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The Star Sailors' Story
Chapter 3
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. - Benjamin Franklin, Earth (Human)
Explosions are not comfortable. - Yevegny Zamyatin, Earth (Human)

Aboard the Dosadi assault carrier ISS Delos, Team Leader Corin was jarred out of a sound sleep by the alert siren. His mate, Team Leader Nollos laid her ears back and spat, “IF that bald rat Sethos is running another drill I'm going to rip his tail off.” People were uncurling throughout the East Living Pod, and Corin allowed himself a fast chin-rub across the top of Nollos' head before jumping to the floor. The lights had gone from a dim blue-grey with simulated stars over the greenery to the heat and glaring yellow-white of a Dosadi mid-day in an instant. As he was pulling on his forest green coveralls, Corin searched through the groups of crewmen, using eyes, nose, and ears to locate the members of his Team and make sure they were on the move.

One face stood out from the sea of cream and tan fur and the red, white and green coveralls “ a lone human pulling on the red and black uniform of Star Fleet's Engineering crews. Corin had been impressed with Ensign Thomas Wilkes' courage and the enthusiasm with which he approached his assignment. He could only hope that Crew Leader Toralin was doing as well aboard the Federation heavy cruiser USS Hood.

Ensign Wilkes had adapted well to the Dosadi's very different patterns. Rather than individual quarters, the Dosadi preferred to sleep in a more open, natural setting, grouping with mates or friends or solo as one's mood dictated, but with many Dosadi in a given pod. The pod served as a lounge, mess hall, and barracks with soft platforms, slings, and convenient places to drape or climb. Full of greenery and with lighting calculated to resemble the Dosadi sky, they were a taste of home in the endless night of space. Until a few moments ago, Wilkes' had been curled up with a pair of females in a raised, circular hammock. During his six months aboard the Delos the twenty year-old human had stood his ground in several personal combats, even winning a couple. He had several new scars to prove his courage and his Force Leader had awarded him an honor tattoo around his eye. But before the gods he would never learn to speak Dosadi properly.

“Wilkes!” Corin called out in Standard, “Make sure your crew checks the a-grav units in Lieutenant Commander Delac's bird. He said there was a flutter the last time he launched and that's not acceptable.”

“Understood, sir.” Wilkes answered back, gathering up the four Dosadi that made up his crew and heading out of the Living Pod at a trot. Crew Leader M'Ralin and his crew were already gone. Corin caught Nollos' eye as she made her way out of the pod towards the hangar bays and twitched his whiskers at her. She rewarded him with a flick of her tail and a bit more wiggle in her hips as she jogged out of sight.

Endless drilling aboard the Delos was the standard. The big assault carrier was the pride of the Dosadi Imperial Fleet. But she was the third such vessel built “ at great cost “ and the only one surviving. The first, the ISS Thorin had been lost with all hands along with two corvettes the day she had launched, destroyed in a Romulon ambush. The second, the ISS Loreth had also been destroyed by the Romulons, but this time a single A-10 Thunderbolt fighter had survived along with her SWACS shuttlecraft and crew. Her death had been part of the Dosadi Razing of Romulus and had cost Corin one of his brothers, but the records brought back by the ISS Avric and the Eleth survivors were instrumental in advising design and training modifications for the Delos and her escorting corvettes.

Fleet Captain Nolin was determined that the Delos would have a long and valiant career and drilled his crew mercilessly. His First Officer, Commander Sethos was feared and respected throughout the crew. He thought nothing of staging drill upon drill and was an absolute terror in the challenge ring. However, as a result of this endless training, his crews could preform their duties in their sleep.

Ensign Wilkes was pulling the west a-grav unit out of the big Federation-designed F-14 Tomcat fighter as someone on the bridge began piping battle music into the hangar bay. The big cats liked music and used it throughout battles “ something he could never quite get used to after the austere silence of the USS Hood. The skirling bagpipe-like trusk, flutes, and drums sounded very Scottish to him. He had always heard bagpipes described as looking and sounding like someone had a cat under their arm with its tail in their mouth. Looking around him at the big, sentient cats preparing for battle, he couldn't help but smile at the thought. And as always, that led him to “A bunch of tom cats working on a Tomcat.” and he stifled a chuckle, bending to his work making sure the bi-lateral anti-gravity units were properly synchronized.

As Corin reached the hangar bay, he saw the two crews of four and their leaders that made up his team already swarming over Lieutenant Commander Delac's bird. Battle music was being piped into the space, helping to motivate the crewmen. The hangar launch bays were in the two long, heavy pods that ran along the tips of the 'wings' of the Delos' squat, rectangular hull. Fighters recovered by flying through the big clam-shell doors on either end of the pod. The long, open deck allowing fighters to be recovered at much higher speeds than other carriers. Unlike most space-faring nations, the Dosadi placed their warp engines close to the center-line and put weapons pods out where other races' had their warp nacelles, trading improved fields of fire for higher shielding requirements and a slower maximum speed when traveling at warp.

He spared a moment to look down the length of the deck towards the bay where Nollos' white-clad form was working on Lieutenant Tam's F-18 Hornet. He sighed and mused “More lost sleep and closeness wit...”

His wistful thoughts were interrupted by the high-pitched whine of the waist phaser banks firing and the slight surge in ship's gravity that always rippled through the Delos when she went to maximum speed and he realized that this was NOT another drill. “What in the name of Loreth?! We're in orbit around a Federation starbase!” Seconds later the aft phasers discharged and the ship rocked from incoming fire. Crew looked up from their work, realizing that this was the real thing. Suddenly, adrenalin lent new urgency to the familiar tasks.

Pilots in flight-suits came racing in to the hangar bays, pulling on combat helmets on as they ran. Tugs began to hook up to the fighters, ready to push them into the launch tubes. LCDR Delac strode up to Corin, “We've got a good fight on our hands!”

“What's the challenge, sir?” he asked as he began helping the Wing Commander into his Tomcat. “We're going up against three fleets at the same time! Another carrier to boot “ Hydran “ a battleship, a few cruisers and some corvettes. Klingons and Gorns along with the Hydrans. Should be interesting.”

Corin glanced down at the anti-ship and anti-fighter missiles festooning the Tomcat's wings and the big phaser mount in her nose. Getting a whisker and ear flick from his lead weaponeer, he said, “You're ready to go, sir. Honor above all!”

Delac bared his fangs, “Honor above all!” and closed the canopy on his fighter. The tug pushed the bird into the launch tube, Wilkes connected the quick-release computer, power, and coolant connections and Corin primed the systems to launch-ready. One of the kittens was making the rounds of the crews with energy drinks and he took one, giving the kit an affectionate pummel. He didn't recognize the little male, so he was evidently just learning his duties. Watching the kit hurry off to another crewman, he allowed himself to daydream about what his and Nollos' kits would look like. She hadn't been given leave to have a litter yet, but would be soon he was sure.

Unlike other races, the Dosadi lived, fought, and died as families. Kits were given duties aboard commensurate with their age and abilities. Whether it was cleaning decks, scrubbing air passages, maintaining the many plants aboard, or helping keep on-duty crews hydrated and fed, there was always something that needed doing and youngsters were perfect for these unskilled tasks. There were those who said that was one reason the Dosadi fought so ferociously “ in every battle, they were defending everything they loved. The loss of a ship was a tragedy to a relatively small species, although they all understood the need to sacrifice few for many when the time came. There was great honor in such a sacrifice “ but only if it paid off. Only fools threw lives away without a commensurate gain.

In the years since Federation first-contact, the Dosadi had expanded their empire to nearly a dozen planets and three different sentient species. Taking their cue from the Federation and their own philosophy the members of the Dosadi Imperium were not slaves, but free partners. By now, even those who had been brought into the Empire through military conquest were willing members of a greater Empire.

Not for the first time, Corin thought that deck crews had a difficult job to do. They had to work frantically to get the birds ready, and then wait. Then when they returned, work even more frantically to get them repaired and ready to go again and then more waiting. It could be maddening. Corin brought up a small holographic copy of the tactical display in the Bridge so that the crews could keep track of what was going on. Other Team Leaders did things differently, but he felt that keeping his team informed lead to better understanding and better performance.

Sitting on tool boxes, they watched the two fleets beginning to maneuver, seeing the great number of enemy ships facing their small fleet. This would be a fight worth many a tale. Someone began to sing along with the music being piped into the bay and in moments, most of the crew were adding their voices to the mix.

Wilkes looked around him. This always gave him the shivers and today it was even more energizing. This would be his first real battle and he was terrified he would fail.

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