This is the first chapter in the fourth installment of the series "Battlestar Galactica: Return To The Colonies."
Admiral Lee Adama was becoming more and more pensive as his UED Fleet moved closer and closer to The Twelve Colonies. He knew he would feel like this four years ago when his Colonial Class Battlestar the William Adama had left its Shipyard in Northern Australia. But at that point, The Colonies were four years away and he had plenty of time to deal with what he knew was coming.
Now, the four years had passed, and he didn't know how to deal with these building emotions. For an Admiral who knew what he was about, it was disconcerting.
He commanded fifty-six vessels under the umbrella of United Earth Defense, an organization that was born out of the arrival of the long-ago scuttled Battlestar Galactica at Earth in the year 2022. It had been the cornerstone of Earth's defense during the Earth-Cylon War in 2027 and had led to the ever-expanding Fleet of Battlestars, Deep Space Explorers, and other ships that comprised this Fleet and which would comprise future fleets.
When they had departed in late 2044 there were sixteen Terran Class Battlestars that comprised the main Solar System defenses of Earth. The Terran Class were modestly larger than the original Battlestar Pegasus which Lee himself had sent on a collision course so many years ago. Two more had gone aloft since their departure, and two more would sail within the next two years.
But his ship, the William Adama, along with her sister the Laura Roslin were the first Colonial Class Battlestars: almost twice the size as her Terran Class sisters. They were being built primarily to begin a regular shuttle between Earth and The Twelve Colonies. The goal was to begin the reconstruction of those worlds and to bring civilization back to the people who had been left behind. The next two Colonial Class ships, the Caprica and the Libran were scheduled to set sail from a Russian Shipyard in six months, to begin their proving runs.
All told, UED and the United Nations were investing in well over eight hundred ships that would initially comprise The Fleet and serve it through the end of the 21st Century on Earth and beyond.
Lee couldn't worry about that at the moment. The Fleet that he was Military Commander of would be arriving at Ragnar, where the former Colonial weapons depot had been located. From that point Admiral Kara Thrace-Bond's ship, the Laura Roslin would swing in towards Aerilon, while the Adama looped around to the other side of the Cyrannus System and approached Caprica.
They didn't know what shape the survivors were in; they didn't know what shape the different planets were in; they didn't know much. But the best estimates were that life was probably still not easy thirty years after the Cylon attack that forced Galactica to flee.
They were told to expect almost anything on their arrival. And Lee, like most Admirals of a Battlestar, was expecting the worst.
"Helm new course 313 mark 285, drop to one-quarter impulse", Admiral Kara Thrace-Bond intoned to her crew. "Begin prep for Fleet Stop at Ragnar Anchorage."
The last time Kara had been this close to "home" was when her group of soldiers and Marines had pulled Sam Anders' resistance fighters off of Caprica some thirty years earlier. As time passes on Earth, she was now fifty-two years old, and like Lee Adama she had a case of The Butterflies as they were back in territory that once was dominated by mankind.
She wasn't afraid of what lay ahead. The real fear that she had in coming on this journey was two years behind her when it was discovered that the world known on Earth as Kepler 452b was indeed Cylon Earth. She had felt frightened in returning to the place where she saw her "body" with Leoben so many years before. But she had found that the place no longer spooked her. It had been incredibly difficult for her adoptive parents to see the place, which no one had expected.
By design and some luck, her entire family was with her on this voyage. Her sister, Doctor Abby Bond-Creider was Chief Physician aboard the Deep Space Explorer Carl Sagan; her brother, Captain Nicholas Bond, was the CAG on board the Adama; and her parents, Fleet Governor Justin Bond and First Lady Judith Bond were on the DSE Martin Luther King, Jr, which served as the flagship for the Civilian Government of the fleet.
"Admiral", replied her XO, Commander Chase "Rabbit" Carrico, "anchorage in sight, fleet ordered to a stop in two minutes."
"Thank you, XO, notify when we're stationary." Starbuck looked at her computer console, where an incoming message from Admiral Adama had just popped up on the screen.
"Chase", she said, looking up from her console and at her XO, "thirty minutes after the All-Stop, I've been requested to head over to the King to meet with the Governor, Admiral Adama, and the captains of all the DSE's."
"Aye, Admiral", he replied crisply. "I guess that'll mean party time, right Kara?", he added with a mischievous wink, which made the crew in CIC smile.
"Uh, not Rabbit", she said with mock severity, but with a smile on her face. "If there's a party I'll be throwing it", which elicited laughter in the room.
Kara was a no-nonsense Boss on her ship, but she had learned from her father, who had been President Of The United States when she had arrived on Earth. Her father had taught her that you could be tough but fair with your crew and that you always treated them with dignity and respect. Her crew knew that when there was work to be done, that they were expected to perform professionally, but she had also learned there were times and moments for being human. This was such a moment.
"Well, if you insist, Admiral", Rabbit chuckled/ "I'll keep the party favors and booze on ice for another time." Kara laughed at that one.
"You better", she said moving away from her station. "I'm going to my quarters to talk to Admiral Adama and the Governor before I head over. You have the bridge, Party Boy."
Ten minutes later she was on the computerized phone system with Lee. "You feeling as nervous as I am about getting back here, Apollo?", she inquired, knowing that he was absolutely feeling the same way, but wanting some reassurance of her own.
"I've been feeling like this for the last month, Kara", he said honestly. "I don't have any dark premonitions or forebodings about anything but think about it: we've been part of society on Earth now longer than we were on The Colonies. This is like heading to a foreign land."
She hadn't thought of it quite that way, but Lee was right. "Interesting way to look at it. Just remember, the Op Plan gave me the ass-end of The Colonies. You get the exciting area", she winked with an impish smile.
"Overall Command does have its perks Admiral", he grinned back at his friend, "but remember, the chances are I'll deal with more problems than you will here at the, uh, what did you call it?"
"The ass-end", she said with a broad grin.
"The ass-end, right", and he laughed through the speaker. "I see your father changed the meeting time to 1800. Wonder why he moved it back?"
"Governor's prerogative, I'm sure, Admiral", she said with a mock formality, which made Lee snicker again. "Maybe dad wanted everyone just to unwind for a few hours after we stopped. That's my bet."
"I bet you're right", and then Lee paused for a few moments. "Is he still getting some nightmares, Kara?"
"They've died down Lee. He's not getting them as often as he used to", she admitted. The nightmares that they were referring were from his visit to Cylon Earth and seeing the remains of the Viper that Kara or somebody or something had occupied when it crashed on that planet. It had hit the usually unflappable Governor with an emotional force that he wasn't remotely prepared for. Her mother had had the same reaction but had never encountered any problems afterward.
Kara had become quite concerned for him and even had her younger sister Abby talk to her dad about it a few times.
"I hope they go away, and soon." Lee said with sympathy, "he's such an incredible guy."
"He is, but it shows that even the best can get rattled from time to time." The nightmares had been of her father looking at her face in that cockpit as the ship began to tear apart, watching her, unconscious, with her head bobbing wildly around inside. He would wake up screaming or soaked in sweat. She hated seeing him that way. "I hope so, too", she replied quietly, "because other than that he hasn't had a lick of problems on the journey, besides the political kind, and he's used to that."
"Well, I'm gonna get my stuff together, then take about a two-hour nap. C'ya on board the King."
At that moment, Governor Justin Bond was doing the very thing Lee was about to do, which was taking an afternoon siesta. In about three hours he would meet with the Admirals of all eight major ships in his fleet to go over the plans for the beginning of the search of the Twelve Colonies.
This was another of his "babies" coming to fruition; when he was President of The United States he had proposed this very mission after the Earth-Cylon War in 2027, along with the fleet of ships currently in space and being built on Earth. He had quite a few "babies" he had admitted to himself on more than one occasion.
He had dozed off peacefully enough, as he usually did. He had been fortunate enough to be one of those people who could zone out in a matter of minutes under almost any circumstance if he needed to, and that had been a good thing when being a pilot in the war, and during his time as President and now as Governor of The Fleet.
The dream he found himself in was peaceful to begin with: a waving, rolling field of tall green grass against a clear blue sky on what looked to be a wonderful summer day near Richmond, which he had seen on so many occasions. He could almost smell the grass and feel the breeze blow through his hair.
But as he walked a few steps further, the grass suddenly died into an oatmeal-brown color, and the wind picked up the sky darkening. He began to run...
...He heard Kara's distressed voice from all directions, Just let me go! He'd run in one direction, then the other, and he'd cry out her name, trying to find her, but her voice persisted, Just let me go...
He saw what appeared to be an opening to his left, and her voice seemed to be coming from that direction, so he bolted in that direction, in an eternal slowness that maddens so many dreams...and then he saw it: the Viper; the skeleton with a shock of blond hair, underneath a Pilot's helmet...
And suddenly he was thrown into space, looking at Kara in the cockpit of the Viper, where she was unconscious, as it was tossed about by the stresses that were beginning to tear her ship apart. He tried to scream "Kara!", as loud as he could, but no voice emanated. Kara finally opened her eyes and looked directly at him, and in a voice that sounded like a devil, screaming JUST LET ME GO!
...His eyes flew open and he sat bolt-upright in bed, out of breath as if he had actually run in the dream, his hands shaking and bathed in sweat.
In a few minutes, he got up, went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, then looked in the mirror at his seventy-six-year-old face. "Well, at least these damn nightmares are happening less and less", he comforted himself. He was sure they'd go away some day. But today wasn't that day. He sometimes wished he had not visited that place on Cylon Earth with his daughter. But he would never tell her that.
He got up, changed back into his Dockers and a comfortable short-sleeved polo-type shirt and went out into the living room. His wife Judith knew immediately that he had suffered another nightmare.
"I won't even ask", she said with sympathy. Judy Bond hadn't suffered any after-effects from visiting the Viper cockpit two years ago, which she found astounding. She found it more astounding that her husband, who had fought in a war and been shot down and who had been severely injured in a terrorist attack five years earlier, would succumb to such visions.
"Thanks, babe", he said with a small smile, "it's the same movie I've seen over and over." He did recover quickly afterward, which was a blessing, and it hadn't affected his duties as Governor.
"Abby still wants you to talk to Dr. Beazos on the Gandhi?"
"Yes, she does, and I have nothing against the good Doctor, but I don't want a shrink quite yet", he said in a reasonable voice. "I'd still like some time to try to work this out myself."
"I'm not going to argue, Mr. Governor", she said evenly. "We've had this discussion before. I wish you'd consider it more, Justin."
"I might get to that point, Judy", he said honestly, "but the nightmares are lessening. Just give me a little more time."
"I will. I know better than to try to brow-beat you after forty-seven years of marriage", she said archly, but with a twinkle in her eyes, "but if they get worse..."
"If they get worse, I promise, I'll go.", he said crossing his heart with his index finger.
Judy just rolled her eyes. "Get ready for the powwow Governor", she said, getting up from her chair, with a pillow in her hand, bopping him on the head with it.
"And we have all of the land vehicles ready to roll when we get to Caprica. They all went through maintenance checks in the last forty-five days, so there shouldn't be any lemons in the group." Lee Adama was going over the last-minute prep for when he peeled off from the Roslin and took precisely half the fleet with him to the Helios Alpha System, with Caprica as their first stop.
"What have the scout Raptors seen so far from either Caprica or Aerilon?" The Governor asked, with a pen and paper in front of him. He still felt personal notes helped him more than tapping on the computer screen all the time and was an expert note-taker. His daughter spoke up first.
"Sir", Kara said, looking down at the printouts in front of her, "we've had passes over Goath and the surrounding countryside in the last few days", she said, not looking up from the information in front of her. "It looks like the remains of the city have been cleared of debris for the most part, but little rebuilding seems to have taken place", she flipped the page. "We do see crops in much of the countryside all over the planet. It doesn't look very organized but we can see fields of what is akin to corn and wheat and some other vegetables in the fields and some of them look to be in pretty good shape."
"Inhabitants?", that was Admiral Pauline Lysak from the DSE Albert Einstein.
"Sir, we've seen a few inhabitants. but they've scattered when we've made low passes", she said with a small sigh. "For all they know, they may think the Cylons own the Raptors and these birds don't look that different from the ones that flew here before The Holocaust."
"It sounds like there are more than a few people left what with growing crops that are in pretty good shape and with no real debris in Goath", Lee offered to the assembled.
"One of the things we have to be concerned with is the mindset of the people left here", the Governor interjected. "As you've said over and over Lee, we just don't know how they've been living for the last thirty years?"
"A good point, Governor", said Admiral Caprica Baltar, the Military Commander of the Governor's flagship, the Martin Luther King, Jr. "It's one we need to remember."
"Lee", the Governor turned towards his Supreme Military Commander, "what's the latest from Caprica?"
"Sir, all the passes over Caprica City have shown the same thing: debris still lying everywhere; some wooden structures built within the debris next to remains of buildings-not unlike what we found on Cylon Earth when we discovered Deanna's enclave." He looked up from his notes. "Very few if any signs of human life." That caused the room to quiet for a moment.
"Remember, Governor", Kara advised him, "there wasn't a helluva lot left here when my team pulled Sam and his resistance off of there."
"And if I recall", the Governor closed his eyes for a moment, "didn't Helo and Athena say they had found absolutely no one that was human when they were wandering through Caprica City?"
"Not a soul", Admiral Thrace-Bond spoke up instantly. "I went waltzing through there myself, remember, Lee", she said looking at The Military Boss, "And the only beings I saw were Helo, Athena and a Six." The fact that she could say that without immediately glancing at Caprica, or having Caprica become self-conscious about such a thing showed how far the remaining Cylons that had sailed on with Humanity had come in all these years. She and Caprica Baltar were friends and colleagues now, and Kara trusted her implicitly.
"There's gotta be someone there", the Governor said, almost sotto voce. "There were, what? Almost five billion people on the planet when the attacks began?"
"That's correct, Governor", Lee Adama confirmed. "I have a hunch we'll find people in the more remote regions of the planet, away from Caprica City, and in the smaller cities as we do a thorough search", he went on, "The Cylons wanted to obliterate Caprica, as it represented everything about Human civilization."
"Lee's right, Justin", Caprica said, dropping formalities for a moment. "There were more nukes dropped here than on any other planet, and it was to make a statement." Now Caprica felt some guilt over what her brothers and sisters had done, but she kept it to herself.
"I hope you're right, Admiral Baltar", the Governor said quietly. "One thing we did assume is that there'd be at least some people on all the populated planets."
"Since we're not finding much movement in Caprica City, sir, I'm going to start patrols and scouting missions away from the Capitol-we'll start in the areas around what remains of Delphi and Phoebus, and work our way around."
"You lived here, Lee, so I'll give you lots of leeway in your search.", the Governor advised him. Lee liked working for Justin Bond because he had never been a micro-manager. He trusted the people who were on the ground or knew the terrain. That had probably come from the Governor's own combat experience almost fifty years earlier in the United States Air Force.
"OK, that about does it folks", the Governor began to wrap things up. "The Adama, Mandela, Sagan, and Einstein will depart in forty-eight hours, and the Roslin and the remaining DSE's will take orbit over Aerilon. By the way, Admiral Thrace-Bond", he said, smiling at his adopted daughter, "I just may take a few Raptor missions over the planet-maybe even a scouting mission on the ground." Lee tried to hide a small smile.
"Oh, just what I need, a nosy Governor", she said with a wink, which got a laugh out of the group. "I'll be on the other side of the planet, then, thank you very much", she said sweetly, and he shot her a mock venomous star, but with the corners of his mouth upturned.
"Dismissed, everyone, you're welcome to stay onboard for dinner before heading back."
Gaius Baltar wasn't sure how he felt now that the time to orbit his old homeworld had arrived. He had grown up on the poor, working-class planet but had left when he was eighteen, thirsting for knowledge and culture beyond the back-breaking life on the Breadbasket of the Colonies and the rough-hewn language and demeanor of his kinfolk. Being a genius, as many thought he was, with a touch of madness as was often the case with the incredibly intelligent, he had worked hard to become a doctor, a scientist, a stellar cartographer.
His problem hadn't been his brains: it has been that he thought all too often with another part of his body, and that had been what got him into hot water as The Holocaust unfolded. He and Caprica played a large role in the destruction of The Colonies, and Gaius tried, somewhat successfully, to hide his treasonous doings from The Fleet after he arrived on Galactica afterward.
But later in the voyage to Earth, both he and Caprica had committed themselves to Humanity's future, with Gaius wanting to pay penance for what he had done, and Caprica coming to the realization that what she had helped put in motion had been a mistake to begin with. Both had not wavered from Humanity since.
But he had come of age learning to farm. He knew the culture, as it had existed, and he could easily slip back into his native, throaty brogue dialect whenever he wished. And, as a scientist, especially as one who had studied the drought in the United States and New Caprica a few years back, he felt he could offer his advice on the people and the state of the planet.
"Caprica, this isn't going to be very easy for me", he told his wife in their quarters on board the King. "I'm not looking forward to this."
"If Kara could face going back to Cylon Earth and seeing that Viper again you can get through this, my dear", she said, with a mixture of affection and exasperation. He had never quite grown a full backbone, especially when it came to his own past, but he had improved remarkably since after the battle with The Colony. "You're there more as a scientist than anything, remember", she reminded him. "Just take it one step, one day at a time."
"You're right, of course", he said apologetically. "Kara faced a much more difficult task than this, but I worked so hard to get away from this world...but the people who are left deserve our help, so I'll make it through it", he then smiled. "Perhaps it will make me a stronger person, not unlike Starbuck in facing down her demons?"
"I hope you're right, Gaius", she said with a softer tone,. "Look, I'm not overly thrilled about coming back here for personal reasons myself. I know what I did to inflict this on these people but I made a commitment a long time ago to help Humanity, and I'll be damned if I go back on my word."
"Think you'll fly any of the missions?", he inquired delicately.
She paused, then sighed. "I'm not sure, Gaius", she said plaintively. "I have always tried to lead by example, and doing everything that I asked my troops to do, but I could very well be recognized there, and that may not help matters much", she paused and took a breath, "but I have to at least fly some scouting missions from the air to survey the shape of the planet. I can't do anything less than at least that."
"I guess we both have our phobias to overcome on this trip, my dear", she said without rancor. "I just hope we're all up to the task."
Captain Nicholas "Axman" Bond was finishing his CAP duties for another day and was on final to touchdown aboard the Adama. He was not only CAG of the Flagship but by default, that gave him the title of CAG for the entire fleet of Raptors and Falcons for this journey. He wouldn't be here at all if the former CAG on the Adama hadn't lost her wife in a tragic auto accident in Munich, Germany several months before the launch. As it was, he was glad that he was here, since his older adopted sister, Kara, and his parents had both been chosen for the mission. And it had all come together for the family when his younger sister Abby Bond-Crieder had accepted a last-minute posting as Chief Medical Officer onboard the DSE Carl Sagan.
The forty-three-year-old Captain had felt blessed to get this assignment. While there was still military protocol to follow under his Boss, Admiral Lee Adama, the Admiral had given his pilots a little more freedom when flying to improvise some. The Admiral had always been a proponent for military discipline and the Chain Of Command, but he also believed that those under him couldn't learn everything from "the book"-whatever book that might be for their specialty. He had wanted pilots who could think, improvise when needed, and keep their wits about them at all times. Nick Bond fit right into that mold.
He would head up to CIC to see Admiral Adama before showering and then having something to eat. They were just two days away from the first real, in-force mission to Caprica, and he wanted to make sure he was on the same page as the Boss.
"Reporting as ordered, Admiral", CAG saluted crisply to both the Admiral and his XO, Commander Brevin Cross, both returning the salute.
"Thanks for getting up here, Nick", Lee said with a smile on his face. He was practically like another member of The Bond clan, and long before he and Nick were part of the Chain of Command, the two had become friends. But both knew the line between that and their duty. "Brevin has put the final touches on the Op Plan for scouting Caprica, and I want you two to go over it this evening just to fine-tune it if needed, and then to brief your pilots tomorrow morning."
"Wilco, Admiral", Nick looked over at Commander Cross. "Any major changes in there, sir?"
Cross shook his head. "No, Nick, just some minor stuff, to be honest, but it never hurts to make sure the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed."
"Sounds good to me, Commander", he said with a nod of his head. "Do you mind if I shower and eat first?" He smiled at his two Bosses. "I'm starving right now." Commander Cross chuckled at that.
"I don't want our CAG to be hungry for this mission, Captain, so eat away", which elicited smiles from the three Officers.
"Just an FYI, Nick", Lee interjected, "Admiral Thrace-Bond launched her first full-scale mission for Aerilon about two hours ago", he said with another smile. Nick idolized his older, adopted sister, and she, along with her father, had been the reason he had wanted to join first the U.S. Air Force, then UED. "She sent me a message this morning to tell you 'Godspeed and safe landings.'"
"Just like Kara", he grinned ruefully. "Well, when you message her back, give her the same message from me", he said, eyes beaming at the thought of Starbuck, "but for now, gentlemen, with your permission, time to shower and eat." The three men saluted each other, and the Captain left CIC.
Nick was hoping that he didn't seem like he was rushing the briefing, but he had a good reason to want to shower quickly-he had a companion for dinner that evening. About ten months earlier, he had met a Raptor engine mechanic onboard the Adama, and he had been seeing her since.
Natalia Schrevrenko was a thirty-three-year-old Russian from Smolensk, a city that had seen its share of war over the centuries. She came from a military family, just like Nick Bond and they had gotten along from the first moment they had met.
He hadn't told his parents or his sisters yet-or anyone else for that matter, as the two were waiting for their relationship to develop further. Nick felt he'd be able to tell them all soon because things were developing in the relationship.
"Roslin Actual, CAG, we're beginning our approach to Goath, standard dispersal pattern." The CAG onboard the Laura Roslin was a young, typically fiery redhead from Virginia named Cory Mathers. Call Sign Sundown, she had been the youngest CAG in UED when she was picked for the position six years ago and was still the youngest, as far as anyone knew.
She had grown into a teenager several years after the War in '27, idolizing Kara Thrace-Bond. Starbuck was legendary among younger girls, and Cory had wanted to be a bad-ass pilot just like her idol. So when the interviews had started for CAG on the Roslin, she had jumped at the chance for an interview. She was twenty-seven then and didn't think she had any shot at getting the position. But she was confident, had a sparkling service record, and had a drive that Kara had seen in only a few pilots. After the interview with Sundown, Kara didn't schedule anymore-she took the young lady to be her Air Boss and had never regretted it.
"CAG, Actual, copy that, proceed with your landings, advise when all birds are safely down", Kara responded to Sundown.
"Aye, Admiral, CAG out."
There were forty Raptors in this first in-force mission that would land about seven miles East of the former Capital of Aerilon. Each Raptor had a crew of three, plus ten Marines each. The group would fan out and approach Goath. This was the first boots-on-the-ground mission for the Roslin group. It was a fact-finding mission and nothing else if they could help it.
Five minutes later, all forty Raptors were on the ground, their passengers' boots on the ground. With each group of thirteen, there was one specialist who spoke the native language of Aerilon, in case they did run into survivors.
Once on the ground, Captain Mathers ceded command of the entire enterprise to Marine General Seth Trevor, a fifty-six year old native or Aerilon. He had grown up roaming the planet as a young boy and man and knew the terrain like the back of his hand. He would lead the reconnoiter of Goath.
When all four-hundred and seventy members of the patrol were organized across a three-kilometer front, General Trevor depressed the microphone for his in-helmet radio to talk to the Captains in charge of each group.
"All units, this is General Trevor, we have the green light to move in force towards Goath. Safeties on, standard formation. It's still early in the day, so we don't need to double-time there. Keep your eyes sharp for anything, all units, forward."
And with that, the forty different squads moved out.
Sundown was alert, but not nervous. They had trained for this over and over, sometimes on deserted moons, simply to get their formations set. It was a good day to march: about seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, with a light breeze, and some cloud cover to break up the glare from Helios Delta overhead. It would take them about three hours to cover the distance.
They encountered not a soul in the open country east of the remains of the city. As they moved closer, the remnants of buildings and some homes became visible. A few makeshift wooden structures also came into sight, which meant that more than likely, someone had lived in the area after The Holocaust.
Around mid-day, the entire scout force was a few hundred yards from the city. General Trevor once again keyed his radio.
"All units, assume urban deployment, safeties off your weapons. From here on out, we have to consider this a combat zone. Again, keep a clear eye, Trevor out."
Captain Mathers took a deep breath, flipped off the safety on her assault weapon, and headed forward.
"OK, here we go..."
Around the same time, around eight clicks South of Delphi, Caprica, Nick Bond landed his Raptor. The second-largest city on the planet before The Holocaust, Admiral Adama had wanted to start here because there seemed to be signs that what was left of the city and surrounding smaller towns had been cleaned up somewhat since The Holocaust, while Caprica City had looked deserted.
Like Sundown on Aerilon, Captain Nick Bond gave up command once on the ground. Marine General Kendrick Grayson, a former United States Marine, was in charge of the ground mission. He was what you expected of a Leatherneck: tough, no-nonsense, and a singular focus on the mission at hand. He had seen enough combat years before to know that he had no love for fighting, but he would protect his command if it came to it.
"OK, everyone", the General announced to his troops, "we move out in five minutes, get your gear organized ASAP. It'll take us about two hours to reach Delphi."
And right on schedule, they moved five minutes later. It was a chilly day on Caprica, with temperatures around fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit, but it was comfortable for the march.
Like Cory Mathers on the other side of the system, Nick Bond was paired up with the Commanding General. The two talked about military life before joining UED, with, as expected, some good-natured shots at the others' branch of the service, but it was all in fun as they kept their eyes peeled for anything.
They approached the city by early afternoon, and what they had seen in their overflights of the city was borne out on the ground: if there had been rubble here, it had been cleaned up. The buildings certainly had not been rebuilt, but the streets were clear.
The city certainly felt like a ghost town to Captain Bond, but something didn't feel right about the quiet. Instincts honed over years in the service told him when something seemed out of place. He didn't know why but it just didn't seem right.
About fifteen minutes after entering the city, a call came out from the left side of the spread-out scouting party. "Command, Unit one-five, we have movement on our front, about a thousand yards."
"One-Five, Grayson, hold position, I'll be there in a few minutes", then he turned to Nick Bond. "Nick, you're with me. Everyone else stays on the defensive, we need to check this out."
Ten minutes later, the General and Captain were with Unit Fifteen. "Lieutenant Sizemore, what do you have?", the General said as he approached the unit leader?
"Sir, that block of buildings straight ahead? The third one from the right, we definitely saw movement, not sure if it was human, but we all saw it."
"Let's get a little closer to see what's around there", the General replied. He didn't have to ask if the safeties were off of the weapons, as that had occurred when they approached the city. "Standard dispersal." The forces paired off in three loose formations of five soldiers each, headed toward the sighting.
I'd rather be in my Falcon or Raptor, Nick Bond mused to himself. Like most pilots, that was his comfort zone, not ground-pounding. But he had been well-trained for this mission, and he trusted his military instincts to see him through.
The group was quiet as they approached, General and Captain slightly in the lead of the others. When they got to within around three-hundred feet of the row of structures, the General suddenly raised his arm and clenched his fist, which was the signal to "hold position". Everyone stopped, still keeping their heads on a swivel looking for trouble in all directions.
The General signaled to the Aerilon Language Specialist in his unit and motioned the woman forward. "Corporal Grell, I'm pretty sure there are people in there. See if you can talk to them if you please."
"Yes sir", the Corporal responded. She grabbed the bullhorn that was with every Specialist and began speaking.
"Attention to those in the building in front of us, we are from the Colonial Armed Forces, please show yourselves." It had been decided during the planning of this mission that it would make no sense to say they were from UED since no one on here would have a clue what that meant. And, in a sense, these forces were representing what would, they hope, be a future Colonial government.
All the soldiers in the area had gone to one knee, to present as small a target as possible to any assailants, their weapons at the ready. For a few minutes, nothing happened. Corporal Grell repeated the message.
Finally, after five minutes there was movement visible inside the building, and human figures were outlined from inside the dark structure. Nick Bond tensed his finger on the trigger but keeping himself calm.
Then about a dozen people emerged...
"Jesus Christ", General Grayson breathed, almost to himself.
"God Almighty", Nick Bond followed.
The other troops in the area, now numbering more than sixty, stayed alert, covering any direction in case bad guys popped out. But those who were facing the building suddenly lowered their weapons, mouths agape.
Before them were eight children and four women. All of them wearing nothing but rags; all of them with blank expressions on their faces; all of them as skinny as skeletons. All looked frightened out of their minds.
Grayson then spoke to his troops. "Everyone, stay cool, keep your eyes locked and weapons cocked, just in case this is a trap. Approaching the subjects."
Grayson looked at Captain Bond, who nodded, and then they and Corporal Grell began a slow approach towards the people in front of them. They had lowered their weapons, and put the safeties on, with their arms stretched cautiously out in front of them, with their hands raised, palms facing the women and children.
Chapter 2: Chaper Two
Chapter Two of this work.
General Trevor and Captain Mathers were finding things much more peaceful on the other side of the Colonial System on Aerilon. By the end of the second day, they had personally found more than two-hundred people who had come out of the woodwork, quite literally, in Goath, and the other smaller hamlets in the area. For now, they were the only team on Goath, but more were to descend in the next forty-eight hours in the smaller hamlets around the planet. Aerilon had never had large cities-Goath itself had only contained around seventy thousand inhabitants at its zenith, and since it had looked tidied up, it was the best place to start.
Several leaders had emerged to speak for the natives. The first was a man who looked to be in his early fifties as counted on Earth, who went by the name of Maris Pride, a burly man who stood about six feet even and looked like he could play linebacker in the NFL.
A younger woman had also emerged among the throng. She looked to be around thirty-five, and stood about five-three, just like Cory Mathers. Larna Flock was a well-spoken, seemingly very intelligent lady, and was a natural at speaking for the others. Another leader seemed to be a young, tall, lean lad in his twenties named Gerrod Prence. He was quieter but seemed to be another intelligent, well-spoken person.
Gaius Baltar had come down to join the group. Like General Trevor, he was a native and wanted to speak to these descendants of his birthplace.
On the third day with the residents, the other two days being used for everyone to get comfortable with each other, they began talking in earnest. Gaius started the dialogue.
"As I said, I was born here on Aerilon, just outside of Cuffle's Breath Wash, quite a long time ago."
There was still some lingering suspicion, but Maris Pride seemed to recognize a fellow native. "So, Gaius, you left from here when the bombs fell?"
"No, actually, I was on Caprica when the attack began', he said honestly. "I was doing research in Caprica City and was able to get out on a Raptor that took me to the Battlestar Galactica.
"So, you ran away with the rest?", Gerrod Prence eyed him, with more suspicion than the older man.
"If you want to call it that, lad", General Trevor spoke up. "We didn't look at it that way, to be honest", he continued. "The Cylons were nuking everything, and some of us were lucky enough to get to Galactica."
"So, where have all our Battlestars been for all these years", Larna Flock inquired, without any hint of accusation. "I mean you've been gone for years."
This time Gaius spoke up after a hush had fallen over the members of the Fleet who were in earshot. "By the end of the day of the attack, there was one Battlestar left", he said, remembering that chaos that he had helped unleash,
"A second Battlestar did survive, but we didn't find that out for several years", the General added. "The Pegasus survived, but was destroyed not long after saving many of the survivors from Galactica and the handful of civilian ships that managed to escape."
Maris jumped back into the fascinating conversation. "So you're back here on Galactica, is that correct?"
Another pause from the members of The Fleet.
"Galactica was destroyed many years ago in another War", Gaius said as carefully as he could. "We arrived here on the Battlestar Laura Roslin."
That name was met with a blank star from Maris, who wasn't just a pup, or not even born, like the other two, when the Holocaust had descended, "Who the blazes is Laura Roslin, and why does she have a ship named after her?"
Gaius smiled briefly. He felt it was time to let a little more of the story out and in a unique way. "That is going to take quite a while to explain", and he turned to Captain Cory Mathers. The Earth native had not spoken yet, and for obvious reasons, but Gaius felt this was the time to introduce a new voice. "Captain Mathers", he began in English, "why don't you recount the story from what you know of the history-and in your own language, if you please?"
The use of a completely alien tongue had startled his guests, who recoiled. Gaius raised his hands towards them. "My friends, don't be afraid, but it's time we tell you more about what is going on." And he smiled at Sundown.
The Governor was sitting in a comfortable chair, as relaxed as he could be since this was the first time he was trying this. Sitting across from him was Doctor Elaine Beazos, who was a Clinical Psychologist. The nightmares hadn't ended, so Justin Bond was finally taking his wife's advice.
He just hadn't told Judith that that was what he was doing.
He had told her that he had fleet business on the DSE Gandhi, and, indeed, he did have some to take care of. But he had also made an appointment to see the good Doctor in regards to the nightmare's he was still having involving Kara.
"Governor Bond, thank you for coming and visiting me", the forty-two-year-old woman said to him with a smile. "How can I be of service to you today?"
The Governor went over the details of the nightmares. He gave her the background about what Kara had gone through so many years ago; he recounted his visit to the site of the Viper Cockpit, and the emotional toll it had taken on him. The nightmares themselves were all pretty much the same, with only the beginning of the dreams sometimes being different. But they always ended up with him looking at his adopted daughter in the cockpit of a Viper that was breaking apart, and with the same voice from Hell at the end before he woke up.
Doctor Beazos took notes while the Governor was speaking. He had tried to be as dispassionate as he could when going over the nightmares, but the Doctor could see and sense the raw emotion that the man felt when these nightmares occurred.
This was strictly a get-to-know session, and the Doctor wanted to go over all the Governor had told her before they had another session. But she did have a few questions.
"Do you think these nightmares are affecting your ability to govern, sir?" She asked, quite clinically.
"No, I don't think they have", Justin Bond answered honestly. "I've had these nightmares for over a year, and from what I can tell, it hasn't. My wife knows about the nightmares; as do Kara, Admiral Adama and Admiral Baltar. And I've asked them all to keep an eye on how I'm doing."
"And no complaints from them so far?"
Justin Bond smiled in spite of himself. "Oh, I imagine they complain about me in some manner, but as far as my fitness as Governor, they say they haven't noticed anything."
"They don't happen every night, correct?"
"No, Doctor, they don't", he continued, "and on those nights I get a very good night's sleep. But on the nights I get the nightmares..." his voice trailed off. Those had been nights where he couldn't sleep much.
"OK, Governor Bond", she said, concluding the first session. "I've got some data here to work with. First meetings are always like this, just finding out what the problem is, then in our later sessions, we'll go into trying to get you over these nightmares."
Justin Bond rose from his seat. "I thank you Doctor Beazos, I really do", he said gratefully. "Trust me, I want to get rid of these damn things."
"I know you do, sir", she smiled, "but one thing I can already determine about you regarding all this is that you care very much for your daughter."
He smiled and nodded. "Yes, I do. I care for all my children. This is just something I've never dealt with before, and it has shaken me."
"And that's why we're both here", she said with a final smile. "I'll see you soon, sir."
Gaius Baltar and Sundown had been talking to the leaders of the natives that they had discovered for a few days now. They seemed healthy enough, and all had gone through basic physicals from Gaius and other doctors in The Fleet. Radiation levels within the inhabitants were a little high, but not dangerously so. Readings from the crops and cities that had been observed also indicated that the levels were not dangerous. The radiation had apparently run its course. This planet was definitely habitable once again.
They had gained enough trust of the three leaders that Gaius felt they were about ready to take the next step in revealing what had happened in the intervening years. Cory Mathers had only recited the flight away from The Colonies, until just before the Battle with The Colonies. Gaius helped fill in the blanks, as even though anyone involved with UED was fluent in the chronology of events, Gaius could give that "I was there" touch. Now, he wanted to go further.
After breakfast on the fourth morning, Maris Pride, Larna Flock, and Gerrod Prence met with Gaius, General Trevor, and Captain Mathers.
General Trevor started the conversation. "Again, we thank you for your hospitality, folks", he smiled. "That breakfast sure beats food on the ship.", which made everyone smile and laugh. "There's a lot we still need to let you know about. We've only revealed part of what has happened, and that's been for a reason."
Larna spoke up first. "I understand, General, I have a feeling we're going to hear even more things that will be, well, interesting?"
"That's an understatement, Ms. Flock", Gaius said with a sardonic grin.
"Gaius", Trevor turned to him, "you have the honors."
Gaius took up where Mathers had left off the day before. He told them about the battle with The Colony, and Galactica's desperate jump away, and then he opened up to his hosts about what happened after that.
"When we came out of the jump, we found ourselves in a Solar System that consisted of nine planets and one sun", he said, remembering that incredible day. "We realized that the third closest planet to the sun was inhabited."
The guests didn't react in shock, but he definitely had their rapt attention.
"We sent out a Raptor to monitor any video images from the planet, and we made an astounding discovery", he turned and looked at Sundown, who hadn't spoken yet. "The inhabitants were human, almost identical to us."
The three leaders did react to that. They had noticed something different about the young woman who spoke the funny language, but they hadn't been sure. But the enunciation of this finding did startle them.
Maris then continued the exchange. "And, if I'm correct, this beautiful young lady here", he tilted his head towards Cory Mathers who blushed, "is from that planet?"
"Yes, she is." Gaius nodded solemnly in confirmation. "Cory, tell them a little about yourself through me."
"Yes, uh", she began nervously in Caprican this time. "My name is Captain Cory Mathers, I am a native of the Planet Earth..."
She was about to continue when Gerrod Prence interrupted. "Earth? Wait a moment, Doctor, but didn't you say you found 'Earth' along the journey, and that it was abandoned and the cities destroyed."
"That is true", he confirmed, "the planet was what we knew of in our legends as 'Earth', but the planet full of Human Beings we discovered also call their planet 'Earth' as well", he then smiled. "Trust me, it was all quite confusing to us at the time."
Larna thought she had put the pieces together, "So, these Humans on the Earth that the Captain is from came from this other Earth?"
General Trevor spoke up this time, feeling he needed to break this news to them. "It's possible somewhere in the past, people from the first Earth ended up on the second one, but there's one problem with that conclusion, as we found out.'
"And what is that, General?", Gerrod asked.
"The first Earth, that was destroyed? We found a lot of skeletal remains throughout the planet. We estimated the place was destroyed about two thousand years ago. But not a single inhabitant whose remains we studied were human. They looked like us exactly, but they weren't human."
That stunned the three leaders into momentary silence, not even Gerrod could speak for a moment. Finally, Maris spoke the words that he really didn't want to speak. "So, who in the name of the gods were they."
Trevor sighed, then looked directly at the three. "They were Cylons."
Again, there was dead silence, as those words tried to penetrate the minds of the three people representing their people.
"Cy...Cylons?", Larna finally spoke, with dread on her face. "But they're machines. We made them centuries ago!"
"Correct", Gaius interjected, "but somewhere in the past, the Cylons became capable of making Humanoid beings, and the original Earth was populated with both Humanoid and mechanical Cylons. It will take a long time to explain that one."
"And, what was worse", the General continued, "is that a few of them, just before the destruction of the planet, had developed 'resurrection' technology, and there were twelve different Cylon 'models' that could die, as it were, and be reborn, if a resurrection ship was close enough."
That set off five minutes of hysterics among the three leaders. General Trevor informed them that, as far as they knew, Galactica and Pegasus had destroyed all the Resurrection ships. "So, the few that are left, are quite mortal now."
"How many is a 'few', Doctor?", Gerrod inquired archly.
He told them about Galen, Leoben, Athena, and the Sixes, of which there were still more than a few left back on Earth.
"And they're mortal?", Larna followed up.
"Yes, quite", Gaius said, then looking at Trevor with a look that clearly said You tell them about Caprica, please?
"Yes. One of them is a Rear-Admiral with United Earth Defense-that's the organization that sprang up after we arrived at the second Earth. He has been in charge of building the new fleet; one is a former Lieutenant in The Colonial Fleet, and is married to another Admiral, who is human who has his own Battlestar near Earth; one has become kind of a recluse, wandering the world, studying Earth's religions, and the last one, there are several of her left-maybe a half-dozen, but one is an Admiral commanding one of the ships above us-and her name is Admiral Caprica Baltar."
The three swung their looks at Gaius. "You married a thing?", Larna said with disgust.
"No, I married a person, Larna", Gaius said reasonably, "a person who turned her back on the Cylons and has supported Humanity ever since. She was even a key figure in the Earth-Cylon War."
"The what?" Maris jaw almost hit the ground.
"Yes, you heard me right", and Gaius turned to Captain Mathers again. "Cory, I think it would be instructive if you pick up the story from there."
On Caprica, General Grayson and Captain Bond had finally found two women who volunteered to give them information. What they found out was frightening.
The leader of the four, was a young lady, probably in her early thirties, named Blythe Chedra. She hadn't had any formal education, as she was born around the time of The Holocaust, but had one of those minds that naturally had commons sense embedded within her.
Grayson went into some more details. "So you're saying this group is holed up in the Caprican Mountain Range, east of Caprica City?"
"Yes, General", she confirmed, "they call themselves The Kingdom. Apparently, from what we've heard they were borne out of a group of ruffians that had taken over Caparica City about five years after the Cylons came", she noted with dispassion. "About five years ago, they decided it wasn't enough just to control the remains there, so they organized, and went out hunting for men to be their, if you will, slaves."
"Slaves for what?", Nick Bond asked in fluid Caprican.
"To hunt for food, to do manual labor, to build up their stronghold in the mountains. And, also to sire children, since many of them lost the ability to reproduce after the poison that came out of the bombs."
Nick look at his General. "General, maybe we're missing something, but I've flown a Falcon and a Raptor over that area, and we've seen nothing."
"I'm not surprised", said Blythe, "they are barbarians, but they aren't stupid. They constructed a camouflage network that covers the entire area. And since there are forests as well as rocks in the mountains, it's very well concealed."
"Nick, can you go to the command tent and get in touch with Admiral Adama and the Governor about this?"
"Yes, sir", Nick saluted and hustled away.
Blythe gave the General a sideways glance. "That name, 'Adama', it sounds very familiar?", she said aloud. One of the other ladies in the group named Thea Breakers, who was in her fifties it seemed, turned her head around when hearing the word "Adama".
"Adama?", she almost yelled the name. "You mean the Adama who cowardly snuck away during The Holocaust on the Galactica?"
"Thea, what are you going on about?" Blythe stepped in to try and calm her down.
"Just like the other Battlestars, Galactica left us here to rot away, while they lived the high life gods-knows-where." She was red-faced and looked like she wanted to punch the General.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Breakers, but The Fleet didn't run away. With the exception of Galactica and Pegasus, every other Battlestar was destroyed the day of the attack."
Thea went from red-faced to a startled silence in an instant. "Wait, they destroyed all the Battlestars but two?"
"Yes, ma'am", the General said quietly. "Pegasus was destroyed in another battle against The Cylons a few years later, but only Galactica survived until the end of its journey."
"And where did the journey end up?", Thea looked sideways at him. "You know, General, you don't quite look like a Colonial, and you speak a good Caprican, but I can tell it was learned. Just where did Galactica end up?"
Grayson sighed, and then plunged into the complicated mess that was UED. "It's a long story, ladies, and we weren't quite ready to tell you all of that, but I guess now will do."
Lee Adama had informed both Governor Bond and Admiral Thrace-Bond about the original discovery that only women and children were being found on Caprica at the moment. But when Captain Nick Bond had relayed the information they had discovered on the surface he felt he needed a conference with Grayson, Commander Cross, Nick Bond, the Governor, and Kara.
The Fleet had left Earth with the hope that they wouldn't have to fire a shot in anger, but this was turning into something that could require a military response. Lee wasn't to that point yet obviously. He needed more information from the surface, and he needed to counsel with the people he trusted most in this situation.
Kara had received the urgent summons from Lee, then called her father to tell her she would pick him up in her Raptor then they would jump to Caprica. She did stop to say hello to her mother, then the Governor and the Admiral headed to join the William Adama.
Kara and Justin Bond were the last to arrive, and Lee and the other three met them in the "War Room" which was a stone's throw away from CIC, "Governor, Admiral", he said, getting up and shaking both their hands, "I'm sorry for the suddenness of the summons, but this goes beyond simply a scouting of the planet."
"No apologies needed, Lee", the Governor smiled at the younger man. "I told you when we split The Fleet that we could be here quickly if needed."
"Besides", Kara interjected, always ready to take a playful shot at her longtime friend, "it lets us second-guess your final decision, Admiral", but she added a wink to let him know that it was cool.
He laughed. "Well, that's what happens when your Top Dog, of course, I could always point at the Governor", he grinned at Justin Bond.
"Well, that puts me in my place", he said deadpan. Everyone had a brief laugh, which is what the Governor wanted. He knew this would be a serious skull session, but he wanted everyone as relaxed as possible.
"So, what's the latest, Admiral Adama?", the Governor brought the meeting around to the business at hand.
"So far, with the last report, we have found approximately fifteen thousand people throughout the Planet. The people we've located tell us there's plenty more, but there has been such fear over the last five to ten years there that most are in hiding."
"Any chance there could be some men hiding throughout the planet?", Kara said intently.
General Grayson spoke to that point. "Yes, Admiral, there's a high probability of that."
"The women we've talked to said many people took off to more remote areas of the planet", the General got up and went to a topographical map of the planet that had been projected on the War Plan table.
He first pointed at The Caprican Mountains, some thirty miles East of that city. "Here's the general area of the stronghold," he said, running his fingers to the right side of the mountain range. "From what we can gather from the women we've talked to, and these are just estimates, the stronghold runs from around Granite Peak, southward to around the Fromma Pass, which is some forty miles across. Again, these are rough guesses at this time."
"Lee", Governor Bond spoke up for the first time, "how tall are those mountains, especially from Granite to Fromma?" Lee moved around to the map.
"Granite is about ten thousand feet up, and Fromm is lower, about seven thousand feet from sea level."
"So we're not talking Everest or the top peaks of the Rockies, right?" Nick Bond added his voice.
"Correct, Captain", Lee nodded at his CAG. "They're no slouches, but it would not be like going into the height of the Rockies, say west of Denver or Calgary."
The Governor turned to General Grayson. "I imagine you're already putting together some kind of plan to reconnoiter and narrow down the amount of territory these thugs own?"
"Yes, Governor Bond, we're already planning this", he nodded at his Governor. "I, Commander Cross, Captain Bond, and my commanders are looking at both aerial and on-the-ground recon." He looked over at Nick Bond. "Nick is putting together the airborne scouting, and I'm concentrating mostly on the ground movements."
"Will this hinder searching the rest of the planet, Lee?", it was Kara again. "I mean, so far on Aerilon, things are going smoothly. I can lend you some Raptors or Falcons if you need them?"
Lee shook his head. "No, we're not at that point yet. If we have to launch any kind of air or ground campaign to get at these suckers, then I might, but that also depends on what you're dealing with at the time, Kara", and then he continued. "We still have more than enough Raptors and Falcons for air cover, and we won't run short of transports to take food and water to the surface unless things really get ugly." Kara nodded and jotted a note on her notepad. She had carried one of those pads with her since she had become the UED Military Liaison to then-President Justin Bond, some twenty-six years ago. She felt almost naked without it when at a conference.
The Governor turned to his son. "Nick, how are the air recon plans coming?"
"Well dad...uh, I mean, Governor", which elicited smiles from the group, "right now I'm looking to use about thirty Raptors for low-level recon, and perhaps about sixty Falcons for higher passes. As plans are now, I'll be manning a Raptor and leading the low-level surveillance."
Kara looked over at her little brother, and in a reverse of what had happened before the two of them had taken a Raptor to scout Kepler 452b, Nick smiled and winked at his sister. Don't worry, big sister, I got this. Kara knew exactly what he was saying with that wink, and she allowed a small smile to cross her face.
"When do you see launching this op, Lee?", the Governor wanted more specifics at this point.
"We're thinking in about five days. We've obviously game-planned similar scenarios in training back on Earth and on the voyage over here, so once we get the details ironed out, we'll be good to go."
"Very good, Admiral Adama", Justin Bond said approvingly. "One more question, Lee."
"Maybe you, the General, and Captain Bond can take us to the surface to talk to some of the survivors?" They hadn't expected that, but no one was shocked. Justin Bond wasn't a micro-manager, but he did like to see for himself what was going on down below. "Sorry, Brevin", he continued, "all you get to do is Command this lousy ship", he said with a sardonic grin at Lee's XO.
Again, it broke the tension with laughter.
"It's not a bad consolation prize, Governor", the young XO laughed in return. "I figure I'll get on the ground soon enough." With that everyone got up, Justin Bond went over to clasp the XO on the back as they both chuckled.
"Governor, if I may, when would you like to go, sir?" Lee inquired.
The Governor looked at his watch, which was set to Fleet Standard Time, which was Pacific Time back on Earth. "Well, it's 1830 now, so do you mind having us as your guests tonight, and going down, oh, say, 0800 tomorrow morning."
Lee broke out in a broad grin. "Governor, Admiral", he said looking at Kara, "it would be my honor. In fact, dinner's on me for this motley crew at 1930."
"It's a date", Kara spoke with an impish smile on her face.
Admiral Caprica Baltar wished that Admiral Thrace-Bond were around. But Kara had been called to the other side of the Colonial System to talk about the problems on Caprica. She didn't begrudge Kara that, but she really wanted to talk to her Boss at that moment.
After her husband and General Trevor had filled her in on the talk they had with the three spokespersons on Aerilon-about the Cylon Earth, the Battle at The Colony, the trip to Earth, the Earth-Cylon war, and so on, the leaders wanted to meet the two "alleged", as Gerrod Prence had said, Cylon Admirals.
Admiral Galen Tyrol was in charge of the Raptor/Falcon launch ships and the missile ships that accompanied The Fleet on the journey. He did go back and forth between the split command, and fortunately, he was with the Aerilon group at the moment. He had summoned him to meet with Gaius, Commander Carrico, General Trevor and herself. Since Kara was on the other side of the mission, her XO wanted the meeting onboard the Laura Roslin.
Gaius recounted what had taken place in the conversation the day before, to get the XO up to speed. Even though Chase Carrico was junior to both the General and Caprica, he was, at this moment, The Boss of this half of the fleet until Admiral Thrace-Bond returned.
"So, that's basically it.", Gaius said in his opening statement. "To paraphrase from Scripture in the New Testament, I'd say we are burdened with a lot of Doubting Thomases."
"General Trevor", Commander Carrico looked at the Marine, "security concerns for Admiral Baltar and Admiral Tyrol if they go down to the surface?"
"Commander, you have my assurances that I will keep both of them safe at all times", he paused as Chase began to speak. "I know, Commander, you need to ask that question, and it's prudent to do so, but I will protect them with my life if I have to."
Both Galen and Caprica looked over at the man from Aerilon, and both thought just how far things had come for them and the other remaining Cylons since the journey to Earth. Such a thing could never have been imagined during that journey. A bloody coup attempt had been launched because of the presence of Cylons within The Fleet. Hell, he thought, there was a terrorist attack in New Caprica over the same thing five years earlier. Tyrol thought grimly to himself, Felix Gaeta and Narcho must be spinning their graves.
"Thank you, General", Galen spoke up. "We appreciate your support." Trevor knew what that meant, and while he had never walked in their Cylon shoes, he understood that, even now, thirty years after that mutiny, the remaining Cylons still harbored some fear of some humans, and he couldn't blame them. Like Galen, he thought about the mutiny and the attacks in New Caprica.
"The honor is mine, sirs", the General said, looking at both the Cylons. "Those days are gone among people with honor and dignity within this Fleet, and I'm quite sure we don't have anyone who doesn't fit that bill, sirs. All of our troops on the ground will protect you if the need arises."
"General, are there any reports there about people really being uneasy?", she asked, with that same lingering paranoia, "because that's the last thing I want."
"I understand, Admiral", the General smiled. "I just talked to Captain Mathers before our meeting and Sundown tells me the leaders and those who know of what was said are tense, but there's no sign of any type of mutinous activity among the natives."
As the Commander on the spot, even though he was below the rank of the two Admirals, Chase had to make the call in Kara's stead. "OK, General, I approve this, if both of you sirs have no problem going down there." Both Admirals felt the awkwardness in the XO's voice, giving orders to them, and Galen smiled.
"I'm fine with it", he looked at the XO, "sir." And a broad grin came over his face.
"Thank you, Admiral Tyrol, it is kind of weird giving orders to superiors like this", he chuckled in spite of yourself.
"Right now, sir, you're The Boss, and we to take orders concerning The Fleet from you, until Starbuck comes back."
"General, you will take the two Admirals down to the surface at 0900 tomorrow morning. I will inform Admiral Tharce-Bond and the Governor of my decisions."
The other three stood up in unison, and they saluted the XO before he could do so first. "Thank you again dismissed...uh, sirs", and they chuckled as they headed out.
It was a picture-perfect morning on Caprica, just outside the remains of Delphi. The Governor, Admiral Thrace-Bond, and Admiral Adama were escorted by General Grayson and Captain Nick Bond. They landed near the remains of the city. Eventually, The Fleet would have to deploy the ground vehicles like Jeeps and Armored Personnel Carriers, but that time had not arrived yet. They didn't want this looking like an invasion unless they found someone they had to fight.
A squad commander caught sight of the VIP's and immediately came attention and bellowed. "Ten-Hut! Governor Of The Fleet, Admirals Of The Fleet on deck!" Most of the soldiers and Marines in the area turned and snapped to attention. A few remained to look in other directions just to make sure everything was cool.
"As you were, Captain", the Governor said warmly, shaking the man's hand. "SitRep, General?"
"Sir, all present and accounted, no problems to speak of, we do have a group of ladies here that would like an audience with you and the Admirals."
"Then lead the way, General Grayson." Grayson took the point of the party. He filled in the three visitors about the woman. Along with Blythe Chedra, and Thea Breakers, who had stepped up a few days earlier as spokeswomen, a third woman named Channing Bree had also come forward. She looked to be in her forties and had a no-nonsense look about her.
"Ladies", General Grayson said in Caprican, "I'd like you to meet the Top Command of The Fleet: Governor Justin Bond, who is the Commander-In-Chief of our forces and head of the Civilian Government in The Fleet", he nodded at the ladies, "Admiral Lee Adama, the Commander-In-Chief of all military units in The Fleet, this is Captain Nicholas Bond, who is Commander Air Group of all our birds", Thea looked over at Lee with a bit of annoyance in hearing the name Adama, but she had been mollified to a large extent after Grayson and Nick Bond had explained recent history, "And finally, Admiral Kara Thrace Bond, second in command of our military and Commander of the Battlestar Laura Roslin."
Blythe was faster on the uptake than the other two. She first looked at Justin Bond, then Nick Bond and then Kara. "You all have the same last name, yet...two of you seem to be from Earth, but you, my dear", she said looking at Kara, "look like a native of these worlds."
Kara smiled proudly. "You are correct, Ms. Chedra. I am the Governor's daughter, and the Captain's sister", she looked at both of them proudly. "The Governor and our First Lady of The Fleet adopted me to be their child just over twenty Earth years ago during the Earth-Cylon War."
That did surprise the three ladies more than a little. "So", Thea said coolly, "you weren't good enough to be a Colonial, eh? You had to become a family with these strangers?"
Kara looked momentarily like she would take our her sidearm and shoot the woman, but it was fleeting. She took that remark as a direct insult to her parents and her siblings. But the moment passed, and Lee thought to himself about the Kara of long ago and how far she had come.
He spoke up for Kara. "Ms. Breakers, with all due respect, from your point of view, they are strangers. From our point of view, being on Earth for most of our adult life, they are brothers and sisters in Humanity. Do we look slightly different, yes, but we're all Human."
He paused, then General Grayson rose in defense. "Ma'am, Governor Bond here was the leader of the strongest nation on Earth at one time; he was the voice of Humanity when The Colonial Fleet arrived at Earth; he made the first overtures to Admiral Adama and President Roslin upon their arrival; he was the steel brace for Humanity during the Earth-Cylon War." Lee forcefully concluded his statement. "He made sure The Colonials got their own Nation on Earth, and it came out of a small part of his own nation. From the day Galactica arrived, this man was determined to first preserve Colonial ways and traditions on Earth, and after the War, he was the driving force to get our collective humanity back to The Colonies."
The Governor arched his eyes a little, and let a small smile cross his face.
"Ma'am", Lee Adama added, "my father died in the Earth-Cylon War, and Governor Bond and his family are like my second family. These people in front of you", he said looking at Grayson and the two Bond men, "are the best Humanity has to offer from Earth."
The three women were quiet for a moment, then Thea Breakers spoke up with contrition in her voice, "Governor, Captain, Admiral", she looked at the three Bonds, "I apologize for my outburst. It was uncalled for. My only defense is that life here hasn't been very rosy here for a long time."
Kara stepped forward to Thea. "I understand, Thea, but you have to understand, the Governor is the greatest Human Being I've ever known, and I thought that even before he adopted me. We've shown that Humanity can be one family, and that's why we're here."
Thea smiled this time. "I hope we can do the same here, Admiral Thrace-Bond, but it's going to take a lot of doing."
"Ma'am", Governor Bond finished for them, "that's why we're here: to make this a place worth living in again for Humanity."
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Kara and her father were given adjoining VIP quarters on board the William Adama for the evening. Lee had thrown a wonderful dinner for his guests and they soon retired to their quarters. Nick stayed up for a while with his father and his sister, but he advised them he had a little more work to do that night on the Op Plan for the mission, and excused himself. The Governor and his daughter were to head back to their half of the fleet in the morning.
Kara and her father had a rarity together-they both had beers. Kara had become more of a wine drinker, thanks to her mother Judy, but she didn't mind a brewski every now and then. Usually, she and her father drank soft drinks together, but not tonight.
At around 2330, they each went to their separate sleeping quarters. Kara was asleep in minutes. But around three hours after dozing off, she heard her father screaming "Starbuck, no!" Kara turned on her light and rushed to her father's bedroom.
He was breathing heavily, with sweat running down his face, his hands slightly shaking.
Kara sat down beside him and put her arms around him. He was sweating as if he had run a marathon, but Kara knew what had caused it. After simply comforting him for a few moments, she spoke.
"Another nightmare, dad?", she said with concern on her face. She hated seeing him like this.
"You win the toy Viper model, Starbuck", he said, beginning to come out of the grips of the vision. That made Kara smile a little.
"It's OK now, dad", she kissed him on the cheek, "as you can see I'm all here."
"I know you are honey, but these nightmares...", his voice trailing off for a second, "I'm not getting them as often as I used too, babe, but they scare the hell out of me."
"I know they do, dad", she said, still holding him. "I probably could say 'they're just dreams, you know', but that would be unfair and it wouldn't be true."
"Kara, in a way, you're right they're just dreams when you come down to it, but I didn't get these type of dreams even after I was shot down in Afghanistan and was on the run behind enemy lines for nine days. Not once."
"You need to take up mom's advice and go see Doctor Beazos on the Gandhi, at least to talk things out." She was worried about him but tried to minimize that in her voice.
"I've already done that, Kara. I had my first session about ten days ago. It's been so busy since that I haven't gone back yet. I am planning to make an appointment after we get back to our half of the fleet or, what did you say it was to Lee? The 'ass-end' of The Colonies?"
Kara gave out her mischievous laugh at that remark. "Well, Governor you're not as stubborn as you'd like all of us to think you are", she said playfully to him.
"Just do me one favor, Starbuck: don't tell your mom yet."
That made Kara frown. "You haven't told mom? Why the frack not?", she rarely got upset with her father, but even in the midst of comforting him after this latest nightmare, she couldn't understand his logic.
"I just want to see how a few sessions go, honest", he told her, getting up. She followed him into their shared dining area, and he pulled out a Pepsi for both of them. "I think I eventually want your mom in on these, but I'd like to see if I can make some progress first."
"OK", she said, twisting the top off her bottle, "I'll forgive you this time, Governor", she said with a mixture of mock and real sternness. "Mom's the best woman in the Universe and you know that."
He looked at her, taking a seat across from her. "Yes, she is, Kara, and to tell you the truth, her oldest daughter is no slouch herself", and they clinked the bottles together.
They sat up for about an hour, enjoying each other's company, even in the middle of the night. It reminded Kara of her late-night talks with him in his study when he was President and even after he left office. Those talks had taught her more about life than any book had ever done.
They finally headed back to their respective bedrooms, the Governor giving his daughter a healthy hug and a kiss on the forehead, and then going back to bed. The rest of the night went peacefully.
After the wonderful meal Captain Nicholas Bond had eaten with his father and his older sister, he returned to his quarters. The meal had helped to unwind him from the stresses of the mission so far. Running into only women and children, and all of them looking like skeletons had stunned him, and almost made him feel guilty having such a great meal.
He sat down at his computer in his quarters, to go over his log for the day, and to add any notes on what he still wanted in the Op Plan that he and General Grayson were putting together. He was deep in reading when a pair of obviously female hands grasped his shoulders and started to massage them.
Nick smiled to himself but made like he didn't notice a thing that was going on. The lady behind him knew better.
"Well, be that way, Captain Axman Bond, and see where it gets you", the woman said in Russian-accented English.
Nick still didn't look at her. "Why Ensign Natalia Schrevrenko, I didn't know it was you?", he said with mock innocence.
"A likely story, sir", she said, as he got up and put his arms around her, giving her a passionate kiss that lasted a minute, maybe two.
"So you're planning to hold out on me for my little prank, Natalie?" They still held each other tight.
"You would not enjoy such a thing I can promise you, Captain Bond", she smiled at him impishly. "We Russians don't surrender very easy."
"Oh, yeah?", Nick arched his eyebrows. "Well, my dear I can hold out pretty well myself", he said with a chuckle.
She broke the embrace. "Is that so, Captain?", she turned and started to walk away from Nick. Her top came off over her head, her bra falling by the wayside immediately after. "I think you'll surrender to me before too long, sir." She kept walking towards the bedroom.
"Yes, I surrender already!", he said with some laughter. He then sighed and started after her. Duty calls...
The following morning on Aerilon, General Trevor piloted a Raptor to the surface, bearing Gaius and the two Cylon Admirals. The General had ordered Captain Mathers to have a large detail to meet them in Goath. He not only wanted safety for his guests, but he wanted to impress upon them that the two Cylons were respected, and, more importantly, trusted among the troops.
The group approached where Sundown was. There were dozens of inhabitants behind the soldiers and were gathering around in a semi-circle, more out of curiosity than anything else. When they got close to the group, Captain Mathers called out to her forces.
"Ten-HUT!", she said with emphasis, and immediately, most of the soldiers present snapped to attention, saluting smartly. "Admirals Of The Fleet On Deck!"
Trevor looked over at the three leaders. Maris, being far and away the oldest, didn't do more than raise his eyebrows and nod in approval. Larna was neutral, but Gerrod still seemed a bit uptight about it all.
"Admiral Tyrol, Admiral Baltar, welcome to Aerilon", Cory Mathers said, still saluting.
"Thank you, Captain", Caprica said with a smile. Like Kara, she saw a bright future ahead for Cory Mathers. "It's good to see you again, Sundown.", and she shook the CAG's hand.
"Thank you, Admiral", Cory smiled, "It's been a while since I got to say hi."
After the formalities, the General and Captain escorted their two guests over to the three leaders of the ensemble, that now numbered almost nine-hundred.
General Trevor spoke up. "Mr. Pride, Ms. Flock, Mr. Prence, it is my honor to introduce to you Rear-Admiral Galen Tyrol, and Admiral Caprica Baltar, United Earth Defense."
The three spokespersons nodded without any hostility, but still curious about these Human-looking Cylons.
"Welcome, Admirals", Maris spoke for the group, "to Aerilon. We are honored by your presence. We've prepared a breakfast for you, will you join us?"
"Thank you, sir", Galen said, "we appreciate your hospitality. Food in the mess can get boring after a while", which made everyone, even the inhabitants chuckle.
It was a wonderful breakfast, consisting of eggs and a bacon that was very much like pork, and fresh water that had been transported to the surface. After the meal, General Trevor asked that the party, including Captain Mathers, retreat to a less-crowded area, so they could talk about the reason for the visit.
Before they began, Admiral Caprica spoke to them. "Thank you for a fantastic breakfast. The food onboard is OK, no matter what Galen says", and she gave him a mock stare, "but it's nice to have a fresh breakfast. I thank you all."
Maris nodded for them all, then got right to it. "I didn't know Cylon's could eat, Admiral", he said with a very neutral voice. The two Admirals had been prepared for that and even understood it.
"We do, Mr. Maris, believe me." She smiled. "If we didn't, Gaius would never get a decent meal away from the Mess onboard my ship", which made Gaius blush, and despite himself, made Maris laugh.
"She can cook, and you can't?", Maris continued, "and you call yourself a son of Aerilon!", he said, but with a wink at Gaius who actually laughed. He would never fully grasp humor, but he had come a long way.
That broke the ice a bit, and the three natives began asking questions about and to the two Cylons.
"How hard was it to break from the other Cylons, and come to the aid of humanity?", Gerrod asked with some archness.
"At first?", Caprica answered, "I won't lie, it was difficult. Being a Cylon was all I knew. Hating Humans was all I knew. But I was lucky enough to see that we're really no different. The people on Galactica were the bravest people I've ever met, and they were the reason why I eventually made the effort to close old wounds, not open new ones."
"Galen?", Larna said looking at The Chief.
"For me, ma'am, it was a little different. You see, I didn't even know I was a Cylon until halfway through the journey to Earth."
"I don't understand what that means, Admiral?", she said with confused tones.
Galen smiled. "Don't feel bad, it took me until I got to Earth to really figure it out myself, Ms. Flock." He told her about how he, Tory, Sam, and Tigh had been "switched on" in the Nebula; and how they had all decided to continue serving Galactica.
"So apparently, some two-thousand years ago, I and the other four who didn't know we were Cylons, had perfected 'resurrection technology' that would allow humanoid Cylons to be transferred into a new body when they were, uh, killed."
Larna looked as if she had been hit by an electric shock. "You couldn't die?"
Galen went on to explain the differences between him and Caprica, and more about the process, ending the discussion on that subject, "In the end, Galactica and Pegasus destroyed every Cylon Resurrection Ship and the main Resurrection Hub. As far as we know, all Cylons are mortal now."
Caprica spoke again. "For those of us who remained with The Fleet, that's what we wanted. What good is an existence if it never ends? There's no meaning to a life then. You throw morals, and love and friendship out the window. They have no meaning. I married Gaius because I love him, and it didn't matter that he was Human. All of my friends, outside the few Cylons that are left, are Human. I learned to cook from the wife of our Fleet Governor Justin Bond, who was the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth at one time. He and his wife adopted Admiral Kara Thrace-Bond, who is Second-In-Command of our Fleet."
"I might also add", Gaius stated, "that there is a young lady on Earth whose mother is Cylon and her Father is Human. She is a pilot with UED, and also helped stop the terrorist attacks on New Caprica."
That really caught their attention. "I thought you said Cylons couldn't have children?". She looked at Gaius.
"Most can't", Caprica offered. "I actually got pregnant but miscarried the baby. That was before Gaius and I were a couple. But that was different. The child's father was the Executive Officer onboard the old Galactica, and he was a Cylon."
Maris Pride grumbled to himself, You need a chart to keep everything straight with this lot. "Where is that Cylon now?"
It was General Trevor's turn. "He was murdered along with his Cylon Wife during the terrorists' attacks that I mentioned five Earth years ago. He retired as a Hero of Earth after the Earth-Cylon War."
The three leaders went quiet for a moment.
"And may I add one more piece of information?", Caprica asked Maris.
"By all means, Admiral. It gets more convoluted?", which made Caprica flash her winning smile.
"A little. There were about a dozen Sixes like me who made it to Earth. There was one, her name was Rebecca. She undertook a suicide mission to board a Baseship during the Earth-Cylon War. She planted a computer virus on that ship, which went a long way to defeating the Cylons."
"She laid down her life for the people on Earth", Gerrod said almost to himself. He had come into this with so much distrust and doubts, but hearing that made him think again. Sure, they could be lying, but he couldn't see why they would.
"Three other Sixes died in the war", Gaius recalled, "one in a Viper, and two onboard Galactica."
Maris looked at the others. He had seen the instant respect the troops had given these two when they arrived; they saw the genuine pleasure Captain Mathers had shown in greeting the female Admiral. The story about the half-Cylon girl who was now defending Humanity so far away. After a few moments, he looked at them.
"Admirals, I must admit, and I probably speak for the three of us to some degree, that I had a lot of distrust about this Cylon stuff. But what I've heard today...you seem like honorable, courageous people, and I'm proud to have you among us." He stepped forward to shake both their hands. Galen clapped the man on the back when they shook.
"Sir, it's our honor to be here in helping to bring The Colonies back to what they should be."
Maris walked up to Caprica, shook her hand, then held it, and kissed her on the back of the hand. "My lady, you are among friends."
Caprica had a few tears coming out of her eyes, but it only made Maris smile more warmly at her.
The Op Plan to reconnoiter the Caprican Mountains and to glean some information about this group The Kingdom had been delayed by two days, as Lee wanted to get the plan even more finely-tuned.
He had added the caveat that ground troops be on alert to land on the planet in case needed. The larger troop transport ships were on standby if needed as well. He didn't think he'd need them, but he didn't want to leave it to chance.
Justin Bond was in his second session with Doctor Beazos aboard the Mahatma Gandhi. This one was to delve a little deeper into what might be causing them.
"Have you had an episode recently, Governor?", the Doctor asked as an opening.
"Yes, in fact, I had one two nights ago", he told her honestly. "Kara and I were summoned by Admiral Adama to discuss the situation on Caprica, which isn't going well right now. We spent two nights there. The first one went just fine. The second night, I had a dream in the middle of the night, and must have yelled out loud, because Kara ran into my room almost immediately after I awoke."
"How did that make you feel, seeing her there in person, right after the dream?"
Governor Bond smiled, She sounds like Doctor Sidney Freedman from MASH. "I believe it may have calmed me down faster, seeing her there right after the dream. As she said, part in jest, that 'they're only dreams', but seeing her face there was comforting."
"And the rest of the night?"
"We stayed up for an hour, talking and drinking a Pepsi, and went back to bed. The rest of the night was peaceful."
"Right now, why do you think you're having these dreams?" It wasn't a gotcha question, she wanted to see what his state of mind was about what was going on.
"Why now, and for the last year or so?", he shook his head. "I don't know why right now, but I'm certain that it has everything to do with seeing that Viper Cockpit on Cylon Earth two years ago. Thank God Kara had burned the...body, because if I had seen that blond hair from under the Viper helmet..." Some of the raw emotion from that day surfaced for a moment. It took him another moment to compose himself, "I'm sorry, Doctor." He said apologetically.
"Governor, if I had been there, and seen that, knowing what you saw, I would have been just as shaken, believe me", she said evenly. "I can be clinical if I want, but what you saw, and the nightmares you're going through are nothing to laugh about. You obviously love your daughter and your other two children more than anything. I want you to become at peace with what you saw."
That made Justin Bond chuckle ruefully. "It's funny you say that, because Kara insisted on taking the Recon mission with her brother to eyeball Kepler 452b, and we were worried about how she would react. I was worried when we got to the crash site. But she had made her peace with the place. I, and later my wife, are the ones who fell apart. And yet my wife had no such nightmares, for which I'm forever grateful."
"Any other ideas about the nightmares", she found herself fascinated by what she was hearing.
"No, but one thing that very few people remember about me, is that back in 2004, I was flying F-22's for the Air Force in Afghanistan. The Taliban got my bird with anti-aircraft fire, and I spent nine days behind enemy lines until I was rescued."
Doctor Beazos' eyes went a bit wider. "I'd forgotten about that. I remember hearing about that during the '20 campaign!", she paused for a moment, "and you had no such nightmares after that, Governor?"
"Not a one. Slept like a baby", he laughed at himself again.
"How close are you to your adopted daughter", she inquired. "I know you're close to all your children, but how would you describe your relationship, specifically with Kara." The Doctor had, like most people on Earth, been genuinely overcome with happiness when the world found out about the adoption. It had given Humanity a shot in the arm after the cataclysm of the War with the Cylons.
"She's our miracle, Doctor", he said, with emotion catching up to him again. "You couldn't sell our story to Hollywood. From different worlds, who happen to meet, and she becomes part of our family?", he chuckled again. "Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas would never go for it."
"Go on, Governor", she asked.
"I told Kara when we adopted her that I felt it was more than chance that brought us together. I believe it was always meant to be-that she was meant to find us, and we were meant to find her. How can a father actually explain the meaning behind all of that?"
He's as intelligent as I've always heard, she thought to herself. "You're right, it wouldn't fly in Hollywood, sir", she said with a genuine smile. Then she concluded the session.
"Governor, this has been a fascinating conversation, and I think we've made progress towards helping you get out of this cycle", she raised her hand as he began to speak. "I know, it seems like mostly background, believe me, but the fact you've opened up so much, about the dreams, about your experience in Afghanistan, about your relationship with your daughter? I think we're on the right track."
"You're the Doc, Doc", he said and smiled. "I appreciate your time, Doctor Beazos. "I'll be back soon."
He left the room. Beazos hadn't been blowing smoke up his butt. She really felt they were making progress.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
General Kendrick Grayson was holding one last meeting aboard the William Adama, with the Admiral, the XO, and the CAG, Nicholas Bond. It was just about showtime. About ten Armored Personnel Carriers were on the planet, ready to scout the Mountains East of Caprica.
"OK, Nick, again, give me time to get everyone in place before you launch your air recon. I doubt it'll take me long to get it organized. Most of these guys are top-shelf soldiers."
"Understood, General", the CAG responded. "I'll have everyone airborne within five minutes after I hear from you, Good luck, sir", Nick saluted the General. Grayson saluted back.
"Safe flying, Captain", and he turned to board his Raptor to the surface.
Lee had walked Nick down to his Raptor in the Starboard Hangar, wanting to see him off. "I know you really don't need to hear this, but no hot-dogging by anyone out there", he said sternly.
"Sir, I've told everyone if they act like Costanza, they're dead meat", he deadpanned to his Admiral.
Lee laughed out loud. "Damn if you're not your Old Man's son, Nick! I'll see you in a couples hours, Axman."
Nick saluted The Boss. "Wilco sir, have a good meal waiting for me!"
Nick Bond headed towards his Raptor in preparation for the Mission. As he came closer to his bird, he saw a familiar face looking at him with a smile on her face.
"Captain Bond, Sir!", Ensign Natalia Schrevrenko said, saluting properly. Nicholas Bond returned the favor.
"What a surprise to see you here, Ensign?" He said deadpan, which made her laugh.
"Yes, you looked shocked, Captain."
"I assume my ship is in order, Ensign?" he said archly.
"When I work on something Captain, I make sure my work is thorough", herself no slouch at using the technique of deadpan. That made the Captain blush a little.
"Yes, uh, well there's no doubt of that", he said, trying to regain his composure, remembering the night before.
"Stay out of trouble, Captain", she saluted again/ "I don't want to have to work you over again," she said with a wink.
Nick laughed and boarded his bird.
After returning to the Roslin, Admiral Thrace-Bond had made a visit to the surface and talked to the three leaders and to others in the enclave. She was like her father: see with your own eyes if you can, before committing. She had taken a Raptor tour around Aerilon to get another birds-eye view as well.
Before leaving the surface, Kara met with General Trevor. "General, I couldn't be happier with things here on Aerilon. I'm going to assign about one hundred Raptors and about fifty Falcons to patrol. I'll also send down the transports, probably for about five trips each, to get enough food, water and more permanent housing material for you and the inhabitants." She paused and looked out over the people she had met. "After the transports are completed, I'm taking about half of the fleet to Canceron."
"Once we have things worked out here, I will join you on the scouting of Canceron, Admiral", he paused. "That world might be a little tougher nut to crack, if I may say so, sir."
"I'm thinking the same thing, General", she said with a wan smile, "but I hope we don't run into a situation like there is on Caprica", she saluted him. "I'll see you soon, General."
"CAG, General Grayson, all forces in place on the ground, start the music."
Nicholas Bond was in his Raptor with his right-seater and an Electronics Officer, all prepped for take-off. "Grayson, CAG, Roger that General", he switched to the departure frequency on his radio. "Adama Actual, CAG, we're ready to lift off, Falcons are a go at this time."
"Copy, CAG", Lee replied, "all Falcons launch immediately."
It took about five minutes to get all the fighters clear of their tubes. One tube stopped working before the last Falcon launched, but that bird had been moved very efficiently to another tube and was away.
"CAG, Adama Actual, the Raptors are cleared to depart." And with that, the Raptors took off from the Adama and a nearby Raptor Launcher ship. Nick Bond was the last one airborne and headed to the surface.
The conclusion during the debate on the Op Plan was that if there was some kind of camouflage in place, the Raptors couldn't actually see the compounds for this group that was up here allegedly. The first order of business was to try and gauge where the camouflage was and how big the disguise was. That way the could more precisely plot the main encampments of this outfit.
Within ten minutes the Raptors were in their positions. Many of them were on the periphery of the search area for close-in support, and to cover the ground recon forces who, like the Raptors, were just trying to get a feel for exactly where this group was in the Caprican Mountain Range. Some others were there for an intermediate cover of the search party, well below the Falcons, who were, in essence, an emergency force. Lee had not wanted to take any chances.
The area to be searched was quite large-perhaps thirty miles in length, and up to ten miles in depth. The search patterns had been laid out during the forming of the Op Plan. Nick's Raptor was on the Southern end of the search area, where he and a couple other Raptors would try to ascertain where the Southernmost point of the camouflage was.
"CAG, Raptors 44 and 45, I'll reconnoiter the middle of the search zone, 44 take the West, 45 take the East, stay sharp." There were still mountains behind them, and Raptors were also patrolling those areas to make sure of no surprises so his wing of three could concentrate on what was thought to be the Southern boundary.
Nick's right-seater, Lieutenant Rick "Pirate" Londhal, was doing most of the flying while Axman was using his Mark One Eyeballs on the area. "Anything of interest there, CAG?"
"Nothing so far Rick, not a damn thing. Move us a little further North, if you will. I think the Southern border is a little further in than we might have thought."
"You got it, CAG." The Lieutenant banked the bird to the left for a closer look-see. After about three minutes, Nick suddenly sat more upright in his seat.
"Hey Pirate, I think I have something. I think I see a netting canopy at about my Ten O'clock, give me the bird for a moment, I want you to eyeball this." Londhal did just that, as Axman took the flying.
"Yeah, Boss", Pirate said slowly, "I do see a netting over the trees. It's a damn good piece of work, but I can see where the netting ends. Want me to bring the other two birds this direction?"
"If you please, Rick", Nick Bond deftly maneuvered his bird at almost a hover and initiated the cameras on the bottom of the bird to take high-resolution photographs of the netting, as Nick checked the coordinates to where they were at. The other two Raptors in his wing of three were now even with him, and they, too, said they could see the netting. He ordered both Birds to head in opposite directions to try and find the corner of the netting so they could plot its width.
Lieutenant Londhal had his hi-res binoculars out and was looking at the netting. He could clearly see the demarcation of the netting, and where uncovered forest began. The other two birds were reporting that they had yet to find the ends of the camouflaging.
In the rear was Lieutenant Annabel Marisio, a twenty-five-year-old from Venezuela, who had just gotten her wings a few months back. She was the Electronics Officer for this mission. Her call sign was "Purple", or in Spanish, "Púrpura". It was her favorite color, and she wore it constantly when off-duty.
She had been pretty useless on the trip so far. Then again, CAG said he wasn't expecting much that would set off electronics or warnings on this mission, but she was alert and ready to do whatever arose.
Nick had moved the aircraft to within about a thousand yards of the netting, and perhaps another thousand above it. He saw no movement near the canopy. He was just about to back off and take his bird to the Eastern end of the search. He didn't get the chance.
"Missile Warning!", Purple said in alarm. "Port, behind us about two thousand yards!"
"Goddammit!", the CAG yelled, as he swung his bird around and firewalled the stick to get them out of there. He could get the Raptor to a breakaway speed very quickly, but would it be enough?
"CAG, Missile directly to our rear, fifteen hundred yards and closing fast!"
"Come on, you piece of shit, get moving!", Nick yelled to no one in particular. The Raptor was gaining speed, as he headed Eastward. But the missile kept closing. Londhal had even released the chafe anti-missile system, but the bird kept coming.
"Five hundred yards, CAG!" Annabel said in terror.
"Everyone brace for impact!", Nick yelled, banking the aircraft hard to the right at the last moment.
Lee was monitoring the scouting mission in CIC. So far it had been routine. He had received reports from the Western and Southern search groups that they had found the netting. The Northern party was still searching.
Suddenly the radio erupted. "Krypter! Krypter! Krypter! Raptor 45, missile fired, CAG's bird is going down, repeat CAG is going down!"
Lee didn't hesitate. "Falcon Lead, Adama Actual, Bravo alert, missile fired, CAG is going down, descend to assist!"
"Roger, Actual, I'm taking five birds down, will advise!"
Lee, ever the military man, knew the risks, and he knew Nicholas Bond knew the risks. The CAG had known for years about his father's ordeal in Afghanistan many years ago, so he definitely knew the risks. He cared for all his crew, and deeply. But Nick Bond was almost family, and the alert had put a cold ball of fear in his stomach.
He had to put that out of his mind for a moment. He had a job to do.
Admiral Kara Thrace-Bond was prepping her ship and half of her current fleet to leave orbit around Aerilon and to hop over to Canceron to begin the process of scouting that planet. She had been lucky, and she knew it that things were going so well on Aerilon. There would be no problems, so far as anyone could see, in starting to rebuild that world. Her officers were already putting in requisitions that would be sent back to UED on the provisions needed to start the rebuild when the next fleet arrived, which would be shortly before this fleet headed back to Earth.
The fleet was waiting for the last two mammoth transporters that had brought the last of the supplies to the surface to return. The crew was looking forward to the second stop on this mission. After that, there would be four more to go. The Fleet would be back here before heading home, but she felt good about the head start they had on Aerilon.
The two transporters had just radioed that they were on their way back to The Fleet. Then the Officer at Signals broke in. "Admiral, Code Red message from Admiral Adama", she said without any distress in her voice. But the "Code Red" turned heads. "Do you want it here or in your Quarters?"
"Ensign, I'll take it here", the Admiral replied. She knew there were problems on Caprica, and she had even visited the planet a week ago with her father and brother to get a birds-eye view of the issue. But a Code Red was only for dire emergencies. Whatever it was, she wanted to be able to react instantly to the message. "Send it to my terminal, if you will."
"Aye, Admiral", and in a few moments the message had arrived, and she pulled it up on her computer: "Attention all ships, Code Red issued by the Commanding Officer. CAG down on recon mission over Caprican Mountains, repeat, CAG down, status unknown at this time."
Kara almost physically recoiled from the message, her eyes going wide. Commander Carrico saw her reaction, and he became concerned immediately. "Boss, what is it?", he said, sliding over towards Kara.
Kara just looked at him and turned the screen in his direction. Chase scanned it, then in sotto voce spoke again. "Goddammit!" He put his hand on one of her shoulders, then began giving orders. "Set Condition One throughout the Fleet! Prepare for Possible Jump!"
That caught the crew a little off guard, but they were pro's and went about preparing the ship for possible action.
"Admiral!", Signals cut in again, "a Priority Followup from Admiral Adama."
"On my screen immediately", Kara said trying to keep calm. Kara, I did not include your father in this message, he shouldn't find out like this. Caprica has the info, but I told her that I wanted you to be the one who tells your folks. Still have no information on Nick's whereabouts or condition, we're searching. I'm with you, my friend.
Kara snapped back into her command mode after a moment. "XO, cancel jump prep for the moment, but have The Fleet remain at Condition One. Chase, I need to see you in my quarters."
Chase Carrico followed her at a fast clip into her quarters, which was just off of The Bridge. She shut the door behind her. She was still facing away from her XO, took a deep breath, then turned around.
"Chase, the hop over to Canceron will continue, but keep us at Condition One until I find out more information", she was working mightily to keep her emotions in check.
"You're going over to the King, then to the Adama?" It had sounded to Kara like more of a challenge, even though Carrico hadn't said it in that way.
"Chase, he's my brother for Christ sake!", her emotions starting to unravel a little. "My first mission is to this Fleet, but I'm talking about family here!"
Chase was momentarily taken aback, but he collected himself. "Kara", he said, dropping formalities for a moment, "I wasn't questioning that, and I apologize if it came out wrong."
Kara stopped for a moment and sighed. "I need to apologize to you, Rabbit, I'm sorry I snapped at you like that."
Chase shook his head. "Kara, I know your family is more important than anything in the Universe to you. And I'll back whatever you have to do at this time. If you say we jump, we jump, if you tell me to jump and bomb the shit out Caprica, I'll do it. I know what you need to do here, trust me, and I'm behind you one hundred percent."
Kara's face broke into some tears at that moment. She went over to hug her XO. She and Chase had gone to war together, and he was not only her XO but one of her best friends. At that moment, she needed a hug.
She broke the embrace, then smiled at him. "I know you will Chase. It means everything to have you in my corner, you young bum", and they both laughed.
"You need to go to the King, and tell your folks, and then get them over to the Flagship ASAP, so they can be close to what's going on."
"That's what I'm going to do, XO", she said, sniffling a little more. "I feel like I'm abandoning my post, though."
"Kara, we're all family here. All of us. But we're talking about the most important people in your life, the people who helped make you into one helluva Admiral and person. I can get The Fleet to Canceron, you know that."
"I have to assume Lee has told Abby, who is on the Carl Sagan, so I'll go on that assumption right now."
"I think you're right, Boss." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Now get out of here and be there for your folks and your sister and that's an order."
Kara laughed one more time and hugged Chase again. "I just have to get a few things from CIC and then I'm gone."
Kara and Chase had forgotten to take the information from Lee off the screen, and, of course, the entire CIC now knew what was going on. A member of the CIC saw the two Bosses approaching. He sprang to his feet and in a loud voice called. "Ten-HUT! Admiral Of The Fleet On Deck!"
The entire CIC came to rigid attention with crisp salutes. The call had stopped Kara in her tracks. She knew they knew.
"As you were, everyone", she said. "Thank you very much for that. I'm headed to the King, then to the Adama. XO, you have the conn."
"Aye, Admiral!", Chase saluted, with Kara reciprocating the gesture.
As she turned to leave The Bridge, the Ensign at Signals spoke to her. "Admiral?"
Kara turned. "Yes, Ensign Chatham?" The young Ensign had tears in her eyes.
"They'll get him back for you, sir." She saluted her Boss again.
"Thank you, Ensign. I'm honored to serve with you."
Justin and Judith Bond were having a light lunch in their quarters. The Governor had slapped together some BLT's, with a side of potato chips. It was the kind of lunch they had both enjoyed dating, lo those many years ago, and it was the kind of lunch where they could talk over events that were going on.
"So then, of course, Minister LaFlame got upset, because he felt that his manhood had been challenged, and he started to stalk over to Minister Kwok", Governor Bond was laughing through the statement, remembering the argument at the meeting with the Quorum that day. "I mean, LaFlame is what? Six foot four, and Mrs. Kwok is about five-foot-nuthin', and he felt threatened?"
Judy was drinking ice water and dare not take a sip at that moment because she knew she'd spit it out when laughing. She was almost doubled over sitting on her chairs, tears coming out of her eyes.
"Oh, my God, that's hysterical, Justin!", she said, wiping the tears from her eyes. "LaFlame is, if you'll pardon the expression, an uptight prude if you ask me."
"If you ask me, I think it's a good thing that Robere didn't make it over to her chair. He can't reach her, but Ingrid could certainly haul off and hit him quite easily in a tender place."
Judy had taken a drink that time, and spit it onto the floor almost immediately, laughing hysterically once again. The Governor was shaking with laughter as well.
Admiral Caprica Baltar was in the Starboard Hangar area, awaiting the arrival of Admiral Kara Thrace-Bond. Caprica felt horrible withholding the news from the Governor and Mrs. Bond, although she completely understood that Kara needed to be the one to tell them.
Starbuck touched down and had the side hatch opened before the bird was at a full stop. She hopped off the back of the wing. Caprica was waiting for her. "God, Kara, I'm so sorry!", the Cylon said in greeting, hugging her friend.
"Thanks, Caprica, I appreciate it", she said when breaking the embrace. "I hate to be so sudden, but we need to get to my folks and get the hell out of here."
"Of Course, Starbuck, follow me."
The Bonds had calmed down from the hilarity and were munching on their lunch when there was a sudden knock on the door. "Governor, it's Caprica, may I enter?"
The looked at each other. It was unusual for The Admiral to make a house call. "Of course, Admiral, come on in."
Caprica opened the door, which didn't surprise them...then they saw Kara in her wake. Judith Bond went immediately pale on seeing the stricken look on her daughter's face.
"Kara...what is it?"
Kara went up to her mother, with tears in her eyes. He father moved in next to his wife.
"It's Nick. His Raptor was shot down."
To Be Continued in the Next Story, Battlestar Galactica: Homecomings