A dozen satellites from Nasera’s planetary defense system opened fire in parallel, unleashing a hellstorm of warheads in the direction of the USS Polaris and her sister ships.
“Evasive actions! Countermeasures! All weapons, fire, fire, fire!” shouted Fleet Admiral Reyes.
The ship lurched hard as countermeasures and phasers lanced out, every ounce of the Polaris’ offensive and defensive capabilities turned towards deflecting what it could of the incoming fire.
But Reyes knew it was futile. There was nothing they could muster to deflect sixty high velocity warheads. And this was only the first volley. Each satellite carried hundreds of warheads apiece, and they’d be ready to fire another barrage within seconds.
She braced for hell that was coming their way.
But hell never came.
The defense system, which had just moments before been under Dominion control, was now of a different mind. A half dozen warheads whizzed straight past the Polaris, impacting against a Jem’Hadar fighter in pursuit of the flagship. Another two dozen found their marks among the five Jem’Hadar fighters still engaged with the Diligent and the Ingenuity. And the remainder slammed headlong into the Jem’Hadar battlecruiser.
The sky was filled with fire, but it was the fire of her enemies.
Down in the network switch room beneath the control center of Nasera II’s planetary defense system, Chief Petty Officer Ayala Shafir’s hands flew across the keyboard as she manipulated the packet traffic to her own ends.
“Rot in hell,” she muttered under her breath. For Petty Officer Jason Atwood. For the five innocents who died alongside him. For the three kids they’d killed the day before. And for everyone else who had suffered or died under the sick subjugation of the Dominion.
Ayala’s eyes were filled with pure hate. She hadn’t just sabotaged the planetary defense system as had been the plan. Instead, she’d turned it against its master, and unloaded its full force upon those who’d brought so much pain to her, to her team, and to the people of Nasera. Her only regret was that their deaths were instant, and that they hadn’t suffered the excruciating pain and fear Petty Officer Jason Atwood had felt before they ruthlessly executed him.
While Ayala Shafir had removed the threat from the battlespace above, her choice had also alerted the Dominion to their presence. If she had just interrupted communications, the Dominion might have assumed a malfunction, but the planetary defense system accurately dispatched every warship in the night’s sky. That meant they knew it was sabotage, and they quickly isolated the source to the basement under the control center. The three operators heard the pounding of boots first, and then the Jem’Hadar descended upon them. A firefight broke out, and Shafir abandoned her PADD in favor of her phaser.
High above Nasera City on the orbital station, the explosion of the Jem’Hadar battlecruiser was so bright that Ryssehl Th’zathol and Crewman Nam Jae-Sun had to shield their eyes. Even their Jem’Hadar guard stood transfixed, trying to process the scene unfolding before them.
Suddenly, there was an uncharacteristic shift in the momentum of the station. Somewhere down below, the Vorta commander had realized the tides of battle had turned, and he’d given the order. The two covert operators knew what that meant. The Dominion was turning the massive weapons platform against Nasera City to ensure its industrial might would never return to the hands of the Federation. If the station completed its rotation, the city would be destroyed and millions would die. If they were going to act, they had to do it now.
Ryssehl looked over at Nam. The young crewman nodded. It was all the encouragement the Andorian needed. Without hesitation, Ryssehl leapt at their distracted Jem’Hadar guard, knocking him off his feet.
The two went into a scramble. Arms flew. Legs flew. Ryssehl tried to lock in a choke, but the Jem’Hadar plied the operator off his neck with brute force. Ryssehl went for a joint lock, but the Jem’Hadar rolled through it with precise agility. As seasoned as Ryssehl was after thirty years fighting along the borderlands, the Jem’Hadar warrior had him bested in strength, speed, and stamina. Move after move, counter after counter, the Jem’Hadar bested him in every way.
Eventually, the Jem’Hadar got the Andorian’s back. Ryssehl fumbled desperately to escape the blood choke, but the genetically-engineered supersoldier’s grip could not be broken. He was just too strong and too trained. The Jem’Hadar’s squeezed tightly with his burly arms, and Ryssehl could feel the blood leaving his brain. Any second now, the lights would go out.
As his vision began to dim, Ryssehl suddenly felt heat rising and smelled the odor of flesh burning. Standing over them, Crewman Nam Jae-Sun drove an active welding torch into the scaly back of their Jem’Hadar adversary. The warrior let out a howl as a 3100°C flame cut through his armor and his exoskeleton. His internal organs began to melt. The grip loosened as the Jem’Hadar died, and the Andorian rolled away before the torch finished burning through his lifeless carcass.
Nam Jae-Sun dropped the torch and stood there motionless with a stunned expression. Ryssehl knew that look. It was the look of a kid who had just taken his first life. Nam had trained with the Hazard Team for the last two years, but there was a big difference between shooting a hologram and burning a hole through a living creature, watching them scream as the life left their eyes.
“You’ll have time to process later,” Ryssehl said with urgency. “Right now, we have a station to disable.” Without another word, he snatched a communicator out of his bag. “Grok, I need a sitrep. How long until the orbital platform finishes its rotation and has a firing solution on Nasera City?” Crewman Nam Jae-Sun, standing next to him, was still trying to process.
“One one six seconds,” Grok replied instantly. Gone was the whisky he’d been sipping and the latinum strip he’d been threading between his fingers. Now, the Ferengi was fully wired in, tracking the movements of every element of the operation and calling the shots for the team as they executed on the surface and above.
Ryssehl recognized the issue immediately. Over the last two days, he and Nam had mapped out exactly where they needed to place the charges to disable the station, but 116 seconds was not enough time to get those charges in place and flee the station.
“Give me a countdown at 30 seconds,” Ryssehl requested of Grok as he grabbed his utility bag and rushed for the interior of the orbital station. As he ran, he pulled a sidearm out of the bag and tossed it at Nam. “Watch my six buddy,” he said as he drew another sidearm from the bag for himself.
As Ryssehl and Nam rounded the corner, the pair saw two Jem’Hadar standing there. Ryssehl fired a shot without slowing his stride. It hit true, right above the neck. Before he could aim at the second soldier, a crack rang out behind him as Nam shot the second Jem’Hadar dead. Ryssehl smiled. The kid was getting the hang of this killing thing.
Back on the Polaris, the bridge was abuzz as officers coordinated damage control and prepared for what would come next. They’d taken a few hard hits, but they were in relatively good shape. They needed to press forward to stop the orbital station before its armaments could be turned against Nasera City.
The tactical officer’s voice pierced the din of crosstalk: “We have incoming! Jem’Hadar patrol group bearing 230 mark 70, coming out of warp now. One battlecruiser, six fighters, vectoring for the Nebula and the Steamrunner.”
Reyes had hoped they’d have time to dispatch the orbital station, repair some damage and regroup as a squadron before the reinforcements returned from their patrol. But things did not always go to plan. The second wave of Jem’Hadar ships had returned early, and they were headed straight for the squadron’s weakest elements.
“Status of Steamrunner and Nebula?”
“Steamrunner is on life support, minimal shields, no weapons. Nebula is venting plasma, shields at 40%, weapons at 30%.” The two Starfleet ships had won their duel against the pair of Jem’Hadar fighters, but it had come at a steep price. Reyes didn’t even bother asking about casualties. There’d be many more before the day was done.
“Can the planetary defense grid cover them?” Reyes asked. If they were, the defense grid could do as it did with the other Dominion ships and delete the new attackers from the battlespace.
“Negative. They’re out of range,” replied the tactical officer. That’s why the Dominion patrol group was headed for them rather than the rest of the squadron. They were trying to draw the squadron away from the safety of the now-retaken planetary defense systems, and to distract them from the orbital platform until it could unleash armageddon upon the surface of Nasera II.
“Can they reposition?” If they could draw the Dominion’s forces into range of the planetary defense system, maybe Chief Shafir could kill them as she’d killed the others. Admiral Reyes had no idea that the team down there in the control center was now otherwise distracted with a Jem’Hadar firefight of their own.
“Negative. Steamrunner is completely dead in the water.”
Reyes looked out at the orbital station menacing in the distance as she debated her options. It sat there like a silent executioner waiting to drop the ax. She knew the threat it posed. Once it finished its rotation in less than ninety seconds, there would be nothing left of Nasera City. Millions would die. But she also couldn’t leave those two ships to their fate.
“Captain Vox, Commander Lee,” she said, addressing the captains of the Alita-class USS Diligent and the Pathfinder-class USS Ingenuity. “Go for the Steamrunner and Nebula. Norway with us. We’re going for the platform.” She was sending her best warship and the other most modern vessel among the group to defend the others, while the Polaris went for the orbital station. Even though the station was busy redirecting its primary weapons towards the planet, it still had dozens of torpedo launchers mounted aft to defend against the Polaris.
“Conn, set course for the orbital station. Best speed.”
The Diligent and the Ingenuity turned for their sister ships, while the Polaris and its Norway-class escort headed for the platform. Ahead of them, the orbital station let loose dozens of torpedoes. The Jem’Hadar had converted the station into a giant floating weapons platform.
“Vampire, vampire, vampire,” came the now too familiar call. The tactical officer didn’t even bother giving a count. It didn’t matter. Dozens of warheads hurled towards the Polaris for the second time, followed by dozens more as soon as the launchers reloaded.
“TAO, all power forward shields,” Reyes ordered. “All countermeasures. All weapons. Stop anything you can. Fire, fire, fire!” The Polaris dumped everything it had to try and stop the incoming warheads. The electronic countermeasures fizzled a couple, and the phaser sweeps detonated a few others early. But far too many were getting through.
“Brace, brace, brace!”
There was no amount of shielding that could avert the damage they were about to take, but all they needed to do was survive long enough to get in weapons range. As the first volley collided with the Polaris, Admiral Reyes began to wonder if they’d make it that far though. The Polaris shook violently as an endless barrage of torpedoes collided with her shields. And then it shook again, and again, and again. Reyes’ knuckles grew white as she held the armrests of the command chair, just trying to stay upright. No amount of inertial dampening could mitigate the violence of all the explosions.
“Hull breach, deck 7.”
Another round of torpedoes collided with the Polaris.
“Make that decks 7, 9, 11, 12, and 25.”
Another set of impacts.
“Shields at 29%. Launchers 3, 4 and 7 inoperable.”
The hits just kept coming. EPS relays exploded, crewmen were thrown across the deck, lights flickered, and a fire started at the Communications console. Reyes ignored it all.
“Just a little further,” she begged under her breath.
Suddenly, an immense explosion rocked the Polaris. That momentum shift launched a half dozen officers straight off their feet. Reyes didn’t care. It didn’t matter, not as long as the tactical officer was still strapped into his jump seat. She just needed him to pull the trigger to destroy the station. Their objective was nearing, and the timer was ticking down.
“Keep us on course for that station!” she screamed as the conn corrected their bearing.
If the admiral had asked what that massive explosion was, she would have been told that their Norway-class escort had blown apart. Its shields had given way a few seconds earlier, and it couldn’t sustain the charge any longer. It was gone, all hands lost. One hundred and ninety souls. But she didn’t ask. Her focus was completely on the target ahead of them.
Just as the USS Polaris came into weapons range, a shield emitter on the upper starboard saucer failed, and a volley of three torpedoes broke through. The warheads hit a critical series of junctions on decks 4 and 5. Over two dozen officers died in that moment. But the tactical officer reported even worse news: “We just lost all power to weapons!” Reyes could see the orbital station growing larger right in front of them. They were so close. But now they had no weapons to destroy it.
Fleet Admiral Reyes glanced over her shoulder at Captain Devreux, her dear friend and closest confidant. They made eye contact. He knew what she was thinking. She regretted she was thinking it. If it was just her, whatever. You pay your money, you take your chances. But there were sixteen hundred other Starfleet officers aboard the Polaris.
Captain Devreux nodded solemnly, giving his silent blessing. He was no warrior. He’d spent his years wandering the stars, exploring the mysteries of the universe. But in that moment, he understood. He felt the weight of duty. They were out of options. They had no other choice. They could not let eight million innocent civilians die.
“Conn, give me ramming speed,” Allison Reyes ordered, knowing it would be her final order.
Her voice did not falter. Her conviction did not waiver. All around the bridge, the crosstalk stopped. Everyone understood what that order meant. Allison Reyes looked forward with the determined look of a warrior ready to do her duty one last time.
“Ramming speed, aye.”