Beginning of the End – World Traveler

Five hundred ponies wanted to run, practically howling for the chance in the midday sun. They deserved freedom to roam and rampage across concrete, it’s why they had been purchased in the first place. Instead, as seemed to be the norm for I-90 and Soldier’s Field, no one was moving.

“Well, at least you can see the park from here. That’s a start!” Lance pointed.

Bryan just shook his head as he stared out the window into the lanes upon lanes of halted people and orange barrels.  “And this is one reason I never came down here. Too many people never going anywhere. I mean, sure, Bangor isn’t too isolated, but it isn’t…this

His best friend snickered a bit at that, “You’re just jealous that a guy as wide as a bus on a bike managed to weave his way between cars and left us in the dust half an hour ago.”

“And where does he even think he’s going? Like, I know it’s probably best we don’t know, but after all that shit he talked in the diner only to haul off somewhere…it just bugs me, ya know?”

Lance shrugged, stomping on the pedal for only a second in order to change lanes in a rush before the Viper lulled back to an idle, “Oh, I’m sure we’ll see him again. He strikes me as the type to see a cause through to the end.”

Bryan started to counter that, but he had to hand it to his bother-in-arms. Lance had always been better about reading people than him, for better or worse. It was one of the reasons they were so tightly bonded through life, his best friend had easily cracked the book of Bryan McPherrel and had added more than a few pages of adventure.

One of those chapters had been Yukari. “So, why haven’t you told me before you two still talk?”

Sighing, his best friend worked his jaw for a moment, “’Hey, bro! What’s up? How are things in Maine? How’s your mom doing? Oh yeah, by the way, you ex-fiancé says hi’ How does that sound to you?”

Bryan sighed, “I guess, kinda dumb, but still! You should’ve told me! If I would’ve known, I would’ve done this ages ago!”

For one of only a handful of times, Lance Briar had no comeback. “You know what, you’re right. I should’ve told you. I’m sorry, bro.”

Even an idling powerhouse in a cage of construction and congestion was suddenly insufficient to break the growing silence between the two. Lance could tell his best friend was hovering between hurt and angry. It also meant he was thinking. “So, what are you gonna say to her?”

“Hell if I know…she always was better at starting conversations. Who knows, maybe something will come to me when I see her again…” Bryan started laughing slightly, “I mean, I couldn’t even say ‘hi’ to her the first time we met, you had to be my wingman.”

“Eh, all I did was get her attention. You two were the ones who talked until the restaurant closed. Making me walk home in the cold…jerkface.” Lance smirked.

Bryan shrugged, “Your fault, not denying it.”

And in that entire time, the Viper had not moved an inch. “Ugh…this could drive a man to drink.”

Lance cocked an eyebrow at that, and was rewarded with the split-second gap opening in their path towards a freeway exit. Their chariot roared with enthusiasm as they dove away from the standstill and sped away on the fairly free bypass road.

“So, no more Fenway?” Bryan posed, watching the stadium disappear behind them.

“Simple, you need a drink, then a drink we’ll find. With all the shit you’ve put up with lately, you need a visit from ol’ Bobby Burns.”

“Uhhh, think that will interfere with the meds?” the doomed man questioned.

“Maybe, but only if you’ve taken one today. Which you haven’t. So don’t worry about it, trust me.”

Weaving through traffic and any more jams, Lance found what he was looking for. A brick building bustling with traffic to and from, marked only by a single dark wooden sign. The four points of the compass branching out from a glass on the rocks. And, in perhaps the greatest turn of fortune in some people’s lifetimes, the parking spot directly in front opens itself for the Viper to nestle into. “Found it! This place should have some of the best cocktails anywhere in the world.”

Bryan cocked his head, “What makes you say that? And how are we even going to get in there? The place is packed!”

“You let me worry about that, buddy boy. You worry about what you want first.” The two men squeezed through the crowd and the noise, where two open seats laid waiting, almost front and center to the entire bartop. Quickly arriving at their attention came the vintner and owner, native accent and piecing blue eyes sweeping in with the smile patented by the booze trade. “Afternoon, gentlemen? What can I get ya?”

“Gunfire for me, whatever this man wants, and a shot of Yamazaki for the Traveler.” Lance ordered, spalling Bryan on the back.

It was an order that made the barkeep pause and give a curt nod of respect, “Alright, someone here knows their stuff! Fan of the show?”

“Dude, you’ve had the career we mere gentleman could only dream of! You got paid to travel the world to sample the finest things in the world! We watched it all the time in Iraq, it was the closest thing we could get some days to even a beer.”

Bryan knew this man looked familiar, but it took is friend’s reply to really jog the memory. “Oh, holy shit! You’re Jack Maxwell! The ‘Booze Traveler’!”

Jack gave him an informal salute, “Guilty as charged. And you two sounds like you’ve served our country, amiright?”

Lance nodded, “Iraq, three years for us both.”

“Then you two are my heroes and deserve something special. Marcus, you’ve got the rush, I’ll be back.” Jack grabbed the bottle of whiskey and gestured to an upstairs level, roped off by velvet which he removed. While the actual barroom was impressively kept and had customized wooden tables and seats, the upstairs we more like a full lounge. Bookcases ready to house fine cigars and liquors along with pages of lore surrounded a very fine table etched with a world map. Impressive chairs closer the thrones surrounded that, making excellent seats to converse or to rotate and watch the world out through the large bay window.

Once upstairs, Jack poured out three shots for their free hands, Lance and Bryan both cradling fine cocktails already, “Gentlemen, here’s ta you and all that ya do.”

It was an impressive fire that slipped down his throat and into his belly. Sharp, but not obscene. It was a clean burn that left no trail, like what he imagined a burning fuze rolling down his gullet would feel like. Gone were the normal hints of oak or American spices, the Yamazari had the twinges and sweetness that Yukari could bring to his life, or had once brought long ago.

Lance rolled his head back in relaxation, “Holy…. That’s smooth as polished glass!”

“I’ll be sure to thank my man Hidetsuga for the recommendation. Man knows his stuff for being a barman who can’t drink.” the Traveler mused. “So, what brings ya out my way?”

Byran started, “It’s a long story…”

Lance injected, “But the simple version is we’re on the trip to end all trips. We’ve got about a month to kill before my best bud here reunites with the woman of his dreams and hopefully doesn’t choke on his words.”

Bryan shot his friend a glare, “Basically, yeah.”

Jack laughed heartily at that, “There’s always a girl, ain’t there? I can respect that.” The bartender doled out three more doses. “To love and happiness, something everyone looks for, but so few find.”

Lance snorted, “Amen to that,” he punctuated that with a slight snarl as the liquor blazed its way down. “Hell, it’s partly the reason we’re here, to help my brother here think and unwind himself. He’s not exactly a silver-tongued devil like you.”

The Traveler smirked at that, “Well, I wouldn’t go that far, I just know my way around people and listen to what they gotta say, ya know? You can figure out anyone easy enough if ya listen first.”

“Are you taking notes, dude? This man speaks truth,” Lance nudged Bryan with an elbow. “And you know how to do it too!”

“Yeah? He a player of the game?” Jack queried.

An idea that condemned man shook away with his hand, “Nah, just a fool who gets lucky and smart sometimes, only to blow it all in the homestretch.” Taking a long drain from his main drink, Bryan suddenly put that in perspective as to where he was now. The final and ultimate homestretch. “But that won’t happen this time. Because it can’t.”

The other men nodded in approval, “See, I knew there was something else in there. Could tell when ya walked in. I know a man with a story when I see one.”

“That he does, and it’s gonna be a helluva ride,” Lance added, raising his drink for a toast. “To the story, wherever it goes and however it ends!”

Another clink and dose of core fire as the sun began to creep across the table. “Alright, there’s something I gotta know, Jack. And I know Lance does to.” Bryan began, leaning forward to table center.

“Yeah, what’s that?”

Looking over to his friend with a smirk, he continued, “Well, you’ve been all over this map, and had a lot of gorgeous company along the way.”

“Particularly Armenia!” Lance injected

The question needs no finishing, the Traveler a sly grin and poured three more. “Gentlemen, let me tell you a tale…”

And so the story continues for a man facing the end of his days and his battle buddy, brother and watcher. Sometimes, what helps a man see things clearly is just a drink and a vent, and it’s the solemn duty of the brother, whatever form that is, to provide both.

I don’t know, own or make claim to Jack Maxwell or the Booze Traveler, which became my favorite Travel Channel in about thirty seconds. I highly recommend it.

I hope you all enjoy


The Problem With Remembering

He’d been called many names in the past. Some of them negative; ‘loser’…’asshole’…no one’s ever topped ‘limp-dick fucknugget’, though… Every name conjured a moment best left forgotten, or repressed under a two-tequila shot minimum.

He’d also been blessed with the best names available in life; ‘beloved’…’husband’…’daddy’… Names that defined a man, that gave him a purpose to be and a reason to continue. The warmth alone that radiated from his chest with each of these wrapped him in a blanket of distance from the moment, letting him remember what should be, or now, what once was.

But one name he’d never been given was “insignificant”. It was a moniker his tongue couldn’t force a repeat of. “Okay, sure, there’s way too many people in the world to give a shit about me and whatever I did. You know what, I don’t give a shit about them. I gave a shit about Lillian! About our boys! You can’t tell me otherwise!”

“You’re right, I cannot,” it said, as it started to climb a staircase that wasn’t even there to step on. “It is not up to me to debate the root truth of your memories, their fidelity is irrelevant in the end. What matters is your perception of them now.”

“Why now? Shouldn’t it matter through my whole life, if this is whatever comes at the end of a life?”

It stopped at the peak of an invisible perch and sprawled out upside down, but never closing its unblinking eyes in a moment of respite, “They are one in the same, only a perceived measure of time.”

He reached out to lean on whatever staircase was supposed to be there, only to be further annoyed when his hand passed through nothing, “So….what the hell does that mean?”

“As I said, everything you were and would never be is right here. Yet this is the environment you have generated from what you consider ‘true’. Alone, isolated, refusing to open his eyes to what he claims to value.”

That made him pause for a moment. But I remember!…don’t I? What should have been the songs of angels playing through his adulthood were no longer there, lost to whispers from a dark closet somewhere in the aged hovel he was standing in.  “Where are they?! Why can’t I hear them anymore! You’ve spoken in their voices once, do it again!” he howled, shaking the false wood under his feet. “Please…let me hear them again…”

It rolled right side up, tilting its head. “Is that what you truly want to hear?”

“Yes! Let me hear them again…just one more time,” he pleaded, almost cradling its head in his hands.

The noise that it emitted from its ever-smiling lips was damming. It only lasted a few seconds, but the combination of every scream his children had ever hollered, every shriek of pain his beloved had emitted was enough to crush the soul of anyone and anything ever made flesh. But it was the indomitable roar of the blaze that took him from his feet to his belly. “No! No! Please, God no! Make it stop! NO MORE!”

It relented upon his request, leaping down from its roost to sit in front of him, nearly nose to nose. “Those are the memories that you hold on the surface, the ones that have shaped all of your perceptions of the moment.”

“But…how can that be possible? I… THEY SHOULD BE ALIVE, NOT BURNING TO DEATH!!” he yelled over the racking tears.

“Then why is that what you cling to now?” It posed with a cock of its head.

“Because…because… BECAUSE I KILLED THEM! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR, YOU SADISTIC FUCK! I KILLED THEM! I KILLED THEM! ITS MY FAULT!” His voice broke into the creaking shriek of the broken, his fists beating down on the floor again and again until they should have been shattered bone. And yet, there was nothing but the cold, indifferent silence.

“Now do you see the corruption and falsehood of memories over truth?” it posed to him after an eternity of pause.

“Does…does it even fucking matter anymore?” he whimpered, cradling his chest from the ache of the breakdown. “This is all there is, isn’t it… this is all you’re gonna show me…it’s all I deserve.”

“If that were the truth, Simon, then this moment would have already ended. Are you ready to see your truth and not the memory you’ve sealed yourself in?”

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve visited this scene, and honestly, this is due to two reasons. 1: This particular sequence takes a certain focus or exact idea to make it feel like it’s ready to continue. And 2: I have honestly no idea where/when/how/if it will end. And, I’m completely okay with that for now, since there’s probably a good reason for that buried in here somewhere.

I hope you all enjoy.

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.

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.”


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.