STAR WARS Episode 12, The Balancing of the Force, Volume 3 of the Alternate Galaxy Trilogy

Error Correcting Code

“To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

~ Peter Pan

The fleet of Federation and Klingon ships had rendezvoused with the Excelsior and the new deflector assemblies were still being installed when Lucas looked with alarm to Thevlen, both of whom were in engineering, and said, “I am sensing Narik. I am afraid he’s already in the same sector as the Enterprise. Our armada isn’t combat ready yet. We need more time to finish installing the new deflector arrays.”

“His fleet must’ve met him somewhere much closer than Cardassia,” Thevlen postulated.

Luke, Tysha and Tani all unceremoniously spilled into engineering only moments later, just as Lucas was making his way to the intercom panel. They quickly made it clear they agreed with his petrifying perception. He asked Sisko to put him on VOX so the commanders of both bridges would hear his warning. Data was quick to respond.

“Our probes just finished mapping the perimeter of the damping field. We have not had time yet to position them for detecting cloaked ships, but several of them just monitored the presence of anti-proton beams. Narik was apparently aware of it when we used them to detect him on his outbound journey. He has already responded in kind. What is your status?”

“All our craft are crippled until we complete the installation of the improved deflector arrays,” Alexander interjected.

“As redoubtable as it admittedly is,” Data replied, “the Enterprise is no match for an armada of Joracki battle cruisers. We will have to withdraw until we can rendezvous with your upgraded fleet. But the Quantum Quest is at station keeping just off our port bow. Are you able to control it from where you are, Lucas?”

“R2 is onboard our ship,” Lucas reassuringly responded, “He is completely able to control it. But if either ship attempts to fall back to our position and is detected while doing do, that Joracki armada will be on us almost instantly. We need a solution that buys us some time.”

“Let’s put the question to R2D2,” Tani suggested. “Droids don’t process information the way we do. Sometimes it allows them to see a solution that eludes us.”

“Can’t hurt,” Luke quickly concurred. “He has extensive battle experience and access to the stellar cartography library on the Enterprise.”

Using his com-link Lucas explained their situation to the droid. Several tense moments then followed as everyone waited to see if the dependable little droid could present a possibility that’d escaped even the Force Wielders.

“We are out of time,” Data dispassionately observed. “We have been detected. They will be able to plot any exit course we adopt. We now require a solution that will mask our egress. I see no way to satisfy all the parameters. Given the quantity of anti-proton beams being detected by our sensors and the probes, his fleet must consist of at least two dozen battle cruisers. They are still beyond weapon range, but they are now closing quickly.”

After a brief pause, Lucas sounded puzzled as he responded, “I’ve a message for you from R2. He wants you to transfer warp power to your shields and prepare to withdraw. I’m unable to read his intentions. He’s a droid. He appears only as a void in the Force to me. I don’t know why he’s not being forthcoming about his plan, but I strongly suggest you do as he requests.”

As soon as the Enterprise transferred the requested warp power to its shields, the Quantum Quest engaged its hyperdrive and went hurtling toward the midpoint between the sources of the array of anti-proton beams. As it came to a stop its engines were set to overload. Despite being much smaller than either of the galaxy-class starships which it had become wont to accompany, it was an intergalactic vessel. Its engines were therefore every bit as robust as those Start Fleet ships. Its detonation destroyed the two Joracki battle cruisers to which it was closest. The half a dozen cruisers to which it was the next closest also suffered damage. And the expanding cloud of particulate kept those that remained relatively unscathed from detecting the cloaked egress of the Enterprise.

“Your ship!” Alexander exclaimed as he stood before the long-range scanner readout at the back of the bridge on the Excelsior. “You now have no way home.”

“There was never going to be a return trip,” Lucas patiently replied. “We’d arrive in a totally different time reference frame than the one we left.”

“We’ve gotten around your galaxy expeditiously enough without the assistance of our ship,” Luke added. “I’m sure we’re more saddened by the loss of our astrodroid. His history of serving the Jedi Order goes back generations.”

“His solution was the only feasible one,” Data interjected. “I also saw it but was not about to recommend it. I offer my condolences on your loss.”

“Aside from the absence of a Force impression, he reminded me a lot of you,” Tysha found the opportunity to observe.

“Your associates made such a remark to me on an earlier occasion,” the admiral answered. “They actually said they believed my existence as a gestalt would exceed that of my mechanical body and I might even be reconstituted as a biological being.”

“I’d have to agree with that assessment,” she replied. “As Lucas indicated earlier, droids do not have Force impressions. You do. That speaks of temporal longevity.”

“I feel it from you, too,” Tani encouragingly agreed. “I’m new to Force sensations, but R2D2 was lacking something that you have. And it is something every other life form I’ve encountered since coming here has had.”

“Then maybe it is time for us to discuss how to use the device Doctor Marcus just finished,” Data replied.

***

As the Falcon descended toward the surface of Tund to confirm the destruction of the Dark Energy Weapon and the elimination of the telepathic monk, the Droidekas made no attempts to repel or even approach the invader. After verifying the nullification of the danger, Leia contacted Cyrella and asked her to send Master Gwonameeth to Tund to engage in negotiations. She had an idea on how to relocate the remaining monks in their dreaded Droideka bodies, but all would have to agree with her suggestion.

Upon arriving, Gwonameeth swiftly certified the remorse the monks felt for the manipulated part they’d played in causing so much death. They said they were willing to make whatever form of recompense was possible. Not wanting to give away the telepathic capacities of the Phemera unless her proposal was accepted, Leia used them to communicate only with Gwonameeth. The Jedi Master then facilitated her contact with the B’omarr monks. This way Cyrella was also privy to her proposal.

“If we can provide a temple in which you can dwell unchallenged forevermore, you will have no need of the hands provided for you by the Colicoids. Would you be willing to submit to such a dismemberment in exchange for so permanent an abode?”

Gwonameeth indicated their acceptance of her terms.

“You would retain your Droideka bodies and their weaponry, but for a specific purpose. You would be charged with guarding that temple so no one could ever attempt to use the instrument of darkness hidden within it. You’ve seen what such weapons can do. Is this a responsibility you would be willing to accept.”

Gwonameeth again indicated their acceptance of her terms.

“The temple of which I speak is buried on Dagobah. A telepathic presence also inhabits that planet, one that is in constant contact with the Jedi Order. Once you are relocated there, you will also enjoy communion with this presence. If your sanctuary is disturbed by any force you cannot repel, the Phemera will contact the Jedi Order. They will then send assistance. If this suggestion is acceptable a frigate will first take you to Colla 4 to be modified as agreed. It will then take you to Dagobah. It’s a deadly serious responsibility you are accepting. Do you unanimously agree to it?”

Once the B’omarr monks had sworn their acceptance to Gwonameeth, a frigate moved in to collect them. Shortly thereafter, the frozen orb was devoid of all life. All the indigenous flora and fauna had already perished in the lethal frost. Transponder satellites were placed in orbit around Tund so the rogue planet’s position could be accurately determined. The most perilous jeopardy the galaxy had ever faced was eliminated.

“No one understands the Dark Side sufficiently to dismantle its ultimate instrumentality. Not even Grand Master Yoda was willing to make the attempt,” Cyrella Force Spoke to Leia. “You’ve come up with the perfect resolution to the situations with both the Droidekas and with Dagobah.”

“Thank you, Grand Master,” she replied. “But nothing lasts forever.”

“Somebody overwhelming the B’omarr monks and trying to use that device would comprise the one situation where I think harvesting a Blossom would be justified.”

“So will you now do as you told the Senate and instruct the members of the Order to disarm themselves?”

“It’s the only way I can see for us to avoid provoking a response from the Force. We should help the Phemera to spread, so we’ll have an increasingly good grasp of the pulse of the galaxy. And we should busy ourselves with contemplating our benefactors, the mysterious species who created the caches. But like the B’omarr monks, I believe our lives need to become much more monastic. Seeking confrontation can only lead to its acquisition.”

***

“All special team members report to the bridge immediately,” Captain Alexander announced over the intercom. Once they’d arrived, he continued, “I have Admiral Data on VOX. His ship will join us soon. We need to discuss how to deploy our new weapon. Dr. Marcus, what can you tell us about its most effective use?”

“Narik will need to be within the radius of the Genesis Wave if it’s to work on him. But it isn’t currently the payload in a quantum torpedo. The radius of the Genesis Wave exceeds weapons range. In order to use it that way you’d have to warp the hell out of there a split second after firing it. Otherwise you’d end up sacrificing the ship that delivered it along with everybody aboard. We’re not certain therefore about the best delivery method.”

“To complicate matters further,” Data added, “Narik is no longer in his intergalactic ship. Its profile was distinct and could possibly have been identified by our anti-proton scans. But he now is ostensibly in one of two dozen Joracki battle cruisers, which all look the same. Lucas, can you and your friends use the Force to possibly isolate the correct target?”

“He will certainly expose himself if attempts any attack based on time technology. Hopefully our fleet’s upgraded shielding assemblies will hold. Beyond that, we four sense the direction of his presence through the Force. But unless there is enough space between his ship and the rest of his armada, I doubt if we’ll be able to single it out. There could be other Joracki battle cruisers in between. And the fact they’re all cloaked doesn’t help anything either.”

“If we manage to thin his ranks and minimize the amount of targets, we might be able to do as you’re asking,” Luke suggested. Turning to Alexander, he added, “But if we lose warp power in the process, we won’t be able to escape. That’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. But you are responsible for all the hundreds of other people on this ship.”

“Perhaps the delivery would be best accomplished by subterfuge,” Data remarked. “Unless I miss my guess, Narik would accept me if he believed I was defecting from the Federation. I am also immune from the radiation he emits. I will somehow have to avoid being separated from the shuttle that contains the Genesis Device. I will also need to mask it from detection by scanning. I will give consideration to these difficulties and hope to arrive at a resolution.”

“If we were to use the device to strike suddenly without warning, as with a torpedo, no small number of vessels could easily be caught in the Genesis Wave. You’d endanger both fleets,” Dr. Marcus said. Then he asked, “Exactly how many lives besides yours are you willing sacrifice?”

“Sir, the disposition of the enemy armada at last report, please?” Alexander abruptly asked.

“Two Joracki cruisers shared in the destruction of the Quest. Approximately half a dozen of the others suffered damage of some sort. If Narik wants to move forward with his full force, it will be at impulse power. From the reports I received, I believe you have time to finish the upgrades to our fleet. Since we are just beginning our upgrade the Enterprise will be late to the battle. And if you are willing to bear the burden, it might be best if two other ships remain here with mine. A trio of cruisers could make a decisive difference by arriving once battle has already been joined. Hopefully the Romulans will come later.”

“I’m expecting the Breen to launch their attack against the Ferengi at any moment,” Captain Alexander commented. “What if Vice Admiral Adamson orders us to assist, sir?”

“By eliminating the armada on which the Breen are almost certainly depending, we achieve the intent of such an order,” Data craftily countered.

“Somebody has been spending too much time around humanoids,” Odo dryly observed.

“How soon can your fleet be ready to depart?” Data asked Alexander, obviously electing to ignore the security chief’s remark. He had learned such a dismissal was an acquired privilege of rank, and it fortuitously afforded him with an opportunity to avoid a conversation he didn’t know how to have.

The captain turned to Nog, who said, “There was more difficulty in adapting the new shields to some of the Klingon Birds of Prey. As requested, we are consequently conserving two to stay behind with the Enterprise. The rest of the fleet should be ready to depart in half an hour. But I am sorry to report the loss of the last of the probes. We have no current reading on the position of the enemy armada.”

“Assume they’re headed this way at sublight speed,” Alexander insightfully said. “Calculate a course to bring the fleet from its projected launch point to just within half a million klicks of the Joracki armada. Admiral Data, I suppose I could just ask the ship’s computer, but I would rather ask you. I’d like to request a spread pattern for our quantum torpedoes when we emerge. It is a difficult calculation to be sure, but I’m certain you can maximize the coverage and the damage it will do.”

“With eleven ships and then with three?” the admiral tentatively asked, knowing the captain would value his attempt at humor.

The entire bridge crew belly-laughed along with Alexander after which he grinningly agreed, “Yes, sir, I believe those would be the numbers with which to begin.”

“I will be happy to formulate your formation. I will get back to you with it before you launch,” he smiled as he replied. After decades of practice, he was expert at producing a convincing grin.

“Admiral, we’re here to help however we can,” Lucas interjected. “Do you want us to remain on the Excelsior?”

“Your perceptions will most probably yield the greatest tactical advantage if you go in on the first wave. And in order for you to get agreement on your impressions, it is probably best to have you all in one place. You are all billeted onboard the Excelsior. And you have assigned quarters there. I see no overwhelming reason to make any alteration to that arrangement.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lucas properly responded.

As Admiral Data signed off, Alexander looked to Nog and said, “I want total systems checks run on every ship in the first wave. Let’s be sure we are as battle-ready as we can be. Go ahead and issue General Quarters. We’ll go to Yellow Alert five minutes out. Let’s wrap up all the loose ends. In half an hour we’re at war.”

“Why does it seem as if we’re always trying to save the galaxy, no matter what galaxy we’re in?” Tani asked, looking truly confused as she turned to Tysha.

“This is what you signed up for, soldier,” she replied. “The Living Force is itself a call to duty for all who aspire to interface with it. You were Republic Security, you have seen firsthand what a Jedi’s life is like.”

“I miss the Phemera, for whom I was once the caretaker,” Tani tearfully confessed. “I’m just now seeing what a unparalleled time to be alive that was, out there at the edge of nowhere with nobody but telepathic plants and mostly alien enemies. Sounds silly to treasure it now don’t you think?”

“Sounds wonderful,” she affectedly nodding in agreement. “I wish I was there with you now. I think this is all about to get intense even for a Jedi, which we actually aren’t. I’m trying to get a sense of what’s about to happen, but the future feels too mercurial. There’s too much motion in the Force.”

“We’ve felt it, too,” Luke remarked, standing nearby. “Something huge is gonna happen.”

Admiral Data contacted the Excelsior only minutes later, giving Nog the attack formation for the fleet and the quantum torpedo spread patterns for each ship in the formation. He had further information.

“The Romulans use a drive system technologically very different from ours. All our research however indicated a way to use that difference for an advantage when assembling the energies to form a temporal shield. We transmitted that to Vice Admiral Adamson. He confirmed sending it through to the Romulans in the Gama Quadrant. But because of the delay, we will not know if they have either received it or decided to respond to it until we see if they show up. Meanwhile I am instructing you to beam the Genesis Device over to the Enterprise. I will be responsible for its delivery. ”

“Then you have a plan, sir?”

“I always have a plan. I am an android. Everything to me is a matter of logistics.”

With their approach to the engagement area preprogrammed, the eleven vessels of the first wave assembled in attack formation. Their quantum torpedo tubes were full, and the vectors for their devastating spreads had been meticulously keyed in. The Enterprise and a pair of Klingon Birds of Prey held back while the eleven warped away, hoping to surprise the Joracki armada.

According to the prearranged plan, each ship fired its first spread of quantum torpedoes the moment it dropped out of warp. And by using Data’s calculations their coverage was maximized. The torpedoes had also been programmed to detonate at a certain range if they failed to strike a target. This aspect of the strategy actually wrought the most havoc on the Joracki armada, since it caused the shields of some of their ships to become visible as they deflected the shock waves from the proximate explosions. The displays of the Star Fleet and Klingon ships lit up with all the reports from their targeting scanners.

“Narik will almost certainly reveal himself,” Alexander eagerly reminded the rest of the fleet. “Be prepared to lock your weapons on him the moment he does. And try to maintain tracking as long you can.”

Along with the shielding modification, every ship in the fleet could access targeting scanner information from any of its sister ships. With their improved deflection facility and the capacity to completely coordinate their attacks, Alexander was optimistic about the outcome for the fleet.

He wasn’t wrong about Narik. The Kalaxa could fire while still shielded. But the operation of its cloak had to be suspended. This shortcoming didn’t pertain to Narik. His position outside the hull of the ship remained invisible as he used the Force to find targets against which he could bring his new Banisher to bear. But the effectiveness of its firepower was not at all what he had anticipated.

He watched in disbelief as its time-shifting burst ricocheted off its intended target and struck one of the Joracki cruisers instead. It became visible as its cloak collapsed before the burst. The impacted section of the ship disappeared, almost as if the cloak was reforming, and the cascade of overloads that followed finally caused the rest of the battle cruiser to catastrophically explode. Narik immediately suspended any further attempts to use his temporal weapon, but the tenor of their conflict had been drastically changed by this development. He was the preeminent weapon of the Joracki armada. And his presence had just unexpectedly been rendered ineffectual. This essentially eliminated their ultimate advantage. In addition, the Federation ships had acquired a temporary fix on the Kalaxa.

***

On the bridge of the Kalaxa, Commodore Najacor saw the burst from the Banisher as it was deflected by its Federation target. He watched in disbelief as the ricochet utterly annihilated one of the other Joracki ships. Due to the loss of Captain Arpi Ropani, he’d remained in command of the Kalaxa. He also supervised a total of half a dozen ships, as did each of the Joracki armada’s three other commodores. But the lost cruiser had also been the command ship for one of them.

“My lord,” he exclaimed over his subspace channel to Pax Parakal, “how did the Federation manage to deflect the weapon of a god by using nothing but technology against magic?”

As much as the mistrustful tone of the commodore’s voice, the Force revealed to Narik that his questionable control over the crew was waning even further. Those followers who displayed uncertainty now also included the commodore. And he knew how his next order would therefore be received. But it was unavoidable.

“The enemy fleet managed to get a fix on our trajectory. Take evasive action. Put us behind some of our most strongly shielded ships until we can calculate a new attack vector.”

Switching off the subspace channel, Najacor turned to his bridge crew and said, “You heard him. Our illustrious leader doesn’t seem to have much faith in his flagship. Withdraw to the edge of the engagement area. Put the Prinox between us and the Federation fleet.”

As he was issuing these orders, he caught the penetrating gaze of First Officer Kral Loracki. It was clear to each of them in this moment that they’d both been betrayed by the what they had allowed themselves to believe. Pax Parakal was no god, and the Joracki weren’t anything more than a means to an end, that end being his empire. For generations they’d seen the Banisher in battle, overwhelming enemies who were soon to be subjects. But now the bridge crews of each battle cruiser in the armada had been immensely demoralized. Many even of those who had not been debriefed by the Federation found themselves facing a crisis of faith. They couldn’t accept a god without thunder, especially when they’d come to rely on it.

As Narik now knew, he was suffering from a failure of foresight, which is how the Jedi finally defeated the Disciples of the Dark Side in their own galaxy. The Force had afforded him with no forewarning whatsoever that his dreadful weapon would no longer work against the forces of the Federation. They’d incorporated some sort of Force technology into the deflector shields of the Federation fleet. While it might be possible to modify his weapon to compensate, not in the heat of battle. The Joracki armada still enjoyed the advantage of superior numbers. The presence of Jedi in his chosen galaxy had now nullified the benefit he’d expected to provide for his fleet. He lamented the mistake he’d made by not prioritizing their eradication.

It occurred to him however that the further weakened by battle the shields of the Federation ships were, the greater the chances they’d eventually become ineffective against his weapon. .

***

Admiral Irlick Canto strode through the echoing corridors of the Joracki command center on Cardassia. The expansive passageways would’ve normally been bustling with activity. Everyone else was however outside, seeing to the defense of the installation. It was under siege. Now that he and his devoted subordinates were without the support of battleships in orbit, the Cardassian insurgents were finally utilizing the tools of destruction they’d confiscated from the armory. And it was not going well for the Joracki.

When Pax Parakal, if that was actually his name, charged the admiral with the maintenance of the empire, Irlick had not considered it to be the same thing as sustaining the subservience of Cardassia. But since he was inside the command center, where he had access to the subspace transceiver, he knew something the soldiers outside did not. The uprising was happening across the Cardassian Union. No sooner had the battle cruisers left their patrols to join the armada than the rebels went to work. They were clearly in communication with each other. If Cardassia broke free, the other rebels would be emboldened.

The drop ships, which had brought the Joracki to the surface, were all parked in the central courtyard. It was the most protected place still under their control. Canto now wondered if they’d have to use them to evacuate. He also wondered if there’d be anywhere for them to go if indeed they were finally forced to flee. But if their inscrutable Emperor then returned triumphantly, what dreadful fate would await the subordinate who’d surrendered the most recent annexation to his empire while he was away?

If he had believed they could save the citadel, he would’ve sent the drop ships to provide air support. But losing even one such conveyance would compromise their ability to fully evacuate.

But where in the galaxy could they go? How could they possibly hope to swiftly escape the grasp of their god. The drop ships were really for short range. They needed to go a direction in which he wasn’t and wouldn’t even be inclined to go. It was at this point the commodore for the first time started to seriously consider defection. If they could make it to the damping field, then the Ferengi would pick them up and turn them over to the Federation. It was the only clear way out.

The only other direction in which to retreat was the spiral arm where the rest of their empire was situated. But due to the central location of Cardassia within the Union, it was as far away as the damping field. And it offered no safety from the wrath of their would-be god. Canto therefore sent a message to the commanders of the other garrisons throughout the Union and gave them the option of using their drop ships to evacuate if they were about to be overwhelmed. And then he went to get his wife and whatever he believed they could quickly collect. The inclosing chaos around the command center made it clear that the time for departure would soon be upon them.

***

The Joracki armada’s original formation had been interrupted by an essentially inescapable cone of quantum torpedoes. With the initial trajectories of their battle cruisers given away by the shimmering operation of their deflector shields, Narik’s fleet had been unexpectedly forced to go on the defensive. But despite the loss of two ships shortly after detecting a galaxy-class cruiser, his armada still outnumbered the Federation and their Klingon allies two to one. And it was time to press that advantage.

Expanding particulate from the explosions of the quantum torpedoes was starting to render the cloaks of both sides ineffective. Eddies of incandescence streaked the engagement area. In almost perfect unison the commodores and captains of the cruisers on both sides dropped their cloaks, transferring the power to their shields, and the slugfest was on.

Thanks to Force Technology, the shields of all the Federation ships were enhanced against standard energy as well as temporal attack. The Joracki disrupters weren’t nearly as effective as the phasers of the Federation fleet. The tactical advantage began to even the numbers between the battle’s contestants. Narik’s armada was finally cut nearly in half but the Federation fleet lost two Klingon Birds of Prey and two Star Fleet Cruisers.

Knowing reinforcements would arrive, Captain Alexander commanded with an almost crazy confidence. And it allowed him to wreak havoc upon the Joracki armada. But because of having the superior numbers, Narik was able to use an offensive tactic for which Star Fleet had become famous. During close passes, as they were pulling away from their target, the Joracki used their teleporters to position torpedoes on the verge of detonation. Two Klingon Birds of Prey and one more Federation cruiser fell before Narik’s strategy.

But working with torpedoes on the verge of detonation can be a very hazardous occupation. There was a brief hiccup in the Joracki cruiser’s transporter system that caused it to reinitialize. Unknown to the crew, the first pulse prepared the torpedo to explode, and the second pulse set it off. Such an explosion inside the ship and so close to engineering was spectacularly lethal for the battle cruiser and its crew. As the Joracki shuffled their attack strategy, the Federation ships were able to organize a counterattack.

In their attempts to continually move the conflict out of the debris cloud so their cloaks could be reestablished, the engagement area was slowly drifting through the Actium Sector and in the general direction of the Bajoran Wormhole. Captain Alexander couldn’t be sure if this was being deliberately done, but he didn’t want to allow the Joracki fleet any unnecessary escape options. Looking to Jake, he said, “Put me through to Admiral Data.”

“We are about to pulse our warp drives now,” Data said, responding to the hail. “Stand by.”

The Birds of Prey in the Federation’s forward fleet had been reduced to a pair, so the arrival of the Enterprise’s escorts doubled that number. Each of the three newcomers was receiving all the targeting scanner information from the rest of the fleet. Data used that resource to calculate their most efficient introduction into the monumental dogfight. The Joracki armada felt the wrath of their arrival.

Even with the addition to the Federation fleet, they were still somewhat outnumbered by the Joracki. Every time a vessel of either side was destroyed, the entire melee moved away from its bothersome debris. And as the migration interminably continued, Data was able to confirm what Alexander already suspected. They were heading directly toward the Bajoran Wormhole. On the one hand Data didn’t want to allow the Joracki such an avenue of escape. But on the other hand the Romulan reinforcements, if they arrived, would be coming through precisely the same portal. And with his forces still outnumbered, he couldn’t control the direction of the drift. He used their approach as an opportunity to send a message through the Bajoran relay, telling the Romulans it was time to send whatever assistance they could spare. But even Vice Adamson hadn’t been certain they’d respond.

After the incinerating volleys delivered by the Enterprise and its escorts during their arrival, the benefit of their participation was quickly diminished to match that of the other vessels in their fleet. The combat seemed destined to continue until only a single ship remained. But the arrival of three Romulan Warbirds, if they really came, could alter the balance of power and completely change the complexion of the conflict. Data reminded his bridge crew of this truth as he ordered another course change. Evasion had become synonymous with navigation.

There were still so many vessels involved in the battle that it was difficult to fire any weapon without striking something. The shared tracking of the ships in the Federation fleet allowed them to avoid any incidents of friendly fire. But the disruptor bursts their shields were deflecting finally began to have a cumulative effect. Because of his affinity with the Force, Narik knew when their shields became susceptible to his weapon. It was what he’d been waiting for.

Despite knowing that by so doing he’d give the position of the Kalaxa away, but deliberately disregarding the danger, Narik opened fire from just outside the port airlock with the Banisher 2. The targeted Federation cruiser was not ripped out of time. But its shields were overwhelmed by the assault. Like a slow-motion train wreck, every EPS conduit, tap, and relay on the irreversibly besieged ship blew out with explosive force. It appeared to the aghast onlookers as if the ship’s power was all systematically turned against it until nothing was left but smoldering debris. Once again, the complexion of the conflict had been changed.

***

Senator Senairus strode the colossal corridors of the Senate Complex. His summons to the chambers of the Supreme Chancellor was somewhat surprising, but he did not see it as any call for alarm. He even paused to admire the new plantings that had been installed in several places around the soaring citadel. His gait was leisurely as he finally entered the offices that were his destination. And that’s where he paused in sudden concern. There were other attendees whose presence he’d not anticipated, almost all of whom were Jedi. Cyrella, Gwonameeth, Leia, Han and Chewie were in attendance.

“Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn about the assassination of Viceroy Rumpf,” Cranis accusingly said. “Before you attempt to deny such foreknowledge you should probably be aware that the bounty hunter was in the presence of a telepath on Century Station when the execution was carried out. Perhaps you shouldn’t have been so stingy with your anti-telepathy compound. I guess Rumpf had simply become too much of a liability to your administration. Did he convince you to participate in too many questionable activities?”

“This is outrageous,” Senairus exclaimed. Turning to face Jedi Master Gwonameeth, whom he suspected of being the source of the allegation, he demanded, “And where is my accuser?”

“To protect the identity of your accuser, you are facing this assembly instead of a Senatorial Board of Inquiry,” the chancellor brusquely replied. “It’s the only advantage I’m allowing you. Do not make me regret it. Your guilt is a matter of record. If you wish to avoid criminal proceedings, you will accept my recommendation in this matter. You’ll abandon the office of senator. You will leave Coruscant, and you will never be involved in the politics of your people again. If you won’t abide by this decision, I will have no choice but to explore other options.”

“What other options?” the senator tentatively asked.

“Criminal proceedings involving you could endanger our trade agreement with the Scree. I’ll not have that. But since you are a murderer and I am aware of it, I could sign an executive order requiring your death. I might have to resign from my position in the aftermath. So I’d much rather see you return to private life. What is your decision?”

“I think I have no choice but to accept your ultimatum. I’ll clear out my office in the morning.”

After the senator had retreated from the room, Cyrella turned to Cranis and said, “We were fortunate that such an option was available in this situation. But I’m afraid we’re inevitably bound to face other circumstances like this. The Phemera will undeniably pick up on the commission of other crimes. It’ll be up to the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic to determine the best course of action and whether or not it entails calling the Jedi Order into service.”

“I’m afraid the Phemera cannot remain a secret forever,” Cranis remarked. “But I am aware of the responsibility my office holds in the matter.”

Looking lastly to Leia, Cyrella said, “I very much wish you’d return to the Temple. You’ve no more younglings to look after. They are well on their way to save our sister galaxy. And I believe the Twi’leks are capable of governing their portion of Hypori even without your oversight. People should be given an opportunity to work out their own problems.”

“It is strange to think Tysha and Tani may’ve already seen that rescue take place, although to us it’s still far in the future. I just wish a sample of the Phemera could’ve gone with them. Both had a special affinity for our floral friends, both becoming bonded. I am sure that connection will be missed once the adventure dies down.”

“I’m not so sure the Phemera didn’t go with them,” the Grand Master surprisingly answered. “We’ve slowly managed to spread their spores all throughout the Temple. They have even been found in the sublevel. If any were clinging to the apparel of either Tysha or Tani, they might find they’re not as bereft as they believed. However I’m not at all sure how we’d ever find out.”

“Maybe in something like a million years the Phemera here will suddenly make contact with the Phemera in the other galaxy,” Leia mischievously suggested. She then rhetorically inquired, “Seems like rather a long time to wait though, doesn’t it?”

Chewie guffawed at the idea. Appreciating his wife’s attempt at humor, Han smiled broadly but said nothing. Cranis however spilled his Jawa juice, and everybody then accommodated the droids that obediently issued forth to clean up the mess.

“Speaking of the Force Flora,” Cyrella said, turning then to Awswi and Gwonameeth, “if you wouldn’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you’d stay behind and observe the departure of Senairus in the morning. You can stay out of sight and converse with the Phemera to accomplish your mission. I’ve sent Avalynn and Trimelle to Dagobah to help the B’omarr monks settle in.”

***

“Captain Spock,” Data unexpectedly said over the ambassador’s personal communicator. “I find my myself in need of your services. You are the only command officer with genuine combat experience not currently commanding a starship. There is something I must do and it will require me to leave the embattled bridge. You still wear the rank of captain. Rather than suddenly thrust the burden of command on my first officer, I would prefer to entrust my ship to a colleague who once commanded her before from time to time.”

“I’m happy to comply,” Spock replied. “May I ask what requires you to leave the bridge?”

“I must inflict phaser damage to one of the shuttles, prepare the holo-projectors to facilitate a deception and set up to suddenly shunt shield power to the transporter. Holo-projection alone will require warp power, and we cannot teleport with our shields raised.”

“What pray tell do you need shield power in order to teleport?” Spock said as he resolutely strode toward the transporter room. The Excelsior dropped to cloaking only while he teleported.

“The shuttle I plan to modify with my phaser. The projection will show the shuttle taking fire. The damage has to be very carefully applied. The ship’s phasers would be too much. It requires my more delicate hands-on approach. The fleet will not long survive the renewal of his weapon. When all is ready, Narik will see a holo-gram of my shuttle under attack by the Enterprise. At the suitable time the shuttle with yours truly onboard will transport to the position of the holo-gram.”

“The Enterprise will of course reveal its position by firing, sir,” Spock observed as he walked onto the bridge, finishing the sentence orally.

Only moments after the Enterprise’s long-range sensors detected the opening of the distant Bajoran Wormhole, an unfamiliar voice came through their coded subspace channel. “Greetings in the name of the Romulan Star Empire. I’m General Mindo Conium, commanding the Romulan Warbird Klesh. One of our trio remained behind the continue observations. How might we be of service?”

“My associates and I are all in agreement, Narik is moving off to intercept the new arrivals,” Lucas said over VOX.

“The battle is coming to you,” the admiral advised the Romulans.

“He should soon reach the minimum safe distance we would need to protect the fleet from the Genesis Wave,” Spock added, taking advantage of his position beside Data’s seat. He could discern the displays on the nearby scanning station.

Admiral Data suddenly stood from his captain’s chair, indicating that Spock should replace him as its occupant. “As soon as transportation of my shuttlecraft is complete you will raise the shields again and switch the projection to one of the Enterprise. If Narik should even bother to take a shot at you while maneuvering to pick me up, he will be firing at a holo-gram. Attention all hands, Ambassador Spock will be Captain of the ship until its operations have concluded. I must now undertake a solo mission.”

The first officer actually looked relieved, wiping nonexistent sweat from his brow affectedly. And then Spock asked, “How will you retain the shuttle as he retrieves you without him finding the Genesis Device?”

“You shall see. You must press the advantage of his absence from the battle. I will attempt to lead him far away from the fleet. But you must make sure our ships are outside the radius of the Genesis Wave. The time has now come for me to phaser my ship while I program the holo-projector. I will signal you when I am preparing to depart. It has been my honor to serve with you all.”

Admiral Data saluted them, and then he turned and ambled off the bridge. Spock wondered if he should attempt to say something appropriate for the moment. But he was at a loss and they were in the heat of battle. He needed to assume his command. Narik again had an insuperable weapon and was on a rampage. Turning once more to the sensor display, Spock recognized the necessity of immediate action.

Only an android could have precisely positioned the phaser bursts with exactly the intensity required. And only an android could’ve done it while programming the starship’s holo-projectors to facilitate his charade. It only took him minutes to accomplish both tasks. Once completed, he quickly climbed aboard the shuttle and prepared to depart. And after paying his final respects to both bridge crews, he remotely enabled the transporter.

The moment the shuttle appeared where its hologram had been, he began to signal, “Data to Pax Parakal. Admiral Data to Pax Parakal. You obviously are about to win this battle. In order to preserve my own existence, I am defecting from the Federation. As you can see, they are not pleased with my decision. I am rather desperately in need of rescue.”

“Lower your shields and we’ll beam you aboard,” Narik replied.

“I am regrettably unable to comply. My hull integrity is at zero. My shields alone are holding the shuttle together. I am not yet beyond the range of the Enterprise’s weapons. One lucky shot is all it would take to destroy me if I drop the shields. This shuttle will fit within your landing bay. I will send you my transponder code and you can scoop me up. Is that acceptable?”

“Stand by for capture.”

As the Kalaxa moved to pursue and intercept the shuttle, the vessels of the Federation fleet fell back. The Joracki believed some strategy was in play and, for fear of falling into a trap, they allowed space to form between the two groups. They hadn’t anticipated their champion abruptly turning away from the battle, and just as his weapon was restored. A hushed question began to form in the corridors of his command. Why would he bother about an artificial life form unless he actually is one himself?

As Data disembarked from the shuttle and into the Joracki battle cruiser’s main landing bay, he encountered Narik, who said, “I am scanning an energy source on your shuttle, a pattern I’ve never seen before.”

“The Federation has developed a new weapon. I stole it. Let me show you how it works.”

Of the dozen Joracki battle cruisers that’d survived the clash to this point, fully half of them were within the radius of the Genesis Wave. Being completely demoralized due the destruction of their god, their compliments quickly fell before the remnant of the Federation fleet. Alexander sent a message to the Cardassian rebel network informing them of the outcome and persuading them to finish taking back their Union.

***

“We just received a message from the Ferengi,” Jake announced. “They are canceling their request for assistance. Seems they bested the Breen all by themselves, sir. And they also have some new prisoners that came across the damping field. ”

Upon hearing of the change of command as it was issued over the intercom, Chief Medical Officer O’Brien and Quilesk had come to the bridge. The relationship they’d developed was now more like telepathy than empathy. But the intergalactic ambassadors were somewhat surprised when she interpreted for her silicone associate.

“I guess we were planning to swing by Janus 6 to drop off Quilesk. But if you’re planning on building a Jedi Temple on Lambda Paz, he’d like to help. Much of it’ll probably be underground. In fact, if we stop by Janus 6 on the way, he’s hoping to persuade some of his friends to join us.

“I believe that can be arranged,” Alexander interjected. “Helmsman, set course.”

***

Jedi Master Avalynn Vosh and her padawan, Trimelle Vasaris, had just finished illuminating the chamber within the Dark Temple on Dagobah. Almost all of the B’omarr monks were deep in meditation and not receiving input from their sensors. Only a few were serving as sentinels, and they shadowed the pair of Force Wielders as the new lighting was used to enable an inspection.

“I think I liked it better when I couldn’t actually see it,” Trimelle remarked.

“As the Grand Master reminded me, light should always hold sway over darkness. We have probably committed sacrilege according to Sith standards by illuminating this inner sanctum. But the only actual abomination is the existence of this device.”

“From the depth of the staircase, I wondered if it was really this tall. And it really does reach the top of the chamber, but what is it? The massive vessel in the middle appears to be holding a creature of some kind. But it seems to be composed of crystal and looks like an impossibly huge snowflake. Is the predominant part really some kind of specimen container? And what were they intending to do with it? It appears to be dormant right now.”

Avalynn had no answer. But having no experience with the Milky Way, she could hardly be expected to recognize a Crystalline Entity.

***

Knowing that accommodations on the scalding surface were extremely limited, Vice Admiral Adamson elected to take a shuttle to the surface. Rather than reroute the Excelsior he’d chosen to congratulate its crew by joining them at their proposed destination, although he had expected the new citadel to be far more finished than he found it. But he soon understood the delay.

The four intergalactic ambassadors, Captain Alexander, Spock and Odo met him as he was disembarking. The assault on his senses was almost overwhelming as the vice admiral teetered forth from his shuttle. It had been some time since he had seen such waves of heat.

“We started sensing something before we even landed,” Lucas exclaimed. “Our friends the Horta sensed it too. That’s what’s delayed the construction project. We had to locate the source of the Force Vibration. We were led to the location of the Blossom we opened.”

“And what did you find?” Adamson intensely inquired.

“There is a botanical Force Life Form that arose on the planet Tatooine, the splitting image of this very desert moon,” Tysha answered. “We found a circle of it growing around the inside of the opening we made. They are the Phemera, and they are an exceedingly telepathic life form.”

“Some of their spores must have been on our outfits when we came through the pod in our home galaxy. We inadvertently brought them with us. What a happy mistake.”

“As you all know, the Romulans have been keeping both the Nexus and the Super-Massive Black Hole under observation,” Adamson announced. “We just received a report from their High Command. They report the formation of a quantum filament between both of those targets. The Nexus was drawn at intergalactic speed through the filament all the way to the Black Hole. Both then completely disappeared, along with the worry they represented. Neither appear any longer to be in our time/space.”

“Unquestionably the most extreme case of strange attraction I’ve ever encountered,” Spock observed.

Several members of the group found his comment to be comical. Others laughed because it seemed the Vulcan ambassador had deliberately used humor.

“So what will you do once your edifice is finished?” the vice admiral asked, moving the topic back toward familiar territory as he turned specifically to the Knights Errant.

“There is now knowledge of the Force in your galaxy,” Luke replied. “There’ll be numerous incidents of Force Sensitivity. Those people will need guidance. We’ll endeavor to give them all we can of that while we tend the Blossoms and contemplate all that has gone before. So much of your own past is hidden to you.”

“Speaking of what was lost to us, what exactly happened to Admiral Data? Was any search possible? I came here instead. I’m relying on your report,” said Adamson, turning to Alexander.

“Part of its matrix is still in flux, but our scanners could find no trace of him near the Genesis Planet. But we have also certified the destruction of the enemy armada. I think the Joracki will soon see their empire implode.”

Turning back to the four Force Wielders, Adamson said, “This thing you call the Force, not even it gives you any clue as to what happened to Admiral Data?”

"“We really don’t know,” Lucas sadly confessed.

“But then again,” Luke interjected, “there’s an entire galaxy here we don’t know.”

“Maybe we should do something about that,” Tysha slyly suggested.

“You think?” Tani impishly asked.

Even Odo smiled.


THE END

.

(Character List: non-exhaustive)

Joracki:

Admiral of the Joracki Armada Irlick Canto

Commodore Jark Najacor

Pira Karala, Captain of the Prinox

Arpi Ropani, Captain of the Kalaxa

First Officer Kral Loracki of the Kalaxa

B’omarr monk:

Moxi-Lon Kashani: telepathic B’omarr monk

Federation personnel and their allies:

Federation President Shibiass Ch’tholless (Andorian)

Vice Admiral Adamson

Admiral Data

Ambassador Spock

Captain Alexander

Ensign Nog (Tactical)

Chief Science Officer Shanella Dax

Lieutenant Kato Sulu (Helmsman)

First Lieutenant Jake Sisko, Communications Officer

Chief Medical Officer Molly O’Brien

Chief Engineer Thevlen Krat (Tellarite)

Quilesk (Horta)

Forthright officers:

Jarma Conegmwa: Communications Officer

Khyzo Moreet: Chief Navigational Officer

Uti Setisan: Senior Scanning Technician

Tanish Smetch: Science Officer (F) (was off-world on leave and survived the Forthright)

Colicoids:

Smurb

Klinix

Jench

Galactic Senate of the Republic:

Colicoid Ambassador Crik

Corellian Ambassador Edwin

Neimoidian Ambassador Senairus

Cato Neimoidian representative, Nui

Chancellor Cranis

Neimoidians:

Captain Rafa Dornak

First Officer Paya Masser

Lieutenant Lanka

Ensign Cray

Viceroy Rumpf

Bakurans:

Crouwernitch, Leader of the Bakura Medical Research Dispatch

Bothans:

Seng: Chief Engineer at the Geonosis Reclamation Project and then Freighter Captain.

Scree:

Varnic Chancellor of the Scree on Brimula

Shani wife of Varnic

Demorin son of Varnic

Kashari daughter of Varnic

Craydic executive assistant of Varnic

Corgus Chief Magistrate of the Scree on Scrymerula

Non-exhaustive Jedi Cast: (nonhumans in red)

Cyrella Lasari Grand Master Previous padawan of Priella

Zayana Oshu female Jedi Master Previous padawan of Julither

Hershonel Shanlu male Togruta Jedi Knight of Master Awswi

Dari Jenay wife of Demorin of Julither, previously of Soma

Chenezarr male Wookiee Jedi Knight Padawan of Master Gwonameeth

Kodi-San Camorra younger male padawan of Master Xan

Jenassee Secura Rutian Twi’lek Jedi Knight Padawan of Master Priella

Rostla-Kon Romeni Jedi Knight Padawan of Master Xan

Avalynn Vosh female Jedi Master Padawan of Leia

Trimelle Vasaris female padawan, Togruta Padawan of Zayana, then Avalynn

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