Sector 21505 (near the Cardassian border): 2366
The forty-year Federation-Cardassian border conflicts had become a war of attrition, especially in the last decade. Each skirmish that ended in a stalemate was more discouraging to Federation politicians and Starfleet officers. Without a big decisive victory, the Federation Council felt these confrontations would continue until the two sides could no longer defend the region where the two powers’ territories converged.
The U.S.S. Horatio Nelson
was part of a fleet of ships diverted to Sector 21505 to achieve that victory. The Cardassian Central Command had gradually increased its fleet deployments into that disputed sector creating apprehension among the colonies and UFP member worlds in the adjacent sectors.
Sitting in the center seat on the bridge of the Horatio Nelson
, Lieutenant Commander Ronald Kozar began thinking the name of his ship certainly fit this occasion. He looked over to his right where the tactical officer, Lieutenant Mandel Morrison, was stationed. “Anything on long-range sensors?” Kozar asked him.
“Same as when you asked a minute ago, Ronnie,” Morrison asked. “No enemy ships in range. Fleet command will be ready to issue orders if that changes.”
“I know. Captain Jellico is no slouch. These Cardassians can strike at any moment. We have to remain vigilant.”
The entire bridge was quiet. Every officer was monitoring his or her station either monitoring communications chatter or waiting for a perimeter alert. Ensigns Leslie and DeSalle kept a firm hand on the conn and ops stations. Second lieutenant Shirnar sh’Aqba, the Andorian communications officer listened very thoroughly at communications by the Starfleet ships and any other subspace activity would indicate the presence of Cardassian ships.
An alarm on the Morrison’s board sounded, catching everyone’s attention. Sh’Aqba’s antennae straightened to report her findings. “I’m reading Cardassian subspace activity, Commander. Distance: five billion kilometers.” The communications station signaled an incoming hail. “Message from the fleet commander.”
The voice of Captain Edward Jellico aboard the U.S.S. Cairo
piped through the bridge’s speakers. “All ships, this is Captain Jellico. Assume attack posture."
The Horatio Nelson
and fifteen other light frigates broke off from the rest of the fleet. The ships came head to head with a plethora of automated Cardassian dreadnaughts. These dreadnaughts were a recent innovation in artificial intelligence—a computer system capable learning and adapting to military strategy. Because these ships did not need crews, they could run kamikaze maneuvers on enemy ships.
The Starfleet frigates fired at point blank range upon the dreadnaughts. The frigates veered starboard in order to draw the dreadnaughts away from the larger Starfleet vessels. That was a strategy that analysts at Starfleet Tactical had devised. The dreadnaughts continued towards the larger ships.
“They’re not falling for it,” Morrison reported.
Kozar turned his glance over to the helm. “Hard about, Mr. Leslie.” Then looking back at Morrison, he said, “Prepare a spread of photon torpedoes.”
“Torpedoes ready, sir,” Morrison replied.
and four of the frigates turned towards the dreadnaughts firing a full spread of photon torpedoes. The dreadnaughts took damage to their aft thrusters. The Cairo
and two other Excelsior-class ships fired three photons each. The forward shields of the dreadnaughts absorbed the impact of the torpedoes. The dreadnaughts fired plasma torpedoes at the Starfleet ships, inflicting heavy damage to the saucer modules. A full section of the Cairo
’s forward saucer was blown off.
“Jesus Christ!” Morrison exclaimed, seeing the damage. He then looked over to the young Vulcan science officer on his left. “Mister Chulak, run a full scan of those dreadnaughts. Draw whatever specs we have on them in the library computers. We have to know what makes them tick.”
Chulak complied with order, displaying a schematic of the automated dreadnaughts. In the meantime, two dreadnaughts collided with the secondary hulls of the ships flanking the Cairo
, destroying both ships. The Cairo
itself got out of harm’s way as the dreadnaught just grazed the dorsal of the secondary hull.
The rest of the fleet held its own against the fourteen Galor
-class destroyers. That hardly mattered with the dreadnaught’s able take out ships at will. “Son of a bitch,” Kozar sniped as he saw two Nebula-class ships destroyed. He looked over to the science station. “Anything, Chulak?”
“Nothing yet, sir,” the Vulcan replied.
“Well, work faster!”
“I cannot absorb information faster than I am presently doing. I do not see the logic in demanding the impossible.”
“Well, the Cardies don’t always give a vole’s ass about logic,” Morrison snapped.
“That may be true,” Chulak responded, “but I fail to see what relevance…” His screen readout beeped. “I may have something, sir. Their guidance systems are controlled by remote from the Galor
Kozar swiveled his chair to the left and looked over at sh’Aqba’s station. “Sh’Aqba, can we block that signal somehow?”
“I believe so,” the Andorian answered. “We can flood the area with a high frequency scattering field.”
“Give her a hand, Chulak,” Kozar commanded.
The Vulcan walked across the bridge to render assistance to the communications officer. Within a minute, Chulak reported the scattering field ready. The dreadnaught’s power shut off, allowing the fleet to effortlessly destroy them. With the dreadnaughts unable to provide support, the Galor
-class warships withdrew.
When the communications chime sounded, Morrison reported, “Incoming message from the fleet commander.”
Captain Jellico appeared on the screen. “You’ve done well, Ronnie,” he said. “Hopefully, this victory will turn things in our favor.”
“Thank you, Ed,” Kozar replied. “Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of the Cardassians. But they might think twice about causing trouble.”