“You have to learn why things work on a starship.”
~ Admiral James T Kirk
As the Excelsior hurtled through the Alpha Quadrant while traveling toward its destination in the Delta Sector, First Officer Nog turned from his tactical position at the helm and met the gaze of Captain Alexander.
“Delta Rana 4 is going to put us very close to Bajoran Space and not far from Narik and his new fleet,” the helmsman carefully commented. “We’re now entirely out of quantum torpedoes.”
“We couldn’t take on an entire fleet even fully armed. And we’ll be cloaked. I am not actually concerned about an engagement. But you’re right. We will be close to Narik’s backyard. Is there any advantage to be gained by such proximity?”
“We still have a full complement of the new generation of probes,” Shanella suggested from her position at the science station. “They’re equipped with tachyon emitters. If they are arranged in a lattice, they can detect cloaked ships.”
“Since the Joracki fleet is now unfortunately outfitted with Federation technology, isn’t there a chance of the tachyon beams being discovered?”
“We don’t have to deploy them in a plane,” Spock replied, placing a diagram on the viewing screen. “We can stagger their arrangement and still develop a fully functioning detection grid.”
“And we can set the beams to pulse rather than stream,” Shanella Dax added, “that should make them harder to detect.”
Turning to Lucas, since Luke was still in sickbay, Alexander asked. “Would it be possible to cloak something as small as a probe?”
“If the tachyon emissions are detected, a cloak won’t make any difference,” Odo objected.
“It’s not for the tachyon emitting probes,” Alexander calmly corrected the security chief. “I’m wondering if we can perhaps arrange to keep an eye on Cardassia. We might have forewarning of the fleet’s deployment before they even reach the detection grid.”
“I could do with some assistance if Ambassador Spock and Chief Odo are available,” Lucas replied.
“Helm, adjust course to overshoot Delta Rana 4,” Alexander ordered while waving approval at the Jedi Knight’s request. “Lieutenant Dax, calculate exact coordinates for placing the probes of the detection grid.”
“Aye, sir,” she replied.
“Cardassia Prime has one moon. I’ll start calculating the placement of the cloaked probe so as to take maximum advantage of the nearby astronomical body,” Kato Sulu volunteered.
“Excellent. Kevin Oxbridge will just have to wait. As anxious as I am to have our questions answered, I would just as soon do something that might truly make a difference first,” Alexander admitted. Turning toward Communications Officer Jake Sisko, he said, “Send a coded message to Star Fleet Command and advise them of our change in destination and send my compliments to Admiral Data. Tell him we hope to rendezvous with a fully functioning Enterprise very shortly.”
After a brief pause, Jake announced, “Message sent with subspace delay, Captain.”
On the way down to the bay where the probes were kept Lucas, Spock and Odo stopped by sickbay. Luke had recovered from his exposure to Narik’s radiation and gained enough mastery over his new robotic right hand to be of actual assistance with their enterprise. Molly cleared him for duty and he asked to join them. Lucas made certain he knew about Data’s departure and the ship’s new destination.
“That gives us more time to meditate on how best to approach the Douwd,” Luke replied. “It might be that information is now our greatest weapon, whether he is now willing to fight for us or not. We cannot hope to balance the Force here until we know how it was compromised. It might be achieving that goal is the same thing as defeating Narik. As unlikely as it sounds, that seems to be what the Force is telling me.”
“It might be the same thing as a permanent solution to the super massive black hole we just had help ejecting from this galaxy,” Lucas added.
“So your people sent the two of you here because of your outrageous optimism,” Chief Odo sarcastically commented.
“The path to success in any task most often begins with the belief it can be accomplished,” Spock stoically stated.
“We were actually little more than children when we boarded the ship that brought us here,” Luke added.
“Perhaps that explains your optimism,” Odo unrelentingly replied. “I’m still hoping Kevin will decide to challenge Narik. I think that represents our best chance of defeating him. I haven’t any idea about how to permanently dispel the danger posed by the black hole. And as for the Force, I have yet to see it make a decisive difference in any aspect of our mission. Hasn’t it occurred to you that it might simply operate in other ways in different galaxies?”
“Narik’s power comes from the Dark Side of the Force,” Lucas resolutely replied. “Or do you think a handheld weapon should reasonably be able to rip entire spaceships right out of time?”
“His lightsaber, like yours, gains at least part of its power from crystals, just like yours,” Odo answered. “If any other power source is involved, I’m not aware of it. You evidently have abilities that are unique. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they proceed from some unseen source.”
“The Douwd is a Force-wielder,” Luke argued. “Making him admit it could be the first step in turning the tide. Would that be enough to convince you.”
“I’ve been praised for my investigative abilities,” Odo huffed. “The more witnesses that back up a statement, the more likely it is to be true. I know that, but I am concerned by the danger the Douwd could represent. If he’s more powerful than Narik and discovers it by defeating him, what makes you so sure we won’t just be exchanging one peril for another? You did say he’s a Force-wielder, didn’t you? Isn’t that the prerequisite for being a Dark Lord?”
“Although it seems to represent another problem entirely,” Lucas replied, “I think the Nexus actually is related to these other factors.”
Arriving at the bay with the probes, Luke interrupted the discussion by asking, “Shall we get to work?”
Replicating and installing the appropriate parts turned out to be labor-intensive even despite the dedicated industry of all four individuals. The Excelsior was already in the Bajoran Sector by the time the probes were completely reassembled. After prepping them for launch and reporting the readiness of the remote scanning systems, they returned to the bridge.
“We’re passing by Prophet’s Landing,” Alexander informed them. “We will enter Cardassian Space in just a few minutes.”
“We’re not detecting any ships between here and Cardassia,” Shanella announced. “Narik’s fleet must still be in close proximity to the planet unless they’re cloaked.”
“Go to passive scan only,” Alexander instructed. “Let’s not take any chance on giving away our presence. According to Admiral Data, the enemy’s fleet has been upgraded with Federation technology.”
“Aye, Captain,” Shanella replied.
At Alexander’s order the Excelsior dropped out of warp and engaged its impulse engines as it entered the Cardassian system. With its transponder disabled and its cloak raised, the chance of a collision now existed. But stealth was the only defense against the uncomfortably proximate Joracki armada. First Officer Nog gave voice to this concern.
“With any Joracki ships out there being cloaked as well, it’s like playing Russian roulette.”
Spock was immediately reminded of a certain ensign who had sat in the very same position as Nog on a constitution class starship. The young man’s accomplishments and professionalism had always impressed Spock’s predecessor. After the unfortunate encounter with Khan, Chekov had never been the same. He had given up what he jokingly referred to as being a space jockey and taken a teaching position at Star Fleet Academy.
“There could be cloaked patrols,” Alexander guardedly agreed. “But I would have any ships running without their cloaks to attract an engagement with the enemy. That might actually be the best way to detect any subversive surveillance. Let’s hope Narik thinks the same way.”
The image at the center of the viewing screen shifted from Cardassia Prime to its secluded moon as Lieutenant Kato Sulu adjusted the ship’s approach. But they were now close enough to the primary planet to observe the two dozen battle cruisers in orbit around it.
“Make sure we’re recording our passive scans,” Alexander instructed.
He knew the science officers were already doing just that. But for the purpose of morale he wanted to stress the advantage that was gained by their undetectable observation. The strength of the enemy fleet was almost enough to strike fear into his Klingon heart.
“We’re almost in position to launch the probe,” Kato announced.
“Probe loaded for deployment,” Nog added. “Cloak engaged. Coded transmission enabled.”
Alexander watched the countdown timer displayed down the side of the viewing screen and ordered the launch when it reached zero. After confirming the probe was in position to watch the planet, the Excelsior peeled away and headed back to set up the detection grid.
Once they’d reached the edge of the Cardassian system, they started deploying the probes. As they were so engaged, Spock once again placed the image of the resulting configuration on the main viewing screen.
“If the probes were merely in a planar arrangement, they would only be able to tell us if the fleet was leaving the system. They might also help us to determine the size and number of craft. But by organizing them in this way, it might also be possible for them to determine the departure vectors. This should help us predict their destinations, facilitating the appropriate deployment of our forces.”
“Bearing in mind that our forces, so-called, consist of simply two ships,” Odo gruffly added.
“Which makes their interposing deployment all the more important,” Spock evenly replied.
“And of course we are talking about galaxy-class starships,” Nog emphasized, “the flagship of the Federation and her sister ship. I’ll grant it is a modest number, but not a force to be trifled with.”
“Well said,” Alexander agreed. “Once the last probe is deployed, set course again for Delta Rana 4, helmsman.”
“Aye, Captain,” Kato replied.
To cast the widest net, the probes were deployed near the edge of their ability to effectively interface with each other. It took some time to establish the grid. But finally she brought the ship about and set the required course. Passing not far from Celtris 3 they finally reentered the Delta Sector. The world of the godlike Douwd lay directly ahead.
As they entered orbit around the pulverized planet, the ships scanners quickly identified the strangely pristine patch of paradise in the midst of the otherwise worldwide devastation. And the Knights Errant were able confirm the presence of the Force-Wielder’s imposing impression. The captain then sought recommendations for how best to approach the portentous alien.
“We need to be in the landing party,” Lucas suggested. “We will be better able to determine his mindset than anyone else.”
“And maybe if he sees the injury that resulted from our attempt to deal with Narik ourselves, it’ll make a difference,” Luke added, extending his robotic right hand.
From her position at the science station, Shanella suddenly exclaimed, “Oh no!”
“You have a report to make, Lieutenant?” Alexander brusquely asked, clearly unimpressed by her emotional lack of professionalism.
“Apologies, Captain,” she sheepishly replied. “Our probe near Cardassian Prime monitored the departure of the Joracki fleet. They broke orbit and engaged their cloaks as they went.”
“Keep a sharp eye on the detection grid,” he instructed. “Let’s hope we can determine their destination and speed. Break orbit. Set course for Spacedock at maximum warp. As First Officer Nog pointed out earlier, we are not armed for a fight with Narik’s forces. Send a message to Star Fleet Command and advise them of this development. The Enterprise has to be ready to join us when we head out to intercept Narik’s armada.”
“They’ve penetrated the detection grid,” Shanella announced.
“Course and speed?” Alexander asked.
“They’re headed for the Omicron Sector at warp six,” she replied.
“They’re on course for the location where the Borg Cube was destroyed,” Spock added.
“Could we possibly make it to Spacedock, reload and still intercept them by maintaining maximum warp both inbound and outbound?” the captain anxiously asked.
“Barely,” Kato replied as she glanced up from the calculations she was running at the helm. “It depends in part on just how quickly we can get reloaded. If we stay at flank speed all the way out we might just make it. The other part depends on whether or not we beat the Borg. They are almost certainly already on their way to investigate the loss of their vessel.”
Since she had already been apprised of their mission’s outcome, Cyrella was waiting in the upper landing bay of the Jedi Temple on Tatooine as the Falcon and Screech arrived. Standing patiently to the side, she then waited for their respective crews to disembark. The destruction of the pirate droids’ operations base hardly seemed equal to the cost as she watched Chewbacca emerge carrying the remains of C3PO. She caught herself frowning, a thing she was constantly reminding herself not to do in the midst of their multifaceted dilemma, especially in the presence of other people. She knew she needed to be nothing but a source of encouragement.
Placing her hand in an almost matronly fashion on the Wookiee’s arm she softly asked, “Do you think his memory core can be saved?”
Chewie simply shrugged and allowed Han to regretfully reply, “We weren’t able to access it with the Falcon’s computer. There might be a chance of partial restoration but it honestly doesn’t look promising. And of course it would have to be installed in another robotic body. All the wiring is fried and the servos are melted. Whoever built him would probably be appalled.”
Cyrella had come up through the Order when it was still common to occasionally commune with Transformed Masters. As a result she had suspicions about who that builder had been. But it served no purpose to share her hypothesis now.
Her contact with the Wookiee had caused him to stop so she now concluded by saying, “Do whatever you can.”
As Chewie ambled away, Dari presented herself to the Grand Master and said, “As we said in our transmitted report, I sacrificed my lightsaber to eliminate the pirate droid that trapped us in the cave. I thought it best to present my request in person. I know my former master’s lightsaber is on display in the armory. I wonder if you’d be willing to relinquish it into my service.”
“The Violet Vergence was modeled after it, was it not?” Cyrella inquired.
“Consider then my counterproposal. Tysha Eisley is not a Jedi of any actual rank. However she’s now armed with nothing less than an heirloom. Demorin is also one of the Enhanced.”
“You want me to construct new lightsabers for the both of us?”
“You believe yourself equal to the task?”
“I’ve already done extensive experimentation with some of the crystals that were embedded in the portion of the cache we removed in order to gain access to it. I believe I can fashion a pair of lightsabers with a couple of them. At the proper modulation, they will be able to interrupt force fields just as my former master’s radiant weapon did. The Adjudicator can remain in retirement.”
“It deserves that place of honor.”
Chewie took the remains of C3PO to the room padawans normally used for the construction of lightsabers. It was equipped with all of the appropriate tools and technology for the attempt to salvage part of the protocol droid’s memory core. Demorin followed him and Awswi joined them. The rest of the Falcon’s command crew were joined on their way to the cafeteria by Tysha. She sat down with them once they’d all made their selections. Being within the field of the Phemera eliminated the need for actual conversation, but the pleasantries of dialogue were still desirable.
“As you may’ve already gleaned,” she suggested, “no nefarious activities at Century Station have been detected. There’s nothing to implicate the Bakurans as bad guys. There’re almost as many Neimoidians, but the Phemera have found nothing to indicate their involvement in the plot against the Jedi Temple or the deployment of the pirate droids. Their compliment is pretty much static. Their assignment to the station doesn’t seem to rotate. So unless it’s visited by somebody with direct knowledge of the aforementioned atrocities, placing Tanish there might prove to have been an exercise in futility.”
“It’s a good place for her nonetheless,” Han ventured. “She deserves some down-time after her years of service and then losing all her shipmates.”
“I sense she’s already made her first trip down to Endor,” Leia observed. “What did she say about the Ewoks?”
“She said they’re adorable,” Tysha laughed in reply. “I had to remind her I was asking about their condition, not their disposition.”
“At least we now have confirmation from a professional,” Han joked.
The sound of somebody clearing their throat behind him caused him to turn around. Cyrella was standing there with a look of apparent displeasure.
“One day your foot isn’t going to fit in your mouth and you’re going to break your pretty face trying to put it there,” she gruffly suggested.
Nudging Leia, who was sitting beside him, Han whispered, “She said I have a pretty face.”
“Have Xan and Priella done better on Coruscant than Tanish has at Century Station?” Leia asked of Cyrella, deliberately interrupting any further repartee with her husband.
“As strategically as we assumed our placement of the Phemera to be, I am sorry to have to say no actionable intelligence has been developed thus far.”
“What then is to be our next step?” Leia carefully inquired.
Cyrella pursed her lips and exhaled deeply before answering, “Those of you who aren’t Jedi need to continue to operate outside the Order. I’m forced to recommend a clandestine course of action. I’m afraid Commissioner Ackbar is being overly optimistic in expecting the Corellians and Neimoidians to investigate themselves. I can’t believe Edwin is involved. But the corporations on Corellia hold almost as much power as the planetary government. His investigation could easily go nowhere, whereas the Neimoidian corruption might go right to the top. Our telepath couldn’t read Viceroy Rumpf. Why would he be using an anti-telepathy compound unless he was hiding something of significance? But Ackbar can’t know about your investigation. And that’s hardly the end of the difficulty. If you turn up evidence we can’t qualify, you have to use it find evidence we can. There need to be stealth missions to Neimoidia and Cato Neimoidia. We need Phemera in strategic locations on those worlds. But once again, if they help you find out who has really been behind everything, you need to use that information to lead you to actionable intelligence. We’re in a compromised situation. We need evidence that can’t be disqualified in court.”
“We understand,” Leia assured her. “Do you believe all the non-Jedi should participate?”
“I don’t know and I don’t wanna know. I can’t anticipate the kinds of questions Ackbar might ask me. I need plausible deniability. The team will have to choose its own members. But keep in mind that you must do nothing to implicate the Order. No lightsabers. No killing. Make certain no one sees any of you.”
“It’d be so much easier if we could teleport organic matter,” Han suggested. “We’d just fly in under stealth and beam the Phemera wherever we wanted.”
“I can’t make any recommendations regarding how to do this,” Cyrella concluded. “Perhaps it’s possible to do this without all the intrigue. But you’ll have to figure that out for yourselves.”
“I have an idea,” Tysha said. “But I suppose we had better discuss it in your absence, your grace.”
“That’s the idea,” Cyrella wryly replied. She then turned about and exited the cafeteria.
Once Tysha was certain Cyrella had also disengaged herself from the field of the Phemera, she explained, “I know a non-Jedi who might be able to help us. Her skills have up to now been wasted at Century Station. She’s already endeared herself to the rest of the station’s crew. She could express to one of the Neimoidians her regret than none of their leaders ever seem to visit. They consequently have not had a chance to witness the beauty of the new solarium. She could then suggest that samples of the more exotic flora be sent to them for their enjoyment. If one of their own subordinates presented the Phemera as a gift, perhaps it would be accepted and even placed in an advantageous location.”
“That could actually work,” Han exclaimed. “When do you think you can ask her?”
“Right now,” Tysha laughingly replied.
Not being Force-adept and being so focused on Tysha’s suggestion, he had failed to notice the inclusion of Tanish Smetch in their Force Conversation.
“I like your plan,” she said. “And I can think of an officer or two I might approach with such a proposition. I might even manage to imply that such an act of gift giving could pave the pathway to promotion. I’ll work on developing that angle and get back to you when I can report progress.”
After her conversation with Cyrella, Dari retrieved a couple of the crystals from her research and resorted to the lightsaber lab. It’s where her husband was also assisting Chewie and Awswi in their attempt to resurrect C3PO. She could hear the frustration in their muttered voices as she entered the work area, so she politely inquired about their progress.
“Part of the memory core contains compromised sectors,” Demorin replied. “But it looks like those dealt mainly with balance and motor functions. We’re considering the possibility of placing the salvageable sectors in a less ambulatory body to which we can add data storage space and processing power. We could also augment the data base. This would of course alter his primary functionality. In short he’d be reborn as an astrodroid.”
“He’d be like his friend, the one that went with the Quantum Quest?”
“Precisely. I’d suggest it is serendipitous that I’ve heard Han repeatedly complain about the lack of just such a resource, but the Force tells me there’s nothing coincidental about it.”
“Some of the underground rooms represent the only places where the field of the Phemera doesn’t reach, so I suppose you’re not privy to the assignment I was just allotted. When I asked Cyrella about the Adjudicator, she suggested that I build us both a new pair of lightsabers. That is why I have these crystals. Our research showed that they could be used to interrupt ray shields. And that’s exactly what the Adjudicator and the Violet Vergence were designed to do.”
“I’m getting a lightsaber?”
“Tysha has one, one straight out of legend.”
“Do I get training?”
“Whatever the Force doesn’t show you, I’m sure someone will.”
“I can show you some techniques, but I’d recommend Leia for the more advanced skill sets. As I’m sure you’ve heard, she used to be the Grand Master. However I’m certain any of the Jedi Masters would be happy to help you.”
“Some lightsabers have names. Have you considered what to call the ones you’ll build?”
“We’ll have to wait and see what the Force guides me to assemble. The plasma blades will be tuned to defeat force fields. That’ll determine their color. Until we’ve seen what that is it might be impossible to name them appropriately.”
“Yours and the one of your former master where both violet though, weren’t they?”
“Yes, but the Gallantry and Guarantor were both golden yellow. And they were also capable of penetrating ray shields. All the above were made using synthetic crystals. These won’t be. I’m using crystals from the cache. That could give them a very unique character.”
“Can I help?”
“I thought you were assisting Master Awswi and Chewie.”
“My specialty is really cyborgs, not automatons. And I can’t pass up the opportunity to help you build my lightsaber. Don’t real Jedi actually assemble their own?”
Captain Alexander hadn’t seen so much frantic activity at Spacedock since the War with the Dominion. It seemed to him as if technicians were bustling about everywhere, desperately trying to prepare ships for deployment. But the Enterprise was the only other starship ready for action, and it’d already been cleared for launch. Once the full complement of torpedoes and probes had been replaced on the Excelsior, the sister ships would be ready to get underway. However, he’d forgotten about another vessel that’d been left behind at the huge space station.
“It’s not on par with one of your galaxy-class cruisers,” Luke said, gesturing at the Quantum Quest. “But it’s fully armed, can match speeds with your ships, and it can also cloak. Wouldn’t it be wise to take every available vessel?”
“It would help to improve the odds,” Lucas positively added. “Your detection grid monitored the passage of a dozen Joracki ships before it was destroyed. You’re outnumbered nothing less than six to one. The addition of our ship makes it more like four to one.”
“If your ship was heavily damaged or you were to survive its destruction, you’d have no way home,” Alexander objected.
The Knights Errant shared questioning glances before Luke replied, “Perhaps we did not do enough to explain this, but there’s no possibility of a return trip. Millennia have elapsed since our departure. And the distance makes our survival unsustainable.”
“We were essentially placed in suspended animation. Our metabolisms were slowed almost to nonexistence,” Lucas continued. “But we nevertheless aged decades during the trip. We don’t enjoy lifespans that would facilitate a journey back. And we would be entirely beyond any history with which we’re familiar when we arrived even if it were possible. Whether we succeed or fail in our mission, we’re here to stay.”
“You were but children when you accepted this duty?” Alexander asked for clarification. But seeing from their silent affirmation it was so, he concluded, “You’ve the courage of Klingons. I’ve underestimated you.”
“Do you agree then that we should also take our ship?” Luke asked again.
“I value your counsel but you needn’t be on the bridge of the Excelsior to give it,” he replied. “And you have the same privilege as other diplomats. You serve at your own discretion. You are at liberty to disembark from my command. Admiral Data has authority over this mission. And I’m certain he’d be happy to have you participate in any fashion.”
“We’d like to see him when he’s happy,” Lucas quipped, which evoked a hearty belly laugh from the captain.
“As would I,” Alexander enthusiastically agreed.
The admiral himself joined them in the observation area only moments later. The request to transfer to their own ship was then repeated by the Knights Errant, and Data instantly approved it. Vice Admiral Adamson showed up as they were preparing to exit the gallery.
“We’ve confirmed the vector calculated by your probes just before they were destroyed,” he said. “I thought I would tell you in person the Joracki are headed toward Archer 4, the very same system where the Borg Cube was destroyed. The technicians just reported that your vessels are both ready to get underway. You’ll have to assess the situation once you’ve arrived. I’m not able to provide you with precise protocols. I can only wish you good luck. Of course, warp restrictions remain suspended for the duration of your mission. You’d best embark immediately.”
As they were turning to go, Data handed an electronic pad to Lucas and said, “We will need to restrict our communication to tight-beamed, coded transmissions. Here are the specifications. We must do nothing that might compromise our cloaks. The Joracki have Star Fleet technology. Please adjust your equipment accordingly.”
The Excelsior, Enterprise and Quantum Quest warped away from the space station as soon as it was safe to engage their hypedrives. The initial course took them in the general direction of Terra Nova as they recklessly sped across the sector. Despite their desperate need to formulate a plan of action, the unknowns were overwhelming. They didn’t know if all the Joracki ships had gone through the grid before it was destroyed. They didn’t know if the Borg might already be on their way, and they couldn’t even anticipate how many Borg Cubes would be sent.
The trio of ships activated their cloaks before dropping out of warp and entering the Archer system. According to Admiral Data’s orders, they used only passive scans as they searched for the Joracki fleet. They also aimed their long range scanners toward the Gamma Quadrant. The results were alarming.
“Only half the Joracki fleet had gone through the grid before they destroyed the network of probes,” Shanella announced. “Their armada actually consists of two dozen battle cruisers.”
“Long range scanners report the approach of three Borg Cubes,” Spock added. “They will enter the system in four minutes, twenty-two seconds.”
“The Joracki haven’t engaged their cloaks,” Kato worriedly announced as the enemy fleet appeared on the viewing screen.
“They haven’t even raised their shields,” Nog exclaimed. “We should attack while we can.”
With VOX active and all communications being tightly beamed in code between their three ships, his aggressive recommendation was relayed to the Quantum Quest and the bridge of the Enterprise. Data immediately responded.
“Such an attack would not eliminate their armada nor would it deter the Borg. Our response must be much more circumspect.”
“But why haven’t they at least raised their shields?” Nog persisted. “Surely they’re detecting the approach of the Borg.”
“They’re not here to oppose that approach,” Spock unemotionally surmised. “They are here to be assimilated.”
While sauntering across the lush corridor of the solarium at Century Station, Tanish Smetch paused, captivated as she always was by the view of Endor. She felt like she was looking down from a jungle suspended in space onto another that comprised the panorama of a whole planet and she was standing within a sampled extension of that luxuriant world. She couldn’t determine however if the perception really originated with her or with the Phemera within whose telepathic precincts she constantly resided. Only if she actually descended upon the verdant orb of Endor would she be beyond the field of the Phemera and only if she were not bearing a sample of the same. But she knew an upcoming forestry project called for her to transport just such a planting.
Her most immediate ambition was however the one she’d just discussed with Tysha. There were a couple of Neimoidian officers who seemed perceptibly appreciative of her placement on the station. On their separate shifts they had even made a habit of frequenting the solarium. Her intuition told her they were interested in more than just conversation. She could use that.
Resorting to such wiles wasn’t a tactic with which she was familiar nor was it consistent with her character. But she now considered herself to be a spy, which was an accurate description of her new responsibility. And espionage, as far as she understood it, could require the adoption of alternate attitudes. She expected one of the two officers to come by within the hour. She started considering the kinds of conversations that might help her manipulate the Neimoidian into doing her bidding.
The Neimoidians had opted not to install a captain at the station, possibly because it wasn’t actually a vessel. A pair of lieutenants were in charge, one for the day shift and one for the night shift. Keter Tey, the one whom she believed to be the most malleable, was coming off shift. She saw him almost daily at this precise time. And she was ready to put her plan into action when he arrived. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, she took the initiative.
“You’ve commented before about the solitude of my assignment. You know about the loss I endured. The powers that be thought it might be therapeutic for me to receive a relatively simple assignment, one that allowed me some alone-time to process what’d happened. You have given me the impression that you’re interested in romancing me. I’d like to reciprocate however there’s one overriding obstacle. A lady has to have standards, and I seriously outrank you. You’re just a lieutenant. I’m a lieutenant commander. But I think I know a way to help you become a captain.”
“What’s your idea?” Keter excitedly asked.
“None of your superior officers seem to ever visit the station. None of them have even seen the solarium. There’s a way you could reconcile this shortcoming. I don’t suggest you single one out, which could make it look like you’re going over your most immediate superior’s head. You’d want to send samples to all of them, even those in your home system. There’s an awfully exotic type of plant that is both beautiful and has an exhilarating aroma. And people who grow it seem to weirdly know the best way to make it thrive. The giving of such gifts could possibly precipitate a promotion. I could prepare the plantings for you.”
“With all the freighters that come by on their ways to or from Scree Space, it should be easy to send the samples up the chain of command. I can examine the roster when I go back on duty and select the most appropriate transports, if you’ll begin preparing the plantings. Perhaps we’re only at the beginning of a remarkably beneficial partnership.”
“Perhaps so,” she smiled conspiratorially as she said. She then concluded, “Captain Tey.”
As Keter headed off to his quarters she availed herself of the field of the Phemera to initiate a Force Conversation with Tysha.
“I believe I’ve persuaded Lieutenant Tey to present the Phemera to the appropriate parties.”
“Excellent work, Tani. We clearly picked the right person for the job.”
“I suspect it was really your recommendation that secured this posting for me, for which I’m very grateful.”
“Hold on now. You’re not really supposed to be telepathic,” Tysha laughingly replied. “Have our floral friends been rubbing off on you?”
“I like to think I have a certain amount of insight. But being constantly exposed to their world view probably does come with some consequence.”
“That is certainly true.”
“I don’t get it. Why would Narik need the support of an entire fleet of battle cruisers in order to make contact with the Borg?” Alexander rhetorically asked.
“He’s not here,” Lucas replied.
As the captain looked questioningly at the part of the viewing screen featuring the cockpit of the Quantum Quest, Luke added, “He has an extremely distinctive Force impression. We would sense it if he were here. He’s not.”
“Why would that be?” the captain asked in reply.
“Perhaps he is not confident enough of his conquest of Cardassia,” Data replied over VOX.
“He knows the Borg will backtrack the fleet to its point of origin to assimilate the society that sent it,” Spock correctly speculated. “It wasn’t necessary for him to come. The Borg will come to him.”
“It’s the beginning of the end,” Nog anxiously exclaimed. “How are we supposed to prevent this from playing out according to Narik’s design?”
Speaking to the Knights Errant, Alexander brusquely said, “Take your ship and get the hell out of here. Head for Delta Rana 4. If you can’t get the Douwd to help you then at least try to get him to answer your questions. Your mission is Narik. I know of only one way we stand a chance of preventing this contact between him and the Borg from happening. It will serve no purpose for you to sacrifice yourselves in this battle. We need you to help win the war for the Federation.”
Before either of the Knights Errant could answer, Shanella worriedly announced, “The Borg have stopped.”
“Why would they do that?” Alexander demanded. “We need them to close the distance.”
“They probably suspect a trap,” Data suggested from the bridge of the Enterprise. “But you are correct, if I understand your intentions. We would have to detonate the warp cores of both of our ships in order to destroy three Borg Cubes. If they fail to close the distance, the Joracki fleet could be relatively untouched by the detonations. They might manage to raise their shields prior to the shockwave’s arrival.”
“If we sacrifice ourselves without eliminating the Joracki fleet,” Nog circumspectly objected, “Spacedock will be defenseless.”
“Options!” Alexander bellowed.
Looking to the part of the viewing screen where Admiral Data was featured, Spock inquired, “You said Narik replicated the controls for your shuttle and then used them to upgrade his entire fleet?”
“Correct. Our control surfaces are more intuitive and our programming pathways superior.”
“Do you suppose he discovered the redundancy?”
“Unknown. He is highly intelligent. And if he were aboard any of the Joracki ships, he could probably countermand our remote control very quickly. Any attempt to test the application would reveal our presence at least to the Joracki. And even they are too far from the Borg Cubes to be an effective weapon.”
“If the Joracki battle cruisers were to suddenly cloak, how do you anticipate the Borg would respond?”
“They would probably believe an attack was imminent and quickly close on the last location of the armada.”
“You’re suggesting we use the helms of our two ships to try to control the Joracki armada?” Alexander carefully asked.
“If it works, the Borg’s response will be almost immediate,” Spock replied. “A signal causing the Joracki engines to overload with about a two second delay would need to very swiftly follow. We would then need to evacuate the area under full warp power. If the initial command works, it is logical to assume the destruct signal will work as well.”
“What’s the risk?” Odo asked.
“The Borg probably won’t just immediately advance,” Spock patiently replied. “They’ll will be firing as they come. Since they won’t be certain of the individual positions of the cloaked Joracki ships, their weapons will probably be firing with full spread. We will either have to disengage our cloaks so we can transfer that power to our shields or hope not to be inadvertently struck. Once we monitor the explosions, we will then have to return to the engagement area to ensure that all enemy vessels have been eliminated. If any of the Borg Cubes haven’t been totally destroyed, it will then be necessary to finish them off or perish in the attempt. Even without cloaks our shields might not provide adequate protection against the residual radiation that will saturate the area.”
“The risk is acceptable,” Alexander declared. To Jake he said, “Call O’Brien to the bridge.”
While Alexander was explaining to Molly O’Brien the need to inoculate everyone on the ship against radiation poisoning, Data was advising the Chief Medical Officer onboard the Enterprise of the same thing. There was then only one last detail with which to dispense.
Speaking to the Knights Errant, the captain resolutely said, “I must insist again that you exit the area. The Borg will be here in seconds. There’s no time to inoculate you. You’re welcome to wait at the edge of the sector if you want. We’ll join you once we’ve issued the destruct signal, if all goes according to plan. If we fail to join you, it’ll mean we had to destroy our ships instead. In that case you need to proceed to Delta Rana 4 as I already indicated.”
“We understand,” Lucas assured him.
“May the Force be with you,” Luke courteously added, although the benediction did not have the same importance as in the galaxy from which they’d come.
As the Quantum Quest invisibly warped away, the helms on the two Star Fleet vessels were programmed to take control of the Joracki battle cruisers. Because they could not be sure about the operation of the application, they opted to use redundancy to reinforce the command. And at the prearranged moment they issued the order for the battle cruisers to cloak. Unprofessional as it was, a chorus of applause erupted on both bridges as the Joracki cruisers complied. The Borg Cubes responded almost immediately, swiftly advancing toward the fleet’s last known position.
“Issue the destruct order and withdraw!” Alexander ordered. Data gave the same instruction on the Enterprise.
As anticipated, the Borg Cubes were releasing devastating salvoes of incinerating energy at every vector associated with the invisible armada as they came. But the helmsmen of the galaxy class cruisers had calculated the optimum trajectory for evading those volleys. They had warped beyond the blast radius before the Joracki engines simultaneously exploded, but the shockwave still had some strength when it reached them. They weathered the assault and then turned their scanners to search the engagement area.
The cruisers were all but obliterated. Much of their debris was almost atomized. Of the Borg Cubes, one was ripped into sparking shreds and the other two were both badly damaged. It was however a well-known fact that Borg Cubes had practically unbelievable regenerative abilities. It was therefore necessary to reenter the engagement area and finish them off. This was precisely what Alexander and Data had been hoping to avoid.
“Just like the black hole that swallowed the first Borg Cube,” Shanella clinically commented, “Archer 4 is in a stable orbit around 61 Ursae Majoris. If only there was a way to swiftly transport the crews of our ships onto the planet, there are individuals aboard both who’d be immune from the radiation exposure in the engagement area.”
“Admiral Data might be able to command the Enterprise in combat by himself,” Odo argued, “but I’m only qualified to pilot shuttles.”
“We’ve all been inoculated. It’ll just have to be enough,” Alexander announced.
“May we suggest a different strategy?” Lucas asked.
“The shields of the Quest were designed to bear prolonged exposure to the radiation of the intergalactic expanse,” Luke explained.
“We could minimize the time either of your ships need to spend in the radiation field,” Lucas continued. “We would go in without our cloak and draw their fire, if they still have any functioning weapons. We’ve seen what their weapons can do. We could weather a few volleys. You’d follow us in, cloaked, and target any weapon systems they use against us. Your first pass should leave them defenseless. You can then withdraw while we finish them off.”
“I agree with you strategy,” Alexander replied. “Admiral Data, do you approve of their plan?”
“Indeed I do.”
Dropping its cloak, the Quantum Quest reentered the engagement area. Neither of the Borg Cubes were able to fire with full power, but both responded to the adversary’s appearance. Both Star Fleet ships were shadowing the Quest. Dropping their cloaks, they fired volleys of quantum torpedoes at the remaining weapon systems of the Borg, totally eliminating those systems.
The Enterprise and Excelsior then continued through the radiation field as the Quest came about and kept attacking. Its shields had been weakened substantially. But both Borg Cubes had been rendered weaponless. The Knights Errant had to wonder if they were maybe breaking the Jedi Code by decimating so defenseless an enemy, but they knew the Borg had to be utterly defeated. Not a single drone survived by the end of their assault.
“We read no life forms remaining in any of the Borg Cubes,” Lucas reported.
“Some of the systems still have power,” Luke observed. “Is there any possible advantage to be gained by accessing them?”
“You are only protected by the shields of your ship,” Spock reminded them. “I see no option for going aboard.”
“Not us,” Lucas replied. “Our teleporter is really only for use on inanimate objects. We could however beam R2 aboard. He might even be able to access their cybernetic systems. But what would be the possible objective of such a mission?”
“It could be extremely useful to know what information they transmitted back to the Gamma Quadrant,” Data suggested.
“We’ll move into position and send over our astrodroid,” Luke replied.
R2D2 was easily able to access the systems on the Borg Cube and transmitted the findings to the Quest. The final transmissions to the Gamma Quadrant showed the Joracki fleet cloaking. No further scanner logs were sent after that. All sensors had been burnt out by the explosion of the armada’s engines. The Knights Errant relayed that information to the Federation ships.
“Were the Borg able to track the Joracki fleet back to its point of origin?” Data asked.
After a pause to check with R2, Lucas replied, “The navigational computer was still trying to do just that when it crashed. They didn’t have adequate star chart information to make a definite determination.”
“What if we were to supply that information?” Alexander asked. “Could an advantage result from misdirecting any other Borg vessels? Could we possibly help to prevent Narik and the Borg from coming into contact?”
“A forced-chamber explosion due to the death of the Dyson Sphere star is imminent. Since its shell is made of neutronium an exact measurement of the interior conditions isn’t possible. It is estimated by Star Fleet Stellar Cartography to take place in the next two to six weeks. A more precise estimate cannot be made,” Spock answered.
“If the Borg send more ships,” Alexander carefully inquired, “how long would it take them to get here from the Gamma Quadrant?”
“Depending on how long it takes them to organize their response, approximately two to six weeks.” Spock replied.
“We’re sending you the coordinates for the Dyson Sphere,” Data told the Jedi. “Please have your astrodroid use the Borg transmitter array to send them as the calculated origin point for the Joracki Fleet. Once this is complete, we will set course for Delta Rana 4 and hope to have some kind of meaningful dialogue with the Douwd.”
R2 uploaded the requested coordinates to the Borg Cube’s subspace transmitter and used all that was left of the system’s power to send them toward the Gamma Quadrant. With the task complete, he was beamed back aboard the Quest and all three vessels set course for the Delta Sector.
Two weeks later the Star Fleet Detection Grid monitored half a dozen Borg Cubes entering into Federation Space. They warped right through the Terran, Vulcan, Andorian, Rigellian, and Mutara Sectors on their way to the Zed Lapis Sector, paying no attention to the populations they bypassed. The gravimetric interference caused by the Dyson Sphere’s mass compromised their sensors. One of the invaders slammed into and ended up impacted on the neutronium surface.
While surveying the circumference of the enormous anomaly a possible port was located by the remaining five vessels. Despite its size, the port was not actually substantial enough to allow entry by any of the Borg Cubes. Nevertheless they attempted to activate it until they were finally successful.
The tractor beams grabbed the Borg Cube and held it against the aperture while impossibly power particle beams disintegrated it. Unknown to the jeopardized Borg, the aperture provided a pressure release for the dying star inside. The occupants of the other five vessels were helpless to assist their incinerated comrades. By the time the aperture finally closed, nothing remained of the captured Borg Cube.
The brief release of so minimum an amount of pressure did nothing to stabilize the reaction occurring inside the shell. And the resealing of the portal actually provided the tipping point. The Dyson Sphere catastrophically exploded, taking the remaining five Borg Cubes with it.
The final transmission to the Gamma Quadrant showed a Borg Cube being impossibly held in place while disintegrated by particle beams of unimaginable intensity, and they were radiating from a structure of inconceivable size. All communications were lost immediately thereafter. The Borg therefore decided that any further forays into Federation Space were to be discontinued for the foreseeable future.