Last Voyage of the Avenger

Chapter Four:

Commander Ross sat at her command chair and pondered the last battle. It appeared that the Federation media had declared it a major victory but she considered that entirely too many Federation ships had been destroyed and too many crew members had lost their lives. The Avenger was headed back to the staging system for a briefing with Admiral Sykes. Gwendolyn suspected that a new offensive was in the works but was curious to know the particulars. She was wondering if an adaptation of the tactics she used in the previous battle could be used in the supposed future engagement. If the events of the battle were controlled better, she might be able to incur heavy losses against the Dominion with minimal losses on the Federation side. The problem was that many enemy commanders might consider that any similar maneuver was a trap especially if the Dominion was able to get intelligence on what had just occurred. Perhaps a direct attack but with the fighters masked by the movement of the capital ships and not attempting to lure the enemy ships.

Commander Ross was waiting with virtually all the other ship captains of Twelfth Fleet in the main briefing room of the U.S.S. Bright Star. She still wore her old uniform and looked out of place in a sea of jumpsuit style uniforms. She still thought that their uniforms looked more like children's pajamas than actual uniforms. The admiral was running late and the captain of the Bright Star had come down to inform the captains that the admiral was having problem with the commander of the Klingon's local forces. The Bright Star's captain had stated that Admiral Sykes would be down to the briefing room as soon as he could.

During the delay, the captains were discussing recent events with each other. The subject changed to Captain Sisco, commander of Deep Space Nine, and what he had done just before the Dominion War and just before it. Most of the captains seemed to think that he had done an incredible job and were extolling his virtues. She was not impressed with what she had heard and what she had gathered from looking in various records. One of her biggest problems was that he seemed to believe that the ends justify the means in most cases. She had not said very much during the discussion but she was sure that her expression had given much of her opinion away. Most of the eyes were on her and one of the other captains asked "Commander Ross, you seem to have an opinion on Captain Sisco, would you like to share it with us?"

Well, they had asked. She began with "Captain, I wish I could agree with the rest of you on Captain Sisco but I cannot." Short and to the point. She continued after a moment "He has shown himself to be foolish and willing to sacrifice just about anything to salve his own ego. He has also repeatedly chosen to take a complex solution which cost lives when a simpler solution would have cost far fewer lives and had a much better chance of success." While none of the other officers said anything, they all were staring at her, many with daggers in their eyes. "His tactic with the Maquis and Solosos 3 should have ended with him in the nearest penal colony. I have read reports that state that the dusting of Trilithium will not allow human habitation for fifty years. That only tells half the story. That dusting also killed all Terran Flora and Fauna and completely destroyed the ecosystem of the planet. This all because his old security officer beat him and Captain Sisco wanted to prove himself better." It appeared that many of the captains wanted to disagree with her but no one spoke so she continued. She was surprised also that a few of the captains looked like they might agree with her. "I also do not like his tactics during the battle that ended up with the retaking of the Deep Space Nine Station aft it had been taken over by the Dominion. He lost sight of what the purpose of the whole engagement. If he had, he would have had the Klingon forces attack the station while his forces were engaging the Dominion fleet. Even if he had only had a fairly small number of Klingon ships attack the station, he could have kept the minefield from being destroyed. The true goal was to keep the minefield intact so no additional Dominion forces could arrive to reinforce those in the Alpha Quadrant. In the actual engagement, he made poor use of the forces at his disposal. It is better to destroy an enemy than too distract him. The idea of using the fighters to divert the Cardassian forces was a waste because he had no plans on how to take advantage of the situation. He should have planned some type of trap that would have destroyed or crippled the Cardassian vessels. The problem was that anything he did was purely temporary because he did not have enough power to destroy the Dominion forces with his forces detached into different groups."

It appeared as if several of the other officers were going to argue with her but it was at that point that the Admiral entered the room. He sat quickly down at the head of the table and said "Before I get started with the main reason for the meeting, I have a couple of announcements to make. First, the review of damage on the Atago has been completed. The damage on the ship is more severe than first thought and the vessel will be heading to a shipyard behind the front for repairs and a full refit. Second, Ms Ross, you are out of uniform!" A few of the other officers in the room laughed and several pointedly looked at her old style uniform. The Admiral did not give any time for comments before he continued "As of this date, You have been promoted to the rank of Captain. Congratulations, Captain." The Admiral tossed a new rank insignia in front of her. It must have been special made because the rank insignia was from the time that the Avenger had jumped from. The Admirals statement and action stopped the laughter abruptly.

"Most of you have likely guessed the reason why we are here. To make it official, I am announcing that Starfleet command has ordered us to make an offensive against local Dominion forces. I think this is in prelude to a major assault against them and we are suppose to eliminate reinforcements from this sector of space. In too many cases, we have been losing against the Dominion. I do not want to see this happening here and want a plan that reduces losses wherever possible. I plan to have several more sessions like this and at this point in time I am just looking for any ideas you might have." He looked around to see who would respond. The room was completely silent.

Gwendolyn also looked around the room. She thought to herself, what do you expect. Cadets are the academy are only taught a few fancy maneuvers and they think that these maneuvers are grand tactics. When the crews get onto the ships, there are few drills which means the skills the do have are lost and there is no chance to develop new tactics. Well, she would likely be the one to speak. "Admiral, a trap for their forces would probably be the best way to destroy their ships. Perhaps using fighters similar to the way they were used to ambush the Dominion forces that were chasing Commodore Langford's task force." She stopped and was motioned by Admiral Sykes to continue. "Admiral, what we could do is attack with the main portion of your forces with a heavy bombardment on what is likely their flagship. The attack should get their attention and the fighters could be approaching on a different course at low power levels. The fighters would do a surprise torpedo strike and if just the Jem-Hadar ships are destroyed, we should be able to deal with the others fairly easily."

One of the captains asked "What if the Dominion chooses not to engage our forces as you have planned? That could throw the position of all of your forces."

Gwendolyn did not recognize the speaker but it looked like one of the younger officers in the room. While she considered the answer pretty simple, at least he was asking questions. "Well, the best idea would be to target a location that they cannot afford to not protect. Make it so that radical maneuvering to trap our forces would result in the potential destruction of the target. A shipyard or a major supply depot would be two ideal targets but I am sure there are others as well. The second benefit is that we could make a double blow to their forces in one mission."

Captain Joyce Parker, Commanding Officer of Bright Star, broke in "Captain Ross, a good location might be the Ketrion System. The system contains what is likely the most important Dominion shipyard in the sector and there is a major supply depot as well." Gwendolyn nodded at the senior captains suggestion. Captain Parker though for a moment and then turned to the Admiral, "Admiral, if we can destroy their mobile forces, it might be possible to capture some examples of Dominion technology before we destroy the shipyards. I know it is impossible to hold the system but if we could get an assault team. I am sure that an samples would be of major help to R&D."

Admiral Sykes replied "Joyce, I have to admit that for that reason alone, the mission could be useful not even counting losses in their shipyard and forces." He turned to Gwendolyn "Captain Ross, I want you to work on a training plan for all ships based on the tactics that you used when you engaged the Cardassian ships near the Badlands." He looked at the assembled captains and note that several seemed to want to protest. He continued to head off their statements "I want to state that Captain Ross has my full support. I realize that many of you are senior to her but I would like your full support of her as well. She has developed a number of new tactics that might very well be instrumental in the next fight. Please, everyone, listen to her. Captains, If there is nothing else to discuss, we will meet again in two days to start developing a battle plan. I will have my captain comm you with the time of the meeting. Captain Ross, I would like to speak to you and Captain Parker in my office. Everyone else, dismissed.

The two female captains and the admiral had moved from the Admiral's office to his lounge. Captain Parker was prone in a recliner and had taken off her boots. Captain Ross was still a bit uncomfortable but she thought that this was mostly because it reminded her of the instructors lounge in the Academy. She also knew that she simply was not used to simply chatting with an admiral. She had taken off her red over tunic and was wearing her white turtleneck. Over the course of the evening, Captain Parker had become Joyce and Captain Ross had become Gwen. Admiral Parker remained 'Admiral' but woe be an officer call an officer four ranks above them by their first name while still nominally on duty.

Joyce stated "You know, Gwen, stating that Ben Sisco is an idiot is not the most polite thing you could have done in the presence of all of those other captains? He is considered by many starfleet officers to be a great hero." The senior captain shook her head

Gwendolyn Ross clasped her hands together and responded "Joyce, You are probably right but they asked me my opinion and I just could not lie about it. What is your opinion on Captain Sisco?"

"More or less the same as you but I would not want to say it in such a public setting. You know that your speaking out is what will keep you from getting above the rank of captain or so. If you antagonize the wrong person, you will end your career."

Gwendolyn replied "It is just that those two victories of his probably cost more than many of the defeats you have suffered. Being honest, most of the defeats were due to our mistakes than the Dominion itself."

The conversation was making her nervous so she decided to change subjects. She looked over at the admiral to include him before asking her question. "One situation I do not understand. I have read reports on the Dominion attacking out convoys. Why don't we have Klingon Birds of Prey going after their convoys? Those small ships with their cloaking devices would be very hard to catch and convoy losses would hurt them as much as losses of warships."

Captain Parker was about to answer but the Admiral waved his hand indicating that he would answer Captain Ross. "Simply put, Gwen, the Klingons are much like they were in your time. Their warrior philosophy makes it that attacking unarmed cargo vessels as dishonorable."

Gwendolyn said "If we could impede their merchant traffic, there would be fringe benefits beyond just the loss of their supplies. I do imagine that in the short run that the losses of supplies would be incredible. In the long run, it would make them have to move vessels from the battlefront to protect convoys. Likely, the would also want to form independent hunter groups in the attempt to destroy the ships attacking their convoys. Once the Dominion begins to organize, we can start forming "Wolf Packs" to go after defended convoys." She thought for a few moments "How about using some of those Defiant class escorts and equipping them with cloaking devices?"

Joyce replied once she looked to see if the Admiral wanted to respond again "Gwen, only a small number of the Defiants have been built. I do not know the reasoning behind it. The Defiants we have are all assigned to the main battle fleet and it is unlikely that command would allow those ships to be put on detached service. Even if Starfleet Command agreed to it, the Federation has signed an agreement with the Romulan Empire that we will not operate cloaking devices on Federation Starships. The Defiant herself is the only exception to that rule."

Gwendolyn smiled and said "Well, that shoots down my other idea. That was to detach a bunch of destroyers and equip them with cloaking devices." She thought for a moment "From what I have read, the Romulans are no better at following agreements than they were in my time. How about their statement about putting just a medical facility on one of Bajor's moons while in reality they were building a defense outpost. I have to admit that I would have considered that myself if I was in their position. I would also be very tempted to collapse the wormhole as well. This is, of course, if these so called prophets would let it remain closed!" She paused for a few moments and asked "Isn't there any groups which we could employ against convoys? How about hiring Orions as privateers?"

The Admiral shook his head. Gwendolyn saw that his expression was more tense than the conversation indicated. He asked "I have a question for you that is a bit sensitive. I would normally ask for an honest answer but I am sure that is what I would get from you anyway. How do you feel about the Maquis? I know you have been reading up on the general situation and I suspect that you have head others discussing them as well."

Gwendolyn sat for just a moment or two before responding. "The term 'Peace in our Time' comes to mind." Both the Admiral and Joyce gave he a blank stare. She added an explanation "The Prime Minister of England just before World War Two. Winston Churchill, no, Chamberlin. He said that after selling out Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler. You don't sell out your people, especially to an enemy who will not respect agreements anyway."

The Admiral asked her "What about the situation since then?"

Gwendolyn laughed. "A small number of rag tag ships with no support base are able to hold the forces of a supposed major power at bay. That says wonderful things about the state of Cardassian military forces. The Federation leadership decides that they have to intervene. Even better, they don't intervene on the side of the colonists but against them." she looked at both of them, half expecting anger and disagreement in spite of the fact the admiral asked her opinion. Instead, both of them nodded when she looked at them. The admiral appeared to be eyeing her to see if he could trust her.

After what seemed like ten minutes of staring at each other, the Admiral finally spoke "Well, Gwendolyn, I am about to tell you something that would at least destroy both Joyce and my careers if it got out. It might even land us in the brig or a prison planet somewhere. I will not tell you to keep it secret, I trust your own judgement on this matter. The captain and I are Maquis sympathizers.' Gwendolyn was initially surprised at the statement but when she thought about it, she realized that it made sense with their actions and personalities. The admiral continues once she had a chance to digest the admirals statement. "I initially tried to get the Federation to change their stance without making myself out to obviously be a Maquis sympathizer and we both did what we could behind the scenes to help the colonies. I am sure that you would find many of them were much like yourself. I mean as in wanting to be independent and not wanting the government to run everything. Joyce arranged that excess supplies would get to the Maquis and I provided the Maquis with intelligence on Cardassian activities."

Gwendolyn nodded her head. While they had technically committed treason, she could not condemn them because as she had just stated that she thought that the Federation's treatment of the whole situation was wrong. She also had no particular love for how the present Federation was being run. She did have a question she had to ask though "You would not have told me this unless it had something relevant to the present discussion?"

The Admiral replied "The Maquis still have a few ships and they want to strike back at the Dominion in any way that they can. I have so far been able to restrain them from making a suicidal attack against the Dominion but it is only a matter of time unless I can come up with something useful for them to do. Based on your idea, I figure we could equip their ships with cloaking devices and their ships could be used to raid Dominion supply task forces. It would be less risky than anything that they are presently contemplating and my, umm, our," as he nodded to his flagship’s captain, "connection with the Maquis could remain covert."

Gwendolyn had to admit she liked the idea.

[ 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.