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Part of USS Mariner: M1: Into The Gamma Quadrant and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

28) The Highway to Hell – Part 3

Various Locations
March 2401
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– USS Mariner

Miki blinks “Serenity, Valhalla, and Andromeda are forming around us to protect us!” He was happy for the backup as their shields were dropping hard. “I got nothing to reroute to our shields!”

“Shields at 13%, I am getting hull breaches across almost every deck!” Drata held onto the console as another impact came.

“And we have a bigger problem…” Silina spoke up and pointed at the screen. “The battleship is incoming, weapons hot.” The information was pouring in on her console. “We will not hold if they hit us!”

Sazra looked over her shoulder to Drata waiting for something to happen and shrugged, looking back at the screen. She now had dragged three other ships in her madness attempt. “Come on…come on” She was almost praying to any god out there.

The battleship gets into position and in attack range as its weapons powered up and fired its barrage toward the tactical-formed ships. A few missed, but one hit the Serenity as another hit the Mariner right warp cell breaking it out of control in navigation. The Mariner was now open for clear shot.

The bridge had shaken quite heavily as some officers flew to the ground, and some consoles blew up. Even Sazra was thrown out of her chair and now lying on the ground. She looked up from her view and saw K’Nala with second-degree burns on her on the floor gasping for air. The helm console had blown up right in her face. She felt her last remaining hope drip away until…

“Valerio here, COMMUNICATIONS IS UP, I REPEAT ITS UP!”

Sazra pupils went wide as she looked at Asipa who was clinging on her console “OPEN CHANNEL NOW!”

With a swipe of the console a beep went on as Asipa nodded to her Captain.

“THIS IS CAPTAIN KOBAHL OF THE USS MARINER. WE ARE TRANSPORTING DOMINION REPRESENTATIVES FROM GAMMA QUADRANT, SCAN THE SHIP. HOLD YOUR FIRE!” Sazra looked back at the screen with the large battleship powering up its weapon as she saw in her eye corner Rahis and Dezod on the floor looking at the screen. Then…the ship powered down, cruisers pulled back, and fighters returned to the battleship.

“Incoming hail…” Asipa stated looking surprised at her console that had a blinking red light.

Crawling up from the floor, her uniform a mess “Open the channel now.” In the broken screen the purple dimmed sight of a Dominion bridge as a seasoned warrior was sitting in the middle and looked with narrowed and skeptical eyes at Sazra. Taking a deep breath “Captain…we are here to escort these people to bring a message from your gods” She waved her hand to her right side.

Rahis stood up, dusted her uniform off, and fixed her hair as she stepped forward and placed her hands behind her back. “First” Addressing the Dominion warrior “I am here in the name of our gods from Gamma Quadrant. We have a message from them to you, new orders and you can verify them”

“What trick is this? Why is there Dominion on a Starfleet ship? We are at war with these insects.” The First felt betrayed and furious, but he wanted answers.

“This is not a way to talk to your superiors First.” Dezod spoke and stepped at Rahis side. “Transport us to your ship, and we shall discuss the message that the gods have praised you. It is time to come home”  He was quite formal yet direct.

Hesitating on this command, he finally nods slightly.

“Captain,” Rahis looked at Sazra “It is time for us to say goodbye. It has been a …educational journey with you as a host. I would like to say I look forward to having another, but we both know that will never occur.” Rahis felt disappointed as she did enjoy the entertainment that Sazra had given them.

The blood drips slowly past her right eye, and she narrows her eyes a bit. “Yea, the pleasure was mine. Let’s see what the future brings. Now our fate is in your hands” Sazra shrugged and looked at Miki. “Lower shields…” the Mariner blue glow disappears.

The screen returned to space as a light purple transporting light came on the bridge. The Dominion team was gone from the Mariner bridge and Sazra felt a weight of responsibility lifted off her shoulder. She looked at the screen and saw the cruisers jump away, followed by the fighters and lastly the large battleship jumped out of the area.

– USS Valhalla, Section Charlie –

Lt. Commander Erin Hayden stared at the viewscreen.   The Mariner was above them, while Section Bravo was alongside Mariner and to her left.

Mariner’s shields are failing,” operations announced.

“I always thought I would die doing something foolish. Move us closer to the Mariner and extend the shields.”

“Aye Commander,” Helm and operations responded.

“The Mariner has just transmitted a signal to the battleship,” tactical reported.

“What the hell?” Erin demanded.

“The Dominion is standing down.”

“Hold fire. Damage report?”

“Shields at diminished capacity with them extended,  but holding at forty percent.  Minor hull fractures on several decks.  Casualties are being reported on all decks, no fatalities.”

“Small mercies,” Erin muttered.  “Hold position and wait for further orders.”

Mariner is lowering their remaining shields,” Operations reported.

Erin raised an eyebrow,  “Must be some transport about to take place.  She did say it was important.  Return our shields to normal.”

The operations officer complied and the section’s shields returned to normal.l

– USS Serenity

The bridge was quiet besides the sounds of crackling EPS relays that had blown and the moans of crew members that had been injured in the fight.

The shooting had stopped as quickly as it had started, leaving Admiral Reyes, Commander Lewis, and the rest of the bridge staff staring at the strange scene before them, an empty vacuum of space where just moments ago the Jem’Hadar warships had been. 

“What the hell just happened?” Commander Lewis asked, his adrenaline still surging, his eyes still looking around as if an unseen threat was about to befall them again. He couldn’t believe it was over.

“Captain Kobahl did it,” Admiral Reyes replied. “Now what I’d like to know is what the hell it was.” She stood up and approached the main viewer. “Lieutenant Morgan, get me Captain Kobahl, and tie in Captains McKenzie and Murphy.” She waited for the link to connect.

The screen changed to the damaged bridge of Mariner it showed the crew getting attended to. Sazra looked at the screen, surprised to see Fleet Admiral Reyes aboard the Duderstadt class vessel that had just come to their aide. “Admiral”

“Captain,” Admiral Reyes greeted as she took in the scene of the Mariner’s bridge. “I hear you are persona non grata these days according to Starfleet Command, but you are persona grata to us right now. Mind explaining what the hell just happened?”

She didn’t react immediately as her posture stood stern and she had some wounds. Her uniform was ripped and a mess “That same Starfleet Command that has refused to accept that the Lost Fleet has returned and called 4th fleet call to arms a public stunt?” Admiral Reyes nodded. She had her issues with Starfleet Command’s stance at present. Sazra took a deep breath and continued: “Yea, a mission came down the pipeline in high classified levels that I was to get to Gamma Quadrant and convince the real Dominion. It was a web of lies that we had to crawl through with Starfleet watching our steps.”

Admiral Reyes looked over at Commander Lewis. The spook’s intuitions had been right. “Trust only the Fourth Fleet, right?” she offered, remembering Admiral Beckett’s words that had accompanied their mission briefing.

“Right, words that became weight by itself,” Sazra confirmed.

“So do you think this stunt will work?” the admiral asked. “Will the Lost Fleet at large heed the words you brought back today?” Whatever the Mariner had done, it had been enough to encourage this Dominion task group to break off the attack, but there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Jem’Hadar ships swarming the Deneb Sector at present time. It was hard to imagine that they would all take the message at face value.

The First Officer stood up from attending to a wounded crewmember and looked at the Admiral on the screen. “Well we just delivered a team of Dominion representatives. Vortas to be precise,” Silina confirmed.

Admiral Reyes quirked her brow at that. “How did you go about convincing the Dominion to send Vortas all the way here to bail us out?” The Dominion might have surrendered at the end of the Dominion War, but that was because their backs were up against the wall. She always suspected that one day the Founders would once more move against the Federation. This would have been the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

Letting her hand go past every pip on her collar, Sazra felt troubled with that question “I am wondering that myself till this moment. They had no interest in getting involved with us. They were willing to provide a secured message” Sazra shrugged and looked at the Admiral and Captains. “But if we did that, Dominion forces would see it as a potential forgery and our mission would have been in vain. Too many lives depended on this outcome. So I somehow convinced them to send representatives and it worked”

“Interesting,” mused Admiral Reyes. She still wondered if there was something else at play here. It all seemed too easy. The Founders played the long game. They always had. And, as much as she hoped Captain Kobahl had just brought an end to this conflict, she wasn’t ready to let her guard down just yet. They really should have just let the morphogenic virus run its course back in the seventies rather than accepting the Founder’s surrender.

The makeshift task group had just taken quite a beating. While they were all in one piece, and it seemed like they might have actually won, there was still an important item to tend to. “Captains, how are your ships and crews holding up after that dogfight?” Reyes asked.

“We’ll be fine Admiral,” Aoife responded, “Thank you.  Chief Engineer Washington reports Valhalla will be good as new in a week. Andromeda took the worst of it. She was already destined for a repair dock after a hole was blown out of her side destroying the starboard torpedo launcher and main deflector. More repairs won’t make much of a difference at this point.”

“And Captain Kobahl, how’s the Mariner doing?”

“We are leaking plasma from the right engine, hull breaches on most decks. I am getting reports from wounded and deaths” Drata spoke up as Sazra looked over from his direction back at the Admiral “There you go, we could use a drag back to safety if that is possible?” Sazra requested.

“I’ll assemble some engineering and medical teams to assist,” Aoife offered.

“I would appreciate any help, Captain.” Sazra couldn’t shake off the feeling of what was hanging above her after everything she had done, and she took a deep breath. “Let’s hope Mariner’s efforts were not for nothing. These Jem’Hadar are bred for war, so standing down won’t be easy. But I somehow have the hopes it does help us turn the tide”

Aoife nodded, “They stood down once before.  Are you sure you can trust  your… Vorta friends?”

“Do I have a choice? They could have backstabbed me when I was dealing with a mutiny on my ship.” She raised her hand to stop them before the obvious follow up question would come. “Don’t ask.” Sazra felt it was a heavy topic on her bridge. “Lets just say they have no reason to not be trusted after that journey”

Admiral Reyes shivered at the idea of mutiny. She wanted to ask, but she understood that would be a topic better discussed in private later. On the topic of the Vorta though, she still had her concerns. “There’s no assurance they don’t still backstab us,” she warned. “So let’s not throw a party quite yet. After what we’ve just been through though, let’s take a win as a win for now.” She smiled and her shoulders relaxed just a little. Maybe it was a win.

“I don’t know about you Admiral,  but I thought I had just bought the farm a few minutes ago. If that’s not a reason to celebrate,  I don’t know what is.”

“We’ve got a few too many hull breaches and fires to put out to share a drink at the moment, but when we’re all back at SB:B, I’ll buy us a round so we can toast to that,” Admiral Reyes replied, proud of what Kobahl and her crew had accomplished, and of the selfless way that McKenzie and Murphy had risen to the call and charged into battle against impossible odds to defend their sister ship. “A day’s work well done!”

“Thank you Admiral,” Aoife said with a nod. “I look forward to that drink as well. Admiral,  we can tow Mariner out of the hot zone. Hopefully we can patch her up so she can make it back to base under her own steam, if not we can take her into Bravo or 86.”

Sazra simply nodded to that as the screen returned to the space view. She wondered if she would truly be received as the hero they proclaimed her to be. She had to do acts to get the mission done. “Let us get Valerio some support” She stated finally.