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Chapter 35: Viral Spread

The Benson Family had survived the attack on the colonies because they were on a vacation trip from their home on Scorpia to Caprica. Their transportation had been damaged by a cylon raider before meeting up with seven other ships and beginning the monthlong journey to join up with Mercury and Solaria, nicknamed the Battlestar Museum.

A family of 8, with six young children, they were a noisy bunch that often-disturbed nearby refugees from the Colonies.

The youngest child, Marissa was two years old and quite cute. She ran around the converted cargo hold getting hugs and kisses and a pat on the head. Twelve hours earlier she had received affection from a marine, who had been infected with the virus during a disturbance over food distribution.

Marissa showed no symptoms but her constantly runny nose proved to be the perfect venue for virus transmission. Within two hours the entire family was infected.

A airlock seal had become compromised, and the Benson family were loaded up into a raptor and taken to the Solaria. They were registered and assigned quarters in what had previously been marine barracks.

The registration process had earned Marissa a few hugs and infected ten people who had been on the aging battlestar since the fall of the Colonies.

Within twelve hours there were over a hundred infected people moving about the battlestar.

Chapter 34: Evidence

Lieutenant Joe “Squirrel” Davis  was 40 years old and still a lieutenant. This was not due to a lack of skill as a Viper pilot, it was due to misbehavior off duty. He was in fact an exceptional pilot who held a type rating on different types of raptor, as well as every Viper ever flown, with the exception of the Mark I which was too old to be flown any longer.

I hard landing and a sore back had relegated him to piloting a raptor. Every pilot on the casualty reduced flight team had performed many more landings than were required to retain their type rating.

So due to the crew shortage, he had drawn a bus flight that was going to be jumping around the Colonies and surrounding sectors. The mission was to locate natural resources from which to sustain this small fleet. Tylium, water and several metal ore’s were on the search list for todays mission.

More often than not, this was the most boring of possible duties. You jumped, you tried to pay attention to the DRADIS display, took some reading and then moved on to the next jump point.

Rookies and insane people were the only ones who craved action these days. You did not want action, you wanted boring.

Today’s exploration route took them into the Promar sector.

This was way beyond the red line, beyond which non-networked navigation computers could not calculate jump coordinates for a single jump. It was about a dozen plotted jumps away from where the Mercury was hiding.

It was time for another jump They had found nothing. Hardly a surprise.

After the white flash of light and disorientation they scene ahead came into focus.

There was a thud as some kind of debris impacted on the Raptor’s hull.

A couple of quick control moves avoided an even more dangerous collision.

“Looks like battle debris,” Spirit, the attractive RIO officer reported.

After pulling a few more levers Squirrel stopped the raptor dead in space. 

“Bring up a scan will you Spirit?” Lieutenant Davis asked.

“On nav 1,” she replied after a few seconds.

“Lets pick a few pieces,” Squirrel suggested.

“Roger that,” Spirit said, looking unhappy at the way this operation had turned out.”

* * *

The debris was laid out on the floor of a cargo bay. The paint job was distinctive, it was the color of the Mark VII Viper. Commander Lawson was walking stiffly as if she had exercising recently. Perhaps she had worked out and overdone things a bit.

She looked at the array of debris pieces on the floor and feigned mild interest.

“What am I looking at XO?”

Major Ramirez “Battle debris from the Battlestar Galactica.  The Science geek’s say it is about a month old.

Lawson walked slowly along the edge of the samples knowing this represented another dead Colonial pilot. She came to a stop in front of a burned-out box shaped device. 

“Is that the,” Lawson paused.

“The voice data recorder,” Major Ramirez acknowledged.

“Anything good on there?”

Ramirez handed over a paper transcript.

“This looks like a page turner,” Lawson yawned sleepily.

“It’s mostly scuttlebutt. Take a look at page six,”

“Jolly and Green bean,” nice call signs.

She furrowed her brow as she concentrated.

* * *

Jolly: “Can you believe it the secretary of education is now President of the Colonies?”

Green bean: “ I heart she was sleeping with the president.”

Jolly: “How the frack does that matter now.”

Green bean: “Nothing. I just don’t understand how a school teacher is going to lead us to earth.”

Jolly: “I don’t think there is an earth. I think the old man just made it up to give us a purpose.”

Green bean: “I’ve been flying for Commander Adama for seven years and he’s always stood up for his men and he’s never lied to me.”

Jolly: “I wonder when we are going to get a break. Every thirty-three minutes the Cylons attack. You can set your watch by them.”

Green bean: “I just hope we don’t draw this patrol too often. Our asses are hanging out here, trying to set up an electronic scan of the toasters.”

There were warning beeps.

Unknown: “Contact right on top of us. Cylon base ship launching raiders.”

Green bean: “Break right we’re on a collision course.”

Jolly: “Taking fire.”

Eva Lawson looked up from the transcript. “Did you find bodies?”

“Negative,” Ramirez replied. “Either the Cylons or the Colonial fleet picked them up. They may be alive. Damage to the raptor was not complete. A larger piece might have been salvaged  by the Galactica.”

“What does it mean to us?”

“Well,” Major Ramirez said. “A couple of things. There is a civilian command authority. Laura Roselyn is president as per succession rules. If we happen upon her, we will have to follow her orders. 

Commander Adama is a proper commander and is senior to you Commander Lawson. You would have to follow his orders if we were to happen upon him. The difficult part is the information we received about the Pegasus. Rear Admiral Cain committed a war crime and must be removed from command.”

“The diary is enough to make that claim stick?”

“According to the code of military justice, Admiral Cain must be removed from command pending a court-martial.”

“Of course if she happens to meet Adama and  he’s not aware of this situation, he will be required to follow her orders.”

“All right,” Lawson said decisively. “We have to prepare documentation and we should be on the lookout for more information. Any idea on where the Galactica was headed?”

“Earth,” Ramirez replied.

“There is no earth,” Lawson answered. Adama made it up.

Chapter 33: Overload

Commander Eva Lawson walked into CIC more relaxed than she ever remembered. All her career she had been fracking up due to her strong sex drive when she could have just had a civilian relationship. This was so much easier if the fracker would stop showing up in her quarters unannounced.

When she saw Major Ramirez with a smug grin on her face, she wondered if she should not have her lover investigated thoroughly. It was obvious from the previous conversation that the Executive Officer was taking care of that.

“What’s on the agenda?” Commander Lawson asked.

“I ordered a series of raptor recon sorties to start finding us the resources we need to manufacture more Vipers and replacement hull plating. We’ve got several sets of good readings that might lead to some ore.”

“You didn’t ask for a meeting on that did you?”

“No Sir. One of our raptors picked up signs of a civilian fleet. Well what’s left of it anyway. Cylon’s decimated it a couple of weeks ago we think. The pilots are waiting in the command ready room. Jaybird and Plano.”

She sighed as she turned to leave the room. “This is not going to be one of those fun meetings they talked about when I applied to Battlestar Command School?”

“No Sir.”

Minutes later she was in the command ready room. The map had been cracked but the models of Vipers, Raptors and one of the Battlestar Mercury were still on the table. Jaybird and Plano both stool up when she entered the room.

“At ease,” Lawson waved her hand. “Tell me what you found.”

“Well Sir,” Jaybird began, “we found the remains of a fourteen-ship civilian fleet. It was at least twenty plotted jumps from the Colonies.”

“That’s conservative,” Plano shifted in his seat, looking like he needed to lose enough weight. “These were probably civilian FTL drives, we are not sure.”

Lawson tilted her head to the side. “Out with it.”

“The ships were stripped. FTL, weapons lots of gear.”

“So the Cylons stripped it, what is the big deal?”

“No Sir,” Plano continued. “The Battlestar Pegasus stripped it.”

“Why do you say that?”

Plano dropped a data chip on the desk. “They recorded some logs after Pegasus left them stranded. The missing parts in this fleet represented everything we would need to provide spare parts to an attack damaged Battlestar.”

“Oh my,” Commander Lawson sighed. Now she had an outlaw Admiral to deal with. Somebody that outranked her and had soon poor judgement.  “All right. Get with the CAG and lets do some long range recon flights. We need to figure out what happened to the Battlestar Pegasus.”

Under her breath she stated that Rear Admiral Cain was going to have to be arrested for war crimes.

Lawson looked at the wall clock, realizing she had been on shift for nearly seventeen hours.

She decided to get some rack time. Alone this time.  Having a civilian buddy with benefits had a corrosive impact on her sleep budget and her readiness.

* * *

Commander Eva Lawson had just entered the deepest part of the human sleep cycle when a buzzing interrupted her dream about a visit to Tauron.  It was a strange dream to be truthful, but she needed the sleep.

She turned over in bed and slapped where the communications panel was supposed to be. She knocked an old style phone off the hook, as even modern Battlestars had low tech communications to keep the Cylons from listening in.

Groggy, she had trouble understanding the message.  “Lieutenant,” she said, “speak slowly please.”

“Recon just found a fleet of eight civilian ships. Conditions are pretty severe aboard, but we have a civilian fleet Sir.”

“This is good news,” Lawson ran a hand through her curls. She was having the mother of all bad hair days. At least as Commander she had her own private shower. “Why did you wake me up?”

“There is a problem Sir. A virus has infected most of the fleet. They need medical supplies and their engineers are telling us they might not be able to maintain life support much longer.”

* * *

Commander Eva Lawson yawned as she walked in to the planning ready room. Just as she lowered her arms Major Ramirez offered up a cup of steaming coffee.

With a grateful look she smiled. “Now I know I was right to make you the XO. What’s the protocol for an outbreak like this?”

“Our survey team estimates the virus has infected 25% of the passengers of the fleet. All vessels are having an outbreak.”

“What’s the mortality factor?” She stopped walking as she came face to face with a middle-aged man with silver hair. Once he had sported an athletic build, but now he had a bulge in his middle.

“We don’t have good data on mortality, but conditions in this fleet are unsanitary,” the man, wearing a white lab coat over his military greens reported.

“Who am I talking to?” the commander looked confused.

“Colonel, Wilson DeMarco,” the doctor answered. “Retired until the attacks that is.”

“What are we going to do about this outbreak doctor.”

“Colonial military policy is to quarantine the ships and provide aid. There are nearly twelve thousand people jammed into those ships. Conditions are unsanitary. Besides the virus there may be a secondary outbreak of cholera. I’ve already ordered the survey teams into quarantine. We will need to keep them that way for fourteen days.”

“What the frack doc, we are already short of pilots.”

“This is a very contagious virus. It’s killed over four percent of the people that were infected in the two weeks prior to us discovering the fleet.”

“All right,” Commander Lawson ordered. “Full quarantine. Lets get some supplies to those ships.”

Major Ramirez walked up with a hand held communications device. 

“What now?” Lawson snapped, 

“The Commander of the W.S. Wright says he needs to speak to you.”

“Does he need to speak with me? We’ve just encountered twelve thousand civilians with the potential to drain our resources completely or kill us with a deadly virus.”

“Yes Sir,” Ramirez handed over the walkie talkie.

“DeMarco you are in charge of the virus outbreak. Nobody sets foot on those ships. Get with logistics and tell them what supplies are needed to take care of this.”

“From the looks of these manifests, they need to off load several thousand off overcrowded ships”

“Well they can’t do that now can they, unless we want the museum to get infected.”

“I’ll get a team to develop a test for this virus and we can take people who aren’t sick and transfer them to the Battlestar Museum. There are probably a lot of people that can help crew that ship.”

“Get on it and get out of my face Colonel.”

She turned her back to him, playing with her uniform buttons with one hand and cradling the portable communications device with her shoulder.

“This is Kevin McGowen of the Delphi Trader,” the fracking device was on speaker mode. Lawson could not figure out in five seconds how to make the communication private and promptly stopped trying.

“This is Major, I mean Commander Eva Lawson. What have you got for me?”

“We are not the only civilian fleet. A week ago we picked up an escape pod from another fleet. They were traveling with the Battlestar Galactica and Secretary of Education Laura Roslyn was the president.”

“Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?” Lawson asked. 

“The survivors claimed to be looking for the home of the lost thirteenth tribe of Kobol, searching for Earth.”

“Roger that,” Lawson said. “Keep a lid on this information. We’ll develop a test for this virus and then get you over here for a one on one talk.”

“We are having to eject bodies into space,” McGowen reported. “We’ve lost over a thousand people from this outbreak. We’ve been out of fresh water for three days.”

“We will take care of you. Lawson out.  What else could go wrong today?” She fumbled for the off button until giving up by slamming the device onto the map board, sending a scale model of the Mercury skidding in its wake. The model tumbled on its side and fell off the table.The NCO who retrieved it

Chapter 32: Damage

32

Eva Lawson and Maria Ramirez were sitting together in the pilots ready room, some papers strewn on a portable table. Battle damage had shattered glass in the commander’s quarters and office so Commander Lawson was temporarily homeless.

“So how bad is it XO?” She steeled herself for the news which she already knew would not be good.

“Couple of hundred hits damaging the ships armor. We have teams crawling on the outside of the ship applying patch kits.” Ramirez looked thinner and the white streak through her hair looked like it was getting wider.

“Remind me what is a patch kit?” Lawson knew she had read it somewhere, but just could not remember.

“This ship can turn raw ore into Mark VII Vipers and raptors. We can also produce hull replacement kits to repair damage to the outer armor during a long mission. Right now we are not producing, we are just drawing down from stores. The problem here Commander is we are consuming supplies and we lack the trained crew to operate the equipment and produce more of anything this ship can produce.”

“Why weren’t we properly crewed?” Lawson asked.

“Well,” Maria Ramirez said, “our mission was to patrol the Cylon frontier. If we were sent out to explore deep space and look for more Colonies then we would have had a full production staff aboard.”

The commander sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She needed a shower. “Can we train our people to run these production suites?”

“We can train anyone. The same VR suites we are using to train new Viper pilots can train people how to manufacture. The problem is we are short of people.  We lost a few hundred pilots during the fall when the starboard pod depressurized. So we’re not short of Vipers, those were mostly serviceable.”

“So we don’t need to produce vipers until the number of pilots balances with the number of planes,” Lawson added helpfully.

“Right. We are going through pilots and planes pretty quickly. Ten Raptors were destroyed when they charged the base stars. Another two dozen were damaged, mostly small stuff but it takes time.”

“I’m not forgetting we lost half our deck gang and transferred some people to the museum to maintain those birds.”

“Right Commander,” Ramirez pointed to a paper on the table. “At the rate we are going we will be out of pilots in about six months.”

“We can’t do big, high risk ops,” Commander Lawson said. “It may feel good to throttle down the Cylon fuel supplies but they will always have enough fuel to operate three or four more base stars which is more than they need to destroy us if we get caught like we did yesterday.”

“I supported the tactical move because it was likely to shorten the battle and conserve resources. It did not turn out that way. We have to knock this big bang crap out. We see a lone base star, we can make a charge and usually take out the enemy in a few minutes. Recon says they are travelling in threes right now which is enough firepower to engage us in a battle we can’t win with light damage.”

“So” Eva Lawson’s hand went on her chin and she thought. “We need to draw them out of these safe formations. Low intensity conflict. Jump, spool, fire and jump. Get better recon.”

“Exactly Commander.” Ramirez looked at her watch. “Your quarters are going to be ready in about five minutes or my boot is going up some ass. Long term, if we are going to produce outer hull replacement gear or planes we are going to have to identify civilians with the necessary skills and offer them better quarters on Mercury.”

“I’ll speak with the civie leaders and maybe we can entice a few with some better quarters.”

“That’s an XO job Sir. Get some rest, maybe some exercise, and I will set you up with meetings to close the deal.” Her emphasis on the word exercise had subtext to it.

“Thank you Major,” Lawson picked up the reports and walked out. There were no parents to notify and that robbed her of closure. She looked at the paper in horror. Her actions had killed 34 pilots and wounded another 19.

Commander Lawson picked up the reports and left Major Ramirez working on other details that fell into the job queue of an XO. It was clear that the responsibility was weighing on her and it looked like she was visibly losing weight. She could afford to lose some weight but the pace had been steady in the month since the attacks.

When she walked into her quarters, the crews were picking up their tools and clearing out of the outer office. Several of the display cases had been shattered. Lawson could not quite remember what was there, perhaps it was models of the ships that Admiral Mueller had commanded.

“I guess are going to have to put something new in the display case Commander.” It was her lover Brother John.

“How did you get in here?” Lawson asked, tilting her head to the side.

“You are short staffed,” he grinned impishly. “I volunteered to do damage control. It looked like a Cylon shell exploded in here when we got here.”

“Yeah,” Lawson began to undo her hair as she walked in the office into the living quarters. The bed was made with different sheets and blankets. “We’ve been using up the resources of this Battlestar at a pretty fast pace.”

“Do tell,” John asked curiosity in his voice.

“Do get into the bedroom and get ready to make me forget I’m a Commander and thousands of lives are depending on me.”

“Get your clothes off then,” John said in a commanding tone.

Chapter 31

The Mercury CIC was on edge, having attempted to jump directly into  a firing position that provided a targeting solution for the main guns. The current thinking on tactics was the Mercury’s forward facing guns were so devastating the preferred tactic was to charge targets at high speed and aim at the enemy ships enter axis and cut her in two on the first pass.

“DRADIS” Major Ramirez ordered.

The display rippled showed a possible contact and then went dark.

“They are jamming the DRADIS!” an NCO who knew her stuff shouted.

“I’m expecting a target dead ahead,” Commander Lawson barked.

“Radiological warning,” an officer shouted urgently.

The DRADIS formed an image before breaking up onto static.

“The base star is not in the position reported by recon,” Ramirez warned.

“Engines ahead flank speed,” Lawson ordered. ‘Evasive course.”

“Inbound nukes,” another officer shouted. “Eighteen of them!”

“It’s an ambush,” someone else shouted as they felt the engines kick in with emergency power.

“Triple A full automatic,” Ramirez and Lawson both ordered.

The sound of the guns firing an intense barrage filled the CIC.

“Flak has taken out twelve, scratch that sixteen inbounds. Stand by 17 confirmed kill’s one damaged.”

The roar filled the ship as the entire ship rocked and rolled while still accelerating.

“Set course for a lazy S” Lawson ordered. “Think of her as a big viper. We’ll swing around and take them out before we jump home.”

“FTL offline, repeat off line.” Ramirez was on the phone taking a damage report.

“Repair estimate?” Lawson asked.

“Three hours. Shock damage to two of the three FTL drives actuator arms. One can take us through one jump. FTL number three needs a replacement before we can jump. We need all three units working to jump this barge.”

“DRADIS contact, three new Cylon base stars, launching raiders.”

“Definitely an ambush,” Lawson concluded while planning her next move. The base stars were in a classic bracket forming a box around the Mercury where they could fire a barrage and wear her down with the shear volume of fire.

“Launch vipers, arrow formation they need to clear a path between us and base star number two. Alter course to two two zero use thrusters for negative z. I think we’ll have a firing solution in ten seconds. Main guns salvo mode. Use course correction to fly us toward center axis. Weapons free, anything that can fire forward.”

The distinctive report of the forward weapons echoed throughout the ship. The DRADIS showed one of the targets growing larger and ten seconds later break into several large pieces.

“She’s gone Sir. Nice shooting.”

“Okay prepare to recover the vipers. Launch two attack raptors on their original mission. How long can we keep up this burn and keep away from the remaining three base stars?”

“Two hours and forty minutes but the problem is the raiders can jump ahead of us and block us.”

“Recall vipers, reload, refuel and re-arm. We’ll keep a squadron in the air to deal with raiders.”

“We’re not going to do well with this giant ship showing them our ass Sir,” Ramirez said.

“Major have you been reading up on battle tactics?” Lawson looked bemused. “What am I thinking, of course you have. What am I missing?”

“This shark’s teeth are the main guns up front Sir,” the former systems analyst said. “It’s their advantage us showing them our tail.”

“We can’t take sustained fire from all three,” Commander Lawson scrunched her lips a bit as she thought.

“You said it yourself, think of it as a big viper that turns really slow.”

“Just like flying a Mark VII, they scatter when we charge and if we get lucky we isolate one of them and get a kill salvo in on her center axis. Tell engineering the ride is going to get rough. Hard about, aim for their center. Forward guns are weapons free if they get a firing solution.”

“I’m letting the vipers know. We are going to take a pounding Sir.”

* * *

Karla Knox, call sign one day had just launched to take her third rotation defending the crippled Battlestar. She was leading the squadron this round because during the last rotation her squadron commander happened had been hit by enemy fire. His viper had been damaged and he had suffered minor injuries.

“We’re doing what!?”

She had heard the instructions but did not believe her ears. Out numbered 3 to 1 the commander was trying to face their three pursuers.

The reason that’s why they paid me and there’s a big cubits. She got on the wireless and addressed her squadron. “Make a 180 we’re going up the gut. We’re helping the beast try and turn the tables on three Cylon stars. May the Lords of Kobol be with us.”

She yanked on her stick and poured on the power and turned her mark seven viper around. The DRADIS was filled with raiders. They were plenty of targets. She got back on the wireless. “Let’s make a hole for the big barge that we used to know as the Battlestar Mercury. All vipers weapons free.

From her cockpit she could see the Battlestar making a sharp turn and heading back towards there for sewers. The three base stars did not seem to know what to do about this tactic. This was a situation in which one was expected to run as quickly as possible.

It took less than three minutes for them to use all their ammunition and cut a hole in the sky it was full of raiders. Karla Knox was not certain that the smart thing to do right now is to do a combat landing on the Battlestar. However, with no ammunition and not a lot of fuel to back it up that was not there was very little choice.

“Well children it’s time to do combat landing while we’re doing a battle charge of the Battlestar mercury. Blue squadron I hope you’re ready to launch because we are out of ammunition in doing us a combat landing”

“Blondie you are fracking crazy,” said a familiar voice in her wireless headset ear piece.

“At least I’m not ugly like you rocket pants! I’m going to lead them in I’m taking port side lower pod. We are not going to wait to see if she survives this battle run we just got a land and pray.”

“All vipers get in position to support a battle charge. Mercury is going to turn and fight.”

“That is fracking crazy,” another pilot chimed in.

“All right,” Knox shouted into her wireless microphone, “pipe down. Commander has a plan. We are going to help make it happen.

* * *

The lights flickered in the CIC as another blast hit the ship shaking the entire ship. Commander Eva Lawson paced a few steps in each direction. Suddenly she turned and barked out an order.

“Send extra men to engineering to help get those extra actuator arms. Give me ship-wide I want to say something.”

An NCO handed Commander Lawson. She took a deep breath gathering her strength.

“This is the commander,” she began. After a pause during which the ship was rocked twice by long range fire. “I’ve made a bad tactical decision and we are outnumbered five to one. We are on the run, showing the wrong end of this Battlestar to the cylon base ships. Our tactical situation is bad. If we are going to die today we are going to do it like Colonial warriors, fighting hard.”

“We are going to turn and fight. You have in the past month grown into the finest crew in the Colonial fleet. I am honored and proud to serve with you and fight the second Cylon war. You are ready. Let’s show these cowards, who could only defeat the twelve colonies of Kobol with trickery, not a fair battle, how we fight. That is all.”

With a flick of her thumb, Lawson flicked off the microphone, bringing the broadcast to a conclusion.

“So say we all!” A young, female NCO blurted out.

Two more people piped in. “So say we all!”

The entire CIC chimed in for the next round. “SO SAY WE ALL”

There was an echo coming from other parts of the massive fighting ship, the words penetrating the very frame of the ship.

“Prepare main guns for a firing solution,” Major Ramirez ordered.

“All hands prepare for a battle charge.”

“Hard to port,” Lawson ordered after seeing there was damage she would rather not expose to enemy fire.”

“Maximum turn efficiency. Turning!” The frame of the Battlestar began to strain under G-forces. Turning now.”

“Forming up,” Karla Knox spoke over the wireless. “Weapons free!”

* * *

The vipers formed an arrowhead formation in front of the Battlestar as it completed its turn. A dozen assault raptors formed up tightly to the left of the Mercury. Nine more formed up on the right side.

“What’s with the raptors?” Major Ramirez asked. “We didn’t give the raptors any orders.”

“They are forming up to charge two of the other base stars,” Commander Lawson said.

“That is suicide,” Ramirez noted.

“Aye,” Lawson said, sounding like a farmer speaking with an accent.

“Main guns have a firing solution,” the tactical officer said with a little too much volume.

“Weapons free,” Lawson ordered.

The ship resonated with the sound of the main guns as they began to fire, To the left and right of the Mercury raptors charged, firing rockets at two base stars. The two ships not under assault quickly reacted moving away, beginning to belch a massive missile barrage.

It took about thirty seconds for the base star center axis to collapse under the withering fire. The raptors peeled off after emptying their rocket launchers. Their two base stars, clearly burning began to fire missiles into the Mercury, which disappeared into a cloud of smoke and mist.

The four remaining base stars, formed a firing box around the Mercury, which suddenly lurched to the right in an evasive turn. Fires were burning on the exterior of the ship, fed by oxygen flowing out of hull breaches.

* * *

Karla Knox held the trigger until every last round of ammunition hurtled into the base star’s hull before peeling off to the right, wondering what she should do next, save fly her plane into the base star.

* * *

In CIC Lawson looked up at the damage control display, seeing that they were about to lose navigational control.

“Looks like we are going to get hammered in a few more seconds.” Ramirez grimaced.

There was a flash from a large FTL drive. Emerging from the energy field was the Battlestar Solaria museum. It’s flight pods were extending, as it completed a perfect tactical jump allowing it to aim its underside main batteries at one base start and its topside batteries at another.

It’s engines flashed as it accelerated into the battle, pounding two base stars, one of which erupted in pillars of fire.

“This is Solaria,” Captain Atkins announced on the wireless. “We heard you had a little more work than you could handle. We are going to take some of it off your hands.”

“We are going to get clear, recover our planes and complete the FTL repair,” Lawson announced.

“Roger that,” Captain Atkins said.

“FTL shows online,” Major Ramirez announced.

“That was a little ahead of schedule,” Lawson said.

“It was those extra men you sent. They got the actuator arms of the FTL drives replaced, helping speedup the repair,” Ramirez reported

“This is engineering,” a crackling transmission came on the CIC speakers, “we are going to have to vent a couple of sections to stop the fires from spreading.” He then announced the sections.

Chapter 30

Captain Brad “Reptile” Adkins settled in to the commanders office on the Solaria with a frown on his face. The desk nameplate from the previous occupant, Commander Jesse Green was still on the desk. None of the crew had survived and that meant there would be ghosts on this ship.’’

Adkins knew he should be happy to be alive. The hit on his Mark VII Viper had been devastating, destroying the entire plane, triggering his ejection seat.

If ever there were a dead-end job, this was it. Just under 2,000 civilians had been crammed into barracks that had not been updated in forty years. The rule, requiring the able-bodied take duty shifts and help out, though necessary to run the ship had sparked a rebellion. Each and every person with a gripe was still in shock about losing their families a month ago.

He sighed and looked at his electronic calendar for a free appointment and then sent the invite to the leader of the civilians.

There were less than two hundred properly trained crew aboard this fifty year old museum. Morale was low because the Jupiter class was like living in the stone age compared to the Mercury class.

There was a buzzing three tone sound going off right now. Adkin’s looked around for another moment and then remembered the three-note tone on the analog phone.

He leaned over and picked it up.

The lights flickered and the ship wide intercom announcement came on with a crackle and a voice began to speak.

“Set condition one throughout the ship. This is no drill.”

Adkin’s pressed a button on the phone which was cradled in his hand. “What is it?”

His face froze with horror in the ensuing seconds.

“Three. I’ll be right there.”

He went about getting into a uniform like a fireman.

He strode into the mostly empty CIC which was set up like a theater and designed to be operated by dozens. At least some automation had been installed here during the refit. The ship itself if it moved would damage to scaffolding being used to convert the starboard landing bay from a museum to at least be able to recover vipers and raptors.

He looked up at DRADIS his XO an unknown lieutenant without even any flight experience.

“Three base stars Sir,” the LT reported. “Launching raiders.”

“Spin up FTL. Get all external workers back in the bay. How many vipers can we put in the air?” Adkins realized that he was totally unprepared for this job.

“Forty one are ready in the tubes Sir,” the LT replied.

“Launch Vipers. They need to screen for us and then conduct combat landings when we well before we jump. Pod’s have to be retracted on this bird, right?”

Adkins got an affirmative reply via a head shake.

“Vipers are launched forming a picket line. The repair ship is complaining we are going to damage their repair scaffolding!”

“We will come back for it. Gun crews prepare a flak barrier.”

“Captain Adkin’s we are short of gun crews. Only topside guns will be manned.”

“Be sure to show them our good side LT.”

The young woman did not get the joke.

“Vipers are short on ammo Sir,”

“Recall them, combat landings,” Adkins ordered.

“Jump key is in FTL drive is spooled and NAV has the emergency jump coordinates.”

The next two minutes passed with only position reports.

“Air wing  is recovered,” the LT reported. “Civilians are demanding to know the sitrep.”

“They can fracking wait until we have one,” Adkins snapped.

“Air wing is aboard.” The LT got on shipwide and her voice suddenly boomed. “Retract the pods,” she ordered.

There was a terrible screeching sound that shook the entire ship.

A minute later they had jumped to safety. Since he was really a CAG his first thought was to get a status to Mercury so they would not jump home and end up in a crossfire coming from three base stars.

“Spool up two recon raptors and have them jump to the battle zone with our status update. Jump, take readings, exchange secure messages and come on home.

“Yes Sir,” a nineteen year old who did not look old enough to smoke acknowledged the order, picked up an ancient analog phone with a cord and relayed the orders.

After relaying the orders the teenager spoke to Atkins. “We have a problem Sir. Though we have assigned and trained enough gun crews to man and fire the topside and underside guns and the guns protecting the pods less than a third of the assigned crew have responded to the battle stations alarm.”

“Oh really,” Captain Atkins said. “Put me on ship wide.”

The young woman with floppy curls hanging wildly to each of her shoulders pressed a few buttons, got a feedback squeal, and then pressed another button. “St…Stand by for the commander,” she said. With a delay and a burst of static, her voice echoed through the aging museum ship.

“This is Captain Atkins. I’m going to be honest with you. I did not want this assignment.”

In the unsanitary, out of date crew quarters people looked up with full attention. The elderly, women with small children. Adult men and women who were assigned duty.

“I was a CAG, Commander Air Group on the Mercury. That I s chief pilot in plain language. It is the ultimate job for a Viper pilot, it is what we all dreamed of fifteen years ago in the academy and flight school.”

He cleared his throat and went on. “But I got that job because Admiral Mueller and Colonel Rogers died in the Cylon attack. The old CAG who is well known as a great pilot without classic command training had to give up flying and take up a new role which she was unprepared for. Commander of a Battlestar and military leader of our people. She did not complain about her fate. She put her head down and started working hard on pursuing a one warship war against the Cylons.”

“Today she is on a mission to hit a fuel depot and deprive the Cylons of the fuel they need to pursue the survivors of the Colonies. The Mercury may be in trouble. She may need our help.”

“Most of the billions in the Colonies are dead. They did not choose their fate. They had it taken away from them by the Cylon. We need to crew our gun batteries. Less than a third of those assigned to crew them have answered the battle stations alarm.”

“I know. You don’t want to be here. I want to be out in a Viper killing toasters.”

“You think you are unlucky, sentenced to a slow death with disgusting, dilapidated and unsanitary quarters. I get it.”

“You don’t need to accept that premise. You are the lucky ones. You are on the best protected civilian ship in our little fleet. We have armor protecting us, and an air wing to fight for us. Most important we have big guns that can be used to fight back and show the Cylons we will not accept the fate they have for us.”

Atkins raised his voice almost to a shout. “WE will LIVE!”

“We will man our guns and learn to fire them and maintain them and spread death and havoc among the machines that wish to exterminate us. I say we step up and give them hell. I say we have some pride and show the frackheads on Mercury that we don’t need fancy computers and luxuries to be a fighting force and kick some toaster ass.”

On a roll now, Atkins went on. “I will tell you something else. We should take pride in our living quarters and start to fix them up. If you need supplies and support you come up to the commanders quarters and let me know what you need.”

“We need to stand up and man our posts. We need to do this to show the toasters we will not go quietly into the night.”

“The pods are finally retracted Sir,” the teenager reported. “We are ready to jump. So say we all Sir!”

“Jump.”

Before the FTL jump Atkins thought he heard “So say we all!” echoing through the half empty bowels of the ship.

Chapter 29

James “Jaybird” Thompson had been given secondary missions ever since the fall, which was only a month ago. Today he was on primary with a mission to do a micro jump and take out the refinery. His new electronic warfare officer, “Plano” was strapped in because they were in a raptor launch tube. He looked a fat stuffed bear in his seat belts. There were only a few of these on a Mercury class Battlestar. They were dedicated for special missions.

The Jaybird call sign had been hung on him by his mother who thought we looked as cute as a blue jaybird in his uniform blues. Waiting for the combat jump had always been a problem in exercises for the Tauron native. IT made him itchy and it rarely happened with precision on complex options.

It made him nervous. He checked the status board and found that his wingman raptor 719 was in another tube and all systems were green.

“Plano”, the 32 year old pilot ordered. “Weapons systems check.”

“Roger that.”

Jaybird adjusted his helmet.

* *  *

Karla “Blondie” Knox was a platinum blonde, medium height pilot with a chip on her shoulder. She was a Lieutenant with a decade of service before the fall. A squadron XO she was expecting a promotion as the squadrons were being re-aligned due to the heavy losses on the first day of the second Cylon war.

Her squadron was in the tubes first and Captain Jenkins was leading the against any raiders that happened to get in the way. Call sign “Hiker” had been the commander of a squadron for six years and was due to the CAG’s injury on a fast track to being the next CAG.

If that happened she’d have her own squadron. She looked at her watch and tried to remember exactly when the combat jump was planned. Four raptors had jumped ahead to do recon.

Knox was one of the fleets hottest sticks, they only one in the last five years to have beaten Kera Thrace in dogfighting competition. It was only a few tenths of a point nobody ever beat “Starbuck”.

She was considered the hottest prospect in the fleet talent pool and had chosen to serve under Admiral Mueller among five Battlestar groups vying for her services. Mueller had taken the most recent simulator war games with a highly controversial high-speed jump.

He had burned a large portion of his fuel allocation getting up to a high speed under sub-light and then triggered the jump.

This was harder to calculate but resulted in a ship that was difficult to hit in the first critical moments after a jump. It took precious seconds for DRADIS and other computer-based systems to calibrate and take star fixes.

The top Battlestar group, BS-21 had landed Knox, who was a heavy hitter in her own right.

* * *

In CIC Commander Eva Lawson felt the urge to pace. She felt as if her legs were cemented to the deck. She knew that pacing nervously would set the wrong message. The next step in the strike plan was to speak to the four recon raptors that had been sent to make certain the coordinates for the combat jump was clear of enemy forces.

It simply would not be acceptable to find themselves in a swarm of Cylon raiders on the other side. Her own written mission orders were very clear: if the four raptors did not return the mission was off. Back out plan was to jump to emergency coordinates and then rendezvous with the Solaria.

Commander Lawson looked over at Major Ramirez and mouth the words ‘Are they overdue? ‘

Major Ramirez ran a hand through her mostly black hair and nodded in the affirmative.

“Start the clock,” Lawson ordered. “How late are they?”

“Three minutes,” Major Ramirez answered.

Now it was okay to pace.

“Prepare to change to the emergency jump coordinates,” Lawson ordered.

“Nav is standing by Sir,” came the reply of a crusty older NCO.

There was a characteristic beep and three blips appeared on DRADIS. The computer quickly identified the raptors as three of the four recon birds.

“Get them on wireless.”

“This is Pony,” the harried raptor pilot came on speaker. “Raptor niner seven niner disintegrated after the jump,” the man’s voice was high pitched and filled with angst.

Ramirez was up and on a wireless connected telephone handset in about three milliseconds. “Pony report on disposition of cylon forces and safety at the jump point. The Tauron Major was full of energy and vigor. She was barking out her orders, nearly growling.

“The coordinates for the jump inbound are clear. We have definite track on one, repeat a single Cylon base star. They are running no combat air patrol and are instead relying on the fueling stations fighter cover. We counted CAP at 50 toasters.”

“Do you have coordinates of the base ship?”

“Yes Commander, transmitted.”

Ramirez leaned in close. “What are you thinking?”

“Change the jump point after getting in close and ending the mission early, That is kind of crazy isn’t it Major?”

“It’s very crazy Sir,” Ramirez replied. “Re-writing the strike plan with forty raptors in the air is asking for disaster.”

Lawson looked unconvinced and her expression froze for a few seconds. The clock clicked past five minutes behind schedule. “Right,” she said “original strike plan or abort. Or do something out of the box.”

“That’s reckless Sir. Colonel Rogers would relieve you just for thinking about it.”

“Jump in two minutes, new coordinates right on the base star. Transmit coordinates to the raptors, they are to adjust and hammer the base star with a missile barrage. By the time that’s over we should have a firing solution for the main guns.”

“Vipers launch on the other side?” Ramirez looked ready to join the party.

“No hold them in reserve. Have the raptors verbally acknowledge the new jump coordinates. On my mark jump in ninety seconds. Mark.”

Someone adjusted the digital countdown.

“Jump key is in,” reported the FTL officer.

“New coordinates are in,” reported the NAV officer.

“Raptors are checking in.”

“Task the SAR to see if pilots survived niner seven niner,” Ramirez ordered.

“FTL is spooled and ready,” reported engineering.

A quiet sense of anticipation settled in for the next sixty seconds.

“Execute combat jump,” ordered Lawson.

“Jumping Sir,”

Chapter 28

Twenty minutes later Commander Eva Lawson strode in to the command ready room. She was showered and her uniform was perfectly pressed straight from the cleaners. There was a spring to her step and she was ready for the first big operation in three weeks. It was well planned and would be a devastating surprise after three weeks of launching pin prick assault raptor attacks. Half of those micro-operations were aborted due to the presence of large, defensive Cylon forces.

Waiting in the planning room was Major Maria Ramirez, looking haggard as if she had stayed up all night. That was because she had, dealing with getting the starboard flight pod operational with a skeleton crew. Nobody wanted to transfer to starboard from the port pod, those that were forced were unhappy about it.

The bottom line was that todays operation called for a fast viper launch after a combat jump and the starboard pod deck crew needed to get its act together. Two dozen civilians with no military experience had been drafted due to having experience as civilian flight mechanics. They were very unhappy having to work for their billets. 

“You look like a raptor landed on you XO,” Lawson commented.

“You look like you got laid last night,” came the tart reply.

“Don’t I have any fracking privacy?” the commander replied tersely.

“If I learned one thing from working for Martha Rogers it was she knew everything about Admiral Mueller. She knew every detail of his day and knew who he was fracking on the side behind his wife’s back.”

“Your point in discussing this Maria?”

“There are no secrets on a battlestar. You showed good judgement bedding a civilian. We are going to do as thorough a background check on Brother John as we can under the circumstances.”

“I’m not some cheap whore,” Lawson blustered.

“Permission to speak freely and off the record?” She left off the Sir.

“So now you ask permission? Granted.”

“Sir you are here today alive and commanding this ship because you are a slut.”

Lawson started to speak but was stopped by her XO’s hand.

“I’m not judging. You like sex. I LOVE it myself. You were assigned to this ship and survived the destruction of humanity due to a chain of events that included getting drunk and sleeping with Admiral Nagama’s son. It is divine providence, the plan of the gods. Just understand we are going to keep an eye on him and anyone else that sleeps in your quarters. It is important to our relationship that you know what you can hide and what you can’t. Though unrelated you making me XO has had a substantial negative impact on my pretty darned good sex life.”

“Message received. Do you know how we?”

“No. There are no security cameras in your quarters. I had them removed two weeks ago. Next agenda item. Our very unhappy former CAG Captain Adkins.”

“Roger that,” Lawson opened a leather folder and began reading the mans jacket. An NCO walked into the room pushing a breakfast cart.

“Ooo! Coffee.”

Captain Brad “Reptile” Adkins wore a shoulder cast and walked with difficulty. His viper had taken a near direct hit in the big fuel operation. His ejection system had triggered, thrusting him into solid debris from his own viper.

He knew he was lucky to be alive. He knew he could not fly a viper right now. He just did not want to get stuck babysitting two thousand whining civilians. A tall man he stood over 180 centimeters and had unkempt blond hair, curly and a bit too long for regulations.

He walked into the commander’s ready room and was shocked at how together the Commander looked. Every detail of you appearance was precisely up to date. She turned from Major Ramirez who took a clipboard from the commander after she signed it.

“So you don’t like your next assignment Reptile?” she asked referring to him by his call sign.

“I’m a pilot,” he said. “I don’t want to get stuck on that oversized barge.”

“That barge took out a Cylon base star with less than a five percent crew,” Commander Lawson interrupted and stood shoulders squared.

“It’s not a battlestar Sir,” Adkins replied.

“It is, and we are lucky we can house our civilians on a ship that can protect them.”

“Commander even with the transfer’s we have a ship meant to be crewed by 5000 being run by 150 Colonial officers and about 500 civilians drafted against their will. They’ve lost everything and now we are making them join the military. They are not cohesive and there is very little chance they are going to wake up one morning and suddenly function like a team.”

“Your job is to motivate them. To mold them into a crew.”

“Commander Lawson,” he retorted. “I don’t want to command a battlestar I never did. I like flying Sir. Please send someone else.”

“The only officer’s with the rank and experience to take this assignment are in the air wing. We are down 50%  and we can not afford to promote another squadron commander.”

“I don’t want the rank or the hassle.”

“Well,” Lawson put a finger on her forehead for no particular reason. “It’s a temporary assignment so you can do it without rank. I’m sorry you were wounded, but I’m glad you survived. We all have to make sacrifices. You have to deal with a couple of thousand civilians and hope they don’t break anything as they have free run of the ship.”

Adkins looked down, staring at his feet. He took a deep breath and looked up. “I get the air wing back when I return? They really need me.”

“As it stands now I would be inclined to put you back as CAG. I can’t promise that three months into the future. I need you to do this Reptile. I’d send Ramirez but we have things working pretty good here for a computer geek.”

Adkin’s sighed.

“Dismissed,” Lawson said softly.

Chapter 27

The Cavil pinned her arms above her head as he thrusted in to her. She felt a familiar feeling in her lower parts as a wonderful feeling built up toward climax. He was a skilled lover as he grunted and increased the pace of his thrusts.

She cried out as her climax crashed into her like waves in the ocean. “Ah,” Eva Lawson breathed heavily as she felt her lover finish inside her. She managed to catch a glimpse of her pills on the night stand. More important she remembered having taken one this morning.

Cavil collapsed beside her, spent by his efforts in the bed. “That was great commander,” he commented.

“If you ever want it to happen again buddy you will keep your mouth shut and pretend it never happened.”

“Yes Sir Commander Lawson.”

Lawson let out a breath, sighing. “I really needed that. I finally learned to get my R & R from a civilian. You need to get out of here brother.” She pushed him forcefully on the shoulder.

“Now?” the Cylon tried to look surprised.

“Now,” she said forcefully.

“Why?” he asked.

“We got an op planned. We’re taking out the toasters biggest fueling station and refinery.”

“When will I see you again?” The Cylon reached down an pulled up his boxer shorts.

“After the op. I hope you are ready.”

“I’ll be counting the minutes,” He quickly put a shirt on over his head and reached down to put on his shoes.

“I’ve got meeting with my former CAG,” Lawson said, quickly pulling up her panties and fumbling for her bra.

“What’s a CAG?”

“Commander Air Group,” Lawson spoke like a teacher. He was wounded in the last big op and now he has to command the battlestar while he recovers. Doc’s say between two and four months. Don’t tell anyone any of this stuff,” Lawson said while she pulled a tee shirt over her head.

“Yes Sir,” Cavil saluted sloppily.

Chapter 26

Cylon mobile command center

Cha

A Cavil and a six stood in a room with a three-dimensional map of the twelve colonies and several surrounding systems. There were dozens of red dots scattered around the system some near asteroids or space stations. The Cavil looked particularly vexed, upset about something. With a flick of his finger he zoomed in on an orbital fuel station. It was split in two and fuel was leaking and burning into space.

“It was a devastating attack. Three quarters of our fuel reserves went up in flames,” the six said, flicking her head to the side. Battlestars were reported at five different attack locations. I thought their fleet would be eliminated. Now we’ve got the Pegasus running amok with hit and run attacks and the Galactica leading a fleet with fifty thousand survivors heading off to find earth. If they get away they will rebuild their civilization and in a few generations come back and take revenge on us.”

“It was devastating six,” Brother Cavil conceded, “but it wasn’t five battlestars, it was a single battlestar jumping to attack at multiple locations. They just wanted to give the impression that they had a bigger fleet. Their use of assault raptors as a force multiplier was particularly creative.”

“Which battlestar?”

“The Mercury.”

“Under Admiral Mueller?” the six asked. “He was one of their most creative tacticians. He is a dangerous opponent.”

“He’s dead. We got him when we nuked the starboard pod of the Mercury.”

“But we didn’t get the ship.”

“No,” Cavil answered. “Our little test alerted them and they managed to be away from the main attack. They discovered CNP and fixed all of their systems and planes. Our attack took out half their pilots though. That’s something.”

“You have excellent intelligence Cavil,” the six opined. “How do you know so much?”

“We have a well-placed agent in their fleet with an intimate knowledge of their command authority.

“So what’s the plan?”

“They have a retired battlestar being refitted to hold civilian refugees. It used to be the museum that Galactica was being retired to replace. They have a near full ammunition load.”

“That ship can hold up to seven thousand souls,” six said. “That is a threat. A civilian ship that can not only defend itself and powerful enough to be a threat.”

Cavil smiled and waved his finger. The map centered on an intact orbital refinery and fueling station near Leonis.

“Whats that?”

“Their next target. They’ve hidden the battlestar museum while they scavenge parts and rebuild the starboard flight pod. The civilians aboard are being asked to do military jobs and are on the edge of revolt. The Mercury is hoping to jump in and use their main guns on our fueling station.”

“That’s our largest refinery. If we lose that we’ll have to take sixty base stars out of search operations.”

“We won’t lose it. I’ve put aside enough fuel to power up seven base stars. When the Mercury jumps to attack our refinery four of the base stars will jump in to greet them.”

“Why not more base ships?” the six asked.

“Fuel is critically short. Their low grade raptor hit and run attacks have taken a huge bite from our reserves. If we jump in too many ships they will just recall their air wing and jump away.”

“What about the other three base ships?”

“They will jump in and wipe out the museum and the rest of the Mercury’s civilian fleet.” Cavil looked quite satisfied with himself.

“You must have some source,” the six looked curious.

Cavil smiled. “I have a carnal knowledge of the new command authority.”