The Battle Plan

Among the deepest black, the shimmer of the starship dropping out of warp illuminated her curves for only a moment before the darkness consumed it again. Only the running lights of the U.S.S. Endeavour gave away the Federation presence, the first to arrive in the proverbial ‘middle of nowhere’. It for that specific reason this spot had been chosen. No observers, no unwanted witnesses.

“Captain, we’ve reached the rendezvous coordinates.”

Daniel Lohnes narrowed his eyes, trying to see if he could even squint hard enough to see the nearest star, to no avail. “Understood. Commander, please ensure the conference room has been prepared. Bridge to Admiral Musato, we are on station.”

Vartris departed the command center as the delegate acknowledged and started his way to their meeting point. Which, to Daniel’s extent of knowledge, was all that he knew of the Endeavour’s part in this. Who they were meeting and why, he could only guess.

“Captain, Klingon cruiser decloaking off the port bow. They are requesting to come aboard with a small delegation.” Close enough to smile at them, the Negh’Var battlecruiser gave an emerald menace to the area. But the Klingons are our closest allies, even more than the New Republic. Why meet them out here?

As if summoned by his thoughts, his crew alerted him to the incoming hyperspace wave, which materialized into something much smaller than expected. One Nebulon-B frigate thundered into view, with one X-Wing and one B-Wing on either side. The larger ship held its ground, practically staring the Starfleet vessel down, the fighters came around to dock in her hanger. Well, the X-Wing is probably General Antilles, but I would’ve expected something larger if they had another commander coming…

Much to his surprise, the next ship to drop out of warp was Cardassian. The warship placed itself along the starboard side of Endeavour, but still back a bit in case an expedient retreat was needed. Though even at distance, the Galor-class cruiser still bore unmatched hull plates and singed wings to mark its service in the Dominion War, and a statement on the status of the severely weakened Cardassia. If they’re here, then this must be serious. How many ships can they even spare?

Whatever concern that Capt. Lohnes had on the war-weary has quickly silenced when the last attendee arrived, blackened hull as dark as the void around them and menacing wings like talons, ready to pounce on them all. It had never been in Romulan nature to acknowledge the superiority of another, let alone a subservient race within their own border. But the Scimitar-class Warbird was an engineering feat in any society. It was also completely unexpected to even be in attendance, and that fact began to spark an uncomfortable thought train in the Captain’s mind.

The voice of his Bajoran first officer and friend brought Daniel back to reality for a moment, “Well, it’s packed meeting room to be sure. I wouldn’t want to be the poor scribe in there trying to keep notes.”

“Tell me about it. Please tell me you had any and every sharp object removed from the deck.”

Vartris smiled slightly, “And everything heavier than five kilos. I think we could be here a while.”

“Agreed. I just hope something good comes out of there…”

Several decks below, gathered around a long table with no corners, they had arrived one and two at a time. Admiral Musato came with only one assistant, Commander Harm, from Starfleet Operations. It had been the Admiral’s conception to call this meeting and summon the parties involved, a process which had taken weeks just on its own. Time that the Federation had paid for in lives and territory lost.

Just as their carriers were arranged in space, so sat the representatives of the major powers. Fleet General Kri’bok of the Klingon Imperial Fleet and one of his squadron captains. Generals Shri Neremboh and Wedge Antilles of the New Republic Navy and Starfighter commands, Gul Polmr and his assembly from the New Cardassian Union and Admiral Stavmir for the Romulan Navy. The room was silent, even as they each arrived, though the shared looks of surprise and discomfort shared among represented parties spoke volumes on where each stood. With each new member at the table, trust had waned and uncertainty rose.

“First and foremost, I want to thank you all for agreeing to meet in such an isolated sector. It was understood as imperative by Starfleet Command to maintain a degree of secrecy to this meeting, as it concerns an enemy that every member at this table has been attacked by in recent month; Admiral Celerian and the Imperial Ninth Fleet.”

As Musato expected, there wasn’t much reaction from the group yet, though Polmr posed the obvious, “And what is it you wish to gain from this little council? Some sharing of secrets?”

“Only if the need presents itself, Gul. What Starfleet and I seek to open is the possibility of joint operations against Celerian, taking the fight to him for a change. For some of us, this is already a reality, for others, this may be new ground.”

Stavmir leaned back in her seat slightly, “A very human problem, I think. I understand his forces drove straight into your Sol system. I imagine you should be getting used to that by now, after the Borg and the Breen did the same.”

“Perhaps, but only the Imperials have benefited from using Romulan cloaking technology, meaning you’ve already lost at least one ship. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve even bothered to check your recent losses, with so many to count.” Kri’bok countered, his subordinate smiling.

The Romulan stared lasers at her Klingon counterpart, but did not counter the point. Instead, Shri leaned forward, cat-like paws clenching slightly in concern, “In the interests of this meeting, we are willing to share what we have uncovered in terms of the Ninth Fleet…”
“Provided there aren’t any more Fed spooks behind those doors,” Wedge added with a grimace, recent memories still sour on the pilot’s tongue.

Musato sighed, “I can assure you, General, those were the actions of a rouge unit and unsanctioned by the Federation Council. Such units and missions have been disbanded and will not be reinstated in the future.”

Antilles nodded, but did not unclench the fist on his leg. Neremboh at least accepted the Admiral’s offer and continued, “Very well then. What we know so far is quite ‘ordinary’ as far as Imperial expansion goes. Celerian and the Ninth Fleet have become a rallying point for the Empire, and has enjoyed an extensive measure of support. We know that they have been probing the borders of each party gathered here, and have so far been successful on most fronts. To date, the New Republic has at least slowed their advance in the Outer Rim and silenced several of their intelligence operations. Still, their resounding victory at Iscaria Two, plus this recent attack on Utopia Planitia has pointed to a level of ingenuity that doesn’t exist in normal Imperial doctrine.”

The very mention of a crushing Klingon defeat made Kri’bok slam his fist into the table, “Had our forces been prepared for such a dishonorable opponent, the outcome would have been far different. This foe is as cunning as he is deceitful. It would be only fitting to respond in kind by decimating his bases and resource chains.”

“We have some insight into that,” Musato began, bringing to life the holographic display in the center of the table, “We’ve manage to pinpoint the home port of the Emperor’s Breath, his command ship, based on data gathered by the U.S.S. Artemis. The Prash’guthali System.”

By celestial terms, the arrangement of planets, asteroids and cosmic anomalies made the system a hazard to say the least. Unlike Earth, which had an asteroid belt to serve as a ring of protection, Prash’guthal was surrounded, separating the inner five planets from the outer five. Whatever way in or out looked like it had been carved out, and probably couldn’t be guaranteed as safe from day to day. In order to get the nineteen kilometers of a Super Star Destroyer in or out, a very clear gate had been constructed above the pole of the fourth planet, marked by two defense platforms and a launch hanger for TIE fighters.

“Impressive,” Kri’bok noted, “he hides his forces under the blanket of space, risking their own destruction for safety.”

“Indeed, a valuable find from a Federation spy ship,” Stavmir added almost with a smile, for she knew it would inject another point between the Federation and the New Republic. “And tell us, what became of your defected ship?”

Musato grit his teeth for only a moment, then collected himself. It was a point that had to come up eventually, he knew. But he had hoped to smoothly introduce it later, not add even more tension to the meeting. “The U.S.S. St. Petersburg was last noted by the Artemis in the Vawarc system and as not been located since that operation concluded.”

“Wait, you said defected? As in, willingly joined Celerian?” Shri questioned with some alarm. “And you wonder how they made it all the way to your home system?”

“As far as we can tell, the captain of the St. Petersburg had been planning this since Union occurred. He carefully stacked his crew with as many supports as he could, and murdered all non-human and disloyal officers upon defection. There was no way we could’ve stopped them when this happened. But all Starfleet ships have orders to engage the St. Petersburg if encountered. Disable it if possible, destroy it if necessary,” Cdr. Harm finally spoke, setting most parties back in their chairs.

“And I presume the rest of us gathered here can enjoy the same declaration?” the Cardassian probed, to which Admiral Musato nodded. “Defectors no longer enjoy the protection of the Federation.”

An answer which at least satisfied the Klingon and New Republic representatives. With a look, Antilles produced his own data pad and began plugging data into the projection. “We’ve looked at this system as well with our own special forces, and its home to more than just the Emperor’s Breath.” With a few more taps, dozens of new symbols and structures flooded the map. “Outside of the major Imperial fleet manufactures, this is one of the largest fleetyards we’ve seen. Celerian has enough construction and maintenance capacity here to keep his primary fleet running within system. At any time, there are at least two Star Destroyers always in system on patrol, with two more in the neighboring systems. That, plus the Golan platforms and orbital hangers, we’re looking at a few hundred fighters, and no less than thirty larger ships at any moment.”

“No one party at this table could likely face this bastion alone, nor should we,” Musato began opening his hands in a gesture of peace, “and we may be benefiting from critical timing.” A few more buttons pushed, and the Super Star Destroyer appeared, in system and in pieces. “Thanks to the Artemis, we believe that Celerian has sent his flagship into an unexpected refit cycle. This means it will be out of commission for the next few weeks at least. If we can assemble a strike force rapidly enough, we may be able to deal a massive blow to Imperial expansion.”

There was a beat to the conversation as everyone processed that information. Finally, it was the Romulan who spoke first, “You may be more right than you realize, as well as the criticality of the timing of this attack.” The hologram changed again with Romulan symbols, translated after a moment into Basic. “In addition to the flagship, our operatives have uncovered at least three other Star Destroyers currently in drydock for complete overhaul. We believe each of them is being refit for a specific mission set.” Stavmir highlighted three outlying symbols orbiting the second planet and continued, “one of these, codenamed Ion Blaze, is being customized to carry only ion cannons and heavy ionic pulse launcher turrets. This would pose a grave concern for any ship using either a matter-antimatter reactor or other reaction-based drive system.”

Musato turned to Harm, who was grimacing openly, meaning they both understood what that meant. This Destroyer was being specifically built against Starfleet, the Klingons, the Cardassians and the Romulans. Suddenly, the main threat in the system was shifting from the largest vessel within it.

Stavmir enlarged the second Destroyer, marked as Stellar Dagger. “The second special project is being converted for mass fleet engagement, as marked by removal of its hanger bay and ground troops in favor of quantum torpedo launchers and stores as well as reinforced armor. Additionally, a backup shield generator is being added inside the structure, under the command tower.”

Shri tried his best not to tap his quickly protruding claws on the table, as General Antilles quickly scribed every note and detail he could on a pad. The Romulan delegate seemed to pause for a moment, as if to savor the weight of her report. “The final battleship, Deathgiver, may be the most dangerous. Like its sister ship I just mentioned, it also is having its ground force complement removed. We believe this is to make room for the necessary scientists and components to house and launch up to a dozen Genesis devices.”

Whatever activity was going on in the room suddenly stopped.

“You’re joking,” began the Cardassian, which Stavmir quickly silenced, “The Tal Shiar does not jest on intelligence matters.”

“I thought the Federation banned such technology and buried it.” Kri’bok growled at the table, recalling a much more dangerous time in history between most of the table.

“We did, I can assure you. No research of any sort has been conducted by Starfleet on the Genesis project, or any such planetary-altering processes.” Musato defended. “This tells me that Imperial Intelligence has been more successful in a short time than any other organization at this table, including the Tal Shiar, New Republic Intelligence, or the Obsidian Order. If the Ninth Fleet were to add these ships into their main force, no one here would be safe. And given Celerain’s preference for high-profile ambush attacks over cost of forces…,”

“You think he’ll come after another capital world.” Polmr finished, a point that the Starfleet representatives both nodded to.

“Initial votes would be Cardassia,” Stavmir announced, making the Gul almost leap from his seat, “You dare insinuate that this Imperial madman would strike us first?!”

Shri and Wedge remained silent for now, each with their own ideas. The Klingon General was far less so, “It would be another in the line of dishonorable moves, to attack the weakest opponent. Perhaps he’ll strike Romulus first, to remind you of your place.”

Now Stavmir turned to growl at the meeting, “Ours is not the place you should be concerned with, varool.

“Alright, that’s enough!” Musato boomed though the room, snatching everyone’s attention from insulting each other. “Whoever is the most likely target of this threat is irrelevant. The reality is, we are all in significant danger now. The Ninth Fleet is resourceful, adaptive, and has access to technology that no one here is ready to combat alone. We cannot let Celerian continue strengthening his forces.”

After a moment, Polmr was first to ask, “How soon are we to undertake such a mission?”

Finally, the progress we need! Musato thought before gesturing for the data pad Cdr. Harm had been holding the entire time. “We’re gathering elements from the 5th, 6th and 7th fleets now. In roughly one week, we’ll have over a hundred starships mustered for this operation.”

The Klingons were next, “Our Krin’mr Battle Group will proudly join the battle. This will double what the Federation has committed, as we are ready to bring a swift end to this. It will be a glorious battle!”

Wedge and Shri exchanged glances again, then Antilles offered, “Our Second Fleet will be recalled and positioned to commit to this operation. Seven days, and things will be set. Rogue Squadron will lead the fighter force.”

Gul Polmr slumped down in his chair slightly, these numbers were quickly becoming more staggering than what the Cardassian people could afford to spare. “Our shipyards at Torros III have recently been recommissioned expanded. In seven days, we can provide…thirty warships.”

“Impressive, more than what I assessed you had left,” the Romulan jabbed, which Musato silenced with a raised hand. “And what does the Romulan Navy think of this?”

Furrowing her brow, Stavmir produced her own pad. “In addition to my vessel, we are prepared to commit the Ninety-Ninth Assault Wing. Fifty Warbirds.”

In any other case, this was a stammering figure to comprehend. Almost four hundred capital ships and another two hundred starfighters were now pledged to assault a single system, more than any single battle of the Dominion War. All against one man, all because of the threat of one ambition and purpose.

I only hope it’s enough Musato pondered to himself. “Then we have an accord. The Federation moves to record this as the first operation of the Joint Union Task Force fleet, barring any objections.” He could see clenching and glowering from the Romulans and Cardassians, as he expected, but no counters were raised.

“Very well then. I have arranged the Endeavour’s holodecks to be opened and secured to begin any needed mission planning if we wish. Otherwise, I would urge each represented party to prepare for the worst-case scenario. We have to be ready to count on each other for support, only together will we curb the Imperial threat and bring some semblance of peace back to the galaxies. Most importantly, I want to thank you all for being willing to come together in the face of this great threat.”


So, this is the start of the culmination of multiple story paths, which I’ve always pictured as leading toward a moment like this. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend, shouldn’t the enemy of everyone make friends of us all? Only time will tell.

I hope you all enjoy.

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Dead Giveaway

“Did you see that?”

“Negative, Seven. My screen is clear,” came the wingman’s response.

She shook her head inside her helmet, “No, I mean did you see something. Using real eyes. At about…three-five-five by zero-four-one degrees. Between us and the ground.”

A pause, their turn was leading them away from the massive body at an angle. “You mean that…fuzzy looking thing that tells me some bantha-brain didn’t wipe down our canopies? I see it now, thank you.”

She gave a frustrated grunt, then canted her convexed wings back toward Vawarc, the lonely moon rising over their horizon in their path. “I’m gonna go check it out, Eight. You can stay with the bricks if you want.”

The stabbing points of her partner’s TIE Interceptor quickly came back into view on her right, “And leave you with all the fun? Never. We’ll send Shrike Nine and Ten on their way for just a moment. It’s not like we can’t catch them.” The two Imperial fighters snapped away from the double-hulled TIE Bombers they had been in formation with and accelerated, curious and unafraid.

Yellow klaxons flashed in the corner of his eyes as Shin entered the bridge. The darkened ceiling and floor lights gave an ominous vibe to an already tense situation, broken only by the flurry of beeps and sweeps of his officers and crew balancing excitement and vigilance. “Report.”

“Two TIE Interceptors have broken formation and are an intercept course, bearing zero-zero-zero by three-one-zero, almost head on,” Semil rattled off without looking up.

“Can they see us? Or was this an expected break?”

Suvan shook her head, “None of the other fighter groups have split, and we detected several short transmissions between the ships as they came about. Nothing toward Vawarc, the Maleficent Wind, or St. Petersburg.”

That gave the Captain a moment of relief, but it wasn’t long before his Andorian first officer broke that, “Captain, they may be picking up on our visual distortion due to our lower orbit.”

Shin snapped over to Tactical, “Possible?”

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, “Possible, Captain. As I have studied it, SHIMMER may produce a visual reflection or haze in such a low orbit. However, that probability was assessed as ‘low’ in the technical assessments.”

“Damn,” Shin muttered. Their one trump card, their cloak of invisibility that made this whole mission possible, was seeming to have more issues than anyone had bargained for. Now he had to weigh quickly what to do with that handicap, “Options? Can we raise shields or destroy those fighters before they see us?”

“We can, however, the increased energy output of either system would be detectable from the surface or by any vessel conducting active scans. Which, I must point out, is what the defense platform below and the Star Destroyer are currently doing.”

“Why? It’s not like those fighters are going leaving the system…” al-Imir began, a question that his Science Officer had an answer, “Captain, it looks like, based on traffic between the Destroyer and planetside, is that they are calibrating the weapon for small, fast-moving targets and multiple simultaneous targets. It’s a test flight.”

“You have their communications?” Suvan asked in shock, to which Paige nodded. “They’re using an Imperial encryption the New Republic provided us, so we’ve copied most of their comms and status updates sent out of the system. Anything relayed to or from the St. Petersburg is still unknown.”

The Captain nodded his approval of their find, though losing the option of combat soured him. “Can we divert more power to SHIMMER, or compensate for the distortion effect?”

The Andorian quickly tapped her combadge, “Bridge to Engineering! Lt Varoe, we need to adjust SHIMMER to compensate for atmospheric interaction, is it possible?”

The response was not promising, “Uhh, yeah, we can do it. Give me three minutes to recycle to frequency scatters and then tune them to a specific range.”

A timeframe that the Vulcan shook his head at, “Sixty seconds until visual acquisition becomes possible. I propose a more…radical solution.”

“Such as?”

“Transporting the pilots directly into the brig. It prevents them from relaying our position as well as provides a potential intelligence source.”

Suvan’s antennae stood on end, “You’re joking!”

“The armor of the Interceptors should mask enough of our transporter energy to make it possible.” Semil stated plainly, fingers swooshing over keys to begin the targeting.

The Captain saw one major flaw with this, “And what about the fighters? We can’t just leave those floating…”

“What if we beamed those into the shuttle bay at the same time?” Paige posed.

It was a dangerous idea to be sure, trying to catch a speeding bullet in a jar without touching the sides or bottom. But if we can’t do anything else, at least O’Shea will have a field day… “Prep Security details at the brig, shuttle-bays and vital systems! Energize when ready! Helm, move us away from our current position as fast as you can, get us behind that moon!”

It was an order given mere seconds too early, because it was easier to move the Artemis than to lock on the transporters.

“Eight, I’m reading motion from that distortion!” She hollered into her mic as what she once thought of as a haze suddenly rolled its face away from her.

“Standby, Seven! Vorpal Eight to Control! We’veeeeee……” Her wingman’s voice faded into static, followed shortly by the ethereal blue energy surrounding her as well. On instinct, she squeezed the triggers, a quadburst of cannon fire leapt from her Interceptor before the world went white.

*


A continuation of a story I started a while back, in the spirit of all those sneaky spies of days past.  In the world of intelligence, you only hear about it if something goes horribly wrong…

I hope you all enjoy.

No Going Back

There was a moment, once upon a time, when her eyes were filled with such life he thought the would beam forever. Cream skin that glowed in newfound radiance matched only by her smile of infinite joy. The words I love you danced from his lips over and over as he rushed to her, scooping her up in arms powered by indescribable bliss. Russet hair played over their cheeks as if to seal their faces away in a concealed dimension of love meant for them and them alone.

A moment forever frozen in the electrons of the holo-image that sat just off his left arm. A moment of heaven captured forever, doomed to haunt him forever.

The gusts of wind and rain from the greyed sky above shook the cockpit slightly, so he brought the nose of his Y-Wing up mere inches to crest the next wave. His fist clenched the stick, ten percent concentration, ninety percent rage. It had been on a day like today when the star in his life has been snuffed out, the day she had died. Some would have called it the price he paid for being an idealist, standing up to the un-bowing order of the galaxy that was the Galactic Empire. His squadron mates called it his cause, his reason to fight on against tyranny.  To Kyr Birnakari, it was all he could see at night when he closed his eyes, all he could hear in the day. Always whispering in his ears, her claws always in his heart.

They had arrived on Iribar only hours too late to stave off the Imperial bombardment that froze her eyes forever in fear and pain, and while Kyr and his brethren had destroyed the newly-arrived occupation force in reciprocity, it did little to quell the screams he would hear in the years to come.  Agony bound to the one who had caused it, the cruiser Harrowed Venom. For all the missions Kyr had been dispatched on, and every oppressing pawn shot down, never had that name surfaced within reach again.

Until now, when its patrol brought it back to Iribar. Back to its nest of destruction, right into this hand for vengeance.

“Blink, can you tie into the ion guns? You can be rear seat instead of Palleran.”

His R2 comrade something in the negative, making his teeth clench, “Then delete the software block and tie it right into your processor! We need all the firepower we’ve got on this!”

A moment of silence, then the cannon above his head snapped to attention, scanning the horizon. The last piece of his scattered plan was in place. First, he would disable the Venom, then he would bomb every square inch of the cruiser into the ground. No survivors, no witnesses. Only the wreck would stand as a monument to his loss.

One kilometer after another, it came slowly into view among the clouds, moored to a dark tower above a fresh cut within the mountainside. The Imperial forces had finished their first outpost here within recent memory, but what he hadn’t known to be there before was the garrison of defending TIE Fighters that would oppose him. Kyr could feel the anger rising in his throat, but he tried to shake it away. Destroying that ship was all that mattered now. Esta…forgive me, my love….

Suddenly, pulse after pulse from his topside cannon shouted to life, Blink wailing an alert. Two TIEs had noted his wake even among the torrents and turned to pursue. The droid’s haste caught one dead center and dropped it powerlessly into the crush, but its partner broke away wide before turning back to return fire. Emerald bolts boiled the water in front of him, forcing his nose off target. Rolling on his side to present his smaller profile to his foe, Kyr’s had tightened on the trigger. It had to be a clean hot, a perfect shot, his Y-Wing had only two torpedoes.

Whatever he yelled at the top of his lungs was somewhere between the rave of a lunatic and a wounded animal as he fired before pulling away in a climb. Both missiles flew straight and true towards the underbelly of his beast. But it was a long distance shot, and the Imperial alarms were blaring. The engines of the Harrowed Venom began to glow, its guns snapped to attention. One of the ventral guns fired hastily, but all too accurately, catching one of Kyr’s torpedoes and detonating it harmlessly. The second sailed on and caught its target in the side. A few of the engines dimmed for a moment, but it wasn’t enough to put the cruiser down.

The Y-Wing suddenly shook violently as its shields caught the side-on blow form another pair of incoming TIEs.  Yanking his turn to loop around, Kyr brought his nose to face them so both he and Blink could fire. His lasers shredded the wing of one, but Blink’s shots were wide, allowing the Imp flyer to hit him again in the cheek. Crossing nose against nose, he dove back to the waters and set his eyes back on the Venom. He had to catch it before it was unleashed, a single bomber stood only a little chance in prolonged combat.

His R2 fired again and again towards the rear, but Kyr kept his belly as low as it would go until the racing rocks forced him up again, in prime striking range. Scarlet fangs leapt out, cutting into his target all down her backside and up the spine before the heavy turbolaser rife forced him away again. Four more TIEs screamed in from both sides, joining the hunt.

“Blink, set ion cannon to auto and see if you can speed up the shield recharge!” he yelled as another blast clipped past one of his engines.  Come on! I just need one good run! Come on, COME ON!  His mind screamed over and over, but the Imperial fighters would not give him pause. Every twist, every turn or climb was met with more and more firepower.

Only when red pulses rained down from the clouds did he remember to breathe through clenched teeth. Cutting down three of his hunters, Kyr raced up into the clouds as an X-wing blazed planet-ward, the colors of his kin alive on its wings. “Kip and Palleran are pretty pissed at you right now, trying to do this on your own.”

“Then why are you here, Vilkas?”

“One, because you’re my brother. Two, when we get out of here, I’m going to punch you in your crazy face.” The X-wing peeled away from Kyr to give chase to another quartet of incoming TIEs, “And three, because if you die here, Esta would never forgive me!”

Blink squeaked in merriment as the Y-Wing doubled back towards the Venom, which was now free of the tower and turning its full broadside at him. His hands shook from the trigger as his fired over and over again, trying to break the shields of the larger vessel. Again, the heavier enemy fire forced him back and away. “Blink!, Link the ion cannons to the blasters! Everything forward! Vilkas, if you have torpedoes, hit the cruiser!”

Two strakes of stellar white leapt from the X-Wing’s nose in a snap-shot.  This time, both missiles slammed into the bow, rocking the larger vessel back and turning its attention away. Kyr yanked the throttle back to slow his approach and pounced again, raking red and blue fire against the enemy’s engine block. At the last possible second, he pulled the stick into his lap and slammed the bomb release button. The entire hold of proton ordinance emptied from the Y-Wing and onto the Venom, blasting free part of its drive system and massive craters into its hull. This time, Venom’s heavy  guns hit home, bouncing him helplessly into the air and blowing his shields away.

He couldn’t remember calling for his brother, but Vilkas’ fighter rose into view and looped around, shredding the heavy turret. “Kyr! Come on! Get it back!”

Suddenly, something small, swift and lightning fast cut the air between them. When he looked over, Kyr’s eyes widened in horror  as the X-Wing to his right twitched and sparked a deathly mark, “Vilkas, VILKAS!!”

“Live…” was all Kyr could make out from the static as the snubfighter detonated from another direct hit. Another blur past his eyes, then the squealing of an R2, as whatever he saw was now behind him. It carried the spherical shape of the TIE cockpit, but its wings were angled inward like the wings of a diving hawk. Its sheer speed matched its look, racing past Kyr with ease at too great a rate for Blink. They came at him again from above. Sliding left and right to dodge them, one clean shot connected, his astromech’s dying howl matched by the sparks jutting from the hole melted though its body.

His body felt numb now, there was nothing left to remember. Whatever alarms were yelling at him faded away, his legs heavy at the rudder. There was only one move left now, as the Y-Wing rolled its belly to sky and began its dive, nose to nose against the Harrowed Venom. The new TIEs hesitated only for a moment before the lead opened fire again at the same instant Kyr pushed the throttle down as far forward as it would go. The Y-Wing cried out as one of its engines was blasted free, sending him into its death spiral.

But the frantic panic and fleeing crew of the Venom filled his heart with joy. Do you see it, Esta? Do you see your justice?

The body of the bomber plunged into the bridge of the larger cruiser as a doomed arrow, finally breaking the Venom’s back. The two halves of the beaten warship shuddered down into the base of the mountain and detonated like a new sunrise along Iribar’s sky. Just as her smile once did, so long ago.


A little something I wrote on the long flight from Germany to Texas. When revenge becomes your synonym for justice, how great does the cost need to be?

I hope you all enjoy.

The Exchange

The stick is clumsy in his hands as he coasted between the leftover cosmic rocks around him. Every turn, every climb or dive, takes more and more effort as he pulls the starfighter through the paces that would be second-nature to him. Gone was the smoothness of the touchscreen controls, the snap attention of computer-assisted maneuvering and engine power. What the T-65 X-Wing lacked in responsiveness, it made up for in claustrophobic tightness.

He hated it, every second of it. If not at the ‘suggestion’ of Commander Worf and over-arching guidance from Starfleet to extend the hand of diplomacy, Lt. Ryan Cooper would have never taken the yoke of this wreck.

Perhaps the most infuriating part of all was the infernal astromech droid sitting behind him. Uncooperative, unable to predict his needs or assist his commands automatically. It just sat back there, beeping and chirping its merry tin box of a head, occasionally squealing when the Federation pilot forced the starfighter into anything that looked like a sharp turn.

The familiar sight of three Vindication-class Valkyries swopping into to form an arrowhead with him was a welcome sight. “Having fun, Lead?”

“That’s a big fat negative, Two. This thing is awful.”

To punctuate his distaste with the Republic craft, his wingman pitched over him, canopy to canopy, and slipped back into position with honed ease, “That’s too bad, Lt. I think it looks good on you.”

He could almost see her smile though the cockpit, “You’re just saying that because now you can all catch me.”

“It would seem your assessment of our allies’ capabilities is…unfavorable.” Chimed in Four, perfectly calm and logical as a Vulcan is want to do. “Yeah, you could say that. But hey, it’s good to know just how badly we’ll tear them up if it ever comes to that.”

“You think it will? The Republic seem generous and open enough,” Two posed worriedly.

He wanted to think she was right. The New Republic knew the price it took to defeat tyranny just as much as the Federation did, without the benefit of being an established power. Everything their allies had fought for, they had fought with only hope and skill. Some of them would credit “the Force”, which Ryan had a hard time understanding. No such thing as magic that can’t be explained through science…

Still, if it had to come to the worst case scenario, the Republic massively outweighed Starfleet in numbers. Even the fleet buildup to deal with the Dominion and the Borg didn’t even come to half of the Republic Navy. “I think, if they wanted something bad enough, then yeah, it wouldn’t be pretty. Time will tell who’s right or not.”

She was silent after that, at least until his main screen began to flash at him, “Signal from the Typhon. Everyone’s forming up to move on to the next sector.”

“Copy that Two, lead the way. I can’t wait to drop this thing off.”

Meanwhile…

The fighter tweaked and twitched under every touch of his fingers, jerking him around in the seat. There was no smoothness to the controls, no way to ease the Valkyrie into its paces, it simply moved. He couldn’t hear the hum of the fighter’s engines to tell him how fast he was moving, couldn’t tell his droid companion Gate to pipe up or shut up. Only the cold, unfeeling voice of the computer interface answered him, half the time telling him that his request violated some blasted safety parameters. If he spoke but a sentence, it would steal control from him and merrily carry him into an asteroid.

It wasn’t his ship, it would never be. After years behind the stick, Wedge Antilles could feel how his fighter was behaving under his graces. The sounds of the engines told him which ones were working harder and which ones were finicky. The snap of the S-foils into attack or cruise position was second nature to a lullaby from him. It’s not a snubfighter, it’s a goddamn computer console with a cannon…

The sudden appearance of three X-Wings from behind a spinning rock alarmed the computer, waring him about collision course and risks to structural integrity. But the General paid it no mind, letting his flight dash across his path, nose to nose, before looping back and boxing him in like an extra layer of shields.

“Can I say it first? That thing looks like a piece of Gamorrean trash, boss.” Wes Janson piped in first at his starboard.

“You stole my line, Three.” Hobbie Kilvian snorted, “But yeah, I don’t like that look. It…, I mean, the thing glows along the side, is all I’m saying.”

“It’s an interesting piece of engineering to be sure. But hey, being able to fire torpedoes at FTL speeds is a nice touch. Might have to talk to our crews about that one,” Wedge acknowledged.

“So, what’s the verdict, Lead? Everything you thought it would be?” posed his right-hand man, Tycho Celchu.

A question that made Wedge scowl, “Yes and no. It follows the Starfleet mindset, sure. One the one hand, this thing has a bigger loadout than even a TIE Defender, or some small gunboats. Not to mention the aft mine dispenser and tractor beam, it’s a fighter’s fighter sure.”

“But…” Tycho injected, sensing the pause in his friend’s thought.

“But it’s too complicated. Too many circuits to cross-feed, especially whatever the sith this ‘bio-neural’ circuitry is. One good shot from an ion cannon, and this thing would blow itself up in an instant.”

“Yeah, what is it with this side of Union using the anti-matter of all existence as a fuel source? At least when a squint blows up, it just blows up. It doesn’t rip a hole into another dimension or whatever…” Janson mused.

“You think they’re having as much fun with your fighter, boss?” Hobbie asked as they slowly came about to face the Mon Aurora and the end of their test flight.

“I’m not sure, Four, but Gate will tell me if they even scratch the paint.”

“You’re having him record their flight?” Tycho asked, a tinge of surprise in his voice.

“You think the Feds aren’t doing the same? I guarantee that this box is recording every move I make, right down to my disapproving head-shaking. They just love knowing everything.”

“That’s a fact, Lead. One day they’ll learn to stop being so intrusive. And they might even grow up a bit,” Hobbie responded, before the chirp of an R2 droid caught his ear. “Signal from the Aurora. The Fed carrier is getting ready to move out.”

Wedge sighed part relief, part anxiety as to the end of another show of being the New Republic’s leading ace. “Copy that. Rogue Group, form up and lock in for home.”


This is a companion piece in a way to something I did a while back, the meeting of the fighter jocks from different universes. On the one hand, when life gives you a chance to fly something new, you take it. On the other hand, your friend today could be your nemesis tomorrow…

I hope you all enjoy.

The 5 W’s

The streaks from your eyes tell me the worst, someone has dared to hurt you.

A lone sparrow crying in the empty night tells me when.

Drops of fading crimson betray the where.

Silence in your answer reveals the what.

Fear in his eyes upon my approach exposes the how.

And bones breaking from unhinged rage silences the who.


So, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not sure where this one came from. It just sort of…erupted in a blurt. But a good blurt, as it got my pen to paper.

I hope you all enjoy.

From The Archives: Spirit’s Walk

The smooth rock-faces of the canyon walls would prove challenging to most climbers, he imagined.  Rust worn towers of stone touched the sky above him, the wind catching tufts of dust as it went into the dying light of the day.  It took thousands of years for nature to carve her signature into these rocks, and he wondered how many seconds it would take him to ascend them.  It was a challenge that made him smile.
Leaping straight up at the wall, spiked fists burrowed into rock as easily as they would butter.  Time-tested muscles pulled him up and across the curves of the wall as Knuckles the Echidna ripped and leapt his way into the clouds.  It wasn’t long before the ruby guardian had reached the overhang of the cliff, the last and greatest challenge of the climb thanks to the way it hung over him.  Swinging his feet out into the nothingness of open sky, Knuckles punched free from his ascent, flipping himself into the air above the ledge.  The fading sunlight warmed his body as he stretched out to catch himself in his glide down.  Gracefully, he touched down on the peak of the canyon wall and let the silence of the scene envelop him.  No one else around to cloud his thinking, no one else around to task him with helping them out when they would likely not do the same for him.  Finally, a spot where he could be at peace, or as close as he could be so far from his home.

How the red-furred brawler had found himself a world away from his rightful posting was more than an annoyance that crawled under his skin. It was a pain, an ache in the chest, which he had caused himself by smashing the Master Emerald to protect it. As long as such an awesome power was in pieces and useless to anyone else, Knuckles could focus on recovering them again. But it was not supposed to have been a choice he needed to make, as the echidna should’ve been able to defend his duty alone. Such was his burden, his purpose in life. Everything else was secondary.

Now, he was atop a canyon wall, breathing fresh but foreign air. As unnerving as that should have been, he had to admit, there was a tranquility here. Knuckles could feel the Master Emerald, and by extension, the planet that created it, within the winds. As he was climbing the walls, it was like the steady pulse of the world was behind the rocks, letting him know the state of things as they were, and how the stellar vessel viewed its own outlook.

He wasn’t sure how long his violet eyes had been closed in thought, only that the sun was barely peeking out over the horizon when, “You know, there are much easier ways to ascend the canyon.”

It was a voice he had never heard before, clean and well spoken. Yet there was something beneath that, the primal growl of someone who had seen battle before. “That was kind of the point, didn’t think anyone would follow. Hell, or that anyone could get up here besides me, maybe Shads.”

“Oh, I have been scaling these rocks since I was a pup. I was even able to carve out my own path and incline along the opposite face you took to get up here,” his visitor replied, peaking Knuckles’ interest enough to crack an eye open. And sitting next to him was an equally crimson hybrid of lion, wolf and intellect. Etched into its fur in black were multiple brands and tattoos, the most standout being simply the number ‘XIII’. Most unusual for any quadruped that the echidna had encountered was a tail that flicked and swished with a glowing tip.

“Wait, you live out here with the humans? And they haven’t tried to chase you off or eat you?” the echidna asked with confusion.

Red XIII shook his head, making his mane rattle, “Nothing of the sort. Cosmo Canyon is my home and under my charge, so I protect it.  This place is a beacon of life for those who need sanctuary. And judging from the looks of your friends when you crashed, you all most certainly need it.”

That made Knuckles scoff, “Yeah, not exactly what I wanted to do today. Have to track down the rest of the Master Emerald before that fatass maniac Robotnik does something dangerous and stupid with it.”

“I heard one of your other party members mention something about that, and I was wondering what that actually meant,” Red cocked his head to meet Knuckles’ gaze, surprising the latter when he saw that the former only had one good eye. “Damn, what happened to you? Looks like you’ve been through some shit too.”

The ruby hybrid shook his head and looked away, “The product of another time. Though, I suppose that losing that has helped me see things more clearly sometimes.  After all, as long as the Planet is safe, even an eye is a small sacrifice.”

Knuckles paused for a moment, as Red had hit on something. Time and time again, evil had sought to steal or destroy that which he was charged with protecting. And over and over, the blood-red brawler trusted only himself to save his heritage. Sure, Knuckles had allies, even friends, and he had come to trust them.  But no one else, not Sonic, not Tails, not even Shadow, really understood the weight of duty and tradition like he did.

Yet this fellow crimson beast, soft-spoken but hardened, understood it. Understood the cost of honoring commitment, accepted the burden of tradition. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Even if it does cost us a lot, it’s a bigger cause than just us.”

Red nodded, “But that does not mean we must stand alone. After all, I carry the pride of my father, the knowledge of my grandfather, and the heart of this place within me wherever I am, so I am never alone. Do you follow similar mantra?”

“Uhhhh, kinda. I guess,” the echidna started, running a hand across the dreadlocks at the back of his head. No one had ever asked him this before, so to put it into words was an interesting new idea, “I guess I do too, in a way. I just do it literally sometimes.” He pulled out a shard of the Emerald, making the lion-wolf’s ears raise. “The whole of my race’s history is in here. Or at least, the ancient stuff. I’ve learned a lot from it. Meditation, how to fight and climb…the useful stuff.”

Red cocked his head to one side, “I find that rather sad, that you did not have the luxury or comfort of another in your youth while you trained. Your distance now becomes much more understandable. You are not like the hedgehog, who removes himself from company out of anger and self-loathing. You return to your world of comfort, where you can best commune with your ways.”

Knuckles chuckled a bit at that, violet eyes flicking over the canyon peaks to see a black speck atop one a fair distance away, brooding. “Yeah, Shads’ got more problems that most, but he’s also one tough sombitch.” The brawler looked back at Red, “I imagine you’re no slouch either, given all that.”

“If need be,” the tattooed quadruped replied before laying on his belly, “But I much prefer things here, even if I must defend it. I can hear the Planet best here. Her songs, her voices, her memories. On a clear night, when the air is still, I can talk to my grandfather and I know he will answer.”

The echidna smiled at that. Countless were the nights he’d spent talking to the Master Emerald, basking in its warmth and absorbing tidbits of knowledge. He’d seen the strength and devotion of his ancestors, but what would they say now, seeing their last progeny so far from home? “It’ll be dark soon.”

“Indeed. Perhaps being here is precisely where you needed to be to receive the wisdom you seek. Or, should you not like what you hear, one of our residents is a brew master. I imagine some of our shared party will be partaking.” Red XIII proposed without looking up. The wolf-lion was quite comfortable where he was, as many past nights of conversation with his father where conducted from there.

“Maybe in a bit.” Knuckles answered, gaze locked heaven-ward watching the twilight peel back its cloak to reveal the first stars. “For now, I’ve got some thinking to do.”


So, a long time ago (in a lifetime far, far away), I began a story that, while enjoyable in concept, proved overly ambitious. Ultimately, this became its downfall, as I just couldn’t make the pieces work. But, with the recovery of those old files, and some polishing, I thought why not share some of those to see just how that stack up. And maybe to get a wee bit of nostalgia rush 🙂

I hope you all enjoy.

 

Beginning Of The End – Regret

It took understanding to accept what was in front of him as a whole dish, knowledge of where to even start from, courage to engage such a plate, diligence to set a good pace for eating it, and expression to translate what a fool he was for even taking such a bet.

Such was the Full American Breakfast at Luke’s Diner, in some small town between Boston and New York. The Viper had needed gas, and both men needed to stretch out a spell and refuel themselves. Their third member said nothing from his motorcycle, but his stomach betrayed his hunger.

“I can’t believe you talked me into this, man.” Bryan said in awe of the sheer amount of protein and sauces before him.

Lance smiled through his coffee, “Trust me, bro. You need this. You barely ate yesterday, and this is a feast for a King!”

“You mean a heart attack on a plate. How come you didn’t get one?”

“It would go right to my hips,” his friend replied in a faux high pitch.

Bryan just shook his head. “Wuss…” And with that, he shoveled in the first mouthful. The slickness of the sausage grease and egg yolks clashed with the crispness of the potatos and fluff from the pancakes in a duel that paralyzed his taste buds in delight. “Dude…how? How can this be this good?! It’s like Denny’s but better in every way! I think an angel came from above and delivered unto me this plate!”

Lance chuckled at that, “You’re welcome, but I think her name was Laura. Did you catch it, big guy?”

Lucifer looked up from his waffle to give a simple answer, “Didn’t notice. Not my type.”

“Oh yeah?” Lance nudged the senior member of the table, “And what type is that? Tricked out in leather and tattoos?”

“No,” was all the biker responded with before returning to his plate.

“Well…alright then. At least I could tell she was yours.”

Bryan paused his fork halfway to his mouth, “How ya figure?”

“Long, dark hair. Brown eyes. Long legs. Dude, every girl you ever dated was like a new version of the same mold. You always go after the same ones.”

He took a long swig of water, and was amazed at how much room he felt as though he had to cram in more divinity. “That’s not true.”

Lance cocked his eyebrow, “Name one that didn’t have one of those three traits.”

Memories soon came flooding though his mind like he had dipped his face in a mountain stream. Bryan McPherrel,a young man who could’ve had his choice of companion if only his mouth didn’t outrun his brain so often. Only a few times before he dawned the uniform did he wear the heart of a lady, and only one time after. He could see all their faces as they smiled for him, laughed for him, or cried because of him.
Then the realization hit him with more mass than the pig on his plate. “Dude, you’re right. I did have a type. The type I could never make work.”

Lance dropped his smile as well, he could sense where this was heading, “That’s not what I…you know what, forget I mentioned it. It was stupid. We aren’t here to be sad, especially not you. This trip is supposed to be nothing but awesomeness and adventure. See, we even picked up our own wingman!” He nudged the broad shoulder of the man next to him, forcing Lucifer to drop his next bite and earning a glare.

“But that’s what’s wrong with it! Dude, after this trip, what do we do? You’ll go home to Charleston, he’ll go back to doing… I have no idea what, and I’ll be back to wondering when this fuckin’ time bomb in my head will finally go off!” Bryan suddenly felt far too heavy to even look at his half-eaten conquest.

“Then why not just lay here and wither like a piece of weathered shit?” Lucifer challenged, surprising both men.
“If you wanted to simply whimper away like a dog, you wouldn’t even be worthy of the dirt they would pile on you. Instead, you come into my bar, dare to question me on what it is that makes life worth living, only to end up doubting it yourself? Tiny here is right, you do have a type. Because you,” a point the biker punctuated with two solid logs for fingers jabbing Bryan in the sternum, “have no resolve. You lost it somewhere in the pills and the unknown.”

Even among the bustle of the diner around them, he couldn’t hear anyone or anything. Just his heart beating in his chest. This tattooed and unusually-named man was right. So what exactly was Bryan doing here, on this aimless quest? Even getting to the Grand Canyon would only take a few days at a good pace. And then what?

“Damn, man!” Lance sputtered, “you sure don’t talk around shit, do you? And also, ‘Tiny’? Seriously?”

“Yukari.” Bryan simply said. “She cut her hair short that one time…it looked good on her.”

The other driver chuckled, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Didn’t you hate that?”

“Nah, or at least I don’t anymore.” The moribund man looked out into the parking lot, towards the quaintness of the village around them. “I was gonna marry her…”

Lucifer snorted, finishing off his plate, “Well, isn’t that peachy. How did you screw it up?”

Bryan took a long breath, “I dunno… I was working, she was working and going to school. She couldn’t decide on what she wanted to do and…we just started fighting about everything. It didn’t last long after that.”

Lance nodded, “I remember how much of a wreck you were when things fell apart. You almost bought that crotch rocket. Don’t think that would’ve fit in with his crowd.”

The biker shook his head, “But it would have been worth something in parts when I took it from you.”

“You know, we’re still friends, her and I,” Lance started, pulling out his phone to show his brother a picture. And sure enough, Bryan couldn’t even see the years that had fallen off the clock since their last days and now. He saw the smile that lit up his whole world. The eyes that would squint when she laughed.  Lips that never failed to taste like the slightest hint of peach, even if she’d just eaten steak.

“She still asks about you, you know,” his friend continued, “I haven’t…um…”

“I’m going to find her.” Bryan declared. “If nothing else, to apologize for all the shit I messed up.”

Lucifer shook his head, “A stupid way to find a reason.”

“Tell that to Odysseus or Menelaus. You’d be amazed what happens when this stuff gets involved.” Lance retorted.

“Do you know where she is now?” Bryan asked, to which Lance nodded. “She lives out in L.A. now, doing some kind of…entertainment thing, I’m not sure. But she’s back in Hokkaido right now and won’t be back until,” he looked at his watch, “damn, almost a month from now.”

The doomed man didn’t miss a beat. “Then I’ll just have to stick around until then. Which means taking the long road. You in, big guy?”

Folding his massive arms across his chest, the leathered titan thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I’ve got things I can do most anywhere we go. You’d be surprised how many of us there are,” he pointed to his jacket on the empty chair.

“Alright then, we have the time, and we know where we’ll end up,” Bryan leaned back, “Question is, where to now?”

“Boston.” Lance responded instantly. “Have to do it. You lived too close to it for too long and never once did you go to Fenway. That shit gets fixed, and gets fixed now.”

In agreement, the men signaled for the bill. And as they walked to their vehicles, Bryan smirked to himself, prompting his compatriot to ask, “You saw her too?”

“Long dark hair, brown eyes and long legs. I hate you.”


Another piece in the story of a man with nothing to lose, his brother and enabler and the renegade who was once something else. And good grief, I’ve never linked so many stories together. Could this be building to something?

I hope you all enjoy.