Word Count: 10,549
One stood on the recently refitted observation deck at the top of one of the many pinnacles atop the great Virgon Space Elevator. This marvel of modern engineering was one of the only so called ’man-made’ constructions that the Cylons had allowed to remain intact during their attack upon the twelve worlds of the Colonies. This wonder of engineering had been built centuries ago by the original colonists, but not by the humans themselves, rather ‘on the backs’ of the Cylons that worked day and night, year after year until the millions of cables that rose from the top of Mount Kobol at the equator up to the small moon of Delphi were complete. The satellite Over 200 kilometers in orbit. These cables compressed into 12 outer ¼ miles strands in a crown 50 miles in diameter and 4 inner ones in a 5 mile diameter stretched from the peak, out into space and moored the moon into geostationary orbit. Hundreds of seperator platforms kept the cables ! stable and at the correct distance apart at all times. These ‘landings’ were the size of land bound sky-scrapers, and held as many people. In fact before the war the population of the elevator alone was close to 12 million. Whole bottle colonies were attached at various levels from high in the atmosphere right up to the moon itself, then the nearly hollowed out moon with its space port facilities held even more.
Goods. Material and people could be raised and lowered from the surface at the mountains base, the roots of the cables going a dozen miles into the bedrock, up to orbit without the need for a ship. The elevator platforms, some the size of a battlestar hanger deck, others for personnel that included liner size cabins moved constantly up and down the great structure. Now, here above the taken world, One looked out at the final restoration of what they saw as retaking that which years of enslavement had built for their human masters. The Elevator would serve as the command station for the entire Cyrannus system. Now that the erradication of the inhabitants was complete, full control could be transferred here from the Basestar over Caprica. Even though the capital ships were mobile, they had proven to still be vulnerable to the attacks by the remnants of the Colonial fleet. Perhaps they too would be less likely to attack one of their own creations. One doubted that the humans! would risk another such attack given the status of their reinforcements, and the completion of defense satellites over all the Colonies. Sentinels and Spartans as well as their Raiders now patrolled the system as well as several surrounding ones. No, this time it would be different, this time if they tried such an attack, they were ready. She would not rule it it however, humans could be so unpredictable. The model seven also once called ‘Leo’ by the humans during his time in the Charade over the last two years entered the tower and went at once to One.
“Reporting as ordered” he said then stood silent awaiting her command.
“What is the status of your ‘live bait’ plan?”
“Working. Although we have not yet encountered a capital vessel, two units have managed to lure then destroy a Corsair and Kimodo class pirate ship. Both no doubt thought they could salvage or plunder the ‘distress’ ships we are manning.” he replied. Knowing this was both good news and bad. And awaited One’s reaction. She turned to look at him with a curious look on her face.
“Human ships, but not Colonial warrior units? Where did they come from?” she asked with obvious irritation in her voice. Leo was ready for such questions.
“from the Chespek Sector, data taken from the ships shows references to 3 outposts within that area, two we have already found and destroyed. Exact coordinates were not available for the third but we are tracking it down. These smugglers are not well equipped and have severly limited resources. Without the Colonies to plunder their life spans will be very short, even shorter once we find them.”
“I see, so you feel you have the situation under control?”
“yes. I expect complete success of the Chespek campaign.”
“Very well, I will hold you to that.” she concluded for the moment as others of their kind entered the observation deck.
“Report” One commanded the newcomers.
“Carillon is seeded. The Spartans are underway. I do recommend a Sentinel be constructed at the Gate at some point to monitor the Alley in the event the humans try to access Madagon at that point.” the number six informed them.
“Two, your report”
“the Sentinal over Borallis has been destroyed. Raiders reported the Peregrine as the attacking unit. Further, the jump probe (Grasshopper) left within the graveyard of ships in orbit there as a back-up recorded TAC channel signals transferred between the Peregrine and what is believed to be a Colonial probe. It was a new code that we do not have a key for as of yet. But it is obvious they are using their scout ship and probes to coordiinate their units. Analysis suggests they are not using a single base of operations. Rather, they are staying well apart as to not present a single target for us to find.” the Two unit handed One a complete read out of the incident as well as the follow up investigation.
“And the GALACTICA?”
“some debris and waste material was found in the Kevelon system, if they are still heading out bound from Promar, that would be a direct course out and away from here. But no positive identification can prove it was waste from the GALACTICA or her fleet.” Two continued.
“Maintain the pursuit. I want this new code broken, we must know what these rogue units are planning. How long will the Basestar over Borallis need to remain there?”
“At least two weeks while a suitable asteroid is pulled into orbit and a new Sentinel is constructed.”
“By your Command” was their reply, then all left One to contemplate their next move.
The CHYMERA came out of jump at the far edge of the Anotion sector. Captain Rath putting the Guardsman ship at full alert immediately after their senses returned to normal. They were at 1 A.U. from their target destination, the given coordinates of a vessel in distress their Rabbit probe had picked up. Now, just 10 light seconds, or 20 minutes from the “Goldfish” Rath wasn’t going to take any chances. As the Vipers he had aboard were launched he called up the commercial records on his panel. The Goldfish was a standard colonial heavy 700 series (like colonial 798=colonial 1) of Picon registry. Approximately 500 passenger capacity.
The distress call claimed only 50 were still alive. If their propulsion system was indeed off line , life support would soon follow.
“commscan report” Rath called to his tech.
“Working Sir. First readings are just bouncing back.” was the reply.
“All Vipers launched, the Shrikes are at stand-by on the hanger deck. Barrage guns manned and ready.” his exec LT. Garab said after checking his panel at the helm station.
“Very well, take us in.” Rath commanded. “sparks, see if you can raise them on low band.”
“Yes Sir.” his communications officer ned ’sparks’ castle answered and sent a standard CISAR ( Colonial Intrs-steller Search And Rescue ) hail to the disabled craft.
Garab was bringing the CHYMERA in on the liners starboard side, well away from them until he got the go-ahead from his C.O. to place it in their port hanger pod. The for and aft doors were open and ready to receive the smaller ship.
“we’re picking up life signs alright, but faint. I estimate only about 35 now.” was the commscan officers report as they grew ever closer.
Sparks put a reply from the Goldfish over the speakers.
“is there someone there? Hello? We need help” it was the same female voice they heard before.
“Affirmative Goldfish, this is the Cutter CHYMERA, can you hold position? We need to get you into our bay” Rath responded picking up his handset at his command chair.
“YES, I think so, yes, thank the Lords of Kobol you’re here, were in pretty bad shape over here”
“We understand Goldfish, stand by to dock” Rath closed the comm then ordered his exec to put them in their port bay once they looked stable enough.
On the Goldfish the model eleven sat in the cockpit with a model seven next to her. They both smiled as they realized one of their prime targets, the cutter CHYMERA was approaching. This ship was thought to be just one of two cutters still operating as a base for the nuiseance called Peregrine. And only one of four ships to harbor the last of the humans. If they could take this ship and locate their home, they could very well end the war in a matter of hours now. They sat paitently watching as the larger ship moved in behind them and its hanger pod swallowed them. The model seven extended the landing pads and readied the ship for a hard dock. Soon they felt touchdown as the mag locks took hold. Then they moved out and up to the passenger compartment where 50 Mark II Centurions stood dormant, as well as over 30 of their counter-parts. All armed and ready for the hatch to be opened by the unsuspecting humans.
With less than a day until the first face to face with the PEGASUS representatives was due, Hawke, Greenlee, Sassinak and Masters were down on the hanger deck. Jack, (Chief Sirus Hand) it seems was ready to reveal his latest ‘pet project’. four of the CHYMERA rabbit jump probes had been loaned to them and jack had insisted on making some modifications. What those were he didn’t want to say, instead he had locked off this whole section of the bay. The deep alcove well forward of the normally used areas now served as his near private work shop. Here on the deck covered by large tarps were the four probes. As the senior officers entered the dimly lit workshop, jack stood there with his tree trunk arms folded across his barrel of a chest, his 7’ tall Leonian frame practicaly towered above them. He had an even larger smile on his face than he usually had.
“Welcome Sirs” jack said as he stepped aside and let them into his domain.
“Thank you Chief” Hawke said as they entered. “So what do we have here?” the C.O. asked the very excited chief.
“Well Sir, I think I have the answer to one of Ensign Hally’s problems.”
“And what problem is that?” Greenlee asked while trying to get a peek under the dark tarp. Jack side stepped in front of the just slightly shorter exec and said.
“The one where we cant get enough intel because shortly after our probes enter our home system, their patrols, ships or probes detect it and try to catch and destroy it before it can jump back.”
“How are these going to help with that?” Hawke asked.
“This is how Sir” jack answered and waved for his deck hands to pull back the tarps and turn up the lights. There, to their surprise sat what seemed to be four Cylon Grasshopper jump probes instead of their guardsman/colonial versions. They stared in amazement for a few seconds then Greenlee spoke up.
“Well I’ll be, you know, they look frighteningly close to the real thing jack”
“That’s the point Sir, not only does this outer shell look like thiers, but I’ve adjusted the scanner freq.‘s and jump energy signature to match theirs. The passives send no active signal so those can stay the same. But to long range and most close range scans, you cant tell the difference.” jack explained as he walked around the probes.
“What about their communications, if they try to download the data in them for the telemetry?” Masters asked, giving them a bit more scrutiny.
“The Ensign helped with that. She has a few of their probes protocols built into them. If they request data, they send back a standard Cylon ’program incomplete, stand by’ message. We pick them up all the time.”
Masters nodded, well in theory they sounded good. He thought.
“And what if we want to contact them?” Sassinak asked.
“Our codes they will answer to, and only ours, if their proximity sensors pick up anything too close that reads as a hostile, they will jump or self destruct.” jack replied.
“So we leave these in the home system for as long as we want and they just sit there gathering information until they pick up something of interest or their memory is full , right?” Hawke said really thinking out loud.
“Yes Sir, they’ll see them as one of their own just patrolling the system and , hopefully, not bother with them. That way we can monitor them, perhaps even get an early warning about anything they are doing to locate us, the GALACTICA, or PEGASUS.”
Hawke smiled and walked over to the tall crew chief.
“Excellent job Chief, get them ready for launch, I want them deployed as soon as possible”
“Yes Sir” they shook jack’s hand as they filed back out of the bay, jack passed orders to the deck gang to move them to the lifts that would put them up on the flight deck. They could no longer be launched from the normal launch tubes in their current configuration. Soon they could have a boon of information on Cylon movements.
The new med-tech and personal assistant to the Governor of the Colony, Cassiopeia Duprise’ was estatic herself, but for very different reasons. Not only did she find a very close match for her planned switch of blood samples, but the choice would throw such suspicion among the command staff of the GOLIATH that she couldn’t do them more damage if she tried. She had watched silently and closely from her desk on the far side of the lab of the Chief medical officer, Dr. Russell as she had entered the 12 digit code that accessed the actual samples vault. Too far for a human to see but well within the Cylon visual acuity. Once the human had moved back to her work in the adjoining lab, Cassy casually went about placing the recent more mundane reports at various lab techs stations, then moved to the locked vault cabinet doors once she was sure all the techs were in their alcoves. She quietly entered the code and the translucent doors popped open. Looking inside she quickly scanne! d the labels for the sample tube with her code on it. Locating it, then searching for the needed replacement sample, she grew ever more anxious as she heard movement from within the nearby lab, Dr. Russell seemed to be coming back, she had to complete this task now, her replacements sample was scheduled for screening today. Just as she thought she may have to abort, she found the needed sample. Quickly but carefully pulled off the labels, switched them and replaced them back in their places by their new I.D.’s. she pushed the doors closed on the sample locker the click of the locks re-engaging just barely audible. Then walked around the lab facility again returning to her desk as casually as possible. She smiled brightly, thinking of the chaos that was likely to ensue from her choice of replacement.
“Get the med teams to the hanger immediately. Garab make sure they have a security team escorting them, I want all survivors that can walk in our brig for now, wounded under guard.”
Captain Rath was giving orders when sparks put an incoming message from the hanger over the speakers.
“Captain, Captain, were under fire, their Cylons, all of them We need reinforcements” the voice was shouting over the sound of weapons fire. Rath reacted fast issuing orders.
“Gypsy, your on the Nav system, keep your hand on that det-pack. Flight stand by to blow that hanger pod.”
“Sir?” the young guardsman officer at the flight station couldn’t believe what his ears told him.
“Arm the explosive seperation system and be ready to cut that pod loose on my order, is THAT Clear Ensign!”
Yes Sir,, arming explosive bolts now Sir” he shook out of his confusuion and set the hanger seperation system at stand-by.
“Comms, inform the ‘Orphans’ we have hostiles aboard, they are to make sure that ship does not get out of here.”
“Yes Sir” sparks responded.
“Now get me a status report from the hanger” Rath continued as the bridge officers worked frantically, the damage control board started to light up, the central port access tunnel was on fire.
One of the guardsman fire teams managed to open a comm to the bridge,
“were taking casualtys Sir, theres at least 40, maybe more of some new kind of Centurion, they’re not carrying arms, Sir, all their ordinance is incorporated into their bodies, we need heavy weapons do--” the message was cut off. Just then the CHYMERA commscan officer spoke up,
“Sir we have a Basestar rising out of a gas giant 10 A.U.’s from our position, at this range this data is 2 minutes old”
“Frak, they could have jumped or launched by now, helm prepare for jump.”
As if on cue a squadron of Raiders appeared within 100 klicks of the CHYMERA, the orphans saw them and moved to intercept, even though they were outnumbered 4-1.
“Launch the Shrikes, and get Chas on the Comm.” Rath shouted.
More light came on on the D.C. (Damage Control) board, the Cylons were moving deeper into the ship. Their heavy weapons fire ripping through bulkheads and decks.
“All four Shrikes are away, Chas on the Comm Sir” his flight officer called out
Rath picked up his handset, switched to the secure channel,
“Chas this is Rath, this is a direct order, get the Shrikes out of here, make your way back to the “Aerie” Confirm!”
“Sir you cant be serious, ,,” Chas was a Warrior he could not stomach running in the middle of a fire fight.
“That is an order lieutenant!, jump, now! Bring back help if you can” Rath was adamant,
“Yes Sir, Shrike wing, set for back up position theta, and jump when ready” Chas said through gritted teeth as he ordered the other three ships to prepare to abandon the Cutter. As they dived out of the fire fight between the Vipers and Cylon Raiders getting a fix on their destination, he couldn’t help but send a volly of fire from the twin wing mounted gun turrets and ‘accidently’ fired both scarabs from under the lower wings. Seems his ‘weapons malfunction’ was contagious, the other Shrikes fired their missiles as well. The whole volley removing half a dozen Raiders as they moved out of range. ’ he didn’t say we couldn’t say good-bye to the Cylons after all’ Chas thought to himself as the jump engines engaged.
Back on the bridge of the CHYMERA more bad news was coming in.
“Sir, the Goldfish has cut the docking tube and is trying to break off the mag lock, I think they’re trying to launch.”
“Seal the Bridge, see if the Orphans can do a fly through and shoot that damn ship.”
“In the bay? Umm yes Sir. Bandit is acknowledging.”
Kelly (Bandit) Barris picked up the command to do the strafing run on the liner within the landing bay and signaled his wing man to follow, only four of his team remained the Raiders had shot the others out of the sky. 30 hostiles remained. 10 were closing on what was left of the Orphans, the others were firing on the cutters only two sub-light engine pods, he knew then they were trying to take the ship intact. They wouldn’t use the liner to trap anyone else though, he pushed his turbos to the maximum and sent his badly damaged ship into the rear engines of the liner, the impact detonated the thrusters and created a fireball within the bay, the CHYMERA shook from stem to stern.
“What the Frak was that?!” Rath shouted,
“Fire in the bay Sir, the liner just blew apart.” the flight officer reported after picking himself back up. Then the comm-tech spoke up as well, Sir readings have caught up with themselves, the Raiders jumped and the Basestar is on fast approach. Our engines are at 60% and dropping, the Raiders are hitting us now, no Vipers left.
Things were not looking good, then as he looked out the view port, they got even worse. The Basestar appeared directly ahead of them. Then the sound of heavy gun fire impacting the outer blast doors could be heard on the bridge access.
“We’re running out of time,, flight cut the port hanger loose, now!”
“Yes sir,, firing explosive bolts and closing all emergency hatches”
He turned the twin set of keys and activated the charges that would detach the entire hanger pod from the rest of the ship. They were all thrown about a bit as the ship rocked from the series of massive explosions sheered the hull in several key points, then after a few minutes ceased, then the pod drifted away.
“Engine status?” Rath called out to who ever could read the monitors”
“Sub-lights are nearly gone, F.T.L. 1 and 2 on-line” Garab reported from the navigation console.
Set computer 1 to jump to point omega, and ready 1 and 2 for detonation” Rath said grimly, all knew that was a command of desperation. Point omega was a location so far out in the galaxy they would never return, if they made it at all with having used so much fuel to jump to here. Many were going to question his order when the sound of the gun fire and even the impressions of the Cylon rounds dented the interior of the armored doors. That quickly changed their minds.
“Engines ready Sir” Garab reported.
Rath stood at attention then gave the command,
“Jump”, then the CHYMERA was gone. No human or Cylon ship would ever see her again.
The rondevous launch was in six hours, Hawke was growing concerned. The CHYMERA has not returned, nor had its currier probes. Without her to act as their listening post, they had only the four now altered jump probes to rely on. That of course was the tactical evaluation, the personal one was far more extreme although he did his best to hide that. Captain Robert Rath had become a good friend and valued member of the colonies defense. His crew had achieved military victories no other guardsman could ever hope to. Now he had no idea what his or the CHYMERA’s fate was. Worse yet, as their location was secret even to him, no way to search for them. It was then that standing on the C.I.C. of the GOLIATH, that the two pairs of Shrikes appeared near Valhalla station.
A choked voice of lieutenant Golliday came over the speakers as the GOLIATH comm-tech made contact with him.
“Shrike Delta 1 to GOLIATH, the CHYMERA, the CHYMERA is gone, do you copy?”
A hush fell over the command center of the Battlecruiser. Hawke leaned on the plotting table head down and shook his head. “Curse all tin heads and melt them to scrap” he muttered to himself. Oh how he wanted to jump to Cyrannus and shoot everything Cylon in sight, rage getting the better of him. His fingers gripped the table till his knuckles were white.
“Achknowledge his signal comms, then give them landing instructions.” he finally said as he stood upright once more.
“Yes Sir, sending”
The crew returned to their duties, albeit in a more somber and quieter fashion.
“Get String up here” Hawke ordered the comm.
Word passed through the GOLIATH about the loss of the CHYMERA, many had friends aboard, several had competed with them during the inter-ship Triad compition just a few days ago. (the GOLIATH won) many were in tears, many also said several prayers. Lt. Golliday gave Hawke and Greenlee (String) his full report on their finding a vessel in distress signal from a probe, the subsequent jump to investigate, their finding Cylons aboard as well as being ordered to ge help. Once they were away, Chas had held back, waiting almost half an hour before jumping back to check on the CHYMERA’s status. He found only the burning hulk of the port hanger pod, and the remains of the Orphans Vipers, being ransacked by the Cylons. Nothing about the colony or GOLIATH was held in the Vipers computers, so no usefull data would be extracted. He remained just long enough to confirm the loss of his squadron then jumped back to continue back through the jump points to catch up with the Shrikes. Hawke ! asked Greenlee to arrange a service on the surface of Carillon in two days. For now , they had a rondevous to keep.
Masters and crew were prepping the Peregrine for launch, the docking collar was tested and secure over their ventral access hatch. Dragon noticed that Sever and jack had made an addition to the Peregrine paint scheme. The stylized name of “Dragons Lair” was now in silver along the upper starboard hull. Just next to the cockpit section. This Peregrine, normally designated Peregrine 6199, ( 6 total , 1 order of completion, of the 99 series APC carrying drop ship ) or Peregrine 1 as it was often referred to since there were really only 6 prototypes built for initial testing, his being the lead ship. Was now ready to see if the messages they had received were truly from the PEGASUS, and his friend Gene Syke. Bojay. Hawke personally gave him the last of the classified data disks with instructions about what they could and could not tell the people sent by Cain, should they be there. Then shook hands for what might be the last time if things were not as they seem. The bay was v! acated, spaced, then the clam shell bay doors opened. Core control was received and Witch confirmed launch status.
“All engines good, fuel at capacity, F.T.L. 1 and 2 are hot.” she said through the ear pieces.
Dragon lifted the bird off the deck and slowly exited the bay, once clear made for the storm wall of the eye that surrounded the Carillon system.
“Everyone ready?” he asked “Here we go”, then he hit the initiator, space folded and they appeared well within the Mandahar system. Dragon arrived a full four hours before the scheduled rendezvous to scout the area and set a few drones to surveil the asteroid field.
“ok Dragon, 6 of our ‘whiskers’ are in position covering an A.U. around us. So far it looks clear”
Spook reported then set the telemetry controls to automatic, all six drone would send an alert only if they picked up anything out of the ordinary. Otherwise they would remain dark.
“Roger that Spook.“ Dragon put the bird into hover between a few larger rocks just 200 klicks from the given coordinates. He didn’t really believe such extensive precautions were needed, he felt positive that it could only be Bojay who sent those messages. But as the Borellians say, ‘trust the Gods, but tie up your horse’. everything that could be shut down was, Witch unstrapped herself, and opened the hatchway to the rear CSO station.
“well I’m going to grab some grub, anyone want something?” she said as she climbed out of her seat. Her position of weapons control and engine monitoring not really needed to just sit and wait.
“just a meal bar and a water sack please” Dragon said over his shoulder.
“sure, thanks Sever, a soup sack would be fine.” Spook added.
“I can manage that I think.” Witch said and moved past spook to the ladder that passed down into the ’live bay’ area. On this level she had to crouch as the height of the deck was not one would call comfortable. It did afford a set of ’coffin’ bunks common to many of the Colonial designs. A bed a a set of personal drawers fitted into the nose area just below and behind the cockpit. As well as a small ’kitchen’ unit. ’some kitchen’ she thought. ’one cooler unit, a heater unit, and a small dry goods compartment, my closet is bigger than this on the GOLIATH’ . she reached behind and around the ladder for the foodstuffs and popped the soup sack into the microwave unit, heating the small foil pouch. Then when all was ready tossed them into a carry sack and climbed back up to the flight deck.
“Here ya go guys, foods on” she said as she tossed the little packages to them. Spook had to toss the hot sack back and forth a few times trying not to burn his fingers
“ow ow ow ow ow, not funny Sever” he said as he let the hot foil sack drop to the console. She just smiled and moved back to her seat and opened her sandwich, then stuck a straw into a foil of fruit juice. Dragon peeled the meal bar open and reluctantly bit off a piece, then muttered something about field rations tasting like they were packaged before the first war.
They had finished their small meal and Spook tossed the wrappings into the disposal near the aft ‘head’ when the telemetry screen showed an energy spike near one of the whiskers. Spook was back at his station
“We’ve got company. Bogies. A pair .5 A.U.’s away. Closing fast. ” Spook called out. Dragon and Witch were instantly alert and watching the passives. All systems confirmed in dark mode. Dragon cut all thrust. Risking collision with the rocks they were hiding near.
“they are scanning the area, I read the freq.‘s as Cylon. Bogies are hostile” he continued almost at a whisper. The drones now dark as well after the burst transmission of the Cylon arrival. The FT.L. jump interference would mask that any signal was sent. As the Cylons approached Spook could get a better reading as less of the asteroids obstructed the signals emanating from them as they got closer.
“War book says they’re Scimitar Raiders Dragon” Spook said through the hatch. Dragon and Witch gripped their gun controls a bit tighter. Within seconds they could just see the dark menacing bat wing craft pass through and by some of the asteroids out of the cockpit. Their enhanced vision making it clear where they were. After a few seconds they were out of visual range, then within minutes the drones signaled an all clear that the pair had jumped out of the system. Spook let out a big sigh.
“they’re gone Dragon, I sure hope they don’t do that very often” Spook said through the hatch.
“Likewise , that’s why when were meeting Peregrine 5 I want you in the pilot seat. If hostiles show up you are to detach and return to GOLIATH.” Dragon ordered the young lieutenant.
“And leave you behind?” spook was incredulous.
“yes, getting our bird back to Carillon is the priority. The data were carrying must not be taken by the enemy, do you understand?” he leaned on the word ‘not’ so as to make Spook understand that no matter what, one way or another, the Cylons could not retrieve anything from the Peregrine.
Spook nodded his head in grim understanding. The nukes they carried could be used for more than offence. They could be detonated within the hull if needed as well. Dragons fingers on the arming switch for the four warheads as he spoke told Giles exactly what he meant. If Cylons found them in the compromised position of being docked together, he would blow the docking collar bolts, and jump back to the Carillon sector. The alternative was destroying them all.
“Yes Sir, I understand completely” he finally said, not looking happy about it. Dragon nodded. Captain Sassinak had told him about Steven Giles when she assigned him to his crew.
“He’s a very bright young man who, given time, will make a very fine officer.” she had said.
“And what is he now?” Dragon had asked.
“right now, He’s a hot shot pilot who mainly got into my unit because his father was an admiral on the Presidents staff. And because he thought it would be a great way to impress women. Frak he only joined the service for the uniform. But he has great skill as a pilot, he wouldn’t be allowed to be an ’Arrow” if he didn’t no matter who his old man is. And I see depths of strength in him.” her eyes went far away for a second as Dragon spoke to her in the officers lounge that day. It seemed so long ago when they were just escaping from the Cylon attack on the Colonies. Then she came back.
“he wont fail you Captain, I swear it. “ she said with a certainness that amazed Masters. That was enough for him. He agreed to take him. Since then he always seemed ready to jump out the airlock at the first hint of danger, but always held to his duties. She was right, he would be a fine officer, some day.
Hours passed and there was no further sign of Cylon patrols. Then within 15 minutes of the scheduled meet, a whisker sent another burst then went silent. Something else had appeared within the system.
“Jump spike, big one, .25 A.U. bearing 230 mark 45. Closing.” Spook was focused on his instruments again. He could see the positive heat signature of thrusters moving a vessel within the asteroids. But with all the rocks floating about he couldn’t get a clear silhouette. Then as the craft moved within the relative ’clearing’ they were holding station next to, Dragons and Witch’s enhanced vision could make out the mirror image of their ship. ’above’ them and inverted to their relative position was Peregrine 5 with a new paint scheme.
“Frak did they get a wash and wax too?” Witch said sarcastically.
“what are you talking about?” Spook said, then picked up the ship on his monitor. “how did you see that at this distance?”
“Good eyes is all, now keep quiet” Dragon said with mischief in his voice. He tapped the rear thruster control moving out just slightly letting them drift over their counterpart. Then the VTOL thrusters sending them ‘up’ but toward the identical ship. Moving ever closer above their heads.
“we’ve got a message incoming” Spook said then relayed the text to Dragons screen.
The message read ‘B to D, B to D. STILL ANNOYED AT S?'. It was sent out three times. After the third transmission. Dragon smiled. ‘yep that’s Bojay’ he thought and typed in a rebuttal and hit send.
‘D to B, D to B. ANNOYED AT HER FOR BEING CLEANED OUT. HOW ABOUT HER DARE?'
In the sister Peregrine Syke chuckled at that. He remembered precisely what that message meant. He switched to audio.
"I'm not that crazy, Dragon", Syke said into the wireless, "Her type of flying qualifies as either gifted or insane. Take your pick".
"Well, well, Bojay", a familiar voice replied over the wireless, "fancy meeting you out here. I guess we can take you off our targeting computer now. You can't be too careful these days".
"You're right about that, Dragon", Syke replied, "So where are you?"
"Head into the field at a heading of two-niner-three", Masters ordered, "Once you enter the field, we'll come to you. But keep your active sensors off-line. The tin-heads are doing patrols even in this system".
"That I can believe", Syke replied.
Hunter expertly brought his Peregrine onto the new course. Using his thrusters, he steered the gunship into the asteroid field. Nimbly, Hunter maneuvered the Peregrine around several clumps of asteroidal debris. ! At last, they came into a ‘clearing' of sorts.
"Dragon to Hondo, stop right there", Masters ordered. Hunter brought the gunship to a stop. Sims noticed something on his screen.
"We're being scanned by a LIDAR, Hondo", he reported.
"From where, Coffin?", Hunter asked.
"Look up!", Masters' voice replied, momentarily startling him, but quickly remembering that his internal communications could be picked up by Peregrine One at close range - which was part of the original test and evaluation protocols.
He looked out of his cockpit window in order to see another Peregrine heading towards his position from above. His IFF confirmed that it was indeed Peregrine One. He thumbed his communicator.
"Great to see you again, Dragon", Hunter said.
"Don't forget me", another voice chimed in. Sever was looking down waving as their cockpit lined up over theirs, barely two meters apart. Hunter smiled more broadly.
"How can I forget your voice, Witch?", he said cheerfully.
"We'll have enough time for the reunion", Syke gently admonished, "but first, we'd better dock".
Hunter nodded, and noted that Syke had kept his hand on the auto-destruct panel the entire time. He knew that Syke had not forgotten anything, despite the initial ship-to-ship communications. That kind of thinking was what must have made him a CAG, he thought to himself.
"We rigged our bird with a docking collar over the dorsal hatch Bojay, hold still and we'll lock on", Masters sent.
"Thrusters are at station keeping, Dragon", Syke sent, "but are you going to make your docking approach direct, or are you going to come in from behind?".
"We'll be coming in directly, Bojay", Masters sent, "Just like our landing approaches at VTT, eh?".
Syke knew what Masters was trying to do. He keyed his communicator.
"Direct approaches at VTT were not allowed as that would have taken us over a part of the base that was in a prohibited no-fly-zone, Dragon", he admonished, "We both knew that, though that didn't stop us".
"No question about it, Bojay. You are who you say y! ou are", Masters replied with a chuckle. Their approaches really annoyed the hell out of the brass. "Very well, our docking collar is ready to latch, which will be in about twenty seconds".
The twenty seconds was quite a slow time by the standards of most pilots, but both Syke and Masters realized that they could not afford any mess-ups with this docking, but it took no more skill than they had and Masters expertly docked Peregrine One onto Peregrine Five.
On Sims' status panel, a light turned green. He thumbed his communicator.
"We have a secure lock. It's pressurized", he said to Hunter and Syke.
Hunter turned to Syke and said, "Now you're the commander, Bojay". Syke nodded, looking up at the other cockpit - where he saw both Masters and Sever looking at him.
"You wanna come to us, or shall we come to you?", Syke asked Masters over the communicator.
"There's still a security issue, Bojay, so I think it best that we come down to you first. Okay?", Masters! replied.
Syke gestured to Masters with a thumbs-up gesture. Masters waved back, then got up out of his seat. As he did so, Syke noticed the stamped kill-markings along the base of Peregrine One's cockpit. And the stylized name of ‘Dragon’s Lair’ painted on the other. Four Frakking Base Stars!, Syke thought to himself.
With the artificial gravity giving two different senses of ‘down' to the docked ships, the docking collar was not connected to the gravity grid, thus one could climb up the ladder on his side and when the mid-zone was reached, simply flip over and climb down the opposite ladder. As Masters, followed by Sever climbed into the tunnel on their side, Helo opened the hatch on their side - which was on the ceiling of the CSO Station. Syke walked over to where Helo stood. As Masters left the cockpit Spook took the pilot seat as ordered and kept a very close eye on the whiskers telemetry praying it stayed clear.
Masters made the flip, transitioning over to t! he other ladder and quickly clambered down the ladder. He dropped into Peregrine Five's CSO Station. Masters quickly saluted the colonial seal at the base of the open hatch, then saluted Syke.
"Permission to come aboard, Sir?", he asked. Not even their current situation could deny Masters the traditions of service protocol.
"Permission granted, Sir", Syke replied, returning the salute.
After both men dropped the salute, they walked up and gave each other a bear hug.
"Gene, It's so frakking great to see you again!", Masters replied with emotion in his voice.
"Me too, Logan", Syke replied.
It was at this time that Sever climbed down into the CSO station. Hunter was there to greet her.
Both of them hugged. Neither of them spoke for about ten seconds.
"I thought you were long dead, Hondo", Sever said at last.
"I thought that you were dead also", Hunter replied.
Syke and Masters broke their hug. Masters turned to Helo - who was watching quietly - an! d shook his hand.
"The last I heard, you had decided to strand yourself down on Caprica. Lt. Gaeta told me when I was on the GALACTICA back at Ragnar", Masters said.
"I'd still be there - either dead from radiation exposure or freezing from the nuclear winter - if it hadn't been for Commander Cain", Helo replied. He explained how the PEGASUS had returned to survey the remnants of the colonies when his PSB signal was picked up. Masters turned to Syke.
"So it really is the PEGASUS that's been giving the tin-heads non-stop grief out there", he commented.
"Not as big a grief as you though, Dragon", Syke replied, referring to the kill-markings on his Peregrine.
"Don't be so sure", Masters replied. He quickly explained what they had picked up from their interceptions of Cylon communications. Syke nodded hearing about the base star that Tricia had damaged with the booby-trapped tanker. The damage was so bad that the base star had to be scuttled. Now there was confirmation that the PEG! ASUS had another confirmed destroyed base star under their belt.
Syke quickly filled Masters in on other items. He confirmed that they were responsible for the destruction of Molecay Anchorage - with Masters again confirming the destruction of the base star that was there - and other items that had only previously been speculation. Then Masters talked about how he and a few others managed to save the Battlecruiser GOLIATH and Valhalla Station, plus added more detail as to what they did with the ITHACA - without divulging anything about their current point of origin.
"By the way, what's with all the Cylon intelligence regarding the PACIFICA we had been hearing about, Gene?", Masters asked during the brief, "after all, our probes confirmed the destruction of that particular battlestar".
"Lance Voight's Black Knight Wing managed to evacuate to the PEGASUS before the PACIFICA got taken out", Syke explained, also telling him about how the destruction of the PACIFICA had! managed to mask the escape of the PEGASUS in the initial round of the war.
"So you have two full strike wings at your disposal, and the tin-heads still are not sure who you are, and for the time being that is to our advantage", Masters said, "Our combined efforts are really giving them a headache". Masters then told a little more about their hit-and-run missions while Syke told him about the encountered minefields and the attacks on the various encountered installations in the Optus and Anotian Sectors.
After getting each other up to date on their military exploits, Syke then said, "I do have some rather shocking intel to pass on as well, I’m not sure you’ll believe me. We have proof that there are humanoid Cylons that can pass as human.” Masters nodded.
“Yeah, they've been found amongst us too", Masters replied, "That's why I can't tell you at this stage too much more about our current location and disposition - save that we are better off than we were. You‘ll find all the data we have on them as well as some preliminary means of screening for them". Dragon held up a charge satchel, entered the disarm code and opened it. He pulled out several sealed data disks, some with C.E.O. stamped boldly on them.
Syke understood. With the threat of these spies being ever-present, the less that each other knew about the other, the better.
"Those tin-heads really planned well with their humanoid infiltrators", Syke said, "and since CSC no longer exists, tracking them down is far easier said than done".
Syke was of course referring to the Colonial Security Command. Unlike the Colonial Intelligence Administration (CIA) - which dealt with acquiring intelligence data from external sources, CSC dealt with internal security and counter-espionage. Both organizations - while under nominal civilian control - liaised closely with the Fleet Intelligence Directorate.
"CSC was probably the first agency that they did infiltrate, Gene", Masters replied, "but even if they hadn't, I don't think they would have caught a whiff of them until it was too late".
"Too true", Syke agreed, "I mean, we didn't catch our infiltrator until her last attempt to call on her friends for help. She wor! ked in the Quartermasters department and placed a small passive sensor disc inside the VIPER patch on one of our flight suits. It sends out a hugely amplified echo when it detects radiation from a Cylon sensor probe. It cost us the life of one of our pilots and very nearly got the rest of us caught, but finding where the disc was located nailed her".
Masters' eyes widened at that statement. The attack on the incomplete Sentinel Post in the earlier battle was nearly thwarted because it detected them far earlier than would have normally been the case. If the same thing that Syke had described was what was used.......
Syke saw Masters expression change. He asked, "What is it, Logan?"
"I'll tell you later, Gene", Masters replied, "but for now - at least until our respective commanders meet up - we have to keep certain things confidential until every last one of them have been located and dealt with. What you just told me could be very useful - and very compromising if ! one of those tin-head plants gets wind of it".
"I know what you mean about confidentiality. As you now know, we're trying to track down the GALACTICA, but if the Cylons ever got word of where the PEGASUS is, it would not be overly advantageous for us, even with the extra resources we managed to get from Molecay before blowing it up", Syke said with classic understatement about the danger level. He well knew that until every last person on the battlestar was screened, the threat remained.
"Molecay must have had a lot to offer you. I noticed the type III Scarabs and the Longbows mounted on board this ship", Masters stated in order to divert the topic, "those particular missiles are hard to come by these days", he concluded dryly.
The Longbow was a wire-guided direct-control missile which was ideal for defeating any anti-missile system that relied on jamming to confuse missile guidance systems. Molecay Anchorage had several racks of this type of missile, along with a n! umber of type IA, II, and III Scarab missiles, which Chief Krag's armorer’s had managed to bring aboard the PEGASUS.
"Well, maybe we can make a trade or two - we picked up several racks of them when we ransacked the anchorage - but we'd better get some means for subsequent contact set up first", Syke said, gesturing to Helo - who brought the satchel to them.
"I've deactivated the bomb, so it's safe to open", Helo said. Syke nodded as he opened the satchel. He handed some documents over to Masters. Masters nodded at the precautions that were being taken. This type of information had to stay out of unfriendly hands.
"There are some new code ciphers for your probes in there, plus new TAC-frequency rotation protocols and stellar co-ordinates in some outlying sectors for your probes to go to if you wish to communicate with us", Syke explained, "We'll send probes to those spots from time to time so any messages that you have for us can be picked up and relayed to the PEGA! SUS".
Masters nodded as he placed the papers into his carry-all. Syke then gave him an envelope.
"This envelope contains a personal me ssage from Commander Cain to your commander. It is to be read by him only", Syke emphasized.
"No problem, Gene", Masters replied, "I'll see to it that my boss gets it. He has some for yours as well. And it is almost certain that our old TAC channels and codes have been compromised, so these new protocols will be most welcome".
With that, the sealed envelope was placed with the other papers into another satchel which had been brought over by Sever.
Sever and Hunter were chatting about old times themselves. They were very close friends and seeing each other again brought back a lot of memories.
While they were talking, Sims had been called over by Masters and he spent a few minutes talking to him about the Peregrine and how they had managed to survive for all this time.
"Those extra drop tanks saved our lives twice, Dragon", Sims said, talking about surviving the first attack during the test flight mission and also just before boarding the PEGASUS.
"I didn't like the idea of sending any of our ships out unarmed, but the Militech brass overruled it, saying that it wouldn't be necessary", Masters said to both Sims and Hunter- who had just walked up to them, "but for all that, I'm glad that you survived".
"I'm glad the PEGASUS was there to assist us, Dragon", Hunter said, "Syke's crew chief really did a great job of getting our bird repaired, and with the longbows and scarabs they had in stock, we now pack one big frakking punch!".
Commander Hawke recorded a read only data disk, once read it would self delete the entire file. It read:
“To Commander Cain.
From Commander Matthew Hawke, Battlecruiser GOLIATH.
You probably don’t remember me but you spoke at the commencement address at the academy the year I graduated. You presented the ‘Tactical Excellence’ award to me. It was there I also met your daughter Tricia, about her you have my condolences.
I have ordered that specific information about our current disposition not be passed on by my representatives. This data is for your eyes only.
Since you survived the initial attack I am assuming you discovered the Cylon access virus in the Baltar navigation program and have removed it, if not that’s where the weakness in our system lays. Downgrade all ships to previously used operating systems. Also on the ’code orange’ disk you will find some disturbing data on our discovery of a Cylon human replication program. The tin heads have built replica’s that duplicate humans almost exactly. It is our belief they used these as infiltrators to pinpoint our defenses and corrupt them. We have found several here, but our data is incomplete. There may still be more as yet undiscovered hiding among our population. I recommend that you adjust your internal security accordingly. Everything we have on them is included in that file.
Despite what any Cylon intercepts might tell you, Valhalla is alive and well, as are over 250,000 civilians. Any references to the Guardsman cutter Griffin are fictitious, that was the GOLIATH.
We do have the cutter CHYMERA available for supply runs at this time, and we will have a ’Provider’ class tender ready soon.
If you should find yourself in a position where you absolutely need to escape from the Cylons, the ’red code’ disk that accompanies this one will provide you with our Colony location as well as the jump calculations required to get to it. I assure you they work, our presence here is proof. I’m sure I don’t have to say this but, that disk must not fall into Cylon hands under any circumstances.
Our Viper strength stands at 130. 2 squadrons of 40, and a partial of 30. A third of the pilots are rooks. We have no Raptors, our Peregrine serve as our forward eyes.
The ITHACA was lost during our recent battle but there were no losses, Colonel Lennox and his crew were extracted and are safe. Our intel puts the PROMETHEUS as drifting out of the system with no power being generated from within, other status unknown. Her coordinates and data on the declassified ’white disk’.
Our Captain Masters was unable to catch up with the GALACTICA in the Promar sector, we believe the Cylons like us found the discards of the GALACTICA gift shop and that’s how they determined her last known location. Like you we are harassing the Cylons to take as many pursuers from her trail as we can. However we also have a large civilian population to protect. Whether you do or not we have been unable to determine, however, if you want to send any civilians you are escorting to our colony, then the data on the red disk is at your disposal and we will welcome them here. That would free you to move unhindered in your efforts. That too is also just a recommendation, Sir.
Just know that the GOLIATH stands ready to aid you in your efforts, and that we will not rest until the Colonies are free once again. As long as we can draw breath they will know that they only have a foot hold on our worlds, and that we intend to kick them back off.
I'm glad the PEGASUS was there to assist us, Dragon", Hunter said, "Syke's crew chief really did a great job of getting our bird repaired, and with the longbows and scarabs they had in stock, we now pack one big frakking punch!".
At last, the time had come for each group to return to their respective headquarters. Masters offered his hand to Syke, who shook it.
After a last, long hug and a kiss (also long), Hunter and Sever broke the embrace. With a "Take care, Hondo, I’ll see you soon", Sever climbed back into the docking tunnel and headed back into Peregrine One. Hunter went back to the pilot’s seat in the cockpit.
Helo and Sims each shook Masters’ hand and after wishing him a safe trip, both went to their respective duty stations.
As Masters was getting ready to climb back into the docking tunnel, Syke said, "In three days, expect a communication from the PEGASUS. It will be at the third set of probe co-ordinates that we provided. Our respective commanders should be able to have more information to provide each other by then".
"We’ll be on hand to pick it up, and you’re right", Masters replied, "My commander will have some more information, once he goes through what you’ve given to me so far. Until then, Stay safe and don’t give the tin-heads a moment of peace".
"You too", Syke answered with a smile. Nodding, Masters climbed back into the tunnel. Syke closed the hatch and sealed it.
"LAIR to AVENGER", Masters communicated to Hunter - using the informal nicknames for each Peregrine -after Masters had reached his cockpit seat, "We’re undocking now. Follow us out of the asteroid field and we’ll make our respective jumps then. Okay, Hondo?".
"Understood, Dragon", Hondo replied. He looked to Syke - sitting in the co-pilot’s seat - who nodded.
DRAGON’S LAIR (Peregrine One) smoothly undocked from FLEET AVENGER (Peregrine Five). Masters quickly brought Peregrine One’s engines online and started moving out of the field. A few seconds later, Hunter followed.
Masters, being rather more experienced in maneuvering a Peregrine emerged from the field thirty seconds ahead of Hunter's. But just before Masters instructed Sever to punch in the return co-ordinates for the FTL-jump back to base, Spook's voice came up on the intercom - loud.
"Frakk!", he said, "We have FTL-emergence! Sensors show two Cylon Raiders - Scimitar configuration - and they've seen us!"
Masters quickly looked at his sensor screen. The two hostiles had just launched missiles.
"Witch!", Masters ordered, "Prep guns ready decoys, Spook begin jammers".
"Decoys released", Sever replied, "but we can't FTL-jump on evasive, Dragon", she pointed out.
"Tell that to the frakking Cylons!", Masters snarled. Then 'jigged' the Peregrine hard to port and downward.
On FLEET AVENGER, both Syke and Hunter heard the exchange between Masters and his crew. Syke nodded to Hunter, who then keyed his mike.
"Coffin, Power up our missiles. Dragon needs assistance", he ordered while punching up his Peregrine's engines to full power.
"I heard that", Masters voice came over the intercom, "Thanks, Hondo".
"We're heading in to intercept", Syke said.
"Bojay, do not engage the one attacking us. Take out the one who isn't. We can't afford him jumping back and telling his buddies what they saw here", Masters ordered.
As Masters' Captain's commission pre-dated Syke's, that made Masters the person in overall command.
"Understood, Dragon", He replied. Hondo deftly brought his Peregrine onto an intercept course for the second raider.
As Hunter did so, Master ordered Spook to get a lock-on for the raider on his ‘six', so he could fire a Scarab at it. Despite the evasive maneuvering in order to avoid the gunfire from the Cylon, Spook quickly got a target acquisition and transferred the firing solution to Dragons console.
"Fox One", Dragon called out as the scarab shot out of it's launch rack and streaked out in an arc that had it heading towards the attacking raider.
The self-aware raider saw the incoming missile. Unlike other raiders, this one had a newly-installed enhanced missile jammer. It powered up the device and focused it's beam on the incoming scarab. The missile immediately went awry, prompting Spook to shout ‘Frakk' as it prematurely detonated.
"That tin-head emitted a jamming beam of some kind, Dragon. The missile didn't even get close!", he shouted.
"Not good, we've used that trick too many times.", Masters replied with classic understatement. He then spoke to Hunter.
"Hondo", he said into the inter-ship comm, "They've jammed our scarabs. You'll need to use your longbows. I'll set them up". Then dove again hoping to put the Raider pursuing them into an open shot for the AVENGER.
"Got it", Hondo replied. He then keyed his mike to speak to both Sims and Helo.
"Both of you will need to control your respective missiles. Target each hostile and guide your missile in", he said.
"Acquiring Target One", Helo said. His targeting computer was locked onto the target and he fired.
"Fox Five", he said. The Longbow shout out of rack five and headed into it's target. The missile was trailing a super-thin wire that was sending instructions from Helo's console to the Longbow. The raider that it was firing at, powered up it's enhanced jammer and aimed it at the missile, confident that it would suffer the same fate as the missile fired at it's colleague.
However, this missile did not divert from it's path. With direct control from AVENGER, the missile simply did not have an independent homing system that could be affected. As this missile homed in, Sims locked in on to the other raider and fired his Longbow.
"Fox Six", he communicated as his Longbow launched.
Helo's missile was now extremely close to the raider. The raider went into evasive mode, but Helo expertly controlled the Longbow and maintained it's lock. The missile impacted on the raider and detonated, causing the raider to explode.
"Got the tin-head!", Helo shouted. All on board both ships who heard him smiled , but there was still one other raider to deal with and it was closing in on Masters' Peregrine.
The raider's brain noted the destruction of it's colleague. It also noticed the incoming missile and that it was of the same type that had destroyed the other. It made a decision and swung it's armament to deal with the incoming threat.
On board DRAGON'S LAIR, Sever reported, "The tin-head is trying to take out the longbow with it's guns. It's broken off it's attack on us".
Dragons enhanced reflexes spun the Peregrine around and put their main guns under Witch's control on a track to turn the tables on the Cylon. Witch's heads up display came up on her visor and she tracked the cross hairs on the raiders tail. With their scarabs useless for the time being, the guns would have to do.
The raider fired several bursts of fire at the incoming Longbow. Sims succeeding in avoiding most of the fire, but a bullet from the last burst severed the control wire. Sims watched in frustration as the Longbow streaked in a straight line, out of control.
The raider's brain noted that the missile had been dealt with, but it's moment of ‘triumph' was short-lived. Masters had accelerated LAIR to within gun range and with a brief muttering, "Surprise!", shot off a long burst from his nose gun while Witch did the same from the twin main guns on the wings.
The raider was hit hard by the burst of bullets and lost control, tumbling helplessly. Sever then switched controls of the scarabs to her rear seat and fired another scarab at the now-helpless raider. This time, the raider could not jam the missile. The scarab impacted onto the disabled raider and destroyed it. Both Masters and Syke breathed a sigh of relief.
Sever looked forward at Dragon, "Your right, that does feel good" she said in reference to watching a raider disintegrate from a scarab hit. (Dragon having a bad habit of going through them so quickly)
"Looks like they found the specs on the scarabs control systems, we'll need to do a little extra programming to avoid those jammers", Masters communicated dryly. Hunter smiled at that. He was happy that FLEET AVENGER had at last destroyed a Cylon ship.
"Easy enough to do back at your base", Syke replied with a similar smile, "But I'll make sure that before we next meet up, to have Chief Krag stock up in our APC bay some extra longbows for you".
"Do that", Masters agreed, "But let's let back to our respective bases. The tin-heads will soon send out a search party for their missing patrol and the sooner we're away when that happens, the better".
"Jump co-ordinates punched in", Helo said. Sever said the same a few seconds later.
With a last communication of "Don't forget to punch on another raider silhouette onto your ship", both Peregrines jumped. They were bringing back to their respective commanders a wealth of information.
( to be continued )