Episode 24 – Prologue

“Blacksheep Flight, this is Axanar, anything to report?”

“Negative, Axanar, we’re clear out to at least four light years. Nothing’s moving out there except debris.”

“Roger, Blacksheep Flight. Stay frosty.”

Flight Lieutenant Eva ‘Stick’ Morales shut the comm-channel down, and switched over to her wingmate’s. “Can you guess the old movies they must be showing in the officer’s mess?”

“More of the XO’s twentieth century classics?” Stick couldn’t see her partner in the two-fighter Combat Air Patrol, but she could imagine Flying Officer Tor ‘Bluebell’ Hark, a thousand klicks away, taking his hands off the controls and making air quotes with his fingers.

“Yeah. It’s getting the flight controllers all macho – actually, it’s kinda cute.” She kept the tone light – she was senior officer on the CAP, so morale was just as much her job as monitoring her flight space – but she didn’t take her eyes off the sensor panel in front of her. Beyond her cockpit window, the swirling gasses of the Rolor Nebula effectively obscured her vision, but short range passives could pierce the veil to show a reasonably accurate picture of space beyond.

It was nearly two weeks since they’d witnessed the last stand of Seventh Fleet, and parts of the sector were still hot zones from the fight. At last reckoning, at least 450 vessels – from both sides – were destroyed in the fighting, and if the smaller jar-head* attack ships didn’t leave much behind, the larger capital ships certainly did. And there was enough debris still hot from plasma fires, core breaches, and general radiation that tracking the drifting clouds of shattered debris was relatively easy.

Flying CAP for the Taskforce Axanar – the last survivors of the Seventh – was for the moment a sobering experience.

The fizz-pop of her comm-panel – she’d have to get Chief Torak onto that – drew her out of her reverie. “Yeah, Bluebell? Say again?”

“I said, do you know if the rumours are true?”

Stick could guess what he meant. “What rumours?” But it wasn’t wise to let the junior ranks know that even officers listened into the ship grapevine.

“That the Old Man isn’t going to wait for a recovery op?” There was a hint of something fragile in her wingman’s voice. “That he’s gonna make the run for Federation space?”

That was indeed what Stick had heard. When her CAP had launched, she was nearly dazzled by hundreds of points of stuttering light throughout their makeshift fleet. Welding arcs, in the hands of vac-suited engineers and techs, all making repairs to the battered ships of the taskforce. From her cockpit, she had been able to make out the sense of urgency, the pace of the work. Even without the scuttlebutt around the flight deck – that Captain Lombardo was indeed not planning on sitting still – it was obvious that plans were being made to get every ship cleared for action.

“Haven’t heard a thing, Blue, and wouldn’t believe it if I did,” she lied. “And neither should you – probably frayed nerves and synthehol, nothing more. We’ll know when we know – focus on your job now, not tomorrow’s, right?”

“Right, LT.”

Stick could still hear that wavering fear, though. “But I’ll tell you one thing, Flying Officer Hark, and you listen up good.”

“Yes, LT?”

“If the Old Man does make a move, you can bet he’s going to do it with a mind to getting it *done*, and kicking Dominion ass. Don’t you worry about that, Blue.”

She paused, realising that she actually believed it, too. “If the old man goes to war, the jar heads won’t know what hit ’em.”


 

* jar-head: Pejorative term used by MACO and fighter crews to refer to the Jem Hadar. Marine staff find the term amusing, but don’t use it.

Episode 23: BDA – 7th Fleet Rolor Sector Engagement

//AXANAR.SECURE.SYSTEM.ALPHA

//LOG.ENTRY

/1: CALLAN, Jonathan R – #09834-23JC, CMDR: Fleet/Strategic Operations, USS Axanar

//COPY TO

/1: LOMBARDO, Jake – #21963-77JL, CAPT: Commanding Officer, USS Axanar

/2: REED, Babylon H – #SA-317-422, CDR: Executive Officer, USS Axanar

**LOG.Begins

BATTLE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT – Rolor Sector Engagement

Result: Total Loss.

Summary:

  • 98 Vessels Lost, including Command ship USS Destiny

  • 11 Vessels MIA

  • Battlegroup Axanar augmented with three additional vessels

    • USS Merrimac – Heavy Damage, Ordnance expended

    • USS Georgia – Light Damage, Ordnance expended

    • USS Andelle – No Damage, Ordnance expended

  • Battlegroup Axanar currently evading Dominion Fleet through the Rolor Nebula

  • Contact with SFCommand and local //BattleNet lost due to jamming/interference from Rolor Nebula

  • Axanar Ordnance at 45%

Assessment:

The Rolor Sector has fallen. Seventh Fleet losses are near total.

Events:

At 1703 hours, Rear Admiral Archer reported a sizable Dominion fleet was entering the Rolor Sector and he gave orders for the fleet to engage.

At 1735 hours, Seventh Fleet command issued order ‘Alamo’ and ordered a retreat to Alpha Volantis. Task Force Axanar was ordered to secure the fall back maneuver at Kavaria and to stay away from the active conflict.

At 1802 hours, Task Force Axanar engaged two squadrons of Dominion attack ships en-route to Kavaria. Dominion forces were completely destroyed with the loss of two Peregrine class fighters from VMF 221; Marine F.LT Sanders, F.LT Mitchens and Marine F.LT Schmid and Marine G.SGT Littler.

At 1912 hours, Task Force Axanar arrived at Kavaria. Seventh Fleet Command issued order CASE: Random – evacuation of all Starfleet and Federation assets from the sector. Task Force Axanar affected the retrieval of all Federation personnel from Starbase Lombardo.

As per orders from Admiral Ross, ASSET: DENIAL was implemented by Bravo Squad, 1st Platoon, 2nd Company, 321st Marines. Deployed mines inside Starbase Lombardo were activated upon retrieval of the Marines and will respond to the authorised master code. Should make capture and control for Dominion Forces difficult.

Task Group Axanar was met by the following vessels from the Seventh Fleet:

  1. USS Merrimac, Nebula Class – Current status: Flight Deck has been destroyed, weapons pod ejected due to fire in torpedo magazine. Current crew: 429 active, 89 wounded, 47 fatalities.

  2. USS Georgia, Miranda Class – Current status: Zero torpedo complement, phaser capacity at 82%, aft shield projector destroyed. Current crew: 191 active, 12 wounded, 4 fatalities.

  3. USS Andelle, Centaur Class – Current status: Zero torpedo complement, all other systems online. Full crew capacity.

At 1945 hours, the following message was received:

“Admiral’s Log, Stardate 51023.1.

I am broadcasting in the clear. I take full responsibility for today’s losses. Many good Starfleet officers gave their lives today, and I want everyone listening to know that they died for the highest ideals – to preserve, to save, to enrich the Federation.

I am proud to have served with every one of them.

As you can hear, we are about to be overwhelmed, and before the Dominion boards my command ship, I am going to launch all my probes. They will be set to broadcast the names of everyone who served here today: the best memorial for them I can make. To everyone listening, I can say only this:

Do not let the sacrifice of these officers and crew be in vain.

This is the final broadcast of Rear Admiral James Archer.”

I am entering the message into this log, along with the confirmed list of vessels destroyed.

  1. USS Destiny

  2. USS Tornado

  3. USS Galaxy

  4. USS Poseidon

  5. USS Domain

  6. USS Rainbow

  7. USS Thunderchild

  8. USS Arete

  9. USS James T. Kirk

  10. USS Arleigh Burke

  11. USS Barry

  12. USS John Paul Jones

  13. USS Curtis Wilbur

  14. USS Stout

  15. USS Mitscher

  16. USS Laboon

  17. USS Russell

  18. USS Ramage

  19. USS Fitzgerald

  20. USS Stethem

  21. USS Carney

  22. USS Benfold

  23. USS Gonzalez

  24. USS Cole

  25. USS Milius

  26. USS Hopper

  27. USS Ross

  28. USS Mahan

  29. USS Decatur

  30. USS McFaul

  31. USS Donald Cook

  32. USS Higgins

  33. USS O’Kane

  34. USS Porter

  35. USS Roosevelt

  36. USS Lassen

  37. USS Howard

  38. USS McCampbell

  39. USS Shoup

  40. USS Mason

  41. USS Preble

  42. USS Mustin

  43. USS Chaffee

  44. USS Pickney

  45. USS Momsen

  46. USS Chung-Hoon

  47. USS Bronstein

  48. USS McCloy

  49. USS Garcia

  50. USS Bradley

  51. USS Brumby

  52. USS Davidson

  53. USS Voge

  54. USS Sample

  55. USS Koelsch

  56. USS Albert David

  57. USS O’Callahan

  58. USS Knox

  59. USS Roark

  60. USS Gray

  61. USS Hepburn

  62. USS Connole

  63. USS Rathburne

  64. USS Meyerkord

  65. USS Lang

  66. USS Patterson

  67. USS Lockwood

  68. USS Stein

  69. USS Vreeland

  70. USS Badger

  71. USS Blakely

  72. USS Trippe

  73. USS Ouellet

  74. USS Bowen

  75. USS Paul

  76. USS Aylwin

  77. USS Cook

  78. USS Brewton

  79. USS Barbey

  80. USS Ainsworth

  81. USS Miller

  82. USS Capodanno

  83. USS Pharris

  84. USS Truett

  85. USS Valdez

  86. USS Moinester

  87. USS Glover

  88. USS Brooke

  89. USS Schofield

  90. USS Talbot

  91. USS McInerney

  92. USS Clarke

  93. USS Sides

  94. USS Estocin

  95. USS Antrim

  96. USS Flatley

  97. USS Fahrion

  98. USS Copeland

Total loss of life: estimated at 49,000+ souls.

At present there are eleven ships unaccounted for which did not proceed to the Alpha Volantis rendezvous. Those ships are:

  1. USS Venture

  2. USS Tokyo

  3. USS Abraham Lincoln

  4. USS Ta’Kir

  5. USS Endeavour

  6. USS Adelphi

  7. USS Ajax

  8. USS Aleo

  9. USS Gorkon

  10. USS Nightingale

  11. USS Potemkin

Task Group Axanar has proceeded into the Rolor Nebula to evade the Dominion Fleet.

Breakdown of specific tactical actions of both Starfleet and Dominion fleets will occur in a supplemental report due to issues in downloading data from the USS Merrimac tactical computers.

All contact with Starfleet Command and the local //BattleNet has been lost due to jamming and interference from the Nebula. This log will automatically update upon return to Federation Space.

**END LOG

Prologue – Episode 23

Captain Akilah Shaddid was proud of the new, fourth pip on her collar, and even prouder still of her new command. The USS Appalachia gleamed somberly in the massive dock of Starbase 375, a flat, lethal looking vessel with dark grey hull-plating and warp nacelles hugged protectively close to her main hull. For a moment, she worried about the pleasure she was taking in the ship’s combat abilities, but decided to go easy on herself.
The Federation was at war – lethality would soon matter as much as warp reliability and sensor fitouts.
Shaddid took one last glance out of the observation deck’s window and turned on her heel. Her first meeting with her new CO was scheduled in half an hour, and Captain (senior grade) Jake Lombardo was rumoured to be a no-nonsense officer. Shaddid figured it would be better to be early – just to be on the safe side.
As she left the observation deck and merged with foot-traffic on one of the station’s main thoroughfares, she spotted a familiar figure looking through one of the shop concessions lining the corridor’s sides. Captain Azo’rin may have had seniority by at least a year, but he was also her old Academy room-mate. Shaddid strolled over to the Andorian’s side and looked over the goods in front of him.
“I don’t think that’s your colour.”
“Good thing I’m not buying it for me, then,” Azo’rin responded, turning around to smile at his old friend. “But it should look charming on my wife.”
“I hadn’t heard!” Shaddid exclaimed. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” he said, and smiled. “And congratulations to you, too, on the Appalachia. She’s a tough ship, I hear. I can’t wait to serve with her.”

“Oh… you too, huh?” Shaddid frowned, glancing away. “Didn’t know you were married, and didn’t now you were on the same fleet assignment… embarrasing.”

“Well, you are a junior Captain – no one expects that much of you,” Azo’rin deadpanned. Shaddid punched him in the arm, and the two walked back onto the station concourse.

“So, I guess you know a bit more about our new CO, too? Care to enlighten your lesser?”
“I don’t like to talk about a fellow officer behind his back,” he started. Azo’rin walked a few paces, and then reconsidered. “I know Captain Lombardo may not have had a good start to his command career. You know about the Monitor incident, back when the Maquis were starting to be a problem?” Shaddid nodded. “That nearly put an end to his career then, but he took some time, and came back to the center seat, on the Ballista, one of the escorts in the current taskforce. The Ballista was posted to the Cardassian border, and I hear that Lombardo did some good work – managed to head up a promising first contact, saw some action when the Klingons first went after the Union, and there’s a even a rumour he and some of his crew did some off-the-books work for Starfleet Intelligence.”
“Wow, I had not heard that.”
“Yes, and I think it’s no coincidence that illegal Red Matter shipments dried up *after* Lombardo took up station,” Azo’rin continued. “And he helped put down that foolish coup a couple of years ago – that little Saber class Ballista tangled with Admiral Nechayev’s own flagship, and held it off long enough for the whole plot to fall over. I’ll say one thing, I wouldn’t want to play poker with the man.”
“After that, he got the Axanar, which is a pretty plum posting, and when the Klingons declared war against us, Lombardo managed to terminate an entire Klingon battlegroup. The Klingon’s still call him the Rolor Schoolmaster after that – I think they look up to him or something. Then he got his own taskforce, stopped part of last year’s Borg invasion like it was no thing at all, and has been keeping an eye on Dominion movements ever since. He wasn’t there, but it was his taskforce that took the first offensive action against the Dominion at Torrus III.”

“So, he’s not shy of action, then?”

“Not one bit. This is going to be an exciting posting.”

The pair left the main concourse, heading to a briefing room deeper inside the station, behind a security checkpoint. After passing the Marines on duty, they walked into a room that was already full of officers, none below the rank of Commander. Shaddid had time to whisper to Azo’rin “I guess getting here early was the right call,” before another door opened, and another Starfleet captain entered the room, trailed by a Commander. The man was tall, grey at the temples with a swarthy, Mediterranean complexion, while his second was a stern blond woman. Both were armed with type II pistols, and flanked by another pair of Marines, who looked like they were trailing the Captain regardless of anything he might have to say on the matter.
He sat down, tapped his pad, and looked around the room.
“My name’s Jake Lombardo; this is my XO, Babylon Reed. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a war to win – so let’s get to work.”

Episode 22 – Operation Watchtower orders

To: USS Axanar actual
From: Starfleet Tactical Operations Command, Admiral Ross representing
Re: Offensive operations against The Dominion presence in the Beta Quadrant

Well, Captain Lombardo, Commander Reed, this is it – the great test of our time.
As you read this, the officer commanding station Deep Space Nine has received authorisation to mine the entrance to the Bajoran Wormhole. The amount of Dominion shipping transiting from the Gamma Quadrant is deemed too great a risk – if we allow such an unchecked military build-up, it is plain that Dominion forces will over-match Starfleet by an unwinnable factor within a matter of months. Captain Benjamin Sisko has offered an operational plan that should effectively cut off the forces here from further reinforcement, though it will likely sacrifice the station – and Bajor – itself.
We can only hope the Dominion respects Bajoran neutrality.
However, such a defensive operation is only part of the equation. Long range observation and intelligence suggests that the Dominion is already constructing a number of ship-building facilities – we need to strike at these as well. That’s where Watchtower comes in.
I cannot stress the importance of deception in this operation. The four vessels you see before you have been refitted not with offensive operations in mind, but rather as – well – stalking horses. Their power output, energy profiles, and warp signatures have been altered to match those of your own task force. They will take your place in the Rolor Sector, while the real Task Force 77.4.3 enters the Badlands, infiltrates Cardassian space, to strike at the shipyards at Torros III. They are about to come on line, and have been heavily defended, but we expect the Dominion to react strongly to the mining of the Wormhole, and attack Deep Space Nine.
And that’s your opportunity.
But there’s a catch. To maintain the masquerade that the TF 77.4.3 is in fact in place, one further detail needs to be in place – you, Captain Lombardo. You’ll miss out on the action, but you’ll be making a massive contribution to the operation. Your broadcasts will convince Dominion signals intercepts that nothing’s out of place – when your people attack, they should achieve almost complete surprise.
I’ve attached our scans and projected enemy dispositions of Torros III, but the details of the attack I am leaving up to you, Commander Reed – Lombardo will have to leave immediately if we are to have a hope of success. Maintain a chain of relay probes as you enter the Badlands, and we’ll signal Go/No-go based on events at Deep Space Nine. However, I am convinced the Dominion will react.
Regardless, I wish you all good luck – and good hunting.
Ross out.

Episode 22 – Prologue

“And you’re sure there was nothing else – just co-ords for a rendezvous?”
“You saw the same transmission as I did, Number One.” Captain Jake Lombardo leant back in his command chair, taking a long pull from the cup of coffee in his right hand. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
“Aye-aye, Sir,” Commander Babylon Reed replied, and she stepped off the command dias before circling back to the Tactical station and Flight Operations panels. Lombardo drained his cup, and nodded as a Yeoman stepped in to take the empty vessel away.
The bridge was quiet, but busy. Even though the passage of the Hot Gates was some light-years wide, the surrounding plasma storms surrounding the only navigable path through the Badlands had the entire crew subdued. That, and the mysterious orders for the entirety of the Rolor Sector taskforce to meet with Starfleet Tactical Operations’ Admiral Ross.
With tensions rising between the now firmly entrenched Dominion and the Federation, no one was comfortable.
“Captain, the Badlands are interfering with our sensors, but I think I’m picking up a group of ships ahead of us,” reported Lieutenant Bin’tar, his blue Andorian skin illuminated by the figures scrolling over the panel before him. “Stationary; looks to be a dozen ships, probably Federation, but I’m not picking up the usual IFF transponders.”
“Hmm – okay, take us to Yellow alert,” Lombardo said after a moment’s thought. “Drop us out of warp, launch the CAP, and hail the lead vessel.”
The USS Axanar and her consorts – the cruiser USS Zhukhov, and escorts USS Falchion and Ballista – dropped out of their subspace flight, and were joined in moments by a flight of Peregrine class interceptors. The Axanar held station, while the three other ships formed a line abreast, protecting the carrier.
Ahead of them – and sensors freed from subspace interference were now picking them up – was a curious selection of craft. An old Akyazi class torpedo boat was in the lead, and behind her were a scarred Miranda-class frigate, a Steamrunner class cruiser with entire strips of hull-plating missing, and two runabouts.
“Well that’s… unusual – Ops, hail the Akyazi.”
After a moment of static, the screen cleared to black, then the view ahead. No face, no further transmission.
“Ops, did they just hang up on us,” Lombardo asked.
“No, sir, but I did just get a curious, text-only transmission. I can’t open it, and it’s headed Case Zulu?”

At the last two words, Lombardo stood up, and looked up at Commander Reed, standing next to Bin’tar at Tactical. “Join me in my ready room, Commander.” He looked beyond her, to the concerned ship’s engineer. “Archer, you have the bridge.”

The two senior officers left, leaving a quiet hum and a certain undefined tension in the air. Case Zulu meant nothing to any of the other crew or officers…
Five minutes later, Commander Reed emerged, alone, and sat in the center seat. She drew a deep breath. “Flight Ops, alert the Flight Deck to prep a shuttlepod for the Captain, no flight plan.” She started tapping minor commands into her own command panel as she kept talking. “Tactical, wipe all sensor data about those ships from our records.” She tapped a last command, and stood up, straightening her uniform.

“Helm, lay in a course that takes us into the Badlands, on the Cardassian side of the border.” She ignored a few quite gasps from around the bridge. “Once you’re all done, all command crew are to join me in the briefing room. As she turned to leave, Ensign Tereshkova finalised her course, and stood too.

“Where’s the Captain – what’s happening?” She asked.

Reed paused, ashen, but then entered the briefing room. The ship’s counselor, however, answered for her, equally shaken.

“It’s war, Ensign,” she said. “We’re going to war with The Dominion.”

Episode 21 – The Honoured Dead – Crew Chief James Anderson

———–encrypted communication, USS Axanar———–

Mr Rêin Anderson
Hampton, Oklahoma
Earth, Sol System
Vulcan Sector, Beta Quadrant

Dear Mr Anderson,

It is my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son, Crew Chief James Anderson, who died in service of the Federation on stardate 49852.6

His brave service exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his duty, and whilst the circumstances of his passing may not be fully disclosed at this time, it may afford you some comfort to know that his death was without suffering and that he ensured the survival not only of his fellow marines and starfleet officers, of which I count myself, but that of an entire race of people.

News of your sons death came as a shock to those amongst the crew who knew him, and his loss will certainly be felt by us all. During the time he was assigned to the USS Axanar, he had shown himself to be a very capable individual. I sincerely hope that knowledge that James was an exemplary pilot and crewman will comfort you in this hour of great sorrow.

A memorial service was held for James aboard the USS Axanar, all members of his unit, those of the marines who’s lives he saved, and senior officers of the ship were in attendance.

We honour him not only as a guardian of our liberty, but also as the true embodiment of the Federation spirit of service to a greater cause than ourselves.

Once again, personally and for the officers and crew of the USS Axanar, I extend to you our sympathy on the loss of your loved one.

Commander Babylon H.Reed
XO USS Axanar

———end trans——–

Episode 21 – Prologue

USS Axanar
On patrol, Rolor Sector
Third Watch
Lieutenant Archer sits in the command chair, presiding over a quiet bridge. It is late in the evening watch; deck lights are dim, and while the ship is still a hive of activity, there is a hush among the crew. Archer barely notices. As the third shift bridge crew report, she’s pouring over a collection of PADDs, each one with a different engineering report.
The primary phaser array is operating normally, but she thinks she can get a performance boost by routing power through the navigational array. There’s a slight .002 per cent performance variable in the port warp nacelle, somewhere between the fourth and eighth magnetic constrictor – it’s a dockyard job, but she’d love to pin down which part is at fault. And she’s over-seeing the final upgrades to one of the Axanar’s two Danube-class runabouts, the USS Odin. It’s up-gunned sensor array is proving difficult to bring up to full power, but she’s close to a solution.

Captain Lombardo should be sleeping, but it eludes him. War is coming to the Beta Quadrant, and he fears the first shots have already been fired. Peace with the Klingons is one less thing to worry about, but the alliance between the Cardassian Union and the Dominion is even more concerning.
Just today he read a report forwarded to him by Deep Space Nine’s Ops Officer – Jem’hadar ships are transiting the Bajoran wormhole in massive numbers.
But that’s tomorrow’s trouble. Though he can’t sleep, he rests his mind in another way, and the relatively empty number four cargo bay does have excellent acoustics for guitar.

The Axanar’s first officer, Commander Reed, is asleep, though her alarm – a worn but garish plastic contraption from some ancient show called ‘Doctor Who – will soon wake her.
Lying next to her bed is a PADD with a command offer from Starfleet Tactical Operations, and another, with a half-written letter to the family of a Marine scout-sniper who was killed on a classified mission into the Gamma Quadrant.
When she wakes, she intends to refuse one, and then finish the other, before taking the first of her two shifts. Like many first officers, standing watch as XO and then her own watch in command of the ship is grueling, but of late she has sunk herself into the demands of the uniform.

Lieutenant Louise Brooks’ alarm woke her hours before, even though her shift is not until the first watch chimes. She’s in the Axanar’s main science lab, where an entire corner of the complex has been set up for her ongoing studies.
Though many of her projects are merely academic, there is one that she only engages in while the ship sleeps around her, and she can have the lab to herself. Arrayed on numerous PADDs, and on the displays of her workspace, are the curious genetic swirls of the Gamma Quadrant species known only as the Changelings. Brooks has studied other shape-changing species, but the Changelings are an order of magnitude more complex, their genetic structure is largely non-specific, but complex and highly adaptable at a cellular level.
Only one display is clear of graphs, microscopic readings, and chemical formulae. On it, a Cardassian visage looks out at Brooks. “No, no, no,” the Demon says. “Miss Brooks we will never get anywhere if you don’t cooperate.”
“Now, I will say this: you are close. But before we go on, you know what I want – answers,” the Cardassian says.
“Quid pro quo, Louise.”

Junior Lieutenant Bin’tar has also woken early, and is jogging the perimeter of the Axanar’s primary hull. In his wake is a mixed collection of the ship’s crew – pilots from the 214th Fighter Wing, marines from Easy Company, deck crew, officers, and enlisted personnel from all arms of Starfleet.
Each of them carries a weighty pack, a Type III phaser rifle, Type II pistol, and specialist gear. Some of those following Bin’tar are volunteers to the run, others are his own shipboard security detachment, and the marines think this is pretty much downtime.
But nearly a dozen of them are part of the Axanar’s own Special Operations Group. One of them, a trim Bajoran woman, sees the finishing line in sight and sprints past Bin’tar, grinning.
“Dropbear Squadron?” she asks. “Really, top?”

Lieutenant JG Isabella Tereshkova is awake, in her room. She is sitting at her desk, reading a letter from her old Academy mentor Captain Ben Cooper-Miles, while numerous other PADDs around her – flight manuals, planetary studies, and the last, still unfiled reports from the ill-fated USS Hawking – are ignored.
She reads with interest that Seventh Fleet – to which Miles’ ship has been attached – has been ordered to within a couple of sectors of the Axanar’s own Rolor sector. Miles tells her that peace with the Klingons has allowed the Federation to fully re-deploy a lot of ships, with a mind to a possible Dominion offensive early next year. She taps a PADD, and reads the display. It is November.
Next year isn’t far away.

Lieutenant Ariana Rymon sleeps fitfully. Her sheets are in disarray, from a night of tossing and tormented sleep.
When she wakes, she will not remember what has left her so tired. She will not recall the sense of impending doom, the recurring faces of old friends, family, and her new colleagues. Alike, they seemed, but not, as if all the faces she knew were talking with one voice, or the voices of many others. Rymon will not remember sense of great, white emptiness, or the places from her past: the small bridge of the USS Ballista; her family home, on Betazed; her first office, aboard the USS Galaxy.
All she will remember are four words, spoken to her with all the voices of her past.
“A storm is coming.”