Star Trek: New Horizons Season 7, Episode 4 (Star Light, Star Bright) by captaintigranian
Summary: A bold victory for Phil makes him a hero to some and villain to others. Meanwhile, Shinzon brings his dreams of conquest closer to reality.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: No Word count: 11070 Read: 4857 Published: 07 Oct 2018 Updated: 07 Oct 2018

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Hobus System: Devron Sector, Romulan Star Empire

Stardate: 54760.5

Shinzon impatiently stood next to the observation window of his cruiser's ready room. An uneasy Vkruk was at his side. Krokal, the head of the Reman Corps of Engineers, walked up with three pairs of polarized goggles.

"My Lord," he said handing a pair to Shinzon. The general briefly examined them before placing them onto his face. Vkruk took the second pair and carefully fastened them over his eyes.

"The light of a sunny day is excruciating for us," the old Reman thought to himself nervously. "This is positively suicidal."

Krokal put on the last pair before turning to Shinzon.

"Are you ready, My Lord?" he asked stepping towards a control panel.

"I traveled half-way across the empire to hear your report, Krokal," Shinzon said with a denigrating tone. "The real question is 'are you ready?'"

"Yes Sir," Krokal sighed before pressing the button to open the blast shield.

The heavy tritanium window cover opened with a hiss. Vkruk and Krokal recoiled from the light of a burning star less than a million kilometers from the ship. Shinzon managed to stand his ground.

Hobus was one of the oldest stars in the Beta Quadrant. Though its original bright yellow corona was showing the first signs of transforming to dim orange, the old giant still was absolutely overwhelming to a species used to the cold, eternal night of Remus' dark side. However, it was the only star available to Shinzon that had precisely the correct balance of elements for his purposes.

"So, you claim to have refined the process since my last visit?" "Shinzon said crossing his arms.

"Yes Sir," Krokal answered trying to keep his voice steady against the searing light pouring through the window. "Based on the research in the Tal Shiar database, we originally believed that we could collect the necessary plasma from the outer corona. However, the mix of helium to hydrogen isotopes was still too high to produce viable thalaron particles…"

"Get to the point, Man," Shinzon said rolling his eyes behind his goggles.

Krokal quickly obeyed.

"Last week, our probes finally retrieved a sample from well beneath the star's surface. The decay beginning at a depth of 600,000 kilometers produced nearly the perfect isotope mix. We've begun the construction of a particle drill on the thalaron collection rig so that it will be able to mine the necessary raw materials directly from Hobus' stellar core."

"How long until you can begin refinement of thalaron particles?" Shinzon asked sharply.

"We will be able to activate the particle drill in three weeks," Krokal answered, "but it will take another two months before we will have collected enough core plasma to be able to refine any useful amount of thalaron radiation."

Shinzon snapped his head over and glared at the engineer.

"That is unacceptable!" he shouted. "Our operations are on an extraordinarily strict timetable. Every other Reman laboring to make our freedom a reality cannot afford to wait because of your incompetence."

Krokal began trembling, but still tried to explain.

"My Lord, you must understand," he began, "drilling into the core of a star this old is extremely delicate work. The slightest mistake or imbalance could destabilize the stellar core and exponentially increase the rate of fusion degradation. And, well, you know what that means…"

"Actually, I don't," Shinzon said with great annoyance. "Forgive me, but my knowledge of stellar mechanics is somewhat limited due to the circumstances of my childhood. However, if you would be so kind to enlighten this humble leader of the Reman People," Shinzon said sarcastically bowing. Vkruk shot a warning glance to the engineer. He knew that when his lord was this agitated, he was prone to making rash decisions with people's lives.

"Sir, my apologies," Krokal continued. "If we destabilize the stellar core, it could cause the star to go supernova. The subspace shockwaves could obliterate this entire sector."

Shinzon slowly rolled his head from side to side.

"You say this to me like I should care…" he finally replied.

Krokal was stunned by Shizon's flippant disregard for the nearby planetary systems, including their own.

"Shinzon!" Vkruk shouted in a manner that caught his lord's attention. The general knew that Vkruk only used this paternalistic tone was he was trying to tell him he had crossed a line. He was the only Reman who could do this and not end up on the wrong side of a firing squad.

"Apparently, it is I you owe you an apology, Krokal," Shinzon said in a manner that made it clear he was not actually apologetic. "Very well, if you say it will take two months, than you take two months." Then, the general took a large step towards the engineer. "However, take careful note of what I'm about to say: I won't tolerate any further delay. If you can't get the job done, I will find someone who can. Am I understood?"

"Yes Sir!" Krokal said now trembling even more intensely.

"Good," Shinzon replied. "Now, I believe you have a lot of work to do. Leave me and my viceroy to marvel at your handiwork for a while."

"Yes, My Lord!" Krokal said running out of the room. Shinzon turned to look back out of the window. Vkruk stepped forward and cupped his hand over his eyes to catch a glimpse of the whole reason they made this trip.

"I suppose I should thank the rebel slaves for one thing," Shinzon mused. "With the Romulan Navy obliterated, there's no one out here to bother us."

"You know," the viceroy said refocusing the conversation, "they say patience is a virtue."

"Not now it isn't!" Shinzon said back to him with a steely resolve. "We've come too far to become bogged down by trivial concerns now. We cannot risk our plan falling apart because some piss-ant engineer is afraid of a little risk."

"I would hardly call a supernova 'a little risk.'" Vkruk countered. "My Lord, I have been at your side most of your life. I don't want to see your dream of a strong and free Remus destroyed because you underestimated our enemies."

"Vkruk," Shinzon said relaxing a bit, "For over twenty years you have been a teacher, mentor, father, and friend. I am grateful for what you have done for me, but now I require a bit of faith. There is a reason why I was able to rise from slave to general, and that is vision! I can see our future so clearly," Shinzon said reaching towards the window and pointing outwards. "Now, I beg for you to step forward, brave the terror of the light, and see it with me."

Vkruk gritted his fangs and stepped closer to Shinzon's side. They looked out together to see the huge cylindrical satellite orbiting the Hobus Star. Three Reman construction barges circled the colossus as hundreds of workers in heat-shielded space suits maneuvered pieces of tritanium plating with the assistance of hundred meter long robotic arms. One at a time, the workers placed the flat pieces of metal against the skeletal frame of the collection rig and finally set them in place with hundreds of self-sealing stem bolts.

Vkruk raised arm again and squinted his eyes just enough to make out the particle drill slowly coming together as more workers added it to the end of the superstructure.

"Our enemies already tremble when we emerge from the darkness," Shinzon grinned. "Soon, they will also tremble when emerge from this light."

Vkruk could see Shinzon's vision alright. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. He stepped back into the shadows, and shut his eyes. He wanted to remember the lost little boy he had adopted all those years ago; the little boy who reached out his pale hand only hoping for a bit of kindness and humanoid affection. The same little boy he had come to love as his own son; the same little boy that loved him before growing up into a madman.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Fighter Weapons School: Tellar Prime, Federation Space

Phil leaned back onto the sagging bed. The "student quarters" barely qualified as "quarters" at all. His studio apartment had white painted cinder block walls, scratched tile floors, a rickety wooden desk, a worn out chair, questionable replicator, and a Starfleet issue bedframe and mattress that had seen at least a thousand transient bodies in its long career. It wasn't luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. Still, he had been able to replicate some decent linens, the air conditioning worked, and the fact that he didn't have to share a sonic shower or toilet with anyone else was also something to be thankful for.

He gazed up at the image on the PADD in his hands.

"I can't believe it's already half over," he said with a sigh. "It's just 'go, go, go' here. Up at dawn, PT, classes, pre-flight, mission, post-flight, bed, repeat. Before you know it, a month has gone by."

"I can believe it," Katie said from the Pershing three hundred light years away. "This ship just feels so lonely not having you here."

Phil cracked a smile.

"What is it?" Katie grinned as she rested her cheek on a pillow. Phil thought she looked so beautiful just lying there in just a tank top, her hair down, and Starfleet dog tags dangling from around her neck.

"I just realized that this is the longest we've been apart since we've known each other," he replied. "I mean, Starfleet will carry all couples to opposite sides of the galaxy sooner or later, but I didn't think it would be this tough."

"Wow," she said shaking head. "Who would have thought that we'd become one of those gushy duos who can't live without each other? Makes me wonder how we're ever gonna handle a five year mission apart."

"If we have to, one day at a time," Phil said, "But I'm glad being apart is hard. It means we really belong together," he said gently touching his fingertips to the screen.

"I love you," Katie said repeating the gesture from across the stars.

"I love you, too, Katie bug," he replied.

"Dammit," she said sucking in a deep breath and wiping her eyes. "Ok, ok, subject change. Did you get my package?"

"I did!" Phil said smiling as he reached towards a white "Federation Postal Service" box on his nightstand. Next to it was a greeting card that read, "Fly Fast! Shoot Straight!" signed by all of Lady Blackjack's senior staff. From inside, Phil pulled out a homemade chocolate chip cookie and took a big bite so Katie could see. She smiled when she saw Phil's cheeks puff up.

"They're delicious," Phil said spraying cookie crumbs all over the PADD.

Katie laughed.

"I'm glad you like them."

"I had no idea you baked, by the way," Phil added.

"I actually had a lot of help," she replied.

"Who?" Phil asked curiously. "T'les?"

"Why, T'les?" Katie said raising an eyebrow. "Cause she's a girl? Sexist much?"

"Ok, ok," Phil said. "Was it Adamson? He seems like he could be into baking."

"Nope," Katie chuckled.

"Doc Katan?" Phil said running out of candidates.

"Nope," Katie said shaking her head.

"Then who? I certainly don't believe our brave captain could be the one. I've had her cooking."

Katie laughed even harder.

"Think more blue with antennae," she said.

"Scharr!?" Phil said spitting the remaining cookie out of his mouth.

"What?" Katie replied. "I thought you said they were good."

"He hates me!" Phil said. "He probably slipped some laxative or something into the dough when you weren't looking."

"Babe," Katie said. "First off, say what you will about the old man, but he knows his baked goods. Second, he likes you a lot more than you think."

"Really?" Phil said with a bit of amazement.

"This whole ship is proud of you for going after what you want," his wife said. "We're all rooting for you to come home with that trophy. Daredevil says that if she could win it, you're a sure thing."

Phil rubbed his eyes and rested his head against the wall.

"I don't know, Katie," he finally replied. "The competition here is insane."

"You mean from those two weird chicks from Betazed?"

"Yeah, Quiet Riot," Phil muttered. "They just don't make mistakes. Two days ago, they took out three fighters by themselves in a simulated dogfight by luring them into the asteroid belt around Tellar Prime's moon, Phinda. The rocks caused the enemy formation to break up, and Quiet Riot picked them off one by one. It wasn't textbook, it was BETTER than textbook."

"What about you?" Katie asked curiously.

"On my run, I got two of them, but the third guy managed to sneak up on my low seven o'clock and get torpedo lock."

"I thought that the low seven o'clock was in the pilot's blind spot and it was the Sizzo's job to watch it?" Katie replied raising an eyebrow.

A look of amazement washed over Phil's face.

"You mean you actually listen to me when I talk about fighter tactics?" he said genuinely touched.

"Sometimes…" Kate mumbled with a little smirk. "Phil, it's ok. Just finish strong and get your ass back home."

Phil smiled again.

"Home…" Phil said with a sigh of contentment. "The Pershing really is our home now, isn't it?"

"I guess it is," Katie said smiling back.

"Well," he said resolutely, "I promised Annabeth that I would do Lady Blackjack proud before I left. I'm an Englishman, and England expects that every man will do his duty for home, king, and country."

"Well, I don't know about king and country," Katie replied, "but go win that thing for us, Saber."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Romulan Planetary Protectorate of Viochin: Romulan Frontier

Rain poured out of the night sky onto the rusty sheet metal roof. The rapid "tink, tink, tink" of water droplets on tin drowned out the lapping sounds of waves crashing on the beach a few meters behind the tightly clustered village. Many locals were still out despite the weather. Some strolled to take in the warm, moist air while others concluded a few business deals that were still outstanding when the twin suns set beneath the horizon several hours previously. On the back porch of one of the shacks, two elderly Viochinian men sat across from each other over a worn out game board. Each took turns placing plastic tiles with various colorful symbols to make specific patterns.

Half a dozen curing fish hung from an old piece of rope strung between sun-bleached wooden posts supporting the roof. A bare white fluorescent bulb dangled from two wires overhead. The harsh glow attracted sand flies that clustered in a swarm just a few centimeters above the men's brown, scaly heads. Neither one seemed to mind. Both smoked a harshly pungent yellow weed from long-stemmed clay pipes.

"Biang sow di pang bachang," one of them muttered while stroking the long white beard that extended from his pointed chin. He carefully placed a tile with a red circle near the top of the board. The skinny, reptilian lips of his competitor curled back from his yellowed, needle-like teeth.

"Siema cao sing ji bas saanh," he said putting a tile with a green cross adjacent to the piece just placed by his friend.

"KIEP SAP LAO!" the first man exclaimed with great frustration. The other man laughed as he blew acrid smoke out of his two nose slits.

Another older Viochinian woman sat two meters away from the men enjoying a bowl of pungent fish stew. Every few bites, she would casually look over with her two bulbous eyes, and shoot the meter and half long tongue out of her mouth to snare one of the sand flies out of the air. The creatures added additional flavor to her dinner. Suddenly, a figure in a rubberized cloak appeared out of the darkness.

"Coy ciap bing say triniah mai lo?" the Viochinian woman asked with a dispassionate huff.

"Giang Giang," the figure replied. "Ting nia chang chu soa mas Romulani biang bak."

The Viochinian woman's face contorted into an expression that most humanoids would classify as a "bemused grin." She shot her tongue out to grab another fly before reaching under the table at her side to press a hidden button. A secret panel in the exterior wall of the shack clicked open. The cloaked figure passed inside, firmly shutting the door behind her.

The figure walked down a flight of dark rickety steps to a claustrophobic chamber dug into the sand underneath the shack. Its walls were reinforced with old scrap wood. The only light was a bare bulb that flickered every time someone walked on the floors above.

Rellas, Esrak, Seebo, Gras, and about fifteen other fighters were huddled around a table. When they heard someone coming, they all drew disruptor pistols, daggers, and swords and aimed them into the darkness.

"You certainly know how to make a girl feel welcome," Valaa muttered emerging from the staircase and pulling down her hood.

"We can never be too careful these days…" Seebo replied as they all holstered their weapons.

"I'm an Orion!" Valaa shouted while stripping off her soaking wet cloak and throwing it into the corner. "I hate the fucking rain." She pulled out a dry cigarette and lighter from her pocket and lit up. Everyone else in the unventilated space had learned it was a bad idea to complain. They had just learned to tolerate it the clouds of smoke.

"How did you ever learn about this planet?" Esrak asked curiously.

"Before I handed in my resignation to my master along with thirty centimeters of sharpened steel," Valaa explained, "he used to come here several times a year for semi-annual multi-day morpholan binge. He brought me along to play with whenever he didn't have a hypospray against his neck…"

"The stories you tell of your captivity make me almost thankful to have been one of Selonia's gladiators…" Rellas said shaking his head.

"Yeah, he was a REAL great guy…" Valaa grumbled sarcastically before taking another long drag on her cigarette. "But don't hold his vices against this place. The Viochinians are good people even when they're trying to sell you drugs, illegal weapons, or counterfeit Federation goods. Everyone's gotta make a living somehow, after all. It also means they also know how to keep their mouth slits shut."

"Were you able to find out anything about the others?" Gras said hopefully. Valaa's face immediately dropped.

"How bad is it?" Rellas asked. Valaa put her smoke between her lips and walked over to the table. A faded star map covered with coffee stains and crumbs of food was laid out on its surface. Valaa grabbed an old-fashioned pen to use as a pointer and started briefing.

"It's worse than we thought," she began. "The Remans raided our supply stockpiles on Garthos, Sandora Prime, and Xanitla. They also hit our safe houses on Nequencia and B'lev. I wasn't able to get into contact with Celes II or Ralatak, but it's a good bet those are gone too."

"How?" Seebo said pounding his fist against the table. "Do you think we have a mole?"

"What you see is what you get!" Valaa said pointing around the room. "Everyone not in this basement is either dead, missing, or shipped off to the colony on Subik IV. Anyone here on the Reman's payroll? Anyone?" she repeated sarcastically.

"What about Trallian?" Seebo grumbled. "How do we know that pointed-eared bastard isn't selling us out to save himself?"

"That's enough from both of you," Rellas shouted. "Seebo, Senator Trallian has been helping this movement far longer than you have. Besides, he never knew the locations of Nequencia or B'lev. I arranged those two myself." He then turned to Valaa. "And things are now challenging enough without us snapping at each other."

"Personally, I think it's just the Remans, unlike their pampered and coddled Romulan friends, actually know how to think like a fugitive slave," Valaa said.

"No one in this room is a slave anymore, Valaa," Rellas reiterated firmly.

"Sorry, Boss Man," she apologized with another puff on her cigarette. "However, the fact remains. We can't even hope to mount an attack anywhere until we figure out how to get one step in front of the bat boys."

"What do we know about the Remans' leader, this General Shinzon?" Esrak asked.

"I asked some old acquaintances who occasionally work with the Reman Mining Guild hauling dilithium ore. Here's the kicker. He's not even Reman. He's human."

"HUMAN!?" Gras said shocked.

"Don't ask me to explain," Valaa said holding up her hands. "That's just what they told me."

"Do you think he's a transplant like your old Klingon friend?" Esrak asked. "What was his name? The son of Tugrunan? Son of Targan?"

"The Son of Tigranian," Rellas said pursing his lips. "I don't know, but I have never heard of a human voluntarily becoming a member of a second-class race in the Romulan Empire."

"I don't know," Valaa countered. "Humans are renowned as being one of the stupidest, most na´ve species out there. I mean, they were so bad at economic planning they just decided to get rid of money."

Her last comment actually managed to get a chuckle out of Rellas. Then, he quickly grew serious again.

"I don't know, but you are correct about one thing, Valaa. Until we understand our new enemy, we can't hope to defeat them." He paused, "and the Son of Tigranian did teach me something about humans who do not live among their own kind…"

"What is that?" Esrak asked. Rellas answered:

"They're twice as unpredictable and twice as dangerous because they have something to prove."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Fighter Weapons School: Tellar Prime, Federation Space

Most of the other student crews were zoning out as the lecture in the stuffy classroom approached the top of its second hour. They had to learn the high notes for the exam, but the rest of the minor details only mattered to the two crews who had jumped out ahead of the pack and still had a chance at the "Top Gun" trophy.

Phil and Kickstart were taking notes in the middle of the room. As usual, they were seated next to Overdrive and Tick-tock, the only driver and Sizzo team who actually seemed to like them. Quiet Riot had posted themselves in their usual spot right in the center of the front row. They weren't exactly popular either, but the other students at least saw them as the more acceptable alternative to Phil who was seen as a teacher's pet. Despite the fact that Phil had never even spoken of Godfather's praise with his other classmates in the past month, someone had started the rumor that he was an insufferable brownnoser behind closed doors. He strongly suspected the culprits were both from Betazed.

"On its surface," Lieutenant Pressman, callsign "Hardtack," instructed from the front of the class, "an engagement out in open space seems like it would be much easier than an engagement within the confines of a system. A pilot doesn't have to worry about maneuvering through gravity wells or avoiding asteroids, rocks, or ice. A Sizzo doesn't have to worry about a stray comet providing a false sensor echo or stellar radiation clouding their targeting sensors.

However, in deep vacuum, it's just you, your enemies, and a few specks of cosmic dust. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is actually what makes it the most dangerous environment of all for an aviation crew. There is absolutely nowhere to hide."

In her hands, Hardtack held two small plastic models of fighters mounted on the end of wooden dowels: one T-Bat and one Romulan Night Talon. The models were exactly the same kind of visual aids that pilots had been using to illustrate tactics for almost five centuries. Even in this age of holograms and high-definition viewscreens, there was still no better way of showing others how to dogfight without actually strapping into a spacecraft.

"The T-Bat was designed as a multi-role spaceframe: space superiority fighter, attack bomber, Starfleet marine close air support platform, and as a medium range anti-starship interceptor craft," Hardtack continued. "You will not find a warp-capable fighter platform with a better target acquisition suite, long range sensor array, or a larger and more versatile weapons load out. That being said, she has some significant flaws when it comes to sub-light maneuvering."

Hardtack took her models, put them nose to nose, and then slowly brought them together.

"The T-Bat's larger mass, flight stability, and smaller thrust to weight ratio when compared to comparable fighters makes her far less able to match the turning radius of smaller, lighter spaceframes such as the Night Talon here, the Tholian Firestar, or even the Cardassian Hidecki class. To put it bluntly, in tight-quarters, the F/A 297 flies like a brick.

The Valkyrie class currently under development is integrating a lot of the lessons learned from the war, but until it becomes fully operational, it's important that you understand what a T-Bat can do and what it can't. Sometimes, the most successful dogfight is the one you avoid."

Hardtack placed the models as far apart as her arms would reach.

"If it appears that you are about to get into shooting fight in open space, it is critical that you acquire and engage enemies at the furthest possible range. Otherwise…"

She took the models and maneuvered them so that the Night Talon moved into perfect shooting position at the T-Bat's six-o'clock.

"The enemy will no doubt use their superior turning radius to get in behind and obliterate you. Questions?"

The other students started furiously scribbling notes on their PADDs, but Phil pursed his lips, took a deep breath, and looked down at the floor. Another pilot a few rows behind named Sunspot noticed Phil's discomfort and raised his hand.

"Yes," Hardtack said pointing to him.

"Well, I'm just wondering what our most experienced student pilot, Saber, has to say about this?" he said sarcastically. The usual snickers ran through the rows. Up front, Quiet Riot simultaneously rolled their eyes. "I mean, Godfather did say we should take every opportunity to learn from his experience."

"Considering that this is the exact answer out of the manual Godfather helped write, I think Saber would say the same thing," Hardtack chuckled. Phil's mind flashed back to his last flight session with Daredevil on the Pershing's holodeck:

"Oh, you fly by the manual now?" her chastising words ran through his mind.

Just before Hardtack was about to move on, Phil's hand shot into the air.

"Actually, Ma'am," he said trying to sound confident, "I wouldn't say the same thing."

"OOOOOOOOHHHHH," echoed through the classroom like they were all back in high school.

"That's enough, you're all Starfleet officers!" Hardtack said to the group harshly before turning her gaze right at Phil. "Alright, Saber," she said, "I would LOVE for you to come up here and tell us all how a technique verified in combat for the past fifteen years is wrong…"

Phil looked back and forth.

"NOW PILOT," Hardtack commanded even more sharply. Phil tried to push the skeptical whispers of his classmates out of his ears as he stood up from his seat and made his way to the front. Kickstart, Overdrive, and Tick-tock were all shaking their heads. The instructor held out the two models and Phil grabbed them by the wooden dowels. He then mimicked her demonstration by putting the models at arm's length from each other.

"It is true that the T-Bat's sensor package means you can engage enemies farther out then they can engage you," Phil began, "but your pulse phasers are no good past 40,000 kilometers and your micro-torpedoes and anti-starship missiles still have a limit on their physical rate of travel. If I open fire at max range," Phil said shaking the T-Bat model, "the enemy fighters are actually so maneuverable, it actually gives enough time for the enemy's wingman," Phil said then shaking the Night Talon, "to actually open fire at hit your munitions before they reach the target. "The Cardassians at Chin'toka actually pioneered an unofficial doctrine of flying in hunter-killer quad formations mid-way through the war to defeat our manuals, Ma'am." Phil said looking over at a bemused Hardtack. "The two center birds would actually be the ones searching out enemy fighters while the outer two birds would look solely for incoming ordnance. It worked."

"Alright," Hardtack said crossing her arms. Phil had definitely caught her attention. "How would you fly this attack then?"

"You have to know what your platform can do and use its strengths just like you said, Ma'am," Phil answered. "The enemy birds are smaller and faster, but my engines are way more powerful. They also shift my center of mass further back on my spaceframe."

Suddenly, Phil pushed the two models together at a high rate of speed.

"I would go head to head at full throttle and close the distance. My forward shields can take a lot more pounding then theirs can. Just before you hit weapons range, engage your lateral RCS maneuver thrusters fore and aft. Your nose will decelerate, but the mass of your impulse engines will keep moving forward into a flat spin…"

Phil demonstrated by twisting the T-Bat model around the Night Talon's central axis.

"You'll drift straight around the bastard. Open up with your pulse phasers and cut him open like can of sardines. Even if you don't get an immediate kill, you'll move straight into perfect firing position right at the enemy six." Phil stopped the model directly aft of the Night Talon model. "He may be fast, but he's not as fast as micro-torps."

"No, no, no," Hardtack said shaking her head. "Even with inertial dampeners, your deuterium pumps can't keep up with such a dramatic shift in angular momentum. You'll suck the fuel right out of your lines and your impulse fusion reactors will shut down. You'll stall out and tumble off as helpless and blind as a newborn space whale pup popping outta 'Mama Gormagander'."

"I guess 'Big Ace' ain't as good as he is lucky!" Sunspot shouted out from the back. The class burst out laughing. Phil smiled and nodded his head.

"Normally, you'd be right," he continued. "However, if I fire my rear maneuvering thrusters at forty percent thrust right when I hit the apex of the spin…"

Hardtack's eyes opened wide.

"The moderate thrust won't be enough to alter the trajectory of your induced spin, but it will be enough to turn your RCS into ullage motors!"

"Exactly," Phil said with a grin. "The thrust will be just enough to accelerate enough deuterium into the aft well of the tank to keep the pumps flowing. My reactors won't shut down and I'll be combat ready the whole time."

The entire class fell silent.

"Have you actually done this?" Hardtack asked with genuine admiration.

"A couple of times," Phil said with a bit of English understatement. "My old wingman and I liked to play around when we were stuck on dawn patrol flying off the Pike. I'm really into ancient Earth aviation history. I came up with the idea when I read about Apollo 13 improvising how to fly their Lunar Module for deep space course correction…"

Everyone's eyes started to glaze over. Phil jumped back to the point.

"That's not important," he said shaking his head. "Anyways, Daredevil's actually the one who figured out that forty percent was the magic number. We called it, 'U-Turning.' Move came in real handy when we took down those six Firestars three years ago."

"Lieutenant," Hardtack said. "Next time we're up on a hop together, can you show me how to do that?"

"I'd be happy to, Ma'am," Phil answered with a smile.

"Thank you. You can take your seat now."

As Phil moved back to his desk, every pair of eyes in the room followed him with a mix of annoyance and envy. Quiet Riot telepathically promised each other to spend all night in the holodeck simulator until they figured out to pull off that move. For his part in all of this, Sunspot vowed never to challenge Saber's flight skills publicly again.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
The next afternoon, Phil and Kickstart shot through space with Quiet Riot on their wing. The two men had drawn flight lead for this mission while Quiet Riot assumed their rear security. The pair of T-Bats blasted past the moon of Phinda and skimmed the asteroid belt ringing its equator. The two instructor-safeties for the flight, "Hardtack" and "Selat," hung back about five thousand meters silently watching from their A8s. They were only there to umpire the upcoming action. The four students had their eyes peeled for their real targets.

Phil keyed his subspace radio.

"Niner 1-1 to 1-0, proceeding from Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3. Still no signs of enemy contact, but keep scanning your sector."

"This is 1-0, WILCO," Quiet replied tersely.

"Hey Saber," Kickstart said on the intercom. "You ever wonder what those two talk about inside their heads?"

"I try not to," Phil chuckled back. "I can't imagine it's anything very nice."

"Ha, probably not," Kickstart replied, "but it would be pretty cool to know if we make them nervous as nervous as they make us."

"I wouldn't count on that, Brother," Phil replied.

At that moment, Kickstart's eye caught two objects moving at high speed against the blackness just outside of Phinda's gravity well. Before he could alert Phil, Riot's voice crackled to life in their headsets.

"Contact, two bogeys two o'clock low. Course 278 Mark 147 Distance 4,350 Nautical Miles."

"Acknowledged," Phil replied. "You got 'em, Kick?"

"Roger," Kickstart replied trying to get a firm fix. The interference coming from the asteroid belt was causing the Sizzo problems. Finally, he managed to get the contact steady on the T-Bat's long range sensors.

"I see them on my scopes now," Phil said as his instruments updated. He keyed his subspace radio. As the flight lead, it was his responsibility to report to the instructor-safeties.

"Control, this is Niner 1-0. Two bogeys, course 278 Mark 147. Distance is now 4,105 Nautical Miles. Are they friendly?"

"Acknowledge your report, 1-0," Selat replied from his A8. "That's a negative. You are cleared to engage."

"Roger!" Phil shouted back as he brought his tactical systems online.

"This is 1-0, Acknowledge," Quiet cut into his radio traffic.

"Of course they don't wait for their flight lead to call them…" Phil muttered. "Kick, can you see who it is out there?"

Each one of the instructor spacecraft had a slightly different paint scheme. After a few weeks, the students had learned to recognize them. Kickstart craned his neck as the T-Bats began accelerating up to attack speed.

"The lead one is Blaster," Kickstart yelled. "I can't tell who the second one is. I don't recognize the colors."

They didn't have to wait long.

"Alright Boys and Girls," a voice cut in on the instructor net. "Catch me if you can! Tally Ho!"

The mystery A8 suddenly broke away from Blaster, hit its afterburners, and zoomed off into Phinda's asteroid belt trailing impulse exhaust behind.

"WAS THAT GODFATHER!?" Kickstart shouted.

"Yeah, I think that was Godfather," Phil replied with a sharp breath. "Shit…"

He keyed his radio.

"Niner 1-0, this is 1-1," Phil said on the radio to Quiet Riot. "Godfather's trying to separate us and draw us into a fight on his terms. We're not taking the bait. We're going after Blaster first. I got the lead. Stay on my wing and cover me."

There was an uncharacteristically long pause before Quiet answered.

"They better not be thinking about ditching us and going after Godfather alone," Kickstart said. "We need them to watch our ass!"

"They're too professional to do that, Kick," Phil replied pointing the T-Bat's nose toward Blaster's fighter. "At least I hope so…"

Finally, Quiet answered.

"On your wing."

"She doesn't sound happy," Kickstart said.

"Don't really care right now," Phil replied as he pushed the throttles forward to full impulse. Soon, both spacecraft had closed the distance with Blaster and began maneuvering to get on his tail.

"Micro-torpedo select!" Phil shouted. He looked back through the canopy to see Quiet Riot's T-Bat just a few meters behind him. The wingman's job in this situation would be to prevent Godfather from sneaking up behind and taking a shot while the lead was trying to get a weapons lock on Blaster.

"C'mon, Baby! C'mon!" Phil said trying to set his weapons reticle on Blaster's fast moving spacecraft. "Shit! He's good!"

Blaster twisted and rolled his A8 faster than Phil could match.

"He's trying to get around behind us!" Kickstart shouted.

"I see it! I see it!" Phil shouted as the g forces threw them back and forth across the cockpit. Phil's target reticle started chirping as it began to close in Blaster's signature.

"1-1, this 1-0," Quiet said on the radio. She sounded almost bored. "Are you in need of assistance? I can take the shot from back here."

"Negative, this is my kill! You can't have them all." Phil shouted angrily before turning back to his console. "Lock up!" he said still maneuvering his targeting reticle. "Lock up!"

Suddenly, another small silhouette shot out from the asteroid field almost too quickly to see. It settled right behind Quiet Riot.

"Godfather's on Quiet Riot's tail!" Kickstart said looking out of the rear of the canopy. "He's moving right into prime firing position!"

"1-1, this is 1-0!" Quiet shouted through the radio with more nerves in her voice than Phil had ever heard before. "Fire or clear! We're can't maneuver back here!"

"Acknowledged!" Phil shouted back still trying to get weapons lock on Blaster. The lead enemy craft was now in a high speed turn helping to bring Quiet Riot right into his partner's sights. "He's coming around. Just hold on for five more seconds!"

"We're not gonna be here in five seconds!" Quiet replied desperately. "We have one of the best fighter pilots in the galaxy on our ass!"

"Got him!" Phil screamed as his reticle turned red right over Blaster's silhouette. The constant tone of weapons lock screamed in their ears.

"WOOOO!" Kickstart shouted. "Blaster's dead."

"Bandit one is killed," Hardtack confirmed on the instructor net.

"Well done. I'm off. Returning to Base," Blaster said acknowledging Phil's kill. He turned sharply and screamed away.

The sound of a second weapons lock echoed through Phil and Saber's cockpit.

"SON OF A BITCH!" Quiet and Riot both shouted on the net in unison.

"Niner 1-0 is killed," Selat said on subspace. The Vulcan instructor's calm and clear demeanor somehow made the women even angrier at being taken out of the game.

"NINER 1-0 IS OFF! RETURNING TO BASE!" Quiet roared as she turned to follow Blaster back to Tellar Prime.

"It's just you and me now," Godfather said taunting Phil on the net. The salty captain gunned his engines and closed the distance right onto their tail.

"He's right on top of us!" Kickstart shouted looking out the rear of the canopy. They could both hear the steady beeping of Godfather's sensors creeping closer to weapons lock.

"Hey, Kick," Phil said grinning behind his visor. "Hardtack's still back there, right?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Kickstart said. "Of course, she is."

"Well, Ma'am," Phil said remembering her request in class yesterday. "I hope you're watching. Kick, hold onto something."

"OH SHIT!" the Sizzo replied grabbing the handles on the side of the canopy.

"U-TURN!" Phil shouted. He cut his impulse engines, engaged his maneuvering thrusters, and spun his T-Bat around in a 360 degree flat spin. Godfather's A8 shot straight past. Top Gun's senior pilot looked out of his canopy to see Phil waving at him. Then, the T-Bat's pilot reengaged his impulse drives and shot straight into firing position behind Godfather.

"WHAT THE HELL!?" Godfather shouted in shock.

"You shot down my wingman, Sir," Phil said knowing that they could hear him. "You didn't think I was going to let you get home in one piece?"

Godfather went fully on the defensive. He climbed sharply and then dove trying to gain some distance between his own A8 and Phil's T-Bat.

"Gonna have to do better than that," Phil muttered. He barrel rolled his fighter to keep his sights moving toward the tiny spacecraft. Both men in the cockpit gritted their teeth and flexed their leg muscles as the immense g forces started to overcome their inertial dampeners.

"He's making a break for the asteroid belt!" Kickstart said as Phil narrowed the band of his targeting scanners.

"He's not gonna make it…" Phil answered.

In Godfather's cockpit, the old man was doing everything he could to keep ahead of Saber's relentless pursuit. He was just a few thousand kilometers from the edge of Phinda's Belt. If he could just get there, he knew he could escape.

"Hey Saber," Godfather taunted Phil again on the subspace radio. He knew his only chance was to break his opponent's concentration long enough to get to the relative safety of the asteroids. "Where did you learn to fly like that? I sure know it wasn't in Starfleet."

Phil tensed a bit behind the stick of his T-Bat. Godfather's question really made him think. Suddenly, he was nine years old again in his childhood room back in Yorkshire. His parents had long since gone to sleep, but he was lying on his bed as the fictional heroes from his 20th century movie collection spoke from the small holoscreen hanging above his dresser. He listened while staring up at the ceiling as the glow of countless air and space battles illuminated the painted plastic models of Spitfires, F-14s, and X-Wings hung from his ceiling with fishing line…

"Saber!" Kickstart shouted jarring him back to the present. "He's gonna get away!"

Phil leaned forward, keyed his radio, and shouted an answer to Godfather's question:

"Where did I learn to fly, Sir? The White Cliffs of Dover, Miramar, and the Death Star, that's where!"

"Where the hell are those?" Godfather laughed back. He didn't know what Phil was talking about, but there was some kind of innocent pride in the tone of his voice. Something that made all the competitive jockeying for position and posturing just fall away. It was obvious how much this kid loved being a pilot.

Godfather saw the asteroid belt right in front of him. There was a still a slight chance he could escape Phil's artful pursuit. Instead, he relaxed a bit on his controls. The next sound in his headset was something Godfather hadn't heard in his thirteen years as a Top Gun instructor: the steady tone of a student's weapon lock on his fighter.

"Bandit two is killed," Hardtack said slowly on the subspace radio. "Niner 1-1, you are cleared to return to base."

"Son of a bitch," Godfather muttered realizing his perfect streak was over. Still, he managed to crack a smile. "Good job, Kid," he muttered without keying his radio.


Back on the school's tarmac, the other student flight teams were going through their own pre-flight checklists in the heat of late afternoon. Maintenance crews ran back and forth between the spacecraft ensuring that fuel was loaded and parts were probably fitted. A roar at the far end of the runway caught their attention.

Blaster's A8 touched its wheels down with two puffs of white smoke and then taxied straight back towards the instructor's ready line.

Overdrive looked over to Tick-tock. They both leaned on the boarding ladder of their fighter.

"He's back early," Overdrive muttered with surprise. Quiet Riot's T-Bat touched down right after and slowly began making its way back to the student line.

"Well," Tick-tock said curling both his antennae, "I guess its gonna be a bad day up there if they're already dead. I heard a rumor."

"And what rumor is that?" Sunspot called over to them from his parking spot. The pilot was checking the weapons fittings underneath his winglets and making notes on his checklist.

"I heard that Godfather went up there to show Quiet Riot, Saber, and Kickstart who the real 'Top Gun' at 'Top Gun' is."

"Man's like fifty years old," Berserker, a Caitian pilot, shouted from the other side of Overdrive's T-Bat. "Is he even still cleared to fly by the flight surgeon?"

"You wouldn't be saying that if you saw him on your tail," Overdrive laughed.

The roar of another spacecraft landing caught their attention. It was another instructor A8. As it taxied past them all to a stop, they realized that it was, in fact, Godfather.

"I'll be damned," Overdrive said turning to Tick-tock. "I guess you were right," he said getting ready to climb into the cockpit.

"Yeah," Tick-tock said. "But if he's back here, where's Saber and Kickstart?"

A sonic boom echoed across the tarmac. A lone T-Bat screamed in out of the blue and flew a circle all the way around the air station. The roar of its engines drowned out everything else on the ground.

"What the hell is Saber doing?" Sunspot said looking up into the sky. Overdrive looked over to see Godfather crack open his canopy, pull off his helmet, and rub his eyes.

"Holy Shit!" he screamed raising his helmet into the air as he figured it out. "SABER GOT GODFATHER!"

Phil and Kickstart shot over the tarmac at less than 500 meters. Phil victory rolled his T-Bat and dropped two plasma flares from his tail.

A huge cheer rose from all the students. It didn't matter to them that it was Saber. One of their class had taken down the legend.

Phil brought his T-Bat down gently onto the runway and taxied over to a parking space. Even before the ground crew had guided him to a stop, the other students were running up to congratulate him and Kickstart.

The two men opened their canopy and slid down the ladder to the ground. Instantly, the other pilots and Sizzos rushed over and surrounded them with handshakes and shoulder slaps.

"Did you get him? Did you really get him?" Overdrive shouted at the top of his lungs. Phil looked around the crowd and shrugged.

"Yeah, we got him," Phil replied. Another huge cheer rose from the students. Phil looked across the concrete tarmac to see Godfather leaning against the side of his A8. The old man merely nodded back respectfully. It brought a smile to Saber's face.

However, the moment was short lived.

"You Assholes!" two women screamed before pushing their way through the crowd. Quiet charged up and shoved Phil right to the ground. Riot dove towards Kickstart and swung her helmet towards his head. He managed to duck just in time.

"HEY! HEY!" the other students shouted pulling the two crews apart.

"What the hell was that!?" Phil shouted as he dove back up onto his feet

"I told you I could have taken the shot!" Quiet screamed loud enough to echo off the runway. "Instead, you kept me back on your wing and took your sweet ass time killing Blaster."

"We couldn't maneuver and you let Godfather kill us!" Riot added.

A hushed murmur went through the others.

"That's right!" Quiet said to the rest of the group. "The great Saber here sacrificed us like lambs to the slaughter just so he could enjoy the glory of double kill!"

Phil had finally had enough of these two. He didn't care what the others thought, but he was going to tell the truth.

"That is not what happened at all!" he shouted back at them. "I was in the lead position and you were the wingman! I got Blaster as fast as I could."

"He's right!" Kickstart screamed. "I was up there too! Saber did everything right and it's your job as wingman to watch our six. It's not our fault Godfather came in and waxed you."

"Bullshit, you could have waved off of Blaster and gotten us out of there," Riot yelled. "You didn't have to stay committed."

"Then they could have formed back up and gotten us both!" Saber replied. "It's our job to engage when we have the shot!"

"Quiet, Riot, if you were on their wing, it was your job to keep them clear until they could engage," Overdrive said backing up Phil and Kickstart.

"Screw you! You weren't up there!" Riot said.

"He's right though," Sunspot added firmly.

Phil looked over with surprise. He didn't expect to have any supporters among this group. Quiet Riot looked around and realized that the others were nodding in agreement with Overdrive and Sunspot.

"Whatever," Quiet said gritting her teeth and shaking her head. "We don't need any of you."

"When we get presented that trophy at graduation, all of you are gonna realize who the best are," Riot boasted. The two women pushed their way back through the crowd and stormed off towards the locker rooms.

"Forget them!" Berserker said grabbing Phil and lifting him off the ground. "You bastards did it! Beers on you tonight at the O-Club!"

The others went back to congratulating Phil and Kickstart. The Sizzo reveled in his moment of glory, but Phil glanced over from behind his aviator sunglasses to see Quiet Riot walking off alone. He had been dreaming of a moment like this for weeks, but this just didn't seem right.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
The next day in the courtyard of the student barracks, the student pilots and Sizzos celebrated passing the halfway mark of the course with a barbecue. Sunspot, Kickstart, Tick-tock, and another Sizzo who went by the callsign "High-Speed" played a pickup game of volleyball in the sand pit between the beige permacrete buildings.

Berserker manned the giant charcoal grill covered with Terran hamburgers, Andorian kilm steaks, and Vulcan plomeek roots. As the felinoid flipped the grilling vegetables and sizzling meats, he wiped his paws on his white apron that read, "PET THE COOK" in giant cartoonish letters.

Phil and Overdrive were both in t-shirts, board shorts, and aviator sunglasses. They walked up to the picnic table buffet and started piling food onto their paper plates.

"Hey Chef," Overdrive called over to Berserker as he held up a hamburger patty. "Are you serving anything today not covered in cat hair?"

"Why don't you come over here and say that, pipsqueak?" Berserker said waving his spatula back at the grinning human. Phil chuckled as he reached into a bag and pulled out a handful of potato chips. "Whoah, whoah," Berserker said before reaching over and placing an entire kilm steak onto Phil's plate. "You need a victory meal. After all, you took down the old king of this place, so you need to eat like the new one!"

"I appreciate it," Phil said back into Berserker's grinning fangs, "but I don't think I can finish all this."

"Come on," Berserker said flashing his fur covered muscular arms, "you can't get big eating like a puny human."

"Appreciate it, B," Phil laughed before moving over to the condiments.

"Hey, can I get a kilm steak?" Overdrive asked a bit miffed.

"Nope," Berserker said walking back behind the grill. "Since you like to criticize, you can stick with my burgers." He chucked another patty right onto Overdrive's plate from three meters away. "Order up! I held the hair on that one just for you."

"Thanks, B…" Overdrive muttered before heading over to Phil.

The two men reached into a garbage can filled with ice and cans of cheap beer. After selecting their beverages, Overdrive motioned from them to grab a seat in the shade. Phil suddenly got a disappointed look on his face as he looked around at the twenty-four other aviator teams enjoying themselves on this gorgeous, sunny afternoon. The twenty-fifth team in the class was nowhere to be seen.

"They're still in the simulator," Overdrive guessed that Phil finally noticed Quiet Riot was missing. "I don't think they're in the mood to party right now."

"I still feel bad about what happened," Phil mumbled as he followed Overdrive to an empty table.

"Why?" Overdrive asked while putting his burger patty into a bun with lettuce and tomato. "You didn't do anything wrong! They're the ones being pretentious little shits."

Phil rubbed his eyes.

"I just keep going over it again and again," he said. "I could have broken off and I could have let them take the shot. Instead, I hogged the spotlight for two seconds too long just because I didn't want to hear them brag. Luckily, we're not firing real micro-torps up there or else Quiet and Riot's families would be planning funerals right now."

"You can't think like that," Overdrive said shaking his head as he took a bite of burger. "Besides," he continued talking with his mouth full. "Everyone agrees with you, not them. You were in the one spot, it's your job to take the shot while they watch your ass. That's just the way it goes." Ground beef juice and ketchup dribbled down the sound of his mouth.

Phil grimaced a bit at Overdrive's vulgar manners. He grabbed a paper and napkin and handed it to his friend.

"Thanks," Overdrive replied finally wiping his mouth and hands. "Damn, that furball can sure grill a good burger," he added.

"I guess I'm just wondering," Phil continued, "would I fly that selfish if it was for real?"

"Isn't flying like its real kinda the point of this school?" Overdrive countered.

"So, I would let my wingmen die just to get a kill…" Phil said dropping his shoulders and taking a long sip of his beer.

"Dammit, Man," Overdrive said grabbing a potato chip from Phil's plate. "No one is dead, everyone is fine, and nobody here thinks you're the asshole in the situation. This ain't a starship bridge, Man. Sometimes you gotta strut a little bit! It's fine."

A huge C-989 Starmaster military cargo spacecraft roared overhead as it entered the lower atmosphere. The student aviators looked up at the slow moving grey fuselage as it dropped its gear, turned on its landing lights, and lined up on the runway.

Everyone squinted against the fading evening light to make out "STARFLEET" lettered across its hull right behind the cockpit and "SPACE MOBILITY COMMAND: BOLARUS" painted in black and gold across its stubby tail.

"Man," Phil muttered. "They are a long way from home."

"It's just the bi-monthly cargo run," Overdrive answered. "Every two weeks a Starmaster flies back and forth across the Federation and hits every Starfleet aviation station to drop off mail and new personnel."

"Guess I must have missed them last time," Phil said taking a bite from his kilm steak.

"Eh, they fly big birds, but you know those cargo pilots," Overdrive chuckled, "they're easy to miss. They scored well enough at the Academy to get their wings, but not well enough to be one of us."

"Hey Saber!" Sunspot called over from the volleyball court. "Before you took out Godfather, I was figuring you should be behind the stick of one of those things! Starmaster still not as fat as your battlestarship though."

The other pilots laughed before being drowned out by the sound of the cargo bird's wheels screeching against asphalt a little less than a kilometer away. Even though Phil knew it was just some good natured ribbing, it still was not want he wanted to hear right now.

"You know," Phil said putting his plastic cutlery back on his plate. "I think I'm gonna take this to go."

"Oh, C'mon, Man," Overdrive said. "Don't be like that. We still got a lot of beer and meat left."

"No, no," Phil said trying to keep a veneer of politeness. "I'm pretty tired. I think I'm just going to throw this in my mini stasis unit, call the wife, and then rack out with a movie or something. We got to hit it hard again tomorrow."

Phil grabbed his food and headed up to his barracks room.

"Saber!" Overdrive called out. "SABER!"

Phil ignored him as he started walking up the stairs.

"Oh well," Overdrive shrugged, "more beer for me."


Phil lay on his bed with a PADD. He had just dialed Katie for the third time. She wasn't picking up, however, he really needed her too. He just wanted to talk to someone about what happened that didn't have an ego the size of this planet. He considered dialing Daredevil, but he wasn't sure she fit the description.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the wooden door. Phil rolled his eyes and threw the PADD on his nightstand. He fully expected Overdrive, Kickstart, or Sunspot to be standing there with a shit-eating grin on their face. They would immediately strike with a verbal dig to his masculinity for leaving the party early.

"What do you wa…." Phil said throwing open the door and freezing solid.

"How ya doing, Saber?" Katie said standing there with an overnight bag on her shoulder.

"Oh my God," Phil said grabbing his wife and pulling her into his arms. They kissed there for a few glorious seconds before he pulled back. "What are you doing here?" he said smiling for the first time in days.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," she said looking around his quarters. "Sweet digs," she said with a chuckle. Phil wrapped her back up into his arms.

"I thought you were concerned that we can't handle being separated?" he said still smiling. "What happens when we face that five year mission?"

"We don't have to deal with that yet," she grinned back.

"Are you sure you're not a telepath?" he asked burying his face into her hair. "All I wanted to do was talk to you tonight."

"Something in the sound of your voice last call made me think you needed a little pick me up," she said throwing her bag next to the twin bed.

"Oh yes," he still holding onto her waist. She laughed.

"You can thank Annabeth for granting a four day liberty for me. Lady Blackjack is transiting across the UFP this week from Cardassia to the Neutral Zone. I was able to grab a Space A on the SMC cargo run, but I fly back out tomorrow morning. They're dropping me off on Coridan in time to meet the Pershing when she arrives in two days."

"All I need is one night…" Phil said pushing her back onto the bed. She laughed as they collapsed onto the old mattress's sagging springs.

"Oh Baby," she said still laughing. Phil cast a glance into her eyes, reached up, and gently wiped away a strand of hair from her face. "What is it?" she said concerned.

"Tell me that I'm a good person," he said softly. "Tell me that I'm not the kind of man who puts glory in front of what's right. Tell me that's the man you married…" he said trailing off.

"You're a good person," she replied placing a hand on his cheek. "You're not the kind of man who puts glory in front of what's right, and that's the man I married," she said softly. "That's you. What's going on?"

He collapsed down next to her and quickly filled her in on yesterday's events with Quiet Riot.

"Hey," Katie said leaning over and planting a kiss on his forehead. "Do you remember that time we were on the Pike together and you told me about what happened with the USS Avenger? You know, the whole thing that got you picked to come to the Pershing in the first place?"

Phil nodded.

"That's who you really are. All this bullshit," she said gesturing around the room and out towards the flight line, "this is just a game. If you wanna play, play. If not, don't give it a second thought. Just do what you gotta do to finish with pride."

Phil softly chuckled.

"What?" Katie asked resting her face against his pillow.

"I feel like I'm the one who gives you advice all the time. I'm really glad you're the one giving it this time."

Katie playfully smacked him on the shoulder.

"Well, Smartass, did my advice help?"

"Yeah," Phil said with a nod. "Yeah it did."

"Well, that didn't take long," Katie snickered. "What should we do for the rest of the evening?"

"I have a few ideas…" Phil said jumping up and rolling on top of her.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Reman Heavy Military Industries Orbital Shipyards: Dark Side of Remus, Romulan Star Empire

Stardate: 54762.3

Shinzon and Vkruk stood on the pressurized observation gantry overlooking the construction dry dock. The tremendous hollow sphere of green duranium was the size of a small asteroid and had been built by the Romulan Navy during the Dominion War to construct three D'Deridex class warbirds at a time. Tens of thousands of Reman workers would beam up from the surface for twelve hour shifts building and refitting imperial ships destined for the front lines to battle against the Jem'Hadar and Cardassians. After the peace treaty was signed, the navy had stripped the satellite of most useful materials and left it to the Reman Auxiliary for upkeep of their long range patrol crafts and cruisers. It was a ludicrously large facility for such a limited number of ships. In fact, the entire Reman Imperial Auxiliary fleet could fit inside it at one time. However, in the chaos caused by the slave revolt and the disastrous attack on the Federation, even the Tal Shiar had failed to pay attention to the new project hidden by the slow rotation of Remus less than one AU away from the Romulan Senate in Ki-Baratan.

"The workers here performed a miracle," Vkruk said turning to Shinzon. "You should reward them."

"Saying you need four months to build something and then completing it in three is not a miracle," Shinzon replied. "It merely means you need to do a better job on your estimates."

"My Lord," Vkruk said. "They worked round the clock, many for double and even triple shifts while keeping the construction completely secret. All Remans believe in your vision enough to give their lives, but they at least deserve your gratitude."

Shinzon looked into his viceroy's face. It was obvious to him that Vkruk lacked confidence in the general's methods of "motivating" his followers. He placed his hand on Vkruk's shoulder armor.

"When we use this ship and its thalaron radiation to bring about the final liberation for our people, I will thank them. However, the mission is only half completed. We cannot slacken our pace for even the briefest of moments and still have hope for success. We must push forward without hesitation."

"I fear we are leaping straight into our destruction," Vkruk said shaking his head. "We already have stretched ourselves to the limit with the thalaron collector around Hobus. Now, we have this monster to conceal," he said pointing to the construction project below. "Who will care about the legacy of Praetor Shinzon if it lasts only long enough to meet disaster at the hands of the Romulan military, the Federation's Starfleet, or the Klingon Empire?" the viceroy asked pensively. "All of them could still stop us if we are discovered."

"Have faith, My Friend. We will take our rightful place as leaders of this galaxy. After all, the Romulans would not have survived the war if it weren't for our dilithium, our industries, and our soldiers."

"Shinzon," Vkruk said, "I want to believe you, but I still have doubts that we can accomplish such a massive shift in the order of things. The combined forces of nearly every slave race in the empire have been fighting for two years and still have won nothing from the government. What makes you think we can?"

"I'll show you what makes me think we can," Shinzon replied with a grin. He turned to the foreman of the engineering team, "Are you ready yet?"

"Yes, My Lord!" he shouted back from a control panel twenty meters away. "Begin power-up sequence. Prepare for switch to internal generators!" the engineer shouted to his underlings running back and forth across another series of smaller gantries below. The half dozen workers pressed buttons on computer consoles, pulled levers, and manipulated a series of control boxes.

Alarms echoed through the entire cavernous space as an auditory warning played on the overhead speakers:


A tangled mess of umblical lines and anti-grav scaffolding slowly peeled away to reveal the behemoth hovering below. From the tip of its blunt nose to its stern impulse engines, it was almost a kilometer long. It's downward swept swings were 1,350 meters from tip to tip. Its hull bristled with fifty-two pulse disruptor canons, twenty-seven torpedo bays, four redundant shield generators, and enough armor to withstand a broadside from even a mighty Pershing class. Even more remarkable was that Shizon's ultimate challenge to his designers had been met. This ship could fire while cloaked. This would allow it to engage an entire enemy fleet while remaining undetected. It was a technological miracle that would change the entire dynamic of the galaxy once she headed for the stars, and that moment was fast approaching.

A gentle rumble vibrated the deck beneath their feet as the new flagship breathed her first life under her own power. Vkruk wondered if he was wrong about Shinzon's determination. After all, no madman could will this amazing weapon of liberty into reality. No madman could bring all the complex pieces of their plan together across hundreds of lightyears with such skill. No madman could convince so many people to follow him to a new and better future for all Remans.

"It has taken decades of effort," Shinzon said grinning from ear to ear, "but that is what gives me unquestioning faith we will succeed."

"She is glorious," Vkruk replied still shaking his head with disbelief.

"All hail the Scimitar:" Shinzon said throwing back his shoulders, "destroyer of worlds."
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