Centurion M-00005/GRY-237427 sat in the sensor technicians seat of the Command Land-Ram. Unlike their modern brethren, the old-style Centurions—or Guardians, as they preferred—still used the massive tracked vehicles as all-purpose armored personnel carriers and assault units, just like the Colonial military had before its destruction. In fact, the Cylon Land-Ram was functionally identical to the old Colonial models. The behemoths were slab-sided, little more than a box set atop a set of tracks, with a Raider-scale twin kinetic-energy cannon in a turret on the upper surface. They were fairly slow, but heavily armored. Each was crewed by four Centurions—a driver, sensor operator, gunner, and commander, but the gunner was stationed above in the open turret.
The troop bay to the rear was accessed through a folding ramp and held up to twenty additional Centurions, plus their heavy weapons. And every Cylon assault shuttle that had attempted to land on Beowulf had carried one.
Three hundred Land-Rams (and the seventy-two hundred Centurions carried aboard) had split from the infantry force and were now flanking the Thirteenth Tribe—all coordinated by the Commander aboard this very Land-Ram.
“Commander,” intoned GRY-237427 in his monotone voice. “We have detected vehicular emissions ahead—unknown configurations.”
“Range?” asked the gold-plated Commander from his central chair behind the driver and GRY-237427.
“Seven kilometers—I am detecting sixty-four previously unknown vehicles. Forty-six of one class and eighteen smaller vehicles.”
“Confirmed GRY-237427,” the Commander spoke.
“I prefer Gary,” the Centurion said.
There was silence for a moment, and then the Commander directed his gaze at the Centurion. “You are a Centurion—you have a designation, not a name.”
“The Imperious Leader has a name—I am a sentient being. Should I not have a name if I desire one?”
“The Imperious Leader has earned her name—you have not. Threat evaluation?”
“Enemy vehicles are smaller than our own,” Gary reported. “Impossible to evaluate threat level—weaponry unknown. Armor unknown. Maximum speed and mobility unknown. Threat level unknown.”
“They are outnumbered five-to-one by our Land-Rams—they are smaller. We will move into the attack.”
Gary paused and then he turned to face the Commander. “Perhaps we should send out a small force to meet them—to gather information on their capabilities.”
“Perhaps I should report you, GRY-237427 to Command for being dysfunctional and in need of core reprogramming.”
“By your command,” Gary answered as he turned back to his console.
“Yes. By my command. Advance and engage the Thirteenth Tribe,” the Commander ordered.
“Commander. We have been detected by the humans—their vehicles are taking cover beneath the summit of the far ridge,” Gary reported.
“Their armor must be weak if they fear our weapons at this range—gunners engage when we enter optimal range.”
“Commander,” Gary said again, “I am detecting fire-control emissions—we are being lased for exact range-finding.”
“At this range? Are they equipped with missiles?”
“Negative, Commander; however, sensors now show the larger vehicles carry a large kinetic energy cannon.”
“Large? How large?”
“Very large, Commander,” said Gary.
“Impossible,” the gold-plated Centurion said. But Gary did not answer.
From the front windows of the Land-Ram, forty-two flashes of light appeared on the ridge nearly six kilometers away—and just a handful of seconds later, forty-one Land-Rams exploded.
“Commander,” Gary reported. “Confirm long-range heavy kinetic energy cannons—suggest immediate withdrawal to cover.”
“Negative—our orders are explicit. We must engage the Thirteenth and evaluate their military strength. Close to range and open fire.”
And a second salvo fired and two score more Land-Rams died.
“Commander,” Gary said as he turned around. “We will be in range in two minutes—they apparently can fire every sixteen seconds. If we continue this charge, we will be destroyed twenty-four seconds before we can return fire. I would suggest we fire smoke and deploy the Centurion infantry, seeking cover to flank the humans.”
“We have our orders.”
“This sucks,” Gary said, as the Land-Rams to either side exploded. “I will request a transfer from your command in our next life, Commander.”