The motley assortment of ships from Twelfth Fleet arrive at Deep Space Nine several days later. There was no layover and the ships immediately joined the combined Federation / Klingon / Romulan fleet. Gwendolyn had been told that the fleet consisted of over a thousand ships but may of them were fighters, small Klingon birds of prey, and other small ships. The number of true capital ships was much smaller than that. A solid core of Galaxy class cruisers and Romulan Warbirds formed the heart of the forces but their numbers were fairly small. She could also see the Icon of the U.S.S. Defiant. She would have concentrated on building a large corp of those vessels if their performance was anywhere near their reputation. Still, a large percentage of the Jem-Hadar forces would be their smaller attack ships as well. She had used the time she had to shake her ships together as a squadron and several of the other squadron commanders had attacked their organizational duties with as much gusto. Gwen considered the ships of Twelfth squadron to be far more than the sum of their totals. She just wished she knew a way of working with the other fleet officers to train together to become a single fighting unit. She was working on several dispatches to send to Admiral Ross with alternate tactics but she did not know if he would get them or if he would respond to them if he did get a chance to peruse them.
When the fleet had formed up and were moving out, Lieutenant Susan Novak, her communication officer stated "Captain, you have a message from Admiral Ross. It has a header to all captains, Sir. "
Gwendolyn replied "Go ahead and put it on the forward screen unless it is 'for captain only.'" She wondered what kind of briefing the Admiral would give. The Admiral's head appeared on the forward view screen "To all captains for Twelfth Fleet, welcome. This is the final battle, where we drive the dominion out of the Alpha quadrant for good. I have some last minute information to brief you with. First, and most important, ships are to only engage Cardassian ships if they seem to be attacking us. There is suppose to be a resistance movement within the Cardassian movement and we hope to get them on our side. You are to still attack them if they look hostile. I will allow you to use your own judgement. The Second note is that we will be likely outnumbered so that individual tactics is what is going to win the battle and I need all of my captains to fight smart. If we can find a way to split the Breen forces from the Dominion forces, theses should be shared with the rest of the fleet. Finally, some of the captains, especially old timers, may have problems working with Klingons and Romulans. I do not want any problems in that regard. Good luck, Admiral Ross out" and the screen went blank.
Captain Ross considered what the higher ranking Ross had stated. She did not know how likely the Cardassians splitting from the Dominion would be but she was sure that she would have plenty of targets just engaging Jem-Hadar ships. Gwen pulled up known data on the Breen ships and noted that their shielding was considered very tough. She also knew that it would not be individual tactics which would win the battle but it would be teamwork. She hoped he would read her dispatches but did not know what the reaction would be. She tried to raise him directly but his flagship's communication officer stated that he was presently in comm link with Captain Sisco and did not want to be interrupted except for in emergency but would leave a message that she had attempted to contact him. Gwendolyn decide that it would be best if she at least reiterated her stance that the squadron should stay together and mention the advantages to the other squadrons from Twelfth Fleet. If the forces stayed together, combat losses should be much less. She wondered if Captain Sisco would wish to speak to her before they went into combat.
In just a few minutes, the whole joint fleet would drop out of warp at the edge of the Cardassian system. Admiral Ross had never gotten back to her on her dispatches or her attempt to comm him. She was kind of surprised that Captain Sisco had apparently not tried to Comm her either. The whole fleet knew that a large force was waiting for them but they did not know how large it was. Gwendolyn ordered her executive officer "Bring us to red alert and signal the rest of the squadron to do the same." The whole fleet was on yellow alert already. The klaxon began sounding on the Avenger and her squadron mates along with shields going up to full power and weapons fully energized. The Avenger was beat up and a bit old but was ready for battle.
As the combined fleet dropped from warp, the entire Dominion fleet stood between them and the Cardassian home world. Both sides began closing and firing various types of torpedoes. The Avenger and her squadron mates began an intricate dance which included spinning to bring both the forward and aft launchers to bear on the same time and a side to side motion to confuse fire control. Most of the ships on both sides fired limited numbers and at widely spread out targets. The ships which had come from the Twelfth fleet were the exception. Most of them went to maximum fire and concentrated on a very small number of targets. Most of Twelfth Fleets fighters joined their torpedoes with their capital ships. Gwendolyn's Squadron 12.2 concentrated on only four Dominion battlecruisers and eight Jem-Hadar attack ships. Five of the attack ships exploded outright with the other three so badly crippled that they had no fighting capability remaining. Of the four Dominion battlecruisers, two were destroyed outright. It looked like their anti-matter containment had failed but there could have been several other causes. One of the Dominion battlecruisers was completely crippled and would not be firing back but the final one appeared to be only lightly damaged. The Dominion forces had fired torpedoes back at her forces but the sporadic nature of their fire had meant that virtually of of the incoming torpedoes had been destroyed. All but one torpedo had lost lock from the erratic maneuvers of the squadron. That one struck the Vincennes, one of the Avenger class frigates in her fleet, but the shields had survived the hit intact.
The second volley of torpedoes was smaller with all the fighters having launched their torpedoes but was concentrated on just two targets, one of which was already damaged. The already damaged battlecruiser exploded in a huge anti-matter explosion and the other battlecruiser had lost its shield and many of its weapons. The volley of torpedoes from the Dominion was still targeted across her entire squadron and this time, no torpedoes hit any of her ships. They probably had not had time to change the targeting of their torpedoes and were firing from the original fire control plan.
As the two fleets passed into beam range, Captain Ross had all of her Avenger class frigates concentrate their mega-phasers on the damaged Jem-Hadar battlecruiser. The Dominion ship had transferred power from its rear and side shields but was unable to withstand six mega-phasers opening up on it. The whole forward part of the ship broke away from the rest of the ship. The two Excelsior class cruisers continued firing torpedoes, targeting a single enemy battlecruiser. The big Dominion ship appeared to take no damage but the shields appeared to be failing. At least only three large Dominion ships had been in a position to open fire themselves and one was destroyed in the exchange although more were moving into position. The battlecruisers ignored her light cruisers and instead concentrated on the three Avenger class frigates. The Avengers maneuvering caused the whole first volley to miss her ship although her two escorts were not as lucky. They each received several hits. The hits had dropped the Vincennes's forward shields but had not done much more than burn the paint on the hull. Further hits would likely be a different story though. The shields on the Swiftsure, the third Avenger class frigate, held but it was unknown how much longer that they would hold. The fighters had managed to destroy two attack ships which were attempting to engage the squadron from the flanks although three of the fighters were lost. Two others were destroyed by the main phaser mounts of the rest of the squadron.
Captain Ross ordered to her comm officer "I want all all ships to target the battlecruiser with damaged shields." Torpedoes from the Excelsiors had already targeted the ship but they had run out of quantum torpedoes and were firing old type photon torpedoes. All three of the Avengers fired both their mega-phasers and main phaser mounts at the battlecruisers. The Rapier also added its firepower to the other ships but the Katana appeared to be breaking off in pursuit of a group of Jem-Hadar attack ships. The combined phaser and photon torpedo fire turned the battlecruiser into a funeral pyre. The destroyed Jem-Hadar battlecruiser had managed to get its teeth into the Avenger and drop her forward shields by almost forty percent. The undamaged enemy battlecruiser opened on the already weakened Vincennes and was able to blow a large hole into the saucer section of the frigate. The hit just barely missed the bridge but took out a phaser bank and part of the ship's computers. She had also lost two more fighters in the battle. She was now down to eighteen Peregrines and twenty-eight of the Avenger's older fighters. She knew her older fighters could only take a fraction of the damage that the new fighters could and were much lighter armed but they were needed to keep the attack craft off their backs while the capital ships concentrated on the Dominion battlecruisers.
Gwen pounded her fist into her chair as she saw the Katana break from the formation. She ordered, "Lieutenant Novak, order the Katana back into formation" as she maneuvered the remainder of her fleet against the one enemy battlecruiser that was within range although two more would be within range in moments. The remaining battlecruiser concentrated fire on the badly damaged Vincennes and the whole saucer section irrupted in fire and the ship fell out of formation. One of the backup fusion reactors must have lost containment. There would be few in any survivors onboard the Vincennes. The Vincennes along with her undamaged sisters had opened fire on the battlecruiser which had destroyed the frigate. It was not a complete kill like the last hit but had at least crippled the battlecruiser. Unfortunately, she lost four more fighters keeping attack ships off of the squadron. It seemed like the attack craft were everywhere.
The captain of the U.S.S. Katana had ignored his orders and continued chasing after the Jem-Hadar ships. He found himself in a four way trap and was destroyed with only minor damage to his attackers. Although she did not care about the captain, she could not afford the loss of another capital ship and his crew did not ask to commit suicide. She was left with only six ships with two more battlecruiser and an unknown number of attack craft closing with her ships.
Something had happened, the Cardassian forces had switched sides and were attacking the Dominion fleet. Gwendolyn's communication officer had received a transmission that indicated that the Dominion had destroyed a Cardassian city to keep the population in line and it had backfired. It seemed pretty stupid to Gwendolyn to destroy one of your allies cities when you should know that will show how you treat your allies. At the same time, Captain Sisco seemed to find a tactic which took advantage of a weakness in the Breen ships. The shields in the rear of the ships seemed weaker than in other places. After taking heavy losses, the Breen forces had warped out of the system. That left only the Dominion forces and they were retreating back to the Cardassian home world.
Task force 12.2 was done to three ships, the Avenger, Rapier, and Renown. They were also completely out of Photon Torpedoes and down to four fighters total. Each of the ships had damage to multiple system. The Avenger had moderate structural damage and she had completely lost one of her hull phasers. Eighteen of her crew were dead and another forty were in medical with serious injuries. The frigate's emergency bridge was gone and the ship had lost about half of its computers. With the Dominion forces retreating, the Avenger should be able to bring her shields back up but the chief engineer thought one of the shield generators had some minor damage. Still, there was much to be proud out, the squadron had taken out ten battlecruisers and twenty-six attack ships in the course of battle. The Excelsior class starship Dunkirk had been overwhelmed with attacking Jem-Hadar attack ships and the Swiftsure had been lost when engaging Dominion battlecruisers.
Gwendolyn wondered what the next orders would be as she listened to damage control reports from all over her ship. She figured the odds were already around fifty-fifty that her ship would have to be scrapped. She was interrupted from this train of thought by her comm officer. "Captain, all ships are ordered to the Cardassian homeworld. Apparently, the Dominion ships have been ordered to attack the planetary surface."
Even though she did not know that much about the Cardassian people, the wholesale slaughter of a population was too much. Captain Ross sat straight up in her chain and ordered "Full speed ahead." to her helmsman. She hoped that they could get there before too much damage was done.
It seemed like it took forever to get through the outer system to the inner system although the trip was actually much shorter than it felt like. Reports started coming in of cities which were being destroyed from orbit. She wished she could come up with some tactic to beat the Dominion forces but she could not think of anything. She could only get into harms way and hope to protect some civilians with her death. Suddenly, the Avenger was in the home world's orbit.
Captain Ross ordered "Helm, I want you to bring the Avenger through the Dominion Fleet and put us between the Fleet and the planet. The shields on the Avenger can take a few hits from the fleet's weapons, unshielded cities cannot. As the rest of the combined fleet entered orbit, the Avenger slid between the Dominion forces which did not seem to be concerned with a single Avenger class frigate.
As the Avenger entered low orbit of the planet, Lieutenant Michael Anson, her tactical officer stated "Captain, one of the Dominion battlecruisers has its weapons locked onto a city. Gwen had just a second to react, either allow millions of Cardassians to die or sacrifice the Avenger.
"Helm, put us between the battlecruiser and the city."
[ Star Trek is copyright © Paramount Pictures ]This story is covered under the free use clause of the Copyright Laws. While the story is designed to entertain, it is also written to educate as well criticize certain aspects of Star Trek.
By Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).
Copyright © 2003, Kitsune. All rights reserved.