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The Gathering Storm

Part Eleven

The newly-frocked Fleet Admiral Potemkin watched the bright lights and whirling gasses of the star lane streak past in the viewscreen. His task force was minutes from the exit interface into the Regulla system.

Potemkin had been chosen to lead the attack on the Ithkul staging ground. It was a little overwhelming for the 39-year old Admiral. Only two months ago, he had been stationed in what he had thought was a relatively peaceful, quiet. Now, he was leading a grand force against the largest threat this sector of the galaxy had seen since the times of the Antaran invasions. He felt like he was caught up in a situation that was larger than he was, and that he was now hurtling down a massive pit – one that he wasn’t sure he would be able to emerge from.

With his promotion, Fleet Admiral Potemkin was given a new ship. He sat on the bridge of one of the newest, most advanced pieces of equipment the Confederation had ever produced. The Valdor, a Behemoth-class, had been rushed out of the shipyards at Gek’nol for this battle. Potemkin still thought he could smell the scent of drying paint, even after five weeks in the star lane. Deck plating had not yet been installed on deck 8, forcing the crew to find anything they could to bridge the gaps between structural supports. She was outfitted with the newest technology available: sixteen Gauss cannons, three plasma torpedo launchers, neutronium ablative armor, and the strongest shields human scientists could devise. The Admiral missed the Lakul, but the Valdor was a nice upgrade.

After some debate, it was decided that the fleet would leave a few days after the Darlok commandos, in order to reach the Regulla system before the Ithkul managed to reconstruct any defenses. Assuming, that is, that the shapeshifters succeeded, thought Potemkin. If they failed, the fleet would be in range of the stellar converter as soon as it came out of the star lane, and being on the largest ship in the first task force out of the lane, the Valdor would be a prime target. The Admiral had no way of knowing if the changelings had fulfilled their mission, or of knowing whether or not the Harvesters had brought reinforcements into the Regulla system. There was no way – yet – to communicate to ships inside a star lane. His last intelligence briefing showed that he had a slight numerical advantage, but that was five weeks old. He had no way of knowing if that was still true or not. All Potemkin he could do was watch hyperspace slip by and wait.

“Two minutes to exit interface,” informed the operations officer.

“Very well, Lieutenant,” said the Admiral.

“Battle stations.”

Amber light flooded the bridge as alarms went off all over the ship. The Valdor’s crew had been on a de facto state of high alert for over an hour, so the shift to battle stations was more of a matter of bracing themselves for whatever would hit them when they came out of the star lane.

“One minute to exit,” said the operations officer.

Admiral Potemkin stood up, as was his custom when exiting a star lane. He felt like, if he was standing up, closer to the viewscreen, that he would be able to see things sooner, or clearer. He took a couple of steps forward, resting his right hand on the back of the navigator’s chair.

“Thirty seconds, Admiral.”

The navigator looked up, somewhat startled at the Admiral’s proximity. The Admiral looked at her, and saw fear in her young, green eyes – fear of more than simply his presence. He saw fear that her life would be cut short in a few hours. He reached out his hand and squeezed her shoulder a bit, hoping that she got the message he was trying to send her: “It will be all right. Just do your job, and everything will be fine.” It was something that he desperately wished someone could tell him. That was the disadvantage of being in command. There was no one around to tell you that you would do a good job. The navigator stared at the Admiral for a few seconds, and then looked back at her station, ready to execute whatever command Potemkin would give her when they exited.

“Exiting the star lane… Now!”

With that, the hyperspacial light show gave way to the black background and pinpoints of white light of normal space. Potemkin glanced at his tactical display. His task force had arrived, and in formation. The Admiral braced himself, waiting for an attack from the stellar converter that would vaporize his beautiful new ship…

… and kept waiting. The Darloks had succeeded in their sabotage, apparently. The Admiral looked at his tactical display. The nearest Ithkul task force was out of weapons range, but was moving to meet them.

“All ships, prepare to open fire at maximum range,” ordered Potemkin. “Send those Harvesters straight to Hell.”

And with that, the Second Battle of Regulla began. Admiral Potemkin hoped this one would turn out better than the first.




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