I own neither Battlestar Galactica nor Battletech and don't claim to. There's no point suing me for borrowing the storylines or characters unless you want a share of an underpaid Civil Servants salary and trust me it wouldn't be worth the trouble.

"On dark nights, I want them to wake up in fear that some of us might come after them – that some of us may yet survive."

Wolverine saKhan Franklin Hallis – Battle of Barbados, 2824

Franklin Hallis Airbase – New Circe – 3046CE

'Don't look so frakking smug Kat' Kara Thrace whispered to the other Colonial pilot stood beside her. 'You didn't get this job because you're a better pilot than me' she said.

Captain Louanne Katraine smirked. 'No it's because you're a mental case' she whispered back.

'I am nota mental case' Starbuck responded angrily, and loudly enough this time to earn herself a glare from Commander Lee Adama as the three of them stood together outside the doors of a huge aircraft hanger. On the podium beside them a member of the Quorum of Twelve and some politician from the New Circe parliament were addressing a smattering of dignitaries and the press and had been droning on far too long already.

Eladio Puasha was the member for Scorpia, a colony which had a long record of supporting high levels of defence expenditure and increased military budgets which was why he had quickly volunteered to represent the City-State here today. Cynics tended to point out that since the majority of warships had been built in the Scorpion Fleet Shipyards the enthusiasm for the military on Scorpia wasn't too surprising but Puasha and his predecessors firmly denied this was the main reason they had historically tended to filibuster any attempt in the Quorum to reduce the number of new battlestars being constructed.

Puasha was not known either for his brevity or his rhetorical skills alas and had already been speaking over three times as long as his local counterpart before a few less-than-subtle yawns from important people in the audience got the message across he needed to wrap up his speech which he began to do with another final repetition of how much all the peoples that now lived on New Circe owed to their gallant heroes in uniform.

Having long tuned the politicians out the Colonial pilots were still quietly talking among themselves. 'It's not an opinion you being mental Starbuck' Louanne told her. 'If you weren't frakked up upstairs you wouldn't have so much trouble trying to use a neurohelmet' Katraine pointed out.

Thrace would have loved to snap back but annoyingly it was true. While it had been quickly established that her problem with interfacing with an SLDF neurohelmet wasn't because she was a Cylon the fact remained that there seemed to be an unusual physical abnormality with her brain which prevented her being able to fly one of the 13th Tribe's aerospace fighters to anything like its full potential. They simply weren't about to hand millions of cubits worth of aircraft over to a pilot that couldn't get the most out of it which was why she was just present for show whereas Kat was going to get the glory.

After finally finishing his speech Eladio Puasha called on Lee Adama, Commander of the battlestar Pegasus, and of course son of the head of the Colonial Fleet, to say a few words.

Lee stepped forward and smiled for the cameras. 'Good morning ladies and gentlemen' he greeted the small crowd of civilians. 'I think we're all equally pleased that's it's a sunny day today which I take to be an auspicious beginning to this new chapter in the Colonial Fleet and I hope you'll be able to get as many pictures and ask as many questions as you want before the clouds roll in again' he said.

Adama was wearing his dress uniform and he suspected he had put on some weight recently because the jacket was a little tight. 'As you know for several months we have been training a number of our pilots to fly SLDF aerospace fighters in preparation for the introduction of such craft into Colonial Service' he said. 'With the able assistance of our Wolverine allies and their excellent flight-training program we now have a small cadre of pilots qualified to fly Star League combat-aircraft which is perfect timing considering we now also have the ideal fighter to put them in' he announced, signalling with his hand that it was time to open the hanger doors.

The huge doors slid open, the hanger inside deliberately dark but a large and menacing shadow starting to emerge as a shape was rolled out towards the sunlight outside.

'Mine, all mine' Kat whispered to Starbuck who muttered something obscene back to her as the new prototype aerospace fighter was wheeled out of the hanger, camera flashes starting to pop.

Lee Adama had turned to watch the machine come into view himself but he now faced the press once again. 'May I please introduce the latest weapon in our arsenal against the Cylons' he said. 'The Avar omnifighter' he announced.

With its normally down-turned wings folded up so they weren't scraping the ground the 35 ton Avar nonetheless still possessed a sleekness which the heavier Visigoth and much heavier Kirghiz could not. Painted up in fleet colours and with the insignia of the Twelve Colonies emblazoned on her she also looked damn sweet Starbuck thought jealously as Kat's visible smugness increased. 'Mine, all mine' Katraine said happily as the fighter completely cleared the hanger and stopped moving.

'The second prototype is nearing completion and after testing the Avar will enter full-scale production for both New Circe and the Colonies' Adama told the press. 'Modifications to battlestars Pegasus andGalacticawill enable them to carry and launch a number of Avars adding additional capability and helping us to maintain our edge in military technology over the Cylons.'

'What armament will they carry?' a local journalist queried.

'I'll hand you over to Captain Louanne Katraine who is going to be our test pilot for the Avar and who can answer any questions you might have on the fighter' Adama replied. 'Captain' he introduced her and beckoned her up.

'Enjoy the limelight while it lasts' Starbuck told Kat as the other pilot stepped forward to stand next to the Avar, smiling broadly.

Katraine gently patted the side of her new fighter, the thick armour plate cool to the touch. 'Firstly for close-in work we've got four 30mm Colonial Kinetic Energy Weapons in the nose here with around twice the total ammunition carried by a Mark VII Viper for each' she began. 'We've also got a forward-facing medium pulse laser in each wing and another one facing aft to discourage any raiders from getting in close enough on the Avar's ass to use their own cannons effectively' she said smiling. 'For missiles we'll be carrying Lightning-Javelins, lots of them' she added.

'How fast is it?' someone from the Colonial press corps asked.

'In terms of acceleration the Avar can pull five gees' Kat replied. 'Seven and a half on overthrust' she added. 'One change we've made from the original design is a larger fuel tank so we can get the most use out of her performance' she continued. 'Cylon birds can't burn as hard or for as long and we know they have difficultly trying to counter that advantage after our analysis of how other light aerospace fighters performed against them.'

Starbuck chuckled to herself. Although "light" by the standards of the 13th the Avar was still several times heavier than a fully-loaded Viper and considerably less agile. It should be a better dogfighter than the Visigoth though, itself much more manoeuvrable than a Kirghiz, and hopefully wouldn't have the extreme problems the other omnifighters had trying to keep on the tail of even Heavy Raiders.

'In close-in fighting we plan to use Avar fighters to slash through enemy formations, using their superior acceleration to quickly reach high velocities and taking out as many raiders as we can as we tear through them' Lee Adama spoke up again. 'Cylon fighters simply can't keep up with an Avar in a stern chase for very long' he said, miming the situation with his hands, 'even with their turbos at maximum they can barely pull the same acceleration as an Avar which is running withoutoverthrust and raiders don't carry enough tylium in their fuel tanks to use turbos for very long' he said.

'Thank the gods for fusion' Kat said quietly, patting the Avar fondly again. Hydrogen fuel to run this thing on was cheap and plentiful so you could bolt on huge engines and burn fuel with abandon. Tylium had nearly as much energy density, and by its nature allowed you to make more compact engines with better thrust-to-weight ratios, but you just couldn't afford to be so profligate with it.

Rayson Aerospace had been awarded the contract to develop and produce the Avar, much to the surprise and chagrin of New Circe Military Industries the planets largest defence company. Over the years NCMI had gradually bought out and absorbed most of its competitors having a near-monopoly in fighter production until now, with Rayson managing to hold on only because they had managed to underbid NCMI for aircraft maintenance contracts and the supply of spare parts. When it came to the Avar the over-confidence of NCMI in being absolutely certainthey would get the work meant they had put in too much of a mark-up per airframe allowing Rayson to not only be substantially cheaper but also accuse the larger corporation of being unpatriotic and trying to fleece the taxpayer. Thus it was that James Rayson-Merino the President of Rayson Aerospace was the second most smug person there after Louanne Katrine and as the latter answered more questions from the press, and posed in front of the new fighter for photographs, he himself was wondering if it might be a good opportunity to approach Lee Adama, who surely had he ear of his father, and ask if the Colonial Fleet had thought much about maybe cooperating on the design of a next-generation Viper?

Technically the Avar was anything but new of course. Albeit far from obsolete and much better than the equivalent Inner Sphere designs the Avar had first been produced by the Kerensky Loyalist Clans way back in 2878 and was among the oldest fighters still used by them. Of course the only reason the Wolverines actually had the plans for them at all was because the fighter was so old, a more recent Clan fighter like the thirty year-old Jagatai was known only by name and the Wolverines hadn't even heardof the fourteen year old Jenghiz yet.

Although the Wolverines had managed to maintain a secret line of communication back to the area of space occupied by the unsuspecting Clans, via the long-ranging Jarnfolk Traders and the Dark Caste who were quietly aligned with the aerospace fighter enthusiasts of Clan Burrock, contact was intermittent and it sometimes took decades for information or schematics to gradually work their way down to New Circe. The Visigoth was the latest fighter the Wolverines had the plans for and that itself was nearly a century old making it over twice as ancient as even the Viper Mark II's the Colonials were mothballing as fast as Pegasuscould churn out Mark VII's. The fact was that New Circe simply couldn't afford the R&D to even attempt to come up with anything better than even these older Clan designs so it didn't bother trying.

Until they got their hands on Kobolian tech the only weapon system the Wolverines had which was indisputably superior to their rivals was the LRPPC and that was only due to having been way ahead of the curve in Particle-Projection-Cannon research when they fled the clan worlds. Even though it had been the Wolverines who had created the Mercury II, forerunner of all subsequent modular "omnimech" designs, over the last two centuries New Circe had even fallen behind there and their own latest Mercury III and Pulverizer II omnimechs were less polished technologies, taking longer to switch out weapons and requiring a little more maintenance to keep them running.

As Louanne Katraine climbed into the Avar's cockpit for another few photographs however she didn't consider that she was getting into an old machine. It had come straight from the factory, still had that "New-Fighter Smell" and the systems inside were pure science-fiction from her perspective. This thing carried rapid-fire Pulse-Lasersfor frak's sake, she thought gleefully, three of them and each able to cause more damage and recharge more quickly than the single laser slung under Vipers these days. Just getting on the ass of a raider and shredding it with the four KEW's in the nose would be a sight to see in itself and imagining the dismay of being a Cylon and watching your own cannon shells just sparking off the Avar's thick armour was too pleasing for words.

'Brighten up Starbuck, you can't get the job of flying every new bird' Lee Adama told the Galactica's CAG and usual choice for test-pilot. 'If it makes you feel better I'll bet half the Viper pilots we have wished it was themwho got to fly that jury-rigged Stealth-Fighter Tyrol and the rest put together, or bring home that Raider you hotwired.'

'Half my ass, it was three quarters at least' Starbuck replied before sighing. 'She gets asked out more than me too dammit' Thrace complained.

'Just dye your hair brown and only wear flat shoes and you'll do better' Lee advised deadpan. Katraine was a diminutive brunette, in Wolverine New Circe that meant cute and unusual and therefore she got brought a lot of drinks in bars and rarely had any trouble picking up the hottest single guy in the room.

'How the frak did we end up on the only planet in the galaxy where blonds don't have more fun?' Starbuck asked rhetorically. 'It's against the natural order of things' she protested.

Lee tried and failed not to laugh, Kara pouting with indignation was just funny. 'Maybe it's because other guys don't think they can compete in the performance stakes with a cylon athlete' he suggested.

Kara narrowed her eyes at him. 'Well you certainly couldn't these days tubby' she told him, poking him in the stomach. 'Too much time sitting on your ass in your quarters doing paperwork and not enough time in the gym' she told him. 'Can you even fitin a viper cockpit any more?' she asked, smirking.

'It's not easy being the Commander of a Battlestar' Lee retorted. 'I don't get much free-time for exercise.'

'You would if you skipped a few more meals instead of inventing new ones between breakfast and brunch' Starbuck told him.

'Gods, I thought I'd get a break from this today' Lee said. 'I get enough of it from Anastasia' he said. 'I mean Dualla' he corrected himself quickly.

Starbuck grinned. 'So it's "Anastasia" now is it?' she asked. 'I hope we're not violating half the rules in the Fleet Handbook by sticking it to our Executive Officer are we?' she queried.

'None of your business' Lee replied curtly.

'Well hopefully you'll be able to burn off some of that excess weight in her bunk at least' Kara suggested.

Lee Adama bit back a sharp reply. It's your own fault for being here, he thought to himself, Dad offered to cover this one as long as you took his place at the function at the Lord Protectors mansion, wishing good luck to the personnel heading coreward to look for new tylium supplies and rimward to disrupt Cylon supply lines and their own tylium mining operations.

Kara leaned in close to Lee. 'I mean if you put on many more pounds you'll have to rely on her to tell you if your dick's still there or not because yousure as hell won't be able to see it' she said quietly so nobody else could overhear.

'Pray to Zeus and Circe you never get reassigned to the Pegasus after that oneThrace' Lee warned her seriously with a growl.

'What good is life if you don't live it on the edge?' Starbuck replied, happy enough now after yanking Lee's chain now to almost forget about Kat getting the choice job and the hot new ride.


Binary Star System – 260 Light-Years Rimwards of New Circe – 3046CE

The Titan Class jump-dropship SLS Themis, carrying a smaller Triumph Class less than half her mass beneath her in a manner which had led it to be quickly nicknamed the "missionary position", arrived thirty seconds before the Colonial Transport Thera Sita and was already launching a fighter CAP by the time the other vessel arrived. Having previously scouted the system ahead of their arrival with one of the two Raptors the Thera Sitacarried on her hull the small force of ships wasn't expecting trouble, but this far out from New Circe in the direction of Cylon territory there was no sense in not playing it safe.

The taskforce built around the Themis had just performed thirteen relatively middling jumps out of New Circe in the space of sixteen hours and for the sake of the FTL's and the crews they were now going to give both a rest. Commodore Edvin Benedict commanding the mission would have liked to press on and get to grips with the Cylons quickly but he still wasn't entirely confident of the Colonial FTL, or the Colonials themselves over on Thera Sitafor that matter.

Ideally a colonial jump drive and its integral tylium fuel tank would mass about ten percent of the vessel it was installed in. The one mounted in the Themis just about reached that ratio but because they were also hauling the Triumph the range and fuel efficiency of the craft was negatively effected, cutting the safe level for a properly calculated jump from around thirty light-years to around twenty. It wasn't quite as restricted as the Kirghiz Jumpfighter of course, the Raptor FTL fitted to the hundred-ton fighter was designed for a craft half that mass and would likely slag itself if you tried to go much over fifteen light-years, with ten being the recommended jump distance, but carrying the other dropship was still holding the Titan back. Between the diminished jump-range, all the damn army types on the Triumph andthe damn Munchkins Commodore Benedict wasn't completely happy in his work.

Armed to the teeth with a multitude of LRPPC's, Medium Pulse Lasers, a fair chunk of the first production run of the new model autocannons as well as laser Anti Missile Systems, the SLS Themis was capable of chewing up and spitting out multiple squadrons of raiders at once, even without the support of the eighteen aerospace fighters she carried. This was not to say that the four new Kirghiz "Jumpfighters", twelve Visigoths and a pair of ancient but nonetheless usefully fast Tridents weren't a nice addition to the fleet of course. The fighters added plenty of additional strike and defensive capability to the expedition, certainly more than the token quartet of Mark VII Vipers also clamped to the Thera Sitanext to the Raptors anyway Benedict thought with distain.

'Tell the ranking Munchkin that he should instruct his crew to get some sleep' Benedict told his communications officer. 'They're already half-blind, we don't want them half awake too when we need them' he added. 'Since we're here a while we'll scout the surrounding systems with Raptors just in case the enemy do happen to have a nearby presence' he decided, looking over a holographic starchart. The small Colonial craft had a decent sensor suite and their DRADIS had considerably more functionality than the equivalent SLDF equipment, if less raw power when actively scanning for ships. 'Assign one Kirghiz to each Raptor as escort' Commodore Benedict ordered. The Munchkins would naturally need looking after.

'That'll restrict how far out the Raptor's can range Sir' the tactical officer pointed out. 'Our jumpfighters don't have their legs.'

'I'm fully aware of that Lieutenant-Commander' Benedict replied curtly. 'Just do it' he said in a tone that indicated no further argument would be tolerated.

Over on the Thera Sita Captain Felix Gaeta was still trying to get used to his first command. True it was originally a civilian vessel, and was far from being a warship by any description, but by Act of Quorum it was now legally part of the Colonial Fleet and it was hisship and his responsibility. He didn't really know whether to be immensely pleased with himself that Admiral Adama had decided he was worthy and capable of the job, or else terrified, but regardless he knew his duty and was going to carry it out.

Ideally Gaeta would have preferred someone other than Commodore Benedict to be in overall charge of the mission however. Although undoubtedly highly qualified and technically proficient at command the Wolverine Naval Officer had struck Gaeta as being just a little too condescending in his attitude towards the Colonials, at best tolerating the idea that this was supposed to be a joint operation not just an SLDF mission with a few "Munchkins" along for the ride. Gaeta hated that nickname for his people. True most of the time it wasn't meant in a particularly derogatory fashion, after all even after a few generations of genetic tampering not everyonein Wolverine New Circe was tall and athletic, it was just that for some of the New Circers they clearly weren't saying "Munchkin" the same way they called each other "Instants" and "Accidents" only in jest.

In Gaeta's estimation Benedict was one of those Wolverines who when they idly talked about helping the Colonials "fix" their future descendents was quite blatantly pointing out their inferiority to his own people rather than trying to make a joke. The problem was it was very difficult to prove it was pure bigotry and not merely a legitimate (if rude) observation when a dispassionate observer would have to concur with the idea that the gods-damned Wolvies really were physiologically superior to Colonials for the most part. You never saw one of the frakkers wearing glasses, you suspected that one of them thirty years older than you could run you into the ground and to cap it all off most of the bastards didn't even have the common decency to be jerks about it. That at least was onepositive about Commodore Benedict, you didn't feel petty for disliking the arrogant prick.

Ensign Davis serving as Gaeta's First Officer was more elated than she was nervous about her new job and her peppy enthusiasm was starting to get on his nerves. Still at least she was competent enough, and assigning her the task of keeping the Viper and Raptor crews focused and busy would surely pay dividends performance wise and more importantly keep them out of his hair. The ranking officer among the four fighter-pilots was Lieutenant Tucker Clellan, usually known by his callsign of "Duck", and he was considered one of the top fighter-jocks in the fleet having amassed some forty killsbefore the Colonial Fleet ran into the Star League in Exile and got their hands on lasers. Since then he had racked up a lotmore to the point at which not only the first row of tiny raiders painted on his Viper but also most of the second were red, indicating they stood for ten kills apiece.

'Lieutenant Finnegan and Ensign Esrin are away with Raptors 801 and 802 Sir' Davis reported. 'Think they'll find anything?' she asked.

'Probably not but I bet we'll start running into Cylon's after the next series of jumps' Gaeta replied. 'Intelligence thinks we're bound to find them once we're nearer to Kobol, because they'll have figured out we stopped there on the way back to the Colonies, and if we don'tthen I guess we'll have to keep heading towards Cyrannus until we do' he said.

'Commodore Benedict is advising we all try to get some sleep before we get underway again' Davis noted.

'I'll catch a few hours later' Gaeta responded. 'When I do you'll be in charge of the boat so you'd better get some sleep first yourself' he advised. 'That's an order by the way' he added.

'Yes Sir' Davis responded, hoping that she wasn't too excited to get to sleep because she wouldn't want to disobey a direct order. 'I can't wait to start kicking Toaster ass' she said eagerly.

'That's what we're out here for' Gaeta replied. Hopefully after a couple of weeks Davis would calm down enough to grate on his nerves a little less, or else he'd become more tolerant.

Over on SLS Themis, or rather currently transferring between that vessel and the Triumph Class clamped to it, practically the only Wolverine on the mission not wildly happy to be there felt his stomach lurch as the direction "down" was in switched by 180 degrees. Although both dropships had been fitted with some gravity decking, this having been stripped from the same vessel which had provided the FTL now carried by the Themis, because the two ships were attached the way they were when you moved between them there was a disconcerting point at which the AG Field generated by the decking suddenly changed direction and it was all too easy to fall, or throw up, as a result.

Having fought the Cylons before on Aquaria, and speaking very good Caprican too allowing him to help out as a translator, First Lieutenant Geoff Cale had been quickly assigned to this operation. For most Wolverine mechwarriors this would have been considered a choice mission that they would have given their right arm for but he himself would have much preferred to be back at home with his wife and son rather than out here looking for trouble. For her part Cally was less than pleased herself two weeks ago when his orders arrived to report to an SLDF Raptor heading to the asteroid mine in the New Circe system where Mercury III's modified with "gravity boots" were undergoing testing but at least she was military and understood his lack of choice in the matter. 'Cheer up Cale, it might never happen' Major Thomlinson, the infantry officer commanding the Army's part in this joint operation remarked when they ran into each other.

'It hashappened Ma'am' Cale replied glumly.

Major Thomlinson chuckled. 'Less than a month after my first was born my husband was sent to the Inner Sphere with the Rickenbackeron its last foray back there and he didn't get to see her again until she was talking' she told him. 'Be grateful for small mercies' she advised, 'or rather great jumpdrives provided by small people' she joked.

'They're not small, we're big' Cale pointed out. His wife repeatedly reminded everyone of that when anyone commented on her height and build and he was starting to do it as well now. It was the Colonials that looked more like the average person in the worlds colonised by Terra not the Wolverine's despite the fact they had left there thousands of years more recently.

'True enough' Thomlinson conceded. 'My husband mentioned that being around Munchkins when he visited the City-State reminded him a little of walking around a town in the Magistracy' she said.

'Did he spend much time there?' Cale asked curiously.

'Only a few days, with a little longer in the Niops Association' Thomlinson replied. 'Going to inspect your mech?' she asked.

Cale nodded. 'Particularly the airtight seals' he said, smiling.

'I've been doing the same with my Nighthawk Suit' Thomlinson replied, grinning back. 'But do yourself a favour and make sure to inspect the grav plating they installed too because without that you'll end up jumping into space when you try to walk' she advised semi-seriously. Field testing had ironed out the bugs of using the gravity plating on the soles of a battlemech's feet to allow walking on a low-gravity asteroid, like magnetic boots did on the outside of a ship, but it had taken a lot of trial-and-error. Developing a means to regulate the power which flowed into the plating, allowing a smoother more fluid walking action rather than the initially unsteady jerking motion of the first tests, had made it practical enough for deployment but it was still a far from proven concept in combat terms. 'You know if this works we might end up earning ourselves a couple of lines in the Remembrance' she suggested. 'That might be worth missing a couple of months with your son, query affirmative?'

'Affirmative I guess Major' Cale replied, though not entirely sure.

'Just keep in mind Lieutenant that after we've beaten the Cylons, and added a bit more Munchkin tech to our inventory, we're going to be heading coreward to settle the score with Nicky Kerensky's fan club' Thomlinson told him. 'The weapons and tactics New Circe is developing today are going to beat the Clans and restore the Star League and we're a big part of that' she declared. 'You and me' she said, pointing to Cale then herself as she did so.

Cale nodded, that was surely how his father saw things and it was certainly a nice dream to imagine the battlemechs of the 331st stomping across Strana Mechty or parading down a Paris boulevard.

'If the Clans ever found us they'd kill or sterilise every single person that carried Wolverine DNA including your son Cale' Major Thomlinson reminded him. 'And if the Cylons find New Circe they might just do what they did to your wife's homeworld and nuke it and every person on it to oblivion' she continued. 'That's not going to happen on ourwatch is it Lieutenant, query negative?'

'Negative!' Cale responded with considerably more passion and certainty this time. He'd protect his wife and child if he had to kill every clannerbastard and toaster in the galaxy to keep them safe.

'Good, now stop moping, keep your head straight and in the game' Thomlinson ordered. 'And for Terra's sake have the good sense not to glare at the Commodore when he says something disparaging about the Colonials.'

'You noticed that' Cale replied sheepishly.

'It wasn't exactly subtle Lieutenant, it looked like you were this far from inviting him into a Circe of Equals so you could deck him' the Major replied, holding her thumb and forefinger about a millimetre apart.

Cale looked around making sure nobody could overhear. 'He's a jerk' he stated.

Thomlinson sighed. 'Of course he's a jerk Geoff, he's in the Navy' she replied, wondering why that needed explaining.

Newgate Mining Outpost & Prison – New Circe System – 3046CE

Like the majority of the guards in the Newgate Prison Facility the one that marched in the convict had previously been regular army, infantry in his case, and he towered over the prisoner. 'You can wait outside' the warden instructed the guard. 'I think I can handle him if he turns violent' he continued with an amused smile at the very thought.

'As you wish Sir' the guard responded, saluting before he turned and left the warden's office, closing the door behind him.

'Prisoner Sheffield Henry George Binkley' the warden began reading from the document in his hand to the convict now stood in front of his desk. 'As per the terms of an Emergency Wartime Decree of the Lord Protector of the Star League in Exile, countersigned by the Minister of Justice, you are hereby transferred from the Newgate Prison Facility to active duty in the Star League Defence Force' he said. 'Each year of good conduct in SLDF service will be counted as eighteen months off your sentence but any dereliction in duty on your part will result in your immediate return to this facility to serve out the remainder' he continued. 'Prisoner Binkley, do you understand these conditions?' he asked.

'Yes but do I really have much of a choice in this, query negative?' Binkley inquired.

'Negative, not unless you wantto spend the next two and a half decades out there digging up germanium ore' the warden replied, pointing out through the thick glass of his window to the airless surface of the moon outside before folding up the document. 'Personally I'm hoping you're dumb enough to get sent back here' he told the prisoner. 'You're the only person that ever managed to get the automated drilling equipment running properly.'

'The equipment was fine, the code was just buggy as hell' Binkley replied. 'That's what the Ministry of Justice gets for always choosing the lowest bidder' he observed.

'Just remember that if you get up to your old tricks nowyou might end up in front of a firing squad' the warden warned him. 'Now get out of my sight Binkley' he said, pointing in the direction of the door. 'They've sent a ship to pick you up and take you to wherever the hell it is the navy decides they want you' he said.

Binkley looked out through the window, it wasn't like the warden's vista was much better than the view through the bars of his cell. 'I'll recommend this hotel to all my friends when I get home' he wisecracked. 'Good food, comfortable beds, great views...'

The warden laughed. 'You don't haveany friends Binkley and even if you did what do you think the chances are the SLDF will be dumb enough to let you go planetside?' he asked rhetorically. 'You'll probably spend the duration of the war sat behind a computer console on one of the navy orbitals, bored out of your skull and wishing you were back here.'

'I don't think the last part is likely' Binkley replied flatly. Even though he had an easier time of it than most prisoners, because his technical skills meant he spent less time outside doing manual work in an EVA suit, Newgate was still far from a holiday camp. A sentence of hard labour from the New Circe Justice System lived up to its name and the ever present danger of a seal blowing out and your blood boiling in your veins wasn't conducive to a pleasant working environment. The moon was large enough to produce sufficient gravity to keep you physically fit, especially if you were humping around tools and equipment much of the time, but it was still a bleak and despair-inducing location.

'There should be a marine outside by now waiting to escort you to the shuttle' the warden told him. 'Don't keep the SLDF waiting' he said, getting back to his paperwork. This release into military custody itself required three forms and a signed and stamped transfer document.

'Three years and I don't even get a farewell party?' Binkley asked.

'You'll be back' the warden replied with a smirk. 'Now scram before I get the guard outside to give you a souvenir bruise or two' he threatened in a manner not nearly idle enough to ignore.

'This Binkley?' an SLDF Marine Sergeant standing in the corridor outside the warden's office asked the guard standing with her.

'Yup' the guard confirmed. 'And he's your responsibility now' he added. 'If you follow the blue line painted on the floor that way it'll lead you back to the dock' he advised. 'I need to get back to work' he added, turning and heading off towards the cell block at the other end of the complex.

Binkley approached the marine 'Going to put me in handcuffs?' he asked, holding out his wrists.

'No' the marine replied.

Binkley momentarily considered asking if he could put her in handcuffs but his good sense and the possibility of being smacked in the mouth, or worse having his clumsy pass rejected with laughter, stopped him. He was also desperately trying to look her in the eyes not the chest so as not to appear a perv, an objective made difficult because not only was she was the first real-live woman he had seen in three years his eye level practically washer chest level.

'You're not a Munchkin or one of those Comstar people are you, query negative?' the marine asked curiously, looking down on him. His distinctive convict garb had both the sleeves and pants rolled up several times to fit. Binkley would be under average height if he wasa Munchkin, by Wolverine standards for his generation he was verging on being a midget, and was skinny with it too.

'Negative on both counts, but I've been learning the Colonial language from this gangster they put in the next cell to mine' Binkley replied. 'So... Sergeant Devlin' he said, reading her name off her uniform, 'how did you get the exciting job of collecting yours truly from out here?' he asked.

'I didn't I'm just here on Newgate escorting the boss, he wanted to talk to the pilot that ferried us here so he sent me to fetch you from the Warden' Devlin replied. 'Your stuff is waiting for you by the airlock' she told him. 'Let's get going.'

'Lead on' Binkley bade her politely, although with the ulterior motive of wanting to check out her ass.

'Orders are to keep you in sight at all times' Devlin replied flatly.

'Great, you can scrub my back in the shower' Binkley found himself saying, instantly regretting it.

Devlin rolled her eyes. 'Move' she instructed him pointing in the direction of the dock, Binkley doing as he was told soon walking beside her. 'At the double!' she ordered, upping the pace.

'I never missed this part of the military' Binkley muttered, trying to match her speed with shorter legs.

Before the Colonials arrived transportation between the planet of New Circe itself and Newgate orbiting one of the planetary gas giants in the outer solar system had been by dropship and had taken a while. Now of course it was only a short intra-system FTL jump between the two, if you were in enough of a hurry to use up some tylium, and it was consequently a Raptor in newly applied SLDF markings which waited for Binkley in the prison facility's shuttle bay.

'I'm sure the Colonials would say there's a God or two watching over you Binkley' a naval officer wearing the rank insignia of a captain observed from where he was leaning back against the Raptor.

Binkley found himself snapping to attention. Partly out of respect but also because you never quite managed to lose the brainwashing instilled by basic training. Binkley would have much rather forgotten the three months hellish months he spent getting screamed at by Army NCO's before transferring to the navy for the remainder of his compulsory 2 years service but it hadn't faded from memory yet. 'Captain Lombard?' he greeted the officer in surprise.

'Well who the hell else do you think would want you?' Lombard replied wryly. 'Or be willing to call in enough favours to get you out of here' he added.

'I thought that was the Lord Protector, what with all the personnel shortages' Binkley responded, frowning.

'You were doing twenty years for bank robbery Binkley, it's not like you were inside for a traffic violation or stealing library books' Lombard pointed out. 'Just because you did it with a computer not a gun doesn't make it any less serious a crime, it's just the fact you coulddo it with a computer that makes you worth the effort' he said. 'As it is I've had to take personal responsibility for you so if you screw up remember that you'll be taking my career down with you' he told him.

'I thought you were still captaining the Pheidippides?' Binkley queried. 'That was always a choice assignment for Tech Specialists because of the fancy HPG, what do you need me for?'

'I am still with her' Lombard replied. 'I lost my computer guy to the Themis and a third of my other engineering staff to the team starting to put together the first of the Olympians' he said. 'They gave me first choice on any replacements recalled to active duty and I must have lost leave of my senses because I said I wanted you.'

'Why?' Binkley asked, nonplussed.

'Because with everyone else that has your skills already spoken for you're the best of what's left' Lombard told him honestly. 'And anyway you weren't quite as bad a naval crewman as your record says you were, at least not when you served under me on the Trish Ebon, you're just not what most people were ever looking for in a New Circe Wolverine.'

'But on the other hand buying clothes in children's sizes always made my paycheques go further' Binkley joked.

'It's your attitude not your height that caused the problem' Lombard told him. 'Now get on the damn ship and we can get back to the New Circe and swap those prison clothes for a uniform which fits' he said before pausing. 'This is an opportunity for you to get back your honour as well as get out of prison' he noted. 'You dorealise that I hope?' he checked.

Binkley nodded. 'Yes Sir' he confirmed, climbing inside the unfamiliar craft with Lombard then Devlin following, the pilot up front starting to go through the last of the pre-flight checklists.

'Good' Lombard responded as the hatch closed. 'I've got one question though, you said in court that you resorted to crime to pay for your education but I know for a fact that you'd received a scholarship to cover your fees because you tested out so well when the navy process through your application to the university, so what was thatabout?' he wanted to know.

'I still had to eat and pay for my room and I couldn't hold down a part-time job' Binkley replied, putting on his seatbelt. 'Or even get an interview most times because employers usually want to see your service record and mine blew' he added. 'I managed to survive the first two years by working my vacations on a production line at Callaghan Munitions testing circuit boards but that was minimum wage and I couldn't get enough hours a week.'

'So you robbed a bank?' Lombard responded incredulously. 'Didn't you think about working your way up to that from shoplifting?'

'You can't shoplift with a computer' Binkley replied. 'Also I thought there was more chance of being caught committing lots of little crimes than just one big one' he continued dejectedly. 'So how long do I get on New Circe?' he asked.

'You get sixteen hours at the shipyard orbiting New Circe then we're meeting the Pheidippidesat the zenith jump point' Lombard told him. 'We're heading coreward to act as the base for a prospecting mission looking for tylium asteroids' he explained. 'They've got munchkin drives but we're still using a Kearny Fuchida so we have to set out first.'

'Can I at least visit the shipyard bar' Binkley requested hopefully.

'No, I've seen how easily you get drunk and while you're on the station you'll have Sergeant Devlin as a chaperone to stop you deserting, or doing something else that's illegal or contrary to Clan morals' Lombard replied, strapping himself into what was normally the ECO's chair. 'Also for the record because of your knowledge of our computer systems all of the marine detachment on Pheidippidesare under orders to blow your brains out if boarding by the Cylons ever looks likely.'

'What?' Binkley exclaimed.

'You know too much about our systems Binkley, that gets you on the "Destroy Before Capture" list along with the ship's HPG and computers' Lombard explained. 'Normally we'd expect a Wolverine to eat their own bullet in the circumstances but you're not considered a trustworthy member of society by the Top Brass' he noted apologetically.

'I might have been willing to steal but I'd diebefore I'd turn traitor' Binkley responded angrily.

'Good I believe you, now you just have to prove yourself to the Clan again so everyone elseknows that' Lombard told him as the hanger depressurised and the massive airlock door in the roof began to open. 'Can we get a softer landing on the other end' he requested of the pilot.

'It's not like I do it deliberately, I never learned to fly one of these things the normal way I just had the knowledge how to control one downloaded into my head and those memories came from a crappy pilot' the woman in SLDF fatigues sitting up front defended herself.

'Say what?' Binkley exclaimed, staring at the back of her helmet as the Raptor lifted off.

Lombard grinned. 'Binkley meet our taxi driver for today, Flying Officer Sharon Valerii' he introduced them.

'Call me Athena' the Number Eight Cylon instructed Binkley as the Raptor headed upwards. 'I needed a callsign and a friend suggested it.'

'Hi' Binkley greeted the Cylon awkwardly. 'They trust it with a jump-capable boat?' he asked in surprise.

'You've got to show trust to earn loyalty Binkley, think about how that applies to our situation too' Lombard replied meaningfully.

'And if I diddecide to fly off towards the nearest basestar I'd be leaving my daughter behind' Sharon observed. 'And I'm not an "it" jailbird' she added curtly.

'I'm surprised they haven't got you at the computer science labs at the university' Binkley stated. 'I'll bet most of my old professors there would love...'

'To take me apart?' Sharon interrupted. 'Vivisect me?'

'I was going to say ask you about a million questions' Binkley told her.

'Already told everything I know, which isn't as much as you might think' Sharon replied. 'Preparing for intra-system FTL Jump to New Circe Orbit' she announced. 'If you suffer from TDS hold onto your lunch back there' she advised, activating the Raptor's jumpdrive now they were far enough from the Newgate dome not to cause any damage.

'Welcome back to the SLDF Navy, Specialist Binkley' Lombard addressed him. 'You'll find that a few things have changed since you've been away' he added with a smile.

Note from the Author:

The 35 ton Avar Light Omnifighter was introduced by the Clans in 2878 so it's not exactly ultra-modern but it's still going to be better for dogfighting raiders than the Visigoth or Kirghiz. It's got very good acceleration but suffers from a small fuel tank in its original design, something that can be remedied in this situation by the fact that when fighting Cylons it doesn't have to carry as much heavy armament (no bulky large-calibre autocannon or PPC's) and can therefore be fitted with a larger fuel tank for greater endurance. Louanne "Kat" Katraine was a good pilot, hence her getting the job as Test Pilot for the prototype Avar when Kara Thrace couldn't do it (Starbuck's issue with Neurohelmets has been mentioned before). His stint as Commander of Pegasus saw Lee Adama put on a lot of weight, I couldn't resist having some fun with that!

The Titan Class masses 12,000 tons with another 1300 tons worth of Colonial FTL tacked on. The Triumph meanwhile comes in at 5600, less than half the mass of the Titan hauling it along which means the larger ship can carry her, albeit with a reduction in jump-range and fuel efficiency and an increase in wear-and-tear on the FTL. By the time she gets back to New Circe the jumpdrive on Themis will require a major overhaul. Felix Gaeta gets a promotion and his first ship, true it's the Thera Sita a freighter along for the ride to haul spares and ammo, but it's his first command. His first officer is Ensign Davis with Tucker Clellan as lead fighter pilot. The Magistracy of Canopus is a large periphery state on the outskirts of the Inner Sphere. McEvedy's Folly, the former and temporary homeworld of the Wolverines lies between the Magistracy and The Marian Hegemony. Another "nearby" periphery state is the highly advanced Niops Association where I could see the Wolverine's trading for high-tech goods they'd have to go deeper into the Inner Sphere for otherwise.

The Prison Facility on the Newgate Moon is where New Circe sends criminals who have committed serious crimes. The prison iself was placed next to the best deposits of Germanium (a vital ingredient of a Kearny-Fuchida Jumpdrive) in the system. Called back to the colours (from prison) Specialist Binkley is a rather atypical Wolverine but he's very good with computers. He was drafted aged 18 like all New Circe citizens and put through basic training after which he was sent to the navy because the army really didn't want him. Sharon "Athena" Valerii recently made it through her own three months of basic training and is now a glorified in-system taxi-driver (until they can decide what else useful they can do with her).