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Old September 2 2012, 09:58 PM   #20
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Part Two: “Nothing Less Than Full Victory”

“We will accept nothing less than full Victory!” General Dwight David Eisenhower, June 2, 1944

Chapter Thirteen

Day 23

And when the tempter came to him,
He, said, if thou be the Son of God,
Command that these stones
Be made bread.
(Matthew 4:3)


Limis Vircona sat at one end of the conference table in the main briefing room participating in a teleconference with two fleet commanders and three senior admirals, detailing the Dominion withdraw. Vice-Admiral William Ross appeared on the center of the monitor screen. Vice-Admirals Arthur Bellamy and Grenthanneck th’Talach were pictured in video capsules on the right of the screen, while Rear Admirals Phillip Gundersen and Bartholomew Coburn appeared on the left.

Through her experiences in staying one step ahead of the Jem’Hadar during their relentless efforts to exterminate the Maquis and fighting in the Dominion War, Limis learned time and again that they did a very thorough job in eliminating a target. From the attempted mass slaughter of the last remaining remnants of the Maquis on Athos Four to the destruction of ninety-eight ships at the Battle of Tyra early in the war to the deaths of fifteen hundred miners in the Coridan Massacre, they were even more thorough than the Cardassians in killing as many people as possible, even noncombatants, before declaring victory. On a number of occasions, the Jem’Hadar did not hesitate to destroy escape pods and medical transports. No Jem’Hadar soldier or starship would withdraw from battle when a significant number of enemy forces were still capable of putting up a strong fight unless it was to their tactical advantage. The same was true of the Breen in their attack on Earth. After Starfleet reinforcements arrived, the Breen had very few ships left to continue fighting only after having done considerable damage to the planet’s infrastructure. A Dominion fleet left over two hundred vessels intact as they withdrew deeper into their own territory during the Lambda Paz’s last encounter with them four days earlier. Since then, Starfleet battle groups throughout the Federation had reported similar incidents.

The questions now were whether or not the Dominion had indeed pulled off a complete strategic retreat from Federation and allied territories in order to make a final stand in Cardassian Union core systems, and how the Federation Alliance was to respond to this latest development in the war.

“We have been able to confirm that all Dominion and allied vessels have withdrawn from the Vulcan and Bolian fronts,” Bellamy informed the other senior officers from his office on Starbase 19. “The reconnaissance squads in the Kalandra Sector have found the Dominion has withdrawn all of their remaining ships.”

“Admiral Jellico’s hunch was correct,” the Andorian th’Talach chimed in. A quick silence followed the mention of Jellico, everyone having been reminded that contact with his battle group was lost. “Recon surveys of the Klingon and Romulan fronts can find no Dominion activity. Even ships massing for attacks on Qo’Nos and Romulus have pulled out.”

“Couldn’t they have tried to attack those planets with the same goal in mind as when Earth was hit?” Limis wondered. Almost immediately, she wanted to curse herself for posing such a crass question. Of course, her thoughts at that moment were for her human crewmembers and for those residing on Earth. Why Earth and not the home planets of the Klingon and Romulan Empires?

“Let us be thankful they did not,” Bellamy replied with a narrow stare indicating that he found that line of questioning inappropriate while being understanding of it at the same time.

And thankful that they haven’t hit Bajor either, Limis silently added. That may be selfish, but I am thankful the Breen did not yet attack Bajor.

“They did still inflict plenty of damage along the way,” Ross chimed in. “They took care to take out as many capital ships and fleet commanders as possible.”

“We lost a lot of good tacticians,” Coburn added. “Admiral Sitak, General Gh’ralg…”

“Not to mention to losing contact with the group led by Admiral Jellico,” said Gündersen. “There could be any number of reasons why…” His voice trailed off upon realizing that his colleagues were still contemplating a worst-case scenario.

“The Dominion is hoping we back off as well,” Ross plainly announced, “while they take the time to regroup. That’ll put them in a much better position to win the war if we do leave them alone. That’s why we have to kick them while they’re down. This is our best chance to end the war here and now.”

Limis’s eyes widened with surprise. Never in the history of the Federation had a military operation of this scope been conducted. And slaying the dragon in its lair, to quote an Earth metaphor, would take a lot more ships than the forty thrown at the Borg at Wolf 359. “That’s very bold, sir,” she offered. “It’s going to take a lot of ships to break through that line. We’ll be lucky to get one battle group through to Cardassia.”

“Maybe so,” said th’Talach, “but it will be our best chance.”

“We’ll be massing the largest fleet ever assembled,” Bellamy informed the rest of the group. “All intact and functioning warships in this region of space will participate in a full-scale invasion.”

“The Gorn and Xindi will also be committing warships to this endeavor,” Ross added. “Several non-aligned worlds that had previously hesitated to take sides militarily will also contribute ships. We expect that will bring the total to roughly eighty-three hundred strong.

“The entire armada will still be outnumbered two and a half to one. The goal is to hit the enemy in four places—Getha, Minakus, Tirolk, and Sarpedion—hoping to punch holes in the defense perimeter and fight their way to the Cardassian system. And that’s assuming enough ships survive to mount a final assault.

“Since travel there will require three days or more, the ships involved will engage in search and rescue operations. A number of hospital ships will be along to assist.”

Many different thoughts were racing through Limis’s mind while Ross and the other admirals continued talking. After surviving twenty days in the Daxura System dodging raiding parties, a much bigger challenge was on the horizon. Once again, Limis worried both that she would not survive the pending battle and that she would. If she did survive, she probably had a court martial on trumped up charges.

What Limis was certain of, after her Maquis cell survived being on the run from the Dominion with fewer resources, was that the Federation Alliance would ultimately triumph.

###

Shinar Sh’Aqba awoke to see Erhlich Tarlazzi sitting beside her on the edge of her bed. Ever since being released from suicide watch, she had to get some sleep whenever she could. Additionally, she and Tarlazzi took turns overseeing the repairs and maintenance needed to make the ship battle ready. It was far from an efficient operation. Shinar would still get only two hours of sleep with the long repair list, but it seemed like the best way to follow medical advice.

“Sleep well?” Erhlich asked her with a wide smile.

“I’d hardly define just two hours as a good sleep,” Shinar answered with an unamused sigh.

Erhlich held her right shoulder as his smile diminished a little. “You were supposed to relieve me a half hour ago,” he reminded her. “I’m guessing the antidepressants aren’t having much of an effect. Still as grumpy as ever.”

Shinar chuckled lightly. “I haven’t tried to kill myself if that’s what you’re wondering,” she said with a smile. “I’m taking so many different medicines, I’ve stopped keeping track of all of them. Nitrosorene to extend the time I can carry our child, isoflavene for the intermittent hot flashes, and now this amoxi-whatever it’s called for the depression.

“Your life is not the only one you’re responsible for. You could always ask for a medical leave of absence.”

“Absolutely not,” Shinar huffed with a disarming scowl. She nudged the edge of Erhlich’s left shoulder, utterly surprised and even offended by such a suggestion. “You think pregnancy is a disease?”

“Whoa, of course not,” Erhlich snapped, raising his hands in surrender. “I was just saying…”

Shinar quickly calmed down and clasped his right hand with both her hands. “We’ve come this far,” she continued. “I’m not quitting now. What scares me more than dying is thinking I didn’t do enough. Being diagnosed with depression is still a grave dishonor among my people. I may have backed away from Andorian marital practices, but I still have my pride. I will not back away from this fight. I will see it through to the end, Tarlazzi.”

“And I’ll follow you to the gates of hell,” Erhlich quipped. He leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on Shinar’s lips.

“I’d expect nothing less,” Shinar purred while returning his kisses. She slowly backed away and slid out of bed. “The bed’s all yours,” she said while slowly sauntering towards the shower alcove.

***

Shinar stood in the sonic shower, leaning back against the wall while feeling sonic pulses up and down her body. With time to ruminate in solitude, Shinar felt her bare abdomen in order to establish some kind of mental bond with her unborn child. For a few moments, she asked herself if she truly had the right to continue to put another life in such danger the way she already had. It didn’t seem as black-and-white as when she swore to her lover that she would stay on duty for as long as medically feasible. What if an incident similar to when she closed that bulkhead took place and she was not so lucky? She quickly nudged that thought aside and reminded herself of a simple platitude.

Hope for the best, and prepare for the…no, no…just hope for the best and don’t even think about the worst-case scenario. If convinced she would die tomorrow, she’d probably find ways to make it happen.

###

After a long and stressful shift conducting repairs over the last eight hours, Rebecca Sullivan and Sara Carson quickly paced into the quarters they shared. Rebecca walked in first, and then Sara. Rebecca set down her engineering kit in front of the sofa and sprawled herself over one side of the sofa. Sara then placed a smaller toolkit on the desk.

“I thought that shift would never end,” Rebecca groaned while taking slow and deep breaths. “The starboard inertial compensators get fixed and the main navigational proximity sensor crashes. We fix that, and then the accelerometer relays burn out. Why should we even bother sending this ship back to the front lines? I could use a long sonic shower.”

Sara flashed a sly grin and seated herself next to Rebecca. “Mind if I join you?” she asked with a suggestive nudge of her lover’s arm with her elbow.

“I’d invite you if the alcove was big enough for two,” Rebecca said with a teasing grin, “and if it was working properly. Right now, I just want to sleep for a whole day.”

Sara blinked her eyes shut, surrendering to her own fatigue. “Me too,” she mumbled. A few seconds later, she opened her eyes with a question on the tip of her tongue. “Becca, you ever wonder?”

“Wonder what?”

“If we’re going to win this war, if it’s worth throwing away so many lives. Are either of us going to live through it? Will you still be serving in Starfleet after the war?”

That last question caught Rebecca’s attention. She had only been conscripted into Starfleet because of the Dominion War. Even as the possibility of that war soon coming to an end loomed, she never really considered whether a former Maquis would have a place in Starfleet after the war. “Every minute of every day,” she said with her eyes still closed. “But every so often, I’m reminded that it all scares the hell out of me. And so I try not to think about it and live each day as if it were my last.”

“What if it turns out not to be?” Sara asked, nudging her shoulder against Rebecca’s.

Rebecca leaned over towards Sara, resting her head on her shoulder. “Then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Sara wrapped her arm around Rebecca’s shoulder and stroked a few free strands of her hair with her fingers. “I could use a drink,” she suddenly blurted out.

“Me, too,” Rebecca replied, coaxing Sara’s arm away from her shoulder as if being reminded of something she had forgotten. “Vodka martini?”

“Sure.”

Rebecca stood up, but appeared to lose her balance from having put too much weight on her injured foot. She seated herself back on the sofa and stood back up while putting more pressure on her uninjured right foot.

“Go easy,” Sara told her. “There could still be some nerve damage.”

“I’m still taking one for the team,” Rebecca said, walking with a slight limp towards the replicator. She tapped a few keys on the computer panel, and two drink glasses materialized in the tray. “It would be simpler for me to stay behind or for this ship to stay behind,” she continued on her return to the sofa with the drinks in tow. “But then I couldn’t live with myself knowing I could’ve helped out in some way. To our upcoming victory. Cheers.”

They both raised their glasses and clinked them against each other’s. “Cheers,” Sara repeated. They took sips of their drinks and set the glasses down. A long pause followed before they shared a kiss.

###

Aurellan Markalis was stirring in her sleep, her head twitching back and forth. “Don’t you die on me on me damn it,” she was muttering.

She was reliving an incident where a patient died. What was different in this dream was that she was confused and disoriented, not sure what procedures to follow to improve the condition of a man drifting in and out consciousness. She was even administering drugs that worsened the patient’s condition despite warnings from T’Pren and the EMH-Mark III. Within seconds, the patient was dead.

Almost immediately afterwards, though, the patient blinked his eyes open. “You killed me,” he said with an ominous stare. “You could have saved me, but you chose to kill me instead.”

“No,” Aurellan insisted. “You were too far gone.”

“Was that your excuse for not saving me?” a feminine voice called.

She looked up and saw an angry mob approaching her. They were ghosts of patients who died while under her care going all the way back to when she started her internship. She slowly backed away from them, but they kept coming as she meandered towards the two main biobeds. They were saying that her incompetence killed them.

Sh’Aqba joined the mob telling her, “You killed my baby.”

“No, I did everything I could,” Aurellan insisted.

The angry mob suddenly vanished. The shouting was replaced by maniacal laughter. Aurellan turned around and saw… herself. But rather, this other Aurellan Markalis had jet-black hair and eyelids painted different shades of gray, while dressed in all black Gothic attire.

“We did this all by ourselves,” this evil doppelganger proclaimed while spreading her arms out to indicate the deck littered with dead bodies. “We didn’t need the help of the Cardassians, the Jem’Hadar, or the Breen. More people died because of us than because of the war with the Dominion.” She continued cackling while walking slowly towards one of the main biobeds. “Nurse, I’ll need fifty cc’s of sodium pentothal.”

She held the hypospray close to Shinar’s neck. Aurellan wanted to lunge towards her evil twin, but couldn’t. “She wants to die anyway,” the evil twin said, “so why not let her?” She injected the poison into Shinar’s carotid artery causing instant death.

“No!” Aurellan cried out.

She was suddenly awakened, her face bathed in a cold sweat. She was relieved that it was only a dream and terrified that such a dream could become a reality.

Aurellan leaned towards the nightstand and picked up the hypo-syringe containing the next dose of her daily tranquilizer. She stared at it for a very long moment, wondering if she really needed it. She pushed aside the bed covers and took the syringe to the replicator tray. Upon pushing a button on the computer panel, the syringe dissolved.

It was an important first step. After repeatedly insisting that she was not an addict, Aurellan Markalis received a sobering warning of what could happen if she did not kick this habit and soon.
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