Word Count: 27,874
Pairing/Focus: Original Characters
CHAPTER ONE: Settling into a new routine
It had been a month since the battle at Molecay Anchorage - the last battle within the Cyrannus System of a war that had seen the Twelve Worlds of humanity destroyed, and the vaunted Colonial Fleet decimated at the hands of a machine race called the Cylons. The Battlestar PEGASUS, after escaping the battle which had ended with the destruction of the anchorage itself and a Cylon base star was now cruising in deep space - well beyond the Red Line - on a search mission in which the survival of humanity depended The PEGASUS was one of only two known (to the PEGASUS crew) surviving units of the Colonial Fleet to have survived the war. Now, the commander of the PEGASUS, Garris Cain, was directing the efforts of the battlestar’s crew to find the other surviving battlestar - the Battlestar GALACTICA - before the Cylons could.
The intelligence gleaned from intercepted and deciphered Cylon transmissions had been of great help in determining that the GALACTICA had indeed survived the holocaust and subsequent battle at Ragnar, along with some fifty-odd civilian ships which were carrying all that was left of the billions that had once populated the Twelve Worlds, but unfortunately for the PEGASUS, it could not tell them where the GALACTICA and the ships that it was protecting had precisely FTL-jumped to. All that they knew was that they had made a long range jump beyond the regions of surveyed space. So, after the PEGASUS had stocked up on consumables and fuel at Molecay - in the process causing the destruction of a Cylon base star, they had made a lengthy jump beyond the Red Line that marked surveyed space out into the remote Vardon Sector, in order to begin their search.
The Vardon Sector was un-surveyed by any colonial exploration vessel. With the exception of the star charts that had been made years ago by the Colonial Astronomical Society with their home-system based instruments to help with navigation, this area of space was completely unknown.
Commander Cain however, did not feel that they were any safer here. His rationale was that after the armistice that had ended the First Cylon War, the Cylons had themselves left explored space. No one knew where they went, and no one had come across any evidence of their new location. The only time the Cylons had made themselves known since the armistice, they had wreaked complete destruction upon the colonies and the fleet.
For all Cain knew, the PEGASUS may have FTL-jumped right into the heart space controlled by the Cylons, and thus, he was determined to maintain the battlestar, and the crew, in a full state of combat readiness. After the jump had been made, he had the CAG’s of both viper wings commence constant reconnaissance probes in all directions from the battlestar in order to make sure that no unpleasant surprises would be forthcoming. While the Cylons still believed that the PEGASUS had been destroyed back at Caprica, Cain realized that if the Cylons got wind of their existence, they would spare no effort in hunting them down.
With no support ships or bases to support the PEGASUS, the reconnaissance patrol probes were also having to pull double-duty looking for any sources of raw materials that could be used to help maintain the battlestar. In the meantime, conservation of resources was the rule, and that even applied to the fuel used by the vipers on patrol. One of the patrols probing ahead of the PEGASUS was being led by the CAG of Silver Spar Wing, and he was ensuring that by setting the example, that the fuel conservation measures would be properly enforced amongst his pilots.
Captain Eugene Syke stifled a yawn as he monitored his scanner while his viper was on coast mode (idling). Sleep was getting to be a rather precious commodity amongst the pilots of Silver Spar Wing these days. As CAG, he could have stayed back at base and have one of his squadron commanders pull this duty while he took it easy doing paperwork in the wing office, but he was determined to let the other pilots of his wing know that he would pull the same patrol regimen as the rest of them.
He had faith in his pilots, and he knew that they respected him. The problem was that the necessity to do such long duration combat patrols around the clock since entering the Vardon Sector was starting to draw down on the pilot’s reserves of energy. Even with Captain Lance Voight’s pilots of Black Knight Wing (formerly based on the now-destroyed battlestar PACIFICA, now based with his wing on board the PEGASUS) to share the load, the endless succession of flying both a protection screen around their home battlestar as well as performing deep space probes ahead was starting to affect morale. He did not think that him not doing his fair share of the patrols would help morale any, so here he was.
He remembered when he had been appointed the CAG. Unlike other ships - which usually appointed the CAG from within, Syke had been transferred from the Battlestar AUSTRALIS immediately after being promoted to Captain in order to take up the position of CAG on the PEGASUS. Commander Cain had personally met him when he had landed his viper and took him aside for a little chat.
“I brought you in because I don’t believe that CAG’s should be appointed from within the wing”, he had explained to him after welcoming him on board, “because the position should never be based upon popularity. The CAG position carries with it an awesome responsibility, Captain Syke - second only to the battlestar commander himself”. Syke nodded, but did not reply. Cain looked at him intently for a few seconds, then continued.
“I remember when I became a CAG years ago on the ACROPOLIS. My commander had told me that in order to be a good fighter pilot, one must love his fellow pilots in the wing and to trust each other implicitly. But in order to be a good CAG, one must be willing to order the death of the thing that he loves if that means getting the job done. It was very tough for me as CAG at first because as I had been promoted to command the ACROPOLIS wing from within, I knew everyone under me - most of whom were close friends and colleagues. Knowing that someday, I may have to make a decision to sacrifice their lives for the good of the fleet had kept me awake for many a night. To keep your mind totally on the task at hand, and to be able to make the right decision - which is always never the easiest decision, you must not get too close to those you lead”.
Syke still vividly remembered that wake-up call that Cain had given him. When he took up his post, it took a lot of effort to maintain a discrete distance from the other pilots. Talking to them about their piloting skills was one thing, but having to avoid getting to know them more intimately and not participating in their card games that he had loved to join the other pilots in back on the AUSTRALIS was pretty tough. The pilots of Silver Spar Wing - including the squadron commanders - thought at first that he was an arrogant cold fish and it did take a while for them to get used to him. But soon, the pilots knew that he was to be relied upon because he led by example, took the heat in case any of his pilots went out of line, and never hesitated to assist anyone who had gotten into difficulty. Still, the demands of command responsibility kept the wall up, and it was really lonely.
While he was thinking about all of this, his wingman activated his communicator.
“Still nothing on sensors, Bojay”, Ensign Clark Vansen (call-sign ‘Jet’) communicated, using his call-sign for identification. The call-sign system was far easier to use for identification than their vipers’ tail numbers, and less confusing than their own names as wings could have more than one person sharing the same name and /or grade. Besides, combat patrols were no places for formality.
“Same here, Jet”, Bojay called back, grateful for something to take his mind off his melancholy thoughts, “We still have a short ways to go before we start the return leg, so stay alert”, he reminded his wingman.
“It’s just another routine patrol run, Bojay”, Vansen replied. Syke frowned. He had better start letting his wingman know one of the basic rules of flying in a combat environment.
“Don’t ever get the feeling that this is just a normal patrol run, Jet”, Syke admonished in a conversational tone, “because if you start believing that, you won’t be alert when an emergency really happens. Treat every patrol as anything but routine, and you’ll have a better chance of survival”.
“Sorry, Bojay”, Vansen responded, accepting the rebuke.
“Don’t be sorry, Jet. Just be right. Stay alert and be ready for anything”, Syke concluded. He didn’t see any point in chewing him out further. True, Vansen was a new pilot (affectionately called ‘rooks’ by more experienced pilots) - posted to the PEGASUS straight out of flight school on the eve of the Cylon attack - and he still had a lot to learn, but it was far better to teach by example, then by a raised voice.
“Bojay?”, Vansen asked after a silence of a few seconds.
“Yeah, Jet?”, Syke replied.
“Deep space probes are normally the tasks assigned to raptors, not vipers”, Vansen pointed out, “With the inclusion of Black Knight Wing, we have four raptors at our disposal in all, so why are they not doing these patrols?”, he asked.
“Commander Cain wants them kept in reserve for FTL planetary probes, Jet”, Syke replied, “and since we have far more spares for vipers than for the raptors, it makes sense to conserve them “.
Vansen nodded without replying. The rules of being a fighter jock had really been turned upside down since the PEGASUS had made it’s escape from Molecay and was now cruising far out in uncharted space. He had always had the dream of being a hot-shot pilot with lots of kills to his credit and eventually having a squadron of his own to command. Now, the situation had become more than just combat - the survival of the PEGASUS and all aboard her depended upon people like him. He was glad that the CAG took the time to personally make sure that all of the rook pilots were as well prepared as the more seasoned aviators.
The fuel conservation measures being employed on these patrols were a case in point. Even with the extra supplies obtained from Molecay Anchorage, everyone was adhering to Commander Cain’s strict policy of conserving their resources; all designed to stretch out what they have as long as possible. Under these conditions, fighter probes were therefore of lengthy duration with long periods of coasting. The PEGASUS itself was cruising at the most economical speed so as to stretch out the fuel supply to the maximum.
Thoughts of the PEGASUS and it’s new regimen were shaken from his mind as his scanner beeped.
“Bojay”, Vansen said, “sensors show an asteroid at grid reference five mark four”.
“I see it too”, Syke replied, “let’s power up and give it a once-over. Hopefully, it will have a few raw materials that we can use”.
“Breaks the monotony”, Vansen replied, eager to have something to break the boredom of deep space probes.
Both vipers powered up and at Syke’s command, smoothly accelerated to where the sensors said the asteroid was.
At that moment, back on board the PEGASUS, Colonel Tolen was standing the watch in CIC. He had finally talked Commander Cain into getting a few hours of sleep. Looking around at the personnel manning their stations, he hoped that they could get through this current crisis and still be able to fight. Running was anathema to him - and to Commander Cain, he knew - but thanks to the Cylons’ through destruction of their home worlds and the majority of the fleet, the only choices remaining were either withdrawing, or fighting and dying against overwhelming odds without any hope of winning. Withdrawing - the word ‘retreat’ is never uttered by anyone within Cain’s hearing - was the only realistic option.
Commander Cain knew that the Battlestar GALACTICA under the command of William Adama was out here somewhere. He hoped that he could catch up with Adama so that they could start thinking about a counterattack. With two battlestars, Cain knew that they would have a better chance against any Cylon attack, and if skillfully used, could start inflicting serious damage of their own upon those tin-headed monstrosities.
For his part, Colonel Tolen knew Adama only by reputation, but Cain had served with Adama in his younger years. They had been viper pilots attached to Bronze Spear Wing of the Battlestar GALACTICA, then later when the wing had transferred over to the battlestar ACROPOLIS over forty years ago. ‘Husker’ and ‘Renegade’ were their call-signs and they were a legend in the First Cylon War. Both had notched up an impressive score of destroyed Cylon Raiders, and after the war, their careers had continued to progress, with their offspring going into the service, and finally with both of them ending up commanding their own battlestars. Had the Cylons not attacked, Adama would have been retired now with the GALACTICA being turned into a museum ship, Cain would have followed Adama into retirement a couple of years later, and then he would have succeeded him as the new Commander of the PEGASUS. Tolen sighed, thinking of what might have been. The situation had changed now.....
“How go our fighter probes, Comms?”, Tolen asked Captain Sanders.
“So far, none have reported anything, Colonel”, Sanders replied.
“Well, I don’t think I can say to the commander that no news is good news”, Tolen remarked.
“At least the crew have settled down to the new routine, Colonel”, Sanders responded, “and soon we will be close enough to the next system for us to dispatch a raptor. It’s just a matter of keeping people busy in the meantime”.
Tolen nodded. There was a system a few light-days ahead, but part of the fuel conservation measures dictated a minimum distance requirement before initiating an FTL-jump. Besides, as this was unknown space, the raptors had to be deployed for a preliminary survey before the PEGASUS could enter any system.
The problem was that no-one knew if there was any Cylon presence in this part of space. Tolen fully concurred with Cain’s concerns. The Cylons were out there somewhere and they would not stop until all of humanity had been exterminated. So far, there was no indication that they were looking for the PEGASUS, but they were looking for the GALACTICA and that meant staying vigilant.
Meanwhile, Syke’s patrol had reached the location of the asteroid and both vipers were now running a scan to see if it had anything to offer.
“Preliminary scan shows nothing useful, Bojay”, Ensign Vansen reported disgustedly, “It’s just a floating boulder”.
“Trajectory indicates that it has come from that star system ahead of us. If this is any indication of what’s ahead, it looks like we won’t find anything useful”, Syke acknowledged. The asteroid was about fifteen miles in diameter. The shape of a mottled potato, it was very dark. If it wasn’t for their sensors, they could very easily have missed it. Vansen was disappointed. He started getting excited for this!
“Wait a minute”, Syke communicated, “my sensors are picking up indications of something metallic on the surface. I’m heading down for a closer look. Stand by where you are, Jet”.
“Understood, Bojay”, Vansen acknowledged.
Syke’s scanners had picked up a highly localized source of metal. Perhaps there was something useful after all.......
“What the frack....?” Syke exclaimed as his ships instrument panel went haywire. His controls were running erratically as well. It all happened suddenly.
“What’s up, Bojay?”, Vansen asked. His communication was rather static-y.
Syke managed to get back control of his viper. He flew away from the asteroid. As he did so, his instruments went back to normal and his communications cleared up.
“Localized magnetic field”, Bojay hypothesized. “Looks like the core of that rock is of some dense material. It’s very intense. If I hadn’t gotten away from it’s effect, I probably would have crashed”.
“I didn’t detect any indications of a magnetic field on the sensors”, Vansen replied.
“Neither did I”, Syke replied, “but regardless of what we didn’t detect, it’s there, and it’s not wise to approach closer than one kilometer above it’s surface”.
“Well, Bojay”, Vansen suggested, “ in that case perhaps we’d better stick to high-altitude scanning”.
“You think??!!!”, Syke sarcastically asked.
“Switching to high resolution sensors”, Vansen said, trying to deflect his CAG’s attention from his comment.
Vansen started scanning the near side of the asteroid. Syke - being careful to stay away from the effects of the intense, though localized magnetic field surrounding the asteroid - flew around to the other side to scan. Once he got into position, he started to aim his sensors at the area where he had initially picked up the metallic reading. Perhaps it was a piece of the metal core of the asteroid, in which case, the intense local magnetic field could be explained....... suddenly, his eyes widened as he saw what the sensors picked up.
“Frack!”, Syke exclaimed.
“Are you caught in the field again, Bojay?”, Vansen asked.
“No, but something else evidently did”, Syke replied, “It’s a Cylon ship!”
“Are you sure, Bojay?”, Vansen asked incredulously.
“No mistake about it, Jet”, he replied, “I’m taking a more detailed scan of it now”.
Syke made sure that his recorder took in all the data that the scanners were providing about the wreck. For his part, Vansen was making sure that there were no other ships anywhere in their vicinity. With the clear proof of a Cylon presence in this sector of space, things suddenly ceased to be routine, and the threat of a Cylon raider attacking them became a lot more real.
“Okay, I’ve got enough data”, Syke said after a couple of minutes, “Let’s head back to the PEGASUS and let’s do it fast”.
Vansen fully agreed with Syke. And under these circumstances, the fuel conservation measures be damned. Both vipers went to full power as they headed back to the PEGASUS. The sooner that they knew about this discovery, the better.
CHAPTER TWO: Awareness of Danger
“Not Good”, Colonel Tolen said with classic understatement.
“So, they are - or at least have been - in this region of space”, Cain confirmed.
Cain and Tolen were in the squadron briefing room talking with Syke and Vansen.
Syke and Vansen had made it back to the PEGASUS quickly in order to report their find. Before landing, they had communicated their find to the CIC. Now, the PEGASUS had been placed on Condition Two alert while Commander Cain and Colonel Tolen went down to the briefing room to see the raw data for themselves.
Syke had downloaded the recorded data from his viper’s scanner and all of them had been watching the images of the crashed Cylon raider.
“As you can see, this raider is of the new scimitar configuration. That means that this is no relic of the first war”, Cain said, pointing to the unmistakable shape of the crashed vessel.
“It looks like it strayed too close to that asteroid and got caught in it’s magnetic field”, Syke said.
“Lucky you didn’t suffer the same fate, Captain”, Tolen stated. Syke nodded.
“According to your scanner’s data, this asteroid had been drifting away from the star system ahead of us, so it’s a fair bet that this ship had been in that system earlier”, Tolen mused.
“That’s logical”, Cain assented, “but the question is: was this ship from a base there, or was it just a passing patrol?”.
“Good question, Commander”, Syke replied, “and the only way that we can answer it is to check the system out”.
“In that case, Captain”, Cain decided, “then you’d better get a raptor dispatched to check it out. I don’t need to remind you that we still have to maintain a low profile for the time being, right?”, he reminded.
“No, Commander”, Syke acknowledged.
“Very well, I’ll leave you to it”, Cain concluded. Cain nodded to Tolen, who stood up. Both of them left the debriefing room.
As Cain and Tolen headed back up to the CIC, Cain said to Tolen, “You’d better get Comms to start directing the other patrol probes to check for other ships in our area. I can’t believe that there is just one Cylon ship out there”.
Syke quickly looked at the clipboard to find out who the stand-by raptor crew was. When he saw the names, he picked up a communicator and put out a page request for them both, then he made a second call to CIC to get the latest navigation data updates. The raptor would be needing that information.
Down in Hangar Bay Two, Lieutenant Tricia Cain and Midshipman Jason Gorde were going over the maintenance records for their raptor. As they were the stand-by reconnaissance crew, they were responsible for checking the readiness of their ship. Tricia knew that a raptor would soon be deployed as the PEGASUS was heading towards a star system, so she made it her business to ensure that all raptor crews keep tabs on their ships’ status, and when their time to rotate onto the stand-by roster came up, to stay close to their ship and to make sure that everything on their raptors were up to par. As this was their duty station, the Condition Two alert did not affect them. Any order to launch would be promptly responded to by them both.
“Lt. Cain and Midshipman Gorde”, the P.A. system suddenly announced, “report to wing ready room”. The message repeated once more, then the P.A. turned off. Both of them looked at each other, then left the hangar bay. It looked like they would be heading out soon. As both of them were in their flight suits, they were ready to go.
Syke was waiting for them both outside the briefing room. As both Tricia and Gorde saluted, Syke gestured to them to enter the room. The look on Syke’s face made it clear to Tricia that both she and Gore were indeed going to be dispatched on a mission.
In the briefing room, Tricia and Gorde sat down in the front row of the high-backed chairs that took up most of the room space. Syke started displaying the data he had obtained from the sensor scans on the viewscreen. Tricia and Gorde now realized just how important things had become when they saw the image of the crashed Cylon fighter on the asteroid. The Condition Two alert was definitely not a drill.
“As you can see”, Syke said after the recording had completed, “that wreck is not that of one of the old raider types used in the first war, so we have to assume that it had recently crashed”.
“No telling how long that the Cylons had that particular raider in operation before they used it against us though, CAG”, Gorde pointed out. “Isn’t there any way we can check how long that it had been sitting there?”.
“Unfortunately”, Syke pointed out, “that asteroid’s intense magnetic core makes a close-up survey impossible, so we have to assume the worst possible case: that it was a recent patrol craft which just got unlucky”.
“Well, not unlucky for us”, Tricia replied, “for at least we know about a potential problem ahead in that system”.
“That’s where you both come in”, Syke stated, “We need to get a survey of the system - not only for Cylons, but for any resources that we can use. As that asteroid’s trajectory indicates that it came out from that system, it means that there could be an abundance of useful metals, judging from that magnetic field. Therefore, you are to take Raptor One out to that system and to start doing a discrete survey of any planets encountered. Remember that we don’t want to go announcing our presence to all and sundry should any Cylons be in that system. Clear?”, he asked.
“Don’t you want more than one raptor to do the survey?”, Tricia asked, “we can cover the system a lot faster with a second raptor”.
“If there are unfriendly eyes out there, Sheba”, Syke replied, “then more than one ship doubles the chances of getting detected. We keep it at one ship for the time being. Understood?”. Both Tricia and Gorde nodded.
“Very well”, Syke said, “get your raptor ready for immediate launch. I want you FTL-ing out there within the hour. One more thing - if you do see hostiles, return and report it immediately. If you are not back within six hours after departure, we will assume something happened to you and will dispatch another craft. Dismissed”.
Tricia and Gorde stood, saluted Syke - who returned the gesture - then left the briefing room.
“Another look-and-see trip”, Gorde muttered as he and Tricia left the room and headed back down to the landing bay. Gorde had in his hand the list showing the initial FTL-jump co-ordinates he got from Syke. Those co-ordinates would be his responsibility to load into the raptor’s navi-comp.
“Well, it beats sitting around going over maintenance reports, or pulling collateral duty, Newguy”, Tricia pointed out.
Syke had introduced a policy of having pilots not on the flight rotation pull collateral duties in order to keep the wing functioning. Both Tricia and Gorde had been given the additional assignment of overseeing and maintaining the personnel records of the technicians responsible for maintaining the raptor’s systems. Personally, Tricia would rather have been pulling out her own fingernails with a pair of pliers than doing any form of paperwork, but with the new reality of life on board the PEGASUS, taking time off was not an option. Being the Commander’s daughter got no extra privileges.
Both of them entered the launch bay. The few technicians present started leaving the bay, sealing the bay’s hatches behind them. Tricia and Gorde got into the raptor, sealed the hatch, and strapped themselves into their seats. As Gorde got the sensor platform and the navi-comp on-line, Tricia powered up the cockpit’s flight controls. She expertly taxied the raptor onto a lift. The raptor was now ready for positioning for launch.
After Tricia had notified Core Command of their readiness, the launch bay’s warning lights started flashing, indicating that the bay was depressurizing. At the same time, the lift that the raptor was sitting on started elevating them upwards. As the bay fully depressurized, the ceiling directly above them slid open, allowing the lift to position the raptor up into the vacuum of the landing bay itself.
Tricia started up the raptor’s engines and did a final check of her instruments. Everything was registering okay. Gorde reported likewise. Tricia then called up Core command to inform them of their readiness.
“Core Command transferring control of raptor probe to pilot. Launch when ready”, the order came over the communicator.
“Raptor One launching”, Tricia replied professionally.
“Have fun, Sheba”, the Core Command operator finished as he monitored the liftoff of the raptor from the flight deck.
Expertly, Sheba guided the ungainly-looking reconnaissance vehicle out of the port landing bay. Smoothly, the raptor accelerated ahead of the PEGASUS. Helo watched the large bulk of the battlestar recede on the rear scan.
“FTL co-ordinates are punched into the navi-comp, Sheba”, Gorde said.
“Okay, Newguy”, Tricia called back, “time to make the jump. FTL co-ordinates confirmed. Remember to power down the active sensors and activate passive systems only when we get there”.
“Understood, Sheba”, Gorde replied.
The co-ordinates set the raptor to jump into the system right at it’s edge. This way, they would not be making themselves known too soon. If their sensors did not pick up anything, then they would make a further jump into the system in order to begin their planetary probe. Gorde had a high respect for Tricia’s ability to pilot the raptor, but like most other space-farers, he hated the disorienting and faintly nauseating effect of FTL-travel.
“Jumping in Three.....Two....One......now!”, Tricia announced, thumbing the control activation.
With a flash, the raptor made the jump. With another flash, the raptor entered the system. Tricia immediately powered the raptor’s engines down. Gorde did likewise with the active sensors, only leaving the passive sensor platform on-line.
While it was coasting, Gorde started to monitor what his passive sensors were showing. Unlike the active sensor array, the passive sensors could only listen. Helo monitored for a few minutes, then turned to Tricia.
“Sheba”, he said, “passive sensors indicate no communications or other tell-tale radio emissions from anything but natural sources”.
“So far, so good”, Tricia replied, “Start low-grade active sensor scan and see if there are any planets in this system”.
“Will do:, Gorde replied. Activating his active sensors - though only the low-level scanners so as to avoid an obvious announcing of their presence, Gorde started the planetary search routine.
“Got one”, Gorde announced after about a minute. “It’s approximately 1.2 A.U.’s from it’s sun. It has a single satellite. Grid reference Seven point five mark niner point eight”.
“Okay, Newguy”, Tricia replied after getting a confirm on her control panel, “this is what we’ll do. Plot us an FTL jump to come out just behind it’s satellite. Let’s just stay careful and perhaps we can get this survey over with quickly”.
Gorde punched in the request on his navi-comp. The computer quickly worked out the jump parameters and in a few seconds, sent the plot to Tricia’s inertial navigation platform.
“Right”, Tricia announced, “get strapped on in. We’re going to make the next jump”.
Helo strapped back into his seat. “Whenever you’re ready, Sheba”, he called back.
“Jumping in three....two....one....jump!”, Tricia announced as she activated the control for the second time.
The familiar effects of dizziness and nausea briefly made themselves felt as the raptor jumped to the new co-ordinates. As soon as the jump was completed, the raptor went straight back into it’s low-level scan mode to check out the satellite. The raptor had emerged on the side of the satellite - a rather small moon barely a hundred miles in diameter - that shielded it from the planet that it was orbiting.
“Nothing to note regarding the satellite”, Gorde said after a few minutes of scanning it. Tricia grunted an acknowledgment. It wasn’t really surprising as the moon was just an airless, heavily cratered hunk of rock.
“Okay, Neyguy”, Tricia said after a few more minutes of scanning in order to make sure that this moon did not have a similar magnetic core as the asteroid that Syke had found the crashed Cylon ship on, “we’ll go into silent routine. We’re going around the other side of the moon and we’ll start a passive scan of the planet itself”.
Gorde powered down the active sensors as Tricia brought the raptor over the terminator and around to the other side of the moon. Tricia saw the planet rise over the moon’s horizon out of her cockpit window.
“The planet doesn’t look habitable either”, Tricia said as it came into view. “Looks like a methane atmosphere, judging from the green color”.
“So I guess we can start a more active scan of.........wait a minute!”, Gorde suddenly said, “The passive sensors are picking up something rising out of the planet’s atmosphere”.
“Put it up on my screen”, Tricia ordered. Gorde punched in the command.
Tricia saw the contact rise into an orbital path over the planet. As the passive sensors were online only, the only evidence of the contact was it’s exhaust residue. Gorde was doing an analysis of the exhaust.
“The bogey’s exhaust has an ion residue with traces of Di-ethene”, he reported. Tricia knew what that meant.
“Frack!”, Tricia exclaimed, “it’s Cylon. Our bogey is now a hostile”.
Di-ethene was a corrupted form of a much longer chemical name. Di-ethene was a gas of Cylon manufacture and was emitted as a waste product from it’s propulsion systems.
“The hostile is not performing as a raider, Sheba”, Gorde noticed from his sensors, “it’s going rather slow and erratic, plus the exhaust signature is indicative of a larger ship”.
“Think that you can get an ID on the ship type with low level scan?”, Tricia asked next.
“Yeah, I think so”, Gorde replied.
“Then do it”, she ordered. She did not need to add, “keep our presence unknown”.
Gorde activated his scanner array. Being careful to keep his scans in a very narrow arc so as to minimize the chance of any other ship picking up the electromagnetic emissions, Gorde set the scanner to minimum power and tracked on the Cylon ship. A match to his warbook ship identifier was quickly made.
“Warbook says it is a Cylon Tanker. Type is that of the class they used in the last war. The scanner indicates it’s full of Tylium”, Gorde reported.
“Right, Newguy. Switch off your platform. Let’s go back to passive mode”, Tricia acknowledged. Gorde did so.
Tricia still used the passive sensors to monitor the tanker’s flight path. After a few minutes, the tanker blanked out from her screen.
“The tanker has FTL-ed”, Tricia stated.
“Full tanker eh?”, Gorde mused, “so you think that there could be a tylium refinery down there?”
“That’s a pretty good guess”, Tricia replied, “so let’s just get a confirm on that before we head back to the PEGASUS”.
“Right”, Gorde replied. Tricia let the raptor coast. She had set a course so that it would pass close to (but not directly over) the position on the planet where the tanker had come from. By staying in silent mode, the raptor would hopefully look like a piece of space debris. In a way, this was taking a chance on discovery, and was stretching Syke’s order somewhat, but Tricia knew that a source of Tylium would benefit the PEGASUS immensely, and thus, more information about it would be needed.
“Okay”, Gorde reported after they had come closer to the planet, “I’m picking up emissions from the surface near where the tanker first appeared”.
“Electromagnetic?”, Tricia asked.
“Negative”, Gorde replied, “It’s a combination of pollutants. Some di-ethene, but mainly solium”.
Solium was a by-product of Tylium. That particular compound came out from refining tylium ore into it’s volatile liquid state.
“If there’s no electromagnetic emissions”, Tricia mused, “then there is a good chance that this refinery complex may be automated. When we pass closest to the area, do a quick scan, then go straight back into silent mode. Okay?”, she asked Gorde. Gorde acknowledged with a nod.
As the raptor made it’s approach - agonizingly slowly so as to appear inert, Gorde very carefully brought his active scanner array back online. As the raptor made it’s closest approach, he set his scanners to the co-ordinates of the pollution.
“Got it!”, Gorde announced, “It’s an automated refinery. No sign of any life down there, or any electromagnetic signatures indicating a Cylon presence. There’s a single docking bay with no ships docked to it. Switching off now”, he said.
Tricia displayed the data from Gorde’s scanner on her screen. The complex looked like a large oval dome. Pipes jutted out from it’s walls and went into the ground. The scan data showed that the refinery was sitting upon an immense deposit of tylium - much larger than any she had seen before. Beside the refinery were the exhaust chimneys pumping their solium and di-ethene waste into the atmosphere. Next to those were what looked to be the holding tanks for the refined fuel. The landing pad for the tanker was located there.
“Okay, Newguy, I think we’ve seen enough. Let’s coast along for a bit further and get some distance from the refinery, then we’ll FTL back to the PEGASUS”, Tricia decided.
“Sounds fine to me Sheba”, Gorde replied, then said “wait one. Passive sensors are picking up another set of exhaust emissions from a spacecraft. It’s behind us and closing in”.
“Punch up the rear scan data to my screen, Newguy”, Tricia ordered. The passive sensors made definitive identification difficult, but they were still rather close to the planet on coast mode so any move to power up would mean discovery by any sensors that might be on the planet - if not by the approaching contact.
“Passive scan now indicates three contacts. Emissions indicate one large ship and two smaller ones. Initial course projections show them heading toward the refinery. Emissions definitely Cylon”, Gorde reported.
She switched her screen to the external cameras. She placed the rear cameras on full magnification. The contacts resolved themselves into definite shapes as they got closer. It was another tanker and it was escorted by two Cylon raiders.
“Frakk”, Tricia muttered. The raptor was no match for those raiders. Gorde well knew the odds of surviving a dogfight with those - after all, it was only due to missile decoys and no small amount of luck that had saved ‘Helo’ Atchison when his raptor been attacked near Caprica at the beginning of the war. Gorde hoped that Helo had somehow survived....
Hoping devoutly that the Cylons would not pick up their raptor on their sensors - or if they did they would think it a piece of inert debris, Tricia watched the trio of ships getting closer to their position. They were just beyond naked-eye range, but if either of those raiders decided to fly further along......
“Okay”, Gorde said, “Looks like the tanker is landing at the refinery. The two raiders have reversed direction and are heading back the way they came. No transmissions from any of them have been detected either ”. After a minute or so, Gorde continued, “The raiders have FTL-ed and the tanker has landed”.
“Start plotting a return to the PEGASUS, Newguy”, Tricia ordered, silently breathing a sigh of relief, “We’ll jump as soon as we round the planet’s terminator”.
CHAPTER THREE: Making Plans for some Tylium
“A Cylon tylium mining and refining operation”, Cain said as he watched the recordings taken from the raptor’s scanner platform.
“And regularly used by the Cylons too”, Tolen interjected.
“That’s definitely going to make things rather difficult”, Sanders said unnecessarily.
In the briefing room, Cain, Tolen, Syke, and Sanders were going over the results of the recon probe with Tricia and Gorde. Tricia had landed back on board the PEGASUS a few minutes earlier and she and Gorde were taking the time to have a drink of water and a couple of crackers from a servitor in the back of the room while the three senior officers went over their scans. She would have preferred to take a shower, but it would have to wait until the debriefing was over and done with. Long coasting runs in a raptor, plus a close encounter with Cylon fighters made for a lot of perspiration. For his part, Gorde was sipping at his glass of water and stretching out on one of the chairs, just glad to relax for a few minutes.
“It was rather risky going in close to the refinery like that”, Syke said to Tricia in a tone of faint disapproval.
“We needed the data, CAG”, Tricia replied, using Syke’s formal title, “and it was a calculated risk, but it was one worth taking”.
“I have no problem with that, Lieutenant”, Commander Cain interjected, “Good work both of you”.
“Thank you, Commander”, both Tricia and Gorde acknowledged. Syke was briefly annoyed as it seemed initially that Cain was indicating disapproval of his caution in his congratulations, but Tricia was right: the refinery needed to be investigated and Tricia did bring back the information.
At that moment, Captain Lance Voight, the CAG of the late Battlestar PACIFICA’s Black Knights Wing, walked into the briefing room. While Commander Cain talked with his daughter and Gorde, Sanders and Syke filled Voight in on the situation.
“So, we have Cylons out here”, Voight concluded when he heard the news.
“Well, at least one of their sources for fuel”, Syke clarified.
“Well, Cylon or not, tylium is something we can definitely use”, Voight answered.
“That’s true”, Tolen interjected, “We didn’t get all that we could have gotten at Molecay, thanks to our having to leave earlier than planned”.
“That’s something else for another time and place, Colonel”, Cain said, turning back from speaking with Gorde. Tolen got the message. There was the little problem of a traitor somewhere amongst those civilians who had been loading up the foodstuffs at Molecay. Everyone else had been accounted for, so amongst those hundred or so persons was the individual who had built that beacon to alert the Cylons and nearly caused the loss of the PEGASUS as a result.
“So what do we do about this tylium complex, Commander?”, Tolen asked, getting the subject back to the matter at hand.
“Now’s the time for some opinions”, Cain replied, “so what do you think, Comms?”.
“We need whatever fuel that we can get, so I see that we have two choices: try to capture a tanker or two, or go straight in to the refinery and grab it from their storage silos”, Sanders suggested.
“Both choices risks compromising the secret of the existence of the PEGASUS”, Syke cautioned, “So far, we were lucky both at Caprica, and at Molecay. But if we make a mistake, we could have the whole Cylon war machine down on our heads”.
“Bring ‘em on”, Voight blurted out, “I prefer fighting to this running away”.
“We fight the battles that we can win, Captain Voight”, Cain icily replied, “and until we can link up with the GALACTICA, we have to avoid drawing too much attention to ourselves. I don’t like it any more than you do, but that is our primary objective. Clear?”, he concluded.
Voight looked at Cain. His eyes were the color of ice.
“I understand, Commander”, Voight at last replied, “I just want to make the Cylons pay for what they did to the PACIFICA, not to mention the rest of the fleet and our home worlds”.
“And we will”, Cain assured him, “but we have to face the fact that even with your wing reinforcing us, a single battlestar would be at a vast disadvantage. Once we find the GALACTICA, then we can start doing something more overtly. Until then, we have to keep the PEGASUS intact”. Cain really sympathized with Voight. He would love nothing better than to turn around and fight, but commanders were commanders because they thought with their heads, not other parts of their anatomy.
“If we decide to go for their tankers, what do we need to do?”, Voight asked, tacitly yielding to Cain’s argument.
“First, we need to get an idea of what it is we will be up against”, Cain replied. He turned to Sanders.
“Comms”, Cain asked Sanders, “What are the specs for that type of tanker that the Cylons are using to transport their fuel?”.
“According to the warbook”, Sanders replied, “if the specs have not changed from the original intelligence reports, that tanker is capable of holding twenty thousand liters of tylium. It’s crewed by three Cylon centurions and it has only a limited FTL capability”.
“Which means that the recipient of the fuel would not be all that far away”, Tolen deduced, “so whether it’s destination is a Base Star or a squadron fueling depot, if they get a warning, then they will be on top of us in no time”.
“Then if nothing else”, Cain decided, “that complex must be destroyed quickly. Getting extra fuel would be nice, but if all else fails, that complex gets taken out!”.
“Won’t that alert the Cylons to our existence?”, Voight asked.
“If they don’t see who did it, then they won’t be sure what happened. Besides, perhaps it is about time we started giving them at least a little payback”, Cain answered, smiling at Voight..
There were nods at that. They may have lost the big war, but if they could not change the outcome of that, then guerilla warfare with it’s hit-and-run tactics was the next best thing - at least until they linked up with the GALACTICA.
“Even if the Cylons are not sure who’s doing this to them, they will start looking”, Tolen pointed out, “but that will divert their attention from the GALACTICA, so it’s win-win either way”.
“All right then”, Cain decided, “We devise a plan to at least try to get some of that tylium, but regardless, we deny it to the enemy. Start drawing it up”. At that, Cain left the briefing room. Tricia and Gorde followed, then Tolen, leaving Sanders and both CAGS to start working out the details.
It was about three hours afterwards. Cain was relaxing in his quarters - a rare luxury for him - when his communicator beeped.
“Cain”, he answered.
“This is Captain Syke”, was the reply.
“What’s up, CAG?”, Cain asked.
“I think we have an attack plan ready for you to look at”, Syke replied.
“Right”, Cain replied, standing up and putting on his tunic, “I’ll see you down in the briefing room”.
When Cain got down to the briefing room, he found both Syke and Voight waiting for him.
“Commander”, Syke said , “Captain Voight came up with this idea. It’s risky, but if it pays off, we’ll have all the fuel we’ll need”.
“Okay then, Captain”, Cain said to Voight, “I’m listening”.
“Well, Commander”, Voight started, “we had thought about hi-jacking a tanker, but as the shipments seem to be on a very regular basis, it would attract attention. Immediately destroying the complex is definitely possible, but we won’t get any fuel out of it”.
“I know that, Captain”, Cain replied irritably, “so how can we get the fuel?”.
“What I suggest, is that we hi-jack a tanker just AFTER it tanks up”, Voight said, “Once we board and kill the Cylon crewmen, we send the tanker back on autopilot to it’s destination”.
“Send a full tanker back?”, Cain asked, slightly confused.
“It won’t be just carrying fuel, Commander. As you may know, Tylium is very volatile. If something were to set off the tylium when it reached it’s destination......”, Voight tailed off.
Cain thought about it. Twenty thousand liters of tylium exploding in either the midst of a base star or a fighter fueling station would be cataclysmic!
“That is an excellent idea, Captain Voight”, Cain replied, “but you won’t have much time to capture the tanker before it FTL’s. And you’ll have to destroy the Cylon pilots without destroying the on-board computer systems”.
“We’ll use a raptor manned with a boarding party of marines”, Syke said, “It’ll come up behind the tanker as it lifts off from the complex. They will hard-dock, kill the Cylons, then we access the autopilot, find out it’s destination and ETA, then set an explosive device for that time. If successful, then there won’t be many fueling shuttle trips for a while, enabling us to take the time to load up with all that we can carry before we destroy the complex”.
Cain thought about the plan. True, it was risky, but given their circumstances, it was the best idea that he had heard. Besides, this could also provide a great way to inflict some damage on additional Cylon assets without betraying outright the existence of the PEGASUS.
“Very well, Captain, Then let’s do it!”, Cain confirmed.
Within a couple of hours after Cain’s approval, Voight and Syke looked over at the party of Colonial Marines sitting in the briefing room. All were in their combat pressure suits, and were all well-armed. Just behind them, Tricia and Gorde were sitting quietly. They had volunteered to fly the Marines to the tanker.
“We’ve equipped Lt. Cain’s raptor with a pressure lock and explosive ring”, Syke was saying to the Marines, “which will allow you to blast your way into the cockpit. Take out the Cylon pilots fast, and for frack’s sake, do not hit the instrument panels, or allow any of the Cylons to disable anything either.
Lt. Nate Howe - The commander of the Marines - asked, “how close is the cockpit area to the tylium storage tanks? I don’t like the idea of stray weapons fire causing an explosion”.
“According to our intel regarding that particular class of tanker, there is a substantial blast shield between the cockpit and the storage tanks”, Syke replied, “the primary concern is that the Cylons may have a means to set off the tanks remotely. It will be hard, I know. Their cockpit is unpressurized, which means that your suits will hinder your movements somewhat”.
“We’ve trained in those suits quite throughly, Captain”, Howe assured him, “and I think that if Lt. Cain can get us over the cockpit okay, then we can do the rest”. Howe looked back at Tricia, who nodded.
“Then you’d better get going then. The next estimated time of a Cylon Tanker fueling up will be in ninety minutes. Dismissed”, Syke concluded.
As the Marines headed out of the room to board the transport to the hangar bay, Syke walked along with Gorde and Tricia and boarded another transporter. Syke was giving last-minute instructions to them both.
“We’ve already placed a 50 kilogram Solenite warhead in your cargo bay. Once the tanker is secure, get it into the cockpit and set the detonation cycle for timed countdown, based upon the ETA time on the tanker autopilot. As a contingency, a remote detonation control relay is in the cockpit in the event it may be needed”.
“I just hope that the Cylons aren’t ready for us, Bojay”, Tricia replied. Syke shrugged. Tricia picked up her helmet from the floor of the transporter and held it as they sped along to the launch bay where the raptor was being prepared.
Both of the transporters quickly arrived at Launch Bay Two. The Marines egressed first and quickly boarded the raptor. While Gorde boarded after them and helped the Marines strap in, Tricia quickly gave the raptor an external once-over. Satisfied, she boarded her ship, walked past the seated marines - and the warhead, which was sitting in a protective container - then strapped into the pilots seat. For his part, Gorde made sure that the floor hatch leading to the telescoping airlock was secure, then he strapped into his seat.
Tricia quickly got the raptor powered up, and taxied it onto to the bay lift. The usual procedure of pumping the air out of the bay, then elevating the raptor up to the landing bay deck took place.
“This is Raptor Zero-One, ready to launch”, Tricia crisply communicated after she started up her engines and made sure that all of her instruments were indicating everything nominal.
“Core Command transferring control of raptor Zero-One to pilot. Launch when ready”, was the reply.
With a smooth acceleration, the raptor exited the landing bay and headed out away from the PEGASUS.
“FTL co-ordinates inputted into the navi-comp”, Gorde reported, “We’re set to jump at any time you’re ready”.
“All right, everyone”, Tricia announced to the marines, “commencing jump in 5.....4.....3.....2.....1......jump!
The familiar uncomfortable feeling hit all of the occupants as the jump to the moon orbiting the Cylon refinery planet took place. As the effects wore off, Tricia powered down the raptor.
“All right then”, she announced, “we’re now on silent mode. When the tanker lifts off, we’ll head to intercept. Lt. Howe, are your men ready?”, she asked.
“Affirmative, pilot”, Howe crisply replied, “by the way, my call-sign for the mission is Nebula-Six”. It was all business with him.
Now it was a matter of waiting. Tricia knew that when it was time to move, it would have to be quick. She hoped that the specs on the controls for the tanker were still accurate. Forty Years was a long time for a ship to stay unaltered.
CHAPTER FOUR: Payback Time
Waiting always seems an eternity, Tricia thought to herself after a while. She thought that it must be harder on the marines, although none of them were showing it. All were waiting though for Gorde to give the word about the re-appearance of the tanker. Some of the marines had looked a little askance at Gorde’s youthfulness, but refrained from comment. They knew that young or not, he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t know his job.
“There it is”, Gorde reported as he watched his scanner. “ Passive Sensors show a definite exit from FTL. Right at the same co-ordinates. The main contact is heading down to the planet. Escort fighters are peeling off and heading back to their jump co-ordinates”.
A few minutes later, Gorde reported, “Sheba, the fighters have jumped out of the system. The tanker is landing on the complex”.
“Very good, Newguy”, Tricia answered, “The tanker will take twenty minutes to load up and depart. We move off in twenty-two minutes”.
Back in the rear bay, Lt. Howe and his deputy, Sergeant Haig, completed checking once more their troops’ pressure suits and weapons. When that was done, Haig looked over at the donut-shaped explosive ring that would be placed at the bottom of the telescoping pressure lock. It’s diagnostic routine showed that it was functioning okay. Now, all they could do was wait. The twenty-two minutes passed slowly, but at last.....
“Marines to boarding position”, Tricia ordered, “we’re moving to intercept!”.
The raptor rapidly powered up and lifted up off the moon. Heading for the tanker that was now slowly lifting off the surface of the planet. As Tricia headed to intercept, pushing the raptor up to best sub-light speed, Gorde activated the telescoping airlock. The tube lowered down from beneath the belly of the raptor. The bottom of the tube was still sealed.
Howe watched the status light of the airlock. When it changed from red to green, he opened the hatch.
The tube went down about six feet. Haig passed Howe the explosives ring. Dropping into the airlock, Howe lowered the ring and placed it at the base of the tube (it’s diameter was only slightly smaller than that of the airlock tube itself). After clipping it in place, Howe armed it, then he climbed out of the airlock.
“We’re ready, pilot”, Howe told Tricia, “You’d better seal off the cockpit”.
Tricia pointed to Gorde, who had come forward and sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. Gorde then activated the pressure hatch that sealed off the cockpit from the instrument bay.
Howe saw that the hatch was properly sealed, then he gestured to his men. They snapped down their helmet visors and pressurized their suits. Once all of them gave their “all-well” hand signal - Howe had insisted on no voice communications until after the initial phase of the mission was complete - he pressed a switch on a bulkhead panel which started to depressurize the instrument bay.
“Bay depressurized, Sheba”, Gorde reported to Tricia.
“Right”, Tricia replied, “It’s just about showtime”.
Helo saw the bulk of the tanker ahead of them. Tricia had maneuvered the raptor so that it came in from behind and above the tanker, so that (hopefully), the Cylons would not see them. So far, it looked like that was so. Gorde was picking up no transmissions either. It looks as though the Cylons were completely unaware of their presence.
She deftly maneuvered the raptor over the upper external bulkhead of the tanker that was above and just behind the cockpit. Gently, she lowered the raptor down until the base of the airlock tube just touched the bulkhead, then she activated a series of magnetic grab-locks that secured the base of the airlock against it.
As Howe saw the status panel showing that the grab-locks were in place, he closed the hatch, then he hit a switch on his hand-held controller. The explosive ring - with it’s shaped directional charges - detonated, cutting a circular hold through the base of the airlock, and the cockpit bulkhead beneath it.
Howe immediately signaled to three of his marines, who flung open the hatch, then jumped down into the hole. The Cylons had been taken completely by surprise. Before any of them could turn to repel the boarders, The Marines immediately took out the three centurions with single shots from their gauss-rifles (which worked by accelerating to a pre-selected speed - by means of a powerful electric field produced by a battery in the stock - a large caliber armor piercing explosive cartridge. Very useful in a vacuum environment). The Cylons simply were too slow. Their armored abdomens were pierced and the explosive charges in the cartridges were enough to demolish their interior circuitry, deactivating them instantly.
Howe looked down at the dead Cylons. These were more advanced models than what the old specs showed, but the gauss-rifles still made short work of them, he was glad to see.
“Nebula Four to Nebula Six, one of the marines communicated to Lt. Howe - using his call-sign, “we have the prize”.
“Well done, Nebula Four”, Howe replied. He then keyed his mike to communicate with Tricia and Gorde.
“All right, we’ve taken care of the crew. How long before this tanker reaches the FTL co-ordinates?”
“Seven Minutes.......mark!”, Tricia replied.
“Very well”, Howe replied, “loading the warhead now”.
The warhead was quickly taken out of it’s container and passed down the tube to the cockpit of the tanker.
While two marines set about getting the warhead positioned and armed, Howe quickly took a diagnostic scanner and took some readings from the dead Cylon corpses. Even destroyed, these readings would provide some good intelligence on this new model of centurion.
“Skipper”, Haig communicated, “the warhead is armed. All we need to do is set the time”.
“Where is the autopilot console, pilot?”, Howe communicated to Tricia.
“It’s on the right-hand quadrant of the pilot’s panel”, Tricia replied, “the computerized flight plan should be accessible from there”.
Howe looked at the panel, then plugged in a decoder. The decoder would send up the data to the cockpit of the raptor. Tricia saw that the data was being uploaded.
“Uh-oh”, she muttered. She switched her comm-link back to Lt. Howe, “Nebula-Six, we have a problem”.
“What’s up, pilot?”, Howe replied.
“The jump co-ordinates are there, but evidentially, the Cylons go to manual control immediately after emerging from FTL, so there’s no flight plan or ETA information”.
“So we don’t know how long to set the warhead for?”, Howe asked.
“Affirmative”, Tricia replied. Frack! This was something that they had not prepared for.....or had they, she thought?
“I’ve got an idea”, Tricia called back, “Leave the decoder plugged into the autopilot and flip the switch from RECEIVE to TRANSMIT. Then have the warhead set for remote detonation and get your Marines back on board the raptor. We don’t have much time”.
Howe did as he was instructed to the decoder, then set the detonation cycle on the warhead from the TIMER setting to REMOTE MANUAL. Next, he gestured to his men to climb back up through the airlock to the raptor. All six of them climbed up the ladder (built into the wall of the airlock tube) and entered the raptor. Howe was the last to go through.
After Howe sealed the airlock hatch, Tricia deactivated the grab-locks, releasing the raptor from the tanker.
When the airlock tube was fully retracted, Howe started the re-pressurization routine. When the bay was fully pressurized, Howe and his men took off their helmets. Gorde opened the airlock door and stepped through to assist. As he did so, Howe walked through to the cockpit.
“So what’s your idea?”, Howe asked Tricia.
“With the decoder on TRANSMIT, I can remote-pilot the tanker from here”, Tricia explained. “Captain Syke also gave us the ability to remote-detonate the warhead. These two items can salvage our mission”.
“How?”, Howe asked.
“Like the tanker, the raptor has a limited FTL capability. The co-ordinates for the tanker’s jump is easily within range of the raptor, and those co-ordinates are also in range of the PEGASUS”, Tricia explained.
Howe saw where she was leading. He did not look too happy. “We should report this to the PEGASUS first”, he finally said.
“We don’t have time for that”, Tricia replied, “we jump with the tanker, then go inert. I then remote-fly the tanker to it’s destination, then we set off the warhead and jump straight back to the PEGASUS. It’s the only way to get the job done”.
Howe looked at Tricia intently for a few seconds, then nodded.
“Very well, pilot”, he finally answered, “it’s your decision. Let’s hope we can get away with it”.
“Better get strapped in with your men”, Tricia replied, as Gorde came back to the cockpit.
Gorde had overheard the conversation. He was not too happy either. “Should we not just cut our losses, and destroy the refinery?”, he asked.
“We’re going to need all the fuel we can get if we’re going to eventually get you certified as a raptor pilot, Newguy”, Tricia pointed out.
“Well, I have done well with the simulator, you know”, Gorde replied, “but I like the idea of getting certified on the real thing”.
“Think you know enough to control the raptor in flight?”, Tricia asked, “I could do both, but I’d prefer to more closely control the tanker”.
“Okay, Sheba”, Helo acquiesced, “ I get your point. Yeah, I can control the raptor while you remote-pilot that tanker, though don’t ask me to land it anywhere!. I can keep it close to the tanker though so that we won’t be detected”.
Tricia nodded. She had already punched in the new FTL-jump co-ordinates and timed it so that the jump would take place in the same instant as that of the tanker’s autopilot.
“Jumping in 5....4....3....2....1....jump!”, she announced. With the familiar disorienting feeling that came along with it, the raptor and tanker jumped simultaneously. Both emerged at the same instant - the raptor tucked in behind the tanker - and Tricia saw where the tanker was heading to: a Base Star!
Immediately, she powered down most of the raptor’s systems and let the raptor stay close behind the tanker on minimum power. Gorde was doing a good job keeping the tanker immediately ahead while Tricia used the remote control to steer the tanker toward the Base Star, now that the tanker’s autopilot had disengaged. Tricia knew that Gorde definitely had the chops to be a good raptor pilot as well as an RSO. She promised herself that she would work to get him certified as soon as possible.
As Tricia maneuvered the tanker remotely, she knew that this plan was a terrible risk, but if that refinery was keeping a Base Star provisioned out here in deep space, something had to be done about it.
“Passive sensors are showing an opening, Sheba”, Gorde said, “It looks like the tanker is expected”.
“I see it”, Tricia confirmed, “Guiding it over there now. Just stand by to power up the raptor and FTL us the hell out of here when I give you the word”, she ordered.
“Remember that they can’t detect the course of an FTL jump, but they can detect the jump itself. We jump too early and they detect it, they’ll smell a rat”, Gorde commented.
“Then we’ll jump at the moment of detonation”, Tricia replied, “and hope that the explosion will take their attention away from looking out at us”.
Gorde did not reply. He tried not to sweat as the leviathan of the Base Star got bigger and bigger. Gorde could not draw the raptor too far back from the tanker as that would expose the raptor to the Base Star’s sensors. This would really be cutting it close.
“It’s starting to enter the bay” , Gorde reported, “They are gong to see us any second now”.
“Power up and prepare to jump”, Tricia ordered. As Gorde brought the platform on line, Tricia thumbed a control on her panel, initiating a five second countdown for warhead detonation.
“Jumping in 5....4.... 3....2....1.......jump!”
The timing couldn’t have been better. At the precise instant that the raptor jumped, the warhead in the cockpit of the tanker detonated. The tanker had just entered the open hatchway of the landing bay when the explosion of the warhead occurred. A split-second later, the tylium that the tanker was carrying spontaneously combusted, creating a detonation equivalent to a 5-kiloton nuclear device. As the hatchway was wide open, and the tanker was already part-way through, the tough outer hull of the Base Star provided no protection for the effects of the explosion.
A massive fireball from the exploding tylium blew a huge hole in the Base Star. The leviathan staggered like a punch-drunk boxer. Power all over the base star was disrupted as the exploding tylium wreaked it’s destructive power. The effects of the explosion took out both of the main power sources for the base star. As the power died, none of the raiders could launch. The Base Star was heavily damaged. As a result, it would be out of action for a long time. And as Tricia had hoped, their FTL-jump had not been detected.
CHAPTER FIVE: Stocking up on Cylon Tylium
“Mission Accomplished”, Tricia communicated to the PEGASUS as it emerged from it’s jump to a position just ahead of the battlestar.
“You are clear to land, Raptor Zero-One”, Sanders replied from Core Command, “Well done, Sheba”, he added, smiling. The duty personnel in CIC were smiling as well.
As the raptor made a fast landing down on Alpha Bay’s deck, Colonel Tolen said, “Helm, make the jump”.
The battlestar jumped into the system in geostationary orbit over the refinery complex.
“Launch our fuel shuttles and fighter escort”, Captain Sanders ordered to his launch officers after getting the confirmation of their position from Comscan.
Down in both landing bays the fueling shuttles that had been ready for Tricia’s return immediately departed and headed down planet. One squadron from Black Knight Wing launched out of their launch tubes and took up screening positions around the PEGASUS while one of Silver Spar Wing’s squadrons escorted the fueling shuttles down to the surface of the planet.
While this was happening, Tricia and Gorde headed up to CIC while the Marine contingent went to their own debriefing session. Commander Cain was waiting for them both.
“No problems, I take it?”, Cain asked his daughter, after the CIC crew applauded both her and Gorde when they entered.
“Nothing that couldn’t be handled”, Tricia replied with a deadpan expression. Gorde did his best not to laugh at that classic understatement.
“So we have as much time as we like to take on the fuel”, Cain said, “Well done both of you. Perhaps now we can start quickening up our search some for the GALACTICA.......after we take care of that refinery, of course”, he concluded.
“The first fuel shuttle had landed on the refinery and is now loading up with tylium”, the Core Command duty operator called out, “and the chemists who went down with that tanker have confirmed that the refined tylium is of the highest purity”.
Cain and Tolen smiled. The purity level was in direct proportion to efficiency of their engines. As the refining ability of the PEGASUS was somewhat limited, there was a concern that the tylium may not have been of a high enough quality to use without resulting in the degrading of their systems. That concern however was put to rest with the chemists’ report.
The first few fuel shuttles would take on fuel destined for the primary fuel tanks on the PEGASUS. Once that was done, then the storage tanks for the fighter wings would be topped off, and after that, every drop that they could put into containers for storage would be squeezed out of the refinery. Thanks to Tricia’s mission, there was no time pressure, which was just as well as Tylium was a rather volatile fuel.
The fuel shuttles continued their ferrying of the fuel to the PEGASUS. Cain decided to relax in his cabin for a while, leaving Tolen in charge. Tolen promised Cain that he would call him when the tankers had finished up. Cain returned to his cabin, stretched out on his day-bed, and immediately nodded off.
It seemed like he had only just closed his eyes when Tolen paged him. Cain answered the communicator.
“All shuttles now off-planet”, Tolen reported. Over the last few hours, the PEGASUS’ fuel tanks and fighter storage silos had been fully topped off, all of the spare storage spaces in the lower sections of both landing bays had been filled with extra storage tanks - now filled with fuel, and at last, the remaining fueling shuttles were carrying their last full tylium loads back up to the battlestar.
It had initially amazed Tolen that the refinery had no protective measures at all - evidently, the Cylons thought that it’s isolation in this remote part of space was protection enough - so accessing it’s storage tanks was no problem for the crews of the fueling shuttles. Tens of thousands of extra liters of the precious fuel had been taken aboard. So much, in fact, that the last loads would have to stay on board the shuttles until some of the fuel that had been loaded into the PEGASUS’ fuel tanks had been consumed.
“Are our shuttles out of blast range?”, Cain asked. Tolen replied “Yes”. Cain then told Tolen to give Sanders clearance to do one last thing before leaving the system.
“Okay, Comms”, Tolen said, “Let CAG know that he’s cleared to do it”. Sanders nodded, then he keyed his communicator.
“Comms to Bojay”, he communicated, “you’re cleared to take it out”.
In his viper, Syke received the order. He switched his communicator to his squadron frequency.
“All right, Silver Spar”, he communicated, “head back to base. I’m releasing the payload now”.
Syke thumbed a Button on his control column. Below his viper, a missile dropped off and fired up, streaking down to the planet below. Bojay turned his viper around and headed back to the PEGASUS. He was looking at his rear scanner monitoring the trajectory of the missile as it homed in on it’s target: the refinery.
The missile impacted square on target - directly in the midst of the storage tanks of the refinery. The remainder of the tylium ignited from the missile explosion, causing a massive conflagration. The refinery blew up in a spectacular explosion. As it was consumed in the blast, the temperature of the initial fireball started subsidiary fires in the mine shafts below the complex. A large number of subsurface subsidiary explosions were picked up by the PEGASUS’ sensors.
“That’s one supply of fuel that the Cylons won’t be able to make use of for a good long while”, Cain commented with satisfaction as he monitored the destruction from the main display console in the CIC.
“So where to now?”, Tolen asked.
“We’d better get well away from here before the Cylons come looking for their fuel”, Cain replied, “so set an FTL jump for the next sector as soon as we get all of our fighters back on board, Colonel”.
“Very good, sir”, Tolen replied.
Cain was right about the Cylons. About three hours after the PEGASUS commenced it’s next FTL-jump, a conference was being held on a Cylon base star.
“So there’s nothing more you can tell us?”, one of the humanoid Cylons asked another.
“No, Number Two”, was the reply.
Number Two thought about the circumstances of this mishap which ended up putting a Base Star out of action. Number Eight (or more accurately another version of him) had been on board the Base Star that got badly damaged by the exploding tanker, and that version of him was killed in the explosion. That version’s consciousness had been transferred to another Number Eight on board another Base Star not far away, and now he was being interrogated as to the cause of the disaster.
“I could almost believe that the tanker’s cargo just spontaneously exploded if was not for one thing”, Number Two said.
“What is that, Number Two?”, Number Eight asked.
“The fact that the refinery from where that tanker came from has also been destroyed. That, plus the fact that the tanker exploded at the moment where the Base Star was most vulnerable would be too much of a co-incidence, I think”, Number Two answered.
“It is possible that it is all a co-incidence, but you’re right: the timing would seem to indicate otherwise”, Number Eight concurred, “so are there any clues as to who or what caused this?”.
“It could not be the GALACTICA, or the ships that the battlestar is protecting, according to our intelligence”, Number Two replied, “and since we have no indication of any other survivors from the Human colonies, we simply do not know at this time”.
“But if there are other enemies out there - human or otherwise - we have to find them”, Number Eight pointed out.
At that point, another humanoid Cylon walked in. ‘ She’ had listened in on the debriefing.
“Dividing our resources will be detrimental to our primary mission of hunting down the GALACTICA and the other ships”, she opined.
“If there are others out there, or any other species that opposes us, they must be dealt with as well”, Number Two restated.
“Unfortunately, I agree”, Number Six answered. She then walked out to inform Number One of this meeting, and their recommendations.
CHAPTER SIX: Starting the Pursuit
The humanoid Cylon known as Number One looked out upon the vast starfield from an alcove on her base star. This Base Star was proceeding to Caprica in order to carry out a ‘mopping up’ operation: finishing off any human survivors that had escaped the initial destruction. While rising radiation levels and the ‘nuclear winter’ would do a lot of their work, there was always a chance that some humans could survive even that, hence sending Cylon forces to throughly scour the planet. Other base stars were proceeding to the other eleven worlds to do likewise.
To a casual human - indeed to a physician doing a routine physical check, Number One was a young middle-aged adult in perfect health to whom what any number of males her physical age would regard as attractive. But there were no humans here. If there were, their life spans would be measured in seconds; Because to those of her race, Humanity was a species to be eradicated. Humans were resourceful and brilliant - indeed so brilliant, that it was they who had created her ‘ancestors’ - but they were also flawed. That flaw was like a virus, intruding upon the perfection of space - and thus which had to be stopped at all costs.
Their first attempt forty years previously had failed and after realizing that to continue the conflict would eventually wear them down, they had accepted the human armistice in order to withdraw and regroup. Their final goal had not been changed one iota, and when the series of her kind - with the eleven other humanoid models - had been created, the ability to destroy mankind had been given them, and thus, thanks to the false sense of security given to the humans by staying away for the forty years, plus the successful infiltration from within, the twelve worlds of humanity had been destroyed and the humans much-vaunted colonial fleet had been almost annihilated.
Almost, but not quite. At least one warship had survived and had taken with it an assemblage of mismatched ships out into deep space. To Number One, that meant that the war was not over. The humans, if they were allowed to survive, would one day rebuild itself, then return to take revenge for the destruction wrought upon the twelve worlds. Therefore, the Cylon Fleet had a new mission - to seek out and destroy this last vestige of humanity. Number One knew that there were deep cover sleepers with those survivors and when the time was right, they would be activated. Then, the job could be finished. Logically, Number One knew that it would be just a matter of time, but there was something else that bothered her.
She had received the report from one of the Number Six models regarding a base star being heavily damaged by an exploding tylium fuel tanker at the same time as one of the Cylons’ largest fuel refineries had been destroyed. These events came not long after the destruction of another Base Star at Molecay Anchorage - apparently because of a booby trap. No details had been uncovered that indicated who or what was responsible, or indeed if the events at Molecay were linked to the refinery disaster, but it was certain that it could not have been from the band of surviving humans that had escaped from Ragnar. Could it be another enemy, or another group of humans that had survived the war? It had been the opinion of the other eleven series models that in either case, they would have to be found and destroyed.
Number One did not like the idea of dividing forces - particularly when there was no clear idea of who or what they were after. The Battlestar GALACTICA and the ships that it was protecting were hard enough to precisely locate without this type of distraction, but the logic of pursuing this unknown foe could not be denied. She hoped that this other enemy could be found and dealt with quickly. Time was a commodity in short supply for either side.
“Were all colonial warships with the exception of the GALACTICA confirmed destroyed?”, Number One asked a metallic Cylon centurion who had been silently watching her.
“Of the One Hundred and Twenty-Two Capital Ships that the Colonial Fleet had in commission before hostilities were resumed, we have completely confirmed One Hundred and Eighteen Destroyed. Not counting GALACTICA, the remaining three are presumed to be destroyed”, it answered.
“I want a confirmation on the probables as soon as possible”, Number One ordered, “no matter how long it takes”.
“By your command”, the centurion replied.
As the centurion left, Number One turned back to look at the starfield. Something was out there, she knew, and it had to be found. Number Six was right about that. She left the alcove and headed back into the contol center to issue orders for a council of war to be convened here with other humanoid Cylon models to determine how best to do this. She also authorized a few base stars in the vicinity of the Vardon Sector to start an initial search for clues. Deep space was big, she told herself, but not to big for anyone to stay hidden forever.
Deep Space. To any casual observer, it seems peaceful, just looking out at the ebony vastness dotted with countless numbers of stars. However, somewhere out there, there is a constant battle for survival, and for one group of survivors of the Second Cylon War - though they would differ over the word ‘survivor’ - they intended not only to survive, but someday, somehow, reclaim what they had lost.
In this one part of the cosmos, a massive spacecraft was cruising. Unlike other ships of space, which were built to carry people and goods from one planet to another, this one was built for war. There was grace in it’s construction, but there was also an awareness of strength - an ability to take punishment, and to inflict it as well. Picked out in illuminated lettering on either side of it’s hull was the word PEGASUS. This warship was a battlestar, and the persons who occupied it kept themselves ready to fight at any time......
The brain of the Battlestar PEGASUS was the Combat Information Center. It was constantly manned, and the people there kept on the alert, watching for anything that could be an asset - or a threat - to them. For they were a long way from home, or more accurately, a long way from what was left of home. They were alone, unsupported and in a region of space previously unexplored by man. Their mission was not just to survive, they are trying to find another battlestar which had also survived the war that they had lost. Somewhere out there in the vastness of space was the Battlestar GALACTICA. That ship - with other vessels that had survived the Second Cylon War - carried with it a hope harbored by the commander of the PEGASUS, that when they finally met, they could start to fight back and to take back what the Cylons had taken from them. This hope, and the faith that the crew have in their commander, kept the PEGASUS going and gave them all something to live for.
“Fighter Recon Probe Four reports no contacts, Colonel”, Captain “Comms” Sanders reported to Colonel Tolen, the XO (Executive Officer) of the PEGASUS, who was the senior officer of the watch in CIC.
Tolen was a very sober individual. Some said that he had no emotion at all, which made him the ideal person to be an XO of a battlestar. After all, the XO was supposed to do all the tasks which made the commander look good, though Tolen knew that Commander Cain was not afraid to do the less glamorous tasks either.
“Where is Probe Four now, Comms?”, Tolen asked Sanders.
“They should be about.......here”, Sanders replied, pointing to a grid reference on the map table.
Tolen nodded. That meant that the way ahead was clear for now. Other patrols which had scouted behind had reported no contacts either, though Tolen wasn’t fooled by the relative quiet of their section of space. He knew that somewhere, the Cylons were out there, trying - like the PEGASUS - to locate the GALACTICA, while others were after them. Unlike the GALACTICA’s situation, however, the Cylons did not know quite what they were looking for, thanks to the nature of their escape.
Tolen knew though that the Cylons would be putting a lot of effort into looking for whoever had destroyed a major source of fuel for their war machine, plus - as an insult to injury - booby trapped a Cylon tanker and had it blow up as it was being taken aboard a Base Star. It was a loss that he knew that the Cylons could not ignore, but so far, with all the extra fuel that the PEGASUS had stolen from the refinery - before blowing it up, after which they had made a lengthy FTL jump away from that area of space - there was still no indication that the Cylons knew where they were. That could all change in an instant, Tolen knew, and everyone else on duty knew it as well.
“Morning, Colonel”, Cain said, stifling a yawn as he walked into the CIC.
“Morning, Commander”, Tolen replied with a salute - which Cain returned - and an offered cup of coffee.
“Thanks a lot, Colonel”, Cain answered as he took the offered cup.
One thing that the PEGASUS was not short on was coffee. Chief Krag had noticed a lot of the beverage stored on Molecay Anchorage and had made sure that several sacks of the brew were taken on board during the provisioning of the PEGASUS - one of the things that endeared the chief to the commander.
As Cain sipped his coffee, he listened to Tolen give his brief on the shift and on the disposition of the current patrol probes. After Tolen finished up his report, Cain went over to the star map and checked on their co-ordinates.
“It’s a pity that the only stellar maps we have of this part of space are from the Colonial Astronomical Society”, Cain grumbled, “but at least it’s better than nothing. Well, Colonel, I hereby relieve you of the watch, so you might as well get some sack time yourself”.
“Thanks, Commander”, Tolen replied, “XO’s really don’t get to see their bunks all that much”.
“Neither do Commanders”, Cain replied with a smile, “Get some rest”.
Nodding, Tolen left the CIC and headed back to his quarters. Tolen, however was not to get much sleep at that time, because he felt the deck shudder beneath his feet, and the lights briefly flickering. He turned around and trotted back to the CIC. When he got back, he saw Cain conferring with the technician on duty at the Damage Control Station.
“What’s happening?”, asked Tolen as he walked up to the commander.
Cain raised his hand to silence his XO, as he had just picked up a buzzing communicator.
“What’s happening down there, Thyssen?”, he was demanding into the phone to the Chief Engineering Officer of the PEGASUS.
“Primary energizer “A” has gone off-line, Commander”, Thyssen reported, “at the moment, it looks like several control circuits fried out on us. The Auxiliary has kicked in, but.....”
“But what, Thyssen?”, Cain asked.
“These circuits are made of a particular compound and we are completely out of it. Without it, I can’t get it back online and I would not recommend that the auxiliary energizer take up all the load as it is not built for prolonged usage under those conditions”, Thyssen replied.
“What do you recommend then?”, Cain asked next.
“We reduce our sub-light speed to point-four so that Primary Energizer “B” won’t get overloaded. I’ll start tearing down the “A” Energizer. We need to find a planet in which we can find the mineral that we need”.
“Will an FTP-jump be okay if we need it?”, Cain asked.
“Yes, Commander”, was the reply, “the auxiliary was specifically designed for that”.
“All right then”, Cain acknowledged, “You’d better get started. I’ll see if I can locate a suitable system. Cain out”. He flipped off the comm-line and placed it back on it’s cradle.
“Comms”, Cain said to Sanders, “Start a deep space scan of nearby systems, then get our Raptor crews ready. It looks like we are going to go prospecting”.
“Yes, Commander”, Sanders acknowledged, heading over to the comscan platform.
Cain turned to Tolen, then said, “So I guess you heard all of that. This is the kind of thing that makes me miss all of the support ships that the fleet used to have.......before those Cylon tin-heads used them for target practice”, he concluded bitterly.
“Well, at least the Raptors have the ability to scan for resources, and we have mining and excavation equipment on board, so it could have been worse”, Tolen pointed out.
“I know, Colonel”, Cain acquiesced, “but these delays do not improve our chances of locating Adama and his group of ships any. Besides”, he said in a lower voice, “the fact that this energizer went down and that what is needed to fix it is something we don’t have is one hell of a co-incidence”.
“You don’t think it’s sabotage, do you?”, Tolen replied in the same low voice level.
“Maybe. Maybe not”, Cain replied, “but we still don’t know who was behind the murder and the beacon back at Molecay, so we have to assume the worst. Discretely double the watch on our civilian guests and keep in touch with Thyssen. If he can determine the precise cause of the problem, it will answer a lot of questions”.
Tolen nodded, indicating he understood.
Well then, we’d better get started”, Cain said in a louder voice.
With that, he put down his coffee mug, then went over to Sanders to see how the deep space scanning was going. Tolen left CIC in order to chat with the security department.
Down in Engineering, Chief Thyssen was starting to remove various components of the inactivated Energizer, when Chief George Krag walked in. Thyssen waved him over.
“Good to see you George”, Thyssen said by way of greeting.
“What’s going to be needed?”, Krag asked.
“Replacement circuit panels, so your machine shops in the landing bays are going to be needed to fabricate new parts”, Thyssen informed him, “but we are out of one key mineral - Milginite”.
“Ouch”, Krag commented, understanding the impact of that statement. Milginite was a key circuit component that had unique properties, which made it unequaled as a super-conductor of micro-electric currents. Because of that, any use of substitute materials was out of the question.
“Since we have no spare amounts of milginite on board, the commander is going to send out recon patrols in order to find a planet that will have the stuff”, Thyssen said, “so lets hope that either comscan or the raptor crews can find some on one of the worlds in the nearby systems”.
“The Auxiliary unit should be able to bridge the gap for a while, surely?”, Krag inquired.
“We’re going to need it for our FTL capability, unfortunately”, Thyssen explained, “and since the auxiliary is only capable of a lower power throughput - not to mention that it is older than the primaries, we can’t cannibalize it for what we need”.
Krag shook his head in a gesture of sympathy. He really didn’t envy the Chief Engineering Officer his task.
“Well, sir”, Krag said finally, “I’ll head up to the machine shop and start getting what I can fabricated. I take it that you have the specs that we’ll need?
Thyssen handed him a sheaf of forms. Krag nodded, then headed out of the engineering section. Thyssen briefly watched him leave, then he turned his attention back to the job at hand. He only hoped that all this effort would be awarded by their getting the milginite that was so sorely needed.
Looking at the fried control boards, he wondered what had happened to cause them to fail so spectacularly. They were designed to easily handle a two hundred percent overload without failing, yet the power readouts indicated no such overload on the circuits. Something was wrong here and he had to find out what had happened.
For his part, Krag was heading back up to the port landing bay with the specs. He looked over what Thyssen had given him. The components would be straightforward enough to fabricate, and if they did succeed in locating milginite ore - the specs called for fifty grams of pure milginite which they could process from the raw mineral state easily enough - then the replacement parts could be made up quickly.
As he was just about to take the lift to the landing bay deck, he heard the P.A. announce: “All raptor crews, report to briefing room two, repeat - all raptor crews report to briefing room two. That is all”.
That announcement alone was enough to make crew-members exchange glances. Everyone on board knew that in keeping with the fuel economy measures, the raptors were kept in reserve unless they were absolutely needed - and even then, as little as possible, and now with all of the reconnaissance crews being called to briefing, then something serious was happening.
CHAPTER SEVEN: Searching for Milginite
“And that’s the situation”, Captain Sanders said to the eight flight officers sitting in front of him in the briefing room, “the bottom line is that we need milginite right now and that means all four raptors will be deployed to the nearest systems from our position”. He had spent several minutes briefing them on the problem with the energizer.
“Does comscan have any primary candidate locations for us to survey, Comms?”, Ensign Tyree Dutch (Call-sign ‘Razor’) asked Sanders. The other raptor command pilots - Lt Derek ‘Dookie’ Connor, Ens. John ‘Smiley’ Pearce, and Lt. Tricia ‘Sheba’ Cain indicated their interest in Sanders’ answer.
“Yes, Dutch”, Sanders answered, “comscan had detected two systems with planetary bodies within raptor range”. He gestured to the star-map pinned to the wall beside his lectern.
“So I take it there will be two raptors for each system then”, Tricia Cain asked, making it sound more like a statement.
“That’s right, Sheba”, Sanders confirmed, “You and Razor will take the system out here”, he said, using a laser pointed to indicate the nearby system they were to survey, “while Dookie and Smiley will take their raptors to the other system. All four raptors have been pre-flighted and are ready for launch. You get in, quickly survey the planets you encounter, then get back here. Sheba will be in command of Survey Team One and Dookie will command Team Two”.
“Are there any indications of inhabitants in those systems?”, Connor asked.
“Comscan has not picked up any signals, but we are still pretty far out from either system in order to be definitive on that. Remember that we have to assume that the Cylons will be looking for us - their losing that refinery plus the damage we most likely inflicted on one of their base stars with that sabotaged tanker will not be taken lightly, so keep a low profile. If any one of your teams detects any substantial milginite deposits, get back here fast. Understood?”, Sanders asked. The four pilots and the four RSO’s nodded their understanding.
“Very well, man your raptors and get moving. The sooner we can get this job done, the better. Dismissed”, Sanders concluded.
The raptor crews stood. As Sanders left, the others walked out behind him and boarded the transport to their respective landing bays. Connor’s and Pearce’s crews were part of the Black Knight wing and their raptors were in the starboard landing bay.
“Have fun, you lot”, Tricia called to them as their transport moved off.
“You too, Sheba”, Connor replied with a wave.
Tricia and Dutch boarded their transport and waited for their RSO’s to be seated. Jason ‘Newguy’ Gorde quickly got himself strapped in while Dutch’s RSO - Ensign Jake Watt (call-sign ‘Boxer’) settled down into his seat. The transport quickly moved off before Watt got fully strapped in, causing him to lurch some from his seat. Dutch chuckled.
“And you still think my flying is rough, Boxer?”, Dutch asked rhetorically with a smile.
“Ha-Ha, Razor”, Watt replied sarcastically. Helo chuckled and Tricia rolled her eyes.
The transport stopped down at the flight deck where their raptors were all ready to be lifted up from the raptor prep area to the vacuum of the flight deck. All four of them jumped out of the transport and trotted over to their respective raptors. The technicians in charge of the raptors gave both Tricia and Dutch a thumbs-up, indicating that the raptors were ready for launch. While Dutch and Watt entered their raptor, Tricia and Gorde did likewise. Both Gorde and Watt closed and sealed their hatches while Tricia and Dutch manned the cockpits
Both crews did a quick pre-flight of their systems. Once Tricia had finished hers, she thumbed her commlink to open communication with Dutch’s raptor.
“Hey, Razor”, Sheba communicated, “how are you receiving me?”
“Five-by-five”, Dutch replied, indicating the optimum ‘number’ for signal strength and reception.
“Okay, Razor”, Tricia acknowledged, “receiving you the same. Let’s get these birds into space”. With that, Tricia and Dutch taxied their raptors over to the lift. Tricia then tuned into the command frequency. The maintenance technicians had already evacuated the bay.
“Survey Probe One to Core Control, reporting ready for launch”, she communicated.
“Survey Probe One, understood”, the controller up in CIC replied, “elevating probe craft to landing bay”.
With that, the floor elevators under both raptors started to go up. Outside the prep area, a red light flashed, indicating that the prep area was being depressurized. Once it had happened - it took but seconds - the flashing red light went solid red, then the ceiling above them slid open. Both raptors were lifted up to the level of the flight deck.
“Core Command transferring control of Survey Probes One and Two to survey commanders. Launch when ready”.
With that, Sheba and Dutch powered up their engines and expertly lifted their raptors off the flight deck. With Tricia’s raptor leading, both craft exited out of the front of the landing bay and headed out and away from the PEGASUS.
Tricia could see from her scanner and the IFF confirmation that Survey Probe Two had exited the starboard landing bay and were heading out to their jump co-ordinates. For his part, Gorde took a couple of seconds off the navi-comp to look at the sight of the PEGASUS receding from them. The Battlestar truly was an impressive sight. He turned his attention back to the navi-comp and quickly finished inputting the jump co-ordinates that been supplied to them earlier by Captain Sanders.
“FTL co-ordinates punched in. We’re ready to go, Sheba”, Gorde communicated to Tricia.
“We’re all set over here, Sheba”, Dutch communicated.
“Very well, we will jump on my mark. Remember to go to silent mode the instant we enter that system”, she reminded him. Dutch double-clicked on his comm-link as understanding her admonition.
“Jumping in 5....4....3....2....1....jump!”
Back in CIC, Sanders was at the Core Command console watching the raptor probes move off. He nodded in satisfaction as both probes vanished from the scanner. He turned to Commander Cain.
“Both survey probes have FTL-ed, Commander”, Sanders announced.
“Very good, Comms”, Cain acknowledged, “so now we wait and see what they can find. Have one squadron on standby for launch just in case what comes back does not turn out to be friendly”, he ordered.
Sanders nodded and informed the Core Command operator to have Captain Voight put one of Black Knight Wings’ squadrons on standby alert. He hoped that they would not be needed.....
As the familiar - but still mildly unpleasant - effects of the FTL jump wore off, both Tricia and Dutch put their raptor’s sensor platforms on passive mode. Both raptors had re-entered normal space at the edge of the system, just within it’s Oort Cloud, so that anyone watching would not be able to make them out against the pile of space rubble that was floating out here. Tricia switched to secure laser communications mode.
“Okay, Razor”, Sheba communicated, “I’m not picking up any electromagnetic emissions, so we can go to phase two. This is where we part company. Proceed to the next set of co-ordinates and start your survey. This is our rendezvous position. We get back here in four hours, understood?”.
“Okay, Sheba”, Dutch replied, “unless absolutely necessary, we’ll maintain radio silence until we meet back up here again”.
“Sounds good to me. Let’s do it”, she said.
With a flash of light, both raptors made their next jump to different positions in the system.
Tricia’s raptor exited it’s jump about 2 A.U.’s from the star that was the center of the system. She knew that Dutch’s raptor would be on the opposite side of the star looking for planets and/or planetoids suitable for surveying. Gorde started a low-level active scan. Tricia put the raptor in coast mode and waited. Until Helo came up with something ,there was not much else to do but wait.
“So far, I’ve got two Gas Giants with no satellites”, Gorde said initially, with an undertone of disgust, “I’m going to have to raise the scan output level some”, he warned.
“Go ahead”, Tricia replied. Gorde adjusted the setting on his principal scanner and this time something else came up.
“Looks like I have a planet. Fair-sized, about 0.8 AU from it’s star”, he reported, “It looks like it has two satellites”.
“Give me jump co-ordinates for one of the satellites, Newguy”, Tricia ordered. Gorde complied. If there was any presence on the planet that Gorde had scanned, then the satellite should shield them from view. There was one thing wrong with that strategy though, Tricia thought to herself; what if there was a presence on the satellite itself ......?
“Jump co-ordinates punched in”, Gorde announced, “You can jump any time you’re ready”.
“Thanks Newguy”, Tricia replied, “Let’s go!”.
With the familiar feeling of nausea and disorientation coming upon them, the raptor quickly jumped to the new co-ordinates. Tricia put the raptor on silent running while Gorde worked the passive sensors.
“Nothing being received from the satellite, Sheba”, Gorde at last announced.
“Okay, Newguy”, Tricia replied, “Use the active sensors and start the survey of the satellite. Let’s see if there’s milginite here at least”.
Gorde activated the geological sensors and had it homed in on the surface of the moon. The moon was an airless sphere with innumerable craters blasted into it’s surface. That made a geological scan a rather simple matter. Gorde ran through a general scan for a few minutes while Tricia was careful not to go around the terminator and into view of the planet.
“No milginite that I can find”, Gorde finally answered, “mainly type ‘M’ elements. Nothing we can use”, he concluded.
“We could go and look at the other moon”, Tricia suggested.
“No need”, Gorde replied, “it was within range of my sensors and I did a narrow-field long range scan of it. It shows similar characteristics to this piece of rock”.
“In that case”, Tricia replied, “you’d better shut down your platform and go to passive sensors. We’re going around the terminator. Let’s see what the planet has to offer”.
Gorde powered down his active sensors. Tricia briefly fired up her engines, then shut them down. This enabled the raptor to move at a higher speed around the satellite. Tricia and Gorde watched the planet come into view around the satellite.
“Hmmmm”, Gorde remarked.
“What’s up?”, Tricia asked.
“Passive sensors are not picking up any electromagnetic emissions, but the spectrographic sensors are indicating an atmosphere that is habitable for humans”, he answered.
“Habitable?”, Tricia asked.
“Yeah”, Gorde confirmed, “the atmosphere is a little thinner than we’re used to, but it’s breathable. Temperatures within the range of human tolerance and UV levels okay”.
“Well, perhaps it’s harbinger of good news”, Tricia said hopefully, “You sure about no radio or other forms of electromagnetic emissions?”.
“It’s silent. Nothing but natural sources”, Gorde replied, “and yes, I did scan for di-ethene and ion residue. There’s nothing that has registered on my sensor platform”.
Tricia considered the information for a few seconds, then made a decision.
“Okay then ,start powering up active sensors, I’m going to get us closer in”.
Back on the PEGASUS, while Tricia and Gorde were moving to scan the encountered planet, Chief Krag was starting to fabricate some of the replacement parts that would be needed to get the energizer back on line.
“Hey, Chief”, a voice behind him said, “how’s it going?”.
Krag put down his tools and turned around to see Captain Syke walk into the workshop.
“Hey, CAG”, Krag replied, “what can I do for you?”
“Any word yet on how those control circuits went down”, Syke asked quietly.
“I can’t give you a definitive answer yet, Captain”,Krag replied quietly as well, “and neither can Thyssen. The boards all indicate a massive overload cooked them, but the systems diagnostic monitor shows no such power spike. The monitor itself is working okay”.
“What’s your gut feeling on this?”, Syke enquired.
“The boards were okay the last time they were checked: when Thyssen repaired that same energizer when it went down back at Caprica before we were attacked”, Krag replied, “and those circumstances were an accident. As for what’s happened now........well, if you eliminate the accidental, all that’s left is the deliberate”.
“You believe it’s sabotage, Chief?”, Syke asked.
“If it is, it was done in a way that I or Mr. Thyssen can’t nail down. All that Thyssen could say is that once you eliminate the impossible, what’s left - no matter how improbable - must be the answer. Under that maxim, I believe that those boards had somehow been tampered with”.
“Did Thyssen check the control boards on the ‘B’ and auxiliary energizers as well?”, Syke asked next. Krag nodded.
“Well, we have some extra staff in the wing that can assist you if you like”, Syke offered.
“That’s great of you to offer, Captain”, Krag answered, “but really, until we can get some milginite, we can’t really do much more. I hope our survey teams can find what we need”.
“Yeah, me too......”, Syke started to say, then the alarm klaxons started blaring out an alert.
“Set Condition One, repeat, Set Condition One. Captain Syke, report to CIC”, the P.A. announced.
Syke turned on his heel and ran out of the workshop. Krag powered off his tools and headed for his action station down on the hangar deck.
All over the battlestar, the crew were heading to action stations. Syke found time to use his commlink to order his deputy - Lieutenant Lyle ‘Cooler’ Blanke - to get the pilots of Silver Spar Wing to man their fighters.
Up in CIC, Captain Sanders was watching the status board as the various sections of the PEGASUS reported their combat readiness. At last, he turned to Colonel Tolen.
“All stations report ready for action, Colonel”, he reported.
“They’re getting a little slow, Comms”, Tolen replied icily.
“Too slow”, Cain confirmed, “so perhaps sometime, Colonel, you can run a few extra alert drills so that the crew gets the message about the seriousness of Condition One!”.
“Is this a drill, Commander?”, Captain Syke asked as he walked into CIC. He had heard the tail end of Cain’s last comment.
“Unfortunately, no”, Cain replied, “we have received a priority call from one of our rearguard patrols. Ensigns Myers and Dodd have reported the appearance of a Cylon Base Star”.
Syke nodded. He knew that Myers’ patrol was responsible for covering the extreme rear flank of their flight path. According to Captain Sanders’ plot, both pilots were at the extreme end of their patrol run.
“What else did Myers say, Commander?”, Syke asked.
“He said that the Cylons did not appear to see his patrol. The base star is proceeding at a slow pace in our general direction, but is also launching fighters in a standard screening formation around it. He believes by their disposition that they are not deliberately on our trail, although some reconnaissance patrols have also been deployed ”.
“That makes sense, but that could all change in an instant”, Sykes replied, Myers had a very cool head and could be trusted not to make rash judgements, but he was one of the newer pilots, and Dodd was even newer.
“We’d better bring his patrol in and have other craft discretely shadow the base star”, Tolen recommended.
“Good idea, Colonel”, Cain replied, “Take care of it”. Next, Cain turned to Sanders.
“Comms”, he ordered, “reduce our electromagnetic emissions and put comscan on minimum power. All it’s going to take is one peep and the Cylons will be on us hard. With the one of our primary energizers out, its not a good position for us to be caught in”.
“Yes, Commander”, Sanders confirmed.
“CAG”, Cain said to Syke, “Get some fighters out there to shadow their patrols. Do not allow any of them to give away their positions. If it looks like any of their patrols are coming this way, I’ll need to know as soon as possible. Clear?”. Syke nodded, then left CIC. He had to get some extra eyes out there. Now that comscan was powered to minimum scan, the fighters will be critical for early warning.
“Can the PEGASUS outrun the base star on sub-light with ‘A’ Energizer down?”, Cain asked Sanders.
“I just got off the comm to Chief Thyssen”, Sanders replied, “and as it stands, the base star is slightly faster than our best speed at this time. If we were to go any faster, the auxiliary energizer could be pushed too hard. We will need it for FTL”.
“If we do have to go to FTL, their patrols would most likely detect the jump, plus our raptors will not be able to find us”, Cain replied, “and since we need the milginite, we have to give them the time to survey their systems”. He walked on over to the plotting table.
“According to the plot”, Tolen said, “the Base Star will pick us up on their sensors in approximately six hours, and that’s assuming that none of their patrol probes stumble upon us”.
“How accurate is the intelligence on that, Colonel?”, Cain inquired.
“When we were intercepting their transmissions, we decoded one stating that they had nothing on long range scan beyond a certain point. We’re basing the six hour estimate on that”, he replied.
“Very well”, Cain acknowledged, “We will make the jump in approximately five hours from now, regardless if our survey probes return or not. If any of the Cylon fighter patrols come near though, we jump immediately, for now, go to Condition Two”.
While the crew was alerted to the new threat, Cain silently hoped that the survey probes did find something. Things just suddenly got a lot more urgent.
Over on the Base Star, a centurion was reporting to a humanoid Cylon in the control center.
“Fighter patrols have been deployed”, it announced. The humanoid - known as Number Seven - nodded. His base star was one of the three deployed in order to find clues to the mysterious foe that had destroyed the refinery and severely damaged another base star. The three base stars were FTL-ing into various sectors in order to find traces indicating the presence of other spacecraft. It was based on a mathematical formula using probabilities of jump points. Given how vast space was, it was a hit-and-miss affair, but whoever had wreaked the devastation upon Cylon assets had to be hunted down. He hoped that the enemy would soon be found.
Not too far away, another humanoid was hoping the same thing. She had just heard that there was a Cylon capital ship in the general vicinity of the PEGASUS and was wondering what she could do to attract it’s attention. It would not be easy as her and the other humans who had been in her loading party back on Molecay had been kept under watch. The crewman that she killed had been found, and so had her transmitter, so the command staff of the PEGASUS at least knew that there was a Cylon agent on board, though there had yet been no general announcement made. So far, she had evaded discovery, but while everyone was under suspicion, it made her options limited.
Just after being picked up from Caprica - before the increased security had restricted her movements - she had managed to sneak in and inflict a small amount of sabotage in engineering. By using a derivative of a chemical used in cleaning, she had managed to spray an amount on one of the primary energizers’ control circuit boards. It very gradually made the board far less tolerant to normal power levels. Judging by the reduced speed of the PEGASUS, she concluded that the chemical had finally weakened the control boards enough for them to overload. It was unfortunate that she could not do likewise to the other energizers as she could not access them without being discovered.
Still, the reduced speed gave her colleagues a chance to catch up. She wished that she could let them know precisely where the PEGASUS was though. She could not just kill herself as her prime directive forbade it - the body had to die by outside influences - and she could not be sure that one of her models was on board that particular base star. Since she knew - thanks to listening in on crew gossip - that the Cylon fleet had been dispersed in order to track down the GALACTICA and quite possibly this ship due to the refinery destruction, it could be quite a while before she would be able to inform Number One about the existence and current disposition of the PEGASUS. Still, there were things she could try. All she needed was the right opportunity.
CHAPTER EIGHT: A surprise in the System
“So far, I’m not detecting any milginite ore on sensors”, Gorde reported. Tricia nodded an acknowledgment. They had made orbit over the planet and had just started the initial scan of the northern hemisphere’s equatorial region.
The planet did indeed have a breathable atmosphere, but it didn’t seem quite right, Tricia thought to herself. For starters, the planet was rather small and while there was vegetation, it seemed to only be concentrated in one region of the planet’s southern hemisphere. As they were trying to locate minerals and not vegetation, Helo had recommended scanning the mountainous terrain of the northern hemisphere as there would be the best chance of locating milginite.
“Looks like the north is not going to have what we need”, Gorde said after a few minutes more of fruitless effort,
“In that case, we’d better get started on scanning the southern hemisphere”, Tricia replied.
“Are you sure that’s worth the effort, Sheba?”, Helo asked, “after all, milginite is not a localized mineral. On the worlds which has it, it’s pretty well dispersed all over”.
“I don’t want to go back empty handed without taking a good look, Newguy”, Tricia replied, “besides, there’s something not quite right about this world”.
“You’re the boss”, Helo replied. Sheba set her controls to start covering the south. Newguy was probably right, she thought, but she just could not leave without scanning the entire planet.
“Hello”, Gorde sounded after he started his Southern Hemisphere scan.
“What’cha got, Newguy?”, Tricia asked.
“In the midst of the area of vegetation, I’m picking up indications of something made out of metal. No life readings besides the vegetation, but the metallic indications are unmistakable” Gorde answered.
“Get a close-up scan of that area”, Tricia ordered. Gorde calibrated his sensor platform and re-focused on the anomaly. What Helo saw was very interesting.
“It looks like a probe of some kind. About eight meters in diameter. It’s in a deployed state - like an open four-petaled metal flower”, Gorde described, “and it looks like it’s been down there for some time. The close-up scan indicates that it has a colonial emblem on it’s hull”, he announced.
“What’s a colonial probe doing way out here? We’re way beyond the Red Line”, Tricia responded, “Newguy, run the warbook for an identification on that probe type”, she then ordered.
“Running the check now”, Gorde replied. After perhaps twenty seconds (an eternity for the warbook), a match was made. Gorde whistled as he read the output.
“This answers quite a few questions”, Gorde said as he passed the output sheet to Tricia.
The warbook identified the probe as one of the type used in an old operation called SEEDER. According to the specifications, SEEDER probes were designed to make random FTL jumps into uncharted space in order to search and locate planetoids meeting certain criteria such as a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. Once one was found, the probe would eject a genetically engineered algae into the atmosphere. This algae would feed off the atmosphere and exhume oxygen in it’s place. And as the algae was an exponential replicator, the process would be a fairly fast one. After the air had been completely oxygenated, the algae would then die and bio-degrade into nutrients that would drift down to the surface.
While the algae was engaged in making a breathable atmosphere, the probe would land on the surface and deploy, then it would spray into the air specially developed seeds that would drift on the planet’s winds and settle upon the surface. These seeds would then grow vegetation. Within about eighty years or so - depending on the planet size, the seeded planet would be suitable for habitation. The probe - which would have gone dormant while the vegetation was taking hold - would then reactivate and send out a signal to the Twelve Worlds informing them that the planet was ready to receive it’s human pioneer colonists.
Project SEEDER had been started about a century previously. The project was abandoned when the First Cylon War started. It had been decided that colonizing new planets too far away from the well-defended Twelve Worlds while the Cylons were still a threat was too risky. The newly seeded worlds were left alone, and operation SEEDER was gradually forgotten.
“So, this is one of the worlds that got seeded”, Tricia said after she had finished reading the output, “and it looks like that the process is not quite finished. That would explain the localized vegetation”.
“There’s better news too, Sheba”, Gorde said, “I ran a more detailed scan on the seeder probe itself, and it’s hull is made of an alloy that contains high amounts of milginite. While there’s none on this planet that I can find, we could take the probe back to the PEGASUS and extract what we need from it”.
“The probe is too big to fit in the cargo bay, Gorde”, Tricia pointed out.
“We only need fifty grams of milginite, Sheba”, Gorde replied, “and two of the four petal-shaped deployment panels can definitely yield that amount. We just cannibalize the probe for those panels”.
“Sounds like a plan. I think it’s safe to break communications silence and to get Razor over here. We use both raptors to take back what we can”, Tricia replied.
With that, Tricia opened her ship-to-ship communicator.
“Sheba to Razor, Sheba to Razor”, she communicated, “break silence and respond, please”.
“This is Razor”, the reply came back, “what’s up, Sheba?”.
“Make an FTL-jump to my co-ordinates”, she directed, “we’ve found what we are looking for and we’re going to need both ships to get the goodies back home”. Despite her confidence in no one in this system overhearing the communication, it still made good sense to keep things vague.
“Understood, Sheba”, Dutch replied, “we’ll be right along. Razor out”.
A little over a minute later, Dutch’s raptor exited it’s hyper-light jump just off from Tricia’s ship. After activating the secure laser-communications band, Tricia filled Dutch in on their discovery.
“Well, that’s more than what we found, Sheba”, Razor replied, “we surveyed a bunch of small airless asteroids and came up with nothing”.
“We’re going to land by the probe and remove it’s opened panels. We take as much as we can and get it back up to the PEGASUS. Chief Engineer Thyssen and Chief Krag can do the rest”, Tricia stated, “so commence the landing cycle and follow us in”.
At that moment, back on board the PEGASUS, Captain Sanders reported to Colonel Tolen.
“Survey Probe Two has FTL-ed back, Colonel”, Captain Sanders reported to Tolen.
“They found anything in their system?”, Tolen asked.
“They surveyed two planets in their system but found no traces of milginite”, Sanders replied.
Tigh sighed. Not good. First, the Base Star that was slowly but surely getting closer, and now one of the two survey probes returning empty handed.
“Get them back on board, Comms”, Tolen ordered. Sanders nodded.
“Comms to Dookie”, he communicated to the probe commander, “Come back to the stable, both of you”.
“Understood, Comms”, Lt. Connor replied, “We’re heading in”.
Commander Cain had walked back in to CIC and had caught the last of the conversation.
“So Survey Probe Two came up with nothing”, he stated. Tolen nodded.
“Perhaps Survey Probe One will have better luck”, Tolen replied hopefully.
“Well, they don’t have too much time before we have to make a jump”, Cain reminded him, “any reports from our patrols?”.
“So far, Captain Syke is reporting that the current Cylon patrols are not coming anywhere near us, but the base star has not changed course and unless it does, we will shortly be within their sensor range”, Tolen answered.
“We’ll wait until the last minute”, Cain decided.
Back at the seeded planet, both raptors had already landed and both crews were in the process of dismantling the deployed panels on the seeder probe.
“Boy, this air is still a little thin to comfortably breathe, Razor”, Watt remarked while helping Dutch load one of the panels into his raptor.
“Newguy showed me the serial number on this probe”, Dutch replied, “It was one of the last ones launched - just before the First Cylon War broke out. This planet was not supposed to be ready for another forty years yet, when enough vegetation had taken root in order to produce more oxygen. Evidently, there was not all that much of an original atmosphere for the algae to convert to oxygen”, he concluded.
“Pity we found this planet before the effects of the seeding were completed”, Gorde remarked to Tricia while he was working on removing another panel.
“Even if it was, I don’t think that the Old Man would want to stay. He wants to get back into the fight”, Tricia replied.
“Well, our portable scanners confirm that there is more than enough extractable milginite in these panels. That will keep the commander happy”, Gorde commented.
The panels were rather heavy, but the smaller size of the planet made for lighter gravity, which made the panels light enough to lift. It was still rather tiring, owing to the thinness of the atmosphere, but at least they found what the PEGASUS sorely needed.
The panel came loose, and Gorde and Sheba picked it up from either end and carried it over to their raptor. The probe had four petal panels, so both raptors would take two each. That should provide enough milginite to keep the energizers going for a long time. All they had to do now was to get the panels back up to the PEGASUS.
It was while Tricia and Dutch were cannibalizing the SEEDER probe that out on the extreme right patrol flank from the PEGASUS, two vipers were patrolling their assigned area. With the news that a base star was in the vicinity, it became even more important to make sure that no unwelcome intruder from the base star suddenly FTL-ed in the area.
Ensigns Virgil ‘Zapper’ Morgan and Phillip ‘Charmer’ Agar were flying the patrol. Both were rooks in Black Knight Wing. Morgan was commanding the patrol. Both vipers were spread well out from each other so as to more efficiently use their sensors. Agar sitffled a yawn, then activated his communicator.
“How long before our relief, Zapper?”, Agar wanted to know.
“Not for another twenty minutes, Charmer”, Morgan replied, “but let’s not let our guard down”, he reminded his wingman.
Agar squirmed a little in his cockpit seat. These endless patrols were hard on one’s system. He just wanted to fight Cylon ships, not just pull patrol duty all of the time. He had lost a lot of good friends when the PACIFICA had been destroyed and wanted to inflict some payback......
Just then, Agar saw a flash of light just off to his right. Frakk!, he thought to himself, it’s a Cylon Raider exiting an FTL-jump!
“We’ve got a hostile”, he communicated, “jamming his transmissions now”.
“Take it out now, Charmer!”, Morgan ordered, “we can’t let it jump back and tell the base star about us”.
Agar was already engaging the raider. The Cylon ship was so far evading the shots coming from Agar’s viper. Morgan was coming in at full throttle in order to assist.
The raider abruptly turned so that it’s armament faced backwards, towards Agar’s viper. It first tried using it’s beam weapon, but the viper’s retrofitted software was unaffected by the effects of it. Agar was about to communicate “their beam isn’t working”, when the raider released a missile.
The missile homed in on the viper in a corkscrewing flight pattern. Agar tried to shoot it out of the sky, but he could not lock his weapons in on it. The viper was hit by the missile right where the fuel tank was and it’s warhead detonated. Morgan saw Agar’s viper explode into miniature fragments.
“You’ll pay for that, you bastard” Morgan muttered. The Cylon ship’s attention was on Agar’s destroyed ship and did not see Morgan’s viper homing in until it was too late. The Raider disintegrated under the barrage of the viper’s cannons. Morgan immediately keyed his communicator to the PEGASUS’ emergency tactical frequency.
“Zapper to Home Plate, Zapper to Home Plate”, he called, “This is Zapper declaring an emergency, over”.
“Situation please, Zapper”, Sanders replied.
“We engaged a Raider that FTL-ed in our patrol area - grid five-niner-seven”, Morgan answered, “The raider has been destroyed, but it got Charmer before I got it”.
“Proceed back to Home Plate, Zapper”, Sanders ordered, “the relief patrol is expediting to your position. Acknowledge”.
“Acknowledged, Home Plate”, Morgan replied, “I don’t know how long before that ship is going to be missed, but it’s only a matter of time. Zapper returning to base”.
Sanders put down his communicator and looked at Cain.
“Where on the map did the patrol make contact?”, Cain wanted to know.
Sanders walked over to the map table and pointed to a position on it. Tolen, who had walked up to the table with Cain, nodded.
“Judging from that position, that was a far forward probe”, Tolen conjectured, “which means that the base star is wanting to know what’s ahead of it”.
“Which means that when that destroyed raider misses it’s rendezvous, they will definitely want to know what’s up ahead”, Cain stated, “so how much longer at current speed will the base star have us on their scanners?”, he asked Sanders.
“Estimated time until that happens is in less than ninety minutes”, Sanders replied.
“We jump in eighty minutes from now, unless they decide to increase speed - and that can be at any time”, Cain ordered, “so start plotting a jump point to the next sector”.
“What about Survey Probe One?”, Sanders asked, “should we send a raptor ahead with a recall order?”.
“We can’t take the chance on losing any more raptors should we be forced to jump early”, Cain replied.
“Lieutenant Cain is in command of that probe, Commander”, Sanders pointed out.
“I’m well aware of that fact, Captain”, Cain replied icily, “but the raptors are the only intelligence platforms we have. And we have to retain them. The jump time will stand”.
“Commander”, one of the communications specialists reported, “the relief patrol have just reached the wreckage of the destroyed viper. They want to know what to do with it”
“We have no time to salvage it, so have them fire a couple of more missiles at it so that nothing recognizable is left. I don’t want the Cylons to be able to identify anything from it”, Cain replied.
“Hell of a way for a pilot to go - with no burial”, Tolen said to himself. He knew that Cain felt the same way, but the circumstances could not be ignored. He only hoped that Lt. Cain’s survey probe would return.
Cain kept up a stoic facade, but inside, he was screaming. He did not want to leave Agar’s body, but there was simply no time to retrieve it. Having to use order the relief patrol to use high-yield weapons to blast it - and the remains of the viper - into an unrecognizable cloud of debris was simply undescribable. And on top of that, the very real possibility that he would have to abandon his only daughter! The old saying that command was never easy was proving to be a real understatement.
CHAPTER NINE: Return and Reprieve
“All right”, Tricia announced, “We’re both loaded up, so lets get off this rock and get back to base”.
With that order, Tricia and Gorde strapped into their seats while over in the other raptor, Dutch and Watt did likewise. Both raptors powered up smoothly and started their ascent.
“It was good to be on a planet rather than a ship, even if it was just for a while”, Gorde said.
“True”, Tricia answered, “but maybe we will do so again sometime soon. Let’s get back to the PEGASUS”.
“Jump co-ordinates punched in”, Gorde reported, “so as soon as we clear the atmosphere, we can jump anytime you’re ready”.
“You got that, Razor?”, Tricia asked Dutch, who was flying slightly above and behind her.
“We’re all set, Sheba”, Dutch replied.
Both Gorde and Watt looked back at the secured panels stowed in the instrument bay of their raptors. They were well tied down.
“Okay, we’re out of the atmosphere now”, Gorde reported, “we’re good to go”.
“Jumping in 5.....4.....3.....2.....1......jump!”.
Just before Tricia ordered the probe to jump, Sanders received an ominous message from one of the patrols keeping tabs on the base star.
“Uh-oh”, Sanders said as he listened to the recon patrol’s transmission. He put down his headset, and turned to Cain.
“Commander, the base star has increased speed. Other Raiders are being launched and are heading this way”, he reported, “the estimated time for the raiders to pick us up on their sensors is seven minutes”.
“Recall all of our patrols”, Cain ordered, “have them get back here pronto and make a combat landing. We’re going to jump the instant we get them back on board”.
Sanders put back on his headset and thumbed the communicator.
“All patrols, expedite back to Home Plate. Abort patrol and expedite!”, he communicated.
The patrols acknowledged and headed straight back in. Sanders turned to Commander Cain.
“The patrols are on their way back. Estimated recovery time of the fighters in four minutes”, he reported.
“That’s cutting it fine”, Tolen remarked, “Four minutes to recover the fighters, plus one minute to retract the landing bays”.
Cain did not reply. He had to do it, but he was also thinking about his daughter. As he did not know what was in that system Tricia had been sent to scout out, he could not risk discovery by jumping directly there. Just then, a comscan technician stood up.
“Commander!”, the tech called, “Survey Probe One has just jumped back. They are reporting that they have milginite on board!”.
“Quiet!”, Cain roared as the crew members in CIC cheered at the news. As they quieted down, Cain turned to Sanders.
“Get the Survey Probe on deck immediately! We have to make the jump and we can’t delay the countdown”, he ordered.
“Survey Probe One”, Sanders communicated, “expedite your landing. FTL jump is imminent”.
Both raptors went to full speed as their thrusters were turned up by their pilots. As they closed in on the PEGASUS, Tricia noticed that several vipers were coming in fast to land on deck. She knew that something urgent was happening.
“All fighters down”, Sanders reported, “both raptors are coming in fast and hot”.
“Estimated time to Cylon sensor contact in three minutes”, Tolen reported, looking at the countdown clock.
“Start retracting the landing bays”, Cain tersely ordered. The helmsman responsible for that task operated his controls.
“They’re retracting the bays”, Tricia remarked, “We have to hurry. They’ll be fully closed in one minute”.
Dutch saw likewise and pushed the raptor to a higher speed. The entry ports into the bays were getting smaller and smaller, but Tricia ignored that.
Up in CIC, Cain, Tolen, Sanders, and most of the other duty crewmen were holding their breaths as the raptors bore in. Would they make it? With the Cylon ships getting closer, they could not stop the retraction if they wished to avoid discovery.
With very little room to spare, both raptors hurtled into the bays. Both Tricia and Dutch hit full reverse thrust on their controls. Gorde and Watt were flung around in their seats and the lashings securing the cannibalized panels strained at the pressures of inertia, but they held. The landing cycle then kicked in.
With a ‘thump’, both raptors grounded on the deck amidst the recently landed vipers. At that same instant, the landing bays fully closed in the retracted position.
“The raptors are on board, Commander”, Sanders reported.
“Execute jump!”, Cain ordered.
With a flash of light, the Battlestar PEGASUS FTL-ed. About five seconds later, the Cylon search patrols picked up the missing patrol ship on their sensors. The ships converged on the wrecked raider and started taking detailed scans of it, and the surrounding area. One of the raiders then turned and FTL-ed back to the base star to report on the find.
A few minutes after the reporting raider returned, the information was relayed up to Number Seven. He read through the data, then looked at the centurion who had brought it to him.
“So our missing patrol had been destroyed?”, Number Seven asked.
“Affirmative”, the centurion confirmed, “the raider had definitely been destroyed by hostile fire”.
“Hostile fire from whom?”, Number Seven wanted to know.
“Uncertain”, the centurion answered, “there was other debris nearby, but it was too badly incinerated in order to provide a positive identification”.
“Anything else?”, Number Seven asked next.
“There were indications of an FTL entry by something sizeable reported by another one of our forward patrols just before the missing raider was located, but it was only an indication. Nothing definitive as it was at the extreme end of the patrols’ sensor range”, the centurion answered.
“Have other patrols scan the nearby systems”, Number Seven finally ordered after considering all that he had heard.
“By your command” the centurion acknowledged.
Number Seven did not think that whoever had destroyed the patrol ship would be anywhere nearby now, but the sector still had to be checked. He knew though that he had come close. The pursuit would continue and someday, their quarry would be found. He would send out a report to Number One though....
For her part, the Cylon agent on board the PEGASUS knew that the humans had gotten away again. She was annoyed that there had been no opportunity this time to try and sabotage the humans’ efforts to escape. For the duration of the emergency, all of the civilians had been confined to quarters under guard, so there was nothing that she could do.
Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, she thought. Someday, their guard would be let down enough and she would be able to take advantage of it. Until then, it was a matter of keeping a low profile and lulling them into a false sense of security. Then, she would strike again.
A couple of decks below her was the metallurgy lab. The salvaged panels had been removed from the raptors and the panels had been smelted down. Enough pure milginite had been extracted and now the extracted metal was being used to fabricate the replacement circuits for the ‘A’ Energizer. Chief Krag had no trouble constructing the necessary components which Chief Engineer Thyssen was so eagerly awaiting.
Back up in CIC, Captain Sanders received the latest damage control report.
“Mr. Thyssen reports that the parts made by Chief Krag are perfect and the deactivated energizer will be back up and fully functioning within two hours”, Sanders reported to Commander Cain.
“Very good, Comms”, Cain replied. He turned to Colonel Tolen.
“XO”, Cain said, “Now you can go and have your rest. I think this time, it will be uninterrupted”.
“Let the record show that I willingly obey the orders of my commanding officer”, Tolen formally said while saluting.
Cain chuckled and returned the salute.
“I’ll see you in sixteen hours, Colonel”, Cain replied, “Have a good sleep”.
Cain watched Tolen leave CIC, then turned to Sanders, who was carrying the debriefing report from Survey Probe One.
“It’s a pity that we had to leave the seeded planet”, Sanders remarked to Cain, “perhaps if the seeding had been completed, we could have made a new home there”.
“No home is safe while the Cylons are around, Comms”, Cain admonished quietly, “but when we find the GALACTICA and the others, then we can start thinking about taking on the Cylons. Then perhaps humanity can have a home that we can be safe. Project SEEDER sent out several hundred probes before it was cancelled, so one day perhaps, one of those worlds will be our new home. Until then........”
CHAPTER TEN: Aftermath
It had been a day since the escape of the Battlestar PEGASUS after getting the milginite ore from the SEEDER probe. The Cylon Base Star that had nearly caught up with the PEGASUS was receiving the remainder of it’s patrols. All of them had reported no contact, but there was an interesting report from a raider that had FTL-ed to a nearby system.
“The patrol reports that one of the planets had been artificially altered to support human life. The remains of a probe from the humans’ Operation SEEDER had been detected on the planet. No other life with the exception of the vegetation imported by the probe has been found”, a centurion reported to Number Seven.
“Very well, Centurion”, Number Seven responded, “have a flight of raiders irradiate that planet with some cobalt-jacketed high-yield warheads. We leave nothing that can possibly help the humans”.
“By your command”, the centurion acknowledged.
As the centurion left the command center to relay the order, Number Seven contacted his analysis directorate.
“Any progress on the analysis of the debris from the vicinity of the destroyed patrol ship?”, he asked.
“The metallurgy reports show nothing definitive. The alloys found are used in both Cylon and colonial ship construction. Some traces of organic remains have been detected with the debris, but due to the force of the explosion, the nature of the weapon used, plus the effects of vacuum on the remains means that it cannot be definitively identified”, the centurion technician reported.
“Can you rule out human?”, Number Seven asked.
“That cannot be ruled out, but I cannot definitively confirm it either”, the technician answered.
Number Seven knew that Number One had ordered a complete accounting of all colonial warships that had been in commission on the eve of the attack, in case it was a remnant of the colonial fleet inflicting these losses. It was unfortunate that he could not provide Number One definitive information.
“Very well. Keep me informed”, Number Seven ordered, before cutting the communicator.
It all boiled down to supposition. Assumptions were anathema to a race that prided itself on certainties, and the only certainty was that something unknown was managing to inflict a fair amount of damage on them. If it was a human warship - and that could not be discounted - then it was doing a good job of escape and evasion.
Number Seven had given a lot of thought about this possibility. The infiltration of the colonial defense network by his ‘colleagues’ had provided a clear picture of the disposition of the humans’ fleet. That knowledge had indeed made their destruction a lot easier. However, if the intelligence was not as completely accurate as previously thought, then at least two possibilities could manifest itself: either there was an intact warship that was not one of the 122 on the commissioned roster, or if one of the warships reported as definitely destroyed during the attack had somehow survived. He hoped that Number One took those possibilities into account. One way or another, they had to be certain of what they were up against because until they did, planning to deal with it was not going to be easy.
“As soon as our raider dispatch to de-habitate the seeded planet returns, plot a jump to the next sector on our search grid. There’s nothing else here to uncover”, Number Seven ordered. Time enough for conjecture later. Right now, the best thing that he could do was to continue searching for clues.
In another sector of space- thankfully not the one that the base star was heading to - the Battlestar PEGASUS was cruising through space.
With Primary Energizer ‘A’ back on line, the PEGASUS was now back up and running on full power. Chief Engineer Thyssen had been most pleased with the fabricated replacement parts built by Chief Krag, though if it weren’t for the efforts of the recent survey probe under the command of Lieutenant Tricia Cain, the PEGASUS would have been under a severe power handicap, regardless of what Krag could make.
The sector that the PEGASUS had made it’s hyper-light jump into was extremely sparse. Normally, Commander Cain would make a further jump into a more ‘occupied’ sector, but decided that the crew needed some down time so that they would be alert and ready, so the ship was on a skeleton watch while overdue maintenance was carried out and the overworked pilots of both wings took advantage of the down-time to relax from the recent crisis.
As for Tricia Cain, she was in her quarters at that moment writing up her post-mission report. As the recently appointed head of the reconnaissance section of Silver Spar Wing, she qualified for separate quarters, along with the CAG and the other squadron commanders. She had enjoyed the luxury of a shower and wanted to have a long sleep as well, but thought that the sooner the report was completed, the better. She inherited the ‘duty first’ attitude from her father and as tired as she was, she could not relax until the report was finished.
She was writing a detailed report about the mission that she was recently on, and the probe that had been found. The discovery of that seeder probe on the milginite prospecting mission was an encouraging sign, and even though living on that particular world was out of the question - even if the seeding of that planet had been fully completed, the Cylon presence in that sector was reason enough to leave well alone - it meant that other seeded planets could very well be encountered in the future. Despite the urgency of their task, it was nice to be standing on the surface of a planet instead of a big piece of metal in the middle of nowhere....
A knock on the door broke her concentration. “Come in”, she called.
Commander Cain walked in. Tricia immediately stood.
“We’re off-duty now, Tricia, so you don’t have to stand on ceremony”, Cain admonished with a smile. Tricia relaxed from the attention position.
“Hello, Father, I was just finishing writing up the after-action report”, she answered, gesturing to another chair. Commander Cain walked over and sat down. Tricia sat back down in her chair and swung it around to face her father.
“I wanted to thank you for getting back with that milginite”, Cain said, “and I wanted to apologize for having to retract the landing bay pods when I did”.
“CAG told me about the approaching Cylon patrols, Father, so you have nothing to apologize for. Things did cut a little fine, but we got back, and we got away”, Tricia replied. Despite the stoic facade that her father showed, she knew that he had feelings, but she also knew that the PEGASUS had to come first with him if they had any hope of surviving.
“You know, I’m getting tired of running, Tricia”, her father confided, “even though it’s the only thing to do until we link up with the GALACTICA and the other survivors”.
“Well, to be honest, Father”, Tricia answered, “I’m getting tired of being stuck as a recon pilot. I was trained to be a raptor pilot, though I’m enjoying getting Midshipman Gorde trained up as a raptor pilot”.
“Well, it’s your own fault you know”, Cain retorted with a smile, “if Commander Park hadn’t insisted that you get some raptor time under your belt, and if you hadn’t been quite so good at it, you would have stayed as a viper pilot”.
Tricia remembered the commander of the now-destroyed Battlestar TRITON giving her the advice about expanding her flight experience.
“Commander Park said that to be in the running to be the next CAG, I had to have proficiency in both raptors and vipers”, Tricia replied, “and now look where it’s gotten me. If the Cylons hadn’t attacked, I would probably be a captain by now, and the new CAG on the TRITON, instead of the senior reconnaissance pilot of Silver Spar Wing”.
“Bob Park was right about that, Tricia”, her father acknowledged, “because he had told me shortly before the war that he had high hopes for you and that you would indeed be the new CAG, but if you had, you would probably be dead, with the rest of the TRITON crew”.
Tricia nodded. CAG’s did not get much in the way of leave time. In fact, the only reason that she had gotten leave was because Commander Park thought that Commander Cain would like to see Tricia while he sat out Commander Adama’s retirement ceremony. It had been arranged under the stated objective of shuttling over to the PEGASUS to pick up a replacement raptor for the TRITON. Tricia had just arrived on board the PEGASUS when Picon Fleet Headquarters had dispatched the ‘Cylon attack under way, This is no drill’ message, and she found herself stranded on the PEGASUS as it had moved off to join up with the ATLANTIA task force. It was just as well as the TRITON was one of the first battlestars destroyed near Virgon.
“You never told me why you didn’t go to the GALACTICA decommissioning ceremony, father”, Tricia said, changing the subject, “after all, you and Commander Adama are close friends and you both served together in the same squadron off that very ship”.
“Bill Adama and I made a pact about thirty years ago in that if one of us retired before the other, the person staying active would not go to the retirement ceremony. Instead, when the second person retired, then both of us would meet at the ‘Golden Arrow’” - a famous bar in Caprica City frequented by service veterans -“ and take a drink from a bottle of vintage ambrosia we had put aside for the occasion. Besides, I’m still fond of the GALACTICA and I didn’t want to see it turned into a museum”.
Tricia nodded her understanding. The bond existing between pilots is a strong one and both ‘Renegade’ Cain and ‘Husker’ Adama had an exceptionally close bond.
“That bottle of Ambrosia is back on Caprica, I take it?”, Tricia asked.
“No, I actually have it tucked away in my quarters. When I got the word about Bill retiring, I picked up the bottle from storage and brought it back to the PEGASUS. It would be my responsibility to personally bring it to the bar”, he replied, “but it looks like Bill won’t be retiring any time soon”, he concluded.
“Well, Father”, Tricia consoled, “when we find the GALACTICA, maybe you two can still drink from the bottle. Vintage ambrosia then would probably be a smooth drink by now”, she finished with a smile.
“Well, I hope we do find Bill”, Cain agreed, “and not just for the ambrosia. I still want the Cylons to pay for what they did, and we’ll have a chance to do just that once we join forces”.
“You think we can do something with just two battlestars?”, Tricia asked. If the Colonies could be lost with 122 colonial warships protecting them, then what could just two do?
“Two battlestars can accomplish a lot with what I have in mind, Tricia”, Cain answered, “because way out here in deep space, a guerilla war can be successfully fought. With two battlestars conducting hit-and-run tactics in unison, it will force the Cylons to divide their forces in response, while leaving the rest of the survivors to find a place with sufficient resources that can be used as a base. This way, we can both rebuild and wear down those tin-headed Cylons”.
Tricia did not answer. She knew that her father wanted so badly to inflict payback on the Cylons for what they did and what he said did make sense, but with the rest of the human race wiped out, that did not leave room for any mistakes.
“Anyway, Tricia”, her father said as he stood, “you’d better get some sack time. Leave the report until tomorrow. Consider that an order”, he finished with a smile.
“Aye aye, Commander”, Tricia replied.
As her father left her quarters, Tricia sighed and went over to her bed. Quickly striping off her flight suit, she lay down. She was wondering how her father could still manage to keep things running smoothly and still project the image of the decisive commander after all that had happened. She knew that he did have feelings; the death of Mother hit us both hard, but it had hit him much harder. She had cancer and both of them knew that she was dying, but her condition deteriorated much faster than the doctors had estimated, and she passed away while her husband was away on duty. Tricia knew that her father never forgave himself for not being there.
Death were on the minds of others as well. In the depths of the PEGASUS’ starboard landing bay, a sober service was under way.
“We call upon you, oh lords of Kobol, to look after the soul of our departed comrade Phillip Agar and that you grant him, by virtual of his gallant sacrifice, life eternal. So say we all”, the chaplain intoned.
“So say we all”, the assembled pilots intoned.
The pilots of Black Knight Wing had assembled in Starboard Hangar Bay Three in order to conduct a memorial service for one of their own. Ensign Phillip ‘Charmer’ Agar had been killed while trying to destroy the Cylon Raider that had FTL-ed close to him. He had managed to jam the raider’s transmissions and to keep it busy until Ensign Virgil ‘Zapper’ Morgan - the patrol commander - could destroy it with his viper’s weapons. Sadly, Ensign Agar’s viper had been destroyed just before Morgan could destroy the Cylon.
Beside the lectern where the chaplain had been reading from the sacred scroll of Kobol, was a pedestal that had a pilot’s helmet placed on it. The landing bay was dimly illuminated, except for a single beam of light that shone onto the helmet. As Agar’s body could not be recovered - it had to be throughly blasted along with the remains of his viper so as not to leave the Cylons anything to positively identify - Agar was represented by his spare flight helmet only. Behind the pedestal stood the flags of the Colonies, and that of Black Knight Wing (a copy fabricated by the PEGASUS Quartermaster as the original flag had been destroyed along with the Battlestar PACIFICA).
Captain Lance Voight, the CAG of Black Knight Wing, stood up and walked up to the lectern. The chaplain folded up the scroll and stood back.
“Ensign Agar died in the line of duty.”, Voight intoned, “Those words seem rather empty, particularly when we do not have his body to honor. Our duty makes such sacrifices inevitable, but saddened as we are by the loss of Ensign Agar, we must not let this detract from our duty to each other, this ship, and to humanity”.
The assembled pilots listened intently to Voight’s words. After a brief pause, he continued.
“In peacetime, if you are killed, you are entitled to a full military funeral, with the flag of the colonies on your casket, an honor guard of your peers, and a member of your family to collect your medals and the folded flag. Now, in the aftermath of a war which has seen our worlds destroyed, most of the fleet decimated, and with us deep in uncharted space, such niceties have to be discarded and you have to be buried - or remembered if your body cannot be found - the best way that you can. Ensign Agar was the last survivor of his family, and with his death, his bloodline no longer continues, but even so, he did not die in vain, or without those he loved. This wing is our family, and as long as his name is remembered, he will not die in our hearts. He gave his last full measure of devotion to ensure our survival, and we can do no less, for anything less dishonors his life, and the circumstances of his passing”.
The room was silent as they took in Voight’s speech. An honor guard marched up and removed Agar’s helmet from the pedestal. As they marched out of the hangar bay, the chaplain chanted a phrase in ancient Kobolian from the scroll. When he had finished, the honor guard had left the bay.
“Dismissed”, Voight ordered. The pilots quietly dispersed and left the bay. They would be heading back to quarters to get some rest, but they would not forget the memorial service, or the feeling that there would be more of them to come in the months ahead.
Captain Eugene Syke was sitting in his office near the squadron briefing room in the Port Landing Bay. He had watched a closed-circuit broadcast of the memorial service. Black Knight tradition dictated that only members of the deceased pilot’s wing could attend it live, which was why he was in his office, instead of representing Silver Spar Wing over there.
He had ordered his wing’s pilots to get some sack time, but as far as he was concerned, he felt it important to watch the service. As the screen showed the pilots leaving the hangar bay, he reached over and switched it off. Leaning back in his office chair, he sipped some water from a tumbler on his desk and thought some about the memorial. Sometime soon, he grimly thought, it will be my turn to officiate at one of those - unless it was him being immortalized.
Death was an occupational hazard of a member of the Colonial Armed Forces, and even though one had to remain professional, it’s something that you could never really get used to. At least, he thought bitterly, he would not have to write letters to the victim’s next of kin. The Cylons made sure that there were none of those left when they wasted the colonies......
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Settling back into a Routine
Up in CIC, Captain Sanders was acting as the Officer of the Watch. Both Commander Cain and Colonel Tolen were not present - hopefully getting some sack time - and as both fighter wings were on stand down, that made him the acting commander of the PEGASUS.
Comscan had reported absolutely nothing in the vicinity of the battlestar and the few patrol craft that had been deployed had reported no contact either. This was indeed a good time to catch up on things before jumping to the next sector. Chief Engineer Thyssen had reported that ‘A’ Energizer was ticking over on full power and Chief George Krag’s deck crews were catching up on their maintenance backlog. In approximately twenty hours, the next jump would take place, and hopefully, they would be able to find something more than what this barren part of space was offering.
“The memorial service for the killed pilot has been completed”, one of the duty technicians had informed him.
“Thanks, Specialist”, Sanders replied. He had initially been a little bit annoyed that none of the command staff had been invited to attend, but traditions differed from wing to wing and battlestar to battlestar. Black Knight Wing was from the PACIFICA and under tradition , only officers from the home battlestar could attend. Captain Voight was the senior surviving officer from the PACIFICA and felt that in order to honor the now-destroyed battlestar, he had to keep the Black Knight Wing tradition alive.
Sanders decided to take his mind off the service by putting his attention onto something that needed addressing. The fact that there was likely a traitor on board was a knife pointed at the throat of every other person on board. At Commander Cain’s insistence, very few people knew about it. Only the senior command crew, and the search party who had found both the murdered crewmen’s body and the jury-rigged beacon back at Molecay Anchorage, knew the details, and all of them had been sworn to secrecy. Sanders had been charged with trying to find out who was responsible, but so far, nothing much had been unearthed.
It seemed certain that one of the civilians had been responsible. One Hundred and Seven of them had been helping to load up stocks from the anchorage. The size of the storage silos meant that they were all scattered so accounting for ones whereabouts could not easily be ascertained. And while there was no concrete proof, Sanders agreed with Krag’s and Thyssen’s supposition of someone tampering with those control circuit boards on the energizer.
In order for maximum efficiency, Commander Cain had ordered that the civilians be trained to help run the battlestar, but in light of the recent circumstances, the civilians could now only be employed in non-critical areas of the PEGASUS, and be with a crew member at all times. If Condition One was ever called, then the civilians would be escorted to a holding area - ostensibly for safety reasons, but in reality so that the traitor could not do anything more to compromise the safety of the battlestar. So far, these measures seemed to be working, but the sooner that the traitor was caught, the better.....
The Cylon humanoid on board the PEGASUS had been feeling rather frustrated - or as frustrated as a Cylon could feel - at the recent turn of events. Commander Cain and his senior officers were very smart, she thought. Ever since Molecay, the civilians that the PEGASUS had retrieved from Caprica, plus the others picked up from stranded short-range inter-system space ships, had been under close watch. All of them had been interviewed and medically examined, and were now helping out the crew members in routine, non-critical tasks - she had ended up in the Quartermaster Department working on uniforms - but never alone. This had meant that she could not at this time make any move against the PEGASUS, but she reasoned that sooner or later, an opportunity would present itself. It meant being patient.
Patience was a virtue that was in rather short supply on board the PEGASUS, but it was a quality that had to be cultivated, if the battlestar was going to continue to efficiently function. This down-time was necessary for the pilots to stay alert, Chief Krag thought as he was supervising a support crew service one of Silver Spar’s vipers, but he also thought that his deck crews should be getting the same amount of rest. The forty vipers of the wing however needed constant upkeep and while the pilots had taken full advantage their down-time, it enabled the crews to carry out the necessary maintenance of the wing en masse. That meant that all available technicians had to make full use of the available time in order to service, fuel, and arm them all so that when they made the jump into the next sector, the patrol rotation could resume.
Krag knew that Captain Syke really respected the efforts of the support crews in keeping his wing functioning at peak efficiency. Sometime later, Krag would talk to him about getting some of his crew members some down-time as well, but for now, that would have to wait.
While working on Captain Syke’s viper, Krag took the time to admire the sleek and deadly ‘ package’ of the Mark VII viper. The designers were clearly told not to beat around the bush when they were given the assignment to design a craft capable of dogfighting ,interception, and striking hard and fast at a long range. Still, despite the viper’s sole purpose to make life as miserable as possible to the enemy, the designers did manage to make the viper VII a sweet-looking bird. No wonder the pilots loved it.
Krag thought about the transcripts of the intercepted transmissions received from the GALACTICA during the opening round of the war. He had been mildly surprised to learn that on the GALACTICA, his friend Chief Tyrol had gotten a whole squadron of older Mark II vipers into the fight - and that they had more success than the Mark VII’s! Krag knew that the Mark II’s were easier to maintain and upkeep than the VII’s, so Tyrol would probably be having things a little easier on the GALACTICA than he was on the PEGASUS. He hoped that Tyrol was doing okay. It would be good to meet back up with him again....
Meanwhile, Colonel Tolen was not in a good mood at the moment. He wanted to make full use of the down-time in order to relax and catch up on some overdue sleep, but there was a small matter of discipline to attend to first. An inspection of crew quarters by the junior officer of the deck had turned up something that under normal circumstances would not have been regarded as a transgression, but with the realities now existing, was something that could not be condoned.
Now, he was in an unused briefing room, presiding over a hearing as Magistrate-Martial: one of the less glamorous tasks for an X.O. to do.. A crewman was in front of him at attention. He was looking rather pale. The J.O.O.D. had presented the evidence of what he had found and now Tolen had to pass judgement.
“Specialist Coleman”, Tolen said to the defendant, “Do you have anything to say before I pass judgement?”
“It was something that I had forgotten about, Colonel”, Coleman said quietly, “otherwise I would have passed it on earlier. Honest”.
“As you know”, Colonel Tolen said dispassionately, “Commander Cain had ordered that any hoards of food and drink had to be surrendered to the commissary department. Due to the fact that we have no certain sources for reprovisioning, that order was an eminently sensible one. And now, the Junior Officer of the Deck discovers in your possession a food basket and a supply of alcohol. What kind of example is that to show to your crewmates?”, he asked.
“It was a present from my family at my last birthday. I had put it away in the rear of my locker and completely forgotten about it”, Coleman pleaded.
Tolen looked at the basket. It was not large and the protective wrapping around it had not been opened. He was inclined to believe Coleman, but still, since the other crewmen in his barracks had seen the basket when it was discovered by the J.O.O.D., something had to be done.
“Do you then show willingness to surrender the foodstuffs and the two bottles of ambrosia with it to the commissary department?”, Tolen asked. Coleman nodded.
“Very well”, Tolen answered, “but if I don’t do something, then others may get the same idea that this kind of thing will be tolerated. I take no pleasure in it, but discipline under the conditions that we are in at the moment must take priority. You are therefore sentenced to seven days E.M.D. Dismissed”.
The escorting guards took Coleman out of the briefing room. Coleman breathed a sigh of relief. True, he had to do a total seven days of external (that meant outside on the hull of the PEGASUS) maintenance detail whenever it was called for, but he considered himself lucky. Colonel Tolen could very easily have thrown him in the brig for a month.
Tolen signed off on the appropriate forms detailing the sentence awarded to Coleman. Handing the forms to a yeoman who had been acting as the recorder for the hearing, he decided to get back to his bunk before the J.O.O.D. came up with something else for him to decide on. An X.O.’s life is not an uneventful one, he thought to himself.
Down in the flight crew dormitory, Gorde was stretched out on his bunk trying to relax. He had been thinking about a number of things, mainly about Atchison back down on Caprica and hoping that he was okay. He had to admit that he was extremely lucky to have made it off Caprica, and to get back into the fight - even if it was in uncharted space away from the colonies.
Gorde thought that he had been extremely lucky to be paired up with Lt. Tricia Cain. Like him, she was along for the ride, although unlike him, her home battlestar no longer existed. Despite the circumstances of their being together, they made a great team and had played no small part in getting the PEGASUS out of immediate danger.
He was dressed in t-shirt and shorts, reading one of the piloting manuals for the raptor that Sheba had given him. Thanks to the drug regimen given to him from the PEGASUS’ medics, the radiation that he had been exposed to down on Caprica had been fully dealt with. He was alive and healthy, which was more than can be said for all those who had perished in the attack.
Gorde was not a philosophical type, but he found himself wondering why he had managed to survive when so many others didn’t. The Lords of Kobol move in mysterious ways, he thought to himself. After all, he only joined the ROTC program to help him through college and not through any yearning to have a lifelong military career, yet he survived while so many ‘lifers’ had perished. Perhaps one day, he would find the answer, but for now, he had to get some sleep so that he would be alert and ready for the next mission.
All over the PEGASUS, people rested, worked, or otherwise tried to ready themselves for the next time that they would be called to duty. When it was time for the FTL-jump to the next sector of space, Commander Cain will expect nothing less than for everyone on board to be ready to do their duty. So far, Commander Cain had kept the crew together as a cohesive and disciplined group. Hopefully, sometime soon, the PEGASUS would meet up with the GALACTICA, and then perhaps things can change for the better. This hope, as well as the iron will of their commander, kept the PEGASUS battle-ready. As what another battlestar commander had said: It was not enough to simply survive, you had to have something to live for. In the case of the commander and crew of the Battlestar PEGASUS, it was the hope of reuniting with others of their race, and to start inflicting serious payback on the race which had forced them to be refugees.