Chapter 53: Come on home.

Major Maria Ramirez looked totally different that she had the day of the attacks on the colonies. She had lost a lot of weight and had finally had a new uniform issued to her. She looked good in the immaculately pressed blue uniform. She waited for the Admiral’s secretary to escort him into his tiny, barely furnished office.

The Admiral did not look very good. This eyes were sunken and he looked like he was going downhill pretty quickly. His movements were stiff and his hand shook badly as he paged through the report.

“So Major,” he asked after motioning her to a chair. “Do you think our distraction plan is working?”

“Admiral Cobb,” she answered. “We have been at it for three weeks now. We have literally run in excess of one thousand sorties. The Cylon network remains hacked and they have not moved Commander Lawson. What the hell are we waiting for? I’ve got the equivalent of two squadrons of warships waiting in line at the shipyard to get damage repaired.”

“Is the operational tempo too high?” Admiral Cobb asked.

“Not necessarily. Our hack has led us to understand that the Cylons have mothballed sixty base stars because they can’t supply the Tylium. This is a great outcome,” she concluded, “but we don’t have Commander Lawson back and our readiness is dropping every day this campaign drags on.”

“That is my assessment. Take a look at this.” He took up a remote in his quivering right hand and pointed it at a wall mounted monitor. He flicked another button.

Cavil came online. “All right,” he said. “You have made your point. If you stop attacking our fuel supply and our other logistics we will give Commander Lawson back to you. This is a one time offer. If you don’t mind picking up some troublemakers on Caprica, we can make a deal.”

“We are going to do the negotiation, but will launch our daily raids. Your task force will be hitting a shipyard on the Cylon side of the old Armistice line. It has hundreds of first war ships that they were trying to get ready for operations before we squeezed their fuel supplies.”

“Just blow the crap out of it Admiral?”

“Yes and while you are doing that, you will launch a two raptor sortie of elite Marines that will jump in and infiltrate the detention center we believe Commander Lawson is in.”

“No backup?” Ramirez asked.

“We think small is better in this case. We will throw them off balance by attacking during the negotiation. The commando team will meet you at a way point that we will share if the rescue mission is successful.”

He pushed a small jeweler’s box across the table. “You are out of uniform commander,” he said softly.

“Oh no,” Ramirez backed away. “My crew already has a commander.”

“Of course they do,” Cobb smiled. “This is partially to let the Cylons believe we have given up on Commander Lawson. But after this mission, you will have a new job. The Saturn is ready for trials. We believe it is beneath the dignity of a Mercury Class Battlestar to be commanded by a Major.”

“Yes Sir,” Ramirez took the box, saluted and requested permission to leave.

“Good hunting commander,” he said. “Dismissed.”

* * *

The voices canceled each other out as everyone shouted at once when Commander Ramirez gathered the senior officers in the ready room.

“All right,” she thumped a book on the table. “Listen up!”

“Shut the frak up!” Jaybird roared.

“All right, we have a mission, a shipyard to destroy. While we are there, we will be launching an elite Marine commando force that will hopefully liberate the commander.”

“Why can’t we back up the commando force?” Sausage asked.

“Because those are our orders. If a Mercury class ship with a six ship fleet jumps into your neighborhood, you are going to know that something is up.”

“Commander Lawson is our commander,” shouted a voice in the back of the room. “We should have waited for her.”

“First,” Ramirez spoke in a harsh, firm voice. “This is NOT a democracy. We follow the orders we are given. If the Cylons have the same reaction as you knuckleheads then it is perfect. We want the Cylons to believe we have written off Commander Lawson. Finally if this works it will be my last mission as Mercury actual. The Saturn is ready for trials. I have been given my own command.”\

She then pointed a finger at “Sausage” who was in his flight suit. “I get to pick one transfer to bring along for the adventure. “Sausage,” she repeated. “How would you like to be my CAG?”

“Copy that,” he replied.

“You will lead red squadron on this strike. Try not to get yourself killed today. It will take four jumps to get to our strike location. Make sure everything is ready for action. We need to hit those jump coordinates bang on.”

“For Commander Lawson!” “Sausage” shouted thrusting his fist in the air.

“So say we all!”

* * *

Usually after a few FT jumps a colonial officer got used to the feeling. There was often a queasy feeling as the jump began. The feeling never went away, most of the time you just forgot about it as you piled up jumps.

Commander Maria Ramirez was not that kind of person. Every jump made her sick to her stomach. She wanted to lean over an wretch as if began. Soon enough the white flash of light faded and she heard the noise of systems.

“All fleet ships are on DRADIS. We have the Cylon shipyard up and the intel weenies were right, there is not even a CAP up.” The DRADIS officer reported.

“Orion’s exit stealth mode, all ships launch all vipers. Full offensive profile, target the big ships first.”

Now it was the nerves of battle, people risking their lives on her orders. Commander, she thought. I am a frakking IT geek Lieutenant, what is the big idea calling me a commander. Her stomach contracted into a solid ball of lead. They put the chatter of the viper pilots as they talked and announced they were destroying targets.

This was completely unreal to her. She was going to get her own command. That was a big joke. She was still writing code to help further hack the Cylon network.

After about five minutes it was over. It was a turkey shoot. The enemy barely shot back.

It was now time for the second jump. During the second shipyard they would release the commando force that was due to jump to the detention facility that had Commander Lawson in it.

* * *

She had planned it for a long time, even before she had lost count of the number of times she had been assaulted. She was kept in a five point chain set up. Both ankles, both wrists and the steel collar on her neck.

Just as the Cavil model was getting to the height of his pleasure, she reached up with her chained right wrist and wrapped it smoothly around his throat. So many times had she practiced it. She yanked down with all her strength expecting that she would have to strangle him. There was a very loud and satisfying crack as his neck snapped.

Commander Eva Lawson pushed her hips forward getting the dead toaster out of her. She carefully rolled him off of her, the body needed to come to rest within the very short reach of her hands. It did. This one was a regular. He assaulted her nearly every day. He kept a ring of keys sometimes unlocking a limb to enable him to try a new position.

It took ten seconds to find the keys, nearly thirty to unchain her wrists and ankles. Next the lock that chained her neck to the floor. Swearing in frustration, she could not find he key to the steel collar on her neck. “Frak it,” she whispered, walking carefully out of the room.

* * *

The negotiation meeting point was on a snow covered icy world, four plotted jumps away from the Colonies. It had been a resort before the first war, gradually falling further away from Colonial influence as the battle line moved closer to the colonies.

The hotel lobby was shabby, having been left idle for five decades. There was a table and a Cavil model seated at it.

Admiral Cobb had taken the meeting against all advice. He wanted to measure the human toaster model with his own eyes.

Cavil did not get up or offer to shake hands. “Lets skip the pleasantries,” he demanded. “What is your response to our offer.”

“We are not interested in making your occupation of Caprica easier. He have a Cavil model in custody. We will trade him for Commander Laws.”

“You have proof of life Admiral Cobb?”

The Admiral dropped a mobile phone on the table. It lit up showing the glaring face of a Cavil model.

“About the cease fire?” Cavil asked.

”Leave the Colonies and we will consider it,” Cobb said.

“You aren’t negotiating in good faith?” The model number one put his finger on his ear, manipulating a device inside.

“I’m not negotiating at all. The People’s Council Executive made it quite clear. Trade the Cylon for Lawson, on the off chance you have not extracted every secret from her.”

“It’s not good faith to attack our defenseless shipyards during a negotiation.”

“Frak off toaster,” the Admiral banged the table.

“Racist!” replied the Cylon.

“Proof of life.”

“It’s in your in box at your base. You really should upgrade your firewall.”

“Where will the exchange be?” Cobb pressed.

“You can pick her up this time tomorrow, right here. Bring the Mercury. I wonder what her crew will think of a pornographic proof of life tape. Oh, I forgot to tell you we sent copies to every ship in your fleet. Those firewall’s really need some work.”

Cavil shut his portfolio, turned and walked out of the room. He waved an arm. “Don’t forget to close the door on the way out.”

* * *

Commander Eva Lawson dispatched the Cylon woman with a swift grab of her chin and a hard wrench to the right. Dripping with sweat, she dragged the dead woman and dragged her into a dark corner. It took seventy five seconds to relieve her of her clothing and other possessions.

The Battlestar Commander had memorized the path she had been walked from the landing pad and a self satisfied grin came over her face as she saw a heavy raider was sitting on the pad unoccupied. The former CAG made a bet she could fly the thing. First she used the keys she had taken from the black haired Cylon and took some choice items out of an arms locker.

One thing was certain, they were not going to get her alive this time.

* * *

The Elite Marine commander had been told to expect heavy resistance, but their jump had been very precise. They were low in the atmosphere and there was no way they could have been detected. When their pilot swore and jerked the ship hard, the commander caught a glimpse of a Cylon Heavy Raider flying straight at them.

“Ranger one, this is ranger two. Get a lock on that key and kill him before he calls the other toasters.”|

“Firing.”

* * *

Not thirty seconds after pulling the ship out of the landing bay she was face to face with a raptor. She dodged it as quickly as she could when her ship started to take fire. A warning came on showing a pair of raptors bearing down on her. Since they were firing she assumed that this was her long awaited rescue party.

Where was the communications gear on this toaster contraption, she thought as she dodged and then tried to move the ship into a higher orbit.

She felt the deck fall from under her feet. System warning barked out. She found the communications gear as she struggled to keep the raider aloft. “This is Eva Lawson, Mercury Actual to colonial raptors. I am a friend. Do not fire. I repeat, I am a friend, do not fire.”

“How do you know that you are you,” came the challenge.

She recognized the voice. Where had she met this guy. On a drunken shore leave no doubt. Suddenly the name came to her. “Vince? Vincent Roberts. We met on shore leave three years ago on Picon.”

“God’s damn it I knew I remembered you. We stayed up until 3 am drinking and then we….”

“Yeah that’s me,” she interrupted. “I’m losing altitude pretty fast. That was some damned nice shooting there. Top of the class. I’m going to put down and you can rescue me properly.”

The Cylon craft was very unfamiliar to her. There were warning sirens and flashing lights everywhere as she desperately tried to land the doomed heavy raider. Just a few meters off a relatively flat field, she lost control and the heavy raider plowed into the dirt.

Commander Lawson blacked out. The next thing she remembered was Vince Roberts a conquest she thought she had forgotten cleaning dirt and mud from her face.

“You didn’t have to steal a heavy raider and crash it to get my attention. I’d frak you again any time.”

“Just get me the frak back to my Battlestar. That’s an order.” She closed her eyes, not feeling her limbs blacking out.

His orders had been to take her to a meeting point and he followed them. In thirty minutes he was putting down on the flight pod of the Battlestar Mercury.

“This is Marine one,” he interrupted on the wireless. “We have the commander. She is pretty busted up. She escaped, stole a heavy raider and we kind of shot her down.”

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