'So, this is the fleet of the future' thought Commander Gwendolyn Ross, impressed with the size and number of ships especially in light of what she had learned from the Atago's executive officer. She could see a vast array of ships on her visual displays as the Avenger shut down its drives and it entered parking orbit. Commander Ross could recognize many of the other vessels in parting orbits. This included a few Avenger class frigates and a good number of Excelsior class Battleships. Some of the other ships looked like the used components of vessels that she recognized and she had been told by Commander Jackson that the ships had been salvaged from ships being scrapped for the use in the war. Many of the vessels she did not recognize at all. Commander Jackson had been helpful with the identity of many of those as well. Gwendolyn knew that the large ship that they were heading for was the USS Bright Star, a Galaxy class starship and flagship of Twelfth Fleet. Captain Ross and her executive officer had already been requested onboard the flagship to be debriefed. Captain Ross stood up in her chair and stated "Lieutenant Hanley, you have the bridge" and headed for the door to the lift from the bridge. Commander Masterson got up from her position and followed her captain to the transporter room.
In long discussions previous to arriving into orbit, Gwendolyn had discussed with her senior officers what they should do. So much had changed in the time their ship had skipped and the Federation seemed almost alien now to the values they had been brought up on. Commander Ross had heard several of her officers saying that it was impossible but she had seen the signs creeping into the Federation during her time serving in Star Fleet Academy but she herself did not expect it to go as far as it had gotten. Even so, she and her senior officers felt that the Federation was in trouble and that they needed every bit of help they can get. The sad truth was while Governments can be reformed, this is much harder if the people are enslaved and impossible if they are all dead. During the discussions, Gwendolyn was most concerned about keeping about keeping her crew together. It had been decided that a purely military standpoint would be the best argument to use against senior officers. When she met with the admiral, she would use the previous victory as an example of why the crew should be kept together. If she could then show a series of successes, she could use them as further evidence to keep her crew intact. One problem she could see is that they would have to volunteer for dangerous missions and would likely have to deal with incompetent flag officers. There had been a good number of them from her original time frame and she was sure they would only have increased with the new social structure and government. The Civilian scientists had begged the captain to keep them onboard as well once they had found what had happened to the Federation in the intervening years. The Captain was still not sure what she would do about them.
Commander Gwendolyn Ross and Lieutenant Commander Paula Masterson slowly materialized on the transporter pad of the U.S.S. Bright Star. It was immediately apparent to them how much larger this chamber was compared to the transporter room on the Avenger. Both of the Avengers senior officers were in their dress uniforms and they clashed against the new uniforms of the others in the transporter room. The executive officer of the Atago had tried to be helpful and offered to replicate for them more modern uniforms. Both the captain and her second in command considered that it would put them on the wrong starting terms and would not be honest. Standing in front of the transporter pad were two figures. One was a tall women with blond hair streaked with white was wearing the collar pips of a captain. The other figure was younger, shorter, and of Asian descent and had the collar insignia of a full commander.
The women stepped forward and held out her hand out "Captain Joyce Parker, Captain of the U.S.S. Bright Star, Welcome onboard."
Commander Ross shook her hand "Commander Gwendolyn Ross, thank you."
The captain of the Bright Star continued "This is my executive officer, Commander Tem Lee. My second and I will be escorting to see Admiral Sykes.
"This is my executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Paula Masterson." hands were shaken all around and the four senior officers headed towards the Admiral's Briefing Room. Like the transporter room, the corridors were much wider than their equivalents on the Avenger.
Commander Masterson asked a question "I have never seen a starship this larger, I imagine that it is very well armed?"
The Bright Star's captain answered "Actually, the Galaxy class starship was not designed primarily as a combatant vessel. They were designed for space exploration and have the added feature of having been designed from the start to carry the families of crews onboard." Gwendolyn noted that her executive officer seemed surprised but the Captain Parker did not seem to notice and continued. "Right now, the quarters of the family have been converted to carrying marines but I hope that they will be converted back once this altercation is over. Before the present war, the Bright Star was engaged in space exploration. We were called back when the war stated and the Bright Star became flagship for Admiral Sykes and Twelfth Fleet." She turned to the Captain of the avenger and asked "What were you doing previous to skipping forward in time?"
"If you mean what the Avenger was doing just before then, we were surveying what you call the Badlands."
"Umm, I mean what were doing before then?"
"Before I took command of the Avenger, I was a tactical instructor at Star Fleet Academy on Earth." She decided that it would be a bad idea to tell her how little time she had been captain of the Avenger. She could also see from the tightening of the expression on the other captains face that Captain Parker disliked combat officers.
After just a few moments, Captain Parkers expression cleared "After you finish with Admiral Sykes, I can show you my ship. I am quite proud of her and I am sure the holodecks will be fascinating to you. I am sure that you will want to have some put on the Avenger as soon as possible.
Gwendolyn had read extensively about V.R. addiction in her past in history recording and new how seriously had been. She had already heard someone talk about holodeck addiction and though that it would be even more of a problem than what she had read about V.R. addiction. She silently vowed to herself that she would keep holodecks out her ship for as long as possible. She could see there being uses for military simulation but the power requirements must be absolutely incredible.
The Captain of the Bright Star stopped at a door with the label in the middle of the door "Admiral's Briefing Room" in white letters on a black background and her charges stopped along with her. Captain Parker pressed the button for the door chime and was rewarded a few moments later with a response of "Enter" from the other side of the door.
The door opened and on the other side and older man with the pips of a full admiral. was standing behind a table in the center of the room. While he stood completely straight, he had a severely lined face and completely white hair which pointed to being far older than most officers, including senior admirals. Sill, he looked the part of a full admiral with a thin and strong frame. He looked carefully at the four officers that entered into his briefing room. He gave special attention to the two women who were wearing old style Federation Uniforms. He cleared his throat and said "Joyce, Tem, I am sure the Bright Star needs your attention and I am sure that you have better things to do than listen to an old fossil like me" chuckling a bit to himself.
After the Bright Star's Commanding Officer and Executive Officer left and the door closed, Admiral Sykes sat down seeming to show some pain from bending. He motioned for both of his guests to sit down as well. He sighed and said "Sorry, these old bones do not move like they used to. I am Admiral Sykes, Commander of the Twelfth Fleet. I already know who you are but go ahead and introduce yourselves."
Gwendolyn replied "I am Commander Ross, the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Avenger and this is my Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Paula Masterson."
"I will bet you are wondering why so old an officer would still be serving on active duty. I retired after the war with the Cardassians but I was called back to service from retirement. Truthfully, I was brought back because we are losing the War and Starfleet has a desperate need for flag officers. In the course of the fighting we have lost a large number of flag officers when their ships were destroyed. I personally believe that the Dominion and Cardassian forces are deliberately targeting flagships but few of the other admirals share my opinion. Another sad truth is the fact that I am taken as too old to be taken seriously by my own High Command." The old admiral chuckled to himself for a moment and continued "Well, captain, you are the woman of the hour. We have to take victories where we can get them and you defeat of the Cardassian patrol should help to boost my crews moral. I am in you debt." He sat back for a moment and asked "Now, I am sure you have some things that you want to discuss?"
Gwendolyn knew she was dealing with an admiral that was much shrewder than she expected. Even so, the plan that she and her senior officers seemed the best way to proceed. The plan might even work better with him because he was much more intelligent than expected. She decided to begin with a joke "when can we get out back pay?"
The old man chuckled again and wagged his white eyebrows at her. "Don't you know that the Federation had done way with money?" obviously not expecting an answer.
She continued after a few moments "Admiral, it sounds like the War against the Dominion has drawn heavily on both starships and starship crews. A case in point is the Atago. While we were able to save her, it will likely take months at the nearest Starbase to get the ship repaired." she could tell from the Admirals expression that he knew where she was going with this but he did not interrupt so she continued. "Due to the extreme emergency, you need every vessel you can get and other than the communication system, the Avenger is completely operational with a seasoned crew. If we could get repair parts, it would be a matter of a few days to repair the communication systems." She challenged the old admiral by staring him straight in the eyes.
Admiral Sykes met her eyes in response to the challenge but quickly dropped his eyes and responded "You are right, of course. The problem is what might be expected. The procedure in this cases is suppose to be to send the ship back to a major fleet base and determine if the ship is worth refitting. The crews will at the same time be taken off the ship and be indoctrinated in the new policies of the Federation. I need every starship I can get and will communicate that fact with Starfleet Command. I understand that you do not want to lose you command but I cannot make any promises if hostilities end." Gwendolyn was relieved by was wondering why a senior officer would work against the Federation high command but was not about to do anything to ruin it. Admiral Sykes continued after a moment "I need some help from you being that you were a tactical instructor. My fleet is considered a strategic reserve and I cannot commit most of my ships to any operations. At the same time, I have instructions to send a force to retake a system recently taken by the Dominion. Federation Intelligence is concerned that this system might be used as an advanced base. I planned to detach eight vessels with Commodore Langford in command. I plan to attach you to his forces and have you help him with tactical planning. I also help that you can get the majority of my people out if something goes wrong and you become senior officers. You are technically the most senior Commander in Starfleet service and the Commodore and his flag captain will be the only officers that will be of higher rank than you. We have had to promote many junior officers to command to cover losses and I can arrange for the ships to be commanded by relatively junior officers." He pauses for a moment not sure if he should add anymore but decides for it. "I will deny it if anything come back but I do not consider Commodore Langford to be a very good flag officers. Unfortunately, I have no flag officers other than him.
Gwendolyn Ross could think of many responses but did not want to make any responses that would make problems for the Admiral. Instead she settled for the simple response "I am willing to do as you ordered. I can have the Avenger ready to leave with the task force once we bring some supplies on board."
"Well, in that case I think we are finished for the moment. A little more information. I am assigning two troop transports and two cargo vessel carrying eight squadrons total of Peregrine class fighters. They are very capable and I think you will want to study about them. I also have some toys for you ships that might interest. We have developed a new high yield torpedo that has been named Quantum Torpedoes. They have about double the yield of a Photon Torpedo. I will send a team of engineers on your ship to modify you shields. The Dominion weapons can almost go right through shield unless they are modified. I will also send teams to help repair the long range communication systems." He got up and the two Avengers officers stood up at the same time. "Well, It has been a pleasure meeting you, Commander Ross" as he shook her hand. He turned to her second in command "It has been a pleasure meeting you as well, Commander Masterson." and repeat the gesture.
As if to make up for the ease of dealing with Admiral Sykes, Commander had found during the trip to the Dominion held system that dealing with Commodore Langford was even harder than she initially expected. He seemed to be almost tactically inept and unimaginative yet he would not listen to the suggestions from any of his junior officers. This had included Commander Ross and he had told he specifically that she had no idea how the tactical situation had changed since the time her ship had come from. About the only thing he had going for him was the fact that he was very motivated but she suspected that this was just because he had an eye for promotion.
Now that the fleet was in the system that they were to take, Commander Ross was even more concern. Commander Ross was sitting in her chair and watching the main fleet get closer and closer to the positions of the Dominion ships. The commodore had detached her frigate to protect the transports and headed with his eight capital ship into system in tight formation lead by his flagship. He had stated that her ship had not been upgraded to be able to withstand the battle with his battle line and would be a weak link in her squadron. He had also decided that the fighters would get in the way of his cruisers maneuvering freely so had kept them in the transports that had been converted to carry fighters. After reviewing the data on both the Peregrine class fighters, which the combat abilities had impressed he, and on the Jem-Hardar Attack Ships had knew that this was a mistake and the fighters would be needed to keep the Jem-Hadar light combatants from swarming his vessels. In many ways Commodore Langford reminded her of the World War admirals she had read about in history books that were called "Battleship Admirals". Their ideas were seemed to be that they would steam towards each other and attack each other while steaming in formation. The had at the time not considered the aircraft to be a viable weapon and had lost many battles with fighters before changing their minds. She was not sure if she was glad that she was not part of the main group but she was afraid that she knew what would happen to his squadron.
The Jem-Hadar commander watched the Federation ships come towards his ships at a very slow speed and he and his men and anticipated the slaughter to come. The ships seemed to be coming towards his ships as if they expected some form of formal dance. Well, he had no intention on playing this game. His only concern was that his Cardassian allies were not up to the situation. He could tell by warp drive fields that the Federation admiral had an Ambassador class cruiser, two Norway class cruisers, one Centaur class cruiser, two Saber class light cruisers, and a couple of ships that appeared to be rebuilds of one sort or another. He also saw an old Miranda class that was escorting four transports. The Miranda was too far out to help and even if it had been part of the formation, it would not have given the Feds enough firepower to defeat his ships. Still, he hoped that the captain of that ship would be foolish and attack to attack his ships. Likely the transports were carrying ground troops to get control over the planet and based on the number of transports, it was a sizeable force. Well, he had one of his own battlecruiser and twelve attack ships along with eight Cardassian vessels. The four Galor and four Keldon class vessels were not as powerful as his ships but had been upgraded and by themselves would have been quite dangerous to the Federation ships if handled correctly. He was waiting for the federation ships to get a little closer and then he would spring his trap. He figured that the Ambassador was the flagship and had already ordered that the whole initial volley of anti-ship torpedoes from every ship be targets at it. He would then use his light attack ships to decimate the Federation forces while they were in confusion and use his other ships to deal with any heavy resistance and to mop up.
Commodore Langford knew that the only way to be promoted quickly in the Federation was in battle and he was headed for a great victory. He could see himself wearing the uniform of a rear admiral after he finished cleaning the Dominions clocks. He had many patrons and they would be sure to see his deeds. Some of his men might get killed but that is what they had volunteered for.
It was time to begin ordering his fleet "I want all ships to fire a spread out volley of Quantum torpedoes on the Dominion cruisers. This should weaken their shields enough that our phasers can destroy them. Once the cruisers are destroyed, we will then destroy the light attack ships. Begin firing now!"
As he watched the Federation ships spread out fire to all of his ships, the Jem-Hadar commander ordered "All ships, fire on the Ambassador" and laughed "the poor fools".
In just a few minutes, torpedoes from both forces homed in on their targets. The individual hits of the Federation torpedoes did little more than lowering some shields and a tiny amount of hull damage. The Dominion torpedoes effect was completely different. All of the torpedoes struck the forward shield of the Ambassador class cruiser and her shields had never been designed to withstand that kind of concentrated firepower. Her shield bucked virtually instantly and several torpedoes struck near her warp core and the safeties failed causing the Commodores flagship to disappear in an anti-matter / matter immolation. Along with the ship, the lives of the Commodore and over eight hundred crew members and marines were snuffed out in an instant.
If the remaining ships had elected to simply accelerate at maximum and pass the Dominion forces at maximum, they could likely have generated enough velocity to escape with only light or moderate damage but instead they elected to turn around to run away back the way they had come from. This allowed the squadron of Jem-Hadar Attack Craft to swarm the seven Federation cruisers and within just a few minutes, the ship joined the Commodores flagship in death. Complete pandemonium enveloped the bridges of the remaining Federation vessels as they attempted to escape death. If the ship had been able to remain in good order, the ships might still have been able to make a fighting retreat and would have had a much better chance of survival. As it was, each ship was operating by itself and because of that, none would make it to be able to warp away.
The bridge crew on the Avenger jumped as Commander Ross hit her arm on the arm of her command chair. This is exactly what she was afraid would happen and the Dominion commander seemed to be even better than she expected. Still, she thought she knew a way to snatch the lives of some of those ship’s crews out of the Dominion meat grinder. She saw on her tactical display that the ragged group of Federation vessels was retreats in a direction that was close to the position of her frigate and the four transports. She had though about in an emergency attempting to ambush the Dominion ships in a nearby asteroid cluster but had hoped that shew was wrong and that it would not bee needed. She had discussed it with her executive officer but no one else. She did want her crew to get in trouble for not following the orders of a senior officer. This way, she could take the full blame. The problem was that things had happened much quicker than she had expected. Now, it seemed to be her only hope. Before entering the system, Commander Ross had the fighters carried on her ship loaded with full size torpedoes. While her interceptors could carry no torpedoes, the larger fighters carried on her ship could carry torpedoes each. After Commodore Langford had detached his forces, the Avenger's commanding officer had ordered the transports to load the Peregrine class fighters with Quantum torpedoes as well. All of the Peregrine class fighters could carry six torpedo each and there were far more of them than she had of her older fighters. Between all the fighters, she could deploy over 700 torpedoes which she figured should be capable of destroying the Dominion vessels if she used them in a surprise attack. She had initially considered having her ship operate with the fighters but it would be a much larger target and could easily ruin any chance of surprise. As well, it was likely that they had been monitoring the position of the Avenger and it would be likely that they would get suspicious if the lost sensor lock on her vessel. It would be better to show them what they wanted to see and depend entirely on the fighters.
The captain was about to give orders when her communications officer interrupted the order she was about to make with "Captain, the Captain of the transport Evergreen requests instructions on the course of retreat."
Gwendoline winced because the Wintergreen was one of the transports that had been converted to a fighter carrier. She answered after a few moment a bit huskier than the crew was used to but still in a calm voice, "Order the Wintergreen and the other transports to hold station until ordered.." She paused for a few moments and continued "Susan, tell them to launch all fighters but keep the drives and shield only on standby on the fighters."
Susan Peters sent the message to the four transports and only the Wintergreen did not comply with orders of the Avengers captain. The Wintergreen began maneuvering to get into a course to escape the system.
Seeing this, the captain responded instantly "Tell the Wintergreen that Il will fire on her unless she complies with my orders." Gwendolyn Ross quickly turned to her weapons officer, "I want you to lock fire control of the ship so the captain knows we are not bluffing. If she does not stop, fire to disable. I need the fighters on her intact."
Apparently the captain of the Wintergreen believed her because she stopped forward momentum and joined its converted sister at launching her fighters.
The Avengers communication officer waved to get her captains attention and said "Commander Ross, the captain of the Wintergreen is protesting and he wants to speak to you, what do you want me to do?"
"Tell him to clear off communication channels because we need them. If he continues, I want to ignore anything from him until I tell you otherwise." Commander Ross ran her hand through her hair thoroughly messing it up and then she eyes her entire bridge crew before starting. "We have only a few minutes to do this. First, we launch all of out fighters to join with the Peregrines. I realize that ours do not have the firepower of the newer fighters but they have too much to hold back. I would like to use the Avenger as well but she would simply be too easy to detect. Instead, the Avenger and the four transports will head away as if we are heading out of the system. While we are doing this, the fighters will head for that nearby asteroid cluster to intercept the Dominion ships. They will sit there at minimum power and fire all torpedoes at the Dominion ships when they get within range. I want a squadron of Peregrine fighters to specifically target the light attack ships with all of their torpedoes but the remaining ships to target the large ships. Dennis, I need you to come up with a course to get to the Asteroid cluster and I want them just to use navigational thrusters to reduce emissions. Weapons, I need you come up with the fire plan. I want target tracking done without any active sensors so they do not expect the torpedoes coming in or detect the fighters."
During the time that the Avenger and the fighters prepared for the ambush, a third Federation ship was disabled. Luckily, this one had not been hit all at once and had been able to dump its warp core before the core had gone critical. It was hoped by Captain Ross and her crew that some of the crew had survived to be picked up. As well, concentrating on the remaining fleeing vessels, the Dominions ships had not fired on the crippled ship which gave the crew of the crippled vessel a much better chance to survive.
Within eight minutes, the fighters had cleared their hangers and were on their way to the asteroid cluster to ambush the Dominion forces. At the same time, the Avenger and the transports started departing the system as if they considered the fight lost. With all systems on minimum and the fighters traveling on maneuvering thrusters, they were in many ways harder to detect than cloaked vessels would have been. The attention of the Dominion ships was divided towards the remaining cruisers that they were in pursuit of and the retreating transports so they never noticed the comparatively tiny fighters.
As the fighters drifted to their on, another Federation cruiser was killed. It had gotten luckier than any of the others and had managed to cripple one of the Cardassian Keldon class battlecruisers. Almost all of its weapons and all of its drives were destroyed and the Cardassian ship was forced to use its maneuvering thrusters to decelerate. The remaining Dominion ships were still intent on pursuing the remaining four Federation vessels.
The silent fighters decelerated as they moved into parking positions within the asteroid cluster. Only maneuvering thrusters were used and all systems were at minimum power. Unlike what is shown in many science fiction stories, asteroid belts are not think with asteroids throughout the belt but in reality are in clusters. Most the asteroids were around the same size as the fighters. The metal and movement within the cluster makes even larger starships hiding within them hard to detect and the fighters were near invisible.
The launchers on all the fighters were linked so that they would fire simultaneously. The launch was programmed for when the whole group of Dominion ships were within range of the torpedoes and all of the attack ships where within close range so that could attempt to engage them in dogfighting if necessary. While it would likely not be needed, Commander Ross liked to plan for as many contingencies as possible.
As they passed within range, all of the fighters fired within a half second of each other. Even the experienced Jem-Hadar commander of the flagship was caught by surprise by the huge number of torpedoes suddenly coming from the asteroid cluster but he had only a few seconds to reflect on this. He had never seen that many torpedoes ever fired at one time. Just over seven hundred missiles traveled towards the Dominion ships. His attack craft were a few seconds ahead of his ships so were destroyed before his ship and he could see what would strike his ships before he was engulfed. He had no time to reflect because his ship was soon surrounded by the explosions of hundreds of quantum torpedoes. Less than even a second later, the other large ships were bathed in subatomic fire. In many ways, it could not be described as many small explosions but once huge starship engulfing fire. View screens on the Avenger darkened as if the ship had been closely examining a star. Other than the disabled Cardassian battlecruiser that had fallen behind, no other ship survived. As a testament to the builders, the Jem-Hadar Battlecruiser was still recognizable as a starship but the remaining Dominion ships were little more than frozen metal droplets.
The surviving Keldon captain immediately surrendered. The USS Avenger flipped and began decelerating at maximum. Amid the wild cheers of her crew, Commander Ross said "Great Job, now let us see about rescuing the survivors of both sides." With that, the rest of her crew realized how many deaths both sides had received and the bridge was once more silent.
[ Star Trek is copyright © Paramount Pictures ]This story is covered under the free use clause of the Copyright Laws. While the story is designed to entertain, it is also written to educate as well criticize certain aspects of Star Trek.
By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Copyright © 2003, Kitsune. All rights reserved.