Season 1: Of Light and Darkness
Episode 1: The Fall
Commander Adriatic Huxton stood in bare feet on the thick crimson rug that occupied most of his small bedroom. His eyes were focused his television, which displayed the Picon fleet headquarters his ship was currently orbiting. It was day one of 'Fleet Week,' held on the week anniversary of the ending of the first cylon war. Instead of the normal peace and quiet around the massive cylindrical station and its attendant warships there was a festive atmosphere and almost five hundred civilian ships of all shapes and sizes and sanctioned tour shuttles swarming in the HQ's airspace. At the center of the display ten battlestars were parked in a line ten kilometers off the station's port side, their support ships forming a perimeter around them that only cleared civilian ships and the shuttles could enter. His ship, the battlestar Vindication, was in the back of the line. Most of the civilian transports and freighters were now clustered around the perimeter; some were even docked in the battlestar's hangar pods offloading tour groups. A swamped colonial fleet command had estimated there were half a million people crammed onto ships and station, with peak traffic being predicted to reach three million in several hours.
Huxton saw them as three million security hazards. He checked his digital watch: it was 1170 now, he had thirty minutes to get to the bridge. Huxton checked the buttons on his dress uniform, then when satisfied the gunmetal grey two-piece with silver pips on the lapels was orderly, walked from his bedroom to main living room. He stepped into his boots next to the door and laced them up.
"And here is the commander's quarters" a female voice wafted in through his front door. It was probably from one of the twenty plus tour groups roaming the ship at the moment. Huxton sighed. The disordered tour groups crawling the corridors and the exhibitions going on in the mess hall and port hangar pod set him on edge.
He checked his hip, and realized his sidearm was sitting in his bedroom. "Fracking idiot, one day you'll forget it when you need it" he muttered to himself and stomped back to his bedroom. He snatched the standard issue MIR-4 pistol off his nighttable, made sure there was a round chambered and the safety on, and slid it into his holster. On the television screen one of the zippy little private freighters orbiting the Mercury class battlestar three places ahead in line suddenly broke from its orbit and made a diving pass across its port side close enough to pass between the CAP vipers and hull. Huxton groaned. A faststar nearby flipped around and moved to intercept the rogue ship. Her crew would be spending the week in fleet HQ's brig for violating flight orders.
Huxton's radio squawked. He pulled it off his belt. "Commander Huxton?" a voice asked.
Huxton put it to his ear and hit the talk button. "This is him, go ahead," he said.
"Sir, this is Major Cage, there's been a bit of a screw up, the first tour group will be on the CIC in under five." Huxton checked his watch: 1173. He swallowed a stream of profanity.
His voice shook in anger as he replied "I understand." He would be making a speech to every tour group that came through the CIC. Cage must've guessed his thoughts.
"Hey commander, they're just civilians, how bad can it be?" he asked. Something banged outside.
Huxton winced and replied "they are undisciplined elements aboard a colonial warship, undisciplined elements who like to wander off into restricted parts of said warship and do things like hang from the air ducts and push computer buttons that cause bad things to happen, or try to fire the railgun turrets so help us all. There's a reason why I've avoided fleet week duty for the past five years"
"Permission to speak freely Sir?"
"Go ahead Major."
"Are you sure you aren't overreacting? Fleet week frays our nerves, but think about all the civvies you're going to be showing off to, including interested females." Huxton snorted. He was forty-four and taken. Cage took the reply in stride and continued "If you need to relax I'm sure Doc Varis has something for you."
"Thank you Major, that all?"
"Yes, Cage out." The link went dead. Huxton went to his private bathroom. He checked his uniform over again in the mirror, brushed his teeth, and made sure his small black goatee and full moustache were neatly trimmed. Varis probably had something for him, something that would calm him but give him a headache and a sinus problem. Some of the illicit elements in the depths of his ship probably also had something for him, something that would make his eyes bloodshot and turn him into a hungry idiot for the next several hours. He decided just dealing with the butterflies would be best.
Huxton opened his door and stepped into the corridor-to find twenty well dressed men, women, and children staring at him with a mixture of curiosity and admiration. Oh, this is commander Huxton" the young female tour guide said, then began giving a few details about his colorful career. Huxton smiled and waved as he pushed his way through. He hit open corridor and walked off as fast as he could while remaining respectable. Halfway down the long corridor between his cabin and the bridge his radio squawked again.
"Commander here, go ahead" he said.
"CAG to Commander, blue squadron is ready to being its flyby of the civvie ships, proceed?" Jamie Beric, callsign 'Cross' said. His voice was raspy with his sixty-three years of age, but still projected the impressive authority and reassurance he'd gained from forty-five years of service.
"Give them the go ahead Berics." A joke formed in Huxton's mind. "Notify the pilots that if any ship so much as deviates from its flight plan they are to go weapons free and engage."
"What?" Jamie said in shock. Huxton covered the mic and broke out laughing for several seconds. "Commander, are you alright?" he heard Cross ask.
"That was a joke Beric, ignore that." Now Cross laughed.
"Very good, Commander, Berics out. Huxton reached the bridge. Two marines with assault rifles guarded the meter thick titanium portal. They saluted and one opened the door.
Sitting at the communications station next to the door, Lieutenant Amanda Marlay was the first to notice his arrival. She leapt up to attention and announced "Commander on deck!" The dozen officers present snapped to attention.
"At ease" Huxton said and returned the salute. He walked to his desk on the opposide side of the bridge facing the door. Major Cage was temporarily occupying XO Colonel Amy Nessella's staion on its right. Huxton turned to him and lowered his voice. "What's the situation with the civvies and tour groups?"
"Behaving just fine except this one freighter. Captain Sare is on his third tour group in the hangar bay, Nessella is on her fifth in the mess hall. Our first will be here any moment," Cage said. Huxton nodded. Captain Sare was the Vindication's chief communications officer and sixth in the chain of command. Huxton couldn't help but feel Nessella should've been in his doing the most important presentation of all. She had the charisma and charms to speak to several thousand civilians and keep them enthralled, he didn't
Huxton looked at the crowded DRADIS display at the front of the bridge, then at the visual screen to his left, linked to one of the Vindication's eight externally mounted cameras. He saw the faint specks of the vipers whip by, passing through the civilian ships and diving on the battlestar's forward observation deck where three hundred civilians were waiting. He smiled fondly as he imagined what it would be like. When he had gone aboard the Galactica when he was just ten he had waved to the pilots as they made the exact same maneuver in their Mark III vipers.
Marlay opened exit portal and leaned into the corridor, then leapt back. Panic was etched across her face as she called "Cylon attack waves incoming". The bridge echoed with laughter. Huxton meanwhile gritted his teeth and moved to stand before the tactical command table at the center of the bridge. A second later thirty men, women, and children filed in. Theyw ere dressed in black suits and dresses for the occasion. He recognized at least one from the news as a major CEO. They spent a couple of minute examining the consoles and chattering amongst them, occasionally questioning the bridge staff, who smiled and answered.
"Excuse me, what's this do?" Marlay looked up to see a pair of teenage girls leaning over her station. One was over one hundred and eighty-five centimers tall and was thin with curly brown hair and dark eyes, the second was maybe one hundred eighty centimeters, and had shoulder length platinum blode hair and a rounded face. The brown haired one was fiddling with a lever on the right.
Marlay smiled and answered. "Primary communications station, that lever sends out low wavelength communications, below FTL speeds."
"And this is the FTL comm" the blonde surprised her by pointing to the glowing blue computer left of the lever. Marlay nodded, impressed. The girl continued. "Superhigh frequency, too high for a normal radio to pick out, somewhere around 20000 Ap" she continued. Marlay raised her eyebrows.
"You seem to know the basics. I'm Lieutenant Marlay, second communications officer." She extended her hand. The blonde girl's face lit up and she shook it eagerly.
"I'm Aelia and this is Rachel, nice to meet you" she grabbed her distracted friend, who smiled and waved.
Marlay was curious, "where'd you learn FTL communications 101 anyway?"
Aelia laughed nervously. "I'm just taking a couple courses in high school, I'm a sophomore right now so I only know a little bit."
Rachel put a hand on her shoulder. "Her dad is also the CEO of Gerdon telecommunications."
Aelia blushed and giggled nervously. "Yes he is" she said. Gerdon was one of Libran's fortune three hundred companies, and one of the three largest civilian network providers in the colonies. Marlay realized in awe that Aelia's parents could have bought the Vindication if they wanted to. She saw Aelia's embarrassed look, heard Rachel's apology, and realized that she'd wanted to hide that.
"I have to take that, nice meeting you" Marlay said, and seated herself at the desk. The girls waved and turned to leave. "Oh, and nice dress Aelia, did you get that from Virgon fashion's fall lineup?" she added. Aelia blushed and looked down at the tight fitting thigh length blue dress she was wearing
"Rachel, you got that skirt from spring last year?" Marlay added easily.
Rachel nodded and replied, "I did. Just wondering here, but what are you saying?"
Marlay smiled "Oh nothing, you don't get much dedicated fashion talk around here, that's all, especially with this lot" Marlay jerked her thumb at Huxton and Cage. The three of them giggled for a few seconds then parted ways.
Huxton put on a false smile. He had always been good at hiding his real feelings beneath a pleasant cover, ever since his days in high school when he had orchestrated brutal revenge on his classmates for throwing his books in the mud or punching him into his locker. The times and situations were different now, but the technique remained the same. He cleared his throat and said "Attention visitors." Every eye went to him. He crossed his hands behind his back. "Welcome to the battlestar Vindication, the finest ship in the fleet. Every commander will tell you that about their tin can, but this actually is," he pointed at the deck. The small comedy elicited a smatter of chuckling. "She is thirteen hundred and fifty meters long, and has a mass of one hundred and twenty million tons. Her crew is over four thousand." There were awed gasps.
"Now for some history, the Vindication was laid down twelve years ago as the fifth of the new Valkyrie medium battlestar line, intended as a –" Marlay tapped him on the shoulder and proffered a paper. He noticed her worried expression. "Hang on one second, duty calls" he said, and took it. It had come from the joint admirals: 'Armistice line picket buoys and patrolling fleet elements have gone silent. Active duty ships are to immediately make combat preparations and await deploayment orders.' Huxton barely covered his look of shock. I knew it, five years I've been telling everyone, and now the cylons are coming. His ship was not on active duty however, which meant he had to place the paper in his pocket, nod to Marlay, and cheerfully return to his tour group.
"Pardon that, just some admiral complaining about his coffee machine. As I was saying, the Vindi-" The DRADIS readout began beeping frantically. He spun around. The long line of green dots and the massive green orb of the fleet HQ were under siege, by an armada of red dots. The civilians began to whisper fearfully to each other.
Cage quickly sat down at his desk and began typing. He announced, "Unidentified warships have jumped into HQ airspace, give me a moment to confirm their origin"
Huxton didn't wait for that, he already knew they were cylons. "Major, go to condition one, get our guns crewed and our engines powered up."
"Yes sir" Cage said. A deep klaxon wailed through the ship and red alarms flared.
"Action stations, action stations" a cool female voice emanated from the loudspeakers. The civilians panicked, Rachel and several others screamed. Some froze up, some dove under desks and machines, some scrabbled for the exit which the marines outside had automatically shut. One plowed into Huxton, who threw him back with a snarl.
"Commander, it could be a joke, some holiday prank," Cage said.
"It might not be, get ready to set us to condition two. Check the visuals first though" Huxton ordered. The screen blurred as the camera swooped around on its mount-and settled on a cluster of white dots straight above it. It zoomed in, revealing them to be star-shaped warships, sleek and menacing looking, surrounded by clouds of fighters and support craft. "Condition one," Huxton reaffirmed. A moment later DRADIS received a response to its transponder hailing and labeled the hundreds of new contacts as cylon ships.
Huxton pointed at the tour guide backed against the far wall. "Clear the damn CIC, Ensign." Then to Cage: "Scramble our viper wing and have the support ships form up in formation delta epsilon oh eight."
Cross fumbled with his flight suit. He had been in his dress uniform with half a dozen other pilots on the starboard hangar deck floor giving a presentation on the viper mark VII when the alarms had gone off and orders had come through. Despite having over thirty years on most of his pilots he was still the first person to zip up his flight suite and sprint from the crowded ready room to the flight deck. On the deck floor yellow clad deck hands were quickly maneuvering the vipers into position and performing last minute checks on them as civilians streamed towards the exits.
"Cross, its going to be a minute until they've got the catapults running!" Svan Jenner, callsign 'Slammer' called from the cockpit of his mark VII. He had had his flight suite on to give demonstrations to the civillians.
"Gods damn it, they're going to leave half the wing out in space to die" Cross growled. He leapt into his viper's cockpit. Deck Chief Petty Officer James Keeton handed him his helmet. Cross grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled his face in. "Get the catapults operational now," he growled.
Keeton pulled back. "Working on it," he replied and clambered back in. Cross sighed and snapped his helmet on. Around him the other pilots were climbing into their birds.
Marlay handed Huxton another paper. He read it. "Orders just came down from Flag Admiral Breidis; We are going to meet the cylons head on and stall them so the civilians can escape and reinforcements arrive." He nodded to Captain Grissom at the helm. "Helm, bring us about to course delta carom three nine nine to face the enemy, match speed with the fleet" he ordered.
The view on the visual screen swung as the bow rose to meet the impressive cylon fleet. The Vindication fell into the back of the formation of battlestars, which was centered on the Nova class battlestar Ra. The radio channels filled with different commanders calling out to each other.
Huxton took a step back to get a better view of the DRADIS readout, and bumped into a man in a brown suit. The tour guide was doing his best to shepherd the civilians out, but a traffic jam had formed at the door, resulting in a loud crowd clogging the center of the CIC.
Huxton counted fifty basestars and over two hundred support ships on DRADIS. Even at the two to one successful engagement ratio the colonials had enjoyed in the last war the numbers were too high. The Atlatl missile launcher banks on the fleet headquarters and the 2000 millimeter quad barreled turrets on the hexagonal sentry turrets floating around it would go a long way to evening the fight.
"Keep the fighters in close as a shield and have our supports set up a perimeter. Remember, this is a holding action, we keep the cylons off until the reinforcements jump in, don't take any risks" Huxton said.
"Yes sir" Cage replied. Huxton knew Cage was one of the brightest young officers in the fleet, but he sorely missed Nessella in the XO spot. He returned his attention to the battle. The two sides were less than ten thousand kilometers apart, almost in effective range. The battlestars were clustered close together to support each other, their fighters and escorts forming a dense shield between them and the voracious cylon support ships ranging ahead of the main fleet.
The lead battlestar flashed red for a second. Then the lights along its hull died. No longer accelerating, it began to fall out of formation. A second battlestar flashed red and died. A chain reaction ran down the fleet. Huxton had just noticed it when it hit the Vindication. The viewscreen glowed red for an instant.
Then the power died. DRADIS went dead, the various computers and displays on the CIC flickered and shut off as if someone had flipped a switch. All along the battlestar crew and civilians alike froze as they were plunged into absolute darkness. Screams rang out followed by impacts as running bodies tripped and fell or collided with each other and walls. Panic ensued on the bridge. Civillians shouted and blundered every direction, one tumbling into Huxton. Cage, Marlay, and several other officers added their voices to the mess.
"Quiet!" Huxton bellowed, to no avail. He drew his sidearm, made a snap calculation on whether the desired effect was worth it, and fired it into the ceiling. The blast reverberated through the low ceilinged CIC, drowning out everything else. By the time his ears had stopped ringing he had his silence. "Three, two, one."
The emergency lights came on, casting the CIC in a harsh red glow. Huxton looked to the DRADIS, which should have at least started booting back up. Its screen was blank. He spun to face the panicking Cage. "Is anything working?"
"Negative, all systems are down, I can't even bring the main power lines back up" Cage said. Huxton leapt over to his desk and grabbed the phone off it. It was a sound activated model, installed for just such an emergency. He dialed engineering and listened to it ring.
"Huxton to engineering, what just hit us?" he said.
"We don't know, the main reactor just shut down on us, all computer systems are out" chief engineer Colonel Radin replied. "We think it's a computer malfunction, I've got men checking the computer core."
A chime announced someone else dialing the bridge and a new voice broke in. "Commander, are you there?" a shaking voice said. Before Huxton could affirm it kept speaking. "This is Sergeant Alenko, I'm the forward observation gallery. The entire fleet has lost power. I can see the explosions from where they are picking off our fighters" it said. Huxton's felt a faint quaver in his stomach.
"What about the battlestars?" he asked.
"Dead in space, the lead ships are under missile fire-holy frak the Agamemnon just went up!" Frak.
"Colonel, can you get the FTL operational on its own if all else fails?" It took Huxton's brain a second longer to realize he was suggesting abandoning a good part of the colonial military high command plus over five hundred thousand civilians. He swallowed hard before his stomach could betray him and told himself that without a miracle from Kobol there was no other choice.
Radin remained calm. "Its offline, we're feeding it emergency battery power but something's holding down the off switch, again it might be the computers, I can't be sure." The deck shook as the Vindcation took its first missile.
Cage tapped Huxton on the shoulder. "It's the computers, the power lines are still hooked up and the emergency batteries are feeding into them. Every command I try on the computer core gets about a quarter second of life from it, then it dies. The only thing that could do that would be someone hacking our network to shut it down. The deck rocked under their feet. Cage fell but Huxton kept his feet.
"I heard that, thank you," Radin said.
"The Ra just split in half! There were twenty thousand people aboard her!" Alenko cried over screaming in the background, all semblance of professionalism gone.
"Is there anyway to get around that?" Huxton said, his voice rising. He was nearly thrown off his feet by two hits in quick succession. The CIC floor was covered in struggling bodies. Something hard and wet crashed against Marlay. She pushed it off, then panicked when she realized it was someone's head with a limp body attatched to it.
Radin was apprehensive. "We could disconnect the FTL drive and manually jump, but that would be a blind jump."
"Three battlestars are down, they're closing in on us!" Alenko cried. The ship began to jolt under a steady barrage of missiles. Everyone still standing was thrown to the ground except Huxton, who threw himself into his seat and clung to his desk with both hands.
"Do it!" he ordered.
Radin dropped the phone and pelted through the cavernous engineering chamber where the FTL spool sat in a dense steel cage; the centerpiece of the deck. "Grab power cutters and wrenches, we need to disconnect the main drive!" he shouted to his crew who were struggling unsuccessfully with the support systems lining the walls. By the time he'd reached the spool shaped FTL drive there were two teenaged deckhands with a wrench ripping away the first of the half a dozen cables hooking the drive by the spools into the network.
A hard hit knocked them away with a shout and a clatter. Radin stumbled, kept his balance, and almost fell against the spool as another missile struck the Vindication. He grabbed the loosened cable and pulled it out, taking a chunk of electronics with it. The huge Ensign Irdeki stepped past him, a power saw whirring to life in his hands. Sparks flew from a particularly thick cable as he cut into it. Radin grabbed the skinniest one and pulled. His regular visits to the ship's gym paid off as the cable easily came away in his large hands.
Ensign Davies and pair of pliers appeared on his left. He unscrewed a fourth while Irdeki started on a fifth. Then the floor under their feet jolted and Irdeki lost control. On the other side of the spool Engineer Thome screamed as the saw went wild and sliced through his chest. Blood spurted from the wound across Irdeki and the spool and he collapsed. Irdeki dropped the still active saw and collapsed backwards. Radin winced but shouted, "Keep going, almost done, someone with a stomach grab that saw!"
A burly marine who wasn't even supposed to be there grabbed the saw and finished off the last cables. Then Radin remembered the wireless receiver embedded in the spool. "Cut here!" he pointed to the electric lock at the center of the spool protecting it.
Another hit sent a structural beam slamming through the ceiling, narrowly missing Huxton. He sat at his station, helpless and praying. The Vindication and two other battlestars were all that was left, surrounded by twenty basestars. The dead colonial fleet headquarters was surrounded by the wrecks of hundreds of civilian ships and its sentry guns, the first nuclear detonations glowing against its hull.
The saw made short work of the lock and Radin reached in and ripped the antennae out. With whatever force holding it back gone the FTL drive began to hum with power. The engineers began cheering.
Radin counted to ten while it warmed up. An explosion ripped out an overhead balcony and sent it crashing down in flames on several people. On the other side of the ship the port hangar pod was split open from bow end to midsection by a ttwenty-five megation blast. Several more missile hits including another nuclear detonation knocked Radin off his feet. He leapt up and grabbed the lever on the side of the spool. "Jumping!" he screamed, and threw his weight against it. The spool flashed blue as power coursed through it. It emerged through the damaged outer casing and coursed along its black length, incinerating anything touching its surface. Radin's hand's exploded in pain and he reeled back as the smell of burnt flesh permeated the air.
On the bridge Huxton heard the distinct eardrum-tearing screech of tortured electronics. Then he felt nothing.