A Racetrack Chronicles one-shot
Simon J. Dodd
December 19, 1948 A.E.
"Madam President, unifying the military commands was a necessary first step. But we need to start building the tools to fight back. Now."
"This spec—this is a weapon of war." Margaret Cavendish looked over the top of the binder at Page. They had each aged years in a few months, but Cavendish had aged a decade in the nine days since she had been sworn in, the first President of the United Colonies of Kobol. "Is that where we are, Admiral? War?"
Page folded her arms. "Look where we are. Look where we're sitting; you tell me."
They were sitting in the bombed-out remains of what had been Caprica City's Pyrmont district. Eight days ago, Caprica had surrendered the district to the nascent Pan-Colonial government, and Cavendish had designated the mortal remains of this building as the seat of the government that she had been elected to lead. The "Executive Office Building" had originally been built as the city's central post-office; until a few months ago, it had been a hotel. In fifteen years, it would be renamed "Cavendish House" in her honor. But for today, it was a gutted shell under a tarpaulin roof, and despite the undiminished elegance of its facade, the President's office was hastily-poured concrete interior walls, a few drapes to hide the fire-seared sandstone exterior walls, and a wooden concierge desk that had miraculously survived the fire.
"War." Cavendish licked her lips, swallowed, and took a deep breath. "Yeah. Okay."
"Yes. This isn't just an insurrection any more; it's fast turning, probably turned into an honest-to-gods do-or-die war. We don't know where they're based or how they're building them, but the Cylons are now operating at least two FTL-capable capital-class ships to carry and support their raiders, and I can promise you more are on the way." She pointed to the binder. "There's a photo on page eight."
Cavendish flipped to it; hard to gauge the size, but it looked like two spinning-tops melted together, a pair of hexagonal hulls joined by a central spindle. "Ugly as sin," was her judgment.
"I don't care. I'm not an art critic." Page sighed; "they're effective. That's what matters."
"Does the press have this? I haven't had time to... I've not, um… I haven't, really…" She tailed off. The stress and fatigue were piling up on her by the day; every muscle ached, and her caramel skin was turning grey.
"Yes. The Tribune's calling it a 'basestar.'"
Cavendish's eyebrows went up. "A what-now?"
"'Base. Star.' I don't think it matters so much what we call it as how we respond."
"And you want to respond with this, um, 'battle-star' concept?"
"Yes. We need an FTL-capable fighter platform that can both counter raiders and provide heavy fire-support. We have two already in the pipeline; Virgon has a design and they laid a keel last week. They'll have her ready by the end of next year—"
"Next year?! Clio—"
"I realize"—Page held up a hand—"that's a long lead-time, but you need to understand: These will be some of the biggest, most complicated, most sophisticated machines ever built. It's a quantum leap in scale and complexity from any warship existing now. That's the point. But you can't just throw something like that together overnight; a year is an incredibly aggressive schedule for this kind of project. I managed to persuade Virgon to share their design—"
Cavendish snorted. "'Persuade.'"
"—and Caprica to swallow its pride and take it; they began construction on an identical one yesterday. So we have a start. We have a default design. That said, frankly it's to our advantage if we get several different takes on the concept. I don't... ah..." she managed a taut smile; "begrudge Virgon a certain acumen where weapons systems design is concerned. But several colonies have armaments and shipbuilding industries they're proud of. As long as they meet the spec, we'll find out which implementation works best and build more of it. But because of the lead-time, I need an executive order from you, today, requiring each colony to start building right now."
"How exactly do you expect, say, Aerilon, to do that?"
"I don't care." For the first time, Page slumped in her chair and irritation crept into her voice; how much sleep had either of them managed recently, Cavendish wondered? "Bottom line is, I want twelve of these monsters. I want to be able to say they represent the twelve colonies—there's power in symbolism."
"Kinda Libranese for you."
"Yeah, well, if it doesn't scare the frak out of the toasters, it at least helps our morale. But I honestly couldn't care less how we get there, Margaret. If Aerilon and Aquaria want to pay Canceron to build the Virgon design, fine by me. I don't care where it's built. But I want twelve of those ships, and I want them as soon as possible. We need them."
Cavendish leant back, staring into the middle-distance. The scale of the problem was spiraling out of control. The endgame seemed very far off and she felt wholly unequal to her task. "Things are really that bleak?"
"They will be. We're holding our own for now. With your order on the tenth, I took overall command of the combined military assets of the twelve worlds; we've catalogued them and started some rapid reorganization. So far, everyone's playing nice. Leonine rules, Virgan customs, Caprican uniforms, Canceran ranks, everyone's ships… It's a mongrel. And it's not much of an arsenal. Not considering. If we want to play defense against the threat as it existed at the start of the insurrection, it's... adequate. Once we've gotten our logistics and command-and-control straightened out, we'll be in better shape. But the situation's escalating, rapidly, and that's not likely to improve." She blinked a couple of times and sat up straight again. "In my judgment, madam President, organizing our existing assets into a weapon to effectively strike back would be very difficult and would leave unacceptable holes in the defenses. I need these twelve ships and the fighters and personnel that go with them. I need to be able to rapidly deploy strike teams with enough firepower to meet the evolving threat landscape."
'Evolving threat landscape,' Cavendish thought; what a bland euphemism for a mortal enemy. "What are they called?"
"The ships. The, um…" Cavendish closed her eyes and licked her lips. "The 'battle-stars'. The two under construction. Do they have names?"
"'Bretannia' and 'Galactica.'"
"Hmn. Alright, Admiral. I will see to it that you get your ships. I'll issue an order by this evening and sell the Quorum when it convenes." She let out a breathy shiver and flopped her hands into her lap, wishing like hell she could have a drink. She felt a sense of near-despair. She was pragmatic enough that she knew her reputation—the Caprica Tribune had hailed her as a "Pican warrior-princess," a lionhearted, visionary savior who had personally forged the Articles of Colonization in the foundries of the gods, who now rode in to save the worlds… It was a useful mask, but very far from an accurate portrait. If they could see me now, if any of them knew my doubts, my fear... "Bethany, tell me we can win this."
"We're gonna win this."
"No, but seriously. Can we beat them?"
"'Do or die.'"
"Do or die. Yes. Well—" Page paused and scoffed lightly. "I wouldn't bet on reelection if we don't."