Phoenix Rising - Part 1, Act 4
By C. Demetrius Morgan
From the Aella Chronicle:
Some say no one remembers how the war with the Cylons began. It began innocently enough. We sent out exploratory vessels thousands of yahren ago, because we knew we weren't alone. Our moldering histories turned myth and legend told us about the myriad worlds our ancestors trod upon, the colonies they established, and the worlds of primitives they brought the light of civilization to.
We knew, out there, somewhere, brothers of man waited us. Sadly we had no idea how those first fateful encounters in the depths of space would shape life in the Colonies. For we forgot that those same ancient histories spoke of strange alien races and dark dreary worlds where slimy brutal beings skulked in muck. Perhaps it was human folly that we never imagined such detestable creatures might one day achieve the same lofty heights, as did our own once primitive ancestors. Luckily we were not entirely unprepared for danger, or else Cylon treachery would have ended the colonies long ago.
# # # # #
ACT IV - ESCAPE
The first thing Tychon and Egg noticed about the Delos station launch bay was it was a lot more spacious than the launch bays aboard their cramped training carriers. Then this was a civilian station. The Warrior presence was tolerated, though from the way some techs reacted to their presence they wondered how much longer that would last. It was hard for Egg to align the plant vapor dreams of those with their heads in the clouds of Armistice celebrations from the reality of the war he'd been training for the past few yahrens. Looking over their assigned craft, the feel the old Starhound's pitted surface despite being many times re-painted, Egg felt like the modern scanner installed in the archaic cockpit control panel. Out of place.
'Was that what Warriors would be after the Armistice, archaic relics?' He wondered.
"They look a lot older than the Starhound's we flew back on Gemoni. No worse for wear though. "
"What were you expecting, Egg, shiny new Vipers?"
"Be nice. Still I thought they'd have something better than old MK II's."
"Actually I think they're MK IIb's, see the aerofoil?"
"Hey, you're right. They're much bigger."
"Perfect for aerial acrobatics, and that's what we're. . "
Tychon was interrupted by the sudden unexpected sound of blaring Klaxon.
"What the feldercarb?"
"My sentiments exactly, Egg. It can't be time to launch for our aerial display yet, can it?" Tychon looked around, "We're virtually the only pilots here!"
Egg turned to a crew chief he sees talking on an com, "Chief what's. ."
"Frak!" the chief faced the warriors with eyes wide in startled disbelief.
"You've got to clear the tubes. Get those birds out. No time to switch out the payloads now. Just head for the planet!" The latter was said over the chief's shoulder as he broke into a run toward the interior of the bay.
"You wearing your flight suit, Egg?"
"Always. But wha-"
"Attention. Attention. This is not a drill. All Colonial personnel report to duty stations. I repeat, this is not a drill, ALL Colonial. . "
Grabbing Egg by the lapels, "Whatever's going on I'd feel a lot safer planet side. This isn't exactly a colonial base, you know."
"I read you." Egg replied turning to run toward the nearest Starhound, "Let's go!"
* * *
Niobe's hand went unconsciously to her sidearm the moment the klaxon sounded. While all the guests merely looked around in confusion she immediately began to scan the entrances, making eye contact with other warriors doing the same. Like wayward asteroids circling a distant star the warriors slowly began to gravitate toward each other, pausing only for a moment when the announcement began, then the bedlam began as warriors began to gently fight against the crowd to make way to where they needed to be. Sadly Niobe noted there were too many who, like herself, had nowhere to go.
"What do you suppose is going on?"
Turning to the now almost familiar voice Niobe was surprised to see Aella, "Don't know."
A second body sidled up beside her. Turning Niobe saw an unfamiliar face wearing a familiar uniform. She took in his insignia and junior rank pins in barely the span of a milicenton.
"Lieutenant, ma'am." The warrior nodded to both women in turn.
"Better try some crowd control, at least until we find out what's going on."
"Might help if there was music."
Niobe turned and nodded slightly, both in agreement to Aella's remark and greeting to another colonial warrior who'd joined her little group.
"Get the band to play something light, nothing too dramatic, and pass the word this leisuron's over."
* * *
"Alright, now that we're out here let's see what our scanners can pick up on. ."
"My Com's dead, how about yours, Egg?"
"I've got Caprican ground control chatter."
"That's odd. Nothing but static. I know they gutted this thing to put in loaders for pyronics and lazons for the Armistice display but, wait, scanners still work. Engaging perimeter sweep."
A pregnant paused filled the dead of space.
"Tychon I'm picking up something on the scanner at-"
"I see it. Warbook reads them as heavies, Cylon raiders. Twelve, scratch that, fifteen."
"Guess that means the armistice is off."
"Maybe," Tychon said as he began to scan through com channels, "But how in Sagan's name did they get that many raiders this far into colonial space without someone raising a klaxon before now?"
"They're probably just drawing them in, making sure they have their aim dead on."
"Then why aren't the Caprican planetary defenses lighting up with sky pulsar fire? Those ground emplacements are supposed to be able to hit an pirates arse in an airlock all the way out to Delos."
"I wish I knew, Tychon, wish I knew. Not much we can about it now."
"We've got the pyronics." Tychon clenched his teeth.
Pyronics could be dangerous, if misused, but even against Cylon raiders they'd be little better than firing an artillery shell at a Battlestar. Yet. .
"Yeah, but they're incendiaries." Egg reminded him, "No good to us up here."
"Frak." Tychon cursed.
"Yeah," Egg quietly agreed.
"We'll just have to hit atmosphere sooner, then. ."
"Then," Egg finished, "we do what we can. Fleetcom's still dead so they must be jamming us. Yet they didn't seem to bother jamming sensors. What are they playing at?"
"I don't know but they're not jamming the civilian channels either."
"Check for yourself. I just picked up Serina's broadcast. Everything looks perfectly fine down there."
"I prefer Lyra myself," Egg mumbled as he scanned through the civilian broadcast bands, "Serina maybe the face of Caprica but Lyra has the bod-
"Told you. Damn strange."
"Egg I think we'd better get dirt side. Either the feldergarb is about to hit the fan, in which case we're going to be little more than target practice, or someone screwed the daggit big time. Either way we're no good to anyone up here."
"Yeah, I'd hate to be the one to go down in history as starting a war by attacking a peace envoy. But if things do get squirrelly," Egg paused to check his ailerons, "these old daggits have better maneuverability in atmosphere."
"Agreed. And all we've got are pyronics."
"Yeah. Great way to fly into a war."
* * *
Talbot Chabrol rushed onto the bridge. Sestina barely spared a glance for the ridiculous Armistice celebration costume he was wearing.
"What's going on!"
"Don't know. The station just went to alert status and, if Brackett's right, cleared her launch tubes. They've also ordered all vessels in dock out."
"That includes us, I'm afraid." Brackett retorted from his station.
Talbot sat at his command console with a disconsolate thump.
"Just five centons, just five more centons and I'd have been on my way and they could play their damn games without involving me."
Sestina noticed the mock disdain in her captain's voice and, not for the first time, wondered why Talbot really left the colonial forces. He seemed to miss the life.
"Fine," Talbot muttered sitting back, "passengers are all off anyway and there's nothing to see from the Star Kobol yet. Take her out nice and slow and, Sestina, make a note in the ship's log that this is an official colonial order. If they expect us to pay for the extra fuel load they're two cards shy of a full pyramid. Matter of fact, Brackett, did we have time to log the problem with our port thrusters?"
"I believe so but what's that-"
"Good! We'll bill them for that, too."
"But, sir, it's just a matter of routine-"
"Note it in the log!"
Brackett knew better than to press the matter when his captain used that tone of voice so he simply replied, "Noted."
* * *
There wasn't much Tychon and Egg could do, they knew that, yet they had to try. It was Egg's idea to set off his pyronics in a tangled mass as near Caprica city's busiest flight corridor as they dared. He'd hoped someone dirt side would take notice, not that Caprica was a bastion of military hardware these days. That was something he knew the Capricans prided themselves on. Perhaps that was why the Armistice celebrations were centered there. But surely that big of an explosion wouldn't go unnoticed. Surely someone would raise a klaxon, if only to mobilize the colonial police. He monitored the one clear broadcast, but Serina didn't even blink when she commented on "some kind of explosion" being spotted.
And still no sign of the much lauded Caprican planetary defenses. Neither warrior understood their silence, as those platforms were supposed to be automated. Were the Cylons using some new form of electronic countermeasures that spoofed Colonial IFF? There was just no way to know, at least not from the seat of a Starhound. To add insult to injury, the Cylons didn't seem to take notice of them. Even when Tychon set off a stream of pyronics in the path of a pair of raiders they seemed to shrug off the impotent blows like a mangy daggit shaking off water. Then, in a flash, Egg understood why.
"Tychon, I'm reading multiple flights of craft coming in from high orbit!"
"What?" Tychon had been using his lazons to play tag with one of the heavies and it took a centon for what Egg was saying to register.
But that was a centon neither he nor Egg had for that wave of ships were coming in at a combat dive, and they were playing for keeps.
The first thought that sprang to both warriors mind's was: It was impossible. No one could get that many hostile craft this far into Colonial space without setting off the perimeter klaxon. Yet, somehow, the Cylons had managed to do just that.
"I'm losing scanner resolution. Egg, what're you reading now?"
Egg moved to adjust his screen as he cursed under his breath.
"Lost it. That kind of blanket jamming can't be local. That requires a lot of power."
The instant Tychon's whisper mic relayed that word Egg felt a cold knot twist in his stomach. Much as he hated to admit it that was really the only possible answer. Smaller vessels would have been detected, not matter how good their stealth, and only a Baseship had the kind of power output needed for that sort of mass masking field generation.
'But how?' he'd wanted to say.
Instead he found himself caught up in a blur of adrenaline fueled confusion. It was true Starhounds had better maneuverability in atmosphere, even against some Viper models, but none of that mattered when assault craft were screeching out of the clouds like comets hurled from the angry fist of a raging demon. With that much g-force behind them it was all a pilot could do to stay out of their way.
'Just like the Cylons to attack from behind cloud cover,' a distant part of his mind scoffed. It was the last conscious thought he would remember of that event for many yahren after. That and hearing Tychon's voice over the com as he reported aileron failure. Egg tried to reestablish contact, find out where Tychon was, but there were now civilian small craft fleeing in every direction.
Not many made it far.
Egg didn't see what happened to Tychon. He was too busy trying to stay alive, which meant doing the one thing that went against every fiber in a colonial warriors being; run from a fight. But what else could he do?
* * *
Talbot Chabrol sat with a white knuckled death grip. He was watching events unfold in real time on the bridge monitors, yet some small portion of his mind refused to believe what he was seeing. Then something snapped.
'How could this be happening,' he thought as he checked scanner readouts with a marines strategically trained eye.
Talbot had to do something. But what could he do? He was just a marine turned liner captain. There was-
"Bring our defensive lasers online now!" he barked.
It wasn't much. In fact the Phoenix wasn't even supposed to have any weaponry, defensive or otherwise, but he'd learned the hard way while running cargo that there was only one way to deal with pirates, especially with the Colonial Forces so far away, and that was to be armed. Only problem was these weren't ramshackle pirate craft.
"What the feldercarb," Sestina cursed as she turned a questioning eye to Talbot.
Brackett had not been happy when his captain approached him about making the off-spec modifications. He'd had many questions, few of which had been answered, but then he also knew his captain had been a cargo hauler. Few ran the routes Talbot took, and with good reason, but the Phoenix wasn't going to be traveling those routes. Brackett said as much. Not that his arguments seemed to have any affect. Now, as he typed the code into his console to activate the defensive grid the liner wasn't supposed to have Brackett found himself smiling predatorily at his captain's astute foresight.
"Sorry," he shrugged at Sestina inquiring glare like a child caught with his hand in the treat bar jar, "meant to tell you about those, uhm, modifications. But with the Armistice and-"
"As first officer of this tub I should have known about this, sir."
Talbot loved Sestina like a daughter but he also knew what her temper was like. Having known her since she was a youngster Talbot didn't want it directed at him. The woman still wasn't speaking with her own father, one of his boyhood friends, so he did the only thing any colonial marine in his position would have done. He feigned innocence.
"How's everything look, Brackett?"
"Green across the board."
"That's good. Of course the system hasn't been tested yet. Meant to get to that, but with the Armistice, didn't seem that important so-"
"Not important? You mean to tell me we not only have weapons, which we aren't supposed to have, but they haven't even been tested?"
Talbot realized his plan wasn't quite working the way he intended as he watched Sestina angrily take over the board from Brackett. If he lived through this he'd have to step lightly around his first officer, at least until he could find some way to get back into her good graces. Then again if they lived through this maybe that'd be enough for her to forget and forgive him.
* * *
By the time the last of the Cylon assault fighters cleared his screen Egg was somewhere over the largest of Caprica's oceans. His fuel gauge was also dangerously close to the redline. He also realized that the entire engagement, if you could call it that, had barely lasted more than a few centons. The few cylon fighters that came after him didn't seem interested in pursuit so much as chasing him away. He'd barely had time to ponder why when warning indicators on his flight console began to wink their baleful glow just as a blinding flash of light lit up the distant horizon.
"That was near Caprica City," Egg announced unnecessarily.
Egg's scanners detected several similar explosions to the far north and west. Each one, he realized, seemed to be in the area of Caprica's major space ports. And each one gave the same trace readings on his hazard board: radiation. Yet he detected no tell tale columns of smoke. No mushroom clouds. That was why the Cylons didn't waste time pursuing one lone obsolete unarmed fighter, or probably many of the other small craft they encountered in their initial furious dive. They knew most civilian craft would be knocked out by those cloud level EMP bursts; the slimy bastards.
Luckily his Starhound was shielded. But that fortunate realization didn't change the fact Egg had to set this bird down, and soon. But where?
# # # # #
(To be continued in Galactica Saga: Phoenix Rising, Part 2)
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan