Word Count: 21,268
Pairing/Focus: Original Characters
Summary: This story takes place at the same time as Part Three of THE DARKEST REALM by Kevin Hallesy
On the Command Base Star hovering over Caprica, Number One was going through all of the battle reports from the recent war. This was part of the effort in trying to positively identify the human warship that had been doing such an annoying job of destroying Cylon facilities without letting on it’s identification. While Number Eleven had done a commendable job of narrowing down the field of suspects, there had to be something else that they were missing. So, she was going through the reports, hoping to come up with the sometimes amazing quality called ‘human intuition’. She was now looking at the records from the task force that had laid in ambush at Borallis.
She nodded to herself as she read about the confirmed destruction of six battlestars that had attempted to escape and regroup at Borallis, but then she frowned some as she read about a seventh battlestar that had sustained very heavy hits - hits that would have assured it’s destruction - but only very small traces of wreckage could be found from it. An identification of the battlestar could not be made owing to the dearth of debris, and the long range that it had been engaged at, though the lack of firepower coming from the battlestar indicated that it had suffered at least a partial shutdown from their computer shutdown routines. The battle computer’s conclusion: highly probable destruction.
Putting down the Borallis report, Number One looked out at the star-field. It was this type of information that was so annoying. SHOULD have been destroyed, HIGHLY PROBABLE destruction. The less-than-expected debris field just did not back up those conclusions. What if that seventh battlestar was one of the renegades that had survived, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, she thought? The fact though that this incident had occurred around the time of the destruction of Molecay Anchorage pointed to the conclusion that this ‘probable’ could not be the one that is somewhere out there in deep space causing all this damage, but there was more than just one unconfirmed destroyed warship, and the disappearance of Valhalla Station could only have been possible by the assistance of at least one large FTL- capable ship like a battlestar.
This was one of the times where Number One had wished that the initial attack had not been so successful. The total destruction of the three principal colonial fleet yards meant that verification of the destruction of warships that had been there at the time could not be done. Until the humans on Valhalla Station had made their escape, and the recent events in the Vardon Sector, she could have believed that the GALACTICA was all that was left of the once-vaunted Colonial Military. Now, what looked like other survivors of the fleet was striking back at them using classic guerilla tactics. Those tactics had demanded a revising of their policy, and following Number Eleven’s advice, they decided not to let this other group distract them from finding and destroying the GALACTICA and the convoy of refugees, as a primary goal of guerilla warfare was to detract their foes from completing their tasks.
There was a problem with this policy though: the decision to concentrate on the GALACTICA meant that their ignoring the others allowed them total freedom of movement, and that meant the possibility of more damage being inflicted upon their assets, but given the certain information - or lack of it - that they had, it was the most methodical option that they had. Certainties, rather than probabilities governed Cylon thinking and the certainty of the GALACTICA and the other ships with that battlestar made it the prime target.
Despite the bulk of the forces at her disposal hunting down the GALACTICA, Number One still wanted to find some trace of the others. She hoped that the traps being set up with other humanoid Cylons posing as survivors would finally provide some clues as to who those other fleet survivors are, and their final location. Once that was done, then the far superior forces at her disposal would quickly eliminate them. She looked at the printout of suspect battlestars: PROMETHEUS, PEGASUS, ITHACA - though the latter was not deemed battle-worthy, and the older battlecruisers that could have escaped: AVENGER, COURAGEOUS, and GOLIATH. It had to be one or more of those six, she thought. Well, one day, they would be found, but until then......
Chapter One: Catching up with the mail - and other things.
Commander Garris Cain was taking some time off relaxing in his cabin (for a change). He had left Captain Sanders in charge in CIC while he and Colonel Geoff Tolen took advantage of this quiet time in order to catch some rest. The PEGASUS was currently ‘idling’ between star systems here in the Promar Sector for the purpose of getting some needed minerals extracted from some nearby asteroids. Given the uncertainty of resupply in this remote part of space, any opportunity to get raw materials needed to keep the battlestar functioning needed to be taken full advantage of.
So, while Sanders had dispatched some prospecting shuttles to extract those needed minerals, and Captain Syke had dispatched fighter cover, Cain had just sat down in an easy-chair and was ready to pick up a book to read, when he noticed a flashing icon on his desk comm screen. Standing up and walking over to his desk, he activated the icon. It turned out to be recently delivered mail relayed from the Communications Department.
With the outbreak of war, the Comms people had to prioritize on military communications, and intercepting/decoding of enemy wireless traffic, thus the ‘routine’ mail had to be shunted aside for expediency’s sake. Now that things had quieted down some, the Comms people had finally found the time to take care of the backlog and finally ‘deliver the mail’ to the crew. Cain noticed that one of the pieces of mail for him was from an old friend. Dated two weeks before the outbreak of hostilities, it had finally found it’s way to his in-box - albeit two months late. Shaking his head over that, he activated the ‘READ’ facility.
The message read: ‘Hello Cain you old War Dog. T.J. ‘Trigger’ Flinn here. Yes I’m still stuck on this rock in orbit over Taura. The GAUNTLET is supposed to be ready for launch again in about 3 weeks. I’ll be happy to put some space under my butt again. This new Exec, Matthew ‘Hawkeyes’ Hawke Fleet sent me seems a capable officer. He’s even been through ATT at Picon H.Q. Not bad for a young guy. He makes me feel old just to look at him’.
Cain smiled, recognizing the ‘unique’ punctuation of Flinn’s writing. He read on:
‘They brought in a Battlecruiser last month for decommissioning. The GOLIATH. Fine looking ship for a Old War hold over. The Militech Corporation bought it and it looks like its scrap for her. Yard master says they’ll get to that after they finish my GAUNTLET. Until then she’s going to sit on the polar side in the original shipyards. I Like to go for walks over there because they keep a nice bunch of O’le Mark II Vipers there. They don’t need to make the GALACTICA a frakking museum, that part of the yard already is. Almost wish they would let the GAUNTLET retire and give me that Cruiser. Remember old ‘Geek’ Granger? That Chief could make a sky truck jump from here to Carillon with a spanner and some wire I swear. Anyway give Geek a week or two at the Goliath and I bet it could give that Luxury liner you serve on a run for its cubits. With all these delays I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet you and old ‘Husker’ at the decommissioning ceremony next week. Was looking forward to opening this bottle of ambrosia with you two. Perhaps when the GALACTICA gets back we can get together at the ““Golden Arrow’’ Club in Caprica City. Until then, ‘Renegade’, watch your six!’ Signed Commander Flinn. Task Force Seven. Tarturas.
Cain had a high regard for Flinn’s forthrightness, as it suited his own temperament. Flinn seemed to have forgotten though that he had not been intending to visit Adama at the decommissioning of the GALACTICA, due to their ‘gentleman’s agreement’ - made so many years ago when they were young viper pilots, so he had remained on board the PEGASUS for the duration of the CRIMSON NOVA Fleet Exercise, which was held at the same time as the GALACTICA decommissioning. It was only very shortly after the PEGASUS had detached herself from ‘The Fifth Fleet’ - one of the temporary creations of CRIMSON NOVA - at the end of the exercise that the Cylons had commenced their attack. Reading this letter was somewhat melancholic, given all that had happened since it was written. The Cylon attack had killed all of their old hopes and dreams. It all seemed eons ago rather than the two months that....... suddenly, he read through it again. The GOLIATH. That was one of the ships on the Cylon’s ‘suspect list’ of fleet survivors. Could it be.......?
He stopped thinking emotively and willed himself to be rational over this. The GOLIATH may well be the surviving warship giving the Cylons hell back at the remnants of the Colonies, but it could be another warship: the Battlestar PROMETHEUS was still unaccounted for, as well as the Battlestar ITHACA, Battlecruiser COURAGEOUS, and the Battlecruiser AVENGER. If T.J. Flinn was indeed alive, then he knew that the Cylons would not be having a pleasant stay back on the Twelve Worlds.....
Cain wondered about what was going on with that particular group of survivors, and the current disposition of Valhalla Station. He had earlier asked Chief Engineer Thyssen about jump requirements for a station the size of Valhalla. Thyssen had said: “Technically. It would take 2 or preferably 3 full size capital ships to power Valhalla’s jump engines. The intelligence intercepts stated that there were only two cutters at Valhalla Station at the time. A jump could work with the two cutters, if a capital ship like a battlecruiser or battlestar was there as well, but definitely nothing less than that would be able to do it otherwise. Could that other ship be the GOLIATH? Cain could imagine Flinn and Granger pulling off something like that.
Cain shrugged and stood up from his desk, stretching. Speculating about possibilities was not an overly constructive thing to do, though. If further intelligence comes up, then perhaps it will all make sense. Until then, the best thing to do was to keep the PEGASUS space-worthy and battle-worthy until they could locate the GALACTICA and the convoy of refugees that she was protecting. He made a note to himself to check on Captain Sanders’ deciphering efforts later on.
The group of PEGASUS personnel doing the ore extracting on the asteroid were also doing their best to help the PEGASUS stay in the fight. While Carla Halley’s Spar One Squadron were flying cover for the various shuttles down on the surface of the mineral-rich asteroid, Chief Krag and several volunteers from the support crew complement were doing the actual extracting.
“I sure wish that whoever had designed these pressure suits also came up with a way to wipe away perspiration”, one of the petty officers grumbled over the communicator. She had just finished extracting a core sample from a potentially rich lode of exotic metals, and had moved the ore to a receptacle for semi-refining.
“Well, you did volunteer after all”, Krag replied. He was down there on the surface helping get a mass-driver set up. When the ore was extracted and semi-refined, the mass-driver would be used to fling it into space, where it would be caught by other shuttles in space near the PEGASUS. They had a huge ‘net’ strung up between them which would catch the incoming ore. Once enough had been obtained, then the ‘netted’ minerals would be flown back to the PEGASUS for finishing the refining process.
“I’m not complaining about that, Chief”, the petty officer said, “I’ll take any excuse to EVA. The PEGASUS can get a little claustrophobic after a while”.
“Try being in a viper cockpit for several hours at a time”, a new voice said over the comm. Krag smiled and shook his head. Seems that a certain pilot had been eavesdropping.
“Probe Leader, this is Chief Prospector”, Krag communicated to Halley, “with all due respect, you do your job, and we’ll do hours. You fighter pukes couldn’t lift anything heavier than a joystick, so please let us tough guys do the dirty work, okay?”, he finished with a laugh.
Halley laughed back. She knew that Krag had a high regard for the pilots, but banter like this would always occur.
Not far from the asteroid, another flight of vipers was helping fly cover, though farther out from Halley’s squadron. LT jg Matt Higgins was flying lead for the training flight of midshipmen. His crash course was nearly finished and the nine ‘snotties’ were performing well. He had asked Captain Eugene ‘Bojay’ Syke if his training cadre could help with the fighter coverage for the prospecting mission as it was not deemed hazardous - being so far out in deep space - and that the midshipmen could start getting some operational time under their belts.
“Sounds good to me, Rogue”. Syke had replied. Soon, all of them would be getting their wings and their field commissions, then once they were assigned to their squadrons, then Higgins would be able to return to Spar One Squadron to take up the X.O. slot once more.
“Chief Krag is getting a little sure of himself, isn’t he, Theta Leader?”, one of the midshipmen asked. They had heard the interchange between Halley and Krag over the communicator.
“Theta Flight, switch to inter-patrol frequency”, Higgins replied. Once the midshipmen had all done so, Matt spoke to them in a friendly tone.
“Okay, Snotties”, Matt said, “First, Chief Krag does not mean anything untoward. He has a very high regard for anyone who wears the VIPER patch and puts his or her life on the line every day. Second, Both Lt. Halley and Chief Krag are good friends and as long as it does not interfere with their respective jobs, there’s no problem. Remember what I said about formality having no place out here”, he finished.
“Understood......Rogue”, the midshipman replied. Some of the other midshipmen chuckled while others gasped at what one of their own had called Theta Leader.
“Okay, Okay”, Higgins replied with a chuckle of his own, “I guess I had that one coming. You all have done well in this program. Dyer would have been proud of all of you and I know that both Bojay and Sheba are proud of you as well”. The midshipmen fell quiet, thinking about the recent death of Michelle Dyer back in the last system during the attack on the Cylon listening post.
Higgins continued, “It’s still supposed to be a secret, but the Commander will be putting his signature on your field commissions in a day or so, then you’ll be getting your wings and ensign bars, but remember that when you join your squadrons, to always rely on your squadron commander, and your wingman. Now let’s resume the patrol. The sooner we finish up, the sooner you’ll cease to be snotties and start being rooks”.
Back on board the PEGASUS, Silver Spar CAG Captain Eugene Syke had decided to have Lt. Tricia Cain monitor the wing while he took a break himself - rank did have some privileges and passing the buck to his deputy while goofing off for an hour or so was one of them. He headed back to his cabin for a quick shower and a change of uniform - he would have preferred the class ‘c’ utility uniform as it was the most comfortable, but as Commander Cain had insisted that the senior officers of the PEGASUS look the part - which for him meant he could only get away with wearing the class ’b’ semi-formal garb - his personal preference was not an option. It was just like Cain not to let a little thing like a holocaust get in the way of military discipline, he grumbled....
After getting changed, he headed over to his cabin monitor and noticed a flashing icon indicating mail. Syke sat down and looked at the menu. All of it was personal mail which had been written and dispatched before the outbreak of the war, and had only now found it’s way to the recipients. He scanned through the list. One made him laugh: it was a formal notification of random selection of tax audit from the Colonial Internal and External Revenue Service. Before the war, CIERS was an organization to fear, but for some reason he didn’t seem to care about the notice - maybe because CIERS had ceased to exist when the colonies fell to the Cylon juggernaut. The old maxim of the only sure thing being death and taxes had at least been proved fifty percent wrong in this case.
Another message caught his eye. It was a letter from an old friend of his: Captain Logan Masters. Syke knew ‘Dragon’ well. An excellent test-pilot whom he had met when he had been on TDY to the viper transition training unit on Picon, Masters was the closest competition to Lt. Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace in the unofficial title of ‘best instructor’.
The letter read: ‘Hey, Bojay. Thought I’d drop you a quick line to let you know that I had finally heard about your promotion to CAG on the PEGASUS. Belated congratulations, as I’ve been rather busy as of late. It must be a real change from the old AUSTRALIS and when we were both instructors at viper transition. Anyway, I’ve been given lots and lots of flight test assignments which have really kept my busy, thanks to the ATT credentials. I’ve now spent so much time on flight test, this cockpit is more my home than my house on Caprica. but that’s the way the cubits topple, I suppose’.
Syke smiled. Logan Masters was a person who had ambitions about being a Commander one day, but his true talents had always lain in being a pilot. He also knew that after his own return to the Battlestar AUSTRALIS, Masters had moved on from Viper Transition to the prestigious Advanced Tactical Training School - and graduated, so whatever he was doing on detached service to the Militech Corporation to make sure he and his fellow pilots would fly the very best was not only important, but a sacrifice on Masters part. He read on.
‘My current Bird is involved with a high-security munitions test project at the Cimtar range, so unfortunately, I can't discuss it with you as it's still on the classified list, but hopefully soon, I can give you all the juicy details. Anyway, I'd better get back to work, so I'll end this communication. Say hi to Matt Higgins for me and tell him that I still think his beating me on the ATT Graduates List was a frakking fluke. I know that Silver Spar Wing has a great CAG. Logan'
Syke sat back, thinking about Matt’s letter. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he went back through it again. The classified test-piloting program. Could it be? He keyed his communicator.“Razor? Bojay. Please report to my office”, he said. After getting the acknowledgment, Syke clicked off his communicator. Three minutes later, there was a knock on his cabin door. Syke said “Come”, and the door opened to reveal Razor, aka. Ensign Tyree Dutch.
“Come on in, Razor”, Syke said, “take a seat”.
As Dutch sat down in the indicated chair, Syke swung his chair around to face him.
“I hope you’re not requesting the readiness reports on the new RSO rooks, CAG”, Dutch said, “They’re only half-way done and I was under the impression that they were not due until tomorrow”.
“It’s not that, Razor”, Syke replied, “I want to know - off the record - if the Peregrine program that you were briefly in on involved a captain named Logan Masters”.
“Dragon?”, Dutch replied. Syke nodded.
“He was the chief test pilot for the program. Why do you ask?”, Dutch said. Syke handed him a printout of Masters’ letter. Dutch’s eyes widened as he read it.
“It must be.....he must be alive!”, Dutch said with a broad grin, “With the reference in the letter to Cimtar, the date of this letter, plus the fact that a Peregrine is giving the tin-heads a hard time, it would have to be him. Besides, only ATT grads would be that aggressive!”, he finished.
“What about Cimtar?”, Syke asked.
“The fleet yards were reported destroyed by our scouts on the final recon before we headed to Molecay. The Peregrine that’s still intact would have had to have been at Cimtar doing the weapons evaluation part of the flight program for it to survive. Dragon and his co-pilot - can’t remember her name but her call-sign was ‘Witch’ -were the only ones on the assessment team cleared to do the live firing tests. After I first gave information on the Peregrine to the X.O. and the Old Man, I checked back on the calendar. I remembered that the final weapons tests were due to take place on the day of the attack, which means if they were carried out, Dragon would be flying it”.
Syke replied, “I’m going to pass this information along to the Old Man. This might come in handy. Anyway, I do hope you’re right. Logan Masters is a good friend of mine, and I know how good a pilot he is: almost as good as Starbuck”, he said. Dutch smiled at the reference to the notorious Lt. Thrace. Syke continued, “Anyway, thanks for letting me know what he did, Razor. If I or the Old Man need any further information on the Peregrine Program or Cimtar, make yourself available, okay?”
Dutch nodded, stood, then left with a smile. Syke couldn’t help but smile as well. Logan Masters: Peregrine pilot! Give the tin-heads hell, Dragon, he thought to himself as he prepared to read some more of the overdue mail.
Over in the other landing bay, Captain Lance Voight wanted to give some of his pilots hell as he read the latest performance reports of the three squadrons that made up Black Knight Wing. Voight knew as well as his counterpart at Silver Spar - Syke - that viper pilots were a temperamental bunch at the best of times, and so it was important to keep them on a loose leash. But for some reason, their overall performance had dropped down seven percent since the attack at the Cylon outpost in the Anotian Sector. True, they had lost more pilots than Syke’s wing, but that could not explain it. He decided to call in his three squadron commanders and see what they could offer.
“So what do you make of this, Jankers?”, he asked the commander of Knight Two Squadron, Lieutenant Cynthia ‘Jankers’ Brady. Of all of the senior staff in the wing, Brady was the most intuitive. Voight was seriously considering appointing her his deputy CAG, but had hesitated because finding a suitable pilot to command Knight Two would not be easy.
“It all boils down to that the pilots in Knight Two just don’t feel at home on the PEGASUS, Pointer”, Brady replied, using Voight’s call-sign. That was a telling point in itself. Somewhat more militaristic than Syke, Voight did not like anyone below his rank to address him with anything other than ‘CAG’, ‘Captain’, or ‘Sir’. Brady knew this.
“Unfortunately, our base ship got wasted at Caprica, Jankers”, Voight replied sarcastically, “and there seems to be a dearth of battlestars to base the wing on at the moment, so we had all better get used to the PEGASUS as our home base!”, he concluded with a snarl.
“Easy, CAG”, Brady replied with her hands up and palms out, “I’m only letting you know what the pilots think. They have heard about the possibility of another warship surviving back at the colonies and they prefer going back to fight it out with the tin-heads instead of running away on a wild goose chase”.
“You’re lucky Commander Cain didn’t hear you make that crack”, Voight admonished, “and Cain does not run. We will be going back home to fight, but to have any chance of success, we will need the GALACTICA to be with us when we do so. That’s the game plan, and I agree with it”.
“So what do we do about the low morale, CAG?”, Lieutenant Leonard “Citgo” Tate - the commander of Knight One squadron - asked.
“I’m strongly tempted to loan them out to the prospecting teams under Chief Krag”, Voight replied, “or have them pull extra maintenance duty under Chief Brubaker”, he said, referring to the PACIFICA Crew Chief that had been one of the maintenance staff evacuated to the PEGASUS before the Cylons took out the PACIFICA. Needless to say, the assembled squadron commanders were not too enthusiastic about what their CAG had hinted at.....
“It wouldn’t be so bad if we got the same breaks as Silver Spar, CAG......”, Tate started to say, but the look on Voight’s face cut him off.
“We are not in a popularity contest, Citgo”, Voight quietly replied, “We are involved in something a little more important - like the survival of our race. Silver Spar Wing has also taken losses, as you well know. Captain Syke values our presence here, and I value his. End of debate”.
“We still need to decide what to do about the wing morale, CAG”, Brady reminded everyone present.
“I’ll sleep on it, and let you all know soon”,Voight replied, “but you’d better get back to your squadron, Jankers. They’re still sitting in their fighters on launch standby and they’re probably wondering why you’re not back there by now”. Brady nodded and left the briefing room. The other commanders got the hint and followed Brady out.
Shaking his head, Voight stood up and headed out himself. Officially, he was going to go down to the hangar deck and talk to Chief Brubaker about the Wing maintenance schedule, but he also wanted to get a viewpoint of this morale problem from the enlisted point of view, and Voight trusted Brubaker implicitly.
Voight had taken a transporter down to the main maintenance bay on the hangar deck and walked over to where some vipers had just finished getting serviced. He looked at the underside of one viper where a maintenance technician was working on one of the missile racks. He lightly coughed, getting the tech’s attention. The tech was Brubaker himself.
“Hey, CAG”, Brubaker said as he saw Voight peering down at him. Voight liked the fact that Brubaker never hesitates to get his hands dirty keeping the wing going.
“Got a minute, Bru?”, Voight asked. Brubaker nodded, stood, and followed Voight as he slowly walked down the length of the deck. Both conversed in quiet tones.
“I’m happy with the way that you and the other techs are keeping our clunkers flying, Bru”, Voight said first, “the pilots really appreciate it. I appreciate it too”.
“Somehow, Lance. I don’t think you would walk all the way down to here just to pay a compliment, but thanks anyway”, Brubaker replied with a restrained smile. Voight snorted. Brubaker was the only person in his wing who could call him by his first name.
“You’re right, Bru”, Voight replied, “The fighters are not the problem. It’s the pilots. Morale is not good and I want to get your view on it”.
Brubaker nodded. He had noticed the recent lethargy of the pilots. It was not serious - yet, but this type of thing had to be tackled before it was too late. Too many lives were at stake.
“It’s an inferiority complex”, Brubaker said frankly, “Mainly a different battlestar after our first one was destroyed with a lot of friends, and the feeling that we’re only supporting Silver Spar Wing”. Voight nodded.
“That’s what they are thinking, but you and I both know that this is not the case”, Voight replied.
“True, CAG”, Brubaker concurred, “and I keep close contact with Chief Krag and his boys the same way as you keep in touch with Captain Syke. But a lot of your pilots are not overly experienced and it’s gonna take time for them to settle in”.
“Unfortunately, time is a commodity we don’t really have a surplus of, Bru. That’s the trouble”, Voight pointed out, “and if the wing is not at it’s best when it needs to be, then it augers badly for all of us on board the PEGASUS. Not just the pilots”.
“I know that you’re scheduling your squadrons to fly on the same patrol schedules as Silver Spar’s squadrons, CAG”, Brubaker said slowly, “but something else must be done to show the wing that they are not playing a secondary role. Maybe you should confer with Commander Cain or Colonel Tolen on this”, he suggested.
Voight nodded. He knew that he was doing all that he could to keep the wing at optimum, but perhaps a more active interest from the PEGASUS command staff would provide a good boost to wing morale, he thought. Nodding to Brubaker, Voight then headed off the deck. Brubaker watched him leave, then he headed back to his servicing task. Keeping vipers flying was a constant struggle, even with George Krag assisting with parts....
Chapter Two: Fishing for answers, and other things
While the PEGASUS was taking the time to extract the raw materials from the asteroid - the first amounts of semi-refined tylium ore sent up by the mass driver had been received and was now being loaded aboard the battlestar for final refining into it’s volatile liquid state - another operation was under way - with the goal of extracting the equally important commodity of intelligence.
Commander Cain had reasoned that the Cylons occupying the colonies would be controlling the search and destroy mission for the GALACTICA from there and it’s assemblage of mismatched refugee ships. The references on the previous intercepts regarding a command base star had made him draw this conclusion. So, he had asked several of his technical staff to come up with a means to find out what was going on back there.
As a result of this directive, a collaborative effort over the last few days between Krag’s and Brubaker’s technicians, with the additional assistance of a few engineers from Chief Engineer Wyatt Thyssen’s department - had resulted in the conversion of a half-dozen short-range reconnaissance probes to an extended FTL range capability. These probes were programmed to jump to the Cyrannus System in order to ascertain the current status of the Cylon occupation, gather intelligence, and to see if they could find any clues to the location of the other group of survivors that judging from the earlier intercepts, were giving the occupation forces such a hard time. They would then jump back to the PEGASUS to report on what they had found. If a probe needed to return to the Cyrannus System for further information gathering, it could be quickly re-programmed by remote control by Core Command, then sent back. As the probes were not large, the fuel expenditure made such multiple back-and-forth jumps possible.
One by one, the probes were launched. Each of them headed away from the PEGASUS - well outside the trajectory area of the mass-driver on the asteroid - then activated their FTL drives. Each were programmed for specific destinations in the Cyrannus System.
“The last probe has just jumped”, the Core Command duty specialist reported to Captain Sanders. Sanders nodded. He devoutly hoped that the probes could provide some good information to back up the decrypted Cylon communication intercepts - and not get discovered in the process.
“Are you sure that this is not going to compromise our security, Wyatt?”, Sanders had asked Thyssen earlier, after seeing the first probe completed. As these probes were going into harm’s way, nothing that could lead the Cylons to the PEGASUS could be found.
“Don’t fret, Comms”, Thyssen assured him, “The probes are designed to be as stealthy as possible. If one is unlucky enough to be detected, it will automatically destruct - and with the amount of explosive material packed in the charge, there won’t be anything left to tell anyone where the probe came from”. He then showed Sanders the specs pertaining to the destruct system. The destruct was tied into the proximity sensors, so that anything closing in on it would not be able to latch onto it before it detonated.
Sanders was reassured by this information. He knew that the Chief Engineer had really made sure that the possibility of probe capture was taken care of. Now, the six probes were heading back home to the colonies - or more accurately, what was left of them. Hopefully soon, they would return with a lot of valuable intelligence.
The probes entered local space at their precise co-ordinates. After verifying their respective locations by stellar fixes - the Colonial Positioning System of satellites was understandably no longer functioning - the probes started their programmed functions. They first did a close-field scan for any ships close by, then powered up the rest of their instruments.
Probe One had exited it’s FTL-jump near the planet Caprica. It was programmed to emerge at a considerable distance from the planet in order to minimize the possibility of immediate detection. It was fortunate that it did so as it had immediately picked up the presence of a Base Star hovering in close orbit over Caprica. There was a lot of communications activity from this base star as well. The probe started it’s wireless interception and recording protocols while other instruments took long-distance readings of Caprica itself. The results of the nuclear strike was plain to see to it’s sensors, and the probe was recording all of the unpleasant details.
Probe Two had a similar mission to Probe One, but it’s planetary goal was Picon. It too detected a Base Star in orbit there - and the Base Star was quite chatty as well on the wireless. This probe also started it’s eavesdropping...
Probe Three was sent to Borallis. This was done as Borallis was a deep-space fleet rendezvous for the Colonial Fleet. If there were any fleet survivors, then this would be one of the logical places to find them. So far, the probe was only picking up large fields of debris and no wireless activity at all. Despite this lack of communications, the probes started recording the details of the debris, and the disposition of the planet itself.
Probe Four was sent to the Cimtar Military Range. This was done in order to see if anything of interest could be salvaged there in a future excursion. It could also serve as a possible return point for the time when the PEGASUS would return and strike back at the occupation - hopefully in company with the GALACTICA. So far, the probe was picking up nothing but old hulks and expended ordinance, but it was programmed to do a through sweep of the test range and it would do so slowly, stealthily, and methodically....
Probes Five and Six were sent to diametrically opposite positions at the extreme edge of the Cyrannus system in order to listen for any remote communications. It was determined that any human ships would come out of an initial FTL jump here for a quick check of the system before jumping to their intended destination, so these probes would be listening for colonial wireless transmissions on the secure channels as well as watching out for FTL entrance/exit traces. It was from Probe Five that something unusual had been detected.
Probe Five, as part of it’s intelligence gathering, had been scanning the secure colonial fleet TAC-channel frequencies for some time. The TAC frequencies were a secure wireless channel as it used not one static frequency, but several. The TAC channel used these several frequencies - never being on one frequency for more than a second. This meant that to a casual listener on a single frequency, nothing could be deduced. The frequency rotation was programmed in on a set ‘pattern’ of frequencies and was changed on a regular basis. Only those who had the same rotation frequency pattern would be able to receive a coherent message.
As an added feature of security, The rotation codes for the TAC frequencies were kept on warships only - not at any fleet bases or planetary surface installations so as to avoid the possibility of discovery through espionage (those installations used another communications protocol that Battlestars could also receive on). As an additional feature of security, if a battlestar was destroyed, special explosive charges in the safe containing the code cards would automatically detonate, throughly destroying them. The safe’s contents were also set to be automatically destroyed if the safe was being tampered with, or if the palm and retina scan of the code officer AND the commander accessing the safe did not match the information in it’s database. The safe could only be opened if both of those officers were present.
On the TAC-1 channel, a thrice-repeated signal was being detected. Probe Five was not programmed to reply to the signal, however. It’s current function was simply to record such signals, then to FTL-jump back to the PEGASUS for further instructions. The signal was recorded, then after a few minutes - when it was certain that no further signals were being transmitted on the channel, it then powered up it’s jump drive and exited the system.
The signal was an automatic repeater and was coming from a Peregrine gunship which was more-or-less adrift in interplanetary space. This was not the one that Captain Logan Masters had brought aboard the Battlecruiser GOLIATH. This particular Peregrine was commanded by LT jg Walter ‘Hondo’ Hunter, the most junior test-pilot of the original Peregrine assessment team. His CSO, Ensign Calvin ‘Coffin’ Sims had programed the wireless to send out a periodic distress signal on the TAC-1 channel. So far, there had been no acknowledgment.
This Peregrine was the one in the program that had been charged with the evaluation of the FTL and long-term deployment capabilities of the gunship. So while Captain Masters was doing the neat stuff blasting hulks and targets at Cimtar, Lt. Hunter was doing a far less glamorous job of seeing just how long a Peregrine could stay deployed for. Accordingly, the gunship’s interior was loaded with extra supplies of food, water, and air while the external pylons were loaded down with drop tanks. As this flight test did not envisage using any weapons, no missiles, decoys, or bullets were loaded.
Hunter and Sims had both heard over the communicator about the Cylon attack approximately a week into their expected three-month mission. But before Hunter could FTL-jump back to Tarturas in order to arm up and help the fleet defend the colonies, a Cylon fighter had come upon them, which forced them to try and run on full sub-light speed. This, of course messed up the FTL jump co-ordinates, making a jump impossible. But both of them knew that the Cylon would have destroyed them before a jump could be made.
“He’s firing multiple missiles!”, Sims alerted Hunter as the Peregrine started to fly an even more evasive pattern. Sims had noticed on his console that the Cylon had first flashed some kind of beam weapon from the ‘cockpit’ of the scimitar-shaped fighter, but it had no effect that he could see on either the flight control system, or the other systems on board. Now, it was using a more cruder means of destruction with the missiles it had fired at them. With no weapons of their own, and no decoy drones, they were just target practice for the Cylon.
The missiles had closed in and just when he thought that it was all over, Sims had an idea. He immediately pressed a switch releasing one of the drop tanks. The first missile hit the drop tank - which was still full of tylium - and caused a massive explosion from the ignited fuel. The other missiles homed in on the fireball. Just as Hunter and Sims had breathed a sigh of relief, debris from the explosion had impacted at the rear of the Peregrine, knocking out the FTL drive and most of the sublight engines. The Peregrine was now helpless, but amazingly, there was no sign of the Cylon fighter. Evidently it must have FTL-jumped after shooting off its spread of missiles.
Hunter thought about that escape several times over the last few weeks. Perhaps it would have been better to have died quickly from a missile than slowly as the supplies were consumed. Sims had inspected the damage caused by the debris and immediately realized that it could not be fixed out here. With the FTL no longer operating and their only being able to fly at one-sixth of their standard sublight speed, there was no way now that they could get into the fight. They had heard over the wireless about the colonies being decimated and the fleet being destroyed, and there was absolutely nothing that they could do about it. With regular Cylon patrols now occurring in the system, they decided to stay off the regular wireless.
“There would have to be some fleet survivors, Hondo”, Sims said hopefully. Sims believed that given the number of warships that the fleet had before the outbreak of hostilities, the Cylons could not have managed to destroy them all.
“I think that if there were any survivors, they would be having a lot more on their mind at the moment than search and rescue operations, Coffin”, Hunter replied morosely, “but if you have an idea, I’m listening”.
“Well, I can set up a message beacon on one of the TAC-channels. Brief bursts so as not to attract any unwelcome attention. Hopefully, it will be picked up by someone”, Sims had suggested.
“We’re two light-weeks from the colonies, as well as any of our fleet bases, Coffin”, Hunter pointed out, “and if any of those have survived the war - which is unlikely given the dearth of wireless chatter on the fleet frequencies, it’s going to take them a long time to pick up the beacon”.
“We still have ample life support and consumables for two-and-a-half months, Hondo”, Sims replied, “and if we maintain a course for the nearest colony, it will also shorten the distance some. What do we have to lose?” he asked.
“Ten weeks”, Hunter muttered, shaking his head. Still, he couldn’t offer much of an alternative, so he let Sims set up his beacon and he set his autopilot to head the Peregrine on a course to Sagittaria - the closest colony. And Sims was right; the lower bay which would normally hold the APC was filled with foodstuffs, water, and supplemental oxygen - just as if was a real long-range reconnaissance and survey mission. A lot could happen in ten weeks, he thought with cautious optimism.
Now, nearly ten weeks later, with their stored consumables rapidly running out, Hunter wondered if anything would come out of this survival effort. They were still a couple of weeks away from Sagittaria, and the wireless communications they had picked up indicated that the Cylons had won a total victory. It was certain that the Cylons would now be moving in to occupy the Twelve Worlds. With a crippled unarmed ship, what good could they do if they did manage to make it to Sagittaria alive?
The Peregrine slowly continued on it’s course. Time was running out, and so was the hope of the two crewmen.....
Chapter Three: Verification and Rescue Planning
At PEGASUS Core Command, the duty specialist noticed a flash on her console, followed by an IFF signal. It was one of the probes! She turned to face Colonel Tolen, who had just returned to CIC.
“Colonel, Probe Five has returned”, the specialist informed him, “but it was not scheduled to return for another twelve hours”.
“Unless it picked up something that warranted it’s early return”, Sanders replied, walking up to the specialist.
“Instruct the probe to stand by in it’s current position and transmit it’s data, Specialist”, Sanders then ordered. The specialist nodded her head, then activated some controls. The probe began to download it’s data to the PEGASUS.
The specialist put the data up on a screen on the DRADIS console. Tolen and Sanders read the information as it appeared: PROBE FIVE REPORTS SIGNAL RECEIVED ON TAC-ONE FREQUENCY WHILE AT CO-ORDINATES SEVEN-NINER-EIGHT MARK ONE-ZERO-THREE. PROVISIONALLY EVALUATED AS AUTOMATIC SIGNAL.
“A TAC-channel”, Sanders breathed, “That’s a secure inter-warship fleet protocol!”.
“I’m well aware of that, Comms”, Tolen replied, “but the fact that it’s being used means that there’s someone out there”. He stopped speaking as the DRADIS console screen added more lettering.
THIS IS AN AUTOMATIC DISTRESS CALL FROM PEREGRINE PROTOTYPE FIVE. SURVIVED ATTACK FROM CYLON FIGHTER AT OUTBREAK OF WAR WHILE ON ASSESSMENT FLIGHT BUT WE ARE DAMAGED WITH NO FTL OR SUBSTANTIAL SUBLIGHT CAPACITY. REQUEST IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE. RESPOND ON SAME TAC-CHANNEL FOR FURTHER INFORMATION. The message repeated twice more with nothing extra to add.
Tolen thought about the message for a minute, then went over to the communicator hanging on the wall. There was one person on board who knew about the Peregrine gunship.
“Ensign Dutch, report to CIC immediately, repeat: Ensign Dutch, report to CIC immediately”. He hung up the communicator and turned to Sanders.
“Can you program that probe to return and transmit an acknowledgment, Comms?”, he asked. Sanders nodded.
“As soon as Razor can answer a few concerns of mine, we may be sending the probe back”, Tolen said. A couple of minutes later, Dutch entered CIC. Tolen waved him over. Without ceremony, Tolen handed him a printout of the message.
“What do you make of it, Ensign?”, Tolen asked.
“As I recall, the Peregrine program used five prototypes in all, Colonel”, Dutch replied, calling on his memories of his brief exposure to the program, “Let me think....okay: the first two prototypes were for the purpose of weapons evaluation, the second two were for ground deployment testing, and the last one was for the evaluation of the engines and endurance capabilities”.
“The message states that this one is prototype five, so its being stuck out in deep space given it’s role would be logical”, Tolen said after thinking about Dutch’s reply, “but how do we know that this is not some kind of trap? Sanders thinks that the TAC-channels have not been compromised, but we have to be sure, and ten weeks adrift without detection is a long time, even for a stealth-capable craft”.
“The crew assigned to that particular Peregrine were the most junior of the assessment team”, Dutch answered, “the pilot is LT jg Walter Hunter, and his CSO is Ensign Calvin Sims. Their call-signs are Hondo and Coffin. Their ship would be equipped for such a long duration deployment, given their assignments”.
“You know these two well?”, Tolen asked Dutch. Dutch nodded his head.
“Yeah, we spent a lot of time socializing in the O-club”, he said, “I remember Hondo complaining about his not being allowed to be assigned to the weapons testing portion of the program. He and Coffin had graduated from ATT, but as they had the lowest graduating grade, they got the more mundane jobs in the program”, Helo remembered.
“Any chance that this Peregrine is the same one that’s been giving the Cylons such a hard time?”, Tolen asked Dutch next.
Dutch shook his head. “The entire testing program was set up in a specific way. Only Prototypes One and Two were configured for weapons. Prototype Number Five was configured differently. It would have taken a lot of effort to re-configure and would have needed a base in order to do so. The message stated clearly that it was on it’s assignment flight when it was attacked. Their assignments were only for long-duration endurance missions”.
“Is there any information about either of them that we could use in a communication attempt, Razor?”, Tolen asked next, “and can you ask them to answer some questions in such a way that you could recognize the answer as authentic?”
Razor thought for a minute, then taking a stylus and a piece of paper, quickly wrote down a couple of sentences. He handed it to Tolen. Tolen read it, then passed it to Sanders.
“Have the probe re-programmed to return and respond on the TAC-channel. Have what is written there as part of the transmission protocols”, Tolen ordered. As Sanders went over to Core Command to get the new orders transmitted to the probe, Tolen turned to Dutch.
“Ensign, you are off the patrol roster for the time being. Remain in the vicinity of CIC until we get a reply. I’ll inform the commander”, Tolen said. Dutch nodded and went over to Core Command in order to make himself useful.
While Tolen used his communicator to inform Cain of the probe discovery, Sanders had the duty specialist transmit the new programming instruction to the probe. After the probe acknowledged receipt of the signal, a command for it to return to it’s previous position was sent. The probe activated it’s FTL drive and in a flash, headed back in order to carry out it’s new instructions.
“Commander, the probe is on it’s way”, Tolen said into the communicator.
“Okay, XO”, Cain replied, “Let me know when it returns. Are the security requirements still in place?”, he asked.
“Affirmative, Commander”, Tolen replied, “The probe will not identify it’s point of origin. This is just to confirm the authenticity of the distress signal”.
“Have Captain Sanders start making contingency plans in the event that the signal is authentic, Colonel. Cain out”. The communicator went dead.
Cain thought about it. It could be a trap, but if not, a Peregrine could be a real great asset to have, he thought. According to Ensign Dutch, it could easily be reconfigured for combat once it was ensconced in one of their hangar bays. Well, it was all up to the probe now. Until it returned, all they could do was to wait.
After getting Cain’s directive, Sanders sent a message to both wing CAG’s for input suggestions. Any plans made would need to involve their fighters. This rescue would be right under the noses of the Cylon occupation, and they would need everything they had to pull it off!
The probe made the FTL-jump, returning to the same position in the Cyrannus System it had earlier left. After scanning nearby space to ensure no unfriendlies in the area, the probe activated it’s transmitter array. Clicking to the TAC-1 scrambler, the probe started transmitting: PEREGRINE PROTOTYPE FIVE, COLONIAL UNIT RESPONDING TO YOUR SIGNAL. PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE.
On Peregrine Five, Sims was stretched out in his seat by his console napping when a buzzer sounded. Sitting erect, he saw that a signal was coming in - on the TAC-1 channel!
“Heads up, Hondo!”, Sims shouted, “We’re getting a TAC signal!”. Hunter, who was also lightly napping, immediately woke up fully alert with the news from his CSO.
Hunter raced back from the flight deck to where Sims was getting a printout of the transmission. He handed it to Hunter. Hunter read it, then frowned.
“Colonial Unit?”, he asked, “That’s rather vague. What unit?”.
“Do you wish me to respond?”, Sims asked. Hunter held up his hand. Something was not right here.
“This could be a Cylon trap to force us to reveal our position, Coffin”, Hunter said, saying aloud what had concerned him. The fact that there was no identifier for the source of the transmission was a suspicious detail in itself.
“The TAC channels are the securest communications protocols that we have”, Sims reminded him, “so the odds of the Cylons having them are not high at best, but I think we can do something to verify it’s authenticity”, Sims said.
Hunter thought about it. Either a quick death from a Cylon missile or slow death as the consumables ran out, or even worse - a slow death at the hands of Cylon interrogators. Regardless, something had to be done. He nodded. Sims turned and prepared a reply. While Sims was doing that, Hunter quickly went to the cockpit and placed the Peregrine’s auto-destruct system from INACTIVE to STANDBY mode.
The probe started receiving a message: PEREGRINE FIVE TO COLONIAL UNIT. RECEIVED YOUR MESSAGE. REQUEST CONFIRMATION OF YOUR IDENTITY BEFORE POSITION DETAILS CAN BE SENT.
The probe quickly accessed it’s list of options and responded: UNABLE TO COMPLY AT THIS MOMENT REGARDING IDENTITY FOR SECURITY REASONS. PLEASE STAND BY FOR QUESTIONS TO CONFIRM YOUR IDENTITY. ACKNOWLEDGE WHEN READY.
Back on the Peregrine, both Hunter - who had returned to the scanner area - and Sims took in the new message. ‘Unable to comply’? Both of them were nonplused at this phrase.
“This could well be a trap”, Hunter said concernedly.
“I’m picking up no additional transmissions on the Cylons’ frequencies”, Sims pointed out, “and it sounds like they want to be sure that we’re not a Cylon trap”.
“Oh frakking great!”, Hunter snarled, “We’re playing identity games out here! Okay, acknowledge the message, Coffin. I suppose that we’ll find out one way or the other”.
The probe received the message: ACKNOWLEDGED. STANDING BY.
The probe sent in return: WHAT IS THE CALL-SIGN OF THE COMMAND PILOT OF PEREGRINE ONE?
Sims received the message, then looked to Hunter, who nodded. Sims sent back: DRAGON.
The probe recognized the correct response, courtesy of Ensign Dutch. The probe then sent another message: REPLY TO FOLLOWING QUESTIONS: WHO WAS THE GUEST WHO SPENT THE MOST TIME WITH YOU IN THE O-CLUB, WHERE WAS HE FROM, AND WHAT DID HE DO TO YOU ON THE LAST NIGHT BEFORE HE WENT HOME?
When Hunter got this message, he looked back at Sims.
“What does he mean by ‘guest’?”, Hunter asked. Sims looked blank, then smiled.
“Remember just before we headed out on this flight?”, Sims asked. At Hunter’s nod, Sims continued, “There were a number of Raptor pilots and co-pilot/RSO’s from the fleet who were called in for a couple of weeks in order to do a separate assessment on the Peregrine’s systems. There was one fresh from the Raptor Training Wing who socialized with us a lot when we were off duty. I can see his face, but I can’t quite recall the name...”
“Razor”, Hunter shouted, “I remember. He was one of the junior members of that group and he gravitated to us. One hell of a card player too. Send it!”.
The probe received the transmission: ENSIGN TYREE ‘RAZOR’ DUTCH ,RAPTOR TRAINING WING, CLEANED US OUT IN CARDS.
The probe immediately sent back: YOUR IDENTITIES CALL-SIGNS HONDO AND COFFIN CONFIRMED. STAND BY FOR RELAY OF INFORMATION TO HOME PLATE.
Both Hunter and Sims smiled when they read the last message. So Razor was still alive!
“You know where Razor was transferred to when his TDY with us was up?”, Sims asked Hunter.
“He said that he was being sent out to the fleet, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what ship. It was a battlestar, but that’s all”.
“You think his ship survived?”, Sims asked Hunter. The code phrase ‘Home Plate’ must be his battlestar or other fleet unit that had dispatched the probe in the first place.
“If Razor is alive, it’s a good bet. This message is obviously a relay from a dispatched probe. The next time, we should be hearing his voice”.
Both were smiling. This was indeed good news. They both hoped that they would be rescued before long.
Back in the Promar Sector, Cain had just entered the CIC. The probe had just returned and it had transmitted to Core Command a transcript of the transmission between the probe and Peregrine Five. Tolen and Sanders looked to Dutch for his input. Dutch smiled and nodded.
“It’s definitely Hondo.....I mean Lieutenant Hunter”, Helo said, “I really had a lucky hand of cards that night before I was detached and assigned to the PEGASUS”.
“So we have a Peregrine gunship out there somewhere, so what can we do?”, Tolen asked, “The raptors don’t have that kind of FTL capability to get all the way back to the Cyrannus sector.
“But the PEGASUS does”, Cain said. Every head in CIC turned to face him.
“I want that Peregrine”, Cain said simply, “and the PEGASUS is the best way to get it - actually the only way to get it when it comes down to it.”.
“A jump that big is going to hit our fuel reserves hard”, Sanders objected, “It’s something we can’t overlook”.
“But this asteroid has raw tylium”, Cain pointed out, “We jump, get the Peregrine and the crew, then jump straight back here. We leave the mining crew here in order to get as much ore as possible so that when we return, we get all of the extracted ore, refine it, then move on. We do have enough fuel for a jump there and back, right?”, he asked. Sanders nodded cautiously at the query, but there was something that he had to ask: he wouldn’t be a good staff officer if he didn’t.
“Do you think that it’s a good idea to risk the PEGASUS for a rescue of this nature?”, he asked. Cain looked at Sanders, then Tolen and realized that the question had to be asked.
“The Peregrine is an asset we can make good use of. Denying it to the Cylons is something we must do. Besides, those tin-heads are setting up house back at the Colonies and I want them to get the message that as long as one human survives, they’ll never be at peace!”, he stated firmly. Everyone in CIC heard this last comment and applauded their commander. If nothing else, striking back at the Cylons in the place they had been forced from was reason enough to return!
“Send the probe back with a co-ordinates request for rendezvous and rescue, and inform Lt. Hunter that help is on the way”, Cain said to Sanders, “and contact the CAG’s for a deployment plan. We’re going back into occupied space and we’d better get ready for everything that those tin-heads will throw at us”.
Shortly afterwards, the probe had returned to the Cyrannus system, where it sent: RESCUE BEING ORGANIZED. TRANSMIT RENDEZVOUS CO-ORDINATES.
Hunter had Sims send out a set of co-ordinates that would enable them to see what would come on their sensors without their seeing them. If it was colonial, then they would communicate on normal wireless. If not, then they would lay low and hope for the best......
CO-ORDINATES RECEIVED. RETURNING TO HOME PLATE. RESCUE OPERATION WILL PROCEED, flashed on Sim's screen. Both Hunter and Sims briefly shook hands. Things were starting to look up.
The probe returned once more to the PEGASUS with the rendezvous co-ordinates. By that time, both Syke and Voight were well into their planning for the aptly code-named operation PEREGRINE SNATCH. Core Command had relayed the co-ordinates to Syke down in the briefing room.
“According to the co-ordinates, it places the crippled Peregrine here”, Voight said, pointing to a position on a chart of the Cyrannus System. Syke nodded.
“They are between Sagittaria and the Batwah Asteroid field. That’s funny: We initially withdrew to there from Caprica, but didn’t pick them up on sensors”, Syke muttered.
“Remember though that we were on the other side of the Batwah field from them, and we had to lay low during the fly-by of that Cylon patrol”, Voight reminded him.
Syke nodded his understanding. Voight was right. Besides, Dutch had mentioned that the Peregrine had stealth characteristics built into it’s design. Given the circumstances, the odds of detecting them would not have been good in any case. Well, this time they should be able to remedy that oversight.
“Would a raptor be within FTL-range of those co-ordinates from Batwah, Gene?”, Voight asked. Syke checked the scale, and nodded cautiously.
“Barely”, Syke said, “Why? What do you have in mind, Lance?”, he asked.
“I’m a little leery of letting the tin-heads know about the location of the PEGASUS too early”, Voight answered, “so why don’t we suggest to the Old Man that the PEGASUS jump to our previous location at Batwah, then send out a raptor with Ensign Dutch on board. The crew of the Peregrine knows him personally, so it should dispel any lingering possibility in their minds of a Cylon trap. He makes the initial rendezvous and survey of the Peregrine and the surrounding area. If it’s okay, then he returns back to the PEGASUS and we make the jump there”.
“And if not?”, Syke asked next. Voight thought for a few seconds, then replied.
“If there is a chance to rescue the crew - if nothing else - then Dutch docks with the Peregrine, gets them both off, then destroy it with missiles before the Cylons can get it. If they ever get wind that another Peregrine is out there then they’ll want to capture it so that they can devise countermeasures to the other one, and if the crew is captured as well......”, Voight tailed off.
Syke nodded. That possibility could not be allowed to happen. If they were taken alive, those people would wish that they were dead well before the Cylons would finally kill them.
“Very well, the PEGASUS only initially goes as far as Batwah, then Razor goes in. If it’s all clear, we do the snatch, but if Razor can’t help them, he will have to use one of the raptor’s missiles to destroy it. Better a quick death than a slow one under Cylon interrogation”, Syke said. Voight nodded without replying.
“Anyway, given the scuttlebutt about your wing not having much action, Lance”, Syke said next, causing Voight’s head to jerk upright, “How about your wing deploy to cover the rescue of the Peregrine? As the PEGASUS would be emerging close to Sagittaria, there’s a good chance that we may be getting incoming unfriendlies”.
Voight thought about the suggestion. He was annoyed that the news about low morale in Black Knight Wing had gotten out, but there really was no secrets on a battlestar. Besides, this type of mission would be a valuable boost in the arm for all of the pilots. He smiled and nodded.
“I’ve got no problem with that, Gene”, Voight replied, “and the fact that the wing is from the PACIFICA may confuse the tin-heads should they engage us. Cain’s admonition regarding the identification tags would not apply as we’d be in the home system”.
Syke nodded. While it was still deemed important to keep uncertain the identity of the PEGASUS to the Cylons, the fact that large numbers of fighters from the PACIFICA would be seen in colonial space would really add to the confusion. Indications of the PACIFICA out in remote space could well result in the Cylons drawing the conclusion that the PEGASUS was the battlestar giving them grief out in deep space as both the PACIFICA and PEGASUS were in the same task force, but in local space, that would change the intelligence dynamics somewhat.
“Okay then, Silver Spar Wing will fly cover around the PEGASUS itself while Black Knight wing forms the defense perimeter. It may get a little tough though, depending upon how many hostiles we engage”, Syke warned.
“That’s why we all get paid the big cubits”, Voight replied with a laugh. Syke joined in. Niceties like getting paid money kind of went out of fashion when the colonies got wasted. But Voight was right: it was their job.
“Well then, I guess we’ve got a plan for the return to the Colonies, but we still have to get things ready here though for the return leg”, Syke said, “so we will have to maintain a number of persons here on the asteroid to continue the ore extraction, plus spare a few fighters to cover them”.
“Lt. Higgins’ training contingent should be adequate. We leave him here in overall charge. As he’s one of the better pilots - ATT honors grad I hear - he would be able to lead the fighters and the shuttles out of danger should anything happen to us”, Voight suggested.
“Rogue’s not going to like being left out of combat, but I concur. He’s the best candidate to leave in charge while we go back for the rescue”, Syke agreed. He reached for a communicator and contacted Core Command.
“This is Silver Spar CAG. Have Theta flight return to the PEGASUS and alert the crews to immediately refuel and prepare them for relaunch. Theta Leader will need to report to me when he gets back on board”, Syke said. After getting the acknowledgment, Syke hung up the communicator.
“Let’s report to the Old Man then”, he said as he stood. Nodding, Voight followed Syke out of the briefing room. The plan was now ready for him to go over.
Chapter Four: Return to the Colonies
Higgins acknowledged the recall order from Core Command, and had his viper flight form up for the return to the PEGASUS. While Theta Flight was returning, Both CAG’s were up in CIC presenting their plan to Commander Cain. Tolen and Sanders were listening to both Syke and Voight lay out operation PEREGRINE SNATCH. Just after mentioning the initial raptor probe of the rendezvous co-ordinates, Tolen paged Helo and summoned him to the conference.
“The plan is workable, Gentlemen”, Cain said at last, “PEREGRINE SNATCH is approved. We will head out within the hour. Alert your wings and have them prepare for combat deployment”. Both Syke and Voight saluted, then left CIC to get their pilots briefed. Dutch, who had been given a quick brief of his part in the mission, nodded. This should convince both the rescuers and the to-be-rescued that this was no elaborate Cylon trap.
“I’ve ordered the duty deck crew to arm your raptor with missiles”, Tolen said to Dutch, “If it looks like the Cylons will get to them before we do, you must destroy that ship. Do you understand?”
Dutch was not overjoyed at the prospect of blasting two friends to oblivion, but realized that the alternative should the Cylons capture the Peregrine and the crew intact would be far worse. He nodded without speaking.
“You’d better get Ensign Watt briefed and get down to your raptor. As soon as we make the jump to Batwah, you’ll be sent out immediately”, Tolen said. After giving him and Cain a quick salute, Dutch left CIC. He had a mission to prepare for.
“Comms, have Core Command recall Chief Krag from the asteroid”, Cain said to Sanders, “We’re going to need him supporting Silver Spar Wing. He is to assign command of the mining crew to Petty Officer Miller”.
Sanders nodded, then headed over to Core Command to carry out Cain’s instruction.
“Home Plate to Chief Prospector”, the specialist called, “Return to Home Plate. Transfer mining operation command to your number two. Acknowledge”.
“Understood, Home Plate”, Krag said to Core Command after he received the message. He flipped off his communicator and turned to Miller, who was standing next to him on the surface of the asteroid.
“You heard?”, Krag asked Miller rhetorically. Miller nodded.
“I’ll take this shuttle. Use Shuttle seven as your base of operations”, Krag ordered. Miller nodded, threw him a salute - which looked out of place coming from a space-suited figure on a large, airless, floating hunk of rock - and loped off in the low gravity over to Shuttle seven. Krag loped over to Shuttle One and entered it. Sealing the hatch, he activated the repressurization sequence. When the process was completed, Krag took off his helmet, then headed back to the cockpit.
Krag, like most crew chiefs, was a qualified support shuttle pilot. He quickly powered up the shuttle’s engines and after getting takeoff clearance from ground control (a couple of Core Command technicians using one of the other shuttles as a control tower), lifted off from the surface of the asteroid. Krag barely noted the cluster of shuttles, the personnel in spacesuits doing the ore extracting, and the impressive bulk of the mass-driver.
“Shuttle One to Home Plate”, Krag communicated to the port-side deck Landing Control Officer, “I’m heading up. Requesting clearance to land on port landing deck”.
“Shuttle One”, the LCO replied, “You’re cleared to land on lift seven. Be award that you’re number two for landing following Theta Flight”.
Krag looked out at the impressive bulk of the PEGASUS and saw the flight of vipers entering the bay. That would be Lt. Higgins’ flight of midshipmen, he thought. After the last viper had landed, Krag deftly steered his shuttle in to land. He expertly brought it down on the indicated landing pad: the top of lift seven. As Krag powered the shuttle down, it was lowered down to Hangar Seven. After the hangar roof was re-sealed, the hanger itself was quickly repressurized. Krag left the shuttle when the process was finished and walked over to the exit hatch, where he found Lt. Tricia Cain waiting for him.
“Sorry to pull you off your vacation stop, Chief”, Tricia said with a smile, “but some operation is about to get under way and we’re going to be needing you to help the wing. Full combat deployment”.
Krag nodded, quickly flipped her a salute, then trotted over to the maintenance area. Krag did not need to ask why. The fact that he was needed was reason enough. Now he had to make sure that all of the available vipers in Silver Spar Wing were ready for whatever the Old Man and CAG wanted.
Matt Higgins was not quite so professional as George Krag was when he found out what he was going to be doing. Syke had waylaid him and told him a little of the mission, and the role that his flight of midshipmen would be doing while the PEGASUS headed back to rescue the Peregrine.
“Come on, CAG!”, he pleaded, “Me nursemaid the diggers and the snotties while the wing will be almost certainly be engaging a lot of tin-heads? You need every pilot you can get!”.
“Matt”, Syke said quietly but firmly, “The PEGASUS will be expending a lot of fuel on this jump there and back. We are going to need the tylium ore when we return. You have to make sure that nothing happens to the ones on the asteroid. They will be looking to you for protection. It’s as simple as that”.
“Then let Jet take command”, Higgins suggested, referring to Ensign Vansen.
“No”, Syke firmly replied, “because if anything does happen to us, you are better suited to look after the miners and the other pilots than he is. You are the only one I can trust on this. It’s not up for debate”.
Higgins wanted to argue further, but he saw that Syke’s mind was made up. Higgins nodded - though managing to convey with his face that his staying back was pure felgercarb - saluted Syke, and headed out. He had to get Theta flight ready to redeploy.
Syke did sympathize with Higgins. But there was another reason: The other probes would be returning to these co-ordinates while the PEGASUS makes its move to the Cyrannus system. If anything did happen, then Higgins would somehow have to make sure that the gathered intelligence got to the GALACTICA.
Syke remembered that contingency as he briefed the pilots of Silver Spar Wing. While the pilots were keen to get back and start inflicting some serious payback on the Cylon occupiers of their home planets, some of them were disappointed that they would be staying close-in to the PEGASUS on the initial deployment while Black Knight Wing established the defensive perimeter - thus making them the first to engage any enemies. Syke brought an immediate dose of reality to their bruised egos.
“Before any of you gets your feathers ruffled, remember that the Cylons will be able to deploy vastly superior forces against us. Black Knight Wing - like us - is only three squadrons. They will need our support, so if you think you’re going to miss out on any action, then think again”, he admonished.
Voight was also giving the pilots of Black Knight Wing a similar admonition. The pilots were pretty cheered by the news that they would be first out and first to engage, but Voight had some words for them that dampened their enthusiasm.
“The wing is only three squadrons strong. The Cylons can very easily deploy more forces against us, so I think you’d better be thankful that Silver Spar Wing is going to be out there with us. We have to allow the rescue of the Peregrine and it’s crew, and to keep the Cylons far enough away from the PEGASUS so that they don’t get a definitive identification. This time, you’ll be wearing your PACIFICA patches, so that if any of you become casualties, that will provide the Cylons with more mis-direction. And as we’re establishing the defense perimeter, that means the likelihood of that happening will be somewhat higher.....”, he concluded.
After the respective wing briefings were concluded, both CAG’s nodded to their deputies, who informed Core Command that they were ready for orders. The duty specialist nodded to Sanders, who gave a thumbs-up sign to Commander Cain.
At that moment, Higgins was down in the launch tubes with his flight of nine midshipmen. They were congregating near Higgins’ viper. Needless to say, they were not thrilled at the prospect of being left behind while the PEGASUS went back home to fight the Cylons. Higgins held up a hand to silence them.
“I’m not happy about it either”, Higgins said, “but the mining and ore refining operation, plus the shuttles down on that rock needs protection, and the PEGASUS is going to need every drop of fuel that we can squeeze out from that rock when it returns. Part of being good officers is to obey orders, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do”, he finished.
Just then, the P.A. sounded, “All pilots, man your fighters. Condition One is set throughout the ship!”.
As the message repeated, the pilots of both wings headed out to man their fighters, which thanks to the efforts of Chiefs Brubaker and Krag, were ready to go.
Down in the bays, the launch tubes were preparing to receive the first vipers which would be launched. The Launch Officers - ‘Shooters’ - made sure that all tubes were ready to go. As this was done, the pilots emerged and went to their assigned craft. This information was relayed to Core Command, who then told Sanders.
“Both wings are manning their vipers now”, Sanders reported to Commander Cain, after getting the message.
“All decks report Condition One set”, Tolen reported to Cain. Cain nodded at them both.
“Have all our other patrols landed, Comms?”, Cain asked. Sanders nodded.
“Very well, have Theta flight launch and inform Theta Leader to assume his patrol position over the asteroid”, he ordered as he picked up the ship-wide P.A. communicator. He pushed down on the button, causing a long tone to sound, getting everyone’s attention, then he spoke.
“This is the commander. We will be making a lengthy FTL jump back into the Cyrannus System. Our objective is to rescue a disabled Peregrine gunship that is drifting towards Sagittaria. It also means that the likelihood of coming into contact with the Cylon occupation forces is high. This is a hit-and-run mission, but it will serve to give notice to those tin-headed Cylon killers that as long as one colonial ship is still around to fight, they will never win this war, and they will never know peace! Stand to your posts. This is payback time. Cain out”.
Cheers rang out all over the battlestar as the impact of the speech sank in. They were heading back - however briefly - to fight back at those who had destroyed their homes and killed so many of their loved ones.
Down in the port launch bay, on the landing deck itself, Dutch’s raptor had positioned itself for launch. Immediately after exiting the jump, it would launch and FTL-jump to the provided co-ordinates of the Peregrine. In the rear of the raptor, Watt looked uneasy.
“This is going to be a long jump, Razor”, he said, “I’m glad I didn’t eat any lunch today”.
Dutch smirked at that comment. He needed something to make him smile because he was still thinking about the possibility of having to kill Hondo and Coffin should any Cylons get there before he could....
As soon as Higgins’ flight of vipers were catapulted out of the launch tubes, Sanders directed the Core Command specialist to retract the landing bays. Sanders watched the display monitors on the DRADIS console showing the retraction of the massive landing bays into the midships section of the PEGASUS. When the bays had fully retracted, Sanders nodded to Cain.
Cain turned and nodded to Tolen, who turned to the helm officer.
“Are the jump co-ordinates set for the Batwah Asteroid Field?”, he asked. Helm nodded.
“Very well, Helm. Commence countdown for FTL-jump. All the rest of you in CIC, get ready for possible immediate action”, he ordered.
As the helm officer started the FTL countdown, everyone in CIC braced themselves for the jump, and the strong possibility of immediate combat. This one was going to be risky.....
Down on the asteroid, the workers had been given the word about the PEGASUS’ departure. They were watching the impressive leviathan of the battlestar slowly move away from where it had been ‘sitting’. None were happy about being left here while the PEGASUS was heading into the fight, but all knew that they were needed where they were.
“Jump in 5......4......3......2.......1........jump!”, the helm officer called as he pushed the ACTIVATE control on the FTL-drive control console. The miners gasped as they saw the flash of light that indicated that the PEGASUS was jumping. In less than a split second, there was only empty space. The workers looked at each other, then went back to work. They had to get more raw tylium extracted before the battlestar returned.
“She’s jumped!”, one of the midshipmen in Theta Flight announced, “We’re on our own, Theta Leader”. Higgins nodded and keyed his communicator.
“Theta Leader to Theta Flight, maintain patrol deployment and watch your scanners. We’re now ‘it’, as far as those miners are concerned”, he said. The flight of ten vipers started to deploy to their screening positions around the asteroid, hoping that the PEGASUS would soon return.
With another flash of light, the Battlestar PEGASUS re-emerged from it’s jump - right at the same position it had previously been at the far side of the floating mass of debris known as the Batwah Asteroid Field. As the effects of nausea and dizziness wore off, Sanders confirmed the position of the PEGASUS on the navi-comp.
“Position confirmed”, Sanders said to Cain, “right on target”.
“Let’s get moving”, Cain replied, “We’re in the frying pan now”.
Sanders turned and nodded to the Core Command crewman specialist, who activated her communicator, and activated the controls extending the landing bays.
“Recon Raptor One, Clear for Launch when bays fully extended!”, she communicated to Helo.
With that order, Dutch quickly powered the engines of the raptor up to full throttle and raised it off the flight deck. As soon as Core Command confirmed full bay deployment, Dutch moved the raptor forward. Quickly exiting the landing bay, the raptor headed away from the PEGASUS.
“Co-ordinates punched in, Razor”, Dundee reported, “and I still have the contents of my stomach where they should be as well, amazingly enough”.
“Okay, Boxer”, Helo acknowledged, “Let’s give Hondo and Coffin a helping hand, and hold on to your stomach. We’re jumping now”.
With that comment, Dutch activated the jump controls. The raptor vanished from view, heading for a rendezvous with destiny.
Chapter Five: Time for Payback
The general mood on board the PEGASUS was that of anticipation spiced with barely suppressed hatred. They all knew that they were back in their home system - a system now under firm Cylon control. All on board had lost friends and family in the attack and they sorely wanted to strike back at those who had caused such losses.
Cain felt the underlying mood of his crew, but he also knew that all of them would do their duty. All that they can do now was to wait for Dutch to return.
“Still nothing on sensors indicating anything nearby, Commander”, Sanders called over from the Comscan console, “If our intelligence data is accurate, the scheduled patrol won’t be here for a while yet. The countdown for the patrol is on DRADIS console screen five”.
Cain nodded, but Condition One would remain in effect throughout this operation. The entire battlestar was ready to fight! And it would be back where it all began: Cyrannus!
Dutch’s raptor emerged from its FTL jump close to the co-ordinates that the probe had received from the disabled Peregrine. According to standard procedure, they powered down all but their passive systems and listened.
“I’m getting some Cylon wireless traffic coming from Sagittaria, but nothing nearby, Razor”, Dundee reported, “and I’m not picking up the Peregrine either”.
“It has stealth technology built in so passive sensors won’t be enough to pick it up, Boxer. Start your active sensors and do a narrow-field sweep of the area”, Dutch ordered, “and also record some of the Cylon chatter”.
“No problem with the recording, but we’re pretty close to Sagittaria though”, Watt objected, “and even a narrow-field scan can be detected”.
“Can’t be helped”, Dutch replied, “If we use the wireless, it would even be more likely to be picked up and on passive sensors only, we won’t be able to find it quick enough - we have to assume frequent patrols. Do it, Boxer!”, he repeated.
Silently mouthing a prayer to the Lords of Kobol, Watt powered up his platform and started to scan the area with the LIDAR array. Just then, a message came over the communicator on the TAC-1 channel:
TERMINATE ACTIVE SCAN IMMEDIATELY, it said. Watt immediately killed the power to the LIDAR. Unfortunately, a Cylon sensor probe in the vicinity had detected the burst of energy at the extreme limit of it’s range. It was too far to get a definitive identification of what it picked up, Still it sent out an alert message as a result.
“What’s happening, Boxer?”, Dutch demanded. Watt showed Dutch the message he had just received. Dutch nodded, then reached for a headset, instructing Dundee to switch the TAC-1 wireless from MESSAGE to SHORT RANGE AUDIO.
“Peregrine Five, this is Recon Raptor One. How are you and Coffin doing, Hondo?”, he spoke into the headset. Almost immediately, a reply came back.
“Still broke, thanks to your lucky hand of cards, Razor”, a voice that Dutch knew as belonging to Hunter.
“Where are you, Hondo?”, Dutch asked next, breathing a sigh of relief. Hunter quickly sent over a set of co-ordinates. Helo knew that it was within the range of the directional laser communicator.
“Switch to Laser, Hondo”, Dutch said after acknowledging receipt of the co-ordinates. Hunter quickly did so. Dutch quickly got back to the cockpit of the raptor and set the auto-pilot to the new co-ordinates. The raptor started to move.
“Sorry that we didn’t immediately see you arrive, Razor”, Hunter said apologetically, “or else we would have called before you started that scan. You came out of the jump away from the co-ordinates we had originally sent to you”.
“We wanted to be sure that it wasn’t a trap set for us after all, Hondo”, Dutch explained, “ In regards to the scan, well, it was a narrow-field sweep, so let’s hope it wasn’t noticed by anyone else. We’re on secure communications and we’re on our way to rendezvous with you now. ETA in five minutes”.
“We’ll be waiting, Razor”, Hunter replied, “and Tyree, it’s damn good to hear your voice again”.
On the nearest base star to where Dutch was located, the message from the sensor had reached the command deck. A humanoid Cylon read what the probe had transmitted: PROBE SIGMA ALPHA REPORTS VERY BRIEF BURST OF ENERGY OF TYPE ASSOCIATED WITH LASER AND INFRA-RED DETECTION AND RANGING SCAN DETECTED AT EXTREME RANGE AT APPROXIMATE CO-ORDINATES NINER-NINER-FOUR MARK ZERO-FIVE-EIGHT. ENERGY SIGNATURE UNCERTAIN DUE TO BRIEFNESS OF BURST.
The humanoid Cylon - one of the Number Seven models - thought about this message. LIDAR was a standard scanning format by colonial warships, but the briefness of the burst made the identification a provisional one at best. And even at extreme range, a capital ship should still be able to be detected. Despite Number One’s orders about countering further guerilla attacks decisively, there was simply not enough data to justify sending the base star there at the moment. Besides, it could be a diversion by a human controlled remote to ensure that the base star would investigate - thus leaving this part of space unguarded. Number Seven directed the centurion who passed on the message to deploy two raiders to run a recon. He would base his next move upon what they saw.
Within two minutes, two of the Scimitar-shaped raider automatons were launched and they promptly proceeded to commence their FTL-jump to the reported co-ordinates.....
As the Raptor approached the crippled Peregrine, both Dutch and Watt were looking at the sleek lines of the gunship. This ship would definitely prove useful to the PEGASUS, once it was repaired and configured to a strike capability. Hunter had asked where Dutch had come from, and he replied that he was from a warship, but until it arrived, to keep the identity secret as a security measure.
“We’re on secure communications, Razor”, Hunter had said, “so no one can overhear us”.
“Yeah, but the reason why I’m carrying missiles on this crate of mine is to ensure that no-one captures you and your craft. The tin-heads would want to get their hands on you and that ship very much, you know”, Dutch warned.
That information had sobered both Hunter and Sims. Dutch had just told them that he couldn’t risk either of them getting captured which meant that he would be compelled to shoot them out of the sky. Still, Hunter thought, if the positions were reversed, he would probably do the same....
“I’m running a close scan survey of your ship now, Hondo”, Dutch said as he started to maneuver his raptor around the Peregrine, “and I’ll quickly head back and call in the big guns once I finish”. He had already noticed that the upper airlock hatch had been badly singed in the explosion of the drop tank, so a ship-to-ship evacuation was out of the question.
“Understood, Razor”, Hunter said. Just then, a buzzer sounded from Sims’ console. It was the PROXIMITY ALERT system.
“We’ve got company!”, he shouted. Watt looked at his console and saw them as well: two Cylon raiders. They were closing fast.
“Activate the missile array, Boxer”, Helo ordered, “We better take them out before they can blab about what they’ve seen”.
“This isn’t a viper, Dutch”, Dundee said as he powered up the array. The two missiles that had been slung onto the underside of the raptor started arming themselves and their tracking software were starting to lock onto the two hostiles.
“Just get ready to fire them both, Boxer”, Helo replied, “We’ve only got two missiles and they both need to hit!”
“What about the Peregrine, Razor?”, Snoopy asked. Their orders were clear: to deny the Peregrine to the enemy.
“If we fail, I’ll ram the raptor into the Peregrine, but I’m not going to give up on those two without a fight. Got it?!!”, Dutch shouted out.
“Got it, Helo”, Watt replied, “target system on active acquisition mode”.
On the Peregrine, both Hunter and Sims heard the conversation between Dutch and Watt. Hunter keyed the communicator.
“Razor, don’t be foolish. You need to survive”, he said, “we’ve still got the auto-destruct”.
“Sorry, Hondo”, Dutch replied, “But I’m not going to give up on either of you without a fight, and I swore to myself that I won’t go back without you. Boxer, do we have weapons lock?”
“Affirmative, Razor”, Dundee replied.
“Fire both missiles. Take those tin-heads out!”, he screamed. Watt hit the LAUNCH control and both missiles streaked out of their racks, both locked onto the raiders and closing rapidly.
The Cylon raiders had indeed detected the two craft and were closing in to investigate. The lead raider suddenly noticed that one of the craft had launched missiles and that they were homing in on them! Immediately, both raiders launched two missiles of their own each, and started to fly evasive.
Watt was ready for the incoming missiles. He deployed four decoys, which flew out in front of them. The incoming Cylon missiles were successfully diverted by the decoys and impacted on them. All four were destroyed.
The missiles that Watt had launched homed straight in, undeterred by the evasive flying patterns of the raiders. One missile impacted right in the ‘cockpit’ of the first Cylon raider. The IMPACT DETONATE - set warhead detonated, destroying the raider. However, the second missile had been inadvertently set to PROXIMITY DETONATE by one of the ground crew when it had been loaded onto the raptor. This missile exploded very close-in to the second raider, causing heavy damage and making it tumble out of control. It looked to all and sundry on the raptor and Peregrine that the raider had been destroyed.
“Their transmissions were jammed, Razor”, Sims reported, “so they didn’t manage to call for help”.
“Thanks, Coffin”, Dutch replied, “but we’d better get back to Home Plate. Those two raiders are going to be missed. The sooner we get you rescued, the better”.
“We’ll be waiting, Razor. Good shooting, by the way”, Sims answered..
“Be seeing you”, Dutch replied. He activated the navi-comp in order to get them back to the PEGASUS. Time was fast running out.
Hunter and Sims saw the raptor flash out of existence as it made the jump. Both of them knew that reinforcements would be coming. They only hoped that they would not be too late as that patrol would be missed.
As the raptor exited the FTL-jump back at Batwah, Dutch immediately transmitted the final co-ordinates and the phrase CODE FIVE, which was a pre-arranged code meaning PEREGRINE AND CREW OKAY BUT COULD NOT EVACUATE. EXPEDITE RESCUE.
As Cain got the message, he ordered the Helm Officer, “Activate the FTL. We’re going in!”. To Colonel Tolen and Captain Sanders, he said, “We launch the fighters immediately after we jump. Gun crews are to prepare to fire as well”.
As Tolen headed to the Fire Control console and Sanders headed over to Core Command, The Helm officer called out, “Jumping in 5....4.....3.....2.....1.....jump!
Chapter Six: Retribution Time
The heavily damaged Cylon raider was doing an automatic damage control routine, activating emergency power cells. The damage control told the automaton brain that weaponry was off-line and controls were only partially effective, but the FTL-drive was still able to function. The brain made a decision. It fed in the co-ordinates of it’s home base star.
“Frakk!”, Sims exclaimed, “the sensors just detected that second raider had made an FTL-jump. It was only damaged”, he concluded unnecessarily.
We’d better hope that help arrives before the bad guys do, Coffin”, Hunter said, “I’ve got the auto-destruct system ready to activate if worst comes to worst”. Sims nodded. Better that than capture.
On the base star where the patrol had been launched from, Number Seven was wondering what was taking so long for them to report. He was just about to order a second flight of raiders launched when a centurion reported, “Single raider from despatched patrol returning. It has been heavily damaged”.
“Get a combat report from the raider right now!”, Number Seven ordered while simultaneously bringing the base star to the Cylon equivalent of Condition One. The report started coming to him over one of the video display screens his model type needed to use.
PATROL LEADER DESTROYED. SELF SEVERELY DAMAGED AFTER BEING HIT BY MISSILES LAUNCHED FROM HUMAN RAPTOR-CLASS RECONNAISSANCE VESSEL. RAPTOR WAS IN THE COMPANY OF DAMAGED PEREGRINE-CLASS GUNSHIP. SITUATION INDICATES RESCUE MISSION UNDERWAY.
“Centurion, set a course for those co-ordinates. And have all of our raiders ready to deploy when we do so”, Number Seven ordered.
“By your Command”, the Centurion replied. Number Seven wanted that Peregrine. It must be the one that was giving the other occupation forces all the recent trouble.....
Back in the Promar Sector, Lt. Higgins was collecting data from the other probes that had returned. While the ones from Caprica, Borallis, and Picon were of interest, the one from Cimtar had information worth ten times it’s weight in tylium!
PROBE REPORTS ONE DERELICT BATTLESTAR PROCEEDING OUT OF THE CIMTAR RANGE WITH ASSISTANCE OF CUTTER-CLASS VESSEL. IDENTITY OF BATTLESTAR EVALUATED AS THAT OF ITHACA, the probe reported.
Frakk!, Higgins thought. What a time for the PEGASUS to be away. He hoped that the battlestar would return soon. This was definitely something worth reporting.
The PEGASUS exited it’s FTL-jump - with Dutch’s raptor following a few seconds later - in the vicinity of the Peregrine. Both Hunter and Sims slapped each other on the back as they saw the impressive leviathan of the battlestar close in. They could also see that both landing bays were extending outwards. They were going to launch fighters!
“Launch bays extended and locked into position”, Core Command reported to Sanders.
Sanders spoke into his headset to the launch tube officers in both bays: “Shooters, Launch all fighters. I repeat: launch all fighters”.
Lance Voight was the first pilot of Black Knight Wing to be catapulted out of the PEGASUS. The other thirty-eight combat-ready fighters of his wing followed in quick succession. Thanks to Helo giving him the co-ordinates of the earlier emergence of the Cylon patrol, the fighters started forming it’s defensive cordon.
From the other landing bay, Silver Spar Wing was being launched and formed into a defensive cordon around the PEGASUS. While Syke covered topside, Tricia covered the fighter screen underside.
Hunter was using what engine power he had left to maneuver the Peregrine towards the port side landing bay. The LCO had given him clearance for a combat landing and two vipers from Spar One Squadron were flying to cover the Peregrine on it’s approach. He did caution Hunter not to divulge the name of the battlestar over the wireless.
“Understood, Home Plate. We’re on our way in”, Hunter replied, using the code-name that Dutch had mentioned earlier. Slowly, the Peregrine moved towards the battlestar. While this was happening, Sims transmitted the co-ordinates of the location where the raiders had made their FTL-exit to Core Command. It was a good bet that the expected Cylon reinforcements would arrive in the vicinity of that point in space as well.
Black Knight Wing was now in position to cover any attempt by Cylon Raiders to avoid the expected missile and weapons barrage . All of Voight’s pilots were wearing the PACIFICA patch on their flight suits and were given clearance to use their squadron designations in any open communications. With the lights that illuminates the battlestar’s nameplates switched off, it would take a very close look by anyone to get an positive identification.
“We’ve got incoming, Knight Leader!”, one of the pilots in Knight Two communicated suddenly. Voight saw it: It was the appearance of a base star approximately ten clicks away.
On the PEGASUS, Cain smiled grimly. The base star had appeared right at the same location as the fighter probe earlier - the co-ordinates courtesy of the Peregrine crew. He barked out to the officer manning Fire Control - who had already ranged his heavy weapons on those co-ordinates, “Open Fire. All topside and bay batteries, Full suppression and missile barrage!” He personally would have preferred firing the primary rail guns, but that diverted a lot of power and unless you were absolutely sure as to the target’s position, it was not a risk he felt that he could take. Still, several heavy missiles were now streaking towards the inviting target that the base star now provided...
Number Seven finally understood the human emotion of surprise when he saw a battlestar and over seventy fighters deployed and waiting for combat. Before he could tell the command centurion, “Have our batteries open fire of the battlestar and launch all raiders”, the first missiles and bullets (the latter fired from the guns on the PEGASUS’ landing bays) impacted on the base star - all in vital spots - before any counterbattery fire could be brought to bear.
The base star lurched with the detonations from the impact of the first salvo of missiles- which took out a number of missile batteries and damaged one of the hangar decks destroying several raiders getting ready to launch, but it was now starting to shoot back with their intact artillery. Counterbattery fire from the PEGASUS was so far succeeding in stopping the reduced Cylon barrage. However, the first echelon of Cylon raiders had already launched and were now attempting to fly a flanking maneuver to avoid the missile barrage, but Voight’s wing moved in to intercept. The battle was now under way in earnest.
After checking the readouts from Damage Control, Number Seven turned to the centurion responsible for communications, “Signal our courier drone to relay a message to the Command Base Star that we are engaging a human battlestar and are taking heavy damage. Estimated fighter strength of six squadrons of Viper Mark VII’s. The shutdown beam had no effect on any of them!”, he ordered as the base star took another hit from a heavy missile. Sparks flew out of several consoles on the command deck from this impact.
As the message was transmitted to a message drone just outside the battle zone, the communications technicians picked up the coded message. It was immediately recorded, but as the PEGASUS was in the midst of a battle, it was not put into the decoder immediately. The drone itself immediately FTL-ed to Caprica - some twenty-five light minutes away.
On the command base star over Caprica, Number One received the couriered message: BASE STAR TWO-NINER ENGAGING COLONIAL WARSHIP OF BATTLESTAR TYPE AT CO-ORDINATES NINER-NINER-FOUR MARK ZERO-FIVE-EIGHT. HAVE SUFFERED HEAVY DAMAGE. ENEMY VIPER STRENGTH ESTIMATED AT SEVENTY-PLUS. REINFORCEMENTS URGENTLY REQUESTED.
Number One though had another problem at this time: another battlestar was heading towards her base star on an intercept course, after first firing their rail gun at long range, with the result of substantial damage, and that they had also lost contact with the base star over Cancer. She issued orders to have several drones courier immediate orders for three base stars from the nearby colonies to converge on her position and the remaining three to support Number Seven. Somehow, the humans had decided to strike in a fully co-ordinated attack with substantial assets!
Number One ordered the courier probe to return to the scene of the battle to inform Number Seven of the situation. Having done that, she returned to the situation at hand.
Back near the PEGASUS, Voight’s squadrons were tearing into the incoming Cylon raiders. The damage inflicted upon their base star had forced several raiders to fly in a defense pattern around it, helping to destroy incoming fire from the PEGASUS. That made the odds a little better. Several Cylon fighters were already destroyed, though several of his fighters had been hit.
Number Seven had seen that the Peregrine was slowly closing in on the battlestar. Well then, he thought. If he couldn’t have it , then no-one would. He directed one of the Cylon attack echelons to go all-out to destroy the Peregrine - at all costs!
The vipers of Black Knight wing were doing an effective job of keeping the raiders away from the PEGASUS, and their own losses were very light. This was definite payback for the PACIFICA, he thought.
Suddenly, Lieutenant Tate signaled, “Pointer, ten raiders have broken through the perimeter. They are on an intercept course for Home Plate and the Peregrine”.
“Understood, Citgo”, Voight replied. He switched to another frequency.
“You’ve got incoming hostiles. Two of those are converging on the Peregrine. Underside Leader”, he said, referring to Tricia Cain, “do you acknowledge?”
“Understood, Pointer”, Tricia replied, “We’ve got them covered”.
As Cain had directed all of the battlestar’s artillery to continue pounding the base star, the fighters would have to do the intercept. Tricia saw the two raiders Voight reported boring in on the Peregrine, which was now very close to landing on the port hangar bay deck. The other eight were keeping the rest of the Underside contingent busy.
“Ratchet”, Tricia called to the closest viper able to intercept, “Those two hostiles are all yours, The Peregrine is depending on you”.
“Understood, Sheba”, Lt. Calley replied. She quickly drew a bead on the first raider and fired a short burst. The raider exploded. Calley homed in on the other raider - which this time was flying somewhat evasive - but was still closing with the Peregrine at high speed.
“Frakk!”, she muttered, “I can’t get a bead on this one”.
“I’ve got an idea, pilot”, a new voice called. It was Hunter. He saw the incoming fighter on his scanner screen. It was closing hard, and he realized that this one was determined to destroy his ship, before he could alight on the PEGASUS (he was close enough to read the darkened plate during the initial approach). He ordered Sims to pull the same stunt as what had saved them at the beginning of the war, but this time, to dump the lot.
Halley was sure that she had failed. All of the PEGASUS’s batteries were fully committed to the base star and no other fighters were close enough. Just then, She saw the Peregrine jettisoning all of its remaining drop tanks. The Cylon fighter fired a burst at the Peregrine, but the incoming rounds hit the drop tanks instead. A massive fireball lit up the space where the tank was hit. The Cylon thought at first that it had destroyed the Peregrine and started to pull away (in order to get a positive ID on the battlestar’s identity), but then realized that the Peregrine had not only survived, but it had just crossed the threshold and into the landing bay. The raider started to turn back, but that brief hesitation had allowed Calley to close the range. She fired, hitting and destroying the raider.
While the base star was trying to fight back after the first telling hits from the PEGASUS, Number Seven had ordered the communications centurions to listen in on the combat frequencies in order to positively identify the attacking battlestar. While this was going on, another centurion reported.
“A courier drone has returned with a reply. The Command Base Star reports that three other base stars will be deployed to support you as soon as they are notified by couriers”, it said.
“Why isn’t Number One coming herself?”, Number Seven replied. Not only that, he thought; there were four other base stars in this system.
“They are reporting that another battlestar is moving in to engage them over Caprica”, was the answer, “They have taken substantial damage from a rail gun and are also trying to get reinforcements to assist them. In addition, the base star deployed over Cancer has been listed as missing”.
Number Seven could not believe what he had just heard. ANOTHER attacking battlestar? A notification from the centurion monitoring the combat frequencies made things even more confusing.
“The designators used by the human viper pilots have been evaluated as coming from the wing called ‘Black Knights’. This wing’s home battlestar is the PACIFICA”.
“That can’t be!”, Number Seven roared as the base star shook again from missile hits, “The PACIFICA was on the confirmed destroyed list!”
“Then that must be a confirmed destroyed battlestar engaging and inflicting a high amount of damage on us”, the centurion replied matter-of-factly.
Number Seven looked at the centurion with exasperation for it’s narrow mind-set. He said, “The PACIFICA’s fighters must have evacuated over to another battlestar before it was destroyed, Centurion!”. He shook his head, trying to get rid of these annoying human emotions. The centurion did not react. It was awaiting further orders.
Number Seven looked at his flickering viewscreen at the battlestar. It was of the same class of battlestar as the PACIFICA, but the identification tabs were not illuminated and the damage inflicted upon the base star so far had rendered their scanners almost fully inoperative. The only reference to a name was ‘Home Plate’, which told him nothing. None of the surviving raiders had managed to get an ID either. He looked at the damage reports and made a decision.
“Withdraw the base ship to Sagittaria”, Number Seven ordered the command centurion, “and order our fighters to disengage and meet us there. We cannot do any damage to them in our current state and their fighter wings are holding back all of our attacks”.
“By Your Command”, the centurion acknowledged. Number Seven could not wait for the arrival of reinforcements. His base star was heavily damaged, and with the majority of the Cylon fleet deployed on the mission to seek and destroy the GALACTICA, withdrawal was the only option.
“They’re breaking off the attack!”, Sanders shouted as he saw the telemetry from the DRADIS console showing clearly the base star retreating from their position. The crew in CIC broke into a cheer.
“Is the Peregrine safe on board, Comms?”, Cain asked over the shouting.
“Affirmative, Commander. It’s now being lowered into Hangar Bay Twelve”, he answered, then asked, “ Do we pursue the base star, Commander?”.
Cain was sorely tempted, but realized that there would have to be reinforcements on the way. He slowly shook his head.
“Until we have more firepower, Comms, all we can do is hit-and-run tactics. Recall our wings for combat landing. We jump back to Batwah as soon was we get them back on board”, Cain ordered.
The crew quieted down as they realized the import of the statement. They were withdrawing! Cain running away, some of them thought? Cain turned to address them all.
“I want to make the Cylons pay for all that they have done just as much as all of you, but as we are only one battlestar, and that reinforcements are undoubtedly on the way, we have to have the GALACTICA to assist before we can return to stay. Don’t worry though, people: We’ll be back!”.
“The Base Star has just jumped, Commander”, Tolen said, “There’s not many raiders left. A lot of them are jumping themselves”, he reported.
On both flight decks of the PEGASUS’ landing bays, both fighter wings were moving in to hard-land. The PEGASUS was firing cover for the fighters as they landed, so the few raiders that did not FTL-jump with the retreating base star were not able to get close enough to interfere. In a few minutes, all of the surviving fighters had landed.
Syke and Voight were the last pilots to land on their respective landing bays. As soon as the fighters touched down, the bays started to retract.
“Countdown under way for FTL-jump back to Batwah”, the helm officer reported. At that moment, Sanders walked up to Cain, holding printouts that had just been handed to him.
“Commander”, Sanders said to him, “The Communications department just gave me these Intercepts from Cylon message drones. Three Base Stars have been alerted, but the Command Base Star also informs the one that we attacked that they are also under attack by a battlestar themselves!
“WHAT???”, Cain asked incredulously. The CIC crew also could not believe what had been said either. Sanders repeated it.
“If there is another battlestar, we’d better move in to support it”, Tolen suggested. Just then, a PROXIMITY ALERT alarm sounded. A screen on the DRADIS console showed three base stars just exiting an FTL-jump.
“Frakk!”, Cain exclaimed, “We can’t remain here. Commence immediate jump back to the Promar Sector instead!”, he ordered, seeing on the screen all three base stars deploying wave after wave of raiders. Going back to Batwah was not an option, Cain knew after glancing at another screen on the DRADIS console. The scheduled Cylon patrol of that area of the Cyrannus System would be in the vicinity of the jump exit point around this time, and an FTL-jump would be noticed. The PEGASUS started firing her batteries again, but there was now a lot more incoming ordinance and raiders.
“3.......2......1.......jump!”, the Helm Officer said. There was a flash of light, then the base stars saw their missiles streak through empty space where the battlestar had once been.
Chapter Seven: Counting the Cost
Number Seven read the reports from the Command Base Star and it’s run-in with the Battlestar identified as the ITHACA, skimmed through the report pertaining to the destroyed base star over Cancer (the probes investigating the loss of wireless contact found only debris from the base star, and a nearby listening post when they arrived), then read the after-action report from the three base stars that had arrived too late to successfully attack the unknown battlestar. His base star was now undergoing repair for the heavy damage suffered at the hands of that human warship. Not only the base star, but the loss of a large number of raiders would have to be made up.
Number One was not overly happy to hear about Number Seven’s withdrawal from the battle, enabling the humans to rescue that Peregrine, but realized that it was the only logical thing that could have been done, given the tactical situation. Thanks to the recently enacted policy that had concentrated on hunting down the Battlestar GALACTICA, the relative lack of forces in the Cyrannus Sector had enabled this multi-pronged attack to succeed. True, the Battlestar ITHACA had been destroyed, and intelligence gleaned from the wrecked battlestar had determined that it was definitely the one that had attempted to save Valhalla Station - but failed, was good news, but the fact that another battlestar was in this system with substantial numbers of fighters meant that the humans were far from being defeated.
“There will be a greater number of base stars deployed in this system from here on out”, she had directed at a council-of-war that he, and others had been ordered to attend, “Also, one task force will be detached from the Promar Sector in order to free-lance through other sectors for any trace of this rogue battlestar. The recent losses are unacceptable”, she continued.
“But this will cut down on the searchers for the GALACTICA”, Number Eleven objected, “The Promar Sector is immense, and for all we know it could have been the GALACTICA who made that other attack”.
“All of our intelligence says that no substantial numbers of fighters from Task Force Five - where the PACIFICA was - had made it to the GALACTICA when it was at Ragnar Anchorage, and Number Seven reported that an entire wing of fighters had the designation of the wing that was based on that particular warship, and it had been definitely confirmed destroyed”, she replied.
She was annoyed at Number Eleven - after all, it was his idea to have as many Cylon forces as possible to concentrate on the GALACTICA, believing that these other human forces would not be capable of anything really serious. As a result, she was forced to transfer her command to a replacement base star while the damaged one was moved to another orbit for repair - depleting their resources even more. She had been fortunate that only two of the six heavy projectiles fired from the rail gun had hit. The other four impacted on the surface of Caprica, leaving some rather sizable craters. One of those unfortunately had hit a recently completed hunter-killer control station, neutralizing whole units of drones on the surface. If it wasn’t for the fact that his consciousness would be transferred to another entity of his model type, she would have seriously considered having Number Eleven killed for this error of judgement. The Battlestar ITHACA was a case in point. It was not regarded as a anything close to a serious threat, and look what had happened as a result!
“So where does that leave us?”, Number Twelve asked her, putting into words that all of the others present were thinking. No one would admit it, but all of them were shaken at this brazen in-system attack at the hands of these remnants of humanity.
“It leaves us with a problem that has to be solved. We cannot stop until the human race has been annihilated!”, Number One replied forcefully, “These attacks - and this recent attack would have had to have been co-ordinated for them to occur simultaneously - are a clear message from the humans to us”.
“What message is that?”, Number Four asked.
“That they are prepared to fight the war to the finish, and that nowhere will be safe for us while they survive”, Number One answered. The others fell silent. Number One had made it clear: If they don’t destroy the humans, eventually, the humans will destroy them.
Shortly after the council had broken up, a message was dispatched to all Cylon task force units: RECENT ATTACK IN CYRANNUS SECTOR BY TWO HUMAN BATTLESTARS NECESSITATES REDEPLOYING ADDITIONAL UNITS FROM PROMAR SECTOR. WHILE PRIMARY GOAL OF LOCATING AND DESTROYING GALACTICA IS UNCHANGED, TWO TASK FORCES (FORCE SIGMA AND FORCE CHI) WILL BE DEPLOYED BACK TO CYRANNUS SYSTEM WHILE ONE TASK FORCE (FORCE RHO) WILL CONDUCT SECTOR-TO-SECTOR SEARCH FOR OTHER BATTLESTAR.
IDENTITY OF THIS BATTLESTAR STILL UNCERTAIN, BUT TWO REPEAT TWO VIPER WINGS FROM THIS WARSHIP WERE DEPLOYED IN RECENT BATTLE. ONE OF THESE WINGS WAS ORIGINALLY BASED ON DESTROYED BATTLESTAR CALLED PACIFICA. REVISE ALL ATTACK STRATEGIES ACCORDINGLY.
PRIORITY IS NOW GIVEN TO OPERATION ‘LIVE BAIT’. UNITS DEPLOYED FOR THAT WILL REMAIN ON-STATION UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. RAIDERS TO BE DISPATCHED FOR REINFORCEMENTS TO COMMAND BASE STAR WHEN COLONIAL FORCES ENCOUNTERED BY ANY BAIT UNITS.
FURTHER ATTACKS BY THE VESSEL KNOWN AS PEREGRINE ARE TO BE EXPECTED. THIS VESSEL HAS BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LOSS OR SEVERE DAMAGE OF FOUR BASE STARS AND NUMEROUS RAIDERS. IT IS TO BE DESTROYED BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
Number Seven returned to his still-under-repair base star after the council with renewed determination. Like the others, they were comforted by the evidence confirming the loss of Valhalla Station, along with the loss of the battlestar that had tried to escape with it. The two cutters that were part of the station however were still on the loose, but that little annoyance as well as the search for the Peregrine that had destroyed the base star over Cancer and the listening post close by was being addressed by another Number Seven model. Those elements of humanity, plus the GALACTICA and the battlestar that he had encountered were it. And despite this success, they would be destroyed, he swore to himself.
With a flash of light, the PEGASUS re-emerged from it’s lengthy FTL-jump back to the Promar Sector not far from the asteroid where the miners and refiners were still busy with their work. They were all glad to see the return of their battlestar. So was Lt. Higgins, who communicated with Core Command from his viper.
“Good to see you back, PEGASUS”, Higgins said, “and have we got news for you from the probes that had returned while you were gone”.
“Very good, Theta Leader”, Core Command replied, “Have your flight return to Home Plate. Normal patrol schedule will resume from this moment”.
“Understood, Home Plate. Heading home”, Higgins acknowledged.
With the nine midshipmen forming a v-formation behind Higgins, the ten vipers headed back to their base. Higgins knew that these snotties would very soon become squadron rooks. They did themselves proud.
As Core Command started to download the transmitted data from the returned probes, another voice came over the wireless.
“Home Plate, This is Deputy Prospector”, Petty Officer Miller communicated from the command shuttle down on the asteroid, “We’ve got a fair amount of semi-refined tylium ready for pick-up. I assume your recent trip left you all a little thirsty”.
“That’s affirmative, Dee-Pee”, Core Command replied, “You can start getting the mass-driver warmed up. We’ll send out the receiver shuttles forthwith”.
“Will do, Home Plate. Dee-Pee Out”, she said. When the support shuttles were deployed with their receiver ‘nets’, then the mass-driver would start flinging the semi-refined ore up to it.
Over the next two days, the semi-refined tylium ore and the other extracted precious metals had been loaded aboard for final refining, while the minor damage to the battlestar from the recent battle was tended to. There was enough refined high-quality tylium to refill the PEGASUS’ fuel tanks, which was great news for Wyatt Thyssen..
Down in the arsenal, the refining of the rest of the extracted ore into ammunition was also well under way. The attack had expended a fair amount of ammunition which had to be made good, but that asteroid had provided all that was needed to get their magazines filled again. It was during this time that Captain Sanders was going over the reports from their probes and the Cylon intercepts, and other business which was taken care of.
Black Knight Wing had suffered the loss of eight vipers in all. Given the circumstances, it was a light loss, but still felt keenly. The numbers were made up by eight newly commissioned ensigns from Higgins’ training cadre. The ninth was assigned to Silver Spar Squadron Three, which had the only loss from their wing. Several vipers had varying degrees of damage, but Chief Brubaker’s maintenance techs were taking care of them. They would all be able to return to duty shortly.
“Well, Rogue”, Syke said to Higgins in his office after the ceremony where the nine former snotties were given their field commissions and wings, “I think Ratchet wants you back to help her in Spar One. You did a great job with the midshipmen”.
“They’ll do okay, Bojay”, Higgins confirmed, “Now that they’re rooks, they’ll learn more of what they’ll need from the old hands”.
“So long as one of those old hands don’t do any more landing bay fly-bys”, Syke said with a smile. Higgins did not reply directly. He stood, saluted Syke, then headed back to report to Lt. Halley. He was now back on operations and had a lot of catching up to do.
Syke had also gone over the wing damage report that Tricia had given him. Chief Krag reported that only four vipers had any substantial damage and that by the next watch, all of the damage would be made good. Now, it was time to welcome the one new ensign from Higgins’ training cadre to the wing.
Lance Voight had also welcomed his eight new ensigns. It was something to take his mind off the recent memorial service. Eight deaths, and now eight replacements. He had given the squadron commanders instructions to make sure that the new rooks got experienced pilots to assist them. Despite the loss felt by the pilots of Black Knight Wing, their morale was once again high. They had all felt that they had inflicted payback for the loss of the PACIFICA. Forty-five raiders were confirmed destroyed by the pilots of Black Knight Wing. The ten raiders that did break through the defense cordon were all taken care of by Silver Spar Wing. And more important, there was now a new asset to the PEGASUS.
“Welcome aboard the Battlestar PEGASUS”, Cain had said to Lieutenant Hunter and Ensign Sims after they had secured the Peregrine and reported to him up in CIC. The Peregrine was now under repair and reconfiguring to it’s designed role as a recon gunship and troop transport.
“We’re glad to be on board, Commander”, Hunter had replied, shaking Cain’s outstretched hand. Sims echoed Hunter’s sentiment.
“So am I”, another voice said. They turned to see Dutch coming into CIC. Both of them smiled and shook hands with their friend, before turning back to face Commander Cain.
“Your ship is being well taken care of, and we have received news indicating that another Peregrine is giving the tin-heads a lot of trouble”, Cain said. He nodded to Dutch, who gave out more news.
“It’s one of the two that was involved with the weapons aspect of the program. It’s almost certain that Dragon is out there somewhere giving the Cylons a fair dose of grief”, Dutch said.
Cain added, “Captain Sanders - our ‘Comms’ - had picked up data from intercepted transmissions pertaining to another series of attacks upon Cylon assets over Caprica and Cancer, and the preliminary information seems to indicate the other Peregrine being involved”.
That was good news to both Hunter and Sims. Cain got their attention again with more news - this time affecting them personally.
“From this moment on, you’ll be on TDY as an independent reconnaissance unit assigned to support both strike wings on the PEGASUS. We’re going to continue on our mission to find the GALACTICA, and then once we find her, we’ll be going back to the colonies to do a lot more damage upon every single miserable tin-head we can find. Hopefully then, you’ll be reunited with Captain Masters and the combatants that he’s based with. Until then, welcome aboard, and once a final report from Comms has been compiled, if there’s more news about the other Peregrine, I’ll let you know”.
Both saluted Cain, and then - accompanied by Dutch - they left CIC and headed down to get settled in to their new quarters. Cain watched them go. He had found the time to take a quick look at the Peregrine and knew that the PEGASUS had an excellent piece of firepower with the addition of this gunship.
Later on that afternoon, Captain Sanders finally had a more concise report to give to Cain regarding the other battlestar attack at Caprica, which gave Cain another reason to smile. Sanders gave it him when he retreated to his cabin that evening. Cain and Tolen were sitting in chairs listening to the brief.
“Based on both the reports from the Cimtar probe, as well as the last batch of intercepts, The ITHACA definitely was the battlestar destroyed by the Caprica Base Star, but the information from the probe shows that she was moved into it’s attack trajectory by another ship, due to the damage evidently sustained to the ITHACA’s engines. And as the ITHACA’s landing bays were not configured for launching vipers due to it’s conversion, it’s just not possible that this was the ship giving the Cylons problems earlier”, he reported.
“What makes you so sure about this, Comms”, Cain asked.
“The Command Base Star had reported getting damaged by a rail gun - which the ITHACA did not have operational, judging from the probe data - and this other message indicating the loss of contact with a base star over Cancer...... it was under attack at about that same time, it would also support this conclusion of another capital ship being involved”, Sanders had replied.
Cain nodded, reading the specs. The ITHACA had indeed been downgraded to a target ship before the war, so it’s ability to attack was severely limited, given the limited number of light weapons it had left after being converted to it’s target duties. The recent intelligence intercepts about the Command Base Star being damaged by a rail gun- a weapon that was something that only a capital ship could carry - plus other reported losses by the Cylons in other raids (such as a recent raid on Sagittaria) tended to bear this conclusion out. And the loss of contact with the Cancer base star- while it could mean a simple wireless failure - more likely meant that it had been attacked and probably destroyed, given the timing of it’s wireless failure with the other attacks.
Well, Cain had thought, whoever it was that was behind the ITHACA’s attack - and the incident over Cancer - had helped them by holding back additional Cylon reinforcements from engaging the PEGASUS. If all seven base stars had gotten into the battle, there was no way that the PEGASUS would have survived, but the attacks - which could very well be regarded as co-ordinated by outside observers, had effectively split the response.
“When things settle down some, Captain”, Cain said to Sanders, “We’ll deploy more reconnaissance probes and try to fill in the gaps in our intelligence. At the moment, we’ll finish getting our fuel refined, then continue on our way. Thanks for the report”, he finished. Sanders sensed the note of dismissal in Cain’s voice. He saluted, then left the cabin. Tolen stood, and after saying “See you in the morning Garris”, followed Sanders out, leaving Cain to his thoughts.
Cain knew that this apparent ‘co-ordinated’ attack would result in more Cylon forces currently involved in hunting down the GALACTICA getting pulled back to the colonies, and forcing extra Cylon ships to embark on roving expeditions in an effort to locate them. Anything to take some of the heat off the Promar Sector would be welcomed by Adama, despite some of the heat being redirected at him. That letter he had received from T.J. Flinn still made him think that the GOLIATH was the one other capital ship involved, and until evidence to the contrary came up, he would rely on his ‘gut instinct’. Perhaps when the probes returned to the colonies, there will be more answers forthcoming.
Overall, the hit-and-run operation had been a resounding success, and it served to give notice to the Cylons in plain language that they would never know victory while a single human remained alive. When the GALACTICA was located, they and the other group of human combatants would take care of the Cylon menace while the refugees made a new colony to restart the race. Cain knew that just running would not be able to eliminate the Cylon threat, and for the race to survive, the Cylons had to be destroyed. He looked forward to that day, as did all the others on board the Battlestar PEGASUS.
END OF BOOK FIVE