McKeen waited for the other ships to form up behind him. They had reached their staging area on the far side of the planet. "Alright, here's the gist of it. At some point in the future, we'll be getting a message from the Scipio, giving us an objective. Since we've got two bomber flights with us, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will have to do with them.”

“Delta flight's glad to be here.” came a female voice over the Wolf Pack's squadron comms, of which they'd been patched into.

“Would that be Minx?” McKeen asked.

“It would be.” she replied.

“How's the cockpit of a Gladiator feel?” he asked, knowing that Mira “Minx” Okina had been a pilot in one of the fighter squadrons before her promotion to Captain.

Mira looked around the cockpit, “It's a little more roomy than the Hornet, but I kind of miss that tight fit.”

Clockwork keyed in. “Don't worry Mira, you'll get used to the loose fit.” he said, mockingly.

“If being used to it is a direct correlation to how well one flies, I'd say I'm already more comfortable than you are.”

Clockwork laughed, “Oh, you're going to brag before you've ever flown a real sortie in the Gladiator? I'd hold my tongue if I were you. This thing is like a brick compared to the Hornet. I'm glad to have the Shepherd's with us when we're out there. I couldn't imagine being forced to dogfight a Vanduul in this boat.”

Hotrod keyed his mic. “Uh, not to interrupt but, I think I just lost comms with the Scipio.”

“So did I.” Said McKeen. “Wolf Bravo, I want you to close with the Scipio until you get comms and find out what's going on.”

All three members of Bravo flight waited for someone to respond, but no one did.

“Wolf Bravo, did you hear me?” McKeen barked.

Mathew swallowed the lump in his throat and keyed his mic. “Yes, we got it.”

“Who's speaking?” McKeen asked.

“This is Second Lieutenant Mathew Dionne, Lieutenant Colonel.”

McKeen sighed. “Call me Crossbow. If I remember correctly you're Martyr, aren't you.”

“Yes sir.”

“Don't call me sir.” he snarled.

“Got it Crossbow.”

“There, glad you learn fast. You're in charge Martyr, take your flight and let me know what's going on, we'll wait here for word.”

“Roger Crossbow.” Mathew took a deep breath. “Rock, Teacher, let's get to it.” he said, an uncomfortable quiver in his voice. He pulled his control stick and pushed the throttle forward, breaking formation before sending his flight a full burn command as they punched toward the Scipio as fast as their engines could take them.

On the flight deck, Andrew was sitting in his M50, cleaning the many knobs and dials with a damp rag.

“Snow.” came a voice from below.

Andrew got up and leaned over the edge of his cockpit where Flt. Capt. Andrew “Flash” Snow was stenciled in large white letters. “Yes?”

Brian “Cardboard” Carter was standing at the bottom of the ladder, dressed in his flight suit. “We've got work to do.” He said, walking around Andrew's M50 to climb the ladder of his own.

“What?” Andrew asked, “What work?”

“I just got orders, they couldn't find you so they told me first. It's short notice but we're part of the exercise.” Cardboard continued while he started up the main systems of the M50. Lights flickered on the dash. “The Scipio shut down communications, so we're scrambling to get a message out to each Squadron about their orders. So Cardboard and Flash get to fly again.” he said smiling.

“Oh.” Flash nodded. “What orders?”

“They're loaded in the mission log already. All we need to do is fly to them.”

“What about Rogue and Bubba?”

“We're assigned to the Wolf Pack, they're assigned to the Dread Hounds.”

“Well then, I suppose we should get to it.” Flash said, stepping down from his M50 to go change into his flight suit.

The End

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