CHAPTER 2

"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week."

-General George S Patton Jr - Earth (Human)

Waiting, in a very close orbit around the planet were seven ships of the Romulon Starfleet and the same two Cardassian cruisers that had attacked the Thorin. The raiders would have to eliminate these ships before they could move in to bombard the planet. Seven Dosadi raiders against nine Romulon and Cardassian defenders. And they would have to be fast, before the Romulon repair crews were able to bring the starbase back online.

Captain Norin assessed the ships facing him and calmly issued his attack orders. "Launch Green Wing's F-14 Tomcats and have them hold station around us as a close-in defense. Launch the Countach missiles at 300,000 kilometers." These were fast, powerful anti-ship missiles designed to cause massive internal damage to any vessel they struck. "Prepare to turn to 030 mark 015 on my order."

The defending vessels were making their initial moves as well. They split into two forces with the heavier force splitting 'north'. In it were the X-class heavy cruiser Pompey and two of the Romulon's finest light cruisers – the Rubicon and the Tiber. Well known to the Dosadi as experienced, vicious and effective ships. Escorting them were two fast destroyers, Legion and Centurion. Worse news yet for the Dosadi, two of the Romulon's brand new anti-missile destroyers, the Preatoria and the Augustus. It would be unlikely for any Dosadi drones to find their marks this day.

Sethos, the combat controller aboard the Loreth (Corin's brother, Jons explained) spoke, "Captain, range is now 80,000 km. The Cardassian-based force has executed a high-energy turn and launched eight fighters. They will intercept our current course in two minutes."

"Launch the remaining fighters. Have Red Wing's Thunderbolts stand to the rear but close enough to attack when an opportunity presents itself. Have the SWACS (a special shuttlecraft designed to aid communications, tracking, and control of a battle) make best speed away from the battle space on course 135 mark 255 but stay within control range. Blue Wing's Phantoms will fly escort in conjunction with the two F-4's from the Dosin. White Wing's Hornets and Green Wing will launch a 75% drone spread at 40,000 km and move to attack the cruiser force. Turn control of the Gatling phasers and the anti-drone-drones over to the Aegis system. Let's see if it's worth what we paid the Federation for it."

"Aye, sir"

Anxious seconds passed for both fleets as tightly packed formations bloomed into complex patterns and sensors began playing across space. Ranges dropped as ships feinted slightly or simulated weapons releases to try to force an early response. Neither side was making any mistakes – these were some of the most skilled and professional warriors in known space.

Norin watched the large, solid holograph in front of his command station, watching the little sparks of light with ghostly vector arrows crawling towards each other. "On my mark, have the Avric, the Eleth and the Raseth make a feint to the left and then proceed to attack the starbase. If they can, avoid becoming entangled with the defenders. As soon as they launch, release the fighters to attack."

Within seconds, the Dosadi's compact formation bloomed across space at high speed with the frigates and the light cruiser peeling off to the left. The carrier and her corvette escorts arced to the right while the destroyer Dosin increased speed and began dumping reinforcing energy into her forward shields.

Instantly, the Romulon cruisers belched out seven plasma torpedoes. Ugly red balls of high-energy plasma bound into a seeking weapon, the torpedoes were capable of crippling a ship with a single hit. And they were exceedingly long-ranged – although they 'bled' out energy the further they flew, weakening. Unfortunately for the Dosadi captains, they couldn't afford the time to try to out-run them Instead, they had to close the distance. On board every ship, defense officers scrambled to find something with which to evade, deceive, or destroy these devastating weapons.

Aboard the little frigate Raseth, racing along on the Avric's starboard side, there was no chance to do much of anything.

Shortly before the Romulons fired, her navigator informed his captain "Sir, the cruiser force has turned to intercept our course, 180 mark 315..." He was interrupted by the defense officer's near scream,

"Weapons lock from..." He never finished the sentence. The heavy phaser-1s, disruptors and a sprinkling of lighter phasers bracketed the tiny ship even as her helmsman tried to force the shuddering little ship into an evasive descending spiral as her shields folded one after another and explosions rocked her from bow to stern. While not crippled, she was beyond any effective action for a bit. The Romulons had drawn first blood.

Aboard the light cruiser Avric, a similar situation was developing. The cruiser, however, was quite a bit more capable of dealing with the weapons targeted on her. Her forward shield was badly battered despite the extra energy reinforcing it, but it was holding. Unfortunately, five of the seven deadly plasma torpedoes were tracking on his ship. The luckless Raseth had drawn the other two.

The Raseth's captain tried desperately to save his ship. "Execute a high-energy turn!" This was a panic maneuver which caused the ship to trade all forward energy into a spinning, skidding turn that dumped excess energy into the shields as reinforcement – it also left the ship nearly dead in space. "Launch the Wild Weasel!'

The smoking little ship shook under impossible stresses as she first spun 120 degrees to try to present an intact shield to the rapidly closing plasma globes, and then all her remaining energy was transferred into her shields. The giant doors in her side slid open and a shuttlecraft – the Wild Weasel – crammed with electronic gear to attract the torpedoes, began its slow run away from the ship.

It didn't get very far. About seven seconds after launch, two Type F torpedoes slammed into it, vaporizing it very thoroughly. While less damaging than the horrific Type R torpedo, the detonations were still powerful enough to cut the Raseth's number three shield in half and shake the ship like a terrier with a rat.

While considerably less critical, the situation on board the Avric was similar. Her defense officer calmly issued his orders "Fire forward and pod phasers at torpedo of choice – just make sure you aren't killing the same one. Request supporting fires from the Coasd and Eladi."

"Eladi's out of range, sir, Cosad responding." Seconds later, phaser energy from the anti-seeker corvette Cosad raged across the oncoming torpedoes, aided by the squadron of F-18's flying CID (close-in defense or 'sid') and the Avric's own fire. Only one of the torpedoes survived to hit the vessel and the ugly red energy swarmed over her shields swamping the reinforcement and doing light damage to all six shields.

The Romulons were having problems of their own. Dozens of anti-ship missiles from the Loreth and her fighters were swarming into their fleet. Unfortunately for the Dosadi, the Romulon anti-missile destroyers were doing exactly what they were designed for. Only a fraction of the missiles closed with their targets, and those were dealt with by their point-defense phasers.

The Dosadi began firing disruptors, overloaded phasers, and photon torpedoes – their heavy weapon of choice; a deadly, fast weapon supplied by the Federation. Much lighter than the plasma torpedoes of the Romulon's, but much faster to reload and impossible to dodge or intercept. The Loreth added a surprise weapon of her own – a pair of Hellbore torpedoes. Modifications of the photon torpedo, these weapons would englobe a target vessel and then collapse onto the weakest shield whether it was facing the firing ship or not; As the X-class cruiser Pompey found out. Her number two shield, protecting her right front sextant, collapsed under the pounding of the incoming Dosadi fire.

That was all the opportunity the Dosadi needed. Fighters, the frigates, and the heavy destroyer Dosin began pumping devastating fire into the Pompey's unprotected hull. Despite the best efforts of her crew to turn the giant cruiser away, in seconds the proud ship was a smoldering wreck. She could move, but had little left in the way of weapons or power. Casualties were heavy throughout the ship as she vented atmosphere and energy into space, fires racing across her hull.

Norin was trying to keep track of what the Romulon fleet still had to hit back with. "Combat, analysis of that volley. Any torpedo launchers hit?"

Sethos looked up from his screens, "Hard to say, Captain.; Looks like we crippled the Pompey's phasers and most of their disruptors. I don't see any damage to any torpdeo launchers on any vessel though. I think they're all still working."

"Shit. Make those a primary target for anyone taking shots at the cruiser."

Raled, the fleet defense officer interrupted, "Sir, the Romulon fighters have just launched four more Type-F torpedoes, their destroyers have launched two additional Type F's. All are targeted on the Dosin. The Cardassian force is closing rapidly on the Avric and the Eleth. Raseth's out of it."

"So much for evading and going straight in to the attack." Norin sighed. "Have our fighters launch their Lynx missiles at the Romulon and Cardassian fighters." These were high-speed lighweight drones designed to destroy enemy fighters. You could fire them at ships – in fact to enemy sensors they looked identical to the heavier Countach missiles – but they did very little damage to something as large as a starship. "After launch, recover and re-arm as fast as we can. Continue rapid firing of our own missiles at targets of opportunity."

The captain of the Dosin wasn't worried in the slightest. Her captain was in a very overconfident mood. The initial exchange had cost the Dosadi a badly damaged frigate. In return, they had nearly destroyed the heaviest vessel the Romulon's had present. This was the second X-Class cruiser kill the Dosin had to her credit. The heavy destroyer pivoted gracefully on one 'wing tip' (in reality a weapons pod), and plowed directly over the two torpedoes, conserving her weapons for offense. Most of her number six shield, protecting her left front sextant, folded under.

The captain of the frigate Eleth was a little more aware of the gravity of the situation. Watching the tracks in the holographic display, he spoke to his combat controller, "Sameeth, where exactly are the rest of those targeted?"

"Working...Uh, three on the Avric, and uh, two for us. The Cardassians are locking weapons on our number six shield, and the two light cruisers have locked onto our number two shield."

"Oh shit. Fire all weapons at the Rubicon. Helm, emergency stop! Shuttle bay – launch the wild weasel NOW!" Crewmen all throughout the frigate raced to their duties as the ship literally slammed on the brakes, trading all her momentum for shield reinforcement; delicate lines of lethal energy tracing from emitters on her weapons pods into the growing bulk of the Romulon cruiser bearing down on her.

The bridge of the mighty Avric was a much calmer place. She detected the three inbound Type-F plasma torpedoes and the enemy disruptors locked onto her number two shield and began to deal with them in turn. Her captain issued his orders: "Helm, hard left, Emergency stop. Shuttle bay – launch Wild Weasel number one immediately."

Again, the tiny shuttles made a desperate dash for distance, drawing the seeking weapons to their electronic bait, and again, didn't get far. The Avric wasn't bothered in the slightest, but her escort the Eleth wasn't quite so fortunate.

The tiny ship trembled under the close explosions of the torpedoes, her hull groaning in protest. Crewmen looked up from their stations at the eerie sounds. Then the weapons ports on the Romulon light cruiser erupted into life and the frigate's number 2 shield went down and long rents appeared in her hull as the enemy weapons struck home.