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

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