Ride the Lightning

A Farscape / Battlestar Galactica Crossover

2005 Multiverse Ficathon

Written for florastuart, who wanted Bialar Crais/Kara Thrace, any rating, any time setting. Thank you to Ysrith for the beta.

Rating: PG-13 for language

Word count: 7,531

Spoilers: Spoilers for Into the Lion's Den, parts 1 & 2; Kobol's Last Gleaming, parts 1 & 2

I ain't scared of lightnin'

C'mon and do your worst

If they gave degrees for cheatin' destiny

Then man, I've got the first

No, I ain't scared of lightnin'

Just the same old empty threat

I been standin' proud

'Neath the gatherin' cloud

And man, I ain't dead yet

No, I ain't scared of lightnin'

And thunder never kills

I was born in a summer storm

I live there still

Yeah, I was born in a summer storm

I live there still

I Ain't Scared of Lightnin'

by Tom McRae

-----------------------------------------------------

For a moment, a split second in time, Kara couldn't breathe. It's hard to say. You know I don't like to guess. No, the Old Man didn't like to guess, was almost phobic about it. But not wanting to guess, to speculate, wasn't the same thing as being evasive. Even a simple, honest I don't know would've been easier to swallow than the answer she'd gotten when she asked him if they were getting closer to Earth. I'm sure we are. Good luck on the next test. Evasion and a quick change of subject.

"Dammit, you lied to me," she whispered. She could breathe again, but the voices rattling around in her head – mama always said there was nothing in there, anyway – wouldn't go away, kept chasing each other like a pair of cats on a rampage, determined to take each other down. It appeared now that what Roslin had said was true, though Kara had vehemently denied it at the time. Commander Adama has no idea where Earth is. He never did. He made it up in order to give people hope.

And if what Roslin had said about the Old Man was true, then... It is crazy, perhaps. But it doesn't mean it isn't true. And it may be our only chance, our only chance to find Earth. Then maybe, just maybe, what Roslin had said about the Arrow of Apollo was true. Kara closed her eyes, shook her head in an attempt to rid herself of the words that threatened to destroy her faith in the man who was the closest thing she had to a real father.

She opened her eyes again, looked out into the velvet black of space – the only place she ever truly knew peace. "Apollo, Starbuck. I'm ready over here." Ready to see if this alien machine would respond to her programmed commands.

Lee's voice came through loud and clear over her headset. "Okay, Starbuck, the board is green."

"Copy that. Powering up for the autopilot test." Do you believe in the gods, Lieutenant? Kara shook her head again, glared at the figures on her display. Good luck on the next test. Her fingers flew as she input commands to the navigation comp then flicked a switch. "This is Starbuck. Request permission to speak with Galactica actual."

There was a faint static on the line that told her she was being switched to a scrambled channel. As soon as it cleared, she said, "I believed you. Believed in Earth." Kara tried to keep the hurt and anger out of her voice, but knew she hadn't succeeded.

Adama's voice, wary, "What are you doing, Starbuck?"

She tapped in the last of her instructions. "Bringing home the cat, sir." That was better, her voice was back under control.

"We can talk about this."

"No, I don't think so."

"I want you to remember one thing. I do not regret anything that I did. Be sure that whatever you're going to do, you don't regret it later. Do you understand me?"

And wasn't that just like the Old Man? Not forbidding her to do it. Not trying to talk her out of it. Instead, pointing out the noose and allowing her to put her own head through it, letting her hang herself if she was wrong. "I guess we'll find out."

She killed the connection and activated the autopilot sequence that would take her home.

xxx

Crais had pronounced his final words to Scorpius – indeed to every soul aboard the command carrier that had once been his. He stood very still within the damaged, dangerous child that was Talyn, surrounded by the lights and the familiar burbling sounds of command, reveling in the renewed connection of the neural interface. After all they had been through together, even at a time that was likely to be the end of their lives, Crais felt he had come home.

Talyn rose above the hangar deck, his engines spooling up to full power. Crais watched through Talyn's sensors as the wind of those engines blew Peacekeepers back, away from the force of science and nature that was a Peacekeeper/Leviathan hybrid, unique in the universe.

Crais sucked air into his lungs, resolved to do this thing no matter the personal consequences, for it was something that must be done. Scorpius must be stopped – in that, at least, Crichton was correct. The destructive power of wormholes could not be loosed, to be used in a galactic powerplay by Peacekeepers or Scarrans or another faction as yet unknown.

"Talyn..." Crais closed his eyes, released the pent-up air from his lungs, perhaps the last breath he would ever take. "Starburst." If that was indeed the case, he was satisfied. This was a good death, if such was to be his and Talyn's fate.

Without hesitation, the splendid child did as his Sebacean friend asked. Crais had never been more proud of Talyn. Through their link, he felt the power build, rushing through the Leviathan's body from the starburst chamber. Crais felt it as the command carrier began to shake around them with the magnitude of the energies being unleashed.

As those energies built, the magnificent power of the contained starburst surrounded and permeated Crais. He was on fire – crackling, intense, destructive. Through the link, doubling back on him in a continuous loop, came pain. Fire and pain. The pain grew and grew until he felt rather than heard the screams torn from his throat, echoing through his skull from Talyn. Crais was aware of it when he fell to his knees. He reached out a hand to catch himself as he began to fall further, but the flames swallowed him whole and he knew no more.

Microts and cycles later, Talyn burst through the side of the carrier in a cloud of debris, the remains of things manufactured and of those Peacekeepers who hadn't been fast enough or smart enough to leave when they had the chance.

xxx

"What the frak?"

Kara watched as a brilliant blue vortex formed in front of the Cylon raider, swirling out of the nothing of space, growing exponentially as the raider swarmed toward it, following the course she had programming into the autopilot only moments before. As the vortex swallowed her whole, its strange beauty took her breath away. Eyes wide, Kara could only hold on for the ride as her ship hurtled into the unknown.

She could feel the intense energies that surrounded the raider, crackling electricity that made the hair rise on the back of her neck and along her arms. Kara felt as though she rode a bolt of lightning.

As suddenly as the headlong flight down the liquid blue vortex began, it ended. One moment, Kara's teeth were jarring together in a violent dance and her brain felt like it was being pulverized in her skull. The next, nothing. No sense of movement. Nothing to see through the view port. Nothing.

There were no stars. There was no light or darkness, only a bizarre, sourceless illumination. Checking her instrument panel, Kara could find no indication of where she was. Using the raider's rudimentary manual controls, she thought that she swung the ship around in a 360-degree arc, but she couldn't be sure. Nothing changed, visually, nor did her instruments pick up anything.

"This can't be good." She changed her vector, repeated the 360 on a different axis. This time, she saw in the distance a shape. It was covered in veins of light that faded as she watched, like some great deep-sea creature that made its own illumination, but not a creature that nature had much to do with. She thought it might be a ship of some sort, but she was getting confused readings from her sensors and so couldn't trust the information received.

"Galactica, Starbuck. Do you copy?" Nothing but static on the wireless. "Figures. Well, it's not like I have anything better to do." She pushed her raider toward the maybe-ship.

Within seconds, where she had thought it would take several minutes at least, she had closed the distance between herself and the odd ship. As she approached, could make out more detail, Kara saw that it was made of some reddish material with counterpoints of black. It didn't appear to be metal, but rather some sort of skin and she could see lights shining through portholes. The whole thing had a sleek but deadly look; it was absolutely beautiful.

Upon closer examination, she saw what appeared to be scorch marks, gashes, and other signs of recent battle up and down its exterior, but particularly in the forward section. There was even one small segment of the ship that appeared, from the jagged edges and asymmetry of the hole, to be missing. In fact, in spite of the lights and the faint readings that indicated a main power source, the ship looked to her as thought it were floating dead. Kara took the raider once around the thing, surveying the damage, and saw what might be a hangar with two large entrances, one on either side of the ship.

"Guess I'll just have to take my chances..."

Aiming the raider toward one of the openings, Kara took her in.

xxx

Pain had stolen his consciousness and it was pain that restored it.

Crais woke to agony reverberating through his link with Talyn. He felt as though every nerve ending in his body burned as he fought his way back to his feet. Not only did pain radiate through their link, but also panic. Talyn could not move. He was hurting, he was frightened, and he was paralyzed. Crais could barely think past the Leviathan's terror.

Dragging himself to the main control console, Crais saw that nothing seemed to be functioning properly. Talyn's sensor readouts were so garbled as to be meaningless. Energy readings fluctuated madly – one set of instrumentation showing that the Leviathan hurtled through space at an impossible rate while another showed that they drifted aimlessly. Nothing Crais saw made sense and the pain continued to destroy thoughts as they were formed.

Slumping against the control console, Crais brought both hands to his head and squeezed. It did no good; he was certain that his brain was draining slowly from his skull.

While he stood there, trying to think past the pain, trying to send reassurance to Talyn, he felt another presence enter command. Crais turned his head, sending a bolt of white agony down his spine. Two of Talyn's DRDs ushered a Sebacean woman into the chamber. He had a quick impression of short, blonde hair and large, dark eyes before his vision began to fade at the edges. She said something that he thought might be a question, based on intonation, but he just could not interpret the words, even with the aid of his translator microbes.

"Please, slow down." He fought back a gasp at the effort the words cost him. "Repeat yourself."

"Where the frak are we? What... language is that?"

Not knowing if she responded to his command or if it was mere happenstance, Crais concentrated on what she said, tried to listen to the words under the automatic translation. She definitely wasn't speaking Sebacean, but beyond that—

Another wave of agony brought Crais to his knees. His hands flew instinctively to the neural interface. He thought he might have cried out. And then another set of hands joined his. Where he couldn't grip the interface to remove it, she could. He hadn't seen her move, yet she was there. Without ceremony, she yanked the interface from the back of Crais' skull.

That suddenly, the pain was gone and Crais realized that all of it had belonged to Talyn, that it was Talyn whose every nerve ending burned. Crais could no longer feel Talyn's panic through the link, but he was surrounded by it, even so.

Breathing hard from the aftermath of pain, Crais shouted, "Talyn, calm yourself! I am here! I won't leave you!"

Looking around him, Crais saw that the woman held the interface in one hand and a weapon in the other although she appeared uncertain as to where she should aim: at Crais or at the gun that had dropped down and was aimed directly at her face. Both of the DRDs that had accompanied her to Command held weapons trained on her as well, at Talyn's bidding, he presumed. "Talyn, no. Do not. She has not harmed me." Although he didn't fire on her, Talyn's gun remained as it was. Understandably, the woman's weapon was now aimed at Crais. "Talyn! Obey me!" He put all the force he could manage into the command.

She held herself very still, the only movement her expressive eyes. The gun in her hand didn't waver.

"Talyn, stand down."

Crais released the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding as Talyn's gun receded into the ceiling, the DRDs drew their weapons back into their bodies, and the woman lowered her pistol.

xxx

Kara still felt the shivery sensation of adrenaline rush. She had lowered her gun, but hadn't holstered it and had no intention of doing so until she knew what the frak was going on. This freaky ship with its... mechanized rats seemed to have a mind of its own and she had to wonder if the man in front of her was another model of those damned human-looking Cylons. The ship didn't look like anything Cylon she had ever seen, in person or from the so-called entertainment industry, but that didn't mean a hell of a lot.

"Who are you?" she demanded, pocketing the thing she had pulled from the back of his head.

He took a deep breath before responding, but his words were in an unfamiliar language. She opened her mouth to ask another – probably equally futile – question, but before the words formed there was a stinging pain in her left foot and she looked down. One of the rats had stuck something into her, right through the leather of her boot. She kicked the thing into a bulkhead and aimed her pistol at the other rat.

As she began to exert force on the trigger, her vision faded for just a moment. She swayed but remained standing, heard a rush of white noise, then—

"No, do not," the dark man said. "It will not harm you. The DRD merely injected you with translator microbes."

Kara looked up at him and frowned. "Injected me?" she snarled. She turned her gaze on the rat she had kicked as it tried to right itself – that had apparently injected her with something – trapped in the juncture between bulkhead and deck. Bringing her gun to bear, she squeezed the trigger and shot it once, causing a satisfying shower of sparks. She turned back to the man, aimed at his chest. "You're a frakking Cylon, aren't you?"

The lights dimmed around them as she stared at the man, who glared right back at her. The gun again dropped from the ceiling, aimed at her right eye.

"Talyn—" the man began, but she cut him off.

Speaking to anyone who might be able to hear, to whoever was controlling the remote gun, she said, "Put it away or I put a bullet through his eye." She didn't know if Cylons could care enough to protect one of their own, but it seemed a reasonable gamble, under the circumstances. She didn't want to kill him just yet, Cylon or not – not until he told her what she needed to know to get herself either to Caprica or back to Galactica.

An angry-sounding squeal seemed to surround them and the man's eyes narrowed. "Talyn, stand down." His voice was steady and the murder in his dark eyes had diminished to something a little less violent, mixed with curiosity. After a brief hesitation, Talyn again retracted the gun. "Now, perhaps we can discuss our... situation like civilized beings."

He cocked a brow and raised his hands in a classic "I'm unarmed" gesture. Kara pulled up her weapon, but again, didn't holster it. "Maybe we can, maybe we can't. Are you a Cylon?"

The man frowned. "What is a Cylon?"

Kara laughed. "Nice try." Keeping her eyes more or less on the man in black, she circled the room, glancing at the various bits of instrumentation, at the remains of the rat she had shot (the other had since run away), at the point on the ceiling behind which the remote gun had receded. There were labels here and there, but she couldn't read them.

"What language is this?" she gestured toward what she thought was a control console and the angular markings there.

"Sebacean." He sounded surprised that she'd had to ask. "Are you not Sebacean?"

"What's a Sebacean?"

The man lowered his arms and took a couple of steps toward Kara. Not answering her question, he said, "I am Bialar Crais. This ship is Talyn." There was a sullen sound from the ship, as though in response to Crais' introduction.

"Kara Thrace." She gazed pointedly at the diminished distance between them, raised a brow, and aimed her weapon at him once more. "That's close enough, Bialar."

He stopped. "Kara, if we are to escape this place, we must trust each other."

She smiled at him sweetly. "Not gonna happen, big boy." He was right, though. She couldn't trust him, no way, but they would probably have to work together. She hadn't the slightest idea where she was or how she'd gotten here and she suspected it was the same for him. With a sigh, she holstered her sidearm. "But I guess we can call a truce."

Crais visibly relaxed. Of course, she was no longer pointing a gun at him, so why wouldn't he be relieved? She took a step toward him and he stood his ground, surprised her by holding out one hand, palm up. Her eyes met his, asking a silent question, and he said, "My transponder, please."

"Your what?"

"The neural transponder that you put in your pocket. I would like it back, now."

"You mean that... thing that I had to pull out of your head?"

"Yes, that thing. It is a neural interface with my ship and I need it back."

Kara fished in her pocket. "If you plug it back in, it'll just fry your brain again."

She thought there might be the ghost of a smile playing about his lips when he replied, "I can dampen the feedback loop so that our connection is not so... intense. But there are things that must be done that I cannot convey to Talyn without that interface." He waved his fingers at her impatiently and she tossed the device to him, forcing him to jump to catch it.

"Sorry," she lied.

xxx

Crais arrived at his quarters and studied the familiar setting through the open door before entering. Familiar and yet... There were subtle differences here and there, evidence that the Peacekeepers had searched his things. The fact that the differences were so subtle was also evidence that Scorpius had, for whatever reason, ordered that nothing be disturbed.

The door closed behind him and a deep groan reverberated through the ship.

"Ah, my friend," Crais said, placing a hand against the warm bulkhead, "we need to discover some way to lessen your pain." Wishing he knew the meaning behind the sound Talyn gave him in return, he shook his head. "Talyn, I know that you understand what I say, though I don't comprehend you in return."

All Crais knew was that the Leviathan was in tremendous pain from his injuries and that he would be unable to function in any meaningful way until that pain was reduced or eliminated. They could worry about healing his injuries later, after they had found a way out of this... bizarre place that seemed to exist somewhere between normal space and time. Or simply "nothing," as Kara Thrace had called it.

Before returning to his own quarters, Crais had shown Kara to those that had belonged for a time to John Crichton and Aeryn Sun. Once there, they had spoken of many things, among them the planned test flight of the ship she had taken as a prize in battle and how an unscheduled jump to hyperspace – a method of space travel that sounded similar in effect to starburst – had resulted in her arrival... here. Obviously, the hyperspace jump had gone wrong, somehow, and what Kara had described was suspiciously like one of Crichton's wormholes.

Which was appropriate since Kara Thrace was, it seemed, another Human, although she was not from Crichton's Earth. Perhaps there is something about her ship that is similar to Crichton's module... Crais debated whether or not he should tell her that he knew of Earth, tell her of Crichton, a native of the planet which her people apparently sought.

Removing the transponder from his pocket, Crais pulled the chair from beneath his desk and sat, leaning in to switch on the light that projected over the black surface. "Talyn, I need you to scan this area of space as best you can. Look for any compound in any amount that might have anesthetic properties or that might be mixed with something else to create a numbing effect." The hybrid burbled unevenly in reply, attempting to sound as though all was well.

Crais removed a precision tool set and lighted magnifier from the single desk drawer. Pulling the headpiece of the magnifier over his head and the lens over his eyes, he assessed the transponder.

Created by Talyn, it was a thing of understated beauty, both organic and mechanical at once. And it was useless to them as it was now – if Kara Thrace had not been there to remove it, Crais didn't know if he would have been able to do so on his own or if Talyn's pain would have crushed him.

He set to work, pushing those things that might have happened, but in the end hadn't, to the back of his mind, so that he could better concentrate on the task at hand.

xxx

"Okay, this is just stupid." Kara shoved herself up from the bed, where she had lain for however long it had been since Crais left, trying not to think about Lee or the Old Man or the batshit-insane President and her Arrow of Apollo. Grabbing her uniform tunic from where she had flung it over the back of a chair and shrugging it over her shoulders, she slammed out of the room. She didn't care where she went or what she did when she got there, but she wasn't going to just sit on her ass and do nothing.

Maybe she could get some readings that made sense from the raider's instruments. "Although why it'd be different from when I first got here, I don't know," she muttered.

Almost immediately, one of Talyn's mechanical rodent minions appeared and followed her through the passageway. Crais had called them DRDs, but she preferred to call them rats. Turning around, she walked backwards a few steps and said, "If you're going to follow me, you might as well do something useful. Why don't you lead me back to my ship?" To her surprise, the thing shot out ahead of her and then matched its pace to hers as it led her through Talyn's weirdly organic corridors.

A couple of minutes later, the rat disappeared around a bend and Kara broke into a jog to catch up, thinking about the things Crais had told her. He had said that Talyn was a living ship and yet there was no connection to the toasters and their semi-organic raiders. Crais honestly seemed to have never heard of the Cylons, but even without them to worry about, it was clear that he and Talyn had their own problems – those Peacekeepers he'd spoken of sounded about as much fun as the human variety Cylons.

She reached the end of the corridor and saw the rat waiting for her in front of a closed door. "This doesn't look like where I left my ride."

xxx

After more than an arn of delicate work, Crais laid down the precision driver and pushed back from his desk, the modifications to the neural interface complete. His eyes burned and his head ached, but, if the changes he had made worked, if he was able to link directly to Talyn again without experiencing debilitating pain, then it was worth it.

Reaching up, Crais removed the magnifier and laid the headset beside the driver. He rolled his shoulders and flung his head violently from one side to the other, resulting in a wholly satisfying series of pops from the vertebrae in his neck. Then he closed his eyes and, hoping for the best, set the prongs of the transponder against the socket and pressed it into place.

Talyn's pain and fear were present, but where before they had been literally unbearable to the Sebacean, now they were merely ghostly echoes of what Talyn was going through. Hoping that he had not dampened things down too much for the direct link to be effective, Crais delved fully into Talyn's consciousness.

Through the Leviathan's internal sensors, Crais sought Kara Thrace, allowing his and Talyn's combined senses to radiate from Crais' quarters. He didn't have to go far – it seemed that she had left her own quarters and found her way to his, that she stood just outside the closed door. One of Talyn's DRDs was with her and the knowledge came to him that Talyn had ordered the DRD to bring her here, in the event something went wrong when their link was reopened.

Crais smiled faintly. "Very good thinking, Talyn," he said as he completed the circuit that opened the door.

xxx

Kara had raised a hand to knock when the door in front of her opened, seemingly of its own accord. She took an involuntary step back and, through the now open doorway, saw Crais where he sat at a desk on the other side of the room, his back to her. "Crais."

"Come in, Kara." He remained seated, didn't turn around to look at her.

"Sorry to bother you. One of Talyn's rats brought me here." She stepped in and the door closed behind her, leaving the drone on the other side. She shrugged and walked around the room, taking in the decor – all red and black and militaristic. "You really need to hire a new decorator, Bialar."

He ignored her as she dropped into a chair next to the desk while he stared at nothing, unblinking, and she realized that he had stuck that thing back into its socket. "Bialar? You okay?"

He blinked twice then and relaxed back into his chair. "Yes, Kara, I'm fine. I was merely checking on Talyn to determine the extent of the damage."

Relieved that she wasn't about to be left alone on an alien ship, in between where she had been and where she needed to be with no way out, she leaned back in the surprisingly comfortable chair and propped her feet up on Crais' desk. His only reaction to that was a raised brow. She smirked and asked, "And?"

"And it isn't as bad as I'd feared, although it is bad enough."

"Your ship... can you fix it?" Crais' dark eyes flashed and Kara realized two things: he was a good-looking man and he clearly disliked her calling Talyn "it." She laughed. "Sorry. Where I come from, we don't have ships with their own personality." The random thought came to her that she didn't know if her raider had once had its own personality before she'd destroyed its higher brain functions. "Can you fix him?"

"Yes, but it will take some time. More to the point, Talyn and I will need your assistance."

"Oh?"

"The ship you arrived in, your raider..." He pushed back from the desk, rose, began to pace. "I had Talyn run a scan of this area, searching for anything that could be used to dampen his pain or aid him in healing. It seems that there is a large concentration of unrefined chromextin in his hangar." He stopped pacing and turned to face her. "It permeates your ship."

Apprehensive at what he seemed to be implying, she demanded, "What the frak is chromextin?" If Crais thought he was going to take apart her raider, destroy her only chance to get home, he had another think coming.

"It is a drug that Talyn and I have used before, in a similar situation. It will reduce his pain, allowing him to rest and to heal, as well as aiding directly in the healing process." He began to pace again and Kara was reminded of a panther, powerful and dangerous to the unwary. "We should be able to extract it from your ship and distill it into a form that Talyn can metabolize."

"You are not going to destroy my ship to help yours heal faster."

"No." Crais returned to his chair, moved it closer to Kara's, and sat. "No, you misunderstand. It will not be destroyed. The raw chromextin appears to circulate throughout your ship's systems. We merely need to draw some of it off."

"How much are we talking? You may not have noticed, but Talyn's just a little bit bigger than my raider."

He let her sarcastic exaggeration pass, simply stating, "As I said, it will take some time."

Kara shook her head. She didn't know how time worked in this nothing. For all they knew, it had slowed for them here and sped past in normal space. There were people counting on her. "I'm not made of time, Crais. The Cylons are trying to wipe out humanity, and they're not doing a bad job of it. If I complete my mission" – no way was she going to tell him what that mission was, it was just too insane – "then maybe we can survive. I have to complete my mission."

He met her eyes and held them. "And do you know, Kara Thrace, how to escape from this... nothing?" Crais challenged. The tone of his voice, the look of determination on his face told her that he wasn't going to help her unless she helped him.

Clamping down on a biting retort, she opted to glare at him instead, knowing what he was going to say because the gods never seemed to give her anything without a struggle of some sort.

"No, you do not. But I do."

xxx

Kara's eyes seemed much larger and darker when she was angry, Crais noticed. As she was now. Good. Let her be angry. Anger made others more susceptible to manipulation, when necessary.

But as suddenly as her anger had flared, it seemed to dissipate and Kara leaned back in her chair, recrossed her legs while allowing her boots to remain on his desk. A smirk crossed her lovely face as she said, "Okay, genius, lay it on me. How do I get to Caprica from here?"

Leaning back in his own chair, Crais adopted Kara's relaxed posture. "Prior to the starburst which brought us here, I had Talyn download as much data as possible from the command carrier's central computers. In particular, I had him focus on packets containing wormhole research."

"Wormholes? I thought those were only theoretical." She was clearly more interested in this topic of discussion, the smirk fading into a more thoughtful expression.

"I believe that it was a wormhole that brought you here. Just as a wormhole will return you to where you need to be." Unable to remain seated for long, Crais stood. Since it appeared that they would be here for a while yet, and that most of that time would involve speech, he felt a strong desire for a drink.

He walked over to his bed and pressed the hidden switch on the headboard that opened a compartment just above. Even if the Peacekeepers who had searched his quarters had removed the Peacekeeper symbol on the wall above the bed, they would not have found the small chamber hidden there. Among the valuables stored, Crais kept a bottle of Galetian raslak and a pair of tumblers.

Returning to the desk, he poured a finger into one and pushed it over to Kara before pouring his own and restoppering the bottle. He lifted his glass to her before downing the burning liquid, much smoother than any raslak that could be obtained on a common commerce planet.

With one fine brow raised, Kara slammed her drink back and Crais knew that, whether she felt the burn or not, she wouldn't give any indication of discomfort. He watched for her reaction and she didn't disappoint, merely licking her lips and holding out her glass for another hit. Smiling, he poured them both another drink.

She accepted the glass, but didn't raise it. "So how do we go about creating a wormhole?" She swirled the liquid in her glass, watching as it caught the light.

"It will take me some time to sift through the data and adapt it to your ship's navigational system. I will, of course, need your aid with that." She shrugged and nodded, urging him to continue. "Scorpius had solved the problem of creating a wormhole, but he was having difficulty preventing his pilots from..." He allowed the words to trail off, uncertain whether it was necessary to tell her of the fate of the Sebacean pilots Scorpius had sent through the wormholes he had created.

"Preventing his pilots from what?" she asked, then took a sip of raslak.

Crais met Kara's eyes. "From liquefying."

Kara cocked her head to one side. "Hmm. That is a problem. And did he solve it?"

"No; however, I don't believe you'll have to worry about it. You are Human, not Sebacean, and you have already traveled through a wormhole in your organic ship."

Dropping her boots to the floor, Kara leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. She still toyed with the liquid in her glass as she said, "My organic ship which seems to have a lot of something your organic ship needs in order to heal."

"Indeed."

"So, Bialar, how exactly did you learn that my raider has so much of that... chromextin?"

When Talyn had reported his findings in regard to the compound and its location, which had been roughly the same time Kara had arrived at Crais' quarters, he'd had the Leviathan order his DRDs to go over her ship, inside and out. Through the DRDs, Crais had learned that the raider had a circulatory system very much like that of a living creature. It wasn't a Leviathan, nor even related to them, but there were similarities.

"The chromextin is a renewable resource in your raider," Crais told Kara now. "While it is a compound that acts as a drug to a Leviathan, it appears to be your raider's lifeblood."

"Nice. But that doesn't answer my question."

"I had Talyn set his DRDs to an examination of your ship."

"You set the rats loose on my raider."

"Does it matter?"

She sighed. "No, I suppose not, but don't do it again." Irritation had returned to Kara's voice and Crais found himself fascinated by her mercurial mood swings.

He nodded. "Your raider's blood is made up of raw chromextin, among other things. Several litras may be extracted each day without causing harm and the ship will be allowed to regenerate the chemical until the levels rise enough that we may repeat the cycle."

"And you don't think Talyn will survive without it?"

"I do not."

She swallowed the rest of her raslak and said, "All right then. Let's get to it. I'm a busy woman, Bialar, lots of appointments to keep."

xxx

Over the course of several days, Crais and Kara worked together, first setting up a still to distill the chromextin and then, once that was running smoothly under the watchful eyes of Talyn's rats, on crunching the numbers to create a wormhole in the nothing between space and time.

Kara found the whole ordeal frustrating. It wasn't that she couldn't use her brain when she wanted to – she would never have passed flight school if that had been the case – but there was nothing that she could do. Everything was theoretical and there was no way to test out those theories. Both Talyn's and her raider's sensors gave them results to their simulations that were contrary to what they could see – or rather what they couldn't see – with their own eyes.

Over and over again the computers came to the conclusion that a wormhole could not be created out of nothing, and nothing was all that they had. Listening to the newest results as Bialar read them from the screen while she looked over his shoulder, Kara felt the urge to scream. Never being one to fight overly hard against her base urges, she gave in.

Kara turned away from Bialar and let go of her frustration. She screamed. And then she raised her hands and gripped her skull and screamed again. When she turned toward him again, he merely looked at her.

"Feel better?"

Spying a rat trundling across Command, she smiled. "Not yet, but I will soon."

Kara started after the rat, but Crais caught her arm before she could reach it. "Kicking the frell out of the DRDs won't help," he said mildly. There was amusement in his eyes.

"How do you know?" she challenged.

"Personal experience," he replied, smiling as those eyes dropped to her mouth.

She pulled her arm from his grasp and reached up to pat his face; if she hadn't done that, he might have taken the opportunity to kiss her. He was an attractive man, they might never leave this odd dimension, and yet all she could think about just then were Gaius and Lee and complications.

Kara backed away from Crais. "I'm gonna go to the galley, get something to eat. Do you want anything?"

With a mocking smile and a raised brow, he turned back to the monitor. "No, thank you. I have an idea I want to explore. You take a break."

"Right. Yeah, I'll do that." Whirling, she left Command.

xxx

A couple of arns later, Crais entered Kara's quarters to find her asleep. He had Talyn bring up the lights – the Leviathan was functioning much more reliably as the chromextin did its work – and still she didn't wake. Pulling the lone chair closer to the bed, he sat, studying her face in repose.

Kara Thrace was a beautiful woman, much softer in appearance than either Darinta Larell, a recreation partner of long standing, or Aeryn Sun, a woman who'd had eyes only for John Crichton. Thinking of Kara's prickly exterior, so at odds with the vulnerability he saw now, and the strength he'd felt earlier, when he'd touched her in Command, he smiled. He felt nothing but regret that he would most likely not have the chance to know more of this fascinating creature.

Had his brother lived, Crais thought that Tauvo wouldn't recognize him as he was now. A man who had been torn apart by circumstance and re-formed an entirely different man, one who had come to understand that the Peacekeepers and their mandates were not the be all and end all of existence; that "softer" emotions such as love in no way indicated weakness; that non-Sebaceans, such as Humans, were not inferior species, merely different, with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Crais laid a hand on Kara's shoulder, gently shook her awake. Her eyes opened wide and she sat. Shaking her head free of sleep, she glared at him. "You don't believe in knocking?"

Without preamble, ignoring the question he thought was rhetorical anyway, he told her, "Talyn and I have formed a plan that should work to get you back to normal space."

Her glare faded. "No kidding? How?"

"One of the things Talyn downloaded from the carrier was the exact sequence Scorpius had running that created the wormhole that affected your jump. The computer models I ran when you left indicate that if we recreate the circumstances that brought us here, they can be reversed."

Kara's remarkable eyes narrowed. "If we recreate everything, won't that cause Talyn more damage?"

"Perhaps, but he is willing to risk it. He is strong enough now to withstand the energies that will be in play and he will not be in a confined space during starburst."

A snort escaped her and she looked around the small room. "Thanks, Talyn."

The Leviathan replied with a gurgling sound and it came to Crais that Talyn, too, would regret this Human leaving them. He patted her once on the shoulder and stood, looking down at her. "Since, as you so eloquently reminded me several days ago, you are not made of time, we can program the sequence into Talyn's and your raider's computers as soon as you're ready."

He felt her watching as he walked through the door and closed it behind him.

xxx

"Well, Bialar, I guess this is goodbye." Kara stood at the entrance to her raider, Crais standing a couple of feet away. He held out his hand to her, clearly intending a comradely shake. Frak that, she thought and, grasping his hand, pulled him in close. It wasn't like she'd ever see him again, even if they did survive their respective journeys.

Of a similar height, she didn't have to strain to bring his mouth down to hers. Startled, he didn't react immediately to her kiss, but he recovered quickly. He tasted like the raslak he had shared with her: heady, intoxicating. Even as she curled her arms around his neck, his arms came around her waist, pulled her in close.

By unspoken mutual agreement, they broke the kiss and took a step back from each other, Crais' hand lingering at her hip before dropping back to his side.

"It has been an interesting experience, Kara Thrace. I wish you good fortune."

Knowing that he was an officer, though a member of an alien military, Kara lifted her right hand in a textbook-perfect salute, then spun on her heel and boarded the raider. There was no point in dragging things out and she had places to go, artifacts to retrieve.

Sealing the hatch behind her, she maneuvered into position and began to spin up the raider's engines. She felt the cool kiss of oxygen begin to flow against her warm cheeks and quickly reviewed her programmed course. All seemed to be in order and she activated her wireless. "Bialar, Starbuck. Do you copy?"

"Starbuck?" He sounded a bit confused and Kara laughed. She'd forgotten that she hadn't told him her call sign.

"Sorry. Habit. I'm a Viper pilot – it's my call sign. All systems are go on my end. I'm taking her out into the nothing."

"We are standing by. When you're in position, Star Buck, we'll be ready to initiate starburst."

Kara smiled at the deliberate way he pronounced her call sign. "Roger that, Bialar."

"Do you have the wormhole on visual, yet?"

"I do indeed. Damn, those things are beautiful. Who knew?" And who would believe her if she made back to Galactica and told them about these supposedly theoretical anomalies? She pressed out with her left foot and the raider moved slowly toward the swirling blue whirlpool, the only distinct shape and light in the nothing.

A few seconds passed and her eyes told her that she was now in position. One set of sensors confirmed the visuals while another said that she had moved light seconds beyond where she needed to be. "Lords, please be with me."

"Repeat that, Kara."

"I said I'm in position, Bialar."

"Initiating starburst... Now."

"Initiating jump sequence..." Kara flipped a switch. "Now." And then she was swirling and whirling and cascading down a wild ride, surrounded by watery blue. There was a tingling sensation along her limbs and her heart seemed to leap into her throat and then she was through.

The diamond lights of stars glittered against the velvet black of space and Kara could breathe again. A quick glance at her instruments told her that she should be above Caprica, but she saw nothing but stars. "Oh, this doesn't look good. Please tell me this wasn't all for nothing." On the one hand, she appeared to be back in normal space, but on the other...

She swung the raider slowly around and there it was. A big, blue marble of a planet, white clouds swirling slowly over most of its surface. Caprica. "Oh, I'm good. I am really good." A laugh escaped her throat. "I'm home. I'm home." Reaching up, she activated the Cylon transponder that had been installed what seemed like centuries ago. "Okay, Gaeta, please tell me that you're right about this transponder thing."

Kara engaged thrusters, taking the raider into the outer atmosphere.

"Lords, since you're in such a good mood, please keep Bialar and Talyn safe."