Commander Hamilton stepped out of the Raptor and into the bright sunshine of the as-yet-unnamed moon's daylight. In the distance he could see one of the many mountain ranges begin to rise up from the land, clouds swirling around the high peaks. Behind him, the vast ocean stretched out as far as he could see. The smell of the sea reached his nostrils, and allowed himself a deep inhale, bringing back memories he hadn't fully experienced in five years.
Beside him, Colonel Vrees stepped off the Raptor and grabbed the dirt, bringing it up to his face. Hamilton knew much of what they were doing would've seen foolish back at the colonies, but no one had left the fleet since the attacks, and everyone was keen for a break.
"Nice day" said Vrees, dropping the dirt at his feet. Hamilton looked up into the midday sky.
The massive shape of New Aquaria was overhead, it's rings giving a very off-worldly feel. Until now only people on Caprica or Gemenon with their shared twin orbits would have been able to appreciate the view Hamilton was seeing, with a large planetary body overhead. But New Aquaria was far larger than either Caprica or Gemenon; planetary scans indicated it was just over 78,000 kilometres wide. Many civilians were initially worried that the gas giant would eclipse the moon during its nine-month orbit, plunging the potential colony world into a weeks-long wintery darkness. But it was soon revealed the moon was in a permanent elliptical orbit which passed over and under New Aquaria, and thus had access to year round sunlight.
Colonel Vrees looked up at the large planet as well, shielding his eyes from the sun.
"Pity the Cylons are such ruthless bastards, huh? They'd miss something as wonderful as this."
Hamilton nodded. "Lets get back. I'm sure everyone will want to know what we've found."
Commander Hamilton walked into the CIC of the Battlestar Orpheus. He paused for a moment to observe the room that he'd spent the last five guiding the fleet. The walls had been patched and repaired so many times they were falling apart like aged wallpaper peeling from a room. Lighting rigs had been taken down and repaired on numerous occasions, but now only half of the truly worked. Craters and divots where framing and other heavy materials had come away during battles were left as a stark reminder of why they had to keep going. But now, that would hopefully be over.
Hamilton stared at the charts on the combat table for a long time, not saying anything. Colonel Vrees was speaking to the communications technician on the far side of CIC. Hamilton observed him quietly every now and then; he was doing a good job, but he was no Slate.
Colonel Slate had been his original EXO during the initial war and subsequent abandonment of the colonies. A strong man, one who could earn respect from his crew after only a single meeting, had fallen during a fire fight against three Basestars two years ago.
Two years. Hamilton couldn't really believe it. Vrees had stepped into the role but had always felt apprehensive about going that extra mile, like Slate had.
Hamilton took his eyes off the chart and looked at his tired crew. For five years the colonials had been on the run ever since they chose to abandon the fight above Virgon and save as many ships as they could. A moment of good fortune had lead to their network computers becoming damaged during the initial nuclear strike against their Battlestar, and thus the virus which had brought down the entire colonial military had not been able to penetrate their defences. They held their own, but lost 25 Vipers before realising why the other ships had gone down. Jumping to Canceron, Hamilton found another Battlestar, five frigates and twelve civilian ships all docked at Gateway station. All sitting ducks. Hamilton gave the order to flee the colonies, and had been pursued ever since.
Then, at the start of their fourth year in 'exile', during a battle in which they believed they would lose most of their fleet, the Cylons surprisingly recalled their raiders and jumped away.
And were never seen again.
Hamilton made sure the fleet remained vigilant, but the Cylons never returned. All recon missions back the way they'd come showed no sign the Cylons were lying in wait. They had truly left them alone.
Despite protests to return to the 12 colonies, Hamilton had ordered they continue onwards. His fellow Commander on the other Battlestar a woman named Jonas, agreed, citing the risk of travelling back across areas they already knew would be dangerous. One such area would involve a four-month re-crossing of void space, an area bridging the spiral arms of the galaxy. Solar collectors were useless in that part of space, and after a frigate developed an FTL fault the first time round they considered – but thankfully never had to implement - leaving the ship behind.
So they had progressed on, passing star system after star system, finding nothing but lifeless worlds or gas giants. Finally, long-range telescopes had spotted this system, and recon raptors had jumped in to investigate. A bountiful system, one which contained twelve planets - which prompted many to wish to rename them after the home colonies.
During a scouting mission to 'New Aquaria', a large blue gas giant with an impressive ring system, the raptor parties found she had five moons. The second of which, it appeared, could support human life.
Now Hamilton had ordered the fleet into orbit as survey teams and scientists had landed and conducted tests to make sure the moon truly was viable for re-colonisation. After a matter of hours, they had returned, and gathered everyone necessary – including the captains of the 16 other ships – into the war room.
"Well lets hear it" said Hamilton, staring at the mass of information spread over the combat table. After his personal sojourn this morning he had high hopes the outcome of this meeting would be more than favourable.
"She's… good" said Dr Carey, Hamilton's chief scientific advisor, who was going through a long list. "The moon is roughly 8200 kilometres in diameter, which puts in on par with Leonis, which is 8500. She has a dense core, which allows for a gravity of 0.98 that of Caprica normal. The moon also appears to be tectonically active so that will help with soil cultivation. Nominal barometric pressure equivalent to that of Scorpia at sea level. Climate is cool but tolerable, not surprising considering the location in the solar system-"
"Sorry… I was told this moon was within the habitational zone of the star?" said Captain Gruber, captain of one of the frigates.
"Only just, but it's nothing to be concerned about. Just take an extra coat" continued Carey, which drew a laugh from others in the room.
"Oxygen nitrogen mix is… within limits. I would say, based on what I've seen, humans could survive here. We may have a hard time in various parts of the moon due to localised conditions and environmental factors, but our offspring should have no problems."
Smiles and nods could be seen around the room, but Hamilton didn't want to get too excited just yet. They had encountered a similarly hopeful planet before, which turned out to contain an atmosphere with nitrogen content beyond safety limits, and colonisation had to be abandoned.
"What about biosphere?" Hamilton asked.
"Great!" said Lt Hargrove, a little too excited. Hargrove had been responsible for cultivating the plants and vegetables in the hydroponics section aboard their Battlestar after the fall of the colonies. He felt his knowledge made him a good choice to explore the planet first, although everyone knew he, like everyone else, just wanted to stretch his legs.
"Could you elaborate?" said Hamilton, smiling.
"Sorry sir. The moon is very much a cross between Virgon and Picon, with rich forests and mountains at one end, and deep lakes, rivers and a large ocean at the other. Both of these areas seem to produce life similar to that which we've seen from the colonies. The central ocean spans the entire globe and splits the landmasses from one another."
"About that… what other 'life' have we spotted?"
Hargrove hesitated. Hamilton picked up on this.
"What is it?"
"Well, there's no sentient life, like us, that we've detected, but… we have found what appears to be… cattle."
"Cattle?" asked Hamilton. His mouth began watering at the thought of having fresh meat after so long. In the back of his mind though there was always that hint of unavoidable disappointment with finding a new world and bountiful as this; first priority to feed the colonial refugees meant eating the local populations.
"Yes sir, they appear to be in abundance roaming the central plains of the southern continent. Probes into the moon's solitary ocean have been literally been greeted with curious life forms, so the oceans seem to be equally as inhabited."
"May I be the first to offer my congratulations."
Hamilton looked up to see Commander Jonas offering her hand.
"Commander?" he said, shaking the hand anyway.
"I remember about, oh… three years ago now, you said once we found a new home you'd finally accept your promotion."
Hamilton laughed, then smiled. "It's not necessary."
"Frak that. You got everyone where we are, you saved us more times than we can remember. I think it's finally time you took those extra wings."
Hamilton looked around the room. Everyone temporarily forgot re-colonisation for the time being, and offered their support to the man who saved 10,253 human lives against overwhelming odds. Hamilton was a shy man, and took his attention back to the geographical charts of the moon spread over the combat table, while Dr Carey took a question from the captain of one of the civilian ships.
"Everything alright sir?"
Hamilton was surprised by Vrees. "Yes, fine. Why?"
"You keep staring at that map like you're looking for something."
"Just deciding where we should all live, or whether it should even be together."
"Together definitely" said Vress. "Strength in numbers."
Others in the room now took notice of this private conversation. Hamilton never meant to hide his voice, and knew he wanted to bring this up eventually. Hamilton turned and faced the crowd.
"Look… I know it's been a long trip, but we need to be rational about where we live. It's been 18 months since we last encountered the Cylons. I don't want to be seen as the pariah but we have to be cautious."
"So what did you have in mind?" asked Gruber.
"Two continents. I say we split the refugees up into two groups, 5,000 each. That way if the Cylons do come back there's a chance we might have some hope of survival."
"And what of the fleet? The Battlestars can't land" said Dr Carey.
"True, however I was thinking of putting them in permanent orbit of the moon, diametrically apart. Orbital defence first and foremost. The colonists will feel comfort in the knowledge the skies are being patrolled."
"That won't help if the Cylons do return. Would be hard to gather everyone back up on the ships in a hurry."
"I doubt that would even be possible, especially since we'd probably use parts of the ships to build new settlements" said Captain Samson, who was in charge of the largest civilian transport.
"That hasn't been agreed on" said Gruber, "as tactically it would poor to leave us without a way off the moon in case we needed it-"
"No" said Hamilton, stopping everyone in the room. "We have to stop running some day. While I'm just as worried about leaving us open to extermination if we get cosy and settle here, it has been 18 months. You'd think the Cylons would've tried something to get at us by now."
"As you wish… Admiral."
"I'm not a pacifist, I'm just saying the continuation of the Colonial Military at this time is becoming… irrelevant."
Admiral Hamilton was pacing at the combat table, listening to yet another spiel from one of the hopefuls to become mayor next month.
"I disagree" began Hamilton, in the same fashion he always did. Annoyed.
"The need for continued defence in space is on going. We can't afford to let our guard down."
"James, the founding of the Twin Colonies was five years ago. We haven't seen a Cylon in six and a half years. As much as I love the protection the Orpheus and Chimera give us… I just don't think they needed anymore."
"Then what would you suggest? Scuttle them?"
"I wouldn't like that. Very little remains of the original fleet. Much of it has been cannibalised for structures. Granted we could use the raw materials that the Battlestars have to offer but shipping them back down here would be an issue. We are due to run out of Tylium in the next two years-"
"Thank you Commissioner, I'm afraid I have an 11am appointment and have to run away. Feel free to contact me again."
"Thank you James. And remember, on Election Day remember to vote for-"
Hamilton put the phone down and walked over to Lt Haley, who was manning the communications desk.
"You have an 11am appointment sir?"
"Yes. How are you this morning?"
"Oh, fine sir."
"Good. 11am appointment commenced."
Lt Haley smiled. "So, got a candidate for the elections yet sir?"
"Hardly. There's a plot of land near the outskirts of the eastern provinces I'd love to build on one day but there's a deep ravine I have to cross to get to it. If any of the politicians – and I use that word loosely – order the construction of a bridge over the ravine I would vote for them in a heartbeat. But yeah, not gonna happen me thinks."
Hamilton turned and went back to the combat table, looking up at DRADIS. For five years his orbital patrol had produced nothing. Not a thing. Viper pilots were brought up on rotation but due to the lack of fuel all they could do was use the simulators on the Orpheus to stay fresh. Engineers kept Vipers online but they were simply not being used, except for anniversary celebrations.
Far below on Ophichia, the Twin Colonies were now thriving. The smaller North Colony was in charge of sourcing raw materials for the South, which in return traded food and other commodities. Fishing villages had been set up alone the coastlines and had produced vast quantities of fish and other ocean going life forms.
Despite the desire for a large city, much of it had been broken up into unintentional suburbs, mainly centred on the colonial ship the inhabitants originally came from. Aside from this, various members of the community, mainly higher ranking officials on the ships, had built their own cabin or other retreat away from the main colony. Hamilton had heard Colonel Vrees had built his own with his bare hands, far away in a forest near the North Colony. Despite staying in the military, Vrees had become a bit reclusive, and seldom let anyone visit him, especially in the last couple of months.
Hamilton had vowed to return and build his own cabin one day, but by his own decisions had spent most of the last five years in orbit. As much as he wanted to retain his position, he was starting to agree. It was time to move on.
A week later, Hamilton was packing up his room aboard the Orpheus when he heard a knock at the door.
"Come in" he yelled, trying to fit a painting of his favourite spot on Virgon – the Dusty Forest – in a box that was way too small for it.
Vrees entered. His uniform, Hamilton noticed, was as clean as the day he first got it. It was in stark contrast though to his facial hair; he was now sporting a beard that made him look out of place. He also had a nice tan that he obtained from spending far too much time at his cabin.
"Going North or South?" said Vrees.
"South initially. Gotta show my face. It is election time after all." Hamilton closed the box and picked it up. "Now you sure you're OK up here?"
"Will you get going!" said Vrees, smiling. "Make sure you give those politicians a kick up the ass from me. Spend so much time pissing about trying to get votes when they don't realise harvest season is coming up. Everyone should be out in the fields."
"Sounds like someone else should've run for government."
Vrees laughed. "Can't stand them. Always complaining about prolonged military coverage of the colonies. Frustrates the frak out of me."
Vrees rubbed his arm.
"That thing still bothering you?"
"Hmm? No, I'm fine."
"I still can't believe you. You fell off that cliff - what was it now, three months ago? Yet you barely have a scratch on you. What's your secret?"
Vrees showed no emotion. "I bounce well."
Hamilton laughed. "Well, you won't have anything like that up here. Quiet as space herself."
"Not a problem. Just go rest."
"Rest?" said Hamilton, picking up the box. "I'll spend most of my time down there trying to dodge politicians. Can I stay at your cabin?"
"Now Admiral, if I let you come and stay then I have to let everyone come and stay."
Hamilton eyed him closely. "What you got hiding in that cabin, Vrees? You wouldn't lie to a senior officer."
"How about… 'I'm a Cylon agent, and in my cabin are Cylon monsters waiting to be unleashed on the Twin Colonies?'"
"Good man. Make sure you do it on election day. Or maybe sooner."
"I could fire a couple of nukes at them for good measure? Or just crash the ship on top of them."
"Either way just make it look like an accident." Hamilton picked up an ornamental sailing ship in a bottle, tried to balance it on the box but it almost fell off. Vrees took it off him.
"Just leave it here. You don't need everything down there." Hamilton nodded and smiled. "See you in three weeks" he said, and left the room, leaving Vrees alone.
Vrees watched him leave. He glanced down at the ship in his hand, allowing it to fall to the ground and smash into a hundred pieces.
"I doubt it" he said.
Hamilton's Raptor left the port flight pod and made a course correction towards the planet below. New Aquaria was eclipsing behind it.
"South Colony Control this is Raptor 281, request clearance for landing" said the Raptor pilot. Despite protocol for landing, Hamilton knew traffic was practically non-existent these days. SCC knew it as well.
"Raptor 281, please be advised, we are expecting heavy traffic coming in from New Gemenon. Expect delays."
SCC was amazing, thought Hamilton.
Vrees walked calmly into the Master at Arms security annex and went straight up to the gun locker. Jenson, the MaA, looked up from his book, surprised.
"Sorry sir, didn't see you there" he said. "Can I help you with something?"
"No" said Vrees, pulling out two high powered rifles, full magazines and silencers. Quicker than Janson expected, Vrees had one of the rifles fully assembled. Uneasy, Janson began to unholster his pistol but it was already too late. Vrees rounded and pumped nine rounds into Janson's chest, dropping him instantly.
Vrees moved into the corridor. It was empty. He knew there were 68 other crewmembers on board. Taking them out shouldn't take too long.
Commander Gruber entered the CIC of the Chimera, pausing long enough to check DRADIS. Nothing had changed since they took up their defensive position five years earlier. He had only been in the job three of those; Commander Jonas had since retired from the military and wanted to try and have kids before it was too late.
Gruber saw Colonel Spicer, reading his favourite book for probably the millionth time, standing over the combat table.
"Sir" he said, nodding as Gruber entered. Spicer had come with him from his old frigate, which was currently serving as a hospital on the Ophichia's surface.
"Anything exciting happening today?" he asked, glancing back up at DRADIS. He could see Hamilton's Raptor leaving the Orpheus from the far side of the planet. Satellites placed in orbit had allowed them to bypass the usual line-of-sight problems associated with planetary monitoring.
"Not a peep sir". Spicer didn't even take his eyes off the page. Gruber didn't mind. They hardly did anything these days.
On DRADIS, Hamilton's Raptor made a course change towards Ophichia. It was then that Gruber had to do a double take. Orpheus appears to be following the Raptor.
"Colonel, we got any course change notes for today?"
"None that I've seen sir" he said, putting the book down and rummaging through his notes. "No sir, Orpheus and Chimera should be exactly as normal."
Gruber glanced back at Porter, the communications technician. "Give me the Orpheus."
"I'm been trying to" said Porter, with a worried expression. "I haven't heard anything for 10 minutes."
Gruber thought. "Get me the Admiral."
Hamilton had his feet up on the console, much to the disapproval of his pilot, when the call came through.
"Commander Gruber to Admiral Hamilton."
"Sir, who's flying the Orpheus today, cos she's not on the intended path."
Hamilton paused, and took his feet off the console.
"Helm, 180 degrees, full lateral thrust."
The Raptor rotated in space, now aimed at its reverse trajectory. Hamilton looked for where the Orpheus should be, then saw where it was; around 200 kilometres south. And still moving.
"Hamilton to Vrees, do you read me?"
A volley of flak emerged from the starboard weapons grid, to which the pilot took immediate evasive action.
"Frak it Vrees, what the hell are you playing at?"
"Sorry Admiral, there's been a change of plan" came the reply, Vrees sounding more calm than ever.
"If you have a grudge against the Twin Colonies we can talk this out" said Hamilton, as a large piece of flak exploded off to their port side.
"Oh I have a grudge alright" said Vrees, "one that goes far beyond human understanding."
Hamilton went silent. Could Commander Vrees be a Cylon agent? If so, why after so long engage the very colony world he helped build-
Flak detonated right in front of them, and Hamilton heard his pilot scream and lunge back in his chair as their cockpit window shattered. The Raptor dived down in a spiral descent, away from the flak field.
"Oh sorry, now I've broken your little ship. Ah well. If you make it back to the ship we'll talk more."
Vrees cut the link as Hamilton attempted to right the ship. He was well clear of the flak field by now but the Raptor was stuck in a spin, and Ophichia was looming up fast in what remained of the window. Hamilton knew he had one chance to escape the death dive, but it meant putting himself in even more danger.
A few seconds later, the Raptor FTL'd away.
Commander Vrees pushed the dead body that was Lt Haley off the console she had landed on after he'd filled her with about 19 bullets, and set about entering command codes. Acceptant green LEDs met with approval from Vrees, who wasn't giving away any emotion at this time.
Another alarm sounded, this time from within the Battlestar herself. Vrees had erased all bar three known crewmembers aboard the Orpheus, but knew they would be taken care of soon enough. It wasn't until he realised the alarm was coming from the upper port flight pod that he realised he'd underestimated Admiral Hamilton.
Flicking on the security cameras, he quickly found the cause of the alarm. Hamilton was by now at the hatch, which was cycling; too late to change Hamilton's command codes now. He panned the camera and saw the heavily damaged Raptor sitting hard up against the outer wall, the FTL jump inside the flight pod left the Raptor unable to do anything more than land wherever inertia wanted it to.
"Looks like I have to wake up more of my friends Admiral" Vrees said to himself, and pulled out a small device that he plugged into a console.
Deep in the belly of the ship, near fuel tank number five, half a dozen silver containers, each slightly larger than a man, sat in near darkness. Then, a metallic fist punched its way out of the one closest the wall, and soon a Cylon Centurion successfully emerged from its dark chrysalis. It scanned the room for any signs of life, and then turned back as two more Centurions emerged. After silent agreement, the three Centurions left the room to begin hunting any human prey that remained on board.
Hamilton made his way along the darkened corridor, pistol drawn, listening out for any signs of life. So far he'd come across two bodies, both of them pilots. He turned a corner and saw the door for the pilot's mess hall. Checking the coast was clear he crept up to the door and tried to open it. It was bolted from the outside. Hamilton cycled the lock and gently nudged it open. The smell of charred metal and meat reached his nostrils. Inside, hell itself greeted him.
He counted 17 bodies, each of them either shot or scattered from what looked like explosions. He spotted at least three detonation areas in the room, probably from hi-charge percussive grenades.
He backed out of the room, not liking what he saw. He turned, and was immediately greeted by a Cylon Centurion entering the corridor from the other direction. He quickly tried to move out of the way but not fast enough. The Centurion transformed his right arm and fired at Hamilton, who dived into an adjacent corridor, narrowly missing the ammunition tearing into the wall only inches from his head. He ran as fast as he could down the corridor, the sound of the pursuing Cylon pounding the floor behind him. He rounded another bend, and tripped over a body of another fallen crewmember, a maintenance worker. Trying to get up, he found his legs had become tangled within an electrical cable the man had been carrying at the time. He managed to slip it over his legs and was about to get up when the Centurion appeared at the corridor intersection. Hamilton wasn't a believer in the Gods, but at this precise moment decided he needed to atone for his sins just in case there really was a-
A sharp explosion tore the Centurion apart, showering Hamilton with metallic debris. As he tried to comprehend what happened, an armed marine ran into the corridor and up to the Centurion's nearly-intact upper torso. The Centurion tried to move it's shattered arms to repel the attacker but it was useless. The marine fired several shots into Centurion's head, and it fell back lifeless.
"Are you alright sir?"
Hamilton came to his senses to see two others had entered the corridor. One was a pilot, the other an engineer.
"Yes… anymore survivors?"
"None than we've found so far sir" said Corporal Jamison, the marine, who was by how handing Hamilton a high-calibre rifle. "Explosive charges, quickest way of dealing with them."
Hamilton flung the strap over his shoulder. "And how many of them have you found?"
"Just that one in person" said Lieutenant Bocock, who had a blood stain on the back of her engineer's uniform. "Though we did pick up explosions coming from the starboard flight pod."
"Probably another one trashing our Viper squadrons" said Captain Reeves, who looked visibly shaken. Hamilton couldn't blame them; after five years of peace this sudden attack seemed almost as abrupt as the initial attacks on the twelve colonies.
"What shall we do now, sir?" asked Jamison, keeping one eye on the corridor ahead.
"We need to get to a secure communications array. I need to warn the surface. I also need to get to CIC. I have to tear Vrees' head off."
"Commander Vrees?" said Bocock. "He's… he's in on this?"
"Yes. I need to know what he's planning before it's too late."
"Come on! Hurry up!"
Sergeant Ruby sat at her station, overlooking the field in which a group of school kids were playing. At the head of the group, a redhead slightly taller than the others was trying to get her attention. Ruby smiled and waved, and went back to her daily frustration.
Like a handful of colonial military personnel, she opted to agree to partial service, that is to say a possibility of starting a family early in order to 'kick start' the new colonies, whilst at the same time maintaining a degree of active service within the military – albeit on a part-time basis.
The Gods had smiled upon her and she had fallen pregnant to her pilot boyfriend almost immediately. Now her headstrong four-year-old daughter was leading the pack of other 'newborns', ordering the about like her favourite Admiral. As part of the deal many non-essential stations were positioned near the colony's crèche or other schooling facility, so parents wouldn't be far from their offspring. Unfortunately for Ruby, in the five years since the establishment of the colonies, her workload had all but dried up, and now spent much of her day sitting at a communications station doing… nothing.
The primary array took care of most communications between the ground and the orbital patrols above, but every now and then a minor communication would come through Ruby's station, usually a non-important family message or otherwise pointless signal which she had to respond to, and usually from just the Chimera. Despite not liking the current political state of removing the last vestiges of colonial military from the Twin Colonies, she felt some areas could be toned back-
"Mum! What are you waiting for?"
Ruby's daughter was trying to get her attention again. The large plexi-glass window meant she couldn't hide from her, especially at home time. Amelia was desperate for trying out their new trampoline, but Ruby had said she had to wait until her father returned from the Chimera.
Ruby was about to respond when her console lit up. A priority one signal was coming in from the Orpheus. And not from CIC.
"Orpheus, this is station two, I read you" she began, not remembering the last time she had spoken to the Orpheus.
"Orpheus, this is Admiral Hamilton on an emergency channel. Disregard all signals from Orpheus unless it comes from me and my authorization codes, understood?"
"Aye sir" she said, not fully understanding what was unfolding before her.
"Orpheus has been taken over by Cylons, she's on an orbital correction to bring her in line with the colonies. Also, ignore all orders that may come through from Commander Vrees, he's in on it."
"Vrees…? But… but why sir, why move the Orpheus?" she said, regretting asking that.
"Likely setting up for a nuclear strike, but I'm hoping to prevent that."
Ruby went white, half ignoring what Hamilton was saying. Her gaze went to the kids outside, playing in their own private world, oblivious to the horror apparently unfolding in orbit above them.
"Sir, should I contact-"
"There's no time" interrupted Hamilton. "I need to you to take a squad of marines and investigate a location at grid 62 alpha."
"But sir, that's in the middle of nowhere, in a forest from memory."
"Yes it is. There's something I need you to check out for me."
Vrees adjusted his tracking systems but realized his fears were confirmed; one of the centurions had been taken down, which meant there was now a potential force aboard the Orpheus that could wreck his plans. Still, he did have that one ace up his sleeve back at his cabin.
Vrees knew that one member of the insurrection was Hamilton. By now he had locked out all non-essential systems aboard ship, including the internal video camera network. Environmental controls had been secured so there was no chance of purging the air from the ship, although any Centurion could simply start punching through the hull.
Vrees looked at the helm console. Only a few more minutes.
"Can I have my ship back please?"
Vrees spun, looking around the CIC for the intruder, his rifle quick to his hands.
"Come on now… you and I both know you can't win."
Vrees realized the voice was coming from the speakers. He walked over and picked up the handset to reply, all the while keeping his eyes and his rifle on the glass doors that entered the CIC.
"Admiral… interesting thoughts. Why not pop in and share them with me?"
"You take me for a fool?"
Vrees smiled. "You don't know how many Centurions I have on board."
"What happened to you Vrees? Up until your accident you were normal, now look. You were so badly injured I didn't think you'd even make it-"
"I died" said Vrees, not minding who he told anymore.
"Damn right you did, you must've really shattered every bone in your-"
"No you frakking moron, I really died. I lay in that hospital until finally I felt myself slipping away then suddenly… I woke up, and was alive again."
Down near engineering, Hamilton and the others listened to the fantastical tale Vrees was spinning.
"That's a little hard to believe Commander" said Hamilton, eying the other's reactions. None of them believed what they were hearing.
"Believe what you will. In a matter of minutes the colonies will be no more, and all this talk will be over. Even if you somehow manage to stop me, I have a back door out of here. Goodbye Admiral."
Vrees cut the link.
"What the frak do we do? He's got his hands on the command codes for the nukes-"
Hamilton put his hand on Captain Reeve's shoulder, who was becoming irate.
"Easy. I have an idea. Bocock, can you remote trigger the FTL from engineering?"
"Yes sir, can't see why not."
"Good, we have to stop Vrees from firing those nukes."
"What the frak happened?" yelled Commander Gruber, as the Battlestar Chimera suddenly saw more action in the last five minutes than it had in the last five years. Crew members were trying to contact the Orpheus, which had appeared to alter course then apparently destroy Admiral Hamilton's Raptor. Gruber was faced with many challenges, the main one being if he did have to go into combat with the Orpheus, she was twice the size of the Chimera, with better shielding and weaponry. Add to that a crew that was heavily out of touch with combat and it was a menu for disaster.
"Sir, Orpheus now at 20 degrees and levelling off. She's rolling."
"She's what?" said Gruber, trying to keep up. Not only was his crew lacking current experience; he was also feeling the pains of nothing to show for three years commanding his own Battlestar.
"Sir, Orpheus is now dorsal side to the planet-"
"Frak it! He's gonna nuke the colonies."
CIC fell silent, save for the claxon of condition one and the now enemy beeping of the Orpheus on DRADIS. All eyes were on Gruber.
"There's only one thing to do" he began, "something we haven't done in about four and a half years."
Sergeant Ruby crept through the forest, five heavily armed marines behind her. She could only think of her daughter, and wished that she didn't have to come on this dangerous mission. But she had been asked. No, ordered. She hated herself for being scared. The Ruby of five years ago wouldn't be like this she kept telling herself. The colonies have made us complacent.
"There it is" said the marine to her left, point at a small clearing. The six of them moved into the clearing, keeping an eye all around them. Ruby edged her view past a large tree, and spotted Vrees' cabin 200 metres away. Despite not having a proper path to the cabin, the natural opening of trees from the clearing gave them a clear view.
"Let's move" said the marine, and took a step forward. Ruby lunged out and grabbed his shoulder. They shared a look. The marine was pissed off. Ruby indicated to his feet.
A barely visible infrared beam crossed the clearing in front of them, spread out between two trees. Two small projectors had been poorly hidden beneath the undergrowth beside either tree. Ruby could see the four blocks of D9 explosive sitting neatly underneath the proximity sensors. The marine nodded a silent thank you, and took a step back.
Thisiswhyhepickedme thought Ruby. She was always overly cautious. The Admiral must've thought Vrees would protect this cabin at all costs.
They started walking slowly. In the 25 minutes it took to cover 200 or so metres of forest to reach the cabin, they found an additional 13 booby traps.
Hamilton and his small rebellion entered an intersecting corridor near engineering. They stopped and listened; no sound of a Centurion could be heard. Hamilton was about to move on when he heard an alarm sound coming from a distant room.
"Sound like it's coming from a storage locker" said Bocock, eying the corridor carefully. "Somewhere near fuel tank four or five."
"Alright, lets check it out, could be more survivors. Jamison, you got point."
Jamison moved ahead, scanning the corridor left and right with his rifle. Reeves brought up the rear, although Hamilton was wondering if that wasn't such a good idea. He was clearly suffering from psychological distress.
The group entered a small annex near fuel tank five and stopped. Before them lay six large storage containers, each one about two metres in height. Three of them looked like they had been ripped open from the inside.
"Looks like we found the nest" said Bocock. Hamilton carefully checked the contents were trying empty of the badly damaged container closest to him. He put his hand on the wrecked front section.
"Sheet metal. Whatever came out of here was strong."
"I'll give you three guesses but you only need one" said Reeves, moving along the line of containers. Jamison examined one of the intact containers.
"This one's empty" he said, making sure what he wasn't going to regret what he just said.
"So's this" said Bocock, peering into another.
Reeves hesitated. "Guys… somehow I don't think-"
A metallic hand tore out of the container door and into Reeves' chest. The others turned as the Centurion emerged from the container, lifting Reeves into the air. The others opened fire at the Centurion, who used Reeves' body as a shield. It began reforming its spare arm as it's machine gun, and turned to target the humans.
A large explosion tore the Centurion in two, hurtling the remaining pieces of it's body to the back of the container and throwing Reeves' body to the floor in a vicious manner that bloodied what was left. Bocock and Jamison had thrown themselves to the floor, and slowly looked behind them.
Hamilton was still standing in the position, his rifle pointing at the now charred container. "You two alright?" he asked, not taking his eyes off what was left of the Centurion.
"Yes sir…" said Jamison, standing up and quickly eying the corridor outside.
"Poor Reeves" said Bocock, looking at his fallen body.
"Got another one did we?"
Hamilton turned, and saw the speaker on the wall.
"Vrees" he said under his breath.
Vrees left out a sigh of disgust as he saw another of his Cylon indicators had darkened, meaning Hamilton had scored another victory against him. Still, he knew it mattered very little now. The Centurion lost was the back up, which meant Hamilton was at the other end of the ship, and wouldn't be able to stop him now.
"You continue to amaze me, Admiral' he said, opening the nuclear launch panel. "I would've figured you would just collapse and die like the rest of your species."
"Not today, Vrees" said Hamilton.
"It matters very little" Vrees said, entering the command codes and nodding to the Centurion beside him, turned the combat keys simultaneously. "Time, I'm afraid, is up."
There was silence from the other end. Vrees smiled. "Oh come now Admiral, not gonna address the situation with any last words before I annihilate the remainder of the human race?"
"You're dead Vrees, if it's the last thing I do. I'll make sure-"
"Stubborn to the last. Oh well. Goodbye South Colony."
High on the dorsal hull, the engines of eight missiles ignited and began to lift off from their cradle. After a few seconds, the primary engines kicked in, and the missiles fired off in the direction of the South Colony.
800 metres from the Orpheus however, the missiles exploded.
Vrees held onto the combat table as the shockwave from eight detonating nuclear blasts reached the ship. In such close proximity, the radiation fallout wouldn't affect them but his chance to obliterate the South Colony with nukes was lost; Orpheus only had eight nukes to fire.
Vrees confusion over what had caused the premature detonation of the missiles was short-lived; DRADIS showed him the nukes had collided with something solid.
In the CIC of the Chimera, Gruber was pulling himself up off the floor. All around, alarm klaxons were blaring and people helped others who weren't as lucky. Colonel Spicer was at the damage control board, assessing the damage.
"Sir, confirmed eight direct impacts to the ventral hull. Severe hull damage and explosive decompressions have been reported. Radiation levels are spiking as high as deck 19."
Lieutenant Harris, the Officer of the Watch, was checking his console as well. "Sir, deck chief reports port flight pod is failing to extend."
"Can we launch Vipers?" asked Gruber.
"Aye sir, but without the pods extended they won't be able to land again, nor will they have Raptor support."
The ship vibrated under an external force. Spicer was the first to respond.
"Commander, the Orpheus has opened fire on us. Not with Triple A, just her flak barrier."
"They're trying to stop any Viper from taking off. Harry, what's the state of the engines?"
"Sir, engineering reports fuel lines have ruptured and we've lost half our tanks in the initial attack. Multiple reports coming in of fires on most of the lower decks."
"Away the damage control teams, get them to focus primarily on the freeing the port flight pod, begin moving all injured personnel to evacuation areas. Engage fire suppressants on all decks. Helm, move us away from the Orpheus, best speed."
Hamilton and his two associates were moving along a corridor when they reached his quarters. Making sure it was empty, they went inside and shut the door. Hamilton went over to a console and checked what he needed.
"Chimera jumped in and took the hits" he reported. "She's moving away. At least Vrees can't nuke the colonies anymore."
"Why not?" asked Bocock.
"We only had eight missiles prepped for launch, and he's used all of them. I doubt he'd be able to load more."
"He's still got a handful of Centurions on board, I wouldn't put it past him."
"I agree" he said, closing his console. "I want you two to get to engineering and make sure we can jump the ship. I'm gonna take Vrees alone."
Hamilton looked at Jamison.
"Oh, I was just thinking, we have two colonies. If he only had eight nukes at his disposal, why fire all of them at one colony. How do you destroy the other one?"
"…just crash the ship on top of them…" said Hamilton under his breath. "Little frakker, Vrees had this all planned out. He was gonna nuke the South Colony then use the ship itself to destroy the North."
Jamison hoisted his rifle over his shoulder. "Then we should get going, don't you think?"
"Yes… listen, I don't want to lie to you" began Hamilton. The others made sure he had their attention. "Vrees must be stopped at all costs. He can not be allowed to have this ship crash to the surface. Our lives are expendable."
They nodded in agreement, and then all three turned and left the room.
Ruby pointed her gun at the nearest window of Vrees' cabin. She had the others in the squad at various points of the compass around the cabin. No more booby traps had turned up since they secured the perimeter. Ruby now had her sights trained on the cabin itself. Whatever was in there was gonna be-
A branch or twig snapped in the forest off to her left. One of the soldiers had a moment of stupidity. Ruby's concern if the noise had blown their cover was answered by weapons fire streaming from the front window of the cabin in the direction of the noise. Seconds later, a Centurion burst from the cabin door, ripping it off it's hinges and running at full speed into the forest. Ruby knew it felt tactically trapped by being stranded in the cabin, and had made a run for the safety of the trees. It probably wasn't even going after the noise.
"Taylor, Jackson, target the runner!" she yelled, knowing if it made it out of their sight it would become a predator in the hills, able to pick off colonists one by one as it pleased.
As she watched the two of her squad begin to target the running Cylon, Ruby spotted movement near the shattered front door of the cabin.
"Second target in the cabin! Watch for shrapnel!" She turned and fired her rifle at the door, splintering the nice wood finish. A second Centurion emerged from the doorway, both it's arms firing wildly into the trees.
Thisoneisn'tgonnarun thought Ruby.
An explosion to her left made her duck and take her eyes off the second target; the three remaining squad members had already engaged it.
"Jackson, sitrep." Pause, nothing. "Jackson, Taylor, respond."
"Sir, target one is down. Jackson is finishing it off."
ThanktheGods she thought to herself. As she turned back to the cabin, she saw two tracer beams target the Centurion in the doorway, then high caliber shells tore into it, penetrating it's armor before finally piercing it's red eye, at which point it ceased firing, and fell back into the doorway, dead.
For the next minute Ruby ordered the squad to stay still, and not progress. No one reported anyone attempt to leave the cabin, nor was any further movement reported from inside. Finally, Ruby ordered everyone to advance.
Inside the cabin, the single room was practically empty. A chair and small bed were in a far corner, and hand basin and basic stove for cooking on the wall to her right. A photo of Vrees and Hamilton shaking hands at the founding of the North Colony hung on the wall above the fireplace.
"Clear" all the marines reported.
Ruby searched the cabin but found nothing. She was almost about to call in the forensic teams when Taylor stepped on a floorboard near the back door which creaked at a higher pitch than the others.
The squad targeted their weapons on the floor as Jackson used a crowbar to rip the floorboard up. Underneath was a metal sheet, which everyone could see was the covering for some kind of hatch.
Minutes later, the boards were all removed and Ruby and the squad had penetrated the hatch. Rather than more booby traps, Vrees had clearly expected the Centurions to prevent anyone from getting this far.
As Ruby climbed down the ladder, flanked by the squad as far as their rifles could penetrate the hidden room, she turned and saw something she honestly didn't expect to see. In the center of what Ruby could clearly see was a cargo container from the Orpheus, some sort of life support system monitored what appeared to be two bath tubs.
And in one of the baths, lay Commander Vrees.
Hamilton made his way along one of the primary corridors near the fire control room, only two decks below CIC. He hadn't encountered any resistance so far, nor had the other two who were now boarded up in engineering.
"Sergeant Ruby to Admiral Hamilton."
Hamilton turned and made his way into the pilot's area and went into a bunk room, pulling the door closed.
"Sir, Vrees' Cabin certainly has Cylon furnishings."
"Doesn't surprise me. Give me specifics, I'm short on time."
Ruby cleared her throat. "Sir, we're found what we believe is some sort of rejuvenation plant down here. Two… 'bath tubs', filled with some sort of gelatinous material, sir there's… there's a duplicate of Commander Vrees in one of them… he appears to be sleeping."
"Interesting… what else?"
"Pair of Centurions down here. Both taken care of."
"That means there's two more unaccounted for, with at least one on this ship. What's in the other bath tub?"
"Nothing sir, it's empty."
Hamilton stopped and thought for a while.
"Sir, are you still there?"
"Yes… no, he couldn't… that's just too impractical…"
Ruby didn't respond. Hamilton slammed his head back against a wall, annoyed at how stupid he was not to pick it up. And how worried at how far advanced the Cylons were in their technology.
"Sergeant, Commander Vrees died three months ago."
Hamilton scratched his head, trying to understand what he was about to say himself.
"I don't know how they do it but when these humanoid Cylons die they somehow get given a second chance. Three months ago Vrees went hiking when he slipped and fell down a 30 metre cliff face. He broke his arm in three places, ruptured his spleen, and severely damaged his back. Spent ages in traction in the North hospital. Doctors said it would be touch and go if he pulled through. I have a funny feeling that he actually died, and was reborn in one of those bath tubs, then somehow snuck back into the hospital and removed his dead body."
"Begging your pardon sir, but that's frakking crazy. And what's even more crazy is I believe you."
"And at a guess I'd say that second Vrees down there is his way out. Even if he crashed the Orpheus on top of the North Colony it would still be well outside the impact zone."
"So what say I just put a bullet in its head. That way he won't get a second chance."
"No!" said Hamilton, a little too loud for his liking. "No, for Gods sake don't do a thing. I have a better idea."
Vrees monitored the hatch opening from forward airlock and smiled. He calculated the time it would take to successfully send the signal and timed the sublight engines accordingly. Compensators were already feeling the pull of Ophichia's small but potential gravity well.
He glanced over his shoulder; the lone Centurion guarded the corridor outside CIC. He would miss seeing the sight of them, then reminded himself he had a couple left on the planet's surface in his cabin-
A large explosion caused him to fall to the floor as the glass doors of CIC were blown inwards. Vrees quickly grabbed his weapon and pointed it back into the corridor.
The remains of the Centurion lay scattered all over the charred carpet. Vrees had seen enough rocket-propelled grenade attacks to know what had happened. He stepped out from behind the combat table and into the corridor.
Nothing. No sign of Hamilton.
Behind him, from a vent cover, Vrees heard a rattling, which suddenly stopped. Vrees spun and fired his entire magazine into the vent, then quickly replaced it with a fresh magazine. Moving forward, he advanced on the vent, listening out for any more signs of movement. When he was about three metres from the vent, it exploded, throwing him across the room. Vrees grabbed his ears to try and rub away the ringing. He glanced back at the vent, which was a smoking ruin. Before he had chance to stand up, a pistol appeared beside his right ear.
"Nice to see you again" said a familiar voice.
Vrees threw his gun away from him, rolled up onto his elbows and looked up at Admiral Hamilton, who smiled as he trained his pistol on Vrees' forehead.
"I leave you alone for five minutes Commander-"
"Frak off Admiral. You've had your fun. But it matters very little. I have multiple ways of winning this time."
Hamilton was intrigued, and sat back in a chair, keeping a watchful eye on Vrees but also knew there was still one Centurion unaccounted for.
"What makes you think I'm gonna tell you?"
"Because you want to. You like to gloat."
"True. Put it this way, in a matter of minutes this Battlestar will pay a rather sudden visit to the South Colony. And before you try to gain altitude I've smashed the sublight controls. Jump station's been smashed too."
"But where does that leave you Vrees?" said Hamilton, eying the FTL console he very much needed to be working.
"Oh, I have my own way out."
Hamilton walked up so he was only a foot from Vrees, pistol still pointed between his eyes.
"You've only got a few seconds left to do it."
"Oh… I'll wait until you shoot me" said Vrees, smiling.
"Engineering to CIC" came the voice of Bocock over the intercom. "We're getting structural stress on the outer hull. Need to evacuate or something soon. CIC respond. Are you there yet Admiral?"
"Oh you lot were confident weren't you?" said Vrees. "Expecting to take over the ship so easily."
"Well we did destroy all your Centurions" said Hamilton, hoping to gleam the one missing piece of information from Vrees before he died.
"Oh him… he's currently taking a walk."
"Yeah… you see you shut down all communications on the Orpheus that I had access to… from the inside. So I sent him on a little errand."
Hamilton took a step back. "The communications array on the ventral hull."
"Yeah. Right about now he's rewiring the dish to send a signal back to any Cylons still alive in the direction of the Twelve Colonies. Should be able to transmit for a couple of minutes before we hit the atmosphere."
Hamilton thought, then a smile crept across his face. "Nope, sorry, gonna take care of that too. Now, was there anything else?"
"Anything else? Don't you realize I'm about to seriously frak your civilization?"
"No… you're not. And what's more" he said, putting the gun right on his forehead, "the Cylon threat ends here today."
"In that case I guess I'll see you real soon" said Vrees, smiling.
"No you won't" he said, leaning towards Vrees slightly. "You have a nice cabin."
Hamilton allowed Vrees a couple of extra seconds of life before pulling the trigger, just long enough for the look of absolute panic to take hold.
"Get off my Battlestar" he said, then he fired six shots into the commander's cranium.
Vrees woke up in the resurrection tank, wiping the goo away from his eyes. As he sat up he began to hear multiple beeping noises coming from all around. He turned his head to his left, and froze.
Beside him, the proximity sensors that he had once planted in the forest outside his cabin, were now in the room with him. All fourteen of them.
Sitting up, he glanced around the small container, and realized the entire room was filled with D9 explosives.
Looking straight ahead, he realized sensors had been modified to include a timer.
He had three seconds left.
Outside, Ruby and her squad watched as the cabin tore itself apart from the deadly explosion they had helped manufacture. If anything, it meant that the Admiral had been successful. Ruby smiled, and decided tonight we be a good night for using the trampoline.
"Hamilton to Bocock, you there?"
"Aye sir, everything alright? Is Vrees-"
Hamilton was standing over the shattered navigation console, FTL and sublight useless. There was also no time to reconfigure communications in CIC to see if any Viper from the Chimera had made it out to take care of the Centurion on the hull.
"No time to explain. Can you trigger and FTL jump manually from down there?"
"Yes sir, just need the coordinates."
Hamilton began trying to work out where the best place would be to dump the ship, knowing they'd probably only get one shot at it, had to take care of the Centurion on the hull and try and save the three of them plus whoever else survived Vrees' massacre on the Orpheus.
"There, go, do it!"
"But sir these coordinates are-"
On the hull, the lone Centurion had finished wiring up the communications array and was about to send the signal as requested when a blue flash distracted it. Allowing its eyes to adjust to the new conditions, it was confused by the change in light spectrum, radiation levels and sudden change in gravity. Tilting its head around, it could see a mass of some sort rushing up to meet it.
0.57 seconds before it expired, the Centurion attempted to activate the array, but was crushed before it could power it up.
Dr Carey stood on the hill overlooking the amazing sight he could see down in the valley. The Battlestar Orpheus, all 1700 metres of it, had FTL'd to the planet's surface, only a few metres above the ground. Gravity had brought it crashing down, instantly severing the flight pods from the ship, and breaking her back. What surprised Dr Carey even more was the fact that Admiral Hamilton and two other crewmembers were walking towards her.
"See" said the Admiral, indicating the Battlestar lying on the hillside, "Battlestars can land."
Dr Carey could only laugh, and helped the others up the hill back to the colony.
That night, the Admiral had paid a visit to Sergeant Ruby's house, personally thanking her for saving the colony. Vrees was permanently dead, and the resurrection technology had been destroyed. Unfortunately the small war came at the cost of both the Battlestars. The Chimera survived the initial nuclear attack but the damage was considered non-salvageable. Her raptors and vipers were brought to the surface for use at the colonies, but ultimately with Tylium about to run out they would eventually be broken up and used as raw materials. Commander Gruber piloted the last raptor out of the ship, before she was scuttled in the atmosphere in New Aquaria.
"So how do you think he got the container to the surface?" asked Ruby, pulling the Admiral aside for a chat.
"Could've hidden it inside any number of cargo ships when we first arrived. Managed to get it aboard the Orpheus without me knowing anyhow."
"I don't get it, surely he would've given the game away."
Hamilton put his drink down. "Been thinking about that. Vrees was such a different person three months ago I imagine he was actually a sleeper personality of some sort. Probably didn't expect it to go on this long. Maybe the jolt of dying and suddenly finding out he was a Cylon shocked him."
"So a lot of what he did he may not have even known he was doing?"
Ruby's daughter Amelia let out a yell of delight as she saw her father walking up the driveway. After six months away, Amelia and Ruby were both happy to see him back, though Ruby knew it now meant Amelia could finally use her trampoline.
Admiral Hamilton attended a ceremony a few days after the Vrees incident, to formally decommission the Colonial Military and set up a new system of law and order on Ophichia. Also to say farewell to the dozens lost during the brief war. Hamilton conceded they would be a planet-based society for the foreseeable future, and one day they might try returning to the colonies. One day.
James Hamilton often visited the Orpheus, but never set foot on her again. Much of her superstructure had been stripped away for raw materials, mainly for use in building a new viaduct system from bringing water to higher areas of the growing colony. Election day came and went. Politicians promised to make the world a better place, but seldom followed it up.
And as long as he lived, no one ever built a bridge over the ravine.