Ascension blinked into existence sitting docilely hanging in the black. To an observer the explosion of part of the ship becoming exposed to space was apparent. All of the ship systems were shorting out, fires starting in areas on multiple decks. In some rooms the expansion charms failed, causing the room to collapse and compress all the matter in it into the original space. Fortunately the World Room was still stable as was Sickbay. Harry raced around the bridge as Castleman and Leoben were reporting.
Lily gave a full analysis as she could, “We've lost atmosphere on decks twenty-one through twenty-five from section thirty-two on. Main power is offline and we have fires all over the ship!”
“Activate fire suppression wards! Seal off the affected decks and divert all repair energy to the hull breach. Activate all emergency enchantments through out the ship,” Harry ordered.
As Lily complied Castleman reported, “We lost the entire squadron of Ravens. Five Vipers are KIA. Total casualties so far are one thousand two hundred thirty two wounded, ten dead but that number is probably going to go up.”
“I've got no navigational control, and no idea what is out there right now,” Leoben reported from the helm.
Harry turned to Castleman, “Get a CAP up ASAP. I want at least two raptors out there providing over watch.”
Castleman nodded in acknowledgment and sent the orders. Harry called down to Chief Tellus, “How are things down there Chief?”
“Pretty bad, I need you down here Harry. We've got Gods know how many friend control crystals. Some of them shattered in their ports, I don't know how we're going to fix any of this.”
“I'll be down as soon as I can, Chief. Doc, what's your status?”
The Chief Medical Officer, a Dr. Caplan responded, “We've got mostly shrapnel and concussions down here. Several cases of severe burns, broken bones, the works. We're using some of those magic potions you have in stock down here but it's going to be rough for a while.”
“Do what you can Doc, I'll try my best to get down to you guys first.” Harry said.
Harry pulled up a hologram of the ship, damaged areas and critical problems lighting up in red. The ship was practically covered in red lights. He focused all his attention to repairing and reassessing the damage and patching what he could. Fortunately, there wasn't anything so far that looked irreparable.
He was just about to leave the bridge and head down to help the medics when one of the Raptors reported in, “This is Raptor 2, I have multiple contacts barring 187 karum 320 CBDR.”
“Damn it, that was fast,” Harry yelled as he started trying to reroute power and bring some kind of defensive system online.
“Lily, bring it up on screen,” Harry ordered. The contact was still pretty far out. “Magnify.”
It was a group of ships, all of various configurations. Castleman though noticed something at the center of the fleet and immediately rushed over, “Lily, focus on the center ship and enhance the image along the port side!”
Lily did as ordered and the view changed. Once she had the word “Galactica” came into focus on the screen. There was a deep sense of relief among everyone on the bridge. Harry immediately ordered all fighters to return to the landing bays and begin assisting in recovery operations. A CAP was posted and the Raptors remained out to keep watch. Harry turned to Lily and asked, “Can we contact them?”
Lily nodded, Colonial radio transmissions having long ago been programmed into the COMMS system. Harry turned to the screen, the fleet getting closer to them and what looked like a Raptor and two Vipers heading in their direction. Harry turned to Lily and said, “Send to Galactica. 'This is the Terran Starship Ascension. Have been attacked by Cylon Basestars and are currently repairing our systems. Am carrying approximately four thousand Colonial military and civilian personnel. Request assistance.'”
Castleman looked at him and said, “They'll think this is a Cylon trap. I know I would.”
“Can't say I disagree with you. All we can do is stay where we are anyways until repairs are completed. It's not like we're actually a threat to them at the moment,” Harry said, trying to stay in the mindset of paranoia that was needed for their survival. It was completely possible that fleet would jump away, leaving them to fend for themselves. They were far enough out to do so without any danger coming to the civilian ships.
“What do we do if they identify anyone as a Cylon on board?” Castleman asked. He was for all intents and purposes Harry's XO, and had to ask the question.
Harry gave Castleman a look and said, “I don't know how the Colonial military handles that sort of thing, but Earth has some pretty specific laws regarding the treatment of Prisoners of War. As this is a Terran ship, we will follow those guidelines. They identify a Cylon, we'll keep him under guard and isolated to quarters, but we won't do anything else. I'm not about to start flushing prisoners out the airlock. Not to mention the fact that Magical Law in Britain would classify Cylons as Non-Human Sentiants of close or equal to human intelligence and by law have the same rights and protections as any other citizen. I should know, I wrote that law.”
“They are just machines,” Castleman said.
“Maybe, but Earth law doesn't take that into account, and Magical Law provides for all sentients regardless of species. Besides, why would I want to get rid of a potential resource that could give me more insight into the situation? Considering what I know about the Cylons from your first war, it's logical to conclude that they have upgraded and evolved. Even during the first war they were a sentient group. It would be a mistake Major to assume that just because they are mechanical in origin that they only think in a mechanical fashion,” Harry said.
“You still think that if they had human form infiltrators they would think similar to us?”
“Well, biology does play it's part.”
Leoben hadn't been privy to the conversation before the attack, but he had to assume for the moment his cover was about to be blown. Thing was he wasn't certain what the best option was at this point. He left the bridge in order to help the wounded in the World room, the need for him to stay at navigation not as great in Harry's view. As he passed on of the halls he thought about what he knew would be a coming confrontation between him and the Earth Wizard. He wasn't certain how he wanted that to turn out.
“Action Stations! Actions Stations! Set Condition One throughout the ship!” the voice of Lieutenant Felix Gaeta echoed over the ship-wide speakers. The crew moved with the precision and speed constant battle and training had ingrained in them. Vipers were fueled and ready for launch, emergency jump coordinates transmitted throughout the fleet, weapons primed and on standby, ready to open fire on any threat to the remnant of Humanity that was the Colonial Fleet.
“Just our frakkin' luck this would happen when we've got all those bureaucrats heading to the most vulnerable ship in the fleet,” Colonel Saul Tigh gripped as he stood next to Commander William Adama. Both hardened veterans kept their eyes on the DRADIS screen, trying to determine what kind of threat was once again in their path.
“Contact is stationary, bearing 320 Karum 187... They've launched fighters,” Gaeta reported.
“Cylons?” Tigh asked.
“Contact is too small to be a Cylon Basestar, but it's bigger then one of their Raiders or Heavy Raiders.”
The communications officer, Duealla spoke up at that moment, “Sir, we're receiving a transmission for the contact. 'This is the Terran Starship Ascension. Have been attacked by Cylon Basestars and are currently repairing our systems. Am carrying approximately four thousand Colonial military and civilian personnel. Request assistance.'”
“Has to be a Cylon trick, I've never heard of Terrans or whatever before,” Tigh said.
Adama hummed for a moment in thought, “Who do we have out there right now?”
“Cat, Hotdog, and Boomer are on CAP sir,” Dualla reported.
“Patch me through to Boomer,” Adama requested. “Boomer, Galactica. What do you see?”
“Galactica, Boomer. I'm seeing a lot of small fighters flying around this thing, but they are landing. The contact is about a third the length of Galactica it's width is almost equal along the wings. It almost resembles a hawk. Wait, I'm spotting Colonial Vipers and Raptors patrolling the area around the ship.”
Adama turned to Dualla and said, “Transmit in the clear: 'Ascension, have received your transmission and are moving to intercept. Will send medical and security personnel. Do you require anything else?”
Tigh looked at his friend and Commander across the CiC and asked, “You sure about this?”
“No, but four thousand survivors isn't something we can just ignore,” Adama admitted.
“It's smaller the we are, there's just no way to fit that many people on a ship that size,” Tigh pointed out.
“Maybe, but that's why we're sending a couple of Raptors in with just Marines.”
Adama turned to Dualla and said, “Contact Colonial-1, bring the President up to date on the situation. And recall Apollo and Starbuck from Cloud-9 for possible First Contact.”
As orders were followed Dualla called out, “Sir, the President is asking to speak with you.”
Adama picked up the handset on the DRADIS console and nodded for the call to be patched through. “Madam President.”
“Commander, I just wanted to be clear. The transmission identified that ship as a Terran starship?” President Roslin asked.
“Yes Madam President, that is what the transmission said.”
“Commander, do you know any Ancient Kobolian?”
“No, I never studied it,” Adama admitted.
“I was speaking with Elosha when your transmission came through. According to her the word Terra was used in Ancient Kobolian texts, most notibly the Scrolls of Pythia which are supposed to document the Thirteenth Tribes journey from Kobol to Earth, Earth being translated from the word Terra,” Roslin informed the Commander.
Adama looked directly at Tigh, years of serving together letting the Colonel know something was up. Adama spoke into the handset, “It almost sounds like you are telling me that this ship might be from Earth.”
It had been a secret agreement between the two to keep the fiction that Earth existed alive in order to bring hope to the fleet. Adama had been right, that it wasn't enough to live and that the people needed something to live for. But neither Commander Adama or President Roslin at the time even considered the possibility it was true.
“For now I think we should keep an open mind,” Roslin said over the line.
“If they do claim to be from Earth, it could cause chaos throughout the fleet,” Adama mentioned.
“Last thing I need right now, the Quorum delegates meeting on Cloud-9 and Zarack now we've got a potential first contact with someone from Earth.”
“Right now this is all conjecture. We need to focus on what we know for certain. He's claiming he's got four thousand people on his ship. Galactica is at least three times the length of this Ascension, and our optimal crew compliment is about thirty-five hundred with enough room for a few more. We know that ship has Colonial military craft in the form of Vipers and Raptors. We also know that it doesn't match anything in the Colonial database so far, but the design is close to Cylon.”
“I see, keep me apprised.” The connection ended and Adama went back to work.
Boomer and Crashdown had been joined by several Raptors and Vipers to provide medical assistance to the Ascension. Boomer had been given nominal authority to land and make contact, and had been given landing clearance to the ships port landing bay. It was as she came in for landing she noticed something.
“Crashdown, take a look,” she called to the back.
“Is it just me, or are their people working in the landing bay right now?”
The ECO looked out the canopy and saw several work crews outside the landing zone working to move damaged Vipers and get pilots out of their fighters. Just as they entered the bay Crashdown gave out a shocked, “Whoa! Something just glitched the DRADIS for a second. Wait a minute. Boomer, check your readings up there?”
Boomer had to look twice as she brought the Raptor in for landing. She could hardly believe what she was seeing, “I'm detecting an atmosphere. Oxygen, nitrogen, trace elements, pressure, how is this possible?”
“I have no frakkin' idea, Boomer.”
As the Raptors started landing on the deck and being towed to parking areas Boomer exited and was approached by what looked like a Captain she didn't know. As they approached he started ordering his people to assist the offload of medics to where they would do the most good. Boomer and Crashdown popped a salute, “Lt. Sharron Valerie Battlestar Galactica.”
“Captain Marcus Devon, Ascension CAG. Things are pretty crazy around here right now, we've still got fires all over the ship. Several of the compartments have collapsed in on themselves. I'll get you to the Triage area, we've got a lot of wounded to care for,” Captain Devon informed her. The Ship suddenly rocked as another area decompressed.
All of the sudden a voice came over the ships COMMS system, “All Hands, this is the Commander. Make immediate preparation to abandon ship! All Air Crews launch immediately, all able bodied people get to Crew quarters and prepare for separation. All personnel in world room to proceed to Crew Quarters, Sick Bay, and launch bays! Repeat, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”
Everything went straight to Hell after that.
Harry had been going through all the systems. Power had been spiking over the entire ship, and nothing he did from the bridge seemed to isolate the problem. Harry opened a line to the Drive room and said, “Chief, I want you to start pulling all the control crystals for the Jump Drive. Disconnect the hard line connections to the power grid and disengage the capacitors from the system.”
“On it, we're still trying to pry out crystal shards from all the ports.”
“Understood, just get it done as fast as you can or we could lose the whole ship,” Harry said over the comm and disconnected.
Lily was standing nearby, systems enchantments all open to her consciousness. As she stood there she attempted to remotely bypass and reroute power away from damaged areas. She tried to reroute a surge in the weapons systems but couldn't access the emergency cutoffs, “Surge in Weapons systems, starboard side particle beam turret number three. Unable to bypass or disengage.”
A second later the ship was rocked as the turret exploded and opened up another hull breach along the starboard wing. Secondary explosions and decompressions delivered even more damage to the vessel. In an instant Lily reported, “Sir, I have a massive build up of energy in one of the primary energy capacitor systems. It's reaching critical and an explosion would breach the Battery room. An explosion like that would breach the Battery room and cause a ship wide implosion of all areas.”
Harry cursed and he looked the status over, “How much time do we have before it goes?”
“Less then ten minutes.”
Castleman turned and looked at Harry, “We can't evacuate everyone in ten minutes.”
Harry looked him hard in the eye, “Then we try to save who we can, as many as we can while we try to stop this.”
He opened a COMM line to the entire ship and said, “All Hands, this is the Commander. Make immediate preparation to abandon ship! All Air Crews launch immediately, all able bodied people get to Crew quarters and prepare for separation. All personnel in world room to proceed to Crew Quarters, Sick Bay, and launch bays! Repeat, ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!”
Harry turned and headed to leave the bridge, “Potter, where are you headed?”
“Major, you are in command. I built this ship, I know her inside and out. I'll try to stop the overload or at least buy you some more time to get every one off.”
Major Castleman shook his head for a moment and then said, “You are the Commander, you should be one of the first to evacuate out of here.”
Harry stopped and then turned to the Major, “You're the Commander now. If it comes down to it, I'll go down with my ship.”
No one stopped Harry as he ran through the corridors, using every method he had to get to the affected area. As he ran he almost slammed right into Leoben as the other man was racing back in the other direction, “Did I just hear right? We're going to abandon ship?”
Harry just shook his head, “There is no we in this Leo, I'm going to do my damnedest to give you all time to get to minimum safe distance and save the ship.”
“Are you crazy? You have less then ten minutes to do this.”
“Maybe, but it's not a failure if it saves even one more person.”
Harry kept on his trek towards the problem area, Leoben fell into step and hussled to keep up right beside him, “You're gonna need some help then.”
Castleman Was heading the evacuation, trying to get as many people off the ship as possible. He just gave the go ahead for another of Potter's newly created shuttles to take off with a full load when Boomer found him.
“Sir, Commander Adama needs to speak with you.”
Castleman nodded and turned to Captain Devon, “Once the next shuttle is full launch immediately and make for the fleet.”
Castleman tapped the COMM in his ear and ordered Lily to patch him through, “Ascension Actual to Galactica Actual.”
“Who am I speaking with?”
“Major Castleman, sir.”
“What's your status, Major?”
Castleman sighed and said, “Ascension has sustained significant damage and our power systems are in danger of going critical, we have less then five minutes to get as many of the passengers off as possible and get them to a minimum safe distance.”
“Who is in Command of that ship Major?”
“Commander Potter, he's trying to stop the overload or at least buy us enough time to get everyone off the ship.”
“I'd like to speak with Commander Potter immediately,” Adama said over the radio.
“I'll have you patched through sir. Lily, patch Commander Adama to Commander Potter's comlink,” Castleman ordered and then went back to the important work of getting as many people off ship as possible.
Harry and Leoben ran to the bay that held the large capacitors that had been specially designed to help regulate the massive power provide by the CRPB systems for the entire ship. Harry directed Leoben to one of the junction boxes as he went to a bright control panel filled with control crystals. After switching out a few crystals and pulling out a few that had been blackened and damaged from the board he went to another set of levers on the other side of the bay and called out, “On my count. 3,2,1.”
Leoben and Harry pulled all the levers on the emergency breakers trying to cut off the flow of energy to the capacitors. After checking a readout panel he cursed, “It's already destabilized. We've got less then five minutes before it blows!”
“We got to get out of here!” Leoben yelled over the sound of conduits burning and circuits shorting out.
“I got one more card to play,” Harry said and started pulling levers to disconnect the conduits from the entire ship. A chime on his headset informed him of an incoming communication, “Potter.”
“Commander Adama here, what's your status?”
“The primary capacitor for the power distribution system is going critical. We've got about three minutes until it blows and takes the ship with it. I'm moving to jettison the capacitors into space, that will be our best bet to save the ship.”
“Understood, we are moving to pick up your passengers and assist with the evacuation.”
Harry turned to Leoben and pulled a wand. He cast a flurry of protective spells over him including one to stick him to the deck and yelled out, “Grab hold of something!”
Harry pulled the hood of his cloak up and over his head trusting in the protections he had entwined in his clothing, “Here's hoping I can save my ship so you don't have to find room for five thousand people. Lily, blow it!”
All of the sudden the roof above them blow away and vanished into the vacuum. Atmosphere rushing out into space buffeted the two men as the explosive charges on the capacitors blew and rocketed them off far from the ship. A moment later the telltale glow of a containment field popped into existence moments before blast doors closed around the area. Harry checked the control panel and status readouts before having Lily confirm.
“Galactica, Potter here. Primary capacitor has been ejected, and is currently heading away from the ship. All craft in flight are ordered to clear the blast zone immediately and head for Galactica.”
A countdown started being broadcast over the COMM units and communications frequencies. Harry could hear Lily's voice as she reported, “Detonation in thirty seconds.”
Harry quickly spoke into his comlink, “Lily, raise shields and move us away from the explosion as fast as you can.”
From outside it appeared as if a mostly transparent bubble had formed around the ship. Slowly the vessel started to move in the same direction as the escape compartments and smaller craft while at the same time the destabilized capacitor was rocketed away ad high speed. Moments later the capacitor exploded with the force of a nuclear bomb. Megatons of force and energy spread out in all directions, buffeting Ascension in it's blast wave. After a moment the ship righted itself and things began to calm down finally.
Harry let out a sigh of relief as he checked the ships systems and mentally accessed Lily's reports. From what he could tell, everything was stabilizing and becoming safe again. Harry smiled and tapped his comlink, “Lily, patch me through to all ships.”
“All ships, this is Potter. Ascension is stabilizing. Repairs are underway and we will try to ensure the ship is safe for all evacuees to return as soon as possible. Potter out,” Harry sighed and smiled. He turned to Leoben and said, “Time to tally the Butcher's Bill.”
Leoben gave him a look and moved his hands in a gesture of expectation, “You think you could unstick me from the deck first?”
Harry chuckled for a moment and then looked at him with a smirk on his face, “That depends, were you going to tell me you were a Cylon before or after whomever is in charge of the fleet over there tossed down a picture of one of your brothers on a slab?”
Leoben started to get nervous, “I don't know what you mean.”
Harry shook his head and looked him straight in the eye. Leoben couldn't help feeling a little uncomfortable under that stare as his glasses slipped down his nose. It was almost as if he was looking right through him.
“You know, you were also as shocked by the explosions as I was. Which means your compatriots didn't brief you on what they were planning. You had all agreed to take a wait and see approach because you couldn't understand what was happening around here. The idea of being able to spread the genocide to another world seemed pretty tempting to a few of you.”
Leoben knew full well that Harry didn't approve of the Cylon extermination of Humanity. His brethren hadn't exactly left him in an enviable situation. The only good thing was that if he was killed he'd just resurrect and go from there. Harry didn't seem like the type to go for a long drawn out suffering. He'd probably be tossed out an airlock and be back with the others shortly.
“If I had wanted to toss you out the airlock, I wouldn't have bothered with the sticking charm.”
“How the hell did you do that?” Leoben asked in a shocked voice.
Harry shook his head amusedly, “You've seen me link up with the ship mentally. I learned a skill known as Occlumancy when I was younger. It allows me not only to shield my mind from intrusion but to organize and better access the knowledge I have locked up in my head. It's companion skill is call Legillimancy, the ability to look into someones mind and follow the paths of emotions and thoughts to pick up information. It allows me such complete control and understanding of the status of Ascension when combined with Lily. It also allows me to pick up surface thoughts from an untrained mind. You Cylons did a bang up job on creating these human forms. Even know Lily tells me she can't pick up any differences between you and a base line human being.
“However, where your minds are protected by software firewalls and defensive measures like those found in a computer they really aren't protected from me. I can tell when you lie to me, I can pick up on your surface thoughts without much issue. I usually avoid that, but the current situation has really annoyed me.”
Leoben looked at him caught and then said, “So what now?”
“Now you get sealed in your quarters before someone from Galactica sees you. I'll try to convince whomever is in charge of that fleet that Terran law rules here regardless of what the Colonies considers illegal,” Harry said, his voice starting to show some of the exhaustion he was feeling.
Leoben looked confused for a moment, “What have we been doing so far in regards to the civlians?”
Harry sighed, “A bastardized combination of Terran and Colonial law, mostly Colonial. Obviously the whole ban on Artificial Intelligence is being ignored for the most part. Not that anyone here could really do much.”
Leoben just sighed and looked at Harry, “Okay, so I'll head to my quarters?”
The grin that spread across Harry's face ensured that Leoben knew fear. Suddenly he started sinking into the deck and panicked, “I thought you weren't going to kill me!”
“I'm not, I didn't say I wasn't going to get you back,” Harry said, laughing as the deck swallowed Leoben like quicksand. As soon as his head vanished, in quarters that had been assigned to him a body feel from the ceiling and landed in a comfy chair that had been there. Leoben started patting himself down for a second and then leaned back eyes closed.
“I should have known that was coming.”