Book 1 - Chapter 3
CHAPTER THREE - Reprieve from Destruction
Fallback position ‘Theta’ – Batwah Debris Field
As the effects of the FTL-jump from Caprica wore off, Cain turned to Colonel Tolen.
"Where are we, X.O.?" Cain asked. Tolen quickly scanned the dradis console’s navigation display.
"We are at position Theta. The far side of the Batwah Debris Field, Commander", Tolen announced. "Dradis is showing no vessels in this area, friendly or otherwise nearby".
Batwah was the remnants of an asteroid that had broken up some years previously on the edge of the Cyrannus System. It was marked as a navigation hazard, and thus was avoided by most traffic. This exit point was one of several programmed into the FTL’s navigational computer in the event of an emergency.
"All right then", Cain answered. "Continue low-power LIDAR” – which stood for Laser and Infra-red Detector: Advanced Range - “sweep of this area of space, and tell Engineering to expedite getting Primary Energizer 'A' back on line as soon as possible. After that jump, the auxiliary energizer won't last long if we run into trouble".
At that moment, the CAG of the Pegasus’ strike wing, Captain Eugene Syke (call-sign ‘Bojay’) came onto the CIC. He was bringing in another pilot who wore the insignia of the PACIFICA on his flight suit.
"Commander", Syke announced. "This is the CAG of the Pacifica’s strike wing, Captain Lance Voight. Call-sign ‘Pointer’". Cain looked at him briefly, and then extended his hand. Voight shook it.
"Normally, I'd say ‘Welcome’, Captain Voight", Cain said, "But given the circumstances, maybe that word is not the appropriate one to say. Did Captain Syke help get your strike wing secured?"
"Yes, Commander, Voight replied. I'm glad that my pilots have a place to land. There are three squadrons totaling forty-two fighters on board from the Black Knights” – the name of the Pacifica strike wing - “plus two raptors and five support shuttles down in the port landing bay. So what is the tactical situation at the moment?"
"Not good, Captain", Cain replied. "The home fleet is taking a battering, the reserve fleet is presumed destroyed at Tarturas, and all of our home planets are being nuked. To stand any chance of getting back into the fight, we have to figure out what the toasters have been using to render our warships and fighter craft inoperative. Before Admiral Nagala and the Atlantia got taken out, he ordered me to withdraw" - spitting the word out - "and to try and make sure that the Pegasus won't meet the same fate as the Atlantia when we go back into battle".
“I hope that will be soon, Commander”, Voight said, “After the loss of our base ship and a lot of our friends, the Black Knights are spoiling for a fight!”
“So say we all, Pointer”, Syke added.
At that moment, Captain Sanders came over with a message form. Cain took it and read it. He then waved Colonel Tolen over to where he and the two CAG’s were standing.
"This message is from Commander William Adama from the Battlestar Galactica, Gentlemen", Cain announced. "It reads: ‘Am taking command of the Fleet. All available units are directed to proceed to Ragnar Anchorage for regrouping and counter-attack. Acknowledge receipt via same encryption protocol. Adama’"
"The Galactica was scheduled to be decommissioned today", Tolen mused aloud. "So she won't be in any shape to fight".
“And since Commander Adama is not a flag officer, that must mean that there are no admirals left alive to take overall command if he is the most senior ranking person left”, Voight added.
Cain nodded, briefly thinking about his cousin Helena and the replacement Mercury-class Pegasus. As the Scorpio fleet yards were reported destroyed and Helena was there, it was a fairly obvious assumption that she – and her marvelous new warship – had been annihilated. Also, since Adama’s commander’s commission pre-dated his own by two weeks, he would be obliged to follow Adama’s orders, despite them both being close friends…
“So we have to rely on no admirals and a decommissioned vessel that was being turned into a museum ship to head a counter-offensive”, Tolen mused, “Commander Adama is going to have his work cut out for him with what’s left of the fleet”.
"That’s why he's heading to Ragnar", Cain explained. "There's a munitions reserve there, so the Galactica and any other warships that get there will be able to rearm and re-provision. Bill Adama's still in the fight, though I bet that he wishes that he had the Valkyrie under his command instead".
Cain knew that William Adama had only recently been assigned to command the Galactica, which was scheduled to be decommissioned at the same time as his retirement from the Colonial military. It wasn't widely known why he had been relieved of command from the Battlestar Valkyrie to take command of an older warship like the Galactica, but Cain suspected that Adama may have annoyed someone high up in Fleet Command. Still, if the Galactica could be rearmed, then she would definitely come in handy.
"Do you wish to acknowledge transmission, Commander?" Tolen asked. At that moment, an alarm klaxon sounded. Sanders rushed over to the dradis console to see what caused the alert.
"Tactical display shows a Cylon squadron entering local space, Commander", Captain Sanders announced. "They are on the far side of the asteroid field. I don't think they have detected us yet".
"Go silent!" Cain ordered. "No electromagnetic emissions. Use the passive sensors only. If we make ourselves known before we can find out just what’s been happening, we’ll be sitting ducks".
The passive sensors, unlike the active sensors, did not put out any electromagnetic emissions. They were like an ear, listening for emissions of both electromagnetic and engine exhaust types.
After about five minutes, Sanders announced. "Passive sensors detect the Cylon squadron moving out of range. It looks like they didn't detect us". Cain nodded.
"Comms", Cain ordered Sanders. "Try to tap into their communications frequencies. We are going to need to know just what they are up to. For now, maintain communications silence". He then turned to Tolen.
"Colonel, we are going to need to work out just how the Cylons got our fleet taken out”, Cain said. “Put all available resources on it. I need answers and I need them soon".
"There may already be an answer, Commander", Sanders said as he walked up to Cain. "I've been intercepting transmissions from the Galactica. It seems that their principal attack squadron suffered the same fate as the rest of our task force, but the Galactica also deployed a squadron of older Mark II Vipers into battle and they did not suffer the same fate. A handful of Mark VIIs from other units have also not been affected. The telemetry indicates that those particular ships were in need of systems overhauls".
Cain looked at the printouts of the intercepted transmissions. "Good work, Comms", he said. "Tolen", Cain ordered next. "Get these printouts over to Core Command and see what they can make out of all of this".
As Tolen went over to confer with the officers at the Core Command console, Cain turned to Syke and Voight.
"When was the last time your Strike Wings had a systems overhaul done?" he asked them.
"Silver Spar's fighters had its last overhaul done about a month ago, Commander", Syke replied. Voight echoed him in regards to the Black Knights.
"Older ships and newer ships without recent upgrades immune from what got the rest destroyed", Cain mused. "And the Galactica is still operational. Bill Adama didn't believe in upgrading the GALACTICA's systems".
William Adama believed in keeping his battlestar’s computers at the same primitive level as what they were during the First Cylon War while the rest of the fleet had had their systems upgraded - including the Pegasus. Adama had also felt the same way about the Valkyrie, but after his relief, the new commander had reversed that policy - with the result that the Valkyrie had shared the same fate as the rest of the Olympia task force.
"The Galactica was being decommissioned because of its lack of technology compared with the newer battlestars", Syke commented, "talk about irony".
"Complacency would be a better word, CAG", Cain replied, "We were complacent enough to believe that the new technology upgrades in the fleet would be immune to infiltration. Adama didn’t believe it. That's what probably saved the Galactica", Cain concluded. Both Voight and Syke nodded their agreement.
"Anyway, until we know just what systems upgrades got compromised by the toasters, it would probably be a good idea to have all the fighters retrofitted with what systems they had earlier. At least that will give both Wings the ability to protect the Pegasus. Have the crew chiefs get started immediately”, Cain ordered. "Because we are going to need all the fighters we have operational and able to fight back if were attacked".
As both Voight and Syke left CIC in order to head down to the landing bays, Colonel Tolen came up.
"Here is a list of systems upgrades performed on the fleet within the last six months", Tolen said, handing Cain a printout. "The common denominator between the upgrades done on both the fighters and our capital ships is Dr. Gaius Baltar's enhanced navigation program".
Cain looked over at the specs. Dr. Baltar had recently introduced a major upgrade to the Command Master Program’s (CMP) routines used in the inertial and active navigation systems employed on battlestars, support ships, and fighter craft. If this was the program that the Cylons did manage to exploit, it would answer a lot of questions.
"Have this program dumped and expunged from our systems", Cain ordered. "And have the older program retrofitted. How long will this take?" he asked.
"According to Core Command", Tolen answered, "the better part of a day". Both strike wings will also be grounded for that long until their systems have been retrofitted.
"So we can't make the rendezvous with the Galactica until this is done", Cain concluded. "Very well then, let’s get cracking. This will also give Thyssen more time to get the Primary Energizer up and running. I want the Pegasus to be a hundred percent operational by the time we get to Ragnar, understood?"
"Yes, Commander", Tolen acknowledged.
"And maintain communications silence. I don’t want the toasters to know we're here. If they get wind of our existence before out computers are retrofitted, we’re history", Cain added.
“Even if we receive anything from other surviving ships?” Tolen asked next.
“We can’t take the chance of being discovered if the toasters pick up any signals, Geoff”, Cain repeated, “Besides, any such transmissions could be phony ones designed to flush us out. We stay silent”.
Tolen nodded quietly. There had been various SOS transmissions received over the last few hours, but Cain was right: at the moment they could not risk compromising their position to the Cylons. With that, Tolen and the CIC staff started to get the battlestar operational (and immune from the Cylon computer virus) as soon as possible.