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Posted on Thu Oct 20th, 2016 @ 3:28am by Commander Elliot Drake & Captain Julius Whitlam & Lieutenant Commander Kiaon Solomon ,Mr & Ensign S'ryaa Tiriaq & Lieutenant JG Omar Saeed

Mission: The Ties That Bind
Location: Faidon System

The combat air patrol - an anachronistic term for an operation in the vacuum of space, but one widely used regardless - had been deployed for some time throughout the system. Commander Martin Keller, commander of the 242nd "Ospreys", sat back in the cockpit of his Peregrine-class fighter and surveyed the sensor data that was scrolling up his active screen.

The data was a collation of the entire CAP's sensor readings. Information was coming in from each of the twelve fighters that were patrolling on an equatorial course along the system's orbital plane in the same direction as orbit. Each flight was spaced roughly ninety degrees apart and were backed up by five other small craft; the Manoora's two embarked Talon-class scouts - holding positions approximately 3 AUs above and below the plane - and three Danube-class runabouts - which were patrolling in the inner system on an orbit just outside that of Faidon IV. Keller would like to have added a few shuttles into the mix as well, but they were being held in reserve for the evacuation of the colony. Which made some sense, if he was being honest.

The CAP had been in place for almost six hours now and in that time they had witnessed a steady increase in the traffic volume in and around the system. The first three hours saw two ships enter the system, but the last three had increased to sixteen. Each ship told the same story - they were running from the Dominion.

Kiaon Solomon arrived from sickbay, cleared for duty for the first time since his posting. Moving stiffly and quietly he entered the Manoora's unfamiliar Bridge and stood off to the side of the Command chairs.

The atmosphere was tense, apprehensive and busily professional. To Kiaon, some looked tired, some nervous, others intensely engrossed in their task, a few even seemed calm.

"May I observe from the Bridge Sir?" he asked projecting his voice quietly but firmly.

Drake nodded to Solomon. He was monitoring activity on the viewscreen, but took a moment to address the squadron leader. "Granted, Commander. Feel free to help coordinate from here."

"Sir" Kiaon Nodded back and moved to a wall console to his left and began to catch up with the recent data, positions and let the current situation map out in his mind. He gently shook his head to himself as the state of play crystallised.
*too conventional, too exposed* he began to unconsiously tense up as his breathing and heart-rate increased and he momentarily fought his memories to retain focus.

Keller's flight was now approaching the sector where they had intercepted a small Bolian freighter and helped it on its way. So it didn't come as too much of a surprise when Lieutenant zh'Gathan, his TSO, announced another incoming warp signature. "Bearing zero-seven-three, mark two-nine," the Andorian announced calmly from her seat next to Keller's.

"Gold Flight, this is Gold Leader," Keller said over the comm to his two offsiders cruising in formation either side of his fighter. "We've got another customer coming in. Moving to intercept, stay close."

"Copy, Gold Leader," Ensign Tiriaq responded over the comm, following the commander's lead as the trio changed course. He looked over to confirm that Gabe's readings showed the same incoming signal. "Can we identify the ship yet?" he asked his TSO.

"Nah, not likely until it comes out of warp," Warrant Officer Gabriel responded. "The warp profile is all over the place though; it's looks like they're limping."

"Hmph," zh'Gathan grunted as she spotted something else on her sensors. "Looks like a few more signatures coming in right behind this one," she said. "Three more. Coming in hot."

Three. Keller wasn't sure if it was instinct or the accumulation of so many years in the cockpit, but his stomach suddenly felt five times heavier and his mouth went dry. He switched the comm to the squadron-wide broadcast and barked, "All Ospreys! This is Gold Leader. Converge on my position. Enemy inbound! Enemy inbound!"

As soon as he finished his sentence, a small freighter with obvious signs of battle damage limped out of warp, her hull scorched and holed in a dozen places, and a heartbeat later three Jem'Hadar scout ships dropped out of warp right behind it.

Tiriaq and Gabe both immediately went to action, powering the shields and weapons of their little craft to full, loading their micro torpedoes into the tubes, and redistributing power ready for combat. It was a routine both could do in their sleep now, but the adrenaline never failed to start coursing through their veins when the prospect of combat drew nearer.

Back on the bridge of the Manoora Commander Drake was given an update from the patrol, and he didn't like what he was hearing. "Manoora to Gold Leader. What's going on out there?"

Keller rolled his fighter and switched orientation to line up an attack run on the first of the scouts. As he did, he received the call from Manoora. "This is Gold Leader," he said. "Three enemy scout ships just came out of warp. We're engaging. Repeat, we are engaging."

Kiaon stood by the bridge console listening intently and starring through the screen as his minds eye conjured the situation into life for him. He felt the cold dread of anticipation and muted drop of sympathetic adrenaline as he impotently prepared to be reduced to the roll of witness again. Wishing they were quicker, wishing they were more concise, wishing he felt they were more ready and he was with them. His hand moved to where his phaser would normally sit and began to tap.

"Understood, Gold Leader. Try to hold them off. Help is on the way." Drake muted the comm. "Helm, plot an intercept course. If those scout ships escape, they may alert the Dominion fleet that we're here. Lieutenant Saeed, see if you can jam their long range communications."

"On it!" the tactical officer responded, tapping away at his console even as he spoke. He started piping out noise on any of the long-range frequencies that the Jem'Hadar might try to use, and then ran through the latest protocol in the ship's computer for gumming up the communications systems on the Jem'Hadar ships themselves. The double approach meant that the enemy should be cut off from communicating with their reinforcements from two fronts; they hopefully wouldn't be able to compete with the noise on their usual long-range frequencies, and even if they tried something else, their own comm arrays would be receiving so many confusing signals that they'd have to dig them out before they could send anything outgoing. Or at least that was the theory. The Dominion were constantly working on improving their comm systems to fight through the jamming techniques, which meant that the protocols were updated and redistributed to Starfleet ships on at least a weekly basis.

Back in Keller's fighter, zh'Gathan was busy allocating targets for the squadron's fire control network. He had allocated code names to each of the bogies and transmitted them across the command and control network between all of the fighters, runabouts and the ship. They were allocated as Spectre-One, Spectre-Two and Spectre-Three.

"Ospreys, mothership's inbound to lend us a hand but we can't wait all day," Keller barked into his squadron-wide comm. "If these bastards make it back to Dominion lines, we'll be up to our necks in Jem'Hadar before dinner time! All fighters, move to intercept. Gold Flight, stick on my six. We're heading for Spectre-One. Green Flight, you guys have Spectre-Two. Blue Flight, I better see Spectre-Three light-up like Federation Day! Red Flight, back us up and engage when you see an opportunity."

He settled into his seat and prepared to make his first run as the Jem'Hadar ships started to make their turn. They clearly wanted to get out of the system quickly.

"Weapons free! Engage, engage, engage!"

To be continued...


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