“Oh, God,” Ripley moaned as she held her head. “Child-birth didn’t hurt this much.”
Hicks handed her a glass of water and two strong—very strong—pain-killers. “One of the side-effects we were talking about with these flash-memory units,” he said in perfect Greek, albeit with his Southern accent. Ripley’s head snapped up—she understood him. And then she moaned again as the pain stabbed at her temples from moving her head that fast.
“I’m gonna die,” she said, answering in the same language.
“Take these,” Hicks answered holding out the tablets. “They will help. A fast-dump like we did,” she had put on the headset just fifteen minutes ago, “always does this. That is why we usually take twelve hours to upload the information—today we don’t have time. The shorter the time frame, the worse the headache. But it will go away.”
Ripley took the glass and swallowed both of the tablets; she drained the water and within seconds, the intense pounding began to fade.
The hatch opened, and Major Caldwell walked in. “Did it work?” she asked. And, although the accent was odd and some of the words didn’t quite fit, it did work well enough. Ripley nodded. “Miracles of modern science,” she said, and Sam Caldwell smiled as she heard the woman speak something very close to her own native tongue.
“Good. Lieutenant,” she turned to Gorman, “were you able to establish contact with your government?”
“I sent the message, Major Caldwell, but it will require time to travel and for us to get a message. Hyper-com isn’t instantaneous, but we should hear back in four or five hours.”
Caldwell frowned. “That is a problem. As we said earlier, we are being chased by the Cylons—mechanical creations of mankind that rebelled and now seek our destruction. What they actually want is our flesh. They have developed a process where they can graft flesh unto their limbs to gain the sensation of touch, and they implacable in their hate. They will not stop chasing us,” she said.
Klaxons began to blare, and a voice came over the speakers. “This is the XO. Sound Action Stations throughout the ship. Set Condition One in all compartments. Major Caldwell report to CIC. Repeat, sound Action Stations throughout the ship. Set Condition One in all compartments. Major Caldwell report to CIC.”
She cursed and headed out—and the Marines, led by Hicks and Gorman, followed her. The tiny CIC was crowded, but Ripley appreciated how it was laid out—and how deep in the hull it was buried. Anubis
was more than twice the size of Sulaco
, very nearly as large and powerful as a Colonial Navy frontier cruiser. But she was old, Ripley could tell from the many repairs and jury-rigged systems, and according to Caldwell, Malcolm, and the others, she was the smallest
warship in the Colonial Fleet.
“Damn,” Caldwell whispered as she glanced up at the DRADIS—what the Terrans called radar, Ripley translated. There was an icon there pulsing red—and many smaller icons spilling out.
“It’s the Cylons, all right,” she said. “Spin up FTL Drives One and Two,” she ordered.
“Can you show a schematic of that ship?” asked Hicks and Caldwell nodded. She typed in a command and wire-frame diagram of the Gemini
appeared on the screen. “To scale?” he asked. More typing and an image of Sulaco
appeared—she was very small in comparison, less than a quarter the diameter of those domes and only a few percent of the internal volume.
“Raiders inbound, two minutes,” an officer called out.
“Weapons free—fire when they enter range,” Caldwell answered.
“I can order Sulaco
to engage,” Bishop said to Gorman. He considered and then he nodded. “Do it. Time to get some intel on how effective our weapons are,” he paused. “With your permission, Major?”
“Oh, I don’t object when someone offers to help me blow away Cylons, Lieutenant Gorman. Be my guest.”
Bishop sat down and he typed commands into the computer and then transmitted them to the Sulaco
. Aboard that empty ship, the computers received them, and klaxons blared on all of her decks, the lighting turning to the red of battle stations.
She thrusted forward, her turrets coming to life and missile covers retracting.
“Let’s see how she deals with Long Lances, Bishop,” said Hicks. “Fire ‘em off.”
“All of them?” Burke winced at the thought of the expense, but then he nodded—after all it was his life at stake here.
“All of them,” Gorman confirmed.
Eight missiles ripped out of their silos and thrusted forward towards the Gemini
. They streaked past the incoming fighter strike, their first stages jettisoning as their fuel was expended, then their second stages. And then the Cylon ship opened fire with their point defense—and the Marines winced.
“That is . . . impressive,” said Bishop. Only two of the Long Lance missile managed to get through—and their warheads were easily absorbed by the ship’s armor.
“It generally takes nuclear warheads or heavy kinetic strikes to kill a Basestar,” said Sam Caldwell.
“Fire up the point defense, Bishop,” ordered Gorman. “Damn it all, I wish we had a crew on the Sulaco
. The computers are good, but a trained crew would be better.”
“Their reaction time would be slower,” Bishop said as he typed in commands.
“But not as predictable,” Hicks added with a smile to the synthetic, who nodded.
“Fighters in range of point-defense lasers . . . now,” Bishop said he hit enter. And every Colonial suddenly jumped and cheered as pulses of amplified light tore into the Cylon Raiders accurately and quickly. The attack force dropped from sixty Raiders to seventeen in the first fourteen seconds of the laser engagement . . . and then the laser fire died away—along with the cheers.
“Capacitors recharging,” Bishop reported. “Thirty seconds until fire can resume.”
“Are they launching more fighters?” asked Hudson in disbelief. “That strike would have been the full complement for a Kitty Hawk
-class Fleet Carrier!”
’s carry upwards of three hundred Raiders,” said Major Caldwell. “They won’t make that mistake again—this time they will send everything,” and she grinned as the Cylons entered her
The eight twin turrets on Anubis’s dorsal hull back to fire at near maximum rates—and the blood drained from the faces of the Marines as they saw the flak cloud of explosions. None of the seventeen Raiders managed to survive to weapons range.
“Flak? You can shoot flak
out of the kinetic energy cannons?” asked Burke, his interest suddenly piqued.
“Of course. What use would they be otherwise?”
“Bishop, go ahead and hit that Basestar with the particle beam cannons,” ordered Gorman.
And now it Caldwell’s turn to blink. “At this
Gorman smiled. “Yes, ma’am. At this range.”
“Locked and firing,” said Bishop. Two invisible beams reached out and slammed home against the Basestar—it staggered, and then stopped its advance momentarily.
“Their DRADIS is off-line,” called out tactical, and then a curse. “Secondary systems just engaged.”
And the Gemini
began to close again—even faster now.
“I think we need to hit it again,” said Gorman.
“Recharging,” said Bishop. “One minute.”
“Too long,” answered Sam. “We are jumping in twenty seconds. Lieutenant, if you can get that ship into your hyperspace in that time, I’d advise you to do it. Unless you want to lose it.”
“Do it,” said Hicks and Gorman nodded his agreement. “Put her in FTL, Bishop—on course for the nearest Fleet base.”
“She is powering up . . . and has successfully entered the hyperspace shunt.”
’s icon vanished from the display.
“Stand by, take DRADIS off-line,” Sam said as two hundred and seventy Cylon raiders kept closing. “Stand by . . . and JUMP!” she ordered.
The Terrans looked a bit queasy, but other than that, they seemed overjoyed. As the DRADIS display came up, they saw scores of icons—but all in the blue color of friendlies.
“Ma’am, we are being challenged by Pegasus
,” an officer reported.
“Send the reply, Mister Horn.”
“How far did we just travel?” asked Burke.
“Nineteen point seven light years, Mister Burke,” Caldwell answered, and Ripley sat down in disbelief. Nineteen point seven light years in no measureable elapsed time at all.
confirms our identity and says welcome home, ma’am,” Horn reported.
Sam Caldwell stood there at her station and she nodded. “Hail Galactica
,” she ordered as she lifted a phone. “On speaker.”
,” the wireless said.
Actual. I—strike that. YOU need to hear what I and my guests have to say.”
. Can’t say more on an unsecured channel. Prepare to receive . . . two Raptors.”
Actual. We will await your arrival. Galactica
“Well, ladies and gentlemen. Are you up to taking another ride—the President is waiting,” Sam said with a wave her arm. Hicks and Gorman exchanged a look, and then both looked at Ripley. “Sure, why not,” she said. “As long as they understand we aren’t authorized to negotiate for our government.”
And Hudson elbowed Burke as he began to speak.