April 2009


Bridge, USS Eagle, 1750 hrs, 22 Jan Y169

"Admiral, if you want me to attack now, I will," Williams said, "but all I'm going to do is lose my ships and leave Arcturus without an adequate defense."

"There has to be some way to do it," Admiral Kirkland said. "You were hand-picked by Star Fleet to command the Eagle. You're not just a starship captain, you're the best Star Fleet could find for a ship with unique capabilities. There has to be some kind of plan, even one with grave risks."

"Then tell me what it is," she replied, seeing him wince at the touch of insubordination. "Look, I don't mean any disrespect, but I can't think of anything other than to crush the Juggernaut between my forces and those at Arcturus, and that plan will work. Nobody here can think of anything else, nobody on Starbase Eight has thought of anything else, and nobody at Star Fleet Headquarters will think of anything else. Hell, I even let the Klingon attaché send a detailed report to Rigel and the Klingons at the embassy couldn't think of anything else."

"General Argelian wants you fired," Admiral Kirkland said. "His president has sent the matter to the Council demanding your immediate relief from command. The Rigellians are backing them; the captain of the Akerlon has accused you of outright cowardice. When you detached the Jerry James to rescue miners that the Arcturans refused to rescue, those same Arcturans howled bloody murder as that diminished the total forces. Our people there are stalling, but ... "

"Fortunately for both of us, I work for Home Fleet, not Seventh Fleet," Williams said. "I may be under your operational control, but you cannot fire me."

"Unfortunately for you," Admiral Kirkland said, "Star Fleet Headquarters isn't far enough away that they cannot get a subspace message to you before the battle."

"What was your recommendation to them," Williams asked.

"That there is no one else there to take command," Admiral Kirkland said, "although I have sent Commodore Sornak in the Command Cruiser Bon Homme Richard to meet you and assume command. He will be there on the 24th."

"Just in time to pick up the pieces," Williams said.

"Let's hope he doesn't have to," Kirkland replied.

Crew Cabin, Juggernaut Beta, 1140 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"I will reach the planet in two hours," the voice of Beta said. "I have activated your tactical display so you may observe the contest. Should I prevail, we will discuss the battle."

"And if not?" Crawford asked.

There was no reply.

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1207 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"General," Captain Williams said, "you need to deploy your forces according to the plan I sent you. Your own ship commanders have confirmed that the plan is the best one. You need to do this now; there isn't going to be time. Get your ships headed this way in the two groups the plan defines."

"Order you cannot me," General Argelian said.

"There is no other plan that will work," Williams said.

"My ships to be destroyed they are," Argelian snorted, "you may so then glory claim."

"This is not about glory," Williams said. "This is about saving your planet. The only way to do that is to deploy your ships as my plan provides."

"Ships mine, decision mine," Argelian said.

"Then, General, fight your own battle," Williams said.

"Is what you say is?" Argelian sputtered.

"If your ships are not in formation to conduct the required frontal attack," Williams said, "my ships will disengage. Otherwise, we would be mounting a doomed attack for no reason."


"General, you have the plan," Williams said. "Follow it, or watch your planet burn. Eagle out."

"You cannot mean it," the XO said.

"I can," Captain Williams said, "but I don't. If he doesn't attack as planned, I'll do what I can. Kearsarge can probably penetrate a flank shield and do at least some damage. If we have to, we'll wear the Juggernaut down, but an uncoordinated attack will make that harder, and less likely to succeed."

"Confidence have I you in," said the Navigator.

Tense moments ticked by as the Juggernaut got closer and closer to Arcturus.

Cockpit, Arcturan Police Skiff #1, 1242 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"General," the police commander began in his native language, rather than Federation standard, "My boats can do this. Let me."
"Commander," the General responded, "those boats are not yours to throw away. Neither are your lives."

"General, I have read the plan, and it's a good one," the police commander fired back. "We'll stay outside of 200,000 kilometers. We have only four drones apiece. We'll launch them and pull away. I need the other drone-armed vessels to stay with me and do the same. We have to build up a huge wave of drones."

"Very well, Commander," the General acquiesced.

The police commander led his tiny force toward the approaching monster - six police skiffs, an armed transport, a fleet transport, and an auxiliary defense cruiser. As the ships reached 350,000 kilometers, the first drones began to salvo out of the racks, followed moments later by a second drone from each ship.

"Hard right turn, get out of here!" the commander called to his force. The ships began to maneuver away as twenty nuclear-tipped drones closed in on the Juggernaut's port bow.

Lead, Arcturan Fighter Squadron #1, 1245 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Launch!" the pilot commander ordered his force. The first drone cleared the rail on the left side of his F-4 fighter, causing it to rock sharply to the right. He muscled the joy stick hard and continued to bore in on the Juggernaut for another moment. "Launch!" he commanded a second time. "Squadron will break contact to the left!" he ordered, pulling the stick hard in the direction the fighter was already rolling. Twenty-four nuclear-tipped drones rocketed toward the Juggernaut's starboard bow.

Crew Cabin, Juggernaut Beta, 1246 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Nuclear-armed missiles," the voice of Beta said. "I saw these in the records of Alpha's fight, and in the previous battle with the fast cruiser and the other ships. But I have never seen such numbers!"

"Got you boxed in, don't they?" Crawford said, noting twenty-four missiles from the fighters and twenty more from the police and auxiliaries on the other flank. "If you tough it out, you can cut down half of those missiles with your phasers, then use your shield and armor to stop the rest."

"Yes, you would like that," the voice of Beta said. "So would the ships behind me. This would leave me with a wasted shield and damaged armor and no weapons able to fire. I shall not accept my assigned role in their battle plan."

Crawford swore he could feel the gigantic ship turning sharply on its axis, but his rational mind knew it was only the effect of seeing the ships on the tactical display spin around the Juggernaut like so many toys on so many strings.

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1247 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Juggernaut turn is!" the Navigator screamed. "For us heads his course!"

"What the hell?" Williams gasped. "Who didn't tell me he could do that?" She had been following the Juggernaut at half a million kilometers, waiting to begin her attack run, when suddenly the range started counting down impossibly fast. "Cancel snap count Juliet Two! All ships fire torpedoes when in range. Defense squadron three, fire at the target's engines when we hit the bow!"
The Juggernaut began to fill the entire viewscreen as it charged at the ships of Williams' squadron.

Kearsarge fired first, scoring two overloaded photon hits on the bow. The police cutters, to the left of the cruisers, fired their own photons, scoring only one hit on the right front armor. The Akerlon fired both of her torpedoes, scoring two hits on the left front armor. All of the ships, excepting the Eagle, fired phasers, concentrating on the forward armor, but the massive rotating shield had already snapped into place to absorb all of the damage the Federation ships could do.

The Juggernaut seemed indecisive at first, turning slightly in both directions before making a firm move to the left, pointing straight at the Akerlon and closing at an impossible rate. As the range dropped below twenty-thousand kilometers, the Juggernaut's forward batteries fired, more than a dozen lances of energy slamming into and through the Rigellian destroyer, ripping it to pieces. There was nothing recognizable left of the ship as the Juggernaut roared past the Eagle. As the Juggernaut went past at 37,000 kilometers, the right flank batteries of the massive ship ripped into the flank shields of the fast cruiser, blowing pieces of the ship into space. The bridge went dark as control panels exploded in a shower of sparks.

Bridge, USS Dien Bien Phu, 1248 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Lock target and fire!" Captain Ky ordered. "Everything! All ships fire!" Six photons screamed out of the monitor's tubes, and more from other ships of the Third Squadron. But the range was at the edge of what photons could reach, and only one of those from the Monitor and another from the Orion scored a hit. The Q-ship Nystel missed with both shots, as did the Arcturan frigate. Ky was about to ask the Osterhout why it did not fire when he saw the last photon of his salvo score a direct hit on the Juggernaut's left engine.

"That last torpedo was from Osterhout; they used a proximity fuze," the Navigator said. "We should have thought of that."

"Next time!" said Ky. "Reload all weapons! Set speed warp one point five and keep my nose pointed at that thing. This is not over!"

Juggernaut Beta, 1248 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

The engine damage surprised Juggernaut Beta, but not nearly as much as the volley of photons had. Nothing in his database said that the weapon could fire that far. It was, to be sure, wildly inaccurate, which was the reason he kept the rotating shield toward the much more dangerous ships to his front, and was surprised by the third much weaker hit.

Bridge, USS Kearsarge, 1249 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Hard right rudder!" Strakhorn ordered. "Stay behind him."

"The way he can turn?" Strakhorn's XO asked. "Why bother?"

"Shut up!" Strakhorn screamed. "Reload the photons. Full overloads."

"Target is launching seeking weapons! Man, those things are fast. Both targeted on the Majors. Phasers firing, they got one of them. Hit by the second weapon, major explosion, Majors is still there but she's got to be hurt really bad."

Crew Cabin, Juggernaut Beta, 1250 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Nicely done," Crawford said. "I thought we were finished."

"That was only the start," the voice of Beta said. "I have taken engine damage, but they have used many missiles. How many more do they have?"

"I'm not sure what kind of fighters they are using," Crawford said. "Some of them carry six missiles, others carry eight. The smaller ships on the other flank are police skiffs. They usually have at least a dozen missiles."

"One of the warships was destroyed, two others badly damaged," the voice of Beta said. "I see only three more warships, and many of these smaller vessels and armed versions of the freighters I have destroyed before. Do they have more warships?"
"Standard Star Fleet planetary defense doctrine is to hold one-third of the warships behind the planet where they cannot be seen," Crawford lied. "These will join the battle when you do not expect them."

"Very well," said the voice of Beta. "I shall destroy another warship before they can collect their forces."

Bridge, USS Eagle, 1257 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Captain! Captain!" the voice in her head called. "Are you able to stand? We need to get you out of here." Recognizing one of the Marines, Captain Williams allowed herself to be half carried into the turbo lift. As she turned around the look back at the bridge, she noticed that most of the personnel, including the Weapons Officer and Navigator, were very obviously and very untidily dead. She had to look to see if she had all of her arms and legs. A medical technician gave her a shot.

"No pain killers," she said weakly. "I have to command."

"It was a stimulant, Captain," the technician said. "I presume you want to go to the Emergency Bridge." The turbolift car was already moving.

"Yes, that will be fine," she said. "What's the situation?"

"We took a lot of damage, but we're still flying," the Marine corporal said. "The Rigellian blew up, one of the police boats is wrecked. Lieutenant Kirkpatrick said he'd give you a full report when you got there ... and here we are."

Emergency Bridge, USS Eagle, 1259 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

"Captain on the bridge!" Ensign Robinson called.

"Do you want the con, Captain?" Lieutenant Kirkpatrick asked as he got out of the command chair. "I have been trying to stay with Kearsarge."

"I have the con," she answered, her voice surprisingly firm, even to her. "Sitrep."

"Juggernaut took three photon hits in the ass," Kirkpatrick began. "That really slowed him down. He maneuvered away to our starboard side, and I turned to follow along with Kearsarge and Simms. Majors was wrecked by two of those seeking weapons. I expected the Juggernaut to launch more of those, but not so far. The Juggernaut did another high energy turn before we could reload the photons and went straight at the Simms, which just blew up, to hell and gone, when those big phasers tore into it. Juggernaut is now maneuvering back for the planet, but the monitor is in the way of that.

"Get me Strakhorn," she said. A moment later, he appeared on the main view screen. "How is Kearsarge?" she asked.

"Unhurt so far," Strakhorn responded. "The original plan will still work. Juggernaut can't close on the planet without going through the monitor and the rest of the third squadron, the second fighter squadron, and the police mob. That gives us a clear shot at his tail. He's going really slow, however, only warp two. That damn thing still spins like a top but he must have lost a lot of engine power."

"How soon until your photons are loaded?" she asked.

"For full overloads, another minute or so," he said. "I'll call when I'm ready. Oh, and Shanna, I'm sorry about Kevin."

"Later," she snapped. "Just execute the plan. We don't know how fast that thing can repair itself. We have it hurt; let's kill it."

Juggernaut Beta, 1259 hrs, 23 Jan Y169

The Juggernaut evaluated the situation. It would be some time before the engine damage was repaired, but the armor was already nearing full strength again, except on the bow where it would take a little longer.

While still maneuverable, the loss of power meant that the Juggernaut was very slow. Powering the shield and weapons would leave only a quarter of its top combat speed, and that would make it too vulnerable to the waves of missiles. Beta did not entirely believe Crawford's claims about how many more missiles the fighters and other ships had left, but even another salvo would be too much for his energy-starved weapons to block. The lack of power, and the vulnerability of his engines, was a shock to Beta. The last reports from Alpha had been of a large explosion close aboard, but it was never clear just how large the explosion was and whether it had been stopped by the rotating shield. Having lost over a third of his power to an enemy battle plan that had, clearly, failed was terrifying. After a nano-second of thought, he deactivated the automatic shield rotation system and locked the shield to cover the engines. There would be no more cheap damage from that quarter.

Beta wanted to target the large but slow ship that had so many photon torpedoes, considering it one of the two most dangerous single opponents, but to reach it would mean flying head first into the drones. Even a snap turn could not take him out of drone range at his current top speed.

Beta knew he could go defensive, maneuver away, try to stretch out the enemy force, and wait for his repair systems to make good the damage. But that would take time, and the other dangerous opponent, the small cruiser with four photons, would be on him before then.

This became the spark of knowledge on which his battle plan was built. The big cruiser did not seem to have many weapons and the large heavily-armed ship was very slow. If Beta could destroy the smaller cruiser, he could take the time to repair himself while deciding how to deal with the missile-armed craft near the planet.