To an outside observer, the vista of the Universe was rather unusual. Great soap-bubble like realities drifted and expanded as their own universes unfolded within. Occasionally they intersected, merging into one, then a short time later in cosmological terms would often split apart and go their separate ways. Some stayed together, those rare few, through mechanisms that the species and civilizations that dwelled within them were not even aware of and were far beyond the most basic understanding. It was not a rare event for these realities to collide, or even three or four within a relatively short cosmological timeframe. But for three to intersect within seconds of relative time...that was unusual. In fact, it hadn't happened before.

The three self-contained universes drew closer, their boundaries almost touching as their own expansion brought them closer together. Then, after a moment in which the Universe seemed to hold its breath, they made contact. For the briefest moment there was no reaction, and they seemed to push against each other...but then it happened. The thin boundary of the two universes melded into each other and the same event occurred as another universe bubble intersected with the two already joined. Years passed, the universes connected but divided. Life continued in each, blissfully unaware that they now had two companion universes. Then a small hole, the diameter of single molecule, opened between the first two universes to intersect.

It was the cue for something violent and glorious. The boundaries between the two universes suddenly pulled away at trillions of times the speed of light, accelerating as the merger began. As the boundary pulled away it reached the third bubble, and it too underwent the process. They merged into a single universe, a single reality floating in the tides of the greater Multiverse. Serenely ignoring every physical law in every universe, the three Milky Way galaxies and their attendants shifted through the intergalactic void until within mere seconds they took up new positions only five hundred thousand light years away from each other. Within that small area light accelerated to billions of times its normal speed and those three galaxies became suddenly visible to each other, and continued to remain visible as light returned to its normal, steady pace.

In a nearby galaxy that had been carried along with the shifts one of the Ascended was mournfully watching planetary debris collide. He wished they hadn't died, killed themselves in the reckless way they had. He wished with his entire mind and soul that they had continued to live long lives free of the all-consuming race to try and preserve themselves as their own bodies began to genetically decay. And it was so. With a great flash of light the planetary debris vanished, and a whole world took its place. White and majestic spires filled the landscape, and great vessels of exploration and war hung in the sky and orbit. Panicking, unsure of how he had done what just happened, that lone Ascended was consumed with the need to hide what he had done...and with another flash of light he suddenly didn't see the planet anymore. In fact, he wasn't even sure why he was there in the first place...and on the planet that he could no longer perceive the Asgard looked to the sky and wondered why they were alive.

In the galaxy that the Asgard had tried to protect a race of insectoids had a shock when the faster-than-light drive they were developing suddenly worked perfectly. They were convinced that they had somehow done something different, accidentally changed a variable. So mere hours after two new universes opened up, they were the first race to discover the newly available Warp Drive. Ironically enough the amount of previously required power they were feeding into the system allowed them to achieve speeds that had not been available to the Federation for over seventy years after its inception.

The Q were unnerved by how two new universes had opened up to them, so suddenly and without warning. They were unnerved as one of the galaxies that one of their number continually prattled on about apparently decided that it wanted to move to a new neighbourhood without any sensation of Q power, or, in fact, any other power propelling the change. They were especially unnerved when they became aware of other beings existing on the same plane as them...and there seemed to be a lot of them. After a moment's standoff without communication, both sides resolved to ignore each other and explored the new places available to them.

In the third Milky Way the First Ones had the feeling that something had changed, and looked to the skies. They very much disliked what they saw.

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The Asgard High Council was in session. Over fifty Asgard were arrayed in a circle facing inwards, discussing their existence. The debate was not of the 'I think therefore I am' variety, but rather of the 'didn't we just die?' variety. The current Asgard speaking to the Council was Heimdall, a respected engineer with expertise in power generation and systems integration. "Are you in agreement with the conclusion that prior to our 'lost time' the power generation systems were in the process of overloading?" the current speaker for the High Council, Huginn pressed the engineer, the ceremonial stone which indicated his status dominating his otherwise naked form.

"I am certain," Heimdall responded. Usually this would have been more than enough to seal the debate of whether the planet had been destroyed, despite its seemingly undamaged appearance. But apparently he had more to add. "Not only were they in the process of overloading," he continued slowly, in the melodious and slightly otherworldly tone of voice all Asgard possessed, "but the containment fields were failing and past the point of no return. No known technology could have prevented catastrophic failure." There was a momentary silence. The Asgard were not a sceptical people, and took what the results meant at face value. The planet had been destroyed as planned.

"Yet we remain," Huginn observed, before bowing his head for a moment. "The High Council thanks you, engineer Heimdall. You may return to your tasks." Without a word the engineer left the council chambers, exchanging a glance with an Asgard entering the chamber as he did so. Hugin watched the newcomer for a moment before speaking. "Supreme Commander Thor. You were expected at the beginning of the Council."

"My apologies," the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet responded. "I was consulting with Freyr. As you know he suffered greatly as his genetic structure failed." Thor moved up a short ramp onto the first level of seating and took the large chair on the right side of the speaker, the vaulted throne reserved for him at all Council meetings. Hugin exchanged a glance with the Asgard seated to his left, but that glance didn't seem to yield any information.

"You have news?" the speaker enquired.

"Indeed," Thor responded. "He is well. His entire genome has been repaired, as has mine, and all Asgard examined by the sensors aboard the Bliskner. Over fifty-two thousand years genetic decay have been repaired." At that declaration there was silence. Complete and utter silence. Huginn rose from his throne and exited the chamber with slow dignity, and was followed silently by several other council members. Thor watched them go. Shock was not an emotion the Asgard often felt.

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"We have made detailed observations of the Orilla star," Thor declared, a gigantic real-time hologram of the star in question filling the center of the council chamber. Solar flares, sunspots, and even shifting temperature variations were all displayed and occasionally noted in the scrolling Futhark and Asgard runes which scrolled across the top and bottom of the image. "Based on the ratios of light elements being fused within the star it has been an estimated three years and between two to three months since the last recorded readings on the day we gave up the Legacy."

The day we gave up the Legacy, Thor mused. For such an old race as the Asgard it was almost painful to contemplate extinction, but their sense of duty would not allow their technology to fall into the hands of irresponsible scavengers, hence the mass suicide they committed. To preserve their legacy and memory they had gifted all their knowledge and technology to the humans of Earth, and Thor couldn't help but wonder what they had accomplished in the intervening time.

"This is most helpful, Supreme Commander Thor," Huginn commented. It was. With a timeframe the Asgard could simply update their database with planetary positions and other time-related phenomenon. Even without a precise time they needed only conduct a survey of a well-known star system and have the computer run simulations until it matched the actual locations of stellar bodies. Unfortunately they could not use Orilla because of the gravitational effects caused by a destroyed planet, and all ships were forbidden from leaving without permission from the High Council.

"Indeed," Thor agreed. "But there is a more pressing mystery." As if on cue the local galactic cluster replaced the Orilla star floating in the center of the chamber.. "It appears that two more galaxies have appeared, both in an extremely tight cluster with the already present Midgard. Both galaxies are a close replica, although more differences may emerge with closer examination. It is likely there are powerful forces at work, and this may be related to our revival."

"You raise a valid point, Supreme Commander, but there is little we can do to investigate. The Fleet is required here at Orilla. It is the last remnant of the Asgard." Huginn sounded almost scolding for a brief moment.

"You need not remind me, Speaker," Thor agreed, although his own resonant voice had deepened slightly to sound his disapproval. "In orbit of Orilla there are the battleships Valhalla, Mjolnir, Balmung, Sigurd, Forseti, Beliskner and Tyr. The science ships Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson are also present. I propose that the Samantha Carter be dispatched to Midgard and examine the local powers." There was a moment of silence then a few minutes of discussion as the Council decided amongst themselves of whether to approve of the plan.

"The Council has decided to support your plan, Supreme Commander." Huginn blinked slowly, deep black eyes momentarily obscured. "However it is not to risk itself. If there is a hostile encounter it will return to Orilla and the wisdom of this expedition reassessed."

"My thanks," Thor responded, the image again changing. "These are the two new Midgard galaxies. I propose that the Tyr and Beliskner be dispatched to examine them for a period of two weeks before returning to Orilla." It was purely courtesy which had the Supreme Commander discussing the disposition of his Fleet with the Council, but it would have been considered foolish and unwise to unilaterally decide to pull two of the seven warships protecting the only remaining Asgard world and send them on an extra-galactic survey. The Council again entered discussion for several minutes.

"The Council agrees," Huginn declared, examining the board in front of him. "With the stipulation that daily reports are made to Orilla. If either of the new Midgard galaxies are hostile and pose a threat to Asgard ships it will be declared off-limits until the Fleet is rebuilt and a new standard expedition launched when time allows. If there are no other concerns, the Council is adjourned."

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Thor beamed aboard the Bliskner in a flash of light, the any-point-to-any-point transport technology of the Asgard unrivalled by even the Ancients, though the Stargates were certainly the ultimate method of small-scale transport between star systems. Stepping up onto the podium on which all the controls to the Bliskner rested Thor placed his hand on one of the stones, and applied gentle pressure. The milky-white stone lit up, and the mighty hyperdrive of the vessel powered up and propelled the battleship into hyperspace to a new, distant galaxy.

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Captain's Log: USS Enterprise

The Enterprise has been pulled out of the Sixth Fleet to serve as a diplomatic envoy to a new race that that appeared in orbit above Betazed. I can't help but feel torn. While engaging in a First Contact with a new alien race is the spirit of Starfleet; the Enterprise is more than just a ship but also a morale booster for the beleaguered ships of the Sixth Fleet. In the last month alone she has suffered in six engagements with Cardassian and Dominion forces and has acquitted herself with honour on each occasion. It is a relief the crew will have some much needed rest, but other crews on the front line have no such luxury.

Jean Luc Picard looked up from his log as the door to his ready room chirped, indicating somebody was requesting entrance. "Computer, end log." Straightening his dress uniform the Captain of the Enterprise sat back in his chair. "Enter." The doors hissed open, momentarily revealing the bridge before swishing shut behind Commander Riker. "Yes, Number One?"

"I just thought I should inform you that we are dropping out of warp in less than ten minutes, Sir. There has also been a communiqué from Starfleet Command." Riker offered a PADD to Picard, who took it instantly and turned it round, opening the relavent file and scanning if, before looking pained and closing his eyes. "Sir?" Riker sounded concerned.

"The Sixth Fleet was in another engagement with the Twelfth Order. Thirty ships lost with all hands and eighteen severely damaged. Over eleven thousand dead." There was silence for a few moments before Riker responded, voice low.

"We're losing the war, aren't we?" Picard didn't reply for a few moments, gently placing the PADD on his desk and standing to look out the window as the stars flashed by, the Enterprise moving many times the speed of light as her warp drive propelled her towards Betazed.

"Unless something changes, Will, it's only a matter of time. Starfleet continues to suffer heavy losses, while the Dominion has thousands of warships sitting on the other side of the wormhole. The latest intelligence suggests that they are mere weeks from disabling the minefield protecting this side of the wormhole, maybe less." The sombre mood of the ready room deepened.

"Then why aren't we on the front lines, sir?" He had asked the question, and Picard took a few moments to answer.

"I am of the opinion," he said quietly, turning to face his second in command, "that Starfleet is hoping to find an ally in every new species we encounter. Command is becoming desperate for more ships. Unless we take the offensive soon we will lose the power to do so, and we cannot afford to take the offensive without opening massive holes in the line." Picard sounded grim. "Starfleet command wants cannon fodder."

"Surely it isn't like that!" Riker protested.

"No, probably not," Picard admitted quietly. "But it's getting there. We could be doing so many things that enrich the Federation rather than fight this war."

"Like wondering why two new galaxies appeared in the sky?" Riker sounded almost teasing, and Picard looked up sharply. Riker's eyes were almost twinkling, though he had managed to suppress the grin and Picard relaxed a little, smiling ruefully.

"Yes, certainly that."

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The Enterprise exited warp with a flash of light and a subspace 'bang' the Sovereign-class vessel gracefully approached orbit of Betazed and the small picket of ships that protected the tactically important planet. Picard was seated in the center chair on the bridge, with Riker to his left. "None of these ships are newer than twenty years," Riker grimly noted. "They wouldn't stand a chance against even a small attack force."

"I think, Number One, that they would be facing overwhelming force in any case." With that said the bridge lapsed into silence for the next few minutes.

"Captain, the alien vessel is in visual range." Data's report made Picard straighten.

"On screen." The view of directly in front of the Enterprise was replaced by the alien ship, and Picard immediately noted the smooth but somewhat aggressive curves of the large vessel. The archaeologist inside him couldn't match them with any known artefacts or symbols, but it was certainly designed with a sort of sleekness about it.

"That's one big ship," Riker murmured. "Data, analysis?"

"The vessel is over a mile long," Data observed, drawing a low whistle from Riker. "It does not appear to have raised shields, but the hull is still interfering with scans."

"Passive scans only, Mr. Data," Picard ordered. "We don't want to antagonise them."

"Aye, sir." Data's fingers danced over the board of his station. "The hull appears to consist of some kind of armour made up of carbon and two other elements unrecognised by the computer. It measures three metres thick and seems completely uniform."

"The Enterprise only has ablative armour protecting key areas," Riker murmured. "And even that is only six centimetres thick. These people don't do things by half." Picard didn't make a sound for a few moments.

"Mr. Data, can you open a channel?"

The android nodded. "I believe so, sir. Channel open." Picard exchanged a glance with Riker and stood, tugging his dress uniform to straighten it.

"Attention alien vessel. This Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise. We would like to establish a dialogue so that we may better understand each other and our respective cultures." There was only silence from the other end. Picard continued bravely on. "We would like to establish diplomatic ties between our people." There was still only silence.

"Maybe the lights are on but nobody's home?" Riker suggested.

"No..." Picard murmured. "No, that ship is definitely manned. The only question is what they intend." Suddenly Data's console beeped, and the android frowned.

"Sir, the Enterprise is being subjected to a high-powered subspace scan."

"Raising shields!" Worf responded, only to be instantly cut off.

"No!" Picard snapped. "We don't want to appear hostile."

"The scans have ceased," Data reported. "We are being hailed, audio and visual."

"Well we scanned them," Picard said to himself. "Only fair they're allowed to scan us back. Mr. Data, open the channel." The view of the alien vessel was immediately replaced by it's interior, though most was obscured by a massive head. Picard gave his best non-threatening smile. "Greetings. I am Captain Jean Luc Picard. May I inquire as to your name?"

The alien gave a long, slow blink which Riker found slightly unnerving, but Picard didn't seem fazed. "Greetings," the alien eventually responded. "I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet." Picard smiled. He had a name, and that name and designation had his archaeological fascination jumping up and down with glee. Was it possible these aliens were influenced by or had influenced Norse Mythology?

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Supreme Commander," he responded. "May I enquire as to your presence here in Federation space?" There was another small silence, and Picard had the impression that he was being scrutinised.

"I am here to survey and examine the species of this region." The voice seemed to translate through the communications band with an odd resonance, and Picard made a note to ask Data to find the source of the problem later, if he hasn't already. Picard clasped his hands loosely in front of him and smiled.

"Except in times of war Starfleet is also an exploratory body. I would be honoured if you would consider to a meeting so that we might discuss our cultures and histories together and possibly become friends to your species." Once again Picard had the impression he was being weighed and measured by that mostly unblinking gaze...

"Agreed," Thor said eventually. "I will come aboard your ship." Picard took a deep breath and gave the alien a small smile.

"We would be honoured to receive you. Shall we expect you in, say, ten minutes?" The Asgard nodded in confirmation, though it was really more like a slight bow of his head.

"Agreed. Transmit coordinates." The channel was cut, leaving Picard standing in the middle of the bridge. With a small sigh, the renowned captain and diplomat turned to his second in command.

"Well we know one thing for sure, Number One," he said quietly, shooting a glance back at the now empty viewscreen before moving back to the turbolift. "These are obviously punctual people." The turbolift doors hissed open and Picard entered. There was a momentary pause and he gave Riker and amused smile. "Coming, Number One?"

"Yes sir," Riker agreed, though not without the kind of resigned eyebrow lift that clearly conveyed his reluctance. Standing and making his way towards the back of the bridge he entered the open turbolift. "Transporter Room One." The doors hissed shut and carried them on their way.

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"One minute left, Sir." Riker reminded Picard, who looked up from the PADD he was reading through.

"Thank you, Number One." He 'turned the page' on the PADD and let out a contemplative noise. "Did you know that 'Asgard' was the highest plane and home of the 'Aesir', gods of the Norse Pantheon? Among which Thor was counted, I might add. We may be looking at another race that influenced humanity, while 'Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet' may indicate the alien we spoke to is in charge of the defence of their homeworld." Ironically enough Picard was correct, but not for the right reason.

"Well they certainly seem impressive enough to back it up," Riker admitted. "But that would mean that this particular alien has been alive for...what...nearly two thousand years?" Picard looked up from the PADD and made another thoughtful noise.

"Well," he said after a moment. "It is possible that this may be a very long-lived race, or 'Thor' may be a hereditary or ceremonial title. We can't really know for sure. In any case I suspect our guest is about to arrive." Straightening up he waited and took a deep breath. First Contacts were always difficult. You never had any idea of any cultural difficulties that might be encountered.

Instead of the usual sparkle and twinkle of the transporter a white light grew suddenly appeared in the centre of the transporter and brightened along with a loud musical hum. When it faded the alien was standing on the transporter pad, looking around the room. It was far smaller than Picard had expected from the previous look he got. In fact, it barely came up to his waist.

"Greetings, Supreme Commander Thor. Welcome aboard the Enterprise. If there is anything we can do to make you more comfortable, please inform us. We have prepared quarters, so if you would like to take a rest there for some time before we begin Commander Riker will be more than happy to escort you there."

"That will not be necessary," Thor intoned, stepping down from the transporter pad(which he hadn't even used) and halted a few feet from Picard. "On behalf of the Asgard, I am interested in negotiating for your cultural, regional, astrometrical, political and basic technological databases." Picard's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

"That is a rather...extensive list, Supreme Commander. I will have to consult with Starfleet Command on several counts, but we would be happy to offer you any unclassified information as a gesture of goodwill." Thor just bowed his head again. Picard felt slightly off-balance, and he didn't feel off-balanced very often. "If you would please come with us, Supreme Commander Thor, we will show you the way to the briefing room."

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Thor noted the design of these human ships were significantly different to those that the SGC had used. While the SGC had favoured utilitarian and blocky designs with little concern for aesthetics it appeared the 'Federation' instead believed in smooth lines, comfort and other similar concepts. They were less advanced than even the ships in use by the Goa'uld, but they were significantly more manoeuvrable and according to his scans employed directed beam technology rather than pulsed weaponry.

Captain Picard was giving him a verbal history of the Federation, and Thor listened with interest. It appeared that there was a duplicate Earth in this galaxy, but there had been no mention of Stargates, which had been the main method of travel for less advanced cultures for the original. Instead it appeared they had developed along different technological lines but at the same time as the other regional powers.

The way this Federation valued cooperation and friendship was not unlike the SGC, and those values were one of the reasons the Asgard had entrusted the Legacy to them. Thor could not help but wonder exactly what this Starfleet and Federation could accomplish with that technology and knowledge available to them. It was worth noting, however, that Thor had detected no deposits of Naquadah at all in this galaxy, though traces of neutronium were present as well as other exotic materials the computer had classified according to property but was unable to identify.

Thor was led out of the elevator(they called it a turbolift) he had been standing in with Captain Picard and Commander Riker. He had remained silent thus far, but asked a question which he judged to be 'small talk', as recommended by Jack O'Neill on one occasion. "For what reason do you not use matter transportation technology to move around your ship?" Riker's eyebrows shot up, and he fielded the question.

"Unfortunately," the large human explained, "If there is a power outage or the ship is disabled it would make moving about the ship incredibly difficult. In addition transporters are power intensive and highly complex, making them unsuitable for standard use as something there the turbolift is entirely adequate." The explanation made sense to Thor, and he had noticed the other human relax slightly and cease his speech when Thor had finally asked a question.

"You are concerned with your ships being disabled?" Thor enquired, again trying to make small talk. He also noticed the other human tense slightly again, though he may be judging the body language incorrectly.

"I'm afraid so," Riker said grimly. "The Federation is at war with a race of changelings called the Dominion. They demand nothing less than the subjugation of all 'solids'...those who cannot change shape."

"It is discrimination of the worse kind," Picard said quietly, and Thor was already drawing the comparisions between this 'Dominion' and the Goa'uld the Asgard had fought for so long. Although the Goa'uld had been opposed both on principle and for the sake of the humans subjugated by them with no chance for freedom. But theses humans and their Federation appeared to not have that difficulty.

"You have a just cause," Thor eventually responded, noting that there may be another side to the war that he would have to examine before even considering any kind of ties between the Asgard and the conflict, or the powers involved.

"Thank you for saying so," Picard said. "We will fight to protect what we hold dear to the last breath. And here is the observation deck. In peace-time we would be happy to have a meeting with the entire staff, but the Enterprise must have an officer on the Bridge at all times in war conditions. This is Commander Data and Deanna Troi, ships counselour.

"It is a pleasure to meet you," the woman offered, giving him a genuine smile. Thor took a chair with some difficulty, unused to the height and structure, though made no comment. They were obviously comfortable by human standards.

"My apologies for the seating," Picard murmured, before beginning the meeting. "Supreme Commander, you mentioned that you would like copies of our databases. May I enquire as to why?"

"You may," Thor replied, missing the slight twitch of Riker's lips. "The Asgard are new to this region of space, and we wish to familiarise ourselves with the political, cultural and regional powers, as well as the technological bases of the species here. We would also like starmaps detailing system locations and stellar phenomenon of interest."

"Quite a hefty list," Picard replied, "as I said before. However it appears to me that the information you desire in basic information available to practically anybody in the quadrant. I will happily transmit any information in the computer banks of the Enterprise on the subjects you are interested in to you, however I recommend you proceed to Memory Alpha where the library banks of the Federation are stored. Now, I hope you don't mind if I would like to hear more about your culture and his-" He was cut off by the lights dimming and an alarm sounding, along with a voice issuing from his commbadge. Thor tilted his head curiously.

"Lieutenant Hansen to Captain Picard: Three Jem'Hadar battlecruisers and nine fighter ships just dropped out of Warp. They broke through the line, and Starfleet is struggling to close the gap. Reinforcements will not be here in the near future. The Betazed defence force is requesting assistance."

The officers all rose as Thor watched them, and Captain Picard issued the Asgard an apology. "I apologize Supreme Commander, but this takes precedence. I must command my vessel. A security team will escort you back to transporter room one and beam you back aboard your ship. Unfortunately your own transport system will not be able to penetrate our shields while they are up. I hope to continue this conversation later."

"An escort will not be required, Captain Picard." With that said Thor vanished in a musical chime of light, leaving behind a surprised Picard. Then the Starfleet captain shook his head and hurried onto the bridge after his command staff.

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The Dominion cruisers dropped out of warp in a triangular formation, the three ships large, bulky, and deeply menacing to any officer which had been the frontline. They were swiftly followed by the smaller but nonetheless supremely dangerous Jem'Hadar attack fighters, which broke apart into three groups of three. Thor turned one of the rune-engraved stones on his control console and a tactical map appeared on the massive screen dominating the wall of the commander centre.

The Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet briefly wondered whether three was a significant number to this 'Dominion', then conducted a low level scan. Powerful shields and polaron weaponry seemed to be the norm for the larger vessels, while the smaller fighters had one beam emitter on the prow of the ship. It was a design philosophy focusing on the concentration of overwhelming firepower. Thor noted this in the ships computer then turned to examine the Federation ships as they responded.

The Enterprise had joined the main defence force and was moving to engage the Jem'Hadar at the very front of the defence force, which consisted of twelve ships. Seven of the vessels appeared to be nothing more than a small saucer with the faster-than-light propulsion system in use by the local powers tacked on, and the computer analysed them as having the equivalent power of the fighter craft arrayed against them. In fact the sensors informed Thor that some of the ship frames were over a hundred years old.

Three of the other ships were larger, with small saucers and extremely long nacelles. Another had an extremely large saucer and stubby nacelles, but was significantly more advanced than all other ships save the Enterprise. Save those two vessels all other Federation ships were outgunned by their opponents. Thor manipulated another stone as he tapped into the transmissions passing between the Starfleet ships with little difficulty, the super-advanced Asgard computer taking less than half a minute to break the encryption. By that time the ships were mere seconds from engaging each other.

"-vessels will form one wing and engage the fighters individually. Guard each other but don't hesitate to pursue a wounded target, or they may attempt to ram. The Chimera will form with the Enterprise and follow her targets. The Excelsior-class vessels will form up and target another cruiser. Good luck. Picard out." It was only a few seconds afterwards that that a barrage or torpedoes launched from the Federation ships, while phased polaron beams lashed outwards.

The Enterprise and Galaxy-class Chimera launched a withering assault of bright phaser fire and spreads of torpedoes against the central Jem'Hadar cruiser. Quantum and photon torpedoes slammed into the forward shields of the battlecruiser, which flared as it deflected the impacts. The Excelsior-class ships engaging another of the cruisers broke apart and fired from three angles, the ship closest to the forward weapons of the cruiser took a beating as it targeted the engineering section.

The shields held, but the smaller and antiquated Miranda-class ships couldn't say the same against the Jem'Hadar fighter craft. Six of the fighters had broken off from moving to harry the larger Enterprise and Chimera and were engaging the ships. One of them buckled under phaser and torpedo fire, turning into a gutted wreck in the space of five seconds, but not before retaliatory fire punched straight through the photon launchers of one of the opponent Miranda-class ships and detonating the stored torpedoes, reducing the ship to shrapnel which smacked into the shields of its wing mates.

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The Enterprise shuddered as the Jem'Hadar cruiser she was attacking took pot shots at the forward shields from the weaker but nonetheless formidable rear emitters as the Sovereign-class ship lined up her torpedo launchers at the rear of the cruiser. It attempted to sluggishly bank around to bring it's forward weapons to bear, but the superior manoeuvrability and smaller profile of the Enterprise served it well as phaser fire poured from the saucer phaser arrays and weakened the aft shields.

"Forward shields are down to forty three percent!" Data's report had Picard looking at the display on his armrest, which had been configured to show shield status.

"Redirect auxiliary power to compensate. Mr. Hansen?"

"Their rear shields are buckling, Captain."

"Helm, keep on them. Mr. Hansen, signal the Chimera to begin her torpedo spread."

The Galaxy-class assisting the Enterprise had been dividing the attention of the battlecruiser and soaking up fire from the third, untargeted cruiser when it received the order. The photon torpedo spread slammed into the top shields of the cruiser, and the entire shield grid of the formidable vessel fluctuated.

"Mr. Hansen, fire quantum torpedoes!" The tactical officer eagerly complied. Four balls of brilliant blue light leapt forward out of the Enterprise's dedicated torpedo launcher. The first impacted the shields, but the final three stabbed deep into the main aft section of the cruiser, detonating with blistering force. The main reactor of the attack cruiser went critical seconds later, the ship crumpling as secondary explosions destroyed it and the main reactor finally failed catastrophically, blowing it apart in a brilliant explosion.

The elation of the victory died when the Chimera was rammed by two Jem'Hadar fighters. The first exploded against the rear shields, but the second plowed straight through and obliterated the majority of the saucer section. The ship went up in a massive fireball. Picard snapped out orders. "Bring us about, Mr. Michaels, and target the second cruiser! Mr. Data, tactical situation?"

The android consulted his board, answering in the matter-of-fact way which meant his emotional chip was inactive, or he was hiding his emotions very well. "Three Miranda-class ships remain, along with two Excelsior-class vessels. The Dominion has lost five attack fighters and one cruiser. "

"This is far too close for comfort," Riker muttered. Picard silently agreed, even as the cruiser they were attacking launched a frontal assault against an already damaged Excelsior, reducing it to debris in a matter of moments.

"Captain," Data said loudly. "We are receiving a message from the Sixth Fleet!" The ship lurched as it was struck by enemy fire, two fighters attacking the Enterprise along with the third cruiser. "They report that reinforcements will arrive in ten minutes!"

"We don't be around in two!" Riker shouted as the whole ship shuddered. "Much less ten!" Picard looked grim as another Miranda died as its warp core went critical and blew the ship apart in a violent explosion.

"Order the fleet to retreat and regroup at the edge of the system!" The Enterprise came about and caught a Jem'Hadar fighter on a ramming course with a salvo of quantum torpedos, shattering the backbone of the ship and reducing it to fragments smaller than a fist.

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The Vorta in command of the second cruiser and now the attack squadron watched the flagship of the Federation fleet flee with only two ships accompanying it with a smug look, her lips creased with a smile. "Shall we pursue?" the Jem'Hadar first enquired.

"No," she said quietly. "Evict the other ship from the system and begin planetary bombardment of the major centers. We will do as much damage as possible before the Federation relief force arrives. Begin." The First bowed his head and the cruiser and fighters moved towards the Asgard O'Neill class warship, opening a channel while the other remaining cruiser moved into bombardment position for the closest major population centre.

"Alien vessel," the First rumbled. "By the will of the Founders you shall vacate this system." There was a moment of silence over the connection, then a response.

"I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. You have no jurisdiction over this vessel."

"Then you will be destroyed," The First stated matter-of-factly. "You have thirty seconds to comply." With a single command the genetically engineered soldier terminated the connection while the Vorta nodded in approval. Fifteen seconds into the deadline the second Jem'Hadar cruiser began to fire on the surface of Betazed, targeting a major population centre. Seventeen seconds into the deadline a massive bolt of ionic energy from the Bliskner smashed into the offending cruiser.

The blast began to pancake against the shield for a split second before the protective shell of energy failed and the remainder of the attack ripped through the hull like tissue paper, shredding the cruiser into a thousand pieces. Twenty seconds into the deadline the remaining Jem'Hadar cruiser fired on the Bliskner, along with the three fighters.

The massive Asgard warship responded with an identical attack against the second cruiser as it did the first, and the results were equally identical. The more nimble attack fighters scattered, but the 'bugships' were caught by Asgard disintegration beams within seconds, which simply ignored the weaker shields of the fighters and scattered them into their component atoms. Twenty four seconds after the Bliskner was ordered to leave the system, she was the only thing that remained.

To say that Captain Picard was pleasantly surprised when the Enterprise warped back into orbit with a Federation relief force would be an understatement.