Chapter 29

Ops Module, Deep Space 9

Denorios Belt, Bajor System

13:17 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.070291

 

Ramon looked over the PADD and nodded approvingly, “Colonel, I appreciate your loaning Mr. Nog and his crew to assist our repairs.” She stood with Kira in the pit at the center of Ops. Immediately after the altercation between the Aldrin and the Columbia, ended by precision fire from the station, Kira had offered Deep Space 9’s facilities to repair the damaged starship and tend her crew’s wounds – all under the condition that the Columbia stay at the station until given the all-clear by Clark.

Kira took the PADD as Ramon offered it to her, “I’m just glad we could help, Captain. Was Doctor Bashir able to release Ensign Haveft?”

“He should be back on duty this evening,” Ramon said.

“Colonel,” ch’Thane called from a station a level higher. “Neutrinos from the wormhole.” Kira and Ramon looked up at the elliptical viewscreen as the wormhole blossomed open. The Bajoran crossed her arms as ch’Thane added, “Reading a Dominion signature. It’s huge!”

“Stand by for red alert,” Kira calmly ordered.

A massive Dominion battleship exited the wormhole; its breadth was so wide that it trailed a wake of glowing blue neutrinos off of its wings. The battleship was roughly triangular in shape, with huge warp nacelles mounted a kilometer apart on heavily-braced wings that were swept down and towards the rear. Ramon’s mouth fell open as the ship turned towards the station, “My god…”

An officer behind them announced, “We’ve been hailed. They want to beam over a representative for discussions.”

Kira kept her gaze on the viewscreen, “Discussions about what?”

“Doesn’t say.”

The colonel walked up out of the pit towards a locker at the edge of Ops. She opened the door and pulled out a pair of phaser rifles, “Signal we agree to accept their representative.” Kira handed one of the rifles to ch’Thane and the other to a nearby Bajoran security officer. The two ran towards the empty transporter pad, taking up positions on either side, holding their rifles at the ready should anything hostile be beamed over. Kira stepped between them, standing a meter directly in front of the pad.

“Transport incoming,” ch’Thane announced. The transporter pad lit up orange and a sparkling patchwork-gridded column of energy appeared. It quickly formed into Odo, who stared sternly ahead at Kira, “Colonel.”

She barely nodded, “Constable.” ch’Thane and the Bajoran guard lowered and deactivated their rifles.

Odo stepped forward off of the transporter pad, and skipping pleasantries bluntly asked, “Have you spoken with Captain David Clark?”

Kira nodded again, “A week ago when the Aldrin stopped on its way to the Gamma Quadrant.”

Noticing the bewildered look on Ramon’s face, Odo said to Kira, “I’m on your side, Nerys. Did the Aldrin make it back?”

“Thirty hours ago,” Kira admitted. “They’re en route to Earth.”

“I was not aware of this until quite recently,” Odo said. “There are two Jem’Hadar attack ships equipped with cloaking devices in the Alpha Quadrant. They were not withdrawn at the end of the war and fell under the command–”

Kira finished the sentence, “The Founder impersonating Admiral Russell.”

“Yes.”

She turned around and ordered, “Cancel the communications array diagnostic and open a priority one channel to the Aldrin.” Kira slowly stepped down into the pit, followed by Odo.

ch’Thane quickly worked his console, “I can’t connect to the Aldrin.”

“Starfleet Command, then,” Kira said. “Admiral William Ross.”

“Colonel,” ch’Thane said, looking up at the viewscreen. The image of the hulking battleship had been replaced by a view of Starfleet Headquarters on Earth. A column of smoke rose from a demolished building at the edge of the complex, obscuring the bridge and city beyond.

“What happened?” Ramon asked, feeling her stomach twist. The sight was eerily similar to the destruction wrought on Starfleet Headquarters after the surprise Breen attack five years earlier.

“Report says explosion at an admiralty office,” ch’Thane read off his console.

Kira couldn’t look away from the screen, “Priority one channel to Admiral Ross. Now.”

 

U.S.S. Aldrin

Sector 015

13:20 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.075541

 

Jensen gripped her chair as the pair of cloaked ships fired again, their polaron beams striking the same point of the armor towards the bow. Murphy grimly announced, “Armor locally at sixty one percent.”

Kelley growled from the helm, “I would kill just to have thrusters right now.”

“They’re not firing as quickly as they could be,” Murphy said with mock cheerfulness.

R’Mor had moved back to the side of the science station, looking at the screens with Toq’bae, “The cloak takes an enormous amount of power. They probably can’t cycle their disruptors as quickly without dropping cloak.” She looked up from the screen, “How did they get a cloak?”

Jensen asked, “Remember the Tal Shiar/Obsidian Order strike on the Founders?”

“That was seven years ago?” Toq’bae said.

R’Mor corrected, “Eight. I was still with Romulus then.”

“They took forty cloaking devices into battle,” Jensen said. “There were several Cardassian and Romulan survivors; it stands to reason that they recovered tech like the cloaking devices too.”

“Wait a minute,” Kelley turned her chair to face into the bridge. “If the DM had cloaking devices before the war, why didn’t they ever use them? They could have crippled the Alpha Quadrant in weeks!”

“Not that we’d want that,” Murphy quipped.

The bridge shuddered again as polaron beams impacted the armor. Jensen squinted at the viewscreen, certain that she’d seen the illuminated outline of one of the cloaked ships, “I’m not sure, but Starfleet Intelligence’s best theory is that they weren’t able to replicate the technology.”

R’Mor craned her neck to look around Toq’bae’s head, “Well, they’ve at least been able to implement it.”

“I have an idea!” Toq’bae announced excitedly. R’Mor stepped back, surprised by his enthusiasm.

“Do tell, Professor,” Jensen said, turning towards him.

Toq’bae tapped his console a few times, “A high-yield antiproton burst would trigger a tachyon resonance overload and disable their cloaks.”

R’Mor moved back to the ops arc, “And without proper impedance filtering the overload could cascade through their entire power system.”

“Do we have the power to do that?” Jensen asked.

“We’ll have to draw from auxiliary,” Toq’bae said.

R’Mor added, “And it will probably blow half the relays on the Aldrin. And maybe the fusion generators too.”

Jensen tapped her combadge, “Bridge to engineering.”

 

Danbury Office Complex, Starfleet Headquarters

Sausalito, California

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

13:25 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.084996

 

Clark stepped to the side as a pair of officers carried away the limp body of one of the Enterprise’s security officers. He kept his tricorder pointed at the rubble a few meters ahead of him, slowly sweeping back and forth as he moved forward. Ross walked up beside him, “Anything?”

“Nothing.” Clark shook his head.

Ross growled, “Damn Changelings. He could be anything in here.”

“He could have drifted away as smoke or a bird,” Clark mused. “He could be my tricorder.”

“Where did you get that tricorder?” Ross asked suspiciously.

Clark paused and looked down at the handheld scanner. He turned it over and removed the back panel, holding the palm-sized metal plate in his other hand for a few seconds. Satisfied that it wasn’t about to revert to gelatinous gold, he replaced the panel and resumed scanning, “Pretty sure I brought it with me.”

Ross’s burned combadge beeped and a female voice called out, “Command to Admiral Ross.”

He tapped the badge, causing the top half of the damaged casing to fall off, “Ross here.”

“Admiral, we’re receiving a priority one message from Deep Space 9. Colonel Kira says it’s about the Aldrin?” Clark’s head snapped up from his tricorder.

Ross quickly replied, “Beam me and Captain Clark directly to the Primary Command Center.”

“Stand by for transport.” The pair were whisked away by the aquamarine shimmer of a transporter beam.

 

U.S.S. Aldrin

Sector 015

13:27 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.088791

 

R’Mor’s console beeped loudly, drawing her attention down from the viewscreen. She reported, “Power’s been taken from life support.”

“That’s fine,” Jensen sighed. “If this doesn’t work we won’t need it anyway.”

The cloaked attack ships fired again, digging deeper into the ablative armor. Murphy grimly announced, “Armor down to twenty six percent.”

Jensen’s combadge beeped, “Vorik to bridge.”

She tapped the communicator, “Bridge here.”

“We’re ready, Commander.”

The Aldrin shuddered again under the paired fire. Jensen nodded, “Let’s light them up.”

Vorik’s voice came through the combadge, “Charging buffers.” The already dimmed overhead lighting turned even weaker and the bright consoles and screens around the bridge momentarily dimmed.

R’Mor spoke as she worked the ops arc, “Transferring deflector control to tactical.”

Murphy replied, “Got it. Target locked.”

“The deflector is fully charged,” Vorik reported.

Jensen took a deep breath and gripped her chair, anticipating chaos to follow her next command, “Fire.”

The Aldrin’s glowing blue deflector dish, mounted facing forward in the bulge at the bottom of the saucer section, flashed white and emitted a brilliant white energy beam several meters across straight ahead. The beam stopped at a point roughly between the two cloaked ships, forming a bright and rapidly growing ball of energy.

The bridge shook and rumbled, with conduits erupting and sparks flying from practically every direction. Toq’bae shouted, “Antiproton discharge at thirty percent!”

Jensen cursed under her breath as a panel fell loose from the overhead and crashed to the deck right in front of her. She turned up to Toq’bae, “How much longer?”

He reported again, “Sixty percent!” The viewscreen flickered with static, but the quickly brightening sphere of energy from the deflector shone through. “Ninety percent! Ninety fi– hold on to someth–”

The energy beam from the deflector ceased, leaving the quickly-formed ball of antiprotons seemingly alone in space. Without the additional energy input from the Aldrin, the antiprotons collapsed in on themselves, unleashing a blinding burst of light and energy. The blast washed over the cloaked vessels, revealing them as Jem’Hadar attack ships and then smashed into the Aldrin with enough force to push the vessel back.

 

Primary Command Center, Starfleet Headquarters

Sausalito, California

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

13:29 Hours, February 9th, 2380

Stardate 57108.092586

 

Clark and Ross materialized at the edge of the Primary Command Center, the nerve center of Starfleet, located at one end of the headquarters complex tower. Behind them was a bank of windows overlooking the bay, ahead was a space some fifteen meters square and five tall. The floor gradually stepped down away from the windows, with a rows of consoles lined up facing a wall-filling screen on the far end, itself divided into multiple segments that provided an overview of the entirety of Starfleet operations at the moment. At the base of the screen was a trio of large planning tables, essentially two-by-four-meter screens mounted horizontally; a pair of similar tables sat in the empty space at the back of the room. A wide open-air observation bridge hung across the back end of the command center, giving any observing officials an overview of the entire operation.

Over a hundred officers sat at the rows of consoles, managing everything from communications to logistics to astrometrics. About a dozen stood up against the windows, peering to the left at the smoking crater in the center of the Danbury offices. They were mostly lieutenant commanders, commanders, and captains, with only a handful of ensigns and lieutenants visible. The appearance of the burned and bloodied Ross and Clark drew the attention of several officers.

Ross ignored an approaching commander and immediately headed for a nearby planning table. With a few taps ,a hologram of Kira appeared in front of him, just to the side of the table. Kira looked over the battered uniform and body, “Oh Prophets, you weren’t in there?”

“The Aldrin?” Ross asked promptly.

Kira looked up and down over Ross again, before answering, “There are…” she looked around, “Where are you?”

“Primary Command Center,” the Admiral said.

“You might want this in private…” Kira said.

An alarm sounded inside the tiered command center, drawing Ross’s attention away from Kira’s hologram. A Denobulan captain towards the front stood and shouted, “Get a fix on that!”

“What’s going on?” Kira asked, only getting the hologram of Ross transmitted to Deep Space 9. The massive screen reconfigured itself, with a large space map taking up the center half.

Ross took a few steps forward and barked, “Status!”

A Human commander at the back row of consoles turned around, “Admiral, Sensor Station 471 at Trill has detected two Jem’Hadar attack ships in Sector 015.”

“Where did they come from?” Ross asked.

“They decloaked,” Kira said, crossing her arms.

Ross whirled around, “What?”

Clark slowly spoke, “The Aldrin is in 015.”

“They were under Russell’s command,” Kira’s hologram said.

“The Fifth Fleet’s Galaxy Wing is in 015,” Clark said. “They should have recovered by now.”

Ross squinted at him, “Recovered from what?”

“I’ll explain later,” Clark said.

Ross turned back to the commander, “Get me Captain M’Reng of the Ticonderoga.”