Last Voyage of the Avenger

Chapter Eight:

It was official, Star Fleet engineers had looked at the Avenger and had officially notified the captain of the Avenger that the ship was not worth repairing. The ship had simply taken too much damage in the last battle and in honesty, Captain Ross had to agree with them. The appearance of the bridge was a close mirror of the rest of her ship. Most of the bridge stations were destroyed and even her own captain's chair was almost hit by the attack that had smashed the rest of the bridge. The main view screen was gone and a patch had to be put in its place. If not the bridge would be expose to the vacuum of space. She remembered the last few moments when a piece of battle steel fragment cut through her executive officer. Dried blood could still be seen where her second in command died. Emergency panels had been set up to enable the ship to be piloted to the nearest shipyard for dismantling. The auxiliary bridge was completely open to space and was completely unsalvageable so an emergency system had to be set up. Well, Star Fleet would likely try to give her a multitude of metals and then retire her. As long as she was in command of her crew, they could not be sent to be reeducated and she needed to come up with some plans to keep her remaining crew somewhere safe. Perhaps she could find a way for them to create a colony with other people who agree with her. She had run into plenty of people who did not agree with the Federation's new socialist society.

The battle between the Residents of the Alpha quadrant and the Dominions had not gone unnoticed. The Borg had been looking intently in the Alpha Quadrants direction for years and noted that the military forces had taken heavy losses. This would be a good opportunity to take over the Alpha Quadrant and acquire huge numbers of drones. The losses in the battle against Species 8472 had severely depleted their drones and they needed replacements. Each time previously, they had only sent one cube. Instead they would be sending four cubes into the Alpha Quadrant.

Captain Gwendolyn Ross stateroom had been spared by the incredible explosions and powerful energy beams which had wrecked the rest of her ship. Like she had been doing too often since her ship had docked at the shipyard, Gwendolyn was sitting on her bed crying. Just too many of her crew had died and she was so weary. The yard had not begun the scrapping of her ship but it would come soon. She would then have to decide what to do and she knew her crew was waiting on her. She knew the Atago was at the yard being refitted but she had not gone to check and see if Commander Jackson was still onboard. While he seemed to be stuck in the strange socialist ideals the Federation had evolved, he was nice enough. She also felt that she had been slowly bringing him to her way of thinking before his ship was ordered to the shipyard for repair and refit.

Her intercom beeped. She had left orders to only beep her if it was extremely important . She answered it a little unsteadily and lethargically "Yes, what do you want?"

She could hear the slightly panicked voice of her assistant communication officer "Sir, the commander of the shipyard has just sent a message to all senior officers. It is marked 'Emergency', Captain". The communication officer of the Avenger had survived but she was still in the medical station in the shipyard. The doctors had promised they would release her within a few days.

Captain Ross was curious what Commodore Von Gehr's message was about. She spoke more steadily and firmer than before "Go ahead and transmit the message down here, Lilly"

A visual image of the commander of the shipyard appeared on the monitor. She had only met the grey haired man once when her ship docked at the shipyard. He seemed harried and perpetually busy. The Commodore appeared nervous, "I have just received grave news. Long range tracking has detected four Borg cubes heading for the Alpha Quadrant. Their course will bring them near this system. There is presently an attempt to gather together a battle fleet to intercept the Borg forces but there is little concrete information. From background data, it seems doubtful that High Command will be able to get enough ships together to stop the Borg fleet."

Something clicked inside the Captain and a wall separated her from her grief that had been haunting her lately. Most people in Star Fleet were deathly afraid of the Borg but she had read up on the Borg and thought she knew a tactic to deal with them. She brought her com system back up to talk to her assistant communications officer. The young ensign could see a thoughtful expression on the captain and knew that her captain was back.

Gwendolyn got up from her bed and spoke in a firm and strong voice "Lilly, do you know what a half kilometer long asteroid can do." The captain could tell from the ensigns expression that she was more confused than anything else. "Never Mind", she continued, "I need you to open a com channel with Commodore Von Gehr and ask is he would contact me directly. Let him know that I have a plan to defeat the Borg. Next, I want all remaining officers not on watch to join me as soon as possible in the Officers Mess.

Ten minutes later, the last of her remaining officers stepped through the hatch onto the mess decks. While the space had not completely remained intact, it was the only space that she could fit all of her remaining officers onto and had only minor damage. If she had her full officers compliment still, the other place she could have addressed them all would have been the hangers which were now open into space. As it was, only about half of her officers remained and many had been acting as department heads even those were Lieutenant Junior Grades or Ensigns. She motioned for everybody to be quiet and began speaking, "Officers of the Avenger, I have been informed by the Commodore that an enemy known as the Borg is heading for Federation space and their course brings them right through this system in all likely hood. What I need to know is what the status of the Avenger is?"

Not really knowing what the Borg were, the officers were actually more surprised at her question on the status of the Avenger. She could not really mean to bring the vessel into combat again. The Engineering Officer, who was now her second in command, was the first to break his stun. He had survived the last battle intact if you did not include the multiple broken ribs which had to be quick healed "Captain, the....."

At that moment, the chime from the communication panel chirped and the Communication ensign broke in "Captain, Commodore Von Gehr is on the comm and wishes to speak to you"

Captain Ross responded "Go ahead and transfer him down here. I can explain part of what is going on to the officers down her that way. Go ahead and keep a channel open and listen in yourself." Captain Ross did not like leaving her crew in the dark whenever possible and while she would have to fill in many details to her officers, this would help fill in some of the background.

The Commodore's image appeared on the view screen "Captain, I am to understand from your communication officer that you 'Might'", the Commodore strongly emphasizing the 'might', "have a plan to deal with the Borg forces heading in this direction? Understand if I am skeptical, the last time it took a whole fleet of the Federation's best vessels to destroy one Borg Cube and even then it was a disaster. Over half of our ships involved in the battle were either destroyed or disabled. If it was not for your incredible record during the Dominion War, I would be less likely to consider discussing this with you!"

Captain Ross took a deep breath and started "Basically, I plan to distract the Borg fleet with whatever vessels I can scrape together and then throw asteroids at sublight speeds at the Borg vessels. I have never heard of anything that could withstand a one hundred million ton asteroid being thrown at it at one quarter of the speed of light" Before he could respond, she chuckled mirthlessly and continued, "It is not like we have very many options. Our vessels are too slow to retreat from the Borg vessels and even if we could, where would we go. They are targeting the Federation for assimilation and I would prefer to go down fighting then become one of their mindless drones."

Gwendolyn had done a bit of research on the Commodore and had found at that he had never served in combat. She hoped that he would be willing to defer to an officer who had served in combat even if she was junior to him. She was the second most senior officer currently at the shipyard, outranking both the Commodore's executive officer and all of the other ship captains. What she had found out indicated that he was intelligent, innovative, and reputed to be an incredible administrator in engineering fields. He had been in charge of this yard for several years and had converted two Intrepid class cruisers, the 'Scharnhorst' and 'Gneisenau', into much more effective and heavier armed vessels. The two sisters were considered some of the best small vessels in Star Fleet and there was discussion of building more of the class.

Commodore Von Gehr paused for a few moments before answering. It appeared that the commodore was going over in his head what she said. He seemed to resolve an inner discussion and replied to her "Alright, I see your point. Obviously, you only have the most basic framework of the plan and will need time to fully develop it. What I want to know now is what you think you need?"

Gwendolyn had already created a preliminary list in her head. In reality, she had formed it within a few moments of coming up with her basic plan. She did not know specifics but she knew approximately what was available. She started with the obvious "Commodore, I am going to need every combat vessel that can be readied within the next four days and I am going to need crews for them. I think a little careful management will allow the use of crews on the vessels already in the system but unable to be repaired in time. I think that some yard crews could also be utilized on the vessels as well. The other major item I will need are impulse engines that I can have attach to asteroids." The number of impulse engines was the limiting factor because this system had a reasonable sized asteroid belt which could be used for the asteroids themselves.

The Commodore mulled over the items for a few moments "I see no problem with attaching impulse engines to asteroids within the time frame but I believe I only have twelve impulse engines powerful enough to give an asteroid a reasonable acceleration. The asteroids will be very jury rigged and will have only limited endurance. I think a few hours are the best that could be hoped for. As far as ships, that is probably our worst situation. I have an Excelsior class cruiser, the Atago, which is almost finished its refit. The ship still has a full crew although it is lacking in senior officers. There is a Centaur class cruiser, the Kraken, which a refit is almost done as well. The ship had an engineering casualty but is just about ready for service. The ship has a full crew and can be made ready for combat within a few days. I will let you use your own judgement on the Avenger. I have four old Akyazi Perimeter Action Ships which were being made ready for service in the Dominion War but progress was stopped when the war ended. There were crews training onboard before the war ended but they were transported home at the end of hostilities. I have no personnel trained in the use of the vessels but they are close to being fully operational. I have instructions to mothball the vessels but the process has not begun yet. I have a bunch of ships that are to be scrapped and are completely non operational. There are a few vessels that might be repairable but the crews went home after the close of hostilities and the ships were to be repaired and be put in mothball status as well. Newer vessel, which are meant to remain in service, have been sent to other shipyards. If I had two weeks, I might be able to bring eight more vessels back into service but we do not have the time presently. The only other ship I have is an Akira class heavy cruiser which was being built in this yard because the other yards were overloaded. If I had another month, I might be able to get the ship combat operational although I doubt I could bring it to full functionality for an addition few months. The crew has not even began to arrive yet and there has even been discussion of suspending the project. I could use my shipyard personnel to fill many of the engineering slots but trained personnel for tactical and weapon and especially command with combat experience will be impossible to find."

Gwendolyn had not known about the refitted Akyazi Perimeter Action Ships and they could be a welcome addition to her limited forces. As long as they had not been refitted to the point that the small ship’s controls were unrecognizable, she was sure that some of her people could operate the ships at least reasonably well. The ships were small but carried a large fraction of the firepower of a frigate or cruiser. In many ways, it could be considered the predecessor to the Defiant class which she had heard so many officers brag about. She was hoping for at least sixteen impulse engines so that she could throw four asteroids at each Borg Cube but as long as she had eight or more asteroids available, her plan should have a good chance of success. She had some requests that the Commodore would likely find unusual but could be helpful as well, "Commodore, I have read some of the reports on the Borg and I understand that, like their ships, the Borg drones can adapt to most energy weapons within a few shots and Borg troops boarding Federation vessels has been a significant problem in the past?" The Commodore nodded in agreement and she continued "I believe I have a relatively simple solution to this. I have an antique rifle know as an 'M-1 Carbine'. The design could be copied and adapted for shipboard troops. Like most antique rifles, it is a slug thrower and I do not believe that the Borg can adapt to that type of weapon because otherwise they should have adapted to punches and kicks a long time ago. A firearm just uses the same forces but several magnitudes higher. This is pretty much the same plan I have for the Borg cubes."

The Commodore looked stunned and Gwendolyn was not sure why. To him it was a revelation, so simple yet he knew of no one who had thought of something similar. Sometimes more advanced ideas were simply more complicated and a simpler solution was the best solution. Captain Ross seemed very good at coming up with simple solutions for complex problems. To prevent decompression, the Federation had been developing more and more complex structural integrity and environmental force fields. The problem was that the depressurization of the spaces were still a serious problem. Captain Ross had solved that but simply equipping all of her crew with light environmental suits which acts as vac suits. The lives lost that could have been saved with these two simple solutions and the amount of resources that had been invested in environmental force fields and energy weapons to deal with the Borg were staggering. He wondered how many other problems could be solved by simply using simple solutions. He remembered a story he had heard about the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States in the middle of the Twentieth Century. He did not even know if it was true or not but it made a great example of the same situation. The story was that the United States had invested hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in designing a pen that would write in space while the Russians had simply given their Astronauts a pencil. Well, now that he had visited the back alleys in his brain, it was time he answered the captain. He replied "Captain, that is a very interesting idea and could be quite useful. I believe that I have some extra crews who I could get started on the project as soon as I am able to get the weapon down here."

Captain Ross nodded to him while she considered how to bring up her final point. She was still just a captain and the person whom it would seem she was criticizing was an admiral. As well, most admirals do not appreciate when a relatively recently promoted captain tries telling him or her what to do. Her history of criticizing senior officers had managed to alienate many of them and had hurt her career in the past. Her career was not her real concern but whether she would be listen to or not. The Commodore seemed to respect her and if she angered him, it would make any working relationship much more difficult. Tens of thousands of lives were at stake and that decided her. She decided that it would be best though to discuss it privately. She asked "Commodore Von Gehr, I have a few items that I need to speak to you in private about. With your permission, I will have the signal transferred to my stateroom and finish up a few last items?"

Just a few minutes later, the captain was seated in her favorite chair in her quarters. She considered it a far better location than one of the ship’s briefing rooms. All had been damaged severely and several were without atmosphere. She had thought about her crews apprehension about bringing the Avenger back into combat on her way down. About eighty percent of her weapon systems were operational but the hull had been stressed everywhere from damage and her warp drives were damaged as well. While she doubted that the Avenger would survive this final battle, there was no way she could afford to leave the ship’s available firepower behind. Well, if she had to doom her crew, she would stay with them until the end.

The Commodore's face appeared on her monitor and she did not say anything initially because she did not know where to start. Commodore Von Gehr solved this problem by breaking in with, "Captain Ross, from the way you asked, I doubt I going to like what you have to say so you may as well get started!"

The Commodore had a point, she might as well get started. Time was running fast and the sooner the message was sent, the better. "Commodore, you are well regarded as a staff officer but you have no reputation as a combat officer. In spite of my recent records and maybe even because of them, there are many senior officers who do not regard my judgement very well. I am considered a maverick and unwilling to respect my seniors. As well, I come from what is regarded as the distant pass and many consider me to not have a very good grasp on the present situation. Because of this, there are a large number of Admirals who would dismiss any suggestions from us out of hand without considering it. The problem is that I believe that the main fleet intercepting the Borg forces would be better trying to make a stand in this system. From a simple numbers stand point, such a stand would give them seven more vessels which to fight the Borg with. The extra ships would also increase the distraction and make the asteroid strike more likely to succeed. Most importantly, if the trap succeeds, there would be a far lower loss of vessels than would otherwise occur because I plan to spring the trap virtually as soon as the Borg vessels are engaged. Of course, the lower loss of vessels would also mean a lower loss of life. There is one major problem though, we can tell the Admiral vaguely about the plan but not about the specifics. If he decides not to go with the plan and he is told the full plan, this creates a danger of the Borg finding out about the plan if he is captured and assimilated. All that the admiral can be told without risk is that we have several older ships that could be used to strengthen his fleet and that we have a special weapon that could be very effective against the Borg cubes. In addition, there are a multitude of reasons why the Admiral could reject the plan. There is a tendency in Combatant Officers to steer for the sounds of battle. It is often a good plan when you do not have a better idea. As an old Earth general said 'An imperfect plan today is better than a perfect plan when it is too late.' Also, in many cases, fighting defensively gives the enemy the opportunity to dictate where the battles are fought. The further from the Federation border that the Borg are engaged, the more time which may be available to gather up additional forces to help to protect the Federation. There is also a possibility that the Borg may go in an unexpected direction and if an ambush is set up in this system, then the fleet will be unable to catch the Borg if this occurs. The final is that he is concerned that we are trying to steal his victory from him. While I hope that is not the case, I have met flag officers with that attitude." She wondered if she had stuck her foot in her mouth with the last one but she kept being reminded of Commodore Langford and the loss of so many crew members on the ships that were lost in that battle.

Well, Captain Ross was known to stick her foot in her mouth but that last comment was surprising. Everybody knew there were officers that were willing to risk their crews for their own gains but they were rarely talked about. Ross seemed to not understand that junior officers were not to talk about their seniors. The commodore after a moment and decide to ignore any impropriety on her part. It still took him what seemed like forever, and she could not help but to think that she cut off her own head. His reply stopped her line of thinking "I can send a message to the Admiral in charge of the fleet but I do not know who is in charge so I cannot know what their response will be." The commodore paused for a few moments and switched to a new subject, "Captain Ross, I noted you stated that you had three useable capital ships. I assume that means that you plan to use the Avenger in spite of her condition. I know that while the ship is partially operation, the ship has unrepairable battle damage. Now, I accept the argument that the ship will add too much firepower, no matter what the condition of the ship, to leave behind. What I am asking is if you will give command of the Avenger to someone else and take command of the Atago? The cruiser is almost fully repaired and has been upgraded in weapon systems and shields. The ship likely has the best chance to survive the encounter.

Gwendolyn thought about how she could reply to the commodore without creating a new crisis. She knew that she still considered the Avenger hers but she thought her reasoning for not transferring command went beyond that. Well, it was likely best to get her reply over with "I cannot ask a crew to serve on a vessel that I am not willing to serve on. The crew would distrust the ship and the transfer would severely hurt moral. The crew might consider me to be abandoning them. It would be a different situation if I was already transferred to command the Atago but it is too late now to consider transferring." She wondered if Commander Jackson was still onboard and what position he held. If he was now captain, she would not want to relieve him of command. She continued before the commodore could answer "In addition, the Captain of the Atago does not deserve to be relieved of command and the crew might very well resent him being relieved of command. Transferring would be a lose / lose situation in multiple ways."

How dare that Captain thought Commodore Von Gehr. She is the same person who was said to have ridiculed half the flag officers and captains. She was supporting a captain she did not even know and was being smug and was lecturing about the need to keep moral up. He knew that the captain could see the anger in his face but she was still staring him in the eyes challenging him. He realized that this situation was different then those she had been in before. In previous cases, she had been the junior officer in the group and had to either trick the senior officer into accepting her plan and in this case, she could simply command the junior officers if she had to. She did not need to attack anybodies reputation If he argued, she would probably come up with reasons until he gave up. He had to admit that her reasons were pretty compelling anyway. Shipyards did not need to run like warships and he did not have the right familiarity to make a judgement. He decided for a very clipped reply, "Alright Captain, I will not press the point."

Admiral Cynthia Norton, commander of Fourteenth fleet, had just finished reviewing for the second time a message she had received from Commodore Lester Von Gehr, Commanding officer of Sigma eighteen shipyard. The yard was simple to far from her ships for any kind of real time conversation. The commodore message recommended for her to change course and to intercept the Borg vessels in the system which the shipyard was located in. The arguments in the message were good and she thought she knew who actually originated the plans. She had read a report that the U.S.S. Avenger had went to that shipyard for scrapping due to heavy battle damage and the captain of the Avenger was a certain Captain Gwendolyn Ross who had an incredible ability to win battles and to anger other officers. When Admiral Norton realized that her fleet was the closest to intercept the Borg fleet, she had looked up where Captain Ross was. Ross's unconventional tactics might have helped with fighting the Borg vessels and might have balanced the fight. The Avenger was in no condition to join her ships and even it the ship was, there would be no chance to work out tactics. The Admiral thought she knew what the secret weapon was. The yard had laid down an improved Akira class battlecruiser which utilized many of the systems first mounted on the Sovereign class and it could be very useful if the ship was completed. It was likely that the ship was complete except the warp drives. The warp drive system was new in many ways and would likely require tuning. If a warp drive was not tuned properly, the engines could create an uncontrolled wormhole. The admiral had read reports of the old Enterprise under Captain Kirk. The uncontrolled wormhole the Enterprise created during the VGER incident was enough to give star fleet collective paranoia when it came to warp drives.

No, the problem was not with the plan but with factors that were unknown to Captain Ross. There had been hurried negotiations with the Klingons and Romulans and both races had agreed to send vessels to help the Federation forces against the Borg. A specific locations had been agreed for the ships of the three powers to join together and it was impractical to change where the forces met at this point. The Romulan had promised to send four Warbirds and the Klingons had agreed to send two K'Vort class Birds of Prey and eight to ten smaller B'Rel class Birds of Prey. With the thirty Federation ships she had been able to collect, this was the largest fleet gathered outside some of the largest engagements of the Dominion Wars. All too many of the Federations vessels were still in the shipyard or they might be able to gather a fleet three times the size of what they have. She also knew that every day that she could delay the Borg advance, there would be more time to patch together ships and gather forces. The problem was if there would really be enough time even if she managed to delay the Borg cubes. Well, she would do the best she could like she was sure that Commodore Von Gehr and Captain Ross would do the same. The Admiral's present plan was to engage the Borg ships directly while the Klingon and Romulan ships made a surprise attack from being cloaked. She also figured that concentrating firepower on one cube and as best possible on one location would be the best tactic. If she could destroy one Borg cube, she would greatly increase the odds of another fleet of being able to defeat all of the Borg vessels. She then considered the thought that she wanted to hide from. She hoped that she would be killed in this battle instead of being assimilated into the Borg.

Gwendolyn had finally been able to go over the Status of her ship with her Chief Engineer and it was grimmer than she had originally thought. About Eighty percent of the weapon systems were operational with the losses of one set of her Mega-Phasers and four hull Phaser mounts. At least all of her torpedo launchers were operational. As well, her shields would be fully operational by the time the Avenger had to go out to fight the Borg Fleet. The real problem was the severe structural damage that the Avenger had and the less severe damage the warp drives had taken. The wrap drive damage prevented the ship from going into any of the higher warp speeds and the structural damage prevented the ship from accelerating any faster than half of normal.

Well, she had gathered all of the captains and their second in commands together to discuss her plans and any options the other senior officers could come up with and she did not have time to dwell on the damages to her ship. The other captains had interrupted their busy schedules to transport over to the station. Even though she was effectively squadron commander, she considered her ship too badly damaged to host the other captains. Using the base also allowed the Commodore to attend while not seeming to intrude as he might had the meeting been on another captains ship. The only other place that the meeting could have been held was the Atago because the Kraken was smaller than the Avenger and was more of a destroyer than anything else. The commodore was standing off to the side from the other officers and actually seemed a bit nervous even though he was the highest ranking person present. He had made it clear to both her and the other officers that he was mostly just observing and that Captain Ross was to be considered the squadron commander. Even though the Commodore was deferring to her, she kept in mind that she was the second most senior officer present. It would not be good idea to antagonize him.

She saw a face she recognized. Commander Jackson was still on the Atago and he had been given command of the old Excelsior class cruiser. His ship had been retained in the shipyard longer than originally planned due to the fact that materials and crews had been used to repair vessels that were considered more valuable or could be patched together faster. In the end, it was decided that the Atago would receive a full upgrade similar to what had been done on the Lakota. The refit had been almost finished when the War stopped. Star Fleet Command had considered scrapping the vessel but it was in comparatively good condition after being refitted and finishing touches were being done until the Borg fleet had been discovered. The work was done but the Atago would not get to the main Borg engagement before it started.

The situation with the Kraken was unusual and she tried to keep from being suspicious of the captain. The ship had been assigned border patrol when the bulk of the Federation forces had been assigned to the Dominion War. Ships that had the luck of getting these patrols did not retain them for very long and he had gone through four cycles without being assigned to the Dominion front. This seemed to suggest that he knew someone high up that could write orders to keep him from the War. The ship was scheduled to be transferred to the Dominion front but the captain had filed reports indicating that his ship had engineering problems that needed refit before the ship headed out to the War Front. She was very curious who had approved the ships refit. She had heard something very disturbing from the Commodore. He had gotten a communication message from the captain that had reported that he could not joint the fleet intercepting the Borg fleet with a list of new engineering problem. The Commodores information before that had indicated that his ship was fully operation and could report for duty. The main problem that Captain Ross saw was that the captain of the Kraken, Captain Maxwell Borek, had made captain only two months after her and as such was the third most senior officer at the yard.

The captain of the Akyazi Perimeter Action Ships were chosen from the best available officers from the shipyard and the three vessels. For captains, the officers with combat experience but who were not executive officers of the three warships. Captain Ross had decided that for this short a time frame, the removal of executive officers would harm the command structure more than the skills of the executive officers would help the Perimeter Action Ships. As well, both executive officer on the Avenger and the Atago were junior officers that were acting in the role of Executive Officer. One of the smaller vessels captains had been her acting tactical officer. None of the other captains were known to her but one she should have met when she was on the Atago before.

Her second in command had previously been her engineering officer and was obviously nervous about being her executive officer. While technically only an acting executive officer, she treated him with all the respect an executive officer respect. He seemed capable if he could get over his nervousness. His status report on the Avenger was grim but very well detailed and honest. It was written not like a report on why the ship could not be used but what problems would need to be accepted.

The preparations for the ships seemed to be going relatively well so she saw no need to rush the officers through the meeting. She patiently waited for all of the officers to settle in their seats before starting the beginning briefing portion of meeting. For the most part, the information was what she had told Commodore but she had time to clear up many of the details. Even though she had been unable to persuade the Admiral to sign on with her plan, Captain Ross was confident of a high chance of success. Survival would be much less likely but she thought she could destroy all four of the Borg cubes. She ended the briefing with "Well, two final points. First, if any ships seem to be acting strangely, the possibility of the ship being controlled by the Borg has to be considered. In that case, you are to destroy that vessel. Second, after the engagement, before coming back to the shipyard we need to examine every inch of our vessels to make sure that the Borg have not managed to stow away on any of ours." The 'if we survive' was not said but everybody heard it anyway. She paused, waiting for questions or discussion from any of the other officers

The captain of the Kraken was the first to respond and she notes a pasty look that seemed to denote fear "Captain Ross, you are new to this time frame and have never had to deal with the Borg before. They can adapt to any weapon fired at them and you plan to stop a fleet of them with three starships and a few rocks. One ship of theirs has devastated whole fleets. I think you are not thinking about the situation clearly. Our only option is to load everyone onto what ships are here and retreat."

Gwendolyn looked at the officers around the room to see how they were reacting. Most did show some fear at engaging the Borg but Captain Borek was the only one that looked like he was about to panic. There seemed to be alot of confusion in the Executive Officer of the Kraken. This was likely because she did not know if she should stand with her captain or should follow the instructions of a senior officer. Gwen decide that she could probably work with that eventually but time was quickly running out. Captain Ross decided that the safest course would be to answer Captain Borek cold and dispassionately and try to use reason "Captain, retreat to where. Earth is likely to be one of their next targets. I have attempted to simulate the variables on the Avenger's computer and the computer has shown that the plan has a high probability of success. I would give us a sixty to eighty percent chance of success based on the simulations. Captain, the truth is that the simulator results do not matter. I would try this even with a poorer chance of success. I personally prefer death to being captured and turned into one of their drones. With the Dominion, if they had won, we would have at least retained our minds and hope. The Borg are not like that."

Unfortunately, Captain Borek already had a new reply formed, one that let her know what his true intentions were. His reply came out almost pleading, "Captain Ross, the Kraken is only a light cruiser and is still under refit. You have chosen to reassign many of my best crew to other ships, including my helm officer, and I am unable to use my ship to its best efficiency. You have also sent some combat strategy files that include new and radical tactics. I would need time to train my crew in these maneuvers. In light of this, I think the Kraken could be better used in carrying reports back to Starfleet Headquarters so that they can be made aware of the situation." Gwendolyn thought she could see a smile that he was trying to hide. He must have done similar tricks in the past to get out of dangerous situations and this seemed to support the idea that he had someone senior in the chain of command to cover for him. Thankfully, cowards that would sacrifice anyone for themselves were rare. He had a problem at the moment because it would take too long for his benefactor to order him out of the system. The turn around time for a message, especially if Starfleet Communications were in chaos like she suspected, would mean that the message would arrive after the battle with the Borg was already resolved.

Gwendolyn sat for a moment considering how she should respond to him. Before she could come up with an answer, Commander Jackson responded for her. She was not sure if she should hug him or punch him but obviously he had been listening to her too much. He began with "Captain Borek, respectfully, Captain Ross is going into battle in an ancient frigate with has lost about twenty percent of its weapons and has severe structural and propulsion damage. The Avengers top acceleration and maneuverability will be greatly reduced compared to all of the other ships. In addition, a huge amount of her crew was killed or injured in one of the final battles to defeat the Dominion." Commander Jackson never actually sounded respectful but as he continued, he sounded even less respectful of the Kraken's Captain. "If she is willing to go into battle onboard such a ship, you better be willing to go into battle in a fully operational ship. The survival of the human race is at stake. Of course, if you feel unable to command the Kraken in battle, you could step down and I am sure another officer would be willing to take command of the ship. You might even be able to get onboard one of the cargo shuttles that has been designated to leave the system before the Borg get here" Captain Ross hid a smile. This was a response that she might expect to have come up with herself.

Like many people like him, Captain Borek's arrogance would not allow him to give up his authority as captain even because of fear. His reaction had changed. Now, instead of fear, he showed anger and seemed about to explode violently. He was beaten by any response by Commodore Von Gehr. His statement made it clear what his opinion was "Captain Borek, I have placed Captain Ross in command of the defense of the system due to having the most combat experience of any officer here including myself. You will follow any orders that she gives as if I gave the orders myself." Captain Borek seemed to just shrink back into his chair and nodded as if he was afraid to say anything. The Commodore then turned towards Commander Jackson and did not seem to be any happier. "Commander, Captain Borek is a senior officer to you. I expect you to treat him with respect. What I have read in your files indicates that you show a lot of promise. I do not want to have to a reprimand in your records." Commander Jackson stared at the Commodore challenging but nodded his head and replied with a response of yes sir. Gwendolyn thought that the Commodore had been too strong but she understood his reasoning even though she did not agree with him. Captain Borek should have never been accepted as an officer, let alone been promoted to the rank of captain.

Now that Captain Borek's attempt to escape the situation had been stopped, she hoped that she would get some reasonable suggestions or questions. Commander Jackson spoke after he looked around and saw that no one else was going to put up any ideas. The Kraken's Captain had started fuming quietly but everyone else seemed nervous about saying anything. Commander Jackson asked "We only have a total of seven ships, the loss of one ship would severely weaken us. I know that this facility has a huge amount of repair shuttles. Do we have time to take some of these shuttles and hit a beacon into them that would make them look like full sized starships? It would give the Borg more targets and by moving the ships and shuttles in a random pattern, the Borg would not know what targets are the shuttles and what targets are actually starships."

The idea intrigued Gwendolyn but there were some problems that needed to be worked out. The pilots would be in vessels than could withstand minuscule damage compared to even her damaged frigate. She thought about putting them under remote control. The problem was that she thought the remote control program would not be flexible enough to deal with the situation. Ok, time to lay the idea on the table "Alright, a very interesting and potentially very useful idea. I assume the idea is technically possible but I seem time being to short to produce a large number of them?"

Her second in command responded, "Captain, I would gather that we might have time to built a couple of dozen with the other projects that we are working on at this time." The Commodore nodded in agreement with Commander Dunstan.

Captain Ross continued with "I do not see a remote control package as being flexible enough to control the shuttles in the situation so I see our only option to have them piloted. The crews will be far more naked than any of us in capital ships will be and I want volunteers only. They should also be clearly informed about the dangers involved. The Borg may be targeting them as if they were capital ships so they might be able to evade hits but any hit will utterly destroy the shuttles."

The discussion continued for several hours with most of the other officers willing to contribute the discussion once Commander Jackson got the discussion going. Captain Borek continued to fume as before but she did not expect anything useful from him after his initial response. Captain Ross caught a couple of glances of the Kraken's Executive Officer towards her captain and she seemed as disgusted as the other officers in the room were. Several changes in the general plan were made including using the asteroid belt more effectively to hide the asteroid weapons. Also, all station stores were to be emptied to attempt to provide hostile environment suits to as many crew members as possible. Finally, some ideas for a crash course in ne tactics had been formed and it was planned for the training to continue until virtually the last minute.

As the meeting broke up, most of the officers stood up and headed out the doors towards the transporters to get back to their ships. Gwendolyn noted that Commander Jackson had nodded to his second in command who headed out the hatch behind the other officers. The Commander walked over to Gwendolyn where she was gathering up her notes so that she could head back to her vessel as well. Her chief engineer had already left and would be checking on some supports that he had his engineers weld onto several main support structures to attempt to shore up some damage. She wanted to know how the repair work herself but it was obvious that Commander Jackson had something that he wished to discuss with her privately.

"Captain Ross, I would like to know if you would have dinner with me when all this is done"

She looked up at him in surprise and blinked a few times in shock. She was an ugly duckling who's simply refused to stay under control. She felt herself blushing as well, something that had not happened to her since she was a teenager. She started to consider how she would say no but the likely hood of her surviving this was remote anyway. She was glad that Commander Jackson would have a reasonable chance of survival. His ship had the strongest shields and had an intact hull. She might as well tell him. She used his first name and said "Shawn, you know what the likely hood of either of us surviving is" meaning herself but not wanting to make him feel guilty.

He stared back at her, refusing to yield. "Gwendolyn", using her first name for the first time as well, 'You will survive. After all, you are considered the Demi-God of war by half my crew and the God of Death to the Cardassians. No measly fleet of four Borg ships is going to be able to beat you. Is a yes or no so hard?"

She chuckled to herself. Well, there was no reason not to "Why not." and then a stronger "Yes!" she then continued "Only one stipulation, where ever we go will serve Earth food not something strange, exotic, and inedible. Most of the other races foods taste like reprocessed power trunk insulation. We are both humans and should eat like humans."

[ 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.