Civil War by CeJay
Summary:

10 years ago, the Starship Enterprise was transported over 60 thousands light-years to come face-to-face with what would become the Federation’s greatest nemesis. But now, as universes diverge, different choices have lead to a very different future.

After a long and bloody war with the Borg, the Federation has re-emerged as a broken shadow of its former self. Splintered and engulfed in internal conflict, embittered former allies have chosen their sides, unwilling to compromise, they battle each other for their vision of the future.

As news of a new super-weapon under development spreads, the fragile status quo threatens to spill out into all out war as conflicts and tensions mount.

A novella celebrating 10 years of United Trek and featuring characters by Bry Sinclair, DarKush, Galen, Michael Garcia, Sam Redfeather and The LoneRedShirt.

Also available as an ebook here.


Categories: Alternate Universes, Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family
Warnings: Character Death
Challenges: None
Series: The Star Eagle Adventures
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 34993 Read: 15111 Published: 08 Oct 2016 Updated: 10 Dec 2016

1. 01/10 This is Where it all Went Wrong. by CeJay

2. 02/10 Welcome to the New Normal. by CeJay

3. 03/10 Meet the Guardians of Yesteryear. by CeJay

4. 04/10 Preserving the Future is a Full Time Job. by CeJay

5. 05/10 Whoever Draws First Blood... by CeJay

6. 06/10 Et Tu, Brute? by CeJay

7. 07/10 Were In Uncharted Territory Now." by CeJay

8. 08/10 All Together Now. by CeJay

9. 09/10 Now You See It, Now You Dont by CeJay

10. 10/10 The End is Only the Beginning. by CeJay

01/10 This is Where it all Went Wrong. by CeJay
01/10 – “This is Where it all Went Wrong.”


Stardate 42781.2
2365
10 Years Ago



“Good Morning, Admiral.”

Commander Krystine Leone entered the turbolift and joined her commanding officer and captain of the USS Potemkin, who as was her wont, was dressed in a command-red, custom-replicated two-piece uniform instead of the more conventional and much more formfitting jumpsuit version.

T'Cirya raised an eyebrow at her first officer, keeping her hands clasped behind the small of her back. “You are well aware, of course, that my promotion will not take effect until next week. Until that time it will be more appropriate to refer to me as ‘captain’.”

Leone smirked. After having served with the Vulcan for over a decade on two different ships, she had come to learn how to read her extremely subtle mannerism, and could tell, not only that she was somewhat amused by the reference to her impending promotion but that she felt a certain satisfaction—not pride, of course—about her career moving on to new heights. Naturally whatever she felt, was well hidden and almost impossible to decipher without the luxury of having served with the stoically steadfast Vulcan for a long time.

“Naturally,” she said, still smirking, and turned to stand next to her, facing the doors she had just passed through. “Bridge.”

The lift acknowledged and set into motion once more.

“Any word yet on your next assignment?” asked Leone.

“Not at this time.”

“Any word yet on my next assignment?” she said and threw the other woman a sidelong look, unable to hide the gleam in her eye. It was well known to her commanding officer that Krystine Leone had ambitions to become a starship captain herself and hopeful to be chosen as T'Cirya’s successor.

The Vulcan turned her head marginally to consider her first officer but said nothing.

The lift arrived at its destination, the doors reopened and the soon-to-be admiral, swiftly stepped out.

T’Cirya clearly took delight in subtly torturing Leone, no matter how much she’d deny it. Leone was convinced of it. She uttered a little sigh but refused to let her mood slip before she followed her captain onto the bridge.

“Report,” Leone heard T’Cirya say before she had even caught up with her.

Lieutenant Commander Ariel Elannis smoothly stood from the center chair to turn to the captain and first officer, shooting her close friend Leone a very brief smile.

Compared to the Vulcan, the dark-haired and buxom half-Orion operations officer had adopted the exact opposite approach on how to wear a Starfleet uniform, evidenced by the fact that her mustard-colored jumpsuit appeared to cling to her ample curves almost as if painted on, and of course it didn’t help much that she insisted on wearing the zipper undone nearly halfway down her chest.

“We have just crossed the Selcundi Drema sector and are now approaching her last know coordinates.”

T’Cirya acknowledged this with the briefest of nods and as Elannis stepped away from the command chair to return to her operations console at the front of the bridge, the captain took back her seat with Leone taking her customary chair next to her. “Helm, slow to one-quarter impulse power.”

“Slowing to one quarter impulse, aye, sir,” the petty officer at the helm console quickly responded even as he entered the new commands into his console.

Leone turned to look towards the ship’s security officer, Lieutenant Ethan Dawkins. “Anything on sensors yet?”

The blonde-haired human shook his head. “Nothing so far.”

“Ships of that size don’t just fall off the face of the galaxy,” said Leone from her forward station. “We should at least be seeing some debris if she has been destroyed.”

“Belay that talk, Commander,” Leone said sharply.

Elannis turned in her chair to give her friend a sheepish look. “I’m just saying.”

“Well, don’t. It’s unbecoming. And until we know for certain we shouldn’t assume the worst.”

Dawkins nodded. “She’s one of those new Galaxy’s, right? Not much I can imagine that could seriously hurt her.”

“Then you suffer from a lack of imagination,” said Elannis, albeit much more quietly then before. “Remember the Yamato?”

Another withering look from the XO caused the operations officer to get the message and preempted any further commentary as she turned back to her console.

“Prepare to initiate a full sensor sweep of this sector,” said the captain and then looked towards her first officer. “We will implement our previously agreed search pattern.”

Leone nodded sharply and then stood to walk towards the conn. “Helm, course heading one-ten mark ten, full impulse.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Captain, I am reading some sort of spatial disturbance about five hundred thousand kilometers off our port bow,” Dawkins reported as his fingers danced over his controls.

“On screen,” the captain ordered.

The image on the main viewer shifted to display what looked like a vortex in space, a maelstrom of blue and gray, looking almost like the mouth of a wormhole, but it was impossible to determine what—if anything—lay beyond, as a thick mist obscured the eye of the anomaly.

"What are we looking at here?" Leone said as she took a step closer towards the screen.

Elannis frowned at her instruments and then shook her head. “Unclear. The anomaly seems to be emitting strong triquantum waves. Subspace disruptions are through the roof, showing at three point one teracochranes and climbing.”

“Yellow Alert, raise shields,” T’Cirya said calmly from the captain’s chair, crossing her legs at the knee.

The order was promptly executed.

“Are we able to determine what lies beyond the anomaly?” the captain asked.

Elannis shook her head again. “Negative, sir. Sensor are unable to penetrate it.”

“I recommend we send a probe,” said Leone.

The captain offered a nod which quickly prompted the first officer to glance towards the tactical console. “Dawk, class-six probe. Fire it right into the center of the anomaly when ready.”

It took the tactical officers only a few brief moments to have the probe loaded into a torpedo launcher and slung into the spatial vortex. The crew watched the projectile cross the distance between the ship and the anomaly in just a few seconds before it was swallowed up whole and disappeared.

“Commander Elannis, do we have telemetry from the probe?” said T’Cirya.

“It is coming through but the readings don’t appear to make a great amount of sense. According to this the probe is—“ she stopped herself suddenly and then her fingers raced over her touch-screen console.

Leone took a step towards her. “What is it, Ariel?”

“We lost all contact. One moment she was there and the next one … gone.”

“What were the last readings you had?”

She turned with her seat to look first at Leone and then at the captain. “As I said: Inconclusive. According to the data the drone was at a location at least sixty thousand light-years from our current position. Deep inside the Delta Quadrant.”

Leone and T’Cirya exchanged brief glances.

“Sir, something is emerging from the anomaly,” Dawk said, his tone urgent and alert.

“Is it the probe?” Leone wanted to know.

“It’s a whole lot bigger than the probe.”

All eyes once again turned towards the main screen, just in time to see that what was escaping the vortex was indeed much larger than the probe they had sent. In fact it was larger than the Potemkin itself but quickly took a very familiar shape as it slowly revealed itself, starting with a large, oval shaped saucer, followed by a bulky engineering section and two tubular warp nacelles.

“It’s the Enterprise,” Elannis said.

“My God, what happened to her?” said Leone when the image zoomed into the other Starfleet vessel, revealing a great number of obvious modifications to her main hull, which now seemed to be covered by a web of dark metallic protrusions, some of them glowing with angry green energy, turning the once handsomely curved flagship into a sinister looking vessel which seemed to have little in common with a Starfleet ship other than the overall shape of her superstructure.

“We are being hailed,” Dawkins said.

T’Cirya nodded. “On screen.”

The man who appeared to be standing in an indistinct part of the ship looked very much like the captain of the starship Enterprise but it was unmistakable that whatever transformation had befallen his ship, had also happened to him. His bald head was sickly pale and the entire right hand side of his face was covered with seemingly implanted machine parts. A black tube connected them with the dark, equally mechanical suit he was wearing. A bright red and directed light shone from the facial modification and directly into the visual pickup.

For a moment nobody on the bridge spoke, as they stared at the sight with disbelieving eyes.

T’Cirya was the first to break the silence, her carefully neutral face showing no evidence of astonishment. “Captain Picard?”

A heavily modulated voice answered her. “I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your live as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us.”

“What the hell—“

T’Cirya spoke right over the befuddled Elannis. “Red Alert. All hands to battle stations. Helm, back us off now, half impulse power.”

The connection was cut on the other end and the man who had indentified himself as Locutus disappeared to be replaced once more by his equally deformed starship.

“Ariel, scan for life-signs, what is going on over there?” Leone asked.

“I’m reading over one thousand life-signs which is comparable to their standard crew complement but they are all off somehow. They do not read as fully human.”

“The Enterprise is firing!” Dawkins yelled.

“Evasive action.”

The captain’s order came too late, as Potemkin was hit dead-on and with such immense force, nobody on the bridge remained upright and a number of consoles exploded in a shower of sparks, filling the bridge with thick smoke.

“Damage report,” Leone asked as she crawled back into her seat.

It took Dawkins a moment to return to his own station. “Shields are down to ten percent. We won’t survive another hit.”

T’Cirya didn’t hesitate once she was back in her chair. “Helm, reverse course. Warp six.”

Potemkin promptly turned away from the Frankenstein Enterprise and jumped to high warp.

“She’s pursuing,” Elannis said. “I’m also reading another vessel emerging from the vortex.”

“Put it on screen,” Leone said.

The viewer changed once more, showing the heavily-modified Galaxy-class ship moving away from the anomaly on a pursuit course and something else emerging behind her. Something much larger. At first it appeared like a single, solid wall of metal, until the edges came slowly into view. It finally revealed itself to be one massive, dark cube with no apparent distinctiveness beyond its basic geometric shape.

“The object is a perfect hexahedron,” Elannis reported, wiping the sweat from her brow, as the bridge was becoming increasingly warmer. “Each side is at least three kilometers wide and—I’m now reading a third vessel emerging—it’s another cube.”

Indeed the main screen showed yet another massive ship following the first two.

“Sir, the Enterprise is gaining on us,” said Dawkins.

“Fire photon torpedoes, full spread,” said the captain.

Federation ship or not, Hawkins didn’t hesitate. “Torpedoes away.”

Somebody on the bridge, likely Elannis, had changed the main screen back to show the pursing starship and the six bright projectiles which had been catapulted into her path. Enterprise’s shields flared in an unnatural, bright green, instead of the usual blue as the torpedoes made contact. The result appeared negligible.

“No effect,” said Dawkins. “The shields appear to have completely neutralized our photons.”

Leone stared wide-eyed at the screen. “How is that even possible?”

“We have to assume that these Borg have somehow modified the Enterprise’s offensive and defensive systems,” said T’Cirya, calmly as ever.

“I am now reading at least six cube vessels having emerged from the vortex,” said Elannis, not quite able to keep a slight tremble out of her voice.

Leone turned to look at her captain, not saying a word—she didn’t have to. They both knew what this meant. If the Enterprise was able to seemingly swat them away like nothing more than an insignificant fly, what chances did they stand in the face of half a dozen ships, four times as massive?

T’Cirya began to enter calculations into the small panel imbedded into her armrest and then spoke even as she continued to work. “Helm, come about to two-niner-seven mark seven-seven, increase speed to warp nine point eight for ten minutes and fifteen seconds.”

Leone gave her a puzzled look, not exactly sure what she was up to.

“We cannot win this, Commander and if the Enterprise, as I strongly suspect, has had all their systems enhanced by alien technology, we cannot escape her.”

Leone nodded. “We need to warn Starfleet.”

“Correct, however the alien vessels are currently interfering with all sub-space communications and I calculate that we will not be able to clear their dampening field before we are intercepted.”

“The Enterprise is still gaining. She will be back in weapon’s range in approximately ten minutes.”

“We need to buy some time,” said Leone.

T’Cirya offered a miniscule nod in response. “This is the Captain, to all hands. Prepare to abandon ship. I say again, prepare to abandon ship.”

This caused Leone to whip her head back towards the Vulcan with disbelieving eyes.

“It is our only chance, Commander. At our current speed and heading, we will reach the outer edges of the Helix Nebula in nine minutes and forty-two seconds, at which time we will drop out of warp, initiate a high-intensity warp plasma discharge which has a chance of temporarily blinding the Enterprise’s sensors, even if they have been enhanced. We will then launch all escape pods and shuttles to take refugee in the nebula while Potemkin will continue at high warp to draw our pursuers off.”

Leone needed a second to catch up with her ultra-efficient captain’s plan which she had clearly only just formulated a few seconds ago. It was a desperate move, and considering the stakes, she would have much preferred some time to think this through. She understood time was their second biggest enemy right now.

She ultimately nodded and then went to work to do everything in her power to ensure the plan would work. Timing was going to be crucial. She also understood that everyone needed to get off the ship. Anyone who didn’t, most likely wouldn’t survive.

For the next nine minutes, the crew of the Potemkin underwent the most urgently rushed preparations they had ever known, quicker even than anything they had ever trained for. Over 750 souls had to be ready and depart the ship at a moment’s notice, making every second count.

“Sixty seconds to the nebula,” said Elannis about nine minutes after T’Cirya had given the order. On the screen Enterprise was inching closer by the moment and not far behind her, ten monstrously vast cube-shaped starships were following in her wake.

The captain stood from her chair and walked just behind the operations console. “You are relieved, Commander Elannis. Get to the escape pod.”

“Sir, with all due respect—“

But T’Cirya was brooking no debate. “That is an order.”

Elannis hesitated only another second before she stood to surrendered her station.

The captain looked at her first officer next. “You as well, Commander.”

But Leone shook her head decisively. “You can’t do this alone. You’ll need somebody else.”

“Incorrect. I have already determined that it will require only one individual to carry out the plan and to keep Potemkin on course long enough to draw our pursuers away from the nebula. It is illogical for you to remain as well.”

Leone was fighting to remain calm. In all the time she had known T’Cirya, it had been exceedingly rare that the Vulcan had used her vaunted logic against her. She was damned if she was going to start allowing her to do so now. As far as Leone was concerned, she would not let her captain—her friend—go down alone with the ship.

In the end the decision was taken away from her.

T’Cirya looked her square in the eye and raised her hand, palm facing outward, her fingers split in the traditional salute of her people. “Regarding your next assignment—should you survive this encounter, you will be awarded your own captaincy. You will excel at it and you will excel at everything you will do beyond it. Live long and prosper, Captain Krystine Leone.”

Leone hadn’t even noticed that T’Cirya’s other hand had somehow reached behind her neck.

The last thing she remembered from the deck of the bridge— as she was rapidly losing consciousness—was the sight of ten, dark and ominous and unrelenting black cubes racing towards Potemkin.

Racing towards the Federation, with nothing in their way to stop them or even slow them down.
02/10 Welcome to the New Normal. by CeJay
02/10 – “Welcome to the New Normal.”


Stardate 52864.5
2375
Now




“The planet Cait has no intention of joining the Federation, and we certainly have no interest in your cause, or for that matter, in the cause of your rival faction,” Ambassador M’Raat spoke emphatically, sitting in one of the chairs around the briefing table in the starship Heracles’ observation lounge, his cat-like slit pupils focusing on Commodore Mel Schwarzkopf first, to make sure his point had been unmistakable, before he let his glance wander across the faces of the other two Starfleet officers present as well.

Terrance Glover shot fellow captain Amaya Donners an annoyed look, which she quickly reciprocated, before he turned back towards the vermilion-furred ambassador. “I don’t believe you and your people have fully considered your options. Or should I say, the consequences of rash decisions?”

“Is this a threat, Captain?”

Glover smirked. “Not at all. I just want to make certain that you have the full picture.”
But the tall Caitian wasn’t easily intimidated and turned back to look at the most senior Starfleet officer in the room. “Is this what your new Federation has come to, Commodore? Bullies and strong-hand tactics? Is that what you are hoping to rebuild?”

“These are dangerous times, Mister Ambassador,” Schwarzkopf said. “And to be quiet frank, you’d be a fool not to see that. Do you think the Nyberrites care one whiff about the Caitian people? Do you really think they will come to your help when you need it the most? All the Nyberrites care about are the Nyberrites, and if that means one planet has to suffer for the good of the whole, than that is exactly what will happen under their leadership. And their influence is spreading daily, like a disease. Like the Borg once did.”

The mention of the cyborg race brought M’Raat up short, clearly the memory of the unrelenting and desperate war still far too fresh in his memory, even after four years. His hesitation didn’t last very long however. “I know about Betazed and I will not let that happen to my people.”

“This won’t be another Betazed,” said Donners sharply, as if she had grown bored of that argument. “Things are different now. We are more organized, stronger, more determined.”

But M’Raat shook his head. “And still fractured. From what I hear this other Federation, the Preservers—or whatever the hells you call them, are much more powerful.”

“We have the superior numbers,” Glover quickly said. “It is only a matter of time until we will work out our—differences, and face the Nyberrites as a united front. The question you have to ask yourself, Ambassador, is if you want Cait to be part of the future or of the past. Because, make no mistake, you will need to choose a side.”

M’Raat glanced towards the large windows of the observation lounge, allowing him a magnificent view of his blue-green world below before his focus returned to the three Starfleet officers. “You are fighting amongst yourselves and expect my people to take the risk of betting our future that you will be victorious?” he shook his head again. “I’m sorry, the stakes are simply far too high. Cait will remain neutral in this conflict.”

Schwarzkopf left his chair so suddenly, it even surprised Terrence Glover for just a moment. “I urge you to reconsider this decision, Mister Ambassador. I urge you to think very carefully about what it may mean for your people and for the galaxy as a whole. Change is coming and there is no more room for anyone to stay on the sidelines.”

The commodore’s intensity stunned M’Raat into silence for a brief moment. “I think—I think I would like to return to the surface now.”

Glover spoke before Schwarzkopf could, the man was clearly far too agitated to be trusted to make another reasonable argument. “Naturally, if that is your wish. You are after all our guest.”

“I am not si sure I felt like one,” he said, shooting a dark look at the still glowering commodore.

“Bridge to observation lounge. Commodore, we have multiple ships inbound.”
It took Schwarzkopf a few seconds to collect himself again, before he finally tore his eyes off M’Raat and looked towards the ceiling instead. “Who is it?”

“Four Starfleet ships, Commodore. Preservers.”

“Just what we needed,” said Donners and left her chair, already heading towards the doors.

Glover was equally annoyed and promptly followed her to head for the transporter room and to return to his ship as quickly as possible, the ambassador already forgotten.

He had so hoped to avoid a fight today.


* * *



“We are now entering the Trill system, sir,” said Ensign Srena, Eagle’s Andorian helm officer.

Michael Owens nodded. “Drop out of warp. Set condition red across the ship, all hands to report to battle stations.”

Chief security officer Jos Carlos promptly acknowledged. “Condition red throughout the ship, sir.”

And with that the previously yellow flashing alert panels all over the bridge turned a dark, ominous red, preparing the bridge crew for imminent battle.

Owens stood from his chair. “Who’ve we got?”

“Three ships around Cait, sir,” said Lieutenant Stanmore from ops. “Heracles, Cuffe and Agamemnon. They have detected us and are raising shields and breaking orbit.”

“It had to be her.”

“Sir?” Stanmore said.

“Never mind, Lieutenant.”

“Sir, I have Captain Sandhurst on a secure channel,” said Carlos.

Owens nodded. “Pipe him through.”

Not a moment later, Donald Sandhurst, captain of the recently commissioned, brand-new Luna-class Gibraltar appeared on a large inset in the top left corner of the main screen, Cait and the scrambling, opposing fleet remaining visible in the background.

“Looks like they brought out the big guns. Heracles in their flagship, commanded by none other than Commodore Melvin Schwarzkopf. Not just a hothead but pretty much the poster figure of everything wrong with the Guardians.”

“I know of Schwarzkopf,” Owens said. “He could be a problem.”

“Not as much as Glover on the Cuffe. Sorry to say that I knew the man much better than I cared for in the old days. He’s aggressive and unpredictable. If it comes to it, I say we take him out first. Don’t know much about Agamemnon and Donners.”
“Better that way, trust me.”

The other captain offered a little smile. “Sounds like somebody else here’s got history. Not the pleasant kind, I take it. Or maybe not all unpleasant?”

“We’ll approach in standard formation,” said Owens, ignoring the Sandhurst’s, last comments altogether. “We’ve got numbers on our side today. If we can talk them into withdrawing, good. If not, I want to make sure they leave here broken and bloodied. What they are doing, it has to stop, one way or another.”

He nodded sharply. “Couldn’t agree more. Sandhurst out.”

“Mister Carlos, signal the task force to spread out in standard attack formation. I want Sutherland and Independence to protect our flanks. Let’s not give them a chance to turn our advantage.”

“Yes, sir, signaling the task force now.”

“Captain, we are being hailed by the Heracles,” Stanmore said.

Owens took a brief moment to collect his thoughts before tugging down on his maroon uniform tunic. “Let’s hear what they have to say then.”

The image shifted to reveal Schwarzkopf, standing in the middle of his bridge, very much like Owens himself. However, differently to his crew, Schwarzkopf and his officers wore a different variation of the Starfleet uniform, one with mostly wine-red or mustard-yellow shoulders on their otherwise black tunics instead of the traditional black shouldered and department-colored jackets Owens wore. Even their combadges had a slightly different design, still featuring the prominent Starfleet delta, but theirs sat on a rectangular back instead of an oval. What wasn’t any different however was the phaser strapped to his hip, something that had long since become common practice in either Starfleet.

“Commodore Schwarzkopf, you and your vessels are in violation of Federation Council Directive two-ten as well as Starfleet General Order ninty-five and are hereby instructed to immediately leave this sector or face the consequences.”

“Let’s spare ourselves the little games, Captain, we both know that I don’t recognize your authority or that of what you pretentiously refer to as the Federation Council. “

“Yes, and I care little about what you do or do not recognize. You have thirty seconds to comply.”

“Tell me Captain, doesn’t it become tiring to be the Nyberrite’s lap dog?”

“I suppose not any more than recklessly inciting worlds to fight battles they cannot win. Does the Betazed dictionary still show your picture against the word imbecile?”

Schwarzkopf offered a dry laugh. “I’d rather be called that and fight against injustice then hide myself away in a hole like you and your Preservers.”

“Wisdom is to know when to fight. But then that something you clearly do not posses,” he said and nodded. “But very well, if it is a fight that you so desperately crave, I’ll give you a fight. Owens out.” He promptly activated his ship-to-ship channel by stabbing a button on his armrest, and connecting him instantly with the rest of the task force. “Donald, I want you to focus on Cuffe, seeing that you know her captain best. We’ll focus on Agamemnon. The rest will engage Heracles.” He didn’t wait for a response, confident that the other captains would follow his instructions. “Attack pattern Kappa-Nine. The use of primary weapons is authorized. Eagle out.”

He then turned to look towards Carlos at the tactical station. “Target Agamemnon’s offensive and defensive systems, but limit your fire, I want to give them a chance to withdraw once she realizes the pointlessness of it all.”

The Hispanic officer offered a sharp nod in response.

Stanmore in the meantime shook his head. “They do want that fight, sir. Coming right at us.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised, she never did know when to quit.”

The view screen ahead of him changed to combat mode as the default view of the approaching starships shifted upwards with the lower half of the screen displaying a tactical map of the system and the location of all combatants. The four blue deltas representing the task force quickly split up to concentrate on their designated targets, symbolized by red deltas.

Donners on the Agamemnon clearly didn’t take well to Eagle coming after her and quickly unleashed a barrage of phaser fire. Owens held on to the armrests of his chair as the bridge around him trembled under the impact.

“Multiple direct hits,” Carlos said. “Shields holding at eighty-nine percent.”

He nodded with a smirk. “Return fire, all available banks.”

Owens watched with satisfaction as Agamemnon was taking a beating, her shields flaring heavily under the barrage even while she turned away to carry out evasive maneuvers.

“Their shields are down to sixty-nine percent, some damage to her primary hull.”

“Keep at it,” he said as he studied her projected course on the tactical viewer. “Let’s not giver her the chance to catch her breath. I’d rather finish this quickly.”

“Firing phasers.”

The results were more of the same, the other ship’s shield struggling to protect the hull from the powerful energy blasts while her return fire was mostly absorb by Eagle’s shields, demonstrating the Guardian’s technological advantages over their rival.

He activated a ship-to-ship channel with the other vessel through his armrest controls. “This is foolish even for you, Maya. Know when you are beat and get out of here before this gets uglier than it has to.”

“You mean like what happened last week when you nearly destroyed Pytheas? Three crewmen died that day. That blood is on your hands.”

“They had every chance to withdraw, the same chance I am offering you now. Besides, you don’t want to start comparing body counts.”

“You know what your problem is, Michael. You are just too damned overconfident. It’s going to be your downfall one day.”

He watched Agamemnon turning sharply. “Maybe. But today’s not—“

“Multiple torpedoes incoming!” Carlos barked.

Of course by then he had seen them too. “Damn you, Maya.” He cut the link. “Srena, emergency evasive, full impulse.”

Owens and the rest of the crew had to literally hang on to their stations as Eagle performed a severe turn at breakneck speed, pushing the inertial dampeners past their limits.

It was not enough to avoid all the torpedoes.

“Brace for impact.”

Owens was pushed back into his chair as two projectiles smashed into their shields, causing him to feel the hits all the way down to his bone marrow.

“So much for the Aldebaran Accords,” he said angrily before shooting a dark look at his tactical officer. “Jose, return fire, quantum torpedoes, one set.”

Carlos hesitated for just a moment, and perhaps a more experienced and dedicated first officer would have raised an objection in the old days. But as far as Michael Owens was concerned, those were long behind them. As was the time for moderation. “They asked for this. Fire!”

On the screen, Owens watched as the two azure missiles streaked through space, both finding their target, impacting against Agamemnon’s shields at the stern of her saucer. The shields flared only briefly this time before disappearing entirely. The damage was significant as not a moment later her starboard impulse engine erupted with fire which was quickly doused by the vacuum of space, and then died.

“You’re making me do this, Maya,” he said to nobody. He glanced down at the tactical view to get a picture of the state of the battle. It looked as if Sandhurst and Glover were going at it with nearly the same ferocity, for now the newer Luna-class ship with the advantage. Heracles was holding her own against Sutherland and Independence, meaning that he needed to finish this quickly to add Eagle’s firepower to the rest of the task force.

“Multiple new contacts, sir, three-four-three mark ten. Counting at least eight vessels,” said Lance Stanmore. “They came out of nowhere.”

Owens doubted that very much, and he was angry for allowing his crew to get blindsided like this, but he decided that there would be time for disciplinary measures later. “On screen.”

The upper part of the viewer switched to an aft view to show the new players on the board. They appeared to be a mixed group of starships, none having much in common with the others and all powerful in their own right. Worst though, none were Starfleet. None were on his side.

“Nyberrites,” said Srena, even if there was no need to put that into words at this stage, not with a Romulan Warbird, a Breen Destroyer, a Klingon Vor’cha cruiser and two massive Nyberrite Lawgivers staring them in the face.

He noticed a call coming in from Gibraltar and activated the link. “Looks like this party is over,” said Sandhurst.

“I was hoping to avoid something like this.”

“No point crying over spilled milk now—Looks like they’re sending a general hail. How very typical.”

Owens nodded. “Of course they are,” he said and opened a second channel.

“Attention Federation starships, this is the Nyberrite vessel Pillar of Justice, you are hereby ordered to dispersed from this system immediately.”

It didn’t take long for Commodore Schwarzkopf to respond. “We—by this I mean the Guardians of the Federation of Planets—are here on a diplomatic mission to the Caitian homeworld. You have no cause to ask for our removal.”

“Your presences here—of your so called faction or any Federation vessels or personnel is neither requested nor welcomed by the Cait government which is under Nyberrite protection. If you do not comply you will force our hand.”

Owens quickly opened a secure line to Heracles. “Schwarzkopf, don’t be an idiot for once. Listen to them and get out of here.”

The commodore’s enraged face appeared on the top right corner of the screen. “We can take them together. This could be where we make our stand against their aggression. Join us in taking back the Federation.”

But Owens shook his head. “That is insane. All you will achieve is needless death, just as you always do. This is not the way.”

At that Schwarzkopf laughed. “You are an even bigger coward than I thought. You are all too happy to go after your own people, but as soon as anyone with a bigger stick shows up, you run away.”

“It’s called tactical thinking, Commodore, I suggest you try it some day. You want to throw away your lives and in the process declare war on the Nyberrites and lose what little of the Federation you keep clinging to, be my guest. But we won’t be party to this. In fact I came here to avoid that very possibility. But if you insist on acting like a fool, you’re on your own.” He disconnected the line. “Jos, signal the task force to withdraw. Srena, get us out of her, warp six.”

The orders were swiftly acknowledged and Eagle and the rest of the task force left Cait, the Guardians and the Nyberrites behind but not without keeping long-range sensors peeled at the potentially explosive situation unfolding.

Owens prayed that Schwarzkopf and his misguided comrades would not be hot-headed enough to light a fuse that would blow up into their faces and thereby destabilizing an already precarious status quo.

He uttered a heavy sigh of relief when he realized that the better part of valor ultimately won out when Heracles, Cuffe and Agamemnon departed as well.

He knew the consolation he felt would be fleeting. As far as he was concerned, it was only a matter of time until someone, somewhere, pushed things just a little bit too far.

And then it would be just like the Borg all over again.
03/10 Meet the Guardians of Yesteryear. by CeJay
03/10 – “Meet the Guardians of Yesteryear.”



One Week Later


The doors to his quarters opened to reveal Amaya Donners, wearing a stern expression on her dark face.

“Captain,” she said.

“Captain,” he said.

“I just got here and I thought maybe we should compare notes before the meeting,” she said.

“Excellent idea, Captain. Come in,” he said and moved aside to permit her into his quarters.

She took two steps inside, enough to allow the doors to hiss shut behind her and then turned back around to face Glover. Then she reached out for the collar of his uniform.

Glover offered no resistance as she practically yanked him close to her and then pressed her lips against his.

He went along with it all, even as she reached up to first take hold of his neck and then brushed her hands through his short hair and when she began to push him towards his bedroom. He became more active when she started to pull down the zipper of his jumpsuit and followed suit to undo her own.

They had shed their boots and tunics by the time Donners pushed him down onto his bed without ever removing her tongue from deep inside his mouth.

“Commodore Schwarzkopf to Captain Glover.”

“Ignore it,” she hissed as she pulled up his grey turtleneck shirt, only to discard it haphazardly on the floor.

“Damn right.”

“Schwarzkopf to Glover, please come in.”

He needed no further motivation to leave the call unanswered when she started to pull her own shirt over her head while she was sitting on top of him.

“Schwarzkopf to Captain Donners.”

She stopped in mid-movement and Glover frowned when she let her shirt fall back down. Donners dropped onto her back next to him with a heavy sigh. “The man really knows how to ruin the mood.”

Pulling himself up onto his elbows, Glover shrugged. “Don’t let him. Ignoring him was a good call.”

“Commodore Schwarzkopf to Captain Donners, please—“

But Donners didn’t follow her own advice and had reached down onto the floor to find her uniform and the communicator still attached to it. “This is Donners, go ahead.”

“Ah, Captain, I’ve been trying to reach you.”

“Yeah, sorry about that, I was … busy. How can I help you, Commodore? The meeting is not until a couple of hours.”

“That’s why I’m contacting you. I want to get this out of the way now. The people I want you to meet are on a tight schedule, so the quicker we can get this done the better. I want to see you and Captain Glover down here as soon as possible.”

Donners glanced over to Glover lying next to her and he emphatically shook his head.

“I’ve been trying to get hold of Captain Glover but I can’t reach him.”

“That’s alright, I think I may know where to find him. But to be honest, I have some things to take care of first. Are we sure this can’t wait?”

“Trust me, whatever you are doing, this is more important.”

Glover uttered a subdued little laugh which caused Donners to instantly shoot him a dark look.

“Sorry, I didn’t get that.”

“Uh, never mind, just my … pet.”

Glover noticeably fought off another amused laugh.

“Give me ten minutes and I find Glover and we’ll both meet you on the surface.”

“Excellent, Captain. I’ll see you in ten. Schwarzkopf out.”

“What a jackass,” Glover said.

She sat back up, beginning to pull the black and red jumpsuit back on.

Glover reached out for her, gently touching the small of her back. “Hey, ten minutes. More than enough time.”

She fixed him with a bemused look. “Really? That’s rather disappointing.”

He rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

Donners stood as she pulled her zipper all the way back up. “I would also prefer some discretion on your part. I don’t need that ‘jackass’ to know about us.”

He shrugged. “Why not? I don’t care who knows.”
“Well I do,” she said as she began to pull on her boots. “It’s none of his business. Besides, I don’t know about you but I care about my career.”

“I wouldn’t be worried about that. The way things are going, experienced starship captains are in high demand all over the place. No way they would bump either one of us for something like this. They need all hands on deck if we are serious about taking on the Nyberrites.”

Fully dressed once more, Donners stood to look down at the still half-naked Glover on the bed who hadn’t made a single move to put any of his clothes back on. She looked pensive for a moment. “I’m starting to have my doubts about all this. It’s been four years since we got rid of the Borg and the Schism. The Preservers are no closer to rejoin with us now then they were four years ago. On the contrary, all they can do is hold Betazed up over our heads when what we really need to do is to let bygones be bygones and unite against the Nyberrites for once and for all. Take back and rebuild the Federation.”

“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here, lady.”

She uttered a heavy sigh. “I just get so frustrated with Owens and the rest of that misguided bunch that thinks that playing it safe will keep the Nyberrites away. You heard him last week. The man hasn’t change one iota. Still the same thick-headed, lying son-of-a-bitch.”

Glover smirked and reached out to take her hand into his. “And that’s why you kicked him to the curb and got yourself an upgrade. He’s a sour loser, you always knew that.”

She slapped him away angrily. “I am being serious, Terrence.”

Glover jumped out of bed, his facial expressions becoming more sober. “Owens is an idiot. They all are. Sandhurst probably the biggest one of them all. They’re all just happy to stick their heads into the sand and hope the Nyberrites won’t come for them next. They are so afraid of losing the little bit they have left since the Borg rampage that they jump at their own shadow instead of taking action.”

“Then what’s the point in doing all this?” she said as she watched him hunting down his strewn-out clothes and boots. “Why are we even doing this if there is no hope in reuniting us? We can’t hope to take on the Nyberrites alone and its not like anyone is lining up to join us. We struck out with the Caitans. That’s what? The fifth world in a row who has given us the cold shoulder.”

“Have some faith. Sooner or later even those blockheads on Earth will see that they don’t have a choice but taking the fight to the real enemy. And even if they don’t, they won’t be able to keep this up for long. And when the time comes, we’ll make them see the truth, even if we have to pry their eyes open by force,” he said as he put on his shirt. “Besides, didn’t Schwarzkopf give you his speech about this new mission of his?” He pointed at the gray and red planet visible through the windows of his quarters, which the Cuffe was currently orbiting. “’This is what we have been waiting for. This is what will change everything and bring back the Federation we once knew and loved. This will mark the turning point of this conflict’. The man sure loves his hyperbole.”

“Probably another harebrained scheme getting us nowhere. I swear, with a blowhard like Schwarzkopf on our side, you don’t need any enemies. We might as well just turn our phasers around and shoot ourselves in the head.”

Glover finished dressing. “Tell you what, he gets between us like this again, I know exactly who I’m shooting first.” He turned back around when he reached the doors to his bedroom after noticing that she was still standing by his bed, looking at him askance. “What?”

She just shook her head. “Sometimes I really can’t tell when you’re joking,” she said and then swiftly walked passed him and out of his quarters.



* * *



Bolarus IVb, more commonly known as Panea, had been a vibrant and bustling world once. Located within the same system as the home world of the Bolian people, the second moon of a massive gas giant had been a melting pot of many different races from all across the Federation and beyond.

That was before the Borg and the subsequent Schism. It remained home to nearly ten million people but the fat years had long since passed, replaced by wide-spread poverty and crime.

It seemed therefore a terrible place to discuss the future of the Federation, at least to Terrence Glover, as he and Amaya Donners walked down a narrow alleyway towards their meeting with Schwarzkopf.

Most of the inhabitants who noticed the two Starfleet officers shot expecting glances their way, a few children even came up to them to beg for scraps, which neither of them had brought.

“If there is a more miserable place in the Rim, I haven’t seen it,” said Glover as he gently pushed aside two young girls who were trying to get his attention, and more importantly, his money.

“Sounds to me you haven’t been planetside much of late. This is not too different than many other places I’ve been to.”

“Bet Earth doesn’t look anything like this.”

She frowned. “One more reason we’re in this fight.”

They reached their location, a rundown warehouse from the looks of it, with a rusted and patchy roof but a surprisingly sturdy looking and reinforced door. Seeing no other means to gain access, Glover shrugged and then knocked against the metal door.

They didn’t have to wait long, within moments the door slid aside to allow them entry, only to promptly slide shut again once they were inside.

It was dark and dirty and cramped inside, looking no better than it had from the outside. A single dim light strip build into the floor seemed to mark their path and they followed it all the way to the other side of the warehouse where they found another set of doors which opened for them as well.

These ones led to a turbolift which set in motion as soon as the doors had closed again behind them. They moved downwards for only a few seconds before the doors parted once more but this time to reveal a more expensive facility of sorts, looking clean and sterile with predominantly white walls and ceilings. Even the air seemed fresher down here.

Schwarzkopf was waiting for them.

“Fancy setup you’ve get here,” said Glover. “Right out of the Starfleet Intelligence playbook I bet.”

“Let’s just say that we’ve taken all necessary precautions.”
Donners frowned. “I hope that whatever it is you are cooking up down here is important because from the looks of this, the resources you’ve spent setting this up would have been enough to feed and cloth half of that city above us.”

The commodore led them down a wide corridor. “Oh, it’s important alright. Perhaps the most important project since the Schism. I want you to meet the people behind all this.”

“The suspension is killing me,” said Glover and shot Donners a smirk which she clearly didn’t find very amusing.

Schwarzkopf showed them into a large conference room, with equally white walls and a large, glass table at the center and a number of computer screens which were all currently turned off.

Three men were standing near the table and turned to face the new arrivals. All three were strangers to Glover. Two were humans, the third man was Vulcan judging by the shape of ears. The Vulcan and one of the humans appeared to be close to his age, even though this was naturally quite difficult to tell with Vulcans. The other human was gray-haired, with hawkish facial features, white hair and at least middle aged. He got a distinct scientist vibe from the two humans and not just because they were wearing lab coats. The Vulcan could have been one as well, but he wasn’t wearing a coat. None of them were uniformed.

“Gentlemen,” said Schwarzkopf, “I want you to meet Captains Donners and Glover who will play a key role in security over the next few weeks while you focus on your work here. I can confidently say that they are amongst the best and brightest on either side of Starfleet.”

The two captains exchange quick, surprised glances. This was the first time they had been given any indication as to their role here and clearly neither of them was happy to play the role of a babysitter.

Schwarzkopf turned back to the two Starfleet officers. “These men are the brainchild of this entire undertaking,” he said and pointed them out, starting with the oldest human. “Doctor Westren Frobisher, Doctor Matthew Owens and Mister Jarik.”

All three nodded briefly but Frobisher seemed obviously impatient. “Well met, both of you,” he said quickly. “I’m sure you will do an adequate job to secure this facility, but we are really on a tight time table here—“

“Wait a minute,” Glover cut in. “Owens? As in Michael Owens?”

Matthew Owens seemed pained to admit to it. “Yes. He is my younger brother.”

“Oh this is just great,” said Glover and looked back at Schwarzkopf. “Are you serious about this? You are running some sort of super-classified operation here and one of the people leading it is a close blood relative to our number one enemy. You don’t think there is a bit of problem with that?”

“Now hold on, Captain,” said Frobisher, clearly not quite able to suppress his anger. “Matthew and I have been working on this project for over thirty years and this has absolutely nothing to do with his brother. In fact, the two of them have hardly exchanged words during that entire time, which I can attest to. This project is far too important to be endangered by misplaced paranoia.”

Schwarzkopf nodded. “Doctor Frobisher is right,” he said, giving Glover a stern look. “You don’t need to worry about the family connections of this team. Your only concern is security.”

“Family connections are exactly why I am concerned about security,” said Glover.

“Doctor Owens and Doctor Frobisher have been fully vetted,” Schwarzkopf said dismissively. “We know that they will not endanger their own project.”

“Vetted by whom?”

Donners stepped in before Glover could shoot back another terse reply. “Alright, so we are to provide security here, I suppose some sort of heads-up on this would have been nice.”

Glover didn’t miss that judging by the looks that were being exchanged between Donners and Owens, the two of them were at leas somewhat familiar with each other which wasn’t much of a surprise considering that she had used to date his brother once upon a time. It was clear however that she had not expected to find him here. He also thought that he could spot recognition between the Vulcan and Donners. Since the Borg War in which billions had died, the galaxy had of course become a much smaller place.

It took Schwarzkopf a moment to get over Glover’s uncooperative attitude and consider his colleague instead, shaking his head. “Not possible, I’m afraid. All this is on a strict need-to-know basis.”

“Fine,” said Donners. “We’re here now, so clearly we need to know,” she added and looked towards the other men. “What exactly are we providing security for? What is it you are doing here?”

Frobisher took that one. “I don’t wish to sound patronizing, Captain, but it is highly unlikely that you or your fellow starship captain would be able to fully comprehend the scope of the work we are engaged in—“

“Good thing you prefaced that statement because you, sir, sound extremely patronizing,” Glover interrupted.

Frobisher tried not to take notice, keeping his focus on the one captain he clearly had decided was the more reasonable one. “Sufficient to say that our work revolves around a totally new, and immensely powerful technology which will most likely change the face of the galaxy as you know it.”

That was apparently too much hyperbole even for Schwarzkopf. “It’s vitally important for the future of the Federation. And by that I don’t just mean the Guardians. If we want any chance to stand up to the Nyberrites and liberate the worlds they’ve stolen from us, we will need what these men here are working on.”

Glover looked them over again and his eyes came to rest on the Vulcan. “Mister Jarik, was it?”

“That is correct.”
“What exactly is your role here?”

He offered a very small smile, revealing that he was perhaps not as much of a Vulcan as he appeared.

“We are not here to be interrogated by you,” said Frobisher angrily. “Mister Jarik fulfills an indispensable role and that’s all you need to know.” He looked back at Schwarzkopf with obvious impatience painted on his features. “Now, are we done here, Commodore, or are there any other asinine queries we need to cover before we are allowed to return to our work?”

“No, that will be all, Doctor,” he said and looked at all three men. “Thank you for your time. And please rest assured that you will be able to complete your work here without any further interruptions, from us or anyone else.”

“I sincerely hope so,” said Frobisher and then was the first to leave the room.

Jarik followed closely while Matthew Owens at least made brief eye contact with the two Starfleet captains before exiting the room.

“Lovely people, those,” said Glover.

Schwarzkopf turned on him. “Was it really necessary for you to antagonize them? Do you not understand what is at stake here?”

“To be honest, no I don’t, considering that I’m learning all this now, instead of being briefed ahead of time.”

“We covered that already,” Schwarzkopf said sharply. “Now, I will provide you both with a full patrol schedule and rules of engagement within the hour. I want every vessel entering this system meticulously scanned and analyzed. No ship is to approach this moon without prior authorization. The Bluefin and Orion are on station at the far side of the system, so all you need to do is focus on the immediate surroundings of Panea.

Only a very small number of people know this facility even exists, which means it is unlikely anyone will try to gain access but if they do, Heracles will lead a rapid response fleet stationed less than half a light-year from here at Starbase 6, which can get here in less than an hour.”

“And who exactly thought it be a good idea to put this facility on a densely populated world? From what I’m hearing you’re playing with fire here, building some sort of super-weapon. Right under a bustling city,” Donners said.

“This has been approved by the Security Council. Nobody would expect such a facility here. It’s a perfect cover.”

“Sure it is,” said Glover, laughing mirthlessly. “Right up until the point when it all blows up into our faces.”

“Possibly quite literally,” said Donners.

“That’s enough,” Schwarzkopf said sharply. “I need you both focused on keeping this place safe form external factors. You’ll have your assignments shortly. I trust you can find your own way back to the turbolift.” He said and turned his back on the two captains to follow the scientists.

“Don’t say it,” said Donners the moment they were alone.

“You mean that this all sounds like an atrociously bad idea, dreamed up by fools who don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and which is doomed to fail from the start?” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”


* * *
04/10 Preserving the Future is a Full Time Job. by CeJay
04/10 – “Preserving the Future is a Full Time Job.”


Michael Owens walked into the meeting room followed by fellow starship captains Donald Sandhurst and Jason Aubrey. Vice Admiral Krystine Leone was already seated at the head of the table with a middle-aged, bald headed Deltan man sitting at her side who did not look pleased at seeing Michael Owens entering the room.

Owens took little notice as he found a chair at the opposite end of the table along with the two other men who had accompanied him

“Gentlemen, thank you for joining us,” said Leone, even though of course there had been little choice in the matter. “For those of you who are not aware, this is Deputy Director Altee from Starfleet Intelligence. He will brief you on a mission you will undertake immediately after the conclusion of this meeting. This mission has been deemed both of the highest importance as well as time critical by Starfleet Command.” She looked at the Deltan. “Director?”

He offered her a short nod and then stood to walk the short distance to the far wall and the large screen imbedded within. “Two days ago we have received confirmed intelligence that the Guardians are in the final stages of completing a prototype device designated Big Betty. We have known about the general scope of this project for at least a couple of years but have only been recently able to positively determine that Big Betty is in fact a prototype dark matter generator which will enable the Guardians to produce what they have coined Alpha Weapons,” he said and then activated the screen which promptly displayed the schematics of something akin to a photon torpedo.

“I’ve never heard of an Alpha Weapons before? How is this different to what they have in their arsenal at the moment?” said Sandhurst as he studied the screen. “That looks like a run-of-the-mill torpedo to me.”

“In this case, appearance are deceiving,” said Altee. “While an alpha torpedo maintains the same overall dimensions and characteristics of a regular photon torp, the anti-matter payload has been replaced by anti-dark matter, increasing its explosive yield by nearly 300 percent,” he said and typed a command into the wall panel. The image on the screen changed to show a Nebula-class starship enter orbit around an Earth-like planet and then fire three torpedoes directly onto the surface. The image zoomed in close as it followed the torpedoes’ trajectory but then remained steady at just a few hundred meters above the surface and the major metropolis which was the target.

The three torpedoes slammed into the city and quickly evaporated its center as well as most of the outskirts including much of the rural area surrounding it.

“This is a computer simulation of the estimated damage caused by three photon torpedoes with a standard yield,” he said and changed the parameters.

The new display showed an identical ship approaching an identical planet but this time only firing a single torpedo which looked very similar to the ones in the previous simulation.

However when this projectile found its target, the detonation was so powerful, it practically whitened-out the screen for a moment. Once the flash had dissipated, the image zoomed back out onto a continental scale only to reveal nothing but a massive dust cloud which continued to spread across the entire continent.

The image pulled back further to allow a view of the planet which now showed a massive bright blotch on its Northern hemisphere. Within a few moments, enormous cracks appeared, spreading out from ground zero like a web covering the planet, the fissures growing as they went until the planet simply broke up into massive fragments.

“The Alpha Weapon,” the Deltan said, “is a planet-killer. And even worse, the weapon otherwise behaves just like a standard torpedo, meaning that it is easy to store, easy to fire, can travel at warp speed and can be used against moving targets with relative high chance of success. You have seen what it does to a planet. We have a number of simulations of its effects against starships and orbital installation but I will leave it to your imagination what the results are.”

With that he deactivated the screen and returned back to his seat.

Leone took over from there. “As you can see, we can not allow the Guardians to develop such a weapon, it would fundamentally change the balance of power and could lead to multiple mass casualty events.”

Leone’s words were followed by a period of silence as the three captains digested what they had just seen.

Jason Aubrey was the first to speak. “I believe the Guardians are fundamentally wrong about a lot of things and I think they are capable of much to get their way but I find it difficult to believe that they would retort to weapons of mass destruction to force an end to this conflict.”

“We don’t know with certainty that they are intent on using such a weapon against any Federation world,” said Leone. “But that doesn’t mean that they might not deploy Alpha Weapons against our ships or, more likely, against Nyberrite targets.”
Altee jumped back in. “We don’t believe the Nyberrites know about this yet but it is only a matter of time until they find out. Their intelligence apparatus is very efficient. And just the possibility of the Guardians possessing a weapon of this nature will in very high likelihood lead to all out war. And the Nyberrites won’t make the same distinction we do, as far as they are concerned, we are all part of the same problem.”

Leone frowned at this, clearly not entirely of the same opinion and Owens understood why. Just like the rest of the Federation Council, Leone believed the best way forward for them, was to maintain good relations with the foremost power in the quadrant even if it often appeared that at best, the Nyberrites simply tolerated what was left of the splintered Federation.

“Then what’s the plan?” said Sandhurst. “We go in and blow it all up before they can turn it into a weapon?”

“If possible you will try to obtain the prototype,” said Altee.

Owens, who hadn’t spoken yet, shook his head. “So that our scientists can meddle around with a super weapon? I thought the point of this exercise was to ensure nobody had something this powerful.”

Leone quickly stepped in again. “Correct. Therefore your primary mission is to destroy the prototype along with all the research that goes with it. However, if you are able to obtain it, our scientists would like to have a look at it. Perhaps there are other applications for the prototype we have yet to discover.”

Sandhurst and Aubrey exchanged suspicious glances. “I think I would be more comfortable if we just get rid of the blasted thing altogether,“ said Sandhurst, getting a quick nod of approval from Aubrey.

“Well, it won’t be up to you,” said Altee. “Operational command for this mission will fall to Captain Tazla Star onboard the Sacajawea.”

That did not sit well with the assembled starship captains, most notably Sandhurst. “I’ve heard of Star, and nothing good. She’s known to be ruthless and unreliable. Not the person I would want to entrust with much more than a cargo haul, not to mention a mission which could spell war for the quadrant if it fails.”

Altee hid his anger behind a wide grin which was likely meant to charm others but seemed to have little effect on his present audience. “Star has the operational knowledge which quite frankly the three of you lack. She has been monitoring progress on this prototype for a few months now and is close to its location even now. She is, without doubt, the right person for this.”

Aubrey’s and Sandhurst’s insisting glances towards the admiral were ignored by Leone. “And that brings us to our next difficulty. The location,” she said looking back at the intelligence director.

“Right,” he said and tapped a control on the table to reactivate the wall screen to show a small reddish moon in orbit of a massive gas giant. “The research facility is located underneath the largest city on Panea in the Bolarus system.”

Aubrey uttered a heavy sigh. “Heavily populated of course.”

Altee continued as if the captain hadn’t spoken. “We know of at least five starships which have been guarding the system and Panea in particular. This mission will require surgical precision.”

“And what will that look like?” asked Sandhurst.

“You will head for a rendezvous with Sacajawea as soon as this meeting is concluded and Captain Star will brief you on the operational details.”

Again, neither Sandhurst nor Aubrey looked impressed with this plan, or the lack of any details being revealed. Owens remained stone-faced, as he had for most of the meeting.

“What else do we know about the facility and the personnel staffing it?” said Sandhurst.

Altee hesitated for only a moment before tapping the controls again, displaying the faces of three men on the screen behind him. Two humans and an apparent Vulcan. “The research team is small, made up mostly by these three men, Project Big Betty is pretty much their conception. Security at the facility is not significant, they are not expecting anyone to breach it.”

Aubrey took a double take on at least one of the faces displayed on the screen, before looking to his side to consider Owens. “Am I the only one here seeing a certain resemblance?”
“No,” said Owens.

“Alright, what is it you aren’t telling us?” Aubrey said, throwing Leone a piercing glare.

She uttered a little sigh as if she had wanted to avoid this point. “The lead researchers on this project are Doctor Westren Frobisher and Doctor Matthew Owens.”

“My brother.”

The other two captains exchanged baffled looks with each other before Audrey turned first towards the Owens sitting next to him and then at the two senior officers at the other end of the table. “And this is a good idea, why?”

“Captain Owens knows his brother better than anyone else in Starfleet. He is the logical choice to be on this mission,” said Leone but seemed to lack conviction.

“Yes, or it could be a complete disaster,” said Aubrey. “You said it yourself, this mission could be critical for the continued survival of the Federation, and you are endangering it by introducing a personal element. This is like planning the perfect mission and then doing the exact opposite.”

Altee’s faade seemed to slip for only a brief moment as he shot Leone a very fleeting look, almost as if he found himself agreeing with Aubrey. Leone however was not be swayed. “Captain Owens’ inclusion has already been approved and will go ahead as planned,” she said, this time showing no hesitation or indecision.

Aubrey uttered a little laugh which caused surprised glances from everyone in the room, including Owens. “Please, we all know exactly what is going on here. Admiral Owens was such a big deal when he was alive, he exerts his pull even after he’s gone.”

“That is uncalled for and not what is going on here at all,” said Owens angrily. “Yes, Matthew is my brother. The truth is, I haven’t spoken to the man in years and even then we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms. So your concern that I may endanger this mission because I hold a favorable bias towards him are entirely unfounded. My primary concern is, as it has always been, is the safety and security of the Federation. If my personal connection with my brother will give us any kind of edge in achieving our mission, I’m determined to exploit it.”

Sandhurst and Aubrey remained unconvinced, judging by the dubious looks on their faces.

“How about an unfavorable bias?” said Aubrey.

“Excuse me?”

But Leone had heard enough. “This will be all, gentlemen. You have your orders. Director Altee has prepared a full intelligence package which has been sent to your respective ships. Make sure you review it in detail on your way to Bolarus. And good luck. Dismissed.”

Aubrey was the first to get out of his chair. “From the sounds of it, we’re going to need it,” he said under his breath and shooting Owens a fleeting, clearly disapproving glance.
05/10 Whoever Draws First Blood... by CeJay
05/10 – “Whoever Draws First Blood...”



“Captain, we are approaching the Mutara Nebula,” said Lieutenant Stanmore from operations.

“Ensign Srena, drop us out of warp and head for the rendezvous point, maximum impulse,” said Owens.

“Aye, sir, dropping to impulse.”

From the panel in the armrest of his chair, Owens accessed the viewscreen controls to give him a split screen on the viewer, the swirling blue, purple and red of the nebula ahead and the Gibraltar and Intrepid just behind them, following Eagle towards the nebula.

The screen began to flicker with increased intensity the closer to the nebula they got, as the sensors were having a progressively difficult time to compensate for the static discharges and the high concentration of ionized gasses.

Owens glanced towards the tactical station. “Jose, do you have the Sacajawea?”

The man shook his head. “Negative, no sign of her on sensors.”

The captain frowned. “Must be the interference.”

“I’m not sure that’s what it is, sir,” Carlos said. “Sensors are affected by the nebula but all readings indicate that there are no other starships present within ten million kilometers of the rendezvous position.”

Stanmore agreed. “Confirmed, sir. She’s not here. We should be able to see her at this distance, even with the interference.”

He noticed an incoming transmission from the Gibraltar and activated the line which automatically opened a three-way channel to the Intrepid as well. “Where is she?” asked Sandhurst

“Obviously not here,” said Aubrey before Owens had the chance. “Maybe she decided to start without us.”

“I wouldn’t put that past her at all,” said Sandhurst. “Star has a reputation for being a bad team player. Probably got bored of waiting and is halfway to Panea already.”

Owens considered that for a moment. “Donald, did they outfit Gibraltar with a Sub-Quantum Mass Array?”

Yes, all Luna-class ships have them now. Was supposed to give us a real edge in deep space exploration. Not that we’ll ever get an occasion to use it.”

“Here’s your chance to see what it can do,” said Owens. “I’m willing to bet it’ll cut right through this muck.”

“I don’t like it,” said Aubrey. “That array is bound to light up the nebula like a Christmas tree. In case you had forgotten, this is supposed to be a covert operation.”

Owens shook his head even though none of his fellow captains were able to see this through the audio-only link. “We’re a good two and half light-years from Bolarus, this won’t register as much more than a blimp on their long-range sensors, if that. Not enough to even warrant an investigation.”

“Still a risk,” said Aubrey.

“I’d rather take it than sit here twiddling my thumbs until Star deigns us with her presence. Or worse, if she’s gone rogue and is trying to go it alone, I want to know before she gets too far.”

The other two captains didn’t respond straight away as they were considering Owens’ request. As far as he was concerned they were taking too long, after all he had seniority over the other two men and as long as Star, who had been placed in operational command of the mission was unaccounted for, he was in command of the task force. “Do it, Donald.”

There had clearly been some tension and disagreements between him and the two other captains during their initial mission brief but both men were professional enough to put those feelings aside.

“Activating the array now,” said Sandhurst.

Owens watched the Gibraltar closely on the screen. Her deceptively small, oval shaped deflector dish mounted at the very front of her engineering section flashed brightly for a few moments. Glancing at his sensor readouts, he could see a powerful energy reading coming from the Luna-class starship which lasted less than five seconds and then disappeared again in time for her bright-blue deflector to return back to its ordinary intensity.

“We’re definitely not alone out here,” said Sandhurst. “We read at least three vessels in close—what the hell?”

The exclamation from the normally levelheaded Sandhurst caused Owens alarm. “Donald, what’s happening? What do you see?”

“Sir, I’ve got her,” said Stanmore instead. “Sacajawea. She’s … right off our port bow. Less than six-thousand kilometers.”

This surprised Owens even more but the viewer quickly shifted to provide proof positive of the presence of another Starfleet ship. “Where’d she come from?”

Stanmore shook his head. “I am not sure, sir. Sensors picked up a strong energy reading just moments ago. Could be a warp signature.”

“What in the name of the Seven Hells do you think you are doing?” Tazla Star’s voice boomed across Eagle’s bridge, and her face appeared on an inset on the top right corner of the screen. The red-haired Trill looked as angry as she had sounded as she glared at Owens and very likely the other two starship captains as well.

It was a breach of long-established etiquette in Starfleet, an unwritten rule, to communicate with other ships this intrusively, without so much as hailing them first. Owens believed in etiquette and felt his own anger rising. He stood from his chair. “Perhaps you would like to clue as in as to what is going on here and where exactly you’ve come from?”

“You may have just endangered this entire mission,” Star shot back without addressing Owens’ questions at all. “The Guardians have ships nearby and you just gave them our position and our numbers.”

“She’s right,” said Sandhurst. “We’ve detected two other ships within the nebula. The array identified them as the Bluefin and the Orion.”

“I knew they were close by,” said Tazla Star as she seemed to consider this, looking away for a moment. “Damn it. Good news is they can’t get a signal out from within the nebula but they are doubtlessly already trying to get clear.” Her piercing green eyes looked back up. “We don’t have much time. Intrepid will be with me, we’re going after the Orion. Eagle, you and Gibraltar take the Bluefin. They use these ships for border patrol duties, they are not heavily armed. Catch up to them and stop them. No matter the cost. Star out.”

With that her face disappeared from the screen again.

“Sir, the Sacajawea is moving away at high speed,” said Stanmore but Owens could see that on the viewer.

He was struggling to keep his anger in check about what had just happened. He was not used to be spoken to in this manner, especially not by a peer who had less command experience than he did. For now there was nothing else he could do, she was in charge and he would follow her orders.

He noticed all his officers having turned his way with expectant glances.

Michael Owens took the captain’s seat again, suppressing the urge to utter a sigh. “You’ve heard her. Set course for Bluefin’s position and engage at maximum speed.”


* * *



Captain Jason Aubrey stepped onto the secondary bridge of his highly-upgraded Excelsior-class starship, preferring to run operations from the more securely nestled auxiliary command center on deck five, instead of from the much more exposed main bridge on deck one, particularly if their mission was likely to involve combat.

“Did you find her?” he said with little preamble, addressing Lieutenant Commander Shantok, his Vulcan/Betazoid operations officer and de facto XO.

The graceful woman swiveled her chair away from the operations console to face the captain, she tended to stay at her station even when she had the bridge. “There is a high probably that we have identified the Orion. The vessel we are pursuing is traveling at high impulse towards the outer edge of the nebula. Her energy signature is consistent with that of a Constellation-class starship, however we are unable to determine with one hundred percent accuracy that the vessel in question is in fact the Orion.”

“Ballpark it for me,” he said. “What’s the likelihood we’re tracking the right ship?”

Shantok didn’t need to think about the question. “Ninety-four point eight percent.”

Aubrey smirked. “I think we’ll take that.” He turned towards the tactical station next and walked over to his security chief. “What do we know about the Orion, Adol?”

The Andorian lieutenant was equally prepared. “As the Commander has pointed out, she’s a Constellation-class, at lest sixty year old.”

“Don’t knock her because she’s got some mileage on her,” said the captain. “Intrepid isn’t exactly a spring chicken herself.”

The security chief shook his head. “This is different. According to our records the Orion hasn’t seen a full upgrade in nearly ten years and it is highly unlikely the Guardians have been able to do much with her either. Makes sense that she’s been relegated to border patrol and courier missions. If it comes to a fight, we’ll end it quickly, even in this soup.”

“Rather not let it come to one.”

“You know me, Captain. Rather be over-prepared.”

Aubrey nodded and walked to his chair which was positioned at the center of the bridge by itself. “Where’s Star’s ship?”

“We lost contact with the Sacajawea about twenty-two minutes ago,” said Shantok. “Her last known position placed her sixty-two point five million kilometers from our location.”

“We don’t need her for this,” said Adol.

Aubrey took his seat. “I still would rather know where she is. Keep and eye out for her, Commander. How long until we intercept Orion?”

“At our current speed we will intercept in nine minutes and twenty-three seconds,” said Shantok.

“Who is in command over there?”

“That would be Commander Reihyn according to our records,” said Adol. “We don’t have much on him. Distinguished himself in the later years of the Borg War, served on the Kukri and received a battlefield promotion to commanding officer.”

Aubrey nodded. “A man who has seen his share of battles.”

Shantok turned to face him. “This can likely be said for a great number of Starfleet officers, on either side, who are alive today.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Mister Adol, hail the Orion, please.”

The security chief responded after just a few moments. “No joy. Does not look like they want to talk to us.”

“Not planning on giving them a say in the matter. Open a channel.”

“Channel open.”

“Attention Orion. This is Captain Aubrey on the USS Intrepid. You are hereby instructed to come about and power down your engines immediately.” He shot a glance at Adol who shook his head. Aubrey pressed a control on his armrest to mute the connection. “At their present speed, how long until they clear the nebula and are free to broadcast.”

“Eighteen minutes, thirty-nine seconds,” said Shantok without even consulting her instruments.

Aubrey un-muted the channel. “Let’s dispense with the usual hot air and empty threats, Captain Reihyn. We both know what’s going on here. You know I can’t let you clear the nebula and you also know that you have no chance of getting out of range of my weapons before you can alert your friends. I’d rather not let this get ugly. Tell you what, you come about and surrender peacefully, and I make sure we work something out.”

Adol smirked. “Got their attention now, sir. He’s hailing us.”

“On screen.”

The face of a humanoid Rigellian man, relatively young for a starship captain, appeared on the screen. “Captain Aubrey?”

“The very same. Captain Reihyn, I presume.”

He nodded. “So very gracious of you, Captain, that you would allow us a chance to surrender. Within our own territory no less.”

“I don’t think we should get into territorial questions here. My government doesn’t acknowledge yours or the territory you claim, nor does yours acknowledge mine. Let’s just keep the politics out of this.”

“Very well, more than happy to do that. Never saw myself of much of a politician anyway,” said Reihyn.

“I can make certain reassurances to you and your crew if you were to surrender. The alternative, I’m afraid to say—and I won’t mince words—is for me to order opening fire on your ship. I won’t hesitate to give that order but I’d rather get out of here without bloodshed.”

Reihyn uttered a little mirthless laugh. “You truly expect me to believe that? It’s been barely a week since the last fight between our two respective sides. Why should I trust that you show any more restraint than your fellow peers?”

“I can’t speak for my fellow peers, Captain, I can only speak for myself. And I don’t prefer to settle matters with violence. I’m Old Guard, I believe in a Federation that can find peaceful solutions to its problems.”

The Rigellian looked unconvinced. “You forgive me if I question your peaceful intentions while you are amassing a task force inside a nebula just a couple of light-years from Bolarus.”

“Wouldn’t call this a task force, Captain. Certainly not enough for an invasion if that’s what you fear.”

He shook his head. “No, but maybe something just as nefarious.”

Aubrey noticed Shantok turning to him and mouthing a few words. He knew exactly what she was telling him. Orion was getting closer and closer to the point of no return. “I admire your attempt to buy yourself time, Captain, I really do. But you understand that I cannot allow that. We’ll be in weapon’s range in less than two minutes and I intend to cripple your ship unless you have come to a full stop by that time. I will instruct my gunner to try and avoid critical hits but we both know that there is no guarantee to that. And the harder you make this for us, the greater the chance people will die.”

“Is this the point where you’ll tell me that any casualties resulting from this will be on my head?”

Aubrey shook his head. “No. I fully accept responsibility for any and all casualties you may to incur in such a scenario. I will have to live with that,” he said and then leaned forward in his chair. “But let me make something very clear to you, Captain. I’m not proud of it, but I have done far worse in my time.”

Reiyhn nodded slightly. “I think I believe that at the very least.”

“I’m not one for ultimatums but you have just one minute left to decide how this will play out.”

“This is a difficult position you are putting me in, Captain Aubrey.”

He nodded, understandingly. “I appreciate that. And I wish I didn’t have to. I wish a lot of things were different.”

“So do I,” said Reiyhn and seemed momentarily distracted, as if something else had caught his attention, something Aubrey couldn’t see. “It looks like you have made your play, Captain. A shame really, perhaps we could have worked something out.” And with that his face disappeared.

Aubrey was not a man easily confused, but he wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, not until Shantok spoke up. “Sensors have just detected Sacajawea, three-hundred thousand meters off the Orion’s starboard bow.”

Aubrey had no time to wonder about this.

“Sir, the Orion is opening fire on us,” Adol said.

“Full evasive actions, stand by to return fire.”

He noticed the two missiles flying their way but was fairly certain, based on their trajectory and speed within the less than optimal conditions inside the nebula, that they were not going to hit and therefore not cause significant damage even though their shields did not operate at full capacity due to the nebula’s interference. That was until they both suddenly erupted with bright flashes in quick succession, not only blinding him but rendering the already unreliable view screen completely inoperable.

“What just happened?”

“Massive EM burst from Orion’s torpedoes, multiple systems are affected and shutting down,” said Adol.

“I am compensating for the effects,” said Shantok.

And she did a good job too apparently as within just moments the view screen cleared up again, returning to the static-filled view of the red and blue nebula. The Orion however, was nowhere in sight. Instead the Sacajawea had appeared where the other ship had been before, heading straight for them.

“What happened, where’s the Orion?”

“No longer on sensors, sir,” said Adol.

“I am registering a debris field consistent with the size of a Constellation-class starship,” said Shantok.

That left Aubrey momentarily speechless.

“The Sacajawea is hailing us, sir,” said the security officer.

Aubrey activated the control on his armrest which immediately caused the image to shift to show Tazla Star. “Next time, Captain, don’t cut it so damn close. They launched a comm buoy the moment they triggered those rattrap torpedoes. We took care of the buoy but if we hadn’t been close, this whole mission would have been blown.”

Aubrey took a moment to respond. “What happened to her?”

“The Orion?”

“No, the other starship that was right under our nose a moment ago,” he said angrily. “Of course the Orion.”

Star shot him a piercing look, clearly not enjoying the sarcasm. “We took care of her as well.”

“There were over one-hundred people on that ship.”

The Trill looked annoyed. “I don’t care if there were one hundred or one thousand people. This mission is too important to let it be endangered by your ethical sensibilities, Captain. Or did Director Altee not sufficiently impress on you what is at stake if we fail in accomplishing this mission?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Let’s move out and rejoin Eagle and Gibraltar. Last thing I want is for them to drop the ball on this. We already came close to disaster once today. Star out.”

“Close to disaster,” Aubrey repeated to himself, looking over what little remained of the starship Orion.

“I would like you to note in your log, Captain,” said Adol. “I don’t like that woman. Don’t like her at all.”

Shantok turned from her station to look at Aubrey. “Sir, I think there is something you might want to see.”


* * *



A very short and succinct burst transmission from Intrepid had caught up Owens and Sandhurst on what had happened to the Orion, and also of her attempt, partially successful, of deploying so called rattrap torpedoes in an effort to slip away from her pursuers.

Owens had compartmentalized Orion’s fate for now as Eagle and Gibraltar caught up to the Bluefin, Sandhurst effectively cutting her off from escaping towards the outer boundary of the nebula, and Owens using Eagle almost like a plow, getting so close to the smaller ship that the rattrap maneuver was no longer viable.

The ensuing battle didn’t last long, and the two tactically superior ships made short work of her weapons and engines, leaving the border cutter effectively dead in the water.

It had been Owens’ next suggestion which Sandhurst had been uncomfortable with.

“To be honest I don’t see the point here, Michael,” he had said. “She’s disabled and not going anywhere. We can make certain they’re not getting their engines up and running again for hours, or tow her to the nearest Starbase.”

But Owens had shook his head. “Disabling her is no certainty. These Border Dogs are resourceful, they’ll find a way to get back on the road. And we don’t have the time to tractor her out of her. This is the best way to ensure they’ll be out of the picture for now.”

Sandhurst had needed some more convincing before he had agreed to Owens’ plan, and shortly thereafter both ships began transporting nearly fifty automated combat drones onto Bluefin via shuttles—transporters were not effective within the nebula—designed to scour each deck and stun every crewmember they came into contact with.

Only once the drones had reported that all resistance had been neutralized, did Eagle and Gibraltar send heavily armed security teams to deal with anyone who had somehow escaped the initial sweep, followed by medical teams to address any injuries that may have been sustained by the assault on either side.

So only thirty minutes after the engagement had begun, Michael Owens stood outside Bluefin’s main shuttle bay with a team of ten security officers, all equipped with helmets, body armor and phaser rifles.

Eagle’s team was met in short order by Sandhurst and his own security detail. “What do we have?” Sandhurst asked.

Owens indicated towards the heavy doors leading into the shuttle bay. “Ship’s secure except for this section. Main shuttle bay. We lost contact with three drones that were clearing the area.”

Sandhurst looked concerned. “Three? How many of Bluefin’s crew are unaccounted for?”

“Don’t know yet, we’re still waiting for final confirmation. Could be as many as four or five,” he said. “There is a secondary entrance in the next section and we’ve got all Jeffries tube access points sealed and secured. I suggest you move your team to the secondary entrance. We breach and clear on my signal.”

Sandhurst nodded and took his men to take position at the other entry point.

Shortly thereafter Owens gave the order.

The doors were manually pulled open before two men tossed at least four flashbang grenades into the large bay. Owens could hear that Sandhurst’s people were doing the same from their position.

Owens gave the sign and his security team secured their helmet visors which would protect them from the blinding light and the smoke the grenades had released and the ten-man unit moved in with their phasers at the ready.

The first thing Owens noticed were two drones which had been quite clearly disabled, and judging by their state, lying on the floor, one with its electrical innards exposed, the other one practically broken in two, they had been taken out with brute force.

There were also a number of Bluefin crewmembers littering the flight deck, those who had not been able to escape the drones before they had been taken out.

Two members of his team checked on each neutralized crewmember, making sure they were stunned before beginning to identifying them.

Owens could see Sandhurst’s team slowly entering the bay from the other entrance at the opposite end of the cavernous room.

Two large shuttlecraft, Stallions, were positions in take-off formation on the deck but seemed otherwise unpowered.

Owens indicated for four of his men to check the first shuttlecraft while the other one was closer to Sandhurst’s team, and was being cleared by his men.

“Contact!”
The shout was immediately followed by the sound of something or someone dropping onto the floor, and it was coming from inside the Stallion.

Owens and the remaining team whipped around to face the support craft, hearing more shouts and telltale sounds of a fight. Then phaser fire, so much of it, it lit up the interior of the shuttle in bright orange colors visible through the forward viewport.

Owens and another man quickly but carefully moved towards the entry ramp but by the time he got there, things had gotten quiet again.

He peeked inside only to find all four of his people on the floor, still breathing from what he could tell but all taken out of the fight. There was no sign of the attacker. Not until he heard something above him.

“The roof!” he said and quickly stepped back to aim his rifle.

His team opened fire again, apparently able to see something moving on top of the shuttle that he couldn’t make out from his vantage point.

He could hear it though, it was definitely someone big and heavy, judging by the noise, much heavier than it had any right to be considering how fast it was moving.

Then—an even louder thump and a startled cry.

Once Owens had managed to round the shuttle he found another of his men on the floor. Whatever had hit him had leaped right on top of him from the shuttle. He was out cold.

He whisked around to his remaining men. “Anyone see what did this?”

They were shaking their heads.

“All I saw was a red streak.”

Owens tapped his combadge. “Donald, whoever is still in here, I think they are heading your way,” he said quietly. “Try to cut them off while we flank them.”

“Copy that. Sandhurst out.”

The captain indicated towards his team again and to follow him in a spread-out formation, their weapons at tactical ready position, actively trying to locate the threats.

Phaser fire erupted once more, coming from Sandhurst’s position.

Owens signaled his team to pick up the pace, clearly their targets had moved rapidly to cross the bay.

Just before they reached the other team however, Owens saw something fast moving towards them from the corner of his eye.

Too late did he realize that it was a barrel, flying through the air.

“Hold your—“

But his order didn’t come fast enough. Two phaser blasts rang out, one of which hitting the bright yellow barrel dead-on.

Owens dove for cover just in time to see the barrel explode, the shockwave pushing him hard onto the floor.

Only once he had felt the heat of the blast dissipate did he look up again. There was no sign of their attacker but clearly the barrel had contained extremely volatile material which had filled much of the shuttle bay with a fine mist, creating a fog which made it almost impossible to see more than a few meters. What was clear as day however was that his team had been completely taken out by the shockwave.

"Carlos to Owens."

Owens tapped his combadge but kept his head down, crawling carefully over to the security officer nearest to him, who was lying on his back motionless. "Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Are you alright, sir, we just registered what looked like an explosion at your location."

The downed officer, a female Bolian, was still breathing but was unconscious. He found the stabilizing, emergency hypo in the equipment pouch of her combat fatigues and promptly jammed it against her leg. “I’m fine, wish I could say the same for my team,” he said, keeping is voice as close to a whisper as possible and then moved on to his next fallen man, staying prone, and doing the same to him he had for the Bolian.

“I’m sending reinforcements to your location now. They should be with you in less than five minutes.”

“This is going to be over in five minutes,” he said. “I want all entrances secured, nobody gets out of here. If you lose contact with me, flood the entire section with anesthzine gas.”

“I don’t like it, sir.”

“Not worried about what you like or don’t like, Jose. Just tell me what I’m up against here. Have you been able to determine which crewmembers are unaccounted for?”

“Just one. A Master Chief Solly Brin. Orion male.”

“Let me guess, a red one?”

“Yes, sir.”

Owens had finished stabilizing his injured people and then spotted movement near the second Stallion and brought up his rifle. “Fantastic. You have your orders, Lieutenant, I expect you to follow them. Owens out.”

He crawled most of the way towards the shuttle and when he was certain that the still settling mist made it as difficult for him to see his enemy as the enemy seeing him, he stood slowly and made it quickly to the Stallion’s bow for cover.

Securing his rifle, he reached for his hand phaser instead and then very carefully rounded the ship’s nose with his sidearm ready to fire once he got a clear shot on whoever he thought he had spotted behind it.

“Woah, friendly,” Sandhurst said when he spotted Owens with his phaser pointed at him.

Owens secured his weapon. “Where’s your team?”
“You’re look at what’s left of it.”

Owens joined his fellow captain who sat on the floor with his back against the shuttle.

“Reinforcements?” Sandhurst asked.

Owens noticed that the other man had been in a fight, part of his uniform had been ripped, he was bleeding from his forehead and he had lost, among other things, his combadge.

“Five minutes out, but this entire section is going to get flooded with paralyzing gas before then.”

Sandhurst nodded in agreement.

“Just one man. An Orion.”

“That sounds about right.”

“You seem pretty calm about this,” said Owens.

Sandhurst shot him a sidelong glance. “I wasn’t quite honest when I said I was the last man left.”

Owens gave him a quizzical look.

He heard a loud thump, followed by the sounds of a fight. No words, just a furry of what had to be kicks and punches, being dealt and received at lighting pace.

Sandhurst and Owens stood carefully and approached the source of the battle sounds, weapons drawn.

Owens could see a large, red figure emerging from the fog. Flying towards him, in fact. Both men had to jump aside in order to avoid being squashed by the massive Orion who landed with such force, Owens thought he could feel the deck plates of the shuttle bay rattling under his feet.

Another man came flying out of the fog after him and instantly pounced on the Orion like a wild beast.

Owens couldn’t make out much, except that he was dressed in standard Starfleet combat fatigues which were in even worse shape than Sandhurst’s, the entire armored chest plate had been ripped away along with the fabric below. He was bleeding from too many wounds to count.

And yet he was still in the fight, viciously going after the much larger Orion, dealing significant damage up until the point Solly Brin managed to get back onto his feet and threw him so hard into the side of the Stallion, it left behind a visible dent.

Owens and Sandhurst raised their weapons and fired at the bald, red-skinned Orion and the combined phaser blasts pushed him backwards but he refused to go down.

Instead he roared with anger and once the blasts stopped, began to charge the two starship captains, roaring like a Mugato driven mad.

He didn’t get far. The other man came leaping down from the top of the Stallion—Owens had no idea at what point he had managed to climb it—sailing through the air with his fist already fully cocked, which then came down in full force against the Orion’s head.

Solly Brin finally collapsed.

The other man fell onto his hands and knees nearby, panting urgently, blood dripping all over the deck.

Owens cautiously approached Brin, keeping his phaser trained on the mountain of a man, he pushed against his shoulder with his boot. He was alive but he wasn’t getting up anytime soon.

Sandhurst was heading to tend to his officer.

“Don’t ever … make me do that again,” the man uttered between labored breaths and then collapsed onto the deck when his strength had finally left him.

“Gotta say, I like him,” said Owens, indicating towards the exhausted fighter.

“Yeah,” Sandhurst said with a smirk “Pava is useful to keep around.”



* * *



“He’s coming to now but I still would prefer moving him to sickbay.”

“Already noted, Doctor,” said Owens as he watched his chief medical officer, Doctor Ashley Wenera, stand back up after having knelt next to Joseph Akinola to apply a stimulant. Like the rest of his crew he had been stunned by Eagle’s and Gibraltar’s combined assault, but had been placed into his chair in Bluefin’s ready room.

“How’s the rest of his crew, Doctor?” said Sandhurst, the only other occupant besides two armed security guards standing watch by the doors.

She shot him a piercing glare. “Your robots did a fine job knocking everyone unconscious if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Any serious casualties?”

“A few broken bones and a concussion here or there from a few crewmembers fighting back or landing badly. Nothing we can’t fix. That Orion will need some work, he’ll be on his feet again but it’ll take a while. Some of his injuries were vicious.”

“Trust me, Doctor, he dished out just as much as he took. In fact, I’d say he dished out quite a bit more,” said Owens.

She nodded and looked at Sandhurst. “Yes, I saw your man before he was transported back to your sickbay. I’d say he’ll be out of commission at least as long.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” said Owens. “Sounds to me you have your work cut out for you. We’ll be in touch if your services are required any further in here.”

She uttered a sigh to this as she headed towards the doors. “This kind of thing? Not what I had in mind when I joined Starfleet.”

But Owens was no longer paying attention. Instead he was looking towards the white-bearded, Nigerian starship captain, slowly waking up again. Then he took note of the various handcrafted wooden ship models in the ready room. “Very nice craftsmanship, I have to say.”

“What the hell … do you want?” Akinola finally managed to say, with some difficulty. “And what have you done to my crew?”

“Your crew is fine, Captain,” said Sandhurst. “Well, mostly. They’ll be out for a little while, a few broken bones but that’s it.”

“Mister Brin gave us a little bit of trouble,” said Owens and then picked up one of the wooden models, a three-mast sail ship. “Is this the HMS Beagle?” He nodded to himself when he read the name of the ship on the small metal plate and then looked at Sandhurst who just stared back blankly. “Charles Darwin’s famous explorer,” he explained as he studied the fine details of the model. “I can see your interest in her, Captain, if I remember right she was eventually transferred to the Cost Guard.” He looked back up at the Border Service officer. “Once her best years were behind her, that is.”

“Is this why you have blatantly attacked my ship?” said Akinola, almost fully recovered by now. “To admire my models and insult me?”

Owens replaced the wooden vessel. “You know precisely why we attacked. You and the Orion were racing towards clear space to try and get a message back to Bolarus. We couldn’t let that happen.”

“And why not?” said Akinola. “Because you are planning an unprovoked attack. Do you really believe you are on the right side of this? After what you’ve done to my ship and crew?” he added, looking at Sandhurst first before focusing back on Owens and then shook his head. “I guess it doesn’t matter. If we weren’t able to get a message out, Orion did. Whatever it is you are up to, it won’t work.”

Owens couldn’t bear keeping his eyes on the other captain and apparently neither could Sandhurst.

Akinola seemed to understand, nodding slowly. “You stopped the Orion? And what, you pulled something like this off on her as well? I can’t imagine that went over well with Reihyn.”

The silence in the room was quickly becoming awkward.

Akinola stood. “What happened to the Orion?”

Owens didn’t respond.

“She was destroyed,” said Sandhurst.

“You goddamn bastards,” he said quietly. “Captain Reihyn was a good man and a friend of mine. He didn’t deserve that, and neither did his crew.”

“Destroying her wasn’t the plan,” said Sandhurst.

“Star,” said Akinola. “It was her, wasn’t it?”

The other two captains shot the man surprised glances but held their tongues.

“Yes, I know she was involved, we detected the Sacajawea in the nebula and had intelligence she might be lurking around here somewhere. Listen to me carefully, no matter our disagreements, you can’t trust that woman. I’ve met her once before. She is a ruthless, backstabber with loyalties to no one but herself. I bet she didn’t blink an eye before snuffing out a starship with a crew of a hundred people. If you find yourself having to trust her, you might as well dig your own graves right now, because you won’t make it out of this alive.”

“That’s a nice speech, Captain, but I don’t see how that will help your present situation,” said Owens.

“What is it you want from me, exactly?” said Akinola. “You have taken my ship, neutralized my crew and stopped any chance of warning Bolarus of your presence. What else do you want?”

Sandhurst took Owens by the arm and led him into the far corner of the ready room. “I have to say, I’ve been kind of wondering this myself. What are you trying to accomplish? Let’s just scuttle the ship and be on our way.”

But Owens shook his head. “Not yet, I think Akinola could be an ally?”

Sandhurst looked back at the glaring Border Service captain before shooting Owens a disbelieving look. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. “After destroying Orion and boarding his ship? He looks like he’d rather be sucking the hard vacuum of space then help us.”

“Maybe.”

Sandhurst gave the other captain a piercing look that left no room for misinterpretation. “I don’t condone torture, Michael. I’m having a hard enough time reconciling what we did here, what Star did to Orion. I don’t need any more blood on my conscience.”

“And I’m not planning on adding any,” he said. “Look, I just need some time. And I need you to trust me on this.”

“Trust you? I don’t think so. I think Aubrey was right about you, I think you pulled strings with Leone to get to be on this mission. It’s bloody obvious Altee doesn’t want you here and I am not convinced you should be either,” he said, shaking his head. “No, I don’t think I can afford to trust you right now.”

“Fine, but you know the alternative. Tazla Star. You don’t want any more sleepless nights? She’s going to be a nightmare, Donald. What’s to say she won’t finish off Bluefin as well? You really want to run that risk? Give me a chance to prevent any more bloodshed.”

Sandhurst considered that for a moment and then slowly shook his head. “You know what? Sometimes I miss the Borg. At least back then you knew who your enemies were,” he said with a heavy, resigned sigh. “What do you need from me?”

“Just a little bit of time,” said Owens. “Head back towards the rendezvous and run some interference with Star. I’ll join you there as soon as I’m done here.”

“I know I’m going to regret this,” said Sandhurst just before he left the room.

Owens turned back towards Akinola.

“What’s next? The good cop, bad cop routine? That won’t work on me, I practically wrote the book on that one. Or maybe you’d rather hash this out the old fashioned way. Man-to-man. If so, the least you could do is get rid of your armed escort. Make this a fair fight.”

Owens smirked, glancing at the white Karate ghi hanging on the wall. “Something tells me it wouldn’t be all that fair.”

“What do you intend to do? Keep me hostage on my own ship?”

He shook his head. “Not at all. What you have to look forward to, if you are lucky, is for you and your crew to be court martialed for treason and spend the rest of your lives on a prison colony. Of course that’s only if Tazla Star, whose methods you are already quite familiar with, doesn’t get a hold of you first.”

Akinola laughed. “You are going to offer me a deal, is that it?”

Owens took a seat facing his desk. “I think we can help each other. And all I need you to do is to listen to what I have to say.”
06/10 Et Tu, Brute? by CeJay
06/10 – “Et Tu, Brute?”


Because of unreliable communications and spotty sensor coverage within the Mutara Nebula, the plan had been for the four ships of the task force to reconvene at their original rendezvous location once the threat the Orion and the Bluefin had posed to their mission had been neutralized.

And yet, things had not gone according to plan and Sandhurst found only Intrepid had returned to their rallying point as Gibraltar approached. Eagle he knew of course was still dealing with Bluefin. He did not know the location of Sacajawea, Tazla Star’s seemingly elusive ship.

Jason Aubrey had asked to come aboard as soon as the two starships had been close enough and with transporters not a valid option, the two large ships had docked to each other instead, a maneuver which had become increasingly uncommon in the modern era but which both ships performed flawlessly in any case.

Sandhurst had met Aubrey outside Gibraltar’s starboard docking port.

“What happened out there?” he asked almost immediately.

But Aubrey shook his head. “All the wrong things. Is there somewhere we can talk in private?”

Sandhurst lead his fellow captain to his ready room adjacent to the bridge, where Aubrey took the proffered chair opposite the desk while Sandhurst sat behind it. “The Orion? Was there any alternative to destroying her?”

“Not if you ask Star,” he said without even having to consider the question. “I’m not so sure.” He shook his head. “I understand what is at stake here but damn it, this is not what we are about. These people are Starfleet officers, just like us. And we’re killing them because of what? Philosophical differences?”

“This thing has gotten way out of hand,” said Sandhurst. “It has been for a while. It’s becoming a full blown war.”

“Which is just what we need after the Borg and with the Nyberrites waiting in the wings, ready to pounce and swallow us up whole the first chance they get.”

“If you believe the politicians, that’s exactly what will happen if the Guardians are not kept in check.”

Aubrey shot him a despairing look. “Never put much stock into politicians.” He said and then switched gears. “What happened with Bluefin? I take it things went better than at our end?”
“If so, only marginally. But at least he ship was still in one piece and her crew alive when I left them.”

“Wait a minute, you are telling me you left Owens alone with her? The man clearly has an agenda.”

“Trust me it wasn’t my idea. But if I had to choose between Owens and Star, well it’s not much of a choice. Talking about Star, where is she? She’s not somebody I want to lose track of.”

He shook his head. “I wish I knew. We were heading back to the rendezvous point when we lost sensor contact with her.”

“That’s exactly what I wanted to avoid,” he said and then glanced towards the ceiling. “Sandhurst to bridge.”

“Ramirez here, sir.”

“Liana, I want you to keep an eye out for Sacajawea. Apparently she’s MIA. And see if you can get a burst transmission to Owens, making him aware that she might be coming after Bluefin next.”

“Yes, sir. Do you want us to engage the SMA again?”

“Not yet. Just keep it to conventional sensors for now. Sandhurst out.”

Aubrey was back on his feet, slowly pacing the room. “Without it you won’t find her.”

“I know. But there is still a chance that using it again might alert Bolarus. I don’t want to blow this mission now, not after the price we’ve already paid.”

Aubrey stopped and stepped closer to the desk. “We might not have a choice.”

“What do you mean?”

Aubrey placed a padd on Sandhurst’s desk which he had brought with him. “There’s another reason I needed to talk to you in private. Shortly after the Orion’s destruction, my operations officer picked something up from the Sacajawea which looked like a burst transmission. Except it wasn’t to any ships in the task force or to Starfleet Command.”

“Who then?” asked Sandhurst as he looked over the padd.

“No idea. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to tell you with one hundred percent certainty it was a transmission at all, not in this nebula. It might have been nothing more than background radiation brought on by high concentrations of ionized gasses but my ops manager, who by the way doesn’t miss much, thinks there is a good chance it might have been a transmission. So I had her do a little bit of digging.”

Sandhurst looked up with concern. “You hacked Sacajawea?”

“I told you, she’s good. She didn’t get much but what she found is troubling.”

He glanced back at the padd. “These looks like Nyberrite schematics.”

Aubrey nodded.

“You think she’s working for them?”

“Would you put it past her?”

“I guess not but you haven’t got much here. This is all circumstantial. A possible transmission which might be background radiation and some data on what could be Nyberrite designs.”

“Add to that her behavior and the way she pops up and disappears on a regular basis and I would call that enough evidence to at least be concerned. I know it wouldn’t hold up in a court martial but there is a way we can be certain.”

Sandhurst seemed to know where Aubrey was going and immediately shook his head. “I’m not going to use the SMA on Sacajawea.”

“It would give us the answers we need and we’d know for sure what she is up to.”

“Yes. It might also give away our position. Besides she would know that they had been probed. That will not be easy to explain if we find nothing.”
“Worth the risk, Captain. Better than allowing a potential traitor to undermine the entire mission. I say we—“

“Bridge to Sandhurst.”

“Go ahead, Commander.”

“The Sacajawea is hailing us. She just reappeared on sensors a few seconds ago. Captain Star wants to talk to you straight away.”

The two captains exchanged looks.

“Understood, Commander. We’re on our way, Sandhurst out.” He stood and headed straight for the doors leading the bridge, Aubrey following close behind.

Liana Ramirez was back at the tactical board by the time the two captains entered the bridge.

Sandhurst nodded to her. “Put her on screen.”

Not a moment later the Trill woman’s face appeared on the viewer, clearly agitated once more. “Captain Sandhurst, you mind telling me where Eagle is?”

Sandhurst pulled at the hem of his uniform jacket. “She suffered some minor damage to her impulse engines when engaging the Bluefin. Nothing serious. She should be joining us shortly.”

Star smirked with zero evidence of any kind of amusement. “Is that so? Because as it turns out she is no longer at her last reported position. As a matter of fact, neither is Bluefin.”

“As I said it was minor. She might be on her way back here as we speak.”

“I’m not sure I believe that.”

“That, Captain, is entirely your concern, not mine.”

The two starship commanders stared at each other for a moment, neither willing to add to their sharp words.

It was Aubrey who broke the silence. “This ship is equipped with a Sub-Quantum Mass Array, as you already know. I suggest we make use of it. We’ll locate both ships and if we keep the scan intensity low enough, the energy surge shouldn’t register beyond the nebula.”

Star and Sandhurst continued to stare daggers at each other a moment longer until the Trill began to massage her forehead in apparent frustration. “I suppose we don’t have a choice. Just make it quick and ensure the setting is low enough to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Star out.”

Her face disappeared from the screen to be replaced by her ship positioned nearby.

Aubrey shot Sandhurst a sidelong look. “Never gonna get a better chance.”

He nodded slowly and both men moved to join Ramirez at her station. “Liana, configure the SMA for a wide area scan at fifty percent energy yield. And I want a separate, narrow-band beam focused on the Sacajawea.”

The petite Hispanic woman gave her captain a surprised glance. “Sir?”

“Just make it happen.”

“Aye, sir,” she said and worked her console, setting up the powerful sensor array to the specifications given. It took her just a few seconds to set it up. “Ready on your mark.”

“Do it.”

“Engaging the array.”

The sensor pulse activated with an audible low rumble and the viewscreen showed a dark blue energy wave penetrating into the nebula.

“Getting the data now,” said Ramirez.

Aubrey looked at Sandhurst. “With your permission, I’ll see what we got from Sacajawea.”

Sandhurst nodded. “Liana, focus on the wide area scan.”

Aubrey went to work beside her while Ramirez gave her report. “I cannot locate the Eagle but I have the Bluefin. She is traveling on a course of one-zero mark eight-seven,” she said and looked at her captain. “That’s straight towards the Bolarus system.”

“Son of a bitch,” said Sandhurst.

“I’ve got her transmission logs,” said Aubrey. “No doubt about it, she sent an encrypted message two point six hours ago to an unidentified relay station outside Federation space.” He looked up as well. “And her databanks are full of encrypted files which appear to be Nyberrite in origin.”

“We’re being hailed again by—“

But Ramirez wasn’t able to finish her sentence before Star forced herself back onto Gibraltar’s main view screen. “What do you think you are doing?”

Aubrey took that one. “Trying to find out whose side you’re really on, Captain. And from what I can see, there are some serious question marks relating to your loyalty.”

“I am done with this, and I’m done with you,” she said through gritted teeth. “There is a reason I work alone. You are compromising the mission and Owens is either an incompetent fool or in league with the enemy. You are both to stand down. I will finish this on my own.” She didn’t bother signing off this time. On the view screen Sacajawea quickly turned and pulled away at high impulse.

“She is following Bluefin’s course,” said Ramirez.

Aubrey turned to face his fellow captain. “We let her go, there’ll only be more death and bloodshed, I can practically guarantee it. We do nothing and this mission will end up being one massive, unmitigated disaster for all sides involved.”

Sandhurst needed a moment to fully appreciate the changed circumstances but ultimately he began to nod. “Return to your ship. We’ll go after her.”

Aubrey turned and headed towards the turbolift.

“Jason?”

He stopped short to look back at Sandhurst.

“This mission already is a disaster.”
07/10 Were In Uncharted Territory Now." by CeJay
07/10 – “We’re In Uncharted Territory Now.”


Joseph Akinola entered the wardroom of his own ship and found Michael Owens sipping a mug of freshly made coffee.

“This is amazing,” Owens said. “I didn’t even realize how much better the real thing tastes and smells compared to the replicated version.”

Akinola said nothing.

“I was hoping to get a Danish with this but I can’t find a replicator.”

“That’s because there isn’t one.”

He nodded understandingly. “On another deck?”

Akinola shook his head.

Owens frowned. “Are you telling me things are so bad with the Guardians, you had to cut back on replicators?”

“Personal choice.”

“Yours or your crews?”
Akinola fixed the other man with a glare which clearly communicated his waning patience with this conversation. “I don’t believe part of our deal included you commenting on my ship’s amenities.”

Owens grinned and took another sip. “No, I guess I’m just the curious sort. And I have to say, this was all almost worth it just for the coffee.”

“Well, the coffee might be all you’ll be getting out of this.”

Owens set down his mug upon hearing this, frowning.

“We’ve arrived at Panea but there’s no sign of this secret complex you claim to exist there. And if it is hidden, as I think it would be, it will be almost impossible to locate without inviting the wrong kind of attention.”

“We won’t need to look for it,” said Owens and slid a padd across the desk.

Akinola picked it up and his eyes widened slightly upon reading its content. “This is pretty detailed information on a facility which is supposed to be secret.

“I guess all the good spies must have stayed on our side,” said Owens with another simper but then quickly took on a more serious demeanor. “In any case, that should be enough to beam me directly into the facility. Have you detected any other ships in the area?”

Akinola looked up from the padd. “Agamemnon is patrolling the system and is close by, Cuffe is in a standard orbit around Bolarus at present and Heracles is supposedly in the vicinity as well but we don’t have a confirmed position for her.”

“Have you had any problems or challenges from the other ships?”

Akinola shook his head. “No. But Orion will be overdue in about twenty-five minutes. Reiyhn isn’t the kind of man—“ he stopped himself. “Wasn’t the kind of man to miss a report. It will cause suspicion.”

Owens looked annoyed. “You were supposed to report in for both ships. Let them believe that everything is fine.”

Akinola glared at the other captain again. “Understand, there is a limit as to what I’m willing to do here. I will not fire on another Guardian vessel and I sure as hell will not pretend that everything is fine when you have in fact destroyed and killed the Orion.”

Owens tried to interject that he had not been responsible for the destruction of the other ship but Akinola did not give him the chance. “I agreed to this on very specific terms and only because the intelligence you have shown me about this Alpha Weapon looks compelling enough to have me worried about what its development could mean to all of us. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to take unnecessary risks or betray my own people. I don’t care how many of my officers you are holding hostage on your ship.”

“That’s overly dramatic, don’t you think? They are enjoying their stay in our guest quarters, not in the brig.”

He laughed derisively. “Under heavy guard and behind force fields. Call it what you want, Captain, but the truth is you are keeping them hostage.”

“They are insurance. I have given you my word that no harm will come to them. You are not the only one taking risks, I’m sticking my neck out pretty damn far here. And let’s face facts, we have both betrayed our respective people. At least you have been given the gift of plausible deniability.”

“Yes, how very gracious of you, Captain.”

Owens sat his coffee aside. “Since you are not willing to contact your people, we don’t have much time until we raise alarm bells. I take it I can still count on you to fulfill the rest of the plan.”

He nodded. “We’ll beam you into the facility, alone and unarmed. You destroy the prototype and return with your dear, estranged brother, and we take you back to your ship where you will release my people. And everyone lives happily ever after. Or something vaguely to that effect.”

Owens gave the other made a sharp nod, deciding to ignore the sarcasm.

“And what exactly makes you so certain he will listen to you and destroy his own prototype? You said it yourself, you haven’t exactly parted on the best of terms.”

“He is still my brother and no matter how long it has been, I know he will listen to me,” he said and stood. “Let’s get going, there’s no time to waste.”



* * *



Akinola had been right, the intelligence available to the facility was surprisingly accurate. In fact it had allowed Bluefin to circumvent most security measures and beam him directly into the laboratory level of the complex without tripping any alarms. The central part of the facility had been too well shielded against direct beam-ins, and he had been deposited into one of the outlying corridors instead.

And while Owens had agreed on beaming down unarmed, he had been able to keep with him a concealed type-I phaser, barely the size of a matchbox.

The facility was well lit, with wide and bright corridors, painted uniformly white which offered few places to hide. Thankfully he spotted no personnel at all, it appeared as if his brother and his colleagues had kept their team very small. Another aspect the intelligence he had been given that seemed to have proven right.

It wasn’t until he checked the third room that he ran into another person. It wasn’t his brother and yet the man was certainly no stranger.

“Jarik,” Owens hissed at the man who had his back turned to him, after he had made sure they were alone.

The tall, dark-skinned Vulcan turned to look at Owens. His eyes widened in surprise. “Michael?”

“Long time.”

“What the hell are you doing here?” he said, sounding rather emotional for what appeared to be a man of Vulcan heritage.

“What do you think? I’m looking for my brother.”

Jarik looked around for a moment, as if considering his options.

Owens followed his glance towards a com-panel and produced his phaser, pointing it in his general direction. “I’d rather not use this, not on a man I once considered as a close friend. Of course that was a long time ago.”

Jarik looked back at Owens, seeing the weapon but saying nothing.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw that you are working with Matthew. We both know you’re no scientist. You are bureaucrat, even back at the Academy you were always more interested in the theory instead of actually putting anything into practice. So mind telling me how you ended up here? Working for the Guardians of all people?”

He offered a very little, very un-Vulcan like smirk. “That’s a long story. One better left for another time.”

Owens nodded. “Suits me. I’m not here for you. Where is he?”

“Are you here alone?”

“Of course not, I have a ship in orbit.”

“What ship?”

Owens was beginning to grow tired. “Listen, I don’t have time for twenty questions. I know the Guardians have vessels operating in the area, protecting this very facility. I’m on the clock here, just tell me where Matt is.”

“Is there anyone else down here with you?” he said, ignoring Michael’s growing annoyance.

“No. Now, can you take me to my brother or do I have to stun you and look for him myself?”

“What do you intend to do once you find him?” he said, now sounding as calm as any other Vulcan would be in any given situation.

Owens raised the phaser a little higher. “You really want to do this?

Jarik shook his head, clearly suppressing a sigh. “Follow me,” he said and then quickly turned towards another door.

“Slow down. I might be in a hurry, but I have no desire of walking into a trap.
Jarik got the message and slowed his pace as he led him through a set of doors and down another corridor which looked indistinguishable to the others Owens had already seen.

He led him into another lab, filled with machinery and computer displays, and his brother, working at one of them.

“Matt,” Jarik said, “there is somebody here to talk to you.”

He sighed heavily without turning. “Tell her that the project is classified. Strictly need to know and she doesn’t need to know. I am getting pretty sick of repeating—“ he stopped after having turned and realized who had stepped into his lab. “Michael?”

“Matt,” said Owens looking at his brother, noting that he hadn’t aged much since he had seen him last a few years ago. He also didn’t miss that he looked well, enthusiastic and full of energy, not the gloomy and borderline depressed man he had been the last time they had spoken in person.

He quickly shook his head. “You can’t be here.”

“Well, nice seeing you too.”

Matthew looked at Jarik, aiming him a clearly surprised look, before glancing back at his brother. “How are you here?”

“Does it really matter?”

“Seeing that this is a secret facility, yes. Yes, it does.”

Owens took a step closer. “Do you really think you can work on a project this big, this dangerous and it wouldn’t raise a few eyebrows. We know about what you are up to and Starfleet—our Starfleet—is determined to stop this. By any means necessary.”

“What does that mean?”

“What do you think it means? Destroy it if they have to. And to be honest, I think that is a pretty damn good idea.”

This clearly terrified him and he quickly shook his head, becoming more animate. “No, I won’t allow it.”

“You won’t have a choice in the matter.”
“This is madness,” he said, beginning to pace. “And so goddamned typical. Here’s something the admirals and the politicians don’t understand and their first instinct is to destroy it. Destroy it because they are scared by it. I have worked too long and too hard on this to let ignorant minds determine the future of what we have done here.”

“Oh please, stop it with the self-righteous indignation already…” he stopped talking when he realized that, without him noticing, Jarik had slipped out of the room. He quickly made his way towards the exit, trying to locate him again.

“Mark my words, Mike, I won’t let them destroy it. I’ve been here before. Years ago when we first approached Starfleet—before the Schism—to practically beg them to give us the resources we needed to make this a reality. They shut us down then, just like they are trying to shut us down now,” he said and shook his head again. “But we are so close. The prototype—“

“Will you give it a rest for a moment?” Owens said sharply. “Where did Jarik go?”

“What?”

He shot him a piercing glare. “Jarik. Where did he go?”

But Matthew responded with nothing more than an empty look. Then his eyes opened wider.

Owens whipped back around only to see a phaser cone inches from his face.

“Well, well, well, just look at what the le-matya has dragged in.”

The phaser was wielded by another face intimately familiar to Michael Owens, however one that he had really hoped to avoid seeing up close again, regardless how attractive her dark features still were, even after all those years.

He slowly backtracked from Amaya Donners and the phaser in her hand, but not before she plucked his own cricket-sized weapon out of his hand.

“I keep telling him to leave the trash outside and yet he never, ever listens.”

“Hello, Maya.”

“You made a real dumb move coming here alone, you know that?”

“Who says I’m alone?”

As if one cue, Jarik appeared again, entering the room, walking straight passed Donners who kept her phaser trained on the intruder. Owens fixed his former friend and Academy roommate with a poisonous glare.

“Look at that, it’s almost like a class reunion, isn’t it?” said Donners. “I’d say all of us having made pretty good decisions over the years which led us to this point. Well all of us, except for you, Michael. Then again, making good decisions has nvever exactly been your strong suit.”

“Let’s not make this personal,” Owens said.

Donners laughed. “I don’t see how things couldn’t be any more personal. You’ve come all the way out here to rescue your poor brother from our evil clutches in what clearly is not a sanctioned mission. Tell me how many strings did you have to pull to get this far? Name of the old man still carrying a lot of weight, huh?”

Owens glanced at the three people in the room, one of which holding him at gunpoint. His brother seemed distraught, as if unable to decide between family loyalty and his dedication to his life’s work. Jarik was unreadable, but as far as Owens was concerned, he had already revealed his hand.

“Matt, listen to me,” said Owens, keeping his eyes on Donners and the phaser. “You are on the wrong side of this but you have been too focused on your work to realize that what you are doing here could spell doom for all of us. No matter if you want to keep the peace or chase some sort of phantom dream of rebuilding what we once had. If you don’t stop this and come with me, you’ll bring this all crashing down on us like the fragile house of cards it already is. Everything we’ve fought so hard for to rebuild after the Borg will have been for nothing.”

“I don’t even know what you are talking about,” said Matthew.

Donners simply snickered. “You were always good with the speeches, Michael. Must be what I thought I once saw it you. But you are dead awful at reading a crowd. Told you that you were going to get what’s coming to you eventually,” she said, closing in slowly.

Matthew took a step closer. “Wait, what are you doing?

“Getting rid of a problem, what do you think?”

This caused Michael some amusement, even as he took another step back, realizing that he was quickly running out of room. “She’s got a major grudge against me, don’t you know? Revenge really doesn’t suit you, Maya. It makes you look ugly.”

Matthew shook his head. “Don’t hurt him. He’s still my brother.”
But Donners wasn’t listening, raising the weapon higher as if to take aim, her eyes cold as ice.

That’s when Owens spotted the third man of Matthew’s research team entering the room, clearly drawn here by the commotion. “What the hell is going on here?” the gray-haired Westren Frobisher barked.

“We have an intruder,” said Jarik.

The hawkish features of Frobisher took in Michael Owens and his eyes widened in alarm. “Get rid of him.”

“My thinking exactly,” said Donners.

“No!” Matthew rushed Donners in panic, distracting her just long enough to allow Owens to make a move.

Donners fired the phaser but the shot went wide, singeing the white wall behind Michael but missing him entirely.

He jumped her and the force of the tackle pushed them both over a table before they went crashing down onto the floor, taking padds and other computer equipment along with them.

Donners lost hold of her weapon and it went skittering across the floor until it disappeared underneath a few cabinets.

Owens won the short struggle against Donners, who seemed dazed from the impact. Not wasting any time, he jumped back onto his feet.

Frobisher was on him in seconds, trying to pin him down but the scientist was no match for the well-trained Starfleet captain who easily shrugged him off, sending him flying against the far wall where he collapsed with a groan.

Jarik was next but he didn’t attack, instead he raised his palms towards Owens. “Wait, just listen to me.”

But Owens was in no mood. He sucker punched the Vulcan with such force, he went down in a heap.

He turned to his brother who had been looking on with wide-open eyes as chaos had erupted in his lab. “Alright let’s get out of here.”

“What, no,” he said, shaking his head emphatically. “I told you, I’m not leaving my work behind.”

“You cannot be serious. Matt, they’ve brought in somebody else to come after you and your prototype. And she won’t hesitate to destroy it and everyone in her way. You have seen how easy it was for me to get here, she won’t be far behind. I’m not going to let you throw away your life for a super-weapon which deserves to be wiped off the face of the galaxy.”

He shot him a befuddled look. “Super-weapon, what are you talking about?”

“Your damned dark-matter device. Big Betty. You even called it after your first love.”

He shook his head again. “Big Betty isn’t a weapon.”

“What?”

“It’s a transporter.”

Owens didn’t understand and he didn’t have time to catch up as Matthew shoved him aside hard. “Watch out.”

It was just in time to avoid a phaser blast coming from Donners who was picking herself off the floor again and had apparently re-located the phaser she had taken from Owens earlier.

Michael grabbed hold of his brother’s arm and dragged him out of the room and down the corridor. But Matthew was not going along willing, offering resistance and eventually freeing himself again. “Stop it, I told you, I’m not going with you.”

“Goddammit, Matt, you are supposed to be the smart one. Think this through. Something else is going on here and while you stay here, you remain in the crosshairs. I’m not going to let you die for this. I made a promise to dad that I wouldn’t let you get hurt.”

Matthew sneered. “Is that it? A promise to the old man, to protect his estranged son? Well, you won’t need to worry about that anymore, will you?”

Owens fought hard to keep his anger in check but failed. “The least you can do is honor his memory. He’s been trying to reconcile with you over the last years but you continuously rebuffed him. Going so far as joining his enemies. You broke his heart, Matt. He couldn’t deal with it.”

He uttered a little derisive laugh. “Right, so you blame me for his death, is that it? Why are you even here, Mike?”

“Because I care about family.”

The two men stared at each other with growing fury threatening to be set free.

Another phaser blast hitting close to Michael’s head and adding another large scorch mark to a shiny white wall prompted them back into action as they scrambled down the corridor together.

“Stop running like the coward that you are,” Donners shouted from further down the hallway, following the two brothers.

Owens pushed Matthew around a corner.

“Boy, she’s got murder in her eyes,” Matthew said with seemingly misplaced humor. “Tell me, is there anyone in your life you haven’t managed to tick off?”

“I think I might have turned my last allies against me today.”

“Get out of here, Mike,” he said.

“Not without you.”

“We’re not going to make it far with her chasing us. No doubt she has already called for reinforcements. I can buy you some time and you can try to live to fight another day.”

“I’m not going to let you risk your life—“

“She won’t kill me, it’s you she’s after. And whatever else is going on here, I trust you to figure it out and put a stop to it,” he placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry about, dad. I know we had our differences, and I still think he tried to drive a wedge between us, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sorry he’s gone. But most of all I’m sorry we allowed him to pull us apart.”

Before Owens could say anything else, Matthew turned and disappeared around the corner to run interference.

“Dammit, Matt,” he hissed but realizing he had no other options, he turned the other way, racing towards the extraction point.

He felt his combadge vibrate once he had left behind the shielded part of the complex, alerting him that he was clear for a beam out. He quickly tapped it. “Owens to Akinola. One to beam up.”

But there was no response.

“Owens to Akinola, come in, dammit.”

Nothing.

He continued on, trying to get further away from the shielded parts of the complex, hoping that it would reduce any inference which may prevent Bluefin to get a lock on his position. “Akinola, get me out of here now.”

He stopped in his tracks when Amaya Donners came around a bend and walked right into his path with a wide smirk, clearly having anticipated his destination and cut him off. “Don’t tell me your friends abandoned you. That’s such a common thread for you one would think you’d be used to it by now.”

Owens began to backtrack again, raising his hands slowly while Donners pointed the phaser at him once more. “And maybe you start tiring of playing the spurned lover. How about that?”

“I guess we all have our roles to play. Yours though, ends now.”

A very familiar feeling brought a little grin to his face. “Maybe next time,” he said as felt his body being dematerialized. He could see her indignation even through the haze of the transporter effect, saw the phaser blast which harmlessly passed through his body which was no longer there.

It didn’t stop him of course to grab his chest where the blast had been aimed the moment he had fully rematerialized, relieved not find any injury at all.

Only then did he take note of Bluefin’s transporter room and the female Vulcan officer there to receive him. He completely ignore her and rushed right passed her and towards the bridge.

He had stayed mostly out of sight since he had returned command to Akinola and his crew, after all she was still, essentially an enemy vessel, but he no longer cared about staying inconspicuous as he burst onto the bridge.

“Next time, don’t cut it so damn close,” he barked at Akinola who was getting out of his chair.

The other captain clearly didn’t appreciate his tone; on his own bridge no less. “I don’t foresee there being a next time.”

A quick glance towards the view screen revealed that they were no longer in orbit around Panea. “What are you doing? We’re not done here.”

“Oh yes, we are.”

“We had an agreement,” Owens fumed, ignoring the startled looks of the bridge crew. “It was me and my brother.”

“The agreement was to take you to Panea and bring you back,” said Akinola, matching his intensity, if not his volume. “Not my problem that you came back from the surface alone. If you prefer, we can leave you behind,” he added and then entered a few commands into the armrest controls of his chair. “Of course that would mean you would have to deal with them.”

The view screen switched to an aft view to show Panea as well as two starships coming into view. Agamemnon and Cuffe. It didn’t take long at all for both vessels to begin pursuing Bluefin.

“Looks like they figured it out. The ruse is up, Captain,” said Akinola.

“Get us back to Eagle at maximum speed.”

Akinola glared at the other man for a brief moment, obviously hating being told what to do. He considered his options for only a moment before he slowly nodded to his helmsman.

“We’re not going to outrun those ships,” said Akinola. “So I hope you have some sort of contingency plan in mind because if not, we are both going to hang for this.”

“Sir, we have additional ships now reading on sensors,” said the Vulcan officer who had follow Owens from the transporter room and had taken her station at ops.

“More of ours?” asked Akinola.

The view screen switched back to a forward view to display two ships on an intercept course.

Owens recognized them immediately. Intrepid and Gibraltar were coming in fast.

“This is going to get ugly.”
08/10 All Together Now. by CeJay
08/10 – “All Together Now.”


“Helm, come to a full stop.”

“Full stop, aye, sir.”

Owens shot Akinola a sidelong look. “What are you doing?

But Bluefin’s skipper didn’t respond, instead he kept his eyes on the view screen which had been split in half to reveal the full scope of their latest quandary; the forward view on the left showing two Preserver vessels moving in to intercept; the aft view on the right displayed the two Guardian vessels closing in to catch up with Bluefin.

“Between a rock and hard place,” mumbled Akinola.

“So what? You think the best plan of action is to just sit here and wait for everyone to converge on our position?”

Akinola turned towards Owens. “If you have a better idea, by all means, don’t keep it all to yourself.”

That brought him up short and he glanced back towards the view screen, wrecking his brain to come up with a solution to their impending dilemma.

“Sir, both sets of ships have come to a stop as well, staying put at approximately two-hundred thousand kilometers from our present position,” said the Vulcan operations officer.

Akinola nodded but said nothing.

An entire minute of silence passed on the bridge, during which absolutely nothing happened.

“What are they waiting for?” said Owens.

“Probably trying to figure out what to do about this situation. Just like us.”

“This is ridiculous.”

“For once, I agree,” said Akinola. “Lieutenant T’Ser, open a channel.”

The Vulcan turned her head. “To which ship?”

Akinola thought for a moment. “All of them.”

She nodded. “Channel open.”

“Attention, this is Captain Joseph Akinola of the USS Bluefin. With me is Captain Michael Owens of the Eagle.”

Owens didn’t appreciate that he had shared that information and let him know with an icy glare which went entirely ignored.

“We clearly find ourselves at an impasse here. I propose a parley on Bluefin under the Aldebaran Accords. I will guarantee the safety of every captain while onboard of my ship and nobody shall open fire until the parley is concluded.”

T’Ser shook her head; there had been no response.

“The alternative is we all start shooting and go back to trying to kill each other. Or we can actually attempt to find common ground which I know for a fact we all share, even if we have done our damndest to forget this over the last few years. Enough people have already died in this senseless conflict. Let’s try to deescalate for once. We used to be good at doing that kind of thing once upon a time.”

When after another few seconds there still hadn’t been a response, Owens shook his head. “This is pointless,” he whispered.

T’Ser’s ops station came to life with multiple beeps, causing her to crack a smile. “We’re getting multiple responses,” she said and looked up at her captain. “They have agreed to the terms.”

“I’ll be damned,” said Owens before he glanced back at Akinola. “You better get some of that amazing coffee served up. We’ll need more than speeches to avoid this turning into a bloodbath.”


* * *




They had assembled in Bluefin’s wardroom not long after, Glover and Donners sitting on the far left hand side of the table while Sandhurst and Aubrey had taken the chairs on the opposite side. Akinola and Owens sat in the middle.

The tension in the room was palpable.

Donners still had the same murderous look in her eyes she’d shown when she had actually tried to kill him less than an hour earlier. Sandhurst and Aubrey did not look particularly happy with Owens either, even though Sandhurst seemed to reserve most of his scorn for Terrence Glover at the other side of the table, with the other man looking just as unhappy of being in the same room with him.

Two armed guards had been positioned at the door and Owens quickly came to understand that their real purpose was likely to ensure the occupants in this room didn’t try to rip each other to shreds.

“Fifteen minutes,” said Glover. “Fifteen minutes is all I’m willing to give this imbecilic meeting to hear out your justification for assaulting a Guardian world, none I’m convinced are excusable, before we return to our ships and we put an end to this for good.”

“Jesus, Terrence,” said Sandhurst with a dramatic eye role. “We haven’t even sat down yet and tasted the coffee before you start posturing? How about you shut up for once and let the reasonable people talk?”

“You are lucky I’m even willing to entertain this joke of a parlay, because you would be the first one I come after. And you know what? The galaxy would thank me for getting rid of you.”

“Alright, people,” said Akinola before Sandhurst could fire back. “Let’s at least try and see if we can resolve this in way that will not lead to more deaths—“

“More deaths?” Donners said, looking confused. “I thought we’ve behaved rather civilly until now.”

Owens shot her an angry look. “Civilly? Is that what you call it?”

“Oh please, don’t play the injured party here, Michael. If I had wanted you dead, you’d already be dead. I am not that lousy of a shot. And I would have been more than justified to take you out. You were the intruder after all.”

“And I’m sure that would have been a convenient excuse,” he said.

Donners simply smirked.

“I want to know what is going on here,” said Aubrey and looked at Akinola and then Owens. “Who are you working for?”

“Same people as you,” said Owens.

“Doesn’t look like it from where I’m sitting. From over here you look a lot like a traitor.”

Donners shook her head. “He’s no traitor.”

Owens turned to look at her, surprised to hear her offer something other than scorn for him for a change.

“Stabbing his friends in the back is simply what he does. Can’t help himself.”

“None of this is getting us anywhere,” said Akinola, barely able to hide is increasing frustration.

“Isn’t it?” said Sandhurst and focused in on the man sitting opposite him, at the far end of the table. “Or is this exactly going according to your plan, Terrence?”

“What the hell are you talking about now?”

“You knew coming into this that you were outgunned and overpowered if you were to take us on. The only reason you agreed to the parlay was to stall for time. Who are you hoping to pull your fat out of the fire? Schwarzkopf and Heracles? Maybe Orion? As far as the latter is concerned, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you.”

Glover hit the table with such force, some of the coffee in his cup spilled onto the surface. “I don’t need any help to take you out, Sandy. Happy to go right here, right now, in fact. Just you and me.”

It was Donners who put a calming hand onto his shoulder. “Calm down, Terrence,” she said. “He’s just goading you,” she fixed Sandhurst with a piercing glare. “What’s this bad news about Orion?”

But Sandhurst realized he had said too much, and none of the other captains spoke either.

“What happened to Captain Reihyn and his ship?” Donners demanded, her tone now razor-sharp.

“She was destroyed,” said Aubrey finally.

“What?” Glover was clearly beside himself. “You finally did it, you became a mass murderer for your insipid little cause,” he said, keeping his eyes on Sandhurst but then directing his fury towards Akinola. “And these are the people you decided to align yourself with? You are as rotten as Owens.”

“It’s not that simple,” said Akinola meekly.

“Sounds pretty black and white to me,” said Glover and stood. “I think this meeting is over.”

“Sit down, Terrence,” said Sandhurst sharply.

“Why don’t you come over here and make me?”

Orion was destroyed by Tazla Star who blatantly violated the Aldebaran Accords and will have to answer for her crimes,” said Aubrey. “The destruction of the Orion was not sanctioned by Starfleet Command or any member of this task force.”

“Right,” said Glover. “And I’m sure you did everything you could to stop her, did you?”

Aubrey shook his head. “I would have, if I had been given the chance.”

“Listen,” said Owens. “The fact is Star is out of control and will do anything to achieve her objective, and as we have already seen, she’ll have no compunction to kill whoever gets in her way. Her target is located directly underneath a busy city. If we don’t do something quickly, the loss of Orion and her crew will be but a prelude to the civilian death toll she may cause.”

Aubrey nodded slowly. “I agree that she needs to be stopped. But I don’t disagree with the mission. The Alpha Weapon needs to be destroyed.”

“What if its not a weapon?”

All eyes turned towards Owens.

“If not a weapon than what is it?” said Glover who had sat down again, his rage over what he’d learned having passed, at least for now.

“According to my brother, he and Frobisher have been developing a dark-matter transporter,” he said. “I don’t know the details but I believe him. I don’t think he’s working on a super-weapon. It’s not something he’d do.”

“This makes no sense,” said Aubrey. “All this over a transporter?”

“For all we know it could still be used as a weapon. Maybe it is able to beam troops from one side to the quadrant to the other. The Guardians could use it to teleport a strike team into the middle of Paris, San Francisco or the Nyberrite homeworld,” said Sandhurst, keeping his eyes on Glover, making it clear that he didn’t put something like this past the man.

“You’re right,” said Owens. “We don’t know anything about this. Which means we’re working with flawed intelligence here. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to risk any more lives based on hypotheticals. We need to find Star and stop her.”

“That won’t be easy,” said Aubrey. “Last time we spoke to her she ordered us to abandon the mission and dropped off sensors shortly thereafter.”

“She keeps doing that,” added Sandhurst.

Gibraltar has the ability to find her again,” said Owens.

“Bridge to Captain.”

Akinola glanced towards the ceiling upon hearing his first officer’s voice. “Go ahead, T’Ser.”

“Sir, sensors have just detected a small fleet of ships approaching Panea. They will reach orbit in less than thirty-five minutes.”

The occupants in the wardroom turned to look at each other with suspicion upon hearing the news.

“Guardians or Preservers, Lieutenant?” Akinola asked.

“Neither, sir. It’s the Nyberrites.”

“Godddammit,” said Owens.

Glover jumped to his feet. “We make our stand, right now, right here.”

Owens shook his head. “That’s insane. We’ll start a war.”

“If the Nyberrites are here because they think we are harboring an super weapon, we might already be past that point,” said Donners. “And if they actually find one on Panea, there won’t be any turning back at all.”

“I hate to say it but she has a point,” said Aubrey.

But Owens shook his head. “We’re not going to start a war because of a hypothetical chance that they might find something that may or may not even exist.”

“You were the one who wanted to avoid civilian casualties. You know how the Nyberrites operate. You are worried about Star putting lives at risk? The Nyberrites will wipe Panea off the face of the galaxy just to make a point. Grow a godddamned backbone, Michael. For once in your life,” Donners said with unbridled indignation evident on both her face and in her tone.

Glover headed for the exit. “I’m done with this. Any second we stay in here debating this is a second they get closer to Panea. We’ll move to intercept their fleet. You do whatever you want and pray you can live with your decision.”

Donners shot Owens a scornful, parting glare before she quickly followed Glover.

The room fell quiet for a brief moment. Then Aubrey stood. “It’s the only play.”

Owens shook his head. “No, it’s not.”

“I rue the day that I agree with Glover on anything,” said Sandhurst, “but I’m not going to let them destroy an entire world of Federation citizens. Guardians or otherwise.”

Aubrey and Sandhurst exited the wardrobe in a hurry, leaving just Owens and Akinola.

“And I will not stand by and let them go into battle alone,” said Akinola.

Owens nodded. “Of course you’re not. But first get a message to Eagle to join us as quickly as possible. At maximum speed she should be able to get back here from her hiding spot before the Nyberrite fleet reaches Panea.”

But Akinola looked skeptical.

“You get your crew back and another ship to hold off the Nyberrites,” he said and then looked out of the viewports into empty space. “And with any luck we haven’t thrown the entire quadrant into another intergalactic war before the day is over.”
09/10 Now You See It, Now You Dont by CeJay
09/10 – “Now You See It, Now You Don’t”


By the time Eagle had rendezvoused with Bluefin and Owens had returned Akinola’s crewmen, the other four ships had already moved in to intercept the incoming Nyberrite fleet, not willing to wait.

Bluefin followed the others the moment her full crew as back on board.

“What are your orders, Captain?” asked Jose Carlos from the tactical station after Owens hadn’t given any since Bluefin had departed to join the impromptu and unlikely task force going after the Nyberrites.

He understood that he really only had two choices, neither of them particularly good. Support the other ships in engaging the Nyberrites and thereby keeping Panea and his brother safe from an all out assault but possibly making him vulnerable to Tazla Star, or head directly to Panea, ignoring the incoming fleet and hope that the task force was enough to keep them occupied until he could extract Matthew and perhaps his prototype while he was at it.

An open battle with the Nyberrites would most likely lead to all out war but then again, it seemed they were already beyond that point.

“Set a course to intercept the Nyberrite fleet, maximum impulse.”

The helmsman acknowledged.

Eagle managed to catch up with the rest of the task force just as they were getting ready to engage. “Hail the incoming fleet.”

But Carlos quickly shook his head. “No response, sir.”

“That’s not like them, they usually like to hear themselves talk,” said Owens more to himself than anybody else there.

“Sir, the Nyberrite fleet is opening fire.”

“Without a warning?”

Carlos looked at his captain. “Both fleets have engaged. What are your orders, sir?”

“Dammit all to hell,” said Owens. “All hands to battle stations. Move us in, attack pattern omega-four.”

The bridge crew jumped into action once the red alert had begun to sound and the red strobe lights had started to flash. Within moments Eagle had joined the fray, finding herself surrounded by an unlikely combination of starships. Preservers and Guardians,who had been at their throats just a short time earlier were now fighting side by side against a fleet made up of eight powerful starships; Klingon, Romulan and Nyberrite.

It was a battle Owens had worked hard to avoid over the last few years while the Guardians had tried everything to provoke it. Now it seemed war had finally found them again.

He frowned as he looked at the tactical viewer on the screen. While the five other Starfleet ships were certainly fighting on the same side for the first time in nearly four years, they definitely were not fighting as one. Donners and Glover were overly aggressive, pushing right into the middle of the enemy, while Aubrey and Sandhurst were keeping at the periphery, engaging the Nyberrites but not offering any kind of support to the rest of their impromptu task force.

He shook his head as he opened a secure channel to the ships on his side. “Glover, we need to stick to one attack pattern here, otherwise we don’t stand a chance.”

His response came promptly. “Yes, and the plan is to come in hot and fast, push them onto the defensive before they have a chance to go on the offensive.”

“Why am I not surprised,” responded Sandhurst, sounding dismissive. “Fools rush in, Terrence. Fools like you.”

“At least I’m making a difference here instead of—“

“Stop this now,” said Akinola sharply. “Owens is right, God help me I said this, but he is. We need a more collaborated effort if we have to have any hope of winning this.”

“Not sure I agree with that, Uncle Joe,” said Donners. “Looks to me we are pushing them back just fine.”

“Something isn’t right here,” Aubrey said next. “This almost feels too easy.”

“Gift horse,” Donners shot back. “Let’s not look it in the mouth and blow them away.”

Owens felt the ship tremble as it took multiple hits from both a Romulan Warbird and Vorcha-class battleship. But not nearly as much as it should have considering how powerful those ships were.

“Shields at seventy-seven percent,” said Carlos.

“Why are they holding back?” Owens said.

“Donald,” said Aubrey. “I’m smelling a rat here. Can you give us a quick SMA scan. I’ll cover you.”

“Consider it done.”

Owens watched on as Gibraltar dropped back while Intrepid placed herself between the Luna-class ship and the Nyberrite fleet. Then the telltale energy eruption of Gibraltar’s high-resolution scanner blinded the view screen for a brief moment as the sensor wave expanded outwards.

Owens didn’t need to wait for the telemetry to see the results. The enemy fleet flickered for a brief moment, seemingly phasing in and out of existence.

“They’re goddamn holograms. All of them,” Glover fumed.

Owens felt a sense of relief come over him at learning the truth. The Nyberrites weren’t real, meaning they were still fully unaware of the supposed Alpha-Weapon prototype the Guardians had developed and full out war could still be averted.

The sensation didn’t last long, as not a moment later he realized what this meant. “It’s a distraction,” he said.

“A pretty damn good one,” said Akinola. “They might not pack the same punch as the real thing, but they’re weapons are still deadly enough.”

Owens saw what he meant. The tactical display offered a status overview for all Starfleet ships and while their shield were all still intact, the holographic fleet was beginning to wear them down.

“We need to locate the power source,” said Aubrey. “We shut it down and the holograms disappear. Donald?”
“We’ll need to reconfigure the array. It’ll take a few minutes.”
Owens shook his head even though his link to the other ships was audio-only. “We don’t have the time. This is Star’s doing. She’s making her move on Panea right now. I’m going back there, you find the source of the holograms and shut down this fleet.”

“Nobody made you boss, Owens,” Glover shot back.

“Fine, do as you will, but I’m going after Star. Owens out.” And with that he disconnected the channel. “Helm, take us to Panea, maximum speed.”

“Aye, sir.”

Glancing on the tactical viewer, he could see that Cuffe and Intrepid were trying to disengage as well in order to follow Eagle while the other ships remained fighting the holographic fleet. Owens didn’t care, he needed to get back to his brother and stop Star. With or without their help.



* * *




“Report,” Owens pretty much barked the moment Eagle was approaching Panea.

“Nothing on sensors, sir,” said Stanmore from ops. “All’s quiet.”

“No,” said Owens. “She’s up to something, I know it. Keep your eyes open.”

“Sir, the Cuffe and the Intrepid are approaching. They are hailing us.”

“Put them through.”

“I don’t know what you’re up to, Owens, but you can forget about it,” said Terrence Glover over the audio channel without any preamble.

“I’m going down there.”

“The hell you are.”

Owens glanced at the other two starships rapidly approaching the planet. “They way I see it, Captain, you are outnumbered.”

“Maybe, doesn’t mean I’m going to let you go down there without a fight. Besides, last time I checked you were not being held in the highest esteem even with your own people.”

Jason Aubrey remained suspiciously quiet.

Glover continued. “If it comes to it, I’m fairly certain I can keep you both occupied long enough for Heracles and an entire Guardian fleet to join our party.”

“Let’s agree that our main objective is to keep Tazla Star from this … whatever it is. I know first hand what she is capable of,” said Aubrey. “And I’m also fairly certain that whatever her play here is, she’ll make it before your reinforcements show up.”

“All the more reason to let me go down there and secure the site,” said Owens.

“I’m sending a security team right now,” said Glover.

Owens headed for the turbolift. “Do that. I’ll join them. Or if you prefer, you can try to stop me by starting another fight. But for once, I’m not your enemy, and you know it.” He made a cutting off motion by his throat to indicate to Jose Carlos to disconnect the channel, which he quickly did. “I’m going down there. You have the bridge, Lieutenant. Keep and eye out for Sacajawea, don’t let her come close to the planet.”

“Aye, sir.”

Owens was already in the turbolift, ordering it to the transporter room.

Using the same intelligence data that had permitted him to infiltrate the facility earlier, allowed him to beam right back into the complex. It didn’t take him long to run in Cuffe’s security detail, led by and imposingly large Angosian.

“Secure the facility,” Owens said. “We know Star is going to make a move, but we don’t know where it is going to come from.”

The Angosian who stood nearly a head taller than Owens was momentarily taken back by Owens’ brazen attitude. “You don’t give me orders.”

“Alright, what are your orders?”

“To keep an eye on you.”

Owens smirked and then walked passed the Angosian and his men. “In that case, keep up.”

Owens found his brother, Frobisher and Jarik in one of the labs surrounding their prototype which was housed at the center of an oval room which was visible through a curved, glass wall in the laboratory. It had been the first time Owens had seen the prototype which didn’t look like any transporter he had ever seen. Instead the dull gray device, standing about five meters tall, bugling wide at the bottom and then becoming more narrow the higher it went, look almost like an oversized flower vase.

Frobisher turned on Owens and the security team following him the moment they had entered. “What is the meaning of this, what are you doing back here?”

Owens completely ignored the agitated scientist and glanced at his brother instead. “We know Tazla Star is making a move on the prototype. These men are here to stop her.”

The heavily armed team quickly spread out, taking position all around the lab to have eyes on the high-value target just beyond the room from all possible angles. Owens could see the Angosian talking through his combadge, most likely with Glover in orbit.

“Michael?”

He stepped closer to his brother. “Let me take you out of here, Matt. The risk is too great.”

He shook his head. “I told you before—“

“I know, I know, it’s your life’s work. But tell me what good it does you if you’re no longer around for it?” He glanced at the prototype. “Let’s take you and it out of here.”

“Why should we trust you?” said Frobisher. “You are with the Preservers. You have been sent here to destroy it.”

He nodded, acceding to the point, partially. “Yes. But that was based on intelligence that you were creating an Alpha Weapon. If this is not the case, the mission has changed.”

Frobisher looked skeptical.

But Jarik began to nod slowly. “It is logical,” he said. “We should prepare the device for transport. This location is no longer secure.”

“It’s not that simple and you know that,” said Matthew. “Big Betty is hardwired into the mainframe.”

“How much time do you need to get it ready for transport?” Owens asked.

“If we do it properly, an hour, maybe two,” said Matthew.

“We don’t have that kind of time,” said Owens. “This whole place might be nothing more than rubble in an hour.”

“An emergency separation could be accomplished in less than twenty minutes,” said Jarik.

But Frobisher quickly shook his head. “Not without damaging the prototype.”

Owens was getting frustrated. “Damage can be repaired. Rebuilding this thing from scratch—“

“Near impossible,” offered his brother. “Not with the resources we have left.”

“I shall see to the separation,” said Jarik and then glanced at Frobisher. “Doctor, if you were to assist me we might be able to limit the damage to the prototype.”

Frobisher hesitated, clearly not happy with this plan. But when Matthew gave him a nod to proceed, he hesitantly followed Jarik out of the room, quickly picking up the pace once the Vulcan began to hurry, obviously worried about any irreparable damage he might cause.

“So,” said Matthew. “You came back.”

“For you.”

“Really?”

“Matt, we two are the only family we have left. I know we have not seen eye to eye on things for a very long time—“

“You blamed me for dad.”

“Yes. And I probably shouldn’t have.”

“You are damn right, you shouldn’t have.”

Owens took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t want to fight. Let’s just get you out of here.”

Matthew took a step closer to the transparent wall overlooking his creation. Both Jarik and Frobisher were now working on the equipment, preparing the prototype for transport. “And then what? Do you think I’m so grateful for your rescue that I will come back to your side? The very same people who practically forced me out of my work.”

“I’m sure something can be arranged.”

Matthew uttered a mirthless laugh as he turned back to his brother. “Of course, now that I have a working prototype which turns out is not the weapon to doom us all and bring about a war we cannot win, I’m suddenly a commodity again, right?”

“You stay here and help the Guardians, sooner or later there will be a war. Sooner or later they will push too far. We thought it was going to be with what you’ve built here, but if that’s not what is going to be the lynchpin, the next thing will be. Mark my words.”

“And what exactly is your plan? To stay hidden away on the handful of planets you still control and hope the Nyberrites will let you be? Sticking your heads in the sand? That has never worked. And if I have learned something about the Guardians, they won’t be stopped. Not until the Nyberrites are gone and the Federation is back to what it once was.”

“A refusal to accept reality is not a valid strategy. It’s delusion, plain and simple.”

“I’m not a politician, Mike, and to be honest, I have no interest in any of this. I just want to be able to work on—“

An explosion rocked the facility, causing the floor to tremble so forcefully, Owens nearly lost his footing. “She’s here.”

Matthew ran towards a nearby console and checked the data. “That explosion came from cargo hold two on the west side of the facility.”

“Aubrey to Owens.”

Owens tapped his combadge. “Go ahead.”

“We just registered an explosion below the surface.”

He nodded. “Star is making her move. Have you been able to detect her in orbit?”

“We believe we have a fix on her position and are moving on her now. We’ll provide an update once we know more. Aubrey out.”

Owens noticed that a number of security officers were moving out. “Lieutenant,” he said, addressing the Angosian. “What are you doing? This is obviously a distraction.”

The security chief shot the other man an annoyed glare. “I wasn’t born yesterday, Captain. I’m sending a team to check it out, the rest will stay here and secure the target.”

“Mike.”

Owens looked at his brother who was displaying sudden concern while looking over a computer console. “What?”

“Something is very wrong. The internal security system just turned on.”

“About time.”

Matthew looked up at him. “In this room.”

Owens spotted movement on the ceiling from the corner of his eye. “Move,” he pushed Matthew down and not a moment too soon as a phaser blast fired a hole into the floor where he had stood just a second earlier.

The ceiling erupted with phaser fire, targeting, it seemed, every person in the lab.

Owens picked his brother up again and pushed him towards the exit, looking over his shoulder he could see the security team trying to return fire but the fight was over before it had even started, as one after the other was cut down.

The security chief took at least four or five blasts, before he even stumbled. Owens was impressed by his resilience but kept moving until both he and Matthew had cleared the lab turned death trap, both collapsing in the hallway outside, struggling for air.

“Star must have gained access to the security systems,” said Owens as he looked over his brother. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he said and he picked himself off the floor. “But I can’t see how she would have been able to do that. Only three people have access to it.”

“Let me guess; you, Frobisher and Jarik.”

He nodded. “But why would—“

“Wake up, Matt, you’ve been betrayed,” said Owens and drew his phaser. “Good thing we know exactly where both of them are. Stay here, I’ll deal with this.”

“Not a chance, I’m coming with you.”

“Matt—“

“I’m done arguing, Mike. This is my work. I won’t abandon it.”

Owens could see that there was no changing his mind on this. “Just stay back and keep your head down. At least one of your friends is not on your side anymore and I have a pretty good idea who it is.”

Matthew shook his head as he followed his brother. “It’s not Wes, I’ve worked with him for decades, he’s as invested in this as I am, he wouldn’t risk everything like this.”

“Never trusted the man,” said Owens. “Who knows what he has been offered.”

The two men reached the central chamber and silently snuck inside. All was quiet. There was no sign of either Frobisher or Jarik. Owens quickly indicate for Matthew to hold position behind a large piece of cooling machinery and out of sight as he crouched low and proceeded further into the room, using whatever he could as cover, phaser at the ready.

The chamber was even bigger than it had appeared from the adjacent lab. Shaped like an oval, the tall prototype stood at its center with at least three rings of walkways surrounding it, along with a great amount of equipment and machinery, all most likely to support Big Betty. He noticed a great many conduits which clearly had been separated in a hurry, some of them, it appeared still had high-voltage electro-plasma running through them and sparking dangerously where they had been discarded, filling the air with static energy.

Frobisher and Jarik were supposed to be in the chamber, getting their transporter ready to be evacuated, apparently, even though a transporter itself, the device did not have the ability to beam itself and not through the heavily shielded ceilings above.

Owens kept low as he continued on the outer walkway until he found a gap between two large computer stations to slip into the center ring. From there he could get a better view of the device. He spotted three small, cylindrical devices, standing about three feet tall which had been set up around the base of the prototype, their cones lit in bright blue. But whoever had set up the pattern enhancers had not finished their task.

The sound of footfalls from the other direction refocused his attention to find the hulking Angosian security officer who had apparently survived the attack of the station’s security measures, even though his uniform was singed and torn-up from the relentless phaser fire he had taken.

And then he saw Frobisher, moving quietly, sneaking up on the security officer.

Owens raised his phaser. “Lieutenant, behind you.”

The Angosian turned to see Frobisher. Both men hesitated for a moment upon seeing each other.

The phaser blast came out of seemingly nowhere but it found its target with pinpoint accuracy, striking the Angosian right above the eyes. He crumbled instantly and fell to the floor, unable to recover from a direct hit to the head.

Owens twisted around trying to find where the blast had originated from. He found no target but fired his weapon anyway in the hopes of flushing out Star.

“Stop shooting, you idiots,” Frobisher cried. “You’re going to hit the accelerator.”

What Owens hadn’t expected was to find the Trill directly behind him instead. He saw the blur of movement just in time to dodge sideways and avoid what looked like a glinting, razor-sharp blade protruding from just under her cuff.

He wasn’t fast enough however to dodge the follow up strike she delivered with her right fist. The impact was unlike anything he had ever felt, like she had bludgeoned him with a pure duranium club. He fell backwards and over a computer console, losing a couple of teeth in the process and dislocating his jar.

He managed to roll as he hit the floor and spat out blood and teeth, desperately trying to ignore the pain from his jaw which was forcing tears into his eyes.

Star wasn’t done and she leaped over the same console effortlessly “I told you people to stay out of this. But you just didn’t want to listen.”

She kicked him hard, causing him to flip over onto his stomach, causing more pain to shoot through his body.

But she had made a mistake, Owens had been able to hold on to his phaser.

He lifted it up to take aim and fired.

Star was fast. So fast in fact that she saw the blast coming and dodged it at the last moment, the beam whizzing past her and smashing into the ceiling instead.

She kicked the phaser right out of his hand.

Then she reached down, grabbed him by the neck with her right hand and pulled him up so effortlessly he may as well have weighted nothing at all.

Her grip was like a vice, threatening to crush his throat.

He still had the strength for maybe one strike and he knew he had to make it count. Remembering whom he was facing, he delivered the punch right to her midsection, slightly off center, with as much force as he could muster.

Star let go of him instantly. She didn’t make any sound but it was obvious from her bulging eyes that he had been right on target, that she had felt the vicious hit against her symbiont.

She stumbled backwards, tripped over a conduit and landed hard onto her back.

“Mike, are you alright?”

He looked towards his brother who had moved to the center of the chamber, looking concerned.

He nodded as she steadied himself against a tall memory unit. “Just … give me a minute.” He needed to find his phaser and finish off Star.

“Don’t know if we have that much time,” he said as he inspected the pattern enhancers set around the prototype. “She’s done something here and I’m not sure what. Almost looks like an automated transport to beam the prototype out of here. I can’t stop it without risking a power surge.”

“Can you … change the coordinates,” he said, every word causing his jaw to explode with hot white pain. He found his phaser and picked it up.

“Maybe,” he said and went to work.

Owens turned back to Star, still lying on the floor. She had pulled herself up onto a sitting position, leaning against a container. The conduit she had tripped over was now by her feet, it looked as if she had repositioned it somehow but it was facing away from him. It wasn’t a treat.

And still Star smiled. “That’s a bit of a dirty trick, don’t you think?”

“Like you are the one to judge.”

“No, you misunderstand,” she said. “I’m quite impressed. Seeing the high and mighty Captain Owens swinging below the belt, as it were.”

He raised his weapon. “It’s over, Star. I want to know what’s going on here. Are you working for the Nyberrites?”

“You know what your problem is?” she said. “You are a hypocrite. The worst kind. You pretend to care for the good of the galaxy, to avoid war, to keep everyone and everything in their place when the truth is obvious to everyone.”

He knew he was baiting her but he couldn’t help himself. “Yeah … what truth is that?”

“You are the most selfish man of them all. All you really care about is protecting your own brother. And you’ve failed,” she said and hit a switch her left hand had been resting on.

Owens fired his phaser but Star let herself drop to her side and he blasted the container behind her instead.

The switch, he realized with sudden panic, had activated the live conduit which erupted with ultra-high voltage electro-plasma. Star’s aim had been perfect.

“Matt!”

He turned to look at Owens but was too slow to try and get out of the way of the lance of energy being hurled his way. It struck him square in the chest, the force of the impact lifted him off the floor and threw him high into the air and backwards. He struck a number of large and bulky pieces of equipment with heavy thuds before he landed somewhere on the far side of the room.

Star now forgotten, Owens sprinted after him, leaping over conduits and equipment and following the trail of his brother’s blood. He found him collapsed and barely alive on the floor and immediately knelt next to him and turned him over onto his back.

“Matt.”

“Mike … I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “Don’t talk, just hang on.”

Owens heard another voice, screaming frantically, but it took a moment to register that it belonged to Frobisher. “Stop her! She’s taking the prototype.”
He looked up to see the other scientist animatedly indicating towards the center of the room where Star had reappeared, working on the pattern enhancers.

“Go,” said Matthew. “Stop her.”

But Owens couldn’t. “I’m not leaving you, I’m getting you help.”

Blood was beginning to pool out of his mouth and nose.

“I’m sorry about, dad,” he said quietly. “And I’m sorry I didn’t … try harder … to reconcile with him. And with you. I was … the bigger brother. I should’ve been the … bigger man.”

“No, stop it. It was my fault too. I was too stubborn, just like the old man. Please, Matt, hang on.”

But Owens could feel the life draining out of his brother’s body.

He looked up again only to see the prototype shimmer out of existence along with two bodies. He couldn’t make them out through his teary eyes.

He tapped his combadge. “Owens to … anyone who can hear me. I need medical assistance right now!”

There was no response and he already knew that it didn’t matter.

His brother was dead.



* * *




10 minutes earlier



“Whatever you do, Tai, do not let him out of your sight,” Terrence Glover told his security chief on the surface over a comlink on the bridge. “As far as I’m concern he is our enemy and the only reason he’s not in custody already is because of the rather tenuous situation up here,” he added and then glanced at his tactical display which confirmed Eagle and Intrepid currently the only other vessels orbiting Panea, clearly outnumbering him.

“He won’t make a move without me knowing it, sir.”

“Make sure he doesn’t. Cuffe out.”

Glover glanced towards his operations officer. “Detmer, what’s the ETA on our reinforcements getting here.”
The young ensign checked her board. “The Heracles and the rapid response team will arrive in approximately twenty minutes.”

Glover uttered a barely suppressed sigh. “Not much of a rapid response, is it? This will all be over in twenty minutes.”

Nobody on the bridge offered a comment.

“Sir, I’m detecting a starship signature consistent with a New Orleans-class frigate,” said the Benzite tactical officer Meldin.

Sacajawea,” said Glover. “Where is she?”

“According to sensors, the ship is holding position on the far side of the moon,” said Detmer.

“And conveniently out of reach,” said Glover and activated a comm channel to Intrepid. “Aubrey, Star’s here.”

“We’ve seen her.”

“We need to finish her for once and for all.”

The other captain didn’t respond to this.

“Did you hear me, Aubrey?”

“I heard you fine, Captain. I just don’t agree.”

“Honestly, I don’t see how you could not,” said Glover. “She is a menace and responsible for destroying one starship and murdering her crew already. If she gets the chance she’s likely to kill hundreds more on the surface. I’m not going to let that happen.”

“And I’m not saying that she doesn’t need to be stopped, it’s why we’re here,” said Aubrey. “But I have no plans of destroying her. And I won’t let you do it either. I want Star to answer for what she has done. Am I clear?”
Glover smirked. “For now. But things will change quite a bit in about twenty minutes or so.”

“Something tells me she’ll make her move before that.”

“Yes,” said Glover. “So we need to make ours before she can. But this could be just another of her diversions. Can you use your sensor array to at least tell us if she’s the real thing?”

“Not at this distance and we’d need Gibraltar for that. She’s still engages with the holographic fleet.”

“Figures. The one time we need Sandhurst and he’s nowhere to be found. In that case I suggest you and Eagle move to intercept her. If you close in from two sides you stand a better chance of cutting her off before she can run.”

“And leave you here alone? Not crazy about that plan, Captain.”

Glover leaned back in his chair, that smile still on his face, even if the other captain was not able to see it. “I would go myself, but if I do, I can make not guarantees as to what happens to her and her ship once I catch up with her.”

Aubrey’s hesitation told Glover that he had won the argument before he had even started to speak again. “You stay on point. And I expect you to stick to our agreement.”

“Scout’s honor,” said Glover, still smiling. “I won’t go after Owens. But I can’t guarantee his safety once the rest of my people get here.”

“We’ll have Star in custody before that. Intrepid out.”

Glover watched the tactical display, seeing the other two starships moving out, and just as he had suggested, they had split up to circumnavigate around Panea from opposite sides in order to get to Sacajawea.

“Red alert, raise shields.”

Mendin didn’t hesitate to follow the order but still found himself baffled by the move. “Sir?”
“Star is up to something and I want to be ready.”

“Donar to Cuffe.”

“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“There’s been an explosion at one of the cargo holds down here.”

“Star’s doing no doubt,” said Glover.

“Yes, sir. It’s a classical diversion maneuver, sir. I think we should stay put and continue to protect the prototype.”

“Agreed. But I don’t want to play in her hand if that’s her plan. Send a small team to investigate, I’ll send reinforcements. It looks like whatever she is up to, she’s planning to infiltrate the complex instead of taking it out from orbit.”

“Understood, sir. I will—watch out—“

The sound of phaser fire and screams interrupted the security officer.

Glover jumped onto his feet. “Lieutenant, what’s going on?”

But the channel had gone dead.

He walked over to the ops station with just a few large strides. “Detmer, get him back right now.”
But the ensign shook her head. “I can’t, he’s no longer responding.”

“What the hell is going on down there?” said Glover as he glanced up at the screen which currently told him nothing other than to show the deceptively peaceful looking moon below. He turned back to Detmer. “I want the second security team down there on—“

“Captain, ship detected directly aft,” Mendes nearly shouted.

“What? Full evasive. Break orbit. Do it, do it now.”

Cuffe lurched forward suddenly with such speed, Glover nearly lost his footing.

“Incoming!”

He also felt the hits against the shields. Phaser fire, he knew straight way. Multiple hits. On the screen the image shifted to an aft view to show the attacker. He wasn’t totally surprised to find it was Sacajawea. “Return fire.”

But for now Cuffe was on the back foot and the Guardian ship, despite its smaller size, packed a serious punch, clearly having been upgraded significantly.

“Shields down to seventy percent,” Meldin reported. “She is evading our fire.”

“Hardcastle,” Glover barked at his helmsman. “Full impulse, put some distance between us,” then he whipped towards his tactical officer. “As soon as we are at minimum safety distance, I want a full spread of torps on the target.”

“Sir,” Detmer said, looking up at the captain. “According to the Aldeberan Accords—“

“Stuff the Accords,” Glover shot back. “We are blowing her out of the stars.”

But things were moving too slowly for Glover as he looked at the screen to watch the space between them grow larger at a far too sluggish pace. “Distance?”

“Thirty-three kilometers, sir,” said Hardcastle.

“Good enough.”

“Minimum safety distance is forty kilometers, sir,” said Detmer but a pointed look by Glover caused her to quickly focus on her instruments again.

“Fire.”

The photon torpedoes raced towards their target, six of them, four finding their mark and flaring brightly against Sacajawea’s shields on impact and causing a minor shockwave which could be felt all the way on Cuffe’s bridge.

Glover kept his feet and refused to return to his chair. “Again.”
Of the next set, only three hit, slowing the other ship but not before she was able to move well inside the range which would have made another barrage of torpedoes a suicide maneuver for Cuffe.

“Keep up firing all phasers. Engage attack pattern Glover-Four.”

The ship shook hard from incoming phaser fire.

“Shields down to sixty percent. Sacajawea is at fifty-three,” reported the Benzite tactical officer.

Glover nodded. “Don’t let up.”

But he quickly realized that they didn’t have a choice. Sacajawea shimmered out of existence right in front of his eyes. “Damn it, don’t tell me she’s another hologram.”

Detmer shook her head. “Negative, I’ve scanned for photonic energy signatures. This is more consistent with a cloaking device.”

“A cloaking device, huh? Tell me ensign what do the Aldebaran Accords have to say about that one?”

“They are illegal, sir.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. She’s just full of surprises, isn’t she? Quite frankly I’m getting sick of it,” said Glover as his eyes pierced the view screen as if he could reveal the hidden ship by force of will alone.

“Sir, we have multiple vessels approaching,” said Mendes.

“Schwarzkopf ahead of schedule?”

“No, sir, it’s Agamemnon, Gibraltar and Bluefin.”

“Guess they must have dealt with Star’s other parlor trick.”

“I’m also reading Intrepid and Eagle returning at high speed.”

Glover nodded and then walked back to his chair, quickly opening a channel. “Looks like the gang is all back together,” he said, unable to hide the sarcasm in his tone. “Listen up, Star is in a cloaked vessel, damaged but still skulking around. She can probably hear this too so I’m keeping this brief. Donald, I know you have a fancy sensor array on board. Use it and give us a target. Any second we delay is another second she will be able to fulfill her mission.”

Surprisingly he didn’t have to wait long at all, nor did he get any kind of backtalk from Gibraltar’s captain this time around. Instead, for just a brief moment, the space around Cuffe lit up brightly and the tactical viewer revealed a number of objects which hadn’t been there before. One of them looked very much like the frigate they had just fought against.

And his was the closest ship.

“Mendes, target that location and fire a full spread of torpedoes.”

“Torpedoes away.”

Five projectiles impacted against what at first looked like nothing but empty space. But only for a second. Then Sacajawea reappeared, multiple explosions erupting from her hull.

“Direct hit, she’s suffered structural damage.”

Glover spotted the bright blue light erupting from the other ship before any of his officers could report it, and instantly knew what it was. “Maximum evasive!”

He had spent enough time in combat to know it wasn’t going to be fast enough to avoid the incoming quantum torpedo.

It slammed into Cuffe’s ventral saucer section even as she tried to spin out of its path. The impact threw him out of his chair and caused a number of stations on the bridge to blow out from a powerful energy feedback.

Glover pulled himself back onto his feet, ignoring the putrid smell of burned plastics and the acrid smoke stinging his eyes. He ignored Hardcastle lying on the floor near his station with what looked like a fatal head wound and instead moved towards the tactical station. He didn’t see the Benzite but he didn’t look for him either. He leaped over the railing separating him from the tactical console and then quickly took control.

The displays were showing a sea of red, indicating numerous systems failing or already destroyed. The targeting system was one of them. He didn’t need it.

Sacajawea was in bad shape herself and not moving. No challenge at all to target manually.

He armed the most powerful weapon in Cuffe’s arsenal.

“Glover, this is Aubrey. Do not destroy the Sacajawea.”

“Good luck trying to stop me,” he said. Intrepid was still out of range as were all the other ships.

“Burn in hell, Tazla Star.”

Glover activated the commit panel and released the tri-cobalt device.

Traveling much slower than a torpedo, it seemed to take forever for the warhead to cross the space between the two ships.

Once it had, it ripped Sacajawea to shreds with an explosion so bright Glover was forced to shield his eyes.
10/10 The End is Only the Beginning. by CeJay
10/10 – “The End is Only the Beginning.”



“This is a complete and utter disaster, a total mission failure and an entirely unacceptable outcome due to either gross inaptitude or blatant indifference to follow orders. I would class this, in fact, as nothing less than dereliction of duty at worst and flagrant incompetence at best.”

The meeting room was quiet following Deputy Director Altee’s outburst. The Deltan’s bald head had turned a noticeable shade of red as he paced behind the sitting Admiral Krystine Leone, and intermittently throwing dark scowls towards the only other two persons in attendance.

But neither Donald Sandhurst nor Jason Aubrey showed any outward signs of being even the slightest bit impressed by the tirade.

Altee finally stopped moving to direct his full attention towards the two starship captains. “We could not have stressed the significance of this mission any clearer. The enormous implications not just for us but for the galaxy as a whole. You were in this very room when this was discussed and yet you clearly decided to willfully ignore all of this. I cannot even begin to comprehend the damage that has been done by your actions.”

“Our actions?” Aubrey said and then shot a disbelieving look at Sandhurst, as if to check if by chance he had misheard. “May I remind you that this thing started to go sideways the moment Tazla Star, the person you entrusted with leading this mission, decided to go off the reservation by blowing up a Guardian ship.”

Altee shook his head. “My understanding is that her actions were justified in order to prevent the Orion from alerting the Guardians of our mission.”

“Yeah, that worked real well, didn’t it?” said Sandhurst.

“It would have if Captain Owens hadn’t decided to take matters in his own hands and infiltrate the target by himself,” Altee continued, no less enraged, before he shot daggers at Leone. “And where is Owens anyway? Why is he not here? I expect significant disciplinary actions to be brought against that man.”

“Captain Owens is burying his brother,” Leone said calmly and then looked at the Deltan. “I will deal with any disciplinary issues once he returns to active duty.”

“As far as I’m concerned, he has no business ever returning to duty.”

“With all due respect, Director, that is not up to you. You have no authority over my officers and I will discipline them according to regulations and how I see fit.”

“I will lodge a formal complaint with Starfleet Command over this.”

Leone nodded. “That is your prerogative.”

They continued to stare at each other for a moment but no further words were exchanged on the subject.

“This doesn’t address Tazla Star’s actions,” said Aubrey. “I don’t care if what she did was for the good of the mission. The Aldeberan Accords are there for a reason and Star blatantly defied them, killing dozens of lives in the process.”

But Altee just waved him off. “So what? Even if I were to agree with you, Sacajawea is gone and so is Star. What do you expect? A posthumous censure?”

“No, but we know that Star was working for somebody else, most likely the Nyberrites. Don’t you think that should be your focus now?” Aubrey said.

“Nothing you have presented me here today is evidence that Tazla Star was a traitor.”

“Yes,” Sandhurst mumbled under his breath. “Funny how all possible evidence was conveniently destroyed with her ship.”

Aubrey was not yet willing to let this go. “You’ve been talking a lot about our failures, Director, but what about yours?” Aubrey continued, ignoring the man’s indignation at those words. “The fact that this was never about a so-called Alpha Weapon in the first place.”

He just shook his head. “And who precisely told you this wasn’t a weapon? The very same people developing it. Of course they wouldn’t admit to this. Of course they wouldn’t just tell you that they were building a weapon that could destabilized the entire quadrant.”

“Not that any of this matters now, right?” said Sandhurst. “Considering that the prototype and two-thirds of the developing team are gone. Which I thought was the entire point of this mission. Quite frankly that makes me wonder if your outrage might not be so much related to the loss of the prototype but by the fact that you didn’t get your hands on it first.”

“You are out of line, Captain. Way out of line. And I suggest you remember your place, seeing that after the political mess you have created by your actions, your career, all your careers are on the thinnest of ice,” he said. He let those words linger for a moment and then shot Leone one last look. “This is not going to be the end of this, Admiral.” He left he room without another word.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a more pompous ass in all my life. No way he’s a real Deltan,” said Aubrey, staring at the doors which had closed in Altee’s wake. “My money is that he just shaves his head and uses a very powerful cologne.”

Leone glared at Aubrey, obviously not in the mood for jokes. “He is right about one thing. Politically this is a nightmare and the diplomats haven’t stopped shouting at each other since the news first broke. We may have avoided a greater conflict with the Nyberrites, but it hasn’t helped our current conflict at all. If anything it has made matters worse.”

“The Nyberrites may already know much more than we thought they did. If Star truly did work for them from the beginning, I think it would be fair to assume that they knew much more than even we did about what the Guardians were up to. Which means they are probably laughing right now, while they sit back and watch as we continue to fight amongst ourselves,” said Sandhurst.

Aubrey nodded. “Waiting to swoop in and pick up the pieces.”

Sandhurst looked at Leone. “What about Owens? What about us for that matter? Director Altee sounded like a man on a mission. And if he has his way, we’ll all be filling out job applications before the day is out.”

Leone stood from her chair. “Let me worry about Altee. I’m fairly certain his bark is far worse than his bite. Besides Starfleet cannot afford losing anyone, and certainly not three of our most experienced starship captains. There will be reprimands of course, but I cannot see it go any further than that.”

With Leone clearly having signaled the end of this meeting, the other two captains stood as well.

“All things considered, this could have ended a lot worse for everyone,” said Aubrey. “Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky that this is as bad as it got.”

“Something tells me we’re still not seeing the full picture here,” said Sandhurst. “There is another shoe that hasn’t quite dropped yet.”

Aubrey smirked. “That’s what I love about you, Donald. The eternal optimist.”



* * *



Two Weeks Later


Arkaria IX was a mostly unremarkable, class L planet with no native population, sentient or otherwise, generally inhospitable weather patterns and partially covered by toxic oceans and vegetation. The system formed part of the outer rim of Federation space in the Beta Quadrant, and its only significant contribution to interstellar traffic was the Remmler Array orbiting Arkaria Prime which was designed to deliver cleansing bayron sweeps for starships returning from the nearby Amargosa Diaspora, a sector of space so dense with stars, the resulting interstellar radiation could lead to a significant build up of dangerous bayron particles on starship’s hulls.

And while Arkaria Prime hosted a large, advanced native population, the ninth planet of the system was officially uninhabited. According to the highly superstitious Arkarians, this small and prosaic world was the home of evil spirits who rested there before continuing onto their final journey into the depth of the Diaspora where they would burn up under the bright and hot light of its various powerful suns.

Tazla Star did not consider herself to be such a spirit but was under no illusions that many people she had met during her current lifetime would not have hesitated to call her one.

She cared little about what other people thought of her but she couldn’t help and wonder if there wasn’t a kernel of truth to the Arkanians archaic believes, considering the expansive and well hidden tunnel network she was traversing underneath the planet’s surface with its intricately designed rooms and corridors, all of which predated the modern Arkanian society by a few millennia and leading her to strongly suspect that some alien race had indeed once dwelt on this world, or at least made this world an outpost.

She entered a particularly large hall, the ceiling reaching up nearly ten meters and the sparse lighting which failed to illuminate the entire breadth, length or height of the room giving it a particularly ominous vibe.

“I take it you did not come empty handed,” said a voice from the shadows.

She looked around but wasn’t able to see the person who had spoken. The voice seemed to bounce off the high walls from every which way. She raised a compact padd she had brought and quickly entered a code.

Not a moment later the prototype she had been sent to retrieve shimmered into existence just a few meters from her.

“A shame about your ship.”

“Yes, quite. I’d grown fond of her. Good crew. .”

“The Orion? Was that necessary?”

She shrugged. “In hindsight, I guess not. But at the time it seemed like the right decision. Had it not been for Owens and the rest of them, this could have all gone so much smoother.”

“You adapted and handled it.”

“It’s what I do.”

“Where’s Mister Jarik?”

“He’s here. He proved pretty useful. His intelligence on the facility was flawless. Sharing it with the others in your task force however was not a good idea. Owens could have ruined everything.”

The voice didn’t respond straight away. “His inclusion was not my idea. He was forced on me by Leone. The man knows how to play his connections, even after his father died.”

Star looked at the prototype beside her. “So, mind clueing me in on why we need a long-range transporter? Are you planning on beaming an army onto the Nyberrite homeworld?

Altee stepped out of the shadows, smiling broadly. “Your imagination, my dear Taz, still suffers from an acute lack of scale. You continue to think in three or four dimensions when you really should be thinking beyond those constrictions.”

She looked puzzled by this. “Wait, you are saying there is a fifth dimension?”

“Of course there is,” said Altee. “And whoever controls access to it, controls everything. While the Guardians and Preservers keep squabbling over scraps, we will be in a position to shape the future of the entire galaxy.”

Star looked back at the unassuming device. “With this thing?”

“It will function as our gateway. This marvel will allow us to open doors we never even knew existed. It will turn the dark ages we have lived through ever since the Borg into nothing more than a distant memory.

They don’t believe this to be a weapon when in fact it just might be the greatest weapon ever invented. With it we will not just restore the Federation to its former glory, we will surpass it in ways nobody has ever even imagined. Today marks the first step in building an empire for the ages, Taz, one in which all the people in this galaxy will bow to us.”

“To us or to you?”

Altee’s only response was a beaming smile.



The story continues in
The Star Eagle Adventures:
Quantum Divergence
This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=2390