Last Voyage of the Avenger

Chapter Six:

Captain Ross grumbled to herself "another meeting" and "this had better be important" as she beamed onboard the Bright Star. Gwendolyn was still wearing her hostile environment suit. She knew her engineering officer was capable but she wanted to see herself what could be done about repairing the Avenger. She had been personally checking out the hull damage rear the damaged upper port phaser when had an urgent order to come onboard the Bright Star. There was a force field over the hull breach but she did not trust a force field like she did an alloy plate. The Admiral had ordered all Captains and their Executive Officers immediately onboard the Bright Star for an emergency briefing. She did not know what was so important that simply setting up a com with all of the senior officers would not do. It was not as if the captain of the Bright Star herself would want to leave her duties trying to get her ship fixed.

While the Twelfth Fleet had pretty much annihilated the Dominion forces, the Federation ships had received some heavy damage themselves. About fifteen percent of the Twelfth Fleet's vessels had been crippled or destroyed and an additional twenty percent were damaged to the point of not being considered combat effective. These ships would soon have to head to shipyards where the less damaged vessels would be repaired and others would be scrapped. The remainder of the vessels were lighter damaged and remained combat effective. The Bright Star was in the category of needing to go back to a shipyard. The ship had lost most of its weaponry and had damaged to the warp drives. The trip to the shipyard would be very slow for the Bright Star. In addition, the Bright Star had almost exploded from a Warp Core failure. Gwendolyn had read up on the Galaxy class and the number of times these vessels were almost lost through Warp Core failure or the number of them actually lost through it was incredible. If she had been in charge, she would have called the whole class back as soon as pattern emerged to refit the class to prevent it from happening. Instead, they had built more Galaxy class starships without addressing the problem.

The loss of personnel in most of the fleet was far higher than that for the Avenger. The fact that the whole crew of the Avenger wore hostile environment suits meant that many had survived when they otherwise would not. Captain Ross had never had to deal with any large loss of crew and this battle was by the worst she had ever seen. All of the actions she had been involved in before becoming captain of the Avenger had been battles between a small number of starships. To be honest, few Federation captains from her time had experience in mass starship battles.

None of this self examination would solve what the Admiral wanted so she stepped onto the transporter pad with her executive officer. A few moments later, they materialized on the transporter pad of the wounded Galaxy class starship. The executive officer of the Bright Star was waiting for them. It appeared that the Asian commander had been thrown into a bulkhead during the combat due to sporting a large bruise on the side of her cheek and the fact that she walked stiffly over to the transporter. Still, she appeared to not be seriously injured. She flatly stated to her guests "I am to direct you to ten-forward, the main briefing room is not accessible at the moment."

After a short turbo-lift ride and being led through a series of corridors, Captain Ross found herself in what was called 'Ten-forward.' It seemed to large to fit on a starship and the compartment seemed to be yet another weakness in the vessel's design. She might have been willing to believe that it was enlisted mess deck but it seemed to be set up wrong for that. Well, she knew that the Avenger's hanger decks were larger than these so it was probably simply her own prejudice against these new starships. The compartment was actually large enough for all of the captains and executive officers in the Twelfth Fleet with room to spare. Of course, several captains had been killed and others were injured. Still, there was a huge amount of officers in the room. She noted that her uniform made her stand out in the room but was able to quickly find a pair of unoccupied seats. She also noted that virtually all of the other captains had already arrived. The only one she could see that was missing was the Captain of the Bright Star and she was likely with the Admiral. Unlike the previous meeting, everybody was sitting quietly and not engaging in small talk. Gwendolyn herself was thinking about the repairs which the Avenger would require. She was spared the need to write letters home to the families due to the fact that their families were all gone. The Avenger was their family in most respects. The Federation had changed to be almost unrecognizable. Maybe she should come up with a speech for the crew.

Just as she was starting to think about what she would say, Captain Parker and Admiral Sykes came through the main hatchway. As the captains prepared to stand up, the Admiral waved for them to stay down. He walked up to a podium which had been prepared for him. He stated as soon as her reach the podium, "I am sorry I had to call you away from your ships. I know many of you are concerned with repairs but I have very important news. Based on the success of our attack here, Star Fleet has determined that it is time for the main assault against the Dominion. As a result, many of the ships of Twelfth Fleet will be reassigned to the main strike force. Basically, all of Twelfth Fleet's undamaged vessels will be assigned to the strike force at Deep Space Nine. The fleet is to include Klingon and Romulan forces and will finish the war." He waited a moment to see the reaction from the assembled captains. He knew his statement had sunk in due to the stunned silence and continued with "Including fighters, the force is to consist of over a thousand vessels. The Federation Forces are to be commanded by Admiral Ross, no relation as far as I know to our Captain Ross, and Captain Sisco. The Bright Star is too badly damaged to take part in the engagement and is headed back to the yard. I have elected to go with my flagship and retain command of the heavily damaged units of Twelfth Fleet. Captain Parker will read off those who are being assigned to the assault force at Deep Space Nine and those who will be heading back to the yard with the Bright Star." He sat back down as his younger captain took the podium.

Gwen payed scant attention to the Captain until the Avenger was mentioned. The Admiral stared directly at her when her name was read. Admiral Sykes waited until the remainder of the names were read before standing, "A few additions, Captain Campen and Ross, you will take command of the combat capable ships of Twelfth Fleet until you join up with Admiral Ross with the acting rank of Commodore." Gwen knew that some of the other captains were senior to her and look around to see if there was any resentment. She did not see any and hoped it was a good omen. The admiral continued with "In accordance with Admiral Ross's instructions, I have divided my operational ship into eight ship squadrons and have assigned twenty fighters to each squadron. Captain Campen, Ross, Dixon, and McRae will each take command of a squadron." The Admiral took a sip of water from his glass and stated "Captain Parker has the list of assigned squadrons for each ship." as he relaxed once more. Captain Ross was assigned two Saber class light cruisers, four Avenger class Frigates which Captain Parker of course called the Miranda class, and two Excelsior class cruisers. Neither of the Excelsiors class cruisers had been upgraded but otherwise her forces seemed to be pretty capable. She noted that all but the two light cruisers were of older designs and she knew their combat capabilities. The hangers in her ships had space for at least twice as many fighters as she had embarked but she had additional older fighters to compliment the Peregrine fighters. Once the entire list had been read, Admiral Sykes stood up again and simply stated "Supply vessels will be bringing your stocks of torpedoes up to capacity although many of the torpedoes are older mark Photon Torpedoes. All ships are to be underway by eighteen hundred hours, It has been an honor to serve will all of you. Good luck!" and with that headed for the exit.

As the meeting broke up, she tried with mixed success to find the captains which had been assigned to her squadron. She was able to find five of the other captains but the other two had already left the briefing. She waved to her executive officer and as soon as she got within earshot asked "Paula, can you try and intercept the other two captains before the reached the transporter room. I need to arrange a meeting with all of them and their executive officers on the Avenger before we depart." She turned to the five captains which she had been able to snag "We need to discuss tactics for the upcoming battles and any information you might have about the flag officer we will be serving under. I need to understand his style so I can work any tactics out with his most likely plans. It is thirteen-twenty two right now which only gives up about five hours to come up with tactics. I would ask that all of you and your executive officers come onboard the Avenger by fourteen-hundred. Unless we have something that needs to be stated now, I will see you all then" She waved for them to break up and headed for the transporter room to get back to the Avenger and see how her repairs were coming along.

All of the Captains and Executive Officers of her newly formed squadron were sitting patiently around the round table in the middle of Avenger's briefing room. They still were waiting on the squadron's two senior Peregrine pilots which Gwendolyn had only thought to include at the last minute. Her executive officer had been unable to catch the two light cruiser's captains before they had gotten back to their ships but her comm officer had been able to complete arrangements for the meeting. The two senior fighter pilots slid through the hatch at Fifteen-Oh-Five, which was far better than she expected. She spoke as soon as they found seats "Thank you for coming, This is Paula Masterson, my executive officer, and I am Captain of the Avenger and squadron commander. I guess I could insist on being called 'Commodore' but I really would prefer to simply be called 'Captain' if possible. In my own time, I had only been captain of the Avenger for a short period but I had been an instructor at Star Fleet Academy in strategy and tactics prior to taking command of the Avenger. My understanding is that this squadron is being given the designation squadron 12.2" She looked at the captain which appeared to be the oldest in the room, "If each of you would give a short introduction, I would appreciate it, I don't really know any of you."

The captain looked to be in his mid to late fifties with hair along the sides and back of his head but completely bald on top. He looked a bit uneasy, maybe due to being commanded by a so much younger officer, "I am Captain Jason Samuels, captain of the Renown which I have been the captain for over four years." The Renown was one of her Excelsior class cruisers. He continued with, "The Renown had been assigned to exploration duties until the Dominion war when I was assigned to Twelfth Fleet. This is Commander Melissa Morganstern, my executive officer." The executive officers could have been a poster girl for star fleet recruiting with blond hair and blue eyes. Still, Gwendolyn thought she saw a spirit in the executive officer's eyes which seemed to be lacking in her captain's eyes. Gwendolyn thought it might have been best for the captain oif the Renown to have retired and allow a younger captain to take command. The introduction went smoothly as she motioned to each captain to introduce herself or himself. She thought that one of the commanders who commanded the Katana, one of Saber class light cruisers, might be problem and might not want to follow orders. Both the fighter pilots were survivors and seemed pretty calm for their profession. If a captain is unable to follow their Commander's orders, they could be worse than useless.

Once introductions were completed, Gwendolyn continued with "Now that we all know each other a bit, we can begin with the actual meat of the discussion. Do any of you know anything about Admiral Ross?"

Terri Kim, the tiny Asian Commander of the Saber class light cruiser 'Rapier' spoke up first. I was once the assistant tactical officer onboard his ship when he was a Captain but I was only an ensign at the time." Captain Ross like the small black haired Asian commander because she reminded her of Captain Sulu even though the two looked little alike. She seemed to have exactly the right combination of drive and willingness to obey orders. Gwen nodded for her to go ahead. Commander Kim continued "The Captain preferred letting the individual officers determine their own strategies and tactics and considered that individually would keep the enemy off guard. I understand that he prefers that captains under him are expected to operate on their own initiative as well."

Gwendolyn looked around the rest of the room to see if anyone else had anything to add and no one seemed to have anything else to say. She thought hard for a few seconds trying to compose her thoughts. She chose her next words very carefully "There is much to be said about the individual skills of captains but when working in a squadron, they need to be controlled and the tactics of the squadron as a whole must be considered primarily. I don't remember were I read it or the exact words but eight individuals is a mob while eight people who work together can be considered a team. I think we would be far better off if we do not split off and 'dogfight' as the old term goes and instead protect each other. I think it would be best if we concentrate on larger Cardassian vessels and Jem-Hadar battlecruisers. We will fight attack craft only as they engage us. Any tactics we come up with here may have to be modified based on Admiral Ross's battle plans but I think we can come up with some preliminary ideas." She sat back for a moment and watched the members of her squadron to see what kind of reaction she would get before she continued. She did not see any undue concern so she continued.

"My plan it to begin any battle with a torpedo strike similar to what we did in the previous engagement, probably concentrating on four large vessels and about twice as many attack ships. I figure that the concentrated firepower will allow us to reduce odds against us quickly. I want the three Avengers, excuse me, Mirandas and the two Sabers to continue closing with the enemy with the fighters acting as a spearhead but I want the two Excelsior class cruisers to stay back from beam range and continue firing torpedoes until they are all expended. Once your are empty of torpedoes, go ahead and come into phaser range but stay information. I plan to concentrate on only one or two large ships at a time, that way we can overwhelm their defenses quickly. We will only engage those Jem-Hadar attack crafts who are within range and no pursue them. While we head for fleet rendevous, we will continue practicing drills of firing phasers at incoming torpedoes. Hopefully, we can limited the damage we take in early stages of the engagement. This is the basics of my plans, does anyone else have any ideas to add or any changes you wish to make?"

One of the fighter pilots raised his hands and Gwendolyn nodded to him. He asked "Captain, once the initial missile engagement is finished, what do you want the fighters to do?"

She thought that the role of the fighters was pretty obvious but did not put that into her tone or expression. She stated "I want all of the fighters to act as an outer perimeter to protect the capital ships from attacks of small craft. If at all possible, I do not want any one on one combat but instead want to engage with superiority. I suggest that you stay in groups of three or four. A definite kill is far better than damaging several attack craft." She asked "What is the next question?"

[ 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.