Carson Tower-a genre bending story

Dayton3

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Started out as Star Trek fiction and evolved into military fiction then evolved into political speculation and finally into a semi autobiographical account of a couple of football games.

Carson Tower: A Brief History
By Dayton Kitchens
Tower surveyed the two boards with a growing sense of dread. Colonel Noran had outwitted him thoroughly so far. Especially in the space-based portion of the conflict which was very frustrating. Tower glared at the upper board as Noran leaned back in his chair with a confidence swiftly turning to outright cockiness. The onlookers who had bet on Tower were muttering among themselves as well. He had been the favorite. Thus, they gave Noran's people three to one odds to attract some action.

Tower's position in the space battle continued to deteriorate as Noran entered another series of orders. At the core of his force, two 40 km. wide Berserkers held position flanked by more than two dozen Imperial Star Destroyers of various types. His left flank was guarded by the U.S.S. Saratoga and the 58th Squadron (Wild Cards). His right flank was equally well guarded by the Battlestars Galactica and Pegasus.

Tower's forces were neither as large nor as well positioned. A Hatak class pyramid ship along with its full complement of Alkesh and Death Gliders protected the center. Moving up fast were a number of Honor Harringtons superdreadnoughts along with their usual support elements. Tower had no illusions as to how long these would last once the battle was joined.

On the planetside board, Tower was in much better shape. The main part of Tower's forces was centered around a Mark XXX Bolo Combat Unit supported by the tanks from Hammer's Slammers Regiment. Against them Noran had a full division of Imperial Walkers with Stormtroopers plus a group of T-800s. Eagles and Hawks from the nearby Moonbase: Alpha were providing air support for Noran's troops, and SeaQuest DSV was providing long range missile fire from a nearby cornfield (Tower still had not figured that one out). Tower wasn't worried about events on the planet. Imperial Walkers couldn't do a thing against Hammers tanks.

Noran tried a bold move. He sent Alpha Regiment of Wolf's Dragoons on a sweeping attack around Tower's flank, but Tower had anticipated the move. He sent Optimus Prime and a squad of autobots into action and quickly pinned down the Dragoon 'mechs.

Now, while Noran was focused on the surface, Tower sprang into action! On the space board, he sent his Omega class destroyers and Whitestar class ships commanded by Ivanova into Noran's flank, led by the Deep Space Vehicle Liberator commanded by Blake himself. Liberator destroyed Galactica and Pegasus in short order clearing the way for Ivanova to smash into the Star Destroyers.

There was nothing that said Tower had to wait for a countermove by Noran. He ordered the Hatak full ahead and to attack while Harrington's superdreadnoughts turned and fired full spreads of missiles at the Berserkers. The Berserkers began to respond but then Tower brought the Mark XXX Bolo's legendary hacking capabilities into action. The Bolo quickly infiltrated the Berserkers computer minds and disrupted their systems. The battle of machine versus machine continued while the Berserkers took more damage from the Superdreadnoughts.

Finally Noran had enough. He sacrificed the 58th to cover the withdrawal of the remainder of his forces.

In three more moves it was all over.

Noran stood up and Tower grasped his hand briefly. "I thought for sure I had you there Admiral" Notan said smiling. "I guess I focused too much on retaking lost ground planetside that I lost track of the Babylon-5/Blakes 7 force that you had moving around" he finished.

Tower returned his smile. "It is an easy mistake to make. One I've made myself many times. Still you played a great game."

"You'll have to give me a chance to get even in the future" said Notan. "Though I suspect it won't be for a while. Are you still shipping out the day after tomorrow?".

"Actually tomorrow, you know how the fleet is. Right now, I'm just killing a little time while my gear is beamed aboard" Tower said as he looked around for the wall chronometer.

"You still travel pretty heavy don't you sir?" Notan said knowingly.

"Hey, you get 20 years in and see how much baggage you tote from ship to ship" Tower exclaimed in mock annoyance. "But yeah, I've got quite a pile" he finished.
"Good luck Admiral"
"Same to you Colonel"
________________________________
Tower looked up from the football magazine he had been reading. He had noticed a shadow moving over the house and became abruptly aware that clouds were starting to build up despite the 30-degree centigrade plus temperature outside.

Thunderheads were blossoming in the southwest, so Tower decided to play it safe and unplug the mainline feeders in the poultry broiler houses. He put down the magazine deciding that contemplating the state of the Cardinals offensive line for the fall season could wait.

He marched out the backyard gate and up the slight hill to the broiler house. As he did, he noticed an even more impressive thunderhead back east. He opened the door on the western end of the 100-meter-long broiler house, shooed numerous chickens away and unplugged the large electric motor that brought feed into the house. He then worked his way to the far end of the chicken house, taking about a minute to cover the 100 meters and unplug the three feed line motors.

As he exited the chicken house, Tower decided to walk up the steep rise to the pasture that plateaued to the north. Once there he took a closer look at the towering thunderstorm formation to the east. Even as he watched he saw a flicker of lightning in the uppermost reaches of the formation. "Strange to see a storm approach from the east", Tower said out loud, but he could see the storm was at least 20 kilometers off. The one in the southwest was even further off and aside from darkening the sky didn't show much life.

"Beautiful by human standards isn't it?" said the Borg who had suddenly appeared behind him...

Tower ignored the Borg following his every step as he walked back down the hill, past the broiler house and back through his yard. He walked around the house then up the unpaved main road to the second and more modern broiler house.

Without a word, the Borg continued to follow.

Tower reached the other broiler house and entered on the east end, quickly unplugging the three feed line motors. He then strode the 100 meters to the other end to unplug the large motor. Tower exited the broiler house the same way he came in. As he did, a distant clap of thunder announced that the thunderstorm approaching from the southwest had stolen a march and won the race with the one in the east.

"You're determined not to speak to me aren't you?" the Borg asked in a most unBorglike manner. "Could you at least drop the projection while we're here?" Tower answered with massive annoyance.

"Sorry" Mik said as he reverted to his true form which was an aging Jem'hadar, "But I felt the Borg form was useful in reminding you of your duty.

And reminding you that you are late" he finished.

Tower walked out into the road as the air turned cool with the approaching storm. He gazed intently across the big hay field to the north.

"What is the Enterprise going to do? Leave without me?" Tower snorted.

"No, but with so many depending on you I would bet that Starfleet will be asking questions about any aberrant behavior. Need I remind you that we don't need too many questions raised at this point" Mik finished.

"Right" Tower admitted, "just wait a few more moments though".

Mik stopped and followed Towers gaze.

A twenty third century era Klingon heavy cruiser now drifted into view about a kilometer above the hay field... __________________________________
U.S.S. Enterprise- Federation class
Ten Weeks Later
Beta Quadrant
Engaged with the enemy

Enterprise twisted and weaved as it desperately sought to evade the Borg cutting beams. Her aft weapons pounded at the monstrous armored cube trailing behind her with unrelenting fury.

But the Borg kept coming.

"No good sir!" Commander Pearson said from the Conn. "I can't get us out of range."

"Out in the middle of nowhere with no cover. First Officer Goldstein grumbled with rising anger. "No gaseous anomalies, no planetary atmospheres, nowhere to hide and wait them out".

"I have no intention of hiding" Admiral Tower said. "I play to win."

"We have barely more than 60% ships power available Captain" Goldstein continued. "Sure, I would like to see this bastard torn out of space. But we need some serious reinforcements to make the attempt. At least two battlegroups would make it a fair fight!"

The Enterprise was jarred severely. "More than half of the aft weapons arrays are down sir" the chief weapons officer reported "Continuing to engage with remaining systems"

The CWO was understating the damage. Near the fantail of the Enterprise, a single torpedo tube continued to spit ordnance at the Borg cube. Pebbles against a rhino.

On the bridge, Admiral Tower seemed to release a breath he had been holding. As though a vital decision how now been made.

"Don't worry" Tower said rather tiredly. "You can cease all weapons fire. We won't need the arrays to finish the Borg this time"

Goldstein and the other officers simply looked at the admiral incredulously. They all knew the admiral had suffered several severe injuries in recent weeks. Just when he seemed to recover from one another battle inflicted damage to his battered body. And he was now working on 72 hours without sleep. This seemed proof that the strain was finally getting to him.

"Commander Pearson, I'll take the Conn for the next few minutes" Tower told the officer as he stepped down into the sunken station. Pearson didn't hesitate and slid smoothly from his seat.

Tower cleared his throat and ordered "Computer! Reconfigure the Conn station. I want all primary, secondary, tertiary and emergency navigation and maneuvering controls available at this station. Including all manual overrides. Also configure the console with primary engineering controls including those for sublight and FTL systems"

The computer using the molecular suspension system quickly reconfigured and rebuilt the Conn station. All the controls requested would not normally fit at the Conn so the computer added extra panels and readouts.

Glancing at the newly reconfigured Conn, Tower sat down and leaned to the edge of the chair so he could reach most of the controls at once.
He changed the course of the ship quickly and the Enterprise seemed to heave as it charged at high warp speed down the path that the admiral had set for it.

"Commander Goldstein!" Pearson whispered urgently, "The course the admiral has set will take us dangerously close to a black hole!"

"I noticed commander, but I'm not going to second guess the admiral at this juncture"

Chief Weapons Officer Hadley glanced over at Science Officer Newman wondering what she was thinking. "Probably looking forward to getting a good (and last look) at the black hole" he thought to himself.

The Enterprise dropped out of warp dangerously close to the black hole. With the sublight engines seeming to almost howl, it then thrust itself even closer. The Borg ship dropped out of warp behind Enterprise and continued the close pursuit.

Admiral Tower now began to play the controls like an insane pianist. Barely glancing at the readouts. Flying the massive starship more on instinct.

"My God!" Newman said quietly in a voice that still seemed to echo throughout the bridge. "I know what the admiral is doing. He is going to orbit the black hole at high speed. If he is successful, we'll slingshot around the black hole with incredible velocity. So fast that the Borg can't react quickly enough to track us"

"And if he is unsuccessful?" Hadley asked.

"We probably won't feel a thing" Newman replied.

Tower's hands played over the controls relentlessly. Finally, he thrust himself back in the chair as though he was worried about touching another control and altering the course he had set. Tower reached for Pearson's hand who helped him away from the console.

In just a fraction of a second it was all over. Enterprise whipped around the black hole and was flung away at tremendous speed. So quickly that the Borg were unable to react.

Of course, the Borg had their own problems.

Following the Enterprise so closely, the Borg found that they were unable to brake safely or veer away without suffering severe damage to their vessel. So, the Borg chose to duplicate the maneuver of the Enterprise. Surely, tens of thousands of Borg should be able to duplicate the maneuver of a single human.

But the Borg have a hive mind and for once that was their undoing.

As the Borg began their maneuver, the time dilation effects of the black hole began to affect the Borg crew. The Enterprise has been guided by a single human mind, but the Borg ship was being guided by more than forty thousand minds.

The Borg in the part of the ship closest to the black hole began to experience time at a slower rate than the Borg in the other portions of a ship. A hundred thousandth of a second difference at first, then ten thousandths. Minute differences but enough.

Differences in the passage of time for different parts of the hive mind led to confusion among the Borg. Confusion led to delay. And delays led to the Borg ship slipping too close to the singularity and its fate was sealed.

The differences in gravitational pull on portions of the Borg ship rose rapidly. The portion furthest away from the singularity were experiencing only a single gravity. The portion closest were pulled by 10Gs, then 100, then 100,000, then 1,000,000. Gravitational stresses that no ship ever built could withstand.

Huge chunks of the Borg ships armor were suddenly torn from its hull. Then the entire vessel seemed to twist and compress until the entire ship was turned into a single impossibly long, impossibly thin thread of metal and flesh spiraling into the event horizon.

The bridge crew simply stared appalled. Only Science Officer Newman remained at her station. She had noticed that flare of radiation from near the event horizon. The only sign that the Borg ship ever existed. "The Vulcan Science Academy will love a recording of that" she thought happily. Newman was always cheerful when able to get some science done on a combat mission.

Goldstein recovered first "Computer! Reduce speed and prepare to come about! Return the Conn to the basic configuration. Mr. Hadley get the admiral to his quarters and have a medical team meet you there. He needs some food and a long rest." Goldstein noted that Admiral Tower had finally collapsed from the stress and strain of the last few days.

Pearson retook the Conn and shook his head amazed, mumbling to no one in particular.

"Incredible! Maybe the news people are right. Maybe he is all we really have..."

Eighteen Hours Later...

"I'm really feeling much better Frederick." Tower said addressing Commander Goldstein. "A fourteen-hour nap and a leisurely breakfast does wonders."

"Still, I'll remain on duty till the next shift change" Goldstein said firmly. "All those lingering injuries will heal faster if you are rested."

"Thanks commander, I'll take things slow for a while." Tower said gratefully.
"Call me if the war heats up before the shift change" he said as the First Officer smiled and exited the Admiral's quarters.

Tower waited a few minutes. "Computer. Seal cabin door until further notice" Then he opened the closet and took out one of the few changes of clothes that he took from posting to posting. He changed quickly out of his uniform into the best set of civilian clothes he had with no indication of his rank or position.

He went to the computer and brought the terminal up. "Computer, no record is to be kept of this session. Authorization Tower14".

As the computer connected to the top-secret site, Tower was pleased to note that six of the eight members were already there. The other two had duty assignments and couldn't get away.

"I guess this will be all of us this week." Tower said to the images of the six people appearing on the screen. "Looks like we are holding our own in numbers".
The various people connected to Tower shared various greetings and made small talk until it was time to begin

First, Lt. Formri led several songs. Then CPO Robinson led the opening prayer. His wife then presented a tape of a sermon from a highly respected evangelist back on Earth. The group then studied the Book of Acts. The part covering Paul's first missionary journey. Tower used an old but well-maintained Bible. He could've called up hundreds of different Bibles from the ships library but that would've left a record that he couldn't erase. And anyone repeatedly looking at Bibles from the ship’s library would arouse a lot of suspicion unless it was known they were doing historical research.

The group ended the regular lesson and spent about half an hour just talking about what was going on in their lives. Thoughts about the ships mission. Problems with fellow crewmen. Suggestions about who they might approach to join the church. Crewman 3rd Class McInally wasn't at the service but the Robinsons said he was making slow but steady progress with someone in his department and might be able to get them to attend the virtual services soon.

Tower considered this a good omen. A year after he took command of the Enterprise, he was quite surprised to find a fledgling church aboard of four Christians. Tower had been the fifth and with two years of solid effort, they had expanded their number to nine. Tower thought he might carefully broach the subject with Hadley but he would have to be careful. Finally, all the members present took communion secretly delivered to their cabins the day before.

Tower delivered the closing prayer and the service was over. The group of seven out of nine Christians aboard said heartfelt goodbyes and promised to be back next Sunday.
Nine Christians aboard out of a crew of 7,551 with a couple of hundred civilian contractors and dozens of civilian scientists.

Certainly, a far cry from just a few centuries ago. But in the 22nd century, when humans rapidly began establishing colonies in other solar systems, a vast number of those leaving Earth were the more religiously inclined. Now Earth's population was largely atheistic with those still professing some belief in God mainly deist. Strangely, some Wiccans with their beliefs in a living universe and all that stuff managed to hang on as well.
Tower went back to his bunk and closed his eyes for that nap. He had to admit that the possibility of expanding the congregation’s numbers excited him even more than taking down the Borg cube the day before.
______________________________
Coran VII
Eleven Years Earlier...
Commander Tower decided to sleep in his Class D battlemech that night. It would be more comfortable than any place else in the forward operating base for his company not to mention safer. With his helmet off and the seat reclined, the cockpit was actually pretty comfortable. The cockpit heater kept the chill out of the air. Rain started to pelt the transparent aluminum of the cockpit canopy quickly lulling the commander to sleep.

Two of his company’s twelve battlemechs were active and on patrol. A class C unit with antiaircraft weapons and a class B specializing in anti-infantry work. The two mechs slowly walked the perimeter of the base, their sensors scanning far further than human eyes could see.

Tower was much more comfortable on the bridge of a starship. Let the Starfleet Marines handle this ground war stuff. But the Marine Corps company had lost a man to illness several days earlier, and Tower was the only person on hand that had both extensive combat experience and was checked out on one of the massive, 85-ton Class D mechs.

Unfortunately, the Class C mech that was scanning the skies around the forward base had developed a fault in its sensor systems. It didn't detect the incoming flight of primitive aircraft until they were nearly within range.

An ominous warning tone startled Tower out of his sleep! He instinctively grabbed his helmet, strapped it on and brought the mechs systems online. "Multiple hostile aircraft inbound from the north!" he heard as the sentry mechs gave a belated and largely unnecessary warning. By this time the automatic systems in his own mech had detected the flight.

Tower started to start the mech forward, warning horns on the ankles of his mech blasting out a warning. But Tower looked down as a precaution and saw the tiny figures of many infantrymen scurrying near his mechs massive feet. "I can't risk stepping on one" Tower said out loud, "especially if the air strike is just a test of our defenses".

Instead Tower brought up the arms of his machine and tracked the aircraft coming in from the north. A small group of five led several dozen other craft. Strangely, the lead group did not appear to be carrying any external ordnance. They still had their internal guns though. And Tower wasn't planning to let them get close enough to use them on the infantry and support troops nearby.

He raised the mechs right arm, locked the pulse compression cannon on the closest enemy aircraft and fired. He expected to see the aircraft explode instantly.

What he didn't expect was to see all five of the enemy aircraft explode together!

A moment later and a moment too late he learned the truth. The first group of enemy planes wasn't supposed to survive. The explosion of all five including their small fusion powerplants created a crude electromagnetic pulse that was already starting to foul his long-range targeting sensors.

As the smoke and debris cleared from the explosions, Tower saw the REAL attack force. Twenty-four aircraft, each one carrying at least eight air to surface missiles was bearing down on the base. He heard the shouts of surprise from the other battlemech pilots over the radios.

There was no time to lose! Tower quickly triggered all the available weapons he had. Firing in the general direction of the incoming strike. He also started to move the massive mech to the left hoping to avoid some of the missile storm.

Tower was gratified to see most of the missiles miss the battlemech company. One hit the upper left leg of his armor and holed it but did little internal damage.

The mech to his right was not so lucky. Sargent Hoskins had just started to move his own class C mech when a missile impacted directly on his cockpit canopy. Tower could hear the beginnings of his scream which cut off abruptly as the molten metal of the shaped charge warhead burned through his cockpit.

Then the missile storm was over. Tower was gratified to see that his wild firing had apparently downed an incoming plane and that members of the company had apparently hit a couple of more. The infantry using shoulder launched weapons had scored as well. All in all, only 18 of the 24 planes carrying the missiles had escaped unscathed.

But where had all the missiles gone? Tower quickly radioed Private Noran who was piloting a lightweight Class A mech nearby. He ordered him to dismount and go to the rear because Tower hadn't heard anything from the support group or the tanks since just before the attack began.

Tower dismounted himself and began checking the condition of the company first hand. He didn't have to inspect Hoskins machine. "Pilot dead, mech salvageable" was his only remark made into his recorder.

Tower had almost completed his walk around when Noran came sprinting up the trail between the hundred-meter trees that separated the mechs from the support group and armor.

"Commander! Commander! They're all dead! All blown away! Nothing left!!" Noran shrieked between gasps for air.

Tower jogged toward him. Noran had to be exaggerating. The support group had probably gotten hit hard and the kid had simply overreacted. A few dozen bodies and some fires burning could look like armageddon to a green soldier.

Tower considered going back and getting his mech but chose not to. He would have to take the machine down the narrow road to the support area and he did not want to be confined to the road in case another attack came.

The support area was now less than 200 meters through the trees. He joined the still babbling Private Noran in heading back in that direction to investigate further.

They didn't have to go 200 meters.

After jogging little more than half that, Tower entered an area of utter devastation. All the trees were blown down and debarked. Of the support area, nothing remained standing more than half a meter high except for the partially melted remains of the six tanks. Not a single thing moved. There were no sounds except for the occasional crackling of fires. No wail of a wounded survivor. The devastation was so great that it had killed even the guards around the perimeter.

Hundreds of the missiles must have hit this area Tower realized.

Noran finally caught up to him. Staring at the devastation for the second time, he doubled over and began vomiting violently....
____________________________
Earth
One hundred and fourteen years later...
Retired General Almirch Noran walked slowly into the academy lecture hull leaning heavily on his cane. Today he was feeling all his one hundred and thirty-seven years. He would die of an assortment of ailments within the year. He was not entirely unaware of this fact, but neither was he overly concerned. He had lived the years that he had to live.

The Florida sun had seemed to be beating down on Noran's ancient skin. He was glad to be inside the cool Starfleet Academy lecture hall even if it was only to give a brief lecture, he had given thousands of times before to hundreds of thousands of young cadets.

The fifty cadets all rose to attention in respect for the former general though he had not been on active duty in more than forty years. Even without his Starfleet Marine Corps record, Noran's accomplishments in the academic world alone merited the massive respect he was held in.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"You may be seated." Noran announced curtly. "Today we will examine the most decisive and important turning point battle in Federation history. Who among you can tell me what that even was?"

"The Battle of Terra in 2413." The entire class stated in almost perfect unison. After all, the subject of the lecture was hardly a secret.

"Very good" Noran responded. "I see everyone is checking the announcements with regularity" he finished earning a few muffled chuckles from the assembled cadets.

"The Battle of Terra in 2413 was the closest the Federation came to being defeated outright. Not to mention the closest Earth ever came to actual destruction. As it was, nearly ten million people on Earth perished anyway, largely from simply being in the crossfire of the larger battle"

"Question Professor Noran?" a cadet announced as he stood up. Once Noran acknowledged him he said. "Wasn't the Earth and Federation closer to destruction in the earlier attacks by the Borg in 2367, 2373, 2380, and of course 2381?"

Noran thought this over for a long moment.
"Yes, all those earlier attacks by the Borg were indeed threatening." Noran agreed. "But in each of those conflicts, the Borg were stopped by unconventional means. False commands entered into the Borg hive mind. The Borg being forced to route their power through a poorly defended power conduit that Captain Picard noticed thanks to his earlier time as Locutus which he then had the fleet target. Virus programs entered into the Borg systems.............."

"But all of those were wild, long shot efforts." Noran said. "Nothing that could be repeated again and again with the Borg. Besides which, by the time 2413 rolled around the Borg were immune to any of those kinds of attacks. It would take proper strategy, sheer firepower, and tremendous leadership to take down the Borg. Not tricks and gimmicks."

Another student rose and was acknowledged by Noran. "But what is wrong with 'tricks and gimmicks'" he said, "as long as they win the battle?"

Noran had expected this line of questioning. "Because a trick or gimmick might win a battle, maybe even two or three. But you can't win a war that way."

Noran took a long drink of water from the podium. "I assume all of you still study Earth military history? Very good, then you remember the famous 'Dolittle Raid' on Japan by the United States in World War II? The raid raised morale in the United States and embarassed the Japanese. In many ways it was a major success."

"But it couldn't win the war. Nor would a hundred raids like it". Notan said his voice starting to trail off. "In fact, had not Admirals Fletcher and Spruance carried the day at Midway months later, the raid might've been little more than a historical footnote." he said finishing.

The cadets mulled this over. They didn't expect the linkage of the struggles with the Borg to Earth's World War II.

To the cadets, World War II was ancient history more than a third of a millennia ago.

But then again, the conflicts with the Borg were ancient history to most of them as well. Something you studied in connection with those portraits of honored Starfleet heros that lined the halls.

The Borg hadn't been an enemy of the Federation in decades. Far from it. There were a number of Collective and Noncollective Borg attending Starfleet Academy. Though as some cadets suddenly noticed, none of either were presently in the lecture hall...

"Of course," Noran continued "the key to the battle was Admiral Tower's effective destruction of the Borg fleet"

"For nearly two years, the Borg had pushed their way through the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. The Romulan and Klingon homeworlds, Ferenginar, Risa, Tamar...all invaded, occupied and put to use by the Borg." Notan stated almost sadly as though those long-ago battles were yesterday.

"Only a last-ditch effort by Admiral Tower saved Vulcan. Tellar and Andor had been invaded and were hanging on by a thread. The Borg had crushed their way halfway across the Federation and in October of 2413 they made their way to Earth."

"They would go no further"

"One hundred and forty-two Borg ships of various types invaded the home system of humanity and capital world of the Federation." Notan said continuing.

"Less than six hours later, only three grievously damaged Borg ships would manage to flee the Terran system..."

"Sir?" said one of the assembled students said as he rose, "Hasn't it been a well-established fact that Admiral Tower was only part of the team of officers who stopped the Borg? That his contribution while major was not decisive?"

Noran smiled. He always received this question and it never failed to amaze him just how little history people studied.

"In a word NO!" Noran said losing his smile completely. "While it might be a 'well established fact' it is in fact still false. Take Admiral Tower out of the equation and Earth is conquered by the Borg and the remainder of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants of the galaxy fall within three years tops. With the resources of the Alpha, Beta, and Delta Quadrants the Borg would then have swept through the Gamma Quadrant and all remaining pockets of opposition very quickly."

"Why then does the Federation downplay Tower's importance to the victory?" a second student said as she rose.

"Because the Federation has always hated to admit that the fate of the galaxy hinges on just one person." Noran said. "And especially in the case of Admiral Tower. To put it bluntly, a lot of people did not like him. I did not like him. He was a difficult man even in the best of times."

"Why was he so difficult to like?" an older student asked.

"For one thing because Admiral Tower was pretty much completely and utterly against what many felt Starfleet to be" Noran continued as he got more and more into the lesson.

"Tower wasn't an explorer. He wasn't a diplomat. Nor was he the least bit interested in either role. Aside from exploring to find new weapons or negotiating to find new allies. He was attracted to Starfleet for the soldiering aspect of it and he quickly proved to be not only a great soldier, but to relish that life."

"Tower even had the saying:

Battle and bed, that's where I perform best!"

The students laughed softly at such sentiments being openly expressed by a top officer.

"In addition to those sentiments which he wasn't shy about expressing, Tower was a very hard man. He had no regret whatsoever about sending people under his command out to die while protecting his own life.

"Unlike most Starfleet officers who prefer to lead 'from the front', Tower had a very calculating and cold-blooded opinion of his own self-worth. He honestly believed that due to his experience and abilities that his life was worth far more than that of a nameless security guard or navigator serving under his command. "

"And though this alienated many in Starfleet, Tower was probably correct. His experience was a valuable resource that Starfleet needed. So, his interest in keeping himself safe and living was actually in the best interests of Starfleet and the Federation".

"But that never stopped the grumbling from other officers."

"Sir?" yet another of the students said as he stood. "You seem very familiar with Admiral Tower personally though it is my understanding that you never served with him for any length of time."

The student had obviously come prepared.

"How is it that you know Admiral Tower so well despite this?" he said finishing.

"A good question." Noran said thoughtfully. "But although I never served with Admiral Tower I did encounter him a vast number of times over the long years."

"In fact, I can tell you about our first meeting. It was peacetime, though definitely on a field of battle................

........the Pirate offense broke the huddle and jogged to the line of scrimmage. Tower, at left defensive tackle, stared at the opposing linemen from his position on one knee and quickly considered the proper tactic.

The Wolverines had come out on fire and jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the formidable Pirate team but after halftime the Pirates had come out with guns blazing. They had driven fifty five yards for a touchdown after a short Wolverine punt to close the score to 14-7. Now after a sustained drive had fallen short, the Pirates took over on downs and were driving again with consecutive first downs.

But the Wolverine defense was up to the challenge and threw the Pirates back for a loss of three yards on two running plays. Now the Pirates faced third and thirteen from their own forty-three-yard line.

An obvious passing situation, Tower moved into a three-point stance and glanced at the ball in the centers' hand. He planned a full-on power rush past the Pirate right guard, Markinson, while at the same time Tony at left end rushed hard inside the Pirate right tackle.

A flicker of motion in the corner of his vision alerted Tower to the snap. He lunged forward as low and as hard as possible as though the offensive guard wasn't even in the way.

But he was.

The rock-hard collision of helmet and shoulder pads sent Tower reeling back. Markinson had anticipated this pass rush and met him with a massive rising blow of his own rather than try to fend him off with hands and arms. A clever tactic that Tower used himself.

As Tower staggered back from the collision, a tall lanky player brushed into him from the left. It was Tony. The massive Pirate right tackle had simply grabbed him and thrown him down inside like a doll.

And Tower suddenly saw his opening.

In turning to throw Tony aside, Clovell the right tackle had left his outside exposed. Plus, by turning inside he was inadvertently screening Tower from any further blocks by Markinson.

Tower had a direct path on the outside to the quarterback. After two steps he was already at full speed and went roaring by the offensive line completely untouched. Clovell and Markinson both saw what he was doing but could only lunge ineffectually at him.

Tower was now roaring down on the Pirate quarterback.

Noran

Noran meanwhile had locked on to his primary receiver, had the ball up and was poised to pass in just over a second. But Tower would get there first.

Noran sensed more than saw Tower closing on him. He instinctively tried to pull the ball down and safe it but was too late. Tower instinctively flinched at the moment of impact. This was not a form tackle. Noran was too short for that. This was going to be a full-on collision at chest and head level that might maim both of them.

Tower plowed into Noran and drove him into the ground in a collision that knocked both of them off their feet.

Tower sensed Noran drop the football but with pain roaring through his head and upper body he could do little about it. But Wolverine linebacker Rick Anderton, who had been guarding against a draw or dump off in the flat scurried in and scooped the ball off the ground one handed and turned toward the goal line. Markinson and Clovell both gave spirited pursuit but Anderton knew how to run and no mere offensive lineman was going to catch him from behind.

Tower heard the fans on the Wolverine side roar as Anderton sliced past the goal line for the touchdown. The fan roar almost, but not quite, muted out the moans and grumbling from the Pirate side.

Meanwhile on the ground, Tower and Noran stared at each other for a couple of long seconds. Then Tower and Noran both extended a hand and helped the other to his feet.......

"Let me get this straight sir?" yet another student said standing. "You met John Tower in a football game? I was under the impression there was a considerable age difference between the two of you?"

"Only two years" said Noran. "But Carson Tower entered the academy some six years before I did. As you might remember, I chose to take a shot at the academic world before Starfleet. It turned out that I was about five decades too early. I completed my half century in the fleet before returning to academics.".

"At any rate, that six-year gap in entering the academy meant that Tower was a far higher-ranking officer than I for the time period we are discussing."

The students stirred a bit. None of them seemed to be able to follow just which way this lecture was going.

One of the students near the back tuned out Noran's lecture for the moment.
He had been doing research on Admiral Tower and happened upon a decades old memory chip that contained a fascinating entry...
_______________________________
...Tower stared at the Klingon D-7 cruiser hanging above the hay field. He stared until a Constitution class heavy cruiser arrived and hit the Klingon ship with three quick shots from the forward phaser banks.

The Klingon cruiser fired a single disruptor burst then turned sharply back to the east, disappearing over the neighboring hay field.

Two weeks later.

Carson Tower slowly backed the big manure spreader down through the now empty poultry house. The John Deere tractor he was driving was sleek and new. They passed by the Montana tractor with a front-end loader. Cleaning out the massive poultry houses was a rare treat. Done this thoroughly only about three times a year. There was great satisfaction in all the highly detailed tractor work. Including maneuvering inside in very close quarters. And working in the shade was always a plus.

As he rolled the spreader and tractor over the mounds of chicken litter, Tower pulled the steering wheel hard to starboard. As a result, the spreader jerked hard to port and angled about eighty degrees to the tractor before Tower clutched and halted the machine.

Now he was ready for the fun part.
_______________________________
Ensign Worthen stared anxiously into the campfire. He then cursed himself for risking his night vision and pulled his phaser rifle closer. He scanned the tree line some 50 meters away with worried glances. Six of his men were out there getting a quick survey of the local area while his two engineers were working feverishly on the damaged engine of the shuttle.

Ensign Collins ran his medical tricorder over the still form laying under the blankets on the ground. It was still warm even though the planets sun had already set. But the temperature was supposed to drop to near freezing in just a couple of hours. And the howling winds that were supposed to be part of the local weather would force them all back inside.

Right now, the engineers needed the extra space to get their work done.

Worthen was running over the events of the last four hours. Hearing and feeling that the command bridge of the ship was hit along with nearly everything else. Piling the people, he needed into the shuttle and flying around the drifting hulk of the flagship even as the Borg fleet closed in. Using the shuttles phasers to cut into the damaged bridge. Being horrified when he saw that the shuttle phasers had cut the conn officer in half and that the poor guy was certainly still alive when it happened.

The desperate escape with their prize. No way the Borg should've known about their passenger, but three ships came howling in pursuit. Fortunately, Worthen knew of a trick one could do while in warp drive to evade pursuers. Unfortunately, that trick had trashed the drive and they had to set down on the nearest halfway habitable rock.

Now Worthen watched as Collins scanned the figure lying on the makeshift stretcher.

"How is he?" Worthen finally asked after not being able to restrain himself any longer.

"Bad enough", said Collins. "Massive internal injuries. It's a miracle I was able to stabilize him. If we don't get to a starbase hospital. A very advanced starbase hospital within the next 72 hours then all of this will be for nothing".

"We'll make it, somehow" Worthen said with conviction that he didn't feel as he stared down at the very still form of Fleet Admiral Carson Tower...
___________________________
Two thousand, four hundred and twelve starships closed rapidly on the nebula where the Borg fleet was massed.

Commander Townsend counted down the time until probable contact before reporting.

"The enemy force should be detectable anytime now Admiral" she reported.

"Thank you commander" Admiral Tower replied. "Signal all ships to continue as planned. Inform me of any changes."

"Nothing unusual sir. Looks like everything is going as plan---" Townsend's voice cut off as the long range sensors picked up something emerging from the nebula.

"Borg vessel sighted!" she reported. But before she could analyze it another Borg vessel emerged. Then another. Then two. Then five. Then dozens.

In awe she watched as a seemingly unending stream of Borg ships emerged from the nebula. The entire plan had been based on encountering two hundred Borg vessels. At least that many had appeared already and still the stream continued. Finally Commander Marsden broke the silence.

"I make it at approximately 320 Borg ships Admiral." he announced to the shocked crew.

And the Borg ships were not just moving. They were emerging in assault formations. Each ship covering its companions. "Admiral Carstairs scout fleet must have been detected after all" Collins, the fleet intelligence officer said.

Townsend couldn't believe it. Her finger poised above the control to send the prearranged abort signal to the fleet. They had barely a 5% chance of survival against a fleet of that size without the advantage of surprise. Against the fleet they had prepared for, caught unawares in the nebula, they had enjoyed a nearly 40% chance of survival and mission success.

But Admiral Tower hadn't given the abort signal. Nor was he even giving an indication of considering it.

A great turning point approached and then passed. The fleet was now committed to battle one way or the other. Townsend released the breath she had been holding now that the decision had been made.

"Signal all ships we will be using fire plan Baker-Three with Retrograde movement number 2 by fleet elements 4 through 9. Go for the heavies!!"
Admiral Tower ordered. Such a simple sentence yet it threw seven weeks of training and planning out the window.

The fleet surged toward the massive Borg force. Enterprise led a force of smaller ships, mainly Galaxy, Nebula, Valkryie, and Sovereign class vessels toward the heart of the Borg formation, but the larger Fortress, Oceana, Dauntless and Liberator class vessels held back. Their weapons continued to track the Borg though. Tracking and waiting.

Admiral Tower stared at the tactical display intently and then spoke without emotion.

"Fire"

With eruptions that seemed to bend space, the larger warships that were trailing cut lose on the right flank of the Borg fleet. Walking their fire toward the center. Then switching their fire to the left flank before the Borg could react.

Townsend watched with awe as some of the Borg ships actually disappeared from the display. Moments later, the Enterprise cut lose with her own barrage of beams, torpedoes, and exotic weapons. A barrage that equaled that of the Starfleet ships already firing striking on its own at the center of the Borg fleet.

Every ship was now firing. And every enemy answering. Vessels from both sides exploded and were lost though fewer now than later...

Seeing the Borg flanks in disarray, Tower upped the ante.

"Small boys, attack!" he ordered.

More than forty Defiant type starships broke away from the main body of starships and plunged toward the Borg ships in the heart of the formation on suicide runs.

The ships were still called "Defiant types" due to their small relative size and massive firepower, though the original Defiant class had not been in service for years.

Four streams of ten starships each aimed themselves at a Borg ship. Shedding lifeboats and escape pods, the ships made their final runs under computer control.

The first small starship was blasted apart by Borg energy beams. The second suffered the same fate but managed to get closer. The third was closer still. The fourth ship slipped past the explosion and rammed into the Borg shields and detonated with staggering force. The Borg shields overloaded.

The fifth ship plunged a hundred meters deep into the leading face of the Borg ship and blew up. Ripping a half kilometer hole into the side of the giant cube. The sixth ship reached all the way to the very heart of the Borg vessel, its explosion splitting the giant in half.

The seventh ship was following too closely behind to be retargeted, so its net effect was in reducing the Borg ship to ever smaller fragments.

The eighth thru the tenth ships veered pasted the destroyed Borg vessel to assist the others in hunting down other prey.

Admiral Tower smiled with grim satisfaction as he watched the Defiant suicide squad take out five Borg assimilation cubes. Even as he watched, the follow-on Borg vessels surged past the ashes of their comrades. In moments they had overtaken the escape pods and lifeboats.

The pods and lifeboats exploded in deadly sequence engulfing six Borg vessels in a series of antimatter explosions. The Borg had anticipated a suicide attack. They had not predicted a double suicide attack. The crews of the forty starships having evacuated via long range transporters while the pods and lifeboats were packed with antimatter charges.

The charges didn't destroy the massive cubes outright. But they stripped the Borg of their shields and blinded their sensors. Before they could react, the Enterprise and a phalanx of Fortress class ships opened fire on the six Borg vessels with their massive hyperphaser systems along with antiproton beams.

As Tower was taking it all in, the bridge was rocked by a crushing impact! Tower wasn't secured in his command chair. He was thrown violently to the deck. His last memory being the curious taste of blood in his mouth...

... Fleet Admiral Carson Tower stood on the balcony of the hotel in Montreal. He was impatient. Sylvia should be here by now. He couldn't help thinking that her tardiness was one more way of gaining the emotional upper hand. Stringing him along to gain some advantage.

Tower pushed his anger aside. If this had any chance of working, he couldn't let his anger show.

"Sorry I'm late. As you assumed, it was totally deliberate." Tower heard her say before he could turn from the balcony.

"You don't have to resort to tricks like that with me." He said carefully. "We're not enemies Syv."

"I would not call us friends either Tower." She replied, deliberately using his last name instead of his first. Syv loved to play up the emotional distance she claimed she felt.

"Do you have to call me that?" he replied with an edge creeping back in to his voice. "We were married for 13 years. Hell, we're still married legally. I haven't signed the papers."

"Another month and it won't matter what you sign. Don't think I don't know why you asked to see me." Sylvia replied. An edge creeping into her own voice.

Tower moved very slightly toward her at an angle. If he stepped directly toward her he was worried she might clam up and simply leave.

"Is it that wrong to want to save our marriage? Tower said softly. He wanted Sylvia to be the one doing most of the talking. Despite the distance between them, he knew that Sylvia was better off if she talked herself around to his side. It had worked before.

Not this time.

"Not our marriage Tower. YOUR marriage. It stopped being ours years ago. Even before those two years in that Dominion prison camp. You changed then and you know it. But the man I married had already changed and I wouldn't have stayed married to you anyway. Face it. We've been holding on for the last four years hoping things would be back to the way they were, but those days are gone forever."

It was the longest statement she had made to him since she left last year.

She wasn't through.

"I married a man. A heroic, brave, intelligent man but still just a man. You stopped being only a man years ago. Now you're a symbol. Of Starfleet. Of the glorious Federation's inevitable victory.

You're a great many things. But you aren't a husband anymore."

"Things will change." Tower began, "When the war is over-"

"WHICH WAR!!" Sylvia finally shouted, her reserve cracking. "This war? The next war? The war after that? Whichever war you happen to be fighting? You are a soldier. Probably the best Starfleet has ever had or will have."

"Be honest with me! Can you ever really just walk away from it? Can you avoid your duty while people you know are out there dying? I thought not." Sylvia concluded.

"You were Starfleet Security." Tower replied with questions in his voice. "Surely it occurred to you that part of your job might involve actually fighting. Are you saying turning your back on your duty was that easy?"

"I walked away while I still had a chance and some measure of sanity Carson" finally relenting and using his first name. "I joined Starfleet thinking I would spend my years protecting scientists on some far-flung world. Or guarding diplomats at some conference."

"I never figured on brutal hand to hand combat with hordes of aliens. Not fighting wars I can barely even understand! "

A tear suddenly appeared in the corner of Syv's eye.

"We had a big wedding John. Only thirteen years ago.

Do you have any idea how many members of our wedding party are still alive?"

Not the question Tower anticipated at all. He thought quickly.

No, that bridesmaid died when Risa was obliterated. His candlelighter? Died defending Starfleet Academy in the ground portion of the invasion.

Finally he said simply "No".

"My niece. One of the servers at the reception. And she lost both legs and is assigned a desk job on Starbase 171."

"I hadn't realized." Tower said quietly.

"Of course you wouldn't." Syv said with a hint of bitterness. "Individuals in a time of a major war are just numbers. You're an admiral. Why should you spend time obsessing over a handful of people?

"But that handful meant everything to me John. I finally decided that I wasn't going to continue serving until I became just another number on a PADD that you sign off on"

"Why didn't you ever ask me to join you?" Tower began "Don't bother answering. We both know the answer. You had to walk away, and I never could. Once we, hell once I win this war you're right. I'll just spend my time preparing for the next".

She had her chance to speak, now I'll take mine Tower thought.

"Good luck Sylvia. Go and enjoy the happiness and peace of mind that I'm out there purchasing with my blood and those I command. Maybe you're right. I'm a warrior always looking for the next war. But just remember that I fight so that people like you won't have to and might one day have a future."

"I've been willing to sacrifice a lot of things to win this war. You're right. I do see the big picture. Sacrificing a marriage doesn't seem like that big a deal when you look at it that way."

"Whether I fight because I enjoy it or simply think it is necessary, I still fight and I hope and pray that I'm doing the right thing."

"I just hope you remember our time together and have some happy thoughts" he concluded.

Then Sylvia did the completely unexpected. She lunged toward him, hugged him tightly and after what seemed like a moment that is both timeless and unbearably brief let go with a kiss on his cheek.

"Take care of yourself John Tower." she said almost smiling with more warmth and conviction Carson had heard from Sylvia in a long time. ................................

......blood....Borg.....Sylvia.....blood.....Sylvia.....blood.....more blood....awareness flooded back to Admiral Tower. He was on the deck with the taste of blood in his mouth...

...."Admiral! Are you alright! Speak to me sir!..." Tower could now make out the youthful form of the Enterprise Conn officer leaning down over him.

"Just what the hell was he doing not manning his station" was all Tower could think. Then not waiting for a response, the young officer grabbed Tower and hauled him off the deck, sitting him upright in the command chair.

"Don't they teach these kids anything about basic first aid" Tower thought. "Who in his right mind moves an injured, nonresponsive person?"

"My god I can't feel a thing!" was the next thought Tower had.

At least the young Conn officer, Hampton had the common sense to lock the restraints over Tower in the command chair saving the admiral from the embarrassment of sliding helplessly back to the deck.

"Admiral! Can you hear me? How do you feel? Hampton continued to yell at the stunned John Tower.

Tower still couldn't feel anything. He managed to rasp out a barely audible "fine".

With gathering awareness Tower noticed that all three tactical officers were unconscious on one side of the bridge while Townsend was battling a fire at the aft consoles.

Tower had to get control of the situation again. Gathering all the air he could muster in his lungs he blurted out in a rush,

"Man your station ensign! Resume firing!".

Hampton seemed relieved to receive orders he was trained for.

"All weapons systems controls feed through Conn and Ops! Shut down all consoles not manned! Target nearest Borg vessels and commence fire!" Hampton ordered with a voice of authority that was beyond his years.

Silent in the command chair, Tower had become a spectator in this battle for the moment.

But only for the moment. He could breathe better now and feeling was returning to rest of his body. Just a couple of minutes more and he could probably get back in the game.

As he watched Hampton lead the attack in the meantime Tower was swept by a warm feeling of pride.

"I trained him well" he thought as the slightest hint of a smile crossed his face.

Minutes later...

Admiral Tower was finally back in command. He still couldn't feel his legs completely but above the waist he was okay.

Senior Tactical Officer Hadley was back at his console and had taken over the shooting from Hampton. Allowing Hampton to get back to his evasive patterns. The two other tac officers were being attended by a med tech and Townsend had won her battle with the fire near the rear of the bridge. She and Collins were working with whatever consoles left to get Tower a better understanding of how the battle was going.

Three additional viewscreens next to the main sprang to life. Tower instantly saw something.

A Borg ship some distance away moving laterally, apparently trying to work its way around the Enterprise and attack from behind. Half a dozen virtually destroyed starships trailed in its wake. Including one of his massive Fortress class ships (it was too damaged for Tower to tell which one) and a Bastion class warship that was firing a single pathetic phaser beam at the Borg cube which now ignored it.

But his crews had not died in vain Tower realized. They had taken a chunk out of the trailing side of the Borg ship. A huge battle wound that one could fly a Galaxy class vessel through.

And apparently, the Borg didn't realize Enterprise was tracking them because the damage was fully exposed to her weapons.

"HADLEY!!" Tower yelled incredibly loudly! Half the crew jumped as they hadn't heard the admiral say anything for several minutes.

"I see it Admiral! I see it! Primary weapons arrays are recharging and reloading. Forty seconds before I can deliver an Alpha strike. Wait for it."

The seconds crawled by. How long before the Borg ship realized the danger they were in or repaired enough of the damage?

"Seven seconds admiral! Keep us lined up Hampton!"

"Five!"

"Four!"

"Three!"

"Two!"

"One! And firing!!" Hadley announced at last.

More than ninety torpedoes of all types launched first. Just as they were about to strike the Borg ship, a dozen of the highest strength beams that Federation science could produce lashed out from the Enterprise.

Every last weapon fired struck the Borg ship in the battle damaged area.

For a moment nothing seemed to happend as explosions seemed to engulf the cube but it appeared intact.

Then four of the beams slicing into the cube....emerged from the other side!

The crew watching the monitors were transfixed by the Borg cube being run through by the Enterprise weapons.

Only the titanic explosion of the cube less than a second later broke their attention.
The Enterprise crew’s elation was short lived. Between Hadley's shooting and Hampton's flying, not to mention the exploding Borg vessel, the remaining Borg ships finally recognized Enterprise for the supreme threat she was.

"Six Borg ships closing from dead ahead Admiral" Collins announced. "Three more closing from the forward port quarter!"

"Reverse course Mr. Hampton. Get us some distance." Tower ordered.

"Sir! A wing of Patton class destroyers are vectoring in to cover our withdrawal!" Townsend announced from the rear deck.

"Oh God" Tower mumbled to himself. "Please don't let this happen again."

The Patton class destroyers were technically "Borgbusters" like the Enterprise. Ships specifically built to fight the Borg.

Technically.

In reality, the Patton class ships were made of off the shelf technology that could be slapped together as quickly and as cheaply as possible. They featured downsized Galaxy type warp engines, engineering hulls that looked much like the front half of an Excelsior class, and primary hull saucers that were variants of the old Constitution class.

Fast, maneuverable, relatively few but fairly strong weapons. Decent shields. And most importantly, a crew of only 81. Meaning expendable.

Expendable...

Before the Patton class vessels could reach the Enterprise, the Borg struck. Six massive cubes fired staggered barrages of disruptor shots and torpedoe fire. All of Hampton's formidable ability could not dodge the lot of them. Enterprise bucked and reeled from the impact of a score of hits. The shields held back much of the assault but not all it and as Tower watched the DCD half a dozen angry red lights indicated hull breaches.

But the Borg were not finished. Far from it. Trailing somewhat behind the six cubes that had fired, a seventh Borg cube suddenly rose clear of its fellows. It did not fire a staggered barrage. Instead it fired a massive, sustained beam of intense energy at the Enterprise.

The Borg fire was off by barely ten meters. They had aimed at area of the ship protected only by an overloaded shield grid. Instead they struck a section which still had full shields. The Enterprise shields flared and died under the intense assault, but they repelled eighty percent of the Borg attack. The much-weakened Borg beam plunged through the hull of Enterprise, digging in more than five decks deep before its energy was lost.

Enterprise lurched ominously with the hit but emergency forcefields activated almost instantly. And within seconds, local damage control teams were charging into the damaged compartments.

With the Enterprise reeling from the massive assault, Tower was relieved when the Pattons arrived though he was still horrified at the price he knew those small, flimsy vessels and their crews were about to pay.

The ten destroyers quickly angled between the Enterprise and the closing force of Borg vessels. Their crews were well trained. Even as they took up positions to cover the Enterprise, all ten ships opened fired with their forward phasers at a single Borg ship while each launched torpedoes at other Borg vessels.

The lead Borg ship absorbed the phaser attack with few ill effects, but it did slow its advance. The destroyer group quickly switched their fire to a second, then a third Borg vessel.

But they couldn't combine fire on all of them. One of the Borg vessels which was untouched swept the destroyer formation with cutting beams and disruptor fire. It then launched salvoes of torpedoes for good measure.

Admiral Tower raised his hand to shield his eyes as the Enterprise main viewscreen became a sea of exploding starships. Half a dozen warp engines flew by Enterprise like so much confetti. Partially incinerated saucers and glowing chunks of engineering hulls added to the macabre display.

When the viewscreen and sensors began to clear up, Tower noted that seven destroyers had been annihilated, two were drifting helpless while a single ship appeared to be untouched.

Commander Olvera was captain of the U.S.S. Grant. While he was shocked by the eradication of nearly his entire squadron including hundreds of people he had worked with for months, he did not freeze. He knew that his lone destroyer could do nothing more to protect the Enterprise.

But staring at his sensor readings, Olvera suddenly saw an opportunity...

With a single sharp command from Olvera, the Grant shot away from the Enterprise and directly toward one of the leading Borg vessels.

"Helm, bring us to the exact midpoint of the port side of the Borg ship. Activate forward tractor beams and bring the forward edge of the saucer to within 10 meters of the Borg vessels surface!" Olvera ordered.

The entire bridge crew turned as one in shock.

"You heard me!" Olvera snapped. "TEN METERS! Once we are in position stand by to fire forward phasers narrow beam, maximum power!".

In seconds the U.S.S. Grant was in position though even with tractor beams, the helmsman was hard pressed to keep the ship precisely in place. Especially given that the Borg ship was maneuvering on its own.

And firing on them. Several disruptor shots sliced past the Grant but missed. Apparently, the Borg had not figured on a starship willingly approaching them so closely.

"FIRE!" Olvera ordered...

The forward phaser banks lanced into the side of the Borg vessel. Even the phasers of a small, obsolete ship like the Patton class Grant were powerful enough to level a city in a single pass.

Against a tiny ten meter square section of the Borg ship’s hull, the results were just as impressive.

The phasers bored through the outer armor of the Borg vessel and gnawed a path into the Borg ship at a rate of twenty meters per second. In barely less than half a minute, the Grant carved a hole half a kilometer deep into the side of the massive cube.

The rest was up to others.

"Cease fire! Cease fire!" shouted Commander Olvera. "Fire a Class IV homing probe into the battle scar."

Olvera himself opened a general channel.

"U.S.S. Grant to all available ships! Fire torpedoes! Maximum yield! Any type available! Home in on this sign!"

"Probe away sir!" the tactical officer shouted.

"Release tractor beams! Conn! Hard to starboard! Hard to starboard! Full impulse! All hands brace for battle concussion!" Olvera shouted as he tried to secure himself to the command chair. Already he could see on the scanner dozens. No. Hundreds of torpedoes inbound.

The Grant heaved itself to the side as swarms of torpedoes hurtled past it, seeking the signal put out by the probe.

The massive detonations deep in the heart of the Borg vessel were more than any ship could withstand.

The Borg ship begin to drift until a final series of explosions shattered it completely. Millions of tons of debris slammed into the U.S.S. Grant, damaging the small vessel beyond repair

Olvera sat in the ruined bridge of his wrecked starship. The Grant had been showered with debris from the disintegrating Borg ship and the hull had been breached in more places than he could count.

All they had left was minimal life support and a tractor beam. Even long-range sensors and communications were gone so Olvera could tell little about the ongoing battle.

With shields gone, Olvera was worried that the Grant might be easily picked off by a stray shot though given the actual vastness of space that did not seem likely. Still, he was taking no chances. A million-ton chunk of the Borg ship he and his crew had helped destroy was drifting nearby. Olvera used the Grants one operational tractor beam to pull what was left of his ship alongside. While hiding didn't seem very honorable or noble, Olvera was more interested in providing some cover for the ship and his surviving crew.

One thing driving Olvera crazy was having virtually no idea about how the battle was going. If the fleet won out, he could expect rescue and recovery. But if the Borg won...

Olvera had actually resorted to sending one of his crewmen to the observation deck with the most powerful tricorder available to try to get some idea about what was happening outside. Now his communicator chirped to life...

.. "Olvera here." the commander responded as he tapped the device.

"Sir!" said the garbled voice of the crewman Olvera had sent to the observation deck. "You won't believe the message I intercepted!". Before Olvera could comment she played it back on her tricorder.

"...and using the Grant Strategy, we've been able to destroy or disable eight Borg ships admiral. But the remainder are starting to close ranks. Still, that should give us better targeting..." the voice of the unidentified officer dissolved into static as he continued to report to Admiral Tower apparently.

"Pretty great isn't it sir? The Grant Strategy though they should've probably called it the 'Olvera Strategy'".

"That's okay Ramirez. I doubt the admiral's staff knows my name. I can live with 'Grant Strategy' but beyond that did you have any luck getting a message out?"

"That is the other good news sir. I used the tricorder to boost my communicator and get a message to a recon probe that went by a few million klicks just a couple of minutes ago. I managed to upload our damage reports, fatality lists and the fact that we still have twelve wounded aboard in need of greater care."

Olvera finally released the breath he had been holding. "Well done Ramirez." Stay where you are and keep monitoring. They should send us some help when the battle winds down. See if you can pick up anything else. And again, nice work. Olvera out".

Commander Olvera's great fear was that his surviving crew might be forgotten and left to die out here in this mess. But the fact that the admiral's staff knew which ship had managed to bring down one of the Borg vessels and that the rest of the fleet had used the same method indicated he need not worry.

"I hope it was worth it." Olvera said as he looked around his shattered bridge. Fourteen dead and another twelve injured out of a small crew to start with.

Twelve injured. Technically that meant twelve injured badly enough to be confined to sickbay. Virtually every other member of the crew had burns, lacerations or broken bones that normally would have them seeking help as well. But everyone knew that the surviving medical staff was overwhelmed, and the damaged ship required everyone’s efforts, so they crudely wrapped up their injuries and manned a station.

Olvera suddenly felt guilty as he remembered that he was the only one left on the bridge who didn't have significant injuries. ___________________________________
Carson Tower watched the vid screen and the multiple reports for some time. Both of his daughters had gone to sleep. Each of his arms cradling one of their sleeping forms. The twins were growing fast and looked a lot older than three. Fortunately, they were not too old yet that they didn't like sitting in their daddy’s lap before bedtime.

"The day will come when they probably won't even talk to me for days on end" Tower mumbled to himself.

"Teenage years will come all too soon"

He had gone through that stage of course but it was a little different. The next to youngest of eight children, much of what he said to his parents was filtered through his older brothers and sisters. Very large families were not uncommon on Mars. A holdover from the first few generations after terraforming when large families were highly prized as more native-born children meant less reliance on colonists from Earth. By the time he was born, such a need was a hundred years in the past, but human attitudes didn't change so quickly.

Large families even on Earth had also become a sign of wealth. Any family that could afford to provide and care for a large number of children was seen as prosperous. Very much a "third world" style belief but one that had spread to the west in the 21st and 22nd centuries.

Tower never figured he would have a family. Too much time away aboard ship. Too many horrific injuries both physical and psychological. The failure of his first marriage which survived his two year captivity by the Dominion but could not survive his sudden celebrity once he returned and took command of Enterprise. His first wife's subsequent death in the Global War of 2415 left him wondering whether he should feel like a widower or a divorcee with all the conflicted feelings of both.

But he had gotten lucky. After nearly two years of campaigning in the Delta Quadrant he had returned for well need R & R. He had an opportunity to visit the U.S.S. Fearless, the modified Nebula class ship that was his second command.

Fortunately, he had gotten to meet the new captain of Fearless as well.
______________________________

Tower relaxed in his quarters. Unofficially his quarters that is. Officially, his quarters were actually Cargo Hold 442D. He leaned back and picked up his hard copy of "Jane's Fighting Starships" and picked a page at random. It turned out to be a section on fighters.

"There are actually three types of fighter craft. The first and most commonly known are called 'spaceplanes'. Spaceplanes are spacecraft that have wing or winglike structures that make them appear similar to atmospheric only small craft. Spaceplanes have traditionally captured public attention and imagination because they routinely operate in planetary atmospheres where most populations reside making them by far the most well known type of fighter spacecraft.

Though most spaceplanes do not have faster than light capability, some in fact do mount small warp drives.

But spaceplanes do not make up the majority of fighter spacecraft.

The second type of fighter craft are called "spacefighters". Though less well known than spaceplanes, they actually outnumber spaceplanes by a wide margin and show a greater variety of design. One reason being that spacefighters include large numbers of armed shuttlecraft and other auxilary vehicles used for combat.

Spacefighters do not resemble airplanes. They are often not aerodynamic and in some cases are not even symmetrical. The Klingons field a number of unsymmetrical combat spacefighters.

Spacefighters lack aerodynamic features and generally do not operate in planetary atmospheres. Though most in fact can given they have more than adequate engine power to operate there.
Spacefighters often mount small warp drives for interstellar travel.

The third type of fighter craft are called "starfighters". Starfighters all have warp drive systems. They are often capable of faster than light travel near that of full-sized starships.

Starfighters generally look like miniature versions of existing starships. Starfleet operates starfighters that look like Defiant class, Intrepid class, Norway class, and even Galaxy and Sovereign class ships to name just a few.

Starfighters are of course larger than other fighter craft and require larger crews. Some require as many as six to eight crewmen. While this sounds like a large crew for a fighter craft, one must remember that during Earth's Second World War, long range bomber airplanes often had crews of a dozen or more."

Tower stopped reading. Though he could get the same fluff from his official intel reports Jane's always had an easy way of getting information across.
___________________________
He leaned back, rubbed his eyes, put "Jane's Fighting Starships" back in its place on his desk and reached for "The Military Atlas of World War Three".
Commander Collins reached the door to Admiral Tower's quarters and hesitated. Despite being considered an old hand aboard Enterprise he had never visited the admiral's personnal quarters. Admiral Tower tended to use the ready room near the bridge a great deal. In fact, he often slept there between shifts for several days at a time without ever returning to his actual quarters.

Not that these were actual quarters. The relative luxurious admiral's stateroom was on Deck 18 had never been used by Tower. Instead, the lowest ranking members of the crew were allowed to bunk there on a rotating basis as a reward for exceptional work. Collins knew that had been Tower's idea and it made the often aloof and reclusive admiral very popular among those he commanded.

Instead, the admiral was bunking in Cargo Hold 442D buried so deep inside the giant ship that only a single turbolift shaft serviced this area. Collins thought that might be one of the reasons why Admiral Tower chose it. There was virtually no chance of crewman or even officers dropping in on him without a damn good reason.

But as Collins reached for the screen alongside the massive cargo door to announce his presence, another more sinister reason became apparent.

Collins almost didn't notice it, but his skin began to tingle slightly. He had been in Starfleet long enough to know the feeling of very powerful sensors scanning him.

What they were scanning him for became immediately obvious. A very slight, very brief warm feeling near his holster told him that his phaser had been disabled by the computer.

For some reason Collins found the whole thing immensely annoying. "I'm one of his most senior officers and he has me shaken down like an alien he has never set eyes on!" he told himself. But Collins knew immediately he was overreacting. The security computer certainly scanned everyone. The admiral probably didn't even give it any thought.

"Commander Collins here sir." he announced after touching the keypad.

"Come in commander." he heard Tower's filtered voice.

"I wonder what would happen if I drew my disabled phaser and charged in as though to bludgeon the admiral when the door slides open?" Collins mused to himself.

Collins stepped through the cargo hold door and realized exactly what would've happened.

If he had not been put on guard by the unexpected security devices, Collins would probably have never noticed it. But as he stepped through the door, he suddenly had a feeling he was being watched. Closely. Glancing quickly to his left, then his right he counted no less than four. No. Six weapons ports very carefully concealed in the equipment and cargo containers along the walls on either side of the door.

Most people would probably have never noticed them, but Collins had worked as a consultant for a private security firm that installed systems very similar to this for the rich, famous, and those who simply did not like visitors.

Such moonlighting was strictly against regulations, but the fleet normally turned a blind eye to it. To Collins practiced and experienced eye, he knew that the admiral's personal security system was not only nonregulation but state of the art. Hell! It was beyond state of the art. Collins wondered if those stories about the admiral hoarding captured alien technology for his own use were true after all.

As Collins walked the seemingly interminable distance to the desk where Admiral Tower was sitting, he took in everything about Cargo Hold 442D. While no doubt small for a cargo hold, it was undeniably huge compared to even the admiral's stateroom. Various portions of it had been sectioned off by temporary walls, but the overall feeling was still one of vastness.

Collins glanced over at a large, modern looking cabinet and did a quick doubletake. The cabinet held at least thirty weapons of all types. Not family heirlooms or antiques, but modern standard issue hand weapons used by various branches of Starfleet.

Collins hesitated and finally stopped dead and considered things. Between the security system at the door and the arsenal inside he wondered just what kind of attacker Admiral Carson Tower expected to force its way in. And it wasn't like the admiral was vulnerable anyway.

Tower was considered an incredibly formidable individual fighter in his own right.

At that point, Collins noted that Tower was observing him intently.

"Was this all a test?" He thought to himself. It sounded incredible but maybe the elaborate security procedures, hidden and not so hidden weapons was just for show. A mental obstacle course that allowed Tower to see how someone entering his quarters for the first time reacted to the truly unexpected.

Perhaps the weapons and sensors were there to make a simple statement. That the admiral took his duty very seriously. Even considering the security of his personal quarters to be a matter of life and death.
"No" thought Collins to himself. "I'm over analyzing it. The weapons cabinet might be for effect. But the sensors and weapons ports at the door can't be. They were too well concealed for that. Only an expert could notice them in the first place. No the only reasonable explanation was that Admiral Tower or his security detail had good cause to fear for his safety...."
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The ferocious thunderstorm lashed at Tower as he groped his way through the gathering darkness. His way was illuminated mainly by the seeming nonstop flashes of lighting. Winds of more than 60 kph were driving the rain over the top of the nearby hill sending it swirling into the shallow valley below.
-+Tower struggled slowly though steadily up the hill toward what appeared to be a cave close to the top. As he neared it he saw it wasn't a cave (which would've been odd near the top of a hill anyway) but merely a cavity in the surrounding rock and soil barely a meter deep surrounded by several bushes and large plants.

"Even better," Tower said to himself. "I won't have to worry about some animal already nestled in the back where it can't be seen."

Tower settled down on a handy pile of rocks along one side of hole. He was delighted to find that the rocks were worn away by years of wind and rain. Most of them were no bigger than his fist and there wasn't a sharp corner on them. Nothing that would tear his coat or make him uncomfortable. The rocks made a fairly comfortable and surprisingly dry place to lean back and sleep. Some huge plant petals that looked a lot like elephant ears served to conceal Tower and keep even more of the rain from him. His hood had the really nice feature of a small inflatable air bladder at the rear that served as a very effective pillow.

Half reclining on the rock pile with his hood cushioning his head, Tower looked downslope in the light provided by the lightning flashes. He saw several dozen cattle bedded down near the bottom of the shallow valley. Despite their reputations, cattle were not dumb. They were bedded down on the leeward side of the hill while most of them had their backs to the wind as an added measure. The calves mostly lay leeward of the cows to increase their protection. The massive bull, half again larger than any of the cows, lay roughly in the center of the cows like a carrier in the middle of a task force. A few cows disturbed by the lightning were still milling about.

"Can't say they're dumb." Tower said to himself. "They found the best cover anywhere from the rain and the lightning. Not to mention that their life signs will help shield me from any scan that can breach the storm." Tower was close enough to the herd that his life signs would look like just a modestly sized calf to anyone looking.

Tower was dead tired after nearly three days without sleep yet for some reason, despite be-ing quite comfortable he didn't fall asleep immediately. He had never realized just how beautiful a thunderstorm could be, especially at night. And the lightning provided more than enough light for him to be able to enjoy the pastoral beauty of the......well, the pastoral beauty of the pasture. Despite the wind, rain, and lightning or perhaps because of it, he kept his eyes open for a good while taking in all the detail.

Despite his bed of rocks and the violent thunderstorm, when sleep did come it was remarkably peaceful.

A monstrous bolt of lightning and its attendant thunder roused Tower from his rather restful sleep. The rain had increased yet again and two fairly good-sized streams were now cascading down the gaps in the hills on either side of his hiding place. They merged not ten meters in front of him and combined to form a much larger stream that flowed through the area where the cows had bedded down. Several cows were now up and moving reluctantly to new spots in the pasture while some calves bawled fearfully at the storm.

Despite the rain and wind, Tower was getting warm inside his suit. He unzipped the front of it a ways and began to cool somewhat. The small, but noticeable heat spike did not go unnoticed by a member of the execution party some three hundred meters away standing under the overhang of the farm administration building along with half of his platoon.

Force Officer iChann had been called to duty only three days ago when it was clear that Admiral Tower of the Federation Starfleet was going to invoke his “Right of Flight” rather than stay in prison and appeal his death sentence. IChann thought it was a foolish decision by his Advocate Team. The Judsonian government was in no mood to blow away relations with the Federation by executing their most respected commander. In all likelihood, they would’ve kept the admiral in comfortable custody for a few years and then quietly let him go.

Tower of course wasn’t really responsible for the loss of the planets entire somewhat primitive space force of 20 ships and 900 of their best crewmen. Tower had asked to use the ships because the Judsonians had a rather unique weapon using a new type of cold fusion that was expected to surprise the Borg. Unfortunately, for once the admiral was wrong and the Borg blew the entire Judsonian force out of space before they fire a single shot and the public outrage demanded some form of action lest the government fall. And Starfleet considered Judsonian industrial strength to be a real asset in the future once their technology was updated so they consented to allow Tower’s trial.

The Judsonian justice system was rather unique. Much of it held over from when the planet was colonized more than two centuries ago. Trials began kept going around the clock until a verdict was reached. Most trials then were over in hours. Towers had dragged on for more than 9 days. By the time it was over, the advocate teams on both sides were ready to drop from exhaustion.

It was clear that Tower was not primarily responsible for the loss of the ships and crewman, but the prosecuting advocates had taken a very old law and used it to their advantage. Old Judsonian law allowed for the accused to be found partially guilty by assignment on proportional responsibility. Although Tower was held to be only 5% responsible, that made him effectively guilty of 45 of the 900 deaths. And mass murderers could get only one penalty on Judsonia….

But Tower’s team had not been sleeping (though they probably could use it after nine days). They found an even old and more obscure provision in Judsonian capital crimes law. The “Right of Flight” allowed a condemned criminal to escape his sentence and for that matter his official guilt if he was released and then able to elude capture for a set number of days with no outside assistance. The law dated by hundreds of years as well and was meant to enable a criminal to avoid punishment by proving their fitness to live and hopefully contribute to the colony. It was supposed to help keep costs of incarceration down. Not to mention that following such “flights” had at one time been a real entertainment treat for Judsonians. The “flight time” for a murderer was five days. Thus, Admiral Carson Tower once released had to avoid recapture for that time. With no assistance from his ship or sympathetic Judsonians on the ground.

IChann saw the heat spike on his scanner when Tower unzipped his survival suit. He noted the dozens of cows in the vicinity and considered that it might be a cow or calf. A calf judging by the size of the reading. But something about it made him think that they had by sheer luck found their target. He started to report to the team leader who was having a loud argument with the farm administrator when someone to his right said, “Don’t do it!”. iChann glanced to see Force Officer eJhonn glaring at him. To his other side, tMann looked at him in a manner that could not be described as friendly in the least.

“If you report to Team Leader, we’ll be marching out into THAT!” eJhonn said. His massive arm sweeping to indicate the horrendous storm. “All just to find it’s a calf relieving itself because it’s terrified!” For emphasis a massive series of lightning bolts struck close by and a tremendous gust of wind splattered the team members with rain. “You might be one of the best scanner men on the continent. But you’re not dragging us out into that pasture just to find someone no one here cares about finding.” eJhonn continued.

“It is our duty…” iChann began only to be cut off by tMann from the other side.
“Hang our duty!” the other officer put in. “Our job is to put up a spirited pursuit for a few days until this high and mighty admiral gets out clean and everyone from the top down can wash their hands of the whole mess with a clear conscience.” tMann wasn’t through. “I’m for holing up here until the storm breaks then we’ll continue to follow the projected path the admiral was following. No one here signed up to be fried by lightning in a cattle pasture.”
“Fine! Fine!” iChann conceded the point. After all, when this was finished, he still had to work with these men. “It was probably just a cow like you said. These cows are Earth breeds so they’re probably sympathetic with the admiral anyway!”

iChann’s little joke broke the tension and all three men laughed softly. IChann shut down the scanner and wiped the memory as was procedure.
Admiral Carson Tower drifted back to a peaceful sleep never knowing how close he had come to discovery….and dreamed again. The same relatively enjoyable dream he had dozens of times before. Commanding a starship of course (what other dream could a man really have?) but not like commanding fleets like he did in the waking world. Back in day of James T. Kirk. Commanding a single Constitution class heavy cruiser on the frontiers of space. Knowing he truly operated alone and being thrilled to every minute of it. Kirk, Pike, Frederickson, Decker, Garson, Wesley, April, All the giants. When they measured greatness by who was sitting in the center seat.
______________________________________Normally, Carson Tower had neither the desire nor the need to be unnoticeable. Nor was it easy. At more than two meters tall and over 120 kilograms, he stood out among the most genetically advanced humans.

Still there were occasions on modern worlds where avoiding attention was not only a requirement but a vital necessity. To this end, Tower wore clothing that made him look obese rather than muscular. His glasses also marked him as not only having bad genes not improved by modern medicine but also being allergic to retinaz.

Tower continued his far slower than normal walk. Seemingly weighed down by the bulky suitcase he was carrying. Though it did weigh more than 50 kilos, carry it required little effort for Carson. The heads up display on his glasses were giving him a near constant tactical update on any threats or potential threats within nearly 100 meters. His sensor net did pick up a couple of possible muggers on a side street up ahead and Tower briefly considered a detour to deal with them but he quickly ruled it out. He was on a tight schedule and his slow rate of advance didn't help matters.

Perhaps they would still be hanging around when he came back

Tower finally arrived at his destination. He avoided the lifts just inside the front of the building and went to the emergency stairs. Once out of sight in the stairwell he had no need to pretend to be fat and feeble. His progress up the stairs was probably double his speed on the street. He came to the fifth floor, entered it and quickly found his way to the right door. Even as he approached, he heard a voice within saying "Come in admiral" As he stepped quickly inside, he hesitated before a second door which didn't open immediately. His skin tingled slightly as a security system scanned him thoroughly. From the feelings he was getting it was an older system than he was accustomed to yet obviously an efficient one. The scan stopped briefly, then restarted as it detected his concealed weapons and other equipment and notified the people on the other side. After another long moment the scans stopped, and the inner door slid open. From the slight rumbling it made Tower could tell that despite its facade it was an armored security door that would stop most attackers.

The room beyond was larger than Tower had expected with three people seated around a table and a couple of more off to one side. The oldest man, clearly in charge looked up with the vaguest hint of a smile. "We monitored you coming up the street Admiral Tower. Aren't you going overboard in the disguise department?" he said as his eyes took in Tower's elaborate get up.

"I needed to keep in practice just in case Connor. By the way, there are a couple of probable muggers halfway down the 600 block of Pearl Street. Have one of your guys deal with them."

"Jamar" Connor said to one of the men off to the side. Jamar needed no further instructions and headed for a door. Noticeably it was not the same one that Tower had entered.

"Well? Did you manage to obtain them?" Connor said with considerable anticipation as he looked at the suitcase. "Not exactly." Tower replied as he began opening the security seals of the case. "But I think I've found something similar that will allow you to complete the mission here".

Connor and his companions rather than being disappointed seemed even more intrigued by the suitcases contents and responded by hovering even closer.

"What do you think?" Tower said as the suitcase cover finally slid open.

"What are they?" Connor said after examining the three sets of devices in the shielded briefcase after a while. "I asked for the latest model in personal cloaking devices".

"PCDs are hard to come by right now" Tower explained. "There is a bit of a scandal back home due to them being used to violate certain people's privacy if you know what I mean. The bottom line is that there is a ton of scrutiny from a special committee of the Council about who is using PCDs and why. So, I couldn't latch on to them."

"And what are these and how can they replace PCDs" Connor insisted.

"Quantum Breaching Devices" Tower answered. He looked around for an interior wall, noticing one and said, "Allow me to demonstrate".

Tower took one of the devices over to a nearby wall. He separated it into its two halves and placed one just over head height on the wall and another just above the floor and activated both. He then took out two pen sized objects, placed them about midway along the wall between the two devices and steadily moved them apart. To Connor and his teams surprise the wall drew apart as though it were a curtain. Once the gap had widened to nearly a meter at its greatest, Tower pushed both of the small "pens" into the edges of the wall and stepped back briefly. He then walked through the gap into the next room, turned and walked back through the gap.

Connor walked over and stared in amazement. He then walked through the gap himself and turned as though to touch the "edge" of the quantum hole. "I wouldn't do that" Tower warned. "I'm not sure what happens but I was warned to take no chances".

"The QBD can breach solid structures of up to 25 centimeters thick." Tower continued, "They can hold the breach open as long as the QBD remains charged which is about an hour. They do not damage the structure or hurt load bearing capacity, so it will not set off alarms. Think you can use these on your mission?"

At that point Jamar returned with Connor turning slightly and interrogating him "Did you do it right this time". "Got it chief" Jamar replied, mildly out of breath. "Plenty of cuts and abrasions. No serious injury but they'll be off the street a few weeks at least. Looks like they were jumped by some gang members."

"Good" Connor said turning back to Tower. "A couple of months ago he took care of a couple of low lifes and everything about it said 'professional hit'" Connor finished.
__________________________________

Commander Goldstein made his way through the darkened Enterprise corridors to the bridge. Though technically darkened, there were plasma and phaser torches at work everywhere, cutting out damaged components and installing new or at least working ones. The flares of light cast a series of ghastly shadows everywhere and made the air ungodly hot.

"If I believed in hell if might be something like this." Goldstein said to himself. Though thinking further, he realized that he and the surviving crew might already be there. He didn't think he had ever seen so many torches at work at one time even in the shipyard. Some of the more capable crewman were even wielding two torches. An Arretian was handling two and using his third hand to hold a new segment of power conduit in place.

Finally making it to the bridge Goldstein didn't bother with the captain’s chair and instead planted himself at the science officers’ station. He had just begun his scans when an urgent hail interrupted him.

"Commander Goldstein or whoever is receiving on the Enterprise! Priority One! Repeating! Priority One!

"I read you Commander Hawkins" Goldstein answered having recognized the CO of the destroyer Renfroe. "Report!"

"Goldstein! The Leviathan and the other four Borg ships just tore out of orbit at Warp 8.9!"

"Well for gods sake don't lead them back here!" Goldstein exclaimed. "Enterprise is in no shape for a fight".

"Lead them! Lead them! Hey! He thinks we're leading them!" Hawkins said apparently to someone among his crew.

"I assure you we're not leading jack! We're avoiding the sons of bitches the best we can! Right now they're going to overrun your position in about 63 hours and there isn't a damn thing can be done about it! You'd better haul ass while you still have some to haul!"

Goldstein knew he was grasping at straws, but he had to ask: "Can't you try to divert or distract them?"

"Divert them!? Distract them! Get this LT, COMMANDER GOLDSTEIN wants to know if we can divert five Borg ships" Hawkins was again talking to someone on his end. Something Goldstein wished he would stop doing but, in all fairness,, he couldn't blame the man knowing what had already happened.

Hawkins resumed in a more reasonable though still exasperated tone. "No commander, we can't divert or distract them. You saw what they did to my best ships a few days ago. Smashed them like children's toys. I try to go head to head with them again and my crew will probably shoot me."

"Hell, I'll probably shoot myself"

"Okay, okay" Goldstein said trying to calm the rattled scout squadron commander. "Hourly reports hencefort if you can transmit safely and without revealing our exact positions. Goldstein out".

Only one thing left to try Goldstein thought. He keyed the communicator for Chief Engineer Simon Reyes the only person aboard who was probably tireder than he was.

"Simon, suspend all primary repair work and rig the ship for high speed towing. If you can maintain work on restoring shields and weapons".

Goldstein turned to Lt. Ward. "Mr. Ward get me Star Fleet Logistics Command."
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Dayton3

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Sarnow finally found a weapon for Townsend. An archaic 38 revolver, the type of slugthrower common on a thousand worlds. She was annoyed at best. "Why do I end up with the smallest gun?" She said which Sarnow knew had to be largely feigned. She had to know just how lucky they were to find weapons for all of them in the hunting cabin.

"It's bigger than Captain Tower's 22" Sarnow said. "And look what I'm stuck with?" he said as he retrieved the break open double barrelled shotgun that they had decided would be his. "Plus, I've only got six reloads. You've got three times as many"

"Okay, I get your point. I'm just not that comfortable taking on a tactical team armed with railguns with this kind of stuff." Townsend explained.

"Neither am I but we should probably thank God that we found a weapon for each of us in the first place. I doubt they planned for us to find an armory when they shot us down."

"True enough" Townsend agreed.

After a thorough search of the uninhabited hunting cabin they had finally come up with a weapon for each of them. The only really useful one was the 30-30 hunting rifle with a nicely sighted in scope. Sedek was carrying it along with the near full box of ammo they had found. Tower had a 22 semi-automatic rifle. He would have to hit a humanoid target in the face in order to inflict serious injury. Fortunately, he was the most accurate shot in the group which was why he decided to carry it. Sedek was the second best and could make the best use of the rifle which left Sarnow and Townsend somewhat short.

In addition to the weapons they had cleaned out the leftover food in the cabin such that it was, swilled down the clean water, and made liberal use of the sanitary facilities. Sarnow had even found some gloves and boots that fit him.

It was time to start out.

Townsend and Sarnow led off followed by Sedek with their commander Tower bringing up the rear. They hiked through the gloom of the rainy, misty forest for more than an hour and covered probably 7 kilometers before Sarnow raised his arm suddenly motioning the others to stop. They came together with Sarnow speaking, "I saw movement at my one o'clock. Sedek can you make anything out?"

Sedek quickly scanned the indicated area with the rifle scope and announced "Four-man tactical team armed with rail guns. Moving toward us at a slighly obligue angle. If we wait for them I would say we have about half an hour before they come close enough to detect us but there is a narrow area in a ravine about 15 minutes ahead of their path that would be an excellent opportunity to take them all at once."

"How do we coordinate it?" Townsend asked. "We have no comm gear."

"I can see the location Sedek is talking about." Tower stated putting aside Sedek's rifle scope. "If you and Sarnow circle slightly to port. both of you can pass along a flat rock face where we can see you from here. Once we see you, Sedek and I can throw up a bunch of shots on the position of the tac team and force them to go to ground. You and Sarnow should them be able to take them by surprise on their right flank. Should be able to take them alive or with relatively minor injuries." Tower concluded.

Sarnow listened to the brief plan, gave it a brief thought and apparently silently agreed with it without comment. Townsend was more skeptical that it could be pulled off so easy and started to protest but she realized that Tower's plan was almost certainly the correct one. She had never questioned one of his battle plans aboard ship and it seemed foolish to do so on the ground.

"We'd better get moving now to get into position then" she said starting out noting that Sarnow was already moving. "Remember" Tower called after them. "Don't expose yourselves until you hear our covering fire". To Sedek he said, "Let's get set up and ready. This won't be long in coming". "Agreed" Sedek said. "The quicker we get this done the better our chances of this operation succeeding." apparently already considering their higher purpose of escaping this world entirely.

It went off almost too well. Only one of the tactical team was injured before all four were subdued. Tower, Sedek, Townsend, and Sarnow netted not only the sophisticated rail guns that their enemies were toting, but their portaputer, comm gear, and even the field rations they were carrying which everyone but Sedek wolfed down with enthusiasm. That was supremely ironic given they had eaten pretty well not an hour before back at the cabin.

Townsend bound and gagged the four soldiers giving special attention to leaving one of the bindings somewhat loose so he could get free after a few hours with considerable effort. She knew Tower had no intention of leaving the four of them there completely helpless.

Sarnow quickly ditched his shotgun to carry one of the rail guns and Townsend did the same with her small revolver. Tower and Sedek chose to hang on to their rifles along with the more modern weapons. Sedek stood guard while the other two looked over Townsend's shoulder as she used the captured computer.

"I've identified the approximate locations of the other three tactical teams as well as their ship." she said. "It looks like they left a four-man team guarding their ship. Shouldn't be hard to take it with the advantage of surprise!" she finished finally not able to keep the new found optimism out of her voice.

"Let's not get too much ahead of ourselves." Tower warned. "How long do we have? Surely they'll notice these guys missing." he said gesturing to the bound tac team.

"We observed a routine check in just before we sprang our ambush sir. By what the computer says, they're supposed to check in every 3 hours. So, we have two hours before the next one. Ships about an hour from here. Plenty of time." optimism still filling Townsend's voice.

"Then we might as well get under way guys." Tower concluded. "Better to spring our final trap too early than too late".

Once again the four of them marched off into the drizzling rain.......
__________________________________

Sarnow stared intently at the enraged Romulan commander, trying not to smirk as the captive ranted and raved.

"I tell you the Romulan Empire will triumph! And Earth will fall!" The Romulan shouted, ending his several minute-long diatribe.

"You don't know do you commander?" Sarnow said levelly at the puzzled Romulan.

"Earth is where empires go to die..."
________________________________

Goldstein had pulled it off. Logistics Command had managed to locate 6 warp tugs close enough to Enterprise to make it there on time. One burned out its warp engines trying to make the rendezvous but the other five made it and it turned out only four were really necessary. With an assist from the Enterprise's functioning engine systems they managed to move Enterprise a fraction of a light year from the path of the Borg ships. It wasn't all that far but space is big and Goldstein increased the odds in his ships favor by sending four warp shuttles to lay down a trail of charged particles for the Borg to follow.

By the time the Borg realized their error they were six days beyond the Enterprise and Enterprise's most basic repairs were finished in four.

One thing Goldstein had learned from Tower was the importance of returning the crew to a normal operating pattern. Once Enterprise was relatively safe, he began standing the crew down and sending various shifts off duty for a good meal and some sleep, himself included.
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Taking the ship had turned into a bloody mess. Two of the men guarding it had to be killed and a third had a severely wounded lower leg. Severe enough he would probably lose it below the knee. Sarnow took a round that carved a nasty groove along his side but he was still ambulatory. Townsend suffered a clean thru and thru in the thigh while Tower had two nicks in the right shoulder and another in the right hip. Only Sedek had come through the brief firefight unscathed. He dragged the two dead soldiers clear of the landing area and chained the uninjured one close enough to the one with the leg injury so he could take care of him until help arrived.

The four of them set to work clearing the ship of booby traps and various surprises meant to prevent someone (namely them) from commandeering it.

Sarnow stood guard while the other three worked. After an hour it was time.

"Think we got them all?" Tower asked. "A high probability sir." Sedek replied while studying several instruments he had modified for his use. "Three separate booby traps and special override systems plus at least two more that I believe they were working on but had not completed. "We've checked every major and most minor systems. I'd stake my reputation on it being safe to lift off." He concluded.

"Then let's do it." Tower decided. "Get Sarnow in here. Then seal the hatches and bring the engines online. Four days here is four too many. I'll handle the takeoff. Townsend start the calculations for warp speed travel. Sedek see what this thing has in the way of weapons and defense. Not that I plan to engage in any more combat but who can say. " Tower went to the control cabin and smoothly slid into what was obviously the pilot’s station.

Sarnow came in the control cabin and secured his weapon before slumping heavily into one of the chairs near Tower. He was holding his side in obvious pain. "For the first time I'm looking forward to a bed in sickbay. I'm so tired they won't even have to put me under to fix this." He said with a slight nod toward to his bloody left side. "I'm just going to lay down and let the surgeon get to work!" he finished as he reclined the chair as much as possible, leaning his head back.

"Think you can hang on for another 18 hours? If we can spin this thing up to Warp 7.5 we should make it by then."

But Sarnow was already asleep.
____________________________________

Enterprise continued to close on the fleeing Romulan ship. It was a venerable Gallant Wing class heavy cruiser. Analysts had long claimed that a battle between one of them and one of Starfleets Constitution class ships would be a near even match.

Everyone was about to find out.

Enterprise fired a salvo of three photon torpedoes. The Gallant Wing took evasive action, sliding down and to port then back to starboard. It also cut loose with dozens of shots from its rear disruptor banks. One torpedo very narrowly missed the Romulan ship, detonating close enough to its port side to jar it badly.

A second torpedo was hit by the frantic disruptor shots and its engine was disabled. But the third torpedo bore in and struck the shield protecting the starboard engine and support pylon. The explosion was titanic and the Romulan ships warp field quickly began to fade.

As it slipped to sublight its impulse engines ignited with an almost audible howl and a scream over subspace. The Gallant Wing slewed about. Now it was trying not only to evade fire from Enterprise but to bring its own massive forward firepower to bear.

Even as the Gallant Wing was only halfway through its turn it launched one of its immensely destructive plasma torpedoes. The Romulan then snapped into an even harder turn to starboard, it forward disruptors lashing out at the Enterprise as the larger ship slowed to sublight. The Romulan was attempting to force Enterprise to evade back into the path of the plasma torpedo but the captain saw through the tactic. At his command Enterprise pitched upward and to starboard A series of narrow beam phaser blasts erupted from both the upper and lower centers of the saucer section.

The concentrated beams carved a path across the Gallant Wing's primary hull, tearing through the forward disruptor mounts and the forward housing for the plasma weapon. The Gallant Wing's primary weapons were disabled but it wasn't quite helpless. Its disruptors covering the aft and flanking arcs pounded at Enterprise with all the fury they could muster.

Enterprise's shields weakened substantially and series of control board short circuited but injuries to the crew were relatively minor. Enterprise backed off somewhat and fired two short range torpedoes.

Both hit.

The Gallant Wing's port warp engine shattered. A series of explosions rippled across the entire aft section. Enterprise quickly dropped its shields and moved into transporter range. Energizing its transporter and scanning the Romulan ship the crew began beaming Romulan survivors aboard six at a time every time the transporters cycled. Enterprise managed to extract 53 Romulans out of the 330-man crew before a final series of explosions left the ship a drifting dead hulk.

Unfortunately, four of the Romulans died of their injuries and another two committed suicide before Enterprise security could render them unconscious.

For the Enterprise crew it was pure victory. A major foray into a sensitive sector decisively repulsed. A major enemy fleet unit eliminated and best of all nearly four dozen living Romulan prisoners including three officers. Enterprise security quickly separated the officers from the rest and quartered them in individual compartments while the rest were put in secured quarters in groups of two and three on the theory that the Romulans were much more likely to speak among themselves. All the compartments heavily monitored of course both obviously and covertly. Despite the time and effort required to do so, Enterprise security changed the grouping of the Romulan prisoners every few hours knowing full well such changes were likely to spark conversation among them.

Enterprise security changed the groupings of the Romulan prisoners every twelve hours or so knowing that it would spark conversation between them as they were eager to share what they had learned and find out what the other prisoners knew.

It worked as well as the captain's battle strategy worked.

When the Enterprise transferred the prisoners to a border starbase several days later they had literally hundreds of hours of recorded conversations among the Romulans for Starfleet intelligence to analyze.

Before the Enterprise left the area the crew tractored several thousand tons of debris from the Romulan heavy cruiser into the hangar bay. Most of it was useless of course, but a nearly intact computer module and a segment of power transfer conduit proved invaluable. Combined with the recordings of the Romulan prisoners and the sensor readings during the battle, Federation knowledge of Romulan heavy cruisers increased ten fold.

By the time the Enterprise officers finished with their debriefing, Starfleet Command was handing out medals by the bucket full.
____________________________________
 
OP
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"Caspars!!" Sarnow called out excitedly from the long range sensor monitoring station.

"Great" Tower said to himself. Their approach to Deneva would be anything but easy. He had hoped the drone starships could not be deployed in this system yet. But it looked like the officers who had seized control of the heartworlds of the Federation had been much more advanced in their planning than anyone had anticipated.

"Show me!" Tower barked. A moment later the viewscreen and the supplementary monitors came alive with images of the ships bearing down on Enterprise.

Ten starships. Two separate groups of five. Each one centered around a modified Sovereign class starship. They looked like the regular Sovereigns except for far fewer windows since they were virtually always unmanned. The warp nacelle pylons were shorter, stouter, more difficult to damage. And on the upper rear of the primary hull saucer was a sleek looking weapons pod with eight pulse compression phaser cannons, six forward and two aft.

Each of the Caspar Sovereigns were escorted by four Defiant class variants. Not that different from the older Defiant class as they were nearly completely automated anyway.

Townsend swiveled in her chair toward Tower. "I've got solid scans sir. Looks like the Sovereigns in the middle of each formation are carrying at least 4-5,000 torpedoes of various types. Ten times the loadout for a regular ship. They can open fire at maximum range and keep pouring it on all day long."
_________________________________

Sarnow returned to his questioning of the Romulan officer.

"I just don't understand why your people continue trying to provoke a conflict with the Federation? Our fleet is twice the size of yours and we have four or five times as many habitable worlds. Why are you such gluttons for punishment? Your people couldn't beat Earth and its handful of colonies and that was back when the Empire was one of the most battle-tested in the known galaxy. What makes you think you could defeat the Federation now?

The Romulan offered up his equivalent of an arrogant sneer.

"Don't be foolish." he said. "In the Romulan/Earth War, the Andorian Clan of Combat gave direct military support to you. Vulcan scientists and engineers developed most of your technology and the Tellarites helped finance Earths war effort."

"And in another war not only would they be onboard but we could add in Centaurus, Deneva, Rigel, Deneb....you get the idea." Sarnow responded.
________________________________
Tower read a short passage from the science fiction novel he had purchased recently.

From a distance his crew looked resplendent in their cleaned, pressed and matched uniforms. It was only when you got close that you realized they were not uniforms at all. They had not had the time or resources to manufacture and issue any. The uniforms were actually scrounged and assembled from scores of uniforms of prisoners of war and wealthy civilians who had been released with their lives and health intact if not their wardrobes and dignity. Still, it was obvious the crew took great pride in attempting to make themselves look like a veteran military unit.

What did match precisely in his crew were the expressions and body language. Proud stances of bodies which had fought and won for a cause alongside their brothers. The forward lean of soldiers ready to do it all again without fear, without question. The looks on their faces more than compensated for the sometimes hodgepodge nature of their dress.

All were armed though their weapons were no more uniform than their "uniforms". All the sidearms were carefully cleaned and shined. All holstered, strapped down or held as though they were. Virtually all were ones best suited for each crew member. The best they could find, steal or otherwise acquire. The captain had no doubt that each of their hand weapons had a long body count attached to them.

Several of the crew had been seriously injured in the recent fighting and the medical kits aboard useful for humans was appallingly small. But doc had shown a gift for medical improvisation equal to anything the engineers had done. The captain noticed a man who had lost his hand and forearm. Doc had already set him up with a mechanical prosthetic hand. The fingers operated by the flexing the elbow
_______________________________
Tower switched from the novel to something more concrete.: A passage from "The History of the Earth/Romulan War".
One of the most famous starships named Excelsior was the command ship of Admiral Carlos Larson of the Earth Defense Force. The modified Daedalus II class ship was most noted for the Battle of Gamma Hydra in which it was the only ship on either side to survive out of a total of 94 Earth ships and 146 Romulan vessels.

Excelsior was leading a force of 12 ships to reinforce 82 Earth ships which were engaged by the 146 Romulan ships before Admiral Larson's force arrived. All 82 Earth ships were destroyed though 3 were salvaged later by Larson's task force. Fifty-eight Romulan ships were destroyed and dozens more were damage. Task Force Sierra led by the U.S.S. Excelsior arrived after the battle. After the Romulan ships had departed in fact.

Task Force Sierra rescued several hundred survivors from among the destroyed Earth ships and managed to restore three of the vessels for immediate use. But a more elaborate rescue and salvage effort not to mention a detailed look at the Romulan ships or the Romulans themselves was thwarted by the delayed detonation of several Romulan high yield self destruct warheads which heavily irradiated a wide area for a time.

Admiral Larson and the 15 ships now under his command set off in pursuit of Romulan fleet six times their number which outgunned them four to one. Larson devised a brilliant plan that took maximum advantage of his small fleets one clear edge over the Romulans and that was mobility. He divided his 15 ships into two groups of four ships each while retaining the powerful Excelsior with six other starships.

The two small groups skirted the flanks of the advancing Romulan force without being detected while Larson and the battle group built around Excelsior circumvented the Romulan force entirely to attack the fleet head on. With precise timing the two small groups attacked the rear quarters of many of the trailing Romulan ships many of which had unrepaired damage from the earlier battle.

The attacks by the two groups pulled more than two dozen Romulan ships out of formation, the Excelsior group then stormed into the heart of the remaining Romulan ships in extremely tight formation, the Earth ships maneuvering almost as one. Larson maneuvered his seven ships to concentrate repeatedly on groups of two, three and four Romulan ships, quickly overwhelming them in detail.

Larson pushed the Excelsior to the absolute limit, destroying 10 Romulan ships outright and assisting in the destruction of 6 more. The battle reached its conclusion as the mortally wounded U.S.S. Quincy rammed two Romulan vessels as they closed in and the explosions of all three ships engulfed and destroyed a third Romulan ship. At about the same time Excelsior was surrounded and under fire from four Romulan ships. Excelsior held its fire for several long seconds as its weapons recharged but finally unleashed a sustained barrage that exploded all four Romulan ships in turn.

Nine Romulan ships remained but they intercepted a series of false subspace messages from the Excelsior to a supposed Earth fleet arriving as reinforcements intent on capturing some Romulan ships intact. The nine Romulan ships self-destructed rather than risk capture.

Nearly 9,000 crewmen died in the loss of the 93 Earth ships with about 400 survivors packed aboard Excelsior plus the Excelsior's 125-man crew. As many as 7,000 Romulans died with the 146 ships in their fleet.

In only five days of combat, Earth had lost more than a years’ worth of starship production. The Romulan losses were equally devastating. For Admiral Larson and the remarkable crew of the Excelsior there was no time to rest or celebrate. After taking barely 48 hours to transfer wounded and excess personnel to support ships and to patch up the worst of the damage, the Excelsior spent the next 6 months patrolling the Gamma Hydra sector alone before being relieved by a three ship task force.

Admiral Larson would go down as Earth's greatest military leader of the war. He would engage in and be victorious in six more major battles before being reassigned as an instructor at the newly founded Starfleet Academy with double duty as Starfleets Chief of Operations. Decades later Larson was honored by Starfleet naming one of its most numerous destroyer classes after him.

Ironically, though the debris fields near Gamma Hydra would've been a boon for Starfleet Intelligence only a single brief mission entered the area in the following years. Instead the scores of wrecked ships became a boon for treasure hunters and adventurers after the radiation died down.

Hundreds of thousands of artifacts showed up at markets across the galaxy for decades after

Tower flipped back to an earlier section of the history of the war.

The destruction of the U.S.S. Balboa near the Romulan home star system of course marks the traditional "start" of the Earth/Romulan War but of course given the level of technology at that time the war such as it was took a long time to truly get rolling. The Romulans within a few months defeated the U.S.S. Stone Mountain by using particle beams to superheat the hull and overload its environmental systems, killing the crew. The Romulans towed the dead hulk of Stone Mountain back home and examined it in detail, in particular the warp drive which they began to quickly reverse engineer. Before that could be completed a Starfleet task force comprised of the Excalibur, Valiant, and Grissom entered the same area. The three ships were set upon by nearly 100 small Romulan ships which surprised the sophisticated starships with their numbers and sheer ferocity.

Excalibur and Valiant were crippled and self-destructed with the loss of all hands. Grissom launched at least 16 shuttles crammed with survivors before its own self-destruct systems activated. Unfortunately, the Romulans destroyed all but five of these shuttles. The 63 Starfleet crewman aboard the shuttles were taken captive and harshly interrogated. The intelligence gleaned by the Romulans from their human captives combined with their possession of the Stone Mountain enabled the Romulans to quickly begin building warp drives similar to those of the Earth ships which they quickly learned worked well with their fusion powerplants. Though the Romulan ships were limited to just over Warp 3 due to the less powerful fusion engine cores compared to the antimatter used by the Earth ships, these early warp drives served the Romulans well.

Capturing the crewman from the Grissom also had a profound psychological impact on the Romulans. Learning just how close humans resembled them physically, the Romulans became obsessed with the fear that humans would be able to successfully infiltrate their worlds undetected. Romulan paranoia always at a high level escalated dramatically.
Because of Romulan fears of human infiltration they became obsessed with not allowing Earth to even know what their true appearance was. To this end not only were Romulan ships equipped with redundant self-destruct systems, but Romulan crewman aboard them also wore sophisticated devices capable of incinerating their bodies if they did not die with their ships. The Romulan planning worked well. Despite more than 4,000 Romulan ships destroyed during the war with at least 250,000 Romulans aboard them killed, as far as is known the Earth/Federation never recovered an intact corpse of a Romulan. (Editors note-we know now that this is not precisely true. While the Earth forces never during or after the war publicly acknowledge recovering dead bodies of Romulans, we know today that this was largely a fiction promoted by those of Earth who were already hoping for an alliance with the Vulcans and saw that the revelations of Vulcans close biological kinship with Romulans would endanger this. Various sources indicate that Earth forces recovered anywhere from 20 to 100 mostly intact bodies of Romulans during the war).
___________________________________
excerpt from "Starfleet: An Organizational History of the Order of Battle"

Starfleet, as we know it today evolved directly from the Earth Defense Force of the Earth/Romulan War era. Though it is interesting to note that even back then, EDF was routinely simply referred to as "the starfleet" or simply "starfleet". The codification of the term after the Articles of Federation were approved was simple official acknowledgement of what had existed for decades.

When the Earth/Romulan War began, Starfleet operated starship classes divided into four main types: Scouts, Destroyers, Light Cruisers, and Heavy Cruisers. Of course, several other auxiliary and support ship types were also in service. This division of the fleet served well throughout the 31 years of the Earth/Romulan War. Virtually all Starfleet ships larger than a destroyer were far superior to the Romulan vessels one on one with much of the Romulan success coming due to a combination of vastly superior numbers, shorter logistical lines, and fanatically aggressive strategies and tactics.

Some 50 years after the Earth/Romulan War, a fifth ship type was added. The frigate. The frigate was conceived of a starship combining the weapons and defenses of a light cruiser (sometimes even a heavy cruiser) on a hull the size of a destroyer with the idea of possessing the firepower of the former along with the mobility of the latter.

The addition of the frigate classes would turn out to be both fortunate and prophetic. During the Four Years War with the Klingons that erupted just a few decades later, Starfleet frigates bore the brunt of the fighting being engaged in more than half of the ship to ship combat actions of the war fighting Klingon warships both smaller and far larger than their own rating.

For more than a century, Starfleet had found no need for more powerful vessels than its heavy cruisers. Aside from a handful of specialized battleship type designs mainly built as experimental one offs during the Earth/Romulan War, the largest class of more powerful vessels was the mysterious "Prism" class warships of which not everything is known to this day. Only five of those vessels were constructed. One is rumored to still survive somewhere.

Ironically it was a peacetime situation rather than war that prompted the construction (or conversion) of Starfleet battlecruisers, battleships, and dreadnoughts. After the Four Years War ended, the Klingon Imperial Fleet deployed more than one hundred D-7 heavy cruisers and its variants with hundreds more on the way. The D-7s reliability and ease of maintenance ensured that once in service these ships would be around for ages. And the Klingons (later the Romulans) routinely deployed their D-7s (or equivalents) in squadrons of three.

Starfleet at that time had only fourteen of the top of the line Constitution class heavy cruisers and no likelihood of obtaining more (though this turned out to be incorrect). Combat experience had shown that while a Constitution could easily defeat a single D-7 cruiser, a squadron of three D-7s could easily overpower a Constitution class ship. Potentially destroying it, damaging it severely, or at least forcing it to flee. This was a huge problem as Starfleet normally operated its Constitutions alone, unsupported in order to maximize the amount of territory these ships covered.

During the Four Years War this was not an issue as the heavy cruisers normally operated along with a number of frigates and destroyers to support it. But with a prolonged period of peace now possible, this reality made it quite possible that the Klingons would be able to greatly restrict the reach of Starfleet without firing a shot.

So programs to develop starships capable of defeating a squadron of three D-7 heavy cruisers alone and unsupported were put into development. Thus, the ship types battlecruiser, battleship, and dreadnoughts were born. In the case of dreadnoughts and some battleships, they were designed to defeat two squadrons of D-7 heavy cruisers alone and unsupported.
_____________________________________

Tower skipped several chapters of Starfleet: An Organizational History of the Order of Battle" to one concerning destroyers..."one of the biggest modern changes in starship acquisition and deployment within Starfleet has been the decline in the number and types of destroyers. For much of its history, the destroyer has been far and away the most numerous warship type in Starfleet. This however is steadily coming to an end. In the late 23rd century, Starfleet was acquiring no less than nine different destroyer classes at once. From small destroyer/scouts to much more capable heavy destroyers which held down a place in the order of battle the same as far larger cruisers! But now, only a century later Starfleet is acquiring only a single class of destroyers, the versatile and capable Fox class fast destroyers. The biggest single reason for the decline in the destroyer are the advances in warp capable probes and drones. It is cheaper and less endangering of Starfleet manpower to send a hundred probes on recon or exploration missions than a single destroyer. Ironically some large facilities such as Starbase 81 maintain several squadrons of older destroyers simply as "probe wranglers". The lack of new destroyer classes joining Starfleet has also had a problematic effect on command training. At one time assignment as a destroyer captain served as a key step in the development of new starship commanding officers. Now that option is not as viable as it was a century ago.
_____________________________
Tower tired of reading and flicked on the holo to watch MASH.

"Mobile Armored Surgical Hospital" was what it stood for Tower thought. He had watched the shows for the last four years. Probably a hundred or more had been produced.

He heard that originally "MASH" was a television show in the 20th century centered on some obscure military conflict in Asia. The current version was updated considerably. It took place on a medical center space station near the fighting during the Earth Romulan War some two centuries ago. Even after all these years of watching Tower was amazed at how primitive the medical treatment was. No stasis fields to save severely injured people for future treatment. Very little in the way of Nano surgery. Hell, they were using old fashioned 3-D printers to create artificial organs!!

Beyond that Tower could not understand the seemingly antiwar, anti-military feelings of the characters like Hawkeye and Trapper John! I mean come on this was the Romulans who had attacked! Why were they complaining about doing their jobs so much?

"Attention! Incoming wounded! Shuttles arriving in all three bays! Both surgical shifts to the OR!", the public address announcement opened this editions action....

A rare smile spread across Tower's face as he settled in to enjoy it.

Tower finished watching the MASH edition with great satisfaction. It had focused on an officer coming to the 4077 for treatment for a minor condition. He was a relentlessly aggressive commander whom Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan fawned over.

Hawkeye and Trapper found out that the officer was very reckless, and his unit was suffering a far greater number of causalities than it should. Hawkeye and Trapper conspired to perform an unnecessary, major surgery on the guy in order to lay him up in recovery for so long that he lost his command. Too bad they didn't have any stasis fields. They could've popped him in one and left him for as long as needed no harm done.

Unnecessary surgery meant all kinds of ethical questions of course. Fortunately, in a clever and hilarious plot twist they manipulated Frank Burns into performing the surgery instead.

Trapper had asked Hawkeye "How long do you think he'll be laid up?" Hawkeye replied, "It should be 4 weeks but with Frank doing it, probably 12".

Tower was really looking forward to the next edition. The coming attractions indicated it was an episode where the station "bugged out" and had to be towed to a new location due to advancing Romulan forces. That plot line was rare, and Tower thought it had only been used twice before in the series. Plus, the next episode seemed to focus on Radar and Commander Blake heavily.

Tower liked Commander Blake. He was similar to Father Mulcahy. A little naive and sometimes clueless but generally well-meaning and reliable.
_______________________________
excerpt from "A Brief History of the Thousand Yahren War"

One thing that is noted about the Cylons was that though they were better known as cybernetic organisms or "cyborgs" and the robotic looking forms of the warriors (so called centurions) Cylons were in fact born wholly biological. "Born" being an euphemism given that Cylons are a variant of reptiles and actually hatch from eggs. Though thanks to their technology they do not suffer from the same vulnerabilities as regular cold-blooded reptiles.

When a Cylon hatches they have a wholly biological rudimentary brain. When a Cylon reaches a certain level of growth a "brain" is implanted. This "brain" is an artificial construct with some biological components. It was suggested in "War of the Gods" that this technology was provided by the race of advanced beings similar to or including Count Iblis. These "one brain" Cylons make up the vast, vast bulk of all Cylon warriors and civilian workers. At the time this "one brain" is implanted testing reveals whether a Cylon will in the future be suitable for additional brains to be implanted. Some evidence suggests only a very tiny percentage (1/1,000) are suitable. Once a Cylons artificial brain is implanted it is implied that the original rudimentary brain they are born with atrophies greatly and is effectively no longer used.

All Cylons suitable for additional brains become warriors and almost always form a kind of "officer corps" among Cylons. It was noted by the Imperious Leader himself in "The Cylon Death Machine/The Gun On Ice Planet Zero" that such Cylons tend to be far more aggressive and daring in battle than their fellow "one brainers" which means that combat tends to "weed out" a great many multi brain compatible Cylons over time.

Eventually at some point, evidence indicates there is no one size fits all standard or it is related to age or experience, the Cylons who can handle a second artificial brain have one implanted. These move steadily up the ranks in the Cylon armed forces though they still engage in and lead in combat at the forefront of battle which further serves to kill off many.

When (if) the two brains start coordinating, in effect working as a single very powerful brain, the Cylon is elevated to Executive Officer status. Executive Officer Cylons no longer serve in front line combat but command major bases and Cylon fleets. Many serve near the Imperious Leader himself and have direct regular access to him.

The Imperious Leader has complete authority to choose their successors and often choose one and several possible alternates long before they die, are killed, or step aside. It is believed that though very rare some Imperious Leaders have "retired" most often after reaching extreme old age. The chosen successors to the Imperious Leader invariably come from the ranks of the Executive Officer Cylons and once they rise to the rank of Imperious Leader they have their third and final artificial brain implanted.

In "The Cylon Death Machine/The Gun on Ice Planet Zero" it is noted that the Cylon in command of the planetoid where the Ravashol Pulsar is based, Vulpa, had been selected as the successor to the Imperious Leader and his posting to the garrison there was part of the Imperious Leader's effort to "reform" Vulpa's reputation after he had impudently suggested to the Imperious Leader that Cylons abandon pursuing the humans. It is further suggested that it was Vulpa who modified the gigantic Ravashol Pulsar from its original purpose as basically a gigantic laser transmitter to send vast amounts of knowledge around the galaxy into an incredibly powerful weapon.

It should be noted that while all Imperious Leaders are three brained Cylons, not all three brained Cylons become Imperious Leader. Some Cylons have a third brain implanted who were not selected to become Imperious Leader. These
"non-Imperious Leader third brained Cylons" are very rare but often extremely long lived and come from the ranks of Cylon Executive Officers who have served in their positions for a time far longer than usual. These three brained Cylons normally travel with the Imperious Leader and serve as the Cylon equivalent of a "sounding board".

It should be noted that in addition to "regular" Cylon centurions encountered by humans in combat there are a number of fully robotic Cylon "drones" which are virtually indistinguishable from centurions with the exceptions that they mass only about one third as much and are capable of much faster movement. They also are much easier to kill than the cybernetic centurions and sometimes make horrendous tactical errors. _______________________________

...later from the same book...the claim has often been made that Karibdas (code named Proteus), Baltar's pilot, operative, long time confidant and some say frustrated wannabe lover "was responsible for the lives of more than a million lives on Caprica" when he sabotaged the Caprican defense network during the Cylon attack. Some have wondered if this was simply an arbitrary number but deeper analysis shows that it might well be accurate. At the primary defense dome on Caprica at the time of the attack were twelve large Concurant class Colonial troop transports. Each of them were capable of carrying nearly 100,000 troops, their provisions and equipment for a ground campaign. Because the defense network was sabotaged by Karibdas, all of these troop transports were lost. It is quite a reasonable to believe that had these transports survived they could've been used to save at least one million Capricans from the subsequent Cylon occupation forces.
__________________________________
...excerpt from notes of Captain (later Governor General of New Caprica) Apollo:

It was so easy to forget that despite the Galactica's great power and fearsome reputation, we couldn't afford to use her in combat if at all possible. Galactica was the last surviving Colonial battlestar and for that matter about the only surviving Colonial warship of any kind. As such its' continued survival meant the survival of the tiny remnants of the Twelve Colonies of Man. In the number of survivors she carried alone she was indispensable. More than 33,000 civilians from all twelve major colonies and numerous other outlying worlds and bases called her home in addition to the 9,000 plus military personnel. Galactica was the only vessel capable of servicing, maintaining, and if necessary rebuilding the hundred plus Viper fighters that were the only thing keeping the Cylons at bay. Not to mention that Galactica was the only real place to train pilots and other warriors.

Beyond that the medical facilities aboard Galactica were the most advanced left after the fall of the colonies. Finally the historical and cultural significance of the Galactica can never be overlooked. The great ships memory banks contained vast amounts of information about the history of the Twelve Colonies apparently lost forever to mankind. Images of cities long since reduced to glowing dust. Beaches now turned to plains of glass. Forests that still smoldered yahrens later. Recordings of Triad rivalries played out across entire centiyahrens.

Despite the fanatical efforts to protect her though in almost every encounter the Galactica took damage. Sometimes only trivial, a gouge in the armor here, an indention in the hull there. Other times the damage was near catastrophic. I had seen other battlestars utterly destroyed by damage like Galactica had absorbed on more than one occasion. Yet Galactica had to be directly involved in nearly every battle. With typically just under 100 Vipers available most of the time, anywhere from 40-50 had to be committed to protecting the other vessels of the ragtag fleet most of which couldn't defend themselves from more than three or four Cylon fighters. Other Vipers had to be committed to maintaining a scout presence ahead of the fleet while still others would be in the midst of refueling or rearming during every battle. This often left 30 Vipers or less to stop the hundred or more Cylon Raiders that came thundering in on the Galactica every battle. The Cylons averaged one attack every secton which meant the staggering number of 70 attacks every Yahren!

When you look at it that way its is a gift from the gods that Galactica survives to this day!.
_____________________________________________
Captain Carson Tower gazed out at a portion of his family’s fleet of warships. It was against Federation law for private individuals or organizations like the family corporation from owning and/or operating starships with anything beyond the most basic of defensive armaments but as with all laws there were loopholes. One such loophole concerned ships built for potential purchase by Starfleet. A shipyard could build a prototype or proof of concept ship and offer it to Starfleet for sale or for the license to build more of the vessels in the future but if Starfleet rejected the ship the ownership of it reverted to its manufacturer. So, the Tower shipyards would build very powerful starships and offer them up to Starfleet for potential sale but construct them with obvious design flaws. Once Starfleet rejected the ship, it was returned to the possession of the shipyard which quickly fixed its flaws and behold, the Tower family corporation had a new starship!

Of course, everyone was aware of what the company was doing but lawyers on both sides took the issue "under consideration" and no one wanted it really resolved. Carson's father Mackenzie Tower had always used his private starfleet responsibly and quietly. Mainly using it to conduct search and rescues, transport vitally needed supplies, and in the wilder sections of space providing a measure of law and order. Above all he had his fleet stay out of Starfleets way. Though it was often Federation authorities who "requested" some kind of mission be performed by Tower's ships that they didn't necessarily want Starfleet officially involved in.

Most of the officers serving aboard Tower's warships were former Starfleet while the lower ranks were filled from the best of the Tower commercial fleet.

As Carson watched a ship that he knew was classified as a "heavy transport" drift by. But Carson could tell that even from the most cursory look that the ship was an outsized version of the famous Defiant class escort. It was probably capable of carrying just enough SCUs (Standard Cargo Units) to justify the "transport" in its classification but mainly it was a platform for pulse compression phasers and "probe launchers" which were loaded mainly with quantum torpedoes. Tower didn't envy anyone who tried to seize the ship thinking they would make off with valuable cargo
__________________________________Tower tried to get some sleep as the rain continued. Not hard but steady. The otherwise dark night occasionally interrupted by flashes of lightning and rumblings of thunder. His field jacket was lined and rain resistant though he wouldn't want to test it against many of these downpours. The temperature was pretty cold. Hovering somewhere between freezing and merely uncomfortable. Fortunately, he had found a plank to sleep on which kept him off the wet ground and gave him some hopes of staying reasonably warm. His boots were heated which meant his feet were probably the warmest part of his body right now. In addition, the phaser strapped to his right hip was emitting some warmth that was better than nothing. He and the other members of his team could've used the phasers to heat some of the rocks around them, but no one wanted to give away their positions by accidentally creating an infrared signature that stood out from the background.

Tower was using a rather large though smooth rock as an improvised pillow. If he recalled the stories he had heard, there was something in the Bible about a man sleeping with a rock for a pillow. He then dreamed about a ladder to heaven or something along those lines though Tower couldn't for a moment remember the significance of the story. Nothing beyond how the "rock for a pillow" seemed to have parallels with his own situation. The stirrings in the rain streaked darkness told him that the other seven members of the team trying to sleep were not having any more success than he was. Two other team members stood guard, walking the perimeter, their rifles unslung and at the ready.

The other two teams his was matched up with had won the coin tosses and they were sleeping more comfortably inside the vehicles which were spread out over a hundred meters or so. When they started moving in the early morning hours on the other hand his team automatically got to ride inside.
 

Tipsycatlover

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Is there a plot in there someplace? The writing is quite good. It seems to have incorporated every thing you ever thought about though.
 
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Dayton3

Dayton3

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Tower dragged himself slowly down the hallway toward his room. He had just finished helping one of his team members to his door. The transport had dropped him and three of his teammates at the dorm entrance after they completed a 200-hour survival training mission. During those hours the team had only each managed a handful of hours sleep and eaten only sporadically. The infrequent meals had not provided enough calories to power his endoskeleton which meant he was basically dragging 10 kilos of dead weight internally.

Tower staggered through the door and collapsed on the couch. "Ah back so soon!" his roommate Alidar said with way too much cheerfulness from the next room. "You look like hell!"

"I feel like hell so it’s a matched set", Tower responded with massive heaviness in his voice.

"Well, I'm on the way out until late. If you're interested there's some chicken sandwiches in the kitchen."

"Grilled or fried?" said Tower as he perked up with interest. "A few of both." replied Alidar as he finished adjusting his uniform.

Tower got up and ventured in to the small kitchen area though it was really no more than a table, two chairs, sink, refrigerator, and portable reheater. There were indeed more than a dozen chicken sandwiches on a large tray. "I'll need something cold to go with it" thought Tower as he opened the fridge. He looked, did a double take and looked a lot harder. Left, right, up, down, finally he yelled at Alidar who hadn't made it out the door yet.

"What happened to the beer!" he called to him.

"Tavon and a couple of his buddies came by last night. They couldn't get evening passes and wanted to get a buzz going"

"No one can get a buzz on 3.2 beer. Especially not Rigellians." Tower objected with rising annoyance.

"Hey, I thought you were the only one who liked that chilled piss water." Alidar said defensively. "Who knew that Rigies would drink it too? Anyway, I've got to drop by the commissary on my way. I'll pick up a new case my treat. No problem."

"No kidding" Tower said slightly mollified in the direction of the closing door.

With that more or less resolved Tower turned his attention back to the refrigerator. He didn't like to drink milk with sandwiches, but he spied nearly a liter of lemonade and poured a glass, downing one quickly before pouring another. "Not bad" Tower said to himself. The lemonade was probably stronger than the 3.2 beer anyway.
_____________________________________
Tower turned the page in the biography of a noted 21st century American president

…President Kitchens became noted in part for establishing literally a new type of international diplomacy. In addition to the various types of diplomacy such as "gunboat diplomacy", "shuttle diplomacy", "dollar diplomacy" and "Tomahawk diplomacy", Kitchens would add "starship diplomacy". Though there was no such thing as a real-life starship during Dayton Kitchens lifetime nor would there be until the 22nd century, he preferred the term "starship" to simply "spaceship" and said that "starship" was also an aspirational term.

After the positive response to the U.S. including a European Space Agency crewmember aboard the first Mars landing mission in 2033 (three full years prior to his election as president), Kitchens realized the possibility of using foreign participation on high profile American manned space missions as a tool he could use diplomatically. He also realized that including foreign astronauts (for a price to their native countries) aboard U.S. led manned space missions also had the effect of generating domestic support for funding the missions in the first place and made their cancellation when he left office much more difficult.

The culmination of starship diplomacy were the 12 man crewed missions to Jupiter (Callisto landing) and Saturn (Titan landing) in the early 2050s. Both of these missions reserved one third of the crew slots (4) for foreign astronauts. The 16 man crewed missions to Uranus (Titania landing) and Neptune (Triton landing) reserved 6 crew slots each for foreign astronauts. Given the length of these missions (5 years for Jupiter, 7 & 8 for Uranus and Neptune) it also had the effect of binding various nations diplomatically to the U.S. for prolonged periods. Per Kitchens planning, the U.S. had no problems featuring the foreign astronauts in very prominent roles including being among the first to set foot on various newly explored moons and in the cases of Mercury and Venus, planets. Most of these foreign astronauts became national heroes in their own countries and major advocates for cooperation with the United States in the future.
Tower continued to read the biography of President Kitchens hoping to gain some level of insight to his current problems:

...though President Kitchens is now known to have played a major role in provoking and escalating the deadliest war in the 21st century, a conflict that killed more than 8 million people including more than 500,000 Americans in barely three months, history has dealt kindly with him. His measured and restrained response to the detonation of half a dozen EMP nuclear devices over the U.S. that killed thousands of American civilians (many of whom were aboard the more than 1,000 airliners that crashed as a result) while very controversial among the American people in the immediate aftermath was understood to have played a key part of preventing nuclear Armageddon.

The president had spent several years preparing the U.S. for just such an EMP attack. Thanks to those preparations most of the infrastructure damage was repaired in barely six months.

Kitchens knew that by not responding with a major nuclear attack of its own, the rest of the world would give the U.S. a completely free hand in dealing with Russia, China, Iran and India in a conventional manner. Although Kitchens did order some nuclear attacks on ICBM sites in three of those countries, it wasn't the massive city busting response that many people in all countries predicted or expected. This combined with Kitchens two Nobel Peace prizes from before the war (one for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the other for his arms control efforts) helped cement his reputation as a "man of peace" no matter how much he seemed fascinated by conflict. No doubt the decades of global peace that emerged from this conflict through the Presidencies of Pearce Bush and Annalee Foster had an impact on his reputation as well.

It was not known until some two decades later the role Kitchens played in provoking the conflict but by then both public and historical reputation was pretty much set in stone. In some cases, literally.
Intrigued, and not all that much interested in history before, Tower kept reading.

...undoubtedly a major factor in President Kitchens success was his willingness to put former political opponents in positions of authority in his administration. Of course, key to this was his persuading the incumbent president that he defeated in 2036 to take the position of Secretary of State. Former president Tulsi Gabbard was widely liked and respected both in the U.S. and around the world. Her losing her reelection bid to Kitchens was largely the result of the recession that was still ongoing, and an especially ill-timed 2,200-point drop in the Stock market just days before the election (more about that later). Kitchens probably worried that Gabbard might try to run for president again in 2040 and believed in keeping her close at hand where her ambitions could be monitored and countered if necessary. Bringing Gabbard in to the administration produced massive amounts of goodwill with the American people and of course the Democratic Party. It paved the way for many other Democrats accepting positions in the administration. Some cynics noted that many of those that Kitchens appointed were potential rivals in 2040 and that Kitchens was simply choosing them to "clear the field" for the future.

Gabbard indicated years later that she saw the potential to prevent much of the damage in international relations that she feared Kitchens would cause if his policies were implemented unchecked. In retrospect, Gabbard's worries were largely unfounded.
Tower turned back even further into the biography and continued reading:
November 24th, 1984
Wildcat Stadium, Rison, AR.

Defensive tackle Dayton Kitchens waited on one knee near the line of scrimmage which was currently on the Outlaws 39-yard line. Despite the relatively cool air in the 50s he was soaked with sweat, mud, and the occasional streaks of blood. Breathing heavily through is mouthpiece he glanced at his fellow defensive lineman to his right and left. "Not the line we started the game with." he said to himself. Kenneth was at right tackle. But the Outlaws had started the game with Tankersly at right end and Poore at left end.

Both were put out of the game in the first half by the monstrous Rison offensive line including some blocks of questionable legality.

Their best defensive player Kyle had moved up from linebacker to take Poore's defensive end spot while another linebacker, Sam had taken over Tankersly's end spot. That left their defensive captain, Rick at linebacker flanked by a pair of backups.

The Rison offensive broke their huddle and jogged swiftly to the line. All four of the Outlaw defenders got off their knees and into three-point stances. Kyle yelled a largely nonsensical challenge to his fellow lineman which sounded a lot like "Make'em pay!" Dayton and Kenneth merely murmured agreement while Sam sang out with a hardy "Let's do it!"

The ball was snapped and almost as one, 900 lbs. of Outlaw defensive linemen sprang forward.

The Rison offensive line cut them down like a firing squad....
Dayton had no chance whatsoever. The Wildcat right guard whom he had been battling all night hit him low and stopped him cold. A fraction of a second later the center hit him high and spun him around. All Dayton could do was slam into the ground which he did. Hard.

To his left Kyle was fully engaged with the right tackle, the largest and strongest Rison lineman, when the tight end came slamming down on his fully exposed left knee. A brutal, nasty piece of work but perfectly legal in 1984. Fortunately, his aim was off and instead of joining the other two injured Outlaw linemen on the sideline Kyle just sustained a very painful bruise. The combination of big right tackle and vicious tight end still sent Kyle slamming to the ground not far from Dayton.

The other defensive tackle to his right, Kenneth was mauled by the Wildcat left guard, one of the best offensive linemen in the state. Kenneth was flattened with the guard hitting him a second time as he attempted to get back to his feet.

Only Sam at right end got any kind of push given he was going against the weakest, least talented Rison lineman but the left guard, finished with his brutalizing of Kenneth threw his shoulder into Sam and knocked him down as thoroughly as the other three Outlaw defenders.

Within about three seconds all four Outlaw defensive linemen were helpless on the ground.

Fortunately for the 11-0 Dierks team facing off with the undefeated Rison Wildcats on their home turf, it made little difference...
Rison had used six of their best blockers to neutralize the front four of the Dierks defense. Unfortunately for them, this left very little blocking to engage the Outlaw linebackers. Rick saw the blocking develop and sang out "fire left!, fire right!". Sending both outside linebackers on delayed blitzes. Hefner was filling in at linebacker. He was normally the Dierks fullback. He rushed hard through the gap left by the center and right guard. The Wildcat fullback moved to stop him.

He did. Hefner sent the fullback flying backward but it still took him out of the play. Ware was the other outside backer. Filling in after Sam was moved to defensive end. Ware wasn't big or fast. Nor was he a punishing tackler. But he was a sure one. He wrapped up the Rison ball carrier near the line of scrimmage and held on for dear life. Stopping his forward momentum long enough for Rick to arrive and finish him off. Despite the excellent blocking up front the Wildcats had ended up gaining only a single yard.

On the Rison sideline coach Young cursed in frustration. He thought he had the Outlaw defense figured out finally. Crush the talented defensive lineman and make their weakened linebacker corps bear the brunt of the Wildcat running game. But clearly Rick was like a coach on the field and was able to use his limited assets well. The only thing left was to go back to Rison's specialty. Hard inside the tackles running mixed with play action passes. Though they were in Outlaw territory they had been there before and been stopped twice by a stiffening Dierks defense. Young knew if they scored a single touchdown they would probably win. Dierks was only ahead 13-8. And since their All State running back was out and their quarterback had apparently hurt his throwing hand when he unleashed his 48 yard touchdown pass earlier, Dierks had shown no signs of life offensively.

In the Dierks defensive huddle the mood wasn't nearly as optimistic. Dayton glanced at Kenneth, then said to Rick "Hubba is getting his ass kicked". Kenneth, his breathing labored, and his ribs sore was close enough to hear but too tired and hurt to care.

Rick looked thoughtful for a moment before saying, "They have four all staters on their line. We only have two on ours. Even things out.
___________________________________
It’s hard to understand people who don’t like rain at night. He had experienced it a thousand different places on a hundred different worlds and while each were different in their own way, they were all of course similar as well. And every last one of them enjoyable.
He particularly loved lying on the balcony of his 10th floor apartment in Seattle. He enjoyed an outstanding view from there. He could watch the clouds building even at night backlite from the lightning they produced. Rain at night was something you could enjoy alone with a few friends or with a whole party going on which was a very common thing at the family home and its environs on Mars. Actual rain there was something rare enough that the whole local community gathered to whoop it up when it came. The same was true on Vulcan though with quiet contemplation instead of much “whooping”.
Right now though he was going to have to find at least some shelter from the rain he knew was about to come judging by the lightning, growing wind and heavier sprinkling.
He didn’t have a key to get into the house that he had just circled and quickly found that all six outside doors were pretty securely locked. He wasn’t going to break in and it was too dark to search for any hidden keys. He could probably pick one of the locks but that would take time and some light so he would probably have to wait until morning.
Fortunately, the house had a patio in back with some padded furniture. It had a covering that extended out at least three meters and was on the leeward side of the building which meant even with the wind blowing he was unlikely to be drenched by water blowing in. He found a good, solid looking lounge chair that folded out nearly flat and some chair cushions that fit it pretty well. He folded the head of the chair back to about 30 degrees angle and laid on it with his thick coat providing all the cover he needed to sleep. Before trying to doze off he reached into a sealed pouch inside his coat and took a meat bar out. He put it between two crackers and quickly ate it. Probably too quickly as it turned out to be far tastier than he had imagined. He took out his canteen and washed it down with a large swallow of surprisingly cold water even as the rain began to pour down while the thunder and lightning intensified.
“I’ve definitely spent far worse nights in worse places” was Towers last conscious thought before the steady sound of rain and the rumble of thunder lulled him to sleep…
Even though the rain and thunder woke him up every couple of nights it was a pretty restful one for Tower. He was awakened by someone prodding his leg. Despite his innate defensive reflexes Tower did not react. He knew that hostiles very rarely prod your leg to see if you are awake if they are intent on causing harm. When he opened his eyes, he saw a man in his 70s or perhaps even early 80s standing over him wearing a raincoat. The rain had diminished to a mere drizzle and though it was still overcast the clouds were not nearly as dense as before. The sky was growing lighter as the morning advanced steadily.
The man spoke “Admiral Tower?” he said.
“Captain” Tower corrected him. “Admiral, captain, whatever, at your level that hardly matters one way or the other I suppose. Either way I assume you know me as Dr. Bronson. That isn’t my real name of course but it’s probably good enough for conversation. Anyway, come on in and I’ll get you something to drink. 3.2 beer?”
That statement alone spoke volumes about Bronson’s level of knowledge regarding Tower. He knew Tower drank 3.2 but he obviously didn’t know that Tower personally detested the stuff. “So, his knowledge is extensive but not deep” Tower thought to himself.
“Actually, I would prefer something hot with caffeine” Tower said. “Coffee or hot chocolate?” Dr. Bronson asked. “Chocolate” replied Tower. “Sugar?” Dr. Bronson asked. “All you’ve got and keep it coming.” Tower replied.
Tower excused himself to visit the facilities. When he got back Dr. Bronson had set a steaming mug on the table for him. “How did you know I was coming?” Tower asked. “I still have plenty of grapevine connections.” Bronson said assuredly. “But what I need to know is what brings you here?

“A planet I believe you know as Isla Nublar.” Tower stated.
Dr. Bronson’s face clouded over instantly. He finally said “Not here, the house is monitored continually. Come with me.”
Bronson led the way to garage and he got into the driver’s seat of a sports car while motioning Tower toward the passenger side. He backed the car out and down the driveway and touched several buttons to put the car in self driving mode. As Tower started to speak, Bronson said “Hold on”. He turned on the radio which began blaring out some contemporary song that Tower couldn’t name. Bronson then pulled out a communicator and a tricorder, setting them both on the dash and manipulating their controls. Both synched up and the volume from the radio diminished, finally fading entirely. “That should do it.” Dr. Bronson said. “The car is being monitored too?” Tower asked. “As much as the house but I’ve learned a few tricks to jam them” Bronson replied.
“Now captain you had some questions about Isla Nublar?”
Tower nodded.
“How many died this time?” Bronson asked seriously.
“I sent down three six-man security teams plus a six man search and rescue team. Twenty-four, only six came back alive. Plus, assorted Klingons and the entire staff of the base and their dependents.” Tower said his voice edged with both sadness and anger.
“I guess that proves the deadliness of the biomorph weapons” Bronson concluded. “You’ve got to admit the concept of shape changing liquid metal personal combat units combining characteristics of Jem’hadar, Romulans, Klingons, Humans, and assorted other races is an audacious one.”
“Perhaps some thought should’ve been given in how to control them before they gained full awareness” Tower observed.
“You can’t blame me for that fubar.” Bronson said. “I haven’t provided any input into that project in well over a year as I’m sure you well know.”.
“It is my understanding that the biomorphs can absorb phaser fire up to Setting 8” Tower said.
“Your information is dated” Bronson said. “When I left the project the biomorphs were tested against phaser fire up to Setting 12. They were capable of absorbing that level of fire and using the energy in their own attacks. I don’t know what has been accomplished since then.”.
“That would make them impervious to almost anything short of heavy phasers mounted on combat vehicles!” Tower observed unhappily.
“Very true” Bronson noted. “In fact part of their tactical programming when I was still with the project was that they feign an attack in order to provoke phasers or other energy weapons being turned on them thus vastly increasing their available power. For all I know at this point they might be able to absorb starship scale weapons fire!”.
“It’s obvious to me that the biomorphs killed the entire staff of the facility in order to prevent any knowledge of their final capabilities and potential weaknesses being revealed.” Tower stated.
“Same way I see it” Bronson agreed “But if you’ve already figured all of this out yourself why do you need to come all this way to see me?”
“Because it wasn’t a group of rogue biomorphic weapons that sent us running for our lives and destroyed a Klingon cruiser in low orbit…” Tower said.
A cold chill seemed to pass over Dr. Bronson. “What did?” He finally asked.
“After we and the Klingons executed General Order 24 on the planet, some kind of cloud like creature seemed to emerge from the rubble and in seconds reached geosynchronous orbit. It tore a 30-meter chunk from the edge of Enterprise’s primary hull and completely destroyed one of the three Klingon ships. At that point we left orbit at maximum possible speed while tractoring the remaining two Klingon ships. The creature pursued at ever increasing warp speeds before veering away. We tried to follow it then with probes, but it destroyed all four of ours and both of the Klingons as well.”.
“What did it look like?” Bronson said with obvious dread.
“It looked like a Dikironium Cloud Creature.” Tower stated. “Like the one encountered at least twice by Captain James T. Kirk and destroyed on Tycho IV. Which is how I instinctively knew our shields and weapons would have no effect and why one of the few times in my career I’ve turned tail and run”.
Bronson exhaled sharply. “That’s because it was, is a Dikironium Cloud Creature, captain! It was being held in a special containment unit some 500 meters below the research base on Isla Nublar. There were several fail safes set up to prevent its escape like a ring of antimatter mines outside the facility that would’ve destroyed it by blowing apart the atmosphere if it had emerged. But obviously your bombardment of the planet breached its containment vessel and disabled the fail safes.”
“In trying to stop a massive threat captain, you’ve unwittingly unleashed an immeasurably more dangerous one on the galaxy!”
“Just where did the Federation get a Dikironium Cloud Creature?” Tower demanded. Just as Bronson started to reply the car braked sharply and swerved slightly to avoid a slow-moving raccoon making its way across the road.
“From the Romulans.” Bronson resumed. “Rumors were they lost three of their best starships in capturing this one some time ago. “
“And what? We stole this thing from the Romulans?” Tower said expectantly.
“No, we bought it.” Bronson said. “Apparently the Romulan Senator who was the major backer of the project to develop a DCC as a weapon fell from favor with the Praetor and his pet project was ordered shutdown. The Romulan officers left out at the tip of the spear on this decided to salvage what they could from the situation and offered it to us behind the scenes. Looking back, I think they also figured it would do us more damage eventually once we took possession of it.”
Dr. Bronson managed to look both thoughtful and defensive at the same time.
“Look I know it sounds immensely foolish now. I wasn’t a supporter of the DCC project. I was too busy with developing the biomorphs. But I knew about the DCC and said nothing to oppose it. I monitored the progress my colleagues were making as much as I could given the level of secrecy. I was impressed by what they discovered so I never raised the objections that now seem obvious. I think everyone kind of assumed that because Captain Kirk killed one so easily that a group of the best minds in the Federation could do as well.”
“And they were making progress?” Tower said his interest definitely peaking.
“Not the kind you’re probably hoping for. They made lots of discoveries about its capabilities. Not how to counter them. They found it is capable of phase shifting at will. It can go from a solid to a gas to a plasma to energy and for that matter can phase shift to tachyonic type particles which of course explains how it can move at faster than light speeds. Not to mention the manipulation of gravity waves. Outside of an atmosphere its essentially invulnerable. No known weapons can hurt it. No known method of shielding can protect against it.”
Bronson took a short breath. “And it gets worse”.
“Oh great!” Tower thought silently.
“Because the creatures do not like Vulcan’s copper-based blood there were a number of Vulcan scientists assigned to the team to monitor the creature directly. I’ve heard at least two of them insist they detected signs of the creature having telepathic capability.”
“Amazing!” Tower muttered. “Are we sure the creature didn’t telepathically direct the biomorphs to destroy the research facility and kill the staff provoking us into using General Order 24 to break it free of its containment vessel?”
“Can you be sure the creature did not telepathically influence you to order General Order 24?” Bronson said ominously.
Tower chose to ignore both the comment and the possibility disturbing as both were. “How did the Romulans capture the creature in the first place?”
“They didn’t see fit to pass on that information.” Dr. Bronson said. “I think all we knew was that they lost some of their best starships in doing it, so some of my friends on the project speculated that the artificial singularities the Romulans use to power most of their ships were used in some way. It would’ve been nice if the project had advanced far enough for us to discover that though”
___________________________________________________________
Enterprise-
A very young crewman from the communications section rushed into the crew lounge and announced to no one in particular. “We picked up a distress call from Starbase 181! The Borg are attacking. Their defenses are being swamped!
“How many ships?” Several people asked at once.
“Just one” the crewman replied.
“Just one Borg ship and its swamping the defenses of one of the best armed bases in the quadrant. Let me guess…” an older crewman put it.
“No need to guess” said another officer who had just entered the lounge. “It’s Leviathan!”.
This elicited a rumble of conversation across the width of the lounge.
“Leviathan!”
“Old Blue is back!”
“The Blue Death!”
The communications crewman who had first entered the lounge asked, “What is Leviathan?”.
“Don’t they teach you kids anything in history anymore?” said another veteran crewman. “Leviathan is a huge Borg Tactical Cube that started showing up about 30 years ago. Huge. Bristling with weapons. Behaves differently from most Borg ships as well. Tends to operate on its own.”
“Why ‘Old Blue’?” the crewman continued.
“After it tangled with a Planet Killer years ago its damaged drive system started giving off a kind of blue glow at least most of the time. You know I don’t think anyone has sighted Leviathan in four or five years?” “Closer to six” someone put in.
______________________________________________
Tower changed books again. This time picking up A Brief History of the Thousand Yahren (Year) War
A Brief History of the Thousand Yahren (Year) War
The following is a very brief summation of the millennial long war between the Twelve Colonies and the Cylon Empire (Federation). The timeline is based on standard colonial units of time and uses the acknowledged beginning of the war as “Year Zero”. Each time period is ranked on a scale from 0-5 based on the level of violence between Colonial and Cylon forces. Please note this ranks only conflict between the Colonials and Cylons and does not refer to violence occurring within either or with other interstellar powers.
The level of violence rating system is as follows:
⦁ 0 No active conflict. Incidental encounters at most. Effectively it means peace.
⦁ 1 Minor raiding and/or very small scale operations by one or both sides.
⦁ 2 Heavy raiding and/or sustained though local operations by one or both sides.
⦁ 3 Significant military operations by both sides in more than one region
⦁ 4 Heavy, sustained, continuous military operations in several regions.
⦁ 5 Massive, all out combat throughout virtually all known areas of conflict between the two sides.
It should also be noted that there are several times during the war (mainly in the first third of the conflict) where no reliable information exists. Such time periods often were when the colonies were under very heavy direct attack and thus many records were lost.
Rating Yahren (Years)
-300 to -100 The Twelve Colonies formally unite into a combined government and establish a network of bases and outposts.
-100 to -30 The Twelve Colonies establish a trade and diplomatic relationship with the Fesaria, a race of alien humanoids controlling four planets near Cylon space.
-30 to -28 The Fesarians are conquered by the Cylons. The Colonials make several appeals to the Cylons to withdraw. Surviving Fesarian leaders appeal to the Twelve Colonies for support.
4 -28 to -24 The Colonial Fleet attacks the Fesarian worlds and forces the Cylons to withdraw. This attack apparently catches the Cylons by complete surprise as they did not believe the Twelve Colonies to be a military threat.
2 -24 to -22 Occasional clashes continue as the Cylons mass a large force near the Fesarian homeword.
5 -22 to -16 Massive Cylon forces invade the Fesarian system and scatter the Colonial forces remaining in system. Raw numbers of Cylons overwhelm the smaller though technically advanced Colonial Fleet units.
0 -16 to -1 The Cylons in response to the Fesarians bringing in outsiders to intervene in Cylon affairs completely obliterate the Fesarians. The Twelve Colonies begin preparing for war.
5 0 to 8 The Cylons launch massive attacks against both civilian and military targets of the Twelve Colonies. This includes direct attacks on the colonies.
4 8 to 20 The Colonial Fleet halts the Cylon advance into Colonial space in a series of battles lasting for the better part of three yahrens.
2 21 to 25 Cylon forces maintain their positions near the edges of Colonial space as both sides rearm.
4 26 to 33 The Cylons launch a sustained offensive and series of very heavy raids into Colonial space.
3 34 to 38 For some unknown reason, the Cylons halt their offensives. The Colonials use the opportunity to reorganize and rearm their fleet.
5 39 to 46 Cylons launch a massive offensive that drives the Colonial forces back to the Twelve Colonies. Leaders of the Twelve Colonies present a peace proposal to the Cylons but their representatives are all killed by the Cylons.
5 47 to 51 The reorganized Colonial Fleet launches a series of attacks that devastate the extended Cylon supply lines forcing them to withdraw from near Colonial space.
0 52 to 53 First known peace period
_________________________________________________
Tower couldn’t stay interested in one thing, so he returned to the biography of President Kitchens but not to the football game. Instead he went to a section where the great man was already in office.
President Kitchens strode to the entrance alcove and saluted the two guards flanking the outer doors. After he and his two aides entered their personal key cards the doors slid aside where two guards on the inside went through the process of identifying them and validating their reasons for being here all over again.
Kitchens walked up some steps to a mobile platform with three chairs facing three sets of controls. The platform was already elevated to enable he and anyone else a good view of the room, but it could also move. The platform was mounted on a mechanical arm that ran on a track built into the floor. The platform could thus travel all over the room if the president or whomever else was using it wanted to see he information in the Operations Center first hand.
The room featured rows of screens that ran from a foot or two off the floor to more than seven feet high. The screens took up most of the hundred-yard-long room. The whole setup would’ve looked impressive on one of the starships that were common in the science fiction Kitchens love to read and watch.
The screens nearest him had information on every place in the United States from national to state to country to city to township to school district level. Information flowed into the Operations Center from all across the United States. Information that warned Kitchens and his administration of potential problems, potential opportunities, possible changes in public opinion, what have you. One of his aides manipulated one of the controls to bring up a closer look at some stuff in the Midwest. There was a note on a midsized town in Wisconsin where a high-profile murder trial was coming up that might have residents concerned about crime. Mention was made of a fall festival in central Michigan that several communities often looked forward too and would boost many voters sense of wellbeing. The exposure of a dog fighting ring in a tiny Iowa community was sparking talk of how American culture was on the decline.
The computers took in the disparate events and made recommendations calculated to maximize the political benefit to the administration. Most of the recommendations were good ones. A general statement (leaked to the local press) by the Attorney General of support and confidence in the prosecutor in the murder case. Ordering the Bureau of Agriculture to sponsor a nice float in the parade that opened the Michigan festival.
But having the president send a letter to the local newspaper in Iowa talking of his love for dogs seemed a bit much and the operator monitoring the computer agreed. She nixed the presidential letter and instead opted for a wait and see approach. Kitchens silently agreed. “This is why we have human operator’s monitoring everything.” He thought. “Can’t ignore human factors.”
He wondered if anyone would be shocked that similar systems to this had helped him advance to nearly every level in his political career? When he was in congress a single staffer with a stack of local newspapers did this job. When he was governor it had grown to four or five people and a map of the state on a 6 by 6 screen with all 73 countries being monitored. Now in this vast room some 1,500 people worked, divided into three 8 hour shifts and that was for the United States alone. An even larger group monitored events around the globe in the greatest detail possible. Given the importance of the space program to the president, one screen was dedicated to monitoring events aboard Space Station Freedom, the Artemis mission on the moon and of course Ares on Mars.
Big events around the globe were monitored as well and how they impacted people in the U.S. was factored in. Would a protest march in Venezuela lead to higher gas prices here? A medium sized arms sale to Indonesia could create a noticeable increase in jobs at plants in Georgia and Texas but it might lead to some destabilization in the country which might lead to surges in copper prices. All factors had to be taken in and analyzed honestly. Kitchens realized that if a Democratic president ever took office this facility was going to be dismantled before its secrets could be put to use by the "loyal opposition". Kitchens hadn't put all this together just ot let the other side use all the advantages that it had given him. Fortunately, though Dayton Kitchens could not know it at that time, there wouldn't be another Democratic president for more than another 20 years. __________________________________________________
Carson Tower couldn’t seem to stay focused on one thing. He switched books again. This time he opted for part of his families own history…
…Major Tower was ushered into the office of Admiral John S. McCain IV overlooking Scapa Flow. He had no idea why he was here though he was about as far away from Poland as he could be and still be in an active war zone. World War Three was about to enter its third month and by all rights, he and his team plus Fat Louie should be blowing up Russian tanks in Eastern Europe. Instead the other eleven members of his team had been shipped to Bremen while he had quickly and without explanation been ordered to catch a series of flights to here along the North Sea.
“Have a seat major. I presume you are wondering why I brought you here?” Admiral McCain said without preamble as he returned the majors salute and offered him a handshake. McCain motioned for Tower to sit.
“I assume that my team and I aren’t going to be taking out Russian armored columns all the way up here.” Tower replied.
“Not exactly.” McCain responded. “Though it will involve Russians of course and chances are they will be in a column. At any rate Major I have a special mission to accomplish and you come highly recommended.” Some say too highly McCain thought to himself.
Tower could tell that while McCain tried to get straight down to business, at the same time was thinking of dancing around the subject if at all possible. McCain hesitated for a moment. Then another moment. Then another. Then another.
Finally, he said simply “Major Tower, we need a bigger war!”. Admiral McCain’s more than 50-year-old face studied Tower for his reaction. It wasn’t long in coming. “Admiral, right now we have a million and a half NATO troops fighting more than two million Russians across Eastern Europe. What is it? More than half a million dead. And that doesn’t even begin to add in what’s happening in the South China Sea and Middle East! How much more war do you want?”
“One that involves Sweden.” Admiral McCain said pressing a button on his desk. A large screen lit up in the nearby wall. Another button brought up a highly detailed map showing all the way from northern Norway to the Baltic Sea coasts. “The Swedes have been surprisingly neutral for way too long. Their neutrality has hampered us from getting anything done in the Baltic and thus getting any naval support for NATO ground forces in Poland to say nothing of Lithuania and the other Baltic states”
“We’ve run out of diplomatic and economic options major.” It’s time the Swedes find out just how dangerous having the Russians run loose in the Baltic can be. If we could get the Swedes to come into the war on our side it might be a major game changer. Their army is up to 70,000 troops. They could blow the Russians out Norway without us having to spend more time and troops up there plus they would have enough left over to embolden the Finns to rethink their own neutrality which as you know has tilted radically in favor of the Russians. They have enough aircraft and naval forces to help radically change the situation in the Baltic. And most importantly, being able to use Swedish bases would enable us to give far better support to our troops in Poland. Basically, allow us to outflank the Russians in the north. “
“And just how do you suggest we get the Swedes to join NATO in the war Admiral if nothing else has worked so far?” Surely you aren’t thinking of a false flag attack.” Major Tower had heard of such things but never believed he would be asked to carry one out.
“Nothing so corrupt or so clumsy major.” McCain commented then continued. “If the Russians launched their own attack on the Swedish mainland, killing scores or even hundreds of Swedes, how long do you think it would take Sweden to join the NATO effort?
“Pretty damned quick” said Tower, “but why do you figure they would do that? As far as I’ve heard the Russians won’t fly an aircraft or sail a ship so much as a mile in to Swedish territory. Even when is to their tactical disadvantage. The Russians clearly see the advantage that Swedish neutrality gives them.”
Admiral McCain was obviously pleased that Major Tower grasped the overall situation even though he was a ground pounder. “The Russians have chosen the approaching colder weather to try for a game changer. In a few days, according to intelligence reports they are sortieing all the ships of their Baltic Fleet that can fight along with whatever other ships they’ve been working on in St. Petersburg to the North Sea. They’ve gotten permission from the Swedes to transit their territorial waters. This will allow them to avoid NATO minefields and submarines and reach open ocean before we can engage them. “
“Not good” Major Tower observed.
“To put it mildly major. If they reach the North Sea untouched then the Russians can turn north and threaten Strike Fleet Atlantic from the south. The two carrier battle groups from the strike fleet will have to disengage from operations in Norway and turn south to deal with them. It would mean effectively abandoning northern and central Norway to the Russians. At best it will stretch out operations in Norway for weeks and even months. Even worse think of the political considerations. If NATO can’t stop the entire Russian Baltic Fleet from sailing right out unmolested, it could inspire not only the Swedes to throw in on the side of the Russians but Norway, the Baltics, Poland and in the south Turkey, Ukraine and Greece.”
“We’re talking about losing the whole damned war all due to the smallest, weakest Russian fleet!” McCain thundered.
“So, the only way this can be prevented is to get the Swedes to hammer the Russian fleet as it tries to break out of the Baltic? Sure. But I figure the Russians aren’t going to give the Swedes a reason to do that given how important this fleet transfer is.” Tower finished.
Admiral McCain now got around to the point of the meeting. “Let’s say that as the Russian fleet comes out of the Oresund they have to move within Swedish waters near a very small island off the west coast of Sweden. A small team from that island could attack the Russian ships and invite their counterattack. Knowing how typical Russian overreaction is, I would bet that not only will the Russians plaster the island with gun and missile fire but that a lot of it goes over the island and hits the Swedish mainland. Specifically, Gothenburg!”
Gothenburg was the second largest city in Sweden with more than a half million residents. A few gun and missile rounds might well cause the carnage that Admiral McCain envisioned. And it would be something that the Swedes would never let stand.
It was an audacious plan Admiral McCain was suggesting and it was obvious why a U.S. Navy admiral was in charge. It was after all keyed on attacking a fleet of Russian ships. The smallest of the Russian fleets but still a fleet. Which brought up some details to Tower’s attention that had not been explained yet.
“How many Russian ships are you figuring on sir?” he asked.
“At least thirty to thirty-five,” Admiral McCain answered, “About 15 heavy units the rest being destroyers and frigates.”
Tower mulled that over. “And you expect my twelve-man team to cause enough damage to nearly three dozen major warships to provoke the Russians into plastering the Swedish mainland?!?” he said incredulously.
“Hell no!” McCain said derisively. “You and your team are to provide command and control as well as basic security for a team of about three dozen British gunners who will handle the actual shooting at the Russian Navy”.
“And what exactly are they going to be shooting?” Tower asked. "As far as I know there aren’t any missiles that can damage a warship that can be handled by a handful of shooters. At least over several miles of range. Certainly nothing that is man portable. You’re not going to get enough Javelins through a warships defenses to do much more than scratch the paint. “
“Not missiles major. Rockets. Like the army’s multiple launch rocket systems but lighter and more compact. The ranges will be no more than four or five miles at most. Flight times of 12 seconds give or take. Simple point and shoot. Without guidance systems to jam or sensors to spoof, the Russian countermeasures won’t do them a damned bit of good.” McCain finished, smiling.
“And what good will these small rockets do against warships of anywhere from 7-15,000 tons of displacement?”
McCain had anticipated this. “You’ll have four launchers with 12 rockets each. And two sets of reloads for each launcher. Assuming you get them all off that’s 144 rockets you can put downrange in a few minutes time. You’ll ignore the smaller escorts and go straight for the more valuable cruisers. That should allow you to swamp any of the active close in defenses like the Gatling type guns and hit things like the bridge, set fires, inflict casualties and generally raise all kinds of hell aboard those cruisers. If I know the Russians those ship commanders will be howling for permission to hit back. And that’s when things of course get interesting for the Swedes.”.
Tower tried to keep his heaving stomach in check as the heavy lift helicopter he was crammed into lurched and bucked in the winter air currents over the Baltic Sea. To his right Goldman was making it far better. The four helicopters headed north steadily apparently intent on skirting the Swedish coast, bound for an offshore rig in the North Sea. Tower and his team were split evenly among the four helicopters and each one carried one of the teams of British gunners along with their rockets and support equipment. "Admiral McCain was a helicopter pilot and so was his wife." Tower thought to himself. "I should've expected this."

November 24th, 1984
Wildcat Stadium, Rison, AR.
Dayton wasn’t sure he had heard right. Was Rick ordering him to deliberately injure one or more of the Rison offensive lineman? Kitchens had enjoyed the controlled violence of playing football for six years now. Controlled. He never tried to hurt anyone in a game or in practice and he was pretty sure no one had ever tried to hurt him. But he well knew that this was a desperate situation. Rison had already injured two of his fellow defensive lineman and from all the aches running up and down his body Dayton knew full well that their massive line was on the verge of grinding he, Kyle, Sam and Kenneth into the ground. Dayton was third in size to Kenneth and Kyle but he was the strongest of the lineman. If he was in pain from the battering he was taking then Sam and Kenneth certainly were as well.
Beyond the moral question of deliberately injuring an opposing player, Kitchens wondered just how he would do it. But when the Rison offense broke the huddle and jogged to the line of scrimmage Rick yelled “Over! Over!” which was the command for Dayton and Kenneth to switch positions. It was clear that Rick wanted him to take out the Wildcat left guard who had been brutalizing Kenneth. This was going to be a tall order. The left guard was the best of the offensive lineman. As big and at least as fast as Dayton himself was. Perfect technique as well. As Dayton moved to slightly outside the guard he thought furiously. Unfortunately, the only idea he had would be at no small risk of pain to himself. He dropped into his three-point stance. Right hand down but unusually left leg back.
The ball was snapped. Dayton took a short step with his left leg and started to come out of his stance deliberately much higher than normal. The left guard couldn’t believe his good luck. He had anticipated hitting Kitchens low and this just made it easier. With bent knees he prepared to drive into Kitchens low.
But on his second step, Kitchens drove his right leg forward with all his strength right into the crown of the guards helmet. This was going to hurt. Direct hard impacts to the knee always did. But he wasn’t really worried about a permanent injury. The infamous ACL injuries were virtually always noncontact, twisting type of injuries.
Nevertheless, as the rock-hard helmet of the guard slammed into his knee it was like a tiny bomb going off against his leg with pain shooting up and down it briefly. The play went by him but fortunately Rick, Jeff, and Shane corralled the Rison ball carrier after only four yards or so. Dayton looked back to see what kind of shape the Rison left guard was in. He was still down. Dayton could see movement from his feet and hands, but he had not sat fully up yet much less gotten to his feet. Even as he watched a couple of other Rison players grabbed his arms to help him to his feet. He tried to stand but immediately dropped back to one knee, shaking his head as though trying to clear cobwebs from it. Dayton knew instinctively that the lineman had a concussion. A concussion that would certainly keep him out of the rest of the game.
The Outlaw players gathered in a semi-circle near where the ball was spotted, and all dropped to one knee while the Rison trainers and coaches tended to the concussed fellow. Gordy brought ice water out. Dayton had to drop to his left knee as the right one was throbbing in pain. Rick was on a knee nearby and he very discretely and lightly slapped Dayton on the shoulder and nodded to him.
Mission accomplished. ___________________________________________________

Collins finally sat down in a comfortable chair near the admiral's desk. He tried to put the elaborate security measures out of his mind. Admiral Tower hesitated for a moment and put down the book he was reading before giving Collins his full attention and nodding at him to begin.

"The situation aboard the Exeter is just as we feared. If anything, I think the initial reports understated the problem. Captain Lynnadis has completely lost the confidence of her crew in general and the command staff in particular. It is a miracle she is able to maintain any kind of order or discipline. Lynnadis avoided me while I was aboard as much as possible but from what I was able to observe, I think she is suffering from very serious battle fatigue. I hate to recommend the removal of the commander of a major fleet unit with major operations just days away, but with her in command, the Exeter is a liability and not an asset."

"Is the first officer up to the job of stepping in as captain?" Tower asked.

"Not a chance sir." Collins said offering his professional opinion. "She has way too little experience aboard a large vessel and I sense a general lack of maturity anyway. Probably a simple wartime case of 'too much, too soon'".

"Then that does indeed represent a problem." Tower admitted. "Going forward without the Exeter is going to open a serious hole in our order of battle. But we're way short of command personnel right now".

Tower seemed to mull something over briefly.

"So how familiar are you with an Ares class starship Commander Stafford?" Tower said with the first glimmer of a smile breaking across his face.

"Me sir?! You must be joking!. The only ship I ever commanded was a frigate years ago before I switched to intel!. I can't just step in as a commander of a ship that large, complex, and important!". Collins finally took a breath after listing his objections.

"Besides, command of the Exeter would require an officer with a captain's rank". He added.

"Well, who would you suggest Commander? You're familar with the crew and command staff and the problems aboard. I know you served your cadet cruise aboard an Ares class vessel. If you can find anyone else better suited to take over on short notice, give me their name."

"As for the rank, congratulations captain! I'll make it retroactive so you can collect the pay increase for an extra six months.".

"Not how I envisioned this meeting going..." Collins thought...
________________________________________________
"Waiting is the hardest part of any mission", Stafford mumbled to himself. Sitting beside him and concentrating on a tricorder, Carson Tower tapped the control keys feriously. After what seemed like an eternity, the tricorder finally beaped and Tower handed it to Stafford announcing triumphantly "your turn!".
It took only one glance at the screen for Stafford to see why. He had started out this round more than 8,000 points ahead. Now he trailed Tower by nearly 20,000 points! Not to mention that in the game Tower was about to be upgraded a Constitution class ship while Stafford was still stuck with an Ares and going against higher calibre opposition.
With renewed seriousness, Stafford started on the next level and told himself ruefully "Never play a combat game against Carson Tower..."
_______________________________________________
Tower continue reading the history of the former president.....
...one of the biggest shocks to many experts on the geopolitical scene was about how the 21st and 22nd centuries became "American centuries" thanks to the actions of an American politican who had been almost unknown prior to 2030. A man with towering vision and almost boundless ambition, Dayton Kitchens believed to his dying day that God had chosen him as an agent of change on Earth. Having looked far ahead like the chess player he dappled in being most of his life, Dayton Kitchens managed in little more than four years in office to revive and restore the U.S. economy substantially and to build up all branches of the U.S. military dramatically. Perhaps even more impressively, Kitchens managed to alter American culture and public opinion into one that favored an aggressive and interventionist American foreign policy. This latter effort completely reversed trends which had been growing in strength since 1991.
Kitchens did this despite (or perhaps because of) a broader effort that led to him being viewed both domestically and internationally as a "peacemaker". His efforts at securing a peace between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and its peace with Israel, and of courss his nuclear disarmament efforts gained Kitchens two Nobel Peace Prizes in a three year span. The peace promoting efforts obscured the fact that under Kitchens, the U.S. (and its allies) were rearming at a prodiguous rate. Despite all the efforts by their intelligence agencies, both China and Russia were surprised at just how badly they were outclassed by 2041 when World War Three finally kicked off. Even though the U.S. and its allies outclassed the Russians, Chinese, Iranians and Belarians, the Kitchens administration had played up the Russian and Chinese "threats" so much in the previous couple of years that it made the American and allied victories over those nations even more heroic and epic...
Tower backtracked to an account of while Kitchens was president in 2039..
.Kitchens with his typically large breakfast consumed and preparing for the day underway brought up his computer to look up his daily prayer guide. Kitchens had been keeping a written prayer guide for decades. Written in the sense of it being saved on a computer. Back when the third decade of the 21st century began it had taken him only about ten minutes to finish his daily prayer. But since he had become president and millions of people became aware of him practicing daily prayer along with his belief in its importance and efficiency, Kitchens had been flooded with requests for prayers from around the U.S. and half a dozen other countries. He had six permanent staff members whose sole job was to confirm the prayer requests and screen them to see if Kitchens offering up prayers was an appropriate action. Combining these requests with Kitchens own special petitions to God for matters regarding serving as president had turned his daily ten minute prayer into a fully two hour undertaking. But Kitchens still knew it was worth it. Everything he had been given or achieved had certainly been thanks to the will of God. There was no reason that should change.
...in the first winter of the Kitchens presidency, a Canadian frigate and Russian destroyer engaged in a battle in the Arctic. The Russian ship was supposedly engaged in a "freedom of transit" exercise. Both the Canadians and Russians suffered fatalities though neither ship was lost. The Kitchens Admin. trumpted the battle as the "First Battle of the Arctic won by our Canadian brothers!", with the clear implication that the "first battle" would be only "one of many to come". The "battle" led to a massive outpouring of patriotic and nationalistic fervor in Canada and led directly to the Canadians purchasing ten more major warships. The Kitchens Admin. took note of the imact on national opinion in Canada (though the U.S. had a role in orchestrating the encounter) and embarked on a program of aggressive naval actions against future World War Three foes around the world. In the four years proceeding World War Three there were no less that five naval "battles" involving the U.S.. Three were against China and one each were against the Russians and Iranians. The military historian in Dayton Kitchens apparently did not like the fact that there were very few modern naval battles to study and sought to change this prior to another major war.
He succeeded.
By the time World War Three actually began the books on modern naval combat had been virtually rewritten. The big war would rewrite them yet again. Though most of the naval battles in World War Three were fought with the Chinese in and around the South China Sea the largest battle was fought in the Norwegian Sea between a total of 81 ships from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, and Norway and 44 ships of the Russian Navy (along with a number of landbased aircraft and missiles) with 11 ships sunk or disabled on the allied side while the Russian force was reduced by half, though some believed the two to one loss ratio in favor of the allies actually indicated a good performance on the part of the Russians. Nevertheless with the allied fleet still at 70 strong and the surviving Russian forces less than a third of that there was little the Russians could do to stop the allied fleet from approaching Russian territory (Kola Peninsula) and executing sustained air strikes there. Subsequent actions cost the allied fleet only three more ships and led to the virtual annihilation of the Russian force. Surprisingly, the Russians faired somewhat better in battles for the Black Sea. But reinforcing U.S. vessels along with Turkish, Greek, and Ukrainian ships eventually settled the matter there as well.

"Next to him (President Kitchens) Machiavelli was a bleeding amateur" - Ambassador to Ireland Chelsea Clinton.
"Dayton Kitchens-He bribed the best and killed the rest"- unidentified Democratic congressman commenting on Kitchens nomination and winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Future President Dayton Kitchens efforts to manipulate the American people into mass public support for his aggressive foreign and military policies and the subsequent vast expansion of his own personal power deserves mention on its own. While still in his first and only term in the U.S. House Kitchens made a point of making connections to various entertainment figures including in particular the head of CBS studios. Before he became president, the managed to convince CBS to remake the famous televison series "MASH" but with the change that unlike the original which was clearly an anti war comedy, the new MASH presented the war depicted and American military far, far more positively. Kitchens convinced CBS that this change was important to differentiating the new series from the old.
Kitchens followed this up with convincing a studio to produce a science fiction television series based on the battletech role playing game. The politics presented during the series while set in a 31st century fictional environment were clearly representative of the political situation present in the third decade of the 21st century with the honorable and noble Federated Commonwealth being mainly people of American and European descent and their main enemies in the Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederacy being of obvious Asian descent with an element of the Combine being descended from Russians. Kitchens convinced the studio that battletechs famous "battlemech" (giant combat walkers) would draw in a great deal of attention and interest from Asian markets given that in Japanese science fiction giant robots were a common theme. In fact, battletech itself was originally based on Japanese game and story concepts. The show became even more successful than predicted.
Kitchens followed this success up with persuading Universal Studios to remake the original Battlestar: Galactica with an emphasis as making it as much like the original as possible. The irony being that the original Battlestar: Galactica had been criticized by the Soviets in 1978 for supposedly having an anti Soviet bias
_____________________________________
"Pour you a drink?" Goldstein asked Marsden as the younger officer pulled up a chair and joined the ships second in command along the 100 meter long windows looking out of the observation deck. A couple of stories below, rows of shuttlecraft and other auxilary vehicles covered the deck of the hangar. A few other off duty crewman milled around the observation deck windows but none of them were close enough to expect a drink offer from Goldstein. Goldstein produced one of the smallest shot glasses Marsden had ever seen in his life and filled it about two thirds full.
"This is it?" Marsden asked in a mixture of surprise and annoyance. "I got more the last time I was in church!"
"You want more buy your own." said Goldstein without any anger. He raised the small flask and noted "This isn't mere Saurian brandy. It's from my private stash. I would tell you where I bought it but then I'd have to kill you!".
Marsden drank down the modest amount of brandy from the tiny glass and tried mightily to actually taste it. It wasn't easy.
"Well?" Goldstein asked, his gaze fixed on the young officer. "Kind of hard to tell." Marsden answered honestly. "It barely wet my mouth. I think most of it evaporated before it even got to my stomach."
"That's the problem with you Protestants." said Goldstein. "We Jews have a far more enlightened view of alcohol. Going all the way back to when Noah got drunk after he left the Ark. I'll have to talk to Stafford about this problem." Goldstein said referring to his good friend the ships chaplain.
"Didn't Noah get in a lot of trouble for that?" Marsden said while searching his memory. "Had to have the skin on the tip of his dick sliced off or something?" Goldstein simply stared back at him for a moment apparently trying to see if he was trying to make a joke or not. Finally the commander said "I think you've got your bibical history mixed up somewhere". "Yeah, I've definitely got to talk to Stafford" he said to himself silently.
Out loud Goldstein simply said "Want another?" "Sure!" Marsden responded enthusiastically. Goldstein took Marsden's glass. This time he filled it up to the absolute rim. Just short enough so it didn't spill. Marsden took the glass carefully and drank. This time there was enough to fully appreciate. No wonder Goldstein rationed it so carefully.
"Evening gentlemen." Captain Tower said from behind them. "Mind if I join you?" "Please feel free." Goldstein said agreeably while Marsden nodded his approval as well. Tower looked around, found a chair and slid it up to the left of Goldstein, opposite Marsden.
"Pour you a drink?" Goldstein said repeating the offer he made to Marsden. Marsden was surprised. Everyone knew the captain didn't drink but to his surprise Captain Tower said "Why not?". Goldstein quickly produced another small glass like the one he had given Marsden. He poured very little in it. Barely enough to cover the bottom. Apparently Goldstein was making a concession to Tower's known aversion to alcohol.
Tower studied the tiny bit of alcohol and seemed to sniff it cautiously before quickly drinking it. Goldstein turned to Marsden and quietly said "Some men don't trust someone who won't drink with them. I'm one of those."
"This is new." Tower said, apparently satisfied with his examination of the brandy. "You must of gotten it on Starbase 12." Reacting to Marsden's surprised look Goldstein simply gave a look that seemed to duplicate a shrug. "What do you expect me to do? He is the CO." "So what are you looking for this evening?" Tower asked changing the subject entirely. "Illegal acts or gossip worthy canoodling?". "Could be a little of both." Goldstein replied. On that note Goldstein took out a small notepad and pencil. Archaic technology but it still got the job done.
"Why aren't you using a PADD?" Marsden asked in surprise. "Because stuff that never goes into an electronic device can never be copied from that electronic device." he replied. Goldstein leaned forward and stared down near where two figures partially obscured by two shuttlecraft on the Hangar Bay floor seemed to be having a serious conversation. Something was handed by one to the other followed by more serious conversation. Goldstein quickly scribbled down a description of the event including the time. Marsden had no doubt that Goldstein would be reporting what he observed to security when he left the observation deck. A few minutes later a young couple met further down the hangar deck. Even from this distance Marsden could tell they were more than friends. Goldstein observed them until they left but did nothing. He simply glanced at Captain Tower with a bit of a smirk on his face.
A few minutes afterwards another somewhat older couple appeared further away. Marsden could feel Goldstein stiffen. He then noticed that the first officer was feriously scribbling down notes. He continued until this couple left and checked his notes seriously. Finally Marsden's curiousity go the better of him. "Why are you writing out on a report on that couple when you all but ignored the earlier one?"
"Because if I'm right that second couple both work in the same department and are both married, but not to each other!" "They're going to get in a lot of trouble." Marsden said as Goldsteins interest in the couple dawned on him.
"Not necessarily." Goldstein explained. "I'll talk to their supervisor. They'll either have to break up or one of them tansfer to another, unrelated department. Ultimately it is their decision. But we can't have that kind of possible dissension."
_________________________________________
Tower, Stafford, Marsden, and Townsend walked down the street in what looked all the world like a skirmish line. This planet was a handy one for shore leave but the given its wild reputation the latter three had not intentions of getting their commander, Tower into any real trouble, much less danger. Townsend in particular had her worries. She repeatedly started at loud noises and her hand never moved too far away from her concealed phaser.
"You'll love this place Carson!" Stafford told his CO with genuine enthusiasm. "People come from all across the sector for leave. There's no telling whom we might encounter! In a way this is more 'exploration' than we've done in the last six months!". Marsden rolled his eyes on hearing this. Stafford had been floating this same joke repeatedly. For weeks.
The huge night spot finally came into view, dominating the entire end of the rather broad street. It's name, "The Force" was emblazoned in brightly lit letters more than two meters high. The four Enterprise officers closed the distance steadily. When they finally got to within 50 meters or so of the entrance, they could hear shouts and the sound of various items breaking inside. The group stopped short, silently, and Townsend broke the silence by observing
"I sense a disturbance in 'The Force'".....
 
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Tower, Collins, and Stone joined Stafford in the already fast filling viewing room. They could've simply had this recreated on one of the holodecks but Tower liked the effect of viewing on the big screens. Besides he had discouraged the use of the holodecks for pure entertainment.

Townsend and Sarnow came in a few minutes later by which time the room was already three quarters full. Fortunately though Tower didn't use his rank to get the best seats he was willing to make sure he saved some seats so the people he was closest to could all sit together.

Goldstein drifted in just a few minutes before kickoff. He was not a really big fan of Gridiron but he knew the people that were tended to be real fanatics and Tower had played at the academy so he felt he had to make an appearance.

"You left Marsden minding the bridge?" Tower said to Goldstein as the XO sat down. "I thought he was a big Miami fan?" "He is." Goldstein responded. "But he's an even bigger fan of sitting in the big chair for a few hours. Besides given where we are currently there is not much chance of any kind of emergency. The experience will do him good."

"And just how much do you have on the game?" Tower asked. Regulations or no regulations, Goldstein was well known for his routine gambling on just about everything. Not that Tower minded. Goldstein was too good at his job to let it be a problem. And he was too good at his job for Tower to care. "Four hundred credits give or take on Dallas" Goldstein responded.

Tower lifted an eyebrow in some surprise. That seemed like more than Goldstein would've wagered but to each his own. Despite serving with him a few years now neither Tower nor anyone else aboard seemed to know where Goldstein got his money.
Tower and the 20 or so others in the crowd quieted down after the coin toss and the teams lined up for the kickoff.

Just as the Dallas kicked approached the ball all four of the big screens went dark. A wave of moans passed over the room as all four of them flashed "signal interrupted".

Tower quickly tapped his comm for the much larger communications center buried deep within the ship. "We're already on it Captain." the officer on duty acknowledged. "Please standby".

A moment later she replied. "Sorry captain. We have a report of a major subspace relay going down. Possibly due to Borg attack. Time until restoration not yet known. Again. sorry."

"I can't believe this!" exclaimed Collins. "This is the kind of thing that used to happen back in the 20th century!"

"The Borg used to attack subspace relay stations in the 20th century?" Goldstein asked. His words dripping with sarcasm.

"Maybe the 21st century. Hell, I don't know!" Collins continued with the mini rant.
 
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