After the attempted ambush of the Mercury the Cylons pulled all their forces away from the human colonies. It was obvious to them that Admiral Lawson was taking a confrontational approach hoping that a major battle would wake up the government. It was important to build enough ship capacity to take the population of these 14 outposts to a place far away from the Cylon.
Lawson had ordered an aggressive patrol program, sending out task forces led by the Mercury or the Saturn to go farther and farther, looking to collect evidence of Cylon war preparations. Around day 500 since the fall of the 12 Colonies the government cut funding for military fuel.
This did not stop Admiral Lawson and Commander Ramirez from their operational tempo. 90% of the fuel that the new Colonies consumed was provided by the military, which seized refined Tylium from outposts abandoned by the Cylon. When the government cut the funding for fuel allocation, they merely siphoned off fuel that they were capturing.
The Acropolis and the Athena were finally repaired after long delays, but the government refused to provide the people necessary to bring those ships back into service. Lawson and Ramirez cut their own crews and flight wings down, to get these battlestars back into service.
They tapped their own leadership to get commanders and paired the Athena with the Mercury and the Acropolis with the Saturn and essentially commanded these other two ships remotely. The continued to venture further and further into space to raid Cylon supplies. It had been months since a Cylon ship had been spotted on DRADIS.
Eventually the supply of refined Tylium dried up, so the plan now was to get unrefined product and have the military refine it themselves.
Every month the shipyard was moved in hopes that the Cylons would not locate it and destroy it.
On day 564 of the exodus, Ramirez captured a Cylon parts depot. In the depot was a plentiful supply of FTL parts, both Colonial and Cylon. Using the same scheme as the mobile shipyard, they jumped the entire depot to fleet headquarters at New Picon. There were enough Colonial parts to keep the reduced fleet operational. Military scientists set to work on reverse engineering Cylon FTL technology.
Over the next few months it was discovered that the Cylon jump technology could travel 20 times farther than Colonial drives. A cautious effort to use the Cylon technology began. The hacking staff that had sprung up under Ramirez when she was XO of the Mercury went over the code line by line.
The Cylon jump drive was designed to operate with the eccentric Cylon that controlled their jumps.
This interface was re-written to communicate with the control systems of Colonial ships which generally was in the Combat Information Center (CIC).
Lawson looked down at her printed operational report on her desk. It showed the 4 Mercury Class battlestars had been upgraded. The programmers had discovered numerous back doors that enabled the Cylons to hack in and wirelessly manipulate and control ships subsystems.
The program had been tested thoroughly with 20 test jumps of every ship, increasing the distance each time.
This new capability was built into the reconnaissance raptors. The amount of electronic intelligence that was being gathered grew exponentially in size, to the point that it slowed down the massive computers designed to process it and provide human intelligence analysts data to review.
Lawson was sitting in her office on the Mercury with a remote camera on her and a screen showing Maria Ramirez in her office.
“We need to take a refinery,” Lawson said, stating the obvious. “We are sitting on a mountain of raw Tylium and we have had to draw down military stockpiles to keep the civilian economy afloat.”
“I’ve got two candidates,” Ramirez replied showing the location of two outposts recently scouted by raptors. Two red lights appeared on the maps they were sharing on tablet computers.
“Look at that capacity,” Lawson said eagerly. “If we got them both we could refine enough raw tylium to supply the entire fleet and the civilian economy.”
“We can have them both but not in the same raid,” Ramirez answered. We have a very short supply of the big FTL units that we need to jump an entire refinery. I assume you don’t want to use the old Colonial jump drives.”
Distracted, Lawson fiddled with the tablet. “You are right of course. Jumping a tylium refinery is already an explosion danger. We do not want to multiply that. Lets send you and the Saturn task force to seize the smaller refinery and hold it while my group takes the big boy.”
“Yes Sir, that means my task force will have to defend that location for a full day.”
“Kick the training program into high gear. I want every squadron and every pilot sharp for this operation. What kind of coverage do we have for these locations. We need to be sure the Cylons don’t ambush us or destroy the refinery.”
“With the new jump drives we can maintain coverage around the clock for a week before raptor readiness declines Admiral.”
“Lets train up for a week and strike,” Lawson suggested.
“Copy that Sir.”
“We are going to need to do our own manufacturing of spare parts,” Lawson said. “More than half the spare parts we need are either not being manufactured or have been diverted for use in the civilian economy.”
“I have a plan,” Ramirez replied. “the intelligence weenies need some time to process the data. Then two weeks to do recon and we are in the manufacturing business.”
“Human Resources,” Lawson continued. “We have been ordered to release half our people to reserve status. We need to maintain a fleet with 2 offensive task forces and enough defensive pickets to defend 14 outposts.”
Ramirez could only sigh at that point. “Impossible.”
* * *
“This is raptor two niner one niner, we are requesting permission to depart. We are outbound on mission orders two seven niner Charlie Alpha,” Rock Star, broadcast as he sat impatiently in the pilots seat. His raptor was based on the Athena, having been transferred from the Mercury some weeks before. William Jenkins was his real name. He was 28 years old and had made the rank of Lieutenant juset before the star of the second Cylon war.
Tall and handsome, his red hair and freckles were disarming when teamed up with a smile. He looked back at his ECO who nodded. Jill “Streak” Abrams was 26 and had been recruited from a refugee camp. She had managed to get through training and a number of battles until her pilot was killed with a freak shot through the window on final approach to the landing deck.
She had managed to take over the controls and get the raptor onto the deck, recovering the bird from a nasty spin. Though she was a good pilot, she preferred taking care of electronic systems and weapons to the pilots seat. She had her light brown hair tied up in a tight knot so it would fit in her helmet.
“Raptor two niner one niner you are cleared for departure, turn left after clearing the pod, make sure you are a safe distance away before your jump.”
“Acknowledged raptor two niner one niner, we are departing” Rock Star answered.
The mission was boring but vital. They were jumping 15 times further than they had ever jumped before.
Streak ran the checklist and informed per pilot that there was no traffic to worry about.
“Jumping,” Streak announced.
After the flash of white they were on the scene of what was possibly the first offensive operation in at least ninety days.
As thinned out as the ranks of the fleet were, what was left behind was highly motivated and skilled group of combat pilots.
“DRADIS on passive. No Cylon contacts,
“Roger that,” Rock Star acknowledged. “Lets hope for a boring recon trip.”
“So say we all,” Streak replied.
* * *
All of the ships were ready. The battlestars, the support ships and the civilian utility fleet that was tasked to take the refineries. The operation was bold, and was intended to solve their political problems at home and hopefully provoke the Cylons into proving their hostile intentions.
The countdown clock showed 30 minutes until the jump. It would be the longest jump in the history of the Colonial fleet.
* * *
Three Cavil’s sat around a table in a base star that was part of an operational command that was not known to the rest of the Cylons. This fleet was crewed by only model 1.
“The Colonial fleet is planning on seizing two tylium refineries we abandoned,” the first one reported.
“We have to decide whether we are going to let them,” said the second Cavil.
“It is not an easy decision.” The third one opined. “They have been cutting military spending. If we resist, we give them a reason to stop the cutbacks.”
“Our decision to pull back was a long term decision. If we resist, that process will likely be reversed.
“We have failed to locate Adama and Galactica. We need to wipe out this larger group of humans,” number two said.
“The humans are using our jump technology,” warned #1.
“That means they might be using our navigational database, complete with a few surprises.” #3 said.
“I hope we get it right this time,” #2 laughed.
“The other models want to make peace with the humans,” number three said. “We need to eliminate this infestation once and for all. They have dedicated two task forces to this operation.”
“All right,” Cavil #1 said. “We can hit this fleet, keep it busy while launching our assault on the 14 outposts.”
“Their is a substantial force guarding the new Colonies,” #3 worried.
“We have agents in place. We will stagger our assault and over some hours nuke them all.”
“Lets get started,” Cavil #1 smiled.
* * *
“All boards, all ships, report green board and ready to jump. Operation gas station is ready to begin Admiral Lawson,” the communications specialist in CIC reported.
“All ships jump!” she ordered. “All birds launch on the other side,” her voice sounded coarse and a bit husky, like Admiral Adama.
A minute later they were all in place and the air wings were launching on the other side.
“DRADIS reports every ship present and accounted for. We are launching the crews that will attach the FTL boosters to the refinery,” reported a middle aged lieutenant who was in managing fleet operations.
The ominous triple beep of the DRADIS console began to chime.
“Oh frak us,” Lawson said.
“Contact,” the DRADIS operator shouted. “Five Cylon base stars.”
“They are pretty far off,” the XO commented. “They don’t seem to be in that big a hurry to get to us.”
An ominous feeling of dread came over Lawson. “Launch a bird. Have them jump to fleet HQ and get a status.”
“What are you thinking?” the executive officer asked.
“I am thinking they left this juicy prize here to draw us away from home. They are going to try and keep us here while they attack the new Colonies.”
“We should send a second raptor to the Saturn task force and tell them to jump home,” suggested the deck officer.”
“Good idea,” Lawson ordered. “Relay my orders. Abandon the refinery and jump for home. Repeat mission abort, jump back to fleet HQ!”
“Missiles inbound, targeting both battlestars,” shouted the DRADIS operator. “One hundred, no two hundred inbound. Some are going to get through.”
There was a roar and shaking as a salvo hit the Mercury.
“One of the base stars has jumped above us,” DRADIS warned.
“Upper fleet engage,” Lawson ordered calmly.
“More missiles inbound, targeting Mercury and Athena.”
The deck rocked as more impacts were scored. One of the glass CIC doors shattered.
“Another base star has targeted us, tracking 80 more inbound!”
“More hits on the flight pod.”
“Crash turn. They are tying to damage our FTL,” the Admiral ordered. The ship had barely begun to evade when the lights went dark and the entire ship shook.
“FTL is offline,” engineering reported.
“Full automatic on defensive batteries.”
“Salvage team reports refinery is ready to jump.”
“Immediate jump is authorized,” Lawson ordered.
“Cylons are targeting the refinery,” tactical warned.
“Tell engineering to get those FTL drives back online,” Lawson ordered.
“Fire control is offline,” tactical reported.
“Get it back online. Have the FTL computers warmed up and ready to go,” she barked.
“Vipers report they are using delay tactics, trying to make us stay here longer.”
“Base star is doing a tactical jump, trying to get in position to get another nuke in on our topside.”
“Full right, roll the ship so they hit something else,” the Admiral ordered.
“All upper fleet batteries hit them back,” Lawson ordered.
“Athena has a firing solution on one of the base stars,” tactical reported.
“MELT IT!” Lawson ordered in a gritty voice.
“Splash one Cylon base star,” tactical reported a few seconds later,
“Fire control is online,” tactical reported again.
“Weapons free,” the Admiral ordered. “Target their center axis. Keep rolling the ship to avoid another hit to the top side.”
“Roger that Admiral,” reported damage control. “We are losing armor from several facings.”
She knew that they would be dead if they had allowed the missile strikes to hit a single point on the ship.
“Left thirty degree’s lets help out Athena,” Lawson ordered, “she is having a bad time.”
“Weapon have a solution on the base star over her fire control.”
“Salvo mode,” Lawson ordered in a firm voice. “Light them up”
“Base star is spooling for a tactical, they want to get above us,” Lieutenant Green the tactical officer reported.
“Offensive posture, light it up when its jump ends. All batteries with a solution entire task force.”
“Splash another base star,” the XO shouted excitedly.
“Salvage Teams report having trouble with the FTL drive on the refinery. They are being harassed by raiders,” a female voice from the other end of CIC reported.
“CAG,” Lawson ordered. “Give the refinery time to jump.”
“Negative Sir. Bad idea. It’s a full time job keeping the raiders away from the Mercury,” Jaybird answered. There was a three second silence as they waited for the Admiral’s reaction to the contradiction.
“See if you can cut loose a couple of birds,” Lawson urged but did not use her order tone voice.
“Too late,” a voice shouted. “Refinery is going up.”
“Cylons are backing off.”
“Pursue and destroy,” the Admiral ordered. “Lets get ready to jump home.”
“Athena,” Lawson growled, take point.
“We have firing solution on another base star,” tactical reported.
“Melt it,” the admiral ordered.
“Cylons have backed off are lobbing missiles at us to interfere with our jump,” the executive officer informed Lawson.
“Jump us the hell out of here,” the admiral ordered.