The Raptor emerged from FTL in a flash of light. Sidewinder took two deep breaths as the electronics stabilized and then his instruments gave him a clear reading.
“DRADIS up,” reported Kaboose from the rear compartment. “Reading . . . no contacts in range except for Scorpia
and our Raptors; initiating long-range sweep for system traffic.” There was a pause. “No traffic within range—nothing,” the EWOs subdued voice was quiet.
“Full scan—all instruments,” Sidewinder ordered as he altered course on the patrol leg and fired his thrusters in three quick squirts. His bird was the closest to the planet Scorpia of all those deployed at a distance from the Battlestar that, in effect, doubled the range of the DRADIS sensors.
“Starting scan,” Kaboose muttered, and Sidewinder watched as the data began to flow on one of his monitor screens. “Sidewinder, I’m reading . . . it can’t . . . this makes no . . .”
“Pull it together, Kaboose. What are you reading?”
“Zero comm traffic, no FTL signatures, no transmissions . . . this has to be a instrumentation failure, it has to be.”
“WHAT has to be?”
“I am reading high concentrations of radiation coming from the planet, Sidewinder,” the EWO said very quietly. “Very high.”
Stefan Greene—Sidewinder—swallowed and he switched the monitor and blanched as the readouts became apparent. “Run a system diagnostic,” he ordered.
“Yes, sir,” the EWO answered.
“Sidewinder, Jester,” the radio crackled. “You reading what we are reading, boss?”
Sidewinder—a native of Virgon—muttered a short prayer to Hestia and he nodded as he opened the channel. “I wish we weren’t,” he whispered. “Double check your sensors—it could be instrumentation malfunction.”
“On two Raptors at once?” Jester asked, and then after a brief pause. “Running system diagnostic.”
“Sidewinder?” the very quiet voice of Kaboose broke the silence. “System diagnostic has completed the cycle—all green.”
The pilot momentarily closed his eyes as he felt a chill run through his body.
, Sidewinder,” he forced himself to broadcast. “We are reading elevated radiation signatures coming from . . .,” he swallowed, and made himself finish, “the planetary surface. Can you confirm?”
“Roger, Sidewinder; onboard sensors confirm your readings—and Jesters. Wait one,” the radio crackled and then there was a pause. “Sidewinder, Scorpia
Actual. I need a pilot to jump in closer for more detailed reading—and dispatch a bird for close scans of Libran and Saggitaron as well.”
Actual. I will han-. . .,” but he was interrupted by Kaboose.
“DRADIS contact! Bearing 135 mark 10, right at the edge of range—maneuvering for an intercept course . . . NO transponder.”
“Confirm!” snapped Sidewinder as he armed the two missiles, two decoys, and the chaff launchers of his raptor.
“Confirmed, bogey closing fracking fast!”
Sidewinder pressed the throttle forward. “Rely our data to Scorpia
, Kaboose. Scorpia
, Sidewinder, we have contact with an unidentified bogey closing on our location.”
“Copy that Sidewinder, vectoring Jester and Arclight for missile intercept.”
“Status change! Bogey is altering course . . . now on intercept for Scorpia
Sidewinder cursed and he flipped the Raptor end for end and pressed the throttle to the stops. “Scorpia
, Sidewinder; bogey in now on an intercept course for you.”
The pilot looked down at his instruments and he concentrated on the red icon floating in his screen, “Almost there,” he whispered as he lifted the safety cover over the button that would fire one of his missiles. “FRACK!” he snapped as the target suddenly began evasive maneuvers. The thing maneuvered like a Viper. “Scorpia
, I cannot get a lock. Repeat, cannot get a lock. Bogey should be on your DRADIS . . . NOW.”
Mathias looked grim in the red light of CIC at Condition One. "Load Hydras in Turret Three—order the Raptors to proceed to their recon targets—we will engage the target, Colonel.”
“This is the XO. Turret Three, prepare to engage, load Hydras. Captain Danis, we need a target lock,” Tom barked.
“Fire Direction Control is . . . locked on target,” her voice ended in a questioning tone. “Bogey is no longer evading, still accelerating on an intercept course.”
“Fire!” snapped Mathias. And the order was quickly passed. On the starboard side of Scorpia
’s armored nose, a turret swung outwards and locked onto the target. First one, then the second, of the twin barrels spat flame and two high-speed missiles sped away. Larger than the ordnance used by Vipers, the Hydra missile had an extended range with a booster stage—and a far larger warhead; although they were miniscule compared to the anti-ship and orbital bombardment missiles Scorpia
carried in her dorsal silos.
“Missiles tracking clean,” sang out Captain Paul Cook from tactical. “Impact in . . . five, four, three, two, FRACK! Bogey has jumped! Missile strike missed the target, aborting run; missile warheads self-destructing.”
“He’s going back to get help,” Tom whispered and Mathias nodded. The XO continued. “The Raptors?”
“Proceed on mission—Sidewinder has Scorpia, Jester Libran, and Arclight Saggitaron.”
“Shall I order the others to meet us at the rendezvous?”
“Not yet, Tom. We still need to confirm who these people are—and whether or not we have lost control of Gamma completely. The Fleet might be in Alpha or Beta, even Delta,” the Commander paused. His chest pounded in agony with the realization that his home, his friends, his family . . . all of it on Scorpia must be gone. That much radiation—it had to be ground burst weapons by the hundreds. But maybe there were still some survivors.
Mathias looked back up. “Order the remaining Raptors to conduct one recon pass over Caprica, Picon, Leonis, Virgon, and Canceron.”
Tom nodded and he jerked his chin at Major Marius Tyche, who began to pass the orders. “Dare we put up a CAP? Without the Raptors, our detection range is halved.”
Mathias picked up the phone. “Rambler, Scorpia
Actual. Flush the deck launch—hold the tubes. Assuming Combat Air Patrol stations,” he ordered. “Twenty birds is about our limit for a combat landing if we have to pull out fast,” he said to Tom who nodded.
“Roger that, Scorpia
Actual. Launching Vipers now,” the intercom broadcast.
“I love these Valkyrie
-class ships, don’t get me wrong, Commander, but some days I do wish they had given some thought into the fact that the flight pods really need a bit more space,” Tom said quietly.
“Count your lucky stars we don’t have to retract them before the ship can active the FTL, Colonel Jayne,” Mathias answered.
“Heaven forbid. All things considered, I suppose Scorpia
ain’t a half-bad ga-. . .,”
“MULTIPLE CONTACTS! No Colonial transponders, raid count sixty plus,” Captain Danis called out, and she blanched. “Detecting radiological alert from several of the bogeys, Commander!”
“All weapons free! Defensive fire pattern Alpha-Two when they enter range, maximum fire rate on all batteries that bear—Rambler keep your boys out of our flak!”
Tom Jayne shook his head. “For what we are about to receive,”
“May we be truly thankful,” Mathias finished.
“Commander!” Danis barked from her station as she jerked off her headset. “They are broadcasting!”
“No, sir . . . its . . . it’s . . .,” she flipped a switch and a squeal of sound echoed throughout CIC. It sounded like a computer trying to connect through . . . Mathias cursed. “Cylons! FRACK! Verify firewall integrity.”
“Firewall intact,” Danis answered in a puzzled voice. “They are addressing our Navigation system, Commander. Nothing is happening.”
, Digger,” broadcast Captain Hope Fairchild, the commander of Blue Squadron. “They are coming in fat and happy—no evasive maneuvering,” and her comm suddenly squealed in her ears. “What the frack,” she muttered. The signal ended after a few moments. “Blues, since they so obliging to come in slow and dumb lock missiles on target and prepare to engage,” she said as the range closed. Still the distant fighters were closing slow and steadily, taking no radical maneuvers as the CAP closed on them from the flanks. “Tone,” she said as the missile warhead acquired a target, “light ‘em up!” she ordered as she squeezed the pickle. Two missiles slung underneath her wings dropped away and igniting, racing towards the targets—which appeared completely unprepared! Oh so slowly, they reacted, breaking and weaving but of the forty missiles her squadron fired thirty-one went home and the flashes of explosions in the distance lit the bleakness of space.
She pressed the throttle forward as the twenty-nine surviving bogey’s suddenly accelerated towards Scorpia
and she double-checked the range. But the CAG was already ahead of her. “One pass,” Rambler broadcast from the Flight Operations Center, “then clear the flak zone.”
“Let’s go, Blues,” she whispered into the helmet mike as she engaged the three engines in full over-thrust, “arm guns.” And as she said that she flipped the switches that armed her own three 25mm cannons. “You still with me, Firefly?”
“Won’t get rid of me
without a divorce, Digger,” her wingman answered, and then her voice changed. “What the frack are those?”
Hope was thinking the same thing as she squeezed the trigger and flames spat from the three barrels of her guns, the illuminated tracers glowing as they streaked towards the extremely curved u-shaped body of her targets—and then she saw the glowing, cascading red eye. “Frack me,” she broadcast. “Cylons aren’t piloting
these fighters—they are
the fighters!” Finally her target broke away and Digger followed it in a sharp turn, her guns spitting out burst after burst and then it exploded—quickly followed by the second Cylon raider who had crossed over onto her tail.
“Thanks for the assist, Firefly.”
“You ain’t leaving me without a divorce either, Digger. No way in Hades I’m flying this war with a rook on my wing.”
The pass shot down another sixteen of the Raiders, but of the remainder a dozen continued to bore in on Scorpia
—and their missile launch doors opened and the Mk VI Viper’s radiation alarm sounded.
Only one Raider didn’t close, with a flash of light it vanished as it engaged its FTL drive and jumped away.
Thirty-six missiles were fired—but they opened up at the same time as Scorpia
. And the hail of fire coming off of the small Battlestar was clearly not
expected. Only two missiles got close enough to salvage fuse—neither inflicted any damage other momentarily jamming the ship’s DRADIS. None of the twelve Cylon Raiders survived as the flak bursts tore through them and their missiles.
, Digger. One got away, probably gone to whistle up the rest of the toasters.”
Actual—you have confirmation of Cylons?”
Actual; they don’t look like the ones from the last war, but frack me if that wasn’t a Cylon.”
Mathias sighed. “Time to come on home before they get their act together and send more than sixty fighters against us, Digger,” he racked the phone. “Spin up the FTL, Colonel Jayne—as soon as we recover our fighters we are heading to the rendezvous.”
“This is the XO, spin up the FTL Drives. All hands prepare for combat landing and FTL jump.” He too racked his phone.
“Basestars on the way—they ain’t dumb. You’d think that if we made something we would make it dumb enough to make mistakes, but we didn’t. What does that say about our intelligence?”
“It says we’re human and that even our brilliant people frack up on occasion, Tom.” The commander looked back over at Danis. “Any thoughts on that transmission?”
“I’ve scanned the systems—no trace of a virus, Commander, no worms, no nothing. It was like they were sending a command, not actually transmitting a computer virus. But whatever they were trying to do, it’s like . . . we don’t have what they expected.”
“The CNP upgrade,” Mathias whispered. “The upgrade we haven’t
received. The transmission was directed at our Nav system, right?”
Tom stood still and he shook his head. “You think they planted a backdoor in our systems? How the frack
could they manage that?”
“I don’t know, Tom, and that scares the hell out of me,” he said quietly.
“Blue Squadron is inbound for landing,” Rambler reported.
But before Mathias could respond, Danis cursed. “Multiple contacts—three, no correction, four
basestars and raiders . . . eight hundred plus
raiders, more launching, closing FAST.”
The Commander looked up at the DRADIS and they were still outside of weapons range. “Colonel, jump the second Blue Squadron is on the deck.”
Tom Jayne snapped his fingers and Major Tyche inserted the jump key and nodded. “Coordinates plotted, FTL drives are green." His fingers rested on the keys that would cause space-time to fold upon itself and send Scorpia
to a far distant point.
“Combat landings, people! Move!” Digger broadcast as her DRADIS display lit up behind her—and she blanched. “Too many uninvited guests, Firefly.”
“Frack me, if that ain’t right, Digger.”
The two Vipers were the final ones in the landing formation—for a combat landing of this nature, there wouldn’t be time to call the ball (which wasn’t a ball at all, but instead a series of different colored lights that the pilots used to assume the proper angle for descent to the flight deck). And the automated landing system was far, far too slow for this situation. No, Blue Squadron would have to do this the old fashioned way—the hard way.
One by one, the Vipers entered the two flight pods and reverse thrusters killed their speed until they banged their skids down on the flight deck, magnetic grapples locking them into place. All it would take would be one pilot, one malfunctioning Viper, and half a squadron could die from this maneuver.
Hope and her wingman streaked into the cavernous flight pod and then the reverse acceleration threw her hard forward against the straps that held her in place; she lowered the skids and thrust down as she slowed, and her Viper bounced once on the deck and skidded to a halt, trailing sparks. To her right, Firefly sat down without so much as making the deck vibrate.
“BLUES DOWN!” she snapped as the grapples locked her Viper and Firefly’s into place—and then the world twisted as Scorpia
jumped away ahead of the oncoming missile storm.
Cavil turned away from the control screen and he cocked his head to one side. “I believe that you, Two, confirmed that we eliminated all of the Colonial Fleet ships except for Galactica
which continue to plague us. What was that? Gemenon cheese?”
The model of humanoid Cylon known to the colonists as Leoben shook his head. “I checked the records—we accounted for all of their ships known to be on active duty.”
“It might not be Two’s fault,” said the Three, also known as D’Anna. “We unfortunately never got an agent inside the Picon Headquarters—and our nuclear strikes there eliminated all of their records. If this vessel was on a covert assignment, it might have been removed from the roster.
“And what would you suggest we do?” One asked as he waved his hands. “Just let them go?”
“Do I look like a Six?”
“No, you are not attractive enough,” said the Six present.
“Let us not start this again,” said the Four known by the name Simon. “We must prevent them from making contact with the other survivors. That means we should dispatch a force to pursue and destroy them. That objective should take priority.”
“Agreed,” chimed in the Five, known as Doral. “They were unaffected by the our program modifications—so if they have been absent that implies that they have been gone for more than . . . twenty months?”
“The final ship to receive the upgrade was converted eight months ago—a month before our attack,” said the Eight who wore the body of Sharon Valerii. “Six was supposed to disable Pegasus
—but she failed, as Five did with Galactica
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, my dear. At least, one of my models did not abandon our people for the love of a human," Six said in an acrid tone as Five glared sternly at the Eight.
“Enough,” snapped One. “It is agreed then. We will find these survivors and we will destroy them. If they have been out there for a year, then they will need supplies—redeploy the Fleet to cover all known stations which can provide them with anything. And,” he sighed, “send FIVE basestars and their Raiders in pursuit.”
“Five?” asked Three. “That was a small Battlestar, One.”
“Yes. This time, I am taking no chances, Three. Any other objections?”
“Good. Then let us begin.”