Spoilers: series two of Battlestar Galactica (with references to the events and characters in Razor), and after the events of Halo 3, so all relevant spoiler warning is effect.

Red In Tooth And Claw
Chapter 1: Dead Metal

"Galactica, Starbuck; I'm picking up something on the edge of DRADIS range." The young CAG's voice came over the static filled radio, "Request permission to investigate."

"Starbuck, this is Galactica-Actual." Adama lifted the radio receiver and held it against one ear as he continued to read the stack of reports sprawled across the plotting table, "Precede with caution and stay in wireless contact at all times." He turned to Lieutenant Gaeta, coving the microphone with his free hand, "Set Condition Two throughout the fleet, just to be safe"

"Condition Two, aye sir." The Officer of the Watch nodded, reaching for the intercom, "All hands, set Condition Two throughout the fleet. This is not a drill. I repeat; this is not a drill."

"I'm picking up a beacon of some kind, very weak." The Viper pilot reported, "Still too far out to get a lock."

"Galactica-Actual; stay loose out there." Adama put the paperwork down, his attention suddenly shifting, "It could be a Cylon trap..."

"Aye-aye, sir." Starbuck almost laughed, "You know me; cautious to the point of paranoia..." her voice trailed off, and everyone eyes turned to face the Admiral.

"What have you got, Starbuck?" He asked, growing worried as the seconds ticked by, "Captain Thrace, report!"

"It's a ship, sir, or at least, it was; but it's unlike anything I've ever seen." In the CIC, no one dared move; many found themselves holding their breath, "Badly damaged; looks almost like it was cut in two somehow. Moving aft." The only sound in the room was the stead pulse of the DRADIS and Starbuck's slow, laboured breaths, "Oh frak me! Sir, there's wring on the side of the ship; I can just make it out from this distance..."

"This is no time to freeze up on my, Kara." Adama' voice was level and calm, although it was taking all his discipline and years of training to keep it from braking, "What do you see?"

"I can read it, sir: the fracking writings in Caprican, clear as day!" Starbuck swallowed hard, forcing herself to breath, "It says FFG-201 and Forward Unto Dawn, and there's some kind of emblem; a bird, some kind of hawk or eagle, standing atop a globe with the letters U.N.S.C. scrolled underneath."

"Starbuck, Galactica-Actual." Adama closed the main link and set it to a privet connection between just the two of them, "Do you wish to report a Code-Omega?"

"I don't know what the frak I want to report..." There was a moment of silence, "Yes sir, I wish to report a contact with a vessel of unknown origin."

Power flashed through long dormant circuits, awaken by a faint signal from outside the ship. Lights flashed, slowly at first, but growing faster as more circuits woke up; some were too badly mangled to work properly, so they didn't detect the slow, jerking movement deep within one of the cargo bays. Something moved suddenly, sending a packing crate floating across the cavernous bay; with no gravity or atmosphere to stop it, it carried on until it it the far wall and shattered, sending its contents flying everywhere.

Several decks above and fifty metes forward, a red light started to blink on one of the cyrotubes.

"I've been through everything we have on Colonial space-flight history, even spoken to some of the civilians in the fleet." Geata spread sheets of paper across the conference room table, "I can't find any reference to a ship named Forward Unto Dawn or baring the registration number FFG-201."

"It has to be one of ours: it's in Caprican." Tigh sounded gruffer than usual, but thankfully sober, "Cylons never named their ships; not even the ones they captured."

"That was then, this is now." Adama looked at the close-up phones taken by the recon Raptor he had ordered out to get a closer look, "It could be a trap..."

"You're still going to send a team over to have a look, aren't you?" The XO asked, then rolled his eyes, "Gods damn it Bill!" He slammed his fist down on the table, hard, "This inquisitive streak of yours is going to get us all killed one day."

"Maybe, but not today." The Admiral lent back in his chair, "The Pegasus and the civilian ships will go ahead to the next jump-point while the Galactica stays behind to investigate the wreck."

"Can I recommend that the Pegasus stays behind while the Galactica goes with the civilian fleet?" Apollo asked, resting his elbows on the table, "The Pegasus is the more powerful ship, better equipped to handle herself if this is some kind of Cylon trap."

"All the more reason to send her ahead with the civilians." Tigh shook his head in disagreement, "I don't like this mission; I think it's dangerous and inviting tragedy, but sending our most powerful ship right into the jaws of death would only compound the error."

"My thoughts exactly." Adama nodded, "If this is a trap, then the fleet can afford to lose the Galactica if it means saving the Pegasus." He looked round the table, meeting everyone's eyes in turn, "Believe me when I say that I have no intention on leading this ship on a suicide mission unless it proves to be our only option, but this wreck could be an important clue on the location of the Thirteenth Tribe."

"I couldn't agree more." Baltar spoke up for the first time, startling everyone; many had forgotten that the vice-president was even there, he had been so quiet throughout the entire meeting, "In fact, I would like to volunteer to accompany the mission."

"I would have thought you'd had enough of that, after Kobol?" The Admiral asked: he didn't know exactly what had happened during the ill-fated first survey mission, but he knew his crew well enough to know that something had gone badly wrong, only to be covered up by the few survivors.

"Believe me, Admiral, there is nothing wrong with my sence of self preservation. In fact, after Kobol, it's probably stronger than ever." The vice-president took a long drag of his cigarette then stuffed it out in the ashtray provided, "But I'm an inquisitive man by nature; it's what drove me to apply for a place at the University of Caprica, that drove me to write a very controversial doctoral thesis. And sitting in that broom closet you jokingly call my lab is driving me slowing insane..."

"Short trip." Tigh scoffed, raising a chuckle from Starbuck.

"...and so anything that can get me out of there while and simultaneously provide me with something new, truly unknown to look at is a very welcome distraction." Baltar continued, ignoring the remark, "And can you think of anyone else in this fleet who has a double doctorate in medicine and advanced science? Or perhaps you think that Mr Geata would be a better choice?" H glanced at the young lieutenant, "No offence, Felix; be you've as good as admitted that your out of your depth here."

"None taken." Geata nodded his agreement.

"I agree; Doctor Baltar is the perfect choice to accompany the mission." President Roslin spoke up, leaning forward across the table, "But only in an advisedly role; as I'm sure the Admiral was about to point out, this is a military operation and needs to be conducted as such." The turned to face Adama, "Who do you have in mind to lead the expedition?"

"I'll do it." Starbuck almost leapt out of her seat.

"Not this time, Kara, no." Adama shook his head, "I trust you, but we need someone with more seniority and the a slightly less itchy trigger-finger for this one."

"I'll go." The voice was soft be had an unmistakable edge to it.

"Major?" Apollo looked at his XO in surprise.

"I studied First Contact protocols while at the Ministry of Defence." Shaw looked round, her eyes filled with unresolved contempt, "If this ship is of non-Colonial origin, then I know how to proceed."

"Then it's agreed: Major Shaw will lead the mission, along with Captain Thrace and Sargent Mathias and a team of marines." Adama stood, signalling the end of the meeting. He waited until almost everyone else had left the room before speaking again, "Say your piece, Saul."

"Why bother? You've already made up your mind." Tigh leaned over his chair, "My job as XO is to try and get you out of as many frack-up's as you get yourself into, and to at least try and stop you from making as many as you do. I just wish to Zeus that you;d at least pretend to listen to me every once in a while."

"I do listed to you, Saul, and I'm thankful for your counsel." The Admiral smiled at his old friend, "You're the only person in the fleet with the balls to stand up to me, and I trust your judgement."

"Just not this time? This time you're going to play another one of your 'hunches'?" Tigh's shoulders sagged, "Gods help us all."

To Be Continued...

I know someone's going to ask, so I'll save you the time and effort: War Of The Gods is on hold for the time being. As I've already told Mountain King, I started to before I was ready, and I don't want to do the story the injustice of doing a half-assed job.

It will be back, at some point, but not yet: I still need a little time out from that particular story-line.