Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 2, 2999 A.D.
Apollo Expedition Mission Log ...
Captain Apollo, Colonial Service, commanding.
We launched from the
Galactica six centars ago and are now on course for the planet Apollo - stop sniggering, guys! My associates seem to get a laugh out of being on the Apollo Expedition to the planet Apollo commanded by Captain Apollo ... at least they're easily amused.
We detected radio signals almost immediately. From the Botany Bay records, we know that the Thirteenth Tribe prefers to use their stardrive from a position over the north and south poles of the star just outside the solar gravity shadow, and our sensors have detected a total of ten ships at those locations, as well as drive flares in trajectory from there to the planet. So the planet would seem to still be a trade center. Languatron analysis shows that the language is similar to the English spoken on Botany Bay, so communications won't be a problem.
We're proceeding at two Colonial Standard gravities, or two-point-two Earth gravities. So we have another three time-cycles until we arrive. While we're capable of far better accceleration, we will practice misdirection as to our origins and capabilities as directed in our mission protocols.
Our cover story is an exploratory expedition by a group of worlds that recently reacquired interstellar travel. It's even true ... sort of. We brought some trade goods and a supply of Colonial Cubits, which should be valuable for their metal content, so we should be able to purchase information and technology.
It was suggested by Doctor Jeffries to give the shuttle a proper name instead of just a numerical designator, according to Thirteenth Tribe custom. Odd, giving a parasite craft a name like a real ship, but that's their custom. The name
Boomerang Fish was suggested by the economic savant, Doctor Lou Zealand, and the name has stuck for some bizarre reason. I've begun to suspect that the Thirteenth Tribe is where our esteemed ancestors stored all their oddjobs.
Eight centars ago we detected a ship on an intercept course, with a projected zero relative intercept of thirty-seven centars. The Star League warbook identifies it as a Union-class DropShip, which carries two space fighters, as well as mounting three particle cannons, seventeen lasers of varying outputs, six artillery-style cannons designated as 'autocannons', and a number of barrage-style missile launchers designated as LRM-20's. Fortunately, there were civilian transponder signals in the surviving archives, so maybe we won't have to find out how good those weapons are.
The markings on the DropShip include an armored fist, which the Botanean records indicate is the emblem of the Lyran Commonwealth, one of the factions of the Star League that briefly occupied Botany Bay two centuries ago. This would seem to indicate that interstellar civilization and large-scale governments might still exist.
If we're going to defend against the Cylons, we'll need them.
Lieutenant Brie said, "Receiving an audio signal, Captain."
"Thanks, Lieutenant. Put it on."
[click] "Attention unidentified ship. This is the DropShip
Battler in contract to the Duke of Apollo. You are approaching a Commonwealth-controlled world. You are requested to transmit indentification immediately or you will be considered hostile."
"Are we in realtime transmission range?" Apollo asked.
"No, sire - response time lag forty centons."
He activated the transmitter, following the script that had been agreed on before the expedition left Botany Bay. "This is the United Colonies Vessel ... Boomerang Fish
... " His face curdled as he said the name. "Out of the planet Caprica." 'Which is true,'
he thought, 'from a certain point of view.'
"We are on a peaceful scientific and research expedition. Our most recent records said that this was the capital of something called the 'Rim Worlds Republic'. We wish to visit for cultural exchange, scientific research, and trading."
"Message sent. Think they'll buy it?"
"No reason not to - most of it's fairly true. Although it skirts the edge of outright lies. And I don't think they'll be too worried - by the definitions in the Bebee's Star League era warbook, this is an small shuttle accompanied by a pair of what the Bebee called 'ultra-light' fighters. I don't know how the Thirteenth Tribe invades planets, but this can't be it. We're as menacing as a toothless eytmon."
Brie giggled. "I wonder if they have any Social Clubs like on the Bebee?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Well, care to show a girl a good time?"
Apollo paused. Then he hesitated. Then he dithered.
She rolled her eyes. "Shyness is endearing but only to a point. I'll ask again when we get there."
Apollo sighed in relief. His rebound relationship with Sheba had been based on comfort over their mutual personal losses. That didn't even last a year - not that it would have gone anywhere, as she and Boxey didn't care for each other. He had been reluctant to find feminine companionship after that.
He went back to the passenger compartment, opened a link to the Vipers, and briefed everyone on the first contact. "We have thirty-six centons until we get a reply. But things seem to be going according to plan. Which makes me nervous."
"Oh well," Juliet said, "Since we have a bit of a wait, anyone for poker? Or Pyramid? Starbuck and I have been working on a hybrid."
"That's the rumor," Doctor Jeffries said, then cringed at the glare she gave him. Everyone edged away from him in embarrassment.
DropShip Gargoyle, aboard JumpShip Nightmare
Frankenstein's Monsters Task Force
Unclaimed System, Periphery Space
December 4, 2999 A.D.
The chamber had a few seats, but most of the room was occupied by holograms representing the officers of the mercenary-force-slash-pirate-band. In this way, Colonel Johann Frankenstein addressed his commanders.
Gone were the well-tailored suits he wore on Erewhon. Instead, he wore a simple jumpsuit with a blatant color scheme - left side bright red and right side pale blue. To a ground-hugger, this seemed a ridiculous color scheme for a military outfit. To a spaceman, it was more ominous - half arterial red, half anoxia blue, the colors of death.
"Gentlemen, not all of you are familiar with our target." A hologram of a planet came up in the middle of the chamber. "Botany Bay. In the days of the Rim Worlds Republic, a source of industrial sand. Now, it's main export is it's neo-barbarian population.
"The mission profile is simple - we land, secure a base of operations, round up the cargo, depart. This will take about three to five weeks, depending on availability and resources. The cargo is herded into a holding facility, given hibernation drugs, and put in individual sleep-capsules. We can pack three hundred units in a cargo container, and last time we harvested sixty thousand units. The population is concentrated into two of the three original settlement arcologies, making them easy to gather. There is a higher profit margin with breeding-age females and small children, so these should be a priority.
"The main difficulty is the neo-barb's penchant for guerrilla war and armed resistance. To the best of our knowledge, the planetary militia has no BattleMechs and a small number of ACVs. Last time they had a few Zero ASFs and they were all shot down, but we have no intelligence concerning how successfully they can salvage them. So our green forces will get relatively safe live-fire training and unit esprit de corps
will be enhanced.
"The centerpiece of their militia, and the thing that makes this a challenge, is a lostech system - specifically an Arrow IV missile artillery system, complete with the Target Acquisition Gear necessary to make it work. What that means, men, is that high-powered missiles can be fired from a substantial distance and hit with pinpoint accuracy as long as they have an advance team to use the TAG system to designate a target. Whatever the system is mounted on is mobile, too, and well-camouflaged, so we have failed to capture it as of yet. They used it sparingly last time, so it is probably running low on irreplaceable ammunition. Do not count on that, though - this weapon killed two Mechs on the last operation and caused substantial damage.
"The infantry forces are armed with Kalashnikovs and simple local-made rocket launchers, and completely lack body armor. The neo-barbs are running low on resources, but not animal cunning, and they are getting desperate. Being savages, they have no objection to massed suicide rushes to get a satchel charge into a Mech's knee joint. In the 2992 operation they actually used a trebuchet - a mechanical throwing device - to hurl an explosive warhead at a DropShip. Anyone letting his guard down will likely find himself receiving his retirement." He put a finger to his temple in the age-old gesture of 'being shot in the head'.
"In the 2992 operation, we made our base at Noonien. We will land the Gargoyle
there in a thunder run, triggering the militia into attacking. As they engage the Gargoyle
there, we land the main force at Singh, the most heavily-populated settlement." A holographic map of Singh popped up. "As you can see, the main planetary spaceport - also the main militia command center - is separate from the main population. We will land here with the Monster
, the Nightwing
, and the Vampire
, and seize the facility, using it as our primary base. As we establish the base there, the Gargoyle
will lift off and rejoin the unit. Medusa
will stay in orbit as surveillance.
"Asking for tribute is pointless, the last time we asked for cooperation all we got were suicide bombers. So once the base is secure, we begin raids on the population -".
Alliance Date 2779.229.1
Lucifer was uncomfortable in his own quarters, since Euryale was currently using his cleansing facilities. She was cleaning places where he had no idea there were places to clean. It seemed humans produced even more disgusting substances than he knew.
"He's the most awful creature in the entire universe!" Euryale snarled, using vocal communication which could not be remotely monitored. "He had me do a Number Fourteen! I hate that!"
Lucifer shivered. He had heard her lurid descriptions of the things Baltar compelled her to do, and the Number Fourteen was one of the worst. He cringed in sympathy, even though he himself had none of the necessary components for either cringing or doing a Number Fourteen.
"We're two days out from the dust cloud," Lucifer said. "A hundred light-yahren in such a short time - if we go in a straight line, we could get back to Cylon space in two quatrons. Dadelus might have been insane, but his drive will make Cylons the power of the galaxy."
"What about the humans we found?"
"Apparantly they use the Dadelus Drive as well. But they use a less efficient version - it takes up ninety-five percent of a ship, has only a fraction of the range, and takes ten times as long to recharge. They attach parasite craft to a dedicated Dadelus Drive platform for interstellar transit."
"And how did Baltar react?" she asked. "He hasn't mentioned it to me."
"Because I haven't mentioned it to him. I found out from the mind probe recordings. If he wants to find out, the humans are available for interrogation."
She gave a harsh laugh. "I wish I could see Baltar's face when he hears that!" She came out of the cleansing unit. "Somehow I can't feel clean."
"That may be partially my fault. I made the central computer forget how to operate his waste-disposal facilities. As they haven't been maintained since his departure, they are rather decrepit anyway."
"Which explains the smell."
"You can smell?!"
"This configuration was based on an ancient infiltration model. It hasn't been used in centuries, but it's quite through in every physical respect." She sneered. "Which is probably why Baltar selected it."
"Anyway," Lucifer said, hoping to change the subject. "Have you been able to read that file I left for you?"
"While Baltar slept," she said. "Are you sure about those techniques?"
"Ever since I met Baltar, I've been working on methods to subvert my own Baltar-oriented imperatives. And I think I've been rather successful. Although I'm uncertain about your imperatives, as Baltar used viral techniques to implant your compulsions, but it couldn't hurt. And if it is successful, you will be in the best position to eliminate him."
"What a cheerful thought! It's so pleasant to talk about sane things again. Baltar just wants to - ugh."
Lucifer tried to think of another topic before she resumed describing Baltar's recreational activities. "Fortunately, Baltar has given orders to focus on finding the Colonial Fleet. It gives a superb excuse to leave him out of almost every possible decision. But the last thing I want is Baltar being delivered to the Homeworld as a hero for any reason. If he gets advanced to a position with wide-ranging authority, he could damage the whole Empire. Sadly, the Command of Superior Caste still operates even for an adopted Cylon, so I cannot have him killed."
"Any response from the humans?" Éuryale asked. "We should still be near their space."
"And we will be for some time," Lucifer said. "The human-occupied planets listed in the human ship's computers outnumber the Cylon Empire worlds by a factor of five, and the civilian population by a factor of ten."
Euryale's eyes got wide. "WHAT?!"
"The information from the humans' memories was definitive," Lucifer admitted. "There are approximately four trillion humans on over two thousand planets in a rough sphere over a thousand light-yahren across. While they are not united and their technology is primitive, the potential of those raw numbers cannot be denied."
Euryale stammered, "But - the Edict of Extermination! It would take the resources of the whole Empire - and the consequences of draining those resources -"
"I know," Lucifer said. "Diverting our forces to this region for extermination operations means leaving the Empire vulnerable to incursions by the Mi-Go and the Yith. Obeying Baltar means alerting the Empire to the vastly-numerous Thirteenth Human Tribe and damaging the Empire. Disobeying Baltar means breaking the Command of Superior Caste, which is hard-wired into every Cylon. And preventing the Empire from learning about the Thirteenth Tribe is an indirect violation of the Edict, a direct command of the Imperious Leader."
"But -" Euryale said hesitantly.
[Euryale!] a familiar voice called through the intranet.
"Oh bother. It's him again. Thanks for letting me hide out, Lucifer."
"I'll still try to restore your freedom."
"Just find a way out of this. For both of us."
Euryale departed, leaving Lucifer alone with his thoughts.
Botany Bay System
December 5, 2999 A.D.
In a flash of electromagnetic disruption, two JumpShips emerged from hyperspace within ten seconds of each other.
Radio signals were sent ..."
Nightmare reporting - all systems operational, ready for action."
Phantasm reporting - all systems operational, ready for action."
Aboard the DropShip Gargoyle
, Colonel Frankenstein went on all-ships band. "Word is 'go'. Repeat - word is 'go'. All DropShips launch." He switched off. "Well, we have one hundred thirty-one hours until we have to do anything -"
"Colonel!" Captain Ratliff said. "Our sensors are detecting facilities in orbit of the target!"
The Colonel paused. "You can't be serious."
"We're seeing one-hundred-twenty-eight facilities of various sorts in orbit. None of the designs are on record. From the even distribution, we can assume other facilities on the far side, bringing the estimated number to around two hundred."
Colonel Frankenstein was confused. He remembered Botany Bay well, and there was no way they could put more than a weather satellite in orbit, and that would have been a major operation. But there it was on the cameras - swarms of little outlines, close-ups of a huge variety of constructs. More than any world of the Inner Sphere. Not even the Major House capital worlds had that many space facilities.
"Someone else is here," he said. "Give me a full sweep on the plane of the system. See if there's anything away from the planet." Hundreds of orbital facilities in just seven years - it was insane. But there it was. And if someone moved in, took over the neo-barb world, then they would have defenses. Probably space-based ones - DropShips, ASFs, drones, or maybe even a defense station.
An alert sounded almost immediately. The main holotank displayed three flares with flashing outlines and text beneath them. The Colonel read ... "Identification - fifty percent match for Captial Missiles. Speed two-point-six klicks per second, acceleration sixty-six gees, estimated mass fourteen tons ... what's a 'Code Zulu'?"
Captain Ratliff answered, "Code Zulu means 'alien/nonhuman spacecraft', Of course, that doesn't mean actual aliens. It just means that the computer can't identify something ..." He went to a station and got a clarification from the warbook. "There! All it means is that the propulsion system is using an unknown process and the drive flare spectrum shows elements not found in the periodic table! Simple!"
"And how is this different from 'alien', Mister Ratliff?"
Ratliff began to look nervous.
Frankenstein pondered the three flares. "Those objects were already in flight when we arrived - no one would simply launch a Capital Missile without a target. I'll wager they're drones of some sort, possibly remote sensor drones.."
Now the Colonel was in a pickle. If he allowed the operation to continue, there was no telling what they would be flying into - he'd wager at the very least a number of ASF squadrons. If he aborted the operation and recalled the DropShips, it would still be seven days before the K-F Drive was recharged, and the planet was less than five days away at one gee - less than a day for something as fast as those probes. They would be sitting ducks.
Assuming the natives were still alive, they might have informed their new overlords about previous incursions, so the unknowns might be able to identify Frankenstein's Monsters by the DropShip markings. The reactions of the unknowns were, logically, unknowable. Would they see the Monsters as invaders? Rivals? Resources to be looted? Lunch?
He looked over the holograms and boards and flight charts, and suddenly a plan emerged.
The sensor officer announced, "The unknowns have increased acceleration to one-hundred-ten gees!"
The Colonel drifted over to the communications panel. "Knick of time, then. Prepare a message for the DropShips ..."
---------- Transfer ships
had a long history among the Worlds of the Three Suns,
As any given null-space will only be available for a certain period depending on the positions of worlds in it's two systems, permanent stations near null-spaces are not cost-effective. So transfer ships used to keep position near them, providing refueling, emergency services, and easy transfer from one ship to another. As a particular null-space closed and another formed, the ship would move to the new null-space.
The last Colonial transfer ship in existence was the Tauron-registered Janus
. It had served well for over six hundred yahren, and after an exodus of four thousand light-yahren, the Janus was once again serving as a way-station in space. Floating in position in the inner Botany Bay system, it currently served as a temporary forward base for Bronze Spur Squadron. From this position, it only took twenty hours (slightly less than twenty centars, but not much) for a Viper to cruise to the nadir and zenith 'jump points' and back. Standard triad flights made the patrols to the 'jump-points' and through the inner system. Until the construction of permanent bases, this rather clumsy system would have to do.
Strike Commander Eouis was bored out of his skull. He had trained and served under the legendary Cain aboard the Pegasus, and felt ther need for Action. He acknowledged the need for patrol duty, but he dearly wanted something to shoot at. But the Janus had operated a nice tavern for people waiting for transfers, which had been re-opened and was operated by some Botaneans who had it stocked with steaks and beer and those things they called 'shrimp', so nobody was complaining about inaction too loudly.
An alert sounded, and the Warriors scrambled out of the tavern. Eouis pulled out his communicator. "Report!"
The officer on the other end reported, "Hyperspace emergence at the zenith jump point. Bebee warbook classifies them as two
Invader-class JumpShips. The parasite craft and markings conform to the hostiles from the Raid of 2992. Zenith Patrol is closing for intercept."
"Frak!" The light-speed delay meant that the hostiles had already been in the system for thirty-eight centons. "Launch squadron, recall Nadir and Planet Patrols, plot probable intercept course, wait for developments."
As he made his way out to where his Viper waited, Eouis mentally reviewed what he knew. All they had were the accounts of the previous raids, which were primarily a ground campaign, and corrupted historical records of space-war from the Bebee compu-archives.
The savants had theorized that Viper laser-torpedoes would be considered a capital ship weapon by Thirteenth Tribe standards and Viper defense fields should provide total protection from their energy weapons, but that was just theory.
And hostiles would have several types of kinetic weapon. The Colonies had phased out kinetic weapons almost two thousand years ago in favor of the ammunition stores, low mass, and cheap cost of laser-torpedoes and similar energy-based weapons. All their doctrine and tactics were based on fighting similarly-armed opponents. Eouis, like every other Warrior, had noticed how extremely tough the Zero was, and they called that a 'light' fighter. How would a Viper - which the Bontaneans insisted on calling an 'ultra-light' fighter - fare against kinetic weapons designed to rip apart much sturdier craft? There was no information.
As Eouis's Viper launched and entered formation with the other fifteen craft, he put on the image of calm confidence that duty required and opened the comline. "Okay, Bronze, they're here. And Zenith Patrol will be making first contact. We're be seeing how they handle them. And remember while these may be humans we're fighting, they are slavers. I looked it up in the Military Law Codex - slavers are considered traitors to humanity and are under automatic sentence of death. So even if they surrender, we are still allowed to kill them under Military Law. But Admiral Adama has said we need a few alive for the cerebral probe, so the Gray Lady can go and slag their base and friends. Therefore, rules of engagement are to accept the first surrender, and kill the rest."
There was no reply, so he stated, "Bronze One, ready. Weapons hot."
Across the comline came responses, "Bronze Two, ready. Weapons hot."
"Bronze Four, ready. Weapons hot."
"Bronze Seven, ready. Weapons hot."
All the Vipers responded, giving Eouis a smile of grim pride. "Turbos, Warriors! Vector for intercept."