The colonial warriors, who staffed the air, wings of the battlestars, Mercury, Pegasus, and Galactica were confused by the silence from command.
The ranks of the pilots of the later two battlestars have been thinned greatly by the settlements on new Caprica. It had seemed like a gift from the gods, when the Mercury had it accidentally jumped in to the battle that have been launched by the Galactica and the Pegasus in order to recover fuel for a future new Caprica operation.
The sudden appearance of the mercury could not be an accident. Though over two years have passed since the exodus from the Colonies, There were pilots on the Mercury’s roster, that new officers that were posted to the Galactica.
“Helo”, was known by Mercury’s CAG, “Playboy”, and two of the squadron commanders, “Kitty” and “Wheelchair”. All three had heard the executive officer of the Galactica on the wireless. The trio we’re in the after action bar on board the Mercury swapping stories, and trying to figure out how to get a hold of Helo on the wireless.
The current situation, a new Caprica was being discussed by a number of pilots who are exchanged radio communications during the recent battle over the refineries. After the loss of the Acropolis, some months ago, the site of the Pegasus, even understaffed was exciting for the pilots and the crew of the Mercury.
Party atmosphere aboard the Mercury was doused by a short announcement by the executive officer Major Samuel “Whiskey” Jones.
On, although he had taken on the persona of the executive officer, which was modeled after the lofty reputation of Saul Tigh, he had quietly preserved his reputation as “One of the guys.” He had done this quietly, with a slap on the back here and he’s quiet drink stolen there in the makeshift bar on the Mercury.
When he got in on the ships PA system and made the announcement as they were still recovering fighters from the battle, it was saying is if a storm come through on a hot summer day. The air was cold, and there was a chill in the air.
He had clicked on the PA and begun to speak. The chill was palpable.
“This is the XO,” he said any somber voice. “Big just completed operations is classified, top-secret, black ops. It is not to be discussed in anyway. It did not happen. This applies to each member of this crew.”
Jones continued, “This order applies to all personnel on this battle star from the state forward until and unless it is lifted by the admiral. Any discussion of what was seen today or operations plans in the next few days will endangered the lives of 40,000 citizens of the colonies.”
Major Jones cleared his throat as he tried to control his emotions and continue. “I know after everything you have been through. This is a hard burden to carry. It may seem impossible to fulfill this order on the warship. This order may seem harsh. The orders that follow may seem even more logical and harsh. Please understand that the order is given with a heavy heart. The survival of the human species is at stake. Please follow these orders strictly and understand that lives will be lost if we violate them. Squadron commanders, and CAG report to the Admiral’s office for planning session. That is all.”
Of course, nobody expected the order to be followed completely. The whispers we’re between individual crew members in dark hallways.
The day has started out as a simple test of new FTL drive technology. After ending me excitement, and adrenaline rush of a long sought after victory by the crew of the mercury, it ended in sadness as new colleagues discovered would not be celebrated but shunned and silenced.
They would not end in the expected joy. This was the cloud that hung over the meeting of the commander, air group, and two of the squadron commanders in Admiral Lawson’s office.
Even in the darkest days after the fall of the colonies, they have never seen admiral. Lawsons expert expression, so dire and clouded. Her voice nearly broke as she began to speak. “I know this is difficult”, she said.
“The rumors we’ve been hearing or true. Gaius Baltar was elected president of the colonies a year ago. He ordered the settlement on new Caprica of the fleet. Some weeks ago the Cylons discovered new Caprica and occupied it. Nearly 40,000 citizens of Admiral Adama’s fleet are at risk.”
Lawson continued, barely making iContact with her three pilot commanders. “The fuel operation we happened into was necessary to replenish the fuel stocks of Adama’s fleet. Now that Galactica and Pegasus, a tanked up, a subsequent operation has been planned to secure ammunition for Admiral Adama. We now hold the refineries. A raptor has been dispatched to call in our tanker fleet.”
Admiral Lawson had rehearsed this briefing, something she never did. Because there was enough fuel left in these refineries to fill each and everyone of our ships in our tankers. We now have the fuel resources we need to go anywhere we want in the galaxy. We’re going to continue our logistics war against the Cylon. But we’re gonna take it as far away as we can from the location of New Caprica.”
The CAG “Playboy”, a tall, handsome, blonde, slapped his hand on the admirals desk loudly. “I already have three transfer requests to the Galactica and four more to the Pegasus. What am I supposed to do about that Admiral?”
Admiral Eva Lawson’s voice felt like acid as she spoke. “You follow orders just like me. You don’t question them. Admiral Adama is my superior officer. If he wanted, he could take command of our fleet and you never hear from me again. He has taken upon himself a one-way mission. The only way we can help him is to secure supplies of spare parts and ammunition from the Cylon depots we are attacking in the next couple of days.”
Squadron commander wheelchair tried to take a conciliatory tone. “We have sufficient forces if we add them in to reinforce Pegasus and Galactica, what looks like a one way mission now could turn out to be successful.”
Admiral Lawsons voice cracked, and she continued. “I’m sorry. The only reason the Galactica and Pegasus were able to survive. Up to this point was the massive drain that we have placed on the enemy logistics. New Caprica is protected by only two base stars. If we do not continue our mission, if we had not done so much after now, Admiral Adama’s forces would’ve been crushed.”
The three pilots all spoke at the same time, and could not be understood. Admiral Lawson’s hand gently press down on the table. Though the hand should not have been able to make a sound, somehow it seemed to silence the three pilots.
“I did not ask for this job,” Admiral, Lawson, continued. “On the day the colonies fell you knew what my reputation was. It was well earned. I stepped into my viper as commander air group. Whoever controls, the universe has got one hell of a sense of humor, because when I landed my viper, I was commander of this battle star, and later fleet admiral.”
“Adama is my fleet commander now. He has ordered me to continue our campaign to take cylon forces away from new Caprica. He has not revealed to me the location of that planet. It is best for the survival of our species that we not know about it. It is best for the survival of the species that we not talk about it. What we need to do now is our jobs and secure the ammunition and supplies that the admiral needs in order to complete his mission.”
“I consider myself not to be an adult on the day the colonies fell. It was quite comfortable for me to think of myself, as not being one of the adults. But that changed me the day the Colonies fell. Today is the day all three of you grow up. The fate of 200,000 human beings depends on you following this order and not inciting a rebellion among our pilots. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever asked you to do. Believe me it’ll keep me up at night for many many days in the future. We have our orders. We jump at 06:00 tomorrow. Get your pilots ready. Dismissed.”
Admiral Lawson stood up dramatically to leave three pilots in her office to plan tomorrow’s raid. She retreated into her quarters, which are connected by a locked door to her office.
The 43 year-old admiral was barely able to breathe, and she retreated into her bathroom. She stripped off her uniform blues and stood staring in the mirror for a few seconds, in her regulation, brown sleeveless T-shirt. Feeling sick to her stomach. She leaned over and vomited into the toilet.
This was truly the hardest order she had ever given. To blame them on the order sheet received was the only way she could cope. She knew it was cowardice.
She knew that in Adama’s place she would give the exact same order. That did not make it any easier for her. The fact that the other admiral had made it impossible for her to do anything except follow. These orders, turned her stomach into a ball of lead. The orders did somehow provide her a way of coping.
* * *
Mercury CIC 05:55
Major Sam Jones began the checklist in CIC. The lat item before starting thee checklist was always eye contact with Admiral Lawson. Her uniform was perfectly creased military order, pants and uniform jacket. The Admiral’s stylists, always made sure there were between four and six backup uniforms in the closet in her quarters.
The term “stylist” was not military at all. It was part of a conspiracy between Jones and Peoples Council Leader Cory Brooks. The Admiral’s previous habit of showing up for operations in crumpled, sometimes dirty uniforms and equally tangled and unkempt hair had roiled makeshift social media, fed by wireless “news” chatter.
With no constitutional power, Brooks had turned to Lawson’s previous XO’s. The first had been Ramirez, who having risen from IT was as clueless as the Admiral. Subsequent holders of the position tried to cooperate with Leader Brooks, understanding that image mattered. The results were uneven, as XO Mercury was frequently a stepping stone to a ships command.
“Whiskey” was different, because he had kept himself off the command track by a serious incident before the war. He was in this position for the long haul, and nobody wanted to imagine the disaster that could vault him into command.
Leader Brooks had practically kidnapped Jones on his way to a reconnaissance briefing. After literally twisting the XO’s arm behind his back, she had dragged him into a raptor VR suite. There he had been introduced to a staff of drafted civilians, 4 women and two men, Two of them were tasked to the admiral, one as a “body” person, to keep Lawson if not camera ready at least not in a state of being that set of alarm bells in talk wireless social media.
They worked rotating 8 hour shifts. The second person, a private, the entry rank for NCO’s saw to it that no matter what the shortage was or how bad it was, made sure the admirals physical needs were met. That could range from maintaining a stock of socks, panties and bras in her dresser to insuring that the admiral slept at least six hours a night and ate twice a day.
When Lawson had walked in on a meeting with Jones and the “stylists” before the admiral could spit venom complaining she was a grown woman who could comb her own hair and dress herself. Jones had put his hands in the air, indicating surrender. He stated that he was afraid of Leader Brooks and that cooperation was the better part of valor in this case.
Since the combat jump was scheduled for 06:00 hours two stylists had shown up at Lawson’s quarters at 05:00 hours. Admiral Lawson had resisted against a full shower, followed by shampoo and hair styling. As noted earlier her uniform and every bit of clothing beneath was clean.
The rush job on her hair was noticeable, but todays strike at a combination communications array and ammunition storage depot was so black, that digital imagery might be held for years. In this instance, skipping the shower would probably not be noticeable.
Admiral Eva Lawson acknowledged the wordless request for permission to start the checklist with a nod of her head. The expression on her face looked as if she had breakfasted on molten lead.
“Begin Combat Jump prep,” Ordered Major Jones.
* * *
DRADIS: ”Jump complete. Two friendly contacts, 8 Cylon, launching raiders.”
XO:”This is the XO launch all vipers. Launch all strike aircraft.”
NPC:”Confirming launch of Galactica and Pegasus air wings.”
NPC weapons:”Auto loaders enabled. Scanning for main gun firing solution. Salvo mode is ready.”
Pilot:”Playboy to Kitty, get moving make a safe path for the assault raptors.”
Pilot: “Kitty acknowledged.”
Pilot:”This is Wheelchair, I’ve got 50 inbound missiles, coming in high left, move to intercept, engage, engage, engage!”
Fleet wireless: “Assault raptors, launch salvo one!”
Fleet wireless: “Splash gunship!”
Mercury CIC: “Main guns have a firing solution, firing main guns at first target!”
Major Jones: “This is the XO. Weapons free target beta.”
Mercury CIC: “Taking heavy inbound fire bottom armor.”
Wireless: “Assault raptors firing on target delta.”
Mercury CIC: “Main guns switching to target delta.”
Mercury CIC: “Inbound missiles targeting Mercury bottom bow armor.”
Mercury CIC: “Pegasus just took a salvo bottom bow armor.”
Mercury Fire Control: “Mercury fire control switching to target omega. Main guns in salvo mode”
Mercury CIC: “Scratch another gunship.”
Mercury CIC: “Concentrating fire on the Cylon fighter carrier. Scratch it, it just got melted by Pegasus and Galactica.”
Mercury CIC: “Watching right flank, scanning for targets.”
Mercury CIC: “Two more carriers at 11 and 1 O’clock. Mercury will take 1, Pegasus 11 Galactica dealers choice. Scratch another fighter carrier.”
Pegasus CIC: “Our target is down. Repeat, Pegasus target is history.”
Assault raptor squadron: “This is Mercury assault raptor squadron, releasing ordinance on target. Look at that thing light up that carrier is history”
“This is CAG Mercury. Our vipers have control of the air space. Watch out Wheelchair! What the frak is wrong with you today, you’re driving a viper not a school bus!”
“Wheelchair to CAG, Playboy you would know about school buses.”
Mercury CIC: “Galactica Pegasus launch ammunition squadron. Marines take care of things fill up those magazines.”
Marine assault force. “Bullet task force in formation. Thank you vipers for the escort your dance real nice. One minute from target.”
Marines: “Bullet task force still in formation, 30 seconds to target. We’ve got no enemy fire, the ride is smooth. Thank you to our escort vipers you’re really good at this. Keep it up.”
Marines: “We are boarding the station now. Locked and cocked. Keep your head on a swivel don’t let the toasters ambush you. No, tangos no tangos. Weapons storage facility, and the communications array is secure, and we are in control. Bring in the ammo ships.”
Major Jones. “This is executive officer Mercury. Call sign whiskey to Marines. Stay alert. There is an electronic activity on the station. Ammo ships don’t waste any time load up ,undock and jump quick as you can.”
Marines: “Hey whiskey, just let us know if you wanna get some exercise here we got a lot of shells to haul.”
Major Jones:”Oh my back!”
Marines: “That’s the Whisky we remember. Afraid of an honest days work. Should be driving a school bus.”
DRADIS: “Four targets just jumped in, launching raiders, right on top of us!”
Mercury CIC: “All batteries weapons free. Taking fire. Nukes we have a nuclear alarm.”
Pilots. “Breaking off from the facility, attacking toasters.”
“Assault raptors releasing ordinance.”
Mercury CIC: “Scratch one first war Argos class base star.”
“Networks have detected firewall penetration attempt by Cylons. Activating supplemental firewalls.”
“Making good progress on the ammunition grab. Estimate seven more minutes. They had a six loaders ready with pallet when we took over.”
Mercury CIC: “Enemy reinforcements down. Area is secure.”
“Ammo ship number three is jumped away and waiting for Galactica and Pegasus at the rendezvous coordinates.”
“Mercury CIC ammunitions ship number four is docked and loading. Marines report no tangos no enemy activity.”
“Ammunition ship number four is away and jumping to the rendezvous rally point.”
“Marines have left the station. Preparing for demolition.”
“Assault raptors weapons free.”
“DRASIS new contacts jumped in point blank range. Radiological Alarm.”
Private wireless Galactica and Mercury actual.
Admiral Eva Lawson had had every circuit of this communication checks by engineering. She then took the reports and manually check them herself. Galactica Actual, Admiral William Adama had suggested an encrypted conversation would be safer and more secure, so long as it was not eavesdropped.
On Galactica, communication and security was very easy compared to a modern, computerized mercury, class ship. Every bit of gear on the ship has been there for 40 years or longer. The computer technology was so antiquated, the name computer was barely deserved.
Anything involving FTL technology and space had a lot of computers associated with it. Making the calculations as to where it was safe to jump or not safe to jump was a complex operation. It was so far above the computer technology before the first swore that entire network was built to assist with the calculation.
The two admirals had pulled the drawings of their ship from the secure storage. Both had manually inspected every junction through which the communication would pass.
Each of the giant battle stars had a long range, communications array forward, near the bow. It actually stuck out forward from the body of the ship.
Adama believed that his ship did not have monitoring on his communications in and out of his quarters. If he was wrong about this, he would’ve lost his job many years back for the choice commentary he had on the priorities of the Admiralty.
The colonial fleet was a political cesspool. Everyone had political opinions, everyone had patrons. The art of backstabbing was well we’re fine within the fleet. It became more refined, the higher the rank. Admiral Lawson, however, did not trust their communications from her quarters were secure.
She had take a note that there was an ability built into the transmitter in the forward reaches of the ship that would allow her to plug in a headset, authenticate and talk directly wired into the communications transmitter. HG, her high-tech guru had pulled the plans for her, and provided her a short instruction sheet on paper.
Admiral Adama was more used to cloak and dagger. He had suggested this way of communicating to cut out any possible monitoring. The communications room in both battle stars was emptied of personnel, and swept for any electronic monitoring at all. To keep a bug out of her uniform, Lawson wore a simple set of exercise, clothing, a sweatshirt and sweat pants with the fleet logo on them.
Her sweats identified her as Major Lawson commander air group, Battlestar Atlanta. This was her post prior to being transferred to the Mercury. She was in attractive, well, proportioned, fit woman. One had to be at the fit side in order to regularly fit into the cow cockpit of a mark seven viper.
It was the middle of the night ships time, 02:00. Never having been seen wearing sweatpants, the three crew members she walked by on her way to the communications array all turn their heads when she passed.
10 minutes after leaving her quarters, she entered the empty communications room. She pulled a portable electronic emissions scanner from a back pack, and swept the room again.
She manually locked the automatic door, inserting a tool into the door mechanism to make sure it would stay closed.
Then she followed the five steps on paper “Head Geek” had given her after he had researched the technical issues.
First take a small tablet computer with a thick cable coming out of one end. Next, plug it in to a network port (RJ45 cat 6 jack for those into earth technology). Then power the unit up. This tablet had a camera built in and it took three tries to get a picture of her face that would unlock the computer.
She was then forced to enter a random number, partly based on the half life of one of the more exotic metals used in the construction of the Mercury.
Finally, the tablet displayed that she was fully authenticated as “Mercury Actual.”
For a new seconds the screen indicated below her confirmation a flashing message reading “Waiting for Galactica Actual.”
Lawson fidgeted with her headset, checking the hard wired connection with her small, delicate fingers. The status message changed to “Connecting” to “Connected.” She pressed a button enabling her microphone.
“This is Mercury Actual,” she said.
“This is Galactica Actual,” she heard the husky, gravelly voice of Admiral Adama. “It has been an honor and a pleasure working with you these past few days. I”m going to miss that.”
“I will as well,” she said. She felt her voice was not strong enough, feeling it made her sound a bit vulnerable.
“Thank you for the temporary use of the munitions ships, our magazines are full, the shortage of the big shells for forward battlestar guns was impacting our plans quite heavily.” He paused allowing Lawson to interject.
“We just got confirmation on the ammo ships. We will put he pallets of shells you left us to good use. We are planning a few ops in the upcoming weeks to keep them from focusing too much on you Galactica Actual.” She let out a tiny, controlled giggle that she was self conscious about. The encryption made everything sound aa bit metallic, though she was certain the laugh could have come from a 14 year old girl.
Adama cleared his throat and continued. “Thank you for not trying to put a tracker into one of the shells or the pallets,” he thanked. “I don’t envy your role here. The urge to help is very strong as opposed to the cold logic of separating and doubling our chances of survival. I don’t know if I could have followed those orders had our positions been reversed. Sometimes you have to roll the hard six.”
“You made it difficult,” Lawson replied, limiting the op to your own marines was the piece I could not get around,” she sighed, admitting that she had been out thought tactically by Admiral Adama.
Adama laughed at his end. “Good luck and good hunting. I hope you find a new home.”
“I was hoping there was some way to know if you manage to pull off a miracle at New Caprica.”
Adama coughed. “I imagine the signals traffic will give you an idea. Until we make contact we can’t even set a timetable to my crazy plan.”
“Still,” Lawson replied. “The not knowing gnaws at my heart.”
“There is a nebula we were investigating before New Caprica. I’ve included the location. You can send a navigation beacon there. It is quite a few jumps for a recon raptor. We’ll send a message there if we manage to get out of here.”
“I’ll find a way to let you know,” Admiral Lawson promised. We are going to plan a way to make some very big noises to keep the Cylons guessing. I hate saying good bye.”
“Good Hunting Admiral Lawson,” Adama concluded.
“Good Hunting Galactica actual, err Admiral Adama,” Lawson returned the warriors blessing. Seconds later the tablet let her know the connection was closed. It took less than a minute to break down and disconnect all the comms gear and stow it in her back pack.
Nobody’s head was turned as she did not encounter a single soul as she made her way back to her quarters.
“Major Jones, Admiral Lawson, we’re taking a beating here. We’ve got a jump away now.”
As more ordinance hit the Mercury, A crunching, metal sound, and explosions filled the entire ship. The lights flicker dangerously CIC. The damage control panel began lighting up with little red lights on the right side.
The next day when HG asked if his communications plan had worked and inquired as to the location of the gear, Lawson indicated that she hoped she would need it again and had decided to keep the the back pack.
Admiral Eva Lawson chose to train up here crew, launching a series of drills which took weeks to conclude before rejoining the fleet. Commanders Evans and Ramirez meet with HG and the engineering team to certify the FTL upgrade.
After that meeting Lawson found a USB stick with a video file in it named as Commander Evans call sign. Throwing caution to the wind, she connected it to the battered laptop in her office. It auto played and she choked back a tear when it was over. “They knew,” she whispered.
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