Book 2 - Chapter 7
CHAPTER SEVEN: Searching for Milginite
Battlestar Pegasus – Silver Spar briefing room – One hour later
"And that's the situation", Glen Sanders said to the eight flight officers sitting in front of him in the briefing room, "the bottom line is that we need milginite right now and that means all four ready-alert raptors will be deployed to the nearest systems from our position". He had spent several minutes briefing them on the problem with the energizer.
"Did the dradis show any primary candidate locations for us to survey, Comms?" Ensign Tyree Dutch (Call-sign 'Razor') asked Sanders. The other raptor command pilots – Lieutenant JG Derek 'Dookie' Connor, Ensign John 'Smiley' Pearce, and Lieutenant Tricia 'Sheba' Cain indicated their interest in Sanders' answer.
"Yes, Dutch", Sanders answered, "the dradis’ deep-space scanners has detected two systems with planetary bodies within raptor range". He gestured to the star-map pinned to the wall beside his lectern.
"So I take it there will be two raptors for each system then", Tricia inquired, making it sound more like a statement.
"That's right, Sheba", Sanders confirmed, "You and Razor will take the system - code-named ‘Theta’ - out here", he said, using a laser pointer to indicate the nearby system they were to survey, "while Dookie and Smiley will take their raptors to the other system – code-named ‘Epsilon’. All four raptors have been pre-flighted and are ready for launch. You get in, quickly survey the planets you encounter, and then get back here. Sheba will be in command of Theta system’s Survey Team One and Dookie will command Epsilon System’s Survey Team Two".
"Are there any indications of inhabitants in those systems?" Connor asked.
"The dradis has not picked up any signals, but we are still pretty far out from either system in order to be definitive on that. Remember that we have to assume that the toasters will be looking for us - their losing that refinery plus the damage we most likely inflicted on one of their base stars with that sabotaged tanker will not be taken lightly, so maintain a low profile. If any one of your teams detects any substantial milginite deposits, get back here fast. Understood?" Sanders said. The four pilots and the four RSO's nodded their understanding.
"Very well, man your raptors and get moving. The sooner we can get this job done, the better. Dismissed", Sanders concluded.
The raptor crews stood. As Sanders left, the others walked out behind him and boarded the transport to their respective landing bays. Connor's and Pearce's crews were part of the Black Knight wing and their raptors were in the starboard landing bay.
"Have fun, you lot", Tricia called to them as their transport moved off.
"You too, Sheba", Connor replied with a wave.
Battlestar Pegasus – Port Landing Bay – Hanger Two
Tricia and Dutch boarded their awaiting transport and waited for their RSO's to be seated. Jason 'Newguy' Gorde quickly got himself strapped in while Dutch's RSO - Ensign Jake Watt (call-sign 'Boxer') settled down into his seat. The transport quickly moved off before Watt got fully strapped in, causing him to lurch some from his seat. Dutch chuckled.
"And you still think my flying is rough, Boxer?" Dutch asked rhetorically with a smile.
"Ha-Ha, Razor", Watt replied sarcastically. Gorde chuckled and Tricia rolled her eyes.
The transport stopped down at the hanger where both Silver Spar raptors were all ready to be lifted up from the hanger to the vacuum of the flight deckabove . All four of them jumped out of the transport and trotted over to their respective raptors. The technicians in charge of the raptors gave both Tricia and Dutch a thumbs-up, indicating that the raptors were all pre-flighted and ready for launch. While Dutch and Watt entered their raptor, Tricia and Gorde did likewise. Both Gorde and Watt closed and sealed their hatches while Tricia and Dutch manned their cockpits.
Both crews did a quick pre-flight of their systems. Once Tricia had finished hers, she thumbed her ship-to-ship wireless to open communication with Dutch's raptor.
"Hey, Razor", Sheba communicated, "How are you receiving me?"
"Five-by-five", Dutch replied, indicating the optimum 'number' for signal strength and reception.
"Okay, Razor", Tricia acknowledged, "receiving you the same. Let's get these birds into space". With that, Tricia and Dutch taxied their raptors over to the lift. Tricia then tuned into the Core Command frequency. The maintenance technicians had already evacuated the bay.
"Survey Probe One to Core Command, Both birds reporting ready for launch", she communicated.
"Survey Probe One, understood", Lieutenant Annan replied, "elevating probe craft to landing bay".
With that, the floor elevators under both raptors started to go up. Outside the prep area, a red light flashed, indicating that the prep area was being depressurized. Once it had happened - it took but seconds - the flashing red light went solid red, then the ceiling above them slid open. Both raptors were lifted up to the level of the flight deck.
While Tricia’s and Dutch’s raptors were being elevated to the port-side flight deck, Connor’s and Pearce’s raptors were likewise being elevated to the flight deck level on the starboard-side. After verifying everything was ready, Annan keyed her commlink to the awaiting raptors:
"Core Command transferring control of Survey Probes One and Two to survey commanders. Launch when ready", she authorized.
With that, Sheba and Dutch powered up their engines and expertly lifted their raptors off the flight deck. With Tricia's raptor leading, both craft exited out of the front of the port-side landing bay and headed out and away from the Pegasus.
Tricia could see from her scanner and the IFF confirmation that Survey Probe Two had exited the starboard landing bay and were heading out to their jump co-ordinates. For his part, Gorde took a couple of seconds off the navi-comp to look at the sight of the Pegasus receding from them. The battlestar truly was an impressive sight, and one that he never got tired of seeing. He turned his attention back to the navi-comp and quickly finished inputting the jump co-ordinates that been supplied to them earlier by Captain Sanders.
"FTL co-ordinates punched in. We're ready to go, Sheba", Gorde communicated to Tricia.
"We're all set over here, Sheba", Dutch communicated over the ship-to-ship wireless.
"Very well, we will jump on my mark. Remember to go to silent mode the instant we enter that system", she reminded him. Dutch double-clicked on his wireless mike as understanding her admonition.
Tricia started the countdown: "Jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jump!"
Battlestar Pegasus – Command Information Center
Back in CIC, Sanders was with Annan at the Core Command console watching the raptor probes move off. He nodded in satisfaction as both probes vanished from the scanner. He turned to Commander Cain.
"Both survey probes have FTL-ed, Commander", Sanders announced.
"Very good, Comms", Cain acknowledged, "So now we wait and see what they can find. Have one squadron on standby for launch just in case what comes back does not turn out to be friendly", he ordered.
Sanders nodded and informed Annan to have Captain Voight put one of Black Knight Wings' squadrons on standby alert. He hoped that they would not be needed...
Survey Probe One – Theta System
As the familiar - but still mildly unpleasant - effects of the FTL jump wore off, both Tricia and Dutch put their raptors’ sensor platforms on passive mode. Both raptors had re-entered normal space at the edge of the system, just within its Oort cloud, so that anyone watching would not be able to make them out against the pile of space rubble that was floating out here. Tricia switched to secure close-in laser communications mode.
"Okay, Razor", Sheba communicated, "I’m not picking up any electromagnetic emissions, so we can go to phase two. This is where we part company. Proceed to the next set of co-ordinates and start your survey. This is our fallback rendezvous position. We get back here in four hours, understood?"
"Okay, Sheba", Dutch replied, "unless absolutely necessary, we'll maintain wireless silence until we meet back up here again".
"Sounds good to me. Let’s do it", she said.
With a flash of light, both raptors made their next jump to different positions in the system.
Tricia's raptor exited it's jump about 2 A.U.s from the star that was the center of the Theta system. She knew that Dutch's raptor would be on the opposite side of the star looking for planets and/or planetoids suitable for surveying. Gorde started a low-level active scan. Tricia put the raptor in coast mode and waited. Until Gorde came up with something, there was not much else for her to do but wait.
"So far, I've got two gas giants with no satellites", Gorde said initially, with an undertone of disgust, "I’m going to have to raise the scan output level some", he warned.
"Go ahead", Tricia replied. Gorde adjusted the setting on his principal scanner and this time something else came up.
"Looks like I have a planet. Fair-sized, about 0.8 AU from its star", he reported, "It looks like it has two satellites".
"Give me jump co-ordinates for one of the satellites, Newguy", Tricia ordered. Gorde complied. If there was any presence on the planet that Gorde had scanned, then the satellite should shield them from view. There was one thing wrong with that strategy though, Tricia thought to herself; what if there was a presence on the satellite itself...?
"Jump co-ordinates punched in", Gorde announced, "You can jump any time you’re ready".
"Thanks Newguy", Tricia replied, "Let’s go!".
With the familiar feeling of nausea and disorientation coming upon them, the raptor quickly jumped to the new co-ordinates. Tricia put the raptor on silent running while Gorde worked the passive sensors.
"Nothing being received from the satellite, Sheba", Gorde at last announced.
"Okay, Newguy", Tricia replied, "Use the active sensors and start the survey of the satellite. Let's see if there's milginite here at least".
Gorde activated the geological sensors and had it homed in on the surface of the moon. The moon was an airless sphere with innumerable craters blasted into its surface. That made a geological scan a rather simple matter. Gorde ran through a general scan for a few minutes while Tricia was careful not to go around the terminator and into view of the planet.
"No milginite that I can find", Gorde finally answered, "mainly type 'M' elements. Nothing we can use", he concluded.
"We could go and look at the other moon", Tricia suggested.
"No need", Gorde replied, "it was within range of my sensors and I did a narrow-field long range scan of it. It shows similar characteristics to this piece of rock".
"In that case', Tricia replied, "you’d better shut down your platform and go back to passive sensors. We're going around the terminator. Let's see what the planet has to offer".
Gorde powered down his active sensors. Tricia briefly fired up her engines to adjust their velocity, and then shut them down. This enabled the raptor to move at a higher speed around the satellite. Tricia and Gorde watched the planet come into view around the satellite.
"Hmmmm", Gorde remarked as he watched the passive sensors on his console.
"What's up?" Tricia asked.
"Passives are not picking up any electromagnetic emissions, but the spectrographic sensors are indicating an atmosphere that is habitable for humans", he answered.
"Habitable?", Tricia asked.
"Yeah", Gorde confirmed, "the atmosphere is a little thinner than we're used to, but it's breathable. Temperatures within the range of human tolerance and UV levels okay".
"Well, perhaps it's harbinger of good news", Tricia said hopefully, "You sure about no radio or other forms of electromagnetic emissions?"
"It's silent. Nothing but natural sources", Gorde replied, "and yes, I did scan for di-ethene and ion residue. There's nothing that has registered on my sensor platform".
Tricia considered the information for a few seconds, then made a decision.
"Okay then, start powering up active sensors, I'm going to get us closer in".
Battlestar Pegasus – Silver Spar wing Maintenance Shop
While Tricia and Gorde were moving to scan the encountered planet, Chief Petty Officer Krag was starting to fabricate some of the replacement parts that would be needed to get the energizer back on line.
"Hey, Chief", a voice behind him said, "How's it going?".
Krag put down his tools and turned around to see Captain Syke walk into the workshop.
"Hey, CAG", Krag replied, "what can I do for you?"
"Any word yet on how those control circuits went down?" Syke asked quietly.
"I can't give you a definitive answer yet, Captain", Krag replied quietly as well, "and neither can Major Thyssen. The boards all indicate a massive overload cooked them, but the systems diagnostic monitor shows no such power spike. The monitor itself is working okay".
"What's your gut feeling on this, George?" Syke enquired.
"The boards were okay the last time they were checked: when Major Thyssen repaired that same energizer when it went down back at Caprica before we were attacked", Krag replied, "and those circumstances were an accident. As for what's happened now...well, if you eliminate the accidental, all that's left is the deliberate".
"You believe it's sabotage, Chief?" Syke asked.
"If it is, it was done in a way that I or Major Thyssen can't nail down. All that he could say is that once you eliminate the impossible, what's left - no matter how improbable - must be the answer. Under that maxim, I believe that those boards had somehow been tampered with".
"Did Thyssen check the control boards on the 'B' and auxiliary energizers as well?" Syke asked next. Krag nodded.
"Well, we have some extra staff in the wing that can assist you if you like", Syke offered.
"That's great of you to offer, CAG", Krag answered, "but really, until we can get some milginite, we can't really do much more. I hope our survey teams can find what we need".
"Yeah, me too...", Syke started to say, then the alarm klaxons started blaring out an alert.
"Set Condition One, repeat, Set Condition One. Captain Syke, report to CIC", the P.A. announced.
Syke turned on his heel and ran out of the workshop. Krag powered off his tools and headed for his action station down on the hangar deck.
Battlestar Pegasus – Command Information Center
All over the battlestar, the crew were heading to their action stations. Syke found time to use his commlink to order his deputy - Lieutenant Lyle 'Cooler' Blanke - to get the pilots of Silver Spar wing to man their vipers.
Up in CIC, Captain Sanders was watching the status board as the various sections of the Pegasus reported their combat readiness. At last, he turned to Colonel Tolen.
"All stations report ready for action, X.O.", he reported.
"They're getting a little slow, Comms", Tolen replied icily.
"Too slow", Cain confirmed, "so perhaps sometime, Captain Sanders, you can run a few extra alert drills so that the crew gets the message about the seriousness of Condition One!"
"Is this a drill, Commander?",Captain Syke asked as he walked into CIC. He had heard the tail end of Cain's last comment.
"Unfortunately, no", Cain replied, "We have received a priority call from one of our rearguard patrols. Ensigns Myers and Dodd have reported the appearance of a Base Star".
Syke nodded. He knew that Myers' patrol was responsible for covering the extreme rear flank of their flight path. According to Captain Sanders' plot, both pilots were at the extreme end of their patrol run.
"What else did Myers say, Commander?" Syke asked.
"He said that the toasters did not appear to see his patrol. The base star is proceeding at a slow pace in our general direction, but is also launching fighters in a standard screening formation around it. He believes by their disposition that they are not deliberately on our trail, although some reconnaissance patrols have also been deployed".
"That makes sense, but that could all change in an instant", Sykes replied, Myers had a very cool head and could be trusted not to make rash judgements, but he was one of the newer pilots, and Dodd was even newer.
"We'd better bring his patrol in and have other craft discretely shadow the base star", Tolen recommended.
"Good idea, X.O.", Cain replied, "Take care of it". Next, Cain turned to Sanders.
"Comms", he ordered, "reduce our electromagnetic emissions and put the dradis on minimum power. All it's going to take is one peep and the toasters will be on us hard. With one of our primary energizers out, it's not a good tactical position for us to be caught in".
"Yes, Commander", Sanders confirmed.
"CAG", Cain said to Syke, "Get some fighters out there to shadow their patrols. Do not allow any of them to give away their positions. If it looks like any of their patrols are coming this way, I'll need to know as soon as possible. Clear?"
Syke nodded, and then left CIC. He had to get some extra eyes out there. Now that the dradis was powered down to minimum scan, the fighters will be critical for early warning.
"Can the Pegasus outrun the base star on sub-light with 'A' Energizer down?" Cain asked Sanders.
"I just got off the commlink to Major Thyssen", Sanders replied, "and as it stands, the base star is slightly faster than our best speed at this time. If we were to go any faster, the auxiliary energizer could be pushed too hard. We will need it for FTL".
"If we do have to go to FTL, their patrols would most likely detect the jump, plus our raptors will not be able to find us", Cain replied, "and since we need the milginite, we have to give them the time to survey their systems". He walked on over to the plotting table.
"According to the plot", Tolen said, "the Base Star will pick us up on their sensors in approximately six hours, and that’s assuming that none of their patrol probes stumble upon us first".
"How accurate is the intelligence on that, Geoff?" Cain inquired.
"When we were intercepting their transmissions, we decoded one stating that they had nothing on long range scan beyond a certain point. We’re basing the six hour estimate on that", he replied.
"Very well", Cain acknowledged, "We will make the jump in approximately five hours from now, regardless if our survey probes return or not. If any of the Cylon fighter patrols come near though, we jump immediately, for now, go to Condition Two".
While the crew was alerted to the new threat, Cain silently hoped that the survey probes did find something. Things just suddenly got a lot more urgent.
Cylon Base Star – Control Deck
Over on the Base Star, a centurion was reporting to a humanoid Cylon in the control center.
"Raider patrols have been deployed", it announced. The humanoid - a Number Seven model - nodded. 'His' base star was one of the three deployed in order to find clues to the mysterious foe that had recently destroyed a refinery and severely damaged another base star. The three base stars were FTL-ing into various sectors in order to find traces indicating the presence of other spacecraft. It was based on a mathematical formula using probabilities of jump points. Given how vast space was, it was a hit-and-miss affair, but whoever had wreaked the devastation upon Cylon assets had to be hunted down. He hoped that the enemy would soon be found.
Battlestar Pegasus – Quartermaster’s Department
Not too far away, another Cylon humanoid – a number six model - was hoping the same thing. She had just heard that there was a Cylon capital ship in the general vicinity of the Pegasus and was wondering what she could do to attract its attention. It would not be easy as her and the other humans who had been in her loading party back on Molecay had been kept under watch. The crewman that she killed had been found, and so had her transmitter, so the command staff of the Pegasus at least knew that there was a Cylon agent on board, though there had yet been no general announcement made. So far, she had evaded discovery, but while everyone was under suspicion, it made her options limited.
Just after being picked up from Caprica - before the increased security had restricted her movements - she had managed to sneak in and inflict a small amount of sabotage in engineering. By using a derivative of a chemical used in cleaning, she had managed to spray an amount on one of the primary energizer’s control circuit boards. It very gradually made the board far less tolerant to normal power levels. Judging by the reduced speed of the Pegasus, she concluded that the chemical had finally weakened the control boards enough for them to overload. It was unfortunate that she could not do likewise to the other energizers as she could not access them without being discovered.
Still, the reduced speed gave her colleagues a chance to catch up. She wished that she could let them know precisely where the Pegasus was though. She could not just kill herself as her prime directive forbade it - the body had to die by outside influences - and she could not be sure that a resurrection ship was close enough for her to be able to transfer to a new body. Since she knew - thanks to listening in on crew gossip - that the Cylon fleet had been dispersed in order to track down the Galactica and quite possibly this ship due to the refinery destruction, it could be quite a while before she would be able to inform the Supreme Leader about the existence and current disposition of the Pegasus. Still, there were things she could try. All she needed was the right opportunity.