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STAR TREK:HOLY WAR



Part VI
By Eric Szuminski


Sections:
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



S14 - Locking Horns
The fleet was assembled. The Annihilator was the center of a small haze of starships floating around like flies around a decaying carcass. The fleet slowly left the Nargolis shipyard behind, with several starships still under construction.
Admiral Hodge sat at the center seat looking over strategic maneuvers coming in from Captain Vencor. Even before the fight, Vencor was going over strategy.
Commander DiíMalsh, the first officer, was sitting quietly waiting for the command. His needlelike eyes darting back and forth taking in everything. The ops and conn officers. He swung his head over to the tactical officers, who were getting ready to arm weapons and fire on incoming enemy ships. The auxiliary engineer was at her station along the aft wall of the bridge, she was studying the overall readiness of engineering. The other stations were displaying damage control screens, getting ready for the inevitable. "Weíre ready, admiral."
Hodge looked up from his floating screens and to his first officer. He looked at DiíMalsh with a surprised look. "Really? Iím not."
DiíMalsh was taken aback by the admiralís response. "Oh, Iím sorry, admiral. I just thought we were to head out at thirteen hundred?"
Hodge looked over to a chronometer high on the port side bulkhead, displaying in large red numbers the current time. "I know; we still have five minutes."
DiíMalsh also looked at the time and frowned. "I thought you said precision was only for Vulcans?"
Hodge made his screens disappear. "Thatís true, but I think the extra five minutes will give someone way down the in bowels of this mighty ship the extra time to make the necessary preparations."
DiíMalsh shook his head. "What preparations, admiral?"
Suddenly, before Hodge could reply, Captain Vencorís voice came over the open hailing frequency. "This is Captain Azak Vencor to all ships and crew of-" Then he paused. "Of the resistance. Once again we are on the verge of another dangerous battle. You have all shown me that this fleet has what it takes to win. This may be the decisive battle the resistance needs to win their freedom. After that, the skyís the limit. Letís do what we came here to do. Vencor, out."
Hodge shook his head. "Always with the speeches."
"I found it to be very moving," said DiíMalsh.
Hodge smiled. "Helm, your course should be plotted. Prepare to engage wormhole matrix."
The helmsman replied, "Aye, sir. Course plotted, wormhole matrix standing by."
"Engage,"
A swirling blue mass appeared in front of the huge Annihilator, reminiscent of the Bajoran wormhole several hundred light-years away. At the same time, several smaller wormholes in comparison opened up for each V.T.F. cruiser.
In seconds the fleet was gone, the Nargolis shipyard totally alone, but not totally defenseless.
The fleet appeared again, en masse, at the outer edge of the Barvez system. The single Barvez star a tiny speck of light in the distance. A beautiful crimson planet set off to the left side, with several small moons surrounding it.
But no Useran fleet.
Azak slowly stood from his captainís chair. "Scan the system- now!"
The tactical officer, ops, and science all began scanning the system.
"Sir, Iím reading warp trails heading out of the system." Ops suddenly reported.
Azak almost screamed at the silence. Where are they headed?
"The trails lead back to the shipyard!" Ops finally concluded.
Azak fell back into his chair. "Helm, plot a course back to the shipyard. Hurry! Communications, inform the rest of the fleet weíre heading back. Open a channel to the Annihilator."
"Open sir."
"James, the Userans are headed for the shipyard. Weíll try to contain them until the Annihilator rejoins us." Azak blurted without regard for protocol. The Annihilator would take, what it seems, forever to turn around and head back.
"Acknowledged,"
"Course plotted sir."
"Engage, full warp."
Suddenly, the Phantom Lord stretched out like a rubber band and accelerated into warp. Followed soon by the rest of the fleet, leaving, this time, the Annihilator alone while it made the slow wide turn of one hundred and eighty degrees.

"Weíll be at the Nargolis shipyard in two minutes, my master," Vencorís first officer relayed.
"Good, standby on all weapons. We will destroy the shipyard first, then any starships in the general area." Ordered Vencor.
Vencor was ready to count down the seconds when a loud beeping roared from a control console. He looked over to see the operator widen his eyes. "Sire, enemy ships appearing behind us!"
"What!"
Suddenly, the bridge shook violently from several impacts. Bulkheads exploded, sending sparks and fire spewing forth. Smoke began choking the very life from the bridge crew.
Vencor roared, "Report!"
"Nine direct hits to our weapons and propulsion. Reports from other ships coming in." The operator reported. "Six other ships have been damaged."
"How is that possible? Weíre at faster than light speeds. Nothing could have hit us."
"Incoming!"
Again the bridge rocked sending crewmen to the deck plates. Vencor pulled himself up, and caught a sight from the viewscreen. A Useran warship shattered into pieces and instantly disappeared.
"Take us out of warp!"
The Dinnteppo slowed from warp speed, with the rest of the Useran fleet dropping ahead and behind- their formation scattered. The Dinnteppo was venting white-hot plasma from damage points along its hull.

Captain Vencor watched, as the Useran fleet grew larger in the viewscreen. Stars were zipping by at warp speed. The fleet had caught up with the Userans in only a matter of minutes, and they were still just a minute away from the shipyard.
"Have they detected us yet?"
The ops officer replied, "No, captain, they have very limited f.t.l. scanners."
Azak nodded. "Tell everyone to pick a ship and fire torpedoes on my command."
The tactical officer replied this time. "All ships report ready, torpedoes locked."
Azak gave the Userans another second of life. "Fire."
A spread of nine quantum torpedoes flew from the Phantom Lord, as did several more from the rest of the fleet. A mix of red photons and blue quantum torpedoes tracked to the Userans warships, impacted, sending up plumes of hull debris and ignited atmosphere. A volley from the OíNeil totally decimated one Useran ship sending billions of large pieces out of warp.
"Prepare to fire another salvo."
Two more warships dropped from warp, their drives disabled. The entire group was getting closer to the shipyard, still only a few seconds to go.
"Launchers ready, captain!" The tactical officer shouted over the bridge red alert klaxons.
"Fire!"
The Phantom Lord fired again, following a quicker barrage from the rest of the fleet. More torpedoes then followed the Phantom Lordís. Every torpedo met their mark.
Suddenly, the warship ahead of the Phantom Lord dropped from warp, and then one by one the Useran fleet went to sublight speeds.
"Take us to the shipyard, then bring us around to face the Useran fleet." Captain Vencor ordered.
The Phantom Lord emerged from warp right over the shipyard; suddenly the rest of the fleet appeared following and forming back up. The fleet flew over the shipyard in a wide arc, and created a diamond formation in the process.
As the fleet came around, the Useran fleet, almost fifty ships strong, filled space the width of two Annihilators end to end. The Userans formed a unique ellipsis formation, with the front and back tapering to a single ship.
"Launch fighters, have them make hit and run attacks on the Userans." Azak activated a tactical screen. "Have Demon Power, Dominance, and Liberator all fire their Flux cannons at these Useran cruisers." He ordered highlighting four cruisers coming up fast on the tactical screen.
Suddenly, four beams of concentrated warp power shot at four individual Useran cruisers, carving them up in seconds. Their broken hulls split apart and began to drift freely, all the while sparks and gas began to spill into the void. The four ships that had fired their Flux cannons dropped out of the fleet formation.
"Four down, forty-six to go." Commander Henson replied.
"Captain, a majority of the enemy fleet is breaking off and are headed for the shipyard." Spoke Lieutenant Commander Briggs, the weapons officer of the Phantom Lord.
"How many?" Vencor demanded.
"About twenty, sir."
"Damn!" Azak yelled slamming his fist into his console. "Split our fleet equally, and have them intercept. The rest of the fleet is on us. Take us in helm."
The fleet broke in two, ten ships headed away toward a group of Useran cruisers making a run at the Nargolis shipyard. The Phantom Lord led the remaining nine ships to attack the bulk of the Useran armada.
Still in a diamond formation, Azakís group came at the nearest enemy cruiser with all weapons firing. Several P.L.S. ships were hit as well, but their shields held. The single Useran cruiser was overwhelmed with phaser fire and torpedo salvos. The blossoming explosion encompassed the small P.L.S. group threatening to tear away their shields.
"Reports coming in, captain!" Yelled Commander Henson over a ruptured conduit spewing white gas onto the bridge. "Minor damage to our nacelle struts, and we have a hull breach on deck ten! Force fields in place and holding!"
"Transfer phaser energy to shields. We wonít do that again!" Azak replied getting back to his seat.
"Useran cruiser off our port bow, captain!" Briggs announced.
"I see it!" Azak replied. He inputted a few commands into his command screen. "Helm, bring us to course: one eight mark three! Target torpedoes." He yelled and waited.
"Target locked." Briggs replied.
"Fire!"
A volley of seven quantum torpedoes left their launchers and flew out to the Useran cruiser. Seven impacts registered on the main viewscreen, plumes of fire escaping into space.
"Captain, our group is being pelted at all sides. If we hold this formation-" Commander Henson began to say.
"-Weíre an easy target. I understand." Azak finished. "Break off into pairs."
The fleet then broke again, this time each ship paired off with another, but with an odd number there was one three ship group. Comprising of the Phantom Lord, the Recluse, and a Steamrunner-class ship from Starbase-S.D.L., Azak led his group around the stern of a Useran cruiser. The enemy shipsí crew was desperately trying to target them with a weapon in the correct fire arc.
Beams of green colored energy and pulses of enemy torpedoes impacted Azakís ships in rapid succession. Suddenly, the Recluse evaporated under the intense fire.
Commander Henson shook his head while punching in orders. "Recluse is gone."
Briggs yelled out his readiness, "Phasers at full power, torpedoes armed and locked."
"Fire!" Azak ordered, and after hearing Hensonís announcement, "Fire at will!"
"The second half of our fleet has managed to disperse the enemy wave attacking the shipyard." Henson relayed.
"Good, have them rejoin us if they would."
Henson suddenly hissed. "Our Steamrunner escort is dropping away. Their impulse drive has been damaged."
"In the middle of this!" Azak yelled. The bridge shook as it was struck by enemy fire. "Lock a tractor beam on them and pull them out."
"Tractor locked." The ops officer reported.
A blue beam played around the form of the Steamrunner-class destroyer, the Phantom Lordís speed was cut in half as it struggled to pull the damaged ship to safety.
"Whatís the status of their shields?" Azak wondered.
"Overall, at about fifty percent. But their port shields are gone." Henson replied.
Azak nodded. "Extend our shields around them, draw power from the hypermatter reactor."
A stray shot from a faraway Useran cruiser bounced off an invisible screen over the Steamrunnerís port side.

Admiral Hodge gripped the arms of his command chair like a man crazed. The forward screen was filled with streaks of color as stars passed by at high warp speed. "Time?"
"Just a few more seconds sir."
"Come on, increase speed." Hodge demanded.
"Weíre already at maximum tolerance. Anymore and sheíll fly apart!" cried Commander DiíMalsh.
"Then fly her apart!" Hodge yelled.

The Phantom Lord fired a long continuous phaser beam toward a nearby Useran cruiser. Pulses of green torpedo fire pounded the Phantom Lord as it sat motionless. The remnants of the Steamrunner's hull surrounded the Phantom Lord like a metallic asteroid field. The impulse drives of the Phantom Lord were a dark and shattered from enemy fire, a stream of ionized gas vented from their broken remains.
Seeing easy prey, three more Useran cruisers teamed up on the Phantom Lord and began to fire.
"Weapons offline!" shouted Commander Briggs.
"Prepare to fire our Flux cannon." Azak ordered. "Transfer all available phaser power to the shields."
"Aye, captain." Briggs replied. He began to initiate the order when his console exploded in his face from a barrage of enemy fire.
The bridge began to erupt in flames. Suddenly, a huge hole appeared on the bridgeís starboard side, sending officers and crew flying out into space. Azak was pulled from his chair, his body flailing madly. He caught the curving arc of the bridge railing. Commander Henson was gone, as were the helm officer and Briggsí body. Other officers were desperately hanging onto their consoles or chairs to remain inside the ship.
Azak cursed the computer for not responding fast enough. The emergency force fields were not activating. "Computer! Beam the entire bridge crew to engineering!"
"Acknowledged." Replied the cool and collected female voice.
Azak saw his bridge disappear, only to be replaced by stunned and hard working engineers. He found himself breathing easy on the smooth carpeting of the engineering deck, the hypermatter reactor humming contently in the distance.
"Captain! Are you all right?" Commander Madra called out from above him.
Azak rolled over; the blood vessels under his exposed skin had burst from the sudden loss of pressure when the bridge was breached. "Iím fine. Whatís our status?"
"Weíre still taking a beating, captain. Shields are down to ten percent, if we donít-"
Suddenly, engineering began to explode all around Commander Madra and Captain Vencor. Engineering screens began to shatter, sparks rained all around them. Suddenly a deep and quick warning klaxon began blaring an emergency.
"Hypermatter reactor has been compromised. Three minutes until mass collapse of quantum singularity." The computer warned.
Azak slapped his communicator. "This is the captain. All hands to escape pods. Abandon ship. I repeat abandon ship."
"Sir, our shields are down!" Yelled a crewman.
Then another warning sound echoed throughout engineering. "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!"

The huge Annihilator leaped into view amidst the battle from warp. Admiral Hodge stood up and gasped at the sight on the main viewscreen, it was unbelievable.
"Admiral, nearly half of the fleet has been destroyed!" announced one of Hodgeís tactical officers.
"Whereís the Phantom Lord?" Hodge asked.
The viewscreen shifted to a lone starship surrounded by Useran cruisers. The Userans were continuously firing their weapons at the ship. The Phantom Lord was not firing back.
"Lock weapons on those ships and fire!" Hodge yelled.
Lances of phaser beams pierced the Useran cruisersí hulls, and cut through to the other side carving the cruisers in half, the remaining ship segments were quickly obliterated by fast incoming photon torpedoes.
"Iím detecting a mass failure in the Phantom Lordís hypermatter reactor. Two minutes until breach." The ops officer reported.
"Beam the Phantom Lordís crew aboard and take us into the fire." Hodge ordered.

Azak and his engineering crew had taken up arms, phaser weapons of all types; whatever they could get their hands on. Suddenly, a contingent of ten Useran boarding troops appeared around the corner heading into main engineering. Azak and his crew were behind damaged consoles and bulkheads waiting.
The Userans had reached the engineering "island", when Azak leaped up from his hiding place, firing his phaser into the nearest Useran. The engineering crewmen followed Azakís lead and all leaped up from their places. They quickly gunned down the Userans in short order.
Azak fully emerged from his spot and quickly went to a functioning console. He typed in a few commands into the console and read the hypermatter reactor status. "Two minutes left." He then tapped into anything that was still working on the Phantom Lord and found that sensors were partially online, though shaky at best. He scanned the Userans cruisers around him, then to the others. It took only a few seconds to locate what he was looking for: His own biosignature on an Useran cruiser.
"There he is."
Commander Madra walked up to him. "What are you doing sir? We must abandon the ship!"
"You go ahead. I have something to do." Azak replied without thinking. "Iím leaving you in charge. Get the crew to safety."
Azak then tapped his communicator. "Computer, transport me to Useran cruiser labeled: ME."
"Where are you going?" Madra called after him.
"I said, I have something to do." Azak replied, but his voice trailed off as he disappeared in transporter light.
Commander Madra shook her head, then started for an escape pod hatch when she too disappeared in the haze of a transporter beam.

Commander Madra made her way to the bridge of the Annihilator where she had found herself from the Phantom Lord. The turbolift doors opened onto a busy bridge that was also glowing in red alert lights.
"Admiral!" She called out.
Hodge half turned to find the Benzite chief engineer rushing towards him. Hodge recognized her as the chief aboard the Phantom Lord. "Yes commander?"
She finally reached Hodge. "Captain Vencor beamed himself aboard a Useran cruiser just before you beamed us from the Phantom Lord."
Hodgeís jaw dropped immediately. "What!"
Madra nodded.
"Which one?"
Madra shook her head this time. "I donít know, but if we destroy anymore Useran ships, we could risk killing him!"
Hodgeís jowls flared as he gritted his teeth in anger. "Damn that son of a-"
"Admiral, the fleet has reassembled around us." Called a tactical officer.
Twelve remaining ships hovered around the Annihilator; some of them were "bleeding" from "wounds" received during the battle. The Useran armada was between the P.L.S. fleet and the Nargolis shipyard.

Azak appeared on the bridge of a Useran cruiser. The long distance transport was risky, and he felt it all the way. He had felt his body being torn between two places at once, his cells threatening to disperse into open space, but the transport was successful. He quickly scanned his surroundings. No one had noticed him.
The bridge was just as alive as any P.L.S. ship had been. Crewmen were running from station to station. He still had the type-2 phaser in his hand.
Where is he? Azak asked himself. The bridge was an octagon in shape, with two turbolifts occupying the aft angles. Azak found himself almost to the rightmost part of the bridge, next to an unmanned console.
Lucky for him.
Standing over another station, clear across the bridge, was himself. Azak blinked his eyes once to clear the image. But the image did not change, Azak saw himself. There was only one thing to do.
Azak took off in a run. He passed by confused crewmen and officers going about their duty. They saw the Federation type phaser in Azakís hand and suddenly realized whom it was running across the bridge.
"Master Vencor! Itís him!" Someone yelled.
Master Vencor slowly looked up from the console he was at. Captain Vencor slowed to a stop just as some crewmen were brandishing weapons. He quickly aimed his phaser.
"Stop, or he dies!"
The crewmen paused with pistols half drawn.
"Itís a pleasure seeing you once again." Master Vencor sneered.
"Surrender or die!" Azak yelled.
"You donít give me very many options. Perhaps if we talk about this." Master Vencor replied sounding calm and cool.
Captain Vencorís aim wavered a bit, sweat poured down his face. Not from the run, but from the adrenaline surge he was receiving. This was a tight situation, one that would almost certainly get him killed. But it was all he had for the moment. "Iím not giving you options. I would rather kill you. But I not so sure your crew would take my orders."
"Youíre right. They wouldnít. However, I wonít surrender." Master Vencor replied, and came around the console to face Azak.
"Then weíre at an impasse."
"And while we debate, your fleet will be decimated."
Azak took a quick glance out through the forward viewports. The Annihilator was just sitting there with the fleet, or what was left, swarmed around it. What was he supposed to do? Azak didnít know; nothing was coming to him. No strategies, no technological marvels. Nothing. He was tired. And he knew it.
This whole war, or whatever it was has been tiring. He wished it were finally over.
"Listen, I donít know what kind of compassion if any you have for your crew," Azak started to say, not quite knowing where he was taking this. "But weíre the same. More or less."
Master Vencor was listening. "You were a freakish accident. You know that. We are not the same, no matter what knowledge you took from me." He leaned on the console and folded his arms.
"What Iím trying to say is," Azak paused, trying to look for the point he was trying to make. "What makes you so . . . important that this crew follows you?"
Master Vencor twisted his face, puzzling at the question. "What makes me important?"
Azak nodded quickly.
Master Vencor began to look around the deck of the bridge for an answer. "Iíve earned my position through conquering others. If no one obeys me, they die. Itís as simple as that."
Azak shook his head. Vencorís answer was more moronic than his question. But that was the answer he was looking for. "Good."
Master Vencor was shocked by the cloneís response. "Good?"
Then it clicked. "Yes, good." Azak turned his head slightly to speak to the bridge crew, who had stopped what they were doing to listen to the confusing banter. "I am Azak Vencor, a clone of him." He said pointing to Master Vencor. "I have his knowledge and his strength. In essence, we are the same, but different. He has earned your, uh, respect through fear and intimidation. I canít imagine you like that."
Azak continued unabated. "I command by listening to my crew and officers and making a sound judgment suitable to the welfare of the ship and crew. Fear and intimidation will only go so far, but freedom and respect go much farther. This, person, is wrong. There is a better way. Letís end this, too many have died already."
The armed crewmen looked at each other, wondering what to do.
Master Vencor, furious that his crew had not yet killed the clone, roared, "Obey me or face the consequences! Kill him!"
That was all they needed, the armed crew knew what they had to do. Azak readied himself for death. The crewmen quickly moved their aims onto Master Vencor, and fired.
Vencor gave out a loud cry before his body vanished into thin air.
An officer, a tall thin man, approached Captain Vencor. "I am Second Controller, Vin Halmalsh. I relinquish command of the Useran star cruiser Dinteppo over to you." He said bowing.
Azak almost collapsed. He had won. "Open a communication channel to the rest of your armada Second Controller, I wish to speak to them."
"As you wish," the man replied and nodded to a crewman.
"Channel open sir." The crewman replied almost saying sire instead.
"This is Captain Azak Vencor of Phantom Lord Systems to all Useran cruisers. Master Azak Vencor is dead. Your comrades aboard the Dinteppo have agreed to end this war. The tyrannical rule of Master Vencor is over, and the bloodshed ends here and now. I know this comes as a shock to a lot of you. But hear me out. This will reign in a new era of peace for the Userans. That is if you are willing?"
A crewman at a sensor station called out, "Captain," he said unsure of the word "captain." "Several of our ships are breaking away."
Second Controller Halmalsh looked to Captain Vencor. "Shall we go after them?"
Azak shook his head. "No, let them think it over. They may return."
Twenty-five Useran cruisers broke formation and slowly escaped into warp. But most of the Useran armada held their ground and stayed.
A new era had indeed appeared.



S15 - Sadness And Surprise
Master Azak Vencor had been a strong figurehead inside the Useran government; his actions had spread fear throughout the star cluster, now known as the Ansterglin star cluster. But his reputation had not started in the star cluster, as Captain Vencor was just beginning to find out.
The entire fleet, P.L.S. and Useran starships appeared from warp at the Useran capital world of Cordan. Azak had talked personally with each of the first controllers of every Useran cruiser during the trip to the capital world to get the assurances of the controllers that they would not attack. But just to make sure, "representatives" were beamed aboard every Userans ship, those representatives were new breeds of Azakís insertion agents were ordered to debrief the officers and crew of every ship.
Once that was taken care of Azak transferred over to the Annihilator to receive medical treatment for his injuries he had received during the battle.
Admiral Hodge found him in sickbay being treated by a certifiable real doctor this time.
Azak looked wearily at Admiral Hodge as he sat shirtless on a biobed. The doctor floated around him with a dermal regenerator pointed at his injuries.
"That was some stupid stunt you pulled." Hodge said immediately.
Azak tilted his head to one side for a second. "It worked."
Hodge smiled. "Yeah, lucky for you."
Azak needed to hear the news. His gut began to twist and turn anticipating the bad news. "How many ships did we lose?"
Hodge gave a worrisome look to Vencor. "We lost seven ships."
Azak dipped his head. "Was the Klaxon among those lost?"
James wondered why he asked. "Yes she was."
Azak closed his eyes and slammed his fist on the bed. He hopped down from the biobed and began to wander around sickbay, cursing the air as he walked. The look of immense pain was clearly evident on his face, for a tear quickly rolled down his cheek.
Hodge became worried. "Whatís wrong Azak?"
"Melinda was assigned to the Klaxon." Azak managed to say.
"Oh, Iím sorry, Azak," Hodge replied emphatically. "She was a good officer and friend to us all."
Azak stopped in the middle of sickbay, his eyes red. "She was more than that- to me."
"Search and rescue vessels are still scanning the area for survivors. Escape pods are being found every minute. Thereís still hope, Azak." Said James.
That seemed to brighten Azakís spirits up a little bit. "I know."
James nodded and was silent and saw that Azak needed to be alone. Preparations for meeting with the Useran Divine President will have to wait.
"James," Azak called out.
Hodge stopped short of leaving sickbay and turned.
"Thank you," said Azak. "I owe you one."
Hodge smiled and remembered to the message that Captain Gelhart had given him regarding Captain Vencor and the other Starfleet deserters, the order given to him from Starfleet to bring back Vencor and his people for disciplinary measures. "Soon thatíll be two youíll owe me." Hodge said sticking up two fingers into the air.
Azak pondered the statement, but never got an elaboration as Hodge disappeared from view.

Azak stayed in sickbay for another few minutes while Dr. Antov Vallhuze finished patching him up. He thanked the doctor and headed out. Azak walked down a long curving corridor, sparsely populated. Respectful nods and smiles were given to Azak as he walked. Even a few star cluster aliens stopped him to thank and congratulate him for his efforts. Azak had obliged them, but was annoyed.
"Thank you, Captain Vencor," one of the aliens spoke while giving Azak an over emphasized handshake. "You are a true hero."
"You have finally given yourself a good name." Another added.
Azak took it all in stride, smiled, and wished them farewell.
Hero? He thought. That word had been used many times to describe various brave men and women of Starfleet. Many famous captains and officers had been added to an invisible list of heroes during the Federationís existence.
Azak quickly thought about most of those names and the people. He couldnít picture himself among them, as would many others from Starfleet. In their eyes, he was an outlaw. A virtual unknown, who had taken his own command and turned it into a self-serving endeavor. Phantom Lord Systems was an "odd duck" of sorts in Starfleet. They had granted Azak the authority to build a shipyard and base out where he was stationed. Phantom Lord Systems, in its short existence, supplied starships and subcontracted on a few designs, and even provided new technology to the Federation. P.L.S. had grown to more than what was expected, which concerned many at Starfleet Headquarters. But no attempt to supervise or scale down P.L.S. had been made. Only until Azak revealed the existence of the Annihilator was any real attention garnered, though only in the form of a visit by Section 31.
These were strange times. It had been a strange year.
What was going to happen now? Immediately or later. The meeting with the Divine president, or whatever, was scheduled for fourteen hundred hours. Needless to say, Azak wasnít looking forward to that right now. But what was going to happen to him, P.L.S., and the alien population of the Ansterglin star cluster?
Azak figured those questions would be answered during the meeting with the Divine President. He or she was the key; the president held the future in his or her hands. Whether the president knew it or not.
He looked down at his tattered civilian clothes, then back up at the corridor now coming to a junction of three turbolifts. He felt lost. Where the hell was he? Azak let out a short chuckle at the revelation. But the happy thought turned to mourning as he remembered where he was and why: Annihilator, and because the Phantom Lord is now nothing but a memory. Brian Henson and Melinda were both gone. Hell, so many were now gone. Both sides had lost friends and loved ones, and for what?
The Userans fought because Master Vencor had ordered them to. Most of them went with that logic, but still many fought because they thought they were right. Azak thought back to the first battle since coming into the cluster. The first controller of that ship said that the Useran Empire would fight to preserve its right. In fact, all of the first controllers Azak had spoken too were fiercely loyal to Master Vencor. Yet, many had sided with Captain Vencor at the end of the battle.
Why?
Were his words that effective? Azak doubted it. So were they truly fed up with the treatment Vencor and so many others had given out? Would the Useran population welcome the change?
There were widespread issues that needed to be examined and taken care of. But all Azak could think about was Melinda and Brian and all those who had lost their lives. So many.
A rumor had spread around a couple of battle fleets during the Dominion War that Captain Benjamin Sisko had been so sickened by the appalling loss of life that he had forced the Romulans into the war. Unfortunately for Azak, there were no other galaxy superpowers to pull into his war. Especially now that it was over. Or was it?
A group had pulled away before the armada had arrived at Cordan. What would they do? Attack unexpectedly?

Azak went over to a computer embedded into the corridor wall. He requested quarters from the computer and was granted one a few decks above him. Azak wasted no time in arriving at his new quarters. He immediately went over to the replicator and programmed in a tall cool glass of water and a new Starfleet uniform. Yes, a Starfleet uniform. Azak figured heíd meet this Divine President with some class, and what better than a good-looking Starfleet uniform?
The glass of water appeared and Azak grabbed it. He started to drink when suddenly his uniform appeared. He took that too and laid it out over a chair. Boots. Azak then had to order a new pair of boots.
They appeared.
In minutes, Azak was dressed. It was just turning to thirteen hundred. Heíd been wandering the corridors of the Annihilator for about two hours before he arrived at his quarters. Azak sat down in a chair, and stared at the floor. His closest friends were gone, forever. A great sadness swept over him, and Azak put a hand over his eyes to hide his tears.
It was a satisfying release, but somehow it was not enough. The sadness was replaced with anger, but the one person who was responsible was already dead. And yet, as Azak was still alive, the other Azak still lived on.
"Hodge to Vencor," Jamesí voice cut in on Azakís thinking.
Azak looked up into the air, "Vencor here."
"Uh, I think you should join me in transporter room four, captain."
It was the last thing he wanted to do. "Iíll be right there, admiral." He replied tiredly.
Azak zipped up the overcoat and exited his temporary quarters. A turbolift was at the end of the corridor and it carried him to deck twelve. Another long walk down a brightly lit corridor, and Azak was approaching the transporter room. These lights need to be dimmed. He thought.
The doors opened as Azak came near.
He instantly saw Admiral Hodge with a big smile on his face.
"Energize," Hodge ordered to the transporter chief.
Azakís focus went from Hodge to an image slowly materializing on the transporter pad. It appeared to be human. An injured human to be exact, an injured female human.
"Melinda," Azak softly spoke.
She had her left arm in a medical cast and much of her face was bandaged up as well, but she was okay. Her uniform was tattered and singed from fires. Azak walked up to her and slowly slid into her embrace. She began crying uncontrollably.
"When I heard the Klaxon was destroyed I feared the worst. I thought I lost you." Azak began saying.
"I was so scared, Azak." Melinda cried.
Azak patted the back of her head. "Shh, shh, itís over now. Itís all over, Melinda." He quietly said.
She held on to him tightly. Azak was glad to know she still had her strength.
"Come on, letís get you to sickbay." Azak directed.
Melinda allowed Azak to lead her to sickbay.



Continued in Part VII >>












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