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Celdis Prime: Military Demarcation Line, Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54526.5

"Red Alert!" Murphy commanded. "All hands to battle stations!"

Klaxons echoed across the task force. Katie immediately raised the shields and armed the phasers and quantum torpedoes. The entire bridge of the Pershing was instantly bathed in red light.

Resked screamed and disconnected the transmission.

"All ships," Murphy screamed into the open comm line. "Evasive! Evasive!"

The task force scattered apart just in time. A hundred beams of yellow Cardassian phasers and green Romulan disruptors shot out from the bows of the enemy vessels and sliced through the space where the battlestarships had been just seconds before.

"Sir," Adamson shouted while checking his sensors. "The enemy fleet is breaking into echelons and pushing across the MDL towards Celdis Prime. It looks like they're trying to get in between us and force the task force apart."

"Shran, Houston!" Murphy shouted. "Hard a stern! Fall back to Point 250 in high geo-sync orbit. Fight in tandem and don't them get behind us!"

"Moving!" Zhe'vasda yelled back.

"Lone Star 6, acknowledges!" Soloth replied.

Both ships gunned into full reverse impulse. It nearly overwhelmed their structural integrity fields, but soon they were moving backward towards Celdis and fighting the whole way. Two waves of Cardassian Galors charged straight at them in wedge formations. The lead wave went for the Shran, but Ice-Ax 6 ordered a full forward barrage from her phaser arrays. Six beams ripped through the lead cruiser and tore it apart like tissue paper. Its wingmen broke off and tried to circle back around. The second formation aimed their cannons at the Houston's port nacelle to cripple her, but Soloth adjusted his trim just in time. Lone Star 6 then ordered a spread of quantum torpedoes across the breadth of the Cardassian front. They exploded in a wall of energy and shrapnel that sheared off the stubby starboard wing of one of the Cardassian ships. It drifted away disabled. The other two were severely damaged, but managed to rejoin their fleet for another pass.

"Lone Star 6," Zhe'vasda shouted into her comm system. "Z-minus twenty degrees. Belly to Belly herringbone!"

"Roger, Ice-Ax 6," the Vulcan replied. He ordered his helm to barrel-roll Lone Star 180 degrees over and dive forward. The Shran and the Houston nudged their keels together till their ventral shields were almost touching. Then, they canted their bows outwards at forty-five degree angles. Now, their powerful forward weapon systems had the entire battlefield within their field of fire while the more vulnerable armor along their keels was protected by the other starship.

"Freedom 6, Ice-Ax 6," Zhe'vasda reported to Murphy. "You got an Andorian and a Vulcan watching your back and they're both stubborn as all hell. Go!"

"Nelson, Nevsky!" Murphy commanded. "on Blackjack's nacelles. We're going for the warbirds! We'll mark the targets, you keep these Cardassian hornets off of us. Emergency flank!"

"Victory 6, WILCO!" Quan replied.

"Motherland 6, roger!" Tarn said.

"Engineering, Bridge," Annabeth shouted into her intercom. "Emergency flank!"

"Aye, Ma'am!" Scharr shouted back. She heard him yelling commands to his teams before the connection disconnected. "Adjust port and starboard EPS flows! Overpressure lines three and four and open the release valves on one and two. Balls to the wall, Guys and Gals!…"

The Nelson and Nevsky took positions to the port and starboard of the Pershing. The three ships blasted forward at a speed that was remarkable even for vessels a quarter of their size. The inertial dampeners had trouble compensating and the acceleration pushed the crew back into their seats. Murphy reached out and grabbed Annabeth's chair for support.

"Helm," the admiral ordered. "Set course 184 Mark 350. Top-down attack onto the starboard flank of the nearest D'Deridex formation. Tactical, lock phasers and blast with everything you got in the forward arrays when we're in range. We have to break those ships apart or those things will cut us to pieces."

"Aye, Sir!" the two Lexingtons said together. The battlestarship wedge flew up and over the Cardassians who were unprepared for their burst of speed. The three ships moved in perfect formation before nosing over and heading straight at the side of one of the Romulan ships. The size and power of the D'Deridex was overwhelming, but it came at the precious cost of speed and maneuverability. The Romulans tried angling to bring their forward weapons to bear, but it was too late. Katie sent a full forward barrage of six phaser beams directly into their upper neck brace. It cracked in half and the resulting explosion decapitated the raptor like a chicken on a chopping block. As the burning head section drifted down and away, the Romulan's two wingmen finally managed to turn towards the Federation attackers. The Nelson and Nevsky opened fire with their weapons and pushed them back, but a second formation of warbirds augmented by a wave of Cardassian Galors came about and attempted to trap the Starfleet vessels in a pincer move.

Cardassian phaser fire ripped into the port shields of Nelson and Pershing while Romulan disruptor beams pounded into Nevksy's forward shields. Sparks flew across the Pershing's bridge and an auxiliary console exploded to Adamson's left. The force knocked him to the ground.

"Aaron!" Katie said looking over with concern.

"I'm alright! Keep going!" the young lieutenant said gripping the sides of his control panel and rising back to his feet.

Then, one of the D'Deridex fired a spread of plasma torpedoes directly at the Pershing's keel plating. Incoming alarms sounded a dire warning. Phil desperately tried to adjust their trim, but he couldn't outmaneuver the burning green spheres flying three times faster than they were. Just before they were about to take the full force of the hit, Quan ordered the Nelson to fire the forward phasers. The spread detonated the Romulan projectiles less than a thousand meters from the Pershing's ventral hull. The crew of the Pershing was nearly knocked off their feet by the shockwave, but Lady Blackjack's shields held.

"Damage Report!" Annabeth shouted.

"Port shields down to fifty-two percent," Daredevil shouted over the sound of battle. "Minor buckling of the ablative armor along the port keel and decks six and seven are both reporting injuries."

"Bridge to sickbay, prepare to receive casualties!" Annabeth shouted.

"Acknowledged!" Katan shouted back. "We'll get 'em back in the fight!"

"Thanks for the assist, Shu Yin," Annabeth said into the subspace radio gratefully. "You kept our ass in one piece.

"No worries," Quan responded. "Hopefully, you'll return the favor before the day is out."

Annabeth actually managed to smile for a brief moment.

The starship formation continued flying laterally along the enemy formation forcing the warbirds to break apart to engage them. The three Pershings dodged disruptor beams and plasma torpedoes as the massive green warships tried to get the fast moving battlestarships into their sights.

One of the other D'Deridex tried cloaking in order to maneuver unobserved, but it wasn't fast enough. Katie spotted it and fired three quantum torpedoes just as it was beginning to disappear. The moment its shields dropped, her weapons hit and blew it apart. It exploded in a massive fireball.

Three more Cardassian State Galors came charging in at full speed with phasers blasting. Captain Tarn on the Nevsky managed to get a lock in time and fired his forward arrays. He managed to destroy one and disable the other two.

"Freedom 6, this is Motherland 6," Tarn warned sharply. "The jig is up! The Romulans are reforming to our starboard aft and the Cardassian formation has split. A third of them are coming after us, but the others are heading straight for Ice-Ax and Lone Star!"

Murphy turned and checked the tactical display on Annabeth's chair. Tarn's assessment was spot on. They wouldn't be able to stay here much longer and Zhe'vasda and Soloth were about to be overwhelmed by a massive swarm of ships.

"We've done all we can here!" Murphy shouted. "We've at least bought us some time before the Romulans form back up. Helm, set course 102 Mark 043. Get us back into the fight to help Shran and Houston."

"Aye Sir," Phil said making the necessary adjustments. The Nelson fired a spread of quantum torpedoes at a nearby warbird which exploded right in the space beneath its upper wing section. The D'Deridex lurched violently and then began to drift as its attitude control failed. However, Victory wasn't fast enough to avoid a few hits of disruptor fire from another Romulan cruiser nearby.

"Freedom 6, Victory 6," Quan said. "Shields down to sixty percent. We're punching well above our weight, but it's not enough! There's still thirty-five very perturbed Romulan ships out there and their turning straight at us."

"Just hang on, Shu Yin," Murphy said desperately. "Stay on our nacelle and watch your starboard quarter. There's another wave of Cardassians coming in!"

"Acknowledged," she replied. "I'm moving over three degrees to try to cover your damaged shields with mine."

Another spread of Romulan torpedoes found its mark and exploded against the dorsal shields of the Nevsky. Motherland took damage, but kept moving.

"We're alright!" Tarn shouted. "But one more hit like that on our back and we're gonna lose our whole shield grid."

"Goddammit," Murphy cursed under his breath. His formation finally managed to break free of the enemy main body and speed back towards the planet. However, all of his ships were now damaged and the Romulus Pact fleet was only disoriented, angry, and far from defeated.

Meanwhile, the Shran and Houston were being mercilessly pounded by wave after wave of Cardassian ships. The enemy would attack in fast groups of three while firing their main phasers at point blank range against the port and starboard shields of the two battlestarships, Then, they would break off and run out of range just before the next wave hit. Though the Cardassians lacked the hard hitting power of the larger Romulan ships, Ice-Ax and Lone-Star were being stabbed to death by a hundred pin pricks.

Zhe'vasda and Soloth were firing their forward phasers as fast they could charge them. They were doing severe damage to their attackers, but with each pass, the Cardassians would get a little closer and closer. Finally, two waves attacked at once and fired their main arrays on overload. A power conduit on the bridge of the Houston exploded as their dorsal shields dropped below twenty percent.

"Freedom 6, this is Lone Star 6!" Soloth shouted as a bit of fear finally penetrated his Vulcan calm. "My shields are failing and have ruptures in three primary EPS conduits. Auxiliary power is holding, but request immediate assistance."

Before Murphy could answer, Annabeth answered for him.

"Lone Star 6, Blackjack 6," she yelled. "Hold the line for a just a few more seconds. We're coming right to you!"

The Pershing shuddered as she took a hard hit to her aft shields. The Romulans had reformed faster than expected and were now slowly pressing forward well past the MDL. Alarms echoed across the ship.

"Bridge, Engineering!" Scharr shouted through the intercom. "The EPS lines can't take this speed anymore. If we don't slow down in the next thirty seconds, we're gonna blow out our impulse manifolds. I guarantee it's the same thing and all the other ships too!"

"Acknowledged…" Annabeth said as another disruptor bolt slammed into their shields. She wanted to give the order to keep pushing, but it was the admiral's show. She looked up to him with a pleading expression.

Murphy gritted his teeth. He desperately wanted to get back to the Shran and Houston in time to preserve some of their shields, but three ships with disabled engines won't do anyone any good.

"Nelson, Nevsky, Freedom 6, drop to three quarters impulse and reroute auxiliary power to shields and structural integrity. We can't help anyone if we're dead in space."

"Victory 6, acknowledge," Quan said.

"Motherland 6, acknowledge," Tarn echoed.

Both sounded ashamed.

The three ships watched as another overwhelming wave of Cardassian ships charged straight at Shran and Houston. Zhe'vasda and Soloth's phasers managed to destroy half of them, but three broke past and headed straight at Celdis Prime at full speed.

"Mein Gott," Annabeth said rising to her feet. She watched as the Cardassians recharged their weapons. "Katie!" she said pointing at Tactical. "Emergency message to the Red Cross hospital! Tell them to take cover now!"


Space raid sirens echoed across the Red Cross compound. Children screamed in terror as aid workers rushed to corral as many people as possible into the makeshift permacrete bomb shelters hastily build into the nearby mountainside. The smell of panic and fear mixed with sweat and the heavy breathing of over three thousand people trying to cram into the confined spaces.

Zhenia Scharr was shouting orders to a team of medics just outside the main hospital building. They were helping her move a gurney carrying an old man who had lost his leg fleeing the Cardassian State.

"C'mon, we have to move!" the young Andorian said as veins popped out of her forehead. In one arm she held the handle of the stretcher. In the other, she was holding an IV full of the fluids and medication that was helping keeping this pour soul alive. They pushed their way through the crowd when suddenly a Cardassian State phaser beam ripped through the clouds and slammed into the surface only 1500 meters away. The ground shook like and earthquake and the blast shockwave knocked hundreds of people to the dirt. Instinctively, Zhenia bent over and covered her patient as clouds of small rocks, sand, and dust poured down from above. Another phaser blast hit on the other side of the compound with a sound louder than twenty claps of thunder. Very quickly, the refugee camp structures were blown completely apart. Luckily, they had just been emptied. However, very shortly, everyone knew that the phasers would start aiming at the hospital and thousands of people were going to die. The desperate screams and shouting of the civilians became a panicked roar as they surged forward trying to find even the smallest space under overhead cover.

"Take him!" Zhenia shouted to the medics. "We're out of time and I'm going back for another patient!" They nodded as she pushed against the humanoid flood trying to get back to the main building's ICU ward. A Cardassian man, blinded by fear, slammed into her but she pushed back hard and shoved past him. Just as she made it to the front doors, another phaser beam hit less than a kilometer way. She looked over to see the metal shells of pre-fabricated buildings blown two hundred meters into the air. Nothing, not a single thing down here could hope to protect against firepower that strong.

She looked up at the sky and finally realized this meant that the enemy had made it past the blockade.

"Daddy…" she whispered to herself. However, Zhenia had too much to do to wish her father a safe trip to the ancestors now. She had more people to save…

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