– USS Mariner –
The situation was dire for the Mariner crew. They had to deliver the Vorta twins at any cost to end this mission successfully. But with the communication down, reaching out to the Dominion would be difficult. The choice to wait was not available. Starfleet had lost enough people already in this forsaken history lesson of war, and Sazra was not going to let more people die because of another setback.
The Mariner had already passed Galadkail system. “We arrre closing in on Ciatarrr Nebula!” K’Nala stated while keeping her console in check while flying the Pathfinder to their destination.
“Status on the communication system?!” Sazra looked at Drata.
“It is still down, but Commander Valerio is doing his best to repair it as soon as possible,” Drata reported it from the Operation console. “I am trying to redirect energy to dedicated systems to help reboot the system and bypass the current relays, but no success so far”
Nodding to him, “Keep it up, Lieutenant, Miki get the ship to yellow alert” Sazra was now barking the orders around as her eyes focused on the main screen. The lights changed to yellow, and the general alert went off throughout the ship. They were entering yellow alert, and everyone rushed to their stations.
The two Vorta’s, stood near the Captain while the Jem’Hadar soldiers stood more in the back. “I do believe that would be considered provoking the honorable Jem’Hadar Captain, I would advise you not to raise your shields right now” Dezod pointed out.
“If I do not raise my shields right now, we will be shot out of the space the second we arrive.” Sazra painfully stated the obvious.
“While that might be true, you do not expect us to believe they would fire upon a ship that holds the representatives of their gods?” Rahis smirks a bit with her glorifying her status a bit more.
Silina shook her head. “How would they even know you are on board if our communication systems are down?” It was a certain dilemma that the command team had to face and Silina saw the realization of the Vorta sink in.
“So what is your plan, Captain? Barge into their space? That would be suicide” Dezod shook his head “And your mission would be a failure if we would die” Noting how important they were and not giving care to the rest of the crew made some on the bridge shrug.
“This ship is great on holding out, maneuvering quickly. We need to give time to Valerio to fix the communication system and get closer to their battleships so that the broadcast can deliver the message that you guys are here” Sazra shrugged a bit. “But it would mean that other Starfleet ships might come to aid of us, confused of what we are doing. We are not fleeing but going deeper. They will fire upon your citizens”
Rahis narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms looking at the screen. “Then let us hope your engineer is as good as you tell him to be” She knew that the loss of these honorable soldiers would be bad, but a few more losses would not matter in the outcome. “Get it done Captain”
“Jumping out of warrrp in 4…3…2..1” K’Nala announced as the Mariner jumped out of warp arriving at the Ciatar Nebula. At the edge of the Nebula, a squad of Dominion ships started to respond to the Mariner's drop-in. Jem’Hadar fighters started to push for intercept course as two Battlecruisers got into position. The large battleship stayed in position, but every ship powered up for combat.
Drata looked up from his console. “They have definitely noticed us” He saw the ships approaching. “I got two squads of fighters that will hit our location in less than 30 seconds, followed by the two cruisers”
Taking a deep breath “K’Nala, I am counting on your skills….Miki keeps the shields up at any cost and keep weapons on standby” Quickly tapping on her combadge “Kobahl to Valerio, I know you are busy…but we depend on you to get the communication system back. We will hold out as long as needed Kobahl out” Sazra looked at Rahis. “Let's get this over with” She looked at the screen and motioned her hand forward. “Make her move Lieutenant, intercept course that battleship” The Mariner engines started to glow brighter as they pushed themselves forward toward the incoming forces.
The battle would be noticed on the sensors in surrounding areas that Starfleet sensor buoys would see.
– USS Valhalla –
Captain's log: supplemental. The Valhalla Squadron has been ordered to reinforce Galadkail, located near the Ciatar Nebula. It has been a rough few weeks for this squadron. For many, Arkan II has been their first taste of combat. Captain Murphy and I have been leaning on our experienced senior chiefs, like Chief Charles Gibson. Only time will tell if our crews will bend or break under the pressure. After seeing the worst of the Dominion War and Surviving Tyra, Betazed, Vulcan, and the Battles of Frakus Prime and Chin'toka I know not all will be able to handle the strain. However, I know the majority will adapt and overcome. The problem is, they will be changed from it. I hate that for them. Once innocence is lost it can't be gotten back.
It was a coffee day. Captain Aoife McKenzie generally kept to one cup a day, and relied on teas to get through the rest of it. But, today was different. She long ago lost count as she sipped the hot bitter liquid that was as dark as her mood at the moment.
"Captain," Lieutenant Commander Abbygale Willis announced from the operations station. "A sensor buoys is picking up weapons fire near the Ciatar Nebula."
"Do we have operations going on in that area?" Aoife asked, setting down her coffee. The pit in her stomach that had been present all day suddenly gone.
"Nothing I am aware of," the operations officer responded. "Sensors are receiving a transponder signal from a USS Mariner: NCC-97607, Pathfinder-class."
"As I recall there's a sizable Dominion fleet in that area." Aoife stood and moved behind Abby. Valhalla's executive officer, Commander Nicholas Halstead moved to stand next to her as they read the display over Abby's shoulder.
"I don't get it. What's going on? One ship? Are they suicidal?"
"That ship matches a Federation Ship that had just returned from the Gamma Quadrant," Lieutenant Eduardo Villaseñor announced from tactical.
"What the hell is going on here?" Aoife asked, looking from face to face seeking answers and getting none. "Open channel."
The open hail sound chimed from the tactical console, "Channel open."
"This is Captain Aoife McKenzie of the Federation starship Valhalla to the USS Mariner, do you read?"
"No response Captain," Eddie confirmed. "We're transmitting, but I can’t tell if they are receiving. The Dominion could be blocking communications."
"Thank you Lieutenant," Aoife said, staring down at the operations display trying to make sense of the nonsensical sensor data.
"Captain, the Mariner won't last long alone," Halstead urged.
With decision she turned and marched back to her seat, "Mr. Talon, lay in an intercept course maximum warp."
"Aye captain," Anthony responded from the helm. "Intercept course, aye. 010 mark 25 warp 9.985."
"Abby, inform Captain Murphy."
"Aye captain." There was a pause, "Andromeda acknowledges the orders and is ready."
Aoife pressed the all call button on the armrest of her seat, "All hands, this is the captain, battle stations. Red alert." Immediately the bridge dimmed and bathed the officers in crimson. “Engage.”
– USS Serenity –
The USS Serenity blazed through subspace, her engines at maximum, her sensors pushed to their absolute limit. Fast and light like the horsemen of Idanthyrsus, as Fleet Admiral Reyes had described it. That was how they’d been operating ever since departing Nasera, on the prowl hunting for any weaknesses they could find in the enemy’s line. The Duderstadt class was not a warship by any means. Fleet Admiral Reyes had marooned her warships over Nasera. But like the Scythians against the Achaemenids, they were using the Serenity’s speed and surveillance capabilities to disrupt the Dominion war machine any way they could.
Five days prior, the Serenity’s crew had stumbled upon a way to compromise the Dominion’s subspace communications network. They’d discovered that the Lost Fleet was relying on a hastily constructed hub-and-spoke multi-star topology where, if they compromised a half dozen key supernodes, they could gain access to a majority of the Lost Fleet’s subspace comms traffic. The opportunity to change the face of the battlefield so significantly had subsumed any other objective they had. So far, they had compromised two nodes, and now they were racing towards the third node, which lay just beyond the Ciatar Nebula.
“Admiral, we’ve got something on scanners,” Lieutenant Commander Ekkomas Eidran reported from the tactical station. His tone sounded more than a little confused at the information on his display.
“You’re going to have to give me a little more than something,” Fleet Admiral Reyes laughed. “What’ve you got?”
“Ummm, I’m not exactly sure,” Eidran replied. “It looks to be a single Pathfinder class vessel, ident USS Mariner, heading straight for a Jem’Hadar battle group in the Ciatar Nebula, bearing zero two nine mark five, twenty five hundred AU. I read two wings of fighters, two battlecruisers, and… a battleship.” That last word got everyone’s attention. A Jem’Hadar battleship is what you would get if you took every diplomatic, scientific, and humanitarian feature out of an Odyssey and replaced them all with more munitions. It was the biggest, baddest warship in the galaxy, save for a Borg cube.
“Maybe what they say about Captain Kobahl is correct,” chuckled Admiral Reyes as she tried to reconcile what Eidran was reporting. She’d read the notice from Deep Space 9 about the Mariner earlier in the day. “Maybe she has gone crazy.”
“Or she’s the only sane one,” Commander Lewis mused. “Think about it. Lone science vessel skips town, goes careening into the Gamma Quadrant, and now she’s here flying straight at a Dominion flagship. What if Beckett cooked up a plan to get this generation’s Dominion to stop last generation’s Lost Fleet?” It made sense to him because it was exactly the sort of thing he’d try. The Dominion of today had a vested interest in avoiding war and, if you were to initiate contact with them for the first time in decades, you wouldn’t want to send a squadron of warships. That would send the wrong message. Instead, you’d send a lone science vessel.
“That’s a reach, even for you,” Admiral Reyes cautioned. “But only one way to find out.” She loved a good mystery as much as the next person, and if there was a Starfleet crew at risk, that took precedent even over their pressing mission. “Conn, adjust heading bearing zero three zero mark five, and engineering, if you’ve got any more juice in the nacelles, now is the time.”
Sitting at the conn, Ensign Elyssia Rel’s fingers worked the controls, adjusting heading. Down below deck, the Chief Engineer who’d spent the last ten days just trying to keep the core from overheating now yet again rushed to find some way to get more power out of the already maxed warp engines. No one had any hesitation over their orders though. They were not going to leave a crew of fellow officers to their demise.
“Communications, any word from the Mariner?”
“Negative. She’s not replying to hails. But we’ve got another ship on the frequency, ident USS Valhalla, Captain Aoife McKenzie.”
“Raise her?” The communications officer nodded once the link was open. “USS Valhalla, this is Fleet Admiral Reyes, USS Serenity, responding to what appears to be a developing situation in the Ciatar Nebula. Do you read?”
The face of a red-haired woman appeared on the screen. "Admiral," she greeted simply.
“Captain, you have any idea what’s going on here?” Reyes asked, cutting straight to the chase as time was off the essence. The Jem’Hadar fighters would be upon the Mariner in under a minute.
"I wish I knew Admiral," Aoife responded. "They aren't responding to our hails. We're heading there now to back them up and hopefully pull them out of the pickle they are in."
“We’re en route, one five zero seconds out,” Reyes reported, although she had no idea what the play was. A Duderstadt and a Prometheus going in to help a Pathfinder against two squadrons of fighters, two battlecruisers and a battleship. “The numerical odds are not in our favor though. You all got any thoughts on a plan? Best I’ve got is fast and light, keep them distracted, while we hope Captain Kobahl comes to her senses.” Or pulls off whatever miracle she’s planning, thought Reyes. She wanted to believe Kobahl hadn’t just gone straight insane.
Aoife considered things for a moment. "The Andromeda took heavy damage from a Changeling infiltrator. I suggest Captain Murphy backs up the Mariner while we go after and distract the bigger targets. Valhalla makes for three targets alone and she was built to fight the Dominion."
The Valhalla was built to fight the Dominion, and the Admiral came up fighting them. That would have to be enough. "Agreed, let's make it so," Reyes replied before they cut the link, hurling towards the melee that lay before them.