Chapter Twelve (continued)
The 272nd wing was under heavy fire from Jem’Hadar battleships and Breen heavy cruisers. Cardassian capital ships and light cruisers were shooting at Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan light cruisers and fighter shuttles. Waves of Akira
, and D’Deridex
-class vessels spread apart and fired at the Cardassians from the behind, tearing off the wing of one Galor
A horizontal formation of Jem’Hadar and Breen heavy cruisers took on Galaxy
-class capital ships. Swarms of plasma torpedoes tore through the hulls of Birds-of-Prey
and starbirds, while the capital ships took out Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters with phasers and grazed the hulls of the heavy cruisers with torpedo barrages.
Two plasma torpedoes tore through the forward saucer section of the Constantinople
Explosions filled the bridge of Constantinople
, sending pieces of shrapnel flying all across the deck. Lieutenant Commander Jeth’ron was able to duck out of the way of the scattering debris while keeping a close eye on the readouts flashing on his console.
“Hull breach on deck three, section twelve,” the Efrosian officer called over the cacophony of electrical crackling and beeping consoles. “Emergency forcefields are in place.”
Ellison was seated in the command chair while Truxia occupied the first officer’s chair to his right, both of whom were monitoring tactical displays on their respective panels. Ellison updated a tactical display on the right armrest’s keypad while Truxia monitored the conditions of nearby ships on the console situated in front of her chair.
“All emergency power to forward shields,” Ellison instructed the tactical officer. “Move us in a little closer, helm. Target weapon ports three through seven with a simultaneous spread of all forward phasers and quantum torpedoes.”
“Aye, sir,” Jeth’ron responded while gripping his console, struggling to stay on his feet.
and two flanking Sovereign
-class ships fired alternating salvos of phasers and torpedoes, grazing the hulls of three different heavy cruisers. Three Galaxy
-classes swooped in and fired phasers and torpedoes at the same time Akiras
were firing from further away. The hulls of the heavy cruisers experienced moderate damage with two of the weapon ports being blown out.
“We knocked out two of the weapon ports,” Jeth’ron informed the captain. “They’re locking on again.”
A swarm of torpedoes homed in on Constantinople
, inflicting damage on the primary and secondary hulls, as well as grazing the deflector.
“Number four shield has failed,” Ensign Herron reported from ops. “The deflector is leaking antiprotons. Nicopolis
are reporting similar damage.”
“Repair crews, seal off the deflector breach,” Truxia snapped. “Evasive pattern delta-seven, helm.”
The bridge shook several more times. Sparks gushed from various auxiliary stations. The secondary security station to the right of tactical exploded sending the officer manning it to the deck, as did the port mission ops and engineering consoles. Truxia jumped out of her chair to check on the injured male human at the security station before taking a look at the console. The two security guards stationed at the port turbolift, meanwhile checked on the other two injured officers.
“Heavy damage to the port nacelle,” Nave sang out. “Inertial stabilizers one and four are offline. Attempting to compensate.”
Another spread of torpedoes blew apart Nicopolis
, while tearing off Agamemnon
’s starboard nacelle, and a significant portion of the forward half of the Constantinople
’s saucer section.
Truxia was attending to the medics escorting injured officers off the deck. A flashing indicator at mission ops caught her attention as she directed replacement personnel to the vacant stations. “The Nicopolis
is gone,” she said. “Agamemnon
has lost its starboard nacelle and their life support systems are failing.”
Three Dominion heavy cruisers took out two of the three attacking Galaxy
-class ships while Breen heavy cruisers on the outer formation destroyed one of the Akiras
A direct torpedo hit knocked out Constantinople
’s shields and shorted out the forcefield protecting the warp core. Two engineering technicians were thrown off the catwalk from an explosion. Fires were all over the compartment. Kopolev was trying to put one of them out with an extinguisher when a readout on one of the master situation consoles elicited an ominous look in his eyes.
“Engineering to bridge,” he said with a tap of his combadge. “I’ve lost containment on two of the starboard antimatter pods. I’m attempting to isolate them before the core breaches even though that may not be possible since the protective field just failed.”
On the bridge, the main light fixture gave way and spiraled down towards the deck. Nave managed to dive safely out of the way, while Herron was not so lucky. In addition to the ceiling fixture, a girder smashed the ops console and crushed a considerable portion of his body up to his shoulders. “Matt!” Nave cried. She stared in silent horror at the young man’s broken body and frozen expression of terror on his face.
The falling debris had managed to knock over the command chair, but Ellison managed to get out of the way just in time. He quickly trotted across the bridge and clasped Nave’s shoulders to rouse her from what looked like a catatonic state. “I know he was your friend, Ensign, but I need you at your station,” he told her calmly, but firmly.
“Aye, sir,” Nave replied. Her lips were trembling and her voice was breaking as she was choking back terrified sobs. But she quickly composed herself and sat down at the helm.
Consoles were shorting out and electrical currents coursed across the bridge. The Constantinople
was the latest target of the Breen energy dissipaters. The newly modified shields had held up well against the weapon that gave the enemy a major tactical advantage when the Breen entered the war. Any ship without shields, though, was still very susceptible to such a weapon.
“Back us off,” Ellison screamed, even knowing that saving his ship was futile. “Jeth’ron, try to…” Before he could complete his sentence, he saw the Efrosian was dead with his eyes still wide open. The tactical station had fallen to the deck, taking him with it and electrocuting him to death.
“It’s no use, sir,” Nave responded. “All helm controls are offline.”
“Structural integrity fields are failing,” Truxia added while hovering over the barely functioning communications console. “Core breach in two minutes.”
The next order was clear. “Abandon ship,” he barked. “Move! Move!”
The rest of the bridge crew scrambled off the deck, filing through the four emergency deck hatches. Ellison just stood in the center of the compartment, watching his ship fall apart around him. “The captain went down with his ship,” was something he had heard many times before. But under these circumstances, that wouldn’t have done any good. He silently said goodbye to the ship on which he had served the last two years and quickly headed for the aft port deck hatch.
As more and more capital ships and support vessels continued falling, the Dominion and Breen armada gathered near the nebula and streaked into warp. A swarm of escape pods, along with two runabouts and five shuttles emerged from the broken hull of Constantinople
. One of the retreating attack cruisers fired one last killing blow, tearing apart the ship and taking a few escape pods and one shuttle with it.
And on the second month,
On the seven and twentieth day of the month,
The Earth had dried.
Thousands of ships soared through the vastness of space like a giant swarm of insects. They were clustered so close together that they could block out the stars they passed.
They had all been pulled off the front lines of a war that darkened this side of the galaxy for nearly two years. Each and every starship that had fought on the side of the Dominion was recalled to the most central region of the Cardassian Union. The hope was to defend a much smaller region of space with a large amount of ships, all the while building up their numbers to a level that would easily overcome the great powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
It was a maneuver the Founders had hoped to never use through the course of the war. Of course, they did not expect that the Federation Alliance War would last this long. They expected to defeat the Federation and its allies within four or five months. That was assuming the availability of regular reinforcements from their side of the galaxy. Yet somehow, the Bajorans’ false gods residing in the Anomaly had intervened in a big way on the eve of the Dominion’s greatest victory. And with the Founders standing on the verge of extinction, defeat was not an option. It was better for them to wither and die from a mysterious affliction than to be conquered and exterminated by the Solids.
All the ships converged in locations that surrounded the Cardassian Union and its core worlds. Thousands of ships were gathered in one such location—a solar system the Cardassians named Minakus. It was a force as big as every celestial body within the Minakus system put together. It was a force that would require the bulk of the enemy’s forces to break through.
The enemy wouldn’t dare try to penetrate this fortress. And even if it did, a very miniscule number of ships and troops would survive the attempt.
For the Founders of the Dominion, victory literally was life.