Their hosts ushered the Colonials out of the frigid conditions and into a nearby cave mouth; an airlock was installed within, Mathias noted. Someone had done some planning. Large enough to accommodate all five of the Colonials and their dozen or so ‘escorts’ and ‘guides’, the Colonial Commander felt warmth as the inner door completed its cycle and opened. He uttered a low whistle in respect for the scale of the work here.
What had once been a natural cave had been shaped and reinforced, stone floor replaced with level deck plating, the walls planed down and smoothed, and air exchangers drawing in the cold air, heating it, and circulating it within. It was the size of a small city.
“Your weapons,” the voice of their escort echoed harshly and Mathias turned to face him—the . . . once-and-perhaps-future terrorists had removed their bulky outer garments, scarves, thick hats, and snow goggles, but each held a weapon of some sort; a weapon leveled at the Colonial officers.
“Hand them over,” Mathias ordered as he held up his hands, unsealed his own parka and removed his pistol carefully. And the satchel containing the photos from the recon flights. The guard took both—along with the parka—and he was roughly searched, followed by Sidewinder, Kaboose, Lieutenant Shiro Gian, and Doctor Sarris. Sarris was unarmed, and of the rest Sidewinder and Kaboose only carried their issue sidearm. Gian carried his sidearm, a second smaller pistol, a even smaller snub-nosed revolver, two fixed-blade knives, an expandable baton, a wicked folding knife, and a set of brass knuckles.
The escorts just stared at the shorter, slender man and then at Mathias who shrugged. “He doesn’t like not having a weapon—I’m sure you can relate.”
“Frack no,” answered Gian. “Do I look like I have a mental deficiency? I’m the ship’s Supply Officer.”
“Supply Officer? With that arsenal?”
Gian shrugged. “You ever dealt with a bunch of arrogant pilots and deck bosses and engineers that are absolutely convinced they need new equipment just because their theirs got dinged? Believe me, I need every bit of that just to get through the day.”
“Gentlemen,” Mathias said as the silence hung on for several moments. “Time is a finite resource; I would suggest that you take us to your leaders.”
“Payne,” the leader growled and one of them moved forward. “Follow that man,” the man ordered, he and the rest keeping their guns trained on the Colonials.
The cave wound deep within the shoulder of the mountain and with every step Mathias took note of the cramped conditions, the stacks of broken parts, the group of children huddled around a pot of boiling water with a few scraps of meat and moldy vegetables as a woman spooned the thin broth into shallow bowls. But there were plenty of weapons—older weapons, worn, but loving maintained.
Finally, they arrived at another hatch with two guards standing beside it; the guards nodded and they opened the door; Mathias and his officers were herded inside—and the Commander came to an abrupt halt.
“Sam?” he whispered to the woman whose long brown hair was bound behind her head in a braid and looped over one shoulder. She sighed. “I held out hope that there was another Mathias Lorne in the Fleet, Mat,” she said. “Welcome to Charon. All of you.”
“You know this woman, Commander?” asked Doctor Sarris.
“Doctor Neil Sarris, Captain Stefan Greene, Lieutenant Shiro Gian, and Lieutenant Michael Jamussa, meet Major Samantha Caldwell, formerly of the Colonial Fleet.”
“Fleet!” blurted Kaboose. “What in the Hells is a Fleet officer doing working for the SFM?”
“That would be telling, Lieutenant,” another voice rumbled from a dark passage. “Let us just say for the moment that Miss Caldwell is one of many that became disillusioned with the tyranny of President Adar. Anton Laveride, at your service, Commander. What can my little colony do for you?” Said the pale skinned Leonian who walked in and sat down in a comfortable chair behind his desk.
This just gets better and better, Mathias thought. Anton Laveride was well-known in the Colonies—many thought he was highly connected to organized crime. But nothing had ever been proven against him . . . and somehow every witness who had come forward had suffered an accident
before appearing to testify.
“You are not part of the Saggitaron Freedom Movement; who is charge here?” Mathias asked.
“I am in charge of this colony, Commander,” said Anton with a smile. “If you mean the leader of the freedom fighters of Saggitaron, then that is this man here,” he said pointing towards the last person in the spacious office . . . besides the guards, of course.
“Jon Namer,” he said simply. “You’ve come a long way, Commander—say your say so I can turn you down and then leave.”
“Your guard has a case containing photographs you might want to take a look at,” Mathias delayed, as he looked pointedly at Sam—but she avoided his eyes.
The guard handed over the case and all three of them—Anton, Jon, and Sam—looked at the photos one after the other. Jon and Sam had the decency to wince, but Anton was unmoved.
“Tragic, Commander. But not our concern. The Cylons will move on eventually; until then we will remain hidden.”
“There are survivors, Mister Laveride; survivors that I intend to rescue.”
Anton did not react, but both Sam and Jon jerked. “Survivors?” Sam asked. “The toasters plastered all twelve Colonies.”
“We have confirmed that there are survivors fighting the Cylons on at least Caprica, Tauron, and Virgon.”
“Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer,” Sam muttered. But Jon just stared at the Commander. “What of Saggitaron?”
Mathias paused. “I will make available to you the raw data of our recon pass over that Colony, Mister Namer. There may be survivors down there—but we detected no signs of their presence if there are.”
“What is the point? You have one Battlestar—a small
Battlestar—Commander. And you are half a year late to the party; did it take you this long to muster the courage to try and save some of them after you ran away?”
Sidewinder grabbed the arm of Lieutenant Gian as he started to surge forward—even as the guards lifted their weapons. “Steady, Shiro,” he whispered.
“We only just returned to the Colonies, Mister Laveride. Scorpia
was on a long-duration scientific mission; hence the presence of Doctor Sarris onboard—we only returned today.”
“And no doubt prodded the hornet’s nest?” the syndicate leader said sourly. “Well, there will be no help for you here.”
“Let’s not be hasty, Anton,” said Jon. “I want to hear what he wants from us.”
“Don’t be a fool, Namer. Even if you went along with him, you would die—that relic in orbit of yours cannot face off against a Cylon Basestar . . . even if she were at 100%, and she’s not. And you don’t have the room or the supplies for those people. You don’t even have the fuel—since you cannot pay me for what I have stockpiled.”
“Payment,” Mathias said in a flat voice. “We are talking about the survival of humanity and you are concerned with payment.”
“Everything and everyone has a price, Commander. That is how the universe works. To make this work you would need my freighter—but, you are liable to get her destroyed. And she is my means to leave Charon behind if I must. So, I am afraid you have nothing that I desire.”
“Mister Laveride, you seem to think that I cannot just seize that ship—I can. But let’s not get nasty, shall we? As you said, I kicked over the hornet’s nest—the Cylons are scouring the systems around us in search of Scorpia
. They will be here soon. Your people don’t have the firepower or the parts to survive for long—I know it and you know it. Scorpia
does has enough parts and provisions to make sure that everyone here lives. I need your help to save what is left of the Colonies, and then find a safe place to settle again.”
“Settle? You aren’t planning on going out in a blaze of glory like that idiot Cain?” asked Anton with a slight smile.
“Admiral Cain?” Mathias jerked. “She survived?”
Sam sighed. “She and Pegasus
jumped out of the Scorpia Fleet Yards as the attack began, Mat. For a couple of months she raised holy hell among the toasters, but then her raids ended. She’s probably dead and gone.”
Jon and Sam exchanged a glance and the two nodded. Anton scowled. “I do not like giving up free information, but Galactica
survived as well. We heard that on the wireless from some listening posts I have in the Cyrannus system.”
? She was being converted into a fracking museum!”
“She was, but she met up with a fleet of civilian ships—rag-tag ships half in repair that were in transit at the time of the attack. Laura Roslin was sworn in as President and called for every survivor to join her. They left the system with the Cylons in hot pursuit,” Sam answered in a weary voice.
“In the name of the Gods, Sam, why didn’t you join them?” Mathias barked.
“I’m not a Fleet officer anymore, Mat. You think Bill Adama and Laura Roslin would just appreciate me showing with an armed ship full of SFM freedom fighters?”
“Terrorists,” mumbled Kaboose before Sidewinder could slam his elbow into the EWO’s side.
“See,” she said, pointing at the junior officer as proof. “Anubis
doesn’t have any Vipers, Mat. And she carried ten at full load even if she did. TEN
. She’s barely a fifth the size of Galactica, with popguns for weapons—and not a lot of those. Adama would remove me from command, he would try to lock up half of my crew and the other half are on the shoot-on-sight list! No, we hoped to outlast the Cylons but now that you are here, they aren’t going away soon.” And she looked at Jon and shook her head.
“Which means we are going to need more supplies of food, and parts,” he said in a quiet voice.
“Not fuel? I didn’t see any tanks outside—and keeping refined tylium in here is a recipe for disaster.”
“Oh, we’ve got our source of tylium in a safe pl-. . .,” one of the guards chimed in, and Anton slammed his hand down on the desk.
“Frasier, shut that mouth before I remove your tongue!” He glared at the guard and then he nodded. “We have a source of fuel, yes. Plenty of it. For our
needs. And if you try to take my ship, I’ll blow her myself.”
“My ship can hold maybe three thousand refugees—at most. That old Orion
up there might get five hundred on board. Your Hekla
can hold . . .,” but Sam cut him off.
“Seven hundred full load, Mat. We need transport and,” she glanced down at Anton, and then drew in a deep breath and looked back up at the Commander. “If you’ve got spare parts for FTLs, I know where we can find them.”
“Stupid girl. You aren’t taking my fuel,” Anton snarled as he drew a pistol. He stood. “I’ve put up with the two of you long enough—talking about going back there is suicide. And you gits are not taking my ships and my fuel.”
“Mister Laveride,” Mathias said calmly. “I have a Battlestar in orbit with an entire Marine Company—kill us and they will kill you.”
“Oh, not after I tell Jon’s people how you shot their precious leader and his ship captain, Commander. My guards had to kill you to keep you from killing the rest of us—his men will be furious—and we have SAMs, remember.”
“We have nukes, remember,” Mathias snapped right back. “Kill us and every in this cavern dies—including you.”
“I have an escape route. You think I’m stupid? And I have another way off this rock.”
“Yeah, with the good stuff onboard,” Frasier chuckled.
Mathias sighed. “Seems that you thought of everything,” he said. “No wonder you always stayed one step ahead of the law enforcers. Tell me, did you really have all of those people who came forward to testify against you killed?”
“Why not, Commander? Yes, I did. And no one ever found the bodies—I am smarter than you and my plans always have a fall-back.”
Mathias nodded. “Good, I’d hate to sentence the wrong man to a summary execution.”
Anton just looked at the Commander for a moment, and then he barked out a snort of laughter. “Have you lost your mind, Commander? You are no position to do any such thing?”
“Gian, now would be good,” Mathias said with a smile; Anton and the guards switched their attention to the officer . . . leaving Sidewinder free to pull the tab on the one of the rings on his flight suit.
The flash-bang hidden in the connector detonated—but Mathias and his men had closed their eyes in anticipation. The thunder echoed from wall to wall and the dazzling flash of a fast-burning magnesium flare was so bright that Mathias saw the glow even through his eyelids. But he and his men were ready and prepared for that; he dove into the stunned crime lord, even though his ears were ringing—and bleeding. At the same time, Gian and Sidewinder tackled two of the guards, taking their guns and turning them on the blinded, deafened, stunned remnants of Anton’s chosen few, while Kaboose pulled a shocked and terrified Dr. Sarris to the floor. Sam and Jon—with a bare second’s warning had ducked and covered their faces.
Mathias wrestled the sidearm away from the criminal and without his expression changing he placed the barrel against the man’s chest and pulled the trigger twice. Anton Laveride jerked and fountains of blood exploded out; he collapsed lifelessly unto the ground.
The ringing was still overriding all sound when the hatch opened, but Mathias could see the terrorist leader Jon Namer on his feet, waving his hands and shouting at him men—but none of what he said Mathias heard, and the after-images still danced across his vision; still the terrorists reluctantly lowered their weapons and Mathias stood, dropping Anton’s gun in the process.