Book 1 - Chapter 8
CHAPTER EIGHT: Trouble at Molecay
Recon Raptor One – Vicinity of Molecay Anchorage
With a flash of light, the raptor exited its FTL-jump. Gorde quickly checked the navi-comp, and then he keyed his communicator.
"Confirmed exit co-ordinates, Sheba", Gorde reported to Tricia, "Molecay Anchorage dead ahead".
"Thanks, Newguy", Tricia replied. She activated the passive sensors only - keeping all of the active systems on standby - mindful of Syke's' warning about the possibility of Cylons waiting in ambush for ammo-and-fuel-starved Colonial warships.
Next, Tricia powered down her engines, putting the Raptor into drift mode. It was imperative that should there be any Cylon presence here, that they not be alerted to her presence. The recent deciphered Cylon intercepts made it clear that the Battlestar Pegasus had been presumed destroyed along with the rest of the Atlantia task force. Commander Cain wanted everyone - especially the Cylons - to think that for the time being. So far, the passive sensors were reading no electromagnetic or ionic emissions from anywhere nearby, but that did not mean that there was not anyone there listening either...
Unlike Ragnar Anchorage - which lay in the eye of a large ion storm, Molecay Anchorage was built into a small asteroid. Commander Cain had chosen this anchorage for two reasons: first, it held both a munitions and fuel reserve as well as a provisions storage bay, and second, because it was one of the remotest depots that the Colonial military had established. The odds were reasonably good that the Cylons had not yet taken out Molecay, but Cain was taking no chances - hence his decision to send a Raptor ahead to scout the anchorage.
As the Raptor drifted closer to Molecay, Tricia and Gorde kept their eyes peeled on their passive sensors. If the Pegasus was to last for any amount of time in deep space, getting extra supplies, food, and ammunition was going to be essential. With the loss of virtually all of the Colonial Fleet - including its support vessels, this was the only way to ensure that the Battlestar Pegasus could last long enough to find the Galactica and whatever other vessels had survived the Cylon Holocaust.
"Hey, Sheba", Gorde asked Tricia, "If you don't mind me asking, how did you end up on the same battlestar as your father? You told me that your base ship was the Triton, but were you on leave or was it business that got you on board the Pegasus?"
"It was actually both. It was an informal leave from my home battlestar to visit my father while officially being there to pick up a misdirected raptor to ferry back to the Triton", Tricia explained, "I had only been on board the Pegasus for a short time when the attack occurred. With the immediate dispersal of the fleet, I had no way to return to the Triton, which was just as well as the Triton was destroyed over Virgon along with the rest of the Olympia task force in the opening round of the Cylon Offensive".
Gorde nodded without replying. Despite the almost off-hand way that Tricia had described her situation, she must have been frustrated when she could not return, and then devastated after finding out that she had lost a lot of good friends when the Triton was destroyed.
"I would have thought that your father would have wanted to hold you back from flying scout missions, after what happened", Gorde said next. It was the wrong thing to say.
"Commander Cain", Sheba said, enunciating the rank, "and CAG knew what they're doing when they assigned us to Silver Spar wing recon, Newguy. I have the highest rating of all of the raptor-qualified pilots at his disposal, plus he does not play favorites when it comes to combat. Understand?" she concluded icily.
"Sorry", Gorde said apologetically. Just then, his console started beeping.
"Heads up, Sheba", Gorde announced, "We've got company. Passives show bogey at Grid Reference Ten-Seven tarim Zero-One".
A bogey was pilot slang for unidentified contact. As their active systems were offline, they could not use their IFF in order to positively identify the contact, and Syke's order concerning communications silence was clear.
"Try to listen in on communications, Newguy", Tricia ordered, "start frequency monitor". Gorde nodded and activated the console that quickly scanned through all possible communications channels. The monitor quickly locked on and Gorde started his decryption routine.
"Frakk!" Gorde exclaimed, "the transmission is Cylon. Contact is now officially reclassified as a hostile".
"Can you get any of what its saying?" Tricia asked next.
"The decryption routine is running now. Give me a few seconds", Gorde responded.
Despite the temptation, Tricia kept the Raptor's systems powered down. She quickly used her navi-comp in order to compute the Cylon ships trajectory. On her screens, she could see that the Cylon ship was one of those new scimitar-shaped raiders.
"Okay, I got part of what its transmitting. Its more-or-less saying that it's reporting no contact with any Colonial forces in vicinity of Molecay", Gorde reported.
"I've just checked its trajectory", Sheba replied, "It looks like a routine patrol sweep. I wonder how often they do it?" she wondered.
"It's just FTL-ed out", Gorde announced, "so, do we report this?", he asked next.
"Not yet, Newguy", Tricia replied, "First, we have to see if the anchorage is intact". Keep monitoring that frequency just in case our friend returns. If it is a regular patrol, then we'll need to know its time-table".
Gorde nodded and settled back into his seat. He was impressed with Tricia's handling of the situation. For her part, Tricia kept the Raptor on its drift-course towards Molecay. The asteroid was dead ahead and their trajectory would allow them to do a low-energy scan of the complex. So far, Gorde had handled himself well, despite his youth, Tricia noted with satisfaction.
Battlestar Pegasus – Combat Information Center Briefing Room
While Tricia and Gorde were approaching Molecay in coast mode, Commander Cain was in conference with Colonel Tolen, Captain Sanders, Captain Syke, and Captain Voight. They were sitting in a conference room just off CIC going over the latest batch of decoded communications intercepts from the Cylon base stars at Ragnar Anchorage.
"So, it's confirmed", Cain said, "The Galactica got away with some fifty civilian ships".
"But got away to where?" Tolen asked, putting into words what Syke and Voight were thinking.
"The Cylons evidently are not sure", Sanders replied, "but the intercepts indicate that the Galactica and the other ships at the rendezvous have definitely made a long-range jump out of charted space".
"Bill Adama is not a man who would cut and run without a really good reason", Cain said, "so I can only surmise that those other ships are full of refugees and are trying to find a place to hide from the Cylons in order to start again".
"That makes sense", Voight replied, "given how badly nuked out the Colonies are".
"But the problem with that scenario", Cain pointed out, "is that the Cylons are very tenacious. They won't just let them go. They will keep on looking until they find them, so we had better find them first".
"Well, according to the warbook, if Molecay is intact, they should have all the extra supplies that we will need for the short to medium term at least", Syke pointed out.
"True", Cain replied, "So how long before we can expect any reply from our scout?"
"Not for three hours, Commander", Syke replied, "Lieutenant Cain has been briefed about her mission objectives, so I'm not worried yet, but if we have not received a communication within two hours after her expected contact time, then I'll dispatch another raptor. I gave her strict orders to survey the area as quietly as possible".
Cain nodded without answering. He had been so relieved that his daughter had been on board the Pegasus when the Cylons attacked. From what he had discerned, the Triton had been one of the first battlestars destroyed when the Olympia task force had been attacked. Still, despite the luck of her being aboard the Pegasus, he had to think of her as a Raptor pilot instead of his only child, which meant that scouting missions had to come before family. He knew that some persons thought that his dispatching of her on missions like this was a somewhat heartless act, but Tricia was a capable Raptor pilot - which was what the Pegasus needed more. He excused the other officers and left the conference center to return to the CIC.
Up in CIC, the Core Command duty staff was busy monitoring the immediate space around them. So far, nothing had been detected, but given the suddenness of the Cylon ambush of the Colonies, no one was taking any chances. Condition Two was still being maintained - the second highest state of alert. Without going to full action stations, they were as ready as they could be.
Recon Raptor One - Approaching Molecay Anchorage
The waiting was harder on Tricia and Gorde than on the crew of the Pegasus. After what had seemed an interminable time drifting towards Molecay Anchorage, Sheba at last had Gorde run his initial active sensor scan.
"Okay, Newguy", Tricia said, "What do we have?"
Gorde had activated the low-energy active sensors. The raptor - which was otherwise still powered down - was drifting directly over Molecay Anchorage. The sensors were doing a preliminary sweep of the complex.
"I'm picking up no life signs, no EM signatures, and there are no signs of any battle damage, or any ships docked there either. The anchorage evidently is intact", Gorde replied.
The EM signatures that Gorde was referring to were the electromagnetic emissions that came from Cylon centurions. So far, so good.
"Any other contacts?" Tricia asked next, referring to possible bogies or hostile ships in the area.
"Negative, Sheba", Gorde answered, "I think that we can do a more active scan of the complex", he recommended.
Tricia considered Gorde’s suggestion. True, there seemed to be no sign of hostiles at Molecay, but the recent Cylon patrol worried her. The key to the survival of the Pegasus was not to be discovered while she was sitting idle taking on supplies. If the Cylons came in force while that was happening, then it was going to be goodbye to another battlestar. Still, she had to make a decision soon, and the time for her to return to the Pegasus was fast approaching...
"Okay, Newguy", Tricia decided, "I'm powering up the full sensor platform, but keep your eyes glued to the sensors. If that Cylon patrol comes back, we'll have to go silent real fast. Got it?"
With the full sensor platform on line, Gorde was able to do a more comprehensive scan of the Molecay Anchorage complex and the local space. After a minute of analyzing the scans, he breathed a sigh of relief.
"All previous scans confirmed. Molecay is undamaged, unoccupied, and full of goodies", he announced. Just then, his sensor alarm activated.
"Go silent!" he shouted. Tricia immediately powered down the platform. Gorde looked at his passive sensor system. It showed the re-emergence of the Cylon ship.
"Frakk, our nosey tin-headed toaster is back again", Trica stated, confirming the obvious. She started the tracking program. She saw that this patrol was following the same trajectory as the last time. The Cylon ship did a scan of local space and the complex without slowing down, then continued its flight path to the jump point position of the last Cylon ship - where it FTL-ed out of the area.
Tricia checked her chronometer against the time record of the last patrol. She nodded to herself, and then keyed her communicator.
"That raider precisely followed the same trajectory path as the one before", Tricia said, "and the time spacing between the two was three hours and ten minutes".
"Not much of a window", Gorde sourly noted. Tricia agreed. The Cylons were playing it smart: not destroying the complex in order to attract colonial warships, but having patrols scanning it in a time frame that would not permit a re-provisioning. She had no doubt that if a Cylon ship managed to detect the Pegasus here, then a task force of Base Stars would be the next arrivals - and they wouldn't be coming for provisions.
"At least we weren't detected. We'd better jump back to the Pegasus", Tricia announced, "The commander is going to need to know about this".
Gorde agreed. True, the complex was intact, but if the Cylons were making frequent patrols, what could be done? He didn't have an answer to that question. He could only hope that someone else on the Pegasus would.
"FTL back on line. Jump co-ordinates punched in for return", Gorde said after the navi-comp accepted the new input.
"Okay, Newguy. Stand by to transmit a full report to the PEGASUS as soon as we jump back. Jumping in 5...4...3...2...1...jump!"
"Recon Probe One has returned", Lieutenant Annan reported from Core Command, "we're getting telemetry from their sensors".
Syke, who was up in CIC, breathed a sigh of relief. Another hour and he would have had to send out another raptor to find out what had happened. He sent a stand-down signal to the second raptor crew.
"Thank you for the report, Sheba", Annan communicated, after the data feed had finished transmitting, "You're clear to land on Port Landing Bay".
"Understood, Core Command", Sheba communicated back. Tricia had flown the raptor back to the Pegasus after the jump without incident. With the clearance to land, Tricia brought the raptor down quickly, but expertly onto the deck. The elevator she had landed on lowered the raptor to the launch bay. After the bay was re-pressurized, both Tricia and Gorde powered down their systems and exited the raptor.
Both of them took a transport and headed over to the Silver Spar briefing room in order to make their report. Both of them found Commander Cain and Colonel Tolen waiting for them.
As soon as they were seated, she started to make her report on her find at Molecay. With Gorde providing additional data, she filled them in on the Cylon patrol schedule over the anchorage.
"Not good", Tolen said to Cain as they both absorbed the report, "Molecay's got supplies, but we won't have the time to get them without being detected".
"Worse news too", Sanders said as he walked into the briefing room and up to both of them, "Telemetry intercepts indicate that there are no other intact anchorages anywhere nearby".
"So the Cylons make sure that this is the only place in the quadrant that vessels can go, setting a nice little trap", Cain finished. All in all, replenishing at Molecay was not looking to be a good option after all.
"With what we have now, could we just start our search for the Galactica?" Tricia asked.
"What we have would be good for a month. Without a precise idea of where the Galactica is, it would be suicide to even attempt it. We need to be able to sustain this battlestar, its crew, and more importantly our fighters indefinitely", Cain answered.
"So what options does that leave us?" Tolen asked.
"The only one I see is to take out that patrol ship before it can report our presence", Cain replied.
"If that ship does not report in, then they will send other ships out to look for it", Tolen pointed out.
"I know, Colonel", Cain replied, "and it will all hinge on how long that patrol will be missed before a search is made, but if you have any better ideas, then I'm listening".
Tolen did not reply. Neither did Sanders. Cain turned and headed over to all wall communicator. Punching in the number for Core Command, he waited a few seconds, then spoke into the communicator.
"Have Captains Voight and Syke report to Silver Spar briefing room, Lieutenant. We’ve got a mission to plan".
"Captain Syke is up in CIC, and I'll put a page out for Captain Voight, Commander", Annan replied.
Annan must have had very little trouble as both CAGs entered the briefing room within five minutes, with Sanders following. A crew chief had also walked in, responding to a summons by Commander Cain.
After all were seated, Commander Cain asked Tricia to quickly fill Syke and Voight in on what was discovered at Molecay. When she was finished, both CAGs did not look happy at all.
"Three hours and Ten Minutes", Syke said, "That will give the Pegasus time to dock and to begin loading, but not nearly enough time to get on board what we need".
"Loading will take approximately five hours in all", Chief George Krag stated to the assembled officers. Cain had brought Krag to the briefing as his loading crews would be the ones doing the actual supply transfer.
"You saw no signs of Cylon ships when you had your scanners full-up?", Cain asked Gorde. Gorde shook his head.
"Dradis is showing no sign of toasters nearby either", Sanders reported.
"That doesn't matter, Comms", Tolen pointed out, "They can FTL in from almost anywhere".
"But it also means that if they're not nearby, they won't know precisely where they lost their patrol", Cain pointed out, "so any ships they send out to look for it will have to follow their missing ship’s flight path in all from the beginning".
"But it did make a routine communications message as it passed by Molecay", Tricia pointed out, "which means that if they don't receive the message, then they will know where to start looking".
"You intercepted the communications messages from the patrols you monitored", Cain said, "Do you think you could send out in its place a similar message?" he asked her.
Tricia cautiously nodded, but said, "The Cylons are not stupid, Commander. They would logically change their codes and frequencies on a regular basis. If I send a message out on the frequency they used, and its prefix codes have already changed, then it will be immediately detected as a ruse".
"But if there were no Cylon capital ships on your scanners, then why did the Cylon patrol ship communicate at all?" Voight asked next.
"Probably there are relay probes seeded throughout the sector", Tricia answered, "so any signal could be relayed to its base star. The Cylons go in for redundancy, so it would be a logical precaution to radio reports - even for an FTL ship, so if it went missing the Cylons have extra data to go on, even though it would take longer to get to its destination".
"How soon before its FTL-jump did the patrol ship make its report?" Cain asked Gorde.
"About thirty seconds", Commander, was his response.
"If we attack and destroy the patrol craft before it makes its transmission, and if our bogus transmission was accepted, then that would buy us some time", Cain said.
"We have to make sure that it can't transmit at all when it enters the area", Syke pointed out, "and when - not if - it sees the Pegasus when it scans the anchorage, it will send out an alert and try to jump out immediately".
"It takes about fifteen seconds to come up with improvised FTL-jump co-ordinates, so we have to keep it constantly busy with evasive action so that it can't jump. That means we have to do a mass deployment of both wings", Voight added. He was hoping that his strike wing could get into the fight and try to even things with the Cylons for the destruction of the Battlestar Pacifica.
"Then you both are directed to come up with an attack plan based on those necessities", Cain announced, "We need those supplies and that’s the bottom line. We destroy that patrol ship, send out our own all-well and hopefully, that will buy us enough time to get what we need and get out".
Both Voight and Syke wanted to say something more, but Cain's tone of voice indicated that he had made up his mind. Both CAGs saluted and left the CIC. Tricia and Gorde followed suit.
"I hope that you're right, Garris", Tolen said sotto voce to Cain; "because a lot will be riding on timing, and assuming that the Cylons have not changed the code".
"I know that it’s a gamble, Geoff", Cain replied, "but we do not have the luxury of playing it safe now. We do what we can and trust that we can get away with it".