“You wanted to see me, Sir?” Sidewinder reported after the Marines allowed him entry to Adama’s quarters. The Commander was sitting down at his desk going over a log book entry and he kept his eyes focused on the book.
“I did,” Bill Adama answered as he continued writing. And then he put down the pencil and closed the log and sat back in his chair, regarding the man in front of him with an appraising look. “I didn’t put you in command of my Raptors to have you disrupt the entire ship routine, Captain Greene—I put you there because you are a veteran pilot with command experience and I thought that you might be able to pass along some of your hard-won knowledge.”
Sidewinder started to reply, but Adama cut him off. “You have no clue what the men and women on this ship have been through, Captain—none. All you have heard, the rumors and scuttlebutt that formed the accusations you leveled at the President and myself, none of that you have directly experienced. The last thing I need right now is for you charging in here like a bull in a china shop, Captain—many of these people are on the verge of breaking. They have been under combat conditions for eight straight months, flying three, four, or even more sorties a day.”
He stopped and scratched his head. “That said, you are a senior Fleet officer. And I am not going to tell you not to enforce regs on the people you are temporarily in command of. And I will admit—this time—things have gotten a little too slack in certain areas. But not where it counts. I think you are wise enough and experienced enough, Sidewinder, that you will make the right decision on how far to push the pilots.”
“The regs exist for a reason, Commander,” Sidewinder said when Adama paused.
And Bill nodded. “They do. And you, aboard Scorpia
, have had the luxury of being able to abide by the regulations with no knowledge of what has happened to the Colonies until just very recently,” he reached down and pulled out a bottle of Ambrosia from his desk along with two glasses. “Drink?” he asked as he poured one.
“Thank you, Sir, but no. I’m scheduled to fly today.”
The Admiral smiled and he lifted the glass and took a sip. “You have a great deal of personal discipline, Sidewinder—which is good. But by your own admission, you have known about the attack for twenty days now. Twenty days. These pilots—and this crew—have been dealing with this for two hundred and forty-one. Knowing that at every minute of every day, they might be called upon to go out there and fly and die to defend this fleet. Dealing with terrorists in our own ranks who are setting off bombs,” he sighed. “That is one reason I am overjoyed at the prospect of having Scorpia
join us—to be able to actually have the numbers to police the fleet.”
He took a sip and he shook his head. “Just remember this; when we manage to make rendezvous, you will be returning to Scorpia
; those pilots you are riding so hard will remain here. I need my pilots, Sidewinder. And I don’t need them so wound up that they cannot do their jobs.”
And with that, Adama stood. “But for now, I think that you need to sit in on a planning session I am having in a very few minutes with my senior officers. We might just have a way to cut a few months off of Scorpia
and her civilians getting here after all.”
“Based upon the information that Captain Greene and Lieutenant Jamussa provided on the location of Battlestar Scorpia
and her flotilla,” Lieutenant Gaeta announced to the collection of senior officers and pilots, “and the limitations on our ability to plot long-range FTL jumps, it would normally require at least one hundred and twenty individual FTL jumps for that ship to reach us—or for us to reach her.”
Admiral Adama sat at the head of the table, with Saul Tigh on his right and Lee Adama on his left. From Galactica
, there was also Kara Thrace, along with Helo, Captain Aaron Kelly (the second officer aboard the antiquated Battlestar), and Captain Louanne ‘Kat’ Katraine, the commander of the Viper squadron. From Pegasus
Major Kendra Shaw—Lee’s XO—and the CAG, Captain Cole ‘Stinger’ Taylor. And at the end of the table sat the Cylon prisoner Sharon wearing manacles with two Marine guards standing behind her.
“Using normal techniques,” Gaeta continued, “it would require anywhere from sixty to one hundred and twenty days to complete so many FTL jumps—consuming a tremendous amount of tylium in the process. But there might be a way to accomplish the trip with only eight
FTL jumps there and another eight back again,” he said with a smile. “Captain Thrace?”
Gaeta sat and Starbuck stood. “We still have the navigation computer from the Heavy Raider we captured at Caprica—although the ship itself has been disassembled. Cylon FTL capabilities far exceed what the Colonies have accomplished, primarily the range at which they can plot a jump. They routinely make FTL jumps far in excess of the Red Line of our computational abilities. Now,” she said with a grin, “we cannot interface the Cylon technology with our Raptors—the systems are just too different. BUT, our FTLs can accept data from the navigation computer—if we have a Cylon to plot the coordinates.” And she grinned again. “Which we do. Sharon can input the data and read out the coordinates, which our drives can then execute.”
Sidewinder felt his heart skip a beat, and he began to smile. As were several of the officers at the table—but a few, mostly from Pegasus
, had disapproving looks on their faces.
“We want to send a small force of Raptors to make contact with Scorpia
and her flotilla,” Starbuck continued, “using Sharon to plot the FTL jumps. Once we establish contact, then she can plot the course for those ships to rendezvous with the Fleet—we can unite our forces in under two weeks, if everything goes right.”
“How large a Raptor force are you going to need, Captain Thrace?” asked Kendra Shaw. “We need those birds to perform recon around the Fleet, not going off on a wild-goose chase under the direction of a Cylon.”
“Ten,” said Kara. “That will make sure we can recover any birds lost to malfunction along the way while giving us our best chance at establishing contact with Scorpia
Cole Taylor shook his head. “That is a quarter of our total strength in Raptor crews—Pegasus
has more Raptors in storage, but without those trained crews, we are going to cutting our patrols—or putting Viper pilots in Raptor cockpits.”
“Only until Commander Lorne and his ships can join the Fleet,” Sidewinder replied. “We have—had—twenty-two Raptors before our attack on the Styx. That will provide a major boost to patrol capabilities, even before we consider what having a Bezrek
on station will mean for these civilian ships that need maintenance.”
“Who is going to fly the mission?” asked Aaron Kelly. “And lead it?”
“I will command it,” said Starbuck, “and I would imagine that we have at least two volunteer pilots right here at the table—seven more won’t be hard to find.”
Sidewinder winced and he spoke up. “Captain Thrace, that isn’t a good idea—you are the CAG aboard Galactica
. You need to be here, in case of a Cylon attack.”
She grinned. “My idea, my risk, Sidewinder. What’s the fun in being CAG if you don’t get to go on the risky missions?”
“Being CAG isn’t meant to be fun
, Starbuck,” scowled Cole. “He’s right—you have responsibilities here. Helo can lead the expedition, or Captain Greene, or another pilot. Flying off into deep space for a week or two is a job for you to assign—not fly yourself.”
“Didn’t Gardner put you in hack? I can’t believe Lee actually put you back in command of the Beast’s air wing.”
“Enough,” growled Adama. “Starbuck is leading the mission—is that clear? How soon can you depart?”
“Just give the word, Admiral,” she said beaming a grin.
Adama nodded and he turned to face Sharon. “You can do this? You are willing to do this?”
“I can. I am,” she said.
The Admiral looked at her and then he nodded. “You understand that I cannot have a prisoner taking such an important role—don’t you?”
Sharon didn’t say a word, and Helo tensed. Sidewinder could see from her body language that she was near the point of breaking—the loss of her child, the constant verbal, if not physical, abuse she suffered from the crew, the mistrust and latent hatred; all were taking their toll and just piling on one grain of sand after the next.
He stood. “What I need to know is this—you have said you are different from Boomer. You said that you choose to join us and abandoned your fellow Cylons. Are you willing to take the Oath?”
Sharon’s head snapped up. “Wh-what?”
Adama released a breath, even as jaws around the table hung slack. “Do you want to be a pilot in the Colonial Fleet—or is that something that only Boomer wanted?”
Sharon’s eyes glowed, they filled with water. “I do,” she whispered. “The President will never allow it.”
“Leave the President to me, Lieutenant Valerii. Marines, you may remove her restraints and then you are dismissed—Lieutenant Gaeta, find her a uniform. I will swear you in myself—I presume you want Helo present as a witness?”
She could only nod, and Sidewinder grinned—a grin that Helo matched.
“Good. Then let’s get this show on the road before my Raptor pilots decide to frag their temporary commander,” he said with a slight smile.