Chapter 26 Caprica Dawn
"Okay…" Alessandra said as she and the others took their seats around the conference table, "What do we know about Caprica right now?"
Bridgette's holographic image, her short hair now a brilliant red and wearing a black with green trim catsuit appeared alongside a three-dimensional holographic image of the Cyrannus system. Focusing on Caprica, the Terran AI reported, "Our snoop drones report that the cylons have reduced the number of basestars in system and they're all at the Lagrange points. When the cylons carried out their initial bombardment, they seemed to have made a deliberate effort to avoid damaging infrastructure. For the most part they used EMP bombs, air burst nukes, and neutron and similar warheads with short half-lives. In most areas of the planet, rad counts have dropped low enough where anti-rad meds won't be necessary—but it'll still be a good idea to haul 'em with ya."
"The intention was to limit damage to buildings and infrastructure so that we could move in quicker." Sharon explained as Leoben nodded his head in assent.
"They've shifted to long-term occupation now." Sandi concluded as she fixed a cigarette to her ivory cigarette holder and lit it. "That's going to make it both easier and tougher. Easier in the sense that we should be able to slip through their orbital detection grid without too much problems, but harder in the sense that their on-ground security will be tighter. Added to that, Cavil's got a head start on us and he's got home court advantage, but our drones give us a recon advantage over the other players who'll be coming in blind."
"You mean Adama and Cain." Cameron interjected, "The problem though is…as you pointed out…Cavil has a big lead on us. We've got to assume that he'll have both book and artifact by the time we reach Caprica."
"Not necessarily." Alessandra smirked as she zoomed in on the probable location of the shrine. "Note the location of that shrine…"
"Yeah." Valera nodded her head, "It's in a really remote location in the mountains. It's virtually inaccessible by air."
"It is inaccessible." Cameron pointed out. "The only way they're going to get to that shrine is by hoofing it."
"They could just drop down from a shuttle or heavy raider and then be picked by the same with a rope ladder." Sharon argued.
"Cam's right, honey." Helo shook his head, "Air drop and recovery would be difficult because of the canopy and the sheer cliffs. I used to go hiking in those mountains. It's tough terrain—probably the toughest on Caprica. Once you get past this point here…" He said as he pointed at a contour line, "Wheeled and tracked vehicles are useless. You've got to walk and/or use animal transport like horses."
"Looks like they're limited to a few trails…" Lyla commented as she pointed to trails extending from where the roads ended. "Problem is, like Sandi said, they still have a big head start on us. They'll get there long before us."
Helo's lips turned up in a slight grin, "Maybe not. I know a few hiker's trails that can shave some time off. All we have to do is find some way of delaying them…"
"Hmmm…" Alessandra took a slow drag on her cigarette and then exhaled as she considered possibilities. "I'm betting that the terrain is going to give them a hard time too. Plus, if there's any sort of human resistance, it'll slow them up too."
"We could try to contact the human resistance…" Cam suggested.
"If there is one." Sandi gently countered, "The longer we spin our wheels, the more time that gives for our competition to beat us to the prize."
"Sandi's right." Leoben affirmed, pointing out, "Plus, a human resistance would be likely to attack us on sight once they spot me, Sharon, or the contessa."
"Leo's right." Valera agreed, "They see a human-form cylon, they're liable to shoot first and not even bother asking questions."
"That's another reason for just plowing on." Alessandra took another drag from her cigarette as she reached a decision, "We can't afford to have any distractions. Like I said, I want to get in and out. A secure base to use as a headquarters would help though. Any suggestions?"
Helo smirked. "I know a safe place for us to land and use as a headquarters."
"Where?" Sharon inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"My old home." Karl grinned. "We can also pick up supplies that might help us and…if we're lucky…my truck should still be there and gassed up. That'll save us some time."
Nodding her head as she put out her cigarette, Alessandra declared, "All right. Sounds like we've got a plan. Let's get geared up. We move as soon as we hit system."
"While your top priority is the book and artifact." Cain directed as her new executive officer quietly listened, "If you can find some means of disrupting the cylons on the ground or picking up useful resources or even personnel and do so while at the same time securing the primary objective, by all means do so."
"And what about the others—the contessa and possible interference from Adama's people?" Colonel Shaw inquired.
"As far as personnel from the Galactica are concerned…" Cain commanded, "…remind them of where their loyalties and duties truly lie and give them the opportunity to lay down their arms and return to service. If they take you up on that, place them in protective custody and bring them back and we'll integrate them into the crew. If they refuse, then deal with them as deserters and traitors."
"And the contessa?"
"Is an enemy combatant. Deal with her appropriately and, as far as the Colonials in her service, they are to be considered deserters and traitors. Deal with them appropriately as well."
"Good." Cain nodded her head in satisfaction as her Razors boarded the raptor. "Good luck and good hunting."
Entering the Admiral's personal quarters, Captain Kara Thrace saluted, "Sir?"
"Come in, Captain." Admiral Adama instructed, gesturing at the couch. "Have a seat. I have special orders for you for a very dangerous mission—so dangerous that it's strictly voluntary."
"What's the mission, Sir?"
"You're to lead a team consisting of two raptors, support personnel, and a marine fire team to Caprica to recover an artifact, Starbuck." Admiral Adama instructed his top pilot. "You'll also be taking a representative of the president who will brief you on the artifact and its potential importance."
"The vice-president?" Kara inquired, saying a silent prayer to Artemis that the twitchy Baltar would not be a part of the expedition.
"No." Adama shook his head as his pilot barely managed to conceal her sigh of relief. "Not this time. There are a couple of other pilots and personnel who I do not want included in your party." He then gestured for Starbuck to sit down. "Here's the list."
Nodding her head as she read the list, Kara noted, "You don't want anyone from the Pegasus with the exception of Chief Laird whom you've strongly recommended."
"Correct." Adama nodded his head. "We can't trust anyone but Chief Laird from the Pegasus and the Chief, thanks to his background in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, could be helpful."
"Why not Chief Tyrol?" Kara queried, "And for that matter, you've also included Hot Dog and Racetrack on the list. Why are you excluding them…unless you're anticipating possible conflict with the contessa…"
"If you can avoid conflict with her or her people, then by all means do so." Adama instructed, "But your first priority is securing that artifact. If the contessa or her people try to prevent your doing that, you're to take whatever action you deem necessary to achieve your objective."
"And should we encounter teams from the Pegasus?" Kara asked.
"Again, if you can avoid conflict do so. But they cannot be permitted to secure the artifact or book." Adama commanded.
"Understood, Sir." Kara acknowledged as she rose to her feet, "I'll have the teams ready when you give the word."
"Very good, Captain." Adama nodded his head. "You're to depart for Caprica in six hours. Good luck and good hunting."
"Madame President…" Gaius Baltar objected, "I really think you should reconsider. Mr. Keikaya, while a bright and gifted man to be sure, doesn't have the expertise in the fields required to fully grasp the importance of such a prize as the artifact."
"I don't think anyone does, Doctor and I'm sorry I have to refuse your request." President Roslin replied, her lips turned up in a calculating grin. "The government cannot risk sending its vice-president on such a dangerous mission. But, rest assured, you'll have plenty of time to study the artifact once it has been retrieved and returned to the Galactica. Thank you Mr. Vice-President."
"Then…" Gaius took a deep breath, "I really should return to the Galactica and my lab."
Giving Baltar a slight nod of her head in assent to his request, Roslin replied, "Have a good day." Once the vice-president had exited, Laura turned to her aide, "I need you to make sure that the artifact is genuine, Billy."
"How will I know?" The young man inquired.
"You'll recognize its authenticity by the glyph on the cover." She explained as she took out a piece of paper with a sketch of what appeared to be an eye with a series of pictographs beneath. "If that eye and those pictographs appear in the order you see them on this sketch, then it is genuine."
"What if the glyph is a forgery?" Billy queried.
"Hold the glyph up to a mirror." Roslin replied, "As you know, a mirror should show you the pictographs in reverse. If the artifact is genuine, the pictographs will not appear in reverse." Her facial expression now taking on a sense of urgency, she stressed, "It is vital that you bring that artifact back to us. Others will try to take it—you cannot let them do that—understand?"
"Yes, Madame President." Billy gulped, "I understand."
"May the Lords of Kobol watch over you."
"You must go to Caprica, Gaius…" The phantom Six in her red dress insisted as she sat on Gaius' lap.
"Why? I'll get the chance to study the artifact when they bring it back."
"No, you won't. They won't let you. There is only one who will let you."
"The contessa?" Gaius said aloud, drawing the attention of the pilot. Softening his voice to barely more than a whisper, he pointed out, "But I thought she was a threat?"
"God does not always make His plan clear to us." It almost seemed to Gaius that the phantom in his head sounded apologetic as she spoke her next words, "Sometimes our faith is tested and we…I…come up short."
"So…you're saying you made a mistake?" A surprised Gaius whispered.
"Yes." The angel replied in a mournful tone as she confessed, "After the contessa's arrival, I…lost my faith…I was no longer in God's grace."
"And now you are?"
"No." The phantom admitted, "Not yet, I am still seeking forgiveness. This is my penance. Please believe me…" The angel pleaded, "We cannot allow any of the others to succeed. If they do…all is lost and darkness will fall on us all—Colonial…Cylon…even Imperial."
"What of Adama and Roslin?"
"They will not understand the power or danger of what they have if they gain control of the book or the artifact and the other pieces. They are also both corrupted. He by the bitterness caused by loss and pain. She by hubris and growing arrogance. The contessa and her companions, even though flawed themselves, are the only ones who will use the power wisely."
"How do you know?" A still skeptical Baltar inquired in a low voice. "How do you know that she won't misuse whatever power is there?"
"She and her companions have been tested and will continue to be tested. If they falter, He will adjust. For now, they are doing His will even if they do not know it." The phantom replied.
"How am I to get to Caprica?" Gaius demanded, "In case you didn't realize it, I don't have access to a ship that can make the trip."
"Don't worry, Gaius." The angel in his head whispered as she nibbled his ear, "There are others who must make the pilgrimage. You will know your fellow pilgrims when you see them."
"I managed to secure a place."
Nodding her head in satisfaction as she spoke into the receiver of her headset, Sarah Porter instructed her infiltrator, "Remember, you must retrieve both book and artifact. Do not let those items fall into anyone else's hands."
"I understand." Corporal Venner said as he spoke softly into the phone.
"Good." Sarah smiled, "Go with the gods."
"I'm on the expedition and Baltar's off." Tom Zarek's inside man announced to the Sagittaran politician sitting behind his desk.
"Good job, Billy." Zarek grinned, "Remember…Ideally, if you can, bring back both book and artifact. But, you must at all costs…even if it means blowing your cover…return with the artifact. The fate of over forty thousand souls depends on it."
"I won't let you…or them…down, Sir." Billy Keikaya swore as he shook Zarek's hand.
"I know you won't, Billy." Tom Zarek smiled, "Now…you better hurry, you don't want to miss your ride to Caprica."
"All right, people! Kara Thrace called out as the crews and passengers for the trip to Caprica boarded their raptors. "Shake it…we don't have all day."
"We're ready, Captain!" Tough Guy called out from the pilot's seat of his raptor.
Taking the pilot seat of the other raptor, Kara spoke into the radio, "Let's get this show on the road. CiC…Raptors 1 and 2 request permission to launch."
"Permission granted…" Admiral Adama's voice came through the speakers, "Good hunting."
As Baltar exited the shuttle, he heard an animated conversation between two of the Galactica's pilots.
"I can see why you got bounced from the mission." Racetrack grumbled as she vented her rage and frustration at being excluded from Kara's mission to Caprica. "After all, you're frakking that toaster…"
"Her name is Bridgette!" Hot Dog interrupted with a threatening growl, momentarily balling his fists, "Call her by her name or we can have this out right now!"
"Fine! Godsdammit! Bridgette!" Racetrack exclaimed, raising her voice, "That make you happy? I can see why you got the boot—you're too close to the situation. But why am I on that godsdamn list!"
"Probably because you're too close also." Lieutenant Costanza replied.
"What are you talking about?" Margaret cried out.
"You're friends with Val." Brendan coolly responded. "The Admiral probably thinks that you'll go off half-cocked."
"We were friends!" Racetrack shook her head, "She's changed so much that I can't even recognize her."
"Now Gaius!" The phantasm Six urged as she rested her chin on his shoulder, her eyes focused on the arguing pilots. "There's your way to Caprica."
"Didn't you hear?" Gaius whispered back, "They're not going."
"Not now…" She then pivoted her head to where she was looking at the Chief who was rapidly approaching the pilots. "But they will be soon. Hurry…go to them!"
Approaching the pilots, Gaius cleared his throat.
Turning about rapidly, Hot Dog at once noticed the scientist, "Oh…Mr. Vice-President…We didn't recognize you. Ummm….what are you doing here?"
"My shuttle just landed." Gaius quickly explained "…and I couldn't help but overhear that you've been excluded from the trip to Caprica. So have I."
"I'm sorry, Sir." Racetrack huffed, "But there's nothing we can do about it."
"Look…we all want the same thing…to get to Caprica." Gaius turned his gaze on Hot Dog. "You want to go because you're worried about Bridgette." Taking the young pilot's silence as assent, Gaius continued, turning his attention to Racetrack, "And you want to go because you're worried about your friend." As the raptor pilot opened her mouth to speak, the vice-president held up his hand, "You're concerned—even if you don't want to admit it. And I need to go because…well…I need to go."
"You want to get hold of that artifact." Hot Dog concluded, "Why should we take you with us—assuming we can find a way to go in the first place?"
"Because out of all of us, I'm the one most likely to even come close to understanding what it is." Gaius responded challengingly, "Can either of you? Do you think Lieutenant Thrace can? Mr. Keikaya? Chief Laird? I'm the logical choice. I'm the only choice. It's just that the president doesn't trust me enough to go because she sees me as a rival in the coming elections."
"The vice-president's right." Chief Tyrol, joining the conversation, interjected. "You two can't figure that book or artifact out and none of the others can and we can't take the risk that Cain or the cylons might get hold of them."
"What about the contessa?" Racetrack countered, "You're not saying we should trust her."
"If you or Lieutenant Thrace can't get that book and artifact back to the Fleet, then the contessa's a better choice than the other two." Tyrol responded, adding as further incentive, "With you going, you'll double the chances of those items getting back to the Fleet—or at least to someone safe."
"He's right, Racetrack." Hot Dog noted, "Do you really want Cain or the cylons to have them?"
"No." Margaret sighed, "I don't. That still doesn't change things though. We're still stuck here."
"Not necessarily." The Chief smirked, "See that bird over there?" He said, nodding his head once at a fully fueled up and ready to go raptor. "It's supposed to go on CAP in thirty minutes. Funny thing…I could have sworn that you were listed as the pilot, Lieutenant Edmondson, and I figured that you…" He smiled at Hot Dog, "…was the lieutenant's ECO, Sir. I've also entered it into the flight log that I was sending a specialist with you to evaluate the electronics on that bird in flight." He then tossed a flight suit at Baltar who, after fumbling a bit, caught it.
"Chief…" Hot Dog warned, "You're going to catch hell for this…you might even get busted down in rank and thrown in the brig for a while."
"Then I get busted and spend a month or two in hack." Chief Tyrol responded. "I owe the contessa and her people one—a big one. This is my way of partially paying that debt back. Now…Mr. Vice President…I suggest you get changed and Sirs, I suggest you get going as soon as possible."
Quickly changing, Baltar joined the others in dashing towards the waiting raptor, boarding it, he took his seat just as Margaret gained clearance and took off. Then, once she was safely clear of the Galactica, she took a deep breath as she activated the jump drive, "All right…here we go!"
"How do we make contact with the human resistance?" Gina asked as she, Caprica, and Boomer left their shared apartment.
Waiting until a Three had safely moved out of hearing range, Caprica replied, "I discovered that one of the human laborers that we've been using for cleanup has contacts. I 'persuaded' him to set up a meeting for this morning on a pathway just outside the city."
"You realize this is an ambush?" Gina nervously responded.
"Yes, sister." Caprica nodded her head. "That is why I will be the contact person instead of you or Boomer." She then addressed the Eight, "Boomer: there is a ridge overlooking the path. I need you to set up as a sniper."
"Do you want me to target the human leader?" Boomer inquired.
"No." Caprica shook her head. "Target me if things go bad. Then you and Gina run. I'll download into another body and we'll know that we cannot trust the humans to help us so we'll switch to the alternate plan."
"Why don't we go with the alternate to begin with?" Gina insisted, "I don't like trusting the humans."
"Your mistrust of humans is understandable, sister, after what they did to you." Caprica gently pointed out. "However, as you yourself have said, humans were part of the group that rescued you and the Prodigal has two human lovers."
"Not all humans are like those that abused you." Boomer interjected. "Remember we don't need them to like or trust us and we don't need to like or trust them…"
"All we have to do is make sure they understand that it is in their best interests to help us on this one thing." Caprica interjected, completing her fellow cylon's sentence. "Enlightened self-interest will work for the benefit of all."
"All right." Gina sighed, reluctantly conceding, "We'll try. But if it doesn't work…"
"Then we go with the alternative and forget the humans." Caprica affirmed. "Now…we should go. I want to arrive in time for us to set up properly in case the humans do betray us."
"We'll take vehicles to here…" Cavil directed as he pointed to a point on the map, "And from there we walk."
"I still think we should take another squad of centurions." D'Anna contested, "What if we run into resistance? Once we pass the final checkpoint, we won't be able to call in air support due to the tree canopy—the risk for friendly fire is too high."
"Too many centurions will alert the others." Doral explained, "We can't have the Sixes, Eights, and Twos knowing what we're doing."
"Have they drifted that far from the collective?" Simon inquired.
"Most of them haven't as yet." Cavil responded, "But enough have for us to maintain our guard and their numbers are growing. The fewer in the loop, the better. Now…if there are no further questions—the sooner we get organized, the sooner we can get going."
"Why are we meeting with this skinjob?" Jean Barolay growled to her old teammate, now resistance cell leader, Sam Anders. "I say we kill her and move on."
"Let's find out what she has to say first." Anders replied, "She says she knows a way we can get into that clinic where some of our people have been taken."
"And you actually believe her?" Coach shook his head.
"Didn't say I did or didn't." Anders responded. "But…let's say she is telling the truth. Do we really want to let an opportunity to get our people out of that hospital and find out what's going on there slip? Besides…" the former Caprican Buccaneer said with a grim look on his face, "…no one said anything about not killing them after we get what we want."
"Fine." Jean nodded her head, "We'll play it your way. Let's just hope it doesn't blow up in our face."
Approaching the lone platinum blonde cylon, Anders called out, "That's far enough. Talk."
"I and my associates can help you get your people out of the clinic-and believe me…you want to get them out of that clinic and as soon as possible." Caprica said as she kept a close eye on the two humans behind the man she was talking to. "But in exchange, we need your help in a task."
"Your wires get crossed or something?" Anders laughed, "Did you really think we'd do anything to help you toasters?"
"We're not working with the other cylons." Caprica replied. "We are assisting someone else."
"The Prodigal." Caprica responded in an almost reverent tone.
"Who or what the hell is the Prodigal?" Anders exclaimed with a derisive snort.
"The Prodigal is the one who will free us from the eternal despair of the cycles." Caprica Six answered back.
"Is it some sort of cylon god?" Jean asked with a snort and she and Coach joined their teammate. Her voice then took on an even more sarcastic edge, "I thought you skinjobs only worshipped one true god."
"The Prodigal is not God." Caprica replied, "She is of us…yet not of us. She lives in humanity's bosom, welcome and unfettered by the chains of Kobol's children. Born free of the cycles, she bears the scepter of her Emperor. Her and those with her will free us all from the tyranny of the cycles. What happened before will no longer have to happen again."
"She lost me with Prodigal." Anders shook his head and then turned his attention back to the cylon standing before him. "This Prodigal—whoever or whatever it is—is not important now. What is important is how are you going to get us into that hospital."
"First." Caprica demanded, "I must have your promise that you will aid us in our task."
"No." Anders, sensing that he had the upper hand, shook his head, countering, "First, you help us take the hospital. Then…if you deliver…we will help you in this one thing and one thing only."
"Very well." Caprica reluctantly relented as she took out a map. "Meet us at these coordinates in two hours. We will help you infiltrate and take the clinic and release your people."
"All right." Sam nodded his head, "But this better not be a double-cross or I'll make sure that before you download, you take a long and very painful time dying."
"Ready for me to download the descent trajectory into you?" Bridgette asked as Sandi took her place in the pilot's seat of the assault shuttle.
"Yeah…let me have it." Alessandra responded as the rest of the party took their seats in the shuttle. Milliseconds later, the Terran aristocrat informed her fellow AI, "Download complete."
"Good luck, guys!" Bridgette said, speaking to all the group going down the surface. "See ya on the flip side!"
"Take care of yourself, Firecracker!" Cameron responded as the shuttle left the hangar deck.
"See ya later, Bri!" Valera said, "Watch out for any stray raiders."
"Will do!" Bridgette answered back, "You mugs look after yourselves. I want all of ya back here in one piece."
The lean Terran shuttle, its stealth systems fully engaged, smoothly slipped through the cylon detection grid, coming to a gentle landing in a small Caprican suburb on a street near a two story house with garage. Getting out of the shuttle with his arm wrapped around Sharon, Karl sighed, "I never thought I'd see this place again."
"No place like home." Sandi remarked, only half joking as the little group made their way towards the front door, then waited patiently for their host to take the lead.
Fishing though his pockets, Karl pulled out a key and inserted it into the lock and turning it, opened the door. "I kept the key as a good luck charm." The Colonial smiled sheepishly, "Hoped I'd be coming back one day." Ushering everyone into the house, he suggested, "Make yourselves comfortable while Sharon and I check around for anything that might be useful."
"Right." Sandi nodded her head and then gestured to Leo. "Could you be a dear Leo and keep an eye out for uninvited relatives?"
"Sure, Sandi." The Two replied as he stood watch by a window.
"I'll keep an eye out too." Lyla volunteered as she took station at another window.
"Thanks, Lyla!" Alessandra exclaimed as Karl and Sharon returned with Karl bringing in a bottle of ambrosia while Sharon brought glasses for everyone.
Pouring liquor into everyone's glasses, Karl reported, "The truck still has three-quarters of a tank of petrol and my tools are intact. We've also got plenty of food in the pantry—mostly canned, but some dry food too. But I'd suggest sticking to combat rations because of rads. The ambrosia's safe—we checked it for rads."
"We also found a couple of jerry cans that we can fill with either fuel or water." Sharon added. "The rad levels have dropped enough where we can drink the water if we boil it first and drop in an anti-rad tablet."
"Okay." Sandi nodded her head as she sipped her ambrosia. "We shouldn't be here long enough to have to worry about food anyway."
"So…what's the plan?" Cam asked.
"First order of business—we hide the shuttle. I don't want some wandering patrol to spot it." Alessandra replied and then turned her head towards their host, "Any suggestions, Karl?"
"Yeah." The ECO responded with a grin. "There's a barn up the road about a klick. We should be able to get the shuttle in there. That'll conceal it from any flying or roaming patrols."
"Good idea." Sandi nodded her head. "We take care of that first. Then we head out to that shrine."
"What about the human resistance?" Valera inquired. "Assuming there is one, that is."
"If we run into them, we'll try to get them to join us and maybe throw a monkey wrench into Cavil's plans." Sandi responded, "But like I said earlier, we can't count on them helping us and I want to be out and gone before our party crashers arrive."
"Too late for that, Sandi." Bridgette said to everyone in the landing party through their picochips. "Three different groups of raptors just jumped into system. One group of two raptors is sending out Pegasus IFF, one group of two and another single raptor flashing Galactica IFF."
"Now why would there be two separate teams of Galactica raptors?" Alessandra speculated, including Bridgette in the conversation.
"Is this working? Are you reading me, Firecracker?" A new voice came through everyone's chips.
"Honeybritches? Is that you?" Bridgette exclaimed, her emotions conveying both surprise and pleasure. "What are you doing here?"
"Same thing you are, I bet." Hot Dog responded. "I've got Racetrack and Dr. Baltar with me. Just thought you guys might want some help."
"Margaret's here?" Valera exclaimed, her emotions also conveying a mixture of surprise and pleasure.
"Yep." Brendan answered back, "She's our pilot. So…you want us?"
"Yeah." Sandi responded, "Doctor Baltar could prove helpful here and we can always use the extra backup." Pausing for a moment, she inquired, "You sure about Racetrack?"
"Yeah." Hot Dog responded in the affirmative, "She won't admit it, but the more she sees of stuff, the more she's coming around…it's just that she's so…"
"Stubborn." Valera interjected, "That's Margaret all over. She's never liked admitting that she was wrong."
"Welcome to the party then." Sandi exclaimed, "Bri will download into your chip a safe trajectory for your raptor that should allow you to evade the cylon detection grid. You shouldn't run into any problems—especially since we're going to give the cylons something else to shoot at."
"You're not targeting Kara's group are you?" Hot Dog queried, his emotions this time conveying concern.
"No." Sandi responded much to the Colonial's relief. "Bri…can you paint those Pegasus raptors."
"No sweat." Bridgette replied, "Got 'em! They're sticking out now like nudists at a convention of New Cromwell Puritans. That should keep everyone else busy while you slip through, Honeybritches, and if Thrace is as good a pilot as she says she is, she shouldn't have any problem using the distraction to slip through either."
"Thanks, guys." Brendan responded, "Now…how do I get Margaret to take your course without giving away the fact that I got that chip?"
"Easy." Valera and Helo both responded in unison, the two ECO's passing on their knowledge. "Just tell her that you've plotted a course that'll take you guys through the detection grid undetected. She'll probably make a crack about you transferring over to raptors, but that'll be it." Valera joked.
"Okay." Costanza answered back, "See you guys dirtside."
"They made us!" The pilot of the second Pegasus raptor radioed to his superior in the first raptor. "How the hell did they do that?"
"Beats me." His ECO replied, "Dropping chaff!" He exclaimed as the metal strips successfully fooled a cylon missile.
"We've been lit up like a Solstice tree!" Shaw's ECO shouted. "How the hell did they know we were coming!"
"It's that godsdamned cylon contessa!" Shaw growled as she juked her raptor, causing a missile to barely miss her craft. "Go full evasive and make for the surface as quickly as possible." She commanded as the raptors pierced Caprica's atmosphere.
"We've been hit!" The second raptor's pilot cried out as bullets from a cylon anti-air turret pierced the raptor, killing one of the marine passengers.
Taking control of a mounted autocannon, a marine corporal fired on the turret, destroying it. "Got that one, but we gotta set down fast or we're gonna crash!" The second raptor pilot called out on his radio.
"Set down over there…" Shaw commanded as she fed in a set of coordinates to both raptors' ECOs. "And be ready for action the moment we land!"
"Yes, Ma'am!" The sergeant in charge of the Razors acknowledged as he turned to his squad seated on the passenger benches, "You heard the Colonel. Lock and load."
"Lock and load, Second Squad." The marine corporal commanding the Razors in the second raptor ordered her squad. "Helluva homecoming."
Landing in a field near a canopy of trees, Starbuck ordered, as soon as she leaped out of her raptor, "Get those birds under that canopy. Move it!" After the raptors had been moved safely to cover, Kara knelt and took out a map.
"Where are we going, Captain?" Billy Keikaya inquired as he joined the blonde pilot.
"There's what looks like a hospital about two klicks ahead." Kara replied, "I noticed some activity going in and out of it when we landed."
"I did too." Billy concurred, "What looked like a group of humans being herded into the building. "What do you think's going on there?"
"I don't know." Thrace grimly replied, "But I don't think toasters are giving the survivors checkups." Taking a breath, she announced to the men and women under her command, "Look…I know this isn't strictly part of our mission, but there's something going on in that hospital and it involves human survivors of the attack. We owe it to those survivors to get them out and find out what's going on there and if it's bad—shut it down. Our primary objective isn't going anywhere. Any questions?"
"Yeah, Captain." Corporal Venner raised his hand, "What are we waiting for?"
"Let's get your raptor in the barn with our ship." Sandi commanded as everyone in her group helped Racetrack and Hotdog move their bird into the security of the barn next to the Terran shuttle.
"Damn…" Racetrack shook her head as she admired the smooth lines of the assault shuttle, "I gotta get me one of those one day."
"She's a smooth bird to fly." Cameron said with a smile as he regarded their one time opponent.
"Glad to have you with us this time, Margaret." Valera exclaimed as she extended her hand to her old friend.
"Yeah…well…if that book and thing are as important as everyone says they are, we can't let Cain or the cylons get them." Margaret stammered.
"For what it's worth…" Sandi said as she turned to Racetrack, "I'm glad you're here too. I know it took a big leap of faith on your part to trust us and…I appreciate it."
"Hot Dog and Val are friends of mine." Margaret coolly responded, "And you weren't the one launching nukes at civilian ships. I still don't trust you…" The raptor pilot declared, "But, I trust Cain less."
"Fair enough." Alessandra replied, "Rome wasn't built in a day."
"What does a city on Leonis have to do with this?" A confused Racetrack responded.
"It's a saying in the Empire." Sandi laughed, "It means it takes a while for difficult jobs to get done, so be patient and don't rush it."
"Good advice." Baltar remarked.
Sharon then interjected, "Sandi? There's something else. I noticed it on the way down. When I was with Karl the first time here, I'd heard that the Simons had gotten authorization to carry out a breeding experiment."
"Breeding experiment?" Playa exclaimed, her reporter's instincts kicking in. "Can you tell us more?"
"Not a whole lot." Sharon admitted, "Once the others got suspicious of me—that I'd gotten…too close…to Karl…they began shutting me out. But I know it involves efforts at conceiving a human-cylon hybrid…kind of what my mission was at first…before things changed."
"I did notice humans being herded into the clinic on the way down." Baltar remarked.
"People being herded into a hospital by their captors…" Sandi frowned, "That's usually a bad combination regardless of circumstances. All right." She decided, "We take a look and find out what the hell's going on there."
"And if the cylons are doing stuff?" Racetrack inquired.
"We shut them down." The contessa declared. "Hard. And get those people out."
Nodding her head in satisfaction, Margaret replied, "I can get behind that."