Bridge, CF Wolverine, Southern Sector, Third Fleet
       "Anything new?" Captain Matthews asked.
       "Not in the last hour," the communications officer reported.
       "On course for Battle Station K2," Commander Sandrine reported. "We should be there in six hours."
       "Very well, let's continue preparations," Captain Matthews responded. He hit a button on the arm of his chair. "Doctor, we will reach K2 in six hours. Will you be ready?"
       "No problem, Captain," Doctor Roberts reported. "I have all four patients ready for transfer already."
       "Very well," Captain Matthews responded, closing the intercom channel.
       "Lieutenant Bruce is going to hate you for that," Commander Sandrine chuckled, her French accent making her laugh delightful. "He won't want to miss our first raid behind Klingon lines."
       "He has paragandium fever," Captain Matthews said. "He won't recover for two weeks. A fast raider in a war is no place to be if you're sick. He can recover at the hospital on Starbase 15 and join us for the second mission."
       "He'll still hate you," Commander Sandrine warned.
       "He can get over it," Captain Matthews responded. "I need sickbay clear for combat casualties. I don't need the doctors taking care of sick people when wounded people arrive."
       "Any idea of a target?" she asked.
       "Star Fleet Intel says we're only going to get raids, not an invasion," he laughed. "If that's the case, we'll probably intercept a raider."
       "We both know that's merde," she said. "There's a full-scale invasion coming. So, any idea of a target?"
       "Nothing specific," Matthews answered. "Probably a convoy or maybe a command ship. Something that will cost the Klingons a lot more than its own loss. Something that makes a dozen other ships go home, or breaks up a time-on-target attack."
       "You sound like you want a war," she said.
       "Of course not," he replied. "But if a war comes, this ship was built to make a difference." He paused for a moment.
       "Look and see if any of the colonies on our route could supply us with some fresh meat and fruit. While we're waiting for a mission, we could at least grab some fresh food. It could be a long time before we have time to pick up fresh food again."
       "I already located a suitable colony, Argentan," Sandrine said. "I have turned in an order for fruit and cheese, and they have some nice goose pâté."

Bridge, POL Charles, 300 Parsecs from Klingon Border
       "Here's the latest from Star Fleet," the communications technician said, handing the captain a datapad.
       "Let me guess," Captain Chapel said, "they want us to go cozy up to one of those border stations and wait to see what the Klingons will do, right?"
       "That's about it," the communications technician said.
       "Yeah, like that's gonna happen," Captain Chapel said, handing the datapad to his XO without reading it. "I'm keeping my cutter in open space. They won't chain me to a stake in the ground as a sacrificial goat."
       "You know you'll have to obey orders," the XO said.
       "Orders?" Captain Chapel scoffed. "Star Fleet doesn't give this ship orders. We're the police, if you haven't forgotten."
       "They declared a wartime emergency," the XO said. "We came under their operational control two hours ago. We're to report to K4 as soon as we..."
       "Let me see that," Chapel said, taking back the datapad. He tapped the screen several times to read the entire text. "Right here! It says we are Œnot to abandon any ongoing hot pursuit of pirates' but can wrap those up before we report to K4."
        "We aren't in Œhot pursuit' of anyone!" the XO protested.
       "We will be," Captain Chapel said. "Display File 32." Everyone turned to the screen as Chapel scanned the same information on the datapad. The USS Charles was the premier pirate hunter in this half of the Federation. Captain Chapel had a unique knack to read the signs and be where the pirates were before they arrived. File 32 was where Captain Chapel kept his analysis of intelligence reports, patterns, leads, and theories about pirates.
        "That one," Chapel said, tapping his finger on the third entry. "The way I read the file, the light raider assigned the reporting name ŒTorrent' should make its next attack ..." his fingers tapped the datapad and the main viewscreen flashed and whirled, "there," he said, using his fingers to zoom in on a sector between two colonized systems. "We were on our way there to set up an ambush when we got the message, and on communications silence. Send a tight beam report to K2, and ask them to relay it to K4. That should take them an hour or two. Tell them we're in a silent ambush position waiting for a raider expected to appear within 24 hours and cannot abandon that mission. Because we're on communications silence, we cannot reply to further orders until the ambush is completed."
       "Very well," the communications technician said.
       "You can log and file any further messages ordering us to K4 or any other battle station," Chapel said. "Since I cannot reply to them, there's no reason for me to read them. If they actually have something useful to say, you can bring it to me."

Bridge, DNL Star Cougar, Battle Station K1
       "Docking to K1 achieved, Captain," the helmsman said.
       "Very well," Fleet Captain Schoeller responded, then flipped a switch on his intercom. "XO, this is the captain. Docking achieved, so you can get busy getting fuel and supplies on board. Offload whatever personal gear anybody gave you but have K1 hold it for a week before they send it home." Every time there was a war warning, most of the crew packed up some of their personal items and surplus clutter, for shipment home. After the last warning, many of the crew of Star Cougar had declined to recover the off-loaded personal effects and sent them home anyway. War seemed inevitable, and the packing and unpacking had become a chore. Schoeller already knew that there was less than half as much baggage ready for transfer as there had been during the last war warning.
       "Very well, Boss," came the answer. "We'll start filling the auxiliary tanks right away."
       Schoeller flipped more switches. "Captain to Chief Engineer. We're docked; you can go get the parts you need and get back here." Without waiting for a reply, he flipped more switches. "Doctor, this is the captain. Get the sick offloaded, then supervise loading medical supplies. Let one of the nurses get the sick settled into the base hospital. You are not to leave the ship." The doctor only snarled in reply. Schoeller had a long history of unhappiness with the ship's doctor, who had a habit of socializing on bases and being late to return. Star Cougar had been late for departure twice because of the doctor's refusal to take any kind of schedule seriously.

Bridge, FFG Jason, Approaching Starbase 15
       "Starbase 15, this is Jason," the communications officer said. "Verifying identity now."
       "Identity verified, Jason," came a voice. "Dock in module number three. Fuel, munitions, and personnel are ready as per your requisition. Third Fleet wants you loaded and out of here in four hours. Captain is to report to the admiral's bridge ASAP."
       "Very well," the captain replied. "Helm, get us into the dock. XO, see to the reload. I have somewhere to be."

Bridge, DN Star League, Docked at Starbase 15
       "We have completed loading fuel in cargo holds 13 and 14, Sir," Lieutenant T'Laka, the logistics officer reported. "The cooling units are operating in a satisfactory manner, but the chief engineer advises that he will use those tanks first." Cargo holds 13 and 14 were not fuel tanks, but the design of the dreadnought allowed them to be converted into extra fuel storage when the ship was preparing for a long mission or for wartime service.
       Even though the ship was designed for this, the chief engineer was known to be decidedly unhappy. Using those cargo holds for fuel caused problems. For one thing, auxiliary cooling systems had to be run, since deuterium slush had to be kept very, very cold. That meant a tiny bit of extra power was being used all the time, and that the ship's entire power grid had to be rebalanced for a new load in an unusual location. Whoever designed the holds for emergency use as fuel tanks had failed to take that into account.
       For another thing, those cargo holds were normally used to hold the emergency rations, cartons of food stored for times when the ship could not get regular supplies. As that never happened, not in peacetime anyway, the stocks were mostly used for disasters on colony planets. Moving that food out of the cargo holds meant finding somewhere else to put it, and that meant that every officer and every crewman on the ship now had a dozen cases of such rations in their staterooms.
       All of those cases had seals on them, warning crewmen not to open them, but it was going to become an issue. Crewmen with combat stress were all too likely to take it upon themselves to relieve that stress by snacking on extra rations, and emergency rations were low-bulk/high-calorie items. That meant that petty officers had to inspect the stockpiles twice a week, which had them complaining of the extra work. They wanted to give the inspection duty to the Marines, but Assoud was concerned that the Marines might be more likely to help cover up self-help snacking. Assoud finally had to accept that some of the checks were just not really being done.
       "War is hell," Assoud muttered to no one in particular.

309th Fighter Wing, Epsilon Kamilla IV Colony
       "Colonel, you had better get up," came the voice from the doorway.
       Lieutenant Colonel Saroya Kilkarnen, Alpha-Centauran National Guard, came awake, but trying to find the voice meant turning her sleep-darkened eyes toward the bright lights of the hallway. Someone had come into her room.
       "What?" she asked, "Who are you?"
       "Sergeant Andarassan," the husky voice replied. "We have an emergency alert from Star Fleet ‹ a war warning."
       "Nothing good will come of this," she muttered to herself. Checking with her hands, she found that she had slept in her coveralls ‹ again. At least I don't have to get dressed, she thought to herself. "Coming," she answered the sergeant.
       Several years ago, Star Fleet had begun building fighter bases on the more valuable colonies near the Klingon border, including Epsilon Kamilla IV. The fighters were sent to the planets and stored in flyable condition, but no pilots had been sent, only some security guards and mechanics. Four months ago, Star Fleet had activated 24 National Guard squadrons including two from Alpha Centauri, and the 309th had spent the last two months on this colony, flying routine patrols and training with their F-4s.
       Star Fleet was betting that the only threat from the Klingons would be raiders and thought a dozen F-4s with drones could make any frigate go away and leave the colony alone.
       Against a real invasion, however, her combat career was going to be as exciting as it was brief.
       Reaching the control room still foggy from sleep, she found a bustle of activity. The duty shift was here, but the off-duty shift had all come running and the third shift (most of them only half-dressed) was dragging into the crowded compartment.
       "Ok, let's see what this Œwar warning' order looks like," she said, taking the paper copy in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Neither one made her feel any better.