Title: The Long March (11/?)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Nothing worse than on the shows, except maybe language.

Spoilers: Up to Symphony of Light for Robotech, with a few ideas picked here and there from other sources. For the other... well, they're not going to find New Caprica, that's for sure.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: A navigational error throws the SDF-3 into the middle of another war.

Author's Note: Beware the vorpal plot bunny. Starting to incorporate some elements of Shadow Chronicles.

President Laura Roslin looked at the neatly typed up letter Comman- no, Admiral Adama had brought her. In a way, it completely undercut one of her concerns since Pegasus had joined the Fleet, but it opened up a whole other can of worms.

"She has to know I can't accept this, Admiral," she finally said. "We're fighting for our survival. We need every capable officer we can get."

"I'm aware of that, Madam President," he replied. "But if I'm reading her right... she doesn't consider herself fit for duty. Helena Cain's a strong person, Madam President, but with the Cylon attack and the fall of most of the Fleet, something gave."

"Can we rehabilitate her, Admiral? Get her back on her feet?"

"We're a little short of assignments worthy of an admiral, Madam President. We only have two battlestars, a few armed freighters, no real support ships. No strikestars, no defenstars, not even a patstar."

"How does the Fleet usually rehabilitate good officers who screwed up?"

"Minor jobs, worthy of the rank, but low-risk," Adama replied. "With a flag officer, we'd probably send her back to War College, have her teach basic Fleet tactics, but even if War College is still standing, it's in Cylon hands, and we don't exactly have much need for training new prospective 'star commanders anyway."

"Hmm," she mused. "There must be something we can..." she trailed off as the idea struck. She rose to her feet and headed for the door. Opening it and leaning her head out, she called, "Billy? Could you come in here for a minute? We have some paperwork to write up."

"Yes, ma'am."

"All right, people!" Major Sean Phillips called out. "I want this area secured! Don't get too comfy! We're not gonna be here that long!"

They were on Caprica. The landing party under his command was immense by planetary standards, but it was somewhat understrength by interplanetary standards. With just under two thousand mecha, the landing force could easily overwhelm a large chunk of a continent but would have no real hope of taking a fortified planet.

Fortunately, Caprica did not appear to be heavily fortified.

He turned to the squadron leaders assembled before him and said, "Okay, you've all been given your assigned sectors as well as pictures of known Cylon agent models. If you encounter them, capture them if possible, terminate them if not. Assume any other humans you find are potential Cylon agents... but be polite just in case they aren't." That sent a ripple of chuckles throughout the crowd.

"Take out anything else," he added, his voice level and cold, cutting through the humor. "I'll be taking my team and the Roughnecks south to try and contact the local resistance. McQueen, set up an aerial recon and CAP, then pick your best pilots to fly air support for us."

"Yes, sir," the silver-haired Zentraedi nodded. Captain Tyrus Cassius "T.C." McQueen, REF Marine Corps Air Cavalry, had been a 'pod commander in the Imperial Fleet had and fought for Earth during the Rain of Death. During the battle, a Valkyrie pilot named McQueen saved his life at the cost his own, and when he sought out McQueen's family -- only vaguely grasping the concept and equating it to clone batches -- he was surprised to find that such a fine warrior had had none. Not even his squadron mates had survived, and he apparently had had no close friendships outside the squadron. When the Zentraedi defectors had been formally offered citizenship in the new United Earth Government, he had chosen to take the fallen pilot's name as his own, so that someone, at least, would remember... and so that he himself would not forget what the people of Earth had given him.

"Any questions?" Phillips waited for a moment, then said, "No? Good. Let me stress again: We canNOT let the Cylons acquire any of our technology, particularly our electronics, no matter what. Destroy your equipment if capture is imminent. If they get so much as a datadisc intact, it could compromise our computer systems on a fleetwide basis."

There were nods all around.

"Then let's get to it!"

Helena Cain stared at the sheaf of papers she had been handed. Although she had vacated her office immediately after submitting her resignation, leaving Col. Fisk in command, she had not yet moved off of Pegasus, and when the orders came in, Fisk had brought them to her himself. That the president was moving swiftly to account for her resignation was apparent when she noted Fisk's commander tabs.

She reread the orders again.

"To: Rear Admiral (UH) Helena Cain,

"Your resignation has not been accepted. However, in light of the concerns brought up within your request, you will be removed from active duty, pending a review by the new Senior Flag Officer. You will be detached from Colonial Fleet to act as Liaison Officer and Officer in Charge of all Detached Colonial Forces to the Robotech Expeditionary Forces.

"Immediately upon receipt, this date, you are to report to REF Flagship UES Pioneer (SDF-3) to assume your duties. REF command has been informed of your impending arrival.

"As Officer in Charge, you may not be in direct command of these people, but you are responsible for them, to make sure they act according to the Code of Conduct and that they are treated properly by the host command.

"You are required to perform the usual duties of a Liaison Officer and make routine reports on the situation of those troops to Admiral Adama and the President as required.

"You are to brief the REF Command Staff on all joint operations and ensure that there are working lines of comunications and logistics, as well as military support, to and from the Colonial Fleet and REF.

"Signed, President Laura Roslin, Commander-in-Chief, Colonial Fleet."

Fisk had told her that he would have her things -- most of which she had already packed in anticipation of her departure from the service -- sent over as soon as possible.

The orders weren't quite like those cut for her before, back when the Colonial government still had its layers of bureaucracy and miles of red tape and Official-ese, but she supposed it was to be expected. She was probably the only person left alive who knew what Presidential Fleet orders should look like. She shook her head with a rueful smile as the irrelevance of the thought struck her.

Who gave a frak what things were like before?

She knew she was just trying to settle herself. Part of what had driven her to tender her resignation -- a large part -- had been the Earthers. She'd been briefed on what parts of their history they had revealed, and... it had shamed her. As a people, they had suffered so much more than the Colonials had, and yet they had never quite descended into barbarism because of it.

And now she was going to be surrounded by people who were so much better than her.

"Doctor Lang," Rick greeted the head of the REF's R&D department. It was an informal staff meeting, partly to ease the new Colonial liaison officer into their routine. "Progress on adapting the Resurrection's controls?"

"Ve're making quvite a bit of headvay," was the heavily-accented reply. "Doctor Baltar and his expertise in biochemistry has been invaluable to our efforts. Also, Admiral, I have confirmed zat ze Resurrection's cloning tanks are almost zertainly adapted from Tirolian technology."

"Which is pretty much what we expected," Rick nodded.

"Excuse me," Cain frowned, as she realized that something wasn't quite adding up. "Why would you be expecting that?"

A pregnant silence followed her question, and Admiral Hunter sighed, "I'm afraid that's something we aren't at liberty to explain, Admiral. Suffice it to say that we have reason to believe that Cylon biotechnology is based on Tirolian biotechnology."

"I see," she nodded. Something was up, but at least they were open about keeping whatever it was from her. A moment later, she shook off her suspicions. She was a liaison officer, not a spy.

"What about the tylium power, Doctor?" Hunter asked.

"Vell, ve are having some difficulty vith miniaturization. Ze Cyclones' interface computers and flight thrusters simply demand too much power, more power zan ze tylium can provide on such a compact scale," Lang explained.

Rick nodded. It was, quite honestly, better than he had expected to hear. Their protoculture supply was actually far from running out, especially with the matrix on board, but he also had to think long term. Tylium power could extend the fleet's operational capacity by decades.

After the Second Robotech War, members of the 15th ATAC had come to Tirol, and with them, they had brought the protoculture matrix that had been uncovered in the last battle with the Robotech Masters. Although the United Earth Government had had a huge stockpile of protoculture -- cannibalized from the wreckage of Zentraedi ships after the Rain of Death -- the matrix was the only means by which the Flower of Life could be converted to protoculture, so it had been stored aboard the Pioneer for safekeeping, where it would normally have been protected by a quarter of the fleet and mobile enough to escape capture.

Unfortunately, they had a limited supply of the Flower of Life, and their ships' hydroponics were ill-suited to growing more. Even if the Flower of Life hadn't been such a finicky plant, there was no way the hydroponics could grow them on the scale they'd need to keep the fleet's assets fueled indefinitely and grow enough food crops to keep the crews fed at the same time.

"Well, then," Rick said, "Captain Sterling, have there been any problems with the disposition of the prisoners?"

"No, Admiral," the temporarily reassigned DCAG shook her head, still uncomfortable sitting at "the big table," so to speak. Her long, dark green hair had come as a shock to Admiral Cain when she first saw it, even after being briefed one her slightly different genetic background. As Miriya opened her mouth to continue, the comm station in the conference room chimed.

"Admiral Hunter, we're receiving a transmission from Captain Leeds."

"Put her through, Sparks," he replied.

This was the reason Rick had chosen this particular conference room for this staff meeting. It was wired for FTL teleconferencing across multiple ships and even multiple command posts, and he had scheduled the staff meeting to occur when the Xerxes was scheduled to report in.

The wall screen flashed over to reveal Captain (UH) Vanessa Leeds on the bridge of the Xerxes, and Rick smiled, "Captain, progress report?"

"We have deployed our designated landing force on Caprica approximately fifty kilometers north of Delphi, Admiral. The Xerxes is currently in station-keeping orbit over the landing forces' ground base."

"Spaceborne resistance?" Rick prompted.

"Minimal, sir," she reported. "Six Cylon basestars were in orbit over the planet. Four jumped out soon after detecting us, and the remaining two were destroyed by synchro cannon fire from beyond their weapons range. We suffered no damage and no casualties."

"Good to hear, Captain," he nodded. "Anything else of note?"

"No, Adm-," she stopped in mid-word as her attention was drawn away from the comm screen. She frowned and ordered, "Launch the ready five." She looked back at the comm station, "Admiral, we have incoming. Sensors are trying to get a lock on what it is, but it's not the Cylons." Her head whipped around as another report came in, and she turned back to the comm station, "Invid! Admiral, we have Inv-!"

Rick felt his blood freeze as the image on the other side shook, and the transmission cut off.

Their war had just caught up with them.

Author's Postscript:

The fecal matter is just starting to impact the oscillating air circulation device.