Chapter 15 – 22 November 2010

In deep space, far outside the Oort cloud of the Alpha Centauri system, a Cylon base ship floated silently. It had just arrived at the outskirts of the Centauri system. The base ship launched a single Raider which turned to fly towards the brighter of the two stars. The base ship jumped back to light speed and stopped at two additional points around the Centauri system. Each time it launched a single Raider. Then it departed the system.

The crews of the three Raiders pointed their fighters toward the center of the Centauri system and shut off their drives. They then activated recently installed, highly sensitive, passive sensor arrays and began to collect data. The Raiders flew silently for several days while their highly sensitive sensor packages determined the number and location of ships and the size of the human population on the various ships and worlds within the system. Their base ship came back after a week and began to pick up the Raiders it had dropped off. It picked up the first two without incident. The third proved a bit more difficult.

000

Lieutenant "Viking" Paul Huber, Viking because of his Danish ancestry and appearance, and his intercept officer, Lieutenant JG Eric "Arrow" Carter, stepped through the hatch into the Saratoga's pilot briefing room. They quickly found their seats and prepared to take notes for their upcoming patrol mission. The two were quiet as they sat down while the other pilots assigned to the patrol mission chatted among themselves.

Carter had noted that his team leader was in one of his moods when they woke up for their shift in their shared cabin. He had noted the distant look in Huber's eyes. After performing their morning rituals and getting their breakfast in the ward room they made their way quietly to the briefing room. Carter knew already what haunted Huber, he was a troubled man.

Huber, a former US Air Force captain and F-15 pilot, was a veteran of the First Gulf War with two MiGs shot down to his credit. While he was serving in the Gulf, his wife and two small children were left at home at Langley AFB, Virginia. One day his wife, Lisa, left their kids, a son and a daughter, at home with a sitter and drove off to visit a girl friend and to do some off base shopping during the evening. While stopping at an ATM an armed man approached her and demanded both the money she had just withdrawn and her purse.

"Move over, cracker bitch," the man had demanded after she had given him what he wanted. "We're going to have some fun," he said with a predatory smile.

He then pushed her into her car, across to the front passenger seat and sat down in the driver's seat. Two hours later, she found herself walking along side a back road in the city, her clothes were torn and in disarray and tears were in her eyes. Eventually, she reached a payphone and called the police.

The news of what happened to his wife struck Paul hard. He requested and was approved emergency leave to return to Langley. He arrived there in a cold rage over what happened to his wife. The Langley Virginia police department was working hard to find and arrest Lisa's attacker. Tests were performed after the attack. Thankfully, neither showed that Lisa had gotten pregnant nor contracted any STDs from the assault. After a discussion with his wife, Huber informed his supervisor that he would be requesting an early release from the Air Force under humanitarian and hardship reasons. Six months later the family found themselves relocating to Naper, Nebraska where Paul would become a pilot for Colonial Charters.

When Huber sent his application, the personnel office of Colonial Charters quickly noted his work qualifications. They immediately saw that he would be a good recruit to the EDN. While processing his application and sending him an offer of employment second to none they contacted EDN Intelligence to run a proper background check on him and his family.

Huber discussed the offer from the various airlines with his wife once all of their replies had come in. It was obvious that the Colonial Charters one was more generous than any of the others. Lisa had balked slightly at moving to Nebraska, but knowing that they would be living in what was really a large gated community with full amenities she agreed. It helped that they would be much closer to their families in Oregon. Unspoken by both was the fact that Nebraska, and the Colonial Industries compound, would be a much safer place for Lisa and their children.

A few months later, after the background check had been completed, the EDN recruitment liaison to Colonial Charters authorized Huber's further recruitment. The EDN recruitment office had recognized that, because what had happened to his wife, Paul would be a zealous recruit to the service.

This morning Paul had received a message from his wife saying that his son had broken his leg while participating in sports while attending the moon base's school. She had also told him that she would be missing him greatly for the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration. The absence pained Paul, but as a military professional, he understood the need of being deployed to the Centauri system.

Paul, now as in the past, used what happened to his wife and all the other setbacks in his life to drive him to work harder, to be a better pilot and hopefully later, a better husband when he was reunited with his family. The alternative was to slide into a depressive funk and that didn't suit the highly driven man. The side effect of his drive was a very stoic demeanor and a tendency to shy away from others, the one exception being his intercept officer, Lt. Carter. He had gotten to know the younger man quite well over the last few years, the battle over Mars was a strong incentive to work together closely and get to know each other better.

Huber appreciated how Carter gave him his space this morning. While sitting in the briefing room chair he realized that he was being too hard on himself and his partner.

Huber turned to his partner and simply said "Thank you" a moment before jumping to his feet as his squadron commander entered to give the morning briefing and issue the day's patrol orders. A short time later the two were rocketing through space in their F-1 Lightning on course to their patrol area, a second F-1 from their squadron accompanying them on patrol as Hound One and Two.

Once the flight reached their patrol area they decelerated to their patrol speed and settled down to monitor their instruments. It wasn't long before something surprising happened.

"Vike, I've got something odd," Carter noted from the back seat of their Lightning.

"What do you have," Huber asked.

"The passive scanner shows a very faint infrared source just at the edge of our detection range that wasn't there the last time that area was scanned," Carter reported.

"It's probably a rock that has moved in-system and is reflecting the suns a bit, but," Huber paused for effect. "We'll check it out to make sure." He turned on his transmitter.

"Hound one calling Hound two, over," he called.

"Go ahead Hound one," replied the pilot of the other Lightning in the patrol.

"Please confirm the IR source in sector six."

"We've got it too."

"Very well, we'll inform Home Plate."

"Roger."

Carter called the potential contact in to the Saratoga then, when their orders came, changed course and accelerated.

The Cylons on board the modified Raider noted the actions of the EDN patrol almost immediately.

"Missile fighters have changed course and velocity," the Raider's scanner operator reported. "They are approaching our position."

"Time of arrival," the crew leader asked.

"Fifteen centons," the first Cylon replied.

"Our Base ship will arrive in thirteen point five centons," the crew leader announced. "Maintain minimum emissions profile."

"By your command," the other two Cylons replied.

"The spectrograph is starting to report," Carter announced as Hound Flight continued toward the contact.

Huber brought up the sensor data on his screen. "Hmm, it's largely metallic: Aluminum, Iron, Copper, Lithium…"

"And now a large Carbon signature," Carter added, "with high energy Helium in the surrounding space."

"Call the Saratoga and inform them we have a potential Cylon target in-system," Huber ordered. "We're proceeding with the intercept. Maintain passive and navigation scans for now, no targeting scanners yet."

"Aye, aye," Carter replied as he began to make the calls.

In the Saratoga's CIC AdmiralKennymore was notified of the potential Cylon contact. He examined the main plot of ships in the system and moved to speak to his Operation's Officer.

"I strongly suspect that if this contact is legitimate it will be a Cylon snooper. Let's make sure the Cylons don't get away with their intelligence."

The operations officer readily agreed and moved to send a message back to Huber's patrol flight.

So, they are back, Kennymore thought. It was a nice little vacation while it lasted, but I always knew that wouldn't last. Kennymore followed his operation's officer to the communications station to have a general alert message sent to all ships in the system and another to the moon base to inform them of the situation.

"Vike, we just got new orders," Carter announced. "We're to verify the identity of the contact and weapons are free if it is a Cylon."

"What's our ETA, Arrow?"

"Begin deceleration in twenty three seconds. We'll intercept in two point five minutes."

"Decelerating," Huber announced. Simultaneously both the fighters in the patrol spun 180 degrees to point their engines in their direction of flight and went to full power.

"Oh crap," Carter exclaimed over the intercom a moment later. "A Cylon Base ship has decelerated from light speed fifty clicks from our target."

"Call it in," Huber ordered as he swung his fighter around while Hound Two did the same having received the same information. "Weapons free," he called to Carter and his wing mate.

"Base Ship on scanners," the Cylon scanner operator reported.

"Activate all systems," the lead Cylon ordered."Prepare for docking. Transmit all data."

"By your command," the other two replied while running the Raider's power plant to combat power and charging their weapons systems and scanners. Once their engines were running they turned their craft toward the base ship.

"The base ship is launching fighters," Carter announced.

"That's it then," Huber said. "Abort intercept," he ordered. He and the pilot of Hound Two pulled their sticks over to avoid the approaching phalanx of Cylon fighters. Minutes later, out of range of the Base Ship's weapons, they watched as the Base Ship recovered all of the Raiders and went accelerated light speed.