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[2007: NOV-DEC] *WINNER* Desperate Times


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“Desperate Times”

A lone starship moved through deep space, racing at warp. Designed by humans, and wearing the old markings of the old United Federation of Planets' Starfleet, the ship was one of the last of a “dying breed” as the old quote went. Her appearance in this portion of space made this a day even more out of the ordinary. On her bridge, Captain Jack Mitchell sat watching the stars race by and hoping they hadn't been detected. His ship, the Achilles class USS Ranger, was one of Starfleet's few remaining heavy cruisers. As such, she and four other ships had been dispatched to raid enemy convoys.

oO Five ships, just five ships to do near the impossible. This is a mission for five squadrons. But we don't have five squadrons anymore. Oo

The Dominion War had gone badly for the Federation and her allies. The Federation lost system after system, planet after planet, in battle after battle. Once Vulcan surrendered to the Dominion, only Earth and the Sol system remained. In one last great battle, humans and their few remaining allies fought for the Federation's homeworld and lost. In the aftermath, the Federation had been broken and destroyed by Dominion, with its Changeling Founders. All that remained of the once great Federation were a few scattered, hidden bases, and whatever starships had managed to escape. Where Starfleet had once numbered hundreds of starships, now more than than fifty remained. And the majority of those were now protecting what had become the “Haven” system.

In the years since the War had “ended,” the Dominion had plundered the resources of their conquering. Races across the galaxy now served them, all addicted to Ketracel White.

oO To think we're reduced to operating like pirates and raiders when we once controlled much of this portion of the galaxy. Oo

Many of the Federation's allies in turn had been destroyed or broken by the Dominion. The logic controlled Vulcans had switched sides when logic they said told them the war was lost. The once proud Klingon Empire had been invaded, the Klingons reduced to small bands, desperately trying to hold on to their warrior heritage by raiding the Dominion and others. As for the Romulans, the Star Empire had been devastated from within when their Reman brethren openly revolted and joined the Dominion. In the end, Mitchell knew of only one race that had managed to cause the Dominion's war machine to halt. That had been the barely known Tholians. But rumors whispered of something being mounted to take care of the Tholians. Rumors and wild tales also told that the Borg were putting up quit a fight in the Delta Quadrant.

While orders had dispatched the five starships on missions to raid Dominion convoys, Mitchell's ship as the strongest of the five, had received additional orders. The convoy his ship was after was less than a day out from the system where Ketracel White was made for this sector. His orders were to first destroy the convoy, then the production facilities. Such a strike against such a well protected target was a suicide mission, but it was one for which his ship had been designed and built.

But his ship was different from the original Achilles laid down early in the war. She retained much of the original weapons fit of the original, but she also carried a pair of high powered disruptors mounted alongside the pulse-phaser cannons. Also onboard were as many of the now precious quantum torpedoes as could be spared, 17. The ship's remaining magazine space was filled with whatever torpedoes could be had and made to fit into the launchers. Tri-cobalt, photon, etc.

“Sir, we're approaching the target. Tactical reports ready to engage.” his XO reported.

“Very well. Red alert.” he ordered.

It was really an unnecessary order since the the ship had been at battle stations for the past two hours. But Mitchell was a traditionalist, so he gave the order aloud, and the bridge went dark and red. The main viewscreen lit up showing the approaching convoy. At their combined speeds, the distance was closing fast, and they were heading straight at the convoy. Mitchell took one more look around the bridge, pausing at each of crew members that had been with him since he had taken command of the ship. Several were gone, lost in the fighting and replaced by others. In the screen on the arm of his chair was the image from the back-up bridge deep in the hull, where his XO sat with a back-up bridge crew, ready to take over if something happened to Mitchell and the main bridge. He took one last deep breathe, let it out slowly, then gave the order.

“Engage the enemy.” he ordered.

Upon the command leaving his lips, the ship accelerated to maximum power, and the helmsman put her on a course to spear the lead Dominion ship. They reached weapons range, and the pulse-phasers opened up. Two torpedoes followed the energy barrage and the lead freighter's hull cracked like an egg. But the Ranger didn't even pause. She and her weapons immediately moved on to the closest escort, which had altered course to engage. Weapons fire flashed between the two ships, but the Achilles class had been designed to kill Dominion warships, and the destroyer went up in flash. The first escort gone, the Ranger moved on to take out several more freighters using a combination of weapons, everything but quantum torpedoes. Another destroyer and a light cruiser escort both put up a fight, but both fell to the Ranger's assault. Once both were gone, she finished off the convoy before Mitchell gave the order to disengage. With that, the Ranger altered course and raced away, leaving behind only wreckage.

Casualty and damage reports were taken and sent up to the bridge. From them, Mitchell learned the Ranger had gotten very lightly. The surprise and speed of her attack had helped them.

oO And that's why we have to move on the base right away. They think we will now pull back, try to escape, not continue deeper in. Oo

“Helm, take us to the factory.” Mitchell ordered.

“Aye, aye sir.” replied the helmsman.

(17 hours later)

The Ranger was minutes from entering the target system, home to the Ketracel White facility, They would have to drop out of warp just inside the system, and make the run in on max impulse. Mitchell and his senior staff hated the idea, but it had to be done. The limited intelligence they had on the system and the facility meant they didn't know the layout of the planets or the facility's exact location. It was basically a shot in the dark mission. So they had to slow, weave around the planets, and scan for the facility. That would give the Dominion time to detect them and call for reinforcements. It such a call did get out, that only increased the chances they weren't coming home from this mission.

But despite the risks, the mission had to go on. Intel had uncovered information that the Dominion was increasing White production in preparation for a major push. Possibly to wipe out the remainder of the Federation resistance. That they could not allow to happen.

“Alright, drop us to impulse, Mr Baker. Science, Tactical, find me that White factory.” Mitchell ordered.

Aye-ayes and yes sirs came back as replies. The ship dropped out of warp and smoothly slid to max impulse, still charging into the inner system. As she flew, her sensors probed the depths and planets, searching for the factory.

It didn't take long to find, one only had to detect all the activity. More than a dozen ships were in orbit around the planet and its orbital station. Patrol ships, other warships in system to pick up their supply, cargo ships to transport the drug to outlying garrisons and bases. The Ranger would have to fight through all of them plus the station's defenses to have her weapons reach the facility on the planet.

“Micro jump, Mr Baker. Get us in there among them before they detect us and respond.” he ordered.

“Yes sir” came the helmsman's reply.

But Mitchell could hear the nervousness in his voice, Micro jumping inside a system was one of the hardest maneuvers asked of a helmsman. The ship jumped to warp for exactly 12 seconds, then again dropped to impulse. As she did, her tactical officer opened up with all he had on the nearest enemy ships.

Weapons fire lashed out across the darkness, as the Ranger fought one ship then another. Using her speed and firepower, the Ranger gave much better than she got. But she did take punishment. Many of these were front line warships she was fighting, not mere convoy escorts. But not all had experienced crews, while Mitchell and his crew were far from inexperienced. Many of his crew had spent the majority of their adult lives on the front lines, fighting this war.

(4 hours later)

The enemy warships had died in ones and twos, never giving up, even after the Ranger had used a salvo of quantum torpedoes to destroy the factory on the planet. Somehow during the fighting, the science department had managed to gather enough data to identify the factory as an old Federation research center. The Dominion was evidently become so large, it had become forced to use captured facilities. Even a couple of the warships had been detected as having pieces of Federation ship designs in them.

But now the factory was destroyed, many enemy warships destroyed, and the enemy would be hungry for blood. That meant it was tie to get out of there, before the survivors regrouped and summoned reinforcements. But as he ordered the ship out of the system and to the rendezvous, something just nagged at his guts. He waited until the ship was again racing at warp, before trying to figure it out.

“Did anyone pick up something strange during the fight? Something just doesn't seem right.” he asked aloud to the bridge crew.

“Sir, I did.” his communications officer spoke up.

“Explain, Lt.” Mitchell inquired.

“During the fight, we picked up the enemy receiving a transmission just before we destroyed their communications array. Then we received an emergency transmission on our own frequencies that was cut off in mid-transmission.” the comm officer explained.

“Play the emergency message please” Mitchell ordered.

It took a minute to get the message up. The screen lit up with the image of a starship bridge under attack. The scarlet lighting, smoke filling the room, told it all. He stood up and heard a gasp behind him as the audio started.

“Yorktown to Ranger. We're under attack! Repeat, the Haven system has been invaded! A massive Dominion fleet came out of nowhere. Starbase One is under heavy assault. We've lost seven ships already. We need help.....”

All he and his bridge crew could do was listen, and watch as the message fuzzed out, aghast at what they knew was now happening in the Haven system.

“Turn it off. Helm, get us back to Haven, now! Maximum Warp!” He snapped.

The image disappeared from the screen and the com officer spoke again as the ship's speed increased and changed course.

“Sir, I'm getting several more distress calls. All very faint, all on the priority channel.”he announced.

“Can you identify where their coming from?” Mitchell inquired.

“Let me try sir.” She worked for a minute or two, trying to back track the message sources. “Sir, I am detecting messages from multiple bases and ships, not just from Haven. It looks like it was a Quadrant wide attack.”

oO Intel said a big push was coming, but it wasn't supposed to be for a while. This is enormous and soon. How did they pull such a thing off. Oo

“Ok. I need some time to think and figure this out. I'll be in my Ready Room. Page me if any surviving ships contact us.” He announced before crossing the room and walking through the doors into his Ready Room.

(Six hours later)


“Come.” he ordered.

He turned around as the door slid open and his XO stepped inside, crossing over to the desk and taking the chair there.

“How bas is it?” he asked.

“Its bad sir. We've heard distress calls from almost all of our bases and ships within com range. Looks like it was a systematic assault on us.” she informed him.

“Any other ships survive?” he asked, hoping for something positive.

“We have heard from a few. Three of our fellow raiders reported in, the Repulse, the Wayfarer, and the Fearless. They have damage, but they are on their way to met us. Several other ships managed to escape Haven, but with heavy damage. They are also on their way to rendezvous with us.” she replied.

There seemed like something she was holding back on. Something very, very bad.

“What is it? I can tell you have something else.” he asked

“Jack, the survivors report. Starbase 1 is gone, so is the Yorktown.” she sighed. “Our command structure is gone, along with almost all of our fleet. Troops were landing on Haven, was the last information we received. We've lost everything again. We need a leader.”

“I know. But what do we do now. Where do we go? It took years to get Haven set up. We thought it was hidden well enough to be safe and secure.” he questioned, more for his own sake.

“I don't know, but at this rate, the Federation will be wiped out in a matter of days.” she replied.

“I know.” he answered. “Give me a few minutes and I'll be on the bridge.”

She nodded, rose and left. He turned to face the window again. His thoughts roamed again, wondering if his wife and son were still alive. Sabrina had been stationed at one of the planet side bases, while Rode had followed his old man and flew with one of the fighter squadrons. He would have to deal with those thoughts another time. Right now his people and the other survivors needed him. He shoved those thoughts into the depths of his mind, made up a few plans, then set his face, before rising and returning to the bridge. He could feel all eyes were on him as he crossed to his chair and hit the all hands button.

“All hands, this is the Captain. By now I'm sure you all know. The Haven system has been invaded by the Dominion. The latest reports the system has fallen and Haven itself has been invaded.” he paused. “Now we all have lost people close to us. But we must go on. It is not only our duty to carry on, but our responsibility. If our way of life is to continue, we must continue to fight for it. Now we will met up with any other surviving ships, figure out a plan of action” he paused again for a breathe. “Now I expect every man and woman aboard this ship to continue to do their job. But don't do it for me, do it for those we have lost. In time, we will get payback for this. I promise you all that. That is all.”

He knew it was a stinging speech, but he hoped it would be stirring, so he could capitalize on it.

“Communications, send a message to any ships you can reach. Tell them to meet us in VX-7294. The asteroids fields should keep us from being detected for a while.” he ordered.

Faces looked at him from around the bridge, asking a certain question.

“Haven will be too well guarded for us to get in right now.” he answered that unasked question. “But I promise you. We will go back. In due time.” He turned to face the viewscreen. “Helm, set course for VX-7294. Maximum warp. Let's go find out what we have left.”

Edited by RMitchell
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