The Death of the Triton

By Matthew the Battlestar Triton

Between Canceron and Virgon

Two Hours into the Cylon Attack

"Wireless reports indicate a dozen Cylon basestars engaging the Fleet at Virgon," Captain Andrew "Cracker" Jefferson, the Commander of the Air Group, said as he paced the briefing room of the battlestar Triton. "We've been able to keep them away from the planet, but casualties are high. Very high. Supposedly the Cylons have broken our firewalls."

Gasps rolled through the assembled pilots. The Colonials had made vast advances in network security over the last twenty years, advances that enabled them to use integrated computers aboard their ships. If it turned out that the new firewalls weren't enough to block Cylon hack attempts, they could all be in real trouble.

Lieutenant David Collins, Electronic Countermeasures Officer for Raptor 759, raised his hand.

"You have a question, Crashdown?" Cracker asked.

"What can the Cylons do, sir?" he asked. As war reports poured into the CIC over the wireless, rumors flew among the pilots. I hope to all twelve Lords of Kobol they're wrong, Crashdown thought.

The CAG shook his head. "It's bad. Their new Raiders can disable a whole Viper squadron if they get them line-of-sight with their red eyes." More shocked gasps from the assembled pilots. Captain Jefferson motioned for calm. "Your systems will eventually reboot, but that takes time you will not have. Stay away from the red-eyes.

"You're lucky Crash — Raptors are for the most part immune," he continued. "The rest of the Fleet isn't so lucky. The Cylons can also mess with the capital ships — Kobol's Fist lost power completely over Picon, while the Cylons took over the fire control aboard the battlestar Aegis and slaughtered its entire Viper complement as they launched. Over fifty battlestars have been lost, and new reports are rolling in.

"Now, we've been able to work out a few countermeasures. Most of them apply only to battlestars and other big ships, but some apply to Mark VIIs. When we get to Virgon, I want the Viper pilots to spread out. Make it so the Cylons can't disable a whole squadron at once. Set your wireless consoles to receive only Colonial signals. That'll slow the Cylon hack attempts, maybe give you time to shoot the Raider that's frakking with you. And if you see one of your buddies not moving, shoot the nearest Raiders. Give them time to get their systems working again."

Crashdown raised his hand to ask another question, but then alarms started howling. "Damn it!" he heard Cracker roar.

The public-address system rumbled to life. "Cylon basestar, Cylon basestar. Launch the alert fighters. All other pilots to your ships."

Lieutenant Aaron "Thunderbolt" DeCamp, the pilot of Crashdown's Raptor, clapped him on the shoulder.

"Let's give the toasters hell," the broad-faced man said, smiling.

Crashdown was uneasy, but he gave the pilot a grin.

Aboard Raptor 759, Outside of the Triton

"Look at the size of that," Thunderbolt gasped. Crashdown had to agree.

An enormous Cylon basestar floated directly in front of the Triton's one hundred-strong Viper wing. Behind and below them, the battlestar's guns thundered silently. Bright explosions flared between the two capital ships as the Triton's flak guns intercepted the basestar's rain of missiles. Some missiles got through, but they did little damage against the battlestar's thick armor. The Triton had not yet drawn close enough to the basestar to open up with its bow guns.

However, as Crashdown looked at his console, he saw they had a more immediate problem.

"Three hundred Raiders approaching," Thunderbolt said. "Good hunting."

"All Vipers, break, break, break!" Cracker ordered. Ahead of them, the Viper wing broke apart to meet the oncoming Cylons.

The dance of death began. Crashdown saw eight Raiders die immediately, the smaller Cylon craft ripped asunder by Colonial Viper fire.

However, Vipers were dying too, and to his horror, he saw they were dying faster. He saw one Raider flash its red eye at Cracker's Mark VII and the ship's engines abruptly died.

"Cracker's not talking," Thunderbolt observed. "What about the others?"

"Looks like about fifty Mark VIIs are still dusting it up," Crashdown said.

"Twenty look alive but aren't talking to anyone. I'll bet the Cylons have gotten to them already." Crashdown saw Thunderbolt flinch. "The others are dead."

The pilot struck the console with his fist. "It's only been frakking thirty seconds!"

"Status report!" Cracker's voice cut in.

"You won't like this, sir," Crashdown said. "Almost one-third of the air wing's dead, and…"

Cracker's signal cut off abruptly. "CAG's gone," Thunderbolt said, pointing. Crashdown looked to see the Mark VII tumbling away, its front end smashed. "How many casualties are the toasters taking?"

"Looks like forty Raiders so far. Those things aren't especially tough." Anger darkened Crashdown's voice. "If it weren't for their computer tricks, I'd bet they'd all be dead right now!"

A red light began flashing on the console. The siren on the far end of the compartment howled. "Radiological alarm!" Crashdown shouted. "Nuke!"

"Darkening the windows," Thunderbolt said, fingers dancing across a console. The cockpit windows darkened considerably.

Despite the countermeasures, the resulting flash nearly tore Crashdown's eyes out. For a few terrifying seconds, he was blind.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Debris from the explosion hit the Raptor. Crashdown prayed that the pieces of whatever had blown up weren't enough to seriously damage the ship.

"What was that?" Thunderbolt shouted.

"Hold on!" Crashdown said, blinking his eyes. Colors filtered in and soon he could see his familiar DRADIS console. Granted, it was through a haze of green and purple, but something was better than nothing and he thanked the gods for small mercies.

"Looks like the explosion took out another forty Raiders, four Vipers, and one of the Raptors. Not sure if it was one of ours or theirs." He looked at the console again. "There's a big hole in the Raider formation. I'll bet it was one of ours. Maybe one Raptor was going down and decided to take some Cylons to the House of Hades with them."

"Looks like some of our boys are headed in." Thunderbolt pointed.

Two Raptors and four Vipers hurtled through the gap in the Raider formation. The Colonial ships flew straight for the basestar, and Crashdown could see nukes slung under the Raptor hulls.

A dozen Raiders broke away from the swarm and pursued the Colonials. One Viper spun and opened fire, smashing the front end of a Raider. The Cylon fighter tumbled away.

"Is that…blood?" Thunderbolt asked, slack-jawed. Crashdown looked and saw reddish fluid boiling off.

"It can't be. Probably oil or something."

Thunderbolt shrugged. Crashdown returned his attention to the battle.

The Viper destroyed another Raider, but a third flashed its red-eye and the Viper shut down. The Raider squadron passed by the stranded human ship. The rearmost vessel in the formation launched a missile almost as an afterthought.

"Viper 15, you've got a missile inbound," Crashdown warned.

"Thanks," the pilot replied. "Comms are working again, but Nav's taking awhile to boot up." The missile drew closer. Crashdown's eyes widened.

"Damn it, eject! We'll pick you up!" Thunderbolt shouted as the missile drew closer.

"That's a negative, Thunderbolt. Nav's back, and engines are coming on again. I'll take those toasters from the…"

The Viper's engines flared, but the Cylon missile was too close. The Viper and its warlike pilot died.

In the meantime, the Colonial strike force had drawn closer to the basestar. The starfish-like monstrosity had redirected its missile fire from the Triton to the more immediate threat. The remaining Vipers opened fire, cutting a trail through the missile screen for the Raptors.

"They're close," Crashdown said, heart pounding with anticipation.

Then the Raider squadron caught up with them. Two Vipers broke away from the formation, only to be disabled and destroyed without getting off a single shot. A missile from the basestar smashed one Viper.

"Nuke it now, damn it!" Thunderbolt shouted. The Raptors launched four missiles and broke away. The surviving Viper followed the nukes in, blazing a trail.

The Raptors did not have time to retreat. One Raptor crumbled beneath gunfire from the Raiders, while the other, lacking time to dodge or Jump, dove straight into the Raider formation.

Somewhere in the center of the Raider swarm, the Raptor exploded. Crashdown guessed there was a collision.

"Ride that frakker in!" Thunderbolt whispered. One of the Raptor's nukes had been destroyed by Cylon missiles, but the three left would surely make hash of the basestar.

The Raider swarm opened fire. The storm of missiles and bullets caught the Viper in the rear and shredded its engines. The Colonial fighter went into a tumble. Two of the remaining nukes fell to Cylon fire. The surviving nuke continued on, too far ahead of the Raiders for them to catch it in time.

A blocky, shuttle-like vessel emerged from the basestar. It surged up, straight into the path of the nuke.

Crashdown felt his hopes die. The resulting explosion claimed the new Cylon craft, but also destroyed the nuke. The damaged Viper slammed into the basestar, but did little damage. The Raider pursuit force flipped away from the basestar and headed back towards the Triton.

"Damn it!" Thunderbolt shouted. "Crash, how many friendlies left?"

"Only eighteen Mark VIIs, and it looks like ten of them aren't going anywhere right now." Crashdown flinched. "Make that eight Mark VIIs."

"How many Raiders?"

Crashdown shook his head. "Looks like two hundred twenty or so. They're going straight into the Triton's firing solution." The ECO grinned mercilessly. "That'll cut the frakkers down to size."

"I'm getting us out of here," Thunderbolt said. The Raptor spun away from the battle.

"Where're we going?"

"Back to the Triton," Thunderbolt said. "We're damn lucky the toasters haven't noticed us."

Crashdown gulped. "They just did. Two missiles inbound."

"Deploying swallows." The pilot pressed a button and Crashdown felt the decoys drop away from the Raptor. Thunderbolt took the ship in a steep dive, straight into the Triton's firing solution.

"Are you insane!" Crashdown shouted. Debris spanged off the Raptor's hull and the explosions shook the Colonial craft.

"This'll help us lose the missiles!"

"Or our lives!"

Crashdown returned his attention to the console. "The swallow took one missile. We've still got one on our tail."

Something struck the Raptor and sent it tumbling sideways. Crashdown's hand snapped onto his chair, keeping him from tumbling out. "Was that the missile?" he shouted.

"If that was a missile, we'd both be spaced," Thunderbolt rumbled. "I think that was a piece of a Raider."

Crashdown looked at the DRADIS console. "The Triton's guns are shredding the frakkers." He grinned.

Then the siren in the back started going off again. "The Raiders are launching nukes! Twenty-five inbound!"

"Damn it!" Thunderbolt swore. "Hopefully the flak will get them. Crashdown! How's that missile going?"

"It's gone, sir. The flak got it!" Crashdown felt like dancing.

"Good. Now let's get out of this mess," Thunderbolt said, taking the Raptor into a spin. Crashdown anxiously watched his console. Suddenly, the flak explosions ceased dancing around them.

"What the hell!" Crashdown heard Thunderbolt shout.

"What?"

"Three-fourths of the Triton's guns aren't firing anymore. This includes the bow guns — that basestar isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Some of the flak cannon are firing, but not really hitting anything. Power's intermittent." Thunderbolt tore his control stick to the right and took the Raptor away from the battlestar. "If the Cylons are jacking with fire control and power, the Triton is dead. We've got to get out of range of those explosions."

Crashdown looked at his DRADIS console. He saw a green dot labeled "Raptor 521" vanish. "It gets worse. The Triton just killed one of our Raptors. We've got to get out of gun range."

"How many friendlies left?"

Crashdown peered at the console, but the answer didn't get any better. "One other Raptor and what looks like a Mark VII from Cracker's squadron. How they haven't shut it down yet is beyond me. He paused for a moment. "Where are we going now?"

Thunderbolt gestured to the blue-purple gas giant that lay a few thousand klicks away. "I'll take us into Proteus's upper atmosphere." His fingers danced across the console and the lights dimmed and the engines cut off. "Powered down, it's likely nobody will see us."

"Let's hope we're far away from any nukes."

Flashes lit up the space around them again. "Look at this," Thunderbolt said, examining some readouts printed from his console. "They were able to reboot their fire control computers and get power steady. Bow guns online and firing." He kept reading and fear crept into his voice. "This is weird. Petty Officer Sabo just went crazy. He shot the Old Man and the XO before firing the rest of his clip into the primary Jump computer. They're not getting out of here."

"Why in the hell would he do that?" Crashdown half-shouted. A bridge officer turning traitor? That made no sense.

"Not sure. He said something about God and then one of the Marines put a bullet in his brain."

One God, Crashdown thought. That's strange. There's a sect on Sagittaron that believes in one God, but Sabo's from Tauron. And anyway, that sect doesn't believe in military service. And, more importantly, why would he start shooting up CIC?

"One nuke's gone," Crashdown said. "The other twenty-four are…" His voice trailed away as the missiles struck.

This time, the Raptor was facing away from the nuclear explosions. Even with this small mercy, the flash played hell with Crashdown's vision. It took nearly two minutes for his vision to clear.

"Report!" he heard Thunderbolt shout.

"Triton's DRADIS signature is…gone. Only the Raptor and that Viper are left."

"I've got to see this for myself." Thunderbolt flipped a switch and the engines thundered back to life. The Raptor spun and the scene of devastation filled the darkened window.

Crashdown's jaw dropped. The twenty-four tactical nukes had reduced the once-mighty Triton to an expanding field of red-hot wreckage. The Raiders triumphantly swarmed through the debris, red eyes dancing in victory. The final blast from the bow guns had savaged one of the basestar's arms, but the enemy ship was largely intact.

"Holy…shit," Thunderbolt stammered. "More than two thousand people…"

"Thunderbolt, we've got a problem," Crashdown said. "The Raiders are peeling away from what's left of the Triton. It looks like they're hunting for surviv….they're heading this way!"

"Screw the planet," Thunderbolt said. "Let's Jump!"

"Where?"

"Not a blind jump, we might end up in the center of the sun. How about Teletros Anchorage? It's out of the way. Might be a good place to get our bearings."

"Sounds good," Crashdown said, calculating the Jump coordinates. A smile spread across his face. Here he was in his own world, a world of numbers and equations. His fingers danced across his console. With a final flourish, he keyed in the last sequence.

"Calculations plotted." It was then he spotted the hundred missiles racing towards the Raptor. Fear began its slow creep into his voice. "Let's get out of here!"

"Jump!"

Aboard Raptor 759, Near Teletros Anchorage

Like its ancient counterpart at Ragnar, Teletros Anchorage was an ammunition depot and potential refuge in wartime. Teletros's defense lay not in the atmosphere of the gas giant, so lethal to the Cylons, but in its remoteness. The station lay on the very rim of the Colonial star system, far away from any of the Twelve Worlds or their subsidiary colonies.

Unfortunately, as the horrified Raptor officers learned, that defense failed. The first thing Crashdown saw was the smashed remains of the station, its red-hot debris forming a constellation around one of the asteroids that the rocky planet's gravity had captured.

Then he looked at his DRADIS console and saw a dozen Raiders. The dozen DRADIS contacts blossomed into eighty as the Raiders launched missiles.

"No time to spin up!" Thunderbolt shouted, answering Crashdown's unspoken question. He took the Raptor into a steep dive that threatened to make his ECO return his rations.

"Where are we going?" Crashdown shouted.

"Into the rings!" Teletros had a ring system, one of the few solid planets known to have one. Crashdown thanked all twelve Lords of Kobol, starting with cunning Athena, and held on tight.

"We've got more than fifty missiles on our asses!" Crashdown shouted. "Just thought you'd want to know!"

"Hold onto your seat," Thunderbolt said. "Going in!"

Crashdown could see the swirling mass of rocks and debris that made up Teletros's ring system through the Raptor's window. He hoped that they wouldn't end up spread on a rock like so much butter.

"We're in!" Crashdown felt his world flip as Thunderbolt took the Raptor into a spin. Through the Raptor's window, he saw rocks whirl and explode as Cylon missiles detonated behind them and sent other rocks tumbling.

"The rocks are frakking with the DRADIS, but it looks like the rocks are eating up the missiles!" Crashdown shouted. "How long until we can spin up the drive?"

"Once we find a calm spot…" Thunderbolt began.

Then something exploded and sent the Raptor tumbling. Crashdown flew out of his seat into the ceiling, and everything went back.

Aboard Raptor 759, Inside Teletros Ring System

"Crash…Crash…"

Thunderbolt's words pulled Crashdown out of consciousness. He moaned and rose into a sitting position. What he saw pulled the breath out of his chest.

They were upside down. His DRADIS console floated above his head, and the Raptor's window faced into a large rock.

"We're alive," Crashdown said.

"True. You are at least."

Crashdown looked at Thunderbolt. His eyes flew wide as he took in his pilot's condition.

Thunderbolt was pale, and one of his arms tilted at an unnatural angle. He shivered, even though his flight suit was insulated.

"Thunderbolt, you alright?"

"No." Blood bubbled from his lips. "Broken ribs. One lung punctured, maybe both."

"Shit!" Crashdown slammed his fist against the ceiling that now served as a floor. Got to think clearly, he thought.

"All right. We've got to get this bird working again, get you to another battlestar or one of the Colonies…"

Thunderbolt shook his head. "What Colonies? You heard over the wireless. Nukes everywhere…"

Crashdown rose to his feet and made his way towards the front of the Raptor. "Maybe not Virgon. Half the Fleet's there, keeping the Cylons away. If any of the Colonies are still living, it's Virgon." He came to a stop underneath the pilot's seat. The lights on the console still glowed.

Ship's still alive, he thought. Just need to get up there.

A printout emerged from the Raptor console. It fluttered down to the men.

"What's that?" Thunderbolt asked weakly.

Crashdown crawled over and began reading. A grin broke out on his face. "It's…it's Commander Adama," Crashdown said. He read the message out loud.

" 'Am taking command of Fleet. All units ordered to rendezvous at Ragnar Anchorage for regroup and… counterattack!' "

"If Adama's at Ragnar, that means the Galactica is there too," Crashdown reasoned. "There'll be doctors and surgeons there." He smiled at Thunderbolt. "We'll get you fixed up."

If we can get this ship working again. Thunderbolt was in no condition to climb up there, or for that matter, to help him ascend. He inhaled, and made his move.

He jumped, hooking his hands into the top of the pilot's chair. He hoisted himself up and bent his body, trying to wrap his legs around the chair.

He failed. He managed to get one leg around, but his other leg slipped. He fell to the floor with a thud.

Damn it!

Crashdown rose to his feet. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. He jumped again and tried to swing himself up onto the chair in the same motion. This time, he got both legs around the chair. All he needed to do was swing around into a seated position. Sweat began staining his armpits.

He tangled his hands in the seatbelt and began sliding around the chair.

His feet slipped and he fell. Fortunately, the seatbelt stopped his fall and left him hanging.

Crashdown kicked with his legs, trying and failing to hook them onto the console. "A little help here," Crashdown called down to Thunderbolt. He's wounded; this won't help him or you, part of him whispered.

If he doesn't help me get this ship righted, we're both going to die out here, he reasoned, shutting down his conscience.

His pilot wearily rose to his feet, coughing all the while. He staggered over as Crashdown continued trying to kick himself into position.

Crashdown failed to hook the console with his feet again. He fell, but this time, Thunderbolt was there to catch him. The pilot used his good arm to give the mightiest shove his weakened condition could provide.

Thanks to Thunderbolt's push, Crashdown's behind made contact with the chair. He jammed his knees forward, lodging himself between the chair and the console. He quickly belted himself in.

"Thanks, Thunderbolt."

"You're welcome," the pilot wheezed.

"All right," Crashdown said to himself. "Time to get this bird flying again." He looked at the console. Wireless was working, but the engines were offline. He thought back to Academy and the Raptor flight manuals. His hands hopped to a switch labeled "backup" and flipped it.

Nothing happened.

"If the backup doesn't come on immediately," Crashdown recited, "keep flipping. Unless something is wrong in the engine block, it should spark the backup." He had to hurry — all his blood was going into his head.

Click, click, click. Nothing.

Now what? The manuals clearly state…

"I have an idea," Thunderbolt wheezed. "When I was an ECO, my pilot taught me this trick for restarting engines with the backup in case it didn't work immediately."

"Worth a shot," Crashdown said.

"Certain Raptor models have this kink in the ignition system. Hit the switch forward, back, forward, back, and then back and forth twice as fas…" A series of bloody coughs cut off Thunderbolt's instructions and the pilot doubled over.

I hope to all twelve gods this works, Crashdown thought.

Click, click, click, click, click, click. Click-click-click-click.

One of the Raptor's engines roared. Thunderbolt smiled through bloody teeth.

"Good job, Crash."

A small wave of relief flooded Crashdown's soul, followed by a larger wave of fear when he saw his pilot's condition.

Crashdown peered at the unfamiliar console, looking for the FTL indicators. He saw a red light.

Oh shit.

And then saw that the red light was for one of the Raptor's engines. Another light was the FTL drive, and it was green.

Crashdown shouted inwardly with joy.

"Okay, how to flip the Raptor?"

Thunderbolt chuckled. "You don't know how to flip a Raptor?"

Crashdown ground his teeth. "Okay, how do I flip a Raptor without hurting you?"

"I'll stand against the wall. Flip the Raptor, slowly, and I'll be able to adjust."

Crashdown took the controls in his hands. He carefully began rotating the ship. The blood that collected in his head trickled down and he could see clearly again.

Thunderbolt dragged himself to the co-pilot's seat. "You fly," he whispered. "I'll help you."

Crashdown brought the ship up, through the sea of rocks. It peeked through the top of the ring system.

"Can't see any toasters," Crashdown said as he examined the wreckage of the Anchorage. "I bet they moved on." He brought the Raptor fully out of the rings.

"Okay," Crashdown said. "I'm going to have to go aft and calculate the Jump. You just…"

The DRADIS console began beeping. "Shit!" Crashdown shouted.

Thunderbolt weakly raised a hand and pointed. In the distance, Crashdown could see a single Cylon Raider. The Cylon craft had apparently spotted them too; it dove right at them.

"Shit! Can you fly?"

Thunderbolt nodded.

"Good!" Crashdown ran over to the rear console and began plugging in the coordinates for Ragnar Anchorage. He felt the deck tilt as Thunderbolt took the Raptor into evasive maneuvers.

Crashdown finished keying in the coordinates. "Jump!" he shouted.

Thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk. Cylon bullets struck the roof of the Raptor. It would be a matter of seconds until they decompressed the ship.

Crashdown saw Thunderbolt weakly hit the trigger button.

The Raptor jumped.

Aboard Raptor 759, Ragnar Orbit

The Raptor came out of the Jump and the first thing that Crashdown saw was the blue-green orb of the gas giant Ragnar.

"We're safe!" Crashdown half-shouted. He ran over to the pilot's seat.

What he saw next shredded his heart.

Thunderbolt lay face-down on the console. A pool of blood trickled between the buttons and pooled on the flat spaces. His eyes were glassy and his flesh was white. Crashdown guessed he had bled to death or died of shock.

"Frak! Frak! Frak! Frak!" Crashdown pounded his fist on the console. He kept pounding it until he cut his hand open on a button. He slumped into the other empty chair and began weeping.

He wept until a young woman began speaking.

"Unidentified Colonial ship, this is Galactica."

Crashdown jumped to the wireless rig. "Galactica, this is Raptor 759 from the battlestar Triton."

There was a long pause. "Raptor 759, how many personnel do you have aboard?"

"Just me," Crashdown rasped. "I'm an ECO. My pilot is dead."

Another pause. "Welcome to the Galactica, Raptor 759. Come the landing bay and report to Colonel Tigh."

Saul Tigh, the historian?

"Will do, Galactica," Crashdown replied. He guided the Raptor down, towards the storms of Ragnar.

As the descended into the volatile clouds, he made a vow to all twelve Lords of Kobol.

No one will ever die because of me again.