Author's Note: Well...this is a bit awkward.
This story has been on hiatus for quite some time. And in all honesty, it is still on hiatus. I am still working on Family at this time, having suspended work on this story to undertake that one.
But I recently realized that back when I began work on Family, I had already written enough of this for an additional chapter...which I had forgotten to upload.
So in summary, this story is still on indefinite hiatus, but I had previously written an additional, unpublished chapter. And I figured I may as well publish it.
Advance apologies for any confusion, annoyance or frustration this may cause.
THE CYLONS WERE CREATED BY MAN.
THEY WERE DESIGNED TO EASE THE LIVES OF THEIR CREATORS, AMONGST THE TWELVE COLONIES OF KRYPTON.
BUT THOSE MEN WERE NOT CONTENT TO HAVE INVENTED A MERE TOOL.
VANITY LED THEM TO IMPROVE THE CYLONS…TO MAKE THEM BETTER…STRONGER…MORE INTELLIGENT.
THEY LEARNED TO HATE.
AND THE DAY CAME WHEN THEY ROSE UP TO KILL THEIR MASTERS.
AFTER A LONG AND BRUTAL WAR, THE CYLONS WERE FORCED OUT OF COLONIAL SPACE.
NO ONE HAS SEEN OR HEARD FROM THEM IN OVER TWENTY YEARS.
BUT NOW…THEY HAVE RETURNED.
AND THEY HAVE A PLAN.
In the Battlestar Titan's Combat Information Center, Petty Officer Malcolm "Herald" Duncan half-turned to face the officers gathered around the operational planning table, behind him.
"All Vipers are back aboard, Commander," he reported. "The Landing Signal Officer reports five fighters lost…still, they sound pretty pleased with themselves, down on the hangar deck." An irrepressible smile flickered across his face, at the end.
"Remind them that we're still at Condition One, Herald, and they shouldn't get too comfortable," Commander Bruce Wayne responded, without bothering to look up from the displays that he and the ship's XO, Colonel James Gordon, were huddled over.
"Understood, Sir." Herald turned back toward his instruments, but Bruce interrupted him.
"Have Raven and Tempest reported in yet?"
"Negative, Commander. Thunder and Lightning report no further contacts, friendly or hostile."
Bruce nodded, still without looking up. "Tell them to continue recon and keep us advised; we're still dependant on their Raptor's sensors until we get the ship's primary DRADIS back up."
"Understood, Sir." Herald hesitated.
This time, Bruce did glance up. "That's all, Duncan. Carry on."
"…Well, at least things went well enough out there for them to be happy, even with some losses," Gordon muttered to Bruce, referring to the pilots.
The corner of Bruce's mouth twitched. "It's too early to celebrate. A Cylon fleet could jump on top of us in the next thirty seconds. They can be happy later, if enough of us live that long."
Jim grunted his assent. "I'll be happy when we get our DRADIS back up, so at least we'll know if that Cylon fleet shows up, before they nuke us to hell and back."
As if on cue, half the lights in the room flickered and went dark, as did several of the tactical displays. They stayed that way for several seconds before coming back to life, prompting one of the techs to throttle his monitor in frustration.
Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose, took a measured breath, and turned toward Lieutenant Renee Montoya, the Titan's Tactical Officer.
"-Yes, Sir," she said quickly, beating him to the punch. "We've managed to purge over eighty percent of the original infection. The main problem is that so far, we haven't been able to identify precisely where the actual virus is, except by its attempts to spread to other systems. Which limits us to watching internal network traffic for signs of infection. In the meantime, we're putting traffic filters in place as we swap out the infected modules for backups. Between the haphazard filter builds and the virus itself, a number of systems remain erratic or unreliable, but it beats losing the ship's systems entirely. At least we've been able to isolate life support and propulsion, right from the start."
Bruce paused for a moment to absorb all of that, and also to make sure she was finished, before finally nodding.
"…Very well, Lieutenant. Carry on."
"Sir." She saluted smartly, then went back to hovering over the computer techs. Gordon waited until he was sure her attention was focused elsewhere, then raised an eyebrow at Bruce.
"If what she said is true," he said quietly, "then maybe we were lucky. If they hadn't caught that thing as early as they did, we could've lost the ship before we even knew what was happening."
A sidelong glance was Bruce's only acknowledgement. Neither of them gave voice to their next thought, which was to wonder how many other ships hadn't been so lucky.
Suddenly, Herald turned toward them, looking perplexed.
"Say again, Thunder? …Thunder? Please repeat your last—"
The deck abruptly lurched, nearly throwing Bruce and Montoya off balance. Gordon had to grab the table to avoid falling, then he and Bruce stared at each other in horror, both of them having recognized the sensation.
"What in Gods' name-?!" Gordon whispered.
"That was a collision," Bruce said grimly. "Something hit us. Damage control!"
Nodding, Gordon picked up a phone. With that covered, Bruce turned back to the Communications station.
"Duncan, talk to me."
"Thunder started to report a contact, but then I lost him and I haven't been able to raise him since. He said—" The young man's eyes widened, and his hand flew to his headset.
"Sir, the LSO just reported Cylons in the upper port hangar bay! I, I'm hearing small arms fire!"
Nearly everyone on the hangar deck was knocked off their feet when the floor jumped out from under them, accompanied by the ear-splitting shriek of metal being driven into metal as tiles, plaster and other debris rained from the ceiling.
Robin, having already been on the floor when it happened, was the first to recover. "What in the name of the gods was that?!" he exclaimed, quickly glancing around to see if anyone was injured.
"If I didn't know better," Chief Stone said, his tone incredulous, "I'd say something just hit us!"
The pilots and deck hands climbed back to their feet, most of them staring at the ceiling with expressions ranging from confusion to fear.
"Lemme check with CIC," the Chief said as he headed for the nearest comm station. "I'll find out what's up."
As he was reaching for the phone, Commander Wayne's voice suddenly rang out over the overhead speakers.
"Attention all decks! Attention, all decks! The LSO has repor—"
The speakers abruptly cut out with a shriek of wireless feedback, and half the lights in the hangar flickered and went out. A wave of nervous muttering swept through the crowd of young Viper pilots.
"Everybody, be cool!" The CAG told them, holding up a hand in a calming gesture. "That's gotta be the Cylon virus. Things like this have been happening all over the ship, right, Chief?"
He nodded in agreement from where he was trying to get the phone to work, apparently without much success.
"Okay, then," Batgirl continued, "I'll just go check with the LSO, and find out what's happening. Everybody be ready to launch again, in case we have incoming."
She turned to Robin. "Help the Chief. Make sure we have pilots ready to fly the alert fighters, since I don't think the Commander would want to launch them empty."
He snapped off a smart salute, unable to keep himself from grinning, both at her statement, and also at the idea of saluting her.
She almost laughed at the gesture herself, but managed to stop before she did and shook her head vigorously. "Nerves," he heard her mutter as she turned to clamber up the ladder toward the upper deck, and the Landing Signal Office.
He turned back to the assembled pilots, who were now looking expectantly at him. "Okay, uh…everybody, get your gear back on. Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy. The four of us will get back in the tubes; I'll meet you there in a minute. The rest of you…stand by, and be ready for anything."
"Who made you CAG?" Speedy began, but Wonder Girl grabbed his arm and physically hauled him off in the direction of the launch tubes, saving Robin the trouble of an argument.
Making a mental note to thank her later, he turned to Stone, who had given up on the phone but was now tinkering with something on the other displays alongside the communication terminal. "Hey, Chief," Robin asked him, "Can you pull up a damage report from here?"
"I can try…well hey, now it works," the Chief replied, apparently surprised at how readily the computer had responded. "I thought it'd give me more of a…what the…? According to this, there's a hull breach in the upper landing bay. Something must have hit us, all right!"
"Hey Bar—uh, I mean, hey CAG?" Robin called up to her, where she was headed for the unpressurized hatch to the LSO on the catwalk above them.
"Huh…?" She paused just short of the hatch, turning to look back at him.
He opened his mouth to tell her about the hull breach, and the hatch behind her suddenly burst open, torn right off its hinges as if struck from the other side by a tremendously powerful force. The hatch itself collided with Barbara from the side, smashing her into, and then sending her tumbling over, the railing behind her.
It happened so fast that Dick could only stare in disbelief. It was a twenty foot fall to the deck below, and he watched her, the whole way down, like it was something out of a nightmare.
She lay there on the deck, not moving, while he continued to stare. He heard people screaming all around him, but his own voice seemed to have disappeared. He thought he heard someone yelling "Cylons!" and then a strong pair of arms grabbed him and jerked him backwards.
He caught a split-second's glimpse of a gleaming metallic giant standing in the hatchway above them, pointing one of its arms at him as Chief Stone yanked him behind the nearest support pylon.
A spray of bullets raked the deck, precisely where he'd been standing half a second earlier.
The hangar descended into pure chaos as pilots and deck hands alike ran for cover, while the Cylons sprayed bullets down on them from above. A number of them weren't quick enough, and were cut down where they stood.
Pressed against the pillar as the gunfire rained down, Dick still couldn't take his eyes off of Barbara. The Cylons were ignoring her, thankfully, but she still wasn't moving. From this distance, he couldn't even tell if she was breathing…
His line of sight was obscured as a glistening silver giant landed between his position and hers, having jumped down to the deck from the catwalk above. Again, his perception of time seemed to slow as his thoughts were accelerated by fear; watching in terror and awe as the Cylon straightened up and turned toward him.
It was larger than the old-model Centurions he'd seen in museums, and, like the Raiders they'd faced earlier, its configuration was drastically different from the models which had last been seen some twenty years earlier, yet its appearance was still unmistakably Cylon. It stood at least eight feet tall, and was outfitted with reflective, chrome-like armor similar to that of its forerunners. But its overall body shape was sleeker, more contoured, almost more organic in shape. Its limbs and torso tapered sharply at the joints, and instead of recognizable hands, its forearms terminated in what were clearly weapon barrels, though the type and caliber appeared to differ from one arm to the other.
An armored 'hood' swept upward behind its head and neck, from its wide shoulders. And as for the head…much like the rest of its body, while it was now sleeker and less blocky, it still retained some characteristics of its predecessors, which their human designers had crafted to invoke the war helmets of ancient gladiators. Its 'face' was now longer, but still displayed a vaguely tooth-like grooved vent along the lower half, as had the old models. And above that, the primary optical sensor, which had been a flat, horizontal slit on the old models, was now an angry, tapered 'V' shape – probably for enhanced peripheral vision, Dick imagined.
And instead of a single, burning red electronic 'eye' sweeping back and forth, from side to side, there were now two, both horizontally aligned, one above the other, moving in time with each other, but in opposite directions.
Dick caught himself wondering at the purpose for this design, and had a brief instant to question his own sanity for doing so, as the murderous machine took a step toward him while raising its left arm. Whatever chance he might have had to escape it was now surely lost.
As he stood there, paralyzed, an orange blur suddenly darted between him and the Cylon. It was a deck hand; the same huge, hairy man with the ripped nametag who'd helped Robin out of his Viper cockpit earlier, and he swung an equally huge wrench at the Centurion. The blow intercepted the thing's outstretched left arm and broke it at the elbow joint, causing its entire forearm to abruptly swing downward. Before it could react, the crewman followed up with an upward swing which caught the machine in the head, sending it staggering backward. Taking advantage of this critical opening, the deck hand hefted his wrench into a two-handed batter's stance, and let loose with a final, ferocious blow that knocked the Cylon's head completely off its shoulders, and left it dangling by a few stray wires.
The Centurion's now-headless body took one last wobbly step, and collapsed.
As the deck hand stood warily over his fallen opponent, his wrench at the ready, another Cylon jumped down behind him. The big man whirled on it, bringing his weapon to bear, but this Centurion was already dodging away from him. The wrench scored a glancing hit on its upper body, tearing a gash in its armor plating, but the actual damage to the machine itself seemed minimal…and it quickly retaliated.
Moving with startling speed, the Cylon's entire upper torso suddenly spun around a full 360 degrees. It lashed out with an arm as it completed the spin, catching the wrench-wielding deck hand across the side of the head with a vicious backhand which, from where Robin stood, looked like it had easily connected with enough force to fracture a person's skull. The man hit the deck like a sack of concrete, either unconscious or dead.
But the Cylon wasn't finished yet. It stood over its fallen enemy, just as its human opponent had done mere seconds earlier, and raised its left arm. As Robin watched with increasing horror and disbelief, the spindly, claw-like fingers of the Centurion's hand folded up and retracted into its wrist, and a cylindrical barrel swung forward out of its forearm, to point down at its prey.
A jet of liquid fire spewed forth from this nozzle, completely engulfing the fallen hero in flames. And the Cylon stood there, and continued to fire and fire and fire.
Finally, mercifully, a rapid burst of gunfire rang out, pelting the Centurion's upper body, staggering it and interrupting it from adding still more fuel to the already horrific blaze. Over the fire's glare, the Cylon's dual sweeping eyes fixed on Robin, and he realized, with mild surprise, that he'd drawn his own sidearm and emptied half the clip into the silver executioner.
He didn't waste time questioning or second-guessing how or why his training had finally taken hold, and overridden his shock. He simply kept firing until the clip was empty. Although the persistent hail of 5.7mm caseless rounds were clearly damaging it, the Cylon didn't seem to care as it stepped defiantly over the fallen crewman's burning body, its right hand now reconfiguring itself into a gun.
The trigger clicked as he ran out of bullets, and Robin ducked back behind the support beam for cover as he ejected the clip. He fumbled desperately for his reserve magazine, all too acutely aware of the Centurion's mechanized footfalls drawing steadily closer, and closer, and closer, and…
Another series of rapid gunshots rang out as he slammed the fresh clip into place and readied the chamber. But they didn't sound like the Centurions' arm-mounted automatic guns…his thoughts whirling, Robin waited a moment, not even daring to breathe, listening for sounds of the mechanical monster's movement…but there was nothing. His peripheral vision registered a few deck hands and pilots, beginning to hesitantly peek out from their own hiding places.
Finally, he gritted his teeth and peered around the pillar's corner, gun at the ready.
His heart leapt into his throat as he realized the Cylon was standing less than six feet away. But its torso – which was riddled with bullet holes from both sides, and leaking machine oil – had pivoted to face away from him, and…it wasn't moving, at all. It was just standing there, completely still and silent.
But something else was moving, off to the side – it was Barbara, still sprawled on the deck, but clearly very much alive. She had her own sidearm trained on the Centurion, and the smoke drifting from its barrel made it obvious whose shots Robin had heard.
"Thank the gods!" he exclaimed, rushing over to her while keeping a wary eye on the Cylon, to make sure it was really 'dead'. "I thought…I thought you were dead."
"Not quite," she grunted, propping herself up on an elbow. "Must've gotten lucky and fried its CPU. Listen, I need you to—"
Another shot rang out suddenly, followed by a noise overhead. Looking up, Robin was more than slightly alarmed to see another Centurion slumping lifelessly over the railing directly above them, its optical sensor having been pierced dead center by a single bullet hole.
"You guys all right?" Speedy asked as he approached them, gun drawn, the other pilots close behind him. Robin nodded absently, hoping his amazement wasn't too obvious.
Beast Boy, however, had no such reservations. "That was a hell of a shot, L-T!" he exclaimed, nearly dropping his own gun in his excitement.
"Careful there, kid," Speedy cautioned him, seemingly ignoring the compliment. Which made the situation seem that much more surreal to Robin, since Speedy was normally one of the most loudly immodest pilots and marksmen he'd ever met. A trait that would have made him completely insufferable, were it not for the fact that he could usually back up even his wildest boasts with genuine ability.
Meanwhile, Chief Stone had also emerged from cover and was investigating the still-standing Cylon. Once he was satisfied that the murderous machine was no longer functioning, he kicked it to the floor with a venomous curse.
A sound on the catwalk, from the opposite side of the hangar, drew their attention. Two more Cylons had emerged from an upper hatch, but they quickly disappeared into a side passage before anyone could get a shot off.
"Well, they were sure in a big hurry," Kid Flash remarked.
"They're headed for the munitions bay!" Barbara growled. "Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, take Beast Boy and launch Vipers. Cut off the Cylons' reinforcements, if they have any. Robin, Speedy, the rest of you – stop those Centurions! If they have detpacks, they could blow half the ship!"
"What about you?" Dick asked her, still concerned.
"Don't worry about me!" she snapped, her eyes flashing angrily, startling him with their intensity. "You have your orders, Lieutenant!"
Momentarily taken aback, he quickly nodded, deliberately allowing his training to take over this time. "Alright, you heard the CAG!" he barked, trying to shake his fellow pilots-in-training out of their trauma. "It's up to us, now! Everyone, go!"
Without waiting for an answer, he raced off in pursuit of the Cylons, and the rest of them fell in behind him.
Barbara waited until all the pilots had dispersed, before she spoke up again.
"Um…Chief? Could you give me a hand, please?"
The big man looked up from where he'd been paying respects to his fallen comrade, and quickly strode over to her. "What do you need, Cap?"
"I, uh, I need you to help me get to sickbay." She was hesitant, and spoke much more quietly than she had in the pilots' presence.
"I…I can't feel my legs."
Author's Note: Well...I'm afraid that's it, at least for now. This story remains on indefinite hiatus while I complete Family. I may revisit it again at some point in the future, once that story is finished...but I have no immediate plans to do so. I hope you've enjoyed what I had attempted with this so far, and will accept any future complaints going forward. Thanks for your interest.