Auxiliary Control, Heavy Cruiser Hood, 4 August Y171
       "That's as much as we're going to get done," Lieutenant TwoEagles said. "Everything we can pump dry is dry. Every leak we have to fix has been fixed. What you have is what you have. Everything else is heavy lifting, working our way up from here."
       "Estimated time until we can get out of here?" Acting Captain Wellington asked.
       "At least two weeks, maybe four," Lieutenant TwoEagles said. "All I have even tried to do so far is keep the lights on and the water out. The next step is a survey. If I can get the impulse engines fixed and some more compartments drained and sealed, we might reach the surface."
       "Can we get home?" Wellington asked.
       "Ask me in a couple of weeks," TwoEagles shrugged. "I am fairly sure that I will, at a minimum, be able to evacuate the crew and most of the gear to that continent. We aren't going to die, but I don't know if we can reach the colony. I doubt they have any wet-surface ships able to come over and get us."
       "I don't want to abandon ship," Wellington said. "I want to get the Hood home."
       "From what reports we got before the crash," Ensign Masahoud said, "what hit us was part of a major Klingon invasion. Getting home is going to be complicated."
       "You don't know that," Commander Muncie interrupted. "You got a few confused reports and one all-ships broadcast that said war might have started. The Klingons could be halfway to Starbase 15 or all the way home."
       "If they went away," Acting Captain Wellington said, "then getting home is fairly easy, and we don't even have to go home, we can just signal for help, if someone isn't already up there trying to find our wreckage. If the Klingons did launch a full-scale war, we'll deal with it."
       "I had one idea," Ensign Finley said. "We could rig some kind of balloon, fasten one of the probes to it, and pop it out of the air lock. That might pick up any transmissions."
        "It's an idea," Lieutenant TwoEagles said.
       "I can help configure the probe," Ensign Masahoud said. "It's not like I have anything else to do while we're submerged."
        "Add the idea to your survey," Acting Captain Wellington said. "Find out if we can do it, and bring me a plan. Everybody get some dinner. Issue a few bottles of spirits. We need to celebrate that we're not dead. Tomorrow morning, after the best breakfast the cooks can manage, we can hold the memorial service, and then we get back to work."

Bridge, FedEx Courier Bronco, 5 August Y171
       "Battle Station K1," the courier captain said, "request permission to dock and refuel."
       "Granted," came the voice of the traffic controller.
       Half an hour later, the courier captain was in the office of the battle station's commander.
       "Did you have an exciting time?" the commodore said, pouring two drinks.
        "Are you trying to be funny?" the courier captain said.
       "What shape is Bronco in?" the commodore asked.
       "Pretty good," the courier captain said. "A few hours of replacing a few burned-out coils and refueling and I will be on my way to Earth."
       "About that," the commodore said. "Your ship has been called into the Civil Reserve Auxiliary Fleet. You won't be going to Earth. We'll unload your cargo here and hold it for the next Earth-bound freighter. Your ship will be loaded with munitions and sent to Starbase 15."
        "I see," said the courier captain. "And my crew?"
       "Some of them will have their reserve status activated," the commodore said. "Some of them will wait for that freighter. I have a list of the ones I want to keep and the ones I want to send home, but I haven't made up my mind about some of them."
       "As for myself?" the courier captain asked.
        "You, I haven't decided about," the commodore said. "You cannot remain as captain, as I am putting a military officer on that ship as the new commanding officer. We can discuss you remaining aboard as XO or perhaps Engineer, or I have a job for you here. Your commission is still in good standing."
       "Whatever you need me to do," the courier captain said.

309th Fighter Wing, over Epsilon Kamilla IV, 6 August Y171
       "Federation fighters," came the voice in her ears, "this is the captain of the Klingon cruiser. Stand down. There is no reason for you to die. Your fleet is in chaos, and the colony will now take its orders from the Klingon Empire. You may, if you wish, destroy your own fighters after you land them, or we can destroy them for you. There is no reason that I have to kill you."
       "You know that's not going to happen," Lieutenant Colonel Saroya Kilkarnen said. "Your ship is not going to be enough to win here. Go away. Our fighters will not leave this system until the diplomats settle this dispute."
       "You have written your own fate," the voice said.
       "All fighters, launch!" she ordered, and eight of her F-4 Phantoms launched a type-I drone and a type-VI drone against the Klingon D5 war cruiser. She held the second volley, assuming that the D5 would use a distraction shuttle. Once that happened, her fighters would close in and sit on the cruiser, pounding it with phasers and waiting for the shuttle to burn out, leaving the cruiser at low speed and vulnerable to a second salvo of drones. She had divided the 24 standard drones on her fighters into three salvoes of eight, and knew that the cruiser had only two shuttles.
       But the cruiser did not launch a shuttle. Instead, it fired its four disruptors, each at a separate target. Three of her shuttles were damaged. The D5 sped up and circled. The cruiser was faster than her drones and avoiding a closing approach that would have let them hit. Instead, the cruiser stayed just ahead of the following drones, picking them off with phasers.
"None of that," the colonel said, leading her fighters to a new launch position ahead of the cruiser. From here, her second salvo would trap the cruiser. Eight more drones reached out for it.
But that did not work either. Another wave of disruptor fire blew up one of her fighters and damaged another. The cruiser ran straight into the second salvo of drones, killing them with phasers, anti-drones, and its own drones. A third volley of disruptors killed two more fighters.
       "Launch!" she ordered, but only a few drones were now in flight, and the Klingon ship had no difficulty in destroying them and its disruptors killed another fighter and damaged her own.
       "Break formation and run!" she ordered to the eight remaining fighters, but the Klingon ship was at full speed now, and before her formation could even spread out, the cruiser was among them as a lion among toothless wolves.
       Moments later, she stood up from the console and called her officers to a meeting to plan ground resistance.

Bridge, CL Oaxaca, 7 August Y171
       "What do I have to work with?" Captain Kisper asked.
       "Not much," the engineer said, reading down the list of systems that no longer worked or were no longer even there.
       "Give me a couple of weeks and I can fix most of what we have left," the engineer said, "but you dumping the warp engines means we're stuck here."
       "Here" was inside a hollow asteroid that had once been a base for pirates, and earlier a mining facility for the Jindarians.
       "The Investigator is calling," the commo technician said.
       "Oaxaca here," Kisper said.
       "I'd like to go over plans for my first raid," Commander Hardy said, his voice grim and determined.
       "Let's do that tomorrow," Kisper said.
       "I'd really rather do it now," Hardy said.
       "And I outrank you," Kisper said, "and I said tomorrow. Look, Hardy, I'm all for continuing the fight, but I need to know a lot more about what shape my ship is in before we start drawing attention to our little bastion."
       "But you do agree that using this base to conduct raids is the way to proceed?" Hardy asked.
       "Yes, but there is more than one kind of raid," Kisper said. "I need to complete my survey. Then we can determine what your raid needs to do. Picking off a Klingon convoy, if you can find one, is a high-risk operation. They'll hunt you down, the second or third time if not the first. I need to focus your first raid on things I need to get this ship mobile, or to grab another ship of some kind. I'm a sitting duck and your police cutter is barely a fight for a Klingon frigate. If you want to play pirate, you need to think like a pirate, and that means attacking things that cannot damage your ship at times and places where they cannot follow you."
       "I see," Hardy said. "I could spend the day with my intelligence officer going over potential sources for ... well, for everything. Whatever you figure out you need, I'll know where to go find it."
       "Very well, do that," Kisper said. "Out."
       "He cannot be serious about raiding," Lieutenant Malinda Dean asked. She had taken over as Operations Officer.
       "Oh, he thinks he is," Kisper said. "We need to figure out if we can get Oaxaca over to Seventh Fleet. If not, we need to use Investigator to evacuate the crew in that direction. One option is to use Investigator to loot some local stations and outposts for supplies that could get Oaxaca moving faster."
       "I'll get to work on that," the Engineer said.