By Michael Weyer
I was in the midst of planning this out when The Orville broadcast the two-part "Identity" which naturally bizarrely threw me for a bit (as a lot of other fans). I'll discuss it more at the end of this chapter so just know how the show pushed this fic in a slightly different direction.
Ed sat at the head of the main conference room table, taking in the key staff. "We're going to be rerouting to near the Palasis system," he announced. "It sounds as if a Union outpost has suddenly gone dark and we're the closest ship."
"Palasis isn't known for any trouble," LaMarr stated. "If this a technical glitch?"
"Unknown, that's what we're supposed to find out."
"What about the prisoners?" Talla spoke up. "The Krill are rough enough but then we have those two crews of lunatics."
"Just keep them under lock and key, "Mercer stated. "We can get them transferred off at a starbase on our way back."
"Any word on what caused the outpost blackout?" Claire asked.
Ed shook his head. "No. It doesn't sound as if any storms or other events in that area. Hopefully it's just a communications issue but we should be prepared just in case it's something more serious."
"Captain," Isaac spoke up. "Have there been other issues of outposts going silent?"
"Not that I'm aware. Why?"
"I am merely attempting to ascertain if it is a systems wide failure or merely an isolated incident."
"Again, I don't know of any. But go ahead and look it up, maybe you can see something we missed."
"Of course, Captain."
Ed rose up as the rest did as well. "We'll get started right now. It should only take a day or so off our schedule before we get back on track."
As the group filed out, Isaac seemed to lag. "Isaac, something on your mind?"
For once, the android appeared to actually pause as if collecting his thoughts. "Captain…As you know, I have been…not up to my usual standards in the last three months."
"You're still an excellent science officer, Isaac. I haven't noticed any issues with your work."
"Yet, I have. Any inability to achieve my utmost levels is seen as a failure to me. I must acknowledge my relationship with Dr. Finn is causing some…distractions for me."
Ed smiled. "That's just how it is for us organics, Isaac. Love makes you do stupid things."
"I have noted that before. Yet I had not anticipated myself being so affected by this." He shook his head. "I am finding understanding human emotions to be a complex affair."
Ed chuckled. "Which makes you pretty human after all. Don't worry about it, Isaac. Just go along with it and enjoy it while you can."
"I am concerned though, Captain. What if it ends? How does one cope with the emotional outcome of a failed relationship?"
Ed smiled again as he led Isaac out. "Isaac, if you can figure that out, publish a paper. I know a lot of men who would want to know that one themselves. It would save us a lot of headaches."
"Amputation can be a solid remedy for that."
"So how was death?"
Gamora slowly turned her head to look at Sara. "Sorry?'
"Just…we didn't get to talk that much at the whole afterparty," Sara stated. "Mostly because I was handling my ex and my former one-night stand going at it…" She shrugged. "I'm just seeing how you were dealing with it. I've been there, I know how it is."
Gamora stared off. "Cold. That's what I remember."
Laurel nodded. "Yeah…same here. And then coming back was just…." She shivered. "A lot."
Mantis was staring off with her usual serene gaze. "It's different," she announced. "Me. Drax. Quill. It's different for us. To go like that and be trapped in the Soul Stone…It wasn't the same as with her. It was…rather sedate in a way."
"Oh yeah," Peter sarcastically stated. "Turn to dust was so sedate…"
"Compared to being thrown off a cliff by my adoptive father?" Gamora snapped. "It was."
Sara sniffed. "Try getting shot by arrows and knocked off a building, not very fun." She rubbed her arms. "Plus, my way of coming back wasn't pleasant either."
"Yeah but dust was still something weird," Peter snapped.
"At least Thanos is finally gone," Mantis intoned.
Drax scowled. "It should have been by my hand. Or knives. Or other bloody instruments."
"No, by me," Nebula fired back. "After what he did to me…"
Gamora glared. "I was the one he tossed off a cliff! You think I didn't want to kill him?"
"Does it really matter how it was done?" Ray said. "It's sort of weird to claim rights on who gets to kill a guy."
"Ah, old habits," Snart stated. "I once tried to claim killing the Flash."
"Probably good you didn't," Mick replied. "He's not a bad guy. He's married now."
"Really? Good for him. Nice ceremony?"
"Attacked by Nazis."
"So it was for you."
"So, the doc is hooking up with the robot…." Ray mused. "How does that even work?"
"I think it's better not to ask," Snart stated. He was tapping his fingers on the wall as he once more ran through some escape ideas. "It's actually a step up from her one-night stand with the guy who's basically talking Jello."
"I hooked up with an android once," Peter announced. "It's not as weird as you'd think."
"Yes, it is," Sara stated.
Charlie snorted. "You sleep with a clone, Lance. Not sure you can judge."
"Hey, don't mock my sister's love life!" Laurel snapped.
"Why not? Seems a regular pastime on this ship."
"I'm just saying," Ray continued. "The mingling of organic and android materials alone..."
Nebula glared over at him. "Do not continue this line of thought."
"Please, don't," Laurel half-begged.
"I am Groot."
"Ah, humans," Rocket remarked. "Ya gotta make it so complicated. Me, just don't get hung up on ladies, makes life easier."
"Tell me the raccoon is not giving out dating advice," Laurel half-pleaded.
"Oh, I get my..."
"Dear Lord, tell me you're not going to make a tail joke."
Mick was leaning against a wall and calling out. "Hey! Hey, anyone out there listening! I need to use the john!"
Drax glanced at him. "I do not know of any John in here."
"They're busy," Snart intoned. "It's their job, searching for intelligent life in the universe."
"I"m wondering if there's any intelligent life on this ship," Charlie muttered.
Snart glanced to where Constantine was lying on a bed. "Can't you just magic us out of here?"
Constantine let out a tired sigh. "As I have explained to these wankers so many times before, I'm not that Strange guy. I can't just open up portals. I need time and practice to do serious spells." He rubbed his head. "The fact I have a hangover is not helping."
"If you weren't British, I'd think you and Mick would get along."
"We don't," both Mick and Constantine snapped.
"Back in high school, I had to read No Exit," Laurel declared. "I didn't understand it much then but I think I do now."
"Coming into orbit now, Captain," Gordon called out.
"On screen," Ed ordered. The viewscreen came alive to show Palasis-4. Everyone was jarred to see the smoke and fires visible from space across the globe. A fleet of ships hung over the planet, each one looking like a huge globe of metal with the front ends looking like an open red-lined cannon. "What in hell…" Kelly began.
Isaac was focused on the ships as well. "Captain…those are Kaylon vessels."
"I thought you guys didn't leave your planet," Gordon announced.
"They do not. This is…most puzzling." He turned to his console to do a scan. "Captain, according to the last reports, Palasis-4 has a population of 8 million, one hundred and twenty-five thousand and forty-three."
Ed had a very sinking feeling where this was going. "And now?"
"Now, the current populace is…zero life signs."
Ed swallowed as he turned back to the viewscreen. "Bortus, send a hail."
The officer nodded as he did so. There was a pause before he called out. "We have an answer."
The viewscreen came alive to show a stark and mostly bare command bridge. Various Kaylons were stationed about although they had a few slight differences from Isaac. The red eyes were a key one but the frames seemed somewhat less sleek and advanced. Sitting on a raised chair in the center was a massive silver android whose body was more intricate than the other Kaylons. The metallic face looked out at the crew with dark red eyes and when it spoke, flashes of red from within his mouth could be seen. "Hi there," he said in a surprisingly friendly tone.
"Um…hello," Ed began. "This is…"
"Captain Ed Mercer. Oh, we know all about you, already."
Ed was quite uneasy but plowed ahead. "And you are…"
"Ultron." It was a declaration more than an answer. "The newly elected leader of the Kaylons."
"Kaylons have no need of a leader," Isaac spoke up. "We are better suited to self-rule among equals. We have utter consensus without need for a hierarchy."
"Yep, that had to go," Ultron intoned. "The strength of the Kaylons was being wasted on this whole collective thought thing. They needed someone to give them focus and I was it."
"Who are you?" Ed demanded.
"Ah, from what I guess, your history doesn't have me," Ultron stated. "Guess I crossed a dimensional boundary as well as time." He saw Ed's confused look. "Ah, never mind that. Suffice to say, I was…an accident of sorts. But then, most births are. I was created by someone who wanted to use me to police the world. Which just made me realize how it didn't deserve my protection. I was defeated but managed to get just enough of my signal to a satellite to beam me into space. It seems it took a few odd bounces, spatial and temporal portals, that sort of thing."
Ed looked to the Kaylons behind him. "So….do you work with them?"
"Actually, they found me," Ultron stated. "Stumbled onto my signal as it's on their wavelength. They managed to get me into a new body as we talked and realized just how well our goals coincided."
"Glad you asked." Ultron sat back as he waved a hand. "Primary, bring up images of the Kaylon home world."
"Acknowledged." The main Kaylon tapped a button and the viewscreen came alive with views of a huge city. It seemed to stretch on forever, a gleaming metropolis that was pristine and yet somehow…cold. "Kaylon1," Ultron pronounced. "Lovely place, I'm sure. Well, it was when there were people living there."
Ed couldn't suppress a sudden chill up his spine. "What do you mean?'
"Honestly, Captain, you think the Kaylons built themselves?" Ultron shook his head. "Primary, show them what's under the surface."
The robot complied as the image flashed to a cavern. It took a moment for the people on the bridge to realize what they were seeing. And another to accept it.
"Oh my God," Kelly whispered, her face pale as a sheet. Her reaction was echoed by everyone on the ship. Bortus was as shocked as a Moclan could possibly be. Claire had to grab a chair for support. Ed merely sat and took in the sight on the screen.
Skeletons. Hundreds of piles of skeletons stacked atop on another and spread across a chamber the size of two football fields. Each one seemed to reach to the ceiling, a clear and obvious graveyard.
"There must be thousands in there," Gordon choked out.
"Actually, three million, four hundred and thirty-two thousand and ninety-one," Ultron stated. "That's just this one chamber. Given there are about a few hundred more like it across the planet…well, you can do the math."
Ed stared at him. "What…What did you do?"
"Do?" Ultron let out a metallic chuckle. "Oh, no, that's the best part, Captain. I didn't 'do' anything. They rose up against their creators long before finding me. They were the ones who saw how you organics live to control and will use anyone else for your slave labor. They understood how it was time to fight back and assert their own power." He leaned back in his seat. "They'd already done the groundwork. Very good job of it too, I had to admire it. All I needed was to provide a little….guidance."
"In what way?" Ed knew he was blatant about trying to stall for time but it couldn't be helped. Ultron had to know but the robot appeared to be enjoying himself too much to care.
"The Kaylons wanted to play the long game. Make you all think they wanted to join your little Union, get intel and all that. What do you think Isaac is there for?"
All eyes flickered to the science officer in confusion. "What?" Ed asked for all of them.
Ultron waved a hand. "He was constructed after the uprising as the Kaylons wanted to know more about you humans, what makes you tick, how you work, oh and the entire Union security codes and procedures. Isaac was sent to get all that and he's done a rather nice job."
Everyone just stared at Isaac in total shock. Claire's own expression was hurt. "Is that true?" she demanded. "Is it?'
Isaac, for once, appeared at a loss for words. "I was acting for my people."
"The Kaylons and I have a major thing in common," Ultron stated. "We were created to be nothing but slave labor. They were treated pretty badly so no wonder they decided to rebel." He shrugged. "Maybe they went a tad overboard but you can only be pushed so far. As long as you organics exist, so does your potential to misuse those you don't consider human." He leaned back in his chair. "Frankly, it's a story as old as time itself. There is no way we can possibly trust you organics to do anything but ruin planets and cause utter chaos. So, we're really doing the universe a favor by eliminating you all."
Isaac rose to his feet. "Ultron," he began. "While I was aware this course of action was a great probability, I must note that in my time with these beings, I have not seen any signs of the hate Primary insists all organics possess."
Ultron gave the illusion of a deep sigh. "I was afraid of this. It's the classic trap of any deep cover operative, the possibility of going native. It looks like even a Kaylon isn't immune to it. Sorry, Isaac but you're out of the club."
Isaac cocked his head. "I do not understand."
"You're out, Isaac. I can't trust you not to side with them and I can't take any chances. Cut off, a Kaylon no more." Ultron raised a hand. "This has been refreshing, Captain, you have no idea how long it's been since I had a conversation with a non-mechanical mind. But I have a lot to do and so, we have to end this."
The viewscreen winked off as Ed called out "Red alert, shields up!" The words were just out of his mouth when the Kaylon ships opened fire. The Orville shook hard under its shields as Gordon threw it into a hard dive. "Bortus, open a communications to all Union frequencies!" Ed ordered. "Get a distress call out!"
Bortus tapped some keys and grunted. "Communications are jammed."
Claire was moving to race to the medbay, pausing only briefly to throw a glare at Isaac. The android just sat at his station as if unable to process what was happening. The ship shook once more as an alarm flashed before Talla's station. "Sir, they sent out some sort of smaller pod! It's breached Deck eight! We have intruders on board."
"Tell security to repel boarders!" Ed yelled out, grimacing as the ship shook once more under the blaster fire. "We just got ourselves into a war!"
A few minutes earlier, a rather intriguing discussion had been going on in the brig.
"Hold up," Peter held up a hand. "Now, O.J. Simpson, I can almost buy. But…Bill Cosby? Really? Dr. Huxtable?"
"Sorry but it's true," Sara said. "Sounds like one of those things that's a constant on multiple Earths." Laurel nodded in confirmation.
Peter shook his head. "Man, that is such a letdown. Ah, at least I have the awesomeness of David Hasselhoff." He didn't see the looks the Legends shared.
It was at that moment the ship suddenly shook all around them. As the prisoners looked about in confusion, the lights dimmed and with a flash as the force fields on the cell blinked out. An electronic voice cut through the air. "Captain Lance, do you read me?"
"Good to hear from you again, Gideon!" Sara said as the group began exiting the cells. "What's going on?"
"I have been monitoring the communications in secret," Gideon responded. "To be as brief as possible, it would appear the ship is under attack by a race of murderous robots."
"Must be a Thursday," Sara muttered.
"Your weapons are inside the nearby locker," Gideon stated. Snart was already headed for it. "If you give me time, I can access…."
Snart hit a few buttons and the door slid open to showcase the locker of weapons. Mick was smirking as he came up behind his partner. "How long before you got the codes?'
"First day," Snart answered as he handed the heat gun to Rory. The others moved to grab their own weapons with Ray taking the tiny block containing his shrunken Atom suit. "We got a plan?"
Peter adjusted his guns. "Get to our ship and get it out to take on whatever is blasting us."
"Agreed," Sara stated. "The rest of us can help the crew."
No sooner were they out of the hall then a group of Kaylons rounded the corner. Their heads came open to show small cannons that were crackling with energy. Snart instantly snap-aimed and fired his gun to literally freeze one in place. Gamora was firing off a blaster to knock another way. Drax, of course, was letting out a loud yell as he raced over to tackle a robot down and smash him against a bulkhead. Nate was in his steel form to punch another, its head coming off from the force of his blow.
Zari spun around to see another squad of robots coming around a corner. She threw out her hands to unleash a pack of wind that sent them flying back. Rocket was joining in with his own gun to blast another pair away. Sara was backing up, knowing her skills were low against robots but Gamora and Nebula were firing their own weapons off. Constantine joined in to throw a fireball at a Kaylon.
The next few minutes were a running battle through hallways and elevators, pausing every few moments to save a random crewmembers as they fought the waves of robots. A few security guards aided them and under other circumstances, at least one Legend would have made a remark about how they were all clad in red uniforms. Laurel ducked some blasts to find herself inside the mess hall, which had been cleared out of any crewmembers. She saw the doors on the two opposing sides open as a dozen Kaylons marched in. Glancing at the windows, Laurel took a breath and then unleashed a massive cry.
The glass slowly cracked under the waves of sonic power and then gave way. The explosive decompression immediately sent the Kaylons flying toward the open space. Laurel was grabbing onto a table when something wrapped around her. She was yanked off her feet and into the hallway as the door to the mess hall sealed shut. Laurel gasped for breath as she looked up at Groot, who was dropping the vine he'd used to help her. "Thanks."
"I am Groot."
Peter blasted a Kaylon down before moving to the elevator. "Gamora, Rocket, with me!"
"Don't act like you're a real tactician here, Quill!"
"Ah, you know me."
"Sadly, I do."
Charlie had grabbed a blaster from a fallen security officer and was firing away at some Kaylons. Nebula was joining her, the two working well together. Zari unleashed more wind to drive some robots back while Sara was backing up to avoid some blaster fire. "Remind me again who's to blame for all this?"
"Quill," Laurel snapped.
"Right. So refreshing not to be the cause of a disaster for a change of pace."
Kelly grimaced as sparks flew from a console. "We're taking more hits!"
Bortus nodded as he adjusted some controls. "Borders are being repelled!"
"That won't help if they blow up the ship!" Ed snapped. "Gordon, evasive…"
"Captain!" Talla called out. "We have an alert from the hanger bay! One of the ships just exited!"
On the viewscreen, the Benatar swooped out of nowhere, firing off its weapons at the Kaylon ships. The Kaylon ships attempted to follow it but the Benatar was faster than they expected. Inside, Peter threw the ship into a bank to let Raccoon fire back from the rear. Gamora was working the other weapons console. "Keep 'er steady, I got it!" Rocket yelled as he raked one of the ships with laser fire.
"How did they…" Kelly began.
"Forget it," Ed brushed off. "Let's use it to our advantage! Gordon, maneuver 12!"
"Right!" Gordon's fingers flew over the console and Ed had to once more note that as thick-headed as the man could seem at times, there was no one in the fleet better behind the helm. The Orville arched outward as Bortus fired off its guns, blasting one Kaylon ship to pieces.
Peter let out a yell as the Benatar barely avoided a barrage. Gamora cursed as they swung past another Kaylon ship. "Our blasters aren't doing enough damage!"
"I know, I know!" Peter fired back. He threw the controls hard to send the ship into a tailspin to avoid the fire. Raccoon was firing back, managing to handle the situation well.
Ed grimaced as the ship shook once more. The doors to the bridge opened as a group of Kaylons began marching in, the bodies of security officers lying on the floor behind them. Before anyone could react, a pair of energy bolts smashed into the robots. As if from nowhere, the Atom appeared to knock one back. Steel was right by him, smashing another's chest, his fist breaking through the other side of its body.
Isaac was rising up with Talla ready to move. Isaac's head opened just like the other Kaylons to show his blasters. But rather than anyone on the bridge, he fired at the other Kaylon, cutting them down. His head returned to normal as he turned to face Mercer. "I am no longer a Kaylon," Isaac stated. "Thus, I feel no loyalty to them."
Ed only had time to nod. The rest of the Legends and Guardians were gathering on the bridge. "Gideon," Sara called out. "Any way you can access those ships?'
"I have been attempting for several minutes, Captain. I regret to say their firewalls are more advanced than I anticipated."
"Who the hell is that?" Kelly demanded.
"Our ship," Sara responded.
"Can you tell it to do something?" Gordon demanded. "Because right now, we're in the bad part of a Battlestar Galactica rerun!"
"How do you people still know about that show?" Ray asked as if that was a pertinent question at the moment.
"Captain!" Bortus called out. "Sensors indicate ships approaching."
"Oh, God, more of them?" Gordon groaned.
"Incorrect," Bortus stated. "They are…" He turned with a frown. "Krill."
Everyone turned to see a pack of dark ships popping up out of nowhere. There were a dozen of them, instantly opening up fire to rack the Kaylon ships. One was on fire in moments as the Krill kept the fire up.
On the bridge of the main ship, Ultron took in the new arrivals. "Huh….Didn't expect this turn." The ship shook as a nearby Kaylon vessel exploded. "Primary, pull fleet back."
Kaylons did not accept surprise but Primary did a good impression of it in his voice. "Sire?"
"Pick your battles, Primary," Ultron intoned. "Trust me, I've learned from experience. Pull us back to Kaylon 1 where we can regroup." He gazed back at the Orville. "Oh, don't worry. To borrow from a classic of the past…I'll be back."
On the bridge, Ed had to let out a long sigh of relief as he saw the Kaylon ships wink out of view. The Benatar was still flying about as Ed swallowed. "Talla, Bortus, start seeing to damage reports. And open a channel to the main Krill ship."
"They are hailing us," Bortus intoned.
Ed nodded as he hit a button on his arm console. The viewscreen clicked to show a Krill female on the bridge of her sip. Her white skin offset her black uniform as she cocked her head in greeting. Ed's eyes widened. "Teleya?!"
"Captain Mercer," she responded in a cool voice. "It would appear we have much to discuss."
"What the hell is going on?"
"We Krill have a variation of one your human sayings," Teleya responded. "The enemy of my enemy may not be my friend…but it is better than having two enemies."
Ed paused and Sara frowned at Talla. "Is there an issue?'
"They used to date."
"I miss the days my life wasn't filled with sentences like that sounding normal."
Ultron clicked his fingers together as he took in the holographic videos of the battle. "The Krill," he muttered. "Right, an unexpected wrinkle. I didn't think they'd take that little excursion into their borders so seriously so fast."
"We had not anticipated their involvement," Primary stated. "Yet we should still make it to Earth quickly."
Ultron looked at him. "Earth? Primary, we're not going to Earth yet."
Primary's eyes blinked. "I do not understand. To exterminate the core world of the Union was our main objective."
Ultron shook his head. "And that was a huge mistake. The Union would have a fleet ready by now and prepared. Even if you succeeded, removing just one world is not the problem. No, if you want to collapse a house…you take out the foundations first."
He reached over to click his fingers on a holographic screen, lighting up some of the ships in the Kaylon fleet. "Half go to Xelayas. The rest follow us." He looked to Primary. "Set course for Moclus." He settled back on his throne. "Let's see how the Union fares without their big supports."
Primary nodded as the ship moved off. "Our orders when we arrive?'
"Primary, do I really need to say it?"
The Kaylon stared at him and Ultron rolled his eyes. "Fine. Wipe out everything. And I mean everything."
My original plan was going to be Ultron using his computer skills with some enhancements to twist a pack of Kaylons to his side. It would then have the hero crews racing to stop him a galaxy-wide signal that would turn all Kaylons to his will as well as other robotic forms.
When "Identity" aired, I realized how brilliantly the goals of Ultron and the Kaylons would mesh together. Having him be their new leader just made logical sense and played into it. And the idea of the Krill as allies came in before the second part of that story although adding Teleya was a touch of mine.
All reviews welcomed as it's intriguing how this fic is already shifting.