Battle Cruiser Prometheus.
Alternate P4X-221 Star System.
January 13, 2005.
The sound of the wakeup alarm built into Doctor Daniel Jackson's rack was, without a doubt, the most horrible sound he had ever heard in his life. A loud scraping, squeaking noise that cycled once every second, it stated much louder then words that the USAF did not trust the ability of personnel assigned to the Prometheus to get out of bed on time.
At least not without a great deal of encouragement.
By putting the cutoff switch to the alarm well out of reach of someone lying in their rack – integrated next to the door in fact - the ships rather sadistic designers had ensured anyone who wanted to shut off the alarm would be forced to leave their bed, if only to gain a respite from the horrible noise.
Idly as he struggled into a sitting position while trying not to slam his head on the bunk bed above him, Daniel wondered if it was because of this alarm that standing orders directed all personal weapons were to be stored in the ships armories. After all, he reasoned, the odds of a Marine or Airman blowing the speaker away on reflex had to at least be statistically measurable…
Still half asleep, Daniel threw off his covers and staggered towards the doorway, groping for the blurry light winking in time with the noise several times before his sluggish hand connected with the switch, simultaneously killing the noise and flicking the rooms fluorescent lighting to full power.
Wincing against the illumination, he rubbed his eyes in a vain attempt to clear them before fumbling his glasses from the tiny shelf next to the door and bringing the room into clear focus. He immediately decided the style of the furnishings looked better without the glasses.
Shaking his head vigorously to clear it, he swung his arms around to get the blood flowing to his muscles before grabbing the bag he had somehow managed to pack before slumping into bed last night (or was it earlier this morning?) and stepped into the corridor outside, clad it little more then a T-Shirt and boxers for the short walk to the shower.
As he expected, the passage lined with doors every five or so meters was deserted. This deck in fact was something of a joke to the ships crew, a legacy of the bureaucratic nightmare that was the Pentagons procurement system. It was, in Sam's opinion, the expected outcome when every branch of the armed forces (except for the Coast Guard who nobody thought to invite) got to politely contribute 'suggestions' to the Air Force over the ships design, while the Air Force politely pretend to actually give a damn.
Army and Marine advisors to the design team had pushed for an assault ship that played to Earths strength in ground warfare, arguing that building a ship to engage a Goa'uld Mothership was premature without shielding technology or sophisticated energy weapons. Their proposal for a ship capable of transporting a full blown Marine Expeditionary Unit had been rejected out of hand…but the Pentagon, typically, had decided that some capacity to transport large numbers of combat troops outside of the Stargate network would be a useful thing to have on board.
So the first generation of blueprints were ripped up, the ships missile magazine halved in size and an area large enough for an infantry company and all their equipment was installed…then never used for anything but cargo storage.
Still. At least it meant he had the local shower block on this deck all to himself…
"And that's where they stand".
Daniel caught the tail end of the breakfast conversation in the packed Officers mess as he wandered in, dodging the crowd of junior officers lining up at the buffet along one bulkhead as he looked around for his fellow team members. Unsurprisingly, he saw both Sam and Cameron were sitting with Pendergast and Marks at a table close to the back of the room, at the only table not loaded beyond capacity with most of the ships Alpha shift officers. Glancing at the thinnest part of the crowd trying to get food, he reached in and took a pre-packed sandwich and a bottle of fresh orange juice from the counter before ambling over.
"Hey Doc" Cameron suddenly waved as he spotted the Daniel, gesturing towards the remaining seat at the table. "I was starting to wonder if you had slept through the alarm or something".
"I don't think someone who had lost all sense of hearing could sleep through that alarm" Daniel responded dryly as he squeezed in next to Captain Marks, who grunted an acknowledgment while continuing to gulp down a bowl of cereal at an impressive rate.
"But it does get you up" Mitchell pointed out with a grin. "And today is such a big day, I'd hate for you to miss all the fun".
"Oh yeah, Fun" Daniel agreed with just a hint of sarcasm as he made a start on his sandwich, knowing he needed the energy. "I mean I'm just going to a press conference in front of a population more then a little curious about Earth, and I have to tell them the 'no vacancies sign' is currently lit".
"This is true" Mitchell admitted, pouring a new round of coffee into his mug before he started to rummage through a stack of papers in the centre of the table. "But we do have some good news…assuming I can find it…ah" he said triumphantly, brandishing a folder and flicking it over to Daniel who barely managed to intercept it without sending juice flying everywhere. "This came in last night" Mitchell continued as he lifted second cup of 'wakeup' coffee –the blend with triple the amount of regular caffeine members of the US armed forces lived on - pouring in a measure of milk then hunting around for the sugar dispenser on the cluttered table. "You might find it interesting".
Daniel, somehow, found a small space to set his food down before leaning back and flipping open the folder. The timestamp in the header showed it had arrived only a matter of hours ago, which meant someone had been burning serious midnight oil in Washington. Skimming over the first paragraph which was mostly superfluous security warnings that told of dire consequences should this document, currently sitting in deep space in another universe get to unauthorized personnel back on Earth, he reached the second block of text and started to skim over it, then stopped and carefully reread it as his eyebrows rose in surprise.
"This was signed off by the President?"
"It was" Pendergast nodded, stepping in for Mitchell who was finishing off a slice of toast vigorously. "I'm as surprised as you are, but I have to admit it's got elegant possibilities...if they go for it".
"Well it's at least a genuine alternative to just turning them away" Daniel exhaled in some relief. Everything was moving too damn fast for his liking. He had made contact with dozens of cultures over the years, even helped more then one to relocate for varying reasons, but the scale they had found themselves in with the Colonials was just so far beyond anything in his experience he was finding it hard to keep up. Still, the communication in his hand offered hope that things might just turn out okay in the long run.
In the short run however, he needed to balance the sarcasm scales with the newest member of SG1.
"So" he said smiling and glancing around the table before focusing on Mitchell. "You're all ready for the big date? Not too nervous I hope…"
Mitchell looked up as he shoveled a half teaspoon of sugar into his coffee and started stirring. Vigorously
"It's not a date" Mitchell declared - almost too quickly - in Daniels mind. "She's a pilot, one of their best according to Adama, though she has a bit of an attitude problem, typical pilot really, he promises she'll be on her best behavior and I'll make sure, that is I'll try to -"
"You're nervous" Daniel repeated at the Colonels rapid fire rambling reply, trying not to smile at the almost childlike excitement Mitchell had been full of since starting missions at the SGC.
"I am not nervous" Cameron retorted with a look of irritation on his face.
"Really…" Daniel commented with a quizzical tilt of his head. "So you always have four teaspoons of sugar in your coffee?"
The sound of the metallic spoon stirring inside the ceramic mug stopped dead at Daniel observation, Mitchell himself froze for a split second before removing and tossing the spoon back onto the mugs saucer.
"So I like a sweet cup of caffeine in the morning. What's wrong with that?"
"Oh nothing, nothing at all" Daniel replied with something approaching, but not quite sincerity in his voice as he raised his own cup of juice in salute. "So, cheers"…
Slowly, if with great dignity, Cameron Mitchell raised the mug, tapped it against Daniels cup and moved it back, inching towards his mouth with everyone at the table trying not to snicker…and was just about to sip his first taste when-
"All senior personal report to your duty stations, Colonel Pendergast to the bridge"-
-the bridge duty officer broke in over the PA and everyone in the mess immediately stopped what they were doing and headed for the door.
Oh so close Daniel sighed to himself.
Well, there was always lunch…
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
As Lee Adama swung the bulkhead door of the pilots' locker room open, he was confronted with a sound he could not recall having ever heard inside brightly lit room. More curious was the fact that as he glanced left and right down the rows of lockers, the room appeared to be empty.
Then the half grunting, half snarling noise gave way to a guttural string of curses that left no doubt as to the source of the strange sound. Closing the door behind him, Lee strode deeper into the room and quickly found Kara Thrace fighting mightily with her formal dress uniform, lurching back and forth as she tried to direct her shoulder joints to move in a sufficiently unnatural enough way to get her arm through the sleeve of her jacket. Trying not to smile, he stepped up behind her and pulled the bunched up sleeve she was fighting with straight, holding it long enough for her to slide her arm down and pull the jacket on.
"Thanks" she nodded with a glance before she reached inside the locker to pull out her tan Sash. "Gods I hate this thing".
Lee smiled slightly at her discomfort. Starbuck was a pilot's pilot through and through. Ever since she had graduated from the academy, she had done her damn best to stay out of any uniform outside her flight suit. Years of training by his father had eventually (if grudgingly) gotten her increasingly to wear her deep blue duty uniform when away from her cockpit, but he knew she still detested the deep brown and grey formal uniform of a Colonial Officer.
If she currently hated it because traditionally she had only worn it to receive abuse from a board of inquiry, or, because of the more recent times she had been forced to don it as she said goodbye to the dwindling number of senior pilots on Galactica, he didn't know.
And would never ask.
"Here let me help you with that" he offered as she started to fiddle with the twisted sash, riding from her left shoulder to meet the belt at her right hip. Stepping behind her, he sighed as he saw somehow, against all probability and the laws of physics; she had managed to twist the tough ribbon into some kind of a knot that appeared to have neither a start nor an end to it.
"How the frak did you manage this?" he asked conversationally as probed the threads, feeling a little give in one of the loops which he started to tug free
"The hell if I know" she shrugged, the gesture muted by the tight grip of the sash. "Shoved it in here after that big bash the Old Man threw after we all got back from Kobol".
"You mean of course after you tried to drink half the ships pilots and deck crew under the table" he retorted, trying for a light tone…and failing miserably as he saw her shoulders tense.
"You have something to say to me Lee?" she asked the locker bluntly.
He sighed mentally as he succeeded in loosening the knot and started to play out the sash. Kara was simultaneously his little sister, big sister, best pilot, subordinate officer, insubordinate officer and best friend. It made it completely impossible to force her obedience when he wanted it or to stop her disobedience when she wanted it.
Short of shooting her anyway, but he held the solution advocated by Colonel Tigh in deep reserve for now.
"I'm worried about you Kara".
"Oh here we go again" she sighed, turning around with an irritated look on her face. "Look I've got better-"
"Gaeta told me you've been bugging him about getting all of our airspace and terrain records of the Martok Valley, the area around Delphi, the-"
"Frak Lee, just come out and say it" she demanded in irritation, straightening the creases her in sash and without looking, slamming her locker shut with just a little more force then was really needed.
"Alright" Lee shrugged, abandoning the subtle approach. "You're trying to plan a long range rescue mission for the people left behind Caprica, specifically, Samuel Anders and his resistance group".
"And?" she demanded, her eyes suddenly blazing in a way that always sent alarm bells ringing in his head.
"And I think it's a good idea" he replied.
Kara's face didn't openly change, but with a blink, the molten anger in her eyes vanished to be replaced with a mix of confusion and suspicion in equal measures, focused on him rather then the wall behind him for the first time in their conversation.
"I do. I was talking to Karl and frankly we can't forget about the fact that-"
"You didn't talk to Helo" she pointed out.
"I didn't talk to Helo" he conceded. "But just listen to me…for once" he asked, backing up and flopping down onto a bench running between the rows of lockers. Kara stared at him for a few seconds, then sighed and dropped down next to him.
"The Commander will never go for any mission back to Caprica".
"See that's why I decided to try and actually work up a plan before having you and Tigh decide it would be impossible-".
"Yeah Kara can you just listen to me for one second?" Lee demanded, trying not to roll his eyes. "We're over two hundred jumps from the Colonies. It'd take months to head back, deep into Cylon controlled space. AND to get back out again, this wouldn't be a one way trip. Running down our supplies the whole time, even assuming the Cylons don't fire a shot at us which I doubt, all for a couple hundred civvies?"
His offhand dismissal of the resistance fighters jerked her head around and anger started to flare in her eyes again
"Those 'civvies' have stayed on our home, defending it from the toasters while we've doing out best to run with our tails between our legs for the last seven Months" she all but spat out.
"And I can't say and didn't say any of us could have done better" Lee replied shapely. "But regardless of what we owe our people back home, you're asking the Old Man to risk forty thousand people for what, forty? Even assuming the President agrees to it? Which I don't find likely given her response to you back down on Kobol…"
Despite the glare she was broadcasting towards him, Lee could see Kara's formidable strategic planning abilities had brought her to the exact same conclusion every time she had put pen to paper…and the frustration as her promise to come back for them slowly became impossible was killing her.
"Of course, things might be different now" Lee allowed in the heavy silence.
It only took Kara two seconds to realize where he was going.
"The Thirteenth" Lee agreed. "Yesterday, Roslyn talked about the whole Tomb of Athena on Kobol, that Jackson guy was really interested in the story behind it, including your side trip back to Caprica to get it."
"And the resistance"
"And the Cylons center for…"
"Rape" she supplied bluntly, her expression carved from ice.
"..At the Farm" Lee continued, hastily moving past that particular horror. "Colonel Mitchell didn't make any secret of the fact that he wanted to meet you after your…uh…comments to him" he supplied, trying not to smile at the softening of her expression into one of mild embarrassment. "But think about it. If we can get to Earth, or even find somewhere beyond the reach of the Cylons to park the civilians. With real allies to work with-"
"Everything changes" she finished the thought, for the first time since she had come back aboard Galactica, Lee swore he saw a faint flicker of hope pass through her eyes and it was all he could do not to cheer.
"This has to be the most insane idea I have ever heard of"
Thirty meters away from the two pilots talking in one locker room, two more people were also busy arguing over the thought process of the current military and political leadership of the fleet, with similar degrees of skepticism…and a whole lot more of panic.
Petty Officer Anastasia Dualla couldn't help but giggle at the look of shear terror on the face of Billy Keikeya as she struggled to get the black tie sitting correctly over the spotted shirt he had chosen for today. Like many other people in the fleet, Billy had been left with barely two full changes of clothes after the Cylons had blasted the twelve colonies to rubble. Unlike most of the people in the fleet however, Billy as an assistant to the President had as a matter of course packed a decent suit that had survived well over the months in space, helped along by regular access to the laundry on board the Galactica.
"I'm just the Presidents assistant! I'm not a diplomat!" Billy continued to protest in vain as Dualla continued to work his collar, stopping occasionally to look over his outfit with a critical eye.
"Well I'm afraid we're fresh out of diplomats" Dee smiled before deciding the tie was as good as it was going to get, stepping back to retrieve his jacket from where he had draped it over the bench. "But I've seen you handle the Press on Colonial One".
"You're joking Dee. Every time I have to talk to those…people…" Billy said, "I feel like I'm either going to throw up or faint…today…well, I think I'm going to do both".
"Well the head's down to the right" Dee shrugged with a vague gesture at the bulkhead. "I'd try to get the throwing up done before you get on the Raptor".
"Ha. Ha ha. Har. You're in fine form today" he muttered sounding all too sorry for himself as he eased into the jacket she was holding out for him. "The only reason I've been tapped for this is because it's still too risky to put either the President or Vice President at risk, no-one trusts Zerak - and by extension the Quorum of Twelve -. In a nutshell, I'm expandable".
Dee's eyes suddenly flashed in anger at his estimation of his value.
"The only reason you were tapped for this is because everyone trusts you" she retorted pointedly, backing him up against a locker with a look that was almost angry, directed at him. "You're smart, loyal, honest and brave and probably the only senior person in the fleet who doesn't have either an agenda, or, a freighter filled with emotional baggage tagging along behind them".
Billy couldn't help but smile sheepishly at her fierce look and almost instinctive rebuttal of his self doubt. While the horror of the Cylon Genocide was burned into his mind and probably would never go away, he knew more then anything else that Dee had been the one thing that had kept him from cracking up over the long march away from the radioactive slag of their civilization.
And if this really was a ship to Earth, then perhaps that impossible future of them sitting on some beach drinking ambrosia wasn't quite so much of a dream anymore…
"You forgot devilishly Handsome" he pointed out with a huge grin, causing her to roll her eyes…then grab his head and smoother her lips over his.
For a split second he wondered if he had taken in enough oxygen before she had attached her face to live for more then twenty seconds.
Then the split second ended and he realized he didn't actually care, as he wrapped his arms around her and simply enjoyed her presence-
"Uh…we can come back later if this isn't a good time" a voice suddenly broke in from the bulkhead door, sending the enlisted officer and Personal assistant to go rapidly disengage, before turning to look at the figures of Starbuck and Apollo at the bulkhead door.
"Oh I can go and tell the Earth guys to wait if you need more time" Starbuck offered, gesturing with a thumb in the general direction of the hanger bay, with an expression usually turned on fresh nuggets on her face. Even the normally stoic Apollo was clearly trying not to laugh out loud at the pair caught steeling a kiss in the locker room like school kids.
"Uh…that shouldn't be a problem Sirs" Dee said, grateful for her darker complexion and its ability to hide the flush of red creeping up on her face from being the two officers. "I uh…better get to CIC" she excused herself, racing past the pilots for the comparative safety of the ships command centre.
"Yeah and I uh…better get to the hanger deck…now" Billy added quickly as Dualla left the room, stepping up and swinging to door to the pilots room shut, before the trio started the relatively short walk through 'pilot country' to the Port hangers maintenance bay, Billy trying to stay close in the relatively crowded passages. He still found it all too easy to get lost on the Galactica where every passage looked identical to one five meters behind him, but the two Pilots unerringly turned the corner, passed through several internal airlocks, then descended a steep staircase, that in his mind qualified as a ladder, to land with a thump in the Viper maintenance / launching area.
A Raptor was sitting in the middle of the deck, facing the transit elevator with a tech crew swarming all over it. Frowning as he walked towards it, he couldn't help but think there was something odd about it…
Then it clicked. The thing looked new.
"Niiice" Starbuck hissed in appreciation as she vaulted up onto the Raptors port wing right next to Chief Tyrol. "Now this is what a ship should look like".
"Just don't try to do anything too crazy with her Capt'n" Tyrol warned her, running over part of the forward hull with a polishing cloth. "She may look brand new, but that's just cause we painted over the burn marks, scuff marks and beat the dents out of the hull…she's still the same old Girl".
"Well she's got a hell of a facelift" Starbuck shrugged, making approving noises as the state of the ships interior. "Thank the gang for me for getting her looking so good".
"Will do" he nodded, sliding off the wing to the deck with practiced ease. "Alright let's get her turned around, Cally, Jammer clear that ladder off, get that cart outa here, get moving people!"
As the deck crew sprang into action and the Officers talked among themselves, he found himself left alone standing next to the ship, wondering if there was still time to run to the nearest head and throw up before launch.
"You look a little pale" a familiar voice suddenly cut into his thoughts.Turning, he found President Laura Roslyn strolling towards him from a group that had just entered the hanger bay.
"Madam President…I thought you were with the Commander in his quarters talking about today's schedule…is there something you need clarification-"
"No no" she broke in with a smile and slight shake of her head. "We got it done fast enough for us to come down and see you off" she said, nodding to the figure of Commander Adama who had joined the small group of officers talking at the ships nose. "Are you going to be okay going on this mission?"
"I'm…fine" he replied, managing a weak smile. "It's just a little overwhelming. You know…I was never really sure about the prophecy or your role in it…hell I stayed with the fleet when you left for Kobol because I just didn't believe...so why am I here?"
"Billy" she sighed, guiding him away from the ship towards a more secluded area of the hanger, "you're here because you are more valuable to me than any 'true believer' could possibly be. Kara over there" she said with a nod at the Pilot who appeared to be in a glaring contest with Colonel Tigh as Commander Adama talked to the group, "is a true believer in Earth. She was willing to betray a man she loved like a Father when she went back to get the Arrow of Apollo. Lee" she added, nodding at the CAG, "believed in Democracy so much he drew a gun on Colonel Tigh, defied his Father and abandoned him for me, ignoring the fact that we've been making this whole thing up as we go along. And I…" she hesitated slightly, glancing around before looking into his eyes and pitching her voice for his ears only. "I gambled the survival of the entire human race on nothing more then faith. It turned out it was the right call to make…but the nightmares…oh Gods Billy, the Nightmares after we lost Elosha on Kobol to those Cylons…" she trailed off before breaking eye contact and looking at nothing. "Co-opting Thrace, confronting Adama…Billy, I set in motion a chain of events that almost caused our extinction. I, just as much as Adama, tore this fleet into shreds because I was too blind to see any other road".
Billy couldn't help but blink at this new side of the President. He had never seen her second guess a decision after the fact like this before.
"But I learned something from all of this" she continued, turning back to him with a look of calm but iron resolve in her eyes. "I can't go on with nothing more then blind faith. I hope we've found Earth Billy, Gods I hope we have found Earth and the 13th. But I need to see this through your eyes, to see skeptically what none of us" she gestured around at herself and the senior officers as they started to break up, "can easily see".
Billy slowly closed his mouth that had started to gape, stunned almost into silence as much over the role the President was asking for him to play as the trust she had clearly placed in him.
Then he straightened up and squared his shoulders, feeling the unease that had hung over him this morning fading. If the President valued his insights that much, he wasn't going to let her down.
"I'll keep my eyes open Madam President" he smiled slightly.
"Wide open Billy" she smiled, looking over his shoulder. "And I think you're due to leave".
Billy turned to find Starbuck finishing snapping a salute to the Commander before jumping up onto the Raptors wing, glancing in his direction and jerking her head at the ship. Nodding back, he turned to shake the Presidents offered hand and stepped up after her, the hatch swinging down behind him.
Battle Cruiser Prometheus.
Alternate P4X-221 Star System.
January 13, 2005.
"Lieutenant, what've we got?"
The junior officer sitting in the Captains chair promptly stood as Pendergast led SG1 and his senior officers into the ships command centre, followed by the junior officers at the forward stations surrendering their places to the senior Lieutenants Marks and Womack as they in turn followed in the Colonels Wake.
"Incoming signal from the Galactica sir. They say they are ready to launch their delegation at out convenience".
"Doctor, are you ready?" Pendergast asked the SG1 member as he accepted the center seat
"No, but I'm not going to get any more ready" Daniel replied with a shrug.
"Good enough" Pendergast said with a wry smile. "Marks, signal the Galactica we're ready".
"Yes Sir" the Lieutenant nodded, tapping a pair of buttons and opening a channel. "Galactica, Prometheus. We are ready to receive your delegation".
Cameron walked up to the front of the bridge, where the glass windows (actually a very tough composite substance that had almost nothing in common with glass on the molecular level) presented a grand view of the ships of the fleet. Prometheus was holding station behind and above the bulk of the Galactica, with most of the civilian ships situated on the far side of the huge warship, but she was holding station close enough to study Galactica with the naked eye.
The steel-grey hull of the Galactica was scared and pitted with a mixture of gashes and burn marks that stood as a mute testament to the genocidal pursuit of the Cylon forces. Sections of the odd ribbing that covered the ships hull had been chipped and cracked and with a little magnification (he mourned the fact that Prometheus hadn't been equipped with the advanced holographic overlays the newer Daedalus class ships had) he knew he would be able to see a patchwork of hull plates welded over breaches like giant scars.
For all the damage she had taken though, the ship still looked utterly deadly. Soft running lights still highlighted the proud colonial symbol towards her bow on the dorsal surface, as well as the eight massive cannons sitting locked in rest positions that bracketed it. Tiny pinpoints of light moved around her and the distant fleet, shuttles and transports flirting between the orbiting starships along with the occasional fighter. All of them were no doubt tagged and tracked by Prometheus's sophisticated sensor systems…but there was something wondrous about simply sitting and watching the play of lights.
Wait. One light was growing larger.
"Sir we have an incoming contact" Marks spoke up just before Mitchell was about to open his mouth. "Size and profile matches a Colonial Raptor transport/attack ship".
"Weapons?" Pendergast asked, leaning forward in his chair and glancing over towards Marks console as he worked.
"Sensors indicate the Raptor is equipped with external hard points, probably for munitions. I'm not detecting anything loaded, no internal weapons either" Marks reported, activating the ships main screen without being asked and projecting a rotating wireframe of the sensor contact on it. Mitchell stepped away from the window to the left side of the bridge, whistling in appreciation as he looked over the sharp lines of the ship. The angular and vaguely threatening ship looked to him like something of a cross between a Russian Mi-35 Hind Gunship and an American A-10 Warthog.
He fell in love with it instantly.
"Now that's a sweet looking ride. I wonder if we could get a license to start building those things from these guys".
"Don't worry" Daniel said with a wry smile. "I'm sure the IOA will ask me to ask them".
"Sam" Pendergast continued, tapping a button on his armchair with a knuckle, "what's the status in the hanger bay?"
"We've just about cleared the deck Sir" Sam replied from several hundred meters away in the starboard flight control office. The tiny room at the rear the flight pod was well placed, with reinforced half meter thick windows looking down the length of the bay, which ordinarily would be lined with a quartet of F-302 interceptors and infrastructure that supported them. She exchanged a thumbs up with the deck chief as he led the last personnel into the common maintenance/storage area between the hanger pods, just behind the final F-302 rolling along on its undercarriage.
"Check that Sir, the deck has been cleared" she amended her statement. Clearing the decks had been her idea, to ensure there wasn't any valuable equipment inside the relatively cramped hanger bay. It wasn't so much that she suspected the Colonials were looking to blow anything up, but as a slight miscalculation could write off a two hundred and eighty million dollar fighter craft quite easily and Prometheus had already lost one 302 in this mission. It probably wasn't a good idea to risk increasing the number of replacements Colonel Pendergast would have to ask General O'Neill for.
"Good work Sam" Pendergast replied from the bridge. Reaching for the hanger bay door controls, Sam paused suddenly in thought.
"Sir, do we want to keep the bay pressurized?"
"That's a good question" Mitchell asked as he glanced at the approaching Raptor, which was rapidly growing in size.
"Well they're going to find out about our shield technology sooner or later" Daniel pointed out, "assuming they haven't worked it out already. I mean the whole purpose of these meetings is to try and find stuff out about each other isn't it?"
"Mans got a point Sir" Cam shrugged at Pendergast. "We have to start trusting each other at some point".
"Alright" Pendergast nodded with some reluctance. He wasn't exactly happy with the whole idea of a guided tour of his ship to people they had barely met, but it was a fair point after Daniel and Mitchell had been on board Galactica. "Use the shield and keep the bay pressurized. From what I recall, Galactica's hanger bay had artificial gravity reduced somewhat?"
"Yes Sir, roughly twenty percent of one G" Sam supplied.
"Reset the starboard hanger to match that level" he ordered, standing as he talked and nodding towards the door to Daniel and Mitchell. "Marks, take charge and monitor the situation, tell the Raptor to head on in, we're going down to the hanger".
"Yes Sir" Marks replied, trying not to smile. Pendergast had been dropping hints that there was a good chance his next performance review was tied to promotion to Captains rank. Leaving the bridge and telling him to talk to the incoming ship was, in his opinion, yet another sign that that second bar on his flight suit was getting close…
So long as he didn't catastrophically screw this up of course.
Wiping suddenly perspiring hands on his flight suit, he decided to double check that the ships engines were in station keeping and the weapons systems were powered down…
Colonial Raptor 478
Inbound, Battle Cruiser Prometheus
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
"It's not as big as I thought it would be" Lieutenant Margaret Edmondson stated suddenly as Prometheus grew in the front window of the Raptor. Sitting next to her in the co-pilots seat, Kara Thrace wondered if the Lieutenant was simply stating something for herself, or expected a response. Deciding in the end that the later was, regrettably, much more likely, she snorted slightly.
"It's big enough to spank Base Ships and take everything they can throw at it without much of a problem" Starbuck pointed out dryly, not taking her eyes off the growing silver profile off their bow.
"I hear that" Edmondson agreed, a satisfied, almost hungry grin etched onto her face. "Here's to hoping the toasters try to frak with her again sometime soon".
"Just fly the ship Racetrack" Starbuck ordered with a roll of her eyes somewhat sharply, before wondering at the edge in her own voice. She didn't know if she was so nervous because of the mission she had been assigned or, more likely, because she hated flying in a ship she wasn't in control of.
But in either case, it was hardly the poor girls fault.
"Incoming Colonial Raptor, this is the Prometheus, please respond".
Kara sat up straight as the loud male voice came over the cockpit speakers, opening her mouth to reply on instinct before remembering she wasn't wearing a flight suit and helmet, with its voice activated microphone.
Racetrack shot her an amused look, having caught the gesture before turning back and triggering her own microphone.
"Prometheus this is Colonial Raptor four seven eight, call sign Racetrack".
"Raptor four seven eight, you are cleared to dock, follow the lights in, gravity has been reset to match that of Galactica's landing bays".
"Understood Prometheus and thank you" Racetrack acknowledged before turning past Kara to glance into the back of the Raptor.
"Hey Billy, come up and take a look at this" she shouted through her helmet.
Billy unstrapped himself from the sensor specialist's seat in the rear of the Raptor and moved forward, ducking down between the two women as he reached the front and looked critically at the growing ship with eyes that didn't miss a thing.
Prometheus from bow on wasn't a very imposing looking ship in Kara's mind. It was still quite large compared to most of the civilian ships in the fleet, perhaps three times the length of Colonial One, but compared to the military ships she had seen throughout her carrier, it might classify as a frigate at best by strict size. If it wasn't for the fact that yesterday she had seen this ship take the worst five Base ships could throw out and laugh, she wouldn't have thought it a very impressive looking ship.
But she couldn't help but remember that old Colonial saying about the dangers of making a mistaken first impression…
As the ships bow came close enough to start making out fine details, running lights came on along the starboard side of the ship, flashing in sequence down her flank towards what was probably a hanger bay, a guess confirmed by the large bullhead that was opening up.
"Well I think that qualifies as an invitation" Racetrack commented with a note in her voice that didn't sound right. Looking over, Starbuck saw from the way she gripped the controls that Racetrack was probably more nervous then she was.
"More or less" she replied. "Just that the last time I flew onto a strange alien ship was with Boomer onto that Base Ship at Kobol…some freaky stuff went on in there".
"Uh huh" Kara grunted, feeling a slight twinge of guilt. If she hadn't run off to Caprica with the Raider they had planed to use to drop off the nuke in the first place, she couldn't help but wonder if Boomers hidden programming would have been activated in the first place...
Snapping her focus back on mission, she pushed that thought away. If she hadn't gone back, they wouldn't have gotten to this point in finding Earth anyway.
And hell, that damn toaster might have still put two shots into the Old Man and done a much better job of it this time.
"Man that thing looks shiny" Billy said in appreciation as Prometheus slowly filled the right hand side of the cockpit window.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Starbuck asked.
"Sorry, I mean, all the ships in the fleet, even the ones that haven't been shot up, have picked up burn marks, dents, scratches , you know, just generally been scuffed up from space junk or near misses or whatever. That thing looks brand new".
Like it or not, Starbuck had to admit he had a point. Without access to a shipyard and precious little spare parts to waste on fixing minor problems, the ships of the fleet had slowly accumulated a great number of dents and scars. Galactica of course looked the worst, but minor chips to her heavy armor were rightly considered to be little more then cosmetic concerns at this point.
Prometheus however…every hull plate she saw looked damn near brand new. She couldn't help but feel slightly jealous as the nose of the ship slid past their right, Racetrack pulsing the forward thrusters to slow them down.
"Uh Starbuck…am I going crazy or are there people, standing in hard vacuum, without spacesuits?"
Frowning, Starbuck followed her gaze…and sure enough, standing inside the bay that was open to space was a small group of people. Looking down and flicking the ECO's display to active, she brought up the long range camera for a better image…and…yup they were standing in hard vacuum in nothing more then fancy dress clothes.
"No your not and yes they are" Kara replied in amazement. She couldn't' begin to try and work out what was going on and decided not to try for fear of getting a headache. "We're going in anyway".
"Right" Racetrack said after a pause, shaking off bad memories of Boomer charging back into their Raptor above Kobol…without a helmet on. "Lock the gear out, switchover to landing" Racetrack ordered, hitting the thrusters again for more deceleration as they approached the edge of the hanger.
"Gear out, thrusters to landing config" Starbuck echoed, depressing the appropriate switches. "Landing lights?"
"Don't need them" Racetrack replied, noting how bright the bay was and trying not to blink. Colonial Battlestars kept their bays quite dim, with only navigational lights for guidance on the assumption that with a pilot's eyes adjusted to the darkness of space, a sudden bright light on final approach could end up causing 'bad things'. But Raptors cockpits were generally kept at higher levels of illumination anyway, so she doubted she would have any problems.
"Okay here we go, nice and easy". The Raptor passed through the edge of the hanger-
And they were suddenly inside an atmosphere.
The noise of the Raptors engines was now accompanied by the unmistakable roar of them echoing off the wall of the hanger; transmitted through air which the life support board on Starbucks panel suddenly declared existed around them, a standard nitrogen / oxygen mixture in fact.
Despite the lack of any visible means of it being contained
"Switching to hover, bringing us around" Racetrack managed to get out, forcing the surprise but welcome presence of air to the side for now, rotating the Raptor to point back at the physics defying exit from the hanger, pulsing the main thrusters once to kill all momentum. "Setting her down…" she continued, her eyes clued to the decreasing distance numbers measured by a laser in the nose skid…and with a loud thud, the Raptor was down.
"Raptor Four Seven Eight" the voice from Prometheus immediately came back over the wireless. "We are ramping gravity back to Earth normal, welcome aboard".
"Thank you Prometheus, Four Seven Eight out" Racetrack replied before shutting the channel as she brought the Raptors engines into standby mode, looking over at the life support board. Sure enough, the twin vertical bars denoting internal and external gravity were again approaching each others positions…though curiously, the external bar stopped a little short.
"Looks like Earth has a lower level of gravity" Racetrack commented, nodding towards the readings.
"Only about a six percent variation" Starbuck shrugged as she undid her restraints and stood up, folding up the navigation console between the pilot and copilot seats to ease aft. "It's not like we're going to be jumping over trees in a single bounce or anything". Stepping up to the hatch, she spared a glance at Billy who stood waiting.
"Not really" he replied with a smile.
"That's the spirit" she declared, thumping the door control with her fist.
Battle Cruiser Prometheus.
Alternate P4X-221 Star System.
January 13, 2005.
With a deep thump, the hatch on the Colonial Raptor unlocked and slowly started to rise. Cameron Mitchell gave up trying to adjust the collar on his Class-A jacket and relaxed into a parade rest stance. After he had smashed his F-302 up at the South Pole, most of his personal effects stored on board or at Area-51 had been shipped home, but for some reason he didn't try to understand this uniform and a few odds and ends from his old locker had been shoved into a storage crate and put into the ships cargo bay.
Pendergast, damn him, had reminded him of its existence last night and had it pulled and washed, ready by the time he had leapt out of bed to the screaming of his wakeup alarm.
His 'salad bar' of awards and campaign ribbons was missing the blue with white stars bar of the Medal of Honor he was now entitled to wear, but that bar along with the medal itself was sitting safely at his house, locked in his safe. Until the SGC went public, any military officer seeing that on his uniform would raise far too many questions that couldn't be easily answered.
Pendergast of course wore his own Class-A uniform and stood on Mitchell's left. Daniel on his right was fiddling with the cufflinks on his Armani suit that no Egyptologist could come close to affording without looting a few tombs over his carrier…or eight years of combat pay that did little more then sit in a bank account gaining interest.
And last there were the two SF's standing a few meters away in woodland pattern BDU's - with mate black M9 Berretta pistols on their hips – who broke up the formality somewhat.
The wing/door on the Raptor locked in place, revealing a woman wearing what had to be the Colonial equivalent of a Class-A uniform, along with a man in a fairly conventional looking formal jacket, probably a civilian. The woman, no doubt this was Lieutenant Kara Thrace, took in the small welcoming party as she hopped up onto the ships wing, then walked out and dropped lightly to the deck in front of Pendergast, snapping a salute, which Pendergast and Mitchell both returned.
"Lieutenant Kara Thrace, Colonial Fleet".
"Colonel Lionel Pendergast, United States Air Force" the ships CO replied, extending his hand, which Thrace took with aplomb. "It is a pleasure to have you on board".
"The pleasure is all mine Colonel" she replied with a smile. "As one of the pilots out in that fight yesterday, your presence and high yield nuclear weapons are most welcome".
Pendergast smiled slightly; this was no diplomat in front of him, she sounded just as cocky as any of his egomaniac pilots on board…which made Mitchell the perfect person to pair her up with. Her companion on the other hand…
Thrace must have seen his look and quickly stepped back to make some room.
"Billy Keikeya" he said, leaning forward to pump Pendergast's offered hand with a smile. "Special assistant to the President".
"Please to meet you Mister Keikeya" the Colonel nodded, thinking his presence over. Part of the reason he had agreed to the Colonials sending a second person to complement Thrace was because they had allowed two, but mostly on Jackson's advice to see who they sent, giving no instructions on who they may prefer.
The fact that they had sent a civilian was a good indicator that the fleet wasn't run by a military junta. And even though he knew this Thrace held a relatively low rank, Mitchell and Daniel were unanimously of the opinion from their talks yesterday that she held a great deal of influence with the higher ups in the fleet…and he guessed the same was true of the President and this Billy Keikeya.
"May I present Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell and Doctor Daniel Jackson?" he continued, gesturing to the two men standing next to him.
Starbuck stepped to her left to face Mitchell, the two sizing each other up before she extended her hand.
"Colonel" she nodded.
"Lieutenant" he nodded back.
"I uh want apologize if I was out of line yesterday with that comment as you flew over to the Galactica".
"No problems at all" he assured her feeling slightly awkward but trying to strive for a calm and cool tone. "So your callsign…"
"Starbuck" she supplied with a slight smile.
"Starbuck" he agreed. "Anything to do with caffeinated beverages?"
Daniel Jackson closed his eyes and slowly counted to ten.
"Don't worry" Mitchell grinned at her slightly confused look. I'll explain later".
"I uh look forward to it" she said with a somewhat confused look on her face, moving on to Daniel as her place was taken by Billy.
"Colonel" Keikeya put in cheerfully, shaking his hand with energy as Starbuck and Daniel exchanged friendly banter. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to meet you and Doctor Jackson yesterday, I was somewhat busy running errands for the President".
"Our appearance has made things a little complicated?" Mitchell asked with an apologetic look.
"Oh, it's always one crisis after another" Billy replied with an amenable shrug. "The President is busy right now trying to muzzle the Press as best she can. Those…people" he said - hesitating as if he found it hard to admit members of the press were of the same species as he – "are as excited as the rest of us at meeting people from Earth. We've been looking for you for a long time".
"So the Commander and President told me yesterday" Mitchell nodded, exchanging a slight glance with Pendergast. This whole deal with Daniel and Earths offer could easily go either way. They had in fact debated waiting until one of the few qualified (and security cleared) State Department officials could get out in the next few days instead of putting it all on the Doctors shoulders, but in the end had decided that they needed to move quickly before the tension in the fleet spilt over.
"I assume everything is ready for Doctor Jackson?"
"Oh, yes, of course" Billy nodded. "He has a meeting with the President, Commander Adama and a few select people, then we'll have the press going live to the fleet over the wireless in a question and answer session".
"Hey you hear that Doc?" Mitchell grinned, turning to face the Doctor. "You get to go LIVE to forty thousand people".
"Super" he said with a smile on his face, but an absolutely flat tone in his voice. "Well I guess I'd better not put it off any longer…"
"Just this way" Starbuck said with a wave at the raptor, expertly jumping back onto the gleaming ship and ducking into the passenger cabin, Daniel following somewhat more carefully. She got him strapped into the seat at the rear console, helping him put on a rather clunky looking (in Mitchell's opinion) headset before exchanging a few words with the out of sight pilot before pressing the button to shut the door, ducking under it and back onto the hanger deck.
"Better stand back" Pendergast commented to everyone, nodding his head in the direction of the side of the bay and a series of handholds mounted on the hanger wall. "Sam, move the gravity back down to the Galactica level" Pendergast ordered as the six personnel took a firm hold.
The two SF's making sure to keep their gun hands free of course.
"Marks, clear the Raptor for takeoff as soon as Colonel Carter is done".
"Yes Sir" Marks responded from the Bridge, echoed a second later by the Colonel from the flight control office, which in turn was followed by a ball of lead forming in his stomach as the pull of the gravity generators under the decking slackened off.
The Raptor in front of them fired its thrusters, somewhat unsteadily (well at least compared to a puddle jumper Mitchell thought, which was probably a little unfair), lifting its bulk above the deck before other thruster assemblages kicked in to send it down the hanger bay, igniting its main engines as it pulled into space and shooting away towards the distant bulk of Galactica.
"Okay, lock it up Sam" Pendergast finished as the gravity was carefully ramped back up. Immediately, the huge bulkhead door at the end of the bay started to slide back into place.
"I hope I'm not out of line asking this" Starbuck said as the group released their handholds, still staring at the shrinking drive trail of the Raptor. "But uh…"
"How are we keeping the bay pressurized without a door on the end?" Mitchell guessed.
Starbuck just nodded, her expression looking very interested.
"Well, I know someone who can probably explain it better then me" he allowed as one of the doors close by on the hanger bay opened and Sam strode out. "Lieutenant Thrace, meet Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter".
The two Women exchanged salutes, then handshakes.
"And you can drop the salutes and the whole formality thing, we're really not that formal over here" Mitchell added.
"Thank the Gods for that" Starbuck muttered. "I think I was going to sprain my wrist".
The group shared polite laughter for a second before Mitchell echoed Starbucks question to Sam.
"Well" she said, pointing down to the end of the hanger, "the end of the bay is sealed off by an energy shield. It allows large objects like ships out, but holds the atmosphere in and keeps most hard radiation out". The door shut with a loud crack, and a sheet of white static flickered for a second before vanishing as the force field shut down.
"That's uh…wow" was all Starbuck could say, her mind reeling over the technology. Billy said nothing, but his expression was rather impressed.
"You aint seen nothing yet" Mitchell assured her, gesturing to the bulkhead door and pilot country.
Colonial Raptor 478
Inbound, Battle Cruiser Prometheus
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
"Is everything alright Doctor Jackson?"
As 'Racetrack' asked him the same question for probably the fifth time in their short flight, Daniel favored her with a smile, deciding not to complain about the rather chilly temperature of the cabin given how short the flight would be.
"Still fine back here" he replied over the headset, keeping a good grip on the console in front of him as the Raptor shifted around. He realized he had been spoiled flying in ships with inertial dampening technology all his life, this ship transferred every jolt of a thruster, every pulse of the engine, turning even the short ride into something of an eventful rollercoaster trip.
Jack would have loved it.
"Raptor Four-Seven-Eight Galactica, you are cleared for approach. Speed one six five, port bay, hands on approach checkers green, call the ball".
"I have the Ball" Racetrack replied to the call from Galactica, before turning her head slightly towards the rear of the Raptor. "Hang on Doctor, we'll be down in a few seconds".
Glancing through the gap where a ships copilot presumably sat, he could just make out the growing curve of the Gaalctica's hanger pod and decided that he would not risk a reply at this point. He had read that most aircraft accidents occurred within 90 seconds of takeoff or landing. And while he was technically on a spacecraft, as the takeoff and landing were within 90 seconds of each other he had decided it was probably not a good idea to tempt the statistics Gods by distracting his pilot.
He felt a jolt of thrusters firing, caught a blur of motion out the front of walls around the Raptor as it pitched around, then a jolt as it connected with the deck.
"Raptor Four-Seven-Eight, skids down, mag secure. Transferring deck 12-B, welcome back".
Racetrack started to undo her restraints and Daniel took that as a sign that it was safe to do the same to his. As she moved out of her seat and headed aft, he could see the hanger bay vanishing into a familiar looking elevator shaft as he pulled off his headset and handed it back to Racetrack, who did not immediately return to her seat.
"Doctor Jackson, forgive me if I'm being too forward…but what is Earth like?"
"Well" he hesitated, thinking about what he could safely say that wouldn't result in some kind of blowback along the grape vine.
"Earth has great cities and small towns, oceans and deserts, forests and planes, rich and poor" he shrugged. "There are countless cultures and nations that make up the people of Earth as a whole, each with their own beliefs and customs…and we haven't always gotten along through history, even till today. From what I hear, it's a similar story with the Colonies".
"Oh, you can say that again Doctor" Racetrack replied dryly as she pulled off her helmet, sweat sticking hair to her face before she brushed it away with her free hand. "I mean we created the Cylons to kill each other thinking we were so smart. Then the damn toasters ended up almost exterminating us. I guess some things are the same everywhere".
"It's in your nature to destroy yourselves" Daniel muttered under his breath as a stray thought connected in his mind.
"Doctor?" Racetrack asked with a confused look on her face.
"Sorry" he said with an apologetic look on his face. "I was just thinking out loud".
"Of course" she said as the Raptor jolted to a stop at the bottom of the elevator, quickly moving back to the front of the ship and leaving Daniel along with his thoughts. Daniel was just as glad that she had not pressed him on his statement. He had no doubt she would, unfortunately, find far too much common ground with the story of Terminator 2, of the robots that did their best to destroy human kind in an orgy of nuclear fire after becoming self aware.
Yet he couldn't help but wonder at the Cylons and the Colonials. He had seen hate on so many worlds passed down from generation to generation for no other reason then it was all they knew. Jonas Quinn himself had himself come from a planet of nations that had been at war, as far as Daniel was able to work out, simply because they had alwaysbeen at war.
At least until five million men women and children had been vaporized in the fireball of the Kelownan Naquadriah bomb.
Yet for all the horror and destruction they had gone through, the Langarians were starting to work together. Centuries of hate couldn't be washed away overnight, but in each of his infrequent visits back to the SGC, Jonas had been increasingly optimistic that things were truly changing on his planet, with the average person just wanting the killing to end.
Oh sure it had taken an invasion by Anubis, then threat of the entire planet shattering to get to this point across, but once the Kelownan's Terranian's and Andarian's had actually started to try and work together…
He doubted the Cyolons and Colonials would even sit in the same room at the moment, if Racetrack was a typical example of sentiment (not that he could exactly blame them). But he had seen impossible tasks done before…
"Doctor Jackson?" He looked up quickly when he realized Racetrack was looking back at him, and that the Raptor had come to a stop.
"Doctor, we're here" she smiled slightly. "You uh might want to brace yourself; you have a bit of a reception committee waiting for you".
"Oh. Goody" he replied in a friendly voice, trying not to wince as she hit the door control. The bulkhead rose in front of him as he stood –
And lights exploded into his eyes.
He managed to stop the reflexive movement of his hand to shield his eyes as lights in front of him strobbed. In between the flashes, he managed to make out a dozen or two people in front of him with what he presumed to be cameras, blasting him in rapid fire.
"Doctor Jackson, this way" a familiar voice called. Turning, to the right and placing the blasting cameras out of his eyes, he was able to see President Roslyn standing alone and off to the side of the Raptor. Putting on his best smile, he carefully stepped onto the Raptors wing and dropped lightly to the deck, moving his attaché case to his left hand and extending his right hand to meet hers.
"Madam President, its good to be back" he said through the polite smile he had carefully placed on his face.
"And it is good to have you back Doctor" she returned, also through a rather impressive looking smile. Almost by mutual consent, the two continued to shake hands and turned to face the pack of cameras, which Daniel now saw were safely behind some kind of roped off area.
"Well if you will come with me Doctor, we have much to discuss" Roslyn said, again mostly for the benefit of the few video cameras in the crowd, giving a final wave before she led him away through a bulkhead door that a marine quickly shut behind them.
"Well that was fun" Daniel said in the relatively calm lighting of the passage. "Can we do it again?"
Roslyn looked at him as if he had just asked if they could invite the Cylons over for a light lunch, before realizing the facetious nature of his comments and starting to laugh.
"Oh, I am sorry for having to put you through that Doctor" she chuckled, "but I'm afraid the press insisted on some 'candid' pictures as you arrived".
"Not a problem" Daniel assured her. "But I was surprised to see you meeting me alone without Commander Adama".
"Politics" she supplied as she nodded to a nearby Marine and started to follow him, Daniel falling into step. "Tom Zerak has been making a lot of noise about our first meetings all taking place with heavy military involvement. I'm sorry to say that there was a degree of recent…friction between the fleets military and civilian leaderships".
"So you wanted to show that you were in the drivers' seat in front of the press" Daniel guessed shrewdly, bemoaning that once again the twin universal (or inter-universal) constants of politics and power had reared their heads.
"More or less" she agreed as they reached a familiar door with two Marines standing outside, one of whom spun the locking wheel and pulled the door open as he saw them approach.
"Doctor Jackson" Commander Adama said, rising to his feet along with Colonel Tigh and eventually Gauis Baltar as they entered. "Please" Adama said, gesturing to a seat. As before, a series of tables had been formed into something of a U shape. This time, a single table had been placed into the area encompassed by the rest of the tables, facing the four seats at the base of the U. As Roslyn took her place with her three companions, Daniel strode around to what was clearly his seat and sat, dumping his attaché case onto the table and starting to open it.
"Well" the President started once she had settled down, "we have a few hours before the press conference is due to start. If it is acceptable with you, we'd like to hold it over on the Cloud Nine. It is a civilian ship that has facilities better suited to such an event".
Daniel had a sneaking suspicion that this had much more to do with the political maneuvering Roslyn had gone out of her way to mention to him, but simply nodded politely.
No, that would be fine, providing I could let the Prometheus know before I leave".
"That won't be a problem" the President said after a quick nod from Commander Adama.
"Well in that case, there are a few things I should probably go over with you before we get to the press" Daniel said, lifting out the folder and trying to keep his voice level as he flipping it open. "We have been in contact overnight with representatives from the Governments involved in the Stargate program" Daniel started, glancing over the document to frame his thoughts and missing the significant looks between Colonel Tigh and Adama over his inadvertent revelation of Prometheus's subspace communications technology. "They send their greetings to the people of the Twelve Colonies and they are looking at preparing for shipments of humanitarian and medical supplies as soon as possible to the fleet, along with support personnel".
"And the bad news is?" Roslyn asked with a half smile, clearly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Daniel put his own half smile on and decided not to try and sugar coat it.
"And the bad news is that resettlement of the fleets population on Earth is just not going to be a possibility".
Roslyn's smile turned somewhat forced, but Daniel had the impression she had expected that news. Adama's face didn't change in the slightest – he would hate to play poker against that man -, Tigh simply glowered at him and Baltar looked somewhat shocked, his eyes kept tracking towards the empty half of the room for some reason, as if he was looking at someone else…or was high on caffeine.
"So you're going to just pretend we don't exist, after doing your best to rile up the toasters" Tigh said in a voice edged with contempt. "Just shut that gateway down and pretend that -"
"Colonel" Adama said with a glance at him, a single word but with an edge that instantly shut the junior officer up.
"Uh no, that wasn't what we were planning to do" Daniel said in confusion, removing a half dozen pictures from his folder and passing them across to Baltar who was closest to his table.
"These pictures are of a planet we have designated P4X-231" the former SG1 member said, looking over the short listing of planetary information. "It is roughly three hundred light years distant from Earth, six and a half thousand from the inter-dimensional gateway".
The planet in question had been found by Daedalus on her shakedown cruise under General William Ronson. The former master of the Prometheus had been promoted to crew training at Area-51, but he had also insisted on test flying the prototype 304 as soon as its hyperdrive had been fitted. Ironically mirroring his first mission on the X303, Daedalus's Asgard hyperdrive had started to show signs of instability not that far out from Earth. Dropping out of Hyperspace into a nearby star system, Hermiod had quickly found and fixed the fault, but Ronson had decided to run some sensor scans of the unmapped star system as a matter of course.
The sensor returns had almost required a recalibration of the sensor scales, the planets crust was laced with gigantic veins of Naquadah and Trinnium all over the place, in concentrations even the well traveled Hermiod had never seen before.
After returning to Earth and passing on the news, the IOA had been up in arms, demanding an immediate investigation. Prometheus had been diverted to deliver a Stargate, 'borrowed' from a long abandoned Goa'uld outpost – minus its DHD – along with some heavy equipment, allowing several engineering SG teams to deploy from the SGC. Doctor Balinski had almost hyperventilated with excitement over the fact that he only had to lean down to find samples of Naquadah laced rocks, leaving Earth with something of a dilemma.
To get the resources out of the ground, refined and back to Earth would take thousands of workers, countless thousands of tons of heavy equipment, years of infrastructure building…it would make the Atlantis project look like a field trip in comparison and with all the SGC cleared and trained mining personnel deployed to the underway mining operation on P3X-403, the conclusion was that the planet would, unfortunately, have to wait.
Now of course the IOA like the politicians they were, were trying to kill two birds with one stone Daniel thought to himself, trying not to roll his eyes and diverting his attention back to the room.
He gestured at the pictures they were holding which were a mixture of orbital images from Prometheus, UAV overflights and SG teams. Misty mountain ranges at dawn contrasted with tropical beaches at noon and wide open planes at dusk.
"The planet itself" he continued, "is uninhabited and from the information we've compiled so far, maintains a relatively pleasant climate all year round. The interesting thing about this planet however" he stressed, making eye contact with Adama and Roslyn as the other two people at the table looked over the pictures, "is that it is extremely rich in certain mineral deposits".
"So you want us to do your work for you, is that it?" Baltar put in with a roll of his eyes. "Cheap labor for Earth?"
"No" Daniel said categorically with a shake of his head. "We want to build a partnership. This planet" he continued emphatically, "is full of resources Earth needs but can't get to easily. You on the other hand, can. You can mine and refine them, then sell these resources to Earth - or any other Galactic power for that matter - use them for yourself, whatever. You wouldn't be relying on charity you'd have the basis for a real long term economy to rebuild".
Daniel fell silent and sat back in his chair as the quartet absorbed his offer, wondering which way they would jump.
Battle Cruiser Prometheus.
Alternate P4X-221 Star System.
January 13, 2005.
"…and so I'm suddenly realizing that to hold Apollos Viper in place as I push him back towards Galactica, I have to keep accelerating. But if I don't decelerate I'm going to smash into the Galactica and probably kill us both. At the same time a new wave of raiders is screaming after us, Galactica is shutting its flight pods down to jump…and I realize I need to go to the head".
The assembled F-302 pilots of Prometheus's fighter wing, the SFW-01 'Snake skinners' chuckled as Starbuck continued weaving out her story. Mitchell, leaning against the wall at the back of the room silently congratulated himself on bringing her into the ready room while Sam had taken Billy off on a tour of the rest of the ship showing off the hyperdrive and medical bays.
First and foremost, Starbuck was a pilot and around pilots, she reverted to type, relaxing as she exchanged stories with them, soon they were chatting like they had all known each other for years.
Thirteen of the remaining F-302 airmen (and women) currently on Prometheus were sitting around the room, spellbound as Starbuck spun out several of her war stories. Her most popular story so far, of how she had salvaged a Cylon raider from the surface of an inhospitable planet had gone on for quite some time, mostly because the pilots had questioned her continually all about the strange Cylon cyborg ship, whose 'brothers' the Snakes had shot down in rather large numbers yesterday.
"So what did you do?" 'Spartan', one of the 302 flight leaders asked from the back row after the laughter had died down.
"Well I didn't do anything in my flight suit" she replied with a smirk, generating even more laughter. "No, we crashed onto the flight pod, bouncing down along it. I was actually thinking we might go all the way along it and out the other side for a few seconds, but we spun off into the wall". She paused for dramatic effect as if letting them visualize the barely controlled crash landing. "Then I got out and went to the head".
Over the laughter of the pilots at her punch line, Spartan glanced across at Mitchell. "Well it looks like you have some competition for the best rammer in the Galaxy, Shaft" he said with a grin on his face.
"Best rammer in the Galaxy" Starbuck asked with a smile, perching herself on the table that faced the pilots seats.
"Oh it's great" Spartan assured her. "This is happened a bit over a year ago. Anubis, big over the top cliché filled bad guy, was attacking Earth with a fleet of his Motherships and his brand spanking new flagship. Our first orders were 'go for the head', take out the flagship and targets of opportunity. But we got flashed new orders at the last second from command to go and protect SG1 down at the South Pole. Shaft here gave his team building speech, the whole 'lets prepare to give our friend a warm welcome' and-"
"You're plagiarizing HALO again" another officer pointed out.
"Bite me Mushroom" he shot back. "Anyway, we launched and were approaching the danger zone…"
F-302 Interceptor 'Snake Prime'
150 Kilometers South West McMurdo AFB.
One Year Prior.
Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell glanced over his weapons status screen as he went through his final checks, pausing only long enough bounce his interceptor at Mach 3 over an icy ridgeline, scaring the bejesus out of a family of polar bears who hadn't anticipated the dozen sonic booms that followed
"ETA is twenty out" Lieutenant Adam Banks, his backseater commented as they screamed across the most desolate continent on Earth. "Prometheus is pacing us ten seconds back".
The polar bears were really in for a bad day he thought.
God help the USAF when Greenpeace found out about this battle.
"Copy that" he said, letting his airspeed bleed back as they headed in. Glancing at his navigation screen which showed the GPS numbers from the orbital constellation clicking over much faster then he had ever seen in an F-15 or F-16, he switched over his weapons status screen to TACTICAL then reached up, pushing his oxygen mask to his face and activating his encrypted wing frequency radio.
"Remember no matter what, we're here to protect SG1 at all costs. Glancing at his tactical display, which was now painting the descending bandits of Gliders and Al'Kesh bombers entering the troposphere, he flicked the MASTER ARM switch to 'on' and firmly buckled his oxygen mask to his helmet.
"Target Al'Kesh first, Gliders second. Go low boys and Girls, Prometheus has our back"
Earths wing of F-302's - Prometheus's squadron of eight plus sixteen more based at Area-51 - bounced over the final ridgeline and into a wide valley. Ringed by mountains with a Scoutship hovering on a pillar of white light in the rough centre of it, it was a stunning piece of scenery that perfectly framed the distant silver orbs of Al'Kesh and the black dots of Death Gliders coming into view on the far side.
A number of calls of 'Fox two!' came through the squadron channel, announcing the launch of a salvo of space modified AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles, the warheads streaking out past the Cargo ship to slam into the leading Al'Kesh bombers. The Goa'uld ships who had expected to do little more then chew up a single unarmed Cargo ship were caught flat footed, missiles homing in on and tearing out their engines, sending the seventy meter long ships spinning into the pack ice. Hesitation wavered down the entire formation of Goa'uld ships as the two sides closed, the 302's pressing their attack with gusto and causing most of the Jaffa pilots to flinch, completely forgetting the cargo ship as they clawed for maneuvering room as the F-302's screamed through their formations, cannons blazing.
A few stragglers belatedly realized their mission objectives had not been met and swung back towards the Cargo ship, only to be blown out of the sky by stuttering fire from Prometheus's point defense guns as she settled into position directly on top of the Cargo ship.
"Break left, two Gliders at three O'Clock" Reverend warned and Mitchell broke without thinking, trusting in his wingman. They were the last pair of F-302's in the formation; he had held back ready to give split second orders if needed in the initial charge, but now it was every wing pair for themselves as he pulled a hard 180 into the 6 o'clock of the two Gliders that were making a run on the rear of Prometheus. As his HUD's floating gunsight passed through the fighters, he triggered a short burst from his twin cannons, gutting the leader and blowing the folding wing off the trailer, sending it spinning towards the ground in a blur of motion.
Risking a split second glance at the tactical display he saw the charge of the F-302's had had its desired effect. The Al'Kesh were all down for the count and the wing pairs of 302's were expertly and methodically chewing the Gliders to pieces in close combat. While Death Gliders were faster and marginally more maneuverable in the vacuum of space, they were at a huge disadvantage deep inside an atmosphere against the F-302's, whose fly-by-wire computers worked control surfaces simultaneously with the inertial dampening system to great effect. Any attempt to disengage for space would put their backs to the Earth fighters (and be defying their God's orders) so the poorly trained but enthusiastic Jaffa pilots doggedly hung in the battle.
"New Contact, one bandit on the deck at nine and inbound" Banks warned as Mitchell skipped around the flaming debris of his first victims. Glancing to his left, he saw a new wave of Gliders heading straight for Prometheus and the Cargo ship, this wave led by either a very brave or very stupid Al'Kesh.
"Tally one" he confirmed, inverting and pulling into a fifteen G dive as he threaded through the Glider formation at sixty degrees down towards the Al'Kesh. Forcing the bomber onto his gunsight, he flicked a switch on his flight stick to uncage his Sidewinders, waiting just long enough to get the growling buzz of a good lock before thumbing his trigger twice. "Fox two, Fox Two".
The twin smoke trails leapt out from under his wings, crossing the distance in less then two seconds to shred the Al'Kesh's port and starboard engines. Without sublight drives and inside a Gravity Well, an Al'Kesh flew about as well as a brick and, unsurprisingly, fell from the sky as Sir Issac Newton reclaimed his hold on the alien ship.
"Splash one Al'Kesh" he announced over the wing channel, swerving to avoid a midair collision with a Death Glider as he angled up and away from Prometheus, whose point defense guns opened up on the still incoming Gliders, her shields aglow as they returned fire "Rev you still back there?'
"With you in a sec Boss" 'Reverend' came back. Mitchell started to level out –
And his 302 jolted.
"We've been hit" Banks snapped. "Left thruster is down".
Mitchell pulled up level with the horizon, then snapped into a split-S to reverse his course, glimpsing of a pair of shapes skidding into position behind him.
"Contact, two bandits on our Six" Banks added unnecessarily as his tactical display belatedly highlighted them, tracking them with the 302's rear looking IR and radar systems. Accelerating as he jinked, he fired a short burst that blasted a Glider off the tail of an F-302 as it crossed his path, using the explosion to try and snap away from his pursuit.
Nope, they weren't leaving him. He was starting to wonder if he should head towards Prometheus and see if they could shoot the Gliders off him, or just get out of the furball for maneuvering room, when Rev finally came back on comm.
"Blue leader, we've got your Six" he announced. A second later, the green icon of an F-302 fell into position behind the Gliders and two loud explosions later, he was clear.
"Nice shot Rev" he thanked the officer, before turning back into the Dogfight. The second wave had been beaten back but now a third wave was heading in. With a pang, he saw that a half dozen F-302 transponders were no longer registering on a secondary screen in his cockpit, but shoved his concern for them aside. Plenty of time to morn for them latter.
"Follow me through" he said, pointing his nose at the thickest part of the dogfight. "Shoot anything that isn't ours".
"Two" Rev acknowledged as Mitchell pushed his throttle forward.
"We've lost the turbine" Banks said in a tone of disgust as he looked over his systems readouts. "Killing number one" he added as he kicked in the fire suppression system to shut down the fire.
"Copy" was all Mitchell had time to say as he dove into the maelstrom above Prometheus. Fighters passed left to right and right to left, diving and climbing all over the place as he screamed through firing burst after burst from his cannons, certain he had blasted one Glider out of the sky and nicked a few others, with Rev picking up a couple of his own as the quartet of Vulcan cannons spewed six thousand rounds per minute-
"BREAK LEFT" Mitchell shouted, slamming his own stick to the right as his threat board screeched a target lock warning–
- too late as the lead Glider in a new pair shooting down from Orbit into the dogfight opened fire, catching Reverends F-302 right on the solid rocket booster.
Anywhere else on an F-302s fuselage, a single staff bolt would have probably done little more then break off armor. In this case a catastrophic explosion blew the F-302 into a thousand pieces.
"Reverend!" Mitchell shouted as he saw the blip degrade, then vanish from his radar screen. With the two Gliders circling onto his own Six he couldn't risk turning around to see the explosion, but he hoped against hope that the cockpit module had ejected –
"He's gone" Banks said flatly, killing that hope. Snarling under his breath, he started to angle away from the main battle for maneuvering room when a familiar voice crackled over his headset.
"Heads up Blue Leader, this is Carter, we have another bandit incoming".
"I see it Major" he replied, pushing his anger away and operating purely on training, juking away from the Gliders chasing him towards yet another pair of Al'Kesh making a run towards the Cargo ship.
How many of these damn things did Anubis have he silently asked himself. His flagship was the only craft big enough to launch them but even a ship that big couldn't have THAT many more of the things to throw out could it?
He hopped not, or they were screwed.
Cutting into a steep curve past a pair of F-302's pursuing a half squadron of Gliders with cannons blazing, he bored in at the Al'Kesh from their side. It was the worst kind of missile engagement profile, but at the rate they were closing he didn't have time to try anything fancy.
"Fox two, Fox Two" he called pickling off his two last missiles at the lead Al'Kesh before jerking to the right as a pair of golden energy blasts zipped past his cockpit and blew chunks into the ice downrange, the Gliders behind reminding him of their presence.
The two missiles curved inwards towards the stern of the Al'Kesh then to his horror, he saw one of the missiles waver before breaking off to the left and chasing after a Glider that rapidly passed out of sight. The other missile ran straight and true, exploding next to the bomber, shorting out its shields and shredding its port engines. Yawing to lead the target slightly, he triggered his guns – which fired a grand total of a dozen shots before the magazines went dry –stitching a burst of fire into the stern.
Crippled, the Al'Kesh didn't even hesitate, pitching down right at the Scoutship as its intact sister ship accelerated above it, keeping between Prometheus and its crippled wingman.
"Prometheus" he shouted over his channel that linked him directly with the bridge, "take that-"
"We've got it Blue leader" Major Gant replied as the bow guns on the X303 started blazing. Too close for missiles, the heavy slugs pounded through the Al'kesh's light shielding, chewing deep into the hull and staggering it, but its pilot managed to keep his disintegrating ship in place as a shield between the cruiser and its wingman, which bore down on the Scoutship like a burning freight train towards a stalled car.
Everything started to move in slow motion for Cameron as his F-302 bore in. The lower Al'Kesh was inexorably heading towards the hovering Scoutship, pure inertia carrying it down as its sister ship above disintegrated under Prometheus's fire, but it effectively blocked the fire Prometheus was trying to direct downward.
It would all be over in a few seconds…and it would all have been for nothing.
Defend that scout ship at all costs Hammond had said as they dove into the engagement.
All costs indeed.
Throwing his stick to the left and slamming his throttle up into the Solid Booster overdent, his fighter accelerated towards the nose of the Al'Kesh, dipping just forward of the bomber as it and the Scoutship grew rapidly-
The leading edge of the Mitchell's port wing struck the Al'Kesh just to the right of its cockpit. Made of a Trinium-Titanium alloy designed to resist great stress at hypersonic speeds, it dug into the window there and killed the Jaffa pilot before he even realized he had been hit. The drag of the wing none the less pulled the F-302 somewhat around to the left, causing the starboard wing to catch right on the nose of the ship, followed by the main body of the F-302, armor and hull plating from both ships flying everywhere. For a full quarter of a second, the F-302 was effectively tethered at full thrust, its engines right at the bow directed perpendicular to its line of travel throwing out sufficient thrust to slam the nose of the Al'Kesh away from the Scoutship into a fatal spin –
Then the F-302's wings snapped off.
Still connected to the uncontrolled rocket booster, the body of the F-302 shot off under Prometheus in an uncontrolled and uncontrollable barrel roll towards the ground, the automatic ejection system failing as the computer sensors detected the fighter was both upside down and under safe ejection height. Mitchell had just enough time to swear feelingly before the out of control wreck crashed into the ice pack, the inertial dampeners failed and everything went black.
The ready room was quiet as Spartan finished off his tail.
"Wow" Starbuck said.
"And the moral of the story is?" Mitchell asked the room.
"Never shoot off your wad prematurely" the entire room instantly responded before cracking up with laughter and breaking the somber mood. Starbuck simply smiled and shook her head.
"We better move on" he told her. "Carter and Keikeya should be just about ready for lunch soon" he pointed out. "Much more time with these jokers and we'll probably be at war".
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
"Doctor Jackson, are you going to let-"
"Madam President! What have you-"
"Has there been any news about-"
"Doctor Jackson, what is the news from-
"decided about the possibility of Earth-"
"the Cylons contacted regarding-"
"Do we have any timeframes until Earth-"
"how long until supplies from Earth will reach-"
A dozen separate reporters broke into shouting the second Laura Roslyn led Daniel Jackson to the front of the richly appointed room. Flashes from cameras again strobbed, but he was prepared for it this time and managed to simply smile as he walked out on stage, wishing he had brought a pair of prescription sunglasses. There was enough light in the dim room he could see quite a few of them looked out of breath, probably from having run halfway across cloud nine to the wrong airlock to meet them, then halfway back when they found out their mistake and that the President and Doctor Jackson were both already on board. Strangely the fact that they were out of breath didn't appear to slow down them shouting out questions in the slightest.
He decided there might be something to Billy Keikeya's theory of the press not being human after all.
Two podiums had been set up on the stage left and right of the centerline, Roslyn stopped at the right hand one and Daniel the left, placing a folder on his lectern. There was no microphone he could see, though the room was small enough that he couldn't really see the need for one. Designed to hold perhaps a hundred people, the room looked to be closer to a hundred and fifty, with the press taking up the front third and all manner of VIP's in the rear. Waves of nervous if expectant energy rolled off the crowd as Roslyn let the press shout their questions without answering them, fiddling with her own papers (he still couldn't get over their weird angling the corners of their paper) as she simply waited for silence to descend.
The press took the hint.
"Thank you" she started with a smile, speaking as much to the press as the tens of thousands of people listening (and a few lucky ones watching) her and Daniel. "I know we all have questions that people have wanted to ask for over a day now, but first I would like for both myself and Doctor Daniel Jackson, to read out some statements to bring everyone up to speed on the current status of our talks". She paused for a second to shuffle some completely superfluous papers before looking across at him. "Doctor Jackson?"
Every camera and face in the room swung towards him.
"Thank you Madam President" he started, surprised that his voice did not crack. "On behalf of the President of the United States, the International Oversight Advisory Committee and all the people of Earth, I would like to extend a greeting to all the people of the Twelve Colonies. I can only offer my deepest regrets that it has taken such a catastrophic event to bring us back together again". Daniel kept his voice slow and steady, feeling the eyes and ears of tens of thousands of people looking to him for good news.
"The President and I, along with military officers from the Galactica and Prometheus, have been in close talks for the last few days". No secret there. "We have discussed our history both ancient and recent" - Daniel could not help but smile at the pun - "and have found a great deal in common in our values, our culture and our understanding of the universe".
And Daniel was increasingly sure of exactly which group of 'holier then thou' Ascended energy beings were responsible for the stunning similarities between their cultures. Non interference my ass, he thought guessing THAT law didn't apply across universal boundaries.
Well, now for the kicker.
"We have offered, and the President has accepted on behalf of the Twelve Colonies an offer of resettlement on a planet roughly three hundred light years away from Earth". A rumble of noise passed through the room, but no-one spoke up. "Earth is committed to providing resources, supplies and infrastructure to help you resettle onto this planet which we have designated P4X-231…though I'm sure you'll want to call it something else once you get there" he said, to a polite round of laughter from his audience. "
"I know this fleet has seen a lot of bad times. I can hardly begin to understand the events you've all been through over the last year. The President, Commander Adama, Vice President Baltar, all of them have told me a great deal about recent events, but it's a poor substitute for having seen it. All I can say to every man, women and child in the fleet is this". Glancing across at Roslyn for a second, he turned back to the press. "You are not alone anymore".
Polite applause from the VIP's and press was soon joined by the faint sound of cheering and clapping from outside the 'building'. Smiling slightly, Daniel guessed that the several thousand civilians on Cloud Nine were hanging around outside in the fake (but astonishing) 'outdoors' area.
"And now I think President Roslyn wishes to make a statement" he said after the applause died down.
"Thank you Doctor Jackson" she acknowledged, waiting until attention had somewhat shifted back to her before starting to speak.
"Look at her" Sarah Porter growled from her vantage point, a room situated at the rear of the main auditorium which the Quorum of Twelve had liberated one to watch the conference in seclusion. "All hail the conquering hero of prophecy".
Tom Zerak managed not to roll his eyes at Porter. Yesterday she had been beside herself over what Doctor Jackson had said about the God's, followed by dire warnings about the risks of assimilation by the people of Earth, then the loss of their culture and religion.
Now she was ranting over the fact that Roslyn was apparently giving her everything Porter had demanded.
Gemenese. He had long given up trying to make sense of them.
"Unless I am mistaken Sarah" he pointed out as Roslyn glowingly spoke about the future of humanity, "you backed the Presidents quest to Kobol a week or two ago without hesitation because you claimed she was the religious leader destined to lead us to Earth".
"As did you" she snorted, turning slightly towards him.
"I never denied it" he said mildly. "But would you mind telling me why you are so annoyed? Is it just that you don't like Daniel? Or is it that Roslyn hasn't died yet like the Prophecy said she would?"
"Don't mock the God's Tom" she warned with a glare. "We have to look to the future of our people and the threat that these people from Earth pose".
And Tom realized she still hadn't moved beyond the meeting yesterday where she had tried to convince the President that they needed to spend far more time studying these Earth people before committing to anything, only to be ridiculed by Gaius Baltar.
Which was probably the reason she was pointedly ignoring him, come to that.
"We've been over this" Safiya Sanne, the delegate from Picon came to his rescue. "We are in no position to refuse their help, this entire fleets purpose has been a quest for Earth no? We cannot back out now. I was almost crushed by a crowd when I left for Cloud Nine by people wanting to know if a rumor about them soon getting off these ships was true. I frankly don't think they care about where they go, so long as it has solid ground under their feet".
"I know" she grunted. "But I can't help but think we're on the edge of a dangerously fast series of changes".
Conservatives Zerak sighed to himself. Change is their mortal enemy. More so then the Cylons themselves.
"We could argue that a matter this significant requires extensive consultation and consideration by the Quorum" Porter hedged. "We can wait here until we can more carefully study the issues".
"Adama would never go for it" Zerak dismissed her idea with a shrug.
"And he'd be right" Gaius put in. "We can't afford to stay in this system until the Cylons come back and we can't stay in our Galaxy away from here, letting the Cylons grab this system and cut us off from Earth".
"And the rest of the civilians would probably riot" Sanne put in.
"So we don't do anything" Zerak concluded.
Silence greeted his decision.
"Perhaps you would like to explain?" Marshall Bagot asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
"It's quite simple. Roslyn has been doing all she can to take all the credit for this, to the point of greeting Doctor Jackson in front of the press herself this morning on Galactica without anyone else around. We play this up, reminding everyone that all of this is her plan. Then, when the people in the fleet start to realize a new planet isn't going to reset everything back to the way it was before the exodus and start to complain hard everything is, we'll be there to help point the fingers. She will start to stumble, eventually she'll trip-"
"And we'll be there to help her fall" Gaius Baltar smiled.
"Now if anyone has questions to ask-"
Unsurprisingly the entire press corps jumped to their feet shouting. Laura waved for a reduction in volume and pointed unsurprisingly to Playa Palacios, one of two 'real' reporters who had survived the Cylon holocaust and was always called on first for questions.
"Doctor Jackson. I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about Earth and other major powers in your Galaxy".
Daniel exhaled and nodded.
"Okay, Earth. Well Earth is the third planet in our solar system out of eight or nine planets, depending who you ask, there is a bit of an argument going on right now about that. It's the only inhabited planet, with a population of about six and a half billion people, spread over six or seven major continents and about two hundred countries. It's essential the focus point for humans in our Galaxy, though there are numerous planets throughout the Galaxy that contain human populations, generally quite primitive in terms of technology and very limited in size".
"So you don't have a single unified world Government?" Palacios asked quickly as Daniel finished, blocking her colleges from asking questions.
"Not as such, no" he admitted. "We have a world forum known as the United Nations, which serves as a means for nations to work together, help negotiate treaties and so on, in a way somewhat similar from what I understand to your own Quorum of Twelve and the articles of Colonization".
He got a mummer of surprise from his audience that he had clearly done his homework and tried not to smile.
"I, myself am from the United States of America" Daniel said, forcing himself to slow down as he saw the reporters furiously writing notes –though he was sure his answer was being recorded by dozens of microphones. "It is one of the world's major powers and initiated the Stargate program, Earths major venture into space. Recently most of the other major powers and many major regional powers on Earth have become involved in the Stargate program, mostly because of threats against Earth from hostile alien races, under the auspices of the International Oversight Advisory Committee".
His offhand comment about aliens had caused quite a stir he saw. He knew the Colonials had never run into any alien race – except the new generation of Cylons – so he was sure he had their undivided attention, letting them settle down as he took a drink from the glass of water sitting on his podium.
"Can you tell us a little about these alien races please?" Palacios pressed eagerly to a mummer of agreement from the rest of the reporters.
"You'll be getting a full briefing package within the next hour, complements of the Prometheus" Roslyn broke in with a slightly scolding sound in her voice. "Next question…D'Anna"
"Doctor Jackson" Biers smiled as she stood. "I would like to know where you stand on the question of protecting us from the Cylons?"
"Well I can't really say much about that as of yet, these considerations are still in the early stages, but I would have thought the Cylons made their position against us quite clear when we arrived".
"I'm sorry Doctor" she said in a sympathetic voice, "I'm afraid you've misunderstood me. This fleet has relatively limited defenses, if we settle down on a planet where we can't simply jump away; it will be much easier for the Cylons to wipe the last of us out. Will you be willing to station ships and troops to help us defend out planet? At least until our own technology advances towards your own and we can start building the new ships and weapons we need?"
"I would think that would be a matter for future negotiations" Roslyn answered for him quickly.
"Well given the clearly awesome superiority of your technology compared to that of the Cylons" she pointed out, wouldn't it make more sense to simply give us the weapons to go and retake what was ours in the first place?"
Daniel tried not to wince. He didn't want to publicly admit about just how limited Earths assets were to such a skittish public. Let alone the chance, however remote, of there being some Cylon spy in the audience which might cause the Cylons to bring in a fleet ten times as large as they had first seen to try and finish them off.
"Miss Biers" he replied calmly, "Earth has major commitments both in our Galaxy and beyond. A campaign against the Cylons would require diverting significant resources. I can understand your desire to return home, some day, but at this point in time I don't see how it's practical, especially as the Cylons have occupied those worlds in force, it would be a war of mutual annihilation to take them back".
"A few more of your ships and it would be a war of annihilation" a voice offered from deeper in the dark room to a round of 'here here's.
"You're asking us to exterminate an entire race for you" Daniel pointed out, trying not to flair his nostrils at the almost giddy excitement the crowd was in over that concept. The murmuring dropped a hush as his words washed over the crowd.
"Are you saying you think…there could be peace between the Colonies and the Cylons?" Beirs asked carefully, feeling her way forward.
"Doctor Jackson has answered your question D'Anna" Roslyn said sharply. "Next question".
"No it's okay, I'll answer" Daniel broke in with a shake of his head. "Miss Biers, I can understand how such a concept would appear…completely impossible from where you sit now. But I can honestly tell you I've seen people fighting in a war to mutual annihilation step back from the brink before. Factions that have fought for centuries, humans and aliens both, ready to wipe the other from existence managing to sit down and talk".
"Well why don't you head back over to Galactica and talk to the Cylon they're holding? The one who shot Commander Adama, supposedly died but is actually sitting in their brig" Biers asked with an oh so innocent expression on her face. An excited babble of questions started to be thrown around, causing Roslyn to jump .
"Order! Can I get some quiet here…thank you" she said sternly, causing the excited babble of voices to reduce. Daniel couldn't help but narrow his eyes slightly at the news that a Cylon was being held on the Galactica and Roslyn hadn't muttered so much as a peep about it. And judging from the reaction of the VIP's behind the press, the fleet at large didn't know either.
If it was true.
"Regardless of if a Cylon is on board Galcatica or not" Daniel broke in as the volume reduced, "we are not going to abandon you to them. I would truly hope to find a way to get a true lasting peace, but I am here and Earth is here to ensue the Twelve Colonies can be and will be reborn".
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
"Attention on deck!"
Commander Adama walked into the pilots ready room hot on the heals of Apollos command, watching as packed room rapidly came to attention, what looked like a deck of cards suspiciously going flying towards the back of the r
oom, but the Commander decided to not make an issue of it..
"Kill the wireless" the elder Adama ordered Kat, who quickly obeyed and turned off the comm unit, which had been relaying the press conference from Cloud Nine. "Sit".
The pilots, marines and offers quickly moved back to their usual places as the younger Adama moved to front of the room to stand near the door, while the elder Adama mounted the podium and opened his papers, waiting for the noise to settle down.
"You've all no doubt been listening to the press conference and have heard the offer from Earth" the Commander started without preamble. "As you heard, the planet Doctor Jackson talked about is roughly three hundred light years away from Earth. What he didn't tell you is that it's roughly six thousand light years away from the inter-dimensional portal".
The assembled group didn't say anything, but their expressions shifted slightly as they took in the enormous distance that translated to. That was probably thousands of jumps, which could conceivably take the unhappy side of a year to make.
"Suffice to say, we're not going to be jumping there" Adama continued to the confusion of the pilots. "As you may or may not have heard, their ship, the Prometheus uses an FTL system quite different from our own capable of covering those distances in a matter of hours. They are planning to modify their drive system, somehow, to let them 'carry' a number of our ships with it as it travels too and from our ultimate destination."
Adama paused to let a quick murmur of conversation at that die down.
"Doctor Jackson has supplied preliminary estimates that it will probably take close to a week to make the necessary modifications to their ships drives, and the news that it will have to be done back on Earth, with the help of some experts apparently back there".
Stargate Command Gateroom.
Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado
January 13, 2005
"Wormhole established, receiving transmission".
"Put it up" Landry ordered Walter, who worked his console for a second before the LCD monitors on the ceiling switched from static and snow to the somewhat more pleasant visage of Elizabeth Weir.
"Doctor Weir" he greeted her with a smile.
"General" she smiled back with an incline of her head. "We have your technical expert ready to head over; I can tell you he wasn't very happy about being pulled away from his research on such short notice".
"Frankly Elizabeth, I don't really care if he's happy or not, he's got his orders…and I won't have to deal with him".
"Lucky Area-51" she said dryly, sitting back in her chair. "I've looked into the Atlantis mainframe searching for the subjects you asked for. If there is anything on these Lords of Kobol there, I haven't had any luck finding it as yet. Its possible its just buried so deep that I'll never turn anything up, but given the lack of even a single hit, I'm guessing there just isn't anything here for me to find".
"The odds were you wouldn't find anything" Landry shrugged. "All evidence Doctor Jackson found in that book of his suggests these order or grouping formed after the return from Atlantis. We still haven't even narrowed down which Ancients who returned from Pegasus they were either. One of the problems with people who live for countless thousands of years is that they tend to learn a great many skills. The list of suspects of 'who could build an inter-dimensional rift generator' starts to grow rather large when you look into it".
"We'll keep looking on this end" Weir assured him. "I don't know if we're going to be able to narrow it down much though".
"Well this might help you. I'm sending along the digital files of the book Doctor Jackson found over in the UK. Unfortunately the good Doctor hasn't had much time to look over it and as you've stolen just about everyone else with any skill at deciphering these Ancient puzzles-"
"Be nice" she admonished him with a mock scowl. "I do have a rather large city full of puzzles to cover. And as good as my people are, Doctor Jackson is still by far best go-to person on the Ancients".
"When he's here" Landry grunted sourly. A small trip by Prometheus to check out an Ancient space station had started off nice and simple. A pair of ZPM's, one of which had been installed in the Daedalus and one kept back on Earth, had been liberated which was a fantastic outcome.
But oh no. Colonel Mitchell was proving himself the true heir to the glory of SG1 by opening a Pandora's Box that would likely either kill them all, or, immeasurably strengthen them, with precious little wiggle room between the two extremes.
His flag had only rested in the office upstairs for a little over a month but already he was wondering how in the hell George Hammond had managed to last seven YEARS in this place.
He made a note to himself to email the retired officer and ask that question sometime later today.
"Well I'll look into everything you've sent me" Weir answered him as he mussed over recent events, bringing his attention back to the preset. This wasn't exactly a cheap phone call after all.
"I'd appreciate it" Landry nodded back. Weir then looked away as someone said something off-screen, then turned back to the camera mounted on her laptop.
"He's on his way" she said. Out of the corner of his eye, Landry saw a file transfer window pop open onto Walters console and a progress bar start to speed across. "As we're connected anyway" Weir continued, "I'm sending you our final request list for the equipment transfer. We're still well under budget, so I'm thinking of getting the Daedalus to bring back some heavy construction equipment to see what we can do to help the Athosians move out of huts before winter arrives".
Walter gave a quick nod to the General as the data burst checksum came up green, a second before with a ripple in the event horizon, the traveler arrived.
"We'll he's here. I'll get your requests up to the IOA and let you know when we'll have it ready. Landry out".
Not waiting for the video signal to cut, the General turned and strode down the steps of the control room. A heavily armed airman standing outside had already swipped his ID card through the Gateroom blast door lock, ensuring the General could walk right through to greet his guest.
"Hermiod, welcome back to Earth".
Having a limited number of facial features to work with, the Asgard species was generally unable to easily convey emotion through body language such as facial expressions, something which many humans found rather disconcerting. Humans, with very few exceptions, relied consciously or unconsciously on an understanding of body language to 'read' a person. The Asgard themselves conveyed subtleties of emotion through their spoken language which was filled with so many nuances of pitch, pacing and frequency that one could study it for a lifetime and barely scratch the surface of a real conversation.
Then on the other hand, there was Hermiod who for some reason, had never appeared to share any of the issues his kin had in expression emotion in human readable terms.
Right now, irritation was coming off him in waves as he strode down the metal ramp from Earths Stargate, which hissed then disconnected behind him.
"General Landry" he said in a steady monotone. "I must confess to a degree of irritation at being pulled away from my research on Atlantis at such short notice, both due to the disruption to my own research and my normal duties monitoring and adjusting the Asgard equipment on board Daedalus".
"Well I'm confident that Doctor Novak and Colonel Caldwell can manage just fine for at least a week or two without you" Landry tried to smooth the waters, ignoring the look the Asgard returned which clearly said he shared no such confidence. "The orders didn't come from me, we called the high council to ask for some technical support, Supreme Commander Thor reassigned you on their orders".
"Indeed" the Asgard all but sighed, as if being a genius living in the land of the barely Stargate capable barbarians wasn't enough of a burden to carry around already.
Landry pitied Thor the next time Hermiod caught up with him. He couldn't help but wonder if the Agsards apparent exile to the Pegasus Galaxy, the furthest location in known space away from the Asgards home Galaxy of Ida, was because he ticked his own kind off as much as he apparently ticked everyone else off.
Jack O'Neill he knew, was convinced someone had split bleach into his cloning tank.
"I understand from Colonel Carters preliminary report that you are looking to modify the Asgard hyperdrive on board the Prometheus?" Hermiod continued, clearly having made his point and wanting to get down to business..
"Something along those lines yes" Landry nodded. "Area-51 has the specifics of her request and the Prometheus should be back sometime tomorrow".
"Very well" the Asgard stated. "I should get started on simulations immediately.
Landry obliged him, turning back to the Sergeant behind him and nodding.
"Stand by…" the Sergeant said, his console phone cradled to his head as he leaned close enough to his microphone to be heard in the Gateroom. "We're having a bit of trouble getting a lock from Area-51, it won't be a second Sir…"
Landry swore he heard the Asgard mutter something unintelligible and started to turn to ask him what he had just said, when with a flash of light and humming sound, the Asgard vanished.
"Area-51 confirms transport" Walter supplied helpfully.
"Thank you Walter" the General called back without turning, still looking at the space the Asgard had occupied.
"Hate that guy" he muttered in a sotto voice.
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
"We'll be taking the fleet through the inter-dimensional Gateway" Adama continued his briefing, pleased that none of the pilots, not even the relative newcomers talked. "The Star system on the other side is more or less identical to this one, so we'll move the fleet into orbit the planet while we wait". Adama gestured to the navigation map being projected. Based on information from the Prometheus, a symbol for a space station – the gateway station – had been added to the system map opposite the star from the planet.
"We'll be sending in a recon team later today. Four Raptors and a marine detachment will land and meet up with a group of forward deployed personnel from Earth at the Stargate facility. Gunny, that's you and your team". The projection switched over to a photo of a Stargate, Gunny Mathias leaning forward with her men to have a closer look at the alien technology the elder Adama had been briefing them on over the last few minutes. It still sounded fantastic beyond belief…but that was about par for the course of the last week.
"Once we're secure, the fleet will move in and make a jump to planetary orbit. These Jaffa ships will only be able to stay another day according to Doctor Jackson, so we'll be on our own except for a small crew on this space station. Using the Stargate, we can expect to be able to recall them or the Prometheus in less then a day if it becomes absolutely necessary, but due to the risks and relative power of the warships in this universe, our first defense will be to jump away to a preset rally point we will work out with Earth. For this reason, there will not be any non-essential trips to the surface of this planet" Adama said, dropping the bad news. A series of groans and sighs worked their way around the room, but quickly stopped after a look from Lee at the instigators shut them up.
"Earth will be shipping through a dozen medical personnel with a great many supplies, Cottle" he said, glancing at the gruff CMO of Galactica sitting in the front row, "get a list of where they are most needed and get it to me by the end of the shift". The Doctor nodded, looking rather happy at the idea of trained medical personnel coming to help him break up his 16 hour days.
"The fleet is currently sufficient for food and water supplies" Adama continued, so we're holding off those shipments until we arrive at P4X-231. After we're settled into orbit tomorrow, we'll be sending a recon team to our new home through the Stargate, to check out the planet and establish a forward operating base, Hadrian that's your teams". The ships Master at Arms nodded once, apparently unconcerned with using the alien technology.
"How many trips the Prometheus is going to take to transfer the fleet is not yet clear. On her first trip, she'll be loading as many Raptors and Vipers in her hangers as possible. They'll be deployed on arrival to provide a combat patrol during the operation; we'll ship enough equipment through the Stargate to get a rough field base set up on planet to refuel our birds at least once if you need it. Colonel Tigh will go with the first wave and ground a command raptor to take command until the operation is complete. Galactica will remain with the fleet until the last run. Questions?"
There was silence.
"Then make it happen" he said.
The lights quickly came back on and excepting the pilots, the personnel started to file out back to their departments for their own more specific briefings.
"Apollo" he called out over the bustle, stepping down towards the CAG. "Pendergast has offered to leave a flight of his fighters with us, under our command while Prometheus heads back to Earth".
"On Galactica?" he asked in surprise.
"On Galactica" he confirmed. "After seeing what they did to the Cylons yesterday, I'm inclined to accept his offer. But I'd like to hear your thoughts".
"Well my first thoughts are 'Frak yes'" he smiled slightly, being careful to keep his voice low. "But they're not Colonial fighters. They'll probably need their own fuel, weapons, maintenance teams…"
"We can probably ship anything critical through the planets Stargate" he reminded his Son "if they suddenly have any problems the supplies they are going to bring with them don't have. And Doctor Jackson hinted that this was as much for their benefit as ours, I get the impression they want a closer look at our ships and are offering a closer look at theirs. Think Tyrol would be interested?"
The younger Adama just rolled his eyes. The Chief would probably give up a years worth of 'cleaning fluid' rations just for two minutes to poke around one of Earths fighter craft.
"Well it sounds workable, if everything goes smoothly we might even be able to start looking up some kind of joint patrols or training".
"Good" he said. "Keep your pilots informed and make sure they know to treat the Earth personnel with all due respect. For their time here, they'll follow our orders but not be strictly under our chain of command".
"Sounds wonderfully complex" his Son said with a thin smile.
"Not as much as you may think. Their mission orders will be to defend the fleet and follow all orders that don't conflict with their posted rules of engagement. Which basically means as long as we don't order them to shoot up civilians, they're happy to shoot up anything we point at".
"Sounds simple enough" Lee nodded. "We're going to have to go over and compare all our procedures, especially communications. It shouldn't be too much of a problem though. From what little I've seen about their fighters, we'll probably use them as a detached strike force away from the Vipers most of the time".
"Work on the answers" the Commander ordered. "I'd better go and break the news to Tyrol. You have some pilots to brief".
Cylon Resurrection Ship.
High Orbit, Kobol.
Cylon Victory + 203 days.
The Cylon once known as Boomer shivered involuntarily as she watched the Hybrid babble away, the cyborgs eyes focused on nothing and everything as it talked. Of all the things about 'her' people, the Hybrid was one of the few things that still made her shiver slightly when she saw it. Of course it didn't help that the rest of the Cylons were divided between thinking it was simple feedback from the neural connection, a living mind inside the tissue of the Hybrids head driven completely insane from the day it was brought online, or the voice of God himself.
"I didn't think I would find you here" another, more rational voice broke in to her thoughts. With the precise clicking of high heals on a metal floor, the Six known as Caprica strode into the room deep inside the Base Ship officially designated as 'Primary node, Alpha Computer Interface'. As always, the first thing that came to her mind when watching another walking around the Base Ship was the shear impracticality of their clothes. Sure they looked fashionable, the various models of Cylons had been designed to rather high standards of human attractiveness after all, but her former life as a Raptor pilot was still far too ingrained for her to feel comfortable in 'civvies' on board a warship.
Still, she had abandoned her former pilot singlet tops for a white top and crème colored jacket, grey/blue jeans and a pair of white sneakers. According to Caprica, this was currently all the rage with the 'eights'. She couldn't help but smile wryly at that, at least being biologically identical to countless other people meant it wasn't hard to find clothes that fit.
However, she had noticed yesterday an increasing degree of acceptance by the Threes and Fives who had originally looked upon her as an apparently tainted Cylon. She wasn't sure yet if this new attitude was mostly because of her growing friendship with Caprica, or, because she was apparently starting to act more like the rest of her 'sisters', but she didn't really care and simply took the increased breathing room to reflect and think about the catastrophe that was her life.
Case in point, her only real friend who had just walked into the room.
"It's a useful place to think" Boomer replied to Caprica's comment. "Only the Leoben's ever come down here anyway".
"I've seen a couple of Three's down here before" Six replied with a slight shrug. "I'm not sure what they think the Hybrid is saying; sometimes getting a straight answer from them is just as bad as trying to get an answer from a Hybrid".
"I can't help but hear what she thinks about us loud and clear" Boomer shot back, then regretted it. Caprica didn't deserve that. "Sorry, just a little on edge".
"It's only to be expected" Six said, moving down to sit on the edge of the tank with her, placing her hand gently on Boomers, the constant stream of red characters that flowed up Boomer now started to play over Caprica as she settled next to the tank. "Galactica is only about twenty five light years away, it's understandable that your-"
Suddenly, the Hybrids hand shot out and came down on top of the two other Cylons hands, startling Boomer and Six with the activity from the normally docile Hybrid.
"Serpent dethroned seeking the path of righteousness is made desolate by the horrors of the Children of the six and seven, forced the children of God are into running from their true nature into the gates of Oblivion at the behest of the jackal's jester. End of Line".
"Is she talking to us?" Boomer asked in nervous surprise.
The Hybrid was looking right at them with a look of either manic fire or insanity in its eyes.
"I doubt it" Caprica said, though her voice sounded slightly shaken as she untangled their hands from the Hybrid, who quickly relaxed back into the milky water with only her head showing above the waterline.
"They're waiting for us, we should go".
Giving a final look at the Hybrid, Boomer stood and followed Six out the door and through the bowels of the ship. Even after only a bit over a day on board, she was starting to find her way around the Resurrection ship quite easily. It was almost uncanny in fact given how each dark passage lit with dozens of white glow panels was identical to the previous passage.
Or perhaps she was simply remembering. She was not entirely sure about that and tried not to think about it as she walked through the dark passages, ignoring the looks and whispers between other Cylons on the Resurrection ship as two of the Heroes of the Cylons made their way towards the outer hull.
"So we've been finally called in?"
"Yes" Six nodded. "I think they called us in as much because they don't have any idea what they are going to do, as much as they want to hear what we have to say".
"Well at least we're going to get a chance to say it without the Three's trying to use us for their own agenda".
Six could only grunt in agreement. She and Sharon had spent several hours on their trip from Caprica talking, leading them to the inevitable conclusion that Three saw them both as a danger of some kind. Putting them together had meant the truth about Gaius - the fact the man she could admit she loved - was alive, had come out quickly.
Working back from there, the conclusion became painfully obvious after a short time. Three had mentioned in passing that "they" had been planning to box Sharon if she didn't "improve", shortly before they had left New Caprica. Clearly she had desired a mental breakdown of some kind from the two of them and the question of why wasn't that hard to answer when they looked at what made them different from other Cylons.
They were heroes in a society of conformity, standouts in a civilization of duplicates. Partially because they had both had fallen in love with humans.
Her plan to discredit and probably box the both of them would have probably worked to.
Except for one variable the Three couldn't anticipate.
"You know it's all well and good to realize that you have influence to use and enemies who don't want you to use it" Baltar commented as they rounded a corner, with the phantom leaning unconcerned against the bulkhead wall, "but it's not going to help much unless you can find a way to turn the situation around".
"So what are we going to say?" Six responded to Sharon's question, ignoring the man who fell into step behind and between them. "I very much doubt they are thinking about attacking Galactica, not with these Earth ships there". A part of her mind wondered when the rest of her people had become 'them' but shrugged it off for now.
"Oh they're thinking about it" Baltar corrected from behind them. "Desperately thinking of ways to attack that doesn't end with fleets being vaporized, but failing. Not exactly the same thing though, is it?"
"No, first they'll try to get more information about Earth, then figure out a way over the long term to compromise their defenses and exterminate them" Boomer replied with just a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Despite the fact that they had nothing to do with us, with the Colonials using the Cylons as cannon fodder".
"Which may be an opportunity in of itself" Six pointed out with a thoughtful look on her face as they turned the final passage to the command centre, stepping along the relatively narrow passage. "Let's see where this goes".
The Six and the Eight entered the command centre. Positioned on the port side of the Resurrection ship deep in the hull, it looked all but identical to those on the Base ships in formation around them. A large dome of a room with a sunken central area in which the main console reposed was the clear focus of the room, with thin threads of artificial nerves running down into secondary consoles, the glistening of a secreted nerve induction fluid dripping slowly down the threads. Secondary consoles lined some of the walls under the pulsing red stripe present in most Cylon ships.
What drew the attention of Six however were the five other Cylons, one of each model, standing around the central console.
"Come" the Leoben model said as he saw them enter the room. "We were just discussing our…response to the events of the last few days".
"The Scenario is still viable" the Three declared, ignoring the final two Cylons as they walked into the command centre. "In fact we can turn this too our advantage with a little bit of work".
"Or watch as everything we've worked for comes crashing down" the Leoben retorted. "We need to back off and look at this problem carefully" he said, crossing his arms and looking back at Biers. "All indications are that the child is safe and that's all that matters."
"What good is the first child of the new generation being born if it's the first child of the last generation?" the Five retorted. "We all saw the firepower of this Earth ship. Do we want an Earth fleet coming back at us?"
"Every second we leave those humans together increases the danger that Adama and Roslyn will turn them against us" the Caval said, joining the conversation."
"Then what do you propose Cavil?" Three responded with the sarcastic smirk that was so much her trademark.
"We talk to them, the people from Earth" Sharon broke in, to the surprise of everyone in the room.
"Talk. To Humans…" Three replied with a look at Sharon that mixed pity with disgust. "Tell me, where would you like to start?"
"Well I'd think that 'Sorry' would be a good place" Sharon replied in a similar tone. "From where I sit, I'd rather not have a fleet of these Earth ships coming after us, or banding with Galactica. The Colonials are not a threat to us; we can use this situation to stop our senseless pursuit. We can't risk killing Sharon and her child. The risk is too great."
"Senseless pursuit…" Three sighed in exasperation, rolling her eyes to the ceiling. "Tell me then…Boomer" she asked, the other Cylons exchanging glances at the use of her human cover name but holding their comments to themselves, "what would you have us do? Just walk away from the Galactica? Let them go with their new friends and rebuild? Wait as they pass down the story of their near extinction from generation to generation? Until a century from now, they come back to hunt us down to the last?"
"So your only solution is to hunt them down first?" Sharon snapped back. "Ignoring the fact that that isn't a possibility anymore thanks to this Earth ship, how does that make us any better then them? When you get down to it, what are we as a race if we only define ourselves by how hard we try to wipe out the last remnants of humanity? What is our purpose then? What is our culture?"
The short lived silence in the room as the rest of the Cylons listened closely to the 'war hero' was interrupted by a Simon, ever logical as he carefully entered the conversation and tried to diffuse the glares shooting between the Eight and the Three.
"Regardless of what we eventually decide to do, the fact is that we are clearly lacking information. We can't make a decision until we look at all the variables that exist. Before we can do anything else, we need to gather information".
"I can provide you with that" a new voice, one Sharon didn't recognize broke in suddenly, "but it would do you little good".
The two dozen Cylons in the room looked around in confusion and even a small amount of apprehension as they failed to locate the source of the noise.
"Who are you?" Six asked into the sudden silence. A high pitched hum sounded for a second, then with a waver of light, a figure materialized in front of the command console, several steps above the pit. It was a tall, well dressed man whose eyes flickered over the assembly staring at him with something like amusement. A pair of Centurions which had been standing guard stomped forward, their arms exchanging their manipulators for rapid fire cannons which they aimed unerringly at him from two sides as they took up a firing stance.
"Amusing toys" he commented in a deep and oddly distorted voice. He looked over the Cylons with some care before switching his gaze back to the human models, rubbing his goatee slightly as he did so. "I have to admit I find your newer appearance much more pleasing then these things".
"Who are you?" Six repeated, ignoring his smug look and trying to keep her temper under better control then Three next to her, who was simply glaring at the intruder and clearly ready to order the Centurions to open fire.
"I am the one with the technology you will need, if you are going to fight against the humans" he said, stepping forward and causing one of the Centurions in turn to step forward warningly…which he walked right through.
A surprised gasp was forced from several of the Cylons, but none moved backwards as the man moved to the end of the console and stopped, smiling slightly at their expressions.
"Why pray tell would a human come to us and offer to help us against his own?" Cavil asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Ignoring your ridiculous assertion that humans all think the same and act the same" the man scoffed, ignoring the flash of anger on Cavil's face, "you are under the false impression that I am a human" he said…before his eyes flashed with a pulse of golden light. "And my name, is Ba'al".
This time the nearest Cylons did take a step back as the Centurions stood around uncertain, their programming not exactly covering this situation in any great depth.
"So you're not human" Three allowed, her smoldering anger almost magically replaced by a wary caution. "Why are you here?"
"To propose an alliance" Ba'al said, crossing his arms against his chest. "We each appear to have a common enemy. Your technology is primitive, which is something I can help with. You also lack information on just what you have gotten into and cannot escape from, which I can provide".
"In return for…?" Three asked with an open ended drawl. Ba'al smiled, thinly.
"You will be helping me to eliminate a problem. Afterwards, as you will shortly understand, we will have no need, nor any way to come into conflict."
"How can we trust you?" Simon asked bluntly. Ba'al simply grinned.
"You cannot. But if you wish to discuss this in more detail, I would suggest we meet on the planet."
"When?" Three asked.
"Soon" was his reply, before with a waver he vanished from the command centre.
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
Several hours later.
"That's the last of them" Kelly said from his position in the LSO's command post, up in the starboard hanger. The object of his attention, the last F-302 fighter to land on Galactica had come to a perfect stop after flying a perfect approach. Unlike Vipers which generally bounced around a little as they fired thrusters fired to align themselves, these Earth ships had just flown an ultra precise glide slope, lightly touched the deck and rolled out without so much as a single 'hop', nor a millimeter of slide.
"CIC, LSO" he said into the phone he had been holding during the landing sequence. "We're all aboard, clear to retract the pods".
"Copy that" the distant voice of Tigh came back and with a jolt, the massive servomotors started to pull the huge bulk of the ships flight pods closer in towards the hull, finally sealing with a loud boom.
"Hard seal" a junior deckhand called out from one of the control consoles behind him, Kelly glanced at his own flight console to ensure that the bay was isolated from the hard vacuum outside, double checking the readings on the somewhat underused consoles in the Starboard hanger.
"Flood the bay" he ordered when he was satisfied the system was in order. The technician complied, flicking two switches and turning a key. With a loud hiss which slowly deepened into a roar, the life support systems in the hanger came online, pumping the enormous volume of air in that was needed to fill the hanger bay. It was time and resource consuming and for that reason rarely done, but as the F-302's were simply too big to fit down into the common maintenance bay underneath the deck, it was the only real solution for now.
It seamed to take hours, but was really only five minutes before the pressure finally reached nominal levels.
"Pressure is nominal, no sign of air loss, looks like the hull is still solid" the tech decided as he rechecked every one of his gauges, finding nothing negative.
Kelly nodded once, lifting the phone from his console and tying it into the hanger bay PA system.
"Pressure nominal, clear to pop hatches".
Almost at once, doors on the side of the hanger slide open and dozens of deckhands poured out towards the quartet of sleek black fighters and the bulky fleet shuttle parked further up that had been borrowed to deliver a dozen technical crew and some supplies from the Prometheus to Galactica. Under Tyrols directions, they quickly brought up short ladders against the Earth fighters to help the people inside down, while others who were probably supposed to be doing any number of other things on board Galactica stopped to point and examine the spacecraft or got in line to talk to the suddenly overwhelmed Earth personnel.
Further up the bay, the long cargo mover that had barely squeaked into Prometheus's hanger bay lowered its rear hatch, letting people in green and blue jumpsuits of some kind walk down the ramp with large duffle bags slung over their shoulders. He recognized Starbuck from the excited way she danced down the ramp to meet up with a couple of pilots and thought he saw that Keikeya kid mixed with a couple of Earth people as well, all of whom were quickly mobbed with handshakes, backslaps and even a few hugs taking place.
Small carts and powered haulers were now rolling from the side of the hanger bay from the direction of the bridge between the hanger pods up towards the transport to start unloading. Shaking his head slightly at the sluggish response of his deck crews who appeared much more interested in talking then working, he stabbed a second button under the phone and opened up a link to the CIC.
"Sir, LSO reports pods secure and unloading underway".
"Very well XO" Adama nodded to Tigh, putting down the high resolution picture of Earth and looking around the CIC.
Despite the news that they were not going to Earth, there was an enthusiasm and excitement on his ship that he hadn't seen since before the Cylons had attacked the Colonies. Saul had already had to kick a few people in the rear end to keep them focused on their jobs, meaning he was just as unbearably happy as the crew, unfortunately.
"Get me the Prometheus, ship to ship" Adama ordered Dee, putting aside thoughts of his crew for now. They'd settle down soon enough, but he didn't have the heart to try and beat them up for having the first real hope in their lives since they had fled from the Cylons.
Only an hour ago, the fleet had jumped to within a few tens of kilometers from the interdimensional rift, ensuring in the event of an all out Cylon attack that they could quickly scoot through the door and (hopefully) shut it in the Cylons face. If everything went according to schedule, Prometheus would be heading for Earth in a few minutes, the Raptors would make a quick survey of their first destination on the other side to make sure it all was 'as advertised', then the fleet would pass through and jump to the planet.
Somehow though, he felt the fleets amazing run of luck over the last week was just about due for a crash and burn.
"Sir? I have Colonel Pendergast for you on an open channel" Dee spoke up as she tied in the transmission to the Commanders own phone. Adama stopped for a second to frame his thoughts before picking up the phone. They hadn't had anything like the time to work out a secure communications system between their two ships as of yet so everything was still being transmitted in the clear, albeit using very tightly focused transmissions. As such, he had been careful to not say anything that might excite the rather over stimulated civilians any more then they were, if they somehow managed to overhear.
"This is Galactica Actual. All fighters and personnel are on board".
"Copy that Commander" Pendergast replied instantly, clearly waiting for the signal on his bridge. We're ready to depart now. We've just received word that the SG teams have been deployed to P4X-221 and are expecting your people later today. All things being equal, we should be back within a week. Oh and I'm afraid the Jaffa ships are going to have to leave immediately to return to their patrol routes. We'll keep you updated on the situation via the Stargate. Call if you need us".
"Understood" Adama replied. "We'll take good care of your people and see you in a week".
"Roger that, out" Pendergast replied, cutting off the transmission. On the DRADIS display, the green icon for Prometheus flashed several times then with a beep, vanished from the display.
"The Prometheus has transitioned" Gaeta called unnecessarily as a surge of energy washed over his readouts from the Gateway, external cameras showing the ship at this distance as a tiny silver spec that suddenly illuminated brilliantly before vanishing.
"Let's get moving with our deployments" Adama said, speaking loud enough to be heard by the CIC staff and getting them quickly back on task. "Colonel, prepare to launch Raptor recon unit".
"Yes sir" Tigh nodded, picking up the microphone that linked directly into the ship wide PA system. A low tone echoed throughout the entire ship as he hit the transmitter. "This is the XO. Pass to word to recon team alpha to report for launch in ten minutes".
"Sir, the President and Doctor Jackson are inbound from Cloud Nine" Dualla spoke up as Tigh replaced the microphone in the cradle. "ETA is five minutes".
"You know he'll be asking about that Cylon we've got stashed in the brig" Tigh commented in a soft voice intended to reach his CO's ears only after ensuring no-one was in eavesdropping range. "What are we going to tell him?"
"The truth" Adama replied curtly.
"And if he wants to talk to her?" Tigh asked, clearly wondering about exactly what it would have to say about their actions over the last few months and how it had been treated.
"We'll let him, properly supervised" Bill replied, thinking back to when this copy of Sharon had held a gun to his head, then given it up to prove a point. He still didn't trust her any further then the length of her chains, but he had to admit she had done everything she could to prove herself no threat to them…and proved she was in love with one of his pilots, having apparently betrayed her own people for him.
"Make sure that we get a full recording of everything that happens when he goes to see her" he continued, glancing up at Tigh. "I'm interested to see what a Cylon thinks about Earth, and what they are going to do about it".
"Alright this is the way its going to work" Gunnery Sergeant Mathias declared in a voice that the God's themselves would have envied as she 'swaggered' down the line of Marines checking weapons near the quartet of Raptors sitting on the deck of the Port hanger.
"Dikto, Giggis you're in Raptor one. Nowart, Stewart you're in two. Henick you're with me in three. Make sure the survival gear and heavy weapons are split between each of the Raptors; if this thing goes bad I don't want it to turn into a frak-up like Kobol". The Marines nodded and switched placed to buddy up, swapping a couple of packages to ensure that if any one or even two of the troop Raptors went down, the others would still each have a surface to orbit beacon and ample supplies, unlike those poor bastards who had crash landed on the original home of the Gods and played hit and run with the toasters for over a week.
"Alright" she continued when everyone stopped moving. "Our Raptors follow the gunship in; we land if it looks friendly, we go say hi to the Marines from Earth who will be waiting. The call signs we've arranged through Prometheus have apparently been forwarded to them. Ours is Starship, theirs is Luna, don't ask me why, it just is" she said, stopping her pacing. "Of course if for some reason they haven't gotten this message for Fraks sake don't engage unless you have no other choice, disengage and signal an abort, we'll pick up the pieces later. Questions?"
There were none, which was good because the likely questions they would have asked would have been ones she wouldn't have been able to answer.
"Then move out".
The half dozen marines glad in green camouflage overlayed with heavy black armor and combat helmets slung their equipment and hustled towards the four ships starting preflight checks. As Mathias followed Corporal Henick in, she saw the pilots finishing their own briefing from the CAG, Lee Adama who was also in a flight suit. He would escort them as far as the other side of the rift and hold there on patrol with Lieutenant Katraine until they were expected to return in two hours.
"Oh great we got the fraken Cylon lover" Henick muttered. Following his gaze, she saw Lieutenant Agathon breaking from the pack of pilots and jumping up on their Raptor, nodding once to them before ducking through the hatch.
Glancing around quickly, she grabbed a fist full of the webbing on Henick's vest and shoved him against the left tail of the Raptor as he came to surprised halt.
Mathias was deceptively strong for such a small figure and the surprised marines eyes went wide at the iron grip just under his throat.
"Corporal if you ever mouth off about an officer of the Colonial fleet being a 'Cylon Lover', specifically an officer who risked his ass two days ago to save this fleet from the Cylons, blowing up a Base Ship in the process, I can guarantee the only time you will step foot on our new planet will be when they drag your aged corpse down from Galactica for burial. Am I making myself perfectly clear?"
"Crystal Mam" he replied, a nervous and somewhat fearful expression on his face showing he realized he had not just crossed the line but pissed on it in front of the ships second most senior Marine NonCom.
"Is there a problem Gunny?" Apollo asked, walking over.
"Just a little attitude adjustment Sir" she replied with a thin smile, releasing the Marine who ironically now found a very good reason to get inside Helo's Raptor and away from the Captain and the Sergeant.
Lee decided not to press the issue and simply nodded, turning and walking over towards his Viper. His fathers old Mark II in fact, his Mark VII was in the shop with a few others thanks to some minor damage from their tangle with the Cylons a couple of days ago.
"She's all ready Sir" Cally said as he climbed up the ladder and dropped into the seat. "Just watch the throttle when you push it to the maximum, it's been sticking a little bit".
"Noted" he replied, accepting his helmet from Cally and with long practiced ease, locked it onto his flight suits collar. He couldn't believe what Starbuck had told him a few minutes ago about the Earth pilots flying without vacuum rated flight suits, but in the crazy 'high tech – low tech' nature of their world apparently their suits were just too bulky to wear in the cockpit.
Well he thought, maybe we can swap two dozen of them for two dozen of their enhanced nukes…
On that happy thought, he locked the cockpit as his Viper was sealed in the tube.
"LSO reports the scout team is good to launch" Dee looked up from her console as the message came through.
"Execute" Adama said without hesitation.
Ten seconds later, the scattering of green icons on the DRADIS display was joined by the twin icons of CAG and GALACTICA-VIPER-7961, then a matter of seconds later by several GALACTICA-RAPTOR icons which formed up behind them.
"Signal Apollo to proceed to the mission start waypoint, have the-"
Adama was cut off as the loud screaming of a contact alarm cut through everything, followed a second later by the master DRADIS display zooming out and recalibrating its scale, to show a large red icon suddenly appearing on the edge of the screen.
"DRADIS contact!" Gaeta shouted as he worked his console. "Signal of Contact bearing…three four two carom zero one one, incoming capital size bogy, CBDR"
"Oh you have got to be fraking me" Tigh hissed as he picked up the ship wide PA, waiting for the order he knew was coming.
"Set condition one throughout the fleet" Adama said calmly, placing the folder he had been reading onto the plotting table, turning to face Dualla. "Signal the fleet to stand by for immediate transition through the gateway. Scrub the Raptors recon and have the CAG form up with the Cap" Adama ordered.
"Set condition one throughout the ship, this is not a drill" Tigh announced over the PA before stabbing the microphone back into the cradle, glaring at the large scarlet CAPITAL-UNKNOWN symbol slowly but inoperably driving towards the Colonial fleet.
"New Contacts, they're launching Raiders!" Gaeta called out as waves of red icons started to detach themselves from the large ship, before being grouped into UNKNOWN-SQUADRON tags as the tracks grew too numerous to remain in discrete units.
"Apollo Galactica, I'm outbound towards the incoming Base ship, Kat, Hot Dog and Dash with me, intercept in two minutes".
"Roger Apollo" Dualla replied, looking over the feed from Gaetas tactical displays.
"Frakers always know exactly when to hit us" Tigh muttered darkly, his thoughts clearly focused on the possibility of sleeper agents in the fleet. "It's surely a coincidence that Prometheus just left and is going to be out of contact for hours".
"It might well be" Adama replied with a slight shrug, "but right now it's not important. Signal Apollo to engage their lead element then pull back. Stand by to launch Vipers and get those F-302's ready. I want a little surprise ready for our friends".
"Yes Sir" Tigh said with a grim look, picking up the phone and starting to punch in the code for Kelly when Gaeta suddenly spoke up.
"Uh Sirs…I'm picking up Colonial transponders" Gaeta suddenly spoke up in his confusion as the DRADIS systems automatic interrogation signals came back with information for Colonial strike craft and automatically updated the displays.
"Ah hell, now they're using our own signals against us" Tigh growled. Trying to manage a battle where everything registered as friendly was going to be damn near impossible at best. He was frankly surprised they had taken this long to come up with the idea, the toasters had had plenty of time to go through the wrecks of the fleet back in the Colonies and after all.
He turned to suggest a forced re-designation of all ships not from Galactica as hostile…and saw his CO frowning at the display in thought.
"Maybe" Adama said as the screen showed the cloud of green icons closing on Galactica, Vipers starting to pour out of her tubes. "Weapons hold. Signal the fleet to hold position short of the gateway too" he put in.
"All ships Galactica, hold positions" Dualla said as the door to CIC opened admitting Doctor Daniel Jackson and President Laura Roslyn, who looked somewhat out of breath. Repeat, hold your positions".
"If you let me talk to the Gateway station I can call the SGC and get them to turn Prometheus around immediately if you need backup" Daniel offered to the surprise of Tigh as he walked up to the command console, who hadn't anticipated that the Earth ship could be reached at FTL velocities.
"Hold that thought" Adama replied, turning away from the DRADIS display to Dualla. "Ship to ship. Priority one Colonial channel. Send hostile challenge and ID, then push the reply up on the speakers".
Dualla worked her console, then hit the transmit key for her headset. "Attention unknown vessel. This is the Battlestar Galactica. Identify yourself or we will fire upon you" the non commissioned officer transmitted over the priority one channel, meaning it would get the instant attention of any Colonial CO.
"Range to leading contacts eighteen fifty" Gaeta sung out as the wall of 'friendly' icons continued to scream towards the fleet on a clear attack vector, far more raider blips present then Galactica had Vipers ready to defend, which was par for the course in just about every engagement unfortunately.
Static suddenly hissed over the CIC speakers, then a male voice broke though.
"This is the Battlestar Pegasus to the ship claiming to be the Galactica. Please respond".
"Pegasus…" Tigh scoffed into the dead silence that fell over the CIC. "How can that be, the entire fleet was destroyed?"
"We've already had one chance meeting in deep space Colonel" Roslyn said in a tone of thought, inclining her head slightly towards the well dressed Earth representative next to her. Adama bit down on his lip for a second, his gaze not shifting from his communications officer as he pulled his phone.
"Give me direct contact" he ordered. Dualla pressed a button to transfer the channel from her station to his, then nodded.
"Pegasus, this is Galactica actual. Authenticate identity with recognition codes immediately".
Quickly, Dualla's board beeped with the report of an incoming secure transmission, which she quickly unpacked to find a long authentication string. Opening the fleet recognition file, she input the transmission and in a millisecond, a match for the Mercury class Battlestar Pegasus came back in the green.
"Sir…I've received Colonial recognition codes…they're authentic" she replied with hesitation laced through her voice, as if she couldn't believe it herself.
"I don't mean to sound negative…but couldn't those codes have been compromised by the Cylons since they overran the Colonies?" Daniel asked carefully.
"Easily" Tigh agreed. "Unless we can hear from someone we know, or Apollo can get a visual-"
"Galactica Actual, this is Pegasus actual" a new voice came over the speakers, a strident female voice that was speaking as if she was just as hesitant as them to believe what was going on. "Adama…is that you?"
"Admiral Cain" Galactica CO replied to the voice, one he recognized as the fastest rising officer in the Colonial fleet, exchanging a look with Tigh and Roslyn as he did so that said volumes. "What a pleasure to hear your voice".
633 Light years from Caprica.
Cylon Genocide + 203 days.
Rear Admiral Helena Cain for the first time in over two hundred days found it difficult to maintain the icy professional demeanor that had been her mask for so long, as she started at one of the flat screens that ringed her command console. Taking a deep breath to calm down, she looked away from the forward DRADIS readout to her XO, Colonel Jack Fisk who was looking at his own display with more then a little shock on his face that he wasn't hiding.
Flipping the phone down away from her mouth, she nodded. "Disengage".
She was pleased to see her XO shake off his feelings and get back to work without question, glancing down for a split second to locate and press the button that would link his wireless headset directly into the fighter wings frequency.
"Red team disengage, red team, disengage" he ordered, watching the display to ensure his orders were carried out. Seconds later the Viper squadrons slowed, then reversed their course at a relatively sedate speed showed they had been listening in and knew Cylon raiders were not screaming towards them.
Cain returned her attention to the DRADIS display, vaguely noting that the officers and men around the room were stepping closer to the command console to take a peak at the sensor readouts, most of them wearing expressions of shock, hope or disbelief.
All three emotions were currently waging for supremacy inside the Admiral as the fighters on both sides turned around, except the nearest quartet from Galactica that were clearly coming in for a confirming look.
"Commander" she said, moving the phone back to her mouth which was slowly breaking into a rare smile to match those appearing on her crew. "I don't know what to say…this is a miracle".
"We've been lucky on miracles lately Admiral" Adama replied, turning to his own crew who now looking downright ready to start a party in the CIC instead of just hopeful as they had ten minutes ago.
"Step down to condition two throughout the fleet" he ordered, Dualla smiling as she moved to comply, the buzzing alert siren cutting off over the ship as the alert was canceled.
"Galactica, Apollo" the CAG said from many hundreds of kilometers away as he brought his flight into visual range, unable to wipe the grin off his face. "You are not going to believe what I'm looking at out here" he said, laughing for the shear joy of it. "It's like a dream!"
Arcing past the patrol screen, Apollo, Kat, Hot Dog and Dash carefully dove through the cloud of fighters around the Pegasus, driving close past the huge Colonial warship still heading towards the fleet, her name written in twenty meter high letters along the flight pod, declaring to the universe that while the Colonial fleet had suffered a hell of a body blow, they weren't down for the count quite yet.