Kara smiled with pleasure as the Valiant swooped in for the kill. Easy pickings, she thought as the Cardassian ship exploded. A good test, despite being unplanned. It had taken two weeks, a week longer than anyone had expected to get the ship back to running order. Barclay had already told her it was lucky the cadets had been smart enough to realize they couldn't fix it themselves. Warp drives were fast, and the Defiant class design made them almost too fast, but they required a level of fussy maintenance that was irritating. It was a difference in scientific direction. Warp was a long distance tool. In the colonies, the early exploration had always shown that habitable worlds were incredibly rare. Too rare to expend a lot of resources on developing long distance drives. She was certain there was someone in the Federation writing an interesting paper on how the colonial jump drive reflected their isolated nature. Lee's wife Serena often went on about the topic. Serena was perfect for Lee in a lot of ways, Lee liked to talk things to death too.

She got up from the navigation station, graceful still. She didn't look different, not yet. If she had been stuck with one of the older Starfleet uniforms, she would have turned down the job since walking around in a skintight yellow jumpsuit pregnant would have made her look like a giant pumpkin. It was lucky she wasn't having twins, she decided as she reclaimed her command seat. She was, according to Cottle, one of the lucky ones, a woman that felt invigorated by pregnancy but the last few weeks with the twins had made her feel miserable and slow. Also normal, Cottle had said, some sort of instinctive response, but normal or not, she was already dreading the end. Especially since the war was unlikely to be over by the time of the birth. "Transmit our success to Surprise and Galactica."

The communications officer, a newly commissioned cadet, jumped to fulfill her orders. One of the good ones, Kara thought. She had gotten about five of the cadets and the remains of the Jedikiah's engineering crew. Between them and the survivors from other ships that the Galactica had picked up, she hadn't needed to swipe many of Surprise's people, or keep too many of the cadets. Gaeta had kept a few as well, but they were in the pleasant position of having too many people and not enough jobs. Admiral Adama had room but she didn't envy any of the cadets and randomly rescued Starfleet personnel that were stuck catching a ride there. The Admiral didn't always have a lot of patience for the Starfleet mindset to begin with and some of the cadets were so thoroughly obnoxious and arrogant to a fault, she could already foresee the problems. The kids were brilliant, she couldn't argue that, but most had such an inflated sense of their own importance, they were difficult to be around. The ones assigned to her ship had been told in blunt terms that she didn't care in the slightest that they had been in the vaunted Red squadron. Most took it well enough but getting the cadets out of their mindset was a pain in the ass. A flaw in the squadron system she had no intention of replicating when she assumed control of the New Atlantis military. She was certain Gaeta had a crisply worded report planned for Starfleet as well.

If there was a Starfleet to go back to. It was concerning, how they weren't finding any sign of Starfleet. It could be that they were regrouping, one of the realities of the United Federation was that it was unimaginably huge in comparison to the world she grew up in. They had been patrolling for close to a month, sweeping the sector for the Dominion com dampeners and getting into period scraps with Dominion and Cardassian ships. They were winning the fights they got into, but so far, they hadn't found any other Starfleet vessels that hadn't been torn apart. She didn't like that one bit. The Galactica was one hell of a weaponized battle platform once Federation weapons were added, and Surprise and Valiant would certainly fortify the base star and the older ships they'd left to defend the home system but she wasn't a fool. New Atlantis was a low priority target for any invasion force. So was Cylonia, but the Cylon colony had the bad luck to be in between the wormhole at Deep Space Nine and the more populated areas of the Federation. If the worst happened, and they had to pull back to the New Atlantis system, it wasn't as though they could hold off the Dominion with what they had. No, that particular endgame meant more running. And at the end of the day, she was realistic enough about how lucky they had really been to know that a third exodus, with Dominion ships and allies chasing them, would make the second exodus look like a cake walk.

So the best thing to hope for was that Starfleet wasn't toast and that the colonial fleet was simply in the area that Starfleet had decided not to focus on. That was how Gaeta phrased it when they discussed the lack of intact Starfleet ships across the sector. It had been funny, Gaeta had obviously been choosing his words carefully since there had been a few of the cadets at the meeting.

Gaeta was another problem. Not a serious one, not yet, but it was building. She understood some of his dour expressions and increasingly worried looks. Things were bad, she wasn't an optimist when it came to war, but while she might consider the worst case scenario, she didn't dwell on it. It could happen that they would need to retreat. It would hurt, but the idea didn't consume her. She understood, more than she suspected that Gaeta even realized, why he was looking increasingly drawn and stressed. If things turned as badly as they could, she would be going home, grabbing her loved ones, and running. Felix Gaeta would be retreating from his home, and leaving his wife and children behind to a fate much worse than anything they had faced on New Caprica. Made worse for him that if they were successful, he was looking at a possible court martial for handing over weapons access. She doubted that Starfleet was actually that petty minded.

She hoped anyway, and there was no doubt that Gaeta had concerns as well. Felix Gaeta was a man who worried about things even when they were good. That wasn't a bad thing, she had come to accept it, mostly because she was starting to see how useful it was to have someone on the crew who worried. The problem was that for all of his incredible ability tol ie and fly under the dradis as a Starfleet officer in the colonial fleet, he was the kind of man who let his worry show on his face. That meant she knew he was worried and likely most of his crew knew as well. A problem in that his crew was looking to him to set the tone and he was looking increasingly upset.

It would be good to contact Starfleet, she thought. She almost laughed at the idea and covered it with a grin. Ironic, she currently was Starfleet as far as her crew was concerned, and Kara was honest enough to admit that she was more than a little amused at that turn of events. She followed Bill Adama's view on Starfleet. Good people, generous to a fault but also naive to a fault and prone to trusting when they should be suspicious. And of course, prone talking themselves to death until a war happened and they were taken by surprise. However, finding a ship of the fleet that had actually been in contact with Starfleet command would ease a lot of the tension that was rising. Not knowing what was happening was maddening and an entirely new experience for the Starfleeters. Making contact would calm them down.

And there I go, she thought as she leaned back seat in the command chair, acting like a commander instead of a pilot. She was starting to understand what Adama meant, that command could be as fulfilling as piloting a Viper. She suspected it was easier to be in command of a sleek fighting ship like the Valiant. It wasn't like the Galactica, that was for sure.

That thought left her as the sensors began to wail the announcement of a new ship in the sector. "What is it," she asked the young ex-cadet monitoring the sensors.

The woman, Alice Fetters, one of the less obnoxious members of the now disbanded Red squad, smiled. "It's a ship! Scanners indicate that it's the Defiant.

Kara nodded. She had heard of the Defiant. "Unless I've been reading the map wrong, the Defiant is a bit far away from home." Assigned to Deep Space Nine, which was right next to the damn wormhole that had the Dominion and Jem'hader bastards pouring out. "Hail them, Ms. Fetters."

The viewer flashed and in seconds she was looking at a dark skinned man wearing the Starfleet station uniform. "I am Captain Sisko of the USS Defiant. Who are you?" His tone was cold but she wasn't surprised. The Valiant's captain was supposed to be an older human male, not a pregnant woman with commander pins. A good leader would want to know what happened.

"I am acting Captain Kara Thrace. I was brevetted to this position by acting Captain Felix Gaeta of the USS Surprise." Gaeta had made sure that she knew the terminology to use.

Sisko eyed her but didn't seem upset. A good sign, in her opinion. It was fair to ask how she had gotten command and it didn't escape her that the officer in the background was already checking their databases, but at the end of the day, the story was pretty basic. Sisko shrugged it off after a moment. "I hope that means that the Surprise is still with us."

"It does. I don't suppose you've heard from Starfleet have you? Because we haven't." She didn't see any point in mincing words. There was a war on after all. "And aren't you normally assigned to Deep Space Nine?"

Sisko smiled thinly. She didn't feel a threat, but she got the sense that there was a rod of steel in the man's back that he wouldn't hesitate to use. One of the good ones, she thought with no small amount of pleasure. Gaeta wouldn't mind ceding command to someone senior, he didn't really have a choice, but Bill Adama would bristle if that officer didn't meet a certain standard. Sisko had a good feel about him. It boded well for a change.