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A fanfic by Michael January




















The huge Rebel fleet hung in space near the blue world, Sullust. Home


One was at the center of the formation, the rest of the fleet


jockeying into attack position covering Home One. A tiny Corellian


freighter swept past the massive Mon Calamari flagship.


Several X-wing starfighters moved to the fore, as the fleet


gathered protectively around Home One. A number of Nebulon-B frigates


moved to the outskirts of the formation, where they would perform a


picket duty, picking off stray TIE's on their approach or departure,


or any who didn't hug the larger warships closely enough. All the


ships were marked in Republic-red on the tactical display. The


transponder codes identified them as friendly ships. Any unidentified


transponder codes would register in Imperial Green until proven


otherwise. This star-system was not supposed to have any neutral ships


anyway, having been secured as an Alliance stronghold.


"Proceed with the countdown. All groups assume attack


coordinates." Admiral Ackbar ordered.


"The Jump will last about two hours," Captain Ess-Vin Stavros


was saying over the ship-wide comm. "We will be jumping directly into


action. According to intelligence ...." A nervous laugh ran through


the ship ... "According to intelligence only a small Imperial Force is


on guard duty. A commando team led by General Solo and Jedi Skywalker


will bring down the shield which protects the Death Star. Our job will


be to set up a defensive perimeter around the death Star while the


fighters fly into the incomplete superstructure and destroy the main


reactor. Men. I don't need to tell you the importance of this mission.


Should we fail ... there will be no stopping the Empire. The galaxy's


fate is on our shoulders. May the Force be with us."


He hesitated for a fraction of a second, then in more


business-like voice ordered "Secure for Jump." And cut the




The first officer took over.


"Docking bay shields secured." No ships were allowed to launch


or dock at this crucial stage.


"All droids accounted for and locked in." Didn't want any


stray droids getting thrown about or damaged if the jump was rough.


"Docking clamps locked in place." All ships still in the


docking bays were locked into place with additional clamps to ensure


they didn't go tumbling around the docking bays.


"Computer reports all crews strapped in."


"Ship secured." The First Officer finally reported.


"Signal the fleet. We're ready."


"All craft, prepare to jump to hyperspace on my mark." Ackbar




A red light lit up on the navi-comp control panel. It was


slaved to Home One. A second light lit up to indicate receipt of the


co-ordinates. A third light lit up to confirm a second receipt of the


co-ordinates, then a green light to indicate the cross-check of the


co-ordinates was successful. Everything went silent on the bridge


while they waited while other ships checked in. This was usually the


hardest part. Once the jump was initiated, there would be no further


communication with intelligence operatives, and a combat action was


inevitable. Then nerves would usually settle down.


Stavros felt a mild pressure pushing him back into his seat,


and the nearby stars seemed to stretch suddenly, then with a flash of


blue distortion they whirled into static as the ship was hurled beyond


the light-speed barrier.


"Signal the crew to hyperspace duties. Alert status two. We


will be in action in two hours. The ship will go to alert status one


thirty minutes before Jump termination."


"Alert status two confirmed. Hyperspace duty cycle confirmed.


We are one point five hours from Alert status one." The first officer




"Thank you number one." Stavros finished.




"Yes, Lieutenant."


"May I speak freely?"


"How long have you known me, Talon?" The captain smiled.


"What are our chances?" The first lieutenant, Talon, asked.


"At every turn, the Emperor or Vader has outguessed us.


Perhaps it is true that the Emperor is prescient. I for one believe


the rumours that Vader was once a Jedi. It is said that nobody can


outguess or outfox a Jedi."


"So you think this is a trap. The Empire will be waiting for




"Of course it's a trap."


"Then why are we going?"


"Because we have no choice. Once complete, the Death Star will


be unstoppable. At least this way, we stand a half chance. It is known


that the Empire has not committed too many forces in defence of the


Death Star. Undoubtedly they have more ships there than intelligence


believes, but not much more or their patrols in other areas would be


suffering, and we would know. Better to die fighting for freedom than


to be oppressed and strangled to death."


"So we are going to our deaths?"


"Maybe. But we have faced death at the hands of the Empire


many times, and survived. The Force is with us."


"You believe in that?" Talon asked, with a half-smirk.


"What else is there to believe in?"


The first officer shrugged. "I fight for my family. I was born


on Coruscant you know. One day, I would like to return and see my wife


and children again. My defection came on me rather suddenly, and I


never had an opportunity to return for them."


Stavros nodded. He knew the story well. Talon had been an


officer on a Star Destroyer, but had objected to his superior officers


participating in selling prisoners of war as slaves. They had


conspired to have him court-martialled on false charges and he had


fled before being arrested.


"I once truly believed in the Empire." Talon was saying. "My


parents told me many tales of what life was like on Coruscant during


the days of the Old Republic. They were poor, and lived on the lower


levels. We were exploited by everybody, and not even the Jedi came to


our aid. The Empire solved all that. Cleaned out the scum, made even


the lower levels safe for people to live. They truly improved things


for a while. Then people started disappearing, and stories began to


circulate about what happened to those who didn't support the Empire.


"Even then, I believed. I joined the academy to prove my


belief. The things I saw ..."


"Aye." Stavros said. He had heard many similar stories.


"Lieutenant!" He barked, breaking the oppressive mood. "have


the kitchens prepare the men a meal. A good one. Nerf steaks. Real


ones. I will not have my men going into battle on an empty stomach."






It seemed like only seconds before the thirty minute warning


sounded. Klaxons sounded through the ship. Red lights flashed, then


steadied, as the normal running lights were dimmed. Power was shifted


into capacitor banks, ready to pour into shields and weaponry, in


expectation of action.


"All gunners have reported in. Local fire control is on-line.


Non-essential systems shut down. All power routed to main banks.


Shields are ready, weapons fully charged, engines on standby."


"Be prepared for anything. We can go into action any second.


Force alone knows what the Empire has prepared for us."


The minutes crept by. Anxious gunners fingered their controls,


and tracked whorls and bumps in the hyperspace static, ready to open


up on anything and everything in sight as soon as the jump terminated.


"Ten seconds to go. Five. Four ..."


The ship lurched violently. If they had not been at alert


status and all strapped in, many crew-members might have been


seriously injured. As it were, alarms sounded all over the ship.


Stavros guessed they must have hit an interdiction field. It was not


the first time it had happened to them.


"Interdiction field. It's a trap. Weapons free. Track all


targets. Fire at will."


At the tactical station, a blip appeared several thousand


kilometers off the Port bow. IFF was negative. The tactical officer


immediately tagged it as a threat and frantically scanned for more


targets. The ship shuddered slightly as all weapons which could bear


opened fire, many firing wildly in their haste. The Nebulon-B was a


heavily armed frigate. It carried eighty medium turbolasers, and a


hundred and twenty light laser-cannons for it's anti-starfighter role.


The target was well within range of all these weapons.


"How many ships? What designations?" The captain called,


impatiently waiting for tactical to supply him with data. "Where is


the rest of the fleet?"


The ship shuddered again as a second broadside was fired.


"Only one contact on short range scanners, sir. Unknown


designation. Scanning for more targets on mid-range scanners. I don't


see any friendly ships. Still scanning."


Something was wrong. There should have been dozens of ships.


Friendly or not. They were not jumping into a deserted sector, for


Force sake?


"Belay scanner search. Sensor focus on the one target."


The tactical holo-display immediately zoomed in on the single


target within short to mid-range. It was a curious design. Stavros had


never seen anything like it in his long career, and he had seen many


starships designed by dozens of alien races. One thing immediately


sprang to mind. That was certainly no Imperial ship. A circular disk,


with curiously slender pylons reaching to some sort of tubular


structures suspended in space and held separate from the main ship. It


was spewing flames from several breaches in the saucer section, and


bright blue plasma jetted from the tubes attached to it. Even as he


watched, another broadside smashed into the structure, sending it


tumbling and drifting through space. He could see it wouldn't be able


to take much more.


"Cease fire. Cease fire." He shouted.


Imperial or not. It was damaged far too severely to be a


threat to them.


"What the hell is that thing?" he asked no-one in particular.


"Life sign scan?"


"Reading several hundred life-forms. Humanoid. Possibly even


human. Some of them are fading pretty rapidly. Life support has


failed, and she's losing atmosphere in several sections of the ship.


Whoever is on board, they're going to be dead pretty soon."


"Move us in closer. Prepare an assault shuttle, load it with


medical supplies. I don't know what that ship is, but they're going to


need all the help we can give them. Com-Scan. Mid-range and long-range


scan for any Rebel or Imperial ships. Double-check everything.


Communications, attempt to hail them."


"Yes, Sir." Com-Scan responded.


"The shuttle will be ready in thirty seconds, Sir." Talon


informed him.


"Sir!" It was com-scan. "No Rebel ships or Imperial in


scanning range. I can't identify the Endor system at all."


"Which systems can you identify?"


"I am working on that, Sir."


"Well. Work faster. The fleet is relying on us. We can't be


late for this mission."


"Shuttle is ready, Sir. Shall I launch?" Talon again.


"Launch. Inform the crews to be ready for anything. They're


not gonna be friendly to us whoever they are."


"Yes, Sir." Talon had already told the men that.


"Com-Scan. I am waiting!"


"Sir. I cannot identify any systems within medium or


long-range scanning distance. I cannot get a location on our galactic


position either. The alien ship is not responding to hyper-wave or


sub-space. Perhaps their communications is down."


"Is the damn computer stuffed?"


"No sir. I have run a diagnostic. Everything checks out. We


are just not anywhere the computer can currently identify."


"Sir," Talon again, "The shuttle is approaching the alien



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Captain Jefforson Stark forced himself to his feet. He spat


blood out of his mouth, and coughed as he inhaled something


acrid-smelling. Around him, only half his bridge crew was alive. The


bridge was filled with smoke, and sparks from a shattered console was


scattering everywhere. Somebody was moaning terribly. He ignored the


sound, and staggered over to the sensor console. A huge ship was


bearing down on him. An ugly L-shaped monstrosity, close to five


hundred meters long, and riddled with unidentifiable structures. It


had appeared out of nowhere and started shooting before he could issue


a single order. He had not even had time to order the shields raised.


"Captain?" A weak voice from behind him.


"Take over the tactical position, son. See if you can raise


shields, and power up the phasers,"


"The tactical station reports no power available sir. The


engines have been shut down."


"Find power from somewhere. Anywhere."


The junior lieutenant typed furiously at the console. Another


crewman was making her way to the communications desk.


"Open a channel to that ship."


"System are off-line all over the ship, Sir. Life-support has


failed, we have dozens of hull-breaches, the warp core has been shut


down as well."


"Sickbay to bridge. Come in please. Sickbay to bridge. Come in




"Bridge here. Go ahead." Stark spoke into his communicator.


"I need power desperately. I have casualties, hundreds of


them. I need the Emergency Holographic Program, but the computers are


off-line. There are several fires on the civilian decks, but without


transporters I cannot get the civilians out."


"I'll see what I can do, doctor."


On the view-screen, he could see the L-shaped alien vessel


manoeuvring strangely. No. It was his ship. They were tumbling. Well,


without power there was no way to correct that. Then he saw it. A


smaller shape detaching itself from the warship, and bearing down on






"The computer is not responding, sir. I have tried




"They're going to board us. Have we got weapons on-line yet?"


"No sir."


"See if you can activate the phasers manually, route power


from the auxiliary power banks for the torpedo launchers. They're too


close for torpedoes anyway."


"Yes, Sir. Phasers on-line, but I only have a twenty degree


firing arc. I won't be able to target the small ship."


"Can you hit the big one?"


"In a few seconds, just waiting for the ship to roll over a


bit more." The starship continued tumbling, eventually bringing the


phaser banks in line with the unknown enemy. The lieutenant fired


immediately. A two second burst before the power cell ran dry. He


quickly patched power in from another power cell, and fired a second


shot. The red beam skittered across the side of the massive warship,


before their uncontrolled tumble moved the ship out of the firing arc.


Without sensors he couldn't tell what the effect, if any, of the hits




The two officers waited apprehensively for the death blow.


Surely the unknown enemy would destroy them for firing on it. Nothing


happened. Slowly, the tumble continued, while the two officer stared


at each other, wondering why they were still alive.


"We'll have them in line again in another ten seconds." The


lieutenant said. They watched the view-screen anxiously as the ship


continued tumbling, waiting for the enemy to come into line.


"Damn, it's moved out of line." The lieutenant said.


"They probably want us alive. Find a hand-weapon, prepare to


repel boarders."


"Yes, Sir."


The two men scrambled into an emergency hatchway, and made


their way to a defensive strong point down the hallway. The captain


stopped briefly to speak into a ship-wide intercom.


"All personnel. Prepare for boarders. Prepare for boarders."






Security officer Neil Dougherty glanced around him. His men


were all in whatever cover they could find. Ahead of him, at the far


end of the smoke-filled passage-way some form of cutting device was


burning a hole through the inner hull. He shut out thought of what the


civilian section had looked like. Those that had been sucked into


space were probably the lucky ones. Plasma burns, asphyxiation, broken


limbs and oxygen deprivation were the primary ailments he had seen.


His own family was in there somewhere.


A number of his men were trapped in remote areas of the ship,


cut off by fires or vacuum from him. He would have to make do with


what he could. The emergency lighting was flickering badly, and the


smoke made for poor visibility.


"They're nearly through."


"Steady. Weapons set for stun."




"That's an order, ensign. Until we know what we're dealing


with. Don't shoot unless you're sure of your shot. Pick your shots


carefully, conserve power."


The men aimed down the passage-way. In the distance, a huge


section of deck-plating banged to the floor. There was a momentary


scream of escaping air, and Dougherty thought of ordering his men back


behind the next bulkhead before they got sucked out into space. Then


the opening was sealed, from the outside. Through the smoke, two


humanoid figures advanced cautiously, holding some kind of rifle-like




"Hold your fire." He ordered his men.


The two figures advanced cautiously down the passage. One of


them nodded in the direction of the security officers. Dougherty


steeled himself, and prepared to shoot. One of the men raised his


rifle slowly, careful not to point it at them. He held the rifle above


his head with one hand, and slowly held out his other hand, palm up.


The second man bent down slowly, keeping an eye on them, and placed


his rifle on the deck. Behind them, Dougherty could see several more


humanoid figures framed in the makeshift hatchway. They had rifles


pointing down the passage, but their comrades were in the line of




"Stay here. Hold your fire." He ordered his men.


Slowly, he stepped out into the passage, and advanced towards


the dimly seen humanoid figures. They were clad in grey-and-black. It


was difficult to see through the smoke. He realised they were wearing


some kind of light body-armour. Flack-jackets, he would have called


it, with leggings, but allowing full freedom of movement for a human


body anyway. He could now discern a human face behind some kind of


transparent visor. Humans, wearing helmets and body armour. Serious


soldiers, he realised. The humanoid who had placed his rifle on the


ground slowly reached up and started removing his helmet.








Sergeant Stamco released the seals on his enviro-suit, and


took his first breath of the alien atmosphere. He coughed as the acrid


smoke was drawn into his lungs. For a second he cursed the damn droid.


It had told him the air was breathable. Then he realised it was. No


reason to panic. He told himself. He coughed a few more times as his


lungs battled with the acrid smoke. He watched the approaching human


through tear-stained eyes. Blinking his eyes clear, he finally managed


to get a clean breath. The human was wearing red long-johns. Probably


caught them in their sleep, he thought. For a second he was close to


laughing, as he wondered what anybody would think of him should they


invade his room during the night-watch. He banished the distressing




Long-Johns was pointing some kind of weapon at him. Not


threateningly so, just cautionary. He couldn't identify it. It looked


like a shaving device. Definitely caught him in his sleep. He just


hoped the guy spoke Basic. What to say? Something simple, he decided.




"Who are you? Why did you attack us?"


Basic! Long-johns spoke perfect Galactic Basic. The damn fleet


people had said they were not even in the same galaxy, and here was


somebody speaking Galactic Basic.


"Do you understand me?" Stamco asked.


"Of course. I repeat. Who are you?" the guy's mouth was moving


funny. Translator of some kind? Must be. "Why did you attack our


ship?" Long-johns was asking. Stamco was about to explain that it was


a mistake, but the long-johns kept talking. "We are on a peaceful


mission. This ship is an exploration vessel, not a warship. We did not


realise this sector was inhabited by anyone. We meant no harm by


coming here. There was no reason to attack us. We would have left if


you had asked."


"What the fuck is he talking about?" Private Biggs asked,


behind him.


"Listen, uh ..."


"Lieutenant Dougherty, chief security officer, USS


Constellation. You are?"


"Sergeant first-class Stamco. Fleet regiment 5271, currently


assigned to the New Republic Starship Independence. Listen, Doher-Ti,


I don't know how to tell you this, but we made a mistake. I will


explain later, for now I think we need to get our medical and damage


control teams in here as fast as we can." The soldier said.


Dougherty nodded, and Stamco waved to his men. They


immediately put up their rifles, and stepped back and out of the way


as several more figures came rushing through the man-made hatchway.


Some of the figures moved with a curious gait. Robots?


"Their translators understand basic." Stamco was saying.


"We're medics, where are your wounded?" An obviously


artificial voice asked.


"This way," Dougherty indicated.


He led the team back down the passage until they came to the


empty turbo-lift shaft.


"The lifts are dead, you'll have to use the maintenance tubes.


The worst damage is on the upper decks." He pointed the way. "I'll


lead, in case anyone is trigger happy."


"Security to all personnel. Security to all personnel." He


spoke into his communicator. "We have friendlies aboard. We have


friendlies aboard. Medical assistance is on the way. Hold your fire."


"Fire on decks twelve through fifteen. We need help. Hurry."


"The fire-control systems are off-line, most of the ship


doesn't have power." Dougherty explained to the tall robot.


The robot turned and whistled rapidly to a number of squat


wheeled robots with domed heads. They barged ahead, whistling and


hooting and beeping at each other. One of them rolled straight into


the turbolift shaft, and shot up to the next deck. They probably had


some kind of on-board antigravity mechanism. Several more of the squat


robots followed, others headed off in different directions.


"Astro-mech droids." Stamco explained. "They can handle any


damage. What is the most critical thing you need?"


"Power." Dougherty said without hesitation. With power, they


could get the fire-control systems working, dispatch the Medical


Emergency Program to various parts of the ship, and transport wounded


directly to sick-bay.


Stamco spoke rapidly to a soldier standing nearby, who spoke


into what looked like a helmet mike.


"The Independence is about to tractor your vessel into a


docking position. They will attempt to patch power through to your


ship. What kind of power systems do you use?"


"Energised plasma for the most part, with electrically powered


photonic circuits and pneumatic systems elsewhere."


"We can supply electrical current, and positronic energy. I


don't know about the energised plasma bit, seems awfully dangerous to


be using on a starship."


Dougherty shrugged. There was no time for arguing the merits


of various technologies now.


"Can you direct me to your medical facilities?" The tall robot


asked. "Perhaps I can be of assistance to your medical staff?"


"Sickbay is three decks below us, and much further forward.


There are several fires between here and there, without a transporter,


we won't be able to get through."


"Fires do not concern me, I will find it."


With that, the robot jumped into the turbolift shaft, and


rapidly descended three decks. Dougherty shrugged.


"Lieutenant Dougherty," Stamco interrupted. "The Independence


is docking onto the ship five decks above us, and one hundred meters


forward. Can we get there from here?"


"The fires ..."


"Antilles, give him your enviro-suit. Organise two astro-mech


droids to clear a path for us."


"Yes, Sir."


In seconds, Dougherty had pulled on the enviro-suit.


"This will protect you from the worst of the heat and keep you


supplied with clean air. It will also provide limited protection


against corrosive gases or liquids. Stay behind the droid, it will


clear a path for us."


Stamco waved the droids ahead, and clambered into the


maintenance tube. They quickly climbed to the next deck. One of the


droids whistled sharply at them as they climbed higher. Dougherty's


helmet earpiece provided a mechanised translation.


"Fire next deck. Wait ten seconds. Then come."


The droid levitated itself up on some kind of repulsor, and


Dougherty could see it spraying fire-suppressant as it went. He


scrambled after the droid, climbing through the burning decks as the


droid kept the flames at bay. One of the droids darted off down a side


passage, and he saw it lift some heavy equipment off a trapped


crewman, and drag the crewman back towards the maintenance tubes. The


droid sprayed the area liberally with fire-suppressant, and left the


crewman there.


"He is unconscious, but his life-signs are strong. I have


informed the medical droids of his location. They will fetch him




"Thank you." Dougherty said, a bit taken aback. The droid


communicated rather lucidly. If it wasn't for the mechanical sounding


translation he would have thought it was sentient. Seconds later, they


were on the uppermost deck.


"This way." The droid beeped, and headed off towards the front


of the ship. "The Independence is cutting a hatch ninety seven meters


further along the next passage. There is crossway connecting to that


passage seventy meters ahead."


Dougherty could have told the droid that. Somebody had


probably downloaded a scan of the area to the droid. They were halfway


down the passage when a super-hot jet of plasma burst out of a nearby


conduit, blocking the passage. The droid bleeped in dismay.


"Too hot for fire-suppressant." The translation came. "Hot


enough to damage my shell too. We can't get past this way."


Just then a squad of droids came advancing from further down


the passage. The droids screamed rapidly at each other using whistles


and hoots and other electronic sounding noises. Dougherty wondered why


they didn't use other forms of communication, such as radio or


sub-space. At the same time it came to him that audio was the most


difficult to jam and the least likely to suffer from interference,


provided there was air. They probably used other mechanisms when in


vacuum. The droids seemd to have come up with a plan, and a large ugly


looking monstrosity barreled forward. It was holding up a sheet of


some kind of metal, which it proceeded to wrap around the conduit,


slid it along until it formed a sleeve over the breakage, then welded


it into place with some kind of laser-type device.


"Follow me please." A rather humanoid looking droid said, very




Dougherty was beginning to wonder if the alien ship was crewed


mostly by droids. So far the only humans he had seen were the handful


of soldiers with Stamco. They rounded the corner, and came to a point


where a hole had been cut into another passageway. Beyond the hole was


a new passageway that hadn't been there before. An extendible tube


connecting to the alien ship. Coming through it were a number of


humans in a soft loose-fitting grey and black uniforms. The uniform


was very casual, but more militaristic than the starfleet jumpsuits.


"Captain Ess-Vin Stavros." The leading man introduced himself.


"Security Chief Dougherty."


"Are you the senior officer aboard this vessel, Chief?"


"No. That would be the captain, and he was still alive as of


ten minutes ago. He sounded an alert warning against boarders. I will


see if he can get to this point."


Dougherty pulled back the enviro-suit he was wearing, and


reached in for his communicator. He kept his finger on the translation


suppressor so that his conversation with the captain would not be


translated into whatever language these aliens spoke.


"Security to Captain Stark."


"Stark here, Chief. What is your status?"


"My status is green, Captain, and my men are still armed. The


boarders are definitely friendly. Apparently the attack was a mistake.


They have medical and damage-control teams moving onto the ship as we


speak. I repeat, status is green, and my men are still armed. The


intruders have taken no steps to disarm anyone, and those of them who


were armed have laid down their weapons."


"Where are you now, chief? We have been tractored into a


stable position, but the sensor console is dead. I cannot see what


they're doing."


"They have opened a hatchway onto deck fourteen, just forward


of the secondary holo-suite. I am with their captain. They can supply


us with power, but I need an engineer up here?"


"Chief Engineer O'Connor is dead. I will have Lascalles report


to you."






Two hours later, most of the fires aboard the USS


Constellation were under control. A swarm of droids from the


Independence were now being assisted by the Constellation's


computerised fire-control system wherever it was still operational. A


smoke blackened Lascalles had soon managed to patch power through a


jury-rigged transformer into the Constellation's holo-suite power


cells, then siphoned it from there to the transporter room, Sickbay,


and Engineering. Once the transporters were working, they could start


transferring wounded or trapped people to Sickbay. The doctor and


several medical droids, as well nine instances of the Emergency


Medical Program were working furiously to save the worst cases.


Several dozen cases had also been transported directly to the medical


bays of the Independence.


"What is that?" Doctor Schneider asked. He had seen a medical


droid apply some sort of liquid to a burn wound.


"Bacta. A genetically modified bacterium bonded to molecular


bio-machines. It reads the subject's genetic code and repairs damage


according to instructions gained from the genetic coding. It's a


universally applicable medical substance, works for all species we've




Schneider ran his tricorder over the wound. The nerves in the


area had been de-sensitized, and tissue was growing back at an


impressive rate.


"It will fix minor wounds without leaving a trace, but it does


have limits. We cannot for instance grow back an entire limb. For


that, cybernetics will have to suffice."


"Why not clone a limb and transplant it?"


The alien medic looked at him in horror. "Cloning is outlawed.


Modifying or artificially re-creating sentient life is a desecration


of the Force."


"I understand." Schneider said quickly, not wanting to


antagonise the medic or violate the Prime Directive. "Man is not God."


The medic looked at him a bit quizzically, and shrugged.


"How much of that bacta do you have?" Schneider asked instead.


"This is our last." The medic said. "We didn't have much to


start with, but the captain said we should not spare it in assisting




"Why didn't you say so, man?" Schneider nearly shouted.


"Lascalles!" he ordered into his communicator.


"Yes, Doctor Schneider."


"I need a replicator on-line, now!"


"Yes, Doctor Schneider. I'm on my way."


Minutes later, Schneider had a crowd of the alien medics and


their droids around him. He placed a tab of bacta on the sensor tray


of the replicator.


"Computer, analyse the bio-mechanical substance in this


container. Replicate twenty containers."


"Analysing. Substance analysed. Replication possible.




Second later, the single bacta tab had been joined by twenty


more. The doctor picked up a random tab, and ran his tricorder over




"As far as I can tell, it is identical. Shall we try it on




"My arm." Lascalles volunteered with a grin, and pulled his


sleeve back to reveal a nasty tear in his forearm. The doctor broke


open the tab, and applied the replicated substance liberally. He


watched Lascelles reactions carefully, glancing at his tricorder every


few seconds.


"It feels cool. The arm isn't burning anymore. Now it feels


kinda numb. Whow! What a rush."


"It's healing nicely." The doctor confirmed, glancing again at


his tricorder. He ran the device over Lascelles in general.


"Everything is well within tolerable levels. Stay here for a few more


minutes, just in case."


The alien medics were beside themselves. "An unlimited supply


of bacta. That's incredible. We've tried duplicating it ourselves, but


no matter how we tune the duplicators, they're terrible at duplicating


biological substances. What comes through is chemically identical, but


just not the same thing!"

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Stark walked through the corridors of the alien ship, guided


by a protocol droid. He kept having to remind himself that it was an


alien ship. It's crew was almost entirely human, with a few


unidentified alien species here and there. It definitely looked like


something a human mind might design, but certainly not a human mind as


he understood it. For all that these people looked human, and


registered human on a scanner, there morality and values and


thought-processes though were alien to him.


He had just finished the largest burial detail he had ever had


to undertake in his career as a starship captain. Various accidents


and incidents over the years had resulted in one or two or more deaths


and burials, but he had been fortunate never to have lost a ship, or


as many people as he just had to bury. There was hardly a family


on-board his ship that had not lost somebody. A wife. A husband. A


father or mother. A son.


The saddest funeral had been for Dougherty's six year old


daughter. Burnt to a crisp. Of the mother there was no trace. She must


have been sucked out into space or totally disintegrated in one of the


many explosions. The hardened security chief had cried inconsolably.


The discomfort on the faces of their attackers had been very evident.


They had sent a number of senior officers over in dress uniform to pay


respects to the dead during the mass transporter disintegration, but


many families had requested them to leave or wait outside.


He was thankful that he was not a married man, with a family.


He had always had a fear of taking innocents along into uncharted and


dangerous territory, and wondered how others justified it. Sure,


inter-stellar journeys were long and lonely times, and Starfleet was a


demanding employer. Families who opted to stay behind at starbases or


various colonial homeworlds would often have to wait for several


months or years before seeing loved ones again. He made a mental


promise that if he ever got married, his wife would never accompany


him on a starship.


It was a serious enough responsibility to have the lives of


the crew in his hands, he didn't think he could bear to make the risky


decisions demanded by Starfleet directives if his own family's lives


were weighed in the balance. For the first time, he felt a measure of


understanding of captains who would shoot first and ask questions


later. Somehow it was just not as easy to sacrifice your crew as it


was to sacrifice your family. He felt like a traitor even now, having


to converse civilly with the people who had murdered so many of his


friends and family.




"Captain Stark. Please, sit down." Stavros waved him to a seat


at the conference table. They were all still in formal dress uniform.


Stark sat down rather heavily.


"Captain Stark. I must once again formally offer to you and


your crew my sincerest apologies. My entire staff, right down to the


lowliest crew member, are terribly upset about this incident. I know


that our apologies can not bring back those who have become one with


the Force, but what we can do, we will. First. I feel I must explain


to you what happened. We were jumping into battle. We knew that every


ship we faced would be a mortal enemy. When the jump terminated


prematurely, we immediately suspected a trap, and thus opened fire on


the first and closest ship in sight. By the time we realised that no


identifiable enemy vessels were in sight, it was too late."


"Who is this enemy that you are fighting? The Borg?"


"The Galactic Empire. We are members of the New Republic, a


government that is fighting the oppression of the Galactic Empire.


Rebelling against the Empire, as it were. The battle we were jumping


into was an extremely important one, a battle which might decide the


fate of the war for independence."


"The Galactic Empire? That is a rather presumptious name. I


certainly have not heard of it. Do you mean the Romulon Star Empire,


or the Klingon Empire?"


"No. I am afraid 'Galactic Empire' is not entirely


presumptious. You see, the Galactic Empire is truly a Galactic Empire.


Just not this Galaxy."


"Not this galaxy? You are from another galaxy?"


"Yes, unfortunately, we don't know quite yet how we got here.


My navigators best theory is that we may have collided with an


uncharted black hole while in hyperspace. An asteroid would have been


too small to knock us out of hyperspace, and a rogue planetoid's mass


would have been detected by the safeties. A small black hole however


might have a sufficiently steep gravitational well that it is not


detectable until too late. The chances of colliding with an uncharted


black hole is astronomically small, but given the fact that the battle


was in an obscure region of the galaxy, and we were crossing


relatively uncharted space to get there, it is not beyond the realms


of chance."


"As a starship captain, and as one who has fought in various


battles, I can understand that your firing on us was an accident. Our


government is a peaceful organisation, and our directives demand that


we accept the situation, but I don't need to tell you that not all my


crew will see it the same way. There is not a family on-board who has


not lost somebody."


"We understand all too well. I re-iterate. Whatever we can do


in recompense, we will. However, I feel I must also tell you, and


please do not take offence, but this incident is also just one of the


vagaries of war. However sorry we are for what has occurred, my first


duty is to the New Republic. Somehow, we must get this ship back and


do what we can. Already, the battle for which we were prepared might


be over, and the bacta we carry may be sorely needed. My navigators


are working furiously on a solution to get us back home, maybe to


reverse the phenomenon which brought us here. The solution has not


presented itself yet, so for now, our services are still available to


you. My engineers tell me that your ship's engines are damaged beyond


their or your ability to repair, and that you will need dockyard


facilities to effect the repairs. If you could point out a nearby


friendly port, we will see that your crew is returned there. It may


even be possible to return your ship as well."


"We have been travelling for fourteen weeks at warp eight, out


of starbase 63. That puts us at about 400 light years from the nearest


repair facilities."


To Stark's consternation, Stavros actually looked relieved.


"400 light years, about three hours?" The navigation officer


nodded. "We can secure your ship, and tow you back there."


Stark kept his mouth shut. Three hours! Four hundred light


years, in three hours! No wonder they hadn't detected the black-hole


they had collided with, not even a sub-space pulse was that fast.






"Engineering?" Stavros asked.


"Ready, sir. We have installed stasis field generators onto


the alien vessel, and they are synchronised to our hyperdrive


motivator. We have configured the deflector shielding to include the


alien vessel, and attached multiple redundant docking clamps to her


hull. She is as secure as she's ever gonna be. We have also


jury-rigged a back-up power transfer point, and installed several


alluvial dampeners slaved to the hyperdrive motivator. She should hold


together. And survive the trip. We have also reconfifured the


hyperdrive motivators for the additional mass."


Stavros looked at the holographic model of the two ships. The


alien vessel was roughly three hundred meters long, about half the


size of his frigate. It was secured with multiple clamps to his


underside, just abaft of the main ventral weapons tower.


"Very well. Chief. The jump is in your hands."


Stavros tried to keep his nervousness to himself. This was


their first jump since they had ended up in this galaxy. He hoped none


of his officer mentioned it. The alien officers looked nervous enough


about the whole procedure. They were in fact going to do four small


jumps. No more than a hundred light-years each. His navigator was not


ready to put complete faith in the astrogation data supplied to him.


Apparently, it was just not detailed enough. The aliens relied on


their ability to detect and avoid problems, rather than permanently


mapping out navigational problems in advance.


He didn't mention to Stark that his best engineers had been


checking and double-checking the hyperdrive ever since their arrival.


As his engineering staff counted down to the jump, and ran through


their expanded check-list, he mentally prayed that the Force would be


with them. He glanced around, everyone was strapped in, which was not


generally required, but on a military ship all safety precautions were


always taken.


The jump was remarkably smooth. For an instant, the stars


seemed to stretch, then flashed into blue lines, and vanished into


static. One of the Federation junior officers gasped in shock as the


stars stretched into lines.


"Surely we're not going fast enough for the stars to stretch


into lines like that? You said we'll cover a hundred light years in


forty five minutes. We may pass several stars every few minutes, but


not fast enough for them to stretch like that, surely?"


The Federation science officer replied before Stavros could




"Even with warp, the movement of the stars are exaggerated


because of relativity. It takes us 19 hours to cover four light years,


so even the closest stars do not just flash by. The appearance of


stars flashing by though is caused by relativistic distortion as light


incidents upon the warp field in a narrow cone on the forward edge of


the field. The distortion results as the light is twisted around the


entire field. I presume the same goes for hyperspace. As you approach


light-speed, just before you break through the barrier, it looks like


everything is stretching past you, but that is just a relativistic


effect. Notice how all the stars turned blue and then vanished? That


was doppler compression. Basic pre-warp theory, ensign Jones." He




"But, if we're in hyperspace, and we're theoretically in a


realm where we are travelling faster than light, howcome we can still


see each other." The ensign asked.


Stavros answered before the science officer could. "I don't


know what you mean by relativity, but as I understand it, the stasis


field which operates during hyper-drive travel nullifies the


supra-doppler effects that faster-than-light travel causes to your


perception of the space-time continuum, because of the inversion in


the Force as you approach and pass the light-speed barrier. Hyperspace


travel was invented as a direct result of our discovery of the Force


which binds the Universe together, and is the underlying constant


which relates gravity, mass and energy to the speed of light and time.


"This is where the stasis field comes into play. It reverses


the Force inversion, but not altogether, and that results in this


pocket of 'real' space in hyperspace. The origins of the discovery of


hyperspace travel and the Force itself goes back more than ten


thousand years, and today it is unclear which was discovered first.


Certainly, knowledge of the Force and how it relates to matter,


energy, space and time, the very building blocks of the Universe,


would inevitably result in discovery of hyperspace travel. Conversely,


discovery of hyperspace travel leads directly to the mathematical


constructs which proves the existence of the Force and it's relation


to the structure of the Universe.


"What is known today is that the Jedi council traced it's


origin back to the same era which saw the discovery of hyperspace




"Jedi?" Stark asked. "I am not sure my translator understood


that word."


"All matter is inherently part of the Force, even vacuum. Time


and space are inherently part of the Force. It is what binds


everything together. Living creatures however, are closest to the


Force, inherently linked to it. We all hear the voice of the Force,


and it hears us, even the matter with which this ship is made of hears


the Force and speaks to it. Sentients are more closely linked to the


Force than other living creatures. However, some sentients are so


close to the Force, that they hear the Force clearer than others, and


obey it's will consciously, and may even twist the Force to their own


will. This group of sentients are carefully screened and each


generation, a select few are chosen and trained to be Jedi.


"A Jedi is the keeper of Justice, the messenger of the Force.


A Jedi has the power to control minds, to see the future, to bend the


world around him to his will. Sadly, this is also why we are at war. A


few such Jedi turned to the Dark Side, bending the Force to serve


their selfish desires, and out of this abomination rose the Galactic


Empire, a veritable manifestation of Evil."


"These Jedi, they are gods of some sort?" Stark asked




"No." Stavros laughed. "They are mortal enough, though their


powers may be likened unto the Gods. Certainly no one mortal can stand


against a Jedi, but they are not invincible."


"The battle you were jumping into. It was against a Jedi?"


"Against a fleet of ships, to be real, but led by a Jedi, or


what once used to be a Jedi. The Sith Lord, Darth Vader. A being


cloaked in evil, surrounded by darkness. There is no doubt that he


would somehow have divined that we meant to attack him at Endor, and


he would have prepared accordingly. We expected to be going to our


deaths, and merely hoped that the knowledge that we were heading into


a trap would be sufficient to beat the trap. That the Force itself


would come to our aid, serving those who serve it."


"This ship, it would be sorely missed at the battle?"


"I doubt it." Stavros smiled. "This ship is but a small


frigate. We would have had a limited role on the edge of the main


battle. I doubt the fleet would even miss us, but duty is duty."


"Sir! Thirty seconds to termination."


"All secure!"


"Yes, sir. Ship secured."


"Action stations!"


"Action stations?" Stark asked, alarmed.


"A precautionary measure. Demanded by fleet regulations. One


never knows what is at the end of a Jump."


"Three ... Two .... One."


Suddenly the static whirled, coalesced into starlines, and the


lines contracted into points.




"No encroachments in gunnery range. Scanning mid-range. No


encroachments. Navigational scan initiated."


"Navigation. Calculate provisional Jump based on the


Constellation's charts."




"What was the last Jump's accuracy?"


"The Constellation's charts checks out with ours position to


the fourth decimal."


"Excellent. Compare Navigational scan to Constellation's


charts. If accuracy is upheld to the fourth decimal, we may Jump a bit


further next time."


"Yes, Sir."


"How long does it take to calculate a Jump?" Stark used.


"There are many variables. The accuracy of the current star


charts, the distance to be Jumped, the degree of local gravitational


distortion. The process is considerably speeded up by a decent


navigational scan of the surroundings, unless your scanners are being


jammed. Then you rely totally on your charts, but even so, your exact


position needs to be known. If the ship does not know where it is,


exactly, then a Jump can be extremely dangerous."


"A hundred light years? Under normal circumstances."


"A few seconds. A ten thousand light year Jump may take


several minutes, and a trans-galactic Jump maybe half an hour."


"Trans-galactic?" Jones asked.




"You mean across an entire galaxy?"


"Yes." Stavros said, somewhat impatient with the tone of this


upstart ensign.


"I suppose it's a small galaxy." Jones finished.


"Comparatively, yes." Stavros said. "It is small as galaxies


go. Some 120,000 light years across, and fifteen thousand light years


deep. A classic spiral galaxy though. There are about 350 billion


stars in the galaxy, and the Empire includes twenty million sentient


species, with about 12 million primary star systems, and various


backwater worlds."


Stark blanched. He thought about how this ship had come to be


in this galaxy. He hoped the gateway was one way. The prospect of a


twenty thousand year old galaxy spanning civilisation with millions of


worlds worth of industrial resources to draw upon and led by an evil


being with god-like powers somehow did not appeal to him as a


prospective neighbour.


"Navigational scan complete." The navi-comp operator called.


Comparing it to the Constellation's starmaps. I have parity to the


fifth decimal."


"Excellent. Secure ship for Jump. Engineering has the conn."


"Engineering here. Ship secured. We are clear for Jump."




They were in hyperspace again.


"Forty two minutes to Jump termination."


The second Jump would bring them within two hundred light


years of the starbase Stark was heading towards. Stavros spent the


time by taking Stark and his staff on a short tour of the


Independence. He set a time limit of thirty minutes for the tour,


which was really too short to show the entire ship, but sufficient to


give them an idea of it's operations.


He started by showing them the launch bays. Normally the


Nebulon-B frigate carried two squadrons of starfighters, but these had


been launched in advance of the Jump on Endor, and she currently


carried no fighters, except for a handful of X-wings which had been


down for maintenance.


"The X-wing starfighter. A single seater model with a very low


sensor profile, it has light shielding, on-board life-support, a


hyperdrive motivator with a three day operational range, on-board


sensor suite including automatic sensory counter-measures, an on-board


astro-mech droid of the R2 variety, limited atmospheric capability and


four computer linked laser-cannons with independent fire-control. It


is the backbone of our fighter complement, although many other models


are also used, some of which are faster, and some having greater




"Until recently, our navy had overlooked the use of small


fighters in combat." Stark replied. "Initially, the thought of having


one or two pilots cooped up in a small space like that for great


lengths of time was unthinkable, considering the time it takes to


travel inter-stellar distances. Also, the logistical problems involved


in building a carrier vessel, and keeping it supplied over


inter-stellar distances in combat situations, made the entire scheme


impractical. Much better to build large self-sufficient ships.


"But recently, things have changed for the worse, and we have


developed short-range tactical fighters called Peregrines. They were


developed to counter a threat by another hegemony known as the


Dominion. The Dominion uses small fighter-type craft which are highly


maneuverable, difficult to track even at short ranges, and very good


at focussed attacks on weak or exposed points on a starship. The


Dominion fighters and our Peregrines are much larger than these


though, probably between seven and ten times larger at least."


Stavros led the group through to the engineering and


manufacturing bays behind the launch bays. Dozens of technicians and


several hundred droids were hard at work on various items. Repairing


droids, repairing parts for fighters, component repairs on modules


from various parts of the frigate, or manufacturing spare modules for


quick replacement during battle.


"You don't use replicators?"


"Duplicators? Yes, we do. But often it is more economical to


repair an existing component than to re-create it, though we do have


access to duplicators when in port for manufacturing of additional


components. Largely though, the duplicators we use require the


availability of a base of raw materials, and we are generally not in


the habit of having freighters trail along wherever we go. Back home,


there is always a port facility within a few hours range, no matter


where in the galaxy you are. It is therefore not necessary to have


access to duplicators on board the ship."


"What about for foodstuffs, or preparation of meals?"


"We do have a galley, which serves basic meals. But the galley


is rarely used. It is very rare for a ship to be in hyperspace or away


from port for several weeks at a time. Most missions involve only a


short Jump in, and a Jump back to port. The galleys are therefore


probably the most under-utilised area of the ship.


"Much the same goes for the crew compartments. My officers


told me that your ship has individual quarters for each and every


crew-member, and that these compartments are highly personalised. Our


crews tend to have quarters in port, or planet-side, and only a


temporary facility on-board which is shared by different watches on


long trips of a few days or a week or two. Families are not allowed


on-board military vessels, except of course for short visits when in




"Larger ships, such as Star Cruisers or Star Destroyers will


have permanent quarters for most crew, but even then, they would tend


to make their homes planet-side, or in port."


"In port?"


"Yes. Systems which warrant a fleet defence will usually have


a space-dock facility or a battle-station which allows ships to dock


internally or externally. The crews tend to make their homes in these


facilities, or planet-side."


"We have never been able to operate like that. Embarking on an


inter-stellar journey often means several months or even years away


from home. As a result, our ships have extensive civilian quarters,


and crew-members tend to bring their families along. Traditionally,


the entire family joins the Fleet, not just the individual. Of course,


there are a handful of dedicated military vessels which do not cater


for civilians."


Mention of the civilians on the starship he had nearly


destroyed made Stavros uncomfortable. He decided to change the


subject. Stavros waved towards a nearby turbolift. Just before they


got to the lift, an ugly droid marched past on two legs with splayed


metal toes. It had a squat rounded superstructure and it's arms


terminated in multiple weapons tubes.


"What was that?"


"S-10 battle droid, used for repelling boarders. Droids don't


register on life-form scanners, makes it tricky for boarding parties


to advance through a ship. Droids are also less susceptible to the


effects of explosive de-compression, toxic chemicals, biological


agents, fires and so on. They have multiple redundant target tracking


systems, and can operate in total darkness or murky environments with


no loss in performance."


Stark shuddered.


"You make extensive use of droids? Why? Couldn't the ship be


designed to take care of itself?"


"Ships used to be designed that way, and still are. Droids are


just an integral part of the design, and these days are not slaved to


the central computer anymore. They are powered independently, have


pseudo-sentient algorithms, and can effect repairs or rescues even


when the ship is a near derelict. If the ship is extremely badly


damaged, then the sentient crews can retreat to safe hard-points,


while the droids bring the ship back into an operational state,


regardless of loss of power, damage to engines, loss of atmosphere or


even loss of gravity."


"But the operational crews are sentient? Your officers,


gunners, engineers, and so on?"


"Yes. Droids are obviously faster than humans, can process


information at a greater rate, can interface better with ship's


systems, etc, but they are not linked to the Force as closely as


sentient beings. As a result, they have poor battle intuition, no


imagination beyond randomness, respond poorly to new enemy tactics or


situations they weren't programmed for, and are always out-performed


by a well-trained and experienced sentient crew. Of course, their


deliberately humanoid design does allow them to replace injured or


dead crew-members in emergency situations."


"Some of your droids appear sentient, yet are treated as mere


machines, or servants. They appear to have feelings and mannerisms


simulating human feelings and mannerisms. How do you know when they


are truly sentient, or merely artificially so?"


"A machine cannot be sentient." Stavros said with conviction.


"That depends on how you define a machine, surely?" Stark


insisted. They were stepping out onto the bridge by now.


"There is no definition of life or sentience beyond the


relationship to the Force. A droid, a machine, a computer, and so on,


registers no different in Force-sensitivity than a rock or a random


atom or molecule. Living matter, such as plants, vegetables, animals,


and so on have measurably higher Force-sensitivity and the distinction


is clear. Sentient beings, whether carbon-based, silicon based,


crystalline, mammalian, reptilean, amphibian or vegetative, all again


have significantly higher Force-sensitivity. These things are


well-established and measurable. There is no life or sentience outside


the Force. The closest I have ever heard of that a near-machine has


come to sentience are droidships, like the Raaf. They are classified


as sentient beings, though conventional scanners often cannot


distinguish them from a droid.


"Millenia ago, and even as recently as a few decades ago,


experiments in artificial biological life, genetic engineering,


cloning and other abominations of the Force were attempted. All of


these things lead to evil, to destruction, to galactic hardship and


war. Part of the Jedi's responsibilities were to eradicate such




"Your entire definition of life and sentience then is Force




"Yes. The Jedi, and a very few mathemeticians and engineers


who understand these relationships, have proved this understanding


over the course of several millenia. Many religions have died out over


these millenia as they were subsumed by the greater understanding of


the Force, though to many, even belief in the Force is no more than


religion. However, the proof of the Jedi's accomplishments, or the


understanding of hyperspace travel itself, cannot be denied, no matter


how much the Empire tries to suppress this knowledge."


"Why would the Empire suppress this knowledge?"


"The Empire is led by a being who's power rests in this


knowledge. Should the knowledge be suppressed in others, his power


will be unassailable."


They stepped out of the turbo-lift onto a nearly deserted




"This is the outer ring. Most decks have such an outer ring.


It is the ring of passage-ways just inside the primary hull. From


here, you can gain access to the various fire-control rooms,


turbolaser batteries, external observation rooms, and the external


damage control rooms where the hull-droids are stored."


Another S-10 battle-droid came marching down the corridor, it


seemed to glance at them, then move on.


"Turbolaser batteries? These are the weapons you used against


my ship." Stark commented.


"Lasers are not supposed to be so powerful, surely." Jones


piped in again, without preamble. Stark frowned at him.


"Ensign Jones. Speak only when you are spoken to."


Stavros smiled tolerantly, but inwardly winced that an officer


could display such poor mannerisms. He could see that Stark was


embarrassed by his kinsman though.


"Turbolasers are our primary energy weapon. It is actually a


combination energy and particle weapon. A high-powered conventional


laser is used to energise a specially mined and refined substance,


which in turn causes a feed-back into the photon-stream, boosting it's


energy levels immensely. The result is a volatile bolt of energy fired


at very high velocity. It is a highly destructive weapon, unmatched in


sheer power, though it has limited range due to dissipating relatively


rapidly. And of course it is unguided.


"Turbolasers require huge gun-barrels, which have immense


recoil. The barrels need to be steadied and their recoil precisely


damped or firing one would rip the ship apart. As a result, they are


only useful against relatively stationary targets, like other capital


ships. We also have smaller turbolasers though, which fire more


rapidly, and can track smaller faster targets, even starfighters."


"Captain. We have ten minutes to Jump termination." A protocol


droid interrupted.


"Thank you, C2-9B9." Stavros answered, and turned back to the


Federation captain.


"Captain Stark? Can you detail some of your men to assist us


in establishing a communications protocol for when we arrive. The


sub-space system you use is very different to that used by our


short-range transmitters. However, my engineers are certain that we


can modify one of our transmitters, or perhaps an active sub-space


scanner to send and receive on the frequencies you use."


"With pleasure."


In short order, the navigation computers were ready for the


last jump. This jump would take them directly into the outer fringes


of the star system which was home to the base the USS Constellation


had left some fourteen weeks back on their journey of exploration.






"Jump termination in thirty seconds."


"Action stations. Secure for termination." Stark watched with


apprehension each time he heard the call to 'action stations'. He


couldn't help feeling a little bit guilty about guiding this vessel


which had attacked his ship without provocation to the unsuspecting


starbase. At least it had weaponry sufficient to defend itself should


Stavros double-cross him and fire on the station. The only reassuring


factor was that he doubted Stavros or anyone would go into battle


while weighed down by having to piggy-back another starship.


"Ship secured."


"Three ... Two ... One."




"Medium-sized structure detected, orbiting second planet.


Three starships on approach to structure, second planet has high


life-sign readings, low industrial capacity, high concentrations of


type two refined alloys."


"Captain Stark. Can you confirm the medium-sized structure to


be the starbase?"


Stark glanced at the holographic display in the centre of the


bridge. A translucent starbase 63 was suspended in mid-air over the


projector table.


"Aye. That is starbase 63."


The starbase was fairly large. One of the larger structures


assembled in space by the Federation. It was a bulb-shaped structure,


nearly two kilometers across and about four kilometers from the tip to


the tail. Medium-sized indeed.


"Com-scan. Open a channel on sub-space. Hail the station."

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"They're already hailing us, Sir. I'll patch it through to


the port vid-screen."


The port vid-screen, which usually had a stellar display on


it, suddenly went milky-white, a swirling rainbow of colours played


over the vid-screen for a second, and then coalesced into an image of


a plain-looking middle-aged woman.


"Unidentified vessel. What is your purpose here?" She seemed


somewhat distracted, as if she was looking at another display at the


same time, probably wondering at the strange contraption that looked


half-alien and half-familiar.


Stavros nodded at Stark. They had agreed that Stark would do


the talking.


"Control. This is Captain Jefferson Stark, USS Constellation.


We ran into a bit of a problem on our mission, and Captain Ess-Vin


Stavros of the NRS Independence here has offered us assistance. We


have a number of medical emergencies, and a severely damaged starship.


I need to get several of my people to the medical facilities on the


base as soon as possible. Does Captain Stavros have permission to




"Certainly, Independence. You may approach at warp 2 on vector


023 mark 279. I will see that you have priority clearance."


"Control. This ship does not have a warp drive. Do we have


permission to approach on a vector of our choosing?"


"Certainly. Just stay clear of the other traffic in this




"Thank you, control. Independence out."


Stark nodded to Stavros. Stavros glanced again at his tactical


display. Three starships, several dozen planetary diameters from the


starbase. Hardly traffic.




"Co-ordinates loaded, sir."


"Initiate jump sequence."


There was a barely noticeable flash outside the viewing-ports,


the stars seemed to have not moved at all.


"In position, Federation facility 10,000 kilometers dead




"Open communications. Arrange to disembark the wounded.


Prepare to undock the Constellation as soon as all passengers have


been disembarked."


"Independence. Lower your shields so that we may transport the


wounded over." The controller's voice announced.


Stavros glanced apprehensively at Stark. That starbase was


several times his size, and it had significant energy readings. Stark


nodded reassuringly.


"Tactical. Power down deflector shields. Shields on stand by."


"Yes, Sir."


"Control." Stark took over again. "I have twenty nine


patients, seriously wounded in the Independence's Sickbay. I have a


further eighty-two patients in the Constellation's Sickbay. Those are


the serious cases. Then I have a further sixty-one walking wounded,


broken bones, plasma burns, mild asphyxiation, acid burns and so on.


They are all on board the Constellation, but do not need immediate




"The transportation cycle has begun, Captain Stark. Your


wounded are being transferred as we speak. You gave us quite a fright


with that sudden displacement. Quite a trick."


"Control. My guests are rather hesitant about using the


transporter themselves, so please be careful not to transport anybody


who is not identifiable as wounded. I and my senior staff will


accompany Captain Stark across in a shuttle."


"Independence. Your wishes will be respected. No


transportation unless specifically requested. The wounded have all


been transferred. I have a question from Doctor Ferryman. All the


wounds appear relatively fresh, yet you are supposed to be fourteen


weeks out from this base?"


"I will explain everything once we are aboard, Control."


"Very well, Captain. Commodore Larsen will be waiting in


conference room 7-B. Control Out."






Stavros went over alone with two pilots, accompanied by Stark


and various of his officers. He ordered the two pilots to remain with


the shuttle, and followed the Federation officers to the conference




"Captain Stavros. This is Commodore Larsen, the senior


Starfleet officer for this sector."


Larsen spoke something in some unintelligible and impossible


sounding language, but was quickly interrupted by Stark, in the same


language. Hansen smiled apologetically.


"Sorry Captain. I didn't realise that you were not equipped


with a Universal Translator."


Stark had mentioned that all Starfleet Personnel had Universal


Translators implanted in their brains on graduating. Apparently, they


would have no problem understanding him, or making themselves


understood. The device seemed to be able to translate languages which


it could not possibly have been exposed to, and more than that, it


worked two ways, actually teaching the implantee (at the aural center


of the brain) how to speak languages totally alien to them. He


wondered what would happen if they came across a language the human


larynx could not duplicate.


"No apologies necessary, Sir."


"In any case, welcome to the United Federation of Planets. If


you don't mind, I need to hear Captain Stark's report first. Captain


Stark has insisted that his debriefing be conducted in your presence."


"Thank you for your acquiesence to his request. I appreciate


this gesture, immensely." Stavros sat down in the seat indicated, and


the Commodore turned his attention to Stark.


"The doctor informs me that injuries to your crew-members are


no more than five or six hours old at best. You are supposed to be


fourteen weeks out. I suppose this has something to do with the


presence of Captain Stavros here, and that warship out there. Please




"Yes, Sir. Our mission was proceeding according to plan, and


all records and observations are available for download from our


computer core, or the backup should the core be damaged. We had just


crossed the outer limits of the previous exploration markers, and were


heading into virgin territory. As such the ship was operating under


the standard exploration protocols. No starships or warp traces were


registered on our sensors.


"We had just entered the star-system coded G-67321. We slowed


to one quarter impulse and initiated a detailed sensor focus on all


the system's planets. The scan had barely begun when, with no warning,


an immense warship de-cloaked off our starboard bow and immediately


opened fire. The first volley smashed down our navigational shields,


breached the dorsal hull in several places, and knocked out the dorsal


phaser array. I ordered the shields raised, but a second volley hit


the ship before the tactical officer could comply.


"The dorsal hull breaches were expanded, several power systems


were knocked off-line, a hit on the starboard nacelle caused the


automatic shut down of the warp core, and excess plasma was


immediately dumped out of the port nacelle. The loss of power


prevented us from raising shields, or returning fire.


"I ordered power to be routed from the auxiliary fusion


reactors, but a third volley knocked out the inertial damping field,


causing ship-wide chaos and injuries. By this time, more than a third


of the ship was exposed to vacuum, and several decks were on fire. The


fusion reactors' containment field was under threat of imminent


failure, so the computer shut down the reactor core and dumped the


fusionable material.


"At this stage, the only power available to the ship was from


the backup power cells which service the life-support systems and the


artificial gravity. This power was fading fast due to damage to


several of the power cells. I ordered power routed to the ventral


phaser bank from the auxiliary cells attached to the torpedo


launchers. The ship had lost attitude control, but we managed to score


two hits on the enemy before they moved out of the line of fire.


"By this stage, we were aware that a boarding craft was


heading our way. I gave an order for the crew to prepare to repel


boarders. As I understand it, by this stage we had over three hundred


dead, mostly on the civilian decks in the upper dorsal saucer module.


Perhaps Captain Stavros would like to take over from here?"


There was a pained expression on Stavros face. He nodded to




"My ship, the NRS Independence, was attached to the First


Republic Fleet. The fleet, numbering some forty ships, was preparing


to engage an enemy fleet, belonging to the Galactic Empire, with whom


we are at war. The fleet assembled into attack position, with my ship


covering one of the flanks in expectation of providing support against


enemy starfighters. Once assembled, the fleet jumped to hyperspace,


fully prepared to go directly into action against the Imperials on


Jump termination.


"Four seconds short of Jump termination, we hit what we


thought to be a hyperspace interdiction field, causing the premature


termination of our jump. Our ship was already at action stations, and


our immediate suspicion was that the Imperials, knowing of our


impending attack, had set a trap for us. My gun crews did what was


expected of them. They fired on the first non-friendly target in


gunnery range.


"The Independence is capable of firing a full broadside every


two seconds, and it took us at least that long to discern that the


ship we faced was not an Imperial ship. I immediately gave the order


for a cease fire while we scanned for the enemy. By this time two full


broadsides had already been fired. The cease-fire took effect just as


the third broadside was released.


"It pains me terribly, but I must accept all responsibility


for the damage to your starship."


To Stavros surprise, the Commodore nodded understandingly.


"I don't understand everything you've told me, but I can see


how it must have been from your point of view. Captain Stark, I must


ask you how you managed to wander into the middle of a battle without


realising it?"


"I am sorry Commodore," Stavros interrupted, "but there is


more. The good captain here did not wander into a battle. What we took


to be an interdiction field must have been an uncharted hypermatter


body, which knocked us way off course. When our jump terminated, it


was nowhere near the location where the battle was to take place. We


weren't even in the same galaxy."


"Ah, I see. You were knocked somewhat off course. So the


entire incident was an accident. I don't see how Starfleet can


apportion blame to either yourself or Captain Stark. Unless of course


you might have been able to avoid the navigational error somehow. At


worst, I suspect Starfleet might want reparations to the tune of the


damage to the starship, and perhaps the families of those unfortunate


to have died in the incident. We certainly wouldn't want to get


involved in your war, or a prolonged political squabble. It might even


be in the best interest of good relations between our respective


societies to forget this incident ever occurred.


"If you are in any way representative of your society, I can


only assume that any relations between our respective societies will


be most propitious. We must make arrangements to exchange ambassadors


at the earliest opportunity."


"Commodore. To be honest. I am not sure that that will be


possible." Stavros sighed.


"But why ever not?"


"You see, I don't know how to get home. Once matters here have


been resolved. I would like to return to the area of the star system


where the incident took place, and see if we can somehow reverse the


phenomenon which brought us here."


"But, I understood it to be a navigational error. How far is


it to your home systems? Surely you can travel back there?"


"Commodore. When I said we were not even in the same galaxy, I


meant it. My navigators are still working to locate our galaxy. But,


one thing we do know, this is not it."


"Good lord."


"Something like that, yes." Stavros smiled, faintly. "Now, I


would like to know what I can possibly do about reparations, before I


pursue my investigations as to how to get home any further."


"Captain Stavros. I would like time to discuss this matter


further with Captain Stark, and possibly my superiors. Do you think


you could allow us a few days to come to a decision. Perhaps we might


even be able to assist you in your quest to return home. Of course, we


cannot forcibly detain you. You are welcome to return to your ship,


and should you decide to leave, I would do nothing to stop you.


However, I am sure that as I judge you, you will stay until we have


reached a decision."


"I can give you three days. If you will agree, I would like my


first officer to take the Independence and attempt to scout a way


home. He can return here in three days for me, should you allow me to




"I must ask you this. If we refuse to let you go, what action


will your first officer take?"


"I have ordered him to abandon me here, if that were the case.


He is not to make an attempt to rescue me, and he is not to engage any


of your ships in battle. We have caused you sufficient grief. It is


not worth fighting a war over one man. I will not have my men


sacrifice their lives for my personal gratification, nor will I draw


my government into a conflict it might not want. Assuming a way home


is found. I am prepared to personally accept the responsibility of my


ship's action against the Constellation. My men were merely following


guidelines for which I, ultimately, am responsible."


"Spoken like a Federation officer." Commodore Larsen stated.


He stood and offered his hand to Stavros.


"Please, by all means take your ship and see if you can scout


a passage home. If you don't find your way home, I would be very


pleased if you returned to this outpost. I personally would vouch for


your acceptance as honorary Starfleet personnel. We would be happy to


offer you a home in the Federation should you be forced to remain in


this galaxy."


Stavros couldn't believe what he was hearing. Less than twelve


hours ago he had all but destroyed one of these people's starships,


murdering hundreds of their civilians in the process. Now they wanted


to offer him a home.


"Commodore. My first duty is still to my men and to the cause


for which we are fighting. I must attempt to return home and do


whatever I can in the interests of my people. My galaxy is facing it's


darkest trial, and any little thing I can do to help I am obligated to


do. However, should it prove impossible for me to return home, it will


be a pleasure to be of service to your Federation."






"You're not kidding me?" Talon asked.


"I am not." Stavros responded.


"I don't believe that anybody could be so ... so ... "


"I know what you mean." Stavros said, looking out at the


starbase below, with the wreck of the Constellation being slowly drawn


into a repair bay. "These people have something special. If the


Republic turns out to have half the character displayed by the people


we met here then it will be worth fighting for indeed."


"Yes. It will. Ship is secure, Sir!"


"Initiate jump sequence."


The stars stretched, flashed into blue and whirled into the


static of hyperspace. They were jumping directly back to the star


system where they had first encountered the Constellation.


"Jump termination in three hours, twenty two minutes sir."


"The ship will go to action stations thirty minutes before


termination, number one. Have com-scan double their shifts and scan


everything in sight. We must find a way home."


"Aye, Sir."


The three hour journey passed slowly. Most of the crew


wondered if their quest would meet with any success at all. The


prospect of being trapped in this galaxy, however noble it's citizens,


did not appeal to many. Their homes, the families for whom they


fought, were uppermost on all their minds. Somehow, they had to get


home and fight the Empire. If they could but bring a glimmer of the


hope found in this galaxy back with them, they would indeed have


something to fight for.






"Jump termination in five seconds. Four ... three ..."


The ship shuddered and bucked violently, throwing loose


equipment around the bridge. Fortunately, being at actions stations,


everyone was secured in place, and there was no injuries.


"Multiple targets, all around us. It's the Rebel fleet. Endor


is on our starboard flank, I count twenty five Imperial capital ships


dead ahead. There's the Death Star. The battle hasn't started yet."


"May the Force be with us." Ackbar's voice came over the ship


to ship relay system. The rebel fleet moved in towards the Imperial


fleet, the fighter squadrons and assorted small ships leading the way.


Stavros looked quizzically at his first officer. He shook his


head as if to rid himself of an irritation. Thumbing his internal


communications console, he put a call through to Sickbay.


"Doctor, how much bacta do we have in stock?"


"Captain, we still have everything that the Federation ship


replicated for us. Nearly an entire hold full. Why do you ask?"


"No reason." Stavros said, and cut the communication.


"Tactical, watch for fighters. I don't want any TIE's breaking


past us into the main formation. You all know what we're fighting for.


This will require our very best."


"Break off the attack! The shield is still up." General


Calrissian's voice came over the relay. "Pull up! All craft pull up!"


The fleet executed a desperate turn, attempting to avoid a


collision with the Death Star's protective shield.


"Take evasive action! Green Group, stick close to holding


sector MV-7." Admiral Ackbar ordered.


Stavros glanced at the tactical display in dismay. Another


Imperial Force was moving to cover their exit vector in sector 47.


"It's a trap!" Ackbar announced unnecessarily.

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