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Part of USS Polaris: Infiltrate and Liberate Nasera (The Lost Fleet – Part 1) and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

When Convictions and Concerns Collide

Briefing Room, USS Polaris
Mission Day 11 - 1050 Hours
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For the last two years, the USS Polaris had been a bastion of research and exploration. Now, it would become something completely different, a warship leading the charge against an age old enemy. In just a few hours, they would depart, and in less than three days time, they would engage the Jem’Hadar in the skies over Nasera to liberate the colony from the shackles of Dominion occupation.

Standing together in front of the wide sloping windows of the briefing room, Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes and Captain Gérard Devreux looked out at the ships gathering around them in the Eplulap Nebula. Its thick gaseous composition masked their emissions, and just under a three days’ hop from their target, it made the perfect staging area.

“I can’t help but think we don’t have enough ships,” Captain Devreux remarked regretfully. “And not the right ones either.” He was no battle hardened veteran, but it didn’t take one to recognize the issue. Force strength and force composition were far from ideal.

“No, the Steamrunner, the Norway, and the Nebula, they might as well have been pulled straight out of the seventies,” Fleet Admiral Reyes conceded. If they’d been able to muster the right vessels, they’d have had twenty five years of technical developments over the Lost Fleet, but those three vessels looked straight out of the original Dominion War. “We’re lucky Task Group 514 even relented on giving us those.”

“At least the Fourth Fleet sent us a couple that don’t look like antique museum pieces,” Devreux laughed as he looked portside at the Alita-class USS Diligent and the Pathfinder-class USS Ingenuity. The USS Diligent was a warship through and through, but the USS Ingenuity was really just a modern science vessel. It could have been worse though. It could have been a base model Intrepid.

“We’re going to have to rely on the fact we know how we beat them last time, and they have no memory of it,” Reyes remarked. “But by the numbers and the way they’re dug in, it’s not going to be easy, even if Commander Lewis pulls off the mission on the ground.” 

“Any word from the Commander today?”

“Yes, we got the latest data dump by narrow beam this morning,” Reyes answered. “It was very thorough.” Commander Lewis had included ground observations ranging from patrol vectors to technical telemetry, and Ensign Elyssia Rel had even developed an opinion on the strengths of the various pilots.

“And how’s the progress on their objectives?”

“Less certain.”

“How so?”

“The Dominion ground presence is much heavier than expected, and they’ve got the control center locked down like a fortress. Lewis’ team is still trying to figure out a plan.”

Devreux quirked his brow. With less than three days left, they were cutting it close. If the planetary defense system was still operable and under Dominion control when they arrived, they wouldn’t stand a chance against the combined strength of the fixed defenses and the Dominion forces.

“Don’t worry Gérard,” the admiral assured her colleague calmly. “Commander Lewis will get it done. He always does.” She did wonder at what cost though. As time grew shorter, Lewis would grow more and more desperate and would take greater and greater risks. In fact, he might already be doing that. Just last night, they’d lost a team member. She didn’t have full details yet, but it was a concerning development about the health and mindset of the team. Reyes didn’t share that with Devreux though. He’d find out later, but for now, it simply wouldn’t help his mental state.

“I hope you’re right Allison,” Devreux mused as he stroked his chin in contemplation. “You always put so much faith in him.” It was dangerous to believe so much in one man, especially against the might of an enemy as ruthless and effective as the Dominion.

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Admiral Reyes knew her friend was right. Commander Lewis’ team might fail. If that happened, they’d be lambs to the slaughter. But she didn’t vocalize her thoughts. She needed Devreux’s head in the game. It wasn’t worth letting him spiral down the worry train, so instead she just gave him a stare that said it was not a discussion she was willing to have. The lives of 8 million Federation citizens and the industrial powerhouse of Nasera City hung in the balance.

Knowing he wouldn’t make any progress with his stubborn boss, Captain Devreux shifted gears as he looked back out at the ships floating around them in the nebula. “What do you know about the other captains?”

“Captain Dorian Vox of the Diligent is a frontier flyboy,” Reyes explained. “He should have his head in the game. And thank god for that since he’s got our only real warship.” Then she glanced at the Pathfinder-class vessel that lingered near the Diligent off their port side. “Commander Cora Lee of the Ingenuity, she’s an engineering prodigy but new to the command chair. It waits to be seen if her technical skills translate to the trials of war.” Reyes had once been where Commander Cora Lee now was. She’d made the transition just fine during the last confrontation with the Dominion, and she wanted to believe the same for this young woman.

“What about the others?”

“Unfortunately, I don’t really have any idea,” Reyes admitted. The other three were complete unknowns with little on their dossiers as they had each risen to command during the nineties while the Federation had turned in on itself. “But we’re going to find out soon enough.”

As if right on queue, the door chimed, and the commanding officers of their ragtag mission group began filing in for the briefing she had called.

Fleet Admiral Reyes greeted each with a calm and confident demeanor, one almost regal in nature. She had a role to play, the flag officer that would lead them into combat unlike any most had ever seen. When at last everyone was seated, Reyes took her position at the head of the table and began the briefing.

“In less than two hours’ time, we will depart the Eplulap Nebula and set course for Nasera II,” she began. While they knew they’d been assigned to a mission group under the admiral, up until now, she’d withheld sharing any information about where they were going or what they were going to do. She didn’t want Task Group 514 or Starfleet Command to have a chance to stop them, and the warning from Vice Admiral Beckett still weighed heavy on her mind. “And we are going to liberate it from the Dominion.”

The assembled commanding officers glanced at each other with surprise and nervousness.

“You mean the Breen, right?” asked the Bolian CO of the Steamrunner, stuttering with his words.

“No, Commander Gelar,” interjected a sharp-looking officer that Admiral Reyes knew to be Captain Dorian Vox, the frontier flyboy in command of the Alita-class USS Diligent. “She means the Dominion. It’s as I’ve told you all. These aren’t just some Breen refurbs. The Dominion is back.” Vox folded his arms with a proud, vindicated look.

“Even if what you’re saying is true,” said the Andorian Captain of the Nebula-class vessel with a doubtful and obstructionist tone. “Nasera is no man’s land. Our TGCO has been very clear about it.” Admiral Reyes looked unimpressed. If Task Group 514 hadn’t sat on their asses for so long, they wouldn’t be having to liberate a Federation industrial center right now. “We can’t go there.”

“You don’t seem to be getting it, Captain Sh’vaari,” Captain Vox snarled. “The Fleet Admiral here said that that’s where we’re going, and your boat is now a part of her mission group, so you are going too.” Vox’s word choice and demeanor were very aggressive, but Reyes liked it. This was clearly a man frustrated with sitting idle while Starfleet’s inaction allowed Federation worlds to fall. “It’s time we stick it to these bastards.”

An awkward silence fell over the room. The Bolian and the Andorian looked like they were considering snapping back, but if they did, they’d run into the brick wall that was Reyes, Devreux and Vox. In between them, the COs of the Norway and Pathfinder were still unknowns.

Commander Cora Lee, the engineering prodigy from the Pathfinder-class USS Ingenuity, jumped in to break the silence: “Admiral, what do we know about the situation in the Nasera system?” Reyes was relieved that her tone was more curious than hesitant. She wanted to believe in the young woman.

The admiral pulled up an astrometric layout of the Nasera system. “As of this morning, there were a dozen attack ships and two battlecruisers stationed in the Nasera system. The bulk of their forces are concentrated over Nasera II,” Reyes explained, pointing at a large cluster of ships. “The remainder is on a rotation with the following vectors.” Now the display shifted to include several tracks that looped Nasera II and the outlying planets. “This group, always including a battlecruiser, has been tracked on a consistent set of loops that cover the occlusions cast by the outer planets.” This meant no warping into a blind spot, but it also meant the Dominion forces would almost certainly be divided when they arrived. It was a critical pattern Lewis’ team had uncovered, and Reyes planned to use it to their advantage. 

“You said as of this morning Admiral,” pointed out Captain Vox. “How do you have all this intelligence? Frankly, we haven’t seen anything about Nasera in weeks.” In fact, the intelligence shared down into the ranks had been beyond spotty sector-wide.

“We have a team on the ground,” smiled Admiral Reyes.

“You have what?” asked the Andorian.

“We weren’t informed you guys were already operating in our AO,” insisted the Bolian.

“There’s a lot that your senior staff has neglected to tell you,” Admiral Reyes replied firmly, frustration clear in her tone. She had no love for Starfleet’s leadership at this moment, except for Fourth Fleet Command. She considered the rest of them complicit in letting the Dominion get this far. “But that’s neither here nor there. What I can tell you is this intelligence is accurate, collected by a team of seasoned operators, and it’s going to give us the edge.”

She dared anyone to speak, but no one did. 

“This is only half of this team’s purpose,” Reyes continued as she made a gesture on her PADD to reveal a new set of nodes forming a web of satellites ringing the entire surface of the planet. “This is Nasera’s planetary defense grid, built by the Corps of Engineers in 2380 as a deterrent against Breen aggression,” she explained. “The Dominion has gained control of this system, and it’s presumably why they have only stationed a small contingent of ships above the planet. The network of fixed orbital systems all but dooms any planetary assault unless we were to commit a task force equivalent number of vessels to the assault.”

The commanders and captains glanced nervously at each other. They were trying to make sense of where this was going, how the admiral thought their small wing of six ships had any shot. The way she described it sounded a lot more like a suicide run.

“Our team on the ground will execute an operation to sabotage this system the instant we arrive,” Reyes explained. If they did it any sooner, it would tip off the Dominion, and they’d have time to recall their patrol group and bring in outside reinforcements.

“Are you sure your team will be successful?” asked Commander Lee. “I worked on systems like these in other sectors. If they fail, we will get chewed up by that defense system.”

“Yes, I have full confidence in them,” Reyes assured her. There was no hint of concern in her voice, even after the conversation she’d just had with Captain Devreux. 

Captain Vox was ready to get on with it, so he changed the subject rather than let his colleagues dwell on this uncertainty. “And what’s that, Admiral?” He asked, pointing at a single large object over Nasera City that they hadn’t yet discussed.

“That is an old weather station converted into a weapons platform by the Dominion. While it is a threat for us, it is a much bigger threat to the colony. It carries enough ordinance to flatten Nasera City,” Reyes explained.

“Just like they did to Cardassia during the Dominion War?” the Andorian asked, his tone suddenly shifting towards anger, almost as if he had a personal history with that genocide.

“Just like it, Captain,” Reyes nodded grimly. “Presently, it is aligned to supplement the planetary defenses, but its onboard thrusters should be able to effectuate a full rotation within two to three minutes once the Dominion realizes the game is up.” The Dominion would have no qualms doing it, especially as it would deprive a valuable industrial center from the Federation.

“So we have to defeat the Dominion ships and rush the platform, all within a couple minutes, before the patrol group gets back or the orbital weapons platform can be turned against the city, all while praying your team on the ground somehow successfully sabotages the planetary defense network so we don’t get blown to bits by a defense grid we built?” asked the Norway CO incredulously. It was the first time he’d spoken, dumbfounded by everything he was hearing, but he couldn’t stay quiet anymore. He’d heard enough. He didn’t get into Starfleet to get turned to stardust.

“Something like that,” smiled Reyes, unperturbed. 

“Excuse my French, but this seems fucking crazy,” the Norway CO retorted.

“Our team on the ground is working on a way to take the orbital platform out too.”

“Of course they are…” He wasn’t buying what Reyes was selling.

“I assume that it can’t be disabled from the ground?” asked the Bolian, piling on with his colleague. This all sounded like a science fiction holoprogram, not a real plan. “How are they going to get up there to pull that off?”

“We’re not sure yet,” the admiral admitted. “And that’s why it’s on the list of objectives we may have to take on.”

The Norway CO and the Bolian from the Steamrunner did not look impressed, but at least the Andorian from the Nebula was no longer overtly hostile since learning of the possible repeat of the Cardassian genocide. 

Captain Devreux sat there observing the whole exchange, and he did not like what he saw. If they echoed their doubts back to their crews, or if they hesitated in their orders when the battle began, the mission would be lost. “Listen folks, there are eight million innocent colonists down there,” Devreux pleaded. “We’ve got firsthand reports of the conditions down there, the beatings, the torture, the public executions. If that doesn’t bother you, hand your pips over to someone willing to do something about it.” His conviction caught even Reyes off guard. Devreux was a deep space explorer who’d dodged combat more than most, but this was war, and if he could get with the program, they needed to as well. 

“Well I don’t know about you folks,” Captain Dorian Vox chimed in with a mix of conviction and excitement. “But I’m in.”

“The USS Ingenuity stands ready as well Admiral,” Commander Cora Lee declared. She wasn’t sure she wouldn’t regret it, but her conscience couldn’t live with sitting idle on the sidelines.

The others took a while longer, but eventually everyone else got there too. The briefing then turned constructive, the remaining time spent devising attack patterns, reviewing timings, and planning for contingencies. By the end, while there were certainly still nerves, the obstructionism was gone, and Reyes felt fairly confident they’d all see it through.

As Admiral Reyes prepared to close the meeting, she gave one last order: “To be clear, from this moment forward, until we are safely in control of Nasera, we are on a complete comms blackout. By the time you each return to your ships, your comms officers will have received this order. No interstellar comms at all. Not to your kids, your spouses, or your command staff. We are going ghost. We cannot take the risk that the Dominion intercepts our plan.” It would also help keep the idle idiots within Starfleet from trying to stop her until they had accomplished their mission.

Fleet Admiral Reyes and Captain Devreux watched them all leave. Once it was just the two of them, Devreux offered his read: “It took a little while, but I think we got them all there. They’ll show up on game day.”

“Now it just comes down to execution,” Reyes replied. But that was still a tall order. This was not a task force of battle hardened veterans on warships. It was just a small smattering of inexperienced captains and commanders with limited firepower. And that was only if the risky covert operation was successful. Otherwise, it would be far worse.

Comments

  • After you've written such deeply personal character studies, I appreciate the bird's eye perspective of this post. A helpful step back to reflect on the overall strategy of Polaris Squadron; evaluating the pros and cons of combating the Dominion with ships practically from the Dominion War versus new technology. In one short paragraph, you expertly painted the tragedy of the USS Polaris being transformed into a ship of war. I like the way that same discomfort permeated the whole story, as the differing factions within Starfleet caused conflict between the commanding officers of Polaris Squadron. That doesn't bode well at all!

    May 19, 2023
  • This is a wonderful insight of a debrief from a whole different level. A task group level that will pitch into the dark of what is about to happen. The commanders of the other ships are frightful and unsure which reflects the post quite well. But it was time to get to work and Reyes gives that point of view very well.

    May 20, 2023
  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Gérard Devreux

    Squadron Deputy Commander (Mobile Element)
    USS Polaris Commanding Officer

  • Dorian Vox

    Squadron Strategic Ops Officer
    USS Diligent Commanding Officer

  • Cora Lee

    Squadron Engineering Officer
    USS Ingenuity Commanding Officer