Halfway between Pegasus and Milky Way Galaxies.
Colonel Steven Caldwell arrived on the bridge to find most of the alpha shift already manning their stations. Before making a bee line to the captains chair Caldwell took a moment to note the absence of even low level chatter on the bridge. It spoke volumes of how tense the crew was. Having been summoned back on emergency notice more then a week ago Caldwell had initially been surprised as to the reason. The initial reports had been vague and somewhat confusing but it seemed as if Earth and Minbari relations had suddenly taken a turn for the worse, in the middle of the Drahk war no less.
Caldwell of course knew the history between the two powers as did everyone at Stargate Command. What surprised him however was how quickly it had taken for hostilities to resume despite the brave showing of unity both sides had tried to display. And now it seemed as if it was all falling apart; coming unravelled at the seams. The Interstellar Alliance was facing perhaps its greatest challenge yet since its inception and the price of failure threatened to be the death of not just the organization but of Earth itself, perhaps even both of them. He had met Shya Alyt Kathenn during his brief trip to Atlantis a few weeks ago and to say that hostility and arrogance flowed from him in waves would be an understatement. The man often spoke with evident joy his killing of humans and reminisced openly for all to hear his fondness for the war between his people and the Earth Alliance. Caldwell knew the man was trouble personified with a capital T. In hindsight Caldwell shouldn't have been surprised that he would try to rekindle the war, but what did surprise him was how quickly it had happened or at least how quickly it had seemed to the SGC and the Earth Alliance. Clearly Kathenn had been planning this for a while and had used his trip through the gateway to analyze the strength of the SGC before making his next move. So either Kathenn had been unimpressed by what he saw...or he had been deeply frightened. Somehow Caldwell suspected the latter. Men such as Kathenn were cowards, speaking lovingly of a war that was nothing more then a one sided bloodbath. If Earthforce could suddenly match if not surpass the Minbari then the next time they fought the Minbari stood a real chance of loosing. Kathenn had to move now so he could have his one sided slaughter rather then a real war and Caldwell had a sinking feeling he wasn't going to stop with just the Earth Alliance. It was the way the man thought; projecting his own bias and beliefs and it made Caldwell sick to his stomach.
Taking his seat to and focusing his mind Caldwell tapped into the ships internal communications systems. "Hermiod this is the bridge."
"I already know what you are going to ask Colonel and the answer is I can not push the hyperdrive more then it is already being pushed." The taciturn Asgard responded, answering the question he knew was coming.
"The Minbari fleet will be at Earth in a matter of days Hermiod. We need to beat them there." Caldwell pressed. He wasn't willing to let this go just yet.
"It may come as a shock to you Colonel but there are times when there is nothing more we can do. This is such a time." Hermiod responded curtly.
"I don't accept that Hermiod." Caldwell responded coolly.
"Then I shall do the math for you Colonel. It will take the Daedalus nine days to reach Earth at our present speed which I must add we can not maintain for much longer or we risk burning out the drives. The Minbari will arrive at Earth in just under two days. The battle when it happens along with its outcome will be long over with." Hermiod stated with finality.
It took a long moment before a response came. "Very well Hermiod. Keep me posted on the status of the hyperdrive, bridge out." Hermiod muttered something in his native Asgard before returning to his attention to his station. After a moment he felt a pair of eyes on him, turning toward the only other member in the room with him Hermiod asked. "Why do you stare at me like that Dr. Novak?"
"It's nothing." Novak said before turning back to her work station.
"Dr. Novak in my time here aboard the Daedalus I have come to know you especially that look on your face when I say or do something you disapprove of. Just come out and say it."
"Alright" Novak accepted with a frown turning her chair till she faced Hermiod head on. "I don't think you appreciate what the crew is going through. This ship was built to defend Earth and now when our home world is threatened we're not there to make a difference. It's been eating at people and the Colonel in particular."
"What I have stated is the truth and nothing more. It may come as a surprise to you but I do understand what the crew is going through. However wasting our time railing against the inevitable will do nothing except leave the crew exhausted by the time we reach Earth. If by some means Stargate Command has been able to hold out for that long the last thing they need is a damaged warship hindered by an exhausted and emotionally spent crew."
Novak seemed ready to say something in response but stopped short. He was right; as much as it pained her to admit it Hermiod had a point. When the Daedalus returned home the last thing Earth needed was a crew too exhausted to fight well. It would do no one any good. "Your right." Novak said reluctantly "I just wish there was something more we could do."
"Perhaps there is something the crew can do for themselves." Hermiod said.
"What's that?" Novak asked.
"Prayer." Hermiod answered then elaborated when he saw the frown on Novaks face. "It is my understanding that many of the crew believe in the power of prayer do they not?"
"Some do, yes." Novak answered.
"Then pray for those who go into battle to defend your world and may those prayers be delivered on the wings of the Valkyrie."
Earth Alliance defence fleet
Earth Orbit, Earth Alliance.
"What it boils down to Madame President, is that we now have four ships able to take a stand against this enemy." Admiral Joe Tennant laid out gruffly. "Two ships of the Victory class and two head hunters. That's it."
"What about the rest of the fleet?" President Luchenko asked the Video link.
"We have some Warlocks, a few Marathons. Good ships, but against something like this…"
"And the vessels from beyond the rift?"
He shook his head. "Still no word, but based on the reports from Proxima it isn't looking good."
Luchenko sighed. "Did any of our ships make it out?"
"Still unknown Madame President. What we do know is that they did their jobs, they held the line and smashed the enemy fleet. They only missed one."
"The worst one."
"Perhaps, but it's one ship, and as President Sheridan likes to say, no enemy is invincible."
"What is your plan Admiral?"
"Easy enough, we barrage it with our best ships, distract it, then circle seventy Omega destroyers around its flanks and basically pile on."
"Overwhelm it with fire?"
"Actually Madame President, several Captains have volunteered to ram the enemy vessel." Tennant informed. "That will be our main assault."
She nodded grimly. "That is what we have come to?"
"Yes Madame President." He answered. "We will do our jobs, so long as one ship is up here it won't get by without a fight."
"Then I leave you to make final preparations." Luchenko confirmed. "Good luck Admiral."
"To all Madame President."
The President ended the message and fell back in her chair, seemingly exhausted.
"This had better work."
From the edge of the room a shadowed figure smirked.
"It will. This is as expected."
Luchenko gave her a look of disdain. "We lost two dozen ships."
"Easily replaced." The other woman dismissed with characteristic dispassion. "What we lose is nothing compared to what we stand to gain."
Luchenko blinked. "And if we lose the Earth?"
"Don't worry." Agent One said with oily confidence. "I have our countermeasure in place."
"Orbiting Phobos under stealth protocols." She nodded. "They'll never see it coming."
"And you are sure?"
The woman stepped forward, black hair and black eyes set in a ghostly white face.
"Have I ever been wrong?"
Luchenko bit back her answer, and like everyone else waited.
SGC Refit docks
Dark side of the Moon.
The facility was not even finished itself yet, much of it still open to space as technologies and systems were piled in and fitted. Silver panels lined about half of the structure, but incomplete as it was the orbital structure was operational and hard at work.
Built by Edgars-Garibaldi Industries it was a titanic structure four miles long, though the vast majority of that size was girders and berths holding the docking clamps and robotic welders. The habitable portion resided at the rear and bustled with lights and movement within and without. The reason was locked down in front of the facility, the towering tri-wing shape of the Advanced Destroyer Excalibur.
Small drones and space suited workmen busied around it, finishing off the final tweaks and joins to bring her to full readiness, and not a second too soon.
"Let me put it another way." Michael Garibaldi snarled through his cigar. "If it isn't attached properly it shorts out, and you die."
The tech swallowed. "But… I'm not going on the mission, how can it kill me?"
"Because if it does short out, I'll find you and introduce you to my crowbar." Garibaldi grinned darkly. "Clear?"
"Yes Mr Garibaldi."
"Fix it. Fix it now."
The tech scurried away leaving Garibaldi alone in a world of bursting sparks and bolting workers.
"I knew I should have stayed with security. So much easier when people are trying to kill you."
"Come along with us and relive the good old days."
Garibaldi glanced over at Captain Gideon, the dark uniformed man handing off a report to one of the ensigns as he entered an airlock.
"I'd love to, but my insurance no longer covers space battles." He shrugged. "Also my wife would garrotte me."
"And here I was thinking I had problems." Gideon managed a grin.
"I faced Shadows, Psi Corps, hell knows what else." Garibaldi shivered. "But Lise on one of her rants? Shoot me now."
The Earth Force officer chuckled. "Sure about that?"
"I'm not part of the team; I'd just be in the way here unless you got boarded." Garibaldi grunted. "Like the saying goes, I'm getting too old for this."
Gideon nodded. "Minbari then? Been a while since I fought them."
"Some things never change, we got steam rolled."
"I heard." Gideon nodded.
"And now their flagship is heading for Earth." Garibaldi informed. "We've scrambled every ship, but there's only one that's got a prayer of doing the job." He slapped a nearby bulkhead.
"I had a feeling it was going this way." Gideon nodded. "And I was just starting to enjoy it planetside."
"All good things." Garibaldi apologised. "We've got a full debrief for you."
"Thanks, I got the top notes from General Landry on the way over."
"Yeah, well its worse." The executive dropped his voice. "What do you know about Shadow technology?"
Gideon froze, his mind replaying the death flare of the Cerberus, and the shimmering black monster that had doomed her.
"I know plenty."
Garibaldi could see the knowledge reflected in the Captain's eyes.
"Then you know what we're up against, what it can do if it reaches Earth?"
"I got a good idea."
"I mean we only just saved the place, twice." Garibaldi huffed. "Shame to lose it now."
"Well I'd feel pretty bad." Gideon joked grimly. "So we're going to take on this Minbari guy?"
"One on one." Garibaldi said. "Yeah, I know it sucks, but you're our best chance. If you don't stop him we're throwing in the fleet. Even if they win the death toll will be huge."
"Yeah, I see." Gideon nodded. "But honestly, if the Head hunters couldn't stop it, what makes you think we can?"
"Well we pulled a favour or two and got you some upgrades." Garibaldi said.
"We we're already having shields and back up power installed." Gideon recalled.
"Yeah, well, we got you some better stuff." He patted his back. "Let me show you."
On the bridge he was greeted by a pair of green clad legs protruding from the floor, the owner immersed in circuitry beneath one of the command consoles.
"Is that it?"
The console remained unpowered.
"Not yet Colonel." A man replied, fumbling with a laptop in his arms. "Keep trying."
"Yeah, yeah. Keep trying." The female voice grumbled.
Gideon gave the scene a curious glance. "So what exactly are you doing to my ship?"
The man stiffened. "Captain Gideon."
"And you are?"
"Doctor Lee, we were nearly done."
From under the console the woman pushed herself out, revealing the blonde locks of Colonel Carter.
"Bill, take over for a minute will you? Just fine tune it."
They changed places, Carter shaking hands with the Captain.
"Welcome back, sorry to cut off your time on Earth like this…"
"I'm used to it in this job." He responded. "So what happened there?"
"That?" Carter glanced at the tangle. "Well General O'Neill saw the reports from Proxima and thought it might need a more… direct response."
She opened up a laptop displaying a schematic of the ship.
"Originally we were placing secondary Naquadah reactors in these areas and Goa'uld variant shields around here. Well after what we saw General O'Neill authorised the upgrade to Asgard shields."
"What's the difference?" Gideon asked
"They are the strongest defences known to man." Carter said. "And we're putting four on the Excalibur. Our own ships normally only have space for one."
"Damn, those little guys can take a beating." Garibaldi allowed. "With four times the ability…"
"Then we stand a good chance of going toe to toe with that Minbari Bastard." Gideon finished.
"In theory the shields will operate as a chain." Carter said. "When one fails the next in line takes over. We don't have the raw power to exceed the peak shielding of a 304, but with four generators you can last four times longer before they all fail."
"Pretty smart." Gideon nodded.
"I came up with it on the back of an envelope on the way up here." Carter admitted.
"Wait, wait, wait." Garibaldi held up a hand. "On the back of an envelope?"
"No calculations, computer models…"
He paused. "Is this going to work?"
Carter beamed a radiant smile. "Trust me."
Battleship Drala D'Vost
Sol System, Earth Alliance
"This is not the first time I have seen these worlds." Shai Alyt Kathenn intoned. "But it will be the last."
He glared at the holographic display plotting their course around the worlds of the sol system to Earth itself.
"We will exit again near Saturn to take final readings." His second informed. "Then jump direct to the gateway and destroy it."
"Agreed." The Senior officer said. "And then Earth itself."
"We have biological weapons armed, retrieved from our arsenal."
Kathenn grinned. "The only good thing Deathwalker did for us. Credit where it is due, she certainly earned that title."
"We can cut through the defences, launch the weapons then withdraw. No need to take on their ships." The officer said.
"And this time no five year wait no chance of a cure, not from these weapons." Kathenn smiled. "Humanity ends and we achieve our destiny. We find honour."
He turned slowly.
"This all started with them, the rot in Minbari society, it all falls to the humans."
"Sir, what of the weakness of the Council?"
"Councils change, they grow stronger when needed. But if we had never met humans our world would still be whole, and strong. We can't change that, but we can try to put it right."
He returned his gaze to the display.
"Our world is still suffering at human hands, and as warriors we are pledged to defend it and destroy its attackers. So we will, with this ship."
"She is wonder of our race." The officer agreed.
"And yet not of our race." Kathenn chuckled. "Her technology was a gift to our people."
"From a race that hates humans as much as we do. Former servants of the Shadows." He intoned darkly. "Yes, I know, dealing with them is repulsive but a necessity. For all their flaws, the Shadows were never weak."
"No, not the Drakh." Kathenn smiled thinly. "Much, much worse."
"Bringing main power up to full." Lieutenant John Matheson informed calmly. "Engines are ready, all systems in the green."
"Auxiliary power looking good." Colonel Carter added, seated on the right of the bridge monitoring the installed systems. "Naquadah reactors on standby, ready to feed into the main grid on your word."
"Are we sure the relays will hold?" Gideon sat uncomfortably in his chair. "We're pumping a lot of power through them."
"They'll hold." Carter confirmed. "I tested them personally."
"Good enough for me." The Captain nodded briskly. "Alright XO, detach clamps and move us away."
Outside the shining hull of the vessel began to move, gliding past the girders and struts holding it like a spider web, inching forward and slowly picking up speed. From the station the work crews paused to watch her go, wishing her luck on her vital mission. Stood among them was Michael Garibaldi, customary cigar fixed between his teeth.
"Let God stand between you and harm, in all the empty places you must walk."
He huffed after whispering the words.
"Superstitious bull, give 'em hell Excalibur!"
The room broke in supporting cheers, waving and hurling their wishes for luck and fortune at the departing ship, the smooth wings slipping the mechanical bonds of the station and accelerating into space.
"Sir, the gateway station is activating the dimensional gate for us." Matheson informed.
"Acknowledge Lieutenant, standby to jump as soon as we're through."
"They're sending the latest updates." Matheson paused, pressing his ear piece closer to his temple as he focused on the signal. "The enemy ship is already in the Sol system."
Gideon cursed. "Where?"
"Outer worlds, base don jump trajectory looks like she's moving to Saturn."
"Why Saturn?" Carter asked.
"Probably to get a clear scan of the inner worlds, check out our defences." Gideon said. "Then make its final jump straight into battle."
"Is there anything valuable near Saturn?" she wondered again.
"Nothing, which makes it the perfect place to do this." Gideon affirmed. "Lieutenant, we jump to Saturn as soon as we're clear."
Gideon sharply activated the ship wide communications net. "Attention all hands, I'll make this quick. We're about to engage the enemy, the most powerful ship on record. We've got one chance to stop it, if we fail a lot of people die. We can do the job, we've got the ship, we've got the training and we've got the will. Earth is counting on us and praying for us. Action stations."
"Captain, coming up on the gateway." Carter informed.
"Take us through, flank speed." Gideon ordered. "Through the gates of hell."
The Destroyer ploughed through the giant rippling vortex, sending massive ripples through the Supergate as it punched through like a bullet and vanished. On the other side the water like horizon flickered slightly, then exploded as the sharp prow of the Excalibur roared out, proudly announcing its name.
The ship was less than halfway through before it was opening its own vortex, a sink hole of golden light that drained into hyperspace, swallowing the battleship with it before shrinking away to nothing.
"Hyperspace entry confirmed, Saturn beacon locked." Matheson reported. "At this rate we'll be there in seconds."
"Very well, bring weapons online." Captain Gideon commanded. "We go in ready for a fight."
"Neutron cannons armed, interceptors confirm status ready." Matheson checked off. "Primary cannon also functional."
"Colonel?" He glanced over to Carter.
"Shields are available." She confirmed. "We're as ready as we'll ever be."
Gideon nodded, looking calmly across the bridge and summoning his own conviction.
"This is the decider people. We've already lost a lot of good people to this monster. No more."
"Coming up on Saturn sir."
"Initiate jump sequence, full sweep once we're through." Gideon fastened his seat belts. "I got a feeling this is going to get rough."
The return to normal space was far from subtle, a silver dart racing from the flickering blue jump point and diving towards Saturn, the ringed giant boiling in massive storm clouds, previewing the violence soon to be unleashed above it.
"Interesting." Kathenn frowned. "One ship."
"Yes Shya Alyt, Victory class." His aide reported. "The Excalibur."
"Pride of the human arsenal." He grinned. "No escorts?"
"So it is single combat he wants? Perhaps there is one among humanity who has earned a noble death."
"Shall we engage sir? The schedule…"
"We can spare a little time to break this vessel." Kathenn informed. "Move us out of cover and intercept."
The black ship began to push forward, inky black sides trickling like living oil as it crossed into sunlight and abandoned its hiding place within the planetary rings. It pointed its bow at the Excalibur and rapidly accelerated.
"Hostile Contact!" Matheson called. "It's him!"
"Intercept course, forward batteries stand by!" Gideon called. "Shields!"
"Online!" Carter tapped out. "Naquadah generators at sixty percent capacity and ready to go up to full."
"Hold at sixty, anymore and we'll melt the shield conduits."
The Excalibur swung about under gravitic power, its main engines growling with intent as the ship set its guns on the monstrosity heading towards it."
"Coming into range." Matheson read. "Sensors having a hard time locking."
"We'll get in closer." The Captain said. "Fire at will."
The Grey ship angled around, facing the Minbari ship head on before finally engaging. The bow Neutron cannons blasted across space, the green shards of energy running over the black vessel like ripples of light on impossible blackness. In response the Drala D'Vost fired back, its bright purple slicer cannon smashing into the shields with massive power, shuddering the ship and lingering in a haze of white and blue.
"Shields holding!" Carter yelled over the rattling.
"Helm, close range pass!" Gideon roared. "All turrets, fire at point blank!"
The warship rolled slightly to bring its upper guns to bear, sliding around the flanks of the Minbari flagship. The turreted Neutron guns splashed energy over the Shadow armour while in turn blue slicer beams fired from the Drala's secondary mounts, slowly taking percentage points off the shields as the ships came within yards of each other.
"Aft weapons, fire!"
Both ships exchanged parting shots, and as before each hit was absorbed by the respective defences.
"Negligible damage to enemy ship." Matheson said grimly.
"This is going to take a while." Gideon muttered. "Hard about, hit it again!"
The two ships circled around and made another pass, again the potent slicer cannon had the best of the exchange, the neutron cannons failing to come close to the enemy vessels overload point.
"No good sir, the diffusers are handling everything we throw at it." Matheson grimaced.
"Shields are still active." Carter said. "But at this rate we'll lose power before he does."
The battleship shuddered as another salvo flew into it.
"Alright, lets try something else." Gideon said. "Take us into the rings."
"We're more agile than him, make him work if he wants to kill us, every miss is one more volley we can take before breaking." Gideon ordered. "Do it, and standby for a full power shot from the main guns."
The Excalibur turned sharply away and bolted for the nearby rings, loose jumbles of rocks and ice that would do little to shield it but could throw off the enemies aim, especially as the big ship was slewing through the rocks with remarkable grace.
The Drala was not giving up, she followed at high speed and gave chase, filling the void with multicoloured fire as she sliced through the detritus seeking her target. Shields blazed with each strike, shadow armour glimmered as it soaked up energy and between the two rocks shattered in clouds of dust as they were caught in the high speed duel.
"Enemy dead astern, firing!"
The Excalibur shook violently twice, then third time, the lights getting noticeably dimmer.
"That's getting worse." Gideon commented.
"Shields are weakening." Carter confirmed. "But we've still got lots of life in us yet."
"I hope so." The Captain smirked. "Alright helm, lets do what we came here for. Break away and come about. Lieutenant, standby main gun."
The Excalibur rose out of the ice and stone like a bird leaving cloud cover and arced elegantly into space before executing a tight back flip to point its prow at the Shadow enhanced warship.
"I see it." Kathenn said calmly.
"Reading an energy spike." The second said. "She's preparing to fire her main cannon."
"Let it." The Commander grinned. "It can't hurt us, and when it does we'll have it at our mercy."
The Excalibur darkened momentarily as the main gun charged, then fingers of yellow light stabbed forward, merging at the bow before exploding forward in a giant shock of lightning. The strike hit the Drala D'Vost square on, the black hull turning white as the Diffusers worked at full power to soak up and radiate the energy in a bright halo. The vessel shimmered in light, but did not falter and when the blast ended it was still there, its hull coursing with flashes of stored energy.
"No damage." The aide reported. "Diffusers at forty percent and venting."
"Standby to return fire." Kathenn smiled coldly. "Fatal flaw human, fatal flaw."
"Wait, Shai Alyt…" The Aide frowned. "I'm reading another energy spike! It's firing again!"
"Naquadah generators at one hundred percent." Carter stated. "Capacitors fully recharged."
"I'd love to see his face right now." Gideon chuckled. "Maybe it'll be plastered to the bridge window."
"We can hope sir." Matheson said dryly. "Solution plotted."
The main cannon activated again, bypassing the usual minute long recharge rate thanks to the high yield auxiliary reactors dotted across the ship. The Vorlon based gun sprang to life again and deluged the Drala D'Vost once more.
"Armour is holding!" The Aide barked. "But diffusers are at Eighty percent, we can't endure another hit so soon after the first!"
"Evasive action!" Kathenn snarled. "All batteries fire!"
The black ship turned away, laying down streams of blue and purple that wracked the Excaliburs shields.
"He's on the run!" Matheson cheered.
"Now we need to follow him." Gideon remarked. "Divert power to the engines. Do we have enough in the auxiliary reactors to fire while we're moving?"
Carter nodded. "Yes sir, but I can't give you more than twenty percent per shot."
"It'll do." Gideon nodded. "Main gun, fire at will. Helm, run that bastard down."
The Minbari ship skirted the ice and rocks, the energy diffusers bleeding away the weapons fire and leaving a trail of gas and steam in its wake. Efficient as they were the diffusers had limits, and if those limits were breached the Drala would have to rely purely on its own armour to save it. A risk Kathenn was not ready to take.
The wingtips glowed as the Excalibur kept firing, short blasts from the Vorlon cannon flash boiling millions of gallons of ice as it struck at the Minbari ship. In turn Shadow beams flickered over the shields of the Excalibur, slowly, slowly eroding them.
"We're starting to lose shields." Carter warned. "And he's still diffusing our hits."
"Aren't they overloading yet?"
"Getting close, but not soon enough."
The two ships dropped through the rings side by side, nudging slightly ahead or slightly behind as they paced through the battle ground exchanging powerful shots from their cannons, reducing each others defences as they twisted and turned through the labyrinth.
The Excalibur rocked sharply as the beam drew away more shield strength, pushing the vessel to its limits.
"This isn't working!" Carter warned. "Were still going to break first!"
The Vorlon cannon returned the favour, the energised armour of the hostile vessel drinking in the power, showing signs of collapse but still not yet, the Hyperspace tap powered ship proving its resilience as it bashed through rocks and dust.
"Will ramming it make a difference?" Gideon demanded.
"It might, there's no way to tell." Matheson grunted.
"If it comes to it we will try, hell we'll open a jump point in the son of a bitch."
Carter's eyes shot up. "Wait!"
"What?" Gideon shot his eyes round.
"Is my shuttle still onboard, the one I arrived at the station on?"
"Yes sir, in the hanger." Matheson nodded. "Why?"
"When I got the call I was bringing an experiment to the station for a field test." She said. "A new device General O'Neill commissioned. It's called a Mark nine."
The ship rocked violently.
"Make it quick Colonel, what is it?"
She smiled a little. "President Sheridan's dream come true. Captain, I have a really, really bad idea."
"Is it going to kill us?"
"Probably, but it will kill him too, and there's definitely a very slim chance we'll survive."
"Good enough, what's the plan?"
The Excalibur took another hit, then suddenly altered course, climbing out of the rings and breaking away.
"Follow it!" Kathenn ordered. "Keep firing!"
Another two cuts of the slicer beam hit the warship, further reducing its shields. If they failed the armour would be useless against Shadow weapons, their time was running out.
"She's making for that moon." The aide reported. "Perhaps trying to hide behind it?"
"Just prolonging the inevitable."
The Excalibur made a long looping turn, disappearing behind the moon before emerging on the far side, sling shotting around and barrelling straight for the Minbari ship, Kathenn grinning as both vessels opened up with everything they had.
The two ships shuddered, pushed to their limits as they raced past, barely avoiding impact with the helm officers throwing the ships into flat spins to try and keep their main guns trained.
"Haven't got much left have you?" Kathenn sneered as his ship turned to face its opponent. "Now it ends."
Behind him, with no warning the moon exploded.
On the far side of the small moon, as the Excalibur sling shotted around it had vented its hanger bay, hurling Carter's shuttle and its lethal cargo into the surface of the large rocky ball. That cargo, the largest explosive device ever fashioned by human hands, received its final confirmation order and did what it had been designed to do.
The moon shattered, its icy surface and rocky core crumbling into uncounted pieces and blasting outwards, most of it heading for the Minbari ship.
"Evasive action!" Kathenn screamed. "Do something!"
The helm officer was a master of his craft, and astonishingly dodged the biggest pieces of rock, but could not avoid the innumerable smaller rocks bracketing his ship like buck shot. The black armour was overpowered, stripped off and burnt away. Its defences eroded like sand on a beach, swept away by the tidal wave of rocks and energy.
The Excalibur also caught the shockwave, bouncing as if it were made of rubber, and losing power. The blast passed quickly, leaving both ships shaken and heavily damaged.
"What was that!" Kathenn spat blood. "Did they just blow up their own moon! What kind of maniacs are we fighting!"
"Oh man, President Luchenko is going to be pissed." Matheson said surely. "We're going to be hauling garbage until we die."
"I'm more worried about President Sheridan." Gideon admitted.
"You think he'd disapprove of us blowing up a moon?"
"I think he'd disapprove of not being the one to push the button." Gideon shrugged. "Status?"
"Auxiliary power out, shields gone, engines down." Carter said. "Just station keeping."
"What about him?" He gestured out of the window.
"Sensor data shows the enemy vessel is heavily damaged but operational. Whatever that thing runs on it's still giving power and lots of it."
"How badly damaged?"
"I'm reading multiple hull breaches, lot of debris." Matheson said.
"Hull breaches, that means we broke his armour."
"They still have weapons and propulsion, as soon as they pick themselves up they'll finish us."
"We won't give them a chance. Colonel, do we have power for one more shot from the main gun?"
"Barely is enough." Gideon nodded sharply. "Lock on and prepare firing sequence."
"Bring us around!" Kathenn yelled. "Now!"
Engineering teams are working t restore mobility." The aide spluttered. "The ship is smashed, we're venting air and fuel from…"
"I don't care!" Kathenn boiled in rage. "Kill them! Kill them now!"
He stared daggers at the enemy ship visible on the flickering displays, noticing it was pointing its main weapons right at him.
"No you don't, I decide how this ends! I will not let you rob the Warrior Caste of glory and honour!"
It was not his decision to make.
"That's all the power I can give you." Carter said simply.
"Very well, main gun." Gideon stood from his chair, close enough to see the tiny distant ship and its trail of frozen gas.
For a final time the Excalibur charged its Vorlon cannon and fired, the energy cracking forward and hitting the vessel, punching clean through the hull and out the far side, fracturing the wounded vessel in an immolating scourge of white fire. It left nothing in its wake.
"Target destroyed sir." Matheson reported formally.
"We did the job, granted a little messy…" Gideon tailed off.
"I can't believe we just blew up a moon." Matheson shook his head. "I'm not accepting that one anytime soon."
"Well Saturn has so many, who's going to miss that little thing?" Gideon pulled a face. "I doubt anyone will even notice. We just won't mention it, see what happens."
Matheson sighed. "We're going to jail forever."
Gideon grinned. "Well worth it. Now lets get those engines working, I want my girl to arrive at Io under her own power. She's earned that dignity."
"I'll help." Carter offered.
"Great, and this also gives us time to make sure we get our stories straight Now repeat after me… Moon? What moon?"
"I owe you twenty credits."
Agent One grinned widely. "Accepted Agent Six."
"I am sorry I doubted your plan, it worked brilliantly."
"Didn't it just?" The silky voice said from within the unlooked for command room. "And even better, the Excalibur handled it. We didn't even have to expose the prototypes. Recall them."
"Finally we achieved the goal long set out for us, and all we needed was a prideful Minbari. No fleets, no armadas, no public revelations."
"Giving the Minbari Shadow tech was risky." Six said. "Many of us thought you had lost your mind."
"So I heard." One glimmered. "Shadow tech was our biggest secret, and the beauty of it is, it still is. Nobody knows it was humans who gave Kathenn that tech, and frankly who would believe it? He hated us and that tech was used to kill thousands."
"A master stroke."
"We knew we could defeat him, our prototypes are far superior to his little toys." Agent One smirked. "Earth was never in much danger, and there was always the fail safe."
"For another time."
She took a small sip of brandy, offering a glass to her associate. "Worth a celebration I think."
She filled Agent Six's glass.
"To Kathenn, the best asset Earth ever had, even if he never had any idea who he was serving."
"Kathenn." Six laughed. "So you knew he'd attack?"
"it was inevitable, and his use of Shadow Tech ostracised him. The other Warriors would not support him, and when he began killing they had to oppose him or risk all out war. That was the best bit, when Coplann tried to reason with him. No, a fools errand, Kathenn was too blinded, too wrapped up in pride and honour. Such an easy puppet to play."
"How do you know so much about Minbari psychology?"
One shrugged. "I just do."
She took another sip.
"So Kathenn is declared renegade, most of his clan goes with him. Old resentments surface, cracks open, and before you know it civil war. Again."
"it won't last."
"No, no it won't. This civil war will be much shorter, but more brutal." One informed. "It isn't warriors against priests, its warriors against warriors. A real war."
"The damage will be immense." Six mused.
"Physically yes, already the Minbari fleet is weakened by this fighting; soon it will be even more. But socially, there is the real hit. Minbari society has been fracturing for a while. Delenn tried to patch it up, but now Kathenn has well and truly smashed it. All we had to do was give him the hammer."
"Precisely. He already had the will to use it." Agent One nodded. "So now the galaxy changes. The Minbari military is weakened, and after this their government will need to rebuild, to focus inwards. They have to repair their society from the ground up, a titanic task that will keep them very busy. For the foreseeable future the Minbari are out of the picture."
"And with the League divided, the Narn still rebuilding and the Centauri in the Drakh's pocket…"
"There is only one world united and strong enough to take the lead." Agent One smiled. "We just put Earth at the top of the Galaxy, and it only cost us two dozen ships and a minor colony to do it."
"A great day." Six agreed.
"Now then, Earth will soon be leading the galaxy, and not long after that we will be back leading Earth." One considered. "We can devote a little time to our friends beyond the rift. I fancy a little distraction."
"We already have a contact in China." Six said. "Shall we proceed to stage two?"
"Go ahead." Agent One said. "Very soon we will assume our position of destiny. In both universes."