AN: To preclude questions, "The Passage" and events related to it never happened here.
Shortly after awakening for the second time, sheer exhaustion caught up with the pilot, and while she slept, the Colonials went about their daily routine, more or less, with at least two orderlies always keeping an eye on their guest.
Unknown to them, the device she had activated listened in, because one of it's many functions was the most sophisticated translation matrix Earth's scientists and programmers had devised. In it's travels to the stars, Terran humanity had encountered enough different languages to see the need for speedy translation, and for the ability to absorb a lot of information, such as languages, very fast.
The first part was taken care of by the software on the modern-day descendant of 21st Century Smart Phones, the second by the chip that most Earth military personnel had implanted into their brains, for this chip greatly enhanced the human ability to take in and absorb information, while drawing it's own power from body heat and bio-electric energy in the brain. While the Colonials talked, the pilot's PDA, or Personal Data Assistant, listened. It listened to the attendants, patients and the doctor in Life Station talking, it listened to the ship-wide announcements and it's internal communications system, and even to the wireless transmissions coming to and going from Pegasus. It then fed this information into the Quantum-circuitry inside, analysing the language while always taking in ever more information to aid it in this task.
That Colonial Standard seemed to have some relation to ancient Greek and Latin helped, though the device itself unable to care that this was about to prove several theoretical concepts that Earth's scientists had advanced almost since the Battlegroup Incident. As it was smaller and less powerful than the counterparts that existed on even the smallest warships in Earth's Navies it would take almost twenty hours (instead of at most ten on ship-sized systems) to decode the language, and that was fast because this one seemed to have some relation to several older Earth languages. Then another six hours to feed it into the pilot's chip, "if she were to adhere to normal (read: the most comfortable) procedures that existed for this type of technology.
Preferably this was done this way and while the person using that function was asleep, but not in any attempt to make use of outdated theory about sleep learning, and it would work as well if the recipient was awake. However users of this technology often perceived the process as slightly uncomfortable, in that it caused a phenomena akin to sensory overload, which was exponentially increased the closer the user got to the edge of the maximum bandwidth, that is, if the chip was within the legal limits. Beyond that, this could cause not merely discomfort but actual brain damage. Bitter experience had revealed the need for such legislation, and of course Navy-issue chips stayed within those bounds. Another drawback was that skills thus acquired tended to fade after a time if not regularly exercised, which was why there was still a conventional education system for military and civilian life alike. It was not the only application for the chips, but by far the most used.
So when she set it to maximum-speed learning, she knew that she would have 'a bit of a headache' for several hours afterwards just as she'd had when cramming for exams in the old way during her younger years, but these were extraordinary circumstances.
At the very least those people, whoever they were, looked to be human, and were clearly not moggies. Human communities outside Alliance Space were not exactly unknown, there were dozens of independents, but there at least everyone, or most, spoke Standard English as a second language. Those people didn't so they had either been father out than anyone could possibly be or extremely isolated. Either way, she needed to be able to talk to them in an instant.
The ship she was on did give off a very military vibe, reinforced by some of those...Officers wearing what clearly were military uniforms, so at least they would be able to defend themselves, to a degree, but she hadn't seen all of their technology yet. She also needed for them to understand her before they jumped to a place or a system where she was beyond reach of any possible SAR So she had opted for discomfort for the sake of expedience and closed her eyes, willing the drums in her skull to stop.
At some point during that afternoon Doc Bojay was nearly treated to a heart attack when out of the blue a voice said in fluent, but somewhat accented Colonial: "Doctor, I would like to speak to this ship's commanding Officer, please."
After staring at her for a moment and picking up the tray of instruments he'd dropped in his surprise, all the while being under her patient stare, he positively ran out of the room to the next intercom, not seeing the smirk that broke out on her face. But it disappeared quickly. Hell's teeth, she was a Naval Aviator, not a First Contact Expert! Nothing to do but fall back on her training and hope for the best, and even though she didn't feel like a PoW, some of the things learnt then might come in useful.
But, as an Officer she was expected to deal with the situation as best she could.
First things first, she had to get access to the rest of her equipment and then get back to then fleet. She leaned over to the table beside the bed and picked up her PDA. The touch-screen lit up and she scanned the communications log. As she had expected, it had detected mostly EM traffic. It confirmed her initial impressions. Well, there was nothing to do but her best, which meant, she had to wing it in a situation where normally teams of diplomats were present. She hated first contacts. When she started to check some of the other functions, she came across one that made her face light up.
The doctor returned and awkwardly asked if there was anything he could do for her.
"It would be nice if I could have a certain item from my equipment."
So when the XO appeared less than a minute later, the CO still being in a Raptor on his way back from Galactica, he saw the pilot sitting up in bed, her shoulder-length red hair pulled pack in a ponytail not unlike Athena's and drinking something hot and steaming from a cup.
Helo frowned, but since he'd been quickly briefed by the doc, so he was prepared when she gave an impish smile, before saying: "I don't think that a cup of Tea would endanger your ship, Sir."
As if to emphasise her point, she took another sip from the cup, before setting it down on the table and placing a sheet of paper on to to help retain some of the heat.
Helo reigned in his own curiosity and forced himself to wait until Lee got here. All his many questions could wait until then.
They didn't have to wait overly long.
Apollo walked into the room, and after a short, awkward moment, he introduced himself. The pilot closed her eyes for a second and to Helo it seemed as if she was marshalling inner reserves of calm, something he could understand, given the situation.
"I..." she coughed, and took the last sip of her drink, "I am Lieutenant-Commander Olivia Clayworth."
She paused as if for effect, even though she knew that it would probably mean nothing to those people.
Since she was on their ship, she said nothing more and instead waited for Commander Adama to continue.
Apollo picked up the cue. "If I may ask, Lieutenant-Commander," he said, briefly wondering where her rank lay in the Colonial system, "but..what were you doing here?"
Clayworth wondered how much she should..could tell them, but it was a fair bet they had found her ship, and in the end, she was still dependant on the goodwill of those people, something that the fleet had learned hard could not be taken for granted.
"We were on a scouting mission for...our group. We jumped into the system, but were almost immediately attacked by enemy Space Superiority Fighters. They reduced us to little more than wreckage, but didn't follow through. They RTSed and jumped from the system. My guess..." a pang of pain as she remembered her Nav, and she cleared her throat, "my guess is that they were doing a similar job than we were."
What she didn't say was also a good chance that they were being pulled back to deal with the latest human move in the war.
"I checked my Navigator's vitals and saw that he was dead even before I ejected."
The Colonial Commander looked at his officers, and she knew that a message had been passed without any words.
"Is there a chance that the..enemy will return to this system?"
"I don't know, I have no knowledge of the overall picture," she said, looking down at her hands and hoping that they didn't detect her half-lie, "but if they haven't returned already the chances are slim. It wouldn't fit with their operating patterns of the past. They've been trying to find a way past our defences and straight to Earth since this whole bloody damn war began."
Without knowing it she had struck a chord with the Colonials present. Clayworth was to find out shortly, because when she looked up again, it suddenly seemed as if they were hanging on her every word.
"Earth? Are you speaking of...Earth? You have been to Earth?"
She was uncertain why this could be such big news to them, except...she suddenly had an idea, a report, a totally bonkers idea she had first read about as a young subbie fresh out of the Naval College and that periodically made the rounds of the more sensationalist papers. It couldn't be true, now could it? But even if that very long shot was true, it only reinforced the simple truth that this was a job for a team of Alliance First Contact experts.
"I was born there." she said aloud, sounding far more resolute and assured of herself than she felt, and suddenly deciding that if she wanted to get home this side of the King's Birthday, she needed to extend a sign of trust of her own. "A small village a few stops outside a town called Ipswich."
She sensed that the three men in the room needed some time to digest this, so she said nothing more. Instead she thought back to the last time she'd been there, and suddenly felt a pang of homesickness. When she looked at the Commander and his XO again, she had decided that she would get back there, and sharpish at that.
"Are you certain?"
"I am, Sir." she said, and her earlier hunch was reinforce when the Commander positively bolted from the room before returning with...the picture.
"Is this it?"
She grinned, and said: "For the most part at least."
The Allied Task Force well aware that the comm-chatter that exploded from the ship they had identified as Pegasus to Galactica signified that something had happened, and when the recce drones that were placed above, below and beside the Colonial Fleet relayed this to their motherships with tight-beam communications, the Rear Admiral in overall command since he had reinforced the original two Destroyers was delighted, that Lieutenant-Commander Clayworth was alive and being treated well. Of course there was the issue of a first contact situation for which she was not trained, though had a set of orders to choose from and execute for situations that were similar to this one. So he sent the Reuben James back to base with a report to request instructions from the Admiral. Meanwhile he continued to observe. It was then that they noted that several of the other watchdogs had initiated short thruster burns, so that within the next eight hours or so, they would have coasted outside the detection range of whatever ERS system the Colonials used and could jump without being detected. By the Colonials that was.
The twelve British and two remaining American ships in the system were spaced so that getting past them was something that not even the Moggies could have done in the Colonial's place. Of course observations such as this one weren't new to either Navy, only the target was. Standing orders to keep their Fuchida Jumpdrive cores on five-minute standby, meaning that they would be able to execute a microjump and assume formation around the flagship, the Escort Carrier Belfast within five minutes of getting the word.
For the Rear Admiral things more and more looked like he would have to act on his own accord sooner rather than later, not that he relished that. After all, there were important matters to consider even if one forgot the War he had and the war those people seemed to be having. That they were in some sort of conflict was obvious from the constant Standing Air Patrols they were running, and from the intercepted wireless traffic. How did the saying go? From the frying pan into the fire?
One advantage of having the Fleet concentrated like this was that a Raptor trip from one Battlestar to the other didn't take very long. Apollo stepped aboard Galactica for the fifth time in the last three days. And for the fifth time his father had deemed it proper to have the CAG greet the only other Battlestar Commander left in the fleet. He wished it wasn't so, but asking the Admiral to stop would make it necessary why he wanted it to be so, and Apollo wasn't really sure he was ready to admit this to himself, never mind the Admiral.
So, he decided to be a big boy, and suck it up.
That the person around which this whole meeting was going to rotate was being looked over by Cottle while still being in the Raptor didn't help, and he had the strong suspicion that she had only agreed to it because it was a condition that Bojay had stated in exchange for not confining her to bed by some Marines.
"Does she really speak our language already?"
Ah, good old Starbuck, straight to the point...
Apollo shook that train of thought away and instead forced himself to assume his Commander's persona.
"She does. If not for a slight accent, she'd be able to pass in the high society of Caprica City without any problem. She has some issues with slang, but other than that..."
Clayworth climbed out of the Raptor with a bag hanging from her left shoulder and seemed to be oblivious to the looks everyone on the deck was giving her. Instead she studied the battered appearance of the Vipers and Raptors undergoing maintenance with a trained eye. Thanks to the production line aboard Pegasus it wasn't as bad as it used to be. The modified were still difficult to fly at best, but Athena and Starbuck had spent almost all of their free time since New Caprica with trying to find a solution for the problem. Training standards had increased considerably since then, but the software... For some reason Apollo was convinced that those new would be needed.
Her eyes fell on the remains of her ship, and Starbuck nodded to the Marines that looked at her serachingly as Clayworth stepped closer. She ran her hands over the bumps, bruises and shot holes of the hull where the plates hadn't been removed and lingered over the patch on one of the tail rudders that was the same as the one she wore on her left shoulder. She murmured something and Starback instinctively knew that she was thanking the ship for taking her that far. Clayworth sighed heavily before turning back around on her heels.
"Very well then. Let us proceed."
The meeting was extremely informal, in that only the Admiral and the President were in the room, aside from Apollo and Lieutenant-Commander Clayworth.
"Sir, Madame President, I request access to your communication equipment." was the first thing she said after introductions were exchanged. The Colonials had expected to be able to ask a few questions about Earth and the 13th Tribe first."
"Why is that, Lieutenant-Commander?" Adama asked, almost stumbling over the unfamiliar rank, "I hoped we could ask some questions first."
"Sir, I understand that, I really do. But you and I are in what we term a first contact situation, for which I am not qualified. My superiors would not thank me if I caused an interstellar incident." she replied, letting out the part in which Their Lordships wouldn't be too pleased with her as was, but in the end have to acknowledge that she had been thrust into this more or less against her will. Never mind the Alliance External Relations Office.
President Roslyn glanced at Adama and then at their guest. "From where I am standing, you are doing a very good job already."
Clayworth smiled, but that didn't last. "Yes, Ma'am, maybe. But King's regulations state that 'any officer or other rank not qualified for first contact situations is to hand off to qualified personnel at the earliest opportunity."
"So why do you need access to our communications then?"
"Because, Admiral, I have knowledge that there is a British, or Alliance Task Force in this system already."
"Yes, Sir." she said, ignoring the shock on the face of the Colonial Officers. Had she been looking at this from the outside, she would have understood their position. They had had the closest possible sensor watch on the fleet and this part of the system, and yet there was a large foreign formation that could have attacked them from pretty much every angle at once and they had not known.
As was, she pointed to the PDA that was placed back in the right hip-pocket. "This device can't send a signal strong enough, but it is designed to receive the counter-signal that is sent by Search and Rescue groups to any detected emergency beacon."
"And I gather you have detected this signal?"
"I have, Sir. And it is more than likely that they have already sent back for instructions in case I don't answer them within the next twelve hours."
Adama glanced at his son, and he knew that Lee was thinking the same as him. The implications were frightening. For one the 13th Tribe, and it was more than likely it was them, was used to this sort of situation, at least enough so that their military had established standing guidelines, and it was highly unlikely that they were fractured enough to ever have needed it among themselves.
But he had never been someone to jump to conclusions when he could avoid it, he liked to have firm evidence, something to bite his teeth into. As he glanced over at the President, he could see that she wasn't quite as willing to wait for answers.
Adama had a good idea what she wanted to ask. "
"What would happen..."
"If I weren't making contact? Well, they would reveal themselves to you and then sternly demand that I be either given the opportunity to contact you or be released immediately, along with the remains of my craft. Then they would demand to speak with whoever is leading you. If neither of those things happened, things might...escalate a bit."
The colonials understood that it was a considerable understatement.
"Very well then," Adama said, and with a nod, directed everyone to move proceedings to CIC. Communications was then directed to set the emitters to maximum output and to transmit in the clear. Clayworth ignored the air of hesitant expectancy around her, totally unaware of all the rumours about her that were flying through the fleet. She had no idea how the President's office was constantly pestered with questions, that Vice President Zarek had only barely been dissuaded from coming today with the reporters in tow or that her message would spark of a series of events that would affect her country and her planet as well as the Colonials more than she could imagine.
She picked up the headset that was handed to her and said in English:
"Contact Signal one-one-niner-able, request authentication procedure, over."
Much to her surprise it took less than five minutes for someone to reply, not knowing that one of the drones had relayed it to the ship.
"Acknowledged. Code Group two-seven-niner-item-charlie-one-one-baker. Authenticate."
Clayworth reached for one of the pockets of her flight suit, pulling out a sheet of paper before scanning it for the countersign. A glance at the many readouts showed her that suddenly about a dozen new contacts appeared at the very edge of their detection range.
"Countersign Code Group two-seven-baker-zero-one-zero-able-dog-charlie. Authenticate."
"Authentication confirmed. Rear Admiral Inch, HMS Belfast. Welcome back to the fleet, Commander."
She sighed with relief and suppressed some happy tears.
"Thank you. Sir, I have to report a Code 6 first contact situation."
"We are aware of that, Commander. The particular procedures have been activated almost 25 hours ago. Be advised, there are several craft, tentatively identified as Cylon. We would have revealed ourselves to you within the next two hours, as we think they might be out to get reinforcements. Over."
"Acknowledged. Hold one, Belfast."
I know, the naming of the PDA isn't very creative. As to 'Standard English', to them, we would sound like someone from the 1ate 1880s or so would sound to us, i.e. a bit antiquated, but understandable, while we would probably still understand them as well. I believe that with the need to keep an extremely wide-spread humanity mutually understandable, there would be a standardized form of English that would change only very, very slowly, regional dialects aside. I'm no linguist, so that's a WAG to an extent, but I think it could happen like this. It would develop slowly though, akin to how today English more and more drifts towards the American standard thanks to Hollywood and the Internet. Of course here, for various reasons, the Queen's English is the international standard.
Re , I think that it's implied that they 'refitted' the by mostly ripping out the navigation software that included the backdoor. Why they never tried to re-write the software of those craft to compensate for that is one of the things I refer to as the Stupid Virus. Yes, it would have been difficult, but damn, why was that never even suggested? In the months since new Caprica TTL they had the leisure to do things like that. I could see Athena suggesting and be able to do this.
RTS = Return to Ship
ERS = Enhanced Ranging System. Terran counterpart to DRADIS, albeit much more powerful and long-ranged.
Fuchida Jumpdrive = Terran term for your basic Hyperdrive tech as seen on nBSG. Named after the leader of the team that developed it.