I have been working on this for quite awhile. hope you all enjoy.
WORLDS WITHOUT END REDUX
In the endless void between the stars the mile-long form of a
starship moved silently, its chalk-white surface in perfect contrast
with the infinite night. The almost casual motion of this ship and
its two escorts was quietly observed. Star Destroyers, a powerful
front-line ship for the Galactic Empire, and a source of terror across
its territory. The recent arms race with the guerrilla movement to
overthrow their leadership had continued to push their weapons
technology further. It is this short time right now when that Empire
would be at its strongest, when they have their most advanced
technologies and an intact chain of command.
"Yes," said a voice with satisfaction, unconcerned with such
physical limitations on sound in a vacuum. "This will do nicely."
When those words were spoken, a change took place that was to
be felt across the universe. In some parts of the galaxy, some
special individuals noticed inexplicable feelings of uncertainty and
dread. For the two remaining masters of the Force, each the polar
opposite of his counterpart, it produced a disturbance unlike any they
had ever experienced in their long lives. And while these two were
wont to agree on anything, both could sense the potential doom that
had come into being.
On the other side of the universe a hopelessly mismatched
battle was about to come to its inevitable conclusion. One was the
Federation Starship Voyager, which has been cut off from its people
for over five years. Its opponent was a gigantic ship belonging to
the Federation's greatest enemy: the Borg. Unlike Voyager, it was
heavily-armed and effectively shielded, and there was no doubt who
would be the victor. But as it happened, this single battle between
two rather insignificant ships was in fact the most important one in
all of history, although neither side knew it.
"Any signs of other vessels in the vicinity," asked Captain
Kathryn Janeway, commander of Voyager.
"Negative, captain," Ens. Kim replied. "No other vessels in
range of our sensors."
The ship rocked under the impact of another Borg weapon.
"Direct hit, Deck 12," reported Lt. Tuvok at Tactical.
Janeway's first officer, Comm. Chakotay, stepped to her side.
In all crises he was her closest advisor. Unfortunately, there was
little to offer under the present circumstances. "Maybe there's
somewhere we can hide," he offered, "at least for a little while. Give
us a chance to patch the ship together."
The ship was struck again, and below in Astrometrics, Seven of
Nine was hastily examining their sensor readings. The fact that she
was a Borg herself was only relevant in that she knew what she was
fighting to escape. If there was any irony in her mind being pitted
against the hive collective that had trained her it was lost on her.
"Anything that can provide some cover?" Janeway asked over the comm.
"Nothing yet, captain," Seven replied, her voice even despite
the anxiousness of the moment. Seven was not one to panic, regardless
of the situation. She was adjusting the long-range sensors in the
vain hope of finding something when her console began to beep for her
attention. She tapped the panel and her brow furrowed in momentary
confusion. "Captain," she said, "Sensors have picked up what appears
to be a wormhole less than five hundred thousand kilometers from
The ship shuddered again, and Seven could feel the explosive
decompression despite the room's seal. They wouldn't last much
longer. "How the hell did we miss that?" Janeway asked. "It's
practically on our doorstep."
"I'm not sure," Seven said, looking at the readings. "But it
is a wormhole." She continued tapping the panel as she analyzed the
readings. "Stable, but I have no idea where it leads." Seven's
stomach twisted as the inertial dampeners failed for a fraction of a
second. She passed the coordinates on to Navigation.
"Away from here, and that's good enough for me," Janeway said.
"Alter course, Mr. Paris."
Voyager turned tightly, and the cube altered direction to
pursue. Not long after, space opened up and swallowed both of them
without a trace.
Standing on the main deck of the Star Destroyer Incaciad,
Admiral Thrawn gazed at the space beyond. His crew was far too busy
ensuring the smooth running of the ship to pay much attention, and
even less time to wonder what he might be looking at, or thinking
about. It was a pointless exercise anyway; few could understand all
that went on behind those alien eyes, and yes he was alien. His
ascent to his current rank did nothing to change that fact in the
minds of the Imperial Navy, although it mattered little to those under
his command. Whatever feelings they might have for non-humans were
suspended for the grand admiral, and newcomers to the ship were
quickly educated in that fact by his crew. It takes extraordinary
effort to overcome a prejudice; but then, there was nothing ordinary
As it happened, he was thinking about the future, and how the
galaxy was going to change soon. The Empire was constructing a second
Death Star at Endor, supposedly more powerful than the first. Rather
redundant in Thrawn's estimation; a planet-destroying weapon's only
real benefit was in overwhelming planetary shields, which the first
Death Star was quite capable of doing. Even then, in practical
military terms it wasn't a terribly effective weapon. Perhaps to
eliminate the center of your enemies' leadership or to terrify a
populace into surrender, but what good, in the end, was blowing up a
planet you want to conquer? The Death Star was useful, but the extra
effort was a bit of a waste in Thrawn's estimation.
According to the secret communication, the Death Star's
construction was behind, and Darth Vader and the Emperor would oversee
the final stages of construction in person. Yes, the Emperor was
leaving the impenetrable security of Coruscant to personally observe
the construction of an inoperable and defenseless battlestation.
Seemed rather obvious a trap, but the Rebels had been suffering
several setbacks, and the Emperor's rather obvious trap did have a
particularly attractive piece of bait. He considered who might be
commanding the Imperial forces; probably Piett. Not a bad commander,
but not a very brilliant tactician either.
Thrawn was just considering some attack scenarios, were he in
charge, when he heard one of the crewmen speaking to Captain Jarrol.
"Sir, two ships have appeared on our scope."
Thrawn turned around and looked down towards the young man.
There was almost a sense of casualness about the way he acted. "Out of
"No sir," the crewman quickly responded to Thrawn, "they just
appeared out of nowhere."
"Indeed," replied Thrawn, still nonplused. "Let's have a
look," he said as he stepped towards the control station. He didn't
waste time telling the crew to raise the shields; they knew what he
expected of them. He examined the ships for several seconds. They
were clearly alien, and they didn't share any similar designs. The
smaller ship was visibly damaged, but if the larger cube-shaped vessel
was responsible, it showed no interest in making the kill just yet.
"Admiral," Jarrol said, returning from a quick discussion with
his deck officer, "we have an intruder on board. Engineering."
"I assume you're not referring to a rebel spy."
"No," Jarrol said. "According to witnesses it appeared out of
"'It?'" Thrawn replied. Jarrol offered him the datapad and
Thrawn looked at the intruder. Mechanical components, but obviously a
living thing. "A cyborg," he said quietly.
"It made no threatening motions," Jarrol continued. "But when
it didn't heed instructions it was shot. They're taking it to the
infirmary to study it."
Thrawn looked up from the datapad to the two ships beyond the
windows. "So," he asked no one in particular, "which one did you come
"Sir, we're receiving a hail from the cubical vessel," an
officer reported. The sudden voice was chilling, as if a million
voices were speaking as one in some horrible chant. "We are the Borg.
We have analyzed your defensive capabilities and judged them to be
inadequate. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add
your distinctiveness to our own. You will adapt to service us.
Resistance is futile."
On board the battered remains of Voyager, Captain Janeway rose
from her chair. "Hail them again."
Lt. Tuvok sent the message, but... "No response."
"Captain," Harry Kim said anxiously, "the Borg have beamed
over to the alien ship, the center one."
"How many drones?"
"One." Ens. Kim checks his instruments. "They must have beamed
over while their shields were still down."
Janeway turned to her first officer, unable to hide her
confusion. "Why would they not answer our hails? If they were
hostile, why haven't they fired? If they're peaceful, why ignore us?"
"Perhaps their communication technology is incompatible with ours," he
"We did receive energy readings earlier which may have been a
communication device," Tuvok informed them.
Janeway turned, her hand stroking her chin. Finally she
walked towards the turbolift with a quick gait. "Analyze those
signals, see if you can communicate with them. I'll be in engineering
- we still have a ship to put back together."
Thrawn watched the Cube advance. It was certainly big, but
there was no visible sign of any armored defenses, a rather odd
construction given the appearance of the cyborg below. "Flank them,"
Thrawn ordered, and the Kartinian and Lucinda advanced on the Cube
while the Incaciad moved into position. "Have the fighter crews
standing by," he ordered, "but don't launch until my order."
"Commander," Tuvok said, "the energy signal the Borg sent
earlier was similar in nature to the one we received from the alien
vessels. It might be their method of communication."
"Look at modifying our communications equipment to broadcast
using those signals," Chakotay said. "Whatever their intentions,
we've got to warn them before the Borg try something."
"Looks like we're too late for that," Tom Paris, Voyager's
pilot, said as Chakotay's attention returned to the screen. "It's
heading right for them."
Chakotay took a deep breath. "Let's hope they learn quickly,"
he said quietly.
"Use the Ion Cannons," Thrawn said, his voice with a steel
edge to it. "Perhaps we can take it intact."
Silvery-blue beams launched from the three star destroyers,
washing over the Cube's surface. It was clear that they were striking
the ship itself, but there was no noticeable effect, not even on the
"Cease fire," Thrawn said. There was an unusual tone to his
voice, as if he were about to make a chess move right into a trap that
he could feel was there but couldn't quite see. "Turbolasers," he
While the message was relayed to the stations Jarrol stepped
over to Thrawn's side. "Shall we launch our missiles as well?" he
Thrawn didn't answer at first, he just stared at the image of
the cyborg on his datapad. "No," he said finally. "And no fighters.
Just fire our lasers and let's see what happens."
Due to the sheer size of the Borg Cube the star destroyers
turned their ships so the heavy turbolaser batteries on their dorsal
side could all be brought to bear, much like it did during a Base
Delta Zero. That much firepower could normal eradicate all life on a
world in little time, and with the rate the plasma bolts tore through
the tritanium hull of the Cube it seemed that would be the case here
But for the Borg the purpose of the attack wasn't to fight, it
was to learn about this new species. Their scans had revealed new
types of technology, and what little information their lost drone had
gathered indicated that there was some that could be of use to the
Collective. Because even though they had been cut off from the hive
mind, the Borg never for a moment deviated from their purpose: to
consume technology and cultures that would increase their own
perfection. That it would involve their own destruction wasn't even a
The Voyager bridge crew watched in amazement as the cube was
slowly torn to pieces by the aliens with few retaliatory shots of
their own. The last time they'd seen anything like this--the only
time actually--was Species 8472. It was clear that Chakotay wasn't
the only one thinking that. "It doesn't look like the Borg have
adapted yet," Harry Kim observed.
"I don't think they'll get the chance," Chakotay said as a
corner ten times Voyager's size broke off from the main mass of the
Paris swiveled nervously in his pilot's chair. "I hate to be
the pessimist here," he remarked, his eyes glued to the screen. "But,
I have a feeling they're not going to just ignore us after they're
through with the Borg."
Chakotay had been thinking the same thing. "Any progress,
"I believe I have the answer," Tuvok said, "but I am unable to
send the response."
"Was the comm system damaged?" Chakotay asked as he came
around to the tactical panel.
"Negative. But there is a powerful distortion field that's
blocking our ability to communicate."
"Some kind of energy noise," Harry Kim said. "It's playing
havoc with our sensors as well. I think it's coming from those alien
Any further discussion was halted when the Cube ruptured in a
series of smaller explosions as individual power distribution nodes
failed. Random debris scattered across space, buffeting Voyager with
shrapnel. Mercifully the shields held, but as they watched the three
ships responsible close on their location it was clear that was where
there good fortune ended.
It was fifty thousand lightyears from where the battle just
ended to the Imperial capital of Coruscant, but for a master of the
Force distance was something that happened to other people. The
Emperor hadn't moved since he had summoned Mara Jade hours before. His
meditation was so deep she wondered if he would ever return. It was
clear why she had been called here; with Vader overseeing construction
on the Death Star she was the only one left who could feel that he was
still alive. Even this deep there was no mistaking the powerful
impression he left on the fabric of life, a neutron star on the rubber
sheet that was the Force. Despite herself Mara jumped when he spoke.
"There is a great disturbance in the force."
"Yes master, you have told me." She tried to disguise her
fear. There was something different about him, but she was afraid to
probe it for fear of rebuke or, even worse, actually discovering what
"No, not that. No mere Jedi can do this. This is
Mara Jade had received little training in the Force, so she
could only wait while her master pondered what he'd felt. He seemed
to reach a decision. "You will remain here with me on Coruscant."
That hadn't been what she'd expected. "But, I was to kill
"He is no longer a cause for concern," the Emperor said
flatly. "We must prepare for an even greater challenge." He stood up
and reached out for Mara. "Come." Mara climbed the steps and then
knelt before him. "Are you prepared to give up the life you have led
until now? Will you leave that person behind, if it meant limitless
power at my side?"
"Yes, my master," she said. Immediately she felt her mind
stabbed. It was hate, a cold hate, a hate that was born from
isolation in the frozen stars, a hate weaned on pain and nurtured by
abandonment and isolation. It was a hatred so black it consumed the
light, boundless and barren, it allowed no room for pity or mercy or
compassion, but it offered a strength that Mara could never have
It had been an instant, and it had been forever, but the
sensation ended and Mara found herself panting on the stairs to the
Emperor's throne. "Rise," he ordered, but with a touch of friendship
to his voice. "It is time to begin your training, my young
On a small, isolated world in a back corner of the galaxy that
the universe seemed to have forgotten, there was a single settlement.
On this world sat a tiny mud hut which happened to be the home of one
of the two most powerful masters of the Force that lived. If any had
somehow found themselves in this particular area of the swampy planet
they would have heard the sound of a heated argument between that
master and a particularly unruly student.
"Unfortunate that I know the truth?!" Luke Skywalker
exclaimed, unable to restrain his frustration. To have spent years
believing that his father had been a champion of good only to learn
that he was the very symbol of darkness wasn't easy, and the fact that
his teachers had deliberately perpetuated that illusion made it all
the more painful. Darth Vader, greatest enemy of all Luke held dear,
was his own father. Considering the weight of that statement, he was
taking it pretty well.
"Not ready for the burden were you," Yoda said wearily,
although Luke wasn't really listening. The master coughed, but
whether it was to get his attention or just succumbing to his age was
unclear. "There is a great evil coming. Stopped it must be. Time
you will have, but squander it you must not. Mind what you have
learned, save you it can." He was interrupted by another coughing
fit. "Hear, and remember: Once you start down the dark path," he
warned with a choke in his voice, "forever will it dominate your
Luke could sense his master's lifeforce starting to fade, and
his own concerns were pushed aside. "Master Yoda..." he said
impotently, knowing that very soon he'd be gone, just like Ben... just
like so many people he'd cared about. It was so hard to keep burying
the people he loved, and now, when this horrible truth was placed
before him, the one he most needed to guide him was going to die too.
Master Yoda, sensing his fear, spoke to him, his voice broken
as he struggled for every breath. "There... is... another...
Skywalker." And with that, he vanished.
After taking a few moments to come to terms with his grief,
Luke exited the small hut and walked towards his ship. Artoo, the
most loyal droid ever built, warbled at him with concern. Even he
could tell something was wrong, and there definitely was. This was
his burden now; Ben, Biggs, Uncle Owen, Aunt Beru, and now even Master
Yoda, they were all gone, leaving him to face this impossible task. "I
can't do it, Artoo," he said quietly, more to himself than to his
droid. The emptiness weighed on his soul. "I can't go on alone."
"Yoda will always be with you," a distant voice told him, and
it took Luke a moment to realize he'd actually heard it out loud.
"Obi-Wan," Luke said, feeling a mix of emotions. He was glad
for the company of his long lost friend, but the lie was so fresh in
his mind he couldn't hide his sense of betrayal. "Why didn't you tell
The shade sat on a log and Luke joined him, listening as the
old man explained what had happened. His father had been the champion
that he had remembered, but the promises of the dark side in the end
had been too much for him. He had fallen... become so afraid of
losing the woman he cared about that he'd become the agent of the evil
the two of them had always fought so hard to stop. That was why Luke
had been hidden away, to save him from the same fate as his mother;
and so had she. "Leia," Luke said, the answer suddenly so clear.
"Leia is my sister."
"Your insight serves you well," Obi-Wan said with approval.
Luke knew what he meant, that this wasn't his burden alone. If
he could train his sister in the ways of the Force, if she too became
a Jedi, there might be a way to accomplish the impossible. "There is
still good in him," Luke told the elder. "Perhaps together-"
"You have time," Obi-Wan said, "but not as much as you might
think. You must prepare yourself for the destiny that awaits you. You
face not only Darth Vader, but the Emperor and the forces of evil. Do
not take Yoda's warning lightly." Luke could sense his teacher's
anxiety. "I'm afraid that in the trials to come you will face enemies
more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
Luke was resolute. "I can save him." There was no doubt in
"You must do what you must," Obi-Wan said. "But never forget
what he is. Whatever has happened, destiny is clear. You will face
Darth Vader again."
Traveling across the universe, a single message defied physics
by exceeding the speed of light due to a few scientific
technicalities. Even then, it took centuries to cross the great
emptiness between galaxies. It was a perfect metaphor for the
eventual recipients: unfeeling, ever patient, inevitable. The Borg
are not so much a force of arms as they are a force of nature. And
when they received the message and learned about the existence of a
race with new technology to acquire, their reaction was predictable.
Unfeeling, and ever patient. It would be theirs; it was inevitable.
Captain Janeway and her senior officers stood at attention in
the main shuttlebay as they watched the Imperial ship dock. There was
a palatable excitement in the room as the door opened and the first
member of the Galactic Empire set foot on a Federation starship. Hours
before, they had feared it would be as a conqueror.
"They defeated the Borg," Janeway had said with dismay as
Chakotay filled her in from the bridge.
Her first officer nodded. "They made it look easy. We were
nervous for a little while, but once Tuvok contacted them we were able
to explain the situation. They're called the Galactic Empire."
"I guess that means we're a little farther from home than we
thought," Janeway said.
Chakotay nodded. "Harry estimates we're on the other side of
the known universe. Fortunately the wormhole is still stable, but I'm
not sure heading back yet is such a good idea."
"Agreed," Janeway said. "The last thing we need are more Borg
looking for their missing cube."
"Admiral Thrawn has offered to tow us to an Imperial station
where we can repair the ship."
And that was the man: Admiral Thrawn. The man who had
destroyed a Borg Cube in minutes, and who had brought their ship to
the station for repairs. What they hadn't realized was that the
station was one hundred eighty light-years away, a journey of several
weeks for Voyager. The Incaciad had done it in eleven minutes. As
the captain of a ship trapped thirty-five thousand light-years from
home, that wasn't the kind of thing you failed to notice. With that
ability, Voyager could be home in days, and Janeway was ready to do
anything to get her hands on it, even if she had to resort to stealing
Janeway stepped forward and greeted Admiral Thrawn. His skin
was blue, and his red eyes were rather intimidating, but he wore a
friendly enough expression as she approached. He was polite as she
made introductions and then began a tour of their ship. Eventually,
he seemed to steer the conversation in a different direction.
"I'm rather interested in that ship you were fighting," Thrawn
said as they left astrometrics. "The Borg?"
"The Borg," Janeway said, briefly reflected on her own
experience with them. "Not exactly the friendliest of races from our
side of the wormhole."
"Certainly not very personable," Thrawn agreed. "Are they
"Only in the sense that we exist," Janeway said as they
entered the turbolift for the lower decks. "The Borg don't see anyone
besides themselves as anything except raw materials."
"Charming," Thrawn said as they exited the lift. A short way
up the corridor Janeway directed him to a door on the right.
"This is our transporter room," Janeway said.
Thrawn looked about it, his brow furrowed. "I'm not quite
sure I understand."
Janeway gestured towards the transporter pad. "This device
allows us to break down matter in one location and reconstitute it in
another." She was starting to feel hopeful; if this was technology
alien to the Empire she could possibly trade it for their own
technology: the hyperdrive.
"You do this with people?" he said, attempting to hide his
"It's perfectly safe," Janeway said a bit too quickly.
Thrawn tapped his lips as he looked at the pad and the
controls thoughtfully. "I could see how it could be useful in moving
large amounts of cargo," he said finally.
"I'm so glad to hear you say that," Janeway said with a smile
that would put a Ferengi to shame.
In a different part of the galaxy, near Sullust, Luke wasted
little time in shedding his flight suit and heading down to the
meeting room in Home One. He wasn't certain what was being discussed,
but he knew it would revolve around the Emperor's new Death Star.
Having already gone against one, he was leery about a repeat
In a group like the Rebel Alliance there's always an attempt
to maintain military command and discipline, but in the end you are
dealing with just bush pilots, pirates, and militia. The noise of the
many arguments was a bit surprising, so Luke quickly slid over to
where Leia Organa and Han Solo, his closest friends, were sitting.
"What's going on?" he asked, noting the scowl on Han's face.
"Just five hundred people with five hundred different ideas
about how we should end the war," Han said cynically.
"The Emperor has changed his plans," Leia said. Her face was
a mask, but he could sense the conflict in her. She seemed uncertain
about what they should do herself. "Originally he was going to
inspect the Death Star, but now he seems content to wait for them to
get on schedule themselves."
Luke understood. "We were hoping to take advantage of it."
"Exactly," Lando Calrissian said, taking a seat next to Luke.
"The old man never leaves Coruscant, it would've been the perfect
opportunity to take him out of the picture for good."
"The Emperor is incidental," General Blissex said emphatically
as the argument toned down slightly. "The Death Star is a weapon of
unimaginable destruction and it must be destroyed."
"Agreed," General Madine said, "But at what cost? We prepared
for this assault knowing we had an opportunity to behead the Empire.
Without the Emperor the Death Star is a less important target."
"We need to do this now," Admiral Ackbar said. "With the
weapons systems non-operational we stand our best chance against it."
"It's too great a risk for too small a prize," Madine replied.
"The plan commits all of our resources. If we attempt and fail the
Alliance is finished, and with it any hope of restoring freedom to the
"If we wait, we only postpone the inevitable," General Blissex
said. "The Empire has already proven this weapon is not for show.
They used it against Alderaan because they sympathized with us. If
that weapon is complete, no one is going to be willing to risk helping
us. We'll lose our support and eventually be wiped out."
"Princess Organa," Mon Mothma said over the din. "You are the
senator from Alderaan. You've seen this weapon used first hand. What
is your opinion of all this?"
"She's not a military officer-" Blissex began, but wilted
under Mon Mothma's stare.
Leia took a deep breath, and Luke could feel that she was even
more conflicted. "The Emperor does nothing on a whim," she said
finally. "He has shown throughout his reign that he carefully plots
out his every choice. His tight rein on the military high command is
proof enough of that." Luke could sense the pain as she thought about
her homeworld. "No one is more aware than I of the threat that weapon
poses, but we can't let fear blind us to reality. The Emperor's
sudden behavior is indicative of something important, more important
than his pet project. Or, even worse, I fear he may have learned our
intentions, and altered his plans accordingly."
"How could he know?" General Reikken asked. "Are you
suggesting a spy amongst us?"
"I'm suggesting that the Emperor might have laid a trap for us
at Endor," Leia said. "And if so we'd be fools to step into it. If
not, if he changed his plans for some other reason, we may have our
priorities out of order."
"What could be more important than a Death Star?" Ackbar
"That, admiral," Leia said, "is exactly what I'm afraid of
After some time the group finally agreed to hold off on the
attack until the rebel spy network was able to learn more about the
Emperor's plans. There was still an almost funeral-like tension in
the air, regardless of everyone's view of the decision. They had had
their first real glimpse of the end, and it had been just as suddenly
lost. But as Ben had told him, Luke had time ahead of him, and he
planned to put it to good use. After the meeting he took Leia aside.
He didn't want to have to do it now, given her own burden at the
moment, but she had to know. "Leia," he said, finally finding the
courage to say the words, "I need to tell you something... something
Admiral Thrawn's smile vanished after Janeway was transported
off the bridge of the Incaciad. It seemed like the woman would never
shut up, but after three days of conversations -enough time for the
engineering crews to install the new hyperdrive on Voyager- she had
filled him in on much of what lay on the other side of that wormhole.
Tens of thousands of splintered powers vying for their own little
share of their galaxy. Thrawn had little doubt what the Emperor and
his advisors would have in mind, and given his own proximity to the
anomaly... he suspected he'd have a very interesting opportunity in
that little ship. "Captain," he said, not even turning his head.
"Yes, admiral," Captain Jarrol replied.
"Have our fleet escort Voyager to the wormhole," Thrawn said,
his eyes never leaving the vessel. "Let's make sure she doesn't lose
"Engineering to the bridge," B'ellana Torres, Voyager's Chief
Engineer, said over the comm. "We're ready down here."
Janeway was literally on the edge of her seat in anticipation.
"I've established a link between our astronavigational
database and long-range sensors," Seven said as she entered some
commands in astrometrics. "I've fed the data through to the helm."
She finished tapping the panel. "Whenever you're ready, Mr. Paris."
"You heard her, Tom," Janeway said, fidgeting with excitement.
"Set course for the wormhole, maximum..." she stopped short.
"Velocity," she shrugged at Chakotay, who smirked at her.
"I'm sure they'll come up with a name for it soon enough," he
"Course laid in," Tom Paris said at the helm. "Engaging the
hyperdrive." With a single push of a button, the stars began to
stretch and turn, and the Voyager crew found space suddenly replaced
with a kind of milky-white pattern around them.
Janeway stood up and approached the screen. She had been in
Engineering when the Incaciad had brought them to the Imperial
station, and hadn't witnessed hyperspace before. "It's beautiful,"
she said quietly, the tiniest hint of emotion in her voice.
"Yes it is," Harry said. "It's the way home."
Almost as suddenly the starlines returned, and the normal
ebony of space spread out before them. "Are we there?" Janeway said,
her voice still barely audible.
"Yes, captain," Paris said. "And for the record we made it in
12 minutes, 41 seconds. Just might be a new Starfleet record."
"Let's hope we have an opportunity to challenge that record,"
Janeway said. "Give our thanks to-"
Captain Janeway never finished. Instead space twisted in on
itself before her, and the ominous sight of three Borg Cubes filled
the screen in front of her. "Oh my God," she whispered. "They found
the wormhole." She watched the Cubes pass Voyager and fly towards
their star destroyer escort. "What have we done?"
The Napuli System was, for the most part, a strategically
useless area of space. Little mineral wealth, no known colonies or
life, and a hundred light-years from a settled system, it was as
important in the grand scheme as a blade of grass is to a wheat field.
However, the fact that the first fleet engagement of the Borg War was
taking place here showed that things can change in an instant.
"All TIEs stand by," Thrawn ordered. "But do not launch
unless I give the word." Despite the seriousness of the situation his
voice was calm, but firm. He had learned a great deal about these
Borg, but most of it was second-hand. Still, Thrawn had experience
using little bits of information for his advantage.
"Admiral," Captain Jarrol said anxiously, "We're receiving a
"I know what they want," Thrawn interrupted, his eyes never
leaving the three vessels. He was very quiet. "All turbolasers on
the center cube," he finally said. "From all vessels."
Jarrol hesitated for a moment, but only a moment. To him, it
was insane to ignore two-thirds of the opposing forces when they could
try to incapacitate all three, but he'd learned more than once to
follow his commander's orders regardless. Immediately their weapons
began tearing into the central cube. He kept his eyes on the sensors,
watching the devastation. The first cube they had encountered had
taken little time to destroy, and this one didn't look different,
until. "Lieutenant," he said with obvious confusion, "is there a
problem with the sensors?"
"Negative, sir," the lieutenant reported from the crewpit.
Jarrol turned away and stepped over. "Then why do the
instruments insist our weapons are doing less damage?" he said with
"It's not the instruments," Thrawn said quietly, his eyes
never leaving the tactical display. "It's them."
"What do you mean?" Jarrol asked. "Sir," he quickly added.
Thrawn looked back at the ship and then the display, and when
he spoke, it was as if he were discussion the duty roster. "The Borg,
captain, have adapted."
"Re-route power to the shields," Janeway ordered. "Evasive
maneuvers. Load all torpedo bays."
"Captain," Tuvok said, a calm center on the storm of the
bridge as always, "the Borg appear to be focusing solely on the
"Then give them something else to think about," she replied.
"Torpedoes, full spread."
One after the other the torpedoes exploded from the tubes and
impacted on the Borg ship. When the series completed itself, the
space glowed from the discharged plasma. But..."no effect," Tuvok
"Bring us around," Janeway said, taking her seat. "Attack
along the same vector as the Imperials; we might be able to punch
"Captain," Chakotay said quickly, "Maybe we should leave this
to the Imperials. They were more than a match last time."
"The Borg hadn't adapted yet," Janeway countered. "This time
they will, and the admiral will need every ship he can get." Chakotay
opened his mouth, but Janeway cut him off before he could even start.
"We brought them here. We are obligated to stop them. Tom, bring us
The Intrepid-class starship weaved into the conflagration
between the titans, phasers and torpedoes trying to breach Borg
defenses. After a few minutes the combined efforts blew the cube to
pieces. A few words of encouragement were said, then the group moved
on to the next cube. "Torpedoes, full spread," Janeway ordered as the
tiny Federation ship dodged the Borg's energy weapon and closed in.
"There are only two torpedoes left," Tuvok informed her. "Do
you wish me to fire them?"
"Not yet," Janeway said. In the heat of the moment she'd
forgotten how the previous battle had seriously reduced their limited
supply. "Try to find an opening, then launch it down their throats."
"Sir," Captain Jarrol said as Thrawn continued looking between
the battle and the tactical display, "the Lucinda's shields are
failing. The Borg have been-"
"They're using a shield draining weapon," Thrawn finished.
"Set the jammers to a randomized pattern."
"Yes," Jarrol said as he passed on the order, but his
confusion was obvious.
"If the jamming is regular," Thrawn said, even though his
attention was focused on the battle, "they might find a way to
minimize it and use their transporters. We mustn't let that happen.
Launch all TIEs." He tapped the console as he watched the reports
coming in from the Lucinda. The Borg had ganged up on it in precisely
the same manner as the star destroyers. Shields were failing. "I
want TIEs to target all tractor beam emitters. The Borg can't be
allowed to assimilate any part of the Lucinda; not one member of the
crew, not so much as a wrench. Are my orders clear?" They were;
Thrawn was not one to resort to hyperbole.
"Captain!" Ens. Kim shouted with concern. "I'm reading
hundreds of ships, too many to get a precise count."
"More Borg?" Janeway asked, her heart in her throat.
"No," Kim replied, more restrained, "they're from the Imperial
ships. They appear to be large shuttles."
"They're not evacuating, are they?" Janeway asked Chakotay in
"I don't think so, Captain," Tom Paris said as he pointed to
the display. They watched as the ships swarmed around Voyager and
swooped in at the cubes, their weapons tiny pinpoints as they fired at
the massive ships.
"It looks like Thrawn had a little surprise planned," Chakotay
"Hopefully this will turn the tide," Janeway remarked as they
joined in the attack with the fighters.
"I don't think so, Captain," Kim said, his disappointment
transparent. "They've begun assimilating one of the star destroyers."
The bridge was a buzz of controlled activity as the task of
running a warship and coordinating a battle continued with the fine
precision Thrawn demanded of his officers. The admiral himself was
silently weighing the factors in his cold mind. The difference
between Thrawn's thinking and a military computer's was that the
computer was not aware of the moral consequences of its decisions. The
difference between Thrawn and most officers was that he didn't allow
that to influence his thinking.
"Give me Captain Tamez," Thrawn said. Activity in the room
quieted slightly; the admiral rarely spoke with the other vessels
directly during combat. "Captain," Thrawn said as the hologram
appeared on the bridge, "can you raise your shields?"
"No sir," Tamez replied, doing his best not to display any
emotion as the Borg tried to carve his ship apart around him.
"Captain, I want you to ram the port cube." He spoke as if it
were a minor course correction.
"Say again?" Tamez replied.
"The Borg are assimilating you," Thrawn said. "They want to
take you and your crew and turn you into brainless slaves. If you
don't destroy them, this will happen."
"We have them outnumbered-"
"You won't last that long," Thrawn said, "and we are short on
time. You can die a slave or die fighting to save the Empire. I
suggest you choose the latter."
Tamez obviously didn't like either choice. "Admiral-"
"Ramming speed," Thrawn said. "Those are your orders."
Tamez took a deep breath through his nose. "Yes, admiral." He
tried to put as much pride into the words as he could, and the
hologram faded. The bridge remained quiet as Thrawn's order seemed to
hang in the air.
Thrawn stepped back to his position in front of the tactical
display. He could explain to them that anything the Borg assimilated
could be used to learn about the Empire and how to destroy it, and
that even obliterating the vessels wouldn't keep that knowledge from
being passed on to the collective. Of course, he was also the
admiral, and he explained to no one but the Emperor. "Unless we wish
to share their fate," he said evenly, "we must focus on the task at
The bridgecrew of Voyager watched in shock as the star
destroyer and the cube collided in an explosion so energetic they were
flashblinded. An energy wave struck and knocked them off balance.
When Janeway managed to right herself she was able to make out the
shattered remains of the cube; the star destroyer was vaporized.
"Death before assimilation," Chakotay said grimly. "I'm sure
a few Federation captains had similar thoughts."
"Earth," Janeway said quietly. She looked at Chakotay, and
noticed the odd way he looked at her. "Captain Riker was prepared to
do the same thing to save Earth when the Borg first came." She shook
her head. "We have more in common with these Imperials than physical
appearance." She called out orders for battle to finish off the
remains of the final cube, but part of her couldn't stop thinking
about what had happened.
Luke looked on with some concern as Leia held the lightsaber
tightly in her hands. He could sense her fear, which was an important
concern. His family didn't have a good history with the dark side.
"Relax," he told her, "Don't try to force it. Just let it happen." He
activated the remote, which began to move with a series of small,
deliberate motions. Every few seconds a beam would lash out--not
strong, just enough to sting. Leia swung the blade, but missed. This
repeated until Luke could sense her frustration. "I know it seems
hard, but that's just it. It only seems hard because you think it is.
Stretch out with your feelings, and don't worry about whether you
block or not. Just let your instincts guide you."
"Easy to say," Leia said through gritted teeth, "hard to do."
The blade was brought up, almost blocking the latest bolt.
"Like all things, it takes practice and patience." Which was
true, but there was no sense in going too hard on her on her first
day. Luke stretched out with the Force and turned the remote to a
lower setting. He felt a flash of anger.
"I don't need you to go soft on me," Leia told him. "I just
need to get the hang of things."
Luke nodded with a small smile. "How did you know?" he asked.
Leia opened her mouth to speak, and then closed it. "I don't
know. I just... just knew."
"Now you're starting to understand," he said with approval.
"Trust your feelings, don't second guess them."
Leia took a deep breath then held the lightsaber out in front
of her, eyes fixed on the remote. It fired, slow at first, then
faster. The green blade slipped through the air with a quiet hum as
it snatched at each sliver of energy, bouncing it away harmlessly.
Luke switched it off and clapped his hands a few times. "You've taken
the first step," he said with approval. "But there's something you
must always remember. Take these steps only along the proper path."
He paused, realizing that it was only a week ago that he was the
pupil. He wished Master Yoda was there to train her, to give the
guidance that Leia needed to avoid the trap their father had stepped
into and that he nearly succumbed to as well. That was Yoda's last
warning to him, something that, even as he died, he wanted Luke to
remember. He would face his father again; would he face the dark side
again as well? And more importantly, could he find the strength to
refuse it, or would he give in to temptation?
"Are you all right?" Leia asked.
Luke tried to put on a cheerful face. She was definitely
growing in her powers. "I'll be fine," he assured her. "Let's
continue with your exercises."
"Are they gone?" the Emperor asked.
"Yes, your highness," the hologram replied. Mara stopped her
exercise, her instincts telling her that something important was going
on. After a few seconds she recognized the hologram as Thrawn, one of
the more gifted military commanders, but nevertheless an alien.
However good they might be, never trust an alien, or so the Emperor
had taught her; and he was right. Thrawn may command in his navy, but
the Emperor did not for an instant allow that to cloud his judgment of
"What do you know about this Federation?" the Emperor asked.
"They are but one of thousands of minor powers located in
their galaxy," Thrawn replied. "Many have little knowledge of the
existence of most of the others. Communication on the galactic scale
is virtually non-existent."
"That can be used to our advantage," the Emperor replied.
"What of the leader you spoke with?"
Thrawn chuckled. "Janeway is extremely naïve. She seems to
take everything at face value. After the Lucinda was destroyed she
gave us all tactical information they had on the Borg, no matter how
obscure. There is a multitude of details we can use to deduce
information about tactical and strategic possibilities against a great
deal of powers in their galaxy. And of course, the information on the
Borg itself will be extremely useful."
"Indeed," the Emperor said. "What is your assessment of these
"They are obviously a threat, you highness," Thrawn replied
simply. "They no doubt want to assimilate us as well, and since it's
impossible to negotiate with them, armed conflict is unavoidable."
"Then you are recommending that we prepare for war," the
"Your Excellency, I suggest that we deter them from that
course. A retaliatory strike into their territory as a direct
response to their invasion would demonstrate that further conflicts
with the Empire would not be in their best interests."
Mara could sense the Emperor's mood sour. Was Thrawn
attempting some duplicity? "I thought you said these Borg are
"Your highness, the Borg cannot be reasoned with, but they
are, in the end, beings of logic."
The Emperor was silent for several minutes, but Thrawn said
nothing, a wise choice as far as Mara was concerned. Her master was
right, this alien couldn't be trusted. However, the Borg were
definitely a threat if they could cause the destruction of a star
destroyer. "I want you to take command of a task force of vessels
from the nearest space station, and cross into this Milky Way galaxy."
"Yes, your excellency," Thrawn replied.
Mara could sense the Emperor's irritation. He had no doubt
been expecting Thrawn to presume he would command the war effort, and
thus humiliate him by denying it. "I want a station built on the
other side of the wormhole to serve as a launch platform for our
efforts and to maintain communication throughout the conflict. See
that it is built quickly and protected from the Borg."
Thrawn nodded and the hologram faded. The Emperor turned
towards Mara, his gaze causing her to wither slightly. The more she
grew in her power, the more she could sense how great the gap was
between them. He noticed her reaction, as he noticed everything, and
a smile drew to his lips at her fear. "Good," he said slowly. "Fear
is the path to strength. Terror, hatred, passion, these are the
things of power. Embrace them, my young apprentice."
"Yes, my master," she replied with a slight bow. She
hesitated, unsure if it was her place to speak with him of such
things. "Master, do you really trust such an important matter in the
hands of the Chiss?"
The Emperor waved the remark away as he returned to his
throne. "He is an able planner and a skilled tactician, but I would
not be so foolish as to trust him with this campaign. Darth Vader's
fleet has the most capable officers in the navy; they will deal with
"But what of the rebels," Mara replied. "If they attack while
the fleet is gone-"
"The rebels will not attack," the Emperor replied. "And if
they were so foolish, the battlestation is shielded, and no army in
existence can equal the one I have placed to guard the generator. No,
my young pupil, the rebels are no threat."
Mara nodded her agreement, but the Emperor could sense her
thoughts. He chuckled. "Yes, you are correct child. One must never
underestimate one's enemy, no matter how nearly vanquished they might
be." It was a lesson her master had impressed on her from day one; a
lesson one of her predecessors had learned from a lightsaber point.
"The rebel support will wither once my battlestation is operational,
lest they suffer the same fate as Alderaan. You need not always
battle to win, young Mara, you can succeed merely by using your
enemy's fears against them."
"I still don't understand."
The Emperor smiled, and Mara could sense he was thinking about
the Federation and its neighbors. "You will child. You will."