Part of USS Al-Batani: 001 – Uncertainty at Alim and Roosevelt Station: 001 – The Hunt

Prologue – The Battle of T’ien

USS South Carolina - Bridge
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The planet T’ien was paradise below them, its tower-cities reaching toward the sky and promising endless possibilities. Above was inferno, two massive fleets ripping each other apart. William Jenner was in purgatory, an island of calm in the midst of the madness.

It would not remain calm long.

Reports echoed through the bridge of ships lost, enemies destroyed. His command – Joint Alliance Command Valoris Sector – was massed here, tasked with protecting the Federation and independent worlds along the border from the Dominion fleet while harassing those same fleets to keep them from moving to the more critical Cardassia front. Today, there was only T’ien.

Out past the planet’s third and largest moon, the tactical displays showed the Dominion’s reserve force. Another thirty ships, atop the ninety-seven they had committed to this attack. Most of the initial force had been Jem’hadar and Cardassians. Expendable, by the calculus of the creature who commanded them.

The reserve fleet consisted entirely of Breen vessels, including the command ship. Gar’evek, the personal dreadnought of Thot Thanget.

In their brief time fighting each other, Thanget and Jenner had come to know one another quite well. A dozen engagements in a month’s time made for a relationship as intimate as many longtime friends, and that bond was built on blood spilled. Jenner’s command was a force cobbled together with what could be brought to bear quickly after the Breen hit Earth, what could be spared from refits and the Cardassian front, and the work they did was brutally dangerous.

Warspite and Mekh’ta fell under Jem’hadar weapons.

“Bring us up to cover the gap,” Jenner said. It was best not to move the flagship into direct fighting, but ten billion people called T’ien home. People Jenner knew well.

Zetian’s people. And, because they were her people, his people.

South Carolina was the ship that could fill the gap before the Dominion broke through it.

“Course set, Admiral,” Ensign Valaya said. She was the helmswoman, and one of the best pilots the Academy had produced this year. She got the big ship to move in startling and impressive ways.

“Three Jem’hadar attack ships on attack course!” Lieutenant Markin called out from Ops, and the bridge exploded in activity. Suddenly, the crew was thrown directly into the fight, and Captain T’Val spoke clearly above the din. Jenner, for his part, kept his attention on the larger battle. He shifted his weight as the ship rocked and shuddered.

“Direct hit! Target destroyed!”

“Forward shields at 75 percent!”

“Concentrate fire on the Cardassian cruiser,” T’Val said.

Jenner left command of the ship to T’Val. His eyes had to be on the fleet. “Frigate wings, attack the enemy’s left flank. Warbirds to the center. Starfleet heavy ships to support the warbird attack.”

The Dominion line buckled as the huge Romulan ships hit it, their disruptors and plasma torpedoes tearing through shields and hulls. Since joining the war, the Romulans had been an indispensable ally; Jenner barely remembered what it had been to fight without them. As the Romulans opened a hole in the Dominion fleet, the big Starfleet cruisers pushed through, introducing chaos to the structured Cardassian ranks and cutting Jem’hadar attack ships off from their support.

The battle was theirs. Jenner’s people would leave blood and lives in orbit of T’ien, but the battle was theirs.

“Warp signatures!” Markin called out. “Identifying… the Breen reserves!”

“They’re hitting the Klingons on our left,” Valaya said. “They’re not going to hold!” Indeed, even as she spoke, Jenner saw it. Gar’evek had come in hard, dropping out of warp in punching range of two squadrons of birds of prey before annihilating them with her torpedoes. Even as more Klingon ships broke off to pursue, Thanget pushed forward.

He can’t take the system. Even with his reserves, he’s not going to win here. Why would he… He felt the blood drain from him. “All available ships, move to intercept Gar’evek. That means us!”

T’Val gestured forward. “Full speed.”

South Carolina broke away from her fight, diving with all speed toward the planet, racing to reach an intercept point before Thanget achieved his target. The Klingons harried the dreadnought, but Gar’evek shrugged them off, disruptors lancing at birds of prey like a man swatting flies. As they approached, Valaya and Markin spoke at once.

“We’re in weapons range!”

Gar’evek firing!”

And two volleys of torpedoes appeared on Jenner’s tactical display. The nearer, from South Carolina, streaked toward Gar’evek. The aim was perfect, and there was no way the dreadnought could maneuver to avoid them.

The second was from Gar’evek, and their target wasn’t the Starfleet ship. It was the planet below. Jenner heard a cry of rage and frustration and helplessness and despair. It would be days before he understood that it was his own.

The tower-city of Fortune’s Promise was hit by two of the Breen torpedoes.

Gar’evek is hit,” Markin said. “Hull breaches on multiple decks. She has gone to warp.”

“The Dominion fleet is withdrawing,” Valaya said. “Klingons are in pursuit.”

Jenner spoke quietly. “Call them back.”

History on Earth would recall the Battle of T’ien as a victory for the Alliance. An entire sector held, significant Dominion reserves kept away from the Battle of Cardassia.

On T’ien, a year later, a monument was erected on the site of Fortune’s Promise, to remember the brave souls of Starfleet and the Klingon Empire and the Romulan Empire who had fought and died to keep that world safe, and the five hundred million civilians dead in one horrible moment.