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Chapter 40: The hunt for the second force.

“Major Ramirez,” commander Lawson asked, “what have we got off the Valkyrie class Battlestar’s computer.”

“Well they made an effort to keep the toasters from doing what I have tried to do,” Ramirez answered. “I’m having to correlate some video data from their telescope observatory with some very heavily encrypted information on that computer. I also cannot discount the possibility that the Cylons put data on that system in order to lure us into an ambush.”

“They have a fleet that escaped the Colonies” the commander ran a hand through her hair. “If we can meet up with them I can end this command disaster and maybe go back to being a CAG.”

The major smiled when she heard those words. “I would like to go back to working on technology as well. I would not count on that happening any time soon. I have learned about how the fleet may have escaped the attacks. Their IT guru, on another ship did not like process by which CNP was shoved into every ship in the fleet. There is some correspondence.”

“Let’s look at it.”

The XO changed the video screen to an electronic mail message. It showed a man in his late forties in a standard profile photo. The message was directed to a commander Robinson.

To: Commander Simpson Robinson, Commander Battlestar Frode

From: Major James Carver Chief IT Officer Battlestar Group 34.

Commander,

It has come to my attention that the CNP program that fleet command is demanding be installed has been exempted from several stages of the code review process. Further very little if any penetration testing was done before or after the order that made it mandatory.

I have raised by objections to the Ministry of Defense and received vague reply from Gais Baltar the head of the project. 

His reply merely raised my concerns further. This is Information Technology 101. It may be a simple navigation update, but if it is not fully vetted, it does not belong on any warship. Please approve my request to conduct a full penetration test when the installation is complete on the Battlestar Gemini.

Regards and congratulations on the birth of your second granddaughter. I am looking forward to the day when my son does something with his life and gets the process started. 

Major James Robinson

Chief IT Officer Battlestar Group 34.

“Was there a reply?” Lawson asked.

“Yes,” the major answered. “The request was approved,”

“Results?”

“He totally compromised the Battlestar and shut down the FTL nav computers.”

“How long before the attacks?”

“Three weeks.”

“Frack!” Lawson said. “What happened when they sent the results to Fleet Command?”

“There is another email message.”

She tapped some keys and another email came up with another message with a different profile picture. Apparently Carver liked to rotate his profile picture.

To: Commander Simpson Robinson, Commander Battlestar Frode

From: Major James Carver Chief IT Officer Battlestar Group 34.

Subject: It is negligence to ignore the results of the pen (penetration) tests and install CNP.

It is dangerous and reckless to go forward with the installation of CNP. It has been proven to have vulnerabilities and I will not sign off on its installation on any ship in this Battlestar group.

How do you suggest I proceed with regards to fleet command?

The reply showed that Robinson was dealing with fleet command and the IT Chief was directed to backlog the software installation. Carver replied there were a few broken down supply raptors that would get the program first.

“If fleet command had listened to him, the destruction of the Colonies could have been averted. Did Carver survive the war?”

“Yes commander,” answered Ramirez. “He was demoted to Lieutenant before the war by a direct order from fleet command. He was a former pilot, switched to tech after a crash landing. Someone promoted him to Captain after the attacks. I think he was a XO on a battlestar. There is a video log recording I have pretty well cleaned up.”

“Let’s see it.”

“This is Captain James Carver, Executive Officer if the Battlestar Venus.” The scene was in the heavily damaged commanders’ quarters of a smaller Battlestar. There was damaged wing hanging out of destroyed monitors. Still two of the monitors were rolling through status screens of a damaged Valkyrie Class Battlestar.

“The fact that I have been promoted to XO is illustrative of the situation we are in. Battlestar Group 34 was attacked by a fleet of a dozen Cylon ships. Modern base stars and a collection of ships dating back to the beginning of the first Cylon war.”

He wiped his forehead and left a streak of grease on it.

“Once they figured out we had never installed CNP they dug deep into their inventory. Commander Robinson quickly realized that the battle was lost. We were on a mission to deliver forty cargo containers to the Scorpia shipyards. We never got there.”

“Commander Robinson fought a delaying action and we got away with enough gear to add capacity to Scorpia. We have enough gear to set up a mobile repair yard. We have been sending out missions to get FTL drive parts so that we can take this shipyard on the road with us. Every one of the eight ships that survived the attacks on the Colonies was damaged. We are picking up civilians and civilian craft every day.”

“The civilian council set up to provide the civies self-government has demanded wages be paid to the workers in our little traveling circus. I am glad I am not in command of this clown show. But as XO of the Venus I am perilously close to the top of the current chain of command….”

The video ended,

“No more footage Sir.”

Eva Lawson was lost in thought. Something had triggered a memory from a course where they had Colonial Fleet try and track down a wayward Cylon that was causing simulated havoc in a third of the Colonies.

“Zoom in on those two displays behind Captain Carver. Go slow,”

“Yes sir,” the XO complied. The resolution was not great and the picture was fuzzy.  Halfway through the third run, Commander Lawson spoke up.

“Stop!” She stood up and pointed. Remembering they were still on quarantine, she used her electronic pointer.

“Those look like FTL jump coordinates to me,” Lawson smiled. “See if you can clean it up and get us some places to look at.”

* * *

Twelve hours later the computer had cleaned up the image enough that they had a list of fifteen coordinates to look at.

“We are perilously short of raptor pilots,” Ramirez reported. “Lieutenant Samantha Jones died of complications of the virus late last night.

Lawson had known Jones and she tried to hide her feelings but failed. A single tear was released from her right eye. “Very carefully. Send force recon, three assault raptors, two SAR. Take it nice and slow. No mistakes. We have to get through this virus outbreak before we enter a major engagement with the Cylons.

* * *

Three days later Ramirez came on the monitor at 4:31 a.m. “Sorry for the time sir,” she said. “We have a battle site recon. It was on jump point twelve. Lots of Cylon wreckage. There may be a lot of salvageable parts. It will give us a chance to study Cylon technology.”

“We can’t do it with a raptors?”

“Negative,” Ramirez reported. We will have to store some of this cache on the right-hand flight pod of the Solaria. We can spare some room on starboard as well.”

“Set condition one throughout the ship. Get anyone that can fly butt in the cockpit. We are going toaster dumpster diving.”

“Aye sir.”

“This is junkman to Mercury actual. Junkman flying a bus. Come in.”

“What is it,” Lawson found the viper jock annoying but effective so tolerated some chatter. She picked up her phone handset and repeated herself. “This is Mercury actual.”

“I’ve got me a shiny, slightly singed orange flight recorder. I believe that entitles me to a weeks leave after the air wing is at full strength.”

“Junkman get your ass and that recorder onto the flight deck immediately. You will get your leave when I have more than 19 viper jocks not infected.”

“Roger that.”

“Mercury actual out.”

Chapter 39: Command Training

Chapter 39: Command Training

It took quite a lot of preparation midst of a virus outbreak to make the scenario of training happen. The virtual reality suites at themselves with disinfectant and irradiated to make sure nothing could live.

The hallways from the commander and executive officer Quarters work patrol by Marines. Every bit of deck plating wall ceiling and air ducting was similarly cleaned the same specifications to virtual reality suites.

Commander Eva “yevka” Lawson and Major Maria Ramirez were escorted on separate routes to ensure that they were not going to meet in a hallway.

When they were both safely locked into their suites they entered their command codes in the program begin to run.  After the intercom light came on, major Ramirez tested her microphone and begin to speak “Is there a reason why I computer geek drafted into command needs to take this training?”

“Because I may die,” the commander replied.  “You are the second highest ranking officer in this fleet.”

“So what is today’s scenario?”

“a replay of the refinery raid battle,” said Lawson. “My tactics were less than desirable and almost got us killed. I will fly the Mercury and you will fly the Solaria. This simulator used to be classified codeword only.”

“You seriously believe that I should take over the fleet if you were killed in action?” asked Ramirez.

“You were just slightly less qualified than I was when command fell into my lap. We don’t get to choose our roles in this war. We are to live up to them or die trying. I’m gonna do the best I can do my grandmother the admiral proud.”

Major Ramirez was still self-absorbed and the simulation began. “Because she may die? I think I’m gonna start praying again. Lords of Kobol here my words don’t let this woman die and stick me with this command.”

After a few seconds of silence, the XO had some practical questions. “How many base stars?”

“Five,” Lawson answered.

“What do we do first,” Ramirez asked “launch all vipers?”

“No,” Lawson replied, “there are too many of them. We will fly in formation museum on top and Mercury on the bottom. We will try to angle downward to take advantage of the Jupiter classes topside guns. There is the true kill zone of the class. Stay in formation. I will stop the simulation this time to explain things.”

“I don’t know how to fly sir,” Ramirez tried to keep her voice steady.

“In a real situation you will give orders and others will fly the ship. The VR suite will respond to verbal commands. Just tell it to stay in formation. This is a command simulator. Do you know the weapons and operational specs of the two Battlestars.”

“Yes commander.”

“Easy peasy. Just talk to it, tell it what to shoot at. We will see if we can avoid getting surrounded by raiders, keep them all on one side get them to waste their air wing on our flak wall.”

“Aye sir”


“Begin simulation.” Lawson pressed a button.

“Caprica,” Ramirez whispered.

“Base stars are lined up. We move right and down. If we go left toward the planet when we blow stuff up the fragments will hit us.”

“Resume simulation”

“What’s a wardriver squadron?” 

“Flak wall up port side. Virus squadron. Target them.”

“They blew their missile load,” Ramirez remarked.

“Obviously designed by men,” Lawson snickered. “Get all your vipers in the tubes. Shut down flak on my mark. Launch all planes! Attack the right-hand base star with air wing follow my lead with guns.”

“This is not ideal,” Lawson lectured, “the base stars nearest left and right are hurt and retreating. We normally never want to give them a cross fire. We are going to recall the assault raptors, do a rapid re-arm and re-launch.”

“Has that ever been done?” Ramirez asked.

“It was on my schedule for the first day as CAG,” Lawson answered. We will practice it and get it down to a science.”  

“Okay,” Lawson said, breathing heavily, “We are going to turn hard and press it home. Time to send the Cylons back to the bit bucket.”

“Aye” Ramirez was barking orders to the VR suite which seemed to respond slowly.

“Okay you did well,” Lawson remarked. Relax and watch the replay. The simulation usually picks great music, unless you want me to mute it.”

Ramirez breathed a sigh of relief. “I did not blow up the Battlestar.”

“Helped blow away five base stars, their air wing, and every single one of your pilots came home.”

“It’s not usually this easy commander, is it?”

“No. We’ll critique your performance. You are going to stay right by my side and see how badly I frack up before you have to take the con.”

“That is good sir.”

“Besides, doctors estimate it will be another two or three months before Atkins is ready for flight status. He may start liking old Jesse Green’s quarters and library of paper books.”

“Let’s hope so Sir.”

Full battle simulation without interruption or dialogue

Chapter 38: The fight goes on!

Chapter 38: Alternate title. Recovery and Discovery

Plano and Jaybird were together again, both infected with the Sunspot virus, both asymptomatic. It was a pleasure to get out of isolation and back into space flying. The mission was extremely dangerous. They were to jump 4 plotted FTL jumps back to Caprica. 

They were based on the original Solaria, commonly referred to as “The Museum” or the Battlestar Museum. This decision had little to do with tactics. It was simply to show the Cylons another signal what they were used to from the Battlestar Mercury.

The virus was contained by blast doors being shut. It had infected most of the civilian population before even being discovered by medical tech. The other purpose of basing the mission from the ship was to give the board and ready to riot residents something to do.

Being busy with the mission prevented the revolt that was being planned for being carried forward.

The mission was to Caprica, to participate in the salvage of the Battlestar Amagossa. The ship was named after a Colonial general in the first war.

Those that were allowed to talk to each other in person or over the communications network were buzzing about this in the discovery of the ship. It was proof that another branch of the fleet had escaped the extinction of the colonies.

There was a bottle of ambrosia to whoever picked through the dangerous wreckage and retrieved the flight data recorders and the voice recorders from the CIC. The plan was even hatched to decontaminate the bottle in case the owner who is infected with the virus or touched it or coughed on it.

Plano was maneuvering very carefully with a soft touch on the control stick. A sudden move could mean a collision with a structural support beam. They were quite near the wreckage of the FTL drive. 

Though they might survive the destruction of the raptor in their flight suits with their helmets on, the radiation would only almost certainly kill them before they were rescued.

“I see something,” Jaybird said as he squinted at the scanner. 

“How can you see anything with all this garbage?” Plano asked shaking his head. “Where?”

“Right near the FTL thrust rod.”

“Jaybird that is too big to be a flight data recorder.”

“Indeed it is,” Jaybird replied. “Up fifteen meters then forward ten.”

“What the frack are we looking at Jaybird?” Plano asked after delicately and precisely following his instructions.

“What is the one part of the ship that has more data than the data and voice recorders?”

“Jaybird didn’t I warn I wanted no more fracking quizzes or riddles. This looks a ship’s computer.”

“That is exactly what it is Plano. Looks intact.”

“Jaybird deploy grappling hook.”

Ten minutes later they were clear of the wreckage. Four minutes after that the Cylons showed up and demolished the wreckage.

On their final approach to the Jupiter class Battlestar they were given the secret coordinates and diverted to the Mercury. Six plotted jumps later they were landed and met by Major Ramirez in a full hazmat suit. She directed a crew of four operating a wench.

They slowly lowered the computer after taking it from the jaws of the grappling hook onto a rolling cart designed to move armaments to the vipers.

An hour later it was disinfected and in a lab.

The XO was back in her element, information technology. The computer technology on the Amagossa was compatible with that of the Mercury.

After replacing three power supplies into system boards, Ramirez hunched over the keyboard and watch the system boot. The system stored information in 4 databases. Each what’s the word on the highly redundant disk array.

That was with the situation became complicated. When the computer system had been blown loose from the ship and gotten too close to the FTL structures, radiation-damaged some of the disks. Since there were four different copies of the database there was a chance some of that would be recoverable.

She was disappointed with the quality of the data, but there were video logs available. She started a script triggering a reconstruction of the data. Now it was time to get some sleep while her program did its work.  It would take days to recover data this badly compromised.

Two days later a video conference was set up to brief the commander.

“The easiest log to recover was the most recent,” Major Ramirez began.

A young dark-skinned, woman of thin build appeared on the screen. Her hair was mussed, and she made no effort to control it. Her uniform was dirty and wrinkled. It was a burn mark showing on her left shoulder.

She spoke deliberately a slight accent possibly from Tauron.

“A month ago I was a fighter pilot. Now I am promoted to captain and in command of a Valkyrie class Battlestar. We have signals intelligence that there was a resistance movement on Caprica. It appears to be a pyramid team from Caprica city.”

“it is a mission of the highest risk in this crew is all volunteer. We have a full complement of vipers and we are going to jump to Caprica. The force recon we sent ahead shows there may be base stars in the area.”

“We have forces in the area and we believe we are going to come in during a time when patrol pattern is away from Caprica. My training as a Battlestar commander is inadequate. I’ve had a three-hour course in ship systems, and I have two veteran crewmembers in CIC to help out.”

“We have a fleet composed of <screen goes to snow and the sound of static> Battlestar’s and <screen goes to snow and the sound of static> support ships. I will not record where you’re based in case the Cylons capture this computer system. Radiation levels in the colonies are very high due to nuclear strikes. Our scientists do not believe that life in the colonies is sustainable.”

“I do not believe it is possible to for fill orders but the commander who is really just a major insisted we try and rescue this team of pyramid players running a resistance cell in the mountains. May the gods of mercy on our souls.”

Video illustration:’

The story of the Battlestar Armagossa

Pre-story Chapter 1

Colonial fleet headquarters after a computer simulated exercise.

Admiral Taylor was a short, hunched man with a bald head.

He was 80 years old and was a young commander of the viper wing and then a Battlestar in the first colonial war. He was the fleets foremost living expert on the tactics of the Cylons.

Major Eva Lawson was the CAG of Atlantia and was on the short list to become CAG of Mercury. She stood straight and her wild curly black hair was immaculate in a military bun. Her regular blue uniform was perfectly pressed and her boots were shining.

“Is the room secure?” asked the Admiral.

“We don’t use names in case we are listened to,” a faceless dry voice came from a speaker. “Information is codeword classified.”

“The information in the simulation has unique identifiers in it. If there is a leak, we will know who it is.” Lawson said softly as she was debriefing her future commander, Admiral Mueller.

“We are going to show you a video simulation.” The grizzled Admiral said. “Explain Lawless,” he gestured at the Major.

“We got fifty-one seconds of video from a mission near the Cylon frontier. We got a look at their new fighter type and base star design. It is an impressive platform. Missile launchers packed a lot of punch.” Lawson said. “The game simulation will come first, followed by a more theatrical version that our keyboard warriors created.”

“Move along Lawless,” the Admiral shuffled a bit and balanced himself with a walking stick.

“I have been asked to evaluate your air tactics. They were terrible. You did not task fighters to protect your two supply ships which were lost with a full load of missiles and nukes.”

“We did however beat the simulator two base stars and all,” Admiral Mueller noted and nodded to his XO,

“It indeed was impressive. You got unlucky and one of the nukes got through and took out most of your starboard armor. There were multiple hull breaches. The starboard pod was completely vented for a time.” the Admiral stood up straighter.

“Mercury class is a tough ship.” Major Lawson. ” I was most impressed when you got the Cylon raiders into a spot where they expected to get the kill and switched your flak engagement zone and frankly fracked them up. I have not been to Battlestar school yet, but you did a fabulous job of protecting your weak right side.”

“Lets roll the tape,” the elder Admiral said.

Admiral Mueller spoke softly, “I think we can take three base stars”

Eva Laws looked up a bright look on her face. “I want to fly the Valkyrie class ship.”

The Colonel ran a hand through her silvery hair and shook her head. “I am flying the small Battlestar. You fly the air wing and show us you are our next CAG.”

Admiral Taylor found a chair. He growled. “VR Glasses”

The three officers took off their VR holo-band glasses.

Admiral Mueller slapped his hands together as if cleaning construction dust from them. The Mercury had come through the simulation with almost no damage.

“I’m hungry,” the XO Mercury said.

Taylor croaked, “Speak to nobody about this. Be here at 6 a.m. sharp for the final qualifying exercise. Big fleet action.” Silently the three officers filed out of the room, discussing dinner plans.

Final exercise before deployment.

The next morning at 6 a.m. the four officers met in the VR suite.

Admiral Mueller took off his VR glasses. The grizzled old Admiral was smiling and looking sharp, having taken a short nap. “You have a comment?”

“Yes Admiral Taylor,” he spoke carefully measuring his words. “The base stars did not seem to work together. I watched to the documentary of your last mission on the Athena and the cylons would bracket a larger Battlestar and put in murderous concentrations of fire.”

Taylor smiled and rocked back in his chair. “Anything else?”

Mueller’s XO spoke up, “The gunships were not modern and ineffective. The Phobos class virus ships and wardriver squadrons were not improved and not very effective.”

“Also the numbers of fighter craft were only a fraction of what the Mercury carries,”Lawson complained.

“We only got fifty-one seconds of footage from the signals intelligence mission,” Taylor replied. “We saw the modern base star and the new fighter. Those weapons were extrapolated to be very effective. In the original simulation, they wiped us out every time.”

“Broke our forces’ confidence?” Mueller suggested.

Taylor cackled, “exactly. But this simulation dumbed them down too much?”

“Exactly,” Major Lawson answered. “We should find actual conflict with the Cylons easy compared to the holo-band.”

“I will take this to the Fleet Admiral,” he cackled again. “Lawless, the reason the Mercury can’t have a full eight squadrons of Vipers is computer technology has not been improved. The fleet is investing two billion cubits in new technology in this year’s budget. That is going to double in the next budget. The first fruits of this investment, the new CNP program is nearly done with its first release cycle, Next year when you come in for training, the simulator will be eight times more powerful.”

“Still the air combat seemed a bit like pilots are cannon fodder,” Lawson frowned.”We invest a year and a couple of million cubits in each pilot. If loss rates are going to be that high we will need to draft a quarter of a million pilots if there is war.”

“You are not happy sacrificing yourself for your command Major Lawson?” the XO asked with a hard edge to her voice,

“I am fine with it if it’s necessary,” Lawson replied. “I did it in this simulation same as what you did with the Valkyrie class ship. I know I’m a frack up in my off duty life and I just got bounced out of Battlestar school. If I get a chance you will see what I can do flying by example with your air wing.”

“Tell me about my air wing,” Mueller demanded in a soft, commanding tone.

“They were shaken by the accident that killed your CAG. They were like her children. It tore them up and their scores in the exercise and the simulator show it. They have had their time to grieve. They need to be worked hard and get their confidence and pride back.”

“Good,” Mueller said. “Pack your gear and report after a two-week vacation.”

“But Sir they need me now.”

“You have managed to violate regulations and piss off the fleet admiral and accumulate 91 days of leave,” the XO said. “We go to station in 15 days. The entire air win is on shore leave. Take a rest, put on a fracking chastity belt and report to the Cylon border with your Viper Mark VII”

“Frack this up and you are gone,” Mueller said. “Do it right and after a two-year tour I will personally vouch for and walk you into the war college for your first day of Battlestar school.

Admiral Taylor cackled again with his abrasive laugh. “Admiral Mueller you have been forgiven for the accident that killed your CAG. Admiral Martin was diagnosed with cancer. Commander Harris is taking over command of the Mars. BSG-25 is being renamed BSG-21. Admiral Nagasaki err Nagama was going to tell you, but part of being as old as I am is not having to worry about pissing off the fleet admiral. I do so enjoy acting just senile enough to ruin his surprise!”

Admiral Taylor cackled again. “Good luck Lawson. You can vacation with me at any time.” He gave her a lecherous look that chilled the newly assigned Mercury CAG to her bones.

Chapter 37

Major Ramirez was on a video screen from her quarters. The virus outbreak had reached every corner of the Battlestar. The small, cramped but well protected CIC did not allow for the social distancing necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.  Fortunately, the ship had a robust network that allowed people to work from any part of the ship and control and the other part of the ship. 

It was an ideal situation for those that private quarters. Most of the officers and enlisted people were not so lucky.

“How is it working out of your quarters?” Commander Lawson asked in a half-hearted attempt to lift her XO’s spirits.

“You mean my prison cell?” she asked, panning the camera around to cramped stateroom still decorated with the effects of the late Colonel.

“Sitrep”

“We have 21 viper pilots, 11 raptor pilots and 9 weapons officers tested and quarantined in one of the viper repair bays. Exposure rate is about 80%. It will take 14 days to see who is symptomatic. I’ve called off offensive operations. Its hard on the pilots we have left even to maintain a CAP.” Ramirez sighed deeply.

“Raptor one niner niner?”

“Just jumped back from an attempt to gather sigint on Caprica. Six hours late but there was an interesting find. She reached forward and changed the picture Eva Lawson was viewing. A wrecked Battlestar appeared on the screen.

“Why do I care Major?” asked Lawson. “Another wrecked Battlestar. Looks like Valkarie class.”

“Good eye Commander,” she zoomed in on a part of the launch bay. A light, battery-powered was flickering on and off.”

“She had power,” Lawson whispered.

Every other wreck they had found outside a shipyard had been completely powered down. All electrical systems had been shut down by a wirelessly delivered virus.

“This wreck was fresh, three hours old,” Major Ramirez reported. “I think we should risk salvaging the remnants.

“You are damned right Major,” Lawson stood up, feeling a sense of purpose. “There could be FTL parts, spare plane parts, maybe even whole vipers. Pair up some of the exposed asymptomatic pilots, if it can be done safely. Lets get the data recorders from CIC.”

“Aye Sir,” Major Ramirez stood up straighter. “It appears part of the Colonial fleet may have survived to fight on. Maybe there is a commander or admiral out there that wants to command this shit show,” Lawson spoke aloud but was not expecting to be overheard. 

Authors note: As an IT professional it never seemed realistic to me that a navigation program could be installed on 120 Battlestar’s and other fleet vessels without even a virus check or a penetration test vetting the software. I have long wanted to change the story, but have avoided it to remain cannon. This is a fan project, with no attempt to make money. So I’m going to retroactively change the story. I won’t reveal now how it changes, but the CMP virus will be discovered at the last minute allowing some of the fleet to survive. My vision of the colonies will still be dark at least with the politics of the day. I hope you like it.

In another note slitherine games Battlestar Galactica Deadlock has some unique features that allow me to record battle sequences. I have requested permission to use limited footage from that game to illustrate combat scenarios in this story.

The game makers recent release of modern ships including the Mercury and Valkyrie class in the modern basestar will enable me to illustrate the story.

This will slow down the story process because the choreography will have to be done carefully. But I think using clips to illustrate the story will make it more engaging to the reader. I hope the update is paid shortly to include a YouTube video of a prewar combat exercise.

Chapter 36: Pandemic Outbreak

Karla “Blondie” Knox had the sniffles. She knew exactly where she had gotten them. Five days ago she had volunteered to co-pilot a raptor sortie because she thought the pilot was hot and she had wanted to have a chance to talk to him.

Her interest was quashed when gentle probing made the man speak in a sad voice of the boyfriend he had left behind on Scorpia. Several of the runs to the dilapidated Jupiter class Battlestar from their tiny civilian fleet had been full of sniveling, sneezing rug rats. A career pilot one of the things she had given up for that job had been a family. Good riddance.

The five days since her abortive love cruise had been spent flying 12 hour CAP rotations as many of their pilots were busy in the simulators, training the first class of thirty civilians being trained up as viper jocks.

The second class of thirty was on her schedule for training starting tomorrow. Having lost nearly three hundred pilots on the day the Colonies fell but not their birds left a lot of cockpits to fill.

Now “Blondie” was sitting in the office of their ship’s doctor, 29-year-old Emil Washington. A slender, dark-skinned native of Picon. Call sign “White Coat” he had taken an interest in learning how to fly raptors before the war. The Admiral had shunned older doctors, wanting his team to be treated by a new, young doctor with new ideas.

Lieutenant Washington ushered the attractive pilot into the examination room of sickbay. He was wearing a mask. Knox took note of it, with a taunting voice remarking, “honestly doc I’ve been celibate, you aren’t going to get a social disease from me.”

“Flu-like symptoms,” he replied calmly, listening to her hear with the business end of his medical tool under the very attractive squadron leader, tee-shirt on her back. “I’ve had a dozen this morning. We’ve only got two doctors for this entire crew.”

“Damn,” Knox replied. “That’s cold.”

An idea occurred to the doctor, who turned away from the pilot and flipped through a print out of a medical journal he had picked up on shore leave two weeks earlier. “Nah,” he whispered to himself. “She’s too young for that.” 

Still, he flipped the page and began mixing some common lab chemicals for a test. With a long swab, he pushed it up the pilot’s nose before she could protest, going as deep as the journal recommended.

“Hey,” Knox joked, “give me back that chunk of my brain will ya?”

“Shssh!” 

The test would take an hour to yield results. “I need to isolate you until I get the results of the test. You may be highly contagious.”

“Seriously doc?” she protested.

“On that bed,” his look was deadly serious. In an outbreak on Tauron under better sanitary conditions that existed after the Cylon holocaust, had killed hundreds and only been stopped by a snap travel ban three months earlier. “Frack me,” he whispered.

* * *

Major Ramirez, not being a pilot and still cramming on how to manage the flight operations of the largest class of Battlestar had avoided taking CIC shifts. She had an off duty LSO Lieutenant by her side to avoid making a deadly mistake.

A six-ship raptor strike had just jumped back from its mission and two of the birds were damaged, one critically. The sleepy LSO recommended giving that raptor jock an entire landing deck of his own.

“Declaring an emergency,” its pilot shouted unsteadily on the wireless which was broadcast from speakers in the CIC.

Ramirez had never even been to sickbay, having met the white-coated doctor at a staff meeting which had degraded into a shouting match about supplies. So it was quite a shock when he had burst into CIC flanked by a dozen marines, everyone wearing masks covering their noses and mouths.

The thirty year old woman who still thought like an IT jock was surprised when two marines got on either side of her and pushed the LSO away maintaining a two-meter buffer around the officer.

The doctor said nothing, simply thrusting a one-page medical alert print out referring to the “Sunspot” virus. It showed a death rate of over one percent. She scanned the paper as her stomach contracted into a knot that felt like lead.

“What do we do,” she whispered to the doc, taking the mask he offered and putting it on her own face. She nodded and listened patiently as he went through the list.

“Social distancing on a Battlestar?” she asked.

“It’s tough the doc answered back. “But this has been circulating for seven days and the incubation period is 7-10 days. If we isolate right now and test everyone we may be able to protect between 25% and 33% of the pilots.”

Ramirez shuddered as she nodded. They had been on the offensive. They had been jumping around blowing up Cylon military targets for weeks. Based on what the doctor was telling her they would be lucky to cobble together thirty pilots the next few days.

“Frack me,” she breathed.

“Handset ship wide,” she ordered. The gloved marine sanitized the old-style telephone before she handed it to the XO.

“This is the XO. Shelter in place. Lock all bulkheads immediately. We’ve had an outbreak in the fleet of a deadly virus. Until you are tested, assume you are sick and do your best to remain two meters away from everyone else. You will eventually be met by medical personnel and masks will be distributed. CAP cut engines and maintain momentum, you may be up for a while.

She did not need an LSO for this.

The sound of hatches closing soon began to echo throughout the ship.

* * *

Eva Lawson was in her bed, asleep after another enthusiastic session with her lover when the noise on the intercom roused her to a wakeful state.

She tried to move her arms, and they did not move. She was in a strange position, groggy, but her wrists were tied behind her back.  “What the Frack?” she muttered before remembering the details of last night’s session.

She quickly head-butted the man, waking him up suddenly. 

“What the frack?” the older man asked, also blind-sided by the sudden activity in the middle of the night.

“Untie my hands,” Lawson said in her command voice. “There is a situation in the fleet.”

Since his model had actually introduced the virus into the fleet he was fully aware of the situation. He made a special effort to pretend to be surprised. “What is happening?” 

“Some kind of virus is spreading in the fleet. Let me go now.”

“Beg,” he taunted.

She head-butted him again and her expression became angry, reminding some of the Goddess Medusa. “NOW! she spat out her orders.

“I think you need to beg otherwise your command will find out their commander is submissive in bed.”

“You let me go or I will bite your fracking nose off,” Lawson threatened.   Her face indicated the seriousness of this promise.”

Cavil reached around her back and released her wrists just before three marines started banging on the door to the commander’s quarters.

“Commander,” a coarse voice came through the door. “Is anyone else in there with you? Commander, you need to immediately distance yourself from your friend. We are in outbreak protocol right now Sir. You need to be kept safe.”

Cavil took his time getting back into his shorts, black pants and black turtleneck. He sported a satisfied look on his face. Lawson was in lightning dress mode, still instinctual from her days as a pilot. She had done two tours in the disputed Tauron mining Colonies.

She was dressed in a wrinkled uniform 45 seconds later, pushing Cavil into the bathroom. After kicking his shoes into the same door, she let the marines in. She knew she was not fooling anyone, but appearances still mattered.

After she let the marines in, the marines went through the suite with weapons aimed, like a swat team clearing a room in a hostage situation. When Cavil came out of the bathroom wearing his wrinkled, black clothing, his hair rumpled on purpose, he froze when two marines aimed rifles at his head.

“Ceasefire marines,” he raised his hands over his head. “I’m unarmed.”

“Sir,” the marine sergeant said. “We are under outbreak protocols. Please maintain a three-meter distance from the commander until you are tested negative for the virus.”

“What the frack,” Commander Lawson asked.

“It’s all on your tablet computer commander,” the marine leader added. “You are not going to be allowed into CIC until all staff are screened negative.”

“How the frack am I to run combat operations from my office?” Lawson stated in a harsh voice.

“Talk to the XO,” the marine replied. “There is an entire bank of monitors being installed in your office.”  He turned to Cavil. “Come with us Sir.” His voice left no doubt about the consequences of disobedience.

The ship’s doctor came in next in his white lab coat, carrying a test kit. He was wearing a surgical mask.

* * *

Commander Eva Lawson was fuming by the time the crew had gotten through her quarters. A ten-person crew had gone through all the nook and crannies of the Commanders suite, cleaning everything and re-arranging all her gear.

Most offensive they had taken her flight suit and helmet. This had offended her pride as a pilot. She had started this journey, the Cylon exodus, or the second Cylon war as a CAG, and that was part of her core identity.

Nothing was more precious to her than the symbols of being a pilot. She had never been the best pilot in her squadron, but she had always been good about sticking with her wingman and staying out of trouble. She had risen through the ranks because she was reliable and had established relationships with pilots and non-pilots that were necessary to keep a Battlestar squadron air group functioning efficiently.

When she had objected to the removal of her flight helmet, the cleaning crew had merely shrugged their shoulders. Apparently in this situation, the

Chapter 35: Viral Spread(Pandemic)

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

Complete battle video;

Refinery Batlle video courtesy slitherine.com

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.