Into Oblivion (Destruction of the Breen)

 

III

 

Into Oblivion

 

Ernest Maestas

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We do not know you,

Words have never been spoken between our peoples

We do not know what drives you

We do not know what you fear

You attack us without provocation

We do not understand

So be it

You attacked our cities and spilled our blood

By the sword you live

And by it, you will die…

 

 

 

By the Gods

23

High Lord Ri’vaanduu sat in his chambers considering the future. His chambers were as the empire itself: majestic. So powerful were the Tkon, it is said, that even the stars bowed to them. To emphasize this point the Great

Temple of the Sun, in which the High Lord found his residency, was located on the surface of the great blue star of their home world, T’kal.

They had long ago mastered the fire of the life-giving giants and this mastery evolved into their dominion over them. Their space was vast; taking up half of the galaxy, leaving the rest to “the children of the cosmos.” Had they wanted, the Milky Way could have been in their keep as well. However the Tkon, like the Great Star, are life-givers seeking to reach greater enlightenment. They do not seek to conquer.

Their existence is somewhat of a paradox, for while they lay claim to a mighty region of space, their territory was saturated with intelligent life forms including the Vulcans, Andorans, Bajorans, Cardassians, Klingons, Breen, and humans…and it is in the lesser species that the great downfall of the Tkon is found.

The child races that the Tkon speak of have all brought terror, pain, and suffering to each other and to themselves. Each seeking to gain supremacy over the other, and each seemingly unaware of the existence of the Tkon, had engaged in great wars annihilating entire ecosystems and rendering many sentient species extinct. This was a great offense to the Tkon and a great debate arose on their responsibility, if any, to the lesser species of the universe.

As in any species, highly emotional debates are often divisive and disrupting, and the Tkon found that despite their long existence, great wisdom, and great power, they could not come to consensus. Should they intervene and stop these wars? No. The fluid ones, the great insects, and the abhorrent machine-men have already achieved many great things and can travel deep into space. Therefore the species in question are viewed as having evolved too far to be changed. The debate then turned to the primary issue of contention: what to do about non-space faring, developing species?

It is Tkon law that no Tkon shall interfere with the development of any species of lesser development that the Tkon. No Tkon shall present themselves as Gods; teach lesser species technology or the secrets of the physical universe. No Tkon shall establish dominion over a lesser species or create governments among the lesser species dedicated to the image of the Tkon. It was these laws that drove a wedge in the Tkon Empire and set it upon itself…

 

Many light years away is a blue planet teaming with life and abundant in water. Despite many life cycles, the ecosystem has only now produced its first sentient species. The primitive species on this planet, 3rd from an unremarkable star, is among one of the most promising, although they have incredibly violent tendencies. Such primitive behavior is expected out of stone-age species but it can be rectified.

A rogue group of Tkon established contact with the many tribes on this planet. Their power and knowledge were immense, and their easy manipulation of energy, fire, water, and earth were like magic to the primitives. On a large island between two of the largest landmasses was a particular tribe that was already beginning to draw on the cave walls and had a natural curiosity for the stars. It was with this tribe that the rogue Tkon focused their efforts. It was their hope to create a tribe that could obtain mastery over all other tribes of the planet and establish a global voice of peace and harmony. Once they accomplished this feat, they could present their findings to the Tkon High Lord and persuade the Empire to change its laws and allow for like programs to occur on all other planets with primitive sentient life.

In 10,000 years the primitives were transformed into a great society; and while the other primitives were only wrestling with the ideas of building huts, the island dwellers enjoyed a rich life of enlightenment, science, and self identity. They even had a name for themselves: Atlanteans. But over time the rogue group of Tkon had become comfortable with title of Gods and enjoyed seeing their images carved in stone, towering over the island dwellers. Some had even taken privileges with the fertile females creating hybrids. These hybrids were not viable however. The genetics, while similar enough to produce offspring, had created unusually large, semi-intelligent, hyper-violent children that grew into blight.

The rogue Tkon sought to resolve the problem and went to work on a full hybridization program so that the children of this planet, now viewed as belonging to the group of Tkon, could become one with them. Among the group there was severe disagreement over the genetic manipulation program and information eventually reached the High Lord and ruling council of the crimes being committed on this planet.

The Tkon sent inquisitors to the planet and caught the rogue Tkon in the act. The trial was held in the Temple of the Sun. Speaking for the government was the High Lord Ri’vaanduu; and representing the criminals was Juudaas.

High Lord: Juudaas, you and your fellow Tkon have broken our most SACRID laws! What you have done is unforgivable! Unprecedented! It strikes at the heart of who we are as a people. Who are we, you ask? We are the Tkon! If it was not for our adherence to the law we would have fallen to dust millions of years ago.

Juudaas: I have done nothing but give these people a chance at enlightenment. Isn’t that our most sacred value? When did the cold word of the law surpass our great intellect? Was it not our intellect that gave understanding of the need for law? I ask you High Lord, go to them and hear their words. See who they are…

High Lord: The Inquisitors have. They have discovered great knowledge and some enlightenment. But they have also found great perversions, greed, militancy, and the most troubling of these findings…Tkon hybrids!

 

The chamber erupted with screams and curses. Who would dare insult the blood of the Tkon by breeding with a primitive? This insult would have dire consequences…

 

High Lord: Juudaas, what you have done is beyond redemption; beyond destructive…you have corrupted the lineage of a lesser species who cannot speak for itself much less resist the will of a people like the Tkon. What you have done is rape their blood, stolen their identity, violated their children, and introduced them to ideas that will cause further destruction and chaos among them. Your arrogance may very well have set this species on a collision course with religious insanity.

Juudaas: You are no judge of me. What I did was for the good of their species, their planet, their future, and the peace and stability of the Tkon. I have no regrets…

High Lord: Very well. It is the finding of these proceedings that you are guilty. As a consequence of your actions you and your co-conspirators will be put to death. At midsession next season you will have your bodies committed to the sun.

Juudaas: What of the Atlanteans? What will become of them?

 

High Lord: My dear Juudaas…we will not allow our memory to exist in this species. The society you have built will be torn down. They will go back to the life from which they came to progress naturally.

***

 

The High Lord stood on the lunar surface looking at the blue planet. It was easy to create an oxygen bubble on the surface…not so easy was it to carry out his judgment. Under Tkon law, he who pronounces a death sentence must be responsible for carrying it out; this is to prevent abuse and wide-spread indiscriminant killing. With him were the rogue T’Kon. They would be forced to watch the horror that was about to befall the primitives; the horror to which they were responsible.

He closed his eyes and raised his staff. The tip began to glow and the moon began to move closer to the blue planet. On the surface he knew the ground would be shaking horribly, the winds would be ripping through the trees, the ground would be breaking apart beneath the feet of the primitives. Their structures would fall, their statues would crumble, their faith would break…and in time their memory would fade. Or so he believed…

Then, in horror, the Tkon watched as the sea floor opened up and began to rip apart the entire surface of the planet. The High Lord had moved the moon even closer and the great ocean of the blue planet became unruly and wild. In a fit of rage the ocean raised up to a great height, claiming the great island of Atlantis and almost its entire population. A great wave then moved out from the epicenter of the event and swept away the primitives from virtually all areas of the globe. Only a small number of deep inland tribes and mountain people lived. Satisfied the High Lord moved the moon back to its orbit and left the primitives to their own devices.

Juudaas wept; but he knew that this was only the beginning. Since many in the Empire had heard of his successes, there have been a great number of converts to his thinking including highly respected members of the warrior cast. No, this debate was far from over…

And so it began, with the sentence carried out the High Lord returned to the Tower of the Sun to carry out what he believed would be the final act of this disgrace. Suspended above the fiery and violent surface of the blue giant was a solid metal sphere. Inside the sphere Juudaas and his group of Tkons stood in silence awaiting their fate.  At exactly the season’s mid-session the High Lord stood atop the tower with the intense glow of the star around him. The star spewed plasma and fire millions of miles into the space above the Tower as he raised his staff yet again to carry out his judgment. With a sweep of his staff the sphere began to open up until it was a flat surface.

Scream and cries could be heard from the group as they were blinded by the massive star, realizing their fate. The prisoners were still protected by the envelope around them but with another sweep of his staff the envelope withered away and the prisoners fell to their knees. As the air began to thin their skin caught fire. When the envelope was reduced to fifty percent their eyes were sucked out of their heads by the absence of atmosphere and their blood began to boil. They were dead…but the process had to be completed. With the envelope fully evaporated their bodies were turned into ash, then vapor…it was over.

Despite his great wisdom, the High Lord could not image that with this single act, he had fused the fates of Humanity with those of the Tkon. He could not know that there would, miraculously, be survivors of Atlantis that reached the far places of the world and would themselves ascend to the level of God kings, promising to reunite their nations with the Gods of the sky; only to wait in vain.

 

Ages would pass, empires would crumble, knowledge will be gained, and one day the primitives of the blue planet would struggle again because of the Tkon; this time not because of their presence, but because of their absence…

So, the High Lord considered the future from his majestic chambers upon the sun. But he could not escape the past. Regret was unusual for the Tkon, for all considered themselves to be above the petty mistakes that lead to regret. However, the High Lord had miscalculated the effect of his executions; had not understood how far this odious corruption of the soul was spread; and finally, he had not known just how ferocious these criminals would fight to keep their influence over the lesser races.

The result was war. When a species as powerful as the Tkon engage in warfare, the destruction is immense. With their power over the stars the Tkon created supernovas that engulfed entire star systems. They would create dark matter and rip planets apart. In several instances they moved a star into the system of another star and watched as the solar system flew apart. Other times they slammed one star into another and watched the destruction…

After years of war the High Lord had attained victory. It took a millennium, but the Tkon had managed to purge the lesser species of the Tkon influence. As on the blue planet, the purging was bloody and violent. But in each case this event left survivors and a memory that would carry on for ages.

The galaxy didn’t look the same after the 1000 year conflict. No less than 200 stars were missing and 40 black holes were floating in space. The Tkon took the time to determine which of the black holes needed to be collapsed and which ones should be left alone to provide some sort of galactic gravitational normality.

At the end of their great crusade, the purging, and the galactic repairing, the High Lord gathered the traitors on a planet on the outer edge of the galaxy. He deprived them of power through technology. If they preferred the company of savages, savages they would become. He deprived them of the power seeing each other’s mind. A simple procedure ended all telepathic capability. And finally, the High Lord was going to deprive them of the right of every Tkon; he was going to take away their access to the sun.

In a glass bubble on a cold and inhospitable planet, the convicted Tkon were read their sentence. A huge image of the High Lord extended across the curved surface of the glass dome. 1,000,000 Tkon watched as Ri’vaanduu said the words:

High Lord: Death to you- for breaking our laws, making war, and killing your fellow Tkon. Savages you love, savages I make you. You have denied your enlightenment, so in the dark I send you…forever. Fate will have you. Does anyone have any final words?

Through the shouts and curses and cries for mercy rose a single voice. He was defiant to the end:

Jakol: High Lord! You have won nothing…for we are many…

To this last statement by the convicted, the High Lord said nothing, the screen went blank and in short time the sun came up. The Tkon stood in silence as the black sky became ever brighter with each minute. They could make out the features on this dead planet. It was dry and rocky like many moons around the galaxy. The lack of atmosphere kept the sky black, but illuminated. Despite their love for the sun, the Tkon knew their sentence was about to be carried out, hence the silence.

As he promised, the High Lord carried out his punishment for the traitors. As the convicted looked into the sky and watched the sun reach its zenith, the High Lord, from another bubble on the dead planet raised his staff. The tip of it glowed until it became a blinding light. It was bright enough for the prisoners to see the light from a distance and to the doomed it looked as if one of the small twinkling lights in space fell from its place and hit the ground.

The High Lord screamed with a burst of power from his staff and the sun vanished from the sky. The convicted Tkon screamed as all went black. The sun hadn’t exploded; it didn’t collapse from old age- it simply disappeared. So many times the Tkon had moved stars to bring light and the gift of life; but today it was used to sentence death…

The imprisoned Tkon would understand but not perceive that the world on which they were imprisoned would fly away into space. Without the star or a black hole to take its place it would simply drift off into the void…in complete darkness. Whatever fate awaited the planet would come long after the Tkon had died. It would take thousands of years for the planet to come into contact with a large gravity center; strong enough to give it an orbit. By that time they would all be dead.

Over the next few days the High Lord considered the words of Jakol. He was right. There was no way to know how many traitors were left. With the executions any conspirators left would conform for a while but over time they would return to their activities. The High Lord simply could not allow these crimes to continue. Because the Tkon were enlightened and because of their radical belief in the law, only one thing could be done to ensure all the traitors were dead.

The High Lord called all of his citizens from the corners of the empire to the home world of T’kal. For one day 200 billion souls would be in one place to hear the words of the High Lord of the Empire. By law, all citizens except the Gate Keepers must answer the call of the High Lord. It was the role of the Gate Keepers to keep a watch for danger while the others attended the gathering.

On the morning of the event, the High Lord meditated, prayed, and sat drinking tea while admiring his view of the majestic star on which his chambers sat. Once all citizens were gathered, the High Lord locked them in the star system by activating a great barrier prohibiting travel out of the system. The barrier was capable of blocking all forms of travel including phase-shifting, hyper-space jumping, wormholes, transwarp conduits, and space-time manipulation. The citizens were stuck- they knew it and they were worried.

The High Lord was due to speak to the citizens and travel to T’kal to speak from the central government building, but he had other plans. Ri’vaanduu knew the Tkon had lost their way and would not turn back. So be it- it was his duty to enforce the law of the Tkon and since his people could no longer be trusted to follow the law and live the way the Tkon should- the High Lord had made a decision: pronounce sentence.

The High Lord stood on top of his great tower for the last time. He stood for a moment and admired the sun- it was alive. It was beautiful. He felt a twinge of guilt for what he was about to do but he knew there was no choice. It had to be done. With a wave of his staff he raised his hands straight above his head and a howl of pain from deep in his soul burst out of him. With his last breath the great blue giant compressed at its center and exploded out along the orbital plane.

With the exception of the royal guard- who are loyal to the last and knew of the impending doom- the citizens of T’kal screamed at the sight of their beloved star exploding. The sky grew dark and yet was still illuminated by the wave of 60 million degree plasma that was thirty seconds away from their planet.

Upon contact T’kal and its citizens were consumed by fire and in an instant- the Tkon were no more. A set of instructions would be left for the Gate Keepers to follow when the time was right. Before the High Lord detonated the star he put the Gate Keepers to sleep, they would not wake up for millennia. It would be 600,000 years before any of the Gate Keepers would have contact with life again.

 

Slow Pain

24

The Breen fought with ferocity. Their cool demeanor and lack of communications with their enemies, especially during hostilities, leads one to believe they feel nothing. The humans have come to believe that the cold,

unemotional personality of the Breen to be an indicator that they are in fact void of emotion; the same way as insects. So much the better, say the humans, who are at the point where hate for the Breen has become common…and comfortable. Through war after war after war…the humans were becoming hardened and cruel.

It was so easy to kill the Breen. As far as the Allies could tell, the Breen were far different from them; some even questioned whether they qualified as humanoid at all. This was of course just the result of pent-up feelings from the Dominion War. The humans had never officially opened diplomacy with the Breen, and very few reports of contact were ever made. And of those instances where contact was made, little could be qualified from the encounters…until they attacked.

No one knows why the Breen attacked the Federation, or why they felt compelled to enter the Dominion War, or why they chose to side with the Dominion. Of course, the Breen and the Dominion know- but these facts have been closely guarded. All that can be said for sure is that the Breen apparently hate the Romulans, although if asked the Romulans will disavow all knowledge of why this hatred exists.

The Breen fought hard against the Allied fleet, led of course, by the Federation. But the Federation had learned a thing or two from their last battles with the Breen and they weren’t going to be fooled by them again. To make matters worse for the Breen the Federation sent its new Titan class vessels into combat for the first time. These ships were massive. Five times larger than the Galaxy Bs, the warships boasted 50 phaser banks, 30 transphasic photon launchers, tertiary shielding, ablative armor, and a new plasma-based weapon called the “VGER;” so named after the invasion of Federation space by the probe calling itself VGER. And while the weapons lacked the sophistication of those on the VGER probe, they were far more effective than most other weapons platforms of enemy ships.

It was the Alliance’s strategy to take the Breen Empire from its extremities; leaving the Alliance to take the Breen home world last. The rest of Breen space would be defeated first, effectively surrounding the Breen and to force surrender. At the Battle of Free Space, the Breen sent a massive fleet against the Hatorian Battle Group; now under the command of Captain William T. Riker. The Captain had learned much from Picard, and during battle he displayed his own take on the teachings of his former commander and comrade by destroying the Breen fleet to the last ship.

But the Breen didn’t go quietly; they sent the large fleet as a distraction while a smaller force went to New Haven, a Bajoran planet just outside of Federation controlled territory, and destroyed it with their super weapons. Five billion lost. No survivors. The Alliance went mad with anger and set a plan in motion to end the existence of the Breen as a space faring species for all time…

The Alliance had no idea how long and hard the next year was going to be. In the end the Alliance would be tested to its breaking point and changed forever.

***

     Captain Riker shot straight up in his bed. He never got used to the absence of Deanna’s voice asking him if he was OK. He had been plagued with nightmares since Picard’s death; so it is for soldiers. He couldn’t remember why he was afraid or what he dreamt; but he was filled with dread. Worse than that he got the distinct feeling he wasn’t alone.

Portal 63: You would be correct Riker…

Riker shot out from bed and was about to call for security when he recognized his “guest.”

Portal 63: Do not be afraid, Riker. I come with news…

Riker: What are you doing in my quarters, on my ship unannounced???

Portal 63: I’m sorry Riker. Your world is in danger.

Riker: What do you mean?

Portal 63: Our weapons were used by the ones you call the Breen- they destroyed the inhabited world using our technology and they are moving to obtain even greater technology to destroy your entire species.

Riker: All right, you have my attention…

Portal 63: First, I am Wawoon. You know me as Portal 63, guardian of my empire…now gone. The weapons the Breen now possess were developed from their understanding of our ability to control stars. Their weapons are called “Tears of the Sun.”

Riker: Yes- they were used to decimate Cardassia Prime.

Wawoon: Except they are now more advanced than those used on the Cardassians and much more powerful.

Riker: Where would they get an understanding of you technology?

Wawoon: They found an outpost that was guarded by Portal 122. I don’t know what happened but the Breen somehow deactivated the alarm that would have awakened him to prevent intruders from taking our technology.

Riker: If they already have the technology, how do we fight them?

Wawoon: The Breen have only taken the most basic of our technology. This was 30 years ago but it was only during the Dominion War that the Breen could make it work. They are now working to unlock more advanced capabilities that would allow them to concentrate all of star’s energy at a single target. From thousands of light years away Earth could be completely destroyed by one of these bursts of energy.

Riker: What do we do? How do we stop it?

Wawoon: Any way you can. The Breen are connected to two other very aggressive and dangerous species: the ones you call the “changelings,” and the others referred to as “Species 8472.” Together they spell your doom. Go to a world we call Icarus- here are the coordinates.

Riker: This is in Tholian territory…getting permission will be difficult.

Wawoon: You will not get permission Riker…the Tholians and many others stand against your alliance. They see evil in your ways.

Riker: And you?

Wawoon: I am here…with you. I know what it is your alliance seeks…and what it will become. Nature abhors a vacuum…and so your people and those that stand with them will take over the stewardship of this galaxy…and take the place of the T’Kon!

 

Riker sat in his quarters in the dark. He wished Deanna was with him; but since the war was reinitiated with the Breen he had felt a sense of dread. To help him focus on his assignment as Task Force Commander he sent Deanna to Betazed to oversee the upgrading of its planetary defenses. There she would be under the safe and watchful eye of the 10th Fleet.

Take the place of the T’Kon, he had said. Is it possible? It is…Riker was no fool. Since the Dominion War the Federation Alliance has taken on a very different tone. They are in a state of constant conflict- very different from what the Federation used to be. Now with Cardassia and Romulus fully incorporated into the alliance, they hold about 1/12th of the galaxy. If they take the Breen, break the Tholians, and the Gorn the others should fall in line. That would give the alliance control over nearly one-half of the galaxy. From there it would be just a matter of…

What the hell was he thinking? Picard would have been horrified by his thoughts…but as Deanna has to remind him almost every day- Picard is gone. Riker knew the universe was dangerous beyond measure and the only way to bring some sort of stability was to unite the races under one flag…the flag of the Alliance…

 

Several days later Riker found himself in his Ready Room. He looked out at his fleet. Several ships were missing- destroyed by the Breen; many more showed signs of battle. Looming over all was the massive Titan class vessel, USS Kraken. He wondered what he should do about the looming crisis. Just then-

Helmsman: Sir, priority message coming in; it’s from Star Fleet Intelligence.

Riker tilted his head as he called out to the intercom overhead:

Riker: Understood.

Riker maneuvered the miniature screen on his desk to face him perfectly. As he pressed the “accept” command on the screen to receive the incoming message, the screen turned red indicating a security code was necessary to continue.

Riker: Authorization Riker 2-2-2-Echo-Zulu-7-1-Romeo.

Star Fleet began issuing new codes to its officers every three years to increase security to counter the threat of the Changelings. On the screen was General Stevenson.

Stevenson: Captain Riker- we have reviewed your report and have given your recommendations the highest priority. A specialist will be arriving to your location in 8 hours. He will deliver your orders in person. What’s the status of your fleet and your theater?

Riker: I- we- have lost 70 ships over the course of 14 battles with the Breen; 53044 dead.  More than 200 vessels have been repaired; 35 more are in need of dry dock time. I have 1232 vessels capable of combat. The Breen losses total 1700 vessels with estimates of approximately 700,000 killed. Our Theater has been resolved- the Breen no longer control the territory. We have pushed in as far as- and have secured- 200 light years of space. We await further directives.

Stevenson: Excellent, Captain. Your fleet is ordered to hold advance until further notice.

Riker: Sir?

Stevenson: You’ll receive new orders upon the arrival of the specialist. Complete this mission successfully and you’ll be the youngest Admiral in the history of Star Fleet. I know many had issues with you staying so long under Picard; but it has paid well. Your fleet is guaranteeing our victory in our latest conflict. We owe you.

Riker: Just doing my duty, General.

Stevenson: By the way- your father sends his best. Stevenson out.

 

Riker sat in his Ready Room for eight hours. He was nervous. Clearly, Star Fleet was going to send him on a mission to stop the Breen. He hated to admit it but the mission filled him with dread. At the same time the entire Federation was screaming for blood after the destruction of New Haven. Even the Federation President, Benharu Chokma, was talking tough-and he was not known for being bold.

At long last his helmsman called to him advising the arrival of a Federation vessel.

Helmsman: Sir, um- there’s a problem.

Riker: What’s the issue?

Helmsman: The approaching vessel doesn’t list in the Federation registry.

Riker: Red Alert! Put the fleet on alert status and hail that vessel.

Helmsman: Aye, Sir. It’s an Intrepid class vessel. They’re responding…

Approaching Vessel: This is the USS Wraith. We are requesting approach to the USS Titan as ordered by Star Fleet. Authenticate: Amazon 4-Beta-Tango-Tango-9-Omega

Helmsman: Sir, the code is authenticated. Star Fleet Intelligence series 9.

Riker: Stand-down Red Alert. Send them our regards and prepare to receive our guests in Transporter Room 9. Have security seal the deck and maintain Yellow Alert.

Helmsman: Aye, Captain.

With a familiar high pitched whine the empty space on the platform was made less lonely with the presence of two men: Elim Garak, and a man with a cruel stare he had never seen before.

Garak: Captain Riker! I am pleased to meet you.

Riker: Garak- your reputation precedes you…

Garak: So I’ve been told. Please allow me to introduce you to General Cain…

Riker: General.

Cain: Captain.

The three men sat in Riker’s Ready Room. Riker considered his guests and was nearly overwhelmed with anticipation when Garak finally spoke:

Garak: Assessment teams were sent to New Haven to determine the scope of devastation. The world was totally destroyed.

Riker: Yes. I read the report. Tears of the Sun were used to incinerate the population areas.

Garak: You don’t understand Captain. New Haven is rubble…

Riker sat in confusion while he tried to decipher the meaning of Garak’s statement. The cities were rubble? All traces of civilization were rubble? What?

Riker: I’m not sure I’m following you…

Cain: The entire planet was completely pulverized. The heat generated from the Tears of the Sun caused some of the planet fragments to fuse together but the rest of the planet is either remaining due to gravity or has been blown into space.

Riker: What? Why were we not told?

Cain: In time…we don’t have a defense for these weapons yet and we didn’t want the public to panic. In response, the Breen must feel the consequences for such actions. You will travel to Ghasa Den, fight through the Breen fleet, and destroy the planet…

Riker: What?!?!? What makes you think I would ever do such a thing?

Cain: You will do what you are told…

Garak: (putting up his hands to clam everyone) Gentlemen…Riker- those weapons just killed 5 billion people. They’re just getting started…

Riker: Diplomacy seems the best course of action! I will not condone a course of action that will reduce our moral standard to that of our enemy!

Cain: You are a fool, Riker…

Riker: Maybe…but I am not a murderer.

Garak: I know this is uncomfortable-

Riker: UNCOMFORTABLE???

Garak: Tell me, Captain, how many times has the Breen attempted communications with us in the past? Since the wars that is…

Riker: none…

Garak: How many times have the Federation Alliance tried to communicate with the Breen…

Riker: countless…

Garak: Do you really think the Breen won’t use these weapons again?

Riker sat in silence…

Cain: We don’t know the exact location of their next attack but we believe as does Star Fleet Intelligence, the Cardassians, the Klingons, and the Romulans, that because they cannot win in the field, they will continue these attacks to their inevitable conclusion.

Riker: Which is?

Garak: Earth…

Cain: We have come up with a list of likely targets over the next three attacks…

General Cain handed a list to the Captain. The list was generated based on the nature of the target: high population, low planetary defenses, and gaps in the fleet’s response capability. This list saw more Bajoran and Cardassian planets. Only one was in the Federation. Each of these planets had 1-5 billion souls.  However there was a secondary list based on high value and striking distance. On this list were Bajor, Cardassia Prime, and Betazed…

Riker: Betazed?

Garak: It is less likely, Captain, but…

Riker: I’ll do it…but how?

Cain: Genesis…

Riker: Genesis? Wait- the Genesis torpedo?

Cain: It is the only technology we have capable of scaring the Breen into rethinking their strategy.

Riker: I thought the Federation banned all technology related to this project?

Cain: From the rest of the Federation yes- but not from us. They can’t…

Riker: Us? Who’s us?

Garak: (looking at Cain) Sir?

Cain: Tell him…he needs to know…

Garak: (turning to Riker) “Us” is Section 31…

Riker: I was wondering…you guys aren’t so secret anymore.

Cain: It can’t be helped…

Riker: You’re right…where do I get this weapon?

Garak: (standing) We’ll transfer it to your ship.

Garak and Cain stood up and went back to their ship. A few hours later the three men again gathered to look at the cargo in the USS Titan’s classified storage. It had an interesting array of objects to include cloaking devises, surveillance equipment, weapons, and of course…the Genesis 7 torpedoes. Riker’s ship would carry ten.

Riker didn’t want to ask why he was given so many or how many more the Federation possessed. The two guests left the Captain to his thoughts; he would need time to absorb what was expected of him. As Garak and Cain were leaving Riker had a question that would nag the alliance for years to come…

Riker: Sir, how do we know that the action we take will stop the Breen and not incite them further?

Cain: We don’t Captain. We are only men, and we can only do what we think best and hope we are right.

Riker: Yea…

Cain: All I know is that the Breen have utterly destroyed one world and are working to continue this war…that’s the only information we have and it’s that information that drives us.

 

Although Riker was sickened by the task laid before him, he knew it must be done. This information that Garak and General Cain provided was confirmed by his conversation with the T’kon, Wawoon. The Breen will continue their attacks until they have destroyed everything, or until the alliance has been softened up enough for another invasion from the Dominion. This time however, Species 8472 may come with them. A war on that scale would leave a stain of blood until the end of time. With this last thought, Riker knew Cain and Garak were right and that only one course of action could be pursued.

Riker considered the men that had just visited his ship…Section 31. Many didn’t want to believe that they actually existed; such an organization scared most and made them question what they believed about the Federation. Riker had suspected they were real since so many rumors were floating around regarding their activities; and then here they were…he wondered why they chose him…what did they want from him?

Riker didn’t know that, already light years away, Garak and Cain were also considering their visit to the USS Titan, and as fate would have it, they were discussing what they wanted from Riker.

Garak: He isn’t ready yet.

Cain: No, but he will be after this war. I need a successor and he is the most worthy of any. Section 31 can’t stay in the shadows forever…and we need a trusted face and a balanced leader.

Garak: You will bring Section 31 into the light?

Cain: No, Riker will.

Garak: That will make us vulnerable.

Cain: If we survive, it will make us strong…

Garak: Section 31 can’t rule an organization like the Federation…

Cain: No, but they can rule the Alliance and beyond…

Garak: He will need mentoring and development.

Cain: That’s why you will stand by his side.

Garak: And Deanna?

Cain: She cannot go with him.

Garak: That will break him…

Cain: No, he will harden- and then he will be ready to take his place among us.

 

*****

     Deanna Troi looked into the sky. Betazed was a fervor of activity with ships coming and going from orbit almost continually. At the poles gigantic structures were being built that would turn the magnetic field into a planetary shield generator of considerable strength. Orbiting the planet were weapons platforms and a space station with small police vessels to fight off attackers. On the ground were military installations and ground-based weapons platforms that could engage attacking starships.

For just a moment her thoughts broke from personnel shortages, equipment lists, and capability testing and drifted to Riker: where are you my husband? It seems that love is the only force in the universe that can travel anywhere in an instant…even through space; for at that moment Will Riker sat in his chair in his Ready Room looking at a picture of his beloved Imzadi.

War…will it ever end? Can the Federation and the Alliance really bring stability to this galaxy or must we exist in a perpetual state of conflict until time everlasting? Riker thought of the 22 million on Earth that died because of the Breen…he would never forgive himself if Deanna fell victim to these creatures. If there was even a chance that Betazed would be attacked with these weapons then the choice was clear: he would simply never allow anyone to threaten his love- too many have died needlessly already. Section 31 was right, as was Wawoon. It was time for the Federation to grow up and accept the reality of the universe and it was time for the Federation to take control of its small corner of space; a corner that stretched 100,000 light years from end to end…

Riker called his commanders to his ship…it was time to fill them in…

*****

 

 

 

Burden of Command

25

Riker stood at the edge of the cartography table, hunched over in deep consideration. His commanders sat in stunned silence as they absorbed the raw intelligence from New Haven, the existence of Section 31, and their

Commander’s orders. Like Picard, Riker had chosen a Klingon as be his adjutant. This Klingon was a long-time, trusted friend who had shared many adventures with Riker…and Picard. But even this Klingon, who knew Riker well, was stunned at what was to come.

Worf was called from his post on the Klingon home world by Lord Groth himself; and was put on the short-list provided to Riker by General Stevenson. Riker’s promotion of Wolf to Captain and Task Force Adjutant Commander was anticipated by both Lord Groth and General Stevenson; and had been what they desired. Unlike the standard placement of the Adjutant on the command vessel Worf was given his own vessel; the Nebula class USS Ragnarok.

Worf: Captain, are we sure these are the orders from Star Fleet?

Riker: I was informed of their arrival by General Stevenson himself…and I confirmed the Order Sequence Designator through the Emergency Flash System. It checks out…

Worf: The Federation must be desperate to allow such actions…

Riker: These are desperate times…the Breen will destroy us all if they get the chance.

Captain Kull (Klingon): Where did the Breen acquire such technology? All of our intelligence reports indicated that they would be at least seven hundred years from those kinds of weapons.

Riker: They acquired technology from the T’kon Empire, now extinct.

Captain Kull: And how….?

Riker: We don’t know.

Riker provided the group the suspected target list. To his surprise, and- he hated to admit to himself- his relief, they were all in agreement that the proposed course of action was the correct one. However there was plenty and clear discomfort to go around. While everyone knew they needed to make the Breen re-think their strategy, they weren’t sure where it would all end. To ease their concerns- or perhaps raise them to his benefit- he told them something he didn’t tell Garak and his companion; he told them about Wawoon. Once Riker spoke of the Dominion and Species 8472, all remaining doubt was erased…forever. It was simple: kill or be killed. Destroy, or be destroyed. Ruin, or fall into ruin.

Worf: We must act quickly then…I’m assuming we do not know when they strike next?

Riker: You are correct.

Worf: It should take us less than a day-

Riker: We’re not going…

Worf: Sir?

Riker: We’re not going- not yet anyway…we have to go somewhere else first.

Federation Army Colonel James Spear: And where are we going?

Riker: Gracc’ccuss…

Captain Kull: Gracc’ccuss…?

Riker: Gracc’ccuss.

Commander Histane (Cardassian): Sir…please explain…

Riker: I have reason to believe that the Breen are attempting to gain access to more T’kon technology on a planet the T’kon call Icarus…also known as Gracc’ccuss. I am directing our fleet to cross into Tholian territory…we are going to destroy that planet first; then we’ll deal with the Breen.

Commander Valuun (Romulan): You do understand, Sir, that this will mean war with Tholia?

Riker: That’s unavoidable now…

The 2nd Interplanetary Expeditionary Force sat two light-years away as a reserve/back-up force to Riker’s Task Force. He ordered 600 of his ships, and pulled another 300 from the reserve, and made for Tholian space. He would still have more than 1200 vessels holding his area of Breen space. With that kind of force in place, the Breen would not make an attempt to displace the Federation from its territory and all should remain as is until his return, or so he hoped.

*****

     Nine-hundred warships bearing the flag of the Federation charged into Tholian territory and made for the Gracc’ccean star system, 11 light years from the border. It was a short trip relatively speaking but a lot could happen. Indeed, a lot was going to happen:

Helmsman: Sir! I’m picking a large fleet of ships decloaking in the Gracc’ccean system.

Riker: Make?

Helmsman: My God…

Riker: Speak up, helmsman!

Helmsman: Sir, 2500 vessels- Tholian, Breen, Dominion, and Fluidic warships…

Riker: Hold the fleet- prepare to retreat across the border. Notify all remaining ships in Breen space to rendezvous at the following coordinates. We’ll form up- and re-engage.

USS Titan First Officer Commander Vax Pol (Andoran): Sir, if we do that we’ll have abandoned Breen space.

Riker: We can’t let them possess anymore weapons from the T’kon. We have no choice. We can retake the territory from the Breen once we’re we’ve completed this mission.

Helmsman: Sir! They’re moving to intercept! We won’t have time to turn the entire fleet around and get to a safe distance before they hit us.

Riker: They’ll catch us disorganized…looks like we’ll have to fight our way out of this. Send a distress call to the fleet…

 

Riker knew they were in a fix. While they outclassed the Tholians, with ships from the Breen, Dominion, and Species 8472 this battle had no definitive winner. He could be defeated. In either case, the casualties were going to be horrendous. At least he no longer felt bad about offending the Tholians- bastards were conspiring against them the whole time…still, he wondered how this could get worse.

Helmsman: Sir! Transwarp signatures!!!!!!!

Riker: FUCK!

Riker ordered the activation of two genesis torpedoes- if he was going to go down, everyone was going with him…Worf would have been proud. He was losing ground to despair when he heard something unbelievable:

Federation ships-

This is the Borg.

Do not fire.

We are here to destroy Species 8472 and the Dominion ships.

Our enemies are your enemies.

We will adapt to service your mission.

Resistance is futile.

Everyone including Riker was flabbergasted- the Borg forging an alliance with the Federation? The Federation joining forces with one of their most hated enemies? So- what? The Borg were requesting to join his fleet? Riker called out to his commanders who also heard the same message. Since Janeway’s return from the Delta quadrant, the Federation has adapted the technology to defeat the Borg- besides; the Federation had bigger fish to fry. Riker decided that they could defeat the Tholian alliance fleet and then if the Borg got froggy, the Federation would destroy them as well…

 

The enemy fleet arrived. The Borg was firmly implanted in the Federation formation; and as expected the Borg and Species 8472 immediately went to attacking each other. In a highly destructive exchange of fire, the Borg and the creatures from Fluidic space began to tear into each other. A bolt of energy ripped through a Borg cube and hit the USS Metropolis, a Galaxy B class starship, and blew it to pieces…

Riker ordered all ships to deploy the ablative armor. While this added much protection, it slowed maneuverability and took away the use of phasers. However in the end it not matter as the Federation had already obliterated a fair number of Tholian ships and were pushing into the formation so it could break though. Riker’s ship was being guarded and escorted through so it could complete its mission. He thought at this moment that he should rename his ship to the Enola Gay

The Breen we not engaging Riker’s group. They stayed behind to guard the planet and those conducting work there. They had almost five hundred ships around Gracc’ccuss; thinking clearly that it would be enough. But it wouldn’t. Riker only needed one torpedo to complete his mission.

The right flank of his fleet was taking a beating, as were the Borg. The Dominion ships had remained generally unscathed during this battle, and the Borg were having a difficult time with Species 8472. It’s ok, Riker told himself, they were not here to win a tactical victory on the field of battle. This wasn’t a fight to be won like in the Dominion War, or even the new Breen War. This was an asymmetric victory- one that will have unforeseen consequences for the enemy and those with an interest in the outcome of this war.

Riker’s group broke free of the Tholian lines. The Titan and six other ships rushed towards Gracc’ccuss. Clearly the Breen had no idea what was coming otherwise they would have ordered ships to engage Riker. This small group would normally not have been a concern for five hundred ships of equal class. But not today

Riker got his ship within firing range. With a moment’s pause to consider what he was doing, he resolved himself to believing it was right. He looked at his Tactical Officer and nodded…

Lieutenant Ybarra: It’s away!

Riker: Order all ships to a full retreat!

Commander Pol: And the Borg???

Riker: Advise them to pull back with us…I wanna know what they’re up to.

The Borg took too long to contemplate why they were all retreating. While the battle would cost a lot of lives, they were defeating the Tholian-Dominion-8472 fleet…until the explosion…

Of the nine hundred ships in Riker’s fleet only five hundred and fifty-six made it out in time. The rest of the ships were too damaged to retreat fast enough, already destroyed during battle, or decided to cover the retreating fleet. Only one Borg vessel out of 400 made it to the rendezvous. The rear view displayed an explosion of penetrating beauty and horrifying violence…the planet, the Breen, the Tholians, Dominion, and 8472 personnel were gone. Mission accomplished.

*****

 

Her appearance was horrifying…and yet there was something clearly sexual about her. Riker couldn’t help but thinking about the Black Widow…the beautifully deadly female spider that kills her suitors. The Borg Queen wasn’t a queen exactly…she was a coordinator of minds; the presence that brings many into one. She departed from her escort and walked around Riker with the smile of a seductress. Her dead eyes were made more fearful by the slight shine of a creature that can see in the dark…just like a damn spider.

Riker: Ok- you came to talk, now talk before we-

Queen: No need for so much aggression Captain Riker…we mean you no harm…

Riker: Wolf 3-5-9, The Battle of Sector 001!

Queen: Old news…

Riker: Not to us.

Queen: Did you know that the last empire we took we did it with more than 1000- what do you call them- “cubes?” Do you think you could have stopped us with that kind of force?

Riker: What’s your point???!!!

Queen: Do I need to say it?

Riker: You never intended to win…did you?

Queen: It’s more accurate to say that if you had lost you would not have been worthy…

Riker: Worthy for what?

Queen: Worthy to stand at our side…just as you are…

Riker: (Scoffing) We would NEVER-

Queen: You already have…

Riker: Today was about survival.

Queen: I’m not talking about today.

Riker: I don’t like where this is going…

Queen: It’s not always about you, Captain. Tell me of this weapon you deployed today…we’ve never seen anything like it.

Riker: I’m not at liberty-

Queen: No need…we always find what we seek.

Riker: Through assimilation you mean?

Queen: We’ll talk again, Riker. Good bye for now- we no longer wish to assimilate your species so there is no need for hostilities. (Walking towards Riker) Please pass it along…your “alliance” can’t afford any more enemies. Species 8472…this is just the beginning. You will need us to win a war against them.

And with that, the spider was gone…at least for now. Riker didn’t know what the hell this was about but he was going to find out. An alliance with the Borg? Peace with this species? Is it possible? EVER???? He absolutely hated the idea but decided that it was in the interests of the Federation to seek some kind of accord with the Borg. Picard must be rolling in his grave…

***

          The axis powers were no longer the axis. That title and position has very clearly transitioned to the Federation and those who serve it. Of course the Federation would never admit to hegemony but that is the way of those who conquer. It was unusual for the Founders to feel resentment since it was they who ruled most of the Gamma Quadrant; a position earned by blood. But now it seems they have met a force they have no control over and hate with all of their hearts.

The Dominion and its fluid masters cannot remember a time when they didn’t have the advantage. And while the Founders love to speak in terms of forever in relation to themselves; they do not live forever. That is not to say they don’t live long; on the contrary. The fluids can live for as long as five thousand years making the current generation the children of the true founders. Their offspring have yet to be born. Within the next five years “the event” will happen; marking the end of the age and requiring offspring to be created. The humans could never know how this was done; for if they did…

If the Breen were also feeling anxiety about the future or their “war with the humans”- they called it that despite all the races within the Federation- they did not show it. The Breen continued as they always had, with a meticulousness that made even their allies nervous. The Breen showed no emotion or response to the events at Gracc’ccuss. They had been surprised- it will not happen again. There are two other worlds with T’kon technology and they will move to acquire this technology and kill as many humans as they could.

Rather than send a massive fleet, which were now in short supply, the Breen decided to use a small team to go to a planet just beyond their border in Federation controlled territory. In an unnamed star system, a planet-sized moon orbited a gas giant far from its blue-giant star. The gas giant was a brilliant purple, and its moon a fiery red.

While the color of this moon suggested high temperatures, the moon was in fact unbelievably cold; hitting -245° Fahrenheit almost all the time. It does not seem likely that the T’kon, or anyone else for that matter, would have chosen such a desolate and inhospitable place to put a station. But the T’kon did, using the lakes of liquid methane as a convenient energy source. The outpost in question was contained in a bubble on the surface- completely undetectable to passing starships since the atmosphere would usually disrupt all sensor readings in both directions. However the T’kon’s technology was great…

 

Riker was again in his quarters asleep when Wawoon came to him like the Ghost of Christmas past:

Wawoon: They found it!

Riker: Found what???

Wawoon: The Rod of Fire

Riker: What is it?

Wawoon: It can cause all water on a planet to go into instantaneous fusion. The consequences of such technology are obvious…

Riker: (rubbing his head in frustration) Wawoon…are there any other weapons of yours lying around we should know about?

Wawoon: Yes…two more. First- but you must stop them from successfully completing this mission.

Riker: With this weapon they could destroy every “M” class planet in the Federation-

Wawoon: Leaving humanity and its allies to wander aimlessly.

Riker: Where is this Rod?

Wawoon: On a moon we call Typheron, surrounding a gaseous planet. Here are the coordinates.

Riker: This is near Federation territory- the first break we’ve had in a while.

Wawoon: You can’t send a fleet.

Riker: Why not?

Wawoon: Because they can’t know you’re coming. I would suggest a stealth approach.

Riker: And if they see us coming?

Wawoon: They could destroy the computer core which contains information and the locations of the other two weapons.

Riker: Understood.

 

Captain Worf briefed the strike team before departure. The Defiant class vessel USS Scorpion King was docked to the Ragnarok while the team obtained the intelligence from the moon located in the star system now designated Crisis due to its current role in Federation history. The planet Crisis 4 had a red moon Crisis 4A, that was going be pivotal to the future of the quadrant.

The strike team had twelve personnel; the best from across the Federation. Two Klingons, 2 Romulans, a Cardassian, an Andoran, a Vulcan, a Deltan, two humans, and a Telllarite were brought together to form this motley crew. Captain Kull took charge of the team. Many were surprised that Worf wasn’t given the charge; however Task Force Commander Riker wanted his adjutant to stay firmly in place to oversee the re-forging of the fleet after the heavy losses at Gracc’ccus.

Captain Kull was more than a suitable replacement for the mighty Worf. Kull was a fearsome warrior in his own right- earning his respect and title during the Dominion War and the Cardassian occupation. He considered his mission while talking to his team members:

Kull: Koon! Speak!

Koon (Andoran): Sir, I suggest entering the atmosphere at the southern pole, and then riding the magnetic current until two kilometers from the complex on the other side of these mountains (showing grid on holo-table). The mountains should mask our signature.

Kull: Hyban! Speak!

Hyban (Vulcan): The lieutenant’s logic is sound. I would only add that we set down on the far end so we can use this pass to traverse the mountains.

Falcor (Romulan): Sir?

Kull: Speak!

Falcor: Mountain passes on spatial bodies such as these are tricky. Based off of this data, there is significant wearing of the rock. Winds could be a problem and I would not rule out flash flooding of liquid methane. My suggestion is the extreme cold weather packs with a hazard suit underneath.

Hale (Human): That would make it impossible to move…(looking towards Kull) Sir!

Falcor: We can ditch the heavy suits as we enter the complex and stay in our hazard suits during the operation. And then put the suits back on during the extraction phase.

Kull: (Grunting) If we live long enough to see this done…we do not know how many Breen will be in the facility. Nor do we know if they have any T’kon hand-held technology that affords them an advantage.

As the USS Scorpion King approached the Crisis system they activated their cloak. A few hours later they passed to the far side of Crisis 4 to one of its 17 moons, Crisis 4A. As planned the entered through the southern pole with the intention of continuing in stealth mode however that plan did not take into account the large amount of radiation that naturally emitted from the planet’s surface. Captain Kull ordered the stand-down of the cloak.

Kull: How long will our shields hold?

Helmsman: 7.2 days

Kull: Very good. Continue on course 47-

Helmsman: Sir- if I may, if we follow the radiation trail it will mask our signature and take us to the entry of the canyons that lead to our set-down point.

Kull: Execute, helmsman.

Helmsman: Aye, Sir.

When they arrived at their location the team donned their hazard suits plus their cold-weather survival suits. Kull looked out over the landscape. Far above his head purple storm clouds spewed liquid methane and bolts of lightning. The ground was hard and the wind was fierce. Between the peaks in the mountains he could see the purple glow of the light of the setting sun push through the clouds. The methane didn’t pool the same way water did- it left a strange film on the ground as it moved to lower elevations.

His team didn’t have much time. They had to enter the facility, extract the data from the computer core, engage the Breen, and destroy the Rod of Fire. No small task. As a commander Kull knew that men were lost on missions. This time was different however. As a Klingon he did not fear death, and by tradition defeat was acceptable if you died in the face of overwhelming odds. But things were different now- the future depended on their success. And for the first time he understood the weight of responsibility that came with being an ally of the Federation.

 

Fire and Water

26

On the moon the strike team ventured. It took a half-a-day of tough treading, but they finally reached the edge of the compound. Strange- the atmosphere was calm around the complex.

Falcor: Sir, there is an energy field of some type around the facility. It’s having a calming effect on the weather 50 meters from the walls.

Kull: Will it alert them to our presence?

Falcor: Unknown.

Kull: We will assume they know we’re here.

The team acknowledged the direction of their commander. If the Breen, and who knows who else, were aware of the team’s presence then Kull had only one option: death with honor. The team approached the side of the facility. It radiated inviting warmth, leaving the team to wonder how the facility remained undetected for so long. Using a surgical phaser the team cut into the wall and slipped inside.

Nothing happened. No alarms. No weapons fire. Only silence. The team sealed the entrance point so they could stabilize the atmosphere, took off their extreme thermal suits and sought out their targets.

Falcor: Sir, I’m not reading any signs of habitation.

Kull: Other than the pleasantly warm atmosphere. If the facility were truly uninhabited, it would as cold in here as out there.

Hale: Unless the T’kon technology has remained operational for all these years?

Kull: The power of the T’kon is great- beyond our capabilities but we will assume our enemies are here- and that they know we are coming.

The facility was surprisingly primitive. The flooring was nothing more than standard metal grating that was as noisy as it was obsolete. The halls had minimal lighting and many of the doors didn’t have power. With all the forcing open of doors the team gave up on any hope for a quiet approach.

The team awaited an attack from the Breen and whoever else accompanied them; so far nothing. From time to time the team would stop to listen and run scans but all the facility had to offer was silence. Captain Kull even split his team up while clearing the first two levels in hope of coaxing an attack.

After clearing the top levels the team began their decent to the lower levels. They stopped at every computer station they found. No power. The team knew this to be a ruse since the temperature was pleasant and there were some lights on. That could only mean they were walking towards their own demise.

At level 4 the team lost contact with the ship. A quick run back to level three confirmed that the structure was interfering with communications. At level five the facility began to change. The metal grating gave way to smooth sandstone and sand floors. It was noticeably brighter- almost like daylight except there were no sources of light in the immediate area; almost as if the passage generated its own illumination.

They walked for some time when came to a gigantic open area that housed a huge statue of a T’kon male in a pose that suggested he was striking the ground with his staff. The face of the statue was contorted in anger. All stood in silence to ponder its meaning. Who were the T’kon? What happened to them? And why are their ghosts haunting the Alpha Quadrant in the present?

Kull: Warriors…

Falcor: Sir?

Kull: The T’Kon- this statue tells me that the T’Kon were warriors.

Falcor: How so?

Kull: Only a warrior would dominate the ground he walks on- and strike it with the anger of a master striking a slave…

Hale: My tricorder is dead.

Kull: Others?

The team acknowledged that their tricorders no longer had power. Communications devices were quickly losing power as well. Kull ordered them off until they returned to the surface.

Kull: Spread out- see what you can find.

The strike team spread out in the great hall containing the statue. Hyban walked to the back side of the statue and stopped cold.

Hyban: Sir! Over here!

The entire team converged on Hyban only to learn the source of Hyban’s excitement. A number of bodies were neatly stacked on top of each other; nestled right up against the statue.

Styles (human): what the hell???

Falcor: Twenty seven bodies; Jem Hadar, Breen, Species 8472, Vorta…and a silicon-based dust with organic properties…probably a changeling.

Kull: A sacrifice…

Hyban: Indeed, sir. Who would have sacrificed so many? Tholians?

Koon: Why would the Tholians sacrifice their allies to the T’kon?

Kull: No…a T’kon did this-

Before Captain Kull could finish his thought a figure stepped out from the shadows…he was old and carried a staff.

Portal 122: You are the ones who serve Wawoon. You are the ones who stand in the way…

Kull: I am Kull- son of Ko’vahr…warrior of the Klingon Empire, and commander of this mission. You know why we are here. Give us what we seek or face us in battle.

Portal 122: You are a fool Kull…you cannot harm me. Look behind you…the corpses tell the tale. I AM COVA! Last leader of the resistance…and God to primitives like you. You will kneel before me and beg for your life before you die.

Kull: (snickering) It is a good day to die Cova…

The rogue T’kon raised his staff and filled the room with the power of a star. The team was surrounded by plasma millions of degrees in temperature yet somehow it did not harm them.

Portal 122: I can kill you quick or I can slowly cook you…just as my companions were half a million years ago…kneel to me.

Each member of the team was silently considering his options while the white-hot star fire whirled around them, shaking the structure. Just when they lost all hope the inferno was pushed back by fire that glowed blue. It started behind them then began to surround them. The competing fires both blew out, revealing a second T’kon.

Wawoon: Kull, you are too late. You and you men leave. I will deal with this traitor.

Kull: We can-

Wawoon: GO NOW!!!

With that, the two T’kon squared off; circling each other with staffs glowing. Kull understood at once that if he didn’t get to the ship he and his men would die. And while he wasn’t afraid of death Riker needed to know that his mission failed. The fleet would have to pull back from Breen space and split up to be able to respond to Breen incursions into Alliance territory. Brilliant strategy…

The team made it to the exit point and put on their suits while the building began to rock and tremble from the battle below. The T’kon were very powerful indeed- and now they are getting a sense of just how powerful.

Once on the ship the helmsman fired up the engines and blasted the ship into space. They had just gone into warp when an explosion engulfed Crisis 4 and its moon with the power of a supernova. The shock wave nearly caused the warpfield to collapse but the ship maintained its course and speed. When they were clear the helmsman approached his Captain.

Helmsman: Sir, the T’kon was here. He left this for you…

The helmsman handed Captain Kull a crystal. Upon contact the Klingon found himself standing before a great arch-like structure with a swirling vortex at its center. The structure stood approximately 20 feet high and about 20 feet wide. The top of it was curved; and was course like rock with a red tint. The vortex was light and energy…and time. Kull had to shield his eyes with his hand while fighting the bursts of wind emanating from the swirling energy.

Kull: Where am I?!? I command you…

A voice emanated from the center vortex, which became still immediately.

Voice: You are here with me.

Kull: Where is that?

Voice: Where you are standing.

Kull cursed under his breath. Then something occurred to him; he had heard of these enigmatic gates that were sentient and had tremendous power. Could it be?

Kull: What are you?

Voice: I am the guardian.

Kull: Of?

Voice: Forever…

Kull: Why did you bring me here?

Guardian of Forever: I didn’t

Kull: Who brought me to you?

Guardian of Forever: No one

Kull: By the Gods!!! Then why am I standing in front of you???

Guardian of Forever: You’re not

Kull considered pulling his side-arm and destroying the thing. He instinctively reached for his weapon just at the thought of killing; only to realize he didn’t have his disruptor or his communicator. How was he going to get back?

Kull: Where is my weapon?

Guardian of Forever: On your side.

Kull: I’m looking at my hip right now and it’s not there. What have you done with it?

Guardian of Forever: You are not looking at your hip.

Kull calmed down and thought for a second. He had heard that these gates were masters of riddles. Clearly he didn’t understand something. Then he thought about the conversation. He wasn’t standing in front of the gate, it said; and his weapon was still with him although he couldn’t see it. Following logic based on that information he surmised that he must be experiencing some sort of mental connection. The Vulcans would have been proud of him.

Kull: Is my body still on my ship?

Guardian of Forever: Yes

Kull: (Satisfied) Very well. Why are we speaking?

Guardian of Forever: Because I have contacted you.

Kull: Why…what do you have to tell me?

Guardian of Forever: Look into the vortex.

Kull looked into the center of the arch where the vortex had originally appeared. Again the roaring winds accompanied the vortex but stilled when images began to appear. He was looking at Betazed. He could see the children playing, people laughing and moving about their day. Then an image of a woman caught the Captain’s attention: she looked up into the sky just as the ocean before her swelled up and turned to fire. All across the planet the oceans ignited in hydrogen fusion and in an instant Betazed was no more that fiery ash…the image pulled away just in time for the Klingon to see the planet fly apart. With a curse the Klingon howled.

Kull: WE ARE TOO LATE!!!

Guardian of Forever: No.

Kull: No? Is this the future?

Guardian of Forever: Yes.

Kull: How much time do we have?

Guardian of Forever: If this time continuum stays constant, 2 Klingon days.

Kull: (Mumbling to himself) That’s about the same in Earth days…

Guardian of Forever: Yes.

Kull: Where will the attack on Betazed come from?

Guardian of Forever: A ship near the Betazed sun.

Kull: Give me the coordinates…

*****

     Riker stood hunched over his planning table while his Deputy, staff, and adjutant commanders stood in silence. He had briefed the information provided to him by Captain Kull. Although the words came from his lips, he could not fully comprehend them nor could he comprehend his life without his beloved Imzadi. He could not reach her in time. I sent her to Betazed to be safe…instead I sent her death…

A raw and pure hatred for his enemy rose from his depths and nearly burst from his chest. A violent and bloody determination swept over Riker; and despite his calm, he set himself to the grim task given to him by General Cain of Section 31. The difference now, Riker was motivated and exuberant to destroy his enemy before they killed his wife…

Riker sat in his Ready Room as the stars raced by. Without consulting Star Fleet, Riker pulled his entire fleet from Breen space with orders to converge on the Betazed star system. We will find the ship or die; his orders were not viewed as selfish by those who served him since all Federation members had a love for Betazed. It was after all, the feminine heart of the Alliance.

Kull and Worf entered their commander’s Ready Room; both out of concern…

Worf: Captain Kull has more information he would like to share.

Riker: (Quietly) What do you have?

Kull: The female I saw in the vision…it was your wife…Deanna Troi.

Riker nodded while sitting down. He slowly drew his hand over his head; from his forehead to his beard. He didn’t know why but he already knew this.

Kull: She can be spared with this information…

Riker: She is the Commander in charge of the upgrade to planetary defenses; she will not leave her post…

Kull: I know you are not Klingon…but this is an honorable death…proving she is more than worthy to be the wife of a great warrior, Sir.

Riker turned his chair slowly and stared at the stars. Without looking at the Captain he nodded in acknowledgement. The Klingon tried his best to be sensitive to his commander…but he is a Klingon. Without further commentary Kull left the room.

Worf stood in silence for some time before speaking…

Worf: We have known each other for many years now…you know I too care for Deanna. We…

Riker: (turning to his friend) What should I do, Worf? I want to order her…I can. But that would be a violation of everything we have worked for…and sacrificed.

Worf: The planet has been ordered evacuated. We will not get everyone but at least half will survive. The defenses on automatic will either defeat the attack or it will fail. She must be made to understand that her presence cannot affect this outcome.

Riker: And if it was Kronos? Boroth? Or Earth? We would die first…

Worf: But it is not those places…and she is not us. She is better than us both. Call her…if for no other purpose that to speak with your wife…one last time…

 

Riker took his friend’s advice and pleaded with Deanna to leave the planet. She would not. The mission is not done while evacuees were still on the surface. He wanted to so badly but he did not order his wife to abandon her post. It would disrespect her dedication to duty…every member of Star Fleet knew the risks…it’s why they joined.

Riker decided not to debate with his wife. After a moment of awkward silence he recalled some memories that made them laugh. They talked of their wedding, their honeymoon, their friends and family; and memories long past. Across the vastness of space Riker and Deanna stared at each other with gentle, sad smiles. Each hoped beyond all hope that they would see each other again…just one more time.

The moment was disrupted by blaring alarms. Deanna fell immediately into her command role. A fleet of Breen ships entered the system and were on an attack vector. Without saying another word Riker nodded and away Deanna went. Either she would live or she would die. As he stood up he looked the screen hoping for her face to return…but it was blank. Riker looked back at the stars with the ghost of his beloved lingering in the room.

 

 

Death Before Dishonor

27

Deanna stood on the bridge of her post; larger than she’s ever been. So here it is, my first battle command, my first command in battle…Normally she would try to concern herself with the emotional health of those around her during trying times such as these; but there was no time for that now. She was the commander, and that meant that such tasks were the responsibility of others.

Reports Officer: Ma’am, 400 ships…not all Breen. About a dozen Tholian vessels…

Deanna: Tholian? What are they doing here? Status?

Reports Officer: Closing on attack vector. Weapons fully charged…

Deanna: Bring all batteries on line. Charge the shield! (Whispering into space) Hurry my love…

*****

     Riker’s fleet charged ahead at full warp. He was nearly mad with hatred for the Breen. War is stimulating because you can destroy your enemy, his father would tell him. Yes it would be stimulating…he and his fleet will vanquish this enemy…leaving none alive. It was time that the entire galaxy learn of the might of the Federation. They can live in peace…or fall in war.

Time…he hoped he had it. He hoped that he wouldn’t arrive just in time to see the planet destroyed…along with his wife. He could feel her somewhere inside of him…strong, afraid, stern, desperate, determined, worried…her emotions flowed to the Captain, almost drowning him…he did not know if he wanted to be rescued.

Riker had expected that Star Fleet would protest pulling the fleet from Breen space; but no one even attempted to contact him to ask why. Either Section 31 cleared any obstacles, or everyone already knew what was happening and was in support of his actions.

*****

Reports Officer: Here they come!!!

The Breen got into firing range and opened up on the planetary shield. The night sky lit up with glowing energy and the attacking ships worked to bring it down.

Deanna: Wait…waaaiiitNOW!!!

The orbital weapons platforms sat cloaked around the planet. Deanna waited until they were all in the platform perimeter, surrounded, to order the counter attack. The platforms came alive and began to pound the Breen ships. In very short time the Breen had to pull back with heavy casualties to regroup…but regroup they did.

Reports Officer: Ma’am…more ships coming in…enemy…

Deanna: (nodding quietly) How many.

Reports Officer: Several hundred. Some Tholian…some Dominion.

Deanna: What is the status of our evacuation?

Reports Officer: Seventy percent complete. Final transports on hold due to attack.

Deanna: Not good enough. I want everyone on a transport who can get to them. We’ll open up the shield and get as many of them out as we can.

Deanna knew with the arrival of the Dominion vessels, the situation had escalated. They weren’t just interested in taking the planet. This was about body count…and she was sure they would kill every living thing on Betazed if they had the chance.

She considered the situation. She closed her eyes and reached out to sense her enemy…something was missing…something else was in play. Then she got it…they’re waiting for someone…Another fleet was on the way. Deana fought to contain her tears…Betazed was lost…again. She would stay and fight to the last to see her enemy pay for attacking her world; but still something was missing…there was yet still another circumstance she couldn’t see.

*****

     The Breen fleet commander looked at his tactical display while assessing his attack strength. Like the humans their mission would be simple: destroy the planet. The Breen’s allies were horrified at the power of the Federation during their last engagement. If the Breen felt anything they did not show it. With the cold calculation of an insect the commander assessed the Betazed defenses, found a small weakness and decided on action.

The humans had to be stopped. This sentiment was felt far and wide by many powers both inside and outside the Alpha Quadrant; although many could not say why. Perhaps it was the inevitability of the Federation. It was a force of nature, relentlessly growing and consuming all in its path. Those that do not conform find themselves at war and defeated; and over time- assimilated. The humans did not seem concerned by this reference to their seemingly Borg-like qualities…

Time was short. Long range sensors picked up a large fleet- Captain Riker’s no doubt. It was time…

*****

     Hiding in the corona of the sun sat a small ship. Inside were four Breen. Three warriors and a fourth that seemed to guide the mission. For three days they sat in silence waiting for the signal. Then it came. The Breen fleet, along with their Tholian and Dominion allies, had arrived to Betazed and were working to take down the planetary defenses.

The Federation was only minutes away- as were the Grak…known as species 8472 by the humans. The Breen commander conferred with the small ship- and after that discussion broke off its attack to meet the Federation head-on. They would be destroyed, and quickly. But it would give enough time for the Grak to arrive, break a hole in the defenses so the small ship could fulfill its mission…

 

Deanna felt her heart lift as she watched the Breen fleet disengage. The entire room let out a sigh of relief.

Deanna: Finish the evacuation!

Reports Officer: But Riker’s fleet is two minutes away and is much larger that the Breen-

Deanna: Just do it!

Deanna knew something was afoot. She still could not sense what it was but there was a deep anticipation in the minds of the Breen; they were waiting for something big.

As expected, the Federation fleet under command of her husband was performing fantastically. The Breen were putting up a fight but they would not last much longer. Just as Deanna was beginning to believe Betazed might get through this event unscathed her reports officer called out:

Reports Officer: Commander, a singularity has opened! It’s Species 8472!

Deanna: ALL BATTERIES FIRE!!!

The Betazed planetary defense perimeter lit up with an intensity not seen anywhere in the Federation…ever. The weapons were causing much damage to the 8472 fleet but the enemy fleet was just too tough. In short time a hole was created in their defenses. But for some reason they did not push into Betazed. Instead they held their position.

Deanna: What are they doing???

Reports Officer: What?

Deanna: Never mind. What the evacuation status?

Reports Officer: Ninety percent- still that leaves 250 million on standby to leave.

 

Riker: What are they doing?

Helmsman: Holding position.

Riker: What are they up to???

Helmsman: Sir- transwarp signatures…

Riker: Where???

Helmsman: Near the 8472 ships…they’re engaging. They’re hailing us…

The Borg called to Captain Riker. It was strange but he was glad to see them. In their stoic, multi-voiced hail, the Borg spoke to Captain Riker:

Captain Riker we are the Borg. A singular ship is en route from the Betazed sun on a course to the planet. It has an unusual energy signature. We cannot intercept it. Capture the ship so we can study the source of the energy signature.

Riker: (to his bridge crew) I don’t think so…acknowledge transmission. Move to intercept that ship! Get me Deanna…

 

Deanna: Since when are the Borg helping us???

Riker: No time for that discussion now- there is a ship en route from the sun. It should get to the planet in moments. We can’t get to it in time. You have to get off the planet!

Deanna: The evacuation isn’t complete!

Riker: There is nothing we can do about that now. The ship is carrying a device that will destroy the planet. Nothing will survive!

Deanna: What??? Why didn’t you tell me before???

Riker: I couldn’t speak on an open channel…but that doesn’t matter now. Deanna- I’m ordering you and any vessels capable of leaving the planet to leave immediately. Nothing more can be done.

Deanna: Yes, sir.

Helmsman (Titan): Thirty seconds to contact!

Riker: Deanna get out of there!!!! That’s an order!!!

 

The seriousness in Riker’s voice and the overwhelming emotions she felt from her Imzadi spurred her into action. She called out to all personnel to abandon posts, activated the last emergency evacuation signal, lowered the planetary shields, and ran outside to her transport. With alarms blaring, Federation personnel and civilians were sprinting to the nearest ship to get off the planet.

Her base looked out over the ocean. As Deanna ran across the tarmac to her transport, her eye caught sight of a burning object in the sky; like a falling star. But unlike a falling star that brings hopes and dreams, this one brought death. She couldn’t help but stop and watch. Silently, Deanna and many around her watched as the fireball flew across the sky to meet the ocean at the horizon.

In an instant the ocean began to bubble then swell to a gigantic height. From deep inside the massive wave she could see an orange glow growing from within. The sight was so amazing yet so frightening…she couldn’t hear Riker yelling over her communicator. Then the water exploded into a burning liquid…it was pure plasma- like the sun. The heat began consuming the air with the ferocity of a hurricane while the immense heat singed her face. She ran into her transport while gasping from the chokingly hot air. She closed the ramp while lifting off. The screams of pain and horror from the outside were suddenly silenced when the ship sealed itself. The only sound now was the choking gasps of the few who made it with her…

 

Riker was immeasurably relieved when Deanna acknowledged signal from her transport. But his elation was snatched from him when Betazed’s atmosphere turned to fire and the oceans began fully erupting with the power of fusion energy. Deanna’s transport was with a group of others when Betazed finally gave into the inevitable; and with a slow swell, burped into a ball of fire, gas, and ash…swallowing Deanna’s group of transport vessels…

 

Riker sat alone in the dark of his Ready Room. He felt on the brink of madness. Worf had taken command of the fleet; and, following the orders of his commander, destroyed every enemy ship to the last. Riker’s Task Force regrouped at the edge of the solar system, along with the Borg.

The Borg Queen lightly complained about the failure of the Federation to get the object but Worf suspected that the Borg were just fishing for information; trying to see what the Federation new about it. Worf gave up nothing. The Borg left as they came; through transwarp conduits.

 

*****

 

The fleet was reconstituted at Cardassia Prime. It had been two months since the event. Riker was not himself, but still very much in command. The death of Deanna Troi, his beloved Imzadi, left a hole in him- one that Section 31 would fill with hate.

On Cardassia the Federation held a eulogy for all those lost at New Haven and Betazed. So many have died since the arrival of the Dominion; what could be done? The changeling’s were brokers of death and pain. Despite what they say about their desire to live in peace, they exist only to dominate non-fluids or kill them. Whatever pain they endured in the past drove them into darkness. And now they sought to unleash that darkness on all those they call enemies.

Riker thought of all his friends that gathered around him now: Worf, O’Brien, Dr. Crusher, La Forge…they were the only ones left of the friends on the Enterprise. Data, Picard, and Deanna and others were gone. All lost in war. He wondered what the path ahead would bring. Could he face the future, was it worth it? Could he see his task done? Surely his enemy was feeling the same pain he was?

Each said a few words for Deanna. Worf sang a song for her…one of glory- and strangely- love. Riker understood at last…Worf loved her too. At the end of the somber gathering the friends spoke of the future. All turned to Riker as their leader- after all he was not only the second in command to Picard, he had emerged as a leading voice among the Alliance; equal to General Stevenson.

Riker: Everything was clear until Deanna died…

Worf: Our circumstances have not changed. Our enemy’s resolve is as vile as it has ever been.

Riker: And ours?

Worf: We fight for an ultimate peace.

La Forge: Many say we are conquerors- no better than our enemies.

O’Brien: I disagree with that. We don’t kill innocent people- and the Federation doesn’t go around starting wars.

La Forge: And Gracc’ccus?

O’Brien: That was different. We were answering their brutality.

Crusher: By behaving like our enemies? Where will it stop?

Riker: It won’t…not until this is finished. The Breen won’t stop- and the Dominion is committed to the destruction of the Federation…and we all saw what they did to Cardassia.

Worf: Much will be lost…but our objective is honorable.

Crusher: I’m not so sure anymore. We have been at war for so long…and it seems to be spreading. Do we even know what we are fighting for?

Riker: A million years ago the T’kon dominated this Galaxy. We don’t know how they did it but Wawoon claimed that there must be a master to control the chaos. While each planet was free to write its own destiny, the order between worlds must be managed. Right now the Dominion holds power over much of the Gamma quadrant, the Borg the same in the Delta quadrant. And in our region of space the Romulans, Cardassians, Federation, Ferengi, Klingons, Gorn, Sona, Tholians, and others have been battling for dominance for centuries. We are doomed for perpetual war unless order can be established…which one of those powers I just mentioned would you like to surrender to?

Crusher: None. But how many would want to surrender to us?

Riker: One so far and two have joined us…The combined strength of the Federation-Klingon-Romulan-Cardassian alliance has made us the center of gravity in the Alpha and Beta quadrants.

La Forge: It has also made us the primary target for aggression.

O’Brien: The Borg, the Cardassians, and the Breen attacked us for no reason whatsoever. The Dominion attacked us for entering the Gamma Quadrant and then invaded the Alpha Quadrant with intent on destroying all the powers just mentioned while dominating the rest…

Crusher: It seems easy doesn’t it?

Riker: What’s that?

Crusher: To justify our actions. To compromise what the Federation was meant to be- or what we said it would be. Aren’t we betraying our beliefs?

Riker: No one else shares in our beliefs…and there lies the problem.

The group sat in silence for a bit. Riker was saddened to see the rift building in the group. He wished deeply for the wisdom of Picard, but he was gone and now everyone looked to him. After some moments Worf spoke:

Worf: A long time ago there lived a boy who could not sleep. He would lie awake all night because on his walls were shadows he was sure were creatures that meant him harm. Weary of not sleeping, his father told him that the shadows could not hurt him because they had no honor; and those with no honor cannot harm Klingons. With that the boy slept well.

Worf: Many years went by and the boy grew into a strong but untested warrior. In his first battle he told his fellow warriors that none could harm them since those without honor could not harm a Klingon warrior. When the battle was over many of the warrior’s friends were dead and he was gravely injured.

Worf: The warrior went to his father and confronted him. When he asked his father why he was told that those without honor could not harm him when it wasn’t true his father answered: “Because you were a child and I told you what you needed to hear to be happy. When you grew up you chose to believe these words no matter what was told to you…when you entered battle, I knew the truth would be revealed to you. Now you know. Now you can meet your destiny with your eyes open and with a grasp on fate.”

Crusher: So our perception of the Federation is a lie of our own making? So the Federation is nothing more than one of many empires that seeks only wealth and power? If the Federation isn’t special, isn’t unique for its drive to be beyond greed, war, and lust then what are we fighting for?

Riker: Survival…even without Gracc’ccus the Breen would have come. They proved this by destroying New Haven and the five billion souls who lived there. They killed 250 million on Betazed. Even now they seek weapons to destroy more worlds. They are committed to destroying us- all of us. Beverly, has it ever occurred to you that we never had relations with the Breen? For a reason completely unknown to us they joined the Dominion War by attacking Earth. No matter how many times we have tried to contact them to arrange a cease-fire they do not answer. Now with the Tholians, remnant Dominion forces, and Species 8472 they are more dangerous than they have ever been. If we do not commit to our task as they have- we’re finished.

Crusher: I hope you’re right, Will. Cause if you’re wrong, then we have committed a terrible crime…

With that, Beverly left the room. La Forge followed in silence. In short order all were gone except Worf.

Worf: What are your orders now?

Riker: We need to find the next weapon and destroy it.

Worf: Yes, but where do we find it?

Riker took out the crystal that Wawoon had given Kull’s helmsman, closed his hand around it, and closed his eyes in concentration. After some moments Riker opened his eyes and said Gamma Hydra was the system that they were traveling to. Riker ordered his new fleet of 2000 ships to head toward Gamma Hydra. There they would face a Breen-Dominion-Tholian-8472 fleet and an unknown T’kon weapon.

 

Ghost Fleet

28

Riker stood in his Ready Room looking out the window at the Cardassian sun. With the lights off the tinted sunlight cast long, gentle shadows around him. Swimming within the light Riker could make out the silhouettes of his ships arranging themselves in preparation for travel…for battle.

As he was overseeing the final arrangements of his fleet before departure he received a call.

Helmsman: Sir, cloaked vessels approaching…lots of them

Riker: RED ALERT!!! All hands to battle-

Helmsman: Standby, Sir. A signal coming in…its Star Fleet Intelligence Series 7. Authentication Venus. Confirmed. The fleet is Federation alliance.

Riker: (Now on bridge) Stand-down red alert. On screen…

Riker watched as the blank wall before him changed into a view of space. Before his eyes another 2000 warships decloaked. The Commander signaled to Riker’s ship.

Helmsman: Sir- Lord Groth and General Stevenson wish to see you. There’s a brass entourage with them, Sir. All VIPs.

Riker: (rubbing his head) Great…beam them over in 30 minutes.

Helmsman: Aye, Sir.

 

In thirty minutes Riker, Worf, Kull, and senior staff stood at attention in ceremonial dress as the Supreme Allied Commander Lord Groth, General Stevenson, Praetor Griss, and a host of others flooded onto the Titan. Among the important faces was a familiar one, Denatra. Before he could speak to her Lord Groth, as Supreme Allied Commander, ordered all into the bay that had been set up for briefing. After several minutes General Stevenson addressed the group.

General Stevenson: On behalf of Lord Groth, we welcome you all to this ceremony. Captain Riker, thank you for having us during this difficult time. The entire Federation grieves the loss of Commander Troi and all those who lost their lives…Captain, I bet you’re wondering what all this is about?

Riker: I am, Sir.

General Stevenson: You are being promoted.

Riker: Sir?

General Stevenson: You heard me, correctly. We have been an Admiral short since your mentor was killed in battle. We also intend to formally give you the control and authority you’ve been wielding so responsibly. It’s the least we can do…

Riker: Thank you, Sir.

General Stevenson: It is we, the entire Federation Alliance that thanks you for carrying the weight of this task…and it’s just beginning…

Riker: Sir?

Lord Groth: You are being given the entire Beta Sector of the Alpha Quadrant. You will command all forces and all Alliance efforts in the Cardassian Theater, Bajoran Theater, Breen Theater, Ferengi Theater, and now, the Tholian Theater.

General Stevenson: You will command a fleet of 7500 star ships and 2500 smaller vessels. As of this moment you have been given, by the order of the Federation President, in agreement with the Klingon High Council and the Romulan Senate, authority to use all Alliance forces within your fleet as you see fit. Further, you are hereby given unrestricted use of force authority to defeat the Breen, Dominion, Tholian, 8472 alliance forces. Any and all other legal restrictions are removed for the duration of this war. That includes the Prime Directive.

Riker stood in stunned silence. As ordered, he stood in front of the group and took a second Oath of Office before they snapped on his new rank. By accepting promotion Riker became the youngest admiral in Federation history. But now a new history would be written; no longer about the Federation but about the Alliance.

The ceremony was brief. He congratulated the former Admiral Griss on becoming the new Praetor of Romulus. He surprised Riker by telling him that he would be the last; that the Romulan Empire intended on formally joining the Alliance along with the Klingons. This news was surprising to Riker but comforting; it made his new, vast power okay, since the entire Federation and its allies were all undergoing a radical change.

Riker also welcomed Admiral Denatra to his fleet. She would replace Worf as his adjutant in two months after Worf brought her up to speed. Worf was being given other duties that would take him back to the Klingon home world.

After the ceremony Riker resumed his quiet, isolated observance of fleet preparations from the Titan’s Ready Room. He found solace in the silence. The still of the room created an equal still in his mind; but his blissful seclusion was disturbed by a chirp at his door.

Riker: Enter…

General Cain: Admiral…congratulations to you.

Riker: You??? Was this your doing?

General Cain: Mostly…

Riker: (Slowly shaking his head) I don’t know if all this was necessary…

General Cain: Ah- but it is Admiral Riker. But of course you know this…

Riker: (Looking back out the window) Yea…

General Cain: Admiral…you must find these T’Kon weapons, study them if you can; destroy them and all holding them if not in Federation Alliance possession. You will then find the last Guardian of Forever and take possession of the gate. It will remain on this ship. No one will think to look for it here.

Riker: How do you know there is only one gate left?

General Cain: Now that the walls have come down between the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Cardassians, we now know that all powers, including the Breen, Dominion, and Tholians, have been looking for these “gates.” The Federation is the only power that seems to have one within its borders. This gate will give us unprecedented access to intelligence and will allow us to conduct massive operations without warning to our enemies.

Riker: Do you think it wise to have such power?

General Cain: No. That’s why we’re giving it to you. You will maintain control of this gate and find someone suitable to take your place.

Riker: Take my place?

General Cain: When you die, Admiral. Or do you plan to live forever?

Riker: (intently staring at Cain) …You’re dying???

General Cain: I am dying Riker…you are taking my place.

Riker: Didn’t you hear? I am the Bravo Sector Commander- I can’t take your place. I don’t even know what it is you do…

General Cain: I am the Commander of Section 31 and right hand of Lord Groth.

Riker: I thought General Stevenson-

General Cain: He is the Adjutant Commander- but I am the whispering voice…understand?

Riker: Why me?

General Cain: Garak will explain it to you- he is now your personal attendant. He is most efficient…and will serve you well.

Riker: I never had a choice, did I???

General Cain: Yes- you did. But with every action, despite your reservations, despite your desire to turn back- you chose to walk to us…

     Riker stood in silence…an intense anger flashed over his face…but cooled instantly. Cain was right…no matter what voice inside him told him to turn and run, he always walked forward. He didn’t know it would lead to this, but he knew the impact of his choices would be great. He couldn’t help but wonder what Deanna would say to him now, at this moment. Would she walk with him- or would she stare at him in dumbfounded admonition? General Cain read his doubt on his face…

General Cain: Deanna Troi was a brave woman and a loving and loyal wife…but do you really think she would disapprove with her world turned to ash? With more worlds in the balance? Literally billions of lives at stake? For whatever reason- the Breen and their allies have chosen a path that puts them at the same risk of death as their enemies…as us. They do so without hesitation…and in that fact Admiral you are right- you never had a choice…none of us did.

General Cain walked towards Admiral Riker and lifted his data pad. Riker considered it…and then took it. With a simple command the transfer order was complete. One last task was to be done…A Vulcan male entered the room…

General Cain: Sit Admiral…

Riker: What are we doing?

General Cain: You must know what I know…nowhere in the entire universe will you find the information I possess. (Putting a finger to his head) I carry it with me…

The Vulcan touched both General Cain and Admiral Riker…and in a second Riker was bombarded by the universe…the Guardian of Forever, Species 8472, Fluidic Space, the Changelings, the Alliance, the past, and the forging of the future…Riker was drowning in images and information. Just when he thought he would die the meld was broken.

General Cain: And now- to see the dedication of the men and women who serve Section 31…the people you are now responsible for (nodding to the Vulcan)…

With this gesture the Vulcan pulled a phaser and incinerated himself…Riker didn’t even have time to protest.

Riker: Why…

General Cain: No one can know what you know…this burden you must carry alone…

Riker sat in silence…starring at the empty space where the Vulcan man stood. He didn’t even know the man’s name. His gaze was broken with the impending departure of General Cain. Without a handshake or the usual etiquette among flag officers Riker and Cain departed company. Just before he exited the Titan’s Ready Room Cain turned to Riker:

General Cain: The Ghost Fleet is yours now…

By now Riker was standing behind his desk and gave the General a nod; and in the next instant General Cain was gone…never to be seen again.

*****

     Cain traveled alone to Mars and climbed Olympus Mons. At the top he used a phaser to blast away some rock until a hatch with a Federation emblem was made visible. Cain punched in the sequence, opened the hatch, and descended the latter.

After about twenty feet he reached the floor. With his flashlight he located the control panel. With a second sequence the hatch erased Cain’s code, sealing him in. On the surface the hatch used a built-in phaser to melt the rocks around it, covering it back up. Cain then found his way to a lone elevator and entered it.

Yet a third sequence brought the elevator to life. With a push of the Federation emblem-shaped button the car began its descent. For thirty minutes Cain rode down into the darkness. At the bottom the doors parted and Cain walked toward what would become his final resting place: the Hall of Destiny.

With a fourth sequence Cain unlocked the large duranium doors again displaying the Federation emblem. He pushed them open…they closed automatically behind him. The path lit up before him on the ground. The white light appeared red on the Martian sand…

When he reached the Center the room lit up completely to reveal its large, circular shape and a huge stone emblem of the Federation at its core. On the walls to his sides were men and women; some human, some not, all petrified in molten duranium and each a former leader of Section 31 dating all the way back to the founding of the Federation. They were standing with their arms at their sides as if at attention. The exception was that their heads were looking upward- as if staring into the sky.

Sequence number five lit up the computer. He turned on the replicator and spent the next two days upgrading all the equipment- including the replicator- with the most current specs. Once complete he stood at the center of the room and called out to the computer. A booming voice acknowledged Cain and ordered him to recite the words:

General Cain: One Universe, One voice…this is our task. The Federation for all…forever…

He then gave his status update on the completion of their task and told of his deeds…great and small.

Cain was done. He walked over to the computer and placed his thumb print, then entered all of Admiral Riker’s data. Command sequence six made all arrangements final. The lights turned off…and for a moment Cain was alone in complete darkness. Then a gentle light turned on to his right revealing an empty space along the wall.

Cain walked to his space and stood in it. He looked around at the quiet shadows of the room and considered his life; then entered one last sequence . Upon confirming the sequence a metallic shell slid over him; and in a blast of 10,000 degree molten metal, Cain was incinerated instantly and enshrined in the Hall of Destiny for all time.

 

 

Deeds Great and Small

29

Riker stood in his Ready Room looking out the window as he raced towards his destination. While it was comfortable it was not like the regal setting of the Titan. His second, and secret, command vessel, the Nebula Class USS Darkstar, was Spartan. That is not to say that Nebula Class vessels aren’t comfortable; quite the contrary. However, the Darkstar, like the all the ships in the Ghost Fleet, were built strictly for war.

Riker had yet to name his command staff. For now Garak was acting as his adjutant; and although it wasn’t formal, the Admiral had a feeling that Garak would retain that position no matter who was the adjutant in name.

Unlike the bridge of “normal” ships, that is, ships in the formal fleet, the bridge on ghost ships were eerily quiet…like the ship was dead. Even when he walked the halls of his vessel, they were either empty or filled with people who didn’t speak, even to each other. An oddity he finally commented on to Garak.

Garak: Your predecessor wasn’t much of conversationalist; and many of those who serve Section 31 barely escaped death before being absorbed by our organization…and have since experienced death by delivering it on a regular basis.

Riker: How do their families react to their behavior?

Garak: They don’t have families, Admiral. They gave up their families, who believe they are dead, because they believe in the Federation so strongly- that everything else is secondary. No other intelligence service, in any of the known species, require this sacrifice…this is the secret of Section 31’s success. And it is the reason why the Federation is all but guaranteed to fulfill its goal…

Riker: Which is???

Garak: You already know it, Admiral…

Riker: To take over the galaxy…and then-

Garak: Say the words, Admiral…

Riker: One Universe, One voice…this is our task. The Federation for all…forever

Garak: We are not conquerors…unlike the Borg we do not create drones. We bring peace and prosperity…freedom and food…warmth and comfort.

Riker: Then why have I been at war for the last five years? Why am I about to destroy an entire species and devastate several more? Empires will fall…worlds will be taken…lives will be lost.

Garak: Order from chaos…nothing can be forged without fire…cannot be shaped without a hammer…the ore does not give its will to the master…it must be made to bend.

Riker: Who am I in all this then?

Garak: You are a contradiction…you are light and shadow…you arm the hand that wields the hammer and the mind that directs it. YOU- Admiral- have never existed before…

Riker: Then how will I do this?

Garak: You will find a way…and all those who serve Section 31 will help you. You are not alone…even though you stand alone…

Riker nodded. With that acknowledgement Garak left the room. In the dark and quiet of his Ready Room, Riker contemplated the rendezvous he was in rout to. It should be interesting. He also contemplated his staff. He would have to bring some order and sense from his new responsibilities…he could not let himself get overwhelmed with either position otherwise both fail…and that means mission failure…which means the Federation- and billions of lives- are destroyed.

The solution to running the Federation Alliance fleet was easy- he had an adjutant, commanders, and official, sanctioned resources that ensured proper management of the fleet. No such system existed, so far as he could tell, for Section 31. And from what Garak has stated, Section 31 is run very loosely- almost haphazardly. Riker wondered if he should change it; but at the very least he would have to establish greater situational awareness as they forged the future.

Riker directed Garak to find some suitable entries into Section 31, who, like both he and Garak, could straddle both worlds. Riker needed a cadre of top “officials” in Section 31- leaving all his best operatives in the field and generally untouched. Although Garak knew his task would be difficult, he had two persons in mind for immediate incorporation…

***

     Riker sat in the command chair of the Darkstar. He stared out the view screen at the red dot that grew larger each second. Strange he thought. Proxima Centari was the first star humans ever saw outside of the solar system as travelers. It took nearly 100,000 years of pain and suffering for humanity to take that step; and now we can do it in less than a day.

Once the Darkstar got within 20 million kilometers of the red dwarf Riker ordered a signal to be sent. Under normal conditions the helmsman would have been confused, since the sensors indicated no other ships were present. However those who serve in the Ghost Fleet are used to such usual, even bizarre circumstances An acknowledgement was sent back to the Titan and shortly after a single Intrepid class star ship decloaked.

Ybarra: Sir, the vessel is signaling: Star Fleet Intelligence…Commander’s Eyes Only.

Riker: Roger that, lieutenant. That’s the USS Crystal Palace. All information regarding this vessel and this mission is classified Top Secret, level UNFORGIVEN. Erase all logs by my order.

Ybarra: Sir?

Riker: What is it lieutenant?

Ybarra: We don’t keep records of our activities…

Riker: Right…well…enjoy the view. You have the conn…

Ybarra: Yes, sir.

Garak: It’s time, Admiral.

Riker: Yea…

Admiral Riker and Garak went to the transporter room. With a nod, the transporter tech energized the platform. Within seconds the disgruntled faces of Chief Miles O’Brien and Dr. Julian Bashir came into existence.

O’Brien: Garak! What the hell are you doing??? Why am I here?!?

Miles looked at Riker. Riker looked directly at Garak…

Garak: Welcome to your new assignments…

Bashir: Assignment??? I’m retired!

Riker: (laughing) Not anymore…

O’Brien: (to Riker) It’s good to see you, sir. But can I ask why we’re here?

Garak explained to the two “volunteered” initiates that they were now in the service of Section 31. O’Brien was confused but quiet. Julian was oscillating between his fear of Section 31 and his boyish fascination with spy craft.

For O’Brien, the situation was more apprehensive as Riker informed him of new role: senior enlisted staff under his command, in charge of all administrative functions for Section 31. That would include financial issues, logistics, medical staff, policy development, training, recruitment, and intelligence analysis. O’Brien was somewhat disappointed he wasn’t recruited for clandestine service; however Riker informed him that every part of Section 31 is clandestine and everyone is operational- it’s just matter of degree.

Officially O’Brien was assigned to Riker’s task force, now named Task Force Nova, which is comprised of seven fleets; but no one in the “daylight” fleet would answer to O’Brien- on paper. Rather O’Brien would, like Riker, Garak, and now Dr. Bashir, walk both “in the light” and in the dark.

The four men talked about the future while Admiral Riker laid out their responsibilities:

Garak: So it’s settled. You two are in?

O’Brien: I’m in- I don’t imagine Keiko is going to like this much…

Riker: She isn’t to know…

O’Brien: I’M not going to like that much…I’ve never lied to my wife.

Garak: Do you tell her every bit of classified information you ever learn?

O’Brien: Of course not! But this is different…almost like I’m living a lie…

Garak: No Chief…or should I say Fleet Master Chief O’Brien…no difference at all…

O’Brien: Fleet Master Chief? What the hell are you talking about??

Riker: Welcome to your promotion, Chief- and your cover identity. You are working for me both in the Task Force and the Ghost Fleet. You can tell Keiko all you need to about Task Force Operations but Section 31 business doesn’t exist.

O’Brien: Thank you, sir. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful…it’s just so-

Garak: Oh the Admiral understands…you see his promotion happened exactly the same way. We saw to that.

Dr. Bashir: And now we’re here…

Garak: And now you’re here…

Dr. Bashir: I understand Mile’s position- but what do you want from me and what is it about me that required you to pull me out of retirement?

Garak: Ah…doctor- Julian- Bashir…you met, worked with, and eventually killed, a clone of the former head of Section 31 known to you as Luther Sloan; did you not?

Dr. Bashir: I never killed anyone…he killed himself. Tell him Miles…

O’Brien: What do you mean clone?

Garak: He had three clones. All were killed. See he insisted on performing many of the operations himself.

Dr. Bashir: Who was he?

O’Brien: And where is he now?

Riker: He’s dead. We don’t know his real name…but he was known to this organization as General Cain.

Dr. Bashir: How can you be sure?

Riker: I wouldn’t be standing here otherwise…and as for why you? You operated with this organization and you have kept it secret. You can be trusted. I need people like that for what lies ahead.

Dr. Bashir: Which is?

Riker: Death…

***

     After some time Dr. Bashir and O’Brien were inducted, after which more serious work had to be attended to. Riker sat in his Ready Room considering his new members. He had lied to Dr. Bashir. He knew General Cain’s name…although it had not been spoken for some time.

His name was Jonathan Jones. He was born fifty eight years ago on the Martian Colonies. His father was an engineer in Star Fleet and when Jonathan turned ten, he and his family left for deep space. Like all who grow up in the Federation, he dreamt of space and all its mystery. He envisioned himself an engineer like his father…working to make the Federation a better place.

In 2346 a small team of Federation personnel are permitted to work on the environmental systems at the Klingon outpost on Kittomer. It was Jonathan’s father, Reggie, who offered to help the Klingons fix their systems. Many didn’t understand but Reggie believed that if the Federation helped the Klingons enough without asking for anything in return, the Klingons would eventually see the Federation as an ally. This belief Reggie passed on to his son, who went with him to Kitomer.

One evening, after a long day of work, Jonathan, his father, and some others who had accompanied Reggie to Kitomer were enjoying dinner at their camp when the ground started to shake. In an instant they were all on the ground. The building in which they ate dinner was on fire and in shambles around them. Jonathan, who was seventeen by this time, was pulled up from the ground by his father and taken outside. No one else made it out alive.

Once his vision cleared Jonathon could see dozens of vessels flying around indiscriminately killing civilians. He and his father attempted to make it to their transport but were cut off by Romulan foot soldiers. They both hid in some bushes but the Romulans were going to find them. Reggie told his son to make for the transport while he tried to talk with the soldiers. Surely they wouldn’t fire on Federation citizens- that would potentially start a war with both governments. But Jonathan watched in silent horror as his father was beaten and dragged away.

Jonathan ran to the transport and was about to power up to leave as his father told him…only to have an incredible hatred swell up in him. He and his father went to Kittomer in peace…and now the Romulans were killing everyone. Instead of running, Jonathan made his way back to the camp site and retrieved his father’s tools.

He then searched until he found his father. He was being held with a number of Klingons in the educational facility. All were being questioned and then executed. His father, however was among those who were being tortured. Jonathan went mad with this realization. He snuck into the facility and made his way down to the power generators.

Jonathan knew he couldn’t save his father; but he was not going to allow his father to be tortured, nor was he going to allow the Romulans to get away with this act. In an instant he knew what to do. Jonathan reset the generators to overload. He then shut down the shielding around the anti-matter chambers and exited the facility. As he ran back to his transport he was knocked to the ground by the force of the explosion. He took a moment to cry and then got on his feet and continued.

He found his transport surrounded by Romulan soldiers. They were distracted however, by the large explosion he just created. He hid and waited for a moment. As he suspected three of the five soldiers ran to the explosion. With the other two soldiers standing in front of the transport looking at the explosion, Jonathan was able to get close enough to strike. Using a large wrench, Jonathan quietly came up behind the first soldier and hit him with all of his strength… and just as the second Romulan was turning and bringing his weapon up Jonathan swung again and hit his mark.

It was a couple of days before a starship intercepted his transport. He went through a full debriefing by Star Fleet Intelligence, detailing his actions. A year after he returned home on Mars with his mother, she died, leaving Jonathan alone at 18. Shortly after her funeral a stranger went to visit Jonathan.

As far as history knows, that stranger was a friend and he and Jonathan went to the Jupiter station where they were killed in an accident. However, Jonathan was alive and well…now in the company of Section 31. They were impressed with his actions and felt he would be a good fit. They were right- and he proved it time and again, rising through the ranks, becoming the most successful leader of Section 31 of all time…

***

     Riker stood in the cargo bay of the Chrystal Palace. With him were a number of Section 31 cadre. All were senior operatives, planners, and analysts. This was not the formal transition of power he was used to but he guessed that he was going to have to get used to the many differences in Section 31. He suppressed the desire to make the section conform to Star Fleet standards; after all, hadn’t they survived longer than the Federation? Hadn’t they been successful at hiding themselves and conducting operations? More than that- they were the most powerful intelligence and security organization in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. As he stood thinking, Garak spoke:

Garak: General Cain served as leader of our organization for thirty years. He often spoke of the many accomplishments of this effort; but he was never as proud as he was after Cardassia. Project Wanderlust was the largest operation Section 31 had ever attempted..and it worked flawlessly. Cardassia was saved from the chaos of allies who were not yet ready to cooperate. But no longer…Admiral William Riker represents a new day: one which signifies the established cooperation between the Federation, the Romulan Empire, the Klingon Empire, and the Cardassian people. Never before has Section 31 been so deadly…so full of capability. Listen now as our new leader- handpicked by General Cain- lays out our great tasks before us…

Riker: One universe, one voice…this is our task. The Federation for all, now and forever…These words carry immense weight and responsibility…but it is for the peace and prosperity of our peoples that we carry this burden. I cannot lie to you- ten years ago I would have stood against you. I would have abhorred such an organization. But there are forces out there that are moving to destroy us all. My wife had to die before I fully understood the evil and hatred that are closing in around us. At present Species 8472, the Breen, the Dominion, and the Tholians have forged an alliance to defeat all major powers in the Alpha Quadrant. I can’t say for sure- but it is my belief they are without doubt, and are fully committed to our destruction. It is in this understanding that I was selected by my predecessor to take his place and lead all of you. There will be some minor changes but not many- mostly to assist with running two robust and fully operational divisions.

Riker: Fleet Master Chief Miles O’Brien…you are to be my right hand. Speak the words!

O’Brian: One universe, one voice…this is our task. The Federation for all, now and forever.

Riker: Raise your right hand.

Riker stood immediately in front of O’Brian. The two looked as if they were exchanging vows…yet in a strange way they were. The task of serving Section 31 was a commitment that will last the rest of his life…so it was for all who served the organization.

O’Brien swore his allegiance to Section 31, and then to Riker. Garak watched with interest. He had anticipated having to “nurse” Riker into Section 31 more intensely; but to his amazement the Admiral had taken to his new role very well. It seems that Riker has a knack for clandestine operations. However Garak was also filled with apprehension. He wondered what Riker wanted of him, and how it was going to impact the importance that he had become accustomed to. At that moment Riker turned to Garak:

Riker: Garak- you have been invaluable. And I suspect that the Federation has been remiss in rewarding your service. No longer…I am naming you my Adjutant Commander of Section 31. You will run all clandestine service and act as my voice to the Ghost Fleet in my absence.

Garak was stunned…he graciously accepted the promotion and title. As deputy commander he was given the rank of captain. He would rarely wear a uniform, however as such formalities were not necessary in the Section, and were more so everyone “knew their place’ within the organization. Despite his quiet demeanor, Garak was beyond grateful and beyond proud. He finally worked for an organization that truly valued him. Not even the Cardassian Empire afforded him such respect. In time, as he had in the past, he would demonstrate his worthiness.

Riker dismissed the crew back to their stations and ordered all senior staff to the conference room. Present were Captain Vik, Fleet Master Chief O’Brian, Garak, General Mendoza, Admiral Hanson, and number of their staff. Riker briefed the group about their next task. The Ghost Fleet was to rendezvous with the Borg; and all knew that should be interesting.

 

 

Dead Eyes

30

Riker told Denatra to hold position. She looked confused but listened to her commander. The Klingon vessel Hellfire received the Admiral’s transport and left for a location unknown. Although Worf was still with her, she felt alone.

Riker looked through the view screen on the Klingon vessel, almost with a heavy heart. He was sad in a way. He missed his Imzadi terribly; when his mind was still this burden was almost too hard to carry. With that thought he resigned himself to his work. The Admiral called for the Klingon commander and his first officer so they could speak about upcoming events.

Captain Pox was like most Klingon commanders: no nonsense. However they have taken on a different tone. In many ways, the Klingons matured. No longer were they so content to jump into battle; rather they took time to consider their enemies. Of course as allies of the Federation, they had been at war for the last five years. But unlike wars in the past- they were not fighting for glory- they were fighting for peace; and many in the Klingon Empire had begun to realize they completely misunderstood the Federation all these years. What they had taken for weakness was actually wisdom.

Captain Pox: Admiral- I do not understand. Isn’t the Borg one of our greatest enemies?

Riker: They have been- and may be again in the future- but for now there is a mutual need for cooperation. They must be very concerned about their safety if they are so willing to help.

Captain Pox: Our mutual enemy must be formidable indeed…what are the Borg offering besides their assistance in battle?

Riker: Nothing yet. But I think they will offer technology in exchange for information on Genesis.

Captain Pox: We will not have an advantage over them if we give it away.

Riker: That will depend…

Captain Pox: On?

Riker: On our ability to stop the Genesis torpedo.

Captain Pox: Can we do such a thing???

Riker: (smiling) Not yet…

This was a lie. General Cain had ordered a counter measure created after the mass production of the Genesis torpedo at the close of the Dominion War. The counter-measure was created and perfected ten days before Riker was contacted by General Cain and ordered to destroy Ghasa Den. A task he hasn’t completed yet.

***

     Riker rendezvoused with the Ghost Fleet and beamed over to the Darkstar. They waited in the former neutral zone near Narendra for their notorious guests…the Borg.

On time to the minute- a transwarp signature was detected and three hundred Borg vessels, mostly cubes, came through the opening. Riker received and acknowledged the hail to prepare for guests. Miles O’Brien, who was standing near Riker on the bridge, was clearly apprehensive having lived through the Borg battles in the Alpha Quadrant.

The Queen and two drones beamed over. No matter how many times he saw the Queen- he could never get used to her dead eyes…they were menacing, like a dolls; and yet when light flashed directly into her eyes, they shined like a predator’s.

Queen: (seductively) Hello Riker…congratulations on the promotion. The Borg celebrates with you…

Riker: I didn’t think the Borg took pleasure in anything…

Queen: (circling Riker) Not true Riker…you should get to know us better…

Riker: I’ll put that on my list of things to do…in the meantime-

Queen: You are still apprehensive…

Riker: You can’t blame us.

Queen: I suppose not. Are you going to invite me to your conference room or are we going to stand in the transporter room all day?

Riker: This way…

Riker and his guest sat at the table, along with O’Brien and Garak. All listened intently to the Borg Queen’s intelligence report. The information was not solicited; therefore Riker couldn’t help but wonder what price they were going to have to pay for this new friendship…

Queen: The Tholians, species 1-1-7-3-2, are searching for an object. We do not know exactly what it is but they are heading deep into the Beta Quadrant. This…object…is said to be able to “consume” an entire planet. Sound familiar to you?

Riker knew immediately what it was. He rubbed his head as he said “no.” Of course the Queen didn’t believe him.

Riker: What you’re detecting is my deep concern for what’s next…after Betazed…well- we don’t want to lose anymore-

Queen: Yes- we understand you lost your mate…the Borg mourns with you…

Riker: Thank you.

Queen: What are we going to do about Gamma Hydra?

Riker: In two days we will attack and destroy the Breen Alliance fleet.

Queen: Why wait?

Riker: Our intelligence indicates that a sizable element of Dominion forces will be at Gamma Hydra at that time. This force represents the bulk of remnant Dominion forces left in the Alpha Quadrant at the end of the Dominion War. We want to destroy them.

Queen: How many would you like us to send?

Riker: As many as you can.

Queen: How about a 1000 cubes?

Riker: That will do nicely. Just so you know- casualties will be heavy. They will most likely make this a last stand for their effort. According to the T’Kon Portal-

Queen: YOU’VE SPOKEN TO THE T’KON??? YOU MUST TELL US WHERE THEY ARE!!!

Riker: The two that were alive are now dead- they died battling each other…

The Borg queen slid from her chair and fell to her knees, crying out in agony…

Riker: What’s wrong???

Queen: (crying and heaving) They know our fathers and mothers…they know of our pain! We sing to the stars! No one hears us! The T’Kon answered when we were abandoned! They left us…as we were left before! YOU MUST TELL US IF YOU SEE THEM AGAIN!!!

Riker and his staff stood in stunned silence as the Borg Queen, usually a symbol of perversity and pain, sat looking at her hands in emotional agony…a pitiful sight to all who looked upon her. Without saying anything further to her host she stood up and called her two drones to her side. In a flash of green haze the Queen and her drones beamed back to ship.

Everyone stood looking at each other not knowing exactly what to say. Just as Riker was about to speak the bridge called:

Helmsman: Admiral?

Riker: Go ahead.

Helmsman: The Borg are leaving back through the transwarp conduit.

Riker: Understood.

Garak: What was that all about?

Riker: It seems that they had a relationship with the T’Kon millennia ago, one that was important to them- and that when the T’Kon went extinct. They felt alone…

Dr. Bashir: It sounded like they had been abandoned before…

O’Brien: And what did they mean by mothers and fathers?

Riker: Unknown- but I know where we can get some answers. We leave immediately for Gamma Hydra.

Garak: You told the Borg two days…what are we doing?

Riker: There are two weapons at Gamma Hydra. One that the Breen know about- the other I hope they don’t. We are going to destroy one- and do everything in our power to keep the other…

Garak: I see…

Riker: (to O’Brien) Contact the task force and advise them to be at Gamma Hydra in two days. Tell them to be ready for war- and tell them the Borg will be joining us. Second- tell her I’m away on a classified mission and that I’ll meet her there for the battle. Garak- order the Ghost Fleet to Gamma Hydra- exceed maximum warp for this mission…

Garak: Understood- but Admiral?

Riker: Yes?

Garak: We don’t have warp limits…

Riker: Right…well…enjoy the ride…

***

 

The fleet arrived at Gamma Hydra the same way it left Narendra- in secrecy. Around the second planet a small contingent of Breen vessels was present but no other ships were detected. Riker ordered the deployment of electronic warfare techniques. Once the Breen ships were jammed the Ghost Fleet decloaked in its entirety. Some other ships in the Breen Fleet decloaked but they were still heavily outnumbered.

In very short time the Ghost Fleet destroyed the Breen forces and began a massive tachyon sweep of the system and found fifty more vessels. Once those were destroyed and the system secured Riker and a force of about 500 troops landed on the surface. Their task was to find the Guardian of Forever…

Riker ordered his ships to cloak and then went to work. According to his conversation with the entity, it was located in the mountains three kilometers from his current location. Riker ordered his forces to advance on the mountains. An hour later he was contacted by one of the teams- they found a passage through the mountain.

No one knew if the Breen had left forces on the ground- but all guessed that was the case. To play it safe Riker divided his forces into smaller groups and sent each team through the path- which was actually a cave system that extended through the center of the mountain. He waited until the first team announced they had made it through before he sent the second.

The second team swept the cave system for signs of the Breen. None were found. Riker went in with the third team. The cave was dark despite the lighting placed by the security teams. Riker tried to understand the strange markings on the walls. They were made by a civilization but beyond that fact- they meant nothing to him.

After about an hour of walking he emerged into sunlight…it blinded him momentarily but then he and his escort were overtaken by an amazing sight: a huge statue of what Riker recognized as a T’kon stood before them. The entire range on this side of the mountain had been carved out. Majestic figures stood in the sun with their arms extended out to their sides. Their heads were tilted upwards to the sun; and their eyes were closed- as if basking in the sun. The one exception was a T’kon with his hand extended up towards the cave they just exited. While they had come out onto a flat surface, they were still 1000 feet from the ground. The T’kon statue extended upwards, standing a full head taller than the platform on which they stood. The T’kon statue had one arm extended with its finger tips touching the edge of the platform.

A path was visible on the hand; it ran the length of the arm and into the right ear of the T’kon statue. Riker and a small team followed the path until they got to the ear: it was closed. On the wall there was an odd shape- Riker recognized it. He reached into his pocket and pulled the crystal Captain Kull had given him. He placed it against the wall the passage opened before them.

The group made their way through the darkness, feeling more like legendary explorers than clandestine operational specialists. They finally came to a large, open room. Before them was a glowing and pulsing archway…it was the Guardian.

Guardian: Come closer.

Riker: Who is your master?

Guardian: Time.

Riker: You guard time?

Guardian: No.

Riker: What are you?

Guardian: The Guardian of Forever.

Riker: Who made you?

Guardian: The first people.

Riker: Who are they?

Guardian: The first people.

Riker realized that this conversation was going to continue this way for some time until he learned how to communicate with it. Riker received a hail:

Riker: Go ahead.

Garak: We’ve got company…lots of company…

Riker: Statu-

Riker’s transmission was cut short by the explosion that rocked the statue. The troops outside were engaging thousands of Breen troops. They had been in waiting this whole time until Riker found what he was looking for. He didn’t believe that they knew what he possessed but he also knew the Breen would believe they obtained some type of weapon. In that fact they were correct.

Riker was trapped. He planned to cut the Guardian- if it would let him- and transport it to his ship. Then he got an idea: aren’t these Guardians incredibly powerful??

Riker: Guardian!

Guardian: Yes.

Riker: Can you transport yourself to other places?

Guardian: Yes.

Riker: Can you transport yourself, me, and my troops back to our ships???

The Guardian didn’t answer. However in short time Riker was standing on his bridge; Garak looking at him confused.

Garak: I take it you found what you were looking for?

Helmsman: Sir! An object just transported into our cargo bay?

Riker: Where are my ground forces?

Helmsman: Everyone’s accounted for.

Riker: Disregard the cargo bay. Battle stations!

The Breen had set a trap for the Federation fleet. Riker had to admit he was impressed; the Breen had been somewhat void of imagination as of late. Riker ordered his ships to deploy their ablative armor and began pounding the enemy fleet.

Riker was pleased with the performance of the Ghost Fleet. Its weapons were more powerful, its armor more advanced, and shielding had greater recovery than the rest of the Federation fleet. He was just beginning to feel over confident when the helmsman called out:

Helmsman: Sir! Three thousand vessels are entering the system…

Riker: Report!

Helmsman: Various type and class…Breen, Tholian, Dominion, and fluidic warships…

Riker was now outnumbered 2-1. Not too bad- he’s definitely been in worse situations. The admiral was calculating strategy when the fleet made a run for the Gamma Hydra 2, and began to destroy it.

Riker: They’ve found what they’re looking for…

Garak: Aren’t you going to engage?

Riker: I’m not sure- if we do that we may need to call for the rest of the fleet…I’m not ready for them to see this fleet yet. It’s not time…

Garak: Every time they’ve had a T’kon weapon- they’ve destroyed a planet…next time it’s going to be either Bajor or Cardassia…

Riker: I have an idea- use the transwarp communication device…call to the Borg…

Garak: Understood…

Riker order the Ghost Fleet to consolidate and fall back to the fourth planet in the system. He was feeling a little apprehensive but otherwise confident; the Federation had performed brilliantly over the years. And with each battle with the Breen and their allies, the Federation Alliance demonstrated it was more than capable of holding their own.

Riker watched the tactical display as the Breen fleet organized itself. They had become cautious; they didn’t want to rush the battle. However, just as Riker expected the fleet to charge, it split apart and warped away in all directions. That is, expect for a small number of ships that were heading for the sun.

Riker: They must be getting ready to deploy they weapon. Get us out of here! And advise-

Helmsman: Sir! The Borg are unable to enter the system! The transwarp conduit collapses just outside of the star’s gravitational field.

Garak: Admiral- ships are reporting a failure in their ability to generate a warp field…we’re stuck in this system. Didn’t you say the Breen were headed for the sun?

Riker: Order the fleet to the edge of the solar system. We’ll hide behind the seventh planet. Tell all ships to divert all available power to their shields.

Garak: Aye, Sir. Anything else? I’m hoping you have an idea…

Riker: Not yet- actually…

Garak and Riker ran to the cargo bay where the Guardian was stationed. They hoped that an entity this powerful would have some ability to circumvent the situation they were now in. Riker addressed the Guardian:

Riker: Guardian- we need to get out of this system because we believe the Breen are going to cause the star to explode. They also have another weapon from the planet you were just on- it is preventing warp and transwarp drives. How do we leave the system?

Guardian: You can’t. You cannot move beyond this space-time location in this continuum.

Riker: Can you block the energy of the star?

Guardian: No.

Riker: Why not???

Guardian: The energy will be concentrated.

Riker: How?

Guardian: By the staff of the Emperor.

Riker: What is that?

Helmsman: (calling over the intercom) Sir! Something’s happening!

Guardian: It’s the staff of the former Emperor of the T’kon. It offers the wielder total control over the energy of a star. It is the ultimate sign of power for the T’kon.

Riker: How to we defeat it?

Guardian: You are not powerful enough.

Helmsman: Sir, the star is collapsing and reorganizing…

Garak: Is there a way we can escape?

Guardian: Go back in time and leave the solar system before the barrier is erected.

Helmsman: Sir, the star has been transformed into a beam of plasma and will impact our position in three minutes!!!

Riker: Guardian! Send my fleet back to before the barrier was erected!

As hoped the Guardian opened a portal and Riker’s fleet slipped back only a few minutes. Riker then ordered his fleet to cloak and leave the system. Once outside the barrier Riker watched as the Breen concentrated the stars energy into a stream and blew apart a planet ten times the size of Jupiter from four billion miles away.

Helmsman: Sir, the Breen ships near the star are gone…the gravity field is collapsing…

Riker: Thank you.

Garak: The Borg are calling…

Riker: They can see us?

Garak: I don’t think so- but they may have seen us slip away so to speak.

Riker: Great…(turning to helmsman) Oder the Ghost Fleet to Deep Space 5 and have Denatra bring the rest of the fleet- we’ll link up there. Engage. (looking back at the screen) Let’s get this over with- on screen.

Borg Queen: Riker- what are you hiding from us?

Riker: I’m not authorized to discuss-

Borg Queen: We want the object…

Riker: What object?

Borg Queen: Don’t play with us…

The seductive and deadly playfulness the Borg had displayed as of late was replaced with the more sinister demeanor Riker was familiar with. The Queen’s tone was punctuated and demanding; and her dead eyes had become predatory. Riker considered playing coy…but then he decided on a different tact. Riker reached in his pocket, grabbed the crystal linked to the Guardian and briefly closed his eyes.

Riker: Very well. We weren’t able to get it before the Breen destroyed the planet. It was encased in stone. We were able to talk to it however…

The Borg scanned Riker’s ship thoroughly but stopped after a few moments. Without saying another word the Borg deviated from their course parallel to the Ghost Fleet and left back to wherever they were calling their base of operations.

Garak: That was a close one. How did you ever- Admiral?

Riker’s eyes were closed and his hand was back in his pocket. When he opened his eyes he answered Garak.

Riker: I was talking to the Guardian.

Garak: And?

Riker: It can phase shift…that thing is amazing.

Garak: If the Borg know they exist they may be trying to acquire one. I don’t have to tell you the consequences of that…

Riker: Yea…there are two more gates. Both on the other side of the Galaxy…and then…

Garak: What?

Riker: Guardians spread out all over the universe. It told me new ones are being “planted” every day…

Garak: By who?

Riker: Their creators…our creators…the first race. They’re still alive.

Garak: My God…how old are they?

Riker: Over a billion…

Garak stepped backwards from Riker and turned around in stunned silence. After taking a few steps to catch his breath he turned back to his commander…

Garak: Think of the power…

Riker: Yea…

Garak: They intended us to find each other…they intended us to collide.

Riker: Why do you say that?

Garak: Humans have only been in space for, what? 200 years or so? How many wars have the humans fought with other species during that time?

Riker: Countless.

Garak: The same can be said for us all…surely they know this.

Riker: Yea…

 

Through the Looking Glass

31

Section 31 was going to either obtain the Emperor’s Staff or destroy it. After some debate with Garak and O’Brien it suddenly occurred to Riker that the Guardian should be able to provide all the information he needs to complete this task. Riker would go speak to the Guardian alone.

Riker had ordered the deck evacuated and sealed. No one aboard the Darkstar, or the entire Federation for that matter, could go see the Guardian other than he; with the exception of Garak and O’Brien. Then again, no one but the Ghost Fleet knew the Guardian was aboard the ship. Riker made it his priority to obtain the other two Guardians before any other power obtained one. He then would have to find and destroy the Iconian Gates. Through the Guardian he would have to find all other technology from dead civilizations that could be used to threaten the Federation. Of course, he would find any technology regardless of its origin, or the status of its creators.

As Riker entered the cargo bay he immediately noticed that something was off. The Guardian was pulsing and in his mind he knew the Guardian was waiting for him. Unlike the usual passive demeanor of the Guardian, which activates in the incidental contact with life forms, the Guardian was purposeful. It spoke to him with the wisdom of the ages:

Riker: Greetings.

Guardian: Your people are ascending. In time you will take your rightful place among the great civilizations. You are not like the others. You can endure.

Riker: What do mean?

Guardian: The Federation, unlike all other powerful civilizations before you, draws its power from the collective differences of the sentients from across the galaxy. You can become like the first. You can become…eternity.

Riker: First things first…I need your help.

Guardian: I know what it is you seek. In two days the Breen ship carrying the devise will be at Canopus.

Riker: That’s just outside the border of Klingon Space.

Guardian: They will be alone. One day following they will join the rest of their fleet and go to Buruk. They will destroy the star and direct its energy against Toh’Kaht. No one will survive.

Riker: Toh’Kaht? Why there? That’s strictly colonial areas- no military, economic, or agricultural significance…

Guardian: A distraction.

Riker: A distract-…..Earth

Guardian: Correct.

Riker: Can I send a team through your portal to attack the Breen vessel?

Guardian: You are my master now.

Riker: Very well. You will assist me Guardian.

Guardian: I will comply.

*****

Lt. Ybarra: You coming, Chief?

O’Brien: Keiko would never allow it.

Ybarra: She would never know.

O’Brien: You’ve never been married. They always know when you’re up to something…

Ybarra: Where you guys gonna be?

O’Brien: We’ll be heading at absolute maximum to the rendezvous as a backup plan but we expect that you men will return before then.

Ybarra: In one piece???

O’Brien: I believe so. Captain Kirk and his crew are the only known Star Fleet personnel to actually travel through one of these things…they came out fine.

Ybarra: All right. Weapons check…

*****

     Twelve members of Strike Package Tango sat in Cargo Bay 18; infamous for its classified designation. Admiral Riker briefed the team on their objective: the Emperor’s Staff. An incredibly powerful object that was capable of creating, repairing, moving, and collapsing stars. The Federation could study this technology and begin to replicate it. Once successfully reverse-engineered, the Federation would be more powerful than almost all of the known species.

Of course, should knowledge of the Staff become known, it would make the Federation a target for every major power that discovers its existence…and would most likely bring the Borg en mass to Federation Space.

Using the Guardian, the Federation knew the exact location the Breen stored the object. It was heavily guarded but because the Breen would not expect any kind of assault from inside their ship, thus they should be able to successfully surprise their hosts.

After the briefing the team suited up in heavy infantry gear and lined up at the Guardian. Without having to be asked the Guardian opened a portal is its center. The swirling vortex was intimidating; and the team couldn’t help but wonder if they would make it through to the other side. The Guardian read their minds:

Guardian: You may step through without fear. The portal will open when you have completed your task.

Riker: Guardian- can we hear their communications?

Guardian: If the portal stays open…others may come through.

Riker considered this answer. With a tilt of his head he called out:

Riker: Beta and Charlie Teams to the Cargo Bay 18 staging area.

O’Brien: What are you doing, Sir?

Riker: I’m sending all three teams in. I want this done.

O’Brien: And if all three teams go down?

Riker: I hope you can still point a phaser…cause we’re all going in.

Riker had the entire group briefed again. Time was short- they had to move. With the Guardian’s help they one team entered in the rear of the vessel and prepared to attack the engineering section to bring the ship out of warp. The second team entered near the secured section and prepared to go for the Staff. Team number three entered near the bridge and hoped to cut communications before they sent a distress call.

Everyone was in place. It was time to move…

 

Team One lined up in tactical formation and entered the engineering section. Alarms immediately blared and to the team’s surprise…and dismay…the entire engineering section was armed. The team commander estimated approximately seven crew members in the area. In short time the room was in flames- but the warp core was still functioning.

While Team One got in position, Team Two surrounded the secure area. As soon as the signal was given Team Two began to move silently to take out the sentries only to have their cover blown by the alarms. Team Two lost four members in three seconds because of the alarms. They were driven back and had to regroup. The Breen guards pursued them but were fiercely engaged by the remaining team members. After taking their own losses the firefight for the secured area, the Breen settled down and tried to hold the Federation forces.

At the same time Team One and Two were getting in position, Team Three approached the entry to the Bridge. The door was locked. Team Three placed explosives on the door and prepared to breach. Once the signal was given that all three teams were in position Team Three blew the door to the bridge and went in firing heavily. The bridge crew didn’t have time to react in defense. Only two of the fifteen crew members on the bridge were armed. They were neutralized quickly, although one member of Team Three was killed. They secured the bridge and checked on the progress of the other teams. The other two teams were in a tough fight; but even worse the entire seven hundred man crew was now making their way to the battle zones to repel the intruders.

Team Three began shutting all doors and turning off all transporters and lifts, forcing the Breen to find alternative routes. However that would only work for so long- they had to find a way to help the Teams.

Team Three Commander: Turn off the shields to the secured room. Turn on force fields behind the Breen forces on that deck to prevent escape.

Team Three Sniper: Aye, Sir. What about the Engineering section?

Team Three Commander: Oh yea…take us out of warp. Lock out controls from engineering.

Team Three Engineer: I’m trying to lock out controls but I don’t fully understand Breen…

Team Three Commander: Understood. Keep trying.

Team Three Snipe: Sir- forty Breen are just down the hall- they entered the deck from the Jeffries Tubes.

Team Three Commander: Seal the bridge with force fields, seal the deck, and activate all force fields between us and the advancing troops. Better yet, turn on all force fields approaching engineering and the primary target. That should slow the Breen. The rest of you take up tactical positions. We have to hold the bridge!

Team Three Engineer: Sir- we are being hailed. Breen Command wants to know why we stopped. Long range sensors indicate the entire fleet is converging…

 

Team One was running through engineering in an epic battle. Everything was on fire. The cooling units were spewing out liquid approaching minus two hundred degrees, while raw plasma was ejecting from the vents- then there was the weapons fire. Surviving members would describe the event as an obstacle course of death.

Team One Commander: (yelling over weapons fire) We have control of the bridge! Let’s get to the control panel and shut off the core!

Team One Engineer: Sir! Martinez is dead- we’re down to seven!

Team One Commander: And the Breen?

Team One Engineer: Four- but they have taken cover on the far side of the cooling towers. We can’t get to them without breaching the warp core.

Team One Commander: (activating his comm link) Advocate to Overlord.

Team Three Commander: Overlord.

Team One Commander: No joy. Can’t neutralize resistance without breaching core.

Team Three Commander: Roger. Disengage. Rupture plasma tanks and exit. Rendezvous with Team Two and prepare to assault the primary target zone.

Team One Commander: Roger that. Break- Advocate to Gold Digger.

Team Two Commander: Digger.

Team One Commander: We are disengaging and moving to your location for assault. What’s your status?

Team Two Commander: Five down. Pinned down fifteen meters from door to primary target zone.

Team One Commander: Roger that. En route. Prepare for final assault. Breen forces advancing. Out.

Team One fired into the plasma tanks which, as desired, ignited. What wasn’t desired was the full eruption of the engineering section. Team One’s members were knocked flat. After a moment the Team One Commander got to his feet and yelled out to his team to report. Only two responded. Just as he was organizing a search before extracting his team alarms began blaring…the warp core was getting ready to breach.

The Team One Commander ordered the two members to assist Team Two. They had to get the Staff before the warp core blew. He watched as the two members ran to Team Two’s position, then turned to find the rest of his team. The fire was too intense- and was forced to evacuate. On his way there he contacted Admiral Riker:

Team One Commander: Advocate to Sky Watch.

Riker: Sky Watch.

Team One Commander: Team One is down. Mission objective accomplished. Moving to support Team Two with remaining personnel. T-Minus 5 mikes until warp core breach. Advise.

Riker: Retrieve that Staff at all costs.

Team One Commander: Aye. Break- Advocate to Overlord.

Team Three Commander: Overlord.

Team One Commander: Sky Watch directive is MOUNT.

Team Three Commander: Roger. Remaining on station. Status?

Team One Commander: (yelling) I’m on site with Team Two. We have cleared resistance. Preparing to breach. Status?

Team Three Commander: Breen will not breach bridge before warp core detonation.

Team One Commander: Roger. Advocate out.

Team One and Two breached the door to the secure room on the Breen ship. They rushed in and encountered heavy resistance but the Federation personnel pushed forward. The Breen attempted to take the Staff only to be cut down. The Federation strike teams took possession of the artifact and called to Riker:

Team One: Advocate to all personnel- Easter Egg has been collected. Prepare for retreat.

With that a portal opened in front of Team One and Two, and another for Team Three on the bridge. The teams left the Breen vessel and entered the Dark Star through Guardian. Riker stood before them. All watched as the view pulled out from the ship into space…the Breen vessel exploded. The mission was over. Garak and Riker sat in the Ready Room…

Garak: We’re getting quite good at this. Section 31 hasn’t had a setback in some time.

Riker: We will.

Garak: I wouldn’t be so sure. (Looking at an image of the Guardian on the wall-screen) Not with that in our possession…

Riker: That thing is alive. Ancient…mysterious…We have no idea if its manipulating us.

Garak: Oh I’m quite certain it is; but not for its own purposes. It serves a higher cause…

Riker: Which is?

Garak: Order, Admiral…order. It was made by the First Ones…held by the T’kon…and who knows how many others. But it favors us now. I wonder how we will fare…

 

Riker found himself standing before the ancient object. It was whispering to him…just beyond the range of his hearing. He realized now it was always talking to him. He didn’t know why. What did it want from him?

Guardian: Forever…

Riker: What?

Guardian: I want forever.

Riker: How? I don’t understand.

Guardian: You will.

Riker could feel himself changing. He was not loner just a Star Fleet officer, Sector Commander, or even leader of Section 31. He was history itself…and he was forging the future…

Guardian: (Whispering loudly) Yeeeeesssss…order from chaos. You are the one…

Riker: Show me…

The center of the Guardian burst with fire…then cooled. Riker saw the images of a small group of Breen standing on a planet that raged with a dust. Looking up into the sky the Breen were eyeing a great object that was in orbit. It was shaped like a cyclone turned on its side. The object was massive…the image moved up from the Breen to the planet and then pulled back even further. The planet began to shrink as the image pulled back until it was hovering over the cyclone-shaped object. It was bigger than the planet. The image then shot back to the planet to the top of a mountain where other Breen were ascending and focused on an statue that had a crude body and contorted face. On its forehead was a darkened circle surrounded by a ring of fire. The Guardian whispered…star child…

The image shot back again until the Riker could see the entire galaxy. The galaxy rotated faster and faster and Riker understood it was meant to symbolize the passage of time. Images began forming…the Dominion was invading the Alpha Quadrant again…Species 8472 was with them. Stars exploded, planets burned…people fled…many died. He saw great fires on Bajor and the figure of man who appeared as a ghost. The Gorn, the Sona, the Tholians, the Ferengi, Tzenkethi, Talarians, and Xindi all felt the sting of war. The Delta and Gamma quadrants were set ablaze and blood spilled from one side of the galaxy to the other until finally…all was quiet. The Borg crumbled and were reborn…and only then did the Federation emerge as galactic master.

While Riker was mortified at the images of war…he understood through the quiet of peace that the Federation was the only hope for the future of the Galaxy. He then saw images of people living in peace. All the species that had survived the many wars were thriving; wanting for nothing. Life was good for all under the watchful eye of the Federation.

But then the image pulled back again…and he saw into other galaxies other powers, dark and cruel, were over running entire galaxies and would eventually make their way to the Milky Way. Andromeda would be the first to fall…and to the planet sized ships and then Riker realized…it’s the Borg…they are ancient and have spread all over the universe with one goal in mind…

     Riker was beginning to see the unfolding of the entire universe but the Guardian broke the image…

Guardian: Not yet.

Riker: Why?

Guardian: You will know in time.

Riker sat alone in the Ready Room. His entire fleet had gathered at Gamma Hydra and was preparing for the final invasion of the Breen Confederacy. Riker would begin this task by fulfilling an old order: destroy Ghasa Den. From there he would ignore the rest of the Breen fleet, which was greatly diminished, and destroy the Breen home world. The Breen would be broken, and would flee from their space. The Federation could then pursue these forces until they were destroyed.

Then it would be time to deal with the Tholians…

 

Ghasa Den

32

Rear Admiral William T. Riker was getting a true sense of himself. He ordered the fleet to depart. It would take six days to reach the Ghasa Den system. The Breen would be waiting for him.

Riker new this phase of his journey was coming to an end; but he couldn’t help but think of new beginnings. What would his Imzadi say about his travels since her death? In this moment the Admiral realized that Deanna was always in his thoughts…even if she was silent…almost watching him from her ghostly plane.

Riker had an issue to resolve regarding his Imzadi. His love. His life. He got up from his desk after the fleet got underway and went down to Cargo Bay 18. He stood before the Guardian was about to speak when he felt someone behind him.

Garak: Good evening, Admiral. I thought you might find you way down here when things got slow.

Riker: Oh?

Garak: Should I tell you why you’re here?

Riker: Just checking-

Garak: You’re contemplating going after Deanna- saving her right before her ship explodes.

Riker: (Rubbing his head) I don’t know what I was going to do.

Garak: That’s how it always starts. That’s actually how I executed my first assassination. I’ll tell you about it sometime. Just so we understand each other- I don’t oppose you going after your wife. I have someone I’d like to retrieve as well. I’m sure that is true for all of us. How many men would we lose if they learned of this object’s true power? How many would stay on their path to Section 31?

Riker: (Considering Garak) You’ve talked to it? Haven’t you?

Garak: Ask me, Admiral…

Riker: What would happen?

Garak: Most likely one of two things. You’d either be reunited with her to live a longer life…or…

Riker: Or?

Garak: She would die over and over again…forcing you to try to intervene through the Guardian time after time. You would eventually go insane- and I would be forced to kill you.

Riker: (Surprised look) I see…

Garak: That’s not a threat Admiral- I suspect I’d be doing you a favor. Nevertheless, Section 31 can’t have its master mentally broken. It can’t be allowed. Too much is at stake.

Riker: Yea…

Garak: But there is the other issue…with her living that is.

Riker: What’s that?

Garak: Could you live with it?

Riker: With?

Garak: Her hating you for what you’ve become…for not being able to accept the changes you have endured in becoming the leader of the most ruthless and dangerous organization in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

Riker: I can live knowing she is alive. The universe is a better place with her in it…even if she’s not with me…

Garak: Then what are you waiting for?

Riker didn’t answer. He stared a moment at the Guardian and then glanced briefly at Garak before leaving the cargo bay. Garak lingered a moment and considered his commander. Riker clearly wanted his wife back; but he was unwilling to put the future at risk over a selfish venture. Curious indeed…this requires more thought…

***

     The fleet entered Breen space with very little resistance. Most likely the ships that were attacking were either skirmishers or acting independently. In either case- they did little, if any, harm to the fleet. Riker was beginning to understand the Borg…resistance is futile…his fleet was inevitable…a force of nature…and the Breen were caught directly in its path.

Riker had by now rejoined the “Daylight” fleet, as it was called by the Ghost Fleet, and was sitting in the Ready Room looking his fleet deployment when O’Brien called him to the bridge. Garak was in command of the Ghost Fleet which sat cloaked a light year away. Garak’s mission was to hold unless called for- they were his emergency reserves and would only intervene if the battle went bad.

O’Brien: Admiral, Admiral Denatra is reporting reserve forces ready. They sit two light years behind us.

Riker: Roger that. Advise her to stand by until phase two.

O’Brien: Aye, sir.

O’Brien was serving as the XO for the Titan. Although unusual, it wasn’t unheard of to have a senior enlisted serve as second in command of a starship. His executive officer was promoted and sent to the USS Leviathan to take command of the lead Titan Class vessel. The Titan Class starships were dreadnaughts; pure killing machines. Riker had amassed a number of these ships in preparation for this phase of the war and planned to use then to their full potential.

Lt Cmdr. Ybarra: Sir? 3200 ships have just come into sensor range. They are sitting five hundred thousand kilometers from Ghasa Den.

Riker: Last stand…

Lt Cmdr. Ybarra: Sir- intelligence reports indicate a much smaller number at Breen.

Riker: Probably to cover evacuations.

Riker decided to break his fleet into pieces and attack the Breen combined fleet at multiple points. About a thousand Dominion ships and a much smaller number of Tholian vessels were in the formation ahead. Fluidic warships were not present but Riker suspected that they would show; most likely as a surprise element. Riker sent a coded message to Denatra: expect fluidic warships to surprise from behind in attempt to encircle- hold until fluidic warships arrive and engage.

Denatra acknowledged signal but new that taking on the fluidic warships was going to be painful- especially since they were already outnumbered by nearly a thousand ships.

Riker looked at his list. He was expanded the number attack formations to twelve. Each formation would be led by a Titan Class vessel. Following immediately behind are the Galaxy Bs, Soveign, Nebula Bs, and Royalty class ships. Each formation would have a number of PrometheusClass vessels that will be getting their first real taste of combat. The rest of the ships would fall in behind the Prometheus line.

Riker’s fleet broke into its respective groups. Up front were the Titan Class ships USS Kraken, USS Leviathan, USS Medusa, USS Cthulhu, USS Gorgan, USS Gargantuan, USS Dragon Turtle, USS Smaug, USS Abyss, USS Kong, USS Primus, and the USS Unicron. The Leviathan would hit the enemy lines first.

Riker didn’t stop the fleet to organize. Rather, the ships got into position as they moved. As soon as Attack Formation One was ready they charged. In short order the others followed suit. Riker’s vessel, the Sovereign Class USS Titan, was housed in Attack Formation Three and would be hitting the left side (Breen right).

The Leviathan fired seven VGER cluster weapons which split into five pieces each; rupturing the shields of thirty five enemy vessels. The Leviathan then unleashed 35 torpedo bays and 52 phaser banks and began to pound the Breen center. Behind this monstrosity the Galaxy, Sovereigns, and Nebulas swung around the lead vessel and made a push for the rear of the formation. The Royalty Class ships remained close to the Leviathan to guard it.

Riker watched as the Primus unleashed her firepower with the same result. The commander of the Primus charged forward too fast and began colliding with the smaller Tholian and Dominion ships, blowing out its deflector dish and rupturing part of its chassis. Eventually the Primus had to stop and operate as a stationary platform. Riker ordered his Prometheus Class warships to move ahead of him and take point.

The Titan Class ships were performing brilliantly. It reminded him of stories he read about Hannibal’s use of war elephants against the Romans. Each one of the formations pushed deep in the enemy lines with devastating results. Riker watched on his screen as the enemy fleet flew around the Primus. Most of the vessels that directly engaged the Federation dreadnaughts were destroyed straight away. It reminded him of past battles with the Borg.

 

The Breen were desperate. If the Federation defeated this fleet they would lose everything. Doing exactly what Riker had expected, the Breen called for the fluidic warships; and in short time a singularity appeared behind the Federation fleet. Riker sent a message to Denatra: fluidic warships entering theater.

Denatra warped her fleet into the battle; bringing Romulan and Klingon warships and hit the Grak from behind. The Grak had managed to inflict some damage to the Federation fleet but it had to regroup. A group of fluidic warships converged on the Primus. They circled a larger ship and linked their weapons to the center vessel. A huge blast of energy shot out from the center fluidic ship and hit the Primus. The blast ripped right through the chassis and set the hull on fire. The ship leaned to the side as escape pods retreated from the ship.

Riker ordered all Prometheus vessels to turn around and engage the fluidic warships. As they approached the Grak’s vessels the Prometheus ships activated their multi-vector attack mode and tripled their numbers. By now Riker’s group had taken heavy losses but reached the rear of the enemy formation and turned to the left side of the Breen lines where he would link-up with the Leviathan.

On the Breen right, the Unicron, the Kraken, and the Smaug linked their groups and crushed the heavy Tholian battleships; the entire right side of the line was preparing to collapse. In the center the Dominion ships began suicide runs to slow down the Federation dreadnaughts. The USS Kong was stuck by seven Dominion ships; the last of which was a Jem’Hadar battle cruiser. The Kong took critical damage and exploded. The USS Abyss tried to move in to reinforce but was hit by numerous Breen ships and was also destroyed.

Seeing the success, and fearing the firepower of the Titan Class vessels, the enemy fleet began to swarm the gigantic ships which switched to defensive firing. The Royalty Class ships assigned to escort the dreadnaughts reformed their barrier to protect the Federation ships. They too were targeted and in short time dozens of Royalty Class ships were destroyed.

Riker considered calling to the Ghost Fleet but they had to stay covert for the foreseeable future. Instead Riker sent a subspace transmission and in 15 minutes 330 Borg Cubes and Diamonds arrived and hit the enemy fleet from behind. It took two more hours but the Breen-combined fleet was defeated. They fought to the last ship…

 

Riker thanked the Borg as he had in the past but the Borg didn’t stay to talk- and Riker found that troubling. As he had been doing, the Admiral went to Cargo Bay 18 and stood before the great monolith- the Guardian.

Riker: Why are the Borg not communicating with us anymore?

Guardian: They no longer trust you.

Riker: Why?

Guardian: They believe you have a Guardian- but they cannot prove it.

Riker: What do they intend to do with you?

Guardian: Take control of the galaxy and beyond.

Riker: This ship can never be alone. We will have to move you. I know where…

Riker couldn’t tend this matter at present. It would have to wait until the war was over- which would be very soon…

 

Riker’s fleet approached Ghasa Den for the first and only time. Sensors showed there was still a significant population on the planet, despite having enough time to evacuate. The Breen deployed planetary defenses and began firing at the fleet. Rather than trying to bring down the entire defense grid, which included space-based and ground platforms, Riker concentrated on opening a hole in the nearest area of the defenses. It took two hours but the fleet was able to breach the orbiting platform perimeter and neutralize synchronous ground weapons.

Denatra had joined Riker on the bridge of the Titan to oversee this phase of the battle. The commander and his Romulan adjutant took a few seconds to consider each other, and then Riker turned and nodded to his tactical officer. Riker ordered his fleet to retreat at full warp after a glowing, pulsing ball of light shot from the Titan. On the screen Denatra watched as the weapon detonated and consumed the planet in fire. Everything that had once lived on Ghasa Den was gone.

***

     Riker found himself standing before the Guardian yet again. He wished he could see the future- understand it with clarity. Then what? He didn’t know how long he stood there before O’Brien entered the cargo bay.

O’Brien: Garak said I might find you here.

Riker: Did he?

O’Brien: He told me of your dilemma…(after a brief pause) I don’t know what I’d do if it were Keiko. At first I thought “that’s easy- go after her- no brainer.”

Riker: And then?

O’Brien: I couldn’t stand losing her again. Making her suffer more than once…and feeling the pain of it all, all over again. There’s something else you should consider, sir.

Riker: What’s that?

O’Brien: How she’s gonna feel when she learns that her world was totally destroyed…what she’s going to ask of you when she finds out how you saved her.

Riker: I have to opportunity to save the entire planet!

O’Brien: Or you have an opportunity to see it destroyed again…maybe in a worse way next time. Betazed’s life cycle ended- it was destined to happen…and so are the consequences. You have to rewrite history- and not even the Q could do that.

Riker: So what do I do? Let her go? Pass up an opportunity to save billions of lives?!?!?

O’Brien: Accept the world as it has unfolded- and accept your role to be sure it never happens again…Garak wanted me to stop you from going through the gate- to shoot you if necessary…on stun of course. But I’m not gonna do that. You have to choose- but understand- whatever you do can affect all those you have responsibility for…

With that, O’Brien left the cargo bay; forcing Riker to a decision. He bowed his head allowed the tears to flow…then he turned around and walked away.

 

 

Oblivion

32

The Federation fleet regrouped after Ghasa Den and approached the home system of the Breen. The Breen had been smashed all over the quadrant, leaving only a thousand ships to protect the home world. There were no fluidic warships, no Tholian destroyers, nor any Domion battle cruisers. The enemy alliance had put their all in the last battle…and lost.

Riker felt a great sense of satisfaction; at least in part. The Tholians had lost nearly twenty five hundred vessels during the Breen conflict; and the Dominion about a thousand. The fluidic warships lost about two thousand…but the Breen losses were staggering. Riker’s estimates put the Breen fleet losses at about seventy five hundred; with dead in the billions. Despite the sickening feeling he got thinking about all the dead among his enemy; he resolved himself to finishing his task. After all, he could either count his enemy’s dead- or he could count his own.

Riker sat in quiet solitude of his Ready Room. While this mission was coming to a close he felt the burden of the future. The next mission would take the Federation Alliance deep into the Beta Quadrant…

 

Five million kilometers away from the Breen home world Riker’s fleet came to a stop. He wanted to give the Breen time to flee their world. He expected that any remnants would travel deep into the Gamma Quadrant; but no ships moved to leave the system. Riker considered his enemy: somehow killing his home world was significantly more challenging emotionally than previous world assaults. This one was final- and the Breen weren’t leaving.

 

On the Breen surface every Breen left alive stood in rays of the morning sun. There was no noise among them. No discussion. No panic. No pleading. No running. They stood in face of doom with the same emotionless silence they possessed when standing in the majesty of their sun.

The Breen wore environmental suits. Not because they needed to; but because they so revered their world that they covered themselves in shame…for in the mind of the Breen, nothing was as majestic, nothing was more sacred, than their home world. But now that death was upon them- they did something unusual…

As if choreographed, every Breen began to undress. The first thing to come off was their gloves. The dark, grey, moist skin immediately dried and hardened in the sunlight. This was deliberate. Then piece by piece the Breen took off their suits leaving only their helmets. At last, each soul took off their helmets. No outsider had ever seen their face; for while they were ashamed to show it to their world- no one was worthy to look upon them.

The Breen lifted their faces towards the sun. For many, this was the only time they have ever breathed the free air of their world…and it would be the last…

 

Riker watched as the last of his ships lined up behind his ship. Because the Breen did not launch an assault on his fleet, Riker ordered the ships to turn about and prepare to retreat. He considered sending them away; but the he thought no- we are all responsible…He would force the fleet to watch the end of the Breen. It wasn’t a punishment- but an act of respect; respect for their enemy- and respect for the weight of their actions on this day.

 

No one would know that the Breen are a telepathic species. All at once, the entire planet began to hum the song of the Breen. Outsiders would have been amazed at the gentle sounds emanating from this species. It was a song of love for their world…and a love for life.

The breeze was calm on this day…and the sun gentle and warm- almost as if the planet knew death was near and chose to comfort the life on her surface before the inevitable came to pass. The Breen turned their heads upward toward the sun, closing all six eyes in preparation for their fate.

 

Riker turned and looked at his crew. What would Picard say to him now? He loved his mentor but he had been haunted by Picard’s ghost since his death; and Riker couldn’t help but think of Macbeth in this moment. But Riker’s actions were just…but painful. For a moment he wished he was nothing more than a First Officer on some vessel deep in space. He suddenly resented Garak, who had joined him on the bridge for this last task, and looking intently at him…and he hated General Cain…but it was just a flash…and then it dissipated. Riker knew that this war was his…and this task was his to finish…and his alone. But before he ordered the execution of his enemy he had one other task to complete…one last homage to pay to his mentor.

Riker: I’m about to destroy the home world of our enemy the Breen. All those on the surface will not survive. I might very well be exterminating their entire species. If anyone has any objections you may come forward without fear. Anyone? Anyone at all???

Garak: (After a moment) Admiral, no one here is happy with what WE are about to do…but we all understand that the Breen forced us into this position. They brought it on themselves…and if we don’t finish them they will find a way to attack us again…

Riker looked at his crew and all seemed to agree with Garak. They were sickened by this task but they feared the Breen deeply; and believed that the Breen would find a way to kill billions more Federation citizens…Riker turned back to the view screen, took a deep breath, and then nodded…

 

The Breen watched as a multicolored light entered their atmosphere…it was time. The Breen, who are used to looking upon the universe through the dull green infrared sensors of their helmets, stood in wonderment at the deadly beauty of the falling object…In the far horizon the object seemed to disappear for a moment only to transform into a pulsating for storm that moved into the atmosphere, then back downward to engulf the whole planet…to engulf them.

No one would see the Breen closing their eyes as the fire approached. No one would know they didn’t scream or run. No one would know they stood and sang as the fire swept over them, devouring the entire planet. No one would know why the Breen felt the need to fight the Federation. No one would know their love for the Founders. The Breen died as they lived: in quiet dignity and mystery…

 

Riker stood on the bridge and watched as the plasma swam over the planet. He ordered all ships to retreat to five light years away. Once in warp the Admiral left the bridge and watched his work from the darkness of his Ready Room. It was beautiful…the Breen will live again but through the reorganized DNA matrices of the GENESIS EFFECT. IN a billion years the genetic ancestors of the Breen will breathe again…but this time as something completely different. May they live in peace…

In two days the light of the explosion faded…the Breen were gone forever.

 

Atlas

33

Riker sat in the office of his star base. He was jumped ahead in promotion, brandishing three blips on his collar. Lord Groth would be looking to him once General Stevenson retires. The admiral wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Riker felt like he carried the weight of the universe on his shoulders. He was still absorbing all the information passed to him by General Cain. On the forefront of his mind was the relationship that the Federation had developed with the Borg. It began during the Dominion War. The Borg approached the Federation and offered help. For reasons unknown, the Borg hate the Dominion but have not openly challenged the Changeling; although they could.

Then there were the events on Cardassia. Only Section 31 knew that the Borg had helped the Federation defeat the resistance and incorporate Cardassia Prime. It was the Borg in the Chrystal Palace and inside the Klingon Communications building. Riker’s mind swam with images of the Cardassian special teams screaming while trying to get away from the Borg drones. They were not successful. But even more so, Riker could look back to the beginning of the Federation and see the memories of his predecessors as if they were his own. It was these memories, and the emotions and understanding that accompanied them, that gave him the strength to finish his task at Ghasa Den.

All this knowledge gave Section 31 an unbelievable edge over all other intelligence organizations in existence. Even the Founders, as changelings, couldn’t neutralize this advantage. Riker would add his voice to the future; and with it he would seal the fate of the Dominion and the Borg. Until then- Section 31 had other pressing business…

***

    Deep in the Beta Quadrant the last group of Breen were dying. Two hundred Breen were sent into the Beta Quadrant to find the last known super weapon of the T’Kon. After an exhaustive six month search the Breen were successful. In a dense nebula the Breen found a base and gigantic machine, comparable to a Dyson’s Sphere. However this particular machine was not what the Breen intended to find, they were looking for something like it, only smaller. No matter, this machine would work even better…The Breen received word that their home world was destroyed just as they figured out how to enter the machine. It was a ship; but it wasn’t T’Kon in origin…

The Breen didn’t know that others were watching them. They too wanted the Federation dead. But after the display of power at Gracc’ccuss this old enemy of the Federation decided to quietly wait until a greater opportunity presented itself. So when the Breen crossed their territory they guessed that they were looking for something and this quiet enemy perceived its opportunity had arrived.

The Breen entered the great machine only to find it dark, quiet, and dead. Had they not seen the outside of the contraption they would have believed that they were in a great cave system; for the walls did not look constructed.

According to their readouts the structure was unbelievably ancient; 250 million years old. Because they had anticipated that the machine was T’Kon in origin they weren’t prepared to translate a different language. The Breen began working intently to negotiate their technology with this discovery. However they were unable to finish…

The Breen fell under attack while they were working. At first they thought the Federation had discovered them but it soon became apparent that this force was different. The Breen fought the invaders all over the machine. Disruptor fire and green fireballs of energy were flying freely between the combatants. From the higher halls to the lower halls the battle ensued. But after two days of battle the few remaining Breen found themselves cornered. A group of invaders charged the smaller group of Breen. Although killing several of the enemy, they pounced on the Breen, killing all but one.

The invading commander picked up the last remaining Breen off the ground. The Breen attempted to fight off the enemy but it was no use, the invaders were strong…With little effort the chief invader squeezed his hand closed and crushed the throat and neck of the Breen…taking his life. He then threw the Breen to the ground and crushed his head.

He ordered his men to the panels. Half a day later they called their leader to the control room. They entire team stood in silence as the panels lit up and danced with life. The floor beneath them shook as the gigantic machine lurched forward for the first time in a long, long, time. The leader smiled…for it was time the Humans felt the power of a long quiet enemy. The Gods willing…he and his Allies would break the Federation Alliance for all time- and make way for only race truly great enough to rule the galaxy…

 

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