Chapter 38: A New Dawn
The trip through the wormhole went without incident, contrary to Achilles fears'. Thunderchild made it through without breaking apart, or having anymore systems fail. They had been forced to take energiser two offline again shortly after leaving the Forlorn Nebula. Kaylee's rewiring was placing strain on systems that weren't designed to take such loads. Sooner or later, there would have been a whole string of other, smaller failures.
Now though, they were back in the Zi system. And for the first time in weeks the communication suite was nearly silent. While they had been in the Blue Sun system there had been constant background chatter and transmissions across most of the Gamma frequency band, plus quite a bit on the lower Beta band. But now most of the bands were silent.
As they moved away from the wormhole's location, Achilles sat back in his chair, relaxing. Ahead lay the planet of Zi, little larger than a marble. A series of pinpricks of lights close by marked the Colonial station that now orbited above the world.
A much brighter and larger set of lights showed ships close by.
Achilles sat up as a channel on Fleet Line Alpha came through from the Galactica. "Commander Tigh. Good to see you."
On the screen the dark skinned Tigh nodded in greeting. "And you colonel. What is the situation on the other side?"
"Stable, for the moment. Local authorities are holding things together right now, but there are several pirate bands and criminal gangs out there that could cause chaos if given the chance." Achilles smiled lightly. "There's a lot of people eager to be our friends though. Almost desperately so."
A smirked threatened to form on Tigh's face. "That is not really surprising. You've done a good job Achilles. Now it's time for the diplomats to take over. We'll be heading over in a few microns."
"Good luck Commander. Some of them are quite... stubborn."
That smirk finally emerged. "Oh, I think Adama and Illa will be more than a match for anyone over there. Send over your mission logs and reports so they know what to expect. And transfer across Blue Squadron. Captain Starbuck's presence here is urgently required."
Achilles smiled as he looked over to his XO, who nodded and leaned over the comm station, then glanced at his flight controller, who was already bent to his task. "Sending them over now sir."
"Good. See you in a few weeks Colonel. In the meantime get some rest."
Achilles smiled. "Aye sir."
A minute later the two ships began to pass one another. Achilles took the time to look over the aging Battlestar. Galactica's hull had had an extensive makeover. Much like her younger, smaller cousin Thunderchild, the hull was smoother, less cluttered. Much like the bow had been before armour was layered along her whole length now. Her silhouette was slightly altered, his keen eyes noticed. The region between the flight pod cross-passage and the bow had been filled in. Large hatches could be made out on the underside.
Galactica had five consorts with her. Three were Guardians, fresh out of their own refits. The other two were a pair of large intimidating vessels that were clearly zoids by their sleek, shark-like forms with organic-mimicking plated hulls, and the fact that both were painted a deep purple colour, though one had regal blue highlights while the other had blood red. The heads of the vessels sloped gently from a flat edge towards the rear of the vessel with an array of ports along the top and bottom that just screamed weapons to Achilles' experienced eye. At the centre of this array on the top portion, what would have been the forehead of a biological shark, was a trio of what looked like Cylon Megalasers arranged in a triangle around a black circle.
From the back of the heads the bodies of the strange vessels flowed backwards, the outer hull seemingly comprised of layer after layer of interlocked and overlapping plates. The body widened slowly until about halfway down its length where a pair of fins dropped to either side at a shallow angle and a third, longer fin rose from the vessels' spines. Achilles could see numerous bays along the vessels' sides and bellies that were clearly for fighters and transports, while all along its length there were more of those concealed weapons ports that had dotted the front of the pair. The gently curving panelling surrounding said weapons did not appear to follow any particular pattern, but rather appeared to be arrayed in a more biological design.
From the back of the three main fins the body began to shrink in steps until it narrowed into what looked like the tail fin of a shark, the top larger and more flared back than the bottom, with two minuscule fins each side at the base of both. As Thunderchild passed further along Achilles was able to make out the array of engines that were nestled in the rear of the tail fins, answering the question as to how the vessels were propelling themselves.
It was only as the vessels passed from view that one feature of the plating that had struck Achilles as odd finally sank in. It had been subtle, but the plating had reminded him suspiciously of the organic plating of the Nightbringers, in particular the bows of those mutated monsters. Looking around the bridge he was relieved to see that no one else had appeared to have noticed this slight detail. He would have to remember to ask Commander Adama about this as soon as he had the opportunity.
Ten minutes later Thunderchild was finally easing into the slipway that had been prepared for her. Hundreds had crowded onto the arms, there to cheer for the ship. However, as her scars came into sight many fell silent. Most of them had never seen the full scale of battle damage that could be inflicted.
As the ship came to a halt, docking clamps extended out before wrapping around the battered ship. Waiting near the main boarding tube, the Blitz team stood, watching through the main windows that were to each side. Each was filled with views of the battlecruiser's battered and charred hull.
After a couple more minutes the hatch opened, and the crew began to troop out. The gathered crowds found their voice once more, and the hall was filled with cheering.
As the crew moved into the crowd, Bit could see Commander Cain stood off to one side like they were, clearly waiting. But then Doc called out.
Both late teens rushed forwards to be embraced within the team as a whole. Sarah laid an arm around her son, smiling sweetly at him. In her other arm she held the sleeping Hera; while they'd been off on the mission, Apollo and Sheba had entrusted her to look after their daughter.
As the team reformed together, Achilles, Athena, Apollo and Sheba all came over to greet them themselves. Back slapping hugs, Colonial handshakes and warm embraces went all around as the friends reconnected. Sarah handed little Hera, awoken by the commotion, back to her mother. Sheba felt a tear come to her eye as she looked down into the eyes of her and Apollo's child, who smiled back up at her.
"Hello sweetie... Mommy's back."
"And a good thing too." Cain's voice behind her made Sheba whirl around. "I missed you."
"Father..." Sheba choked out before wrapping an arm around him. Enfolding both his daughter and granddaughter in a fatherly embrace, Cain sighed deeply in happiness.
"So how were things Vega?" Bit asked the younger man, his arm around Leena, both grinning widely.
Vega smiled back. "Interesting. Certainly a whole new experience." Without meaning to his eyes flickered to Miranda, who was talking to Cassandra Cortez.
Bit smirked when he saw the blush that touched his cheeks. "Find out what's so great about women eh?"
Vega's face paled in mortification.
"Bit, stop teasing him." Leena elbowed her husband lightly. "Otherwise..." she leaned up and whispered something into his ear... something that caused him to flush bright red himself.
Looking around at their extended family, Leon frowned slightly. "Where are Mal and his crew?" He asked Achilles.
"They decided to stay on the other side for a bit. Visit old stomping grounds." Achilles reassured him, even as he was still wondering about the oddity he had noticed with those two new space-worthy zoids.
Despite all the years and the changes, the land was still the same, Mal reflected. The old ranch was spread out below him, at the bottom of the small hill he was stood on. The fence on which he leaned had clearly been repainted at some point since he'd last stood there, but the view was the same. The buildings were at the foot of the hill, the pastures reaching out towards the horizon.
Mal hadn't been back since he'd left to join the Independents. After the war was over, he'd drifted across Hera for a time before finding Serenity. His ship now rested just behind the main building. Some of the old hands from his memories were still here, and greeted him eagerly. They were right now throwing one hell of a shindig down there. He could hear the music and laughter up here.
And yet... while he normally enjoyed such events, this time Mal found it hard to get into the mood. He'd found himself craving a bit of silence... a bit of solitude. And so he'd come up here, to his old haunt. It had been where he'd come to think things through when he had been younger.
"They said I'd find you up here."
Mal turned his head to look at Inara as she seemed to almost glide towards him, one hand running along the old top rail. She smiled warmly as she reached him, coming to a stop at his side, barely an inch from him. Wordlessly he lifted his hand off the rail, and with barely a sound she slipped within the arc of his arm and snuggled against him as he brought his arm back down around her back.
After several long moments she sighed. "What's troubling you Mal?"
"Don't rightly know 'Nara." He answered slowly. "This was my home, but..."
"But now it's not." She finished for him.
"Yeah..." Mal sighed, surprised slightly at the truthfulness of that statement. He wasn't surprised that Inara could tell though.
"Mal, I understand. So would they. You've spent several years now living in her. You've fought and bled for her. It's only natural." She paused for a few moments. "I felt the same way while I was at the training house."
"Did ya now?" He felt her nod her head slowly.
"Yes, I kept on expecting to see you or Kaylee come round the next corner." Another pause. "I even found myself missing your interruptions."
They stood together for a while longer, silently looking out over the plains as the evening drew on. Towards the horizon, the sky was turning a deep purple, while the far edges of the few clouds in the sky were edged in gold.
"Why did you never talk about all this Mal?" Inara asked quietly.
Mal shrugged. "Never really saw the need. Quite dull to tell the truth. Why you ask?"
"Oh, just wondering what kind of family we'd make."
Mal froze for a moment. "You mean kids, don't you?"
Inara sighed. "Mal, I may have kept my youth, but that part of me was not affected by the drug. I don't know how much longer I have before..." She trailed off.
"Well..." Mal paused, thinking. When he'd been younger, he'd entertained notions of starting a family with some local girl, settling down, raising a few sprigs. But the war happened, and nearly everything had been burned or torn out of him. Now, after several years, he'd regained most of what he'd lost, but still... "I doubt I'd be a good father 'Nara. Didn't really have an example to follow."
Inara smiled sadly. "I hear you once said you'd be a terrible husband, but you've turned out alright." She gave him a squeeze.
Mal couldn't help but smile a bit. "Yeah well... that's different. A little kid's a whole different set of circumstances."
"Well, you'll have at least nine months to figure out that you'll be a good man."
Mal frowned. There was something in her tone... "What are you saying 'Nara?"
"Nothing. Yet." She said with a smile as she disengaged from him enough to look him in the eye. "Now... are you coming back now?"
Smiling back, Mal followed her back down the path. This old ranch may no longer be home to him... but it didn't matter, as he knew where it was now. It was in space, in Serenity, with Inara.
And maybe a child or two.
"Coming, Mrs Reynolds."
Vega smiled as he looked out over the flat plains before him. They had returned home two weeks ago, just in time to catch the end of season break. They'd spent that time getting back into the groove of Zoid battles, training with the rest of the team.
He had to admit, it was good to be back on their home world. Fury had been a lot more comfortable ever since he'd set foot on the dirt of Zi. Their adventure to the Blue Sun System had been exciting, but as the saying went, 'there was no place like home'.
Naomi and Brad's third child had unexpectedly been a boy, much to Brad's delight, who they'd named Daniel. Janet was speaking odd words now, and the others were certainly active.
The greetings between the zoids had almost been as lively as the one between humans. In the process, Vega had noted that the Liger and Iggy appeared to be staying very close together...
The Blitz had hosted a great party once again, to celebrate several events. Victory over the Alliance, Mal and Inara's marriage, the birth of the third Hunter child and the engagement of Achilles and Athena. All their friends had been there, old and new. The party had gone on late. Very few had gotten up until noon the next day.
But this morning everyone was up bright and early, eager to begin. It was the first day of the new season of zoid battles, and the Blitz were up!
Motion in the corner of his eye drew Vega's attention, and he turned to see the Liger Zero coming to a stop, the Iguanosaur alongside. To his left Leon drew up in his Blade Liger, while just beyond him were Brad and Naomi. Overhead Jamie and Pierce looped together before settling into a hover.
"Hey Vega." Vega smiled widely as Miranda's smirking face appeared on a comm screen as her lithe Blade Raptor sidled up alongside Fury. "Feeling okay? I did keep you up late last night..."
"Mir..." Vega whined as a blush began to form. They'd spent much of last night together in another passionate make out session. Now all four hands tended to wander in the course of these sessions. But last night... After she'd guided him inside her shirt again – which Vega had to admit was very nice – she'd surprised him by dropping a hand down into his lap, touching him. It had been a frighteningly intense moment.
"Hey love birds." Bit's words startled them both. Looking up, Vega could see just about everybody's face in their own windows on the canopy. "You ready, or should we tell the other team that we need a few more minutes?" Bit continued, a cheeky smile on his face.
Vega felt his face burn as he grasped the controls. "No no... we're good."
Back in the Hover Cargo Sarah smiled as we gazed on her grown son's face. She knew him too well to be fooled. Ever since they'd gotten back she'd been keeping an eye on him and Miranda, so she knew about their habit of sneaking off for a bit. She had decided not to confront them about it, thus far.
A streak of fire came down and landed on a nearby butte. Out of the dust rose the Judge Capsule. Swinging open, the robotic judge within gazed out over the field. As it began the standard pre-match speech, Vega felt his blood start to quicken as his grip tightened a little.
"The Blitz Team Vs The Guylos Team. Battle mode 0982. Ready... FIGHT!"
DR: Well, there you have it. I hope you have all enjoyed this latest installment in the 'Legacies' arc. But don't despair! Another (yes, another...) installment is in early planning stages. Before I crack on with that though I'll be taking a break, maybe post some of the other, smaller stories that have been ticking over lately... In any case, keep on flying!