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Part I
By Eric Szuminski

S1 - Homeward Bound
S2 - You Are Who You Are
S3 - Too Easy
S4 - Visiting An Old Friend
S5 - Finally, Some Rest
S6 - Chance Encounter
S7 - Secrets Revealed
S8 - Preemptive Strike
S9 - Clone Reunion
S10 - Unlikely Proposal
S11 - Gathering Strength
S12 - A Cold Stare Gone Colder
S13 - The Time To Strike
S14 - Locking Horns
S15 - Sadness And Surprise
S16 - One More Stubborn Useran
S17 - A Reason To Celebrate

S1 - Homeward Bound
The ensuing events following the Battle of Starbase-S.D.L. left the future of Phantom Lord Systems hanging in uncertainty. Captain Azak Vencor was forced to systematically shut down any starships seized by agents of Section 31, including the design facility, P.L.S., itself. Even the mighty U.S.S. Annihilator was reduced to an empty shell, itís crew debriefed and reassigned to other Starfleet posts. Only a handful of starships still functional remained loyal to Vencorís cause.
Having evaded Section 31 for a few days, Vencorís Task Force had found its way suspended somewhere in open space between the Federation and his home star cluster. The fleet was making final preparations for the short trip through an artificially created wormhole.
Azak felt the need to let his fleet know what might be waiting for them on the other side. He activated a comm channel between the ships in the fleet. "This is Captain Azak Vencor," He gave a short laugh. "Well, I might not be a captain in Starfleet anymore, but maybe Iíll be captain of a new federation. When we cross the threshold of the wormhole, we will be entering the Useran Empire. These used to be my people, but when I left them they had enslaved billions of sentient, intelligent beings for their own personal greed. I am looking for a diplomatic solution that would save many lives, but these people can be hard headed at times. Force may become necessary. But youíve all shown that duty and honor comes before your own lives, and for that I thank you."
Azak continued, "We may run into some tough opposition. The same people who constructed the large vessel we destroyed may very well be building another one. But even their regular navy is strong, with equal technology to our own. But they have a weakness; they were not trained at Starfleet academy or by my own personal instruction. We can win."
Azak closed the channel. "Open the wormhole."
From the combined power output of the entire fleet, a massive wormhole swirled open. Slowly each ship floated into the wormhole, with the last ship the wormhole closed shut.
The wormhole opened again at the selected coordinates, the home star system where the Useran Empire ruled. A small green and blue planet could be seen through every main viewscreen of the fleet.
Okay, weíre here, now what? Thought Azak as the green planet grew bigger each passing second.
"Captain, Iím detecting a starship. Unknown class." Reported the tactical officer.
Then, just as the far away sun disappeared behind the green planet, a large starship appeared around the limb of the planet.
"Okay, now weíre getting somewhere." Azak said slapping his hands together and standing up. This brought some odd stares from the bridge crew. "Open Useran channel one."
"Channel open," called the comm officer.
"This is Captain Azak Vencor to Useran vessel. We wish to communicate."
"Thatís impossible, Vencor is dead. He was killed along with his great experiment. You are-"
"I know heís dead, I helped kill him. I am his clone." Azak corrected.
"The clone that stole all his research?" The voice asked coming from the channel. Visual contact had not been made; they were either unwilling or unable.
"The very one," Azak responded.
"The council has put a large bounty on your head. Because of you study of the star feeder had to be redone from scratch. Three years it took to build the thing."
"And less than a second to destroy it. Thanks for the research material."
"I plan to collect that bounty, but you with a fleet of warships seems impossible right now."
"Look whoever you are, Iím not looking for a confrontation. Iím here because when I left, the Userans were enslaving sentient creatures. I came here to, well, save them. So Iím asking if there is anyway to make that happen diplomatically."
"I am First Controller Bytaan, and, no, a diplomatic solution is not possible. Our servants are our legacy; our power is measured by what we conquer. If you were Useran you would know that." There was a pause. "The Federation has no right telling us how to treat our citizens!"
"We are not from the Federation, and Iím glad I am not Useran, not in my heart anyway. But I do care about your "citizens", and Iím willing to do anything to free them."
"And the Useran Empire will do anything and everything to stop you." The voice said and quickly the channel was closed.
"Captain, the Useran vessel is plotting an escape course." Reported the tactical officer.
Azak turned back to sit at his command chair then activated the tactical and command holoscreens. He gave orders to four ships to capture the Useran battleship. Orders were given to target its engines and take them out; two unprotected nodes on either side. He didnít like having to resort to an action such as this, but it seems the only way.
The V.T.F. Recluse, OíNeil, Sentinel and Demon Power all recent veterans of the battle with the Useran super weapon sped away from the main battle group at full impulse. All ships raised shields and initialized red alert. Azak watched as the four ships converged on the battleship.
First was the Recluse firing a salvo of photon torpedoes impacting the shipís forward shields. Not hoping to destroy it, but to confuse its sensors and open a hole for the OíNeil and Sentinel to strafe underneath the giant ship. Nearly twice the size of a Galaxy-class explorer the Useran ship was big but no match for the quick and powerful P.L.S. ships. As the OíNeil passed beneath, phaser strikes impacted at vulnerable areas the Useranís shields failed to protect, causing hull breaches and explosions. The OíNeil swayed back and forth avoiding hanging superstructures, and never passing a chance to fire phasers.
The Sentinel was closely behind following a similar course, but added to that rolling over and over to allow both top and bottom phaser arrays a chance to do damage. Like a corkscrew the Sentinel ended its ride shooting away from the Useran ship as large explosions tore apart the hull.
Azak smiled as transmissions from the OíNeil to Sentinel simply said, "Show off." The Useranís engines had been destroyed and now came the hard part. The Demon Power was to pull in very close to the Useran battleship and extend from its keel a boarding tube. The boarding marines would take it from there, new heavily armored marines covered head to toe in an experimental battle suit.
The Demon Power was right over the Useran ship; quickly a slender metal tube extended down and touched the hull.

Useran defense marines had been notified of the impending breech and were moved to the appropriate section. Engineering had been cleared of all crewmembers and the Userans took up defensive cover waiting for the attack. They gripped their energy rifles and pistols with firmness as sweat began to cover their humanlike faces. One by one they each counted out readiness.
When suddenly from the top of the hold an angry spark appeared and slowly began cutting a wide circle just a few short meters away. The attack was on. The sliced plating fell down with a deafening thud, while the Userans tried to cover their unprotected ears. And following the plate was a large dark figure, a little larger then any normal humanoid form. But it wasnít any kind of biological creature; it was making mechanical noises and moved with stiffness unlike anything the Userans had ever seen. They waited until it had moved into the light before preparing to attack it. Another figure fell through and followed the first, it moved out of the way and another fell through the hole. These were definitely the attackers they were warned about.

More and more of his platoon had jumped into the alien ship, and more to follow. "Switch to sensors, lighting in here is minimal." Ordered the platoon sergeant. And just as he did, the sensors immediately detected life forms right behind him along with energy readings. He moved his suit around and activated his light source, a beam of light pierced the darkness showing cowering Userans with rifles in hand. "Lay down your weapons and come out with hands on your heads. Do this and you will not be injured." The sergeantís voice boomed throughout the engineering section.
Suddenly streaks of energy fire rained towards the V.T.F. marines, but harmlessly were absorbed by their suitís shield system. Like mini-starships the shields could take some punishment, but after a while the shields will break down. Seeing that their fire was having no effect the Userans halted.
"Lay down your weapons or you will be fired upon." The sergeant reiterated.
A Useran soldier suddenly stood up preparing to fire; when the sergeant brought up his phaser cannon, a weapon attached directly to his arm and powered by a power cell in his backpack. The sergeant quickly stunned the soldier before he could fire.
"I will repeat-" the sergeant started but stopped as another barrage of enemy fire converged on him. "Take them down!"
The platoon of V.T.F. marines suddenly began firing their phaser cannons at the Useran marines. Energy pulses crisscrossed each other, some hitting their mark but most flying into walls. There was an explosion as someone hit a power line sending a shower of sparks and debris all over. The platoon of marines marched forward, firing their phaser cannons into the Useran defenders. In short seconds, twenty Userans lay dead, several more stunned, but they were still fighting. The last remaining defenders organized behind workstations and other equipment to stop the V.T.F. marines. But their efforts proved futile as they too were silenced.
Sergeant Tipícota quickly set up his troops at the entrances to engineering. He activated his commlink to his superior. "Engineering section has been secured."
"Copy that sergeant, hold your position. Weíre still mopping up the rest of the ship. Stand by."
Using the armored marines as a diversionary tactic in order to draw the most opposition, normal boarding parties took other sections of the ship with very little resistance. In just a few minutes the entire ship was theirs.

Captain Azak Vencorís form appeared, after a haze of blue transporter light, on the Useran vesselís bridge. Azak quickly looked the bridge over noting the different posts and the commanderís chair. The commanderís chair was raised like a godís pedestal to look down on the subordinates surrounding it. Azak then saw Lieutenant Janner coming from a closing door holstering her phaser.
"First Controller Bytaan was uncooperative, sir. Heís lying in his office stunned." Janner reported coming up to Azak.
He then noticed her hair was tussled and a purple spot forming on her cheek. "Are you all right?" Azak asked and immediately took a look at the bruise.
"Itís nothing sir." She immediately shrugged off.
"Weíll get a medic to take a look at that." Azak said and motioned for a nearby medic. The medic began healing Jannerís shiner. "So, how was your first starship assault?"
Melinda Janner flinched as the medic shot a healing beam over her cheek and almost blinding her. She managed a smile. "Very interesting sir. I would like to report though that this ship was very lightly manned. There were only thirty or so defending marines to contend with. On a ship this size I would have expected more."
Azak nodded approval.
"Captain Vencor, twenty-three Useran vessels headed this way from another system. Theyíll be here in two hours." Vencorís first officer aboard the Phantom Lord reported from Azakís commlink.
Azak looked immediately to Janner. "Whatís the status of this thingís engines?" Azak hoped the ship could be salvaged and refitted with P.L.S. technology for their cause.
Instead of answering directly, Janner tapped her communicator pin. "Commander DilíLan, Captain Vencor wants to know our status."
"Tell his highness, that we have a better chance of getting out and pushing this thing along."
Janner made a cautionary smile. "Uh, commander, he heard that."
There was an almost inaudible curse from the other end. "Iím sorry captain, but truth is-"
Vencor activated his communicator. "Itís okay DilíLan, that was a bad call on my part. I didnít want to take the chance the ship could escape and alert the Useran fleet. But it looks like that was pointless. What information can you gather about the ship? Is she outfitted with more or less advanced technology?"
"From what I can tell, sir, sheís much less advanced than we are. The warp drive or whatever theyíre using is capable of only about warp five. The sublight drives are abysmal, and her weaponry is nothing but substandard junk. If this is the zenith of Useran technology, we have a good chance of winning this."
Azak nodded. "Vencor out."
Janner looked to Azak for any signs of possible trouble.
"This is an old warship. When I left there were ships in dry-dock more advanced than this. I wouldnít be surprised if they still had Dominion spacecraft. Which reminds me-" Azak trailed off and reactivated his communicator. "Vencor to Commander Henson,"
Janner looked to the side not believing what she had just heard. Dominion ships? Here?
"Here sir," Vencorís first officer responded.
"Have you been able to identify what kind of ships are headed our way?" Vencor asked. He had a sinking feeling about this.
"No sir, thereís some kind of jamming field surrounding the fleet. They are broadcasting Useran ID. Do you suspect anything?"
"Itís possible those are Dominion warships. Some of them at least, but nevertheless I want the fleet on standby alert. Weíre going to scuttle this ship."
"Yes sir, Iíll be awaiting your return."

The last demolition team had just departed the Useran vessel along with the shipís crew, tri-cobalt devices set up, when the Useran fleet arrived from warp. Indeed from first glance, some of them were of Dominion design. But the bulk of the fleet was of similar design to the "star feeder" Azak Vencor had taken into Federation space.
The twenty-three ship strong Useran fleet immediately began to surround the slightly smaller P.L.S. fleet of thirteen starships. Azak saw the Useran fleet clearly on his tactical and command screen floating just before him. He easily issued orders to the fleet to initiate a set of maneuvers when the time presented itself.
"Captain, weíre receiving a hail from the lead Useran ship," called the operations officer.
Azak looked up from his screen to address the situation. "On screen lieutenant."
The lieutenant did as ordered and taped a few commands. The main viewscreen flickered to life showing the first controller of the Useran vessel.
"I am First Regional Controller Vandian of the Useran Empire. You are the clone of Azak Vencor?"
"Yes I am. I am also known as Azak Vencor."
"You do not have the right to have that name. The real Vencor was a god to us and you disgrace him."
"I could really care less. Look, Iíll get right down to it. Iím here to liberate the countless millions the Useran Empire has enslaved. Iím not looking for a fight, but their freedom is very important to me. I will do anything to help them, including brute force."
The first regional controller immediately began to laugh out loud. Azak watched the man bounce back and forth laughing hysterically. "The first second our citizens look at you theyíll kill you on the spot." He managed while chuckling. A few more seconds later and he came back under control. "Theyíll kill you because it was Azak Vencor who conquered them. And to make matters worse, he was the one who conducted the first experiments on them. So good luck to you in convincing them you are nothing more than a clone."
Azak did nothing but listen to the man ramble.
"As regional controller in this sector and for the homeworld, I will only destroy your vessels and kill your crew. Iíll leave you with our citizens, Iím sure they have a nice punishment for you." Just before the screen went blank, the first controller pointed at his screen signaling for an attack.
"Theyíre firing!"
A deadly stream of green colored energy beams streaked from the Useran fleet with groups of torpedo fire mixed in also. Just as the wave of fire came at the P.L.S. fleet, as a whole, it initiated the maneuver implemented by Captain Vencor. The fleet went at low warp to a high angle of retreat, but didnít go far. They appeared again right over a section of the Userans, and immediately fired phasers and torpedoes. Two Useran vessels were instantly obliterated; two Dominion fighters were also lost.
The odds were almost leveled, but the surprise was gone. Nearby enemy ships had reacquired weapons lock and were firing. Four P.L.S. ships were hit, but not destroyed; they began to scatter. Useran ships began to turn on their axis for better angle of attack followed by weapons fire from the rest of the fleet. It was time for the other surprise.
The derelict Useran ship recently captured by P.L.S. suddenly exploded. A great blossom of fire and burning fuel burned like a newly constructed star. Nearby Useran ships were thrown like plucked rose petals while many others exploded.
The remaining Dominion fighters and battle cruisers pursued P.L.S., their phased polaron beams absorbed easily into the shield grid of many P.L.S. vessels. The Dominion ships chased them until losing the fleet when they went into warp.

S2 - You Are Who You Are
After a day of continuous high warp speeds, some warp cores had to be shut down. Azak had to remind himself that most of his fleet was nothing more than brand new prototypes from the yard. Though he would trust each ship and its captain with his life, there were bound to be some breakdowns. The fleet came to rest in orbit around a desolate moon. Repairs were started immediately and the comm channels came alive as each shipís chief engineer began consulting each other on how to manage the warp cores.
Captain Vencor ordered the V.T.F. Stewart and the three Spitfire-class space superiority cruisers to scout out the system and make sure they werenít followed. Luckily, their warp cores were designed and made to take extreme warp stresses.
In his ready room, Azak punched up sensor readings of the moon below. There was an old network of underground tunnels, and abandoned buildings on the surface. What he thought at first glance to be asteroid impact craters turned out to be directed energy impact craters. The moon seemed to have been attacked, and from slowly dissipating energy residue, not long ago. Already thinking about setting up a new construction facility, Azak figured he could use the existing tunnel system. Of course, over time the tunnels would be replaced by reinforced duranium, but for now the chalky rock would do.
He would have to transform the Dominanceís main shuttlebay as a makeshift industrial replicator before setting up the new complex. He figured heíd have a new facility in about a year, if crews worked every week. Faster if enough androidsí shift rotations allowed some for the menial labor.
From his ready roomís only window the moonís silvery brilliance flooded in, casting everything in shadow. Feeling at home, Azak had the lights dimmed to almost nothing, but still had to see the lump of molten rock sitting on his desk. The only piece of his homeworld he had been in contact with for almost ten years. He hoped he would have a chance to walk on his homeland again with his friends at his side.
That was of course if he survived this personal campaign of his. What would Admiral Hodge say about it? A foolís errand? A great cause, as long as you donít get killed?
Azak smiled at that.
"Sir, weíre receiving a message from the V.T.F. Obligation. Theyíve encountered a Useran vessel; they claim to be from a resistance organization. Theyíre asking for Federation help." Azakís second officer called over the comm.
He sighed. No rest for the restless. "Iím on my way."
Azak appeared again on the bridge of the Phantom Lord. With the enlarged saucer section of a Galaxy-class explorer and two sets of Akira-class warp booms, the Phantom Lord was a mix and match of different starship features. But in each warp boom was a warp core, giving the ship unprecedented power.
On the main viewscreen he could see the Obligation - a small Spitfire-class ship similar to a Defiant-class; bred for combat. It seemed to be escorting a small Useran designed ship, Azak guessed only five people on board. One look to sensor readings displayed on the operations officerís board proved him wrong, almost twenty people were on board. He also noticed they were almost in transporter range. "Raise shields."
"I think they might try boarding us. Thereís no way twenty people are needed to run a ship that small."
"Aye sir, raising shields."
Just as the small Useran ship was entering transporter range, the Phantom Lordís shields activated, as did the rest of the fleet. Instantly, the operations officer detected a transporter lock and an attempt to beam over. The female officer looked up at Azak. He smiled and walked to his command chair.
"Open a channel please."
As before, visual contact was not possible. It was an older vessel, and therefore not equipped with visual communication. "I commend you on your attempt to capture my vessel. Although you would have found that most difficult."
"Who is this?" A voice called from the Useran ship.
"I am Captain Azak Vencor." Azak said matter-of-factly.
There was a brief pause. "What? I donít understand. Vencor was killed with his star feeder device. How can I believe you?"
"Well if you had visual communication you could see me. But if you need proof, maybe we can arrange a meeting. I understand you are from a resistance movement?"
"Thatís right, my name is Tolna, Iím a member of the NollíDukahn. Are you from the Federation? Those look like Starfleet ships."
"Uh, sort of. Weíre a special division of Starfleet, a design bureau of starships. However, lately Iíve been on a quest to free all those enslaved by the Useran Empire." Azak said once again. I hate repeating myself. "Iím Vencorís clone."
"Huh, a lofty goal. And you call yourself Azak Vencor? Why? Thatís suicide. If you met with my superiors, their first glance at you, and youíd be killed."
"So Iíve been told. I understand the risk, but I have proof that would make me a clone. I have an information module at the back of my neck. Only clones have these, it would be very harmful for a natural born creature to have one. And once your superiors are convinced of this, I would like to join the resistance. Iím sure my fleet would serve very well in your cause."
"Yes they would, but I will only take you to see my superiors. You will beam aboard my ship in a few minutes, and weíll take it from there."
"Thatíll be fine. Iím to assume my people should not be allowed to follow us?"
"Thatís right. If thereís one indication weíre being tracked, Iíll kill you."
Azak admired the manís determination. "Iíll see you in a few minutes then."
And with that the channel was closed, the image of the small Useran vessel still prevalent on the main screen. Azak turned to his first officer.
One look from Commander Henson spoke whole volumes to Azak. "I know what youíre thinking."
"Yeah, I know you know what Iím thinking, but why are you still going to do this?"
Azak began donning a heavy black jacket, and placed in one of the inside pockets a tiny type-1 hand phaser. The tiny device, the size of a large African cockroach, would hopefully be missed if anyone patted Azak down for weapons or tracking devices. Azak had forgone a Starfleet uniform ever since being made a marked man by Section 31. There were others who had done the same, but many still wore the Starfleet uniform, hoping that maybe one day they could return. One last thing Azak did was to remove the communicator pin from his shirt. "Trust, Brian. Trust."
"Trust that theyíll kill you, or trust that Iíll get you out in the nick of time."
Azak began walking for the turbolift. "Well thatíd be nice, but that would violate their trust. I trust that I can gain their trust."
"Youíre beginning to confuse me. How many times have you done this?" Commander asked without really thinking about what he was asking.
"How many times have you done this?" Azak wondered. Azak could sense his first officerís state of unease.
"Well, I, uh-"
"Right," Azak interrupted.
They were both in the turbolift heading to the transporter room on the next deck below them. They exited, turned left and there was the transporter room. Commander Henson relieved the officer on duty and manned the console himself.
"Remember, donít follow us, donít do anything; just continue with repairs and explore the moon. Youíll get my signal in a few hours or so. If not, head back to Federation space, and good luck to you."
"Youíre wishing us luck? I think youíre going to need it more than us." Henson replied. He noted the coordinates to the so-called resistance ship were correct with the Phantom Lordís internal scans of the ship.
"Perhaps," said Azak. "Energize."

Azak rematerialized standing in the aft section of the small Useran ship. He immediately saw a man standing before him; he assumed it was the man he had spoken to. Azak then noticed the two rows of armed people to his sides, they only happen to be pointing their weapons at him.
They were a combination of humanoids and several different species of alien Azak didnít recognize. Their weapons were also a mix of different types, and no doubt with harmful effects. They were definitely a ragtag bunch, with tattered clothes and ramshackle looks. Some were even bleeding. They looked like they had just come from a fight, a wrong time for Azak to come beaming over.
"Welcome," the man in front paused for effect. "Azak Vencor." There were immediate growls from the resistance fighters. "I hope you donít mind if youíre not awake for our trip."
"What do you-" Azak began but was hit on the side of the head with the butt of a rifle. Azak stumbled to his left, was caught by another and thrown back into the ring. Azak tried to fight off the effects of the blow, but failed as another finally knocked him unconscious. His seemingly lifeless body crumpled to the shipís deck.

Azak eased his eyes open. He had no idea how long heíd been out, but from the pain in his neck, it was probably a long time. Light from somewhere was flooding into the shipís interior, but more than that a cool breeze was floating over his body. He had been left on the floor of the transport, the boarding ramp lowered. Slowly he sat up, and noticed his jacket was gone with his phaser. He was also not alone, there was someone up in the front working on the ship; he could hear small clicking noises coming from him. Azak stood, and instantly a wave of hurt attacked his head. He reached up to feel a swollen lump and felt it was moist. Further examination, he found dark crimson blood on his fingertips. That was not good. Azak searched his surroundings for a piece of cloth. He found none, so he tore away a piece of his shirt and held it to his temple.
Azak walked, slightly uneasily, to the front of the transport. "Excuse me-"
The alien being quickly turned around, his eyes full of rage. "Get out of here!" The being shot out of the seat and grabbed Azak by his arm and shoulder; then proceeded to shove him out the shipís hatch. Azak landed on solid concrete, and slid a few centimeters.
Azak got to his hands and knees after a while, and started staring down what seemed a road, his eyesight began to blur and redden. He was more injured than he thought.
Suddenly, he heard footsteps coming toward him. Azak tried to stand, but was then kicked in the side. Azak coughed, and spat blood. He turned his head to see who had just kicked him when another kick landed across his jaw. Azak spun around on the street and landed face up.
He felt a bolt of water slap his face. Whoever it was just spit on him. The person began walking away; pebbles crunching under their feet, and cursing in some foreign language Azak didnít know. Azak closed his eyes. Was he getting what he deserved? Or what his original deserved? Did it matter?
Yes it did. He didnít deserve this. He wasnít Azak Vencor, at least not the one who had conquered and enslaved these people. His own thoughts fired up his inner being, and somehow Azak found the strength to stand. Clutching his side, only because that was what hurt the most, Azak strode down the street.
He received some very unwelcoming stares and some more words he didnít understand. Azak could only ignore them, and do his best to keep walking. But when another person tried to hit him, Azak defended himself. The person went down, which was a big mistake on Azakís part, for this brought the attention of almost the entire village or whatever he was in. The village was a run down, bombed out shantytown of sorts with hollowed out buildings and crumpling walls. Desolate people littered the sides of the street huddling together for warmth. That mistake, not his first, and hopefully not his last, was regretted instantly as a gang of young men approached him.
The first young man, a tough looking reptilian, grabbed Azak by his shirt. "So, the mighty Vencor likes pushing down innocent people? Watch me as I push you down." The reptilian began to shift his weight, in hopes to bring his leg around and trip up Azak. As he did, Azak head butted the reptilian and dodged to his right. Azak managed to sidekick the reptilian away, but he didnít have the strength to put him down.
After Azak had performed his surprise reversal, the only one he had energy for, another of the gang came at Azak. He couldnít see this new attacker, his vision was still blurred, but its shadow was big. Faking a collapse, Azak dove under the attackerís double punch and rolled. Coming out of his roll, Azak hopped up quickly and swiped his foot around in the air kicking the closest hood to his left in the face. The big brute managed to turn around, stepped forward and backhanded Azak. He seemed to fly through the air, landing a foot away. His back on the concrete Azak spit out the blood, which had accumulated in his mouth along with a separated tooth.
The last goon was about to land one of his own on Azak when the first attacker, the reptilian shouted, "No! Heís mine." The reptilian stepped past the huge brute and the other goon to force Azak on his feet. The reptilian drew back a fist, held it, then-
"Solvidad! Stop that at once! Release him." A voice called.
Azak could see the reptilian, Solvidad, looking off to the side. He was obviously not happy with the command, but also couldnít disobey. Solvidad dropped Azak back on the concrete. Azak groaned as he hit the pavement one last time.
The gang moved away as someone new came towards Azak. He looked wearily at the person, an old woman. She threw a rag at Azak. "Here, clean yourself up. Tolna is waiting for you." She said with no emotion.

Azak was escorted into a small building, a house in fact. But with computer equipment and armed troops filling the rooms, it obviously wasnít a residence. Azak was too concerned with his injuries to care about what was going on as people quickly moved about doing their business. He was led up a flight of stairs to the second level, where every step was pure hell. Azak just knew his side was going to bust open, if not for the last step bringing the group to a single door. One of his guards knocked on the wooden door.
"Come in," a voice replied from the other side.
The guard opened the door, and practically shoved Azak in. "Here he is, sir."
A man hunched over a table looking at star charts turned around. "Thank you. I donít think heíll be a problem, you two go get something to eat."
The guards left, leaving Azak alone with the same man he had met on the transport. There were also two other people in the room, looking at computer screens, they both turned to regard Azak. The same look he received while walking down the street. A kind of sickened look, as if what Azak looked like had in fact invoked extreme nausea. Actually, he imagined he looked pretty foul, not to mention the odor.
"Would you care to sit down?" Tolna offered.
Azak followed Tolnaís outstretched hand to a chair at his side, and fell into it.
Tolna chuckled. "Iím sure you feel much better."
Through pain, Azak managed a few words, "What the hell was this all for? Donít you believe me about being a clone of the original Azak Vencor? I didnít deserve all that!"
Tolna swooped down on Azak like a crazed bird looking for food. "You listen to me, clone. I donít care if you deserved that or not. You represent a tangible example of that butcher. People were lining up to get a whack at you. Youíre lucky most of those people are on assignment, or you surely would have been killed."
Azak just stared at Tolna.
He backed away from Azak, grabbed another chair and sat down nearby. Tolna tilted his head to look Azak over. He looked away to something across the table, and reached for a small box. Tolna opened it up and pulled out a slender brown object. Some kind of cigar, Azak figured. He had heard of them, also had heard that they slowly killed you from the inside out. Something he didnít need at the moment. Tolna offered one to Azak, but he refused.
Undaunted, Tolna proceeded to burn his cigar at one end and suck on the other. What a strange habit. Azak thought. He was instantly assaulted by the curious smelling smoke and choked. Tolna smiled at Azakís reaction.
He seemed to remember something, because Tolna suddenly stood up and walked behind Azak. He forced Azakís head down, and touched the implant at the back of his neck.
Azak squinted; every inch of him seemed to hurt now. "Now do you believe me?"
"Not quite. What was your activation date, what was your batch number?" Tolna wanted.
Azak was surprised by the question. He hadnít thought about all that since he first joined up with Starfleet. Azak had to think for a second, it had been a long time. "I was born on the second day of the third month of the tenth year since the Userans first arrived in the star cluster. My number was batch 000126, but I was a single batch. Donít you remember, Dr. Tolna GiíGilo?"
"How do you know me?" Tolna asked.
"I have your knowledge. You might recall your information engrams having been stolen? I stole them and used them." Azak replied.
"You stole my engrams from the laboratory? Those were not for you, they were for my clone! I wanted to live forever, each life in a new clone, transferring memory engrams to the next." Tolna raged. Then he realized something. "You stole them all. All twenty of our engrams, the entire team!"
"Thatís right."
Tolna took a drag off his cigar, and blew the smoke at Azak. Tolnaís anger began to subside. "Why?"
"Well, I first took the information modules because I wanted to help the Federation win their war against the Dominion. But later I realized that I could use the information to drive out the Userans."
"Us," Tolna added.
"Yeah, us." Azak agreed. "But if some of us have the courage to stand against tyranny. Then maybe we arenít all the same."
Tolna liked what he was hearing. The person sitting in front of him, bleeding and hurting, and who looked like the same Azak Vencor who conquered most of the star systems in this cluster, was also speaking like one of the resistance. He couldnít believe it, yet . . . "I can see where your heart is. If you were the original Azak Vencor, you would have had this place burning to the ground by now. I guess thereís only one thing to do."
Azak was still tending to his cuts and bruises. "What?" He said flinching at a bolt of pain.
"Get yourself up to the neck in the fight."

Commander Brian Henson didnít expect what had just been beamed over. It looked like some ragged dog chew toy. Except this one bled. The commander went immediately to Azakís aid, as soon as the transport was complete.
"Damn, what did they do to you?" Commander Henson asked steadying Azak down the steps.
"Must have been their initiation." Azak responded.
Henson called for the doctor, the E.M.H. of the transporter room. "Do we all have to go through it?"
"Please state the emergency." The hologram immediately called as it appeared.
"Over here," Henson replied. "Just a few bruises on this one."
The hologram produced a holographic medical tricorder and a dermal regenerator; all from the same holographic projector, and all just like the real thing. The holographic doctor scanned Azak. "This patient has internal bleeding." It said rather protectively.
"Is that what that is?" Azak said still clutching his side.
"Yes, and youíll need to go to sickbay."
"Donít worry, Iíll make it," said Azak.
Henson began leading Azak to sickbay. "So how did it go?"
"You mean besides the kicking and the punching? Well, we are now apart of the resistance. As soon as Iím ready Iím to meet with Tolna again, the leader of the resistance, for a large strike against a shipyard. This will be their first large strike since they started up. Apparently," Azak squinted as another shock of pain ran through his body. He had hit his elbow against a corner, which dug his hand into his side, probably doing more damage. "They only have a couple of small raider like vessels and two transports like the one that brought me back here."
Sickbay was just down this corridor.
"Where did they take you?" Henson had been wondering.
"A planet, the third in a binary system just a light-year away. Which reminds me, weíre delaying the rebuild effort. I want to take a look at this shipyard weíre attacking, see what the possibilities are of us taking it for ourselves."
"And for the resistance." Henson corrected.
"Well, yeah. But even though weíre sort of allies, I still donít trust them. I mean look at me for god sake." Azak joked, as he entered sickbay aboard the Phantom Lord and went immediately to a biobed.
The emergency medical hologram reactivated and went directly to treat Captain Vencor more thoroughly.
"Well, Iíll leave you in the good hands of our doctor, captain." Commander Henson said turning to leave.
"What happened to our real doctor?" Azak asked, getting a snide look from the holographic doctor just inches away.
"Much of our medical staff was transferred to other ships in the fleet. Especially to those ships with less than skeleton crews."
"Maybe we could employ some of the resistance?" Azak reasoned.
"I thought you said you didnít trust them?"
The holodoctor tugged on Azakís shirt. "Remove your shirt please, I need to mend some of your rib bones."
Azak struggled to get his shirt off, and when he did a minefield of large patches of dark bruises presented themselves. Plus, a huge one covering Azakís entire right side. "Well, we need them as badly as they need us," he said in between huffs of pain. "Besides, some of them might be especially useful." Azak finished with one last pain filled huff.
"What are you talking about?" Henson wondered as he came back to Azak.
"Can you two please finish this some other time, I have a patient to care for." The holodoctor complained.
They just ignored him.
"I learned from Tolna that many resistance members, and himself included are ex-researchers and developers for the Useran government. If weíre to win this, and possibly start a new beginning for the Useran people, we will need them." Azak explained.
"I would suggest taking care of yourself before you begin planning the future for millions of people," the doctor said. "Of course I could be wrong."
Henson nodded. "After your meeting, Iíll see about assigning some resistance members to our ships." He seemed to be in a hurry. "I need to get back to the bridge, finish up some stuff before I go off duty."
Azak realized Brian Henson probably got a communiqué from his wife. "Give my regards and apologies to Jennifer, Brian."
Brian smiled. "She wasnít upset last time we spoke. Sheís actually proud of what weíre doing."
Azak just sat there on the diagnostic bed while the E.M.H. went about its duties. "Iím glad." He managed with a smile.

Continued in Part II >>

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