Author's note: Urgh. Just urgh. I always hate writing the first chapter to a new story, because I'm not very good with beginnings. Once I get going, things should pick up a bit in quality. Well, enjoy.

Note: I do not own or pretend to own Battlestar Galactica or any of its characters. I do, however, own the characters and ships mentioned in this chapter. This is a fan fiction, and will produce no profit for the author.

"This is Colonel Karza, reporting in. All systems online and registering in the green. We are good to go." The young man spoke clearly into the boradcasting unit, running a hand through his short blond hair.

"Affirmative, Colonel Karza, anytime you're ready."

Colonel Dan 'Ares' Karza was a young officer in the Colonial Defence Force. He had graduated from the academy on Caprica eight years ago, and had served aboard the Battlestar Heraclitus since leaving the academy. He was considered by many to be a great asset to the crew of the ship: he was a good Viper pilot; he kept calm in the most tense of situations, and knew how to follow orders. He could also act on his own initiative, which made him ideal officer material. Karza lacked the ambition to rise to a command position, however, preferring to be amongst the pilots and more directly involved with the running of the ship.

At this particular moment, Colonel Karza was on training manoeuvres with eight other members of Battlestar Heraclitus' crew, along with the permanent engineering and deck crew of the ship: amongst them was Captain Trite, leader of a small five man Viper squadron. Karza and two other crew members were in the CIC of a small military frigate, the Comet class Chimera, a ship designed as a fast skirmisher with a five Viper fighter capacity and FTL capabilities. The Chimera was old: she had no computer network to speak of, and had been in service longer than many of the Battlestars. Most other Comet class frigates had been decommissioned or upgraded. The Chimera, however, was the accompanying training vessel currently being used by the Battlestar Heraclitus for war games and combat practice.

"Heraclitus, Chimera prepped and ready for manoeuvres," Karza said.

"Chimera, launch Vipers and proceed with training. Be aware that this is a live fire exercise. We'll be watching."

Karza grinned as he looked towards Petty Officer Cintar, the navigation officer. "Affirmative, Heraclitus. Chimera, out." Karza quickly switched frequency, broadcasting his message internally throughout the ship. "You heard them, ladies and gentlemen; this is a live fire exercise. All Vipers launch!"

"You're enjoying this too much, Karza," a voice said over the intercom, filled with amusement.

Karza grinned again. "Sorry, Trite, just looking forward to seeing how your squadron does against automatons!"

"Ha, right!" Captain Trite replied sarcastically. "And I suppose the fact that you get command of a Comet class for a day has nothing to do with it?"

"Right, nothing at all," Colonel Karza replied.

Captain 'Hotshot' Trite smiled to himself as his Viper Mark IV was manoeuvred into the launch tubes by the deck hands. "Alright, Vipers, our assignment is to eliminate the enemy and return to the Suetonius via combat landing. Good hunting!"

The captain braced himself in his seat as the deck chief counted down to launch. He was suddenly hurled back into the seat as his Viper launched forwards. The tube flashed past at a blistering speed as the Viper hurtled out into space. He could see his four squad mates emerge from the Comet class beside him, the nearly pristine-white fighters standing out as brilliantly as a star against the cool blackness of space. Behind him, the Chimera loomed large, and far into the distance he could just make out the form of the Battlestar Heraclitus, its immense bulk a formidable presence. Trite opened a communications frequency, linking himself to his pilots and to the CIC of the Chimera.

"Alright, Vipers form up on me. Let's find our target and eliminate it. Suetonius, any readings on long range scans?"

In the control room, Colonel Karza looked up at Sergeant Drester. Drester shook his head. "Negative, sir, no dradis contacts yet."

Captain Trite turned his head slightly as he peered out of the cockpit of his Viper. "Alright, Suetonius, keep us posted. Ok Vipers, eyes open and watch your backs."

"I don't understand why we're flying these Mark Fours," a female voice said over the com link. "They're outdated. I'd much rather fly a Mark Seven."

"Oh come on, Kate!" replied a male voice. "The Mark Four is a classic! It combines the great agility of the Mark Two with the improved navigation systems of the Mark Three! It's a great machine."

"Oh, shut up, Splitter."

"Cut the chatter, you two!" Trite ordered. "This is a combat situation, so keep the communications to a minimum."

"Viper squadron, dradis contacts!" The voice of Sergeant Drester interrupted over the link. "I read five hostiles closing on your position."

"Roger that, Suetonius. Alright, Vipers, weapons hot!" Trite glanced at his draedus console. Five contacts now registered on the extreme edge of the display. "Vipers, confirm five dradis contacts."

"Affirmative, sir," came Kate's voice. "Five hostiles registered."

Captain Trite grinned. "Let's go get 'em!"

The Vipers sped forward, shooting stars that flared across the darkness. They flew in perfect formation, the captain's Viper in the centre, with two more of the fighters flanking him on each side, hanging back slightly to form a wedge. It was a standard flight formation, one that proved effective in certain combat situations. Trite checked his dradis scanner: the enemy was close now.

"Contact!" came a cry across the wireless. "Five ships approaching, twelve o clock! ETA, five minutes."

"Holy frak, those are Cylon ships!" Kate's voice sounded nervous. "I thought this was a standard automaton drill!"

"Stay calm, guys," Captain Trite said smoothly. "This is what we're here to do; it's all part of the training. Mark your target and stay with them. Don't let one of those ships get behind you. If you get into trouble, don't panic; just remember the rest of the squad will help you out. Alright, prepare to engage and destroy!"

A voice, sharp and frantic, cut in over the radio. "Viper squadron, this is the Chimera! Those are real Cylon raiders, I repeat, those are real raiders! This is not part of the training drill!" Colonel Karza said urgently. "Proceed with extreme caution, they are hostile."

"Oh, frak me," muttered Splitter.

"Alright pilots, keep calm and mark your target. Don't get cocky, and for frak's sake watch your six!" Captain Trite ordered.

In the CIC of the Comet class Chimera, Colonel Karza was facing a difficult situation. He had received a communication from the Battlestar Heraclitus informing him that the twelve colonies were under a massive attack from the Cylons. He swallowed hard: he was too young to remember the first Cylon war. It had been over before he had been born, but he knew the stories. He'd seen the archive footage and the military documents. Karza knew this was going to lead to a conflict again, one that he hadn't expected to witness in his lifetime. He furrowed his brow, hesitating only a moment before deciding on a course of action. He picked up the chorded phone.

"This is Colonel Karza. As you are all aware, I have received word from the Heraclitus that our home worlds are under attack from the Cylons. Fleet headquarters at Picon was destroyed in the initial attack. We have been ordered to accompany the Battlestar Heraclitus to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet under the command of Admiral Nagala at Virgon to assist with the counter attack." Karza felt a huge fury within himself, consuming the fear in his soul. "Set condition one throughout the ship! All hands to combat stations! Bring the weapons grid online. We have to destroy these Cylon raiders and bring our boys and girls back on board before we go anywhere!" He turned towards a young woman with dark hair that had been tied back into a ponytail. "Lieutenant Esther, I want…"

He was cut off in mid sentence as a burst of static echoed over the communications, before fading to a quiet buzz. A nervous voice spoke quickly. "Chimera, this is the Battlestar Heraclitus. We've got problems."

Karza picked up the chorded handset again. "Affirmative, Heraclitus, this is the Chimera. What's the problem?"

"Chimera, we've got malfunctions throughout the ship here. Navigation is offline, the FTL drives won't spin up, and the weapons grid won't come online. We're dead in the water here!"

"Affirmative, Heraclitus. Have you launched your Vipers to defend the ship?" Karza asked.

The voice paused. "Our Vipers have been launched, but they're malfunctioning too. They're sitting ducks for any Cylons that might…" A loud blare of a klaxon cut across the voice. "Oh, lords of Kobol… dradis contacts! Raiders inbound, I repeat, raiders inbound! They'll be with us in three minutes!"

"Sit tight, Heraclitus, we're on our way to assist!" Karza looked to the stunned crew of the CIC. "Alright, boys and girls, this is no longer an exercise. Esther, get us alongside the Heraclitus for defensive action. Bring all batteries online." Karza turned to Cintar as the crew rushed to obey his orders. He lowered his voice as he spoke to the young officer. "How long until we are within range to assist the Heraclitus?"

Petty Officer Cintar swallowed before answering. "Five minutes, sir."

Karza shut his eyes. "We may be too late by then."

"Sir, our Viper squadron could reach the Heraclitus within two minutes," Cintar suggested.

Karza looked at him for a moment, before nodding. "Send the order to Captain Trite. He is to break off with the raider squadron and proceed to make a defensive action of the Heraclitus until her systems come back online. We'll deal with the raider squadron here."

As Cintar dashed off to relay the message, Karza stepped out of the CIC. He leaned back against the cool metal wall. He brought his hands up to his face, bathing his eyes in darkness as he sent a silent prayer to whichever god was listening.