Chapter 29: Waiting

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,”