Chapter 8

"The Trip"

USS Excelsior:

Yoriko Taganawa bowed gently to Captain Sulu as she stepped across Excelsior's threshold. In classic Japanese fashion Sulu returned the bow, which elicited a broad smile from the displaced EA Navigation's Officer.

"Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Taganawa, Lieutenant Norton," the Captain said. "As soon as the others are onboard, we will be on our way. Ensign Shoni will show you to you to your quarters after we begin our journey. But first I want you on the bridge."

Quickly they arrived on the bridge where the five Earth Alliance officers would be on hand to witness what would be a historic event.

On the bridge, Sulu sat in the 'big chair' as he liked to call it, grabbed his antique china cup. He sipped a bit of tea, smiled a bit, pleased at the taste and then got serious. "Coordinates set. Warp one-engage." The smoothly ship accelerated towards the Beta quadrant. "Start reconfiguration."

"Aye, Captain," Navigator Lee-Krutonoh, responded. He tapped out the sequence and the Excelsior's deflector dish began to emit subspace particles. The ship rocked gently, just enough to be noticeable.

Subspace disappeared. Onscreen, the familiar pattern of computer-generated stars changed. The ship was now in some type of blue green tunnel. Energy pulses were seen everywhere, some static and some of them moving far faster than the ship. The scene was intoxicating, and Sulu had to pull himself out of a stupor. The sights in front of them entranced everyone on the bridge. The starship had slipped into a vast, clearly delineated space lane with no more effort than turning on a light switch

"Amazing, it was so easy," Lee-Krutonoh whispered. "It's a subspace tunnel system, as wide as Jupiter and Saturn placed together. Sir, can you see it?"

"Yes," Sulu answered. "Those lights look artificially created," he said loud enough for everyone to hear. "What kind of readings are we getting?"

"The energy readings are like nothing I've ever seen before. Out scans indicate that we're moving better than warp 9.95 and accelerating, but we're at warp one. Correction," the Helmsman Angelo Tiffe said. "Outside sensors indicate that our speed just went off the scale."

Now the captain was concerned. "How's the ship?" he asked.

"We're in perfect shape. Ship's readings are green across the board," the Nav officer said. "I don't understand this. Our nav systems are working perfectly. We know exactly where we are." He looked around, nervous. It was as if his nav computer was receiving additional data that was helping to guide the ship and keep it stabilized.

"It's like the hyper-channel in jumpspace but a lot smoother," Yoriko said.

"I don't know if it's smoother," Sulu said quietly after he thought about that for a moment. "There are many possibilities for this. From the data we've gathered, the hyperchannel is just as artificial as this conduit is. It may be that your ships are not designed to take full advantage of the channel. It could also be that the hyperchannel you used may be damaged or out of alignment in some way."

"Did they give you all the information concerning jumpspace?" Thomas asked. "We worked on that project quite hard giving your Federation all of the data we had."

Sulu nodded.

"Using the deflectors," Lee-Krutouoh answered, "we can now generate jump points fairly easily, but it's going to take time to learn the nuances of traveling in that dimension. That's something we'll discuss with your government as one of several negotiation points. Those discussions will..." staring at the screen, he saw a large planet barrowing towards them. "Eh, Captain!?" He froze for an instant, not believing what he was seeing.

"Tiffe! Full evasive!"

"Helm won't answer!" Angelo yelled. "Sensors never detected it!"

A moment later the starship slammed into the planet-went through it-passed out the other side."

Stunned and breathing normally once more, Sulu jumped out of his seat. "Exactly what happened? I want answers now!" Reverse screen showed the huge planet receding quickly. It shrank to a pinpoint and then disappeared.

"Sir, the sensors never detected the planet, or whatever it was. We passed right through it as if it wasn't there! The ship shows green lights across the board. Deflectors never registered anything."

'That was certainly different.' "Was it an illusion?" the Captain asked.

"We're not in subspace, sir but something else entirely different," Angelo answered slowly, allowing himself time to develop some type of logical explanation. "This, this conduit may be a dimensional interface. Multiple realities may exist here at the same time. The planet we saw may exist in another quantum reality but close enough for us to perceive visually, but not the sensors. Theoretically these perceptions into other quantum realities may ultimately lead to extra-dimensional corridors that we will be able to use for exploration in the future. Or that planet may be located in another level of the channel not necessarily relative to out time and space. Subspace has an infinite number of levels and this channel may have some of the same attributes. It does seem to be artificial and the creators may have designed it to access these other domains. At least that's my theory," he added somewhat sheepishly.

'There is so much to learn,' Sulu thought. "Make sure that we record all visuals and take time to log in our own personal observations for our scientists so that they can try to understand what's happening. For now, continue our present course and make sure astrometrics is recording every centimeter of this journey. Oh, and Mr. Tiff?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"If we run into a sun, try your best to ignore it," the Captain said with absolute seriousness.

The man gulped. "Yes, Sir."

From behind, Angelo heard Thomas mutter under his breath. "Where do these people think up this stuff?" He and the others had been terrified at this experience and here these people were spouting theories on the fly and spouting morbid jokes about crashing into suns.

As Sulu thought about the comment, he realized that the man had a point.

Comms Officer Lieutenant Commander Rand simply smiled. It could have been worse. They could have been on the Enterprise. There the worst really did happen.

Minbari Sharlin NightShine:

On the Minbari command ship, Sharkiri grew increasingly agitated as tiny bits of information were gleaned from the captured wreckage of the destroyed Federation vessel. There wasn't much useful material left, not to mention that the technology was truly alien, but preliminary analysis of the hull revealed startling data. It was as nearly as tough as Minbari crystallize armor, and the main power source was confirmed to be derived from antimatter annihilation at levels much higher levels than comparable Centauri energy generators. In fact, power generation for these vessels were extreme for their size. Those vessels may be small but they were dangerous. Sadly, none of them were configured like the large one that participated in the destruction of the Straight Blade and the Dark sword. That was the one thing he regretted about the entire mission. The entire council had demanded that the ship with the Earth ship name Enterprise be destroyed. But it hadn't been in the sector and they had never run across that vessel. A shame really; however the prime directives of the Grey Council had been accomplished.

They were returning home, and the human threat was eliminated, with the exception of Riza. Briefly, he and his Captains considered destroying it, but they decided against it as there were too many other species intermingling with them. The Humans were of concern, not them. There would be only a few remaining Humans left. Still this Federation might consider some form of retribution; a remote possibility one worth considering by the Council. If these people ever discovered the secrets of jumpspace and then the hyperchannel, then it might be possible for some of the remaining Humans to return to Earth. Of course, if the warrior caste had its way, Earth would be a dead, rotting corpse by then.

Theoretically, the colonial Humans should already have returned to earth since they obviously have been coming here for quite a while. There some gaps in that line of reasoning though. That was something that bothered him. Maybe they lost the science behind it, or maybe not. He didn't know. But still they obviously knew of the channel or the Earthers would not have fled here. To err on the side of caution, he would recommend that a cruiser be placed as a sort of patrol to travel the hyperchannel pathway for the next dozen or so years, so that anyone using it would be detected. The Minbari couldn't afford have these people coming to their space and attacking them in the future.

For now, hyperspace called to him like a lost lover. They were going home and he was happy. His missed his children and his beloved wife. He and his fellow caste-mates needed to be there in time to participate in the elimination of the Earther's home world. The few remaining Humans here in this Valen-forsakened area of space would be terrified for generations and that was just what he wanted. After all, there should be a few left to tell the tales to their children to frighten them in their sleep.

Starfleet Command HQ:

At Starfleet General Combat & Tactical was meeting late into the night. Tempers were flaring. The Admiral was fuming as he read the reports. "This is Starfleet's problem, right here," Tapin said. "That short-minded council is going to get us all killed. They couldn't wait to mothball Starfleet. Peace is laudable, but it's not peaceful out here. We have the Romulans and that new race that's a war waiting to happen, the Cardassions."

"The Cardassians," Kirk corrected. "They're full of bluster but not that much of a threat to us right now."

"'Right now' being the operative word," Tapin sneered. "Make no mistake about it; we will have to deal with them one day soon. And what are we going to do if we gut the fleet, throw rocks at them?"

"They realize the danger, Admiral," Admiral Kirk said. "The cooler heads will prevail. You know we haven't had a major war in over one hundred eighty years. We have to trust in the system."

Tapin deflated visibly. "I want peace as much as everyone else, but I wonder about the Federation and its so-called politicians. That treat with the Klingons almost gutted our offensive capabilities."

That was true, Kirk had to acknowledge. Before the attack, part of the treaty had stipulated that photon torpedo yields were to be downgraded by twenty percent on agreement with the Klingons that they become a defensive force for their territory and not aggressively pursue their local neighbors. With the Minbari attack fresh on everyone's mind, that part of the treaty was quietly shelved-but only temporarily. "We have to have faith in more than just our weapons."

"I agree," the tall dark-skinned man answered. "We going to have to get past this kind of nonsense but we're not there yet and neither are they."

"Give us a few hundred years, give or take," Kirk mentioned."

"What does that mean?" Tapin asked, genuinely curious.

"Just something a Metron once said. We're not quite civilized yet, but given time there's hope for us."

Tapin nodded. "Interesting. I remember reading that report. That was a long time ago."

"Coffee, Sir," Captain Aju said sitting the hot steaming liquid in front of Tapin. "Sir, there are a couple of Constitution prototypes that might be of use on this mission. They were designed as heavy weapon's platforms for deep space border patrol. With the signing of the treaty they were decommissioned and are now scheduled to be converted into deep space explorers. The Mirandas are good but the Soyuz's are better. They can be configured for heavier combat. We can add two more torpedo launchers each. If we use those Connies, a Soyuz with two Mirandas as anchors, they will have two very effective fighting unit in the fleet."

"Excellent idea, Captain," Tapin announced. "They're fast and will be able to cover each other and the bigger ships if necessary, not to mention the extra firepower would be welcomed."

"Speed is our biggest weapon," Kirk added. "The Minbari are masters at using j-space as a weapon. If we maintain the same trajectory and speeds, they will tear us apart with their transition distortions. Random, evasive maneuvers should mandatory in all combat situations. At space normal speeds, they will be able to track us and every ship we lose will lessen our firepower. Our weapons are superior but we'll be in their territory and they will know the terrain and have superior numbers. We must not underestimate them."

"Agreed," said Chang, and both Kirk and Tapin winced. "We will take the battle to them. The Minbari wish to exterminate humanity. Bring the war to them and beat them into submission." Smirking, he looked at the Starfleet officers. "I've talked to the prisoners, Tapin," he said, all the while looking at Kirk. "Have you? Have you really?"

"Yes," Captain Spock answered once again speaking for Kirk. "They are a passionate people. In many ways, their passion reminds me of the Romulans."

"Yes, you've talked to them," Chang said quickly. "You understand passion, but you can't feel the burning lust for destruction in his soul. Inside him there beats the passion of a warrior, these people want you destroyed, not simply defeated. Could you not feel the heat of conflict within him?"

"No," Chang said answering his own question. "Because you are Vulcan you could never fully comprehend this warrior. I understand how he feels because I feel the same way. We are of a kind, his people and mine." He hesitated for a moment to let his words sink in. "You must be prepared to exterminate them all. If you are not, then this war is already lost."

"Starfleet will, not be an instrument of genocide," Kirk coldly responded. "And, when possible, we will always be open to allow for a peaceful resolution. We're going there to stop this war from spreading."

"By any means necessary," Chang countered loudly. "My people are in this, too and I will not allow Federation mercy to be the cause of our destruction. This is war. Be prepared to do what is necessary," he added. "Or, we will."

"We will do whatever is necessary to end this-conflict," Tapin said.

"That is all that the Klingon people ask," Chang answered slyly. Then he looked at Kirk once more.

The Admiral never blinked. He understood the message. The gauntlet had been thrown down and James T. Kirk accepted it.

The Minbari main fleet:

The Grey Council received the news of the destruction of the Earth colony with a collective sigh of relief. The warrior caste was angry that the infiltration fleet hadn't destroyed the ship responsible for the destruction of the two Tinashi frigates. But it would have been foolhardy to search for the ship, especially when the reports came in as to how dangerous this Federation was. More of their ships had been lost in that one conflict than the Humans had ever managed to achieve during the entire war. The visuals were frightening as the Human Federation weapons tore into and destroyed Minbari ships-of-the-line with impunity. Their warships couldn't jam the Human audio or visual transmissions, as they didn't use tachyons for that purpose. Minbari stealth was all but useless against them. The protective shields surrounding the space station, the colony defensive positions, and the enemy ships were all formidable technologies. The Humans here must never be allowed to acquire the secrets from their alien brethren. The Grey council had breathed a collective sigh of relief. The important thing was that the Humans had been crippled and would not be able to assist their doomed brethren in any way or form. In another five months, the war would be over and the EA Humans a memory.

In a small way, Satai Delenn almost wished that the other Humans could have aided their brethren. In that way maybe the war would not have ended in genocide but maybe as some sort of compromise. But she let those thoughts pass. The others would have come to avenge their homeworld and her people would have had to kill them all. And it would be bloody. At least, now there would be a few left alive to continue their line. It was time to concentrate on the remaining Humans here. The Flinn colony was gone. The Humans lost the battle of Sinzar. Mars colony had declared its neutrality, however with the discovery of this other colony, neutrality for Mars was impossible. It was time to finish it. Then maybe one day she would be able to sleep again.

If she and the Minbari people had understood the true depth of their erroneous assumptions concerning the Federation's structure, then none of them would ever have been able to sleep again.

As it was, she and the Minbari had judged the so-called Human Federation within the confines of their own culture. To the Minbari, their concept of the word 'federation' meant that it structured as an association of their own people located in different colonies and worlds. Non-Minbari were mere associates within their Federation but not really a part of it. Of the five major powers known to them all of them were the same. Therefore they never conceived of a Federation as a grouping of different species banding together for mutual protection and trade.

Satai Delenn would have been would have been horrified if she understood the full implications of what had happened in that distant Federated territory. It wasn't just the Humans she had to worry about. It was all of them- coming together in ways she never imagined. The threat hadn't gone away-

-It had been magnified.