The primary duty of the Seventh Fleet’s chief engineer was to conduct inspections of all ships. Chaz Logan had carried out those duties on the flagship USS Constantinople
during her journey to the Zhamur system. Yet he still noticed a few issues that were not to his liking. To address his concerns, he had been hounding Lieutenant Commander Gregor Kopolev all morning. Kopolev had tried to maintain his composure throughout the whole process, but was now very close to threatening to call security on a superior officer.
“These induction coils are still slightly out of alignment,” Logan informed the chief engineer, while following him across the catwalk.
“But still well within safety specifications,” Kopolev firmly, but calmly replied with a thick Russian accent.
“I’d rather err on the side of caution, Gregor,” Logan insisted as they both stepped onto a lift that would lower both down to the main engineering level. “We need all systems functioning at peak efficiency considering what we’re going up against at Zhamur.”
“And they are. I can assure you.”
Logan seemingly dismissed that statement and looked back at the large padd in his hands. “Of course,” he said quietly. With a more professional tone, he added, “I also have a few concerns regarding the Doppler compensators. The phase inverters…”
Kopolev turned around to face Logan upon their arrival at the master situation console just in front of the main entrance that was often nicknamed the “pool table”. “Commander Logan,” he said firmly while still trying not to lose his cool. “With all due respect, your duties as chief engineer of the Seventh Fleet are to make sure ships are battle ready, not to micromanage my entire department.”
“I am aware of my responsibilities, mister,” Logan calmly responded. He, once again, consulted the padd while continuing his appraisal of the ship. “Now, as I was saying about the Doppler compensators, phase inverters sigma-19 and eta-15 are a bit sluggish.”
“I will look into it if time permits,” Kopolev answered with a sigh. “But this ship did pass your inspection, did it not?”
“If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be on course for Zhamur, would we?”
“Then if you still have any complaints regarding how I run my engine room, I suggest you take them up with Commander Ellison. Until then, I would thank you to leave… sir.”
There was a brief pause as the two men stared silently at each other. Logan was at a loss for words, but after a few tense moments, he walked away and left the engineering section.
Kopolev shook his head while whispering an old Russian swear. As if Admiral Jellico being this rigid wasn’t bad enough.
Lisa Neeley addressed a contingent of Starfleet Marines in the ship’s main armory. She was now serving as head of the Marines on the Constantinople
after recent stints on the Defiant
and the Lambda Paz
. She had been transferred to the flagship of the Seventh Fleet after she and Mandel Morrison had proven unable to coexist peacefully after the termination of their non-romantic sexual partnership. She was still a capable commander when not caught up in relationship drama. She would not be on this ship if that were not the case, given Jellico’s rigid style of command. The troops she was briefing consisted of replacement officers to offset heavy losses suffered during the Constantinople
’s last engagement at Moreska. They were very young men and women who had completed Marine training no more than a year ago. The senior member of that platoon, Staff Sergeant Loukas Pherrelius had strongly vouched for them, however. He and Neeley still agreed that they should repeat a lot of the basics to these young officers before each combat operation.
“The Jem’Hadar will usually board sections of enemy ships containing narrow corridors, hoping to force close quarters hand-to-hand combat,” Neeley explained to a group of thirty-three officers and troops. “That’s where they have a decisive advantage in terms of brute strength. Remember to keep your truncheons tightly secured at all times.”
“You’ll be stationed at the most critical areas of the ship,” Pherrelius added, “engineering, sickbay, deflector control, the nacelle junctions. They’ll also board through the outermost cargo holds when shields are at their weakest there. You’ll need to coordinate with your squad leaders upon deployment.”
“So keep your squads in close formation until you get boarded,” Neeley continued. “Upon confrontation with an enemy squad, the strongest soldiers in your unit will take point and engage the enemy in hand-to-hand if necessary while the rest of the unit brings up the rear with phasers ready. Make sure you have enough phaser power packs and stun grenades on your equipment belts. Any questions?”
The crowd murmured, but no one spoke up. Pherrelius then began reading names off a padd, assigning each individual to squads. As the rest of the soldiers filed out of the room, Neeley conferred with her immediate subordinate. He was a tall and handsome young man, just like most human males of Greek ancestry. He was only half-human, though, while also half-Argelian. Though the Argelians were generally known as a hedonistic pleasure seeking culture, he was not the stereotypical Argelian. Lisa felt some level of physical attraction to him, but chose not to act on it after learning some valuable lessons from her partnership with Morrison. Besides, Loukas was more like a brother than a prospective significant other, since they had been close friends since their days in Marine training.
“You think they’re ready?” Lisa asked, looking straight ahead as they sauntered through a corridor, trying to avoid looking into Loukas’s dreamy eyes.
“Needless to say, as ready as they’ll ever be,” Loukas replied while also looking straight ahead. “They can’t be any more or less ready than they actually are.”
“It’s their inexperience that worries me.”
“They have to start somewhere,” Loukas retorted as they neared a turbolift. “And having survived the destruction of the Tsingtao
, we’re prepared for almost anything.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
An awkward silence followed as the turbolift doors parted. They both stepped into the lift while exchanging light grins. They both sighed and looked back ahead, watching the turbolift doors slide shut.
Admiral Jellico exited the ready room and stepped onto the bridge. Commander Keith Ellison acknowledged his captain’s arrival with a quick nod and rose from the command chair. The youthful-looking middle-aged blond man then walked over to the master situation monitor, where he and the admiral were joined by Lieutenant Commander Jeth’ron.
“What do you have, gentlemen?” Jellico asked the two subordinate officers.
Jeth’ron entered a command on the console to replace the standard ship schematic with a general tactical display. The display screen indicated mostly Cardassian logos, along with a few Dominion and Breen logos dispersed along the periphery of the echelon’s formation. “Long-range sensors are picking up fifteen garrisons of Cardassian capital ships and support vessels,” the white-haired Efrosian male informed the two human officers.
“Time to intercept?” Ellison inquired.
“About five minutes,” said Jeth’ron.
“Curious,” Jellico mused. “The Breen may have been overconfident during the last engagement, but they wouldn’t back off that easily.”
“Suggesting the Dominion and Breen have some other trick up their sleeves,” Ellison added. He knew too well that on a few occasions, the Jem’Hadar employed the conventional tactic of having ships lie in wait for a follow-up engagement when allied ships were confronted by an all Cardassian battalion or they would mine the area with explosives burrowing in subspace. “Or,” he added grimly, knowing that a Cardassian reserve unit of old men and walking wounded was deployed as an “easy target” at Septimus Three, “it’s a cannon fodder maneuver.”
“Either way,” Jellico said with a shake of his head, “we’re not changing our tactics.”
“Entering the Zhamur system, sir,” Ensign Sara Nave reported from the helm. She was a fresh-faced twenty-year old with straw blond hair. Though she was just over a year out of the Academy, she was a very gifted pilot.
“Take us out of warp,” Ellison barked. “Slow to full impulse.” Looking over to the communications station on the port side of the bridge, he added, “Open a channel to all ships.”
“This is fleet command,” Jellico announced after a ship-to-ship communications chime sounded. “As soon as we intercept the enemy fleet, battle groups two, four, ten, and twelve will move in on the outer formation and try to pick off the Jem’Hadar and Breen. Battle groups five, six, and nine, break formation and stay back in case the Jem’Hadar and Breen have any reinforcements hiding outside the edge of our sensor range. The rest will take on the Cardassians. Akira
wings, move in towards their light cruisers while Sovereign
wings one through five will take on the Dracon
-class heavy cruisers.”
The fleet of Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan vessels closed in on the armada of mostly Cardassian warships ready to do battle. From all outward appearances, the Federation Alliance fleet had the advantage in numbers for this initial confrontation. The captains and crews of the ships still were hardly expecting an easy victory over an adversary that would make them fight for every cubic millimeter of the Zhamur solar system, as had been the case with nearly every offensive in the last year.