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 Post subject: TDI Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2011 9:36 pm 
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Scorpian Shipyards
Colonial Frigate Patrocles
Day Zero -87, 1400 Hours


Private Nikol S'Jahar paused at the entrance to the spaceway passage. The scrolling marquee above the door said "BSG 62 - Frigate Patrocles". Standing to one side of the entrance at a narrow podium was a shipyard worker, looking bored and chewing gum loudly.

"ID card?" the worker said to S'Jahar in nasal tones. S'Jahar had the dark hair, brown eyes, and even tan skin tone of a native Scorpian. He was young, but had a calm competence that spoke of experience beyond his age.

"Yessir." Nik shifted the duffel bag on his shoulder, unbuttoning his left breast pocket and producing his ID card and a folded piece of paper.

Image

"I just need to see your ID," the worker said, "you'll give your orders to the crew member at the ship." Deftly he scanned the identification, handing it back to the the young Marine. "You're cleared," he added.

"Thanks," Nik replied, returning the ID to his pocket and starting down the narrow passage to the ship. He'd read up about the Patrocles--the frigate's mission was to protect expeditionary forces, underway replenishment groups, and the ships of the battlestar group it was assigned to. He'd actually gotten a glimpse of the Pegasus, the group's flagship, as the shuttle had zipped past its dock on the way to the station.

The Pegasus had been impressively awe-inspiring, but Nik was glad he was being assigned to a much smaller ship. The Patrocles' Marine Detachment was small, about a dozen Colonial Marines, commanded by a Staff Sergeant. This was Nik's first real assignment after training, and he felt a lot more comfortable going into a smaller group.

He'd gotten a glimpse of the Patrocles, too, out the shuttle window. It was a great deal smaller than the group's flagship, but it had a definite predatory look. Like a rock snake, Nik thought, comforted by the idea.

A Navy personnelist was sitting at a station just inside the ship's hatch, and Nik produced his ID card and orders without prompting. "Private Nikol S'Jahar, reporting," he said, unsure of the protocol.

"I'm Specialist Karen Rankin," she replied, looking at his orders, then at the computer screen on her station. "Yep, got you on the list," she nodded, making an entry with practiced fingers. "Welcome to the Patrocles, Private." She returned his ID card and orders, continuing, "You'll need to report to Staff Sergeant Lynden in the MarDet..." she turned, pointing down the passage. "That way, second passage on the left, third hatch on the right."

"Thank you, Specialist," Nik said, and followed her directions.

Inside the hatch marked Patrocles MarDet he found the usual Orderly Room, staffed by a single Marine. Nik again handed over his ID card and orders.

"Welcome to the Patrocles, I'm PFC Jake Bohman," the Marine behind the desk greeted him. "You can leave your duffel bag here for now."

"Thanks," Nik replied, sliding the strap of the heavy canvas bag off his shoulder and leaning it against the bulkhead. He looked around with interest. This Orderly Room was hardly different than any of the others at his training sites... sturdy metal desks and file cabinets, the Colonial and Marine flags in stands at the back of the room. It was a spare, utilitarian room, reassuring Nik with its atmosphere of efficiency.

Barely raising his voice, PFC Bohman called, "Staff Sergeant Lynden, Private S'Jahar is here." He handed the ID card back to Nik, but kept the orders.

A deep voice came from an open hatchway to Nik's left. "Come on in, Private."

Nik went in, standing at attention in front of the Staff Sergeant's desk and saluting crisply. "Private Nikol S'Jahar reporting, Staff Sergeant," he said.

Lynden returned the salute, then nodded to a chair. "Have a seat, Private," he said, his manner formal but also welcoming.

S'Jahar sat as close to 'at attention' as he could. By his accent, Nik guessed that Lynden was from Picon; he was dark-skinned, and although shorter than Nik, was broadly muscular. His expression was stern, but Nik got the impression that--as long as you followed orders--he'd be easy to get along with.

"Relax, Private," the Staff Sergeant said. "We're not quite as formal here as things are at training bases." He paused, nodding as the young Marine relaxed slightly in the chair. "I looked over your file earlier today," Lynden went on. "You've been through a pretty extensive training program... you've already been to the main survival courses."

"Yes, sir," Nik nodded. "I, ah, I was pretty good at basic survival, so they just kept sending me on to the next course."

"Which was your favorite?" Lynden asked with interest.

"Well, actually, I enjoyed parachuting the best, Staff Sergeant," Nik admitted.

Lynden smiled slightly. "We jump on occasion during training exercises," he said. "The Patrocles' MarDet is small, so you'll get the chance to use all of your training at one point or another; there's not enough of us to have specialties. With the Pegasus undergoing refit, we aren't on orders at the moment, but I'm sure Fleet HQ will come up with something for us to do, probably a training exercise."

Nik nodded. "Yes, Staff Sergeant." He'd already surmised that Marine life would include continual training.

"I've assigned Sergeant Marina Granger as your sponsor here, to help you get settled in," Lynden rose, and Nik got to his feet also. "Bohman will let her know you're here."

"Thank you, Staff Sergeant," Nik said.
__________
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Frigate Patrocles {click to enlarge}
Our thanks to "lizdev" for permission to
use her original artwork in our story!

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 10:55 pm 
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Scorpian Shipyards
Colonial Frigate Patrocles
Day Zero -87, 1430 Hours


Sergeant Marina Granger approached the Orderly Room quietly; out of long practice, her dark eyes scanned the small space quickly before entering. Her gaze rested on a young man, slim and wiry. My new protégé, she thought wryly. As tenderfoots go, he doesn't seem too bad. Looks bright and alert, and his training's good. Hell, better than good - most grunts with twice his time in the corps haven't completed what he's already done. She inspected him more closely. Can't deny he's Scorpian, though...

Satisfied, she walked in.

S'Jahar turned as Sgt. Granger walked in, his gaze swift and assessing. She was just a couple inches shorter than he was, slender but obviously strong. She had the dark eyes and hair of a nomad, as well as the air of tough competence, but she didn't look like a clan member. Still, though, there was something about her that reminded him of his clan's warleader, and he felt instantly at ease with her.

"Sergeant Granger," he greeted her quietly.

"Private S'Jahar," she nodded in reply. Her voice was low and raspy, as if she didn't speak much (even the slightest of acquaintances would attest that she wasn't prone to lengthy discourse). She didn't smile either, but her tone and stance were relaxed. He's so young! she realized with a start. Not much older than my girls... "Take your bag, private. Let's take you to your berth before showing you your new home."

"Yes, Sergeant," he nodded, settling the strap of his duffel bag over his shoulder and following her.

He had an upper rack in his assigned berthing compartment, and heaved his bag up there, leaving unpacking till later. Sergeant Granger showed him the most important places first--the mess hall, the training area, the rec room. She was quiet, her economy of words matching her efficient movements.

"How long have you been assigned to the Patrocles, Sergeant?" he asked her as they walked along the passageways.

Long enough, she told herself. To her young charge, she merely said, "Eight months."

Her short answer made S'Jahar blink. "Staff Sergeant Lynden seems like a good commander," he said, then paused, and carefully asked, "What's the rest of the chain of command like?" What he meant was 'who do I have to be careful around?' but he didn't know Sgt. Granger well enough to come right out and ask.

Sergeant Granger turned to look S'Jahar straight in the eye. I knew you were a bright boy. And not one to beat around the bush either. "Lynd - Sgt. Lynden, is a good man and a better soldier. Mind him - you'll learn a lot. The brass is... brass." Her eyes narrowed. Can I trust him?, she wondered. Something about him called to her, though, and aroused motherly instincts long dormant. "There's one thing. Colonel Bisby, he doesn't like most people, and Scorpians least of all. In fact, he hates Scorpians. So lay low on the clan thing..." Her right eyebrow inched up as she looked him over. One look at you and the crazy old bastard will have a conniption fit. "Better yet, keep out of his way."

Nik nodded calmly. He'd already been advised by his father--clan Jahari's leader, and by the clan warleader, to keep his clan ties quiet. He was young, but he understood complex loyalties--to his clan as well as to the Marines. He glanced at her, and said, "I'm a Colonial Marine, Sergeant Granger." And now I know who I can trust.

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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 9:53 am 
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Scorpian Shipyards
Colonial Frigate Patrocles
Day Zero -7, 0900 Hours


The CIC was quiet, at the moment. Machinery hummed, the DRADIS made its sweeping swoosh noise, and crew members exchanged quiet phrases, but nothing was really going on.

A bit over eleven weeks had passed, and Pvt. Nik S'Jahar had gotten used to the different duties he was assigned on the ship. Now it was his shift to guard CIC, from just inside the entrance hatch, and this was one of his favorite guard posts. He'd joined the Colonial Marines to learn military tactics and strategy so he could return to his clan with that knowledge, and he spent every moment he could trying to absorb as much as he could. SSgt. Lynden was a terrific teacher when it came to squad and platoon tactics, but Nik knew that those tactics were just a subset of an overall strategic plan. Here, in CIC, he felt he had the best chance to find out about strategy.

Not today, though. They were docked back in the shipyards after a training mission, taking on supplies and giving some of the crew a chance for shore leave. Because he was new, Nik was far down the roster for shore leave, and he wished he could visit his clan--but he knew he couldn't. He was usually on night shift, but with others on shore leave, he and those still on the ship had to take up the slack. The life of a Marine, he mused, was half training and half boredom.

The boredom was broken when the CIC hatch opened and a pretty blonde woman stepped in. Nik snapped to attention automatically, seeing the rank on her uniform.

"Captain Lauren Thompson, requesting permission to enter CIC, sir," she said. Her request was to the Officer of the Watch, but her eyes were on her new commander, Colonel Bisby. She was assigned temporarily as the Executive Officer of the Patrocles, and she was determined to make the best of it.

Silence fell over the room like a curtain. The watch officer straightened, his spine like an iron rod, and swallowed hard. His gaze fixed on the commander and never left. While every other officer in CIC tried to look involved in their work, they all were watching their commander and the newly arrived Captain.

Colonel Wallace Bisby had been at the plot table, with his back turned to the CIC entrance when Thompson arrived. He straightened to his full six-foot-plus height, turning slightly to nod at the watch officer. His back remained to Thompson as the watch officer said, "Permission granted, Captain."

Bisby then turned to face Captain Thompson. His eyes narrowed as he took her in. Caprican, was his first thought. Bisby was Aquarian; tall and gaunt, grey-haired from age, with high cheekbones and hollow cheeks below smokey blue eyes. His heritage was often mistaken as being from the clans of Scorpia, an error which made Bisby bristle. Facing the Caprican woman, Bisby crossed his arms and addressed her.

"Captain Thompson," he began, "you come with Admiral Cain's recommendation." Bisby's words were rife with nuance, the way he emphasized her rank clearly questioning why his new XO wasn't a major, while the way he spoke of Cain's recommendation caused more than one person around the CIC to think of Cain's reputation for enjoying the company of women.

Thompson had heard rumors about Bisby, and was prepared for his manner. His first words to her were somewhat surprising, though. Surely he knows I have a line number for Major. She swiftly gathered her thoughts while crisply saluting him. Well, I can play his game. "Sir, I will have the honor of pinning on Major in ninety days."

She paused a moment, taking in the unnatural silence of the crew in CIC. "I was not aware that Admiral Cain recommended me," she said calmly, content to let the Colonel think what he pleased.

"Ah," Bisby replied, acknowledging her comment about Cain. Another silent moment passed while Bisby continued to regard her. "Ninety days, then," he continued. "Tell me, Captain Thompson, do you expect to still be my Executive Officer on that day?"

She knew he was testing her; he was too much of a hard-ass not to have read her service records already. "My orders assign me here for one-hundred and twenty days, sir, and at that time I will report to War College."

"Ah," Bisby repeated, turning to regard the Officer of the Watch, who still stood rigidly at attention. "We shall see, then, if you last that long," he said, as though to the watch officer. Looking back to Thompson, he added, "Captain Thompson, you are dismissed. Settle in, and report back to CIC at 2300 hours. Third watch is yours."

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:26 pm 
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Scorpia Fleet Shipyards
Day Zero - 5, 0900 Hours



Captain Francis "Frank" Eglin walked purposefully down the concourse, keeping to the deck sections marked for foot traffic. Around him, the shipyard pulsed with activity; delivery transports whizzed past, their high-torque electric motors growling; officers ranged about, electronic clipboards in hand; at the far limit of his vision a platoon of SeaBees quick-stepped toward him, on their way to another refit job. Eglin looked downward, catching glimpses of the lower concourse through gaps in the structure of the deck. Below him, more electric transports rumbled in the opposite direction, carrying scrap materials for reprocessing. At intervals, windows of reinforced glass yielded up views of warships in dock and of enigmatic Scorpia herself, a world of desert and jungle, civilization and savagery.

His destination was a nearby warehouse, off the lower concourse.

Inside waited Sadeh S'Hali, Deputy Assistant Minister of Health - Office of Employment Safety - for the Colony of Scorpia. His looks were unprepossessing, though his bronze skin and chiseled features proclaimed his clan heritage and his natty attire bespoke of excellent taste... and a purse somewhat fatter than that of a simple public servant. Like most clan members, he had a "Colonial" name -- but he seldom used it, preferring to go by his clan name. He was, after all, a proud member of a proud clan, and wouldn't let anyone forget it.

At least publicly. Privately... well, privately a man had to do what a man had to do to get ahead in life. Particularly a man who owed his position to a powerful political leader. And who had political ambitions of his own...

He adjusted his texa-encrusted cufflinks and checked his watch again. Should've brought something to do while I waited, he thought crossly as his fingers tapped an unrecognizable rhythm on the old metal desk.

But his face remained calm and serene, a slight smile upon his lips.

Captain Jeff Mohler had seen the Deputy Assistant Minister go into the warehouse, and had caught a glimpse of Eglin, as well. He was waiting, making sure that neither one of them had been followed. The last thing the Admiral needed was to have one of his aides seen with S'Hali or the Chiron's XO. Not when the reason for the meeting wasn't exactly legal. Or even remotely legal. And even if no one suspected shady dealings, they might wonder why an aide to the commander of the Colonial Navy Small Business Contracting Division would be meeting a ship's XO and a Scorpian government official.

So Mohler waited for Eglin to finish his trek into the warehouse.

Eglin reached a point above his destination, then descended a tight spiral ladderwell to the lower concourse. There, he noted the "Closed for Maintenance" sign on the hatchway to the storage module, the prearranged recognition symbol scrawled on it. He pulled the hatch open and stepped inside, pulling the large oval cover closed behind him. He noted the Scorpian seated at the bare metal desk, nodding acknowledgement but not speaking. Eglin took up a position by the wall, with a view of both the hatchway and the desk. He crossed his arms, making his biceps bulge, and waited for the expected appearance of his Fleet contact.

Mohler watched as Eglin confidently stepped through the hatch and closed it. He gave an internal nod of approval for the man's manner. The correct attitude, plus the Navy utility uniform, would make anyone 'invisible' in the workplace of the spacedock. S'Hali's appearance, on the other hand, was a bit incongruous--but the man's arrogant air, while memorable, was also easily justified. He was clearly some sort of Scorpian official, and officials loved to tour the shipyards... especially when the Pegasus was there.

Mohler hadn't seen anyone who appeared at all interested in the two men. Still, he waited a few more minutes just to be sure. Then, with his clipboard in hand, clad in his own utility uniform, he strode purposefully to the warehouse hatch and let himself through, sealing it securely behind him. He saw S'Hali first, giving him a nod, then glanced at Eglin. "Gentlemen," he greeted the two.

"My friend," S'Hali replied, all obsequiousness and ingratiating smiles. "I must apologize for calling this meeting on such short notice, but there is a... situation... that requires that we impose upon your... continued assistance."

Mohler gave the official a flat stare. The 'continued assistance' that the Admiral provided was well paid for--under the table, of course--and Mohler himself got an adequate percentage. But nothing said he had to pretend to like this toady. "As Captain Eglin is here, I imagine you need the services of the Chiron again," he said coldly. "Do you need any other ships? Where, and when?"

Arrogant bastard. S'Hali's smile never faltered. He swallowed his annoyance and continued genially. "Ah, how remiss of me to forget how valuable your time is! Of course, I shall 'cut to the chase', as you say. There's to be a... humanitarian mission to Az Rufayah, deep in the land of the Khouri. Our friends are assembling at K'way Tebur. The Mansion would be most appreciative if a small military vessel, mayhaps a freighter?, could transport them to Az Rufayah and back once the mission is completed..."

Mentally, Mohler reviewed the ships assigned to BSG 62. After a moment, he gave a single nod. "The Amaryllis has not yet received orders for a temporary assignment while the Pegasus is undergoing refit. And the Chiron, also has not received orders..." he looked over at Eglin for confirmation.

The Chiron's Executive Officer nodded at Captain Mohler. "We're clear," he replied, "and sending Chiron along will make the op look like a real aid mission, not to mention allow me to personally oversee it." At the end, Eglin looked over at S'Hali, flashing a confident grin. Then he looked back to Mohler.

It's always nice dealing with another military professional, Mohler thought with satisfaction. He directed his next question to S'Hali, in a more moderate manner. "When do you need the freighter at K'way Tebur, and how long should the mission last?"

S'Hali smiled more broadly. That's more like it. "Our friends will be fully assembled two days hence, and the mission should take no more than 36 hours, more likely 24. Arrangements will be... the usual," he added blandly.

"Very good," Mohler nodded. This wasn't, as they say, his 'first rodeo'. He addressed both men, saying, "The Admiral will ensure that orders for a humanitarian mission are cut in time." He doubted either knew exactly which Admiral he referred to, but they didn't need to know, did they? The 'arrangements' for transfer of funds had worked well in the past, and would continue to suffice. "If there's nothing else...?" He looked from S'Hali to Eglin with a raised eyebrow.

"I'm good," Eglin responded, uncrossing his arms and making a motion with both hands as though to halt someone. He stepped toward the door, knowing that his departure would attract less attention than S'Hali's, and that Mohler would likely wait and be the last to leave.

"Always a pleasure," S'Hali beamed at his retreating back with just the right note of fawning gratitude. There was, however, a flash of sly smugness in his dark eyes before they went as flat and opaque as a bog. "I must part company, too," he told Mohler unecessarily, "as I have a meeting with the stevedores' union in," he checked his watch, "less than 10 minutes. Thankfully, their headquarters are not far away. Pleasant day, Captain Mohler."

And then he, too, left.

Mohler waited a few minutes to ensure that both the others were well away before he, too, departed. It was well worth putting up with S'Hali's obsequiousness. His percentage of the payoff wasn't nearly as large as the Admiral's, but he didn't mind. It was a small effort for a substantial reward, and would further ensure his comfort when he retired.


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:38 pm 
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Frigate Patrocles
Scorpia Shipyards
Day Zero -5, 1950 Hours



Two men worked their way through the passageways of the frigate Patrocles, engaged in casual conversation. Both wore duty "blues", the standard uniform for Colonial officers. Collar pips marked the slightly shorter, grey-haired man as a Colonel; the younger man wore a Captain's insignia. It was clear that they were not part of the Patrocles crew, for they paused at each hatchway reading the deck and section numbers.

The Colonel was William Trafford; a dark blue and silver patch on his shoulder read Tauranian Titan, BSG 62. Beneath it, a curling banner displayed Naval Salvage and Repair Command. Trafford walked with a dignified air and a confident step, leading his companion assuredly through the frigate. That companion was Jason Paul Ames; his shoulder patch displayed Distant Sun, BSG 62. Dark haired, with an alert and wary manner, Ames was taller than the Colonel, and younger as well. He followed Trafford without hesitation, but he verified every turn himself.

Their conversation stopped when they reached a particular hatchway; its numbering was unremarkable, but above the opening was a sign proclaiming the start of Officers' Country. The two men stepped through, and a few turns later they arrived outside the Patrocles' wardroom.

Private Nikol S'Jahar stiffened to attention as soon as he saw the two officers. He hadn't stood guard post at the Officer's Wardroom before, but with other ship's commanders visiting, SSgt Lynden had assigned him here. It was more of a courtesy, Nik figured, than for any real need for a guard. Colonel Mast from the Bellerophon had already arrived and been greeted by Colonel Bisby, neither of them taking any notice of the young Marine at all.

With efficient movements, Nik opened the hatch, standing back to let the two officers join Colonels Bisby and Mast, who were conversing just inside the wardroom.

While Captain Ames walked in with just a perfunctory acknowledgement to the Marine guard, Colonel Trafford stopped dead on his tracks. "A Marine guard, eh? Well, young man, we," he nodded towards the others inside, "are to embark on matters of great import here." His voice was grave and his face austere, his bushy brows making him look as if he was scowling. "I plan on relieving your commanding officer of some blunt, so don't allow any interruptions, do you hear? Not even if the cylons start another war. They can bloody well wait!"

Although the Colonel's expression was solemn, Nik could sense the humor underlying Trafford's words. "Yes, sir," he replied as gravely. "I'll be sure to tell them to postpone their invasion."

"Excellent!" Trafford beamed. "Bisby, I might just steal this Marine from you - a bright young man like him is wasted here; he should be a SeaBee!"

Colonel Bisby had looked to the hatchway when Nik opened it. After identifying Trafford and Ames, he had returned to the minor argument he'd been conducting with Colonel Mast, until he'd noted that Trafford was speaking to the Marine standing guard outside the wardroom. As the guard answered Trafford's jest, the young man's accent and speech pattern stood out starkly in Bisby's perception. When Trafford had addressed Bisby by his surname and omitted the Colonel he expected, Bisby had been momentarily distracted... but only momentarily.

Prancing Tauron dog needs a lesson in manners, Bisby brooded for a second. Then he was answering Trafford, "You can have the Scorpian cur, for all I care." Looking past Colonel Mast, Bisby's eyes lighted on Trafford's face for a second, then settled on S'Jahar. "I didn't know I had one on board; I won't notice when he's gone."

Mast glanced at S'Jahar, then looked at Colonel Bisby. "Sacrilegious barbarians," he murmured, just loudly enough for Bisby to hear.

Trafford's eyes narrowed. "No member of the crew is beneath a good officer's notice." Looking directly at S'Jahar, he added, "And the offer stands."

The young Marine knew that he was standing on loose sand, and he replied without emotion, "I am a Colonial Marine, sir, and I serve where I am assigned."

The Tauranian Titan CO knew when it was time to retreat; Bisby could make the Scorpian's stay in Patrocles a living hell, and there was little Trafford could do about it. "Spoken like a true soldier, son," he told the Marine with a gentleness at odds with his rough exterior; "Mayhaps you'll have better luck next assignment. And speaking of luck," he spun to face the rest of the officers, "let's get this game going. I feel like bagging me some coppers."

"Perhaps a few less of mine, this time?" Captain Ames added, immediately picking up on Trafford's attempt to redirect the conversation. "Leave me enough for coffee and a newspaper at the commissary?"

"Considering the swill they call 'coffee' at the commissary, you should thank me for sparing you," the Colonel grinned.

A voice sounded from behind Trafford. "Sparing someone?" Major (Doctor) Al Davenport asked with mild humor as he entered the wardroom. He'd only heard the last bit of what the Titan's CO had said, and added, "When it comes to triad, I can't see you sparing anyone, Colonel Trafford." Davenport didn't really care for the card games that much, and consequently he was an abysmal player. He was well aware of the necessity of politics and networking, though, and he attended the games whenever he was invited. He would much rather be back aboard the hospital ship he commanded, the Chiron, spending time on topics that did interest him.

However, Davenport did know how to play politics and he inclined his head to Bisby with respect. "Colonel," he greeted his host.

"Doctor," Bisby acknowledged, biting off the word as he glared for one more moment at the hatchway behind Davenport, now closed. Then his gaze settled on Davenport and he went on, "Did you take my recommendation and spend a bit of time reading up on the game?"

"You'll know shortly," Davenport responded as he pulled out a chair from the table.

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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:37 pm 
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Frigate Patrocles
Scorpia Shipyards
Day Zero - 5, 2000 Hours


Now seated at a table in the wardroom, Colonel Bisby's guests watched as he opened a new pack of cards. "Shall we begin?" he asked rhetorically. He riffled the deck, twice, ensuring that the cards were well shuffled. "Triad," he announced, "Tauron rules." He then proceeded to deal each player two cards in secret. With that completed, he dealt a series of cards face up, 'to the community', and betting commenced.

Major Davenport absentmindedly fingered the pendant on the slender chain around his neck as he considered the cards in his hand. The pendant had multiple meanings for him in addition to being a 'good luck charm'. He'd gotten it from his mother when she'd initiated him into the Order of the Dragon. His mother--gods rest her soul--and the Order were both dear to his heart.

The sigil, shaped like a stylized sextant, was amazingly providing him with luck for this game--so far. Now, as betting ended, there were two Ladies showing among the community cards. Davenport calmly turned over one of his hole cards. "Three up, all the Ladies," he stated, looking around the group without changing his expression. He might not always play the card game well, but he was a master at controlling his expression, a trait perfected in his duties as a physician.

Bisby raised an eyebrow at Davenport. "First hand goes to the Doctor," he commented, as each of the other players threw in their cards. Bisby deftly gathered the deck, squared the cards and passed them to Mast. "Your deal, Colonel," he announced.

"Shuffle them well this time, Mast," Colonel Trafford blustered with a rueful smile. "My last hand was lamer than a three-legged horse after a 20 klick buggy race!"

Mast afforded Trafford only a raised eyebrow. Bisby, who'd dealt the previous hand, gave an ill-tempered "hmmph!" Captain Ames scowled at Trafford's rustic comment, but had to stifle a grin at Bisby's annoyance.

As Mast smartly dealt out the next hand, Davenport collected the few cubits bet so far and commented, "Chiron has orders for a humanitarian mission, so we'll be heading out with the Amaryllis tomorrow."

"Amaryllis?" Trafford repeated, looking thoughtful. "A troop transport, on a humanitarian run?"

"Umm," Davenport nodded, regarding the new hand that Mast had dealt. "A large number of people to be lifted from the planet's surface or some such," he said, adding, "possibly with multiple casualties. The Chiron has done other similar missions." He suspected that his XO, Frank Eglin, was somehow behind the Chiron's short-notice orders, but he looked the other way. Going along with what anonymous powerful people in Fleet HQ wanted could possibly facilitate approval of a mission that he wanted his ship to go on... in pursuit of the mandate of the Order of the Dragon, the search for Earth.

Jason Ames dropped his eyes from Davenport, checking his hole cards once more - though he knew he held a two and an eight, both green in Color. With a Blue eight on the table, he held a pair and he placed a modest bet, watching Davenport as he did. Though he was a tanker captain now, Ames had a history in law enforcement; his "cop's eyes" served him well in several areas, including playing Triad. There was clearly something more to Davenport's humanitarian mission, but the Doctor hid it well. Ames said nothing, for the moment, as the betting passed to the Chiron's commander.

Davenport regarded Ames' bet and matched it, then showed his cards. As calmly as he had before, he announced, "Two pair."

"Confound it, man!", Trafford placed his cards on the table - a red Rank Major. A good hand, but not good enough to beat Davenport's two pair. "Looks like Lady Tyche's taken with you tonight, doctor."

"A rare occasion, but it does happen," Davenport admitted wryly. He glanced at Bisby and commented, "Captain Eglin tells me that you have a new XO, Colonel Bisby."

"Thompson, isn't that right, Bisby?" Mast inquired. "On a temporary assignment?"

"Nothing," Bisby grumbled, holding the Blue Prince and making a motion as though to throw the card in. He repeated the motion, on the third time releasing the card to spin into the discarded pile. "Yes, Captain Thompson and yes, she is temporary. I assume she's turning heads around the battle group already?"

"Eglin seemed... impressed," the doctor replied with a touch of humor. "Although I've heard she is quite competent as well as being a bit hard-nosed." His tone was even and non-judgmental.

Mast snorted. "If she's anything like Cain, 'hard-nosed' would be an understatement."

"Cain's a hard-ass, for certain," Ames commented, regarding Bisby with a raised eyebrow as he tossed his cards in. When Bisby didn't admonish him, he went on, "Thompson... I've met her a couple of times. Don't know if she's a hard ass... but it's certainly a firm one."

Colonel Trafford grinned in quiet agreement, then gathered the spent cards. He shuffled the deck, not with the finesse Bisby had shown, but effectively still. Working his way around the table twice, he distributed the hole cards. Then, in the center of the table he began dealing cards face up, a 12 Green first, then a 7 Blue.

Captain Ames watched as Colonel Trafford dealt to the community. He smiled inwardly as Trafford laid down the third card, a Red eight to pair with the Green eight he held in the hole. His satisfaction faded though as a six and five, both Red, followed. The table was now open to a Run of four or better, if one of his opponents was fortunate enough to hold the seven Red.

Davenport looked at the community cards and at the ones in his hand, his expression benignly neutral.

Colonel Mast studied his own cards, pushing cubits into the betting pile.

Colonel Trafford examined his hand with something akin to disgust. Not even good enough to bluff my way around it. "I'm out," he grumbled as he threw his cards on the table with the flick of the wrist. "My reward this trip shall be the brilliant conversation and the pleasure of your company, gentlemen, as tonight I seem unable to even deal myself a decent hand."

"The cards have their own luck," Mast said, "and sometimes the gods help us out... and sometimes they don't." He watched to see how Bisby and Davenport would bet.

Bisby seemed displeased with his hand -though some would argue he always seemed that way - but he stayed in, adding a few cubits to the pot.

"Four on a run," Davenport stated, laying down the red seven. He looked at the others to see if anyone had a better hand than he did.

Captain Ames held the lowest rank among the card players, which meant on many things he held his opinion closer than his cards. However that same position gave him a bit more freedom to complain, has he took full advantage of that now. "For someone who has proclaimed himself a poor card player, Doctor, you certainly have the lucky Ladies in your pocket tonight," Ames observed sourly.

Davenport smiled innocently. "A turn of events about which I will not complain, my friend."

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:13 pm 
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Advanced BioReasearch cruiser Satyr
A remote area of Colonial Space
Day Zero - 4 0900 Hours



"It understands that it is to obey me without question, correct?"

Captain Mischa Cherenko stood on the observation level of one of the Satyr's surgical suites. She wore a white uniform and a black and white officer's cap with 'scrambled eggs' on the brim, indicating her rank. Her white slacks were tight across her ass, and her jacket gave no hint of a shirt beneath, exposing ample cleavage. Her dark hair was pinned up beneath the cap, though loops of it fell across the nape of her neck. Below her, the room was empty save for a gleaming chrome Centurion which stood immobile under the harsh lights. Despite its lack of animation, the Cylon warrior still seemed lethal… its very presence threatening.

"If I instruct it to allow the removal of a limb, will it do so?" asked Cherenko. She turned to face the man who stood with her in the observation suite, regarding him expectantly.

The man was dressed in gray coveralls with an Advanced BioResearch emblem over the right pocket. His hair was perfectly groomed and he exuded a slick, confident demeanor. His eyes went immediately to her breasts, a reaction he attempted to conceal with a glance at the Centurion through the floor-level windows. "It will," he assured her, his face forming an obsequious smile.

We'll see, Cherenko thought, shuddering inwardly at the biological Cylon's eagerness to please her. Of the three captives aboard the Satyr, she trusted this one the least, despite the fact that she had gained the most from her interaction with him. The priest, John Cavil, was clearly motivated by his hatred of the human species, though his lust for the female form could be used to control him. The philosophical one, the one who called himself Leoben, could drag negotiations on interminably with his talk of abstract reality. But Aaron Doral was a businessman, a shrewd mediator who recognized that his position aboard the Satyr left him with little bargaining leverage.

Cherenko turned back to the window, gazing intently at the deadly robot below. "Remind me again why you could not provide one of these units earlier?"

"There simply were none available in nearby space," Doral replied.

"And there are now?" Cherenko queried. "Why is that?"

"We intend to return to Armistice Station, and interact with humans again," said Doral. "It would be the first open revelation of our biological form, and it was thought that an escort of Centurions would make our identity clear."

"Really?" Cherenko responded, distrust clear in her voice. " I would have thought that simply appearing at Armistice Station would have marked you as Cylons." Cherenko paused, but Doral offered nothing more. "This return, it will be soon?" she prompted.

"Oh yes," Aaron Doral stated with a smile. "It will be soon, indeed."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:04 pm 
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Scorpia Fleet Shipyards
Colonial Medical Ship Chiron
Day Zero -3, 1400 Hours


The orders were frustratingly vague, and Major Davenport read them yet again. We’re to proceed to coordinates above K’way Tebur, where severe desert storms have been reported. Well, there’s nothing unusual about that, he thought. Distress signals picked up, possibilities of many casualties. He sighed. “And exactly how many is ‘many?” he muttered to himself.

The Specialist at the DRADIS console glanced up at him then realized that the ship’s commander was just talking to himself again, and returned his attention to his console.

The Amaryllis will pick up the casualties and transport them to us, Davenport brooded. Why do I think there’s more behind this than a simple rescue mission?

He glanced up at his XO. Regardless of whatever scheme he’s involved in, he’s a good officer, Davenport mused. “Is the ship ready, Frank?” he asked calmly.

"All sections report ready, sir!" Eglin replied, looking at Davenport with a cocked eyebrow and a slight grin, in response to the commander's use of his first name. Eglin moved confidently across the Chiron's bridge, monitoring the ship's systems over the shoulders of each station officer. It was a constant habit of his, Davenport had discovered, and it often reminded the commander of a Pyramid player in action. On this trip, however, they had a bare-bones crew, giving Eglin fewer stops on his rotation, but more things to check on.

"Comms, signal Shipyard Traffic Control that we are ready to depart," Davenport said. Hopefully this will be a quiet, routine mission, he mused, noting to himself that the entire ship was currently staffed by a skeleton crew. The medical section especially was short-handed. Such short notice didn't give us enough time to recall everyone who was allowed to take leave, he sighed internally. With the Pegasus, the flagship, undergoing refit, the Fleet had a liberal leave policy; and the down-time in dock allowed the Chiron's medical staff to get additional training planet-side.

Over the next few minutes, the bridge crew called out the Chiron's status in a steady, practiced litany of reports.

"Primary accessway depressurized. Dock seal released." A few moments later, "Accessway clear of hull."

"Shore power disconnected. Umbilical retracted. Ship's generators showing standard load."

"Docking clamps released. We are free of moorings."


The almost subliminal vibration of the clamps releasing passed through the deck.

"Thank you, Comms," Davenport said. "Maneuvering thrusters, one-quarter reverse. Helm, report when we have cleared the docking assembly."

"Aye sir!" came the reply. In the forward view from the Chiron's bridge, the massive bulk of the Scorpia Shipyards began to recede. At first only their docking point was visible, filling the view with stretches of steel bulkheads and reinforced glass windows, the various connecting equipment jutting outward into space. As the Chiron reversed away from the station, more and more of the shipyard's spiderweb structure came into view, while it lost detail with distance.

"Clear of docking assembly," the helmsman reported, then a moment later added, "Shipyard proximity cleared, we are free to maneuver, Sir!"

"Thank you," Davenport said. "Mr. Eglin, take us to our rendezvous point."

"Aye sir!" Eglin responded immediately. He was already standing at the Helm station; placing his hands behind his back he began calling out orders. "Bow thrusters starboard and up, full! Main engines, report status!"

"Main engines online and standing by, sir!"

The cusp of Scorpia, visible below the sprawl of the Shipyards, quickly dropped from sight as Eglin stood the hospital ship on its tail relative to the planet. "Bow thrusters, stabilize orientation," he ordered. "Engage main engines, ahead one-tenth. Helm, take us out to 500 clicks."

Eglin glanced at Davenport, giving his superior officer a self-satisfied smile. "Sir, let's see if our little friend is waiting for us."

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Tue Jul 19, 2011 5:09 pm 
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Chiron Command Deck
Day Zero -3 1420 Hours



"DRADIS contact, bearing zero-zero-four carom zero-zero," the ensign at the DRADIS console called out, grinning slightly. "Contact squawking Colonial IFF, vessel identified as the Amaryllis, sir."

"Very good, Ensign," Davenport replied, and with a nod, indicated for his XO to proceed.

From his position behind the DRADIS operator, Captain Eglin ordered, "Helm, take us alongside the transport, standard spacing."

"Aye, sir," the helmsman responded.

The command crew watched as the Chiron approached her rendezvous target. Against the blackness of space, the Amaryllis was a growing spot of military grey, gaining size and detail as the hospital ship approached. Long and narrow, with a deep keel and a broad back, the transport's forward section was wide and flat, two engines mounted one above the other graced the stern. On the near side of the ship were a series of three recesses in the main hull; docked in each one was a single dropship.

"There's the bus," Davenport murmured, then, "Please get the Amaryllis' CO for me."

The Comms officer spoke quietly into his headset, and a few moments later reported to Davenport, "Sir, I have Amaryllis Actual standing by."

Davenport picked up the handset and said, "Captain Jenkins? Major Davenport, Chiron, here."

"Punctual as always, Major," a pleasant female voice replied, a touch of humor evident. "Ready for another milk run, sir?"

"A milk run is always more interesting than being in dock, Captain," Davenport replied genially. "We should be at the origin coordinates within the hour, with evacuation to begin at seventeen hundred hours." He paused, reviewing the timelines stated in the orders for the mission. "Once evacuation is completed, we are to relay the evacuees to their destination at twenty-three hundred hours."

"Ah, so this is one of those missions," Jenkins replied knowingly, and with a hint of sarcasm. "Well, at least they left me plenty of time to get the dropships refueled before we reach the target... er, destination point."

"Indeed," Davenport said dryly. "Always a pleasure working with you, Captain Jenkins. We'll talk again at the pick-up... er, origin location."

Light laughter sounded momentarily in Davenport's headset, then Jenkins replied, "I'll see you there, Major Davenport. Amaryllis actual, out."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:56 pm 
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Four dozen ghosts drift silently across the desert sands, illuminated by the pale glow of the pearl moon hanging low on the horizon. A light wind whispers among them, triggering small sand-slides which hiss faintly as they flow down the leeward faces of the dunes. A sidewinder abandons its hunt to avoid the silent figures, giving a momentary reprieve to the mouse it has been tracking. Overhead a pair of nighthawks wheel, crying to each other as they hunt the night's last few insects.

The spectral figures continue their stealthy advance, snaking across the sand, holding to the low places where the dune crests hide them from prying eyes. Minutes pass, and tens of minutes, and then the ghosts are upon their prey. The carnage begins with muted gurgles as the sentries posted around the waterlord's camp die, their throats cut. Moments later the silver night is punctuated by the pop-pop-pop of silenced automatic weapons and the gritty thump of bodies dropping to the sand. The ghosts move among the tents and makeshift buildings, silently delivering death at every turn. They make the sign of Life over the bodies of their foe, and whisper the words - "Life returns to you, Mother Desert, as blood flows like water to sand." Somewhere, one of the waterlord's soldiers clenches his fingers as he dies, and his rifle sprays bullets into the night sky, piercing the silence with staccato sharpness. A few men yell in the aftermath, but it is too late for them, too late for the camp. The ghosts finish them quickly, and silence returns to the desert. The nighthawks circle back, and the sidewinder resumes his hunt. The little noises of the night begin anew, as though the passage of the ghosts had never been.

In the largest tent, Rattler stands over the waterlord's body, giving commands to his officers. Suyain S'Zarfi is among them, and it falls to him to find the thing for which the mercenaries came. While some take rifles and ammunition, food and water, S'Zarfi and two others search out the waterlord's hoard of texa gems. Five minutes later he reports back, two members of his fire team packing small chests. He displays their contents to Rattler - hundreds of yellow stones that seem to blaze with the fire of the sun. His warleader smiles with approval, and in return shows S'Zarfi the coins looted from the waterlord's tent. The mercenaries may have made this raid on principle, a rare thing for them, but their leader has made certain that they will still be paid for carrying out the desert's vengeance. S'Zarfi grins back at his kyafk'i, pleased with himself and with the results of the raid.

A figure enters the tent, dressed in the garb of the waterlord's soldiers. Though the mercenaries remain vigilant, Rattler simply watches as the man bows deeply. When he rises, Rattler nods to him and he approaches. The meeting between the mercenary commander and this stranger is marked only by the exchange of a few words and the clink of coins, then the stranger departs. No one in the tent mentions his appearance, nor questions their leader as to his purpose. They know, it is the mean business of revenge. The mercenaries have crossed a line by attacking this waterlord, a trespass they must smooth over with bribes.

Their grisly business done and the prize collected, the mercenaries depart as they arrived - as ghostly shadows that blend with the half-light of morning. Minutes pass, and tens of minutes, and these two platoons rejoin their brothers out among the dunes. They mount up in canvas-covered heavy trucks and move off into the deep desert as the nighthawks abandon their sky-borne dance and disappear to their daylight refuge.



Scorpia, Western Atenohtep Desert
Sons of the Devil mercenary battalion
Day Zero -3, Early Morning


The mercenary troops moved steadily over the surface of the desert, leaving the waterlord's camp behind them. Their desert trucks progressed with the soft growl of electric motors fed by high-efficiency solar panels atop their cabs. The overloaded trucks struggled across the dunes, their cargo beds loaded with mercenaries and weapons, while more mercs stood on the running boards alongside the cab or hung from the rope nets of the canvas bed covers. Each truck's six huge tires, left under-inflated to better stay atop the sand, squatted further under the load. The remaining mercenaries trotted along, keeping in knots around each of the widely scattered trucks. As one tired he, or she, would swap positions with one of the riders, the truck barely slowing for the exchange.

Rattler stood on a running board on the driver's side of one truck, holding on to the side mirror mounting with one hand. From there, he surveyed his battalion of nomads, all of them Disavowed - outcasts from the desert clans of Scorpia. In the nomad language, they were Fiddà, criminals whose punishment was to wear the mark of the outcast, a scar across the left eye from forehead to cheek. Rattler had been collecting these exiles for decades, culling through them, discarding those so criminal they could not accept the discipline and obedience he required. What was left was an elite fighting force, a band of warriors skilled in desert warfare, unhindered by conscience or morals. They were sarkafa yaké d'hamada, the fangs of the desert. They were killers for hire.

From his position on the side of the truck, Rattler directed the battalion's advance across the dunes, under the fierce desert sun. Mounted in the cab was a global positioning computer, fed signals gathered by a rooftop antenna from government satellites overhead. At his hip Rattler carried a field wireless handset; he used the device to communicate with his mercenaries over encrypted channels - the technology another benefit of government contacts.

Now, the field wireless sounded an attention signal, followed by human speech. "Baker One, acknowledge. Urgent transmission to follow."

Rattler snatched the handset from his belt and held it to his head. His voice penetrated the saroban he wore, and he responded, "Acknowledged, proceed." Very few had access to this channel, and Rattler had no doubt to whom the voice belonged.

"Advise SFA forces in pursuit, kappa" the clipped response came. Rattler held the handset tight against his ear; the voice was only slightly muffled by his headgear.

"Acknowledged, kappa," Rattler transmitted, and the wireless fell silent. Rattler silently considered the meaning of the warning. It had been a calculated risk, raiding the waterlord's camp. Waterlords were generally clanless, the nomad term for anyone not born to a Clan, and often had ties with Scorpia's government and military. Those ties typically carried a promise of protection. A waterlord traded precious water and other commodities with the clans, generally in exchange for texa gems, the fiery sun-colored stones greatly prized by both Scorpian city-dwellers as well as other, off-world Colonials. Rattler's mercenaries operated in a no-man's land, politically, balanced between the clans and a corrupt government that on one hand condemned his actions while the other sent him on missions the government could not publicly condone.

Rattler had been long-ago cast out, and his revenge against his former clan, for him, now resided in the dark shadows of memory. Born and raised in the desert he could not stomach life among the soft, clanless city dwellers, nor accept the rule of either Scorpia's armed forces or her government. He had found his niche, living in the desert he loved, answering to no one. And so, when a waterlord had dealt with him in a manner Rattler found objectionable, he had departed - only to return with two companies of his mercenaries to destroy the man who had offended him.

Now, the SFA - Scorpia's Federal Army - was in pursuit, no doubt at the behest of the waterlord's next-of-kin. With time, Rattler's nomad warriors could shake any SFA unit that pursued them. Or, if he could contact certain persons within the government, their pursuers could be redirected to other tasks. The mercs were scheduled to rendezvous with a Fleet transport later this day, so his time was limited. Around him, the desert gave him subtle signs that the weather was worsening, so communication with his government contacts was questionable. No, escaping the soldiers who now hunted them would depend up the skill of his troops, Rattler's own wiles, and the cooperation of Mother Desert. He keyed the wireless handset again, alerting his lieutenants of the SFA pursuit and turning the mercenary battalion onto a new course. If the military wanted to chase him, he'd give them a challenging run.

Finished, he hung the wireless again at his side, then regarded the driver of his truck. "A storm is coming," he said simply. The driver nodded and picked up speed.


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:50 pm 
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Scorpia, K’way Tebur
Day Zero -3, 1648 Hours


The wind was a solid, living being. It carried mother desert in its arms, consumed everything in its path, moved mountains, carved rock. It muffled all other sounds with its voice, a howl that both shrieked and moaned with pain and fury. Its tendrils stabbed into eyes, grated against skin, forced its way into lungs. It wrapped its deadly cloak around everyone in its way and dragged them down…

It was almost like being buried alive. You could be buried alive, if you didn’t know what you were doing. Corporal Mihe S’Rimald, of the Sons of the Devil Mercenary Battalion, Second Platoon, knew what he was doing, but it was still one of the worst storms he’d seen. At least, he thought, our pursuers are disadvantaged as much as we are.

He’d called his team to a halt and they’d set up sand-tents in pairs, the angular structures using the wind’s force against it. They’d reverted to the old ways, running rope from sand-tent to sand-tent, wireless communication impossible to hear in the wail of the storm. S’Rimald would have continued his fight against the fierce weather, if his commander had so ordered. But Rattler had passed the word back for everyone to stand down and brace against the storm, so he had. Now… now, it was just a matter of waiting it out. Waiting it out, with no idea how long it would last.

Nearby, Corporal Suyain S'Zarfi performed a final check on his company's truck, ensuring it was protected from the vicious storm. It was a nomad truck, as were all of the Battalion's transports, built by Scorpian clanless in some coastal city, but to the specifications of the desert-dwelling Clans. Suyain verified that the solar panels on the roof of the cab were folded down, all the vents in the engine cowling were closed tight, and the heavy canvas bed cover tied down tight with it's rear closure sealed. Even the tips of the exhaust pipes, though they were turned downward by design, still had threaded caps that Suyain installed.

Corporal S'Zarfi was anonymous in his desert gear; his head, mouth and nose shrouded by a Clan sarobon. He wore a pair of desert goggles, the leather harness and cut-quartz lenses protecting his eyes from the fiercely blowing sand. As he left the line of parked trucks, he could make out other dark forms moving around them as the other drivers secured their vehicles. At least we got a full charge as we fled the waterlord's camp. S'Zarfi considered their situation; We'll be running on diesel before the morning is finished. The Corporal also knew there would be damaged solar panels to replace, from their small reserve, after the monster storm died out.

Elsewhere, Anya S'Arana cursed at the portable wireless base station. Set up on a low table within the mercenary command tent, its antenna lead ran up a tent pole to an antenna grid sewn into the fabric of the tent's roof. As she struggled to get a signal, she cast a furtive glance toward the commander of the nomad fighters as he paced nearby.

Rattler. The name sent a chill up her spine. The sidewinder was a king of the desert, fearing nothing - not even the occasional hawk or eagle that might attempt to eat it. So it was with the man who now waited for her to contact the ship that orbited above them. Silent, patient, wise in the ways of the desert and deadly in combat, Rattler ruled the mercenary battalion with an iron fist. He was tall and desert-thin with lanky grey hair bleached white by the sun. No one among them knew his true name, but the rumors told that he was the last of the Dalnari, that he had been cast out and then returned to exterminate his former clan-mates.

There was no doubt that he was cast out. He bore the mark, an empty socket where once his left eye had been. Few of the Disavowed suffered such partial blinding any longer; in recent decades the clans had taken to scarring those cast out, cutting them from forehead to cheek but sparing the eye. A few family groups even foreswore the scarring, opting instead for a tattoo drawn with the same painful, poisoned ink used for the ritual clan mark.

A tone sounded from the wireless and Anya narrowed her eyes as she fought to tune it in. The sound crested and faded, whistling harshly and then dropping to a vibrating bass. With concentration and deft fingers, S'Arana brought the signal into focus, then twisted a small dial to lock in her adjustments. Turning another pair of dials, she muted the carrier tone and raised the volume of the voice channel.

"Kyafk’i," she said, calling him Warleader in the clan tongue. "I have the channel."

"Good," Rattler responded. He crossed the space between them in a few silent strides. Now beside her, he slipped an arm around her slender waist. S'Arana did not resist his advance, instead she accepted it, turning her face upward to him, meeting his lips with her own. He kissed her deeply, with animal roughness. "You could coax water from a dry well, Lìya," he said, then let her go roughly and turned to the wireless. S'Arana stumbled aside.

"It will not last," she said, in reference to the signal. To herself, she added, nor will we. I tolerate this because you are Kyafk’i, and your attention is not without its advantages, but there is another I desire.

Picking up the corded microphone of the wireless, Rattler keyed it. "Amaryllis, Baker One, contact." He waited a breath, then repeated the words. Only the hiss of static answered him.

Again Rattler spoke into the the microphone, "Amaryllis, Baker One, contact - urgent."

This time a human voice responded, garbled and overrun by the crackle of interference. "Kaashi," Rattler cursed, then looked aside at S'Arana.

"It will get no better," she pronounced.

Again, Rattler tried to reach the transport. "Amaryllis, Baker One, contact - urgent."

"Bay... Amaryllis... st... condi... severe ...val. Hold ...shun ... weh... breaks."

"Amaryllis, Baker One," Rattler responded. "Acknowledged, hold position, kappa."

Rattler turned to S'Arana, "Carry word to the troops - stand alert, we hold our position here to await pick-up."

"When will the transport come, Kyafk’i?"

Rattler stood for a moment, listening to the wind rage around the sand tent. "Dawn will bring us a respite from these winds. We must be ready."

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:16 pm 
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Frigate Patrocles
Combat Information Center
Day Zero -2, 0030 Hours


The lighting in CIC was subdued, creating an artificial night aboard the frigate in concert with the cycle of day and night on the planet below. In time of war, or during an active refit, the day/night cycle would be foregone. The Patrocles, though, was returned from training missions and docked at Scorpia Shipyards with the rest of her battle group. Those of the crew who were not away on leave were enjoying the temporary normality of sleeping at night.

Or at least most were - a few specialists and junior officers were scattered through the command center, monitoring the active systems on the ship or conducting maintenance that wasn't possible during the day shift. It was quiet, but not silent; air whispered through overhead vents, the crew exchanged hushed words, the computers hummed and interjected an occasional beep. Peace, though often foreign to a warship, had settled over the Patrocles.

Ensign Jacob Brown sat alertly at the communications console, finally used to the night shift. This was his first assignment after joining the fleet and getting his commission, and he was determined to prove he was good at his job. Colonel Bisby made him nervous, and he was sure he'd been moved to night shift for some minuscule dereliction of duty that the Colonel had detected--even though no one had said anything about any lapses to Brown himself.

The new XO, Captain Thompson, although cool in her manner, was a lot less anxiety-provoking than Bisby. She treated Brown the same way she treated everyone else, taking their professionalism for granted. Her calm acceptance of all the crew enabled Brown to acknowledge receipt of the priority message and pass it on to the Captain confidently. "Sir, a Priority One-Alpha message just came through," he said, handing her the printout.

"Thank you, Ensign," Thompson replied, scanning the message. Salvage op, urgent, she mused. Reconnaissance Carrier CFR Herodotus... hmmm. She gave a mental sigh. Looks like I'll have to wake up the CO. She glanced up at Ensign Brown, back at the comms console. I'll go in person to the Colonel's quarters. I'm not going to traumatize Brown by having him hail the CO over the phone. "Lieutenant Bild, hold the fort for five minutes while I go talk to Colonel Bisby," she said.

Shortly she stood outside the hatch to Bisby's quarters, waiting for his response to her knock.

When the hatchway opened, it revealed a clearly-annoyed Colonel Bisby. He wore the grey and black undershirts that were common among off-duty crew, and Thompson's eyes roamed no lower. Besides slightly messy hair, there was little to indicate Bisby had been asleep. He regarded his XO with sharp eyes and a slight smile on his face that somehow looked disapproving.

"What is it?" Bisby spat out sarcastically, "the toilet clogged in the officers' head?"

Without blinking, Thompson replied evenly, "No, sir. A Priority One-Alpha message for a rescue operation." She handed the printout to him.

"Ah," Bisby said as he began to read the dispatch. A few seconds later, he spoke again, "Very well then, escort duty." Bisby looked up, meeting Thompson's gaze, "Get us underway, then, Captain."

"As you command, Colonel," Thompson replied coolly. She turned on her heel and strode back to the CIC.

Bisby stood for a moment in the open hatchway, arms crossed, and glared at Thompson's receding form. Hmmm, Bisby thought, she's cool and self-assured. He reached to close the hatch cover, a slight smile stealing over his face. Reminds me of me.

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:17 pm 
Site Gunslinger
Joined: Wed May 03, 2006 10:50 pm
Posts: 8181
Location: The Dark Side
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Frigate Patrocles
Combat Information Center
Day Zero -2, 0045 Hours


Pvt. S'Jahar was glad to be on guard duty in CIC for this night shift. He was too far down the ranks to find out details about anything that was going on in the ship... except for this time. He listened to Captain Thompson with intense interest, staying alert for Colonel Bisby's appearance, which he knew would probably happen at any second.

"Sorry to disturb your sleep, gentlemen," the Captain said over the wireless. Nik knew she was talking to Colonels Mast and Trafford and Captain Ames; she'd directed Ensign Brown to get all three of them on the line at the same time. "We've received a One-Alpha dispatch for a rescue-slash-salvage operation in IHC space near Jericho."

She paused a moment, then continued, "The carrier Herodotus has apparently been attacked by separatists and has declared an emergency, but her current status is unknown. The Bellerophon and Patrocles have been ordered to escort the Tauranian Titan and Distant Sun to the Herodotus' last known position to assess the situation and take necessary actions."

She glanced over at Lt. Bild, manning the helm, and got his nod; he'd laid in the jump coordinates as she'd ordered, to take their task force near--but not on top of--the Herodotus' location, and then passed those coordinates on to the comms officer. "Ensign Brown will be transmitting our jump coordinates momentarily, sirs. Prepare to set Condition Two in your ships, and please stand by for Colonel Bisby's orders to jump."

Nik was impressed. Captain Thompson was calm, collected, and confident in her manner. It could as easily have been another of the training missions that Colonel Bisby had commanded since Nik had come on board, rather than an actual emergency. I heard that the XO before her only lasted a few months before Bisby chased him off, he mused. I wonder how long she'll hang on for?

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:18 pm 
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Superheavy Vessel Retriever Tauranian Titan
Combat Information Center
Day Zero -2, 0045 Hours



Executive Officer Mikhail Kadrovic watched as his commanding officer spoke on the wireless to the XO of the Frigate. Kadrovic was in his early forties, with dark brown hair cropped short and a prominent nose. He stood a full six feet tall, with tanned skin and a lean, muscular body. He was clean-shaven, and his 'duty blue' uniform was pressed and crisp. He had served in the Colonial Fleet for 18 years, and turned down a command of his own to be the XO of the Titan.

In Kadrovic's hand he held their Notification of Pending Orders. Recall all ship's personnel from Scorpia Shipyards and make the ship ready. Detailed orders to be received from Colonel W. Bisby, FFG Patrocles. Kadrovic had immediately sent an Ensign to wake Colonel Trafford, then contacted the shipyard's Command Center and authorized a page for Major Emmanuelle Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh was the commander of the Tauranian Titan's detachment of SeaBees, and she would be responsible for recalling her battalions.

Colonel Trafford finished his discussion and removed the wireless headset. William Trafford was in his fifties, and a 35-year veteran of the Fleet. He stood an inch shorter than his XO, yet no one seemed to ever notice because of the commanding nature of his bearing. Age was just beginning to catch Trafford, and though his eyebrows were dark, his hair had become salt-and-pepper grey above a receding hairline. At two hundred and fifteen pounds, he was a bit thick around the middle, but still managed to look fit in the old-style Fleet uniform he favored.

Trafford looked over at Kadrovic, explaining, "It seems that Fleet Intelligence has managed to get one of its Reconnaissance Carriers into a bit of a sticky wicket, and we've received the call to get her out."

"Aye, sir," Kadrovic replied. Knowing the Colonel would expect the information, Kadrovic reported on the status of the Titan before Trafford asked. "The ship stands ready, sir. The 171st has been recalled; Major Cavanaugh says she'll have them aboard within thirty. All regular crew will be aboard by that time as well, sir."

"Very good, Major." Trafford walked a circle around the command deck, surveying each station and the assigned officers. He stopped at Engineering and Damage Control and looked up at Kadrovic, expectantly. The XO read the silent question and responded.

"Major Bannerman reports Engineering stands ready, sir. Sub-light engines are on stand-by and our tylium tanks are full. FTL drives are mission-capable, awaiting orders to spin up."

"Very well, XO," Trafford responded. He took a moment to look around the command deck, meeting the eyes of each crew member present. "The Titan may be new, but she's not untested," he began. "We have trained together these many weeks - and you are ready. We have conducted mock salvage ops and rescues, and came to the aid of a destroyer in a real emergency situation. This will be our first mission into hostile space, and if the gods are willing the first time we jump with a salvage vessel docked."

"We are ready," Trafford repeated. "We may have a few butterflies in our stomachs... I know I do." He paused, allowing a grin to crease his cheeks, accompanying it with a comradely chuckle. "I have every confidence in this crew. I am proud of you, and proud to serve with you."

"Sir!" Kadrovic called out, saluting the Colonel. The rest of the CIC officers joined him.

As the call died out, Trafford gave a quick nod of approval. Facing Kadrovic, he ordered, "Major, once the crew is on board and the last transport shuttle cleared, inform STC we will be departing. Break from station-keeping then, and take us to the assembly point."

Kadrovic stood to full attention, saluting. "Aye, sir."
__________
STC: Shipyard Traffic Control

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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 Post subject: Re: Episode 1: Descent Into Darkness
PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:19 pm 
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Fleet Tylium Tanker Distant Sun
Combat Information Center
Day Zero -2, 0048 Hours



Lieutenant Daniel Coulter stood at the DRADIS station on Distant Sun's small command deck, watching the markers that identified the traffic near the shipyard. Coulter was 5' 10" and slender, though one glance at his arms or the slant of his shoulders marked him as someone who exercised vigorously. His hair was blond-brown, and he wore spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He was just 26 years old.

In the six month's he'd served aboard the tanker, he had often operated the DRADIS equipment and had developed an affinity for the station. The tanker's crew was small, less than 50 officers and enlisted, and so it was not unusual for a crew member to have multiple jobs. Coulter, despite his young age and his rank, was the Executive Officer of ship. Though the tanker's crew was meager, the 'Sun' was not a small ship. At over 700 meters in length she was as long as the flight pod on a Mercury class battlestar, and capable of holding 800 megatons of tylium.

Freshly arrived from his quarters where he'd been asleep, Captain Jason Paul Ames was speaking on the wireless. A typical Caprican, Ames was tall - 6' 1" - and athletic, with dark brown hair that bordered on black. He was an intense person, seldom smiling, though he had a wicked sense of humor that often caught people off-guard when it surfaced. At 39, Ames had just 10 years of Fleet service behind him; when Coulter discovered that Ames had been a narcotics agent before enlisting, he was not at all surprised - Ames still acted like a cop.

At the Comms station, Captain Ames completed his conference call with Colonel Bisby of the Patrocles, and the other commanders being dispatched on this rescue/salvage mission. As he put down his headset, he looked up at Coulter and gave him a slight nod. "XO, report," he said.

Ames was perpetually terse, but it was his eyes that held Coulter's attention. His expression was nearly always intense, and his eyes had a bore-through-you quality. Makes me feel like I just asked to date his daughter, Coulter thought.

"Ship stands ready, sir. All crew will be aboard within 15 minutes. Tylium tanks are at 10%, load has been balanced and our mass calculated in preparation for hyperlight jump."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Ames said. Coulter nodded, but didn't speak, looking questioningly at his commander.

Ames scowled, but relented and filled Coulter in on the mission details. "Salvage op in hostile space - IHC territory near Jericho. De-fuel the salvage target if necessary. Us, a super-heavy, plus two escorts."

Inwardly Coulter grinned at Ames' economy of words. In his mind, he expanded the explanation: They were part of a four-ship task group being sent to retrieve a damaged Fleet vessel in the disputed space near Jericho, one of the minor Colonial planets. The Sun was along to provide de-fueling services, removing the volatile tylium fuel from the damaged vessel if the salvage commander deemed it necessary. The term that really caught Coulter's attention, though, was the designation Ames had given the salvage ship: 'super-heavy'. That meant they'd be accompanying a super-heavy vessel retriever, a ship built to serve as a mobile repair dock as well as recover other ships from a combat zone. The super-heavies were new, and only a few existed so far, but he'd seen one holding position near the shipyards.

Eyes alight, Coulter repeated Ames' words, "A super-heavy? The Tauranian Titan, sir?" At Ames' nod, Coulter fell silent, knowing how his CO disliked the command crew 'rambling on' while on duty. Wow! Coulter thought, anticipating the chance to see the recovery vessel in action. Not like the Captain will let me stay glued to a porthole, but I can set one of the monitoring cameras to record...

_________________
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, about budget cuts for the US’s intelligence agencies: "We're not going to do more with less and all these other clichés. . . . We will just simply have less capability."


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