Word Count: WIP
Date: 22nd May 05
Summary: A Lone Lost Exploration Ship, looking to get back into the fight.
Spoilers/Disclaimers: Not much unless you havent seen the mini...
For the record: I do not own, nor do I claim ownership of characters or concepts from Battlestar Galactica.
Part Three of the Mailman Saga
Jig Cade cursed, the bulky heavy weight of the rail-rifle in her hands dancing as she fired round after round at the Cylon warriors striding fast and implacably along the corridor towards her, “frak, I didn't sign up for this shit!”
She felt a double-tap on her shoulderblades, and dived around the corner of the bulkhead for cover, waiting for the concussion that was soon to follow. Seconds later, she dived around the corner again, her rifle warily raised. There was no need for it.
“Gratz Marine-boy, you got ‘em all”
“Yea…” the green suited marine glanced around the corner, quickly ducking his head back into cover as soon as he had gleefully verified the truth of Cade's words, “nice… but I'm running real low on claymores now, just two left”
“Well, we will just have to find some way of using them then” Cade snarled, kicking the battered, dead head of a cylon down the corridor.
The Marine stuck his head around the corner, shaking his head, “whilst I have no doubt that you will find someway to kill a bunch of cylons with them, might I remind you that staying in cover is a great idea for improving your life-expectancy”
“Cant stay in cover if you're playing ‘bait' mate”
The Marine, whose name tag identified him as Colour-Sergeant Cade, grinned wryly, “I know… I don't I just hate it. By the way, for a navy brat, you're not doing bad… ever consider transferring to the Marines?”
Jig Cade turned, sending her brother a saccharine sweet smile that the Marine instantly recognised as trouble, “Brother… how would you like to be a Eunuch?”
He wisely decided to shut up.
Commander Helva cursed, resisting the urge to pull her sidearm and start killing prisoners out of frustration. She couldn't… she mustn't. They needed those prisoners if they were to find Earth, if they were to destroy the last remnants of humanity. And damn her frakking otherself for getting to ‘cute' with her security procedures… hiding the co-ordinates was a sensible precaution, but for a Commander to hide those Co-ords from herself was just… It made her want to scream in frustration, it really did.
Now, she had a computer mainframe that had been very effectively wiped, a mutiny across the ship, no co-ords… not just for earth, but for any location, a dead basestar and a disabled self-destruct.
It really made her want to tear her hair out.
Another explosion rang through the ship, followed by a sharp stinging sensation at the top of her head and Commander Helva, a near exact copy of Boomers, realised with a pained start that she had in fact, started to tear her hair out.
Damn him… damn that man! All he had to do was die but like everything else in his life, her damned Communications officer, Lieutenant Christie couldn't even do that properly, instead he had to stay alive long enough to put the bridge on intercom and finally die smiling as everything that was said and done on the bridge was instantly sounded across the entire ship…
And damn and frak herself for not spotting it sooner!
Now she had a crew that was very effectively resisting her control of the ship and which controlled the missile batteries aft… which they had unloaded at her reinforcements, the basestar sent to assist her taking control of these pathetic beings. Luckily a large contingent of warriors had boarded by then… but if those rebellious humans decided to blow the ship, with control of the missile launchers and the missiles themselves, they would have little difficulty.
Damnit and frak it all to hell… she needed reinforcements, maybe a way to get her prisoners of the ship. Yes… yes… her warriors controlled the launch bays, they had Raptors which she could fly and one of the surviving bridge officers would certainly know where earth was, or at least, could give them the general area. Her mission would still be completed; she would just have to send a few basestars to finish off the Seeker , a minor consideration.
Marine Cade frowned, his head tilting slightly as he listened to the message coming over his radio bead, then he sighed.
“Looks like you will get your chance a little sooner then expected sis… she's bunking out, taking the bridge crew with her, heading for the starboard bay”
“Damnit… we need them, at least one of them must know the co-ords for Earth and… safety” she trailed off, her hand resting on an elfin face that was suddenly crossed with an expression of realisation and pain, “of course…”
Tears hiding at the corners of her eyes, she turned to her brother, “tell your boys in the missile room that any craft attempting to leave this ship must be destroyed regardless of who is aboard… we cannot let the Cylons get Earth's location, even if it means placing a virtual death sentence over our own heads”
Wearily nodding, the marine tapped at his comm. Bead, his eyes roaming, looking for threats. He might be older, but she was always the one who had the ideas, who could quickly grasp possibilities and analyse them. In a larger service, she might already have been earmarked for Command but her adventuring streak, her desire for things new and unseen was too great and she had applied for E&E instead of the regular military, what else could he do but request a transfer and try and keep her wild streak under control? E&E was always high on the line for Marines anyway, they were gone far too long and ran into too many hostile situations on the ground, albeit usually wildlife related for them to get anything but the best.
Though, he had to smile at the nepotism within E&E… he had been told to save his favours for something else, it was SOP for siblings and family to be placed together. Made sense if you were away so long he supposed.
“Missile bays got the word… they aren't happy, but they understand”
His sister nodded, sharply abruptly, “right… here is what we will do…”
Helva stopped suddenly, her eyes rolling. God, why couldn't you have given these humans some sense? Like enough sense to know when they are beaten… or to know that claymores are most effective if hidden.
Shaking her head in apology, she gestured a single warrior forwards, speaking the words that would commend his soul to God as she sent him forward to his death…
She closed her eyes as he approached the tripwire, waiting for the explosion that would signal the end of that trap and the warrior.
It didn't come.
Puzzled, she opened her eyes, glancing straight at the trip wire. She frowned, strange; the movement of the wire had shown that it wasn't actually connected to the claymore. Grimacing she strode forward, as soon as she saw the claymore close she groaned, it was just a small box swiftly painted marine dry, the paint hadn't even started to dry.
She reached down, planning to tug the wire out of the wire so her prisoners couldn't use it as an excuse to trip, fall or any of the thousand and one other ‘accidents' they had had whilst trying to slow her down.
It was when she heard the click that she realised her mistake.
Jig Cade glanced up with an evil, malicious grin, “I hear they found the claymores then…”
Her brother snorted, brushing the latest layer of explosion disturbed dust from his uniform, “now what gives you that idea?”
The Jig rolled her eyes, before glancing seriously at her Marine, “how many do you think we got?”
“No idea… but we ran a real risk of killing a few of our own with that lot”
“I know, but frankly they have been held prisoner too long, they are compromised, you know the regs regarding cylon prisoners as well as I do. Now, if they still have their minds, their loyalties I am sure they would much rather be dead then give away the location of…” even now, she wouldn't say it, “it is the prime regroup site for units that know, our best chance of vengeance, you know that. They can not find out where it is”
A clatter sounded behind her, and the two turned, their guns rising in an instinctive motion, before relaxing back with a sigh, “you guys here to help?”
The three, a dark skinned female wearing pilots wings that Jig Cade couldn't remember the name of, CPO Harris and a Marine Lance Corporal whose badge identified as Kelly nodded swiftly, hunkering down at her side.
“What's the plan?” the pilot asked.
Jig Cade smiled, a pilot with more sense then balls, good, she could name a few who would instantly try to take command just because they had a single grade on her but this LT was willing to go with the person on the scene… with intelligence like that, how had she ended up being a mere Raptor pilot?
“Unknown numbers of hostiles, unknown number of prisoners heading directly for this choke point. Preventing them past this point is the primary objective, rescue of prisoners…” Cade shrugged, “I hate to say it… but if the Cylons look they are going to break through, then the prisoners become primary targets, we can't let the cylons…”
She broke off at the groups swift, understanding and pained nods.
Then, she tensed, her rifle rising once more in her hand as a clattering sounded along the corridor, the distinctive sound she had learned to hate, the sound of warriors striding along the decks of the Seeker.
A warrior strode around the corridor into her line of sight, followed swiftly by a second and Jig Cade fired, her ears telling her that beside her, the others were doing the same.
The warriors fell, followed by a third, a fourth, a fifth. Then suddenly, they just stopped coming. Puzzled, Jig Cade glanced forward, her ears were telling her clearly that there were more warriors moving down the corridor… but they weren't attacking. Then, the clatter of cylons weapons… but none of the sounds she associated with Colonial weapons… they wouldn't kill their prisoners, so who were they firing on?
“They're waiting around the corner for us to get impatient and investigate”
Cade nodded, unsure, “maybe…”
They waited, and waited. It felt like hours, days even but their watches just said minutes. Then, something brushed against Cades check. She frowned, glancing around but seeing nothing. Her hair moved, now she was irritated, not recognising what it was, she had been on a ship too long and it wasn't a shipboard phenomenon unless you were in real trouble. Then, it grew stronger, and Cades eyes widened in horror. Wind, you wouldn't get wind shipboard unless…
“ Hull breech!”
“Sir, we may have a problem”
Warrant Officer Flynn scowled at those words, seemed he had been hearing them far too often today, “what is it this time?”
“If I am reading this board correct… then somebody has locked inner and outer locks open on recovery pad beta, starboard launch bay… we're also losing atmosphere in several adjoining corridors despite locks between the bay and ship being indicated as closed”
Flynn scowled, “prepare to fire, we got an unauthorised outbound launch… and Sergeant, I know you're not entirely familiar with those systems, but if you let those cylons get away then I will kill you myself”
“Damnit!” Cade cursed, ignoring the aching fire in her lungs from her close brush with vacumn, “they cut through the bulkheads… bypassed us totally”
Harris snorted, “not with those weapons, bulkheads armoured between ship and launch bays”
She shot the CPO an annoyed look, “if our old friend Helva was still alive” she sarcastically replied, “don't you think she would know exactly where to fire to get through the bulkheads? After all, she was only Commander of this ship for the last ten years or so…”
CPO Harris cursed, but Jig Cade was no longer paying attention, “we just have to hope those Marines know how to shoot straight… a bloody Raptor or shuttle is an entirely different proposition to hit then a basestar close aboard”
Two Raptors shot out of the launch bays, instantly going evasive and launching decoys, knowing that they would soon have missiles on their tails.
They were right, as the last ten missiles in the cells launched, a plume of waste gasses marking their trail as they speed towards the two support craft.
Four missiles followed the decoys, detonating to no useful purpose, the rest split, four on the one Raptor, two homing in on the second.
The Raptors dived; turning coordinated back to the Seeker, diving in at full bore, turning away at the very last minute, so close the second Raptor only left five inches of clearance as it banked away from the hull. Raptor one found a sensor mast dead ahead and couldn't turn away in time, it died, shredding the vital mast from the hull, Raptor two now had just one missile after it, all the other missiles not having turned fast enough and impacting on the Seeker's hull as the cylons had intended.
The missile was tenacious… maybe blessed, as it homed in on the Raptor , firmly locked on its target and ignoring the chaff and decoys the Raptor spat out, till it had no more. In a desperation move, the Raptor dived clear of the E&E vessel, hoping to get clear so it could simply jump away from the missile.
The Cylon controlled Raptor didn't make it, the missile impacting just seconds before its fuel would have run out, and shredding the craft. Bodies, both cylon and human, tumbled into space.
There had been no time to organise the resistance against their aptain and her Cylon allies, no time to figure out who the highest ranked loyalist officer was, who was actually in charge and so in the end, it had devolved to who had actually sounded like they had a clue what to do.
She had sounded like she knew what she was doing, she had put forward a simple plan she knew everyone could get behind, she had shouted that they would retake their ship.
And she certainly hadn't expected her assumption of Command to be legal.
It was certainly a shock, but in truth, she should have expected it to be a distinct possibility after all, what with all the officers killed as Helva assisted the Cylons in taking command of the ship, those officers she had been forced to order the deaths off to ensure the safety of the resistance forces she had little doubt were gathering at Earth. It had left her the as the Senior-most Bridge officer.
Sure, she was outranked by several of the Marines and a few of the Pilots but whilst a few of the Pilots had been working towards the rating, only she had the coveted QTC rating required to serve as a bridge officer, only she was Qualified To Command, legally speaking anyway.
Ironic considering her assignment was Stores Officer, a job that on any ship not belonging to E&E would be an NCO slot. It was a slight jump from the essential job of controlling all the distribution of supplies, the masses of fabrication equipment, the forty strong team of dedicated miners, artificers and general supply gatherers to Command the Colonial Exploration and Evaluation Vessel Seeker.
It was also a jump she would have to get used to.
“Okay” Cade shock herself awake, looking back at the expectant faces of the Department heads around her, most were NCO's uncomfortable with filling an officers slot, but like her if they were the most senior survivor of their department then they would have to get used to it, “first things first… engineering, we need to clear dodge and we need to do it now. I want engines back online and running yesterday, we don't have long before the Cylons start wondering about what's going on here, reinforcements could already be on there way”
“Marines… I know you are still trying to figure out whose in Command, but drop it. I'm placing Cade in Command till you can come to a consensus between yourselves… right now; I want the ship searched from bow to stern, I don't want a single compartment or access tunnel skipped, clear?”
Cade nodded wearily at her officers as they voiced their agreement, “I will be on the bridge plotting a few jumps out as best I can… until then, do your best to get the ship as near to operational as possible… and for Kobols sake, try and get a personnel manifest for your departments up to me at some point, dismissed”
“Do we know the location of Earth?”
Cade shook her head wearily at her brother, “If anyone on the ship knows, they aren't telling. Frankly, whilst we all knew it existed the senior officers were very tight-lipped about where exactly it was, somewhat understandable but it leaves us in a bind now”
Her brother sighed, deep and resigned, “so, we cant flee to the only Colonial Outpost likely to be safe and uncompromised… we don't know the status of the Colonies but considering the sheer advancement shown by the basestar and the new warriors, its likely to be bad, bad enough the jumping in blind would certainly not be a good idea…”
She nodded acknowledgment of the swift salute of a passing NCO, “that's a fair assessment, but we also have to consider that we are duty bound to determine the status of the Colonies now we know there is a threat and if the Colonies are still effective, join in the fight against the Cylons, maybe even warn them of the developing threat if they don't already know”
“Our course is decided then,” Her brother said, “we head for the colonies”
She nodded, “pretty much, but we have to be damned careful how we do it”
He nodded, “I'll warn the Marines and the flyboys… Is it safe to assume we will be jumping into a gulf region near the colonies and sending a Raptor in to recon?”
Cade nodded, “that sounds a sane plan, yes. Minor problem, we don't have any working Raptors”
“Ahh,” the Marine shock his head, disgusted, “that would be a problem”
“We deployed with four online Raptors and parts for two more in storage,” Cade nodded at the sentry as they entered the, no, her bridge, “we lost two after that Fubar in Mx-679, number three was caught in that unexpected eruption on Mx-565, four and five I ordered shot down after they were seized by the cylons and six was damaged beyond repair during the initial firefight in the port launch bay…”
Cade shook her head, annoyed, “the shuttles aren't jump capable, the Commanders gig was unreliable as hell and shredded for parts a long time ago, apart from Seeker herself, we have nothing that is jump capable, and we aren't ready for a fight, not by a long shot”
Her brother grimaced, glancing around the bridge before moving closer, speaking into her ear quietly so no-one else could hear, “you need to take definite action though, and you need to do it now. The crew is unsettled and having an officer as young and low down on the Command chain as you were isn't helping. Understand this sis; your control over this ship is not firm. I am already hearing of mutinous talk from what I would normally consider reliable personnel”
Cade glanced startled, wide-eyed and more then a little fearful at her brother, “Are you…?”
His nod was all the response she required, and with a sigh she headed into her office, closing the door between herself and her brother. She had some thinking to do… on her own.
Seeker finally arrived in the gulf on the edge of the Colonial Home system just three weeks after they had retaken their ship from the cylons.
In that time, Cade, supported by her brother and a few NCOs had been busy. First, she had rebuilt the essential core of ships officers, largely by promoting senior and experienced NCOs into the slots whether they wanted the extra rank or not.
Second, she had arranged for a few copies of the relevant regulations on mutiny to slip into the hands of those considered to be the worst offenders in the mutinous talk circulating the ship, putting them on notice that if they did try to take the ship from her, that they better do it right the first time, or they would face the full force of those regulations. Reminded that a Commander, regardless of how they came into that position, could legally do whatever the hell they wanted to mutineers in wartime helped damp the talk.
The fact that the bulk of the surviving Marine contingent made it clear that thanks to her actions during the battle, she had earned their respect also helped.
Cade had also been forced to shuffle crew, the severe depletion of personnel caused by the fight and the death of the bulk of the ships officers was placing a strain of those few personnel trained in shipboard operations. Cade had been forced to use the Marines, normally available just for shipboard security and ground operations as ships crew, arranging for them to be trained to operate the ships weapons systems, then shifting the navy weapons crew to other duties. The fact that several of the weapons technicians were suspect was secondary to the task of getting the best use out of the crew she had.
Those Marines who were trained in the use of ground support platforms were also retraining, their Atmospheric Pilots ratings receiving a swift upgrade to full Colonial Fighter Pilots ratings. That and a few other tricks meant that by the time Seeker arrived she was as close to fully operational as she was likely to come.
Seeker jumped into the Colonial System near Gemon the day after arriving at the gulf, and quickly went to full emcon. It become quickly clear that Gemon had been rendered uninhabitable by a nuclear bombardment, most likely by the Cylons considering the masses of Colonial debris they were stumbling across but other then a faint signal of an out bound jump that looked Colonial and several expanding debris fields that looked Cylon, there was no sign of any movement around Gemon.
A little puzzled and very angry, Cade ordered a jump to Caprica.
Unfortunately, as soon as the Seeker jumped in she was attacked by a pair of basestars and knowing that in a straight fight, the exploration ship couldn't face off against one of the new basestars, let alone two, Cade ordered an immediate retreat.
But, the Seeker had been noticed, and not just by the Cylons.
Cade grimaced, glancing around the council that was her senior officers, or more accurately, her senior NCOs, most of them hadn't gotten used to the fact that they were officers now, too long spent working up the Non-coms promotional chain.
“Question is simple people, what do we do now?”
“Fight back! Get some vengeance for what those things did to the colonies!”
“Simple to say,” She shot back, “harder to do. You've seen the new basestars and at a very close range at that. They are more then a match individually for a modern Battlestar and this isn't a full Battlestar. Seeker is designed for Exploration and Evaluation, not all out warfare and May I also remind you that we were headed back for refit when the former Commander had her little attack of barratry? We're short on those spares we cannot make ourselves, short on crew, the hull armour has become depleted simply because we have travelled through so much space, so much dust at high speeds…”
Cade shook her head, “and worse yet, no-one here knows where safety lies, nor have we found a written copy of its location anywhere”
“Your saying,” the new Cag said, softly as ever, “that we cannot fight and we cannot run. What do you propose we do then?”
“That's what I asked you all here for” Cade replied, glad of the cue, “I want ideas, suggestions and I want them now”
Nodding, the Cag replied, “well, the Cylons are certainly searching for other survivors and whilst I wouldn't want to put any serious money on it, there was that outgoing jump as we arrived and Gemon…”
Her brother nodded, “and the Cylon debris. Debris pattern was very tight, hadn't yet expanded very much, she's right. Whilst I wouldn't want to put serious money on it either, it does lead to the possibility of other units out there carrying on the fight”
Cade nodded, “I like it, maybe a little too much, if there are other units still fighting then it is in our best interests to make contact and continue the fight in a more co-ordinated manner but it also runs a heavy risk where ambush is concerned. But I don't think we should make our reason to be contact with other survivors, it would blind us to other opportunities and options”
“Agreed” the Cag rather reluctantly responded.
“What about old outposts such as Ragnar Anchorage and Midas Station?”
Cade shook her head, “risky, for the Cylons to have successfully destroyed the colonies in such a short amount of time they would have had to have achieved complete strategic surprise. For that to occur, well they would have needed to have a real good idea where all the Battlestars and the few surviving lesser warships were. For them to do that they could have spent a lot of time and effort observing ship movements, but compromising the central mainframes would carry a lot less risk”
“Frak” was the rather succinct and heartfelt response to that.
“Exactly,” Cade glanced around the table, “and if they compromised central mainframes, then they knew the locations of at least 95% of all the Colonial Military units and outposts when they launched their attack, maybe about 60% of E&Es fixed facilities. They would certainly have found a good number of the remaining percentage points in short order. Frankly, any surviving locations must be considered suspect mainly because they are very nice bait”
“You're not helping get our spirits up here boss”
Cade grinned at the wry comment, “You want me to lead, expect me to try to consider all the possibilities, even those you don't want to hear”
She sighed, and continued, “Whilst we know there are a number of ‘Last Resort' caches out there from the first Cylon war, we don't know where any of the surviving ones are, if they are compromised or if they are still safe. Many of them would be small caches set up by individual Captains, the big official ones would be the most useful to us but the most likely to have ended up on the mainframe at some point. Plus, we would still have to find them”
She shook her head, “we're in bad shape people, you might not want to make that obvious to the crew, but we are seriously in bad shape here”
“It might be worth having a word with the older hands, see if they might remember anything that may be of use”
Cade smiled, “A good suggestion Cag, could easily not give us anything but it costs us nothing to do. I'm sure you all know who best to talk to in your departments, add that to you're to do lists please.
Any other ideas?”
“I know it might seem a little morbid, but if we find a debris field the Cylons aren't watching too closely…”
“Salvage,” Cade smiled, “that's certainly an option to remember. We'll brainstorm options and ideas for getting the most from such fields in a safe and quickly exitable way later. Consider it a new item on the agenda”
“What about a surface survey for survivors and equipment?”
“Unnecessarily risky,” it was the Cag, a Jig Athena who fielded this one, “hostile territory, both space and ground threats, high probability of Cylon infiltrators trying to hook up with any resistance groups, high probability of prepared ambushes at surviving installations, plus we are more then a little low on radiation protective gear, we have none left that's rated for combat”
“And,” the CMO, a Captain Hellstein “our stocks of the relevant drugs are unsafe, out of date”
Cade nodded once more, “We see an opportunity, and we'll use it. Other then that, it will have to be left. I don't like it, but that's the way it has to be. Any more suggestions? No, then let's start talking debris fields…”
Our first task once we had gotten our act together was simple, CPO Hallesy, who had passed the mandatory retirement age nearly two years ago, mentioned that his old CO, Commander “Firehawk” Tobin of the original Pacifica had set up his own supply caches, as was normal for the darker phases of the first Cylon war, but there was one he knew off that it was entirely possible was still in place. Considering the stated location was the ‘eye' of a gas giant storm I wouldn't have been at all surprised if nobody had discovered it, but question was had the cache been closed down by Tobin at any point? Had Tobin placed it into the official record after the war? If he had, it would have to be considered compromised, but we had no way of telling, all we could do was investigate and hopefully she if it had any usable supplies.
We jumped directly into low, and I mean interestingly low orbit over the gas giant, which rested just two systems away from the Colonies themselves and instantly had to go to full Emcon (Emissions Control) as a cylon patrol was inside the system. Plus side about jumping so close to a gas giant was that the energies of the giant itself helped hide our jump signature, downsides were an increased risk of jump disruption and the obvious need to correct your orbit. Unfortunately, under full Emcon we couldn't fire our main drives and that placed us at a disadvantage manoeuvring wise. The ships orbit quickly began to degrade and we were, after three hours, forced to fire the main engines just to prevent an uncontrolled descent into the giant.
Luckily for us, the Cylons did not appear to notice the burst of energy, unluckily for us the cylons, to be exact, a single basestar, showed no signs of leaving. Indeed, they appeared to be acting not as a patrol passing through all the nearby systems but as a picket, a warship sent to defend and control a particular area of space.
It was a problem for us as far as investigating the cache goes but not an insurmountable one. The cylons had shown no signs of detecting our jump signature not the firing of our main drives to correct our deteriorating orbit; therefore they would be unlikely to notice the movements of a few fighters. I ordered four of our mark II Vipers launched, and very carefully they descended into the eye of the storm on what was, to put it mildly, an increased risk mission.
Or to put it less mildly, if they misjudged then they would run into winds which would tear a battlestar into shreds, a mere fighter… well, the pilot would not even be given time to blink. Still, the status of that dump needed to be determined before I took Seeker in.
The Vipers were gone a worrying four hours, during which time three basestars passed through the system, we guessed outbound from the colonies judging by the somewhat fuzzy picture of their movements we were able to pick up on the passive sensors, and two more basestars arrived and stayed.
Those two were an additional worry by far and the high level of activity meant we had to upgrade the system from merely picketed to perhaps checkpoint or distribution node.
But the Vipers returned in time and confirmed the presence of the depot, though they also reported that it had sustained some damage it was still operational, albeit not for much longer. They had boarded the station and amongst other things, had noted that the platform no longer had any reaction mass for the station keeping thrusters in its tanks and as such, its orbit was decaying. Its nuclear pile, the stations primary source of power, was still cooking however.
For us, this was near perfect, the station whilst damaged and decaying, still had masses of supplies we could scavenge for the Seekers use, whilst much of the food supplies, even those preserved supplies that generally last years would be useless, a combination of mere age and the heightened levels of radioactivity inside the gas giant, things like spare sections of hull armour and bullets were unlikely to be effected.
But it meant taking Seeker into the gas giant and that was not an idea everyone was happy with.
“Rate of descent now 45km/s, and holding steady”
“Major static discharge reported on the aft of the port flight bay Captain,”
“Radiological alarm, portside gunnery chain. Crew abandoning positions”
“Shit,” I spat out, sending a grimace towards the DC Officer, a mere Petty Officer, “make a note; replacing portside armour around the gunnery chain is a priority”
I didn't need to explain that one, Petty Hollands was a veteran of the DC teams even if she was new to her position as chief of Damage Control and she knew as well as I did that the Portside Gunnery chain was what shifted munitions between storage bunkers to the ready lockers of the portside guns, without that chain, we could only fire what was loaded into the railguns and what was in their ready lockers. That generally amounted to a mere hundred seconds of weapons fire, not enough by far under battle conditions. The section was supposed to be heavily armoured but what with the mix up in Mx-679 and general erosion, was no longer up to scratch. Its replacement was one of the primary reasons we were headed for refit when the end came. It seemed we would just have to hope that the station we were descending too had enough usable armour sections to replace that.
“Gunfire reported, portside main!”
There was an unmistakable urgency to that report and I was half-tempted to ask if she was kidding, but bad news never really needs any confirmation.
We had swept the ship pretty thoroughly, but it was always possible that a few had escaped our patrols.
“No Captain,” Hollands was angry now, “it's the portside gunnery crew. They've fired upon marine guards outside a weapons locker… wait… marines are no longer responding. I must assume they now control that munitions locker”
Our home has been destroyed; we're a non-combatant ship with a decapitated command structure caught in the middle of a warzone with a depleted crew, trying to reach an abandoned supply platform with a decaying orbit that has been hidden inside the eye of a gas-giant storm. There are at last count three enemy basestars inside the system, and now by all appearances, there is a mutiny in progress.
Either somebody is laughing at us, or there is an action-adventure camera crew somewhere around that really hates us…
I just hoped it was just the old crew, not the marines that had been used to reinforce their numbers. If the marines had malcontents in their ranks, the ship would be in real trouble pretty swiftly.
Either way, I told my brother to get his arse into gear and contain those bastards. This descent was difficult enough as it was without a major distraction like that. Naturally, one of his first reports was that the mutinous dogs had split up, and were heading not just here, to the secondary command centre, the bridge still being repaired, but to the main engineering control as well.
With main engineering control, they had an override over the ships engines and power routing; effectively it would give them control of the ship. With the secondary command centre, they had weapons control as well.
Both logical places to go if you want to take command of the ship, though I would have sent teams to the localised weapons control rooms too. Perhaps they didn't have enough bodies for that, either way, a promising sign. It meant my brother could concentrate his marines and hopefully take them out in short order, and I meant take them out. We had too much of a depleted crew, we couldn't really afford to lose anybody but I didn't have the bodies to watch over mutinous and untrustworthy crew either.
And I still had a descent into the eye of a gas-giant storm to control, a rather tricky manoeuvre, though my mood was improved by the information that the alarm in the portside main munitions train was a fake. Radiation levels had increased yes, but not to dangerous levels, sheer static from the storm was proving far more dangerous then that. Minor discharges were being reported all over the outer portions of the ship, a worrying fact in itself. A spark in the wrong place…
This hadn't been reported by the fighters, a fact that I was quick to have confirmed. The answer was simple, we must be drifting far too close towards the edges of the eye, and perhaps we were leaving the eye of the storm itself. Unfortunately, the very energies we were surrounded with made, sensors, both passive and active useless, not to mention radio communications… so we couldn't use Vipers as our eyes. Outside observation windows, whilst far more common then on Fleet warships, were not enough to allow us to navigate through this mess.
As I was deliberating what to do, the sounds of gunfire finally hit the secondary bridge, sounding mere feet from the sealed airlocks. After checking that my pistol was loaded and ready, I ignored it. I had to trust my people to do their jobs… even as I knew; this was the result of people not doing their jobs and worse. You have to faith in your crew; there are few things more destructive to morale then a Captain who appears not to have any faith in their crew.
The answer to my dilemma was not simple at all, Seeker could not see but we were getting some pretty solid indications that the ship was off course…
So, I sent out the shuttles. They at least had signal lamps; something the Vipers lacked and could signal us that way. Of course, it also meant get bodies in radiation suits at every window in the ship, bodies we truly didn't have to spare but had to be found, mainly as it turned out from the flight crew and pilots.
As it turned out, we were very of course and were in fact brushing dangerously close to the edges of the storms eye. This was a problem, but at least the shuttle could signal us where we were going wrong now and tell us how to correct.
Unfortunately, only two of the four shuttles we sent out signalled us. One landed back aboard in short order, its electronics dead and its crew singed, the fourth was never heard from again.
The sounds of fighting had redoubled outside the door and blood could now be seen dripping down the one window in the heavy lock but no one was phoning us to say who was winning. Perhaps they were too busy too…
Still, the static discharges and the chaos they were causing amongst ships systems had dropped off dramatically and better yet, the sensors had cleared somewhat. Though, I give all credit to Lieutenant Zeus, an injured pilot who was temporarily serving as comm. officer for spotting that the sensors controlling computers were mistakenly labelling the walls of the storm, due to their high electrical activity, as areas of severe jamming.
Now that we knew we could maintain a stable course just by watching the ‘jamming' on the sensors, we recalled the shuttles to the relative safety of the Battlestar.
Five minutes later, the sound of weapons fire outside the bridge redoubled and then swiftly died.
To say the atmosphere on the bridge was tense was to understate the matter mildly, whilst I was lucky in that the individuals manning the reaction thrusters controls knew what they were doing, they weren't prime crew. In fact, they had been the second shift crew, thus in combat situations they were the ones manning the backup positions in secondary command whilst the now deceased main-shift manned the primary controls. It was I suppose the one blessing of my new command, that at least I had a competent command crew, even if they weren't as well trained or drilled as the prime crew.
Still, they were just ships crew and they were having to deal with the stress of both combat operations, knowing that an enemy is in the system and your sensors are compromised, a descent into the eye of a gas giant storm and now, a gun-fight right outside the doors to the secondary bridge.
It certainly wasn't a situation that came up in any sane commanders training drills.
I placed myself right next airlock through which the gunfire had sounded, my pistol out and ready, joined by the two marines that had been stationed inside the room. No-one else joined us, there was no-one else free, they all had to stay at their consoles otherwise a worse calamity might befall us.
I could vaguely forms moving the other side of the airlock through the blood-splattered glass windows, I was chilled to see them wearing crew uniforms, not those of the Marine contingent. There had only been five marines stationed outside the door true, there had after all been many other places to guard and every contingent on the ship was depleted, but still…
The ship shook, and then rumbled, forcing me to grab hold of the guard rail that ran the outside length of the room. Beside me, one of the marines tumbled, cursing to the floor, his rifle clattering its way across the suddenly unstable floor.
“Status?” I barked, grimly wishing for some sea-sickness pills, not a normal requirement aboard a battlestar and certainly not an E&E vessel.
“Crossing the outer boundary into the primary eye Captain, the Vipers reported it got a little rough then evened off as you entered the calm zone the facility is in”
I wasn't paying attention by then, indeed, my eyes were focused purely on the stuttering rotation of the airlocks flywheel, as whoever was on the other side attempted to open the lock whenever the ships movement allowed.
“Okay Sheba, I confirm three basestars in-system, two under repairs but no sign of the unidentified Battlestar”
“Shit, if they jumped in and saw that, they would have jumped right back out again, this time we will have no hope of a trace”
“Agreed, we've lost them”
“Cain isn't going to be happy”
“I know Cag, I know”
“Three basestars in one place is a major deployment though…”
“We should report back”
The airlock finally opened, and I waited, expecting the worst, my pistol held in my clammy nervous hands, raised, ready and safety very definitely off.
The form that walked first through the door with hands raised was not who I had been expecting however, it wasn't one of the mutinous members of the portside main munitions chain; it was Chief Petty Officer Hallesy of the flight crew. My relief and the relief of the bridge crew was palpable, the chief was an odd bird at times, but all you needed to get was his respect and he would follow you into the mouth of hell itself. My actions during the retaking of the ship had not only earned me the cynical, sometimes bitter mans respect but his somewhat rough affection and sympathy as well.
No-one doubted where his loyalties lay.
“As usual Captain, situation normal… all frakked up! The Marines you had outside the door were just about overrun when I showed up, but it looks like this was the bastard's main point of attack. There's twenty bodies outside the door, including two marines. The other three headed for sickbay, I lost two volunteers too, both flight crew and four pilots are headed towards sickbay”
“Noted, good work, but I'm afraid I have more for you to do”
Hallesy just looked at me expectantly, so I continued.
“I need some work parties, no marines, I'm afraid this forces me to shift more of them back to security duties from shipboard. First off, inspect the portside gunnery chain, expect trouble, its entirely possible the rad-monitors down there have been fiddled with, but its not out of the realms of possibility that a genuine alarm was enough to trigger this shit-storm, if they felt they had enough…”
Hallesy nodded, disgusted.
“Also, if the station is still viable when we arrive, we will need work parties to shift as much munitions, and stores across to the ship as fast as possible, armour sections have to be a priority too. A work party will also be needed to inspect the station itself, it might be useful as a platform for future operations, doubly so with cylons in-system”
“That's a lot of bodies,” the chief noted, “we're down to roughly 400 hundred bodies, fifty of which are gracing the medical centre and its extensions. We're going to lose most of those due to a lack of usable medical supplies… We're under one-fifth of normal complement captain and most of those are involved in repairing the damage this gas giant has wrought”
“I know…” I sighed, “But we have little choice”
“We need more bodies”
“We can't get them, not yet anyway, the ships not ready for a fight, not yet”
“Aye Captain,” Hallesy frowned, “I'll see what I can scrape up”
One problem down, and several handed off the Hallesy, I turned back to the bridge and the job of getting my ship down to the station in time and in one piece.
To say I was devastated was to understate the matter; we needed the supplies the station held but just as we breeched the interface and entered the calm centre of thee gas giant storm, sensors recorded a sharp burst of radiation and coherent energies right beneath us.
That burst turned out to be the death of Commander Tobin's old cache.
Its stores of munitions gone, its armour sections gone, its supplies… and worse, I had lost thirty crew attempting to get to the station through one thing and another, and the ship had taken a battering. If we had moved faster, if we had gotten here just a few hours earlier… then most likely we would have been tied to the station when it died.
Still, we might have had a chance, but it's not good for a Captain to dwell on might have beens and should have beens, not after a blow like this.
Not really having any other choice, I ordered us to hold position and concentrate on repairs. The cylons couldn't find us here because of the surrounding storm and we were safe from the storm itself in its eye. At least now we knew how to find the safest route in and out, but that was scant consolation, we still had to safely escape the system and there was the minor matter of a cylon presence in the system.
We spent five full days hidden in the hull in that blasted gas giant storm before the ship was repaired enough for us to leave. The ship was no where near combat ready, but unfortunately as much as I would have liked, we couldn't stay safe in the eye of the storm forever. We had used nearly a sixth of our manoeuvring thruster fuel during the last few days, not to mention, a similar amount of our tylium stores and we couldn't afford either of those.
No, we had to leave before we used too much fuel and that meant going into a hot zone with a ship that would barely pass its SpaceSafe requirements and certainly wouldn't pass it ComSafe (combat safe) tests. Such I suppose is the nature of war, that the niceties of peacetime be forced to the side in the name of survival and of winning.
Still, very cautiously, we made our way out of the storm, using the interference the storm generated on our sensor plots as our guide, as a result we suffered far less damage then we did on our way in, but still, damage was suffered.
Our next problem was the cylons, hopefully they had no indication that we were here but I wasn't going to bet on it. I had hoped to cautiously slide in low orbit and under full emcon to the far side of the gas giant and jump from there, the idea being that once again the highly active radiological, electrical and magnetic fields that surrounded the gas giant would mask us from the cylon sensors.
Perhaps that worked, perhaps it didn't, if I was to hazard a guess I would say it was a raider that detected us purely visually but I doubt we will ever know for sure. Either way, when the first nuke hit, I ordered an immediate FTL jump, we had the relevant co-ordinates loaded into the drives already but it meant a full burn to a higher orbit before we could safely jump….
Well, safely certainly being a relative word under these conditions.
Having been detected, active sensors were quickly switched on and reported two raiders launching missiles at us whilst the basestar which by now was nearly over the planets horizon launched what appeared to be hundreds more.
Two Raiders we could survive, but the fact that we had been moving away from the basestar when we were detected would no doubt make the cylons curious. Once our suppression batteries had finished off the cylons and we had moved into a high enough orbit, we jumped into the void.
“Where the frak did they come from?”
“I don't know boss, but I know one thing for cert. They haven't been hiding in low orbit all this time; the low orbit patrols would have caught them by now”
“Can you get a firmer ID?”
“Trying Sheba, but the gas giant is interfering with their IFF beacon… no wait, their IFF beacon is damaged to. Data stream, such as it is from an IFF is corrupt. Profile is definitely a Battlestar, but…”
“I'm not sure… what I can see of the IFF doesn't seem indicative of a main fleet warship. This may be an E&E vessel”
“E&E? Who the hell are they?”
“I'll tell you back on the Pegasus, we need to report this anyway”
“Fine, but this had better be good. I've never heard of this E&E”
“I'm not surprised, but from what I've heard, one of their Battlestars would make the ultimate support ship for a guerrilla war”
The void is always the safest place for a ship to hide, the massive gulf between stars is far too large to be patrolled, you would need literally millions of patrol craft to cover the area between just two stars, and there were far more then two in the galaxy. Whilst we Colonials had patrolled the gulf prior to the fall, it was done as a show measure to appease certain elements of the public and Central Government only, the Admiralty knew all to well the impracticalities.
The Cylons thanks to an apparent lack of the need to sleep could carry out such a patrol far more efficiently, but unless they had some idea of where we had jumped too, there chances of finding us were roughly comparable to the same person winning the Caprican Lottery Jackpot fourty times in a row without cheating.
Meet Slim, son of none everyone…
Doesn't stop the random event, i.e. a Raider managing the entirely unlikely event of dropping in on you, but the threat is low unless you're being tracked somehow.
That's why I felt safe ordering a stop down to a minimal alert level whilst repairs were completed, well, those we could what with our dangerously depleted supplies and the surviving crew were rested, sometimes forcibly for certain workaholics amongst the crew.
Still, the need was clear now, they needed to resupply, they couldn't hit an old supply depot, so it would have to be done the old fashioned way. That was fine, E&E ships were equipped for mining, refining and production to a far greater extent then their main fleet comrades, it just added a lot of risk. They would need the bulk of their personnel working swiftly on ore extraction, the rest they could do wherever they wanted. At the same time, the battlestar needed to be at full alert in order to protect the miners should the cylons find them on whatever hellhole they were stripping for materials.
She didn't really have the personnel for both, but she would have to order it done anyway. Then, once they had used their manufactured parts to repair the ship as best as possible, they would have to see about recruitment, the Seeker needed more crew; unfortunately Cade knew the Cylons would make that a tricky prospect.
Still, she had a few ideas…
“Commander?” Cade looked up wearily from the charts and maps spread out across the briefing rooms table with a sign, brushing her increasingly too-long hair away from her eyes. She should have it cut, but it was difficult to find the time. Besides, both the ships qualified barbers were dead.
“Yes Chief?” she asked, quietly.
“I've been looking over the sensors logs from our little escape from the gas giant and well, I think you need to see this”
Cade reached out one arm, grabbing the print-outs from the Chiefs hand, before glancing over them once swiftly. Her eyebrows rose, and she placed them on the table, leaning over them as she read more carefully.
“Is this for real?”
“As far as I can tell Commander”
“Then,” she asked slowly, “what was a Raptor doing observing our escape?”
You don't get to work aboard an E&E vessel for a few years, in my case; this was my first tour, without managing to pick up a great deal of knowledge about how the universe works.
Not only are you surrounded everyday by some of the best scientific minds the Colonies posses but better yet, minds that have the flexibility and guts to be willing to go out and investigate the universe instead of theorising. Courses, lessons, lectures in science and scientific theories kept the crew busy during slow periods even as the civilian, scientific crew were force-fed ship based qualifications from First Aid to Damage Control.
It was common for somebody to sign up for E&E and deploy as a mere crewperson and arrive back home with the equivalent of two full degrees, just requiring a dissertation to be defended before they became official.
Strangely enough, no-one ever seemed to seriously consider how that would effect a ship running under combat conditions.
Me, I had enlisted as a nobody, gotten kicked up to Officers Training due to, according to my own personnel record which I know had access to, a high adaptability rating and command potential. Both of which apparently also led to my posting as Stores Officer, an unheard of even for an officer on their first E&E tour due to the especial conditions and powers of a stores officer on Exploration and Evaluations vessels, powers which meant that, under certain circumstances, a Stores Officer could override the ships Commander. For instance, a stores officer could order the Commander to take the ship home if they felt the stores situation required it. Okay, they would have to defend their actions to a board but it had happened aboard E&E ships three times and each time, the decision had been upheld by the board.
And I had attended the lectures, the lessons like the rest of the crew, far more interested in filling the time then actually getting qualifications, but I had learned. Some people did actually join up E&E just for that, to get paid to pick up qualifications and visit deep space, and they were welcomed, even if the arrival of an E&E ship home and the resulting pay out of wages did manage to depress the local economy for a while… hey, these ships stayed out until they *had* to head home or until two years was up after all.
Still, the advantage under combat conditions was simple.
I knew an undetectable way into the colonies, a sliver of a route just large enough for Vipers to pass through which would take them onto the doorstops of Caprica so long as they were no visually identified.
It was unknown, a sensor blank spot just slightly wider then a viper was nothing, it was not a concern when compared to the size of most black spots. The issue was, this one would run a very twisting path from the belt all the way to the planet, if we could hide in the belt, send a team of Vipers along the route to Caprica then we could uncover a lot about the conditions on the planet and the possibility of increasing our population from any survivors.
Better yet, the route being the result of the convergence of several naturally occurring anomalies and eddies in space, it was highly unlikely that the Cylons would have figured it out and equally unlikely that it would appear in the Colonial Databases the Cylons now held. They could of course, figure that the route should exist themselves, but frankly, whilst several of the scientists aboard had, rather startled, agreed it should be there, they hadn't spotted the military possibilities associated with it.
It took me to spot that, and my kind, a Command Rank officer who was also a scientist only existed in E&E… and E&E rarely appeared in the colonies themselves…
Hmm, I am waffling aren't I?
If this was the ships log I was recording for transcription I would no doubt wipe this tape, order my thoughts properly and start again. Seeing how this is my…. Seeing as how this is the Commanders personnel log however, I'll leave it as is.
Still, the orders have been given, I have four pilots on mandatory stand down as they rest in preparation for the mission, maintenance is running one last check of the ship and the drives are set, ready for the move into the Colonial Belt which is scheduled for 0400 tomorrow.
Hopefully the mission will be a success, I pray that the mission will be a success, but I admit, I am planning for it to fail. There are far too many things that can go wrong, starting with discovery but the cylons, the route not being were its supposed to be or perhaps not existing at all…. A thousand and one different things could go wrong. Yes, so I pray for the best, but I have planned for the worst.
The Vipers I sent out on probe are overdue.
Indeed, they have passed the limit, I told them the Battlestar would leave after they were ten hours overdue and so far, they are fifteen hours overdue, I should not really have waited this long, doing so risks my ship, but I hate the thought of leaving the few people I have behind, not a single body can be spared.
But I must.
Four more pilots I must declare lost, and mourn.
Worst, I do so knowing that whilst the Cylons are most likely the cause of their fate, it's unlikely we will even know what truly happened to them. Missing In Action, the most hated fate for any person because it always leaves that hope, and that hope can be fatal when it starts to fade.
Still, with heavy heart, I order Seeker to jump into the gulf, I have no choice but to leave those pilots behind even as I know the move might destroy us.
Morale is low, dangerously so, the crew is depleted and overworked, the ship damaged, the destruction of the colonies, the effects of the cylon boarding actions, the loss off the senior staff, the mutiny…
The Seeker is not a happy ship.
Sure, morale was boasted by the meagre evidence that another battlestar might be active, but having no further proof just meant that when the crew crashed off that high, they crashed hard.
I must work the crew hard, I have no choice, I have far too few to maintain anything resembling normal watch rotations, but many no longer have the energy, bad morale and strict food rationing are taking their toll. Water is not so much of an issue which helps, our water purification plants are far better then Colonial Military standard and topping up from any icy rock we find is easy enough, if somewhat time consuming.
Truth be told, my grasp over this ship, perhaps it would be better to say our grasps over ourselves our slipping and unless something changes soon we will die, and it will not be the cylons who kill us it will be apathy, a total inability to find the energy to just get up and work.
I don't know what to do about it, during the last war it was not unheard of for Commanders to effectively declare martial law on their crew, using the marines to force the crew to their duties but of all our contingents, the marines are damn near the most depleted, they don't have the numbers and frankly, I would be afraid of the resentment such actions would cause.
Two mutinies in the last war were blamed upon ‘inappropriate' use of the marine contingent after all.
Yet, could perhaps this be my fault?
It is a basic principle of command that the crew reflects their Commander. A bad commander, or one who has lost the plot generally means a bad crew, a once great Commander reduced to ruin? A crew desperately trying to cover up their beloved bosses weaknesses.
A Commander with a backbone of steel and a love for his crew? Well, Adama is the best example of that and like him or hate him, everybody knows and respects him, his crew widely regarded as being the most tight and supportive within the fleet.
Or were anyway, Galactica is MIA but given her dated nature and her commander, if any ship was to survive the cylons, it would be her.
Maybe… I just need to set a better example, or at least, try kicking their lazy idle arses into gear.
Okay, I am officially regarded as the most evil Commander since Able was tossed into space by his own crew twenty years ago, an event that resulted in him being officially stricken from the record after the investigation.
They hate me and to be frank, I love it.
They have the energy to hate which is a good start.
I don't think it was me reorganising the ship into a three watch rotation that got me my results though, no I rather suspect it was the enforced exercise regimen and the very loud speakers blasting them out of bed if they're not quick enough.
Or the marines walking around with buckets of freezing cold water…
Okay, it's evil and somewhat infantile, so what?
It's working and that is all that matters.
The crew is becoming far more active, they are working which is definitely a good start, they are becoming fitter which is always helpful, and I am getting, behind my back of course, a solid mixture of evil eyes, rolling eyes, poked out tongues, grumpy glares and bemused, stifled laughter.
Okay, so most of the crew actually realise how childish my actions actually are and are divided, some cant believe it and don't want to and more then a few are amused.
I wonder how long it will take them to figure out exactly how effective my actions actually were.
By that time they should be active enough that I should be able to turn down the volume on the new shift change music. Or perhaps, just switch the head-banger rock to something more relaxing… tortured death screams perhaps.
“Poor kid,” Sheba shook her head, her face screaming her dismay and compassion, “she's so young, at that age she shouldn't be in command of a Viper wing let alone a full battlestar”
“Perhaps,” Cain nodded, turning away from the window to face his daughter, “but that trick, sending her Vipers though that narrow pathway to probe, genius!”
“Genius for definite,” Sheba growled, “Dradis missed them completely, if the CAP hadn't spotted them they could have landed aboard for fraks sake, before we noticed they were there”
Cain grinned, “and if there is one such route into the Colonies, how many others do you think there are? Routes we could, just as Cade was planning to, use to probe undetected, launch attacks, even use to procure crew as Cade certainly intended”
Sheba nodded, “we know of one now but none of the crew have the expertise to figure out the others… either we return to earth to pick up some E&E personnel”
“No,” Cain interrupted swiftly, “that we can not do. They would order us to assist the defence and whilst reasonable, I think we can do more good helping to pin more Cylon assets to this area and get in a good lick or two whilst we are at it”
Sheba nodded, continuing, “or we make finding the Seeker a priority, we could use their expertise, not to mention the extra hull and one so well designed for extended unsupported operations and frankly, they need us, our crew mainly but Cade is too young for Command, she will need guidance”
Cain shook his head, “ Seeker needs a new CO, I'm afraid I may have to give up you for that role”
“No,” Sheba replied firmly, “for one, you have no actual authority over an E&E ship; indeed you have more authority over a civilian then the E&E. The laws were never adequately adapted to suit the existence of a second military force, you know that”
“You have a point,” Cain shook his head, “but she has no place being in Command of a Battlestar”
“I disagree,” Sheba shook her head, “a senior surviving officer, she has the weight of regulations behind her, age and experience restrictions do not legally apply under emergency conditions, you know that. You also have to remember that the crew is still alive and active, indeed, if those Viper pilots are to be believed, the crew fought to maintain her as Commander against mutineers.
She has their loyalty and if she keeps them alive and still carries out her duty to fight and resist the cylons then you will not be able to argue dereliction, a sticky issue with a loyal crew at the best of times”
Cain smiled, shaking his head. He walked slowly over to his daughter and with an expression of amused affection on his face, hugged her, “you know this is why I keep you around right? In the midst of all this madness, you still manage to keep me honest”
“Keep me around?” Sheba shot back, mock angry, “you just tried to pass me off to another battlestar!”
“Yes,” Cain laughed, “but to Command it. Subtly different my dear Sheba”
“Natch,” Sheba shook her head as she walked out of her father's quarters, “you just wanted to see the back of me”
“Always!” Cain shot back chuckling.
How did Seeker end up as a happy ship?
We're a forgotten ship in wartime, our homes are gone, we don't know how to get to the one known safe harbour, the ship is desperately undermanned and in dire need of resupply and yet morale is a staggering high.
It shouldn't be so, it seems so wrong, goes against all I was taught about combat operations and yet it appears to be so. I'm not complaining, a happy crew is an efficient crew and we certainly need that now, but I would love to know what secret it is that is keeping the crew so happy and together.
But that is another issue, right now, I have two missing Viper pilots, they are almost certainly gone, killed or worse captured by the Cylons but the outer limit for their mission is not yet up. Whilst they are overdue, they do have about thirty minutes of oxygen supply left, so, when an hour is up, we go, and mourn the passing of two more of our own.
The strident, alarmed shout of ‘new contact' broke me from my thoughts in an instant, the added ‘close aboard' bringing more then a slight shiver to me as I barked orders to bring the ship to general quarters, which given our depleted and worn state was probably a joke of epic proportions, and to rig the ship for jump.
Only then did I attempt to ascertain who the new contact might be and the result was more then mildly shocking.
It was Pegasus.
How could this be?
She was supposed to be all the way at our new home, way off in the Sol system, safely away from the heretical cylons and yet, her IFF, her profile, all suggested that Cain's command ship had managed to jump to within knife fight range of my command.
I had to consider the possibility that the ship had been seized and corrupted by the cylons but I also knew, all to well, that Seeker had been out of contact with any form of central command for months. Pegasus could have legally been ordered into the area, perhaps to seek us out, perhaps to engage the cylons, perhaps even just to reconnoitre, yet the timing of the appearance…
Could she have found my missing pilots?
A part of me liked to think so but the chances of Pegasus just stumbling along the two vipers, especially given the masked route they craft were following, was astronomically small.
Either way, I knew my duty, if Pegasus was genuine then together we would be stronger and more able to resist the cylons and make them pay, doubly so if Cain or his successor could spare supplies and crew enough to bring Seeker to operational status. Or at least, provide the crew and then provide cover for us whilst we acquired the ores we needed to make supplies, something we had not done so far due to a lack of crew and repairs, if we had been attacked whilst mining, we would have died.
“She sounds both hopeful and scared,” Sheba noted.
“That is certainly true,” Cain chuckled, “but she has her jump drives up, and our sensors are screaming that we have been target locked. At this range, her under strength weapons will not matter, if she decides to fire she will cripple us. Oh yes, and she contacted us before we could call her. Got balls and brains this one”
“You sound as if you admire her,” Sheba glanced up at her father surprised, “I thought you said you could never admire anyone unless you had seen them stand firm in the stress of combat”
“If her two pilots are to be believed,” Cain said, straightening his uniform and picking up his swagger stick as he stepped towards the door of his quarters, “Cade has done that and more”
Shrugging, Sheba followed her father, her flight suit rustling, “perhaps, but we also know that Seeker has been compromised”
“Yes,” Cain's reply was somewhat pensive, “that we do. Unfortunately, we have little choice but to trust that Cade has dealt with that and the ship is secure. Whatever else happens, any surviving Colonials are a very rare and useful resource indeed, doubly so if they come with a hyper capable warship, but an Exploration and Evaluation hull? Such craft are now worth their weight in gems not merely for their combat capabilities but because they are the most effective platform ever devised to support a long range deployment of ships. That may not have been intentional, but all the little details that made these ships so effective at long term lone wolf exploration apply equally to supporting other ships”
“True enough,” Sheba shook her head, glancing around automatically as they stepped into Pegasus's port launch bay, “but consider this. All four of the pilots we recovered were quite specific in stating that Seeker's crew situation was almost untenable”
Cain stopped, his expression deepening, “yes, I'm hoping they were merely exaggerating but I got the distinct impression that they might have been understating the matter”
“If they are to be believed,” Sheba replied, leaning carefully against the Viper VII she would soon be taking once more into space, “then we do not have enough crew we can spare to bring Seeker back to operational readiness and you know as well as I that Cade's idea of rescuing survivors from the surface is incredibly risky, not just the operation itself but the infiltration hazard as well and likely to fail. The cylons have been actively seeking out and destroying survivors wherever they can”
“You're suggesting we should head home,” Cain replied levelly.
“Prejudice against fleeing aside,” Sheba shot her father an even look, “sometimes running one day just means you can come back all the stronger and more ready the next”
“Perhaps you are right my Child,” Cain shrugged, walking across to the waiting Raptor, “but for now, I have the pleasant task of stepping into the Lions den”
It is difficult to truly ascertain someone's true face, true intentions over the radio, doubly so when you are trying to make sure you are not discovered and when you have to remember that the enemy has a human face as well, but at some point you have to take that step.
At some point you have to offer up enough trust that a face to face meeting is possible, a far better platform from which to judge the intentions of a possible ally, potential enemy.
Cain is coming aboard, I hope that it is truly him and that our two ships will be bale to work together to make the Cylons pay for their abominations but I also plan should not everything be as it seems.
Plans I hope I do not have to use, but after the Commander… I certainly know enough to have them ready should it be necessary. If he proves to be not all that he claims, he dies and so does Pegasus . I don't expect Seeker to come out unscathed, indeed, it may be the end of us, but a corrupted battlestar is the worst of all possible enemies.
I can hear the rhythmic clunking of the lifts hydraulics now, Cain, however or whatever he may be has landed now, soon I will see him, soon perhaps I will know.
Here he comes, here he comes…
How long are they going to take getting that Raptors hatch open? I need to see!
I see, it's him, oh my Lords, it's him.
May The Lords continue to shine upon and bless me, for I may no longer be alone.
“Our best option is to report to Earth for reinforcement and replenishment,” Cade pointed out reasonably, her eyes not leaving Cains face as he pondered her words.
“That much is true, our best option is to head home but I don't think their best option is for us to head home”
Cade raised an eyebrow considering, and then reached across for the jug of water, “I'm listening”
“The Cylons seek Earth and the survivors, that much is known and is certain,”
Cade nodded, “doubly so as their agent, Commander Helva would have been able to confirm not only the existence of Earth but a few details of the system and give them a general idea of the distances involved”
Cain grimaced, “Indeed, that is part of the problem. The cylons know that the distances are too great for them to launch effective attacks or even properly manage a search in regions that for them are uncharted. We, that is the Pegasus have observed that they are taking the safe option here. The cylons are heading in the correct direction, but they are doing it slowly, building up all the support they will need, supply depots, refineries and mines, construction facilities, everything along the way”
“Damnation,” Cade replied, “are you sure of this?”
“Unfortunately yes,” Cain replied, “I trust you see the risk here”
“The safe approach,” Cade shook her head annoyed and unamused, “dangerous. Gives Earth and the survivors more time to rebuild and prepare but it means when the Cylons do hit it won't be piecemeal, they will attack in force”
“They will need too as well,” the aged Commander agreed, “in a one on one fight, a reasonably modern Battlestar can defeat even the new Basestars. That is almost certainly why they chose the stealthy assault method they used to take out the colonies”
“They had to destroy the bulk of the military strength fast or they would be defeated”
“Precisely,” Cain grimaced, slumping backwards in his seat, “and whilst as a Commander I can appreciate the tactics they chose and their effectiveness, as a human, well…”
“The shoe is on the other foot now though,” Cade pointed out, “Whilst I have not engaged the cylons if I could avoid it, from the times I have seen their ships I received the distinct impression that they had fewer capital ships then we did prior to the fall”
“I am afraid that I cannot argue the point,” Cain shook his head, “that too would have encouraged them to use the stealthy approach, but now, as you say, the shoe is on the other foot. At the least, they currently have numbers equal to our own, probably a few more but with the build-up they are currently pursuing, by the time they reach and find earth, even assuming Earth has managed to construct more hulls, they will greatly outnumber our own forces”
“Then we must return to earth and warn them,” Cade replied.
“No,” Cain firmly asserted, “we must strike at their rear, force them to divert ships and resources to pursue us, to picket their facilities and to repair the damage we will be causing them. We buy time, with our life's blood if necessary”
“ Seeker is in no shape to support such operations,” Cade shook her head, “between us we have crew enough to get both hulls to Earth, at which point we refit and recrew as best we can and we present our plan to whatever command structure is in place. If necessary, we go AWOL but if, as you say, the likes of Adama are in Command then I doubt that will be required. He would send us to our deaths if he felt the need, he wouldn't like it, but I have heard enough of the man to know he would do it”
Cain sighed, shaking his head, gazing around the battered breifing room, “having served alongside him in the last war, I agree, he would do it. Then again, he was only a Commander, he might not be the one to make the decisions”
“Then we do what we must,” Cade shook her head, “but if we are to be truly effective, then we had best be at our full strength”
“It's a long journey, several months. Does Seeker have food enough for that?”
Cade shook her head grimly, “we were due to head home for refit when the end came, our medical stores are empty, most of what we have is aged beyond safe use, the same goes for much of our perishables including the survival rations. Fortunately, we do have some hydroponics and much of the crew have taken to having some plants, tomatoes and the like, in their quarters to provide some greenery and brightness. We also have empty storerooms and quarters we could perhaps modify and seed, but all this will push our water usage up”
“Increasing the number of stops we must make and thereby increase our chances of discovery,” Cain replied slowly, then nodded, “nevertheless, it must be done. You have won me over child, we go home”
Cain sighed, “The Colonies are gone, lost to us forever. The radiation damage alone was not enough to make them unliveable though certainly it would not be healthy. Unfortunately, radiation corrupts… how many bacteria have now been mutated? How many viruses previously defeated have become something else? And with the increased radiation levels they will keep evolving, keep mutating”
“Biohazard,” Cade replied flatly, “the true bane of the Exploration and Evaluation corps”
“And worse, we know not what surprises the Cylons will have left,” Cain grimaced again, resisting the urge growl in disgust, “and unlike the last war, they have had completely unmonitored access to the worlds they've seized making it far harder to find and destroy any surprises”
“And home has to be somewhere,” Cade replied softly.
“Quite Child,” the youthful commander shot Cain a disgusted look at that comment.
“Do not glare at me,” Cain pointed out, “remember, I served in the last war, you would not even have been a twinkle in your mothers eye then. Indeed, you mother was probably too young to have child at that time. To me, you are a child and far too young to be in Command, let alone command of a capital ship sized hull!”
“Then,” Cade replied firmly, “if you think I am unable to do my job, I suggest you try and take Seeker from me”
“These may be desperate times child,” Cain replied soothingly, “but no so desperate that I would be willing to abandon the rule of law I swore to uphold. The Command is legally yours, I have less authority over E&E then I would a civilian vessel”
Cade nodded, “don't forget it either. In the meantime, the crew are arranging a ‘surprise' birthday party for my nineteenth tomorrow, so if you want to continue this discussion then I'm sure they wont mind setting an extra place so long as you are suitably surprised”
Cain shot Cade a startled look, then laughed, “I see child that you have already learnt the most important part of Command, know everything that's going on”
“I try,” Cade replied grinning slightly.