Before the Storm

The Empire discovers the Federation and hatches a plan for control- can the Federation resist?

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4. Rescue and Rebellion

It had been six long months since Admiral Beniga had made his recommendation to explore the Milky Way. In that time, the Imperial Star Destroyer Raven had been to earth, to Vulcan, and even made a brief trip to the Klingon home world. Now back in his guest quarters at on Deep Space Nine, the tired Admiral slumped into a chair, staring at his reflection in the small cabinet mirror. With a sigh Beniga rubbed his temples, trying to sort out everything that had happened, and how to proceed from here.
The Klingons, after their initial belligerence, had suddenly backed off upon realising how powerful Imperial ships were. From a distance they maintained the attitude of an angry cat, snarling, hissing, but not daring to do more than that. Jade had barely needed the Force to determine that they still felt the Empire was actually a Federation conspiracy for local dominance, despite the Empire being several orders of magnitude more advanced than the Federation. The notion was amusing to Beniga, and he failed to understand how the two vastly differing societies had ever been allies.
After meeting with the Vulcans, Jade had appeared to be unsettled to Beniga’s eyes. Upon asking her about it, the admiral had learned that the Vulcans were intensely emotional beings, every one of them was a bottled up volcano of passion and intensity. Their discipline was incredible, and their focus to logic and wisdom impressive. It was no small wonder that the Federation’s science academy was located on Vulcan.
Explaining the benefits of the Empire to a race like the Vulcans had seemed like a challenge at first, but by appealing to the logic of close ties to a powerful empire (not to mention the chance to learn about thousands of new cultures and explore thousands of new worlds) Beniga felt he’d won the Vulcans over. Their cousins, the Romulans, were a different matter, and even the experienced Grand Admiral had felt under scrutiny from the incredibly secretive people. They were unwilling to expose anything about themselves, and yet determined to weasel information- any kind of information- from Beniga and his team. It was amazing that Vulcans and Romulans shared the same roots- Vulcans were immensely calm and controlled, with a curiosity to learn; Romulans were distrustful, secretive and they very much more passionate than their Vulcan relatives.
Cardassians too, were secretive, though they had seemed much more eager to please their guests than the Romulans. Which wasn’t surprising, given the broken state of their world and territories. Wrecked hulls drifted in their space, and buildings crumbled all over Cardassia; the scent of death and decay seeped into the pores of the Imperial visitors.
Jade had deduced that the Cardassians wanted allies, strong allies to help them rebuild, at least until they could take over themselves, even if that meant stabbing their friends in the back. They were willing to employ any deception, any little plan they had to achieve their dream of becoming powerful again.
Other races were scheduled in to be met with- the Breen, the Tholians, the Gorn… but the main powers were firmly ahead of the game of those races, and so also the ones Beniga expected to deal with the most.
One thing that stuck out across all the major players were their remarkably homogenous societies. There were few signs of regional variations in cultural practices or religions, something which was in stark contrast to the human cultures of the Milky Way, which were noticeably different. Still, in the end, it didn’t matter- in fact, it would make them easier to absorb some day.
The plans for that day were well underway, with Mara Jade’s subtle Force workings on Federation officials, combined with Imperial propaganda, working magic. The Federation Council had only a week ago approved construction of an Imperial base on the outskirts of it’s space, a base that would allow for ‘trade, tourism, and the chance to truly learn about one another’, as the good Ambassador Tolik had told the Council when the idea first came up. What the Federation didn’t know was that the base would also serve as an Imperial intelligence facility, and a place to spread the Emperor’s influence from.
Some Starfleet officers had expressed concern about allowing the relatively unknown and mysterious Empire an outpost, citing the very same reason of intelligence gathering. Jade was on that case though- the dissenters would soon fall from grace.
At that thought, Beniga smiled.

***

“And voila, you owe me another drink.” Bashir smirked, first at the glittering darts board, then at Miles O’Brien, who scowled.
“I still say you’re using your genetically enhanced abilities.” Bashir stepped back, putting on a hurt expression.
“Why Miles, I’m horrified that you’d think that.” He said dramatically. Then another sly grin tugged at his lips. “One of these days, you’ll admit I’m simply a better player.” O’Brien simply huffed, growling as he went to fetch the drinks.
Watching across Quarks, Mara Jade sat in quiet contemplation, musing over Bashir’s features. The good doctor was charming, had a great smile, and a sexy voice to go with it. It helped that he also seemed to look perpetually tanned, despite living on a space station. Tuning out the distractions of the other patrons, Mara kept her focus on Bashir, even though she knew she had other things to do. A budding user of the Force she may have been, but she was still a woman, and she still wanted certain things from life.
The other man, O’Brien, returned, grumbling about the cost of the drinks, and Bashir laughed. Mara gritted her teeth to stop herself from sighing.
Six months of meetings and observations and missions had not altered her first impression of Bashir as being a good man, if a little naïve. It was good to be back on the station, and perhaps get the chance to take up the doctor on his offer of a tour last time around.
“You’ve been stirring that drink for about fifteen minutes, let me guess, Quark mixed it horribly wrong?”
Mara jolted, startled, and horrified with herself for being startled. She’d tuned out other distractions so completely that her Force training had not sensed the woman now standing by her table. With black hair tied back, passionate brown eyes, and dark brown spots on her face and neck, Jadzia Dax looked every bit as confident as Mara usually sensed her to be.
“Mind if I join you? Only otherwise Quark will make the moves on me, and then my fiancée will kill him.” Jadzia flashed a smile at the younger woman, who nodded with a smile of her own.
“Mmm, I think you’re right about Quark’s drinks. Well, this one at least. He called it a Tarkalian sunburst, supposed to be an explosion of fruity flavours, but all I can taste is water and the occasional bite of… is it a lemon? That yellow, sour fruit?”
“That would be a lemon, one of earth’s more evil products.” Jadzia laughed softly. “So, what had you so engrossed, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Oh, just… thoughts.” Despite herself, Mara felt her cheeks flush a little.
Jadzia seemed to notice. “Aaah, I see, I sometimes do that myself. Don’t tell my fiancée, but sometimes I muse over other men. Oh Spock, you are so handsome!” The Trill giggled to herself, and Mara chimed in, even though she hadn’t the faintest idea who Spock was.
Slyly, though enough for the trained Mara to notice, Jadzia took a glance in the direction she’d been looking in, letting a low ‘ooohhhhh’ at the sight of Bashir and O’Brien. Turning back, Jadzia now wore a wider smile, a teasing glint in her eyes.
“So, one of those two eh? Well, I ought to warn you, the way they behave sometimes, you’d think they were married to each other!”
Mara’s eyebrows shot up; did she mean they both married? She felt herself deflate ever so slightly.
The older woman caught the look, and moved quickly to correct herself.
“Oh, I don’t mean they’re married; well, O’Brien is, but Bashir is very much the bachelor.”
“Ohhhhh.” Having just deflated, now Mara was inflated. Jadzia noticed that too, chuckling. For a second time, Mara flushed. Jadzia smiled warmly, and refrained from teasing any further. She didn’t want to make the young woman uncomfortable.
“I can remember when he was chasing me around like a lost dog. He tried so hard to be charming and dashing. Still, he’s matured since then. He’d make a good catch.” Eyes twinkling, Jadzia glanced at the time, and her expression turned to one of horror.
“Is that the time?” I’m sorry… I didn’t catch your name?”
“Jade, Mara Jade.” She replied softly.
“Well Mara, it’s been nice talking to you. Good luck with Julian.” Breathed the Jadzia with a deliberately romantic air.
At the dart board, Bashir laughed again in good-natured ribbing of O’Brien, who growled and threatened to aim the next dart at Bashir’s head.

***

Rapping his fingers on the polished oak, Captain Sisko felt yet another wave of boredom, frustration and jealousy pass through him simultaneously.
The boredom was simply because nothing exciting had happened for the past few months. With the Imperial delegation travelling here there and everywhere, and everyday station life not really calling for a great deal of the captain’s time, Sisko had been at a loose end. There was no Dominion threat to keep things charged and exciting anymore, no dangerous moves by the Klingons, the Cardassians were still rebuilding from the Klingon invasion, and the Romulans were quiet, as usual.
Frustration had crept in because the excitement to be had in the Milky Way was to be found where the Imperial teams travelled to, and Sisko wasn’t involved. Despite being the man who’d made first contact with the Empire, Sisko’s involvement with them now didn’t amount to a hill of beans.
The jealousy had been an extension of the feeling of frustration. Whilst Sisko had been effectively shut out of proceedings, Starfleet had allowed Captain Picard to be present at nearly every meeting between Federation and Imperial officials, and the Enterprise served as the transport for Imperial delegates whilst in Federation space. In effect, Picard was getting all the glory whilst Sisko festered. It was maddening.
Worst of all though, was the Federation Council’s recent approval of Imperial plans to build a small base on the edge of Federation territory. The approval had been granted because of the recommendation of one man- the venerable, the exceptional, the ‘best captain in the fleet’ the one and only, Captain Picard. After only six months the Federation was going to allow the still relatively unknown and vastly powerful Empire to set up a base on it’s doorstep, and even Picard had not noticed the horrible risks involved in that! Sisko didn’t even notice that he gnashed his teeth at that thought.
The door chimed, and in strode Major Kira, attuned to her captain’s moods from years of serving together. Her experiences with the Cardassians had taught her caution and discretion, and she too could see the dangers inherent with inviting the Empire onto the doorstep. To allow an outpost to an unknown quantity was dangerous, and the Federation was unwise to even consider the idea, let alone approve it.
“This week’s duty roster.” Said the major.
“Thank you, just leave it on the desk.” Replied the captain.
And that was that. Kira left the office, leaving Sisko to brood on the mistakes of the Council, and how Starfleet had wrenched away possibly the most important first contact of his career. With the wormhole irrevocably redirected, Sisko didn’t even have the spice of a Dominion threat to hold him to Deep Space Nine, yet his mission to aid Bajor wasn’t over yet. He had his orders and until he was told it was time to go, he would stay.
He doubted he’d stay a second longer than he had to though.

***

So far, the charting of the Milky Way had been going well. Lt. Commander Jos was fascinated by it all. The wild plasma storms of the Badlands, the beauty of the Orion and Crabbe nebulae, cultures in various stages of development, unlike the technologically homogenous galaxy he was from. Seated at his science station on the Raven, he trained the sensors on everything he could, collecting data for both the computer and himself to analyse later, with help from a dedicated team of Imperial scientists that had come along for the ride.
Commander Gregari seemed totally uninterested in any of it. But then, Gregari had never been open-minded, or interested in learning anything that didn’t further his career. The only reason the commander was present was because he had been ordered to act as commanding officer for the scout mission, which at the time, had left a distinct look of displeasure on his face. Jos smiled at the memory of that.
Right now the Raven was on its way to the Delta Quadrant, following up a lead obtained by Jade’s little theft of a data rod. A race of machines, the Borg, had been mentioned, and a possibility existed that they could be a threat, given their ability to adapt to enemy technology, though Federation scans and assessments of Borg power generation still placed them far below the level of the Raven. Jos was confident that Imperial firepower would be more than adequate to deal with any threat.
Whilst en-route to Borg space, orders were in place to look out for the USS Voyager, a Federation ship lost in the Delta Quadrant nearly four years earlier. If that ship could be found, Beniga wanted Gregari to bring its crew home as a gesture of friendship and compassion. The common opinion amongst the crew was that developing stronger ties with the Federation was a complete waste of time; why all the subterfuge and friendliness when a single Star Destroyer could defeat them? Jos understood though, that Beniga didn’t want to create a new breeding ground for rebels and terrorists to tie up Imperial forces for years to come. A Federation that was firmly on the Empire’s side would also fight for the Empire.
Coming out of hyperspace, sensors immediately alerted Jos to several objects nearby. There was a blue giant star and a Neptune-sized gas giant orbiting about two million kilometres away. What grabbed Jos’s attention was the presence of other spacecraft.
No less than eleven cube-shaped ships, each one three kilometres squared, were orbiting the gas giant. Life-signs were difficult to determine, Jos thought he picked up some vague biological patterns, but they were scrambled.
“Commander, sensors are detecting eleven alien ships, each one a cube, three kilometres cubed.”
“Lets see them.” Barked Gregari, standing from his seat. The viewer displayed the hot gas planet, and upon magnification, the alien ships.
Green glows came from deep within the bowels of each ship, a series of criss-crossed scaffolding that looked like it had been hastily thrown together. They matched the images of Borg ships that Jos had seen from the Federation data.
“Ships match the configuration of Borg vessels. I recommend we raise shields. If they were to beam in a boarding party, it could prove to be a headache.”
“Agreed. Shields up, prepare to power weapons.” Gregari was in his element now, moving into full military command mode. After months of boring diplomacy and sickening niceties, he was spoiling for a fight, and dearly wanted the Borg to give him an excuse to start one. In a way, a boarding party from the Borg would have been fun, though he didn’t want to lose any crewmembers on his watch. That would be embarrassing.
“A Borg ship has detected us and is moving to intercept. ETA two minutes.” Reported Jos. “Shall I run a complete scan?”
“Yes, do it.” Came the clipped response. Jos duly did so, running his sensors over the cube. It was a curious combination of different technologies, of various ages, with a few central systems that shared the same identity.
“We’re being hailed.” Reported Comms officer Duiek.
“On screen.”
“We are the Borg. You will lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your technological and biological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
“Well, that certainly was friendly.” Remarked Duiek dryly.
“Sir, they’re attempting to lock a tractor beam onto us!” Reported an anxious new weapons officer. “They’re trying to modulate to the patterns of our shields, but they’re struggling.”
Gregari smirked. This was the vaunted danger of the Milky Way?
“Load up a 20 megaton proton torpedo and fire at the source of their tractor beam. We’ll start out small. Fire when ready.”
From one of the missile ports, the torpedo leapt free from it’s ship and hurtled through space, crashing into the Borg ship and detonating. Hundreds of drones were vaporised and the tractor beam disabled, a big gaping crater in the cube where the emitter used to be.
Gregari’s smile grew wider. The burning hole in the enemy ship took up fifteen percent of the facing area.
Jos poured over his readouts.
“Their tractor beam is gone. There are power fluctuations and heavy localised damage in the blast zone. There are also some smaller power surges throughout the ship.”
The Raven rocked suddenly, but not enough to knock anyone off their feet. Returning fire, the Borg cube ran it’s cutting beam against the Star Destroyer’s shields, then started up another tractor beam. Again the tractor beam couldn’t penetrate the Raven’s shields, and the cutting beam, Jos noted, wasn’t making the barest dent in shield strength.
“Shields are… well, at one-hundred percent, unless you wish to get very, very picky about it Commander.” Mentioned Jos jovially. “They still can’t lock on with their tractor beam.”
Clasping his hands and sitting back down, Gregari’s face looked positively evil as he considered his next move. Out there a Borg ship was trying in vain to apply a tractor beam, to an Imperial vessel! Even the attempt was an insult.
“If they want to play with tractor beams, then I suggest we show them how to do it properly. Engage a tractor beam of our own, full power, and begin to peel that ship apart like the tin can it is.”
Grinning, the weapons operators went to work. A dozen invisible tractor beams snared the Borg, and began to work at sheathing and tugging against each other. Drones on the cube heard their ship begin to break up, metal groaning and power systems failing as entire decks cracked and twisted. Numerous deep breaches like knife wounds emerged, and thousands of drones were spilled into space, flailing helplessly. Ignitable gasses held true to their name as hundreds of small explosions peppered the cube, both on the hull and deep within the ship. Whole sections of the cube sparked and crackled, until, in under a minute, the whole ship went dark, it’s power systems compromised beyond repair.
Cackling maliciously, Gregari savoured the kill. The Borg had just had their first taste of Imperial power, and not even the light turbolasers had been brought to bear!
“Commander, the ten other cubes are moving toward us, their weapons are armed and shields raised.” Stated Jos. “Might I suggest disabling one of them so we get a few examples of their technology?”
Making a disdainful noise at Jos’s endless enthusiasm for other technologies (when would the man learn that it was only the Empire’s abilities that mattered?), Gregari nodded.
“Might as well. Weapons, tell the gunners to fire ion cannons at the first cube.” He said tiredly. “Hold nothing back on the rest.”
As the nearest cube entered firing range, and launched torpedoes of its own that inflicted no harm to the Raven, blue streams impacted on the ship’s hull, and stopped it cold. It tumbled through space, unable to function, only able to watch as it’s sister ships ran into a wall of green energy bolts, torn apart in seconds, every one of them. Gone were the huge cubes, replaced by small, scattered debris.

***

Deeper in the Delta Quadrant, a pair of eyes narrowed as a report came in, a disastrous first meeting with an unknown vessel of immense power. The creature vowed to track the ship down, and make it hers.

***

Instead of finding the last hope of the Force, Obi-wan had been found by him, quite unexpectedly. Assisting the young man, he had scared off the Tusken raiders, and from them on, dedicated himself to teaching Skywalker the ways of the Force. It was destiny for the youth he looked at to restore balance to the Force, Obi-wan knew it. Already he had imparted what he knew, told Luke of the vibration that had ran through the Force and that seeking out its source was vital to the future of all things. His skills with the lightsaber, his understanding of the energy around him, all this Obi-wan had done his best to teach. Now it was up to Luke.
Turning his head, the old Jedi, the last Jedi, stared for a moment at Darth Vader, a grin of confidence on his face, before raising his blade and closing his eyes, allowing the Force to engulf him and claim him even as Vader swung his saber for the killing blow. In that instant, he felt everything, the life of the galaxy, of the universe, the power that linked it all together, and he sensed the source of the disturbance that had troubled him. He saw Vader, he saw Luke, he heard Luke scream and fire wildly at the Sith Lord. No, it was not time, Luke was not ready for Vader.
Run Luke, Run! He pleaded. Still dazed, not sure where Obi-wan’s voice was coming from, too shocked to argue, Luke shot at the door controls to block Vader’s way into the hanger, and did as Obi-wan asked.
Flowing through the galaxy, Obi-wan moved to finally complete his destiny, and to give that last push to help Luke fulfil his.

***

Many had sacrificed their lives, and now they were depending on him to ensure their lives had not been lost in vain. Red Five shot like a missile down the trench, sweating profusely, panting from exhilaration and fear. Wedge had just been hit again, losing power. Red Five told him to go, and from a selfish perspective mentally cursed that no TIEs were drawn away.
Swerving, rising, ducking, Luke did everything he could to avoid the green bolts of deadly energy that the lead TIE sent his way, but at these speeds, in such a confined space, it was damn near impossible. Heart pounding, it almost stopped as his X-Wing shuddered violently- he’d been hit! Incoming data from R2 stopped suddenly, and the display showed that the plucky droid had been hit.
Then Obi-wan spoke to him, in his head. He urged Luke to use the Force, to trust his feelings… somehow, the strength Obi-wan had possessed was now in Luke. With a confidence he had never felt, he switched off the targeting reticule, and let his instinct take over.
Behind him, the lead TIE lined him up once again, this time for the killer shot. Luke was focused now, and couldn’t break off. He was so close.
The next thing Luke knew, the two flanking TIEs were gone, destroyed, and the lead TIE had broken off. Totally lost as to what was going on, it became clear with a moment of pure joy as Han’s voice came over his speaker.
“You’re all clear kid, now lets blow this thing and go home!”
Luke didn’t need to be told twice. He launched his torpedoes, and they found their mark. Swiftly the remaining Rebels fled, and behind them the mighty Death Star blew up, a huge fireball in the darkness.

***

“Heh, who would have thought that me, me, one of the biggest rogues of the galaxy, who get a medal for bravery.” Drawled Han Solo, as he, Luke, Chewbacca and the other Rebel troops left the ceremonial hall, making their way to the landing bay. It was unsafe for the Rebels to remain at their base any longer, not now the Empire would come at them with a furious vengeance. Chewbacca made a roaring noise, and Han growled.
“What do you mean ‘certainly not me?’ You don’t think your old pal Han is brave? Well, what about all those smuggle runs eh? You don’t do those and not be brave!” Boasted Han proudly, all but puffing up his chest.
“It doesn’t take much to hide from the Empire all the time.” Remarked Luke with a teasing twinkle in his eyes.
“Hey kid, next time you’re facing an angry Imperial patrol with TIEs swooping over your head, you tell me what’s brave and what’s not.” Retorted Han.
“he already did that remember, just now?” Luke and Han jumped, and Leia smiled, having crept up on the arguing group.
“And who flew in to save the day? Yours truly, and was there even any profit in it for me? No! I was totally selfless!” Han’s face took on a positively self-assured look.
“I know, and I’m still not sure it really happened. It was astonishing.” Grinned Leia. Han sighed and shook his head incredulously.
Hanging back, Luke watched his friends for a moment, considering what to say. The ever-present ripple in the Force that he was now aware of was tugging on him, applying pressure on him. Obi-wan had told him that the future of not one but two galaxies was at stake, and that finding the source of the curious (and annoying) vibration in the Force was the key to that future. How though, could he ask the Rebellion, or ask anyone to follow him to a place he wasn’t sure he could find, to seek out something he couldn’t describe? ‘Hi Han, Leia, say, the Force is telling me we need to turn left now.’ It was insane, why couldn’t Obi-wan have shown him where to go, or what to do once he got there?
Noticing that Luke had fallen behind, Leia turned, hazel eyes displaying concern.
“What’s wrong Luke, you look worried.”
Taking a deep breath, Luke decided to take the plunge. He’d already taken out a moon-sized battle station using the Force, which was a point in his favour.
“Leia, there’s something out there, something that Obi-wan warned me about, that could be important to the future of the Rebellion. I don’t know what it is exactly, only that Obi-wan thought it was the key to the future.” Looking sheepish, Luke paused, wondering how he sounded. Probably like a delusional fool.
Sure enough, Leia was giving Luke a quizzical stare. She opened her mouth to speak, but Han got there first.
“So, this… ‘something’, Obi-wan didn’t happen to give any clues about where it was it what it does, just that it was ‘out there’? Kid, do you know how many ‘something’s’ and ‘out there’s’ there are in the galaxy? You gotta be more clear about this thing than ‘out there’!”
“It does sound pretty incredible Luke, I mean, yes, Obi-wan could do some extraordinary things, but to feel something from across the galaxy? Plus, I hate to say it, but captain fly-boy here is right, the galaxy’s huge Luke, and there’s a lot that’s still strange and unexplained. Unless you know where this ‘something’ is, we can’t go looking for it; we’d probably die of old age before we found it.”
Luke sighed. Leia was more soothing in her approach than Han, but their point was the same- unless Luke could point to the location of this thing on a starchart, searching for it was pointless.
But then it occurred to Luke, that maybe, just maybe, there was a way to locate this thing… a way that Obi-wan would be proud of.
“If I can find out where this Force disturbance is, will you help me get there?” Luke asked of Leia. The former senator looked sceptical for a moment, but, seeing the urgency, the belief in Luke’s eyes about this, she nodded slowly, wondering what she was about to get herself into.

***

Shooting through space like a startled cat, the U.S.S Voyager scrambled to avoid the Borg sphere that pursued it. Green bolts of energy splashed over Voyager’s aft shields, rocking the ship and causing the lights to flicker. The emerald darts of phaser fire didn’t slow down the sphere for a second. The ship rocked again, as another salvo reduced the aft shields to a paltry seventeen percent.
“Aft shields will not hold up against another hit Captain.” Informed Tuvok, tactical officer for Voyager. Janeway glanced briefly at the Vulcan, eyes gleaming with anger and determination. She would not yield to the Borg…
“Full torpedo spread, detonate just in front of the sphere, lets see if we can blind their sensors, fire!””
Orange globes moved swiftly to the Borg ship, exploding just before impact. For a brief moment it seemed as though the sphere was blinded, but then still more torpedoes smashed through Voyager’s shields and gouged into the hull, spewing vaporised metal in a fireball.
“Shields have failed, hull breaches on decks 12, 13 and 14, sections 18 through 21!” Tuvok opened his mouth to say more, but then the alarms took on a new tone- intruder alert!
“They must have beamed drones aboard, Tuvok, take a security detail and stop them!” Hastened Janeway.
The entire ship shook, a tractor beam taking hold if it, and Janeway prepared herself to issue the auto-destruct command, expecting drones to beam onto the bridge en-masse.
“Captain, sensors are showing a large vessel, of unknown origin, it has… totally destroyed the Borg sphere… and is now towing us from the battle scene.” From her station, Seven of Nine glanced quizzically at Janeway.
“At the time of my leaving the Collective, the Borg had not encountered such a ship. They are totally unknown to me.”
From the now somewhat tattered Ops station, Ensign Kim piped up.
“Captain, we’re being hailed!”
“On screen!”
“Captain Janeway I presume? At least, you look like her… anyway, I am Commander Gregari of the Imperial Star Destroyer Raven. We are dispatching shuttles with troops to deal with your Borg infestation. I strongly advise you to lock down decks where Borg have been detected, until my people arrive.”
Incredulous, staring at the screen, Janeway took in the human being staring back at her, in a uniform totally unlike any she had seen a human wear, except perhaps that it bore a vague resemble to some Nazi uniforms from World War 2.
“Where… where did you come from?”
The commander calling himself Gregari smiled arrogantly
From a galaxy far, far away. Now Captain, please, time is of the essence.”

***

With forcefields and bulkheads holding the Borg in the aft quarter of the ship, several Voyager crewmembers gaped as the white-suited Stormtroopers marched down to engage the Borg. Carrying Merr-Sonn thermal detonators, and E-11 blaster rifles, they were an imposing sight. Two teams of eight waited as Tuvok opened entry hatches to the infested decks, and down the troopers dropped, immediately looking for signs of enemy activity.
The Borg had already gone to work, with a small number of Voyager’s crew captured and in the process of being assimilated. Once active and intelligent eyes were now cold, emotionless, and faces that were once pink and animated were now pale and lifeless. Glowing greens and low lighting from everything else made them look like zombies.
Assessing the situation, the troopers branched out, waiting for the order to fire. Using hand signals, one trooper took his grenade from his belt, and with a nod from his sergeant, primed and threw it into the midst of a group of drones, who were in the process of assimilating a corridor, transforming the once gleaming silver walls into dark, mangled technological nightmares.
The grenade detonated, and pieces of Borg drones flew from the now burning region. Like a switch had been thrown, the remaining Borg snapped into life, advancing on the Imperial positions, but the drones had nothing to answer the sudden hailstorm of rifle fire; red bolts blowing clean through drone after drone, and blasting pineapple-sized chunks from Borg alcoves and machinery. Relentless, the Borg continued their approach, but the troopers were on the move now, snapping off shots with deadly accuracy. Ducking through corridors that soon became pockmarked and smashed, the troopers effortlessly took out drone after drone, until there was not a single monstrosity moving.

***

“You’ll have to forgive me Commander, only, when we were flung from Federation space, we had no idea that the wormhole could connect with other galaxies. It’s a little hard to believe.”
Janeway ordered two coffees from the replicator in her ready room, then settled down on the couch next to Gregari, passing over the drink. The Imperial commander sniffed it tentatively, then took a sip. His eyes bulged a little.
“This has some kick to it! An alcoholic beverage akin to your earth, whiskey I believe it’s called?”
“Good heavens, no.” Laughed Janeway. “Coffee is a stimulant. Contains caffeine, one of my vices.”
“Ah, I see. On to your query though, I don’t think the wormhole in your galaxy was meant to be able to reach my galaxy. Some kind of accident or process caused one end of the wormhole to shift, but don’t ask me how. Technobabble doesn’t interest me.” Gregari waved his hand dismissively, drinking some more coffee. “Mmm, very tart. At any rate, how the wormhole reached my galaxy is irrelevant, the fact is, the Empire is here now, and we are engaging in diplomatic relations with your Federation. We want to make a gesture of friendship, and we can think of no better gesture than to bring you and your ship home. We can be there in… oh, a little over a day.”
Janeway gaped.
“A day?” She replied, incredulous. Gregari smiled, resisting the urge to take a dig at puny Federation technology.
“We got out here didn’t we, to find you?” Empire propulsion technology has had the advantage of a few thousand years to develop. It’s highly advanced. But enough about technologies. As I said, we’re eager to befriend your Federation. You are human; so am I. It makes sense that we are stronger as a whole, better. The Empire can be a force for good in this galaxy, uniting it under a common flag.” Inside his head Gregari groaned. He was parrotting these words, wishing instead for the quick option- conquest. Oh well, the Borg seemed both stubborn and stupid. The odds were good for a bit of action there. He smiled.
“Come Captain, it’s time to take you home.”

***

On the surface, Sisko was as delighted as anyone else that Voyager was home. The gesture had been unconditional, and it had gone down well at the Admiralty, not to mention the general public. Still, to Sisko, it all seemed too good to be true.
In honour of the event, and to thank the Imperials for their act, a celebration had been arranged in Quarks, and now gathered there were the senior staff of the station, along with Admiral Beniga, Commander Gregari and Mara Jade. Drink flowed freely to guests and customers, as latinum flowed freely into Quark’s coffers. The Starfleet officers looked distinctly uncomfortable in their dress uniforms (understandable, given how horrid they were), and so moved stiffly, much to the amusement of the Imperials.
Sisko made good with the pleasantries, silently cursing how once this was over, he would once again be removed from the equation.
From the corner of his eye, as his glass of Andorian whiskey rested between his fingers, Sisko spied Bashir and the Imperial attaché, Mara Jade settling down in a corner of the bar, talking in low tones. Grinning, Sisko could only shake his head.
“I see our good doctor is making friends.” Jadzia had moved from the bar to stand with Sisko, now herself noticing Bashir and Jade getting cosy.
“Trust Bashir to set his sights on the new girl.” Agreed Sisko. Eyes twinkling for a moment, he couldn’t resist his next remark. “Not jealous are you old man?” He rumbled.
“Ben! No I’m not jealous, I’m engaged remember?” Jadzia playfully slapped her captain on the shoulder, laughing.
Silence fell, as they simply listened to other patrons and guests, and Sisko pondered his thoughts, wondering for a moment if he was letting his jealousy about not being involved with the Empire cloud his judgement on them. After all, soon the Federation would have access to another galaxy, with all the opportunities for exploration and trade that would enrich the Federation. Then there was the little matter of how a single Imperial ship had effortlessly defeated eleven Borg vessels. If the Empire was willing to assist in fighting off the Borg, then Sisko had to admit, even he wasn’t sure if he’d turn down their presence.
So why, despite all of that, did he have doubts?
Was it the pace of it all? Six months had gone by, and already the Federation was willing to accept foreign outposts on it’s doorstep, and full diplomatic relations with a power that was still, for the most part, a complete unknown.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Came the soft voice of Jadzia from beside him, pulling him back to reality.
“Oh, just, wondering if the Admiralty knew what they were doing when they agreed to this outpost… and wishing they’d approve better uniform designs.” Sisko ran a finger along his collar, irritated by the fabric.
“Ben.“ Began Jadzia, voice now firm, but fair. “You’ve been wondering about the Admiralty for the past few months now, and I’ve seen get more and more broody about it over that time.” She paused, lips curling upward in that slight grin of hers. “Why don’t you talk to Starfleet, find out why they agreed to allow this base for the Empire? Raise your concerns with them. You’re a respected captain and they’ll listen to you.”
Sisko smiled wryly.
“Not so respected that I get to run first contact meetings, and not so respected that I’m involved in any stage of proceedings.” He replied lightly, but with an undercurrent of bitterness.
“Look, either you can moan and groan about what’s happened, or you can try to get involved again now. Don’t let me tell what being a captain is all about, but as someone with seven lifetimes behind me, let me tell you that you can’t afford to worry about past events, you can only try to influence what happens next.”
“And with so many lifetimes, I’m sure you’re an expert at moving on, Old Man.” Growled Sisko, smiling a bit more sincerely this time.
Jadzia cocked her head to the Imperial crowd.
“Go, talk to Starfleet, I can cover for you. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a blow-by-blow account of what Julian gets up to.” The Trill’s eyes flashed fiendishly.
“I don’t doubt it. I wonder if someone should tell him, that Miss Jade might not be in these parts for very long.” Mused the captain.
“Ben. Starfleet. Go.”
“Yes Ma’am!”

***

“Good evening Ben, you’re looking sharp.” Ribbed Admiral Ross.
Sisko snorted in humour, but that quickly fell away as he settled behind his desk.
“Admiral, I was wondering if you had a moment to discuss something important?” He asked formally.
“Certainly, go ahead.”
Taking a deep breath, Sisko locked eyes with the Admiral.
“Frankly sir, I think Starfleet and the Federation are making a huge mistake in permitting the Empire a foothold in our territory. We have virtually no idea about these people, or what they are truly like, aside from the fact that they have enormously powerful ships, incredibly fast propulsion systems and more than likely tremendous resources. It is my belief sir, that in face of acquiring such technologies, Federation officials have rushed far too blindly into dealings with the Empire, without properly ascertaining whether they could be a threat.”
On the screen, Ross looked momentarily taken aback. He leaned back in his chair, looking like he was composing a reply in his head. Sisko simply waited.
“That’s quite an accusation there Ben, to say that Federation officials- the Federation council no less, not to mention the top Admirals in Starfleet- are being led by a carrot. If you want I can pass on your concerns, but they won’t take kindly to that kind of a scolding from a captain.”
“I feel it’s necessary sir, that I express my opinions on the matter as strongly as is reasonable. I’d be derelict in my duty if I did otherwise.”
“Ok, I’ll put the message across. Is there anything else?” Asked Ross.
“Thank you sir, and no, I think that about covers how I feel.”
“I’ll let you know how it turns out, but remember Ben, it’s your head on the block here.” Warned the Admiral. “Ross out.”

***

Before Mon Mothma, Luke felt very small, and feared it showed in the form of nervous breathing and profuse sweating. He hoped he was wrong.
In the small state-room aboard the frigate Argo, Mothma looked old. It may have been a trick of the lighting, but as she settled behind her simple wooden table, beckoning Luke and Leia to do the same, the young Skywalker knew it was the stress and fear of the life she led, that had caused the Rebellion’s leader to appear older than she was.
“So, Obi-wan knew of something… something that could save us.” Turning her chair to face the stars, Mothma looked contemplative.
“He was a Jedi, he knew things. He could perceive time and space, understand it all in a way none of us can. I want to believe you Luke, but he had years of training and experience in the Force… you only have a few weeks. I’m sure that already you can sense things that I can’t- but I simply can’t commit the fleet to search for something you can’t pinpoint. Not even if it has Obi-wan’s backing. Space is just too vast.”
Disappointment crept into Luke’s face, though he did his best to hide it. He knew that there was a hope out there, if only someone would give him the chance to find it!
“However, we don’t have to commit the entire fleet…” Mothma swung round to face Luke again. “We can spare a ship, one ship, if I can have your word Luke, as a man who knew Obi-wan, that hope exists out there, that there is a chance for peace in our time.”
This was it. The leader of the Rebellion was putting her faith in Luke, if he could swear honestly that he believed what Obi-wan had sensed was a force for good. He looked Mon Mothma in the eyes, trying to look as open, as honest as he could, to feel as honest as he could.
“I know, without any doubt, as Obi-wan knew, that there is a… power out there, that holds our future, and if we control that power, we can be free.” His blue eyes sparkled, his voice rumbled. He knew he was right.
“Then…” Spoke Mothma slowly. “The chance to find that power is yours.” A smile crossed her lips. “And I think I know the ideal ship for you.”

***

Fuming, Han grumbled as he hoisted case after case of supplies onto the Millennium Falcon. He’d come to the aid of the Rebels in their hour of need, and his thanks? A mission to the middle of nowhere to find a ‘something’ at the request of a kid-just-turned-man, all thanks to the whim of a ghost.
“I better get paid extra for this!” He muttered to himself, straining as an anti-grav unit was pulled up the ramp and into his ship. Han was starting to doubt that he could take off, such was the sheer amount of food, water, medical supplies and weapons that were now onboard.
Approaching the ship came Luke, Chewbacca, the droids C3-PO and R2-D2, and lastly, to Han’s surprise, a fatigue-dressed Princess Leia. For a moment he considered that to be a pleasant surprise, but the thought of a needy, pushy princess on a long-term mission like this promised to be turned his blood cold.
Stepping off the Falcon, Han greeted each member of his ‘crew’, ushering them onboard, but put up a hand to halt Leia, who shot him a dirty look.
“Whoa there Princess, but I don’t recall anyone telling me you were coming.” Said Han.
“Then I guess you weren’t properly informed.” Snapped Leia, who moved to go past Han, who again blocked her path.
“Look, sister, this ain’t no pleasure cruise or luxury trip to a civilised world. We are gonna be out there, for who knows how long, searching for something we don’t even know exists. I don’t think you realise what you’re getting yourself into.” Replied Han.
Leia cast him a condescending look.
“Look, Captain Fly-boy, I know things, and I know people, and I have connections. I can talk our past vile smugglers- not too dissimilar to you- and I have deep pockets. So, I’m coming along, whether you like it or not.” She pushed past Han, who looked contrite for a moment, before cursing and stomping after the princess.

***

Beniga studied the tapes from the Raven with great interest, from the comfort of his quarters on the Star Destroyer. A cluster of Borg cubes came menacingly toward the Raven, only to be torn apart by a hailstorm of turbolaser fire. One cube was left standing by the end, yet it was effectively dead, ion cannons have disabled it.
The same cube was now hovering by the construction crews and work-bees that were building the Imperial outpost, and Imperial scientists had come through the wormhole a few days earlier to begin their study of the alien race. Lt Commander Jos was heading up the team, much to his delight. The young officer had clearly been keen to learn more about the Borg, and Beniga had no doubt that Jos would uncover secrets that would benefit the Empire one day. His first report was due in the next three days, and Beniga was sure it would be huge.
Right now though, his first officer, Commander Gregari, was waiting for him in conference room one.
As he made his way to the conference room, Beniga was sure that Gregari would raise two points. One, the pointlessness of the peaceful approach toward the Federation, and two, the need for more military vessels to launch into a campaign against the Borg. The Admiral was growing weary of explaining the former to the Commander, and so was tempted to agree to a war against the Borg, purely to keep Gregari from making a nuisance of himself in the coming months, as diplomacy and efforts to unify the Milky Way moved up a gear. Gregari simply did not understand what an unspoilt, loyal galaxy would mean for the Empire.
Arriving at the conference room, Beniga found Gregari already seated, studying a data pad. Immediately the Commander leapt to his feet in acknowledgement of his superior.
“Admiral.”
“Commander. Please, sit back down. Now… “ Beniga slipped into a seat as well. “I believe you wanted to discuss a couple of things?”
“Yes sir. Admiral, I don’t understand, why are we wasting our time with these meetings and gestures of friendship? The Federation is but a bug to us, and spending all these time to befriend a bug seems like a waste of resources, rather than efficient use of them. We could have already been in complete control of the Alpha Quadrant by now if we’d invaded.”
Beniga smiled, largely to himself. Gregari was saying exactly what he’d thought the younger man would say.
“Commander, complete control is a relative term. Yes, in terms of a military victory, we could already have been the dominant power here, but the people of just about every government in the Alpha Quadrant would be against us, making use of paramilitary tactics against our garrisons and ships. We’d need to bring in a steady stream of supplies to support forces here, and that could alert the Rebellion back home that we have a campaign going on. Imagine the horror if the Rebels collapsed the wormhole, with hundreds of thousands of Imperial troops still here? Such an event might cause the collapse of the Empire.”
Gregari simply looked impassive. Beniga doubted that the Commander agreed with him for one second.
“I see. But be that as it may, there are still threats here that cannot be negotiated with. We’ll need a military force- and a logistics train- to deal with them.”
“I assume you’re referring to the Borg? On that count, I agree. For one, the goal will be to totally wipe them out, thus meaning we won’t need troop transports. For another, they are the Federation’s most dire threat. Destroying them will bring favour for us.” Beniga leaned back, wondering if he was about to regret letting Gregari off the leash. “I sent a message through the wormhole about an hour ago, requesting extra ships, mostly frigates and cruisers, but including some Star Destroyers and interdictors, for you to lead against the Borg. In total, you’ll be in charge of some three hundred vessels.”
Looking delighted, Gregari raised his chin.
“I will make certain that no Borg survives our assault.” Something about the hunger in Gregari’s eyes showed Beniga that the Commander meant that. Still, if it helped the political aims of the assignment…
“Wipe them out, all of them.”

 

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