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The Darkest Realm, Book 3: The Greater the Risk

By Kevin Hallesy

Word Count:19,037
Date: 10/29/04
Series: Mini
Rating: K+
Category: AU
Pairing/Focus: Original Characters
Warnings:
Summary:
Spoilers/Disclaimers:


Captian Robert Rath of the CISAR cutter CHYMERA was on the bridge of his ship. They were on station in a small lifeless system within the Carillon sector but well outside the Nova Madagon. Here they would wait for the return of the Rabbit probes they had launched two days before. It would take at least half a day for them to complete their programmed courses. Once finished they would have a better picture of the Cylons and their search for them, the station Valhalla, and the Battlecruiser GOLIATH. The first group had completed their patrol and had come back yesterday. Some had some very interesting data. He had sent a rabbit as courier to the GOLIATH knowing Commander Hawke would need the information as soon as possible. Apparently the Cylons believed there were more than just them causing their ships and bases some severe damage.

These probe runs were a necessity as their means of searching for the Battlestar GALACTICA, and to evade the Cylons that were searching for them. All communications were limited of course by the universal constant of light speed. All intercepted comm traffic had to be dated as they could be days old, or years. It took decades for some messages to reach even a ’nearby’ star system. It would take centurys for ones to get from their home system of Cyrannus to get to the Carillon sector. Years of messages would be floating around in space and each had to be recorded and sorted. All depending on where the probes were when they received them as they jumped from sector to sector, system to system. The ones they were sending into Cyrannus itself would have the best and most up to date data. Of the twenty probes they sent out, they had lost three already. Either to malfunction, or to the Cylons. Real time communication was impossible unless the ships were within very close proximi! ty. Captain Rath thought of these limitations as he also looked around seeing his crew go about their duties.

“Captain, Commscan has a Rabbit coming out of jump at 140 mark 50. Its in actual range and sending a courier code.” Lieutenant granger his communications officer reported. Rath was not expecting any probes sent back so soon.

“Very well,go ahead and answer it then send it the recovery code”

“Aye Sir”

The probe sent just two words, ‘Full Colors’. a pre-arranged code between Rath and Hawke that meant return to base. They had made their own code book throwing out all the old ones used by the Colonies. believing the Cylons would now have complete access to any and all previously used. The only ones that may be usuable would be those used by freebooters, pirates, and smugglers. Some of those may yet be on the loose. They had evaded the Colonial Marshals for decades in their little secret lairs. If anyone had survived the attack by the Cylons within the Colonies, it would be them. Each Cutter of the Guardsman had a small unit of marshals aboard just in case any of these pirates were encounterd on their patrols. Some were even in the brig of the CHYMERA. They had been captured smuggling meds from one colony to one of the bottle colonies. Now they were trapped in exile along with all the survivors. He was still debating whether to offer them amnesty and place them within his ! crew. A measure Marshal Janek ( the Marshal in charge of the law enforcement division on board) objected to, but saw the logic of having people that could develop a useable code system outside of Cylon knowledge. They may also know of ‘resources’ outside the normal channels used by the Colonies that the CHYMERA and Colony could use. Janek was back on Carillon serving as chief of police there. One of his deputies, Captain Branch, was still aboard. He and his three deputies along with their Shrike Pursuit ships were all the protection they had.

Rath read the code they received and began issuing orders. He had expected Hawke to call them back after reading the reports they had sent them.

“Cruz, how long until the last probes return?”

“probe 18 is set to return in 10 hours 45 minutes that will be the last to return if all others arrive intact, Sir. “

“Plot, helm start calculations for our return to Horizon as soon as the Rabbits are secure aboard.”

“Aye Sir”

“Flight, status on our Shrike patrol?”

“Due back in two hours Sir” Rath nodded, good well within the time they would need to jump. He envied those marshals. At least their small fighter size ships could jump on their own. Not as far as the CHYMERA, more like a Raptors range. So they served as long range patrol around his ship while away from the colony. The bad part was they only had four aboard. With two in the hanger at any given time, two on patrol. Not the best situation for them to be in. if a Cylon grasshopper or Raider patrol found them, they had virtualy no way to defend themselves.

His own engineers were working on a way to enhance their defences, 12 barrage guns that could threaten civilian ships were no match for the Cylons. The dorsal emplacements for secondary guns were still there, but had been removed when the MEDUSA class were delegated to the Guardsman duties of search and rescue. Ensign Tate was using this ‘down time’ to do what internal work he could to make the four emplacements along with their unused magazines ready for the installation of any long range weapons they might salvage, or make from the components the Goliath were carrying or made at the Horizon Colony.

Rath looked over the newest status reports Tate had sent on the progress of rebuilding half of their launch tubes back into their original configuration of launching Vipers. Their supply of those were also criticaly low. What they had available were assigned to Valhalla, and the GOLIATH. He along with Governor Ramius were competing for wings from either the Avenging Angels or Wild Cards to be posted with them and not just the station. Ramius and the colony didn’t need fighter protection as much as the CHYMERA did. So he intended to have a talk with Commander Hawke and Captain Landis when he got back.

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Captain Masters and his crew were back aboard the Peregrine getting it ready for launch. They along with their passenger, Captain Marro waited for clearence from the ITHACA CIC.

“Keep systems on stand by until the next patrol makes its jump out of orbit” Dragon said as he set his controls into ’dark’ mode. His co-pilot ’Witch’ and CSO Spook did the same. They would wait until the Cylon Raiders that jumped in to scan the test range had made their bi-hourly pass to move out and go back to the GOLIATH to make their report.

“Roger that pilot” Spook replied from his station in the aft section of the flight deck.

Captain Marro was sitting next to him in the normally empty seat of the APC monitoring station. Spook, Lt. Giles watched as his low power passive scan indicated that the energy readings from the ITHACA faded

. Then even from within the hanger bay, it looked as cold as the other hulks that hung in orbit over Cimtar. Captain Marro had explained during their time aboard that only one energizer was operating, and that at low power to conserve fuel. And when the Cylons were making their patrol pass all systems were shut down. That along with the other precautions they had taken, venting the outer areas staying well within the heavily armored and shielded section of the interior, masked their presence to all but the most intense probes.

“Our engine decks and fuel compartments have been heavily armored to protect them from ‘friendly fire’ during the war game exercises we put the fleet through, we are after all a moving target.“ She had explained.

“If it wasn’t for that armor we wouldn’t have survived the frakkin Cylons suicide run at us over Borallis. “

Giles had had to agree. After hearing about how they had arrived at Borallis with two Basestars waiting for any ship that came from the Colonies, both attacking Battlestars and civilian ships alike. Six Battlestars taking heavy fire as they limped their way to orbit. One Basestar must have seen them, their only two working engine pods were only at 40% so they had a low energy signature to begin with, if not for the size of the ITHACA, they may have read as a smaller commercial transport. it moved to a higher orbit, or perhaps it was just moving to flank the Battlestars, getting behind them so it could target their engines, when a squadron of Scimitar Raiders peeled of and headed right for them. Colonel Lennox ordered all batteries to fire, but they had used most of their ammunition already. Fuel critical, he made the decision to retreat. Then Ensign Rains called out a radiological alarm, one of the Raiders was closing on the ITHACA’s mid section. The Raider impacted and d! etonated. The massive E.M. pulse nearly knocked out their computers, but the drive systems were housed well within the ‘box’ of heavy shielding in the core of the ship. So they were able to jump just milliseconds after the explosion. that’s not to say the ITHACA was undamaged by the attack, much of the port hanger pod buckled and had to be vented and shut down. Some of the hull torn away. Both upper engines, what was left of them were destroyed. Leaving several large sections of them behind. Most of the dorsal guns were melted away as well. Two days later they had managed to move the ITHACA from low orbit of Jupin up to the Cimtar range. The Cylons it seems were still busy with other matters at Ragnar, and Molecay. It was just a day after they had placed themselves in formation with the target hulks that the Raiders started their patrols every two hours over the station and range.

Minutes went by. Giles was sweating like a groom, praying to the Lords of Kobol to let the Cylons just do their patrol and not see them. Here in the bay the Peregrines passive scanners were blind to the outside. He had to wait for the ITHACA to let them know when it was clear. After what seemed like hours to Giles, the light in the bay came up and the flight officers voice was heard in their ear pieces once again.

“Peregrine, access tube and moorings retracted, your clear for launch.”

“Roger that ITHACA, we’ll see you soon.” Dragon replied. Then pushed the throttle up and sent the ship out of the bay. Once clear he turned and headed out from Cimtar.

“Passives show green, were good pilot.” Spook reported. What Spook had not noticed, but would have, if he been more familiar with the more advanced aspects of her design was the comm panel indicating an echo on the ’Tac-1’ frequency. This frequency was an automated comm channel and telemetry sharing system exclusive between Peregrine ships. Had he thought to look he would have seen that somewhere out there within the Cyrannus system there was another active Peregrine. Unfortunately, that was information they would not take back with them this day. Witch set the jump system and gave Dragon a thumbs up that they were ready to make the long jump back to Carillon.

“Oh by the way Captain Marro, strap in tight and hold onto your lunch, this is going to be a harsh jump.”

Dragon said with a bit of mischief in his voice.

“You said your ship was just outside the system, how harsh can it be?” she answered back.

The lights of the engines lit up showing they were ready.

“I said it was outside the system, I didn’t say how far. “ he smiled knowing what was coming.

“Carillon, here we come.” he continued. Then turned the switch that would engage the jump engines. Just as the distortion began he could hear Captain Marro almost screaming.

“Carillon??, oh you cant be serioUSSSSSSS!!”. then they were gone.

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Commander Hawke was back in CIC. The look on his face was passive but he was worried. The Peregrine should have been back hours ago. It had been nearly a full day since she was launched. Granted it was built for extended duration flights, even had a set of ‘coffin’ cabins in the lower fore area, and ample rations. That didn’t help his anxiety any. He took another sip of his coffee. ‘Wont be long till were out of this too’ he thought for a second. Then looked up at the DRADIS panels for a sign of the Peregrines return.

‘String’ had told him when he came back up after catching a few hours sleep that Masters had not returned on schedule. He didn’t want to assume the worse. But they had jumped back into an occupied system. A probe, or patrol could have found them. Or the rogue Battlestar may have been a trap all along. During his sleep the CHYMERA had returned and reported the loss of only 6 probes. Their total compliment now rested at 24. Captain Rath also had half of her bays ready for Vipers. Twenty in all. Rath had come aboard and was again making his case for the transfer of fighters to his ship. Hawke focused once again on what his friend Captain Rath was saying putting the fate of the Peregrine out of his mind for now.

“If were going to continue to be the eyes and ears the the Colony out there where we might be detected, we should have better defenses. “ Rath said and reached for his own mug of coffee.

“Yes Robert I know that. Believe me I understand your concerns. Right now I’m inclined to agree, especially after Hally decoded these latest intercepts.” Hawke set another set of files on the plotting table between him and his friend. Rath picked them up and looked through them. His eyes widened and he looked back at Hawke.

“Your decoding more than I thought, or than we have been.” he finally said.

“Our intel officer invented a better decrypt program while you were gone.” Hawke informed him. Rath looked the reports over again. An unknown Battlestar attacking Cylon outposts, their list of suspected ships.

“You can rule out the PROMETHEUS. The GRIFFIN had some of her survivors aboard. They picked them up at the same time we recovered the survivors from the ARGO. They confirmed that she had been shut down just like the rest of her task force. They all sent distress signals which our ships, the KRAKEN, GRIFFIN and my CHYMERA answered“ Rath told him.

“What?!, “ Hawke said, then looked around the CIC. Several of the crew were looking at him.

“As you were” he ordered and told the crew to get back to work. Then continued a bit more quietly.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Quite sure, her captain had insisted on staying docked to the PROMETHEUS until they could get as many off her as possible. that’s why she was so badly damaged. The GRIFFIN had used her engines to tow the PROMETHEUS as far out of the combat area as she could before finally having to cut her loose. As far as we know she’s still adrift somewhere in the system. Most of those aboard were Warriors, that’s why they chose to sacrafice themselves by ramming the Basestar when we escaped.” he said, holding back tears thinking about his fellow Gaurdsman and Colonial Warriors that died that day.

“When we looked for pilots to fill out the Cards and the Angels none from the PROMETHEUS were among them, I didn’t know any of the survivors were from her.” Hawke said. Then came to the only logical conclusion.

“It must be the PEGASUS.” he said finally. This changed the face of the war for Hawke immensely. Knowing that Commander Cain was out there giving the tin heads a piece of hell just brightened his day.

“Alright Captain, here’s the deal, I’ll trade you 20 Vipers. ten from each of the Valhalla Squadrons for four of your probes, and two of your Shrikes. Some of the stations launch tubes are down anyway so they wont need to be at full strength for awhile. “ he offered Rath what was really a generous deal. He didn’t really have to let him have any of the Vipers. There was wisdom in not keeping all of their working fighters all in one place as well. Besides, the CHYMERA had a very good chance of having to be an acvive battle platform in their current situation. Better to have it armed as well as possible, and to hell what Ramius would say about it. .

“Commander, you have a deal” Rath answered and reached out to shake Hawkes hand. Hawke called over a yeoman to record and process the orders for the transfers. Those would be dispatched within the hour.

“Commander.” Flight officer Winger called over Hawkes CIC headset. He pressed the ‘active’ button on the belt control.

“Go flight” he answered.

“The Peregrine has just come out of jump and is requesting permision to dock. “ Winger reported.

“Bring her aboard Flight.” Hawke ordered. That was another welcome bit of good news.

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“I’m going to have a head ache for a week.” Captain Marro was saying as they made their approach to the GOLIATH’s ventral hanger pod.

“Frak you could have warned me we were going to make a jump into hell.” she continued trying to focus enough to stop seeing double.

“If I had you might not have wanted to come. “ Dragon was saying through her earpiece.

“Got that right. What madman thought of trying to jump into the Nova Madagon in the first place? You know what the odds are of actualy landing in the ‘eye’? not very Frakkin high I can tell you that.” Marro rambled on as her senses slowly returned to normal. She was looking at the screen and saw the GOLIATH on the monitor.

“That’s not a Battlestar” she said seeing the Cruiser in orbit. Then she widened her image and there in lower orbit was a CISAR station. And next to that one of its cutters. She was speechless.

“Nope that’s our lil home away from home” Witch said smiling. Dragon just smiled as he also shook his head a bit to clear himself of the effect of jumping through the Nova. He also knew what addicted gamblers most of the Leonians were so her talking of odds didn’t surprise him. (most bookies would place them at 10,000-1) Being somewhat of a daring pilot in his younger days, (ok a very reckless pilot ) he knew that many ’rocketjocks’ had taken the bet that they could jump to Carillon, pick up something as proof they had been there, then jump back. As far as he knew only one had actually made it. Rumor had it, it was a Colonial Warrior training officer that would have been locked up if Fleet had known she had taken the bet. But as far as Dragon knew, Starbuck was long gone aboard the Galactica. ‘Frak he hated losing that bet to her’ Dragon thought once again. Due to the (previously) unpredictable way the ’eye’ of the nebula that held the star and planet of Carillon moved wi! thin it, one had as good of a chance of landing in the storm of gases and stellar debris that made up the cloud of the nebula. Or as much chance of arriving on or next to a Colonial or Cylon mine, which would blow you to bits as soon as it detected you. Both kinds of mines were equal opportunity killers. So as one can imagine few were crazy enough to take such a bet. She never did tell him how she managed to do it.

“That would be our Commander who thought of it. Captain.” Witch told her as they crossed the threshold and moved to the designated part of the forward bay where the Peregrine would now come to rest. The mag locks took hold as the landing pads touched the deck. The crew shut down going through the checklist in a hurry. Wanting to get the report of the ITHACA’s existence to Commander Hawke as soon as possible. In doing so Giles shut down the Comm panel not knowing he blanked the active mission memory of the received tac-1 signal.

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Cylon Basestar 11001010 held its position over Sagatara. ‘Leo’ the model seven in its command sat at a desk looking over the monitors as reports flashed by amazingly fast. His artificial brain absorbing and processing the data at remarkable speeds. He paused one report that caught his interest. The results of three diferent attempts to send Raiders into the Nova Madagon. 15 sentient ships were sent in, one came back out, and that one had nothing to report. Excpet the loss of its 4 companions due to mine impacts. He scrolled again and another report from Madagon. A Basestar had attempted to enter “Damnation alley” as it was once called. The path of least resistance to the last known location of Carillon. This of course was the one known route into the chaos that is the Nova Madagon. It is also the heaviest mined. The Basestar had only passed through less then 1/8 of the passage when it had been damaged by mines. And even then there was no guarantee that after more than 40 ! years Carillon would still be where they thought it was. The Basestar had turned back. The depths of Madagon would hold its secrets for awhile yet.

‘if we can not find it, then the humans surely can not do so either’ he thought to himself. No it was just a hunch, as humans call them. In his attempts to think like them he had concluded that they may hide in the least likely location. Carillon topped that list. He would have to seek elsewhere it seems. Time had swallowed the one time Tylium mine and small recreational colony they had forced the humans off of several decades ago.

There were other prospects he reminded himself. Given the limitations of the stations jump engines, there were just so many places they could go.

Another report on another screen was paused. He smiled. 67 colonial civilian craft had been recovered and restored. They now were in various sectors relatively close to each other so they could be reached by a limited number of Basestars and Raiders. Each one full of human corpses and a small number of his compatriots. With a few squads of centurions waiting at low power standby for when or if they were boarded by humans. Some Basestars regretfully had been pulled from the Colonies to support this ’live bait’ mission. Of the twelve they had , one for each Colony, now he had only eight. Listening posts, probes and patrols were deployed to make up the difference. He along with a number of his counterparts had concluded that the raid almost a week ago on the surface of Sagitara had been to pick up survivors. Who and why was unknown. It was of no concern. Once humans were captured in the new campaign, he would have his answers. Then they would concentrate all efforts into fin! dng, and destroying the GALACTICA. All these ’distractions’ would end when Valhalla and its support ship, which ever one it was, were destroyed once and for all.

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Plans within plans

Governor Ramius was incensed that Commander Hawke had ordered the recall of the engineers and technicians from the surface. Not only that but his sources told him that several Vipers were beging moved to the CHYMERA. He along with his assistant Cassiopeia were on their way up to the GOLIATH. The shuttlle holding at the ’outer marker’ awaiting for permission to dock. ‘What was that military dictator up to now?’ he was thinking looking out the port as the immense ship moved to a higher orbit making his and a few other Valhalla shuttles wait. Well he would find out. How Cassy had found out about these transfers he wasn’t sure, but he contacted one of the deck gang that was keeping track of his ship while it was docked to the station. He had confirmed that 20 of the fighters had launched and not returned. They sure didn’t land at Horizon. But some extra fuel was sent up to the CHYMERA. That had to add up to them going to the cutter. Here he had been requesting Vipers on the s! urface since they arrived. Well he would see about this.

“Call them again pilot, get us aboard.” Ramius was saying leaning over the nervous pilots shoulder.

“Yes Sir, I’ll try.” he switched on the wireless again, “Shuttle theta one seven to GOLIATH flight control, Governor Ramius respectfully requests permission to dock, do you copy.”

He received only silence as his answer. Then he repeated the request as Ramius prodded him yet again. Then finally an answer.

“Shuttle Theta one seven, clear for dock. Land pad four. Achknowledge.”

“Roger that GOLIATH. We have the ball”

The pilot maneuvered into the bay and shut down engines placing them In free fall then retroed onto the pad. The auto dock tube extended and locked to the hull over the access hatch. Ramius stormed to the hatch and waited for the system to equalize the air pressure within the air lock. Finally the hatch opened and the passengers were allowed aboard.

Cassy had sat in her seat watching the baffoon throw his fit. A reaction she did everything she could to encourage. Mad humans make so many mistakes. The news of the Vipers going to the Guardsman cutter was easy enough to find. A few well placed promises of sex, as well as the sex itself, to the manager in charge of the fuel storage units had gained her access to the refinery. She was there just to maintain her sabotage. She had placed a ’governor’ program into their system, so the refineries automated systems would not produce too much fuel too fast. But a check of recent shipments up to the ships protecting the colonies showed a transfer of Fighter grade Tylium to the CHYMERA. This would give her the opportunity to go aboard the GOLIATH and possibly modify a probe or fighter to send a data burst of her location and situation to her counterparts. After returning to their domicile with a few bags to show she had just been shopping she told Ramius that she overheard some w! orkers brag about how they were going to be transferred to the CHYMERA as the new Viper wings deck gang. Of course that enraged Ramius because of his foolish desire to have fighters on the surface.

“They cant do that. I want those Vipers here. Well we’ll see about that, Cassy, book a shuttle. Were going up to see ‘Commander’ Hawke right now.” he barked at her.

She had put on her best ‘cow eyes’ and a look like a little girl that just had her candy taken away and did as she was told. All the while smiling within seeing her chance to contact the others so they could come and kill them all. Now here she was on the Battlecruiser. Looking for any way she could leave a sign, make a signal. She HAD to find a way, she may not get another chance.

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Colonel Greenlee walked over to Hawke on the CIC.

“He’s aboard Sir” string quietly said. Then picked up some printouts.

“thanks String, guess we better get this over with. “ Hawke answered. Then he signaled for Captain Winger to take command. He and String headed for the hatch and down to the ward room. On their way Hawke wondered how the Frak Ramius find out about the Vipers tranfer so quickly. However he found out he now had to deal with him. Hopefully the news of their discovery and his plan to take the Cylons off their scent for awhile would placate the distinguished Governor long enough to show him how unnecessary it was to have fighters on Carillon. The last eight hours had been hectic enough. With the arrival of the Peregrine and Dragons unexpected passenger. The executive officer of the Battlestar ITHACA. That was a shock to Hawke in of itself. He thought it was the PEGASUS hiding at Cimtar. Which meant that Cain was still out there. Where he didn’t have a clue. For now he had to find a way to retrieve the ITHACA. Or at the very least, her crew. The problem was, how do you evacuate! over 700 people within two hours? Even if they docked to her it would likely take at least 3 or 4 hours to connect their energizers and charge up her jump engines. Hawke and his command staff had debated just how to handle this most of the night. Captain Marro had informed them of the ITHACA’s status, what systems were available, Chief Bishop went over the numbers and told him the requirements in raw power that would be needed, and the time it would take to produce that power. Any idea he had of a quick and easy extraction were shot. No they would have to do this piece meal. and that required a whole different strategy. In fact he was going to borrow a plan Commander Flinn had told him about from back in the first war days. Or a variation thereof. Best not to try to duplicate something the Cylons have seen before. Something Cain himself used against the Cylons when Cain had saved Flinn’s life, as well as that of most his squadron. Something he called a “Shell game Gambit”.

A marine opened the hatch to the ward room , Hawke and Greenlee entered, Captain Masters came to attention and shouted.

“Attention on deck”. all the Warriors and marines present instantly came to their feet and stood looking straight ahead. All except Governor Ramius, who just sat with a disgusted look on his face.

The CAG and deputy CAG from each Squadron, incuding Masters and Sever, as well as Captain Marro of the ITHACA, Captain Rodo of the Marines, Chief Hand, Bishop, Ensign Hally, Captains Sassinak of the Golden Arrows, Mantis of the Avenging Angels, and Lowes of the Wild Cards. Captain Rath of the CHYMERA and Commander Landis of Valhalla station were also there.

Hawke had called a ‘War Counsel‘. their action would effect and require all of them if they were to succeed. Not present was the Governors ‘assistant’.

“As you were. Please be seated.” Hawke began. He moved to a podium and addressed the assembly. Greenlee took a seat at a table just in front and to Hawkes right.

“As some of you know, the Battlestar ITHACA has survived the Cylon attack and now rests on station in the orbit of Cimtar.” some had not known (including Ramius) and some gasps and smiles broke out around the room.

“Her condition is grave. Her power extremely limited, her crew desperate and ill. Over 700 fellow warriors need our help.” Hawke continued despite some protest from Ramius that he had not been informed of this.

“we have several options, some of them not pleasant. 1. We can send in the GOLIATH and link to her, transfer power and try to jump back here with her. (several nods) the time it would take for this would no doubt expose us to the patrol that flies by her every two hours resulting in extreme combat and risk destruction of both ships. 2. We can dock with her and evacuate the crew in sections between the Cylon patrols. (more nods) 3. Or,” and he hesitated trying not to choke on this next option, “We can put her out of her misery by destroying her ourselves. “

“Commander you cant be serious!” Captain Marro was on her feet, and shouting. Her nearly 7 foot frame seemed ready to rip the room apart. Hawke with it at this suggetion.

“I am serious Captain. The ITHACA knows about us now. If the Cylons do detect her on one of those patrols, or gets captured during ANY kind of excursion, they will find out about us. We have nearly 250,000 people here, mostly civilians. If it becomes NECCASARY, the ITHACA will have to be sacrificed.” Hawke said, looking right at Marro. He didn’t like it either. Once contact had been made, this became a necessary option. Marro knew that he was right. It was a risk that came with the uniform. But she didn’t like it any better by knowing that. She sat down again.

“then there’s a forth option. that’s the one were going to use. Some preparation is already underway. The rest we’ll get going now. “ Hawke brought the displays on line with data on what his plan would consist of.

Ramius now understood why the transfer of Vipers had been done. Hawke was going to send the ships into harms way. There were people back home that need rescuing. As self centered as he was, he was human, and he didn’t want to see them lose any more people. Besides, a Battlestar would be far better protection than a Cruiser. Or so he thought until he saw the read outs and displays that the Peregrine took of her that came up on the visuals as Hawke laid out his plan. ‘that’s what were going to all this trouble and risk over? By the Lords of Kobol he cant be serious’ Ramius thought looking at the heavily damaged Colonial Capital ship.

Hawke went on.

“the lives of the crew of the ITHACA will take priority. The ship herself is secondary. To that end we have formulated a plan that should achieve that and some other objectives. Now, here’s what I have in mind,,”

The next few hours were spent with Hawke spelling out exactly what they were going to do. Many thought he was either a genius, or just out right mad. Maybe both. Marro put the odds on that at 70-1. (FOR). She smiled quietly wondering if she could get anyone to take that bet.

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Leo had been called to the Command deck by the Centurion linked to the Basestar mainframe. Apparently something unusual was going on and needed to be brought to his attention.

“Centurion report.” He commanded looking at the tall metal automoton.

“Several patrols and probes report an increase of non-Cylon jump energy readings. Additional data indicates the presence of Colonial frequency communications from within the system. Location: unknown. Content: unknown. Encrypted and scrambled on previously unknown frequencies.”

A complete overview and holo-display formed above the floor showing the known location where colonial jump probes, colonials called them Rabbits, had appeared, scanned then disappeared.

He looked them over, there seemed no pattern to them. And the communications were so low powered and weak, there source couldn’t be pin pointed. They may have been decoys.

What was obvious. The humans were up to something. Over a dozen distinct probes were scouting their defenses. They had detected these before, even managed to destroy a few after calculating their patterns and being there when they came out of jump. But never so many at one time. And none in previously recorded locations. His Colonial training told him that this was a prelude to an assault. Scout your enemy, pick your target, and attack. Standard Fleet procedure. He tried to think like a human again. Evaluated the situation from their perspective. Based on the known information.

Even though they had escaped with the Valhalla station. It was overcrowded. This meant an extreme stress on consumables, supplies, fuel. It had at best two cutters, relatively small and unarmed ships. Not suited for combat. Perhaps a third unknown Capital ship. (sheer theory there).

They had already made a raid on Sagitara, presumably to rescue more humans, now they more than likely needed food, or fuel or both, desperately. Perhaps now they were planning on another raid, this time for the seeds and grain on Sagitara. Or the fuel depot left intact on Virgons moon, Dalia. Either suited Leo. The seeds and grains were now poisoned with Pluton. And the fuel, well a nuclear warhead rested well within the station and waited for just such a raid. let them come. We are ready for them. Leo smiled.

“Centurion, signal all Baseships in the system. Execute plan Epsilon.”

“By your command” it answered.

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Cassy had wandered the corridors aboard the GOLIATH while Ramius attended the meeting. Something he denied her. She had played the mindless blonde too well it seems and he thought such matters were beyond her. Even though such information would probably have proven invaluable. (she had no idea how invaluable) it did give her the opportunity to look for a means of ‘tagging’ a Colonial pilot. Like all the humanoids she had a small ‘resonance’ disk. A small half inch diameter wafer thin circuit. It was made of an inert material that would not show up on most colonial scans. But if a Cylon sensor sweep hit it, it would send an active ‘ping’ back to the scanner. This was how they would normally avoid destroying each other by mistake and locate their own for retrieval when necessary. Now she would use it to let her counterparts know where the GOLIATH was. Or at least one of its pilots. She asked several of the crew if they could tell her where the officers club was so she could! wait for the Governor. One was more than happy to oblige. Though the young petty officer couldn’t seem to stop staring at her cleavage.

Once inside the officers club, most of the men stared at her as well. Even in her tight business suit (she always made sure they would accent her body as much as possible.) she walked to the bar swaying her hips then seating herself so she could look over the room. Ordered an ambrosia and took a sip. The only one brave enough to approach her, most knew who she worked for, was Captain Sassinak’s wingman. David “Trooper” Travis.

“Hello miss?,,,” Travis shyly asked her. She smiled and turned to him. Put her hand out to his,

“Hi, I’m Cassiopeia, just call me Cassy. Wow this is such a huge ship. That is such a lovely uniform. You’re a Viper pilot huh.” she just beamed with enthusiasm as she shook his hand and ran her fingers over Troopers flight suit. Moving a bit closer to him.

“um yes, yes I am. Deputy CAG of the Golden Arrows. Maybe you’ve seen one of our air shows.”

He just stood there a big stupid grin on his face as she rubbed up against him. His friends from his wing sitting at a table watching him. Trying to wave him on as if to say ‘go for it’.

“Really! That is soo exciting.yes I’ve seen those. Your one of those pilots, doing all those dangerous stunts, that is just amazing” she pressed even closer the small disk in her palm and rubbing up his left arm. There was a pocket just below the patch on his suit. As she saw him looking down her jacket and at the top of her very ample breasts she slipped the disk onto the inside of the flap cover, pressed it hard so the sealant would glue it to the uniform. Then just as casually moved her hand down his back pulling him even closer. She bit her bottom lip trying to look as ‘innocent’ as possible even though their legs were practicaly intertwined.

“You know, I’ve never kissed a Viper pilot before, would you mind?”

Travis’s mind seemed to have launched itself out an airlock. No way he could be this lucky with a woman so beautiful. He just stood there for a second with a blank expression. She took that as a yes, leaned up, then kissed him solidly on the lips. Then pulled back standing back on her heels.

“thank you” she looked up at him smiling.

“You take care of yourself ok? I better get back to the Governor. “ She took another sip of her drink then sauntered out of the club. Two of his buddies walked over and had to practically shake him back to reality. Both laughing hysterically. Trooper didn’t think it was as funny. But Frak that girl could kiss. If he died tomorrow, he could say he had at least kissed a real woman. Nothing of course was farther from the truth. Cassy was happy though. The disk was firmly in place. Now if or when the GOLIATH ever returned to the Homeworlds, they would be found. And destroyed.

Shell Game

Hawke and Greenlee were back on the CIC. Everyone had been given their orders and were in the process of carrying them out in preperation for the jump into the Cyrannus system. Other preperations had already been underway. Ever since the first debrief after the Peregrines return. Hawke had ordered Captain Rath to send every probe he had to scout within the system. Even though they would collect data, they had been reprogrammed to make random jumps and not to actually engage or scout a Cylon location. These incursions would be totally misleading. He thought like a Cylon in a way. Cylons by their very nature have to follow programs. Programs are designed to achieve a purpose, therefore Cylons do nothing without a final purpose in mind. Even their forty year wait to attack the Colonies had been done with purpose. It was logical to conclude that the Cylons also thought humans would do nothing without a purpose. How wrong they were. Well, not wrong, but it wasn’t the purpose t! hey thought it would be.

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Chief Sirus ‘Jack” hand was on the flight deck. He and his gang were working on a special project for Captain Masters. He still couldn’t believe it when the Peregrine had landed yesterday and the belly ramp for the APC came down. There on the ramp were four full pallets of scarabs. Each with a full 20 missiles. Enough to reload the pods twice. ‘of course the way he goes through them that might last a week’ he had thought to himself. He was more right than he knew. No sooner had Masters left the briefing in the ward room where Commander Hawke had spelled out his plan than Masters had an idea of his own. Hawke wanted him and the Peregrine to cause as much damage as possible to the Cylons during their extraction mission. Masters figured, if that’s what he wants, I’ll need a few more tricks up my sleeve. To that end he asked ‘Jack’ if it were possible to make a missile pod that would eject a set of scarabs from within the APC bay.

“now that’s funny Sir, wait,” Jack looked at Masters after doing a ‘double take’ “your serious arent you.”

“yes Jack I am.” he nodded back up to his very tall friend. Jack looked at the bay, then the pallets of off loaded scarabs, then back again.

“I don’t think so Sir.” he finaly answered. They walked around the Peregrine as jack continued to run ideas through his head.

“It doesn’t have to really ‘launch’ them Jack. Just get them out of the bay. So they spread out without power. And be armed when we need them to be.” Masters explained further.

Jacks eyes lit up a bit as an idea came to him.

“ahhh you just want to ’flush’ them out then. Preferably in one direction. Right Sir?” he said.

“Basically yes.” Masters answered.

“that I think I can do Sir.” he looked over at the fresh racks of scarabs. “just how many did you have in mind Sir?” he asked.

“keep two pallets, I’ll need those for when we get back, until we get the rest off the ITHACA.”

“theres more?” a big smile crossed the face of the huge Leonian.

“only six more pallets Chief. After that I’ll have to throw rocks.” Masters reached up and patted the landing leg of his ship looking up at it. ’may not be too long before you’ll be as unarmed as a Raptor” he thought.

Now jack was busy welding a temporary frame work onto the deck of the ramp. One pallets worth right behind the other on ’slide’ tubes. Stacked similarly to the upper pods. 4 racks of 5. At the back of each tube was a canister of gas. Basically he created a huge set of ’blow guns’ that would (if it worked) shoot them out like darts. The only very risky part was the arming system. They were all hard wired together and would all arm together. With all of them on contact detonation as requested. If they collided with each other on launch too close to the Peregrine, they would do it severe damage. He tried to minimize this risk by putting some wadding between the tail of one missile, and the nose of the one behind it. Hopefully that would help.

The other deck gangs from Valhalla Hawke had recalled from the surface of Carillon were also busy. The Vipers would need to fly for an extended period of time in Hawkes plan, so their normal missile compartments were being fitted with fuel tanks instead of ordinance. Captain Sassinak’s entire squadron, the Golden Arrows, were going to be used so all 40 ships needed to be converted in this fashion.

Over on the CHYMERA their gangs were equally as busy. As the time to launch their mission grew closer they were sending fewer and fewer probes back into the system. As they took them ‘off-line’ each was being reprogrammed and adjusted to make it give off a power and sensor signature very much like a Viper mark VII. Then each was fitted with a TAC-5 channel transciever allowing it to be guided by remote control. By the time the mission began they would have all 20 probes able to mimic Vipers. The control system for this “Ghost Rider” Squadron as it was now being affectionately called would be in one of the GOLIATH’s shuttles. The ‘Ghosts’ would be launched along with the shuttle as soon as they entered the system, then jump to an outer Colony orbit. Making it look like a squadron were attacking. Then as they are picked up, shuttle and all will jump to another Colonies orbit, then wait to be picked up again. These along with the true fighters and the Peregrine should make t! he Cylons think that they are launching an all out attack on several fronts.

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Ensign Hally was bent over her data terminal fingers flying over the keyboard as she disseminated the data from the last batch of probes. Even though they were just gathering intel at random, much of it was still usefull and gave a fair idea of where the Cylons were. Several of their capital ships had left the system. Long range scans detected only eight Basetsars in orbits above as many Colonies. Comm chatter was higher than normal, seems they were getting agitated as Hawke wanted them to be. Patrols were widened and probes increased. The random appearances of the Rabbits forced them to divide their larger groups of fighters into pairs so they could cover more of the system. This made them more vulnerable as they could not call to other ships in real time. Delays of up to several hours or as little as perhaps 20 minutes from what she could tell would be needed for transmissions to get from one unit to another. These ’holes’ in their coverage were just what Hawke wanted h! er to look for. These were not gaurenteed of course. They could change the patrol pattern at any given time. But it gave them something to go by. She organized and printed out her report. Then took it over to the X.O., Colonel Greenlee.

“Heres my best recommendation on the intel Commander Hawke wanted Sir” she said as she handed the tall X.O. a sheef of readouts.

“Thank you Ensign.” Greenlee said smiling at her. Then looking the report over. Hally stood there for a second wondering if she should mention the last page of her report.

“Something else Ensign?” he asked seeing her looking at her feet and fidgetting again.

“Yes Sir, our probes, well there were several anomalies in their scans. Since they were landing in new sectors I wasn’t sure what to make of them.”

“What kind of Anomalies?” he flipped back through the pages.

“Well Sir, they picked up Colonial scanner frequencies. Fairly strong ones on at long range. At first I thought they were just some of our own probes. But the locations and scrambler codes were wrong. Its my opinion Sir,, that they are probes from another Colonial unit.” she concluded. Her neck was way out now. She just waited for the axe to fall.

Greenlee looked at the pages where these anomalies were listed. Frak if she wasn’t right. Several FTL probes that were neither Cylon or theirs had been in the system recently. Someone was scouting out the Cylons. At least two had entered the area of Caprica and Picon, listened for awhile then jumped back out. Others it seems were interested in the outer system near the oort cloud and Cimtar. ‘Hawke will flip when he see’s this.’ he thought, then saluted the young Ensign.

“thank you, return to post” String ordered.

“Yes Sir.” she returned the salute and hoped her career as intel officer hadn’t just ended.

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“Attention on DECK” ’Trooper’ Travis shouted as his C.O. Captain Sassinak entered the squadron ready room. The entire team came to attention standing in front of their chairs.

“As you were.” she said and indicated for them to be seated. She stood at the podium and switched on the displays. Trooper handed out the flight data that would give each pilot their individual missions. As Sassinak gave an overview.

“Today people were going to fly into a great big hairy fur ball.” She began. “As you can see were going right into the heart of the occupation. Even though our role will be one of deception there is a good chance that we will encounter patrols or attack forces. If that happens you are to engage and do what you can to prevent any Cylons from sending for reinforcements or to warn of our presence and strength.” another grid map came up on the screens.

“We will continue with our current policy of using ’altered’ strength references, wings for the teams of ten Vipers, and four of those to a Squadron. These references when intercepted by the Cylons will make them think we have more ships than we really do.” This adapted terminology had been being used due to the size of her stunt team, and the limitations of the GOLIATH’s launching system. With the mixing of units and pilots from the surviving squadrons it was decided to maintain a structure similar to the Golden Arrows until such time that they could increase their wings strength. Ensign Hally of the intel/PsyOps department had also suggested that using a variation of normal protocols would help to confuse the Cylons. Her position as CAG (Commander Air Group) would normally include several squadrons, not just teams, or wings as they were calling them. For now this system would suffice as all the pilots in all the strike wings, Avenging Angels, Wild Cards, were now being ! trained to use these call systems.

“After the initial jump we will launch from the GOLIATH, then proceed toward the inner planets, the GOLIATH will then jump to the rondevous point. It will be up to us to keep out of the Cylons range until we reach that point. REMEMBER, no references to the GOLIATH while within the system. She is to be designated as the GRIFFIN.“ several nods of the heads as the pilots looked of the mission ops.

“I want you all to pay attention to my instructions during our maneuvers, if we have to engage, we’ll likely only get one shot at each stunt until the tin heads record it and know what to look for.” more nods. “our TAC frequency will be delta-17, secondary on Gamma-20, transmit in the clear only when told to do so. That is all, check your ships, then get some rest. Launch is in, six hours and counting.” the redheaded Captain came to attention and saluted her team. They came to attention and returned the salute. A tradition they had before each show.

“Dismissed.” She said and watched as they filed out of the ready room. How many wont be returning she wondered to herself.

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“Please be seated Captain Marro.” Commander Hawke said to the huge woman after she entered the ward room. They were alone now. He wanted to discuss the mission with her in private.

“Thank you Sir.” She answered and sat across the table from him. ‘He couldn’t be much older than me’ She thought. ‘He seemed rather tall too, much like a leonian.’

Hawke noticed the way she was scrutinizing him.

“Before you ask, no I was born on Picon, but spent almost eight years in schools on Leonis. So yes I adapted a bit to the heavy gravity.” she smiled realizing she had been so obvious about staring at his tall and well built frame.

“Sorry Sir, didn’t mean to stare.”

“I needed to talk to you about the ITHACA. As you know our plan calls for extracting the crew, but using the ship as a diversion to get our forces back out of the system. Do you think Colonel Lennox will have a problem with that?” He asked. She thought about it for a few seconds.

“No Sir, I don’t. not as long as we can get the crew off.”

“there is the problem of how to guide the ITHACA toward Caprica. We can put her on auto navigation, but that’s no guarentee she’ll reach the target.” Hawke watched her expression as the meaning of his statement sunk in. he was asking if there were any of her crew aboard that would man the helm until the ITHACA reached Caprica, or was destroyed by the Cylons attack. Granted they were going to put a Valhalla shuttle in the landing bay for what ever CIC crew stayed behind during the approach, but there was no guarantee they would make it all the way down to the hanger before it was destroyed.

“I’m sure we will find a way to ram the ITHACA down the Cylons throat Sir. Of that you can be certain. I know whats at stake back at Carillon. One way or another, they will know it was us who helped Valhalla get away.” she said with grim determination. Hawke nodded. He knew what he may be asking some of the ITHACA crew to do. It was a big chance to take, none of them could allow themselves to be taken by the Cylons. Marro knew it too. She didn’t put the odds of survival of anyone escaping from the ITHACA too high. She tried to convince herself that they would be better if she were the one to stay and take the war to the Frakkin tin heads. By the Lords of Kobol that’s what she intended to do. She just didn’t tell Hawke that.

“thank you Captain. that’s all I wanted to know.” He stood and she did too, then he reached to shake her hand. After that he saluted, waited for her return.

“Dismissed Captain and good luck.” Hawke finally said, then watched as she turned and left the room. The hatch closed and made a small banging noise. That sound made him feel so lonely.

Hairy furball

Captain Rath was on his bridge. All hands were making ready for the long jump back to the Cyrannus system. The extra shuttles as well as the Vipers from Valhalla were aboard. Loaders and lifters were in ready positions on the hanger deck ready for the hard dock to the ITHACA. Four airlocks were ready to off load everyone and as much cargo from her as they could in the time they were allowing.

“Captain, all decks report ready, the ’Ghosts’ and ’Orphans’ (nickname given to the 20 Vipers from the combined pilots that were transferred from the Valhalla wings.) are aboard and secured on the launch deck. The shuttles are on the hanger deck ready to go.” Lieutenant Garab informed Rath from the helm station on the bridge. Garab was the Exec, but also the best pilot when it came to manuevering the huge ship. He and the ops officer would have to put this ship in place to dock in record time if this were to work.

“Very well,” Rath picked up a handset, the claxon sounded and his voice echoed in the ship. “All hands stand by to jump” he checked the chrono display, the Cylon patrol should be making their pass and leaving Cimtar just about now. He waited a few extra seconds. Then gave the helm the command.

“Jump”. the engines powered up and the CHYMERA flashed out of normal space. Then reappeared in a gut wrenching jolt. The crews senses returned to normal, then Garab checked the navigation sensors, they were in orbit of Cimtar. The range was just over the horizon. All six hulks were still in their stationary positions over the control center.

“Clocks ticking, let get moving” Rath said.

“Aye Sir.” Garab replied and pushed the throttles of the Cutter up. The twin sublight engine pods came to life and sent the ship toward the ITHACA. Rath reached for the intercom.

“Sparks, get me the ITHACA on low band.”

“Yes Sir. Working on it” came the reply from his communications officer. Colonel Lennox had no prior knowledge of who or what was coming back for them since Masters didn’t know either at the time. So they had to risk calling for them in the clear. But only on low power.

“Go ahead Sir.” ’sparks’ told his C.O.

“Lifeguard to swimmer, do you copy, a ‘little bird’ told us you needed assistance.” Rath said into the comm. ‘litle bird’ being what Masters told Lennox he or who ever was sent back for authentification.

“Lifeguard, this is swimmer. we copy.” came the reply.

“Swimmer prepare for rescue, were going to take you to shore.”

“Roger that Lifeguard.” just before Lennox could release the switch that would close the mic the bridge of the CHYMERA could hear several loud ’hoorahs’ and shouts of glee in the background.

Rath got the ball rolling.

“Launch all Vipers, probes and the shuttles, get us docked “Gypsy”” Rath used his execs call sign.

“Yes Sir, give me a sec, this things got a big butt you know” was his answer. As they approached the stranded ITHACA’s starboard hanger pod the Vipers, were deployed and took up positions out and away from the recovery operation. Then the probes were launched. They formed up along side the CNC shuttle that would control them. One shuttle landed on the ITHACA’s hanger deck and hard docked with one of her extention tubes. The other on the hanger pod of one of the derelicts. Captain Rodo and a team of marines in EVA suits began their parallel mission. The hatches were opened and Captain Marro led the way. The rescue team of engineers poured into the great ship carrying the specialized equipment they would need if they were going to guide the ITHACA from within the shuttle. That was the plan, if it didn’t work, then someone would still need to man the CIC as Hawke had pointed out.

Within minutes the CHYMERA hard docked her port pod to the ITHACA’s starboard one, being of similar design three of the four airlocks lined up and were opened. The forth was too badly damaged. Leaving only two personnel and one cargo lock for the transfer.

“Come on ladies lets get moving” Marro was shouting at the team as it ran up the corridors to the CIC.

Colonel Lennox was smiling as his exec Captain Marro came running into the CIC,

“Welcome aboard Captain, I see you brought company.” he was saying as he returned her salute.

“Yes Sir, the locks are open and the crew of the cutter is getting our people off. We are to move out under tow in exactly, one hour and ten minutes.”

“Tow? Not jumping?” he looked a bit surprised.”

“No Sir, the cutter cant produce that much power in so short a time, plus there were other considerations, I’ll fill you in as we get ready to move out Sir.” she said, then pulled out a file with orders from Commander Hawke. For the next hour she explained the plan and they monitored the stripping and reconfiguring of their helm. Chief Bishop was placing a hard wired remote metal set of arms , eight in all, seated at the helm stations. These were being spliced into the ships internal comm system. From the panels in the hanger access another line was run into and through the airlock to a similar control panel on the shuttle. Hand controls like a set of joy sticks would make the arms on the CIC move from the shuttle. The monitor on the panel would see what the cameras on the arm articulation frame would see. Bishop and his team worked frantically to install, test and retest the system, never having done this before and not sure if they could rig enough power to them and not! have the intercom get fried by the unusual interface speed

Colonel Lennox and Captain Marro were also busy on the CIC. Their task was to use their command codes to install a set of ships flight recorder logs into their system. (basically a set taken and edited from the GOLIATH.) These records would, if found by the Cylons, prove that their fuel and jump engines were overloaded by helping Valhalla try to escape to Cimtar, but in the jump, only the ITHACA and GRIFFIN had emerged. It would look like that in the jump the CHYMERA, KRAKEN, ships and Valhalla had been lost, while the others were forced to cut the station loose in ‘between’ or be lost as well.

Progress was made on the launch deck levels where the airlocks were located. Many of the crew were moving as much cargo and munitions as they could into the cutter. Most of what was stored in the port pod had to be left behind. At exactly one hour and fifteen minutes into the mission the CHYMERA and ITHACA fired up their sublight engines, ready or not. As the two ship began their shaky accent away from Cimtar the ‘Ghosts’ and their shuttle disappeared in a flash and began their decoy mission. In fifteen minutes the GOLIATH would make its jump and begin its part. Also at that time the regular Cylon patrol would jump into the Cimtar test range and see that one of its Battlestars were missing. They would no doubt want to either go back and report this, or begin a search for her. It would be up to the ’Orphans’ to see that they didn’t do either.

Lieutenant Charles “Chas” golliday was in charge of the Orphans. He and his wings were holding position in a random pattern around the target hulks in dark mode hoping they looked like some of the debris that was drifting along with the beaten Battlestars. Looking out the canopy he saw as the two ships power up their engines and headed away from orbit. ’wont be long now’ he thought.

In the hour they had been waiting he could just see as the GOLIATH marine shuttle with Captain Rodo and his team had moved from one of the hulks to another, and now as the object of their mission was moved toward Carillon his shuttle was headed for the surface control center of Cimtar itself. Chas nudged the reactor up in preperation to to fire up the engines, according to the report, the Cylons should be arriving just about, now. In a flash two scimitar sentient raiders appeared well back from the tailing target vessel. They were going normal and on course for a few seconds when they hit retros. ‘They must know how to count after all’ Chas thought, then hit his comm switch, he gave the code word for attack over the scrambled and encoded TAC channel

“BOO” was all he said, then the 20 vipers came to life and hit their throttles moving quickly toward the raiders. An action not lost on the Cylons, they saw some of the Vipers come up over the tops of the forward ships and turned to make a run for it. When they turned they found that the other half of the wings were wating for them. All began firing.

They split up in an attempt to get clear and make a jump to inform the others, one was hit before it could pass over the nearest target ship. The other fired several missiles making some of the Vipers break away, two were hit and exploded splitting the hulls wide open. The persuers fired and hit the second raider. This took out one of its engines, slowing it considerably. More fire took it out completely.

“Score one for Geminon” one of the pilots said quietly within his cockpit. With the patrol eliminated they formed up and using laser mic wireless took inventory of their unit.

“’Weasel’ and ’Tiny’ were hit Sir” Chas’s wingman Kelly “Bandit’ Barris informed the young lieutenant.

“I saw.” he tried not to think about it, they still had a mission. “lets catch up to ’Lifeguard’”

“Roger that Sir” Bandit answered the comm was broke and they hit turbos on course to catch up with the CHYMERA and ITHACA. If they were lucky, the patrol wouldn’t be missed for a couple of hours.

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Colonel Greenlee’s voice boomed through the ship.

“Set condition one throughout the ship, all hands man battle stations, repeat set condtion one, all hands man your battle stations”

All of the crew by now knew when and where they where going to be jumping to, so it took mere seconds for them to report to the CIC that all stations were manned and ready for action. Lt. Bowem received the calls and set the board. Then made his report.

“All stations report manned and ready Sir.”

“Very Well,” Hawke looked around the CIC. He picked up the handset and keyed the ship wide address.

“Attention all hands, this is the Commander. We are about to make our jump back to the Colonies. A lot of people are depending on us to get them out of there. To do so were going to have to avoid the Cylons as much as possible, unlike last time when we did our best to give them a black eye. I know this seems like running to some of you, or cowardice. But in fact we will be doing the bravest thing we can. Keeping the Cylons away from an unarmed and damaged ship, and making them chase us like a dog does a rabbit. What the Cylons don’t remember is, that’s OUR Briar patch, so we know where all the thorns are. Lets make sure our new group of citizens make it to our new home.”

“So say we all” Greenlee added.

“SO SAY WE ALL” everyone on CIC shouted.

“Take us to Batwah orbit String” Hawke said as he replaced the handset.

“Aye Sir, plot, initiate jump on my mark, 5,4,3,2,1, JUMP” Greenlee said then the room seemed to expand and their senses exploded as the Battlecruiser vanished.

The Batwah asteroid field rested between the inner worlds of the Colonies and the gas giants of the outer system, Junip and its major moon Cimtar being the closest of those. The field contained a menagerie of rocks and balls of ice, some electrical fields from highly charged particles that formed when some comets broke off and headed in system from the suns gravity and collisions within the asteroids. It was here the GOLIATH first appeared within the Cyrannus system.

“Plot, where are we.” Greenlee inquired. (After his head reattached itself).

“Right on the mark Sir, 12 klicks this side of the field.”

“Excellent, Flight launch Vipers in sequence, get the Peregrine out of my Bay. Frakkin ugly looking ship anyway.” he said lightheartedly. Hawke just looked at him. Shaking his head. In many ways they were dynamicaly opposed, Hawke always serious, Greenlee with a smile and a joke at the ready. Captain winger the flight officer just smiled.

“Launching Arrows flight Alpha . Peregrine Core control transferred, and launching.”

“Senoa, give me Commscan, lets get a track of all units in the system, friendly or otherwise. If anything shows up to close we jump again. Roger that plot? I want us ready to move to point epsilon at my command.”

“Roger that Sir” was the ops tech and his plot officers reply. Hawke happened to glance over at Ensign Hally’s station, her head set was glued to her ears and she looked like she had drank way to much coffee. Her eyes darting over three monitors she had set up while the scanners and communications intercepts were recorded for her later analysis.

“Flights Beta is moving into launch position.” Winger called out.

Hawke hated having only ten launch tubes, Captain Sassinak hated it even more, they could only launch one ’wing’ of ten at a time. It took four launches to get the whole squadron space born. He looked up at the DRADIS console, there on the track was the Peregrine moving away. Then it disappeared as its jump engines engaged. ’Good luck Dragon’ he thought. that’s another officer he stood a good chance of losing this day.

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“We’ve cleared the hanger Dragon.” Witch was saying. She switched her guns to active and the green light of the heads up display appeared on her faceplate. The twin eyeball guns on the forward wings now looked where she did, Dragon was doing the same with the nose mini gun. Testing the system and making sure the floating cross hairs were adjusted where he wanted them.

“Spook, scanner and counter-measure status?” Dragon asked the CSO lt. Steven “Spook” Giles

In the rear compartment of the Peregrine drop ship.

“were all good back here Dragon.” he answered. ‘as good as one can be with 40 frakkin scarab missiles riding virtually unsecured under our butts.’ he thought to himself. When he saw those racks in the APC bay during pre flight he about fainted.

“jump coordinates locked, get ready people, its about to get interesting” Dragon said as he hit the initiator. Witch just waved at the Vipers as they sped by until they were no longer there. Then they arrived where Hawke had hoped they would least expect them. The remains of the asteroid that the GOLIATH had wiped out during their raid on Sagitara. This had been a risk since the reactor of the listening post had flooded the area with radiation. Even so, they managed to arrive in one piece.

“Passives are showing extensive radiation, we cant stay here long pilot.” Spook commented.

“Roger that.” Dragon repied, but then used a burst from the retros to move even closer. Even Witch got a bit worried.

“Um Logan? Watcha doing?” she asked.

“This stuff should mask our jump energy spike. don’t worry were not staying in here long.” he answered as he moved right through the huge rocks that once made up the Cylon post. As they passed through they could see Cancer beneath them. It looked almost serene as it spun silently in clear view. Also in clear view was a Cylon Basestar as it orbited in place of the outpost.

“I cant get a clear reading on it with all this radiation Dragon.” Spook was saying as they neared the inner edge of the debris.

“no problem” Dragon said, then hit the throttle and boosters for all they were worth. Spook was unprepared and was slammed into the back of his seat. G forces kept him from raising his arms.

“FRAK!” he shouted.

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“that’s two hours Sir, we have to detach now.” Lt Garab told his C.O. Captain Rath aready knew that. The offloading was complete and they were well on the way into the system. Engines were straining to keep the larger Battlestar stable and on course. What power and fuel they could spare had been transferred to the ITHACA during the personnel off load. Their long range scanner told them probes and patrols had detected them, but may not see two ships docked together the way they were.

“clear the airlocks and get us separated.” Rath ordered. The answers to the affimrative came as he looked at the display and main view port. The Vipers were at extreme distance just within Actual wireless range. The shuttle was still aboard the ITHACA but everyone else was evacuated.

“Swimmer, this is Lifeguard, time to make our dive, repeat time to make our dive.” Rath said into the comm.

“Roger that lifeguard. Were swimming on our own. Get the sauna ready. Out”

“Confirmed Swimmer.” Rath concluded. Then nodded to Garab. He hit the release and the docking clamps were retracted, they felt the hull shake as they separated. And were now on their own.

“Flight, recall all Vipers, go to phase two.” Rath ordered.

“Roger that Captain.”

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Captain Mantis of the Avenging Angels was at the controls of shuttle ‘Tango’ as it and the Ghost squadron headed inward toward Virgon. Moving at cruising speed normal for a group with its raptor as it approached its target. They were actively scanning as if looking for something to attack. His wingman Timothy “crazy man” Horn was using the remote unit guiding the mock vipers ( the refitted probes ) around them. They had already buzzed one set of raiders moving to within a near solid scanning range. Then as he was sure they were about to jump to meet them and engage, they jumped to their secondary location into one of the gaps Ensign Hally had calculated prior to entering the system. Now they had a squadron entering the edges of the shuttle longer scanner range. He estimated it would be almost five minutes until they got a glimpse of the Ghosts. Then another five before they would get a solid lock on the jump coordinates. At which time they would jump again.

As ordered and on schedule Mantis set the wireless to full power and broadcast in the clear.

“Blue squadron to home base, Blue squadron to home base, target sighted and we will engage, repeat we will engage.”. of course they had no intention of engaging. The probes were unarmed , as was the shuttlle, only two sets of missiles had been mounted to the hull just in case. But the Cylons didn’t know that. As far as the long range scan of either side could tell the energy signatures made the probes look like Mark VII vipers. Frak if he didn’t see them with his own eyes even at this range he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. He waited a few more minutes, broadcast his message again, then as the Raiders closed the gap on an intercept course he told crazy man to send the squad to point gamma. Then just after the probes vanished, the shuttle jumped as well to start the same routine all over again.

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Captain Sassinak was in the lead of her squadron. Unlike the probes they were armed and would attack if given the chance. They had regrouped after the slow launch from the GOLIATH. Then watched as she jumped yet again to another part of the system. Such a large spike of energy would no doubt be seen by any scanners in the system and they couldn’t wait around to see if anyone could pinpoint them. Granted the interference from the field would mask them to a degree. But Hawke wasn’t taking any chances. Moving in a conic section flight path the Arrows traveled slowly inward in an ever tightening circle. Starting in a standard V formation of ten each they kept a safe distance between wings. If anything should jump in among them they have a good chance to break and attack.

Sassinak watched her display. If all was going as planned, the CHYMERA was now recovering the Orphans, and the Ghosts were making the Cylons think whole units were appearing and disappearing all over the place. Also by now the Peregrine would be wreaking its own havoc. If so half of their objectives were almost complete. Their engines were at lowest thrust just enough to manuever in the circular course toward a new asteroid with an even newer but incomplete listening post on it. Its tactical value was minimal, but it was far out in the Colonial orbits. Good for a diversion, once it was destroyed.

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The GOLIATH reappeared at a position near the inner edge on the 90 degree axis point from their previous location, what was special and so attractive about this particular spot was that if you look inward toward the sun, the planet Caprica could be seen in eclipse. And in orbit of that, the command Basestar. If and this was a BIG if, Ensigns Hally’s data on her orbital speed remained constant. In exactly 14 minutes and 43 seconds it would be between them, and the surface at an equatorial distance of 190 klicks over the surface. Before that however, the mass driver of the GOLIATH was going to send a volley of projectiles twice the size of a Viper at nearly ¾ the speed of light. (that’s about 135,000 klicks a second ) the wonderful thing about space is, once an object is moving at a particular speed, it stays at that speed indefinitely, or until a greater force is applied in another direction to move it. A little demonstration in this basic law of physics was just what Hawk! e thought the Cylons needed about now. Noone (not even them) could detect or stop an object at that speed.

“Helm, get us locked on station NOW!” Hawke shouted, they would only get one chance at this. The position had to be exact. The merest fraction of an inch would make a difference of miles in azimuth in their firing solution.

“Thrusters are at full burn, the computer is locking us on target of the coordinates of the expected position Sir.” Greenlee was watching as the mass drivers capacitors were charged and the additional energizers were brought on line. This would be a true test of the mass drivers speed loading capabilities.

Hawke looked anxiously at the DRADIS console, a patrol was detected on long range scan, that in real time meant they were within minutes of their position, but didn’t see them yet. Once they did, the Cylons would jump to investigate.

“firing solution positive, auto fire in 5,4,3,2,1, Firing.” Greenlee yelled. And the light aboard dimmed as all power was channeled into the massive magnetic rings of the barrel. The bullets out of visual and scanner range instantly. 6 projectiles hurled inward now unstoppable. ‘Lords how he wished he could see it for himself when they hit. (if they hit)’ Hawke thought.

“Alright plot get us out of here, proceed to the pick up point” Hawke shouted. He hoped one of the probes would pick it up. Then the GOLIATH flashed and was somewhere else.

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The Peregrine was at full burn heading right for the Basestar over Cancer. Radiation from the listening post clung to the hull , that with the echo counter measures made them nearly invisible to the Cylon scanners until it was too late. Dragon powered up his target scanner and locked onto the massive armored hull of the behemoth. Then armed and fired ten scarabs in ‘follow me mode’ then two of the nuclear warheads right at the connecting point of the double Y hulls. It was a trick he had used before, but he didn’t have as much surprise before as he did this time. He banked hard over as the missles sped away, their gun enplacements starting firing but couldn’t get a solid lock. The first scarabs hit and ripped a hole in the hull plating, the second set made it wider, then the nukes passed into the depths of the Cylon capital ship. Waited ten seconds, then detonated. Both warheads at full strength well within its hull, the main energizer and fuel cells followed shortly ther! eafter. Leaving a large fireball where the basestar once was.

“Frak that radiation has fouled up our FTL fix.” Spook was saying as the basestar ceased to exist.

“keep on it it will disipate soon.” Dragon replied.

“Not soon enough, a squadron of raiders just rose over the terminator and have seen us, were getting hits of targeting scanners. “ Spook pointed out the lock ons and they all heard them in their ear pieces. Dragon looked at the display, 40 raiders, and only 30 scarabs in their pods. Jumping was not an option yet.

“when all else fails, turn and burn.” Dragon said then spun the nose back to point at the rising raiders. Then triggered his mini gun, Witch followed suit with her wing guns. The rapid fire shells impacting with the barrage the cylons were sending at them. Some getting through. A few raiders were hit. So were they.

“were taking hits, so far systems are still on line” Spook watched as his monitors told him of the impacts on the hull, several systems had to be rerouted to redundant ones.

“Dragon we cant take much more,” Witch was saying, “guns at 60%”

“pop chaff Spook” Dragon yelled and Spook hit the mechanical release for the small mini rockets that would send out a ’hot’ signal of a colonial comm channel. These were designed to make the enemy lock onto the active signal and lose track of them as they were sending none.

Five of the small round targets flew from their box at the top center of the hull just behind the round sensor dome on the spine. The Cylons fire was redirected as they picked up the signal, Dragon used that distraction to swing around again and put their aft to them and run. He kicked in the boosters again and gained some distance from the persueing Cylons.

“theres still 14 of them back there” Witch said.

“Missile lock, they’re firing” Spook shouted. Dragon switched to intercepts and rotated the mini missile pods on the underside of the ship back toward the Cylons, then fired six missile seeking missiles. All hit their target, but the last one was dangerously close.

“Time to go” Spook said looking at the FTL system, “were clean enough to get a fix”

“Setting Coordinates, stand by” Dragon called to his crew. Then as the board went green, hit the initiator.

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The Golden Arrows were on final approach to their target. The listening post was just ahead. The Vipers moved in closer together, the plan was to make a single pass and fire what they could then get the frak out of there. If they were on time the Peregrine would show up to finish the job and cover their escape to meet the GOLIATH at the pick up point. What they didn’t know was that the post was more complete than they thought. Although it appeared to be still under construction, taking a lesson from the previous posts demise this one had given priority to the sensors that would detect enemy craft. The structure and support still just a framework. Passive scanners had been watching, wireless traffic listened to. Across the system colonial frequencies were very active, some uncoded calls from a squadron that said they were about to attack. Others from a ship that for the last two hours was on a course for Caprica. Forces were being diverted to there. A raider jumped in sent! an encoded message to watch for other forces. Then jumped back out, the post went into full active mode sending out a high energy pulse, what it didn’t expect was an almost instant echo from a Cylon passive Model 11 disk in close proximity. It sent another pulse and got the same return. Closer this time . The sentient AI of the station turned the massive antenna array toward the signal and repeated the pulse. It got a stronger return and a positive lock. It called to the Raiders in standby mode docked at the hanger of its ‘body’, the asteroid, all 20 scimitars awoke and launched to investigate.

Captain ’Syren” Sassinak looked at her IFF scanner and saw the pulse of the scanner bathe the hull, but they were too distant for a positve lock. So she thought, but then the pulse repeated. Still, her own passives had shown the entry and exit of the raider. Perhaps they were just going into a higher state of alert. Then a third pulse, even stronger, and directed right at them hit the ships. ’what the frak’ she thought, ‘they see us, well in that case, the best defense, is a good offence.’.

She clicked on her transciever.

“We’re eyeballed boys, lets go crazy” she called out. Then all 40 Vipers formed up and moved into groups of five, each half wing started a zig zag pattern criss crossing the wing above it, half seemed to be about to collide with the other as they approached, weapons hot and sensors active. The Cylons picked up the active scan, and armed weapons, sent a scan of their own to lock their missiles onto the targets, but they seemed to be unable to maintain course. The pattern was confusing the missile lock. Just as their system had adpted to the strange pattern, it changed. the targets were now going in a large circle within a circle, and they were very close.

“Merry go round” Syren called out and the Vipers made a circle of ships 20 to a ring one inside the other, the outer ring going clockwide the other counter clockwise, the circles grew tighter until the center ring had a lock on the Cylons, then they all started firing. Half of the raiders were instantly shredded, the rest broke formation and tried to regroup. The Vipers paired off into what was almost a text book combat maneuver. Something the Cylons recognized. That lasted for all of a second.

Then they seemed to disengage and head away from them and the post. In all directions. 20 raiders have a hard time following 40 Vipers so they followed the one Viper that had sent the commands. Syren’s. massive fired followed her, as she banked, turned banked again, the rest of her team repositioned themselves behind the raiders and began firing. That got their attention, half broke off and reversed course. Several more were hit, so were four vipers. Just as Syren thought she had run out of tricks and had bought it several missiles flew over her canopy and slammed into the 11 remaining raiders.

“what the Frak?” she yelled out, then the big belly of the Peregrine passed over her too.

“cant leave you Viper types alone for a moment can we” Dragon could be heard over the Viper TAC frequency. As she came about and moved along side the Peregrine the rest of her squadron had cleaned up the rest of the raiders. This had not gone unnoticed by the post sentinel. It had called for reinforcements. A patrol of 20 more raiders was on the way.

The Arrows and the Peregrine made their run at the post, their heavy fire along with ten of the scarabs made sure that was the last signal that sentinel would ever send. The straffing run complete the Vipers headed for the rondevous point.

“thanks Dragon, see you back at the bar.” Syren called out as they hit turbos and headed outbound once more.

“Your Buying this time Syren.” he answered. Thinking back to how she made him buy her whole wing a round for setting them up at Sagitara like that. They waited to let the radiation dissipate more so they could make a good FTL fix and the longer jump to point epsilon when the Cylon patrol arrived. 20 raiders came out of jump right over the remains of the post.

“Dragon we have company” spook saw the raiders on his scanners.

“Frak, we cant let them catch up to the Arrows. “ Dragon said looking at the heads up display.

“I was more concerned with us surviving.” Spook added.

Witch was already cutting loose with her guns even though they were at long range. Long for a normal human. Right on target for Dragon and Witch. The guns tracked right on the raiders, which they figured out after five were ripped apart. Then the thrusters sent the ship forward the Cylons spreading out not wanting to give the strange ship another chance.

“they’re locking missiles” Spook saw the flash as the scanners detected the launch of a wave of incoming fire. Dragon switched to the intercepts again and fired another dozen at them. He pushed the throttle sending them inbound toward the inner planets, and away from Syrens Vipers.

As Dragon was doing that, Spook fired 6 of the drones, those few that got through the intercepts locked onto the decoys as they flew away. Four were hit.

“they still have us locked”

“how many Spook?”

“I make 12,”

“I got 3 while you two were futzing about” Witch said.

Even though they were at close to full burn and accelerating Dragon spun around again. ‘Time for a surprise’ he thought and hit the ramp control. The ramp lowered and locked he hit the ‘arm’ remote setting the rack of scarabs into impact mode. Then another switch that would send the the scarabs out of the bay. In a burst of expanding gases they flew out and began tumbling into the flight path of the Cylons. With no power from their engines. They had no energy signature. After their release he flipped the Peregrine around again. And hit the boosters. Forcing the Cylons to accelerate to try and catch up. that’s the last thing they did as the screen of missiles impacted their hulls.

“that got them” Spook said after he checked the scanner again.

“Can we go home now daddy?” Witch asked in her typical sarcastic tone.

“yes Witch, set the coordinates.” he said. Then raised the ramp. Made sure the ship was buttoned up. Saw the jump engines come on line. Then hit the switch. In a flash they were gone.

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Captain Marro was in the shuttle with the rest of the rescue team from the GOLIATH, they were guiding the ITHACA in toward Caprica. Their interlink with the CIC told them that they had been scanned several times and on course. She hoped the remote system held so she would not be forced to return to the CIC and pilot the ship herself. So far the raiders had made a few passes at them but their standard ordinance was no match for the heavy armor. The closer they got the more runs made at them. One even fired a nuke at them that ripped up a good portion of the port hull of the bow. After nearly an hour they were on final approach to orbit. There ahead of them just above and to starboard was the Basestar. As soon as they were in range the Cylons sent everything they had at them. Now the ITHACA was in trouble. They were rocked as the explosion on the hull battered them. With them sitting on the starboard hanger they were facing the incoming fire. That couldn’t be helped since t! heir helm control was at a minimum.

“our telemetry feed is holding, but I’m not sure how much longer it will” Chief bishop was saying as Marro readied the shuttle for launch. Another jolt as more fire hit the ship. Just as they got within kill range, the Basestar virtually exploded before their eyes. Ok it was a visual feed from the CIC and the external cameras. All the same they couldn’t believe what they saw. Something ripped right through the Basestar. Then a huge piece of one of the upper Y hull was cut off. The wounded ship spiraled toward the atmosphere. At least two massive impacts had blown large portions of the Cylon war machine apart. But it was far from dead. As it lost control it made a last effort believing it was getting hit by the ITHACA’s mass drivers. The engines tried to compensate and pull them out of reentry.

“lets get out of here” Marro said. the other were inclined to agree.

“Cut the line Bishop” she ordered.

“Yes Sir.” he replied and yanked the wires from the control panel moved to the hatch and threw them out. Then shut it.

“Ready!” he shouted. Colonel Lennox was in the co pilot seat and released the mag lock and released the docking clamp on the hull,

“Good by old girl” he said quietly and pushed the throttle. The shuttle cleared the bay and they spun up their FTL drive and tried to get a fix. As they waited for the computer to calculate their jump they looked out the view port and saw the ITHACA hit with a barrage of heavy fire. And still the ship headed for the Basestar. They were sure they would collide then they made their jump.

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2.5 light days outside the system in the void of space the CHYMERA with the crew of the ITHACA and survivors from the test range control center waited for the arrival of the shuttles. Captain Rath paced the bridge wondering who if anyone would arrive. The time for their jump back to Carillon with or without the shuttles was fast approaching.

“Sir Commscan shows something coming out of jump.“ his exec. Told him.

“Set condition Alpha, ready guns, stand by for jump” he called out and returned to his seat. If they had been found he would have to leave the others behind.

“Captain, it’s the marine shuttle.“ Garab smiled, “they’re requesting permission to land.“

“Granted. Stand down from condition Alpha.” First to arrive was Captain Rodo and his squad of marines. They had completed their mission of seeding the derelicts with warheads on their fuel lines and reactor cores. Now they were safely back aboard the guardsman cutter.

“Jump engines are on line and ready Sir.” Garab continued, he watched the commscan and the chrono. It was getting closer to their deadline. Next was the ghost shuttle and the probes. Several flashes as the Viper size drones and the main shuttle appeared and headed for the port hanger pod. “Ghost Rider to CHYMERA, mission accomplished. Us lost souls are ready to come home.” Captain Mantis called over the wireless. Then got permission to dock. The drones first. They had lost two more from malfunctions. Once they had lost control, he had no choice but to destroy them by remote. The Cylons couldn’t know they had been unmanned. Then almost on top of them the Peregrine came out of jump and sped past them. The upper reverse thrusters to either side of the cockpit flared to life to bring them to a stop. Dragon used the VTOL thrusters to maneuver them back behind the Cutter so they could dock as well. By this time, time was getting short, in a matter of minutes they would have to ! leave. After another agonizing wait, seemed longer the more anxious Rath got. the GOLIATH with the Arrows aboard finally appeared. The huge Battlecruiser came along side. Captain Rath smiled, apparently they had been successful.

“Open a channel to the GOLIATH” Rath ordered. Hawkes voice could be heard over the address system.

“GRIFFIN to CHYMERA. Status.”

“CHYMERA to GRIFFIN. Mission to assist the ITHACA to jump a failure. All hands believed to be lost. Squadrons have failed to arrive as scheduled. Departure required. Fuel critical. “ of course this was the exact opposite of what their true status was, but he and Hawke knew that in a day and a half the Cylons would intercept these transmissions.

“Roger that CHYMERA. Half of available fighters destroyed in attack on listening post. Forced to retreat by superior forces.” Hawke put on his acting voice as he infomed Rath (and the Cylons) of the events of their assault.

“scanners and probes show that there was no sign of Valhalla at Cimtar as expected. Proceed to the Promar sector as planned. GRIFFIN out.” Hawke fnished his transmission, then both ships, made their return jump back into the Nova Madagon. Leaving their system once more.

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Epilogue.

Leo the number seven in command of the Basestar over Sagitara read the reports from the Command Base Star and it’s run-in with the Battlestar identified as the ITHACA, then read the after action report from the three base stars that had arrived too late to successfully attack the unknown battlestar. All indications were it had succeeded in rescuing the nuisance called the Peregrine. Not only that Basestar, but the one over Cancer was gone as well. Then more losses of a large number of raiders and a listening post sentinel would have to be made up.

Number One was not overly happy to hear about his counterparts withdrawal from the battle, but realized that it was the only logical thing that could have been done, given the tactical situation. Nor was she pleased at Leo’s for not preventing the raid at Sagitara, or the diversion of forces to maintain surveillance over the Colonies instead of moving to engage the Battlestars. Thanks to the recently enacted policy that had concentrated on hunting down the Battlestar GALACTICA, the relative lack of forces in the Cyrannus Sector had enabled this two-pronged attack to succeed. True, the Battlestar ITHACA had been destroyed, and intelligence gleaned from the wrecked battlestar had determined that it was the one that had attempted to save Valhalla Station - but failed, was good news, but the fact that another battlestar was in this system with substantial numbers of fighters meant that the humans were far from being defeated.

“There will be a greater number of base stars deployed in this system from here on out”, she had directed at a council-of-war he had been ordered to attend.

“Also, one task force will be detached from the Promar Sector in order to free-lance through other sectors for any trace of this rogue battlestar. The recent losses are unacceptable”.

“But this will cut down on the searchers for the GALACTICA”, Number Eleven objected, “The Promar Sector is immense, and for all we know it could have been the GALACTICA who made that other attack”.

“All of our intelligence says that no substantial numbers of fighters from Task Force Five - where the PACIFICA was - had made it to the GALACTICA when it was at Ragnar Anchorage, and Number Seven reported that an entire wing of fighters had the designation of the wing that was based on that particular warship, and it had been definitely confirmed destroyed”, she replied.

She was annoyed at Number Eleven - after all, it was his idea to have as many Cylon forces as possible to concentrate on the GALACTICA, believing that these other human forces would not be capable of anything really serious. As a result she was forced to transfer her Command to a replacement Basestar while the damaged one was moved to another orbit. Depleting their resources even more. She had been fortunate that only 2 of the 6 projectiles had hit her ship. The other four impacted on the surface of Caprica. Leaving some rather sizable craters. One of those unfortunately had hit a recently completed hunter-killer control station, neutralizing whole units of drones on the surface. If it wasn’t for the fact that his consciousness would be transferred to another entity of his model type, she would have seriously considered having Number Eleven killed for this error of judgment. The Battlestar ITHACA was a case in point. It was not regarded as a anything close t! o a serious threat, and look what had happened as a result!

“So where does that leave us?”, Number Twelve asked her, putting into words that all of the others present were thinking. No one would admit it, but all of them were shaken at this brazen in-system attack at the hands of these remnants of humanity.

“It leaves us with a problem that has to be solved. We cannot stop until the human race has been annihilated!”, Number One replied forcefully, “These attacks - and this recent attack would have had to have been coordinated for them to occur simultaneously - are a clear message from the humans to us”.

“What message is that?”, Number Four asked.

“That they are prepared to fight to the finish, and that nowhere will be safe for us while they survive”, Number One answered. The others fell silent. Number One had made it clear: If they don’t destroy the humans, eventually, the humans will destroy them.

Shortly after the council had broken up, a message was dispatched to all Cylon task force units: RECENT ATTACK IN CYRANNUS SECTOR BY TWO HUMAN BATTLESTARS NECESSITATES REDEPLOYING ADDITIONAL UNITS FROM PROMAR SECTOR. WHILE PRIMARY GOAL OF LOCATING AND DESTROYING GALACTICA IS UNCHANGED, TWO TASK FORCES (FORCE SIGMA AND FORCE CHI) WILL BE DEPLOYED BACK TO CYRANNUS SYSTEM WHILE ONE TASK FORCE (FORCE RHO) WILL CONDUCT SECTOR-TO-SECTOR SEARCH FOR OTHER BATTLESTAR. IDENTITY OF THIS BATTLESTAR STILL UNCERTAIN, BUT TO REPEAT TWO VIPER WINGS FROM THIS WARSHIP WERE DEPLOYED IN RECENT BATTLE. ONE OF THESE WINGS WAS ORIGINALLY BASED ON DESTROYED BATTLESTAR CALLED PACIFICA. REVISE ALL ATTACK STRATEGIES ACCORDINGLY.

PRIORITY IS NOW GIVEN TO OPERATION ‘LIVE BAIT’ UNITS DEPLOYED FOR THAT WILL REMAIN ON STATION UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. RAIDERS TO BE DISPATCHED FOR REINFORCEMENTS TO COMMAND BASESTAR WHEN COLONIAL FORCES ENCOUNTERED BY ANY BAIT UNITS.

FURTHER ATTACKS BY THE VESSEL KNOWN AS PEREGRINE ARE TO BE EXPECTED. THIS VESSEL HAS BEEN RESPONCIBLE FOR THE LOSS OR SEVERE DAMAGE OF FOUR BASESTARS, AND NUMOROUS RAIDERS. IT IS TO BE DESTROYED BY ANY MEANS NECCASARY.

Leo returned to his Basestar after the council with renewed determination. He was ecstatic that the mystery of Valhalla station was solved. It was gone forever. Lost ‘between’ in a failed FTL jump. And now the Capital ship that helped it into oblivion was gone as well. The two Guardsman cutters however were still on the loose. They posed little threat since they were nearly unarmed. He also set personal goals for himself. One, he would find and destroy the Peregrine. Two, regardless how harmless the cutters seemed. He would search them out as well.

Now three days after the invasion of the Colonials they had further information that these two cutters along with the two Battlestars had entered to system to search for Valhalla to confirm its destruction. Their messages not being in military code, rather in the codes used by the Guardsman, had been relatively easy to decode. Yes, despite these large set backs, over all the war was proceeding well. Only two Battlestars and two helpless cutters remained until all of humanity would be gone.

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Hawke had called a meeting of his senior officers after going over the after action reports from all the units. Their time within the system had been well spent. But the cost had been high. Eight of the Orphans and four of the Arrows had been killed. The funeral ceremony for them had been held yesterday. Light losses considering they saved more than 700 aboard the ITHACA. She too had died a noble death. Very nearly taking that Basestar with her. Much of the same group that had been gathered before the attack were present. Who wasn’t present was Governor Ramius. Hawke had decided that Civilian representatives weren’t needed for what was strictly a military matter.

Now a week after the attack all the units had taken their time to mourn. Others had completed repairs to the fighters and ships. The boon in intelligence intercepts alone was incredible. Most were unaware of the revelations that had been made during the attack. Ensign Hally had been as breathless as a marathon runner right after their return. Giving Hawke only, the news of the attack by a Battlestar on a Basestar as they were hitting the one over Caprica. He ordered her to keep this compartmentalized until some cooborating evidence was found. Now after seven days of researching all the telemetry from every ship and probe. He was ready to make that announcement.

He told the marines outside the ward room hatch to make sure noone entered until the meeting was over. Then proceeded to the podium.

“Attention people. Be seated and lets get this going. “ Hawke called out. The officers and Chiefs all took their places at the tables. Sealed reports rested on the table in front of them. All with “YOUR EYES ONLY’ stamped bodly on each.

“First, I’d like to welcome Colonel Lennox aboard the GOLIATH, and congratulate he and his Exec. Captain Marro on their escape from the ITHACA. I’m sorry your ship had to be sacrificed that way Colonel, but as you will see in the report. She served a higher purpose.” Hawke was very sorry any ship had to be lost, especially a Battlestar. He felt for Colonel Lennox knowing how he would feel if he lost the GOLIATH. He had already lost the GAUNTLET to the Cylons.

“Thank you Commander. My crew and I thank you for coming after us. We know you didn’t have to, and that you put yourself and this whole colony at exteme risk to get us. The ITHACA is a small price to pay for our lives.” He said and the rest gave a small polite applause. After a week of such condolences and congratulations he as getting used to the idea he no longer had a ship to command.

“you may now open your reports.” Hawke said and the seals were broken and they all began reading. What it told them was that combat the than their attacks were recorded. The wireless exchanges between the Basestars clearly showed that another Battlestar had attacked while they were rescuing the ITHACA. A translation of the Cylon coded message read.

[ BASE STAR TWO-NINER ENGAGING COLONIAL WARSHIP OF BATTLESTAR TYPE AT CO-ORDINATES NINER-NINER-FOUR MARK ZERO-FIVE-EIGHT. HAVE SUFFERED HEAVY DAMAGE. ENEMY VIPER STRENGTH ESTIMATED AT SEVENTY-PLUS. REINFORCEMENTS URGENTLY REQUESTED. ] highlighted the report. That wasn’t all, and much to Captain masters surprise was another set of reports of the reason for the Battlestars presence within the system. Another Peregrine was being rescued by the unknown Battlestar.

[ PATROL LEADER DESTROYED. SELF SEVERELY DAMAGED AFTER BEING HIT BY MISSILES LAUNCHED FROM HUMAN RAPTOR-CLASS RECONNAISSANCE VESSEL. RAPTOR WAS IN THE COMPANY OF DAMAGED PEREGRINE-CLASS GUNSHIP. SITUATION INDICATES RESCUE MISSION UNDERWAY ]

“HOLY FRAK” Masters exclaimed. Seeing the report. Then he wondered who could have been out there? Then he read further. What he found was astonishing. TAC channel transmissions had been picked up by his ship. On the dedicated interlink between Peregrines. It wasn’t until Ensign Hally had downloaded the flight recorder and scanned the files that they were seen. But there they were.

[ signal1: PEREGRINE PROTOTYPE FIVE, COLONIAL UNIT RESPONDING TO YOUR SIGNAL. PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE.

Signal2: PEREGRINE FIVE TO COLONIAL UNIT. RECEIVED YOUR MESSAGE. REQUEST CONFIRMATION OF YOUR IDENTITY BEFORE POSITION DETAILS CAN BE SENT.

Signal1: UNABLE TO COMPLY AT THIS MOMENT REGARDING IDENTITY FOR SECURITY REASONS. PLEASE STAND BY FOR QUESTIONS TO CONFIRM YOUR IDENTITY. ACKNOWLEDGE WHEN READY.

Signal2:ACKNOWLEDGED. STANDING BY.

Signal1: WHAT IS THE CALL-SIGN OF THE COMMAND PILOT OF PEREGRINE ONE?

Signal2: DRAGON

Signal1: REPLY TO FOLLOWING QUESTIONS: WHO WAS THE GUEST WHO SPENT THE MOST TIME WITH YOU IN THE O-CLUB, WHERE WAS HE FROM, AND WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU ON THE LAST NIGHT BEFORE HE WENT HOME?

Signal2: LIEUTENANT HELO, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, CLEANED US OUT IN CARDS.

Signal1: YOUR IDENTITIES CALL-SIGNS HONDO AND COFFIN CONFIRMED. STAND BY FOR RELAY OF INFORMATION TO HOME PLATE

RESCUE BEING ORGANIZED. TRANSMIT RENDEZVOUS CO-ORDINATES.

CO-ORDINATES RECEIVED. RETURNING TO HOME PLATE. RESCUE OPERATION WILL PROCEED

This was followed by a small transcript of short range wireless traffic on the TAC-1 frequency used by the Peregrines.

Voice1: “ Peregrine Five, this is Recon Raptor One. How are you and Coffin doing, Hondo?”

Voice2: “Still broke, thanks to your lucky hand of cards, Helo”

Voice1: “Where are you, Hondo?”, : Switch to Laser, Hondo”

Then nothing further. Both ships must have switched to line of sight laser communications.

“Well Captain Masters, you were the Senior test pilot at Militech during the evaluations, do you recognize those names? Could they really be our people?” Hawke asked him as Masters poured over the files. He thought back reviewing the schedules clear in his augmented memory. The displays he read that day replayed themselves.

“Yes Sir, those are the pilots I assigned that day. But the reference to ‘Helo”, he was suppose to be aboad the GALACTICA.” Masters answered. During his short time aboard the GALACTICA back at Ragnar, he had asked Lt. Geata if Helo was aboard. Only to find out that he had been left behind at Caprica by his co-pilot, a rook named “Boomer”. that didn’t sit to well with Masters at the time. But now here was evidence that he was alive and aboard a rogue Battlestar.

“After a lot of filtering and analysis, Ensign Hally and I are convinced this was the work of the Battlestar PEGASUS.” Hawke finally said as most had viewed much of the data in the files by now. Many were shocked. But all were pleased beyond description.

“Contacting the PEGASUS is now a priority. Probes from the CHYMERA will be sent out programmed to send with and listen for TAC-1 channel messages.” Hawke continued. “they obviously now have a Peregrine aboard as well as scout Raptors, so hopefully they’ll find us first.”

“Preferably before the Cylons do” Captain Sassinak added. All had to agree.

“Thank you for that little addition CAG. “ Hawke admonished her with a look, but she just smiled. He continued.

“Apparently the Cylons bought our performance and now believe that Valhalla is no more. Also that the GALACTICA and the PEGASUS,although they havent placed a name on her yet, are the only capital ships out here. So were safe. For the time being.”

Many attending didn’t feel that way as they read the rest of the report and intercepted Cylon transmissions.

[ RECENT ATTACK IN CYRANNUS SECTOR BY TWO HUMAN BATTLESTARS NECESSITATES REDEPLOYING ADDITIONAL UNITS FROM PROMAR SECTOR. WHILE PRIMARY GOAL OF LOCATING AND DESTROYING GALACTICA IS UNCHANGED, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX WILL CONDUCT SECTOR-TO-SECTOR SEARCH FOR OTHER BATTLESTAR. IDENTITY OF THIS BATTLESTAR STILL UNCERTAIN, BUT TO REPEAT TWO VIPER WINGS FROM THIS WARSHIP WERE DEPLOYED IN RECENT BATTLE. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX BATTLESTAR CALLED PACIFICA. REVISE ALL ATTACK STRATEGIES ACCORDINGLY.

PRIORITY IS NOW GIVEN TO OPERATXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX DEPLOYED FOR THAT WILL REMAIN ON STATION UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. RAIDERS TO BE DISPATCHED FOR REINFORCEMENTS TO COMMAND BASESTAR WHEN COLONIAL FORCES ENCOUNTERED. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

FURTHER ATTACKS BY THE VESSEL KNOWN AS PEREGRINE ARE TO BE EXPECTED. THIS VESSEL HAS BEEN RESPONCIBLE FOR THE LOSSXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX GE OF FOUR BASESTARS, AND NUMOROUS RAIDERS. IT IS TO BE DESTROYED BY ANY MEANS NECCASARY ]

some sections were either distorted or could not yet be decoded. Hally was still working on that.

“We’ve won a major victory and let the Cylons know that they will never be safe, they will never keep our homes as long as even one of our ships is out here. We accomplished a lot in just one attack with our forces out of communications, when we can truly coordinate our efforts with the GALACTICA and the PEGASUS, then they will really be in trouble. “ Hawke smiled thinking of the possibilities. “Until then, we wont let them rest. But neither can we. We must remain vigil, and on our guard against being found. There is also the possibility of a resistance back home. We will seek them out and aid where we can, to look for more resources, and survivors. To gather all that we can for our eventual return to the Colonies. I want you all to use your resources to work toward that end. Your individual orders are at the back of your reports, do not share them unless specified to do so. Nothing in them or that has been said here is to leave this room. Understood?” now Hawke’s face ha! d that deadly serious look on it. And all knew he meant it. Their orders reflected it as well. He was thinking in the long term. And they would do all they could to see it through.

The meeting ended with renewed hope. A Victory had been won, but the War was far from over. Hawke would see to that.

THE END.