, the Marseilles having retreated already.

 

"Flight A reports damage to the starboard flank of the cruiser, their

 

dorsal shields are also about to fail."

 

Something seemed to kick Picard's seat out from under him, and he was

 

flung across the bridge. Only Data had had the strength to keep himself in

 

position against the hammer blow that had rocked the Enterprise.

 

"Engage warp, take us out of here." Picard ordered. He didn't have to ask

 

what had happened to the Arkansas. The Enterprise steadied itself, and rocketed

 

clear before the next broadside streaked through the space it had occupied. On

 

the view-screen, the static momentarily cleared as they put distance between

 

themselves and their attackers, only the Florida remaining in the flight. The

 

battle-cruiser had vanished. The moment the Enterprise engaged warp, the

 

graviton field had been cut off by it's warp field, and the battle-cruiser had

 

jumped out of the system.

 

"Flights A through I, Earth defense." Picard ordered. "Earth status?"

 

He was answered by a new picture on the view-screen. Central Asia was

 

completely obscured by multiple overlapping mushroom clouds. Suspended above the

 

clouds were the six carrier-escort ships, exchanging fire with nine orbital

 

platforms attempting to close the gap in the defensive net. The eleven smaller

 

escorts were screening them from strafing runs by the thirty-six remaining

 

starships of the fifty four he had started with. The starships were battling in

 

their strafing attempt because of four huge overlapping cones of graviton fields

 

slowing down their warp runs. The graviton fields were emanating from two ships

 

in high orbit, where two of the heavy escorts were covering them. They

 

themselves were also covered by a large field, preventing direct strafing runs

 

on them.

 

"The ships which attacked us?"

 

"Two of the heavy escorts, they have since retreated to the position of

 

the battle-cruiser, outside the system."

 

"How far?"

 

"Twenty seconds at high warp."

 

"They won't allow us to get close to them again. No matter. Mr Data,

 

transmit the details of your adjustments to the deflector dish to the fleet, and

 

to starfleet headquarters. At least we can play the same game with them."

 

 

 

 

 

"Captain Xris. Your reluctance to support my vessel has cost us

 

extensively. If we lose this battle, I will see that you are personally held

 

liable for the damage to this vessel."

 

"Sir, my actions were tactically correct. Your distraction of the enemy

 

has allowed us to breach the enemy's defences."

 

"Pray that whatever victory we achieve here is worth the effort it will

 

take to repair this ship. We have few enough shipyards as it is, without one of

 

them having to sacrifice the time required to repair this damage."

 

Nearly all the starboard and dorsal shield generators on the battle-

 

cruiser were damaged or destroyed. The crew, assisted by the astromech droids,

 

had already started shifting generators from other areas of the ship, but it was

 

a time-consuming process. Even when done, this ship's shield recharge rate would

 

have been compromised. The starboard hull had also taken some damage, and

 

firepower on this side of the ship had been reduced to 82% of optimum. The

 

damage to the dorsal hull was minor, but the shields would not stand up to

 

another battle until the generators had been replaced.

 

Xris spotted movement on the tactical board, movement he had been watching

 

for.

 

"Sir, if I may, it looks like the enemy is bringing their cloaked ships

 

into the battle."

 

The Admiral glared at him for a long second.

 

"I will remain here, and oversee the repairs. It appears you have a battle

 

to run, Captain."

 

The Admiral cut the channel. Xris knew he had been given a chance to prove

 

himself, or hang himself, depending on the outcome of this battle. He opened a

 

channel to the attacking fleet.

 

"Two cloaked ships are approaching your position. I don't want you to give

 

any sign that you have spotted them. Smasher and Stomper, reserve some of your

 

gunners to track them on passive, no attempt is to be made to achieve target

 

lock. Allow them to approach as close as possible before opening fire.

 

"Victories 4, 8 and 10. Imperator 3. Your shields are reading as

 

critically low, withdraw to the Vengeance, and recharge shields. Dominators,

 

Remaining Imperators, tighten formation. Remaining Victories, adopt screening

 

formation beta-nine, with position nine clear. Ripper, jump to position nine,

 

and assist with the screening. Imperators, co-ordinate fire on one platform at a

 

time, concentrate on knocking them out, not holding them off."

 

The two cloaked ships would hit the interdiction field in seconds now.

 

About thirty Federation ships were conducting strafing runs on the Imperial

 

attack force, with about half a dozen sitting below the make-shift planetary

 

shield. They were probably conducting hasty repairs or recharging their shields.

 

The ship which had set up the interdiction field was there too. Judging by the

 

pattern of scrambled comm-signals, which Intelligence was trying to decode, this

 

ship was also co-ordinating the defense. Xris slapped a tag on it's icon in the

 

holo-display. He would watch for an opportunity to take it out.

 

He wondered why it hadn't attempted another interdiction field yet. No

 

matter.

 

"Stomper, Smasher, weapon release on the two cloaked ships in two seconds,

 

the moment they enter the interdiction field. Navigation, jump-intercept,

 

closure position on the cloaked ships, thirty degrees out of alignment.

 

Execute."

 

The Render flickered in to position behind and slightly to one side of the

 

cloaked ships just as they slowed down and entered the interdiction field. The

 

moment they entered the field, he got a positive track on their position. The

 

Stomper, Smasher and the Render opened fire simultaneously, bracketing the area

 

with turbolaser and ion cannon fire. They were rewarded with an explosion, but

 

no debris, then two gunboat sized ships broke clear, discarding their cloaking

 

shields, and powering away at close to light-speed, using their warp drives. One

 

of them read as damaged, the other had somehow evaded the mass of fire, and was

 

unscathed.

 

The Render accelerated into the safety of the interdiction field, as

 

another four ships swept around and launched several torpedoes at it. A few of

 

the torpedoes struck the port shields, coming in too fast to be shot down, but

 

many of them went wide, unable to target accurately with all the sub-space

 

distortions and jamming. Xris ordered his ship to accelerate right down to the

 

position of the Imperators. Three more platforms had been destroyed, but another

 

Imperator was close to losing it's shields. On the tactical display, more than a

 

dozen platforms were coming around the planet, and would soon be in line of

 

sight to the ships in low orbit. They were already exchanging fire with the

 

Stomper and Smasher, which were holding position about a 100,000 kilometers

 

above the battle.

 

At that range, there was little either ship could do to avoid being hit,

 

and in fact, they had deliberately placed themselves close to the two

 

Interdictors, shielding them from the majority of the fire. The attack could not

 

last much longer, their shields were also showing signs of strain.

 

"All ships, prepare to fall back." Xris ordered. Admiral Harrsk would be

 

out for his blood if any more ships got damaged.

 

"The enemy has got another interdiction field going."

 

Xris swore, they would be slaughtered here if they couldn't get out.

 

"Trace the source of the field."

 

"There are two enemy interdictors, that command ship, and another ship

 

this time."

 

"Victories 4, 8 and 10. Imperator 3. Your shields should be significantly

 

improved. Scan for a gap in the planetary shield on the far side of the planet,

 

with all the orbital platforms coming this way, there is bound to be a gap."

 

"Shields still recharging, weakest shield position is in sector blue,

 

forty eight. There is only one platform there, and it's pretty isolated."

 

"Take it on my mark, Charlie November. We will draw the enemy away first.

 

Victories, retreat to screening position on the Dominators, Stomper and Smasher

 

move to outflanker positions. Imperators, cover our retreat. I will support you.

 

All ships withdraw along vector zero by thirteen by fifty four."

 

The Imperial ships quickly formed the new formation, powering out of the

 

system. They were no match for the Federation ships in speed though. Able to

 

warp around the formation, then attack from any angle, the federation ships had

 

the advantage. Again, the two ships providing the Interdiction field held back,

 

staying out of effective weapons range. Xris' only hope was that the Federation

 

ships would not be prepared to follow them indefinitely.

 

"Imperator 2, swap positions with Victory 1, your shields are getting

 

worn. All ships, monitor your shield strengths, swap fleet positions with other

 

ships so as to present your strongest shield to the outside of the formation."

 

A few more ships either rolled over or moved to the opposite side of the

 

formation. The ships with the weakest shields moved to the centre, so that they

 

could recharge their shields. Xris estimated that they might be able to hold out

 

for several minutes, but unless the federation ships disengaged their

 

interdiction fields, his ships were trapped. He kept up the retreat for another

 

thirty seconds, and was rewarded with the sight of several Federation ships

 

retreating to Earth orbit. They had now accelerated to close to 0.3 light-speed,

 

and Earth was more than two light-minutes away, and dropping away fast.

 

Only about twenty enemy ships remained, the rest having withdrawn back to

 

Earth in case of any underhand tactics. Their shields would probably last out

 

the retreat now, but the Earth forces were getting their defences re-organised,

 

and he couldn't wait much longer.

 

"Execute Charlie November."

 

The three Victories and Imperator which had been recharging their shields

 

outside the system jumped in, concentrating fire on the isolated platform they

 

had spotted earlier. It detonated, opening a gap in the shield. The ships

 

immediately poured fire into the gap. The effect on the Federation ships was

 

electrifying, just like earlier. Most of them streaked off to attack the new

 

threat, including one of the enemy interdictors.

 

Admiral Harrsk decided to take a hand at this stage as well, for what

 

reason Xris couldn't guess. He jumped into attack position on the interdictor

 

which had trapped Xris' group, using it's own graviton field against it and blew

 

it to smithereens.

 

"Fleet, re-assemble, backup position four!" Harrsk ordered, before Xris

 

could respond.

 

The entire fleet jumped.

 

"Damage?" Harrsk ordered.

 

Almost all the ships had at least one blown shield generator. One or two

 

had taken minor hull damage, or over-stressed a few turbolaser turrets. The

 

worst damaged ship though was the battle-cruiser itself.

 

"Withdraw to the Gate, we will have to effect repairs. We cannot risk the

 

fleet being trapped by the enemy interdiction fields."

 

The Admiral cut the channel. Xris could have sworn the last glare had been

 

directed specifically at himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Final damage report?" Picard asked.

 

"Twenty one ships lost, including the USS Hood, and three Akira's. Earth

 

Dock of course was destroyed. Large parts of Central Asia came under intense

 

bombardment, the damage is severe, but the casualties are relatively low. The

 

city-shields held in most cases. The same goes for the brief attack on South

 

America. The ecological implications are bound to be severe."

 

At least the shipyards had survived, Picard thought. Thank God for the

 

deployment of shields over all major cities. The orbital shield had also proved

 

it's worth, and no doubt the first order of business of Starfleet would be to

 

intensify production of the orbital platforms. If the number of platforms could

 

be increased to a hundred or more, then it might serve to hold off an attack by

 

the Imperials, especially seeing they were reluctant to sacrifice ships to smash

 

the platforms.

 

The Federation had won their first victory, albeit at great cost.

 

"Mr Riker, you have the bridge."

 

Picard returned to his room. He had no intention of sleeping though. How

 

could he? The voices in his dreams were now intruding into even his waking

 

thoughts. The Borg were coming, alright.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the invasion fleet were clustered below the immense bulk of the

 

Aggressor, one of the few Executor-class command ships in the service of the

 

Empire. They were surrounded by droids of all types and sizes conducting repairs

 

on them. One of the main roles of the immense command ships was precisely this,

 

field repairs. It was a virtually fully functioning shipyard, as well as a major

 

star-carrier, communications, command and control ship. The unfortunate

 

Vengeance though was too large for even the Aggressor's extensive facilities,

 

and had had to return through the Gate. It would be weeks before it was

 

available again.

 

Piett and Jerjerrod had ruled that Xris' actions were tactically

 

justifiable, and he had retained his command, despite the debacle at Earth.

 

Harrsk's actions too had not been unduly criticised. Piett's major motivation

 

though was to retain the experience of Xris against the unexpected Federation

 

tactics. The Imperials could not afford major ship losses, and now that the

 

Federation were able to use interdiction fields against them, the complexion of

 

the battle had changed. No longer could they jump in and out in short focussed

 

raids.

 

In two days time, a Federation fleet of more than a hundred ships would be

 

hitting the Bajoran world, and retreat or tactical withdrawals was not an

 

option. The Imperials did enjoy a hefty firepower advantage though, in the form

 

of nearly fifty capital ships, although they were almost exclusively variants of

 

the destroyer class. The only major capital ships were the Aggressor (Executor-

 

class command ship), and the Grinder (a Giel-class battleship). The Grinder was

 

about half the length of the Aggressor, though more massively built. Being a

 

purpose-built fleet-combat ship as opposed to a multi-role command ship, she

 

also compared favourably with the Aggressor in sheer firepower. A total of seven

 

Dominator-class interdictors patrolled the system, their gravity cones providing

 

protection against any ships which might attempt to sneak into the system.

 

These two immense battleships were supported by eight Allegiance-class

 

ships, eighteen Imperator-class, and twenty two Victory-class ships. The

 

Grinder, with half the support ships, were clustered defensively around the

 

wormhole. The Aggressor, with the remaining escort ships, were clustered around

 

the Gate. A probe was poised close to the Gate, ready to traverse the Gate and

 

call reinforcements from the far side, where the Imperials maintained a slightly

 

stronger force. A number of Imperators, Victories, and two more Allegiance-class

 

ships were ready to come through if needed. However, only one ship could

 

traverse the Gate at a time, with several seconds between each transition,

 

because of the immense energies required by the Gate's reactors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise was streaking through deep space at maximum warp, and had

 

been maintaining this speed for several hours now. Starfleet had decided that

 

Picard should add the firepower and interdiction capabilities of the Enterprise

 

to the fleet on it's way to recover Bajor. Only six other Sovereign class ships

 

were in service, and two of them were already in the fleet heading to Bajor. Of

 

the four remaining, the USS Hood had been destroyed during the raid on Earth,

 

and the Missouri and Atlantis had been recalled to Earth. The California was on

 

the far side of federation space, and had been told to remain there, as the only

 

major capital ship in that part of Federation space.

 

The graviton beam modifications to the deflector dish of the major

 

warships was rather controversial, but most captains were in favour of it. The

 

nature of the Imperial beam being duplicated was such that it interfered with

 

any form of tachyonic movement. The result was that the moment a ship exceeded

 

warp one, the power requirements for warp climbed astronomically, forcing a ship

 

to run the core at maximum power just to obtain warp 2. Below warp 1, there was

 

hardly any additional load on the warp core, but the sub-space jamming of the

 

Imperials did result in a significant load increase on the core. On Impulse

 

there was no problem, but Impulse drive did not offer any significant advantage

 

over the Imperial ships, whereas even low warp easily outperformed their ships.

 

The consensus was to remain at warp, but not to exceed warp 1, while in

 

the interdiction field. Short spurts exceeding warp 1 was ok, but at prohibitive

 

power costs, posing the risk of a ship running out of fuel in an extended

 

battle. An extended battle was not out of the question, with two huge fleets,

 

neither of which were prepared to sacrifice too much, and neither prepared to

 

back off. The upcoming battle was going to be one long haul of feints and

 

counter-feints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jedi Jerec Antilles was meditating in his quarters aboard the Executor-class

 

command ship, Guardian. Besides being captain of one of the most powerful ships

 

in the Republic Fleet, he was also part of a team of Jedi visiting the Gate to

 

investigate the ramifications of the project. They had arrived to discover that

 

the small fleet attached to the Gate to defend against possible Imperial raids

 

had just fended off an attack by a race of clones. Attempts at negotiation with

 

the clones had not gone well, and a vicious battle had resulted. There had

 

barely been twelve ships defending the gate when the enemy fleet of thirty ships

 

arrived, and for a while, it had been touch and go. If there hadn't been a

 

second fleet on the home-side of the Gate the battle might have gone very

 

differently.

 

One by one, as ships arrived and came through the Gate, they had joined

 

the battle, steadily swinging the balance. However, the New Republic had lost

 

five MC-80 cruisers and eight Nebulon-B's. The arrival of two star-cruisers had

 

finally clinched the battle, but at the cost of heavy damage to them both.

 

Several squadrons of x-wings had also been lost. The enemy had also taken heavy

 

losses, and the wreckage of dozens of alien ships littered the space around the

 

wormhole. Their fighters had been exceptionally fast, though not very

 

maneuvrable, and several x-wings had been lost for each of the fighters

 

destroyed.

 

It had been a long day for Antilles, on a trip through the Gate, into the

 

other galaxy, he had felt something. Well, not just one thing, but several. This

 

galaxy, it was so full of fear, anguish, and a sense of wrongness. There was

 

much good in this galaxy too, he could feel it, but he just knew that something

 

in this galaxy needed their presence. He was not sure if it was his presence

 

specifically, or the presence of the New Republic.

 

Something was happening, and he did not understand it yet. He had conveyed

 

this feeling to the other Jedi on the investigation team. They had come through

 

the Gate to see for themselves, but the results had been inconclusive. They had

 

felt a difference, but none of them were sure if it warranted any action on

 

their part. Most of them put the feeling down to possible natural differences in

 

the life-forms of this galaxy, and not to any greater cause.

 

In the end, they had allowed him to make his recommendation that the Gate

 

remain open, and the project continue. Even then, his recommendation might not

 

mean much. Gate technology would have a major beneficial influence on trade and

 

travel across the Republic, but it had never been meant as a trans-galactic

 

transportation mechanism. With most of their own galaxy's resources available to

 

them, and tens of millions of systems still untouched, the settling and

 

exploring of a new galaxy was not a high priority. The anchoring of the Gate in

 

the vicinity of the remote wormhole had been unforeseen, and was not yet fully

 

understood.

 

Jerec's eyes snapped open. He got up and reached for his comm-link just as

 

it beeped softly.

 

"What is it?"

 

"Sir, the wormhole has suddenly become extremely active. The scientists

 

think that a ship may be coming through."

 

"I'm on my way. Order battle-stations." Antilles answered, and made his

 

way to the bridge.

 

The scientists had not had much opportunity to study the wormhole yet, and

 

lot's of research time had been lost because of the attack by the clones. The

 

view from the bridge was spectacular. A swirl of energies marked the position of

 

the wormhole. Several probes were also visible, recording the phenomenon from

 

all angles. Out of the swirl of energies, a ship suddenly appeared. It was

 

almost as long as a Corellian Corvette, but rather more squat, and with a not

 

too dissimilar drive signature to the clone ships.

 

"Shall we open fire sir?"

 

"No. Open a channel to them."

 

"They're attempting to scan us sir."

 

"Activate static damping." Jerec ordered automatically.

 

"Channel open. It's vid, not holographic."

 

"Respond in kind."

 

Jerec keyed the appropriate command into his chair's padd, and a two-d

 

representation of a vid panel appeared before him. On it was a curious humanoid

 

alien. In the background, he was surprised to see several humans sitting at

 

various control panels.

 

"I am Commander Worf, United Federation of Planets. Are you responsible

 

for the reduction in traffic volumes through the wormhole?"

 

"Captain Jerec Antilles. The New Galactic Republic. I fear that we may

 

indeed be part of the cause. We have just been attacked by a fleet of ships

 

manned by clones. Are you related to these clones in any way, perhaps

 

responsible for them?"

 

Commander Worf glanced at one of his crew, who said something to him which

 

was not loud enough to be transmitted or translated.

 

"Judging by the wreckage, the clones you refer to are Jem'Hadar. They are

 

the major military component of the Dominion. We are at war with the Dominion.

 

The clones are not of our making."

 

He speaks the truth, Jerec thought. There was no hint of evasion in the

 

sense or mannerisms of the alien.

 

"We have various research and scouting ships in this quadrant," Worf

 

continued. "None of them have returned, and several are now overdue."

 

He is fishing, thought Jerec, but has been honest so far.

 

"Commander Worf, to our knowledge, none of your ships have returned this

 

way. If they had, we would not have interfered with them, though we might be

 

curious as to their purpose and origin."

 

"Very well. I do not know what your reasons or purpose is in being here,

 

but be aware that you are based at the major focal point of the war between the

 

Federation and the Dominion. It appears that the Dominion have already taken

 

exception to your presence here. I have been sent to determine the whereabouts

 

of our scouting teams, and will now proceed on that mission."

 

The alien had not specifically asked whether the Republic forces intended

 

detaining him, but Antilles heard the question in his words.

 

"Your mission is no concern of ours. I hope you find your associates,

 

Commander Worf. May the Force be with you."

 

The alien looked quizzically at him for a second.

 

"I will not need assistance from your forces. Thank You." He finally said.

 

The vid-screen went blank. On the holo-display, Antilles watched the alien

 

gunship bank away and head past his defensive fleet. As it passed the fleet, it

 

suddenly vanished, leaving a long ribbon of motion, which disappeared almost

 

immediately.

 

"Tracking sub-space disturbance, consistent with last observed position of

 

that ship."

 

"Log the disturbance as consistent with alien stardrive technology. Feed

 

the data to com-scan. Commence medium and long-range scanning for similar drive

 

signatures."

 

"Sir, Professor Qwix Xu wishes to send a probe into the wormhole. He says

 

the alien ship must have come from somewhere, perhaps the probe can determine

 

where the wormhole leads."

 

"Permission granted."

 

The wormhole exploded into a swirl of energies as the probe approached,

 

then vanished into the colourful nexus of energy. Antilles started making

 

arrangements for another conference with his Jedi contemporaries and his fleet

 

superiors. Most of them wished to terminate the project, and destroy the Gate.

 

Nobody wished for another war, and having two Galaxies to explore and control

 

might be too taxing a burden on resources. Knowing that the only entrance to the

 

remote galaxy was in the middle of a war-zone was only going to make his job

 

harder. He still felt that they should stay, but this new development would

 

undoubtedly swing more votes against him.

 

"The probe has returned. It is transmitting data."

 

"Inform Professor Qwix Xu."

 

"Sir, you had better take a look at this."

 

"Computer," Antilles ordered his padd, "display probe data."

 

The holo-display cleared, and a new image formed. Antilles rocked forward

 

with shock. He was seeing what the probe had seen. The recording was barely two

 

seconds long.

 

"Replay that recording. RMD-5, analyse probe data."

 

The recording played again, and again.

 

"Sir," the deliberately electronically modulated of the military droid

 

intoned, "the probe spotted a Gate at the far side of the wormhole. It fled

 

before being destroyed by an Imperator covering the entrance to the wormhole. In

 

the background, there were at least four more Imperators, and one of them was

 

firing on a planet nearby."

 

"Send another probe through for confirmation, tell it to be careful, and

 

to come straight back."

 

He knew that a security breach had been discovered in the early stages of

 

the Gate project, but nobody had suspected that the Imperials knew enough to

 

build a Gate of their own.

 

"Wake up the whole command team. Now. Immediate conference in the

 

ambassadorial room. New fleet disposition, priority one is defence of the

 

wormhole. The Imperials might launch an attack through the wormhole."

 

Antilles quickly ordered two huge star cruisers to cover the wormhole,

 

with several smaller standard cruisers as support ships.

 

"Prepare a probe for a return through the Gate. Request additional ships

 

to be sent through now. I recommend at least another two star cruisers, with

 

full complement of support ships. I also recommend that the Lusankya be assigned

 

to the defence of the home side of the Gate. The Guardian is to remain in

 

reserve on this side. Request intelligence update on last known positions of all

 

major Imperial warships, everything from cruiser upwards."

 

"Yes, Sir. The probe is being launched now."

 

Antilles left his first officer in charge of the bridge, and headed for

 

the ambassadorial conference room. Nobody had expected the Imperials to be able

 

to build their own Gate. The information leaked must have been more

 

comprehensive than earlier believed. The military droid sent into the wormhole

 

to see what was happening on the far side never returned. A third droid had not

 

been necessary. The Empire was obviously watching that side of the wormhole, and

 

was prepared to destroy anything that came through.

 

What had been a scientific study, had now turned into a race with the

 

Empire. Antilles was not sure what the race was about. Knowledge? Resources? The

 

lives of the billions of people in this galaxy? Mere protection of the

 

Republic's sovereignty by staying one step ahead of the Empire? A desire to

 

discover their purpose for being brought into this galaxy? Maybe they would

 

never know. Many in the Republic believed that their were enough threats to life

 

and well-being in their own galaxy, without going looking for more in another.

 

Not to mention the spectre of a new war with the Empire.

 

 

 

"Commander Worf's ship has been detected returning to this position."

 

"Very well."

 

Antilles knew that Worf might not be too happy about the new situation.

 

They could not allow him to return through the wormhole. The Imperials would

 

destroy anything that came through the wormhole, and ask questions of the

 

wreckage. He hoped that the alien wouldn't take it too badly.

 

"Inform captain Sunb of the Star Cruiser Mediator to prepare to shift his

 

command to the Guardian. I will wait for the arrival of Commander Worf, then

 

assume command of the Mediator. Captain Sunb will be placed in charge of the

 

defence of the wormhole at that point."

 

 

 

The Federation ship approached cautiously. They had obviously detected the

 

greater Republic fleet presence, and the alignment of forces around the

 

wormhole.

 

"Captain Antilles. What is the meaning of this. Have you established a

 

blockade on the wormhole after all?"

 

"Commander Worf. I am afraid that the situation has changed considerably

 

since our last meeting. Would you care to dock with the star cruiser Mediator?

 

It is the ship at these co-ordinates. I am in the process of shifting my command

 

there, and would like to meet you in person."

 

"I will not dock the Defiant. I would prefer to beam directly aboard. If

 

you'd care to lower your shields?"

 

Antilles hid his surprise. These people were prepared to have themselves

 

transported around like soulless matter? He sighed mentally. First clones, now

 

this. Well, people in this galaxy would have their own culture, and so far it

 

bore little resemblance to his own.

 

"I will order the Mediator to lower it's shields. You may beam aboard. I

 

will join you shortly."

 

Antilles closed the communication. His last order before leaving the

 

bridge of the Super Star Destroyer was to be aware of possible enemy boardings

 

via matter transportation beams, and that shields were to be kept raised at all

 

times to guard against such an eventuality. The moving of his command to the

 

Mediator had been decided in the earlier board meeting. The consensus was to

 

expand Republic influence throughout this galaxy as far as possible, to prevent

 

the Imperials from obtaining a major footing. The Guardian and two star-cruiser

 

fleets would remain to defend the wormhole. Another full star-cruiser fleet

 

would remain to defend the Gate, and Antilles would take command of a fourth

 

star-cruiser fleet, headed by the bulwark cruiser Mediator.

 

Bulwark-class cruisers like Mediator was the Republic's answer to the

 

Empire's Executor-class and other battleships and heavy cruisers. Conventional

 

star cruisers were four or five kilometers long, and while they easily outgunned

 

an Imperator or two, were not quite up to taking on some of the larger ships in

 

the Imperial fleet. The Mediator was supported by two star-cruisers, and a mixed

 

squadron of Imperators and their Mon-Calamari counterparts. All the ships

 

carried squadrons of starfighters, mostly the very common x-wing, and a handful

 

of squadrons of b-wings and a-wings.

 

His first order of business was to negotiate a truce with the clone-

 

masters at the heart of the Dominion. He didn't like the idea, but the Republic

 

had no wish for a war that might be averted.

 

As soon as his shuttle docked with the Star Cruiser, he made his way to

 

the conference room where Commander Worf was waiting. Worf and three humans in

 

colourful uniforms were waiting in the room, cautiously watching the four Wookie

 

soldiers standing guard. Antilles waved the wookies out.

 

"Commander Worf, I am sorry to have kept you waiting. Please be seated."

 

Worf and his three companions sat in the seats Antilles indicated. He

 

introduced his human companions.

 

"This is ensign Ro, my communications officer. Ensign Lynch, tactical

 

officer, and ensign Boyd, my science officer."

 

Antilles nodded to each.

 

"Are you preventing us from returning home?" Worf asked, directly.

 

"I am afraid so. It is for your own safety."

 

"Our safety?" Worf questioned.

 

"On sending a probe through the wormhole, we ascertained the following."

 

Antilles waved to a military droid at the back of the room, and it ran the

 

recording of the attack by the Imperials.

 

"That looks like your ships. They are attacking our base." Worf said,

 

standing up.

 

The alien's mistake was understandable, thought Antilles. His fleet did

 

consist largely of captured Imperial ships, including several Imperators and

 

Victories, and of course, the Executor-class Guardian.

 

"Not our ships," Antilles replied calmly. "The ships you see, though

 

similar to ours, belong to the Galactic Empire. They are from the same galaxy as

 

us, but otherwise have no relation to us."

 

"Replay the recording." Worf demanded, his face unreadable, but his sense

 

betraying suspicion, dread and anger.

 

Antilles nodded to the droid. Worf moved over to the holo-board, and

 

examined the recording carefully, as the droid replayed it several times.

 

"DS9?" One of the ensigns asked. "That is the Bajoran system, but I don't

 

see DS9."

 

Antilles saw a mental image of a ring-shaped space-station. For a second

 

he was confused by what the ensign meant, because in the ensign's mind the

 

station was associated with immensity, and had an almost indestructible aura

 

associated with it. But the shape was clear, and unmistakable, even though to

 

Antilles the space-station was rather small, about the size of an Imperator, and

 

nowhere near the size of the immense Bulwark Cruiser they were aboard.

 

"The wreckage in the corner here is consistent with a small ring-shaped

 

space-station. Would that be the DS9 you refer to?" He asked.

 

"Small?" Worf said. He glanced around him, as if remembering the size of

 

the cruiser they were aboard, and Antilles could sense him re-assessing the size

 

of DS9 as he mentally compared it to the fifteen kilometer long cruiser they

 

were aboard.

 

"We must return," Worf said, "our help will be needed."

 

"The Empire will destroy you," Antilles said. "By now, they will have

 

assembled a force at least comparable to this one. Returning will be a useless

 

gesture."

 

"Even so, our duty lies through that wormhole. We must return."

 

Antilles could sense that the alien would not be deterred easily. He knew

 

the implications of returning, but his mind was made up.

 

"Could you not return by another route. Provisional examination of the

 

star systems observed by our probe shows that the far end of the wormhole is in

 

this galaxy, only between 65 and 75 thousand light-years away."

 

Worf looked curiously at him.

 

"That is a journey of years. We might all die of old-age before we ever

 

got home."

 

"Then perhaps I can help. Our ships can traverse that distance relatively

 

quickly. Unfortunately, we don't have a map of hyperspace lanes between here and

 

there, otherwise we could detail a ship to take you. Perhaps if you'd let us

 

examine your star-maps, we can plot a route."

 

Worf looked at Antilles for a long moment.

 

"Ensign Boyd, see that Captain Antilles is supplied with a map detailing

 

what we know about the space between here and the Bajoran system, or the nearest

 

Federation system."

 

"Sir, I will make the data available to Captain Antilles' men, but to my

 

knowledge, no Federation ship has traversed the distance without making use of

 

the wormhole. As such, we know very little about the space in-between."

 

"Whatever you know might be useful. I will detail a team of reconnaissance

 

probes to map a lane based on that."

 

"How long will that take?"

 

"No more than thirty days. Once a lane has been mapped, I can detail a

 

cruiser to take you there. You may have to wait for two or three months, but we

 

can get you home safely."

 

"A lot can happen in two or three months."

 

"The Empire will be in the same position as we are. They cannot expand too

 

fast because they have to map out safe hyperspace lanes to wherever they wish to

 

go, and they may have no idea where all your worlds are located. Judging from

 

past experience, they will want to set up an impenetrable safety net first. I

 

expect that they will take several weeks to map out a large sphere of space,

 

perhaps a thousand light years in diameter, and locate all the worlds in that

 

space. At that point, they may start invading worlds and expanding their

 

influence."

 

"A thousand light years will encompass hundreds of worlds, including

 

Romulan, Klingon and Cardassian worlds, as well as Federation worlds." Worf told

 

him.

 

"In that case," Antilles said, "their rate of expansion might be very

 

slow. Even the Empire can only invade so many worlds at a time. Their fleet is

 

stretched at least far as ours are."

 

"You are at war with them?" Worf asked.

 

"Not today," Antilles sighed, "A cease-fire has been in effect for several

 

years now, and neither side is ready to break it yet, not even over another

 

galaxy. A war between us would be too costly at this stage."

 

"What is the nature of this Empire?"

 

"I will supply you with a data padd with a brief rundown on our recent

 

history." Antilles smiled. "You are welcome to be our guests until the

 

droidships complete their reconnaissance."

 

"What is your purpose in this galaxy?"

 

"Our presence here is an accident. The Gate was meant to be a trans-

 

galactic transport mechanism in our galaxy. The fact that it locked onto the

 

wormhole here was unforeseen. Short of destroying the Gate, we have yet to

 

discover a means of freeing it. It appears that the Empire's Gate has the same

 

problem, though they will most likely use this opportunity to expand their

 

influence into this galaxy. Our mission now is to ensure that their influence

 

over this galaxy doesn't become total."

 

"In other words, you wish to grab as much of it as you can before they

 

do." Worf stated flatly.

 

"Yes, I suppose you could interpret it that way too," Antilles smiled.

 

The Klingon, for such Antilles had discovered him to be, appeared to

 

consider this for a while. Antilles was surprised to sense that the Klingon

 

momentarily considered that they were as great a threat as the Empire was.

 

"I can assure you," he said, "that we are not anything like the Empire. As

 

far as possible we would want to co-operate with any civilisations here. If

 

anyone in this galaxy wishes to join the Republic, we would welcome them, but

 

that is not our purpose here."

 

"And the Dominion?" Worf asked, looking quizzically at Antilles. He

 

appeared unsure of whether Antilles had merely been speaking in response to his

 

question, or whether Antilles had read his thoughts.

 

"Cloning is abhorrent to us. Even so, it was not us who initiated

 

hostilities. We will attempt to negotiate once more with the clones, but after

 

that, we will put a stop to the clone-masters."

 

"You have such confidence that you can?" Worf asked.

 

"Yes." Antilles stated flatly. "If necessary, we can commit hundreds of

 

ships to this conflict, without seriously stretching our resources. From what we

 

have seen so far, the Dominion will not be easy to overcome, but we have

 

defeated clone-masters before. The Force will be with us."

 

"The Force?" Worf asked.

 

"All in good time, Commander. Now, this cruiser is about to lead a mission

 

to a world our recon probes have discovered. We will attempt negotiation one

 

more time. Do you wish to remain here, or do you wish to see this task force in

 

action?"

 

Antilles deliberately dangled the carrot before the Klingon. He had little

 

doubt that the Federation officer would like to see the performance capabilities

 

of their ships first hand.

 

"We will accompany you." Worf answered, with only a slight hesitation.

 

"However, we will not support you in your actions. Once I have established

 

contact with my superiors, then they will decide what your status is. For now,

 

we will remain neutral."

 

"Very well. You will need to dock your ship. I don't think you can follow

 

us through hyperspace. You are welcome to remain aboard your ship if you want,

 

alternately, your crew can be shown to quarters aboard the Mediator. We have

 

lots of space."

 

Antilles was interrupted by a beep from his comm-link. He excused himself,

 

and gave the Wookie guards appropriate instructions. His personal droid was on

 

the link, informing him that Professor Qwix wanted to speak to him. Antilles

 

made his way to his quarters, and activated the captain's holo-board. The

 

insectoid professor was waiting impatiently.

 

"Jedi Antilles," The academic used his civilian address, "I am about to

 

return home. I have seen what I need to with my own eyes, the rest my associates

 

can record and transmit to me. There is just one or two things I wish to bring

 

to your attention, which you may not have had an opportunity to do yourself.

 

"I have just reviewed the probe data, and noticed that one of my probes,

 

while recording data from the wormhole, also happened to record an extensive

 

part of the earlier battle. It detected Moiré patterns in the shields of the

 

clone ships."

 

"I am no engineer, professor," Antilles smiled, "what are Moiré patterns?

 

How would this be significant to me?"

 

"Moiré patterns are interference patterns which result when two wave forms

 

intersect with each other. This implies that the alien shields are modulated to

 

optimise their defensive capabilities. It was a common practice millenia ago

 

when starships had relatively small reactor-cores. Modulation improves the

 

efficiency of shields when limited power is available, but also has the

 

disadvantage that weapons which are modulated in phase with the shield settings

 

will penetrate without significant degradation."

 

"Very interesting. Thank you professor. I am not sure how we can use this

 

yet. Thank you for the information."

 

"Oh you can use it alright," the professor answered. "Firstly, you can

 

detect the modulation frequency. Set two or three communication lasers to

 

different frequencies, and run them over the shields. Lasers of course are

 

pretty easy to deflect with any form of energy or distortion field, and

 

virtually useless against modulated shields, but computer analysis of the Moiré

 

patterns will reveal the modulation frequency of the shields. Once this is

 

known, you can reset the frequency of the lasers in the laser cannons to the

 

same frequency, and this will vastly improve the capabilities of the laser

 

cannons against these shields. Turbolaser blasts of course do not have a

 

frequency, but the power levels are sufficient that they do not require one."

 

"Thank you, Professor. I will pass this information on to my com-scan

 

team."

 

Antilles didn't know how useful this would be, laser-cannons were

 

relatively short-ranged particle weapons, with a significant laser component.

 

They were primarily a point-defence system, for use against poorly shielded

 

starfighters or unshielded missiles. Even if they could be set to penetrate the

 

shields of an enemy ship, it would only work at close ranges. However, the

 

laser-cannons on starfighters might be a different matter, he would set

 

engineering to work on it immediately as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Worf joined Antilles on the bridge. He observed carefully as they prepared to

 

decelerate. For several minutes now they had been in 'hyperspace', which

 

appeared to be slang for tachyonic movement. Apparently, the speed they were

 

travelling at was equivalent to more than a million times the speed of light,

 

and they were about to arrive at the nearest Dominion held world. The journey

 

would have taken more than a full day at maximum warp.

 

"Nothing with immediate significance. The planet has extensive industrial

 

and mining centres, but no major civilian centres. A few possible spaceports or

 

landing zones, with some weaponry, but nothing significant."

 

"Life forms?"

 

"Plenty, but none of them unique, there are several variations of the same

 

basic cloning template. This planet is populated only with clones."

 

Antilles shivered, this is what their home galaxy might have looked like

 

had the clone-masters got their way in the legendary clone-wars.

 

"Hail the planet on all frequencies. Let's see if anybody answers."

 

"They are not answering us directly, but have sent a sub-space signal off.

 

We have tracked the trajectory of the signal. It is travelling slower than a

 

class 1 hyperdrive. A gunship or patrol boat can intercept the signal, or follow

 

it to it's destination."

 

"Don't bother. Broadcast the message that their surrender is demanded. We

 

will destroy all their planetary defences in one minute, whether they answer or

 

not. Tell General Derlin to prepare his troops. We will set up our own ground

 

defences, with appropriate theatre shields. The clone population is to be

 

accorded the same rights as a full citizen for now."

 

"Commander Worf," Antilles asked, "do you have anything to add?"

 

"The Jem'Hadar will attack any base you set up on the ground, and fight

 

you to the last man. It will cause needless loss of life."

 

"How do you suggest we control this planet then?" Antilles asked.

 

"It will not be possible to hold the planet and maintain the Jem'Hadar

 

population. They will die for their masters quite willingly. They are engineered

 

so that they can't breed, and they are totally reliant on drugs supplied by

 

their masters. Without the drugs, they will die anyway."

 

"The clone-masters of course will not care about this, as long as they can

 

manufacture new clones."

 

"Yes."

 

"And the clone manufacturing centres? Where are they?"

 

"We do not know. We have identified one system which we believe to be the

 

home-world of the Founders, but we doubt that the cloning facilities are on the

 

same world. We know only that the Jem'Hadar are clones, they are controlled

 

through the administration of this drug which meets a deliberate deficiency in

 

their biological make-up. The Founders do not exercise direct control over the

 

Jem'Hadar either, but use another race of clones, known as Vorta, to do their

 

bidding.

 

"Somewhere in Dominion space," Worf continued, "they must have extensive

 

ship-building facilities. The Dominion have an impressive industrial capability,

 

totally reliant on cloned or slave labour, and economics or population

 

considerations is not a factor in their industrial capability."

 

"You suggest that we go after their ship-building facilities? Find their

 

industrial core?"

 

"Yes," Worf answered. "Unfortunately, Dominion space extends for tens of

 

thousands of light years, and our scouts have not penetrated all of it, so we

 

don't know where their industrial centres are."

 

"Have you not attempted to synthesise this drug the Jem'Hadar require?"

 

"All attempts at synthesis have failed. The synthetic drug has to be

 

force-fed to the clones, and despite our best efforts to replicate the drug down

 

to the last atom, it has never worked. The current theory is that the clones

 

have to take the drug willingly, or somehow voluntarily or consciously activate

 

the drug after ingestion. The clone-masters knew what they were doing when they

 

engineered the clones."

 

 

 

The Republic forces discovered several Dominion worlds as they expanded

 

through the Quadrant, and the rate of discovery was climbing steeply, indicating

 

that they were approaching the main areas of influence of the cloned races. All

 

the worlds discovered to date had been populated entirely by the warrior clones,

 

and variations of the same template used as workers and various forms of slave

 

labour.

 

Whatever race or civilisation was behind the cloning had managed to keep

 

themselves well hidden, and their worlds had not been discovered yet. The world

 

identified by Worf had turned out to be a decoy. Sometime in the past it had

 

suffered orbital bombardment, so the decoy had fooled at least one invader.

 

Antilles had ordered it slagged anyway, just to be sure.

 

The Republic had attempted to negotiate with the clones, despite their

 

abhorrence of the practice, but all attempts had failed. Their masters obviously

 

had no qualms about sending them to their deaths in droves. Antilles had

 

deployed scouts to patrol the discovered worlds, in the hope of intercepting a

 

Vorta ship or even a Jem'Hadar ship. However, it appeared that the discovered

 

worlds had been abandoned by the clone-masters, and left to their own devices.

 

Clones were dying in droves all over the discovered planets. Antilles

 

intention had not been to murder the cones, but it seemed that the moment the

 

Republic discovered or compromised a planet, the clones were deserted by their

 

masters, and were dying of intense withdrawal symptoms. Even though Republic

 

medical teams had offered help to the clones, they had refused, preferring to

 

die for their masters than live. Eventually, a synthetic substance had been

 

manufactured which delayed the clone's dying, but the clones refused to take it

 

unless force-fed.

 

 

 

 

 

A courier ship jumped in to the fleet position, and synchronised it's

 

computer database with Antilles fleet, updating their maps, and delivering new

 

messages.

 

"Sir, we have a message from Captain Sunb."

 

"Decrypt."

 

"It appears that the scouts have detected an enemy fleet approaching the

 

Gate. Long range scans by a scout-ship gave an estimated count of 800 ships,

 

including at least a hundred ships longer than 1 kilometer, but none exceeding

 

1.5 kilometers. Captain Sunb requests you return to the Gate with all speed, and

 

assist in defence of the Gate."

 

"Very well. Plot a course. Mr Worf, it appears that we will have the

 

action you have been waiting for."

 

 

 

 

 

The defence force for the Gate consisted of the Executor-class Guardian,

 

the Bulwark-class Mediator, five Star Cruisers, and four squadrons of

 

destroyers. The destroyers were actually a mixed bag of Imperators, Mon Calamari

 

cruisers, and Nebulon B Frigates. They totalled fifty-five ships, against which

 

800 Dominion ships would be pitched.

 

Antilles ordered the five Star Cruisers to cover the wormhole, supported

 

by one squadron of destroyers. The Guardian and the Mediator moved to protective

 

positions either side of the Gate, positioned nose to tail, and inverted with

 

respect to each other, so that each covered the other's weak quarters. Arrayed

 

around them as a screen against strafing runs were the three squadrons of

 

destroyers. Protecting the area for several light-seconds in all directions were

 

a team of interdiction frigates. The interdiction field would serve to slow down

 

the strafing runs to less than light-speed, and also prevent high-speed torpedo

 

attacks. It had been observed that the interdiction fields quickly drained the

 

warp sustainer fields of torpedoes, giving the gunners more time to knock them

 

down.

 

Even so, enemy ships doing significantly high relative velocities would be

 

difficult to knock down, and torpedoes launched at high impulse would be very

 

hard to hit unless launched from long ranges. Antilles had two trump cards,

 

which he hoped to play to the full. Several squadrons of snub-fighters with

 

hyperdrive capability, and an ability to calculate the shield modulation

 

frequency of the enemy ships.

 

 

 

 

 

Worf couldn't help suppressing the odd bit of excitement. He had ordered

 

his crew to the Defiant, and arranged with Antilles that the Defiant be allowed

 

to leave the docking area of the huge ship. He had claimed safety reasons, in

 

case the huge warship was destroyed. Worf himself had elected to remain on the

 

bridge of the immense warship. On the Defiant, every sensor could be focussed on

 

tracking the battle as it unfolded. Worf's instincts screamed for him to play a

 

role, the Federation was at war with the Dominion, after all. On the other hand,

 

the war hadn't stopped them from co-operating against mutual threats. He

 

couldn't help but feel that the Republic, despite all appearances to the

 

contrary, was as big a threat to the security of the Federation as their

 

Imperial counterparts.

 

In the last two weeks, he had discovered much, but also very little. While

 

he knew much about the organisation of their fleet, and protocols and procedures

 

on board Republic ships, he still knew very little about their technology. Now

 

at least was an opportunity to see them in action. He stepped out of the

 

turbolift, and walked down the main corridor leading to the hangar. Other

 

turbolifts led directly to the hangars, but those were reserved for pilots and

 

maintenance crews. A bunch of wookies walked by, towering over him. An insect-

 

like alien grimaced at him, a verpine he believed. Nearby a bunch of reptilean

 

pilots were in conversation with each other. Mon Calamari.

 

These people certainly had a high degree of integration with other

 

species, and no appearance of animosity or reservation. He came to the balcony

 

overlooking hangar number five. The cavernous area stretched away from him.

 

Lines of star-fighters were drowning in a sea of droids. Swimming through the

 

ocean of droids were several humanoid shapes, and some barely humanoid. Here and

 

there, a huge rock stuck out of the ocean of droids and aliens, corvettes,

 

gunships, shuttles. In the middle of this mess was an immense black hole in the

 

floor. Next to it, perched as if ready to fall in to the blackness, was the

 

Defiant.

 

Worf stepped onto a nearby drop-lift, and was lowered to the deck of the

 

hanger. Number five, he thought. There were six hangars like this one, and the

 

first two were called the primary hangars, and were several times larger than

 

the other four. The decks above were maintenance bays, engineering bays, service

 

bays, even manufacturing centres. Worf waded through the sea of droids,

 

attempting to emulate the manner of the maintenance crews around him, who moved

 

through the droids as if they weren't there, ignoring them as they magically

 

moved out of the way of the pesky organics interfering with their work.

 

Below the Defiant, he met with ensign Boyd.

 

"Lieutenant Boyd."

 

"Ensign sir."

 

"Not any more. You will take the Defiant, and engage the cloaking shield.

 

I want you to observe the battle from a distance, and record everything you see.

 

Everything. But you are not to take a hand in the battle."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"These people look very well armed, but there are more than 800 Dominion

 

ships heading this way, including at least a hundred battle-cruisers. I will

 

remain on board the Mediator. I will call you if I need to be beamed off the

 

ship."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Carry on, Lieutenant."

 

Worf backed off, and watched as the Defiant lifted off. She didn't even

 

attract a casual glance as she dropped off through the atmospheric containment

 

shields. Worf felt strangely alone onboard this ship. Shrugging off the familiar

 

feeling, he marched off through the droids. He made his way to the main

 

turbolift area, away from the activity of the hangars. Getting into one of the

 

pods, he ordered it to the officer's quarters. He had no intention of returning

 

to his own quarters, but was hoping to find Antilles.

 

A droid at the entrance to Antilles quarters informed him that Antilles

 

was in the meditation chamber, across the hallway. Worf reached for the door

 

control, but the door snapped open as he approached. Worf entered the room,

 

expecting to find Antilles. It took him a second to spot the young captain.

 

Antilles was several feet above his line of sight, suspended in mid air, in a

 

lotus position.

 

"Commander Worf. I have been expecting you."

 

"Indeed." Worf answered. Perhaps Antilles had the gravity turned down in

 

the centre of the room. Careful to keep away from the area where gravity was

 

likely to be turned down, Worf advanced into the room.

 

"Do you have any training in hand weapons, Commander?"

 

"Some."

 

"Would you do me the honour?" Antilles waved to a wall on the far side,

 

where an impressive array of weapons were arrayed. Worf walked around the room,

 

and surveyed the weapons. Eventually he selected one that resembled a bat'leth.

 

He hefted it.

 

"Good balance." He stated.

 

Antilles was dropping down to the floor. The gravity must have been turned

 

on again. Antilles selected an axe-like weapon.

 

"Activate the weapon." Antilles ordered him.

 

"Activate it?"

 

Antilles reached out, and touched a control half-hidden in the central

 

grip, and positioned so that it could not be activated accidentally. Worf felt

 

the weapon hum slightly. The balance was still good, and he swung it

 

experimentally a few times.

 

"Test it." Antilles indicated one of the steel posts lining the room.

 

Worf swung it lightly towards the post, he did not want to damage the fine

 

blades on the ends of the central staff. The blade passed right through the

 

steel post with barely a glimmer of impact to the handle, surprising Worf. He

 

examined the post. It had been sliced through.

 

"Vibro-blades, with molecular bond enhancements, and sharpened to an

 

atomically fine edge."

 

"Impressive."

 

Antilles swung his axe around his head and body a few times, using

 

extensive wrist movements, and controlling the axe with both hands. He reached

 

out with the axe in one hand and swung the axe-blade clean through another steel

 

post.

 

"The same." He said, and swung the axe at Worf's head.

 

Worf instinctively blocked with the bat'leth, and twisted it in a uppercut

 

motion at Antilles' chin. Antilles leaned back, almost casually letting the

 

blades of the bat'leth-like weapon pass within inches of his face.

 

"Very good." Antilles smiled.

 

"Not bad yourself." Worf answered, and stepped in, swinging the bat'leth

 

around for another blow. Antilles brought the axe around, blocking the blow with

 

the handle of the vibro-axe. The room was momentarily filled with a low singing

 

vibration as the bat'leth blade and the axe-handle vied with each other.

 

Antilles jerked the axe backwards with surprising strength for a human, causing

 

Worf to roll forward with the motion. He came to a stop on his back, and

 

instinctively brought the bat'leth up in a defensive position, catching the axe

 

in mid-stroke as it swung towards his head. Pulling back with his left arm, he

 

shoved his right out, in a move that would have severed Antilles head from his

 

shoulders, had he not rolled away himself.

 

The two came to their feet, and exchanged several blows in quick

 

succession. Antilles was fast for a human, and strong. For a second Worf

 

wondered if he was human. He showed absolutely no signs of exhaustion despite

 

the furious pace of the battle. Worf himself maintained a steady rhythm of

 

breathing, unwilling to concede on any point to Antilles. Klingons were three

 

times as strong as normal humans, but Worf quickly realised that the difference

 

was much less for Antilles. Surely, no human could be that strong. Even so, Worf

 

was stronger still, and he used his strength against his lithe opponent.

 

Several minutes went by, with no let up in the contest. Worf fought harder

 

and harder, eventually getting to the point where he was not holding back any

 

longer, but fighting with his utmost skill to defeat his opponent. Seeing an

 

opening, he swung his weapon at Antilles legs. Antilles, instead of blocking,

 

jumped back, and with incredible speed, swung his axe around against the back of

 

the bat'leth, using the momentum and strength of Worf's blow to knock the weapon

 

out of his hand and across the room.

 

Worf, jumped back, prepared to fend off the killing blow from Antilles

 

with his hands. Antilles remained standing, quite calmly.

 

"It is almost time." He said, looking off to one side, as if listening to

 

something. Stretching out his hand to the side, he reached as if for something

 

nearby. Worf was surprised to see the bat'leth he had been using rise to

 

Antilles hand as if called.

 

Antilles held the weapon out to him. "You fight well, Klingon. Keep this

 

blade. It will serve you well."

 

Worf took the weapon.

 

"Thank you." He said, looking quizzically at Antilles.

 

The young man offered him no explanation.

 

"Come, we just have time to shower and change, then the enemy will be upon

 

us."

 

 

 

 

 

The Defiant lay several light-seconds away, cloaked in the shadow of an

 

asteroid, with a perfect vantage point to overlook the battle. In the distance,

 

at medium magnification on the view-screen, the Republic fleet lay in space. The

 

mile long destroyers were mere specks against the bulk of the two immense

 

warships protecting the Gate. Nearby, a few blobs and more specks marked the

 

position of the fleet defending the wormhole. Just a few minutes earlier, nearly

 

two thousand star-fighters of various types had been spewed out from the fifty

 

odd capital ships. The fighters had formed up into several groups, and vanished

 

with a flash of superluminal motion.

 

"Where did they go?" Boyd asked, from the command position.

 

"They were pretty hard to track, being so small, and they appear to be

 

deliberately designed to have a low sensor profile."

 

"So you have no idea?"

 

"Sorry sir, we can only guess. Judging by their exit vectors, I'd say most

 

of them are hiding in nearby star systems. They are probably hugging planets or

 

moons in those systems to prevent detection by the Dominion."

 

"Watch for their return. Any trace of the Dominion fleet?"

 

"Yes, sir. They have split into four groups, and are approaching at high

 

warp from opposing angles."

 

"Sensors, running commentary on anything you deem important. Keep the main

 

battle on the view-screen, magnify as necessary."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Boyd watched the screen as the two fleets drew close together. He glanced

 

at the status of their cloaking shield. Their calculated sensor profile was less

 

than that of the asteroid they were using as cover. They were close enough to

 

the asteroid for a casual sensor operator to miss the odd blip of stray energy

 

escaping their shield, but far enough away that a sensor focus on the asteroid

 

wouldn't pick them up as well. With a major battle about to commence, everything

 

in the area was likely to be bombarded by immense energies from sensor devices

 

of all types.

 

"I am detecting an immense energy build-up from several frigates in the

 

Republic's defensive formation. It's going to hit the fan pretty soon, and

 

pretty hard."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

[From Chapter Five]

 

Boyd watched the screen as the two fleets drew close together. He glanced

 

at the status of their cloaking shield. Their calculated sensor profile was less

 

than that of the asteroid they were using as cover. They were close enough to

 

the asteroid for a casual sensor operator to miss the odd blip of stray energy

 

escaping their shield, but far enough away that a sensor focus on the asteroid

 

wouldn't pick them up as well. With a major battle about to commence, everything

 

in the area was likely to be bombarded by immense energies from sensor devices

 

of all types.

 

"I am detecting an immense energy build-up from several frigates in the

 

Republic's defensive formation. It's going to hit the fan pretty soon, and

 

pretty hard."

 

[end Chapter Five]

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

 

 

Worf suppressed the battle-excitement building up. He was seated in an

 

observation chair overlooking the bridge, with a clear view of all the tactical

 

displays and holographic system displays. Unable to read their written language,

 

he was unable to make sense of many of the displays. However, the major

 

holographic displays were clear enough to understand, especially for a tactical

 

officer as experienced as he was.

 

In the centre of the bridge was a large holo-board, around which several

 

junior officers were stationed. Certain senior officers had their own smaller

 

tactical displays. The gunnery officer had a display showing vectors and

 

trajectories of likely targets, opposed with status displays and controls for

 

the innumerable weapons emplacements arrayed all over the hull of the fifteen

 

kilometer behemoth which they were aboard. The officer in charge of the fighter

 

squadrons had his own display as well, with links to squadron leaders. Antilles

 

had two displays, a strategic display for the whole fleet, as well as a tactical

 

display for the ship's defences.

 

Worf had heard Antilles being alternately addressed as 'Captain' and as

 

'Jedi'. He was not sure yet what rank 'Jedi' held, whether it was equivalent to

 

Captain or if it was an honourary title. Perhaps it was the translator that

 

couldn't properly translate the word.

 

"We have forty groups of twenty ships, all groups are converging on the

 

position of the Gate."

 

"Hold fighters back until shield cataloguing is complete. We might only

 

have one shot at this. Mediator and Guardian to hold fire. Point-defences are

 

weaapons-free. The destroyer screen can fire at will. All ships to use their

 

comm-lasers for shield cataloguing."

 

"Sir, all interdictors are at full power, with the power being routed into

 

a capacitor bank. They have to activate their gravity wells in ten seconds or

 

shut down the reactors."

 

"Tell them to hold on as long as they can. Sensors, give the interdictors

 

a direct feed on the enemy's incoming trajectory. I want them to activate their

 

fields only once the enemy is well inside optimum range. ECM, track all enemy

 

targeting sensors, and jam as many as possible. All ships to activate full

 

static damping."

 

Worf wondered what Antilles was on about. Interdiction fields? Shield

 

cataloguing? Comm-lasers? He was definitely preparing a surprise for the

 

Jem'Hadar, the nature of which escaped Worf at this point. The Dominion forces

 

had slowed to warp 6, still a nearly suicidal run at close quarters. They

 

couldn't hope to target accurately from such speeds, unless their intention was

 

to penetrate the outer defences and come to a stop in close proximity to the

 

Gate before opening fire.

 

"Interdictors, Now!"

 

On the holo-display, a huge grey sphere suddenly appeared, surrounding the

 

fleet out to a range of at least four light-seconds, with several cones

 

extending out to ranges of tens of light-seconds. A large portion of the

 

Dominion fleet were caught in the cones, with the rest of the attack groups just

 

short of the main sphere. The Jem'Hadar ships appeared to stop dead in their

 

tracks, as they hit the 'interdiction fields'. Worf guessed that they would have

 

to be graviton fields designed to interfere with tachyonic movement. The

 

energies used to create them must be immense, especially given the ranges over

 

which they operated.

 

On the holo-display several green lines indicated firing from various

 

ships in the destroyer screen. The interdiction field had effectively destroyed

 

the dominion's hopes of a successful early attack run on the Gate. Any ship

 

hoping to get to the Gate would have to take several seconds to negotiate the

 

Republic fleet's defensive screen if they hoped to get close. The Dominion ships

 

scrambled away, many of them at low warp (less than warp 1), others on impulse

 

drive only. Judging by their reactions, the Republic officers didn't seem to

 

realise what damage may have been done to the warp cores of those ships. Worf

 

knew that many of those ships must have come close to a warp-core breach.

 

Colliding with a deep gravity well at high warp was not a good idea. At

 

low warp it was no big deal, the warp field wouldn't be tachyonic, and the power

 

requirements were well within safety limits. At any reasonable warp factor the

 

power requirements would have sky-rocketed above maximum safety levels in short

 

order. It appeared though that the Dominion had come off lightly, there was no

 

obvious indication of damage from any ships Worf could see.

 

About fifteen medium sized ships headed directly into the interdiction

 

field, and accelerated to warp four, curving around towards the Gate. The

 

Republic fleet seemed unable to target them at this speed, and the few shots

 

that were fired weren't even close. The Jem'Hadar ships each launched two

 

torpedoes while still at warp, and banked away. The torpedoes barely left the

 

warp fields before coming to a virtual standstill as they hit the interdiction

 

field, and were easily shot down by the point-defences of the two giants

 

defending the Gate.

 

"One of the clone-ships has detonated for no reason." Somebody called.

 

Worf glanced out the transparisteel window nearby. In the distance a

 

bright star was fading fast. The remnants of an anti-matter explosion. The high-

 

speed warp run through the interdiction field had cost the Jem'Hadar one ship.

 

And another. Worf glanced away, momentarily surprised by the second detonation.

 

"They must be running their engines without safeties." Another answered.

 

The thirteen ships which survived headed for the safety of deep-space,

 

while another group of ships came in on an attack run. The Jem'Hadar were

 

obviously probing the limits of the defensive capabilities of the Republic.

 

These ships didn't exceed warp three, which meant at least thirty seconds in the

 

interdiction field. Several cones of gravitons were rotated onto their incoming

 

vector, intensifying the field strength they had to contend with. The Republic

 

forces didn't bother firing on the ships, they had no hope of hitting them.

 

The fifteen ships swept past the position of the Gate firing disruptors

 

wildly from warp speed through their own warp fields. Firing a sub-light weapon

 

at this speed in an environment saturated with sub-space static and

 

electromagnetic jamming was a useless gesture, even at a thirty kilometer

 

target. Most of the fire went wide, the few shots that came close to the ring-

 

like structure were easily caught and dissipated by the structure's shields.

 

A broadside from the Guardian swept through the vector where the Jem'Hadar

 

ships had been. The Jem'Hadar were long gone, but if they had stopped at any

 

point, would have been caught directly in the path of the 1000 weapon broadside.

 

"The next time they try that," Antilles was instructing his gunnery

 

officer, "do as the Guardian did. Split broadsides into four, and fire into

 

their four most likely calculated firing positions, reserve twenty percent of

 

weapons for calculated incoming or exit trajectories. We won't be able to catch

 

them on the way in or out, they are just too fast, but if they slow down or stop

 

anywhere near the Gate I want them dead."

 

Worf could see that was the Jem'Hadar's only remaining option. To slow

 

down or stop somewhere in a firing position. Their torpedoes were unable to

 

maintain a warp field in the interdiction field, so had to be fired from

 

impulse, and their disruptors too would be much more efficient fired from

 

impulse rather than warp.

 

Two more groups were coming in towards the Gate. At the last instant

 

though they swung aside, stopped, fired everything they had at a nearby

 

interdiction frigate, and immediately warped out again. The Dominion ships had

 

barely stopped for a second, hardly long enough to precisely acquire a target in

 

this high-jamming environment, and much of their shots were wild. However, at

 

least eight missiles and several disruptor bolts hit the frigate. For a second,

 

there was only bright light where the frigate was. When the explosions cleared,

 

Worf was amazed to see the frigate still there.

 

"Damage report on that ship?" Antilles asked.

 

"Port shields down to seven percent, recharge rate indicates at least

 

fifty percent of their generators are blown, internal damage unknown."

 

"Instruct the destroyers to cover the interdictors, without them we don't

 

stand a chance. Three destroyers per interdictor. Vornskr squadron to roam free

 

in the interdiction zone."

 

Several of the mile long destroyers, and their fish-shaped equivalents

 

moved to flanking positions on the eight frigates, three destroyers per frigate.

 

The third squadron split into two groups of six and started to rove the

 

screening zone in random patterns.

 

"The damaged frigate has shut down two gravity-well projectors."

 

"Have them withdraw through the Gate. They can conduct repairs at the

 

Lusankya. Request a replacement frigate from the Lusankya's task force."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

The Jem'Hadar were getting bolder, and no less than five groups of ships

 

totalling nearly one hundred starships were participating in the next attack

 

run. Even at low warp, they were nearly impossible to hit. Each group selected

 

an apparently random target, and concentrated fire on this target for no more

 

than a second, before escaping at warp. The tactic appeared to be quite

 

successful against the huge slow moving warships. None of the Dominion ships had

 

been destroyed so far in battle. Fired from near zero velocities, the Dominion

 

torpedoes appeared to be no major threat to the destroyers, which had superb

 

point defence batteries backed up by immense shielding.

 

The destroyers adopted the same tactic as the two gigantic battleships,

 

splitting their fire, each selecting a likely firing zone for the Dominion and

 

firing a broadside into the area. It was absolute guesswork, and the chances of

 

a solid hit were pretty low given the huge volumes of space to work with,

 

although they came close quite a few times.

 

Antilles rotated his forces, bringing the ships with the worst shield-

 

status to the centre of the formation, giving them a chance to re-charge. So

 

far, it appeared as if the Dominion were having the better of the battle, and a

 

sense of urgency was beginning to be felt on the bridge. Worf wondered though,

 

he knew that the Dominion were running their ships at uncomfortably high warp

 

factors through those interdiction fields.

 

"How is the shield cataloguing going?"

 

"About sixty percent complete. All their destroyer sized ships have been

 

catalogued, but only half the smaller ships and assault shuttles."

 

"Have the targeting computers finished the analysis of the enemy

 

performance curve yet?"

 

"Nearly done, the computer is getting better and better at predicting

 

their fire-zones, but the slicers think they can still gain an extra twenty

 

percent."

 

Worf was not sure what Antilles was up to, but a quick conversion told him

 

that the 'destroyers' were the Jem'Hadar battle-cruisers, and the 'assault

 

shuttles' were their fighters. He knew that slicers was a slang term for the

 

team of programmers and electronics warfare specialists.

 

Three groups of Jem'Hadar ships were powering through the interdiction

 

field on another run. One group split off in a familiar move to Worf and came to

 

a dead stop at an angle off a wedge-shaped destroyer and opened fire. Apparently

 

the move was familiar to the destroyer as well, or it had just guessed well, for

 

it fired an unbridled broadside at the Jem'Hadar ships just as they came to a

 

stop. The Jem'Hadar missiles vanished, destroyed as a wave of energy in the form

 

of nearly a hundred green bolts of varying size passed by them and tore right

 

through the Jem'Hadar battle-group. Four of the scout class ships, gunships the

 

aliens had called them, were destroyed outright. The three battle-cruisers in

 

the group, and the intermediately sized ships survived.

 

The group immediately warped away, two ships much slower than the others

 

Worf noticed, and there was visible damage on one of the battle-cruisers. A

 

ragged cheer swept around the bridge nearby. On one of the displays, the

 

positive intercept was being replayed, while a number of technicians crowded

 

eagerly around, babbling amongst themselves, the translator unable to keep up

 

with the rush of conversation in the group.

 

"shields .. performance curve .. confidence of prediction .. distortion

 

field projection." were some of the terms that Worf heard.

 

For a minute after that the battle returned to a stalemate, as the

 

Jem'Hadar attack runs worked away at the shields of the destroyers without

 

making major inroads. Antilles continued rotating his destroyers, allowing those

 

with weakest shields to retreat to safe positions between the two command ships

 

and recharge their shields before resuming there screening operations. Then

 

another attack group walked into a broadside. Again a handful of ships were lost

 

and some damaged. It was inevitable, Worf knew, with anything from five to seven

 

of the forty attack groups making a strafing run at any given moment, it was a

 

wonder that after several minutes only two groups had taken damage.

 

The Jem'Hadar had lost a total of nine ships so far, out of eight hundred.

 

The Republic forces were not much better off, with one damaged frigate having

 

had to return through the Gate, and three destroyers with low shields taking

 

shelter close in to the Guardian. The two huge warships hadn't come under direct

 

attack yet, though, and unless the Gate itself came under attack, they did not

 

participate in the defence. Worf wondered what they were up to. He had still not

 

seen any sign of the two thousand snub-fighters which had been despatched before

 

the battle started.

 

"We have ninety two percent of their shields catalogued," Worf heard a

 

comms officer calling to Antilles. "None of the ships have been detected to

 

change their shield modulation since the start of the battle."

 

"Okay, we will have one shot at this people," Antilles said. "Start

 

setting up the fighter trap. Their tactics won't allow us to use our point-

 

defence cannons against them, the ranges and the timing is against us, but the

 

fighters have a chance. Watch their assembly points and try to maximise the

 

number of ships we can hit."

 

Worf sat bolt-upright. He finally understood what Antilles had been up to.

 

The Republic forces had been using the time to run their com-lasers over any

 

ship that they could, and had somehow been analysing the shield modulations. The

 

point-defence cannons were largely laser based with a small particle component,

 

and while weapon speed and re-fire rates were very fast, they were pretty

 

useless against shielded capital ships. However, the same type of cannons were

 

mounted on starfighters, and against largely unshielded ships would serve a

 

purpose. All that activity in the hangars in the last few days must have been

 

modifications to the laser cannons on the fighters to allow the computers to re-

 

modulate the laser frequencies in the cannons. Apparently, the same modification

 

wouldn't work for the turbolasers, which only had a very small laser component.

 

Even so, the starfighters wouldn't be able to intercept ships at warp,

 

would they? Worf glanced at the system tactical display. On the fringes of the

 

system, well away from the battle, the Dominion forces were congregated in

 

several slow moving groups. Every few seconds, a few ships would break away from

 

the group and attack the Republic fleet, but the groups themselves were slow

 

easy to hit targets. They were apparently taking every opportunity to cool down

 

their warp cores, and were only using warp on the attack runs, but otherwise

 

cruising along at impulse between attack runs.

 

"All fighters report ready, sir."

 

"Execute."

 

 

 

On the Defiant, Lieutenant Boyd and his crew had been observing the battle

 

on passive sensors. One ensign had been designated to keep an eye out for the

 

fighters hiding in nearby star-systems. Boyd had almost forgotten about her, as

 

the tension of one attack run after another mounted. Twice the Republic gun-

 

crews had gotten lucky, and intercepted an attack group. Boyd wasn't so sure it

 

was all luck, the gun-crews had been getting better and better at predicting the

 

attack runs as the battle wore on. Boyd could see it in the statistics before

 

him.

 

He also wasn't sure if anybody else had noticed, but the average attack

 

speed had dropped slightly from warp 3.2 to warp 2.4. The continuous strain of

 

battling the interdiction fields were either beginning to take their toll on the

 

Jem'Hadar warp cores, or their fuel supplies were running low. They had

 

travelled at least five hundred light years to get here, and probably had five

 

hundred light years to go to get home as well.

 

On the other hand, there were five of the mile-long escort ships

 

sheltering between the two immense battle-ships, and two of them showed signs of

 

hull damage. Even as he watched, they were joined by another escort ship which

 

had lost shields. One of the escorts suddenly dived into the Gate, and several

 

seconds later, a fresh new mile-long escort ship appeared through the Gate, then

 

another, and another. The damaged ships were now retreating through the Gate,

 

and being replaced by fresh ships. Boyd wondered how many ships were on the

 

other side of that Gate.

 

"Sir! Energy build-ups detected in nearby systems, the fighters are up to

 

something. They're gone."

 

"Hundreds of new contacts. Wait. No. Thousands. The Republic fighters are

 

attacking the Jem'Hadar ships at their assembly points."

 

"On-screen, optimum magnification."

 

On the view-screen, a Jem'Hadar battle-cruiser was surrounded by a full

 

squadron of snub-fighters. They were firing wildly and almost continuously at

 

anything identifiable on it's hull, warp nacelles, deflector dish, sensor pods,

 

disruptor banks, launch tubes. And they were scoring hits.

 

"What's happening here? When did that cruiser lose it's shields?"

 

"Sir, I am reading it's shields as up. The fighter weapons are penetrating

 

the shields with only a thirty percent loss in energy."

 

The surprised battle-cruiser was only now beginning to shoot back, and

 

it's first shots went wild, as the fighters scooted away in an evasive pattern

 

at high impulse. A second squadron swooped past from another vector, scoring

 

dozens of hits on the armoured surface of the cruiser, knocking out disuptor

 

cannons and sensor pods. In the background, other Jem'Hadar ships were also

 

being furiously attacked by the tiny snubfighters. Several ships streaked away

 

at warp, while others were only now beginning to realise that their shields had

 

been compromised, and it was useless to stay and fight under these conditions.

 

The battle-cruiser itself suddenly also streaked away at warp, ripping apart two

 

fighters caught in it's warp field.

 

The tiny Republic snubfighters, realising that the element of surprise had

 

run it's course, decided to head for home. Wave after wave turned their noses

 

towards the capital ships in the distance and engaged their stardrive, quite

 

happy to be brought to a stop on the edge of the interdiction field.

 

"The Dominion ships are re-modulating their shields."

 

"Losses?"

 

"I count eleven destroyed battle-cruisers, two dozen damaged. The other

 

group of ships that came under attack were the Jem'Hadar fighters. About forty

 

of them were destroyed, and maybe a hundred damaged. That still leaves a force

 

of more than seven hundred ships, although quite a few are now damaged. On the

 

Republic side, fifteen fighters confirmed destroyed, another eight possible."

 

 

 

 

 

Around Worf, several people on the bridge were cheering. Not everyone

 

looked happy though. Antilles was in serious discussion with some of his

 

lieutenants, and there was a lot of head-shaking going on.

 

"Okay people, settle down." Antilles ordered. "We won that round, but we

 

didn't hurt them significantly. There are still lots of enemy ships out there.

 

This battle is far from over.

 

"CAG, have your fighters form up into squadrons, and have them patrol

 

outside the destroyer screen, but within the interdiction field. I want them to

 

keep moving, so the enemy can't make a run on them. They are to co-ordinate with

 

the destroyers, so they don't run into a broadside which wasn't meant for them.

 

Destroyers are to activate the friendly fire safety-controls on all guns to

 

prevent accidents."

 

"Is there any way the shield penetration tactic will work again?" A junior

 

officer asked.

 

"Probably not, they are not going to sit around waiting for another

 

attack, and they have already re-modulated their shields. They will probably

 

keep up the re-modulation or have the modulation frequency changed at random

 

intervals."

 

"If that's the case," one of the CAG's flight controller's asked, "why

 

don't we land the fighters. They won't be able to intercept those ships with

 

their star-drives engaged?"

 

"CAG?" Antilles indicated for him to answer.

 

"We will continue to catalogue their shield modulations just in case.

 

Their attack runs are too fast for us to get the shield frequency and set up a

 

fighter attack, the laser cannons can't be modulated that fast even with the

 

extensive modifications we've put in place. But what we have done is identified

 

the range of frequencies across which the shields are most commonly modulated,

 

and the fighters laser-cannons are set up on reciprocal frequencies. If we're

 

lucky, we will get an occasional hit.

 

"We will also track the larger ships, and watch their shield modulations.

 

Any ship which doesn't change it's shield frequency is toast on it's next attack

 

run.

 

"Lastly, any ship which loses it's shields or has to disengage it's warp

 

drive not only has to negotiate past the destroyers but also the fighters. The

 

idea is to just to limit their choice of options on attack or withdrawal."

 

"What is the repair status of the damaged destroyers and frigates?"

 

Antilles asked another officer.

 

"Reports are that the Lusankya's repair droids will have all their shield

 

generators replaced within the hour. Any other damage will have to wait. There

 

are four destroyers still available to come through the Gate. Any more and the

 

Lusankya force will be rather under-powered should the Imperials decide to hit

 

them. Shall I have them brought through the Gate?"

 

"No. Not yet. We will stretch our existing resources a bit further. The

 

fighters will help somewhat. The longer we can hold out the better. Having four

 

fresh destroyers come in to the battle now will have less of an impact on enemy

 

morale than ten fresh and fully shielded ones later. Let's not give anything

 

away just yet."

 

The bridge quietened down as the Jem'Hadar launched a fresh round of

 

attacks. Worf could see that while the battle was largely a stalemate, with

 

neither side able to inflict significant damage on the other, in an extended

 

battle the Republic forces would ultimately win due to sheer attrition of the

 

Dominion forces.

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Boyd watched the battle below with growing disgust. The

 

Dominion forces were not doing significant damage, not giving themselves enough

 

time to properly target the enemy, unless they were simply unable to overcome

 

the jamming. The rate at which they were damaging the Republic ships was just

 

too slow, and the Republic forces were actively rotating their forces, allowing

 

ships to regenerate shields, or at worst, to retreat through the Gate and be

 

replaced by a fresh warship. The Republic computers were also getting better at

 

predicting the Dominion trajectories and target selections, and their gunners

 

were responding quicker to the Dominion ships stop-fire-go tactics.

 

Either the Jem'Hadar had to change their tactics, or allow themselves to

 

be slowly ground into the dust.

 

 

 

 

 

"Lieutenant Jordison," Antilles called, "send one of the damaged

 

destroyers through the Gate. Order every ship that can be spared to come through

 

now!"

 

"Yes, Jedi."

 

There it was again. The subtle difference in tone when referring to

 

Antilles as Jedi. The tone was respectful, as it should be when speaking to a

 

superior officer, but also with a hint of deference, as if speaking to a priest

 

or religious leader. That was it, Worf decided. Besides being captain of the

 

ship, Antilles must also occupy some position of importance in their religion.

 

Now if he could only figure out what all this constant reference to the Force

 

was. Perhaps it was a generic term for their fleet, as in strike force?

 

On the status display, the first of the ships appeared through the Gate,

 

and immediately headed off to assume a screening position, as the updated

 

targeting algorithms were transmitted to it's computer. Several seconds later, a

 

second ship appeared. Worf started counting seconds, he would have expected them

 

all to come through at once, obviously there was some limit to how fast ships

 

could traverse the Gate.

 

"The enemy is up to something." Somebody called.

 

On the screen, the entire Dominion force, of some six to seven hundred

 

ships, many of them damaged, were heading in on an attack run. Up to now, no

 

more than fifty to a hundred had participated in an attack run at any given

 

time, and usually in several small groups of ten or more ships. Perhaps they

 

were hoping to overwhelm the Republic force with sheer numbers, knowing that

 

individually their ships were outgunned. The odds were something like fourteen

 

to one in their favour, excluding fighters. Worf wondered why they hadn't tried

 

it in the first place. Perhaps they were reluctant to take the heavy losses such

 

an engagement was sure to incur. Antilles was shouting orders.

 

"Interdictor frigates to cover the Gate, Guardian and Mediator to support

 

and protect the interdictors. Destroyers and fighters are free to engage the

 

enemy in the interdiction zone. Do not leave the interdiction zone. Set gunnery

 

control to fleet engagement mode. Destroyers to attack the enemy in pairs, cover

 

each other's flanks. Don't let the enemy isolate you from the fleet. Target the

 

big ships first, fighters to harass the small ships.

 

"Com-scan support the fighters, feed them whatever shield modulations you

 

can. ECM, I want maximum jamming on all enemy targeting frequencies."

 

 

 

 

 

On the Defiant, the bridge was a scene of furious activity as well.

 

Several screens had gone blank with static from the sudden increase in static

 

levels.

 

"Take us closer, carefully." Boyd ordered.

 

The Defiant left the sheltering asteroid behind, a short firing of the

 

manoeuvring thrusters sending it coasting leisurely towards the battle nearby.

 

On the view-screen, the two fleets were approaching firing ranges (one light-

 

second) and were well within the interdiction fields. The Republic fleet was

 

formed up in a protective ball around the Gate, no ships further then forty

 

thousand kilometers from the Gate, while the Dominion ships formed a huge

 

enclosing sphere, and were closing on them at low warp, fractionally below

 

light-speed, where the strain on their warp-core wouldn't be too high.

 

Besides the static jamming, the Defiant's sensors were also being

 

confounded by the sheer volume of energies being exchanged. Dozens of nuclear

 

explosions added their radiation to the noise of energies flooding the Defiant's

 

sensors.

 

All the Dominion ships were now on Impulse, and were taking their time,

 

allowing their sensors to overcome or circumvent the jamming, closing to

 

ridiculous ranges if necessary. The jamming didn't seem to have much effect on

 

the Republic forces, especially given that the Jem'Hadar were making little

 

attempt to jam their sensors. It also seemed as if the forward line of Republic

 

ships were feeding targeting information to ships behind them. It was certainly

 

easy to trace their firing patterns by the brilliant green markers on the energy

 

bolts, as well as by the tremendous energy they radiated in all directions as

 

they sped to their targets. Turbolasers, they were called, apparently, for some

 

reason.

 

The weapon seemed to be designed for close range work as well, since the

 

rate at which it radiated energy in all directions implied that it would get

 

weaker very quickly at long ranges, and probably dissipate altogether within a

 

few light-seconds. However, in a tight broadside, it was pretty much like a

 

solid wall of energy washed over the targets.

 

About twenty Jem'Hadar ships directly engaged a 1200m long destroyer that

 

looked as if it would be more at home under-water than in deep-space. The

 

destroyer fired a single broadside at them as they approached, which smashed a

 

battle-cruiser's shields down and breached it's hull in several places. The

 

destroyer then rolled over, and fired it's remaining weapons singly, at a rate

 

of several shots per second, ignoring the damaged battle-cruiser. It took

 

several hits itself, and despite covering fire from two other destroyers

 

flanking it, was soon engulfed in flames.

 

A squadron of fighters ripped into the battle-cruiser, as a second

 

Jem'Hadar ship rolled away, dead in space. The badly damaged destroyer was

 

retreating slowly, most of it's guns silent. Another destroyer moved in to cover

 

it, and itself became the target of intense fire. The destroyers seemed to

 

merely be aiming to knock down shields, and maybe do minor damage, before

 

selecting another target, while the fighters came in and attacked the unshielded

 

ships. The remaining Jem'Hadar ships ignored the fighters, concentrating their

 

fire on the destroyer ahead of them. Three more Jem'hadar ships lost their

 

shields in quick succession, and a fourth suffered serious damage. The

 

unshielded ships were suddenly engulfed by fighters, launching small nuclear

 

missiles into their undefended hulls, and peppering them with low-powered

 

particle enhanced lasers.

 

Boyd was astounded at the rate at which the fighters could destroy the

 

ships, and move on to the next unshielded ship. The second destroyer was now

 

also retreating, half it's bridge tower missing, and most of it's hull glowing

 

red from internal infernos. Of the Dominion forces, more than half had either

 

been destroyed or damaged. On the battlefield as a whole, almost all the

 

Republic destroyers were showing signs of damage, and were falling back towards

 

the Gate. The Gate itself was spewing out one destroyer after another, which

 

rushed forward, launching even more fighters.

 

The immense wedge-shaped warship, Lusankya, came under attack by several

 

dozen Dominion ships, it's escorts all knocked out of the battle. Most of the

 

Dominion ships though were unshielded and surrounded by hundreds of fighters.

 

They just didn't have enough weapon-systems to engage both the fighters and the

 

capital ships at the same time. For the first time, the Lusankya fired it's

 

heavy weapons, picking out the largest and best shielded of the Dominion forces.

 

Over it's seventeen kilometer length, it had sufficient weapons that at least

 

ten to fifteen batteries could target a single attacker. It's shields were not

 

even dented by the time it stopped firing, leaving what was left of it's

 

attackers to the fighters to mop up.

 

On the far side, the Mediator was also coming under attack, as it's

 

escorts fell back towards the Gate. Amongst the attackers of the Mediator were

 

seven battle-cruisers. In an impressive display of firepower, the Mediator

 

opened up on them with at least fifty turbolaser batteries of varying size and

 

power dedicated to each of the battle-cruisers. In a single broadside, five of

 

them were swept away as if they weren't there. The remaining forces pressed on,

 

the Mediator not firing for several seconds, then were slammed backwards by an

 

eruption of fire that totally obscured the Mediator from view. Boyd's computer

 

counted at least four hundred heavy turbolasers, and close to a thousand light

 

or intermediate turbolasers, distributed across it's fifteen kilometer length.

 

That was about one weapon every two hundred meters across it's entire

 

length and breadth. Boyd suspected it had not even fired all it's weapons,

 

probably kept some in reserve just in case.

 

The battle was over. There was not a single operational Jem'Hadar ship in

 

sensor range. Boyd counted nine wrecks that had been Republic destroyers of

 

various types. Close to the Gate, there were still about forty destroyers

 

clustered, every single one of them damaged, some almost totally engulfed in

 

flames. Others had already passed through. Currently, they were waiting for

 

ships to come through. Seven fresh destroyers came through the Gate, then the

 

evacuation of the damaged ships resumed.

 

Eventually, all that were left in the system were the two super-

 

battleships, and about ten escorting destroyers. Apparently several hundred

 

fighters had also been lost, but even so, many were waiting for an opportunity

 

to land, as hangar space on the remaining ships were a premium. As the traffic

 

at the Gate died down, the fighters started going through themselves. With not

 

enough hanger space this side of the Gate, they had little choice.

 

 

 

 

 

"It appears that you have won a convincing victory," Worf said to

 

Antilles.

 

"It could have gone either way. It was one of those battles that seemed

 

poised on a knife-edge of indecisiveness, then all of a sudden tilts violently.

 

As it is, the losses in ships and personnel will be felt, and the down-time of

 

the damaged ships and the shipyards needed to repair them will cost us dearly.

 

Our campaign too will slow down tremendously, since we just don't have enough

 

ships to commit to it."

 

"This wasn't the largest Dominion fleet I have seen, but I suspect that

 

they will take a while to recover from this loss."

 

"This battle was no victory for us either," Antilles answered quietly,

 

"The Republic has not been on a war footing for a while. We lost nearly a full

 

squadron of destroyers, with more than thirty thousand crew on each ship. Three

 

hundred thousand highly trained fleet personnel is a major loss. The ships we

 

can replace in time, the people are not so easy to replace."

 

"It never is. I suppose now that you will resume your attempts to locate

 

the Dominion ship-building centres before they launch another strike against

 

your Gate."

 

"Maybe. The expansion into this galaxy has been difficult for us. My

 

superiors, and the Republic senate, are not keen to tool up for a major war or

 

expansion here. Especially given the losses we have suffered so far. I suspect

 

that the Imperials have fared better. When the intelligence reports come

 

through, the senate will face quite a dilemma. We cannot afford to continue in

 

this vein here, but neither can we allow the Empire to expand unopposed."

 

"Surely, for a galactic sized nation, you can afford the loss of a few

 

destroyers?" Worf pushed.

 

Antilles glanced at him, and smiled knowingly.

 

"Your attempts to glean information are not very subtle, my warrior

 

friend. It is no secret that our fleet was seriously stretched in the war with

 

the Empire. Maintaining peace and order in a sometimes unwilling galaxy is not

 

easy. We have a tremendous ship-building program, but much of the galaxy needs

 

to be rebuilt after the war, and while the Empire doesn't count it's costs, we

 

do. Many people don't believe that this frontier is important, after all, there

 

are no citizens here screaming for aid, and no senators from these sectors to

 

mobilise support for the cause of this galaxy."

 

"And your opinion, captain Antilles?"

 

"My opinion, for what it's worth, is that we should stay, and fight. The

 

first step should be to destroy the Dominion's ship-building capacity. That

 

means two things. Destroying their shipyards, and putting a stop to their

 

cloning."

 

"That may not be possible. The Founders need their clones to survive. To

 

stop the Dominion it may be necessary to totally destroy the Founders."

 

"Perhaps a way can be found to accommodate them in the Republic. Many

 

races have been, not all of them found it easy, but the galaxy is a big place,

 

and there is place for everybody."

 

"I fear you will do it to your detriment. The Founders are master

 

manipulators and infiltrators. They are able to assume the shape, even the

 

identity, of just about anybody they choose. It would take draconian measures to

 

ensure that every sector of your society is not infiltrated."

 

"Maybe, but wilful genocide is not our way. At the worst, we would ensure

 

that their planet is isolated from the rest of the galaxy for all time."

 

 

 

 

 

By the next day, the system had quieted down considerably. Still, only the

 

two command ships and the ten destroyers were defending the Gate, with four

 

cruisers and a single squadron of destroyers at the position of the wormhole.

 

The Defiant had docked in one of the smaller hangars of the immense battle-ship,

 

and Worf had returned to his quarters. He was surprised by a chime from his

 

communicator.

 

"Worf." He answered simply.

 

"Commander," Antilles greeted in return, "I am afraid I have some grave

 

news. One of our agents in the Imperial Navy managed to smuggle a data-card to

 

us regarding their campaign against your Federation. I have prepared the

 

information for download to your computers, I think you should see it

 

immediately."

 

"Please transmit it directly." Worf activated the appropriate controls,

 

and punched in the security override to receive the data. A second later a

 

successful receipt was indicated.

 

"I would appreciate you joining me in my conference room as soon as you

 

have perused the data. One hour should be sufficient." Antilles signed off.

 

Worf called up the data. The content of the information was summarised in

 

a few brief paragraphs, with a number of attached vids and statistics to

 

supplement the content. A brief conclusion followed, but Worf had derived his

 

own conclusions from the data. It was not the content that angered him as much

 

as the way it was presented. The callous and deliberate invasion of peaceful

 

worlds merely as a test of military readiness. The cold statistics rating

 

Imperial statistics and efficiency by the speed at which they subdued

 

'militaristic' cultures such as Klingons and Romulons.

 

The brutality of the invaders lay before him in the form of performance

 

factors, with an occasional footnote citing 'incidental civilian casualties' and

 

'political executions' and 'civil co-operation garrisoning' of planets. It

 

mattered not to the Imperials whether worlds surrendered or not, only how

 

speedily the population could be 'subdued' or 'co-opted', and how efficiently

 

their troops performed. Apparently, dozens of Ferengii, Human, Cardassian,

 

Romulon and even Klingon worlds had been 'subdued'. The Imperials were currently

 

preparing a raid on Earth itself.

 

He pounded the desk in frustration. Composing himself, he prepared to meet

 

with Antilles.

 

 

 

 

 

Antilles felt the approach of the Klingon in the form of a cold fury

 

advancing towards the conference room. The hatchway couldn't slide open fast

 

enough for the Klingon. Antilles was somewhat surprised by the cool and calm

 

exterior of the Federation officer. All that betrayed his inner fury was a fast-

 

paced stride and an odd twitching muscle. Sometime in his life, the Klingon had

 

learnt to control himself to a level that was almost in-human, well, un-Klingon.

 

"You promised that you would return me to Federation space. When can this

 

take place?"

 

"The last report I had from our recon droid-ships was that they had mapped

 

a route stretching some sixty thousand light-years towards Federation space.

 

Only two droids have been lost so far, indicating a relatively safe route. The

 

route should be mapped out in a few days. I assure you that no time has been

 

wasted in this endeavour."

 

The Klingon closed his eyes for a second, battling to retain control.

 

Antilles expected an outburst.

 

"Very well."

 

"I do understand, commander. I read the report. I know that the Federation

 

capital is to come under attack within the next day or two. If it was at all

 

possible to get you there before that, we would have done so. In any case, this

 

ship, two star cruisers, and four squadrons of destroyers will set out within

 

the hour."

 

"You intend to assist the Federation? What about your government's

 

reluctance to initiate a war with the Empire?"

 

"My government was very disturbed by the intelligence report you have just

 

read. It appears that the Empire's rate of expansion through this galaxy has

 

exceeded our worst fears. Here, we are faced with dozens of worlds populated

 

only with clones that are dying like flies despite our every effort to keep them

 

alive. The Empire has captured dozens of worlds with populations ready for the

 

picking, and is on the verge of destroying that quadrant's only hope of stopping

 

them. We have already lost more than we could afford in this venture, and the

 

Empire has gained more than we feared.

 

"The result is that my government have authorised several drastic

 

measures. One, a number of commando teams have been sent out to capture or

 

assassinate the Empire's engineers who are familiar with the Gate project and to

 

destroy all their records relating to Gate construction. We have reason to

 

believe that all these records and Engineers are contained on the Gate itself.

 

Secondly, immense fleet resources are being allocated to this Quadrant. The

 

government wants the Dominion destroyed, so that we may expand unopposed.

 

Thirdly, I am to lead a team to make contact with the Federation. I am

 

authorised to do whatever is necessary and within my power to stop or slow down

 

Imperial advances short of initiating a war with the Empire."

 

"How could you hope to interfere without initiating a war?"

 

"Encourage your government to declare allegiance to the Republic, so that

 

their planets won't be attacked unless the Empire wishes war with us. Short of

 

that, to establish military bases on your planets, with your permission, so that

 

the Empire won't dare attack for fear of initiating a war by accidentally

 

destroying one of our bases. Short of that, to offer military advice, and

 

lucrative trade arrangements that will allow your government to purchase such

 

devices as planetary shields, orbital battle-stations of a scale comparable to

 

the Imperial warships, or at the very least, rental of our shipyard facilities."

 

"What about free technology exchanges, or an offer of warships to be

 

crewed by our personnel, or mutual defence agreements?"

 

"Honestly? We have no intention of supplying you with the means to fight

 

us off it comes to that. Mayhap one day we will be enemies. Politically, the

 

motivation is merely to force the Empire into a political corner, not to empower

 

your Federation."

 

"We do not need your assistance. We will stop the Empire one way or

 

another. Our technology is quite capable of developing the weaponry to deter any

 

invader. The Federation is a peaceful society by choice, not by circumstance.

 

That circumstance is in the process of changing, and our culture does have the

 

means to adapt to circumstance."

 

"Commander Worf, the price of peace is eternal readiness for war. Your

 

civilisation may have just left that payment too late. I salute your intentions,

 

but you will find the universe is a very dangerous place. Trust me. We were

 

exploring the stars when your ancestors lived in caves, and just when you think

 

you are the masters of your destiny, destiny slaps you in the face."

 

"We will see." Worf stated.

 

Antilles waved Worf to the nearby observation window. In the distance was

 

the Gate. As they watched, Worf could see, even at this distance, one ship after

 

another arriving through the Gate. Individually, they had to be huge to be

 

visible at this distance.

 

"We too are a peace-loving society, Commander, and this is but a fraction

 

of our fleet. The Empire is smaller than us, but being militaristic, their fleet

 

is at least comparable to ours. If necessary, they will commit at least as much

 

resources as us, and as you see, those resources are mere hours or days away.

 

Can your society change that fast?

 

"You have read the stolen Imperial intelligence report. Is your Federation

 

capable of the same level of ruthlessness?"

 

"You have kept the Empire at bay, Captain. Yet your people did not need to

 

resort to that level of ruthlessness did they?"

 

"Point, Commander Worf."

 

"Let us hope that it does not come down to that."

 

"For such a young society, Commander, you are remarkably mature. Perhaps

 

we do have much to learn from each other."

 

 

 

 

 

Worf circled his opponent warily. The lean human in front of him was fast,

 

and strong. They fought with swords this morning for the first time. Mostly they

 

fought with the bladed staffs, similar to his beloved bat'leth, and occasionally

 

with axes, which Antilles seemed partial to. Today however, Antilles had

 

insisted on swords. Worf had practised diligently with similar Klingon weapons,

 

terrified that he might miss out on any part of his heritage, but this had never

 

been his favourite weapon. He fought with abandon, having long ago learnt that

 

Antilles was an opponent as skilful as he could wish for, but with caution as

 

well. As much as he enjoyed the exercise and the practise, he hated losing.

 

At first, he had been embarrassed at losing their regular encounters, but

 

Antilles continually expressed his surprise at Worf's ability, and seemed to

 

consider him an excellent opponent. Somehow, he suspected that he had not pushed

 

Antilles to the limit yet. This morning especially, Antilles was pushing him

 

harder than ever before, and had disarmed him several times. For the first time,

 

Worf was beginning to feel frustration and humiliation. Antilles was going out

 

of his way to demonstrate Worf's lack of ability with this weapon.

 

Antilles attacked, and Worf defended furiously, determined not to lose his

 

weapon again. The sword clattered to the ground for the umpteenth time.

 

"Aaaaargh!" Worf growled, reaching out for Antilles with his bare hands.

 

Antilles allowed Worf to grab him, and all of a sudden the room spun

 

around the Klingon, and he landed hard on the floor.

 

"The first rule is never to let anger rule your thoughts and actions. That

 

is the way to the Dark Side."

 

"The first rule? Dark side? What are these things? What are you talking

 

about?"

 

"Calm yourself. If you wish to be my student, I must satisfy myself that

 

you wish to learn."

 

"Student?" Worf thundered. Antilles frowned at him. Sensing the other's

 

disappointment, for some reason unknown to him, Worf capitulated. "I am calm."

 

He forced the words out between clenched teeth, still seated on the floor.

 

Antilles raised his eyebrows.

 

"Calm," Worf said slowly, "I am calm."

 

"Very good."

 

Antilles waved to him to stand, and collected the sword from the corner

 

where it had come to rest. He placed the two swords back on the weapons rack. He

 

came to stand before the Klingon, and reached into his tunic. He pulled out a

 

tubular device, just large enough for a double-handed grip, with a flat metal

 

disc on one end. Antilles extended the tube to his right, and lightly touched a

 

partially concealed control. Suddenly the already brightly lit room seemed to

 

darken in comparison to the bright blade which appeared from the device. Some

 

sort of energy blade, bright enough to make everything else look pale by

 

comparison, but still well within the limits of the eye to look directly at it.

 

Antilles swung the energy blade experimentally a few times. There was a

 

light buzz as the blade sliced through the air, and Worf was immediately

 

assailed by the stink of ozone, as the air around the blade was fried by it's

 

energy.

 

"A lightsabre. The weapon of a Jedi. The secret of making one will be part

 

of your training. Only a Jedi can wield such a weapon with the skill it

 

deserves. No, the skill it demands!"

 

"I have heard this word. Jedi. You are addressed as such. What is a Jedi?"

 

"A Jedi is one who aspires to become one with the energies of the Universe

 

itself. The Force. Few have the talent to accomplish this. Fewer still have the

 

ability to attempt this and survive. And fewer still are accepted as students

 

and trained towards this goal. Those who are accepted, and who accept the

 

calling, have a responsibility to all life. In the past, some have believed that

 

it is life that has a responsibility to the Jedi, but that too is a way to the

 

Dark Side. You have such potential, Worf Rozhenko. Do you wish to be my

 

apprentice?"

 

"What would that entail?"

 

"Caution. That is wise. It would entail nothing. You would continue as you

 

have so far. Your duty to your Federation would not be compromised. I have

 

researched this Federation, through you, your men and our intelligence services,

 

and am satisfied that this is not a bad thing. It would also entail quite a bit.

 

From now on, all your actions must be ruled by a desire to serve life, not to

 

control it or use it or abuse it or destroy it. You will learn things such as

 

you have never imagined, power beyond what you can comprehend, yet you must

 

retain your humility, your morality, and your desire to serve, above all else.

 

The temptations to abuse this power will be great, the challenges you will face

 

may destroy you, and the choices you may be forced to make might damn you in the

 

eyes of your friends and loved ones. Do you accept?"

 

"A Jedi's calling is to serve, to protect, to strive to be one with life

 

itself, in the face of all temptation, danger, and desire?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Yet you are a warrior. You have led men into battles where others have

 

died. You have killed. You fight like a demon. Is this too the way of the Jedi?"

 

"Sometimes, to serve life, one must fight the forces of darkness. This too

 

is part of the responsibility of the Jedi, even though those forces would

 

destroy him. Some believe that a Jedi uses the Force to accomplish these tasks,

 

but true Jedi know that it is the Force which uses the Jedi."

 

"The Force? This is the energy of life you mentioned?"

 

"Yes. Some would call it God. Some would call it Satan. Some ascribe

 

humanity to it. Some believe that it is only an energy field, and not a living

 

entity in it's own right. It is all of these things. We are it. It is us. The

 

Force is Life, it is this metal, it is the stars and the plasma between the

 

stars. The Force is the Ultimate Purpose of the Universe, and the Universe is

 

the Ultimate Purpose of the Force. It is where all life comes from, and where

 

all life returns."

 

"The Dark Side?"

 

"The power of the Force is like a seductive mistress. It demands to be

 

used. Those who give in to this demand, are consumed by it, and are ultimately

 

destroyed. The people who give in to the power cannot help but use it, but

 

giving in implies weakness and ambition. Anger, fear and hatred all contribute

 

to inflaming the desire to use the power, and once you give in to this desire,

 

your journey to being consumed by the Dark Side has begun."

 

"Others have gone down this road? Been destroyed by the Dark Side?"

 

"Oh yes. Their evil cannot be begun to be described. It is out of such

 

evil that the Empire was spawned."

 

"I accept."

 

"I knew you would. In three days, we will be in Federation space. You have

 

much to learn before then."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

 

 

 

[FROM CHAPTER FIVE]

 

Most of the invasion fleet were clustered below the immense bulk of the

 

Aggressor, one of the few Executor-class command ships in the service of the

 

Empire. They were surrounded by droids of all types and sizes conducting repairs

 

on them. One of the main roles of the immense command ships was precisely this,

 

field repairs. It was a virtually fully functioning shipyard, as well as a major

 

star-carrier, communications, command and control ship. The unfortunate

 

Vengeance though was too large for even the Aggressor's extensive facilities,

 

and had had to return through the Gate. It would be weeks before it was

 

available again.

 

Piett and Jerjerrod had ruled that Xris' actions were not unjustified, and

 

he had retained his command, despite the debacle at Earth. Harrsk's actions too

 

had not been unduly criticised. Piett's major motivation though was to retain

 

the experience of Xris against the unexpected Federation tactics. The Imperials

 

could not afford major ship losses, and now that the Federation were able to use

 

interdiction fields against them, the complexion of the battle had changed. No

 

longer could they jump in and out in short focussed raids.

 

In two days time, a Federation fleet of more than a hundred ships would be

 

hitting the Bajoran world, and retreat or tactical withdrawals was not an

 

option. The Imperials did enjoy a hefty firepower advantage though, in the form

 

of nearly fifty capital ships, although they were almost exclusively variants of

 

the destroyer class. The only major capital ships were the Aggressor (Executor-

 

class command ship), and the Grinder (a Giel-class battleship). The Grinder was

 

about half the length of the Aggressor, though more massively built. Being a

 

purpose-built fleet-combat ship as opposed to a multi-role command ship, she

 

also compared favourably with the Aggressor in sheer firepower. A total of seven

 

Dominator-class interdictors patrolled the system, their gravity cones providing

 

protection against any ships which might attempt to sneak into the system.

 

These two immense battleships were supported by eight Allegiance-class

 

ships, eighteen Imperator-class, and twenty two Victory-class ships. The

 

Grinder, with half the support ships, were clustered defensively around the

 

wormhole. The Aggressor, with the remaining escort ships, were clustered around

 

the Gate. A probe was poised close to the Gate, ready to traverse the Gate and

 

call reinforcements from the far side, where the Imperials maintained a slightly

 

stronger force. A number of Imperators, Victories, and two more Allegiance-class

 

ships were ready to come through if needed. However, only one ship could

 

traverse the Gate at a time, with several seconds between each transition,

 

because of the immense energies required by the Gate's reactors.

 

[END QUOTE FROM CHAPTER FIVE]

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise was streaking through deep space at maximum warp, and had

 

been maintaining this speed for several hours now. Starfleet had decided that

 

Picard should add the firepower and interdiction capabilities of the Enterprise

 

to the fleet on it's way to recover Bajor. Only six other Sovereign class ships

 

were in service, and two of them were already in the fleet heading to Bajor. Of

 

the four remaining, the USS Hood had been destroyed during the raid on Earth,

 

and the Missouri and Atlantis had been recalled to Earth. The California was on

 

the far side of federation space, and had been told to remain there, as the only

 

major capital ship in that part of Federation space.

 

The graviton beam modifications to the deflector dish of the major

 

warships was rather controversial, but most captains were in favour of it. The

 

nature of the Imperial beam being duplicated was such that it interfered with

 

any form of tachyonic movement. The result was that the moment a ship exceeded

 

warp one, the power requirements for warp climbed astronomically, forcing a ship

 

to run the core at maximum power just to obtain warp 2. Below warp 1, there was

 

hardly any additional load on the warp core, but the sub-space jamming of the

 

Imperials did result in a significant load increase on the core. On Impulse

 

there was no problem, but Impulse drive did not offer any significant advantage

 

over the Imperial ships, whereas even low warp easily outperformed their ships.

 

The consensus was to remain at warp, but not to exceed warp 1, while in

 

the interdiction field. Short spurts exceeding warp 1 was ok, but at prohibitive

 

power costs, posing the risk of a ship running out of fuel in an extended

 

battle. An extended battle was not out of the question, with two huge fleets,

 

neither of which were prepared to sacrifice too much, and neither prepared to

 

back off. The upcoming battle was going to be one long haul of feints and

 

counter-feints.

 

 

 

"Sir, I have multiple contacts, three light-years ahead. Sensor profile is

 

consistent with an Imperial fleet, I count forty eight escort ships, one

 

battleship. The battleship is several dozen times larger than the battleship

 

which attacked Earth."

 

"Such a ship was detected in the Bajoran system by Commander Sisko. What

 

is it doing out here?"

 

"Shall we change course, Sir?"

 

"Maintain course for now, reduce speed to warp seven."

 

"Sir, several Imperial ships have .. um, translocated. They are now dead

 

ahead of us, range point zero one light years. Time to intercept, eight

 

minutes."

 

"If we stay at warp," Riker suggested, "there is little they can do to

 

touch us, as long as we evade their graviton beams."

 

"If they wish to intercept us, they will do so eventually, we can't outrun

 

them forever. Maintain course and speed."

 

"Multiple contacts, behind us, to port, to starboard, above, below.

 

They're surrounding us. Multiple graviton beams, they're forming a cage, and

 

we're in the centre."

 

"Range to enemy ships?"

 

"None of them are closer than seven minutes at warp seven, or one point

 

five minutes at maximum warp."

 

They were trapped, the enemy would have their cage in place before they

 

could hope to break through.

 

"We are being hailed. What is this? They are hailing us on a secure

 

starfleet military channel." The sensor operator said incredulously.

 

"Full stop, all engines. On-screen."

 

The almost subliminal vibration which the crew lived with died away, thus

 

making it's presence felt through it's absence. The view-screen was focussed on

 

the immense battleship. Judging by the magnification and range, Picard quickly

 

deduced it's size. Fifteen kilometers from nose to tail, shaped pretty much like

 

a blunt-nosed dolphin, with a flat belly and a hunched back. A cross-section at

 

it's widest point would yield a height and width in excess of five kilometers,

 

probably as much as seven kilometers. Several words flashed through Picard's

 

mind. Immense, gigantic, tremendous, colossal, mammoth.

 

The view-screen cleared, to be replaced by what Picard presumed to be the

 

bridge of the immense spaceship. If Picard had been taken aback at all by the

 

size of the ship and fleet which surrounded him, he was shocked by the image on

 

the view-screen.

 

"Commander Worf?"

 

"Captain Picard. The fates indeed have conspired to ensure that the first

 

Federation ship we meet should be the Enterprise."

 

"The Force has made it so." A tall human standing behind Worf said

 

quietly.

 

"Captain Picard. May I introduce Captain Antilles, of the New Republic

 

Ship Mediator. He wishes to speak with you. Do we have your permission to come

 

aboard?"

 

Picard looked carefully at Worf. Was this some kind of trap? Had Worf

 

fallen into the hands of the Imperials and somehow been converted to their

 

cause, as had many worlds in this sector.

 

"It is no trap, Captain, I assure you." Worf answered.

 

Picard was still unconvinced, but he knew Worf would despise any attempt

 

at subversion, and if such was the case, would have somehow made it known to

 

them.

 

"You may beam aboard."

 

"I am afraid that my associates have considerable reservations about the

 

process of matter transmission. We will come in a shuttle."

 

"I am afraid we are on a tight schedule, Mr Worf, I will beam aboard, if

 

you will provide me with the co-ordinates."

 

"We have ample time, Captain Picard," Antilles interjected, "My scouts are

 

tracking your fleet. They are sixteen light years out of the Imperial system

 

they are heading towards. At current speed they will get their in two days. We

 

can get you there in a few minutes. We have several hours to discuss matters."

 

 

 

 

 

Antilles glanced around the hangar. On Worf's advice they had used a very

 

small shuttle, not the more usual Tyderium-class. Considering how the small

 

shuttle filled the hangar on the Federation ship, it was obvious that a

 

Tyderium-class would not have fitted. The lack of landing and launch facilities

 

on a major capital ship implied that the use of matter transmission technologies

 

was more pervasive than he had first thought. Antilles briefly examined the

 

balding old man in front of him, surprised yet again by the fact that their was

 

no sense of cloning about the Federation personnel. Considering the

 

pervasiveness of transporter technology, Antilles had expected people here to be

 

quite soulless.

 

He had endured countless explanations by Worf on the transmission process,

 

but still wouldn't consider undergoing the process. He was amazed that it seemed

 

to work for these people. He wondered how their computers transported their

 

emotions, thoughts, desires, memories, and what it made of all this data. It

 

seemed strange to him that the computer was able to analyse and record and

 

transmit all these things, yet be unable to intitiate direct mental contact with

 

them, or that they didn't communicate mentally with the computers themselves.

 

Well, each civilisation had it's own blind spots and phobias and beliefs.

 

Far be it from him to interfere.

 

"Welcome aboard, Captain Antilles."

 

"Thank you, Captain Picard."

 

"Please follow me, we will proceed directly to the officer's lounge. My

 

staff are keen to meet with you, over dinner."

 

"Of course."

 

Picard and Worf shook hands warmly. Old friends, pleased to see each other

 

again. Antilles knew that Worf had a lot of respect for this man. The group

 

stepped into a rather cramped turbolift, barely large enough for Picard, Worf,

 

Antilles, and a few of Picard's crewmen. Antilles had bade his two Wookie guards

 

to remain with the shuttle. They would not have been able to squeeze into the

 

lift anyway.

 

Antilles was surprised at the plushness of the décor in the hallways of

 

the ship. It was fitted out more like a cruise liner than a ship of war.

 

Carpeted hallways, no less. The crew was almost entirely human, with only an

 

occasional non-human, and even these were all remarkably humanoid. Antilles for

 

a second wondered if there was any Empire-like discrimination against non-

 

humanoid species amongst the crew, but a few seconds of casting his thoughts

 

around revealed nothing of the sort. Just circumstance, he decided.

 

Picard led the group into a small ward room, with plushly laid tables.

 

Standing around were a number of officers. They looked strangely at him, as if

 

they couldn't decide whether he was a mortal enemy or a specimen in a zoo. He

 

felt a mind approaching, and instantly slammed his mental barriers into place. A

 

woman nearby gasped, and staggered slightly backwards.

 

"Counsellor Troi?" Picard asked her quickly, glancing backwards and

 

forwards between the woman and himself.

 

"No, I am alright. Really. Just a bit surprised. The power of your mind

 

is, is, immense."

 

"I am sorry, Counsellor? You took me surprise. I had not expected to find

 

a natural empath on board this ship."

 

"You are telepathic?" Picard asked. His voice was full of caution, the

 

tone of one who has just discovered that he had been under observation for an

 

extended period, and was hastily reviewing his thoughts and actions in case of

 

any unintended transgressions.

 

"Some would say so. But really, I am no more empathic than the counsellor

 

here. I can sense feelings and moods, but not explicitly read thoughts."

 

"This is common amongst your people? A genetic trait perhaps?"

 

"Not at all common, and it is not certain that it is genetic." Antilles

 

was slightly disappointed at having to reveal some of his status to this group.

 

It would have come in handy in any negotiations if people did not know his

 

capabilities. Now, they would be aware of it, and that would skew his

 

perceptions slightly, but not by much.

 

Picard introduced a few of the other officers, and they sat down to the

 

meal. Antilles carefully kept his mind closed to the woman, Troi, who was

 

unabashedly attempting to scan his mind. He was doubly taken aback, at the

 

woman's rudeness firstly, and secondly at the obvious perfection of the food in

 

front of him. Replicated no doubt. Not real food. Well, it wouldn't hurt him, he

 

knew, and he had eaten many worse things in his travels. First transporters, now

 

this. Ah well, each to his own.

 

The conversation around dinner was kept carefully neutral. The war with

 

the Imperials was not directly mentioned, although matters of ship design and

 

the rigours of space flight were discussed in detail. It was one of the few

 

things they all had in common, a desire to travel the stars. The Federation

 

officers and Antilles shared accounts of some of the amazing worlds they had

 

encountered, unusual species, and unusual habits and customs on various worlds

 

in their respective galaxies. The conversation started off uneasily at first, as

 

people were reluctant to offend unknowingly, but the tension soon dissipated.

 

Eventually, Picard indicated to a hovering staffer that the dishes could

 

be cleared. The staffer quickly dumped everything into a nearby disposal chute.

 

Antilles clamped his throat closed in disgust for a second, knowing that these

 

left-overs would merely be recycled and re-assembled into tomorrow's breakfast.

 

He promised himself that he would be off this ship by then, and wondered why he

 

had been so eager to come aboard it in the first place.

 

"The raid on Earth?" Worf started, "I saw an intelligence report

 

indicating that the Imperials planned to attack Earth. The attack would have

 

been a few days ago."

 

"Yes. We managed to fend off the attack, but with extensive losses. The

 

Earth-Dock was destroyed with all crew, as were seventeen starships including

 

the USS Hood, our sister ship. A number of the orbital platforms were destroyed

 

as well, and Earth itself came under bombardment."

 

"I saw a vid of Bajor being bombarded," Worf said quietly. "The

 

devastation must have been immense."

 

"Yes, it was. However, the casualties were much lower than expected. The

 

bombardment was very brief, and we had managed to deploy shields over most urban

 

areas. If the bombardment had been any more intense, the shields might not have

 

held. However, we were unable to similarly defend rural areas, and many people

 

who live in rural areas were killed. The ecological damage was also immense, it

 

will take decades to repair the damage."

 

"The rural areas which came under bombardment?" Worf asked.

 

"Your parents are safe, Mr Worf. Central Asia came under intense

 

bombardment, but the Rozhenko family were amongst those who had been evacuated

 

to St Petersburg. Your father had wanted to stay, but your mother insisted. She

 

said it was what you would have wanted them to do."

 

[i have no idea whether Worf's adopted family is still alive. But it makes

 

for a nice bit of sentiment - Michael January]

 

"Thank You, Sir." Worf was grateful that Picard had taken the time out to

 

enquire over such a minor detail which concerned someone not even a part of his

 

crew anymore. He wondered how many other such details Picard had attended to.

 

Such was the nature of the man, though.

 

"Damage to Imperial ships?" Antilles asked.

 

"We managed to score several hits on a wedge shaped cruiser about 10

 

kilometers long. We don't know how significant the damage was though. The escort

 

ships could have given us a hard time if they had stuck it out, but they didn't.

 

We suspect that they too must have been damaged, though our scans were thwarted

 

by static."

 

"Static damping is standard practice on most ships in our galaxy. It

 

prevents the enemy from determining damage levels and planning accordingly."

 

Antilles smiled. "I am glad you were able to beat them off. How do you rate the

 

chances of your attack force at destroying the Gate?"

 

"We outnumber the enemy at better than two to one, and our ships are

 

easily capable of avoiding their fire. The only disadvantage is that to avoid

 

the fire, we have to maintain velocities which reduce our ability to accurately

 

target the enemy. This is compounded by the intense jamming your ships output."

 

"Well, the Imperials can not afford damage to any of their ships. Their

 

navy is quite stretched at the moment. If you concentrate your attacks, and are

 

prepared to take some damage or limited losses, you can overcome their shields.

 

The only problem is, they are bound to have a number of ships on the far side of

 

the Gate they can bring through in support. You will have to find a balance

 

between acceptable damage and knocking out their shields.

 

"In defence, you can set up an interdiction zone where your ships can

 

recharge their shields. The Empire won't attack you there for fear of having

 

their own ships trapped by the interdiction zone. I have prepared a package with

 

a battle run-down on our last encounter with the Jem'Hadar. I know Mr Worf has a

 

similar package recorded by the Defiant. Perhaps you can devise a strategy by

 

examining these recordings."

 

"How long do I have?" Picard asked.

 

"I can give you about twenty hours," Antilles said. "That would put the

 

Federation fleet about nine light years from the Bajoran system. Any closer, and

 

we would have to intercept the Federation fleet within range of the Imperial

 

scanners. Then they would know we are here, and that we are possibly assisting

 

you.

 

"If the Imperial Gate were to be destroyed, then it will not be necessary

 

for us to make contact with the Federation. The Imperials will have no way home,

 

and we can then step in and offer them an opportunity to return with us. My

 

government will be only too eager to shut down the Gate project once and for all

 

as soon as we return. That way, you will be rid of both of us once and for all."

 

"And if we can't destroy the Gate?"

 

"Then I will initiate contact with your government. We will request

 

permission to set up military bases on your planets. This will allow us to

 

distribute planetary shields to those planets. We will offer your government

 

various favourable trade agreements, allowing you to purchase weapons grade

 

minerals from us for your ship-building projects. We may even allow you to

 

establish a few ship-yards in our own galaxy, and far from the reach of the

 

Empire, so that your ship-building can proceed uninterrupted.

 

"Our government is also prepared to assist with humanitarian projects,

 

such as ferrying civilians, supplies, providing medical services and so on, to

 

free up your fleet for other purposes. I will be totally honest with you,

 

Captain Picard, in saying that while my government is quite keen to assist your

 

people, and most of our citizens would be too, the primary motivation would be

 

to retard or stop Imperial expansion into this galaxy. For the sake of peace in

 

our galaxy, we cannot allow the Empire to rise to any significant level of power

 

and influence. For the same reason, we cannot directly engage the Imperial

 

forces directly either, and as far as possible we wish to avoid an open war with

 

the Empire."

 

"And if those steps don't slow down the Imperial invasion?" Picard asked.

 

"As much as I would regret it. My orders in such a case is to get as many

 

worlds to declare allegiance to the Republic as possible, in the face of the

 

advancing Imperials. As a last resort, I am even authorised to invade worlds, so

 

as to prevent Imperial occupation of those worlds. Our politicians are making up

 

new and pleasant sounding euphemisms on a daily basis to justify our actions,

 

but at the end of the day, the bottom line is that the Imperials must be

 

stopped, and everything short of open war with the Imperials is authorised."

 

"Mutual defence agreements?"

 

"Too risky. If the Imperials attack you, we would be forced to declare war

 

on them, and we would appear to be the aggressors. Much better if the Federation

 

were disbanded, and the planets declare allegiance to the Republic. Then the

 

Empire wouldn't dare attack those worlds because it would be an act of war. I

 

don't agree fully with my government's policies, but I am no politician. In this

 

case I have to trust they have their reasons and are doing the right thing."

 

 

 

 

 

Antilles and Worf stood side by side in primary hangar number one. On

 

their right, the hangar extended for a kilometer, the roof was a full 800 meters

 

above them. Ahead of them, the hangar extended for a length of some four

 

kilometers. In the distance, humans and droids and aliens were hardly

 

recognisable. Mere specks. On their left was open space, only the atmospheric

 

containment field separating them from vacuum. Looking through the field, Worf

 

could see a long bright rectangular opening about two kilometers away. Primary

 

hangar number two, an exact mirror image of the hanger they were standing in.

 

Lining the openings into the hanger were dozens of small laser-canons, most of

 

them fully automated.

 

In the distance, below primary hangar two, Worf could see the breaks in

 

the ventral superstructure below the hangar where the ventral turbolasers were

 

located. About a hundred meters below his feet, were their counterparts.

 

Rising into the space between the two hangars was the Enterprise, looking

 

rather small by comparison. Looking up, about a kilometer above them was the

 

openings into the six secondary hangars. The Defiant was docked in one of those.

 

Beyond those hangars, Worf knew, was the bulk of the Mediator itself. The hangar

 

complex was close to the forward end of the cruiser, and concealed within it's

 

ventral superstructure, if concealed was the right word. The opening to the

 

hangar complex was a square five kilometers long, and two kilometers wide. It

 

extended at least a kilometer into the ventral superstructure of the city sized

 

warship. Along either side of this cube of vacuum, were the two primary hangars,

 

and in the 'roof' of the cube of space was the secondary hangars.

 

The entire complex took up a volume of space roughly equivalent to six

 

kilometers long, by five kilometers wide, and two kilometers deep. Yet it

 

constituted only some 15% of the total volume of the battle-cruiser. Length

 

wise, it took up most of the forward half of the cruiser. Also contained within

 

the hangar complex, were ten squadrons of fighters, several shuttles, gunships,

 

assorted small support vessels, and eight fully equipped regiments of ground

 

troops, plus all the maintenance and manufacturing facilities that went with

 

supporting all of this.

 

"Enterprise has cleared the deflector shields."

 

Now came the tricky part of the docking manoeuvre. The Enterprise's

 

inertial damping fields were not capable of withstanding a hyperdrive

 

acceleration, and in any case, was not calibrated with the Mediators hyperdrive

 

motivators.

 

"Enterprise is secure in tractor beams. Enterprise now disengaging

 

inertial dampeners and lowering shields. Mediator has extended artificial

 

gravity fields to include Enterprise. Enterprise is disengaging it's gravity

 

fields. Enterpise inertial and gravitational environment is now fully integrated

 

with the Mediator."

 

The Enterprise was slowly being drawn into the hangar, where it would be

 

'parked' behind a Victory-class destroyer which was being overhauled. Behind the

 

Enterprise, a Nebulon-B frigate was receiving some minor repairs.

 

"All personnel, ensure that you are outside the degaussing zone."

 

A low-powered laser beam marked a curve around the area where the

 

Enterprise was about to pass through the atmospheric containment shield. As the

 

Enterprise penetrated the field, and was drawn through it, it's hull was marked

 

by sparks of energy, as lightning-like arcs of energy sterilised it's hull,

 

stripping away space-dust and leaving a clean, reflective and apparently freshly

 

painted surface. A light wind also blew through the hangar, as air was displaced

 

by the entry of the Enterprise into the hangar.

 

"Degaussing operation complete."

 

The Enterprise was still being slowly drawn across into the hangar,

 

suspended in mid-air by the tractor beams. Several all-purpose docking clamps

 

descended from the surface, and from the floor, and grabbed onto the frigate

 

sized ship with a clang audible clear across the hangar.

 

"Enterprise is secure."

 

Only the Imperator-class destroyers were too large to fit inside the

 

hangars. Behind the hangars, concealed in the superstructure, were multiple

 

reactors, engines, hyperdrive motivators, inertial damping equipment, and all

 

the paraphernalia of the engineering complex. This constituted a total of forty

 

percent of the internal volume of the ship.

 

The outer layer of decks were for shield generation, weapons systems, and

 

independent power systems for different banks of weapons. Each of these decks

 

were separated from the next by up to thirty meters of armour, and the decks

 

were furthermore broken up into multiple independent sectors. The outer hull

 

itself was forty meters thick, with most of the weapons systems embedded in this

 

hull. Effectively, the Mediator's hull consisted of five concentric shells,

 

ranging in thickness from thirty five metres to twenty meters each.

 

Crewing this ship, were over four hundred thousand individuals of every

 

description imaginable, plus at least an equal number of droids, probably more.

 

Even so, there was immense space available for storage. The ship also had it's

 

own mining and manufacturing facilities, was littered with parks, walkways, and

 

recreational areas, most of which could be converted into agricultural

 

facilities if necessary, allowing the ship to achieve complete self-sufficiency

 

if it so desired. The only description which Worf felt adequately described the

 

vessel was that it was a complete city unto itself, and a very well armed city

 

too.

 

Armed guards patrolled everywhere, probably just to keep them busy. The

 

regiments consisted mostly of Wookies and Humans, but also several of the

 

reptilean Mon Calamari and members of various other species. The Federation

 

itself maintained no standing army, except for it's security officers. It had

 

never had a need to invade planets, and even then, a tactical bombardment from

 

orbit was usually sufficient. It amazed him that these people felt the necessity

 

to maintain such huge armed forces.

 

"I assume that you will wish to take the Defiant and join your comrades in

 

this attack?" Antilles asked him.

 

"Yes. It is my duty."

 

"You have learnt much, but there is still a long road ahead of you. I

 

would have liked for our paths to remain linked for longer. I somehow suspect

 

that our purpose in this galaxy is drawing closer, and that our paths may soon

 

diverge."

 

"That is the way of all life." Worf answered.

 

"Indeed it is, my friend." Antilles smiled. "The Enterprise is secure," he

 

continued, "it is best that you make your way to the Defiant. Once the jump is

 

initiated, we will intercept the Federation fleet in minutes. As soon as we drop

 

out of hyperspace, the Defiant and the Enterprise will be released. To prevent

 

any misunderstandings, we will drop you off half a light-year from the Fleet,

 

and slightly ahead of them. We will withdraw immediately after that. I am afraid

 

that this battle is yours alone. I wish it were otherwise."

 

Antilles handed Worf a small package.

 

"This is the tools and parts you will need to assemble your own light-

 

sabre. Continue with the training as I have described to you, and one day, you

 

will discover the means to assemble the light-sabre. From long experience, I can

 

tell you that even the best engineers will fail, and only a true Jedi will

 

succeed. One thing though. While the vibro-bladed weapons may survive

 

transportation, I doubt they can be replicated. The construction extends down to

 

the sub-atomic level. The same goes for these parts."

 

The Klingon extended his hand, and the two clasped wrists. Antilles held

 

on for a long while, refusing to let go.

 

"Worf. I know that you have great respect and admiration for this Picard.

 

Somehow, I feel that he is tied into the great purpose I feel bearing down on

 

us. I fear that you may find that you will need to make a choice that could

 

break you, or save your comrades. Picard is not all he seems, maybe he is more

 

than he seems, I can't say for sure yet, but he is tied in somehow to all that

 

is happening."

 

"Captain Picard has proved himself time and again in the most trying of

 

circumstance. He is a warrior worth having at your side, whatever the

 

circumstance."

 

"I hope so. You will need such a presence at your side in the times to

 

come."

 

The two men parted ways, Antilles heading to his bridge, Worf to the

 

Defiant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Leahcim Xris looked around his bridge with pride. His bridge staff

 

sat stiff and erect at their spotless consoles, paying full attention to their

 

screens. With Harrsk and the Vengeance out of the picture, He was in charge of

 

what was left of the invasion force. Piett had pulled rank and ordered him to

 

assist in the upcoming battle. The strategy they had decided upon was that

 

Xris's force would stand off, while the Aggressor and the Grinder with their

 

respective supporting ships would defend the Gate and the Wormhole respectively.

 

It would be Xris's job to provide support where it was needed, and to otherwise

 

harass the Federation fleet.

 

"The enemy fleet is now thirty minutes away."

 

Advance warning. Such a luxury. With so much time to prepare, it was a

 

pity they had limited manufacturing facilities, or a decent reception could be

 

planned.

 

"Can you identify individual ships yet."

 

"We have categorised the ships according to class, Sir. Three of the ships

 

are of the same class as the one which trapped the Vengeance. One of them has a

 

nearly identical drive-signature to that ship. I am sure it is the same ship."

 

"Good. Place a high designation on that ship. I wish to personally be the

 

one to destroy it. Navigation, plot a short jump, one light year out of the

 

system, diametrically opposite to the enemy's approach vector. We will watch the

 

battle from there, and pick our openings."

 

Xris settled back to wait, impatience burning in every fibre of his body.

 

Once they had destroyed this pathetic fleet, they would pay another visit to the

 

Federation capital, and he would personally oversee it's slagging.

 

 

 

 

 

"Picard, this information may prove to be invaluable. After this battle,

 

you will explain to me in detail where you got it, and how the Defiant got back

 

from the Gamma Quadrant."

 

"I will."

 

"All ships, break into attack formation. Good hunting."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Data"

 

"There are a total of thirty eight individual islands of static on sub-

 

space. Their locations are consistent with defensive positions in the Bajoran

 

system."

 

"Can you scan any of those ships?"

 

"No sir. The static emanating from the disturbances prevents any form of

 

scanning, direct target locks, or transportation."

 

Just like the republic ships they had departed, Picard thought. The ships

 

had a remarkably small signature for their size even when their so-called

 

'static damping' was not in effect. The static damping itself was a major source

 

of frustration for targeting and scanning, let alone when they activated their

 

jamming systems and broadcast high-powered interference patterns all over the

 

spectrum.

 

Picard, and his crew, were used to having to dock in starbases which

 

dwarfed the Enterprise, and they had come across a few ships larger than the

 

Enterprise in their time, Borg cubes, Romulan and Dominion battle-cruisers, and

 

so forth. Yet, they had been taken aback by the sheer immensity of scale of the

 

Republic battle-cruiser they had docked with for the brief hyperspace trip. It

 

should have been impossible to maintain an effective inertial damping or

 

artificial gravity system on a ship so huge and so mobile. At least a starbase

 

was a comparatively stationary structure. The smallest of the alien battle-ships

 

easily dwarfed the Romulan and Dominion ships, yet were considered mere

 

'escorts' to the immense battle-cruisers. Destroyers, they had been called.

 

Geordi had all the Enterprise's immense sensory systems running to monitor

 

the performance of the battle-cruiser during their hyperspace trip, especially

 

the transition to hyperspace. The Enterpise's inertial damping recording

 

instruments had registered an acceleration that had gone off the scale when the

 

ship made the jump. If they hadn't been incorporated into the battle-cruisers

 

environment, the ship would have been torn apart. Not even their Structural

 

Integrity Fields would have stood up to such acceleration. Whatever served as a

 

SIF for the aliens had to be exceptionally powerful. They had shrugged questions

 

aside, with only one person mentioning something to the effect of molecular

 

enhancement fields and matrix acceleration.

 

Apparently, one of the ships in the Bajoran system was an equivalent ship

 

to Antilles immense battle-cruiser. Antilles had designated it an Executor-class

 

command ship. Apparently it was supported by a Giel-class battle-cruiser, which

 

though smaller, had equivalent firepower, being a pure fleet combat vessel. They

 

would have to approach to within a few tens of kilometers of these ships to burn

 

through their jamming systems. It was not a thought Picard liked to dwell on.

 

"All ships," Admiral Rostov was saying, "we have one priority, and one

 

priority only, the destruction of the Gate. According to information supplied by

 

Captain Picard, the Gate is the only supply line the Imperials have into this

 

galaxy. We destroy the Gate, and evacuate the system as fast as possible. The

 

remaining ships we can deal with later, if they don't surrender.

 

"We will conduct a few raids, to test enemy firing patterns, then all

 

ships will attack the Gate, and the Gate only."

 

Picard was surprised. Did the Admiral feel that they could succeed where

 

the Dominion had failed. They would have to whittle the numbers down first, any

 

immediate attack on the Gate would be met with immense resistance. It would be

 

tantamount to suicide. Nevertheless, suicide or not, if they could destroy the

 

Gate, the battle would be considered won, regardless of the cost.

 

 

 

 

 

Leahcim Xris had his fleet lying dead in space one light-year out of

 

Bajor. All ships had cut every system down to it's absolute minimum. Data from

 

the battle was being relayed to him from multiple sources. He had dropped off a

 

number of sensor stealthed probes in the system, some in space, some on

 

asteroids, some on moons. These were recording the entire battle, and relaying

 

their data via directional sub-space, impossible to intercept unless you parked

 

a sub-space receiver directly in the path of the beam.

 

The enemy ships slowed down just outside the system, coming in at only a

 

few times light-speed according to their sub-space trails. Careful of the

 

interdiction fields, they took their time in their approach. Several minutes

 

crawled by as the sub-space markers representing the enemy ships moved across

 

the system towards the position of the Gate. At their speeds, they were easy to

 

track, but impossible to target with conventional weapons. Well, they would have

 

to slow down in the interdiction field, or at least to fire their weapons with

 

any effectiveness.

 

Slowly, the battle took shape. The enemy started out by launching

 

torpedoes from long range, several light-seconds, forcing the defenders to

 

activate their interdiction fields to slow down the torpedoes. These torpedoes

 

were easily shot down, their purpose served. The alien fleet then cautiously

 

entered the interdiction field, but the defenders had a further surprise. They

 

allowed the aliens to increase speed again, testing the limits of their warp

 

drives, then they activated sub-space jamming at the same time as a second group

 

of interdictors suddenly swept out cones of intense graviton fields, increasing

 

the field strength significantly around the alien ships. Forced to slow down,

 

but undeterred, the aliens pressed on, now approaching to a range of one light

 

second but on a curving trajectory so the distance wasn't closed too soon. The

 

odd ranging shot was fired by the defenders, but no serious attempt at firing

 

was made, yet.

 

A wave of enemy ships broke in, closing the range in half a second, and

 

launched several fusion engined torpedoes at the Gate. The defenders were primed

 

for this, and the torpedoes were met by a wall of light turbo-laser and laser-

 

cannon fire. Both sides were rather tentative about their exchanges at this

 

stage. Each attempting to test the other's resolve, probing for potential

 

weaknesses.

 

"Sir," Xris was interrupted, "I have a new group of contacts on the

 

passive scope. I make fifteen ships, sub-space trails of unknown type, approach

 

speed an order of magnitude greater than the first group of aliens."

 

"Confirm destination and time of arrival."

 

"Bajoran system, likely trajectory is the Gate itself. ETA is three

 

minutes."

 

Three minutes! The Federation ships had taken more than an hour to make

 

their approach before slowing down. This new group was not messing around.

 

"Victory-one, jump to grid reference nine by one-seven by eight zero. Five

 

second active scan, then return to this position and report."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

Seconds later, the Victory vanished. Xris waited anxiously.

 

"Victory arrived, target grid reference. Detecting active sub-space scan

 

from Victory-one's location. Preliminary secondary data indicates vessel sizes

 

equivalent to destroyer sized vessels. Victory-one has jumped."

 

Destroyer sized vessels, Xris thought. Up to now they had seen nothing

 

larger than frigates or corvettes from the aliens. The destroyers were a

 

surprise, the enemy must be pulling out their big guns.

 

"Get Victory-one's sensor-data as soon as she meshes in. Have Victory-two

 

plot a jump to Bajor. They might not have picked up these signals in all the

 

battle interference."

 

"Victory-one meshed in. Data coming through now."

 

"Echo data to Victory-two."

 

"Done. We read fifteen cube shaped vessels, on a course for the Gate, ETA

 

two minutes ten seconds. The cubes are three kilometers on a side. Life-sign

 

readings indicate upwards of one hundred thousand humanoid life-forms or

 

equivalents."

 

"Victory-two. Get that data to the Aggressor. Now."

 

Xris had a bad feeling about this. He could feel adrenalin beginning to

 

pump in his system. This battle was going to be a humdinger.

 

"We read one cube diverging from the main group. It is heading towards

 

us."

 

"Okay, we've been spotted. Raise all shields, activate static damping,

 

power up all systems, weapons have power priority. Victory's to set gunnery

 

control to point defense mode, form up in screening positions. Imperators

 

gunnery control to broadside on projected enemy trajectories. Allegiance class

 

ships will engage the enemy at will."

 

Xris swore. They didn't have any interdictors assigned to their group, and

 

no way to suppress the maneuverability of the incoming ship. If it came to it,

 

they would have to withdraw to the interdiction zone around the Gate sooner than

 

expected.

 

"ETA?"

 

"Forty seconds."

 

On the holo-display, the cube-shape of the incoming destroyer was now

 

quite apparent. Tentative markers were beginning to appear denoting locations of

 

major power sources on the cube, most likely weapons systems, shield generators,

 

life-support system, possible devices to do with their distortion drive

 

technology, a known weak point in the alien technology base.

 

"Split gunnery into groups, assign targeting priorities as follows. Forty

 

percent on drive technology, thirty percent on weapons systems. Fifteen percent

 

to target likely communications or sensor pods, and fifteen percent to

 

concentrate on shield generators."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

"Tactical. The enemy has slowed down, they are attempting to scan us.

 

Static damping is proving effective. Enemy has ceased attempts at scanning."

 

"Communications. The enemy is attempting to establish communications.

 

Audio only."

 

"What? They want to talk?"

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Very well. Anything to keep them happy. Inform me when they are in

 

gunnery range."

 

"Opening an audio channel."

 

The bridge was silent for a second, then was filled with a voice which

 

Xris almost mistook for an android voice. But even a droid had more emotion than

 

the voice which filled the bridge.

 

"I am Borg. Resistance is futile. Lower your shields. Prepare to be

 

assimilated."

 

"Is it asking for our surrender?" Xris asked of nobody in particular,

 

shocked at the temerity of the aliens.

 

"Resistance is futile." The voice repeated. On the holo-display the cube

 

had slowed down to a full stop relative to the Imperial fleet under Xris's

 

command. It was well within weapons range. On the holo-display, Xris saw a

 

tractor beam reach out from the cube, attempting to grasp a nearby Victory class

 

destroyer. The Victory fired it's engine briefly, dragging the cube along

 

momentarily as it broke the tractor lock.

 

"Permission to open fire, sir?"

 

"Cut audio. Open fire. Destroy that vessel."

 

A ripple of fire from the Victory nearest the cube lashed out, blowing

 

holes in the hull of the nearby cube. The cube made no attempt to evade, and a

 

second tractor beam lashed out at the Victory. This time, as the tractor beam

 

locked on, a powerful laser blast fired at the Victory.

 

"Victory-seven's starboard shields down to thirty percent. After one hit."

 

The Victory rolled clear, firing it's dorsal and port guns as they came to

 

bear. The tractor lock appeared to be broken, but a second and third tractor

 

beam lashed out across the fifty thousand kilometer gap, narrowly missing the

 

Victory. A second Victory approached, firing it's weapons and attempting to

 

break the lock. Chunks of the cube's hull were vapourised by the super-hot

 

blasts, but it merely attempted to lock more tractor beams on the second

 

Victory. Other Imperial ships were moving in on the cube now, which though

 

taking damage, was holding it's own against the two Victory-class ships.

 

"Sir. I am picking up strange readings from the cube."

 

"Follow procedures when reporting. What are you picking up?"

 

"It appears to be repairing itself at a phenomenal rate. I have run a

 

diagnostics on my sensor board, but the readings are fine."

 

"What do you mean at a phenomenal rate? How fast is it repairing itself?"

 

For answer, the operator had a display zoom in on the cube.

 

"It appears to be almost keeping pace with the rate at which it is taking

 

damage. And the rate of repair seems to be increasing."

 

"No," another operator answered, "it's not the rate of repair, it is

 

generating a shielding system optimised for turbolaser deflection."

 

"There is also an immense amount of sub-space communication between this

 

cube and the others."

 

"Jam all communications."

 

On the screen now, five Victories were pummeling the cube. Xris could now

 

visibly see the turbolaser blasts being deflected by it's shields, and still it

 

made no attempt to evade. Still only the tractor beams and it's associated laser

 

were being used. The tractor beams appeared to operate on a principal designed

 

to interact with shielding, and the laser blasts fired along the tractor beams

 

were highly effective, using the tractors to help dig into the shielding. A nice

 

trick. An imperator powered into firing position on the cube, and unleashed a

 

full dorsal broadside on the vessel. The broadside smashed the shields aside,

 

but the shields had done their primary duty, and the damage to the cube was

 

significant, but not devastating. By the time the Imperator was ready to fire a

 

second broadside, the shields were back up, and the cube was repairing itself

 

behind the shields.

 

"Move in a second Imperator, let them alternate broadsides on the same

 

face. Ripper to engage the cube on an adjacent face. Withdraw Victories seven,

 

nine and eleven."

 

"Sir, we have managed to jam some of the communications, but the enemy is

 

now concentrating power in the other bands, and we are not certain that the

 

jamming is effective in those bands."

 

"Continue, I want all communications stopped."

 

The cube seemed unperturbed at the departure of the three Victory's, and

 

turned it's attention on the Imperator instead. The two remaining Victories,

 

plus the two Imperators firing on it, had caused it's entire surface to be

 

covered with superficial damage, which disappeared as fast as it was inflicted.

 

The two Imperators were now hitting the cube with a broadside every second, and

 

the face they were hitting was taking damage noticeably faster than the shields

 

could withstand or the automatic repair system could overcome. The cube merely

 

rotated, bringing a fresh face to bear.

 

"Ripper to concentrate fire on that damaged face. Smasher and Stomper each

 

to take a cube face as well. Victories three, four and eight, take a cube face.

 

Victories five and six withdraw. All remaining Imperators, move in."

 

Half his force of Victories had now been forced to withdraw, and Xris

 

could see that the Imperator which was taking most of the cube's attention

 

wouldn't hold out much longer either. Four of the cube faces were now just

 

twisted and glowing metal, but the cube was still fighting. However, with more

 

than ten capital ships pouring fire into it from all angles, the damage factor

 

was climbing steadily.

 

"More than thirty percent of the cube has been destroyed, it's outer hull

 

has been destroyed, but it is still under way, and firing."

 

"Continue the attack."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Xris could clearly see the damage rate was climbing exponentially now, as

 

the combined fire of his entire task force took it's toll. Incredibly, the

 

damage factor on the cube climbed to eighty percent before it detonated in an

 

eruption of antimatter.

 

"All ships, you have thirty seconds to recharge shields, then we jump. We

 

might as well join the main battle now."

 

The strategic display was refreshed with an image of the main battle. Xris

 

blanched. Of the fourteen cubes which had attacked the Gate, eleven remained,

 

and they were pressing in towards the Gate. Almost the entire Imperial force was

 

clustered around the Gate, with the eleven cubes pressing hard towards them. On

 

the outskirts of the interdiction zone, were the Federation ships. They were

 

allowing the cubes to press the attack alone. Strange that they weren't

 

supporting the cubes, but maintaining their distance.

 

"Sir, I read twenty nine ships in the Aggressor's force, they must have

 

lost a few ships."

 

"Okay, we're going in. Jump directly into the interdiction field, away

 

from the Federation's main fleet. We will provide whatever support we can

 

against the Federation destroyers, or whoever their allies are."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

 

 

 

 

A heated debate raged amongst the five most senior Federation captains.

 

With the arrival of the Borg, the Federation leaders were unsure what to do.

 

"We should offer the Imperials our support. We cannot allow the Borg to

 

assimilate their technology, especially the Gate technology. That would mean

 

unleashing the Borg on the entire Universe."

 

"After what the Imperials did to us? I say let them fight it out with the

 

Borg, we can destroy the Gate once they've torn each other to pieces."

 

"Gentlemen. This is an opportunity to stop the war. We can offer the

 

Imperials our support in exchange for their withdrawal from our territory."

 

"I agree. Support the Imperials in exchange for their withdrawal."

 

"No. You have seen their attitude. You have read the reports from the

 

worlds they have invaded. They will never live up to any treaties or agreements.

 

Let the Borg take care of them, then we'll take care of the Borg, and destroy

 

the Gate once and for all."

 

"Hell, it looks pretty even out there. If we wait, we can mop up this

 

entire battlefield, and destroy the Gate."

 

"We cannot allow the Borg to assimilate even a part of their technology,

 

remember they are transmitting everything they learn to the collective as they

 

experience it. It's paramount that we prevent them from assimilating any part of

 

the Imperial force."

 

"Gentlemen, let us not forget why we are here. We want to destroy the

 

Gate, after that we can handle the Imperials. The Borg are here to assimilate

 

the Gate and whatever else they can lay their hands on. The Imperials and the

 

Borg have their hands full with each other. We can run right by them both and

 

attack the Gate directly. This will destroy the Imperial supply-line, and remove

 

the primary reason the Borg are here. After that, we can let the Borg duke it

 

out with the Imperials, and we can pick up the pieces afterwards."

 

"Are you mad, attacking the Gate will draw the fire of both the Borg and

 

the Imperials. The conservation of the Gate is of paramount importance to them

 

both."

 

"Exactly," Picard joined in, "that is why we must destroy the Gate. That

 

will cut off the Imperials, and render the Borg's mission here pointless."

 

"We do that, and we will still have eleven Borg cubes to deal with."

 

"Ten," Somebody amended, "and there are now twenty six Imperial ships

 

still in the battle. Most of the escorts seem to be hard pressed, although they

 

are still covering the two battle-ships. Won't be long before it's only the

 

battle-ships left."

 

"I say we do what Picard suggests, run in under their noses and destroy

 

the Gate, but give them a bit more time to weaken each other."

 

Even as the speaker spoke, an Imperial escort vessel appeared to stop

 

firing, and lose way.

 

"Detecting multiple transports onto that ship. The Borg are attempting to

 

assimilate it."

 

"Contacts. Multiple contacts. Twenty more imperial ships have entered the

 

system."

 

On the far side of the interdiction field an entire fleet of Imperial

 

ships had arrived. They were powering down towards the battle at the Gate.

 

Picard recognised some of the ships from the attack on Earth. This could swing

 

the battle significantly the way of the Imperials. Even as he watched, though,

 

another Imperial escort ship was destroyed. The ten remaining Borg cubes seemed

 

to have adapted quite well to the Imperial weaponry, and were holding their own,

 

pressing the Imperial formation back towards the Gate and the two immense

 

battle-ships defending the Gate. In the distance, the wormhole lay undefended.

 

Picard considered going through for a quick look to see what was on the other

 

side, but thought better of it. Antilles had said their forces were monitoring

 

the wormhole quite closely, expecting an Imperial raid. Any ship exiting the

 

wormhole would be under serious threat of destruction by accident.

 

The new group of Imperials were now passing the ship on which the Borg

 

transport flickers had been detected. One of the larger ships callously fired a

 

full broadside into the stricken ship, destroying it in a violent detonation as

 

it's reactor core blew. Picard supposed it was the safest thing they could do,

 

to prevent it coming under Borg control.

 

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that for us." Picard stated. "I say we go

 

in now, destroying that Gate is paramount. We can attempt to withdraw

 

afterwards, but we cannot allow that Gate to survive, whether it is in Imperial

 

hands or Borg hands."

 

"Votes. Aye if you support Picard's suggestion."

 

"Aye."

 

"Nay."

 

"Aye."

 

"Two votes in support, plus Picard, makes three. I vote 'aye'. That is

 

four to one in favour of Picard's suggestion. Gentlemen, let's do it."

 

 

 

 

 

Xris didn't even glance back at the destroyed Imperator behind them.

 

Admiral Piett had ordered it destroyed rather than risk it falling into enemy

 

hands, and that was that. Without shields, it couldn't stop the hordes of

 

boarders transporting onto the ship, and they couldn't spare another ship to

 

nursemaid it by broadcasting jamming signals to prevent transportation. The

 

Render and it's sister ships didn't carry as much troops as an Imperator or

 

Victory class ship, but Xris ordered them distributed throughout the ship

 

anyway, with priority to vital areas.

 

"All ships, the enemy is reported to have optimised their shields for

 

turbolasers. Launch all fighters." They would have to sacrifice the fighters.

 

They probably wouldn't do much good, except as a distraction for the enemy

 

capital ships. "Mix up ion and turbolaser blasts, prepare to launch concussion

 

missiles into any shield or hull breach. Victories and Imperators, broadside

 

cube-four by pairs on the way in. Smasher, Stomper, Ripper and Render. I want a

 

co-ordinated four-ship broadside on the cube as the destroyers pass through,

 

followed up by a volley of concussion missiles."

 

The first few broadsides on the cube didn't appear to have any noticeable

 

impact. It's shields had been configured superbly. However, twenty ships firing

 

a broadside in quick succession will have an effect on anything, and by the time

 

the four Allegiance-class ships came in line-abreast two of the cube's faces

 

were severely damaged. It rotated a fresh face to the four ships just as the

 

broadsides were unleashed, followed by dozens of concussion missiles. The multi-

 

ship broadside smashed down the shields of the cube, and ripped into it's hull.

 

Micro-seconds later the concussion missiles slammed home, detonating in a solar-

 

fusion fury inside the cube. The four allegiance-class ships had time to fire a

 

second broadside into the remnants of the cube, just in case, as they powered on

 

past it.

 

"Xris." It was Piett, "have your ships assume a defensive screen around

 

the battle-cruisers. My ships will fall back and recharge shields. Withdraw

 

slowly towards our position. You are to hold the cubes as long as possible."

 

"Yes, sir." Throwing us to do the dogs, hoping he wouldn't have to commit

 

his major forces to battle. The bastard.

 

"All ships." Xris ordered to his forces. "Pair up, two ships to a cube.

 

Spread firepower evenly through pairs. Continuous fire, gunnery control-mode to

 

be set to fleet engagement. Watch for opportunities to launch concussion

 

missiles into shield breaches."

 

Concussion missiles were pretty useless against modern shields, or even

 

ancient shields for that matter, but against an unshielded hull, or better yet,

 

inside an unshielded hull, were highly destructive. The ships were paired,

 

Imperators together, and Victories with Allegiance-class ships. The Render and

 

it's paired Victory headed for their cube, relieving three of Piett's

 

destroyers, two of which were already showing signs of damage. They still had

 

their static damping going, so probably hadn't been boarded.

 

"Open fire, concentrate fire on the broadest face of the cube, launch one

 

concussion missile a second into the same point, maybe we can slip one through

 

the shields."

 

The Render shuddered slightly.

 

"Tractor lock."

 

"Continuous flak-bursts, in the tractor beam. Break it up. Launch

 

concussion missile at the tractor projector."

 

"Tractor lock broken."

 

"Repeat tactic for future locks. Distribute data to fleet."

 

"Acknowledged."

 

"Fighters?"

 

"All fighters launched, and waiting for orders."

 

"Spread squadrons evenly amongst the cubes. Fighters to target any and all

 

tractor beam projectors with laser cannons. If their lasers are coming out,

 

maybe ours can go in. TIE Bombers are to maintain steady bombardment of cubes,

 

any cube-face, anything to put a load on their shields. Put in a request to the

 

Aggressor for more TIE Bombers."

 

"Denied."

 

"Typical."

 

"Dorsal shields down to thirty percent."

 

"Put her on the port ventral shield."

 

"Aye, sir, commencing roll."

 

"Any shield readings from that cube?"

 

"They have independent shields, one shield per cube face. Cube rotates to

 

prevent major shield degradation."

 

"Shield Power?"

 

"Current face appears to be sixty five percent, plus or minus ten

 

percent."

 

"What is the discrepancy due to?"

 

"The shield appears to be continuously modulated depending on the nature

 

of the energy it is being bombarded with. I also have no fixed maximum reading

 

as a baseline."

 

"Very well."

 

"Sir, the cube's shields appear to be getting more resistant to our fire

 

rather than less resistant."

 

"They are probably just figuring our how to optimise their shields.

 

Everything has an upper limit of what it can withstand. Switch ion cannons to

 

negative charge. Helm, come about twenty points, we're going closer in. Laser

 

cannons stand by, hold fire until my mark."

 

"Sir, Victory-eight reports their shields approaching critical levels."

 

"Request it be replaced by one of Admiral Piett's escorts. They should

 

have recharged by now."

 

"Admiral Piett has agreed to the request. He is sending out a Nebulon B

 

frigate."

 

"Better than nothing. Have it approach to within laser-cannon range, their

 

ion cannons to positive charge, turbolasers to be fired in broadsides."

 

"The frigate acknowledged."

 

"Order them to come around on our leeward side, they are to approach the

 

cube using us as a shield until they are in laser cannon range."

 

"Port shields down to forty percent."

 

"Put the enemy on our starboard flank, forward quarter. Starboard guns to

 

broadside mode."

 

"We are in laser-cannon range."

 

"Full broadside, laser-cannons."

 

"We have shield penetration."

 

"Concussion missiles."

 

"Fired."

 

"They have reconfigured their shields for lasers. Two concussion missiles

 

slipped through. Cube is rotating fresh shields to us."

 

"Maintain laser-cannon fire, fleet engagement mode, turbolasers to

 

broadside mode, broadsides to be followed by concussion missiles. Have the TIE's

 

concentrate on the damaged face."

 

"TIE's report heavy shields. Cube face is being repaired."

 

"TIE's to continue bombardment."

 

"The cube is firing at the TIE's, but their weapon efficiency against the

 

TIE's is very poor."

 

"Sir, we have movement amongst the main Federation fleet."

 

"Ignore that, our job is to keep the cubes back. Piett's ships will have

 

to handle them."

 

"The Aggressor and the Grinder are closing with the Gate, they have ten

 

escort ships moving to screening positions, the remaining destroyers are all

 

damaged, and will not participate in the defence except to provide support

 

fire."

 

"The cubes?"

 

"All nine still fully operational. We have three Victory's and one

 

Imperator approaching critical shield status."

 

They were unlikely to get help from the Aggressor and Grinder now, not

 

with the main Federation fleet heading for the Gate. They had just waited long

 

enough for their allies to wear away the Imperial defenses. Xris noticed the

 

frigate he had designated as his personal enemy amongst the attackers. Well,

 

nothing he could do about it now.

 

"Another concussion missile has slipped through. It appears that their

 

shields are momentarily weakened after each turbolaser broadside. The cube has

 

rotated another face towards us."

 

"We must be hurting them then. Have a squadron of TIE Bombers co-ordinate

 

their attack runs on the same face we are hitting. Time their attack to our

 

broadsides. They can get their missiles in faster than us."

 

A few broadsides later, the TIE bomber attack came in. Xris ordered an all

 

weapons broadside, mixing up the charges of the ion cannons. He fired the

 

broadside an instant after the TIE's launched their missiles, the broadside

 

impacting just before the missiles did. The combination of weapons hitting the

 

shield, or the sheer power of the weapons, was sufficient to momentarily smash

 

down the shields, allowing several turbolaser blasts through, as well as dozens

 

of the tiny proton torpedoes. The cube was rocked by several internal

 

explosions.

 

"Damage readings?"

 

"Cube still operable. Fresh face rotated towards us, life-sign readings on

 

the cube has decreased significantly."

 

"Damage rate?"

 

"Stabilised, the cube's shields have been reinstated."

 

"Set up another attack run. Have all ships co-ordinate their attacks on

 

their respective cubes. Missiles to follow all weapon broadsides as close as

 

possible."

 

Their own concussion missiles couldn't be used, because they would have to

 

be fired before the broadside, but the broadside would overtake and destroy the

 

missiles. For future engagements they could have the missiles re-programmed for

 

a curving flight path.

 

"The Federation ships are attacking the Gate. Aggressor and Grinder are

 

engaging them."

 

"Ignore that, our job is to take on these cubes."

 

"The cubes are pushing past, they are ignoring us. They are going after

 

their own ships!"

 

Incredulously, Xris watched as the cubes he had thought allied with the

 

Federation fleet ignore his ships and open fire on the Federation ships. They

 

must be from a different faction. Well, it was just in time as far as he was

 

concerned. Most of his ships were in critical shield status, and quite a few had

 

taken damage.

 

"Sir, shouldn't we be going after the cubes?"

 

"No. They're doing our job for us. Ignore the cubes, come around to an

 

intercept heading on the Federation ships. All guns, broadside mode. Full power

 

to ion drives, I want that frigate over there. Fleet order, all ships to defend

 

the Gate. Repeat. Ignore the cubes, all ships to target the Federation ships."

 

The hundred strong fleet of corvettes, gunships, frigates and assault

 

shuttles which made up the Federation fleet had come to a stop arrayed around

 

the Gate. They were all spread out, preventing the Imperials from concentrating

 

the fire from their depleted forces. Fortunately, the cubes were doing their bit

 

as well. Piett had given up trying to target the myriad of missiles and

 

torpedoes targeting the Gate, and was concentrating fire on the tiny Federation

 

ships. One after another, they were detonating.

 

The frigate Xris had targeted was weaving a path through the destruction,

 

leading an apparently charmed life, firing volley after volley of pulsating blue

 

missiles at the Gate. The Render swept past a cube, which was firing at a nearby

 

enemy corvette of some strange configuration.

 

"Target that corvette, broadside, fire."

 

The corvette detonated in a blue-white hell as it's antimatter containment

 

fields ruptured. The cube ignored them and selected another target. The Render

 

swept on, narrowly missing a collision with a small bird-like ship. A flurry of

 

turbolaser and laser-cannon shots followed the ship, but it darted away behind

 

another cube. Ahead of them, a frigate crossed their nose.

 

"Frigate, dorsal broadside. Fire."

 

The frigate staggered under the onslaught, and rolled over crazily,

 

battling to retain it's stability. The Render swept past, going too fast for a

 

second broadside. Behind them, a cube casually raked it's tractor beams across

 

the frigate, and blew away a large section of it's circular superstructure.

 

"We're coming up on the frigate you've targeted sir."

 

"The Gate's shields are down. It's taking damage."

 

"Stay on target. Designate every third turbolaser free, laser-cannons are

 

free to target missiles. Remaining weapons in reserve for broadside."

 

The immense two kilometer long cruiser shuddered as it smashed through

 

some wreckage, it's forward shields battling to retain integrity. The elusive

 

frigate was well within weapons range now, but there were several ships between

 

them and it, some of them friendlies.

 

The starfield outside the view-screen whirled crazily as the immense ship

 

braked and turned to avoid a Nebulon B frigate charging across their path. A

 

squadron of fighters screamed past, spattering their comparatively small arms on

 

any ship within sight. Nearby, a Federation ship which had lost it's shields was

 

swamped by several fighters, chewing away at it's hull with their rapid fire

 

cannons. The Federation ship accelerated away, smashing through three of the

 

fighters, only to be rammed by the immense bulk of a cube. The ship detonated

 

furiously, for a second totally obscuring the cube it had collided with.

 

The cube emerged from the explosion with a full quarter of it's bulk

 

burned away, but even as Xris turned away, he noticed that it was beginning to

 

repair itself.

 

"Helm, full reverse, come around eighty points, starboard. Full broadside

 

on that damaged cube. Now! Concussion Missiles."

 

The cube seemed to shiver and twist away as the broadside tore into the

 

damaged section. The concussion missiles followed up, adding to the carnage.

 

"Helm, get us back on course, intercept that frigate."

 

Behind them, several TIE bombers screamed towards the stricken cube,

 

firing missiles as fast as they could. A Nebulon B cruiser also turned on the

 

cube, which somehow was still operational. The Render shook as something hit it.

 

They had wandered into the path of several federation ships, and took a number

 

of hits not meant for them, but for the Gate. A furious battle erupted for a

 

handful of seconds, and then the Federation ships had swept past towards the

 

Gate, while the Render remained on course for the frigate it was chasing.

 

"Prepare full dorsal broadside, all weapons. Target that frigate. Fire."

 

The frigate, with seemingly inhuman reflexes or sheer good luck, banked

 

away, avoiding most of the broadside, and fired a volley of missiles at the

 

Gate. The Render spun around on it's axis, the bridge crew actually having to

 

hold on to whatever support was close by. The helmsman had a look on his face

 

like a child faced with a new toy, as he played with the controls, lining the

 

ship up for another broadside.

 

"Broadside, Fire." Xris shouted.

 

A second broadside ripped towards the frigate, which somehow managed to

 

evade, again only taking a few hits. Xris decided it wasn't luck, they must have

 

a superb helmsman, or a Jedi at the controls. He was pushed back into his seat,

 

as his own helmsman poured power into the ion engines, accelerating the huge

 

ship back the way it had come. He must be pulling thousands of gees, Xris

 

thought, the violent manoeuvres actually putting a strain on the inertial

 

dampers designed to withstand hyperspatial accelerations.

 

"Broadside, wide angle on enemy position. Fire." He shouted again.

 

The broadside this time was fired with a tiny angle of divergence

 

programmed into the targeting computers, bracketing the enemy position rather

 

than aiming at it. This proved more effective, several shots hitting the enemy

 

ship, but spread wildly over it's shields rather than concentrated. Despite

 

this, the enemy ship fired yet another volley of pulsating blue missiles at the

 

Gate.

 

Xris prepared to order another broadside, but was caught by the sight

 

outside the view-screen. In the distance, a tiny ring could be seen, the Gate.

 

Close enough to be seen with the naked eye, and it was glowing. A flash, bright

 

as a star marked it's position for a second, then nothing. Their way home,

 

destroyed.

 

"The Federation ships are withdrawing. The cubes have resumed attacking

 

us, they are ignoring the Federation ships."

 

"All ships," Admiral Piett's voice came through, "withdraw to this point."

 

A set of hyperspace co-ordinates followed.

 

"Navigation, confirm co-ordinates."

 

"Confirmed."

 

"Execute." Xris ordered.

 

His last view of the Bajoran system was reminiscent of a starship

 

graveyard. Dozens of curiously shaped pieces of wreckage were visible, their

 

shape conformant with Federation vessels. Other wreckage was obviously that of

 

Imperial vessels, destroyers and frigates of various classes. Interspersed with

 

that were bits and pieces of destroyed Borg cubes. In the distance, a few

 

Imperators were loading up the last of the TIE fighters, and still firing

 

furiously at everything within range, making sure it was dead.

 

Three cubes were visible, closing in on the Imperators, but they would

 

have ample time to jump away. The Federation ships had disappeared the moment

 

the interdiction field had dropped. The image rotated, and flashed into the

 

static whorls of hyperspace as the Render jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

The Federation fleet, or what was left of it, was forced to stop barely

 

half a light year outside the system. Only forty ships remained, many of them

 

damaged, including the Enterprise. They had been forced to stop because the

 

three Borg cubes were closing fast at transwarp, the sub-space interference of a

 

high-powered transwarp conduit pulling several ships out of warp. Apparently,

 

the Imperials had vanished from all sensors, leaving only the three Borg cubes

 

and several millions of tons of largely incandescent wreckage behind. The Borg

 

had come after the only thing left on their scopes. The Federation fleet. They

 

would be here shortly.

 

"Damaged ships to the centre of the formation," Picard ordered, "full

 

shield modulation and weapons modulation."

 

Three cubes, two of them still showing signs of damage, against forty odd

 

Federation ships, most of them damaged, would be no match. Even as they closed

 

with the Borg cubes, Picard could see the last signs of damage on the cubes

 

disappear as the cubes repaired themselves. Now it was three undamaged cubes

 

against a severely depleted federation force.

 

"Damaged ships, escape to warp as opportunity presents itself, we will

 

give you as much time as possible to get away."

 

The Federation ships opened fire, merely attempting to hold back the

 

cubes, so their damaged counterparts could get away.

 

"Picard don't be a fool. We will engage them, you get away. The Federation

 

needs your ships. The Gate may be destroyed, but the Imperials are still out

 

there."

 

"I can't leave you behind."

 

"Traitor! Think of the Federation, get away while you can, we will hold

 

the cubes up as long as we can."

 

Picard closed his eyes briefly, and shut out all thought of the fate of

 

the damaged ships and their crews. He had to do what he could.

 

"Lower your shields, we will beam your crews off."

 

"Negative. The Borg will just come after you so much sooner."

 

"Sir, multiple contacts, six hundred thousand kilometers, port bow."

 

"Type?" Picard thought wearily. Only Imperial ships could appear that

 

suddenly. Coming in to take revenge on the remains of the Federation fleet.

 

"Sensor profile consistent with the Imperial warships, sub-space static is

 

preventing further analysis. They are opening a communications channel."

 

"On-screen."

 

"Picard." Antilles said, his visage filling Picard with some relief,

 

"These cubes, they are your enemy?"

 

"Yes. They are Borg."

 

"Do you need assistance?"

 

"Yes. We do."

 

Already two of the cubes were heading towards Antilles fleet.

 

"Two of my escorting squadrons will protect your damaged ships, have them

 

withdraw to these co-ordinates. Make sure your comrades know that we are

 

friends. We will destroy the cubes, then offer you further assistance."

 

So easy, Picard thought. Did Antilles think it was that easy?

 

"Be wary of those cubes, they have an incredible ability to adapt to

 

weapons of any type."

 

"Thank You."

 

The first of the cubes closed to within a few hundred thousand kilometers

 

of the Republic fleet. During the earlier battle with the Imperials, Picard had

 

not had an opportunity to observe one of these big command ships in action. He

 

now saw what had happened to most of their fleet at Bajor, and to the Borg cubes

 

which had wandered too close to the immense multi-kilometer battle-ships. The

 

entire cube was suddenly engulfed in a green burst of flame so powerful that

 

half the sensors on the Enterprise was momentarily engulfed in static. The cube

 

was gone.

 

"Number one?"

 

"Unbelievable. That ship is huge, but I never imagined. It fired close to

 

two thousand weapons at the cube. Individually, the bigger of the weapons fired

 

had a power level equivalent to half a dozen quantum torpedoes, and it had at

 

least four hundred such weapons. They fired simultaneously. The sheer power of

 

that broadside must be equivalent to several years worth of a star's total

 

output."

 

"Well, I suppose even the Borg would have difficulty adapting to that. Now

 

we know what happened to the other cubes. The Imperials must have taken them

 

out."

 

The two remaining cubes both made a bee-line for the immense warship.

 

Another one was smashed by a broadside, and the third came under fire from at

 

least two dozen mile-long escort ships. A third broadside from Antilles command

 

ship was not needed.

 

"My hangars are clear. I suspect I can squeeze in all your larger ships,

 

and the smaller ones can dock on the destroyers. Once the docking is complete,

 

we can return you to your capital world in a few hours."

 

"That would be appreciated." Picard answered.

 

 

 

 

 

Half an hour later, the Enterprise was once again docked in primary hangar

 

number one of the Mediator. This time, it was accompanied by a surviving sister

 

ship in the same hangar. Forward of the two ships were four Akira's stacked side

 

by side, two deep. Alongside the two Sovereign class ships, several of the

 

smaller Excelsiors, Intrepids and Oberths had been squeezed in. In the second

 

primary hangar, two kilometers away, at least a dozen other Federation ships

 

were docked. Ambassadors, Rigels, and even an old Galaxy. A number of the

 

smaller ships, defiant-class, peregrines and so forth were distributed in the

 

remaining six hangars.

 

A few other ships had been forced to dock in the escort ships hangars. But

 

fully three dozen of the Federation fleet was aboard the Mediator.

 

"Prepare for hyperspace jump. Five seconds."

 

A warning tone sounded in the hangar, picked up by their outboard sensors.

 

The tone stopped, but nothing appeared to have changed. A glance through the

 

atmospheric containment field however confirmed they were in hyperspace. The

 

blackness of space had been replaced by a bright static whorl of colours, with a

 

vague impression of star formations flashing by.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

The Imperial fleet, or rather, it's remnants, were assembled over one of

 

the planets they had captured. The SSD Aggressor, and the Giel-class Grinder,

 

were unscathed. The battle, furious as it had been, had not gone on long enough

 

for either ship to suffer significant shield degradation, let alone hull damage.

 

The escorts though had not been so lucky. Of the fifty odd destroyer class

 

vessels, only twenty nine were left, and eight of these were severely damaged.

 

The other twenty one ships had suffered minor damage, a few scorched hull

 

plates, and the odd blown shield generator, but were being rapidly repaired.

 

The Render was one of these. Some alluvial dampeners had had to be

 

replaced, and two shield generators had been repaired. The Render's own

 

astromech droids had taken care of it, digging into their rarely used stores for

 

this purpose. The eight damaged ships were being repaired aboard or underneath

 

the Aggressor. They would be passably operational in a few more days, but would

 

need a dry-dock repair to return to full Imperial spec.

 

Xris himself, and his crew, and no doubt the rest of the Imperial forces,

 

had been stunned at the loss of the Gate. Subsequent analyses of the battle had

 

assuaged them that they had fought as well as could be expected, and had been

 

merely overwhelmed by the opposing forces. The Federation forces had suffered

 

more than seventy percent damage, and the unknown assailants in the cubes had

 

suffered ninety percent damage, as opposed to their fifty percent damage. A

 

victory by that measure, except that the Gate had been destroyed.

 

Nobody had expected the Federation ships to attack the Gate with absolute

 

disregard for their own safety or sane military tactics. The attack had been

 

tantamount to a suicide run, but it had accomplished the obvious goal of the

 

Federation fleet.

 

Once the initial shock had worn off, and people realised that their was no

 

way home, many theories had been put forward in the mess-halls and maintenance

 

hatchways, which Xris had been quick to suppress. Most of the crew was now of

 

the opinion that the Empire would build a second Gate. Others were of the

 

opinion that they should attempt to establish contact with the Republic forces

 

on the far side of the wormhole, but the single ship despatched had not

 

returned, if it ever made it to the far side. No starmaps existed which would

 

allow them to reach the far end of the wormhole.

 

One suggested project was to detail a group of ships to scout a lane to

 

the far end of the wormhole, a project which might take six weeks to two months.

 

Others were prepared to wait for a second Gate to be manufactured. Admiral Piett

 

had shut off all rumours and suggestions, and issued orders to the effect that

 

the fleet was to patrol the captured worlds, capture new ones, and otherwise

 

expand the influence of the Empire until such time as a second Gate was

 

established.

 

Xris had little doubt as to what would happen to them should they return

 

to the Empire with their tails between their legs. The Admiral's orders were the

 

best course of action. They were having a holo-conference right now to discuss

 

how this might best be carried out.

 

"Captain Xris," the Admiral was saying, "We will split our forces into

 

three groups. This world will be our capital, and it will serve as a base of

 

operations. The Aggressor, with Stomper, Smasher and a small force of destroyers

 

will remain here as a defensive fleet. The Grinder, with the Ripper and a small

 

force of Victories, will patrol the captured worlds, and as far as possible

 

protect their sovereignty as possessions of the Empire.

 

"You will take your own ship, three Imperators, and four Victories, and

 

continue to conduct raids on the Federation worlds, if possible capturing more

 

worlds."

 

A small force, but he at least he would have some autonomy. At least there

 

was no shortage of troops and supplies. The amount of equipment, troops,

 

supplys, and transports that had come through the wormhole in the last few weeks

 

was more than sufficient for several years of operations. The few dozen worlds

 

they had captured would also serve as an adequate industrial base until the

 

Empire built a second Gate. If they built a second Gate, he added quietly to

 

himself.

 

"Yes, sir." He answered. "I will have full autonomy in the targets I

 

choose, and the strategy I embark on?"

 

"Of course. As long as you maintain a sufficient rate of expansion."

 

Yes, Xris thought, and I will be the one to lose my head should things go

 

wrong. Piett was making sure that he placed himself in the easiest position,

 

that of defending already secured worlds. Xris had the smallest force, with the

 

most difficult task.

 

Thinking about it, Xris realised that if he survived, he would come out of

 

this whole fiasco untarnished, not so for Piett and Jerjerrod. Already, his

 

battle record for this campaign was exceptional. His ship had scored the highest

 

index of damage in the battle defending the Gate. Unless he died, or could be

 

discredited, then Piett and Jerjerrod could concoct any story they desired, and

 

he would be cast to the dogs. Well, it was out of such adversities that careers

 

could be made.

 

"I have designated the following ships for your task force," the Admiral

 

continued, "as you can see, they are the best combination possible given the

 

performance of the crews and the state of the ships. Naturally, with such

 

forces, I expect you to produce results to match."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Of course he would be given the best, Xris thought. That way if he failed,

 

he would have no excuses. Well, he wouldn't need any.

 

"If it pleases the Admiral, I would like to leave within the hour."

 

 

 

 

 

Xris gathered his fleet ninety light years out, close to the edge of the

 

sphere totally under Imperial control. Beyond the hundred light year radius from

 

Bajor were many Federation, Klingon and Romulan worlds. Also a few Cardassian

 

worlds.

 

In the short trip, less than one hour in hyperspace, Xris had examined

 

what he knew about Federation technology, fleet dispositions, starship design,

 

industrial and population demographics. He needed to find a way to maximise the

 

damage he could do with the half a squadron he had at his disposal. By the end

 

of the trip, he thought he had found a way. The Imperial scouts had been largely

 

placed at his disposal. These consisted of a squadron of gunships, several

 

droidships, and a few dozen probe droids. These scouts had already mapped and

 

charted a sphere three thousand light years around Bajor.

 

Most of them he put back to work, expanding the scouted area. He retained

 

half of the gunships though, for use as intelligence gatherers on systems he had

 

marked. What he was looking for, were systems that provided key minerals for

 

starship construction and maintenance. Also, systems that were used as supply

 

depots, communications relays, or major industrial centres. It would be

 

difficult if not impossible for such a small force of ships to seriously impact

 

communications in the region, the Federation could surely replace sub-space

 

relays and boosters faster than they could destroy them, but that was one of the

 

places to start.

 

His major strategy though, was to attempt to do to the Federation what

 

they had done to the Imperials. Cut the supply lines. Imperial intelligence had

 

interrogated several prisoners from the captured worlds, and revealed many

 

interesting titbits. The Federation antimatter technology relied heavily on

 

dilithium crystals. Supplies were routed through starbases, many of them planet

 

or asteroid bound, with richer worlds having a huge bulbous orbital structure

 

which served as a dock, supply depot, regional headquarters, and field repair

 

centre.

 

Destroy the major starbases, and the supply lines would be lengthened. Cut

 

the supply of dilithium, and their antimatter technologies would be severely

 

curtailed. Destroy facilities dedicated to the mining and processing of material

 

related to starship hull construction, and their ship-building program would be

 

curtailed. In between that, capture the odd world here or there. In a few weeks,

 

he could have the Federation fleet on it's knees, or at least unable to mount a

 

successful long-distance raid deep into Imperial territory.

 

 

 

 

 

Worf and Antilles fought. Perspiration dripped as they sparred. They had

 

been at it for several hours now, with no breaks. Worf felt in superb physical

 

condition, not that he had ever allowed himself to go slack, but for the last

 

three days, and in the time before, Antilles had worked him as hard as he could

 

wish to work himself.

 

The mental exercises were proceeding slowly, but the physical ones Worf

 

enjoyed. He had surprised himself on a number of occasions, moving to intercept

 

an attack before it could be done. He was familiar with the concept. It was said

 

that many Klingon heroes had had such abilities, to read an opponent so well

 

that they could anticipate the opponent's attacks before it had begun. He had

 

never imagined that the study could be so formalised, or that the techniques

 

might be unique to certain adepts.

 

He had difficulty with levitation, telekinesis and such, provoking severe

 

criticism from Antilles, but 'fighter-sense' came much easier.

 

"The problem is in your mind," Antilles said, "fighting sense is within

 

your belief system, so this comes easily. Telekinesis and Telepathy are foreign

 

to your personal belief system, and so will come harder."

 

"What about Troi? She is telepathic."

 

"Genetics. Her race is born with it. Other powers, such as telekinesis,

 

jedi-sight, meditative reflex enhancements, and more, are outside her race's

 

capabilities. Only a true understanding of the force allows the full spectrum of

 

capabilities."

 

"I have seen other people manipulate objects through telekinesis, and I

 

have seen Troi read minds, so I do believe that these things are possible."

 

"Yes, but you have always seen this done within the context of the race's

 

inherent capabilities. Capabilities which they have developed through various

 

factors of evolution or socio-psychology. They were not a gift of an individual,

 

and it has never been adequately demonstrated to you that anybody can achieve

 

such power, let alone yourself."

 

"I will try harder."

 

"No. It cannot be achieved through more effort, or harder work. You will

 

either do it, or you won't. Stop thinking about it. Just do it."

 

Worf changed the subject. "The negotiations. How is it proceeding?"

 

"Your government is as bad as mine. Like all politicians, they argue the

 

merits of each offer to the death. Many of them are convinced that the Imperials

 

will no longer be a factor now that the Gate is destroyed."

 

"And the Imperials?"

 

"Have rejected all our attempts at speaking to them. They are convinced

 

that their superiors will build another Gate."

 

"Will they?"

 

"I have been told that our intelligence services have satisfied themselves

 

that it will not be possible. The Imperials are certainly trying to build

 

another one, but many of their key engineers who were familiar with the Gate

 

project have been neutralised. Much of their records have also been destroyed by

 

saboteurs. It appears that the Republic intelligence service has much experience

 

in such tactics." Antilles smiled.

 

"Has this been conveyed to the local Imperial forces?"

 

"Yes, but they won't believe us. They are waiting for orders from their

 

superiors."

 

"Can you not convey such orders from their superiors through your own

 

channels?"

 

Antilles frowned at Worf. "Sometimes you are a bit naïve, Worf. Of course

 

their superiors haven't given such orders, and are unlikely to do so soon

 

either."

 

"Why?"

 

"As long as their ships are operable here, and they are still attempting

 

to construct another Gate, they will hold out. Of course, the fact that we are

 

forced to commit our own much-needed ships to this galaxy is only in the

 

interest of the Imperial leadership. They are also proving quite effective at

 

whipping up dissent in fringe worlds, increasing the strain on our fleet

 

resources. Nothing we can prove of course."

 

"If it is such a strain, and you are sure the Imperials cannot build

 

another Gate, then you could leave. We can handle the forces that are left."

 

"That is the opinion of your government, and the reason the talks are

 

taking so long. Unfortunately, we feel a desire to stay, just to make sure. And

 

besides," Antilles smiled, "I can continue your training."

 

Worf twisted aside as he sensed something behind him. A plastic container

 

whizzed past his head. The distraction was sufficient for Antilles to place a

 

knife to his throat.

 

"See, you need all the training you can get."

 

"One day .." Worf growled.

 

"Yes?"

 

"Never mind."

 

The two resumed sparring. If anything demanded their attention, they would

 

be informed. For now, the situation was out of their hands, and in the hands of

 

politicians.

 

 

 

 

 

Starbase 81 was situated at the heart of an asteroid ten kilometers across

 

at it's broadest point. Externally, their were few signs that the asteroid was

 

anything other than it seemed. Transportation technology bypassed such

 

inconveniences as landing bays and launch facilities. Unfortunately, it was not

 

completely undetectable. Littered across the surface of the asteroid, were sub-

 

space receivers and transmitters, sensor pods, short and long range

 

communications devices, and the odd emergency hatchway in case of transporter

 

failure.

 

Also of course, their was the odd bit of traffic stopping by, which was

 

sure to give away it's location if nothing else did. However, stealth was not

 

the station's intent, and the asteroid's surface was also littered with shield

 

generators, phaser banks, and photon torpedo launch tubes. Well within

 

Federation territory, until recently anyway, and even then, more than two

 

thousand light years from the nearest Imperial held world, it's occupants

 

considered themselves fairly safe, despite most of it's defensive systems not

 

having been upgraded in the last few years. It's phaser banks were under-powered

 

compared to modern starships, and the only torpedoes it had were the more common

 

photon torpedo variety.

 

The first anomaly in the station's logs had occurred several hours ago,

 

when a sub-space disturbance concordant with a large starship's power source had

 

been detected. However, the disturbance had disappeared before a positive fix

 

could be obtained, and it had not recurred. Electromagnetic sensors were

 

focussed in the direction of the disturbance anyway, but had detected nothing so

 

far. The disturbance had been several light-hours away, and even if any

 

electromagnetic detection could be made, it might still be hours before the

 

radiation covered the immense distance.

 

The second anomaly in the station's logs occurred when two wedge-shaped

 

warships flashed into position a mere fifteen thousand kilometers away from the

 

asteroid. An automatic alarm shattered the peace of the station, but before any

 

orders or instructions or even expressions of surprise could be issued, the

 

asteroid was rocked by the hand of a giant.

 

A computer, determining that the station was under attack, raised the

 

shields, and the asteroid momentarily stabilised. Half a second had passed. The

 

commanding officer, grappling for support as the station stabilised itself,

 

opened his mouth to enquire of his sensor operator what was going on. Before he

 

could get a lucid response, the station rocked again, but less violently, as the

 

shields absorbed, redirected, and retransmitted the energy flung at the

 

asteroid.

 

"Two Imperial ships, fifteen klicks." The sensor operator managed.

 

"Charge Phasers. Load torpedo tubes."

 

"Sir we have taken damage to .."

 

"Shuddup. When will those torpedoes be ready?"

 

"Eight seconds, sir."

 

The station rocked again, slightly more urgently.

 

"The shields are .."

 

"Shuddup. Get a message off to starfleet. Now. Attach full sensor logs."

 

The station rocked again, throwing some of the bridge crew to the floor.

 

Others held onto their consoles.

 

"Torpedoes ready."

 

"Another ship at red seven, mark nineteen."

 

"Launch torpedoes."

 

A violent shudder ran through the deck.

 

"Damage to .."

 

"Shuddup."

 

A wall of red flame and molten rock exploded into the bridge section,

 

killing everyone in the room. Eleven seconds had passed.

 

 

 

The two and a half kilometer length of the Allegiance-class heavy

 

destroyer coasted past the shattered asteroid, much of it glowing red, with

 

blobs of molten rock radiating into space. An odd flicker of green stabbed into

 

the molten ruin, a brief flicker of low-energy communications was exchanged with

 

the two Victory destroyers in the distance. The three warships flickered out of

 

the system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starbase 43 was actually no such thing. Situated eight hundred kilometers

 

from New San Francisco, the largest city of a one hundred thirty year old Earth

 

colony. It consisted of a number of buildings, some above and some below ground.

 

It had never been close to any frontier in the entire history of Federation

 

space travel, and was meant merely as a convenient supply depot and regional

 

command centre. The entire planet was one of the most peaceful places in

 

Federation space. Two thousand light years from the neutral zone, eight hundred

 

light years from Cardassian space, over a thousand light years from the Bajoran

 

wormhole. There was nothing of significance on this planet, except that it had

 

been remarkably easy to terraform, and was conveniently located as a halfway

 

stop to more remote regions of Federation space.

 

The first sign of trouble came in the form of a panicky scream for aid

 

from New San Francisco. Below the horizon, it was effectively out of scanner

 

range from the starbase, not that they had the best scanners in the Federation

 

anyway. The only aid that was immediately available was in the form of two

 

runabouts, neither of them armed. Everything else had long since been recalled

 

to Earth, to face some new threat in a long string of threats. The base

 

commander sighed, sometimes he wondered why humanity had ever bothered with

 

space travel.

 

He ordered a security team to the transporter room.

 

"Get over there and report what's happening. The city claims to be under

 

attack, but our sensors report nothing came in from outside the system."

 

"We aren't close to any frontiers. Who would want to attack this backwater

 

anyway?" The officer complained.

 

"Just do it."

 

Finally catching the urgency in the base commander's voice, the officer

 

acknowledged. Seconds later, the comms panel beeped.

 

"Um, commander, there appears to be a problem with the transporter. A high

 

level of radiative static in the city area is preventing any transports to the

 

city area."

 

The commander pressed another button. "Sensors, are you sure nothing came

 

into the system?"

 

"Our antennae are all based in the outer system, and angled into deep-

 

space. Nothing came in that the sensors detected."

 

"Can you angle any antennae to scan the system itself?"

 

"It may not help, if any ships bypassed the sensors, they will be hugging

 

the planet out of direct line-of-sight. The only ships which could have by-

 

passed the sensors are those Galactic Empire ships mentioned in the last few

 

reports. They apparently have a trans-location type drive that can't be

 

tracked."

 

Stepping over to his window, the commander looked out over the landing

 

area in the centre of the base. The two runabouts were sitting in the sun. They

 

were unarmed, but at least they could get to the city. He reached for the comms

 

control to transmit the necessary orders. The turn away from the window saved

 

his eyes. The window shattered inwards, the safety glass breaking into tiny

 

blunt bits which wouldn't cut, but the force of the blast driving them like

 

hundreds of tiny bullets. The commander was thrown clear across the room, his

 

ears throbbing with a sound he hadn't actually heard, but physically felt. He

 

knew what it was though. A hypersonic shockwave.

 

Battling to his feet, and gripping his broken arm, he staggered to the

 

opening where the window had been. The ferrocrete landing area was a shattered

 

ruin. Only one of the shuttles was recognisable, but it was lying on it's side

 

with a gaping hole facing the sky.

 

A scream was heard over the comms channel, which was still open. The

 

commander stepped through the glass to the wall on the far side, and smashed the

 

glass of the display case with his good arm. He reached in for a hand-phaser. He

 

was no idiot, the base was under military attack.

 

A noise sounded from behind him, and he froze. Something grabbed his

 

broken arm, and he twisted in pain. A blow to the back of his knees sent him to

 

the ground. He lay there, looking up at his attacker. The figure was humanoid,

 

but covered from head to foot in camouflaged armour. Several seconds went by,

 

while the attacker calmly stood and watched him, making no attempt to

 

communicate. In the background, the odd explosion could be heard, interspersed

 

with the crack of small-arms fire.

 

A black uniformed human, with embroidered epaulettes on his uniform walked

 

stiffly into the room. He snapped something to the armour clad guard, who

 

reached down, and dragged the wounded and bleeding starfleet officer to the

 

centre of the room. The uniformed figure gestured, and a cardassian was led into

 

the room by another armoured guard. The cardassian was forcibly seated at a

 

nearby computer console, and a gun placed to his head.

 

"Well?" the officer ordered.

 

"The computer is encrypted. It looks like the auto-encryption was enabled

 

by the security breach. It is standard procedure, unless the base commander had

 

specifically overridden the encryption order."

 

"Can you decrypt it?"

 

"No. I am not that familiar with Federation computer systems."

 

"You're useless. I don't know why intelligence thought you could help."

 

The officer casually blew the cardassian's brains out. He shoved the body

 

away from the computer console.

 

"Bring him here." He said to the guard.

 

"Do you understand me?" He asked of the base commander. The commander

 

looked at him blankly. It was a stupid move. The officer glanced at the armoured

 

guard, who smashed a gauntleted fist into his face.

 

"A test," the black clad officer smirked, "I know about the translator

 

unit embedded in your ear. Now decrypt the computer, please."

 

The base commander shook his head. Another blow struck him in the side of

 

the head, and he felt something give in his mouth. The bitter-sweet taste of

 

blood assailed his senses.

 

"Last chance." The officer said, his face hard, his mouth drawn into a

 

thin line.

 

"No."

 

The officer shrugged, and the guard shot the base commander in the head,

 

at point blank range. This was not the first outpost they had hit, and through

 

long experience knew that they might not capture a computer system before the

 

computer could encrypt it. Apparently, if a senior officer did not specifically

 

countermand the encryption order within a specified time-frame after a security

 

breach the computer auto-encrypted the entire system. They had tried physical

 

torture, drugs and hostages. However, the computer refused to decrypt if it

 

detected any sign of duress in the officer or his life-sign readings. They had

 

even tried simulations of the commander's voice patterns, but without the

 

physical presence of the base commander, a positive life-sign reading within

 

certain parameters, and a decrypt code, the attempts had failed.

 

"There is nothing for us here. Give the evacuation order. Two minutes to

 

orbital bombardment."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starbase 72 was on full battle alert. It had lost contact with several

 

starbases in communications range. A few had managed to transmit reports of

 

Imperial attacks, others had just failed to respond to communications. Parity

 

analysis on sub-space signals had detected a noticeable deterioration in speed

 

and quality, most likely due to damaged or destroyed booster stations. The

 

Imperials were up to something alright.

 

Starbase 72 was one of the few starbases worthy of the designation. It

 

conformed to the typical structure of Federation starbases. A bulbous structure,

 

with a long 'tail'. It was not the biggest of such stations, at three kilometers

 

across and five kilometers tall. Armed with Type X phasers and photon torpedoes,

 

and a comprehensive data pack on the enemy fleet demographics, source unclear,

 

it was ready for any attack that might come. The wait wasn't long, and the base

 

commander was prepared for the attack, undeterred by it's suddenness when it did

 

come.

 

"Victory-class Destroyer in sector three. Range 100 clicks." The sensor

 

operator reported, even as the deck vibrated from the first shots.

 

"Target with phasers, hold torpedoes till he gets closer. Watch for

 

missiles. Designate phaser bank three to point-defence, wide beam." Fired from

 

the nearly stationary base any torpedoes could be easily shot down at this

 

range, one hundred thousand kilometers. Enemy missiles too would be easy to

 

shoot down at this range.

 

"Unable to establish positive target lock, heavy sub-space static."

 

"Shields holding at ninety percent."

 

"Divert all non-essential power to weapons and shields. Switch targeting

 

to electromagnetic sensors. Computer to use video frequencies."

 

"Shields at ninety two percent."

 

"Positive visual lock established. The enemy is attempting to blind our EM

 

sensors with wide beam lasers."

 

"Auto switch frequencies."

 

"Enemy shields at eighty percent. Range eighty klicks."

 

"Missile warning."

 

"Missiles destroyed."

 

"Second Victory class in sector five. Third Victory class in sector six."

 

"Split phaser banks, three banks per destroyer. Reserve two emitters in

 

each bank for point defence."

 

"Shields down to seventy one percent."

 

"Seal all non military sectors. Power to minimum, life-support only. All

 

uninhabited sectors to be totally shut down. Divert power to shields."

 

The TAC-OF rapidly typed commands on his console, then turned and

 

shrugged. Any additional power would not make much difference at this stage.

 

"Enemy shield status."

 

"The enemy is staying at fifty clicks, it appears that at this range

 

electromagnetic targeting has only sixty percent accuracy. Enemy shield status

 

is static."

 

"They can manoeuvre, and we can't. Without a starship in support, we won't

 

be able to hold out much longer. Is there any chance of support soon?"

 

"Last report from starfleet before communications were blocked was that

 

the nearest starship was eighty light years away. At the optimum calculated

 

speed of warp 7.4 they will take thirty two days to get here."

 

"Can't they go any faster?"

 

"They have a full fuel load, but at higher warp speeds, they will run out

 

of fuel before they get here."

 

"Shields?"

 

"We are at sixty nine percent. The enemy shields, as best we can

 

calculate, is in the seventies."

 

"Hold fire, divert all power to shields. If any ship approaches closer

 

than forty clicks give him a full phaser barrage."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Enemy maintaining range, our shields have stabilised at seventy four

 

percent. At current fuel consumption rates we will run dry in seventeen point

 

four days."

 

The station rocked slightly.

 

"What was .."

 

"Another destroyer, range ten clicks, hit us with a full broadside. I make

 

it an Imperator-class."

 

"Shields dropped momentarily to sixty one percent."

 

"Phasers, full power, hit him with everything we've got."

 

The station rocked again, as the four phaser banks that could bear on the

 

target opened fire.

 

"His shields are down to forty percent. Our shields at forty five

 

percent."

 

The station rocked again, then again.

 

"Two more Imperator-class destroyers, range ten clicks, the Victories are

 

also closing range. Missile warning."

 

"Split power, shields and weapons. Launch torpedoes at best recycling

 

rate."

 

"Our shields are critical!"

 

"One Imperator has vanished, probably jumped out of system. Another ship

 

has come in, a big one. It has to be the Allegiance-class cruiser."

 

The station rocked again and again, as broadsides were hitting it now in

 

quick succession. A crash sounded from somewhere, and several people were thrown

 

to the ground.

 

"I'm sorry." The station commander said to his bridge crew, as the station

 

was slammed yet again by another hammer blow. Before anyone could reply, a wall

 

of superheated and highly corrosive plasma coolant swept through the control

 

room. The station died a fiery death, several more broadsides still ripping into

 

the metal inferno.

 

 

 

 

 

Worf was seated at the back of the large conference room. The room itself

 

was filled with captains, commanders and admirals. In this room was virtually he

 

entire senior staff of the Federation Starfleet. Admiral Sanchez was providing

 

an update to the captains on the state of the Federation. On the display beside

 

him was a representation of the Alpha and Beta quadrants.

 

"This is the area we suspect the Imperials have scouted out. All their

 

operations so far have been conducted in this area, with Bajor roughly at the

 

centre. Here, close to the edge, is Earth, and over here, they are approaching

 

the Klingon and Romulan capital worlds. Our intelligence shows that the raids

 

they have embarked on in Klingon and Romulan space mirror those which they have

 

undertaken in Federation space.

 

"They have not invaded any new worlds since the destruction of the Gate,

 

but it appears that they are attempting to cripple our fleet resources.

 

Communications throughout this area is being disrupted, several starbases have

 

gone silent, and most dilithium mining and processing facilities have been

 

destroyed. Two worlds which have been major centres for the conversion of

 

deuterium to anti-matter have suffered mild bombardment.

 

"Our reserves, and the untouched industrial facilities down here, are

 

sufficient to keep the fleet going, but any raids into Imperial held territory

 

will have to be seriously curtailed. Some ships just can't carry enough fuel for

 

a trip of that distance and speed, and still have enough for a major battle and

 

the return trip to follow.

 

" Also, it appears that they are attempting to cut Earth off from the rest

 

of the Federation. All booster stations within ten light years of Earth has been

 

destroyed, and any lone ships attempting to journey to or from Earth has been

 

intercepted by their interdictors and destroyed. As a result, we have set up

 

convoys between Earth and nearby industrial worlds, and these convoys are

 

heavily escorted."

 

"But we have to do something. We can't just sit back and wait for the

 

Imperials to destroy us by attrition."

 

"Yes, we will. Our analysis of the Imperial raiding patterns has allowed

 

us to compile a list of worlds or bases which might come under attack as the

 

Imperial scouted sphere expands. We expect that in the next five days they will

 

discover the dilithium facilities defended by Starbase 17. Starbase 17 is very

 

well armed, being so close to the neutral zone, and will be the ideal place to

 

set a trap for the Imperials.

 

"We will compile a fleet out of the ships here, and that fleet will head

 

out to Starbase 17 at best speed."

 

"There is hardly a ship in the system which is not damaged." Somebody

 

stated.

 

The assembled fleet numbered about 120 ships, and was the combination of

 

what was left from the Imperial raid on Earth and the forty odd ships returned

 

by Antilles after their raid to destroy the Gate.

 

"We have decided to spare fifteen ships, including the Enterprise and the

 

Defiant. These are the ships in the best state of repair, and with the support

 

of Starbase 17, should be able to counter the small group of ships the Imperials

 

have been using for raiding purposes."

 

"What about the New Republic forces?"

 

Antilles fleet had been laying up in deep-space half a light-year out of

 

Earth for several days now, with apparently nothing to do.

 

"The senate has not decided what to do about them for now. Starfleet will

 

conduct the operations on our own."

 

"What do we know about their operations against the Dominion?"

 

"Apparently, they are expanding quite rapidly, but are not satisfied that

 

they have located or destroyed the Dominion's industrial centres. However, for

 

now, it appears that the Dominion have ceased attempting to attack their Gate.

 

They have employed the same tactic as the Empire have against us, lengthening

 

supply lines, and cutting communications."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Render gathered it's small fleet. They had been rather successful up

 

to now in their operations, striking at will and at random throughout the

 

explored regions of Romulon, Klingon and Federation space. It appeared that both

 

Romulon and Klingon forces were spreading their forces to strategic systems, and

 

their fleet density was thinning out considerably. While increasing the risk of

 

confrontation on each raid, this also meant that the Imperials could focus their

 

strength at the enemy's weakest points. In a war of attrition fought on this

 

basis, Xris had no doubt they would win. Especially once the second Gate was

 

complete and more ships could join the invasion, if the second Gate was ever

 

completed.

 

The Federation on the other hand was a tough nut. They had gathered most

 

of their fleet resources at various crucial worlds, and according to

 

intelligence, had dispatched another large fleet on some unknown task. The fleet

 

had disappeared, though, and intelligence had no idea where it intended to

 

strike. It was as if they had entered hyperspace. They were not known to have

 

such technology, although they might have just installed cloaking devices on all

 

their ships. Damn intelligence people, couldn't find their own dicks until after

 

they had pissed in their pants.

 

"Intel on the next system?"

 

"Federation starbase 17. It is well armed, probably has one or two

 

defending starships. It is located close to a region known as the neutral zone,

 

an area of historical conflicts with the Romulons. In the past it has probably

 

served as a major military base in that war."

 

"Okay. We will attack it in the standard pattern. Victories first at mid-

 

range, to draw their fire, Imperators at close-range to extend their defenses,

 

then a direct jump attack by the Render to finish it off. The Oppressor will

 

remain here, and be ready to jump in should their starships become a problem.

 

Victories, jump on my mark."

 

 

 

 

 

Starbase 17 orbited a gas-giant at a respectable distance. It operated a

 

number of skimmers which harvested hydrogen and deuterium from the gas-giant's

 

upper atmosphere. These were then converted into fuel for starships at a nearby

 

processing plant on the surface of one of the moons. It had two Nebula's and a

 

galaxy in supporting roles. The crews were quite prepared for any attacks,

 

knowing that this area had recently been scouted by an Imperial probe. The probe

 

had jumped out of the system after briefly scanning all objects in the system.

 

Since then, a second probe had made a brief stop. It was just a matter of time

 

before the attack came.

 

Fifty thousand kilometers from the Starbase, too far away to be seen by

 

the naked eye, a warship easily half again as large as the galaxy starship

 

suddenly flashed into existence. It immediately opened fire, green bolts of raw

 

energy lancing into the distance, to the point where it expected to find the

 

starbase. The energised bolts tracked slightly to one side, as the warship

 

sensors more accurately located the base. A red beam flickered out of the

 

distance, passing within a mere two kilometers of the wedge shaped warship. The

 

warship accelerated off towards the beam, as the beam tracked back towards it.

 

Unseen to human eyes, a barrage of radiation and counter-radiation lashed out,

 

attempting to locate or hide their sources as the case may be. Similar energies

 

flickered through sub-space.

 

The red-orange beam momentarily intersected the wedge-shaped warship, then

 

passed on. It tracked back, but the warship had changed direction again, still

 

spitting green flame towards the unseen starbase. Twenty thousand kilometers

 

away, also beyond the ability of human eyes to resolve, a second wedge shape

 

appeared, and added it's energies to the battle. One after another, spread over

 

a distance of several tens of thousands of kilometers, other Victory-class

 

destroyers jumped in, each one relying on the data of it's predecessors for the

 

position of the starbase, and taking full advantage of the second or two's worth

 

of free fire this gave them before the starbase targeted them as well.

 

From out of the distance, in the direction of the starbase, three long

 

streaks of multi-coloured light momentarily appeared. The streaks suddenly

 

disappeared, and at their head the shapes of three starships resolved. Three of

 

the Victory-class ships immediately closed towards this new threat, momentarily

 

letting up the pressure on the as yet unseen starbase, barely a sixth of second

 

away at the speed of light.

 

The nearby space was suddenly crowded, as dozens of missiles homed in on

 

targets, and short-ranged laser-cannons stuttered their caustic flames at the

 

tiny purveyors of nuclear destruction. Their was a moment of confusion as the

 

three starships suddenly streaked to a new position, leaving the alien warships

 

firing at empty space. The warships quickly recovered though, and a new

 

formation was assumed, as they kept up their fiery exchange with the starbase in

 

the distance, and flailed away at the shields of the nearby starships. At this

 

range, the interference signals being broadcast were easily overcome by the

 

starships, and their return fire was deadly accurate, though not as powerful as

 

the hammer blows being delivered by the alien warships. Again, the starships

 

changed position, throwing the enemy into momentary confusion.

 

Closer to the starbase, a new group of ships suddenly appeared. Three

 

ships, all nearly twice the size of the four which had arrived earlier. They

 

each unleashed a terrible broadside on the starbase. The starbase recovered

 

though, and leaving it's three escorts to battle the four smaller warships,

 

concentrated on these gigantic new enemies. The starbase itself could not

 

actually see the enemy ships, the closest of them being at least twenty thousand

 

kilometers away. However, the three ships closest were almost close enough for a

 

positive weapons lock despite their deliberate interference with all signalling.

 

The ships in the distance were mere fuzzy islands of static, it's own three

 

escort ships lost in the interference, and effectively beyond communications.

 

One or two specks of orange flame gushing out of minor hull breaches were

 

evidence of the impact the most recent broadsides had had on the starbase. It's

 

shields were hard pressed to hold back the rain of energy from the nearby

 

Imperators. It's shields flickered, but held. They had been designed for combat,

 

and would not cave in easily. Already, the gushes of flame were dying down,

 

starved of oxygen as the starbase shut down those damaged areas, and engineering

 

crews rushed to patch the damage. Without the support of the four Victory-class

 

destroyers which were fully engaged with the escort ships, the Imperator's could

 

only flail away at the starbase's immense shields, and hope that their hail of

 

fire would eventually wear down the generators of the starbase.

 

In the distance, the four Victories were pulling slowly away from the

 

starbase, heading for open space, as the battle with the three elusive

 

federation ships became ever more intense. Something was needed to swing the

 

battle one way or another. It came in the form of an immense ship, almost fully

 

double the size of the Imperators, at two and half kilometers long, it's size

 

comparable to the starbase itself. Designed purely for destruction of other

 

starships, it's entire hull bristling with weaponry, most of it's internal

 

systems given over to engines and dense-fusion reactors. It appeared barely five

 

thousand kilometers away from the starbase, on an angle divergent from the three

 

Imperators, and fired a broadside easily as powerful as that of all three

 

Imperator's combined.

 

The starbase's shields, already stretched close to their maximum, wavered,

 

flickering on and off, then stayed on. Beneath them, the energy that had smashed

 

it's way through had ripped deep into the starbase's hull, and several of it's

 

phaser strips were knocked out. The starbase quickly rotated though, bringing

 

more phaser strips to bear on the three Imperator's and the Allegiance bearing

 

down on it, keeping it slightly above their forward dorsal hull, allowing most

 

of their weapons to fire on the damaged starbase.

 

Then the battle turned again. On the far side of the starbase, one of it's

 

immense shield-doors opened, and two fresh Akira-class ships surged into view.

 

From the gas-giant below, eight more ships powered out of the upper atmosphere

 

where they had been sheltering.

 

"Activate graviton beam," Picard ordered, "centre it on the Render. Make

 

the beam as broad as possible, so that it encompasses the Imperators as well."

 

Several red-orange beams flickered out towards the Imperial ships,

 

followed closely by a swarm of red pulsating torpedoes, interspersed with a few

 

blue ones. Well versed by now in Federation weaponry, the Imperial gunners

 

concentrated fire on the quantum torpedoes, ignoring the weaker photons for now.

 

The starbase was forgotten as the Imperial ships accelerated for deep-space for

 

all they were worth, the three Imperators forming up in flanking formation on

 

the Render.

 

 

 

"Victories, jam all enemy communications, I don't want those ships to get

 

a wiff of our approach. Prepare to cover our exit vector."

 

The Victories attempted to close in and surround the three ships they were

 

battling, intensifying their sub-space interference to dampen enemy

 

communications.

 

 

 

Seeing the enemy tactic, Picard ordered a warning to be sent to the

 

starbase's three escort ships, but it was too late. Even as Picard's group

 

overtook the fleeing alien ships, they fired a massive broadside at the three

 

ships engaged with the Victories. The two smaller Nebula-class ships were

 

overwhelmed, and even the Galaxy shuddered to a full stop. A second broadside

 

from the Render blew the Galaxy apart, literally shredding the huge ship.

 

The Imperators were laying down covering fire for all they were worth, as

 

the Render led the chase for deep-space. Already, they had put 10,000 kilometers

 

between themselves and the damaged starbase, their current velocity would see

 

them pass the position of the four Victories in another few seconds. The

 

Victories themselves were arrowing towards the escaping ships, firing at the

 

fast approaching starships of Picard's group.

 

The ten starships were furiously firing everything at the fleeing Imperial

 

ships, who were barely able to hold off the attack, their shields beginning to

 

show the early signs of strain.

 

 

 

"The enemy starships are too fast, they are evading our gunners at this

 

range."

 

"Call in the Oppressor, have her jump to these co-ordinates. Bring us

 

around to zero seven by zero nine zero. Victories to concentrate fire on the

 

Enterprise as they pass, then jump to Romeo six."

 

 

 

The Victories flashed past the formation, heading in the opposite

 

direction, and fired successive broadsides towards the Enterprise. The

 

Enterpise, surprisingly nimble for it's size, jinked to one side, then another,

 

avoiding most of the broadsides, and keeping the graviton beam centred on the

 

Render.

 

"Sir," Riker called, "the Victories are about to pass out of the graviton

 

beam."

 

"Let them go, I want the Render."

 

The Victories unleashed a last broadside, spreading their fire throughout

 

the Federation formation, hitting several ships but causing no significant

 

damage, then flickered into hyperspace as they cleared the area of effect of the

 

graviton beam. Unseen to the Federation ships, obscured by the heavy

 

interference being broadcast by the four warships, the Oppressor jumped into

 

position several seconds directly ahead of the Render. It began powering up it's

 

immense gravity generators, shunting the power into a feed-back system, until it

 

was ready to unleash it's simulated gravity well.

 

 

 

"Oppressor, as soon as you're ready. All ships prepare to come about,

 

maximum deceleration. Victories prepare to jump back onto intercept vector

 

supplied by the Oppressor."

 

 

 

On the Defiant, flanking the Enterprise, Worf felt something he was unable

 

to put a name to. Trained since birth as a warrior, he wasted no time on

 

dwelling on the feeling, but went into action immediately.

 

"Break right, disengage sub-space fields, full power to impulse engines,

 

shut down the warp core, order all ships to do likewise."

 

The Defiant banked sharply, and slowed considerably for a second as Worf's

 

instructions were followed, then surged ahead, a little slower than before as

 

the impulse engines took up the load of the ship's mass. Whether unable to

 

follow as fast, or dubious of Worf's strange warning, not all ships reacted in

 

time. An immense wave of artificial gravity swept through the formation,

 

momentarily stunning the starships into immobility as their sub-space fields

 

fought to compensate for the imagined load. One ship was rocked by an internal

 

explosion, and drifted aimlessly for several seconds, before getting under way

 

again on impulse. The Enterprise had reacted to Worf's warning with remarkable

 

alacrity, and continued on almost unaffected.

 

Nearby, an Akira was close to the edge of the immensely powerful cone of

 

artificial gravity. Worf's eyes were drawn to it like a magnet, and he started

 

issuing orders to move closer. Even as the Defiant came onto the new vector, all

 

four Victories reappeared, right on the edge of the cone, flanking the Akira.

 

They each fired a full broadside, smashing the Akira aside like a paperweight.

 

The Akira's shields somehow held, and the ship, though spinning out of control,

 

maintained hull integrity. The Defiant rolled into an attack vector, and fired

 

several rounds of pulsed phaser blasts into the side of one of the Victories.

 

The pulsed phasers were designed to drill through shields, the first few pulses

 

weakening the shields in a localised zone, allowing the subsequent blasts to

 

smash through. Matter sparked off the Victory's hull, the hull glowing red in

 

several spots around the point of impact.

 

The Defiant rolled over the top of the Victory, too close for the

 

turbolasers to track, laser-fire from the point-defences rippling uselessly

 

along it's shields, as it lined up the second Victory. On the edge of the view-

 

screen, the Akira detonated in a mighty explosion, as successive broadsides tore

 

into it's exposed hull.

 

"Aim for the bridge." Worf instructed.

 

The Defiant came out of it's roll lined up with the bridge of the second

 

Victory, and opened fire again. The Victory had seen it coming however, and was

 

turning into the attack. Several pulsed phaser shots flickered past the bridge,

 

tracking ever closer. The last few shots splattered against the bridge shields

 

as the Defiant swept past.

 

"Come around one eighty." Worf ordered.

 

The Defiant shuddered to a halt, flipped around and accelerated back the

 

way it had come, as a broadside from the third Victory passed through the space

 

it should have been in.

 

Worf glanced over the tactical display. The Render and it's Imperator

 

escort had also changed direction, and were now moving to engage the Enterprise.

 

Picard was drawing away however, allowing the smaller Federation ships to attack

 

the Imperials as he kept his distance, far enough to be out of effective weapons

 

range, close enough to keep the Render in the graviton beam.

 

"Join the attack on the Render, it is our primary target for this

 

engagement."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

The Defiant looped around, evading fire from the Victories, and swept

 

towards the Render in a curved path. The battle was now fully joined, all sides

 

having played their cards. The starbase had survived, though damaged, but the

 

Federation had lost four ships so far, the three escorts (two Nebulons and a

 

Galaxy) and one Akira.

 

Behind Worf, the four Victories closed on the Enterprise, which curved

 

away, attempting to stay out of the main battle, but within graviton range of

 

the Render. The Render was not powerless though, and it was concentrating fire

 

in the direction of the Enterprise, which appeared to be at extreme effective

 

range, easily able to dodge incoming fire, especially with Data at the helm. The

 

Render was relying on it's point-defences and it's escorts to defend it from the

 

eight attacking starships, while the Victories attempted to force the Enterprise

 

closer to the Render's guns.

 

The Oppressor had also moved up, sheltering in the centre of the big

 

ships' defensive formation. It's gravity well prevented warp drive usage in

 

it's immediate vicinity, and the intensity of graviton bombardment also

 

increased the efficiency of cloak-detection by means of graviton interference

 

patterns.

 

Worf brought the Defiant around between two of the Imperators, firing his

 

phasers at the Render. A squadron of TIE's forced them to swerve away. The TIE's

 

had launched unobserved in the mass of interference, and were screening the big

 

ships against just such an attack.

 

"Four fighters on our tail."

 

"Fuse photon torpedoes for proximity detonation. Fire."

 

"One destroyed, others closing."

 

The Defiant rocked slightly as several pulsed bursts of particle-enhanced

 

laser fire stuttered across it's shields. The Defiant rolled away, and the

 

fighters looped around for another run.

 

"Six more fighters closing in."

 

"Torpedoes, fire at will."

 

The Defiant rolled to the other direction, but at one hundred forty meters

 

to the fighters five or six meters it was still an easy target. Further

 

vibrations ran through the deck as several bursts of particle energy smacked

 

into the shields. The shields were in no danger of collapsing, but if the ship

 

didn't roll away, the pulsed weapons would momentarily drill through the shields

 

into the hull.

 

"The Victories have broken off their attack on the Enterprise, they're

 

heading back towards the starbase."

 

There was nothing they could do about that now though.

 

"Head towards the Enterprise, their phasers are not being used, they can

 

clean these fighters off our back."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

The Defiant arrowed towards the Enterprise, angling first one way then

 

another, seven TIE fighters screaming along behind it. All the other ships were

 

also being mobbed by the small hard to hit and nearly invisible fighters,

 

forcing them to split their fire between the fighters and the capital ships they

 

were meant to target. The fighters closed in on the Defiant, hoping to use it's

 

bulk to shield them from the Enterprise's phasers, but Worf ordered a last

 

minute change of direction and velocity, exposing the fighters to the

 

Enterprise's phasers.

 

Four of them were consumed in tiny balls of flame, the other three

 

sweeping by the Enterprise firing their laser-cannons furiously at the deflector

 

dish atop the saucer. One or two of the pulsed bolts must have gotten through

 

because the graviton beam flickered for a second, then resumed. That was all the

 

Imperials needed, and all of a sudden close to thirty fighters were descending

 

on the Enterprise. They had reckoned without the Defiant though, and Worf

 

brought her back, diving through the TIE fighters, shooting down five of them in

 

one pass. The rest converged on the Enterprise like a swarm of wasps,

 

concentrating fire on the upper section of the saucer, where the deflector dish

 

was located.

 

Six or seven of them were destroyed in a flurry of wide-beam phaser fire,

 

the rest kept a range of at least several hundred kilometers between themselves

 

and the Enterprise, allowing the wide-beam fire to dissipate without doing too

 

much damage. Round after round of particle-enhanced laser energy pulsed against

 

the shields, drilling tiny holes for fractions of a second, occasionally scoring

 

a hit on the deflector dish. Three more TIE fighters died flaming deaths before

 

the beam stuttered and died for the last time.

 

The Enterprise surged forward in a last ditch attack on the Render and

 

it's escorts, firing several volleys of quantums as it closed rapidly with the

 

larger ships. An Imperator, it's shields already close to dying, cut across the

 

path of the incoming torpedoes, firing it's weapons desperately at the

 

Enterprise. It collected most of the torpedoes, rolling lazily over as the rest

 

of the Imperial fleet vanished into hyperspace. Huge gouts of flaming gas jetted

 

out of it's flank, as it attempted to bring it's remaining guns to bear.

 

"The Enterprise is attempting to hail them and offer them terms of

 

surrender."

 

"A waste of time," Worf said.

 

He was right, the huge ship, with fully half of one side exposed to

 

vacuum, and visibly engulfed in internal flames, kept on firing. A wave of TIE

 

fighters left behind by the hastily departed fleet swept past, launching a

 

number of tiny missiles into a damaged starship as they passed by. Worf glanced

 

along their track to see where they were going. The starbase, where two

 

Victories were still bombarding the starbase.

 

"Warp 0.5, to the starbase."

 

The small ship flickered past the fighters, coming to a stop just out of

 

range of the two Victories. One of them was firing at the starbase, which had

 

managed to mostly recharge it's shields, while the second one was loading a

 

number of fighters. Seeing the Defiant heading towards them, first the one, then

 

the other flickered away, accelerating at blinding speed for a fraction of a

 

second, then disappearing. Of the damaged Imperator, only wreckage remained. The

 

handful of fighters left behind accelerated furiously for open space.

 

A quick scan of the suddenly clear sensors revealed close to twenty tiny

 

fighters heading for deep-space. Worf wondered what they were up to. Such small

 

fighters couldn't have much of a range, and their information indicated that the

 

fighters weren't fitted with hyperdrive motivators either.

 

"Let them go." Picard's voice came over the ship to ship comm station.

 

"Imperator, sector three." His sensor operator called. "The fighters are

 

heading towards it."

 

"We will allow them to retreat. Damage report."

 

"Nothing major. A few burns on the hull, some shaken up equipment, an hour

 

to repair at the most." Lieutenant Boyd offered.

 

"Get to it." Worf ordered.

 

Nearby, the starbase's outer hull was breached or scorched in several

 

places, but it's inner hull retained full integrity. Worf counted seven ships in

 

the system, which meant they had lost a total of six ships including the

 

starbase's escorts.

 

"Imperial losses?"

 

"One destroyed Imperator class, a second one was badly damaged. Two

 

Victory's were also damaged, first by us, then by the Enterprise and the

 

starbase also got in a few licks."

 

Worf was disappointed. He had hoped for more out of this attack, instead

 

they had lost six ships for one destroyed, and four damaged. At least the

 

starbase had survived.

 

"How many fighters were destroyed?"

 

"I estimate between thirty five and forty five of their TIE fighters were

 

destroyed. Plus whatever reserves was on that Imperator."

 

"They would have probably kept three or four squadrons in reserve, plus of

 

course all the troops, and thirty thousand crewmen." Worf stated.

 

"Thirty thousand?" Somebody asked incredulously.

 

"Closer to thirty seven thousand, plus ten thousand soldiers." Worf

 

answered. The bridge crew watched silently as the wreckage of the Imperator

 

drifted apart, much of it still glowing brightly. Nearby, smaller clumps of

 

wreckage marked the final resting place of several thousand Starfleet personnel.

 

In the background, Jonathon Boyd could be heard muttering an old sailor's

 

prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

In hyperspace, several dozen light-years away by now, the Imperial fleet

 

limped home. Xris analysed the battle over and over. He had no doubt that Piett

 

would blame him personally for the loss of the Imperator. All his ships were

 

damaged to some extent. Two of the four Victories would require extensive

 

repairs, while both the remaining Imperators were damaged, though not too badly.

 

One of them would be out of action for several weeks though, and his own ship

 

would require a few days worth of attention from the astromech droids of the

 

Aggressor. The four dozen lost TIE's had been somewhat offset by the recovery of

 

most of the TIE's from the destroyed Imperator, and so they were still at a

 

nearly full complement. That was something at least.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

The Aggressor's hangars were still a hive of activity, repairing the last

 

of the ships damaged in the battle of the Gate. The Render was parked just below

 

the main hangars, awash with a myriad of droids, surrounded by several tons of

 

free floating equipment waiting for the pleasure of the droids.

 

"I wouldn't call the battle a defeat," Piett was saying, "he did destroy

 

six starships."

 

"Six corvettes and frigates don't add up to an Imperator!" Jerjerrod

 

stated harshly. "And he didn't accomplish the primary task of destroying the

 

Starbase."

 

"The starbase is too far away to help the Federation anyway, and Captain

 

Xris did not know about the Republic fleet supporting the enemy. It was not part

 

of his intelligence package. It appears they are ferrying starships through

 

Federation space, especially the regions where we have cut supply lines."

 

"Isn't there a danger of them transporting the Federation ships to an

 

attack position on this system?" Jerjerrod asked.

 

"No. So far they have limited themselves to what can be loosely termed

 

'humanitarian aid', although the incident at starbase 17 skirted close to the

 

edge of direct military support. The Republic commander, Antilles, claims they

 

merely transported starships to a nearby system which needed medical supplies.

 

The starships then supposedly travelled to starbase 17 under their own power.

 

Transporting starships to within attack range of one of our worlds would come

 

close to being direct military aid."

 

"Even so, I feel that such a tactic would not be beyond the style of

 

rebels. They have shown flagrant disregard for Imperial sovereignty in the past.

 

The question remains then, what do we do with Xris?"

 

"Well, his strategy thus far has placed serious limitations on the

 

Federation's ability to counter-attack us in the future. Our immediate priority

 

now is to expand our influence. Our supply situation is not bad. In terms of

 

fuel and food we are very well off, and many local worlds will soon start

 

contributing to these commodities. However, in terms of technology and

 

equipment, we are lacking. The supply ships which made it through the Gate

 

before the attack have a total of 94 theatre shields for planetary defense, and

 

between all the fleet ships, supply ships, and galleons, we have a total of

 

fifty seven regiments of troops, including fifteen regiments of stormtroopers,

 

and three regiments of war droids."

 

"With those, we can hold at least another ten worlds," Jerjerrod stated,

 

"and I have prepared a provisional list. The worlds I have selected are

 

strategically placed in terms of tracking sub-space drive trails, they have

 

large but not unmanageable populations, and the resources they control will

 

prove useful in any industrial base we establish here."

 

"What sort of progress have you made so far, industrially?" Piett asked.

 

"Very little. The alien technologies are vastly different to ours, and the

 

alien populations are not well versed in our manufacturing processes.

 

Nevertheless, we have established several automated plants on each world, and

 

the robo-miners and mole-miners are proving adequate in terms of primary

 

resource production. So far, manufacturing is limited to mineral refinement, and

 

additional mining droids. We are concentrating mineral refinement around

 

duranium, titanium, alusteel, and similar alloys. We are some way off being able

 

to mine and process Tibanna gas, or manufacture advanced electronic equipment

 

such as repulsors and shield generators."

 

"Weapons production?"

 

"Nothing of note, the only weapons we hope to be able to manufacture in

 

the near future are torpedoes and missiles. We have more than enough power

 

plants capable of producing the necessary nuclear material."

 

"Time-scales?"

 

"Four weeks to missile production, two months to tool up for significant

 

droid manufacturing, after that, the droids will speed up all manufacturing

 

processes exponentially. We are already stockpiling hull-quality alloys, but it

 

will be a year or two before we can start assembling a shipyard, and even then,

 

initially we will only be able to manufacture TIE's, shuttles, maybe a gunboat.

 

It could be a decade or two before we can build something along the lines of an

 

Imperator."

 

"Tibanna?"

 

"We have a sufficient supply to last between three and five years

 

depending on combat requirements. Before then, we will have established a small

 

processing plant in a nearby nebula known as the Badlands. At the heart of the

 

nebula is a small concentration of Tibanna. A second source has been located in

 

a number of nearby stellar chromatospheres, but without access to the Empire, we

 

don't have the equipment to extract it."

 

"Couldn't we manufacture the equipment?"

 

"Not for another two decades at least, which will be a stretch even if the

 

Badlands processing plant comes on line."

 

"Very well. Xris, your ship will be fully repaired within two days. I will

 

assign a new task force for you at that time, and you will capture all ten

 

worlds. I don't want any excuses this time. As you heard, we can not afford to

 

lose a single ship from now on. Is that clear?"

 

"Yes, sir."

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise and the Defiant were still several dozen light years from Earth.

 

They had left five ships with the starbase, in case the Imperials came back, and

 

then left for Earth. Both ships holds had been fully loaded with anti-deuterium,

 

and they were staying at high warp for uncomfortably long periods. They still

 

had several days to go to get back to Earth, and would probably have exhausted

 

their fuel supply by the time they got back.

 

 

 

 

 

Antilles read the two messages before him with some misgivings. The New Republic

 

forces in the Gamma quadrant had twice come under attack by cube shaped vessels,

 

and several smaller ships had been lost in the engagements. The Dominion's

 

industrial heartland had been laid waste, and all shipyards destroyed, but the

 

Founder's home-world had still not been located. He had received a directive now

 

ordering him back. New Republic intelligence was satisfied that the Imperials

 

would be unable to manufacture a second Gate, and they were preparing to

 

withdraw all forces from this Galaxy.

 

The second message was a final decision from the Federation Senate. While

 

they were quite prepared to accept the New Republic as a friendly government,

 

and even appreciated humanitarian aid and assistance, no permission would be

 

forthcoming for the establishment of any military bases, and no military

 

alliances would be signed. The Federation was also not prepared to become a

 

member body of the New Galactic Republic. Furthermore, the Federation would

 

consider any attempt to entice Federation worlds to the New Republic fold an act

 

of war.

 

There was only one thing left for Antilles to do. An encoded message from

 

the Imperial high command had also been received, and Antilles had been asked to

 

relay the message to the trapped Imperial fleet.

 

"Send a destroyer to intercept the Defiant, and bring it to rendesvous

 

point seven. The rest of the fleet will rendesvous there immediately. The

 

Mediator will join the fleet in three days. Navigator, set course for a jump to

 

these co-ordinates."

 

"Sir, that is one of the worlds captured by the Imperials."

 

"Yes. Jump when ready."

 

 

 

 

 

The Aggressor was in a station-keeping orbit over the Imperial sector capital.

 

Seven kilometers wide at the beam and tapering to a point seventeen kilometers

 

away, it was also several kilometers deep. Suspended in space below this immense

 

ship of war were several tiny by comparison ships. One of these was a mere two

 

and half kilometer long wedge shape. Almost invisible against it's bulk a myriad

 

of tiny droids finally finished their labours, and swarmed towards the super

 

destroyer above. Like a child leaving it's parent, the light cruiser dropped

 

away from the immense bulk of the super destroyer.

 

Two other tiny wedge shapes, barely a mile long, angled for the workspace

 

below the super destroyer, and were soon engulfed by it's repair droids. The

 

small cruiser took up station several light-seconds away from the planet, and

 

was soon joined by a group of smaller ships, Imperators and Victories. The ships

 

began forming up into an attack formation spread out over a tight region of only

 

ten thousand kilometers. Anybody familiar with Imperial tactics would have

 

recognised the formation as the precursor to a planetary enclosure. Somebody was

 

about to be invaded.

 

In the distance, too small to be seen by human eyes, another ship

 

flickered into the system. It's arrival set off alarms throughout the system,

 

for the new arrival was a New Republic Bulwark cruiser, which would be a close

 

match to the Super Star Destroyer serving as command and repair centre to the

 

Imperial fleet. Fortunately, they were not at war with the New Republic. The

 

Republic cruiser had also jumped into the system to a point that was not

 

immediately threatening.

 

"The cruiser is in communication with the Aggressor."

 

"Echo the channel." Xris ordered.

 

"Sorry sir, it is an encrypted channel."

 

"Very well, we'll wait for the Admiral's pleasure."

 

The Render and it's half squadron waited while the two big ships exchanged

 

communications. Xris's squadron this time consisted of only two Imperators and

 

four Victories, as well as his own ship. The Allegiance cruiser carried only a

 

single squadron of TIE's, as did the Victories, which also carried a single

 

squadron of TIE bombers. The two Imperators though each carried four squadrons

 

of TIES and two squadrons of bombers. That totalled to fifteen squadrons of TIEs

 

and eight squadrons of Bombers, sufficient to invade the under-armed planets of

 

this galaxy, although they would have been woefully inadequate back home.

 

The Republic cruiser flickered out of the system, quickly lost to even the

 

sub-space sensors as it outpaced their echo-returns, and in two or three seconds

 

wasn't on any scope. As a matter of routine, it's exit vector was calculated,

 

but without a probable time on the jump, this was meaningless. In any case,

 

military vessels rarely jumped directly to their destination.

 

"The Admiral, on the conference channel, sir."

 

"Very well. Activate the holo-board."

 

"We have received a coded set of orders from the Empire," the Admiral said

 

as soon as all the captains were hooked in, "the orders were encrypted with a

 

clearance code which I am sure is secure, and I have satisfied myself with the

 

legitimacy of the orders. The Empire has informed us that all attempts to

 

construct a second Gate have met with dubious results, and as such, construction

 

of the Gate has been halted until such time as more research can be done. The

 

commander of the Mediator is the Jedi Jerec Antilles, and he has assured me that

 

the Republic will also be shutting down their Gate.

 

"Apparently, the situation back home does not warrant them dedicating

 

fleet resources to this Galaxy, and all their ships have been ordered home. He

 

has supplied us with starmaps and hyperspace co-ordinates so that we can return

 

via their Gate, before they shut it down.

 

"Our orders from the Imperial high command are to remain here, until they

 

complete a second Gate, or capture the Republic's Gate."

 

"But that may never happen!" The captain of the Grinder stated. "I for one

 

wish to return home."

 

"Very well, I will make those arrangements," Piett stated flatly. He

 

activated another console, "Colonel, place captain Jirr of the Grinder under

 

arrest. He is charged with mutiny. Does anyone else wish to violate our orders?

 

Anyone else who wishes to go home, will immediately be placed under arrest and

 

charged with mutiny. The court-martials will be held this afternoon, I will

 

preside as Judge, and sentencing will be carried out immediately afterwards.

 

"This conference is over. Xris, remain on line."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Xris, you will delay your invasion plans. Meet me on the Aggressor in two

 

point five hours, directly after the court-martials."

 

"Yes, sir." Xris answered.

 

 

 

 

 

The shuttle with Xris on board landed in the hangar designated. He was met

 

by a squad of armoured stormtroopers, and he felt a momentary flash of

 

apprehension. He was assuaged somewhat by the knowledge that he had encrypted

 

several data files into his ships systems. In any case, even Piett would not

 

arbitrarily begin executing people for fear of a real mutiny. The unfortunate

 

Jirr had set himself up for the trumped up charges, and he did not have a major

 

support base in the fleet, a support base which Xris had been careful to

 

cultivate over the last few weeks.

 

He was surprised to be met by the Admiral himself, which probably

 

explained the armed stormtroopers. In the background, another squad of troopers

 

marched a small bunch of prisoners to the hangar entrance. They were

 

unceremoniously pushed through the containment fields. Xris could vaguely make

 

out bulging eyes, blued skin, and the odd skin rupture as fluid forced it's way

 

out of the suddenly over-pressurised bodies. He was not surprised that a number

 

of the so-called 'mutineers' included captains who's personal loyalty to Piett

 

was questionable. He would have counted himself in such a group, and was

 

surprised to still be alive.

 

"Leahcim," Piett said, "we have limited resources, but a clear military

 

advantage in the speed and mobility of our forces. Jirr was an idiot, and needed

 

to be disposed of. You, on the other hand, have proven yourself a most able

 

commander, worthy of your graduation at the top of your class.

 

"Moff Jerjerrod and I have had many discussions in the last few days, we

 

had no illusions about our prospects of going home. Had we returned, we would

 

have been disgraced, all of us, for our failure to defend the Gate. Even had our

 

orders been to return, it would have been better for us to have stayed."

 

"Yes. I have been aware of that myself."

 

"Now, if we can do well here, even were a second Gate to be constructed,

 

our success here may be our salvation. Even if no Gate could be constructed, we

 

have an opportunity to forge a mighty Empire. Moff Jerjerrod is working to

 

ensure that an adequate industrial base is laid. It is your job to ensure that

 

no-one in this Galaxy dare oppose us. To that purpose, you have at your disposal

 

most of the fleet, and the command of the Grinder."

 

"My primary responsibilities?"

 

"The defense of our industrial base, the destruction of all who can stop

 

or oppose us, and the expansion of our sphere of influence, in that order."

 

"Very well. I understand from a previous briefing that Moff Jerjerrod is

 

decades away from being able to manufacture such devices as planetary shields,

 

let alone starships, or ground support weaponry?"

 

"Yes, at least a decade, possibly two. Our existing supplies will last

 

till then, and we even have sufficient supplies for a limited expansion."

 

"In that case, I will proceed with the invasion of the ten worlds that

 

Moff Jerjerrod has listed as crucial to our industrial expansion. I will bombard

 

all other worlds into a state of barbarism, not enough to destroy their

 

populations, but enough to deter them from being an oppositional force. That

 

will allow us to harvest their populations in the future."

 

"Excellent, I can see that my faith in you has not been misplaced."

 

"The major priority for now," Xris continued, "is to ensure that the New

 

Republic forces do in fact evacuate this Galaxy, and shut down or destroy their

 

Gate. For that, I recommend programming a droid-ship with the starmaps Jedi

 

Antilles provided, and having the droid monitor their evacuation."

 

"An excellent suggestion, I will take care of it."

 

 

 

 

 

The Mediator flashed into the rendesvous point, where the large Republic

 

fleet waited. A shuttle immediately set out from one of the Destroyers and

 

landed in the forward hangar of the Mediator. On board the shuttle was Worf and

 

Picard.

 

"Captain Picard. I am surprised you chose to accompany Commander Worf?"

 

"I understand you are about to leave this Galaxy, Captain Antilles."

 

"Yes. My governement is satisfied that we have done what we can here, and

 

we are needed at home."

 

"The Imperials?" Worf asked.

 

"Have apparently been ordered to stay. They still have hope that a second

 

Gate can be constructed. A vain hope."

 

"You are sure?" Picard asked.

 

"Yes. I am. Unfortunately, we are not able to stay and help you in your

 

fight against them, and neither do we have the authority to attack them

 

directly."

 

"We will stop them." Worf said.

 

"Maybe," Antilles said, "but there is much I have discovered, and which I

 

need to tell you."

 

Antilles led them to a conference room, where a meal was laid out. After a

 

brief silence while the three men relaxed, ate, and got comfortable, Antilles

 

started speaking.

 

"Ever since I arrived in this Galaxy, I have felt a wrongness in the

 

Force. After my travels and encounters with the Dominion, yourselves, the Borg,

 

and even you, Captain Picard, my senses have coalesced into an understanding.

 

"The Dominion, a race composed primarily of clones, is an anachronism to

 

Life. What we call the Force. No matter how the clone is improved, these

 

improvements can never emulate that what Life desires to achieve through

 

evolution. The power of the Dominion had to be curtailed, so as to allow other

 

species to grow, to evolve, and proceed on the path that Life has designated for

 

them. Our presence here, and the immense damage we have done, is a major first

 

step on that road.

 

"New Republic fleets have devastated hundreds of Dominion worlds,

 

destroyed their industrial bases, wrecked their shipbuilding facilities. The

 

Founders still survive, and perhaps that is the will of the Force, but the power

 

of the Dominion has been broken, for now. It will fall to you to see that it

 

stays that way. Cloning is not the path to the Ultimate Purpose of Life.

 

"The other wrongness in this galaxy is the Borg. Machines, while not an

 

anachronism to Life, are not alive themselves. The Borg are becoming ever more

 

machine, and less and less alive, as they strive to attain their own vision of

 

perfection, which is not compatible with that of Life itself. The Borg also make

 

extensive use of cloning, which is an anachronism to Life.

 

"The Borg are perhaps a greater threat than the Dominion, but their

 

destruction will only be achieved through a long and terrible war, a war in

 

which the Founders themselves may have to play a part. That war can only be won

 

by the Federation and it's allies, supported by Worf and his future students.

 

You will need your own Jedi to beat the Borg. The reason for that is this.

 

"The Borg pervert the power of Life itself, as their overmind impinges on

 

the Force. This impingement is felt most strongly in you, Captain Picard."

 

"In me? That is preposterous. I was once part of the collective, but I am

 

free of their influence. I should know. I have had every last nanoprobe removed

 

from my system, and I have regular medical checkups where a search for

 

nanoprobes is conducted, just in case."

 

"Exactly. You can't bring yourself to believe there are no nanoprobes in

 

your system, because you still hear the overmind, don't you. You still feel it's

 

call."

 

"Yes." Picard answered, hoarsely.

 

"Don't you understand. There is more to the mind, to life, than mere

 

cells, atoms, DNA and nanoprobes. You, your mind, your soul, your spirit, call

 

it what you will, deny it all you want, but that part of you which defies

 

understanding is and always will be connected to that part of the Borg. No purge

 

of nanoprobes will ever be able to erase that. You are connected to the Borg

 

through the Force, because your mind was once part of it's mind, and that mental

 

pattern will always be a part of your being."

 

"Define it!" Picard demanded, "Medically there is no explanation for what

 

you say. Perhaps there might be a nanoprobe or two, hidden somewhere, unable to

 

be detected by a tricorder, that still connects me. Once they are located and

 

destroyed, I will be free of the Borg once and for all."

 

"I am sure you have been scanned atom by atom on multiple occasions. Your

 

link to the Borg can not be explained away in terms of machines, or nanoprobes,

 

or medical science. Yet it is there, tangible, but indefinable. I can feel it.

 

So can Worf."

 

"Worf?" Picard turned to him.

 

"Close your eyes commander," Antilles said to the Klingon, "and reach out

 

to your friend with your feelings. Feel his mind, follow it's contours, trace

 

it's connections."

 

"I feel something, something different, but I cannot name it."

 

"One day, you will be able to." Antilles smiled. "That is why the Force

 

led me to you. When you understand it, maybe then, you will be able to help your

 

friend. For now, though, know that the Borg also hears Picard, that just as he

 

sees them, and hears them, so do they hear him, and see him. That is how the

 

Borg knew about the Gate, why it had to be destroyed. That is how the Borg knew

 

about us, and attacked us. Picard told them, unknowingly." He held up his hand

 

to silence a protest from Picard.

 

"Unknowingly," Antilles repeated. "You see captain, you are their spy in

 

the Federation. That is why they allowed you to be rescued, even allowed all

 

Borg nanoprobes to be removed from your system without killing you first. They

 

knew that they would always see you, hear you, through the Force. Perhaps there

 

are others like yourself, but you are the most highly placed spy the Borg have

 

in the Federation.

 

"Even now, the Borg have another group of cubes heading to our Gate, and

 

this time, we may not be able to fight them off, so my time is brief. We must

 

leave this Galaxy and shut down the Gate before the Borg get their hands on it's

 

technology. That is why I don't have much time.

 

"Once the Gate is shut down, the Borg will concentrate on the Imperials.

 

The technology of the Imperial warships may not give them the ability to

 

construct a Gate, but hyperdrive and it's related power systems will make the

 

Borg nearly unstoppable in this Galaxy. For that reason, if you wish to ensure

 

your own survival, you must destroy the Imperials, or help them in their fight

 

against the Borg. Alternately, if your link to the Borg were broken, the Borg

 

would be blind in these quadrants, and would no longer seek to destroy the

 

Imperials or invade these quadrants."

 

"Are you suggesting .."

 

"I suggest nothing. Just know that you are the reason the Borg attack the

 

Federation, the Imperials, and any others you come into contact with. They see

 

these technologies through your senses, and it draws them here before their

 

time. If you were killed, or sent away, or your mind destroyed, the Borg would

 

get on with whatever tasks they have. But, as long as they see the technologies

 

you are exposed to, it draws them here."

 

"How can I stop this?"

 

"That will be the responsibility of commander Worf."

 

"But what am I to do?" Worf asked.

 

"You must continue with the training as I have told you. Your duty to

 

Life, and to your friend, will be clear to you when the time comes."

 

"There is nothing you can do?" Picard asked. "The dreams I have, the

 

nightmares, the visions of .. the horror cannot be described."

 

"No, I am sorry, it is not within my ability to do what you ask, without

 

sacrificing myself to the Dark Side." Antilles said, pain lacing his words.

 

"And Worf, will he have to destroy himself to facilitate my salvation?"

 

Picard asked.

 

Antilles closed his eyes. "Most likely Worf will pay a tremendous price,

 

yes, though there is a small chance it will not come to that. More I cannot

 

say."

 

Worf and Picard looked as if they had a lot more questions, but Antilles

 

held up his hand.

 

"My time is short. I have to leave soon, or the Borg will beat me to the

 

Gate. I have told you what I must, perhaps more than I should have."

 

He got up, and waved his guests to the hatchway.

 

"The destroyer on which the Defiant is located is one of the faster ships

 

in the fleet. It will drop you off close to Earth, and return to the Gate. The

 

rest of the fleet has to leave now."

 

He walked them towards the hangar, where the shuttle waited to return them

 

to the waiting Destroyer. Worf and Picard had a few last questions as they

 

walked.

 

"Could you not give us a data padd with the specifications or schematics

 

of hyperdrive technology?"

 

"If only it were that easy. Even if I could do such a thing, your

 

manufacturing facilities are not set up to produce the requisite materials and

 

fuels, and nobody on this ship or in this fleet for that matter could explain

 

it's scientific principals to you. There are only a handful of engineers in my

 

home galaxy who fully understand the science behind hyperdrive technology, and

 

even they do not claim to fully understand it."

 

"In a nutshell, could you tell us what it entails?"

 

"Certainly. A successful hyerspace jump has a number of stages. Firstly, a

 

field effect modifies the state or nature of each and every sub-atomic particle

 

in the ship. This has to be done instantaneously, so that the ship doesn't tear

 

itself apart. Secondly, the resulting altered state of the ship, which has a

 

vastly reduced mass, is accelerated by the ion-engines to close to light-speed

 

in a fraction of a second, an acceleration facilitated by the conservation of

 

the energy-state of the ship. Thirdly, as the ship approaches the light-speed

 

barrier, a second field effect once again modifies the sub-atomic basis of the

 

entire ship to a tachyonic state, a conversion which requires the entire kinetic

 

energy plus more to facilitate.

 

"The energy requirements of the entire jump procedure is so immense as to

 

defy the imagination's ability to grasp. It is comparable to the entire output

 

of a star for several seconds."

 

"Not even an anti-matter fusion plant can output such energy. Why, it

 

would require at least 2000 kilograms of antimatter to be converted to energy

 

with one hundred percent efficiency in a fraction of a second. Realistically,

 

given inherent inefficiencies in any system, you may require hundreds of tons of

 

antimatter per jump."

 

"Yes. We have huge antimatter storage facilities on-board, but we don't

 

store the anti-matter in a natural state. The storage tanks use powerful

 

artificial gravity fields combined with finely tuned stasis fields. This allows

 

us to store the anti-matter in a super-dense state, approaching that of

 

neutronium, while the stasis fields prevents the fuel from spontaneously

 

igniting. In real terms, we carry enough fuel for several years of operations,

 

although a ship of this size also has the facilities to mine and process it's

 

own fuel indefinitely."

 

"What you're saying is that even if we could dissect a hyperdrive engine,

 

we couldn't store enough fuel to operate it for more than one or two jumps, nor

 

would we be able to control the high-speed reactions required to convert the

 

fuel to energy fast enough?"

 

"Exactly. Furthermore, the entire Jump must be accomplished in a fraction

 

of a second, requiring an acceleration to relativistic velocities in a few

 

hundredths of a second, without a properly tuned inertial damping system, your

 

crew will be crushed to death. Another factor is the molecular binding strength

 

of the materials used to construct the ship, conventional molecular or atomic

 

bonds will not hold up to the strain. For this reason, our ships hulls have a

 

microscopically small amount of neutronium laced into the structure, and is

 

further reinforced with a molecular bond enhancement field."

 

"A structural integrity field?" Worf asked.

 

"Our ships have similar fields," Picard added, "but while the strength and

 

accuracy of the field can withstand speeds of up to warp 9.975, any more, and

 

the ship starts tearing itself apart. Also, in conditions of extreme turbulence,

 

the field is tested to it's limits. We have tested transwarp drive mechanisms,

 

but the SIF's were unable to hold the ship together."

 

"A field of the strength you claim," Worf said to Antilles, "would make

 

the ship nearly impervious to conventional weapons fire?"

 

"Yes, but the power requirements are enormous. For the fraction of a

 

second of a hyper-jump, the field-strength is increased enormously. In battle,

 

the fields could also be strengthened, but not for significant amounts of time.

 

The reactors can withstand a one second or two second surge, but would never

 

survive to four or five seconds, let alone an entire battle.

 

"The difference I suppose is that the field only has to be maintained for

 

the duration of the transition to hyperspace. Once in hyperspace, the field is

 

no longer required. For your warp drives, the fields would have to be maintained

 

on a continual basis."

 

By this time they had reached the hangar. The three men bade each other

 

farewell for the last time. The shuttle barely left the hangar, when the

 

Mediator and most of the fleet flickered into the distance and vanished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leahcim Xris surveyed his new bridge. The overall layout was standard

 

Imperial fare, except on a slightly larger scale. Xris glanced out of the

 

transparisteel view-ports, the view enhanced by the port's embedded vid-matrix.

 

Below the port, the outer hull of the immense battleship stretched away into the

 

distance. He was riding eight kilometers of pure weapon, a vessel designed for

 

one purposes only, destruction.

 

The tactical and strategic hologram's nearby reflected data conducive to

 

his new role. The data was more administrative in nature. The strategic hologram

 

currently had a map of the dozen worlds under Imperial control. The worlds were

 

arrayed through a sphere of one hundred light years. Outside this sphere, was a

 

shell stretching a little more than one thousand light years, most of it empty

 

space, comprising the neutral buffers between the Klingon, Human and Romulon

 

regions. The inhabited worlds of all three species were marked in blue, most of

 

them a faded blue.

 

As he watched a bright blue speck suddenly paled, as data from one of his

 

Victories was received. Another world bombarded into a pre-stardrive state. His

 

team of Victory destroyers were flitting from one world to another, their only

 

aim to bombard high technology starship related industries into dust. They were

 

under strict orders not to engage enemy starships. Over time, those starships

 

would run out of fuel or fall into disrepair, and in the meanwhile, their

 

operations would be seriously curtailed.

 

Closer to home, the dozen Imperial worlds he had under his wing were

 

marked in green, with several lines indicating the limited warp traffic allowed

 

between these worlds. A number of Ferengi and Cardassian ships, and a few

 

captured Human ships, had been stripped of weapons, and put back into service as

 

transports. They were slow, which hampered resource distribution, but it was

 

batter than detailing military vessels for the purpose. Xris had also given

 

orders that subjugated populations be given every opportunity to prove good

 

behaviour. Powerful concessions were offered to populations that policed

 

themselves well and took care of their own dissidents without Imperial

 

intervention. If Imperial intervention was required, both the dissidents and the

 

population were punished, harshly.

 

Distributed throughout the explored sphere, were tiny balls of red. These

 

marked areas recently visited by intelligence gathering ships, patrol boats,

 

probe droids, reconnaisance droids, and sensor stealthed gunboats. They were

 

concentrating their patrols on the edge of the sphere, also slowly expanding it,

 

but also patrolling the space in-between, tracking enemy fleet movements, and

 

watching for potential raids or attacks.

 

A major disadvantage of the enemy drive mechanism was that their ships

 

could be tracked at long ranges, up to several light-years, and their inter-

 

stellar speeds were extremely slow. This allowed their movements to be tracked

 

and their destinations plotted well in advance of their arrival. In the sphere

 

of explored space, Xris had a detailed picture of Federation ship movements. He

 

knew the position, course, speed and likely destination of every single ship

 

probably much more comprehensively than the Federation themselves. However,

 

tracking the enemy movements was one thing, but intercepting and destroying them

 

in interstellar space would be tricky.

 

His intelligence forces had been split into three groups. The major group

 

were set to patrol the forward edge of the sphere, the 'border zone', knowing

 

that the enemy's drive mechanism forced them to traverse this space, rather than

 

bypass it. Two patrol boats were always close to the capitals of the three major

 

species. A second and smaller group concentrated on random patrols in the

 

'buffer zone', a one thousand light year region surrounding the Imperial held

 

worlds. The last group of patrols were concentrated in and around the hundred

 

light year 'green zone', tracking friendly ship movements, and watching for any

 

signs of enemy ships attempting to slip through the two outer cordons.

 

His major problem was Earth. Only three hundred light-years away, but

 

extremely heavily defended. More than a hundred and fifty ships were gathered

 

here already. There was also a plethora of multi-ship fleets convoying between

 

Earth and a smattering of nearby worlds. He couldn't afford to lose any ships by

 

attacking this target.

 

In total, the Imperials only had twenty nine capital ships, of which

 

twenty one were in serviceable condition, including four of the precious

 

interdictors. As the bombing operations were completed, Xris began reassigning

 

his fleet. The Aggressor naturally was Piett's flagship, and was also doubling

 

as their only shipyard for now. It was working furiously on the eight damaged

 

ships to get them into a serviceable condition. Escorting it, were the Stomper

 

and Smasher, with one interdictor.

 

He detailed one Victory to patrolling the dozen worlds in the 'green

 

zone', with the Ripper and Render in close support. That left him with fourteen

 

ships, including three interdictors, with which to conduct his operations.

 

"Highlight all enemy ships in the buffer zone, with route indicators,

 

destination markers, and fleet size indicators."

 

"Sir."

 

"Tag all fleets heading towards the green zone, even if their destination

 

is short of the green zone. Also tag all single ship fleets regardless of their

 

destination."

 

"Sir."

 

"Imperators Devastator and Ravager are to monitor all single ship fleets.

 

The moment they arrive at their destinations and slow down, they are to be

 

attacked. They must not be allowed to remain in orbit over any world for any

 

length of time."

 

"Ships have acknowledged, Sir."

 

"Set up two task forces, each task force to consist of one Imperator, two

 

Victories, and one Interdictor. Designate task forces Alpha-One and Alpha-Two.

 

They are to set up deep-space ambushes on all single ship fleets in the buffer

 

zone."

 

"Designated ships have acknowledged, Sir."

 

That left him with four ships including the Grinder, one interdictor, and

 

two Imperators. He had given specific orders not to bombard the planets he was

 

about to invade, but should they prove resistant, that could change. He nodded

 

to the navigator, and seconds later, his small fleet jumped.

 

 

 

 

 

Lieutenant Griffiths had been assigned to the starfleet communications

 

processing centre on this planet until recently. However, when the realisation

 

came that the planet might be invaded, seeing they were only a hundred and fifty

 

light years from the centre of the Imperial sphere at Bajor, he had been

 

approached to take charge of planetary defences. He sneered at the thought.

 

Planetary defenses indeed. They had no orbital weapons platforms, no orbiting

 

space stations, not even significant ground based weaponry.

 

The sum total of planetary defences were the handful of starfleet

 

personnel on the planet, as well as several bands of untrained civilians. He had

 

given orders that as many hand-phasers and phaser-rifles as possible be

 

replicated, but after a few hundred they had run out of collimating crystals.

 

Knowing that this was a useless gesture, and a simple orbital bombardment would

 

devastate the population, he had not handed out the phasers to the population.

 

Instead, he had cached the weapons in secret locations all over the

 

planet, to facilitate resistance should the planet be invaded. For the last few

 

weeks, all he had had to do, was wait. Now the waiting was over. On the vid-

 

screen in front of him was the commander of the Imperial forces which had

 

suddenly appeared in orbit.

 

"You will surrender all weapons to our soldiers, and henceforth will be

 

members of the Galactic Empire. All military personnel on this planet are to

 

assemble at the local landing zones, where they will be incorporated into the

 

new administration of this planet. Resistance will be crushed. Harshly.

 

"Our scanners have detected a number of weapons caches. These caches will

 

now be destroyed with a short bombardment. Consider this a demonstration of

 

Imperial power and willingness to crush any opposition."

 

The room was briefly lit by an eerie green flash. Seconds later, a low

 

rumbling shook the buildings, rattling the equipment nearby.

 

"If there are further caches which are hidden from our sensors, inform us

 

now. Failure to do so will result in this world being labelled dissident."

 

Griffiths glanced over his status boards.

 

"There are no more weapons caches. You destroyed them all."

 

"You have just failed your first test. We deliberately left one unscathed.

 

Reveal them all now, please." The Imperial officer smiled grimly.

 

"If I don't?" Griffiths tested, reluctant to give in so easily.

 

A thunderous roar threw him to the ground, waves of heat washing through

 

the room. Griffiths got up and rushed to the door. Outside, in the distance, he

 

saw a huge column of smoke rising, lit up by a ball of flame mushrooming in the

 

middle. In the street below, people were lying on the ground, scorched and

 

bleeding. Screams could be heard in the distance. He judged the explosion had

 

been within the city limits, and from it's size, several blocks of the city had

 

been razed. He charged back to the comms desk.

 

"That was not necessary," he shouted, "there must have been hundreds of

 

people killed. The casualties must be .."

 

"The locations of the weapons caches. Now!" The Imperial officer was no

 

longer smiling.

 

Griffiths complied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caledonia was a much richer world. It had been colonised several decades

 

ago, requiring very little terraforming. Over the years, it's population had

 

grown exponentially, and it had also become a major node in the network of

 

federation defences close to the neutral zone. As such, it had a number of

 

orbital defence platforms, not very mobile, but heavily armoured. These were

 

supported by several ground-based phaser batteries.

 

All in all, it was a world ready for any invasion force. Unfortunately,

 

the defences had been constructed with the Romulans in mind. If the romulans

 

approached to within transporter range, or close enough for their disruptors to

 

burn through the atmosphere, they would have been devastated by the return fire

 

from the weapons platforms. If they fired missiles or torpedoes, the platforms

 

could knock them down. The Imperials did neither.

 

They jumped into the system a significant distance from the planet and

 

opened communications. The communications were a standard declaration of the

 

terms of surrender, with threats of force if these were not adhered to. The

 

planetary commander, confident of his defences, ignored the message.

 

"Open fire on the planetary cities, medium and light weapons only, ignore

 

the battle stations."

 

"From this range? Sir?"

 

"Yes."

 

The four ships opened fire, from a range of at least ten light seconds,

 

randomly targeting the cities on the planet below, and ignoring the battle-

 

stations. Four of the battle-stations immediately returned fire, but at this

 

range, the fire was easily avoided or shot down. Unfortunately, the planet had

 

no way to evade the incoming turbolaser bolts. At this distance, they had

 

dissipated significantly, and mostly detonated in the upper atmosphere. Mostly.

 

The few bolts which penetrated the atmosphere to any depth resulted in

 

multiple shock-waves rocking the cities below, and waves of heat radiating into

 

the atmosphere. Occasionally, a bolt penetrated to ground level, causing immense

 

devastation to localised areas.

 

"Hail the planet, order them to surrender, or we open fire with the heavy

 

weapons."

 

"They are not responding, sir."

 

"Heavy turbolasers, one broadside only, target one of the smaller cities."

 

The Grinder fired it's heavy turbolasers, sending a rain of significantly

 

larger and brighter bolts flashing towards the planet. Several seconds later,

 

they streaked past the impotent orbital battle-stations, and ripped through the

 

atmosphere like lightning bolts. Hundreds of green bolts of pure energy slammed

 

into the city, engulfing it in a torrent of heat, molten ferrocrete and

 

vapourised bedrock. Dozens of fireballs mushroomed across the surface, consuming

 

everything in it's path, flash-boiling even the river flowing through the city,

 

forming one huge raging mass of energy before it rose into the sky and

 

dissipated.

 

"Hail the planet. Offer them the option of another city, or total

 

surrender."

 

"Sir, the orbital platforms, they're shooting at the planet below."

 

"No," another voice corrected, "those target locks are for matter beams,

 

the crews are transporting to the planet. They're evacuating the battle-

 

stations."

 

Xris sighed. He knew what was coming next. The battle-stations detonated

 

in blue-white anti-matter explosions. Pity, he thought, it would have been nice

 

to capture the planet with it's defences intact.

 

"The planetary governor is hailing us, sir. He is offering his surrender."

 

"Yes, I know. Accept their surrender. Once the planet is secured, have

 

intelligence round up the crews of the battle-stations, and the planetary

 

governor, and execute them. They really should have died at their posts."

 

It was so easy to invade planets without planetary shielding.

 

 

 

 

 

The first officer of the USS Niger glanced over his status panel. They

 

were close to the end of their fuel supply. They had been travelling for weeks

 

across federation space towards Earth, as part of the fleet assembly ordered.

 

Three times they had to change course as fuel depots were destroyed or

 

compromised. If they didn't get fuel at this next planet, they might never make

 

Earth.

 

"Prepare for orbital insertion. Captain to the bridge. Comms, open a

 

channel to the planet so-long."

 

"Aye, sir."

 

"Captain is on his way. Entering outer system, slowing down to warp five.

 

Orbit in eleven seconds."

 

The turbolift quietly hissed open.

 

"Captain on the bridge."

 

"Sir."

 

"Thank you, number one. Do we have a channel to the planet?"

 

"Yes, sir. Opening now."

 

The captain briefly exchanged pleasantries with the locals, and started

 

making arrangements to take on a fresh fuel supply.

 

"Disengaging warp drive. We are in orbit."

 

"Lower shields. Prepare transporter room for fuel transfer."

 

"Ready Sir."

 

The transfer had barely begun when the bridge tilted violently. A flash of

 

white light burst from a panel nearby, flinging it's operator bodily across the

 

bridge. There was no blood coming from the blackened stumps where her hands had

 

been, the wounds had been neatly cauterised.

 

"Raise shields." The captain shouted.

 

A second explosion rocked the ship, from the direction of the transporter

 

room, as the anti-matter transportation was cut off by the shields. A stunned

 

operator was being carried off the bridge, staring silently at the blackened

 

stumps where her hands used to be. She was still in shock, and experienced no

 

pain yet. Fortunately for her, the pain would never come.

 

The warship on the view-screen fired a second broadside even as the

 

captain was ordering return fire. The bridge rocked once more, but less

 

violently, as the shields absorbed the worst of the impact. But the damage had

 

been done with the first broadside, and once again secondary explosions rocked

 

the ship.

 

"Shields are failing, phasers are off-line, there is no power to the

 

torpedo launchers, warp core breach imminent, decks fourteen through seventeen

 

are open to vacuum .."

 

The litany of damage was cut short as the third broadside slammed home.

 

The ISD Devastator coasted past the wreckage. It's captain tapped his foot

 

impatiently while his navigators plotted another jump. On his display, he could

 

see another ship in his sector was only six minutes away from it's destination.

 

If they could get there right after it disengaged it's stardrive and surprise

 

it, then he would be two kills ahead of the Ravager, which was performing the

 

same duties several hundred light years away. The navi-comp beeped, and at an

 

impatient nod from the captain, the navigator commenced the jump-cycle. The

 

Devastator thundered into hyperspace, leaving the still incandescent wreckage of

 

the USS Niger to cool down in it's wake.

 

 

 

 

 

Imperial Task Force Alpha-One arrived in deep-space several dozen AU ahead

 

of the two ship fleet it was targeting. At the cruising speed of the two warp-

 

ships, they would get here in about a minute. At this speed, they were also

 

fourteen days away from the nearest Federation system, fifteen light years away.

 

The interdictor assigned to the task force began powering up it's gravity wells.

 

By the time the Federation ships got here, it would have created a zone of anti-

 

tachyonic movement several light-seconds across.

 

The Federation ships had no intention of playing ball though, and a slight

 

course change saw them neatly evade the tiny island of simulated gravity. Once

 

more, the Imperial ships tried to catch them, but again, they evaded, and

 

continued on their way.

 

The Imperial officers had a brief meeting with each other. The interdictor

 

just took too long to power up, and by that time the Federation ships had

 

escaped. The Imperator and the two Victories tried jumping into position ahead

 

of the two ships, and peppering their projected paths with flak-bursts and

 

missiles, but the two ships flashed past too quickly, and any hits scored would

 

be pure blind luck, and certainly not meaningful enough to smash down shields.

 

Short of ideas for the time-being, they gave up, and jumped to a

 

rendesvous point, to report their lack of success to Xris.

 

 

 

 

 

In Starfleet headquarters, another in a long series of crisis meetings

 

were being held. Reports were coming in from dozens of worlds between Earth and

 

Bajor. The Imperials had been needlessly bombarding world after world into

 

savagery. The casualty counts were surprisingly low, though. Many of these

 

worlds had populations in the hundreds of million, the older colonies had

 

populations exceeded a billion people. Yet the casualty count rarely exceeded a

 

few hundred thousand people per world. The enemy was taking care not to kill too

 

many people, but was obviously destroying everything remotely technological in

 

nature. A picture of a wasteland grew, the picture extended for a thousand light

 

years in a sphere centred on the system that used to be home to Bajor.

 

In that sphere, not a single inhabited planet had escaped bombardment.

 

Also in that sphere, not a single sub-space booster remained. The reports coming

 

in were hours old, barely recognisable, and almost unintelligible. Many

 

starships were known to be in somewhere in that sphere, and occasional reports

 

were still coming in, indicating that some of them at least were still

 

operational. Only a few of them were known to be within range of earth or other

 

major 'safe' worlds. The others might or might not make it, if they reduced

 

speed or could somehow stretch their fuel reserves. In any case, at the reduced

 

speeds, it would be weeks or months before many of them would make it out of the

 

zone.

 

Messages had been despatched throughout Federation space, re-routing ships

 

away from this zone. It would seriously hamper the assembling of an attack

 

fleet, with ships having to take detours which would increase their travel time

 

by several weeks. The general strategy of the Federation was to attempt to trap

 

and destroy the Imperial fleet, possibly recapture some of the worlds.

 

"We have to attempt to get help to those planets as well."

 

"The best thing we can do for those planets is to destroy the Imperial

 

fleet."

 

"It will be weeks before we can assemble a significant force here. Our

 

fleet is spread across ten thousand light years. Even once we do assemble a

 

fleet, how are we going to attack them. There is three hundred light years of

 

wasteland between here and the nearest Imperial worlds. That is more than a week

 

away at high warp. To get there in a reasonable time, fight a battle and return,

 

we will have to convert our ships into flying fuel tanks.

 

"In the meanwhile, we must help those people. Can you imagine the state of

 

those worlds. No source of power, no industry, no manufacturing, no replicators.

 

In a few days, those people will start dying of starvation. Starvation! In this

 

day and age."

 

"And what do you suggest we do? Spread our fleet and allow them to pick us

 

of one by one?"

 

"Those people are depending on us. It is our duty."

 

"Our duty will be better served by destroying the Imperial fleet."

 

"Can't we pull another ambush, like at starbase 17?"

 

"Will it work?"

 

"It's worth a try. I say we set up one or two worlds, ripe for the

 

picking, and hide a dozen starships in each system. The moment the Imperials

 

move in, we lock them down and pulverise them."

 

"Can we spare the ships? How can we set up the ambush without them

 

noticing it?"

 

"Use the ships on their way here, the ones outside the Imperial controlled

 

zone. Have them assemble at worlds the Imperials are likely to scout in the next

 

week or so, but keep the ships hidden. The moment an Imperial shows it's nose,

 

hit them with a graviton beam to lock them down, and pulverise them."

 

"They will be aware of that danger by now, but it's worth a try."

 

"At the least, it might prevent them from bombing more worlds."

 

"Make it so."

 

 

 

 

 

On the bridge of the USS Beunos Aires, the captain and his senior officers

 

pored over various computer scenarios.

 

"We have not been able to raise a signal from any world in two hundred

 

light years. We might as well head directly for Earth."

 

"We cannot hope to reach Earth at anything faster than warp five given our

 

current fuel capacity. That is a journey of several months."

 

"We have no other choice. There is not a world between here and Earth that

 

can supply us with fuel."

 

Sighing in frustration, the captain chucked a padd onto the table.

 

"Make it so," he ordered.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

The garrisoning of the ex-Klingon world proceeded smoothly. A full ten

 

regiments, including two stormtrooper regiments, were distributed through the

 

cities and defensive installations of the planet. Most of the Klingon planet-

 

based and orbital systems had been destroyed in the initial bombardment, and the

 

rest had been sabotaged by their crews. As a result, Imperial equipment had been

 

distributed throughout the populated regions of the planet.

 

No orbital battle-stations could be spared, but a number of LNR laser

 

cannons and KDY ion cannons had been installed, as well as several Gentech

 

planetary shield generators. Each generator provided an umbrella shield

 

extending for a radius of 900 kilometers. A total of eight were installed on the

 

planet, several of them linked into a cohesive network, so that all major cities

 

and strategic mineral areas were covered. The Victory destroyer patrolling the

 

system completed it's scans, and satisfied that no warp-driven vessels were

 

within several dozen light-years, prepared to jump to the next system.

 

"Captain Billic to Colonel Dekker. Confirm communications operability."

 

"Dekker here. Orbital relay is fully operational. Out-system sub-space

 

booster is fully operational. We have clear communications to eighty light

 

years."

 

"Confirm mid-range scan?"

 

"Mid-range scan returns are twenty-twenty."

 

"Long-range?"

 

"Long-range scan is twenty-twenty."

 

"Very well, Colonel. We will resume our patrol, our next stop here is in

 

fifteen hours."

 

"Confirmed."

 

The Vanquisher pointed it's nose into deep-space, and in a blur of motion,

 

streaked into the distance, vanishing off the sub-space tracers before it

 

reached mid-range. It's exit vector was towards deep-space. Not surprising.

 

Military procedure was to stop in deep-space, then make a second jump towards

 

the destination, to throw off any attempts to perform a trace.

 

 

 

Six hundred million kilometers away, partially hidden by a gas-giant,

 

three cloaked Klingon battle-cruisers exchanged low-power communications, and

 

headed out towards the planet. They remained at extremely low warp, not taking

 

the chance of their warp signature leaking out of their cloaking shield. Unable

 

to use active scanners either, two of them crept closer to the planet below,

 

while a third headed for the out-system communications booster. Between them

 

they carried thirty thousand troops, which hopefully would not be necessary. If

 

they could get close enough to detect the ground defences and shield generators

 

on passive scan they stood a chance of knocking them out and forcing a

 

surrender.

 

Several minutes crept by, as the battle-cruisers drifted closer and closer

 

to the planet, now only light-minutes away.

 

 

 

"Sir," the operator called, "it seems the gas-giant in orbit number five

 

has developed some sort of gravitic anomaly."

 

The lieutenant in charge of the com-scan detachment came and bent over the

 

scope.

 

"I don't see anything."

 

"It is intermittent, sir. I am sure the recording would have picked it up,

 

if it doesn't happen again."

 

"Wait. There. I see it." The lieutenant said, as the gas-giant on the

 

scope seemed to waver for a second. "Strange, initial scans did not indicate

 

that the gas-giant was unstable. Sensor focus on the gas-giant, determine the

 

nature of the anomaly, and re-calibrate this station accordingly."

 

The operator keyed for a sensor focus on the planet.

 

 

 

The three battle-cruisers were startled by a sudden wave of sub-space

 

energy passing through them. For a second they thought they had been discovered,

 

then realised that the active scan was not meant for them, but the gas-giant

 

behind them. They changed course slightly, attempting to move out of alignment

 

with the gas-giant.

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir, I think we have cloaked ships in the system."

 

"What? Run that log again. Echo to my display."

 

The recording played again. The signature of the planet was clear, except

 

for two blobs sliding across the face of the planet, and passing into

 

nothingness as they cleared the planet. The planet itself registered dead

 

normal, not a hint of gravitic anomaly.

 

"Colonel Dekker." The lieutenant called over his comm-channel, "I have two

 

possible cloaked ships in the system."

 

"Possible? Can you not confirm this."

 

"If I start hunting for them now with active scans, they will know they

 

have been detected. If we raise shields, they will also know they have been

 

detected, and the shields will degrade sensor performance, possibly rendering a

 

positive track impossible."

 

"Lieutenant. I cannot recall the Vanquisher on your suspicions. Prepare a

 

recall message for the Vanquisher, but do not transmit it until a positive trace

 

can be made. Have all shield generators on standby, and send out an alert to all

 

ground-stations. I am on my way."

 

 

 

 

 

On the three battle-cruisers, the passive sensors began to light up as a

 

sudden increase in activity on the planet began to register.

 

"They have detected us."

 

"No! They are merely suspicious."

 

"Prepare to decloak and commence attack, on my command."

 

 

 

 

 

The lieutenant, had his sensor boards return to normal configuration, but

 

ordered a passive focus on the region between them and the gas-giant. He slowly

 

panned out the cone of the sensor focus towards the direction the two potential

 

cloaked ships had been drifting in. Seconds ticked by as the cone slowly

 

increased in size.

 

"Got them!" He exclaimed.

 

On his board, a faint twinkling of the stars was visible in two tight

 

regions, as something unseen drifted between the sensors and the stellar

 

background. He turned to call the colonel over. The colonel took one look at the

 

scope, and started issuing orders.

 

"Raise shields. Transmit recall to Vanquisher. Active scan. Planetary

 

defence weapons are free to fire."

 

 

 

 

 

Even as Dekker was giving these orders, the Klingon commander decided he

 

had had enough. The passive scans showed the enemy readiness level to have

 

increased significantly in the last few seconds. They had not scanned his ships

 

yet, and neither had they raised shields yet, but it was obvious that they knew

 

an attack was imminent.

 

"Now!" he ordered.

 

A sub-space signal flashed to the battle-cruiser heading towards the out-

 

system booster. It immediately discarded all attempts at secrecy, and engaged

 

high warp, disengaging it's cloaking mechanism at the same time. A fraction of a

 

second later it came to a stop right alongside the Imperials communications

 

booster, and opened fire. Closer to the Imperial planet, another battle-cruiser

 

blew away the orbital relay station. The third cruiser came to a stop in high

 

orbit, and opened fire on the surface below.

 

Within a second of opening fire, the planetary shields were in place, and

 

the disruptors and torpedoes slammed into it, and were shrugged off. He kept

 

firing for a few more seconds, assuring himself of the strength of the shield,

 

before he ceased fire. The damage done by the second or so of disruptor fire

 

before the shields were raised was negligible, knocking out two of the planetary

 

defence turbolasers, and damaging a power plant near one of the larger cities.

 

However, the effect on the Klingon population was electric.

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir, I have multiple reports of Klingons taking to the streets, armed

 

with hand-to-hand weapons."

 

"Have the city garrisons subdue them. Blasters set to stun. If they don't

 

respond, they have authorisation to kill."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Did the transmission to the Vanquisher get out before the booster went?"

 

"No, Sir."

 

"The enemy ships, are they within range?"

 

"They are in high orbit sir. At that range, we'd have to lower shields to

 

hit them."

 

"If they come in any closer, have the turbolasers and ion cannons fire a

 

synchronised broadside through a fractional and localised drop in shields."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Have all forces that can be spared from population control prepare to

 

repel invaders."

 

 

 

 

 

On the Klingon ships, the commanders surveyed the initial scans of the

 

planet.

 

"They have impressive shielding. We cannot bombard them into submission.

 

We will have to land troops at these positions, where there is no shield

 

coverage, and take the planet by military force."

 

"I agree. How long do we have?"

 

"Less than fifteen hours before the patrolling ship returns."

 

"What is the point? We cannot hold the planet unless we capture their

 

shields, and they will obviously not let that happen."

 

"Perhaps not. But we can always beam our troops off, and escape. Then they

 

will have to invade the planet all over again. According to our information,

 

they have limited resources, and cannot afford to lose any troops."

 

"Very well."

 

 

 

 

 

Unit commander Bevel looked over his sensor board. An ever growing number

 

of life-sign readings were being reported seventy kilometers away, just beyond

 

the limits of the shield, and below the horizon. The enemy was obviously

 

transporting troops down to the surface, and at a prodigious rate as well.

 

"Any word on those re-enforcement's?"

 

"No sir. Apparently, all four backup regiments are fully committed to

 

population control. There are riots in every major city."

 

"Damn Klingons. Should just have wasted the lot of them, and seeded this

 

planet with Humans. Much easier to manage."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Prepare two Chariots, and six speeder bikes. I'll go out and have a look

 

at the enemy. Have the rest of the unit placed on battle alert."

 

The five hundred man unit under Bevel's command were spread out in a

 

series of recently constructed shielded and reinforced bunkers along a twenty

 

kilometer long series of ridges. The ridges had been identified as the choke-

 

point for one of the likely routes an invading party would take. The bunkers

 

were connected by a series of turbolifts, and the unit was backed up by a

 

mechanised unit consisting of two AT-ATs, six AT-STs, and a number of heavily

 

armoured land-speeders. The Chariots were essentially lightly armoured ground

 

effects vehicles, armed with two sets of twin blaster-cannons, and crewed by

 

three troopers. The speeder bikes only required one pilot, had a forward mounted

 

light blaster cannon, and optionally carried a second rider armed with a blaster

 

rifle.

 

The repulsor-lift scout unit under Bevel's command set out, with Bevel

 

piloting one of the Chariots himself. The Chariot's scope was tied into the

 

battle-network, and he could clearly track the advancing column of Klingon life-

 

signs. The reason he wanted to eyeball them was to see what type of armoured or

 

mechanised support they were bringing along, because the scope couldn't pick up

 

anything.

 

"We'll stay under the shield," he joked, "we don't want to be picked off

 

by those battle-cruisers in orbit do we?"

 

"Haw Haw!"

 

Bevel headed for a ridge, seven kilometers short of the advancing column

 

of Klingons. Pulling to a stop just short of the ridge-crest, he disembarked and

 

crawled up to the crest. A regular army unit, his men were not outfitted with

 

the full battle-armour of a stormtrooper unit, so he had no interactive HUD, and

 

was forced to scope the enemy with his macrobinoculars.

 

The binoculars detected multiple columns of Klingons, advancing, and he

 

zoomed into each group in turn. He was surprised.

 

"Damn. They must be up to something, 'cos I don't see any armor. They're

 

jogging in, for Force sake!"

 

Two of his men joined him, and the three men scanned the advancing

 

Klingons, but couldn't spot anything either.

 

"Look at that group over there. They're holding up some sort of scanner."

 

A group of Klingons in one of the point groups were holding up a palm-

 

sized device, and waving it at the horizon. One of the Klingons suddenly pointed

 

to the ridge they were lying on.

 

"Let's get outta here!" Bevel called, and dived back down the ridge,

 

rolling to a stop in a cloud of dust and stones. The top of the ridge was

 

suddenly marked with the hissing sound of powerful disruptor beams cutting

 

through the air and into the rocks above.

 

The two Chariots and six bikes sped away, as a photon grenade landed

 

square on the ridge, vapourising the top of the ridge.

 

"My damn hand is bleeding!" Bevel exclaimed in disgust, and wiped the

 

blood off on his pants. "One pass, to teach those bastards a lesson, then we're

 

going back."

 

The two Chariots jinked between a line of ridges, and dipped into a dry

 

river bed or gully. Relying on the terrain avoidance systems, they sped along

 

the gully, well below the line of sight of any observers. The bikes remained on

 

the surface, but below the tree line, jinking between the numerous squat bushes

 

of this planet, as fast as their terrain avoidance would allow. The Imperial

 

formation spread out in a broad line.

 

"Prepare to fire thermal detonators, distribution pattern delta-two, yield

 

setting three. Launch on computer timer."

 

The Chariots started launching thermal detonators on high trajectories,

 

the trajectories calculated to bring them back to the surface after the ground

 

forces had swept past the Klingon troops.

 

"Pop and drop." Bevel ordered.

 

The Chariots and bikes popped up for a brief second, bringing them into

 

line of sight of the forward group of Klingons, the Chariot shuddered as the

 

blaster cannons opened up, sweeping across the Klingon formation. The small

 

group of airborne vessels veered wildly from side to side, disruptor fire

 

peppering the air around them, still firing wildly, then dropped below the tree

 

line again. Bevel pushed the control stick forward as far as the safeties

 

allowed, the Chariot hugging the ground as it dipped into the gully again, and

 

he led his group away at high speed.

 

The Chariot rocked as a photon grenade detonated nearby, then another and

 

another. On his display panel, he saw the indicators on two of his speeder bikes

 

wink out, as the bikes were destroyed. Then the Chariot interior suddenly glowed

 

red as the first of the thermal detonators exploded. Shielded by the gully, the

 

two Chariots sped on, clearing the area, as another speeder-bike indicator

 

winked out on his panel.

 

Seconds later, Bevel brought his forces to a stop below another ridge

 

eight kilometers away. He popped his Chariot briefly over the ridge-line. In the

 

distance, several columns of smoke rose into the air, and large tracts of ground

 

glowed red, whether from photon grenades or thermal detonations was impossible

 

to say. The com-scan panel beeped to indicate that it had completed it's scan,

 

and Bevel dropped below the ridge line again. Leaving the computer to guide the

 

Chariot home, Bevel glanced over the readings.

 

He had lost three speeder bikes (six men), and the entire forward line of

 

the advancing Klingon army had been devastated. He was tempted to do a second

 

run, but decided not to push his luck.

 

"Relay battle-data to the ground-speeders," he ordered the computer,

 

"let's get back to base."

 

 

 

The Chariots and three bikes slammed to a stop in the hangar half a minute

 

later. The flush of adrenalin was clearly visible in the faces of the pilots.

 

Bevel noticed several chunks of the outer shell of his Chariot were missing

 

where disruptor beams had hit.

 

"Man, what a ride."

 

"Doncha love toasted Klingon."

 

"Haw daw, did you see those detonators blow. We left those Klingons

 

sitting on molten rock man."

 

"Enough," Bevel ordered, "get back to your posts. Droids, prep these

 

vehicles, we may need them soon. Laser-weld an additional two millimeters of

 

dura-armour over the sides and bottom of the Chariots, those disruptors nearly

 

penetrated the plastoid shell."

 

He stepped into a nearby turbolift, and headed straight for his command

 

centre.

 

"Sit-rep?"

 

"We still have three thousand Klingons advancing along two separate

 

fronts. They've been forced to circumvent the area of the attack. Ground too hot

 

for them, I reckon."

 

"Ground-speeders?"

 

"Coming over in ten seconds."

 

"Excellent."

 

"They will only have time for two passes though, command has ordered them

 

to reinforce other sectors. We will have to deal with whatever is left after

 

that ourselves."

 

"Typical. We will allow the enemy to approach to within six kilometers of

 

our forward posts. Prepare artillery bombardment of that area. All bunkers, re-

 

route power to enhance forward and lateral shields, optimise for photon grenade

 

deflection. Split the mechanised unit into two wings, I'll take an AT-AT, two

 

AT-STs and two Chariots on the left flank. Similar wing on the right flank.

 

Remaining AT-ST's and speeder bikes to attack from the front, with artillery

 

support from the bunkers in the rear.

 

"I want two hundred men with full body-armour in ground support, one

 

hundred men to each wing. Another one hundred men in body-armour to support the

 

AT-STs in the centre."

 

That left two hundred men thinly spread through the bunkers.

 

The body armour issued to army units was more of a body hugging vest, with

 

leggings and sleeves, and not the beetle-like battle-suits issued to

 

stormtrooper units. It was a matter of pride to army units to attempt to

 

'outperform' their heavily armoured counterparts, despite being 'naked'. The

 

armour was quite efficient at deflecting low-powered blaster bolts though, and

 

could only be penetrated by blaster-rifles at close range, or cannon equivalent

 

weapons at medium ranges.

 

Bevel was not obligated to join his men in battle, and was well within his

 

rights to co-ordinate the battle from this centre, but that was not his style.

 

He made his way to the turbolifts, and commandeered the lift to the mechanised

 

barracks, where he jumped onto a passing barge, and hitched a lift to the left

 

flank assembly area. Settling into the command seat of the AT-AT, he grinned to

 

himself, this was more like it.

 

The AT-AT carried a crew of five [thumb-suck], a pilot, a com-scan

 

operator, and three gunners. Two of the gunners were in charge of the lighter

 

laser-cannons used for defensive purposes and as anti-personnel weapons, while

 

the senior gunner controlled the turbolaser turret, which was the main anti-

 

armour weapon of the vehicle. Bevel made himself comfortable in the command seat

 

behind the pilot, and began issuing orders.

 

"Scouts, flanks by zero decimal two. Chariots, skirmish, by zero decimal

 

five. Ground units, lead by zero decimal one five, single skirmish line, spread

 

by zero decimal zero two zero. Five units in the AT-AT, two in each Chariot."

 

The soldiers quickly assumed the formation, five troopers clambering in

 

behind Bevel in the AT-AT, while two extra soldiers clambered into each of the

 

Chariots. The skirmish line advanced towards the low ridge shielding them from

 

the enemy, seven kilometers away, and hidden by the rough scrub terrain.

 

"Ground units, advance at best speed, mechanised units, maintain station."

 

The mechanised units, especially the AT-AT, would come into line-of sight

 

first, due to their elevated position. Through the transparisteel window, Bevel

 

could clearly see the Klingon units in the distance, the view enhanced by the

 

vid-matrix embedded in the screen.

 

In the distance, several specks could be seen flitting backwards and

 

forwards, diving on the enemy, as the ground-speeders (really atmospheric

 

fighters, but powered by repulsor-lifts) conducted their attack runs. The

 

speeders broke off, and sped into the distance, to wherever HQ wanted them re-

 

routed. Immediately, a number of tracks curved down into the Klingon lines, as

 

the sensors tracked the artillery rounds and fed the data to the vid-matrix. In

 

the distance, several explosions marked the position of the advancing Klingons.

 

Bevel glanced at the life-sign readings on the com-scan board, and was

 

surprised at how slowly it was declining, given the intensity of the destruction

 

raining down on the Klingon positions. Well, the Klingons were tough, they had

 

dissected a few in previous invasions, live ones as well as dead. If the Klingon

 

populations could be incorporated into the Empire, they would make fantastic

 

shock-troops.

 

"Open fire, turbo-lasers only. Laser cannons, point defence mode, watch

 

for mortar or howitzer rounds. It doesn't look like the enemy has any air

 

cover."

 

For a few seconds nothing happened, then the cockpit was filled with the

 

familiar rhythmic scream of the turbolaser turrets recycling. Several green

 

bolts of energy slammed into the Klingon lines, concentrating on the areas where

 

life-sign readings were most concentrated.

 

"Activating haze filters." The pilot called, as smoke began to obscure the

 

area ahead.

 

Below and slightly ahead of the slowly advancing AT-AT, Bevel could see

 

his ground troops scampering across the terrain, the Klingons still below the

 

horizon from their perspective. The laser-cannons stuttered away for a few

 

seconds, knocking down photon grenades launched by mortars at the back of the

 

Klingon lines, tracking backwards along the photon grenade's trajectories, they

 

fired several rounds into the launch area.

 

"Some of those rounds are coming from below the horizon, out of our LOS."

 

The pilot called.

 

"We don't have air-cover to take them out, feed the launch zones to the

 

Chariots, have them peel off and take out those launch sites."

 

The AT-AT rocked slightly as a mortar round detonated behind it, the point

 

defence gunners were concentrating on the mortar rounds picked out by the

 

computers as on a direct collision course, with themselves first, or other

 

friendly units second, and ignoring rounds which would miss. The targeting was

 

essentially computer driven, with targets prioritised and colour-coded as the

 

sensors picked them out. The gunners would 'point' at the designated target, and

 

trigger the weapons, but the aiming was mostly computer co-ordinated and

 

corrected on the fly by comparing targeting data to sensor data. At this range,

 

they barely had two or three seconds to track and shoot down the incoming

 

grenades.

 

"The ST's are in LOS, opening fire now," the com-scan operator called.

 

"Have them spread out, to wide skirmishing positions, and advance ahead of

 

the ground units."

 

The ST's accelerated ahead, and angled to wider positions, spreading out

 

the field of fire. The range to the enemy was now five kilometers, and even the

 

foot-soldiers were beginning to fire now. At this range, they couldn't hope to

 

hit anything, but were merely adding to the concentration of destruction hailing

 

down into the Klingon ranks.

 

"Enemy count?"

 

"Five hundred life-sign readings, varying strength, on this front."

 

Varying strength meant most of the Klingons were wounded in some fashion

 

or other. The AT-AT rocked again, much harder this time, as a grenade detonated

 

against it's shields.

 

"Where are those Chariots?"

 

"Eight seconds." The com-scan operator called.

 

A stuttered buzzing began to sound inside the AT-AT.

 

"What the .." Bevel started.

 

"Disruptor fire, hand weapons only, nothing strong enough to take down our

 

shields."

 

"Sounds bad enough."

 

"The weapons are pulsed, puts an added strain on the shield gennies." The

 

pilot explained. "We've had this before during the practise invasions. No big

 

deal."

 

Bevel noticed that the shields were down to seventy percent already. No

 

big deal indeed. On the vid-matrix, several red blobs indicated the regions from

 

which the heaviest fire was coming. The turbo-lasers were concentrating on these

 

areas.

 

"Chariots report mortars are taken down!"

 

"Retask laser-cannons to anti-personnel."

 

"Already done. Sir!"

 

"Bye bye baby." One of the gunners called, as the rapid fire laser cannons

 

ripped into the Klingon lines. The laser cannons could fire close to a dozen

 

rounds per second in this mode, and basically peppered the formations ahead of

 

the advancing Imperial formation.

 

"Ground units," Bevel called into the command channel, "these Klingons are

 

tough, make doubly sure they are dead. Leave nothing to chance."

 

In the distance, about ten kilometers to their right, Bevel could see his

 

other flank advancing in similar fashion, the AT-AT towering over the terrain

 

and the only unit visible to the naked eye at this range.

 

"The enemy is retreating!"

 

"Scouts and Chariots, pursue the enemy, do not exceed the shield barrier,

 

repeat, do not exceed the shield barrier. AT-ATs, return to base, ground units,

 

mop up this battle-field, no prisoners are required."

 

Bevel sat back. Below the AT-AT, his troops were deliberately shooting

 

into all Klingon bodies. In the distance, the Chariots and AT-STs were still

 

firing, harassing the enemy's retreat.

 

"Casualties?"

 

"On this flank, both Chariots lightly damaged, thirty dead troopers. On

 

the other flank, one Chariot damaged, one AT-ST destroyed, and thirty seven dead

 

troopers. That is thirty percent losses, overall unit losses are fifteen point

 

four percent for the day so far."

 

"Designate a Chariot to pick me up. Return to base at best speed. Have the

 

troops return in fifteen minutes, and send the droids out to clean up and re-

 

deploy some mines, trip-wires, and additional sensors."

 

 

 

On getting back to the base, Bevel heard that his units had performed

 

above average, but not exceptional. A stormtrooper unit four hundred kilometers

 

further north, in another defensive choke point, had repelled a five thousand

 

strong force with only eight percent losses. But then, stormtroopers were much

 

better equipped than army units. Closer to home though, an army unit was about

 

to be overrun, and their bunker complex had been penetrated. Bevel was ordered

 

to take a detachment and rush to their support.

 

The three hundred troops that had counter-attacked the Klingon formations

 

were still in the field, and the remaining two hundred of his men were spread

 

thinly through the bunker complex.

 

"Get one hundred units together. We'll load up three to a speeder bike,

 

and cram the rest into the Chariots. Issue flechette rifles and flame-throwers,

 

the fighting will be close in and dirty. Whoever can't fit in, can follow on the

 

barges."

 

About seventy soldiers were crammed onto the fast vehicles, and sped off

 

to the next bunker complex, two hundred kilometers away. It took them thirty

 

minutes to traverse the distance, and the situation was approaching critical by

 

the time they arrived at the rear of the complex, where they were met by a

 

junior officer.

 

"The complex consists of thirty two bunkers, we have lost fourteen of them

 

to the Klingons. We are down to two hundred men, and we suspect the Klingon

 

force is down to six hundred. We decimated them on the approach, but hand to

 

hand, they are formidable."

 

"Gas?"

 

"We used it on their initial wave, but they only suffered thirty percent

 

losses and kept coming."

 

"Damn. Alright men. This is gonna be up close and personal. Work together,

 

three to a team, and make them pay for every inch. We can only play for time,

 

until reinforcements get here. Send a Chariot back for more gas."

 

Bevel turned back to the officer, "Turbolifts?"

 

"Shut down. The enemy is advancing through the utility shafts."

 

The officer led Bevel and his officers to a command centre in this bunker,

 

where he called up a display, showing the layout of the complex. The bunkers

 

making up the complex were connected firstly by turbolifts, but in the abscence

 

of these, by a network of utility shafts. The shafts were not straight, but

 

often ended in crossways, T-junctions, or were segmented by blast doors and

 

buffer zones, so that detonations in any one bunker could be contained without

 

damaging related bunkers. The shafts were also set at angles to one another, so

 

that there were no straight-line joins between successive sections. Several of

 

these bunkers and shaft segments were outlined in red.

 

"We have set up barricades at these points, to choke off the enemy's

 

advance, but their disruptors are very efficient at degrading barricade

 

materials, and we've had to fall back time after time."

 

"Okay, have your men hold out as long as possible, and fall back section

 

by section to these points here. My men will set up further barricades there.

 

Then you can fall back behind us, and set up another line of barricades here."

 

Bevel split his men up into a number of squads, and moved out. He took one

 

squad himself, and led them down into the utility shafts. In the distance, the

 

crack of blaster fire and the zing of disruptor fire could be heard. Bevel

 

spotted a construction and maintenance droid loitering in a corner nearby.

 

"You. Come with me."

 

"But. Sir. I am not .."

 

"Quiet!"

 

Bevel led the droid to a point just short of the blast door. Peering

 

around the corner along the crosscut, he saw a number of soldiers were taking

 

cover in the transverse passageway, and exchanging fire with Klingon forces

 

hidden by distance and darkness, along another shaft.. Bevel directed the droid

 

to drill several holes at intervals along the ferrocrete walls, in which he

 

placed fragmentation grenades. The droid was then directed to spray a thin layer

 

of ferrocrete to conceal the grenades.

 

He worked his way back up the shaft, to another crosscut where his men

 

were preparing another barricade. They had a second droid building up low

 

ferrocrete walls behind which they could duck, with narrow slits to fire

 

through. He nodded approval. A third droid was building a raised platform, with

 

a thick forward shield, and an E-web crew were setting up behind it. He directed

 

one of his men to continue lacing the tunnels with fragmentation grenades,

 

concealed by thin layers of ferrocrete.

 

In the distance, the firing was getting spasmodic. That barricade wouldn't

 

hold much longer. Two more soldiers came rushing up from behind. They were from

 

his command, which meant his second detachment had arrived. And they had a

 

flame-thrower with them. Excellent.

 

They settled down to wait. A flurry of shots ahead told them that the

 

Klingons were charging the barricade ahead of them, and seconds later, a group

 

of soldiers came running out of the darkness towards them. Bevel waited for them

 

to jump the leading ferrocrete barricades then threw the switch dumping the

 

entire section into ink-black darkness. Klingons had good night-sight, but this

 

wasn't dark, it was the ink-black you only got deep underground.

 

"Thermal sights, everybody. Alternate fire with blasters and flechette

 

launchers. You men, fall back to the next cross-cut and begin setting up there,

 

take these droids with you."

 

The soldiers ducked around the corner, and entered the shaft leading

 

further back into the complex, and raced away to set up another blockage point.

 

Bevel ducked behind one of the revetments.

 

"Don't open fire until the enemy has entered the passageway. You with the

 

flame-thrower, save that for when they charge this position."

 

He looked through the narrow slit in front of him, the shaft outlined in

 

the light green by the thermal imagers he had pulled down. In the distance, a

 

few vague blobs of red could be seen, as the Klingons grouped in the crosscut

 

there. He waited for more of them to arrive, then triggered the remote detonator

 

for the first set of fragmentation grenades. The view through the imager whited

 

out for a second, and the underground passageways was rocked by the thunder of

 

the explosions. The explosions were rather mild, not designed to bring the roof

 

down, but powerful enough to have killed at short range.

 

A few seconds later, the Klingons responded with a hail of disruptor fire.

 

Bevel adjusted the magnification on his sights and zoomed in on the group of

 

Klingons ahead of them. He was momentarily blinded by a flurry of blaster fire,

 

as his men returned fire, and shut his eyes, allowing them to adjust. He turned

 

down the brightness of the imager. He opened his eyes just in time to see a

 

Klingon shape with a long tube over one shoulder assume a familiar kneeling

 

position.

 

"Duck!" He shouted, firing a brace of flechette rounds down the

 

passageway. The flechettes ricocheted down the passage, shredding everything in

 

their path, including the Klingon with the rocket launcher, but not before he

 

had fired.

 

Bevel flattened himself on the ground. The ground smashed into his face,

 

and his world turned to thunder and heat, as the rocket round detonated nearby.

 

Shaking his head to clear it, he glanced down the passage. A group of Klingons

 

were charging up towards them, firing as they came. Glancing around him as he

 

fired wildly back, he noticed that half of his men were still down, either

 

stunned or wounded.

 

"Flame-thrower." He screamed.

 

A white-hot line of plasma jetted down the passage, igniting into a wall

 

of flame thirty odd meters away, and tore down the passage. Three soldiers

 

jumped out of cover nearby, and with their flechette rifles set to full

 

automatic, unloaded down the passage.

 

Adrenalin pumping, Bevel grabbed a fresh flechette clip, slammed it home,

 

and leapt over the hastily assembled ferrocrete defences. He charged down the

 

passage-way, emptying the clip. He slammed another clip home, and sprinted along

 

after the fast dissipating wall of flame. His fatigues scorched by the heat, he

 

threw himself against the wall at the far crosscut, twisted the fuse on a

 

thermal grenade, and tossed it around the corner into the crosscut. The wall

 

slammed into his back, knocking him to the ground, as the concussion from the

 

grenade's detonation slammed through it.

 

Two of his soldiers, who had come charging up behind him, jumped over his

 

sprawled figure and ducked through the entrance into the crosscut, spraying the

 

area with their flechette rifles. Emptying his magazine, the first solder threw

 

himself to the ground, allowing the second soldier to jump over him and into the

 

crosscut. Bevel joined them, and together they raced along the cut, stumbling

 

over Klingon bodies, and slipping in still warm and bubbling lavender fluid

 

seeping out of the bodies. They made it to the entrance leading to the next

 

hatchway, and Bevel made ready to chuck another grenade into the passage to

 

clear it of any likely enemies.

 

One of his men got ahead of him though, and stuck his head around the

 

corner to see if anyone was there. Big mistake. A huge bladed weapon thunked

 

into his helmet, splitting his skull in two. Bevel wrapped his arm around the

 

doomed soldiers neck, and tossed the grenade past him, holding the body up as a

 

shield as a second stroke of the weapon sliced into the midriff of the body he

 

held. A flash of orange in the passage bodily threw two Klingons into the

 

crosscut, where the soldier behind Bevel casually fired several flechette rounds

 

into them. Bevel stepped across the entranceway, still holding the body as a

 

shield, and with the flechette rifle in one hand, fired several rounds down the

 

passageway. Several Klingons could be seen hugging the walls, trapped in the

 

passageway, and blinded by the grenade's detonation. They were shredded by the

 

flechette rounds ricocheting down the passage.

 

Dropping the body, Bevel calmly slapped another clip home, and with his

 

fellow soldier alongside him, they advanced up the passage, spraying the blinded

 

Klingons with the flechette darts.

 

"Drop!" Somebody behind them shouted.

 

They complied, dropping to the floor, as a white-hot jet of plasma

 

whooshed past over their heads. The flame-thrower squad fired several bursts

 

ahead of them, until the walls of the passage glowed red, with lavender steam

 

jetting out of the charred Klingon bodies on the floor.

 

"Fall back." Bevel ordered, "that should slow them down for a while."

 

 

 

 

 

The battle gradually turned towards the Imperial's favour as more and more

 

troops arrived, with additional equipment, and the bunkers were cleared of

 

Klingon infestation. Bevel was also developing a picture of the battle for the

 

planet as reports came in from other parts of the planet. The Klingon had

 

attempted to capture the major cities defended by the Imperial army regiments,

 

which had been hard pressed because of a lack of reinforcements due to

 

population uprisings. Once these had been suppressed though, additional units

 

had been rushed to the forward lines, and even though the Klingons broke through

 

in a few places, these were quickly contained.

 

The battle for the planet lasted eleven hours in all, before the three

 

battle-cruisers in orbit transported the few survivors off the planet, and

 

warped out of the system. Behind them, each of the ten regiments defending the

 

planet had taken significant losses. The stormtrooper regiments naturally had

 

come off the best, due to having the best equipment in the form of armour and

 

firepower, and only suffered between ten and fifteen percent losses. The army

 

units however, had all suffered in excess of forty percent losses. That equated

 

to nearly seven thousand dead on the Imperial side, and estimates for Klingon

 

dead were in excess of twenty thousand.

 

Amongst the civilian population, there were close to sixty thousand dead.

 

The streets of the cities were littered with Klingon bodies. There weren't

 

enough droids for the work, with all the repairs necessary on the defensive

 

installations, and several surviving Klingon civilians were co-opted to cleaning

 

up the bodies, and clearing the streets.

 

The Vanquisher returned early, to investigate the lack of communications

 

from the planet, but too late to lend any support, except to assist in scanning

 

the surface of the planet for isolated groups of Klingons still wandering

 

around. These were bombarded from orbit, and droids despatched to confirm the

 

kills, and collect the equipment. All in all, the Imperials considered

 

themselves lucky. Thirty thousand Klingons had been nearly enough to take the

 

planet, if there had been an extra battle-cruiser in the system, with another

 

10,000 men, things might have gone much differently. In the meanwhile, a number

 

of contingency plans were drawn up so that the civilian population could be more

 

easily contained in future engagements.

 

Jerjerrod added sleeping gases to his list of prioritised substances. In

 

future, they would ensure that all planets with fractious populations had an

 

adequate supply of the gas readily at hand. The battle data was also distributed

 

amongst other planets, so that appropriate modifications to weapons and tactics

 

could be made, to enhance planetary defences. Piett quickly quieted down the

 

bickering between fleet and army units, over who was responsible for having

 

allowed the three Klingon ships to slip through. It was eventually decided that

 

they must have been in the system to start with, and had just waited for an

 

opportunity to attack when their were no ships nearby. In any case, patrolling

 

and scouting operations were stepped up, so that such surprises might be

 

prevented in future.

 

Xris knew this was another mark against his battle-record. He should have

 

ensured that the system was properly sterilised in the first place. He had an

 

uncomfortable feeling that it was not his skill that kept him in Piett's favour,

 

but the fact that he would make a superb scapegoat should the Empire re-

 

establish contact with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xris considered his two major problems. Earth, a stronghold with hundreds

 

of ships in defence, including the large starships with the graviton beam

 

deflectors, and dozens of fleets of Federation vessels flitting between various

 

worlds, and untouchable in deep-space. They were travelling in groups, and

 

forming defensive groups over planet after planet, rendering his ambush attacks

 

useless. These defensive groups were being re-supplied by convoys operating

 

between Earth and various other heavily defended planets.

 

Now that the Federation forces were mostly distributed throughout their

 

space, defending strategic worlds, but not yet in a position to launch a serious

 

counterattack, the war was in a stalemate. If things stayed this way, the

 

Federation was bound to win. In a war of attrition, the Imperials would be

 

unable to replace lost resources. His major fear was that the Federation and

 

their allies would assemble a major fleet, and start invading planets. He would

 

not dare take on such a fleet head to head, and he had no doubt that with sheer

 

numbers, his ground forces could not hope to hold back the invaders.

 

Only a few planets were comprehensively shielded to the point of

 

preventing any landing whatsoever. Most of his planets were only partially

 

shielded, preventing direct bombardment, but unable to prevent large-scale

 

landings. The heavily shielded planets only had minimum garrisons, and the

 

ground forces were distributed to planets likely to be invaded, with an average

 

of ten to fifteen regiments per planet. He had also authorised the use of

 

tactical nuclear weapons. In a few months, they would be able to start

 

supplementing the troops with war droids. The droid designs available to them

 

were not that intelligent, but considering the enemy's lack of mechanised

 

armour, would be quite useful.

 

In the meanwhile he needed to slow down the enemy build-up, which meant

 

finding a way to intercept and destroy supply convoys in deep-space. With only

 

four interdictors at his disposal, a large enclosure formation was not

 

practical, he needed to find a way to knock out their warp drives and keep them

 

off. As a result, he had designated his interdictor captains and engineers to a

 

research project using captured Ferengi and Cardassian ships, and analysing the

 

mechanisms by which their stardrives operated. He did not expect results for

 

several weeks yet.

 

The raids he had been running on enemy shipping had toned down as

 

defensive fleets were put in place. The few ships he had destroyed probably

 

wouldn't make difference to the Federation war effort, except for forcing them

 

to commit greater resources to planetary defence and starship re-supply

 

operations. He had temporarily halted the bombing raids, fearful of enemy traps.

 

He had no wish to lose any more ships. The Aggressor had completed repair

 

operations on two more Victory-class destroyers though, and the remaining six

 

ships would be available within the week.

 

Xris contemplated the change in tactics he was about to embark on. It

 

would require absolute surprise, and extreme focussing of force. He intended

 

hitting the enemy where they least expected it. It was a dangerous ploy, but if

 

he played his cards correctly, he could get away clean.

 

 

 

Picard had stayed on his bridge today. The Admirals and senior captains

 

were holding yet another strategic conference. He had declined the invitation.

 

Meetings wouldn't win this war, only decisive action would. He glanced at the

 

view-screen. 'What a mess!' he thought. There were close onto three hundred

 

ships spread through the Solar System, with a continuous stream of ships

 

arriving and leaving, as supply convoys were despatched to nearby colonies, or

 

other convoys arrived with fresh supplies. The Defiant too was on convoy escort

 

duty somewhere out there.

 

Several groups of ships were assigned to patrolling duties throughout the

 

Solar System. Picard had suggested that a hundred ship fleet be despatched to

 

attack one of the Imperial worlds, possibly co-ordinating the attack with

 

Romulan and Klingon fleets. It had been demonstrated that ships could travel

 

quite safely at warp, it was when you arrived at your destination that you were

 

vulnerable. So far, the admirals were reluctant to commit any ships to offensive

 

engagements, especially considering the recent inclination amongst the Imperials

 

to make greater use of that eight kilometer battleship, which Antilles had

 

referred to as the Grinder, a Giel-class battleship, whatever that was.

 

Such a ship would be hard to destroy, and it had demonstrated impressive

 

firepower against Borg cubes at the battle of Bajor, which had been analysed to

 

death by the pencil-pushers at starfleet headquarters, and was still being

 

analysed.

 

Picard sighed. Perhaps the Admirals were wise in their caution. Still, he

 

couldn't help feel that they should do something, anything. And then there was

 

Antilles warning, of a coming war with the Borg, hanging over everything like

 

the sword of Damocles. He shoved the thought out of his mind. Best not to think

 

about the Borg.

 

"Number one, I will be in my quarters. Call me if anything crops up. A

 

convoy to escort, or an Admiral's daughter to rescue." He commented

 

sarcastically.

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Picard left the bridge, and took the turbolift to his quarters. And so it

 

was, that just as Picard was about to enter his quarters, that Xris made his

 

move. He was about to open the door and enter his quarters when the battle alarm

 

sounded, and his comm-badge started beeping. He was already running back to the

 

turbolift as he slapped the badge and shouted, "I'm on my way!"

 

By the time he stepped of the turbolift eight seconds later, it was too

 

late.

 

"What happened?"

 

"Imperial raid. Twenty ships, including the Grinder. They only hit one

 

target, then jumped out." Riker said drily.

 

"The target?" Picard asked, apprehensively.

 

Riker flicked his eyes to the view-screen, which was centred on an

 

incandescent framework structure, which was unrecognisable to Picard for the

 

moment. Dozens of ship designs flashed through his mind as he tried to match the

 

glowing debris to a ship, and reconcile the magnification setting to the size of

 

the debris. Recognition came.

 

"The shipyards." He stated, flatly.

 

"Twenty ships," Riker said, "jumped directly into point-blank firing

 

position, they fired two broadsides and dozens of nuclear missiles into the

 

shipyards before anybody could respond. By the time the patrols got there, they

 

had jumped. We didn't get a shot off. The whole attack lasted barely five

 

seconds. Not even enough time to order the necessary course changes."

 

"How many ships were in the yards?"

 

"Seven ships were being repaired, and there were at least twelve

 

incomplete hulls of various types."

 

"This is the beginning of a new round of attacks. Send out warnings to all

 

major installations in communications range, not that there is much you can do

 

about a twenty ship broadside." Picard didn't add that the twenty ships under

 

consideration each carried at least as much firepower as the largest in the

 

Federation arsenal. It wasn't necessary.

 

"There isn't a single sub-space booster in hundreds of light years. The

 

message will take hours to get through."

 

"Send it anyway."

 

Picard wondered how many shipyards would be lost in the next few hours.

 

The Imperial ships had demonstrated on multiple occasions that they could flit

 

from system to system faster than any sub-space message.

 

 

 

 

 

On Khitomer, a Klingon commander was receiving a major dressing down.

 

"You attempted to invade a planet with a heavily entrenched and highly

 

mechanised force with only thirty thousand men. Are you insane? You might as

 

well have just beamed those soldiers into vacuum!"

 

"The attack was a valid one. The enemy only had twenty thousand men on the

 

planet, and most of them were occupied by a civilian uprising. As such, I had a

 

three to one ratio of forces against their frontline. We nearly broke through as

 

well, and despite being repelled, inflicted heavy losses on the enemy."

 

"No doubt they inflicted heavy losses on our citizens. Can't you think!

 

How many of our citizens do you think died in the streets of those cities? Died

 

in vain. Because that planet is still in enemy hands!"

 

"It is better to die a warrior, than live as a slave! They died

 

honourably!"

 

"Get out of my sight!"

 

The Klingon officer marched stiffly out of the conference room. The

 

General that had chastised him turned to his fellow generals.

 

"Do you think that he has hit the right strategy?" He asked, much softer

 

this time.

 

"Certainly the enemy has limited resources. We have legions of warriors

 

who would be only too glad to have a chance to fight back."

 

"Are you suggesting that we put together another attack force?"

 

"Yes. At least a hundred thousand soldiers. We won't be able to sneak in

 

this time. They will see us coming, and be ready for us. However, our

 

information is that they cannot possibly get together more than thirty thousand

 

troops onto any single planet without sacrificing other planets."

 

"Their fleet will be waiting for us."

 

"Our fleet is only too eager to strike back at them. The Federation lost

 

many ships in destroying the Gate, and we could only support them with a token

 

force. They won much glory and much honour in that battle. Now it is our turn."

 

"Agreed. But there are millions of people on each of those planets. We

 

would need to assign several ships, a dozen or more, to hold those planets, let

 

alone protect the populations from bombardment. We cannot hope to evacuate

 

millions of people. We'd need hundred of ships, possibly thousands."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Commander Worf?"

 

"Yes, lieutenant Boyd?"

 

"There is a message for you. It is marked personal, and encrypted. I would

 

not have bothered you, but I thought it might be urgent."

 

"Forward it to my personal folder." Worf rolled out of bed. He was halfway

 

to the bathroom when the padd on his desk beeped. Ignoring the message for now,

 

Worf refreshed himself first. He knew he would not go back to sleep, and might

 

as well deal with this message now.

 

Returning to the desk, he touched the 'read message' control on the padd.

 

On the screen, a phrase in an ancient Klingon dialect appeared. He typed the

 

come-back to the phrase in the same language. On the screen, his brother's face

 

appeared.

 

Worf listened keenly to his brother's message. The datestamp revealed that

 

it had been transmitted several days ago, but due to the breakdown in inter-

 

stellar communications, had taken several days to reach him. The news was

 

interesting. Interesting indeed.

 

He recorded a message to Picard, and hit the transmit button. The message

 

would be appended to their next progress report to starfleet, and transmitted

 

within the hour. In the meanwhile, Worf began his regular morning exercises, a

 

combination of physical exercises he had done since he was old enough to

 

remember, and meditative techniques taught to him by Jedi Antilles. These would

 

keep him busy until the transmissions had gone through. No need to go to the

 

bridge before then, and he did not want to change the time of the scheduled

 

transmission. That would just attract attention.

 

The hour passed by soon enough, and Worf made his way to the bridge, and

 

relieved Lieutenant Boyd.

 

"Send a message to the Valiant. Inform them that we have received orders

 

to undertake a surveillance mission, and will henceforth maintain radio silence.

 

They are to take charge of escorting this convoy."

 

"Have we received such orders sir?" Boyd asked.

 

Worf frowned at Boyd. "Are you questioning my decision, Lieutenant?"

 

"Sir! No. Sir!"

 

Worf waited just long enough for the sensor operator to transmit the

 

signal to the Valiant. Before a response could be received. He started issuing

 

new orders.

 

"Maintain radio silence. Activate cloaking mechanism. Increase speed to

 

warp factor seven, and lay in a course to K'trak. Set the course so that we pass

 

close to as many stars as possible, without going more than three light years

 

out of our way. Do not at any stage head directly towards K'trak, in case we are

 

picked up by an imperial sensor device."

 

"Isn't that one of the Klingon worlds captured by the Imperials?" Boyd

 

asked.

 

Worf threw him a black look. The Lieutenant gulped, and turned back to his

 

station, hastily finding something to do.

 

The Imperials had shown that their sensors were good enough to track

 

cloaked ships, at short ranges anyway. Passing by close to stars would help

 

reduce the possibility that they could be tracked, as any sensor device pointed

 

at a star would lose them in the clutter from the star itself. The only risk of

 

detection would be if a sensitive graviton detection device were in close

 

proximity to any of the stars.

 

"Make sure that none of the stars we use have inhabited systems. Avoid all

 

stars of spectral types F or G."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Worf called up a navigational algorithm on the command console, and

 

started making calculations. Time to K'trak, time for the message to reach

 

Picard, speed of the Enterprise, Enterprise's range to K'trak, speed of the

 

Klingon invasion fleet, range to K'trak for the Klingon fleet. The calculations

 

kept him busy, and silence settled onto the bridge. He fed in more variables,

 

likelihood of Picard persuading other ships to join, speeds of those ships,

 

possible routes for them to avoid detection by the enemy. He had no doubt that

 

Picard would come, he just hoped Picard was able to slip through the Imperial's

 

sensor net. The Klingon fleet, like his own ship, was cloaked, and stood a fair

 

chance of making it through undetected.

 

Even if he could only support the Klingons with a token force, it would be

 

better than nothing, and he had a feeling that his presence would be needed. Any

 

ships the Federation sent would also come in handy. For a second, Antilles

 

warning about Picard came to mind, but he shoved the thought aside. Picard was a

 

warrior and a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Dekker was satisfied. Very satisfied. He had just completed a tour

 

of the upgraded defences. His ten regiments had been brought back up to strength

 

by disbanding two green regiments, and incorporating their troops into his

 

veteran units. A further two regiments of troops had been assigned to this

 

planet, as well as to other Klingon worlds. Virtually the entire ground forces

 

available to the invasion forces had now been distributed through the twenty two

 

worlds now held by the Empire. Apparently, each ship in the fleet had been

 

reduced to a single fleet regiment, and was now solely responsible for on-board

 

duties.

 

The twelve regiments were almost entirely committed to repelling invaders,

 

with only odd units left inside the cities for crowd control. Mild

 

tranquillising agents had been introduced into all water supplies on the planet,

 

and canisters of sleeping gas and stronger tranquillising agents were secretly

 

distributed throughout the cities, should the populace attempt another uprising.

 

This was unlikely though, since they had been properly cowed by the crushing of

 

the last uprising. Military executions of the leaders of the uprising had

 

continued for weeks afterwards, as surveillance data was analysed and the

 

leaders were identified.

 

Apparently, there weren't enough shield generators to go around, and other

 

worlds with more valuable resources had gotten priority. This meant that shield

 

coverage was not total, and there were many gaps in the shields which invasion

 

forces could exploit. A pity that the shields could not be configured into a

 

spherical shape, so that only the cities could be defended, but the shields were

 

totally anti-kinetic, which meant they would play hell with weather patterns if

 

configured that way. And of course, they had not been designed for such use in

 

any case, since that would not prevent the planet from being slagged.

 

He felt a moment of apprehension, but shrugged it off. The enemy would

 

want to take this world back, not destroy it. They would hardly attempt a

 

slagging with millions of their citizens on the planet.

 

The level of mechanisation of his forces had also been increased, and he

 

was also expecting shipments of battle-droids in the next few weeks as

 

production efforts were intensified. Anybody who attempted an invasion of his

 

planet now would get their butts kicked! Hard!

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow star was of spectral class F, luminosity fractionally below 2.

 

It radiated immense energies into space. Only a tiny fraction of those immense

 

energies were directed at the planets enslaved by it's gravity well. The vast

 

majority of the energies were radiated into empty space. Over the next hundred

 

years, some of those energies would manifest themselves as a tiny twinkle in the

 

night-sky of the handful of inhabited worlds close enough for their inhabitants

 

to see. The rest of the energy would continue on their millenia long journey

 

through the deep vacuum of space, eventually reaching worlds which were so far

 

away that their difference in velocity would stretch the perceived wavelength

 

into infra-red and microwave frequencies, perhaps even radio frequencies.

 

A very tiny fraction of the energy radiated would strike a blue-brown

 

planet more than two hundred million kilometers away. This energy would serve to

 

keep the temperature of the planet only slightly above the level where water

 

would freeze. The planet had large polar ice-caps, with only a narrow temperate

 

equatorial band. A human observer in orbit over this planet would not be able to

 

detect any signs of life from this altitude, but if they watched the stars

 

nearby, they would notice one star was moving relative to it's neighbours.

 

Eventually they might realise that this star was in fact an object in orbit over

 

the planet, which accounted for it's apparent movement.

 

Moving closer to this tiny star, one would eventually be able to determine

 

that it was vaguely wedge-shaped. The slow rate at which the apparent size of

 

the object increased would reveal that it was still an immense distance away. As

 

the observer came closer, it would notice that this wedge shape was not alone.

 

It was accompanied by a myriad of tiny stars, dancing in artificial patterns

 

around it. These stars eventually resolved into even tinier wedge shapes,

 

themselves surrounded by various other stars. Now these shapes were recognisable

 

as a fleet of ships, spread over tens of thousands of kilometers, with hundreds

 

of tiny machines flitting backwards and forwards amongst them.

 

A knowledgeable observer would recognise the fleet, and attach names to

 

the starships. The Aggressor, the Grinder, Ripper, Stomper, Smasher, Render,

 

Devastator, Ravagar, Relentless, Vanquisher, Oppressor, and many other ships.

 

There were close to thirty warships in orbit over this world, accompanied by

 

several supply ships and empty troop transports. These supply ships and empty

 

transports were being modified for new purposes. The ferrying of crucial

 

supplies to worlds too remote for warp-driven ships to service at reasonable

 

speeds.

 

On the planet below, a properly equipped observer would detect millions of

 

beings, humans, radiating waves of fear, loathing and depression. Some amongst

 

them radiated arrogance, intolerance and fury. All were working hard, mining the

 

minerals found deep inside the crust of this world, even from the upper layers

 

of the mantle. These minerals were being purified, processed, refined, smelted,

 

recast into alloys using methods nature itself could not duplicate. The

 

resultant materials were used to manufacture yet more machines, machines with a

 

myriad of purposes, purposes ranging from mining, construction, maintenance,

 

medical, and of course the purveying of death and destruction.

 

On the ship named the Aggressor, was a chamber so immense as to dwarf the

 

three men who stood at one end of it. The chamber appeared to open onto space

 

itself, but that was an illusion. The two men gazed onto the false stars many

 

of them too far too be seen with the naked eye, but visible due to the

 

technology embedded into the device which created the illusion.

 

"Our resources are stretched as far as we can safely allow."

 

"Yes. Now we must hold onto those worlds. The enemy has been slowed down

 

and harassed at every turn, but will come for us soon, like a wounded Ragnor."

 

"Tibanna manufacturing?"

 

"I have completed two small processing centres. We are ready to deploy

 

them. The one will be deployed to the Badlands nebula, the other to a nebula

 

seven thousand light years away. The scout team deployed to this nebula returned

 

yesterday. They have mapped a lane to the nebula, and determined that there are

 

no threatening civilisation within three thousand light years. It is not as rich

 

as the Badlands, but will serve as a backup should the enemy hit the Badlands

 

facility."

 

"Good. The Badlands are within the ability of our enemy to reach, even

 

though their ships are not designed to withstand the energies raging at it's

 

heart. The supply ships have had their shields modified, and with proper

 

servicing, can ferry the Tibanna from the facility to our warships. Along with

 

whatever else we can extract."

 

"We are also close to completing a third hyper-matter production facility.

 

The first two have been deployed over a black hole twenty thousand light years

 

away, which will provide sufficient energy for fuel manufacture for the next

 

millenium. The third facility will be deployed over a neutron star eight

 

thousand light-years away. Together, the three facilities will easily see to our

 

needs. In fact, the first supply ship is due to arrive in a few hours."

 

"Excellent," Xris answered, "some of my scouts are down to forty percent

 

fuel. The warships are still at better than sixty percent. We can refuel the

 

scouts, and intensify patrolling operations."

 

"How did the last round of raids proceed?"

 

"Brilliantly. We destroyed three major shipyard facilities in Federation

 

space, and one huge facility in Klingon space. The Romulans had no large

 

shipyards, but instead, several small shipyards distributed through dozens of

 

worlds. I destroyed quite a few, but the decentralisation of their industry

 

reduces the effects of the damage. Possibly the Federation have one or two more

 

shipyards in worlds we have not located yet, but the Klingons have been hurt

 

badly. They had one immense shipbuilding facility, which appeared to be the hub

 

of their entire starship construction capabilities.

 

"For a warrior race, their tendency to centralise their facilities is

 

rather strange."

 

"It would not have been a problem if all they had to contend with was pre-

 

hyperspace cultures, since few civilisations would have been able to penetrate

 

so deeply into their space. With hyperspace, the rules of combat are changed."

 

"On to matters of defence. The enemy will undoubtedly attempt a raid on

 

one of our worlds soon. How do we counter this?"

 

"We can't." Xris said bluntly. "We might be able to hold back an invasion

 

force on the ground, but we cannot afford to engage their fleet directly."

 

"What if they just blockade our worlds?"

 

"We can make them pay. Lightning raids, destroy one or two ships at a

 

time. It will be costly for them."

 

"The loss in production will be costly for us too."

 

"We can also embark on lightning raids on their home worlds, force them to

 

distribute their fleet over a wider area, draw ships out of their raiding fleet.

 

At the worst, a direct confrontation. We might lose one or two ships, but could

 

cripple their fleet, forcing a withdrawal. I also have a few other ideas. We

 

have not, for example, been able to make use of our cloaking devices yet. They

 

could prove to be invaluable in a defensive situation."

 

"Cloaks!" Piett sneered. "What good is a cloaking device, except to blind

 

you in battle."

 

"We can commit the captured Ferengi and Cardassian ships." Jerjerrod

 

offered.

 

"It would be a waste. They do not have the firepower to go head to head

 

with Federation or Klingon ships, and we have only captured a handful. If we had

 

captured more, then maybe."

 

"Better to lose these useless ships than to lose a Destroyer!"

 

"Perhaps we can use them in a surprise attack, if we can trust their

 

crews. Placed in a battle situation, I wouldn't put it past them to defect, and

 

we don't have the manpower to risk losing people by crewing the ships

 

ourselves."

 

 

 

 

 

While the three men discussed contingencies, more than a hundred light

 

years away, the cloaked Klingon fleet ripped through the fabric of space, riding

 

the crest of a sub-space distortion wave driven by the mass-energy conversion of

 

several kilograms of antimatter per second. In a day or two they would slow

 

down, so as to better mask their sub-space drive signature, as they approached

 

the world of K'trak. Slightly further away, another cloaked ship, the Defiant,

 

converged on the same world.

 

Alive to the possibility of cloaked ships raiding their worlds, the

 

Imperials had intensified their deep-space patrols, and all sensor stations in

 

Imperial space were hooked together in a sub-space network along with

 

patrolling droids, missile boats, and Victories. So it was not by accident that

 

the Klingon invasion fleet was detected, barely half a day short of K'trak. For

 

any other fleet, this would have been insufficient warning, and the cloaks would

 

have served their purpose, but to a hyperspace capable fleet, the warning

 

provided for sufficient lead time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Klingon fleet discarded all attempt at concealment as they approached

 

the outer limits of the K'trak system, the raised planetary shields on the

 

second planet told them that the attack was not unexpected. Surprisingly, the

 

Imperial fleet, or most of it, was waiting for them in the system. Arrayed

 

around the second planet in a defensive formation were a dozen and a half ships,

 

including the battle-cruiser Grinder, and two light-cruisers, most likely the

 

Ripper and the Render. They were supported by several Imperator and Victory

 

class ships. The remainder of the Imperial fleet was most likely busy on other

 

duties.

 

"Prepare to engage the enemy, activate graviton beams."

 

Two or three of the ships in the fleet had been modified to allow for the

 

broadcasting of intense graviton beams, according to information supplied

 

several weeks ago by Federation liaisons. The Klingon crews began singing their

 

death chants. Their fleet outnumbered the Imperials considerably, by at least

 

four to one, but they had nothing to compare to the firepower of the eight

 

kilometer battle-cruiser at the heart of the defensive fleet.

 

As they approached to within a light-minute, some of the leading vessels

 

began launching photon torpedoes at high-warp. Immediately, a wave of sub-space

 

static and distortion fields slammed through the fleet, forcing them to reduce

 

speed drastically. The torpedoes, unable to overpower the distortions on their

 

weak sustainer fields, dropped to impulse, and were dispatched with ease as they

 

approached laser-cannon ranges.

 

The main fleet slowed down considerably as well, as their warp cores

 

started fluctuating under the strain.

 

"Unable to target the enemy with sub-space sensors, too much static."

 

"Maintain warp for as long as possible. Hold your fire."

 

Minutes later, the range between the two fleets now down to only a handful

 

of light-seconds, the sub-space static and distortions were supplemented by a

 

surge in the graviton wave amplitude.

 

"Reducing speed to warp two. Sub-space static intensifying as we approach.

 

Targeting is impossible."

 

"We will reduce to below warp one, switch to electromagnetic targeting

 

only."

 

"Sir, the warp core cannot take this strain much longer, the power demands

 

are skyrocketing as the sub-space distortions intensify."

 

"Very well, disengage warp. Engage the enemy on Impulse power, switch all

 

targeting to electromagnetic or manual. We will close to eyeball range. With all

 

this interference, we will see the enemy before our scopes can lock onto them.

 

All ships, full evasive pattern flying, concentrate on the smaller ships first,

 

avoid the larger ships until we have reduced their numbers."

 

 

 

The Klingon fleet formation broke up as the ships peeled away and started

 

launching torpedoes. At this range, now approaching one light-second, the

 

torpedoes were covering the distance in half a second, but were being fired

 

blind.

 

"Full military power to ion thrusters, random evasive maneuvres, weapons

 

free. All ships to stay on station, except for minimal evasive maneuvres. We

 

will remain in proximity to the planet. Make sure we don't collide with any of

 

our cloaked ships."

 

On Xris's display, the battle unfolded, as the fast Klingon ships darted

 

in and through his formation, often firing blind, forced to use unfamiliar

 

manual targeting systems. His own gunners, their displays unaffected due to the

 

Klingons not using any counter jamming, were deadly accurate, only having to

 

contend with the manoeuvrability of the enemy, but otherwise having clean scopes

 

with targets at point-blank ranges.

 

For several minutes, the battle seemed to be a stalemate, as the two

 

fleets flailed away at each other's shields. The Imperial shields were stronger,

 

but the slower ships were taking more hits than the fast Klingons, and so their

 

shields were dropping faster. Here and there, a ship on the outer fringes of the

 

defensive formation rotated on it's axis, presenting a fresh shield to the

 

enemy. A few Klingon ships stayed back for a few minutes, allowing their bubble

 

shields to re-charge. They started taking turns on attack runs, alternately

 

charging their shields, and strafing the huge Imperial warships.

 

Slowly, the battle drifted from one point in space to another, as the

 

Imperials appeared to be randomly changing direction. The three Klingon battle-

 

cruisers with the modified deflector dishes followed the battle at a distance,

 

focusing their graviton beams on the Imperials, preventing an escape to

 

hyperspace.

 

"Outer ships, swap to inner positions, now."

 

The Imperial formation quickly re-aligned itself, as fresh ships moved to

 

the outer fringe of the formation, while those ships retreated to the centre of

 

the formation, and conducted hasty battle-repairs while their shields recharged.

 

"The Klingon ships shields are deteriorating at a more rapid rate, Sir.

 

The strain is beginning to tell."

 

"Excellent. Signal Devastator and Relentless to switch to broadside mode."

 

 

 

A number of Klingon ships were now grouped with the three 'interdictors',

 

recharging their shields, as the battle wore on. The Imperials were trying to

 

hit ships with an occasional broadside now, as shielding became a critical

 

factor. Time and again, a Klingon ship narrowly escaped destruction, saved only

 

by their incredible manoeuvrability.

 

Again, the Imperial fleet re-aligned it's formation, as the inner and

 

outer escorts changed position, bringing the refreshed ships to the fore.

 

"How long can they keep this up?"

 

"The strain will begin to tell on them, as on us. Notice, that their

 

shield recharge rate has slowed down considerably."

 

"Yes. Are you sure the graviton beams will hold them here?"

 

"It worked for the Federation. If it doesn't, the planet is not going

 

anywhere."

 

"Order the battle-cruisers to keep back, we don't want to lose any troops

 

unnecessarily."

 

"Yes. Sir."

 

The battle-cruisers carried several thousand soldiers each. It would not

 

be a good idea to lose any at this stage of the battle. The three battle-

 

cruisers being used as interdictors were spread out over a broad area of some

 

fifty thousand kilometers, keeping the Imperial fleet trapped between them and

 

the nearby planet. Between them, two more battle-cruisers languished, recharging

 

shields, and further back, a number of frigates and light cruisers. Currently,

 

only a handful of corvettes and frigates were mixing it up with the Imperials,

 

while the Klingon fleet prepared for a big final push.

 

 

 

Xris could see the Klingon fleet were setting themselves up for a major

 

run on his formation. His outer escorts were beginning to appear a bit frayed

 

around the edges, but his inner escort were not yet ready. Just a few more

 

seconds. The Klingons were almost perfectly in position.

 

"Prepare to spring the ambush, light cannons only, wide cone to account

 

for possible drift."

 

Two Klingon corvettes, really little larger than missile boats, made one

 

run too many, and collected several direct hits. They retreated at best speed,

 

superheated gas jetting out of hull breaches. The Klingons would be forced to

 

launch their major attack soon.

 

"Outer escorts, break. Inner escorts, move to flanking positions. Prepare

 

to spring ambush."

 

The outer escorts, mostly Victory-class destroyers, dived for the planet

 

below, pouring on the power. The Klingons, probably expecting them to retreat

 

closer to the Grinder, were caught by surprise as they swept past the Grinder,

 

and headed for all points of space beyond the planet below. The Klingon make-

 

shift interdictors were faced with a choice, the escorts or the Grinder. They

 

stayed on the Grinder.

 

"Here they come .." somebody shouted.

 

"All ships, heavy weapons, broadside mode. Light weapons, spring the

 

ambush."

 

A large wave of Klingon ships, most of the battle-cruisers and other large

 

ships tore towards the Imperial formation. The Imperials fired a massive

 

synchronised broadside, from long range really, not waiting for the Klingons to

 

close in. The Klingon attack wave went a bit ragged as ships evaded the bolts,

 

but kept coming. The broadside was not as intense as it should have been though,

 

with many of the lighter turbo-lasers and laser-cannons firing well wide of the

 

Klingon formation, on divergent tracks.

 

The hail of bolts swept out towards the position of the interdictors, and

 

a second later swept beyond them out into open space, dissipating rapidly in

 

power as they went. Ahead of the interdictors the main Klingon fleet were now

 

closing with the Imperials, trapping them against the planet below. If any of

 

the Klingons had kept their eyes on the storm of poorly aimed bolts which had

 

swept past the interdictors in a wide cone, they would have seen an astonishing

 

sight. Several of the bolts just disappeared, for a fraction of a second,

 

winking out of existence as if they had never been. In their place, alerted by

 

the minor hits on it's shields, three ships appeared as they disengaged their

 

cloaking mechanism. The Aggressor, the Stomper and the Smasher.

 

They were only some seventy thousand kilometers behind the three make-

 

shift Klingon interdictors, and the handful of frigates and corvettes recharging

 

their shields, some of them lightly damaged. They were well within range of

 

fire, totally unaware of the enemy behind them, their attention focused on the

 

battle a handful of light-seconds ahead of them over the planet, their sub-space

 

sensors blinded by the high level of sub-space static due to the Imperial

 

jamming. Seventeen kilometers long, the Aggressor sported 600 heavy turbolasers,

 

and easily twice that number of medium and light weapons. In support, the

 

Stomper and Smasher both outgunned an Imperator by a considerable margin.

 

The three Klingon battle-cruisers doubling as interdictors, and two of the

 

smaller ships, detonated in a fury of fire, as close on to three thousand

 

turbolaser bolts ripped into the unsuspecting ships. The interdictors had been

 

hit by close on to two hundred heavy turbolasers each, plus innumerable lighter

 

weapons and missiles. No shield in the entire Klingon arsenal could hope to

 

stand up to such energies. A wave of panic spread through the formation, as

 

ships furiously attempted to accelerate away from the danger area. A second

 

three thousand weapon broadside swept through the formation in a wave of energy

 

easily capable of ripping the crust off a planet in a single broadside. Several

 

smaller ships detonated in a hail of fire, and the uncertainty spread throughout

 

the Klingon fleet.

 

The Klingons were made of stern stuff though, and despite the ravaging of

 

their support vessels and the destruction of the three capital ships, the main

 

fleet were still unscathed, and exchanging fire furiously with the Grinder and

 

her support ships. The Grinders escorts were under strict instructions though,

 

and as soon as the three Klingon ships were destroyed, most of them jumped out

 

of the system, leaving the Grinder alone, with the interdictors and the Ripper

 

and Render. The Aggressor, along with the Stomper and Smasher, was accelerating

 

towards this battle, in which only the large ships of both sides remained.

 

One of the interdictors took a volley of photon torpedoes, and it's

 

shields nearly gone, fled the system. The three remaining interdictors followed

 

within seconds. The Klingons didn't waste a second, half their ships leaping

 

away at warp speed, coming around for a low warp strafing run on the six big

 

cruisers.

 

"Sir! New contacts, two minutes away."

 

"More Klingons?" Xris asked.

 

"No sir. Signatures match Federation vessels, at least twenty ships,

 

including the Enterprise."

 

"Prepare hyperspace jump, send departure signal to Colonel Dekker, make

 

sure the Aggressor has also seen them."

 

The Aggressor fired a huge broadside, spread over dozens of kilometers,

 

but the Klingons were on low warp, and easily evaded their fire. Not waiting for

 

further notice, the Aggressor jumped out of the system. The Grinder fired a

 

final broadside, which ripped through the Klingon lines, battering shields

 

aside, but not inflicting significant damage, and jumped out of the system.

 

A minute later, they were joined by twenty Federation ships, too late to

 

join the party, but soon enough to force an early closure. With a brief exchange

 

of acknowledgements, they advanced on the planet below them.

 

 

 

In hyperspace, the Imperial fleet was already halfway to their

 

destination. Xris supposed the battle was a victory. Three destroyed Klingon

 

battle-cruisers, and a number of destroyed frigates and corvettes and missile

 

boats, but on the whole the Klingon fleet was pretty unscathed. Initial battle-

 

reports from his ships as they retreated had indicated several ships with blown

 

shield generators, and some minor hull damage here and there. Their supply of

 

spare parts for shield generators was running low, but for now he could repair

 

his fleet. The cloak strategy had worked beautifully. Now he only hoped Dekker

 

would be able to hold off the invasion.

 

 

 

 

 

Dekker sat calmly in his command room deep below ground. His cities and

 

industries were pretty well covered by shields. The enemy would be forced to

 

blow the planet (and millions of civilians) or take the planet by force. Only

 

two options were open to them, a long and protracted ground campaign, or sending

 

in a small but fast and heavily armoured detachment to capture or destroy the

 

shield generators. He was ready for either one, and he had a few tricks up his

 

sleeve, not least of which was a cloaked Victory-class ship skulking just below

 

his planetary shields, and well within the zone covered by his ground-based

 

weapons.

 

Should any alien ships attempt to slip below his shields, he had

 

sufficient firepower to blow them out of the sky. Should a major ground-force be

 

landed, the Victory could provide fire-support against targets below the

 

horizon. It's navigational systems had been finely calibrated, so that it could

 

fly blind to any destination on the planet, and most destinations could be

 

reached without leaving shield cover. The ground-based computer stations would

 

also supply triangulation information to the Victory whenever (if ever) it

 

dropped it's cloaking shield.

 

For now, he would wait for the right opportunity. An old sabbac player,

 

Dekker had no intention of showing his hand before all the chips were on the

 

table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first order of business of the Federation and Klingon fleet was to set

 

up a defensive formation, should the Imperial fleet decide on another attack.

 

The Enterprise, and a Klingon battle-cruiser fell back about one light-second

 

from the planet, and set up a broad interdiction zone 'masking' the planet from

 

any ships coming in on a vector from the last known position of the Imperials.

 

The Defiant arrived soon afterwards, having burnt up nearly all their fuel in a

 

mad dash across the buffer zone.

 

The major portion of the fleet was in a zone protected on one side by the

 

planet, and on the other by the make-shift interdiction zone. Their flanks were

 

open, but would probably require a precise in-coming jump vector to slip

 

through. They didn't really expect the Imperials to attack though, since the

 

Imperials had shown a marked reluctance to get caught in an interdiction field.

 

The second order of business was to attempt to build up an accurate model

 

of the defences on the planet below. The shields prevented accurate scanning of

 

the areas below the shield, and many attempts were made to scan the planet from

 

oblique angles, so as to penetrate below the shields. However, the shields

 

extended for far enough so that even from an oblique angle, much of the surface

 

was below the horizon. The forward line of defences were some one hundred and

 

fifty kilometers inside the edge of the shielded areas, preventing bombardment

 

from an angle.

 

A few guided missiles fired under the shields were easily shot down as

 

they slowed down upon atmospheric re-entry. An experimental bombardment of the

 

shields was enough to confirm it's strength. There seemed to be no way around

 

the problem. They would have to blockade the planet until eternity, or

 

militarily invade it. Invading it would mean losses, severe losses.

 

"None of our societies have fought a protracted ground campaign in

 

centuries." Picard stated.

 

"And for good reason," the Klingon commander responded, "with modern

 

weaponry, especially orbital weapons systems, any ground force can easily be

 

decimated, and the planet reduced to a mound of rubble in short order."

 

"It seems as if the enemy's planetary shields have re-introduced ground

 

warfare as a factor." Riker put in.

 

"Their troops are equipped with environmental battle-suits, are in

 

underground bunkers, and travel around in heavily armoured and shielded

 

transports. If we send in troops, what stops them from using nuclear weapons?

 

Their troops certainly stand a much better chance of survival in such a case.

 

For all we know, they might even be prepared to use chemical or biological

 

agents." Picard said.

 

"There would be no honour in such a war!"

 

"I don't think they care about honour. They have shown themselves to be

 

utterly ruthless."

 

"Is there no way we can circumvent the shields?"

 

"I have thought about it at length," Picard stated, "but so far have been

 

unable to come up with an answer. The only way is somehow shut down their power

 

production or destroy the shield generators. Commando teams would seem to be the

 

best solution, but there is no way to get them on the planet undetected."

 

"We could send in a cloaked ship, and beam some people down." Riker

 

suggested.

 

"You'd have to lower the cloaking shield, and use your sensors to lock on

 

to the destination. They would detect you for sure. Even then, how will the team

 

bypass all their ground-based sensors. Battle data from previous engagements

 

indicate that the enemy has very good detection equipment. It's not as if you

 

can just walk by them in the dark."

 

"The only way," the Klingon commander suggested, "is to send in a group of

 

low flying ships, they can enter the atmosphere, slip under the shields, and

 

strafe the enemy positions, specifically targeting power plants and shield

 

generators. The ships will provide a relatively safe environment protecting

 

against nuclear, chemical or biological agents."

 

"That is a good suggestion, but a few atmospheric nuclear detonations

 

would destroy any ship. A nuclear detonation in a vacuum is one thing, in an

 

atmosphere, it's another thing entirely."

 

"If the group advances at a reasonable speed, we might lose a ship or two,

 

but the mission would be a success. Certainly, the losses would not be as

 

severe."

 

"What about just blockading the planet? Surely, if we blockade enough

 

planets, we will force the enemy to commit to a full fleet engagement, and

 

settle this war once and for all."

 

"Captain Picard. We have millions of citizens on that planet. It is our

 

duty to retake the planet. Even so, we cannot possibly hope to put a fleet large

 

enough to engage the Imperials in orbit of every single planet. They would pick

 

us off one by one. By retaking this planet, we force the Imperials onto the back

 

foot. They do not have the resources to invade more planets. I say we take this

 

planet, then move on to the next, and the next, until we have recovered all our

 

worlds. Their fleet will be impotent, and either they will have to leave, or

 

directly engage our fleet in an attempt to establish supremacy."

 

 

 

 

 

Dekker and his command staff had their eyes glued to their displays. He

 

didn't understand what the delay was all about. The enemy ships had been in

 

orbit for two hours, and no attempt to land troops had yet taken place. The

 

entire base was in a state of high readiness, and all over the planet, troops

 

waited at their posts, anxious about the lack of developments. This was

 

beginning to look more like a blockade than an invasion.

 

"Sir, eleven ships have just disappeared off my scope."

 

"Have they gone to hyperspace, I mean warp, any sub-space trails out of

 

the system."

 

"No sir. It looks like they have engaged their cloaking device."

 

"Okay, they might be trying to slip under the shields, track for

 

atmospheric disturbances, drive emissions, magnetic or gravitational anomalies.

 

Ensure that you don't mistake the Vanquisher for one of them. All ground-based

 

defences stand by."

 

Seconds ticked by. Any ship entering atmosphere would create a sonic

 

shockwave, or a wake of heated hair from re-entry friction, or drive emissions.

 

These could be detected by doppler or infra-red sensors. Magnetic or

 

gravitational disturbances caused by a large metallic body moving at high speeds

 

could also be detected by appropriate mechanisms. At planetary ranges,

 

electromagnetic sensors served as well as sub-space sensors. If the cloaked

 

vessel was travelling at supersonic speeds it would be a significant distance

 

ahead of the shock-wave, and if it was hypersonic, there would be a vacuum in

 

the trail of the ship, as it drilled through atmosphere.

 

"Tracking atmospheric anomaly." A sensor operator called.

 

"Use propagation speed and bearing to calculate position of cloaked ship,

 

feed co-ordinates to weapons. All batteries in LOS track and open fire."

 

A hail of red, green and blue bolts flashed into the upper atmosphere,

 

following the track of the anomaly and exploded into a storm of superhot plasma

 

flak-bursts in the upper atmosphere. Seconds later, a Klingon ship was

 

momentarily visible, already breaking up. It detonated in a multi-megaton

 

antimatter explosion, the radiation lit up the ground for hundreds of kilometers

 

in all directions, shockwaves shattered cloud formations, and tons of flaming

 

debris started to rain down.

 

"Target that debris, detonate it at high altitude, I don't want any

 

ordinance blowing up on the surface, we're gonna have our hands full treating

 

the damn civilians for radiation poisoning without contending with all the other

 

rubbish on those ships. Barbarians, exposing their own kind to such risks."

 

"Sir, the enemy fleet is back to it's original size, minus the one

 

destroyed ship of course."

 

"Okay, keep out a watch for further incursions though. Send out a general

 

order to all garrisons, they are to advise the population to remain indoors,

 

underground if possible. Have them detail a number of transports to move as many

 

workers as they can underground, into mining facilities. City garrisons are to

 

detach half of their medical droids. If we start the anti-radiation treatments

 

straight away we might not lose too much of the workforce. How many decon droids

 

do we have?"

 

"Only a handful sir, and they are spread through all the power production

 

facilities, in case of accidents or battle-damage."

 

"Detail as many of them as can be spared, and set them to work straight

 

away at decontaminating all affected cities. Damn barbarians," he muttered

 

again.

 

 

 

 

 

A furious argument was taking place between the Klingon high command. The

 

detonation of the warp core could have devastating consequences. Fingers were

 

pointed harshly, in an attempt to lay blame.

 

"Silence!" A Klingon general ordered, bringing the group to order. "None

 

of us foresaw the risk, we are all to blame. The tactic was not without merit

 

though. That ship penetrated several hundred kilometers. Perhaps, a co-ordinated

 

effort by multiple ships will work." He held up his hand to silence a wave of

 

protest. "After they have shut down their warp cores, and beamed off all

 

antimatter fuel and other potentially hazardous substances. That still leaves

 

the fusion reactors, but with appropriate safety measures in place, we can

 

ensure that they will not detonate, or seed the environment with potentially

 

harmful substances."

 

"That is still a huge risk, General." Picard interjected. "You could have

 

ships crashing into cities at high speed, the potential for a disaster is

 

unimaginable."

 

"Perhaps you are right. If we are to retake this planet, we will have to

 

do it the hard way. I just somehow feel that the entire prospect is fraught with

 

disaster. We have never in the history of travelling the stars had to invade a

 

planet under the situation we have here. The enemy is obviously well versed in

 

this facet of warfare. But take the planet we must."

 

 

 

 

 

Dekker settled back to see what the enemy would do next. It had become

 

obvious ever since the Empire moved into this galaxy that the races here were

 

inexperienced in the art of ground warfare. Quite a few of his strategies

 

revolved around that fact. He supposed that from their perspective, a capital

 

ship raid had been the most logical first step. The second logical step was to

 

attempt a raid by smaller ships, fighters and other atmospheric craft. However,

 

the enemy had no such force, and in any case, ground based defences were

 

generally heavily shielded, and with a stable firing platform against a forcibly

 

slow moving aerial force (due to atmospheric flying), any such attack would be

 

devastated.

 

The enemy ground forces also had no environmental protection, meaning open

 

season with chemical and nuclear weapons. Biological weapons were too

 

unpredictable, especially against an attack force consisting of a diverse

 

grouping of species.

 

"Detecting enemy transporter usage, sector seventy-three."

 

"Send a recon unit out to eyeball them, Long-range."

 

Several minutes went by, and several other sectors were also targeted by

 

transporter locks. Dekker despatched more recon units, and a few probe droids,

 

before the first reports started coming in. Thousands of soldiers were indeed

 

being transported to the ground. They appeared to be digging in, setting up

 

defensive positions and otherwise securing their landing areas.

 

'Let them,' he thought. They were well defended by their orbiting

 

starships. Attacking their LZ directly would be suicide. However, no harm in an

 

indirect attack, as soon as they were more settled.

 

"Prepare to tractor launch the ballistic missiles." He ordered.

 

For several more minutes, the enemy kept up their transporting. He

 

absently began to wonder how many people a single ship could transport per

 

second, multiplied by the number of ships in orbit, how long would it take to

 

transport a significantly-sized army to the surface? No matter for now. Later,

 

if they started their evacuations, it would be nice to know how many troops were

 

saved, and how many were left to die. As soon as the transporter activity

 

started dying down, he gave the order.

 

"Arm the warheads. Activate cloaking mechanisms. Missiles first, then

 

multiple dry-fires. Launch!"

 

 

 

 

 

On the Enterprise, a startled sensor operator called Riker over. Riker

 

quickly waved Picard over.

 

"We have a major energy surge, multiple points across the planet, in

 

Imperial territory. Their shields are preventing accurate readings, but the

 

signal profile is similar to a tractor launch."

 

"Are you tracking any of their starfighters?"

 

"No metals, nothing solid at all. Whatever it is, we can't detect it

 

through their shields."

 

"Cloaked ships?" Riker asked.

 

"Missiles!" Picard said. "Sound the alarm. Mr Data, do we still have that

 

program for locking weapons on deep-space gas compression?"

 

"Yes, Sir. The program is called Geordi-Data-Seven-three-two."

 

"Activate that program, focus sensors on the atmosphere, scan for gas

 

compression waves in the atmosphere, lock sensors onto the leading edge of the

 

wave. Transmit program to all other ships."

 

The sensor operator's fingers flew over the console, and glanced at

 

Picard, surprise evident in her posture.

 

"Tracking multiple targets, average velocity seven kilometers per second,

 

ballistic trajectory, targeted at the landing zones."

 

"They are still under the shields," Riker called from tactical, "we will

 

be able to hit only when they clear the shields. That gives us a fourteen second

 

window, to knock down fifty three definite targets, and forty eight possibles."

 

"If we move to a higher orbit, we can cover a greater area of this

 

hemisphere." Data offered.

 

"Make it so."

 

Picard could only hope that other ships were reacting fast enough to cover

 

the opposing hemisphere, or to support them in covering this hemisphere. Over a

 

hundred atmospheric targets of unknown nature in fourteen seconds was a lot to

 

ask. Even a slight change in trajectory, and a phaser shot might miss, wide beam

 

wouldn't penetrate the atmosphere to great depth, and if the targets got too

 

close to the landing zones, he would risk hitting the ground forces.

 

"ETA, Mr Riker."

 

"Eight seconds. Sir."

 

"The troops under cover?"

 

"If you can call it cover. If those missiles are .."

 

"Yes. I know."

 

"Targets will clear shields in three .. two .. one .. firing phasers."

 

Multiple red-orange beams flickered into the atmosphere, one or two other

 

ships also joining in.

 

"Targets are MIRVing!"

 

Picard gripped his armrest tightly, his knuckles whitening, and hoped no-

 

one would notice. There were thousands of men on that planet. There was no way

 

to beam any significant fraction of them to safety.

 

"The missiles are too fast, we can track the compression waves, but the

 

missiles are supersonic, and are out-racing the compression waves!"

 

"Estimate missile position as proportional to velocity, manual overrides

 

on weapons, shoot ahead of the compression waves."

 

Riker was a picture of concentration, his fingers a blur as he worked the

 

tactical controls. His face was absolutely blank, his eyes unblinking. For an

 

instant, Picard could almost swear that Riker and Data had changed places. On

 

the view-screen, the image of the planet was overlaid with grids and markers,

 

indicating areas of shield coverage, enemy defensive positions, friendly unit

 

positions, ballistic arcs of potential missiles and markers showing potential

 

target zones. The display was animated by tiny explosions indicating destroyed

 

missiles or warheads.

 

"Debris analysis indicates that some of the warheads are rocks, others are

 

genuine missiles. Most of the tracks now shown are warheads. Nuclear warheads."

 

The ballistic tracks on the display had MIRVed into dozens of uncloaked

 

warheads, easier to track, but no doubt there were some cloaked warheads or

 

missiles seeded in amongst them as well.

 

"Track ALL targets number one. We can't take the chance that some missiles

 

have not MIRVed, or are still cloaked."

 

"Targets approaching danger zone."

 

"Keep firing. Better a friendly phaser hit than an enemy nuke." Picard

 

ordered.

 

"They're detonating short of the target zone! Many at high altitude."

 

"Detonations are small yield. Some 100 kiloton fusion devices, mostly 1

 

kiloton to 15 kiloton neutron devices."

 

"Neutron devices! Radiation levels?"

 

"Extreme."

 

"My God. Transport those men out of there! All ships."

 

"It's useless, Jean-Luc, radiation levels are extreme. No transporter lock

 

will be possible for several days, in or out."

 

"Sensors are also shot to hell, too much interference, there are still

 

warheads heading in and detonating, but with all the radiation and atmospheric

 

turbulence, we can't track them. Not all the detonations are nuclear, some

 

appear to be chemical weapons, others are conventional explosives."

 

"There is movement amongst the enemy defensive positions. It appears like

 

.. yes, the enemy has launched several shielded atmospheric fighters. They are

 

launching an aerial attack on the landing zones."

 

"Can we track them?"

 

"With difficulty. Ambient radiation levels are extreme, and are

 

interfering with sensors. We can shoot on manual, but with all that turbulence,

 

the phasers might be refracted or deflected."

 

"Do it." Picard ordered.

 

The enemy fighters were tearing through the atmosphere, spreading out and

 

staying low, and weaving erratically as they hugged the terrain. Their shields

 

and armour would protect the occupants against the suddenly lethal environment,

 

even the turbulence did not seem to affect them, their flight performance being

 

determined solely by gravitational considerations being anti-gravity vehicles,

 

with exceptional stability.

 

The view-screen zoomed in on one of the ground-effects craft, and red-

 

orange beams lanced out, striking the ground all around the ship, which lived a

 

charmed life for exactly one point nine seconds. The view-screen quickly shifted

 

to another vehicle, which, aware of the orbital fire, managed to survive for a

 

full three seconds. The next vehicle was already firing on the Klingon

 

positions, and even as the phaser blasts tracked closer to it, entered a

 

fortified Klingon position, which was shockingly quiet in terms of return fire.

 

The phasers ceased firing for a second, as the ship stayed within the friendly

 

zone, then resumed fire as it sped away.

 

Picard turned away from the view-screen, his mind filled with the images

 

which had flashed past on the view-screen. Scorched ground, smoking bodies,

 

glowing metals, no sign of movement. Those unlucky enough to have survived would

 

die a slow death as the extreme cell-damage due to radiation took it's effect.

 

He swallowed back the bile rising in his gullet. Behind him, he heard an almost

 

unfamiliar retching sound. The sensor operator was being sick all over her

 

console.

 

"Can we get a runabout or shuttle down there?"

 

"The shuttles were not designed to survive such an environment. Even if

 

they could, we couldn't squeeze more than a handful of people onto them."

 

"My God! This is war as our ancestors fought it. This is what the Earth

 

looked like during the Eugenic wars. We have seen the vids, even of the wars

 

before that, but the brutality, the horror. I never imagined anything like

 

this!"

 

 

 

 

 

"How many Chariots did we lose?"

 

"Five, Sir."

 

"Not too bad. What did they pick up?"

 

"Their reports confirm what we had hoped for, sir. The enemy had no

 

chemical or nuclear protection of note, not even environmental battle-suits. No

 

mechanised vehicles, no tanks, no armoured transports. The devastation was

 

total."

 

Behind Dekker, a ragged cheer sounded.

 

"Alright, people. Settle down. This isn't over yet. In the meantime, let's

 

have some tea shall we."

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cloaked Romulon battle-cruiser slipped through the black of deep-

 

space. A skeleton crew only manned the bridge. They were not expecting trouble.

 

They had heard of a war with some new enemy, but that was on the far side of

 

Romulan space, nearly ten thousand light-years away, and as yet no concern of

 

theirs. The few species they had encountered so far in this region of the Beta

 

Quadrant had not offered much in the way of resistance, and the expansion of the

 

Romulon Empire had been proceeding smoothly for decades, except of course for

 

odd skirmishes with the Klingon scum.

 

Their mission of exploration had brought them well beyond the Romulon Star

 

Empire's space, probing star systems for industrial minerals and mapping out

 

likely sites for future exploitation. A secondary aim of their mission was to

 

establish if there were any likely threats out here. One day, their expansion

 

would bring them into contact with the Borg, but the limits of Borg expansion

 

were not known.

 

"Sir. The engineers report a fast growing disturbance in sub-space."

 

"Bring the ship to alert status. It could be a Borg transwarp conduit."

 

"Yes, sir."

 

Their fears were confirmed by the rapid rate at which the disturbance was

 

catching up to them, soon forcing the engineers to shut down the power core

 

before the singularity charge was destabilised.

 

"Multiple vessels approaching. Range two light years. ETA, six minutes."

 

The captain did a few calculations. Twenty light years per hour, that was

 

about thirty times faster than the fastest Federation ship they had ever

 

tracked, and forty times faster than his own ship.

 

"Prepare a transmission, as soon as we have positively identified the

 

vessels as Borg, and established their number, send it to Romulus."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Prepare to power up all defensive systems, all crews to stand by. Do not

 

power up the weapons yet, maintain cloaked status. Perhaps they will not detect

 

us."

 

Silence descended on the bridge, as the ship held it's collective breath,

 

hoping the Borg would pass them by.

 

"We are being probed."

 

"Deactivate cloaking device. Divert power to weapons and shields."

 

"Tracking fifteen cubes. Positively identified as Borg vessels. They are

 

maintaining their heading. Their course will not bring them close to any of our

 

worlds for several thousand light years. It appears they are heading for

 

Federation space."

 

"Transmit report to Romulus. Echo report to the nearest Klingon worlds,

 

and request them to forward the report to the Federation."

 

"Sir? Why should we warn them? They are our enemies."

 

"Fool. Do you think the Borg care about that? One day, we will have to

 

face the Borg. Pray that we do not have to face them alone."

 

 

 

 

 

The data package from the Romulan vessel slipped through the unreality of

 

sub-space. Several hours later, almost at the limit of it's range, it was picked

 

up by a Klingon listening post on the edge of Romulan space. The signal was

 

recorded and re-transmitted to a nearby Klingon military base, which promptly

 

boosted it to the Klingon high-command. In a few days, it would arrive in

 

Federation space, two weeks ahead of the Borg.

 

 

 

 

 

Picard read through the report. It was unconfirmed, and an annotation

 

indicated that it had originated in Romulan space, which meant that it was open

 

to as many interpretations as a Romulan had ulterior motives. Despite this, all

 

ships were requested to report to the nearest Federation world and prepare for

 

the worst. With all the communication problems and supply problems due to the

 

war with the Empire, as well as the weakened state of many Federation worlds

 

which had come under bombardment, the Federation was extremely vulnerable to a

 

Borg attack.

 

"They are not after us." Picard stated.

 

"Sir?" Riker.

 

"The Borg. They are after the Empire. They are after hyperdrive

 

technology."

 

"How do you know that?"

 

Picard glanced at his first officer. He saw the unspoken questions in

 

Riker's eyes. Even so, how could he tell Riker that he knew the Borg like his

 

own mind, that he could hear them in his sleep and sometimes even in his

 

conscious mind.

 

"If they were on a routine patrol, they would have assimilated the Romulan

 

ship that detected them. Or at least, one or two Romulan worlds on their way

 

here. No, they are after the Imperials."

 

"What do we do about it?"

 

"We can't afford for the Borg to assimilate hyperdrive technology. It

 

would allow them to vastly increase their rate of expansion, and attack us at

 

will with no fore-warning whatsoever."

 

"We can't stop them." Riker argued. "If these fifteen cubes don't succeed,

 

the Borg will just send thirty more, or sixty, or a hundred. Eventually, they

 

will wear down the Imperials. What do you suggest?"

 

"To stop the Borg, we have several options. Help the Imperials. Destroy

 

the Imperials. Convince the Borg they have left. Convince the Borg that it is

 

not worth it."

 

"The Imperials won't accept our help. We can't destroy them if they keep

 

escaping to hyperspace, or if their worlds are shielded. We can't hide them from

 

the Borg, and the Borg don't care what it costs them."

 

"Perhaps. We will speak about it in the conference room. In the meanwhile,

 

give orders for the fleet to return to Federation space. Except for the Defiant.

 

I want Mr Worf included in the conference."

 

"Very well. I will see to it."

 

The other Federation ships blockading the Imperial held world of K'trak

 

had also received the report, and were merely waiting for Picard to rubber stamp

 

their orders. The Klingon ships were keen to remain, but had also received

 

orders to return to Klingon space. Several Klingon worlds had suffered raids by

 

the Imperials in the days since the blockade had been in place. The combined

 

fleet soon left the system, leaving tens of thousands of dead. Radiation levels

 

around the devastated ground-bases were still too high for transporter usage.

 

One Klingon ship attempted a last ditch effort to ascertain whether there were

 

any survivors on the ground.

 

They identified a region far from any ground-based defences and sent in

 

two runabouts. The runabouts made it quite far into the atmosphere, slowing down

 

as the atmospheric density increased, before the Imperials opened fire. The

 

ground fire however was not directed at the runabouts, but into the upper

 

atmosphere of the planet. This strange action soon took on meaning, as a few

 

bolts forced a cloaked ship to reveal itself. A Victory-class destroyer, which

 

had been holding station just inside the planetary shield, revealed itself after

 

being struck by a few bolts.

 

The runabouts turned around and fled towards the vacuum of space, but the

 

Imperials had timed their attack well. At it's altitude, the Victory had a large

 

portion of the hemisphere in it's line of sight, and in seconds, had opened fire

 

on the stranded runabouts. At a range of a mere few thousand kilometers, the

 

runabouts didn't stand a chance, it was a point-blank attack. The Victory didn't

 

even leave the shield coverage.

 

Seconds later, it vanished, without a trace. A sensor focus on the region

 

through the planetary shields revealed vague traces of charged particles from

 

it's ion drives, but the ship had obviously reverted to a repulsor drive

 

mechanism on activating it's cloaking mechanism, and the ions soon dissipated.

 

 

 

 

 

Dekker watched the scope as one by one the alien ships vanished, out of

 

range of the scope. The blockade had been lifted.

 

"Lower shields. Deploy communications boosters and contact the fleet. Have

 

those decon-droids unpacked, and start the clean-up."

 

Minutes later, the first transports arrived, followed closely by an

 

Imperator. The Imperator and the Victory which had stayed scoured the system,

 

ensuring that no alien ships had stayed behind. The transports loaded up the

 

supplies which had built up, and dropped off other supplies which were much

 

needed, including a few thousand recently manufactured but out-moded battle-

 

droids and a controlling nexus for them. These would come in very handy.

 

Several legions of sentient troops were transferred to the Imperator and a

 

transport, while the battle-droids were deployed to their positions. Battle-

 

droids were so much easier to maintain, requiring no food, no waste-disposal, no

 

entertainment, no training, and minimal accommodation. Dozens of droids could

 

easily take up the space allocated for a single trooper, and of course, the

 

droids were more resilient to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and

 

could take more damage than troopers. While less intelligent, they were also

 

easily repaired, did not tire, and did not require sleep.

 

On a life-signs scan, droids would register no different than any other

 

piece of equipment.

 

A defensive complex previously requiring upwards of five hundred soldiers

 

plus support staff could now be manned by thousands of droids. Soon, the only

 

soldiers left on the planet were the one or two legions garrisoning the larger

 

cities. Smaller cities and outposts on the planet were garrisoned by droids.

 

Dekker himself was transferred to the Imperator itself. Now they would

 

have sufficient troops for more invasions, except that there were still not

 

enough shield generators to go around. The ships were themselves now fully

 

stocked with droids, with one of the Imperator's holds containing upwards of ten

 

thousand battle-droids, all neatly stacked and folded. A handful were used to

 

patrol the ship itself, including a few of the Destroyer droidekas.

 

These were not much use in a ground campaign, but were superb as automated

 

ship defence systems, being lightly shielded and virtually impervious to hand

 

weapons, but carrying sufficient firepower to devastate a platoon of troops.

 

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise and the Defiant had come to a stop in a deserted binary

 

system, where they took up position between the two stars, rendering themselves

 

almost invisible to long-range scans. Picard, Worf and Riker were in conference

 

aboard the Enterprise.

 

"I suggest that we warn the Imperials of the impending Borg attack."

 

Picard stated.

 

"Why?" Worf asked.

 

"We cannot afford for the Borg to assimilate hyperdrive technology."

 

"True. But will the Imperials believe us?" Worf asked.

 

"What options do they have anyway? Face the Borg and lose a few ships, or

 

run away and leave their planets to the Borg?" Riker asked.

 

"I can't visualise the Borg taking one of their planets, especially given

 

the heavy shielding they employ. If they do refuse to engage the Borg in a fleet

 

battle, what would the Borg do?"

 

"I don't know. Blockade their planets, and force a confrontation."

 

"If the Borg can't force them into a confrontation, then we'd have fifteen

 

Borg cubes roaming our space. Who knows what they might attempt?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xris was seated in his command chair, several status panels wrapped around

 

his position, many of them with translucent holo displays, with his bridge

 

visible through the displays. A single enemy vessel, deep inside the buffer zone

 

around Imperial space, was highlighted. It was his enemy, the ship identified as

 

Enterprise. And it was attempting to establish contact, broadcasting a subspace

 

carrier signal, and had been doing so for a while. Xris had long since made his

 

decision, but had waited. Now it was time.

 

"Execute."

 

 

 

 

 

It was deathly quiet on the Enterprise. They had been sitting here for

 

several hours broadcasting a sub-space carrier signal at the ex-Klingon world of

 

K'trak. More than enough time had passed for the Imperials to have responded.

 

Riker was convinced they were on a suicide mission. Sitting still like this

 

broadcasting their position was just inviting an Imperial fleet to jump into

 

attack position on them. But nothing had happened.

 

"If they were prepared to speak," Riker broke the silence, "they would

 

have done so by now."

 

"If they wanted to destroy us," Picard riposted, "they could have done so

 

by now."

 

The words were barely out of his mouth when the alarms went off.

 

"Multiple contacts, all around us, we're surrounded. Imperial warships two

 

light-seconds, spherical enclosure formation."

 

"Permission to raise shields?" Riker asked.

 

"Denied."

 

As tactical officer Riker was well within his rights to ask for shields,

 

despite Picard having made it clear how he wanted to handle the situation. It

 

would be recorded so.

 

"We're being actively proved. Probe analysis indicates multiple weapons

 

locks on our hull."

 

"Captain?"

 

"We're still here aren't we?" Picard said easily.

 

The view-screen suddenly lit up. The picture looked strange for a second,

 

before Picard realised what he was seeing. On the screen was a picture of a

 

hologram. Not the analogue units used by Federation holo-decks, but a medium-

 

resolution digital image limited to eight-bit colour for live transmission via

 

low-bandwidth sub-space. The holographic image was that of an austere uniformed

 

figure. A thin-faced human male, wearing an even more austere looking uniform.

 

"Captain Picard, USS Enterprise, United Federation of Planets." He

 

introduced himself.

 

"Captain Leahcim Xris, ISD-G18 Grinder, Galactic Empire."

 

"Would you agree to a meeting under more civilised surroundings, Captain

 

Xris?"

 

"You may come aboard via shuttle. We will not allow the use of

 

transporters."

 

"Thank you. I will be accompanied by Commander Worf. Is that acceptable?"

 

"You may bring whoever you wish."

 

The view-screen blanked out.

 

 

 

 

 

"You are sure you want to use this vessel, Captain?" Worf asked as he

 

squeezed aboard the tiny runabout. The vessel was designed to accommodate two

 

humans, and a human plus a Klingon was a rather tight squeeze. "The battle-

 

cruiser we are boarding will be able to accommodate much large vessels, possibly

 

even the Defiant itself."

 

"Yes, I am aware of that. This is precisely the vehicle I wish to use."

 

If Worf had any more to say he kept it to himself. His superior officer

 

had made his wishes clear, and he was too much of a soldier to question it, even

 

if he thought differently.

 

The runabout quickly sped across the few hundred thousand kilometers

 

separating the starships. It initially appeared as if they were heading towards

 

empty space, the Imperials being too far away to see with the unaided eye

 

despite the size of their ships. The first sign of them (to the unaided eye) was

 

a few tiny stars moving amongst the immobile backdrop of real stars. As they

 

approached, the tiny stars resolved into a dagger-like shape surrounded by tiny

 

motes of light. The motes of light soon themselves resolved into man-made shapes

 

before being paled into insignificance by the dagger-shape which kept growing

 

larger and larger.

 

Distances in the vacuum of space are difficult to resolve into distance,

 

and Picard glanced at his range indicator several times. It looked like they

 

were about to smash into the hull of the Giel-class battle-cruiser ahead of them

 

but the range-finder still indicated several kilometers. Eventually they were so

 

close to the massive vessel that it totally dominated their view, except that

 

their sensors indicated that they were still a kilometer away.

 

A comm-indicator blinked on the control panel, and Picard touched the

 

control. The runabout's view-screen lit up with the face of an Imperial officer,

 

who directed them onto a new course, bringing them to a docking bay concealed in

 

the superstructure of the immense vessel. Picard couldn't help thinking of it as

 

the 'bottom' of the ship, even though such concepts had no place in space.

 

Nevertheless, it was satisfying to know that like many terrestrial species, the

 

Imperials couldn't help but design their starships with terrestrial concepts of

 

symmetry, just like Federation and Klingon designs. Few starship designs he had

 

seen was totally devoid of such influence.

 

The runabout landed with a light thud on the metallic deck of the Imperial

 

starship. Picard and Worf clambered out of their tiny vessel into an immense

 

space. Used to the relatively confined and enclosed spaces aboard federation

 

ships, both Picard and Worf gazed upwards, seeking the ceiling. It was

 

satisfying to see the ceiling, albeit very far above their heads. In the

 

distance dozens of machines were scurrying about, with a few humans barely

 

recognisable amongst them. Directly ahead of the shuttle was a single line of

 

white machines. No. Armoured troopers. The runabout and it's welcoming committee

 

was almost insignificant in the immense space of the docking bay.

 

A massive machine, easily seven meters tall marched past right behind the

 

welcoming line of armoured troopers with an animal-like grace, briefly turning

 

to glance over the tiny spectacle. The troopers didn't even glance backwards as

 

the machine folded it's legs into it's body and leapt into the air. Curving

 

around and over the group, it shot outwards into space.

 

"A droid fighter." A mechanical voice announced. Picard turned to the

 

light silver android which had approached from one side. "I am IMP-19, an

 

Imperial protocol droid. The captain is waiting for you in conference room

 

seventeen B. Please follow me."

 

The droid tottered off towards a distant bulkhead, looking like it was

 

about to fall over it's own feet any second. It didn't. Which Picard considered

 

a minor miracle. Considering further, he decided that it was a deliberate ploy.

 

A protocol droid didn't need the grace or agility of the droid fighter they had

 

observed earlier. Along the way they were passed by a squad of marching soldiers

 

with a decided insectoid look to them. These walked with a deliberate mechanical

 

grace, and he had no difficulty in identifying them as androids. Some type of

 

military droid. He made a note to mention these to intelligence when he got

 

back. The line of white-clad armoured troopers had formed up around them, and

 

marched with a grace no machine could hope to match, as far as Picard knew.

 

Definitely human, he decided.

 

A long ride on a turbo-lift later, they stepped out into a wide gangway.

 

It was about five meters wide, and probably five meters high as well. A

 

deliberate waste of space? Picard decided not. The Imperials were a decidedly

 

efficient lot. The gangway's size probably had a reason.

 

"How far have we come?" Picard asked the droid.

 

"The landing bay is three kilometers below us, and two point five

 

kilometers forward. The main bridge is five hundred meters above."

 

"Why is this hallway so large? Even on a ship as large as this, a five

 

meter hallway which would be deserted most of the time is a waste, is it not?"

 

"I am a protocol droid, not a military droid. As such, I have limited

 

knowledge of such things. Possibly it is to accommodate the scout walkers."

 

"Scout walkers?"

 

For answer the droid touched a panel on the wall. A massive door, at least

 

three meters thick snapped open. An immense machine stood beyond the doorway. It

 

was bipedal, and had two ugly turrets mounted on it's 'face', along with a

 

number of smaller turrets.

 

"An AT-ST-II scout walker, modified for ship defense during boarding

 

actions."

 

Picard raised an eyebrow. Worf grunted.

 

"Smaller passageways would of course be defended by droidekas, and there

 

are many traps where boarders can be gassed, decompressed, poisoned, or flushed

 

out into space."

 

"Droidekas?"

 

"Man sized droids with built-in shielding and heavy weapons. Specially

 

designed."

 

"The droids we saw in the hangar?"

 

"No. Those were cheap battle-droids, designed for mass production and to

 

supplement human troopers. A droideka has more firepower than a double-squad of

 

such droids, but is rather more expensive."

 

"Expensive? Ah. A disadvantage of a monetary economy."

 

"Why would anyone design a battle-droid along human lines. Surely more

 

efficient designs for droids exist. Even for a droid such as yourself, if you

 

forgive my asking?"

 

"Certainly," IMP-19 answered, "but human shaped droids are deliberately

 

designed so they can do anything that a human could. A battle-droid can use the

 

same weapons as a human soldier, drive the same vehicles, and can generally

 

fully integrate with a squad of human soldiers."

 

"Ah, efficiency of design, in a manner of speaking."

 

"Exactly. We are here."

 

The droid opened another door. Ahead of them was a roomful of uniformed

 

humans. The uniforms were decidedly military, unlike the deliberately non-

 

militaristic jumpsuits that Picard and Worf wore. A tall human marched towards

 

them. His military bearing not quite concealing his energy and impatience.

 

"Captain Picard. Commander Worf. Welcome aboard. Please, have a seat, and

 

let's get right down to business. Are you here to surrender?"

 

"Surrender?" Worf bellowed.

 

Xris's eyes narrowed.

 

"No, we came to warn you, and to make a proposal."

 

Xris's eyes narrowed more, his mouth pressed to a thin line.

 

"You came to warn us?" He asked quietly.

 

"You misunderstand." Picard said quickly. "We came to propose a cease

 

fire, possibly an alliance, in lieu of the fact that you are about to be

 

attacked by the Borg."

 

"How do you know this? Why would you ally with us? And what makes you

 

think we would ally with you?"

 

"A scouting vessel on the edge of explored space reported fifteen Borg

 

cubes heading towards this sector. They are not interested in us, yet. Neither

 

are they interested in any other races in this quadrant of the galaxy, yet.

 

However, you are a new and unknown factor, and they will be keen to assimilate

 

your technology."

 

"What makes you think they can? We have faced the Borg before, when your

 

fleet destroyed our Gate. They were allied with you, then."

 

"No. Our fleet merely used their attack as a divergence to destroy the

 

Gate. You may have faced them off then, but you did take losses. They will have

 

adapted accordingly and it will not be as easy to face them a second time. Also,

 

without the Gate, you are cut off from any logistical support. How many ships

 

can you afford to lose?"

 

"That is none of your concern. We will soon have the industrial capability

 

we need. Your warning is appreciated Captain Picard, but I don't understand why

 

you would warn us. Surely any losses we suffer at the hands of the Borg will be

 

to your advantage."

 

"Not if the Borg manage to assimilate your technology. With this

 

technology and the Borg industrial capability, their rate of expansion would

 

increase dramatically, thus jeopardising the survival of everyone in this

 

galaxy. If you agree to a cease-fire, I will see that the Federation provides

 

whatever assistance we can with the Borg."

 

"Any who dare oppose the Empire will be destroyed." A young officer piped

 

up. "This entire galaxy will soon be ruled by the Empire. We won't need your

 

assistance." She finished contemptuously, looking towards Xris for confirmation.

 

Xris casually turned towards the officer, smoothly drew an ugly hand

 

weapon and pulled the trigger. The young woman was catapulted backwards by a

 

bolt of blue energy. The room was suddenly filled with the smell of burnt flesh.

 

Looking at the body, Picard saw only a blackened and scorched hole where her

 

face had been. Blood began boiling out of the hole with a light bubbling sound.

 

"Clean up that mess." Xris ordered the nearby protocol droid sharply.

 

"Stupid Imperial spies. They make poor officers anyway."

 

One of the other officers smirked and barely suppressed a grunt of

 

laughter.

 

"She would have had to go sooner or later." He said.

 

"Now. Captain Picard. You must understand my position. I am merely the

 

senior officer in charge of fleet operations. I do have superiors. My superior

 

officers are firmly ensconced upon the SSD Aggressor, a ship even larger than

 

this ship. They will not agree to your suggestion, regardless of it's merits.

 

They still believe in the Empire, even though we are totally cut off from it. As

 

such, they suffer from the same blindness and stupidity as that piece of garbage

 

over there." He indicated the carcass the protocol droid was dragging from the

 

room. In the silence, Picard could here the soft bubbling of blood out of the

 

head wound, and the hum of the life-support systems scrubbing the air. Already

 

the stench of burnt meat was fading from his senses, though it was engraved in

 

his memory.

 

"I fear," Xris was saying, "that I will have to become a mutineer in order

 

to ensure my people's survival in this galaxy. How long before the Borg get

 

here?"

 

"Ten days. Maybe less."

 

"In seven days, I will contact you and let you know whether my attempt at

 

a coup was successful. In the meanwhile, my fleet will not engage in any more

 

raids upon Federation shipping. Should the raids resume, know that my attempt to

 

seize command of this operation has failed." He held out his hand. "For myself,

 

I pledge peace with the Federation, and will appreciate your support against the

 

Borg in the future."

 

Picard looked at the hand which had so casually slain a young woman just

 

seconds ago. The lesser of two evils? He hoped so. He grasped the hand.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

Xris looked out of the viewport at the receding Federation shuttle. It soon

 

vanished into the distance in the direction of the Enterprise, itself also too

 

small to be seen from this range. He tapped the vidmatrix controls, and the

 

image he was looking at was overlain by a superscaled image of the Enterprise in

 

the distance, with the shuttle heading towards it.

 

"The assassination of Lieutenant Va'ash has set us on a path we cannot

 

turn from." His first officer commented.

 

"It was inevitable. I have waited for this moment since the day the Gate

 

was destroyed."

 

"Do all the captain's support you?"

 

"Most of them do, and even if they don't, they know we are trapped in this

 

galaxy. We are fighting a war we cannot lose, but do not yet have the resources

 

to win. Against the Federation and her allies we might prevail, but against the

 

Borg, we will be ground to dust. I suspect some of them will find excuses so as

 

not to dirty their hands either way, until they know for sure that the Borg are

 

coming. But by then it will be too late."

 

"You believe this Picard is telling the truth, about the Borg heading this

 

way?"

 

"Who knows? If he is, then we have no choice. If he isn't it doesn't

 

matter. This may be our best chance to seize control."

 

"This battle-cruiser is close to an even match for an Executor-class. With

 

the support of the allegiance cruisers and a few ISD's, we can take out the

 

Aggressor."

 

"That will be our last option. Even outnumbered, the Aggressor is a

 

dangerous ship. She could maul this entire fleet very badly. No, a direct

 

confrontation is out of the question. Our best bet is to capture the Aggressor

 

intact."

 

"That's impossible. Boarding and capturing a Super Star Destroyer will

 

require dozens of legions of stormtroopers, and the losses will be incredible!"

 

"Perhaps. On our own it would be. But if we had inside support, then it

 

could be done."

 

"Inside support? That's impossible. Admiral Piett has ensured that the

 

Aggressor is manned by the most loyal troops. The commanders are all personal

 

friends of his."

 

"I never said it would be easy." Xris smiled. "But I have been planning

 

for this since the day the Gate was destroyed."

 

 

 

 

 

General Darklighter and his squad of bodyguards marched down the deserted

 

passage of the super star destroyer Aggressor. He had been rather busy for

 

several weeks now with the redeploying of green units to veteran units. He had

 

designed several new computerised battle-strategies and re-written the tactical

 

algorithms for army operations. The new priorities were designed to limit losses

 

to the absolute minimum. The knowledge that no more cheap reinforcements were on

 

the way had finally spurred the fleet people on to allow this change. As a

 

soldier who had come up through the ranks he despised the unnecessary loss of

 

life, but had always accepted it as a necessity.

 

The invasion of this galaxy however had reminded him just how wasteful the

 

Empire could be. They looked after their stormtroopers and soldiers extremely

 

well otherwise, but in battle, results counted for more than soldiers lives. It

 

seemed that with this campaign the navy pukes had finally lost all perspective

 

in their rush for 'efficiency points'. The losses they had suffered had been

 

unnecessary. If he had been given a free reign in the campaign to command his

 

troops properly, they would have achieved the same objectives with virtually no

 

losses.

 

He stopped. Behind him, his bodyguards also stopped. The last few weeks of

 

re-programming battle-algorithms, and the inclusion of battle-droids as a

 

consideration, had also provided him with an opportunity he might otherwise

 

never have had. He tapped his secret access code into a nearby doorway's control

 

panel. The door snapped open, and his bodyguards charged into the room. They

 

were elite troops, the best of his men, and supremely loyal to him. In seconds,

 

they had killed all the technicians in the room, and one of them was already

 

furiously typing away at a console. He nodded to the General.

 

"Proceed."

 

A number of his soldiers dressed as technicians came trotting around the

 

corner into the passageway. They saluted briefly to Darklighter and moved into

 

the surveillance control room, taking up the stations of the dead Imperial

 

intelligence operatives. He now had full control of all systems controlled from

 

this room. The room was the Central Internal Surveillance Control Room. It was

 

the hub through which all video and audio surveillance was passed. It had

 

nothing to do with the military defense of the ship against boarders, but

 

everything to do with spying on the crew.

 

Darklighter spoke briefly into his comm-unit, secure in the knowledge that

 

the treason he was about to commit would not pass this room and reach Admiral

 

Piett or Grand Moff Jerjerrod.

 

 

 

 

 

The droid control room was probably the untidiest room on the ship, even

 

including waste disposal. The slicers who were responsible for monitoring the

 

droids and supervising their operations were amongst the most overlooked staff

 

on the huge ship. Droids were lower than slaves, beneath the notice of most of

 

the crew, and their handlers were generally placed in the same category. As

 

such, they had more freedom than most, and it showed. Dress codes were not

 

strictly enforced, lewd posters and graffiti decorated the walls, and many

 

operators were seated behind desks cluttered with several weeks worth of crumbs

 

and food-cartons.

 

When the squad of troopers marched in, they were met with groans. Surely,

 

nobody would bother to inspect this particular spot of the huge ship? The groans

 

dissolved into a disbelieving silence as the slicers realised that the troopers

 

had their blasters levelled towards them in a rather menacing stance. One of the

 

troopers tossed a few datacards onto a desk.

 

"Load those programs."

 

The slicer didn't even hesitate. Something in the demeanour of the troops

 

told him this was no exercise, and a wrong move would see him and all his

 

colleagues dead.

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Further back, another slicer surreptitiously moved his foot, touching a

 

'panic button' hidden in the corner of his desk.

 

 

 

 

 

In the central surveillance room, a red light started flashing.

 

"Sir," one of Darklighter's men called him over, "we have an alarm in the

 

droid control room."

 

"Trace the route of the signal."

 

"The alarm signal would have registered in surveillance room 3B the same

 

time it registered here."

 

"Their standard response will be to immediately contact the nearest

 

security squad, and dispatch them to the droid control room. Once that is

 

accomplished they will contact us. It is our job to inform the captain."

 

Even as he finished speaking, there was a buzz from one of the

 

communication consoles. He stepped over and answered it himself.

 

"Hello 3B. We've been expecting your call. Do you have a squad on the

 

way?"

 

"Yes, central. Internal security units 19A and 23B both responded. Shall I

 

alert a backup force?"

 

"Yes. Stormtrooper legion A77-B2, General Darklighter's personal guard.

 

They are extremely loyal to the Empire. Have them send a detachment down just in

 

case."

 

"Very well. You will inform the captain?"

 

"Yes." Darklighter cut the communication.

 

"Send troop 3 to intercept and destroy security unit 19A, and two

 

droidekas to ambush unit 23B."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

 

 

 

 

The turbolift doors snapped open and a brace of black-clad security guards

 

stormed out, taking up covering positions. They advanced down the passage

 

covering each other by twos. The droid control center was ninety meters ahead,

 

hidden by a bend in the passage. They were barely a third of the way down the

 

passage when the turbo-lift doors snapped open. They spun around, training their

 

weapons on the stormtroopers stepping out. Then one of them recognised the

 

markings on the stormtrooper's shoulder-patches.

 

"Troop 3, legion A77-B2." A stormtrooper announced. "We've been sent to

 

provide support."

 

"We've been expecting you."

 

The black-clad security guards resumed their advance down the passage.

 

Behind them, one of the stormtroopers quietly gave an order over his squad-level

 

circuit.

 

A hail of blaster fire smashed into the backs of the security guards. The

 

guards that survived the initial volley dived into cover and turned around to

 

return the stormtroopers' fire. Just then five men in regular army uniforms came

 

charging around from the direction of the droid control center, catching the

 

surviving security guards in a murderous cross-fire. It was all over in seconds.

 

One of the soldiers waved to the stormtroopers, and they returned to the control

 

center.

 

"Inform General Darklighter that the first squad has been eliminated.

 

Organise a droid-detail to clean up the mess."

 

 

 

 

 

The second security squad was on the deck above, moving into position

 

above the droid control room. They stopped moving at the sound of distant

 

blaster fire.

 

"Squad 19A has made contact with the intruders."

 

"Alright, get a move on. They might need our support."

 

One of the guards moved to an airduct and started cutting his way into it

 

with a laser-cutter. Behind the squad a soft ticking noise denoted the approach

 

of a droid. Familiar with droid noises few in the squad even bothered to look

 

up. One or two, recognising the ticking as that of the rolling action of a

 

droideka looked up just in time to see the mobile droids unfurl and lock

 

themselves into position. Shocked guards shouted warnings and spun around to

 

face the two droidekas, opening fire as they turned.

 

Their blaster bolts spattered uselessly against the shields of the large

 

droids, even as the droids opened fire, firing their heavy blasters with deadly

 

accuracy. Caught out in the open between the two droids, the security squad was

 

ripped to shreds. The droids advanced on three legs scanning the bodies for

 

life-signs. Finding none, they immediately curled over and rolled away down the

 

passage, back to their station.

 

 

 

 

 

Over the course of the next hour Darklighter's men gradually took over one

 

crucial station after another. The central computer room, life support control,

 

various surveillance centers, the engine room, and finally the command center

 

for ship-defense. They kept the ship running as if nothing had changed and made

 

no overt moves. On the bridge, the officer of the watch and Piett's officers had

 

no idea that the ship was not really under their control anymore. Here and there

 

a few technicians or guards had to be shot, stunned or otherwise subdued, but in

 

general there were very few fatalities. Darklighter had been planning this for

 

weeks, and had used every opportunity to insert his own access codes and

 

overrides into the ship's security systems.

 

"Seal barracks one through eight. Place droideka's on alert at all points

 

accessing barracks one through eight. We'll make our move at the change of

 

watch." He was pretty sure that the officers in charge of the other legions on

 

the huge ship would support him, but many of them were his friends. Should this

 

bid fail, he would rather there be no incriminating evidence against them. This

 

way, they could always argue that they had been out-maneuvred.

 

 

 

 

 

On the bridge, all was quiet. Pit crews went about their business,

 

oblivious to the happenings elsewhere in the city-like structure surrounding

 

them.

 

"Contacts. Imperial warships at bearing one nine three by zero five two.

 

It's the Grinder, and her escorts."

 

The officer of the watch glanced at his schedule.

 

"That's funny, they're not due back, and they didn't inform us that they

 

were returning. Call the Admiral. This is a serious breach of procedure. He will

 

want to question Captain Xris about it."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

The junior officer put a call through to the captain's cabin, situated

 

just abaft the bridge. A few seconds later Piett came marching out onto the

 

bridge.

 

"Get Xris on comm."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Piett marched to the captain's holo-station on the bridge, and waited

 

impatiently. Several seconds later, the holo-board was still dark. Piett was

 

starting to feel agitated.

 

"Well?"

 

"They're not responding to our hails, Admiral."

 

"Have you tried all the frequencies?"

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

Piett stared at the nervous officer for a full second, and turned back to

 

the holo-board.

 

"Tactical display. NOW!"

 

The holo-board surged to life, quickly painting a picture of the system

 

echoed from a nearby station. The Grinder and her escorts were quickly moving

 

into an enclosure formation on their starboard flank.

 

"Battle-stations."

 

"Sir?"

 

"YOU HEARD ME! BATTLE-STATIONS, YOU FOOL."

 

Klaxons blared all over the massive starship. Throughout it's seventeen

 

kilometers, hundreds of thousands of men and women started moving to their

 

assigned stations.

 

"More ships, on our port flank, it's the four Allegiance-class destroyers.

 

There are three interdictor's outside the formation, they are powering up."

 

Out of habit Piett glanced at the readiness board to see which stations

 

were battle-ready. Most of the ship should be at full alert by now. The board

 

was dark. He stared at the board in stupefecation.

 

"Security. Echo surveillance data to this board. What is happening out

 

there?"

 

"Sir, all cameras are reporting deserted corridors. It appears that nobody

 

on the ship has responded to the battle-call."

 

"Patch me through to surveillance central." Piett said with a look of

 

horror on his face.

 

"Surveillance central not responding."

 

"Run self-diagnostics on surveillance system."

 

"Self-diagnostics reports no faults. Sir. And ... this is impossible!"

 

"Report!"

 

"The self-diagnostics says that we are being fed recorded data."

 

"De-activate the computer control. Patch directly into shipboard cameras."

 

"Sir, there are thousands of cameras. We can't possibly monitor them

 

manually."

 

"I don't care which camera, lieutenant. ANY CAMERA."

 

The surveillance data cleared to show a deserted corridor. No, not quite

 

deserted. Two droideka's stood blocking the passageway. Otherwise there was no

 

sign of life.

 

"Next camera."

 

"Next camera."

 

"Next ... next ... next ... stop. Back one."

 

On the screen a number of uniformed navy crew were running towards the

 

camera. Suddenly they came under fire. A volley of stun bolts slammed into them,

 

sending bodies reeling backwards, many spasming in shock as their central

 

nervous systems were short-circuited.

 

"Track to see where those shots came from."

 

"Those stormtroopers over there, Sir. They're blocking the access ways

 

from the crew quarters to the gunnery control centers."

 

"Sir. We have a number of shuttles on their way here from the Grinder.

 

Assault shuttles."

 

"Do we have communication with the launch bays. Launch three squadrons of

 

TIE's."

 

"Communication is open, sir, but ..."

 

Piett turned to look at the next screen. In the massive launch bays, a

 

squad of battle-droids were standing guard over a number of pilots and

 

technicians. Behind them, a droid fighter circled the launch bay lazily, a few

 

hundred meters overhead. In the distance, a pair of stormtroopers stood guard at

 

the turbolifts.

 

"Zoom into those troopers. Can you identify their unit."

 

"It's General Darklighter's personal guard, sir."

 

Piett closed his eyes. On the tactical board, the assault shuttles from

 

the Grinder were getting closer. There was no winning this battle.

 

"Navigation, plot a jump, ten light years minimum, out of their sensor

 

range. Jump at will."

 

"Jump plotted, but hyperdrive won't engage."

 

"Cameras. Engine room."

 

In the engine room, a number of technicians were busy at work, everything

 

seemed normal.

 

"Pan the cameras."

 

The cameras panned through several engine rooms, everything appeared

 

normal, then Piett spotted it. The technicians. They were all large, tall men.

 

Big men. With ramrod straight stances. These were soldiers, not technicians.

 

More of Darklighter's men, maintaining an aura of normalcy should anyone check

 

the engine room. Piett knew that all was lost. Running out of options, he tried

 

one last desperate gamble. Maybe Darklighter was working on his own.

 

"Ship-wide call. Admiral Piett to General Darklighter."

 

"General Darklighter, Sir."

 

The holo-image cleared and coalesced into the face of Darklighter.

 

"General, do you realise that Captain Xris has launched several assault

 

shuttles and is even now attempting to land troops on this ship? He is

 

attempting a coup, now I don't know what you're up to, but I am prepared to

 

overlook it if you'll give my ship back to me."

 

"Admiral Piett. You are charged with treason against the Galactic Empire.

 

Admiral Leahcim Xris has authorised me to place you under arrest. You will

 

unseal the bridge and my troops will escort you to secure quarters where you may

 

await trial."

 

"What! You are mad. I will see you executed for this, Darklighter."

 

"Am I to understand that you are resisting arrest, Admiral?"

 

"Resisting arrest? You are a mutineer and a ..."

 

The holo-board snapped into darkness. Piett glanced around him. His bridge

 

crew were staring in shock at their displays and at him. At the door, his

 

bodyguard were looking rather unsure of themselves.

 

"Shoot anyone who attempts to gain access." He ordered. "I am not giving

 

up this bridge without a fight. What weapons do we have?"

 

 

 

 

 

After due consideration, Piett realised his position was better than he

 

had expected. His personal legion controlled the bridge and all access to the

 

bridge. The major passageways were guarded by AT-ST-II's, and smaller access

 

ways were covered by armoured infantry units in full battle-armour. The bridge

 

had it's own independent life-support system, so they were unlikely to be

 

gassed, decompressed, or cut off from air.

 

 

 

 

 

"General Darklighter. You have done well. I will not forget this."

 

"Admiral Leahcim Xris. I hereby pledge allegiance to you as most senior

 

officer representing the Emperor of the Galactic Empire."

 

"Piett?"

 

"The Admiral has managed to retain control of the bridge and all access to

 

the bridge. The only way we can dislodge him is with a direct assault. Success

 

is guaranteed, but losses will be heavy. As ordered, I have refrained from

 

inflicting unnecessary loss of life up to now."

 

"General, you think too much like a soldier. The Admiral may be firmly

 

ensconced on his bridge, but his ship is vulnerable."

 

"I don't understand."

 

"Withdraw your men to the most secure bulkheads below the bridge, and have

 

them seal those sections off from the bridge. The Admiral is about to be

 

decompressed. My men under Colonel Deerborn will take the bridge."

 

"I see." Darklighter nodded. "Give me two minutes to get my men into a

 

position of safety."

 

 

 

 

 

Piett was thinking furiously. Most of the soldiers on this ship were loyal

 

to him, or at least to the Empire as they knew it. Darklighter had the drop on

 

them, and obviously had taken control of the droids. But if he could engineer a

 

way to help the loyal legions to break free from the quarters where they were

 

confined by Darklighter's men, he might still be able to win the ship back. The

 

unknown factor was how much of the ship he would be able to win back before Xris

 

gave up trying to capture the ship, and just blew it away.

 

"Sir, the Grinder's assault shuttles have changed vector. They are not

 

heading towards the landing bays."

 

"What is he up to?"

 

As the assault shuttles moved away, Piett realised what was about to

 

happen. He swore viciously as the Grinder fired a devastating broadside into his

 

bridge shields. The deck thrummed as something exploded nearby. An overloaded

 

shield generator. A second broadside smashed into the shields. And a third.

 

"The shields are down. Another broadside and ..."

 

"SHUT UP!"

 

The fourth broadside never came. Instead, a wave of TIE's came screaming

 

past firing precisely targeted bolts into the unprotected superstructure of the

 

bridge. Shattered bodies were thrown dozens of meters through the air, and

 

screams from a nearby compartment was underlain by the shriek of atmosphere

 

escaping through a breach. A solid beam of flame smashed through a nearby wall,

 

incinerating two stormtroopers standing nearby.

 

"Seal that door." Piett shouted, even though he knew it was useless.

 

Another bolt smashed into the main bridge section, and Piett looked on in

 

horror as half his bridge-crew was incinerated by an intense blast of heat. Many

 

more were sucked out into vacuum, and the rest tossed around like leaves in a

 

breeze from the hammerblow. For a second Piett wondered why everything was so

 

quiet, then realised that his eardrums had been shattered. He tried to draw a

 

breath, but couldn't. The oxygen had been sucked out of the room by the flames.

 

He closed his eyes, waiting for the decompression to kill him. He felt his eyes

 

bulging out, and tried to put his hands up to stop them from exploding like

 

over-ripe tomatoes. Then A dull thud vibrated through the deck and caused him to

 

open his eyes.

 

The breach at the far end of the bridge had been sealed, but not by anyone

 

friendly. An assault shuttle had wedged itself into the breach, effectively

 

sealing it. It's main hatchway snapped open and two spacetroopers dived through

 

launching stun grenades and sleeping gas canisters as they came. Two more

 

troopers charged over the prone forms of their comrades shooting down anyone who

 

had been too brave or too stupid to duck. Their advance was answered with a

 

flurry of blaster fire from his own guards, sending two of the troopers reeling

 

backwards before his guards were cut down. In seconds, the bridge was full of

 

spacetroopers, air was being pumped back in, and his surviving crew-members were

 

being herded into a corner.

 

From nearby, sporadic firing could be heard as the space-troopers advanced

 

through the entire bridge superstructure, supported by squads entering through

 

other breaches. One of the troopers grabbed Piett's arm and unceremoniously

 

dragged him to the assault shuttle, where he was shoved into an airlock on the

 

far side. Despite his screaming and begging, the space trooper casually opened

 

the hatch and dumped him into vacuum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xris examined the damage to the bridge section of the Super Star

 

Destroyer. It looked remarkably intact, except for a number of holes where the

 

several meters of armour had been blown away. Molten metal had run across the

 

deck in several places where bulkheads had been torched or blown out. The troops

 

that had been confined to their quarters by the droids and Darklighter's men had

 

soon capitulated once the bridge was gone and news of Piett's death had spread.

 

"Just how bad is the damage?" Xris asked one of the engineers.

 

"The ship is in full working condition, and can be commanded from the

 

battle-bridge. A few functions will be marginally impaired because the battle-

 

bridge was never intended to provide the full functionality of the main bridge,

 

but it should serve. If we had access to a shipyard, then the entire main bridge

 

could have been replaced in a matter of days."

 

"Without a shipyard?"

 

"Six weeks. It will be messy, but will suffice."

 

"Very well. I suppose you had better get started."

 

"Sir?" Darklighter stepped forward.

 

"Yes, General?" Xris asked.

 

"What are we going to do about Grand Moff Jerjerrod?" The Moff had not

 

been aboard, but was out visiting the captured planets.

 

"He has just been in touch. Apparently the news spread quite fast. Moff

 

Jerjerrod has pledged full allegiance to me. All he wanted to know is whether he

 

should continue with his rebuilding program as outlined, or if their was

 

anything I wanted prioritised."

 

"A pure political animal." The General sneered.

 

"Yes. He knows where his bread is buttered. He is an able administrator,

 

and will manage the colonies well. I have appointed him my Chancellor. I will

 

remain in charge of fleet operations, and you of course will be fully in charge

 

of planetary defense, troop training, and all non-fleet military operations."

 

"Shipboard security?" Darklighter asked.

 

"Will now be the province of Deerborn. I have promoted him to General."

 

Xris smiled thinly. Darklighter was still the most senior non-fleet officer, but

 

Xris could hardly risk having him in charge of ship security, after all. If

 

Darklighter had any misgivings about his new status he kept it to himself. He

 

probably counted himself lucky to have come out of the entire mess with any

 

authority at all. He must have known that he would never be trusted by another

 

ship's captain after this day's work.

 

"The Aggressor will be my new flagship. The main bridge and the battle

 

bridge will be fully manned at all times. Until such time as the main bridge is

 

fully repaired the battle-bridge will have seniority. The repairs will have to

 

be conducted on the move. Now, what is the situation regarding enemy

 

dispositions?"

 

"The Enterprise has returned to Earth. Federation shipping patterns are

 

unchanged, all freighting is being done via escorted convoy. No sign as yet of

 

the Borg." His newly appointed tactical officer reported.

 

"They are not due for at least four days yet. For now, we need to

 

formalise the cease-fire with the Federation and her allies."

 

"Your excellency. Is that wise? In the long run, our purpose would be best

 

served by totally destroying their industrial capability."

 

"Their industrial capability has been seriously impaired. Intelligence

 

indicates our shipyards will be fully functional within a year, whereas their

 

primary shipyards will take them three to five years to re-assemble. Also, their

 

starship construction methodology is such that they need several years to

 

complete a decent starship, whereas our facilities will be able to churn out a

 

ship every few weeks or months when fully functional. What does concern me is

 

that we may not have located all their shipyards yet. Only sixty percent of

 

Federation space has been mapped."

 

"Hyperspace course for Earth is set, Excellency."

 

"Jump."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bajoran system was deserted. Since the destruction of the Gate it had

 

been totally barren. Several million tons worth of rubble dotted the empty

 

spaces between the barren planets. The world which had been Bajor was a brown-

 

orange rock, totally devoid of life. Suddenly, close to the asteroid field, a

 

swirling mass of energies exploded into life, then vanished as if it had never

 

been. A tiny space-ship negotiated it's way through the wreckage. It's sensors

 

ran over molten metal barely recognisable as a destroyed Imperator. It carefully

 

probed a piece of tritanium, barely recognisable as once having been part of the

 

saucer section of a Federation starship. Another piece of wreckage attracted a

 

lot of attention. A fraction identifiable as the remains of a Borg hull.

 

Several minutes later, apparently having satisfied it's curiosity, it

 

withdrew to the vicinity of the wormhole, and made it's way back to the Gamma

 

Quadrant. The Founders would be very interested in what their loyal servant had

 

observed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blue-green planet continued on it's inexorable journey, oblivious to

 

the intense emotions it incurred in those it had given birth to. Currently, it

 

was orbited by dozens of starships, each imbued with energies sufficient to

 

render it's fertile surface sterile for all time should they be unleashed. A few

 

million planetary diameters away, it's red brother too was hosting several

 

starships. Also orbiting it's red brother was a huge mass of wreckage. This

 

wreckage had been the birthplace of many of the starships now orbiting the two

 

planets, and was the primary subject of discussion amongst the beings that still

 

referred to the blue-green planet as home.

 

"There have been no new reports of shipping raids in the last six days.

 

Perhaps we can hope that the cease-fire negotiated by Captain Picard will be

 

maintained."

 

"Today is the deadline. Picard said this Xris would contact us today if

 

his bid to seize control was successful."

 

"We can only hope so. What is the situation at Canis Minor?" Canis Minor

 

was the only operating shipyard left to the Federation. It was not currently

 

capable of producing anything larger than an Akira or an Intrepid.

 

"The first resource convoys will be arriving there shortly. There are

 

three nearly complete Akira's in the yard. We will rush them into service, then

 

temporarily expand the shipyard facilities to accommodate the simultaneous

 

construction of five more Akiras. If we keep up the resource convoys, we can

 

have them done within a year."

 

"A year!"

 

"I am sorry, Mister President, but Canis Minor was never a large shipyard

 

to begin with. It will take us five years at best to recover from the loss of

 

the Utopia Planitia yards and the Alpha Centauri yards. Should the war continue,

 

we may never recover. We might be able to refit older ships with more powerful

 

phasers, modern organic warp cores, quantum launchers and better computers, but

 

we cannot hope to construct an entire navy overnight."

 

"Why was I never told just how bad off Starfleet was?"

 

A few of the Admirals glanced at each other. To their credit, the warhawks

 

amongst the Admirals kept their mouth's shut. It was Jellicoe who eventually

 

responded.

 

"Mister President. Such a contact situation could never have been

 

predicted. We've had long-term plans for countering a Borg invasion, but such an

 

invasion was always thought to be a long way off. Our other enemies were

 

quantifiable. The war with the Empire, especially it's brutality and suddenness,

 

was a totally anomalous event. We could not have predicted it."

 

"Yet we were warned." The President sighed. A few raised eyebrows.

 

"The first contact with the Borg." The President expanded. "Picard

 

mentioned that the being known as Q told him that we had become complacent,

 

secure in our position as the big fish in a small pond. He told Picard that the

 

Borg were merely a wake-up call, a sign of the terrors awaiting us, and that

 

complacency could result in our extermination as a species. We prepared for the

 

Borg, but we did not rid ourselves altogether of the complacency."

 

"We couldn't have known." One of the doves said, plaintively. The

 

President waved the idiot to silence, then continued.

 

"It may serve the purpose of this Xris to make peace with us now. The

 

Klingons may not readily agree to a cease-fire, but I doubt they have much

 

choice. We cannot win this war yet. But we can make sure that we don't lose

 

today. If Xris is successful in his bid to take control of the Empire, then we

 

shall make peace with this Galactic Empire, and we shall use the peace just as

 

he will use it. To rebuild. To prepare. The peace will not last forever, and

 

when it is over, I want Starfleet to be ready to win the war. Do you understand

 

me? Win. Gentlemen. This war is not about politics, or religion, or resources,

 

or borders, or ideologue. This is a war for our very survival."

 

The Admirals looked at each other. They knew what the President meant.

 

They had been given an effective Carte Blanche. Starfleet would rebuild, but the

 

new Starfleet would not be a fleet of science vessels and explorers. It would be

 

a war fleet.

 

 

 

 

 

The Imperial fleet arrived with a suddenness that was still unnerving to

 

many Federation captains. One second, their sensors were clear of enemy ships

 

for light-years in all directions, the next, the Imperial fleet was in orbit

 

over Venus. Many a sensor operator yelped in surprise. It was difficult to wrap

 

your head around a stardrive that could so effectively and totally circumvent

 

all means of detection. For centuries, ships and their crews had been forced to

 

crawl across the gulfs of inter-stellar space. Embarking on an inter-stellar

 

journey was not unlike the experiences of seventeenth century sailors. Days,

 

weeks, even months would slowly drag by as the ship ploughed it's way to a

 

distant destination. Enemies could be seen approaching for hours, and

 

preparations for battle could be a long drawn out affair, culminating in a short

 

and fierce action.

 

Many Federation crewers wondered if their seventeenth century counterparts

 

would have felt the same as they did now if they had been confronted by a

 

supersonic jet-plane.

 

"Multiple bogeys orbiting Venus. I count seven ships."

 

"Designations?"

 

"One Executor-class ship, two Allegiance class escorts, and four

 

Imperators. The Executor-class is registering minor damage around the bridge

 

area."

 

"Attempt to open a channel."

 

"Opening channel ... responding."

 

"On-screen."

 

A thin-faced human appeared on the screen. The human in the recordings

 

provided by Picard.

 

"Captain Xris? I am Admiral Jefferson. We have been expecting you."

 

"I am now Admiral Xris. What arrangements have you made for our

 

discussions?"

 

Jefferson nodded. This Xris certainly didn't beat about the bush.

 

"We have prepared a conference facility on Mars, the fourth planet. I am

 

transmitting the co-ordinates to you now. There are landing facilities

 

available, and it is quite far from the major population centres."

 

"Security arrangements?"

 

"We guarantee your ambassadors safety, Excellency. If you require, our

 

starships will withdraw ten light-seconds from the planet. We also request that

 

your ships not approach any closer than this, except of course for the

 

ambassadorial shuttles."

 

"If I insist that the meeting take place on this ship?"

 

The Admiral looked uncomfortable for a second.

 

"Your excellency, it is our position that we were never the aggressors in

 

this conflict. We would consider it an immensely placatory gesture should you

 

agree to meet on our soil."

 

"I suppose you couldn't have said it any more diplomatically than that. So

 

be it. We will send one shuttle shortly." The thin face twisted into a grimace,

 

barely recognizable as a cynical smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Xris looked out at the red-brown surface of the planet below with disdain.

 

A backwater colonial world if he had ever seen one. His shuttle was approaching

 

one of the smaller settlements, a domed village barely worthy of the name.

 

Probably no more than ten or twenty thousand inhabitants. Considering the

 

world's proximity to the Human home world Earth, he was quite amazed that the

 

Earther's had not put greater effort into it's re-engineering. It was in their

 

home star system for goodness sake. He wondered if the technology was beyond

 

them.

 

According to his intelligence brief, the planet was being re-engineered,

 

but at such a slow rate that it would be centuries still before it would have a

 

breathable atmosphere. As it was, the planet was home to a number of small domed

 

cities, only a handful having more than ten million citizens.

 

"Uncivilised barbarians." one of his honor guard was heard to mutter.

 

Surprisingly, even the home world, Earth, was only home to a few billion

 

citizens concentrated into a number of so-called cities, huge tracts of the

 

planet being un-utilised. Nature Reserves, they called it, and Parks. What a

 

waste, he thought. If you wanted a park, build it on an uninhabited planet

 

nearby.

 

The shuttle descended through a temporary opening in the dome. The shuttle

 

rocked lightly as it's weight was transferred from the repulsor lifts onto the

 

landing gear. Xris stood stiffly at the top of the ramp as his honor guard

 

marched past him in a double rank, and assumed their ceremonial stations at the

 

base of the ramp. With an impatient flick of his robe, he marched down between

 

the double rank of stormtroopers. He would negotiate a cease-fire, but as soon

 

as his industrial and economic strength was up to it, he would bring these

 

primitives to heal.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

The Imperial fleet was all gathered over the world of K'trak. Buzzing in-

 

between and around the massive ships were hordes of repair droids from the SSD

 

Aggressor and the Giel-class SD Grinder. The fleet now numbered a total of

 

twenty-eight ships, even those having been severely damaged in the Battle of

 

Bajor when the Gate was destroyed having been repaired. Xris was actually quite

 

happy with his fleet. Few fleets even back home could compare in firepower. A

 

Super Star Destroyer, A Giel-class Battleship, four Allegiance-class escorts,

 

seven Imperator's and a motley assortment of sixteen smaller ships, Victories,

 

Interdictors and a handful of Carracks and Lancers.

 

He didn't bother to count the troop transports, freighters and patrol

 

ships which had also been trapped in the galaxy. They were after all not really

 

military ships. At this time, all non-combat ships were fully engaged in

 

freighting supplies between the dozen worlds held by his forces.

 

"I have an incoming warp signature." A sensor operator announced. "ETA

 

three hours twenty minutes."

 

"Send a Lancer to ID the signature."

 

Since the signing of the cease-fire three days ago Xris had relaxed his

 

patrols to the bare minimum necessary so as to conserve their fuel supplies.

 

Even so, they were still currently using more fuel than they could manufacture.

 

The incoming warp signature was not unexpected. The Federation hadn't exactly

 

agreed to provide support in the event of the Borg attack, but they had implied

 

that having a Borg presence on their doorstep was not a heart-warming thought.

 

Xris suspected that at least Picard and a few others might feel strongly

 

enough about it to have come in support. Minutes later his guess was confirmed.

 

It was a Federation task force come to assist in the expected Borg attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Madine, in charge of system defense of Sandar V, narrowed his eyes

 

at the sight on the com-scan console. A warp signature, coming in much faster

 

than any he had seen before.

 

"ETA?"

 

"Forty minutes, maybe less."

 

"Send a notification to the fleet. It looks like we're on our own though.

 

I doubt they can get a strike force together in time."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Sound a general alert. Prepare to raise shields when they enter the

 

system. Alert the populace as well. Tell them we have Borg incoming. Fifteen

 

cubes."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Is that the entire fleet, do you think?" Riker asked.

 

"I suspect so, yes." Picard replied.

 

On the view-screen, approximately thirty Imperial ships including the two

 

massive battle-ships were assembled. Some of them still showed signs of battle,

 

but these signs were much less than they had been even a few days ago at the

 

peace conference.

 

"Quite an efficient bunch." Riker commented.

 

"Give me a scan of the planet, and any other activity in the system."

 

Picard ordered. In seconds, data began scrolling up the view-screen, and images

 

started coming in.

 

"They're raping the system!"

 

"Indeed. They certainly don't seem to have any regard for preserving the

 

natural order of things."

 

The planet below was a hive of activity. Large tracts of the planet were

 

being strip-mined by massive robotic vehicles. Factories were spewing pollution

 

into the atmosphere, and massive construction projects seemed to be underway.

 

Just four months ago this had been a peaceful farming colony. Now it was

 

unrecognisable.

 

"Would you look at that!" Riker exclaimed.

 

On a moon of one of the outer-system gas-giants, an immense structure was

 

taking shape.

 

"That must be dozens of kilometers tall. What do you think it is?"

 

"I can have the computer run an extrapolation of the existing

 

construction," Data offered, "based on what we know about the Imperials, it

 

should make a reasonable guess."

 

On the view-screen, the structure suddenly seemed to extend and expand,

 

with several arms sticking out from a central column that must have been

 

hundreds of kilometers long, and embedded several dozen kilometers into the moon

 

itself.

 

"The computer projection indicates that it may be a docking structure

 

which will allow their ships to dock onto that moon. Possibly for extensive

 

repairs purposes. It might also be a ship construction facility."

 

"Good grief. I would never have thought anybody would build something so

 

monstrous. There will probably be nothing left of that moon when they're done.

 

Their industrial capacity must be immensely greater than we feared."

 

"Yes. Only the Borg might attempt something like this, or have an

 

equivalent industrial drive."

 

"Sir. Admiral Xris."

 

"On-screen."

 

"Captain Picard. I have just received a communication from one of my

 

colonies. They have fifteen Borg cubes on their way in. The system is 190 light

 

years away. The Borg cubes will arrive in less than forty minutes, but my ships

 

can only get their in 1.5 hours. The planet will have to hold out on it's own

 

till we get there. My docking facilities can accommodate all your ships. We will

 

wait until your ships are secured before we make the jump."

 

"Thank you, Admiral."

 

Picard was mildly frustrated at the paternal attitude of these aliens

 

towards their slow warp drives, but he had no other choice. 190 light years was

 

a three week journey by warp. If he wanted to assist in any way, then he would

 

have to subject his ships to the humiliation of the docking procedure again.

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty minutes later he was looking at a truly intimidating sight. On the

 

view-screen, several Akiras, a few Intrepids and a couple of Nebulons were

 

stacked like toys in one of the huge docking bays of the SSD Aggressor. Another

 

bay, diametrically opposite them and separated from them by three kilometers of

 

open space, was home to a partially rebuilt Imperator-class Destroyer. Below the

 

gap, where he would have expected to see stars, was the static whirl of

 

hyperspace. He was reminded of the journey he had made in Antilles flagship a

 

few short months previously. The mental image of his task force all bundled up

 

like little toys in the pocket of the Super Star Destroyer's immense repair bays

 

was rather disconcerting.

 

The Enterprise of course had been docked inside various Starbases before,

 

but even those starbases were dwarfed by this monstrosity of a battleship. The

 

plan was for the fleet to disengage hyperdrive about a tenth of a light-year

 

outside the system, so as to allow time for the Federation ships to undock, and

 

warp in on their own power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Okay, raise shields." Madine ordered.

 

There was no point in waiting. The Borg cubes were now only two minutes

 

out of the system. He had one regiment of stormtroopers and three army regiments

 

at his disposal for last ditch defense of the shield generators. The outlying

 

areas were defended by twenty thousand battle-droids of varying design. The

 

designs were the same designs that centuries of warfare had proven most viable,

 

except that the droids were rather more autonomous than their predecessors. The

 

Old Republic had encouraged battle-droids to be slaved into one cohesive system,

 

and even designed their ships that way. The lesson learnt at Naboo by the Trade

 

Federation, followed shortly thereafter by the loss of the Katana Fleet, had

 

convinced military designers of the folly of this design principal though.

 

Imperial military engineers preferred unit autonomy. The best droids were

 

manufactured with intelligent self-learning motivators, but an undesired side-

 

effect was a tendency to achieve sentience. Regular mind-wipes solved the

 

problem.

 

On a nearby scope, several sharp spikes suddenly appeared.

 

"The cubes are firing on shield sector nineteen. They've ceased fire. Now

 

trying to drain energy from the shield. Planetary shield nineteen down to ninety

 

seven percent."

 

"Already? Route residual power from adjacent shield generators to

 

generator number nineteen. Geothermal plants to stand by."

 

"Geothermal plants standing by. Planetary shield nineteen stabilised at

 

ninety five percent."

 

"Can't we recharge it to full power?"

 

"Those cubes are draining energy out of the shield at a tremendous rate,

 

sir. If we increase reactor output on generator number nineteen we risk

 

overheating."

 

"Keep a close watch on that generator. How are the other generators

 

doing?"

 

"Generators 16, 15, 24 and 25 running at ninety percent capacity

 

supplementing generator nineteen."

 

"If any generators look like overheating patch in the auxiliary cells. For

 

now route all borehole energy into the auxiliary power cells. Have the mining-

 

droids sink another geothermal borehole close to generator nineteen in case it

 

needs supplementing."

 

"Yes, Sir."

 

"Transporter locks detected. Multiple sectors."

 

"Tactical holo. Planetary scale."

 

A hologram appeared in the command centre showing the globe of the planet.

 

Most of the planet was obscured by blue umbrellas denoting shield coverage,

 

several of the umbrellas overlapping to provide additional cover for

 

industrialised areas. Several red dots appeared on the surface in zones outside

 

the shield covered areas.

 

"Looks like they're going to attempt a ground assault. Do we have any data

 

on Borg ground assault tactics?"

 

"None, Sir."

 

"Well, let's prepare for the worst. The Borg may utilise any number of

 

tactics or equipment combinations they might have assimilated from other

 

species. The safest course would be to assume the worst. Ensure that all

 

vehicles and droids are programmed for self-destruct in event of capture or

 

destruction."

 

"Sir, according to the sensor data, there have been more than three

 

million transports detected."

 

The command centre was stunned into silence. They had only five thousand

 

troops and twenty thousand battle droids at their disposal. At least they had

 

the full co-operation of the local Cardassian population. Tens of thousands of

 

Cardassian males had volunteered to fight off the Borg, but their help had been

 

refused. The Imperials were not yet ready to trust their workforce with weapons.

 

"Have the manufacturing centres maximise droideka construction. I don't

 

know how long we will be expected to hold out, but every single droid

 

manufactured will be needed."

 

 

 

 

 

The Droid Control Centre was located on the level below the command centre

 

where Madine was co-ordinating the defense from. It was currently in direct

 

communication with hundreds of command units scattered through the Imperial

 

droid armies on the planet. Thousands of battle encrypted reports in military

 

droid binary language were coming in each second, and thousands of instructions

 

re-transmitted to the droids. The DCC was also continually updating the tactical

 

displays for it's organic overseers above, who would give it the occasional

 

strategic command. One such encrypted signal had just arrived.

 

 

 

Captain MD-752-B91 Reporting:

 

..tactical evaluation follows.

 

..four hundred MD units located on ridge-line designated A72-S15.

 

..all non-armoured units in cover below ridge-line.

 

..supporting units as follows:-

 

..fifty S-10 War Droids

 

..ten repulsor-lift tanks

 

..ten light chariots.

 

..one humanoid cyborg approaching at two meters per second.

 

..range five decimal two nine eight.

 

..please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-752-B91.

 

..terminate cyborg

 

 

 

Captain MD-752-B91 acknowledges.

 

..fifteen shots fired by local MD units.

 

..adjustments made for local atmospheric conditions and terrain features.

 

..five hits reported.

 

..humanoid cyborg has malfunctioned.

 

..life sign indications falling rapidly.

 

..cyborg terminated.

 

 

 

 

 

On a different part of the planet another Borg drone was crossing an open

 

plain in the face of another group of droid defenders.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-391-G62 Reporting.

 

..grid reference A78-S15

 

..tactical evaluation follows.

 

..evaluation unchanged.

 

..one humanoid cyborg approaching at two meters per second.

 

..range six decimal one five three.

 

..please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-391-G62.

 

..terminate the cyborg.

 

 

 

Captain MD-391-G62 acknowledges.

 

..eight ranging shots fired by local MD units.

 

..adjustments made for local atmospheric conditions and terrain features.

 

..one hit confirmed.

 

..cyborg defended by a personal energy shield.

 

..zero damage to cyborg.

 

..forty two shots fired by local units

 

..cyborg energy field still in place.

 

..zero damage to cyborg.

 

..please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-391-G62.

 

..advise synchronised volley by multiple units.

 

 

 

Captain MD-391-G62 acknowledges.

 

..twenty shots fired in volley.

 

..seventeen hits.

 

..cyborg still advancing.

 

..fifty shots fired in volley.

 

..thirty-eight hits.

 

..cyborg is damaged.

 

..cyborg has repaired damage in 2.1 seconds.

 

..cyborg advancing.

 

..one hundred shots fired in volley.

 

..seventy-eight hits.

 

..eleven hits in close concentration on Cyborg's chest.

 

..extensive damage to Cyborg's organic component.

 

..life signs falling rapidly.

 

..cyborg terminated.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-752-B91 Reporting.

 

..tactical evaluation follows.

 

..tactical situation unchanged.

 

..one humanoid cyborg approaching at two meters per second.

 

..range four decimal eight one two.

 

..please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-752-B91.

 

..terminate cyborg.

 

 

 

Captain MD-752-B91 acknowledges.

 

..twenty shots fired.

 

..zero damage.

 

..cyborg is shielded.

 

..please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to all command units.

 

..advise volley fire targeted at individual cyborgs.

 

..all cyborgs appear to have been retro-fitted with energy shields.

 

 

 

Captain MD-752-B91 acknowledges.

 

..fifty shot volley fired.

 

..cyborg damaged.

 

..cyborg has repaired damage.

 

..one hundred shot volley fired.

 

..cyborg terminated.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to all command units.

 

..advise use of thermal detonators if launch vehicle available.

 

..alternatively, minimum one hundred shot volley per target.

 

..defensive groups with no armoured support and fewer than one hundred MD

 

units are to fall back to secondary positions.

 

 

 

 

 

In the command centre Madine watched the developments with gritted teeth.

 

The advancing drones had superb personal shielding that would basically render

 

his infantry useless.

 

"Send advisories to all units about this development," Madine ordered. "If

 

we can't damage the drones directly, then we'll do it indirectly. Melt the

 

ground they walk on, poison the air they breathe, burn them with incendiaries.

 

One way or another, we should be able to destroy them."

 

He swore silently as he looked over the reports. Only three individual

 

drones had been sent so far. The Borg were obviously testing their defences. He

 

wondered what their next move would be.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-X31 Reporting.

 

..grid reference A74-S15.

 

..tactical evaluation unchanged.

 

..one humanoid cyborg with full body armour approaching

 

..no external organics detected.

 

..range 5.182 and closing at two meters per second.

 

..Please Advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-612-X31.

 

..Terminate the cyborg.

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-X31 acknowledges.

 

..fifty shot volley fired.

 

..zero damage.

 

..cyborg is shielded.

 

..one hundred shot volley fired.

 

..cyborg's left arm melted.

 

..cyborg's left arm has been repaired.

 

..one hundred shot volley fired.

 

..zero damage.

 

..Please Advise

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-612-X31.

 

..advise launch of thermal detonators.

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-X31 acknowledges.

 

..two thermal charges launched in ballistic trajectory.

 

..cyborg has fired energy weapon.

 

..MD-612-X01 terminated.

 

..cyborg has fired energy weapon.

 

..MD-612-X02 terminated.

 

..thermal charges impacting.

 

..target obscured.

 

..re-calibrating optics.

 

..no sign of target.

 

..correction follows.

 

..molten metal detected with spectral signature identical to cyborg

 

armour.

 

..confirm cyborg termination.

 

 

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to all command units.

 

..advise use of thermal detonators as primary offensive weapon.

 

..cyborg threat level upgraded from infantry to light bipedal armoured

 

unit.

 

 

 

 

 

Madine tapped his fingers in frustration. Like all droids, military droids

 

relied on self-learning algorithms to advance their sentience level. But being

 

brand new and still inexperienced, their sentience level was just not developing

 

fast enough. Still, the Borg hadn't been particularly imaginative up to now, and

 

if that trend continued they just might make it until the fleet got here. If the

 

fleet were coming.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-G91 Reporting.

 

..multiple humanoid cyborgs approaching at two meters per second in an

 

extended random dispersal pattern.

 

..range four decimal nine.

 

..elected course of action: cyborg termination.

 

..Launching thermal detonators.

 

..Multiple weapons discharges from cyborg position

 

..MD-612-G01 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..One hundred twenty three cyborgs and counting.

 

..Two hundred and eighty cyborgs and counting.

 

..detonators impacting.

 

..Re-calibrating sensors for atmospheric disturbance.

 

..multiple cyborgs destroyed or damaged.

 

..Five hundred plus cyborgs advancing.

 

..MD 612-G15 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..thermal detonator destruction radius reduced by forty two percent.

 

..repulsor tanks opening fire at optimal rate: sixty percent power, four

 

rounds per second.

 

..tanks report seventy five percent fatality rate for a direct hit.

 

..MD-612-G53 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..tanks report fatality rate decreased to sixty two percent.

 

..tanks increased weapon power to eighty percent, re-fire rate down to one

 

shot per second, fatality rate increased to eighty percent.

 

..MD-612-G42 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..estimate two thousand plus cyborgs advancing, range three kilometres.

 

..estimate three minutes to exhaust thermal detonator supplies.

 

..request re-supply of thermal detonators

 

..MD-612-G28 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..tank-crews estimate four minutes to anti-armour cannons overheating.

 

..Cyborg casualty rate insufficient for successful defence.

 

..estimate this position to be overrun in twenty five minutes.

 

..Please advise.

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-612-G91.

 

..hold position.

 

..air support ETA your position in two minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

"Sir," a junior officer reported to Madine, "we have a major Borg advance

 

in sector fifteen. All other sectors report thousands of drones beyond weapons

 

range and in attack positions but no sign of an advance."

 

Madine glanced at the holo-map. "Focus on sector fifteen."

 

A holographic map of the sector appeared, showing twenty five separate

 

lines of advance on all defensive positions. Sector fifteen was the only area

 

with terrain conducive to a large-scale defence of shield generator twelve.

 

Should the Borg overrun the position, they would be able to mount a direct

 

offensive on the shield generator. He could only imagine what would happen

 

should the Borg manage to compromise the generator. Besides losing that entire

 

part of the planet to the Borg, they would assimilate the technology.

 

"Authorise use of nerve gas. Set up an incendiary-based air-strike. Start

 

rounding up every thermal detonator we can spare and organise a re-supply drop

 

for Sector fifteen."

 

"Shall we withdraw forces from other sectors to assist?"

 

"No. This sector was attacked because it was the easiest to overrun.

 

Should we weaken any other sector, the Borg there will just advance. They have

 

numerical superiority and are using it."

 

"Sir. What about an air strike on those positions before withdrawing

 

forces?"

 

"Negative. That would require leaving the shield coverage. The air units

 

will be exposed to orbital fire. We don't have sufficient ships to risk it."

 

Madine waved the officer away while he contemplated likely alternatives

 

should the position be overrun.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-X31 reporting.

 

..tactical evaluation.

 

..MD-612-X41 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..multiple thousand fully-armoured and shielded cyborgs advancing.

 

..range two kilometres.

 

..MD-612-X74 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is ninety one percent.

 

..enemy approaching optimum range for anti-armour kinetic projectiles.

 

..tanks authorised to fire kinetic projectiles.

 

..MD-612-X82 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..multiple cyborgs destroyed.

 

..kinetic projectiles has ninety four percent fatality rate.

 

..advise all units to use anti-armour kinetic projectiles.

 

..MD-612-X14 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is sixty two percent

 

..troop losses approaching thirty percent.

 

..request reinforcements

 

..request additional tanks armed with anti-armour kinetic projectile

 

launchers.

 

..MD-612-X29 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is sixty seven percent.

 

..S-10 War Droid units moving into attack position on defensive flanks.

 

..War Droid units opening fire.

 

..multiple cyborgs destroyed.

 

..MD-612-X43 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..S-10 War Droids proving effective in volley fire against individual

 

cyborgs.

 

..likelihood that position will be overru

 

 

 

 

 

Unit MD-612-X32 reporting.

 

..captain MD-612-X31 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..unit MD-612-X32 now designated Captain MD-612-X32.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is sixty five percent.

 

..seven tanks ceased heavy blaster fire due to overheating.

 

..two tanks report anti-armour kinetic projectile launchers losing

 

calibration

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is seventy two percent.

 

..MD-612-X62 terminated by energy discharge.

 

..S-10 WD-612-W01 damaged by chemical explosive.

 

..request reinforcements.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is eighty one percent.

 

..request reinforcements.

 

..urgent request reinforcements.

 

..cyborgs obscured by multiple detonations of unknown source.

 

..source identified.

 

..TIE Bombers overhead.

 

..cyborgs obscured by green vapour.

 

..vapour identified as XN-20 nerve gas.

 

..nerve gas caused momentary halt of cyborg advance.

 

..multiple cyborgs experiencing apparent electronic spasms.

 

..cyborgs recovered.

 

..likely that nervous system disruption was overridden by cybernetic

 

implants.

 

..nerve gas ineffective.

 

..cyborgs advancing.

 

..likelihood that position will be overrun is seventy one percent.

 

..bright flash has caused short-circuit of optical circuits.

 

..unit retiring from command position.

 

 

 

 

 

Unit MD-612-X49 reporting.

 

..captain MD-612-X32 has suffered extensive damage to visual circuitry.

 

..unit MD-612-X49 now designated Captain MD-612-X49.

 

..bright flash identified as anti-amour incendiary-based aerial

 

detonation.

 

..large volume of incandescent debris falling on cyborg positions.

 

..multiple cyborgs damaged or destroyed.

 

..five tanks report weapons sufficiently cooled to resume firing.

 

..likelihood of position being overrun is now forty two percent.

 

 

 

 

 

Droid Control Centre to Captain MD-612-X49.

 

..ETA for reinforcements three minutes.

 

..reinforcements consists of three repulsor-tanks, five tracked tanks, two

 

AT-AT walkers and twenty shielded destroyer-class droids.

 

..reinforcements will be delivered by dropship.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain MD-612-X49 reporting.

 

..cyborg advance halted.

 

..random cyborgs still advancing, many of them damaged.

 

..likelihood of position being overrun now less than ten percent.

 

..new targets detected.

 

..multiple thousand cyborgs detected advancing in second attack wave.

 

..insufficient fire-power to stop second attack wave.

 

..this position will be overrun within twenty minutes.

 

..please advise

 

 

 

 

 

Madine slammed his fist into the table. The Borg had just been testing the

 

defensive strength of the position, and he didn't have sufficient droids to

 

counter their numbers. With the losses incurred by the droid armies in that

 

sector so far, there was no hope of holding off the second wave. He would have

 

to take a few risks. He had an army regiment in a last-ditch defensive position

 

in Sector Thirteen, only forty kilometres from the shield generator the Borg

 

were advancing towards.

 

"Recall the reinforcements heading to Sector Fifteen. Send in empty

 

dropships to evacuate all droids in sector fifteen and re-form at the secondary

 

position in Sector Thirteen. Stormtrooper regiments BL-2345 and XU-4193 are to

 

reinforce the Army regiment at that position."

 

A subordinate looked questioningly at him, but it was not in the nature of

 

Imperial army officers to question orders. Madine knew that would leave two

 

other shield generators without their last-ditch defences. Well, he thought, the

 

droids forming the outer perimeter in those areas would just have to hold their

 

lines. At least it would take the Borg drones several hours of walking to reach

 

that position. A small reprieve. He glanced at the ceiling, wondering what was

 

happening in the space around the planet.

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GALAXY OF WAR

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

 

 

A fanfic by Michael January

 

 

 

 

 

"All Federation ships are clear."

 

"Communications. Set up two battle channels. Designate Federation ships

 

blue, Imperial ships green. Navigation, transmit jump co-ordinates on blue

 

channel. All ships, stand by for mark. Mark!"

 

The Imperial flickered out of sight, leaving the forty odd Federation

 

vessels in deep space. Seconds later the Federation fleet engaged warp drive and

 

streaked towards the nearby star where the Imperial ships were already closing

 

with the fifteen Borg cubes blockading Candar V.

 

 

 

 

 

On the bridge of the SSD Aggressor Admiral Xris calmly issued orders to

 

his fleet. His officers were unaware of his inner turmoil. This battle was

 

crucial to the survival of his new found status in this galaxy. He could not

 

afford to lose an entire planet to the Borg, nor could he afford for any

 

Imperial technology to fall into Borg hands. On the other hand, he couldn't

 

afford to lose any ships either.

 

The fifteen cubes were loosely spread around the planet in an enclosing

 

formation. Two cubes broke away from the planet and headed towards the newly

 

arrived Imperial fleet.

 

A triad of Imperators moved forward and opened fire on one of the cubes,

 

but made only a minimal impression on it's shields. The second cube was heading

 

directly towards the SSD Aggressor, which was keeping back from the frontline of

 

the duelling ships.

 

"Triad two engage cube one with ion cannons. All ships launch TIE Bombers

 

and Gunboats. Fighters are irrelevant and are not to be used. Co-ordinate

 

bombing runs for squadron level torpedo salvoes. Remaining escorts engage cube

 

two with ion cannons. Aggressor prepare for full power dorsal broadside on my

 

mark."

 

Xris watched as the approaching cube was brought into their primary firing

 

cone and the range closed. A myriad of blue streaks were ripping into the flank

 

of the three kilometer cubed monstrosity approaching. Electrical discharges

 

flickered across all it's faces, but the vessel came on undeterred.

 

"Fire!" Xris ordered.

 

The seventeen kilometer long ship actually shuddered as several thousand

 

turbolaser emplacements simultaneously fired at maximum firepower, totally

 

shredding the approaching cube. Somehow, the cube still retained it's cohesion,

 

even though most of it had been reduced to molten slag and large chunks were

 

spinning away. In places large holes had been drilled clean through to the other

 

side of the ship. Two lancers moved in firing a salvo of concussion missiles

 

into the wreck. Eight multi-megaton nuclear detonations deep inside the mass of

 

molten metal totally vapourised the wreck, making sure that there was no chance

 

for it to repair itself.

 

On his tactical display Xris noted that the first cube was still managing

 

to return fire, even though it was now the sole focus of the fury of six

 

Imperators. It's entire outer surface was one mess of wrecked tubing and

 

incandescent metal vapour, but the damage was disappearing as fast it was being

 

inflicted. A wing of gunboats swept in towards the battle at high speed, firing

 

several volleys of torpedoes. Several torpedoes smacked directly into the hull,

 

burying themselves deep inside the ship before detonating. The detonations did

 

minimal damage, the torpedoes being designed primarily to do pinpoint damage to

 

external or hull-mounted structures rather than as ship-killers, but the sight

 

caught Xris's attention.

 

"Order all bombers and gunboats to program the missiles for impact

 

detonation only. No proximity detonations. Their shields are optimised for

 

energy re-direction, not physical deflection."

 

Ironically, the bombers and gunboats were doing more damage to the cube

 

than the six Imperator's beating on it. The problem was that the cube was just

 

too massive for the damage to be really significant.

 

"Two more cubes approaching, sir."

 

On the tactical display, two cubes had broken off from the blockade and

 

were also now on an intercept bearing with the Super Star Destroyer.

 

"Allegiance-class ships to target cube one, I want it taken down now. The

 

Giel is to intercept those two cubes. Launch all fighters with full proton

 

torpedo loads. Tactical mode is squadron-level torpedo salvoes. Move us further

 

away from the planet. The Aggressor will serve as docking platform for bombers

 

and fighters."

 

The twelve kilometer long battleship Giel accelerated away from the main

 

formation, placing itself between the Aggressor and the two incoming cubes. To

 

the right of the main formation, the four allegiance-class cruisers moved to

 

support the six Imperators pinning down the first cube. Three of the Imperators

 

were already backing away, their shields flickering wildly. Squadron after

 

squadron of TIEs slashed across the face of the cube, sending multiple barrages

 

of torpedoes into it's bulk. The tiny torpedoes were doing damage though,

 

destroying tractor beam emitters as fast as the cube could repair or rebuild

 

them.

 

"Damage level climbing. Estimate cube destruction within forty seconds."

 

Not fast enough, Xris thought, as the Giel engaged the two fresh cubes by

 

firing a broadside powerful enough to rip a continent sized chunk off a planet

 

into the closest of the two, obliterating it from existence. It would be nearly

 

a full minute before the Giel would be able to power up it's guns for another

 

broadside of that level. In the meanwhile it peppered the second cube with it's

 

light laser-cannons as it attempted to power past in a curved trajectory. The

 

cube, recognising the vulnerability of the immense battleship changed direction

 

and closed in, locking on to it's immense shields with multiple tractor beams.

 

"Fighter Command," Xris ordered, "re-task fighter priority to destroy all

 

tractor beam emitters on the cube designated Delta. Leave cube alpha to the

 

destroyers. ETA for Picard's force?"

 

"Two minutes." A mid-range com-scan operator called.

 

"Fighter Command?"

 

"Twelve squadrons coming in for re-supply. All landing bays fully occupied

 

with re-fuelling and re-loading. They'll be done in two minutes."

 

"Cube alpha at twenty percent operational efficiency. Fifteen seconds to

 

total destruction."

 

"Order the Imperators to withdraw 0.1 light years and re-charge shields.

 

Allegiance-class to support the Giel."

 

The Giel's shields were already down to less than thirty percent as the

 

first squadron of bombers swarmed the cube, ripping away at it's offensive

 

mountings. Given a temporary reprieve, the Giel started rotating on it's

 

longitudinal axis, bringing the cube into optimum position for a dorsal

 

broadside.

 

"Fighters clear of cube delta, Now!"

 

Seconds later the cube ceased to exist as the Giel finally completed

 

charging it's weapons for a second broadside and let loose it's main guns. Over

 

the planet below, all eleven cubes remaining were moving. Even with the combined

 

firepower of the Aggressor and Giel, they couldn't hope to take down that many

 

cubes. The Giel's main guns were still far from fully charged, and it's shields

 

were still only at forty percent.

 

"All ships, close with the Aggressor. Get those fighters loaded and

 

launched. Those cubes will be here in less than a minute. Fighters to assemble

 

at grid reference two eight by seven one by nine three. Hold off attack until

 

the cubes have cleared the planet. Communications, limit all comms to channel

 

green. All ships, stand by for jump as soon as the Federation ships have engaged

 

the enemy. Fighters will remain and support the Federation ships. Aggressor

 

prepare for a dorsal broadside on lead cube."

 

As the Imperial formation tightened up around the Aggressor, the Borg

 

cubes came in on a direct frontal approach. The fastest of the Federation

 

starships had just entered the outer limits of the system and were moving to

 

flanking positions on the cubes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Randomise shield frequencies. All weapons free, target the closest cube.

 

Fire at will." Picard ordered as the Enterprise dropped out of warp. It would be

 

a wild free for all until the slower starships arrived, then they might try a

 

few co-ordinated attacks. His view-screen was suddenly awash with static as an

 

immense disturbance briefly blacked out his ship's sensors. Through the static

 

he saw the massive Imperial flagship unleash a storm of fire in a concentrated

 

burst at the lead cube. A glance at the instrument panel of his tactical officer

 

told him the power level was beyond the ability of the sensors to measure. The

 

cube's shields were smashed aside and huge chunks of armour easily hundreds of

 

meters across were ripped from it. The broadside was followed moments later by

 

smaller broadsides from the Imperial escort vessels, ruthlessly ensuring the

 

destruction of the cube. Then the Imperial ships flickered into hyperspace.

 

"They've gone!" Riker shouted.

 

"Full evasive maneuvres!" Picard called as the ten remaining cubes turned

 

on the small group of Federation starships. He gripped his armrest with ice-cold

 

fingers. The last time he had engaged a Borg cube he'd had more than forty

 

Federation starships in support and the battle had been a close call. Now the

 

Imperials had left him to face ten cubes with even fewer starships in support.

 

The thirty odd starships weaved blindly through the Borg formation, firing

 

furiously at any target which presented itself. Their spattered uselessly

 

against the adaptive shields of the cubes. The Borg shields adapted to their

 

weapons as fast as they could modulate weapon frequencies. Only two thoughts

 

came to Picard's mind. Survival, and the fact that the Imperials had sold out

 

his ships to buy themselves some time. His vision blurred with the force of his

 

fury, then an unrecognised voice broke the train of his thoughts.

 

"What was that?" he asked. "repeat that message?"

 

"Red leader to Captain Picard. What are your orders?"

 

"Wil?" Picard asked.

 

"I have approximately six hundred Imperial fighters of various

 

designations standing by four hundred thousand kilometres away." Riker answered,

 

a glimmer of relief in his voice. Perhaps they had not been totally abandoned.

 

"Red leader, stand by." Picard said, surging out of his seat. He took two

 

long strides to Data's console, pushing the android aside as he typed furiously

 

at the console. His mind was awash with recollections from his time as part of

 

the Borg collective, and he recalled how the linked bursts of tiny proton

 

missiles fired from Imperial fighters had troubled Federation starships in

 

previous engagements. The glimmerings of an idea started coalescing.

 

"Red leader. I am transmitting an energy signature to you. Can your

 

fighters locate this energy pattern on the Borg cubes and target the centre of

 

the pattern." He asked, taking care to speak slowly and clearly so that there

 

could be no mistake.

 

"That's a roger. Energy pattern locked into targeting computers. What is

 

it, Enterprise?"

 

"The pattern represents the power conduits feeding the Borg shield

 

projectors. The projector is at the centre of the pattern, approximately seventy

 

meters below the surface of the cube. Several linked bursts of proton torpedoes

 

should be able to penetrate seventy meters into a cube's outer armour and take

 

down the shield projector. It will be several seconds before the cube will be

 

able to repair or replace the generator. That will give our ships a chance to

 

fire through the shield gap. It's the only way we stand a chance of damaging

 

them."

 

"Transmitting energy pattern to all fighters. Targeting solutions locked

 

in. We're on our way, Enterprise."

 

"Wil. Bring us around on to attack vector of those fighters. Data, monitor

 

all Borg shield projectors you can locate. The moment one goes down transmit co-

 

ordinates to all ships. In the meanwhile, conserve weapon energy."

 

The Federation ships pulled out of the Borg formation in a hard turn as a

 

galaxy-class spun out of control for several seconds, a huge chunk missing from

 

it's saucer section. The galaxy-class regained control and broke away before it

 

took more damage though. An Akira cork-screwed into position ahead of a squadron

 

of tiny TIE bombers and used it's bulk to protect them from a storm of blue

 

plasma bolts fired from a nearby cube. The plasma bolts spattered harmlessly

 

against it's shields, and it pulled up sharply allowing the bombers to sweep by

 

and launch a double volley of torpedoes into the cube's closest face.

 

The small Imperial torpedoes smacked directly into the cube's hull, their

 

small proton scattering warheads ripping holes into the dense outer armour.

 

Several slower concussion missiles buried themselves into the breach and

 

detonated below the armour, gouging a hole nearly eighty meters deep into the

 

cube face. The damage was nearly insignificant, merely a scratch on the immense

 

cube, but the Akira detected the sudden loss of shields over a large portion of

 

the cube-face. It fired a full salvo of four photon torpedoes programmed for

 

impact detonation into the shield-breach. When the nuclear flash from the anti-

 

matter warheads cleared, the cube was rolling lazily end over end, a crater one

 

kilometer deep and two kilometres across ripped out of one cube-face.

 

Like hyena closing in on a sick elephant the Federation starships darted

 

in, launching volley after volley of photon and quantum torpedoes into the

 

stricken cube. The remaining squadrons of Imperial fighters swarmed over the

 

other nine cubes, like angry bees around a grizzly bear, not inflicting any real

 

damage but distracting them sufficiently for the Federation ships to get clear.

 

Twice more the same tactic was repeated, a Federation starship using it's

 

bulk and agility to allow a squadron or two of bombers to get sufficiently close

 

to a cube and take out it's shield generators before a second wave of starships

 

came in firing torpedoes into the shield-breach.

 

Finally recognising the snubfighters and TIE bombers as the real threat

 

the Borg were ready when the fourth cube was singled out. The Akira leading the

 

strike force was snagged by several tractor beams and ripped apart by several

 

disruptor beams, while a second cube fired plasma bolts from a divergent angle

 

and decimated the TIE bomber formation before they could launch their proton

 

torpedoes. The few torpedoes which were fired shattered uselessly against a

 

deflector shield several meters from the cube's hull.

 

Several dozen more fighters were lost as they belatedly realised that the

 

cubes had hastily constructed hundreds of additional plasma bolt launchers to

 

counter the threat of the agile fighters. For several minutes the Federation

 

starships and the Imperial fighters flailed uselessly at the new Borg shield

 

configurations.

 

"All ships, clear the Borg formation, Now!" Xris's voice suddenly broke

 

through on all frequencies. The Imperial capital ship fleet were back, shields

 

and weapons fully charged.

 

Two of the seven remaining cubes were blown apart by respective broadsides

 

from the Aggressor and the Giel. Knowing that the massive ships would need close

 

to a minute to recharge their weapons for a repeat of the broadside the five

 

remaining cubes moved in quickly towards the Imperial formation. The Imperial

 

escort ships attempted to place themselves between the cubes and the two giant

 

warships but were ignored by the cubes. Several squadrons of fresh fighters

 

launched from the Aggressor screamed across the path of the approaching cubes

 

but their fire was ineffective against the new shield configurations. Several

 

were blown apart by a wall of plasma bolts.

 

Two of the cubes locked energy draining tractor beams onto the Aggressor

 

while the other three latched onto the Giel. Several fighter squadrons attempted

 

to knock out the tractor beam emitters but their fire was useless. All twenty

 

eight remaining Federation starships concentrated fire on one of the cubes,

 

forcing it to rotate a fresh cube-face on them and lose it's tractor lock on the

 

Giel. Their shields draining fast, the two massive warships were desperately

 

powering up their weapons for another broadside. An Imperator sailed directly

 

into the path of a tractor beam, breaking it's lock on the Aggressor, and fired

 

several torpedoes which detonated in the path of another tractor beam, filling

 

the surrounding space with trac-reflective particles. The tactic only worked for

 

a few seconds before the Borg ship shifted to another trac-frequency which

 

ignored the reflective particles.

 

The Aggressor finally let loose a second broadside at point-blank range,

 

ripping apart a cube with the sheer power of the energy unleashed. It's shields

 

now down to twenty five percent, the race was on as to whether it could manage a

 

third broadside before losing it's shields altogether to it's second attacker.

 

The Giel's heavier guns took a few more seconds to power up before it

 

could destroy one of the three cubes facing it. The two remaining cubes were

 

being peppered by all the remaining Imperators and Allegiance-class cruisers, as

 

well as the Federation starships, but to no avail.

 

"Forget the heavy guns," Xris ordered, "we don't have time to power them

 

up. Route all power into medium-sized batteries and laser-cannons. Randomise ion

 

cannon polarity. Order Federation ships to randomise their weapon frequencies.

 

Order all ships to hold fire till my mark. All ships target cube designated

 

Omega, fire only on my mark." Their only hope was to overwhelm the cube with

 

sheer weight of numbers, with each weapon firing at a different frequency.

 

"Launch missiles, hold, hold, fire!"

 

The targeted cube detonated with demonic fury under the combined onslaught

 

of photon torpedoes, quantum torpedoes, concussion and proton missiles, phasers,

 

turbolasers and ion cannons. Only the two cubes pinning down the Giel remained.

 

"Order the Imperators and Victories to protect the Giel at all costs."

 

Xris ordered after a momentary hesitation.

 

The small Imperial escort ships moved in, totally disregarding their own

 

safety, placing themselves physically between the two cubes and the twelve

 

kilometer long battleship. One of the cubes locked all tractor beams onto the

 

Stomper, ripping it's shields away in seconds in an awesome display of power,

 

blowing half it's own tractor beam emitters in the process. Immediately, the

 

Stomper was awash with a myriad transporter locks. Xris knew in that instant

 

that the allegiance-class cruiser was lost. He opened his mouth to order the

 

other ships to target the Stomper before the Borg could assimilate it, but the

 

order was unnecessary. The massive two kilometer long cruiser launched itself at

 

maximum acceleration at the closest cube.

 

On the comm.-board, a small figure appeared. The captain of the Stomper.

 

He was firing his hand-blaster wildly at an unseen target nearby. Turning

 

briefly to the holo-pickup, he hastily saluted.

 

"For the Empire!"

 

On the view-screen, Xris watched as the cruiser approached the cube and

 

suddenly flickered forward as somebody pulled the hyperspace levers. The cruiser

 

smashed into the three kilometer cube, it's entire forward half vapourising on

 

impact, the rest burying itself deep inside the cube before the ionisation

 

reactors detonated with the fury of a star being born. Seconds later the Giel

 

finally finished powering up it's heavy guns and blew the last cube to dust.

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Ulrich Stardrifter threw down his rifle in disgust, it's barrel

 

melted from continuous firing. Fat lot of good it had done him anyway. Glancing

 

around him, he saw the entire battle line in disarray. Army ground-pounders and

 

stormtroopers were falling back as fast as they could, firing as they went. A

 

squad of AT-ST's pounded forward, kicking hapless troopers and droids out of

 

their way as they fired into the mass of approaching drones. A group of Borg

 

drones reached the leading AT-ST, and it desperately tried to kick them loose

 

but was disintegrated by a massive green blast from a nearby AT-AT, which

 

obliterated the drones around it's feet as well. Stardrifter blinked hard, tears

 

running from his eyes as he fought to see through the glare of the detonation.

 

He jumped over a shattered military droid, and ducked as an S-10 opened

 

fire over his head. Darting between it's legs he spotted an abandoned E-web,

 

it's two crewers lying dead around it's tripod mounting. He sprinted to the

 

weapon and lifted it off it's mountings. Bracing his legs, he pointed it

 

squarely at a drone less than ten meters away and fired. The drone rocked

 

backwards, then kept coming. He fired again and again, each time rocking the

 

drone, until it's shields eventually gave way and the E-web ripped it's torso

 

apart in an explosion of burnt flesh and molten metal.

 

"Fall back!" He screamed into his helmet mike.

 

Bracing the heavy rifle across his shoulders, he stumbled towards an

 

armoured landspeeder nearby, it's crew laying down covering fire with a heavy

 

repeating blaster. He dumped the E-web over it's, and clambered aboard. Two more

 

troopers threw themselves bodily onto the speeder before it accelerated away,

 

smashing aside a drone that managed to get in the way. Stardrifter grabbed a

 

handrail and steadied himself as he stood up. Most of his men had gotten away,

 

with the droids fighting a holding action. Several AT-ST's were running

 

alongside the landspeeder, firing backwards as they ran. They were heading

 

towards the shield generator itself, where a group of six AT-ATs were formed up

 

in a line firing recklessly into what was left of the defensive position.

 

A number of small explosions rattled the landspeeder. He didn't have to

 

look to know what it was. Somebody must have activated the self-destruct on the

 

military droids, shredding the front line of the Borg advance and incidentally

 

killing any troopers who hadn't managed to fall back in time. Seconds later the

 

landspeeders pulled to a halt beneath the AT-ATs. They would have about six

 

minutes before the Borg drones got this far. He picked up the discarded E-web

 

blaster and chucked it overboard, clambering afterwards. As he walked beneath

 

one of the AT-ATs, he felt a wave of heat from it's chin-mounted laser-cannons.

 

It wouldn't be long before they overheated from continuous firing.

 

He didn't have to give his men any orders. They were running around

 

finding whatever cover they could and sighting their weapons on the approaching

 

horde. Many had discarded their blaster rifles and were either lugging E-webs or

 

manning light artillery pieces. Stardrifter pushed his way into the shield

 

generator building and climbed several levels of stairs to one of the top story

 

windows. He pushed it open, and rested the barrel of the E-web on the window

 

sill. The Borg drones were only one kilometer away, and advancing steadily. They

 

hadn't even dented the numbers. There must be thousands of them, he thought.

 

He waited. For the E-web to be effective at all, they would have to get

 

much closer. For the moment, only the AT-ATs and repulsor-tanks were firing.

 

Even the AT-STs held their fire. It would be useless at this range against the

 

shielded drones.

 

"We're gonna die, ain't we."

 

Stardrifter turned to see who had spoken. A technician, one of the shield

 

generator crew most likely. He was staring wide-eyed at the approaching horde.

 

"I hope so." He said evenly.

 

"What do you mean?" The tech asked, suspiciously.

 

"Better to die than to be turned into one of those." Stardrifter nodded

 

towards the oncoming drones.

 

"Oh shit." The techie said.

 

Oh no, Stardrifter thought, he's gonna psych out on me. He watched the

 

techie with baited breath waiting for the youngster to burst into tears or

 

something.

 

"Where can I get one of those?" The techie finally said.

 

"Not any more laying around," Stardrifter answered, "I'll show you how to

 

work this one though. If anything happens to me, you can take over."

 

"Show me." The techie said, and came to kneel next to him.

 

"Good man."

 

 

 

 

 

Colonel Madine was too busy to take notice of the inexperienced

 

communications operator. The Borg were advancing on several fronts, forcing him

 

to commit all his troops to defensive operations all over the planet. He had no

 

troops to spare to send to Shield Generator Twelve. Barring a miracle, the

 

generator would be overrun in minutes. Only a handful of AT-ATs, repulsor-tanks

 

and three depleted regiments of troops were left to fight a last ditch effort at

 

the site of the Generator itself. He considered evacuating the lot and

 

abandoning the Generator but discarded the idea. It was too late for that. By

 

the time he got them out, the generator would be compromised and his dropships

 

wouldn't be able to clear the shield coverage area before they were being fired

 

upon by the orbiting cubes.

 

"Sir!" A voice that had been bothering him for several seconds finally

 

became too insistent to ignore.

 

"What?"

 

"Admiral Xris is ordering you to lower all shields."

 

"What?" he repeated.

 

"The Borg cubes have been destroyed. Admiral Xris is in orbit. He is

 

ordering you to lower shields now."

 

"Thank God. Lower shields."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stardrifter carefully sighted along the barrel, lined up a drone, and

 

squeezed the trigger. The E-web bucked against his shoulder as several bolts

 

smashed into the drone. It staggered, but remained standing. He calmly squeezed

 

off several more shots, until the drone dropped. A series of large explosions

 

ripped through the Borg frontlines as the last line of landmines were activated.

 

A few hundred drones were ripped apart, but the rest came on. He lined up

 

another drone in his sights, subconsciously noting that the techie was no longer

 

next to him. Probably gone to pee his pants, he thought. He let off a three

 

round burst, another, another, and another. Finally the drone dropped. Something

 

was bothering him. He stopped for a second, something was wrong. The subliminal

 

vibration of the power shield projector was dying down.

 

"What the fuck .." he started, and abandoned the heavy E-web. Running into

 

the main control room he spotted the techie hastily turning dials and pulling

 

levers.

 

"What are you doing?" He screamed.

 

"Didn't you hear the orders man, the fleet is here, we've got to power

 

down the generator."

 

"What do I need to do?" he asked.

 

"Just keep the damn Borg outta here."

 

"Done."

 

He ran back to his firing position. He knelt down just as a massive green

 

tower shot down into the rear of the approaching horde of drones. He turned his

 

head away and closed his eyes as a massive blast ripped through the Borg lines.

 

As he looked up again he was just in time to see an incredible sight. The ground

 

was heaving like water in a pond as a ripple shot across the surface. In the

 

half second before the expanding blast wave hit the building he saw the ground

 

behind the approaching wave turn orange as it was almost instantly liquefied by

 

the heat of the turbolaser blast. Then he was slammed into the ground as the

 

shockwave ripped through the building, knocking even the massive AT-ATs over and

 

smashing the repulsor-tanks like bugs into the ground.

 

His eyes snapped open. Dust motes drifted lazily through the air in front

 

of him in an unreal dance. It was so quiet. He pushed himself to his feet,

 

brushing dust off his body armour. Faint sounds came to him now. As he stepped

 

out of the building, amazed that it still stood, he saw other soldiers

 

staggering to their feet here and there. One AT-AT was still standing, and it

 

fired a single shot into the distance. It's head slowly swivelled from side to

 

side, like an animal sniffing the air. It fired a second shot.

 

In the distance, a still glowing crystalline lake marked the position of

 

the turbolaser strike. At the periphery of the glowing ground a few drones

 

attempting to rise to their feet, many sporting ripped apart limbs, or half

 

molten bodies. Around him, Stardrifter saw that many of the army groundpounders

 

had also suffered major burns. The stormtroopers with their body armour had come

 

off rather better, but many lay unmoving on the ground. He staggered forward,

 

picked up a heavy repeating blaster rifle, and moved towards the Borg frontlines

 

to mop up what he could.

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