Star Trek: New Horizons Season 4, Episode 8 (Operation Cataclysm) by captaintigranian
Summary: The Pershing is back in orbit of Earth as her sister ships begin patrolling Cardassia and the Romulan Neutral Zone. Though some of the crew are eager for a little break, the enemies of the Federation unleash a terrible new weapon.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10170 Read: 1542 Published: 27 Aug 2017 Updated: 27 Aug 2017

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Federation National Symphony Hall: London, Earth

Stardate: 53390.2

"This is bullshit," Scharr whispered to Annabeth and Alex in the second row of the concert hall's mezzanine. The one thousand seat auditorium was packed with diplomats, socialites, Starfleet officers, and Klingon expatriates.

"It's almost over, Tren," Annabeth replied, careful to keep her response below a whisper. Alex rolled her eyes from the seat at Annabeth's right. Somehow, the doctor had concealed a PADD inside and was on her twentieth game of Klondike.

Annabeth looked forward to the first row of the mezzanine. Tigranian was sitting on the edge of his seat, watching the performance next to the assembled Starfleet Admiralty. Laria was to his left, but Admiral Paris was to his right. Every few minutes, Paris would ask the Captain a question about the performance which Tigranian would eagerly explain. The officers were in dress uniforms and extremely uncomfortable in the warm air of the darkened hall, everyone except Daniel Tigranian,, who was savoring every minute.

"I'm not Klingon, and this isn't even my planet!" Scharr said slightly louder.

"If Terrans couldn't get out of this, Sir," Katie said leaning in from his other side, "You don't get out of this."

The Men's Choir of the Klingon Defense Force was conducting a good will tour of the Federation for good will and cultural exchange. The stop on Earth was by far the choir's largest performance, and the Federation National Symphony Orchestra was providing the musical accompaniment to fifty Klingons in black leather armor standing rigidly at attention and belting out a two hour long program of Klingon Opera, folk songs, and some of the more benign drinking songs. Behind the orchestra and the tiered choir stands, a huge holoscreen hung from the rafters and projected panoramic images of Qo'nos and other scenic vistas from across the Empire.

The Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, The Federation Secretary of State, and the Starfleet Chief of Staff were all guests of honor. Admiral Paris, knowing that the crew of the Pershing would be back on Earth had extended an invitation to them all. Tigranian had eagerly accepted on his crew's behalf.

To anyone with a fascination with Klingon culture, it was a remarkable experience, but to most of the Federation audience, the Pershing's senior staff especially, it was like listening to a dying cat stuck in an old fashioned washing machine.

The final strains of an old Klingon ballad about love lost to battle came to an end and the audience executed a polite applause. The Betazoid conductor of the Federation Symphony brought the instruments to a silent pause with a wave of his hands, and graciously motioned for the Klingon Choir Director to speak at his microphone.

The ancient Klingon warrior wore a huge sash emblazoned with strange medals stepped over and bowed to the audience. He spoke no Federation Basic, but a translator hidden in the wings conveyed his words to the crowd over the hall's loudspeakers. The guests quieted down.

"We have been honored to perform for you this evening. Music and song play key roles in Klingon culture and history, and by listening to our performance, you each have a deeper understanding of who your closest allies really are. In return, we now have a greater appreciation for your country and its people. For that, we are grateful."

Another burst of applause sounded out.

"We only have one more song to sing tonight…"

A single person cheered wildly from the mezzanine. Admiral Paris and Tigranian turned around and shot dagger eyes at Tren Scharr. The Andorian merely looked back at them and shrugged.

"I thought that was good news," Scharr said leaning back in his chair. Annabeth rubbed her eyes while Katie and Phil laughed.

The Klingon choir director ignored the outburst and continued to speak through his translator.

"We are all proud, active duty members of the Klingon Military, which means we are warriors first, and musicians second. So, we end every performance with "The Song of the Klingon Defense Forces."

So, as we close this evening, we invite any veterans of the KDF that might be in the audience this evening to rise and join us in the singing of their song."

There was a final burst of applause. Several audience members climbed to their feet: the Klingon Ambassador, a few older Klingon diplomats and dignitaries scattered through the auditorium, and Daniel Tigranian. The captain of the Pershing rose to attention and threw his shoulders back.

Admiral Paris chuckled and the looked down the row of Admirals who all shook their heads and grinned. All of them were willing to let the captain have a little fun. After all, he had just come back from Cardassia.

Tigranian looked down and saw that Laria was still seated. He pointed to the "Order of the Bat'leth" on her white jacket and beckoned for her to stand.

"I don't know the words," she said embarrassed.

"It doesn't matter," he said smiling. "It is OUR song."

She blushed and stood next to him.

"Go get 'em, L!" Katie said with a chuckle. Tigranian glanced over his shoulder and scowled.

The Betazoid conductor received a nod from the Klingon and raised his hands. The orchestra snapped their instruments to the ready. The Admirals tuned their individual universal translators to Tigranian. They were eager to see if the human sung in Klingon as well as he spoke it.

The horns of the orchestra came to a laugh in a bombastic fanfare. The timpani drums at the rear of the stage roared to life, and a percussionist with a snare drum began a military beat as the strings began to crescendo. Then, the Klingon choir joined in. Tigranian matched them word for word, belting out the lyrics loud enough to echo off the ceiling. The pride in his voice was immediately apparent as the non-Klingon's UTs made his alien words intelligible:

Enemies lurk in shadows abound and threaten the Empire again.

But the Children of Kahless, brave and true, will keep our nation safe.

Let those who oppose us know, that the Klingon Army cannot be defeated.

So, raise your bat'leth high with an armored fist. Let them hear your song!

For, from Morska's sands to Kavrot's Expanse,

The Klingon Army is the Strongest!

The images on the holoscreen behind the choir changed from pastoral landscapes to violent scenes of military training. Paris' eyes immediately grew wide as dinner plates as he looked up at one of his officers shouting along to the carnage with a huge smile on his face.

Under wing of warship or with march of boots, our righteous fury will be known.

We thrust our weapons forward with mighty blows. Our disruptors roar!

Let those who oppose us know, that the Klingon Army cannot be defeated.

So, raise your bat'leth high with an armored fist. Let them hear your song!

For, from Morska's sands to Kavrot's Expanse,

The Klingon Army is the Strongest!

On the holoscreen, three Klingon battlecruisers blew a space vessel apart with a spread of torpedoes. They sailed passed the flaming debris towards their target. A wing of birds of prey flew past at full impulse and into the atmosphere of a Class M planet. Their wing-tip disruptors blasted at a series of buildings on the surface that bore more than a passing resemblance to a Federation border colony.

Several audience members gasped in horror as the blue sky of the planet darkened with a brigade of Klingon landing ships. As soon as their skids hit the ground, wave after wave of Klingon commandoes jumped out. Their leader urged them forward in dramatic slow motion as he fired his disruptor rifle at the unseen victims of the assault.

Quite simply, it was 23rd Century Earth's worst nightmare, and there were a few blue bloods in the audience old enough to remember those days. Tigranian continued to sing as the other Starfleet officers stared at him, dumbstruck.

They mass at our doorstep, waiting to be conquered. Their downfall brings us glory.

Too late, they will learn, that to fight the Klingon Empire is a death sentence.

Let those who oppose us know, that the Klingon Army cannot be defeated.

A wave of Klingon tanks drove forward through a massive series of explosions. Their disruptor cannons blasted everything in front of them to bits, and their tracks turned the of buildings beneath them to rubble.

A Klingon shock trooper, his face painted with grey tiger striped camouflage, looked into the camera. In one hand, he held a bloody bat'leth, in the other he held a waving Klingon flag that he triumphantly thrust into the smoking ruins beneath him.

An older woman on the ground level placed a handkerchief over her face and dashed for an exit. The Klingon veterans scattered through the audience ignored her and sang even louder as the song reached a triumphant climax. A pair of Federation musicians had produced a pair of electric guitars and repeated the strains of the chorus, this time with a rock beat.

So, raise your bat'leth high with an armored fist. Let them hear your song!

For, from Morska's sands to Kavrot's Expanse,

The Klingon Army is the Strongest!

The holoscreen panned out from the battlefield, revealing that the entire display had been an image in the eye of a young, Klingon child holding a toy bat'leth. The lad clutched his small fist over his heart as he longingly looked on a column of Klingon Soldiers marching past him in lockstep formation. As each heavily armed warrior passed the boy, they returned the salute with their own fist over their heart.

The choir, veterans, and Tigranian sang the final strains of the chorus as the music ceased:

So, raise your bat'leth high with an armored fist. Let them hear your song!

For, from Morska's sands to Kavrot's Expanse,

The Klingon Army is the Strongest!

The song ended and a message written in both Federation Basic and tlhIngan Hol appeared on the screen:


For our children, for our Empire, we fight and we conquer.

The performance ended and the few veterans in the audience cheered. Tigranian raised his arms triumphantly and howled at the stage. The rest of the audience was completely silent.

The Klingon choir director bowed his head and spoke into the microphone.

"This concludes our program. Good evening and Qapla'."

"Qapla'!" Tigranian shouted back still clapping and cheering.

The hall began to rapidly empty as people rushed to their taxis and waiting holocars, eager to escape.

"That was incredible!" Tigranian said turning to his crew. "Such a powerful performance."

"That's…certainly a word for it, Sir," Annabeth said looking down the line at their staff. Alex looked over to Laria who silently shook her head, desperate to show that she had no idea that was about to happen.

Admiral Paris looked down at his colleagues, still too stunned to react. Once Tigranian's back was safely to him, Paris motioned to his aide seated a few chairs away.

"Yes Sir?" the lieutenant commander said pulling out a PADD.

"Take a note," Paris whispered. "Remind me to ask to Admiral Yoshizaki tomorrow about the next time Captain Tigranian's security clearance is up for review…"
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Arawath System (Along the Border of the Cardassian State): Republic of Cardassia

"Captain's Log, Stardate: 53390.5. We have successfully relieved the USS Pershing guarding the border of the Republic of Cardassia," Shu Yin Quan proudly said to the Nelson's computer. "The crew has performed superbly since our departure from the Caleb System. I am honored to say that in the few short months we have worked together, our cooperation and efficiency mimics that of a group that has served together for years.

Our mission of patrolling the sensor detection grids for any signs of Cardassian State activity continues. I am pleased to report that our experience so far has been quiet and without incident…"

"Captain," Lieutenant Erawath said from his tactical station behind Quan. "I'm receiving a distress call."

"Source?" Quan asked.

"It's on the Starfleet band, M'am," Erawath replied. "It's the USS Cumberland."

"On Speakers," Commander Deshawn, her first officer, answered.

"To any Starfleet, Klingon, or Republic of Cardassia vessels, this is the Federation starship Cumberland. We are currently under attack by twelve vessels of the Cardassian State. Four of them are projecting some kind of dampening field. All main power has been lost. Auxiliary systems are failing. We require immediate assistance!"

"What's their position, Mr. Darby?" Quan said to her science officer.

"015 Mark 540. Distance, half a light year."

"The Cumberland is a Norway Class cruiser," Commander Deshawn added. "She's barely been out of spacedock two years. If she's really lost that much power, something big is going on."

"Ms. Byrtran," Quan said turning to her helmsman. "Lay in a course, Maximum Warp. Engage when ready."

"Aye, Ma'am. 7 minutes till intercept."

The Nelson gunned her warp engines and was soon within visual range of the Cumberland.

"On screen," Captain Quan commanded. The image of the besieged starship came into focus.

"My God!" Quan said rising to her feet. The Cumberland was being pummeled by eight Keldon class cruisers. Their disruptor cannons had already punched through the outer hull and the ship was venting atmosphere through the holes. Evidently, there wasn't enough power left to activate the emergency force fields to seal them. Four smaller ships, Nerok class scout vessels, were projecting a strange blue shimmer from domes mounted on their ventral spines. "Shields up! Arm all weapons! Take us in!"

The Red Alert klaxon sounded.

"Erawath, lock all phasers on the nearest Keldon class cruiser. Prepare to engage," Deshawn said.

"Aye, Sir. Weapons range in 30 seconds."

However, it wasn't soon enough for the Cumberland. Her hull finally gave way and she exploded in a flash of orange and white light.

"Those bastards!" Darby shouted. "Looks like the next war just started!"

"Calm yourself, Mr. Darby," Quan said taking her seat. It didn't matter that Nelson outgunned her opponents three to one. She knew she we need her crew focused.

"Four more Federation starships have answered the Cumberland's message. They'll be here in less than five minutes," Erawath added. "If there's anything of the Cardassians left by then…"

"Don't get overconfident, Son," Deshawn commanded. "Just shoot straight."

"Aye Sir, Weapons range in five, four…"

The entire ship lurched. Alarms sounded across every deck. The main bridge lighting flickered and died. Red Emergency beacons illuminated everything in a satanic glow.

"Report! Did something hit us?" Quan shouted over the chaos.

"Negative! There's nothing else out there!" Darby answered.

"Impulse just completely died! I've got no control over the ship," Byrtran screamed.

"Shields dropping, phasers and quantum torpedoes offline!" Erawath said as panic rose in his voice.

"Bridge, Main Engineering!" the voice of Lieutenant Commander Soros shouted through the intercom. "Warp core just shut down! Main power is offline and I don't know how much longer auxiliary will last. We'll be down to our batteries in a few minutes."

"What the hell happened?" Deshawn screamed. "The ship is dying!"

Quan's face froze in terror as she finally recognized where she had seen the eerie blue glow coming from the Nerok class ships. She had been part of the reserve at the Second Battle of Chin'Toka on the USS Blackhawk when she had last seen it.

"That glow! It's the same as the Breen Energy Weapon!" she yelled.

"That's impossible, Ma'am," Deshawn said. "All our starships have countermeasures."

"Well, they've somehow upgraded it. Made it a static dampening field," she screamed back at him. "Bytrtan, get us out of here! Mr. Erawath warn those other starships off before it's too late!"

"Ma'am, I've got nothing, we're dead in space," Byrtran said shaking her head.

"All subspace channels are offline Ma'am. We have no comms."

They watched as the Keldon class cruisers closed on them and opened fire. Conduits exploded and sparks flew across the bridge. The only thing keeping the Nelson together was her ablative armor and hope.

"Armor integrity down to sixty percent and falling!" Erawath said.

"Bridge, this is sickbay! We've got wounded coming in," Doctor Jala said on the intercom.

"Ma'am, we don't have a choice," Deshawn said. "We've got to abandon ship!"

"LIKE HELL WE'RE ABANDONING THIS SHIP!" she roared as another conduit exploded behind her. "The Federation expects us to do our duty and that's exactly what we're going to do!"

The rest of the bridge crew exchanged worried glances, but their captain's resolve returned at least a bit of their confidence.

She slammed the intercom control on her chair.

"Mr. Soros, can you still hear me?"

"Yes, Ma'am, but barely. Auxiliary power is down to twenty percent. It'll be gone in less than three minutes."

"Then you better listen carefully, because I have an idea…."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Spacedock: Earth Orbit

Stardate: 53390.6

"No," Tigranian said forcefully for his ready room desk chair.

"Please, Daniel!" Laria said holding up a tri-fold tourist brochure. Its cover was a picture of a famous Constitution Class-Refit permanently moored in a slipway above the Earth. The caption read:

"The Big E: USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A

Museum and Memorial:

A Branch of the National Starfleet Museum

Boldly Explore the Federation's Most Famous Starship!"

"Their temporary exhibit on the early stages of warp drive only lasts till the end of week," Laria continued to plead. "They have the hat Zefram Cochrane was wearing on the Phoenix on loan from the Smithsonian!"

Tigranian remained unenthusiastic

"And their original Class-F Shuttlecraft just came out of restoration and is back on display for the first time in two years!" Laria added.

Tigranian still shook his head. That's when Laria decided to play her trump card.

"And James T. Kirk's quarters are preserved exactly as they were on the ship's final mission to the Klingon Empire…"

"I know," Tigranian said. "But Annabeth is the real Kirk fanatic. You'd have better luck trying to convince her."

"They have General Chang's bat'leth that Chancellor Azetbur presented Kirk as a trophy for saving the Khitomer Peace Conference," she said pointing to a picture in the middle of the brochure and nodding her head up and down. "Didn't Torlek's grandfather study under him at the Klingon Academy?"

Tigranian scoffed.

"Torlek's grandfather was Chang's student before he decided to betray the Empire and assassinate Chancellor Gorkon. We don't really talk about him a lot now. Besides, I've seen it, L. So has every other fourth grader on Earth."

"C'mon, Daniel!" she said stomping her feet with a pout. "I didn't grow up on Earth! I know this stuff is old hat to you and the others, but I was raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere! I would have killed to be able to visit these places growing up. Besides, you dragged us all kicking and screaming to that Klingon performance the other night."

"I thought you liked Klingon music," he said slightly wounded.

"Not as much as you think I do, Daniel…" she said trailing off.

"Laria," Tigranian said placing the PADD he was studying onto his desk. "It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you love this stuff more than the rest of us combined."

"Then tell me why we can't go?" she replied. "It's in orbit less than 10,000 kilometers from here."

"Because we're not on leave, L!" he said matter-of-factly. "Just because we're back at Earth, doesn't mean we can all kick up our heels and relax. We're on standby to respond to contingencies anywhere in the Quadrant.

In the meantime, we have a full maintenance schedule, diagnostics to run, and a series of readiness exercises Starfleet Command wants us to run through."

"So, you're telling me we can't get away for four hours?"

"This is our first rotation back to Earth under this new system. To make sure Starfleet Command doesn't breathe down our necks, we've got to do this one by the book.

But I promise, our next time back, we'll sneak away and visit the Enterprise. It should be around your birthday by then anyways."

"That's four months away!" Laria said petulantly collapsing onto his couch.

"I'm sorry, L, that's the best I can do."

"Sometimes, I wish you were just my husband and not my captain."

"And sometimes, I wish you were just my wife and not my subordinate. That way, I could just say 'Yes Dear' and save myself the hassle," he said with a smirk.

"Are you sure, Daniel?" Laria said getting up from the couch and slinking over to his desk. "I can make it worth your while…" she said biting her lower lip and reaching up to the zipper on her jacket. His eyes grew wide.

"Is this a down payment for the visit or merely a preview of coming events?" he asked glancing over at his ready room door to make sure it was secure.

"Whatever gets you to relax and live a little…" she said leaning forward and kissing him.

"Stone to Captain Tigranian…" Katie's sudden voice caused them both to jump apart.

"This is Tigranian, go ahead, Katie," Tigranian cleared his throat and replied into his intercom.

"Priority One Message from Admiral Murphy," she said. "I don't think it's a drill, Sir."

The captain and Laria exchanged worried glances.

"Thank you, Katie. Route it to my ready room."

Laria stepped back to the couch as Tigranian activated his desktop monitor. Soon, Pete Murphy's worried face appeared in front of him.

"Pete, what's up?"

"Dan, need you and your senior staff to beam down to "G and G" immediately for a mission briefing. There's been a serious incident in Cardassia. We're still gathering the details, but it looks like this might be it."

Laria placed her hands over her face.

"We're on our way, Pete. See you at in thirty minutes."

"Understood, Murphy out."

The screen cut to an image of the Federation seal.

Tigranian sighed.

"I'm afraid the fun and games are gonna have to wait, L," he said.

"I know," she said with a nod. She shoved her tourist brochure into her jacket pocket as her dreams of fun faded back to hard reality.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The old Situation Room in Starfleet Command was located on the ground floor. The designers intentionally included a series of picturesque, panoramic windows that looked out over San Francisco Bay towards the Golden Gate Bridge. Starfleet leadership at the time had felt that Earth, as the center of the Federation, would never be under serious threat again. Therefore, the pastoral views would have a calming effect on the men and women furiously working on the computer monitors and holoscreens displaying chaos and pandemonium in some far flung corner of the galaxy.

All of that came to an end in 2286 when an alien probe searching for an extinct species. A massive storm generated by the probe obliterated the famous windows and nearly destroyed the entire room. The probe's signal would have gone on to decimate the entire planet, save for a last minute deus ex machina provided by two time-traveling whales.

The Admiralty, no longer secure in the knowledge that Earth was untouchable, built a new command center located beneath the building's foundations and shielded from attack by 100 meters of California metamorphic rock. It was officially called, "The Starfleet Command Central Crisis Planning Center" or "SCCCPC" on building maps.

Desperate for a less tongue tying designation, the personnel who used it regularly nicknamed it "The George and Gracie Memorial Theatre" or "G and G" for short. No doubt, with a healthy sense of historical irony and gallows humor.

Both Borg incursions to Sector 001 had been met in this fifty meter diameter circular space filled with dynamic holoscreens, independent LCARS computer networking, redundant fusion power cells, ray shielded permacrete reinforced walls, and a life support system that could continue to function even if the atmosphere on the surface was toxic and unbreathable.

The new room had truly proven its value near the end of the Dominion War when a surprise Breen raid on Earth announced that species' entrance into the conflict. Through San Francisco received heavy damage, G and G had continued to function without interruption, planning and executing a military response that had prevented the casualties from being much, much worse.

Tigranian and the rest of his staff walked in through the fortified duranium blast doors. Each of them had a plastic "VISITOR" badge hanging from their black Starfleet uniform. Admiral Paris and Admiral Murphy were leaning over a table and studying a series of star charts while Admiral Yoshizaki briefed them.

"Dan!" Murphy said seeing the Pershing's crew walk in.

"We're here Gentlemen. What do you need?" Tigranian asked with a firm resolve in his voice. Annabeth stood next to him as they approached the table. Alex, Phil, Katie, and Scharr hung back, equally anxious to hear what the commotion was about.

Admiral Paris took a sharp breath in.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began as he steadied himself. "Twenty hours ago, a Cardassian State fleet crossed the border and engaged at least six Federation starships that we know of. At least one is destroyed. Probably more."

The Pershing's crew exchanged nervous glances. They knew that if the Cardassian State was attacking, it also meant total war with the Romulan Empire.

"Sir," Annabeth said. "We're prepared to immediately deploy with the relief force. However, from what we've seen before, I'm sure the Nelson can hold the enemy forces long enough for us to arrive."

The way Paris and Murphy grimaced at her statement, she and Tigranian immediately knew something was terribly wrong.

"Annabeth," Murphy said quietly. "The Nelson was one of the starships engaged. We've lost all contact with Captain Quan, and we're currently unsure if her ship even survived the attack."

"Oh my God," Alex muttered from the behind them.

"What's the situation on the Romulan border?" Tigranian asked.

"So far," Admiral Paris answered, "there has been no indication of any Romulan troop or naval deployments. We've sent three ships to join with Captain Tarn and the Nevsky to respond to any joint attack." It was obvious that everyone in the room was concerned the even the combined Federation and Klingon fleets wouldn't be able to beat back a coordinated assault from both the Cardassian State and their Romulan allies.

"Sir," Phil said speaking up. "Is this just a border incursion, or is this the big one?"

Normally, Admiral Paris would have dismissed such a question from a lieutenant. However, given the gravity of the situation, he actually answered honestly.

"Are you a religious man, Son?" Paris said averting his gaze back towards the star charts in front of him. Phil and Katie looked at each other. The pilot then looked towards Tigranian. His captain could only nod.

"I'm not a stranger to a church, Sir," Phil replied nervously.

"Then, I ask that you say a quiet prayer for all of us," Paris uttered, unable to meet Phil's eyes with his own.

"Sir," a technician at far console shouted from her station. "We're being hailed by the Shran."

"Onscreen," Murphy shouted in reply. A few moments later, Captain Zhe'vasda appeared three meters tall on the central holoscreen over their heads.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," she said as her antenna stood ramrod straight. "We've rendezvoused with the Sulu in the Tellar System. We also have the USS Trafalgar and the USS Kilimanjaro in our hasty task force. We're ready to move to Cardassia as soon as you give the word. We can link up with the Pershing at Bajor as well if you want us to move in together."

"That's what we're discussing now, Kivrana," Admiral Paris replied. "Daniel is right here."

Tigranian stepped into view of the holoscreen's two-way camera. He silently nodded. She replied with the same quiet gesture.

"Sir," Zhe'vasda continued. "I feel like the enemy objective has to be Cardassia Prime, but if they decided to hit any intermediate targets to try to split our forces, you can send either Dan or myself around the flanks and try to hit them from both angles. The Sulu can stay with the other starships as they screen her one system back and support with attack fighters as necessary."

"That's a solid plan, Sir," Tigranian said in agreement. "Admiral Murphy, you're the Federation Forces Cardassia Commander. You can put your flag on the Pershing and we can take you to link up with the task force. You can stay with us or transfer your command to the CIC on the Sulu with Captain Bennett."

"Just hold on," Paris said holding his hands up. "We're getting far too ahead of ourselves here. We're not even sure what kind of attack this is. The last thing we want is to rush headlong into a course of action without any intelligence supporting it."

"Sir," Tigranian said quietly. Yoshizaki was standing nearby, and he knew their history might weaken his point. "If we don't act quickly, we might not be able to react at all before the central Cardassian systems are occupied."

"Mr. Tigranian," Paris said calmly turning to face him. "What if this is a feint and the real offensive is coming from the Romulan border? We shift all our forces to the wrong side of the Quadrant and we leave ourselves completely vulnerable. Do you consider that to be an acceptable risk?"

"Admiral Yoshizaki," Tigranian said to the Chief of Intelligence. "Is there any evidence at all supporting that?"

She shook her head.

"We just don't know enough either way. I've got every analyst, collection asset, and HUMINT source working overtime, but we're getting nothing."

"Sir," Tigranian said to Paris as the other officers looked on. "I don't know if we have a choice if we want to honor our agreements with the Republic. We swore that we would protect them against any hostile acts by the Cardassian State."

"You have the luxury of looking in one direction at a time, Mr. Tigranian," Paris replied turning back towards the map table. "I do not. I will not commit anymore forces away from the Romulan Neutral Zone until we know the border is still secure. The lives of over three trillion Federation citizens may depend on it. Am I clear?"

"Yes Sir," Tigranian replied. Captain Zhe'vasda looked down at them from the holoscreen.

"Where do you want me, Sir?" she asked drumming her fingers on the side of her captain's chair.

Paris took a deep breath.

"Kivrana, I want you to take the Sulu and your other two starships and move to the Badlands. Do not exceed Warp 7 in case I need to turn you around. I'll hold Pershing and Nevsky at their current locations until the situation develops."

Her antennae curled, betraying her disdain at keeping their forces dispersed, but she kept her mouth shut.

"Aye Sir."

Paris and the rest of the personnel in G and G didn't have to wait long.

"Sir," the communications technician spoke up again. "Receiving a transmission from Cardassian Space. It's Captain Quan on the Nelson."

"Patch her in," Paris said excitedly hoping for some answers.

The holoscreen split and Quan's face towered next to Zhe'vasda's.

"By Uzevah the Infinite, Shu Yin," Zhe'vasda said when she saw her fellow captain. "What happened?"

Quan's forehead was bruised, her uniform disheveled and spattered with blood. No one could tell if it was her's or one of her shipmates. The bridge of the Nelson was heavily damaged and red emergency lights still illuminated the deck. A bundle of scorched ODN conduit hung loosely from the ceiling directly behind her chair.

"The last twenty six-hours have been a little rough, but we're still in one piece…mostly," Quan finally managed to say.

"How many casualites?" Murphy asked nervously.

"On the Nelson, twelve dead and twenty three wounded. Doctor Jala has turned one of the cargo bays into a field hospital. We managed to warn off the USS Remagen and the USS Sarek before it was too late. They're alongside us now, damaged, but limping along like us. However, the Cardassians destroyed the Cumberland, Nimitz, and Ticonderoga ," she said woefully looking down at her feet. "We didn't have enough power for transporters and they didn't even have enough energy left to launch escape pods. No survivors."

"Captain Quan," Paris said trying to refocus the conversation on moving forward. "Just what the hell is going on?"

"We responded to a distress call from the Cumberland, Sir," Quan began still feeling the bite of her raw memories. "They were under attack from across the border. We were at Red Alert, shields up, weapons ready…there was no reason to expect we wouldn't be able to come out on top. That's when we saw them."

"Saw who?" Tigranian called up to the screen. He slammed his fists into the planning table in front of him angrily.

"There's four Cardassian scout ships travelling with the attacking fleet. They have some kind of subspace array mounted on their backs. I've seen this before," Quan said firmly. "It's the Breen Weapon."

"The Breen Weapon?" Murphy shouted incredulously. Every person in G and G turned and looked up the screen. "Every ship we have has an updated deflector array that's resistant to disruption energy."

"Well, apparently they found a way around it, Sir," Quan said gesturing to the destruction on her bridge. "It's not a projectile burst detonation anymore. It's a constant dampening field that protects their ships like an old castle moat. As soon as you get close enough to scan it, transport through it, or fire your weapons, your entire ship just shuts down.

Those sentry vessels allowed eight medium battlecruisers to breeze through the best Starfleet had to offer in less than ten minutes. The only thing that saved us was that we had enough ablative armor on the hull to withstand the pounding for a few extra minutes. We managed to decompress the main shuttlebay and blast ourselves just out of range. We then fired every maneuvering thruster we had to build up speed and run.

The cloaking device is still down, we're limited to Warp 3. We won't be back to full fighting strength until we get to a drydock. Luckily, the Cardies were so obsessed with heading on to their final objective, they left us behind and took off at Warp 8."

"Captain Tigranian may be right, Sir," Murphy said glancing over to Admiral Paris. "We might have to commit our forces to get them to Cardassia Prime in time. Figure out a new countermeasure en route. Otherwise, they'll be nothing left of the planet or the people to save."

Admiral Paris leaned forward on the table and steepled his fingers.

"Excuse me, Sir?" Quan said confused. "Did you say Cardassia Prime?"

"Where else would they be heading?" Zhe'vasda said from the bridge of the Shran. "The Cardassian State has been screaming for months that they will fight to reunify the old empire."

"Sir, we thought that a ship or sensor station would have warned you by now," Quan said, obviously concerned that she was going to have to break the bad news. "They're not on course for Cardassia. They're heading straight to Sector 001."

"EARTH!?" Annabeth shouted back at the screen.

"And every ship in Starfleet can't slow them down…" Laria put words to everyone's nightmarish epiphany.

"This could make the Borg incursion look like a border skirmish," Murphy said nearly choking on his words.

"Operations," Paris said looking over to a row of computer banks on the far side of the room. "Can you confirm Captain Quan's report?"

A lieutenant commander slowly rose to his feet and took a deep breath.

"We just did, Sir," he replied. "It is confirmed. Twelve Cardassian State vessels now being tracked by the Kinthathi Border Monitoring Station. They are on course to bypass the Bajoran frontier and will enter Federation space in less than six hours. They will arrive in the Sol System in 69 hours, 12 minutes at present course of speed."

The way the mood in the room dropped, he might as well been an executioner reading out a death sentence.

"Kivrana," Paris said solemnly looking up at the holoscreen. "How fast can you and your task force arrive in Earth orbit?"

"If we give it everything we have, we can back at Starbase 1 in 45 hours," she said as her antenna curled.

"Please pass the message to Captain Bennett on the Sulu," he said clenching his jaw. "If I have to make a solid wall of ships around this planet to safeguard the Federation capital, I will."

"We're on our way, Sir," Zhe'vasda said with a nod. "We'll see you soon."

"Understood," Paris said. "Shu Yin," he said turning to Quan. "Make your best speed to Bajor and regroup at DS9. Make whatever repairs you can and stay there. I will speak to the President and have the Diplomatic Corps contact the Bajoran government. If they declare their neutrality, you can wait out the conflict as their internees."

"Sir! We can get back in this fight!"

"I know, Captain," Paris said shaking his head. "If we are unable to find a new countermeasure to this weapon, you and the vessels with you might be the only starships left in the fleet in five days. If President Zife and the Council must do the unthinkable and surrender, the future of this nation might be up to you."

His bluntness surprised even Tigranian standing next to him.

"Yes Sir," she replied in shock. "Now I know how De Gaulle must have felt watching Germany punch through the Maginot Line."

"Trust the Bajorans, Shu Yin," Tigranian said. "They're stronger and more resourceful than you know," he said glancing over to Laria.

"I'll remember that, Dan," she said.

"You all have your orders," Paris said. "Now, get to it. Starfleet Command out."
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
The holoscreen cut to black. The room was so quiet, a pin drop would have sounded like a hammer blow.

However, another incoming message pulled everyone out of their contemplative silence.

"Sir, we're being hailed," the communications technician said as her eyes grew wide.

"Source?" Murphy asked, noticing her astonishment.

"Sir, it's from the Senate Chambers on Romulus."

"Here it is," Murphy said to Paris. "Probably want to name their terms."

"No Sir," the technician replied. "They say they want to help."

"WHAT!?" the collected officers in the room shouted in unison.

"That's what they said," the technician replied holding up her hands.

Paris and Murphy exchanged glances.

"Put them onscreen," the Chief of Operations said giving in to the surreal situation. "But make sure they can't see any of our maps or charts behind us. This is a war room after all."

The Continuing Committee Chamber appeared on the holoscreen. Four Romulan Senators and Chairman Koval sat staring back at them.

"This is Admiral Owen Paris, Chief of Starfleet Operations. How may we help you?"

"I am Senator Semachs," the Romulan in the seated at the center of the table spoke. "I am interim head of the Continuing Committee as we work to select a new Proconsul."

"Yes, we heard about the untimely passing of Proconsul Vrnealious. Denebian Flu, such a rare and sudden illness," Paris replied.

"Yes…very sudden," Semachs grumbled. He understood the Federation probably knew that Neral had Vrnealious executed, but he was still unwilling to speak completely honestly with his enemies. "My colleagues: Senators Barchrus, S'trita, and Trallian as well as Chairman Koval of the Tal Shiar."

"Why isn't your Praetor willing to speak with our President?" Murphy asked.

"Praetor Neral is indisposed. However, I assure you we have full authority to speak for him."

"Very well…" Paris said as he realized that the reports on Neral's deterioration from Starfleet Intelligence's mole were accurate.

"I see Captain Daniel Tigranian and his crew are present with you," Semachs continued.

"Senators, Chairman" Tigranian nodded out of sheer diplomatic courtesy. He took care to not acknowledge Senator Trallian, a high council member of the Soldiers of Akarath, with more than just a cursory glance.

"Spare us," Semachs spat back at him. "Before we begin, understand that this does not represent, how does your species put it? 'An olive branch?' We still consider you a threat, we will not negotiate over any territorial boundary, and we still consider Captain Tigranian a wanted criminal that will be arrested if he sets foot in any Romulan or Cardassian State Territory. We are merely attempting to prevent a war that would be catastrophic to both our interests and yours."

"Why would you attempt to prevent a war that you started?" Tigranian asked. If they were not going to bother with diplomacy, than neither was he.

"Do you always let your subordinates speak to superiors so rudely?" Brachrus scoffed in Paris' direction.

"Normally no," Paris replied, "but Captain Tigranian has a point."

"For all it is worth, we swear to you that neither the leadership of the Romulan Star Empire or the Cardassian State had anything to do with this invasion of your space. It was the actions of one rogue Legate hoping to destroy the Federation who he sees as responsible for Cardassia's demise," S'trita said.

"How do you know that?" Murphy asked skeptically.

"Perhaps someone else should explain," she said pressing a few controls in front of her. The holographic image of a dour looking Premiere Harok appeared hovering on the table in front of them. He was standing in front of his desk in Berlask City on Simperia. "They can see and hear you now. So, explain it to them." She spoke with the same tone as if she was talking to a disobedient dog.

"Seven hours ago," Harok began with deep breath. "I received a transmission from Legate Tegan Varak, Commander of the First People's Fleet…"

Annabeth and Tigranian shot a side glance to each other as they remembered their encounter with him the previous month at the Cardassian State wargames.

"He stated that he had grown disgusted with the posturing and political nature of the conflict between Cardassians and the Federation," Harok continued. "He said that he, as a soldier, would do what the politicians could never accomplish: destroy the Federation and restore Cardassia to its former glory before the establishment of the Demilitarized Zone and the loss of Bajor. He said that he had stolen four experimental scout ships, each equipped with a Cataclysm Emitter. He also said that he had already destroyed three Federation starships, heavily damaged two others, and it was too late to stop him."

"Rest assured, Admiral," Semachs said turning to the image of Harok. "We will ensure that this breach of discipline in our ally's ranks will be properly dealt with."

Harok turned so pale, they could see it in the Federation.

"Good for them," Scharr said from the back of the room and unable to stay quiet any more. "But didn't you say you were going to help us?"

"We are, Andorian," Brachrus replied. He paused as he choked on what he had to say next. "To prevent a war, we are revealing to you one of the most secret joint military projects currently under development by the Cardassians and the Romulan Empire. This will seriously damage our national security, but not as much as facing your starships crossing the Neutral Zone. Chairman Koval:"

"Eighteen Months ago," Koval said at the far end of the table, "we acquired a complete energy dampening weapon from a Breen vessel that had been abandoned in our Zone of Occupation. We knew that it would be useless against Starfleet or Klingon vessels in its current configuration, but after exhaustive experimentation, we discovered that by coupling the subspace neutralization wave signature of the Breen device with our tachyon field emitters, we could generate a static disruption field with the capability to neutralize any device containing a multitronic circuit.

These emitters, which we codenamed "Project Cataclysm" were to be installed on scout ships and other sentry craft which would facilitate a first strike capability against the Federation and the Klingon Empire…should the need arise," he added the last clause very politically.

"We shared four of our prototypes with the Cardassian State Navy so they could modify the technology for their own vessels, however, the project has been suspended indefinitely due to issues."

"Issues?" Admiral Paris said skeptically.

"We have not been able to create a countermeasure against the effect to protect our own ships. The devices would be as devastating to our own fleet as they would be to yours," S'Trita explained.

"Well, it's obvious that the Cardassians have solved that problem, so why doesn't Premiere Harok help us both out?" Murphy asked.

"Legate Varak developed whatever countermeasure his fleet is utilizing without informing our Central Command," Harok said sheepishly. "My State Security Forces have already raided his research facilities, but the scientists have been killed and the databanks wiped."

The Starfleet officer's hearts all dropped again as the glimmer of hope they had clung to dissipated instantly.

"We can at least assure you that we will not attack across the Neutral Zone and the remainder of the Cardassian State Fleet has been ordered to immediately return to port. Our warbirds will ensure they obey until the loyalty of their commanders can be properly assessed," Semachs said.

"But we still have twelve Cardassian warships headed straight for Earth with no way to stop them," Tigranian said.

"That is true, Captain Tigranian," Brachrus said. "We wish we could assist more. We know how infuriating it is to have an enemy warship loose in your home territory that you cannot destroy."

The thinly veiled attack on the Pershing's crew wasn't lost on any of them.

"If that is all, Lady and Gentlemen, we appreciate the information, but we have plans we need to discuss," Paris said more appalled at this conversation than grateful.

"Understood, Admiral," Semachs said. "And Good luck."

The transmission disconnected.

"Keep Belen Tarn and the Nevksy exactly where they are," Paris said. "Just because their story lines up with the information we know, doesn't mean I trust them."

"Yes Sir," Murphy said. "I don't know whether to be reassured or terrified."

"Anything with a multitronic circuit?" Annabeth said shaking her head. "All of our computers and anything that interacts with LCARS has multitronic circuits: propulsion systems, deflector arrays, life support systems, replicators, phaser banks, torpedo launchers…"

"Even hand phaser and tricorders," Katie added. "Absolutely everything on a starship or starbase."

"And in less than 72 hours, those Cataclysm things will be orbiting Earth," Phil said.

The casualties could be in the billions if they decide to attack the planet," Alex said. "And all our medical equipment would be neutralized as well."

Suddenly, Laria's head perked up. She pushed Scharr and Tigranian out of the way and walked over to the back wall of G and G where a series of paintings depicted famous scenes from Starfleet history. She turned around and stared back at the group with her mouth hanging open.

"Hold on," Scharr said as his antennae curled. "The little genius has got that crazy look. It can only mean she has a crazy idea."

The group stared back at her waiting for her thoughts to coalesce into words.

"The Romulans said they modified a Breen Energy dampening weapon's subspace field by coupling it to a tachyon beam emitter," she said holding her hands up near her face. Her fingers danced as she furiously calculated a series of equations in her head.

"The Breen energy weapons operated on a frequency 8.63 terahertz and a carrier wave of 4.36 gigajoules." She started pacing back and forth so rapidly her Bajoran earring danced with every step. "Channeling that into a Romulan tachyon beam emitter operating on a Beta-C wave band would create a dampening field of 83 kilo-cochranes of subspace disruption, which is exactly the amount of subspace disruption necessary to deactivate a multitronic circuit matrix!"

"We already knew that their devices deactivate multitronic circuits, Laria," Tigranian said trying to get her ramblings to make logical sense. "They just told us that."

"Don't you see though!" she said flailing her arms. "The field won't affect anything that operates outside that subspace band!" she said hoping they would understand. A sea of blank faces was her only answer. She rolled her eyes. "A ship with duotronic circuitry would be immune from the disruption field! That's how the Cardassians are doing it! They haven't upgraded anything. They downgraded it!"

"Duotronic circuitry?" Scharr said shaking his head. "You mean a hundred year old junk from the last century? That kind of duotronic circuitry?"

"Lieutenant Amira," Admiral Paris said shaking his head. "I've been in Starfleet over forty years and have never seen a ship still equipped with that primitive level of technology."

"What the Admiral is trying to tell you, Laria," Scharr said rubbing his eyes, "is that every vessel with a duotronic network has either been upgraded or sent to the scrap heap sixty years ago."

"With respect, Sir," Laria said glancing over her shoulder. A portrait of a mop-haired man in Admiral's uniform looked back at her with his famous, confident smirk. Beneath it was a bronze plaque inscribed:

Admiral James Tiberius Kirk

Captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701



Chief of Starfleet Operations


Chief of Starfleet Academy Command Division


Captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A


"Risk Is Our Business"

"There's one left," she reached inside her jacket and pulled out the tourist brochure. "And it's floating right over our heads."

"The Enterprise-A!?" Murphy said in shock. "That's not a starship! That's a ninety-year old floating tourist attraction filled with souvenir kiosks and holophoto booths."

"Laria…" Tigranian said trying to save the woman he loved from any more embarrassment. "It takes a lot more than just a hull to operate a starship. It's been decommissioned for eighty years…"

She looked back at him with an angry stare. She snapped open the laminated, paper tri-fold and began reading:

"The USS Enterprise: NCC-1701-A served as the flagship of Starfleet from the 2280s to the 2290s and is the only 23rd Century starship to be preserved in complete, working order. Take a holophoto next to her towering warp core, talk to the same computer used by Captain Kirk, or sign up for our special "Red Alert" tour offered twice daily on weekends where you can actually load a photon casing in the torpedo bay and plot a phaser lock from the weapons station on the bridge."

"That sounds pretty operational to me," Laria said crossing her arms in front of her. "Sure it's risky, but to paraphrase a great man from our history, isn't risk our business?"

"Less than three days to take a hundred year old museum and turn it into a fighting starship?" Murphy said turning to Annabeth, Tigranian, and Admiral Paris. "We're not seriously considering this are we?"

"Sir," Scharr said actually considering the possibility. "If the warp core, EPS conduits, deflector array, and impulse drives are really as intact as Lieutenant Tigranian's tourist propaganda claims, it might actually be possible."

Tigranian looked to Laria. She was still unmoved in her conviction. He then faced Admiral Paris.

"May I make a recommendation, Sir?"

"Go right ahead, Captain," Paris said without a better idea.

"Call the curator of the National Starfleet Museum and tell them we want the keys to our ship back."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Praetor's Villa: Romulus

Stardate: 53390.8

Neral's personal guards now had two purposes. Not only were they duty bound to prevent enemies from reaching the praetor, but they were also under strict orders from the Continuing Committee to ensure that he did not leave his villa without Senator Semach's permission.

The large wooden doors to Neral's bedchambers opened and the acting proconsul walked in as if he owned it. Booming strains of organ music echoed off the marble walls. A lone figure sitting in a wooden chair rested his chin on his right fist as he stared out the windows. The leader of the Romulan Empire had dispensed with shaving all together and his full, black beard extended almost to the front of his robes.

"Computer, eliminate music," Semachs said as he walked up behind Neral. The crushing silence that followed highlighted the tense nature of this meeting. "Why haven't you signed the appointment proclamation?" Semachs said angrily.

"You have the true leader of the Empire dragged from the Senate building like a dog, kept secluded like a prisoner, and now you dare to speak to him in that tone?" Neral said, not turning around.

"We keep you here in your appointed quarters, no comfort is denied you. However, if you continue to be this foolish and obstinate, that can easily change."

"How dare you?" Neral said leaping to his feet and facing the Senator, his eyes burning with rage.

"How dare I?" Semachs spat back at him. "How dare I? It was YOUR gross incompetence that brought the Empire to the edge of the abyss. At the end of the war, we were poised to reclaim our rightful place at the head of the galaxy, but in the past two years you have squandered everything into ruin. The death of Vrnealious was only the final straw after a long line of unforgivable blunders.

It was your little, blonde harlotthat forced us into this mess. It was her greed that resulted in her and most of the senior members of the Senate being killed on Dacen. It was her stupidity that caused the slave uprising that has crippled our borders and our resources, and it was the stupid, spoon headed creature she found slithering in the backwaters of Cardassia that has brought us to the verge of war! Even the hellish demons on Remus are starting to believe that they can challenge us. Their leader, Shinzon, is proposing that they should be given a seat on the Senate!

And you, you pathetic, foolish man…because you were blinded by Selonia's whorish face, perky tits, and forked tongue, it is all YOUR fault. You placed your prick before the country and we all are paying the price."

Neral roared and lunged forward with a balled fist. Semachs easily side-stepped his assault and slugged him in the stomach. Neral collapsed to the floor as the praetorians from the corridor rushed in.

"Do not fear," Semachs said turning to them. "The praetor is quite ill. He merely lost his balance and fell, but I will attend to him. Now, leave us."

"KILL HIM! IN THE NAME OF THE EMPIRE, KILL HIM!" Neral shouted holding his bruised gut.

The guards froze, unsure of what to do.

"I said…leave us," Semachs repeated more forcefully. The praetorians finally saluted and slowly departed.

"Oh gods," Neral said on the verge of tears as he crawled back to his chair. "Why have you forsaken me?"

"The gods haven't forsaken you, Neral," Semachs said rubbing his bruised knuckles, "You forsook yourself. Attempt to harm me again, and I will personally throw you out those windows onto the rocks below. With your recent behavior, a suicide would be quite believable."

Neral pulled himself back into his chair.

"Now," Semachs continued, "the reason I made this terrible trip. Sign the appointment proclamation so that I may officially assume the role of proconsul. The Empire needs a leader and it will not be you."

"You ask that I name a serpent such as you proconsul? You merely want me to declare you my heir apparent so I can be the next victim in your lust for power."

Semachs laughed.

"You think I desire to be praetor?" he said walking over to Neral and leaning in the praetor's face. "I would never debase myself for such a useless position." He began pacing back and forth. The setting sun over the Apnex Sea framed the Senator in brilliant light.

"We falsely claim that we are an empire, but we are a republic in all but name. Our priests say to the masses that the imperial family are living deities: descended from the ancient raptor gods that flew down from Mount Selaya and took Romuloid form to save our ancestors from Surak's heresy, but it is merely a myth meant to placate fools.

You and I both know that those incestuous lechers have been fucking their siblings for so long that the empress has the mind of a child and pisses herself at least once a week. How divine…" he said rolling his eyes sarcastically.

"No, the real power of the state lies with the Senate and the People of Romulus." He leaned forward to spit his words directly into Neral's face. "The Senate and the People of Romulus…The praetor is merely an instrument to execute the Senate's will. The next fool who we deem worthy of taking the Praetor's Fasces will understand that from the beginning, but you will learn that now or suffer a fate worse than you can imagine.

Now, if you wish to continue living this cloistered, yet comfortable life," Semachs continued as he pulled a piece of parchment and fountain pen from his robes, "you will sign this. Or, I can hasten your demise and help you shuffle off this filthy mortal coil right now. The choice is yours…My Lord."

A look of utter despair and hopelessness crossed Neral's face. Senator Semachs relished every moment. Without an alternative that would allow him to continue living, the praetor reached up with a trembling hand and signed the document officially making Semachs the new Imperial Proconsul.

"Good," Semachs said straightening his back. "Now, go back to rotting away to oblivion. I have a nation to save."

Semachs walked away without another word, leaving Neral quivering at the heart of his palace prison.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Geosynchronous Orbit over San Francisco: Earth

The transport pod rose above the Karman line and into space. The Pershing's senior staff and Admiral Murphy were crammed into the crew compartment as Phil manipulated the controls.

"Once the Shran arrives with the Sulu," Murphy said to Tigranian, "I'll move over to the carrier and take overall charge of the operation, but the crux of this whole insanity will be up to you all."

"Understood, Sir," Tigranian replied. "I've already contacted Lieutenant T'les, my duty officer, on the Pershing to have her prepped for immediate launch. After all, two battleships are better than one."

"I'm not sure twenty battleships will be enough if the report the Romulans gave us is accurate," Murphy replied.

Suddenly, a hush fell over the front of the pod as a long, space slipway appeared in the distance. The large gaps in the paneled walls gave everyone quick glances of the legend moored inside. Phil slowly maneuvered the pod past the structure slowly enough for everyone to gaze through the metal pylons at the ship's narrow, rectangular warp nacelles, still cold and black as the vessel remained in her perpetual slumber.

The party's eyes moved down the sleek, angled warp pylons to the cylindrical drive section. A pair of red racing stripes ran down the length of the hull with "UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS" painted in bold, black letters between them.

The aft of the small, round saucer section rose from the narrow neck that connected it to rest of the ship. The windows around the disc's perimeter were darkened. The museum's staff shut down power when visitors were not present to save wear on the hundred year old EPS grid.

A huge, white sign hung from the side of the slipway announcing to visitors the name of the ship inside, however, no one who made it this close would have any doubt that they were in the presence of greatness.

Phil artfully circled around the front of the slipway. With a final trim of the helm, the full majesty of the sight pulled the air from their lungs as they finally came face to face with the bow of the "Big E." She may have been half the size of modern starships, but her splendor made her seem ten times as large.

Twenty sets of solar mirrors reflected the intense, yellow light of Sol onto the dazzling, white tritanium hull plating. From this angle, the ship literally glowed with a brilliant halo as the orbital sunrise crested behind her.

Phil could barely keep his hands from shaking as he pulled the pod towards the passenger dock and over the massive, black letters that spelled out the most historic ship's name in the entire Federation.

Annabeth stepped forward and placed both her hands on the glass of the craft's front window screen. It was her voice that finally answered Murphy's last pessimistic comment.

"We won't fail, Sir," she said with absolute resoluteness. "That ship is named Enterprise, and ships named Enterprise save this planet."

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