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Jackson Square: New Orleans, Earth

Miles O'Brien walked next to Keiko as the dipping sun began to turn the Mighty Mississippi a brilliant shade of orange. The sound of jazz music carried on the humid breeze along with horse hooves clattering along the cobblestone streets. Tourists headed toward Café Du Monde for after dinner coffee and beignets. Molly giggled as she ran down the wrought iron fence of Saint Louis cathedral.

"Honey, don't get too far ahead!" Keiko shouted out nervously while also holding four year old Kirayoshi's chubby hand. He was able to run on his own now, and the reality of keeping up with two active children was proving even more difficult than she expected.

Miles took a happy, deep breath of the thick, warm air. This city, unlike most of North America, reminded him of Europe. Unable to convince Keiko to take up residence in Ireland, the pair had settled on a restored townhouse in Baton Rouge. Miles enjoyed the fact that the house had enough ancient pipes and plumbing to keep an old engineer happy while Keiko loved the fact that she was less than a five minute walk from her new job as an Assistant Professor of Botany at Louisiana State.

This semester, Miles hadn't pulled any weekend duty assignments at Starfleet Academy, which meant that Fridays after class was a chance to get out and enjoy themselves. Chef Joseph Sisko, Captain Sisko's father and propitiator of Sisko's Creole Kitchen, immediately sent them a message when he learned they were just up the road. In it, he informed them that he was permanently reserving a table of honor for the O'Brien family and that it would be a personal insult if they didn't come to New Orleans at every opportunity to use it. Miles and Keiko were extremely grateful, even if Chef Sisko's gumbo recipe was doing a number on their waistlines.

"I can't believe we waited this long to come back to Earth," Miles mused as he watched his children play. "The fresh air, the wide open spaces, this will always be our home."

"Glad it only took you nine years to figure that out," Keiko replied with a smile. O'Brien laughed as he put an arm around his wife.

Suddenly, the quiet tranquility was shattered as a wailing siren echoed across the French Quarter.

Attention, Attention. This is the Federation Planetary Emergency Warning System. Civil Authorities have declared an alert for the following planets and/or facilities: Titan Base, Europa, Jupiter Station, Earth Spacedock, Luna, Mars, and Earth. Please remain calm and proceed immediately to the nearest certified contingency shelter. If you cannot reach a contingency shelter, please seek cover in a hardened building or structure certified for orbital impact. Further instructions and information will be published shortly.

The message repeated.

The atmosphere in the square immediately shifted from casual fun to heightened tension. Most people living on Earth had been through several of these incidents in the past few years, but it always meant that something terrible was about to happen.

"Molly!" Keiko shouted as she hefted Kirayoshi into her arms and bolted for her daughter. Miles was right at her side. He took his daughters hand and stock of their situation.

"Miles, what is going on?" Keiko asked him.

"I don't know," he said trying to ascertain what the quickest route to safety was.

"But you're Starfleet!" she pleaded, hoping he wasn't keeping something from her.

"Keiko," he said trying to control his voice so as not upset the children. "I'm not on the Enterprise-D or DS9 anymore. I'm just an NCO at the Academy. Do you really think they tell me everything?"

"Oh God," Keiko said rolling her eyes. "I just hope it's not the Borg again. Can we see if we can get back to the house?"

"Keiko," O'Brien said firmly. "There is no way that house could provide any protection if something hits the planet. I think we should head for a public shelter."

A police officer pulled up on hoverbike and began urging the crowd to exit the square. Using a lighted baton, he channeled people towards an alleyway off Decatur Street. A large door had opened a wide staircase led two stories straight down. Completely hidden beneath the French Quarter was a massive underground complex the size of several city blocks. It was complete with padded benches, rows of replicators, and huge wall lockers of medical supplies. Friendly holograms at the entrance dressed in crisp, blue uniforms welcomed evacuees in every language of the Federation and beyond. They briefly orientated everyone to the layout of the shelter, including the important question of where the bathrooms were.

The O'Brien family found an open place on a bench. Kirayoshi was now old enough to realize that something was wrong.

"Mommy, what is wrong?" he asked in his high-pitched whimper. Molly, more experienced with galactic calamities than her younger brother, began to distract him.

"It's ok, Yoshi," she said taking his hand. "They just want to make sure we're safe."

After a few minutes, the huge shelter was filled with several hundred people. Some remained calm, while a few were crying or rocking back and forth. Without warning, holoscreens dropped from the ceiling and the Federation seal appeared in brilliant blue.

THE FOLLOWING IS A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS:

An announcer calmly spoke over the shelter's speakers. The resolute face of President Zife, sitting in his office in Paris towered over them. The Eiffel Tower, still lit up with dazzling golden lights, flickered outside the windows behind him.

"My fellow citizens and guests of the United Federation of Planets," he began with a deep breath. "For the second time in my presidency, the Sol System finds itself under attack from an alien nation…"

"Oh God," Keiko whispered pulling her children in tight. Miles silently stared up at the screens.

"A group of renegades from the Cardassian State have stolen a fleet of warships and are currently approaching the capital of our country. We have learned from direct communication with the Romulan and Cardassian State governments, that they are not acting under any official orders and a broader threat of war does not exist. Indeed, the Romulans and the Cardassian State are currently assisting in whatever way they can to help us counter this threat…"

"Like hell they are…" Miles muttered.

"Three starships have already been lost attempting to stop these terrorists. Once again, the sacrifice of our Starfleet families cannot be underestimated. We will remember and care for the families of the fallen with the highest levels of dignity and respect…"

"Three starships?" Keiko said in disbelief. She knew just how many fellow Starfleet spouses would soon be receiving the most devastating news imaginable.

"It is likely, based on the deployment of our fleet around the galaxy, that Starfleet will not be able to intercept the hostile ships before they are in range of the Sol System, therefore I have declared a state of emergency and ordered all civilians to seek shelter…"

"That's bullshite," Miles whispered to Keiko. "If they can't get to them before they reach the center of the Federation, that means something is very wrong." He wrapped an arm around her.

"However, the most modern starships in our fleet have already mobilized and are prepared to respond to this crisis. As always, the finest souls the Federation has to offer: the men and women of Starfleet, will meet this threat to our continued safety and prosperity with the bravery we have come to expect from them.

Whatever cost we must pay, whatever challenges we face, we will prevail. We will continue to showcase the importance of freedom and liberty to all who seek to undermine it. In the meantime, I urge you all to remain calm and carry on with the same tenacity and respect that makes the United Federation of Planets the greatest nation in the galaxy.

May we all continue to be blessed, and may the United Federation of Planets continue to be blessed. Thank you, and goodnight."

The screen faded back to the Federation seal. Miles O'Brien suddenly became acutely aware of the uncanny silence that had washed over the entire shelter. He quietly thought to himself:

"It's going to be a long night."

****

Legate Varak steepled his fingers as his helmsman called out their position. The time for their final, glorious victory was here. President Zife's message only made their triumph all the sweeter. He had already crushed Starfleet's best, and now he would be able to do it on the Federation's front door.

"Send word to the fleet, drop out of warp and enter attack formation. Inform the Cataclysm ships to begin broadcasting their disruption field at full power. I want everything within 200,000 kilometers immobilized."

"Aye Sir," Commander Sejed replied.

Twelve white flashes preceded the arrival of the Cardassians dropping to impulse. Immediately, the four sentry ships rerouted all warp power to their Cataclysm emitters, and the entire fleet was momentarily bathed in an eerie blue glow before the wave faded from the visible spectrum.

"Cataclysm system is on full power, Sir," Sejed said. No weapons in the Federation arsenal will be able to penetrate our countermeasures," he said grinning.

"Scan the system," Varak ordered. "I want to the exact location of every ship bigger than a shuttlepod. After all, we've come a very long way," he said flippantly waving his hand. "And I don't want any surprises."

His sensor operators eagerly obeyed.

"We are receiving a lot of interference from the debris cloud surrounding the outer planets," a female Cardassian lieutenant responded.

"Then compensate!" Sejed screamed.

"Yes, Sir," she said nervously, "but these duonetic sensors are not as reliable as our normal systems…wait," she said pausing. "One ship is exiting the system at high impulse."

"What's its heading?" Varak said with the laissez faire reassurance it was someone trying to escape before the action started.

"Right at us…" the sensor operator replied.


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