Book 1 - Chapter 5
Chapter Five - Rescue and Resolution
Battlestar Pegasus – Orbiting Planet Caprica
After the Pegasus made its FTL jump to Caprica, both Syke and Voight dispatched two Raptors each from their respective wings to quickly survey the nearer Colonies. The raptors were told to rendezvous with the Pegasus at Aires - instead of back here at Caprica - once their surveys had finished. They placed several medical shuttles on standby in case there were survivors to pick up. Tricia Cain volunteered to fly one of the raptor probes, but Captain Syke turned her down, saying that they already had full crews and that in any case there was not a spare RSO (Raptor Systems Officer) for her to pair up with.
Up in CIC, Commander Cain looked morosely at the dradis’ view-screens as Sanders made his initial report from the passive sensors. No sign of any colonial ships - apart from destroyed derelicts and hulks drifting aimlessly - and the reports from the planet were worse. Virtually every single population center on the planet had been nuked. Radiation levels from the combined blasts were rising and soon it would reach a stage that any persons who had survived the initial attack would soon die of radiation poisoning. Similar reports had come from Raptors dispatched to Geminon, Tauron, and Picon. There were no transmissions or otherwise being picked up by the passive sensors from either the surface or space. The Cylons had done their work well, he thought bitterly.
Despite the apparent total destruction, Cain had decided to head in and orbit Caprica at least. The passive sensors would be able to get a better picture of the situation from there. Once the Pegasus entered orbit, he had Captain Sanders power up the active sensors so that the communications technicians could start to better listen for any survivors.
The initial picture was grim. The atmosphere was clouded over with debris from the multiple nuclear explosions, and all civilian television and communications signals were dead. The crewmen in CIC were similarly gloomy. Several quietly cried, particularly those whose homes were on Caprica. Everyone knew though that all of the colonies had suffered a similar fate.
"Commander", one of the communications technicians suddenly announced. "I'm getting a PSB signal from the surface of Caprica. It’s coming from an isolated area on the northern continent".
A PSB was a Personal Survival Beacon. Colonial aircrews carried these as a means of getting rescued if their craft had crashed. So there was at least someone down there from the fleet, Cain thought to himself. Tolen walked over to the console to get further information regarding the beacon.
As the communications tech handed Tolen a printout showing the PSB's transmission position, Cain walked over to Sanders, who was concentrating on the latest dradis data.
"Are you seeing any signs of toasters nearby, Comms?" Cain inquired.
Sanders shook his head. "Negative, Commander. Looks like they just headed out once they completed their work here", he quietly replied in a choked voice. Cain sympathized with Sanders mood as Sanders was a Caprican, but he couldn't afford to have his third-in-command distracted.
"Don't bank on it, Comms", Cain stated, "They'll be back soon enough, so let’s get back to doing our jobs. Okay?" Sanders nodded and headed back to his station, passing Tolen.
As Tolen came up to Cain with the PSB data in hand, Cain spoke to him.
"Dispatch a rescue shuttle to the source of the beacon, Colonel", Cain ordered. "Then after whoever is down there is picked up and returned to the Pegasus, have Helm set a course for Aries. We can quickly survey the rest of the Colonies from there, plus if those frakking tin-head toasters return, we’ll be in a better tactical position".
"Yes, Commander", Commander Tolen acknowledged. He headed over to Core Command and handed the PSB data to Lieutenant Annan. She promptly had the PSB co-ordinates relayed to one of the ready-alert rescue shuttles. Down in the port landing bay, the shuttle pilot acknowledged the receipt of the information. Annan then cleared the shuttle to launch. She watched the screen as the shuttle launched itself from the port bay and headed towards the surface of Caprica. An escort viper from one of Silver Spar Wing’s squadrons took up position beside the shuttle and together, they headed down to the surface of the nuked planet.
Surface of Planet Caprica – 300 kilometers north-west of Caprica City.
Down on the surface of Caprica, at the co-ordinates given to the shuttle, a young man in a variation of a colonial military uniform named Jason Gorde was trying to keep order among the people who were with him. The reason why he was in uniform was that he was a ROTC cadet, the only one left in the party who had had any military experience. A few hours earlier, there had been another military member present: a Raptor crewman named Lieutenant JG Karl Agathon (call-sign Helo) from the Battlestar Galactica. He had given him a spare sidearm, some supplies and his Personal Survival Beacon.
The reason why Agathon was down-planet was that the raptor scout vehicle that he was on had had to land for repairs. They had then encountered a sizeable number of civilians who were trying to flee the nuked cities. After as many civilians as possible had been loaded aboard the raptor, Agathon had given up his seat on the raptor to the famous scientist Dr. Gaius Baltar himself. Then, after watching the raptor depart, he had sounded Gorde out and with his help, started getting the remaining people organized.
They had both set about organizing the group of people - some fifty of them - so that they could try and find food and get shelter. Agathon had absent-mindedly activated the PSB, but he did not think that he would be rescued anytime soon, given the suddenness and intensity of the Cylon offensive. Both of them also knew that the surface radiation levels would soon rise to a lethal level and that Agathon's anti-radiation pills would not last long, but military habits die hard and the first priority was getting these panicked civilians in order. Agathon had already shot one who had tried to jump onto the Raptor as it lifted off, and that at least had made it clear to the others that he was not to be crossed.
Now, a day and a half after the raptor had left, Agathon surveyed the group of refugees. For the most part they had quieted down, but the sight of the mushroom clouds from the nuked cities, plus the fact that there had been no further news about the war, had started to depress them. Both Agathon and Gorde knew depression would be just as fatal in the long term, but with the threat of radiation poisoning slowly building up around them, it all seemed moot. Still, he was determined not to succumb to the same level of melancholy. It was a losing battle, particularly as thanks to the cloud cover from the mushroom clouds, the temperature was slowly dropping. Agathon absent-mindedly wondered if the climatic changes would kill them before the radiation. Sitting here was not going to help, so he had to do something. He called Gorde over for a conference.
"Cadet Gorde", Agathon had said to him, "There's a chance that there might be other military survivors, or at least extra supplies. Plus there is going to be a better-than-even chance that Cylons are going to be landing on-planet in force to mop up any survivors. I’ve got to find out what is going on, so I’m leaving you what spare supplies I have, and the PSB. If any colonial forces pick it up, it will be up to you to get the civilians to safety".
"What about you, Lieutenant?" Gorde asked next, "Striking out on your own under these conditions would be suicide".
"Don't worry about me", he replied, "After all, we're supposed to be the ones responsible for the civilians well-being. You just keep this group together here. Besides, I'll need to locate more anti-radiation drugs. You're in charge until I return".
With that, Agathon stood, checked his side-arm, and tote-bag, which carried a small amount of food and medical supplies, then headed into a nearby wood. That was the last time Gorde saw him.
Gorde was sitting in front of a fire that he had made and he, along with the civilian refugees, were trying to keep warm. Some food from a nearby farmhouse had been found, and the farmhouse itself had been converted to a makeshift hospital. For his part, he took a bite from a bar of meat concentrate which was in the rest of the survival rations Agathon had left him. It was a hell of a way to die, he thought to himself, either at the hands of the Cylons directly or indirectly from the aftermath of the attack. He was maintaining guard, but knew that when the Cylons eventually came, his one weapon would not last long. Still, maybe he could take a few of the toasters with him…
Just then, the PSB suddenly beeped. It was beeping out an acknowledgment of his original signal! Gorde fired his sidearm into the air, getting the attention of the others. Gorde held up his sidearm, quieting the crowd, then reached in and pulled the PSB out in order to read off it’s screen. He smiled and looked at the crowd.
"Listen everyone! I'm getting a signal from a rescue ship", Gorde announced. "Everyone stand by. They'll contact us any time now. Once it lands, we’ll be getting out of here. Take no belongings with you. And remember that the sick and injured go first".
The looks on the refugees’ faces immediately changed from resignation to hope. Some cheered. One of them headed over to the farmhouse in order to give the civilians quartered there the word.
"How soon before it arrives, Cadet?" one of the refugees asked above the now-hopeful crowd of voices.
"The acknowledgment signal is short range, so it’s coming from a ship close by. It will home in on this beacon. It should be any time now. But don’t bunch up”, Gorde warned. “If this turns out to be a Cylon trick, you’ll have a better chance of survival being dispersed".
At that, the persons around Gorde spread themselves out. The wait was short, but it seemed an eternity until one of the civilians shouted and pointed to the sky. There was a black spot rapidly growing larger. At the sight of the shuttle, everyone broke into a cheer. Rescue was coming!
Gorde held up his beacon and depressed a switch, sending out a signal informing the shuttle that it was in visual range. Just then, his portable transceiver hissed into life.
"This is Rescue Shuttle One-Niner", the voice said. "Identify, please".
"Cadet Gorde, Colonial ROTC Flight Cadet Second Class", he answered.
"How many people are with you, Cadet?" Shuttle 19 asked next.
“I have fifty civilians with me", Gorde replied. "More than a few of them are injured".
"Very well, Cadet", was the reply. "I'm requesting a second shuttle from base to pick up all of your party. ETA to landing is in two minutes".
One of the civilians in the crowd smiled as the shuttle came into land, but it was for a different reason. A beautiful young woman, she had blond hair and was wearing a red dress. She had been quietly awaiting the termination of her body's life signs, but with the advent of this rescue ship - evidently from a surviving Colonial warship - she realized that she could still be useful as is...
The shuttle landed in a cloud of dust. Gorde kept his firearm up on order to keep the crowd back. As the shuttles hatch opened up, they all cheered. Gorde walked over to the pilot who had just emerged and saluted.
"Cadet Gorde reporting, Sir", he said. The pilot saluted back and stood aside as several medics emerged from the shuttle. "Where may I ask did you come from?", Gorde asked.
"This shuttle is courtesy of Commander Cain of the Battlestar Pegasus", the pilot replied with a smile, "We'll be heading there once everyone is loaded aboard".
"The most seriously injured are over in a makeshift hospital we set up in the farmhouse", Gorde said to the medics, pointing to the dwelling. The med-techs nodded, and with their equipment, headed over to the farmhouse. At the same time, the shuttle’s co-pilot walked up and whispered into the pilot’s ear.
"I’ve just been informed that the second shuttle has just been dispatched from the Pegasus. It will be here in a few minutes", the pilot informed Gorde, "Are there any others?" he asked.
"Not now", Gorde replied, "but yesterday, an officer from the Battlestar Galactica was with us. Lieutenant JG Agathon, call-sign Helo. He went out to reconnoiter some hours ago, but he hasn't returned".
"Well, we can't stay here too long waiting for him. There's a good chance that we may end up getting some unwelcome Cylon attention very soon. So anyway Cadet, how did you end up here?", the pilot asked next.
"My ROTC class was out on a field exercise not far from here when the war started. I got separated from the others and eventually ended up with this group of civilians. Lieutenant Agathon's raptor had landed for repairs, and several civilians from this group were taken aboard", Gorde explained, "The Lieutenant gave up his seat in order to get one more person on".
The pilot’s eyes widened at Gorde's last statement.
"Why did he do that?" the pilot asked.
“Doctor Gaius Baltar was with the party. Lieutenant Agathon thought that the Galactica needed him more”, Gorde explained.
“But then he left you and these other civilians in order to find other survivors and supplies”, the pilot said next, “Surely you asked him to stay?”
"Yes Sir, I tried”, Gorde replied. “I told him that I didn't want him to leave, but he told me that when you wear the uniform of the Colonial Military, you had the task of taking a bullet for civilians, not the other way around, and if it meant dying in order to try and help others, that was the way that it was going to be", Gorde added matter-of-factly.
The pilot did not answer. He understood the logic. He gestured to the open hatch of the shuttle. Gorde shook his head.
"Sorry Sir, not until the civilians are all aboard", he said simply, "I may only be a cadet, but one thing I do know is that the civilians come first. Lieutenant Agathon wouldn't have it any other way".
At that same time, the med-techs came over to the shuttle taking the first bunch of wounded civilians with them. Gorde watched them get loaded onto the shuttle. While this was progressing, a second shuttle came into view. Gorde watched as the shuttle flew over and landed close to where the first shuttle lay. A couple of vipers flew close aerial cover. Gorde now knew that his party would all be saved. For the first time in a couple of days, he smiled, but the smile was short-lived as he remembered that Lieutenant Agathon had missed his chance to be rescued.
The able-bodied civilians started to board the second shuttle. They had obeyed Gorde's admonition about no baggage. Both shuttle crews quickly got the civilians settled in. Finally, the pilot of the first shuttle walked over to Gorde.
"They're all on board, Mr. Gorde", he said, "So are you ready to go now?" he asked rhetorically.
"Are you sure we can't stay and look for Lieutenant Agathon? Leaving him behind to the tender mercy of those tin-headed toasters is something I don't want to think about", Gorde asked. The pilot sadly shook his head.
"I passed the information about him along to the Pegasus, but I just got word from Core Command informing me that we must get your group of survivors off-planet ASAP, as the toasters could return at any time". Gorde didn't really care to hear that, but he knew that staying too long could invite disaster for everybody.
Gorde nodded his understanding, and with the pilot helping him, walked over to the shuttle and boarded it. He was strapped into a seat by a med tech as the pilot climbed in and – with the co-pilot assisting - started the take-off sequence.
As the shuttle powered up and lifted off the surface, the civilians broke into applause. The shuttle smoothly accelerated. As soon as the shuttle cleared the atmosphere, the med-techs started to treat their passengers. For his part, Gorde looked out the portal at the receding landscape and mouthed, "Sorry, Lieutenant". He hoped that the Pegasus could send out a search party or something else at least...
Rescue Shuttle 19 – en route to Battlestar Pegasus
During the short ride back up to the Pegasus, a med-tech had given him some anti-radiation tablets that were also being passed on to the others. Gorde still felt a little nauseous, but all in all, he was a lot better off that when he was down-planet. The med-tech had recommended that he report to Life Station in order to get more substantive treatment.
"Cadet Gorde", one of the shuttle crew said to him, "there is a message for you from the Pegasus. You are to report to Commander Cain as soon as we land. He is in CIC".
Gorde looked at the med-tech, who nodded.
"You're fixed up enough for that, Cadet", the med-tech replied to his silent question, but as soon as you're finished with the Commander, please report to Life Station".
Gorde nodded his thanks, and the crewman headed back up to the shuttle's cockpit while the med-tech went to help one of the rescued civilians. Gorde though was distracted by the view outside his viewport. He saw the impressive leviathan on the Battlestar Pegasus getting larger and larger as the shuttle approached. It was a wonderful sight, seeing the Columbia-class colonial warship, but Gorde wondered what had happened to the rest of the fleet in order for the Cylon attack to have succeeded. He supposed that he would soon have the answer to that question very soon.