Months of training with the troops wasn't nearly as glamorous to Rachel as what she had expected during her time at the DES Academy. Etos had no political intrigue, no galactic importance or conflict with the Xi'an. She even felt more like her assignment was punishment verses being utilized by her superiors.
She'd made contact once with her handler on planet, but he asked no real questions or provide no further instruction to her. She'd really begun to wonder what her mission really was and at times had began to forget that she wasn't really straight out of the UEE Naval Academy.
Lieutenant Commander Stormfury had turned their unit into a tip top squadron with full tech coverage and marine compliment thanks to suggestions by Sergeant Major Belcher. She thought it a bit unorthodox and perhaps refreshing how the Lieutenant Commander worked with other branches so well. The UEE often has a pension for cliques and protocol when it came to such things.
"Natasha!" Tara poked into the room. "Get your gear, we've got action!" The excitement in the Ensign's voice proved Rachel wasn't the only one getting a bit bored of Etos. She hurried, grabbed her flight gear and rushed to the briefing room.
Rachel was the last to enter the small briefing room, but everyone was inside including the full marine compliment under the Sergeant Major. The group quickly settled in and surrounded a small monitor. Most found seats but a good portion ended up leaning on tables and filing cabinets, but Matthius didn't wait for total silence. On screen, he punched a few buttons and the monitor changed to show a UEE Retaliator heading from the planet towards the jump gate to Rihlah.
"Intelligence reports have been coming in for a couple weeks that unknown terrorists had brought WMDs to Etos and command believes they are on board this stolen Tally. We've been charged with disabling, boarding and securing her."
Rachel's mind raced. She'd not been informed of any such weapons in system, but she wasn't exactly in the UEE Navy chain of command either. Matthius proceeded to issue out orders to the soldiers and fighter jockeys. She continued to evaluate the situation with a tingle of excitement. It had been a long six months...
Four hornets and a gunship in tow, the group raced towards the rogue Retaliator which now apparently had spotted the group as targeting systems began blaring in Rachel's cockpit. Flying one of the hornets along with Matthius, Tara and Tony, she and Tony were charged with protecting the gunship piloted by Lieutenant John Ramage. An unusual mission as the marine compliment led by Sergeant Major Belcher was also accompanied by Richard Cortez, the Petty Officer technician and a fellow junior technician Rachel hadn't met yet.
The group was to get into the retaliator and make sure the device didn't blow up.
Matthius and Ensign Gallagher were beginning to engage the retaliator when sensors showed two avenger class UEE ships seemingly out of nowhere. They must have been ECM masked, Rachel thought. Missiles were flying everywhere as the Tally was attempting to target both hornets and the gunship all at once, suggesting a full compliment of crew.
Rachel fired furiously taking out what missiles she could. Meanwhile Tara and Matthius had dispatched one of the Avengers but Tony was drifting off towards the other Avenger. "Damnit Ensign" She punched a private channel to his Hornet. "Don't stray. Protect the gunship." Quick and concise with her words, Rachel's brow tensed as the ensign seemingly continued to ignore her orders.
She had to ignore him as two more missiles were homing in on herself.
Matthius, could see that something was going on with the Gunship. One of the protective hornets was swarmed with missiles while the other, was drifting off in his direction. The sole remaining Avenger was partially damaged but still a threat and the Tally appeared to be breaking away from the group in an attempt to jump out of the system.
"Ensign Gallagher, keep this bogey busy." He punched into his command system a target symbol on top of the Avenger's silhouette. More missiles were raining in on the now overwhelmed Hornet.
"Vevich" He raised his tone. "Course correct thirty degrees towards Etos." Kicking in his afterburners, the Hornet adjusted and was now on a collision course with him. "Good, hold steady." He raced towards her, firing a few missiles off towards the tally as he adjusted his thrusters slightly.
Rachel, was terrified. Missiles roaring in behind her and Matthius's hornet playing chicken with her, she closed her eyes and said a silent prayer.
Lieutenant Ramage could barely believe his eyes. The young ensign had done as best she could to protect his gunship, but got into trouble quickly with so many missiles spewing out of the retaliator. Matthius got within fifty meters of her and quickly adjusted his thrusters to send the hornet up and over hers. As the two hornet's passed, Matthius tossed out several counter measures and the missiles erupted. Both hornets began tumbling off in opposite directions obviously badly damaged but the missiles were no longer a threat to her.
"Lieutenant" the comms lit up. "The package is ready to be unwrapped" Ensign Gallagher's voice broke the silence. "I'll check on Lieutenant Commander. You find out what santa sent us." Tara had managed to dispatch the remaining Avenger and disable the Tally before it exited system.
Matthius's head was spinning. His hornet was in bad shape but he could hear over the comms that Ensign Vevich was still alive and that the Sergeant Major's marines were cutting the door to the tally and preparing to board.
Comms chatter lit up as Belcher issued orders to his boys. Matthius could hear gun fire as the defenders sounded more organized than ordinary pirates or terrorist. "Pt 3 down." He heard which meant one of his own had been hit. "Room secure", more gunfire and "Pt 6 down." The junior tech Alister Menendez, who had just joined the group a couple weeks ago apparently was hit. "Room Secure" The battle was fast, furious and continued on for a few more seconds when. "Lieutenant Commander, Package is secure but you're not going to like what we found." Belcher's voice broke in.
"What's the Sitrep..." Matthius voice trailed as he boarded the Tally. Inside UEE black ops troopers, he could tell by their gear. He knew there was no use in searching for ID as they wouldn't have any but this gear was high tech and obviously UEE. It explained why half of Belcher's team was dead or wounded. "Lieutenant Commander, we were lucky today. Unorthodox methods and some dumb luck." He pointed to the side of the room where a couple troopers apparently were killed when Ensign Gallagher's missiles pelted the tally. "helped us win this one, but you need to see the engine room. Sir"
"Lock it down, no one in our out and this stays with us." Matthius ordered Belcher. "Aye Sir"
Down in the engine room, the entire retaliator was filled with explosives and rigged to the ships engine. Matthius was shocked it hadn't blown in the fire fight. "These guys were trying to start a war." He muttered to himself.