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.

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