"Red alert!" shouted Evans. "All crew to battle stations!"
On the bridge's main view screen, the transwarp conduit apertures continued multiplying and disgorging planets. The deck under his and Admiral Pike's feet lurched continually as the backwash from the fissures rolled over the *Ronin*, and the two men had to keep a hand on the nearest railing to keep from being tossed around.
The turbolift doors hissed open, and the Alpha shift bridge crew hurried out and took their stations. Pike noted with satisfaction that, while obviously alarmed at what they saw on the viewscreen, they carried out their duties skillfully and efficiently. One by one, they started calling out reports. "Shields up full -- Armor generators on standby -- Phasers and quantum torpedoes armed -- Isokinetic cannon charged."
Lieutenant Benton vacated the Helm position as Lieutenant McMillan jumped down the steps from the command level. She sat down and began running her own programs. Benton returned to his usual spot at the rear of the bridge between Tactical and Ops. McMillan reported now: "Sir, we are unable to maintain a stable warp field -- it's interference from all the transwarp conduits. It should clear up once all the Kelvans are through."
"That might take a while...," said Pike darkly. He looked over to the science station and asked, "How many Battle Planets are there?"
Lieutenant Wang checked his readings, then answered, "Several thousand in the immediate vicinity alone, with more coming through every second. Transwarp conduits are opening in a spherical volume of space all the way out to the edge of our sensor range, and there's no reason to think that's where they stop. All in all, I estimate the number to be in the millions."
"Admiral!" shouted Tyran from Tactical. "We should engage them in a first strike! Get them before they get us! We could--"
Benton interrupted him coldly. "Pointless. Not to mention suicidal..."
Tyran took a threatening step towards Benton. "You're one of them! How do we know you're--"
"At ease, Commander!" shouted Pike. "Calm down." Tyran stopped his advance at the Admiral's order, and seemed to make an effort to calm himself. Pike continued in a quieter tone. "Lieutenant Benton's right, after all. All of our weapons combined wouldn't put so much as a dent in even a single Planet. How do you propose we take on *millions* of them."
Chastised, Tyran said, "Sorry sir. You're right, of course." He returned to his station, but continued casting suspicious glances at Benton's indifferent back.
*Millions of Kelvan Planets!* thought Pike desperately. *How are we ever going to defend against that many? I have to find another way....*
"Open hailing frequencies to the nearest Planet," he ordered. "Maybe they've come in peace this time...." He knew the odds against *that* were astronomical, and a quick look over at Captain Evans made clear that he shared that particular opinion.
But before Pike's order could be obeyed, the forward screen changed views on its own, controlled by an outside source. The image of the crowding Battle Planets wavered and dissolved into an image of the most hideous creature Pike had ever seen. Some of the bridge crew actually cringed, the visage on the screen was so horrifying. The creature was enormous. It was a bile-beige colored mass of writhing tentacles sprouting from a central mass, the center of which was dominated by a single, large, glaring, lidless eye.
Although he'd seen these creatures before while on the *Knight*, Pike nevertheless had to fight the urge to look away. He approached the main viewer and in a commanding voice he addressed the being on the screen, "I am Admiral Jeffrey H. Pike, representing the United Federation of Pla--"
He was cut off by the creature on the screen. It's echoing voice boomed from every speaker on the bridge, and indeed, every speaker on the entire ship.
"THIS IS THE CONQUEST ARMADA OF THE KELVAN EMPIRE OF THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY. YOU HAVE BEEN CONQUERED. YOUR GALAXY IS NOW OURS. POWER DOWN YOUR SHIP AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED. YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES TO COMPLY OR WE WILL DESTROY YOU."
The Kelvan's image vanished from the screen to be replaced by the Kelvan Conquest World drawing ever nearer.