". . .Let Slip the Dogs of War"
By: Bo Donati

From the Ship’s Log of USS LEXINGTON (NCC-2003), September 2311

Shuttle Essex - 2340 Hours

First Officers log; 2311.22.07. Commander Bay recording: We have departed the Lexington and are en route to the battleship Bismarck. Our orders are to board the Bismarck and attempt to retake the stolen ship. We will be joined by a marine contingent from the USS Saratoga. In addition, a squadron of fighters will escort our shuttle and the marine transport ship. . Captain Donati has given us a window of one hour to complete our mission. After one hour, the Lexington, Saratoga and any additional Federation vessels will begin a full scale attack on the Bismarck... Bay out.

"Status Mister Stev?" Bay asked.

"Current speed, three-quarter impulse." The Vulcan pilot replied. "Our ETA to planetary orbit is seven minutes."

"We should be near our rendezvous point with the Saratoga's marines." Commander Smith said.

As if on cue the shuttle's proximity detector sounded and a squadron of marine fighters edged in front of the shuttle. Just starboard of the Essex, the marine transport vessel closed up the formation. The crew on the Essex seemed to relax slightly with the arrival of the marines. Commander Bay felt differently. Each moment which brought her closer to battle only served to heighten her level of excitement. She wondered if any of her crew mates felt the same. Do they relish the thought of battle as I do? Bay touched her Klingon knife at her belt hoping above hope to be able to release the tri-blade assembly and exact her revenge on the Jirzzaque... She owed them. She owed them for destroying her previous ship, the USS Stark, at Starbase forty-three. Bay turned and eyed the people she had come to respect and honor. One thought haunted her as they neared their final approach. How many of us will return?

USS Lexington - 2350 Hours

"Battle stations." Captain Donati calmly ordered as he scanned the chronometer on the arm of the command chair. "Raise shields, arm all weapons. . . Lieutenant DeHart, stand by for warp speed."

"Course and speed plotted and laid in sir." DeHart replied.

"Shields at maximum." Chandos said. "All weapons armed and standing by."

"Very well." Donati said. "Everyone be on your toes. We will be dropping from warp within the weapons range of the Bismarck. Our purpose is to provide a diversion for the assault team... All decks stand by."

From behind him the turbo lifts doors parted and Admiral Black entered the bridge. The raven haired woman spotted an empty seat at science station two and she quickly filled it.

"Captain, the Saratoga is hailing." Lieutenant Commander Skye announced. "I have Captain Donaree, audio only."

"Play ball." The Saratoga's Captain said.

"Batter up." Donati replied then signaled for the channel to be closed. "Mister DeHart, warp five now!"

The Lexington and Saratoga dropped from warp and discharged their weapons at the Bismarck. The combined assault barely managed to put a dent in the battleships shields. The Bismarck quickly responded with a barrage of its own. The Saratoga suffered the most damage and its shields wavered. Before Captain Donaree was able to order the ship out of weapons range the Bismarck momentarily lowered its shields and beamed a boarding parry aboard the Saratoga.

The Lexington followed the Saratoga, angling away and firing its weapons.

"Sensors show the assault team has broken through the Bismarck's perimeter." Commander Sabin said from science station one.

"Any sign of pursuit?" The Captain asked.

"None sir." Sabin said. "The Bismarck is maintaining planetary orbit."

"Ship's status?"

"Shields at fifty-eight percent." Chandos reported. "All weapons are nominal."

"Channel all available power to the forward shield array." Donati ordered. "Weapons target the saucer section... We are going in for another run."

Shuttle Essex - Zero Hour

Once inside the defensive sphere of the battleship Stev piloted the Essex for one of the Bismarck's shuttle bays.

"We're losing drive plasma from the starboard nacelle." Stev reported.

"I'm on it!" Lieutenant Commander Smith said.

"Prepare for final approach." Bay said. "Brace yourself... We'll be attempting to punch through their containment field."

Two of the Saratoga's fighters led the way with their turbo-phasers blazing. At the last moment they peeled away rocketing under the saucer section of the Bismarck. The shuttle and marine transport hit the containment field hard but managed to break through. The two ships skidded to a halt on the deck. The rear door of the shuttle dropped open and the crew ran out ducking for cover as the Jirzzaque opened fire. The resistance to their arrival was surprisingly light leaving Commander Bay to wonder if the Jirzzaque had the opportunity to get reinforcements aboard... Just then, a squad of Jirzzaque warriors stormed into the hangar deck. The marines were deployed and ready for them. Phaser beams sliced through the air and into the bodies of the Jirzzaque. Only a lucky few were able to find cover in time.

Commander Smith fired a few suppressing rounds allowing Commanders Bay and Brown to close in on the Jirzzaque's position. Bay leapt over a fallen container and came face to face with a Jirzzaque. They fired simultaneously, K'Yras blast centered on the assailant’s chest. The Jirzzaque's beam cut through her uniform burning a path at her hip. The Jirzzaque fell backwards and died instantly. Brown caught up with Bay and noticed the smoking gash.

"Commander! Are you all right?" Brown asked.

"Yes!" K'Yras grinned, her Klingon blood nearing a boil. "I haven't felt this good in years!"

USS Saratoga - 0035 Hours

"Grey Wolf, can you locate them on internal sensors?" Captain Donaree asked referring to the boarding party of Jirzzaque.

"Internal sensors are damaged sir." He replied. "I could patch into the lateral array and calibrate them for internal scans."

"Do it." Kit ordered. 'We need to know where they are and fast!'

"Captain, I'm getting reports of sporadic fighting from the engineering deck." Commander M'Reia said.

"Alert security." The Captain said as she viewed the battle on the main viewer. The Lexington was moving to attack again. . alone.

"Mister Brannon, plot a parallel course to the Lexington's."

"Captain our shields!" Lieutenant JG Mai protested.

"We'll hit them from both sides." Kit ignored him. "Shields full starboard... Prepare to fire on my mark."

Again the Saratoga took up a position flanking the Lexington. The two warships cruised past the battleship blasting away with every available weapon. While the Bismarck suffered under the assault, the Lexington and Saratoga still bore the brunt of the engagement. The Saratoga shields were reduced to critical levels and Captain Donaree barely maneuvered her ship out of range before suffering even more serious damage.

The Lexington too acquired its share of damage but all of its key systems were still functioning. With the timetable racing by, Captain Donati could only hope that Commander Bay's team could complete their mission and escape the Bismarck in time.

USS Bismarck - 0057 Hours

The assault team had met heavy resistance and was forced to retreat to the shuttle bay and evacuate. Commander Bay and a handful of marines held off the Jirzzaque as their comrades prepared for departure.

"Stev, prepare to launch!" Bay shouted over the din of small arms fire.

Without replying, the Vulcan threaded his way to the Essex, dove through the door and quickly climbed into the pilot’s seat. The shuttle was ready for departure in record time.

Commander Brown entered next supporting Ensign T'Bec who had suffered a glancing blow from a Jirzzaque disrupter. He helped her to a seat, buckled her in and returned to the door to provide cover for the other returning personnel.

"Just get to the shuttle damn it!" Bay ordered Smith.

"Not without you." Smith argued.

"Mister Smith that's a direct order!"

"Court martial me if make it that far!" He said helping her to her feet. "Right now, just hang onto me!"

"You are one stubborn son of a bitch Mister Smith!" Bay said between clenched teeth. K'Yras had to admit, at least to herself that she found herself respecting him and envying his obvious bravery...

USS Lexington - 0059 Hours

The console at science station two smoldered as a damage control officer finished extinguishing it... Lieutenant DeHart was being tended to by an EMT after receiving a gash in her forehead from a shard of flying debris. Despite these relatively minor incidents, the Lady Lex was holding her own against the Bismarck. The hit and run tactics that Captain Donati employed had kept, for the most part, the ship our of harms way. Now the time had come for a change in tactics. The Federation fleet would be on station within minutes and an all out offensive was slated to begin.

"Captain the Starquest is hailing." Skye reported. "Audio only"

"ETA one minute." Captain Dunning said.

"Follow the leader AJ..." Donati replied.

"Acknowledged." Captain Dunning answered feeling a sense of relief that the Lexington and her friend Captain Donati had managed to survive so far.

"Jena any signal from Commander Bay's team?"

"None Captain."

"Cami? Anything?"

"I'm not reading the Essex on sensors Captain." Sabin replied. "But, there's an abundance of interference out there."

"We can't wait." Donati decided. "Take us in Lieutenant... Full Impulse!"

The Lexington accelerated to full impulse and headed directly for the Bismarck. The captain waited until they reached point-blank range before opening fire. Phasers and photon torpedoes spewed from the heavy cruiser. Every shot finding its mark. As the Bismarck's shields weakened it fired back. The Lexington immediately listed to port as the weapons struck her shields. The bridge personnel tumbled across the deck and a number of consoles exploded, unable to cope with the massive energy surges.

"Maintain rate of fire!" Donati ordered.

"Photon launchers are off-line sir!" Chandos said. Phasers functioning at seventy-eight percent!"

Admiral Black had struggled to her feet and balanced herself against the bridge rail. She decided that if this was to be the end of her, she wanted to be with him. She crossed the bridge and as she neared the command chair another salvo struck the Lexington. Black felt her feet leave the deck and she was pitched forward. Her hands braced for impact. Inches from the deck strong hands engulfed her and brought her to her feet. Captain Donati gently guided her into the command chair. Even under these dire circumstances. Alisha smiled and mouthed the words "I love you".

Donati turned back to the screen just in time to see the Bismarck turning to face its new threat... the USS Starquest.

"Target the damaged nacelle strut!" The Captain ordered. "Fire at will."

Aboard the Saratoga, Kit sensed what Bo had in mind and she ordered her ship to a position whereby they too could target the strut. Another parting shot from the Bismarck knocked the phaser banks out. Without weapons. Donati was forced to consider retreat.

"Belay that order DeHart" The Captain said abruptly changing his mind. Chandos, lock a tractor beam onto the Bismarck's port nacelle."

"Aye sir." The tactical officer replied. "Tractor beam functioning at one-hundred percent capacity."

"CONN, shear away, one-eighth impulse."

The Lexington was buffered under the stress but the tractor beam held. The Starquest fired on the Bismarck concentrating its weapons on the saucer section, primarily the bridge. Captain Donaree added the Saratoga's tractor beam and she ordered the Saratoga to reverse engines. The starship's engines groaned under the strain as they tried to comply with their Captains wishes.

"Captain, structural integrity at thirty-eight percent and falling!" Cami reported.

"Maintain!" Donati said.

"Captain. Photon's are back on line!" Chandos said.

"Standby." The Captain replied. "CONN, increase to one- quarter Impulse."

The engines screamed louder. Every Inch the Lexington took the Bismarck took right back...

"Captain!" Cami shouted. "Integrity at twelve percent!"

As Commander Sabin turned back to her instruments the hull integrity of the Lexington dipped into single digits. She opened her mouth to speak just as the Bismarck's nacelle began to rip loose. From within the Bismarck a deep groan of buckling deck plates sounded the beginning of the end of the giant battleship.

"What is that?" Subadar Lertac shouted jumping to his feet. "Port nacelle is losing stability!" An officer yelled.

"Compensate!" Lertac screamed but no order would have saved them. The hull ruptured and the nacelle was pulled free. Automatically the battleships power shut down to avoid a catastrophic overload. It was the moment Donati and the rest of the fleet was waiting for.

"There's your target Mister Chandos." Donati said referring to the huge hole in the Bismarck's side. "Fire torpedoes!"

Two torpedoes entered the place where the nacelle previously was and erupted. The ship lurched and spewed burning plasma. The Starquest followed next and sliced up the saucer section with her phases. Not to be outdone the Saratoga cut loose a volley which struck the Bismarck amidships. Its fate was sealed.

"The Bismarck is caught in the planets gravity." Sabin reported a bit somberly. "She's going down."

The Bismarck slowly slid away from the Third Fleet task force and entered the planets upper atmosphere. Places of its shattered hull broke away and ignited leaving, behind a trail of sparkling embers. The dying battleship gained momentum and its entire hull gleamed red. Once in the lower atmosphere the Bismarck changed into a dying ball of flame and impacted on the surface. The Jirzzaque's left no longer had the stomach for battle and made an attempt to escape. The Federation fleet hunted them down and when they would give no quarter, destroyed every one. The Jirzzaque invasion of the Federation had come to a very violent halt...

USS Lexington - Resolutions Captain's Ready Room

"Come" Came the Captain's voice from within.

The hatch opened and Lieutenant JG Cole entered. He stood rigidly at attention before Donati. "Lieutenant JG Cole reporting as ordered, sir."

The Captain noticed his torn uniform and bruised face. Donati rose for a closer inspection. "What happen, Mister Cole?"

"I... I, uh, fell sir." Cole replied immediately regretting the lie.

"More than once I suppose." Donati said skeptically. "At ease Lieutenant."

As Cole stood at parade rest he noticed a science PADD on the Captain's desk. Donati picked it up. "The information on this PADD is invaluable to the Federation." He said returning to his chair. "It contains what Starfleet Intelligence believes are the coordinates of the Jirzzaque home world. Commander Sabin found it at science station two on the bridge. Apparently, Lieutenant, you deciphered the hieroglyphics you discovered on planet Jirzzaque Alpha. And, it seems you did this at some point of lucidity during your recent "kidnapping". The Federation Council has sent the Jirzzaque a message via sub space. They have informed them that any further aggression against the Federation will result in an attack on their home world."

Cole brightened for a moment. Realizing that he had managed to assert his own personality while Dorax was in his mind. Perhaps my last duty as a Starfleet officer was a positive one after all.

"Now about the incident in engineering." Donati continued in a grave tone.

"Yes sir." Karl gulped, bracing himself for the words "court martial" and "Judge Advocate General".

"Had you been an actual spy for the Jirzzaque. I would have personally jettisoned you from an airlock." The Captain said.

"I understand sir." Cole meekly said. He was preparing to offer his resignation when the Captain continued.

"However that is not the case. Commander Llire informs me that you had no control over what happened to you and that you should not be held responsible for the actions taken. Therefore, your Starfleet service record has been cleared and you will return to active duty as soon as Counselor Cary and the medical staff see fit."

"But Captain, I don't understand. . ."

"As I told you, you were not responsible." The Captain repeated.

"But sir, I almost killed Kelly." Cole Interrupted. In a way he was seeking exoneration for that as well, but knew it would be personally harder to accept.

"That is true Mister Cole." Donati admitted. "But that was Dorax, not you."

"I... I tried to stop him sir." Karl said lowering his eyes.

"Whatever you tried to do must have worked for she is very much alive and she has already returned to active duty."

"Then she's all right?"

"Yes, her situation is very much like your own." The Captain explained. "Physically you're both fine. It is your emotional states which have given us cause for concern... Counselor Cary has requested that you have some time off and get reacquainted with your family... Your parents will be meeting the Lexington at Third Fleet Headquarters."

Karl winced, for he was too concerned about dealing with his career and what had happened on the ship. He did not want to have to interact with his family at this time. Evidently, the Captain noticed his grimace.

"Do you have a problem with that Lieutenant?" Donati asked sharply.

"No sir."

"Very well then, I expect you to be ready when the Lexington is."

"You are dismissed Lieutenant." Donati said turning to his computer monitor. Cole wheeled around to leave the ready room. "And if you have any more trouble staying on your feet let me know immediately."

Cole went to the door, feeling a slight smile cross his face. The smile quickly faded as the door slid open. There, on the point of entering, stood Petty Officer Kelly Grande. The last time he remembered seeing her face to face, his hand was around her throat in engineering. He was startled, and stopped dead in his tracks. Kelly's eyes locked with his, also finding it difficult to speak. After a moment the yeoman averted her gaze.

"Excuse me Lieutenant." And she stepped aside to allow the senior officer through. Still tongue tied Cole nodded and slipped past her and into the turbo lift. Grande turned and watched him. Finally she entered the ready room and took her seat at her computer console.

"It will be all right Kelly." The Captain said noticing tears forming at the corners of her bright blue eyes. "It will take time, but it will be all right."

"I hope so sir."

Later that evening Captain Donati decided that the Lexington was out of any danger and he retired to his cabin leaving Lieutenant Commander Smith with the center seat. It was time for a long shower and a good night's rest.

"Good evening sir." Yeoman Grande said as she was exiting his quarters, a mischievous smile on her face.

"Good evening." He replied in kind. "Kelly, I don't want to be disturbed for six hours."

"I've already seen to it sir." She grinned and stepped into the turbo lift.

Donati rubbed his weary eyes and entered his cabin. There in the center of the room was a candlelit table. Admiral Black moved through the darkened room and pressed a glass of brandy into his hand. She was clad in the white dress she had worn when they first made their rendezvous on Aldebaran. Her hair was down and brushed full and she appeared to be a woman half of her forty-four years.

"I thought you'd like something to eat before you turned in." She neatly purred.

"Yes. Thank you." He replied after a sip of the sweet liquid. As Alisha checked the table Bo slid his arms around her slim waist and pulled her close.

"Is there anything else you'd like Bo?" She asked.

"Just you Alisha." He said "And an answer to my question."

Alisha almost asked "what question" but, there was only one unresolved issue between them. "It scares me." She admitted returning his embrace.

"Marriage?" He asked.

"No, just being in love with you does. Not knowing if you'll come back from a mission. ."

"We can't worry about those things." He said. "We know the lives we lead. Risk is part of the game."

"This isn't a starship tactic Bo." She countered. "It's our lives." She moved from his grasp and walked to a large window, gazing at the stars. Sometimes you've got to take a chance Alisha. Her mother’s voice echoed in his mind. In the reflection she could see him moving toward her. Alisha turned and smiled at him.

"Yes Bo, I'll marry you." The Captain smiled and took her in his arms and they kissed. "One thing though." She said between kisses. "I'd like to keep my last name. . .

"I understand" Bo said just wanting to take her into his bedroom as fast as possible.

"A hyphen!" She amended.

"Hmmmm?" Bo said as he nuzzled her neck.

"I'll use a hyphen." Alisha said. "When we're married I'll use Vice Admiral Alisha Black-Donati... How does that sound?"

"Perfect!" He smiled as his hands worked to free her from the dress.

"Bo, the food will get cold!" She weakly protested.

"What food?" He said as her garment fall to the floor...