Commander Benton stood in his quarters, watching a live camera feed of the Picon fleet headquarters his ship was slowly cruising away from. It was 'Fleet Week' and instead of the normally peaceful space station and its attendant warships being left alone there was a festive atmosphere and almost a hundred and eighty civilian vessels and a line of ten battlestars above the station of which his Valkyrie class was the last. Most of the civilian transports and freighters were now clustered around them, some even docked in the battlestar hangar pods to more efficiently offload the tour groups. A swamped colonial fleet command had estimated there were half a million people now crammed aboard the various ships and stations.
"And here is the commander's quarters" someone's voice wafted in through the door. It was probably one of the twenty-plus tour groups roaming the ship at the moment. Russel sighed; the disordered tour groups trolling the corridors and exhibitions going on in the mess hall and port hangar pod made him very nervous. On the Dradis screen, one of the zippy little private freighters orbiting the battlestar three places from landing suddenly broke from its orbit and made a diving pass across the port side of the neighboring Mercury-class battlestar, causing a faststar nearby to move and intercept the rogue ship...her crew would be spending the night in fleet HQ's brig for violating flight orders.
"Commander are you there?" his radio asked. Benton picked it up.
"This is the commander, go ahead," he said.
"This is Cage. We'll be jumping to Ragnarok momentarily and the first tour group will be on the bridge in under five."
"I know, I know...I still don't understand what's so important about this arms movement that it has to be done by us in the middle of 'Fleet Week'" Russel replied apprehensively, knowing that he needed to make a speech to every tour group that came through.
"Hey commander, at least you don't have to have the Admirals over your shoulder and they're just civilians, how bad can it be?" Cage asked, obviously knowing his commander's thoughts as something banged outside.
"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 other bad things to happen, or try to fire the 1400 millimeter railguns. There's a reason why I've avoided fleet week duty for the past five years" Benton answered.
"Permission to speak freely Lynn?" Lynn was Commander Benton's middle name and had been his nom de guerre for years, though only to those he trusted and allowed to use it. Cage was one of the few.
"Go ahead, Major."
"Are you sure you aren't overreacting? It's just a hold full of missiles, the station is hours away from the nearest person with a star on their shoulder and Fleet Week frays our nerves...but think about all the civvies you're going to be showing off to, including interested females." Russel was sure that Nathan was grinning like a schoolboy as he said it. He never could understand why everyone teased him so; just because he was 43 and hadn't married somehow gave everyone permission to be matchmaker? "If you need to relax I'm sure Doc Varis has something for you."
"Thank you Major. Is that all?"
"Yes, Elliot out." The link went dead and Russel went to his private bathroom. He checked his uniform over in the mirror, brushed his teeth, and made sure his black beard and mustache were in order. He was nervous, true, and 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.
He 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 Benton" the tour guide said, then began giving a few details about Benton's career. Russel smiled and waved as he (as politely as possible) pushed his way through before hitting the open corridor and walked off as fast as he could. Halfway down the long corridor between his cabin and the bridge his radio squawked again.
"Commander here, go ahead" he said.
"CAG Wester, viper wing blue is ready to begin its flyby of the civvie ships before jump, proceed?" The voice had a distinctive Tauron accent to it.
"Go ahead Nathan." A joke formed in the commander's mind as he continued. "Notify the pilots that if any ship so much as deviates from its flight course they are to go weapons free and engage," he said.
"What?" Wester asked in shock. Russel grinned and resisted the urge to burst out laughing for several seconds. "Commander, are you alright?" he heard his CAG ask over the wireless.
"That was a joke Captain, ignore that." Now Wester laughed.
"Very good, Wester" out. Benton reached the bridge as he stowed the radio back in its belt holster next to his handgun.
"Commander on deck!" Lieutenant Vance shouted. The half dozen officers snapped to attention.
"At ease" Benton replied. "What's the situation with the civvies?" he asked Cage.
"Behaving just fine except this one freighter. Jump is complete, we'll be docking with Ragnarok station momentarily, Sare is on his third group in the hangar bay and Kistna is on his fifth in the mess hall. Our first will be here any moment," Cage said. Russel nodded. XO Varghese should've been up here doing the most important presentation of all as he had the charisma to speak to several thousand civilians and keep them enthralled.
The commander looked at the crowded DRADIS display at the front of the bridge, then at the visual screen to his left. He saw the faint specks of the vipers whip by, passing through the civilians and diving on the battlestar's forward observation deck. He smiled fondly. 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 IV vipers.
Marlay leaned into the corridor and leaped back. "Cylon attack waves incoming" she called. The bridge echoed with laughter while Benton gritted his teeth and stood before the tactical table. Thirty men and women filed in. They spent a couple of minute examining the consoles and chattering amongst themselves, occasionally questioning the bridge staff.
"Excuse me, what's this do?" Marlay looked up to see a pair of teenage girls, one brown haired and one dirty blonde bent over her station. The brown haired one was fiddling with a lever on the right.
"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 on the left. She nodded. "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 friend, who smiled and waved.
"Where'd you learn FTL communications 101 anyway?" Marlay asked.
Aelia laughed nervously. "I'm just taking a couple courses in high school, I'm a sophomore."
"Her dad got us these tickets, he's a telecomm chief" Rachel said. The FTL comm display lit up.
"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 the Virgon Empress fall lineup?" she added. Aelia blushed and looked down at the tight fitting blue dress she was wearing, which ended halfway to her knees.
"Rachel, you got that skirt from spring last year?" Marlay added easily.
"I did, just wondering but why?" Rachel said.
"Oh nothing, You don't get much dedicated fashion talk around here, that's all, especially with this lot" Marlay jerked her thumb at Benton and Cage. The three of them giggled for a few seconds then were forced to part ways.
Russel put on a false smile; he had always been good at hiding his real feelings beneath a pleasant cover, ever since his days in school when he would've been beaten if he told the teacher who had thrown his computer in the pool. 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. "Welcome to the battlestar Vindication, the finest ship in the fleet. Every commander will tell you that about their can, but this one actually is," he pointed at the deck. The small comedy elicited a smattering of chuckling.
"Now for some history, the Agamemnon was laid down twelve years ago as the fifth of the new Valkyrie battlestar line, intended as a –" Marlay tapped him on the shoulder and proffered a paper. "Hang on one second" he said, and took it. It read: 'Armistice line sensors have gone silent, along with fleet units in the area. Possible Cylon incursion underway. Active duty ships to report to combat stations.' Benton barely covered his look of shock. His ship was not on active duty however, which meant he had to return to his tour group.
"Pardon that, just some admiral complaining about his coffee machine. As I was saying, the Agam-" The DRADIS readout began beeping. 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. Every one was labeled "unknown". "What the frak?" Benton asked under his breath while the civilians began to worry.
"Sir, multiple DRADIS contacts... unidentified ships closing fast!", Lieutenant Vance belted out, his voice cracking at the beginning of his statement betraying the complete surprise that the new arrivals had given him.
Commander Russel Benton raised an eyebrow as he looked up from the CiC "warboard" to the excitable LT. He was surprised that the system could make out such a finding as they had only shoved off from Ragnarok Station minutes before and the interference here was legendary. Then again, Vance was one of the best Senior Officers of the Watch that he had served with and the young lieutenant wouldn't make such a reading lightly and without hard data.
A scoff from his left interrupted the Commander's thoughts and shifted his gaze. "Probably Cain giving us another surprise shakedown." Maj Cane replied, the man's hands clasped behind his back as his eyes moved upward to the rhythmic pulse of the DRADIS sweep, the swarm of red unknown craft barreling towards the Agamemnon. "Strange, though, as I don't see how she could have known we would be here..."
Russel leaned forward on the flat surface as his eyes swept the screen and then back to his hands, his fingers splayed across the flashing displays beneath them. Something didn't feel right and the sweat that began to form under his hands was not a good omen. "She couldn't, Cage, we changed our flightplan en route. The only ones that would know would be..."
The Commander didn't finish his sentence as Kristopher called out again. "Sir, nuclear alert! Bearing 045 camis 2 point three...it's...gods, it's coming right for us!"
The Commander and Major exchanged a simple glance and nod, the years of shared service allowing transmission of intentions across two such simple gestures.
While the Commander began preparing the ship for what was truly the unexpected, Cage's hand rapidly grasped the wireless from its cradle in-between him and Benton, a tone emitting from the speakers across the ship before his voice filled the silent vacuum.
"Action Stations, Action Stations, set Condition One throughout the ship. This is not a drill. I say again, Action Stations, Action Stations! Set Condition One throughout the ship. This is not a drill!" Rachel and several other civilians screamed.
"Clear the bridge" Benton ordered while picking up the sound activated phone to call his CAG. "Nate, Scramble all Vipers from bays One and Two and form a perimeter." turning back the Vance before cradling the phone, he continued his orders. "Set engineering to damage control, full power to main weapons grid, get those turrets on weapons-tight and raise whomever is out there on the wireless NOW...prepare for combat."
Fleet Week was about to get much more interesting...