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Arawath System (Along the Border of the Cardassian State): Republic of Cardassia

"Captain's Log, Stardate: 53390.5. We have successfully relieved the USS Pershing guarding the border of the Republic of Cardassia," Shu Yin Quan proudly said to the Nelson's computer. "The crew has performed superbly since our departure from the Caleb System. I am honored to say that in the few short months we have worked together, our cooperation and efficiency mimics that of a group that has served together for years.

Our mission of patrolling the sensor detection grids for any signs of Cardassian State activity continues. I am pleased to report that our experience so far has been quiet and without incident…"

"Captain," Lieutenant Erawath said from his tactical station behind Quan. "I'm receiving a distress call."

"Source?" Quan asked.

"It's on the Starfleet band, M'am," Erawath replied. "It's the USS Cumberland."

"On Speakers," Commander Deshawn, her first officer, answered.

"To any Starfleet, Klingon, or Republic of Cardassia vessels, this is the Federation starship Cumberland. We are currently under attack by twelve vessels of the Cardassian State. Four of them are projecting some kind of dampening field. All main power has been lost. Auxiliary systems are failing. We require immediate assistance!"

"What's their position, Mr. Darby?" Quan said to her science officer.

"015 Mark 540. Distance, half a light year."

"The Cumberland is a Norway Class cruiser," Commander Deshawn added. "She's barely been out of spacedock two years. If she's really lost that much power, something big is going on."

"Ms. Byrtran," Quan said turning to her helmsman. "Lay in a course, Maximum Warp. Engage when ready."

"Aye, Ma'am. 7 minutes till intercept."

The Nelson gunned her warp engines and was soon within visual range of the Cumberland.

"On screen," Captain Quan commanded. The image of the besieged starship came into focus.

"My God!" Quan said rising to her feet. The Cumberland was being pummeled by eight Keldon class cruisers. Their disruptor cannons had already punched through the outer hull and the ship was venting atmosphere through the holes. Evidently, there wasn't enough power left to activate the emergency force fields to seal them. Four smaller ships, Nerok class scout vessels, were projecting a strange blue shimmer from domes mounted on their ventral spines. "Shields up! Arm all weapons! Take us in!"

The Red Alert klaxon sounded.

"Erawath, lock all phasers on the nearest Keldon class cruiser. Prepare to engage," Deshawn said.

"Aye, Sir. Weapons range in 30 seconds."

However, it wasn't soon enough for the Cumberland. Her hull finally gave way and she exploded in a flash of orange and white light.

"Those bastards!" Darby shouted. "Looks like the next war just started!"

"Calm yourself, Mr. Darby," Quan said taking her seat. It didn't matter that Nelson outgunned her opponents three to one. She knew she we need her crew focused.

"Four more Federation starships have answered the Cumberland's message. They'll be here in less than five minutes," Erawath added. "If there's anything of the Cardassians left by then…"

"Don't get overconfident, Son," Deshawn commanded. "Just shoot straight."

"Aye Sir, Weapons range in five, four…"

The entire ship lurched. Alarms sounded across every deck. The main bridge lighting flickered and died. Red Emergency beacons illuminated everything in a satanic glow.

"Report! Did something hit us?" Quan shouted over the chaos.

"Negative! There's nothing else out there!" Darby answered.

"Impulse just completely died! I've got no control over the ship," Byrtran screamed.

"Shields dropping, phasers and quantum torpedoes offline!" Erawath said as panic rose in his voice.

"Bridge, Main Engineering!" the voice of Lieutenant Commander Soros shouted through the intercom. "Warp core just shut down! Main power is offline and I don't know how much longer auxiliary will last. We'll be down to our batteries in a few minutes."

"What the hell happened?" Deshawn screamed. "The ship is dying!"

Quan's face froze in terror as she finally recognized where she had seen the eerie blue glow coming from the Nerok class ships. She had been part of the reserve at the Second Battle of Chin'Toka on the USS Blackhawk when she had last seen it.

"That glow! It's the same as the Breen Energy Weapon!" she yelled.

"That's impossible, Ma'am," Deshawn said. "All our starships have countermeasures."

"Well, they've somehow upgraded it. Made it a static dampening field," she screamed back at him. "Bytrtan, get us out of here! Mr. Erawath warn those other starships off before it's too late!"

"Ma'am, I've got nothing, we're dead in space," Byrtran said shaking her head.

"All subspace channels are offline Ma'am. We have no comms."

They watched as the Keldon class cruisers closed on them and opened fire. Conduits exploded and sparks flew across the bridge. The only thing keeping the Nelson together was her ablative armor and hope.

"Armor integrity down to sixty percent and falling!" Erawath said.

"Bridge, this is sickbay! We've got wounded coming in," Doctor Jala said on the intercom.

"Ma'am, we don't have a choice," Deshawn said. "We've got to abandon ship!"

"LIKE HELL WE'RE ABANDONING THIS SHIP!" she roared as another conduit exploded behind her. "The Federation expects us to do our duty and that's exactly what we're going to do!"

The rest of the bridge crew exchanged worried glances, but their captain's resolve returned at least a bit of their confidence.

She slammed the intercom control on her chair.

"Mr. Soros, can you still hear me?"

"Yes, Ma'am, but barely. Auxiliary power is down to twenty percent. It'll be gone in less than three minutes."

"Then you better listen carefully, because I have an idea…."


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