Book 1 - Chapter 9
CHAPTER NINE: Molecay Anchorage
Battlestar Pegasus – Silver Spar Ready Room
Three hours after they had been given their orders, both CAGs were facing their pilots in the ready room. Syke spoke first, informing them about the situation at Molecay, and the Cylon patrol that had complicated matters.
"So that's the situation", Syke said in the squadron ready room, after filling them in. Normally holding no more than thirty pilots, all eighty-plus pilots of the Silver Spar and Black Knights strike wings were crammed in to hear the briefing, with more than a few standing against the walls.
"In summation, it's going to be an ambush plan using all of our fighters", Voight said, "and everything is going to depend on us making sure that the patrol ship is destroyed without them getting an alert out".
"How are we going to be deployed, Bojay?" Lieutenant Keith Hayes (call-sign ‘Chunks’), asked, "because we have to be unseen until the patrol ship makes its communication".
"All three squadrons of Silver Spar wing will be deployed behind Molecay, Chunks", Syke replied, "Sheba's raptor will be on passive mode watching for the patrol ship. When she gives us the signal that the Cylon has entered the area, then the wing will initiate the attack. Newguy will at that moment jam the patrol ship's frequencies". As Syke had introduced Gorde to all of the assembled pilots at the outset of the briefing, everyone knew who he was talking about.
"At that point, Black Knights’ squadrons will start its attack just in front of the toaster’s pre-set FTL co-ordinates", Voight announced. "We will be waiting in a powered down condition like Sheba's raptor. We power up and cut off its route of escape. As mentioned earlier, we are all being deployed because we cannot take any chances on that patrol ship escaping, so keep it busy, and don't give it time to calculate another jump".
"Once that ship is destroyed - and it must be destroyed", Syke said, "both wings stay deployed in screening formation over Molecay. Because if Cylon reinforcements arrive, we will have to hold them off until the Pegasus can get clear of the anchorage. And since the Cylons are likely to deploy a very large force, that means we will be in a world of hurt - got it?" he finished.
The pilots were quiet. They were under no illusion what would happen if surprise was not achieved. Two strike wings would not last too long against an all-out Cylon attack.
"Very well", Voight concluded, "Get to your fighters and stand by. Once the Pegasus makes the jump to Molecay, we launch".
“And whatever you do, do not refer to the Pegasus by name over the wireless”, Syke added, “Use ‘Home Plate’ instead. Dismissed”.
The pilots stood and filed out of the ready room. Voight's pilots headed over to the Starboard launch bay while Syke's pilots moved towards to Port launch bay. Both Syke and Voight looked at each other, shook hands, then headed out to join their respective wings.
As the pilots of Silver Spar Wing boarded the crew trailers that would take them to the launch bay, Tricia turned to Gorde.
"Sorry that we're not getting a break", she said. Gorde shrugged. Rest was a luxury. Hopefully, they would get back in one piece to enjoy it soon. For her part, Tricia was impressed with Gorde. Despite his inexperience, he stayed cool and alert throughout the recon mission.
With that, both of them headed to their transport that would take them to their raptor. All had been impressed by the seriousness of this mission. For the sake of the survival of the Pegasus, no mistakes could be made.
Battlestar Pegasus – Combat Information Center
Both Cain and Tolen were getting status reports from department heads throughout the battlestar. Syke had just reported to Annan that both wings had been briefed and were heading to man their fighters. Chief Krag reported that his team of loaders was ready with their equipment to immediately board the anchorage once the battlestar docked. The Pegasus was now set to Condition One.
"FTL on-line and ready for activation, Commander", Sanders called to Cain, "Co-ordinates set for Molecay".
Cain nodded. Sanders had plotted the jump to take place at precisely the moment that the Cylon ship made its jump and to exit out directly over Molecay Anchorage.
After a couple of minutes, Annan called Tolen over. After listening to her report, Tolen reported to Cain that the pilots of both strike wings had all manned their fighters. The launch tubes were loaded and the shooters were awaiting orders to launch.
“Start the countdown”, Cain announced. The master chronometer at the top of the dradis console started to flash the seconds remaining.
The Helm officer was intently watching the master chronometer. If the Cylon patrol did not vary from its schedule, then it would jump out of Molecay when it reached zero. Now the chronometer was nearing the ten second mark.
"Stand by for FTL-jump in ten seconds...mark!", Sanders announced over the ship-wide PA system.
All over the Pegasus, personnel sat down or otherwise braced for the disorientating effect of FTL travel. The pilots of Black Knight and Silver Spar Wings were seated in their fighters, ready for the shooters to get them into the launch tubes and catapulted into space.
"Five...Four...Three...Two...One...Jump", Sanders announced.
With a flash of light, the Pegasus vanished from the section of space she had just occupied.
Over Molecay Anchorage
With a flash of light, the battlestar re-appeared directly over Molecay Anchorage. The Pegasus emerged right at the correct co-ordinates.
As the effects of the jump wore off, the bridge crew raced into action. After verifying that the Pegasus had indeed arrived at the right location, plus that the Cylon patrol ship had indeed just departed (by scanning its ion trail residue), Cain nodded to Sanders. Sanders nodded to Annan
Annan clicked her intercom to the shooters, saying: "Launch authorization transferred to Launch Control officers. All fighters and Raptor One, Launch!".
Down in the launch tubes, the shooters of both bays started the launch procedure of the fighters already in the tubes. Those fighters were quickly catapulted out from the PEGASUS. The next wave of fighters was quickly loaded into the now-empty tubes for their turn to launch.
As each wave of fighters was launched, they converged on their CAG’s viper. Silver Spar’s fighters - led by Syke - headed to the far side of the asteroid. Voight led the fighters of Black Knight Wing out to where the Ion trail ended. While the strike wings were getting into position, Tricia's Raptor went to its pre-arranged co-ordinates. The clock was now ticking and they had three hours and ten minutes to get everything and everyone in place.
While the fighters were heading to their deployment areas, Sanders was passing orders to the crewmen controlling the maneuvering thrusters on the Pegasus. The docking hatch was set in the starboard landing bay and it was Sanders’ job to match it up with the mating adapter at the tip of the anchorage. As the asteroid itself was small, its feeble gravitational field was easily countered by the expert touch of the Helm officer.
Gently, the massive battlestar was maneuvered into position. At their positions near the main airlock, Chief Krag and his loading crew were standing by. They would head in to start loading up and transferring munitions and fuel. Close at hand were other persons - including most of the civilians that had been rescued by the Pegasus. They had volunteered to help load in foodstuffs and other non-military items aboard.
One of the civilian volunteers - a very pretty blond woman - looked around at the waiting personnel with dispassionate interest. She knew that the Pegasus had arrived at Molecay. Now, she had to try and do something so as not to prematurely alert the other people around her. An opportunity would present itself, she knew...
With a shudder, the battlestar docked with Molecay Anchorage. Krag looked at the status indicator and saw that the docking seals were good. He checked the atmosphere meter and verified that there was equal pressure on both sides. He reported this to Cain over his communicator.
"Okay, Chief", Cain authorized, "Let's get this lady loaded up as fast as we can".
Krag opened the airlock. Armed troops went in first and quickly verified that there was no one in the vicinity of the airlock and nothing suspicious nearby. Krag gestured with his thumb and his crew entered the station with their loaders and other tools.
As the various personnel entered the anchorage, Syke's wing was reaching its deployment position on the far side of the asteroid from the entry co-ordinates of the Cylon patrol ship.
"Silver Spar", Syke communicated, "This is Group Leader. Power down your systems and wait for my order to execute".
The forty fighters of Silver Spar wing went into silent mode, hovering just above the surface of the asteroid. The asteroid would be a natural shield to the sensors of the patrol ship - at least when it made its exit from its FTL jump. Everything depended upon Sheba and Newguy watching from their Raptor.
In his viper, Voight heard the signal informing him that all vipers of Silver Spar wing had reached their deployment area. His wing was widely dispersed just beyond the co-ordinates that the Cylon patrols used to make their FTL jump out of the area. Voight had to be careful to make sure that his fighters were powered right down. From a distance, they should look like space debris - and this part of space had plenty. Now, it was a waiting game. Both Voight and Syke prayed that the retrofitting of their fighters with the older navi-comp program would stop them from meeting the same fate as hundreds of other pilots...
While both wings were laying in ambush for the expected re-appearance of the Cylon ship, the loading crews started on their task of collecting the supplies that they needed.
Battlestar Pegasus – Combat Information Center
While monitoring local space via the dradis console, Krag’s voice came over Cain’s communicator.
"We're starting to collect the materiel now, Actual", Chief Krag communicated, "I've got extra crews working on clearing out additional storage space in the lower landing bay areas for the fuel pods".
"Excellent, Chief", Cain called back, "I’ve been informed that magazines One and Two have got the space we need for the extra munitions load".
"If we get every extra hand we have to assist, then we can get these stores loaded up within four hours, Actual", Krag pointed out.
"Understood Chief, I'll get you the extra manpower", Cain assured him, "Actual out".
Cain turned to Tolen, "Stand down from Condition One. Set Condition Two. Have Beta and Gamma Watches turn to and help Chief Krag load up. Keep Alpha Watch at their stations".
"Will do, Commander”, Tolen replied as Sanders walked up to him.
"Core Command reports both wings are in their deployment zones now, Colonel", Sanders informed him.
"Okay, Comms", Tolen acknowledged, "Let's keep everyone alert and hopefully, we will get through this in one piece".
“Being at Condition Two at a time like this is rather risky though”, Sanders opined. Condition Three was one watch on duty – normal operating procedure. Condition Two was having two watches on duty – a heightened state of alert. Condition One meant all personnel at battle stations. Having one watch stand down at this time did seem rather risky.
“Actual is aware of that, Comms”, Tolen replied, “but if we stayed at Condition One, we wouldn’t have the extra manpower that the chief needs to get us quickly loaded up”.
“So we have to choose between two less-than-ideal situations: either fully alert and a slow load, or a faster load at the price of compromising the Pegasus’s safety. Not great”, Sanders said.
“When one no longer has the luxury of playing it safe, one has to make the hard choices”, Tolen pointed out, “A hard call either way. I guess that’s why commanders get paid the big bucks”, he finished wryly.
Sanders nodded and returned to his station. This was going to be the hard part - waiting while the stores were being loaded. He hoped that the wings would be able to take care of that fighter. At the moment, the Pegasus was in a disadvantageous tactical position...
Sanders’ commlink buzzed. Sanders picked it up and listened. He turned to Cain.
"It's Chief Krag", Sanders said, passing Cain the commlink.
"What's up, Chief?" Cain asked.
"Actual, we've just found thermonuclear warheads in one of the secure munitions storage silos, Commander. There are six in all and they are all in the twenty megaton range", Krag informed him.
Cain and Tolen looked at each other.
"The warbook made no mention of nukes at Molecay, Commander”, Tolen said.
"Are there any delivery systems for those warheads, Chief?" Cain asked Krag.
"Negative, Commander", Krag replied, "and none of the delivery ordinance on Home Plate is compatible with them either".
The Pegasus had as part of its armament missile mounted tactical battlefield nukes of the one-thru-fifteen kiloton range. Thermonuclear devices were not part of any armament due to its sheer overkill power. Devices of that type were only useful against stationary targets like population centers...
"I can only speculate that these are old warheads left over from the first Cylon War", Krag theorized, "probably left here in case they were needed".
“But still operational though, Chief?” Cain asked next.
“I ran a quick diagnostic on one of them, Actual”, Krag replied, “and these warheads are live”.
Cain thought about what Krag had said, then suddenly smiled.
"Actually, Chief", Cain replied, "they might be very useful. Can you arm them"?
"That's not a problem, Actual”, Krag answered, "Why?", he asked next.
"When we leave, there will still be a lot of materiel here. I'd hate to have to leave it all for the toasters to use, Chief...", Cain said not-too-cryptically. Krag got the hint.
"I'll take care of it, Actual. Krag out".
Molecay Anchorage – Storage Bay 11
While Krag's technicians and some of the extra hands were loading up the fuel and munitions pods, the rest of the civilian volunteers were engaged in loading up transporters with various containers that contained rations. Molecay was extremely well-stocked with food and water and the civilians were loading everything they could into the transporters that they had brought along with them.
The blonde woman was looking around at the storage areas trying to see what could be done. Being careful to avoid calling attention to her, she started to work her way away from the main group. And since the bays were large, there was no trouble quickly slipping away from the main party. She had walked over to an office which was unoccupied and started inspecting a cargo manifest for the other storage bays seeing what could be useful - from her point of view. There had to be some way to alert her associates to the presence of the Pegasus...
"Excuse me, miss", a crewman came up to her, "we really need you back with the others. There are a lot of foodstuffs that we need to get loaded before we can look at anything else".
The woman saw that the crewman was alone, and though he was armed, his weapon was holstered. She quickly made a decision.
"Sorry", she said, smiling at the crewman, who smiled back. "I noticed this manifest over here and was just seeing if there were other items that we could use", she explained, pointing to the manifest, which she held out to him.
The crewman looked at the offered list and reached out to take it. That was the last thing the crewman saw as the blonde woman grabbed his neck and squeezed. The crewman’s neck snapped, killing him instantly. The woman pulled the body across the deck and hid it behind a couple of crates outside the office, after stripping it of its jacket and cap. She thought about taking the sidearm, but decided that it would be more trouble than it was worth. Putting the clothing items on, and tucking her hair inside the cap, she picked up the checklist and started looking through it. From a distance, she looked like a crewman, which should avoid any other unexpected distractions.
After a couple of minutes of scanning through the manifest, she found what could be useful. Checking her chronometer, she started going to where the manifest said that the items she wanted were. With luck, she thought, she could build something that will alert her colleagues to what was going on over here.
Nearby, oblivious to her presence, the other civilians were loading up case after case of foodstuffs and liquids onto the transporters. There was a wide variety of consumables and the crew members who were assisting wanted to have as much of it as possible. Nothing was more detrimental to morale than a monotonous diet.
While all this loading was happening, the blonde woman was making her plans...