Peace. There comes a time in every soldier's life when he has to ask himself just what that word really means and just how much one has to pay to reach it. To some, peace means domination and order among the masses. Others seek free speech and democracy to bring happiness. Others still search for it through unison and perfection as their creed. But whatever that word meant in the hearts of those across the galaxy, that one search for peace had drawn them here, to the center of what had become their universes. To an event that defied explanation, and maybe that was for the best.
Among the stars it swirled, some strange conglomeration of energy and particles. Every year around this time, this strange event horizon formed into what now hung outside their hull like an ornament among the stars. And its arrival meant a time of peace was at hand for them all. However brief and precarious this period ahead would be, it was a welcome sign for all.
Ever since the Union of the Galaxies, things had been in constant swing. Alliances had been made and broken at the drop of a hat. Empires and worlds were built and smashed like waves against the sands of time. Sectors littered with wrecked hulls and frozen tombs were like decoration in a cruel house. It was enough to break the hearts and souls of both men and gods. But once a year, for but a few short days, the guns fell silent. And as the clouds swirling outside his reach cascaded across the sleek elliptical bow of the latest breed of Federation starship, her commander could not help but nod to the wonder in wordless thanks of its appearance as it meant both reprieve and rest had come.
"You know, I never get tired of seeing this wonder" Captain Daniel Lohnes said as he stared out the window of the briefing room into the swirling gas peaks of the anomaly, shade from emerald to sunset to a deep crimson hue reflected both off the hull of his starship and from his dark blue eyes. "It's almost like the universe itself is trying to catch its breath." Smiling to himself, the ship's leader nodded to the man beside him "It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we've seen it last."
"I'd say so sir. Last year, we were aboard the Valiant during this time. It was only about two months later when we lost her to the Borg at Byss. Maybe the Prophets thought we didn't take the hint last time around" the first officer smirked, shaking his head so the chain along his ear jingled slightly. Commander Glainer Vartris had been serving with his fellow classmate and friend Lohnes since their first posting, an older Miranda-class workhorse. Naturally, it had led to more than a few competitive moments between the two, but it also brought the utmost respect. Even if his friend was now in command of a mighty Starfleet vessel, Vartris did not let that stand above the trust and confidence that had built over those years, and neither did Daniel. Also, it didn't stop his right hand man from beating him at poker at every turn he could.
"Maybe" the Captain smirked as he nodded out into the wonder "these Sovereign-class ships can take a beating, but it doesn't have to mean their heart is only built for war. Who knows, with the help of ships like the Endeavour here and the Enterprise, we might just unlock whatever secrets this thing holds someday."
"Yea, but if we did that, the galaxy would look… duller somehow." Vartris quipped. To the spiritual Bajoran, this was another sign from the Prophets. A beacon of peace and tranquility that blessed them once every year. As welcome as it was, it had a will of its own, and would only stay once the faithful had earned the right to keep it safe.
Lohnes shared a notion of faith and spirit with the phenomenon, but it reminded him of a simpler time. Times back on Earth when he was with his family, hanging stockings by the chimney with care and dressing up a freshly retrieved pine with ornaments and blessings passed down through the generations. The smiles on his wife's and daughter's faces had pushed him through the darkest nights and coldest fronts to get him where he was now, and how he wished he could be home now, for the small smattering of photos kept in a book by his bed was simply no match for that. Yet, in a way, this inexplicable curiosity in space was Christmas incarnate. With its arrival came peace and goodwill in the hearts of galaxies. Like the cease-fires of holidays past, this time of year always seemed to bring tranquility with it. And Daniel wished upon every star that someday it would stay that way.
"Well well, looks like someone's out to play" the Bajoran pointed as small glints of metal and speed raced down and across the Endeavour's hull like remora along a shark. In the lead was a pair of two speedy arrowhead-built interceptors, as sleek as they were deadly and pushed by two J-77-C engines. These A-wing fighters easily outraced most of their competitors, and their pilots took great pleasure in doing so.
Behind them, racing in tandem with s-foils closed came a pair of iconic T-65 X-wings, Death Star slaying starfighters and tenacious enough to back up their reputation, particularly in the hands of a Rogue.
Trailing close to them, the rather odd bird of the New Republic Starfighter Corps, the giant-killing B-wing cruised swiftly along. Vartris had nicknamed them 'crosses', and Lohnes had to agree that they did seem to be both the shape and the symbol of divine wrath at times, never hesitating to fight David or Goliath alike.
Finally, tucked into their friends wake came the oldest and normally toughest of her kin, the Y-wings. Even if they bore countless scorch marks and dented panels from decades of battle, these aged hounds had plenty of fight to them. Especially when it came to close and thorough bombing or any mission demanding a complete lack of subtlety.
"Guess they think we're part of the course" the Captain grinned as the snubfighters broke off into their respective pairs and spread out on their respective runs toward the anomaly. "I'm guessing they brought friends?"
The first officer nodded, pointing off to the starboard "Few thousand kilometers off the bow, the Mon Aurora. MC80 class, and one of the better looking ones I've always thought."
Following his first officer's gesture, Lohnes could make out the larger cruiser easily among the clouds. Its mammalian curves and swells fit well with the aquarium-like world of Mon Calamari that it called home. "I remember. You said the same thing the first time we saw it over Khitomer. Come to think about it, didn't you say the same thing about someone else too? One of her crew?"
Grinning widely, the Bajoran thought back to a long lost face and a few months of passionate fire worthy of novels with a young fighter jockey "All I said was 'Nice wings!'. The rest as they say was the Prophet's doing. I had thought the rumors about Twi'lek females were just that. And here I thought Klingon females were supposed to be the most…ferocious." 'Live and learn', as you humans say.
Daniel snorted before looking back into space, only to be greeted by a small cue of irony and a touch of anxiety, "Well, speaking of the Klingons…" Pointing almost straight above them, the shadow of another vessel crept over their view like a snake before melting away and pushing onward. The bulbous sphere of its bow fused artfully upon a slender neck to connect it to its heart and the fierce warrior's seal painted on its belly gave credence to both its history and its brutality. All the bloodshed and blades raised high in the name of honor and glory to a warrior's imperium. "K'tinga-class. Talk about historic; it's probably older than those old Y-wings the Republic uses," Vartris quipped, "And I don't like facing down either."
A chirp emerged from the Captain's chest, "Sir, a message from the Klingon cruiser, identified as the Hargh'SuS. Its captain passes greetings and his respect that Starfleet is here to pay remembrance to this 'time of honored dead.'"
Daniel nodded, tapping the combadge on his breast "Understood. Relay our thanks and 'Qapla' to their empire." He could almost hear his communications officer giggle on the other end "Understood sir." After a few seconds, the battlecruiser pointed its nose towards the peak of the unknown and ascended, its rear torpedo launcher glaring back at them as if to remind all just much its crew loved to fight. The Federation officers wondered just how much bloodwine drinking and punching was going on inside that hull, but both were sure that songs for the privileged fallen and battles to come were echoing out for sectors throughout the cosmos.
Suddenly, the emerald flash of deceleration caught their eyes as someone new arrived. Coming in on a massive hawk, the new arrival was well worthy of its title as a Warbird, the Valdore-class was nothing short of an extension of power from the Romulan Senate to wherever their fleet was ordered. Still, it was rare for a Starfleet crew to see one uncloaked and not raining fire upon a target, particularly with bad blood also in such close reach. Long, arching wings grinning with talons swept in a light turn as the new arrival brought itself level with the human cruiser as the Hargh'SuS turned to face the new target head on before the comm beeped again "Captain, the Romulans are hailing both the Endeavour and the Klingons."
Vartris shrugged, "Considering where we are, and with the New Republic just a shot away, they probably just caught curious."
Daniel nodded, "Patch them through on audio, bridge."
"This is Commander D'laros of the Warbird Tek Pring. We are here on a research mission and do not seek conflict."
Lohnes could hear the Hargh'SuS acknowledge with something in his native tongue before the entire crew erupted in laughter before their ship swooped in low and overflew the Warbird by mere meters before continuing its ascension away from the others.
"Showoffs," the Bajoran snorted before the human spoke, "This is Captain Lohnes of the Federation starship Endeavour. We are also here on a research mission of sorts and would welcome any cooperation for a joint venture."
"Perhaps another time, Starfleet" the Romulan countered quickly, but the channel did not close as Lohnes as he expected. "Though I will admit, it is a rare encounter that has such forces gathered under a cover of calm. It is not often our traditions align so succinctly."
"The Birthday of the First Praetor? It's upcoming as well?" the Starfleet captain quizzed his comrade across the void.
"Indeed it is. And it is thanks to his wisdom we stand here today, a glorious Empire," responded D'laros, voice heavy with a pride Lohnes had come to both respect and even fear, depending on the opponent. "Then we shall raise a glass of Romulan Ale to him as well. Farr jolan, D'laros."
"Jolan tru, Lohnes," responded the Warbird's commander in his native tongue before the elegant killer swapped fore for aft and began a slow cruise closer to the anomaly.
"Well, that went surprisingly well," the Bajoran said, following the two new visitors with his gaze, though they drew further apart.
Pulling at his bangs with his palm, Lohnes shrugged to himself, "I guess everyone has a day like this in their cultures. After all, I doubt the New Republic has come close to letting the Romulans off the hook after that little sneak attack on Bespin."
"True, true. Another example of the Prophet's grace, I suppose."
The Captain nodded in understanding to his friend, since he knew how large a place such beliefs held in his heart. "Everyone has something they believe in I think. Good or bad, I think every heart needs a push bigger than itself to carry on. Honor, solidarity, family…"
And it was on that ironic note, as Lohnes listed the warmer and more often pleasant virtues of life, did the Endeavor suddenly shudder and its view grew dark as another guest arrived. Dwarfing the Sovereign-class starship, its sharpened bow and knife-edge hull cut into the stars as a testament to the sheer firepower it brought with it and made both men twitch for the alert to sound.
"Super-class Star Destroyer. Wonderful," Vartris squeaked out.
"It's here. Of all the ships the Galactic Empire has to play with, it had to be this one," Lohnes muttered, trying to keep both his dread and anger in check, "it's the Emperor's Breath."
Quickly, the Bajoran did a double-take between his commander and the battleship above them "You're kidding! The same Star Destroyer whose battle group wrecked Utopia Planitia?"
"The same. I'd recognize her anywhere" Daniel responded as he summoned the bridge, images of fiery wreckage and the last gasps of the dying following the mammoth vessel as it clawed its way through the skies of Mars flashing up from his memory, "Lieutenant Cortha, status report."
From the command center of his cruiser, his communications officer had a noticeable note of alarm in her information, "Captain, one Super Star Destroyer confirmed as the Emperor's Breath. Her shields are down and weapons are not powered, but she is launching TIE fighters and at least two Lambda-class shuttles. No other Imperial cruisers or frigates on sensors."
"They came without their battle group?" asked the Bajoran.
"Why not? We did, as I'm guessing the New Republic, and everyone else did too," Lohnes reminded his first officer, "besides, it's not like they would need the help at the moment." As he spoke, a quartet of sleek and deadly TIE Interceptors came howling down towards them, only to demonstrate their sharp maneuverability by leveling off mere inches off the Endeavour's hull and streaking past the Captain's view, canted wings with sharpened tips shining in the light. At the edge of their view, Lohnes could see other TIE Fighters and Interceptors join their New Republic counterparts, but not in pursuit. Instead, these two sides of a long-standing war tucked into a graceful, yet uneasy formation.
A sign of things to come, as the communicator chirped alive again "Captain, this is the Bridge. The Star Destroyer is hailing us."
"On audio" he replied, more than a little perplexed "This is the Federation starship Endeavour. Captain Daniel Lohnes commanding."
The return voice resonated with an accent dripping with both power and calculation "This is the Emperor's Breath, command ship of the Imperial Ninth Fleet. I am Admiral Celerian. From one commander to another, I bid you greetings."
To the Starfleet officers, none of that entire introduction made sense based on history. Neither man had ever seen a Star Destroyer this closely before, let alone one that was not raining down death upon them. Looking over to his first officer, Lohnes shot a curious look, to which Vartris could only look flabbergasted and shrug.
"You'll understand if we are…cautious about this coincidence meeting. After all, when last we met, your starship was tearing through my home system," Dan replied, trying his best to keep a level tone.
To which the other commander gave another unexpected reply. He sighed before answering "Just one in a long series of campaigns. I'm sure it is of no comfort to you to know that my crew and I were only following our orders, but it is the truth."
"You don't sound proud of that" Lohnes pressed.
"I take pride in serving the Empire that shelters and takes care of my family while we soldiers are thrown into battle. Just because our name became associated with evil and destruction through our acts during Palpatine's time does not mean we are all like that. If stereotypes were true, then your Federation would never build warships like the Defiant or Prometheus, and the Rebellion would have been made of barbarians."
As much as he hated to admit it, Lohnes had to give the Admiral the point on that one, "It's easy to hate an enemy when all you see is their villainy. It becomes a lot harder when suddenly, your opponent is just like you."
"Indeed," Celerian chuckled, the light laughter fitting for two men exchanging conversation, not two hardened knights on opposing sides of war. "Tell me then Captain, is this time of the calendar also held in high regard for you?"
"In fact it is. It holds the same for you?"
"It does. It has for thousands of years in fact" acknowledged the Admiral, whose nostalgic smile registered even through the comlink. "I imagine your family misses you a great deal during these times."
Try as he might to remember what hovered above him, the Captain could not help but smile himself "And I miss them very much."
"I miss mine as well. Which is why I am grateful for times like these, where we can all agree on at least one thing" Celerian declared as the Star Destroyer began to rotate its nose to port.
"You know, you're coming dangerously close to treason, aren't you Admiral? Open communication with an enemy combatant and all?" Dan prodded.
"The Empire is a different place these days' gentlemen. One of the benefits of being an Admiral is that I am allowed certain freedoms. Besides, I'm not the only one guilty of treason here, am I Captain" the other commander countered. "Until we meet again, Captain Lohnes."
Through the comm line closed, the two officers stared in a degree of awe as the massive warship and the conversation that just occurred "Is that… the real power of this… occurrence? To sway and pacify the heart of entire galaxy?"
The Bajoran pondered that for a moment, before nodding "Maybe it is. Or at least, it's a window into that heart. It shows that even if our definitions differ, everyone here is chasing the same feeling." To punctuate the point, he pointed out across the bow, to where the Tek Pring had taken position in formation with the Mon Aurora. Darting and dancing between them, the engine flares of a dozen starfighters added their own twinkle to the stars, with the unusual sight of an X-wing and TIE Fighter locked in a lazy roll, keeping their position of dorsal to dorsal steady in a display of grace between rivals as they headed toward and over the Endeavour.
Once more, the communications officer summoned her commander "Sir, this is the Bridge again. We are picking up some unusual transmissions between the New Republic and Imperial fighters. They are all broadcasting in the clear and without encryption"
"Probably just some trash-talking between fighter jocks. No need to worry, Bridge" Lohnes thought out loud, before Cortha countered "Actually sir, it sounds like they are… singing."
"Singing" Vartris repeated stupefied. The Captain could not believe he had heard that right "On speakers." And what they got stunned both officers.
Thoughts endless in flight
Day turns to night
Questions you've asked you're soul
Which way do I go?
How fast is too slow?
The journey has it's time within us.
"I know this song," Vartris thought aloud "I remember she used to sing it with her squadronmates. I didn't know the Empire knew it too."
"It has a nice ring to it" Lohnes commented as more and more voices joined into the chorus, just as more of the rival fighters joined together in a loose formation that swept and swarmed around the larger cruisers like dragonflies.
Suddenly, over the channel, and just as loud and boorish as ever, came the proud howls and growls of a crew of drunken Klingons. Though that was not the strange aspect of the addition. No, the unusual factor to that was that somehow, beyond the language and traditional barriers, somehow the two melodies blended together into their own harmony. This was soon joined by the sly and verbose tones of the Romulan crew, adding in their own story of beliefs and history to the rest.
"I… never thought I'd see this happen…" Lohnes stammered slightly.
Smiling to his friend, the Bajoran nodded to the anomaly "Only the Prophets could blend the waves of the universe like this," to which Vartris began to hum to himself a classic Bajoran hymn of celebration that Lohnes recognized. Which is when it truly hit him just what everyone gathered had in common. No matter the way they preferred to do it, each person, pilot and soldier gathered among them had something to be thankful for. And through it all, they had all gathered here for those reasons and left their malice and anger far from here. Though he didn't know the channel was open and everyone was in sync with everyone else, Captain Lohnes himself could not resist anymore, and added his own quiet rendition of a hymn that was close to his heart. One his daughter begged him to perform for her every year around this time, no matter where he was among the stars. And for that, he was truly thankful.
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round your Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace
This is a small part of an adventure that has been brewing for years, one that I hope to hammer out into one continuity one day. I've had it for a long time, but being the Christmas season once again, I felt this was as good a time as any to put it to the test of the world. I hope you all enjoy. All copyrighted material property of their owners.
And on a minor side note, I have no idea why it double spaced one of the songs but not the other.