CIC was tense as Commander Lorne entered the compartment. “ATTENTION ON DECK!” barked the executive officer, and every man and woman present snapped to attention as Mathias stopped in his tracks. He nodded, and his lips quivered. And without another word he walked over the central console and lifted the phone. “General broadcast, all ships, and 1MC, if you please, Colonel Jayne,” he said. The XO flipped a switch and nodded. “This is the Commander. You have all been briefed on our objectives—by your division commanders, your deck commanders, your immediate supervisors. You know what is at stake here today, for all of us—for all of humanity. Look to your comrades in the coming minutes, my ship-mates, look to the men and women beside you with whom you have toiled, sweated, and bled for the past two years time. They depend today on you. Their lives depend on your actions—and more than their lives, the lives of those who have survived on the Colonies and who fight against the Cylon occupation.” “You know why we are going back—you know the reasons we are undertaking this operation. It is not for vengeance, or retribution, or to wrack red ruin upon the Cylons who have despoiled our worlds and murdered billions in their cold mechanical way. We are going into harm’s way, not to extract our revenge, but to save the lives of those civilian we have sworn to protect. That does not mean we are not going to take our revenge on the toasters, comrades!” Mathias said with a chuckle. “We are going to teach these monsters what it means to pick a fight with the human race—we are going to show them the error of their ways, and we are going to succeed,” the levity faded from his voice. “Failure is NOT an option!” he thundered, his voice echoing across every deck of the ship, and aboard the civilian ships waiting alongside. “Know this—that we will defend the civilians. We will stand between them and death, and we will pour our fire into any Cylon vessels that dare to challenge us. Some of us will not live through this fight,” and his voice lowered to almost a whisper. “There will be empty racks come the ‘morrow, comrades. Empty places at our mess, and in our hearts. But as a wise man once told our fathers in the days after the Twelve Tribes left behind Kobol, ‘It matters little how we die, so long as we die better men than we imagined we could be—and no worse men than we feared we would become.’ Aboard this ship, aboard the Battlestar Scorpia, each and every one of you have shown me that you are the better man. Shown that you are able to set aside your base desires to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, a sacrifice that shields our people from harm.” “We will mourn those who are lost in this fight—but we will never say their loss was in vain. Never, comrades. For today, TODAY! We go into battle not for the cause of loot; not out of anger and hatred, not out of fear of punishment; TODAY, we will battle to save those who cannot fight for themselves. TODAY, we strike hard and we strike fast, and we will snatch away from the Cylons those who have all but lost hope. TODAY, ship-mates, we will restore unto them that hope.” Mathias paused and he looked into the eyes of every man and woman present in the CIC. He nodded and raised the phone again. “This is your Commander speaking. Sound General Quarters throughout the ship. Set Condition One in all compartments.” Tom picked up his own phone. “This is the XO. Sound General Quarters throughout the ship. Set Condition One in all compartments.” Mathias nodded. “Spin up FTL drives One and Two for faster-than-light jump; exit coordinates Caprica orbit.” “This is the XO. Spin up FTL drives One and Two for faster-than-light jump; exit coordinates Caprica orbit,” the XO repeated. “Weapons. Open outer doors on missile silos One and Six. Program MIRVs for saturation bombardment—target Delphi. Set nuclear warheads for maximum yield. Release of nuclear weapons has been authorized.” And once again, Tom repeated the orders. “Weapons, this the XO. Open outer doors on missile silos One and Six. Program MIRVs for saturation bombardment—target Delphi. Set nuclear warheads for maximum yield. Release of nuclear weapons has been authorized and confirmed.” Throughout the ship, men and women raced to make their final preparations as the klaxons sounded and the alert lights flashed. Major Jon Banacek, call-sign Rambler, sat in the cockpit of his Viper, already ensconced in the launch tube. “I want the rest of the Reds out as quickly as you can load them, Chief,” he said. Chief Sinclair nodded and gave a thumbs up—he already had the rest of Red Squadron in line behind the tubes, the blast deflectors raised. On the deck of each flight pod, twenty more Vipers, four Raptors, and two Shuttles were spotted for a full-deck launch. Captain Hope Fairchild, call-sign Digger, tightened the glove on her right hand and then laid it back on the stick. “Let’s get this right, Blues. Keep your intervals until we clear Scorpia completely. The whole Air Group is going to be out there; watch yourselves and check your fire.” The massive twin kinetic energy weapons on the back and flanks of the Battlestar unlocked and swiveled as the gunners made certain that their mounts were in the green. Keys were turned and live munitions loaded, the hoppers full and waiting for a target. Deep within the armored bow, a team of men manhandled a massive anti-ship missile, sliding it deep within one of the six launchers fixed forward. As the tail fins entered the tube, the Chief stepped forward and removed the safety, before shutting the inner hatch and locking it down—the lights on the fire control platform went green. And on every deck, in every compartment, men and women stood by, ready to respond to the first cries for help from the damage that was sure to soon be inflicted upon them. “FTL Drives One and Two are now charged, coordinates set,” reported Major Marius Tyche. “Anubis Actual, Scorpia Actual,” Mathias said into the phone. “Go Scorpia Actual,” her voice came over the wireless. Mathias took a breath. “Stand by to jump upon receiving our Raptor with the orders to proceed. Scorpia will clear you a path.” “Copy, Scorpia Actual; good hunting.” “This is the Commander. I have no doubts about whether or not this ship and this crew can accomplish this mission. None. Because I know, that no matter how you have done in the past, that right now, at this moment, TODAY. Today, comrades, THIS shall be your finest hour. JUMP!” he barked.