Book 1 - Chapter 7
CHAPTER SEVEN: Preparing for Reconnaissance
Battlestar Pegasus – Combat Information Center
The next two days were spent with the Pegasus heading towards Molecay Anchorage at sub-light speed. The diminishing of intercepted Cylon communications was a hopeful sign, but Cain wanted to be sure that there would be no surprises either en route, or upon arrival. The decryption section was making good use of the time to decode and read the intercepts. There was no indication at all that the Cylons knew about the existence of the Pegasus, but there was no more vulnerable position for a battlestar than laying inert in dock during a refueling. Therefore, nothing could be left to chance.
Remote probes left behind by the Pegasus had transmitted data that showed several Cylon base stars were heading to the Twelve Worlds - evidently the Cylons were now starting the occupation phase of their attack - but so far, there was no sign of Cylon pursuit and the combat air patrols (CAP’s) being run by both strike wings had likewise reported no contact. All in all, it was encouraging, but Cain would not feel completely comfortable until after they had re-provisioned at Molecay.
Battlestar Pegasus – Silver Spar wing annex
By the end of his second day on board, Midshipman Gorde had been discharged from Life Station. Following the orders that Captain Syke had given to him, he had settled into one of the crew quarters that were in use by other pilots of Silver Spar Wing. While the pilots had given him a good welcome, Gorde didn't quite feel the same camaraderie that had existed back down on Caprica with his fellow classmates in Cadet Barracks. Being the youngest and most junior ranking crewman in quarters probably didn't help matters either.
He did go to Quartermaster and traded in his ROTC fatigues for a flight suit, then reported to Tricia Cain, who had set up her office in an annex just down from the main briefing room used by Silver Spar Wing. He knocked and entered.
"Hi, Gorde", Tricia said by way of greeting, "so are you feeling better?"
"No problem, Ma'am", Gorde replied as he handed over a medical form, "I'm certified as fully fit for duty".
Tricia gestured to a chair. Gorde went over and sat down.
"I don't stand much on formality", Tricia explained, "so you can address me by my call-sign, if you like. 'Ma'am' makes me sound rather old".
"Thanks, Sheba", Gorde replied. Both of them were wearing newly issued flight suits bearing a shoulder patch upon which was embroidered BATTLESTAR PEGASUS BSG-89, while the other shoulder bore the blue RAPTOR patch. Of course, Gorde's collar insignia was different from hers: he wore the white diamond denoting a midshipman, while Tricia's collar insignia was the silver diamond and two chevrons of a senior-grade Lieutenant. Tricia had the rest of her flight equipment laid out on a table nearby and ready for use.
"So how long have you been training in raptor systems?", Tricia asked.
"All through my third year at ROTC", Gorde explained, "Last summer, I was on TDY on board the Battlestar Astoria for field training with Copper Keel wing's recon section. I ranked second in my training contingent after my tour there ended".
"I understand that you were intending to go on to pilot training?" Tricia asked next.
"I scored pretty well on the raptor pilot simulator as well. Before I went on the field exercise, I had been told that I would be doing my Fourth Year summer training at RTW. However, the Cylons kind of messed up those plans", Gorde explained, referring to the Raptor training wing which trained pilots to handle the scout craft.
"Well, now you and I are now the primary raptor crew for Silver Spar wing recon, so your training will be on-the-job from here on out. I've been given a directive from Core Command to ready our raptor for a preliminary recon mission", Tricia announced.
"Oh, where?" Gorde asked with a smile. He picked up on the ‘our’ comment immediately. Tricia was already treating him as a peer rather than as a subordinate.
"We're to scout ahead and check on the status of Molecay Anchorage", Tricia answered, "That's where the Pegasus is heading to re-provision and refuel. Once done, then we can start our search for the Galactica in earnest".
"When will this be, Sheba?" Gorde wanted to know.
"In about two hours", Tricia answered, "The Pegasus will – at that time – be in a position that will put our raptor within jump range of the anchorage. If you hadn't have been discharged from life station by then, I would have had to assign another crew. As it is", she said with a smile, "now I can assign myself. You'd better get ready to head out. We'll be launching almost as soon as the jump is complete".
"Bearing in mind my lack of practical experience, Sheba, Why are you having me as your RSO?", Gorde asked next.
"I know about the Astoria training program for raptor personnel. It’s tough. For you to rank second means that you have got what it takes. Besides, I don't like breaking up the other crews", Tricia explained, "so think of this as your post-graduation baptism of fire", she concluded with a wry smile.
"Okay", Gorde answered, standing up, "then I'll see you down in the launch bay in two hours".
"You know which ship we're assigned to?" Tricia called after him. Gorde, who had reached the door, turned around.
"Oh yeah", he replied, "The raptor assignments have already been posted in crew quarters".
"Oh, by the way, what call-sign do you wish to use?" Tricia asked. Gorde thought for a few seconds, then smiled.
"Well, since only Ensigns and above are supposed to have the neat call-signs, how about 'Newguy', for the time being?" he suggested.
Tricia laughed at that. It was good to see that Gorde had a sense of humor.
"Okay, 'Newguy' it is. Hopefully by the time you make Ensign, you'll have come up with a better name", she replied. With that, Gorde left the office and headed back up to quarters in order to prepare for the mission.
After opening a file on her computer and punching in Gorde's call-sign preference, Tricia took the time to go over the data she got from the warbook regarding Molecay Anchorage. She wanted to be prepared as much as possible.
Battlestar Pegasus – Port Landing Bay - Silver Spar Recon Raptor One
The two hours passed quickly as Gorde got prepared and Tricia absorbed the information from the warbook. Tricia was still reading notes when she took the transport to the launch bay. She saw that Gorde had already arrived and was doing the pre-flight check of the raptor. Tricia nodded in satisfaction. Gorde was indeed very competent. Like Tricia, Gorde did the check not because he did not trust the crew chief, but the crew chief was human, and humans had been known to make mistakes. This way, if anything went wrong, the flight crew would only have themselves to blame. The crew-chief on the Astoria had drilled that fact into his head during his tenure there and he had never forgotten it.
All of a sudden, the P.A. system announced, "Set Condition Two, FTL-Jump commencing in twenty seconds".
"Here we go", Gorde muttered to himself. Tricia also mentally prepared herself for the jump.
The P.A. sounded the final countdown: "5...4...3...2...1...jump!"
How can anyone get used to it?, Gorde wondered as the disorientation and nausea hit. True, it was brief, but it was frakking uncomfortable!
As the effects of the jump wore off, Sheba said "Let’s go", and both boarded the raptor. While deck crew members left the bay and closed the hatches behind them, they strapped in, and Tricia powered up the craft’s electronics. Keying her communicator, she said, "Recon Raptor One to Core Command, ready for launch procedure". As the raptor was not designed to be flung out of a launch tube, clearance was vested not in the launch officer, but the Core Command duty operator.
Up in CIC, Commander Cain heard his daughter's voice. He nodded to Lieutenant Annan who was manning the Core Command console.
"Core Command now moving recon probe to launch position", Annan announced, pressing a control.
The deck which the raptor had been sitting on slowly rose while red lights flashed in the bay, signifying that the bay was depressurizing. By the time that the raptor had risen almost to the ceiling, the flashing red lights went solid red, signifying depressurization was complete. The ceiling then slid open. The raptor was lifted up to the level of the landing deck. They were now in the vacuum of space.
Tricia did a final check of the raptor's instruments, then started up the raptor's engines. She then keyed her communicator.
"Recon Raptor One systems show nominal, awaiting clearance for launch", she communicated.
"Core Command transferring control to probe leader. Launch when ready", Annan authorized.
Tricia expertly took the raptor up off the deck and propelled her craft out of the port landing bay. She smoothly brought the raptor up to speed, accelerating away and ahead of the Pegasus.
After a quick glance at the receding battlestar, Gorde keyed his internal communicator.
"FTL on-line and jump co-ordinates punched in, Sheba. You can jump when ready", he reported.
"Well, Newguy. Let’s get this show on the road", Tricia replied, "jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jump!"
In CIC, Commander Cain saw the flash of light as the raptor made the FTL-jump. He hoped that the recon probe would return soon with an all-clear. Until they returned, he kept the Pegasus on Condition Two alert. This was no time to be complacent, he thought.