Another disruptor blast slammed into the Big E as they closed on the next sentry ship. In the torpedo bay, a bulkhead gave way causing a huge metal conduit to fall from the ceiling. Buster shielded his eyes against the massive wall of sparks.
"Chief, are you alright?" a crewman shouted over the din.
"It's takes a hell of lot more than that to take me down," Buster replied, "but we got a problem. Bridge, Torpedo bay," he said into the intercom. "Port torpedo is down. All we got left is the starboard tube."
On the bridge, Annabeth cursed as Chief Woody hobbled around behind her trying to bypass a shredded section of fiber optic cable.
"We ain't getting our security deposit back on this one…" the old electrician muttered as she wired two broken shards together. Annabeth glared over her shoulder at her.
"Acknowledged torpedo bay," Annabeth replied to Buster.
"Next sentry vessel in range!" Katie shouted.
"Fire everything we got!" Annabeth ordered.
A photon torpedo and four phaser bolts slammed into the small Nerok class ship. Its hull buckled under the barrage. Bulkheads blew out and atmosphere vented into bright flame as it contacted the vacuum of space. The forked tail of the Cardassian vessel ripped away and the semi-circular forward section exploded.
"One left!" Annabeth shouted.
"Field is about to collapse," Laria said still manning her station as Alex sutured the cut on her forehead closed with a needle.
"Phil, head straight toward the sentry ship! We have to take it down!" Annabeth shouted.
"There's six battlecruisers between us and that ship!" Phil said.
"Tren, reroute all available power to the shields!" Annabeth screamed into the intercom.
"I'm rerouting power from the life support systems in the aft hull drive, but that's all I can give you! Structural integrity and inertial dampening fields are pegged in the red thanks to the maneuvers that Lexington is putting us through," Scharr replied as T'les and Quinn furiously worked banks of control switches.
"Tell that stupid son of a bitch at the helm to learn to drive!" Quinn shouted loud enough to be heard on the bridge. "We're bouncing around down here like Braxian leaping crickets!" Phil cursed back at the old man under his breath.
"Quinn, you should be happy," Woody shouted. "Nobody's made you bounce like that since your wife broke your hip twenty years ago."
"Phil is keeping us alive right now!" Annabeth replied holding back bile at that image and trying to refocus the conversation. "But right now I need those shields!"
"I'll send Lexington a thank you note later, Captain," Scharr replied, "but that is it! I'm giving her all she's got!"
"Laria," Katie suddenly said turning around. "What's our range to the last sentry ship?"
"4000 kilometers," Laria replied, winching as Alex pulled the last stitch closed.
"You won't win any beauty contests right now, but I'll fix it when I get you back to a real dermal regenerator," the doctor said patting the Bajoran on the back.
"Captain," Katie said. "At this range, I think I can manually maneuver a photon torpedo into the target."
"Manually?" Annabeth said incredulously.
"The older photons had a visual guidance system as a backup for their gyrostabilizers. Using my console, I can fly it straight at the other ship AROUND the Cardassians."
"But we won't have time to load another torpedo before those battlecruisers close on us," Phil said.
"What does that mean?" Laria said.
"If I miss, we die," Katie said plainly.
Annabeth stared up at the enemy ships moving towards them on the screen.
"Torpedo bay, Bridge," Annabeth said into her intercom. "Are we locked and loaded?"
At the moment, Buster's team sealed another torpedo casing into the starboard tube. As the inner hatch sealed, Buster shouted into the intercom.
"She's ready, Captain! Drop some lead!" he replied.
"Lieutenant Stone," Annabeth said climbing to her feet. "Fire!" she said raising her right arm and clenching a fist shut.
Katie gritted her teeth, selected manual guidance mode on her console, and pressed the red trigger. The torpedo shot straight out from Enterprise and headed for the battlecruisers blocking their path.
"Katie!" Laria shouted.
"I see them dammit!" she replied adjusting the torpedo's trim. "It ain't like flying a shuttlepod."
The red sphere lurched to the right, barely missing the nearest Keldon class ship. The group of spectators on the bridge gasped nervously as they saw the weapon swerve to starboard and then to port, weaving it's way between Cardassian ships like the needle in Alex's hand.
"Phil, keep us steady! I'm driving the torpedo. I don't need you driving me!" Katie shouted at the console next to her.
"It won't matter if they kill us before you hit the bloody target!" he replied.
"Would both of you shut up?" Annabeth shouted.
The burning orb passed between the final two battlecruisers, and then sharply turned upwards. It's target acquisition sensor beeped loudly across the bridge's speakers. It closed in on the final scout ship. The tiny ship turned desperately, but its overloaded systems couldn't match the torpedo's acceleration defying speed. The projectile slammed into the Nerok, ripping it to shreds in the blast of an explosion.
"Freedom 6, Cobra 6," Bentley shouted into his comm system. "The disruption field is down!"
"Engage, engage!" Murphy said in reply. "Get in there and get the Enterprise out! Blackjack 6, Ice-Ax 6, move in and show them some good ole' fashioned Federation hospitality."
"Acknowledged, Freedom 6," Tigranian replied. "Kivrana, prepare for warp threshold jump and follow me!"
"Alright, Cobras," Bentley said. "Starphoenix missile select. Everybody lock a bandit."
When he received a reply from his squadron, he placed his thumb over a red button on his joystick.
"Welcome to Earth, Assholes. Cobra Squadron, Fox 3!"
Eight bright streaks flew out from the underbellies of the T-Bats and flew straight for the Cardassian fleet.
Annabeth looked up at the viewscreen. The last Cataclysm ship was floating out of the system in a thousand burning pieces, but four cruisers were now closing in on them at point-blank range.
"Phil, get us out of here!" she said trying to hold her voice together.
"Captain, I'm losing power! Maneuvering thrusters are down to forty percent."
"Scharr!" Annabeth screamed. "Get my maneuvering thrusters back online!"
"That last disruptor blast ruptured the EPS grid!" The Andorian replied. "Warp core is offline and impulse is severely degraded. I'm amazed this old lady held together as long as she did. I can give you auxiliary systems in two minutes!"
"We have about five seconds!" Annabeth replied. "All power to forward shields!"
The disruptor emitters of the four battlecruisers began to glow bright yellow as they powered up. Annabeth sat back and said a final prayer for the child inside her. He would never get to see the world, and for that, she was deeply sorry.
Four streaks flew across the screen and slammed into the sides of the enemy ships. Bright explosions momentarily blinded Annabeth and her crew as the starphoenix warheads cut through the Cardassian shields and sliced into their hulls. The enemy vessels lost their stabilizers and began slowly drifting away from the Enterprise.
Cobra Squadron arrived and began circling the Cardassian fleet like angry wasps. Soon they had pushed the enemy away from the Big E.
"Angels on our shoulders!" Phil shouted in triumph as he saw the little ships begin to open fire with their pulse phasers and micro-torpedoes. Two more white bursts appeared on the periphery of the battle and the Pershing and the Shran loomed like massive giants over the scrambling Cardassians.
"Pioneer 6, this is Blackjack 6," Tigranian's voice boomed on their bridge speakers. "Bug out course 180 Mark 215. Dee, cover them as they move."
"Acknowledged," Daredevil replied as she dove her fighter directly adjacent to the Enterprise's bridge. "Hey Sab, looks like I get to save your ass again. You're buying the squadron beer tonight," she said to Phil.
"You get us home, and I'll get you a keg!" Phil replied as Annabeth smiled.
"That's good for me," Daredevil said. "What are you buying for the rest of Cobra?"
"She sounds like a good woman," Chief Woody said from the aft of the bridge. "Guess Starfleet ain't all pussies anymore."
"Alright Kivrana, Enterprise is heading out," Tigranian said bringing the Pershing alongside the Shran. "Let's plow the road!"
"I'm right with you, Blackjack 6!" The Andorian shouted back.
As soon as Daredevil had the old starship clear of the firing line, the two battlestarships unleashed hell. The bolts of their main phaser arrays cut the old Cardassian ships in half. Some of them tried to run, but none of them were fast enough to outrun the onslaught. One at a time, Legate Varak's dream of bringing the Federation to its knees vanished into fire and smoke.
Soon, there was only one ship left, disabled and adrift. The Shran took position behind it, blocking off any chance of escape. The Pershing closed in to its front.
"Ensign Gleeto," Tigranian said. "Opening hailing frequencies."
A few moments later, Varak's mangled face stared back at him. A Cardassian commander lay dead at his feet. The legate's badge on his chest was stained dark crimson with blood. His labored breathing caused his chest to rise and fall with every gasp.
"Do you remember what you told me back on the border, Legate?" Tigranian asked rising to his feet. "What good is training for battle if you never fight? Honestly, I'm disgusted. All you could do was murder the crews of three starships. When it came time to actually fight, your best troops folded like a house of cards."
"I hate you," Varak said as his eyes turned bright red. "You and your kind took my world from me!"
"The Dominion took your world after your leadership decided to exchange freedom for power. The only thing the Federation did was refuse to act in such a despicable manner. We were about to give it back until you got into bed with Romulus."
"Cardassia will be great once more!" Varak shouted back at him.
"You're absolutely right," Tigranian said, "But not because of cowards like you. By the terms of Starfleet Regulation and Federation Law, I am required to offer you the chance to surrender. Drop your shields, deactivate your weapons, and I promise you and your surviving soldiers will be treated with the utmost care and be given a fair and impartial trial."
"Burn in Hell!" Varak said defiantly.
"I was hoping you'd say that," Tigranian grinned. He reached down and hoisted General Chang's bat'leth over one shoulder. "Lock a spread of quantum torpedoes onto his warp core and fire."
Varak's eyes grew wide as Gleeto launched six blue orbs from the Pershing's main turret directly at his flagship. The legate's face disappeared in a flash of white light as the transmission terminated into static.