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The Mission

©02 The Media Desk & the USS RAVEN (IFT)

       [NOTE: This story is NOT exactly part of the official fictional History of the RAVEN. The Desk, in its insane scribblings had wondered what would happen if the Crew of the RAVEN met up with one of the Desk's Original Creations from the Star Trek Universe- 'The Patrol'.
                            This.... Is that.
                                   It is presented simply for your enjoyment.        The Media Desk]

         [Further Note: The Novel Length Work from which The Patrol is drawn available upon request. Email the Desk for more information. Thank you]


       Captain Lukas looked down his nose at Mr. Kada in the RAVEN's nest. "No going to Deep Space Nine, no gallivanting off on some 'procurement' expedition. I need you to stay at the conference and glean all the information you can."
       Kada wiped at a non-existent spot on the bar and snorted a sigh that rustled his untrimmed beard.
       "Thanks for reminding me. Try to look like something besides a jungle-moon lumberjack."
       "If you tell me to wear a Star Fleet uniform I'm going to quit and sign onto a Rutman shuttle or something."
       "I'll think about it." He smirked at the man. "You just don't want to go because the Bajorans are so religious."
       "I don't care how a man prays. I love their religion, it's wonderful.... It's just... well... They are so dull."
       "And they like they like it that way. So make sure you don't do anything that livens things up." The Captain turned to leave.
       "Yes sir."
       Lukas stopped and glanced back at him. "Not too much anyway."
       Kada smiled innocently. "Yes sir."

       Lukas turned around. "Yes."
       "The redesign of the Science Section doesn't give us any more room or equipment to do our jobs." One of the Slack sisters said.
       "Half the weapons we use against the Borg have been developed in the field by analyzing Borg defenses and adaptations." The other one added.
       "I know but..."
       "Without proper facilities and equipment our development of new tools and tactics won't keep pace with their evolution."
       "It will be devastating to us and the Federation in the long run."
       Lukas nodded and tried to speak. To no avail.
       "Something has to be done."
       "We've drawn up this proposal to convert some storage rooms to equipment bays." She handed him a pad.
       "I'll look at it." Lukas said.
       "Thank you sir."
       "Thank you sir." They nodded together and walked back to their section.
       Lukas stood there and watched them go. "Maybe the Borg could... nah."

       The RAVEN sat just off from McKinnley Station with a construction bubble occupying a good piece of the top of the saucer.
       Lukas and Ryan walked through the equipment and workers.
       "The refit is actually ahead of schedule. We might be able to pick you up on Bajor at the end of the conference." Ryan said watching another section of the hull being sealed.
       "Wishful thinking." Lukas muttered. "We'll be back in two weeks. Don't rush them. Let them do their jobs right and check everything out."
       Ryan acted like he was going to say something. But Lukas stared at him. "Yes sir. I'll even...." He took a deep breath at Lukas's unchanging expression. "Stay out of their way."

       In engineering Mr. Barnhart was arguing nose to nose with a small muscular man.
       "What?" Lukas said trying to get between them.
       "Kavel says the engines have had it." Mel said panting from all the yelling.
       "Your Engineer can't see the obvious. The damage to the warp core and its systems is simply beyond repair. It has to be replaced."
       The Security officer, Ziggy, looked at Mr. Kavel. "I don't remember seeing you on the engineering detail."
       Kavel seemed a little put off by the statement. "Check again. I'm replacing Commander Whartson."
       "I'll do that." The commander said in his best 'security chief' voice and went to a comm panel.
       "But in the meantime captain. You have to decide how long you want to wait to get this tub underway. If you try to repair it. We'll have to piece it out and end up replacing almost everything anyway. Then it might not pass testing. Or we replace it all, from injector to coil, and you'll have brand new certified engines."
       Lukas looked at Barnhart. "Well?"
       The engineer stood there for a second. "I hate to admit it. But he's right."
       Lukas nodded then turned back to Kavel. "So. When can you start?"
       "Tomorrow morning I'll be in here with my team and we'll do it."
       "He checks out Captain. Last minute replacement." Ziggy said.
       "How long?" The Captain asked.
       "Not long." Kavel smiled. "I'll let you know."
       "Let him know. We're leaving for a meeting in... well... see ya." He said looking up at a chronometer. "I'll meet you in the transporter room." He said to Ziggy.

       Commander Rhoades and Counselor Rowell were waiting patiently on the transporter.
       Suddenly the door flew open and Mr. Kada entered the room. Well, most of him did, then he glanced off the doorframe and staggered in sideways. When he got his bearings he looked around. "OK, I about break my neck getting down here to make the transport and where is HE?"
       "In engineering. He's on his way." Ziggy said walking in right behind him.
       "Yeah yeah yeah." Kada threw his bag and a large well worn box on the platform next to the commander's bags and then sat on the step. "So we wait."
       It wasn't a long wait. In a few minutes Lukas arrived with a small tote bag and a datapad. "What's all that?" He gestured to the mound of luggage.
       "Our stuff. Most of it is mine and Gale's. We intend to Dress for dinner with the Consular General."
       "What's wrong with going in uniform?"
       "Give up." Kada said to Lukas. "You can't pull rank on that one."
       "You're probably right." The captain answered. "Energize when ready."

       It was early the next morning when the Chief Engineer got the call in his quarters that Mr. Kavel and his engineering crew were there to begin their replacement of His engines.
       "Tell him to get started. Wake up my crew and tell them to meet me there."
       Mel crawled out of bed and showered and dressed quickly.
       On his way to engineering he met Mr. Dubin in the hall. "I'd even welcome one of Kada's heart stopping breakfasts before we do all this." The other engineer said.
       Mel nodded. "Yeah Jon. It ain't gonna get done right unless we do it." The lift arrived at their deck and the door opened. "And knowing these Starbase mechanics, we'll end up do..." He stopped.
       "Whoa." Jon said.
       The warp core and about half the equipment in engineering... was gone.
       Kavel was walking around with an odd looking tricorder.
       "Where's my warp core?" Barnhart asked him.
       "You said get started."
       Mel just nodded looking around at the bare bulkheads where computers and regulators and other equipment had been. "Where's your crew?"
       "Over there." Kavel pointed at another man with a similar unit across the room. "That's Aashth. Wan's around here someplace. He's easy to recognize, he's a cyborg."
       "A Borg?" Mr. Dubin asked.
       "No no no... A Cyborg. He's Andorian and got injured several years ago. It's a long story. Anyway, you guys are just in time. We're getting ready to install your new core. Then we'll do the conduit to the pods. Then we'll drop in your new coils. Then, we'll go have breakfast and get this thing going for a shake down cruise."
       "Shake down cruise.... What about the hull?" Barnhart asked in disbelief.
       "Done." Kavel said looking at his instrument. "Ready?" He shouted to Aashth.
       "Go from here."
       "All Go." A slightly gruff voice added from a catwalk above them.
       "Sequence in five... four.... Three."
       "Field stable." A woman's voice said from their communicators.
       "Action." Kavel said as a transporter field engulfed most of engineering.
       "I don't believe it." Dubin said. "I simply do not believe it."
       Mel backed up a step as a new warp core appeared. But it didn't look like the old one. There were many significant differences.
       "I'll explain that to you as we go." Kavel said then he turned to his tricorder. "Looks good. Step two in five.... Four..."
       They watched the new plasma conduits appear in place leading out to the nacelles.
       "All good." Wan said from his station.
       Aashth confirmed it. "Phase three is go."
       Kavel counted it down and they turned to watch a monitor.
       The old nacelles vanished, then were replaced by new slightly different looking modules.
       "Sequence complete. All readings stable. Charging anti-matter." The woman said.
       "Go." Aashth said.
       "How did you do that?" Barnhardt said. "Nobody can replicate a warp core like that."
       "You're saying you don't want my warp core?" Kavel said with half a grin.
       "Oh no... see. We haven't had breakfast yet. He's a little cranky before coffee." Jon said grabbing his chief by the arm.
       "Let's take care of that. Miss Rontel was supposed to have left us breakfast in your Nest." Kavel started walking out like he owned the place. "Coming?"
       Mel nodded. "Yeah. Why not."

The Baron

       "Is everybody OK?" Ziggy asked as he sat up blinking.
       "Yeah." They answered slowly.
       The Counselor sat up and yawned. Nodding stiffly.
       "Captain. This isn't a Star Fleet ship." Commander Rhoades said softly in the quarter light.
       "I know."
       "I don't recognize it." Kada added staring at what had to be a control panel next to what might be a door.
       "Hello?" Lukas said loudly.
       They sat there for a minute expecting something or somebody to answer. They didn't.
       Kada got up and went to the panel. It didn't respond to voice or touch. "Well?" He said turning back to the Captain.
       "Communicator doesn't work." Ziggy said, "And somebody took my sidearm."
       "I wouldn't suppose you had anything unauthorized on you?" Lukas asked Kada.
       "I did." He said flatly. "But I don't now."
       "Were we unconscious?" Rhoades asked.
       "I was." Rowell answered.
       "I think so." Lukas answered. "But I don't know how long."
       Kada patted his pockets and his belt. "Ahh... They didn't take everything." He stopped. "Just everything useful for escaping from prison." Then he opened his buckle. "We were out about five hours. No... Seven and a half Earth hours. This is on Walie time."
       "All night. No wonder I don't feel tired."
       A little later one of them mentioned they wished their cell had a bathroom.
       As soon as they said it, a door appeared in the wall opposite the panel.
       They all took turns in the small facility that turned out to be a self-contained fully functional bathroom for humans.
       "I don't care. It worked, and it had hot water." Kada said stepping out of the door.
       "You took a shower?" Rhoades asked him.
       "Why not?"
       Then they waited some more.
       "Hey!" Ziggy said startled into moving to defend the others.
       The front door was now open.
       "Follow me." A small dark skinned woman said.
       "Who are you?" Lukas asked her.
       "Where are we?"
       "The Colonel will explain."
       They looked at each other. "OK. You lead. We follow." Lukas said.
       Kada looked back at their cell. Now it was gone. There was nothing on the other side of the door but blank walls.
       They walked through a deserted ship until they came to a door at the end of a hallway. Marot stopped and turned to them. She made brief but firm eye contact with each of them. "The Colonel will see you in his office."
       "Of course." Lukas said.
       The door opened on a dark room with a huge window looking out at space and...
       "The RAVEN." Lukas said looking out at his ship.
       His ship was underway.
       And from the looks of things, they were both running at low warp.
       A man spoke from behind them. "Sorry for the subterfuge Captain. But I had my reasons for all this. Officially, your ship is doing a shake down on her newly repaired engines. Actually, she has brand new engines, and we are on our way to the Folcron Colony."
       They blinked as the lights came up and let them see their host behind his desk.
       He appeared to be an elderly human male. But powerfully built despite his almost pure white hair. His age showed in lines around his eyes and the absolute ease in which he spoke and moved.
       "No." Kada said taking a second look. "Commander Baron Romack?"
       "You know him?" Lukas asked glancing from one to the other to his ship.
       "By reputation only sir."
       "Mostly lies and exaggerations I assure you." Romack stood and nodded cordially. "But I am just The Colonel now. Let me see if Miss Marot's briefing stayed in my head. Commander Alice Rhoades." She nodded to him. "A pleasure to meet you ma'am.'
       "Baron." She smiled tightly and shook his offered hand.
       "Counselor Rowell." He nodded to the woman.
       "Baron." She answered with the title Kada had used for the man.
       "Commander Zizieuskas. Congratulations on your promotion sir."
       "Thank you, sir."
       "Doctor Leftover. Except I hear you call yourself Kada these days."
       "At times sir."
       "And Captain Brian Lukas of the fighting ship RAVEN."
       Lukas nodded and extended his hand slowly. "Colonel." He said looking at the slightly shorter man with some open suspicion on his face.
       "It would seem Commander Ryan is quite comfortable with the 'repairs'. Of course. Miss Marot had a small hand in that I'm sure." He smiled knowingly. "She has a most persuasive way with people."
       Kada nodded. "I noticed."
       "You would." Romack smiled knowingly at him. "Been thrown out of any Vulcan Retreats lately?"
       "No." He answered then turned to Rhoades and Lukas as they stared at him. "It's a long story, a long time ago... far far away." He babbled for a second.
       "In any case Captain. I wanted to discuss our mission and..."
       "Mission?" Lukas said. "We were going to a conference to discuss united resistance to outside threats."
       The Colonel actually laughed. "Oh that. Pshaw... A waste of time I assure you. But if you insist, I'll have a full copy of the transcript beamed in for you." He nodded at them. "What we're going to do is far more important than anything that conference could do except the one thing they won't do."
       They waited. He said it in his own time.
       "They will not. Indeed. They could not, have every power in this half of the galaxy declare open and absolute total war on the Borg. Nothing short of that will do, and nothing short of that will work."
       "Then what's this mission?" Lukas asked.
       The Colonel looked at them like it was obvious. "We're going to war with the Borg."
       "You said we're going to Folcron." Kada said.
       "We are. And from there to Salotic system."
       "Where's that?" Ziggy asked.
       "In the Delta Quadrant."
       The RAVEN people looked at each other.


       Ryan was still operating in a daze.
       "Oh, you're back." He said with a slight smile.
       "Marot." The Colonel said to the small dark woman.
       She looked at Ryan and smiled.
       He stood there blinking for a second. "Who are they?"
       "Friends." Lukas said. "We need a senior staff meeting...." He looked at the Colonel. "Where?"
       "My ship. I can show you better what we are up against there."
       The Captain nodded. "Very good sir."
       "Please Captain. Call me..."
       "You're the senior officer, this is your mission, Colonel."
       "As you wish Captain."
       "I think it's for the best."
       The Colonel nodded, he looked at Ryan. "Have them report to the Captain's Ready Room in thirty minutes."
       "Yes sir." Ryan said sharply then went to call the officers.
       "In the meantime, let me introduce you to your new engines." The Colonel gestured to the lift.

       "This is incredible!" Barnhart said as Lukas got off the lift. "Do you know what they did to the RAVEN?"
       Lukas shook his head looking at the warp core.
       "It's coaxial." The Colonel said softly.
       "We tested it at the equivalent of Warp Fifteen." Mel beamed. "We're just double checking everything now."
       "Fifteen? That's impossible." Lukas said.
       "For normal warp drive. Yes." Mr. Dubin said. "But not under coaxial theory."
       "Instead of warping space one way, it warps it two ways at the same time." Kavel added with hand gestures to explain it.
       The Colonel nodded. "I'm not an engineer. But I love watching them talk about this stuff." He whispered to Lukas as the three men tried to make him understand it.

       In the ready room Lukas got his first good look at the Colonel's ship from the window behind his desk. The ship was hanging in space just to one side of the RAVEN. The ship was smaller than he expected, angular, and coal black. From the outside he couldn't see any features on the hull, no weapons, shield emitters, not even a porthole.
       "It's not much to look at, but I like it." The Colonel said proudly.
       "It seems to serve you well."
       "It does."
       The door opened and the RAVEN's officers filed in.
       "This is everybody." Lukas said in a moment.
       "Very good." The Colonel said with a nod.
       The room filled with that same hazy gray energy Lukas had noticed the last time, then they were... Someplace else.
       "Welcome to Warens." The Colonel said.
       Ziggy and Ryan almost jumped out of their skin trying to reach for their phasers as several Borg Drones walked past.
       "Don't worry. They are holograms. We are on my ship's holodeck." The Colonel gestured to their surroundings, endless mines and processing plants "But I wanted you to see where we are going. Warens." He nodded again. "And this is Salos." Suddenly they were surrounded by a different scene. A rich jungle spread out before them. "At least it was. This is what it looks like now.
       The jungle vanished. Replaced by the tiered farms and bio-factories of the Borg.
       "So what's the mission Colonel?" Lukas looked at the Borg installations with disgust.
       "I want to blow up both planets and all the orbiting facilities."
       "They hurt a friend of a friend of mine."
       Lukas nodded gravely. "Good enough reason for me." He glanced at a passing drone on a transport vehicle. "Nevermore."
       "Never More." The Colonel echoed. "I. Have a plan."

       The Colonel introduced his team. Then Lukas did the same for his crew.
       "Aashth runs our weapons, communications, and sensors." The Colonel nodded to the man that had helped Kavel in engineering.
       "Rontel is my systems specialist. You'll notice she has a slightly different physiology than most people."
       The woman nodded to the Captain and his officers.
       "And that's Wan. My longest serving crewman and jack of all trades."
       "I'm pilot. Not Jack of Trades." Wan said shuffling slightly with a clank against the deck.
       "And a fine pilot you are too." The Colonel said with a slight grin. "And, that's the six of us."
       "Only six of you for this whole ship?" Counselor Rowell asked.
       "It's all we need." The Colonel said with a smile, then he looked at Lukas.
       "Well. You've met most of my people one way or the other." He looked around and introduced a couple that they hadn't. "Lieutenant Dickerson, Commander Ellingsworth." They nodded. "Lieutenant Allen. And Ziggy you've met."
       "Colonel." The tall thin officer said with a grin.
       "A pleasure sir." He seemed amused by the man's nickname.
       They stood there and looked at each other for a minute.
       "Now. About my plan."

       The Colonel went through how the Borg had conquered and raped the entire Salotic system. The people, the Atonns, had been either killed or assimilated. The planets themselves killed, and assimilated.
       The RAVEN crew had never seen what the Borg did to their 'acquisition' planets.
       It made them almost as ill as watching the holographic replay of several Atonn people being assimilated to become drones.
       Entire mountain ranges were blasted to rubble to provide the Borg with raw materials just as one of the people's arms was cut away to make room for a prosthetic manipulator.
       "It doesn't stop there. They are going to take this planet apart. On Warens they found a natural source of micrograded dilithium. They are in the process of harvesting it."
       Mel thought that sounded familiar. "Doesn't that work to de-modulate plasma?"
       The Colonel nodded.
       "What does that do?" Somebody asked.
       Aashth answered. "If you create energy plasma with a flat wave structure you can supercharge almost any weapon or drive system. It would increase Borg weapon output by... A factor of ten... maybe more."
       "So far they cannot replicate it. And it is incredibly rare. At least at this purity." The Colonel said.
       "They have to be stopped. Or we won't be able to stop them. At all." Lukas looked out at the mountain the Borg were tearing out by the roots. "We have to."
       "You said it's in the Delta Quadrant. How do we get there? Even at coaxial warp it'd take months to get there. Months and months." Mr. Dubin said.
       "That's why we're going to Folcron." The Colonel nodded as if that explained everything.
       The others stood there and looked at him.
       "There's this unused dead end Borg conduit there. It leads back into their system. And there is a terminus near Salos."
       "You've got a map of their conduits?" Rhoades said slowly.
       "Doesn't everybody?" Kavel grinned.
       The Colonel didn't grin. "It takes some... errr... creative engineering on our part to use them without detection. Or at least with minimal risk of detection." He nodded at them. "If they even suspected for a minute what we were going to do they'd throw everything they have at us and encircle Warens with a ring of steel."
       "Then why bring us? The Borg are searching under every rock in the quadrant for us and the RAVEN." Lukas asked hoping he didn't already know the answer.
       "Well. There is a nearby Borg refueling base. Like you blew up at Kelruni. I believe if they saw the hated RAVEN coming at them with a hold full of those nasty temporal torpedoes..." He let it hang in the air.
       Rhoades looked at Lukas with wide eyes as he nodded to the Colonel.
       "She absolutely hates that idea." Marot said.
       "You don't have to be psychic to see that." Mr. Dubin snickered.

       The plan was simple. While the Borg called out the dogs on the RAVEN. The Colonel and his people would launch a series of anti matter and temporal rift missiles at Warens. The idea was to blow it to bits, then drop the pieces into another universe, irretrievable to the Borg. The micro-graded dilithium would be out of their reach.
       "Until they find another source." Kada said sourly.
       "This is only the second deposit the Borg have ever found." Aashth said. "They ruined most of the first crystals they discovered in the Beta quadrant learning how to use them. What's left is used at the Unimatrix complex. The stuff is so rare Star Fleet only believes there is barely a hundred tons of it in the entire galaxy. A lot of that is scattered in with regular dilithium. A crystal here or there. Maybe a handful someplace else. I've seen a couple of kilos at a research base. It was all the Federation had."
       "How much is on this planet we're going to?" Hackett asked him.
       "There's two dilithium seams on Warens. One of them, deep inside the planet, actually extending down into the mantel, has the micrograded crystals in it." He paused. "It might amount to a few tons. Maybe five. No more. Total."
       The RAVEN crewmen looked at each other.
       "For five tones of crystals the Borg will tear a planet apart, and the Colonel will blow it up to keep them from getting it."
       "Yeah." Aashth said and finished his drink in one gulp.

       "Now the best part." The Colonel said as an intro at the next briefing. "We'll be at Folcron in a few hours. Then we'll be on our way in the conduits."
       "Borg Defenses." Ryan said.
       "Good guess sir."
       "No guess, Colonel. It's the only thing you haven't talked about."
       The Colonel pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You are right Commander. Very good."
       The scene changed.
       Suddenly they were standing in space. It was very disorienting for the RAVEN people to suddenly find themselves in the void, standing, as it were, on nothing.
       A transwarp conduit opened behind them and a small Borg vessel appeared.
       "These images are about six hours old. We sent a probe through the conduit to watch the system. These are it's latest transmission. You see. The Borg are taking the security of their treasure very seriously."
       "What will they do with it if they get it?" Counselor Rowell asked.
       "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
       "Try us." Lukas said.
       "Continue their war against the Q Continuum."
       "You're right. I don't believe it." Barnhart said.
       "It's true." Lukas said without emotion. The others stared at him. "It was part of our last briefing. They are trying to open gateways into the Continuum like they did fluidic space. They need a greater ability to focus their energy to do it. This, among other things, would do it."
       "You have good sources Captain." The Colonel nodded. "But not that good." He turned to Aashth. "Show them."
       The space around them changed. Three odd looking Borg ships appeared in formation with several cubes and spheres. Three of them projected beams of energy at a central point ahead of them. The point began to glow and radiate. Then a large field of blinding light appeared. The ships moved toward it. One of them imploded as it crossed the boundary, then the others vanished into it. In a minute one of them was back as flaming wreckage. The portal started to close, but not before one of the bulbous ships detonated. With one of the projector ships out, the others fell out of the gateway.
       In a second, they were looking at Salos again.
       "They are trying as we speak. And learning from their mistakes. They have actually managed to engage the Q in combat on their own plane at least once. So far, they have taken a beating. But." He paused. "They've also managed to kill a Q."
       "That's a good thing from where I stand." Ryan said.
       "That's not my judgment to pass. And I don't know if the Borg could actually assimilate the Q or not. Doesn't matter. I don't even want them trying."
       They looked out at the Borg defenses of Warens.
       "The refueling port is in the next system. It is all part of the same defensive arrangement. They have concentrated a fleet here to prevent exactly what we are going to do. But the defenses around the port are not as stiff as in the Salotic system. But you are going to be hard put to it to even get close."
       Their point of view flew from near the conduit to the approaches to the base. Everywhere they looked there were Borg patrol craft, fighters, cubes, as well as a horde of support ships.
       "How are we supposed to get through this mess?" Ryan said counting fighters.
       "That's up to you. But you have to at least put on a good show of it. And make them call out some of the pickets around Warens so our missiles can get in. If we don't at least destroy the planet, this whole exercise is for naught."
       "What if they don't pull the ships. There's only one of us, and there are..." Lukas gestured to the scores of Borg ships of every description around them.
       "Who said there was only going to be one of you?" The Colonel said. Now he was grinning. "Remember how we put in your core?" He looked at the engineers. They nodded. "We can also save time with... say... ship construction."
       Above their heads the RAVEN, an INTREPID-class destroyer, and several smaller vessels flew in an attack formation behind a wall of fighters toward the refueling port.
       "All remotely piloted from the RAVEN. But all armed to the teeth. Indeed. I was thinking about outfitting the destroyer-carrier as a giant bomb." Kavel said.
       "You can make a starship?"
       "Given enough time and energy, yes. But constructing something like that drains our systems far too much to be going into combat. What we'll do is use some probes with holographic projectors and on board remote weapons systems for the fighters and I'll mount some others on remote vehicles. For the destroyer, it'll be essentially a shuttle that will be stuffed with your temporal effect warheads, holographic projectors, and theta-band turbo lasers on rotating frequencies. This month's Borg Buster Special." Aashth said in one breath.
       "OK?" The Colonel asked.
       "What will you be doing?"
       "Sitting cloaked off to one side waiting for the right moment to ruin their whole day. Then, we'll come to your rescue, and hopefully, beat feet out of the system and back into the conduit before they know what happened."
       "They can see through cloaks." Lukas said.
       "Not this one. Not yet."
       "The Borg will come after us." Dubin said to the silence.
       "Oh yeah. Like nobody's business. But..." The Colonel smiled.
       "He has a plan for that too." Rontel said.
       "I have a plan."


       The two ships sat in an asteroid field in the Folcron system for some time while Aashth and the others made everything ready.
       One of the things they had to do was a piggy-back arrangement of the ships with the black ship nestled under the RAVEN's saucer section between the warp pods so that it could extend it's cloak around both ships once they emerged from the conduit until they got their bearings and began the actual attack.
       The RAVEN crew assisted in putting together and testing several more temporal torpedoes. Then their best and brightest worked on the thorny problem of making it appear the fighters were actually shooting at the Borg when in reality it was the central unit doing all the shooting.
       "We don't." Mr. Dubin finally said. "They expect their shields to work against everything we throw at them. So we let'm."
       "Then we have the holograms simply shine a more or less harmless light at them." Aashth saw the light. "I like it."

       "Wan absolutely hates Star Fleet officers." Ellingsworth said.
       "No, not really." The Colonel said slowly. "I think he hates almost everybody. Period." He smiled. "But, he hates the Borg worse. They give cyborgs a bad name."
       Ellingsworth nodded and went back to work on the piloting links some more.
       When the lift opened Ziggy was already in it.
       "What's up?"
       "I think we're in over our heads on this one."
       "Yeah. You spend any time around them?"
       "Yeah. They are really... different."
       "Rontel says she's a plant."
       "I know. I scanned her. She might be. A plant, an Andorian Cyborg... but according to the records I can pull up, none of them exist. Baron Romack died over forty years ago. I found his obituary."
       "Maybe he wasn't as dead as the medical examiner said he was."
       "I don't think there's going to be enough of us left for them to examine."

       Finally things were together.
       Captain Lukas put the RAVEN through one last series of checks.
       "Security teams assigned to handle boarding parties." Ziggy said. "Isolation force fields ready to go."
       "Weapons on standby, shields normal." Hackett reported.
       "Life support good. Secondary systems to standby." Rhoades was next.
       Dickerson took his turn. "Helm systems ready to go to full manual at your word. Conduit navigation on tie in to the Colonel."
       Ellingsworth was filling in at the communications station. "Borg channels normal traffic. Open line to the Colonel's ship. Internal systems on scramble."
       The engineer spoke up. "Coaxial system on line and ready. Impulse fully charged. Tractor lock confirmed."
       Lukas nodded. "Sickbay."
       One of the twin sisters answered. "Stocked and ready."
       Joe Simon spoke next. "Ship's resources adequate. Usage normal."
       "All crew accounted for and answering go." Rowell nodded to him.
       "Nest to bridge. Grunt is ready for damage control detail. And the Borg Surprise is ready to cook off."
       "That's it." Lukas stood at attention. He nodded to the man on the screen. "Colonel, USS RAVEN ready to do it."
       The Colonel stood silently for a second. "You're sure you want to go through with this? Neither of us may come back."
       Lukas' face turned to stone. "For the Atonn people. If for no other reason. Nevermore."
       The Colonel pulled on a thin pair of black leather gloves while the two held their eyes locked. "Nevermore." He took a deep breath. "Mr. Kavel. Chief Barnhart. Perpare engines to engage and move into the transwarp conduit."
       "Battle stations." Lukas ordered his ship. "We'll see you when it's over Colonel."
       "When it's over."

Oh... hell

       The ships were in the conduit a long time. Changing conduits several times, and even passing through a large hub on one occasion.
       "Deception stable." Aashth said as they passed a Borg sphere going the other way.
       Rontel was tracking their progress. "Six minutes to emergence."
       "Some ride eh Captain?" The Colonel said to Lukas as the ships rushed through the conduit.
       "Yes sir." He looked around the bridge. "We're ready to begin once we figure out where we are when we come out."
       "Object two minutes ahead. It's not moving." Aashth said. "It's a Borg Checkpoint. We're going to have to either blow it or drop out of the conduit. The configuration screen will never hold up to their scan."
       "Either way our surprise is blown."
       "Maybe not." Aashth said doing several things at once. "Wan. Do a doubleback four count hard port."
       "Doing.... Left." Wan said.
       Both ships jerked hard almost performing a backflip in the conduit. Suddenly they were in a different conduit, running off at an angle to the one they had been in.
       "It's the bypass to the Salotic system."
       "How close can we get to it?"
       "Now's the closest."
       The Colonel nodded. "Captain. We need to separate to drop out of the conduit."
       "Understood. Deactivating tractor beam on your mark." He nodded to Mr. Dubin at the bridge station. He nodded back.
       "Mr. Kavel. You have the con."
       "Wan... RAVEN. Stand by for separation on three... two... one.... NOW."
       It wasn't smooth. But it was sudden.
       Then both ships were back in normal space.
       "Damage control. Report. All stations all systems." Lukas said when his teeth stopped rattling.
       "Nothing major." The chief engineer said in a second. "I've got some yellow lights on a few secondary systems. We had a stabilizer overload. We're on it."
       "Colonel? You still with us?"
       "Yes sir. We had some minor problems as well. We'll be back to usual shortly. We're trying to determine how far we are from Warens."
       Ellingsworth brought up his maps. "Looks like we're still in the neighborhood. Less than a parsec from the coordinates of Warens."
       The Colonel glanced at Marot, she nodded quickly. "Confirmed. OK. We need to change our plans slightly. Captain. How would you like a cloaking device?"
       "Colonel, I am shocked. Cloaking devices are forbidden by treaty on Star Fleet...." He was grinning ear to ear.
       "Protest duly noted."
       "How long would it take to install?"
       "Mr. Kavel?"
       "On it. Patch me through to Mel and have Jon meet me in engineering."

       Within the hour they had installed a small but very effective cloaking device in main engineering of the RAVEN.
       "It doesn't completely mask the ship's profile. So technically, it is not prohibited by the treaties." Barnhart said.
       "Technically." Lukas looked doubtful.
       "For all intents and purposes it makes us look like an piece of space junk." Mr. Dubin said.
       "As long as it works for today. What does it do to our power utilization?"
       "Barely noticeable."
       "Keep it that way."

       They outlined their now slightly different strategy.
       The remotely piloted vessels would make a feint attack on Warens while the RAVEN went after the refueling depot. Then the remotes would turn to support the RAVEN's assault. If any of the guard-ships followed and opened up a hole for the black ship to launch against the planet, they would. If not. Everything would turn back toward the planet, real starship included, and force the issue until either the black ship or the RAVEN could launch against it.
       "So. What's our chances?" Chuck Vega asked as he got his armor on as part of the bridge anti-intruder team.
       Ryan just looked at him.

The cheese

       "All systems all stations reporting go Colonel."
       "Very good Captain. Let's go."
       "Helm. Assault route Alpha. Mr. Brown, engage cloak. Attention all hands, we're going in, shipwide condition Zulu. Commence lock-down and isolation protocols." He nodded to his crew. "Let's go." Then he drew his personal sidearm, something Kada had given him just for the occasion, and made sure it was fully charged.
       Ziggy noticed the weapon. "Expecting to be attacked by an entire battalion of Jem'Hadar?"
       Lukas nodded. "It'd take them down wouldn't it?" He put it back in its side holster. "I'd be happier if I never have to fire it again except at some practice targets down on the holodeck."
       Ryan glanced over at the Captain. "If he gave you that. What's he holding down in the Nest?"
       "I don't want to know." Lukas chuckled a little. "Time to target?"
       "Eight minutes."

       The black ship slipped into its full cloak and moved silently and undetected into the system.
       Aashth was all over his console. "Normal Borg routine, all sectors. They haven't even seen the RAVEN yet."
       The Colonel looked at the screen. "OK. Ready all weapons. Stand by on remotes."
       Another long minute passed.
       Aashth looked up with a strange look on his face. "They are ignoring the RAVEN. One of their patrols just changed course to avoid it."
       A chill went through the Colonel. "Are you sure?"
       "Yes sir. The ship went through a tachyon net. They had to have seen it. Nothing is moving that way, they haven't even scanned it."
       The Colonel thought long and hard. "Something's up. Raise the RAVEN on our secure frequency."

       Lukas didn't like it any more than the Colonel. "We haven't fired a shot."
       "Don't, just take a look around, let's see if we can figure out what they are up to."
       "I'd almost rather be fighting my way in."
       "Me too. I hate waiting."

       The RAVEN made a wide arc around the depot, then they snuck off a quick scan of the facility and it's cubes.
       "Colonel. You're not going to like this either."
       "Try me."
       "We did a passive frequency scan of the refueling center. Something is very wrong here." He paused for a second. "Two of those cubes are hollow. And one of the extended spheres appears to be a decoy, its not even a real ship."
       The Colonel made a quick decision. "OK. We're getting out of here. Mr. Aashth, get ready to launch everything we've got at Warens in one big shot just in case. Wan, set course for that conduit. Mr. Kavel, we're going to run for it. RAVEN, pack it in, this stinks."
       "Should we take out the depot just for the practice? I'd hate to have come all this way for nothing."
       "Sure, go for it."
       Lukas nodded at Hackett. "Rear tubes. Mr. Dickerson, turn us around. Mel! We're leaving prepare for transwarp conduit." In a second the officers said they were ready. "Colonel. We're good to go."
       "Let's do it. Wan engage. Aashth, fire at will."
       The black ship made a quick run toward the planet still cloaked, it fired several missiles and even dropped a few cloaked bombs, then it rolled in space and its engines came to full power.
       "Borg interceptors dead ahead. They are still ignoring the RAVEN and it has fired at the depot." Rontel said. The ship rocketed violently. "They're trying to grab us with a tractor beam."
       "Rotate shields." The Colonel said. "Captain. I believe the trap has been sprung."
       Aashth nodded gravely. "The depot and several cubes, or non-cubes, have been destroyed. By the debris pattern at least one of the ships was real."

       "ATTENTION PRIVATE SHIP FURTHER. We are the Borg. Resistance is Futile. You will be assimilated..."
       The Colonel let them make their speech. "That's nice. Mr. Aashth. They are all yours. Miss Marot, the next Borg that hail us, jam their comm."

       "Let's see if we can take some heat off them." Lukas said to his crew. "Set course that way. Target anything Borg and fire."
       The weapons systems of the RAVEN sprung to life. Several of the smaller Borg ships ceased to exist. They traded shots with a sphere until the sphere had enough and sat burning in space.
       "Now they see us." Ryan said. "Two cubes moving to intercept. Three more trying to cut us off from the Colonel's ship."
       "Keep firing. Mel, keep those shields up."

       "Our turn Captain. Mr. Aashth, let'em have it."
       The weapons man targeted the cubes and fired their secret weapon. One of them exploded, the other took heavy damage and spun out of control.
       "Wan, make for the conduit."
       The pilot rocked slightly in his bracket and scowled at his displays. "No conduit."
       "Confirmed." Rontel said furiously scanning for it. "It's either moved or been deactivated."
       "We don't see it either Colonel. It should be right in front of us."
       "I hate the Borg. Captain. Set course... ahhh... seven nine mark twenty three, coax four. We'll go with plan... what are we up to, plan 'D'?" He grinned tightly.
       "Yes sir. We're right behind you. Engineering, coaxial engines on line. We're jumping... now."
       "Powering up. Do it."

Now what

       The two ships sat in a small cloud of dust as the officers debated their options in Captain Lukas' ready room.
       "Does your replicator make a decent cup of coffee?" The Colonel asked as Mr. Aashth paused before he gave them more bad news.
       "Yes sir. In fact. I'll take one too."
       "The Borg are searching this sector asteroid by asteroid." Aashth said to finish his report while the Colonel ordered their coffee.
       "Where's the closest transwarp conduit?" Lukas asked him.
       "We don't know. They've changed or moved everything within sensor range."
       "Maybe not." Lukas touched his comm. "Engineering. Mr. Dubin, Mel, report to my ready room." He smiled at the Colonel. "This time, I have a plan."

       The Colonel stared at the two engineers over his cup. "How does your detector work differently than my sensors?"
       "It detects the differentiation in virtual particles as well as phase shifted and nul-tachyons." Mr. Dubin answered.
       The Colonel blinked. "Oh. OK." He turned to captain Lukas. "You know. I almost understand that."
       "You need more shore leave."
       "I agree. OK. Will it work while we run under coaxial warp?"
       "Maybe." Engineer Barnhart said with a shrug. "One way to find out."
       The comm broke it up. "RED ALERT. Battle Stations. Borg ships have entered the system. Coming this way. All hands to Condition Zulu stations." The RAVEN XO screamed from the speakers.
       "Let's get mov..." Lukas started to say, he looked over at the Colonel who was being enveloped in the grayish energy of his transporter. "...moving."

       But it wasn't that easy.
       The two ships ended up in a running shootout with several Borg ships just getting out of that system and never had enough clear space to make the jump to coaxial warp.
       "Detector control to Captain Lukas. We're showing a conduit to starboard, just out of sensor range."
       "Can you tell where it goes."
       "No sir. But it's away from here."
       "Good enough." Lukas turned to Ellingsworth. "Raise the Colonel. Helm, set course for the conduit. Engineering, get ready to work your magic."

       "I'm still not showing a conduit anywhere near here." Aashth said.
       "We'll take the chance. Wan, follow the RAVEN."
       "You're in charge Captain."
       "Yes sir. Jon where is it?"
       "Fifty thousand kilometers, closing fast. Get ready."
       "Engaging transwarp field." Mel said to everybody.
       "Transwarp." Wan echoed.
       "Conduit detected." Aashth almost sighed.
       "We're ready." Kavel said from his engineering station.
       "Tractor beam on." Lukas ordered. "Mr. Dickerson. Take us in."

       The conduit didn't take them home. But it did take them elsewhere.
       "Well. At least there are no Borg around." Lukas said looking at the strange starfield on the main screen. "OK. Where are we?"
       "Working on it." Ellingworth answered. "Ahh, we are in the Alpha Quadrant. But we're not in the Federation."
       Lukas didn't say anything.
       "Mr. Aashth, can you confirm this location?" The Stellar Cartographer said to his comm as he brought the bridge of the black ship up on the screen. "I don't have map references for this system."
       "Looks good John." Aashth nodded.
       "Well?" The Colonel said to them.
       "We're in a system called Gurten 7."
       "Called that by who?" Lukas asked Aashth.
       "The Preen."
       The Captain shook his head. He'd never heard of them.
       "We're not actually in their space. We're on the far side of it."
       "Show me."
       The screen changed to a map of the quadrant.
       "Well. At least we can get there from here."
       "Through Preen Space, through the Klingon Empire... but... yeah." The Colonel nodded. "While it's quiet. Let's doublecheck everything. Then get under way."
       Lukas agreed. "Question Colonel."
       "Yes sir."
       "Did you at least manage to destroy Warens?"
       "Yes sir." He nodded to Aashth. In a second the screens showed the planet being engulfed in a huge fireball as it shattered. "Whether there was any micrograded dilithium on it doesn't even matter. We got it."
       Lukas nodded. "One more question. In this Preen Space. Have there been any rumors of Borg outposts?"
       "I don't know... Let me check my records."
       "Yes sir." Lukas nodded slowly. "Nevermore."

End mission

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