This was a one-shot story I wrote about the loss of the Battlestar Achilles during the Cylon War. The ship makes an appearance in my 'Battlestar Victorious' series and I had always wanted to flesh out its backstory:
(Excerpt from Chapter One of 'Battlestar Victorious Volume One: Those Left Behind)
…he found another story. This one was about the battlestar Achilles, the thirteenth battlestar built and the one whose demise remained somewhat of a mystery. The Achilles was a single-ship class, designed to test some of the theories of how to improve on the original Columbia-class battlestars. Achilles had been boarded by the Cylons, and it seemed only a matter of time until the ship was lost and the Cylons had control of the battlestar. Once that happened they could have vented the atmosphere into space, and once the crew had suffocated the guns could have been turned on the vipers and other ships of the battle group. The ships commander, Commander Dominic Rigel, made a blind jump past the red line once the atmosphere of the ship began to vent. His sacrifice saved the lives of the pilots that had launched from Achilles to do battle with the Cylons, and the lives of the crews of the other vessels in the area. He didn't know if anyone would ever truly know where the Achilles had jumped to; it was one of those enduring mysteries. Regardless of where it had gone, the battlestar would no doubt be crawling with the Cylons that had been trapped on board by the jump.
(Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of 'Battlestar Victorious Volume II: The Return Home)
"You've been staring out that window for several minutes now and you haven't made the slightest sound. What's the matter Admiral?" General Alice Hyde asked with some concern.
"I was remembering Cosmora, when the Fourth Fleet engaged the Cylons. How much do you know about that battle?" Fleet Admiral John Kronus asked, still looking out into space.
Hyde shrugged, "I'm afraid that I know very little. Just that you won us a great victory that day. I never bothered to learn more about it."
"I had been posted to the battlestar Rycon as Tactical Officer. The Rycon was assigned to the Fourth Fleet along with the battlestars Achilles, Aeneas, Reprisal, Athena, and Etain. The Mephitis had been part of the Sixth Fleet. However after other battlestars were lost in the Battle of Nerio she was assigned to us for the Cosmora operation." Kronus said, his gaze still looking off into some unseen place in the distance.
"What was it that got you moved up the ranks so quickly after the battle?" Hyde asked, genuinely intrigued.
"Admiral Harrell, the commanders of the battlestars, their XOs, and others above me in rank were killed in the battle. The Achilles had been boarded by the Cylons and Commander Rigel jumped the ship away before they lost control to the toasters. The Rycon was severely damaged, Aeneas and Etain were destroyed, and the Reprisal was about as damaged as we were. I assumed command of the fleet and with some creative tactical maneuvers turned the tide and won the day. I was an ace pilot when I went into that battle and I left it a hero." Kronus said this as his mind ran the scenes from that day. He could still see the flames that had erupted in the CIC, the bodies of his commander and the XO, the screams of the wounded, and the confusion as to what to do next.
Loss of the Achilles
Written by: Wes Imlay
Forty-Five Years Before the Fall:
Battle of Cosmora:
Battlestar Achilles, Combat Information Center:
The hull of the Battlestar Achilles shuddered as another barrage of missiles from the Cylon baseships found their mark, throwing many in the CIC to the deck with a hard thud.
"Report!" Commander Dominic Rigel demanded when he had regained his footing.
"Lieutenant Ponce reports that her Marines are still holding the Cylons off from the accesses to Aft Damage Control and Auxiliary Fire Control but they're running low on ammo down there. She says that it won't be long before they're throwing rocks at them," Captain Erica Wahlstrom, the Communications Officer for the Achilles, reported after receiving a dispatch from First Lieutenant Corrine Ponce.
"Get Chief Harbert to send some of his people to the Small Arms Locker on the 04 Level to round up some weapons to use against the toasters," Rigel ordered Wahlstrom who immediately contacted the hangar deck to get a hold of the Chief.
Battlestar Achilles, Aft Damage Control:
First Lieutenant Corrine Ponce ducked back behind the bulkhead as a bullet flew by her head, if she had not moved she knew what would have happened. The staccato of gunfire between her Marines and the Cylons had been practically non-stop, and she was starting to worry about just what would happen if their ammunition ran out. There was no question as to the importance of this one section of the ship, the Fleet had figured out the Cylon boarding tactics and what the outcome would be if they were successful. It was one thing to have to fire on an enemy ship, but a friendly ship taken over by the enemy and the thought of having to fire on those who could still be alive weighed heavily on even the hardest person, it was psychological warfare at its finest.
"I'm hit!" someone exclaimed.
Ponce turned and saw that it was Private Ronald Laurenson.
"Medic!" she yelled and out came Corpsman Alice Bannister. Ponce looked over at Sergeant James Mannix and the two shared a knowing look at what needed to be done.
"Brewers, the two of you help Doc get Laurenson to cover!" Ponce yelled over the gunfire. Immediately two of the rifles stopped firing and George and Thomas Brewer, brothers from Virgon, ran over to where Laurenson lay to help Bannister move him into Aft Officers Gymnasium where a mini-triage area had been set up.
Going by the rules of the Colonial Fleet, George and Thomas Brewer should not have been on the Achilles together. In order to prevent an entire set of siblings being lost with a single ship it was now against the rules for brothers and sisters to serve together on the same ship. It was thanks to a clerical error that Thomas Brewer found himself serving on Achilles, the clerk at Fleet Headquarters had dropped the 'H' from his name thereby making it appear as though he was not related to George Brewer.
"And what the frak do we do when the rifles run out of ammo?" Private Ernest Pollard, a young Marine from Caprica who was not far removed from boot camp, asked. He sat down low behind a storage box that lay strewn across the floor as the Cylon bullets continued to hit it one after the other. Pollard's heart beat so heavily that his whole body seemed to throb with every beat. His rifle shook in his hands even as he reached up to fire off a short burst at the Centurions at the far end of the corridor.
"Pull out a sidearm and start shooting until you can't! After that just hit them with the butt of your rifle, but we're going to keep them from Aft Damage Control or die trying!" Ponce said as she let loose another volley of rifle fire that kept an advancing Cylon pinned.
Before anyone else could speak, the battlestar shook violently as another enemy missile found its mark. The Cylon forces seemed to care little about their own boarding party if it meant that a lucky shot put the Battlestar out of the fight. They were true warriors through and through. The Marines who fell to the deck got up immediately and started firing again at the Cylons who tried to use the moment to advance further along the corridor.
Combat Information Center:
Another large explosion rocked the ship, that one must have been closer to the area of the ship where the CIC was located. The Battle of Cosmora was raging around the Achilles, the Colonial forces and the Cylons engaged in a skirmish that had escalated into a full-scale battle.
"Send word to launch the last of the reserves immediately. I want every bird we have in the fight," Rigel said to his XO, Colonel Floyd Symons.
"With all due respect sir, I think you're giving up on the Marines too easily," Symons protested.
"I'm looking at the facts. We're boarded and the Marines are being whittled down by the Cylons, the situation is what is."
"What do you want the crew on the hangar deck to do once they've launched the rest of the air group?" Symons asked.
"Tell them to take up arms and fight the Cylons, they need to help the Marines keep the Cylons from taking Aft Damage Control and Auxiliary Fire Control," Rigel said as his hand reached down and felt the sidearm that was attached to the belt of his service uniform, "We're all riflemen today."
"For the record, I already hate everything about this," Symons said as he left to get the Commander's orders implemented.
"As do I," Rigel said under his breath. This was only his ninth month in command of the Achilles, and he already had to prepare himself for the possibility that it would soon come to an end. Before he was the XO of the Galactica and now this, he took a moment to get his thoughts in order before he let his mind wander down paths he could ill-afford to go down.
"Commander, the Etain and Aeneas were just destroyed by the Cylons and the Reprisal just experienced a large explosion in the CIC. Admiral Harrell and most of the senior staff were lost," Lieutenant Peter Fraser announced with a voice that betrayed the stunned state his mind was in from having read the report.
'It just keeps getting better,' Rigel thought before deciding on his course of action, "Helm; we are moving Achilles out of the engagement zone in case the Cylons take control of the ship."
"Aye aye sir, moving away from engagement zone," Petty Officer Paula Calvin announced as she began to use the helm controls to maneuverAchilles away from the action.
Battlestar Achilles, Hangar Deck:
Chief Cyril Harbert put the receiver down and looked around at the organized chaos that was his hangar deck. It seemed the enlisted and the officers were both wandering around in an exhaustion-fueled haze brought on by the intensity of the battle that raged outside the armored hull of the Achilles.
He started to walk away when the phone in his office began to ring once again. He picked it up and recognized the voice of Captain Wahlstrom.
"Chief, the Commander wants you to launch all available Vipers and Raptors immediately."
Harbert was stunned, "Does this have to do with the Cylons?"
"It's a precaution you know, worst case scenario and all."
"Understood, I'm on it!" Harbert said as he sat the receiver down to disconnect the call.
He walked out of the office and into a sea of apparent chaos as the crew scrambled about their duties. He looked at the people running around one more time, it was going to be rough but Commander Rigel's orders simply had to be done.
"Jayes, get over here now!" Harbert called out when he saw Specialist Alwyn Jayes within shouting range.
"Yes Chief, what can I do for you?" Jayes asked as soon as he could get close enough to talk to Harbert without having to yell.
"I want you to take Kershaw, Lear, Magahy, Ainscough, Traynor, Stockbridge, and Westlake to Aft Small Arms Locker 107 on the 04 Level, and get the weapons and ammo to the Marines at Aft Damage Control and Auxiliary Fire Control. Split up as needed once you get there and use whatever equipment you need for transport," Harbert said as he kept going over in his mind the consequences of what would happen if this was not successful.
"You got it Chief," Jayes said before leaving to round up the people he would need for this particular assignment.
"Cairns, come here!"
Harbert waited and not long after he had called for him Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas C. Cairns walked up to him and asked, "What can I do for you, Chief?"
"I need you to help me get every available Viper and Raptor launched, ASAP. I'll take the port side and you take the starboard."
Combat Information Center:
"Sir, I'm receiving word from the teams the Chief sent to bring supplies to the Marines. They ran into the Cylons at Aft Port Supply Offices, the Second Port Aft Auxiliary Generator Room, Aft Crew Berthing, the Aft Officers Wardroom, and it would appear the Cylons are now advancing towards Hangar Deck Control," Fraser reported as he received the information at Tactical.
"Let the Chief know that him and his people need to keep the Cylons away from Hangar Deck Control until all our birds are launched," Rigel ordered before he went to work at the Command and Control Station in the center of the CIC. He brought up a schematic of the Achilles and took note of the areas the resupply group had run into the Cylons.
"Sir, Major Kronus of the Rycon has taken command of the Battle Fleet. Also we have received word that Admiral Carnac's Battlestar Group One will be jumping into range of Cosmora shortly and assist us against the Cylons," Wahlstrom reported.
'Major Kronus?' Rigel thought to himself in disgust, if a Major was assuming command of the entire battle fleet then the other ships must be in worse shape than he had imagined. In his mind he felt it was his duty to get his house in order so he could relieve the 'Major'. But as the time strolled on it became increasingly unlikely.
"Perhaps we can use the maintenance spaces to move the supplies to the Marines?" Symons asked as he walked to where Rigel stood with reports of the Marines taking further losses against the Cylons.
"Let's try that, perhaps there are some ammo hoists in the area that we can use to move them," Rigel looked at the report and then looked back at Symons, "either way it looks like we're running out of time."
"The supply group has found a maintenance space access in Ready Room 5, they believe they can reach Aft Fire Control from there," Wahlstrom announced.
"Thank the Gods," Rigel said at this piece of good news before thinking, 'let's hope they can get a route to Aft Damage Control."
Auxiliary Fire Control:
Much like it was over in Aft Damage Control, the firefight taking place at Auxiliary Fire Control was just as intense.
Second Lieutenant Colin Parry swore under his breath as another one of his Marines fell down from the fire they were taking from the Cylons, "Who got hit?"
"It's Parsonage, sir," Private Jana Nankivell said as she crawled over to where Private William Parsonage lay prone on the deck.
"How is he?" Parry asked, though he was afraid he knew the answer.
"He's dead sir, toasters drilled him between the eyes," Nankivell said.
"Get his weapons, we might need them if we run low on ammo," he hated to do it but that was the nature of warfare. He could mourn those lost later; right now he had to keep his mind focused on how to keep the Cylons from taking Auxiliary Fire Control.
There was movement to the rear, "Someone keep the toasters from coming up that aft corridor!" Parry was worried about an attempt that way, and it seemed his fears were realized.
"We're friendly, don't shoot!" a voice yelled from down the corridor
Parry looked and saw three people carrying small ammo boxes in their direction, "You idiots about got yourselves killed!"
"Well it's nice to see you too sir, we've brought you some presents," the woman said as she brought a box of ammo to where the Marines had bunkered down for the firefight with the Cylons.
"Truth is I'm not going to look a well-armed horse in the mouth, distribute the ammo then grab a gun and start shooting."
"Wait a minute, we're from the hangar deck…we're not Marines," the woman protested.
"What's your name?" Parry asked.
"Aviation Machinist Mate Tara Jameson," she said as she hit the deck as a round from the Cylons flew by her head.
"Well Jameson, right now there is no difference here between who is a Marine and who isn't. I've lost seventeen people trying to hold this position, so you can pick up a gun and start shooting those frakking toasters!"
Jameson simply nodded and went about the duties that Parry had assigned her.
The Vipers were in the process of being launched when the door to the Aft Storage Bay exploded in a sheet of flames, the Cylons had managed to get their hands on the explosives needed to blast the door.
The Centurions came out with their guns blazing a fiery hell of bullets at the Colonials. Pilots and deckhands were cut down as though a giant scythe had descended on the hangar deck.
Harbert began yelling orders to his deck gang but it was no use, they took off for the various exits only to find that in the time they had spent getting what Vipers and Raptors they could off the ship that the Cylons had devised a plan to trap them on the hangar deck, they were now like the proverbial fish in a barrel.
"What do we do Chief?" three of the deckhands asked.
"Grab a torch, a wrench, whatever you can and see what we can do. If it can be used a weapon then use it," Harbert noticed that the pilots had pulled out their sidearms and were already trying to find cover while they shot at the Cylons but it would only be a matter of time until the ammo was gone and the fighting would get even more up close and personal.
"LeCompte," Harbert called out as he grabbed one of his knuckle draggers by the uniform and pulled him to the side, "I want you to contact the CIC, tell them the Cylons have stormed the hangar and we're fighting them off but it doesn't look good."
Gerard LeCompte looked stunned for a moment, "What are you going to do Chief?"
"I'm going to stay here and die with my boots on, now get going!"
LeCompte ran away towards the Harbert's office. As for Harbert, he grabbed the closest heavy tool he could find and went into the fray. He was not afraid of dying, after all he had taken an oath when he enlisted, and if he was going to die then would try to take as many of the toasters with him as he possibly could.
Combat Information Center:
Wahlstrom was silent at first when she put the receiver down, as though her mind was still trying to process the information that had just been delivered.
Rigel noticed this and came over immediately, "Report!"
"I just received word that the Cylons have stormed the hangar deck, from the information I was given it seems likely all were killed," Wahlstrom said with a voice that seemed to shake with a mixture of dread and despair.
"What?" Rigel asked in stunned disbelief at what he was hearing.
"Aviation Machinist Mate Gerard LeCompte was on the line with me relaying information from the Chief's office when there was a burst of gunfire. I heard him scream and then the line went dead, Commander I think the Cylons have secured the hangar."
'Damn it!' Rigel's mind screamed. He kept himself composed; at a time like this it was important that the crew not see their Commanding Officer panic in any way.
Instead he thanked Wahlstrom and headed over to Tactical, "Mr. Fraser I want all the bulkheads on the corridors leading from the hangar deck sealed. If the Cylons have the hangar then our only course of action is to make sure they can't advance further into the ship."
"Sir, what do we do about the people who are trapped on the wrong side of the bulkheads?" Fraser asked right away before he could catch himself.
Rigel simply patted the Tactical Officer on the shoulder, "Pray to the Gods that they make it out alright, otherwise there's not much else we can do for them."
Fraser simply nodded and went about carrying out the orders he had been given. Rigel walked over to the Command and Control Station and picked up the receiver located on the side of the console. This receiver was a direct line to Engineering, and the call he was about make was enough to make him sick to his stomach.
"This is the Chief," Chief Engineer Nathan Goff said as he picked up the receiver in his office in Main Engineering.
"Chief, this is the Commander. I need your assistance with a plan in case the Cylons somehow take the ship."
"You have my attention sir, what do you need done?" Goff said as he began to think of the thousands of scenarios that could result of this call…none of them all that appealing.
"Right now the Marines are holding the Cylons at bay near Aft Damage Control and Auxiliary Fire Control. However, the Marines are running low on ammo. I also just received word that the Cylons have taken the Hangar Deck. I need you to make sure the FTL drive will be able to jump at a moment's notice," Rigel said with a voice that seemed strangely at ease considering the chaos that was surrounding the ship.
"Any location we're going to be jumping to sir, won't I need to consult with Tactical on this?"
"No Chief, we're going to do a blind jump. I may lose this ship, but I'll be damned if I'll allow it to be used against our fellow men and women in the Fleet. That's not the only part of this plan."
Goff arched an eyebrow, "Very well then, what's the other part?"
"Tactical will do the jump, I'm having a plot done that should take us far past the Red Line. Your job is to make sure that the FTL is up and going. The other part of your job is to sabotage the ship's FTL and engines in such a way that the Cylons will be unable to restart the ship and jump back into the war."
"Wait a sec; you're saying we're going to strand ourselves in the middle of space with no idea where we're at?" Goff could not believe what he was hearing from the Commander.
"If they take either of those two areas, especially Aft Damage Control then we're dead already. I'm just making sure that if the Cylons win the battle they'll have a hollow victory."
"Understood Commander, we won't let you down," Goff said.
"I know you won't Chief, but let's hope we don't have to put this plan into action."
"So say we all," Goff said as the connection was severed and he was left standing in his office holding the receiver.
He walked out of his office and started ordering his snipes to don their emergency breathing apparatuses. If things were going that badly above them that the ship was in danger of being lost then it made sense for them to be ready in case the atmosphere was vented. If there were the case then his last mortal act would be to strand the Cylons in whatever part of space they ended up jumping to.
Aft Damage Control:
The firefight was intensifying now; it seemed the Cylons could somehow sense that the Marines were being worn down by attrition. Ponce was grateful for the deck gang that had brought the ammo to them, it was enough to bolster their reserves and ensure that the fight against the toasters would keep going. The problem was that their numbers had been depleted considerably due to combat injuries and fatigue was starting to creep in.
"What I wouldn't give for some stims," Ponce swore under her breath as she let loose another barrage of gunfire from her assault rifle.
"So far Auxiliary Fire Control has yet to be taken, the reports I've received are encouraging," Private Olin Perry said after receiving another report from the Marines guarding that section of the ship.
"That's encouraging, but I would rather they just knock them out and come here to us," Ponce said through gritted teeth. It seemed the Cylons were pouring more of their forces into taking this one section than they were into other areas of the ship.
"They're advancing!" Pollard exclaimed as the sound of heavy metallic footsteps pounded on the deck coming their way.
"Ready grenades!" Ponce yelled as the Marines followed her orders and began hurling grenades in the direction of the Cylons.
The loud explosions seemed to rattle the bones in the bodies of the Marines, but it at least stopped the Cylon advance for now.
"Let's show them what the Colonial Marines are made of…" Ponce did not get to finish that sentence as an RPG found its mark near where the Marines were huddled.
Ponce was thrown hard against the bulkhead and her body felt as though it had been stabbed in several places and they all hurt in ways she could not have imagined.
The sound of the Cylons steps sounded again on the deck, this was it and there was only thing to do.
"Fix bayonets!" Ponce ordered to those who were still able to stand. They would either stop the Cylons here or die trying. Near here was the body of Private Perry. Ponce grabbed the receiver and sent word that Aft Damage Control was in danger of being overrun by the Cylons.
The Marines who could still stand readied their bayonets, even those who had been wounded rushed out of the nearby gymnasium to help defend against the incoming rush. If they were to die here it would be a last stand worth remembering.
Combat Information Center:
Rigel held the report in his hand, which was trembling now after what he had read. The Cylons had broke the Marines at Aft Damage Control and now it seemed to only be a matter of time until that vital station was overrun. He did not have much time to think about possibilities except the worst possible outcome.
"All CIC personnel are to done breathing apparatuses immediately. Mr. Fraser, prepare the ship for jump. Make it a blind one, or at least get us as far past the Red Line as you can," Rigel began giving his orders that the personnel immediately started to carry out. It seemed they knew that the game was almost over and they were on the losing team. Even so, they were going to carry out their duties and uphold the high standards one would have expected from a member of the Colonial Fleet.
"Incoming message from Lieutenant Ponce, putting it on loud speaker," Wahlstrom said before Rigel could argue.
"Sorry…sir…tried to hold them off…Damage Control…taken…" Ponce's last words on the speaker before there was a cough and a gurgling sound that left little doubt that she was dead.
"Begin jump!" Rigel shouted.
"Jump in Five…Four…Three…Two…One," Fraser said as an uncomfortable hissing sound began to be heard throughout the CIC. The Cylons were venting the atmosphere, the Achilles was lost.
Rigel closed his eyes and waited to complete the jump into parts unknown.
"Jump complete," Fraser announced through the breathing apparatus.
"Good work Mr. Fraser," Rigel said as he walked over and picked up the phone for Engineering. A moment later when Chief Engineer Goff picked up Rigel simply said, "The ship is lost, you know what to do."
A minute or two later the lights in the CIC went off, with only the emergency lights providing an eerie ambiance to the room.
Chief Engineer Goff stood before the FTL display as the lettering changed from a green 'ONLINE' to a red 'OFFLINE'. In addition to the FTL being taken offline the engines had been sufficiently damaged by various impromptu means and were now silent for the first time since the Achilles had been first commissioned.
Goff stood there along with his fellow snipes in a section of the ship was for all intents and purposes…dead.
"All that is left is to simply wait for the end," Goff said as he turned to face the crew had assembled around him; "How you spend your last hours are up to you. I'll stay here in case the ship is saved and I can restore power. Being your Chief has been an honor," Goff stopped before emotion could get the better of him. He knew he was fooling himself, Commander Rigel meant for this to be a one-way trip but he dared not tell them that just so they could a little hope to hold onto.
Combat Information Center:
In the CIC, Rigel had given similar orders to the personnel assembled there. Once it was confirmed that Engineering had done its part to disable the battlestar, Rigel released the crew from their duties and were now free to do what they wished. A few brave souls, led by Colonel Symons, decided to try to make their way to Aft Damage Control to retake the area from the Cylons. Rigel wished them luck and said that any who wished to join them was free to do so.
As for Commander Dominic Rigel, he pulled a seat from an abandoned Tactical Station and simply sat there in the CIC of a doomed battlestar.Achilles had been a good ship, just a victim of bad luck more than anything.
He thought of his family on Scorpia. His wife, Lara, would get the news of his death and his four kids would wonder why their dad would not be coming home ever again.
As time went by his mind began to fog and consciousness seemed to be leaving him. He knew he was running out of oxygen and would soon be dead. He accepted this fate of course; he just hoped that his decision to jump the Achilles away before the Cylons could use the ship for their own purposes would be viewed favorably. If History were to judge him, perhaps the judgment would be kind to him and his crew. They had fought so hard to save their ship and deserved to be remembered for that.
As he began to lose his battle to stay conscious he once again thought of his family, he was determined to make his last thoughts be of them…