Book 2 - Chapter 4
CHAPTER FOUR: Payback Time
Raptor Zero-One – Vicinity of Cylon Tyllium Planet
Waiting always seems an eternity, Tricia thought to herself after a while. She thought that it must be harder on the marines, although none of them were showing it. All were waiting though for Gorde to give the word about the re-appearance of the tanker. Some of the marines had looked a little askance at Gorde's youthfulness, but refrained from comment. They knew that young or not, he wouldn't be here if he didn't know his job.
"There it is", Gorde reported as he watched his scanner. "Passive sensors show a definite exit from FTL. Right at the same co-ordinates. The main contact is heading down to the planet. Escort fighters are peeling off and heading back to their jump co-ordinates".
A few minutes later, Gorde reported, "Sheba, the fighters have jumped out of the system. The tanker is landing at the complex now".
"Very good, Newguy", Tricia answered, "The tanker will take twenty minutes to load up and depart. We move off in twenty-two minutes".
Back in the rear bay, Howe and his deputy - Gunnery Sergeant Donald Haig - completed checking once more their troops' pressure suits and weapons. When that task was completed, Haig looked over at the donut-shaped explosive ring that would be placed at the bottom of the telescoping pressure lock. It's diagnostic routine showed that it was functioning okay. Now, all they could do was wait. The twenty-two minutes passed slowly, but at last...
"Marines to boarding position", Tricia ordered, "were moving to intercept!".
The raptor rapidly powered up and lifted up off the surface of the moon. They were now heading for the tanker that was now slowly lifting off the surface of the planet. As Tricia headed to intercept, pushing the raptor up to its best sub-light speed, Gorde activated the telescoping airlock. The tube lowered down from beneath the belly of the raptor. The bottom of the tube was still sealed.
Howe watched the status light of the airlock. When it changed from red to green, he opened the airlock hatch.
The tube went down about six feet to a ‘floor’. Haig passed Howe the explosives ring. Dropping into the airlock, Howe lowered the ring and placed it at the base of the ‘floor’(its diameter was only slightly smaller than that of the airlock tube itself). After clipping it in place, Howe armed it, and then he climbed back out of the airlock, closing the airlock hatch. He quickly walked past Gorde and into the cockpit.
"Were ready, pilot", Howe told Tricia, "You'd better seal off the cockpit".
Tricia gestured to Gorde, who had come forward and sat down in the co-pilot's seat. Gorde then activated the pressure hatch that sealed off the cockpit from the instrument bay.
Howe saw that the cockpit hatch was properly sealed, and then he gestured to his men. They snapped down their helmet visors and pressurized their suits. Once all of them gave their "all-well" hand signal - Howe had insisted on no voice communications until after the initial phase of the mission was complete - he pressed a switch on a bulkhead panel which started to depressurize the instrument bay.
"My board is showing bay depressurized, Sheba", Gorde reported to Tricia.
"Right", Tricia replied, "It’s just about showtime".
Gorde saw the bulk of the tanker ahead of them. Tricia had maneuvered the raptor so that it came in from behind and above the tanker, so that (hopefully), the Cylons would not see them. So far, it looked like that was so. Gorde was picking up no transmissions either. It looked as though the toasters were completely unaware of their presence.
She deftly maneuvered the raptor over the upper external bulkhead of the tanker that was above and just behind the cockpit. Gently, she lowered the raptor down until the base of the airlock tube just touched the bulkhead, then she activated a series of magnetic grab-locks that secured the base of the airlock against it.
As Howe saw the status panel showing that the grab-locks were in place, he clicked his commlink twice – to signal to Tricia without speaking that they were going in - and then he hit a switch on his hand-held controller. The explosive ring - with its shaped directional charges - detonated, cutting a circular hold through the base of the airlock, and the cockpit bulkhead beneath it.
Howe immediately signaled to three of his marines, who flung open the airlock hatch, then jumped down into the hole. The Cylons had been taken completely by surprise. Before any of them could turn to repel the boarders, the Marines immediately took out the three centurions with single shots from their gauss-rifles (which worked by accelerating to a pre-selected speed - by means of a powerful electric field produced by a battery in the stock - a large caliber armor piercing explosive cartridge. It was a very useful weapon in a vacuum environment). The Cylons simply were too slow. Their armored abdomens were pierced and the explosive charges in the cartridges were enough to demolish their interior circuitry, deactivating them instantly.
Howe looked down at the dead Cylons. These were more advanced models than what the old specs showed, but the gauss-rifles still made short work of them, he was glad to see.
"Nebula Four to Nebula Six", one of the marines communicated to Howe, "target fully secured. We have the prize".
"Well done, Nebula Four", Howe replied. He then keyed his mike to communicate with Tricia and Gorde.
"All right, we've taken care of the crew. How long before this tanker reaches the FTL co-ordinates?"
"In seven minutes...mark!" Tricia replied.
"Very well", Howe replied, "loading the warhead now".
The warhead was quickly taken out of its container and passed down the tube to the cockpit of the tanker.
While two marines set about getting the warhead positioned and armed, Howe quickly took a diagnostic scanner and took some readings from the dead Cylon corpses. Even destroyed, these readings would provide some good intelligence on this new model of centurion. He would have preferred to take one of them with him, but given that there could be a chance that even a deactivated toaster could be traced, it was best not to take any chances at this time.
"Six", Haig communicated, "the warhead is armed. All we need to do is set the time".
'Where is the autopilot console, pilot?" Howe communicated to Tricia.
"It's on the right-hand quadrant of the pilots panel, Nebula-Six”, Tricia replied, "The computerized flight plan should be accessible from there".
Howe looked at the panel, and then plugged in a decoder. The decoder would send up the data to the cockpit of the raptor. Tricia saw that the data was being uploaded.
"Uh-oh", she muttered. She switched her commlink back on, "Nebula-Six, we have a problem".
"What’s up, pilot?" Howe replied.
"The jump co-ordinates are there, but evidentially, the Cylons go to manual control immediately after emerging from FTL, so there’s no flight plan or ETA information", she explained.
"So we don’t know how long to set the warhead for?" Howe asked.
"Affirmative", Tricia replied. Frack! This was something that they had not prepared for...or had they, she thought?
"Nebula-Six, I've got an idea", Tricia called back, "Leave the decoder plugged into the autopilot and flip the switch from ‘Receive’ to ‘Transmit’. Then have the warhead set for remote detonation and get your Marines back on board the raptor. We don’t have much time".
Howe did as he was instructed to the decoder, then set the detonation cycle on the warhead from the ‘Timer’ setting to ‘Remote manual’. Next, he gestured to his men to climb back up through the airlock to the raptor. All six of them climbed up the ladder (which as built into the wall of the airlock tube) and re-entered the raptor. Howe was the last to go through.
After Howe sealed the airlock hatch, he double-clicked his commlink. After hearing both clicks, Tricia deactivated the grab-locks, releasing the raptor from the tanker.
When the airlock tube was fully retracted, Howe started the re-pressurization routine. When the bay was fully pressurized, Howe and his men took off their helmets. Gorde opened the cockpit hatch to the instrument bay and stepped through to assist. As he did so, Howe walked through to the cockpit.
"So what’s your idea?" Howe asked Tricia.
"With the decoder on ‘Transmit’, I can remote-pilot the tanker from here", Tricia explained. "Captain Syke also gave us the ability to remote-detonate the warhead. These two items can salvage our mission".
"How?" Howe asked.
"Like the tanker, the raptor has a limited FTL capability. The co-ordinates for the tanker's jump is easily within range of the raptor, and those co-ordinates are also in range of the Pegasus", Tricia explained.
Howe saw where she was leading. He did not look too happy. "We should report this to the Pegasus first", he finally said.
"We don't have time for that", Tricia replied, "We jump with the tanker, then go inert. I then remote-fly the tanker to its destination with the tanker’s bulk itself shielding us from detection, then we set off the warhead and jump straight back to the Pegasus. It's the only way to get the job done".
Howe looked at Tricia intently for a few seconds, then nodded. He knew that while he and his troops were on board the raptor, Tricia was the senior ranking person.
"Very well, pilot", he finally answered, "It's your decision. Let’s hope we can get away with it".
"Better get strapped in with your men", Tricia replied, as Gorde came back to the cockpit.
Gorde had overheard the conversation. He was not too happy either. "Should we not just cut our losses, and destroy the refinery, Sheba?" he asked.
"Were going to need all the fuel we can get if we’re going to eventually get you certified as a raptor pilot, Newguy", Tricia pointed out.
"Well, I have done well with the simulator, you know", Gorde replied, "but I like the idea of getting certified on the real thing".
"Think you know enough to control the raptor in flight?", Tricia asked, "I could do both, but I’d prefer to more closely control the tanker".
'Okay, Sheba", Gorde acquiesced, "I get your point. Yeah, I can control the raptor while you remote-pilot that tanker, though don't ask me to land it anywhere! I think can keep it close enough to the tanker so that we won't be detected".
Tricia nodded. She had already punched in the new FTL-jump co-ordinates and timed it so that the jump would take place in the same instant as that of the tanker’s autopilot.
"Jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jump!", she announced. With the familiar disorienting feeling that came along with it, the raptor and tanker jumped simultaneously. Both emerged at the same instant - the raptor tucked in behind the tanker - and Tricia saw where the tanker was heading to: a Base Star!
Raptor Zero-One – Vardon Sector - Vicinity of Cylon Base Star
Immediately, she powered down most of the raptor’s systems and let Gorde control the raptor - staying close behind the tanker - on minimum power. Gorde was doing a good job keeping the tanker immediately ahead of the raptor while Tricia used her remote control to steer the tanker toward the Base Star, now that the tanker’s autopilot had disengaged. Tricia saw that Gorde definitely had the chops to be a good raptor pilot as well as an RSO. She promised herself that she would work to get him certified as soon as possible.
As Tricia maneuvered the tanker remotely, she knew that this plan was a terrible risk, but if that refinery was keeping a Base Star provisioned out here in deep space, something had to be done about it.
"Passive sensors are showing a bay door opening on the Base Star, Sheba", Gorde said, "It looks like the tanker is expected".
"I see it", Tricia confirmed, "Guiding it over there now. Just stand by to power up the raptor and FTL us the hell out of here when I give you the word", she ordered.
"Remember that they can't detect the course of an FTL jump, but they can detect the jump itself. We jump too early and they detect it, they'll smell a rat", Gorde commented.
"Then we'll jump at the moment of detonation", Tricia replied, "and hope that the explosion will take their attention away from looking out at us".
“Assuming that we don’t get caught in the blast ourselves”, Gorde added. He tried not to sweat as the leviathan of the Base Star got bigger and bigger. Gorde could not draw the raptor too far back from the tanker as that would expose the raptor to the Base Star’s sensors. This would really be cutting it close.
"It's starting to enter the bay", Gorde reported, "They are going to see us any second now".
"Power up the FTL and prepare to jump", Tricia ordered. As Gorde brought the platform on line, Tricia thumbed a control on her panel, initiating a five second countdown for warhead detonation.
"Jumping in 5...4... 3...2...1...jump!"
The timing couldn’t have been better. At the precise instant that the raptor jumped, the warhead in the cockpit of the tanker detonated. The tanker had just entered the open hatchway of the landing bay when the warhead detonated. A split-second later, the tyllium that the tanker was carrying spontaneously combusted. A detonation equivalent to a 5-kiloton nuclear device was the result. As the landing bay hatch was wide open, and the tanker was already part-way through, the tough outer hull of the Base Star provided no protection for the effects of the explosion.
A massive fireball from the exploding tyllium blew a huge hole in the Base Star. The leviathan staggered like a punch-drunk boxer. Power all over the base star was disrupted as the exploding tyllium wreaked its destructive power. The effects of the explosion took out both of the main power sources for the Base Star. As the power died throughout the Base Star, none of the raiders could launch. The Base Star was heavily damaged. As a result, it would be out of action for a long time. And as Tricia had hoped, their FTL-jump had not been detected.