Jeff Pike had managed to surprise himself. Usually not one to become overly friendly with his crew, he found himself actually enjoying the victory party the *Ronin* officers had thrown in the forward lounge. He'd quickly gotten into the spirit of things: Piper had taken his sarsaparilla away from him and handed him instead a large pineapple filled with some sort of tropical drink, complete with crazy-straw, colorful umbrella and fruit slices.
*These people certainly know how to have a good time,* thought Pike. A few crewmembers had even brought their instruments and were setting up in front of the large bay windows. Others were clearing tables and chairs away from the center of the room creating a dance area.
Pike took another hit from his pineapple and turned around to survey the other side of the lounge. Near the bar along the back wall, he spotted Jamie and Karissa deep in conversation. They both glanced in his direction just then and noticed him looking. They looked away quickly again and tried to hide their giggles.
Pike just couldn't understand that sort of behavior. He was about to go over and find out what was so funny when a voice from behind stopped him. "Looks like trouble to me." Pike turned around to find Captain Evans standing there with a drink in his hand, looking over at the bar and shaking his head sadly.
Evans indicated the two ladies with his glass. "Two women talking conspiratorially and giggling when they catch you looking at them," he chuckled. "I wouldn't go over there if I was you," he advised in a mock serious voice.
"Humph," snorted Pike. "What could they possibly be talking about?"
"Are you kidding? Your yeoman is probably divulging your deepest, darkest secrets!"
Pike found himself growing alarmed at the thought of that. Piper would never divulge any *real* secrets of course, but just what *were* they talking about?
*Meanwhile, elsewhere in the room....*
Tyran stood in a corner of the party staring out one of the portholes into the nebula that was once the Kelvan invasion force. He swished the champagne in his glass around and continued staring into the intricate blue swirls of the nebula.
Behind, the crew of the Ronin were celebrating their overwhelming victory only hours before. Only Admiral Pike seemed to share Tyran's feeling that things remained... unfinished. Only he, Kira and Tyran truly knew what the Kelvans could have been capable of through their experience on the *Knight*. One Planet required the destruction of the ship to destroy, now here they were, two Planets destroyed and only minimal damage to the ship. Something didn't seem quite right about all this.
Tyran's thought was suddenly disturbed as a pair of arms were thrown around his shoulders. He smiled and turned to see his beautiful wife. "Come join the party hun," said Dinara. "You look all boring over here on your own."
"You're right," said Tyran pushing all his thoughts about the Kelvans. He took Dinara's hand and headed back into the party.
"You know this is driving him insane," Karissa giggled again as she snuck another look at Pike.
Jamie's cheeks flushed a bit and she giggled nervously. "But we aren't really saying anything about him... I mean, not really..."
Karissa laughed. "No, but sometimes its good for a man like Pike to think girls like us are!" she winked.
"Really?" she asked.
Karissa nodded. "Oh yes!!"
Suddenly she took a sharp breath in as her hand flew to her swollen belly. Immediately Jamie's eyes popped open wide.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
She took several deep breaths and then smiled. Ryan had seen and had made his way to her.
"I'm okay," she said try to assuage everyone's concerns.
"Are you sure?" Ryan asked, "Perhaps we should contact Will and have him check you out..." Tenderly he rested a hand on her abdomen.
She smiled at his touch. "Its okay. This was one of those practice contractions Will talked about, remember? I don't think it's the real think yet..."
"But will you know when its the real thing?" he asked her.
Jamie looked at the exchange curiously.
"Everything I've read tells me I should... I guess we'll find out, won't we! OH! And listen..." From a hidden pocket she produced a small device no bigger than a 20th century quarter. She held it to the left side of her abdomen and suddenly a soft, rapid heartbeat could be heart.
"That's..." Ryan's said raising an eyebrow.
"That's one of the babies," Karissa finished with a brilliant smile. She then took the small device and placed it lower and on the other side of her abdomen. Another soft heartbeat could be heart. It was also rapid, but varied just a bit from the first.
"Our babies..." she replied.
He kissed her tenderly.
Off to the side, Ciara and Ming shared a table with Cody and Shara. The four were chatting amiably, although Ming was still a little out of it due to the head trauma he'd sustained in the battle a few days earlier. He'd been assured that no permanent damage had been done, but something just didn't feel right. *Probably post-concussive syndrome, like they said,* Ming thought.
Ciara picked up on his thoughts. "Come on out and dance!" she said, taking his hand. "They're playing one of our songs!" An old 20th-century Earth tune, Madonna's "Crazy For You" was playing.
Reluctantly Ming got up and took Ciara in his arms for the slow song. After a while, though, his head started to throb. He swore he could hear voices in some strange language.
"Something wrong?" Ciara asked, picking up on Ming's distress.
Ming thought for a moment. "No, nothing wrong. Everything will be just fine..."
Pike had almost screwed up the nerve to go over and see what Piper and Commander Bentara had been sniggering about when the whistle of the intercom and Lieutenant Benton's voice forestalled him. "Admiral Pike and Captain Evans to the bridge," he announced. There was an edge in Benton's voice that Pike had never heard before. If he didn't know better, he'd have sworn the normally imperturbable Kelvan-turned-human was seriously alarmed about something.
He shot a glance across the room to Evans and could immediately see that Evans had picked up the same feeling from the announcement. They hastily set down their drinks on the nearest surface, and together rushed from the lounge toward the turbolift.
Evans commented as they jogged, "Your officer sounds nervous, Admiral. I thought the only emotion he had was grouchiness." The turbolift doors slid open as they approached. They stepped inside and were instantly whisked away.
"You're right, as far as I've been able to tell, Captain," grunted Pike. "Whatever it is, it must be a disaster of Biblical proportions." The lift doors hissed open and deposited them onto the bridge of the *Ronin*. The bridge was currently empty of everyone except Lieutenant Benton -- everyone else was at the victory party.
Benton was sitting down in the central well, at the helm. When he heard the turbolift doors open, he turned briefly to acknowledge the arrival of his superior officers, then turned back to his console and said, "Take a look at this, Admiral." He activated the main viewer.
The scene that materialized froze Pike's soul.
Outside the *Ronin*, the entire sky, all around, was crammed to overflowing with opening transwarp conduits of enormous proportions. Each was ten-thousand miles wide at the aperture, and there were literally *millions* of them. And from each and every conduit something was emerging. As the shadowy transwarp specters solidified, Pike could see they were Kelvan Battle Planets.
Pike opened his mouth to demand a report from Benton, but only a raspy croak emerged; his throat had gone completely dry. The deck under his feet was beginning to vibrate, and red lights were winking on all over the bridge. A violent jolt smacked the ship, and the red alert klaxon came on automatically. Outside the ship, the very fabric of the universe was being tortured and abused by the massive concentration of transwarp apertures. Pike tried to swallow a few times, and finally managed to grate out, "Report, Lieutenant. How many Kelvans are we dealing with here?"
Benton swiveled around in his seat until he was facing Pike and Evans. He cocked a disdainful eyebrow, looked Pike straight in the eye and sealed their fate with his next words:
"All of them."