Summary: SEASON 4 FINALE: Legate Varak's fleet arrives at Earth expecting an easy victory. Instead, they come face to face with a legend.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Family, Friendship
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes
Word count: 13312 Read: 1093
Published: 10 Sep 2017 Updated: 10 Sep 2017
1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Kressari System: Federation Frontier
Legate Varak grinned from the commander's chair on the dark bridge of his flagship. He had finally grown used to the rudimentary controls of this modified cruiser. Even though her systems were old, she was still extremely dangerous. Two years ago, he could never have believed that the weapons that would lift Cardassia from the shame of defeat would be recovered from a junk yard, but that is exactly what happened. Destroying those starships along the border was the easiest fight of his career. Not even a mighty Pershing Class battlestarship could stand against them. His only regret was that it wasn't Tigranian's vessel reduced to a fleeing hulk. However, he was sure he would soon get the chance to wipe the smug arrogance off that human's face. They were now at high warp racing straight into the heart of his most hated enemy. The capital of the Federation would be at his mercy.
"Sir," Commander Sejed, his first officer, said from a console behind him. "We are in range of Betazed, Gamma Ceti, and Benzar. After we have destroyed those planets, we will be in position to hit Vulcan and Bolius before proceeding to the Sol System."
"No," Varak said gritting his teeth. "We continue straight to Earth."
"Sir!" Sejed said walking out from behind his grey metal control console. His wide necked uniform showcased the neck ridges puffing out in indignation. "If we want to bring the Federation to its knees, we must neutralize their outlaying systems first."
"I don't want their outlaying systems neutralized!" Varak said rising to his feet. The giant Cardassian State legate badge on his left breast glinted underneath the dim overhead lights. "I want to break the Federation apart with fear. Divide them against themselves into warring factions that will never stand united again. I want to humiliate them, degrade them. I want them to know that even in the center of their peace-loving, utopian paradise, they are not safe from our vengeance. I want them to bow their heads and beg for their lives.
I will not give them the chance to unite and meet us lightyears away from their core. I will move straight to their capital and raze it to ashes. Just like they did to us, Sejed."
"We will not arrive in range of Earth for more than two days, Sir. They could assemble an entire fleet at Earth by then."
"All the better," Varak said. "Instead of piecemeal destruction, we will obliterate Starfleet in one mighty blow and then begin the elimination of Earth's population. With no ruling government, the smaller systems will have no choice but to surrender one by one. Then, we will return to Cardassia Prime, hang that traitor Garak from the ramparts of the Imperial Plaza, and reunify our country."
"Sir," a lieutenant said from another control panel on the far side of the bridge. "We're receiving another directive from Premier Harok to immediately return to Cardassian State Space. He says, if we do not, we will be destroyed."
Varak laughed out loud.
"That old fool can't stop us. Every officer who is even remotely competent is in this fleet."
"What if the Romulans decide to intervene against us? The Cataclysm Device is their technology. They might be able to stop it." Sejed asked.
"If they knew how to stop it, then their fleet would be equipped with them. Besides, we are giving the Romulans exactly what they want. We destroy the Federation and then we split its territory and resources right down the middle: half for the Romulans and half for the New Cardassian Empire. I'll even allow them to take all the Klingon territory desire, as long as we receive substantial reparations for the resources the brow-ridged animals took from us."
"You will allow them, Sir?" Sejed asked confused. The commander wasn't used to dealing with the Romulans on such equal terms.
"Of course, my friend. Harok has proven himself a fool and far too weak to lead our people. Once the proper purges of the Republic puppet government have been completed, I fully intend to re-install the Central Command to its rightful place at the head of our people. Worry not," he said walking up to Sejed and placing a grey hand on his shoulder. "I will not forget who helped make this glorious victory for our people possible. Soon, a Legate's badge like this will be on your uniform as well.
We'll need good men in the new order. Already, too many Cardassians have been corrupted by the disgusting decadences of democracy. We: both you and I, will bring them back."
Sejed grinned and nodded at his legate.
"Stay on course for Earth, maximum warp," Varak said lowering himself back into his seat.
"Yes, Sir," Sejed said filled with a renewed sense of purpose.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A: Earth Orbit
Tigranian and the rest of his staff leaned over the table in the officer's mess. The captain had sent for T'les once she had gotten things moving on the Pershing. He knew that Lieutenant Mendez could handle Lady Blackjack's main engineering section. Scharr would need his assistant's help getting this old beauty up and running.
The Vulcan engineer had brought over an armful of old-fashioned paper star charts and Constitution class schematics at Tigranian's request. Until the Big E's computers were fully operational, they would need help planning their operations. Any electronic terminal or modern PADD would be rendered useless as soon as they made contact with the Cardassian fleet's Cataclysm system. They had unceremoniously pushed aside a museum display about the famous "Gorkon Dinner Disaster" of 2293 that had taken place in this room and laid out the fifty large sheets of paper across the table for everyone to see.
"Alright," Tigranian said using a mechanical pencil as a pointer, "The only way we are going to make this work is divide and conquer. We ain't got the time or the people to make it perfect, so we have to settle for good enough. What does it take to make a starship run? Let's start with hardware."
"I've got my best damage assessment team over from the Pershing checking the EPS and ODN lines one by one. They look pretty solid, but the last thing I want to do is put active plasma or volts into the conduits only to have a blowout," Scharr said. "The warp core and the impulse engines…" he paused. "Well, they're there. But I won't know what we need to fix until I do a full manual diagnostic."
"You got the time for that, Tren?" Annabeth asked concerned.
"Do I have a choice, Ma'am?" he asked as his antenna curled with annoyance.
"Good point," she conceded.
"I'm taking the impulse drives," he said. "T'les is going to take the matter/anti-matter feed lines and dilithium matrix. We'll get it done."
"Alright," Tigranian said. "Eyes, ears, and brain?"
"The sensors are still intact," Laria said. "I'm going to check them out once we get the main power grid kicking. We know the main computer works, but I'll have to do a full checkout to make sure none of the base files have been corrupted."
"That's a lot of systems, L," Tigranian asked nervously. "Sure you don't need any help?"
"I built a computer like this in junior high, Sir," Laria said raising her eyebrows. "I've got it."
"Ok then," Tigranian said. "Speaking of life support? How about sick bay?"
"I'm not bringing on board any medical supplies that need power to function," Alex said. "I'm pretty good with dermabond, needle, and thread, but I would advise anyone that doesn't want to get operated on by hundred year old surgical lasers to try not to get hurt."
"Noted, Doc," Tigranian said as the others groaned. "Phil, can you drive this thing?"
"Constitution class used a manual uplink between the bridge's main helm station and the gyro-node to the maneuvering thrusters and impulse outputs." He held his fingers together almost touching. "It's about this far above a stick and a rudder cable, but that also means it's simple and reliable. Once we learn how to talk to each other, we'll starting dancing the waltz like old times."
"Just don't take too long to make your introductions, Phil," Tigranian said. The helmsman nodded. "How about fuel, X-O? We arrange for a tender to link up with us?"
"That's the problem, Sir," Annabeth said nervously.
"Problem?" Tigranian replied nervously.
"This old girl can't take the new hyper-enriched deuterium," Scharr clarified. "We put modern fuel in the fusion reactors and they'll make a really good impression of a star going supernova."
"What's the solution?" Tigranian asked trying to remain calm.
"I've got Spacedock's Class III point scavenging every kilo of the older blend they can find," Annabeth said, "but it looks like we only got 1000 metric tons deuterium/anti-deuterium mix available."
"Let me guess," Tigranian said. "They don't keep it on hand because no one uses it anymore…"
"On the nose, Dan," Annabeth said.
"It'll have to do," Tigranian said steepling his fingers. "It should be fine as long as we stay local and limit ourselves to less than Warp 5. What about ordnance?" he said turning to Katie.
"That's the good news, Sir," she said with a smirk. "Greenland Reserve Depot has a full combat load of the old Mark VI pho-torps still in the original factory transit cases. Those are the big sons-a-bitches with the 50 isoton variable yield warhead penetrators."
"You mean the ones that could supposedly blow an old Klingon D7 in half?" Tigranian said incredulously.
"The very same," Katie answered. "Not very accurate, but they pack a real punch at close range."
"How close do we have to get to use those things?" Phil asked nervously.
"With the targeting scanners on this thing, you don't wanna know, Babe," Katie said with quick inhale of air.
"No one said this was going to be easy, folks," Tigranian said.
"That might be the understatement of the year, Sir," Annabeth said. "But I like a challenge."
Tigranian chuckled. She had no idea how apt her statement would become very shortly.
The doors to the room opened, and a frantic looking woman barged in wearing a civilian dress and an unfamiliar ID badge.
The group looked up at their guest with a series of confused looks.
"Can we help you?" Tigranian said to break the awkward silence.
"Which one of you is Captain Daniel Tigranian?" she asked nearly out of breath.
"Maybe he's the man wearing the captain's uniform?" Scharr said like he was talking to an idiot.
"Tren," Tigranian muttered trying to keep his chief engineer under control.
"I'm sorry!" she said very perturbed. "I'm a 23rd century historian. I can tell you what every single button on the monster maroons mean, but these modern things you wear all look like pajamas to me!"
Tigranian rubbed his eyes.
"You must be Doctor Whitecamp," he replied. "Admiral Murphy told me that we might be seeing you soon."
"Yes," she said throwing her shoulders back. "I came up from San Francisco as soon as I heard you were taking my ship."
"Your ship?" Annabeth said skeptically.
"Yes, my ship," Doctor Whitecamp replied. "I've been with this Enterprise since I was a graduate student. I did my dissertation on the Constitution-Refit program, and I've worked at this museum in every position from assistant education coordinator all the way to curator! So, yes, it is my ship!"
"Did you understand anything of what she just said?" Katie asked confused.
"Katie…" Tigranian said trying to defuse things. "It's obvious she has the same loyalty to this vessel as we do to ours. However, Doctor, I'm afraid that this is still a starship of the United Federation of Planets and she's needed again."
"What possible use could this vessel be to you all?" she said desperately. "You've got at least a dozen modern ships in this sector but the Enterprise is the last of her kind. It's the most significant space-going artifact that this country has that's not behind glass. If you damage her, that's it, and a part of our shared heritage will be irretrievably lost."
The historian was desperately trying to make her case, but it was obvious she, like the rest of the general public, had no idea of the potential catastrophe facing the planet. The Pershing's senior officers exchanged loaded looks. Tigranian decided that she deserved to know and didn't mince words.
"Doctor," he said after taking a deep breath. "At this moment, a fleet of Cardassian State warships is moving at high warp speed directly towards this planet. Their intention is to lay waste to everything and everyone in this system. They have already proven this by destroying three starships and severely damaging three others. At least six hundred Starfleet crewman are lost.
Yes, there are modern starships in this sector, but the Cardassians have a new weapon that renders them completely helpless before they can get close enough to fire. After analyzing all the options, we believe that the Enterprise, with its older hardware, is immune to this new weapon. Therefore, it is the only ship in the Federation that has a chance to stop them."
Whitecamp stared back at him in stunned silence.
"Doctor Whitecamp," Laria said stepping forward. "We all understand what this ship means to the people of the Federation. We all felt it as we came aboard.
What this vessel and her crew did is the stuff of legends, but right now, this country needs this legend again. We can't promise that we'll bring her back like she is now, but we can promise that we'll live up to this ship's history."
Whitecamp held back tears.
"I knew it had to be something dire if you were pulling the Big E out of mothballs," she finally said. "At least let us help."
"Help?" Katie said skeptically.
"Yes, help," Whitecamp responded. "My staff and volunteers have been keeping this ship in top shape for decades. How many of you are experts in 23rd century maintenance practices?"
"We are shorthanded, Dan," Annabeth muttered quietly.
"You can help with getting her running again, Doctor," Tigranian said, "but I'm afraid I can't allow any civilians to stay aboard once we head into action. It's not right to put you in harm's way. You don't have the training or the experience."
"What about our veteran volunteers?" Whitecamp said. "They are all Starfleet retired and understand the risks."
Tigranian looked to his first officer. She nodded.
"If they've worn the uniform, we'll take them along," he said acquiescing.
"Who did you have in mind?" Annabeth asked.
"I'll get them up here as soon as I can. Let me make a few subspace calls."
Half an hour later, and the officers had solidified their course of action. It would be tight, but they would be able to meet the Cardassians before they could hit the Oort Cloud. With any luck, the Enterprise could knock out the Cataclysm ships fast enough to allow the Pershing, Shran, and Sulu to finish the job.
They all checked out the bridge of the ship for one final conditions check before putting their plan into action. The stations were perfectly preserved as if the ship came out of service the day prior. Various plastic signs and text panels told the biographies and positions of each of the titans who had once served here: Spock, Sulu, Chekov, Scott, Uhuru, and in the very center, surrounded by a velvet rope, was the grey upholstered captain's chair.
"Do you think this is gonna work?" Alex said putting everyone else's fears into words.
"It's going to have to," Tigranian replied.
"That's what I hate about these old ships," Annabeth muttered. "There's no first officer's chair. Guess, the pregnant lady is just going to have to stand…"
"I can run down the auditorium and dig up a folding chair, Ma'am," Scharr said sarcastically. "Maybe tac weld it to the deck plates so you don't go flying as soon as we take a disruptor hit?"
"Screw you, Tren," Annabeth said. Tigranian smirked. "I guess I'll just take the communications station with Katie at Tactical. I'm not too good to answer the space phone."
The doors to the starboard turbolift parted and Whitecamp burst out onto the bridge.
"I have our veterans will me," she said.
"Let's meet them," Tigranian agreed.
"Bill!" she shouted back into the turbolift. "Now, you have to speak up, they're a little old."
Two ancient men and a woman with a combined age of well over three hundred fifty hobbled out of the turbolift. Each of them wore old maroon work coveralls and "Starfleet Retired" blue baseball caps. Their leader up front was leaning on a cane.
Alex and Annabeth exchanged worried glances. Tigranian rubbed his eyes.
"Master Chief Petty Officer Retired William Quinn," the man with the cane said with a nod. "Engineer's Mate '89-'21." His baseball cap had "USS Potemkin NCC-1657" across its brow in gold letters.
"Chief Petty Officer First Class Retired Arthur Bustamonte," the second geriatric said smiling broadly through his wrinkled face. "Gunner's Mate "91-'19. You can call me 'Buster." His hat read "USS Lexington NCC-1709."
"Senior Chief Petty Officer First Class Retired Leslie Dunwood," the old woman said. "Machinist Mate '88-'14." Her hat read "USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A," meaning she had actually spent time on the Big E.
"Doctor Whitecamp," Tigranian said raising his hand. He couldn't let this charade continue. "Chief Dunwood, Gentlemen," he said trying to be as polite as possible. "I don't know if you understand this, but we're going into combat. This is going to be a very dangerous and austere environment. Though I incredibly appreciate your past service, I can't take you out of spacedock based on your…" he paused looking for the most tactful way of explaining.
"Your advanced conditions," Alex said putting on her best bedside manner.
"Captain Tigranian, these people have forgotten more about Constitution class ships then we could ever know," Whitecamp said defending her volunteers.
"And they've probably forgotten a lot more than that too…" Scharr muttered as he rolled his eyes.
Suddenly, Quinn banged his cane on the metal deck.
"Alright, listen up you pampered, officer twerps," he said dropping his chin. "I don't know what the hell 'conditions' you're talking about, but we grew up in the real Starfleet. Not the pathetic, nursery school version you got going today where you talk about your feelings and take sonic showers every day.
I'm talking about the days when we ate synthesized food made from reclaimed shit, bathed once a week in yesterday's filtered piss, and lived in bunks so tight you could wipe your nose with your buddy's f*cking foot." He stared right at Tigranian. "Conditions, my ass, Sir," he used the word 'Sir' in the traditional way a senior NCO belittled a commissioned officer. Quinn rolled up his sleeve and barred his skinny, wrinkled arm. Still visible in faded ink, was a huge tattoo of an eagle clutching a Starfleet Operations Delta insignia in its talons. "What the hell do you know about combat? I was holding warp cores together with spit and bailing wire during 'Red Alerts' while staring down a Romulan's pissed off asshole forty years before you were a tickle in your daddy's nutsack."
Tigranian's froze in the face of this old man's vulgar verbal assault.
"And you," Quinn said pointing his cane straight at Scharr. "You blue-skinned, mop-haired Andorian limp dick, I've beat my fair share of alien ass in this life, but if you wanna start something, I'll come outta retirement just to wipe that 'holier-than-thou' smart-assed grin off your face."
"Ok, I like him," Scharr said pointing at Quinn. "I really like him."
"And if you think I'm mean, just wait until you talk to 'ole Chief Woody here," Quinn added.
"When I came in," Dunwood said angrily crossing her arms over her chest. "Those sexist assholes made me wear a f*cking skirt so short every eighteen year old peeping tom fresh off reading his daddy's dirty magazines could see my Neutral Zone, and I still scared the piss out of new trainees so much I had to keep a mop at my duty station to make them clean up the yellow stream trickling down their legs. Scotty used to call me 'the power drill' cause I used to bore straight through people without stopping," she said.
"I thought you said your nickname was 'annihilator,' Woody?" Quinn asked confused.
"That was just because of all the dick I slayed off duty. Had to pass the time somehow on those long five year missions."
"Don't worry," Buster said still grinning. "I'm the nice one."
"23rd century Starfleet appears to have been far more vulgar than history books suggest," T'les said quite impressed with their new companions.
"What do you say, Number One?" Tigranian asked leaning on the helm.
She shook her head and laughed.
"Welcome aboard," Quinn muttered shaking his head. "she says 'Welcome Aboard' like they had a choice. Everybody knows NCOs run a ship. Officers just push buttons while we prevent them from killing anybody…"
The turbolift doors opened again and Murphy stepped out holding a PADD.
"Admiral on the bridge!" Tigranian shouted.
"As you were," he said. "Just got this from Starfleet Command." He began to read.
"Attention to Orders:"
The Starfleet personnel, including the retirees, snapped to attention.
"I hereby place United Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-A in temporary commission for emergency service of the United Federation of Planets. Captain Annabeth M. Geist, Commanding.
SIGNED BY MY HAND IN THE CITY OF PARIS, STARDATE 53390.8
MIN ZIFE, PRESIDENT
MAY SHE AND ALL WHO SAIL IN HER BE BLESSED"
Annabeth nearly doubled over.
"I'm in command?" she said flabbergasted. "But, Dan, I thought you?"
Murphy held up a hand.
"Dan already has a ship, Annabeth," Murphy said.
"I'll head back to Lady Blackjack," Tigranian added. "Gleeto, Moran, and Mendez can handle the ship with me while you take our prime team for Big E. We'll sail out with the task force and stay alongside for as long as we can."
"What are your orders, Captain?" Alex said smiling at her wife.
"Lieutenant Stone," Annabeth said with a smile to her acting first officer. "Let's man our ship and bring her to life."
"Aye, Ma'am!" she shouted back. Katie immediately started parceling out tasks. Everyone else spun into action and Murphy headed back to the transporter room in the visitor center. He would wait down in "G and G" for the Sulu to arrive before taking his place in overall command.
Scharr, T'les, and Quinn headed for the engine room. Katie and Buster went towards the torpedo magazines. Phil went to run a diagnostic in thruster control while Laria and Chief Woody went to the computer core.
"Is our new C-O pregnant or just fat?" Woody whispered to Laria. The Bajoran blushed as they disappeared into the turbolift. They were gone before Annabeth could respond.
Soon, it was only Tigranian and Annabeth left on the bridge. She looked over to the captain's chair. Her hands unclasped the velvet ropes from their stands. She stepped towards the sacred artifact.
"This is James T. Kirk's chair," she muttered, almost afraid to utter it too loudly.
"No, Captain Geist," Tigranian said calmly shaking his head. "It's yours."
Slowly, Annabeth lowered herself down into the seat and placed her hands on the armrests.
"If there's nothing else, Dan," she said proudly, "You might want to get back to your ship. We've got work to do."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Scharr, T'les, and Chief Quinn stood at the entrance to the darkened engine room. To their front, the warp core loomed and filled their view from deck to ceiling.
"Sir," T'les said with as much nervousness in her voice as a Vulcan could allow. "This propulsion system has not operated in eighty years. Do you really believe it will function?"
Scharr crossed his arms against his chest. He stared into the chamber like he was at the entrance to the shrine of the patron saint of Engineering. With a smile and a slight curl of his right antennae, he replied:
"T'les, these are Montgomery Scott's engines. If there's any in the history of Starfleet that can fire up after all that time, it's these right here."
"You know, Blue Boy," Quinn said leaning on his cane. "That's the first damn thing you've said all day that hasn't made you sound like a dumbass."
"Man, I really like this guy…" Scharr muttered as he stepped into the engine room.
Tigranian and Whitecamp stood at the exit of the main gangplank. The captain held a long package under his arm. They turned around and gazed back at the Enterprise-A.
"So who's crazy idea was it to bring her back?" Whitecamp said with the same malaise in her voice as if she were watching her child being drafted.
Tigranian stifled a laugh.
"My wife's actually, Laria, the Bajoran one," he said gazing up towards the ship's bridge. "She was trying to convince me to let her visit here yesterday. Somehow, she's always able to get what she wants."
"You're married to one of your officers?" Whitecamp said surprised.
"I never thought I would be," Tigranian mused both to her and himself. "But I let myself fall in love with the right woman," he laughed as he looked down at the deck plating, "Actually, I let myself fall in love with all of them."
"You're scared aren't you?" Whitecamp said in a sudden statement of fact.
"What?" Tigranian said retreating back into defensive Klingon machismo.
"You're scared that they're not going to come back," Whitecamp clarified. "Kinda like how I'm scared that the Big E won't come back?"
"You're luck you're talking to a Starfleet Officer, Doc," Tigranian replied. "Not a lot of people would understand loving a ship as much as the people in it."
"I didn't mean to be insulting," Whitecamp said defensively.
"It's alright," Tigranian said, still gazing back towards his crew's new ship. "But I also got a baby on that ship…" he thought out loud before he caught himself.
"Wait, I thought you said you were married to Laria, not to Captain Geist…" Whitecamp said even more confused.
"Correct," Tigranian muttered after realizing he had revealed far too much.
"I'm not gonna ask," Whitecamp said shaking her head.
"That's probably best…" Tigranian retorted.
"By the way," Whitecamp added as she turned her eyes to the package in the captain's arms. "What is that?"
Tigranian unwrapped it and pulled out a glorious K'vel'kar bat'leth. Unlike most swords, this one had a phrase from the ancient Klingon bard, "Wil'yam Shex'pir" etched in tlhIngan Hol across the inner blade:
"HoHpu'mo' taHqeqvetlh, yo' qIDaq ghaH ngeH puqvam,"
or as it was translated into Federation Standard:
"A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven."
"That is the Chang bat'leth!" Whitecamp screamed in horror. "What are you doing with it?"
"Only a human would call this, 'the Chang bat'leth" Tigranian said grabbing the 150 year old sword by the grips and feeling its heft. "This is a bat'leth forged in the late Ta'QaQ style at K'vel'kar by the master smith, Yuho'irah, Son of M'Toq." He expertly spun it around in a low arc. He let the blade dance through his hands. Whitecamp was momentarily hypnotized by its rhythmic movements. Suddenly, he reversed the sword and swung one of its edges towards Whitecamp's neck. He stopped just before he separated her head from her torso. She quickly drew in a breath of air.
"And it could really use a cleaning," he said as a grin formed across his lips. "It's something to distract me while they finish getting the ship ready to sail. I've admired this weapon since I first saw it when I was eight years old. Ironically, it's a bit of a family heirloom now…"
"What?" Whitecamp said confused again.
"In any case," Tigranian said placing the sword in the crook of his right arm, "I'm no stranger to bat'leths. I thought I would hold onto it until the battle was over."
"That bat'leth is museum property," Whitecamp lectured. "I can't let you take it."
"The sword is the soul of a Klingon warrior. If he loses it to an enemy, or lets it fall into disrepair, it is a sin that can never be forgiven, and his spirit will never feast in Sto'Vo'Kor," Tigranian said quoting the ancient Klingon warrior text of Grand Master R'kuro, Son of Movar. Part of him secretly believed that Chang's spirit had suffered enough in Gre'thor. Maybe, with a little effort, he could redeem his family's old mentor just enough to let him enter the halls of the hallowed dead. "You're welcome to try to pry it away from me," Tigranian said, assuming the aire of a Klingon warrior, but I wouldn't advise it."
Whitecamp, unable to see the sword as anything more than an artifact, grimaced.
"Just make sure you bring that back when this is all over. It's in the brochure after all."
"Just as my crew will return your ship, I will return this sword, Doctor. You have my word." he said with a bow of his head.
"Is your word worth anything?" she said rolling her eyes.
Suddenly, Tigranian growled and took a step towards her.
"I respect you and your profession, Doctor Whitecamp. But understand this, my word is worth EVERYTHING! To challenge my word is to challenge my honor, and no one, including you, challenges my honor."
"Ok, ok!" she said holding up her hands defensively. "Jesus, if I didn't know I better I would say I was talking to a Klingon…"
Tigranian reared his head back and laughed.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Earth Orbit: Stardate 53391.0
The Pershing and the Shran hovered just outside the Enterprise's slipway. The huge silhouette of the Sulu loomed a few thousand meters away.
Admiral Murphy sat in a command chair surrounded by six holographic displays floating around him in mid-air. A dozen technicians handled the massive amounts of information flowing into the state of the art Combat Information Center or CIC. His screens gave him up to the second status on every ship in his fleet, the condition of the fighter squadrons on the Sulu, and a complete three dimensional starmap of the surrounding system.
Murphy placed his personal headset over the crown of his head and fitted the microphone boom near his mouth.
"This is Freedom 6 to all Task Force Commanders," he said pressing his hailing button. "Tracking stations are showing the enemy fleet at 4 lightyears out. This is it. Give me a comms check in sequence."
"This is Blackjack 6, loud and clear," Tigranian said appearing on a holoscreen near Murphy's right arm. He sat on the Pershing's bridge. Ensign Gleeto was at the tactical station and Lieutenant Moran was at the helm.
"Got you, Dan," Murphy replied.
"Ice-Ax 6, loud and clear, Sir," Zhe'vasda said from the Shran. Her image took the holoscreen just to the left of Tigranian's.
"Got you, Kivrana."
"This is Rapier 6 on the flight bridge," Captain Bennet said appearing on the center holoscreen. "Got you on the intership uplink, Sir. Cobra Squadron is spinning up their T-Bats now. They'll be cleared to punch out as soon as we clear the Pluto Marker. Two flights of four each: one under Commander Bentley and one under Commander Neman."
"Got you loud and clear, Parker," Murphy said. "Acknowledge the REDCON status on fighter cover."
Murphy took a deep breath and his brought up the last ship's display.
"Alright, Pioneer 6," he said establishing a comm link with Annabeth on the Enterprise. "It's up to you. Is she gonna launch?"
"Freedom 6 this is Pioneer 6," Annabeth replied. "We've completed fuel and weapons upload. Final checkouts and diagnostics complete," Annabeth responded. "We're in final pre-start sequence to fire up the core now. She'll launch…even if I have to get out and push."
"Acknowledge, Pioneer 6," he said. "Hopefully in won't come to that. Give me another report when you're moving down the slipway."
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Annabeth disconnected the subspace channel and keyed her internal microphone.
"Main Engineering, this is the Bridge. It's now or never, fire her up."
"Acknowledged, Ma'am. We're almost ready," Scharr replied.
"We're past almost ready, Tren. Get her going or we'll be fighting the Cardassians next to the moon.
Down in Engineering, Scharr stood at the main control console glaring down at T'les.
"What's wrong, T?" he said as his antenna curled in annoyance.
"The warp core is primed and ready, Sir," she replied struggling with piece of conduit adjacent to the dilithium chamber. "However, I am having difficulty connecting the final plasma vent line."
She pressed the end of the black plastic hose against the metal coupling that ejected super-heated plasma from the main firing chamber. Even with all her Vulcan strength, she was unable to attain a lock enough to close the seal. With a final grunt, she tried again, but to no avail.
"If we don't get those lines hooked up, we won't get any plasma flow to the EPS grid! You've got to get it connected!"
"I am aware, Sir!" T'les replied with the slightest hint of emotion.
Chief Quinn looked at the sight and laughed. He hobbled across the deck plating to the base of the warp core.
"May I, Sweetheart?" he said gesturing to the conduit.
T'les, with every ounce of Vulcan discipline she had remaining after two days of putting this ship back together, balled her fist and stood up straight.
"If you believe you have strength greater than mine, Chief Quinn," she said holding up her hands, "you are more than welcome to try."
Without a word, Chief Quinn pulled a silver hip flask from his pants pocket, unscrewed the lid, and sucked a huge swig of liquor between his lips. He then leaned forward, and spit the entire mouthful onto the warp seal.
Scharr looked on in utter confusion.
Quinn then withdrew an old-fashioned, chrome cigarette lighter from his jacket. He flicked open the lid and struck a flame. Calmly, he touched the fire to the puddle of alcohol which flared to life in a hot flash.
"What are you doing!?" Scharr shouted as he dove for the fire control handle on the far side of the warp core pit. "You could ignite the whole EPS grid!"
"Calm down, Ice Queen," Quinn said as the flame burned itself out. The old man reached over, connected the conduit, and sealed the gasket with one finger. Scharr and T'les looked on completely dumbstruck. Quinn took another swig of liquor as he explained. "The polymer carbide o-rings in those seals gets hard as diamond when it's cold. It's designed to function with 5000 degree plasma pumping through it. It just needed to be heated a little first."
Calmly, Quinn looked over to T'les and grinned.
"These old ships are like good women. They only do want you want when you take care of them right. You gotta know where to rub 'em, where to finger 'em, and where to get 'em hot!" He burst out laughing as T'les awkwardly climbed out of the warp core pit to join Scharr at the control panel.
"I had no idea that humans felt engineering and coitus were so closely related…" she whispered as she adjusted the controls.
"I guess they are…" Scharr said shaking his head. "Ok! It's now or never. Let's fire this old girl up by the checklist."
"Dilithium chamber structural integrity field is active. Matter/anti-matter injectors to standby," T'les answered.
Quinn shuffled over to another control panel and flipped a bank of switches.
"Primary and auxiliary fuel pumps to prime, Impulse fusion reactors to plasma accept. They'll kick over as soon as the EPS pressure climbs above 300 millibars!" the old man shouted. "Best cover your ears, it's gonna get loud in here!"
T'les looked over to Scharr who gave a final nod. The Vulcan put her hands over the inducer controls and took a deep breath.
"Matter/anti-matter injectors to start," she said pulling down on the row of switches.
A rumble caused the entire room to vibrate. Two streaks of light started at opposite ends of the warp core, shot towards the dilthium chamber, and collided in the center of the tower. A cloud of dust was ejected from the inside of the bulbous center section as more waves of light began pulsing up and down the core.
A slow steady rhythm like the sound of a heart beating began to echo through their ears.
Thrum, Thrum, Thrum, Thrum, the beat grew faster and faster as their gauges and indicators began to rise.
"That should do it," Quinn shouted over the din. "Kick her over!"
"Matter/anti-matter injectors to run!" T'les shouted as she flipped the switches to their final position. A huge screech echoed off the walls as hot warp plasma shot into the EPS grid. Scharr and T'les both cringed as the cacophony finally dissipated into a steady, pulsing cadence.
"I told you to cover your ears," Quinn chuckled.
Scharr rolled his eyes.
"Matter/Anti-matter reaction is at 100 Cochranes and rising. EPS pressure leveling off at 450 millibars. Impulse fusion reactors are active!" T'les said allowing herself the slightest smile of relief.
All over the ship, systems transferred from shore power to internal feed. Outside in space, the other vessels of the task force watched in amazement as lights flickered across the entire hull. The Big E's deflector dish came to life with a brilliant, blue glow.
Scharr laughed in triumph as he keyed his intercom.
"Bridge, Main Engineering! The warp core is hot! Let's get it on!"
On the bridge, Annabeth banged her fist into her armrest. At the helm, Phil activated his console.
"I've got control," he said grinning. "Nav thrusters and impulse drives are online. Warp drive available on your mark, Ma'am."
At the science station, Laria ran a final check of her systems. "Main computer is active. All systems running at standard automation, bringing up external sensors."
"Katie," Annabeth said into her intercom. "You've got power. Lock and load then get up to the bridge. It's time to go."
"Aye, Ma'am!" Katie replied from ten decks below in the torpedo bay.
"Alright," Katie said signaling Buster at the central torpedo console. "Bring the first one down, nice and easy," she said raising her hands.
A magnetic arm lowered from the ceiling with a two-meter long, glossy black photon torpedo in its grasp. Buster artfully maneuvered the projectile into the cradle mounted in the loading track. Once it was secured, he released the magnetic clamp and sent the weapon forward towards the torpedo tube. After a brief ride, it sealed itself behind the hatch with a pneumatic hiss.
"Bridge, Starboard torpedo loaded!" Katie shouted.
Buster immediately brought down another projectile and repeated the process on the opposite tube.
"Port torpedo loaded!" Katie added.
"I've got plenty of help down here with your crewman from Lady Blackjack," Buster said. "They need you on the bridge, Ma'am. We'll keep her spitting fire. You just shoot straight."
"Good luck," Katie said with a smile, "and thank you," as she headed for the turbolift.
A few minutes later, she emerged onto the bridge and took a seat at the tactical station next to Phil.
"It's gonna take a while to get used to being up front next to him," she said activating her controls. "Torpedo bays and phaser banks charged and ready, Ma'am."
"These instruments are little bit crude, but I think I can tell that space is that way," Laria said pointing to the viewscreen. "Science, as ready as we'll ever be."
"Helm ready," Phil said.
"Sickbay is up and running," Alex said through the intercom. "Let's get moving!"
"Main Engineering, all energizers charged and ready. You've got full power."
Annabeth looked around the bridge. She pressed the shipwide intercom. A bosun's whistle echoed through every chamber and corridor.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Captain. Your work the past two days has been outstanding. However, this is the real deal. We're going into action. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other, and take care of our new ship. We're gonna make those bastards sorry they ever decided to leave spacedock."
The cheers echoing through the ship echoed back through the bridge speakers. Annabeth allowed herself a smile.
"Museum control, this is the USS Enterprise, clear all gangways."
In the museum's control center, Doctor Weitkamp reached down and pressed a large button on the main panel. The four visitor gangways pulled away from the Enterprise, the long banners hanging from their sides that read "The Big E Welcomes You!" slowly folded away.
"USS Enterprise, this is museum control. All gangways cleared. Good luck," Whitecamp said softly, praying that her ship would still look like this on its return.
"Phil," Annabeth said on the bridge, "Clear all moorings."
"Aye Ma'am," Phil said moving his hands over his controls. "All moorings cleared, gravitational and life support umbilicals retracted, Captain."
"Alright everybody," Annabeth said leaning back in her chair. "Let's see what she's got." She keyed hailing frequencies. "Freedom 6, this is Pioneer 6, Big E is REDCON 1 and moving."
"Freedom 6 acknowledges," Murphy replied. "Pershing and Shran will form up on your flanks as soon as you clear the dock."
"Aft thrusters," Phil repeated.
"Ahead, one quarter impulse power," Annabeth said sharply pulling down on her jacket.
"Ahead, one quarter impulse power," Phil said opening the throttle.
For the first time in 80 years, the Enterprise-A moved down her slipway towards open space. A crowd of workers in pressure suits had assembled on the dock's inboard walkways. They raised their arms triumphantly as the ship roared brilliantly back to life.
Tigranian watched on the Pershing's bridge as the white saucer of the Enterprise caught the shimmering light of Sol as it exited her berth. The letters "NCC-1701-A" seemed so large, he felt that the entire planet could read them.
He listened to the open command frequency on the speaker next to his chair. He suddenly became aware of a roar echoing across the entire fleet. Every crewmember of the Pershing, Shran, and Sulu cheered as the Federation's most famous ship moved to the lead of their formation.
The Big E turned out of Earth orbit. As Annabeth watched Luna pass by, a voice echoed in her comm system.
"Pioneer 6, this is Blackjack 6," Tigranian said. "Pershing forming up on your aft port quarter."
"Pioneer 6, Ice-Ax 6, Shran coming in off your starboard."
The two battleships assumed flanking positions. The massive Sulu then took its position half an AU behind.
"Pioneer 6, Rapier 6, we're right behind you," Bennett signaled.
As his task force took the shape of a giant wedge, Murphy steadied himself.
"Capital Space Traffic Control, this is Starfleet Task Force Freedom, clear the slot. We are approaching Titan Marker."
"Acknowledged Starfleet Task Force, the slot is cleared of all civilian traffic to Pluto," the controller replied. "You are cleared to exit the solar system on any vector."
"All Commanders," Murphy said switching back to the fleet's internal, encrypted frequency. "We stick with the Big E until the Oort Cloud at 278 Mark 115. After that, Sulu, Shran, and Pershing will remain in a holding pattern in the Kuiper Belt using the gravometric interference to mask our warp signatures. Enterprise, you'll move out to meet the Cardassian fleet. Take out those Cataclysm ships as fast as you can. Then, get out of there. Let the big guns take care of the rest."
"This is Pioneer 6, acknowledge."
"Blackjack 6, acknowledge."
"Ice-Ax 6, acknowledge."
"Rapier 6, acknowledge."
Traveling in perfect formation with Annabeth at the lead, the task force sailed forward to the edge of interstellar space.
As the task force entered the Kuiper Belt, Admiral Murphy keyed his intercom.
"Parker," he said to the commander of the Sulu, "Let Cobra fly."
"Aye Sir," Bennett said from the flight bridge. He turned to the Air Boss and flashed a thumbs up. "PUNCH 'EM OUT!"
Eight T-Bats flew down the port flight deck and into space. They broke into two tight formations of four fighters each. Half of them headed for the Shran while the others made for Pershing.
Tigranian and Zhe'vasda heard a voice crackle to life in their comm systems.
"Blackjack 6, Ice-Ax 6, this is Cobra 6 on your push," Bentley said from the cockpit of his T-Bat.
"Got you loud and clear, Cobra 6," Zhe'vasda replied.
"Loud and clear," Tigranian echoed.
"Acknowledged," Bentley replied. "I have two flights of four coming on station. Flight 1: Flight lead call-sign Cobra 6 moving to starboard nacelle of USS Shran. Flight 2: Flight lead call-sign Cobra 5 moving to port nacelle of USS Pershing. We have 1-8-0 minutes of play time. Our individual loadout is full charge on pulse phasers, times 12 Mark XII micro-torpedoes, and 1 Starphoenix anti-starship guided missile. Request Task and Purpose."
Tigranian looked out and saw four small angels quickly take formation next to his ship. Something about seeing them there was deeply comforting.
"Cobra 6, this is Ice-Ax 6," Zhe'vasda replied. "Task: Conduct security vicinity USS Shran and USS Pershing. Purpose: Prevent enemy vessels from influencing Shran and Pershing prior to engaging Cardassian fleet. On order, attack by fire Cardassian main body to provide freedom of maneuver for USS Enterprise once sentry vessels are destroyed."
"Ice-Ax 6, Cobra-6," Bentley replied. "Acknowledged, WILCO."
Tigranian keyed his mic and spoke.
"Cobra 5, this is Blackjack 6."
"Blackjack 6, Cobra 5," Daredevil replied. "Funny how we always seem to run into each other like this, isn't it, Sir?" Even though the transmission was audio only, he could tell she was smiling.
"Don't bullshit me, Dee," he said with a smirk. "You love it."
"That may be true, Blackjack 6," she said. "But we definitely got ourselves a situation here. Is it true what they say about us being useless till Sabre and the rest of the ole' gang take out those scout ships? They're damn good, but I don't like putting all our eggs in one basket like this."
"Afraid so, Dee," Tigranian replied, "but you know as well as I do how strong that particular basket is."
Daredevil looked out at the massive battlestarship flying next to her.
"When you right, you right, Blackjack 6," she replied. "I just hope Saber can drive that thing. It's not exactly a high performance piece of military hardware anymore."
"Never tell him I said this to you, but in his hands, everything is a high performance piece of hardware."
He heard laughing on the other end of the comm.
"Damn, Sir," she said after catching her breath. "If you're talking like that, we're in worse trouble than I thought."
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Jackson Square: New Orleans, Earth
Miles O'Brien walked next to Keiko as the dipping sun began to turn the Mighty Mississippi a brilliant shade of orange. The sound of jazz music carried on the humid breeze along with horse hooves clattering along the cobblestone streets. Tourists headed toward Café Du Monde for after dinner coffee and beignets. Molly giggled as she ran down the wrought iron fence of Saint Louis cathedral.
"Honey, don't get too far ahead!" Keiko shouted out nervously while also holding four year old Kirayoshi's chubby hand. He was able to run on his own now, and the reality of keeping up with two active children was proving even more difficult than she expected.
Miles took a happy, deep breath of the thick, warm air. This city, unlike most of North America, reminded him of Europe. Unable to convince Keiko to take up residence in Ireland, the pair had settled on a restored townhouse in Baton Rouge. Miles enjoyed the fact that the house had enough ancient pipes and plumbing to keep an old engineer happy while Keiko loved the fact that she was less than a five minute walk from her new job as an Assistant Professor of Botany at Louisiana State.
This semester, Miles hadn't pulled any weekend duty assignments at Starfleet Academy, which meant that Fridays after class was a chance to get out and enjoy themselves. Chef Joseph Sisko, Captain Sisko's father and propitiator of Sisko's Creole Kitchen, immediately sent them a message when he learned they were just up the road. In it, he informed them that he was permanently reserving a table of honor for the O'Brien family and that it would be a personal insult if they didn't come to New Orleans at every opportunity to use it. Miles and Keiko were extremely grateful, even if Chef Sisko's gumbo recipe was doing a number on their waistlines.
"I can't believe we waited this long to come back to Earth," Miles mused as he watched his children play. "The fresh air, the wide open spaces, this will always be our home."
"Glad it only took you nine years to figure that out," Keiko replied with a smile. O'Brien laughed as he put an arm around his wife.
Suddenly, the quiet tranquility was shattered as a wailing siren echoed across the French Quarter.
Attention, Attention. This is the Federation Planetary Emergency Warning System. Civil Authorities have declared an alert for the following planets and/or facilities: Titan Base, Europa, Jupiter Station, Earth Spacedock, Luna, Mars, and Earth. Please remain calm and proceed immediately to the nearest certified contingency shelter. If you cannot reach a contingency shelter, please seek cover in a hardened building or structure certified for orbital impact. Further instructions and information will be published shortly.
The message repeated.
The atmosphere in the square immediately shifted from casual fun to heightened tension. Most people living on Earth had been through several of these incidents in the past few years, but it always meant that something terrible was about to happen.
"Molly!" Keiko shouted as she hefted Kirayoshi into her arms and bolted for her daughter. Miles was right at her side. He took his daughters hand and stock of their situation.
"Miles, what is going on?" Keiko asked him.
"I don't know," he said trying to ascertain what the quickest route to safety was.
"But you're Starfleet!" she pleaded, hoping he wasn't keeping something from her.
"Keiko," he said trying to control his voice so as not upset the children. "I'm not on the Enterprise-D or DS9 anymore. I'm just an NCO at the Academy. Do you really think they tell me everything?"
"Oh God," Keiko said rolling her eyes. "I just hope it's not the Borg again. Can we see if we can get back to the house?"
"Keiko," O'Brien said firmly. "There is no way that house could provide any protection if something hits the planet. I think we should head for a public shelter."
A police officer pulled up on hoverbike and began urging the crowd to exit the square. Using a lighted baton, he channeled people towards an alleyway off Decatur Street. A large door had opened a wide staircase led two stories straight down. Completely hidden beneath the French Quarter was a massive underground complex the size of several city blocks. It was complete with padded benches, rows of replicators, and huge wall lockers of medical supplies. Friendly holograms at the entrance dressed in crisp, blue uniforms welcomed evacuees in every language of the Federation and beyond. They briefly orientated everyone to the layout of the shelter, including the important question of where the bathrooms were.
The O'Brien family found an open place on a bench. Kirayoshi was now old enough to realize that something was wrong.
"Mommy, what is wrong?" he asked in his high-pitched whimper. Molly, more experienced with galactic calamities than her younger brother, began to distract him.
"It's ok, Yoshi," she said taking his hand. "They just want to make sure we're safe."
After a few minutes, the huge shelter was filled with several hundred people. Some remained calm, while a few were crying or rocking back and forth. Without warning, holoscreens dropped from the ceiling and the Federation seal appeared in brilliant blue.
THE FOLLOWING IS A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS:
An announcer calmly spoke over the shelter's speakers. The resolute face of President Zife, sitting in his office in Paris towered over them. The Eiffel Tower, still lit up with dazzling golden lights, flickered outside the windows behind him.
"My fellow citizens and guests of the United Federation of Planets," he began with a deep breath. "For the second time in my presidency, the Sol System finds itself under attack from an alien nation…"
"Oh God," Keiko whispered pulling her children in tight. Miles silently stared up at the screens.
"A group of renegades from the Cardassian State have stolen a fleet of warships and are currently approaching the capital of our country. We have learned from direct communication with the Romulan and Cardassian State governments, that they are not acting under any official orders and a broader threat of war does not exist. Indeed, the Romulans and the Cardassian State are currently assisting in whatever way they can to help us counter this threat…"
"Like hell they are…" Miles muttered.
"Three starships have already been lost attempting to stop these terrorists. Once again, the sacrifice of our Starfleet families cannot be underestimated. We will remember and care for the families of the fallen with the highest levels of dignity and respect…"
"Three starships?" Keiko said in disbelief. She knew just how many fellow Starfleet spouses would soon be receiving the most devastating news imaginable.
"It is likely, based on the deployment of our fleet around the galaxy, that Starfleet will not be able to intercept the hostile ships before they are in range of the Sol System, therefore I have declared a state of emergency and ordered all civilians to seek shelter…"
"That's bullshite," Miles whispered to Keiko. "If they can't get to them before they reach the center of the Federation, that means something is very wrong." He wrapped an arm around her.
"However, the most modern starships in our fleet have already mobilized and are prepared to respond to this crisis. As always, the finest souls the Federation has to offer: the men and women of Starfleet, will meet this threat to our continued safety and prosperity with the bravery we have come to expect from them.
Whatever cost we must pay, whatever challenges we face, we will prevail. We will continue to showcase the importance of freedom and liberty to all who seek to undermine it. In the meantime, I urge you all to remain calm and carry on with the same tenacity and respect that makes the United Federation of Planets the greatest nation in the galaxy.
May we all continue to be blessed, and may the United Federation of Planets continue to be blessed. Thank you, and goodnight."
The screen faded back to the Federation seal. Miles O'Brien suddenly became acutely aware of the uncanny silence that had washed over the entire shelter. He quietly thought to himself:
"It's going to be a long night."
Legate Varak steepled his fingers as his helmsman called out their position. The time for their final, glorious victory was here. President Zife's message only made their triumph all the sweeter. He had already crushed Starfleet's best, and now he would be able to do it on the Federation's front door.
"Send word to the fleet, drop out of warp and enter attack formation. Inform the Cataclysm ships to begin broadcasting their disruption field at full power. I want everything within 200,000 kilometers immobilized."
"Aye Sir," Commander Sejed replied.
Twelve white flashes preceded the arrival of the Cardassians dropping to impulse. Immediately, the four sentry ships rerouted all warp power to their Cataclysm emitters, and the entire fleet was momentarily bathed in an eerie blue glow before the wave faded from the visible spectrum.
"Cataclysm system is on full power, Sir," Sejed said. No weapons in the Federation arsenal will be able to penetrate our countermeasures," he said grinning.
"Scan the system," Varak ordered. "I want to the exact location of every ship bigger than a shuttlepod. After all, we've come a very long way," he said flippantly waving his hand. "And I don't want any surprises."
His sensor operators eagerly obeyed.
"We are receiving a lot of interference from the debris cloud surrounding the outer planets," a female Cardassian lieutenant responded.
"Then compensate!" Sejed screamed.
"Yes, Sir," she said nervously, "but these duonetic sensors are not as reliable as our normal systems…wait," she said pausing. "One ship is exiting the system at high impulse."
"What's its heading?" Varak said with the laissez faire reassurance it was someone trying to escape before the action started.
"Right at us…" the sensor operator replied.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Annabeth gripped the sides of her chair.
"Cardassian fleet acquired," Laria said reading her sensor scope. "Distance 2.3 million kilometers, bearing 011 Mark 025."
"Phil, maintain full impulse," Annabeth ordered. "Katie, raise shields arm the phasers and photon torpedoes. Battle stations! Sound Red Alert!"
The ship's lighting turned dark crimson as alarms echoed through the vessel.
Down in Main Engineering, Scharr, T'les, and Quinn locked eyes with each other.
"Here's where the fun begins," the old engineer's mate said grinning from ear to ear. Scharr and T'les had to admire how much spirit the elderly man exuded from every pore. It was like he was growing younger right in front of their eyes.
Back on the bridge, Laria took a reading of the disruption field.
"The Cataclysm system is working exactly like we thought it would," Laria confirmed. "However, it looks like they are maxxing it out. I'm reading an enormous power drain in their four sentry ships."
"What exactly does that mean, L?" Annabeth asked.
"It means that their impulse and warp drives are compromised Ma'am," Laria said. "They'll be moving slow as kava syrup in winter. If the Cardassian fleet wants to stay inside the safety bubble, they'll have to reduce their maneuvering to match."
"I suppose that's good for us," Phil said from the helm.
"Shields up and holding, Captain," Katie said from the console next to him. "Phasers armed, torpedo safeties disengaged."
"Nothing sexy, Ladies and Gentlemen," Annabeth said. Let's do our job and get the hell out of the fleet's way."
"That ship is moving towards the lead Nerok cruiser," the sensor operator said looking up from her instruments. "400,000 kilometers and closing."
"It doesn't matter," Sejod snapped at her. "They'll be immobilized long before they'll be within firing range."
However, Varak wasn't quite as confident as his first officer. Something about this seemed wrong. Otherwise, why would they move towards one of the weaker sentry ships first?
"Are we in visual range of the contact?" he asked.
"Yes Sir," his sensor operator replied.
The silhouette of the Enterprise-A appeared. It was completely alone and charging forward at full impulse. Varak climbed to his feet as his eyes grew wide.
"I've never seen a Federation starship like that one before," Sejed said furrowing his brow.
"That's because it is Constitution class…" Varak replied still staring at the screen. "They are over a century old…" The realization hit him all at once. "They've figured it out! Contact the fleet. Destroy that ship! Destroy it now!"
On the Enterprise's viewscreen, they saw the Cardassian fleet began to deploy into combat formation.
"I think the jig is up, Ma'am," Laria said. "The Keldon class ships are arming weapons and moving to intercept us."
"Range to the first sentry ship?" Annabeth asked.
"195,000 kilometers. We're inside the disruption field," Laria replied.
"Well, the lights are still on. Looks like you were right on the money, Laria," Annabeth said. "Katie, lock phasers on the sentry ship."
"Phasers locked, Ma'am," Katie replied through a grin.
"Time for a little blast from the past," Annabeth said leaning back in her chair. "Fire."
Katie pressed the trigger on her console. Two bright red beams shot out from the Big E's forward saucer. They slammed into the front shields of the nearest sentry ship. It lurched violently as its attitude thrusters went off line.
"Severe damage. The shock overloaded their primary power grid. Their forward shields are down to forty percent," Laria reported.
"Status of the disruption field?" Annabeth asked.
"Reduced in strength by ten percent," Laria said quickly cycling through her sensor data.
"Captain!" Katie suddenly screamed. Annabeth looked up at the viewscreen. Two battlecruisers had maneuvered to within range and were preparing to fire their main disruptors.
"Evasive maneuvers! Keep a weapons lock on that sentry ship. We have to bring those emitters down!" Annabeth ordered.
Phil rapidly adjusted the ship's trim. Using the Big E's momentum, he fired maneuvering thrusters laterally causing the entire ship to rotate to port as if it was on the rim of a giant wheel. The two cruisers fired a second too late and their shots barely caught the edges of the Enterprise's shields. The entire vessel shuddered as the lights flickered off and then back on again.
"Damage report?" Annabeth shouted.
"Ventral and dorsal shields down to eighty percent," Katie shouted in reply. Annabeth looked up and saw they were now directly starboard of the sentry ship.
"Photon torpedoes, fire!" the captain yelled.
"On the way!" Katie said as she pushed the firing controls. Two red spheres flew out of the bays straight and true. They slammed into the side of the sentry. Their massive anti-matter warheads ripped straight through its thin hull and it exploded in a huge fireball. The shockwave slammed into the Enterprise's forward shields. The other two Cardassian battlecruisers were hit broadside and drifted violently down and away.
"Forward shield down to sixty percent. Minor damage to the forward saucer," Katie said. "Guess that was a little too close…"
"Dampening field reduced to 75 percent," Laria added. "The other ships are attempting to compensate, but their EPS grids are beginning to overload."
As the debris field cleared Annabeth looked up to see two more battlecruisers closing straight towards them.
"Get those torpedo bays reloaded," she commanded. "Full reverse, Z plus 30 degrees!" The Enterprise reared backwards and at an angle to put distance between them and their attackers. "Fire all phasers!"
Red beams shot forward and sideways out of the saucer. All four Cardassians ships were hit simultaneously. It wasn't enough to damage them, but it stunned them long enough for the Enterprise to maneuver out of their direct firing line.
"Reset firing chambers!" Buster screamed at the crewman frantically pushing the next photon casings down the loading tracks. The harsh noises and dim red lights gave the appearance of something out of Dante's Inferno. The long black cases slid into their tubes and the inner hatches sealed.
"Bridge! Torpedo bay, locked and loaded!" Buster screamed in the intercom.
"Full impulse to the next sentry ship," Annabeth said. Phil threw the ship's nose forward ninety degrees. The Enterprise was now perpendicular to the Cardassian fleet and was shooting downwards straight at the lower sentry ship.
"Time to snap their spine!" Annabeth shouted. "Torpedoes fire!"
Two more glowing torpedoes shot forward and slammed into the tiny vessel. In a manner of seconds, it joined its sister ship as flaming debris.
"The dampening field is fluctuating," Laria said optimistically. "The final two ships can't sustain it without throwing in all their available power. It's reduced in size to only 95,000 kilometers!"
"We're almost there!" Annabeth shouted.
At that moment a massive disruptor blasts slammed into the aft port drive section of the Enterprise from a nearby battlecruiser. Sparks cascaded across the bridge as Laria and Katie were thrown from their chairs. Phil pulled the helm hard over and gunned the engines forward. The Big E shot up and away towards the next sentry ship.
Katie clawed her way back to her console.
"We have a primary hull breach on Deck 14!" she shouted. Secondary hull is holding, but port shields are almost gone."
"Evacuate that section," Annabeth shouted. "Seal emergency bulkheads!"
"Aye, Ma'am," Katie replied.
"Laria!" Annabeth shouted looking back towards the science station. The Bajoran was bleeding from a gash in her forehead but also managed to climb her way back into her seat.
"I'm alright, I'm alright," she said ripping off a piece of her sleeve and holding it to her head.
"Medical to the bridge!" Annabeth shouted into her intercom.
"I'm on my way!" Alex replied back.
"Enterprise is taking fire," Gleeto said from the Pershing's tactical station. "They're damaged. Not sure how bad, but they're still maneuvering. Two Cataclysm ships are destroyed. Field is at less than half its original size."
"Baktag," Tigranian said angrily. He hated feeling this helpless. On edge, he stroked the newly polished Chang bat'leth resting against his chair. Thinking what the General's counsel would be, he keyed his comm system.
"Freedom 6, Blackjack 6. Cobra Squadron is doing no one any good back here. I say we send them forward so they can engage as soon as Pioneer 6 takes down that field."
On the Sulu, Murphy rubbed his chin nervously.
"Concur, Blackjack 6," he replied to Tigranian. "Cobra 6, you are cleared to commit. Get forward and cover Enterprise as best you can but avoid that field until they take it down!"
"Acknowledged, Freedom 6," Bentley replied. "Cobra Squadron this is Cobra 6, TALLY HO, I say again TALLY HO. Jettison external deuterium tanks and push it up."
The eight T-Bats released their heavy external fuel tanks and engaged their after burners in unison. They shot forwards towards the Cardassian fleet at near lightspeed. As they disappeared out of visual range, Tigranian heard Dee's words into the subspace radio.
"Don't worry, Sab, I'm coming…"
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Another disruptor blast slammed into the Big E as they closed on the next sentry ship. In the torpedo bay, a bulkhead gave way causing a huge metal conduit to fall from the ceiling. Buster shielded his eyes against the massive wall of sparks.
"Chief, are you alright?" a crewman shouted over the din.
"It's takes a hell of lot more than that to take me down," Buster replied, "but we got a problem. Bridge, Torpedo bay," he said into the intercom. "Port torpedo is down. All we got left is the starboard tube."
On the bridge, Annabeth cursed as Chief Woody hobbled around behind her trying to bypass a shredded section of fiber optic cable.
"We ain't getting our security deposit back on this one…" the old electrician muttered as she wired two broken shards together. Annabeth glared over her shoulder at her.
"Acknowledged torpedo bay," Annabeth replied to Buster.
"Next sentry vessel in range!" Katie shouted.
"Fire everything we got!" Annabeth ordered.
A photon torpedo and four phaser bolts slammed into the small Nerok class ship. Its hull buckled under the barrage. Bulkheads blew out and atmosphere vented into bright flame as it contacted the vacuum of space. The forked tail of the Cardassian vessel ripped away and the semi-circular forward section exploded.
"One left!" Annabeth shouted.
"Field is about to collapse," Laria said still manning her station as Alex sutured the cut on her forehead closed with a needle.
"Phil, head straight toward the sentry ship! We have to take it down!" Annabeth shouted.
"There's six battlecruisers between us and that ship!" Phil said.
"Tren, reroute all available power to the shields!" Annabeth screamed into the intercom.
"I'm rerouting power from the life support systems in the aft hull drive, but that's all I can give you! Structural integrity and inertial dampening fields are pegged in the red thanks to the maneuvers that Lexington is putting us through," Scharr replied as T'les and Quinn furiously worked banks of control switches.
"Tell that stupid son of a bitch at the helm to learn to drive!" Quinn shouted loud enough to be heard on the bridge. "We're bouncing around down here like Braxian leaping crickets!" Phil cursed back at the old man under his breath.
"Quinn, you should be happy," Woody shouted. "Nobody's made you bounce like that since your wife broke your hip twenty years ago."
"Phil is keeping us alive right now!" Annabeth replied holding back bile at that image and trying to refocus the conversation. "But right now I need those shields!"
"I'll send Lexington a thank you note later, Captain," Scharr replied, "but that is it! I'm giving her all she's got!"
"Laria," Katie suddenly said turning around. "What's our range to the last sentry ship?"
"4000 kilometers," Laria replied, winching as Alex pulled the last stitch closed.
"You won't win any beauty contests right now, but I'll fix it when I get you back to a real dermal regenerator," the doctor said patting the Bajoran on the back.
"Captain," Katie said. "At this range, I think I can manually maneuver a photon torpedo into the target."
"Manually?" Annabeth said incredulously.
"The older photons had a visual guidance system as a backup for their gyrostabilizers. Using my console, I can fly it straight at the other ship AROUND the Cardassians."
"But we won't have time to load another torpedo before those battlecruisers close on us," Phil said.
"What does that mean?" Laria said.
"If I miss, we die," Katie said plainly.
Annabeth stared up at the enemy ships moving towards them on the screen.
"Torpedo bay, Bridge," Annabeth said into her intercom. "Are we locked and loaded?"
At the moment, Buster's team sealed another torpedo casing into the starboard tube. As the inner hatch sealed, Buster shouted into the intercom.
"She's ready, Captain! Drop some lead!" he replied.
"Lieutenant Stone," Annabeth said climbing to her feet. "Fire!" she said raising her right arm and clenching a fist shut.
Katie gritted her teeth, selected manual guidance mode on her console, and pressed the red trigger. The torpedo shot straight out from Enterprise and headed for the battlecruisers blocking their path.
"Katie!" Laria shouted.
"I see them dammit!" she replied adjusting the torpedo's trim. "It ain't like flying a shuttlepod."
The red sphere lurched to the right, barely missing the nearest Keldon class ship. The group of spectators on the bridge gasped nervously as they saw the weapon swerve to starboard and then to port, weaving it's way between Cardassian ships like the needle in Alex's hand.
"Phil, keep us steady! I'm driving the torpedo. I don't need you driving me!" Katie shouted at the console next to her.
"It won't matter if they kill us before you hit the bloody target!" he replied.
"Would both of you shut up?" Annabeth shouted.
The burning orb passed between the final two battlecruisers, and then sharply turned upwards. It's target acquisition sensor beeped loudly across the bridge's speakers. It closed in on the final scout ship. The tiny ship turned desperately, but its overloaded systems couldn't match the torpedo's acceleration defying speed. The projectile slammed into the Nerok, ripping it to shreds in the blast of an explosion.
"Freedom 6, Cobra 6," Bentley shouted into his comm system. "The disruption field is down!"
"Engage, engage!" Murphy said in reply. "Get in there and get the Enterprise out! Blackjack 6, Ice-Ax 6, move in and show them some good ole' fashioned Federation hospitality."
"Acknowledged, Freedom 6," Tigranian replied. "Kivrana, prepare for warp threshold jump and follow me!"
"Alright, Cobras," Bentley said. "Starphoenix missile select. Everybody lock a bandit."
When he received a reply from his squadron, he placed his thumb over a red button on his joystick.
"Welcome to Earth, Assholes. Cobra Squadron, Fox 3!"
Eight bright streaks flew out from the underbellies of the T-Bats and flew straight for the Cardassian fleet.
Annabeth looked up at the viewscreen. The last Cataclysm ship was floating out of the system in a thousand burning pieces, but four cruisers were now closing in on them at point-blank range.
"Phil, get us out of here!" she said trying to hold her voice together.
"Captain, I'm losing power! Maneuvering thrusters are down to forty percent."
"Scharr!" Annabeth screamed. "Get my maneuvering thrusters back online!"
"That last disruptor blast ruptured the EPS grid!" The Andorian replied. "Warp core is offline and impulse is severely degraded. I'm amazed this old lady held together as long as she did. I can give you auxiliary systems in two minutes!"
"We have about five seconds!" Annabeth replied. "All power to forward shields!"
The disruptor emitters of the four battlecruisers began to glow bright yellow as they powered up. Annabeth sat back and said a final prayer for the child inside her. He would never get to see the world, and for that, she was deeply sorry.
Four streaks flew across the screen and slammed into the sides of the enemy ships. Bright explosions momentarily blinded Annabeth and her crew as the starphoenix warheads cut through the Cardassian shields and sliced into their hulls. The enemy vessels lost their stabilizers and began slowly drifting away from the Enterprise.
Cobra Squadron arrived and began circling the Cardassian fleet like angry wasps. Soon they had pushed the enemy away from the Big E.
"Angels on our shoulders!" Phil shouted in triumph as he saw the little ships begin to open fire with their pulse phasers and micro-torpedoes. Two more white bursts appeared on the periphery of the battle and the Pershing and the Shran loomed like massive giants over the scrambling Cardassians.
"Pioneer 6, this is Blackjack 6," Tigranian's voice boomed on their bridge speakers. "Bug out course 180 Mark 215. Dee, cover them as they move."
"Acknowledged," Daredevil replied as she dove her fighter directly adjacent to the Enterprise's bridge. "Hey Sab, looks like I get to save your ass again. You're buying the squadron beer tonight," she said to Phil.
"You get us home, and I'll get you a keg!" Phil replied as Annabeth smiled.
"That's good for me," Daredevil said. "What are you buying for the rest of Cobra?"
"She sounds like a good woman," Chief Woody said from the aft of the bridge. "Guess Starfleet ain't all pussies anymore."
"Alright Kivrana, Enterprise is heading out," Tigranian said bringing the Pershing alongside the Shran. "Let's plow the road!"
"I'm right with you, Blackjack 6!" The Andorian shouted back.
As soon as Daredevil had the old starship clear of the firing line, the two battlestarships unleashed hell. The bolts of their main phaser arrays cut the old Cardassian ships in half. Some of them tried to run, but none of them were fast enough to outrun the onslaught. One at a time, Legate Varak's dream of bringing the Federation to its knees vanished into fire and smoke.
Soon, there was only one ship left, disabled and adrift. The Shran took position behind it, blocking off any chance of escape. The Pershing closed in to its front.
"Ensign Gleeto," Tigranian said. "Opening hailing frequencies."
A few moments later, Varak's mangled face stared back at him. A Cardassian commander lay dead at his feet. The legate's badge on his chest was stained dark crimson with blood. His labored breathing caused his chest to rise and fall with every gasp.
"Do you remember what you told me back on the border, Legate?" Tigranian asked rising to his feet. "What good is training for battle if you never fight? Honestly, I'm disgusted. All you could do was murder the crews of three starships. When it came time to actually fight, your best troops folded like a house of cards."
"I hate you," Varak said as his eyes turned bright red. "You and your kind took my world from me!"
"The Dominion took your world after your leadership decided to exchange freedom for power. The only thing the Federation did was refuse to act in such a despicable manner. We were about to give it back until you got into bed with Romulus."
"Cardassia will be great once more!" Varak shouted back at him.
"You're absolutely right," Tigranian said, "But not because of cowards like you. By the terms of Starfleet Regulation and Federation Law, I am required to offer you the chance to surrender. Drop your shields, deactivate your weapons, and I promise you and your surviving soldiers will be treated with the utmost care and be given a fair and impartial trial."
"Burn in Hell!" Varak said defiantly.
"I was hoping you'd say that," Tigranian grinned. He reached down and hoisted General Chang's bat'leth over one shoulder. "Lock a spread of quantum torpedoes onto his warp core and fire."
Varak's eyes grew wide as Gleeto launched six blue orbs from the Pershing's main turret directly at his flagship. The legate's face disappeared in a flash of white light as the transmission terminated into static.
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
"I'm sure Doctor Whitecamp will be happy to get her ship back," Alex said leaning on the aft railing of the Enterprise's bridge.
"Even if it's not quite perfectly preserved anymore…" Katie said with a chuckle.
"I can't wait to see the new brochure," Laria settling back in her chair.
"You know," Quinn said leaning on his cane next to the port control consoles. Chief Woody and Buster were alongside him. "For a bunch of young punks, you guys don't fight too bad."
"Ole' James Tiberius would be proud," Woody added. "And I know for sure because I worked for the bastard."
"And probably slept with him once or twice…" Buster chuckled.
"I never slept with officers!" Woody countered. "Hands are too soft."
"You have no idea how much that means, Chief," Annabeth said joining in the laugher. "By the way, I am pregnant…not fat."
"Glad some things have changed," Woody said. "When I had my first kid, I got turfed to a starbase for two years."
"I'm just glad this old girl got to see some action one more time…"
On the viewscreen, the silhouette of the Pershing appeared alongside as she escorted the Big E back to port.
"You don't realize it when you're onboard, but By Uzevah the Infinite," Scharr said gazing up at the Pershing. "That is a big ship."
"Not so big as her captain, I think," Laria said with a sigh.
"That's a little more than I wanted to know about our boss, L," Katie said sarcastically.
"Dammit, Katie!" Laria said angrily. T'les raised an eyebrow.
"I see," the Vulcan said from next to Scharr. "A metaphorical description of the size of Captain Tigranian's character juxtaposed against the implied physical size of his penis. Quite humorous."
Quinn rubbed his eyes.
"God, I hate Vulcans…" he muttered.
"Now, that the sentimentality of this beautiful moment is thoroughly ruined," Phil said, "it's too bad we don't have the chance to take her out to deep space for a final warp run before they shut her down for good."
"I don't know, Phil," Annabeth said still enjoying her famous chair for a few more hours. "You never know what the future will bring. Who knows? Maybe in hundred years another crew will get to take her out again and boldly go where no one has gone before…"
As the Enterprise-A passed the asteroid belt into the inner solar system, the sun once again brilliantly illuminated the hull of the ship. The Pershing and Shran quietly sailed alongside as the USS Sulu followed a few lengths behind. Underway together, the task force headed for home.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.