Watch for a historical reference here, as it all comes to a head...
The remaining Jem’Hadar vessel began to swell on the viewscreen even as the fighter pilot fought to outmaneuver this much larger vessel. The Jem’Hadar helmsman was good
…no matter how the Gălor
dipped and dived and swooped, he matched their every maneuver.
It was all Spirodopoulos could do to tear his eyes away from that image to focus on the Cardassian tactical console that he needed all of his concentration to manipulate. His first impulse was to switch over to torpedoes—but then he remembered—as if he’d ever really forgotten: he was aboard a Cardassian ship. And Cardassian plasma torpedoes wouldn’t do much good until the shields were severely weakened.
and two La’aghur
darted in and out between the battlecruiser and their ship, and the other four Gă’ălour
trailed along, pounding as hard as they could at the Jem’Hadar’s shields, which according to Macet’s commentary, were still nowhere near as weak as they hoped.
“Spirodopoulos!” Macet called. “Simultaneous fire from disruptors and phasers! Keep it intermittent…I’m going to be shifting frequencies as you fire.”
That tactic gave Spirodopoulos a shiver…it was one of the basic maneuvers every potential tactical officer was taught for combat with the Borg. Of course, that didn’t mean the Borg were the only enemy against which this tactic was effective—with too many disparate frequencies for the Jem’Hadar to modulate their shields to counter, so many different kinds of stresses on the ship from disruptors and phasers both, someone was likely to punch through in time. Still, he couldn’t help the association.
He couldn’t tell how much time passed as he continued to tap and retarget, tap and retarget…was it seconds? A minute?
He almost missed it when a shot from the Ghiletz
raked into the battlecruiser’s hull. It wasn’t that deep of a wound, or even in that critical an area, but it was
a direct hit. Three of the Hide’eki
swooped in on the spot as the Ghiletz
swung back around to hammer at other portions of the ship: they could leave no section of the Jem’Hadar’s shields unharassed.
The Jem’Hadar, for their part, were gaining on the new Gălor
at an incredible .995 c—the fastest Spirodopoulos had ever seen any ship manage without the partial-warp field used to protect the ship from relativistic effects pushing them all the way across the light barrier, or sacrificing so much maneuverability as to make all that speed useless. Then another shot landed on the Jem’Hadar vessel. And another—straight ahead of the Gălor
“Torpedoes!” shouted Macet.
In what felt close to being one fluid motion, the Greek officer keyed the weapons switch with his little finger and fired with his index finger as rapidly as the Cardassian vessel’s torpedo tubes would allow. A brace of torpedoes smashed down through the hull breach opened by the disruptors.
“We’ve hit their command center!” Macet called. Unlike Federation and Cardassian vessels, the ‘bridge’ of a Jem’Hadar ship was buried several decks into the ship instead of sitting with just one reinforced hull plate between them and the vacuum. Scoring a hit in this area meant serious internal damage to the Jem’Hadar ship as well as a critical blow to its command structure.
Gul Berat’s voice cracked over the open channel. “They’re overloading their warp core—all ships break off and withdraw to a safe distance!
” Macet barked to Folani.
And mere seconds after—the light of a thousand suns flashed over the bridge. The ship bucked, then steadied itself as the inertial dampers took over.
The Dominion forces were destroyed—it was over.
Macet’s voice dropped much lower than it had been; even Spirodopoulos almost found himself straining to hear it. “Bring us back into Lessekda orbit,” he ordered Zopreg.
The Greek man in Cardassian armor raised an eyebrow at that one. Why would they return to the site of destruction, when surely any nearby Dominion forces would soon divert to investigate the loss of contact with their comrades? “Ensign Folani…open a channel to all ships.” Just as before, the muscular Bajoran woman complied without a word.
“There is one last task which duty compels us to perform,” he announced to the Thirteenth Order fleet. “It is not without great heaviness of heart that I order this…but for the sake of reclaiming our beloved Union I have no other alternative by which we can ensure our uncontested escape, and ensure that the resources we have used—and that in our absence, the Dominion would surely reclaim—cannot be used against us. By the authority vested in me by Article 58, Section 1-Batut
and Section 3 of the Cardassian Articles of Jurisprudence, I hereby order the complete and immediate destruction of all facilities in the Lessekda system. There will be no warnings…through the work of our operatives, and during the course of the battle itself, those who remain have had their chance, and enough prisoners have been taken from those who chose against the Union.”
Article 58—the section of the Articles of Jurisprudence that spelled out the penalties for treason, Spirodopoulos remembered with a chill. Folani’s eyes filled with fire.
“Prepare to initiate fire,” the Hăzăkda gul said. “Macet out.”
His eyes fixed upon the ranking Starfleet officer, and he opened his mouth, ready to give him the order. “Spirodopoulos—”
The Starfleet officer met Macet’s gaze with his own, quiet but adamant. “Gul…are you sure we can’t give them a chance? There may still be innocent people in there, people who didn’t have a chance to contact us—”
Mercifully, he didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence…Macet spared him the necessity. “Their families will understand. We can’t risk warning the treacherous majority, and our people understand the ways of sacrifice. I hope that after what we have begun today, that soon there will be no more need for Article 58 in its current form—but that day has not yet arrived.” Folani still wore a look of thinly-veiled disgust—but at that last statement, she broke off from staring angrily into the console to regard him once again.
“And,” Macet softly and solemnly added, locking his dark brown eyes with the olive ones of Spirodopoulos, “please forgive my error. I should not have even suggested putting such a task on you, or any of your people. Our ways are not your ways.” He edged closer to the human. “Allow me the controls. If anyone should bear the responsibility for this, it should be me. I will act—but hold no doubt: I will not
Spirodopoulos studied Macet’s beige features. It was quite striking, given the resemblance he shared with Gul Dukat, to behold this subdued, almost grim expression on those features: this was a man who took no pleasure in what he was about to do—indeed, who longed for an alternative but in his system could find none. It still didn’t sit well with Spirodopoulos, what Macet was about to do…but at least this man wasn’t ashamed to show some honest regret for his fiery judgment against the survivors.
Spirodopoulos was no relativist, yet the fact that Macet was clearly struggling within himself about his actions did
help. Somewhat. Slowly, reluctantly, Spirodopoulos stepped aside.
Macet ordered Folani to open a channel once again. “I have one amendment to my previous orders,” he stated. “Only the five Gă’ălour
shall be required to fire upon Cardassian facilities. That will be sufficient.” Spirodopoulos gave a stone-faced nod of thanks: by this revision, Macet had spared all of the ships carrying Starfleet soldiers, save the one where the gul himself was prepared to man the controls, from bearing this burden. “To those ships—sesoghoke sesva’
Under fire from the new Gălor
, the Romac
, and the Trager
, the orbital drydock joined the vanquished Jem’Hadar vessels and unfortunate Hide’eki
in the ring of debris that would circle Lessek for years to come. The Ghiletz
easily destroyed the planetside base, which still had not been able to raise its shields after Iymender’s final act of sabotage, and the Sherouk
scoured away the evidence of the prison-turned-rebel-base where the Thirteenth Order first came to be.
No one spoke a word until Macet reported, “It is done. Berat,” he called over the open comlink, “based on your assessment of current conditions, will our course headings be sufficiently disguised?”
,” came the youngest gul’s voice, far less ebullient than what Spirodopoulos remembered from those face-to-face meetings. “The ion-storm effect will wash away our impulse trail within the hour as long as we maintain no more than half-impulse until we go to warp—which we must do just barely outside the planetary gravity well. I am re-transmitting the rendezvous coordinates via tightbeam now.
” These coordinates, Spirodopoulos recalled, lay within what the Cardassians called the Kounamab Nebula—McAllister, to the Federation, a Mutara-class nebula that would temporarily hide them while they planned…whatever was to come. It was a transit that should, as long as all ships were able to maintain Warp 8, take less than half an hour to make.
“Very well,” Macet acknowledged. “Make all absolutely necessary medical transfers immediately—emergencies only,” he appended with a regretful look at Iymender, who gritted his teeth now against the excruciating pain of his shattered ankle. “All further medical and personnel transfers will have to wait until we reach our rendezvous. Engineering and investigative crews,” he said, speaking in the latter case of what Starfleet called the science division, “I realize we have many repairs to effect, but I want each of you to detach a team of at least three to begin work on altering our weapons and engine signatures.
“We depart the Lessek system in three minutes. Men and women of the Thirteenth Order—you have my congratulations. And my gratitude.”
It was over. It was actually over
. They had won. A tempestuous mix of emotions churned through Spirodopoulos—weariness, gratitude, elation, sorrow, and uncertainty. After they reached the nebula—what then?
WHEW. That battle is easily the most complex thing I've ever written. EVER.
There'll be a definite change of pace for the next few chapters.