Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chapter 3 -- A Trip to Hades and Misery



Battlestar Xanthi – Day 1505

The gas of the Northern Gas Cloud was warm. Colorful and warm. The colors were only noticeable to those on the Observation Deck. They could see a spectacle of blue-green and purple gas pass-by as the Xanthipushed her way deeper inside. But warmth was clear to all. It moved through the ship in waves. They began at the outer hull, then headed deeper into the ship, before exiting through the sub-light drives. To keep the warmth – or better put, heat – from becoming too much for the crew, Commander Magnus had ordered the ship’s own heating units to be disengaged. And it was still hot as hell. The Commander looked at the Dradis screen, searching for salvation. The reason they were in the nebula was a brand-new supply station called Ammo Station Twelve. When brought on-line, it would be a key facility to the defense of sector three-eight. But it could not be brought on-line until it’s crew was aboard. And the Xanthi was carrying that crew.
“Now approaching the Hades Asteroid Field, sir.” The ship’s Navigation Specialist said.
“About time.” Magnus muttered. “Very well. Captain, you know what to do.”
“Yes, sir. Beginning preparations for parallel course now, sir.”
Magnus picked up the intercom horn. (He held it upside down as he spoke into it.)
“All hands, this is the Commander. Re-engage the heating units.” He looked up to see that somebody had brought up the countdown clock. “Six minutes until we reach the Hades Asteroid Field. And counting down.”
He signed off and put the horn down. On the far edge of the Dradis screen, the first rocks of the Hades Asteroid Field appeared. This field was home to Ammo Station Twelve. (It orbited one of the bigger rocks.) The field was a collection of debris that orbited a star called Misery.
“Whoever charted this cloud had a very sick sense of humor.” Magnus muttered.
“Sir ?” A nearby junior officer asked.
“A field called Hades orbiting a star called Misery.”
“Yes, sir.” The officer said. “I see what you mean, sir.”
Magnus went back to studying the Dradis display. The field was becoming more dense. And the shadows of the rocks were causing the temperature to drop. The Commander went to the Engineering Station to check on the heating units. They had all be re-engaged.
“Internal temperature is at twenty degrees and is holding steady, Commander.” The ensign behind the station said.
“Well done, Mister Jonas.”
“Yes, sir.”
“What about the hull temperature ?”
“It’s highly unstable, sir.” Jonas began. “One section is scorching hot, while another is ice cold and a third is room temperature. I recommend we get her into the field as soon as possible.”
“Noted.” He made his way back to the Command Station, where the Navigation Specialist was waiting for him. “Report, Captain Miller.”
“The turn calculations are ready, sir. We can go parallel with the Field at any time now.”
“Excellent.” He looked at the Dradis display. They were down to three minutes. “Take you station, Captain.”
“Yes, sir.”
Miller took his station. Magnus let them close to thirty, then ordered the turn. Miller and his aides executed the turn perfectly. Then Jonas reported the hull temperature was now stable. They were in the Shadows of Hades, while Misery made the world around them boil.

(Battlestar Xanthi – Commander’s Quarters – Day 1506, 0800)

Magnus sat behind his desk. The morning reports were waiting for him. He began with a Status Report from the Engine Room. They reported that Xanthi had suffered a little wear and tear during the passage, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed before the end of the first shift. Next came a battle report from the Galactica. She and the Columbia had intercepted two Cylon Basestars. One had been destroyed, while the other had been damaged and forced to Jump away. Both Battlestars had launched Raptors to search for the wounded vessel. Finally, there was a message from Fleet HQ. They wanted all Commanders to begin surveys for possible locations for Ammo Station Thirteen. All in all, these were not the worst morning reports he had ever received. But the day was far from over yet. There was still the mid-watch report and the evening reports. He had barely completed the thought when the voice of Lieutenant-Colonel Denise Mitchells – Xanthi’s XO – came over the intercom. 
“Action stations, action stations ! Set condition one throughout the ship !”
Magnus grabbed the horn of his intercom unit.
“Commanding Officer to CIC, report !”
“XO here. We have a Basestar at the very edge of Dradis range, sir.”
“Have they launched their Raiders yet ?”
“No, sir. They apparently haven’t seen us yet.”
“I’ll be right up.”
He put the horn down and ran out of the room. It didn’t take him long to reach CIC. When he got there, Lieutenant-Colonel Mitchell was coordinating preparations for the attack. He quickly made his way to the Command Station.
“Report.”
“We’re putting Vipers in all the tubes now. The Raptors are being prepared in the Starboard Flight-pod, sir.” She said.
“Time to the first wave ?”
“Launch in fifteen seconds, sir.”
“Status of the Basestar ?”
“Closing, sir.” Miller said. “Twelve seconds until we enter their Dradis range, sir.”
Magnus nodded and looked around. There was an electrical tension in the air. Xanthi had gone toe-to-toe with a Basestar before, but never by herself. This was her first one-on-one engagement.
“Now entering enemy Dradis range, sir.”
“First wave of Vipers away, now preparing the second, Commander.” Mitchell said.
“Raiders ?”
“Launching now.” Miller said. “Forty contacts and more on the way, sir.”
“Second wave of Vipers is away.”
“The Cylons have launched all their raiders. I’m counting eighty-five contacts., sir.”
“A Basestar that size should carry two-hundred raiders.” Mitchell said. “Where are the rest ?”
“We’ll worry about that later.” Magnus said. “Time to contact ?”
“Twenty seconds.” Miller said. “Ten…five…”
Magnus reached into his pocket and felt the one Cubit coin McAllister had given him. The Battle of Hades and Misery had begun.

To be continued....

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