Word Count: 26,086
Pairing/Focus: Original Characters
Summary: This story takes place at the same time as “The Goliath Chronicles Book Three - The bitter ends”, by Kevin Hallesy
The Cylon humanoid known by the designation ‘Number One’ was monitoring the arrival of the latest reinforcements to support the occupation forces on the former Twelve Worlds of Humanity. The recent battle involving multiple human warships and the subsequent council-of-war had resulted in lessening their search forces in the Promar Sector for the Battlestar GALACTICA and the other ships carrying the survivors from the colonies. The remaining forces in the Promar Sector would still be more than enough to overpower what the GALACTICA could put into the field against them, once they were found, that is. But still, the recent battle had still proved that even though humanity had been almost annihilated, the remnants of the Colonial Fleet were proving that they could still inflict severe damage upon them - even here.
“The two task forces that had arrived earlier are now being redeployed as per your order”, Number Eleven had reported. Number Eleven was not happy at this turn of events, as he had felt that this new disposition of forces took away a lot of necessary eyes in the hunt for the GALACTICA, but the recent surprise attack that had resulted in the destruction of a base star and a sentinel post, plus having two other base stars severely damaged - one of those being the command base star, along with a sizeable number of raiders, had changed Number One’s mind, despite their destroying the Battlestar ITHACA and acquiring intelligence from the wreck stating that Valhalla Station was lost to the humans.
“When will the two damaged base stars be repaired?”, she asked him neutrally, but with menace in her voice. Evidently, she was still blaming him for enabling the humans to be able to mount such a successful strike. Number Eleven was well aware of her displeasure.
“It will not be for several weeks, but we now have twenty base stars in this system. One each will be covering all twelve occupied worlds, and the others are commencing their system patrols with the support of their full raider complements”, he replied, “So any future human incursion will definitely be dealt with - in force rather than piecemeal”.
“That’s what you said to me when we sent the vast majority of our base stars to Promar”, Number One icily reminded him, “and you’d better be thankful for Cylon technology, otherwise you would be terminated for your error of judgement. Keep me informed on the new disposition of our forces and the amended search protocol for the GALACTICA” , she ordered.
“By Your Command”, Number Eleven replied. Yes, he was thankful that his consciousness would not die: termination of this body meant waking up in a new body, but the message was clear: Number One did not want any more mistakes from him.....
Chapter One: Initiating First Contact
After the refining of the tylium ore and other needed metals extracted from an earlier-encountered asteroid (here in the remote and uncharted Promar Sector) had been completed, the Battlestar PEGASUS had gotten under way, resuming it’s mission of locating the Battlestar GALACTICA and the civilian refugee convoy that it was protecting. Since the PEGASUS had returned from a rescue mission back in the home Cyrannus System, they had been ‘idling’ for a little under a week during the ore refining process - the refining equipment on board was somewhat limited, making the original two-day schedule a little unrealistic - and during this extended down-time, proper repairs had been made to both the PEGASUS and it’s complement of fighter and reconnaissance craft, after their recent hit-and-run strike near Sagittaria. One of those craft was a newcomer to the battlestar’s complement.
Down in Hangar Nine (Port Landing Bay) - which was the only bay able to fully accommodate the newcomer, Commander Garris Cain was taking the time to inspect the latest addition to the striking power of the Battlestar PEGASUS. Flanking him was the flight crew who had brought it on board - Lieutenant jg Walter ‘Hondo’ Hunter and Ensign Calvin ’Coffin’ Sims, formerly of Militech Corporation’s Peregrine Assessment Team, now on TDY to the PEGASUS with the impressive designation of ‘PEGASUS Advanced Reconnaissance and Strike Section’. It was a rather grandiose title, given the fact that there was only one ship in the section, but that ship was quite an exceptional one.
Their ship, a Militech Peregrine Gunship - Official designation ‘Production Prototype Number Five’ - was sitting there in front of them, fully repaired and gleaming in it’s new paint scheme. When Hunter looked upon it for the first time after it had been repaired and reconfigured from it’s range endurance test mode to a fully operational weapons-capable attack platform, he was totally speechless.
Chief Krag’s deck crew had worked wonders with getting the Peregrine repaired and reconfigured. After Hunter and Sims had checked the interior - which was as pristine and operational as the exterior - they asked Krag how he had managed it in so short a time.
“Nothing spectacular, Lieutenant”, Krag replied to Hunter, “We had plenty of spare parts from Molecay Anchorage and the Peregrine’s components were fully compatible with those and what we carried in stores. The designers of this gunship really knew what they were doing in making something designed to be maintained in the field”, he replied.
Hunter knew that Krag was being modest - he saw the damage inflicted upon the Peregrine for the first time when he had stepped out onto the hangar bay deck after coming on board. Still, modest or not, the Peregrine was ready to do the job that it was designed for: to make their enemies very miserable indeed.
“Militech Corporation made a fine machine”, Commander Cain said after he had finished the exterior and interior inspection. Hunter and Sims showed Cain the capabilities of the gunship - both in firepower and lifting ability of troops and materiel, plus it’s full FTL capability - and answered Cain’s questions concisely.
“The person in the pilot seat controls the helm, and the nose gun. In that position, he can and does mainly control the jump initiator and missiles”, Hunter had explained.
Sims added, “The person in the rear seat monitors the engine’s sublight and FTL drives, monitors the comm, and controls the wing guns. It can switch scarab and intercept control to that station, but that takes control away from the pilot”.
Thanks to Hunter and Sims, Cain learned that the Peregrine Systems Officer (PSO) station did not control the guns or the ‘fire and forget’ missiles - unlike the Raptor (though for wire-guided ordinance, this station would guide those missile types into their intended target) - but usually the chaff and drones and electronic counter measures, including the 'ghost' or echo emulator (this device reads incoming scanner frequencies and sends back a signal on the same freq of 'empty space' where the Peregrine should be and can bend the signal to make them appear meters away, sort of like hot air over a road making a mirage of water). The PSO station also served as the primary comm station, for intercepting and decoding of transmissions, etc. Like the Raptor it can act as a station for directing other ships - like vipers - to targets that their longer range scanners can pick up that vipers may not, as well as discriminating real targets from sensor ghosts, drones etc.
Cain nodded with approval at the informal name painted upon the nose of the gunship in stern block lettering: ‘FLEET AVENGER’. He knew that with the capabilities of the Peregrine, it would indeed start wreaking revenge for the destruction of the majority of the Colonial Fleet.
Another person who had taken advantage of the down-time was Captain Glen ‘Comms’ Sanders. He had reprogrammed and dispatched remote sensor drones back to the Cyrannus System in order to gather more intelligence. Their recent victory in which they had severely damaged a base star while rescuing Peregrine Five was even sweeter when additional information about other attacks being made upon the Cylon occupation forces came in. It was for further information on the latter, plus seeing what the Cylons would be doing in the aftermath of the battle, that motivated this latest intelligence drive. The latest deciphered intercepts were providing valuable information.
“Commander, Colonel”, Sanders said to both Cain and Geoff Tolen after getting the first probes back, “The Cylons have indeed been hit hard. The probe dispatched to Cancer has confirmed the destruction of both a base star, and a listening post. High EM readings indicate that large-yield nukes were employed by the attackers”.
“Any sign so far of who had done the attack, Comms?”, Colonel Tolen asked. Sanders shook his head.
“Sorry, XO”, Sanders replied, “We only have information on the results, not who caused it, but these attacks definitely diverted Cylon assets which would otherwise have been deployed against us during the rescue mission”.
Cain nodded, then asked, “What else do you have, Comms?”.
“What we believe to be the Command Base Star - the one orbiting Caprica - was indeed heavily damaged by a rail gun and is currently under repair. The probe dispatched there shows that another base star has taken up station in it’s place. Other probes show that a total of twenty base stars are now in the Cyrannus System: one for each occupied world, and the remaining eight formed into four task forces of two each that are patrolling the system”, Sanders replied.
“Looks like the tin-heads definitely got their fingers burnt, if they’re now deploying that amount of firepower”, Cain said. The others nodded in agreement with his assessment.
“Unfortunately, we have lost two of our probes already from the increased patrol activity”, Sanders furnished, confirming the fact that information extraction would be more difficult from here on out. Since the probes were designed to auto-destruct, there would be no way for the Cylons to determine their point of origin, but it was still an annoyance.
“Anything else interesting on the latest batch of intercepts?”, Cain asked next.
“The Cylons are conducting an operation called ‘Live Bait’”, Sanders replied, “From what we can ascertain from the decodes, it looks like an operation to use bogus distress calls in order to attract human rescuers. Most likely from these other colonial forces”.
Cain thought about that. If the Cylons managed to set up decoy ships with humanoid Cylons, it would spell disaster for the rescuers.
“How about these other forces?”, Cain asked next, “Have you thought about trying to make contact with them?”. Cain knew that this information on these Cylon decoys would be something that the others would definitely want.
“The problem with that is to come up with a communications message format that the Cylons won’t be able to intercept and decode, but that these other forces would”, Sanders explained, “The TAC-channel protocols used by the Peregrines would give us the best chance, since these others have at least one of that type of ship, but keeping identification and location details secret from interception by Cylon listening posts is going to be tricky”.
“He’s right about that, Commander”, Tolen concurred, “The Cylons are not stupid. But we have to be able to come up with something that their mechanical minds can’t decode. One-time pad ciphers are the best bet, but both sides will have to have the same pad cipher lists, and those lists would have to be handed to them personally - not transmitted”.
“Making the cipher lists would be the easy bit”, Sanders added, “but the XO is right: before we can make any communications on a regular basis, they have to get a cipher list, and they would also need a new, more frequently changing rotation frequency protocol so that the Cylons won’t be able to lock down and listen to any one TAC-channel. We have to assume that the existing TAC channels’ rotation settings have been compromised, despite the security steps in place to prevent their discovery”.
Sanders was referring to the precise sequence of channel switching that the TAC-channels employ. A casual listener would only hear a very brief fragment of a message on one channel. So whoever wanted to listen to a conversation using these TAC-channels would have to have the precise channel switching sequence: otherwise known as the rotation setting. Each TAC-channel had it’s own unique rotation setting.
“Never mind that. The bottom line still is that we have to initiate contact somehow. That is going to be the first big step”, Cain stated, “but this has to be very carefully planned, so that we can make contact without tipping the Cylons off as to where and when”.
Tolen added, “There is also something else along those lines that we have to consider when we do make contact with them. Dr. Ashley’s progress on that Cylon corpse has given us some leads on how to screen us from them, but they are still going to be damn hard to detect, so we have to assume that there could be Cylon humanoids amongst that contingent as well, so even if we do make contact without the Cylons knowing, the possibility of other agents means we should not give out any compromising information at this stage”.
“I’m aware of that, XO. But let’s first try and make contact first. We can worry about that after the initial contact is made”, Cain decided.
“And I think I have a way that we can initiate contact with a high enough degree of security”, another voice said. Cain turned to see Captain Eugene ‘Bojay’ Syke - the CAG of Silver Spar Wing - walk into the meeting. He was holding a manual that Lt. Hunter had given to him earlier.
“I asked Captain Syke to join us, Commander”, Sanders said. Cain nodded, gesturing to Syke to explain what he meant.
“I strongly believe that the Peregrine that is being used by those other combatants is commanded by a person who I know well”, Syke began, “I’ve already talked with Ensign Dutch, and our two newcomers Hunter and Sims, and they are all in agreement with me on this”.
“Who is it, Captain?”, Cain asked.
“His name is Captain Logan Masters. Better known by his call-sign of ‘Dragon’. When I was detached from the Battlestar AUSTRALIS for TDY as an instructor at Viper Transition Training back on Picon, he was the senior instructor there”, Syke explained, “and when our tours were completed, I headed back to the AUSTRALIS while he went on to attend ATT - co-incidentally enough with Lieutenant Higgins, by the way. Around the time when I made Captain and was given orders to report here as the new CAG for Silver Spar, he graduated from ATT and was sent back to Militech Corporation to run the flight assessment teams for the Peregrine Gunship program”, he concluded.
“At that time, the Peregrine program was classified secret. How did you work out that your friend was there?”, Tolen asked.
“Well, XO, that last bunch of dated mail had a letter to me from him telling me that he was involved in a program he couldn’t talk about. I asked Dutch if Captain Masters was a name known to him from his brief two-week assignment to support the Peregrine assessment teams. He confirmed my suspicions, and as Masters’ craft was already configured for combat testing, it makes him the prime ‘suspect’ as the Command Pilot for the Peregrine out there”, he answered.
“So how should we get in touch with this friend of yours, without having Cylon gatecrashers putting a damper on the reunion?”, Cain asked. It was Sanders who answered.
“It is logical that they will have intercepted Cylon transmissions as well, and found out about our recent battle when we picked up Hunter’s Peregrine”, he said, “and that will give us our key”.
“Okay, Comms, You have my attention”, Cain replied, “How does the recent battle help us?”.
“The last batch of intercepts we got had clearly stated the co-ordinates of the Cylons’ battle with the ‘unknown battlestar’. If the others had intercepted and decoded that message - and I’m betting my last cubit that they did - then they will have the information that we have got a Peregrine as well”, Sanders said first. After waiting for a few seconds to make sure everyone fully understood, he went on.
“The Peregrines were assigned the ship-to-ship TAC-channel rotation setting protocols one thru three for communication. What we do is to send out probes that will transmit portions of a message on those frequencies. The complete message will read this” - handing Cain and Tolen a slip of paper.
Tolen and Cain read, 'BOJAY TO DRAGON, MEET AT BORALLIS RENDEZVOUS POINT SIX-FIVE-EIGHT MARK EIGHT-FOUR-FIVE'. Glancing at a chart of the Borallis System that Sanders had placed on the table in front of them, those co-ordinates were for an asteroid field near the perimeter of the system.
“The probes will send out the first word first, the next two words second, the next three words third, and so on, so that the message parts will be assembled in it’s proper order”, Sanders finished.
“Would you care to explain this message to me, Captain?”, Tolen asked, “Because if this message is intercepted, the Cylons will know where to go to, and they won’t be there to chat”. This time Captain Syke replied.
“Captain Masters will know that it’s from me by my call-sign”, he explained, “and we both had an avid interest in playing word games at Viper Transition when we were off duty. One of the games that we enjoyed was based on using page numbers from various operations manuals, he concluded, holding up the PEREGRINE FLIGHT OPERATIONS MANUAL.
“So how could you make this message so that Captain Masters will understand, but the Cylons won’t?”, Tolen asked.
“The Cylons would not have a copy of this manual, given the fact that the Peregrine was still in the testing phase. He has one, and now thanks to Hondo here, we have one too”, Syke clarified.
“Captain Syke said that the message would start PFOM, indicating that the Peregrine Flight Operations Manual will be the reference for the code. The other words are made up from the page number and word number on the particular page”, Sanders added.
“I know that the Peregrine we have can easily make it to those rendezvous co-ordinates, Comms”, Cain said, “but I don’t want to risk it, or the PEGASUS just yet. Given the fact that the raptors don’t have the range, how can we issue our invitation?”.
“That’s been taken care of, Commander. We’ll send an FTL-capable probe programmed to receive any message from a colonial craft making the Borallis rendezvous. They will send us their message and that should lead to a more secure rendezvous for a face-to-face meeting”, Sanders replied, “the probe will be programmed to self-destruct if the IFF does not recognize the craft making the rendezvous as friendly”.
Sanders was referring to the Identification - Friend of Foe device on board the probe which determined whether an incoming ship was friendly or hostile. The IFF on the probes was connected directly to a detonation charge of sufficient intensity to throughly destroy the probe if it determined any incoming ship to be hostile.
“Just as a matter of interest, is the word ‘Borallis’ in the manual at all, Captain?”, Tolen asked. Syke opened the book at page 99 - which showed a listing of local star systems - and pointed to the seventh word, which was ‘Borallis’.
Tolen thought about it, then turned to face Cain.
“It’s worth a shot, Commander”, Tolen ventured, “and it does not compromise our position”.
Cain slowly nodded. It was important that they knew more about this other group so that informational interchanges could be established. If such a contact could be maintained, that could provide additional ammunition to persuade Adama to return to the offensive - if and when they caught up to the GALACTICA, that is....
“Very well, Comms”, Cain approved, “Initiate the program and let’s see if we get a reply”.
“Yes, Commander”, Sanders said. Cain stood. The others stood and at Cain’s nod, left the briefing room. It was time to get things rolling.
Chapter Two: Initial Contact
Three hours later, three long range probes were dispatched. Each of them were sent to positions just outside the Cyrannus System so that the increased Cylon presence would not immediately pick them up. The probes, which were equipped with the multi-TAC channel transceivers, started transmitting their message segments on the TAC-1, TAC-2, and TAC-3 rotation settings. The first transmission - repeated once a minute for three minutes was ‘PFOM’.
Three minutes after that, ‘115-26, 210-008’ (for ‘B and TO’) was transmitted twice. ‘088-100,056-003, 098-455’ (for ‘DRAG, ON, and MEET’) followed thrice. Next ‘067-054, 099-007, 200-065, 040-455’ (for AT BORALLIS RENDEZVOUS POINT) was sent four times, then a set of eight page numbers with line numbers referring to single digits was sent five times. This set of numbers corresponded to co-ordinates 658-845 - within the Borallis System. None of the probes detected any acknowledgment, but that was not their intention. They jumped to another set of remote co-ordinates just outside the system and repeated their earlier transmission. After this, the probes jumped back to rendezvous with the PEGASUS.
“The probes have returned, Comms”, the Core Command Duty Officer reported, “They all report not encountering any hostiles and that the message segments were all transmitted without incident”.
“Thanks, Ensign”, Sanders replied, “Time to send out the Borallis Probe”.
The long range probe intended for the rendezvous at Borallis was fitted with stealth technology and when it entered the system, it would immediately go into dormant mode - at least until it’s proximity sensors detected any ships in it’s immediate vicinity. It would then send out an IFF query. If the code was not colonial - or if no reply at all was received, it would try to jump back to the PEGASUS, but if it could not do so, then it would self-destruct. If a reply to the query was received indicating that the ship was friendly, it would transmit a request for a message to the friendly contact to be relayed back to base. Syke had placed into the probe’s database a repeat of the original message, but with embellishments as an added security feature. These embellishments would only be known by Captain Masters, Syke knew.
The probe was dispatched and it quickly FTL-ed to it’s destination. It was now going to be a waiting game. Sanders hoped that whoever the other colonial combatants were, that they would receive the message, and reply to it.
The message relay probe, after exiting it’s FTL-jump to the rendezvous co-ordinates, made a very brief scan of the local space. With the exception of the debris field of the destroyed battlestars - a result of an Cylon ambush shortly after the outbreak of hostilities - there was nothing that was deemed a threat to it. It now went into passive listening mode on the TAC frequencies. It would reactivate either if a communication was received on any one of those frequencies, or if a PROXIMITY ALERT was sounded from it’s passive sensors....
Back on board the PEGASUS, Syke and Tricia Cain were talking to Lt jg Hunter and Ensign Sims. Dutch was also there, sitting in on this chat, given his additional knowledge of the Peregrine Program. Both Hunter and Sims had been issued PEGASUS patches to replace their MILITECH patches, though they still sported the rather eye-wrenching PEREGRINE patch on the opposite shoulder.
“So there were no other modes of communications besides those three TAC channels that you used throughout the flight test, Hondo?”, Syke asked Hunter. Hunter shook his head.
“The tests had to be kept as classified as possible, Captain”, Hunter replied. As he and Sims were not assigned to any one wing, they were not obliged to refer to Syke as CAG. Syke had not yet invited them to address him by his call-sign, so Hunter stuck to formalities.
“If Dragon knew that your ship had survived, just how far do you think he’s go in trying to contact you?”, Tricia asked next.
“He would probably go all-out”, Hunter replied. Sims nodded his head in agreement.
“Given the firepower capabilities of the gunship, and the evident success he’s been having in giving the tin-heads serious damage, he would definitely want to add to the firepower of his group of guerillas”, Sims added. Syke frowned.
“Sims, I don’t really like the use of that term. ‘Guerilla’ implies irregulars. We’re still Colonial Military and though we have to use guerilla tactics, Commander Cain makes it very clear that we are regular military first”, Syke said in mild reproof. Sims held up his hands to indicate that he understood.
“It seems to me”, Dutch said for the first time, “that if the probe does succeed in making the initial contact, Hondo’s Peregrine will have to be the one to make the face-to-face meeting, as the raptors don’t have the range and risking the PEGASUS at this stage would be taking too much of a chance. Let’s just hope the spot that they choose will be well away from any Cylon sensors”.
“Glad you brought that up, Razor”, Syke said, “because you and I will be accompanying Hondo and Coffin on the contact mission, once we know where the rendezvous will be. Dragon will know all of us, and our presence there will both satisfy him that we are not a Cylon trap, and also show that we are from another operational Colonial Unit”.
“You’re the Silver Spar CAG though”, Tricia objected, “so we can’t afford to lose you. Your wing needs you”.
“I’m not indispensable, Lieutenant”, Syke replied, using her rank in deference to the presence of the Peregrine newcomers, “and I know that you’ll take good care of the wing, but an emissary from this battlestar also needs to be of command staff position”.
“Then why doesn’t Sanders go?”, she asked, ignoring Syke’s compliment of Tricia’s command abilities.
Syke caught the almost plaintive tone in her objection, but given the circumstances, this was no time for distractions. The goal was too important.
“Comms is Number Three in the PEGASUS Command Structure and he would be a far bigger prize to the Cylons than me”, Syke pointed out, “so that makes me the most......expendable”, he finished.
Neither Tricia or Dutch cared to hear that comment, but they refrained from answering. They knew that Syke was right about this: Cain, Tolen, or Sanders simply could not be risked at this stage. And even though Captain Voight was the senior surviving officer of the PACIFICA , seeing an officer at a first contact meeting wearing the PACIFICA patch would be somewhat confusing to the other party. Better it be an established senior level officer from the regular PEGASUS complement.
“So what would you like us to do in the meantime, Captain?”, Hunter asked, in an effort to divert attention from his last statement.
“As you know, your craft is unique, but with the exception of Razor, no one else has any real idea of how to fly it or operate it’s systems, and I need to have a couple of reserve crews for it just in case you’re not available, so....... I’d like you to start giving the Raptor crews in Silver Spar Wing a crash course on the capabilities of the gunship”, Syke said. He waited for them to absorb the instructions, then continued.
“Captain Sanders has already cleared you for additional allotments of fuel for training flights, so once you’re satisfied as to the progress of your ‘students’, you can take them out for some in-depth hands-on training”, Syke continued with a smile, “but remember that if we do get orders to make a rendezvous with emissaries from these other colonials, then drop everything and pick me and Razor up”.
As Dutch, Hunter, and Sims stood and left, Tricia stayed behind. Syke knew what was coming.
“Spit it out, Tricia”, Syke said quietly.
“Gene, how could you do this?”, she asked bitterly. Syke saw that she had tears in her eyes.
“You know that this has to be done, and I need you to take over the wing for me while I’m gone”, he replied.
“Don’t give me all this felgercarb about duty and being expendable, Gene!”, Tricia blurted out angrily in reply, “I’ve lost a lot of close friends back at the colonies, and on the TRITON. My father and you are all that I have”, she finished with a slight sob.
Syke walked over to her. She embraced him tightly and sobbed on his shoulder. He just held her tightly, stroking her hair. After a couple of minutes, she got hold of herself and gently broke the embrace.
“I don’t intend to die out there you know”, Syke said softly to her.
“I know, Gene”, she relied in the same tone of voice, “but the uncertainty of this is worrying. Going up against a Raider or even a base star is something that I can steel myself for if I know that it’s coming, but you’re the CAG, and if the Cylons manage to forge a reply and you walk into a trap, then you’ll be at the mercy of them.....and you know what they do to prisoners”.
“I know. Look, let’s go and get some lunch and start talking about the new patrol schedules”, Syke suggested, forcing a change of subject, “It doesn’t do to dwell on such things and we are both supposed to be running the wing you know....”.
Nodding, both Tricia and Syke exited the briefing room and headed up to the mess. Both knew the score, but Syke was right: dwelling on possibilities was not the thing to do. Forty-two viper pilots and two raptor crews looked to them both for leadership. That had to be the primary concern. Still, what Tricia said did not make for an overly enjoyable meal.
Number One was also having a primary concern of her own. The new disposition of Cylon forces and the roving patrols made this system far more secure than the last time, but she was not blind to the fact that nearby systems could also be used as sources for supply or staging areas for further strikes. Given the resilience of these last remnants of the Colonial Fleet, it would be folly to ignore other options, and a recent message sent to her from Number Seven made her all the more determined to counter any subsequent move made by the humans. She called over Number Eleven.
“We’ve just had a report from Number Seven that they have intercepted some transmissions over three of the colonial TAC frequencies”, she said, handing over a printout reading ‘PFOM (sent once) 115-26, 210-008 (sent twice) 088-100, 056-003, 098-455 (repeated thrice) 067-054, 099-007, 200-065, 040-455 (sent four times) 227-369, 333-002, 175-234, 262-399, 122-321, 005-409, 165-400, 339-056 (sent five times)’, “These transmissions were transmitted from three widely spaced positions, then a second time from three different locations; probably from remote probes”.
“How did we get hold of the TAC frequency rotation settings?”, Number Eleven asked. That was one of the few items that the original infiltration teams had failed to obtain before the outbreak of hostilities.
“From the wreckage of the Battlestar ITHACA”, Number One replied, “The safe on board was still intact - it’s auto destruct failed to detonate”.
“So this same communication over three separate TAC frequencies must be kind of code then?”, Number Eleven asked.
“It looks like it”, Number One replied, “but the code does not match with anything we have in our database”. This was in reference to the files acquired from Picon Fleet Headquarters, including fleet code protocols.
“So our computers can’t solve it, then”, Number Eleven stated, “but what about the decryption directorate?”, he asked next, “I assume that they are working on cracking the code, are they not?”.
“They have so far come up with nothing, but the humans must be planning something - judging by the fact that this same message was transmitted twice from various locations at the edge of this system on an until-now secure colonial transmission format”, Number One replied, “and whoever sent out the message was gone by the time we could get to the sources of the transmissions”.
“So what should we do?”, Number Eleven asked, “We’ve already gotten this system pretty well covered now”
“Yes, but just this system. The nearby systems will need to be regularly patrolled from time to time. I want you to start assigning occasional patrols by a force of at least two base stars and roving raider patrols in these nearby systems: Mandahar, Tairac, Chespek, Carillon, and Borallis”, she said.
“With all due respect, Number One", he replied, "none of the accessible systems can support human life, Carillon’s within the Nova Madagon which is heavily mined, and the fleet anchorage at Borallis has been totally destroyed, so why send patrols out there?".
“The humans can still try and secure raw materials, and even more importantly, those systems could be useful as staging areas for further attacks. And even if the Nova Madagon is impenetrable, the space around it could still be used because the humans may not think we’d look there. As the humans used to teach at their academy: ‘the best defense is a good offence’. You have your orders”.
“By Your Command”, Number Eleven acknowledged.
Chapter Three: Received and Understood.
In another part of space, another group of colonials were preparing to move out and respond to the initial message sent out from the PEGASUS probes.
Captain Logan Masters and his crew were on board Peregrine One (‘DRAGON’S LAIR’) awaiting launch clearance from the Battlecruiser GOLIATH’s Core Command. They were on their way to investigate the TAC signal picked up earlier which gave those co-ordinates. That spatial position was Masters destination, and rather than using a probe, he decided to go personally with all of the firepower that his ship could provide.
“Core command is transferred. We are clear to launch, Dragon” his co-pilot Lt. Sever (with the call-sign of ‘Witch’) called forward in the cockpit. He focused on his panel, releasing the mag lock and raising the landing gear. They were in free fall. Witch locked in their first set of coordinates. 100 A.U. outside the nebula. Dragon pushed the throttle and the Peregrine shot out of the bay. Ensign ‘Spook’ Giles (the PSO) as usual had to hold his stomach from the G forces as he was pushed to the back of his seat. Dragon pulled a vertical ’U-turn’ sending them back over the spine of the great cruiser. Inverted they looked down at her hull passing over the 16 sets of guns, then passed the twin noses of the forward hull. He rotated the ship, the GOLIATH now parallel behind them. All sensors were active and they locked in their jump engines.
“Stand by, jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jumping!”, Masters said before hitting the initiator switch. They appeared in empty space. No moons, planets, suns, nothing.
“All right, Witch, verify our position and set for the next jump.” Dragon said after his eyes could focus again.
“Roger that, were right on the mark. Systems recovered and getting a fix” she answered.
“The Nova looks so different from way out here”, Giles was saying looking at the reverse view on his monitor. All other scanners, both passive and active showed they were alone.
“Maybe so, lets hope we don’t have to get used to it” Masters commented. He then sent the Peregrine into another FTL-jump. They arrived on the far side of the Borallis system. Well away from the planet itself. They knew there were sentinel stations or patrols here. The last thing they wanted was to be seen. What they needed was to see if there was still a Colonial probe present - according to the recently deciphered message, it should be at the co-ordinates that were provided.
Masters and his crew put the Peregrine into dark mode. Engines and sensors shut down, moving solely on momentum. Their course would put them in a high orbit of Borallis itself. The small asteroid that held the sentient Sentinel posted there would pass well below them.
The closer they got to orbit the more debris they could see out of the cockpit. Giles was recording all he could of the devastation that floated over the planet. Cruisers, cargo ships, military transport vessels, tenders, along with over half a dozen capital ships from the once-vaunted colonial fleet lay in ruins. Masters was forced to use thrusters to avoid colliding with sections of ships that had been cut apart by missiles and high-yield warheads. Somewhere in this wreckage was the source of the TAC signal. But before they could use their wireless to look for it, the Sentinel would need to be removed.
Masters double checked the weapons status board. All missiles ready, nukes on standby, all freshly taken from the ITHACA inventory. The guns were full, drones, chaff and intercepts green. They passed the bulk of the ship graveyard and back into open space. There sat in close orbit the Sentinel. Silent and dark on the small rock. Antenna and sensor pallets spreading out from the hanger opening at the center. At least 20 Scimitar class Raiders waited to be awakened within that pod at the slightest hint of intrusion. If their ‘rabbit’ probe had not detected it during its patrol route they would not have even seen it. Fortunately the rabbit intercepted the post responding to a courier Raider at that time. That gave away its position and true nature.
Peregrine One’s thrusters flared again for the merest of seconds sending them even closer to the Cylon. Masters navigated by visual alone, active scanners were out of the question, even the internal comm was off. He didn’t want to risk even that electronic signature this close to the ultra sensitive Sentinel. At least , until they were directly above it. With their nose and their weapons now pointing directly down at the post, they powered up everything as fast as they could at Dragons signal. The weapons lock and high energy signature ‘woke up’ the Sentinel instantly, seeing its danger alerted the Raiders and opened the bay for launch. Just what Dragon wanted. He locked one nuke on the opening bay and fired. Sever was laying down suppression fire on the incoming missiles the post sent at them, Giles was flooding the area with white noise and jamming the station. Drones flew from the under carriage to divert others. After firing the nuke , Masters switched fire control to the intercepts and assisted Witch in covering their escape. Turning and pushing the engines and boosters to full.
“The package is delivered, Dragon. Get us the frakk out of here” Giles yelled out through the open hatch of the cockpit and flight deck. He could see the missile pass into the dark opening of the Cylon hanger bay, then the flash as the explosion ripped the asteroid apart. The result of rock trying to contain a 50 megaton detonation.
“That got it!”, Sever shouted happily as the station disintegrated.
“Frakk!”, Giles was saying as he saw two Raiders emerge from the carnage, both sped away from them and vanished in the flash of their jump engines.
“I see it”, said Masters. “Going to get reinforcements, no doubt. We have to make this fast. Spook, send a full power IFF signal on the Peregrine TAC channel 1 - directional mode to those co-ordinates we were given - now.”
“Roger that Dragon, sending.” Giles replied, broadcasting the general ’enable’ signal for anything utilizing their dedicated inter-fleet comm channel. Somewhere nearby on the outskirts of the graveyard the Colonial probe sent by the PEGASUS came to life. As it received the signal, it filtered it through the Identification: friend or foe catalog and followed its programmed response instructions sending but a single scrambled burst transmission.
“Holy Frakk, we got a response!”, Spook said and sent the message to Masters’ cockpit monitor.
It was in coded form at first, but Spook put it through a decryption routine and the symbols slowly filtered into a recognizable form. It read.
'HOURS CAN SEEM LIKE DAYS BOJAY 2 DRAGON, BORALLIS RENDEZVOUS POINT SIX-FIVE-EIGHT MARK EIGHT-FOUR-FIVE' HAPPY HOUR ARM DAY + 230’
“Ok I see it. It’s an embellishment of the original transmission, but what does it mean?” Sever asked her C.O.
“I’ll tell you later, set coordinates for the Alley,” Dragon quickly scripted a response in the same word puzzle format they had received then passed it onto Spook for transmittal
“Send our acknowledgment message to the probe and get ready to jump.” Dragon ordered wanting to vacate the area before more tin heads showed up.
The signal was sent, the probe vanished leaving a energy spike on Spooks active sensors letting them know their return message was on its way to who ever sent it. The message it would carry would be coded in Dragons ‘book code’ beginning with PFOM, then a series of numbers, then BOTW (Book of the Word) then more numbers, then PFOM again, rotating through a series of letters and numbers covering these two books he and Bojay, the friend he believed was alive on the PEGASUS would recognize and remember.
When (or if) he deciphered it, it would read: CEO 2 COMMANDER OF BATTLESTAR, FROM COMMANDER OF COLONIAL FLEET CONTINGENT INVOLVED IN RECENT BATTLE. DRAGON SAYS TO B GLAD YOU AND I NOT IN CLUB. FOR FACE TO FACE ENCOUNTER MEET AT CO-ORDINATES 264-311-079 IN MANDAHAR SYSTEM. PEREGRINE 1 WILL BE AT RENDEZVOUS POINT. DISPATCH REPRESENTATIVE IN PEREGRINE 5 TO MEET DRAGON AT ABOVE CO-ORDINATES ON DAY 317 HAPPY HOUR. NEW TAC CHANNEL PROTOCOL FOR INITIAL CONTACT IS FIRST HALF OF TAC 2 SECOND HALF OF TAC 1 ROTATIONS. HOURS STILL LIKE DAYS. MESSAGE ENDS.
“Engines ready Dragon, we’re good to go” Witch reported, then strapped in tighter.
“Hit it, Dragon, a Base Star just came out of jump” Spook shouted, then Dragon pressed the initiator and the Peregrine vanished before the Cylons could scan them. Or so he hoped.
Back on the PEGASUS, Captain Sanders at the Core Command Console noticed that the Borallis probe had just returned from it’s mission. He also noticed that the probe had indeed received a message. It was being transmitted. He saw the first few characters - and knew that they had hit pay dirt. He waited for the full message to be printed out, then he headed out to see Cain.
As Cain and Tolen were sitting in an adjoining conference room going over the weapons manifest, Sanders entered the room with a large smile.
“We’ve just gotten a message back from them”, Sanders announced to Cain, holding up a printout form, “The probe has jumped back and has transmitted a relayed message from a ship of Colonial origin to the PEGASUS”.
“You brought it here immediately?”, Cain asked. Sanders nodded, handing Cain the form. The form was prefixed CEO - initials for ‘Commanders Eyes Only’ - before the PFOM designator.
Cain looked at it and saw that it was in the same code setup as what Syke had devised - and it was using the Peregrine Flight Operations Manual as one of the code keys (the Book of the Word was the second code key). A copy of both books was with Sanders and he placed it down on the desk so that Cain could decode it.
As Cain started working on the decode, Tolen said, “The fact that the Peregrine manual was used must mean that this is indeed the others involved on those other in-system missions and that this Captain Masters is alive”. He walked over to a wall-mounted communicator and paged Captain Syke to join them in the conference room.
Syke was up there in a few minutes. By that time, Cain had decoded the message. After quickly reading the contents, he passed it around to the others.
The message read: ‘2 COMMANDER OF BATTLESTAR, FROM COMMANDER OF COLONIAL FLEET CONTINGENT INVOLVED IN RECENT BATTLE. DRAGON SAYS TO B GLAD YOU AND I NOT IN CLUB. FOR FACE TO FACE ENCOUNTER MEET AT CO-ORDINATES 264-311-079 IN MANDAHAR SYSTEM. PEREGRINE 1 WILL BE AT RENDEZVOUS POINT. DISPATCH REPRESENTATIVE IN PEREGRINE 5 TO MEET DRAGON AT ABOVE CO-ORDINATES ON DAY 317 HAPPY HOUR. NEW TAC CHANNEL PROTOCOL FOR INITIAL CONTACT IS FIRST HALF OF TAC 2 SECOND HALF OF TAC 1 ROTATIONS. HOURS STILL LIKE DAYS. MESSAGE ENDS’
Cain waited until everyone present had absorbed the message, then turned to Syke.
“They’ve definitely been listening in on the communications if they know we have Peregrine Five. What’s the significance of the ‘Days and hours’ phrase, Captain?”, Cain asked, “and I noticed that you had used something similar in the rendezvous probe’s follow-up message”.
“It goes back to a discussion Captain Masters and I once had after we finished up at VTT”, Syke explained, “If you’re sitting through a lecture at VTT hours can seem like days, and if you’re talking to a beautiful woman, days can seem like hours. Time - like all things - is relative, and in this case can mean the opposite of what you might think. So most of what’s in those messages means the opposite of what is there. Like the coordinates, and times, we’ll have to reverse them to be correct. Happy hour at the Golden Arrow bar was at 22:00, but our opposite would be when it opens, 14:00.”
“Then day 317 would actually be 53, from ’Arm Day’, Armistice Day? Plus 53.... that’s just 2 days from now!”, Sanders replied after looking at the wall chronometer.
“The Mandahar System is fairly close to the Colonies, but not too close”, Cain mused, “but we now know that Captain Masters is alive and will be at the rendezvous in” - he paused, looking at the wall chronometer - “precisely two days and five hours from now”.
“They’re not letting on too much of who they are”, Tolen commented, “so either they are still not one hundred percent sure of who we are or they are trying their best to foil any attempts by the Cylons to decode it should they intercept the transmission”.
“Probably the latter. But I know who they are”, Syke answered, “That reference to ‘not in club’ was referring to our last night in the O-club at the Picon base where we were on TDY. He and I were both cleaned out in cards by Starbuck - I mean, Lt. Thrace. We both swore that we would not go into an o-club again if she was playing. If Dragon had been captured, he would have said something else and that would have made me suspicious”.
Cain nodded, reassured by Syke’s answer. He turned to Sanders.
“What do you make about this ‘TAC protocol’ part of the message, Comms?”, he asked. Sanders heard the ‘how’ in the question by the tone of voice.
“The new TAC rotation frequency protocol will be easy enough to program in. My guess is that they will not be at the exact co-ordinates, but will either communicate over the wireless when they detect our jump to the co-ordinates, or will be listening for us should we decide to go a little ‘inexact’ ourselves”, Sanders answered.
“And it will be a rotation protocol that the Cylons won’t know about, if they have indeed compromised the established rotation protocols”, Tolen added.
“Those others must evidentially think so, if they are letting us know about this new one. Well then, we will have a place to make a rendezvous”, Cain decided, “Captain Syke, you and Ensign Dutch will accompany the Peregrine crew to the rendezvous point. Make your plans accordingly”, he finished, handing Syke a small circular disc in an envelope. Syke knew that it was a personal message from him to Masters’ commander.
Nodding his understanding, Syke watched while both Cain and Tolen stood up and left the briefing room, leaving him alone there with Sanders.
“Do you have your cipher pads ready, Comms?”, Syke asked Sanders.
“Yes, they are all ready for you to take, along with a list of probe jump-points in this sector”, he replied, “which means that if there is a threat of capture, you must destroy then as they could point the way for the Cylons to find us”.
Syke nodded. The other colonials would definitely need to know where to send their probes for any further communications, but if the list ever got into the wrong hands.....
“When you’re ready to depart, I’ll personally deliver it to you. I guess that you’d better let Dutch, Hunter, and Sims know about the mission”, Sanders said. With that, he left the conference room.
Syke sat there alone for a few minutes, thinking about the message and various possibilities for disaster. If this was an elaborate trap - though that personal note reference from Dragon to him made it unlikely - he had better make sure that the auto-destruct on the Peregrine works properly. Getting captured - either with or without the cipher pad and jump-point co-ordinates list - was a possibility that must not be allowed to happen, given his knowledge about the PEGASUS and Silver Spar Wing. He stood, then taking the message form with him, he left the conference room and headed back down to his office. He was going to have to let Razor, Hondo, and Coffin know that they were about to embark on a potentially risky mission....
CHAPTER FOUR: Reaching Out
“So Dragon got in touch”, Hunter said after getting briefed by Syke. Hunter, Sims, and Dutch were in Syke’s office. The door was closed and no one else was present.
“We’re heading out very soon to make initial contact. But this could be a trap. Under these circumstances, I can’t order you to go, but the Peregrine is the only thing we have - apart from the PEGASUS itself - that can make the rendezvous”, Syke stated.
“In that case, there’s nothing else to be said”, Hunter answered, “I’m in”. The others nodded their agreement.
“Thank you all”, Syke replied, “Well, we will have to get everything ready for launch. As you can see by the message, we don’t have too much time, so let’s make sure that the Peregrine is ready and we’ll meet down in the bay in forty-four hours. Captain Sanders will have his documentation ready for you to take charge of, Razor”.
Dutch nodded. He knew that there would have to be a common protocol in order to maintain communications should this initial contact be successful. He was looking forward to seeing his old acquaintances again - just like Hunter and Sims.
“If there’s no other questions, then I’ll give Chief Krag the word and you guys can start making preparations. I’m taking you off your schedules so that we can concentrate on getting everything ready”, Syke said.
No one answered. Syke stood. Following his lead, the others stood and headed out. All were happy at being on this mission, but they had to keep this quiet. Not knowing if there were any other Cylon operatives made this necessary. In two days, they would be on their way.
Two days later, they were all set. It was time to make a rendezvous. Syke had left Silver Spar Wing in the hands of Tricia, Sanders had provided the documents to be handed over if the rendezvous was successful, and just before Syke had headed down to the launch bay to board the Peregrine, Cain dropped in and told him more about the sealed envelope he had given him earlier.
“The disk inside the envelope is a personal message from me to the commander of the other forces. Be sure to hand it to their representative and to inform him or her that it is eyes only commander-to-commander”, Cain instructed. Syke nodded and placed the envelope in his jacket pocket.
“Just make sure that it does not fall into the wrong hands, Captain”, Cain said to him as he left his office.
The message, which now lay sealed in the envelope marked CEO, read:
From: G. Cain, Commander, Battlestar PEGASUS (BSG-89)
To: Commander, Colonial Contingent in the field.
Classification: Commander’s Eyes Only. No permanent record.
Forgive the rather vague title of the addressee, but at this time of writing, your identity is unknown to me. But you now know who I am, and from what fleet ship I’’m writing to you from..
I had this letter entrusted to my representative, Captain Eugene Syke - the CAG of Silver Spar Wing - and instructed him to hand it to your representative. If you are reading this, then the initial contact was a success. I must stress that the information in this letter must not be made public to any but your closest confidants, for reasons which will be made apparent.
The Battlestar PEGASUS is the only survivor of Task Force Five, which was destroyed over Caprica. We are alone, but we are intact and fully battleworthy - as a number of tin-heads have already found out to their cost - without so far revealing our identity. In addition to Silver Spar Wing, the Battlestar PACIFICA’s Black Knight Wing is now based on the PEGASUS, along with Peregrine Five.
At this moment, we are currently on a mission to locate the Battlestar GALACTICA and the civilian vessels she is escorting - though for now our precise location cannot be disclosed. It is my intention to get Commander Adama to quickly convey the civilian ships to the nearest suitable planet, then to have the GALACTICA accompany the PEGASUS back into battle as this is the only way to ensure the protection of those survivors. Running from the Cylons is futile. The only way for our race to survive is to defeat them.
Unfortunately, there has been a discovery of humanoid Cylon agents, which was - I believe - what the tin-heads used in order to compromise the colonies and therefore enable the Cylons to defeat us so quickly. One of these agents was among some survivors we rescued from Caprica before we left the Cyrannus System. This agent nearly succeeded in alerting the tin-heads to our presence on several occasions and only the fact that a sensor disc planted in the shoulder patch of a flight suit was discovered, enabled us to eventually identify it. I strongly advise you to check carefully those around you as they could either be Cylon, or be carrying one of those discs. The disc can be easily located by means of sensor radiation of the type that the Cylons use: It will react to the radiation by amplifying a reflective ‘‘echo’’.
Regardless, their presence makes such security matters a high priority, which is why you must ensure that this information becomes compartmentalized. In addition, a recent communications intercept indicates that several of these agents may be posing as survivors in disabled ships, so be very wary of any distress calls until a definite means to identify the agents can be made.
I have included a data disk of extracts from our battle log with this letter. This will give you an idea of what we have encountered since the destruction of Task Force Five. Also, Captain Syke will have passed to you new code protocols, code cipher pads, and co-ordinates for your probes to jump to in order to communicate with us. Needless to say, all of this must be kept confidential.
I am glad that the tin-heads are not having a pleasant stay on our home worlds, and hopefully soon, when the PEGASUS returns with the GALACTICA, then we can work together in order to start taking back what we have lost. May the Lords of Kobol protect you all.
Now, Syke was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat with Hunter while Dutch was back aft with Sims. They went through the pre-flight check list after boarding. By the time that they had finished, the Bay Nine lift had raised the Peregrine up to the level of the flight deck. Now, sitting in the vacuum of space, Hunter gave the readiness status of the gunship to Core Control.
“Core Command transferring control of Peregrine Five to pilot. Launch when ready”, the wireless said.
With those words, Hunter powered up the engines and manipulated the primary lift-off thrusters. The Peregrine gracefully lifted off the Port Bay Flight Deck and headed out of the forward bay entry port. It was fully fueled and armed.
Syke was impressed with Hunter’s deft handling of the gunship. Despite the large size, the Peregrine handled more like a viper than a raptor. It was regrettable that the PEGASUS had only this one, he thought ruefully.
“Jump co-ordinates punched in, Hondo”, Sims reported from his station, “Rendezvous time in ten minutes....mark!”.
Hunter looked at Syke. Syke understood the gesture, but he had to reassure Hunter.
“I know that I’m the mission commander, Hondo”, Syke said, “but you’re the pilot-in-command. Until we make the rendezvous, you are in command of the ship and crew. It’s your baby”.
“Thanks, Bojay”, Hunter replied.
Syke smiled and relaxed in his seat, nodding at Hunter’s using call-signs for addressing. He already noticed that the Peregrine’s auto-destruct had been placed in STANDBY mode, and that the satchel in Dutch’s hands (that contained the new code ciphers, new TAC frequency rotation settings, and co-ordinates sheets for future probe jump points) also had an explosive device primed to go off if it was improperly handled.
“Jumping in 5....4....3....2....1.....jump!”, Hunter said, activating the FTL drive.
With a flash, the Peregrine made it’s lengthy jump from the Promar Sector to the Mandahar System.
“Contact Recon Probe have made the jump”, Sanders reported to Cain from Core Command.
Cain nodded. The battlestar was now going to wait until the return of the Peregrine, but just in case something else came back.....
“Comms, bring the PEGASUS to Condition Two”, he ordered.
Peregrine Five exited it’s jump in the Mandahar System approximately fifty clicks out from the precise co-ordinates that had been given to them by the probe earlier. Following set procedure, the Peregrine powered down it’s active systems. They were now relying on their passive sensors.
Mandahar was a lifeless system with two gas giants, three small rocky planetoids, and a large asteroid field. It was in the latter that the co-ordinates for rendezvous were located. Both Dutch and Sims used the passive sensor array to see if they could ‘hear’ any wireless or other EM emissions. After a couple of minutes, Dutch shook his head at Sims, who also shook his head. Sims thumbed his communicator.
“It’s quiet as a grave, Hondo”, Sims reported, “nothing but natural EM emissions”.
“What do you think, Bojay?”, Hunter asked.
“We’ve got that improvised TAC-channel rotation they gave us already programmed in, Hondo”, Syke replied, “so why don’t we use it - short range omnidirectional with the first message”, he suggested.
Hunter thought about it. True, the passive sensors showed nothing, but that did not mean that there wasn’t anyone - or anything - out there waiting. A sweep with the active sensors would be more definitive, but that would be a pretty loud announcement to anyone listening that they were here. A short-range communication though would be less obtrusive. He nodded.
Syke keyed his communicator, “Power up the weapons platform and the wireless transmitter only, Coffin. Razor, send out the first message on the TAC setting we were given - text format only”.
As Sims powered up the missile launchers and the targeting/acquisition array, Dutch started sending out the indicated message on the improvised TAC frequency rotation - made out of the first half of the TAC-2 rotation, and the second half of the TAC-1 rotation, then put into reverse to form the new frequency rotation setting.
The message read ‘‘B to D, B to D. STILL ANNOYED AT S?'. It was sent out three times. After the third transmission, a reply came back: ‘‘D to B, D to B. ANNOYED AT HER FOR BEING CLEANED OUT. HOW ABOUT HER DARE?'
Syke chuckled at that. He remembered precisely what that message meant. He switched to audio.
"I'm not that crazy, Dragon", Syke said into the wireless, "Her type of flying qualifies as either gifted or insane. Take your pick".
"Well, well, Bojay", a familiar voice replied over the wireless, "fancy meeting you out here. I guess we can take you off our targeting computer now. You can't be too careful these days".
"You're right about that, Dragon", Syke replied, "So where are you?"
"Head into the field at a heading of two-niner-three", Masters ordered, "Once you enter the field, we'll come to you. But keep your active sensors off-line. The tin-heads are doing patrols even in this system".
"That I can believe", Syke replied.
Hunter expertly brought his Peregrine onto the new course. Using his thrusters, he steered the gunship into the asteroid field. Nimbly, Hunter maneuvered the Peregrine around several clumps of asteroidal debris. At last, they came into a ‘clearing' of sorts.
"Dragon to Hondo, stop right there", Masters ordered over the wireless. Hunter brought the gunship to a stop. Sims noticed something on his screen.
"We're being scanned by a LIDAR, Hondo", he reported.
"From where, Coffin?", Hunter asked.
"Look up!", Masters' voice replied, momentarily startling him, but quickly remembering that his internal communications could be picked up by Peregrine One at close range - which was part of the original test and evaluation protocols.
He looked out of his cockpit window in order to see another Peregrine heading towards his position from above. His IFF confirmed that it was indeed Peregrine One. He thumbed his communicator.
"Great to see you again, Dragon", Hunter said.
"Don't forget me", another voice chimed in. Sever was looking down waving as their cockpit lined up over theirs, barely two meters apart. Hunter smiled more broadly.
"How can I forget your voice, Witch?", he said cheerfully.
"We'll have enough time for the reunion", Syke gently admonished, "but first, we'd better dock".
Hunter nodded, and noted that Syke had kept his hand on the auto-destruct panel the entire time. He knew that Syke had not forgotten anything, despite the initial ship-to-ship communications. That kind of thinking was what must have made him a CAG, he thought to himself.
"We rigged our bird with a docking collar over the dorsal hatch, Bojay. Hold still and we'll lock on", Masters sent.
"Thrusters are at station keeping, Dragon", Syke sent, "but are you going to make your docking approach direct, or are you going to come in from behind?".
"We'll be coming in directly, Bojay", Masters sent, "Just like our landing approaches at VTT, eh?".
Syke knew what Masters was trying to do. He keyed his communicator.
"Direct approaches at VTT were not allowed as that would have taken us over a part of the base that was in a prohibited no-fly-zone, Dragon", he admonished, "We both knew that, though that didn't stop us".
"No question about it, Bojay. You are who you say you are", Masters replied with a chuckle. Their approaches really annoyed the hell out of the brass. He continued, "Very well, our docking collar is ready to latch, which will be in about twenty seconds".
The twenty seconds was quite a slow time by the standards of most pilots, but both Syke and Masters realized that they could not afford any mess-ups with this docking, but it took no more skill than they had and Masters expertly docked Peregrine One onto Peregrine Five.
On Sims' status panel, a light turned green. He thumbed his communicator.
"We have a secure lock. It's pressurized", he said to Hunter and Syke.
Hunter turned to Syke and said, "Now you're the commander, Bojay". Syke nodded, looking up at the other cockpit - where he saw both Masters and Sever looking at him.
"You wanna come to us, or shall we come to you?", Syke asked Masters over the communicator.
"There's still a security issue, Bojay, so I think it best that we come down to you first. Okay?", Masters replied.Syke gestured to Masters with a thumbs-up gesture. Masters waved back, then got up out of his seat. As he did so, Syke noticed the stamped kill-markings along the base of Peregrine One's cockpit. And the stylized name of ‘DRAGON’S LAIR’ painted on the other. Four Frakking Base Stars!, Syke thought to himself.
For his part, Masters looked with satisfaction at the nickname painted on Peregrine Five. ‘FLEET AVENGER’ was an apt title, Masters thought.
CHAPTER FIVE: Face-To-Face
With the artificial gravity giving two different senses of ‘down' to the docked ships, the docking collar was not connected to the gravity grid, thus one could climb up the ladder on his side and when the mid-zone was reached, simply flip over and climb down the opposite ladder. As Masters, followed by Sever climbed into the tunnel on their side, Dutch opened the hatch on their side - which was on the ceiling of the CSO Station. Syke walked over to where Dutch stood. As Masters left the cockpit Giles took the pilot’s seat as ordered and kept a very close eye on the ‘whiskers’ telemetry, praying it stayed clear.
Masters made the flip, transitioning over to the other ladder and quickly clambered down the ladder. He dropped into Peregrine Five's CSO Station. Masters quickly saluted the colonial seal at the base of the open hatch, then saluted Syke.
"Permission to come aboard, Sir?", he asked. Not even their current situation could deny Masters the traditions of service protocol.
"Permission granted, Sir", Syke replied, returning the salute.
After both men dropped the salute, they walked up and gave each other a bear hug.
"Gene, It's so frakking great to see you again!", Masters replied with emotion in his voice.
"Me too, Logan", Syke replied.
It was at this time that Sever climbed down into the CSO station. Hunter was there to greet her. Both of them hugged. Neither of them spoke for about ten seconds.
"I thought you were long dead, Hondo", Sever said at last.
"I thought that you were dead also", Hunter replied with tears in his eyes.
Syke and Masters broke their hug. Masters turned to Dutch - who was watching quietly - and shook his hand.
"The last time I saw you, Razor, you were heading out to your first battlestar deployment. I never thought that I’d see you again", Masters said.
"If it hadn't been for Commander Cain, the PEGASUS probably wouldn’t have survived. We were real lucky”, Dutch replied. Masters nodded, then turned to Syke.
"So it really is the PEGASUS that's been giving the tin-heads non-stop grief out there", he commented.
"Not as big a grief as you though, Dragon", Syke replied, referring to the kill-markings on his Peregrine.
"Don't be so sure", Masters replied. He quickly explained what they had picked up from their interceptions of Cylon communications. Syke nodded hearing about the base star that Tricia had damaged with the booby-trapped tanker. The damage was so bad that the base star had to be scuttled. Now there was confirmation that the PEGASUS had another confirmed destroyed base star under their belt.
Syke quickly filled Masters in on other items. He confirmed that they were responsible for the destruction of Molecay Anchorage - with Masters again confirming the destruction of the base star that was there - and other items that had only previously been speculation. Then Masters talked about how he and a few others managed to save the Battlecruiser GOLIATH and Valhalla Station, plus added more detail as to what they did with the ITHACA - without divulging anything about their current point of origin.
"By the way, what's with all the Cylon intelligence regarding the PACIFICA we had been hearing about, Gene?", Masters asked during the brief, "After all, our probes confirmed the destruction of that particular battlestar".
"Lance Voight's Black Knight Wing managed to evacuate to the PEGASUS before the PACIFICA got taken out", Syke explained, also telling him about how the destruction of the PACIFICA had managed to mask the escape of the PEGASUS in the initial round of the war. Syke didn’t know Voight, but realized that he would have had to have been quite a resourceful CAG in order to preserve his entire strike wing.
"So you have two full strike wings at your disposal, and the tin-heads still are not sure who you are, and for the time being that is to our advantage", Masters said, "Our combined efforts are really giving them a headache".
Masters then told a little more about their hit-and-run missions while Syke told him about the encountered minefields and the attacks on the various encountered installations in the Optus and Anotian Sectors.
After getting each other up to date on their military exploits, Syke then said, "I do have some rather shocking intel to pass on as well, I’m not sure you’ll believe me. We have proof that there are humanoid Cylons that can pass as human.” Masters nodded.
“Yeah, they've been found amongst us too", Masters replied, "That's why I can't tell you at this stage too much more about our current location and disposition - save that we are better off than we were. You‘ll find all the data we have on them as well as some preliminary means of screening for them". Dragon held up a charge satchel, entered the disarm code and opened it. He pulled out several sealed data disks, some with C.E.O. stamped boldly on them.
Syke understood. With the threat of these spies being ever-present, the less that each other knew about the other, the better.
"Those tin-heads really planned well with their humanoid infiltrators", Syke said, "and since CSC no longer exists, tracking them down is far easier said than done".
Syke was of course referring to the Colonial Security Command. Unlike the Colonial Intelligence Administration (CIA) - which dealt with acquiring intelligence data from external sources, CSC dealt with internal security and counter-espionage. Both organizations - while under nominal civilian control - liaised closely with the Fleet Intelligence Directorate.
"CSC was probably the first agency that they did infiltrate, Gene", Masters replied, "but even if they hadn't, I don't think they would have caught a whiff of them until it was too late".
"Too true", Syke agreed, "I mean, we didn't catch our infiltrator until her last attempt to call on her friends for help. She worked in the Quartermasters department and placed a small passive sensor disc inside the VIPER patch on one of our flight suits. It sends out a hugely amplified echo when it detects radiation from a Cylon sensor probe. It cost us the life of one of our pilots and very nearly got the rest of us caught, but finding where the disc was located and how it was placed into the patch nailed her".
Masters' eyes widened at that statement. The attack on the incomplete Sentinel Post in the earlier battle was nearly thwarted because it detected them far earlier than would have normally been the case. If the same thing that Syke had described was what was used.......
Syke saw Masters expression change. He asked, "What is it, Logan?"
"I'll tell you later, Gene", Masters replied, "but for now - at least until our respective commanders meet up - we have to keep certain things confidential until every last one of them have been located and dealt with. What you just told me could be very useful - and very compromising if one of those tin-head plants gets wind of it".
"I know what you mean about confidentiality. As you now know, we're trying to track down the GALACTICA, but if the Cylons ever got word of where the PEGASUS is, it would not be overly advantageous for us, even with the extra resources we managed to get from Molecay before blowing it up", Syke said with classic understatement about the danger level. He well knew that until every last person on the battlestar was screened, the threat remained.
"Molecay must have had a lot to offer you. I noticed the type III Scarab SSM’s and the Longbows mounted on board this ship", Masters stated in order to divert the topic, "As you may know, those particular missiles are hard to come by these days", he concluded dryly.
The Longbow was a wire-guided direct-control missile which was ideal for defeating any anti-missile system that relied on jamming to confuse missile guidance systems. Molecay Anchorage had several racks of this type of missile, along with a number of type IA, II, and III Scarab ship-to-ship missiles, which Chief Krag's armorer’s had managed to bring aboard the PEGASUS.
"Well, maybe we can make a trade or two - we picked up several racks of them when we ransacked the anchorage - but we'd better get some means for subsequent contact set up first", Syke said, gesturing to Dutch - who brought the satchel to them.
"I've deactivated the bomb, so it's safe to open", Dutch said. Syke nodded as he opened the satchel. He handed some documents over to Masters. Masters nodded at the precautions that were being taken. This type of information had to stay out of unfriendly hands.
"There are some new code ciphers for your probes in there, plus new TAC-frequency rotation protocols and stellar co-ordinates in some outlying sectors for your probes to go to if you wish to communicate with us", Syke explained, "We'll send probes to those spots from time to time so any messages that you have for us can be picked up and relayed to the PEGASUS".
Masters nodded as he placed the papers into his carry-all. Syke then gave him an envelope.
"This envelope contains a personal message from Commander Cain to your commander. It is to be read by him only", Syke emphasized.
"No problem, Gene", Masters replied, "I'll see to it that my boss gets it. He has some for yours as well. And it is almost certain that our old TAC channels and codes have been compromised, so these new protocols will be most welcome".
With that, the sealed envelope was placed with the other papers into another satchel which had been brought over by Sever.
Sever and Hunter were chatting about old times themselves. They were very close friends and seeing each other again brought back a lot of memories.
While they were talking, Sims had been called over by Masters and he spent a few minutes talking to him about the Peregrine and how they had managed to survive for all this time.
"Those extra drop tanks saved our lives twice, Dragon", Sims said, talking about surviving the first attack during the test flight mission and also just before boarding the PEGASUS.
"I didn't like the idea of sending any of our ships out unarmed, but the Militech brass overruled it, saying that it wouldn't be necessary", Masters said to both Sims and Hunter- who had just walked up to them, "but for all that, I'm glad that you survived".
"I'm glad the PEGASUS was there to assist us, Dragon", Hunter said, "Syke's crew chief really did a great job of getting our bird repaired, and with the longbows and scarabs they had in stock, we now pack one big frakking punch!".
At last, the time had come for each group to return to their respective headquarters. Masters offered his hand to Syke, who shook it.
After a last, long hug and a kiss (also long), Hunter and Sever broke the embrace. With a “Take care, Hondo, I’ll see you soon”, Sever climbed back into the docking tunnel and headed back into Peregrine One. Hunter went back to the pilot’s seat in the cockpit.
Dutch and Sims each shook Masters’ hand and after wishing him a safe trip, both went to their respective duty stations.
As Masters was getting ready to climb back into the docking tunnel, Syke said, “In three days, expect a communication from the PEGASUS. It will be at the third set of probe co-ordinates that we provided. Our respective commanders should be able to have more information to provide each other by then”.
“We’ll be on hand to pick it up, and you’re right”, Masters replied, “My commander will have some more information, once he goes through what you’ve given to me so far. Until then, Stay safe and don’t give the tin-heads a moment of peace”.
“You too”, Syke answered with a smile. Nodding, Masters climbed back into the tunnel. Syke closed the hatch and sealed it.
“LAIR to AVENGER”, Masters communicated to Hunter - using the informal nicknames for each Peregrine -after Masters had reached his cockpit seat, “We’re undocking now. Follow us out of the asteroid field and we’ll make our respective jumps then. Okay, Hondo?”.
“Understood, Dragon”, Hondo replied. He looked to Syke - sitting in the co-pilot’s seat - who nodded.
DRAGON’S LAIR (Peregrine One) smoothly undocked from FLEET AVENGER (Peregrine Five). Masters quickly brought the LAIR’s engines online and started moving out of the field. A few seconds later, Hunter followed.
Masters, being rather more experienced in maneuvering a Peregrine emerged from the field thirty seconds ahead of Hunter's. But just before Masters instructed Sever to punch in the return co-ordinates for the FTL-jump back to base, Gile's voice came up on the intercom - loud.
"Frakk!", he said, "We have FTL-emergence! Sensors show two Cylon Raiders - Scimitar configuration - and they've seen us!"
Masters quickly looked at his sensor screen. The two hostiles had just launched missiles.
"Witch!", Masters ordered, "Prep guns and ready decoys, Spook, begin jammers".
"Decoys released", Sever replied, "but we can't FTL-jump on evasive, Dragon", she pointed out.
"Tell that to the frakking Cylons!", Masters snarled. Then 'jigged' the Peregrine hard to port and downward.
On FLEET AVENGER, both Syke and Hunter heard the exchange between Masters and his crew. Syke nodded to Hunter, who then keyed his mike.
"Coffin, Power up our missiles. Dragon needs assistance", he ordered while punching up his Peregrine's engines to full power.
"I heard that", Masters voice came over the intercom, "Thanks, Hondo".
"We're heading in to intercept", Syke said.
"Bojay, do not engage the one attacking us. Take out the one who isn't. We can't afford him jumping back and telling his buddies what they saw here", Masters ordered.
As Masters' Captain's commission pre-dated Syke's, that made Masters the person in overall command.
"Understood, Dragon", He replied. Hondo deftly brought his Peregrine onto an intercept course for the second raider.
As Hunter did so, Masters ordered Spook to get a lock-on for the raider on his ‘six', so he could fire a Scarab at it. Despite the evasive maneuvering in order to avoid the gunfire from the Cylon, Spook quickly got a target acquisition and transferred the firing solution to Masters’ console.
"Fox One", Dragon called out as the scarab shot out of it's launch rack and streaked out in an arc that had it heading towards the attacking raider.
The self-aware raider saw the incoming missile. Unlike other raiders, this one had a newly-installed enhanced missile jammer. It powered up the device and focused it's beam on the incoming scarab. The missile immediately went awry, prompting Spook to shout ‘Frakk' as it prematurely detonated.
"That tin-head emitted a jamming beam of some kind, Dragon. The missile didn't even get close!", he shouted.
"Not good, we've used that trick too many times.", Masters replied with classic understatement. He then spoke to Hunter.
"Hondo", he said into the inter-ship comm, "They've jammed our scarabs. You'll need to use your longbows. I'll set them up". Then dove again hoping to put the Raider perusing them into an open shot for the AVENGER.
"Got it", Hunter replied. He then keyed his mike to speak to both Sims and Dutch.
"Both of you will need to control your respective missiles. Target each hostile and guide your missile in", he said.
"Acquiring Target One", Dutch said. His targeting computer was locked onto the target and he fired.
"Fox Five", he said. The longbow shout out of rack five and headed into it's target. The missile was trailing a super-thin wire that was sending instructions directly from Dutch's console to the longbow. The raider that it was firing at, powered up it's enhanced jammer and aimed it at the missile, confident that it would suffer the same fate as the missile fired at it's colleague.
However, this missile did not divert from it's path. With direct control from AVENGER, the missile simply did not have an independent homing system that could be affected. As this missile homed in, Sims locked in on to the other raider and fired his longbow.
"Fox Six", he communicated as his Longbow launched.
Dutch's missile was now extremely close to the raider. The raider went into evasive mode, but Dutch expertly controlled the longbow and maintained it's lock. The missile impacted on the raider and detonated, causing the raider to explode.
"Got the tin-head!", Dutch shouted. All on board both ships who heard him smiled , but there was still one other raider to deal with and it was closing in on Masters' Peregrine.
The raider's brain noted the destruction of it's colleague. It also noticed the incoming missile and that it was of the same type that had destroyed the other. It made a decision and swung it's armament to deal with the incoming threat.
On board DRAGON'S LAIR, Sever reported, "The tin-head is trying to take out the longbow with it's guns. It's broken off it's attack on us".
Masters’ enhanced reflexes spun the Peregrine around and put their main guns under Sever's control on a track to turn the tables on the Cylon. Witch's heads-up display came up on her visor and she tracked the cross hairs on the raiders tail. With their scarabs useless for the time being, the guns would have to do.
The raider fired several bursts of fire at the incoming longbow. Sims succeeding in avoiding most of the fire, but a bullet from the last burst severed the control wire. Sims watched in frustration as the longbow streaked in a straight line, out of control.
The raider's brain noted that the missile had been dealt with, but it's moment of ‘triumph' was short-lived. Masters had accelerated LAIR to within gun range and with a brief muttering, "Surprise!", shot off a long burst from his nose gun while Sever did the same from the twin main guns on the wings.
The raider was hit hard by the burst of bullets and lost control, tumbling helplessly. Sever then switched controls of the scarabs to her rear seat and fired another scarab at the now-helpless raider. This time, the raider could not jam the missile. The scarab impacted onto the disabled raider and destroyed it. Both Masters and Syke breathed a sigh of relief.
Sever looked forward at Masters, "You’re right, that does feel good" she said in reference to watching a raider disintegrate from a scarab hit. (Dragon having a bad habit of going through them so quickly).
“Looks like they found the specs on the scarabs control systems, we'll need to do a little extra programming to avoid those jammers", Masters communicated dryly. Hunter smiled at that. He was happy that FLEET AVENGER had at last destroyed a Cylon ship.
"Easy enough to do back at your base", Syke replied with a similar smile, "But I'll make sure that before we next meet up, to have Chief Krag stock up in our APC bay some extra longbows for you".
"Do that", Masters agreed, "But let's let back to our respective bases. The tin-heads will soon send out a search party for their missing patrol and the sooner we're away when that happens, the better".
"Jump co-ordinates punched in", Dutch said. Sever said the same a few seconds later.
With a last communication of "Don't forget to punch on another raider silhouette onto your ship", both Peregrines jumped. They were bringing back to their respective commanders a wealth of information.
CHAPTER SIX: Catching up on things.
The FTL-jump back to the PEGASUS was accomplished without further incident. After transmitting the code phrase FIVE MET ONE - which meant to Cain, Tolen, and Sanders that the contact had been successful - Hunter brought FLEET AVENGER back down onto the PEGASUS’ port landing deck, which was then lowered into Hangar Bay Nine (the one bay that was big enough to take it). After instructing Krag to place a raider kill-marking on the hull under the cockpit canopy, Hunter followed Syke, Sims, and Dutch to debriefing.
“With pleasure, Lieutenant”, Krag replied as they left the hangar deck. He turned to his crewmen and ordered them to get the AVENGER refueled and rearmed, while he walked over to the paint locker to grab some paint and a Cylon raider template....
The debriefing that followed for the AVENGER crew was done behind closed, locked, and guarded doors. As well as the Peregrine Crew, Cain and Sanders was present while Tolen watched over CIC. He would be briefed by Sanders later.
Syke passed onto Cain the CEO envelope containing the disks and talked about the initial contact with Masters. Hunter talked about the attack of the Cylon raiders with Dutch and Sims contributing their data. About the only thing omitted was Hunter’s feelings for Sever.
With a “Well done”, Cain instructed the Peregrine crew to take a full day’s rest. Syke wanted to get back to his job, but Cain said that Tricia would remain in acting command of Silver Spar Wing until tomorrow. End of story.
“Let the record show that I obey the orders of my battlestar commander”, Syke said, saluting. Everyone chuckled at that. Syke was secretly glad as the recent mission had made him rather tired. He would take full advantage of his down-time.
As everyone left the briefing room, Cain quietly mentioned to Sanders to relay the information on this contact to key personnel, in addition to Tolen. Sanders knew to whom Cain had met. When he got back to Core Command, he sent out a page for certain personnel to report to him.
As much as he wanted to read the personal message to him immediately, Cain decided to finish off his watch first. It was important to display a stoic facade for the crew at all times. Besides, there was nothing in Syke’s briefing or anything on the envelope that said to open immediately. He would do that later. As he stood his watch, he saw Sanders talk to Tolen, who then walked over to the abutting conference room. Tolen would be getting the word about the recent debrief, he thought.
Later, after the change of watch, Cain went below. He was now alone in his cabin. The door was locked and a guard assigned to stand outside with orders for him not to be disturbed. He was sitting at his desk, with the envelope - that Captain Syke had brought back from the contact mission - opened and several data disks taken out. He inserted the first disk - marked READ FIRST. Cain noticed that the message was recorded on a read only data disk, and once read it would self delete the entire file. Again ensuring that his door was secured and his communicator was off - in order to avoid any interruption- he activated the message.
It read: To Commander Cain, From Commander Matthew Hawke, Battlecruiser GOLIATH.
You probably don’t remember me but you spoke at the commencement address at the academy the year I graduated. You presented the ‘‘Tactical Excellence’’ award to me. It was there I also met your daughter Tricia, about her you have my condolences.
I have ordered that specific information about our current disposition not be passed on by my representatives. This data is for your eyes only.
Since you survived the initial attack I am assuming you discovered the Cylon access virus in the Baltar navigation program and have removed it, if not that’s where the weakness in our system lays. Downgrade all ships to previously used operating systems. Also on the ’code orange’ disk you will find some disturbing data on our discovery of a Cylon human replication program. The tin heads have built replicas that duplicate humans almost exactly. It is our belief they used these as infiltrators to pinpoint our defenses and corrupt them. We have found several here, but our data is incomplete. There may still be more as yet undiscovered hiding among our population. I recommend that you adjust your internal security accordingly. Everything we have on them is included in that file.
Despite what any Cylon intercepts might tell you, Valhalla is alive and well, as are over 250,000 civilians. Any references to the Guardsman cutter GRIFFIN are fictitious, that was the GOLIATH.
We do have the cutter CHYMERA available for supply runs at this time, and we will have a PROVIDER class tender ready soon.
If you should find yourself in a position where you absolutely need to escape from the Cylons, the ’red code’ disk that accompanies this one will provide you with our Colony location as well as the jump calculations required to get to it. I assure you they work, our presence here is proof. I’m sure I don’t have to say this but, that disk must not fall into Cylon hands under any circumstances.
Our Viper strength stands at 130. 2 squadrons of 40, and a partial of 30. A third of the pilots are rooks. We have no Raptors, our Peregrine serves as our forward eyes.
The ITHACA was lost during our recent battle but there were no losses, Colonel Lennox and his crew were extracted and are safe. Our intel puts the PROMETHEUS as drifting out of the system with no power being generated from within, other status unknown. Her coordinates and data on the declassified ’white disk’.
Our Captain Masters was unable to catch up with the GALACTICA in the Promar sector, we believe the Cylons like us found the discards of the GALACTICA gift shop and that’s how they determined her last known location. Like you, we are harassing the Cylons to take as many pursuers from her trail as we can. However we also have a large civilian population to protect. Whether you do or not we have been unable to determine. However, if you want to send any civilians you are escorting to our colony, then the data on the red disk is at your disposal and we will welcome them here. That would free you to move unhindered in your efforts. That too is also just a recommendation, Sir.
Just know that the GOLIATH stands ready to aid you in your efforts, and that we will not rest until the Colonies are free once again. As long as we can draw breath they will know that they only have a foot hold on our worlds, and that we intend to kick them back off.
Cain sat at his desk thinking about the message that he had read. Yes, he remembered Matthew Hawke, and he marveled at his achievements since the loss of the war. The GOLIATH was a dated vessel, but despite all odds, he had succeeded in not only getting it back into full operation, but had also managed to rescue a large number of colonial survivors. He made a mental note to talk to Tricia about Hawke later on - after all, she probably knew a lot more about him.
He noted with satisfaction that they also had known about the Cylon humanoids and that as a result, Hawke would not be taking any chances security-wise. The contents of the orange disk, Doctor Wilkin Ashley would find very valuable as he was still having trouble nailing down a reliable means of identifying Cylon humanoid infiltrators, and Sanders had rather dryly requested that they refrained from sending him off on any detection assignments that would get him strangled again!
He looked over at the red data disk sitting on his desk. It was tempting to send it up to Core Command and to dispatch the PEGASUS to the location that it contained - according to what Hawke said, but realized that this should be a last-gasp option only, at least until the GALACTICA was located. Unknown to Cain, the red disk contained "Fourds Fallacy Calculations" , the means needed to jump into the Nova Madagon and end up in the eye, which was just as well as Cain would probably freak when/if he ever reads that.
Standing up, he picked up the disk and walked over to where a picture was hanging on the wall. The picture was a photograph of him and Bill Adama taken at the end of the First Cylon War. Cain removed the picture, exposing a small wall safe. He placed his thumb print on a sensor pad, then tapped in a code on the keypad which was on the safe’s door. The door swung open, and Cain placed the disk inside. Sealing the safe, he put the picture back in place. If the safe was improperly opened, the contents would be incinerated by explosive charges - just like the larger security safe up in CIC.
Walking back to his desk, he turned on his communicator to Chief Krag down in maintenance.
“With the Raptor we had on board that was originally slated for the TRITON, could you find some way to latch it onto the Peregrine so that when it jumps, the raptor won’t be left behind?”, he asked. He remembered that the only reason why Tricia had been on board the PEGASUS was because she was supposed to have been ferrying the raptor in question back to her home battlestar: the now-destroyed Battlestar TRITON.
“No sweat, Commander”, Krag replied, “We going to deliver it to somebody?”, he asked. While the news of the contact was kept compartmentalized, Krag was one of those who had been given the information so that he could ready the Peregrine and recon probes accordingly.
“Good guess”, Cain replied, “You’d better get started on it. Do paint out any markings that could trace it to us though”, he advised.
“Right away, Commander”, Krag replied, “and we’ve already started loading up surplus scarab and longbow missiles into the AVENGER’s APC bay, as requested by Captain Syke”.
Cain nodded. He remembered the report on the recent battle which involved both Peregrines and reported on the new jamming beam being used by the Cylon raiders.
“How goes the modifications on the missiles against these new jammers, Chief?”, Cain asked next.
“Thanks to CAG, we have a good record of the beam”, Krag replied, “The modifications required are small and all of our SSM’s will be upgraded by the end of the watch”.
“Excellent, Chief”, Cain said. He then clicked off his communicator.
Krag placed a call to his counterpart in Black Knight Wing, Chief ‘Bru’ Brubaker and informed him that the Commander needed the raptor in question ASAP (It had been attached to the Black Knights as they only got one of their raptors over from the Battlestar PACIFICA before it was destroyed back at Caprica).
“No prob, George”, Brubaker replied, “I’ll get some of the guys to push it over to you”.
“Thanks, Bru”, Krag replied, “And if Captain Voight asks you about it, please refer him to the Old Man”.
Back in his cabin, Cain reached down to get another disk. Picking up the orange disk, he put it into an envelope and sealed it. He unlocked his door and opened it. The guard outside glanced at him, then came to attention.
“Crewman”, Cain said, “You can stand down from your post, but before you return to normal duties, please take this envelope over to Dr. Ashley. Tell him it’s a little gift from me, understood?”.
“Yes, Commander”, the crewman replied. He took the offered envelope, saluted, then headed down the corridor in the direction of Life Station. Cain thought that Ashley would really welcome the information provided by Commander Hawke....
Down in his cabin, Syke was napping. He was a habitual light sleeper and usually got all his sleep in brief periods. Despite his feeling fatigued from the contact mission, he did not go into a long deep sleep. It was actually during one of his waking spells that someone knocked on his door.
“Come in”, he replied. He knew that if anyone was going to interrupt his down-time, it would be for an important reason, and as he was wearing briefs and a t-shirt, there would be no problems with modesty. It was Tricia. She entered the room facing Syke.
“Sorry to interrupt you, Gene”, Tricia said a little awkwardly.
“I was actually awake, Tricia, so don’t worry about it. How’s the wing?”, he asked, as he stood. He walked over to his servitor and poured himself some coffee. She shook her head when he offered her some.
“Everything in the wing is fine and the patrols are going out okay”, she replied, “I’ve just come off watch and Jet is watching over things for this watch cycle. Ratchet’s squadron is the one on standby at this time”.
Syke looked at Tricia closely. This was not a ‘normal’ business meeting, judging from her posture and expression.
“You’ve read the debrief notes?”, Syke asked her, avoiding a direct question to her presence here. Tricia was one of the few outsiders made privy to the information from the initial contact.
“Yes, I have”, she answered, “Comms briefed both me and Captain Voight a few hours ago. I’m glad we’ve made contact and I hope that it will branch out....”, she tailed off.
“What’s up, Tricia?”, he asked.
Tricia didn’t reply. She walked up to him and kissed him. Syke, still holding the mug of coffee in his hand, returned the kiss and hugged her.
“I’m so glad you’re back, Gene”, Tricia whispered in his ear after breaking the kiss, “After hearing about the run-in you and your friend had with those raiders, I really needed to be with you. I waited as long as I could, but I just had to be here”.
“I’m glad to be back, Tricia, and I’m glad to be with you”, Syke replied huskily. He quickly put his coffee down (without breaking the hug - which was an achievement in itself) . Syke realized that this must have been what Lt. Sever and Hunter were feeling when they met at the rendezvous.
Syke broke the hug and gestured to Tricia to sit down. She sat down at the desk while he sat down at the edge of his bed.
“Hearing about all of the civilians that Captain Masters had rescued......they must have found a world to settle on, unlike the refugee ships with the GALACTICA. Maybe there’s hope......”, Tricia said, tailing off at the end with some embarrassment.
Syke knew what Tricia meant. He finished off the unfinished sentence, “Hope for a real life and a family, you mean”, he ventured. Tricia nodded.
“You know, I thought myself lucky in a way that I never was married. I never had a girlfriend”, Syke explained, “so when we lost our home worlds, I didn’t feel so badly torn up about losing any loved ones. It is selfish, I know”, he continued, “I had no family members - I was brought up a ward of the state and the first real family I had was the service. I felt more grief at the loss of the fleet than the colonies”.
“No girlfriends at all, Gene?”, Tricia asked.
“I was too busy with being an officer and pilot, Tricia”, Syke explained, “and while I enjoyed female company, there was never anyone I could get attached to........until you came along, that is”, he finished quietly.
Tricia stood up, walked over to where Syke was sitting, then sat down on his lap. Saying quietly, “I love you, Gene”, she proceeded to kiss him deeply. What happened next over the following few hours in Syke’s quarters can not be precisely written here, save that both of them wanted each other, and gave themselves to each other in a pure expression of love, before eventually falling asleep in each other’s arms....
Much later, Syke woke and leaned over to Tricia - both were laying side-by-side on his not-so-wide bed - and kissed her shoulder. She sighed and opened her eyes.
“Do you think that this approach will get me any glowing recommendations for promotion from my CAG?”, she asked playfully, “I’d like to think that my father’s position would have nothing to do with it.....”.
Syke laughed at that, then said with a smile, “I’ll consider it sometime, Lieutenant”. Tricia pouted and threw a pillow at him.
Syke - after avoiding the pillow - looked over at the wall chronometer and said, “Uh-oh. Looks like we’d better get up and get ready to go back to work. By the way, when the follow-up contact mission goes, I’d like you to go this time, okay?”. Tricia nodded.
Both of them knew that when Tricia made herself known as Cain’s daughter at the next rendezvous, then that would add a lot of credibility to Masters’ follow-up crew. Besides, it was important to ensure that he kept close tabs on his wing every once in a while...
They both ended up using his shower together - Tricia pointing out not very convincingly that sharing a shower saved water - then both got dressed. After dressing, Tricia suggested that she leave first, with him following a minute or so later. Syke nodded. Given the fact that this was now working hours, professionalism had to come first. Both of them realized that the chain of command would suffer if others in the wing immediately knew that the CAG and his deputy were romantically involved.
Saying, “I’ll meet you up in the mess hall”, she quickly kissed him, then exited his quarters. Smiling, Syke watched his wall chronometer click around for a little over a minute, then he left. People passing him in the corridor were wondering why the CAG - normally so stoic - was walking along with a broad smile on his face...
Another person smiling at that same was Dr. Wilkin Ashley. He had finished going over the data disk that Cain had sent to him. The medical files in the disk included Dr. Helena Russell’s results on high resolution electron microscope analysis of silicate neuro patterns and their nutrient requirements in a synthetic hemoglobin system.
Dr. Ashley knew of Dr. Russell only by reputation (she was a rather well known biologist who had written several excellent articles in COLONIAL MEDICINE magazine - the prestigious medical journal), but despite his lack of a personal acquaintance with Dr. Russell, saw that this information from her was worth twenty times it’s weight in refined tylium. It made his job much easier. He could now see a means to start a comprehensive screening program for any more Cylon infiltrators.
CHAPTER SEVEN: Follow-up for delivery
Three days had elapsed since the return of FLEET AVENGER to the PEGASUS from it’s contact mission. It was close to the time for the next probe to be dispatched. Captain Sanders had made sure that the probe’s database had all of the additional information that would be relayed to the other colonials. This was one thing that had to be done personally. While it was general knowledge around the ship that there was contact with somebody, Cain still insisted that because of security concerns, details about the others had to be kept compartmentalized for the time being.
The probe was to head out to one of the preset locations on the pad given to Captain Masters: Point ‘Constellation’, which was in the empty space between the Optus and Anotian sectors. Commander Cain had compiled the primary message that the probe would be carrying. It read: USE PAD CIPHER THETA FOR DECODES. FIRST MESSAGE COMMANDERS EYES ONLY. The theta pad cipher was one of twenty that Sanders had developed for secure communications. Once the correct cipher was used, the message would read:
CAIN TO HAWKE. RECEIVED YOUR COMMUNICATIONS. THANKS FOR INFORMATION. NEXT MANNED RENDEZVOUS SET FOR CHESPEK SECTOR AT CO-ORDINATES 339-002 AT ARM DAY PLUS SIXTY-TWO. BEARING IN MIND YOUR MESSAGE THAT YOU HAVE NO OTHER SCOUT BESIDES PEREGRINE ONE, PEREGRINE FIVE WILL BE THERE TO DELIVER SURPLUS RAPTOR TO YOUR COMMAND. PLEASE ENSURE YOUR PEREGRINE CONFIGURED TO TAKE RECEIPT OF RAPTOR AT RENDEZVOUS. PEREGRINE FIVE WILL ALSO DELIVER SUPPLY OF TYPE THREE SCARAB AND LONGBOW SSM’S. SECOND CONTACT PARTY FROM PEGASUS TO BE LED BY LIEUTENANT TRICIA CAIN.
Cain had thought long and hard about Syke’s recommendation for Tricia to go on the next mission, but finally decided that what Syke had said made sense. Besides, it would be a good way to show Commander Hawke that her daughter was indeed alive and well.
With an additional message from Syke to Masters, plus additional decodes of Cylon intercepts (all coded on the Theta cipher) loaded into the database, the probe was now getting dispatched for it’s rendevous in inter-system space between the Optus and Anotian sectors.
Syke’s message was more of an informal one. It read:
Logan, Sorry I won’t be on the next rendezvous, but I do need to look after my wing from time to time. My deputy will be representing the PEGASUS when the next meeting occurs. Her identity cannot be disclosed here for obvious reasons, save to say that she has the full confidence of Commander Cain and the command staff of the PEGASUS. She will be accompanied by an individual you well know, so be prepared for a reunion of sorts.
Anyway, I hope that Commander Hawke likes the little ‘gift’ of the raptor that we will be ferrying over to the rendezvous point. You will need to have your Peregrine configured to ‘accept’ the raptor, though. From what Hondo has told me, it should not be any problem for you, or your support crews.
The raptor will be loaded with spare parts, and I’m making sure that the APC bay of the FLEET AVENGER will have a supply of scarab and longbow SSM’s for you and DRAGON’s LAIR to use on the tin-heads.
By the way, I forgot to ask you earlier: You have any of that special coffee blend that we both loved to drink when we were at VTT? I had noticed the servitor on board the FLEET AVENGER and since Hondo had told me that there was one like it on your ship and you were the chief test pilot and all......
Stay safe and don’t give those Tin-headed monstrosities any respite.
“Probe launched, Captain”, one of the techs at Core Command announced. Sanders watched on one of the DRADIS console monitors the flight patch of the probe. It would jump to the pre-programmed co-ordinates just about.......
“It’s jumped”, the tech reported unnecessarily. Sanders nodded. He saw the probe disappear off the monitor screen at the same time.
In the large expanse of empty space between the Optus and Anotian sectors - though well away from the mine fields that the PEGASUS had detected there earlier - the PEGASUS probe emerged into normal space. It quickly scanned the immediate area - finding nothing - then went into dormant mode. It would stay that way until it detected any nearby FTL-emergence, EM emissions, proximity alerts, or transmissions.
Down in Bay Eight (Port-side), Krag was finishing up getting one of the raptors prepared for it’s delivery mission. In Bay Nine, the special attachment had been placed at the top of the AVENGER, behind the docking hatch. When the raptor was finally ready, it would be raised to the flight deck. When the AVENGER was raised to the flight deck, a remote crane would lift the raptor and carry it over the AVENGER. The crane would then lower the raptor onto the attachment, thus securing it in place. When the AVENGER’s FTL drive was activated, the raptor in it’s position would be within the hyper-light field generated by the drive - thus enabling it to be ‘piggybacked’ to it’s destination.
It seemed a cumbersome arrangement, especially to Captain Voight - after all, it was from his wing that the raptor had been appropriated from and he wasn’t overly pleased at losing it, but Cain had pointed out to him that (a), it had only been assigned to him after the TRITON’s destruction made the original delivery impossible, (b) Commander Hawke needed it more as it gave him an extra set of eyes, but still left the PEGASUS three raptors in all, and (c) that the AVENGER would be able to take up the slack okay once it returned to reconnaissance duties.
With a flash of light, a probe exited it’s FTL-jump near the co-ordinates of the dormant PEGASUS probe. The PEGASUS probe noted the FTL-emergence, then sent out an IFF query. The newcomer: a remote probe (which had been dispatched earlier by DRAGON’S LAIR) sent back a reply, which the probe confirmed as colonial. The newcomer then sent out a query of it’s own. After the PEGASUS probe sent out it’s IFF - which the other probe confirmed, it then transmitted the various messages that had been stored in it’s database. It took but a few seconds. After the newcomer transmitted acknowledgment of receiving all messages, it sent out a few messages of it’s own.
The PEGASUS probe, after acknowledging receipt of the received messages, powered up it’s FTL drive, then jumped back to the PEGASUS.
It was perhaps fortunate that the PEGASUS probe was only designed to sense IFF and transmissions of particular code types as the probe that had been dispatched was disguised to look Cylon (Due to the high losses of probes in recent weeks since the last successful attack back in the Cyrannus System, these disguised probes were sent so as not to attract hostile Cylon attention....). Captain Masters had omitted to inform Captain Syke about these newly configured probes at the first contact meeting.
The other probe quickly scanned the local space - no stellar traffic anywhere nearby - then powered up it’s FTL drive. It then jumped back to Captain Masters and his Peregrine. The invitation had now been issued. It was up to Commander Hawke to respond to it....
“Probe returned”, the Tech reported to Sanders, “It’s signaling that the messages have been transmitted, and that it has messages of it’s own”.
“Have the probe transmit the messages, then bring it back in”, Sanders ordered.
“Yes, Sir”, the tech replied. Sanders saw the messages coming up onto his screen. He saw that they were using one of his cipher pads: the Delta code cipher. He started the decryption routine.
FROM: Matthew Hawke, Commander GOLIATH
TO: Garris Cain, Commander PEGASUS
CLASSIFICATION: CEO/No Permanent Record.
I wanted to let you know that your first message and accompanying intelligence was most welcome. Rest assured that appropriate security measures to safeguard the confidentiality of the information have been used.
Until the time is right, the existence of the PEGASUS and what you have done since departing Molecay must be kept confidential from the civil populace - especially with the threat of the humanoid Cylons hanging over all of us. The recent loss of a cutter on a rescue mission reinforces this necessity.
That said, the crew of the GOLIATH are very happy at the survival of your battlestar and that you’re giving the Tin-heads out there one hell of a hard time. I’m looking forward to the day when you find the GALACTICA so that we can start to take back what we lost, once the both of you return.
The Chespek rendevous (according to the papers Captain Syke gave me) I assume is still on, unless your probe gives out an alternative location. Regardless, we will be there at the time you set. We should have a few extra items to give to you, and we’re looking forward to whatever you can provide for us. The follow-up meeting should clarify any outstanding items of mutual interest.
Commander Cain finished reading the message from Hawke. He leaned over to his communicator and paged Syke.
“Captain”, Cain said, “We’ve got the green light. Get the crew ready for departure. The co-ordinates and time for rendezvous is unchanged.
“Understood, Commander”, Syke replied. He had just finished reading Master’s follow-up message. After Cain clicked off his communicator, Syke called Tricia over from her office.
“It’s a go, Tricia”, Syke said, “You’d better get ready”.
As Tricia left to head down to Crew Quarters in order to notify Hunter and Sims, Syke thought about the note that Masters had written to him.
I’ll be piloting the LAIR for the follow-up rendezvous. I’m hoping that either you, or your representative, will have those extra scarabs and longbows ready for us to take receipt at the next rendezvous. I’ve got a feeling that they’re going to be sorely needed very soon.
Commander Hawke was very pleased with what you gave him. While a fair amount of it has been kept very secret, and that the general knowledge of the existence of the PEGASUS has so far been kept quiet from the civil populace under our protection, I won’t feel completely safe until all of those humanoid tin-heads have been found and dealt with.
The recent loss of one of our cutters was a bad blow to us, but establishing contact with the PEGASUS gave all of us a badly needed boost. Let’s hope that the next rendezvous leads to better things.
Looking forward to the next meeting. Stay safe.
The rendezvous time coming upon them, The AVENGER was elevated up to the hard vacuum of the flight deck. On board the raptor was Hunter and Sims, accompanied by Tricia and Lieutenant jg Matt Higgins. Syke had thought that since that Masters would be manning the LAIR again for this second manned rendezvous, it would be a good idea to have Higgins along as Masters knew him very well.
“CAG”, Higgins had said when Syke gave him the news, “Given the fact that I beat out Dragon at ATT, do you think that he would be glad to see me again, of all people?”
“I need you to assist Hondo and Coffin with the AVENGER’s systems, Rogue”, Syke answered, “Your ATT attributes will be a real plus if there’’s any trouble. Besides, Sheba requested your presence as you know Dragon very well”, he finished with a smile. Syke remembered in one of Logan’s letters that he was rather annoyed that he did not graduate ATT in the number one position.
Higgins’ smile was not so broad. He remembered that Masters was extremely competitive during the eight weeks that they both served at Advanced Tactical Training. He was mildly surprised when the final standings had been posted and he barely edged Masters out for first place and the ATT Sword of Honor prize.
The previous day was spent in a crash course for both Tricia and Higgins in the Peregrine’s systems. Tricia would be manning the second seat in the cockpit while Higgins would be with Sims in the PSO position. Both were monitoring their respective view-screens looking at the Raptor which had been elevated up to the deck. Now the remote crane was moving into position, latching onto the top of the Raptor.
“The raptor has been raised up off the flight deck”, Sims called out. He was monitoring on his screen the remote crane which was lifting the raptor off the deck.
“I see it, Coffin”, Hunter called back, “Keep a close eye on it”.
“Will do, Hondo”, Sims replied.
With Sims watching intently, the crane maneuvered the raptor over the AVENGER. Gently, the crane started lowering the raptor down onto the latching mechanism which Chief Krag had installed to accept the raptor.
With a gentle shudder, the raptor contacted the top of the AVENGER in the precise position for latching. The attachment clamps clicked into place, securing the raptor in position.
Hunter looked over at Tricia, who had a slight worrying look on her face while watching the viewscreen (the crane had unlatched from the raptor and had now moved away from the now-coupled ships . He reassured her.
“It’s okay, Sheba”, he said, “The Peregrine was designed to handle payloads bigger and heavier than the raptor. It won’t affect our ability to maneuver or fight”.
“Well, you know the capabilities of the Peregrine better than me, Hondo, so I’ll take your word for it. If we’re all set, perhaps we’d better get going”, Tricia replied, pointing to the chronometer. Tricia knew that the raptor was only part of the payload. The APC bay was filled with ordinance. The raptor was stocked with spare parts, and she was carrying additional messages from her father to give to Masters.
Nodding, Hunter then keyed his communicator to inform Core Command of their readiness.
“Core Command”, Hunter communicated, “The payload is in position and locked into place. We’’re ready to go”.
“Understood, AVENGER”, the voice of the Core Command operator acknowledged, “Core Command transferring control of AVENGER to pilot. Launch when ready”.
Skillfully, Hunter brought the AVENGER up to power. He manipulated the controls and the Peregrine lifted off the flight deck.
Up in CIC, the various crewmen on duty watched the DRADIS console screens at the mated ships as they departed from the PEGASUS. It really looked ridiculous, but the AVENGER was not having any control problems, despite the extra load.
“Okay, Hondo”, Sheba called out to Hunter, “I’’ve punched in the co-ordinates for the rendezvous. You can jump at your discretion”.
“Okay, Sheba”, Hunter replied. He keyed his inter-com, saying, “Coffin, Rogue. You got that?”. Both of them replied in the affirmative.
“Then let’s do it”, Hunter said, “jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jump!”.
With a flash of light, the Peregrine/Raptor combo made it’s FTL jump. Sanders saw the flash on his screen, then turned to Tolen, who nodded. Sanders nodded back.
Sanders keyed his mike, saying, “Set Condition Two throughout the ship. I repeat, set Condition Two throughout the ship”.
While the PEGASUS was going onto it’s heightened state of alert - which would remain in place until the AVENGER returned - the Peregrine emerged from it’s jump in the Chespek System. Hunter immediately put the AVENGER onto passive mode while Sims - assisted by Higgins - checked the passive sensors for any sign of any presence nearby.
“Nothing in the vicinity of us that we can see on passive sensors”, Sims reported over the inter-com.
“But if you used your active sensors, you’d be able to see us”, a familiar voice came back over the inter-com.
“Hey there, Dragon”, Hunter said, “Everything quiet around here?” He noticed that it was a short-range laser beam communication mode that Masters was using.
“So far, nothing nearby”, Masters replied, “Nice looking raptor you have there”, he said after looking at the mated ships. Sims had powered up the active sensor platform and saw the DRAGON’S LAIR approaching fast. Hunter and Tricia saw the LAIR was well on their screens. Also present were two shrikes as escort for Masters’ peregrine.
“My father had a feeling that you’d like the ‘gift’, Dragon”, Tricia communicated. Syke looked blank for a second after hearing the new voice, then realized who it must be.
“Father? Wait, I know that voice. No offense, but aren’t you dead??”, he asked.
“Those reports have been greatly exaggerated. The PEGASUS is now my home”, Tricia replied, “My call-sign is Sheba”.
“Glad to make your acquaintance, Sheba”, Masters answered. Call-signs were more appropriate than names to use on missions.
“We have a mutual friend on board the FLEET AVENGER, Dragon”, Tricia said next, “He goes by the call-sign of Rogue. Ring any bells?”, she asked with a smile. Higgins was not amused at her tone of voice.
“Is that the same Rogue at ATT who cheated me out of my sword?”, Masters demanded. Sever looked at Masters interestingly when he said that. She had heard about Dragon coming in second at ATT, but she didn’t know who it was that had beaten him.....until now.
Dragon looked over his shoulder and mouthed the words “I let him win “, which was more truthful than he cared to admit. With his cyber-viral enhanced reflexes and intelligence, he thought at the time that coming in first may bring unwanted attention to himself, and the possibly illegal advantage those enhancements might bring.
"Uh, hi there, Dragon", Higgins chimed in, "Long time, no see".
"I still think it was nothing more than a frakking fluke, Rogue", Masters said jokingly, but then said more cheerfully, "but it is good to hear your voice again".
Masters looked at Sever and nodded. She said "send it" on the intercom to Giles, who activated a brief transmission burst. Shortly after, one of the escorting Shrikes made a jump.
“What’s happening, Dragon?”, Tricia asked, obviously referring to the just-departed escort ship.
“Just sending a message back to base”, Masters replied, “Don’t worry, Chyna is in the other shrike and he’ll be keeping a good eye on things while we do business”.
“Chyna?”, Tricia communicated, “You mean Lieutenant Marro?”. Tricia remembered her from her days on the TRITON. She had transferred out to another unit a few weeks before the war.
“Actually, it’s now Captain Marro, Sheba”, Marro replied, “but it’s great to hear your voice again. How did you manage to be on the PEGASUS instead of the TRITON?”, she asked. The loss of her former squadron colleagues on the TRITON had hit her hard. But now, there was at least someone she knew that had survived.
“We’ve time enough for chatting later”, Masters cut in, gently admonishing them both. Both Tricia and Marro knew that Masters was right. There would be a better place and time to chat about recent events.
As the two Peregrines drew closer to each other, Tricia noticed that the DRAGON’S LAIR didn’t seem configured to take receipt of the raptor. She drew Hunter’s attention to it. Hunter nodded, then keyed his mike.
"Hey, Dragon", he sent, "Don’t you want the raptor? I don’t see anything on your hull that it can dock on to".
"Don’t worry, Hondo", he replied, "We’ve got something coming that can take receipt of it a little better than we can".
"Oh?", Tricia asked, "and what, pray tell, is that? I thought that the Peregrine was all that you had".
Masters looked as his chronometer, then said (with a smirk on his face), "It will be along just about.......now!".
A second after Masters said the "now", a large flash of light lit up the area, signaling an FTL-entry of something massive.
"Frakk!", Sims blurted out while looking at his screen, "It’s a battlecruiser!".
CHAPTER EIGHT: Guests of the GOLIATH
Hanging there where an instant before was empty space, was the immense bulk of the Battlecruiser GOLIATH. Tricia’s and Hunter’s jaws dropped as they saw the leviathan sitting there. True, the exterior was old and a little bit battered, but as a warship, it was still efficient and deadly. Their sensors indicated that the battlecruiser was operational and well-manned.
"Greetings and salutations, FLEET AVENGER", a new voice came over the intercom. Tricia knew that voice: one that she had not heard since the academy, but still one that she remembered well.
"Commander Hawke?", she asked. She remembered him when her father had given Hawke an award at an academy commencement ceremony some years ago.
"The one and only", he replied, "And until your father’s follow-up message, I thought that you were dead, Lieutenant", he finished.
"As I told Dragon, rumors of my death had been greatly exaggerated", she replied.
"We’re dispatching a shuttle to tow the raptor on board", Hawke explained as Sims reported that a vessel had exited the GOLIATH’s landing bay, "Please release the raptor, then come on board. Our Peregrine will head in first. You’re clear to land immediately after. I'm afraid that our hangar bays are not arranged the same as on the PEGASUS, so your ship will remain on the hanger deck and you’ll egress after we get it pressurized”.
Hunter looked at Tricia, who nodded. There were some additional messages that Cain had written to Hawke, which was supposed to have been given to Masters, but she had no objections to doing that task personally.
"Understood, GOLIATH", Hunter crisply communicated, "the raptor has been disengaged from us. We’re heading in".
Tricia watched the maw of the GOLIATH’s landing bay grow larger and larger as Hunter skillfully followed DRAGON’S LAIR in. Tricia saw that the maw was not as large as the PEGASUS’ - obviously the GOLIATH was not designed with Raptors piggy-backing on Peregrines in mind - but despite that, Hunter skillfully alighted upon the flight deck. As they looked out of the cockpit they could see the belly pod fully extended now, its maw almost half the size again of a Battlestars.
"The raptor is being brought in now", Sims reported. He was looking at his rear scanner, which showed that the undocked raptor had been captured by the shuttle, and was now being towed in, but Tricia barely heard the report. Looking out of her cockpit window, Tricia saw that the DRAGON’S LAIR had powered down and they were now settled onto their pad on the port side. Another identical shuttle size pad was lit right next to them for theirs.
Hunter quickly powered down the AVENGER’s engines and the flight deck avionics as they too settled into place. A few seconds after contact, a status indicator light on Hunter’s console turned green.
"Mag lock active, clam shell doors are closing”. Then after a few minutes another light went green. Hanger is pressurized, Sheba", Hunter said. At that moment, another voice came over the communicator.
"GOLIATH Core Command to Peregrine Five, You are cleared for crew egress", the voice said.
"Understood, Core Command", Hunter replied, "We’re coming aboard". With that, Tricia stood up and stretched. Hunter took off his headset and stood up himself. Gesturing for Tricia to leave the cockpit first, both headed back to the PSO area, where Sims and Higgins were waiting for them.
"Let’s open it, Rogue", Tricia said, indicating the ventral hatch. Nodding, Higgins quickly checked the status display on the hatch, confirming that the exterior was pressurized, then activated the latch.
The hatchway opened, and they climbed down the ladder With Tricia leading, the four of them exited the AVENGER and stepped onto the hangers deck. Masters and his crew were doing the same from the LAIR. Looking around the immense bay they could see the other shuttles, marine drop ships and Shrikes stowed along the hangers sides. Hatches in between these larger alcoves opened and the deck gangs entered and moved to separate the Raptor from the utility shuttle, as well as service the Peregrines and offload the AVENGERS cargo from the APC bay. At their lead was a man mountain in crew uniform. Behind him was an officer, who - except for the presence of the GOLIATH’ s ground crew chief - would have seemed tall. As he stepped around the taller Leonian she could see by his insignia he was indeed a colonial. But first, the niceties of service protocol had to be completed. Tricia saluted the colonial seal that was printed on the bulkhead, then the officer.
"Permission to come aboard, Sir?", she asked.
"Permission granted, Lieutenant", the tall officer replied. Tricia saw that this person was wearing the insignia of a Colonel.
"Are you the Executive Officer, Colonel?", Tricia asked. The colonel nodded, then he extended his hand.
"My name is Greenlee", he said, "And who am I addressing?", he asked.
"My name is Cain", Tricia replied. Greenlee’s eyes widened.
"Commander Cain’s daughter?", he asked. Tricia nodded.
"I wondered why the Commander didn’t tell me directly who was expected. He simply told me that the person I was to meet enjoyed the full confidence of Commander Cain", he explained. He now knew why Commander Hawke was smiling so much.
Tricia then introduced the others in her party. Each saluted Greenlee, who returned the salute, then shook their hands.
“If you all would care to follow me, I’ll take you up to CIC now to see the Commander", Greenlee said.
As additional crewmen passed by them and started to work on unloading the AVENGER, and the now-secured raptor of the stowed ordinance and other equipment, other people approached. With Captain Masters leading, several pilots from the GOLIATH’s squadrons were coming to welcome the newcomers on board, including Captain Ellen Sassinak. All four of them recognized at least one of the welcoming pilots in the group. Looks like it was going to be a reunion of sorts.
Hunter saw Sever and gave her a wave - which she returned with a smile. Masters knew that the relationship was their own business, so he didn’t comment. He walked on up to the female officer who led the party, knowing who it must be...
"Welcome aboard the GOLIATH, Sheba", Masters said, shaking her hand. He then turned to face Higgins, whose smile was a little more restrained.
"ATT aside, Rogue, glad to see that you’re okay", he said, shaking his hand. He then saw Hunter and Sims, and nodded to them, saying, "Good to see both of you back. I guess I’ll have to give your duration trial a passing grade now". Then gave them a big smile.
“Thank you Sir”. Hunter returned the smile as his former C.O. referred to their enduring the protracted stay aboard the AVENGER after the attack until they were rescued by the PEGASUS.
“It’s like a class reunion”, Tricia commented in greeting to the assembled newcomers. Tricia knew Sassinak well: she was her cadet division commander at the academy in her final year (Tricia was two classes behind), now head of the former stunt flying squadron the ‘Golden Arrows’. Her long red hair was pulled back into a pony tail that hung down her back. Most of the others who were there, she knew of from both the academy, and the frequent fleet exercises that had been held over the last couple of years.
“Imagine how we feel, Sheba”, Sassinak replied with a smile, “Until we had gotten wind of the PEGASUS’ existence, we had completely resigned ourselves to never seeing any other survivors of the fleet. It’s great to see that we’re not the only ones giving the tin-heads hell!”.
“When we catch up to the GALACTICA, we’ll be giving them a lot more than hell”, Higgins interjected. Everyone present nodded at that.
“If you officers will excuse us”, Greenlee said next, “Commander Hawke is expecting our guests up in CIC”.
Masters got the hint. He said to the others, “Let’s go to the club. Once the Commander is finished, then we can carry on our chat there, okay?”, he said to Tricia. She nodded.
While Masters led the ‘reception committee’ away, Greenlee turned and walked along the corridor. Tricia and the others followed.
Despite the scarred exterior of the GOLIATH, the interior looked like it could stand a full fleet inspection. Hawke obviously ran a tight ship and equally obviously wanted to make sure that the battlecruiser could handle any assignment given to it well. The crew looked efficient and sharp - no sign of low morale - and the ones they passed greeted them cheerfully, but otherwise went along with their assignments: the presence of the XO making sure that they were not delayed in meeting the Commander.
After a short walk, followed by a ride in an elevator, they finally emerged in CIC. As they entered, the duty crew spontaneously broke into applause. It lasted for a few seconds before Commander Hawke rased his hand. After the applause died down, he walked over to the party and shook their hands.
“Welcome aboard the GOLIATH”, Hawke said to them all.
“It’s great to be here, Commander”, Tricia said - remembering this person who his father had honored at the academy all that time ago, “Commander Cain of the Battlestar PEGASUS asked me to convey his greetings to you, and the crew of the GOLIATH”, she said formally.
“Until your father mentioned to me in the last message that you were coming, Lieutenant”, Hawke said to her, “I thought that you had perished along with the TRITON”.
“The raptor we sent to you was sent to the PEGASUS by mistake”, Sheba replied, “I was sent over to pick it up and ferry it over to the TRITON. But then the war intervened”, she explained.
“Sorry about the TRITON”, Hawke said, “but you at least survived and from what I understand, you’re doing one heck of a job as the deputy CAG of Silver Spar Wing”.
“I ended up filling the shoes of a dead man”, Tricia said, downplaying the statement, “but Bojay....I mean, Captain Syke has a lot of confidence in me”.
“From what Captain Masters has told me about Captain Syke”, Hawke replied, “he has a good head on his shoulders. I could have made good use of him here on the GOLIATH”.
“Sorry, Commander”, Tricia said, “I’m afraid my father has first dibs on him”. So do I, she thought to herself.
The people in CIC had a good chuckle at Tricia’s reply. The chuckle died down abruptly as one of the comscan technicians suddenly shouted,
“FTL-emergence approx 10 A.U.‘s, at that distance data is almost two minutes old. At bearing three-two-five. Negative IFF!”.
“Set Condition One”, Hawke ordered, “Have Alpha Wing stand by.”
Colonel Greenlee moved to the intel station where the young Ensign Hally was bent over her setup of screens.
“Friend or Foe, Ensign?“ he asked her, suspecting the answer. No IFF normally meant the latter.
“Target is a hostile, I make it as a Cylon Grasshopper-type probe. Moving slowly, but it’s running on passives. No active scan. I don’t think it’s seen us yet, Sir”, Hally replied..
Greenlee moved back to the plotting table where Hawke and Tricia were bending over the charts.
As the alert klaxon went off, Tricia asked Hawke, “Is there anything that Rogue and I can do, Commander?, gesturing to Higgins.
“Have any of your exploits put you in this area before, Lieutenant? Hawke asked.
"Yes, Sir. Our patrols have been”. She saw where his thought was going as they looked over the chart. Although they were in what would be called ‘empty’ space, they were near a star, a brown dwarf. Heavy in gravity and the source of extensive interference with long range sensors. That’s why Hawke had selected it as the meeting point. The GOLIATH’s scanners were more sensitive than the probes, so they (in theory) would see it before it saw them.
“We could dip closer to the star, that should shield us from the probes passives.” Tricia concluded.
“Why don’t we just jump?” Higgins asked.
“Because our jump energy signature would be picked up, and as large as we are, they would know a Capital ship was here.” Hawke answered, then ordered, “Helm, thrusters only. Nudge us toward the star.”
“Yes, Sir”, came the reply. Then Hawke looked to his XO.
“Can we target something that small with the primaries?”, he asked Greenlee.
Greenlee answered cautiously, “Normally I would say yes, but with our crew still in training, I couldn’t be positive.”
Sir, your secondary barrage guns are Colonial standard aren’t they?” Tricia asked. She was pretty sure that the GOLIATH’s guns were the same as the PEGASUS despite being almost five decades older.
“Yes, but those would have a hard time targeting a probe as well”, Hawke smiled, seeing the glint in Tricia’s eyes, knowing she knew she could do it. He made his decision.
“Guns three and four are in the best shape, Lieutenant. Get up there. Comms, get Dragon and Witch up there too, see if they can repeat their performance over Tartulas”, he ordered.
“Yes Sir, on our way”, Tricia gave a quick salute as they left the CIC. Hunter and Sims headed out as well, though they were heading back to the FLEET AVENGER, in case they had to get it away from the GOLIATH.
“Sending now, Sir.” came the comm officers reply at the same time.
Tricia and Higgins moved through the massive battlecruiser going up to the spine where the sixteen secondary batteries were mounted. They told the gunners mates that they were relieved by order of the Commander, then moved up to the ‘bubble’ between the large rail guns.
They had just strapped in and settled into position when they noticed Masters and Sever climbing into the next set of guns down. Emplacements five and six now held the crew of DRAGON’S LAIR.
“Wait for my command” Hawke’s voice came through the headsets of the four pilots. The other gunners were told to stand by.
“Roger that command” came Masters reply, then Tricia and Rogue echoed the acknowledgment.
“Our outer hull is getting rather warm Sir,” Greenlee added. The GOLIATH was closing with the Brown Dwarf.
Helm called out, “Gravity is playing hell with the thrusters, we wont be able to sit in here long.” Hawke nodded his understanding. He hoped that Tricia would be able to pull this off.
Just then, Halley called out, “The Probe has gone active Sir, I read it in real time now, passing over the dwarf’s terminator, moving closer.” She watched her console as their passives picked up the Cylon probes LIDAR and tachyon emissions.
“It should see us any second”, Greenlee said looking over Hally’s shoulder once more. This information was relayed up to where Tricia and the others were manning the guns.
“Don’t use the active target lock, Rogue. Just the ’cross hairs’”, Tricia ordered her wingman. Masters and Sever were doing the same. They were now tracking the probe in the heads up display of their eye piece of the headset: waiting for it to be within optimal firing range. If it should detect them and manage to jump back before they could kill it, then the secret of the Battlecruiser’s existence would be out. Then the safety of Carillon would be in jeopardy.
“Roger that, Sheba, I see it.”, Higgins replied.
“Target almost in range”, Sever added with a wicked smile on her face.
“Hold until we get the word, Witch.” Masters said (to hold back his eager co-pilot from firing too soon). She pouted a bit , but held her finger over the triggers. As did they all.
The GOLIATH began to shake as the ship fought the intense gravity well of the nearly burned-out star. They all knew they were running out of time. The huge vessel would not be able to get back out on thrusters alone, they would need the main engines, but to do that would alert the probe. Then Hawke’s voice came back over the comm: “Execute!”.
All four pilots fired in unison as the Grasshopper sped over them in its pass around the star. The plasma charged bullets sped at near light speed toward the small probe. Several passed over and around it, forcing it to do a retro burn to slow and change course. Its simple Level One Cylon brain was telling it that it was under fire and seeking an FTL lock to jump and inform the command base star. But it too had moved too close to the star for a lock. It had picked up intermittent energy readings inconsistent with the stars, and had moved to investigate. Masters and Sever kept it harassed hitting several small drones it dispatched as a decoy attempt, and thus letting Tricia zero in her guns. A split second later she got the lock, and the probe nearly vaporized as the super-heated energy shell split it apart.
“YES, got it!”, She cried out as the guns powered down.
“Get us out of here, String!”, Hawke ordered Greenlee (‘String’ was his call-sign).
“Helm, Full power to engines one through four....now, Execute!”, Greenlee ordered to Helm. The helmsman poured the power of all four energizers into their main engines. The GOLIATH shook even more as they fought the intense gravity. Most of the CIC crew were holding onto the instrument panels.
The decks seemed to groan as they pulled away. Slowly the great behemoth rose from the corona of the star. And back into the coolness of open space.
“Maintain full speed, put us on a course for the Anitell system. We’ll need to cool off for a bit, Commander before we can jump”, Greenlee informed Hawke.
Hawke nodded his head, replying, “Very well, Peregrine Five will have to risk a high speed departure then.”
Tricia and the others climbed down from the gun emplacements. Her with the biggest smile.
“I told Hawke I could hit it” she beamed in triumph.
“That was a nice shot, Sheba” Sever said as she shook her hand.
“Well, you two kept missing, I had to do something”, she replied tongue-in-cheek.
Masters bit his tongue. Sever just smiled and they all went back down to the CIC there waiting for them was Hawke.
“Good job people”, he complimented, “But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. That probe will be missed eventually, and we’re too hot to do a jump yet. Lieutenant Cain, as much as I would love to keep you around, I’m afraid I don’t want to risk your being aboard should the Cylons catch up to us right now, so, you’re gong to have to launch immediately. And while we are at full speed”, he informed her.
Tricia’s eyes went a bit wide, doing a launch from the hanger deck at such speed was very risky, normally it would be done with the ship moving at a crawl. She knew though that Hawke was right: they needed to put as much distance between them and the last position of the Grasshopper as fast as possible. Therefore, to slow down then try to get back to full speed again would put the GOLIATH at risk, so she accepted the challenge.
“Yes Sir”, she acknowledged, “Well, I must say it has been an interesting visit, Commander”.
Then, as she was about to turn and go, she remembered the disks she was to pass on. Pulling a set out of her flight suit, handed them to Hawke.
“These are for you, Sir. I hope you find them useful” and with that, she said her good byes and she and Higgins headed for the hanger deck. There waiting for her was her ’older Sis’, Ellen Sassinak (the ‘older Sis’ was a moniker bestowed upon her at the academy), She stood at attention, then saluted Tricia. Tricia returned the salute. Then they hugged.
“You take care, ‘little sister’. Keep those tin-heads off your six, got it?” Sassinak said as she let Tricia go.
“You too ‘old woman’”, she replied, then they hugged once more. Then they moved to the ladder of the AVENGER. The tall giant crew chief was standing nearby just uncoupling the external power taps when he spoke up.
“You’re all fueled and the cargo is secured in the APC bay, Lieutenant. Have a safe trip home, and please say ‘Hi’ to George Krag for me”, ‘Jack’ said as she started to enter the FLEET AVENGER.
“Cargo? What cargo?”, she asked, mystified.
“A little gift. Compliments of the Commander” the Chief answered, then saluted and moved to the nearest access hatch, following Sassinak off the flight deck.
As the yellow warning light and klaxon sounded the depressurization warning, all personnel cleared the deck and hatches slammed shut. Tricia and Higgins sealed their ship, and while Tricia moved to the cockpit to join Hunter, Higgins went to where Sims was. Hunter powered up the AVENGER and prepped for a high speed exit.
“Are you sure that we can pull off an exit at this speed?”, Hunter asked Tricia sotto voce.
“We’re going to find out, Hondo”, she replied. Hunter wasn’t reassured.
The yellow lights went down and the red lights came up, indicating the bay had been spaced. The clam shell doors opened and the stars beckoned.
“Mag lock released. Core control transferred, We’re good to go Sheba”, Hunter said.
Then Hawke’s voice came over the comm, “Hawkeye to Sheba, please inform Renegade that we will have a cargo run waiting for him at point ’Polaris’ in 22 days, acknowledge”, he said, using Commander Cain’s old viper call-sign.
“Roger that Hawkeye. I’ll inform him”. And with that, Hunter lifted the AVENGER off the deck and flipped up the switch covers that would enable the boosters. Activating them they were now tied into the thruster control, then made sure their position was optimal for a full speed burn. Hitting the throttle and pushing the control stick they sped from the rear of the hanger, shuddered violently as the wake of the GOLIATH’s massive engines passed within meters of their hull, then banked away making them pull several G’s.
“We’re away, Hawkeye. See you again soon.”, Tricia communicated, then Tricia locked in their jump coordinates and set the initiator, releasing its control to Hunter.
“Roger that. Stay safe”, was the last they heard of the GOLIATH before they jumped.
CHAPTER NINE: After the Debrief
The debriefing of the GOLIATH encounter took rather longer than the first debrief, but the same security measures were in place. Sanders was manning CIC this time while Colonel Tolen sat with Cain and Syke at the debriefing table, listening to the AVENGER Crew.
Cain listened to his daughter intently about the visit to the GOLIATH and the destruction of the Cylon Grasshopper probe. Syke was there to hear from Higgins about the disposition of the fighter wings on board the battlecruiser.
“So Sassinak is a CAG now, eh?”, Syke asked. He knew her personally. Not a girlfriend though. When Syke was a new lieutenant back on the Battlestar AUSTRALIS, he had wanted to try out for the ‘Golden Arrows’, but couldn’t make the final cut. It was Sassinak who delivered to him the bad news.
“She’s running a tight wing, CAG”, Higgins said.
“I’m glad that they received the raptor, the spare parts and SSM’s okay”, Tricia had said.
“It was a pity that we couldn’t stay any longer though, thanks to that tin-head probe”, Hunter mentioned ruefully. He didn’t have any opportunity to be with Sever this time.
“You’ll have another chance soon, Hondo”, Higgins consoled. He - like the others - were annoyed at the necessity of the abrupt departure. Tolen saw the change in mood and adroitly changed the ‘path’ of the debrief.
“Well, what they gave us in return for the raptor and the other materiel is going to keep the mess boys happy”, Tolen said, “not to mention the rest of us for the foreseeable future”.
Tolen was referring to the refrigerated pallets that had been placed in the AVENGER’s APC bay after the SSM’s had been removed. There were several tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy produce within them. When Chief Krag had opened up the first container, his shout of delight could be heard several decks away. Now everyone was looking forward to having fresh produce supplementing their adequate - though rather monotonous - fare at mealtimes.
Syke was happy too, but not so much for the food as for a pouch that had been placed in the AVENGER with the label, SILVER SPAR CAG - FOR YOUR LIPS ONLY. It was a goodly amount of the special coffee blend that Masters and Syke had both enjoyed back at VTT. Masters had dipped into his personal stash in order to provide his friend with enough to keep him happy for a month. With it was a note:
Gene, thanks for the missiles and the raptor. Hope you enjoy this little thanks from me for what you brought us. Logan.
“XO”, Cain said to Tolen, “Has Comms received the information required for the ‘Polaris’ supply rendezvous?”.
“It’s been sent up to CIC, Commander”, Tolen replied, “We have twenty-two days, which will give us plenty of time to get ready for our next trade. Who knows, perhaps by then we will have found the GALACTICA”.
Tolen had diplomatically pointed out as a reminder the primary reason why they were out here in the Promar Sector. The news about the GOLIATH was great, but the GALACTICA was going to be sorely needed when the time came to start taking the fight back to the enemy.
Cain nodded, looking down at the CEO-stamped envelope that Tricia had given him at the opening of the briefing. Time enough to look at them later. For now....
“Well done, all of you. Lieutenant Hunter, you and Sims will commence normal recon patrol schedule with Black Knight Wing starting tomorrow. With the raptor we donated no longer available for Captain Voight to use, you’ll have to fill in the gap”, Cain said. Hunter and Sims nodded.
“We’ll still be able to take trainees with us, though?”, Hunter asked. After all, it made sense to have others qualified to fly the Peregrine. Cain nodded.
“Lieutenant Cain, Lieutenant Higgins”, Cain said next, “You’re on stand down until Beta watch tomorrow. Get some rest, you deserve it”.
Cain stood. The others stood. The debriefing was at an end. Cain picked up his envelope and walked out. Tolen followed him. Higgins, after saying a quick “Good night”, to both Syke and Tricia, left to head to mess, along with Hunter and Sims. He wanted to have a great meal with what they had brought back before he hit the sack.
Syke and Tricia were now alone in the debriefing room. After quickly making sure that the door was closed, Both of them hugged and kissed.
“Glad you made it back okay, Tricia”, Syke whispered in her ear, “and good shooting too”, he mentioned, referring to the Grasshopper she blasted.
“Hey, I had to come back, Gene”, Tricia teased, “after all, you can’t run your wing alone now, can you?”, she teased.
“If you want to run the wing, Tricia”, Syke replied just as teasingly, “I can arrange a couple of weeks in admin. I’m sure that Vansen would appreciate your help there...”. His voice broke off as she kissed him again.
After breaking the kiss, Syke asked, “So do you want to have some dinner? I might as well start getting used to fresh vegetables and fruit again”.
“Sounds great, Gene”, Tricia said, “and after...?”, she asked.
“I’m off duty until Alpha Watch tomorrow”, Syke said, “which gives us the night together...”.
“It’s a date”, Tricia said with a smile, “so let’s go and get something to eat. We’re going to need to build up some energy, after all”.
Syke laughed. With that, both left the debriefing room. And they were both right: Dinner was awfully good. What followed with those two in Syke’s quarters later on that evening was even better......
Back in the Cyrannus System, a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ were also talking, but unlike Syke and Tricia, this couple were talking business.
“Anything on the Chespek System probe?”, Number One asked Number Eleven.
“The intense gravitational field of the brown dwarf star has left no traces”, Number Eleven informed her.
“The probe was designed to avoid such gravity wells, surely?”, Number One asked.
“Yes, Number One, unless it detected something unusual and changed course to investigate”, Number Eleven replied.
So. It could be anything. Not necessarily hostile action, but still....
“We’d best start increasing the frequency of our probe patrols. I’m ruling out nothing at this stage and the worst-case scenario - lost to hostile action - cannot be discounted”, she decided.
“By Your Command”, Number Eleven acknowledged.
To: Commander Cain, Commander PEGASUS From: Commander Hawke, Commander GOLIATH
Sir, it is with great regret that I inform you of the loss of the Guardsman cutter CHYMERA. This intel was not in the first dispatch due to our finding out about it ourselves just prior to Peregrine 1’s launch for their first meeting with Peregrine 5. I should also inform you that my former Commander Gerald Flinn who once served under you was killed during the evacuation of Tartulas. I apologize for not telling you this before. It was his story of your rescuing him at Karnak using your ‘Shell Game Gambit’ that inspired my strategy during the ITHACA extraction. I hope you don’’t mind my borrowing it.
Because of this we have had other losses as well. Our Squadron strength aboard the GOLIATH now stands at 30 Vipers. One full squadron of 40 aboard Valhalla station, and 10 in reserve on our colony. As ‘Sheba’ has no doubt told you, I have scheduled a resupply meet at point ‘Polaris’’in 22 days. The tender WARLOCK with Colonel Lennox commanding will be the designated vessel. Unless you hear from us prior. In 20 days a probe will be sent to point ‘Nebula’. we will send a confirm (bets to you) or abort (Full Colors) code at that time to let you know if the WARLOCK is ready to proceed.
No further humanoids have been detected here thus far, but we are not relenting in our safe guards or in our search for them. Included in the ‘code orange’ disk is a gift from our Psy-Ops section. They include a number of staged messages in codes that we believe the Cylons will break, eventually. they look like our current ones in a number of ways, but really have nothing to do with them. Once broken they will give the tin heads targets that are decoys that take place during our actual rendezvous. I recommend that they be transmitted ‘in the open’ in locations that they will be able to pick up, but not in locations included in our cipher pad and current charts (point locations) that we have personally exchanged. As will we in our responses.
Almost nothing will please me more than watching them chase their own tail for awhile. Eventually, they will figure out this has all been a ruse, but until then we can have some fun with them.
It is our intention to seek out possible smuggler posts within the Chespek sector. These small bands of pirates may be a possible resource of ships and material for us. I know they are outlaws and deserving of arrest and prosecution, but right now they are assets and humans. Ones I intend to exploit if they still exist and can be located. If their bases of operations are in tact I will pass along their locations for you to use as another Anchorage.
Yours Cordially, Matthew Hawke, Commanding.
Cain sighed as he absorbed the contents of Hawke’s letter. He wondered if perhaps he could ask for volunteers from both wings to be transferred over to the GOLIATH at the next rendezvous. There were enough reserve vipers and pilots available to allow a squadron of twenty - without compromising the striking power of the PEGASUS, and several pilots were itching to do more damage to the Cylon war machine. If enough volunteers could come forward, then perhaps Hawke will be a little better off. Maybe a squadron rotation between both warships could be done on a regular basis as well. He would approach both CAG’s tomorrow and see what they thought about it. For the moment, he had a certain disk to take up to Sanders. He liked the idea of sending the Cylons false information. Anything to help make them regret ever attacking the colonies...
END OF BOOK SIX.