First Blood Part I

Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji intently watched as the small bundle of machinery unfolded itself inside the life support system's clear cylinder.

"That's really something," Colonel Zuma said. The whole process reminded him of a flower blossoming.

"That it is," Miyuki Daitokuji agreed. "Especially when you consider that this wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago."

"Will this be able to tell you everything you need to know?" General Krieger asked.

"I hope so," Miyuki Daitokuji replied. "Unfortunately, I can't say for sure. This isn't an exact science. After all no one has ever been able to study a live extra-terrestrial before."

"But that's not truAAARRGGHHH!!" Colonel Zuma yelled as the General stomped on his foot.

"What was that?" Dr. Daitokuji asked the Colonel as General Krieger gave him an evil look.

"Ah, nothing. Nothing important," Zuma said, visibly sweating.

"What is it you're not telling me?" Miyuki Daitokuji asked.

"Stop badgering the Colonel," Krieger said. "He has nothing to tell you."

"Let the man speak for himself," Miyuki Daitokuji told General Krieger. She turned to face Zuma. "So, what is it you were about to tell me?"

Colonel Zuma looked at his superior officer and gulped. "Ah, nothing ma'am, nothing at all."

"You're lying, Colonel," Dr. Daitokuji said. "I don't appreciate being bold faced lied to. Either you tell me whatever it is that you were about to say or you'll facing an official inquiry."

"What? By the directors?" General Krieger scoffed. "Those gutless wonders couldn't conduct an inquiry into whether or not eclairs are cream filled."

"Maybe you would rather stand before the U.N. Security Council and explain your actions," Miyuki Daitokuji said.

"You don't swing that kind of weight, Doctor," the General said.

"So you think," Miyuki Daitokuji replied. "However, if something unfortunate should happen to that child you'll find that I swing all the weight that I need to see to it that you're buried."

"You're crazy," the General said. "I'm sick of your threats. You've been nothing but a pain in the ass since the first day you've been here."

"And you're nothing but an incompetent blowhard!" Dr. Daitokuji spat out angrily. "You think you can cross swords with me? I can break you in half and you know it! You're asking for a disaster to happen and when it does I'll make sure that your neck is the first to fall under the axe."

"That will be a good trick seeing as how the alien's well being is your responsibility," the General said. "If anything happens I imagine you'll be the one who is held accountable."

"You're withholding information that's important to the welfare of the child," Miyuki Daitokuji said.

"Your word against mine," General Krieger said, having completely forgotten where he was in the heat of the arguement.

"Not only are you stupid but you're senile as well. There's several dozen witnesses here." Miyuki jerked her head towards the techs and officers. "Besides, every word you uttered has been recorded for posterity."

Colonel Zuma breathed muttered a four letter word under his breath.

"You've been taping me?" the General asked incredulously.

Miyuki Daitokuji's only response was to smile.

General Krieger glanced at the group of E.D.F. officers. "Okay, let's discuss this in my office."

Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji shut the door to the General's office behind her. She turned to face General Krieger. "Okay, let's hear it."

"Since you were so eager to tell her in the first place why don't you do it?" the General said to Colonel Zuma.

"Well?" Miyuki Daitokuji prompted Zuma after he remained silent.

Colonel Zuma took a deep breath. "You said that no one has ever had a chance to study extra-terrestrials before. That simply isn't true. Have you ever heard of Area 51?"

Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji just stared at them both for several moments before she started laughing. "Area 51, that's a good one," she said as she wiped her eyes. "Who knew that either one of you had a sense of humor. I'm impressed, you really got me good."

"This is no joke, Dr. Daitokuji," General Krieger said. "I know that the whole Area 51 story has been largely dismissed as rumors spread by crackpots but it's actually true. The Americans really did recover the remains of an extraterrestrial craft and crew."

If this was all part of the joke then the General was one hell of an actor whose talents were wasted in the E.D.F. Miyuki Daitokuji seriously doubted that General Krieger possessed that amount of ability.

"You should have told me the first day I arrived," Miyuki said. "All water under the bridge, nothing to be done about it now. What I need to do now is find out all I can about those aliens as soon as I can. You'll have to arrange a flight to the U.S. for me."

"That might be a bit difficult," the General said.

"Why should it be difficult?" Miyuki asked. "You're the commanding officer of the E.D.F., it shouldn't a problem for you to arrange transport."

"The problem isn't arranging a flight to the U.S.," General Krieger said. "The problem is the Americans. I guarantee they will not give us access to the alien craft or to the bodies."

"But you're the commander of the E.D.F.,they're supposed to cooperate with you," Miyuki Daitokuji said.

This time it was the two military officers who chuckled. "Yes, that's what they are *supposed* to do," the General agreed. "However, there are a lot of things the Americans are supposed to do they somehow always manage to neglect to do."

Zuma muttered something under his breath that sounded remarkably like, "Miserable S.O.B.s."

"I don't understand, why won't the U.S. military give us access to this Area 51?" Miyuki Daitokuji asked.

"Call it the leftover mentality from the Cold War era," General Krieger said. "To them that craft and it's passengers are a wealth of high tech. They are afraid that allowing the E.D.F. access would compromise their national security."

"That's crazy, the Cold War is over," Miyuki said. "What is it that they could be worried about? The Soviet Union doesn't even exist anymore. Who could they be worried about?"

"There's always the Chinese," General Krieger said.

They all looked at each other. The Chinese were a bigger and more real threat than the Soviets ever thought of being. The Russians couldn't even bring one small rebellious breakaway republic under control whereas the Chinese had shown no hesitation to crush thousands of unarmed citizens under tanks.

"Those lousy old farts," Colonel Zuma said, voicing the thought that they all had.

"We have more to fear from them than the Americans do, after all we're closer to them," Miyuki said. "In any event we still need the info about this alien spacecraft and it's occupants. I really don't care if the Americans are justified in their paranoia or not."

"That's all very good but there is no way that we can get it," General Krieger said.

"We certainly can and I have the perfect plan to do it," Miyuki Daitokuji said with a smile that didn't look friendly even one little bit.

"What's this perfect plan of your?" Kieger asked.

"We hack into their database. I guarantee we can find out all we need to know," Dr. Daitokuji said.

" WHAT?!" General Krieger yelled. "That plan is perfect alright! Perfectly ridiculous! How are you planning on hacking into that place? It's the cyber equivalent to Fort Knox. Don't tell me *you* are going to do it."

"Me? No," Miyuki answered. "My husband on the other hand is an old pro at this sort of stuff. You should already know that, General. After all you've already seen the results of his handiwork."

The Space Princess shuddered as it docked with the newly recommissioned Delta Chimera. Zoraphila Xerxandress, Fifth of that Name, Queen of the Cygnan Empire of Stars, ect. cut power and put the corvette in standby mode. She then checked her enviro-suit. The Delta Chimera was supposed to be space worthy but the Queen wasn't about to take any chances. The decommissioned ships that made up the newly formed Auxiliary Fleet had been gathering dust for centuries, some of them even millennia. They were being hastily refitted. Hull breaches were bound to happen and the Queen had no intention of being unprepared for such an occurrence.

When she stepped out of the airlock she was greeted by a welcoming party. The Delta Chimera's new captain along with a detachment of marines stood at attention.

"Your Majesty, welcome to the Delta Chimera," the captain said, giving the Queen a deep bow.

As the captain stood back up the Queen looked around the shuttle bay. "I wish to see Admiral Diamocles, she is still on board I hope. If the fleet command has given me more erroneous information I swear that they'll regret it for the rest of their miserable lives. Which will be shockingly short."

"Not to worry Your Majesty, the Admiral is indeed aboard the.."

The captain's reply was cut off by the Admiral in question. "Your Majesty!" Admiral Kayana Diamocles shouted across the shuttle bay. She was wearing a enviro-suit much like the Queen's. She jogged towards Zoraphila Xerxandress as fast as the enviro-suit allowed. "I heard you were coming to check up on our progress. You needn't have bothered yourself, I am quite capable of giving you accurate reports.Or perhaps you don't trust me?"

"Actually, I'm here because two batty old women were driving me crazy back in CygniCity," the Queen replied.

"You better brace yourself," the Admiral told her. "I've just been informed that Admiral Kaisysrius and her adjuntant are on their way out to personally inspect our little fleet."

"What? I just got out here," the Queen said looking around the shuttle bay as if she expected the Queen Mother and Gehedra Kaisysrius to appear at any moment. "If I have to spend even one more moment with them I swear that the Empire will be mourning the untimely death of the Queen Mother."

"What about Admiral Kaisysrius?" asked Kayana Diamocles.

"She's safe until the moment we defeat the Hegemony," Zoraphila Xerxandress said. "After that...." she drew her finger across her throat.

"I have the perfect solution for staying away from them," Kayana said. "The good part is that you're ready for the job."

"Ready for what job?" the Queen asked.

"Spacewalking of course," the Admiral answered. "There's a sensor array that's malfunctioning and I'm on my way out to repair it.Why do you think I'm in this suit?"

"You can't seriously expect me to go crawling around outside the Delta Chimera," the Queen said. "You're almost as crazy as those two old bats I'm trying to avoid."

"Why not?" Kayana asked. "It will be just like our old Academy days. The zero-gee will do you some good, Your Majesty."

"Since when did you become an expert on the medical benefits of zero-gee?" asked the Cygnan Queen. "Besides it's been ages since the the last time I did a space walk."

"It hasn't even been ten years," Kayana said. "Remember how we had to go and cut out the Space Princess' comm. pod after you managed to get it jammed into the cargolock of that freighter?"

Zoraphila Xerxandress blushed at the mention of that embarrassing incident. "Just why are you taking it upon yourself to go out and do this work? Aren't there enough techs in the Imperial Fleets to do this type of work?"

"I like zero-gee work," Admiral Diamocles said. "Besides I hate standing around on the bridge with my thumb up my ass. Makes me feel as useful as nipples on a man."

"In that case don't let me stop you," the Queen said. "We can talk after you finish up with this foolishness."

Half an hour later found the Cygnan Queen following her closest friend out of an airlock to repair the sensor array. {When am I going to learn not follow Kayana into folly?} she wondered to herself.

Commander Jons Sparfel looked at the main viewer on the bridge of the Altair. The Commander's fondest wish had come true, the Altair had found the final resting place of the Epsilon Irindi.

{This is too perfect,} Commander Sparfel thought, looking at the severely damaged hulk of the Cygnan starship surrounded by what little was left of Graviton City. Nobody can have survived that impact.

Jons Sparfel considered rejoining the taskforce and reporting the death of the Cygnan Princess. Making an absolute visual confirmation of her death was pretty much unnecessary. Not to mention dangerous. The local military was crawling all over the remains of the Epsilon Irindi.

Still, Jons Sparfel was a careful commander. Even though he hated the idea of risking an entanglement with the new owners of the Cygnan starship he knew that making absolutely certain of the Princess' death was something that had to be done. If he reported the Princess to be dead and then she turned up among the living his career would be the least of his worries. The Hegemony rewarded failures in a most unpleasant fashion.

So it was with a certain amount of relunctance that he ordered the navigation officer to set a course towards Earth.

Hikaru Daitokuji was in his office planning the next move for the bourgeoning Daitokuji Financial Group. Hikaru had taken the reins of family business from his mother after she retired from active control of the corporation.

She had retired just in time in his (and many others) opinion. Hikaru has inherited a multinational empire that was moribund. His mother, the "Queen Dowager" (as he called her) had ruled the corporation with competence and with an iron fist but had let it grow stagnant over the last decade of her rule. The company's top officers were sycophants and boot lickers to a man. The Daitokuji Financial Group had let technical progress pass it by. The Queen Dowager was a traditional and old fashioned woman (proved by the fact that she made her money the old fashioned way, by marrying into it) and of course the corporation's top executives were just as traditional (proved by the fact that they were shameless asskissers).

The first thing Hikaru did upon assuming control of the Daitokuji Financial Group was to fire the entire upper echelon of the multinational's executives. Closely followed by selling such subsidiaries as were drowning in red ink in a fashion that could be best described as a "fire sale". Hikaru Daitokuji was ruthless in his drive to return the family business to profitablity. The result was a DFG that was leaner, meaner and ready and able to kick ass.

The phone rang as he was sitting at his desk. "Hikaru Daitokuji here," he said into the phone.

"When did you start being so formal with your wife?" chuckled Miyuki Daitokuji on the other end of the line.

"I have a wife?" Hikaru said. "It's been so long since I've seen her that I've forgotten what she looks like."

"You should talk, "Mr. I'm too busy taking over the world to notice my wife even when she wears sexy lingerie". Besides, it hasn't been all that long that I've been here," Miyuki said.

"Long enough," Hikaru grumped.

"Awww..... you poor baby," Miyuki said smirking. "Then you'll be happy to know that the E.D.F. is flying you out here tomorrow."

"What!? Why would I be flying to the alien spaceship?" askes Hikaru Daitokuji. "Anyways, I can't. I'm way too busy to leave Tokyo."

"I suggest that you get yourself unbusy then," Miyuki told her husband. "I need your expertise in the "dirty tricks" department."

"Maybe you should tell me what's going on," Hikaru said.

"Not over the phone," Miyuki said. "Remember? That's one of the first things you taught me."

"I've taught you well," Hikaru Daitojuji said grinning. "Is this really that important?"

"This could make or break my career," was all Miyuki said.

"That important huh? I'll be there tomorrow then."

"Never mind that we are supposed to be in love and that one would assume that you would be eager to see me. No, all you care about is whether my career suffers or not," Miyuki said in an injured tone.

"Now that's not true," Hikaru said. "Of course I can't wait to see you again."

"Too late you jerk," Miyuki said to her husband. "I can't believe how insensitive you can be to your own wife. Then again, yes I can. I always knew you to be a real cad."

"You're a good one to talk, leaving me here to fend for myself," Hikaru said. "You know perfectly well that I can't cook."

Miyuki sighed. "I hope you're not surviving on ramen. You're quite capable of going out to eat you know."

"I'm too busy. Besides, what's wrong with ramen?" Hikaru asked.

"You're hopeless," Miyuki Daitokuji told her husband. "I'd say that you'll be eating better out here but unfortunately the E.D.F.'s idea of good food is what most normal people would pig slop."

"It will be like being at a five star restaurant if only you're there to share my meals," Hikaru said.

"How sappy," Miyuki said.

The ship-mind of the Epsilon Irindi had another mission for the sub-minds. It had overheard (actually eavesdropped was the more appropriate term) the conversation between Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji and General Krieger.

ship-mind: I need all the information on these extra-terrestrials that these Americans are in possession of. The cybernetic defenses of this Area 51 are considered to be quite formidable by the commanding officers of the E.D.F. I need not remind you of the importance of discretion. It is of vital importance that our actions are not discovered.

sub-mind 1: You can rely on us. This planet offers nothing that can be considered dangerous to us. The electronic information defenses of the inhabitants of this planet are laughable.

ship-mind: See to it that the Doctor gets the information that she needs. The Americans will know that thier databanks have been tampered with. Make sure that the E.D.F. receives full credit. Both the Americans and the E.D.F. must remain ignorant of our involvement and our existence.

sub-mind 1: It shall be done as you say.

End of Part I

First Blood Part II

Captain Lysia Napolipolita was on the bridge when the sensors of the Gamma Hydrae picked up the tell tale signs of the presence of a Hegemony task force. Within minutes Captain Napolipolita was looking at a Hegemony capital ship on the bridge's main viewer.

"All stop!" Napolipolita ordered. The order was quickly followed by, "Power down, passive sensors only and maintain complete communications silence."

The Gamma Hydrae quickly entered "lurker mode" as it surreptitiously monitered the Hegemony task force's communications traffic.

D was enjoying her favorite pastime of shoving food in her face when she received a summons from the bridge. She picked up her plate and emptied it into her mouth and then made her way to the bridge with her cheeks bulging out like a chipmunk.

The Captain looked up as D came onto the bridge and made her way over to the command chair. "You have gravy smeared all over your face," she noted.

D made a futile search of her uniform's pockets for a hankerchief. She shrugged and wiped her sleeve across her face.

Napolpolita stared pointedly at the newly acquired stain on D's uniform. "I see that you're just as clean and tidy as you were during your Academy days. It's reassuring to know that some things haven't changed."

"I was in the middle of eating," D said, showing that she had a crushing grip on the obvious.

"Really? I would have never known," Captain Napolipolita said.

D stared at the Captain blankly.

"It's called sarcasm, D. Don't worry about it," the Captain said. "The reason I called you to the bridge is that we've stumbled across a Hegemony task force. I can only assume that they are here for the same reason we are. To find the Princess."

"So we're going to attack them," D said. "What can I do to help?"

"We will destroy them," Napolipolita promised. "But we're not going to do it quite yet. Before that we're going to listen in on their comm. traffic and find out what they know and what their plans are. Unfortunately, much of their communications is encrypted. What I want you to do is work with the code breakers and report directly to me with your results."

"Yes, Captain," D said and saluted Lysia Napolipolita.

Napolipolita watched as D turned and walked away. The Captain didn't expect that D would be much help in the decoding process but the point of this little exercise was to give D something constructive to do instead of just sitting around and giving the ship's kitchens extra work.

Zoraphila Xerxandress, Fifth of that Name, Queen of the Cygnan Empire of Stars ect. stood before her closest friend and onetime Admiral of the Outer Rim Fleet. Looking on were Admiral Gehedra Kaisysrius and the woman who was allegedly her adjuntant, a woman commonly known throught the galaxy as the Queen Mother.

"Well, don't stand around," Gehedra Kaisysrius snapped. "We have a war to fight, no sense in wasting time. Let's say our goodbyes and get on with it."

"Don't tell me my business, old woman," the Queen snapped. "You hardly need my presence anyway."

"I'm not worried about you holding me up," Gehedra told her. "It's the Auxiliary Fleet I'm worried about. We have a schedule to keep."

The Cygnan Queen made an obvious effort to control her anger. "Don't presume to instruct me. *I* am still Queen and as such my wish is your command. Do I make myself clear?"

"Have a little more respect for your elders, girl," the Queen Mother.said.

"I don't recall asking for your opinion!" the Queen said.

"How dare you talk to your own mother like..."

"OH, SHUT UP!" the Cygnan Queen yelled drowning out the Queen Mother. "One more word from you and you'll be riding out the war in the brig of the Delta Chimera !"

The Queen Mother opened her mouth for a retort but she saw the look on her daughter's face and closed it. {I think she really means it. It is about time she finally acquired a backbone,} the Queen Mother thought. She thought about saying something just to test her daughter but realized that it wasn't worth the risk of spending the remainder of the war in the ship's brig.

Admiral Kaisysrius shrugged at the apparent outcome of the confrontation and made her way across the Delta Chimera's shuttlebay to the shuttle that would carry her and the Queen Mother to the Alpha Boadicea.

"Aren't you going to join her?" the Queen asked her mother.

The Queen Mother gave her daughter a look that plainly said, "This isn't over yet," and then followed Gehedra Kaisysrius.

Zoraphila Xerxandress watched the departing women and muttered, "I swear that once the war is over I'm going to have those two breaking rocks at Cygnus Grandus." She turned to face Kayana.

"I'm not very good with goodbyes," Admiral Diamocles said. "I just never seem to find the right words."

"Traditionally we use the word "goodbye" when saying goodbye," the Queen said.

"Goodbye, then," the Admiral said.

To Kayana's surprise Zoraphila Xerxandress suddenly pulled her into an embrace. "Be careful out there in the Rim. Don't be stupid and play hero. We both know you're not good at it."

"If we run across any Hegemony forces we'll make a run for it," Admiral Diamocles promised.

The Queen stepped away from her and put her hand on Kayana's shoulder. "Just make sure you get back to Alpha Cygni alive and in one piece. We have to get you lifemated so you can start producing boys."

"I can't imagine that too many matriarchs of the Great Families will be eager to have thier sons lifemated into the Diamocles Family," Kayana said.

"They'll be eager because I will tell them to be eager," the Cygnan Queen said. "Besides, once you have a son or two all will be forgiven. Especially after the war is won."

"Perhaps," said Admiral Diamocles, sounding doubtful of the Queen's cheerful prediction.

"You just keep your fleet in one piece and get back alive and you leave the rest to me," Zoraphila Xerxandress told her.

The Queen Mother looked out of one of the shuttle's windows and observed the embrace her daughter gave Admiral Diamocles. "Look at that," she said with disgust. "Andraya definitely spent too much time around the Diamocles Family. Their penchant for sentimentality seems to have rubbed off onto her. What a horrid public display of affection."

"It's a real tragedy," Gehedra said, rolling her eyes. "I bet she even kisses her lifemate every once in a while. What is this universe coming to?"

"Why did I agree to convince you to come out of retirement anyway?"

"Too bad, you're stuck with me," Gehedra said. "I was surprised that you managed to keep your mouth shut. I was bit disappointed too, I was hoping to see you spend the rest of the war in the brig."

Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji looked at the reams of paper being spit out of the printer and then gave her husband a hug and a kiss that she didn't seem to be in a hurry to finish.

General Krieger tolerated it for over a minute before he made a production of coughing while he covered his mouth with his hand.

Miyuki broke away from her husband gave the General a look that let him know that she considered him a minor irritant and nothing more. "If you two would be kind enough to clear out so we could get to work I would really appreciate it," she said to General Krieger and Colonel Zuma.

"Why should we have to leave?" Krieger asked. "I need to see those printouts myself. Besides, I'm the commanding officer so I be the one saying who can stay and who has to leave."

"I had no idea that you were an expert on alien biology," Dr. Daitokuji said. "I guess you won't need me then." She stood up and walked towards the door. "Let's go Hikaru. Dr. Krieger and Dr. Zuma need to get to their work."

The General sighed. Life had become a nightmare since Dr. Daitokuji's arrival. The hope that Miyuki Daitokuji would suffer a horrible death was the last thing he thought about at night and the first thing he thought of in the morning. His hatred for her was more passionate than any feeling he had for anyone or anything up until that moment.

It was a unhappy and defeated General that left, followed closely by Colonel Monty Zuma.

After the door had shut behind them Hikaru turned to his wife and said, "That man hates you with every ounce of energy he possesses. Don't you worry about what he could do to you?"

"Why should I?" asked Miyuki. "I have you to defend me."

"Me against the entire E.D.F., huh? Not exactly an even fight," Hikaru said.

"That's true," Miyuki said. "The E.D.F. wouldn't stand a chance. I almost feel sorry for them."

It was a bitter General Krieger that was sitting in his office complaining about the situation he found himself in.

"That woman will be the death of me," he grumbled. "Just wait until the Americans find out they've been hacked and you can bet they'll find out. Talk about creating an international incident. They'll be screaming bloody murder."

"Sir, I think we can turn this to our favor," Colonel Zuma said.

"We can? How?" asked the General.

"When the Americans denounce us for espionage we can release the Area 51 information that we have and let the world news media know why we needed to obtain that information," Monty Zuma said.

"Are you insane?!" General Krieger asked. "Tell everybody that we have an alien child? How is that a good idea?"

"It's simple, we'll tell everyone that the child is dead and manufacture evidence to prove it," Zuma said.

"How does that help us?" Krieger asked.

"We'll claim that we could have saved her if only the U.S. had been more forthcoming about what it knows about the dead aliens in it's possession," Colonel Zuma replied. "I think that the story will be swallowed by the news media. Think of the embarrassment to the Americans if they are percieved by the world to have caused the death of the alien child."

"It might work," the General admitted. "Too bad that Dr. Daitokuji probably won't cooperate."

"That can be taken care of too," Zuma said.

"I'd like to see that," General Krieger muttered.

"The starship is huge and filled with mysterious alien tech," Zuma observed. "Who knows what types of accidents could happen to someone if they were foolish enough to wander around in it by themselves."

"Sometimes you really surprise me, Zuma, and come up with incredibly good ideas," Krieger said.

The Hegemon and Archadmiral were on the bridge of the Galactic Fleet's flagship, the HFS Hercules when the call came through from Fleet Intelligence.

The Archadmiral took the call and then turned to the Hegemon. "Your Eminence, the Cygnans are making their move. Intelligence is sending us all the data that they've acquired."

"Put it up on the main viewer," the Hegemon replied.

"Of course, Your Eminence," the Archadmiral said and tapped in the commands on his control panel to route the incoming information to the main viewer.

The image on the main viewer showed a map of Alpha Cygni's star system. On the map were a seemingly infinite number of blips that could only be the massed Imperial Fleets making thier way out of the system.

"At their current rate of progress the Imperial Fleets will be far enough out-system to achieve warp in twelve hours, Your Eminence," the Archadmiral reported.

"Excellent, excellent," the Hegemon said, smiling. "Get on the comm. and inform the Galactic Fleet that we're moving out now."

As the Archadmiral passed on the Hegemon's orders to the communications officer the Hegemon was thinking of the events to come. If all went to according to plan then the next forty eight hours would see the ultimate triumph of the Hegemony over the most hated and dangerous enemy in it's long and storied history.

"You look like crap," Lieutenant Harry Watashiwa told Junior Lieutenant Lawrence Yashida as they sat down to eat breakfast in mess hall. "Are you coming down with a cold?"

"I'm fine," Lawrence assured him. "I did stay up pretty late last night though."

"Stayed up late, huh? With Korina?"

Lawrence ignored the question. "Another wonderful breakfast courtesy of the E.D.F.," he grumbled, pushing the food around on his plate.

"You *were* with her last night, weren't you?" said a stunned Harry Watashiwa.

"So what if I was?" asked Lawrence.

"I'm proud of you, Larry," said Watashiwa. "Finally made your move. Way to go."

"Made my move?" said Lawrence, rolling his eyes. "Harry, I know this will disappoint you but we haven't "done the dirty deed" as you so eloquently put it. Do you ever think about anything besides sex?"

"Absolutely, I was thinking that I wish I had bet a lot more than a lousy fifty thousand yen on the status of your continued celibacy."

Lieutenant Watashiwa spotted Med Tech Jordan Kluge and Tech Sergeant Sage Okowa and waved them over to the table.

"Good news guys. Larry here finally broke down and put the moves on Sergeant Instructor Winsley," Watashiwa told them.

"That's old news," Jordan Kluge replied. "Heck, according to the scuttlebutt they're already thinking of divorce."

"Actually the latest gossip has them seeing a marriage counselor in an attempt to patch things up," Sage Okowa said.

Lawrence put his head in his hands and groaned. This was exactly the reason he had resisted any thought of dating a subordinate officer in the first place. Now every little thing that happened would be publicly discussed and debated. It was an embarrassment.

A moment later it got worse. "Move over, Okowa," Korina Winsley said as she squeezed in beside Lawrence. She noticed him slumped over the table holding his head. "What, are you tired?"

Lawrence sat up straight. "I'm fine. Just resting my eyes a bit is all."

"I shouldn't have kept you up so late last night," Korina said.

The Junior Lieutenant sighed as the other men at the table stared at him. "Could you say that louder so that the entire mess hall can hear what you just said?"

"You're being silly," Korina said. "We can't keep the fact that we're dating a secret forever."

"What about just until I'm dead?" Lawrence asked. "Besides, who's dating? Dating implies actual dates. A date is when we go out and actually do something. What the heck is there to do on base?"

Korina leaned over and whispered something in his ear.

"I certainly wouldn't call that a date," he mumbled as his face grew red.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you saying that you two *are* actually seeing each other?" Jordan asked.

"That's right we are," Korina said. "You have a problem with that?"

"Of course I don't," the Med Tech said. "I'm just surprised is all."

"I don't think "surprised" is a strong enough word," Sage Okowa said."What did you have to do? Hold a gun to his head?"

"Yeah, whatever happened to "I don't date subordinate officers" ?" Jordan asked.

"What can I say? She wore me down," Lawrence said.

"Are you going to eat your breakfast or just play around with it," Korina asked Lawrence.

"I can't eat it, it makes me ill just being near it," Lawrence replied.

"I hope you're a good cook," Sage Okowa said.

"I'm better than Larry at least," Korina told him.

"Hey! I'm a good cook," the Junior Lieutenant said.

"Sure you are, "Mr. What's Wrong With Pretzels and Baked Beans Right Out of the Can for Dinner?". Left to yourself you would eat the most unhealthy crap known to mankind. You *need* a woman to keep you in line."

"I see. So you want to be my girlfriend merely for the benefit of my health?"

"Exactly," the Sergeant Instructor said. "So eat your food. It's good for you."

"This stuff isn't even good for compost," Lawrence grumbled.

End of Part II

First Blood Part III

Dr. Miyuki Daitokuji looked at the small vial of blood with satisfaction. She had debated with herself and with others about the wisdom of obtaining a blood sample from the alien child. The result was that there were too many good reasons to take the sample and not enough reasons not to.

"Do you really think that the blood sample will help?" asked Zuma. He had been of the opinion that any more tampering with the child was almost like playing russian roulette. While the child's life didn't really matter to him one way or the other he didn't wish to be associated to it's accidental death in any way. That would hinder his chances for advancement.

"Absolutely," Miyuki said. "You read those Area 51 reports. Those aliens died from terrestrial pathogenes and they weren't even human. It was something right out of "War of the Worlds". They died from catching what we would consider a common cold."

"What? You're hoping to find out if it's possible to vaccinate her against dangerous pathogenes?" Hikaru asked.

"You're taking an awful risk," Monty Zuma said.

"We've been over this a dozen times already," Dr. Daitokuji said. "What is the alternative? To have her live in a germ proof chamber for the rest of her life while she's made to be a lab rat for scientists and researchers? Is that what you want? To have her be a freak show? There is no way I'll let that happen. She's better off dead than to be subjected to that."

Junior Lieutenant Lawrence Yashida had been silent throughout the whole exchange but spoke upon hearing this. "What's good for her should be a secondary consideration. It's obvious that whoever she is that she is important to these aliens. They wouldn't have built this crazy chamber for just anyone. If she's that important to them I imagine that they might show up someday looking for her. I wonder what their reaction will be if we have to tell them that the girl died because of our actions."

"My thoughts exactly," Colonel Zuma said, giving the Junior Lieutenant a grateful smile for backing him up.

"I understand your concern of course and I promise to take every precaution possible but the final decision is mine," Miyuki Daitokuji said.

The Archadmiral was sitting next to the Hegemon on the bridge of the HFS Hercules when the Hegemony Galactic Fleet dropped out of warp just outside Alpha Cygni's starsystem.

The bridge's main viewer showed a constantly updated map of the starsystem. The map showed an all but empty starsytem, the Imperial Fleets having warped for the Rim some eight hours past. The Galactic Fleet plowed through the star system towards the Cygnan homeworld at full thrust.

Anticipation was tormenting the Hegemon. In less than twenty hours if all went as planned the Galactic Fleet would turn Alpha Cygni into a smoking cinder. In one savage blow the the Hegemony would deal the Cygnan Empire a mortal wound, assuring that the Hegemon would leave behind an enduring legacy.

"Pardon me, what was that?" the Hegemon said, snapped out of his thoughts by the Archadmiral.

"We are at the point where we must make a decision about the Khartreagis Naval Base, Your Eminence," the Archadmiral said.

"I've already made my decision," the Hegemon said. "The Naval Base is to be destroyed."

The Archadmiral looked unhappy at that pronouncement. "I beg you to reconsider, Your Eminence. An assault on the Khartreagis Naval Base will mean dumping more velocity and being in-system much longer than is neccessary. Attacking the Naval Base will increase our vulnerability quite dramatically."

"We have already spoken about this!" the Hegemon snapped. "My decision is final! I expect you to carry out my orders and lead this fleet into combat against that base."

"Yes, Your Eminence," the Archadmiral replied and turned his comm channel on to relay orders to the rest of the Galactic Fleet.

Aboard the Alpha Boadicea a large part of the Imperial Command stood on the ship's bridge watching the progress of the Hegemony Galactic Fleet through the star system.

"Target fleet altering course and speed," the ship-mind of the Alpha Boadicea announced even as the Galactic Fleet's projected path through the star system shifted on the map currently shown by the bridge's main view screen.

Admiral Gehedra Kaisysrius sighed with relief. "They're going for the Khartreagis Naval Base. I wasn't totally sure that they would but it looks like the gamble payed off."

"What would have happened if you had lost that gamble?" the Captain of the Alpha Boadicea asked.

"We would have had to made some adjustments," Gehedra Kaisysrius said. "Nothing that would have presented major problems."

"Really?" the Queen Mother said. "So you don't consider taking on the Galactic Fleet all but on Alpha Cygni's doorstep to be a major problem?"

"We still would have had the upper hand, Your Majesty," the Admiral said. "Anyways, the point is moot. The gamble *did* pay off and we'll be engaging them while they are attempting to destroy the Naval Base."

"It sounds as if we're going to be losing the Khartreagis Naval Base," the Queen Mother said.

"We probably will," Admiral Kaisysrius said. "I never promised a bloodless victory."

The assembled Imperial Command silently watched as the Hegemony Galactic Fleet continued to streak through the star system towards the Naval Base, furiously decelerating the entire time.

Captain Napolipolita listened as D's voice spoke through the Captain's comm panel. "Captain, we broke open the Hegemony encryption and have been monitering their comm traffic for the last eighteen hours."

"I hope you've learned something useful," Lysia Napolipolita said.

"That depends on your definition of useful," D said.

The Captain stifled a sigh. "Just tell me what you learned and I'll decide whether it's useful or not."

"They haven't found any signs of the Epsilon Irindi at all, Captain," D said. "They've thoroughly searched this region of space and have come up totally empty. In the next few days the taskforce will be leaving this region of the Rim."

"Thank you, D" Captain Napolipolita said and cut the comm channel.

The Captain considered her next move. The safest option was to destroy the Hegemony capital ship which would deprive the task force of a mobile base of operations. The other option was to wait and continue to moniter the taskforce's comm traffic in the hopes of finding out more useful information. She didn't think there would be any useful information forthcoming, however. Plus, there was the danger of the taskforce stumbling across the Epsilon Irindi and gaining possession of her or just killing her out of hand.

Captain Jae Borsman of the HFS Kraken was on the bridge listening to the reports from the taskforce's various scouts when the Gamma Hydrae made it's presence known. On the viewer was a huge Cygnan warship where only empty space had been a few moments before.

"The Cygnan supercruiser is on a collision course with us, Sir!" the officer at the tactical station yelled.

"Raise the shields and forward full thrust!" the Captain screamed.

The HFS Kraken trembled under the sudden strain of a full burn.

Captain Borsman commed the Kraken's Flight Commander as the the ship slowly began to accelerate.

"Yes, Sir?" the voice of the Flight Commander said over the comm.

"What are you waiting for you fool?!" the Captain snarled. "Launch all interceptors now!" He cut the comm not bothering to wait for a reply.

Even as the first interceptors were launched there was a tremendous flash of light from the Gamma Hydrae as the ship's main gun opened up on the HFS Kraken.

One moment the Captain was sitting in his command chair and the next he was spitting blood and teeth as he picked himself up from the floor. A nearby officer's screams told the tale of at least one serious injury as he managed to pull himself back into the chair.

"What are you doing!?" he shouted at the Helmsman. "Turn the damn ship you idiot! We need to bring our main cannon to bear on that Cygnan supercruiser."

As damage reports poured in from all over the ship he ordered the weapons crew to return fire with what smaller weapons system as could fire at the Cygnan ship.

Fire from the main gun of the Gamma Hydrae slammed into the Kraken again as the Hegemony capital ship returned fire.

This time the Captain managed to stay seated as the Kraken took another serious hit. However, many of the crew was not fortunate, one crewmember being tossed across the bridge and landing nearly at the Captain's feet with an obviously broken neck.

The lights and control panels on the bridge flickered and died for several seconds before coming back to life. Moments later the Kraken's shields collapsed.

The bridge of the Gamma Hydrae was a scene of seemingly complete chaos. The emergency klaxons were deafening and the red strobe lights gave the bridge the appearence of a cheap carnival ride.

{Who actually thinks that having your ears blasted and eyes blinded is a good idea in an emergency?} the Captain thought as she reached over and cut off both the klaxons and strobes.

"That's better," she muttered. "Now I can actually think."

"Their shields just collapsed!" the Lieutenant monitering the sensor array yelled.

Captain Napolipolita's face twisted into a grim smile. Without shields destroying the enemy ship would the work of a few moments. The real war against the Hegemony would take place in a system over a hundred lightyears away but first blood would go to Lysia Napolipolita.

The Gamma Hydrae trembled as it's main gun fired once again. The Captain watched as the HFS Kraken took another direct hit.

"Their warp containment fields are degrading rapidly," the ship-mind of the Gamma Hydrae said without any trace of emotion. The ship-mind seized control of the ship and began to turn the ship hard about as the Captain opened her mouth to shout orders for a drastic change in course.

The Gamma Hydrae trembled from the strain of making a complete about face in the tightest turning radius the behemoth could manage. As the ship made it's ponderous turn Captain Napolipolita found herself gripping the armrests of her chair so tightly that her hands hurt.She watched as the forward view showed the Hegemony ship seemingly slipping off to the side as the Gamma Hydrae made its turn.

The Gamma Hydrae had completed the about face and was accelerating away from the HFS Kraken when the ship-mind spoke up again. "The warp containment has failed," the ship-mind said with the same tone that a person might use while talking about the weather.

To the Captain's annoyance the ship-mind of Gamma Hydrae set off the emergency klaxons and strobes at the very instant that the Hegemony vessel suffered a warp core breach.

Seconds later the Hegemony ship ceased to exist. The HFS Kraken vaporized in a flash of incandescence.

The ship-mind had only enough time to utter a brief warning when the shock wave from the Kraken's destruction slammed into the Gamma Hydrae.

Captain Napolipolita somehow retained her seat as the Cygnan vessel was nearly upended by the massive shock wave. Even so she was slammed around violently enough that she would be black and blue for quite awhile.

An unfortunate crewmember was tossed through the air and slammed headfirst into the navigation controls.

The shockwave knocked out the Gamma Hydrae's thrust engines. A moment later the Captain realized that the gravity generator was also down as she started to float out of the command chair. She quickly pulled herself into the chair and held herself there.

{Wonderful, now we are adrift in space,} the Captain thought. {If another Hegemony warship finds us now we are up a creek without a paddle.}

The Captain watched an unconscious crewwoman that had one her legs bent at an angle that could only be described as grotesque float across the bridge. She tore her gaze away from the woman and looked at the damage reports that were pouring in from all over the ship. She quickly ordered a medical team to the bridge and directed the Engineering Corps to make returning the gravity generator to operational status the top priority.

Captain Lysia Napolipolita attempted to calculate the total amount of damage done to the Gamma Hydrae. The damage was serious to be sure but the Captain was well pleased with the outcome. Her first time commanding a capital ship in combat was a decisive victory.

Bouyed by the victory over the Hegemony vessel Lysia Napolipolita knew that the Princess would be found and what that would mean for her and the entire Napolipolita family. There could be no doubt that great things were in store for her.

Commander Jons Sparfel looked over the four rugged men standing at attention before him. He had handpicked these men for the mission they were about to undertake. They were not only the bravest but also the most competent men in the crew of the Altair.

Like many officers in the Galactic Fleet Commander Sparfel was given to pomposity. "I know that you will not fail because failure means that you will not have only failed me but failed the entire Hegemony. I need not tell you the price for failure."

The men nodded at the less than subtle threat. Failure on a mission this important would have unpleasant consequences for all involved.

Satisfied that the men understood his message Sparfel dismissed them. As he watched the four men crawl through the hatch to the Altair's small shuttle the Commander thought of the odds of actually finding the Cygnan Princess. He knew that the odds weren't good. The Princess had the same chance of actually being alive as Sparfel had of becoming the next Hegemon. He would be thrilled if his men even found her body but the odds were against even that much of the Cygnan Princess being left.

Junior Lieutenant Lawrence Yashida awoke to the sound of the phone ringing. He reached out in the dark for the phone and ended up knocking it off the nightstand. Muttering some four letter words under his breath he turned the light on and picked the phone up off the floor.

"Yes, what is it?" he grumbled into the phone.

"Aren't we grumpy this morning?" Sergeant Instructor Korina Winsley replied.

"It's four thirty in the morning!" Lawrence retorted. "There had better be a good reason for calling me or else you'll find yourself doing K.P. for the next month."

"You'd make your own girlfriend do K.P. ? That's heartless," Korina said.

"That's true," Lawrence admitted. "In that case I'll only have you cleaning out the latrines."

"Huh! Well I hope that the fact that Dr. Daitokuji is in labor is a good enough reason for this phone call," Korina said.


"In labor, as in giving birth," Korina said. "You do know that when a women gets pregnant she eventually gives birth to a baby don't you? Or didn't they teach that in sex ed. where you're from?"

"But I thought she wasn't due for a while yet," Lawrence said.

"So she's a bit premature, it happens," Korina told him. "Anyway, I thought you would want to know. Plus, I thought you might want to come down to the infirmary for moral support."

"The only thing I'm doing right now is going back to sleep," Lawrence replied. "She has you and her husband for moral support."

"I see," Korina said. "I'm sure that she'll be very understanding when you tell her that you felt your sleep was more important than being here for her when she's giving birth."

"Being there for her? What am I gonna do, hold her hand?" asked Lawrence.

"It's the principle of the thing," Korina said.

"Will you shut up if I come down?" Lawrence asked.

"Absolutely, I'll be so quiet you won't know I'm even here," Korina answered.

"Liar," Lawrence retorted. "Okay, I'm on my way."

End of Part III