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Old January 28 2014, 07:06 PM   #60
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UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

Chapter Five

Amon Homeship Transcendent
In orbit of Planet Krowtanai
Delta Quadrant

The Krowtonan Ascendancy had not been destroyed, but it had been humbled.

The Amon now controlled the homeworld. The species’ most venerated religious icons had been publicly destroyed, the recordings of which had been broadcast by the Amon throughout the Ascendancy over subspace.

On Zeischt’s command, warp-propulsion cargo modules had been dispatched to dozens of Krowtonan subject worlds, each containing numerous advanced weapons, replicators, and instructions on how to manufacture more. With these, it was hoped, the vassal species of the Krowtonans would be able to rise up en mass to eventually overthrow their overlords.

Verrik found Zeischt intently observing a holographic map of the surrounding sectors, the outbound trails of the cargo modules delineated in blue.

“Have you tallied the Krowtonan casualties from your campaign?” the Vulcan asked dispassionately.

Zeischt’s reply was equally aloof. “Just over seventy-thousand dead, with another three-to-four-hundred thousand wounded. From a planetary conquest perspective, that’s an admirable level of precision warfare.”

“Given that this world's population is nearly eight billion, I would have to agree,” Verrik noted reluctantly. “However, you doubtless realize that having loosened the Ascendancy’s iron grip on its conquered worlds, you are plunging eight cubic sectors of this quadrant into what will likely be decades of bloody warfare.”

“If their freedom from a genocidal theocracy is what those species desire, they will have to fight for it. Nothing worth attaining comes without cost.”

Verrik stepped forward, and now abreast of Zeischt, looked askance at the man. “Are you certain honing the tribe’s martial skills is all this campaign was about?”

A cloud of emotion briefly darkened Zeischt’s features. “I can’t abide bullies, Lieutenant.”

Verrik’s eyebrow crested inquisitively. “I trust you are not blind to the irony of that statement, given what has just occurred?”

“Of course I’m not,” Zeischt answered, a hint of irritation finding its way into his voice. “That’s the whole point behind this, Verrik. The Amon can become a positive force in our galaxy, a catalyst for change on a scale as yet undreamt of.”

“You speak of the antithesis of the Prime Directive,” Verrik observed.

Zeischt turned to face him, his eyes bright with enthusiasm. “Think of it! A people whose purpose is to intervene in destructive conflicts anywhere in the galaxy! Despots would be toppled, uncounted sentient species freed from the shackles of slavery and oppression.”

“Such is the ebb and flow of humanoid civilizations,” came the Vulcan’s response. “Freedom from such tyranny must be realized by each species for itself, according to its own culture, beliefs, and specific circumstances. A one-size-fits-all approach is worse than naïve, it is willful ignorance anchored in a foundation of arrogance.”

“I disagree,” Zeischt countered. “Those who would strive to become the next Borg or Dominion of this galaxy should have something concrete to fear. They should suffer the knowledge that somewhere out there is a force that can sweep down upon them without warning and lay waste their dreams of empire.”

“True freedom must be earned; it cannot be given away. History has proven that axiom time and again, on countless planets. Our Federation would not exist had it not been for the earlier conflicts between the founding member worlds. It was their desire to avoid the warfare of the past that forced our ancestors to the negotiating table, and encouraged them to place the collective good above the selfish interests of their individual species.”

Zeischt’s expression was tinged with pity, as one might direct at a child unable to grasp a particularly vexing adult concept. “I have given the Amon a purpose, Verrik. After untold millennia of aimless wandering, they have a cause to live for.”

“I am less concerned with what the Amon live for,” Verrik answered, “than how many must die to see their new destiny realized.”

The Amon BattleMaster was considering his response to this when A’lasha, the resurrected Vulcan, entered the chamber. The woman was undeniably beautiful by either Vulcan or human standards, and her new body was devoid of the sundry scars she’d suffered in her original form. Verrik turned to face her as she approached, his features hardening ever so slightly and giving voice to his disapproval.

A’lasha was adorned in Amon battle armor, the surfaces of which rippled and swirled with myriad colors and patterns. She nodded casually to Verrik in passing, knowing full well that the spontaneous gesture would cause the traditional Vulcan male added discomfort. To him, she was a throwback to a bygone age, a dinosaur from their species’ shamefully violent past. “BattleMaster, I believe someone is trying to get our attention.”

Zeischt turned to face her. “How so?”

“Someone is subjecting our collection arrays in orbit of Alanthal to transphasic probing,” A’lasha informed him. “That’s the first step in identifying the precise subspace dimensional coordinates they occupy. It’s likely a precursor to an attack on the arrays themselves.”

“Starfleet,” Zeischt assessed.

“Very likely,” A’lasha concurred. “Regardless, we’ll need the collected bio-essence from those arrays to heal our wounded from this little foray, especially since you refuse to allow us to deploy arrays around Krowtanai.”

Zeischt canted his head slightly, his piercing eyes delivering a silent rebuke to A’lasha. “We will not feed off those we slay in battle ourselves. To do so would make us no better than our cousins who’ve terrorized the Alpha Quadrant.”

“As you say,” A’lasha conceded, sidestepping the argument. “My point is that we cannot allow those arrays to be tampered with or destroyed.”

“Agreed.” Zeischt moved to a control interface, placing his hand upon its surface and closing his eyes. “I’ll notify Warlord Jalahar and the Congress of Elders and request permission to set a course for Alanthal immediately.”

Verrik took a step closer to Zeischt, prompting A’lasha to tense in anticipation of an attack. None was forthcoming. Instead, Verrik inquired, “And if Starfleet awaits us, what then?”

“Let us hope they exercise restraint,” Zeischt replied darkly. "It would be unfortunate if we had to defend ourselves."

The Vulcan officer pressed, "Europa is likely among their number. You would cut down your former comrades? Is that how you would have Donald Sandhurst remembered?"

"I can't play favorites, Lieutenant. Too much is at stake here. If we are to make war upon our fellow tribe, we cannot suffer distractions from Operation Vanguard or from anyone else." Zeischt opened his eyes to regard Verrik. "And Donald Sandhurst is no more. How he will be remembered is of no consequence to me."

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