Captain's log, Stardate 54678.8: The first four months as commanding officer of the Winchester have been uneventful, but fruitful. The new fighter craft have been performing admirably. The patrols have reduced the number of conflicts with unauthorized Jem'Hadar type fighters near the badlands, and has resulted in an increase of productivity in the rebuilding of Cardassia.
"We are on course for the badlands," reported the operations officer, Lieutenant Solek. "Engines are at warp 5, subspace current is at 130 rels."
"bring her to warp 6," Bernie answered. "Steady as she goes." The background hum of the engines moved upward in pitch as they generated extra power to accelerate the ship. Within 30 seconds, the pitch of the engines dropped as warp 6 was reached. "Very smooth," Bernie commented.
"I'll be sure to relay that to Mrs. Tyler," Sonya commented.
"Captain," Solek indicated, "sensors indicate a ship bearing 285 mark 12. They are not transmitting a transponder signal."
"Bulldog, this is the Captain," Bernie called. "We've got a bogey."
"Roger that," Johnathan answered. "Stitches, Razor, get ready to launch."
"Aye, sir," came the response from two officers. Lieutenant Corey Rogers graduated from the Academy just after Chin'toka. He quickly earned a reputation for accurate and deadly hits on Jem'Hadar and Cardassian fighters. For his razor like accuracy, he earned the nickname 'Razor.' For Lieutenant Amber Needleman, her call sign, 'Stitches,' was a play on her name — a needle being one of the key pieces of equipment for sewing. Despite this, she proved to be a capable fighter pilot as well. Both were selected by Starfleet to run final tests on the new fighters before they debuted on the Winchester. With both practical field experience and seat time on the new fighters, both were assigned to Winchester. Despite being better qualified on the new craft than Johnathan, Johnathan had taught them his insights into flying fighters. In turn, they had shown Johnathan some of the intricacies of the new craft, which allowed Johnathan to modify techniques that he learned on the old fighters.
The Winchester had dropped to impulse to allow the fighters to exit the ship safely. Upon exit, they set course for the bogey and quickly engaged their warp drive. It took a couple of minutes for the fighters to come withing visual range of the vessel, but once they had, a problem was clearly identified. "Winchester, Bulldog: vessel visually ID'd as a warbug, repeat, vessel is a warbug."
Johnathan transmitted his fighter's view to Winchester's bridge so that the captain could see for himself that it was indeed a warbug. As he prepared to relay the order to engage, the warbug fired a poloran beam at Johnathan's fighter.
"Bulldog, Razor: engaging target," Corey answered.
"Razor, Winchester: roger on engaging the target."
"Stitches, Bulldog," Johnathan transmitted, "cover me to port. I'll make a strafe across the surface of the fighter. Make sure they don't try anything." With Corey keeping the warbug busy to starboard, Amber targeted the port side. After Johnathan took his pass, Johnathan made his report. "Winchester, Bulldog. We've made our first pass. we've managed to dodge their fire, but their shields are still holding."
"Roger, Bulldog," Bernie answered. "We're coming in. Tactical, ready phasers and photons."
"Aye, sir," replied tactical. The first barrage of phaser and torpedo fire struck the warbug. The warbug turned its attention from the fighters to the primary ship, firing its poloron weapons on Winchester. "Shields on the bandit are down to 42 percent. Our shields are at 90."
"Bulldog, Winchester. Are you able to make another pass?"
"Roger that, Winchester." The fighters targeted the warbug's primary engines, shield generators and added their own range of phaser fire.
"The bandit's shields have dropped," noted Winchester's tactical officer. "Their weapons systems are off-line."
"Prepare a MACO party. Make sure they don't try and initiate an auto-destruct. This is Captain Bernard Tyler of the USS Winchester. Your vessel is not authorized in this sector pursuant to the Treaty of Bajor. You are ordered to stand down and prepare for boarding."
As the Winchester's shields were lowered, instead of a away team beaming toward the warbug, a team from the warbug beamed onto the Winchester."
"Everyone, stay where you are," shouted the lead Jem'Hadar.
Bernie examined the Jem'Hadar closely. No feeding tube, he noted, they aren't from the Dominion. Looks like Khan's back in play.
"Bulldog, Razor," Corey indicated. "It appears that the warbug beamed a landing party onto Winchester."
Johnathan confirmed the sensor reading. "Razor, Bulldog. Hostile takeover confirmed. Razor, Stitches, you are to run like hell to Effingham for assistance. I'll try to remote in and contain the intruders."
Valerie Bucyrus had grown accustomed to starship life. When her common-law husband, Johnathan, resumed his career with Starfleet, his new CO, Bernie Tyler, invited her aboard too. She offered to help out in the Mess Hall, where she bussed tables, took care of the plants, and tried to make her crew members feel welcome. Today's guests, however, were less than friendly. As the Jem'Hadar entered the mess hall, Valerie hid underneath the bar.
"First,"called the officer, "The mess hall is secure,"
"Understood," replied the first. "Seal it off."
Back on the bridge, the second had a report. "The three small craft have broken off."
"It is of no consequence," replied the first. "By the time they get here, we will have been long gone."
Cargo Bay 2 had been turned into a makeshift brig by the rogue Jem'Hadar. "We have 432 accounted for in here," Sonya noted to Bernie.
"Who's missing?" Inquired Bernie
"Needleman, Rogers, Johnathan Bucyrus, and Valerie Bucyrus."
"The three fighter pilots and the pride of the Mess Hall," Bernie noted. "I'm thinking all non-essential areas are being locked down. Even so, there's still a chance that she could launch a counter-offensive."
Even though the doors were locked by the Jem'Hadar, Valerie had everything she needed in the Mess Hall. She kept a PADD underneath the bar. Quickly, she accessed the sensor data. It appears that all of the Winchester crew is being secured in the cargo bay, she noted. What about the fighters? Looks like they escaped, but aren't being pursued. That's strange. These Jem'Hadar must think that they can escape before the Calvary arrives. Of course, they must have backup. Hang on, looks like's somebody's trying to remotely access the computer. It looks like it's Johnathan.
Johnathan was surprised to see a text message on his screen. It's from Valerie, he noted.
"The Jem'Hadar have got everybody held in Cargo Bay 2" Valerie stated via text message. "They appear to believe that they will have reinforcements before Starfleet can get out here."
"Understood," he messaged back to Valerie. "I'm going to flood the ship with Neurocine and lock the computer out. That should buy us some time."
"Effingham, this is Baldwin. How's it looking out there?" inquired Sarah. Every day, she would compile astrometic data gathered by the other ships into the warroom in order to prepare the daily report.
"Baldwin, Effingham," replied the Captain. "No sign of any activity within the last 24 hours. We do have some updated warp current numbers for you."
"That's most appreciated, Reinette," Sarah replied. Sarah was on a first-name basis with the other ship captains. "Baldwin out. Winchester, Baldwin, any sightings out there." There was no response. "Winchester, Baldwin, are you — "
Reinette interrupted the transmission. "break, break. Baldwin, Effingham. Two fighters have just come into range. They're from Winchester. Hull numbers 77004 and 77005"
"Fighter 4, this is Baldwin. Report." Sarah quickly ordered.
"Baldwin, this is Razor. Winchester has been taken. I repeat: Winchester has been taken. The warbug's occupants beamed over as soon as Winchester was dropping shields to board the warbug."
"In other words, instead of taking a vessel, Winchester was taken."
"Affirmative. There's been no contact with Captain Tyler. Bulldog was getting ready to remote into the computer. I don't know what else he was planning to do."
"Razor, Baldwin acknowledges. Effingham, looks like you're closest, intercept Winchester and rescue our crew."
"I concur," Reinette answered. "We're on our way."
"I'll send Wasp and Wildfire in behind you, and let Patrick know what's going on."
"Roger, Effingham out."
"Captain Ingrum, Astrometrics, come in please."
"We've got a situation here, you might want to come down and take a look."
"Understood, I'll be right there."
As soon as Patrick arrived, Sarah relayed the information. "This doesn't sound good. Has anyone heard from Bulldog?"
"Not since the Winchester was borded."
"Open a channel to Effingham."
"Effingham, this is Starrider. Keep an eye out for Bulldog. If someone was willing to board the Winchester, their backup is probably closer than ours."
"Understood, Starrider. We'll keep an eye open."
Valerie was able to avoid being knocked out by the Neurocine. In the 45 minutes since she had contact with Johnathan, she kept an eye on the internal and external sensors. Inside, there was no one moving; however, there was a problem developing outside. Long range sensors had picked up another ship, and they were not friendly. There's no way I can fend off another round of boarders single-handedly, Valerie noted, and a distress call would be a dead giveaway. Opening a hatch, she crawled through the Jefferies tubes. Roslyn has shown me a thing or two about the engine, she noted to herself, and like Bridget, I'm a fast learner.
Valerie arrived in Engine Room 1 to find three Jem'Hadar had occupied the room when the Neurocine flooded the ship. She swiftly made quick work of the Jem'Hadar, snapping their neck to make sure that they did not awaken.
Now, she noted, it's time to discreetly insert some bread crumbs. She proceeded to set the nacelles to vent plasma just enough so that the Jem'Hadar would not be able to notice it. The plasma trail could be picked up by someone who was looking for it.
Once she completed her adjustments to the plasma vents, she turned her attention to the computer. A contingency program had been placed aboard the Winchester: should the ship be in danger of imminent capture, a program could be run to wipe out critical data, as well as immobilize the main computer. She set it to activate should someone use the controls on the main bridge.
Captain Reinette Hernandez sat in the center seat of her ship. Four months ago, an opportunity had arrived to rejoin the 10th cruiser wing. She had spent the past year leading the process of getting the Effingham and Winchester ready for their re-launch. Winchester was ready first, and Admiral Ross clearly wanted Bernie Tyler to take the center seat; however, Ross was mindful of Reinette's ties to the 10th, and asked her to stay on as Effingham's captain.
Enemies and Pirates had managed to gain inroads on Starfleet by capturing and operating Starfleet ship as their own. Although the ships had been retaken in the end, the thefts showed a vulnerability that Starfleet's adversaries were willing to exploit to the greatest extent possible. Based on the information that Reinette currently had, it was apparent that someone was trying again to capture a Starfleet vessel. "How far are we to the last know position of Winchester?" Reinette queried the flight controller.
"Anything on long range sensors?" Reinette inquired, turning to the operations officer.
"No sign of the Winchester, or warbugs. However, I am picking up a vessel approaching. It's a fighter. Identification NCC-77000."
"Open a channel."
"Effingham, Bulldog. Requesting permission to come aboard."
"Permission granted, Bulldog. I take it you have an update on Winchester."
"So, I went ahead and flooded the ship with neurocine. I can only assume that Valerie took measures to avoid being knocked out by the gas."
"Wait a minute, did Valerie say that Winchester was boarded by Jem'Hadar?" Reinette inquired.
"That's what she said," Johnathan answered. "I don't know why she would say that, but I don't think she was lying."
Reinette tapped on acommunications panel to open a channel to Baldwin. "I take it you may have additional information on Winchester?" Patrick inquired.
"Johnathan had just mentioned that Winchester was boarded by Jem'Hadar."
"Understood. Ottawa's scouting the red zone, I'll have Jenna look out for them. Wasp and Wildfire should reach you in 40 minutes. If Khan is in play, I'll have Sarah plot the fastest path to his door.Baldwin out."
"I have no idea who you're talking about," Johnathan quipped, "but I assume that you've dealt with this person before."
"Yes, we have," Reinette answered. "It also looks like we have a little time to get you caught up."
A three-man assault team, led by the Jem'Hadar first, beamed aboard the Winchester's bridge. The First quickly ascertained the situation. "Your excellency," the first reported. "It appears as though Starfleet was barely able to overcome the initial assault. The ship appears to have been gassed, and the systems have been shut down." The First paused to listen to his supervisor's orders. "Understood, we will prepare to tow the ship."
Having done all she could do to assist in retaking Winchester, Valerie elected to make sure her knowledge didn't fall into enemy hands. She had prepared a escape pod to inconspicuously launch while the Jem'Hadar were busy. Don't worry, sister, she thought to herself, I'll do whatever I can to get you home. As she observed the warbug lock a tractor beam on Winchester, she fired the pod's thrusters, keeping close to the hull and moving slowly toward the aft end of the ship.
As the warbug went to warp with Winchester in tow, the escape pod remained adrift. Valerie waited several minutes before firing the pod's main engine.
In the last hour, Reinette had briefed Johnathan regarding the Dominion ships and the fact that Khan had managed to make an impact in the 24th Century.
"It sound like Patrick has had quite the adventure," Johnathan commented. "Also, it looks like Khan's learned a few new tricks.&rdqou;
"Based on what I can tell, Khan's group has not had much exposure to fighter tactics. If we diffuse our firepower, it will be hard for the bug to cover every target, thus leaving her vulnerable to the fire from the heavy cruisers. However, if that bug gets reinforcements, all bets are off."
Before Reinette could reply, a message came in from the bridge. "bridge to the Captain: Baldwin has sent us anupdated star chart and has interpolated the fastest path."
"Understood, lay in course and engage at warp 8."
"Captain, with your permission, I would like to work with my counterpart here on Effingham to deploy the fighters once we engage the warbug."
"Of course," Reinette answered.
As Johnathan exited the ready room, Reinette quickly followed. "If you haven't already confirmed course with Wasp and Wildfire, now would be a good time to do so. Also, place the ship on yellow alert until further notice."
"Captain," stated the flight controller, "we are approaching the last known location of the Winchester. Sensors are picking up a blip, possibly a buoy or escape pod."
"Hanger Deck, bridge. Prepare to receive an incoming craft,"
"Acknowledged," Johnathan answered.
"Inform Wasp and Wildfire that we are going to pick up the small craft."
In the Hanger deck, the klaxons were sounded to indicate that the hangar doors were being opened. Johnathan watched as the tractor beams were locked on the craft. "bridge, the craft is confirmed as an escape pod. Preparing to bring her in." The escape pod was slowly brought toward the hangar deck. As the pod neared the hangar doors, the external tractor beams were shut down and a beam from within the hangar deck took over, gently placing the pod on the hangar deck. "The escape pod is aboard." Johnathan cautiously approached the pod, drawing his phaser just in case anyone aboard was less than friendly.
Fortunately, the escape pod's occupant was very friendly. "I was wondering when you were coming for me," Valerie commented.
"I'm glad to see you, too," Johnathan answered before calling out to the flight deck. "It's all right. It's Valerie."
"You should be picking up a plasma trail. It's just enough that the Jem'Hadar won't notice."
Captain's log, Stardate 54679.5: We continue to follow the plasma trail left behind by Mrs. Bucyrus. We now have Winchester on long range sensors. Estimate time to intercept: 15 minutes.
The flight crew of the Effingham rushed to service the fighters as the red-alert klaxons sounded. The first three fighters, those of Johnathan Bucyrus and his two wingmates, were already in place. In the main cockpit, Johnathan was going over the flight checklist with the support crew. The other crew members were likewise going over the checklist. Meanwhile, in the back shop, enlistees continued to work on additional fighters. Unlike the three fighters from Winchester, Effingham's fighters were the older, but still reliable, Peregrine-class fighters.
Like many modern cruisers, the center of Effingham's bridge contained three chairs, one for the Captain, one for the XO, and one for a diplomatic guest. Reinette invited Valerie to take the third chair because she could not assign a civilian to battle stations, nor was there enough time to assign her to guest quarters. "How long before we are in visual range?" Reinette asked the operations officer.
"Still another five minutes," the ops officer answered. "However, sensors continue to indicate that she's under tow by a warbug, with four others in escort."
"Have they responded to our presence?"
"Val, you said you were able to activate the contingency program, correct."
"Yes," Valerie answered, "it's set to trip if a bridge console is activated."
"In that case, I want to have Winchester's computer core backed up ASAP."
"Yes, sir," came the reply from the science station.
"Shields are ready at 100 percent. Phaser bank charged. All torpedo bays report green. Security details have been placed near key locations as a precaution against enemy boarding."
"Wasp and Wildfire are reporting a green board," added the operations officer.
"Captain, the backup of Winchester's core is in progress. We should have a completed backup within 10 minutes."
Another five minutes passed quietly as Effingham's crew prepared for battle. As soon as a visual on the Jem'Hadar ship was confirmed, the operations officer placed it on the screen.
Looks like she's still under tow, Reinette thought. They're probably smart enough to know that Starfleet would booby trap the ship should it be captured. "Hernandez to flight deck: begin deploying the fighters."
As soon as the order was given, several sets of fighters, grouped in threes, emerged from the front cargo bay doors of the Effingham, including the three fighters led by Johnathan. "Effingham, Bulldog. We are in formation."
"Acknowledged, Bulldog," Reinette answered. "Target their shields and tractor beams."
"Understood," Johnathan answered. "Stitches, Razor, you heard the captain."
The fighters engaged the main warbugs, three at a time, unloading a barrage of phaser fire for a few second, then withdrawing quickly, diverting the warbugs attention to the wave of fighters behind them.
"Bulldog, Shootout. You got a bandit is on your six."
They must not be too happy about the counterattack, Johnathan thought. "Roger that, Shootout. Lay down some cover fire. We'll swing around Winchester. I doubt that they will risk hitting their prize."
As the fighters took shots at the Jem'Hadar, Reinette monitored the situation from the bridge. "Attack pattern Beta-Three. Target engines and weapons."
"Aye, sir," replied the tactical officer. The three main ships were now within weapons range and began laying down fire on the Jem'Hadar escorts. The 'warbugs' took notice of the three larger vessels and concentrated their firepower on them. "Direct hit on the escorting bugs, enemy shields at 73 percent. Our shields are at 92." Over the next several minutes, the two parties exchanged weapons fire, as the Starfleet ships attempted to reclaim their captured sister. The defending warbugs were not standing down — although they are smaller vessels, they still had a five-on-three advantage. "Fifteen of our fighters have been withdrawn from our action."
"That's half of our deployment," Reinette answered, "at least they aren't trying to take them out. What's our status?"
"Shields at 81 percent. Wasp is at 77, Wildfire 75. Enemy vessels are in the 30s, but are still able to put up a fight." Before the tactical officer could continue, the console beeped to indicate an urgent update. "Captain, we've got another vessel coming in, it's Ottawa."
Ottawa swung into the action and quickly targeted one of the escorts, taking the vessel out with a few shots. "Effingham, Ottawa: I figured you might need a little backup."
"We certainly could use a little bit of help. Thanks, Jenn," Reinette replied before sending a message to the fighters. "Bulldog, Effingham: now that Ottawa is here, I think you can withdraw."
"Effingham, Bulldog: roger."
As the remaining fighters withdrew from the action, the four ships engaged one-on-one with the remaining warbugs. Ottawa engaged the strongest ship: the warbug towing Winchester.
Captain's log, supplemental: The contingency programming has been disengaged and we have full control over the Winchester. Captain Tyler and crew is in good health and have had no adverse issues from their extended time captive in the Cargo Bay.
"Based on what we have available," Sara noted in the conference call with Bernie and Reinette. "We have a clear surprise counterattack by a group of Jem'Hadar rogues. Much of my report will likely be suggestions on how to secure ships against a similar attack."
"I am surprised," Bernie noted, "that their transporters were still online. Usually, something like that will fail before weapons."
"Maybe they beefed up their transporter system, or they had a special system in place specifically for this purpose," Sara noted. "If there's one thing I've learned out here, it's that our enemies can and do resort to rather unconventional tactics."
"I also have to give props to Valerie," Bernie noted. "She managed to avoid capture, yet did what she could to help retake the ship. Sometimes, the little things do pay out big."
"Mrs. Bucyrus' contributions will be noted in my report," Sara replied. "How is she doing, by the way."
"Very well. Considering the day we had out here, she found some time to catch her breath. Johnathan and Valerie have the night off."
"Maybe you should take some down time as well," Sara noted. "I'm sure your day has been rough, to say the least."