Chapter II

"Still no joy from the recon raptors," Lieutenant Felix Geata said. "Almost all raptors have reported back to Galactica for refuelling, so they can head out a little further."

Geata, a young male of Sagittaron descent in his early twenties, was the Battlestar Galactica's tactical and senior officer of the watch. As he gave his report, he was flipping through the various printouts on his clipboard.

Looking up from the desk in his cabin, Commander William 'Husker' Adama, the commanding officer of the Galactica,pushed his glasses back into place on the bridge of his nose and rising to approach Geata. "Let me guess," Adama said in his husky Caprican accent. "Boomer and Crashdown." Heading out into the corridor, with Geata hot on his heels. "Their determined officers. You can bet your ass, that it'll be Boomer and Crashdown that finds the tylium."

"Yes, sir." Geata confirmed.

"And no sign of the Cylons?"

"None, sir." Geata confirmed.

A moment later, the pair turned one last corner, entering the lower deck of the command facility for the battlestar and it's fleet. The twin level Combat Information Centre, or CIC.

"Commander on deck!" The marine guard announced as Adama and Geata crossed the threshold.

CIC was a vaguely circular facility and divided up into six main sections. While Felix went to his tactical station, Adama headed to the backlit plot table, in the central command and control section, directly below the dradis console where Colonel Saul Tigh, the Galactica's executive officer, had been looking over a map of the region of space they were in. He looked up and came vaguely to attention as he saw his superior approach

"Any news about Boomer and Crashdown?" Adama asked.

"None," Tigh said. "But they're due back any time."

Looking at the map laid out on the table, Adama studied it. Mentally tallying off the systems they had checked. Noting the only unchecked area was the asteroid belt of SDADC-15 in the current recon pattern. It may take a while with the number of sweeps required, Adama thought. That belt has to be a frakking nightmare to survey.

"Dradis contacts!" Geata announced to the CIC crew from the tactical station. "Sir, it's Boomer and Crashdown."

"Sir," Chief Petty Officer Anastasia Dualla stated from her post at communications. "Boomer wants to talk with you and or the XO. Sir, she's using a scrambled channel."

"Tigh, put on the headset," Adama said as he picked up the hard-wired phone he used for private conversations within the ship and fleet. Usually with President Laura Roslin. He had just become very worried. He knew Lieutenant Valerii wouldn't use a scrambled channel unless it was important.

"Raptor 312," Adama said. "Boomer, Galactica Actual. Go ahead."

"Galactica Actual, Boomer," Valerii said, her voice distorted over the wireless transmission. "We've found tylium. But," she added. "We also found the Cylons. They're sitting on it."

"Frack!" Tigh muttered speaking up. "Galactica XO. Were you spotted?"

"Negative, XO," Valerii answered. "But we did have a first approach."

"A First Approach." Adama asked. "Who with?"

As Adama said this, several faces looked up, startled, at the mention of a first approach. His officers and crew all knew what a first approach was. An encounter with a new species or civilisation. However, in the entire history of the twelve colonies, no first approach had ever taken place.

"Actual," a new voice said. Adama and Tigh recognised it as the raptor's ECO, Lieutenant Samual Witwer. "Crashdown. The contact was an unknown fighter. When they tight beam signalled us, they identified themselves as 'Peregrine V-13of the 'Federation Battleship USS Voyager'.'"

"Understood, Crashdown." Adama stated. "Did the exchange of coordinates take place?"

"Actual, Boomer," Valerii said. "That's affirmative."

"Very well, Actual out." He looked over at Dualla. "Bring them home Dee, and get me the president."

O-O-O

President Laura Roslin was in her private quarters aboard the presidential spacecraft Colonial One. Despite her best efforts, she felt uncomfortable as hell as she thought about the subject she was going to broach. She didn't feel physically uncomfortable. It was the fact hat she was about to reveal her cancer to someone.

That someone was Elosha, the priest who had presided over the planned decommissioning of Galactica and then her inauguration as the successor to the late President Richard Adair.

"I've been taking," Roslin began. "Chamalla for a medical condition."

Elosha thought she knew what was going. Chamalla was an herbal remedy that had many side effects. One of which was hallucinations, or as some priests liked to call them – visions. She herself had lost her faith sometime ago and wondered if this was a joke. But, if the president had seen something she needed to find out what it was. So, she had come at the president's request. "So," Elosha asked. "What have you seen?"

"It started," Roslin said. "As dreams of the Cylon we executed. But I had the dreams before we captured him. The images were…" Roslin hesitated trying to think of the correct term.

"Prescient?" Elosha suggested.

"Uncanny." Roslin answered. "And now I'm seeing things while I'm awake.

"What kind of things?" Elosha asked, needing more information.

"Snakes." Roslin said simply. "There were snakes crawling all over my podium during a press conference."

I was right! She's having me on. Elosha thought. "How many?" she asked Roslin.

"About a dozen."

Getting up, ready to walk out, Elosha surprised herself by turning back round and facing Roslin. "You're kidding, right? You read Pythia, and now you having me on."

"No," Roslin answered truthfully. "Who is Pythia?"

"One of the oracles in the sacred scrolls," Elosha said lecturing. "Three thousand six hundred years ago, Pythia wrote about the exile and rebirth of the human race. 'And the Lords anointed a leader to guide the caravan of the heavens to their new homeland. And unto the leader they a gave a vision of serpents, numbering two and ten as a sign of things to come.'"

Roslin was now very curious. "Pythia wrote that?"

"She also wrote," Elosha went on, "that the new leader suffered a wasting disease and would not live to enter the new land. But you're not dying. Are you?"

Roslin waited a beat. "I've got cancer," she said simply.

"Oh my Gods-" Elosha began. But she was cut off by the sound of her phone buzzing.

"Excuse me," Roslin said getting up. Picking up the receiver and placing her hand over the voice pickup she told Elosha. "I won't be a minute."

"Madam President?" Commander Adama asked. "I know you're in a meeting. But I thought you should know…"

"We've found tylium?" Roslin asked hopeful.

"Yes we have," Adama told her. "But there's more. We've had a first approach with a starship of an unknown origin."

"Did the exchange of coordinates take place?"

"Yes they did," Adama said. "And that's what troubles me. If the Cylons-"

"Your worried," Roslin finished Adama's sentence. "That if the Cylons get hold of that ship they could discover our location. Do you think we should jump the fleet?"

"We don't have the fuel for that," Adama told her. "What I'm proposing, is that we send a raptor to their coordinates, and request that they come to us. With your permission of course."

"Well," Roslin answered him. "You have my permission. But you should realise, that you cannot force them. The crew of the raptor you send should know this."

"I understand," Adama said back. "Your concerns are duly noted. But If I read the report of the raptor to crew who were approached correctly. These Federationals were investigating unusual signals they picked up. Those signals led them to the same asteroid where the raptor discovered tylium."

"Let me guess," Roslin said. "The Cylons have already claimed it."

O-O-O

"Captain," Sito looked up from her communications station on Voyager's bridge. "Three peregrines have just reported back. All negative for dilithium."

"Damn," Janeway muttered. Currently, she was standing over the pool table, looking at the growing map of the asteroid belt. Another three sectors appeared, the computer turning the mapped asteroids red as it logged them as being devoid of sufficient quantities of dilithium. "That dilithium has to be somewhere."

"Maybe," Chakotay said facing her on the other side of the table, "we should start looking elsewhere."

"You know why we can't," Janeway said.

We'd end up dead in space, Chakotay thought, unable to continue our journey. He didn't say his thoughts; Janeway was thinking the same thing.

"Another peregrine has just dropped out of warp," Lieutenant Commander Harry Kim, the chief operations officer announced from his station just to the left of the helm. "It's Willis and Sunshine."

"CAG notification," Sito said. "Captain, Willis wants to talk with you."

"That's unusual," Chakotay said looking up.

"Put them on," Janeway commanded.

O-O-O

Both aviators of Peregrine V-13 were quite glad to be back in the vicinity of Voyager. Getting out of the asteroid belt after their first contact with Raptor 312, had been close. Kandinsky had told him, just as he was warping out, that a pair of Cylon raiders had changed their course. If they had been there just a few minutes longer, the probable hostile fighters could have been on top of them.

Closing on Voyager, Payne took a good look. In outward appearance, the ship did not look any different from the normal Galaxy-class starships. But, Payne knew this was no ship of exploration. This ship was the United Federation of Planets first true warship. Here, exploration took second place.

"Voyager, CAG" Payne said opening a channel. "This is Peregrine V-13 reporting in."

"CAG, Willis," Commander Rick 'Jester' Heatherly said in his gravely voice. "What do you have for me?"

"Sir," Payne said "Good news. It's pay day. We found not just dilithium, but deuterium."

"Somehow Willis," Heatherly said, "I doubt that's all. You found something even bigger."

"That's affirmative, Sir." Payne said. "I'm requesting permission to speak with the captain."

"One moment," Heatherly said.

For a couple of moments, there was silence then a new voice came on. It was Captain Janeway. "Go ahead, this is the bridge." She said.

"Captain," Payne said. "In addition to what I told the CAG, I have further news. Just after I discovered the dilithium and deuterium-"

Behind him, his EWO interrupted him. "You discovered. Shouldn't that be 'we'?"

Over the communications channel, a faint chuckle could be heard; Payne could swear he could hear Paris mutter "Someone's in a bad mood."

"We discovered the dilthium and deuterium, my EWO picked up those signals Voyager picked up last night. Plus we had a first contact."

O-O-O

"Willis," Chakotay asked. "Was the first contact with the Cylons?"

"Negative, Commander" Payne said. "We made contact with a different race. They told us that we should probably consider the Cylons- Standby Voyager…"

Payne cut himself off, as an alarm sounded behind him in Kandinsky's part of the cockpit. "Got a contact, bearing, one-five-seven mark zero-two-three. Range: two million, two-hundred and fifty thousand kilometres. Oh my God-"

Up front, Payne had called up a visual of the contact and he could see it was a peregrine. It was a very beat up and damaged peregrine. Its starboard engine was dark and mangled; the wing on the same side was scorched and pitted with impact craters. Sparks and other debris were trailing behind it. A gaping hole was present where the EWO's window should have been. Payne could see it had been a fight and lost.

"Peregrine V-13 to Peregrine V-09," Payne was saying switching to a new channel, but leaving the first open. "Wolverine can you hear me? This is Willis."

The only response was the harsh sound of heavy breathing.

"Willis, CAG," Heatherly said over the intercom. "Get that aviator talking, find out what happened. We're launching the alert fighters."

"Roger, CAG,"Payne said. "Peregrine V-09, I've been instructed to ask you what happened."

"Per...grine V-13," came the sound of a raggedy voice. "Came…attack by unknown fighters. Tried to…the shields, they refused to respond. Some sort…malfunction. There were at …eight of them. Shaped like crescents. They refused to respond to our hails." Out of his window, he could see the Voyager launching it's squadron of tomcats.

Those fighters looked mean. The long sleek fuselage was flanked at the rear by the four massive impulse/warp nacelles, capped at their fore ends by the glowing red bussard ramscoops. Just forward of the engines, was the cockpit Payne liked so much. Attached to each engine, was an aerodynamically designed wing that mounted the long needle-like pulse phasers. The fighters, Payne noted, quickly went into attack mode, splitting their wings into an 'X' like formation as they flew away from Voyager into their designated CAPs so they could intercept any threats quickly.

O-O-O

"EMH to bridge," the doctor's voice said. "I've been monitoring Wolverine's life signs. They're growing weak. If we don't get him aboard soon, he'll die."

"Understood;" Janeway said. "Bridge to flight operations," She took a look around her bridge. A moment earlier, she had retaken her command chair. As had Chakotay. To her right, Neelix sat nervously biting his finger nails. He was Janeway knew, a good barometer for the crews' emotions. If the crew was nervous, he tended to be nervous. "Flight deck is to go to condition red; and rig for a crash landing."

O-O-O

Down below on the flight deck, the alert klaxons were screaming, the intercom blaring out orders. "Attention deck crew, attention deck crew. Rig flight deck for crash landing. Emergency DC teams standby."

"All right, people," the deck chief, Lieutenant Joseph Carey screamed. "You heard the air boss. Let's get this deck rigged for crash landing. We've a critically damaged peregrine coming hot."

Those with the yellow suits and green helmets quickly began moving and reconfiguring the tractor beams, which had been set to catapult the tomcats from the deck into space. Now they had to get them repositioned near the flight deck's space doors so that they could arrest the peregrines forward flight. Those dressed entirely in yellow, were directing craft that had been rigged for launch back into their parking spaces. While others, were standing by with emergency rescue equipment. To the untrained eye, all this rushing about, would seem chaotic and uncontrolled. But to Carey, it was a well rehearsed ballet; each and every one of his deck hands, carrying out his or her assigned role.

O-O-O

A minute later, Payne was growing worried. Wolverine had fallen silent again and hadn't responded to the increasingly frustrated instructions from the air boss. In his head, he could imagine the look on Lieutenant Commander Steven Harleys face. He was probably as worried as he was.

Behind him, Kandinsky's always cheerful voice had gone carefully neutral. "Commander," she said formally to him. "I think that attack really fucked him up. I don't think he can make it in without help."

A few seconds earlier, he'd received his orders to land his bird on the secondary flight deck. Now he disobeyed those orders, nudging his flight stick so that he veered away from his approach vector and back towards the stricken peregrine.

"Peregrine V-13," Harley said. "You're instructed to land; land immediately."

Payne ignored him. He knew what he was doing.

Coming into sight once again of the damaged peregrine, Payne opened up a private channel. "Hey Wolverine," he said. "Do you see a battleship around here?"

"Aff…affirmative," Wolverine said even more hesitatingly than before. "I can't do it."

"Easy," Payne said. "Just stay on my wing, I'll take you all the way in." God, Payne thought. I'm acting just like Maverick.

Quickly, Payne brought his fighter, up behind and to the port of Wolverine's so he wouldn't be caught in the rain of debris. From his angle, he could see that the starboard engine was dead. "Just a walk in the holodeck, buddy," Payne said. "Now, reduce power to quarter impulse."

"Reducing power…quarter impulse," Wolverine said. He sounded a little more confident.

In the distance, he saw Voyager manoeuvring. It looked like the officer at the conn, probably Paris he thought, had figured out what he was doing. Voyager was aligning herself up with the peregrine. "Looks like Voyager's making it easy for you," Payne said.

Gradually, Voyager grew in his window. In couple of moments, they would begin to pass between the nacelles. "All right, Wolverine," Payne said. "You're a little low. Bring your nose up a bit if you can."

"You're well below glide path," the landing signal officer, Lieutenant Lindsay Ballard said. "Two hundred and ten metres. Call the ball."

"Roger, LSO," Wolverine said. "Wolverine has the ball."

Looking out again, Payne saw the nose of the damaged peregrine angle up, then level out. It was now aligned perfectly with the main flight deck. "Now, try to lower you landing gear."

Payne could see the landing gear attempting to lower. The front and port gear came down without difficulty. But, as the starboard lowered, it caught some debris on its landing pad. Payne knew that if the peregrine tried to land with the debris attached where it was, the gear would collapse upon impact and possibly wreck the fighter, killing Wolverine in the progress.

He could not allow that to happen. Bringing his phasers online, he ensured they were at bear minimum power and fired. A pair of bolts flew from his craft, impacting the dangerous debris vaporising it.

O-O-O

At the LSO's station, just inside the open space doors, Lindsay Ballard looked out watching the two peregrines come in hot. The first was, she could see, the heavily damaged peregrine, struggling to stay on course. The debris trail, she was glad to see had stopped when the fighter had reduced its power. A moment ago, it had lowered its landing gear, a piece of debris caught on its starboard pad.

Almost immediately, the rear peregrine pulled back from its position on approach. It looked like it was manoeuvring for a shot. My God! She thought. He's going to try and vaporise the debris. A moment later she saw the pair of bolts fire from the cannons on the wingtips, and strike the debris dead on, vaporising it in a flash of light.

A second later, she hit a control pad on her console, and the tractor beams came to life. The blue glow touching the peregrine forcing it to slow down rapidly as it flew into the bay. An instant later, the peregrine hit the deck, and scraped along to a dead stop.

O-O-O

An hour later, the senior command staff of the Galactica were huddled around the map table in the CIC. "It figures," Colonel Saul Tigh, the grizzled and balding executive officer muttered, "the Cylons would be sitting on the only source of fuel within our reach."

To his right stood Geata. Opposite Geata, was Commander Adama and Captain Lee 'Apollo' Adama. The commanding officer's son and the ship's Commander of the Air Group or simply, CAG.

"Still staking out every waterhole in the desert," Geata said unsurprised.

"Only this time it's a lake," Tigh added. "Enough tylium to last us a couple of years."

Opposite, Lee Adama pointed to a long dark structure on the recon maps of the Cylon base. "This must be some type of conveyer belt," he said. "To get the ore from the mimes to the cracking plant here," he pointed out another series of structures arranged roughly in a circle.

"A refinery?" Geata questioned, looking at the CAG. "This far from their home world."

"Why not?" Lee Adama said. "They need as much fuel as we do."

"Now they've got it," Geata said.

"And enough firepower to keep it." Tigh added.

"All right," Lee Adama countered. "So we forget this asteroid, and find another source."

"You can bet," Tigh said pointedly. "The Cylons will be guarding that one just as much as this source."

"So we send the raptors out further," the junior Adama persisted. "Ten, Fifteen jumps. Find a source they haven't reached yet."

"And use up all our fuel doing it," Tigh stated. "And besides, how're we to get a refinery ship-"

Tigh was cut off by the interjection ofCommander Adama, "We take the tylium from the Cylons." For the past few minutes, he had been silent, letting his officers try to come to the conclusion he had come to almost a minute earlier. Speaking up to prevent an argument erupting and because he realised they would not reach the conclusion he wanted them to reach. Around the table, his officers issued a collective gasp. Geata stood up straight and looked at Tigh.

"Sir," Tigh spoke for the others. "With all due respect, this is hardly the time to attack a superior force."

"It's exactly the time," Adama said. "We know where they are, they don't know where we are. We'll catch them with their pants down."

"If we fail…" Lee Adama started to say.

"End of game." Tigh finished.

"So we don't fail."

"Commander," Dualla said. "Boomer and Crashdown are in the air and ready for their jump to Voyager's coordinates."

"Put them through down here," Adama said picking up his phone. "Boomer, Galactica Actual. Just wanted to say good luck…"

O-O-O

"…and I wish I was going with you. I have complete faith that you'll manage to bring them back."

In the cockpit of Raptor 312, Valerii listened in, While Witwer did the same in the back. He was currently readying the raptor for the jump. Spinning up its FTL drive.

"Thank you, Actual," Valerii said. "We'll be back before you know it." She looked back giving the order. "Crashdown, start the clock."

He flipped a switch. "Clock is running…jump in five…four…three…two…one. Jumping…"

O-O-O

For the past hour, ever since Lieutenant Xavier 'Wolverine' Thompson had brought his battle damaged fighter back to Voyager, the starship had had a flight of the tomcat fighters, Lieutenant 'Proton' Paris had designed, on CAP duty. The term was a hold over from the days of the wet navies, where a flight of fighters would continuously fly a set 'combat air patrol' on the lookout for any possible threat to their carrier. Here of course there was no air. But the name, as had so many other things had stuck.

Today, Lieutenant Kara 'Viper' Wade in the tomcat Aggressor 3 was pulling the duty alongside Lieutenant Edward 'Batman' Wayne and Lieutenant (j.g.) Kathleen 'Cat' Garrity. Several kilometres ahead on SWAC duty was the Peregrine V-03, being flown by Lieutenant Jeffrey 'Tiger' Simpson with the Bolian Ensign 'Chilli' Chell as the EWO.

They had been on the patrol for nearly an hour now, and boredom had begun to set in. That was usually a good sign. If one wasn't bored, Wade thought. One wasn't fully concentrating on the job in hand. Unfortunately, her current wingmen didn't believe in her philosophy. They were having a conversation over their communications link, and were determined to draw her into it.

"Hey Viper," Chell was saying. "You entered Harry's baby pool yet?"

"Chilli," Wade said back innocently. "What baby pool?"

"You know," Chell said, "which baby pool we're taking about. There is only the one for B'Ellana's unborn child. I put down 1420 hours on Saturday. What about you Batman?"

"Oh I put down 1300 tomorrow."

"All right, all right," Wade said giving in. Behind her helmet, she was flushed with embarrassment at being drawn into this conversation "I put down for 0345 on Monday."

"See I told ya Cat," Chell was saying. "Even Viper can't resist making a bet."

"Hey," Wade complained light heartedly. "I was caught between a rock and a hard place."

"What," Garrity asked. "Does that mean?"

"It means," Wayne said. "That our wingman here has the hots for Voyager's chief ops officer. And, Harry asked her personally to enter it and she couldn't refuse."

O-O-O

As the nausea faded, Witwer quickly checked his instruments. "Boomer, jump complete," he said. "Multiple dradis contacts. Reading a heavy cruiser on zero-one-five carom three at two hundred eighty-one thousand two hundred and eighty klicks. And four smaller contacts spread out in various orbits around the cruiser. Could be a cap."

"Keep the FTL drive spun up," Valerii said from the raptors cockpit. "Just in case we have to get out of here fast."

"Aye, Boomer," Witwer said. "Dradis just recognised one of the contacts. It's a peregrine."

"Thank the Gods," Valerii said. "We made it. Now get on the wireless and contact them. Before they consider us a threat."

O-O-O

Captain's Log: - 12/22/2377-1400

Just under an hour ago, Lieutenant Xavier 'Wolverine' Thompson returned from a survey mission near farther regions of the asteroid belt. There, his peregrine was attacked without provocation, killing his EWO and causing severe damage to his fighter. He is now in sickbay recovering. I have ordered that the peregrine's logs be examined to find out why its shields failed and to gain some knowledge on the fighters. Other than them being 'without pilots' as Anderson described them.

Six years and eight months ago, I made a decision that stranded my ship and crew here in the Delta Quadrant. It was the right decision and I've never regretted it. For the second time in our journey, our stocks of dilithium have reached the point where they can no longer be re-crystallised. Though we have found a plentiful supply of the crystals, it is located on an asteroid that is apparently under the control of a hostile race called 'Cylons'.

I now face a similar decision. Should I launch a counter-attack and take the dilithium, or leave the system and try to find another source before our depleted stocks run dry?

Chakotay didn't look happy when he arrived on the bridge, Seven was right behind him. But Janeway couldn't have cared less about the why. He quickly became all business as he glanced around the bridge, noting that everyone was on station.

Janeway, Tuvok, Paris, Kim and Sito were already busy at their posts, though their eyes were focused on the small ship that was visible on the main screen. It was brownish in colour and looked vaguely like a helicopter without its rotor blades.

"What kind of craft is that?" Chakotay asked. "Looks almost like a badly designed shuttle."

"According to the sensor records from one of our peregrines," Janeway was saying. "It's a raptor."

"Captain," Sito said. "It's hailing us."

"Open a channel," Janeway said.

"Channel open," Sito said. "You're on Captain."

Standing up, Janeway took a couple of steps towards the main screen and the helm. "This Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Battleship USS Voyager, to whom am I speaking?"

O-O-O

"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Battleship, USS Voyager, to whom am I speaking?"

Aboard the raptor, Lieutenants Valerii and Witwer, listened to the crystal clear voice coming through they're earpieces. The way the female voice sounded, suggested a commanding presence, which to them was confusing given her rank of Captain. A rank that was three places below a Commander. Still that wasn't important right now, and a comparison of their ranks could wait. What was important Valerii realised, was that they establish contact.

"Voyager, this is Lieutenant Sharon Valerii aboard Raptor 312 from Battlestar Galactica." Valerii enquired. "Am I speaking to Actual? That is the commanding officer." The last part was an afterthought. She realised that they might not understand the term.

"That is correct," Janeway said. "May I enquire as to the reason of your visit?"

"Boomer," Witwer said, "A pair of those fighters are on a CBDR with us. Frack they're fast. Intercept in twenty seconds."

Taking a look out her cockpit, Valerii looked towards the incoming fighters. What she saw looked sleek and dangerous. The fighters were long, with their wings spread out into an 'X' like formation with long antennae like structures at the end of each wing. It looked to have four powerful engines at the root of each wing, with their front ends glowing red.

"Captain," she said forcing herself back to her conversation with Voyager. "May we come aboard? I need to explain the situation here and why it isn't safe for you to remain at this location."

"Of course," Janeway replied. "I'll have one of my fighters escort you to Voyager"

O-O-O

"…We'll see you in a few minutes, Lieutenant." Janeway concluded."

"I should inform you," Valerii said, "that it will take my raptor twenty-four minutes to reach you."

At this, Paris turned back briefly from his station. "Captain," he said. "I've been monitoring their course changes since their arrival. It suggests they may be lacking or have limited inertial dampening systems. I think they're limited to Newtonian physics."

Janeway nodded to him and he turned back to his station. "Understood Lieutenant," she told Valerii. "I'll have one of my fighters give you a lift; Lieutenant Sito, inform Lieutenant Wade to give the craft a tow to our vessel." Normally, she'd have had Voyager's own tractor beams to tow the small raptor. However, she wasn't sure that the raptor could stand the stresses that the main beam would impose on the small craft, so instead she had one of her fighters give the tow.

O-O-O

Aboard the raptor, Valerii took another look at the fighter. For the past several seconds the fighter had just sat there, its nose and probably guns pointing straight at the raptor. It's beautiful,Valerii thought. But, so is a Viper and she didn't want to be on the receiving end of that fighter. She was just glad that they were tagged as friendly.

"Understood, Voyager," Valerii said, then closed the channel.

"Receiving a signal from that fighter," Witwer said tapping away at his console.

"Aggressor 3Raptor 312," a female voice said over the wireless. As the voice was talking, the fighter in front waggled its wings "I'm Lieutenant Kara Wade, and I'll be providing your lift. Just sit back and enjoy the ride."

"Understood," Valerii said. "We're standing by." She paused a moment, thinking. "How should I refer to you? Do you have a call sign? The pilot we spoke to earlier did."

"Oh my call sign is Viper."

On hearing that, Valerii smiled; thinking of the fighters she was more familiar with. "That's a good one. Look after it."

Looking out of her cockpit canopy, Valerii saw the fighter flip over nose to tail and then rotated along its axis so that its orientation matched her raptor. The whole manoeuvre took barely a second. An instant later, a small alarm was sounding from the electronics centre in the raptors rear.

"Boomer," Witwer said suddenly. "Energy spike!"

A moment later, everything outside the cockpit, turned an eerie shade of blue, and she could hear a faint thrum coming from the cockpit canopy. Looking out, she traced the glow to the fighter. It seamed to be emerging from a point near the rear of the fighter on its underside.

O-O-O

"Oh my call sign is Viper," Wade said.

"That's a good one," Valerii was saying. "Look after it."

I don't know why I would want to look after it, Wade thought. I only have it because everyone thinks my love of snakes is strange.

The cockpit layout of her fighter was an efficient one, divided up into sections. The main central panel comprising the heads up display, tactical situation monitor, flight control and navigation monitor. On either side of the central panel was a secondary LCARS interface that could be configured according to preference. Though it was normal practice for most of the aviators to have it set so that the left interface was the master systems display, while the right was set for communications controls. On either side of the cockpit, were smaller consoles dedicated to power generation and life-support. Between Wade's legs at the base of the centre panel, was the pair of joysticks used for piloting the fighter. The left stick being used for general flight control, while the right stick was for control of the fighter's orientation, giving it the ability to spin about on its pitch and yaw axis's without changing the direction of flight.

Both hands on the flight sticks, she flipped her fighter over nose to tail and rolling to starboard. "Computer:" she said. "Lock onto target designated Raptor 312, and activate tractor beam."

"Tractor beam locked on and engaged," the neutral female voice of the fighter's computer announced.

Manipulating the throttle controls on her fighter, she accelerated to a quarter impulse on a heading towards Voyager. "Aggressor 3, Raptor 312," Wade said activating her communications system again. "Raptor 312, I have you under tow. Estimate time of arrival at fifteen seconds."

O-O-O

"Frack" Boomer muttered as she found herself slammed into the back of her ejection seat for half a second. Looking through her cockpit canopy, she noted the stars moving much faster than normal. According to the raptor's avionics, they were now travelling at six and a quarter percent light speed and experienced over forty-one thousand g's. Okay Valerii, she thought. That's not possible. It only felt like four. Instinctively, she hit her braking thrusters, but noted that while they fired, the raptors velocity was unchanged. She let go of her controls, realising she no longer was in control.

Glancing up at the fighter, she noted that its four main thrusters were glowing brightly as they drove the fighter forward, pulling the raptor along for the ride. Behind her, Witwer spoke up.

"This isn't normal," Witwer said. "We should be so much salsa on the back bulkhead."

Valerii thought about it for a moment. "I don't know, maybe they have some type of dampening system that reduces g forces."

"Maybe," Witwer half agreed. "Still I thought such systems could only be installed aboard larger vessels like Colonial One or the Galactica."

"You're thinking in terms of colonial tech," Valerii said. "That fighter isn't colonial. For all intents, it's alien."

"Oh yeah," Witwer said slightly sarcastically. "The blue beam they're using to tow is definitely alien."

O-O-O

Wade was quiet for most of the trip back to Voyager, focusing on the job in hand of towing the raptor from Voyager's control area; a spherical region of space with a radii of sixty light seconds and into the control zone; a smaller sphere with a radii of only ten kilometres.

Noting that she had closed to the one hundred and fifty thousand kilometre mark, she opened the channel to Voyager's air boss. "Air Boss, Aggressor 3," Wade said, "Requesting landing instructions for myself and Raptor 312."

"Aggressor 3," came the response from Harley. "You are cleared for approach and landing in the flight deck. Instruct Raptor 312 that they cleared for approach and landing in shuttlebay two. Handover to LSO will take place at one kilometre. Raptor 312 has the number one slot."

"Roger that," Wade said. "Raptor 312, Boomer your cleared for approach and landing in shuttlebay two. We're now passing ninety-four thousand kilometres. How're you enjoying the ride?"

"Wilco. Just fine," Valerii answered. "Are velocities like this the norm…"

O-O-O

"…for you people?"

"Yeah," Wade said. "We're travelling on what we refer to as impulse power. Quarter impulse to be exact."

"Wow," Valerii said amazed. If she had done the maths right, then what Wade had told her was that Voyager and her support craft had a top velocity of a quarter the speed of light. Almost three hundred times that of the average Viper mark II or VII. She only wished that the fleet were capable of such velocities. If they were, they could have easily beaten off the Cylons.

The next few seconds past without much conversation, the only sound coming from the raptors idling engines, or Witwer calling out the decreasing range to Voyager. The later, he didn't really have to do as it was obvious they were closing on the battleship called Voyager.

Looking out the canopy of her Raptor, Valerii could see the battleship grow in size as they hurtled closer. It was close enough now to make out its form. At its fore, was a large flat oval saucer which was attached to a flowing conduit like neck, narrow at the fore and wide at its rear. This was mounted on what appeared to be a flattened cylindrical hull with some sort of dish mounted on its oval like front end. Looking towards the rear of the secondary hull, she saw a pair of pylons, each one emerging horizontally from either side before angling vertically upwards, leading to a pair of pods with glowing front ends just like the dish structure. She sorely wished she could make out some colour. Unfortunately, the blue haze of the towing beam prevented it. The only surprising aspect of this ship, Valerii thought, was the numerous windows. Those windows do not belong on a warship. Even, the Mercury-class battlestars did not have this many windows.

"Approaching nineteen thousand kilometres," Wade said over the wireless, "Standby for deceleration and tractor beam disengagement."

"Wilco, Aggressor 3," Valerii said. "Crashdown brace for deceleration."

Just as she braced herself in her seat, she felt again the force of four gravities, this time pulling her forward. "Raptor 312 Aggressor 3" Wade again said over the wireless. "We're now holding at two-hundred and fifty kilometres off Voyager's starboard bow. I'm disengaging tractor beam."

At that, Valerii looked up just in time to see the blue hue of the tractor beam fade away to nothing. Looking back towards Voyager, she could now see that the pods glowed red at the front, while the dish was glowing blue. Checking her flight stick, she gave it a slight jiggle, noting that the raptor was again under her control and responding to commands.

Ahead, the friendly fighter was shifting slightly to her port, giving her a clear view ahead. As it did so, a new voice came over her wireless, this one being male and showing the gruffness of age. "Raptor 312, this is Air Boss, turn port zero-two-one mark zero-zero-six and engage at twenty kps." This voice, she thought with a smile reminded her of Adama's.

O-O-O

Located in the centre of deck three and extending both upwards to deck two and below to three, was the primary flight operations centre responsible for co-ordinating everything from the operations of the three flight bays to the monitoring and control of support spacecraft within Voyager's space control area. The room was essentially a spherical holodeck with a walkway leading to a circular platform with four consoles at which were operated by the flight deck operations officer and three space traffic controllers who were supervised by the air boss.

Standing in the centre of the platform, was Lieutenant Commander Seven Harley. He was at this moment watching the movements of two small craft. The first was the tomcat being flown by Lieutenant Wade; the other was the small shuttle-like craft that was identified as being Raptor 312. He had just given it its approach course for shuttlebay two. The port flight deck located at the back of Voyager's neck on deck thirteen.

"Wilco Air Boss"Harley heard Valerii say over the communications system. "Turn port zero-two-one carom zero-zero-six and engage at twenty kps."

'Carom?' Harley thought. Guess that's their word for mark. "That's your course, continue on that heading for twenty-five seconds, and then turn starboard…" Harley continued.

O-O-O

In shuttlebay two, Captain Janeway and her entourage, waited at one side for the approaching craft to enter the bay. A moment earlier, she had seen the raptor arc round the rear of Voyager's starboard warp nacelle and align itself for the shuttlebay. Just above and to the raptors port side was the tomcat. It waggled its wings for a moment before slowing down and coming to a halt. Janeway knew that if the raptor made any aggressive move, then the tomcat would open fire. Above her in the bays control booth was the bay's LSO talking Lieutenant Valerii, who had insisted on a hands on approach, into the bay. Janeway listened in.

"Raptor 312, this is Voyager LSO," a male voice said over the bay's communications system. "You're clear for approach shuttlebay two, hands-on approach. Speed zero-one-zero mps. Boomer, call the ball."

"Copy that, Voyager," Valerii responded. As this was being heard over the intercom, Janeway could see the raptor begin to approach. In just over thirty seconds, the craft would be entering the bay. "Shuttlebay two, hands-on approach. Speed zero-one-zero mps. I have the ball."

"I'm curious," Seven said abruptly addressing Janeway. "Why would Lieutenant Valerii wish to make a hands-on approach, when the bay's tractor beams could bring her raptor in quicker and more efficiently?"

"Could be anything," Janeway told her. "From hands-on approaches being the norm where she's from, to pilot ego and wanting to make an impression. After all, you know what most of our pilots are like."

"Yes I do," Seven agreed.

"Bridge to Captain Janeway," Commander Chakotay said over the intercom.

"Go ahead," Janeway answered.

"Thought you should know," Chakotay reported. "We got a good scan of the raptor. Two life-signs are aboard. Human life-signs."

"Human?" Janeway said glancing at the closing raptor. "Confirm that."

"I've already confirmed it," Chakotay said. "Lieutenant Wildman rescanned the raptor twice. There's no question."

"Is it possible," Neelix said thoughtfully, "that they could be from some lost Earth colony?"

Seven looked at him thoughtfully. "Not this far away from Earth. However, it could be that they were taken from Earth in a similar fashion to the 33s and 86s."

Janeway smiled. "Or even the Preservers."

"You are ten seconds from touchdown," Janeway heard. "You may deploy landing gear."

O-O-O

"What the frack," Valerii muttered as she began to get a clearer view inside the bay where she'd be landing the raptor.

"What is it?" Witwer said glancing forward. A moment later, he himself saw what Valerii had just seen. "Sharon, there's crew walking about in the bay."

"I know," Valerii muttered. "And they're not wearing pressure suits."

"Seven…six," the bay's LSO was saying over the wireless. "Five…four…three…two…one."

An instant later, her canopy once again suddenly blue shifted as another tractor beam pulled the raptor slowly into the bay, then setting the craft gently down on the deck with a soft thud before shutting down. "Gear has touched down, tractor beam disengaged."

"We're down," Valerii said shutting down and securing her flight controls. Folding the central console in the process. Getting up from her seat, she removed her helmet and entered the aft section, standing over Witwer as he took some final readings. "Boomer," he said. "You see this. I'm reading a Caprica normal oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere."

"I see it," she told him, picking up her holdall which contained her standard uniform. "Grab your gear and secure your console. Time to go meet some real life aliens."

O-O-O

His tricorder in hand, Tuvok scanned the raptor checking for anything out of the ordinary. "Captain," he said. "I'm detecting no energy weapons aboard the craft. However, I picked up numerous traces of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin."

"Firearms," Janeway said. "You mean weapons like those of late twentieth century Earth."

"Yes, Captain." He agreed.

A moment later, Janeway looked up as the hatch in the side of the raptor began to swing upwards with the hum of electrical motors, revealing two apparent humans in a green rubbery vinyl looking flight suit. A male and female.

Keeping her hand near her holstered pistol, Valerii stepped onto the raptors port wing taking a look round her surroundings. The bay was she noted, somewhat square in shape and appeared to be about two decks tall. Glancing left, she noted a bulkhead coming down to closing the entrance through which she had just flown through. At one side of the massive bay door, she could see what she thought was one of the deck crew operating a console and glancing at the closing door. This person's uniform she noted was essentially a black fatigue with yellow-gold coloured shoulders. Directly ahead were six people, five of which were wearing a black uniform with grey shouldered jackets with a coloured undershirt. The undershirt she noted was red, gold or blue. The cuffs of the uniforms, like the undershirt were coloured red, gold or blue. On the left breast of these uniforms was some sort of gold and silver insignia badge.

The sixth person stood out partly because his demeanour reminded her of the pilots she knew from Galactica. The garment he was wearing, Valerii thought, was more of a space suit. The material was clearly a lot thicker, and was a dark grey, almost black in colour. The cuffs of his garment were red. It was clearly some type of flight suit. All of them, she noticed with a slight expression of wonder and shock were armed with some very mean looking black pistols holstered at their waists.

Coming vaguely to attention, she addressed group waiting for her. "Ma'am," she said. "Permission to come aboard?"

"Permission granted," the woman with the red undershirt and four gold pips on her collar said. "Welcome aboard the Federation Battleship USS Voyager."

Taking her hold all from Witwer, they both stepped down onto the deck and approached the group. In response, the woman stepped forward a smile on her face. "I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway."

"Lieutenant Sharon Valerii," the raptor pilot said shaking Janeway's hand. "Battlestar Galactica. This is my ECO Lieutenant jg. Samuel Witwer."

Janeway nodded as the male stepped up. "Captain," he said.

Allow me to present some of my senior officers. "This is," Janeway said indicating the dark skinned officer to her immediate right. "My chief of security and tactical officer, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok."

Valerii noted that his undershirt was gold and that he had two gold pips, and one black one. She realised, that those pips must represent rank. Another thing she became aware of was his frowning eyebrows and pointed ears. This is an alien, she thought. From the distance, he looked human.

Tuvok raised his right hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Lieutenant Valerii."

She raised her own right hand trying to imitate the gesture, and failed. Beside her, Witwer succeeded, giving her a subtle smirk. Ha, Ha. Something I can do that you can't.

"You're an alien?" Valerii asked.

"Yes," Tuvok answered. "I am Vulcan.

Moving on, Janeway introduced the balding, well built male in the strange flight suit. "This is Lieutenant Commander Rick 'Jester' Heatherley, Voyager's CAG. He'll be looking after you while you're aboard."

Both Valerii and Witwer nodded.

"Next we have the-" Janeway was cut off by the sound of the general quarters alarms.

"General Quarters," Chakotay's voice resounded over the intercom. "General Quarters. All hands, condition red."

To be continued…