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My multi-genre story


Gold Member
May 3, 2009
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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 ohat 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 Noran. "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 Cardinal's 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(K’tinga or maybe Klolode class) 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 delays. 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 was 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 vessel 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 ready room, remembering that the admiral almost never used his real 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." Tower finished thinking happily of his poached eggs and orange juice, especially when it is with two honkin huge pieces of Texas toast loaded with soft serve butter.
"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


Gold Member
May 3, 2009
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"Call me if the war heats up before the shift change," he said as the First Officer smiled and exited the Admiral's ready room.
Tower waited a few minutes. "Computer. Seal the 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 suspicions unless it was known they were doing historical research which Tower was most obviously not doing.
The group ended the regular lesson and spent about half an hour talking about what was going on in their lives. Thoughts about the ship's mission. Communications they had had with loved ones back home and perishoners from other churches on other ships, starbases and even all the way back on Earth and its colonies. 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.

Though some in Starfleet would consider such sentiments to be almost sacrilege, Tower almost felt that he was discovering a “strange new world” when he got involved in the church for the first time. And many times since. Tower thought to himself about trying to get several of his family involved in Bible study though given he was rarely back on Mars that made it difficult. Perhaps he could send them some copies of the Bible as gifts.


Two years earlier

U.S.S. Enterprise orbiting at Utopia Planitia-Mars.

Carson Tower welcomed First Officer Commander Frederick Goldstein into his office. With the official launch of the new U.S.S. Enterprise just weeks away they still didn’t have certain key bridge positions filled and this was an issue that he was going to bring up with Goldstein. “I gave you a list of more than a dozen potential ones sir. Are you saying that you can’t find at least a couple who are acceptable?” Replied Goldstein. “Accepable? Yes. Exceptional no.” Tower said. “I want you to try a different tact. Bring me some candidates who have extensive experience conning a Starstalker class ship.” “Why someone who has piloted a Starstalker?” Goldstein asked. The Starstalker was an older missile cruiser which had been commonly used by Starfleet more than a century ago. The huge and heavy ships had been loaded with massive weaponry. Most oprominently their ten photon torpedo tubes. Four forward, two aft, two port and two starboard

“The Starstalkers due to their mass were a real bitch of a ship to manuever tactically. Just as Enterprise is enormous and potentially unwieldy. I want a Conn officer who is used to having to move such a ship around.” Tower explained.

“It will take a few days to choose the best of those candidates and then get them here. Do we have that much time?” Goldstein said. “We’ll have to. Even if I have to fly Enterprise out of here myself.” Tower said and then in response to Goldstein’s questioning look. “And I DID fly a Starstalker…”

Something he didn’t know about former admiral/current CO Carson Tower, Goldstein said, reflectvely to himself. Ironically while Goldstein himself knew a vast amount regarding operations of a number of Starships, operating the Conn was something he had done little of over the years.

Several weeks later..

Robinson took his seat at the Conn of the brand new U.S.S. Enterprise. He scanned the console and the huge array of controls making great efforts not to touch anything. He did point out several different controls and displays and ask about them. After getting all of his questions answered he slid out of the seat and crawled under the console to examine the wiring layout in detail along with things like the circuit board for the Conn.


September 11, 2023

Little Rock Central High School Cafeteria

The four gunmen came in quick and low. All brandishing AKM semi automatic rifles modified for rapid fire with an extra clip taped to the bottom of the regular clip for quick change out. Almost in unison they opened fire on the dozens of high school students, teachers and other employees gathered there. With so many people packed into the cafeteria it was impossible for the gunman to miss. More than a dozen people dropped to the floor within seconds, hit but blessedly not mortally wounded.

Across the hall in the Library, Teacher and football coach Dayton Kitchens was doing the third showing of the day regarding the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. He heard the shots from the rifles and the screams and knew just what it had to be.

In the cafeteria, students dove for cover while several industrious ones pulled out their cell phones and began recording the events as they unfolded.

Dayton’s reaction was near-instantaneous. He darted toward the library door and fought his way through the stream of frantic students coming from the cafeteria. Even as he moved toward the sounds of the guns (Kitchens wasn’t sure where that thought came from) he didn’t know what bothered him more. That fact that he had no gun himself while shooters obviously did and were not afraid to use them…or the fact that he was hopelessly outnumbered. The internal debate continued in his head until he was through the doors and issues of greater importance loomed. In a moment he was through the double doors. The four gunmen were spread out in a line ahead of him with rifles raised and firing. Dayton took a long step/lunge forward starting for the nearest gunman, the one on the far left.

Approaching the first gunman from behind Dayton took a long leap and aimed his right foot at the lower back of the gunman. His placement was near perfect. The gunman was propelled forward into the cinder block support post. His forehead struck the sharp corner of the post with great force. He died almost instantly. His weapon went flying into the scrambling, shrieking crowd of students.

Dayton Kitchens looked wildly about trying to find the weapon. He had almost given up when he heard a nearby student yell. “Behind you!!!” But it wasn’t a firearm that the student was yelling about. The gunmen to the right of the one Dayton had just taken out had turned on him and was in the process of bringing his weapon to bear. Acting on pure instinct, Dayton braced his feet firmly in place on the cafeteria floor and swung about with a high, arcing open fist punch aimed squarely at the bridge of the gunman’s nose. The blow struck with a wet, sickening impact that drove his nasal bone into his brain, killing him..

Like the first fatality of Daytons attack the second gunman dropped his weapon as well, but Dayton had no time to look for it.

No time at all.

The remaining two gunmen had recovered completely from their surprise at the unexpected attack. They both swiveled and leveled their rifles on Dayton. And opened fire. Dayton was saved by the rifle fire pulling to the right. They walked their gunfire up his left leg across his left lower abdomen and into his left chest and arm. One of the gunmen tried to correct his rifle fire and ended up firing a long burst into Dayton’s neck and face. Fortunately, the path of the bullets striking his chest missed his heart and the most vital of the arteries. Unfortunately, one bullet struck him in the throat and nicked his trachea.

“Strangely enough.” Dayton thought to himself. “They never tell you that the first bullet that strikes is the one you feel far and away the most.”. Dayton felt the first bullet that pierced his left thigh most acutely. He never really felt the 34 rounds that followed.

The bullets cut flesh.

Dayton is only human.

The pain he feels is real…

But not enough to stop him…

The gunshots in addition to causing massive injuries drove Kitchens back and nearly down to his right knee before he rallied. Fortunately just when all seemed lost with blood streaming from 35 gunshot wounds, both gunman’s rifles ran out of ammunition. As the magazines ran dry and both rifles simply hammered on empty chambers, the two surviving gunmen simply stared for seconds in shock…and Dayton lunged at an angle crossways into both of the shooters. Dayton struck both gunmen at about waist level and bowled them over backward. Looming over the killers, Dayton raised his undamaged right arm and brought it crashing down in a massive hammer strike on one of the gunmen. The blow hit the abdomen of the gunman with staggering force. Dayton quickly raised his arm again and brought another hammer strike down, this time into his face. Dayton brought down hammer strikes again and again until blood was splattering his right hand and arm. When it was obvious that the third gunman was dead, Dayton switched to the last remaining one. He rained down hammer strike after hammer strike until he too was dead. In those few minutes the term “hammer strikes” became almost synonymous with “Dayton Kitchens” though in all fairness, Dayton used more than a fair number of sharp kicks to the heads of the doomed gunmen as well.

Dayton staggered and went down to his knees before finally toppling onto his back. He was completely unconscious before he hit the floor. He was awoken by something moist being put on his forehead. He looked up to see a priest with his head bowed, apparently praying while he made signs with his hands above Dayton’s face.

Last Rites! He is giving me Last Rites! Dayton thought outraged. He would’ve shouted but instead he managed to say with what was left of his bullet-shattered mouth:

“There is a problem, father. First, I’m not Catholic. Second, I'm not dying. Now help me up!” The priest simply stared at Dayton’s bullet-shattered face before grabbing his right arm and slowly leveraging him up. “Go help someone who really needs it, father.” Dayton said to the stunned priest. One of his 11th-grade students quickly appeared and braced himself under Dayton’s right arm. One of his more cogent thoughts passing through Dayton's head was how it was a shame that he was going to bleed all over the student. More from his face than anywhere else.

The images of Dayton with his bullet-shattered face and chest being helped from the cafeteria toward an ambulance by a pair of his students become the iconic ones of the shooting. More than one news commentator became sick to their stomach while watching the images. The five gunshots to his face probably hurt Dayton the worst though not due to penetrating bullet wounds. But the impact of each of the bullets was enough to inflict a concussion upon him. He had crushing headaches for days afterwards.


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....
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 off color 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 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...

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