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.