USS Archer, New Liberty System, Alliance Colonial Zone
Alliance of Democratic Nations
As the alert lights remained lit and the station was evacuated of civilian personnel attention went to the ships still in berths. At this point, with nearly three thousand Dominion and Cardassian warships moving toward New Liberty, every ship was being sortied as needed. Vessels still undergoing on-site R&R were crewed as best as possible and sent out to join the system defenses, 5th Fleet's task forces quickly gathering around TF 5.1 which, as was usual, always kept close to New Liberty anyway.
But there was one group of starships that had not yet been considered, the most damaged of them taking up berths in the station and the repaired ones in loitering orbits with their warp drives disabled and key parts stored on planetside by ADN authorities. These were the eighty or so Federation starships that had managed to escape Dominion capture due to one reason or another since the war began, kept interned in the Alliance after exceeding the 36 hour limit. The largest of them was a Galaxy-class, the Archer, which was still missing a chunk of internals from battle damage and was down to half crew due to battle casualties. Like most of the crews of the interned ship, the Archer's crew was kept interned upon the vessel while the creation of an expanded internment center planetside was still being undertaken, a small contingent of civilian experts (mostly Federation emigres, some with Starfleet experience) and Stellar Navy junior officers acting as "oversight crews" to keep the vessels under control while under internment.
Lieutenant Paul Choudry, an Anglo-Indian, rang the chime at the door to the quarters of Starfleet Commander Lewis Hall, whom permitted him entry. The lithe, refined man, of 39 years of age about, was standing near his desk, collating letters to be transmitted by the Interuniversal Red Cross to his surviving crew's families in the Federation. Hall had been XO to Captain Kello Tashani, a Centauran officer who had died when the Archer was in its fight with Dominion and Cardassian forces two months prior, leaving Hall to get the ship and its surviving 700+ crew over the border into Alliance territory and internment. "Lieutenant, to what I owe the honor?", Hall said. He got along with the junior officer well enough, accepting his direction under the laws by which the Archer was interned and appreciating Choudry's principled representation of Hall's crew to his superiors in Wexford.
"I've come to give you back your ship, Sir," Choudry said, saluting the higher-ranked officer respectfully. "The Alliance is now a belligerent in the war concerning Cardassia and the Dominion and given so we are no longer required under the Third Bern Convention to hold you in internment." Lowering his hand at Hall's nod, Choudry added, "Of course, I've also come to warn you that there's a Dominion battlefleet on the way."
That got Hall's attention immediately. "Say no more. Will you and..."
"Afraid not, sir, I'm needed elsewhere, the last of the contracted oversight crew will beam down after I take the shuttle back to Wexford."
"How're the odds with the Dominion?"
"Three thousand Dominion and Cardassian warships en route to New Liberty as we speak sir, another thousand or so are believed to be preparing to blockade Bajor, and as many as two thousand pulled out of Federation space may end up attacking here as well," Choudry explained. "I'm afraid it's going to be a bitter fight."
"They always are," Hall answered. The Starfleet officer tapped his commbadge. Choudry had already set the system to accept Hall's codes and authorization again, so the ship's internal comm system immediately patched him in. "Commanders Dunns and T'Stel, Lieutenants Parkman and Liens, report to the bridge immediately." Looking at Choudry directly, Halls added, "It was nice meeting you, Lieutenant. Thanks for giving me our ship back."
"I hope you're able to keep her together, Commander. Take care." Choudry left, heading to the shuttlebay to take his personal shuttle down to Wexford.
Not one to waste time, Hall took off for the Archer's battle bridge immediately.
Dominion Ship ARWE-00015, Nearing New Liberty System
Alliance Colonial Zone
Dukat was frowning now. Not so much from his worries over the battle to come but the annoying weight on his shoulder from the Dominion commmand viewer placed on him. He let the frown shift when he saw how Weyoun was looking at him, the smug Vorta seeming to enjoy Dukat's discomfort to some degree. "Time to target," Dukat said aloud.
"We will be at range in ten minutes," a Jem'Hadar answered from his post.
"Detach ARHT Special Operations wing to commence their attack as we enter the system."
Without blinking Dukat's order was given, condemning the crews of ten Jem'Hadar attack ships to death. At that order those ships began to accelerate at warp; two targeted a mid-range planet of the system that had domed colonies upon it while the rest were heading for New Liberty proper. Their goal was to ram the planets at warp speed, an extreme measure that would if successful devastate both planets and kill much of their populations, particularly New Liberty, with the resultant radiation and power of a warp-speed impact.
Dukat's intention wasn't entirely murderous but rather utterly amoral and cynical. The Alliance defense would have to choose to move its gathering defensive fleet out of position in order to have any hope of intercepting and destroying the ramming warships. If the ramming succeeded, well, those Alliance civilians wouldn't be the only such non-combatants to die in the war, nor would they be the last, and at least it would deny the Alliance any use for the planet and hopefully demoralize them (not that Dukat expected that, of course). If they failed, it still achieved the immediate tactical result of shifting the Alliance fleet out of position.
New Liberty System Defense Command, Wexford, New Liberty
New Liberty Republic, Alliance Colonial Zone
"Several Dominion ships have accelerated at warp," a Stellar Navy lieutenant at one panel reported for the benefit of President Gabriel Anson, the head of state for the Republic of New Liberty, and Field Marshal Caroline Hiller, Chief of the ST-3 Command Staff. "Course projection.... they're on ramming approach to Lanfield and New Liberty!"
An Aerospace Force Warrant Officer's voice followed. "System defenses are online and tracking! We are engaging."
The first activity came from the outer edge of the solar system. Satellites in the Oort Cloud of New Liberty System and a trio of Plutoid orbital bodies fired warp-speed missiles toward the oncoming Jem'Hadar kamikazes. The cheap warp drives on the missiles weren't as fast or as durable as a starship's but they didn't need to be, their guidance systems enabling them to use their superior positioning to make intercepts.
At warp-speed shields could protect a ship... but not as they can in real-space, and warp field generators tended to not like their fields being disturbed by a sudden surge in energy from a conflicting warp field impacting them. The one advantage that the Jem'Hadar ships had over more crude missiles was the potential for independent reaction. On some of the ships this saved them, the pilots acting in the nick of time to avoid the interceptors. Those not so lucky were struck directly, kinetic impactors overloading their warp fields and forcing them out of warp, often outright destroying them by getting full penetration.
The ships that survived were immediately engaged by the second stage of the New Liberty System Defenses. These were the same weapons as the first stage, fired from stations further within the solar system, and they further attrited the Jem'Hadar kamikazes.
Only a handful were left, piloted by the most skilled of the kamikaze Jem'Hadar who maintained their deadly course. Here the third stage of the system defenses began engaging. Rather than firing weapons they utilized highly-capable MET technology, jamming resistant through the use of superior power sources, to beam kinetic kill barriers into the paths of the attackers. The Jem'Hadar had almost no time to react and they plowed into these barriers.
All but one.
The one remaining ship was seconds away from impact and had the System Defense personnel crossing themselves or crossing their fingers, hoping and praying that the terminal stage would work. From orbit laser satellites fired on the Jem'Hadar ship, striking at its shields as it entered orbit.
In the nanoseconds before it would have made impact, the ship hit the literal last line of defense for New Liberty. A shield generator satellite, powered by a microwave generator system that had power sources in orbit and on the planet, emitted a powerful short-life deflector screen. The field would only last a few seconds before the components in the machine were shut down at risk of burning out but seconds were all that was needed. The kamikaze plowed into the field and was blown apart, the field absorbing the radiation release just before it too collapsed from the feedback.
And just like that, Dukat's attempt to draw off the defensive fleet failed, not that it mattered much to him as he only truly cared about one thing: taking out the gates.
"All ships assume attack formation," he ordered. "Focus firepower upon the Gate Assembly."
The main fleet unit present at New Liberty, Task Force 5.2, was one of the lighter task forces of the fleet, possessing two battle squadrons which meant a total of forty battleline ships. In this case there were only four dreadnoughts, all Tirpitz-class like the TF flag vessel Fuso, with a number of battleships of various classes including two of the Royal Oak-class "missile battleships" briefly ordered and six of the new Canada-class Fast Battleships.
Tactical command of the fleet, for the moment, came upon Vice Admiral Lillian Desmond. The slender brunette, a thirty year veteran of the British Royal Navy and Alliance Stellar Navy, secured herself with the harness of her seat in Fuso's combat information center. Captain Karl Sung would guide his ship's direct actions while she commanded the naval forces as a whole, consisting at the moment of about six hundred vessels. They were outnumbered five to one for the moment with the odds ticking in their favor every time the Gate Assembly opened and disgorged divisions and squadrons of warships coming to their aid.
"Form a defensive perimeter around the Gate Assembly and Control station." Desmond watched the red plots move closer via the tactical holotank and continued calculating her own tactical reply. The enemy fleet was approaching in a concentrated formation, an arrow pointed at her defensive screen to pierce it and force its way through to the Gate Assembly. "Carrier squadrons are to be our mobile reserve. Defend the Assembly at all cost."
The BatCarDiv assigned to TF 5.2 started launching their remaining sublight starfighters while the fleet took formation, newcomers from other universes trickling in and taking up spots under the direction of Desmond's staff. With the Navy protecting the Assembly the Aerospace Force's craft were assigned to help planetary defense units deal with any enemy ships that attempted to attack there as their main priority. System Defense Command cleared Desmond and her forces to engage when ready.
The first shots were fired as the vanguard of Dukat's fleet came out of warp. A storm of particle beams, coilgun rounds, and nuclear-disruptors lashed out at the Cardassian and Jem'Hadar ships who were quick to return fire. The smallest of the enemy ships, the Jem'Hadar eight-man "fighter" vessels, were among the first to die as they intercepted stronger fire meant to damage the bigger ships (one of the duties Dukat had given them, knowing that their use in combat with the Alliance fleet would be minimal).
The return fire struck a collected wall of energy deflectors. A couple of destroyers showed hull damage from being hit by full powered blasts but remained in the action. The enemy fleet quickly pressed in, looking to close the distance and smash itself through the thickening wall of Alliance ships.
The energy fire was immediately followed by the torpedo and missile fire. The missiles, fired by various warships as well as the New Liberty Naval Station, hit first, weaving around counter-fire to make contact with their targets. Some of the new Cardassian ships with point-defense batteries had some success with destroying or damaging missiles to prevent hits, attriting the strike as it came in. What came afterward consisted of hundreds of brilliant bursts of light against the deflectors of various warships in the fleet. Three Jem'Hadar attack ships and two Cardassian Hideki Mark Xs disappeared entirely.
The torpedo barrage came next. Cardassian torpedoes that survived the gauntlet of the Alliance point defense fire crashed into deflector screens and, in acouple cases, hulls. A "golden BB" hit from a lucky Cardassian tactical officer resulted in a Dorsetshire-class light cruiser in the ADN formation suffering a severe wound, lights flickering in the sections affected from damage to the cruiser's electrical grid. The Alliance torpedo fire faced less point-defense not just from a lack of PD weaponry in the enemy fleet but because what PD batteries they did have had been tracking the missiles. The torpedoes had similar effect to their Cardassian counterparts, degrading deflectors and damaging hull. A couple of Jem'Hadar attack ships blew apart from direct hits. A pair of torpedoes got through the battered shields of one of the Jem'Hadar battlecruisers and crashed into the hull, blasting part of the ship's bow off.
As this first exchange was taking place more of the IU Gates opened, every departure gate being fully employed. This time the arrival was a carefully calculated one, that of two task forces of the 9th Fleet provisionally assigned to Universe AR-12 joined with two heavy fleet units of the French national fleet of that universe led by the dreadnought Charles de Gaulle. With the addition of another three hundred ships to the fleet Desmond, still in tactical command, quickly brought them up to where she anticipated the first successful penetrations of the Cardassian-Dominion fleet would be.
The battle became most furious as the lead Jem'Hadar and Cardassian ships entered point blank ranges. At these near ranges misses were dangerous for the Alliance forces as they could result in blue-on-blue hits, as actually now happened, while even point-defense weapons now engaged the enemy warships and claimed a number of the Jem'Hadar attack ships.
As Dukat's strategy became clear Desmond was left with a choice; if she weakened her sphere in non-attacked areas to focus upon those where Dukat's force was breaking through, his numerical superiority enabled him to shift his focus to the thinner areas. Superior interior lines and the stream of reinforcements diluted this worry but it became a question about how much to draw away.
At her command divisions and squadrons began shifting in the sphere formation to match the thrusts of Dukat's fleet. Space between and around the fleets became a light show of energy blasts, torpedo and missile engine flares, and the explosions from where ships' shields were overwhelmed by individual hits.
This light show was being picked up by every visual recorder at the Gate Assembly's Control Station, every satellite in orbit over New Liberty, and the recorders on the New Liberty Naval Station. Almost without thinking those controlling these feeds began patching them in to the surface on public frequencies, permitting local stations to patch the footage into the holovisions and televisions of New Liberty's populace, many of whom were now in the underground bunkers operated by New Liberty Civil Defence.
Just as much, the local transceiver stations for the major news networks quickly began sending out the video of the battle via their subspace transmitters and their IU radio transmitters, meaning that not only would every viewer from the Dominion-Cardie OZ in the Federation to Bajor be seeing the battle, so would the entire Multiverse.
Times Square, New York City, Earth
United States of America, Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate SE-1
The summer day was slightly overcast, the result of a tropical wave that had moved up the Atlantic coast and was pelting Rhode Island and Connecticut with rain and light wind. People milled around the heart of New York City going about their business. Denizens going to and from work, tourists catching in the sights of the Big Apple, people going to the stores, Times Square was bustling with its usual activity.
Then everything stopped.
Heads popped out of aircars and their wheeled counterparts. People looked up from the street and out the windows of the shops. All eyes were turning to the massive holoprojector that usually displayed various news stations or other special events as it abruptly cut out the program it was on and showed a project of space.
Most citizens were familiar with the basic appearance of a starship. A single hull shape (With the exception of some liners that employed exotic appearances like catamaran-style starships) with two nacelles attached by pylon to generate the warp fields employed by Cochrane drives were a common technology in this universe and others. Some had even traveled in one before, going off-world for visiting family, going on vacation, or on business trips.
But for many, this was their first look at actual warships. And there were plenty of them, of various sizes and with various gun emplacements as well as exact hull shapes.
And they were on fire.
Or at least it appeared to people, even as they noticed the caption of "Battle at New Liberty" and continued to watch the footage, seeing beams of white and yellow cut into the ships as well as the occasional sparkling light while streaks of red and blue energy lashed out from the ships' guns. People watched in silent shock as ships marked with the ADN torch, and a couple with national markings like US white stars, British Union Jacks, and Russian insignia, suffered blow after blow against their deflectors and armored hulls.
As the camera panned around their enemies soon appeared, sinister vessels of varying shapes and sizes with glowing purple ribs along their bottoms and predatory orange-toned ships with hammerhead bows. The latter were recognizable to anyone who'd seen Winter War footage as Cardassian ships, the former recognized by those who watched war news as Dominion warships.
Televisions and holovisions across the city tuned into the news networks as they images spread across New York. Work crawled to a stop with even the most hardass business managers finding themselves glued to the news footage like their subordinates. Stomachs churned and hearts fluttered, especially among those who had friends and family in naval service as those relations may very well be dying as they watched.... helplessly.
USS Enterprise, Docked at Starbase 91
Universe Designate ST-3
Jean-Luc Picard and his crew watched silently on the bridge of their starship as the battle footage from New Liberty played. They were no strangers to this war, having already undertaken several combat missions against the Dominion-Cardassian tsunami washing over the Federation, but the massive scope of the battle being depicted had not yet been encountered.
"Shouldn't Ross' fleets be moving in to help?", Geordi asked from near the rear of the bridge. "If the Alliance loses that battle...."
"According to Starfleet Operation's last report our forces in the area are tied down holding Deep Space Nine from an attack by the rest of the Dominion and Cardassian fleet," Riker answered for him. "They're on their own."
A look passed between Captain and First Officer. A silent thought, a light now shining through the gloom of the desperate struggle of the past months, that yet made them guilty upon watching the carnage on the screen, the deaths of yet more brave men and women. Deanna Troi settled a look on them, sensing that mixture of relief, hope, and guilt more strongly that she was feeling it herself.
It was Data who gave voice to that guilt. "Captain, while I regret the loss of life.... even if the Dominion succeeds in destroying the New Liberty Gate Assembly and isolating the Alliance Colonial Zone from the rest of the Alliance, by my calculations it will only prolong the inevitable outcome as a result of their action. They have brought the Alliance into the war on our side...."
"Yes, Mister Data, they have."
"When you consider the economic vitality and industrial capacity of the Alliance and the sophistication of their armed forces, the ability of the Dominion to hold on to any part of the Alpha Quadrant has dropped quite sharply," he finished. "Such that it does not matter who wins today. The odds of our winning the war are now highly favorable."
"And tonight," Picard added with a subdued tone, "we and the entire Federation will enjoy 'the sleep of the saved and the thankful'."
Meiersworld Fleet Station, In Lunar Orbit
Meiersworld System, Alliance Colonial Zone
Universe Designate CON-5
The Water Hole was one of the favored on-station bars for the fleet personnel assigned to Meiersworld Fleet Station, located on the second level of the station's commercial deck. Dockyard repair crews, station personnel, crews of ships docked to the station, all frequented the spacious bar and enjoyed it's multiple holovision and television systems to watch sports together or occasionally news channels.
There was already an air of tension in the bar from those perturbed by the Alliance-wide DefCon 4 alert status. Due to being at DefCon 4 ship times in dock were reduced, crews both station-side and ship-side were putting in more hours, and there was a general feeling that this might very well be it. For those posted long enough to CON-5 there was a general feeling that if things went pear-shaped in ST-3 with the "Spoonies" and their new "Hornhead" allies, a certain "crazy Puritan minister" would certainly make his move and they would be in a war situation.
Among those who felt this way was a lone woman at the bar. Lt. Cmdr. Fayza al-Bakr looked up from her light drink, one of the few she permitted herself while off-duty due to the always on-call status of being a dockyard overseer. She was still in an engineer's blue worksuit with name tag and rank insignia, replete as it was with leg, hip, and torso zipped compartments for light tools and tight enough to make her attractive figure clear, if not completely flattered.
Fayza watched one of her subordinates, a Petty Officer, flirting with a guy from one of the docked warships and let out a lovelorn sigh; having joined the service relatively later in her life than most, her climb to her current rank had been rather fast and the work of someone who at least appeared to be an ambitious engineering officer. Simply thinking about her loneliness prompted Fay to motion to the barkeeper for another drink. She reached into her pocket to retrieve her credit chit that would pay for the drink straight from her Navy Personnel Credit Union account.
As the barkeep went to pour the drink, Fay watched him suddenly stop, an surprised look on his face. Fay followed his eyes toward the main holoviewer in the bar and felt her jaw drop and her lungs inhale sharply.
The screen showed a vessel she was familiar with: a Freedom-class superdreadnought. Plumes of flame were erupting from the stricken ship's hull as yellow and white streaks of energy pierced it, the visible main turret silent with its particle cannon barrels warped by some kind of direct weapons impact. A caption read "Battle at New Liberty" and a voice began to grow stronger as the barkeep fumbled with his remote control. "...battle continues to range in distant orbit of New Liberty. Thousands of Dominion and Cardassian ships are trying to fight their way past the naval ships struggling to protect the Jump Gate Assembly here at New Liberty. Fleet units from across the Alliance are surging through the gates to reinforce the fleet here. We even have reports that Starfleet ships interned at New Liberty under neutrality law have been returned to their crews and are entering the fight... wait, there's one!"
The camera switched to show a Federation starship, Saber-class Fay believed from what she remembered of the Starfleet recognition charts she'd seen. The destroyer-sized ship weaved around a damaged Alliance battleship, pouring phaser fire into a Dominion attack vessel it was chasing. Torpedoes came from behind, fired by a Cardassian Keldon, that blew a nacelle off the Federation ship as it moved off-screen. The sinister-looking Cardassian ship loomed on the camera for an instant before missiles blasted through its shields. It zipped off-screen with fire and atmosphere trailing from its tail.
The base PA system suddenly interrupted. "All off-duty crews, report to your ships for emergency sortie. Repeat, all off-duty crews, report for emergency sortie. This is not a drill."
The Water Hole soon emptied out. Fay found herself one of the few patrons remaining, staring intently at the screen as footage from the battle continued to play.
Novokuznetsk, Carlston IV, Beta Carlston System
Carlston Cluster Colonial Sector, Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate LRC-19
The Beta Carlston system was one of five inhabited systems in the tight Carlston Cluster, near the wild frontier of Human-inhabited space in LRC-19. The inhabited fourth planet of the system was the only one to carry the name Carlston as well, being the first planet colonized in the Cluster, with an international population. The planet's surface was 70% water, leaving the other 30% to be land in the form of two primary continents and four secondaries, one of which was joined to one of the primaries. An oceanside city of Novokuznetsk along the Eastern primary continent was the center of the Nenov Oblast, the Russian zone of the distant system and the largest city on Carlston IV. As the planet's main city and the location of its only major starport Novokuznetsk held a more diverse population than the rest of the Oblast: 80% Russian, 8% Italian, 8% Mexican, and 3% Swedish, representing the other primary colonial nations of the system, with the remaining portion taken up by the smaller Portuguese colony on the inhabited secondary continent as well as various ethnic minorities among the various colonizing nationalities.
Such a distant system usually meant that they were not privy to the latest news. Subspace communications and tachyon-based radios took hours, even days, to reach distant regions. Even the use of IU radio required a spatial relation that did not always make instant communication possible and IU radio transceivers to receive commercial and public broadcasts were expensive all the same. However, the people of Carlston IV in general and Novokuznetsk in particular were fortunate as they had recently acquired a high-powered IU radio receiver, capable of reading signals from other universes that were spatially distant from the Carlston Cluster.
That meant that out of all the colonies in the Carlston Cluster and other nearby systems, only Carlston IV was able to get actual news feeds from other universes in real-time. Now the population of this even this distant colony watched in amazement in their homes, businesses, and public bars and restaurants as battle footage from a different universe played on their televisions and holoviewers.
Different angles showed ships with brief fires that vacuum would put out, a couple spewing what seemed like mist from hull breaches, while missile drive flares, sparkling photon torpedoes, and solid beams of red, white, yellow, and blue energy continued to streak across the screen in places. An auto-translator system in the local receiver station converted the English-speaking anchorman's words into a somewhat stiff, mechanical-sounding Russian for the benefit of those watching, as the news anchor described in horror that some of the enemy ships were firing on the Gate Assembly.
A feed began, this one rougher and with writing in the signal to show it was some kind of official feed from the Assembly's control station, showing the protective deflectors on the Assembly failing. Energy fire and torpedoes began crashing into it, warping the wormhole generator rings on the gates and scouring the surface of the inner safety cone. One blast struck a central area between gate groups and created a blinding flash, the translated voice telling them that an anti-matter reactor had apparently been hit.
When the flash faded, having been auto-dimmed at the source to protect those watching, it was clear that the entire lower section of the Assembly was destroyed. The blast had torn an entire quarter of it off and knocked out groups above it as well, though the Assembly was not entirely destroyed. Those watching continued to, awestruck at the damage being shown.
New Virginia Naval Institute, Jamestown, New Virginia
United States of America, Alliance of Democratic Nations
Universe Designate AR-12
New Virginia was one of the first places to get direct word of what was happening at New Liberty, given that it was one of the most navy-centric solar systems in the entire Alliance. The system contained the Spaceyard Complex orbiting the moon of Henry (named for Patrick Henry) which was one of the largest shipyards in the Multiverse, New Virginia Fleet Base served as HQ for the 3rd Fleet, several defense contractors had factories in orbit and planetside for producing key components for starships like Cochrane drives and nuclear-disruptor batteries, and of course, the New Virginia Naval Institute was one of the most respected naval academies in the Alliance.
At one end of the Institute was the Holland Smith Marine Annex, where the Alliance Marine Corps sent some of its officer-candidates for training. Though they were an independent service, unlike the United States Marine Corps that initially founded the Annex, the reputation and quality of the Annex made it one of the most respected Marine officer academies in the Multiverse, a slot at the Annex being almost as prized, if not moreso by some, than one at the ANMC's primary school, Quantico Marine Academy on Earth SE-1.
A crowd of cadets of all four class years at the Annex were gathered in the mess hall, joined by many of their instructors, while the hall's holoprojector showed footage of the battle. Among the Marines sitting to one side were Cadets Rochelle Harverson and Hecate Maxwell. The only cadets to hail from Universe MWB-32, Hecate was of Rasalhaguan birth, orphaned by Crusaders of Clan Wolf in a bloody reprisal for attacks on their occupation forces in the first wave and afterward adopted by Alliance Marine Corps Sergeant Horace Maxwell. As a pilot she was a natural prodigy and her primary purpose at the Annex was to finish officer training and to attend the Harold Bauer Aviation School to become a Marine Aviator. Rochelle, OTOH, was born in an iron womb of the Cloud Cobras, adopted after the fall of the Clans by April Harverson - the aunt of Robert Dale's daughter Susannah - and permitted to enlist in the Marine Corps after she turned eighteen. A ground pounder through and through, Rochelle was a mustang due to experience in the Orion Conflict. Despite their respective pasts the roommates had for four years been close, if competitive, friends and were each ready to go their own way.when they graduated in the coming months.
There was silence in the mess hall at the sight of the grievous damage inflicted on the Gate Assembly, the sole lifeline that kept 5th Fleet in action in ST-3. Without it the line of supply to New Liberty and the half a billion souls in the ADN Colonial Zone would go across the width of the Federation from New Ivers, leaving those people isolated and vulnerable to the Dominion war machine. Everyone visible was hoping, praying, that the fleet repulsed the massive enemy fleet with its growing numbers while overhead the line of warships waiting for transit to the battle continued to grow.
The camera feed then showed a particularly uplifting sight. One of the functioning gates opened and from it emerged a beast of a warship, one that those cadets familiar with ADN naval ship types recognized as the first of the newest superdreadnoughts in the Alliance service. A cheer erupted from the assembled, including Hecate and Rochelle, as they watched the mighty warship turn its guns into play and begin fighting almost right out of the gate.
New Liberty System, Alliance Colonial Zone
Universe Designate ST-3
Now emerging from the remaining gates of the battered Assembly was the mightiest combatant to yet join the battle. The massive D.N.S. Vesuvius, over sixty megatonnes of dead weight tonnage and well over two hundred million megatonnes fully loaded, joined the battle flanked by a division of screening destroyers of the new Naresuan-class. Her massive turrets of 460mm Hypervelocity Coilguns began training on the nearest Jem'Hadar battlecruiser as soon as she cleared the Gate.
For the first time in her nine months of active life the Alliance's new superdreadnought fired her mighty guns in anger. Massive shells moving at decent cee-fractional velocities raced across the short (for space) distance to the Jem'Hadar battlecruiser penetrating Desmond's fleet cordon. The first and second shots by individual turrets battered the ship's shields and drained them, allowing a partial broadside of four turrets - 12 guns in all - to brutalize the large vessel. Explosions ripped from within its hull from the damage caused by the massive shells and the battlecruiser's main electrical system lost power, leaving it easy prey for a squadron of sublight F/A-35s from a supporting battle carrier.
Vesuvius arrived to a battlefield cluttered with the hulks of crippled and destroyed starships. The protective cordon was breached everywhere and the situation increasingly desperate - the very gate Vesuvius arrived in took a direct hit from a Cardassian photon torpedo and was knocked out of commission. The initial Cardassian-Dominion fleet had been joined by a second wave of two thousand more, a reinforcement overcoming the outnumbered Alliance fleet as its own flow of reinforcements slowed.
On the Dominion vessel designated ARWE-00015, Dukat and Weyoun watched the battle with intensity and calm respectively. Dukat's jaw was clenched firmly shut as he watched another precious heavy warship die, this time to the guns of the newly arrived superdreadnought. "We've almost done it," he said, seeing that over half of the assembly's gates were out of commission. "We have to hold!"
"Some of these Alliance warships are quite more formidable than I was expecting," Weyoun commented. "It appears they too have been busy upgrading their fleet."
"Order Attack Groups 10, 19, and 25 to focus firepower upon that ship," Dukat said, indicating the Vesuvius through his interface. "I want to reduce it to a flaming wreck!"
In the ship's CIC, Line Captain Simon Lupinsky was watching the displays show how well his ship was enduring the beating their foes were trying to subject it to. They had already lost an escorting destroyer from enemy fire but had picked up two Dorsetshire-class light cruisers and one of the Juneau-class gun cruisers to screen them. Behind them the Jellicoe and Sturdee, the class leader and the fifth ship of that new dreadnought class respectively, were following with the Conquerant-class battleships Hyuga and Bayern. The HV Coilguns on the ships proved rather devastating to the Dominion and Cardassian shields, set as they were to deal with the particle cannons and nuclear-disruptors of the other older ships. A new Mark 9 Galor disintegrated under the 440mm guns of the Jellicoe while one of the large Jem'Hadar ships suffered under a broadside by the Vesuvius. The Bayern and Sturdee finished that vessel off quickly just as another pair of ships focused their fire on Bayern. An older Missouri would have succumbed to the battering of the big ships but Bayern survived, focusing her guns on the target.
Within the bowels of the ship Vice Admiral Trishwant was working with his equal, Desmond, to stiffen the defense, leaving Lupinsky to direct the attack of his division and their screen. One of the officers, a young Korean man, spoke up, saying, "Sir, I'm getting a bead on one of their main warships, it looks to be directing fire upon us. Even in all these emissions I'm getting enough readings that it looks to be a flag vessel, not sure how important."
"All ships direct firepower on that vessel," Lupinsky ordered, just as the wrath of twenty Cardassian and Jem'Hadar warships was directed at his command.
Fire from the fleet converged on the massive Vesuvius, making its deflectors flicker. One of the Jem'Hadar personnel gave a report. "According to our sensor readings this Alliance vessel's shields employ some form of multi-layered configuration with variable wave and non-wave-based deflection properties. Our anti-polaron beams are ineffective."
"It seems the Federation is not alone in possessing technical ingenuity," Weyoun remarked, levelling a gaze at Dukat.
Dukat didn't respond immediately. "Assign more ships to direct fire on them then. We cannot afford for their new vessels to turn the tide of the battle." Once his order was given Dukat thought about it and came to a realization. "The Federation shared knowledge about the Borg with the Alliance and this... this must be the result. An Alliance vessel designed not just for their main battle fleet but to be capable of fighting the Borg."
"Our fleet has knocked out another group of interuniversal gates," a different Jem'Hadar reported. "Their Gate Assembly is now down to forty percent capacity."
"Dukat, I think we've done all we can here," Weyoun said warily. "Even with part of it intact we've drastically reduced the amount of ships that can come through. It's time to turn the fleet around and regroup to retake the wormhole!"
"In ten minutes Weyoun the Gate will be gone and our victory complete, we can take the wormhole at our leisure," Dukat retorted.
"And in those ten minutes we'll lose another thousand ships! We've already lost over a thousand in this battle as it stands, even the Dominion cannot endure the destruction of five or six thousand ships in so short a time!"
Dukat did not answer, prompting Weyoun to look pleadingly at the Founder. This made Dukat roll his eyes while his back was to them. While Weyoun's complaint made sense Dukat believed that the Alliance's ability to repair the Assembly might be greater than they expected, wiping it completely out was very much the preferable option. But he was not convinced the Changeling would have the stomach to risk her existance in direct battle.
"You have five minutes Dukat, then withdraw our forces so we can restore our focus on the real prize," the Founder finally said.
Dukat gave a nod, hoping that maybe his fleet could manage some lucky hits and manage the destruction he envisioned in half the time he believed necessary.
Unfortunately for all of them, they only had five seconds left.
At the fifth second ARWE-00015 took the full broadside of the Vesuvius, at a range and at relative velocities that it was impossible for the massive superdreadnought to miss her target. With her shields already slightly degraded from taking fire earlier in the battle the Dominion flagship was in no shape to endure the hits of nearly forty projectiles fired from the forty-eight 460mm HV coilguns on the Vesuvius.
Special counter-shield rounds, fired seconds before the others, broke down the ship's shields. Others slammed into the vessel's hull, blasting through it, twisting and warping the metals and ceramic alloys that made up the Dominion ship's structure, killing the Jem'Hadar crew and their Vorta officers across the ship. Weapon systems went offline. The electrical grid of the ship suffered extensive damage.
The armor-piercing rounds were the worst. The Dominion was perhaps the best of the native ST-3 powers in armoring their hulls, but even they had gotten too used to relying upon deflectors for protection and seeking greater speed in their designs. Where the AP rounds of the Vesuvius' coilguns would have only just penetrated the armor of a modern +40MT DWT warship in the rest of the Multiverse, they penetrated deeper into the Dominion ship's structure before going off, gouging out great chunks of the ship.
The other ships accompanying Vesuvius poured it on. More coilgun runs devastated the Dominion flagship while torpedoes blasted apart her warp nacelles and weapon emplacements. Particle cannon fire from the gun cruiser "below" Vesuvius excaberated the damage to the Dominion ship before the cruiser was crippled by concentrated fire by desperate Jem'Hadar ships, all now reacting to the threat posed to the Founder.
But it was too late for the Founder or for Dukat. As further fire struck their flagship, as Dukat gave desperate orders to break away, the Vesuvius fired another broadside. Jem'Hadar ships moving around the flagships proved a more effective shield than their remaining deflectors, taking sixteen of the projectiles themselves in a desperate attempt to preserve the Founder. The other rounds, however, hit home. The starboard warp nacelle on the ship ruptured and exploded as a result of an impact while the ship's insides were further ripped up by the attacks.
One of the shells, with an explosive warhead equivalent to a 500KT nuclear device, triggered its payload within meters of the bridge. The explosion tore the chamber apart, bathing everything inside with a burst of heat and energy that flash-fried every living thing. Even the Founder's robust form disintegrated in the inferno that resulted.
Skrain Dukat had thrown the dice. That throw had now decided his fate.
The destruction of the Dominion flagship threw the Dominion fleet in turmoil. Some Jem'Hadar and Vorta crews abandoned everything else in an attempt to rescue the Founder, to the extent that the cruiser-level ships even beamed aboard search teams to the stricken flag vessel to find her. The smaller attack craft turned into kamikazes and, in doing so, became a terror to the Alliance fleet. At these ranges even hitting the Jem'Hadar seemed insufficient to stop them. The Vesuvius's enhanced deflectors absorbed the suicide rams as best as they could while their division mates fared less well. Bayern's shields failed and a Jem'Hadar attack craft smashed into her port warp nacelle, blowing it apart. Sturdee suffered a grievous wound in her port hull from a pair of impacts and the Jellicoe lost a turret to a kamikaze from "above".
The Cardassians, meanwhile, reacted better. Even with the chaos of the Detepa Council's revolution in 2157 and the resultant Klingon invasions, Dukat's reforms to their officer corps after the diaster of the first war with the ADN had shown a lasting impact. There would be no sudden collapse of command authority as plagued them in the battles of their last war with the Alliance. Dukat's lieutenant on the Dunkorak, 1st Rank Gul Luret, took immediate command of the fleet. He made the immediate tactical judgement that the disarray caused by the sudden collapse in the Dominion fleet's discipline had made the battle unwinnable and ordered a complete withdrawal.
The problem, of course, was that the Dominion fleet had no intention of withdrawing, not when they were trying to rescue one of their gods. The Jem'Hadar ships began to gather around the stricken flagship, search parties being beamed aboard in a desperate attempt to recover the Founder, to save her.
Gul Luret was left with the uncomfortable choice of abandoning his allies or standing and fighting against an Alliance fleet that was recovering its footing. Initially he tried to help, diverting Cardassian formations to try and divert attention back to the Gate Assembly which, he knew, was Dukat's intent for the operation anyway. His orders were clear; give the Dominion forces time to verify if the Founder was alive, then withdraw upon confirmation of her status.
They were so clear, in fact, that when the Dunkorak succumbed to the broadsides of a pair of Alliance Canada-class battleships and the torpedoes of a starfighter flight, 2nd Rank Gul Uram immediately implemented them. The pride of the Cardassian fleet was burning and the Jem'Hadar and Vorta forces were too concerned with rescuing their Founder to fight an effective battle. Uram gave the fateful order: break off and retreat.
Fifteen hundred Cardassian ships began to pull away from the battle scene, leaving a Dominion force of nearly equal size to be hammered by the Alliance fleet. Their enemies were too busy trying to exploit the Dominion forces' disposition - and suffering for it from fanatical resistance and multiple suicide attacks - to engage in pursuit. The Cardassian fleet was home free.
That was, until the crash of radiation ahead of them heralded the arrival of a new party to the battle.
From his chair on the Defiant bridge Captain Sisko felt Defiant drop her warp field and slow to sublight in tandem with the rest of his ad hoc force. A Cardassian fleet was in front of them, moving to warp out of the system.... and right into Worf's gunsights.
He didn't need to give the order and Worf gave no report. Quantum torpedoes erupted from Defiant's forward launchers and punished a damaged Galor, which lost its bow systems to a burst of fire from the pulse phaser cannons under Worf's control.
That signaled the entire fleet to fire. Six hundred Starfleet and Klingon ships vented their fury upon the Cardassian fleet as it strove to escape the system. The battle-worn Cardassians, having no stomach for a renewed fight, broke away in a different direction despite Sisko's inferior numbers and began to flee. Each second doomed another Cardassian vessel to being stranded in the system from a disruptor to the warp drive or a torpedo to a primary energizer.
When the Cardassian ships finally went to warp Worf asked, "Sir, are we going to pursue?"
Sisko began to think about it when Nog spoke up. "Captain, receiving narrow-beam transmission from the Alliance fleet, Vice Admiral Lillian Desmond of the Fuso. On speaker."
A woman with a quaint-sounding English accent began to address them. "Captain Sisko, welcome to the fight. If you'd like, we'll continue to deal with the Dominion forces while you overtake those Cardassians."
"Sounds like a good idea to me, Admiral," Sisko agreed.
"Good then. Happy Hunting, Captain, Desmond out."
"Old Man, plot pursuit course."
Dax reacted immediately. "Relaying the information to Nog now for transmission to the fleet. Here we go."
And just as quickly as they had arrived, Sisko's fleet took off in hot pursuit of the Cardassians.
The Vorta Sayon looked grimly through his viewer at the stricken flagship of their fleet, watching reports come in from the Vorta and Jem'Hadar that had boarded the ship to find the Founder. His heart burned with anger at the flight of the Cardassians and he swore to punish them for their cowardice and refusal to help save the Founder.
Because deep down, Sayon could not let himself believe that a God was dead.
Oh, there were stories of Founders dying. But only from tremendous effort by others or, in one tragic case, at the hand of another Founder. And to lose a Founder, on his watch? That was a disgrace and Sayon could not let himself believe he had allowed such a thing.
But the reports didn't lie. Even as his ship shuddered from the impact of more fire from the enemy fleet, resisting the efforts of their small ARHT fleet (the "bug" ships, as even the Cardassians called them) to keep them away through suicide attacks, the search of the flagship failed to find the Founder. The bridge was gone, destroyed, only miniscule remnants of those who had been within it remaining.
The Founder was dead.
A god was dead.
And Sayon had been there to see it happen.
This couldn't be allowed to spread in the ranks, he knew. His Jem'Hadar, all of the Jem'Hadar in the Alpha Quadrant, would kill themselves in disgrace. Even with new ones being grown the moment of weakness would be too much, would fatally undermine their defense of Cardassia. And if Cardassia fell, there was nothing to hold the Alliance and the Federation back from invading the Gamma Quadrant. The Dominion had to hold a line here.
His First, Huran'takan, spoke up. "My men and I will end our lives in atonement for failing the Founder."
"You will do no such thing." Sayon directed his attention to his communications unit. "All ships, break off and retreat."
Sayon, being the most senior Vorta still alive, was immediately obeyed by the others. The Dominion forces broke away fromo their lost flagship, those aboard it being ordered to detonate the ship completely to avoid technological secrets from falling into enemy hands. Vessels without warp drives worked to cover the fleet's escape while all those capable of warp flight joined Sayon's ship in moving away from the battle and initiating their drives.
Once they were out of the combat range Huran'takan spoke up again. "Vorta, we have been defeated, and with the Founder dead our lives are forfeit."
"You would have to have a life for it to be forfeit," Sayon snapped. "Do you not remember what you told your men, Huran'takan, before the battle? 'We are dead. We go into battle to regain our lives. Victory is Life.' Well, there is no victory. You are still dead. You have no lives to forfeit. But you can regain that life to forfeit it by continuing to serve the Founders." Sayon looked down at a panel before him. "We will answer for our failure when the time comes, but before that time comes we will continue to serve the Founders by holding the Dominion here. We will.. punish the Cardassians who fled and we will prepare to reclaim the Wormhole. Only after we achieve that victory will your lives be regained for you to forfeit out of failure. Do you understand, First Huran'takan?"
"Yes, Vorta, I understand clearly. I will inform my men at once."
With that handled, Sayon went into thought on how to hide the news of the Founder's death and to keep the war going.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia
American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.
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