By Joseph Gatch

An enemy of untold power...A Starfleet of diverse background...After nearly losing their lives to an almost unstoppable foe, the crew of the ADVENTURE must go "Once More Unto The Breach" in a last forlorn hope to save the Federation...and the galaxy.

Warp nine point six.

A speed nineteen hundred and nine times the speed of light. One point twenty eight trillion miles per hour. It is almost incomprehensible to the human mind that an object could possibly travel so fast.

At this time, however, it wasn't fast enough.

"Time?" asked Commander Jacob Rhodes, for what seemed to be the hundredth time.

"Four hours until we reach Sol's galactic plane, sir," replied Lieutenant Diédre Elema. The Rho'shledan's watery voice made it sound better than it was.

Rhodes hit the com panel on his chair's arm. "Ivanov?"

"Sir, this is as fast as we go. There's nothing more I can do."

"Understood. What about the shield and torpedo modifications?"

"We are finishing up the torpedoes now and the shields will be ready in an hour. We're not sure that the modifications will work, but they're worth a try."

"Make sure everything's in place down there. We have no room for error."

"We are at one hundred ten percent and pushing, sir. It won't be us who lets you down."

"You never do, Sergei. Bridge out."

It wasn't what Ivanov said that gave Rhodes added confidence, it was how he said it. Everyone on the ship knew what was at stake. The humans especially. Earth was about to be attacked, if it weren't already, by an aggressive alien species known as the Vendoth. Why they were here was a mystery, but one thing for sure was that they weren't here to make friends.

The bridge, and the whole ship for that matter, was otherwise silent. Everyone was rechecking their instruments, looking for anything to keep their minds occupied and off of the impending battle.

"This is worse than the Borg," said Anderson. The first officer's English accent broke the silence and drew everyone's attention.

"That was a sudden realization that we were hopelessly outmatched. The fear was quick and the adrenaline rush forced the fight/flight response," replied Rhodes. "This is more like we are waiting to be executed."

The Ops console chirped and Elema tapped in a few commands.

"Sir, we are receiving data from Command. Reconnaissance probes have the numbers of the Vendoth Fleet and visuals. They are also reporting that the USS Incipiens has been destroyed. Command orders all ships and stations to change security protocol codes immediately."

"Very well. Put the data up on the main viewer."

A distant image appeared on screen.

"What is that? An asteroid field?" asked Miriam Coy.

Elema magnified the image. Surrounding a central ship was close to a hundred smaller vessels. Rhodes could make out four distinct classes in all. The smallest had the most numbers and resembled arrowheads. The next largest, the same class as the ship the Adventure had destroyed a short time ago, numbered around twenty. There were two larger vessels, which dwarfed the battle cruisers, and then finally...the ship was massive. What could only be a command flagship, stood in the center. Judging by the size of the others, it must have been the length of a Borg Cube. The bridge crew gazed at the armada in stunned silence.

"Is anyone else wishing they were on a deep space assignment right about now?" Miriam asked quietly.

Heads nodded in agreement with the helmsman.

"They have taken information from Memory Alpha," said Elema. "According to Fleet Intelligence, the Vendoth exited a portal just outside of the station. After the last ship exited, the portal collapsed, similar to what the Klingons witnessed. After retrieving information from Alpha, they began on a direct course for Earth. Now they are waiting on the edge of Sol and performing recon. SI also believes that they are waiting for more ships to arrive. Transwarp conduits branch off and can end anywhere. The same principal probably applies to the Vendoth vortex. That's why we have been getting reports from across the quadrant." Elema finished her report.

"So where are they coming from?" asked Anderson. "That's what I would like to know. Are they from the Gamma or Delta Quadrants?"

"I wish I knew," replied Rhodes. "The only lead I had gotten from the Vendoth captain was the name Harriman and a reference to a Dragon. According to Starfleet records, there's a Commander Christopher Harriman who is the first officer of the USS Dragon. I tried to contact him, but they are a quadrant away right now. I won't get a response for over a week. Records show that they have had no incidents lately with anything resembling the Vendoth. I had also tried to contact Admiral Blasberg's office, since he was the XO of the Excalibur during their contact with the Vendoth. He was unavailable at some ceremonial function...then we received the report of the Excalibur being destroyed outside of Memory Alpha. There are too many unknowns in all of this...and no one to know."

"Do you think that's enough?" asked Jeff Owens. Ivanov looked at him with surprise.

"Boy, how much more anti-matter do you want to put into these things? There's already five times the normal yield in these torpedoes."

Owens shrugged his shoulders. "Well, we didn't do too well against them with normal quantums. I figured the more we put in them, the better chance we have."

"And where do you think we will get more? This is the last of the reserve and we filled six of the torpedoes with the rest."

"Oh, then I guess that's enough then."

"We're only using these to finish off any of the big ones we have to go up against. The captain thinks that the smaller ships should be no problem."

"You mean 'he hopes'."

"We all do. That's about the only thing that's going to keep us alive. Hope."

"Sir, I am receiving comm traffic from the fleet. The Vendoth have entered the system, but it is a small recon force," said Elema.

"Time to solar plane?" asked Rhodes.

"Three and a half hours, sir."


"Command reports the Vendoth fleet is moving into the system at full impulse," said Elema.

"Taking their time while the fools rush in. Send a signal to our friends...we're going to be late for the party."

"We will reach Sol in five minutes, sir," reported Elema.

Rhodes checked the tactical readouts. Three Vendoth Scout ships were strafing the shipyards over Mars. As he watched, a Nebula Class Starship that was attempting to leave its berth was destroyed by the relentless attack of the scouts. "Slithek, target those ships and fire as soon as we are in range," he said calmly. "Battle stations."

The waiting was over. Like a pressure valve that was slowly released, the crew went to alert status with methodical precision. There was no rushing, no excitement, just experience and the need for payback.

Miriam Coy brought the ship to bear against the Vendoth scout group. As a hawk swoops down on its prey, the Akira class starship struck as it closed in. Quantum torpedoes lashed out at the multiple targets, striking each of them without remorse. The Vendoth ships broke their formation and circled to meet the newcomer.

"That got their attention," quipped Coy. "Going to evasive maneuvers."

The more agile Vendoth craft quickly gained the advantage before Adventure could fire again. Dodging through the shipyards, Coy directed the ship away from the valuable Starfleet resources. In their thirst for blood, the Vendoth abandoned their easy prey for a much livelier foe.

While Coy put the ship through its maneuvers, Slithek fired torpedoes, phasers, and deployed mines in their wake. The Adventure shuddered from the impacts of Vendoth weaponry.

"Shields?" asked Rhodes.

Elema checked her readouts. "The modifications are holding. The Vendoth effect is being repelled by the alternating polarity of the shields. However, the aft shields are down to seventy five percent." The Adventure rocked again. "Sixty five percent."

"Miriam..." started Rhodes.

"I know. I know. I'm taking us down."

"There is no 'down' in space," observed Ledak.

"Hang on!" yelled Anderson as Mars began to fill the view screen.

The Adventure pierced Mars' thin outer atmosphere with the three scouts pursuing them. From the surface, an observer would think that the sky had begun to rain fire. Four streaking fireballs headed on an almost vertical descent towards the surface. The ship's structural integrity fields screamed from the stresses placed on them and the crew was held in place by inertial dampeners that worked overtime.

"Would this be a good time to mention that this particular class of starship was not designed for atmospheric flight?" asked Ledak.

"NO!" yelled Coy over the deafening noise. "Let me fly! All right?"

The Adventure headed straight into the great canyon of Mars and pulled up scant meters from the bottom. Rocks and debris were kicked up from the sonic wave of the passing starship and sections of the canyon wall collapsed from the noise. The lead Vendoth ship was not as agile as it had been before and smashed into the canyon floor, sending fire and metal upward into the sky. The following two ships pulled out of the dive and continued the pursuit, without regard to their comrades' demise.

Thunder rolled across the surface of Mars as the starships rocketed through the canyon at speeds greater than Mach ten. Slithek fired the aft phasers at the lead Vendoth and then dropped several gravitic charges. The south wall of the canyon collapsed, catching the Vendoth under several thousand tons of rock. It skidded across the canyon floor as it was knocked out of control and finally came to a rest. Whether from the damage or a self-destruct, the Vendoth ship then exploded in an immense display of anti-matter meeting matter. The third ship flew through the explosion, turning its shields into a solid shell.

"There." Rhodes pointed ahead. "Picard's Bridge. Time to thread the needle, Miriam."

"Think we'll fit?" asked Coy while looking at the underpass.

"Like that ever mattered to you before?"

"Good point."

"Slithek, prepare to fire one photon torpedo forward on my mark," ordered Rhodes.

The Adventure sped through the canyon, closing on its mark and the Vendoth gaining and firing all the while. "Now!" shouted Rhodes.

Slithek loosed a torpedo as the ship squeezed through the aperture and then pulled up sharply. The torpedo impacted on the canyon wall just beyond the bridge, sending debris in all directions. The dust cloud obscured the falling rock as the Vendoth went under the bridge and flew headlong into the wall in front of them.

Like a phoenix rising from its pyre, the Adventure rose vertically into the atmosphere followed by the fire of the destroyed ship.

"Taking us back to the fight," said Miriam as the ship reentered the vacuum of space.

"We are receiving orders from the Excalibur," said Elema. "We are needed at Earth."

"Looks like we're done here," said Rhodes. "Set course for Earth."

As the Adventure accelerated away from Mars, a lone Vendoth cruiser entered orbit of the red planet and prepared for bombardment.

"Approaching Earth, sir. I am receiving a distress call from Spacedock. They have been boarded and are losing ground to Vendoth forces." Diédre Elema switched the main viewer to show the massive station orbiting Earth. Several Vendoth cruisers were in the vicinity, dispatching what looked like personnel carriers.

Jake punched his chair comm channel. "Major Goddard, have your teams ready to transport to Spacedock. You're going in."

"Aye, sir. We're ready." The Special Forces commander replied. His team, as well as three others in the transporter rooms around the ship, was dressed in heavy assault EV armor and carried a multitude of the most advanced Federation weaponry in existence. On the order from the captain, they all stepped onto the transporter pads and activated their weapons.

"Rhodes to launch bay...scramble fighters in one minute. Your targets are the transports heading for Earth." He looked to Coy. "Take us to transporter range of the station, Miriam. Drop shields long enough for our men to get aboard and then set course for the rendezvous."

The Adventure slid neatly next to the station and as personnel and fighters were deployed, Slithek covered them with a rain of phaser fire.

"All teams are away, sir," reported Elema.

"Then lets get back to the battle," the captain replied as a Klingon Bird of Prey swooped past and hammered a Vendoth Battlecruiser with fire.

"Fenris Leader to Wolfpack: break and attack. These transports are trying for a landfall. Let's make them fall faster than they expected."

"Acknowledged Fenris Leader." Came the response in unison. It almost sounded like a Borg transmission and Lieutenant Bricker felt an unusual comfort in the unity of the voices. The Valkyrie fighters separated into pairs and took tail on the descending transports. Phaser fire lashed out and found their marks. Although shielded, the transports were easier damaged than their mother ships.

"Evasive!" someone shouted over the comm link. A second later, proximity alarms blared as the debris of a Vendoth cruiser flashed by on its way into the Earth's atmosphere. Two Valkyries were hit and joined the debris before they could leave the path of destruction.

"Remind me to tell the Klingons thanks for the warning," muttered Bricker.

"Goddard to station personnel...respond."

No answer. The major's team had materialized above the stations power core, while the other three teams appeared at various levels in the core room. Securing the reactor from Vendoth control was the first priority.

"Goddard to O'Malley...status."

"We have the control room secured and are ready to lock out control."

"Any resistance?"

"None, sir. But we will have to keep a team down here to keep it secure."

"Thank you for volunteering. Do what you have to do. Goddard out." He addressed his team of ten. "Pulse rifles on full. We dont have resources for prisoners. Standard bug hunt. Let's move out."

The team headed out of the power core and into the station proper, checking corners and sweeping with tricorders.

"Anything?" asked Goddard.

"Nothing, sir," replied Orinco. "But the power core might be interfering with scans at this level. Recommend that we proceed without reliance."

"The Great Bird loves the infantry," muttered one of the soldiers. The team cleared the level and moved up to the next one.

"We'll start cutting down search times," said Goddard. "At this rate, well be done by the new year."

A plasma bolt hit the wall near Goddard's head.

"That cut it down," said Orinco.

"Defensive positions! Return fire!" yelled Goddard. "Blake! Activate the security field in that section.!"

As Vendoth weaponry splashed around them, the trooper accessed a wall panel and an energy field leapt up in front of the Vendoth. They in turn fired on the shield, which began to solidify.

"Squad! In line by twos! Ready rifles!" commanded the major. The team spread out in line across the corridor; one rank kneeling in front while the rear stood. A wall of phaser rifles was brought up, aimed at the quickly deteriorating force field. "Steady."

The field collapsed, revealing eight Vendoth soldiers. "Fire!"

A rain of phaser fire struck the Vendoth. At first, they were unaffected, then they staggered back under the continuous onslaught...and finally fell to the ground.

"I'm out," said Orinco. "I drained my entire pack on them."

"Reload and move forward," said Goddard. "He drew a blade from his boot and checked the soldiers' handiwork.

"They're still alive," someone said as a Vendoth tried to move.

Goddard drove the blade through the Vendoth's throat, unleashing a fountain of orange blood. "Not anymore." He picked up one of the Vendoth rifles and checked it over. firing it into each of the bodies to secure the kills, he then tossed it and then others to his team members. "Why waste our energy? Let the enemy provide."

Orinco picked a blade from one of the bodies. "Damn! Check out the edge on this thing! It's paper thin!"

"And sharp as hell," replied Goddard. "Their hides are thick. Stands to reason they would use sharper knives and heavier firepower. We know the enemy now. Let's make the most of the knowledge. Move out."

"We are getting heavy fire from grid two zero one, sir," hissed Slithek.

"They're trying to keep our fleet away from the command ship while it deploys transports, but the fighters are taking care of them, so keep on those Battlecruisers. We have to punch through their shields," said Rhodes.

"Port nacelle is taking a beating," reported Anderson. "Ivanov, reinforce the SI fields, port side."

"Yes, ma'am. Already on it."

"Miriam, take us to the outer perimeter of the ships. Keep our port away from their fire for a while."

Slithek fired a spread of quantum torpedoes, finishing off a scout vessel as they exited the fray.

A tiny speck of light darted towards the battle and, as it approached, it grew to the distinctive shape of a Defiant class ship. Pulse cannons strafed a battle cruiser, solidifying the shields. It looked like a gnat attacking an ox.

"Defiant from Adventure. Concentrate on the shells. Dont give them time to regenerate."

"Rhodes, is that you?"

"Elias? Haven't they put you out to pasture yet?"

"Not as long as theres fight left in me. What's the score?"

"Bad guys are up by about forty, but we could just as well be fighting the entire Borg Collective. Every time one more of ours comes in, we lose another." As he spoke, a Klingon Vorcha class battle cruiser went up in flames. "See what I mean?"

"We should concentrate on the big ones. What about that 'Kong' in orbit?"

"The what?" asked Miriam.

"That's the mother ship. Right now, it's not much of a threat. Just giving our 'one-seaters' transports to blow up," said Rhodes. "How come you Intel guys dropped the ball on this one?"

"Long story. I'll fill you in later, if we live. Defiant out."

"Watch your back, Vaughan."

The Adventure bombarded a Battlecruiser, and received double the fire in return.

"Shields are down on the aft starboard quarter!" reported Elema.

"Intruder alert!" Ivanov's voice blared over the intercom, seconds before the hum of transporter beam was heard.

Three Vendoth soldiers materialized on the bridge. One was quickly taken down by the combined phaser fire of Slithek, Ledak, and security officer Mey. A second Vendoth fired on Mey. The officers left arm melted by the plasma weapons effect and he collapsed to the deck. Rhodes and Anderson both fired on the Vendoth at the same time, disintegrating the alien's head. Meanwhile, the third leapt over the command chair

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