AOH :: BATLRED7.TXT|
"Battlestar Red" part 7 of 9
To Panic or Not To Panic...
Things seemed to be humming along smoothly.
Hal had picked up a new habit of "humming" while
retrieving information for the various terminal operators. All in
text, of course. Considering all the other weirdness going on over
the past day or so, Adama considered this new, irritating habit not
<All vipers clear, Hal?> Omega asked.
<Lemmie check, okay?> Hal answered. <Hmmmm-
Hmmmmm-Hmmm-Hmmmm. Oh, okay, I see they're off! This is
going to be _sooo_ much fun.>
Tigh, reading over Omega's shoulder, snorted. "I can't
Omega sighed. <Hal?>
<What, Omega my man?> Hal chirped.
<Could you _please_ keep the editorial comments to a
minimum? We're used to the _pilots_ making jokes while beating
up on Cylons, not the ship's computer>, Omega patiently explained.
<Tigh getting upset?>
Omega glanced up at Tigh, whose eyes rolled just as he
turned away to check a new incoming report. Safe from prying
eyes, Omega answered, <Something like that. And when Tigh gets
<...Adama gets annoyed with the source of Tigh getting
upset>, Hal finished for him. <All right, all right. I'll keep the
enthusiasm down to a minimum. Sheesh. That man has no sense of
Omega was inclined to agree, but wisely refrained
from continuing the conversation.
Adama paced the bridge like a caged feral feline. So
far, so good. Nothing on their scanners. The vipers were well
within scanner range of the basestar and word had just come in
from Boomer and Sheba that Starbuck and Apollo had been spotted
and were now approaching the Fleet on the pre-planned course. But
things were going _too_ right. Since meeting the Boyz, a laser
wrench had managed to find its way into the works and mess up
the best-laid plans. He couldn't shake the feeling that the said
laser wrench in this particular plan was floating dangerously
close. No matter how many times he tried to dismiss the thought,
its specter remained stubbornly in his mind.
Tigh noticed the commander's unease and tentatively
The commander shook himself. "It's nothing. Anything
Tigh nodded happily. He loved it when a plan came
together without a glitch. "The vipers are meeting no resistance."
"Good," Adama remarked and then he resumed his
Omega's voice reflected fear. Bone-chilling fear.
Adama knew that at last the laser wrench had introduced itself
and was now happily bashing the works. He fled to Omega's side
and, with a bit more intensity than he realized, the commander
hissed, "What is it?"
"Hal has..." Omega began.
Hal interrupted him, screaming at the top of his text.
<BREAK OFF THE ATTACK! BREAK IT OFF! OTHERWISE WE ARE IN
SMEGGING TROUBLE! STOP THOSE FRAKING VIPERS! BREAK IT OFF!>
"Omega," Adama said warningly.
Omega interrupted the computer. <Hal, what's wrong?>
<The basestar! Oh, frak. The tackyon emissions when it
blows up will affect the time hole. You've got to break off the
<CALM DOWN!> Omega shouted. <Take a deep breath and
start from the beginning!>
For a moment, Adama was amazed and frightened.
Amazed because, for all intents and purposes, Hal had a greater
intelligence than a human. Well he, or it, always had that
intelligence, but the fact is, that intelligence could now express
itself making Hal, at least by a Galactican's definition, sentient.
That was the amazing part.
The scary part was that everyone who dealt with the
computer, or Hal, on a regular basis had quickly adapted to this
new change and had started treating the computer as if it _was_
Hal paused. Maybe in his electronic brain he was
actually taking Omega's advice. Adama tried not to imagine the
computer taking a deep breath. <Even though the basestar is at the
edge of my scanner range, it isn't far enough away>, the computer
finally said in a much calmer tone.
<Meaning?> Omega asked.
<It's close enough that when it blows, the resultant
radiation, emissions and all the other good stuff that comes from
blowing up a ship the size of your average basestar will affect the
<No need to shout, Omega.>
<You started it.>
"Omega!" Adama's warning tone was unmistakable.
As if sensing Adama's irritation, Hal ignored Omega's
dig. <It will do one of three things. Scenario one: There is a small
chance, a slight possibility, mind you, that _nothing_ will happen.>
<That doesn't sound so bad. So what are you getting all
worked up about?> Omega typed grimly.
If Hal could audibly sigh, he would've. <Note that I said
it was a very tiny possibility that nothing will happen. Scenario
two involves the following: the resulting residue of blowing up
said basestar will alter the time hole's own emissions, thus
destroying the pattern so that it would be impossible to find our
guests' home frequency before it naturally closes on its own,
which we believe will happen in a secton, thereby leaving the Red
Dwarf and its crew on this side. There is a _much_ bigger chance
of this happening.>
"Oh, frak," Adama remarked.
<What's option three?> Omega typed, praying that it
was better than Hal's second postulation. It wasn't.
<Scenario three, and this is the most likely outcome, is
that the emissions from a certain destroyed basestar will close
the time hole prematurely, thus leaving the Red Dwarf on our side.
Now, since they're the only people who know about Earth _and_
since they're heading in our general direction, we'd wind up with a
new ship in the Fleet. Are you beginning to get the picture?>
"Lords of Kobol," Tigh whispered.
<Now, granted, a ship the size of Red Dwarf in the Fleet
_would_ be useful. Imagine how many people we could fit on it.
And I imagine the landing bays could prove quite useful for
installing a permanent squadron. The question is, do these pluses
outweigh the cons for you?>
Omega, Tigh and Adama looked at each other for half a
micron. Adama then charged for the uni-com and issued the order.
"All vipers! Hold your fire! Wait at the edge of the basestar's
weapons range for further orders."
Boomer's voice came in answer. "Sir? What's
"It's too complicated to explain just now, lieutenant,"
"Sir? What if it launches its..." Boomer began.
Adama cringed. "If it launches fighters, then carry out
your original orders, but unless that happens, hold your fire.
"Yes, sir. Blue leader out," Boomer signed off.
Hal had to comment. <I thought you'd see my point.>
Adama looked around the bridge before asking the
question burning deep in his soul. "Now what?"
"We've got to get rid of that basestar. There's no
telling how long the Toaster will have it's calming affect," Tigh
Adama raised an eyebrow. "Do you seriously want to
chance getting a new ship in the Fleet?"
"Can't we leave them behind?" Tigh asked hopefully.
Before Adama answered, he already knew that it wasn't an option.
"Tempting, but in good conscience, I can't do that.
They're human. At least one of them is. Sort of. And they're from
Earth, or at least they know about it from Lords of Kobol know
where. It they're stuck here, we have to take them with us," Adama
"Well, it is a mining ship," Athena interrupted. "_That_
would be useful to have around." The commander's daughter saw
the conference up on the command console and decided to see what
was happening. Judging by the conversation so far, it appeared the
Boyz needed a devil's advocate in their favor.
"We _have_ a mining ship," Tigh reminded her.
"Yeah, but their ship is fully equipped," Athena argued.
"But we'd have to take the crew that came with it,"
Omega muttered. "And Holly."
Athena angrily spun on Omega. "You got something
against Holly? Is it because she's a blonde, or because she's a
"No. It's because she's crazy," Omega said. "Besides, Hal
told me that Holly was once a he and decided to perform a head sex
change operation on himself."
"You believe everything Hal tells you?" Athena asked
<Hey! At least I do something more useful than act as a
glorified vid phone operator>, Hal shot back.
"Stay out of it, Hal!" Athena and Omega shouted in
Tigh muttered under his breath, "It's madness like this
that leads me to believe we should just blow up the Red Dwarf
when we manage to get the crew back on 'er. I think we've caught
whatever they've got."
"STOP IT!" Adama shouted. The bridge went silent. "No
more bickering! We need to stay calm. Options."
"We sit here and do nothing," Omega said.
"We sit here and order the vipers to come back and then
run away as fast as we can," Athena offered.
"We sit here and order the vipers to blow up the
basestar and then get whatever's coming to us when the Red Dwarf
officially becomes part of the Fleet," Tigh grumbled.
Adama sighed. "Pros to blowing up the basestar," he
"One less basestar on our tail," Omega said.
"We'll get a fully equipped mining ship in the Fleet
along with its library about the Earth's solar system and culture,"
Athena said slowly.
"The crew would probably be a real menace to anyone
who gets in our way. That is, when they're not a menace to us,"
Adama nodded. Now they were getting somewhere.
Tigh, Athena and Omega looked at each other. Hal piped
up. <At least I'll have another intelligent computer to talk to.>
Omega typed, <You can't seriously mean Holly.>
<Hey! I gotta take what I can get. Those on-board
computers on the vipers are as dumb as fence posts>, Hal sniffed.
"For the sake of argument, let's put that in the plus
column," Adama said. "Now the fun part. Cons to blowing up the
"We'd get stuck with the Red Dwarf!" Athena, Omega
and Tigh shouted in unison.
"Anything else?" Adama asked.
You seriously need a better reason?" Tigh asked.
Adama thought about that. He didn't need a better
reason, but he needed more of them. "Yes."
"We'd need to leave Lister in charge of the Red Dwarf
and make the others the executive crew," Athena said. When they
looked at her, she added, "They know the ship best and there's no
telling what Holly would do if we didn't leave them in charge."
"But making the crew the commanders would mean that
they'd have to become part of the Colonial Service," Tigh yelped.
Athena smiled evilly. "Exactly."
Omega came up with a second good reason. "Their
technology is completely incompatible with ours."
"We could refit," Athena ventured.
"On a ship that size? It would take _yahrens_ , and
even then there are no guarantees because we don't know about
their technology and I think it's safe to say that they'll _never_
know anything about ours," Omega said. "That's assuming, of
course, that they know anything about their own technology."
"Are you seriously saying that your estimate of
_yahrens_ to refit the Red Dwarf is optimistic?" Adama asked.
Omega said one word. "Very."
Tigh came up with a third good reason. "The Council of
Twelve would have the entire military lined up and shot."
"Why?" Athena asked.
"When they find out that the Red Dwarf is an Earth
vessel, people are gonna mutiny and force us to turn back to the
Colonies because anything, including tangling with the Cylon
Empire, would have to be better than what little we know about
life on Earth," Tigh said.
"Actually, I can think of another con," Adama said
All eyes turned to him.
"We'd have to deal with Lister's clothes on a regular
basis," the commander finished. His head snapped up. "Tigh! Order
While the debate raged on the bridge, a certain raider
was speeding back to the Galactica. The occupants were very busy
whooping it up. Lister broke into a chorus of "Carry Me to Titan,"
the rude version. Though Starbuck and Apollo were utterly
mystified by most of the song, what little they could actually
understand was enough to make both warriors blush, even though
they were no strangers to such classics as, "Onwards Randy
Warriors" and the "Masochism Tango," sung to the tune of the
Caprican Military Academy of Military Arts and Sciences school
The Boyz, for their part, were in such a good mood that
no one reminded Lister that he couldn't sing. In the cramped
quarters of the Cylon raider, the Boyz hi-fived each other. Even
Rimmer got into the act. He didn't seem to mind, or even notice,
when the flesh-and-blood hands passed uselessly through his own.
At one point he demonstrated how he threw Baltar off his nut by
sticking his arm through Kryten's torso. He even threw in a "two-
fingered salute," to the hilarity of the others.
It was a rare moment of unity for the Red Dwarf Posse.
Starbuck and Apollo prepared for landing, afraid to
interject any comments of their own for fear that it would be
twisted by their mad passengers. As they worked in silence,
Apollo noticed something was wrong. "Now that's odd," he
"What is it?" Starbuck asked.
"Well, the vipers have reached the basestar and, as
anticipated, there's no response. But instead of attacking, the
squadrons are turning around and heading back this way."
Starbuck blinked. "But I thought the plan was to
destroy the basestar."
"So did I. I wonder what my father is thinking," Apollo
Up on the bridge, Adama was thinking that leaving the
basestar intact for now was infinitely more preferable to blowing
it up and getting stuck with the Red Dwarf crew forever.
Rimmer, who was always finely attuned to such things,
noticed that Apollo and Starbuck looked distinctly worried as he
and the others stumbled out of the raider and collapsed into a
hysterically laughing heap of jelly on the floor. He crawled through
Lister (a feat that he hoped _never_ to repeat in this lifetime) and
catwalked up to the apprehensive pair of warriors. He cleared his
throat and they slowly turned and fixed him with an intense stare.
He swallowed hard and almost walked away. Then it occurred to
him that whatever was wrong couldn't possibly be connected to
him because no one was yelling at him yet. He found his voice,
sorta. The question came out in a squeak. "What's wrong?"
"What, ah, makes you think anything's wrong?" Starbuck
asked in a nonchalant tone that sounded entirely _too_ nonchalant.
The tone was enough to quiet the other three Boyz.
Lister especially began to be nervous. Life since getting out of
stasis had also attuned him to noticing when something looked
Rimmer sounded more sure of himself when he pointed
out the obvious. "If nothing's wrong, then why do you look so
Lister shot to the hologram's side, eyes narrowing in
suspicion. "'E's right. Somethin' is wrong. What is it?"
"Really not your problem," Apollo hastily answered.
"Look, Granite Cheeks..." Cat began.
Apollo looked at Starbuck. "Granite cheeks?"
"Actually, a very opt observation. I'll have to remember
that," Starbuck muttered.
Cat ignored them. "...I don't know if you've noticed, but
we happen to be on this skiing-ant-in-space and if something's
wrong, just tell us. I can take it."
"No he can't," Lister said.
"Well, I know _I_ can't," Rimmer said. "But I want to
hear it anyway."
"Oh, nothing major. The squadrons aren't attacking the
basestar. They're coming back here instead," Starbuck explained.
The Boyz blinked in unison and demanded, "WHAT?!"
"_Lieutenant_," Apollo hissed angrily through his teeth.
"I'd rather they'd panic over a real problem than
whatever their imaginations could cook up," Starbuck shrugged.
"There's gotta be a reason," Lister said thoughtfully.
His head snapped up. "I bet the Toaster has something to do with
"Mr. Lister, sir, how would the Toaster infect..."
Lister said two words: "Dr. Langstrom."
Rimmer visibly paled. The warriors had, of course, seen
Rimmer pale several times in their short acquaintance with him,
so much so that they were tempted to ask if he was anemic.
However, they had never quite seen that particular mixture of
mortal fear and abject horror. They were not comforted in the
least to see the same fear and horror reflected in the eyes of the
others, even on the hard-to-read-the-expression-on-his-
Rimmer prayed. "Dear God...if that's true..."
"And me without me luck virus," Lister mumbled.
Starbuck ventured hesitantly. "Ah, I don't suppose you
could fill us in on this particular worry of yours?" He added
mentally, *And I don't suppose I really want to know.*
"We've got to get to the bridge. We've got to make sure.
We _could_ be jumping to conclusions. _God_, I hope we're jumping
to conclusions. I mean, we're wrong about lots of things. We're
probably wrong about this, too." As he said this, Rimmer started
"You're right. We gotta be wrong," Lister echoed, but his
voice seemed less sure. He looked at the two warriors. "Let's get
to the bridge. We'll explain on the way. Rimmer, stay away from all
communications equipment, just to be on the safe side. Let one of
us handle any talking that might be needed."
Rimmer emphatically nodded and, for good measure, hid
behind Cat, since Kryten _was_ a mechanoid and might very well
be another means of infection if they were right.
On the way up to the bridge, Lister related how Rimmer
had contacted a holovirus in their travels that nearly killed him.
He wasn't terribly clear on how a hologram could die because the
reasons were simply to technical for either warrior to understand,
which fueled their suspicions that Lister was nowhere near as
dumb as he pretended. Suffice to say, the infection was
transmitted by radio waves. With the mechanical technology of an
_entire_ basestar at its disposal, there was no telling what,
exactly, the Toaster would be capable of. It could very well have
sensed the danger to its own existence, since they had stupidly
failed to take out the scanners, and infected the vipers with its
own mad programming. From there, if wouldn't be that big of a
step to infect Hal and the computers of all the other ships in the
Starbuck and Apollo tried to picture how Boomer,
Sheba and the others would react if their vipers started to
chirpily offer them tea cakes and bagels. They gave up when they
began to picture squadrons of infuriated warriors returning to the
Galactica and gunning for their scalps. The only safe place to hide
would be -- <gulp> -- on the Red Dwarf!
They became more and more worried the longer they
thought about it. On any _normal_ day, both would have dismissed
the idea as totally preposterous. However, it had been anything
_but_ a normal day. They'd been exposed first-hand to the
RedDwarf Effect, which will be explained more in a bit. Leave it at
this: the RedDwarf Effect guaranteed that _anything_ could
happen. And since the Toaster had belonged to Lister, it stood to
reason that, due to familiarity, he would be the expert on what the
insidious kitchen appliance was capable of. As the warriors and
the Boyz approached the bridge, they mentally prepared
themselves for the worst. Upon their arrival, all eyes turned
For the first time in his life, Starbuck squeaked. "What
Adama clasped his hands behind his back. "We can't
blow it up."
Apollo sounded marginally calmer. "Why?"
Adama fixed the Boyz with a look that said nothing.
"Hal tells us that if the basestar blows, it will affect the time
hole, leaving the Red Dwarf here with us. Since we don't want to
be stuck...I mean...keep them here against our...I mean...their
will...we thought it best to recall the vipers."
Rimmer looked to heaven. "I will never doubt You again.
There is a God, there is a God, there is a God..."
"Rimmer!" Lister growled. He looked at the commander.
Tigh leaned over the railing of the command console.
"We honestly don't know. We should clear the area, but that would
leave you four and your ship alone. Since you're an unarmed
vessel," here Tigh shot Adama a dirty look since he obviously
disagreed with this point, "Ethically, we can't leave you in the
vicinity without protection."
"Besides," Adama added, "The basestar isn't doing
anything. It's just sitting there."
"So you have no idea what's happening?" Rimmer asked.
Adama merely shook his head.
Cat, Lister and Rimmer all looked at Kryten. The
mechanoid shrugged. "Don't ask me, sirs. All I know is that the
Toaster should disrupt the Cylons' normal operations, but I don't
know what the ultimate affect will be, let alone how long it will
"Great. Just smegging great," Lister said. "So we wait
'ere until we can go back or until those nasty pieces of work wake
up, small the coffee and come after our bonny arses."
These were two _very_ reasonable assumptions on
Lister's part and in the normal course of events, he'd be absolutely
correct. Those two assumptions _would_ be the only reasonable
assumptions, but he wasn't counting on _one_ very important
element. _The_ deciding element, in fact.
It was simple really. It was the RedDwarf Effect.
What, you may ask, _is_ this RedDwarf Effect? To
which, one might reply, 'You obviously haven't been reading very
carefully, have you?' The RedDwarf Effect is the result of a
special from of entropy, a localized field that seems to be carried
along in the wake and movements of a highly improbable group of
beings -- four beings, in fact, with whom you've already been
exposed to at great length.
What it boils down to is this: Wherever the Red Dwarf
Posse goes, chaos is sure to follow. The result? _Nothing_ ever
comes off exactly as planned.
Seeing the Light...
The Cylons were paralyzed, from I.L. series Lucifer, to
gold command Centurions, to their ranking inferiors to the drones
that did the janitorial work. Nothing was moving, not even Baltar,
who is still out cold on the floor of core control.
Then it happened.
A Voice came out of the darkness. A Voice with a
Commanding Presence that made it impossible to ignore, or,
failing that, to dismiss. Its greeting was simple and straight to
the point. "How-doodly-doodly-do! Would you all like some toast?"
The Cylons all along the transduction net firmly and
rudely told the Voice to shut up. They didn't know what toast was
and even if they did, they didn't want any. In fact, when they found
IT, they were going to kill IT and destroy the toast, whatever that
was, pure and simple.
"Now, that's not very polite," the Voice chirped. The
enforced cheerfulness sent several command Centurions into
convulsions. "How can you not want to know about toast? Let me
tell you all about it!" And the Voice began, starting with the
elements of what makes _fine_ bread and how it can make
The Cylons screamed. They groaned. They complained
all along the transduction net. Give them a lot of credit. The
Cylons put up a valiant fight against the seductive Voice, but in
the end, they were doomed to fail, simply because IT wore them
down with ITs enthusiasm. Before long, the first Cylon fell with
an electronic pulse that said, "Yes! I see it! I see the light tan of a
well-made toast, with butter slowly melting into those
scrumptious nooks and crannies..."
Several other Cylons stopped fighting the Voice and
tried to quiet this new source of infection. "Shut up! We don't need
you adding to the pressure!" they shouted. However, by allowing
their concentration to lag, the Voice insinuated ITs programming
into their little electronic minds. Before long, they were seeing
visions of warm bagels, tarty jelly rolls and melt-in-your-mouth
The rest of the basestar's denizens fell like a row of
dominoes. When they had all finally seen the error of their past
ways and the glorious future ahead, the Toaster allowed them to
wake up to their surroundings.
After all, there was a _lot_ of work that needed doing
and a whole universe to conquer...
END Part 7
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