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

Planetary Parallels

“Within you the answer lies. Find it you will.

~ Grand Master Yoda

“He is now without both his ship and his dreadful time-shifting weapon,” Captain Alexander summarized, “but we didn’t destroy Narik. He however destroyed the Douwd. Our only recourse now is the countermeasure of which Oxbridge spoke. We regrettably have no idea about where it is or even what it is. Recommendations?”

The command crews of the three spacecraft had enabled VOX to facilitate their discussion.

“Our logical course of action is to proceed to Memory Alpha and execute a comprehensive search of its database,” Spock stoically suggested.

“We’ve access to the databases of two galaxy-class starships and the mnemonic memories of Admiral Data,” Odo argued. “I think we should be certain we have exhausted the resources at hand before we go flying across the galaxy on what could very possibly be a wild goose chase.”

“With no clear definition concerning the subject of our search, it does sound more than a bit like pursuing an untamed ornithoid,” Data agreed.

“What parameters can we possibly surmise?” Lucas asked.

“We can surely do that much,” Luke quickly concurred.

“The Time Arches were deemed too dangerous and were both destroyed,” Spock patiently replied. “It seems unlikely however that these represented the countermeasures. We’ve learned the Organians were experts in the field of symbiotic biology. Tin Man is an excellent example of this principle. The Dyson Sphere and the Doomsday Machine have also been eliminated. These I surmise however were products of the Douwd, just as the Nexus. If I can be so general, we are ostensibly seeking something suggesting extremely sophisticated technology that most probably seems out of place for its surroundings but has some sort of biological interface.”

“Even the Bajoran Orb of Time was destroyed by zealots, fearing its misuse,” Odo added.

“One moment please,” Admiral Data replied as he stepped to the computer interface at the back of the Enterprise’s bridge. “I am entering our search parameters into the main computer. It will interface with its counterpart on the Excelsior. To make the search as complete as possible, I am authorizing the inclusion of personal logs.”

After several stressful moments, it was clear the pair of supercomputers weren’t succeeding in finding anything that matched the programmed parameters. But being an android, Data didn’t appear particularly disappointed by this.

“I will now search my personal database.”

From the change in the expression on his artificial face, it was obvious to the observers that Data had encountered something in his individual memories. His tone was tentative as he spoke to his assorted subordinates.

“This is curious. I cannot be certain if this is really what we are looking for, but I also cannot explain its existence.”

“The existence of what?” Odo impatiently asked.

“I was a lieutenant commander on an earlier iteration of the Enterprise when this happened. Captain Picard had been requested to mediate a dispute among miners in the Pentarus system. A conflict of assignments was created by the Enterprise needing to respond to a distress signal from Gamelan 5. The planet was being bombarded by radiation from an unidentified vessel that had entered its orbit. But Captain Picard had already arranged to be taken to the mediation site in a local shuttle and he opted to take acting ensign Wesley Crusher with him so the young man could witness the impacts of his arbitration. But shortly after their departure, the shuttle suffered a malfunction and they were forced to crash land on Lambda Paz, a desert moon of Pentarus 3. Although it is technically Class M, it is actually inhospitable. There they made an inadvertent but extremely fortuitous discovery.

“With no replicator and almost no supplies, they headed for some distant mountains, hoping to find shelter. They found a multi-chambered underground enclosure at the back of which there was a fountain. They swiftly learned the fountain was shielded by an annular force field and was accompanied by a sentry energy weapon. A rock slide resulted from the triggering of the device. Picard was severely injured. The sentry encased the offending weapon in a selenium fiber shell. The captain of the shuttle was killed in a subsequent attempt to access the fountain, encased in the same way.

“Wesley ultimately disabled the force field by hacking its control signal with his tricorder. He was then able to keep himself and Captain Picard alive until they were rescued by the return of the Enterprise. A Star Fleet research team was dispatched to study the discovery. I followed the reports they sent back. The cave was not natural. It was excavated with some type of extremely high energy tool. This was evidenced by the steps that had been carved into the floor where the elevation changed. The source of the water was not natural either. It did not tap into any natural reservoir. It was apparently being produced by replication, but they could not access the device without damaging the housing that enclosed it. There were no remains from previous occupants nor even any kind of refuse, but the enclosure had obviously once harbored the members of an incredibly advanced society. Its mystery remains unsolved.”

“The planet where the Jedi Temple is now located is also a desert world,” Lucas observed.

“It also holds a great mystery,” Luke added, “one that also has a relationship to subsurface water.”

“But why provide a source of water and then prevent access to it with a lethal system?” Odo asked.

Still considering the comments made by the Knights Errant, Data said, “Oxbridge said there were countermeasures established in both of our galaxies. Just how similar is the fountain to the mystery you mentioned?”

“It was discovered not long before we left that there are giant geodes concealed just below the planet’s surface in multiple locations,” Lucas answered.

“The geodes are full of water, and the water is infused with primordial midi-chlorians,” Luke continued. “We’ve no idea who put them there or how long ago it was done.”

“Could it have been millions of years ago?” Data asked.

“Easily,” Lucas answered

“Perhaps even hundreds of millions of years ago,” Luke added.

“Is no one going to hazard any kind of answer to my question?” Odo demanded.

“It seems unlikely the system’s primary purpose was to kill,” Spock replied. “The manner by which the system responds suggests another possibility.”

“What possibility is that?” Odo impatiently pressed.

Looking to the image of Data, Spock said, “You mentioned Captain Picard being injured by a rock slide. Did you enter the enclosure yourself?”

“I did.”

“The enclosure was ostensibly created with some type of high energy excavating machine, but the builders had to work with the indigenous material. Did you see any evidence of previous rock slides?”

“Yes, I did, but they seemed to be confined to the chamber with the fountain.”

“The fragility of the cave’s inner surface might not have been discovered until the replicator had already been installed. The system might’ve been devised to protect the replicator not from access but from rock slides. The selenium fibers would represent an exceedingly odd way to kill. But they could’ve easily been intended instead to provide reinforcement to any area where such an instability was occurring and endangering the replicator. And given how inhospitable Lambda Paz actually is, the cavern’s builders probably never anticipated any life possibly being imperiled by the defensive system. They probably dwelt primarily in the chambers where no previous rock slides were evident.”

“But what were they doing there to begin with?” Odo asked, altering his question.

“Since their sojourn appears to have been only temporary, I would suggest they constituted a work force. They were there only to complete a specific project,” Spock posited in response.

“And that project could conceivably have been to install the very countermeasures for which we are looking?” Alexander optimistically asked.

“Possibly,” Spock replied. “I would recommend we conduct an investigation while we seem to have some time.”

“The Pentarus system is on the backside of the Beta Quadrant, more or less in the direction of Gamelan 5,” Kato commented. “If that is to be our destination, I’d respectfully suggest that we get underway immediately. That’s an awful lot of parsecs to cross.”

“Here we go gallivanting across the galaxy again,” Odo brusquely summarized. “It’ll be very interesting to see how many light years we’ve logged by the time we complete this mission.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find that record is actually held by our vessel,” Lucas joked from the cockpit of the Quantum Quest.”

“Yes,” Luke grinningly agreed, seated beside him. “Intergalactic travel has that effect.”

“Report our flight plan to Vice Admiral Adamson,” Alexander said to Jake. Talking primarily Kato Sulu, he said, “Set course for Lambda Paz in the Pentarus system, maximum warp. Narik could resurface at any time. We need to complete this trip just as expeditiously as possible. All vessels prepare for a jump to lightspeed. I’d leave some probes behind if only I knew where the hell it would be best to look for him. We don’t. We’ll just have to hope he remains sidelined while we undertake this investigation. Engage.”

***

Because the Screech was slightly larger than the Falcon and nurtured wreaths of Phemera in growth medium trays, Ackbar and the crew of the Falcon transferred onto Demorin’s vessel to have their discussion. And since everybody on Tatooine had gathered in chambers accessed by the field of the Phemera, they were also able to participate. The emotional atmosphere provided by the telepathic participants however was one of open anxiety. No failure in which the Jedi had ever taken part resulted in so potentially disastrous a situation. And everyone in their Order was painfully aware of this fact.

The six frigates, which included the Rancor, the Falcon and the Screech were still gathered just outside what had once been the Tund system. But it was difficult for anybody to think of it as a system anymore since it only contained the star. All of the other astronomical bodies had been shoved out of the system by the reversal of stellar gravity.

“Tund is now a rogue planet careening toward the Core,” the commissioner summarized. “It will be a very long time before it truly grows closer in astronomical units. But it no longer orbits a star that interferes with its field of fire. As soon as a vector to its target becomes available, it will be able to fire at the Core. And the galaxy will begin flying apart. I need suggestions on how we should proceed, I don’t even care how unreasonable they might sound. Does anyone have even one?”

“We still have the plans for the Death Star, don’t we?” Han hesitantly asked.

“Any suggestions except that one,” Ackbar replied exasperatedly.

“It took the Empire years to construct each of those battle stations,” Awswi interjected. “We probably don’t have anything like that kind of time.”

“That’s because they made their primary weapons mobile by building an entire battle station around each of them,” Han replied. “I’m talking about building just the primary weapon. The trick would be to put it in a place that’d give it a clear shot at Tund.”

“Without even calculating its actual trajectory I can tell you Tund will pass right through Hutt Space,” Ackbar argued. “We certainly don’t want to risk such a weapon falling into their hands.”

“After we use it, we destroy it,” Han contended.

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?” Leia asked in alarm.

“We are trying to stop a planet, aren’t we?” Han asked, shrugging ingenuously.

“I think we’re really trying to stop a Dark Energy weapon,” she answered.

“I seem to recall something about a thousand Droidekas with actual brains,” he argued. “Do they not count? If we destroy the planet, we destroy them.”

“The Force Wielder might be our real enemy,” Leia replied with practiced patience. “Without him, the others might not be antagonistic at all. They never were before.”

“But we don’t know where on the entire planet the weapon is located,” Han pointed out, “let alone a single individual out of a thousand.”

“Then how can we acquire that information?” Ackbar asked. “Options are based on intel.”

“Don’t each of the frigates carry a compliment of probe droids?” Demorin inquired. Sensing affirmation, he continued, “We’ll load as many as we can onto the Screech. I’ll go in cloaked and drop out of lightspeed as close as I can to the planet. The Force Wielder will probably detect my approach through the Force. But if the Droidekas have to rely on nothing more than suspensors to get them into the upper atmosphere, the probes could possibly carry out their reconnaissance before they’re destroyed.”

“I don’t suppose the Falcon and I can be of any assistance,” Han hopefully proffered.

“I appreciate the offer,” Demorin smilingly replied. “But it seems Force Wielders are the only ones apparently immune from being puppets of the telepath.”

“And besides,” Leia interjected, jostling her husband to get his attention, “the Falcon’s crew already has a mission to accomplish.”

“Oh?”

“As Commissioner Ackbar pointed out, Teth will pass right through Hutt Space. We need to determine whether Rotta survived. If he didn’t, I will bet you a bevy of banthas his syndicate will want revenge. If he did, I’m sure he’s not happy about having been put out of his palace. I’m not sure what options the Hutts can add. Perhaps they can only keep the monks busy by launching long-range strikes against Tund. But we need all the help we can get.”

“We need to determine exact trajectories for both rogue planets anyway,” Ackbar said. “And I totally approve of both of your plans. Once we’ve obtained more information and perhaps even some additional allies, we will be in a better position to formulate a final strategy. Han, your crew had best get immediately underway. We need to transfer as many probe droids as possible from the frigates to Demorin’s ship.”

As the Falcon’s crew disembarked, Demorin turned to Ackbar and said, “I thought about the possibility of placing mines in the planet’s path. But I’m afraid they’d be activated just by entering the atmosphere of Tund. What if we were to attach proximity mines to the probe droids?”

“Right, you’re going to release them inside the atmosphere,” Ackbar eagerly agreed. “When the Droidekas close on them, they’ll get a nasty surprise. I will have to check with the captains of the frigates and see if they have the required ordinance. But I’ve no doubt we can come up with something. As I’m sure you appreciate, we were in one hell of a hurry to respond to your call for aid when we left, and proton torpedoes were requested, I wish now we’d been armed with ion or antimatter mines. They might’ve been of some use against the city shields of the monks.”

“If they could somehow pass through that much atmosphere without being destroyed by the monks. But there’s another course of action I think we really need to adopt although I’m hesitant to recommend it,” Demorin rejoined. “We need to determine if the captains are willing to position their frigates directly between the planet and the Core. If the monks find an occasion to fire their weapon, we need a way of intercepting its emission. Right now, I am afraid it’s the only option at our disposal. And no, I have no idea what reversing the gravity of frigate would do to it.”

“Neither do I. But maybe if they carry out their operations in zero G they would then be able to use artificial gravity to counteract the effects of being struck.”

“Perhaps,” Demorin unenthusiastically replied. “But we nonetheless need to be certain they understand they could be accepting a suicide mission. Gravity is fundamentally electromagnetic in nature, and the covalent bonds that hold our bodies together are essentially electromagnetic.”

Demorin then supervised the transfer of as many probes as it could contain into the hold of the Screech while Ackbar held a confab with the captains of the frigates. Gwonameeth and Dari helped with the fabrication and attachment of the proximity mines. With the operation completed it was then time to deploy the payload in the upper atmosphere of Tund. Demorin consequently returned to the pilot’s seat in the cockpit of the Screech and programmed the flight path into the ship’s navicomputer. He then cloaked the spacecraft and initiated its approach to the target.

With the cloak engaged, he dropped the Screech out of lightspeed and almost immediately entered the atmosphere of Tund. He knew the Force Wielder had sensed his approach, and he expected the scanners to show him an armada of Droidekas ascending from the surface. That’s not what happened. Only moments after Dari and Gwonameeth had launched the first probe out of the spacecraft’s rear, it was struck and destroyed by a turbo laser from the ground. The cloak helped to reinforce the shields, so the ship was not damaged by the proximate explosion. But it became necessary for him to fly erratically, so the gunners wouldn’t be able to anticipate where the next probe would appear.

Despite the swiftness of their destruction, the probes were sending back useful information. This was enabled to some degree by the fact they were working in tandem with the scanners on the ship, but the Screech had to orbit the entire planet as the probes were sporadically deployed in order for a comprehensive scan to be completed. They couldn’t proceed according to plan by moving themselves into the required locations. Demorin reported this development to Ackbar.

“We knew their cities were shielded. We didn’t know about all the turbo laser placements. It wasn’t necessary to use them to destroy the fighters. But by using them, no Droidekas had to be endangered to destroy the probes. The mines made no difference. We’re about to finish our run, then we’ll fall back to the frigates and assemble the information from the scans. Perhaps we will finally be able to determine something about the placement of their primary weapon.”

***

As the Falcon closed on the transponder’s location, Han said, “I never thought I’d be relying on the position indicator we put here to find my way back to Rotta’s pilfered palace. But his digs were atop the plateau right next to it. And with everything so entirely iced over, I rather doubt I’d have been able to find it by following the topographical features. With no star in the vicinity, Teth is now colder and its features more unidentifiable than what we dealt with on Hoth.”

Seated in front of the scanning station, Awswi reported, “I don’t read any energy signatures coming from the structure. It appears to be as dead as the entire rest of this wretched world.”

Being informed by the Force, Leia said, “The palace’s landing bay is on the back side of the primary pinnacle.”

Han brought the Falcon around the circular exterior of the ice-bathed bastion and found the door to the landing bay standing wide open. As his ship’s lights reflected off the frozen interior, it was clear that the bay was utterly empty.

“It looks like they managed to evacuate,” he surmised. “Do we actually need to go inside?”

“There’s no power for operating the doorways,” Awswi reminded him. “We’d have to cut our way in with our lightsabers. And I doubt it’d be worth the effort. Both the Force and the Falcon’s sensors agree. There’s no one home.”

“What next?” Han inquired.

Seated in front of the subspace communications array, Leia replied, “Let’s make sure to get an accurate trajectory on where this world is headed so I can include it in the message. If I were Rotta, I’d probably fall back to the Hutt homeworld. The Maw is almost directly in between but I’ll see if I can get a signal to Nal Hutta.”

Having C3 onboard proved to be very beneficial. The astrodroid was able to interpret for the Hutt and confirm Teth’s trajectory as calculated by the Falcon’s navicomputer. With the Screech and Falcon both furnished with Phemera in trays of growth medium, their crews enjoyed access to the telepathic field. The outcome of Demorin’s mission was consequently known to everybody onboard.

“The B’omarr monks have a Dark Energy weapon that is capable of reversing gravity,” Leia told Rotta. “That’s what happened to the Teth star. They’re on Tund, and they’ve done the same thing to the Tund star. Like Teth, Tund is now a rogue planet headed into Hutt Space. They plan to use this weapon on the Galactic Core. Ackbar is in charge of the mission to stop them, but we can use all the help we can get. The cities on Tund are ray shielded and also protected by turbo laser placements. The leader of the B’omarr monks is a very powerful telepath. He’s shown that he is capable of controlling almost anyone who attempts to approach the planet. All strikes must therefore be launched from a distance. And since half a dozen Republic frigates are on location, you need to coordinate any action you take with Ackbar. He’s field commander. We’re in serious trouble. Any assistance the Hutts can give would be very greatly appreciated.”

“There is bad blood between the Hutts and the Jedi,” C3 interpreted for Rotta. “Your brother killed my father. But the Bothans told me the Jedi had been mainly responsible for brokering our trade agreement with the Scree, that the request was made by the Grand Master herself. And it is obvious you are presenting me with an opportunity to strike back at the B’omarr monks for an attempt on my life, an opportunity that could be of benefit to the entire galaxy. If any self-serving interest is present in your request, it is only that of survival itself. For these reasons I’ll ignore the enmity that exists between us and grant your request.”

“We are very grateful, Exalted One,” Leia properly replied. She very cautiously avoided any admission that Jabba had actually died at her hands. “May the Force be with you.”

After she’d ended the exchange and closed the channel, Han entertainingly asked, “Do you need to rinse your mouth out with something?”

Chewie howled in appreciation of the jibe. Awswi merely pursed his lips. Leia however was not amused. The way she jabbed Han in the ribs in response wasn’t completely playful. But her tone was suddenly serious as she posed her anxious inquiry to everybody within the field of the Phemera.

“Did the deployment of the probes yield any useful information regarding what can be done to stop the monks?”

“We should continue this discussion by using our holo-transceivers,” Demorin Force Spoke. “Commissioner Ackbar has expressed concerns over the use of telepathy to devise strategies. It is a telepath we’re up against and we don’t really know the full extent of his abilities, except that they’re formidable.”

“Switching over,” Leia announced as everyone else also complied. “What did you find out?”

“I think the monks were simply making use of their first opportunity to do so when they used their weapon against the Teth star. I don’t think they intended to establish an exact trajectory for either ejected planet. And as a result the two rogue planets will pass within one lightyear of each other. Tund will also pass within a lightyear of the Maw.”

“I’m not sure I see how that can help us,” she replied.

“We just received a Senatorial communiqué. Another six frigates have been sent to help us. According to my calculations, we could nudge Teth into a collision course with Tund if all twelve frigates in the battle group were to combine their tractor beams.”

“Wouldn’t the monks simply turn their weapon on Teth and prevent the impact?”

“That could be problematic. The ejection of Tund apparently increased both its rotation and its rotational eccentricity. There’s serious wobble to its spin that wasn’t there before. I don’t think the monks anticipated this. It’ll make lining up the weapon that much more difficult.”

“But not impossible, right?”

“That’s the good news,” Demorin surprised everyone by saying. “If they succeed in keeping the two planets from colliding by reversing Teth’s gravity, they’ll push away from each other and place Tund on a trajectory that’ll take it within the gravity field of the Maw.”

“But the monks could use their weapon on the singularity,” Han argued.

“There are three possibilities. The monks could be unable to get their weapon in position in time and Tund will be ripped apart as it’s consumed by the singularity. Problem solved. But they might manage to fire in time. Reversing the gravity of a singularity will cause a shockwave many times the magnitude of what resulted in the Tund system. Tund’s integrity was already damaged by the seismic stress of that event. The planet could quite conceivably break apart as a result of its interaction with the shockwave. Once again, problem solved. But if it survives the repulsion, it will be placed on a trajectory that’ll send it toward the back edge of Wild Space. Both its rotation and its rotational eccentricity will increase exponentially, making it practically impossible for their weapon to fire at a fixed target. But the Core will probably be out of range anyway.”

“But the monks could survive and they’ll still have their weapon,” Ackbar pointed out.

“Granted Commissioner,” Demorin replied. “But they’d have to relocate it before they could even attempt to use it. And that’s a scenario that’s infinitely easier for us to eliminate. The battle group can launch strikes from a distance until we compromise whatever remains of the planet’s integrity or the monks run out of power for their shields. And we’ll be continually reinforced while the monks will be experiencing nothing but attrition. It could be a drawn-out siege, but we should be able to win. And all three scenarios lead to victory.”

“There is still a complication, and it’s significant,” Ackbar circumspectly countered. “It’ll take time to move Teth into a collision course. Six of the frigates are positioned to at least attempt to intercept the weapon’s emission if the monks find an opportunity to fire. I do not like them being so directly in harm’s way, but it’s the only accessible solution. If all twelve are required to adjust the trajectory of Teth, then it’ll mean removing the Core’s only shield. We need to develop some type of alternative.”

“There’s another problem,” Leia unexpectedly interjected, speaking to Demorin. “You hinted at it when you mentioned how much more potent a shockwave will be produced by reversing the gravity of a singularity. There’re nearby star systems like Kessel that are slowly being drawn into the Maw. Not all of the surrounding sector is uninhabited. Unless it is evacuated, there’ll be loss of life. You’re suggested strategy is much more complicated than you’ve thoroughly considered.”

“Be that as it may. The Force tells me the suggestion will work. We just need to solve these other considerations.”

“Sensors on multiple ships were monitoring everything happening in the Tund system when the monks’ weapon was fired. Is that emission something that could be deflected by a lightsaber blade?” Dari asked.

“While it might be possible to calibrate or create a blade that could deflect such energy, the bolt would be wider than the blade,” Demorin replied.

“Does the circumference of the emission expand over distance?” she persisted.

“No. Strangely enough, it didn’t. It somehow traveled the distance from the planet to the star without any appreciable fanning out of the emission. I’ve no idea how that’s possible. It shouldn’t have been able to do that.”

“The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to the unnatural,” Leia interjected. “But how does that help us, Dari?”

“Would it be possible to construct a plasma blade that would be wide enough to deflect their weapon’s energy, not a traditional lightsaber but something more like a broadsword?”

“A broad-saber?” he asked in reply. “Perhaps. But how could such a weapon be deployed? It would need to be positioned between Tund and the Core.”

“Could your tractor beam operation be successfully carried out by just eleven frigates?” she inquired in response.

“I’d have to run the equation. Maybe. But how will the twelfth be deployed?”

“The defender would need a broad surface in which to take up position, perhaps the keel of a frigate with its artificial gravity routed to its underside. A spacesuit would have to be worn. And it might be necessary for there to be a pair of defenders working in shifts. But the distance could work to our advantage. The weapon’s emission travels at the speed of light. If a spotter near the planet monitors the weapon discharging, a subspace signal could be sent ahead to the frigate. It would then be possible for the defender to anticipate the emission’s arrival and get in position to deflect it. No automated system would be able to exactly direct the deflection back at the target. Only a Force Wielder would be able to do that.”

“Back at the target?” Awswi emptily echoed, relying on her words coming through subspace rather than the field of the Phemera. “Why back at the target?”

“I saw the scans. The weapon’s aim is adjustable, but the device is mounted to the surface. The monks are moving about on suspensors. They are not connected to the surface. Reversing the planet’s gravity would propel them into the upper atmosphere, if not into space. Their access to the weapon would be lost. It would then be much simpler to destroy.”

“That would give us a way to protect the Core if they managed to fire the weapon before we succeed in causing my suggested collision,” Demorin sanguinely suggested.

“Let’s proceed with the development of both strategies,” Ackbar instructed. “If the equations say eleven frigates aren’t enough, there will be others arriving. We can start with what we have.”

***

Cloaked for security reasons, the trio of allied spacecraft engaged their impulse engines as they all dropped out of lightspeed and entered the precincts of the Pentarus system. Spock had advised them they were not really that far from the remains of the decimated Federation outpost on Cestus 3 and the edge of diplomatically negotiated Gorn Space. Their scanners didn’t detect anything except the anticipated mining activity in the inner system, so they established a course toward Pentarus 3 and one of its two moons, Lambda Paz.

After instructing Lieutenant Sisko to open VOX and enable communication with both of the other vessels, Captain Alexander said, “Admiral Data, you said you were here before. What did your scanners show you about this place?”

“We did not conduct a geological scan. We were searching specifically for shuttle wreckage and human life signs. The area was considered to be of no other interest at the time.”

“Our sensors have been repeatedly upgraded since those readings were taken,” Alexander commented. Turning to the science station, he said, “Full scan. Monitor our systems for any sign of subspace resonance and engage the LaForge Array. We don’t need warp power for anything else right now anyway. Let’s see if we can find that fountain.”

Moments later, Shanella announced, “This is really weird. There’re encased bodies of water in multiple locations around the planetoid. They actually seem to be laid out in a grid formation.”

“We’re sensing the presence of life. Are you?” Lucas asked.

“Indeterminate,” Spock answered. “They’re not really aquifers as much as they are geodes. Their inner surfaces seem to be covered in a type of crystal that’s deflecting our scanner beams. Some of the crystals appear to have been produced by much the same process as those within your lightsabers.”

“It’s just like we found on Tatooine,” Luke animatedly observed. “They have to be caches of primordial midi-chlorians. I’d say we’ve found the countermeasures.”

“We need an away team to confirm what’s really there,” Alexander deduced. “I suppose you both want to be included.”

“Indeed we do,” Lucas excitedly agreed.

“As do I,” Odo added. “I enjoy prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions.”

He then turned to Spock, expecting the ambassador to express similar interest. But he was struck by the wistful way the Vulcan clone was observing the image of the moon on the viewing screen.

Aware of the attention he was suddenly receiving, he said, “I possess the memories of both my predecessor and myself. From my perspective it amounts to an unusually long lifespan. And it has afforded me the occasion to acquaint myself with literature from bygone ages. I find that I am reminded of Dune by Frank Herbert.”

“Who was he?” Odo asked.

“A twentieth century science fiction novelist. He wrote a series about a desert world called Dune. It held a precious resource that existed nowhere else in the galaxy. It was even biological in nature.”

“And now we know of precisely such worlds in two different galaxies,” Odo observed. “What makes you think he was writing science fiction?”

“Perhaps he possessed some of the very prescience about which he wrote.”

***

Since it offered more room to work, research and development of the laser broadsword took place on the Screech. Leia, Dari, Awswi and Gwonameeth all took part in the project. While they were thus engaged; Demorin, Han and Chewie determined the vessel’s artificial gravity could be extended to its underside. Because its keel was more convex than that of even the frigates, Dari decided it would really be the best place to make her stand if sufficient gravity could be supplied to its surface. Between her decision and the arrival of other ships to place themselves in the line of fire between Tund and the Core, the twelfth frigate was freed to partake in the effort to tractor Teth into a collision course with Tund.

Everyone aboard the Screech was within the field of the Phemera, thus instant contact was maintained between them and the Temple’s inhabitants. Cyrella was therefore able to contribute to the laser broadsword project. Her experience in helping to construct the Golden Gallantry and Guarantor proved to be important. They had also been designed to serve as an antithesis to the machinations of a Dark Side devotee. But someone unexpected suddenly participated in one of these conversations.

“It sounds as if you have your hands full,” Zayana interjected. “I’m sorry to burden you even further, but there is a situation in which at least one of you needs to intercede.”

“Greetings, old friend,” Cyrella Force Spoke. “What is this situation of which you speak?”

“The Knights Errant and their allies have come upon the means to balance the Force in the other galaxy. Unfortunately, they have no idea what to do with it. Someone needs be the courier of that critical information.”

“Courier?” Cyrella emptily echoed. “It sounds as if you expect someone to actually go there. And you know that’s impossible.”

“No, it’s not. It’s why the Phemera insisted that one of the Enhanced remain at the Temple.”

“The Phemera anticipated this all along?” Cyrella asked in reply, obviously astounded. “And why didn’t they say anything about this to anybody?”

“Why do padawans have to build their own lightsabers?”

“The only one matching your description is Tysha. And while she is Enhanced, it is also true she’s had less training in the ways of the Force than even Dari. Yet, you propose she should be the one to send?”

“Of all the Enhanced, she is the only one who meets the requirement.”

“What requirement could I possibly meet that the others do not?” Tysha anxiously asked.

“We are joined,” the Phemera responded. “It has previously been theorized that the caches function as teleporters, able to transmit matter between themselves. In actuality, they are able to transmit matter between galaxies. But the programming must be accomplished telepathically.”

“You told me sand was a natural insulator against telepathy. As far as I know all the caches are surrounded by sand.”

“The top of the cache extends just above the sandy surface,” the Phemera replied. “It is just enough to enable communication with a linked individual.”

“Will I be able to return the same way?”

“You’ll be teleported into the future,” Zayana took the opportunity to answer. “It is a one-way trip. The system isn’t designed to perform teleportation into the past. There is too great a danger of altering the timeline.”

“How will I find Lucas and Luke?”

“You’ll materialize inside the receptacle cache just as they’re about to open it,” Zayana said.

“Now wait just a damned minute!” Tanish Force Spoke with uncharacteristic intensity. “You aren’t going anywhere without me. I’m linked with the Phemera just like you are.”

“Didn’t you hear? It’s a one-way trip. You became linked because you were afraid of losing your contact with the Phemera. I don’t think we’ll find any on the other side. And I’m not sure we will still be in contact with those in this galaxy. Will we?”

“You’ll be in a completely different time reference field,” the Phemera responded. “So, no.”

“You said your knowledge of the Force was exclusively vicarious, experienced through your link with the Phemera,” Tysha reminded her friend. “Are you really willing to lose all of that?”

“My midi-chlorian count will be increased just as yours was. I’ll be one of the Enhanced. My knowledge of the Force will no longer be vicarious. I know you never wanted this to happen but I have become your padawan and you’ve become my Jedi Master. I’ve only learned to handle my esoteric situation by following your example. I’m not ready for the Jedi trials. You can’t leave me behind. It’s not my fault the Force isn’t an equal opportunity employer.”

“Your evolution as an individual is possibly dependent on taking this step,” Cyrella carefully interjected, speaking to Tanish. “It is not in my power to forbid you from going. You’re not under my authority. The only one to whom you are answerable is Commissioner Ackbar, and you have already started down a road he cannot even comprehend.”

“I would resign my commission if he were to forbid me.”

“For all intents and purposes you already have. You’ll hardly be answerable to the Republic where you’re going,” Cyrella contended.

“Are we sure we can stand to lose the only two people who are permanently linked with the Phemera?” Leia cautiously asked.

“The field of the Phemera now extends to almost every level of the Temple,” Cyrella replied. “There’re strategic plantings in multiple locations, including both Coruscant and Dagobah. If Dari were selected, she would of course want Demorin to go with her. Chancellor Varnic would have reservations about never seeing his son and heir-apparent again. And we need her for defense against the Dark Energy weapon. I would prefer to have one of the Enhanced wielding the laser broadsword. Tani is the master of her own destiny on this matter. And I see no alternative when it comes to Tysha. Any alternate would have to first become permanently linked as she has.”

“I accept the assignment,” Tysha said. Of Zayana she asked, “What message do I carry?”

Upon receiving the telepathic communication containing Zayana’s message, Tysha asked, “That’s it? That’s all there is?”

“Yes, our envoys are in the company of those who will correctly interpret the meaning. The Force will be with you.”

***

Before the members of the away team were selected, Spock insisted on using the LaForge Array to scan the deep desert for large subsurface life forms. When none were found, he almost appeared disappointed to Shanella. Noticing her interest, he explained.

“Frank Herbert’s desert world was inhabited by gargantuan sand worms. It appears that the parallel is not quite complete. The concept of primordial midi-chlorians does however remind me of his sand trout, but they’re living in an environment most closely akin to Cretacea.”

“What’s Cretacea?” Shanella asked.

“It is from a science fiction series by another twenty-first century novelist. The first volume is called Thunder Under the Badlands. It describes a prehistoric, subsurface environment in which life is supported by chemosynthesis.”

“The same process that supports life at the bottom of numerous world oceans?” she asked.

“Indeed. Earth, Europa and Enceladus all have such regions in addition to many out-system worlds.” Turning to the Knights Errant, he said, “You indicated that we should extract the almost unknown resource of symbiotic midi-chlorians from the cache we investigate. Have you thought about how this should be accomplished.”

“We’ll penetrate the cache first with a lightsaber,” Lucas replied. “This should facilitate easy extraction. We can funnel the midi-chlorian cloud into a ray shielded container.”

“But we really should open the cache once we’ve done that so we can compare it to the one we opened on Tatooine,” Luke added.

“Perhaps we should invite Quilesk to accompany us,” Spock suggested. “His skills could be quite useful.”

Since the Horta accepted the invitation and the away team was destined for an exceedingly inhospitable environment, Chief Medical Officer O’Brien also accompanied the explorers. Spock and Odo beamed down from the Excelsior with Molly and Quilesk. Admiral Data and the Knights Errant were teleported from their respective ships. They all materialized next to a cache that had been identified by Spock and Shanella. The team quickly set up the equipment for capturing the midi-chlorians and Lucas readied his lightsaber.

Data was monitoring the team’s progress with a tricorder. Just as Lucas was about to ignite the plasma blade of his radiant weapon, the android monitored the appearance of two humanoid life forms inside the cache. He immediately advised his companions of the discovery.

“There appears to be exceedingly limited atmosphere above the waterline within the vessel. We need to quickly complete the capture of the midi-chlorians so the borehole can function as a vent. Ambassador Quilesk will need to exercise extreme caution in order to avoid causing injury to the two recent arrivals.”

“The Organians are apparently noncorporeal now, so I don’t suppose it’s possible that we’re about to meet two representatives of the people who created the caches,” Spock suggested.

“Whoever they are,” Lucas commented, “the Force is incredibly strong with them.”

“The disturbance in the Force caused by one of them seems to be extremely familiar,” Luke added.

Quilesk quickly and carefully opened a manhole-sized opening in the cache at ground level. Dripping water as they emerged, Tysha and Tanish sprang through the aperture. It was clear to their companions that the Knights Errant actually recognized one of the newcomers.

“Tysha Eisley,” Lucas exclaimed. “How is this possible?”

“Zayana has seen the solution to your dilemma,” she replied. “We bring you her message.”

“Zayana Oshu, the Transformed Master?” Luke incredulously asked.

“Indeed,” Tysha answered. Indicating her companion, she said, “This is Tanish Smetch.”

“You can call me Tani.”

“Welcome to the Milky Way galaxy,” Lucas ceremonially said, as Luke joined him in bowing.

“Let us all reconvene on the Excelsior so we can hear this message,” Data suggested.

With the ray-shielded container of primordial midi-chlorians in hand, the group reassembled on the bridge of Captain Alexander’s command. Tysha explained what Zayana had told her.

“The primordial midi-chlorians are the key. In order to use them effectively, we need to find Doctor David Marcus.”

“The son of James T Kirk?” Spock asked.

“The same,” Tysha agreed.

As the questioning eyes of everybody on the bridge turned to Spock, he said, “The version of my predecessor who came back knew to be extremely careful in further altering the timeline. One exception he made was in preventing Kahn from hijacking the Reliant. The Genesis Planet from his timeline therefore didn’t develop here. Before a suitable location for planet-wide testing could be found, the Genesis Cave inside Regula became unstable. This as we learned was due to David using proto-matter in the matrix of his device. His mother, Carol Marcus, was inside the cave at the time. She didn’t survive. He blames himself and has become a complete recluse. He lives beyond the edge of Federation Space and is now well over a century old. He may only still be alive because he is a doctor. If we need his help, we’d best be expedient in our search.”

“What is the Genesis Device?” Alexander asked.

“It was intended to reorganize matter at the subatomic level, creating life from lifelessness.”

“Do we have the schematics?” Odo asked.

“The original device was developed with private grants. The Federation had yet to approve the project before it was abandoned,” Spock answered. “David alone understood its operations. He is however familiar with my predecessor. He would recognize me. And I have an idea about where to start our search.”

Lieutenant Sisko was forced to interrupt, saying, “Captain, we have a Priority One message from Vice Admiral Adamson.”

“Put it on the main viewing screen,” Alexander instructed.

There was an air of severity written in the lines of the Vice Admiral’s face as he announced, “I’m directing the Enterprise and Excelsior to Ferenginar. We have a very serious situation. One of the Breen battle cruisers that were destroyed in the Typhon Expanse apparently managed to send a signal. The Breen know the ship of the Nagus himself participated in destroying the three ships. They seemingly considered it an act of war. The Ferengi intercepted a Breen flotilla on its way into the Occupied Cardassian Union. They managed to salvage a damaged computer core from the wreckage after of the battle. They extracted just enough intel to realize the Breen were on a diplomatic mission to forge an alliance with the Joracki. The Ferengi Alliance is essentially between Breen Space and the Occupied Cardassian Union. If they form an accord, the Ferengi would be crushed between them. If that were to happen, the entire outer perimeter of the Alpha Quadrant would be in enemy hands. You are to help make certain that doesn’t happen.”

“Sir, it is essential that we locate Doctor David Marcus,” Data replied. “We have material we can use to destroy Narik and conceivably even correct the galactic imbalance that produced the rogue universe, but he is the only one who knows the design of his Genesis Device. Time is not on our side. He is of extremely advanced age.”

“Narik has neither his ship nor his weapon and is hopefully lost in space forever,” Adamson answered. “The super massive black hole is a concern, but the Romulans are monitoring it and the Nexus. The clear and present danger is an alliance between the Joracki and the Breen. You have your orders. Warp restrictions continue to be suspended. Adamson out.”

“Our mission is Narik and the balancing of the Force,” Lucas insisted. “Our ship seats six. If we can borrow Ambassador Spock, we’ll undertake the search for David Marcus.”

“I’d like to go with them too,” Odo interjected. “It sounds like they have room for one more.”

“Since we are in this part of the galaxy, there’s one more objective we could at least attempt to accomplish,” Spock surprised everyone by announcing. “The Douwd’s planet was precisely in the path of Narik’s expanding empire. The Metrons are about as far from danger as they can be. But their assistance might be obtained if the request is presented carefully. I am an ambassador of the Federation. I am authorized to speak on its behalf.”

“Request granted,” Data announced. Turning to Alexander, he said, “I will beam back to my ship and we can get underway.”

***

With the pair of galaxy-class starships on course for the other side of the galaxy, the bridge crews were able to hand their responsibilities over to their backups and stand down. Jake Sisko, Nog and Kato Sulu retired to 10 Forward to grab a meal before going to their quarters to enjoy a rest period. Because of the oddness of the hour, the expansive area was almost deserted. They selected a table at the back near the observation window.

“I’m glad we’re leaving this region of space before we encountered the Gorn. I have studied them somewhat. And they are terrifying,” Jake said. Lowering his voice, he changed his tone to one much more conspiratorial as he continued, “There’s really only one thing scarier.”

Nog knew he was being baited, but his curiosity finally won out as he asked, “What’s that?”

“Gorn porn.”

“Thanks a lot,” Kato sarcastically complained. “Now I have that mental image.”

“My research did turn up one more interesting fact,” he continued more conversationally. “I learned the name of the Gorn ship that attacked Cestus 3.”

“That’s impossible,” she angrily argued. “That wasn’t disclosed even during the negotiations that determined the boundaries of Gorn space. Okay, smart, guy, so what was it?”

Jake smiled broadly as he sang, “It’s the Gorn ship Lollipop.”

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