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The Smuggler's Game

By Luc Vendette

Word Count: 9,570
Date: 04/18/05
Series: Mini
Rating: K+
Category: AU
Pairing/Focus: O
Warnings:
Summary:
Spoilers/Disclaimers: Copyrights are owned by Ron D. Moore and Glen A. Larson. This story is for personal writing development and own entertainment purposes. The author does not intend to sell any of the stories he writes or to get any credit for the original idea. The only credit the author gets is his work and time given to the writing of this fan fiction story. Thanks to Lona Jennings for proof reading this story.
Note: This story starts right before the events depicted in BSG the mini-series by Ron D. Moore. Some plot elements are from Dean Thomas’s and Kevin Hallesy’s fan fiction stories. Their use is intended for continuity and complementary plot purposes.


Chapter 1: The Escape

(H-15 minutes)

“Unidentified ship! This is the Colonial Marshal Service! Shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded,” said an authoritative voice through the wireless speakers.

“Frak! How did they find us so fast?” That was Peete Brak, captain of the Kobol Marauder. A Colonial Marshals Service (CMS) gunship had just jumped in 10 kilometres behind them. They were speeding away from Virgon heading toward the outer regions of the Cyrannus System.

Brak and his crew had just made a quick raid on an FTL-drive factory on Virgon. Their cargo holds were full of parts and engines. FTL-drives, especially those that are of military grade, are sold for a very good price on the black market.

A few hours before, they had been able to land quickly at the FTL factory without causing too much of a stir in the middle of the night. Their false flight plan, which was submitted to Virgon’s Atmospheric Flight Control and Space Flight Control, had seemed to work perfectly. The Marauder’s transponder codes had been disguised. Everything should have worked perfectly. Once on the ground, they had quickly moved to open the factory’s doors. Matt ‘Sneaky’ Jorgo, the electronics specialist, did not have many problems with the security systems. They had used their own loaders from the Kobol Marauder to bring the stolen goods on the loading ramp into the large cargo hold. In and out, that had been all they had to do. Apparently, it had not been as easy as they thought it would be.

“Maybe our false flight papers were not as good as we thought,” grunted Lorne Hador, the second in command of the KOBOL MARAUDER.

“Brad, how far is the CMS vessel from us?” Peete asked a young man at the sensor station.

“Too close for us to do an FTL-jump without being intercepted first,” he answered knowing what Peete had in mind.

‘Not good,’ thought Peete. His ship’s engines needed a few more minutes to recharge after using most of their power to take-off quickly from Virgo.

They could try to fight the Colonial Marshals Service ship. The KOBOL MARAUDER was not defenceless. It was a decommissioned Colonial Marines medium armed transport after all. It used to land one company of Colonial Marines with their equipment in Cylon-held territory 40 years ago. It can take its share of damage. Granted that it did not have its original six anti-fighter guns and the two landing area suppression weapons that had been removed on decommission. They had managed to retrofit four newer multi-barrelled anti-fighter guns they had illegally bought from a Leonis weapons factory insider. The electronics side however is state-of-the-art. Sneaky had installed on the MARAUDER a powerful sensor suite and a full electronics counter measure suite. They had to sacrifice a bit of the cargo hold and two of the remaining weapons mount to fit all the equipment but it had been worth it.

Sneaky, a few years before, had been part of the Raptor electronics suite design team. At 28, he was among the Colonies’ best computer technicians. He had lost his job because he had been caught selling Colonial Marshals Service frequency codes to smugglers who wanted to have an edge on the authorities. He had not served time in jail for very long. He had managed to escape by fooling the jail’s security systems. Nobody knew exactly how he had done it. Soon after escaping, he had contacted his main client, Peete Brak’s smuggler group, and had offered his services. They had been all too happy to welcome him in their midst.

“Jam their communications!” barked Lorne to Sneaky at the counter-measure station.

“I’m already on it.”

The system Sneaky has installed was complex enough to need two men to operate it. Sneaky had been teaching the younger Brad how to operate the sensors for the last two months. Brad was a quick study but definitely not as good as Sneaky.

“Unidentified ship! This is Colo...shrk.” Static interrupted the latest order from the CMS vessel.

“Communications jammed!” said Sneaky with obvious satisfaction.

That did not ease Peete’s and Lorne’s minds. They both knew where the CMS’s interception protocols were leading to.

“Brad, give us a readout of that ship,” Lorne quickly asked.

“Err, I read it as a gunship. The THEMIS to be exact. Weapons fully armed and they are giving us a full sensor sweep,” hesitantly said Brad.

“Frak! THEMIS! Definitely not good,” swore Lorne.

The THEMIS-class gunship was the newest patrol vessel available to the Colonial Marshal Service. Named after the Goddess of Justice, the eponymous THEMIS was the first of its class and it was specifically designed to fight smugglers like Peete Brak, smugglers that had the resources to afford larger ships and put weapons on them. In the last few years, crime had risen all over the Cyrannus system. Smugglers had been getting increasingly aggressive in their methods. They had the nerve to fight off any Colonial Marshal ships that tried to arrest them. The Colonial Marshal Service had been stuck with small Cylon War era ships that were outmatched by the smugglers.

The Colonial Fleet was busy introducing new systems and ships in their inventory. The CNP system, created by the famous Dr Baltar, required many of the Colonial ships to go into the yards for their retrofit. On top of that, political correctness in the Colonies had imposed a ban on military intervention against civilians after a confrontation against smugglers that had turned ugly. Therefore, the Colonial Fleet could not help much in this situation.

In order to compensate for the Fleet’s reduced policing capabilities, the Colonial Government had finally accepted to increase funding to the Colonial

Marshal and had allowed the development of the THEMIS gunship. The THEMIS was about 150 meters long, close to half the size of the Kobol Marauder. It was crewed by a mix Colonial Marshal officers and technicians that brought the crew total to 75. The ship was designed to be a mobile police station with full forensics capabilities. It was armed with six light anti-ship rail guns and six multi-barrelled anti-fighter guns. Nothing to fight against a battlestar or a battlecruiser but it could match anything the smugglers have thrown at the Marshals lately.

“Sir, two Rapiers are launching from the THEMIS,” urgently announced Brad.

To complement its firepower, a small hangar bay is situated in the lower belly of the THEMIS-class, capable of housing two Rapiers and a space for an extra shuttle. A Rapier was a slightly oversized Raptor. The Rapiers, instead of having the counter-measures suite, had two Viper Mk VII canons mounted on each side of the pilot’s compartment. It was also equipped with an assault boarding/docking mechanism and room for up to 10 Colonial Marshal officers. The engines had been improved to catch up with most civilian ships but they were not as fast and as agile as the Vipers. Like their Raptor siblings, Rapiers had limited-FTL capable. Rapiers were used by the Colonial Marshal Service to intercept and board smuggling ships. With the recent introduction of Shrikes in the interception role, the Rapier had lost some of its glory but they were still proving in simulations to be the perfect match for a ship like the THEMIS.

“All hands! Prepare for battle!” shouted Lorne through the intra-ship comm system while he struck a button that started sirens all over the ship.

The MARAUDER’s crew of 50 were mostly minor criminals with little battle experience. Some of them had fought against police ships or competing smugglers before. However, for most, this was their first combat engagement. They had

trained a bit while in transit to a heist once in a while, but nothing that would make a Colonial Fleet weapons systems instructor proud at Picon Fleet Academy. Anxiety could be felt in the air.

“ Janna, go to maximum speed on this course and start charging the engines for an FTL-jump as soon as possible,” Brak ordered the beautiful young blonde woman at the helm.

“ Brad, how long before we are able to open fire?” he asked the sensor crew.

“At present course and speed in 30 seconds,” Brad replied. The Marshal ships were closing in fast with the Rapiers on the lead.

“Sir, we need 2 more minutes before we are able to jump,” Janna nervously said.

“It’s too late for me to do anything,” said Sneaky. “They have established solid weapon lock.”

‘Their electronics are good indeed,’ thought Peete. Usually they were able to fool the targeting sensors of most Marshal ships with decoys, but not this time. He will have to keep them far away long enough for them to jump to safety.

He then grabbed the intercom: “All guns, concentrate your fire on the Rapiers as soon as they are in range and fire at will!”

“Peete, shouldn’t we shoot at the THEMIS instead?” questioned Lorne.

Lorne Hador was not a military man. He had hauled cargo all over the system for the last two decades for private shipping companies. He had been captain of a commercial cargo ship. Lack of pay had pushed him to switch to the other side of legality. After trying his hand at smuggling by himself, Hador had joined Peete Brak after he had helped him out of a complicated situation. Lorne had proved to be a quite good crew and cargo manager but he lacked the instincts necessary for being a smuggling captain.

“No, these THEMIS ships have only 2 guns capable of firing forward. The Rapiers will be on us first and will be swarming us. They will aim to disable our engines first, while the THEMIS tries to disable our weapons. Once that is achieved the Rapiers will move in to board us.”

“Will we be able to make the jump before they disable us?” asked Lorne with visible concern.

“It depends on whether we destroy the Rapiers quickly enough,” answered Peete with not much conviction.

He did not want to surrender. He was among the top criminals on the most wanted lists. Not because he was very aggressive, but because he had been very successful so far. He would get up to life in jail if he were to be caught. The rest of the crew could settle for 1 or 2 years.

Suddenly, explosions started rocking the ship.

“Rapiers just opened fire!” Brad replied to the latest shock.

“Our guns are firing back,” Lorne assured just before a larger explosion caused much more vibrations.

“That was the THEMIS!” Brad said with a touch of distress in his voice.

“Evasive actions! Damage report!” said Peete answered by Janna and Lorne.

“No serious structural damage to the engines but we lost the left gun!”

The 6 original gun emplacements of the Kobol Marauder were placed on 2 rib-like structures that surrounded the top of the ship. Two guns on each side of a dorsal spine that house 2 more emplacements, front and back. 2 of the 4 actual guns were installed on the dorsal spine while the two others were on each side complemented by a counter-measure pod in the empty emplacements.

“One minute until we are able to jump!” warned the young woman.

The Rapiers were swarming the smugglers’ ship constantly firing at the engines while evading the remaining anti-fighter fire from the MARAUDER. The THEMIS was staying at a safe distance but not far enough for not being able to use its anti-ship guns. Her forward guns were blazing seeking to destroy another of the MARAUDER’s gun emplacements. Its job was harder than the first shots. Janna was doing well at swerving, evading the heavier fire.

A Rapier was coming from the starboard side of the smuggling ship, guns blazing. The anti-fighter fire from the 2 guns that could target it shot back hard and accurately managing to score some hits.

“One Rapier suffered mild damage to its attitude thrusters” Brad announced with more confidence than before. “It seems to have difficulty turning.”

“All guns, adjust your fire toward the undamaged Rapier,” ordered Peete. They might just have a chance to escape after all.

It is at this moment that out of nowhere something happened that would change the outcome of the battle in a way that Peete Brak and its crew had never expected.

(H hour)

“Sir! The Colonial Marshal ships are breaking off!” Brad said with surprise in his voice.

A loud and stereophonic “WHAT!?!” was heard all over the KOBOL MARAUDER’s bridge. It was not in the Marshall’s’ habits to quit so early in a battle.

“Confirmed, sir,” Sneaky added. “I am also getting strange messages through the wireless traffic.”

“30 seconds until we can jump,” Janna announced.

“All guns! Cease fire!” Lorne ordered “What are you hearing, Matt?”

“It’s not clear. Something about Cylons attacking the Colonies!”

“That’s not possible!” Lorne said in shock.

“10 seconds.”

“Janna, do not jump just yet but keep the FTL charged and ready,” Peete interrupted with great concern in his voice. “Give me more details, Matt”

“Apparently, Virgon is under attack by two Cylon capital ships and several fighters,” he replied still listening to the wireless traffic. “Colonial Fleet around Virgon has already lost two battlestars. No,” he paused for a second, “make that three, the TRITON.” More desperate news was received. “Lords of Kobol!!! They are nuking Virgon!“

Gasps where heard from the helm.

“Peete!” interrupted Brad. “There are 4 additional contacts in the area at 300 000 km! Cylon fighters! They are heading toward the THEMIS!”

‘The THEMIS must have seen the fighters too’, thought Peete. ‘We have to do something’.

He turned toward Matt.

“Switch your jamming toward the new fighters, and record everything that is said on the wireless. Brad, do a full scan of the area and record everything. Janna, turn around and head for an intercept course for both the fighters and the THEMIS.” Acknowledgements were heard around the bridge.

“What are you doing Peete?” asked Lorne.

“I am not going to do nothing and flee when Cylons are in my playground!” he said, anger in his voice.

A long time ago, 40 years ago: the Cylon War. At 16, Peete had just been out of the training academy after a crash course. The young had been conscripted at 16 years old as manpower had been starting to come short. Despite his age, he had passed the training with top grades in Capital ship operations. At 18, he had been a young lieutenant second class on the Battlestar Atlantia. He had been a DRADIS operator. He had seen a few battles until the Atlantia had been severely beaten at the Battle of Aries. The senior officers of the bridge had been all killed or badly injured. He had taken command by his own initiative when he had seen that the other junior officers had been too shocked to take the job. He had not won the battle but he had brought the ship out of a battle that had proved to be a severe blow to Colonial Fleet. He did not keep his command, but he had been promoted to lieutenant, decorated and assigned as operations officer. Five years after the war, he had been demobilized in the wave of the massive stand down of the Colonial Military. Peete had wanted to stay in, but Picon Fleet Headquarters had denied his request. He had been very bitter.

This time it would be another story.

Picking up the intercom, Peete started to address the crew: “Attention to all the crew! This is Brak!”

Around the ship, everyone stopped what they were doing and listened. “We just got word that the Cylons are back and have launched a massive attack on the Colonies. Three battlestars have been destroyed so far. They have also nuked Virgon. We have to assume the same is going on all over the Colonies. The Marshal ships that were pursuing us have turned around to join the fight. So will we. As of now, we are no longer criminals. I have family on Virgon and so do many of you. Hopefully, we can help repel the Cylons. Let’s get ourselves some Centurion heads! So say we all!” he put down the intercom.

“Cylon fighters are 150 000 kms away! We will join the THEMIS in 1 minute!” Brad said from the sensors station.

“Matt, give me a laser-link to the THEMIS,” Peete asked.

“Ready, sir.”

“THEMIS, this is the KOBOL MARAUDER. Come in”

“KOBOL MARAUDER, THEMIS. Keep your distance! Cylons are attacking,” a muffled voice answered.

“I know. Can I offer you our assistance?”

“Stay out of this! This is a Colonial matter….” The communication was suddenly cut-off.

“Sir, the THEMIS and the undamaged Rapier have powered down. No engines, weapons or comms,” Brad explained. “They are sitting ducks.”

“I detected an energy spike coming from the Cylon fighters at the same moment,” Sneaky added.

“Frak! Not again!” Peete said. In the past, he had seen something like that happen.

“All guns prepare for combat.”

While Lorne relayed the order to the crew, Peete asked Brad for a status check on the damaged Rapier.

“It is still partially functional and circling the THEMIS.”

“Get me in contact with them.” Brad threw a few switches and nodded to Peete.

“Rapier this is the MARAUDER, we are coming in to cover you and your friends.”

“This is Rapier 138. Thanks, MARAUDER. We don’t understand what happened to the THEMIS. We can’t reach them.”

“It’s an old Cylon tactic. They disabled the computer systems by tapping into your ships,” Peete said.

“Cylon fighters 25 000 kms away, getting missile lock,” Brad said.

Turning to Matt, Peete ordered him to do some of his magic, then he returned to talking to the Rapier.

“We do not have much time, position your ship between the THEMIS and the Cylons. Target any missiles coming your way.”

“Janna, do the same but at full speed toward the fighters. Then prepare to do an about face turn on my command”

On the other side of the bridge, Sneaky was frantically working his counter-measure console.

“Laser dazzling will have minimal effect,” said Matt. “There too many to be efficient”

Laser dazzling consisted of pointing a wide laser beam toward the attacker to disrupt his targeting lasers. It worked generally well on one ship but four would be another story.

“Cylons are launching 16 missiles toward us and the THEMIS! ETA 30 seconds on

us, 1 minute to the THEMIS,” Brad frantically said.

“Janna, keep your course. Be ready for an about face turn.” Peete looked toward

Sneaky who nodded back.

“TURN NOW!”

Janna took a breath then jerked violently on the ship’s controls. The MARAUDER started to roll on itself then made a narrow u-turn back toward the derelict THEMIS.

“Launch decoys!” Matt pressed a button on his console launching a dozen decoys.

“Dive at 60 degrees and redress after 1 km, NOW,” Peete ordered Janna.

As the ship dived about half the missiles went for the decoys and detonated. Three went after the MARAUDER while the rest kept heading toward the THEMIS passing above the MARAUDER.

“All guns! Shoot down the missiles above us!” said Lorne catching on to Peete’s strategy. The guns were quick to shoot down two more missiles.

In the meanwhile, Matt launched a space charge with proximity fuses behind the MARAUDER. It exploded with multiple fragments shooting in all directions and managed to destroy two missiles.

“Rapier 138, you have 3 missiles heading your way!” Peete informed them.

“Roger that, MARAUDER.”

At the same moment, a violent explosion rocked the smuggler’s ship. “We’ve been hit by a missile! Medium hull damage to the bottom of the ship. Engine number 1 is out!” Lorne reported.

Rapier 138 had opened fire trying to shoot down the three incoming missiles with its two Viper guns. The task had been difficult, as it did not have full attitude thrusters capability. It had managed to destroy two of them. The remaining one had passed it and slammed into the THEMIS.

“Fighters coming in at full speed! No more missile lock!” Brad said.

Peete brought the comm unit to his mouth: “All guns and Rapier 138 shoot down those fighters”

“Janna, bring us closer to the THEMIS!”

The Cylon fighters opened fire on the human ships at the same moment, each Cylon choosing a different target. One went directly toward the disabled Rapier 137 strafing it with several hits. It caused a small explosion in the back, which created a big gaping hole. The MARAUDERS guns were sending everything they had at the fighters. One got shredded into bits by a concentrated fire. Rapier 138’s guns blazed away at the Cylons and managed to get another one. The two remaining Cylon fighters shot past them scoring some hits on the THEMIS. They regrouped and reversed course, this time directly toward the MARAUDER firing. She returned fire aggressively destroying one of them. However, the remaining fighter managed to destroy a gun turret of the MARAUDER.

“Sir, the Cylon fighter is escaping toward VIRGON!” announced Brad with visible relief in his voice.

Taking the intercom, Peete ordered the guns to let him go.

“You are letting them go free?” Lorne questioned him.

“Yes, he is much faster than we are. He’s probably going to get some help.” Then Matt had some very grim news to announce.

“I just heard that Picon Fleet Headquarters has been destroyed. I managed to tap into military channels and learned that Admiral Nagala is taking command aboard the ATLANTIA near Caprica.” He paused for a second visibly listening to other messages. “The entire OLYMPIA task force over Virgon as been destroyed!” he said horrified.

Peete closed his eyes; he was having some flashbacks of 40 years ago. Remembering his battle at Aries. He knew what was happening: defeat.

“What are we going to do, Peete?” asked Lorne.

“We are not going to stay and watch.” He grabbed again the comm unit.

“Rapier 138, is your FTL-drive still functional?” The Rapier pilot confirmed with a suspicious yes.

“We are sending you coordinates, we are getting out of here to a safe place,” said Peete.

“But what about the THEMIS?” asked the pilot.

“We’ll take care of it,” reassured Peete. “Just check on Rapier 137.” The pilot agreed as Rapier 138 turned to investigate.

“Janna, dock with the THEMIS. Lorne, prepare a search party to go over to the THEMIS and bring back as many survivors as you can. Go with EVA suits, I suspect that life support is not working anymore so there must not be much air left,” ordered Peete. “After that we can do some hauling.”

Both acknowledged the orders, and then Lorne left the bridge to prepare. The MARAUDER was brought alongside the THEMIS and it deployed the docking mechanism. As soon as the air lock opened, Lorne and his team of 10 men went looking for survivors. It was good thing that they wore the suits, oxygen levels were down 60% and CO2 levels were rising quickly. The corridors were dark because the lights were off. Their suits with built in lamps allowed for some visibility. Smoke was getting thicker. A fire was raging. After barely two minutes, Lorne’s team found 40 survivors that they brought into the MARAUDER. They were going back in for another look at upper levels when they met were face to face with a group of Marshal officers in pressure suits and holding weapons.

“Halt! Identify yourselves or be shot!” said the apparent leader of the group.

“We’re from the MARAUDER rescuing you!” replied Lorne.

“We are not going anywhere with you criminals,” the man said.

“Listen, the Cylons have destroyed all Colonial Forces in the area and they might come back very soon. We have to get out of here and fast.” The officer considered that for a second then agreed.

“Ok, but we have to get to those on the bridge!” Lorne followed the officers after instructing his team to look around for other survivors. The bridge doors were locked shut. They had to open panels in the wall and use the emergency opening mechanisms. As the doors slid open, they were relieved to see that most were alive but unconscious. They were quickly brought to the waiting ship.

After managing to get 50 survivors off the ship, Lorne was about to go to the engine room of the THEMIS when the lead officer stopped him.

“Where are you going? We have everybody that is alive,” he said.

“We still can save your ship.” Lorne replied.

“Are you kidding? Every systems as been shot down, we have suffered damage,

fires are raging.” The officer said.

“I am going to vent your ship to put out the fires then we are going to bring it

with us,” reassured Lorne.

“What the hell are you talking about?” the officer asked but Lorne was already gone. A minute later, vents opened all over the THEMIS and fires were extinguished. Lorne walked back onto the MARAUDER and closed the airlock. Keying a comm panel on the wall, he called the bridge: “We are ready down here Peete, THEMIS as been secured.”

The Marshal officer still had a very incredulous look on his face.

“Thanks Lorne.” Peete turned to Janna. “Undock and reposition the ship for an FTL-tug jump.” That was the last modification that Peete had done to his ship. He had purchased an old FTL-tug from a scrap yard and transferred the tug device onto his ship. FTL-tugs were used all over the Colonies to bring back to port stranded spaceships far from any Colonial outposts and where using sub-light engines would prove time consuming. A few commercial repair ships were available but often bringing the ship back through FTL-tug jumps was believed to be more effective.

“We should hurry, Peete! Sensors indicate that a full squadron of Cylon fighters are heading our way,” announced Brad.

They would have to be quick. An FTL-tug jump required putting more energy into the jump capacitors, the amount depending on the size of the tugged ship. The tugged ship had to be positioned as close as possible to the MARAUDER’s jump drives so that the second ship could be included in the jump field.

“KOBOL MARAUDER, this is Rapier 138! We just finished checking out the other Rapier. Everyone is dead aboard. They had a major decompression caused by the explosion. It might be salvageable though,” concluded the pilot.

“We don’t have time to pick it up. Cylons are coming this way. We have to get out of here,” said Peete.

“Roger that. We have received the jump coordinates! Where are we going?”

“Our hideout. You Colonials don’t have much to go back to around Virgon, so you are coming with us.”

“Roger. Our boss won’t be too happy about us leaving with criminals,” the pilot warned.

“Well, I don’t think you have to worry about that anymore. We’ll talk politics when we are out of here,” said Peete in a tone that clearly indicated that the discussion was over.

“All righty then. Jumping to coordinates when you are ready. Rapier 138 out.”

Janna informed Peete that the jump capacitors were ready for the jump. He welcomed the news with relief. The Cylons were getting close. It’s a good thing that they were not jumping in on them. What if a Basestar got to them first? Shaking off that hint of anxiety, Peete picks up the ship’s intercom.

“All hands! Prepare for a jump back home!” he announced.

“Sir, we are getting a weapon lock from the Cylons,” said Brad.

“Then we should get moving.” Peete turned to Janna and picked up once again the ship-to-ship communicator.

“Janna, Rapier 138 jump at my mark.”

Peete took a deep breath. FTL-tug jumps were always risky. He had done it before. However, never in these conditions, and they had never been with full-sized ships. He was more used to jumping scrap parts and debris that he could not bring aboard through the cargo doors. He decided that they did not have any other choice. It was now or never. Another thought went through his mind. Is it a good idea to bring those Colonial Marshal officers along? He knew that Lorne and others would have difficulties with that. He needed to talk to them when they got back home.

“Sir, we have to jump now!” anxiously said Matt.

Snapping out of his thoughts, he ordered: “Jump in 5-4-3-2-1… JUMP!”

In a big flash of light followed by a smaller one, the ships jumped as Cylon missiles were being launched in their direction.

Chapter 2: Hiding in the Hole

(H+ 30 minutes)

The disturbing feeling in their stomachs eased away. Their senses went from blurred to focused. After a few seconds, they realized that it was over. Fortunately, the jump was short one. Otherwise, the sickening feeling would have been more intense and would have lasted a bit longer.

Peete Brak was the first one to come around. He had been doing this for years. Jumping had become some sort of second nature to him. “Status report,” he ordered to his bridge crew.

“Checking coordinates,” said Janna while shaking her head to refocus her thoughts. “Right where we are supposed to be.”

“Sensors indicate no Cylon presence in the area,” Brad reported.

“Nothing on the EM side,” added Matt.

A beep sounded on the internal communication system. “Lorne here, all sections reporting green status.” He was calling from the engineering section below deck. “Everything looks good for the THEMIS, at least through the view port,” he concluded.

“Roger that,” said Peete. “Take care of our guests.” Lorne acknowledged and terminated the communication.

“Sir, Rapier 138 reports green status and would like to know what to do next,” said Brad.

Peete took the laser wireless ship-to-ship communication unit.

“Rapier 138, this is MARAUDER. We need to reposition ourselves to bring the THEMIS to our destination. After that, you just follow us. Keep your EM radiation level to minimum until we call you back,” Peete requested.

“Roger that, Rapier 138 out.”

“Janna, dock with the THEMIS then set course for the Hole at best possible speed,” ordered Peete. “Once cruise speed is achieved, cut all power. We will coast it as long as possible.”

As Janna started to reposition the MARAUDER for docking maneuvers, the door to the bridge opened. Lorne walked in with a tall man in his late forties in tow. He was obviously a Marshal as indicated by his uniform. In fact, he was the officer that Lorne had run into earlier while on the THEMIS during its evacuation.

“Sir, all injured are being taken care of,” reported Lorne then he introduced his companion to Peete. “This is Chief Technician Kurt Hadley of the THEMIS; he would like to speak with you.”

“Welcome aboard,” said Peete walking toward the Chief for a handshake. “How is your staff?” Although the handshake was quick and strong, visibly there was still distrust between the two regardless of the rescue.

“I have 6 dead including our commander, 40 injured or unconscious, the rest are providing first-aid,” said promptly Chief Hadley. “All our remaining officers are among the unconscious, therefore I am in charge for now. What about the Rapiers?”

“Rapier 138 is coasting outside, following us.” Peete continued, “The other Rapier was severely hit with no survivors. It had to be left behind.”

A saddened look crossed the Chief’s face. Peete knew that a member of the Colonial Marshal Service would not be used to losing that many of his crewmates at once. He must have had many friends aboard that Rapier. However, he had to help the Chief regain his focus. He had to think of the survivors now.

“Well, thanks for saving our butts,” said the Chief. The Chief looked outside the view port. Peete knew what he saw -- thousands of asteroids floating dangerously close to the ships. “Where are we going?” asked the Chief with a touch of worry in his voice.

“We are entering the Oort cloud of Cyrannus. We are heading to a small asteroid we call the Hole. It is a staging base for our operations. Once there, we will make repairs to the ships and figure out what to do next” said Peete.

“Very well. I am going back to check on my crew,” concluded the Chief and then left the bridge. Lorne closed the door and turned toward Peete.

“You’re seriously considering bringing them to the Hole?” said Lorne with

suspicion and disdain.

“What do you want me to do? Put them back aboard the THEMIS and leave them to die?” replied Peete. “From what I can tell, this assault by the Cylons is massive. The Colonies will have a hard time turning the tide of the battle if it is not already too late. The OLYMPIA Task Force and Picon Fleet HQ have been already destroyed and Virgon is being nuked. The same is probably happening all over the system. Therefore, we go to the Hole and reassess the situation from there.”

Peete’s words were to the point and left little to argue. Lorne hated the Marshals, but he follows Peete’s orders. He owed him too much to turn against him.

“Ok, but I still don’t like having them around,” said Lorne. “I am going down to evaluate the repairs that need to be done.” He left the bridge still angry. Peete had to smile at Lorne’s reaction. He knew that Lorne would not be entirely satisfied. Nevertheless, Lorne was a reasonable man. He knew when to back down for a greater cause.

A slight shudder shook the ship as Janna completed the maneuvers to dock with the THEMIS. Then she put the engine settings to full throttle. The MARAUDER would not be able to go at full speed with the THEMIS. However, because it was

bigger than the Marshal gunship, its speed would not be significantly reduced. A few moments later, Janna turned off the power to most systems to reduce EM radiation. “Course set for the Hole, ETA 30 minutes,” she reported.

‘It’s going to take longer than I expected,’ thought Peete. “Brad, keep an eye on the passive sensors.” Then he turned to Matt who was still listening to wireless communications:

“What’s new on the war front?”

Matt took a deep breath before reporting the latest news. “Things are not good. Most of the Colonial Fleet’s vessels at Virgon lost power when the Cylons showed up. Just like the THEMIS. Six battlestars were destroyed along with all their fighters. There are a few reports that are just coming in saying that all the Colonies are being nuked. One thing that I do not understand is that

OpPlan Five has been called. What is that?”

“That explains why the THEMIS turned around while chasing us. It is the call for all available Colonial armed vessels to link up with Colonial Fleet ships to fight off the enemy. It means that things are desperate,” answered Peete grimly.

The KOBOL MARAUDER with the THEMIS in tow escorted by Rapier 138 quickly approached the Oort cloud of Cyrannus. Millions of asteroids and chunks of ice were getting bigger by the minute in the view ports. Janna adjusted the ship’s course to avoid the boulders. Her forehead glistened with sweat. She was used to navigate the MARAUDER through the field but not with another ship docked to it.

The Hole was deep in the cloud. The large number of metallic asteroids in the area made sensor sweeps of the field difficult. This made a perfect hideout for those who did not want to be found.

“The Hole is in sight,” announced Janna.

The hideout was built in a cavernous asteroid, which gave it its name. Peete discovered it 30 years ago while fleeing from Colonial Marshal Service ships. Then a privateer, he had been shipping drugs between Caprica and Sagitarra in an interplanetary shuttle he had bought with his military savings. He had been about to be inspected by Colonial Customs when he decided to run for it and had been pursued by two Colonial Marshal ships. He had jumped next to the Oort cloud and entered it. The Marshals had abandoned the chase after losing track of him in the cloud.

Peete had immediately seen a big potential for the 100 km wide asteroid. Its huge caverns could easily hold a battlestar-sized ship. Its ferrous composition made it ideal for hiding installations and also allowed for refining raw materials. He had stolen an ore refining ship, with mining equipment from the Aries Space Mining Corporation and had started to build his own little space dock. In order to pay and provide for extra materials, he had created a front mining company, the PB Mining Services, with the ore refining ship renamed GOLD DIGGER. It had turned out to be quite successful. That had helped him forge his own little smuggling empire, the Brak Ring. Not as big as those in the Chespek Sector, but the Brak Ring grew to include nearly a thousand members and several ships. The Hole had taken 5 years to achieve the initial stage. It included a small docking and ship repair facility, living quarters and a small warehouse. As the Brak Ring grew, the Hole complex was expanded to accommodate more ships, a bigger warehouse and more living quarters. It was the perfect hideout. In 30 years, Marshal and Colonial Fleet patrols had never been able to find it, even if they had come within a few thousand kilometres on certain occasions. The Cylons should not be able to find them either this time.

Peete smiled to himself, the Marshals will finally learn the secret of his success. In other circumstances, this would have been a disaster. Now, there was little other choice.

He turned to Matt and asked him to signal the Hole’s command center that they were coming in with guests and to order the ship technicians to prepare for repairs.

The ships headed for a large hole on one side of the asteroid. Nothing was apparent to indicate the hidden facility. As wide as 3 kilometres, the tunnel went deep inside to an even larger cave. The ships exited the entrance tunnel, into a port facility that would have made Colonial Fleet jealous. On the floor was a landing pad with magnetic seals and elevators leading to a pressurized hangar bay below. On the ceiling was a single crane on rails to handle cargo. There were two zero-G docking ports attached to the walls, one on each side, with connections to facilities embedded in the rock. On one other wall of the cave was a large windowed compartment housing the command center.

Peete ordered Janna to dock the THEMIS at docking port 1. The KOBOL MARAUDER would put down on the large landing pad along with the Rapier.

Peete asked Matt to transmit a message: “Tell the Rapier to land on pad 3 and wait to be lowered to the hangar.” After the THEMIS was attached to docking port 1, the MARAUDER set down on the landing pad and was lowered to the hangar bay. The bay was as wide as the cave and was able to fit two or three ships as big as the MARAUDER. In the bay lay several crates; a few servicing shuttles and the interplanetary shuttle Peete had started his business with. The servicing crew ran around to begin their work on the new arrivals as soon as they had been secured.

Lorne walked onto the bridge to get instructions. “Have the crew secure the MARAUDER and unload the FTL equipment in the warehouse. Bring the injured to the refinery, have Chief Hadley meet me in the conference room along with the Rapier pilot. Tell the ground crew to start repairs on the MARAUDER and the Rapier. Nobody touches the THEMIS until I say so,” Peete told him. Lorne acknowledged and went to work.

“Matt, upload all the information you gathered so far to the conference room and join us there,” ordered Peete. “I am going to the command center,” he added.

The fact that there had been no other ships at docking port 2 and in the hangar worried him. He had to go to the command center to get a status update on the Brak Ring.

The command center was large room with several computers and charts. It controlled all docking operations, the facilities and the group’s smuggling activities as well. It was crewed by a dozen people led by a long time friend of Peete’s, Rob Simms who was also the facility chief.

They had served together in the Colonial Fleet shortly after the war. Rob had been a technician in the CIC of the ATLANTIA. They had become friends very quickly and had frequently discussed their future after the service. They had wanted to go into business together and had planned to save a lot of their pay until they had reached 20 years of service. With their pension and their savings, they could have bought a cargo ship and transported goods for profit. However, the general demobilization had reduced the Fleet from a thousand ships to a few hundred. They both had been demobilized with only enough money to buy a single interplanetary shuttle. They had been very disappointed that they had not been able to continue their service. Like many others that had been demobilized, they had tried to survive as best as they could. They had chosen to ferry people between the Colonies. However, they could not compete with the big charter ships so they had resorted to smuggling drugs at the beginning and later, weapons. Business had not been good for them until they had discovered the Hole.

As Peete walked into the command center, he was greeted by the familiar and always loud voice of Rob. “What the hell are you doing?” yelled Rob visibly angry. “You show up late with two Marshal ships on top of that!” Everybody in the room stopped working and discreetly watched the scene.

It struck Peete that they did not understand what was going on. “You mean you don’t know?”

“Know what?” replied Rob.

Peete realized that it had only been a little more than an hour since the attack had begun. Signals from the nearest Colonial communications relay satellite would have taken at least an hour and a half to reach the Hole. ‘The first reports should get here in a matter of minutes’ he thought. ‘There is no way for them to know what has been going on.’

Peete walked to the facility’s public address system and picked up the microphone. He announced the grim news to the station’s entire personnel. Peete could tell that the announcement strongly surprised Rob and the rest of the personnel in the room. Shock and despair started to show on their faces.

“… In the face of the events, I decided to rescue the Marshals from their plight and offered them shelter here. Because of the Cylons, we are no longer criminals. We are at war. We might hate the authorities but the Colonies of Kobol are our home. We are humans fighting machines. Therefore, let us welcome our fellow humans as friends not as enemies and let us see what we can do to fight the Cylons. So say we all!” finished Peete putting down the microphone and as he said a silent prayer to himself.

Everyone in the command center was silent. Sobs could be heard from a woman in one corner of the room. Rob was standing dumbfounded, mouth wide open. “What are we going to do now, boss?” Rob managed to say after a few seconds.

“I need a full inventory of our supplies. We might be hiding here for a while. I want a full report on all our ships with their last know location. Finally, I want the immediate area and all message traffic monitored around the clock, “ordered Peete. “Once, you have passed on these tasks to the staff come meet with me in the conference room.”

Rob turned to his command staff to relay the orders while Peete left to meet his guests.

The conference room was at the end of the corridor leading to the command center. Peete opened the door on a large room. It had a long table in the middle with several chairs, on the walls, there was several works of art stolen from the various ships they had hijacked over the years, and on the farthest wall was an elaborate multi-media electronic board similar to those used in most university lecture rooms.

Peete was the first to get there. He sat down at the end of the table and leaned back to relax a bit. ‘The overall situation is not good so far,’ he thought. ‘I just hope the Fleet managed to reorganize itself, otherwise the war is already over.’ The door to the room opened and Lorne, Chief Hadley and a second Marshal walked in. ‘The Rapier pilot surely,’ remarked Peete to himself. He motioned everybody to sit down as Matt and Rob entered the room. Lorne presented everybody to each other. The Rapier pilot was named Lt Zev Davis. He stood 5’10” tall, well built with brown hair and eyes. The pilot was the first to talk.

“Thanks for saving our butts out there, Mr. Brak. That was frakkin great flying!” Lt Davis was a young man, so possibly he was a pilot that had recently graduated from the Colonial Marshal Academy. If so, this could have been his first combat experience and that would explain why he was easily impressed with the flying skills of others.

“I just give the orders. For the piloting skills, talk to Janna,” said Peete. Changing subjects, he turns toward Chief Hadley for an update on the CMS injuries.

“Most of those that were unconscious are awake now. They passed out because of the smoke and failing life support systems. My team of technicians and I were wearing pressure suits to deal with damage. Most of the injured were from the bridge and battle stations. Marshal Officers manned those. This includes Captain Yates, the second in command of the THEMIS. He is severely burned on his hands and face. He is in the infirmary. Do you have doctors by any chance?” the Chief asked.

“I am afraid not,” answered Peete. “But we have the medical equipment to treat burns. For the other injuries, I’ll see what we can do.” He looked around the table and saw that everybody was looking at him expecting more direction. Apparently, even the Marshals respected him. ‘What do they know about me?’ thought Peete.

“Okay, the last information we have of the battle is from before the jump. The same signals will be received here in only a few minutes. So, Rob, when we are done here go get an update and report everything to me,” said Peete. “Lorne, how are the repairs going on the MARAUDER?”

“All damaged gun turrets are beyond repair. I’ll have to scrap them for parts if there any that are still useful. Engine 1 will be easily repaired within the day. The wiring connecting it to the energizer got fused by the missile impact. As for the hull damage, it will take a week to fix. But it is still flyable,” reported Lorne.

“The Rapier’s attitude thrusters can be repaired easily,” said Chief Hadley.

“One of your bullets damaged a junction box close to the flight computer in the fight between us,” added Lt Davis. “What about the THEMIS? What should we do?”

“I saw something similar happen in the Cylon War,” said Peete. “At the beginning of the war, Cylons were constantly tapping into the computer networks of the Colonial Fleet. It caused severe losses. Eventually some commanders decided to disconnect all networks on their ships. They achieved success immediately. The word was passed on to the rest of the Fleet. That allowed us to force the Cylons to negotiate an Armistice. What happened today to the Fleet must have been the same kind of tactics.”

“That could explain it, the THEMIS was fully networked along with the Rapiers,” added Chief Hadley.

“Why didn’t the MARAUDER and my Rapier get powered down as well?” asked Lt Davis.

“The damage inflicted to your ship may have prevented whatever the Cylon did,” said Matt. “As for the MARAUDER, there is no network. The ship was from the Cylon War and did not have any when we got it.” Everybody was nodding at that piece of information. Matt continued: “Just before the THEMIS and Rapier 137 powered down, I detected an energy spike coming from the Cylon Fighters. It might be a signal disabling the ships. I’ll check the sensors logs with the recorders to see if it was an encrypted code. If so, I might be able to find out how to reactivate your ship,” said Matt looking at Chief Hadley.

“Good. However, I won’t be able to do any repairs on the THEMIS until that problem is fixed,” said Chief Hadley. “Once that is done, would it be possible to bring the THEMIS in the hangar to do repairs? It has landing gears.”

“Sure, no problem,” said Rob. “On the supply side, we have enough food for 6 months, Tylium fuel for a month. We have enough ammo for 5 full magazine loads for the MARAUDER. All anti-fighter ammo is Viper grade so it should fit in the THEMIS and Rapier magazines.” Chief Hadley added that their magazines were almost full.

Rob continued his report by saying that they had not received news from the other Brak Ring ships but that they were supposed to be operating close to the Colonies today. Only the GOLD DIGGER was in the area mining some iron ore. It was scheduled to come back to the Hole in two hours. Peete ordered it home immediately.

At this point they had pretty much covered all aspects of the situation. “Well, Chief. As soon as your crew and your ships are repaired, you’ll be able to rejoin your friends and the fight. That’s all for now. Go do your jobs,” concluded Peete.

Everybody got up and left the room. Peete and Rob walked together back to the command center. “The situation is really bad, isn’t it?” asked Rob with concern. “Just like 40 years ago?”

“From what I have heard so far, yes,” answered Peete. “I think the entire fleet was caught with its guard down.”

As they entered the command center, the female technician in charge of the communication systems walked to them with a paper in her hands. “The GOLD DIGGER has reported in. It will be docking shortly,” she said. “And this.”

Rob took the message and read it. His reaction showed it was not good news. Then he read it loud: “ATLANTIA and all other battlestars in task force destroyed. Admiral Nagala killed. Next senior officer is to assume command.”

“Looks like the Fleet is still having problems,” said Peete.

“How many of them do you think there are left out there?” asked Rob.

Just as Peete was about to answer that question, the comms technician brought another message.

FROM BSG-75 GALACTICA: Am taking command of the Fleet. All Colonial Units are directed to proceed to Ragnar Anchorage for regrouping and counter-attack. Acknowledge receipt via same encryption protocol. Adama.

“The GALACTICA?” said Rob. “Wasn’t it supposed to be decommissioned today?”

“Yes, it was supposed to,” answered Peete.

“Adama? That name rings a bell,” said Rob.

“That’s Commander Adama. He is the Viper ace of the Cylon War along with Commander Cain. Together they destroyed more Cylon Raiders than 3 entire Viper wings,” said Peete.

“I remember now. So he made it to Commander,” said Rob.

“Yeah. I heard the other day on Colonial News Network that he was supposed to retire with his ship,” added Peete.

“So he is taking command now. That means that all admirals have been killed,” said Rob. “The Fleet must be almost entirely destroyed by now.”

Walking to a map depicting the Cyrannus system, Peete was evaluating the situation. “Ragnar Anchorage, that’s on the other side of the system at this time of year. Even if the THEMIS is repaired quickly, the odds are that Adama will have moved what remains of the fleet to another location before the Marshals can join them.”

The female comm. technician brought another piece of news: “Boss, I heard reports that all the Colonies are being nuked and assaulted by Cylon invasion forces. The Fleet appears to be almost completely destroyed. The President of the Colonies and most senior members of the cabinet have been killed in the initial attack. Apparently, the Secretary of Education, Laura Roslin, has been sworn in as President.” As she finished, the female returned to her post.

“A teacher as President! Are things that desperate?” exclaimed Rob.

“It appears to be the case,” said grimly Peete. “Facing a situation like this, it is very likely that she will assemble survivors and go into hiding. Just like we are doing right now.”

“How is she going to assemble survivors on ships without attracting the attention of the Cylons?” asked Rob. “She needs a safe haven to do that.”

“You are right,” Peete said. “A safe haven where they could hide and organize before moving out to rebuild our military forces.”

Rob and Peete looked at each other, both considering the options, their assets. Without exchanging a word, they formed a plan. After nearly 40 years of working together, they had learned to think as a team. It was one of the reasons why they had been so successful. Resolve written clearly in their faces, they nodded at each other knowing exactly what they would do next.

Rob went to talk to the technicians in charge of base logistics while Peete called for Lorne, Chief Hadley and Lt Davis to join him in the conference room.

A few minutes later, they were all back planning the next step.

“How soon can the MARAUDER and the Rapier fly back to the Colonies?” quickly asked Peete.

“I should be able to bring engine 1 back online within the hour,” said Lorne. “But the damaged weapons and the hull won’t be repaired.”

“Never mind that. We are going to do some Search and Rescue,” said Rob.

“The Rapier can fly but the damage isn’t repaired yet,” said Chief Hadley.

“That’s all right. Lt. Davis, Lorne and I are just going to look for survivors and bring them here,” said Peete.

The plan was to jump to the other side of the Batwah Debris Field. It was an asteroid field that separated the outer planets from the inner planets of the system, where all 12 Colonies were located. The ships were to jump there, silently monitor for human ships fleeing the inner system, and meet and bring them to safety. A meeting point was setup a little inside the Oort cloud, where Rob would meet them with the interplanetary shuttle to guide them to the Hole.

“At the first sign of the Cylons, jump out of the area and far away from the Hole. After making sure you are not followed, jump back here,” recommended Peete. “If the ships that you meet are not FTL-capable, send me an encrypted message with the coordinates. I’ll see if I can FTL-tug them to safety with the MARAUDER.” Everybody nodded their approval of the plan.

“Very well. Everybody go to your ships and prepare for departure in 1 hour,” concluded Peete. All the people present got up and left the room, except for Rob who seemed to have some concerns.

“What’s on your mind, Rob?”

“How many people do you expect to rescue? How many ships? We have good facilities and supplies but it was all designed for our group only. What are we going to do if there are too many of them?” asked Rob.

Peete paused to think a little about that issue. The question was valid. Their supplies and space were limited. They have room for a few ships and their crews. How many survivors would be on them?

“I guess we will have to wait and see how many we find,” answered Peete. “If we can’t handle the numbers, we will have to move everybody to a safer place or expand the Hole. We’ll see when we come back.”

On that note, Peete and Rob left for the hangar to get ready for their new mission.

End of Chapter 2

Chapter 3: Search and Rescue

(H + 3 hours)

Down in the hangar, the ground crews were busy preparing the ships for departure. Peete had been sitting for a few minutes on crates reviewing readouts from the MARAUDER. What he saw was not good, the lower hull that had been damaged in the battle significantly reduced the ships structural integrity. It meant that if the MARAUDER was to be it there again, the hull would be breached and the ship could be depressurized. He would have to be extra careful.

Putting down the charts, he looked around. The MARAUDER was almost ready to go. The Rapier was powering up and next to it so was an interplanetary shuttle. Every time Peete looked at it, he felt a warm feeling inside him. This was The Shuttle that started it all. The ground crew was still working on it. He felt a smile form on his face when some old memories came into his mind. It was old and hard to maintain but he would not get rid of it for any reasons. He rarely let other people fly it. He would have liked to fly it today, but the urgency of the situation dictated that he flies on board the MARAUDER. Instead, the only other person he trusted with it would fly The Shuttle, and that is Rob. Peete saw him walk out of it and head toward his spot.

“Everything checks out. We should be ready to fly in a few minutes” said Rob. Peete nodded his acknowledgement and stood to head toward the MARAUDER when a somebody ran into the hangar after him.

“Wait for me!” yelled Matt running towards him.

“Not this time Sneaky” Peete said. Seeing the disappointment in his face, he added : “I need you to start working on the THEMIS. Grab Chief Hadley and figure out what the Cylons exactly did. We need to know quickly. Our survival depends on it.”

“But you need me at the sensor suite” replied Matt.

“Brad can do the job. You have taught him all he needs to know for now. All he needs is to work on his own to get more experience. I need you on the THEMIS.” Sensing the tone of an order in Peete’s voice, Matt turned to get Chief Hadley and left the hangar.

“Well, see you in a few hours Boss” said Rob walking back to The Shuttle while Brak headed to the MARAUDER.

One after the other, the three ships where lifted to the launch pad. In unison they exited the Hole, and once clear they all parted on their way. The Rapier and MARAUDER would jump to preset coordinates in the Batwah Debris Field while The Shuttle would fly to the rendezvous point just outside the Oort Cloud to wait for any surviving ships that would be found.

The MARAUDER exited its jump at the edge of the field close to medium sized asteroids. It would provide good cover from Cylon detection.

“Janna, power down all non essential systems. Brad, do a passive sweep of the area” ordered Peete. The ship powered down to a silence, lights where dimmed as well. Unlike Battlestar, the MARAUDER’s bridge had view ports. This allowed the ship to have better situation awareness when it was doing planetary landings. Since Battlestars can’t land on planets, and that its sensors where much more efficient view ports on the Bridge were deemed unnecessary. In power down mode, the bridge’s lights had to be turned off to prevent being spotted by light sensitive detection devices.

After a few seconds, Brad reported all clear. “Monitor all frequencies” ordered Peete.

“There is a lot a static coming from the inner planets… I believe from the nuclear blasts” said Brad. “ I am getting some transmissions that I can’t decode on some frequencies must be… wait a minute” Brad paused while pushing buttons on his console. “I am getting a signal on a civilian channel, it is an emergency beacon bearing 250 by 198.”

“ Janna” said Peete. “Power up the engines just to get underway toward the origin of the signal. We will coast the rest of the way. Brad keep monitoring.” The MARAUDER’s engines were brought briefly back to life long enough to get them going.

After a few minutes, Brad was able to give a better readout of the area around the signal’s origin.

“The beacon seems to be coming from a passenger liner. I also detect 2 medium freighters right next to it.”

“What about the Cylons or any Colonial Fleet ships in the area?” asked Lorne.

“None detected with passive sensor range” reassured Brad. Twenty minutes later, they were within visual range of the ships. The comm. system was turned on and keyed to the beacon’s frequency.

“This is KOBOL MARAUDER, can we be of assistance?” enquired Peete of the other ships.

“This is DREAMLINER” replied a crackly voice. “We are the Kobol Cruise liner. We are accompanied by two freighters from Sagitarra Freight Lines, SFL Klengar and SFL Kildan. We were all heading toward Sagitarra when the attack broke out. We had no where to go but here. We have been hiding for the last few hours. We don’t know what to do next.”

“We may be able to help you on that point, DREAMLINER” said Peete. “Brad is there any other ships in the area?” He shook is head. Peete authorized a quick active scan of the area to get a better picture The response was again negative.

“This is MARAUDER. Do all of your ships have FTL-capability?” All ships replied the affirmative. “We are transmitting you some coordinates. You are to jump there and meet with a shuttle. My friend Rob will guide you to safety. We will be staying behind to find more survivors.”

“This is the KLENGAR. Thank the Lords of Kobol for your help, MARAUDER. See you there later.” A few minutes later the 3 ships jumped to safety. As Peete was going to settle down a bit for more search, a transmission was received on Brad’s console.

“Boss. Lt Davis is requesting our assistance at his location. He has a small surprise for us apparently.” The MARAUDER immediately jumped in to see what was going on.

It took once again a few seconds to get rid of the uneasy sensation, but the sight in front of the MARAUDER brought a smile onto Peete and the bridge crew’s faces. Not too far from them was the Rapier floating next to a Colonial Auxiliary Fleet light freighter escorted by two Viper Mark VIIs. The Vipers were probably not expecting them because they swung around and went to intercept the MARAUDER.

“Unidentified ship! This is Colonial Fleet, identify yourself and state your purpose!” one of the Vipers said.

“This is KOBOL MARAUDER, here to provide you our assistance” answered calmly Peete.

“You register as a pirate ship! Power down your engines, or you will be destroyed” warned the lead Viper.

“Gamma Leader, this is Rapier 138” intervened Lt Davis. “Stand down! Stand down!”

“Rapier 138, are you out of your mind? This ship is believed to belong to a notorious smuggler” replied Gamma Leader.

“Yes, I know. They are the friends I was telling you about. They can provide you shelter.”

“He is right, Gamma Leader” said Peete. “I can provide you with any help I can, and considering the situation I do not think you have much choice.”

“MARAUDER, I will not accept help from a known criminal and I am under strict orders to escort this freighter to its destination” replied Gamma Leader.

“But both of you are running low on fuel” said Lt Davis. “Most Fleet installations in the area must have been destroyed by now and we have not received any details of other Colonial Fleet ships in the area that survived. Where will you get fuel?”

Gamma Leader considered Lt Davis’ words. He was right. If the Cylon were to capture the highly classified cargo, they would get an advantage over the Fleet that would be hard to recover from. With the attack, they had to fly an irregular flight plan that consumed a lot of the Viper’s fuel reserves. Facing a delay in their transit, they decided to wait in the Batwah Debris Field until they could get a refuelling ship to come help them. Now with the Fleet almost totally destroyed, they were running short of options.

“We are not going to eject and abandon the Vipers here, unless one of you has a very long fuel line” answered Gamma Leader.

“That won’t be necessary,” said Peete. “It is going to be tricky flying but the MARAUDER’s cargo hold is big enough for both the Vipers and we will be able to refuel your fighters.” Seeing that there is no other ways to solve this problem, they accepted the invitation.

Following Brak’s instructions, the MARAUDER turned around to orient the cargo doors toward the Vipers. One after the other, they approached slowly toward the doors. It was going to be a tight fit. There was going to be only a few feet of clearance on all sides. A false manoeuvre and it would be a catastrophe. Gamma Two was coming in first. Gently adjusting the course, the Viper approached slowly. Everything seemed to be going fine, until a moment of nervousness. The Viper jerked up hitting the tail fin on the ceiling then smashing hard on the floor when Gamma Two overcompensated damaging the front landing gear. In his Viper, Gamma Leader held his breath.

“Crossbow, are you okay?”

“Shaken but okay, Gamma Leader. Your turn”

Being a much more experienced pilot than Gamma Two, he had little trouble bringing in his Viper. It settled smoothly on the cargo bay floor. The doors closed and the cargo bay was pressurized. The pilots started to unstrap when Lorne walked in followed by a bunch of technicians.

“Get the refuelling going, and you two check the damaged Viper” pointing at two technicians carrying tool boxes. He then turned to Gamma Leader who had climbed out of his fighter.

“I am Lorne Hador, the XO of the MARAUDER,” extending a hand.

“Lt Pawell” he answered bluntly. “I want to see your boss. And nobody touches that landing gear” he added pointing at the damaged Viper.

“Hey, we are on the same side now” replied Lorne indignantly. “Beside those two technicians are my best mechanics on board. You can trust them.”

“Very well. Crossbow, keep an eye on them” he ordered his wingman. He then followed Lorne to the bridge.

“Our Warrior friend here wants to have a chat with you, Boss” he told Peete. They exchanged quick handshakes and presentations.

“We want to get going as quickly as possible” said Lt Pawell. “This freighter needs to be brought to its destination ASAP.”

“What is so important aboard?” asked Lorne.

“It’s classified” said Pawell with a look insisting not to ask more questions. “I need to contact Picon Fleet HQ, for some reason we have not been able to contact them.”

“It has been destroyed on the initial strike” answered Peete. “Most of the Fleet as been destroyed as far as we know. Commander Adama, on board GALACTICA, has taken command and his regrouping at Ragnar Anchorage. We have not heard of other Colonial units since.”

Pawell was about to talk when warning signals started on Brad’s sensor console.

“Boss, there is a full squadron of Cylon fighters heading this way. They will be on top of us in about 5 minutes.”

Lorne immediately ordered the crew to get to their battle stations. Pawell was about to go back to the hangar when Brak stopped him.

“That won’t be necessary. You are coming with us.”

“Out of the question. I have to protect the freighter.”

“Listen, you have no chance against all of them. Besides, the Cylons are capable of shutting down your systems before you get the chance to fire your guns. That’s how they defeated the Fleet. We can provide you shelter until you are ready to get back on your way. Does that freighter have an FTL-drive?”

Seeing that he had little choice, he agreed with the plan since the freighter did have a jump drive. The coordinates where transmitted to the Colonial freighter. With a minute to spare, the MARAUDER and Rapier 138 jumped to the rendezvous point with their new companions. They reappeared a little off the point where Rob was waiting for them in The Shuttle along with the three civilian ships they met earlier. Forming a convoy, they headed back to the Hole.