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The Looming Shadow.

Part 1, Descending Darkness

prologue

"Captains log, federation starship USS Patton, Captain George Riker commanding. Today is a great day for the federation, hours ago the federation and the Klingon empire signed the Khitomer accords, peace now exists between our people. As a result patrols along the Klingon Neutral zone are to be reduced immediately, and that means we can go home."

The Patton eased gracefully through space, turning gently onto her new heading for home.

"Course for Earth locked in Captain." Lieutenant Hyde reported.

"Engage at warp five." Riker ordered with a wide smile. It was a sentiment the entire staff felt, the entire crew. Peace with the Klingons, it was almost too good to believe, after all this time they could finally rest secure. Even better, at current speed he could be home in time to see his child born.

His ship darted off into warp, leaving the neutral zone and years of memories far behind, a new future opened up. The elegant lines of his ship, one of the new Lexington class, rushed home with eagerness, despite its metal and mineral body it was almost as if it too wanted to go home, to rest in the confines of spacedock after all this time on the edge of federation territory. But it was not to be.

The ship shook a little, almost imperceptibly.

"Did you feel something?" Riker glanced to the helmsman.

"Nothing in this region of space sir."

"Confirmed." Sirak, the science officer noted, "no celestial phenomenon in this region that would account for a disturbance."

"But you did feel it." Riker pointed out. "How are our engines?" the last thing he wanted was a delay getting home.

Looks fine to me." Hyde reported, as he did a more violent judder hit.

"Increase speed," Riker ordered, "Adjust course to take us around this region."

A sudden much more powerful jolt rocked the ship sending a number of unsecured items scattering across the blue carpet.

"Subspace shockwave!" Hyde yelled.

"Where's it coming from?" Riker demanded

"Unknown." Sirak stated, calm but still having to raise his voice. "It is disrupting our warp field."

"Drop to impulse, raise shields!" Riker was both concerned and more than a little annoyed. He was ready for battle, had the Klingons played a trick? Was the treaty merely to put Starfleet off its guard for an attack? Riker was fuming, if this was a surprise strike he was going to rip it out of their Klingon hides before going to hell.

The Patton dropped out of warp ready for a fight, but found nothing.

"Any sign of ships?" Riker wondered.

"No sir." Sirak spoke with typical Vulcan stoicism. "Though they could be cloaked."

Before Riker could ponder his next course of action his science officers station came alive.

"Massive energy surge, all around us." He was infuriatingly calm. "Unknown origin, but appears to be a form of subspace."

The Patton rocked violently as the energies were suddenly released, an invisible storm tossing the little ship before. From the eye of the storm emerged something of terror, maybe a vessel, maybe a creature. It filled the viewscreen with its fearsome visage staring straight at Riker. It passed very close by, for a few moments it was almost touching the Patton before it vanished once more in a wave of energy. The Patton was tossed once again, buckling and twisting in the force.

"We're caught in the backwash!" Hyde yelled.

"Get us out of here!" Riker demanded, his own surprise and sudden fear barely suppressed by his responsibility to his crew.

"Its too late." Calm to the end Sirak broke the news with no compassion.

The Patton winked out of existence, lost into a different world. Wherever the unknown disturbance had led was where the Patton had gone, lost.

Its passing was noted by two ships, one was a federation vessel, though not of this time. Its tiny size hiding a fearsome ability and the amazing ability to traverse time. It was centuries out of place, but observing the unfolding events with precise scrutiny.

The second ship was even further out of time, as ancient as time itself. Both watched unaware of each other as events were set in motion.

A long time afterwards….

The Dominion war was long over, but Starfleet still kept finding little surprises left behind. A few mines here, unexploded torpedoes there, all of them a hazard to shipping and all of them needed removing. But by far the most important task in the aftermath of the war was making sure the Dominion facilities deep in Cardassian space were properly decommissioned, and that is why they were here.

The USS Titan dropped out of warp deep in Cardassian territory, there it was met by a Klingon cruiser and a Cardassian patrol vessel. Technically the Cardassians were on the Federations side now, but there were still renegade forces, those Cardassians who had been very close to the Dominion and after the armistice risked facing trial for warcrimes. They were the main headache of the new Cardassian government, and in a gesture of friendship the Federation and Klingons had offered to help find them and remove their facilities, and much to everyone's surprise the Cardassians had actually agreed.

So it was that Captain William Riker took his new ship into Cardassian territory on his first true test. The refitted Galaxy class headed in system and was hailed by the Cardassian vessel.

"On screen." Riker had a relaxed command style, something learned from years as a first officer. He respected his old commanders approach, and in tense situations Riker took a leaf right out of Picards book, but most of the time he tried to be more approachable than the often crusty older officer.

"Greetings Captain." A smiling Cardassian face grinned at him. Riker was a little disturbed, he wasn't a huge fan of Cardassians but at least this one appeared more genuine than the superscillious officers he usually dealt with. "I am glad to see the Federation takes this matter so seriously." The sight of a war refit Galaxy had clearly had something of a mixed affect on the Cardassian crew.

"Thank you for allowing us access to your territory." Riker was in top Picard mode. "The Federation appreciates your welcome and is determined to assist your people as best we can. Now, where is the base so we can proceed with the dismantlement?"

There was an awkward silence.

"Well Captain," the Cardassian searched for the right words. "We seem to have lost it."

Riker was genuinely taken aback. His instincts urged him to be suspicious.

"With all due respect, the Cardassians aren't known for losing things, let alone something as big as a base."

The Cardassian officer bristled a little. "Our records are quite clear, there is a base in this asteroid field where the Obsidian order tested new weapons and torture devices, but it isn't there now."

Riker liked a mystery, but this smacked more of a wild goose chase, some first mission.

"Very well," he sighed. "We will conduct a scan of the area."

"We will escort you there." The Cardassian vanished, an image of his ship appearing in his place. It turned and headed to the nearby field.

"Follow them Mr Kellerman." He told the helm officer. "Inform the Klingons to wait on the edge of the field and be ready to back us up." Riker was an excellent poker player, it had honed his senses and given him healthy respect for a bluff. The Cardassian was a bit off to Riker, like he was hiding something. If this was a trap he wanted a solid fall back, someone to watch his back, and he could thing of no one better than the Klingons. Despite differences the Dominion war had united them like never before, now Riker trusted them as much as a fellow Federation Captain, hell he had even started trusting Romulans. Just a little.

They entered the asteroid field and immediately found sensors and communications became badly effected. The Obsidian order had been smart to hide their base here, if they weren't right on top of it they probably wouldn't detect it. The science officer worked on it but sensor range was badly curtailed. Perfect hiding place.

"This is where it was." A Cardassian voice came over the comm. System. Sure enough ahead of the Titan was nothing but an empty space, rather unusual in the middle of an asteroid field.

"Captain, we have some faint readings." Science officer Mallard reported, "very faint sir, I doubt the Cardassians could detect it."

"What do you make of it?" Riker questioned.

"A trail, heading away into the field."

"Inform the Cardassian ship, then follow the trail." Riker paused far a moment. "And raise shields."

The Titan led the way deeper into the field, the small Cardassian ship followed. Things were getting ominous, follow a trail of breadcrumbs into the beasts layer. Riker smiled at the thought, a refit galaxy was a tough opponent for anyone, whatever happened he was confident in his ship and crew.

"Captain!" Mallards voice rang out across the bridge. "The Cardassian ship was just destroyed!"

"On screen!" The view switched to behind, a cloud of debris clearly visible.

"Where did the fire come from?" Riker wanted to know.

"Reading energy surges behind us, very large."

"Red alert! Brink us about and inform the Klingon cruiser. Plot an escape route and be ready just in case." He didn't want to run from an unprovoked attack but it was reassuring to have something to fall back on.

"Incoming transmission"

The comms system was suddenly swamped by an all powerful transmission.

"We are Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ship. Your biological and cultural distinctiveness will adapt to service us. We are Borg. Resistance is futile."

Riker grimaced, at least it explained where the Cardassian station went.

"Borg cube entering sensors!" Mallard barely kept his composure.

Suddenly that escape route looked pretty good.