“. . . furthermore, the Raptors have searched this system exhaustively in the last twenty-four hours,” Captain Jon Banacek said. “We have detected no ships or debris indicative of combat. Whatever happened here is long over, gentlemen.”
“Except that while we know the final log entry was made two hundred and twenty one days ago,” Major Denise Church said in a very sour voice, “we know from those same logs that Typhon had six times the amount of fuel we found on-hand at that time. The pumps have been activated at least four times since that final log entry and a massive amount of tylium transferred; enough to fuel two Mercury
-class Battlestars running on empty.”
“And not one body has been discovered aboard the station,” Mathias mused. “The corpses were removed—it strains credibility that they all floated away into vacuum. Sensor logs?”
“Erased, Commander. Even the back-up disks were wiped clean—and those are supposed to be secure from tampering,” added Captain Joan Danis, the ship’s DRADIS, communications, and computer systems officer added.
“Munitions stores aboard Typhon were also broken into,” chimed in Captain Paul Cook, the chief of Scorpia
’s tactical section. “Almost all of the Viper and Raptor munitions—shells, missiles, and drones—were removed, along with the contents of the secure nuclear warhead storage facility. Chief Sinclair found enough ordnance remaining though to fill our magazines to capacity, both for the Air Wing and the gun mounts.”
“Food? Air? Spare parts?” asked Mathias.
“Untouched, Commander,” answered Major Marius Tyche, the ship’s operations officer and third in chain of command. “We have stripped Typhon’s holds bare of anything we can possibly use, but there are still tons of supplies on-hand. We might squeeze in a bit more, but for now we are fully stocked, Sir; atmosphere has been exchanged and our water supply topped off, along with frozen provisions from the station for our pantries. I instructed the Chief to kill the power plant again and vent the station to vacuum—just like when we found it.”
“Colonel?” the Commander asked, and the XO nodded.
“We aren’t going to find anymore answers here . . . but I’ve got an itch between my shoulder-blades something fierce, Commander. Rambler and I have been speaking, and we would like to send a recon patrol of Raptors into Cyrannus before we put the ship at risk. Jon?”
The CAG stood again. “Commander, I asked my pilots for volunteers—they all stepped forward. Admittedly, a Raptor is bit more vulnerable than Scorpia
herself, but if there is trouble back home, we won’t be risking the crew jumping in absolutely blind. At the moment, we are planning for four Raptors on the mission, one each for the planetary systems around each of the four stars our colonies orbit.”
“That is half our complement, Captain,” Mathias said, but the tone of voice was one of question, not objection.
“Yes, Sir. However, we should know by the traffic pretty fast whether or not anything is wrong. Raptor 101 will deploy into the Erebos Asteroid Field in the Helios Alpha sub-system; from there, it should be able to get a good look at Caprica, Picon, Gemenon, and Tauron. 104 is tasked with Helios Beta, with a destination of the Ouranos Belt for a look at Leonis and Virgon. 105 has been assigned to Helios Gamma, destination of the Acheron Belt. That should allow the crew a good look at Scorpia—but Saggitaron and Libran are on the opposite side of the system. And finally, 107 will enter the rings of Hestia, which shares an orbit with Aerilon and Canceron. From there, they can take a good view of Aquaria as well.” The pilot paused and he shook his head. “This has to be some snafu, Commander; a mix-up with orders mothballing the station. I think we are going to send the Raptors ahead and have the rest of the Fleet laughing at us—but on the off chance that something has happened, this is our best chance for a getting a first look without putting the ship in harm’s way.”
“Two problems with that, gentlemen,” Mathias said as he stood. “A recon patrol will have to jump in without their transponders active—and their DRADIS will be off-line—in order to try and avoid detection. The sensor network we emplaced in the asteroid fields, will, however detect their emergence from FTL. What, if there is nothing wrong, will the Fleet do upon detecting one or more vessels in Cyrannus jumping in with zero emissions and without a transponder?”
Silence answered his question and both Tom and Jon winced, their faces pinched and tight; the Commander confirmed their thoughts with his own nod. “Exactly, they will shoot first and investigate later; and since we have one hundred and nineteen active Battlestars and their escorts patrolling all four of our sub-systems, we will be sending those pilots and birds into a potential shooting gallery.”
“The second problem is that if something is wrong, if the Cylons have crossed the Armistice Line, they could well be patrolling the same areas of space to keep the Fleet from relieving their ground assault on our worlds. And have seeded the belts with their own sensor buoys.”
Six ashen faces jerked as the Commander uttered those words that everyone in the room was thinking.
“We haven’t even detected a Cylon ship in forty years, Commander,” Major Tyche whispered.
“True, and I agree with Rambler that this entire situation is probably a major snafu that is going to cost someone his career,” Mathias said. “But we are examining all of the possibilities. No, gentlemen, the Raptors will jump in—all eight of them—but they will do so in formation with Scorpia
. And we will make our FTL jump at Condition One with the guns on-line and hot.”
“What exit coordinates?” asked Tom.
“Damn if I don’t want to jump straight into Picon orbit so I can lambast whatever idiot is behind this,” Mathias said. And then he sighed. “But that might end my service career rather abruptly, if everything back home is nominal. Our orders are to return to the Scorpia Fleet Yards, and that is what we are going to do . . . or close enough to that destination for government work.”
“Sir?” asked Joan.
Mathias bent down and activated the tables map feature, pulling up the Helios Gamma sub-system. “We will exit jump here,” he said pointing to the space outside of the orbit of Scorpia, “ten SU outside of planetary orbit. One point five million klicks should give ample room to detect any hostiles—and if the situation is normal, all fracked up, no one in the Fleet will blame us for exercising caution on our return.”
One by one, the officers nodded their agreement. “Good. Major Church, what is the minimum time required to recalibrate the FTL drives between jumps?”
“By the book? Five minutes is the absolute minimum under regulations, Commander,” she smiled and held up her hand as the Commander started to open his mouth. “I can get it done in two.”
“I knew there was a reason I wanted you on this ship, Denise,” Mathias said with a chuckle. “Final prep for FTL jump in thirty minutes—I want this ship prepared in case we are emerging in the midst of a hostile Fleet. Vipers in the launch tubes and pre-spotted on the elevators for a second launch. Jon, are your pilots capable of doing a zero-acceleration deck launch from the pods as well?”
“Yes, Sir. I can have another ten Vipers spotted and magnetically grappled to the deck in each pod—that will give us twenty-six in the air immediately after launch, with six more in under a minute.”
“Get with the Chief and spot the Vipers—but we will NOT launch unless I give the order. If we have to turn and run, I don’t want to be slowed down with recovery operations—and our pods are not large enough to land our entire complement in a single combat recovery.”
“Good. Then to your stations, gentlemen. Colonel Jayne, I think it is high time we disconnected from the station and moved to a safe distance for FTL operations. Make it so.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”