Word Count: 4,605
Pairing/Focus: Original Characters
The sight of Virgon from space always made him breathless, even now as the planet's surface burned from the explosions... It had been three days since the Cylons attacked; Three days since the fleet was destroyed. Captain Michael "Werewolf" Starnes looked out the cockpit of his Viper and stared at what was once his home planet... All those people... The Seaside cafe that he and his wife had gone to when they were first dating... The small house on the shore that they bought soonafter they got married... All gone. He closed his eyes and listened to the silence...
"Werewolf, this is Kestral... Hey, Werewolf... Mikey?"
The sound of "Mikey" being called out from space woke him up then. "This is Werewolf..."
The tone in his voice was obvious to Lieutenant Kelley "Kestral" Briggs, his wingman (or in this case, wingwoman) as they completed their cover mission for the Raptor recon flight. "Mikey, I'm sure Lisa got out... Remember, she was on the liner flight to the Galactica..."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that the ship survived, Kes," he said through his wireless.
"You know me, I'm an optimist, even in times like this..."
Mikey smiled a bit for the first time since the Battlestar Solaria was destroyed, defending the very same planet they were now near. Ever since they met aboard the Solaria two years ago, Kelley Briggs and Michael Starnes had been close. It was he who had told her husband that he'd make sure she got off to the right start when she came aboard, and it was he who had broken the news to her a little over 7 months ago that he had been killed in a flight accident. Since that time, they had become almost like family, even to the point of Michael calling her "sis" from time to time. Now, as they both watched from their respective cockpits the Raptor rising from the charred surface of the planet, his friendship to Kelley Briggs meant more to him than anything... She was all the family he had left for all he knew.
"Viper 8-0-8-6, this is Raptor 3-1-7. Recon completed... Werewolf, there's not a soul left. Everyone's dead..." The words rang out like the tolling of horrible bells inside the helmet of Starnes... He sighed and nodded.
"Raptor 3-1-7, this is 8-0-8-6... Roger. Let's return to base..." Damn... We had to try, Starnes said to himself. Without anymore said, the three craft formed up and flew into space...
-- 6 Hours Later -- Portside Landing Bay, Gunstar Osiris (GST-27)
The three craft landed as gracefully as they could aboard the Gunstar... The Osiris hangar bays weren't meant for fighters or for recon craft; they hadn't been in 5 years, yet somehow 64 Vipers and three Raptors, the survivors from the combined air wings from the Solaria, Atlantia, Triton, and Columbia, now called this cramped ship 'home.' The hangar bays barely has any room left for her Falcon Trainers after taking on all those craft, and the addition of the two Vipers and one Raptor being wheeled in made the feeling of being stuffed into a can even more pronounced. The Osiris, by definition of role, wasn't meant for fighter support like a Battlestar was... All the Osiris's purpose in life was, quite simply, to train pilots and flight-deck personnel for service. Originally designed for fighter support and escort of the old Columbia Class Battlestars, she was, up until the Cylons attacked, one of only 6 Gunstars still in service, and the only one that retained her FTL capability, even after all 6 were redesignated as training ships. This alone made her the only Gunstar able to make a run for it when the fleet was destroyed. Now, she was the very last of her kind, and all alone in space...
As quickly as they could, the fast-moving deck handling teams squared the arriving craft away and allowed the crews to disembark. Lieutenant (JG) Loren "Longbow" Dietrich and his RSO, Lieutenant (JG) David "Mercury" Leverton, the first two to step onto the deck, disembarked from the Raptor and looked for the pair from the Vipers... Like Briggs and Starnes, they were survivors from the doomed Solaria. As soon as they found them, Dietrich sighed...
"Cag, we did our fly-by of the Khali Boneyards, and you're not going to like it... The nuke that hit the city took the entire base out. Any hopes for finding parts for the Osiris, much less the Vipers and Raptors, just went out the window."
Starnes cursed and hit his fist on the nose of his Viper. "Frak... Okay, we'll have to make due with what we have. I'll go on and make the report to the Commander, so you guys go on and get squared away."
Dietrich rubbed his shaved head and nodded. "Yessir. Mercury and I have an idea for cannibalizing a few of the Falcons for some key parts our ships need, so we'll probably work on that and give you a rundown as soon as we have the details ironed out."
"Good idea. Get cracking and I'll see you in a bit," Starnes said as he nodded to the duo and pulled Briggs along with him.
As soon as Starnes and Briggs were away, Leverton looked to Dietrich and let out his own sigh. "Loren, if we don't find the parts for our ships, all of them will be useless. Our bird alone needs a good day of work to make her decent again."
Dietrich leaned against the Viper's nose and let out a small chuckle. "Yeah, well it's going to take one hell of a lot more than a days work to get the repairs we need done to everything we need... Aww, screw it, we'll figure it out somehow."
-- Combat Information Center
The CIC for the Gunstar Osiris was, in comparison to a Battlestars, cramped, but that doesn't mean it's less equiped. People scurried to and from various posts and such, and activity was just as rampant now as it was during the fight... In the middle of it all was the DRADIS Console, and standing on the opposite ends were the two officers senior to this ship. Commander Maxwell Aurelius and his Executive Officer, Colonel Selena Anthony, were both pouring over what information they had... Almost all of the fleet, wiped out; all 12 colonies gone. There were rumors that a handful of warships survived, but with things as they were, they weren't going to chance looking for reinforcements right now, short of what they already had aboard the Osiris... The only things they knew for certain was that the Osiris had sufferred damage to her FTL drive, meaning she couldn't travel at anything higher than sublight speeds, and that the Galactica sent out a message three days earlier; "To all Colonial Units, am taking command of fleet... All units ordered to rendevous at Ragnar Anchorage for regroup and counterattack... Acknowledge by same encryption protocol... Adama." Just how many units responded, or even survived to hear the message, they didn't know. The Osiris herself couldn't even reply, thanks to damage their long-range wireless transmitters sufferred during the battle... The Gunstar was pretty much a large target right now, and everyone aboard knew it...
After a young officer reported to the Colonel, she nodded. "Commander," Anthony said as she looked up from the plot table... Selena Anthony was strikingly bueatiful, looking way younger than her 46 years of age, yet her demeanor and effiency positively betrayed her youthful looks. "The recon flight just returned, hopefully Captain Starnes will have us some good news... Max, if we don't patch the FTL drive up, we'll never make it to Ragnar alive," she said as she looked up across the table.
The Commander didn't nod, but he knew what the chances were they'd make it. "Colonel, even if we get it fixed, we probably won't survive much longer," he said quietly across to his counterpart. Maxwell Aurelius slowly stood up to his full height and stretched his arms. "Either way, we're going to do our damndest to get there..." As he dropped his arms back down, he continued. "Okay, we know the Galactica's probably replenished and rearmed at Ragnar, decommissioning and being turned into a dumbass tourist attraction notwithstanding... Also, knowing Commander William Adama like we do, it's safe to bet Cubits that he's picking the right time to retaliate and turn the Cylons into scrap metal. Here's the problem... Even if Commander Adama's orders were carried out, and he does indeed have a decent-sized counterstrike force assembled, the entire Cylon fleet is going to swarm all over them..."
Both Anthony and Aurelius remained silent for a brief second just as the hatch leading in opened up to reveal Captain Starnes, still in his flight suit, sans helmet, coming into the CIC. Starnes didn't seem to fit the type for a fighter pilot quite right; he was tall (almost 6'5"), very muscular (He played offensive tackle for his college Triad Team), both of which are almost unheard of for a Viper pilot, and intense, almost to the point of intimidating. Yet through all of the brute force traits he physically portrayed, he was still very friendly, always wanting to make a friend before he made an enemy (it's always hard for someone who was the size and strength of a gorilla to make enemies), never too busy to listen (he was the one that Kelley Briggs talked to for nearly 5 hours after her husband was killed), and a damn good pilot... When the Solaria's surviving Vipers and Raptors found that the Triton was destroyed, their last place to land, it was Starnes who organized the 70 lives aboard the 67 craft to look for a place, any place, to land. Thankfully, after nearly 9 hours of flight, both powered and non- powered, they came across the Osiris, limping herself from the battle damage they sustained... After Starnes informed Commander Aurelius of the fate of the Battlestars, it was he that became the "Commander, Air Group" for the fighter craft now stowed in the hangar bay of the ship... Now, it was Starnes who was to bear the news of their search flight, both for survivors and for the parts needed to repair both the Osiris and her fighters...
Starnes now stood near the DRADIS console and went to attention before saluting... "Captain Starnes, reporting as ordered, sir..." He then dropped the crisp salute and sighed. "Commander, it's bad..."
Aurelius nodded and crossed his arms, looking to the XO for a moment, then to Starnes, then down to the plot table. "Figured it would be... Right now, our wireless transmitters are down, our FTL computers are still fried, and we've only got the stores aboard the Osiris to sustain a crew of close to a thousand for 3 months of normal duty. Add in the fact that we don't have the parts and materials needed to fix the ship or the fighters and support craft we now have aboard, I'd venture to state that, in my professional opinion, our goose is pretty much cooked." He paused only long enough to look up to Starnes. "Would you agree, Captain?"
Starnes leaned over the plot table and looked downwards... After nearly 4 seconds, he looked to the Commander and nodded in agreement. "Commander, if we don't either find a place to resupply or to hide, the Cylons will find us and kill us all... Our only hope right now is that we can find a supply depot that hadn't been destroyed or maybe even a ship we can salvage what we need off. If we go with the latter, that means we'll have to do another penetration and recon flight."
Anthony spoke up from her position and fingered a page in a well-worn logbook... "Commander, Captain Starnes just posed a good idea there. I know it's not something you want to hear, but right now, we are choiceless, especially since we're not getting any closer to Ragnar for the rendevous."
Damn it... She's right, Aurelius thought to himself. She always knew what had to be done wasn't always the most liked or desired, and she never made any qualms about it, especially to Maxwell Aurelius. It was always like that with them, even when the duo met at the Picon War College all those years ago, and he liked it that way. Ever since he took command of his first ship, he always made sure to pull the right strings to get Selena Anthony as his XO; the Aurelius/Anthony pair had already seen two previous ships. The Osiris, now their third and, most likely last, was all they and 985 others had left. It was a bad situation, and they both knew it, but they weren't going to simply lay down in regards to it, either...
After several seconds of silence around the DRADIS console, Aurelius gave a stern look to Starnes, then it immediately softened into a helplessly resigned look as he slowly nodded... "Okay... okay... Colonel Anthony, Captain Starnes, compile a listing for me of all Colonial Fleet Units that have engaged the Cylons within the past 72 hours. Cross-reference it with the casualty listings from the colonial forces we know have been destroyed and list their last known positions." He then turned slightly to face Anthony. "Colonel, once you two have that listing for me, I'd like to see you in my cabin..."
"Aye," the Colonel said as Commander Aurelius turned and walked across the the CIC hatch... Once he was gone, Anthony cringed a bit and blew her cheeks out. "I hate it when he does that..."
Starnes continued to look towards the hatch, and turned as Anthony spoke. He was totally lost... "Ummm... Colonel, did I miss something here?"
Selena Anthony gaves Starnes an apologetic look, then she quietly chuckled. "Commander Aurelius doesn't like taking risks with his pilots..."
"He what?" Confused, he continued. "Colonel, unless I need glasses, I could have sworn I saw pilot's wings on his chest."
Anthony smiled and nodded. "Oh, you did, Captain, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you... It's pretty ironic, really." Seeing the look of confusion grow on the pilot's face, she went on. "I'd say it was about 25 or 30 years ago. He was aboard the Pegasus, assigned to the Silver Spars under Garris Cain..."
"Garris Cain... You mean Commander Cain?"
Anthony nodded. "Yup, although at that time, he was Captain Cain. Anyway, Max was the rookie pilot aboard and Cain was the Pegasus CAG. You know Cain's reputation, right, Captain?"
He laughed a bit and nodded. "Who doesn't? His whole style and attitude is how he got tagged with the callsign of 'Renegade.' It fits him, too."
Anthony looked to Starnes and proceeded. "What have you heard about him?"
Without hesitation, Starnes spoke, pulling from his mind the legends and stories about Garris 'Renegade' Cain. "A lot of stuff, mostly how fearless he is. I remember hearing a story about how he lead half a squadron of Cylon Raiders chasing him right into a Battlestar's suppression barrage. He flew straight through it, and the Cylons got their asses wasted. He was awared the Gold Cluster for that one, if I remember."
Anthony nodded in agreement. "He did, and you're right about his flying. He's one of the most daring fighter jocks ever to come out of flight school, and most certainly the gustiest... Anyway, Cain and Max had gotten along pretty good when they met, so he selected Max to be his wingman for a routine flight... You know the drill, take the rookie pilot out and see what they can do... Well, it so happens that on that particular flight, they were going to escort one of the Mark III Viper prototypes from the Battlestar Rycon to the Pegasus. About halfway into the flight, they recieved a distress call from a medium passenger liner out of Caprica that strayed off course and hit a mine left over from the Cylon War. When they went to investigate, the three Vipers started to close the distance when Max's Viper hit a chunk of debris from the liner. What happened next was declared an accident by the Board of Inquiry, but if you ask Max, he'll blame Cain..."
Starnes listened on, then quietly responded as leaned onto the plot table. "What happened?"
The Colonel cocked her head slightly and smirked a bit. "You're a pilot, so you know what the regs are in regards to extreme proximity high speed flight. Well, there was a lot of EM static in the area from a severe Ion storm that passed through and none of the Vipers lidar arrays could punch through it, so Cain had no idea if there was one mine or a hundred mines in front of them. He ordered the three into a tight delta pattern, pouring on the speed as they go, thinking that the three would present a smaller target profile should there be any more mines. You see, in an emergency situation back then, high speed extreme proximity flight was acceptable, so there wasn't any question regarding Cain's actions during the flight. Anyway, when Max bumped, he lost control of his Viper and bumped into the Mark III, throwing it into lateral spin and into the liner. When she hit, she set off the fuel tanks on the liner, destroying them both. Later on, the inquiry into the accident cleared both Cain and Max of any wrong-doings due to the regs I talked about before, but Max insisted that it was Cain's orders for close-in and full burners that killed the Mark III pilot and the people on the liner. Ever since then, Max hasn't set foot in another fighter... All he'll do now are check flights on Falcons. He's felt partially responsible for the incident, and it eats at him each time he has to see a pilot take what he deems as 'an unnecessessary risk.'"
Starnes absorbed the story, every word, and then realized... "He doesn't want the penetration flight?"
Anthony continued to look at the Captain. "It's not that. It's just that everytime he sees someone die in an accident, he gets propelled back to that one incident."
"Has he seen anybody about it? You know... for help?"
Anthony chuckled. "Are you kidding? Maxwell Aurelius is too damn proud to see one. He's kept it to himself all this time... The only thing that keeps him on level ground is his stick time. He calls it 'occupational therapy.' I call it 'facing his demons,' but whatever you want to call it, it's something that brings peace to that man..."
-- Air Group Administrative Office, Gunstar Osiris
Kelley Briggs, Loren Dietrich, and David Leverton had been pouring over every idea they had for the supplies... The sight of used coffee cups, ashtrays, countless printouts, blueprints, and schematics, and the trio wearing civillian clothing indicated they were here for the long run. Unfortunately, the obvious sight of an area being used for planning didn't mean they had gotten anywhere. For the past 5 hours, they had looked over every technical readout they had for the Viper MK VII's, Raptors, Falcons, and of the 52 year old Gunstar known as the Osiris... What they had determined is that, outside of a few circuit diagrams, bits and pieces of the engine systems, and names of manufacturers, the 4 things had little to no parts in common, outside of the fact all 4 were machines capable of flight. Things weren't looking good as it was already, but looking over the wealth of information they had proved to make an already hard situation worse.
Leverton was the first to break the 5 minute-long silence the trio had been sitting in... "So... We're fraked," he said. His two associates looked towards him, not replying with words, but with simple eye contacts. Dietrich grunted once and laid his pounding head down on the table, while Briggs, irritated at the situation, got up and walked over to the coffee pot, pouring herself a cup of coffee... As it poured into the plain white cup, she spoke, the fatigue in her voice apparent.
"C'mon guys, we've got to figure this out... What have we missed? Anything?"
Leverton and Dietrich, raising his head up once again, looked to their notes, with Leverton speaking for the two. "Kestral, we've looked over all the specs 9 times, called up the construction notes and reviewed each one for each craft type twice. We haven't got squat."
Kelley sipped at her coffee and cringed... I really need to make a fresh pot, she thought. "Merc, that's not going to do," she said as she sat back down. "Can we yank one of the engine pods out of a Falcon, visually inspect it?"
Dietrich was the one to reply this time. "Kelley, we've already touched this before. We can't without ripping the entire mounting frame out. It would take 6 hours, and we don't have the time."
After 5 hours, the strain of the work had boiled Briggs to the point of irritation, but Dietrich's words sent her over the edge. "Frakkit, we don't have a damn choice! We either find something, anything, or we all die out here without a frakkin' chance!"
It was the sound of the hatch opening that kept Dietrich from verbally retaliating... As the three looked towards the hatch, the form of a man in a Colonial flightsuit walked in. Average height, with a wiry, yet solidly-built frame, the man was quickly recognized as Colonel James "Thor" Hanssen, Commander of the Osiris Training Air Wing. As Hanssen walked in, the former quietness refilled the air as he slowly walked in...
"Evening, Colonel," the three said, almost in unison.
Hanssen nodded and replied, grabbing a cup of the 4 hour-old brew from the pot before taking a seat at the same table they were working at. "Looks like quite a spread you got going here..."
The three nodded, with Briggs speaking for them. "Yes sir... We've been going over the tech sheets for all the craft aboard, trying to figure out what we can use and what we can't. We're no closer to finding anything..."
"I can tell. I only heard your 'discussion' from across the compartment," he said mildly, sipping the coffee from the cup in his hand.
Briggs, Dietrich, and Leverton sighed in embarassment from the comment... "Sir, I'm sorry for that, there wasn't any excuse for it," Briggs said, bowing her head down to look at her hands on the table.
Hanssen chuckled a bit and nodded, downing the cup and setting it gently on the surface. "Don't apologize, Lieutenant. The past three days have been hell for my kids too. You're not alone in this." The Colonel looked to the three and drew a breath in... All 40 of his student pilots (His 'kids,' since he and his wife never had children of their own) had been on a simple training cruise aboard the Osiris when the Cylons attacked. This was their final shipboard training assignment before advancing from Basic Flight School to Tactical Flight, and from there to their first line assignments in the fleet. In the past three days, all 40 had been thrust into combat, without the benefit of the experience needed to defend their lives, their ships, or their homes from the Cylons. None of them could fight or retaliate in their unarmed trainers, so all they could do was run with the Osiris... "You know, I was in the last Cylon War... Flew 132 combat sorties against them from 4 Battlestars. Got shot down three times in the process too... One of those instances, I was one of 18 Vipers that got forced down after we got cut off from our ship inside Cylon-controlled space. Myself, and 17 others flew until we could find any place to land. We eventually touched down at an old reserve depot on the outskirts of the Eldakar System, out of fuel and with zero battery power remaining. When we scouted it out, we found that it had been used for the Starfox bomber prototype tests a few years before. Well, you three know your planes, just like any pilot should. Me and my crew knew our Vipers too, but those old Starfoxes were so far different from the Vipers we were flying that we had no idea what would work and what wouldn't, so we bagan tinkering with the parts and gear left behind when fleet cancelled the Starfox project."
Dietrich chimed in from his seat. "Did anything work?"
"Not a damn bit of it worked, Lieutenant. We all pretty much knew it wouldn't either, but we still tried," the gray-haired Colonel said. "See, no matter what goes on or what happens, you always have to try and carry on. We did, and we eventually got rescued once the fleet punched through the Cylon lines. During that entire time, we knew that we probably would be captured... In all likelyhood we'd probably be dead soonafter, but we still didn't give in." He then finished off his coffee and remained silent for a few moments to let his words sink in. "Yourselves and your CAG have been up for close to 24 hours now. You're all exhausted, and no one can think when they're exhausted. I'll look over what you have here and let Werewolf know what I find. In the mean-time, you three get some rack."
The three started to protest, but Thor stood his ground and ordered them out, even going so far as threatening to report them to the ship's CMO as unfit for flight... They relented finally and slowly walked out of the room, with Hanssen looking at them sternly the entire time... Once they were all gone, the Colonel sat down and watched the hatch open again, this time revealing Captain Michael Starnes... He had overheard the entire thing, as well as Colonel Anthony, who was in an adjacent compartment with all of the materials her and Starnes pulled. As he quietly entered the room, he smiled. "Thor... Thanks for doing that..." He pulled the chair Briggs had across the table and sat down. "I don't think I told you how hard-working my pilots are. I didn't even have a clue they had done this much work before seeing all of this," he said as he points to the mass of work around the two...
Hanssen smiled and sat back. "Werewolf, they're good kids... Every one of them. They remind me a lot of you when you were one of my rooks."
Starnes chuckled... "I wasn't as young as they were when they went through basic flight."
"You're right, Captain... You were younger." Hanssen smiled and straightened some of the papers left. "Okay, let's get this stuff straightened out and over to your compartment... Are you working with anyone else on the problems?"
"Yeah, Colonel Anthony is looking over our supply needs right now. So far, we've managed to locate a few ships we can salvage from. No Gunstars though, so we'll probably have to do some refitting. As far as the perishable stores go, we're still working on that.
Hanssen nodded. "Need an extra brain? I'm functioning on one hell of a lot more sleep than you are, Mike..."
Starnes shrugged and smiled. "Right now, I don't think I have to tell you that the answer is yes..."
--To Be Continued...