"At the rate science proceeds, rockets and missiles will one day seem like buffalo -- slow, endangered grazers in the black pasture of outer space."
-- Bernard Cooper
2293, in a universe identical to our own... almost.
The woman shuffled the papers in front of her in silence. The crowd before her vast podium stretched out as far as she could see. Above her, a huge holographic representation of herself floated in the air- now, viewers many kilometers away could make out her every gesture.
The crowd elated, begging her to begin.
"We, humans... "
Her voice was impossibly loud, amplified by an impressive audio system which blasted her voice to the masses. They instantly fell silent.
"...went from first powered flight in 1903 to landing on their moon in 1969. In sixty six years, the human race- OUR race!- went from barely reaching out of our cradle... to visiting other worlds."
Silence reigned. Every woman and man attending was enthralled.
"At this rate, scientists predicted humanity would be permanently colonizing the moon by 1984, Mars by 1999 and would have spread through most of the solar system by 2010!"
Another pause. The only sound was the faint breathing of four million people standing in a vast ocean of uniformed flesh, staring intently.
"Was this true? Of course not. Why? Did Humans figure the moon was far enough, then lay down their burdens... rest on their laurels?"
Murmurs of discontent.
"The answer to this question... is obvious! Examining the period in Earth history between 1903 and 1969 will find one constant among the years... war."
The crowd roared as one. War! WAR!
She calmly waited, holding her thin stack of papers. When the time was right she spoke again.
"War inspired humans to leap from cloth-covered biplanes in 1915 to steel-skinned jets only thirty years later. War inspires men to reach greatness- to seek out new ideas. To push the boundaries of the technology beyond what is merely 'acceptable' or 'adequate' and into the fantastic."
The serving men and women below her drank in her every word as though inscribed in stone by a deity.
"Yet... from the end of the 20th century through to much, much later no other celestial body was landed on by humans. What dominated the period of time between 1970 and 2010?" A pause for effect. "... A period of peace. Oh, yes, there were wars and conflicts- but the countries involved were not involved in total war. They did not hurl their energies into the sole business of slaughter."
Murmurs once more. Pleased, elated murmers...
"The operation to destroy Praxis... the filthy moon of the Klingon species... was not successful."
Gasps! Shock! No doubt each of them felt painfully, personally responsible. Had they not put in their very best? That one sick day a year ago, when they were delirious due to fevor... if they had been strong enough to overthrow it, would the operation have succeeded? No more laziness! The human spirit will overcome such things!
"They redouble- quadruple!- their efforts, using Praxis's power to fuel their war effort..."
She held her fist in the air. Four million human beings mimicked the gesture.
"With the Klingon empire posing such a clear and obvious threat, will humanity now, again, rest on their laurels? Will humanity shy away from sacrifice? Will humanity fail to do what is needed?"
The crowd roared again. Too many voices to hear their exact phrasing, but their intention was plain and wordless.
2387, the edges of Federation space
Captain Ishtar Sabeen sat on the command chair of the USS Apocalyptica, drumming her fingers impatiently along the console. A woman from Syria, Earth, her collar was an olive green and she commanded this ship.
These days, fully forty percent of Starfleet were Marines- whole warships were Marine-only vessels, crewed stem to stern, from Crewman Third Class to Captain, by Starfleet's most highly trained soldiers.
Sabeen's vessel was a Prometheus-II class, an ancient vessel whose retirement date had been and gone. The old rustbucket was nearly a century out of date, but the sheer volumes of the things produced in the last great skirmish with the Klingon Empire meant that nearly ten thousand of the vessels were still in service in the Alpha, Beta and Gamma quadrants. The Prometheus-II class used to be the latest and greatest ships- a grand spectacle. Multi-phasic torpedo banks, over forty type XXVI disrupter banks and the "hull-cracker"; a massive singular beam that could annihilate most ships in one or two strikes.
It used to be very impressive. These days, more of a joke.
"Do you remember when Qo'noS burned, Lau?"
Her Mandarin first officer raised a grey-haired eyebrow, looking down at her curiously.
"Of course," he said, "I remember walking on the ashes of the planet mere hours after the bombardment ceased. I saw our soldiers raise the Federation's flag on the ruins of the high council chambers... not that we should have bothered, it was uninhabitable anyway."
"Mmm," she answered. A pleasant memory. She stroked her lips idly with the tip of her finger. "Then Betazed, then Trill..."
Lau inclined his head thoughtfully. "I thought we scoured Trill first, *then* Betazed... it's hard to keep track of your victories."
They both laughed.
"Filthy alien pigs," she said.
Sabeen glanced down at her armrest, fighting to stifle a yawn.
"So, Lau- what miserable rock is this anyway?"
The man smiled. "I honestly forget... It's on the very outer edges of our claimed space."
The communications officer gave a polite cough. "These... 'Bajorans'... are hailing us again, Captain. They, once again, plead for mercy."
Sabeen nodded her head, thoughtfully. "Right, right. 'Bajor'. When they're taken care of, we're meeting with the rest of the fleet to press on to Cardassia, then onto Romulus, then into Breen territory..."
Lau gave a low chuckle as his confirmation.
Sabeen waved to her tactical officer. The green collared man stiffened his back.
"Lieutenant, fire up the hull-cracker and begin scorching this planet of its unwashed inhabitants. Inform me when the task is complete..." she turned to her first officer, giving a dark smile. "I'm starving. Lunch?"
The two officers politely ate together in the Captain's war room. Live lobsters- the Captain's favourite- were transported by Vulcan slaves to their ship on a daily basis.
The Captain gently twisted the legs off her prize, the shell creaking as they were removed. She sucked out the insides. Ahh...! Exquisite.
"Do you enjoy our work?" Lau asked, watching her as she ate. He was less enthused by white meat, but he was forced to swallow it down. Sure beat field rations.
Sabeen laughed, nodding her head. "Of course! We're serving humanity up here. What if these Bajorans were to rise up like the Klingons? Do you think Klingons so innately infused with the warrior spirit that nobody could equal them?"
Lau pondered this, popping some of the salad into his mouth. "I don't know. They appear to be poets, singers, artists... hardly a threat."
Sabina put down her fork, her dark eyes narrowing dangerously. "Hardly a threat *now*," she retorted, wrinkling her nose in anger. "Even the cutest, timidest little kitten will scratch and bite if provoked enough... and kittens grow up. We must end the threat now, before it challenges us. Don't you remember how much progress the Klingons made when Praxis was established?"
Lau remembered very clearly. "If they were to find another power source like Praxis..."
Sabeen answered only with a snort. That's why they were there- to prevent "what ifs" from occurring.
"Crewman Michaelson had given birth to her sixth child last night," Lau remarked, changing the subject. "A strong baby girl. A shuttle will arrive tomorrow to take the child. She gave her the name Lisa... "
"Is her name really so relevant?" asked Sabeen, smirking and breaking off another leg, "I never name any of my children. I mean, does it matter? They all go to the barracks anyway."
Lau nodded. "Producing soldiers is a woman's duty."
"It is," Sabeen agreed. "And a man's to service her."
The Syrian female reached for the nutcracker, holding out the claw of her meal and shattering the tip. With her forefinger she pushed the meat from the tip of the claw out the larger open end, using a small spoon to dob a brown sauce on the white flesh.
"It's been three months since my last child. I'm due to begin the process again."
Lau raised his eyebrow. "Your fourth?"
"I barely keep track," she answered with a laugh.
Lau nodded. "Will you visit Captain Fraser again?"
Sabeen rolled her shoulders, using her fork to place the claw meat in her mouth. She let it roll on her tongue, savoring the delightful taste.
"Mmm- no, I think not. His vessel is busy cleaning some of the filth away from the neighboring planets to this one."
Lau nodded. Fraser's dedication to duty was admirable. "Perhaps someone from the crew, then? They are bound to serve you, if you wish it."
Sabeen's eyes glinted in the darkness of her war room. "As are you," she remarked, pointing her fork at his chest.
Lau folded his hands in front of him. Sabeen's implication of his next duty was... obvious. He didn't find Sabeen attractive at all, but his duty came before all other things. "I serve the Federation of Nations in whatever task they wish."
Sabeen nodded, reaching up and tossing her hair, then casually unzipping the zip on her green collar. "The Federation requires more soldiers for coming battles. Come- let us serve it, then see how the cleansing of that planet is going... oh, what was it again?"
"Bajor," Lau reminded her, shrugging off his jacket.
An hour later, the Captain and her First Officer returned to the bridge from the Captain's Ready Room. Sabeen threw Lau a glance, breathing a little heavier than normal, a sly grin on her face. "And as of the end of your duty shift, consider yourself confined to my quarters."
"Aye, ma'am." Lau, sweat still on his brow, returned to his chair. He was not looking forward to that particular duty at all.
"Status?" Sabeen asked, placing her hands on her hips.
The tactical officer chuckled lightly. "Their atmosphere ignited as usual," he remarked off-handedly, "This... Bajor... should be exhausting its breathable air presently."
Sabeen gave a nod. "Well done Lieutenant," she remarked, "See to it that your rations are increased for the next twelve days."
The Lieutenant nodded. "My duty is to serve, Captain."
The fires slowly climbed up from Bajor's southern pole, like a hand grasping the planet with fingers of flame. The hull-cracker contained an energy beam so powerful, with heat so intense, it caused a fusion reaction of nitrogen nuclei. Early Terran physicists had worried about such a thing when building their atomic bombs, but their devices were not powerful enough.
The hull-cracker, however, was. This ship may be ancient, but it could still serve.
Sabeen studied the viewscreen, pleased by what she saw. The Bajorans would be practically extinct, soon, and this was good. They would never threaten humanity like the Klingons had done. This was a necessary act... purging their world of life. Their actions were all about the survival of the human race.
The Klingons were the first real threat to the Federation. Their cloaking ships, their physical prowess... only after so many defeats at their hands had the Humans thrown off the shackles of pacifism and embraced a truly militaristic society. Then they had turned the tide. Planet after Klingon planet was reduced to ash, the powerful hull-crackers igniting their atmospheres and burning them dry.
The Klingons offered the Humans no quarter and received none in turn. Their species was wiped from the face of the galaxy, save for a few million slaves, and humanity had learned its valuable lesson.
War necessitated so many things. The suspension of practically all liberties, the communal raising of children in the millions of unnamed military facilities scattered all over the whole Alpha quadrant, compulsory military service... but necessity was the mother of invention. Of technological progress. The Federation of Nations was in perpetual, total war... every edge they could gain against their countless enemies would be a triumph.
This new, brave society was much to their benefit. Humans had conquered over half the galaxy. There were almost a trillion of them scattered throughout most of two quadrants and they bred incessantly, forged vast ships for war and ruthlessly purged the galaxy of any species they could not be bothered to enslave.
Humanity lived under an iron sky- a shield that protected them. Hardened their minds and their bodies against the alien hordes that could threaten them.
Sabeen watched with growing pleasure as Bajor burned. "When the fires have died down, send an assault team down to plant a flag, then let's move on. We have a lot to-"
The tactical officer spoke up.
"Captain- a ship is inbound."
Sabeen turned to him, grinning eagerly. "That would be Captain Fraser. On screen."
A strange sight greeted her. A large cube, green and black, obviously vast in size was rapidly closing in on them at an impossibly high speed. How...?
Lau frowned. "Bajoran defenders, too late to save their planet? I've never seen a vessel of this configuration..."
A voice came through their communication systems. It was a trillion whispering voices overlaid, tainted with the mechanical and sythetic.
"WE ARE THE BORG. LOWER YOUR SHIELDS AND SURRENDER YOUR SHIPS. WE WILL ADD YOUR BIOLOGICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL DISTINCTIVENESS TO OUR OWN. YOU WILL ADAPT TO-"
Sabeen made a 'throat cutting' gesture with her hand and the communications officer severed the link.
"Turn the hull-cracker on these dogs," she roared, jabbing her finger at the viewscreen. "And inform Starfleet Command we have a new enemy for them to face! Red alert, tactical- fire at will!"
Epilogue: 2391, four years after the assimilation of the Apocalyptica and her crew
Ten thousand vessels dropped out of warp over the course of two days. Ships of every class and make, each painted in the black hue of the Federation.
It was the largest fleet made by the Federation of Nations since the war against the Klingons. Their enemy was vast... a species known as the "Borg" who occupied half the galaxy. They seemed to be invincible. Every time the Federation lost a ship, the Borg gained one. Every time the Federation lost a soldier, the Borg gained one. The Klingons had Praxis, the Borg had transwarp and an unending source of manpower- besting even humans by many, many orders of magnitude.
Admiral Fraser's voice echoed throughout the now assembled fleet. His speech echoed the famous one from history's past, calling humanity to once again throw away the comforts of their lives for the greater good. This enemy was just as the Klingons... another foe to be vanquished. Destroyed. Crushed beneath their heel...
It was the beginning of a long campaign- longer than his natural lifespan, perhaps, but one that was necessary. The human population, now well over a trillion, needed an enemy to fight or it would become complacent.
The Borg were exactly what humanity needed. Admiral Fraser nodded to his first officer, signalling him to move the fleet into Borg space.
For humanity to grow, there must always be war.