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
S3 - Too Easy
NollíDukahn, a Useran term for final freedom, was one of several independently operating resistance cells. They had happened to be stationed at the moon where the P.L.S. fleet now orbited when the Useran attacked, driving them away. Tolna had been aboard the transport making sure every last resistance fighter had made it out of the system when the Obligation picked them up.
NollíDukahn transports carrying anyone with starship experience or technical training docked with various V.T.F. ships. The resistance had accepted the proposed integration. A transport carrying Dr. Tolna GiíGilo and a few others to fill posts on the Phantom Lord landed safely in a shuttlebay. Tolna was immediately escorted up to the bridge where Captain Vencor was making last second adjustments to the strategy to attack the shipyard.
The turbolift opened allowing Tolna to step onto the bridge. Azak glanced up from his tactical display to watch Tolna gaze in wonder at the bridge. Azak was slightly amused and went back to his display.
After one last flurry of commands into the padd, Azak finally stood up to greet Dr. GiíGilo. Walking up to the doctor Azak suddenly realized how tall he was, nearly five inches higher. Azak extended his hand to the doctor in a normal human gesture of welcome, but the doctor was confused by the gesture.
Azak began to explain, "A customary human gesture of welcome doctor."
"Ah," replied Tolna and took Azakís hand.
"Welcome to the V.T.F. Phantom Lord. Iím sorry I couldnít meet you went you landed, but some details needed my attention."
"Thank you Captain Vencor, this is quite an impressive ship. The design is superb." Tolna said.
Azak replied. "Well thank you, I designed her." Azak continued. "I need to tell you about some adjustments I made to your battle plan."
Tolna was wary of Azak. He had designed the plan accordingly, any modifications, he felt, could be disastrous. "Yes?"
Azak swiftly moved back down the portside bridge ramp to where his chair was and tapped into the command padd instructions to display on the main viewscreen the battle plan and Azakís additions.
The viewscreen came alive replacing an external view of space to a computer-generated image of the fleet moving towards an expansive shipyard. The Nargolis Shipyards was the main producer of Useran vessels, and was wedged in between a swirling green gas planet and two moons. The latest intelligence reports showed a large contingent of defensive cruisers patrolling the yards. Not nearly as large as the fleet that attacked them a few days ago at the Useran home base, but large enough to do serious damage to the Vencor Task Force.
The enemy patrol fleet was spread out in a way that it would take a Useran vessel at full impulse a few minutes to reach another if one came under attack. Azak had wondered if that was enough time to seriously damage the first ship before any reinforcements arrived. Azak had looked over the data accumulated by resistance cell members of the specifications of each enemy ship. Each one followed basic Useran design philosophy, same as the super weapon, but much smaller. Though each ship was still twice the size of a Galaxy-class cruiser.
The image played out as the fleet neared the first enemy ship. Azak figured two of his ships should fire their Flux cannon, and fall back while their main systems recharged. If the vessel was still battle worthy, additional conventional volleys would finish the job. Hopefully, all of that could be accomplished before too many additional enemy units arrived. Those ships would be dealt with in the same manner.
Azakís modifications then came up. The original plan called for the destruction of the shipyards, because keeping the yards would be a monumental task. Something Tolna felt the resistance could not do.
But Azak thought differently. He felt the resistance was capable of actually assaulting and securing the shipyard. Though a simple strategy was devised, all capable marines from every ship was being put to that test. Any sections that were hard to secure would be taken care of by a starship, usually that section or sections would be destroyed.
Tolna noticed the difference right away. "You canít be serious. I thought we had talked about this. We canít possibly hold the shipyard."
Azak returned the viewscreen back to its default view of space. "Listen, I know it will be very difficult. But if weíre to end this fast, we need this shipyard."
Tolna came down to where Azak sat at his captain chair. "I wasnít exactly looking to end this fast. At least not realistically. I know our strengths and our weaknesses. And right now our main weakness is manpower. In order to run that yard would take more people than you have in the fleet."
"The minute we capture this we can setup an enlistment post. Plus weíll bring in the civilians from the planet." Azak answered. "We may not get a full staff, but weíll at least be able to start some projects. But we might not even need a full crew to run the shipyard. Starfleet has a unique technology called replication. We can use it to build starship parts and equipment. I already had plans to convert that moon you found us at into a new construction facility. But this shipyard would speed up that process."
Tolna turned away. His thought process going a million miles per hour, thinking things through. Looking for any loopholes in Azakís plan, he practically found hundreds, but the plan was intriguing. All his previous plans had been drawn out with just a small resistance movement, with just a few small ships. A few small old ships, not the high tech ships Azak had with him. And certainly those marines he had heard about from Azak would make assaulting the shipyard much easier and safer than trying with conventional space suits or nothing at all. Could it work?
"The idea of attacking this shipyard was hatched many years ago. When you arrived we jumped at the chance to put the idea at work. Now we need to change it because thereís the chance of even more success. My people are ready to die for their freedom. The old guard Useran government must be overthrown; weíve lived under their tyranny for too long." Tolna paused. He turned back to look Azak in the eyes. "Weíll go along with the new plan, but if things get too dangerous weíll fall back to the original plan. Agreed?"
Azak nodded, and extended his hand. "Agreed."
A familiar starship, the Recluse, was venting plasma from several damaged sections. But she fought on, as a volley of torpedoes was suddenly launched from her. All of them impacted the Useran vessel just ahead tearing loose hull plating and igniting explosions.
Swooping in front of the Recluse to save her from an overwhelming return fire from the Useran was the Klaxon. The Klaxon dealt out her own wrath with a combined attack of phaser fire and a spread of torpedoes.
There was still one other Useran patrol vessel. Ten others had already been destroyed, along with five P.L.S. ships though; the Phrixus, the Stewart, and all of the Spitfire-class escorts were destroyed. Those were unfortunate losses, Dr. GiíGilo had pleaded with Captain Vencor to call off the attack. But they were so close to victory, retreating now would be disrespectful to their fallen comrades. Their deaths would not be for nothing, nor forgotten.
Great care had been taken to ensure the Userans didnít have a chance or the capability to send a distress signal. The Phantom Lord was equipped to send out a similar jamming pulse the Userans used to disguise their ships. That responsibility was the first priority if the assault on the shipyard was going to be successful. Even if the Userans sent five more ships, Azak would have had to call off the attack. But it looked as if the shipyard was going to be theirs. No reinforcements had yet arrived.
The Klaxon locked a tractor beam on the Recluse and began pushed the heavily damaged vessel out of danger, and out of the blast zone.
The Dominance, having fired her Flux cannon only a few minutes ago was already set to fire again. The impressive ship moved in closer, one shot would finish off this particularly difficult Useran cruiser. The Useranís own defenses were beginning to peter out as damage from constant attacks was wearing thin on the crew. They began abandoning their posts, evidenced by escape pods firing away.
Just then the Phantom Lord moved in and quickly began beaming the fleeing Userans on board. It would be impossible to get them all, the Useran cruiser, though heavily damaged, still posed a threat and needed to be destroyed.
Azak muttered under his breath, "Fire," Though it wasnít a command, more a wish rather. And it was granted as the Dominance finally fired her Flux cannon. A superheated beam of intense power shot from the emitter between the vessels two forward torpedo launchers. The large beam hit the Useran vessel shattering it into countless pieces as a great fireball engulfed the ship.
But there was still one more ship.
"Message coming in from the Dominance captain," called the communicationís officer. "Theyíve burned out their Flux cannon emitter."
Azak nodded his head, "Understood. Standby." Azak quickly gave orders via his tactical padd. A basic move, all ships converge on the remaining Useran vessel. By design, the Phantom Lord was already there, and was in the process of firing all weapons. Including her own small Flux cannon, built into the saucerís forward section.
"Captain, weíre being hailed by the first controller of the Useran vessel," the communicationís officer paused. "Theyíre standing down."
Azak was genuinely taken off guard. He felt as if heíd been denied victory, as if someone just yelled "uncle." "Uh, o-o-okay," He stuttered. "Put them on."
"On speaker, sir."
"This is First Controller Min Deíallo of the Useran war cruiser Inimsta. I am surrendering! Please, call off your attack! We surrender! I repeat, we surrender!"
There were some well-deserved cheers coming from some of the bridge crew at hearing the news. Captain Vencor had managed to compose himself. "This is Captain Vencor of the Phantom Lord. We accept your surrender, prepare to be boarded." He ordered, switched off the channel and turned to his operations officer. "Commander Padrewski, scan for any explosive devices. Be sure to refer to known Useran types."
"Yes sir." The ops officer replied and went to work. He tapped in a few commands, and studied the information as it appeared. "All clear sir."
Azak nodded, then gave his own command to the marine detachments. Quickly, a large transport shuttle left the Phantom Lord and proceeded to the nearest docking port on the Useran vessel.
The transport shuttle, just large enough for ten marines, came in backwards to dock with the Useran ship. The shuttle was really nothing more than an extended travel pod of eighty-five years ago. As with that design, the circular doors at the rear of the craft was the only entry/exit point; the round shape of the docking cuff was especially good at ensuring a tight seal for dealing against decompression on the surface of any ship.
The marines readied themselves as a cutting laser began a wide circle in the Useran hull. It took about a minute for the laser to finish its cycle. With a swift kick, the first marine took down the separated metal and rushed into the dark interior. Using his arm phaser cannon, the marine scanned the room while his squad mates quickly took cover.
He could see visibly frightened Userans at their posts. He seemed to be in some auxiliary control room of some kind. He was then joined by more of his squad.
"No opposition encountered yet." He reported.
"Keep moving forward."
The marine detachment left the room and proceeded down a hallway.
Captain Vencor materialized, along with twenty regular marines, on the Useran shipyardís control deck. He had only boarded the shipyard as soon as he heard the last remaining Useran ship being taken under P.L.S. control. By now other marine platoons were fanning the shipyard putting down any resistance. So far none was encountered.
Azak took out his type-II phaser and scanned the room looking for enemy targets. His escort did the same with phaser rifles, and spread out to secure the area. Azak immediately went to the nearest workstation and began bringing up any valuable information about the shipyard. Many design schematics were in the database, all of them different from the next. Each design was a work of art, with flowing lines and curvaceous bodies. But from he had seen so far, the Useran navy used none of these. So far all of them had been just huge, blocky ships with no creative design at all.
He was just about to discover who the designer was behind all these beautiful designs when the assault commander appeared on the control bridge. "Sir, the shipyard has been secured. No resistance. In fact, sir, most of the crew is enslaved labor and knew we were coming."
Azak seemed puzzled at the news. "How did they know?"
"Iím not sure, sir. But itís a good bet some of them are resistance fighters."
Azak nodded his head. "Of course. Good work commander, tell your men to stand down, but keep them at their posts for now."
The commander saluted, and doubled back from which he came. Azak went back to the database, and saw who had designed most of the ships. Azak Vencor. "Hmm, at least I know now where I get it from."
Then Dr. GiíGilo appeared. "Congratulations captain, weíve succeeded."
"Save your celebration doctor. We still have a lot to do." Azak wanted to share in Tolnaís feelings but he knew better. There had been many premature celebrations during the Dominion War, and Azak had known then that it was short lived.
"I had a feeling you were going to say that the second I said it. Forgive me, but itís been a long time since good news came for our cause."
Azak nodded, and then turned his attention back to the database. "Come here and take a look at this, doctor."
Tolna walked over to the screen and raised his eyebrows up in moderate surprise. "I see youíve found your creatorís personal database."
"Personal database? You mean this is where Vencor worked?" Azak asked astonished.
"Thatís correct. Being that this is the largest shipyard in the entire Useran Empire, Azak liked being close to where the focal point of power was. He could control what the shipyard constructed, and no one would question him," Tolna scrolled through some of the designs. "Youíre probably wondering why the entire armada is composed of these large blocky ships. Well, frankly, I donít know why Vencor chose to use only that design. I guess he was keeping these designs just for him. But weíll never know."
Azak had moved off to a nearby window to gaze out at the stars. Passing by at the moment was the V.T.F. Sentinel performing its namesake. He knew why Vencor has used only the one design, because he had done the same thing with many of his prototypes. Liking one saucer design over the next, but Vencor seemed to have brought the practice to a kind of single-mindedness. Not one ship differed from the next. "How long do you think until the rest of the empire realizes its largest shipyard has come under the control of the resistance?"
Tolna closed down the workstation and sighed. "Well, Iím sure the patrol ships would need to report to their regent commanders. As soon as the commanders realize they havenít, Iím sure theyíll send a ship out to investigate."
"What if they donít just send one ship to investigate?"
"Then we might just see the end of our little uprising." Tolna replied. "You see why I wanted to destroy the shipyard? Thereís no way we can hold this station and repel any attacking force with what we have left. We need to fall back and build up our forces. We need help."
"Wait a minute there are enslaved laborers on board! Why would you have wanted to destroy the shipyard? Hundreds would have been killed!" Azak yelled.
Tolna began to explain. "Listen, this shipyard is responsible for a large majority of the Useran fleet. Taking this out would have weakened them. Yes, it would have been terrible that many people would have died, but at least the shipyard would have been put out of action. It was the only way."
"Then weíre both lucky that I decided to change the plan. Was this opportunity so great that you would have knowingly killed hundreds of people?"
"I tried to put that out of my head. Iím glad that we changed the plan. I feel relieved. But as I said, thereís no way we can repel any follow up attacks we need to fall back, or get help." Tolna pleaded.
Azak had his arms folded across his chest when Tolna said that, with a smile spreading across his face. "I know just the thing. The only problem is how to bring it here."
"What?" Asked Tolna turning to face Azak.
"A ship." He replied. "But right now itís non-functional, and without a crew. I can probably reactivate it, but thereís still the crew problem." At this point Azak was mumbling to himself, Tolna strained to hear what he was saying.
"What are you talking about?" Tolna demanded.
Stirred from his creative outpouring, Azak looked up at Tolna suddenly. "I need to steal one of my ships back."
Tolna suddenly threw up his hands. "I give up."
Azak was about to explain further, probably only confusing the poor doctor more, when his communicator beeped. "Vencor here."
"Sir, the shipyard workers have agreed to come over to our side. There are resistance members among the workers who have been operating here. Thatís why we havenít encountered any resistance from them, theyíre all enslaved laborers." Lieutenant Jannerís voice said.
"Thatís wonderful news, lieutenant. Proceed with securing the shipyard." Azak ordered.
Azak looked at Tolna. "Looks like we may still be on the right track."
"Perhaps, Azak, but weíre still cornered here. If we attempt to flee, weíll have to take all the workers with us. Given time we could transport them over to your ships, but if we were surprised . . . we would have a disaster on our hands."
"Thatís why we need to leave as soon as possible to get what we need."
"You mean this one single ship youíre talking about." Tolnaís doubt showed through.
Azak smiled. "Yup."
S4 - Visiting An Old Friend
The Nargolis Shipyards had been properly secured and the freed workers took four days of much needed time off from their grueling work. Construction on three Useran war vessels had started until Azak had arrived with the resistance. These shipís materials could be restructured to make new P.L.S. vessels, and would get started a few days from now. Of course, working on P.L.S. vessels would be childís play compared to constructing Userans ships since Azakís vessels would be mostly replicated. Like the P.L.S. facility on the asteroid, the shipyard could be upgraded to use massive industrial replicators to manufacture the hull pieces and other starship equipment needed. The pieces would then be tractored into place or beamed in when applicable. The final phase of construction for a P.L.S. ship would be for the engineering team to inspect the ship system by system to make sure everything was in place and operational.
Tolna had finally been briefed on what was to happen from Lieutenant Melinda Janner, Azakís personal aide and apprentice. Though he didnít call her that, it was in fact the truth; evidenced in the opportunity he gave her to assault the first Useran cruiser. Melinda was the same age Azak was when he first joined Starfleet, or rather when he helped Starfleet out.
Captain Reynold Jackson of the U.S.S. Twilight Runner, a Steamrunner-class destroyer, had picked up Azak during the Dominion War, after he had been drifting in space in a broken Useran shuttle. During a fight with Dominion forces, Captain Jackson was knocked unconscious and the first officer killed, when Azak took command of the doomed ship. Azak saved the ship and gained the respect of Captain Jackson.
The captain, realizing Azakís natural command ability, took him under his wing and showed Azak all there was to a Federation starship. Many had complained about the captainís next decision when he made Azak his first officer. But there was no denying the logic behind his decision as Azak proved himself again and again during the Dominion War.
Azak felt the same way about Melinda Janner, and gave her every opportunity to prove herself as a leader and a friend. To make the hard decisions, and to tell Azak where he had put his datapad from time to time.
Azak was obviously going after the Annihilator, the beast that had slain another beast for the safety of the Federation. Now she was needed again. He looked over some needed containers, which held equipment that would help in restarting the Annihilator. He ran a tricorder over a numbered container, and after it had been approved disappeared in a blue haze of transporter light into one of two small cargo bays of the Lilí Bastard, Azakís personal fighter aboard the Phantom Lord. The fighter, a heavily modified version of a Federation raider, was decked out with all the goodies from Phantom Lord Systems: Advanced warp drive with the placement warp system, wormhole matrix, phase cloaking device, which would come in hand in the upcoming mission, and heavy hitting weapon systems.
It was safe to say Azak didnít go anywhere without overwhelming firepower. Well, except when visiting unknown resistance fightersÖ.
Azak boarded the fighter through the portside hatch, and immediately saw his chief engineer of the Phantom Lord getting seated at her console in the engineering section of the fighter. Directly behind her was the small hypermatter reactor and power distribution channels leading to the warp pods and wormhole matrix. "Commander Madra, have you received all the equipment you need? This is going to be a one time shot." He warned.
The Benzite looked up from her console. "Affirmative, captain, I was just acknowledging the inventory."
Azak started to walk away.
"Of course, it will be another matter if this even works." Madra continued.
Azak slid the tricorder he had into a storage bin. "Yeah, I know."
He continued down the hallway and noted the moods of his selected squad of marines lining the walls as he passed by. Most of them had been involved with the assault on the shipyard, well, all of them had been. There were only a few of the advanced marine platoons left, as some of them were killed with the destruction of the Phrixus and some on the Stewart. The day before, a memorial had been held to honor the losses of the first major clash with the Useran Empire; the ceremonial empty photon torpedo had launched from the Phantom Lord to forever drift through empty space. The marines all nodded their readiness as Azak passed by.
He finally entered the cockpit to find Dr. Tolna GiíGilo, Lieutenant Janner, and Commander Brian Henson seated. Janner and Henson were needed because they knew the Annihilatorís systems, but Azak was puzzled as to why Tolna was here. "Doctor, I donít think-"
"You donít think I need to go on this mission? Youíre wrong, Azak. I want to see what youíve accomplished, what the combined knowledge of twenty of my colleges and I were capable of."
Azak raised an eyebrow. "Well, some of it is in this ship and throughout the rest of the fleet. The Annihilator is really no different."
Tolnaís spirit never wavered. "I still want to go. I may be of some use to you."
Azak nodded and smiled. "Glad to have you aboard." Azak went to the controls of the fighter and tapped a command. "Lilí Bastard to bridge."
"Bridge here captain." Captain Tolíva responded, previously skipper of the Liberator transferred to the Phantom Lord while Captain Vencor was away.
"Request clearance to depart." Azak spoke.
There was a short pause. "You are cleared to depart Lilí Bastard. Good hunting."
Azak nodded and closed the frequency. He entered more commands and from the forward viewport the ship lifted off the deck. The fighterís landing struts folded up and away, while the wings stretched out from underneath. While stored in the Phantom Lordís service bay, in order to save room, all winged fighters were stored away with their wings folded underneath them. The ship was capable of storing six fighters, and another six regular shuttlecraft.
Once out of the shuttlebay, the Lilí Bastard under Azakís control righted itself to head out into space. He activated the fighterís wormhole matrix, and set a course to Starbase-S.D.L.
"Iíll put us about five light-years away from the starbase, then activate the cloak and head in under warp." Azak said.
From two door shaped modules rising from the fighter a green light started burning bright, gaining even more brightness as it gained power. Then, several meters away a swirling wormhole gaped open swallowing the small fighter whole.
Only spitting it out again a second later forty-five light-years away back in Federation space, but still five light-years from any Starfleet facility. Instantly, before any early warning sensors detected the craft, the Lilí Bastard waved in and out as its phase cloaking device was activated. Still banned from the Federation, by the Treaty of Algeron, Azak prided himself on being the only Starfleet captain ever to fully employ one. Of course, there was the first U.S.S. Defiant, but that was a special case scenario. Plus, it was the only starship to be equipped with a cloaking device; many ships of V.T.F. were equipped. It was the only way to take the ships patrolling the Nargolis Shipyards by surprise and deploy the signal jammer.
Azak tapped in the last command, and the fighter jumped into warp. "Weíll arrive in about half an hour. I want to give enough time for everyone to prepare." The three people before him nodded their heads.
"I suspect Section 31 has probably been all over the Annihilator by now; along with every other ship we left behind." Commander Henson commented.
"Yeah, and the asteroid." Lieutenant Janner added.
Dr. GiíGilo leaned forward. "What is Section 31?"
Azak began, "Well, from what has been reported by one Dr. Julian Bashir, Section 31 is a covert agency operating within the Federation. Apparently since it was formed some two hundred years ago."
"Are they to be feared?"
Azak thought about the question. "Well, not really. I mean they arenít out to get yaí, but they do have a ferocity about protecting the Federation. Anything they see as a potential threat is quickly taken care of. If they can."
"And you think they might be after your Annihilator."
"And anything else Iíve constructed, plus myself. See, before coming to the Useran star cluster, my facility, Phantom Lord Systems, was responsible for creating new Starfleet starship designs. Plus, introducing new technologies along the way. Like more efficient phaser arrays, sensor grids, shields, or even new warp dynamics."
Azak continued. "And once Section 31 found out about the Annihilator they showed up at P.L.S. wanting it. And anything else I might have." Azak quickly glanced at Melinda. "And thankfully I was able to persuade them otherwise by shutting down the station, the Annihilator and several ships whose crew decided to stay with Starfleet instead of joining me."
Tolna thought he had found a loophole. "Couldnít this Section 31 just reactivate the abandoned ships? A Useran warship has that ability, and I understand a Starfleet warp core could be shut down and restarted." Tolna remembered from an information data piece he had read to get himself up to speed.
Azak nodded. "A conventional warp core, yes, but not a hypermatter reactor, which is what we used for the power source for the station, the Annihilator, and a couple of other ships, including this fighter. At least we havenít exactly attempted to shut one down, but the odds of restarting one is very slim and very dangerous."
Tolna gave a shocked look.
Azak smiled at his reaction. "Are you sure you wanted to come along?"
Melinda cocked her head to one side. "Itís a bit late for that."
Commander Henson gave out a short chuckle as he operated his co-pilot station.
Azak smiled. "Yes, well...."
The Lilí Bastard slowed from warp, still sheathed in its cloaking shield. It had been nearly two weeks since Azak left to go on his personal crusade. Azak was at the controls and brought the fighter around a couple of slowly tumbling asteroids. Immediately filling the viewport was the dark, fastback form of a deactivated Trebuchet-class Planetary Siege cruiser, the V.T.F. Annihilator.
Tolna half raised out of chair. "My god. Thatís an old Borillian design. I havenít seen one of those in years."
"Itís a good design. Took about a year to build her. I thought she might have been ready to fight the Dominion, but some of her systems were not ready before the war ended." Azak said. He brought the fighter quickly up to the huge ship and lined up for entrance into a shuttlebay.
With the capabilities of a phase cloaking device, the fighter simply went through the shuttlebay door. Azak stopped the fighter and looked at Lieutenant Janner.
She knew Azak was looking at her waiting for her report. She held her gaze on her display before looking up. "I detect no listening devices. There are several people on board, no doubt trying to get the Annihilator started. Most of them are in the engineering sections."
Azak nodded and tapped his communicator. "This is Captain Vencor. Set all weapons to stun. Thereís likely to be mostly unarmed engineers on board, but we donít know that. So be careful, take anyone resisting to the brig. Remember, these are Starfleet officers and crew. So treat them with the respect they deserve." Azak smiled.
He continued. "There also may be some Section 31 operatives mingled throughout the ship. They will do just about anything to keep this ship under their control, but we need this ship. If any of them try to destroy the ship, you have clearance to use deadly force. First platoon set up a secured area when I beam you aboard. Weíll be following you in after your signal."
"We copy, captain," came the reply.
Azak looked to Lieutenant Janner. "Drop the cloak."
She nodded and activated the transporter sequence. There was a haze of light coming through the open cockpit door as the marines were beamed away. Azak stood up and led the way to the equipment bay followed by Commander Henson, Janner, and Dr. GiíGilo. Chief Engineer Madra joined them as they approached. With the Annihilatorís main systems and life support offline they all began donning environmental suits. Azak then began handing out phaser rifles and pistols to the group, all but the doctor.
"Iím not a combatant Azak, Iím just a scientist." Tolna said with his hands out not taking the weapons offered to him.
Azak placed back the extra weapons in the weapons locker and tapped his communicator. "Computer, four to beam to Annihilator." The group was then surrounded by transporter light and disappeared from the Lilí Bastard.
They reappeared on the Annihilator in an empty corridor, dark with no power. The marines were positioned ahead and behind guarding their small section of the corridor. Azak looked at his suitís tricorder and noted no one had detected their entrance. Of course, they would have known right away when the marines boarded, but the marineís shield systems might have blocked their signal. Though without main power available sensors would be useless on the Annihilator.
Azak motioned them forward. Regrettable, Azak had only been on the Annihilator a couple of times when it was being built and did not know the layout of the vessel very well. It would be impossible for anyone to know the Annihilator very well because she was so damn big.
Azak didnít want to risk reactivating any wall consoles or turbolifts with their small portable power generator, so they had to take the Jeffries tubes all the way to engineering. The long crawls, and the endless ladders began to tire everyone regardless of their training or physical state. After an hour of traveling in this manner, they finally reached the hatch that would open up in main engineering.
They waited until the immediate area was clear of anyone until the hatch was popped open and the group spilled out. A small group of engineers were stunned quickly as three menacing marines rounded a corner heading for the main control boards. Azak was right behind them with Commander Madra behind him.
Azak reached the control station first and instantly began the procedure to restart the giant around them by attaching his power generator to the station. He looked up from the station through the clear safety glass and saw the enormous hypermatter reactor chamber, a dark metal sphere twenty feet in diameter. Commander Madra tapped her communicator and spoke to the Lilí Bastardís computer to start beaming the equipment cases in the cargo bay to main engineering.
The first item beamed, according to Madraís programmed transporter sequence, was a more capable power generator. Commander Henson immediately began hooking the generator up to a power socket in the bulkhead. The power infusion powered up more controls around Azak. He immediately set up force fields around their position.
"That should alert anyone and everyone on board," said Azak. "Our surprise is over."
The next important item to appear was a kind of jump-start reactor to attach to the hypermatter reactor. The device, in theory, would inject just enough hypermatter back into the chamber, and with enough computer control would restart the engine.
Agent Gordon was aboard the strange ship his colleges had seized, examining powered down computer transfer circuits when the alarm sounded. He stood up and rushed down the corridor. He finally came to a partially opened door and stepped carefully through the crack. A small command center had been set up here with mobile computers, and other Section 31 agents manning those computers.
"Whatís happening?" Agent Gordon immediately asked.
A man looked up from his computer screen to answer. "Weíve detected a power source in main engineering. Force fields have been set up."
Agent Gordon looked down at the screen. He could see an overhead view of engineeringís control center with red glowing walls appearing where they hadnít been before. "We have intruders."
"Impossible, there have been no unauthorized personnel beamed aboard."
"Then itís a security glitch?"
"But how did they activate with no power?"
Another agent appeared, one bearing a striking resemblance to the late Agent Luther Sloan. "Hold speculation to a minimum gentlemen. Weíre moving out to investigate."
The agents followed their commander out into the dark passageways and headed to engineering.
"The command pathways have been randomized." Lieutenant Janner complained.
Azak turned to answer. "Enable PLS-link."
"I did that, but still nothing."
"Switch to manual. It may take longer, but you can adjust accordingly."
"Right, okay, I got it."
Dr. Tolna GiíGilo found himself standing doing nothing. "Captain Vencor, is there anything I can do?"
"Ah, doctor!" Azak replied suddenly remembering the doctor standing next to him. "Go over to where Commander Henson is playing with the jump-start generator and run that scanner over there over the reactor chamber. We still donít have internal sensors yet, and I need to know whatís going on in there."
"Hey!" Commander Brian Henson protested. "Iím not playing. This thing is not cooperating."
Azak smiled and went back to work while Tolna grabbed the scanner and started waving it around the chamber.
"Anything yet?" Tolna asked.
Azak glanced from screen to screen. "Yeah," He sneered at the information being poured in. "Damn, just as I figured."
"What?" Commander Madra asked as she typed commands furiously into her station.
"Thereís nothing in the chamber. Not even a single hypermatter molecule!" Azak said angered. "Henson, howís that thing cominí along?"
"Almost got it. Just a few more connections and I can begin the transfer of hypermatter." Brian Henson replied.
"Okay, stand by when youíre ready to inject the hypermatter." Azak commanded.
"Iíve got the inverse singularity on standby!" Commander Madra yelled.
Azak spun around and ran to Madraís station. "Great, now if we can time this just right-" Azak paused adding his own commands into the station. He looked over to Commander Henson and nodded to him to start entering the small amount of hypermatter reactant into the chamber. "Now!"
Commander Madra reacted to Azakís command and hit the control panel. Suddenly, like a sun exploding into life the hypermatter reactor started. The infusion of reactant, not actual hypermatter, combined with the artificial singularity already in the chamber and exploded. Like the combination of matter and anti-matter, the singularity and solid reactant produced the waste product of hypermatter, which powered the entire ship.
Systems all over the ship suddenly came alive.
"Now we can conquer the Userans." Azak said with a wicked smile. "Computer, location of Section 31 agents."
"Agents en-route to your location."
"Initiate intruder alert code blue, authorization Kappa, Delta, nine, two zero enable." Azak commanded. Suddenly, transporter light surrounded the four of them in engineering replacing the ordinary environmental suits with the experimental combat suits the marines wore. Complete with phaser cannon attached to the right arm, and the suitís shield already activated. "Computer lock on to the agents and track their way into engineering. Beam Commander Henson and Lieutenant Janner to the bridge. Henson, start up the wormhole matrix for the shipyard. Lieutenant Janner, start up a auto-pilot program to run some of the Annihilatorís systems."
"Aye, captain." Hensonís voice replied over the commlink.
"Yes, sir." Janner added.
Azak waited until the seven Section 31 agents, dressed in black environmental suits, made their way down to where Azak was waiting. A pleased smile on his face, Azak raised the phaser cannon at the lead agent. He recognized the agent as one of the men who had confronted him on his asteroid station.
"It seems as though weíve underestimated you Captain Azak Vencor." The agent said.
"Iíve underestimated myself." Azak replied and paused. "I donít know if this will make any difference, or if it will get you off my back; but the only reason I built this ship was to ensure the safety of the Federation. You had nothing to fear from me."
"I wish we could indulge in that prospect. But we just couldnít take that chance."
Azak faked a hurt look. "Ah, you donít believe me? But youíre probably right. There are things you still donít know about me, about where Iíve come from. And where Iím going."
Agents began to surround Azak with phasers drawn.
"Iím sure thatís true. Maybe some day we will." The commanding agent replied.
"Do you have a ship?" asked Azak.
The agent seemed confused by the question. "Yes." He replied. "Itís docked outside."
Azak nodded. "Good. Computer, beam the agents to their ship."
The lead agentís eyes widened in shock, but disappeared before he could respond.
"Commander Henson, whatís our status?" ordered Captain Vencor.
"Weíre waiting until a couple of ships detach from the Annihilator. Wormhole matrix is standing by."
"Good." Azak replied. "Weíre almost on our way."
"Yeah, almost." A familiar voice replied.
Azak spun around phaser cannon coming to aim on another Starfleet environmental suit. Through the multi-angled view glass was the face of Admiral James Hodge.
Admiral Hodge held a phaser rifle at Azak, and tried to keep Dr. GiíGilo and Commander Madra at bay.
Azak lowered his phaser cannon. "Admiral Hodge, what are you doing here?"
"I was going to ask you the same question." Admiral Hodge replied. "What are you doing here?"
"This is my ship isnít it?"
"Not since Section 31 got their hands on it. Theyíve been working to restart her ever since you left, and you come along and do it in a few minutes!"
"Itís a gift." Azak replied.
"Yeah, well, there are some things you just shouldnít be able to do."
"Iím still waiting to find one. But the immediate question is what are you going to do?"
"I donít know. I should pay you back for stunning me with out giving me a chance to say anything." Hodge steamed.
"What would you have said?" Azak said spreading out his arms.
"Well, for starters I would have asked what was going on." Hodge shook his head. "Thatís all in the past now. Starfleet has seized all of your prototypes and your facility. I should arrest you."
"Is that what I am, a fugitive? After helping, no, after saving the Federation. If it hadn't been for my Annihilator, Starbase-S.D.L. and the surrounding sectors would be under Useran control. Starfleet would have been eventually destroyed."
"You donít know that."
Azak sat down at an engineering station. "Look, I can easily beam you back to your starbase from here. But I wonít do that, because Iím giving you a chance."
Hodgeís aim on Azak wavered. "What kind of chance?" He asked with doubt.
"A chance to finally defeat the Userans. People are suffering out there and I need more seasoned command officers. I need someone who knows the Annihilatorís systems to command her. I think youíre the best man for the job." Azak pitched.
"My first duty is to Starfleet. I canít just leave." Hodge replied.
"Youíre right. I would have said the same thing. I canít tell you what to do, admiral. But-" Azak placed his hands together to emphasize his point. "I need you. Millions of people need you."
Hodge stirred at the comment.
"I want to clear my name," He continued. "Azak Vencor is known for having conquered millions of sentient creatures and enslaving them needlessly. My name means death to these people, and I want to prove them wrong."
Hodge finally let the phaser rifle hang loose at his side. "And you need my help to do this?"
Azak simply nodded.
"Well, there isnít much going on around here anymore. Especially after you sent away those Section 31 agents. Once youíve taken the Annihilator Section 31 will have nothing to inspect. Except your facility, but I assume theyíll never be able to restart that either?" Hodge said.
Hodge finally powered down the rifle and began thinking about joining Azak.
"Iím giving you a choice. However, joining me is the right choice. As a representative of the Useran people I am asking you, a Starfleet officer, to help us."
"Well, I guess you made up my mind for me then. You know I canít say no to a request like that." Hodge said sounding defeated.
Azak smiled. "I was counting on that."
"Then," Hodge began, adding a flare to his words. "As an officer and commander of Starbase-S.D.L. I grant you your request. I will join you."
Azak stood up and joined Admiral Hodge. "All you had to say was Ďyesí."
Continued in Part III >>