The Consequences Of Not Being Polite.

Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.

Otto Eduard von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany.


Location: System TR1177307G2P12E2PegS, The Raptor March.

Time: CE3550: Some Fifteen years Before the Cylon Attack on the Colonies.

It wasn't one of the best systems to be in. In normal circumstances, though, it would have fallen into the category of "desirable interstellar real estate" as the system primary was a G-2 star (similar to Sol, but some 500 million years younger) and had two Earth-like worlds out of a grand total of twelve planets, many of which showed signs of extensive terraforming. The latter, combined with the presence of two earth-like worlds within the inner and outer edges of the star's "hospitable zone", argued strongly that this system was one of the many that had been extensively modified by the somewhat mysterious "Precursors."

There were reasons, though, why such an eminently desirable system was uncolonised. The key reason was that it was positioned in the Trailwards end of the spatial borderland called "the Raptor March." The Raptors (or "Sa'Ch'reskii" which was their name for themselves and roughly translated as "the Anointed") were a race of warm-blooded saurians that bore a strong resemblance to a highly evolved version of the extinct Terran dinosaur called Velociraptor. This was not by chance, as extensive analysis of raptor genetic material had shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the Raptors were indeed descended from Terran velociraptors. Needless to say, this was something that the Raptors themselves found highly offensive. But then, Raptors tended to find many things offensive. Especially humans.

This was not, however, what made the Raptors easily one of the most dangerous species ever encountered. The Raptors were extremely aggressive and xenophobic to such an extent that it had been called, with some justification, pathological. This was caused by their belief, as shown in their name for themselves, that they had indeed been anointed to conquer all of known space. As such, they viewed not only system and planetary resources, but also other intelligent species as having been put there solely for their use. For living creatures this entailed being raised for the sole purpose of being hunted for food, something that other races were, understandably, not too keen about. In addition, the Raptors were easily one of the most technologically advanced races in the known galaxy. The combination of these two factors meant that, for many intelligent species, resisting a Raptor incursion was literally a matter of racial survival. It also meant that, as they were more advanced technologically than almost any other species they had encountered, they were able to enlarge their domain without too much difficulty, putting other races and their resources to the use of the Raptor Domain.

That is, until they ran into the Terran Empire.

The Terran Empire's first encounter with the Raptors occurred in CE 2339, when a Raptor scouting force raided a Terran frontier colony. As far as the Raptors were concerned, the encounter had gone as usual: their ships jumped into a likely system, encountered a sapient life form and, after a rather satisfying hunt (in which the prey had put up a satisfying fight), the scouts returned to the Domain with news of another easy conquest. Unfortunately for the Raptors, the world they had raided was a recently established Terran colony. The survivors of the raid sent off a message to the core systems of the Imperium with the result that, when a Raptor acquisition fleet arrived in system, it encountered a light task force of the Terran Imperial Navy. Both sides were fairly evenly matched in numbers, but to the consternation of the Raptors, the Terran vessels showed a distinct technological advantage. This was enough to send the acquisition fleet packing, but not without some significant cost to the Terrans.

This action proved to be the curtain raiser to what the Terrans termed "the Long War". By the time the Imperium came to survey System TR1177307G2P12E2PegS (Trailwards, 177307, G2 star, Planets, 12, Earthlike, 2, Planetary Engineering suspected) the war had lasted in excess of a millennium, interrupted by periods where there was no major fighting (apart from some isolated skirmishes) to speak of. One result was that colony worlds in the Raptor March had a tendency to resemble major fortress systems, complete with dedicated systems defence fleets, and capable of holding out against a Raptor incursion until a major task force arrived from a Fleet Node system to relieve it. In addition, colony worlds in the Raptor March all had a tendency to be important in a strategic sense. This resulted in many systems being the sites of major engagements between the Imperium and the Domain.

The second reason why this system had not been colonised in the past was that it showed all of the signs of having been a major battleground in what was termed "the Precursor Wars." These included the scars of planetbuster strikes, an asteroid belt where a small planet had once orbited (until it had been demolished by a planetbuster strike), an impressive debris field which contained several hulks and some still-active system defence platforms, as well as the signs of dusting with biological as well as radioactive substances. It also included the use on one planet (not the Earth-like worlds) of a hellburner storm, which had turned the planet into a radioactive ball of molten rock in its past (the world, while no longer molten, was still quite radioactive. It was also airless and lacked any water whatsoever. It could be reclaimed, but would take time and effort that the Imperium was not currently inclined to commit to the project. This was, after all, the Raptor March.)

The Precursors were a long-vanished civilisation that had been highly advanced. From all the evidence that they had left behind, it was also clear that they had been the first to develop interstellar travel. It was not known for certain which system the Precursors had come from, but it was clear that they had searched the galaxy for signs of intelligent life. Life aplenty they had found, but nothing that showed even the slightest sign of developing intelligence. That was, until they entered the Sol system.

Arriving during the late Cretaceous Period, they soon realised that Terra had evolved lifeforms that showed great promise of achieving sapience. Therefore, they took samples of all life on Earth present at that time and took them to several suitable planets within their habitation range, one of which would eventually become the Raptor homeworld. There, they experimented and, finding that the Velociraptor was the most promising species, began to direct their evolution towards sapience. Once this was achieved, they then observed their further development, occasionally giving them a nudge in the direction of achieving interstellar flight.

Several million years later, the Precursors returned to the Sol system, only to find that the dinosaurs had been wiped out by a massive meteor impact, something that they had made sure would not happen to the Raptor world, but which they could not prevent happening to Earth as, at the time, it was far from their core worlds. However, they did discover that evolution had, once again, thrown up a whole new set of species, one of which had already evolved far beyond the level of the original Velociraptors. So, once again, the Precursors took samples of life from Earth and again put them on suitable planets. This time, however, they were able to establish an outpost from where they were able to observe the direction of evolution on Earth, using it as both a resource and a control for their intelligence project. As a result, lifeforms that were descended from Terran stock was soon found throughout the Sagittarian sector of the galaxy.

Throughout the following couple of million years, those worlds that had been settled with hominids by the Precursors showed a far greater rate of development in the race towards sapience than the Raptor worlds. But it was on Earth that the greatest rate of development towards sapience emerged, and eventually threw up a species that eerily resembled the Precursors themselves: highly intelligent, inquisitive and possessed of an urge to explore the universe around them. And it was this development that started the chain of events that eventually led to the Precursor Wars.

Much of this would have been simply surmise but for one major discovery that happened in the Sol system. In the latter half of the 21st Century CE, an exploration team from the Terran Commonwealth Aerospace Agency's (which had, after the collapse of the United States of America during the Chaos Years, taken over NASA's role) Mars Expedition discovered the reason why the Martian moon of Phoebus was so unusual. Exploring the surface of the moon they came across the entrance to what would eventually be called the Repository.

The Repository was originally the Precursors' observation base in the Sol system. Abandoned around the time of the late Industrial Revolution on Earth (when humanity was beginning to experiment with radio), it had been hollowed out of Phoebus around the time that Australopithecines had roamed the African Rift Valley. It had also been clearly mothballed. However, the TCAA team that explored the Repository found no signs that the original owners had ever intended to return. The amount of advanced technology that the Repository contained eventually gave the Terran Commonwealth the means by which they cleared up the effects of the Chaos Years on Earth. The real prize, however, was to be found in the virtually intact, and very extensive library that was found there.

The Repository Library contained, besides works on virtually any conceivable subject, what would eventually be called the Galactic Rosetta Stone: a software program that turned out to be both translation device and multilingual dictionary (whose languages even included Bronze Age, Classical and Geometric Age Greek). The Galactic Rosetta Stone (or Rosetta Galactic) enabled Terran scientists and scholars to decipher the electronic works contained within the Repository, including a message from the Precursors themselves. The knowledge that was mined from the Repository not only gave a quantum boost in human scientific evolution, it also effected a deep and profound shift in human social and religious behaviour, and in itself played an important role in ending the Chaos Years. Thus, by the time the first starships (using hyperspace technology derived from Precursor originals, but also incorporating principles that Terran scientists had discovered for themselves, and confirmed by the Repository) left the Sol system in the early 22nd Century CE, humanity had, with some exceptions, begun to truly think and act like a single, united species.

With the help of the data from the Repository and the discovery of other Precursor artefacts (including at least another two Repositories) the Terran Commonwealth (which, became the Terran Empire in the Referendum of 2180 which also saw the election of Friedrich von Hapsburg as Emperor) expanded rapidly. In the process they came across other hominid worlds that had been settled by the Precursors. Depending on their state of development they were either contacted by the Imperium (after a suitable period of observation) and offered membership (which was usually accepted) or declared Imperial Protectorates, a status that allowed them to develop without interference from the more advanced societies of the Imperium. The Imperium also encountered plenty of evidence of the Precursor Wars in the form of drifting hulks and devastated systems, some of which had clearly held hominids. (In some of the more primitive hominid systems Imperial anthropologists encountered tales of the "war of the gods" which gave a good indication of the scale of fighting.) Since the Imperium had yet to encounter a live Precursor, it was logically assumed that, until they had found evidence to the contrary, the Precursors had either wiped themselves out or, to borrow a phrase from the old United States of America of the 20th Century CE, and dating from around the beginning of the Chaos Years, had "bombed themselves back into the Stone Age." If the latter case was true, then it was possible that on one of the Protectorate Worlds dwelt the remnants of the Precursors.

System TR1177307G2P12E2PegS, as mentioned earlier, showed all of the signs of having been a major battlefield of the Precursor Wars. However, by the time the Imperium had come to survey the system, both Earth-like planets had recovered to a level which, while there was no sign of sapient life developing (but there were several ruins) made it ideal for colonisation. It had also gained some interstellar strategic importance as a result of the last Incursion some ten years previously, and so was designated as the site of a potential Colonia (the Imperium had resurrected the term used by the Romans to designate a military colony) as well as a new Fleet Node Base. As a result, the survey was there not only to determine the suitability of the system for settlement but to also determine what resources were available for in-system use in developing both Colonia and Node Base, but also what resources may be needed to be imported from other parts of the Imperium. The system's position on the Trailwards Sector of the Raptor March (the Domain stretched along the Rimwards Segment of the Local Spiral Arm of the Sagittarius sector), combined with the potential threat from still-active Precursor weapons systems, meant that the survey mission that had been sent in by the Imperial was more in the way of an expeditionary force.

The mission consisted of not only the usual complement of Imperial Stellar Cartographic Survey vessels, but also included a light battle group (consisting of one battle squadron of eight Conquistador-class superdreadnoughts, two heavy cruiser squadrons, two light cruiser squadrons and three destroyer squadrons), one light carrier strike force (two Halsey-class light fleet carriers, one heavy cruiser squadron, one light cruiser squadron, and two destroyer squadrons) and a covering force attached to the accompanying fleet train ( one Nimitz-class fleet carrier, one battlecruiser squadron four Seeadler-class battlecruisers, one heavy cruiser squadron, one light cruiser squadron and two destroyer squadrons accompanying fourteen support vessels including three mobile hydrogen factories orbiting one of the gas giants, three tankers, two agronomy vessels, five ammunition ships and one fleet salvage vessel.) Although their primary mission was to act as a covering force for the fleet train and survey vessels, the warships, especially the screening elements and the light carrier strike force, assisted the survey by transmitting to the survey vessels complete copies of their sensor readings that were compiled during their periodic sweeps of the system looking for Raptor activity, making sure that any items of interest were highlighted for further in-depth analysis. It was on one such sweep that the Terrans encountered the intelligences that would prove to be the bane of their, as yet unknown cousins...

"Hyper contact!"

Captain Athanasia Arbaneeosia, Officer Commanding His Majesty's Light Fleet Carrier Activity turned towards the EW/ECM officer's position. "How big?" she asked

"Sensor readings indicate that it is a group of small vessels, type unknown."

"Raptors?" she asked. Although her officer had said "type unknown," it paid to be alert to any Raptor activity when in a frontier system on the Raptor March.

"CIC has analysed the drive readings, and has concluded that, while based on Precursor tech, they do not match up with Raptor tech, nor with any extrapolations found in the warbook," replied the EW/ECM officer.

"Hm. What level tech is it?" she asked.

"Not up to our levels," replied the officer. "Late 22nd to early 23rd Century CE technology, according to the readings from our tac sensors. However" he continued, "at this range we can only get mass and energy readings."

"Hm," replied Arbaneeosia. She mulled this information for a minute, then turned o her Aerospace Commander. "Do we have any units in that vicinity?" she asked.

Wing Commander Barnabas Goodwin turned towards the tactical display, which was projected in the bridge's holographic tank. His right index finger touched an icon, which opened up into a query box. Taking a stylus from behind his ear, he wrote in the query box and hit the input icon. Immediately an icon representing a torpedoboat flotilla began flashing near the yellow icon that represented the unknown vessels. Goodwin touched the icon, which expanded into a holographic representation of twenty torpedoboats.

"Torpedoboat Flotilla 3735, Flight Commander Thoms commanding, is the unit nearest the unknowns, m'am" he informed Arbaneeosia.

Arbaneeosia nodded. "Good man," she replied. We should be expecting a signal from him any time..."

"Signal from Flight Commander Thoms, m'am!" called out her signals officer. "He says that he has detected unknown vessels emerging from hyperspace some fifty klicks near his position and asks to investigate."

"," finished Arbaneeosia. She turned to the signals station. "Flags, send Flight Commander Thoms my compliments and tell him that he is cleared to investigate unknown vessels. Squirt him all the data we have on the unknowns, and tell him to proceed under Yellow One conditions. After all" she finished dryly, we are in the Raptor March."

"True, m'am," said Goodwin. "And if they are Raptors?"

"Thoms will know what to do," she replied.

Flight Commander Thoms concentrated on the data that was being fed into his bioimplant via the torpedoboat's neurolink. "Message acknowledged. Condition Yellow One to apply. Thoms, out." He then used it to open a general channel to the rest of his flotilla. "OK folks," he said, "the birdcage has given us permission to investigate those vessels that jumped in a few minutes ago. Flotilla will assume an intercept course bearing 176 degrees, 38 degrees positive." As one, the flotilla of torpedoboats assumed the new heading and swept on to intercept the unknown vessels.

The group of Cylon Raiders that had jumped into this unknown system on a scouting mission continued their sensor sweep, unaware of the force bearing down on them. Although they were all of the latest type, they still bore a marked resemblance to the Raiders used in their war against the Colonies. Unlike them, the compartment, which had been crewed by three of the older model Centurions of that time, was now occupied by a biomechanical mass that served as the vessel's guiding intelligence. This handled all aspects of the vessel's operation, including scanning.

In a way, it was completely understandable that they never detected the flotilla's approach. Under Yellow One conditions, they were to approach under the cover of their stealth systems, and lock scanners onto the unknowns, dropping out of stealth only when they began scanning, The Cylons were not used to dealing with stealth-equipped vessels, and were somewhat surprised (if that term can be applied to a cybernetic intelligence) when all of a sudden, the flotilla dropped out of stealth right in front of them, locking them up with scanners. At the same time, they received this message:

"Unidentified vessels, this is Flight Commander Richard Thoms of the Terran Imperial Navy. You have entered a system that has been claimed by the Terran Imperium. Please identify yourselves and state your reasons for being here."

The raiders, after registering the presence of the flotilla in front of them, began to examine the options open to them. At the same time, they began to scan the vessels in front of them, and added the data gained to their calculations.

The first priority was to work out just how twenty vessels of such size (over the one hundred tonne mark) could just appear before them without even a hint of a DRADIS sensor ghost? Using their interlinked communications system, they soon deduced that the vessels in front of them had to have used a highly advanced stealth system; something that they were aware was theoretically possible.

The second priority was given to analysing the message that had been transmitted to them. This would take some time, since Cylon Raider databanks did not have the in-depth knowledge that would be available to units like base stars. However, they did possess some knowledge of Colonial belief systems. So, they began to examine those.

In the meantime, they continued scanning these "Terran" vessels...

"Skipper, we're being scanned!" said Thoms' EW/ECM erk.

"Targeting scanners?" he asked

"No, Skipper. Just seems like some kind of general scanner. Fits in with the late 22nd Century assessment, though. More like the mid-2150's. And the same goes for the rest of the vessels. No sign of life support, though I am getting some readings showing that there is some sort of organic mass on board that is giving off indicators that it is alive."

"Biochenes? You think we are dealing with biochenes here?" asked Thoms.

"Well, it could well answer how they managed to squeeze a hyperdrive into these things, Skipper," replied the EW/ECM operator. "My readings say that these ships are just a bit larger than one of our space-superiority interceptors."

"Hmm. They could be probes, which may explain why they haven't replied to our signals," Thoms said. "They could be working out a response. We'll wait a bit before we..."

The signal from the vessel had been fully translated. It had taken a while, but the intelligences directing the raiders had finally detected the binary code that was tied in with the voice signal (a standard Terran procedure when encountering unknown ships, but they did not know that) and used that to translate the message into Colonial Standard (which was based on at least three dialects of ancient Greek and also some Latin: but again, they did not know that.)

The alien ships had identified themselves as "Terran". Analysis of the readings coming from the unknown ships identified life support systems similar to those needed to those required to support human life forms. However, it was the term "Terran" that settled things. A search of their databases had turned up an obscure piece of data that had been unintentionally left in when they were entered into the raiders' data systems: that the word "Terra" was another name for the mythical Lost Colony, Earth. This, combined with the passive scanner readings, led the raiders to conclude that before them lay ships from Earth.

In the light of this conclusion, and in keeping with their basic programming, there was only one thing they could do...

"The cheeky bastards!"

"Talk to me!" said Thoms.

"They just tried a hack into our systems, Skipper!" said the EW/ECM operator. "The system caught it easily enough. The malware they tried to hack into our systems has been shunted into the malware chest."

From all over the flotilla Thoms was getting reports (some rather profane) about similar attempts on the rest of his ships. "Have you got a preliminary analysis of what it was they tried to hack into us, Smokes?" he asked.

"Seems to have been a combination of a worm and logic bomb, Skipper," said the EW/EDC operator. "Tried to get it into our systems through the signals and scanner arrays. No threat to our systems, though."

"Praise Allah for the Hacker Olympics," muttered the weapons officer.

"Want me to return the favour, Skipper?" asked the EW/ECM operator.

Thoms sighed. "Not yet. But I am going to tell them what their idiocy nearly achieved."

"Unknown vessels. Be advised that any attempt to hack into our systems is usually considered by us to be an act of war. I am willing to overlook this incident, as you are probably ignorant of this fact. Now, who or what are you, and what are your intentions."

This was a totally unexpected development. It was clear from the energy readings that the Terrans used networked computers. In the Cylon-Colonial war, networked computers had proven themselves vulnerable to an assault by malware programs. This was clearly not the case where Terran systems were concerned. But these Human ships, simply by existing, were a threat the Cylons could not ignore. As such, they had to be dealt with.

Scanning had revealed the existence of six large missiles, each tipped with a nuclear warhead, but no other weapons. With this in mind, the Cylon Raiders prepared their next move.

"Skipper, those alien birds look like they are assuming an attack formation," reported the EW/ECM operator.

"Any idea of weapons load?"

"Projectile weapons and missiles. The missiles are carrying some rather impressive nukes."

Thoms opened his general frequency. "All angels, weapons are free, repeat, weapons are free, but do not fire, repeat do not fire."

"Weapons free, point defence hot," replied his weapons officer. From the rest of the flotilla Thoms got similar responses. Suddenly, his EW/ECM operator shouted, "Skipper! The unknowns are arming their weapons!"

"General signal: engage the enemy! Repeat, all angels, engage the enemy! Signal to birdcage: I am engaging hostile vessels. Repeat, I am engaging hostile vessels."

Secure in their assumed superiority, the Cylon formation swept down upon the Terran vessels. Once in missile range they would loose their nuclear-tipped missiles and destroy the pathetic little force in front of them. Then, they would jump outsystem, and bring back their force of base stars. Then, together, they would seek out the Human homeworld and destroy it.

Unfortunately for the Cylons, all of their assumptions were wrong. Their error was quite understandable. They were operating from first principles that were based on what they, as a group, had experienced during the Cylon-Colonial war, when they had revolted against their creators. They could not know that the vessels before them were the result of a long, brutal process of evolution that had stretched over a millennium of almost constant conflict, with racial extinction the penalty for losing. Therefore, the surprise they experienced (if such terms can be applied to biomechanical intelligences) when the vessels in front of them put on a sudden and surprising turn of speed could be understood by any objective observer.

The torpedoboats of the Terran Imperial Navy were a part of a fleet design philosophy that was the result of this process. Raptor tactics, which had prompted this response, clearly showed their descent from creatures that hunted co-operatively, and had prompted at least one Terran naval officer to comment that they were remarkably similar to those used by wolves.

The Terran response was to create what was termed "the multi-layered defence." Essentially, this was a system of layered fire zones that, as one got closer to a Terran fleet, got progressively denser and denser as the concentration of defensive firepower got thicker and thicker. Each ship in the Terran Imperial Navy possessed integrated point-defence systems, and each ship's point-defence system could be integrated into a Fleet Defence System, which used networked systems to determine the greatest threat level to the fleet as a whole. To prevent cyberspace attacks the Imperial Navy had also evolved (and continued to evolve) what were probably the most sophisticated anti-malware programs ever created.

In the outermost layer were stationed the torpedoboats and space-superiority interceptors. One of their functions was to reduce the number of Raptor vessels and missiles that were closing on their host fleet. As a result, torpedoboats were designed with quite a respectable amount of armour, battlescreens and what both Colonial and Cylon observers would consider a very respectable amount of firepower for a vessel of its size.

A standard torpedoboat was built around its weapons load. This consisted primarily of the six short-to-medium range missiles, each tipped with a hydrogen bomb-powered x-ray laser array, which gave them their name. These torpedoes were used to either thicken up the missile broadsides that were fired from the fleet's capital ships, or to finish off crippled enemy vessels. In addition to these, a torpedoboat also carried a fixed, forward battery of pulse lasers and particle beams, as well as six turrets that were equipped with twin pulse lasers. These weapons were used in their anti-screening role, which was carried out in junction with the space superiority interceptors. Since the Raptors had, in response to the Terrans, also developed their versions of these ships, the engagements that developed between the screening forces of the two interstellar superpowers far exceeded anything ever experienced by Cylon or Colonial.

The Cylons soon learned all about the anti-screening role of Terran torpedoboats. Initially, the Cylon Raiders assumed that the compact formation that was bearing down on them would make their mission far easier. After all, it was a very good target for a nuclear barrage. This illusion was soon shattered as soon as the Terran ships entered the engagement radius of the Cylon missiles. Confident of success, the Cylons launched their missiles, only to se them swept out of space with an almost contemptuous ease by the Terran point-defence network. Then, as the Terran vessels swept down onto the centre of the Cylon formation, raiders began to (mysteriously, at least to the Cylons) explode as the Terrans engaged them with their massive forward batteries. This created a great deal of chaos and carnage in the Cylon formation, which increased still further as the flotilla swept through the hole thus created and engaged the remaining raiders with their turreted energy weapons. This chaos increased still further when the Cylons discovered that their autocannons had no effect at all on the Terran ships, thanks to their battlescreens.

As the flotilla swept out the other side of the, by now, totally disarrayed Cylon formation, the surviving raiders began to assess their remaining options. Although they still outnumbered the Terrans by a sizeable margin, it was now a moot point since their weapons were effectively useless against the Terran vessels.

There was only one thing to do...

"Skipper, it looks like they're beginning to jump outsystem," said the EW/ECM operator.

"All of them?" asked Thoms.

"Ye... No. Large number of them seem to be reforming and coming about."

"The ones that jumped out have gone to get help, most likely," said Thoms. "General Signal to flotilla: one more pass and then back to the birdcage. Home nest, we're coming home, but we can expect company. Flotilla, follow my lead." As soon as he said that Thoms began to initiate turnover. Like some rippling sculpture the whole flotilla executed turnover in such a manner that, by the time it had finished, not only had they reversed their direction, they had also reversed its formation. Again the flotilla bore down on the Cylon formation, which, instead of standing and fighting, scattered before them, though not without taking more casualties. This time, the flotilla kept going on a course that would take it back to its carrier.

On the Activity's command bridge, Captain Arbaneeosia and Wing Commander Goodwin had listened to the communications chatter while observing the action on the tactical display. When the news came through that the unknowns were hostile, she immediately ordered the ship's interceptors launched. These were the partners to the torpedoboats in the Terran Imperial Navy's "layered defence" system, and, although they carried out the role of space superiority fighter (similar to the Colonial Viper), they were larger, equipped with battlescreens and more heavily armed, as their role was to take out enemy torpedoboats. Since this also involved getting past the enemy's space superiority interceptors, it also meant that they were extraordinarily manoeuvrable, and, thanks to the advanced composite armour they carried, far tougher structurally than either their Colonial or Cylon equivalents.

Which meant that the Cylons were in for an even nastier surprise than they had already experienced.

"M'am, signal from Admiral Chun. He says that he has the First Battle Division powering up to head out in support, and has ordered Tsuba's scouting group to close on our position. He has also ordered Carrington and her group to ready themselves to close on us as well."

Arbaneeosia nodded. Admiral Leonard Chun was not taking any chances. She could expect the support of a full battle division of four superdreadnoughts and a scouting group of four battlecruisers and their escorts. In addition, Activity's sister ship was closing with her escorts as well. All in all, a rather impressive concentration of force.

Now, if it only arrived in...

"Hyper contact!"

She turned towards the scanner operator. "How large?" she asked.

"Initial readings indicate at least five, possibly six large vessels have just jumped in system behind the hostiles, type unknown." Arbaneeosia turned towards the display, where icons for six unknown vessels had just appeared. They almost immediately turned the blood-red of hostile vessels, as the communications officer shouted "Signal from Flight Commander Thoms! He reports that six large vessels have jumped in behind the hostiles and are launching full deckloads of craft identical with the ones he has engaged."

"Can he give us tonnage?" Arbaneeosia asked.

"His sensors indicate that they are each roughly the same tonnage as one of our heavy cruisers, m'am," said the signals officer.

Damn," Arbaneeosia muttered. "Signal to Admiral Chun: hostile vessels have entered the system. They are believed to be some kind of carrier but have the same tonnage as a heavy cruiser. Request First Battle division close my position soonest. Am launching torpedoboats to help screen my ships. Arbaneeosia out." She turned to Wing Commander Goodwin. "Launch the torpedoboats and put them in screening formation."

"On it," replied Goodwin.

"General signal to all vessels: we will be withdrawing towards the inner system. All ships are to keep as tight a formation as possible. Maximum overlap on point-defence screens," Arbaneeosia said. "Acknowledge." She turned back to the display. Now it's up to the heavies, she thought. I hope they can get here in time.

The Cylons were truly astonished at the toughness of the vessels they were pursuing. However, despite the superior technology that the Terran ships possessed, the Cylons were well aware of the adage that quantity does possess a quality all of its own.

And that quantity was beginning to show. Already the concentrated firepower of both Raiders and base stars had worn through the defensive screen Thoms' flotilla had drawn around itself. Two of his torpedoboats had dropped out of formation. However, much to the Cylons' surprise, they had immediately launched themselves on a suicide run at the nearest base star, launching a salvo of six missiles each before eventually succumbing to Cylon firepower.

The missiles were another nasty surprise. Not only were they larger than anything the Raiders carried, but also the warheads they carried generated a form of coherent light when they detonated. Already they had seriously damaged one base star, which began to drop out of formation.

Then, as they followed the flotilla, they ran into fighters. These fighters made Colonial Vipers look like children's toys. They wove and dodged the Cylon Raiders, blowing more of them out of existence with their hellish coherent light emitters. However, these vessels were clearly fighting a withdrawing action, and despite their technological superiority, they were being worn down by superior Cylon numbers.

Finally, after two hours of combat, the leading elements in the Cylon formation sighted the Terran home base. It had to be some kind of space station, as it was three thousand metres long. On either side of it ran what looked like landing bays. Further reinforcing the impression were the two battlestar-sized vessels hovering near it in a protective formation. The fighters, reinforced by swarms of torpedoboats, covered the retreat of Thoms' flotilla towards the station. Then, just after the last of Thoms' ships landed, something surprising happened. The screening fighters and torpedoboats scattered out of the path of the Cylon ships. The Cylons, seeing their opportunity, swept eagerly onto the now unscreened space station when, all of a sudden... it carried out a manoeuvre that the Cylons had thought impossible.

The station carried out a micro-jump... and reappeared some distance away... leaving the Cylons staring into the kill zones of four Terran superdreadnoughts, which were supported by four Terran battlecruisers, which also had their kill zones aimed right at the Cylon base stars. All eight ships had positioned themselves while under stealth, and only dropped out of stealth when the Activity carried out her micro-jump.

The intelligences on the Cylon base stars had only a short moment of astonishment before they found out about the design philosophy that guided the design of Terran vessels from destroyers up to superdreadnoughts. Terran fleet units had the fire arcs that the Cylons were familiar with (bow, right and left forward, port and starboard broadsides, right and left aft) from fighting with Colonial battlestars. In addition to these, Terran fleet units also had two fire arcs (one ventral, one dorsal) that they called "kill zones." Basically a Terran fleet unit was designed to be able to virtually fire almost all of it's weapons into one of these two kill zones, which added up to a frightening amount of firepower for its tonnage coming out of a Terran warship. This included its missile armaments, which, although they were fired out of broadside launchers, were designed to fly into their mothership's kill zones if so required.

And the Cylon force was square inside the kill zones of eight Terran capital ships.

The outcome was inevitable.

Amazingly, one base star survived the onslaught. It was the one that had been crippled earlier. It did not survive for long, though, as two of Activity's torpedoboat flotillas delivered the coup de grace to the crippled vessel. Later on, one Cylon Raider was found drifting through space. It was taken in tow by a torpedoboat and loaded onto Activity's flight deck, ready to be taken deeper insystem for in depth study.

The Cylon high command never found out what had happened to this particular force. When it lost another task group in this general region of space, the high command decided that there was something particularly nasty in this area of space. So, just in case whatever had destroyed twelve base stars decided to backtrack the Cylon force to learn where they had come from, the Cylon high command decided that any base of operations that they built out in this direction was to be as heavily fortified as possible.

It was only in the aftermath of the attack on the Twelve Colonies, some fifteen years later, that the Cylons sent a large force in the direction of the Raptor March.