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.
This is a spin-off story from Hunted Tribes which is co-written by myself and another writer known as Cannonshop, you'll likely notice the style of writing switching back and forth between us. A little more familiarity with the Battletech universe might be helpful for this one than for Hunted Tribes and it uses characters from Cannonshops other battletech stories (it's not strictly necessary to have read them though).
This story was originally posted on Battletech forums, I'll be posting it up here in chapters after I've put them together (it wasn't originally organised that way).
Hope you enjoy the story :-)
"A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that."
Herman Melville – Moby Dick
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Unmapped System - 1450 Light-Years Rimward of Terra – April 3046CE
A Raptor jumped in first as usual accompanied by a pair of Kirghiz jumpfighters as an escort in case there was something nasty at the other end of the trip. Passive sensors subtlety listened for possible trouble for a few minutes before they were replaced by noisy DRADIS and RADAR sweeps of the area intended to flush out any hostiles playing possum. It was all fairly paranoid, they had yet to encounter any of the damn things anywhere close to this far coreward, but it was SOP for a good reason and they were nothing if not thorough and efficient by now. Sloppy got you killed and unlike the opposition you never got a chance to correct your mistake next time around so you did it right the first time.
After they were satisfied that there wasn't a threat the Raptor jumped back out to report leaving the two fighters alone for a while but it wouldn't be long until the others arrived now and the mission could begin in earnest. It wasn't exactly one that would likely lead to a glorious line or two in the Wolverine Remembrance but it was necessary nonetheless, New Circe needed a more secure source of Tylium ore to feed the growing needs of the war-effort and that meant looking for it far beyond the systems that the Toasters were yet known to have scouted.
The two aerospace-fighter pilots chatted between themselves over the radio as they waited for the rest of the convoy to arrive. Both the EM pulse signature of their arrival and all the wattage they had pumped through their RADAR meant that there wasn't exactly much to be gained from bothering to be quiet now, they had already screamed their presence to anyone listening so it wasn't like there was much to be gained now from radio silence. Their comms were completely secure anyway, even the admittedly superior cryptanalysis skills of the other side, damn AI's, had yet to crack them and they switched the encryption algorithms frequently anyway just in case.
'Looks like plenty of rocks floating out there Sir Think we'll be lucky this time?' one pilot transmitted. A sizeable asteroid belt lay between the fifth and sixth planets of the system which could conceivably hold a decent quantity of ore.
'I damn well hope so, the last five systems have been a complete loss, we're burning jump-juice when we should be finding more' came the reply. 'Holy crap, did you look at the results of the sweep the Raptor did before it jumped out?' the other pilot exclaimed, looking over them. 'There's a life-bearing rock in this system' he said, looking over the analysis in surprise. The suite of sensors that made up Colonial DRADIS was worse than RADAR at actually picking up ships but it was far more capable in other ways. DRADIS was able to detect the radiological signatures of nuclear weapons nearby and could also detect mineral deposits and even the tell-tale indications that one of the very few planets in the galaxy that held life had been found.
'I claim this planet in the name of the Star League' the first pilot declared, laughing. 'Do you think we should send the Raptor down and plant a flag or something, Query Affirmative?' he said.
'Negative, the munchkins would probably just claim it as New Caprica or something' came the reply. 'We'll map it from orbit before we leave, maybe fly down and take some aerial photographs, get some air samples.'
'Do you think they'll name it after us Sir?' the first pilot wondered.
'What do you mean "Us" Flying Officer?' came the sarcastic reply. 'That's going to be Gibson's World over there' he said. 'I'm pulling rank.'
'Captain Lombard is technically the expedition leader, Squadron Leader' the other Kirghiz pilot reminded him.
'He already named that big Gas Giant with all the moons after himself two systems back' Gibson replied. 'It's my turn now' he stated with finality.
A double flash heralded the arrival of the large mining ship Majahual, with the Raptor scout now clamped to it, and a Leopard CV dropship acting as both the mining ships warship escort and the base for a squadron of jumpfighters. The other four Kirghiz of the squadron were launching from the flight bay of the dropship as soon as it arrived and they joined the two already present in system in forming up around the two much larger craft.
The Colonial mining ship Majahual carried a far better system for finding tylium than a mere Raptor and it immediately began to scan for the ore with its military escort standing guard. The now two-thousand ton Leopard CV flying alongside the larger ship had not only been modified to carry a Colonial Jumpdrive but its original main armament had been replaced by the superior Wolverine LRPPC's and Clan Medium Pulse Lasers and it also had half a dozen 50mm dual point-defence turrets of the Colonial Type and was more than capable of shredding a few squadrons of Raider scouts, which was about as much as might be expected to ever appear this far from the front lines.
After ten minutes the order came to shut down jumpdrives, as long as they were spun-up they used up tylium to keep ticking over and although it was only a fraction of the amount burned to make a jump it was still a waste of fuel.
'Squadron Leader Gibson this is Majahual Actual' the mining ship signalled in badly accented English. 'We have detected the remains of what could be a jumpship in orbit around the fourth planet' it said.
'Cylon?' Gibson responded quickly.
'Negative we detect large quantities of germanium rather than tylium in the debris, it looks like the remains of a Kearny-Fuchida type drive' the mining ship announced.
'Jesus, that's the planet that shows up as having life, there could be people down there, maybe a lost colony?' Gibson responded in surprise, there weren't any radio signals coming from there though. Over the centuries hundreds, probably many thousands of ships had set off from the Inner Sphere intending to found a new home in the Deep Periphery never to be seen again. New Circe knew from the crews and computer databases of the two captured Comstar Explorer Corps vessels that were unfortunate enough to run into the Star League in Exile, on one of their periodic supply runs back to the Inner Sphere, that many lost colonies had been rediscovered by the Explorer Corps, often in a state of severe technological regression. 'Damn, they've probably already named it' he added bitterly.
'Before we leave the system we'll jump to the planet and check it out' Captain Lombard aboard the Leopard CV signalled, 'if nothing else we can score some salvage from the jumpship so it won't be a completely worthless trip even if we come up empty on tylium.'
'We might want to jump in a fair ways off and fly in the rest of the way if there's a jumpship's worth of junk orbiting that rock, no need to risk getting a thousand ton chunk right in the face just after we arrive' Gibson suggested. That had never usually been an issue with the old Kearny-Fuchida but the new drives had the little downside of being able to drop you directly into harms way. Even worse you could actually jump right into solid matter if you got the calculations wrong, ending up inside a another ship, an asteroid or even a mountain was not exactly a nice prospect to contemplate.
An hour later after coming up empty for tylium they made a in-system jump to a point a half million kilometres out from the fourth planet and started heading in at low thrust intending to enter high orbit. It would take a while for the Majahual and her crew to salvage the precious remains of the old jumpdrive and maybe find some clue as to what had happened to it so as the Raptor and a single Kirghiz escort prepared to head for the surface the ships powered down their FTL drives again.
Gibson had decided to escort the Raptor in himself, re-entry was a fun ride and if he wasn't going to get to name the planet after himself he could still enjoy the kick of leaving a fiery trail across hundreds of miles of its sky as he led in the other craft.
They were five thousand klicks ahead of the Majahual and its escorts when an urgent signal from the dropship ended Gibson's thoughts on as to whether they might find people down there. 'Multiple Jump signatures!' it reported.
'Aw Crap' Gibson swore, powering up his radar and bringing his weapons on-line.
'Three Heavy Raiders... scratch that... one just jumped back out' the dropship announced.'Oh shit Cylon Basestar has just jumped in' the dropship announced. 'Basestar is launching additional Raider and Heavy Raider squadrons.'
'This is the Captain, all fighters cover the Majahual until she jumps out' Lombard ordered as his own ship took up position between the lumbering mining vessel and the Basestar.
'You're on your own Raptor One, jump to the pre-arranged position when you've spun up your FTL' Gibson told the craft he was escorting, bringing his Kirghiz around so he could thrust back towards the other ships.
'Good luck and happy hunting Squadron Leader, see you on the other side, Raptor One out' came the reply as Gibson put his engines to full thrust.
The Cylons had learned enough not to jump in hundreds of kilometres away, being swatted by the Directed Energy Weapons of the Thirteenth long before they could fire back was not to be recommended, but nonetheless they were already being shot down in large numbers by Pulse Lasers and LRPPC's as the Leopard CV and the other five aerospace fighters of the squadron covered the Majahual. This soon became Raiders dying in droves as the dropship opened up with her point-defence guns and the fighters shortly afterwards added to the mayhem with their own most feared and devastating short range weaponry, fifty-millimetre autocannon firing cluster rounds at ultra rates of fire.
Gibson pushed his engines to their overthrust limits, pushed back hard into his seat by four gees of acceleration. 'Wolverines' he practically screamed into his radio, transmitting unencrypted so the Toasters could hear him.
The Heavy Raiders were the bigger threat, the Cylons had begun armouring them to the point where a few hits from cluster round shrapnel wouldn't necessarily destroy or cripple them like it still would the smaller, lighter Standard Raiders, but they were still no match for the mighty LRPPC and the pilots of the SLDF had plenty of experience knocking down skeet. During the major fleet action at the end of the previous year hundreds of Kirghiz and Visigoths, plus their Viper support, had annihilated thousands of cylon fighters in what was likely the largest air-battle in history. While their basestars were dying all around them under the guns of the Galactica, Bismark, Pegasus, Yukon and the Zughoffer Weir the massed Raiders of the Cylon Fleet had fallen like wheat before the scythe. It had been a day of glory for the Star League, the Clan and their Colonial Allies but alas it had been far from war-winning, the frakking Toasters could always build replacements.
As he closed with the action Gibson thought about his foe. Some, perhaps all of the Raiders dying here today had fallen in that battle, only to be resurrected perhaps a touch wiser to fight another day. If there was a resurrection ship nearby they would be reborn yet again, getting more and more skilful and angrier each time they died, hoping this life would be the one where they finally got to kill one of the feared and hated Thirteenth. 'Maybe you'll get me one day you frakkers but not today' Gibson vowed, reducing acceleration as he was already going like a bat out of hell.
The Cylons desperately wanted to get a Kirghiz intact which was why they were all rigged so the pilot could blow both the fusion reactor and all the tylium fuel for his jump-drive rather than risk the technology within to fall into enemy hands. As a back-up a dead-mans switch would explode the fighter a few minutes after the pilot died if he was killed.
The trails of both cylon and the similar colonial designed Lightning-Javelin Air-to-Air missiles the Kirghiz now carried as well as their other weaponry streaked across space as the range closed towards to the knife-fight distances the AI's favoured.
Gibson fired his LRPPC's as soon as he entered range, blowing a pair of Heavy Raiders from the skies and taking aim on the next two as he waited for the particle-projection-cannon to recharge. As he neared he added his medium pulse lasers to his choice of weaponry then volleyed off half his Lightning-Javelins at Heavy Raiders before opening up with the so-called "Hose-Of-Death" the advanced autocannon shredding the opposition as his automatic Laser Anti-Missile-System starting knocking down missiles fired in his direction. The latest modifications to the Kirghiz made it practically a purpose-built machine for killing Raiders, the problem was always simply the odds given they were, as ever, frankly appalling.
'Second basestar jumping in' came a frantic report.
'Not good, not good' Gibson said to himself as he offered a silent prayer to the Almighty. He then threw one in the direction of the Lords of Kobol just in case the Munchkins were right after all.
'Majahual taking fire, her FTL is nearly spun up' the dropship reported. 'All Wolverines prepare to jump out as soon as the Colonials get clear.'
'This is Majahual we can't take many more hits' the mining ship stated. Unlike most civilian vessels it was armoured, though against the impacts of small asteroid not KEW and missile fire, but it wasn't designed for this treatment.
Gibson quickly checked the status of his own jump-drive, it was ready to go. 'Okay, I might actually live' he said to himself breaking out into a grin continuing to blast and burn Raiders and Heavy Raiders to fragments. It would be different if those basestars were throwing capital missiles like confetti like they could, the Leopard and the half-dozen aerospace fighters would have been pounded to scrap in short-order, but they were fighting with one hand tied behind their back because they wanted to recover all that wonderful Thirteenth Tribe technology in reasonably sized pieces.
A Raider got on his tail and frantically jinking to avoiding the fire from Gibsons sole aft-facing laser it fired burst after burst from its thirty-millimetre KEW's into the oversized fighter. Ferro-Aluminum plates held but then began to come apart as another two Raiders joined in, pouring fire into the Kirghiz. Gibson managed to take one out with his aft laser but couldn't shake the other two. 'If I wanted two guys pounding my ass I'd go to prison' Gibson growled as he tried to shake them loose to no avail. 'Okay enough of this shit' he said and let them close slightly before taking them out in a manner they hadn't expected, hitting full reverse thrust and letting them slam right into his Kirghiz the flimsy Raiders coming apart like plastic models and the jarring impact causing the hundred-ton machine to react like someone had hit it with a huge hammer.
'Majahual has jumped out' the dropship reported. 'Let's get the frak out of here' it declared as it engaged its own FTL and jumped out in a flash followed by all but one of the Kirghiz.
Gibson hit the button that should have engaged his own FTL but nothing happened. 'Oh shit' he said in horror as he hit it twice more then checked the system diagnostics. His jump-drive was off-line, either from the Raider fire or the impact. 'I'm a dead man' he realised as he found himself completely alone surrounded by hundreds of Cylon Raiders. 'Wait, what the hell?' he said as he realised that Raiders were still being taken out by something. 'Oh don't tell me some other poor bastard got left behind?' he moaned, checking his RADAR and then staring at what was now showing on the display and the IFF Signal it was broadcasting. 'No frakking way' he said incredulously.
Note from the Author:
Those familiar with Hunted Tribes will already know Clan Wolverine/SLDF pilot Alan Gibson from there.