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Old August 9 2012, 10:51 PM   #12
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Eight

Day 13

And every living substance was destroyed,
Which was upon the face of the ground,
Both man, and cattle, and the creeping things,
And the fowl of the heaven.
And they were destroyed from the Earth
And Noah only remained alive,
And they were with him in the ark.
(Genesis 7:21)


Fleet commander’s personal log, Stardate 52894.8. USS Constantinople and squads from the 272nd tactical wing continue to fight off hit-and-run strikes from Cardassian garrisons in the Zhamur system. Why they continue to fight, when the Dominion has more or less lost its hold on the Kalandra sector, is baffling to say the least considering how easily they were deterred nine years ago in Sector 21505 and at Minos Korva six years ago.

Perhaps, even as Legate Damar himself has called for full-scale uprisings, the Cardassians know the price of defeat this time around is too high. So they’re going to make damn sure we lose as many ships and troops as they do. Still, the officers under command and throughout Starfleet understand the cost and remain resolved to win this war any way they can.

One point in the enemy’s favor is these mines that have been a constant thorn in our sides the last twelve days. My chief engineer may have devised a means of outsmarting them. We could still stand to lose many ships in the process.


The USS Constantinople, along with two dozen smaller light cruisers and fighter shuttles, was holding position between a gas giant and its nearest moon, awaiting another garrison of Cardassian destroyers that had just entered the system. Four similar squads, two led by an Excelsior-class and two by a Galaxy-class, were spread out throughout the region as well.

The waiting part was what Jellico and his senior bridge officers hated the most. Since squads were coming at them from multiple vectors, the bulk of those enemy ships could arrive any minute. And they all had to be mentally alert at a moment’s notice.

Everyone had their own way of keeping their minds active. Jellico paced around the bridge, giving approving nods to officers at various auxiliary stations. Ellison circled the bridge asking the same questions of the tactical, conn, ops, and communications officers that he had asked five minutes ago. Truxia and Jeth’ron looked over the results of various system diagnostics for about the twentieth time. Nave took one more look the star charts of the Zhamur systems, while Herron kept making sure all ship-to-ship communication was functioning properly.

Kopolev sat at the primary engineering station on the port side of the bridge, situated between the mission ops one and environment stations, conducting final checks on a series of sensor buoys designed to get the attention of the so-called virus mines. He tapped his console, quietly in order to avoid irritating nearby officers, waiting for word that enemy ships were closing in.

Jeth’ron heard a chirp from his console and looked down to see a flashing blip. “Enemy ships on approach,” he alerted the captain and officer. “Closing at five-hundred kilometers from vectors of four-seven mark one-eight-five, three-two-seven mark one-four-eight, one-eight-seven mark three-five, and two-four-zero mark five.”

Ellison nodded an acknowledgment of the tactical officer and directed his attention to the engineering station. “Launch buoys on those vectors, Mister Kopolev,” he instructed. Then looking back at Jeth’ron, he added, “How many ships are we talking about?”

“Six Galor-class cruisers in each group,” the Efrosian replied, “accompanied by fighter shuttles in groups of four, six, and eight.”

“Open a channel to all ships,” Jellico ordered while looking up from the control panel on his chair’s left arm rest. “This is fleet command,” he said once Ensign Herron opened a fleet wide comm channel. “Assume attack formation delta. But hold position within eight hundred thousand kilometers of the approaching squadrons. We want them to fire the first shot while at the same time, we try to get the attention of those mines.”

***

Three of the Starfleet squadrons swung around to confront the ships approaching from behind while the other two, including the Constantinople’s, spread out to take on the ships from ahead. Their Cardassian counterparts were spread out even further, with some of the ships seeking multiple targets.

Swarms of Hideki-class lighter cruisers and smaller fighters moved in on their Starfleet counterparts. As Jellico had expected, the Cardassians fired first, doing some moderate to heavy damage hulls of stationary Miranda and Nebula-class ships with wide spreads of torpedoes. The Starfleet ships returned with quick phaser bursts and spreads of quantum torpedoes fired from the upper sensor pods. Akira and Steamrunner ships at both ends of each line of ships fired simultaneous rounds of phasers and torpedoes at the approaching Galors, slowing down some and disabling the weapon emitters of others.

The sensor buoys launched from the Constantinople swooped in on oncoming enemy vessels. The Galor-class destroyers in each formation concentrated on the stationary Starfleet ships and fired their dorsal phasers at the probes; destroying some, while others were able to veer out of the line of fire. As expected, though, a number of the mines lit up and detonated.

***

Kopolev’s sensor display flashed, indicating the positions of the exploding mines. Other blips appeared on the screen around the blips indicating the detonated mines. “Right there, sir” Kopolev informed Ellison, indicating the blips on all edges of the screen.

“Transmit those coordinates to the tactical station and to the rest of the fleet,” Jellico responded from the command chair.

Without warning, the bridge shook. Jeth’ron firmly gripped his station to continue to program the firing sequence. Ensign Herron was thrown off his feet. Ellison leaned downward and helped him back up. “We’ve been hit by one of those mines,” Kopolev explained.

“Damage report?” the first officer asked as he headed for the center seats.

“Hull breaches on decks four and five,” Truxia answered. “Minor damage to power transfer conduits. Attempting to bypass.”

“Evasive pattern beta-chi, helm,” Jellico instructed, while tapping keys on his right armrest panel. “Keep us on course towards the mines. Prepare a full spread of torpedoes while concentrating phaser fire on the Cardassians.”

The Constantinople veered left and right, dodging Cardassian disruptor fire and mines homing in on the ship’s power signature. The Starfleet vessel fired dorsal phasers, damaging two Galors and destroying of fighter shuttles, while firing wide spreads of quantum torpedoes. Inactive mines were effortlessly destroyed.

Active mines were harder to destroy, as they were equipped with resilient defensive forcefields while plowing into their targets. Small fighter shuttles were easily destroyed while light cruisers took heavy structural damage. The Constantinople was clipped on all sides by mines, causing hull breaches throughout the vessel.

As in previous confrontations with the Cardassians in the Zhamur system, disabling and destroying their ships proved relatively easy. Of course, mines were still appearing seemingly out of nowhere. And that kept the Starfleet group from gaining too much of a decisive advantage over the Cardassians. Throughout the area surrounding the gas giant and its nearest moon, Starfleet ships overpowered Cardassian destroyers and inactive mines quickly and methodically. Active mines were knocking out Starfleet ships just as quickly though.

The Cardassian battle group eventually withdrew after it was down to a third of its ships. But the Starfleet group lost nearly half of its light cruisers and fighter shuttles, leaving a scant number of vessels supporting the capital ships.

Jellico sat in the command chair, staring silently at the debris that filled the viewscreen. He ignored the beeping of consoles and the voices of subordinate officers and quietly asked himself what made all those people who died more expendable than him or the Constantinople’s crew. Was it that this ship was manned by more experienced officers? Was it because this ship and the other capital ships were captained by captains and an admiral while the smaller ships were captained by commanders and lieutenant commanders? Who decided which officers were assigned to the heavily armed big ships and which ones were assigned to the lesser-armed small ships?

It was a feeling known as survivor guilt. It wore on much of his crew, so much so that a few crewmembers on the Constantinople had been declared unfit for further duty. As fleet commander, though, Edward Jellico had to put his own survivor guilt aside before the next confrontation if this campaign was to result in victory over the Dominion.

###

“And thanks to the heroic efforts of Gul Revok, Damar was lured to Cardassia to meet with five other traitors.”

Gul Latham sat in his office, watching a video announcement from Weyoun on Cardassia Prime. Latham just stared silently and pensively at the monitor while listening to the details of how the Dominion had eliminated the latest enemies of the Cardassian state.

“But his co-conspirators were killed before they could begin plotting against the people of Cardassia,” Weyoun continued. “And Damar himself was killed while trying to penetrate our defense perimeters in a stolen Dominion vessel. I'm also pleased to report that just hours ago, acting on information obtained by our intelligence operatives, our brave troops began a coordinated assault on Damar's terrorist bases. From Atbar Prime to Regulak Four, from Simperia to Quinor Seven, our forces have eliminated a total of eighteen rebel bases.

“With the rebellion crushed, nothing can impede our march to final victory. Truly, this is a great day for the Dominion.”
Latham was expecting a sense of triumph upon receiving the news that Corat Damar’s rebellion had been so thoroughly defeated. With the elimination of those engaging in more open rebellion, perhaps the Founders would not be as paranoid—a major stretch, though, considering their unwavering distrust of all humanoid life. Maybe they would be a little more trusting of those who continued to serve them—but again, very unlikely. Instead, Latham was more relieved that this was a burden he did not have to carry, especially considering that Damar’s wife and children were murdered in the Founders’ efforts to locate him. It seemed so much simpler when Cardassian authorities tried to coerce subject races through the killings of innocent people.

At least Latham did not have to worry about his family being the target of such casual brutality. When the rebellion began, Latham thought he continued to serve the Dominion because he still believed they would prevail in this war against the Federation and their allies. More and more, he thought he was continuing to serve out of fear that his family would be targeted had he chosen to rise up in opposition. Family was everything to a Cardassian. And he would not sacrifice them on a futile quest of unconcealed subversion.

He slammed the palm of his hand on his desk in a momentary fit of anger. He hit the button on his desk that controlled the wall monitor. Once the screen went blank, he saw Diralna’s reflection staring back at him. Latham quickly calmed himself with a few deep inhalations through his nose and turned around to face the Vorta with a disingenuous smile.

“I hope you’re not thinking about breathing new life into Damar’s rebellion yourself,” Diralna warned with a menacing stare.

“Of course not,” Latham scoffed. “I assume now that the traitors have been found and eliminated, those Dominion and Breen forces will be redeployed throughout the Kalandra sector.”

“No,” Diralna said unflinchingly.

Latham could not believe his own ears when he heard the Vorta’s blunt reply. He angrily flung aside a padd at which he was glancing. “What?” he spat, quickly rising from his chair until he was towering over Diralna. He scooped the padd off the desk and held it close to her face. “Have you read the latest reports?” he hissed. “Even with those mines of yours, we lost two-thirds of our garrison at the sixth planet.”

Diralna smirked and nudged the padd away from her direct line of sight. “But the Federation counterparts lost half of their ships as well,” she said with remorseless indifference towards Latham’s dismayed glare. “The Kalandra sector is immaterial now. But as long as we continue to send ships to its outer systems, they will remain too occupied to launch an all-out offensive in our territory. And I really do mean our territory, Dominion and Cardassian.”

She gently clasped Latham’s chin and aligned her face within an inch of his. Latham let out an annoyed grunted and slowly nudged the Vorta away from him. As a military veteran with a little more than twenty years of leadership experience, he saw the value of misdirection, but not at the expense of so many lives. Not when troop morale was plummeting faster each day. “Then send the Jem’Hadar and the Breen for such an undertaking,” he insisted. “They have no qualms about volunteering for death.”

“Now that would be foolish,” Diralna shot back. “We can’t have large numbers troops who may decide to switch sides while we’re protecting more valuable assets. Now, are you going to continue to hold the line here and in adjacent star systems? Or will my superiors have to replace you and your crew with officers who wouldn’t be moving up in the ranks so fast during peacetime?”

Those words chilled Latham’s skin. He had heard of recent instances where guls only suspected of betraying the Dominion were executed and replaced by less experienced officers--those more likely to blindly follow their Vorta’s orders. In fact, the latest rumors were that the bumbling Gul Broca would soon be named the new Supreme Legate. For now, all Latham could do was continue to serve the Dominion and distance himself from any subversive actions taken by his crew so that he could stay alive long enough to take more decisive action.

“No, of course not,” Latham relented. He seated himself back in his chair and poured himself a glass of kanar.

“Good,” Diralna said with a pleasant, but firm, stare at the gul. She then sauntered out of the office, leaving Latham alone with his own conflicting emotions. He was about to take a small sip, but stopped himself. He then downed the alcoholic beverage in one gulp and quickly refilled the glass. After gulping that down, he slammed the glass on the desk so hard, it broke. Too bad that Vorta harpy couldn’t be dismembered as easily.
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