Battlestar

Artemis

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The Voice in the Darkness

Posted on 10/21/2019 @ 8:49pm by Lieutenant JG Finn Kidane & Lieutenant JG Katrana Harbeck

Mission: 1 - Twilight
Location: Z-Minus 161,000 K from Styx L1 Lagrange Point; Helios Delta
Timeline: MD 02: 0205 Z

The light that bathed the cockpit of the Raptor was alien to Finn: it was warm, dimmer somehow, almost like a permanent sunset but in space. Helios Delta was smaller and more orange than the other companion stars in the Cyrannus System. Finn took only a moment to compare it's ember-like qualities to the fact that they were using its glare as much as possible to confuse any nearby Cylons. "Above" them- if direction like that had any meaning in space- was the dead world of Styx. But the white-blue glow of Aquaria, distant and dying under nuclear fire, glowed in Nyx's black tapestry.

This had been their second jump: the leap to Troy in Helios Beta hadn't produced any results and they'd scrambled to spin up when a Cylon fighter came within 800,000 K, probably hunting the same as they were.

Finn wasn't normally a chatty type. He'd been raised in a religious family that believed silence was golden. But with just two of them in a tin can, with an airless death on the other side, he did feel some pressure to speak. He sent their broadcast and rendezvous points, then realigned the message for the minute course changes they would make to try and throw off any Cylons who'd try to track them. "Message is outbound..." Finn's softspoken voice announced; the Raptor's interior was strangely anechoic.

The message was short and to the point:

||TO ALL COLONIAL VESSELS: PROCEED TO EVACUATION COORDINATES AND AWAIT ESCORT TO SAFE ZONE. MAINTAIN STRICT RADIO SILENCE UNTIL CONTACTED BY COLONIAL MILITIA.||

It came along with a verifiable Colonial Militia security code.

"So... why Firestorm?" Finn asked. It was dangerous territory- callsigns were nearly never the choice of the individual. And Finn rather disliked his own.

Harbeck laughed as she leaned back in her pilot seat, and kicked her feet up onto her console. "My old CAG gave me the callsign when I was still a rook. I'm a ginger, so it fits. Although he said it's because you never know when a firestorm is gonna come out of my mouth. I guess he wasn't too far off, when I think about it. Although Colonel Porter says it's one of my 'endearing qualities.' How about you, kid? What's your callsign?"

"Oh." Finn raised his eyebrows in surprise. He only just realized he'd never seen the woman- as new as she was to him- without a helmet. He smiled, "There aren't very many gingers on Sagittaron," he noted in his soft murmur. When the question came, he breathed in. He held it. "Uhh... um... it's Shaman. I got it on the Cardia when half the air group came down with Picon Water Fever and had to ship home." Finn glanced at the lifeless DRADIS before him, lines of red and blue illuminating his face, "I'm from Sagittaron. The CAG thought he was being funny I suppose." The Lieutenant shrugged one shoulder. "Were you assigned to Radamanthus when all this happened?"

“Nah,” Harbeck responded. “I was assigned to the Pollux along with the Colonel and most of the rest of the CAP. They uh...jumped away pretty quickly once the shit all went down. I wonder if they’re still out there.”

Shaking her head for a moment, she continued, “She was a Jupiter class. You know, Galactica sub-type. Bigger than Artemis for sure. It’s going to be an interesting adjustment.”

"We were in support of Battlestars Nike and Icarus around Tauron when it all went down." He eyed the DRADIS and what felt like an anomaly. His dark eyes kept on it. He picked up talking a few moments later, "Cardia was an Orion-class." He smiled, turning enough to see that the Lieutenant had put her feet up, "The Artemis is big compared to it. We only had 150 people aboard Cardia." Finn paused and eyed the anomaly again.

The hair on the back of his neck prickled with a gut feeling of danger. "I've never been on any of the bigger Battlestars like the Galactica." His brows rose under his curls, "Definitely never anything as big as the Pegasus or Pallas. He sat back into the unfamiliar chair, using deft shifts of his feet to make it sway. "I'd wah-"

He was cut off by the scull of the DRADIS system, and a single flashing red icon, "I've got a DRADIS contact bearing 213 mark 201 at 53,000 K." Finn sat up straight, poising his writer's hands on the system. "And another bearing 214 mark 170 at 52,500 K, looks like they came together." He turned to the ginger, "I'm getting their Colonial ID registries now..."

“Make sure you verify Colonial ID,” Harbeck said as she straightened herself in her seat, one hand on the jump switch. “If they’re sending registries they should be sending their 10 digit ID code, on secure channel. You can verify it through the database, it’s algorithmic.”

Turning to the man, she asked, “Any wagers on who they are?”

Finn was silent for a moment, "I'm on it," he'd said before his eyes fixated on the emerging double red of the contacts. "They're transmitting..." His brows rose, "Both Colonial civilian." He paused again, fingers shifting and deft over the controls, "Contact one is a civilian foodstuff transport out of Canceron. The other's..." Finn smirked, "Frak me, you're kidding me."

Finn paused, holding his breath before he issued a chuckle at the absurdity, "Uhh... Contact two identifies itself as the team shuttle for the Scorpia Stingers Pyramid Team..."

Harbeck cackled, and said, “Looks like it’s those miserable shits’ lucky day. Alright send them the coordinates. We can use the food, and I guess a Pyramid Team’s gotta be useful for something.”

She cast her gaze back to the DRADIS console, and said, “I don’t see anything else out there. Do you wanna stay out here a little longer or try a different spot? I’m not real keen on getting right into the hot zones, but you haven’t steered us wrong yet.”

"I guess a back's a back..." Finn murmured, "Even if they creamed Boskirk last season." His fingers went into motion as he fed the the shuttle and the long, chunky-looking freighter the coordinates and instructions to jump FTL. Then he turned to Firestorm's better question, "If the fish're biting, I say we stick around for a few more minutes. But my money's on someone using Hera as a place to hide." He tapped at his screen his voice softening to just beyond speaking to himself, "I never met anyone who, when things went south, didn't want their Mother..."

“Sounds good to me,” Harbeck replied. Leaning forward, she set the Raptor’s chronometer for a five minute countdown, and relaxed back into her seat. Double checking the interior atmosphere of the Raptor, she nodded to herself and pulled off her helmet, setting it in her lap and pulling her hair across her left shoulder.

She took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, and said, “We’re going to have to bail out from Radamanthus sooner or later. Our luck can’t hold this long. I keep wondering if Colonel Porter has a plan.”

Up until then, Finn had tried to put that very idea out of his mind. The sober reality was this: they had no place to go. From the accounts coming in, every single one of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol had been attacked with nuclear or electromagnetic warfare. The reports from the fleets was, ninety-nine out of hundred, resulting in Colonial defeat.

"It's probably best we try to find a new world, and stay out of the way of whatever happens," Finn murmured, distracted. The DRADIS pinged: both of the civilian ships had jumped to the coordinates near Radamanthus. "What would you do if you were her?"

Harbeck thought about it for a moment, before responding, "Run. Just get the hells out of Colonial space. Grab as many people as I can, and bail out as far past the Red Line as possible. Then, Gods willing, find another planet around some distant star that we can settle on, and try to...frack, I dunno, try to rebuild a civilization for ourselves."

Finn's curly-haired head bobbed assent. "I think we're gonna need a lot more people for that." The youth sat back again, neatly folding his arms across his chest, "Do you ever wonder if there are other Children of Kobol out there?" His eyes stayed fixed on the DRADIS. In his head he was counting roughly along with Harbeck's jump timer. Come on, one more...

"I think you've been watching too many spec fic movies," Harbeck replied through a smirk, gently ribbing Kidane. "Although, according to the Scrolls, I guess it's theoretically possible. I don't know if I believe it or not though. I don't really subscribe to the literalist interpretation of the Scrolls."

Harbeck had Finn's number on that one: he did have a lot of speculative fiction in his background. "I would, I'm a writer," Finn replied back with a broad grin that somehow had a goofiness to it. Something too boyish. The other thing she'd nailed was the religious literalism. Sagittaron had that in spades.

A sharp ping took her attention back down to the DRADIS console. "Looks like...oh frack me, it's the Autumnus. One of the smaller agro ships. Gods, my dad and I spent so much time aboard that ship." Her voice broke for a moment, as she continued, "Glad to see they made it. Okay. Sending the coordinates."

Finn opened his mouth to say something when the DRADIS made its announcement. He looked own at its scanning sweeps and even though she'd ID'ed it, he did the standard Colonial ID tag. "Checks out," he added as she sent the coordinates. "Do you have friends on it?"

"No," Harbeck responded through a sigh. "Just the ghosts of old memories. They're not one of the big ones like the Botanical Cruiser. Just three domes. One of them for...frack, I think tubers? Then another one for deciduous forests and berries and shit like that. I think the third one was for grain maybe? It's been a long time."

Finn breathed in, opening his gut feelings to the situation. The hair on his neck stood on end, nagging with a sense of danger. "Lets spin up and give Troy a chance."

"Yeah," Harbeck responded, pulling her helmet back over her head, and tucking her long mane of red hair back in. "Jumping in 4...3...2...1..jump."

As the little Raptor re-emerged from the effervescent white blindness of the jump, Harbeck looked back down, watching the DRADIS console re-initialize.

"Your gut was right again," she said. "I'm seeing...holy shit, six signals. Colonial Militia shuttles, all of them. Alright, at least they're jump capable, that's good!" Looking up at Finn, she said, "Verify their IDs and let's bring 'em home! I'll keep an eye out for toasters."

Finn's face looked deeply troubled. "Firestorm," Finn voice warbled, "Take a look at this." He sent the data her direction, "I can confirm the coordinates for Troy." His fingers moved over his controls, "But I can't confirm the existence of Troy." His fingers went into motion again, the reconnaissance camera edging out from the bottom of the ship to take a flurry of images. He compiled them as he did what would save lives: he started double-checking the Colonial IDs of the six ships.

"Frak me..." he whispered. "Firestorm..." He sent the data her way again. His voice was shaky. The images were straight from some Hesphaestian Horror: where Troy should have been was just a glowing chunk of red and orange embers, surrounded by glowing hot ejecta. "Radio-isotopes are off the scale. It's like it was nuked down to its core..."

Inside her helm, Harbeck’s face blanched. As she scrolled through the pictures, she fought against the urge to vomit inside her helmet.

”Motherfracking Cylons...” she whispered under her breath. “Alright. Alright. Finn, I don’t think those shuttles are Colonial. So let’s triple-check. If they’re sending positive ident, ping them to send an emergency beacon code. The manual is under your jump seat. It’s another algorithmically generated code, and our computer will verify it as valid or invalid. If it’s invalid, we’re going home. If it’s valid, we’re gonna get as close as we can without being bathed in radiation, weapons hot, and see what’s going on. You with me?”

Finn went for it, ducking low and almost hitting his head on the deck of the console. He found it and fingered through. "I'm with you..." He reiterated. His fingers fell on the controls again, his teeth sinking concentration in his bottom lip. "Sent..." He acknowledged. "Frak..." he whispered, shaking his head. "The debris is clouding up the DRADIS like a motherfrakker."

He watched the scanning alphanumerics. "Shuttle one checks out." He paused... "Two and three coming in. Positive." He eyed the other signs, "Frak, that is not a shuttle! We have inbound bearing 087 mark 351, at 450 KPS." Finn pivoted to his console, "Aboard the Cardia they came at us with some kind of information warfare. It put us dead in the water." Finn glanced at the system, "Shuttles five and six are Colonial callsign. But with our bogey out there, I can't send out coordinates without risking Radamanthus."

Harbeck punched her fist against her console, and yelled "Gods Dammit!" Scouring the depths of her knowledge of Colonial assets, she quickly said, "Okay. Okay. Send them the coordinates for Ragnar Anchorage. The Cylons can't get them there. Hopefully they can hold out, and we can...frack, maybe reconnoiter with them once we're done here. That's at least a safe jump for them. And if they're Cylons in disguise, the radiation poisoning there will fry them."

Dancing her fingers across her keyboard, she announced, "we're outta here Finn." Holding her hand on the jump button, she quickly keyed her comm, and announced on a wide channel, "Gods be with you! I'm so sorry!"

She turned her head to the younger man, and said, "Jumping!"

Finn moved into motion, feeding them the coordinates to the supermassive gas world. His dark eyes glanced at the bogey then flitted up to the firewalls he'd thrown up, "We have active intrusion into firewalls number one and two..." He reported. "Message is away." Finn held his breath and as the ginger said her verbal apologies, Finn's prayers were silent. "They're through firewall one and two. They're into firewall three."

But it didn't matter.

Snap. Crackle. The world went white.

 

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