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Part III
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

S5 - Finally, Some Rest
However, Azak Vencor chose not to rest. While most of his crew and most of those of the resistance took some time off from their duties, Azak was busy in holodeck one going over some strategies with the computer. Hovering in midair before him was a scale model of the Nargolis shipyards they had liberated months ago, with smaller starships orbiting around it. And right above looking down like some protective god was the Annihilator. The huge ship was the centerpiece in Azakís plan if they were to continue to hold the shipyard from the Useran Empire. No doubt the Userans had no choice but to increase production at smaller tertiary shipyards to augment their fleet to take on Vencorís Task Force.
In the time since Captain Azak Vencor and his team retook the Annihilator, a new starship had been started and completed, and was now undergoing extensive inspection by engineering crews to make sure every system was installed, connected, and functioned. While that was going on, crews were undergoing training in starship operations and combat before being assigned to the new starship. Perhaps not everyone was resting?
Azakís idea of turning the shipyard into a sort of recruitment center had succeeded. Alien beings from all over the star cluster were flocking to the shipyard in hopes of doing their part to drive out the tyrannical Useran government. Even other resistance cells had heard of their accomplishments, and congratulated Dr. Tolna GiíGilo for his courageous heroism.
Azak had reminded the inflated doctor that if it hadnít been for his fleet, none of this would have been possible. Tolna assured him that he would also receive due credit, but couldnít hold back the snobbish attitude he gave Azak for having the nerve to Ďdemand his reward.í
It wasnít that Azak was looking for celebrity status, far from it, it was just that he wanted everyone to know that it was through the sacrifice of many of his officers and crew that made liberating the shipyard a success. However, Azak decided to leave the doctor to revel in his Ďcelebrity statusí and retreated to the holodeck to escape Tolnaís ego.
Azak was going over the strategy the Userans had used to guard the shipyard, the patrolling pattern, before the resistance attacked. It was a sound strategy but it had failed because the Useran warships were much too slow to respond quickly enough to counter any attack. Hopefully, technology and a revised strategy will make this shipyard the most heavily fortified garrison in the star cluster.
However, without more ships, the current starships were spread out too thin for Azakís tastes. But he couldnít bring them closer together for fear of creating a hole in the defense perimeter. Perhaps that was what he needed, a hole the Userans could use to flood in. Then Azakís could bring his ships in to surround them.
Another sound strategy?
That was the problem. Azak had played out several scenarios with the computer to determine what would happen. Almost every strategy had turned out wrong with the shipyard being destroyed, thus ending any chance of taking the Useran Empire. The best scenarios that had played out were the ones where his defense perimeter was spread out. Attacks could come from any angle, and would be effectively deflected away. The maximum number of Useran warships that could be handled in such a way was five.
Anymore, and the V.T.F. ships would be overwhelmed. The crux of the matter was that Azak did not have enough ships to, without uncertainty, defend the shipyard. Simple as that, any admiral would have told him that.
Speaking of admirals.
Admiral James Hodge had sent a communiqué to Starfleet Command informing them of his departure from his post. Stating that the independent government of free beings in the Useran star cluster had asked for Federation help. Admiral Hodge could do nothing but comply and go with former Starfleet captain Azak Vencor. Other "details" about the situation were "overlooked" to save space in the communication packet. It would take a couple of days for the packet to arrive at a relay station, then a few more for a response. Plans of sending a communications probe through a wormhole with more complete information was in the works.
Azak was too busy to notice Admiral Hodge enter the holodeck. Even after the large doors had roared shut, Azak definitely didnít hear Jamesí boots clicking on the highly polished holodeck floor as he walked right up to him.
"Figure it out yet?" James suddenly asked after a minute of watching Azak stare intently at the ships, station, and situation floating around him.
"Ahh!" Azak jumped.
"Whoa, there! Didnít mean to startle you." James apologized, but then started laughing hysterically. "You . . . you should have seen your face!" He managed.
Azak was embarrassed and upset all at the same time. "Sir, you could have warned me!"
"Perhaps, but that was so funny!" James replied still laughing.
Azak sighed and waited with an unimpressed look for the admiral to compose himself.
James Hodge straightened up. "Oh, loosen up, captain. You look stiffer than a Vulcan. Itís been months since the last Useran probe, and no attacks."
Azak called for a holographic chair. "I know. And I hate saying it, but thatís what scares me." He said sitting down.
James began walking around the hovering scene looking at the positions of every starship. "Well hereís your problem."
Azak perked up, ready to hear some brilliant strategy.
"Youíre out manned and outgunned."
Azak sat back in the chair disappointed. "Thanks Sun Tzu."
"See, this is the part where an admiralís patience comes in handy. You captains are always too eager to throw yourselves into the fire without a good extinguisher." Hodge could see the growing confusion on Azakís face. "See, right now we are building a fire extinguisher. The more we wait and the more we grow the bigger and stronger our fleet will be."
Azak nodded. "I understand that. I guess Iím just worried that the Userans will attack and we wonít be ready." He paused. "I need to know what the Userans are planning."
"Dr. GiíGiloís resistance spy network hasnít reported back yet?"
"No, and thatís another thing that worries me."
Admiral Hodge placed his hand upon Vencorís shoulder. "Youíre too young to worry so much. Come on, letís get out of here and see how our new ships are doing."

Azak stood with James Hodge looking out a viewport at the one completed starship of five started. The new starship had been built with amazing speed, even by P.L.S. standards. The other incomplete starships were still moored to construction scaffolding waiting for construction crews to continue their work. It had taken only three months to create the new Douglas-class Heavy cruiser. The shipyard crews had done a terrific job. The approval from the engineering crews had just arrived, and reports from the trainees said they were about ready.
In fact, rumor had it the senior staff was now on their way to the docking port.
"A nice ship, captain. I remember you sending me that design a while ago."
Azak smiled. "Yeah, and I never heard back from you about it."
"Well, I-" Hodge began to defend himself, but stopped as the doors to the station opened.
A group of uniformed people stepped through the portal and proceeded to the starship airlock. Captain Vencor and Admiral Hodge were off to the right side of the doors as the group walked right on by. They werenít dressed in Starfleet uniforms since they werenít exactly in Starfleet. Simple jumpsuits had been replicated; with different colors symbolizing the various departments. Azak watched the group disappear into the new ship, he wondered which one was the captain.
Then one last person appeared. The tall being looked like an older, more adult version of the reptile-like creature that had pummeled Azak on the resistance world months before. The person stopped a meter away from the airlock looking intently over a datapad. The reptilian was about to continue into the ship, when the person looked up and looked directly at Captain Vencor and Admiral Hodge.
"Captain Vencor, sir!" The being snapped to attention and almost dropped the datapad as she saluted.
Hodge leaned over to Azak. "When did you become a god?"
"At ease," Azak strained to glimpse the rank pips on her collar, "captain. Uh, Captain-" Azak stammered to remember the name of the Zildoran captain.
"Captain Zile Zulan, sir."
"A pleasure to finally meet you, captain." Azak smiled. "And may I introduce Admiral James Hodge, commander of Starbase-S.D.L."
James stepped forward to shake the Zildoranís hand. For a second Captain Zulan didnít understand the movement, and then suddenly remembered her human etiquette protocols. "Admiral," She acknowledged.
"Captain," Hodge returned.
"Finishing up on some reading?" Azak pointed at the dangling datapad at Zulanís fingers.
"Ah, yes sir," she replied bring up the pad. "Some systems Iím not quite familiar with. But I assure you, sir, I will have full knowledge of the V.T.F. Douglas before we, uh, set sail."
"Iím sure you will. But you may not have much time. I want the Douglas going through shakedown trials right away, captain." Azak said bordering on suggestion and order.
"Aye, sir." Captain Zulan responded, and swiveled around to enter her ship.
Hodge waited until the Zildoran was out of sight. "Putting them through the paces, eh?" He walked closer to the hatch to catch a glimpse inside. "Thatís good. Youíre quickly on your way to the admiralship."
"Well, Iíd like to slow down then. Iím not ready to become an admiral." Azak paused. "Remember, Iím too young to be worrying about such things."
"Right," Hodge replied with a sour expression. "Hey, how long until they ship out?"
Azak knew what Hodge was thinking right away. "Thereís no problem in taking a shakedown cruise."
Hodge slapped his hands together. "Great! I love watching a new crew wrestle with their own ship."
Azak extended his hand toward the hatch allowing Admiral Hodge to go before him. "After you, sir."
They then disappeared into the ship.

S6 - Chance Encounter
The main bridge was alive with activity when Captain Azak Vencor and Admiral James Hodge exited the turbolift. Captain Zulan was hunched over the conn station with her flight officer/navigator, a fellow Zildoran, conferring with her. Zulan punched in a few commands into the station and bellowed when she didnít get a response. She threw up her hands and stood up. She then turned to walk towards the captainís chair, when she saw Captain Vencor.
"Sir, navigation controls are not responding." She said walking up to Azak.
Azak looked at her with a pretentious smile. He had heard her, but chose not to respond. Sheís going to need to figure this out. He thought, and proceeded to scratch his ear. "Admiral, I think youíll find this fascinating." He said leading Hodge away ignoring the captain and her problems.
Captain Zulan watched them walk away in stunned disbelief. She was going to yell her problems, maybe they would hear then, when she suddenly realized what Azak was doing. She still sneered at the two, but instead of yelling she went back to the conn.
Azak gave Hodge a cautious look. "Thereís a theory going around the former Starfleet crew that Zildorans are as hot tempered and ferocious as Klingons. Thankfully, Zildorans donít have the Klingon taste for battle, or I would be a red stain on the carpeting."
Hodge smiled at that. "Oh, donít worry. I wouldnít have let her get past me."

After an hour of trial and error, and some strenuous orders from Captain Zulan to the shipís chief engineer to replace a faulty conn station, something that was missed in the inspection, the ship was finally underway. The Douglas headed away from the shipyard at full impulse and managed to maintain .86c of lightspeed.
Once a few kilometers out, the ship turned hard to starboard, then quickly over to port. Again and again, the ship weaved back and forth testing stress limitations.
"All stop." Captain Zulan ordered.
The ship slowed to almost motionless, its momentum in space carrying it forward still.
"Reverse thrusters need adjustment." Zulan pointed out. On her navigation padd floating before her, Zulan called up the coordinates for a nearby star system. "Helm, set course: zero two four, mark three five. Warp five."
"Aye, captain." The conn officer replied imputing the commands.
"Execute," she commanded.
The two warp nacelles flared to life, and then suddenly sprung loose the warp power propelling the ship away.
They were no more than a few minutes in warp speed when the console in front of the ops officer beeped. "Captain, I am detecting an energy signature, and a small probe of some kind."
"Itís a few kilometers from the seventh planet in the star system ahead, captain." The officer replied.
Zulan nodded her head in acknowledgment. "Alter course to investigate." She told the conn.
"Aye, captain."
The V.T.F. Douglas emerged from warp speed with a small emerald green planet before it. Covered pole to pole with highly charged storm clouds, the planet was currently the closest planet to the Nargolis shipyard- the perfect place to hide a spy probe.
"Weíre coming up on the probe," ops called, and waited. "Weíre in visual range now."
"On screen," Zulan ordered.
A silver ovoid with multiple arms appeared on the screen.
"Lock a tractor beam on it and pull it into our cargo bay." Captain Zulan wanted.
A blue beam appeared around the probe and started to drag it towards the Douglas.
"Captain, a Useran war cruiser appearing from around the planet. Itís on an intercept course. Weaponís range in ten minutes." Called the tactical officer.
"Mr. Navins, have they sent out a request for reinforcements?" Zulan wondered.
"No, captain. I have detected no transmissions from them." Replied the ops officer.
"How long until the probe is in our cargo bay?"
"Just a couple more seconds."
"Good, weíll be out of here in no time."
Captain Vencor stepped down into the command area and walked next to Captain Zulan. "Captain, have your communications officer contact the V.T.F. Klaxon. Iím ordering them to back you up."
"Captain?" Zulan questioned.
Admiral Hodge then rejoined Azak. "What are you thinking, Vencor?"
"The probe is not enough. We need to capture that ship." Vencor replied turning to face Hodge.
"If this works, and we donít get killed in the process." Hodge stated.
Azak then turned to face Zulan. "I have complete confidence in Captain Zulan, and the commander of the Klaxon to handle this."
Zulan seemed to raise herself off the floor at the notion. "I will not fail you, sir."
Azak nodded. "Once the Useran war cruiserís shields are down transport your boarding marines in engineering and their bridge. That will effectively cut off their command and control structure."
"Aye, captain." Zulan replied and began handing out orders to her bridge crew.

The two vessels, the V.T.F. Douglas and the Useran war cruiser, a big blocky craft twice the size of a Galaxy-class starship, neared each other at low sublight speeds. They were nearly within firing range of each other, when suddenly the Klaxon burst from high warp. Using the momentum from its travel, the Klaxon soared by the Useran cruiser, all the while phasers blazing and torpedoes homing in.
The Useran cruiser sustained heavy damage to their starboard side, and the Klaxon was coming around for another pass. But the Useran didnít return fire at the Klaxon, instead fired everything it had left at the Douglas. Green pulses and energy beams struck the ship like a hammer.
Everyone standing on the bridge was thrown to the deck. Captain Zulan braced herself in her captainís chair. She looked over to see if Captain Vencor and Admiral Hodge were all right. Vencor had fallen, but Hodge held himself up by some bridge railing and was now helping Captain Vencor back up.
"Helm, bring us around to their starboard side! Commander Collins, target their weapons and fire at will!"
The Douglas jerked and ducked at some incoming fire and managed to sneak to the Useran shipís damaged side. Top and bottom saucer phaser arrays opened up, followed by the smaller secondary arrays. Suddenly, the Douglas kicked its aft section over to port and released a salvo of torpedoes from all forward launchers. Six torpedoes homed in and struck the Useran ship.
The last two torpedoes had struck the Useran without hitting any shielding.
"Thatís it, beam over our boarding parties!" Captain Zulan yelled.
"Aye, captain. The V.T.F. Klaxon is reporting that their boarding marines have also beamed aboard."
"Match any move they make. Keep us on their starboard side until the marines have a chance to control their bridge and engineering."

There was smoke and sparks flying from broken computer consoles. Power to the section was down and it was dark. However, twenty lumbering individuals strode through the chaos without missing a beat, their bulky forms barely fitting in the snug passageways of the Useran vessel. All around them dead and dying Userans littered the deck, their broken bodies even dangling from support girders.
A marine passed the barrel of her phaser cannon over the area of bodies and scanned for survivors. Some of them struggled for life, while others, most of them, lay silent and motionless. She looked over to her squad leader.
He looked at her with sorrowful eyes. "We have a job to do."
They moved on.
The squad had been beamed into the Useranís engineering section and assigned to secure the area. Schematics taken from other Useran warships and from the Nargolis shipyard computer gave the marines a good layout to follow and pointed out what sections of engineering were vital. According to the schematics, the marines were heading for the main power core, but as they approached a huge wall blocked their path.
"Sergeant, Iím detecting strange readings emanating from the other side of this bulkhead."
"Define "strange" for me corporal."
"Unknown power emissions."
The squad sergeant nodded. "Find a way in."
Minutes later the squad found a hatch, but it was locked and sealed magnetically.
"Sergeant Medavez to Captain Zulan," He said activating his communicator.
There was no response.
"Long range communications are out," called a squad member. "Itís probably the power emissions."
"We need to turn it off. Berlock, blow the hatch." The sergeant ordered.
A nearby squad member took aim with his phaser cannon and fired several shots. The hatch was scarred and burnt, but still mostly closed. The sergeant then ordered the squad to force open the hatch. With each marine pushing against the hatch, it still moved slowly with a high pitched squeal echoing throughout engineering. They managed to nudge it open just wide enough for a marine to pass through, and immediately noticed a bright light pouring through the opening.
"Check it out," ordered the sergeant to another marine.
Squatting down, the marine slid through the opening and disappeared into the next room. "Sergeant! Youíd better take a look at this!"

"Squads three and four from the Klaxon meeting heavy resistance. Requesting reinforcements." Reported the tactical officer.
"Has squad two reported in yet?" asked Captain Zulan.
"Negative, but squad one is reporting unknown power leak in squad twoís last location. It could be interfering with communications."
"Send in squad one to reinforce three and four. Mr. Ramsek, Lieutenant Solvana, and Mr. QíDileck youíre with me. Commander Collins, you have the bridge." Captain Zulan began ordering and moving towards the turbolift doors.
In minutes, Captain Zulan and her away team had suited up, taken arms, and finally beamed over to the Useran war ship to check up on squad two.
Their forms materialized, though barely in the pitch darkness of the ship. Beams of white light from Zulanís away team played over silent machinery and dark computer screens. Captain Zulan glanced down at sensor readings scrolling across her faceplate and noticed the power leak registering high in lethal radiation. Thankfully the combat suitís shield protected them from the harmful effects.
"This way," she called. Captain Zulan led her team down a short corridor, following the growing strength of the power leak. They came to a slightly closed hatch; part of it had been blasted by phaser fire. The hatch, blackened by the blast, was opened just wide enough for someone wearing a combat suit to pass through. No doubt squad two had gone through here.
Captain Zulan ducked down, bent her knees, and walked awkwardly through the opening. As she passed through, she saw feet. She stood up following the feet to legs and finally a body. A motionless marine stood before her. "Trooper, whatís going on? Why havenít you reported in?"
But the marine was silent. He was staring off into the darkness, a cold unnerving stare. Zulan followed his stare, seeing other marines in the process, to a small light. The light was encased in a clear container that was attached to a device of some kind. The device was about a meter tall and a meter in diameter, with the container perched above the device and attached by a cluster of small thin filaments.
Suddenly, the light brightened illuminating the large circular room. The bright light encompassed the marines who were arranged around the device in a circle and showed even more still beings lining the tall interior walls. Captain Zulan focused on them and recognized them all.
They were all clones of Azak Vencor.

"This is a clone research vessel," Captain Vencor explained as he stepped over to the glowing light. "Obviously."
"Yes, but what is it doing here? And with clones of you?" Admiral Hodge asked following Azak.
"Azak Vencor was the Useranís greatest tactician and greatest scientist. They are no doubt trying to recreate him."
"Then, with all these clones working together-" Admiral Hodge began.
"They could develop terrible weapons to defeat us." Azak finished. He looked over the cloning device and turned it off. "But it isnít enough to just turn it off." Azak added. He drew his phaser and started firing at all of the clones. At the weaponís highest setting, Azak was able to destroy several clones at once. He didnít stop until every clone was a charred remain or blown to fragments. Several marines rushed into the room by the sound of phaser fire.
"At ease," Hodge ordered. "Everythingís fine."
Azak put away the phaser.
"Feel better?" Hodge asked turning back to Azak.
"I may be a clone, James, but the natural side of me wishes this whole cloning thing never got started. Then maybe none of this would be happening."
"Then who would be the one to stop the Userans? Millions of beings will continue to be slaughtered for research experiments and enslaved for the sole purpose of serving the Userans."
"Someone would have taken up the charge. Besides, Dr. GiíGilo and others have been doing this far longer than me."
"Yes, but theyíre just a rag tag bunch of resistance fighters. There was no hope for them. It wasnít until you arrived that made their dreams more a reality. Now there is hope."
Azak nodded agreement.
"Now come on, we have some Userans to interview." Hodge reminded.
Azak followed James to the hatchís opening when suddenly he spun around with phaser drawn. He fired two more shots, one at the cloning crystal and another at the device below it. Both exploded, satisfying Azakís rage.

S7 - Secrets Revealed
The Useran cloning vessel had been destroyed, by order of Captain Vencor. Its crew placed in a secured cargo bay for transport back to the shipyard, and then on to one of the resistanceís held worlds. But not until they were each interrogated.
But, one by one, Vencor and Admiral Hodge realized the crew knew nothing about the overall plan of the Useran Empire. It seemed only the command officers of the vessel knew anything. The vesselís first controller was now under the lights.
He sat in a holding cell in the Douglasí brig. The lights of the cellís containment field shone brightly providing most of the roomís light. He looked mostly at the floor, but would occasionally look at the officer manning the security console. At the moment he was looking at the floor, when the brigís entry doors parted and in stepped Captain Vencor.
Azak walked as far as the security console when he spoke to the officer. "Youíre relieved."
"Yes, sir."
The first controller stiffened when he saw Azak come towards him. The look of disgust covered his face. "So the traitor is here to interrogate me."
Azak smiled. "Thereís something you should know about me. I am no traitor. But there are some personality traits I have being Azak Vencorís clone. Computer, deactivate force field." He spoke, and the field collapsed. "For instance," He began, then suddenly grabbed the first controller by the lapels and pushed him against the bulkhead. "I have his temper."
The first controller squeezed for air. "And his strength."
Azak nodded. "That too," He released the first controller, letting him fall to the ground.
The man struggled for air, rather, coughing for it. "What do you want of me, clone?"
"I want to know what youíre doing out here." Azak said getting straight to the point.
"Well," the first controller began sitting back down on the seat. He was still struggling for air when he spoke. "If you saw our cloning stations then you know why we were out here. My ship was diverted from Maglad 4 to start the project."
"So you were out there to clone me? What about the spy satellite?"
"Well, it made sense to spy on you as well as clone you."
"Right, what other projects have been started?"
The first controller looked away. "I only know of my project."
"Youíre not going to make this easy for me are you?"
"What do you want me to tell you? That weíre starting the star feeder program again?" the man shot out.
"Are you?" Vencor replied.
Vencor suddenly grabbed him again and threw him against the bulkhead. The first controller bounced off the wall and landed on his face. Vencor turned him over and picked him up. "Paybackís a bitch."
Vencor again threw him against the wall, but this time the first controller stayed on his feet. One last move, Azak grabbed the man by the throat. "I know of so many ways of interrogating you. Youíd better pray I donít use any Klingon techniques."
"Okay, okay!" screamed the first controller. "The empire is rebuilding a star feeder ship. Itís the only thing we have to defeat your Annihilator and your fleet!"
Azak backed away from the man, allowing him some room as Azak caught his breath. "Where?"
"In the Beníqurosh system," The first controller paused, feeling defeat coming at him. "A secret research facility. Where several more clones of Azak Vencor are working to complete the ship."
Azak pointed at the man. "If youíre lying to me. I will be back to employ some of those Klingon techniques on you. And you will not like that."

S8 - Preemptive Strike
A hastily prepared plan had been thrown together in order to quickly destroy the secret research facility in the Beníqurosh system. A Useran held system deep within the empire, but with the capabilities of the wormhole matrix there was no worry about being detected before arriving. Destroying a star feeder ship before it was competed became top priority, which was why the Vencor Task Force was now preparing to enter the wormhole just now created.
They disappeared and reappeared just a few kilometers out from a starbase-sized facility with a huge looming skeletal shape drifting beside it. The star feeder ship was far from being completed, which was fine with Captain Vencor as he commanded from the bridge of his Phantom Lord. The Annihilator had been left behind in case the Useran navy took this chance to attack.
"Destroy the star feeder first then move on to the facility." Azak commanded, giving out orders to the fleet over the hailing channel.
"Weíre not going to capture the facility?" Commander Henson questioned.
"We canít defend two places at once. You know that commander." Azakís voice was harsh as he replied to his first officer.
Commander Henson took no offense as he worked at his command station. He oversaw the smooth function of the ship, just as any first officer, but also felt it necessary to oversee the smooth function of the captain. And now he sensed his captainís unease at attacking the research facility and leaving the shipyard. Though not undefended, the Annihilator could be overwhelmed if the entire Useran armada chose to attack.
The attack was to proceed as smoothly and quickly as possible in order to get back to the shipyard. Commander Henson would need to oversee that as well.
"Captain, the V.T.F. Demon Power is under attack by the facility. Several smaller vessels have appeared from a large hanger bay, and are now attacking the fleet." The weaponís officer reported.
"On screen," Azak replied.
The viewscreen showed small wedge shaped vessels about the size of Defiant-class starships emerging from the research facility. There appeared to be about two squadrons released, twenty-four ships in all.
"Break off the attack on the star feeder, concentrate on these new targets." Azak directed.
The fleet did as ordered and began firing on the new Useran ships. They were just about as tough as the larger Useran capital ships, but only because they were so maneuverable. One sustained phaser blast would usually destroy one, but it was hard to lock on to the ships.
"Captain, these vessels are jamming our sensors. Target locks are erratic." Reported the weapons officer sounding frustrated as he fought with his console to destroy the Useran ships.
"Switch to manual." Azak suggested. "Lead your target."
The ops officer swung in her chair to face Captain Vencor. "Sir, the Useran ships are emitting a low level cloaking device to confuse our scanners. A wide-area tachyon burst should disrupt their fields."
"Good, activate the burst when ready."
The small Useran ships continued to buzz around the fleet taking pot shots. No real damage was being done, but it distracted the P.L.S. from destroying the star feeder. Suddenly, radiating from the Phantom Lord a shock wave erupted from the shield grid passing through every ship in the area. The shock wave dampened the low level cloaking devices making the small Useran starships visible on targeting scanners.
Eighteen Useran ships had been destroyed before they realized their cloaking devices were not functional and headed away from the battle at full speed. Two P.L.S. vessels resumed to pound the star feeder, while the rest attacked the research station orbiting a class-M planet.
Finally, the star feeder and its construction scaffolding exploded sending fiery bits of debris in all directions. All starships converged on the research facility, sending barrage after barrage of phaser fire and torpedo spreads. The facilityís shields had finally given out, when the attack stopped.
"Set up a link with the stationís computer system and download all their stored data." Ordered Captain Vencor.
"Aye, captain." Replied the officer at ops. The officer began imputing commands into his console when new information appeared. "Captain, three transports are leaving the station and are headed for the planet."
Azak called for a strategic map of the area. It appeared in front of him showing the station with the fleet on one side and three unknown blips leading away from the station. The Phantom Lord was the nearest ship to intercept. "Plot an intercept course and engage full impulse."
"Aye," the helm officer answered. "Course plotted and engaging full impulse."
The Phantom Lord floated around on its vertical axis and headed away from the fleet. However, the transports had gotten a lead and even at full impulse the Phantom Lord would not catch up with them.
From his strategic holo-display, Azak plotted a new course and activated the shipís warp engines. Suddenly, the Phantom Lord leaped forward at warp one and instantly passed the transports. The Phantom Lord stopped right out front of them and quickly spun around to face the incoming transports. The transports, in a frantic move, each took evasive turns away from the looming starship before them.
"Disable those ships," Vencor ordered.
Quick half-second phaser blasts from the Phantom Lord knocked out each of the three transportsí shields and then swooped in on them to transport the occupants onboard. The transports were left adrift while the Phantom Lord sped away to rejoin the fleet.
Just as the Phantom Lord came back, the research station exploded erupting into a shattered star.
"V.T.F. Liberator reporting a complete download of all research material from the station, captain." Commander Henson reported.
Azak nodded. "Good, head back to the shipyard, activate the wormhole matrix."

Continued in Part IV >>

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