Stardate 76728.6; September 24, 2399
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Lieutenant Bodie Ashton
First Administrator Ceniir
Admiral Kathryn Janeway
Commander Turathan Karalis
Captain Ryan Landsberg
Lt. Commander Ian Meade
Commander Amy Robinson
Lieutenant Courtney Rose
Lieutenant Flora Sanders
Lt. Commander Jayla Trinn
Overseer Va’kyr/Creya Rosat
High Overseer Xi’Yor
Megan Reinbold liked to try new things. Experimentation was a big part of who she was. It was the reason she transferred to the Columbia. It was the reason she went out to dinner with Doctor Arayne last night—a big mistake in retrospect. And it was the reason she was having calamari salad for lunch… another one of those big mistakes.
To put it bluntly, the meal—for lack of a better word—tasted wretched beyond belief. It was like a stringy, bitter cross between floor cleaner and raw chicken. Megan didn’t know who decided that squid was edible, but that poor, misguided individual obviously neglected to consult with her. After one vomitory bite, she set aside her fork and shoved the bowl aside.
“Nervous?” Amy Robinson quietly slipped into the empty chair across from Megan, a slight grin upon her face. “You’ve got a big day ahead of you…”
In just a few short hours, Megan would embark upon what was no doubt the defining moment of her career. She would infiltrate Rebena Te Ra and use its astral observatory to penetrate Eredas-Il’s formidable defenses. That certainly qualified as a big day, but the realization hadn’t sunk in just yet. “I’m fine,” said Megan. “It’s your squid that’s bothering me.”
Amy glanced at the uneaten dish. “Not your cup of tea?”
Megan cringed. “It has tentacles!”
The notion was enough for Megan to recoil in disgust, but Amy seemed totally unfazed. “That’s the best part,” she quipped, hand slowly reaching across the tabletop to claim the salad as her own. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” Megan hastily slid her fork across the table, glad to finally rid herself of the unfortunate experiment. “That’s the last time I dine off of your menu!”
Amy chuckled, but did not allow idle conversation to keep her from lunch. For a moment, Megan thought about returning to the replicator in search of something a bit more edible, but the vile calamari had effectively destroyed her appetite. “I might not eat for the next week,” she muttered.
“It’s not going to kill you,” Amy lightly replied between bites. “In fact, calamari is very healthy.”
“My health is fine.” Megan knew that for a fact. During her unfortunate dinner with Doctor Arayne, she learned every last detail about her superb physical condition. “Did you know that I have a lovely colon?”
Amy suddenly froze, forkful of calamari just centimeters from her mouth. “I told you not to go out with him…”
Megan frowned. “No you didn’t…”
Eyebrow arched, Amy hastily scoured her mind for details. “You’re right,” she promptly admitted. “I told Ensign Rashkimar not to go out with him! I thought you were too busy working in the science lab, so I didn’t warn you.”
At the very least, a word of caution would have been nice—but truth be told, Megan had been busy in the science lab examining every shred of data that Lucas, Talyere, and Erin collected while visiting Rebena Te Ra. She wanted her mission to go perfectly. “At least I know that I’m in peak physical form for this mission,” she mused. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming days, but I’ll be ready for it.”
Amy smiled. “I have faith in your abilities,” she said. “You will do just fine.”
The claymore was a simple, yet elegant blade. One couldn’t help but admire its beauty… and simultaneously respect its awesome lethality. “It was used by the Scottish for hundreds of years,” said Matthew Harrison as he gently hefted the heavy blade in his hands. Measuring more than a meter in length, the claymore was difficult to wield—and Harrison thusly kept it mounted on the wall in his ready room.
“It’s a warrior’s blade,” noted Ryan Landsberg. The Captain of the Endeavor sat comfortably in one of the chairs before Harrison’s desk, slowly downing a glass of Romulan ale. They had chatted idly about things past for the better part of an hour, but in the back of his mind, Harrison knew that Landsberg had not come to reminisce.
“On this eve, we could use a great many valiant warriors,” said Harrison in response.
“We’re three hours away from Rebena Te Ra,” said Landsberg. “Not to be outdone by the Romulans, the Klingons are sending more ships… but I doubt they’ll reach the front in time. We’ve got all the valiant warriors we’re going to get.” He sipped at his ale. “You ready?”
When he first joined Starfleet, Harrison knew that he might one day be involved in conflict. It seemed there were always forces of evil standing in opposition of the mighty Federation, and as a Starfleet officer, it was Harrison’s duty to defend against those threats. Little did he know, those threats would become increasingly numerous. “I have been in combat before,” he stated.
“But are you ready?” Landsberg repeated.
That was an entirely different matter. Despite the relative frequency of combat, Harrison found himself ill at ease on the battlefront. “Our strategy is tenuous and there is but a marginal chance for victory,” he stated.
Landsberg downed the rest of his drink. “I’ll take that as a big fat NO.”
But Harrison was not yet through. “I had a dream last night,” he quietly continued. “Our mighty armada charged through the Gates of Transparent Horn to oppose the forces of darkness. It was a long and valiant struggle, but we ultimately prevailed…”
Landsberg chuckled. “Sounds like you need a woman.”
For a moment, Harrison was tempted to broach the subject of Amy Robinson… but he soon thought better of it. The last thing he wanted to do was extol the greatness of her bosom. He instead chose to keep true the conversation’s course. “The Gates of Transparent Horn bode well for our cause.”
“Really?” Landsberg was not impressed.
“Are you not familiar with The Aeneid?”
“Isn’t that an Andorian subspecies?”
Harrison sighed. “They would be called the Aenar,” he corrected. “The Aeneid is an epic poem written by Virgil. Therein, Virgil mentions the Gates of Horn and Ivory. True visions pass through the Gates of Horn, whilst deluding lies pass through the Gates of Ivory.”
Now that things started making sense, a slight smile befell Landsberg’s face. “So your dream was a good sign?”
“Indeed,” said Harrison. “Our valiant warriors shall prevail.”
“I’ll drink to that.” And on that note, Landsberg poured himself another glass of Romulan ale. “To the Andorians,” he toasted.
Even though most of his military campaigns ended in some sort of failure—he did preside over the fall of the Romulan Empire—Praetor Tomalak nevertheless liked to consider himself a decent tactician. His elaborate deceptions on Nelvana III were certainly inspired, and his victory over the USS Titan at Galorndon Core was undoubtedly a high point in his career… but it seemed to Tomalak that no amount of planning could prepare him for the defense of Rebena Te Ra.
Listening posts throughout the Federation indicated that a fleet numbering greater than six thousand Elorg vessels recently vacated Elorg space and was presently orbiting Rebena Te Ra. Combined with the Phobian and Garidian forces already in the vicinity of the mystical world, the Elorg task force numbered closer to ten thousand. With the addition of Eredas-Il, the armada seemed invincible.
“I have recalled twelve more Romulan ships,” said Tomalak. That officially brought the entirety of the Romulan fleet to the Federation’s defense, though it was unlikely twelve additional ships would turn the tide in combat.
Still, Admiral Janeway praised the maneuver. “The more the merrier,” she quipped. The Admiral had been devising strategies with Commander Jerras for the better part of an hour, but Tomalak himself just recently arrived.
Tomalak knew little about the Admiral’s new flagship—an Eximus-class starship of the same name—but the astrometrics lab was certainly impressive. It used advanced holographic technology to display a three-dimensional representation of the galaxy. When standing in the center of the laboratory, one was completely immersed in the minutiae of interstellar space.
“We can add the Romulan ships to the Seventh Fleet,” said Jerras. She alluded to a small grouping of holographic starships that hung not far from Tomalak’s face.
Rebena Te Ra loomed nearby. Surrounded by the aforementioned Elorg fleet, the large Class-P planetoid looked like it was doomed—but Tomalak had faith in his comrades’ abilities. “I have inspected our current strategy,” he said. “It is certainly viable, but I assume it can be improved upon…”
“That’s what we’re working on,” Janeway replied as she sipped at her steaming mug of tea. With her free hand, she motioned toward the Tenth Fleet. It was the large contingent of starships nearest Rebena Te Ra. “What if we have the Sixth and Eleventh Fleets join them on the front line?”
“That would give the Columbia more time to get Commander Reinbold to the astral observatory,” noted Jerras, “but it would also expose our starboard flank.”
Jerras made a logical assessment, but Tomalak didn’t entirely agree with it. “If Commander Reinbold doesn’t get to that observatory,” he said, “we won’t have a starboard flank to expose.”
“He’s right,” said Janeway. “Do it.”
From her workstation, Jerras made the necessary changes to the tactical display. The Federation starships flittered around the battlefield accordingly—and the Elorg ships moved in response. Not surprisingly, the simulation sent them straight into the starboard flank.
“It’s going to be a difficult battle either way,” noted Tomalak.
Janeway nodded her agreement. “We have to stick to our guns,” she said. “We’ve come too far to give up now. If we are going to hurt the Elorg this is our best chance to do it.”
“I said nothing about retreat,” Tomalak lightly reminded. “But you are correct. We will not have another opportunity to assault them as such—and no matter the outcome, after this battle, things could get very… ugly.”
If the Elorg prevailed, and the Federation Alliance was defeated, their massive fleet might be inclined to finish the job started within the Rebena System. The Federation’s fall would be swift. On the other hand, if the Elorg were defeated, Tomalak was certain they would resort to some extreme measure of revenge. Either way, it was going to be bad…
The very same thoughts must have simultaneously crossed Janeway’s mind, because the look on her face was appropriately grim. “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” She sighed. “Whatever happens in the coming hours, we’ll find some way to prevail. It might not happen today or tomorrow or ten years down the line—but we will prevail.”
Tomalak did not share the Admiral’s enthusiasm—but he was not about to argue. Hope, determination, courage… in the long run, they could become weapons infinitely more powerful than phasers and torpedoes—and in the coming hours, they would need all of those weapons if they hoped to survive.