Chapter Sixteen: Day in the Dark
Authors: Polarocean6, DOCwho3, BlackKaneD2, LuukE365, NowwowN64
Feedback: Read and Review. Constructive criticisms always welcomed. No flames
Disclaimers: I don't own Battlestar Galactica. They are creations of Glen Larson and copywriter by Universal Studios, of which I believe he is a brilliant man for producing for avid sci-fi fans like me. I make no money off of this. Plus any references I make towards other shows also fall under the same disclaimer.
"Evolution, its been the rising fad for the last couple billion years, but it is not to be imitated by anyone but mother nature..."
Doctor Sonjour Dimm, Grand Jury Hearings on the Legality of Genetic Engineering, Supreme Court Hearings of 2091 C.E.
Time: Forth Month of Sumekt, Fifteen Day, 3021 A.F. Hegemony Calendar / March 27th, 6230 C.E. Terran Calendar / Plus 18-Days from Initial Cylon-Hegemony Contact / T-minus 15-Days until Cylon-Colonial Summit
Location: Inner Asteroid Belts, Gamoray System
"I can't believe the Cylons would do this!" Meier spat as he stalked along the side of the deck of the cargo bay, wearing a grove into the floor plating as he made his ninth circuit around the room. Before him the covered bodies of the dead crew had been laid out, one after another.
"I haven't seen a hit that bad since I was on a rescue team to a cruise liner hit by Turanic Raiders," Sim'Lohan hissed behind her mask, still unwilling to image the crew's final moments in utter horrific horror.
"It wasn't the Cylons..." Zarek breathed, nursing an incredibly strong drink, the only thing that could dull his nerves after what he had seen. "It was Virgon.."
The words hung in the air for a long while, everyone gaping at him.
"What?" Meier gasped.
"Check the back of their necks," Tom said under his breath and as per instructed, Jusi'Lada leaned down to one of the still uncovered corpses and slowly turned the body's head to the side.
"Kee'lah!" she gasped. "They were branded!"
On the back of the neck was an ugly, swollen black hexagon with a spiral inside, burned into the skin, black and charred right into the flesh. The fact there were several lighter burns around it hinted to the fact that this person had been alive enough to fight against his branders, each one a silent scar of a missed attempt.
Seven in total…
"Virgonese raiders," Tom nodded as he turned away from the victim. "Before the First Cylon War the Virgon monarchy use to support privateers, state legal pirates that would pillage the commercial shipping of other Colonies."
"I remember that," James exclaimed as he was hit with a sudden flash of a memory. "When the Colonies unified the Virgon government had to stop the raiding and turn over some of the worse pirate groups for trial. A lot of them went to ground and were still hunted almost three years after the war ended."
"They'd brand and then kill the crews of the ships they took," Tom added in earnest. "That symbol is of the Western Brothers's, one of the largest and bloodiest pirate groups before the Cylon War. They were a personal favorite of the Virgon King for the results they produced."
"So do you think the Western Brothers' lasted this long and made it all the way out here?" Jusi'Lada asked as she scratched the bottom of her helmet's chin.
"Doubtful," Zarek shook his head, "but in desperate times those with a ship and a gun but little food and fuel usually revert to taking it from those that do... almost always by force. My guess is that someone decided to copy the old Virgonese pirates and since Gamoray is distant, hard to patrol and has a lot of critical trade going through it, they saw an easy target."
"And these civilian ships are easy pickings," Sim'Lohan grimaced in disgust. "But we counted sixty two bodies on the derelict. Seventy nine people were on this ship. Seventeen people are still missing."
"And not just seventeen people," Jusi'Lada suddenly became incredibly uncomfortable. "Remember how the distress call said children… notice that all the bodies are adults…"
"Gods," Meier whispered in shock. "They took the children!"
"Slaves," Tom understood the reasoning. "The Western Brothers use to take kids among the ships they hit, they fight back less, last longer and are easier to convert into willing members of the pirate syndicates."
"The escape pod was missing," Meier theorized. "My guess is that the ship that hit this one was small, fast enough to overtake them and small enough for our long-range sensors not to notice. They couldn't take that many people so shove them in the escape pod, burn out its controls and haul it back with them."
"But where would they take them?" Tom added as he began to run through the possible scenarios in his mind. "A ship that size certainly wouldn't have a jump drive powerful enough to get away with even itself intact, let alone the escape pod. And we'd have detected a larger carrier moving in to jump them away."
"Unless the carrier was hidden inside the belts," Sim'Lohan announced as she tapped what was most likely her temple behind the purple hue of her mask. "We are not far from a region of the belt my mining crews have affectionally taken to calling 'Blind Man's Keep'."
"It is an incredibly thick clustering of rocks in the belt," Jusi'Lada concurred as she understood her superiors reasoning, "most likely a dissolved planetoid. No real mass but enough iron ore clustered together and spinning quick enough that it creates a magnetic field.
"If the Jenleya's sensors couldn't break it," Tom commented in disgusted earnest, "then a Colonial dradis system would be blind. If the pirates got into there, we'd never be able to see 'em."
"That means we have a lot of scared kids being towed to a terrible life as slave labor," Meier tried to keep the sudden lurch in his stomach down.
"No, they won't live that life," Tom shook his head as he fixed them all with a glare. "Because we are going to save them and make these bastards pay."
"Tom," Meier's voice was low, cold, "what do you plan to do?"
"Have the rest of the crew transfer over to the Collyns and have them make best speed home," the man declared. "We are going pirate hunting..."
The fire crackled and snapped, the dry logs were a surprising commodity when you considered the constant dew that seemed to cover every surface in the forest.
Six deposited herself as close to the flames as she could without burning herself, trying to keep her eyes down caste as she munched on the bitter field ration she had pilfered from Ocinis' pack.
Across from her, her sister model sat, wringing her hands over and over again, even as the open ration pack beside her remained untouched. It had been hours since they had dealt with the Eaters and still nothing, not a word, not a peep, just a dejected stare and the consistent need to rub every inch of her body, as if she was trying to work away some unseen grim or dirt.
"What's your name?" Six asked as she wiped the crumbs from her fingers "Fine, don't talk. But that means I get to give you any name I chose. I was always fond of Esmeralda or Bonnie Jean-"
"Amanda," she whispered, so quiet that Six nearly missed it.
"Lovely," the young woman grinned like a Cheshire cat with a mouse. "How did you end up with them Amanda?"
For a while she didn't speak again, suddenly she snatched up her ration bar and used it to stuff her mouth. Obviously hunger had burned its way in and she had finally given in.
"Eaters hit the Pinel last night..." Amanda moaned, "they took everything we had... then they took me when there wasn't enough food to steal..."
"Eaters?" Six shot a questioning glance at her companions, hoping for some kind of explanation.
"We got an advisory bulletin last night," Laas nodded in agreement. "Several refugee groups in the area have resorted to cannibalism. They have taken to capturing their fellow humans for nourishment... often at the cost of further malnourishment, prion diseases and are often beyond absolute insanity when they are finally captured."
"Space Guard Fleet Command put out a bulletin," Ocinis grimaced, bearing his teeth in disgust. "We are to deal with these groups with extreme caution. The Eaters hit the Pinel refugee camp and took seven people between."
"We can count that down to one now," Laas bobbed his head with a dark tone in his voice.
"Guys," Six hissed at them, stopping the discussion in its tracks, "show some God frakking manners. She was going to be used as food by a group of madmen... madmen that days ago could have been scientists, soldiers, CEOs or even mothers and fathers. We just had to put them down like sick dogs, back the hell off."
"Sorry, Hunt Leader Six," Ocinis bowed his head a bit at the shame he felt at scaring this young girl.
"I think it would be best if we try to pin-point Doctor Baltar's trail in order to move out at first light," Laas declared as eh started to moved off, followed close behind by Laas.
"Baltar, you're looking for Doctor Gaius Baltar?" "I thought the Colonials would have rung his neck for what he did."
"Why would he be in trouble?" Six narrowed her eyes on her sister model, her internal sensors going off like a flashing siren.
"For handing over access to the defense mainframe," she must have noticed her folly the moment those words left her mouth, since no one could have possibly known Gaius' slip up and how it had played into the Cylon's hand. No one expect a Cylon. "I mean... I didn't meant that... what..."
"So you aren't an active cover personality," Six locked Amanda with a glaring stare that just seemed to penetrate her soul on every level. "Why hide?"
"I liked my life," she whispered, absently picking at a open hole in her pants. "I really liked living as a human. I know we are suppose to hate them, to organize their ultimate downfall... but they were fun, they were interesting. We think of everything as mathematic outcomes but they can't be defined in those terms.
"You fell in love with the humans," Six was quick to realize where this entire talk was going.
"I was meant to be a simple school teacher," Amanda got distant for a second, brief but enough that her eyes lost focus as she glazed over into the past. "Seduce the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Vince Neva, whose daughter was in my class, get access to the military naval classified deployments. But my mission was supposed to just be getting close to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... not to enjoy my teaching, to like getting hugs from my students, to be protective when they fell down on the playground or sadness when my classes moved on... I liked being a school teacher in a little town, I liked being Ms. Amanda to my kids."
"What happened on the day of the attack?" she noticed the moment she spoke, the other woman seized up, every muscle going rigid in her body but her eyes remained downcast. "Amanda, I'm not judging you for falling in love with the humans. We Sixes were made to be loved by all for our beauty, our intellect, our allure... but rarely do we get to love."
"I knew Cobb Point wouldn't be on the list of first strike targets," Amanda seemed to be drifting and given her previous experiences, Six let her reminisce. "We were a village, barely three hundred people. But I couldn't just let everyone die... I couldn't stand there in front of my class and watch each and every one of them smiles at me without the urge to scream at them to 'scream and run'... but I couldn't do much with One so close."
"You had an advisor too," Six gave her a small wink, trying to score a smile. "Mine was a real asshole."
"I think every One was designed to those specifications," Amanda smirked but she knew it was a limited one. "But he was the village mayor. Cobb was just off Highway-37 from Caprica City. If any refugees made it out then they'd be heading straight to us... he was meant gather as many people in the village... and then to inform the air strike Raiders to hit."
"Cobb Point is still a major refugee camp and destination..." Six observed, remembering the name as a large yellow star on her maps, they were considering it as a possible stop off on the way to Gaius. "So what did you do that stopped One from calling down a nuke?"
"I said I had the access codes to Neva's personal work computer," Amanda explained, "but I thought I could be compromised. Since all information prudent to the attack had be turned over to the Ones the day of the strike he came right to me... his assignment was boring so any excitement got him bouncing about like a little kid."
"I pulled the fire alarm," she rung her hands, so fast and so hard that Amanda's hands were string to become a raw red, "told my kids that since it was such a hot day they could go home, enjoy the first day of summer. One came just barely an hour later, demanding to know what I had... I told him to come up to my classroom and I'd show him... moment he was at the top of the steps... I kicked him in the throat and down the stairs he went. Snapped his neck on the third bounce... he was dead by the fifth..."
For a long while Amanda was silent, continuing to ring her hands and stare intently at the ground. But Six was not about to just let her get away that easily. It was a compelling tale but it wasn't all of it.
"That's not the whole story..." Six pressed for more. "You wouldn't be this broken up if he had just died."
"Toni saw me..." she whispered in a voice so small Six nearly missed it.
"Toni..." the moment Amanda's eyes filled with tears she could only guess what type of relation they held, "one of your kids...
"He came back to give me a picture he had drawn..." her voice was not above a peep by this point and the roar of the camp fire nearly threatened to drown her out, "of me and him... he was at the bottom of the steps and saw the whole thing. Have you ever seen the look of innocence disappear from a child's eyes... its just as horrible as murder itself. The moment Toni looked up at me and knew One was dead..."
"Then I ran away..." Amanda finally looked up, staring at her with an intensity that Six new all too well, "didn't stop running until I collapsed near Beria and was brought in by the camp medics... was there three nights before the Eaters came for me."
"Came for you..." Six rolled the words over for a second. "You act like they came just for you..."
"Came..." Amanda whispered, "gave..."
"You didn't try to resist the Eaters..." Six looked at her totally aghast. "You wanted to be taken!"
"We all know when a Resurrection Ship is close," Amanda bitterly noted. "When the Colonials and Hegemony drove out the Cylons they made sure to hit even the most distant Resurrection Ship... removing our ability to be reborn after we died."
"But why not kill yourself?" the question was itching on Six, why was this woman so intent of causing her own death so indirectly.
"Suicide is a sin in God's eyes," she shrugged as if it was no big deal. "A noble death however is a much better way to go. Maybe someone who has nothing left to live for instead of a young mother of three..."
"Lieutenant, we've been hearing reports of frakking strike on Ragnar Anchorage! What the hell are you people doing over there?"
At least he doesn't waste time getting to the point, Felix thought to himself.
"Those reports are exaggerated, Colonel," he tried to play it off but he didn't even believe himself when he heard those words. "We do have a problem, but I've been in talks with-"
"You're not serious!" his superior cut him off before he could finish that train of thought. "This action threaten the security of our military base and sets a bad precedent, not only for Ragnar Anchorage, but for all the Colonies! We cannot allow that."
"The dock workers has legitimate grievances," Felix argued, "I can't just ignore them if it means life and-"
"You will not have to, Lieutenant," Tigh shot him down again and he didn't like the tone of the Colonel's voice. "Food riots just erupted on Gemenon this morning and Roslin had to order in the marines after terrorist threats were made on Picon. I don't want to do this but we're going to need a stronger hand to deal with the situation. It's not personal but the President and Admiral Vonaka want Mr. Moneti to take over in further talks."
"Alhex!" he nearly fell over, shooting a glance at the normally stoic Lieutenant, who only seemed mild surprised by this turn around.
"He apparently has previous experience in dealing with work stoppages during wartime," Tigh announced. "You've been working with him as if this matter was of exclusive Colonial interest but Ragnar Anchorage does almost all the shipping business for the Hegemony. Now you will continue to cooperate with him but Moneti is in-charge for the time being. And that includes providing troops if he decides such is necessary."
"We have over hundreds dockworkers on this station, Colonel," even if he was relieved he was still going to drive this point hope, even if Colonel Tigh was among the most stubborn people he had ever met. "If we start arresting them, we could have a riot on our hands. Ragnar already is at a fragile turning point. Something goes wrong now and you can kiss the station goodbye."
"All the more reason to end this thing decisively before it spreads!" Tigh shouted him down one final time. "Control of the Colonies is becoming harder everyday now that every crackpot is popping out of the woodwork. If those damn civilians don' t get that then they are the enemy."
"It's called a strike, sir," he sighed one time more, knowing that he was already slipping into defeat, "not a revolution."
"It's a mutiny," the man responded. "And do you know what we do with mutineers? We shoot them, understood, Lieutenant?"
The asteroid belt was getting thicker, rocks pressing inward, massive chunks miles in diameter were starting to scrap against one another and occasionally there was a gigantic plum of dust in the distance, a sign that two of the wayward boulders had just pulverized each other.
Tom kept his eyes forward, his fingers itching on the navigation controls as he rolled the ship into a new course to avoid one of the oncoming rocks.
"Kee'lah," a clicking curse sounded from the back of the control room as Jusi'Lada smack the side of her station, the multiple dradis screens all flickering with static and useless icons.
"Old engineering 101," he grinned back at the young Quarian. "Probably those iron ore deposits that are also scrambling the Collyns' communication are messing with our dradis. Use your eyes if you have to."
"What I would give for a multi-spatial sensor package," Sim'Lohan mumbled as she continued to work the communication channels and still coming back with nothing. "I can't get a clear line back to the mining base."
"They won't be able hear you," Meier distrauded her. "And even if they did, we can't get a fix on our own position, let alone they could from several million kilometers away. Between the solar flares and our crazy magnetic readings we'll be lucky if we can get out of this mess alive, that's not even counting trying to find the escape boat."
"We can't just call off the search and leave them out here to die," Jusi'Lada shouted right back at him.
"Have no intention of doing so," Tom declared as he banked the Astral Queen around one particularly wayward stone. "This field is just getting worse. You sure there isn't a fast way through?"
"Asteroid belt is thickest in this area," Sim'Lohan asserted as she continued to work her futile task. "When the first survey was done in this area we labeled the entire region too dangerous because the amount of rocks are so thick they're actually starting to exert their own gravitational field."
"But because it isn't a planet but an ambiguous mass," Jusi'Lada added, "that gravity field is shifting constantly. Get stuck inside it when the gravity well rolls to one side and a previously sparse stretch of floating rocks get so close your crushed."
"Well then what the hell are we doing flying through the heart of it," Meier groused, trying not to eye how the rocks beyond the main viewport were starting to press in a little too closely.
"Wait a second," Jusi'Lada suddenly was moving quickly at her station, a blip blinking on her screens that wasn't there a second ago. "I'm getting a massive electro-magnetic halo dead ahead."
"Probably just some uranium ore reacting in the belt," her human counterpart leaned over from his seat to glance at her work. "Best to ignore it."
"Uranium ore doesn't pulse in a rhythmic pattern," the Quarian shot Meier a glare, "or give off a consistent energy pulse. The only thing that would do that-"
"Would be a massive thermonuclear reactor," Tom cut her off as he came to the same rapid realization. "A lot larger then any ship would put out. My guess from the amount of RAMs its putting out then its probably a mid-sized base."
"I think we should come around for a better look," Sim'Lohan surmised from the data. "It would be good to see if its the pirate's lair-"
The deck under her took a sudden and violent tilt, as the entire ship groaned and rocked for a second as everything beyond the view port blurred in movement.
"Don't bother," Tom shouted as he fought to keep control, "'cause I think we're going down..."
He found Alhex in some odd alien restaurant in ring one, section B, or as the Colonials were starting to call it, the 'Alien District'. The lights were low, a drumming music with squeals of odd bird calls played in the background and several white clad individuals carrying trays of what he guessed were food hinted their professions as waiters.
It only took the mention of Alhex's name to get a Trill waiter to show him to the floor pad the Lieutenant occupied, poking at something that looked to be a slice of blue roast beef.
"Alhex," he stated his name simply as he took the cushion across from him, trying to quickly adjust himself to appear as imposing as possible.
"Felix," the Lieutenant nodded at his arrival as he abandoned his no longer fresh meal. "I'm sorry things turned out as they did but just remember we are on the same side."
"I have already arrange a meeting with Captain Devaux," Gaeta's eyes never wavered and he in no way hinted at the other man's apology.
"Good," the unspoken insult was quickly picked up on when Alhex narrowed his eyes at Felix. "This is going to be a tight situation. It would just be easier if all these damn people were just signed to indenture service contracts."
"What?" Felix jumped at the chance to vent his indignation. "Your people don't allow conscription but you still have slaves?"
"Slavery is listed as illegal in over eighty different Hegemony laws," Moneti didn't back down as he locked Felix's glare with one of equal power. "Work contracts, or indentured servitude on the other hand are entirely acceptable."
"That's glorified legalized slavery," Felix could barely hid his outrage and was already noticing a few heads turning in their direction.
"Untrue," Alhex countered with his usual cold and calculating logic. "We have strict laws to protect the workers and it is even stricter to be signed to one. Contracts can be no greater than one forth of a sentients given lifespan or twenty-five cycles and can never be extended or re-newed beyond a onetime deal. Individuals cannot be transported outside the Hegemony, contracts cannot be applied to non-citizens, nor be traded or bought and at any point if the owner of said contract dies, the servant is free with their full contract paid off along with full compensation, preventing contracts from being inherited through their children."
"Sounds lofty," a grimace covered his face as even uttering something of the sort was considered foul to his tongue.
"If only these people were Hegemony citizens it would be more then within the Hegemony's power to update all their needs. But it would just facilitate your dependency on us and that's something your President and commander Adama are hoping to avoid."
"But the dockworkers are not part of the Hegemony," Felix took note. "They are free citizens of the Twelve Colonies."
"Who took a government contract," Alhex countered, "in order to have their families supplied with better accommodations and most of all get them out of those overcrowded refugee camps."
"But they didn't sign up to be worked to death," Felix itched to hit Alhex, anything to try and make him see reason beyond his usual dark outlook on life.
"They want instant gratification," Moneti jabbed his meal with a particularly vicious stab of his fork, even twisting the instrument as he talked. "Every civilian suffers from it and few ever get to experience it. If your civilization is going to survive to the end of the year, let alone until the next generation, your people will have to make sacrifices now so that your children have the luxury to bring them back. Won't go far if everyone is dead tomorrow if they all wanted a good meal tonight."
"You're a pessimist and these talks are going to fail if you walk into them with that attitude," Felix grumbled right back at him.
"And your an idealist who was going to fall flat on his face doing the same thing," Alhex locked his eyes with him again and this time made it a point to stare him into submission.
The deafening quiet, even in this noisy restaurant, wasn't lost on the two of them as they continued to glare daggers at one another, trying to one up the other in their rage and fury.
"I think I should head back to my quarters and get some rest," Felix finally said after a moment of terrible contemplation. "I'm sure that sitting in on your talks tomorrow is going to be exhausting to watch."
"Almost certainly," Alhex now had his gaze intently on his frigid meal. "But before that I need to talk to your Colonel Tigh. If I have to call in security to quell a riot, it's best to be ready..."
"Jump complete!" the moment Gina utter the confirmation Shaw had to fight to keep the Raptor stable. The displacement of the surrounding spacial matter rocked the craft, almost sending her rolling out of control.
"Nearing the last coordinates where our Raptor went missing," Kendra acknowledged. "Launching drones."
Communication drones were used as extenders to the distance and coherence of wireless radio transmissions between ships, a booster to break through interference or long-range to get a message out. They also were prefect for transmitting messages without attracting attention from enemy ships, fighters could track the drones, not who they were sending intelligence too.
Three drones jettisoned themselves from the Raptor, each one picking their course and arcing out in multiple directions.
"Receiving that transmission again," Gina announced.
"... emergency... distress. Power failure... oxygen's almost out... help us. For love of the Gods, help..."
"If he is alive, he's not going to last long," Inviere grimly asserted. "He's got about five-hours of oxygen left."
"Getting a clear dradis feed," Alastair nodded. "It's a little sketchy, try to push some more power through the sensor array."
Dradis, an acronym for 'Direction, Range, and Distance," was the Colonial equivalent of radar, a highly sensitive form of detection and navigation system abroad almost every ship, from shuttles to Battlestars. In a place a thick with rolling projectiles and free flying debris like the rings of a planet, it was the only think keeping Kendra from smashing the Raptor against the nearest asteroid.
By pouring some extra vestiges of power through the system, the picture began to clear slowly.
"Oh my Gods," Shaw gasped. "Activate the gun camera... Pegasus has got to see this... "
"This is Ragnar Traffic Control," Dee's voice crackled over the wireless. "Our docking schedule is being revised due to dockyard repairs. Please stand by."
Sighing she pushed back from the communication station in the heart of the command center, sliding the headphones off her head and trying to ignore the several colorful curse words thrown at her from the two dozen ships parked outside.
For a long while she just rested her face in her hands, trying to get the sleep and defeat out of her eyes. She had neither the intention to move or the intention to confront the problem for as long as she could but still when the hot cup of coffee was dropped in front of her she couldn't help but grin.
"Mhmm," she couldn't stifle a moan of pleasure at the sweet caffeinated beverage. "Where did you find coffee?"
With the Cylon attack and the resulting nuclear fallout tropic environments were becoming a rarity all over the Colonies, and as such entire crops of normally high dwelling plants were quickly withering, along with most every crop across the Colonies.
"Apparently coffee is common on Earth," Felix nursed his own cup, "and just so happens that the hydroponic on Victory carries a few trees ready for harvest."
"And you just happened to liberate some for yourself?" Dee perked up a bit.
"Alhex gave me some when I commented how much I liked coffee," he shrugged, trying not to really look her right in the face.
"He likes you?" Dualla grinned into her coffee cup, her lips curling up in the steam.
"No," Felix however got a distant look, not too convinced. "I think he wanted me to shut up... actually he told me that was the reason. So how was your date?"
"Like I'm gonna tell you," she laughed.
"So it was a date," he was quick to point out her folly.
"Technically," she conceded.
"Only technically?" the leering grin that Felix lavished her with gave a definite hint where his mind had wandered.
"Why is my sex life so interesting?" she was quick to cut him off before he could possibly ask another question. "There's gotta be thirty other people in this room. Chances one of them got laid last night, so no I didn't get lad."
"No, I didn't get laid... sir," he gave her a smirk.
"Shut up!" she playfully swatted his arm as she took a long sip of her coffee. "Speaking of getting laid, where's that military 'liaison' of yours?"
"I don't know," Felix suddenly seemed as uncomfortable as she had been a moment before, "and why should I care?"
"Getting a lot of weird readings," Meier shouted as the ship gave a sudden violent drop and the entire ship suddenly listed to port.
"Oh, I hadn't noticed anything weird!" Jusi'Lada shouted as she clung to her station, her position furthest from the tilt was leaving her with the greatest distance to fall.
"We're getting heavy!" he answered without having to be asked. "Really heavy... our mass has nearly tripled."
"All stop, hard reverse," Tom was flipping controls as he yanked back on the throttle, a loud and anguished groan from below hinted the engines were fighting to do as they were ordered.
"No effect," Meier shook his head as the vessel continued to rock and the field ahead of them grew closer and closer. "Going down hard!"
"Hold on," Zarek shouted. "Start dropping non-essentials!"
"Blowing water tanks," Meier's was quick to do as he was ordered but the moment he hit the eject button the entire vessel took a pitch. "Cargo bay ruptured. We're venting air!"
"Seal the cargo bay and jettison the crates!" Tom ordered.
"Crates away," Sim'Lohan declared but still the rocks ahead of them continued to race forward.
"Dropping battery packs," Zarek announced. "Battery packs away!"
"Engaging back-up systems," Jusi'Lada yelled as she began flipping switched left and right across her station.
"Still negative weight," Tom shook his head as the ship around him began to growl and strain against the pressure being exerted on it. "Jettison the survival pods."
"Survival pods?" Meier asked a bit unsure of what to think. Yet a quick glare from Tom threw him into position. "Survival pods away!"
A hand slammed down on the eject button and a second later the rumbling groan of the falling ship began to subside. The rocks rapid approach began to slow and the listing tilt the floor had held began to even out.
"Weight is hitting positive and rising," Tom announced as he began to adjust their flight course and bring the Astral Queen out from its haphazard course. "We are staring to rise."
"What the hell hit us?" Meier's breathed after a second.
"Gravitation eddy," Sim'Lohan surmised as she consulted her read outs and data. "The iron rocks clustered close enough about two-thousand kilometers away from us to exert the gravity of a small planet for a few minutes."
"Just prefect," Jusi'Lada agreed. "Should we radio for backup?"
"Mayday, mayday, Gamoray," Meier had already beaten her to the punch as he began to issue a distress call. "Astral Queen in emergency ascent from one thousand meters, location uncertain. Mayday, mayday... anyone reading us."
"Getting a response," Sim'Lohan noted after only the briefest of moments.
"Shouldn't be that fast," Tom locked her gaze with a uncertain expression. "Put it on the loud speakers."
Nodding the Quarian clicked several buttons on her station and a squeal of static quickly answered her before a voice began to break through the white noise.
"Mayday, mayday..." it was garbled but it was without a doubt Meier voice coming back through the loud speakers. "Astral Queen in emergency ascent... Mayday, mayday..."
"Its the iron deposits and the gravity fields," Jusi'Lada sighed in frustration as she cut the feed in mid-stream, "its bouncing our own signal back on us."
"Where is that energy signature?" Tom asked as he pulled the Astral Queen into a more leisure roll through the fields. "We didn't fall that far from where we first got those pings."
"Lost it just as the field reorganized," Jusi'Lada answered as she began to search through her records and dradis copies. "Yet if our position is correct then its should be just around the next asteroid cluster."
"Bringing us around," Tom nodded as he pulled the craft around one of the larger outcroppings of a jagged piece of debris and through the clouds of dust that dominated their views. "If we're here I at least wanna see it for sure."
Banking and swerving, the ship slide through the belt, avoiding some of the thicker clustering of boulders and bits as it began to rapidly approach its destination.
The moment it came into view however the entire group was stunned.
"Gods," Meier whispered as he got a good look at it, "its a moon."
Before them, perfectly hidden in the debris was an entire gray moon, its surface cracked and shattered with canyons but undoubtedly large enough to be the source of those troublesome gravity spikes. It had been hidden expertly in the field, its gravity managing to cluster enough ore around it to deflect any possible visual and dradis sweeps from ever detecting it and making any journey close to it too hazardous to attempt.
"Not a moon," Sim'Lohan rose from her station to join Tom at his position, "it's a core remnant. This entire field was formed by two moons pulverizing each other in a collision. Obviously the internal core of one of those planets survived and managed to slip into here long before anyone arrived here."
"And it looks like someone set up shop on it too," Meier added as he began to read off the information filling his screens. "I'm reading refine metals, electronic interference and even tylium exhaust. Someone built a base on this rock."
"Looks like we found the pirate's base," Sim'Lohan deduced as she leaned in beside Zarek to get a better look through the view port. "Ugly thing, even by Quarian standards."
"Visual and dradis confirm at least eight ships in our general vicinity," Meier joined in again. "Energy and mass outputs give me four freighters, two armed carriers and three small attack ships. Little smaller then a Raptor but definitely less sophisticated packed into it."
"For pirates they set up real quick," Jusi'Lada carped as she tapped away at her console.
"These aren't pirates," Meier announced to everyone surprise.
"What do you mean?" Tom shot him a confused glance, startled that his entire theory had suddenly been blown out of the water.
"Look at these visual feeds," he pulled up several playbacks from his data. "That isn't the symbol of the Western Brothers. It's the crest of the Virgon king."
"Who?" Jusi'Lada and Sim'Lohan asked in unison, unsure of any possible royalty among the Colonials.
"Before the first war with the Cylons," Tom explained even as he eased the Astral Queen back and deeper into the dust cloud they had just left to avoid detection, "Virgon was ruled by a monarchy. First among the stipulations to join the other Colonies after the pirate groups had to be done away with was that they had to become a constitutional monarchy, with an elected congress and a prime minister. Virgon's government pitched a fit but eventually they compromised with the royalty still hold symbolic power over everything but the civilian congress running the government."
"Today the monarchy is a dwindling memory," Meier added in with a smirk. "More often they're the but end of inbreeding jokes."
"But it looks like they may have made a comeback," Jusi'Lada muttered as she took a moment to stare hard at the playbacks. "Who's crest is that?
"King Kumara," Tom announced after a hard look. "Reports say that after Virgon was attacked the bulk of the causalities were in the capital city of Boskirk. Most of the royal family was also killed when Nairi was hit but the Colony voted emergency powers to Kumara until a new government could be elected."
"Never heard of him," Meier shrugged as he tried to run down the list of the royal family members he did know and quickly coming up blank.
"With good reason," Tom groused. "He was a staunch conservative who supported Virgon's return to the old ways, more importantly an absolute monarchy. Second to that was the reintroduction of indenture servitude and public executions. Man shouldn't have even been in line for the throne after that whole incident with trying to rape his sectary and declaring it was his royal right to do with his property as he saw fit."
"Looks like King Kumara's first act was to bring back pirating of other Colonies," Jusi'Lada grumbled.
"Well," Sim'Lohan murmured, "King Kumara has interfered in a joint Hegemony civilian operation by conducting pirating, illegal slave trade and murder. Even with a short trial I believe hanging or being jettisoned out an airlock would be the least of his worries when we bring this evidence back against him."
"We need to get back to Gamoray," Meier divulged in earnest. "There is no way we can deal with this kind of entrenched opposition. Hopefully a Colonial Battlestar or a Space Guard warship can be out here in two days to a week and we can deal with them properly."
"And in the meantime those kids are at the mercy of rapists and murders," Jusi'Lada stated darkly.
"Have we detected the escape boat yet?" Sim'Lohan ignored the comment of her subordinate as she turned back towards Tom.
"I'm getting a lot of interference from the belt," Zarek responded with a scowl. "It's doing a good job protecting us but it's done a number on our dradis."
"Maybe its the one flying towards the base right now?" Jusi'Lada suddenly announced.
All eyes turned towards the main view port to take notice of an abrupt arrival. Clearing the field, a small, boxy craft began to push out from an opening in the dust fields, followed close behind by a saucer like escape boat of the Coyllns locked on with a long tether.
Obviously the craft was having some trouble pulling in the cargo as its engines burned white hot yet it still managed a slow crawl forward. Ironically the same gravity that had hidden their original attack on the civilian ship was also acting as a handicap.
"We'll be," Tom perked up. "That drop through the field must have been a short cut. We completely bypassed them."
"But it still begs the question of how do we rescue them?" Jusi'Lada speculated. "That ship is faster than us and obviously armed with an EMP weapon of sorts. We don't stand a chance against it."
"Maybe not," Sim'Lohan tilted her helmeted head towards the man beside her. "You do have Quarians aboard Captain Zarek. We work best when the odds are stacked against us..."
"I just don't understand," Sierra leaned back into the train car couch, looking out at the dark night air beyond the window. "He just kept insisting on getting abroad the next Raptor into orbit."
The person on the other end of her phone said something no one but her could hear, though that meant little as the entire car Lorena occupied was empty save for herself.
The perks of being a government official, she had managed to garner a personal first-class car for herself, even if it meant those dirty refugees had to be packed in tighter to the other eighteen cars of the passenger train.
"No I don't have the slightest clue why," she shrugged at the question she had been asked. "He just was incredibly insistent, didn't even wait for the doctors to give us the final word of how Leipziger died."
The dark outlines of the treeline rushed by, even as the ground below her feet vibrated, dipped and rocked, a hint at the excessive speeds the engine was hauling them along at.
"What do you mean I shouldn't be concerned!" Lorena hissed into the speaker of her phone. "Derek was incredibly disturbed by the Vice President's death... a lot more then he should have been. It was almost as if he was afraid of something."
The train took a jolt for a second, the clang of the tires on the tracks assaulted her ears as she cursed under her breath.
"You don't think some had a hand in Leipziger's death..." she whispered into the phone, her voice hushed, not wanting to believe it. "I mean getting him out of the way could have assured Roslin or Kumara the Presidency... and I Laura doesn't seem to be the type of person who'd kill to get something she already legally had."
The train bounced again and Sierra had to fight to keep her place on the couch. They were accelerating and for a second she shot a glance outside... noticing the trees were starting to become one continuous blur.
"I don't want to sound presumptuous but..." she was starting to look worried, they shouldn't be moving this fast, "what if he did... what if Kumara had a hand in this in some way. With Leipziger gone he only had Secretary Nordstrom and Roslin in his way... and we know that Kumara is not above-"
The entire car jolted... so violently Lorena was thrown from her seat... slamming her into the floor just before the entire room disappeared into fire.
No one noticed the train lost in the mountains, now nothing but a towering flame and smoke billowing out into the dark. No one noticed the truck that had been sitting on the tracks, or that the train was traveling too fast... not until the two collided and disappeared into fire and smoke.
The ship bucked and fought, spiraling through the debris ring like a mole snaking through its tunnels. One wrong turn and they'd smash up against the walls, the thick clouds of dust making said walls all the more troubling to see.
"They're still following!" Gina reported, her helmet bouncing and struggle on her shoulders.
"We're still too deep into the belt," Shaw grumbled. "If we jump, they'll see us."
"That patrol is getting really close," Alastair grumbled. "Just get us the frak out of here."
"Won't work," Inviere shouted. "But if we shut down all the electronics and vent the atmosphere then hopefully we'll blend into the debris field as another rock."
"We're actually putting our faith in some machine!" Thorne bitched from the back cabin. "I say frak it and jump."
"And if we do they'll detect the energy displacement and know we were here," Gina criticized. "It won't take more than a few patrols to find Pegasus and then everything is blown."
"I am not listening to this any further," the man shouted. "If you won't do something then I will!"
He started to rise but a resounding glare from Kendra was enough to get him to back down.
"Gina's right," she admitted after a moment. "We can't blow our cover. This is a recon mission, they already found our Raptor, if they know we found it they'll come after us. Shut down the dradis package and cools the engines."
Inviere and slowly a reluctantly Alastair followed suit, the consoles whined one final time and then went dark. Without any momentum the Raptor was soon swept up in the ring's magnetic field, drifting and tumbling in the maelstrom.
"Patrol should be passing now," Gina commented, staring out into the field beyond.
It was tough, the dust obscured most everything and even several large pieces of debris colliding with one another were a remaining distraction to their search.
"I see 'em!" Kendra announced, as four tiny dots raced out of the dirty mess.
"They've changed course," Alastair had left his station and came up behind their seats to stare out the cockpit window. "They're heading right for us!"
"It's a standard maneuver," Kendra noticed. "There's a break in the dust cover and they're follow it like we did."
"No!" Thorne's voice was filled with terror and desperation. "Our cover's blown. We have to get out of here, now!"
He made a grab for the flight-controls but Shaw elbowed him in the chin of his helmet to force him back.
"Stand down, Lieutenant!" Shaw commanded, rounding on the man.
"We have to get out of here or we're all dead!" Alastair roared. "If you're going to listen to this... this... thing then I have to take control of this mission!"
"Back off," Gina joined Kendra at facing down the loan and loathsome officer.
"I should have killed you!" Alastair screamed. "If you were dead then that frakking bitch Cain wouldn't have sent us out here with her pet Cylon!"
The realization hung in the air as Gina's eyes went wide.
"It was you!" she hissed. "You raped me!"
"You can't hurt a frakking machine!" Thorne grinned. "I had as much fun with you as I did beating the snot out your Cylon buddy down in the brig."
"I'm not like him," Gina vehemently seethed, tears staining her cheeks behind the transparent glass of her helmet. "I love the Admiral and would never betray her, you rapist!"
"And the Admiral knows how to show her love," Alastair fixed her with a leering grin. "Keeping one of you things as a pet and using the other as he sick play thing."
"She would never do anything like that!" she fought back, her words choking in her throat.
"Cain told me to get what we needed from your Cylon cohort…" the man lavished her as if expecting praise for his work, "no matter what."
"Alastair," Kendra warned, "shut your mouth!"
"I had great fun removing each and every one of his finger nails…" Alastair wiggled his fingers at her, giggling as he did so, "before I made him eat them!"
"You're sick!" Gina could feel her stomach giving a long roll, falling violently under the man's announcements. "Helena would never order something so horrible!"
"Then ask your friend there," he pointed towards the pilot. "She was there when she ordered it."
"Kendra?" Gina rounded about, trying to look for something in her friends face to hint that it was all a lie.
"Gina…" suddenly she couldn't look her in the face, "I… we…. I…"
"Cat got your tongue?" Alastair hissed like a viper. "Think you're going to hurt her feelings? Some where in that twisted wiring she doesn't really have emotions, you can't hurt something that doesn't feel!"
Gina's fist slammed into his helmet faster than Alastair could understand.
He spiraled back, the zero-gravity environment sending him back with a much greater force then Gina had intended. So much momentum had been built up however that when his head finally smacked into the back wall of the cabin, the crack of bone and glass resounded in the Raptor cabin... followed soon after by a burst of air and a gasp.
Alastair's helmet had broken, exposing him to the full force of the unforgiving void. Without any oxygen to replace what he was exhaling, asphyxiation was quick, soundless... and violent.
In the heat of the moment, Alastair had been unprepared and thrashed about trying to understand why his throat was burning, his eyes felt like they were ablaze and his chest endured a heavy weight atop it.
By the time he understood his last breath was escaping his lips and his eyes glazed over.
All Gina and Kendra could do was stare at the now limp body rotating around the back of their Raptor... before finally turning back to stare at each other.
"I... I... ." Inviere gasped in horror. "I didn't mean to... "
"It wasn't your fault," Shaw responded. "Alastair disobeyed a direct order on a critical mission that could have compromised Pegasus. He was a threat to ship security and has now been dealt with."
"Kendra," Gina slowly turned towards the other woman, her eyes the size of dinner plates, "what he said… was it true?"
Silence prevailed in the cabin for almost a full moment before she finally answered.
"The patrol has moved on, let's get back to the ship... "
The city was busy, the streets were crowded, a mixture of dirty faced refugees begging for some kind of charity and cleaned clothed people, a direct hint the natives were fairing better. But even if Archer City was among the few cities that had worn out the attack without any serious damage, they were given a wide berth as they walked the streets... more so because of the fact that two of their companions were so obviously not human.
"They are afraid of us," Amanda commented, pulling the shawl around her shoulders a little tighter and bringing her head down a little lower.
"No," Ocinis commented as they turned another corner and were greeted by another wave of concerned glares and hushed whispers. "They are afraid of me."
The canine flashed a pair of glaring yellow teeth at two men who were whispering a little louder and little too harshly, causing them both to slink back and inciting a smirk from Amanda.
"How far is it?" Six asked as they entered the twelfth block of their trip.
As if to answer her question they crossed the street and found themselves in the courtyard of one large, imposingly white building.
"From what we know," Lass announced, padding to a stop before the structure, "the only shuttle with a Tangean and a Drazi abroad landed here."
"Since Doctor Baltar was seriously injured," Ocinis noted, "then we will have to assume he is a patient here."
"We should remain outside," Lass turned his head towards his comrade who bowed his head in agreement.
"You've been tracking him this far..." Six was nearly astonished they were giving up the hunt just this far from their target. Something wasn't sitting right with her. "Why don't you want to go inside?"
"Colonial humans tend to deal well with their fellow humans or humaniod aliens..." Ocinis explained with a gleam of amusement and depression in his eyes. "We are neither.
"The likelihood a building full of people in serious or weakened conditions would react badly to our presence is an incredible danger we can not take," Lass agreed. "It is best that we wait here for you and you tell us how the hunt ended."
"From this point onward it is only you," Ocinis denoted.
"Come on," Amanda placed a hand on her shoulder, a firm but friendly glance. "I'll accompany you as far as you need."
Taking a deep breath she stepped forward, for a moment her feet almost refused to move... and then she was through the front doors and standing at the check-in desk with a frazzeled and over stressed nurse before them.
"Excuse me..." she asked, trying to gain the woman's attention, "ah... excuse... hey could you..."
The woman was too preoccupied, shouting out orders, handing over charts, pointing doctors, nurses and patients where they had to go.
"I'm busy," the woman waved them off. "You'll have to take a number and-"
She never had a chance as Six's arm snapped out and pulled the her collar first across the front desk.
"I have been hiking through the woods for days," she hissed, her eyes burning with fire as she gripped the white uniformed woman by her neck with startling strength, "through rubble, through the dirt and through insane cannibals that tried to turn my sister here into an afternoon stew. You will tell me what I need to know and you will tell me now!"
"Alright," the nurse whispered, terrified by the strong hand choking her with terrible force. "What do you need to know?"
"Baltar," her voice was low, threatening. "Doctor Gaius Baltar. I need to know where he is."
"Relation?" she croaked.
"Coworker," Six announced in a loud, commanding voice, "close friend, lover, frak buddy. Now tell me what I want to know."
"Doctor Baltar is on floor six, room 45..." she hesitated, holding back on snippet until she finally let it drop, "hospice wing."
Her legs were carrying her over the ground, pounding and throbbing as she threw herself full body into a sprint towards the nearest staircase.
"SIX!" Amanda was rushing after her, barely able to keep pace with her as she took the steps three at time, sliding past anyone in her way, bouncing and dodging as she ascended the flights. "Six wait!"
Floor four... floor five... floor six, they flew right passed her until she was standing outside the door... room 45... before pressing a hand into the door and entering the stark white room.
The crowd was angry, furious, shouting and screaming, boos and curses flew, even as the three of them stood on the platform overlooking the group.
"I assure you," Moneti declared to the gathering, "your people are is not being singled out by your government and the Hegemony does sympathizes with your situation. I personally understand your feelings. But the Colonial government must make sacrifices in order to rebuild the life you once held-"
"Are you seriously preaching to us about our own government?" Sophia Petto led the opposition, arms crossed and staring at him with a seething gaze. "You're a frakking alien!"
"Yeah!" a general declaration exploded from the crowd, nearly a hundred strong.
"Ragnar Anchorage handles a huge amount of the Hegemony relief supplies," Alhex pressed on, ignoring the xenophobic insults, "not just to Caprica but to all the Colonies. This dock in particular is vital to the continue operations that feed millions planet-side and across the solar system. It may not be the best situation but think how today could affect the lives of your children? If these refugee efforts fail now so could life as we know it."
"Life as we know it got nuked by the Cylons," Petto shouted, getting claps and shouts from her comrades. "Now its just about surviving 'til tomorrow."
A general nod of agreement was had by everyone on the opposing side, all locking glares at those they blamed for all their problems.
"Miss Devaux..." Gaeta hissed as his companion, both a step behind Moneti as he tried and failed to keep order. "You could do something to prevent a possible riot!"
Sighing Symone stepped up to join the Lieutenant... but quickly made sure to put a step between them also.
"Mr. Moneti, you're right," she announced. "My people are a part of Ragnar Anchorage and the job it does for all the Colonies. They unload the goods to keep it running, they have families abroad with them, they've given up ration points and good living conditions to get their children better treatment. What do they get for such a noble sacrifice? They work double... and triple shifts, using equipment that's sub-standard, for no pay!"
The workers rumbled with agreement and Moneti narrowed his eyes at her, not liking how she was dissolving this situation by making her the voice of the disenfranchised workers.
"You were conscripted by the Colonial government, Miss Devaux," Alhex hissed at her, keeping his voice as even as he could in the process. "I can't control that. But if you give us a chance we can start looking into a better way to solve these problems."
"These problems killed a friends of mine," Symone gestured to the crowd, of dirty and worn faces, "a damn fine dockworker and a good, honest woman who lost both her children in the attack but still went to work to support her sister's daughters. And as the appointed leader of this station I don't intend to let that happen ever again. We want better equipment, better hours and we'll damn well have it."
'YEAHS' exploded from the crowd, followed by whoops of happiness and clapping of congratulations. Neither Gaeta nor Moneti were liking where this was headed.
"I wish I could help," Moneti shrugged. "But when the call came out for workers you all volunteered. You are not legal workers under Colonial law and without that, my hands are tied. There are simply no way around it. We can work around this accident, be prepared for next time... and despite this, unfortunate accident, our AI's assure us you have enough people for this and your equipment to-"
"How many of those computer eggheads ever worked a space-dock..." Petto shouted from the crowd, "even a planet-side airstrip?"
"You have a point, Mrs...?" Moneti shot the woman in the group a glare, trying to understand her position in all this.
"Tina Petto," the woman announced like it was crunch bells ringing and she was trying to talk over them, "senior dockyard chief. And yeah, I got a point. I've been working docks for my entire life at Delphi spaceport, and this equipment we've got is older than that? Every piece needs to be overhauled, but we don't have the money or the manpower to do it. And if you won't do nothing about it, then you damn well get those AI to run my docks, cause I won't!"
"YEAH!" the workers screamed and clapped.
"I suggest," Gaeta shouted, the moment they saw the Colonial uniform they started to quiet.
"we should recess for the evening and meet again tomorrow. It's late and we're all tired too tired to keep a rational mind."
"You're right, Lieutenant," Alhex nodded, knowing that he had failed to bring order to the unruly crowd. "Miss Devaux, we would have better luck if everyone gets a good night's sleep and convene again tomorrow."
Turning on his heels, the man was gone in a second, somehow disappearing without the crowd ever noticing where he went without being able to exert their outrage anymore. Without him as their focus, they quickly dispersed, leaving Gaeta with the two leaders of this small insurrection of loyalty.
"Sleeping on a lumpy mattress on a cargo-bay floor won't convince us of anything other than workers always get frakked," Tina hissed in fury. "But this time, we're gonna fight back."
"Tina," Symone tried to calm her friend, "we can't go flying off the gun. If we do, this will only spiral out of control."
"We have a right to defend ourselves, Devaux!" she shouted right back, sweat and tears mixing on her face.
"But not with violence!" Felix shot right back at her in outrage. "You go that route and the military will have to react with swift and immediate force."
"If someone pushed you, wouldn't you push back?" Tina verbally pushed at him. "We've been bully enough by the higher ups, time to put our foot down…"
"This is Raptor 7463," the pilot talked into his helmet mic, watching through the cockpit windows as the clouds lazily rolled passed, "clearing stratosphere now. On approach 76 karom 928, destination Guard vessel Tripoint."
In the back cabin Derek rung his hands over and over again, as if trying to wash some unseen dirt from his skin and failing to make himself feel anything more then a growing feeling of guilt and stress.
"How much longer are we going to be?" he called ahead to the two pilots who were banking the ship upward.
"ETA twenty-minutes, sir," the man behind the controls declared in annoyance. "Just like we said a minute ago... and the minute before that."
He shot a glance at his fellow copilot, trying not to frown at the very maddening man they had been assigned to ferry to orbit.
"Sir," his head snapped to the side as his copilot pointed towards the dradis console lying between them on the front dash. "We have two unknown icons approaching us from behind. Dradis is getting no recognition code. Try to raise them."
Tapping only a few buttons a crackle of static greeted them, then the click of someone linking in on the same channel as them.
"This is Raptor 7463 to unknown contacts," the copilot announced into his helmet mic. "Please identify-"
A blast of static suddenly screamed over the open channel, so loud both the men clapped hands to the sides of their helmets before slapping the controls to mute.
"What the frak?" the copilot tapped the side of his head, trying to work out the ringing in his ears. "They just threw up a jammer field."
"I'm not liking this," the piloted shouted as he slammed the throttle to its height. "Punch up the scrambling field and pour on the speed!"
The Raptor vaulted forward, the inertia threw them all back into their seats. The clouds were not rushing past the windows, the stairs starting to grow bigger and clearer. In the back Derek ought to keep his seat, clutching to the seat belt over his chest and squeezing his eyes shut with incredible force.
"They're gaining on us," the copilot shouted as the ship rolled to port, then spun to starboard, trying to establish a jagged path across the sky.
"What's going on?" Derek shouted from the back, rocking back at forth against his seat as the ship banked again and he fought to keep his position.
"Shut the frak up!" the pilot yelled back before slamming his fist down onto the afterburners. "Prepare to drop swallows and drones!"
For just a second his copilot paused in his movements to slowly regard his comrade.
"We're not carrying any," the man admitted after a beat.
"What?" he hissed in disbelief.
"We're a shuttle," the copilot shot right back at him, "not a fighter. We not armed with any of those"
"Alright," the man nodded back at him. "Fighters at 100 kilometers... time to hit the deck!"
Slamming the joystick to port, the entire ship rolled to the side, everything taking a violent slant before the they screamed to starboard... but not fast enough as a spray of bullets hit their wing and sent them reeling in the clouds.
Circuits exploded, consoles popped and something banged loudly in the back cabin as everything went blurry for a second.
"Roll to port!" the pilot shouted as he fought for control against the terrible exertion being thrown upon them. "Bring us around."
"Direct hit," his companion howled as he assessed the damage. "Secondary thrusters are offline. Backups not responding."
"Altitude is starting to fall," the controls were starting to become sluggish but still he held tight to his systems. "Bringing up main drive. We won't be able to keep this up for long!"
"They're coming around again!" the copilot called out as the dradis console screamed. "200 kilometers and closing!"
Another shot hit them, sending their ship bucking and rocking, leaving one of their wings afire and several wires sparking in brilliance.
"New contacts," the copilot shouted as the craft gave another rock against the incoming fire. "Incoming from the northwest!"
"Gods," he whispered under his breath as three icons now raced towards the two following them, "they're moving fast!"
Sure enough all three of the icons screamed right passed them, all they could see through the cockpit windows were three big silver blurs raced past them... then two bright explosions in the night sky behind them.
"Frakking Lords of Kobol," someone whispered and neither the copilot or pilot could tell if it had come from them.
"Incoming transmission!" the copilot declared as the crackle of the speakers returned.
"This is Thutmose wing," a voice chirped in over the wireless as one of the silver crafts took point right off their port. "Kicker reporting. Do you require assistance Raptor 7463?"
"Thank the Gods you made it," the pilot breathed a sigh of relief. "We should be able to make it ground-side without trouble and-"
"Sir," a hand tapped on his shoulder, turning his head back to where his co-piloted pointed towards he understood as he saw the blood splayed on the ground.
"Gods..." he whispered. "Kicker, we need immediate medical assistance..."
"It's an old Colonial Defender transponder," Shaw explained as she pointed out the vessel on the gun-camera print out. "Obvious a left over from the last war. Cylons must have taken her, ripped out the automated distress beacon, destroyed the ship and used it to draw Buster into a trap."
"Kid should have been smart enough to authenticate the signal before investigating," Belzen grimly noted.
"We sighted the Raptor drifting a short distance away," Gina continued, still dressed in her flight suit, her sweat hair pasted to her face. "Along with three Basestars keeping their distance in the dust rings. A good guess would be they are trying to lure us in and then spring a trap."
"How far away is the Raptor from us?" Cain asked.
"It's long range, over 40-SU away," the woman pointed out.
"Then spin up the FTL drive, and prepare to jump the ship," Cain commanded. "We are going to turn the trap on these frakkers."
The officer's nodded and began to file out, but Helena's hand lashed out and caught the last before she had a chance to depart.
"Are you okay?" Cain inquired… until she noticed how her lover pulled away with a shiver… a shiver of fear.
"I'm fine... " Gina responded a bit off, but quickly turned to stare up at Helena with tears in her eyes. "What happened to Fisk?"
"What do you mean?" Helena shot her a confused look, laced with tension. "Fisk is in the brig."
"Helena," Gina sighed in annoyance, locking a glare onto the other woman. "I know when you're lying. Your eyes twitch... so tell me now... what did you do to Fisk?"
"We needed to know how much he knew," Helena exhales, almost verging on a moan as she turned away and paced her shadow along the length of the ready room. "He's been only one step away from me... I had to know what he knew and what he could do against us. Lieutenant Alastair is an expert in interrogation… so I ordered him to find out."
"You ordered a possible sociopath to interrogate Fisk…" she couldn't believe what she had just heard, trying to roll the words over in her mouth to really get them across. " You sent a man that already had problems with authority and gave him the chance to make some revenge on his former superior!"
"We needed him…" Helena rounded, trying to shout but her voice starting to fail her. "As much as it's killing me now that I know what he did to you, we had to know what Fisk had given the enemy! This was for the whole crews safety... yourself included!"
"I should count myself lucky then!" Gina shouted, resisting the temptation to punch a wall. "I'm of some use to you!"
"That's not what I meant and you know it!" she roared right back at her, in a voice so loud it nearly shook the walls.
"Well what if it was me?" Gina proposed. "What if I had been caught before I told you. Could that have been me? Tell me Helena, could that have been me!"
"I would never do such a thing!" Helena was aghast at the very idea she would be capable of such a thing. "And you're different than him. We are at war and that man tried to kill everyone abroad this ship… including you! But you decided to turn, you helped us... because you love me!"
"What happens when I step out of line…" Gina scoffed at her. "Am I going to end up like him too because I was also an infiltrator?"
"No never!" Helena clamored right to her, placing her hands on either side of Gina's face to try and have at her look at her directly. "You made the decision to save lives… to save me. I could never hurt you for that."
"Helena…" slowly Gina removed the fingers from the side of the face, turning away from her and leaving Helena with a terrible weight in her stomach. "If I hadn't come forward… that could have been me in that cell. Do you know how close I came to that… and it terrifies me."
"I know..." Helena nodded. "I won't let anything happen to you..."
"But it could," Gina wasn't convinced and Helena knew she was slowly losing this battle. "Maybe not me but what happens if we come across another Six. I look identical to my sisters. sound just like them... was made from the same mold. It would be the same. Would you be able to do the same to someone who's identical to me in every way?"
"I..." she was at a loss of words, the idea horrified her but it would escape her. "I don't... I don't know..."
"I should go," Gina started to turn, heading towards the door. "I have work to do before the battle."
"Gina..." for the first time in their entire relationship Helena's voice was small and impish, "are we alright?"
"No, Helena," Gina exhaled slowly, "we are not..."
She started to turn, to make her departure and the door was half open, when Helena's voice returned again, but this time much stronger, command like.
"Specialist Inviere," Cain's expression was strong and direct. "I need someone who specializes in super-string theory, quantum mechanics and Cylon tactics. I believe you have specialty in all three."
"Then report to the bridge, Specialist," Helena gestured towards the door. "And prepare your post for combat... "
"Ellen?" Saul caste his gaze around the room, trying to find where in his entirely Spartan quarters she could have possibly gotten off too.
"Did you shut the door?" Ellen's giggle nearly made him jump out of his skin as he rounded about to find her gingerly leaning in the bathroom door frame. "Surprise!"
She tossed the bottle at him and with startling speed even after more than eleven-hours on duty he snatched the container out of the air before eyeing the label with a marksmen's glare.
"Ambrosia," he already recognized the smell seething off the bottle and the label only helped to confirm his suspicious. "Where did you get this?"
"I have my ways," she sniggered, obviously having already taken a bit of the bottle's contents for herself. "I thought it might be just the thing for a little celebration."
"We have the President's dinner in barely an hour," Tigh protested but from the unregistered look in Ellen's eyes it was lost on her.
"First things first," she snatched the bottle away from him, tearing out the cork and with two tin glasses already sitting on the table Ellen poured them out an ample amount before handing one to him in an haphazard toast. "There... to starting over."
"To starting over," he tipped his head to her before downing the fiery drink that burned his throat. "I'm technically still on duty."
"Oh," Ellen grinned as she started to pour him another drink. "I think they can do without you for a day."
"It doesn't really work that way," he admonished her before tossing back another drink. "And we have to get ready for the President's dinner."
"I'm sure she won't mind if we're a bit late," Ellen grinned up at him, as she seductively began to play with the buttons of his jacket.
"Ellen we have to go," he tried to push her off, to get her to see reason... but when her hand landed on his belt buckle he had to put his foot down. "ELLEN!"
"Fine," she pouted with those full lips he had fallen in love with, "you never let me have any fun."
Gathering herself up she dropped her cup on the table, empty of course, snatched up her coat and made ready to leave, turning back just long enough to cast a look at Saul.
"We'll are you coming?" she asked, before strutting out the door.
Tigh was so dumbfounded, it took him a second to gather himself and dash after her.
Minutes later they were shaking hands and greeting, trying to mingle as they sat down to dinner with the Commander, President and a few others. Inside the Commander's private dinning room it was cramped, the table consumed the majority of the floor and the walls were just far enough to allow a single person to make a circuit around the table at a time.
One head of the table was occupied by Adama, the other by Laura. Between them Admiral Vonaka and Lee held onside, the other was taken over by Saul and Ellen.
"So Mrs. Tigh," Laura commented as they sat down at the table, a few servers depositing a modest meal before them, "you've spent time on the civilian ships, the Olympic Carrier I believe? What is your opinion of the situation abroad?"
"Sure," Ellen waved the question off as if it was no big deal, "there's a lot of whining and complaining, like you would expect. But the people I talked to are mostly hopeful and optimistic."
"That's good to hear," Laura manage a grin against the usual shriek of Ellen's voice.
"But," Ellen was not about to lose her position as the center of the table discussion, "there are a few people who still might wonder if a kindergarten teacher is really the right person to be President but it's just a tiny, tiny minority."
"Wonderful," Laura smiled as she took another bite of her mash potatoes, trying to maintain a smile. "But I haven't been doing it alone."
"Yes, of course," the other woman nodded from the far end of the table. "And everyone is so truly, truly grateful to all of you on Galactica and in the military for their sacrifices. You literally are our saviors."
"Oh," Tigh tried to seem humble at her compliment, "we're just doing our jobs, that's all."
"You are so modest," she giggled, patting him on the shoulder. "He's always been that way. ooh! Lee..." she squealed as the man across the table from him suddenly seemed a bit uncomfortable with a bite of food half way to his mouth, "could I trouble you for a little bit more of this lovely ambrosia?"
"Sure," the young man grasped the bottle and poured a small amount into Ellen's glass but an arched eyebrow he dropped a little more liquid into her glass.
"Thank you, dear," she smiled at him a bit too lavishly before taking a long gulp of the drink. "Bill, you must be so proud of your sons. Lee here has grown into such a handsome man. I can only imagine what Zak must look like now. You are the spitting image of your mother and I bet Zak takes just after his daddy."
The room was deathly quiet for just a second, as both Adama and Saul gave her a gaping look at her slip of the tongue.
"Zak passed away a couple of years ago," Apollo was quick to offer up at the long and dark look his father was shooting at the woman.
"I'm sorry," she threw her hands up into the air and offered them all a small smile. "Tragic, the death of a child. There's been so much death, so much pain... sometimes, it's completely overwhelming. But I'm sure he was a beautiful boy."
"The captain of the Olympic Carrier was a little puzzled as to how you got on board his ship," Adama professed.
"Oh, I know," Ellen shrugged it off, not really paying attention as she took another sip from her drink. "I know some thoughtful soul just rescued me from an almost certain death and put me on the last flight out of Picon!"
"How lucky for us all," Laura punched a fork into her roast, quickly regretting this entire exchange with the all too drunk Ellen.
"It is, indeed," Saul however missed the look and instead was looking at his wife with devoted eyes.
"The strange thing is," Bill however continued with his previous line of questioning, "no one can recall giving you any medical assistance until about a week ago."
"Oh, I know!" Ellen exclaimed. "It was so scary and crowded. It's a miracle I'm alive!"
"Ahem, uh..." Lee began to snatch up a few plates to escape this catastrophe. "I think I'd better clear some of these, uh, dishes."
"You are so sweet," Ellen laughed, passing over her untouched meal but keeping a grasp on her still cool drink. Her attention however centered onto the other person now alone on the other side of the table from her. "So, Mr. Volaska, now, the question on everyone's mind and I do mean everyone... is when's Earth going to send their fleet to destroy the Cylons?"
The Anchallian, a good head over everyone else and still he was only sitting, looked a little startled to be the new center of Ellen's attention.
"A relief fleet is one the way from the core galaxies of the Hegemony," Vonaka articulated for the woman, "including a sizable contingent from the Solorian Federation but it is not here to destroy the Cylons. We are attempting to find a peaceful diplomatic solution."
"Oh... that word again!" Ellen whistled as if she had been burned. "Diplomacy. You can't talk to machines."
"Ellen," Saul waved her off, "leave the man alone."
"Well, come on," his wife tapped him as if he was a young child she was correcting, "their just metal and circuits we made. I mean come on, its like throwing out an old car. We can do what we see fit with our property."
"Ms. Tigh," Vonaka sighed, annoyed by this whole situation, "the Hegemony is vast and so is the immense amount of life contain within it and far beyond. Carbon-based organic life itself is a majority but we still have huge portions of the universe populated by gaseous, energy, plasma, silicon and hydrogen-based life. What is defined as sentient in incredibly broad."
"But they are not alive," Ellen pressed on, refusing to see his reasoning, "they are just machines."
"Machines are alive," Volaska refused to bow to her wisdom. "As of last month, with the inception of the Malmooth Conglomeration into the empire, the Hegemony now has over 1,022,347 member nations spread over three galaxies. Some are democratic, like the Solorian Federation, others are monarchies like the Crespallions of the Scarlet Junction... some live underwater like the Antedean or the Trilarian... or live in the depths of space like the Leviathan Herds... and some are cybernetic like the Geth, or entirely computerized ones like our ship's AIs. But each and everyone of them has the same rights and liberties that would be afforded to you."
"Oh, I'm sorry," the lady Tigh grinned, liking to get a rise out of him. "Perhaps you don't know that the Cylons look like us, now. Does that affect your concepts?"
"That's merely a rumor," Adama reproved her. "Those were just people driven insane by the attack and acting out. Almost all of them ended up killing themselves ultimately and the matter is dead now."
"But why does humanity have to listen to Hegemony," Ellen leaned over the table, tapping it to make a point. "The Thirteenth tribe are considered part of the Twelve Colonies. If I remember the Articles of Colonization correctly, all the tribes of Kobol are subject to our laws. If we tell the Earthers to destroy the Cylons, they should do as they're told."
"Ellen!" Saul was nearly psychically sick from the tone his wife had just take.
"Well I'm just saying what everyone's thinking," Ellen threw her hands into the air in anguish. "I'm sure if President Adar were here he'd be putting the thirteenth tribe in its rightful place."
"I can assure you," Laura, feeling she had been quiet too long, now piped in. "President Adar would have been more than respectful in the idea that the thirteenth tribe is not and has no interest in being under Colonial rule. Same as the Solorian Federation has no interest in making the Twelve Colonies a member state in it's nation. Both of us are too far apart to exert any real control over the other and I think at the end of the day we can appreciate that."
Before any more debate could be prompted, Adama was quick to bring an end to the evening.
"Dinner was great," he announced, tossing his napkin onto his plat. "Thank you so much for coming. It's been a wonderful evening."
"Thought it would never end," Tigh grumbled under his breath, taking one last swig of his water.
"Oh..." Ellen squealed beside him as she withdrew one of her long legs from under the table. "I seem to have lost one of my shoes."
"I think it's right here," Lee commented, removing a lost shoe from his lap with a look of disgust and mild annoyance.
"Thank you, Lee," Ellen giggled as she snatched the sandal back, though the red flash on Lee's face made her laugh harder.
"You look very, very happy," Bill commented to his old friend, trying to distract him from the entire display of lewdness beside him.
"That's because I am very, very happy," Saul grinned, though he failed to notice the going on's beside him or the terrible glare on Adama's face.
"Bill, lovely evening," Ellen nearly stumbled from her seat, the drink in her stomach starting to affect her finally as she finally had to stand on her own two feet.
"I've got her," Saul laughed as she started to drag her towards the now opened hatch and back towards their quarters.
"Be careful," Bill called after them.
"When did Bill become such a stick in the mud?" that little comment may have come out as a whisper to Ellen but she practically yelled it as she stumbled out the door with Saul holding her hips.
"The scuttlebutt was that she slept with more than half the fleet while Saul was in space," Adama groused the moment the door slammed shut behind the pair.
"Then why the hell did he stay married to her?" Laura shot him a look as she joined him.
"It's obvious," Adama commented, "he loves her deeply."
"Blindly," Volaska declared in earnest. "Polygamy may be common among most of the member worlds of the Hegemony but she just seems to do it because she can, not for love or procreation but the thrill of it."
"Ellen used to encourage the worst instincts in this guy," Adama nodded. "Bring out the self-destructive streak in him."
"Used to?" Laura shot him a look.
Bill was about to protest, to think of something for Ellen's defense when suddenly Billy breezed into the dinning room, a sense of urgency on his features.
"Madam President," he leaned over and quickly whispered something indiscernible for them to hear.
"Alright," she nodded before turning back to the remaining pair. "If you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have something pressing to attend to."
Both offer a quick bow and she departed, making her way out the hatch with the young attendant in tow. The moment the hatch sealed behind them she was turning around on her companion.
"So how bad is it?" she asked immediately...
"All flight deck personnel," Belzen's voice echoed in the hallways as personnel ran to their posts, "report to action stations. All personnel to action stations."
"All right, come o n, let's go, let's go!" Marcia 'Showboat' Case yelled as she ushered her Viper pilots into their bird. "We gotta scrambled people. Mommy's not here to kiss your sorry asses!"
Fighters were pulled into their tubes, the landing gears grinding over the deck-plating and locked into the mag-launchers.
At almost ten-meters long and three-meters high, the Viper MK-VII was the top of the line fighter design for the Colonies. While keeping with some of the classic layouts from the Mk-II's that fought during the last Cylon war, they were far more battle capable than their predecessors. Three
"Flight-deck reports Vipers are loaded," Belzen confirmed from his side of the command room. "All gunners are locked in and engine room says FTL is spun up."
"Moment we're in they'll start launching Raiders," Gina supplied from the other end of the room. "If we catch them off par, they won't have time to get anything in the air."
"I've loaded the targeting profiles into the warheads," Kendra joined. "In theory we'll be able to launch them without targeting and they should be take their kills without orders."
"Lock down all stations, seal blast doors. Jump us, Mr. Hoshi," Admiral Cain announced.
"Aye, sir," the Lieutenant nodded. "Drive is spooled up now."
The room seemed to elongate and shrink as the Battlestar folded in on itself.
FTL was the standard acronym for faster-than-light, the hallmark that made almost any civilization graduate from the primitive space age to the interstellar era. Situated at the heart of Pegasus, two FTL drive coils sat between a pair massive shafts, spinning and rotating as thousands of joules of energy poured in them.
No one knew who first invented faster-than-light drive, it was a holdover from the Colonials exodus from Kobol thousands of years ago and its origins had been lost in the pages of history and the rumor of legend. It's use had fallen out during the early years of the Twelve Colonies but slowly as humanity rediscovered the technology from salvaged bits of their once great civilization, the engine system had pushed their worlds from obscure long-distances to right on each other's door step.
It was a highly complicated process that would require volumes of text books just to explain its most basic functions but at full power she was capable of folding the fabric of space and time around itself before 'trading' it with another piece of space of the same size. This swap of two point in space required an obnoxious amount of power and calculations yet it was so critical to a Battlestar's operations that most of her class were designed around the FTL, not the other way around.
A moment later they transitioned back into normal space...
"Almost in position," Tom mumbled as he watched the pirate ship drifting beyond their scopes.
"Reactor functioning at minimal levels," Meier commented as he watched his controls closely. "Our signals are going strong."
"Secondary pings are active," Sim'Lohan declared as her systems registered nominal.
"They are almost there..." he watched his readouts as closely as possible, waiting for just the right... "NOW!"
Four sets of hands flew over their respective controls, clicking and typing away with lightning speed just as they had planned... just finishing in unison as the multi-directional laser emitters sprinkled at eight different points through the north-eastern side of the belt flared to life.
Each one was like a tiny sun, burning with powerful energy hat flexed itself outward... and slicing the four massive asteroids crossed between them and sending a terrible storm of debris outward in all directions... though the majority was directed towards the pirate base
The reaction was immediate, the fighter noticed that each of the rocks had centered in on a collision course with their base, a terrible projectile that even by itself could do terrible damage... in the process of moving to intercept it dumbed the escape pod in order to gain the extra speed.
"Thank Gods we had those left over from the mining mission," Zarek thanked his respective Lords of Kobol before kicking up the engines. "Bring reactor power up to full!"
The Astral Queen vaulted into action, throwing itself forward and towards its target.
"Sim'Lohan, get ready," he shouted aft ward as the Quarian captain manned the magnetic grapple.
"Just try to give me a clear shot!" she called out as she stared intently at the glowing computer screen.
Quickly the pod began to grow in size, a small egg-shaped design drifting end over end at its position abandoned in the void of space. It made lining up the shot all the harder...
Two tri-clawed launched out, racing to find a purchase in the cold vastness before them.
"Got 'em!" she shouted a second later, "grappling magnet in place, pulling them in now."
"Put Jusi'Lada on the line," Tom yelled the escape pod began to twisting towards them with staggering speed, so fast he was afraid they'd pancake the people inside.
"They're alive," Jusi'lada shouted over the comms from below deck. "I'm reading oxygen atmosphere and a rising carbon-dioxide level. Someone's breathing in there."
"Good," Tom nodded as he watched the approach craft, "because the enemy fighter is coming about and fast!"
"We're reeling them in as fast we can," Sim'Lohan announced as the pod was nearly close enough to touch now. "Moment they're on the hull start off loading them and get them abroad!"
"Fighter is closing," James reported as the dradis stations began to bleat out warnings. "Sixty-seconds to attack range."
"Jusi'Lada," Tom shouted into the comms, "is the life boat abroad yet?"
"One more... second..." the young Quarian counted down, as the pod got closer and closer, "life boat secure! Establishing seal now!"
"Full reverse!" Tom roared the moment it was confirm. "Rotate our starboard hull to the fighter. It's empty and can take the hits."
"Engines at full," Sim'Lohan nodded as the Astral Queen rolled onto its side and thrust herself away under full burn.
Down below Jusi'Lada waited for the atmospheric links to establish, watching at the four warning lights slowly blinked out into green... confirming it was safe to open the pod.
The door opened and even with her mask on, Jusi'Lada's olfactory sensors were going into the warning levels and it only took her a second to realize that these children had been locked into a small tin can without any bathroom to use. It sickened and outraged her, more so as a dozen terrified eyes suddenly we're staring up at her.
Throwing herself forward, she hit the floor of the lifeboat with a scream of shouts from the scare kids around her.
"Move!" she quickly stared to usher the children up and too safety, hoping that her suit would keep them thinking she was merely a rescue worker. "Quickly, younglings! We have to move quick!"
They hesitated for just a second, before all piling out, from young teens to toddlers, they were ushered up and to safety. Seventeen in all, Jusi'Lada grabbed the last, a small boy, just to make sure they all made it out.
"We're clear," she announced, slapping a hand down on the door seal and sealing the airlock into place. "Get us out of here!"
"Dropping the pod," Meier's announced as they heard the bang and groan of the escape boat being tossed aside and back into the void.
"Negative lift, sir," Sim'Lohan shouted as the ship cried and grumbled around them, "we're still too heavy in the gravity field."
"Reactor is approaching collapse," James' roared as the entire craft threatened to fall apart around them. "We need to either dump the escape pod or lose complete containment."
"Fighter is entering weapons range is ten-seconds," Tom shouted... a second later as the entire ship rocked and vaulted under fire.
"Direct hits!" Meier shouted as the entire ship dipped to the side and a terrible boom sounded off in the distance like thunder. "Hull breach, deck twelve, frame seven!"
"Damage?" Zarek shot a glance back even as he fought to stabilize the craft.
"Frame was closed off and sealed," Sim'Lohan noted as she held tight to her station. "Minimal but now we have a third of the starboard hull opened to internal structuring."
"Bring around the bow," Tom ordered as he fought against his controls, which were now protesting his every movement. "It has more shielding."
"Isn't this bridge on the bow?" Sim'Lohan shot him a look.
"You have a point?" he launched right back at her.
"Bring around the bow," the Quarian nodded after a beat, "thirty six degrees to port. Fighter is coming around again."
"Get ready for it!" Tom shouted, watching now as the view swiveled to bring the angry little fighter craft that had caused this whole mess to come into view.
It had them in its sights and with a clear shot, nothing to block its path and its target with little armor and no weapons, the kill shot was assured.
Well, assured until the plasma beam slice the craft in two just before the pilot could hit the fire control button.
"What the frak!" Meier's shouted, watching as the bisected craft tumbled away before exploding from a breached reactor core... and not trying to think about how many of the Lords of Kobol he promised a number of things if they just spared him.
"New contact on dradis!" Sim'Lohan announced as she fought to get a good look at the dradis station. "Kee'lah, we didn't even detected her until the she armed weapons!"
"Who the frak is it!" Tom howled, wanting an answer this instant before their luck ran out.
"This is the Space Guard destroyer HSS Dynamic Year to Astral Queen," a voice crackled over the speakers. "Please respond."
Slowly the imposing, manta-ray shaped body of the Space Guard Anole-class destroyer rocketed into their view, the ship already throwing itself between them and the pirate base to prevent any other direct hits.
"This is Captain Zarek of the Astral Queen," Tom grabbed the wireless mic and slapped it right in front of his mouth. "We hear you loud and clear."
"Good to hear you, Captain," Captain Lawbaaut announced over the comms from the safety of his own vessel. "Finish off your evacuation, we'll deal with the pirates."
The warship was already angling towards the not too distant base and from this distance Tom could make out the angry hive of activity the place was becoming.
"Alright, you heard the Captain," Tom began to bring the ship around as he tapped the nearest comm port. "Jusi'Lada, secure the kids and get back up here."
Even as he worked he noticed it was a good thirty-seconds there was no response from the young woman.
"Jusi'Lada respond," he hit the comms again and waited a good few seconds without any reply.
"Jusi'Lada nar Jenleya," it was now Sim'Lohan by his side, even more concerned, "please respond now!"
No answer came for a good minute before there was a russel of movement and a tiny voice came in over the speaker.
"Hello?" a distinctly female, child-like voice talked a little too loudly through the device.
"Who is this?" Tom asked near breathless.
"My names Tamaru," the girl was quiet but she was still polite, waiting for them to say their own names and only responding when she was sure it was her turn to talk again. "Are you trying to talk to the lady with the purple mask?"
"Yes," Sim'Lohan jumped on that sentence. "Her name is Jusi'Lada. Where is she?"
"The nice lady fell over when the ship went boom," the little girl imitated the sound of the explosions like you would hear in a cartoon just to add effect. "She's asleep."
"Where are you Tamaru?" Tom asked, as evenly but as rushed as he could.
"I don't know," the little girl said, though from the sniffles and wails in the background she wasn't alone.
"They were at airlock seven," Tom surmised, trying to retrace his memorized schematics of the ship. "Aft sections probably, if Jusi'Lada was running it'd take her a while to get off deck three."
"I'm heading down now!" James was already out of his seat and running without an order needing to be given.
"Excuse me," Tamaru said again through the speaker, "can you hurry. The nice lady's mask is cracked and all her pretty pink smoke is falling out..."
"All ships please stand by," Dualla nearly shouted into the comms as she fought to hold her position in the comm channels. "All docking bays are full."
She snapped the system closed before another one of the captains could find a new curse word to call her and after her day, that bucket was becoming very empty, very fast.
"How bad is it?" Felix asked, leaning on the railing behind her as if to keep out of Dualla's way.
"Take bad and add catastrophic," Anastasia hissed, nearly ready to kick her station. "Docking section 'A' on ring one, sections 'G' and 'H' on ring two and sections 'B' and 'C' on ring two are closed down. Only bay still running is docking section 'D' on ring three, but that section was meant for mining materials and drop offs... and cause the Hegemony mostly has machines running the operations down there."
"Any word yet from the President?" he inquired, worried about the possible response.
"Repair work in section 'D', ring one may have knocked out our communications relay for about two hours," she smirked at him for a second. "Messages are only being sent through two internal comms on docked Raptors in ring three... which according to a pilot that owes me a favor or ten... is very iffy."
"Great work, Dee," Felix nearly had to hide his grin but considering his day, he quickly abandoned that fantasy to enjoy smiling for just a few seconds before the world came falling down around him again.
"The Lieutenant wanted to see you too," Dualla added, quickly regretting it as the smile on Gaeta's face fell like a ton of bricks. "He was suppose to be having a meeting with Captain Devaux... but I think he's ready to space her over actually talking."
"On my way," Gaeta was already heading for a lift, dreading what he was going to encounter when he got there. "Keep me posted in the meantime."
The doors were shut before she could give a response and the maglev car dropped a dozen levels in a few seconds as he wasted those instances enjoying the cold metal walls against his back.
Two-minutes and one quiet lift ride later, he was strolling into the conference room to witness Moneti nearly ready to vault over the table and wrap his hands around Devaux's neck... though the good Captain wasn't too far behind.
"When are you going to start being reasonable for once?" Alhex spat like a viper ready to strike. "We are willing to meet some of your demands but we can cover them all."
"When you stop being unreasonable," Symone fired right back at him, "and realize that without even half of these demands I can't send my people back to work."
"You have understand that the Hegemony is not a bottomless pool of resources!" Alhex slammed his fist onto the table and for a moment the heavy metal table shook. "We are stretched thin as it is! Resources are being sacrificed from our frontier colonies to feed yours!"
"And from what I seen on just your 'long-range' fleets," Symone howled back at him, "your settlements are probably better stocked then Caprica was before the attack. Mine on the other hand have almost no active industries, destroyed economic infrastructure and little prospects for the future. The two most profitable jobs in the Colonies right now are dockworker or grave digger... which do you think my boys are going to hold on to."
The tone was final and absolutely without emotion as the woman shot daggers at the Lieutenant with just her eyes.
"This is obviously a waste of time since you're not willing to listen to anything I have to offer," Moneti voice was dark, not the kind of dark Felix liked to hear.
"Lieutenant! Captain!" he interceded himself into the fight, hoping to bring their hatred off each other long enough for logic to take hold. "Isn't there is some kind of accommodation we can make to end this decently. I've been going over some of the manifests and-"
"Lieutenant," Alhex cut him off before he could offer anything, "I'm sorry but there's nothing left. After the attack on Gehenna the Hegemony had to divert a portion of your relief fleet to help with the situation and until the incident is resolved we can't start giving hand outs left and right."
"Dammit!" it was Symone's turn to slam her fist on the table. "Don't give me that frakking load. Half those freighters we unload are capable of intra-atmosphere travel and they're stocked to the breaking point. Either tell them to land on the ground or hand over some of that food they're carrying."
"We can hash that out," Alhex held his ground, "but revising the schedule now would mean depriving refugee camps on eight different Colonies."
"If you can't fix the problem right now," Symone's voice was unrelenting, "then I can't open the docks right now."
"If you don't I'll have to do one of two things," Moneti threatened, now furious with this entire discussion, "order soldiers in to send the workers back or to send the dockworkers and their families back ground-side to make room for the new one's we'll have to call in."
"You can't do that!" Symone protested as if someone had just stabbed her in the heart. "Most of these people volunteered for these jobs because their children need medical attention or special care. If you throw them back to Caprica then all they'll do is rot in some refugee camp... before they riot! And that's after they find out your bringing in scabs."
"Then you have until the end of the day to get those people back on the job..." and without pause Alhex turned on his heels and marched from the room.
Symone wasn't too far behind, as she let loose an anguish wail and stomped off after him.
All Felix could do was stare after the both of them and wonder about the horrible situation he had just witnessed... before racing out after them to try and fix this before it cost a lot of innocent people their lives...
He was pacing, up and down the length of the room like a cornered tiger, trying to find an exit and becoming increasingly agitated that he could find nothing of the sort.
So preoccupied in his own little world he never noticed her standing in the doorway of the hospital room, not staring at him with a sense of longing.
"Gaius!" she swept in like she was on a breezing wind and snatched him into arm. "Oh God, I'm so relieved you're alright..."
She however trailed off as she noticed the body was rigid in her grasp, unmoving, nearly trembling.
I nearly killed him, she suddenly remembered and in sickened depression, why would he still love me after I nearly killed him and every other human in this solar system.
"Who are you," he spoke at her like a child meeting a stranger and for a second her whole world stopped.
"Gaius?" she finally pulled back and looked at him, suddenly noticing the distant and furrowed look he was giving her. "Gaius what's wrong?"
Suddenly he pushed her away, his face contorting in anger as again he resumed his angry stomp along the perimeter of the wall.
"What do you people want from me?" he hissed, wringing his hands over and over again and seeming to carry the nervous twitch that for so long she had considered cute.
"Gaius," she whispered, trying to get his attention. "It's me, Caprica... Gaius are you alright?"
"I have a major presentation due in a half hour at the Ministry of Science," he threw his hands up in the air, outraged that he was being delayed in such a way. "I need to go. Why won't the hotel steward let me leave."
She was confused, in a way she never thought possible
What the frak was wrong with him, he was prowling the floor like he was ready to snap but how the hell did he think he was in a hotel. Shouldn't the white walls, adjustable bed and see of white coat wearing doctors have tipped him off?
"Gaius," she suddenly tried to hold him still, placing both his arms on his shoulders and trying to get him to look at her directly for once, "You're not at a hotel. You're at the hospital... in Archer City... Gaius do you know where you are?"
Her heart fell when his eyes got distant again and then he snapped back to his disconcerted expression.
"It's the biggest meeting of my life!" Gaius shouted, pushing her away. "I don't have time for this. I am presenting my greatest invention to Secretary Mosti. The Command Navigation Program! It will revolutionize the entire Colonial military."
She looked at him like he was mad and for a second she pretty sure he was.
The presentation for the Command Navigation Program, CNP, was over two-years ago... the day after she had been assigned to him by High Command.
"Caprica," she turned to find Amanda standing in the doorway, a young, haggard looking doctor behind her. "I think I have someone has something to say to you."
"Your sister says are Mister Baltar's family?" the man asked, stepping forward with a chart clutched to his chest.
Obviously Amanda must have hidden their relation by saying they were twin sisters, not too far from the truth.
"His father died a month... before the attack," Six shrugged, not knowing why she had remembered that particular piece of information. "I'm all he has left."
"Alright," the man nodded, before casting a glance at the patient behind her. "Well as you can see he is not in the best state of mind right now."
"What's wrong with him?" she pressed, wanting to know what had happened to bring Gaius to this point.
"He suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage," he announced, trying to get it all out in one breath, "brought on by a serious head concussion. Its my understanding he received it when the Hammerville Spaceport took a direct hit during the attack."
A stab of pain shot through her heart, an attack she had been present at and died... almost. She had an escape route that her lover did not and know he was left with those consequences.
"Is there a way to treat it?" Amanda asked in concern.
"Right now we just have to wait," the doctor reported, a sick look on his face. "His brain took some immense damage and we don't honestly know if he'll recover. Right now he has retrograde amnesia and short-term memory impairment."
"He keeps talking about a major presentation that is over two-years past," Six mumbled, trying not to feel hurt the man was trapped in a time before he knew her.
"He has for several days now," he responded. "From what we know his brain is functioning but until the damage is repaired he isn't able to hold any memories beyond the most basic, breath, eat when hungry, using the bathroom. Anything beyond that is lost after a few seconds-"
"Are you the doctor?" all heads turned towards the patient but his eyes were centered on one person and it was not the medical profession.
"No," Six answered, her throat catching in her throat. "I'm not your doctor."
"What's your name?" he asked, again his voice like a child's.
"It's me, Gaius," she kept her voice even though she was breaking on the inside. "Caprica."
"Alright," he nodded but it seemed more to be polite, he really didn't recognize her.
"I used to be a doctor," he said after a beat, "I think."
"You are a doctor," she approached him, slowly not to startle him, before resting her hand on his cheek. "You're are the most brilliant man in all the Colonies."
"Have to make it right," he said it without pause but without looking at her.
"What?" the question went around the entire room.
But already he was gone again, brow scrunched up and a annoyed look on his face.
"Can you people move faster," he hissed. "I have a very important meeting...
"Dradis signal's clean," Hoshi called out the moment they arrived. "Jump put us clear of any interference and outside their dradis range."
"Admiral, three Cylon Baseships present and in weapons range," Jurgen verified as the dradis screens started to light up. "I also show a Raptor. Transponder codes match. It's ours."
"Mr. Belzen," Helena turned to the man, "launch nukes!"
"Yes, ma'am!" the officer confirmed.
A standard Battlestar generally carried ten or twenty nuclear devices of vary megatons. Pegasus unfortunately had sacrificed half her payload while in dock back at the Colonies, the stern launchers were being traded out and the missiles were being stored at the shipyard's armory.
With such a sudden departure the chance to reacquisition the ordinance back never arrived.
The bay doors of the bow cycled open, coolant pouring forth as four projectiles were loaded into place. Each one took its target, internal processors ignited and the cooling fog around each unit disappeared as white hot fire annihilated it from existence.
Each one took its targets, two racing forward and striking the forward most Basestar. Inattentive of Pegasus' arrival, she was struck in her central axis, the heavy armor was at its weakest and dissolved under the extreme force the sudden nuclear wildfire. Several hundred Cylons, Centurions and Raiders registered a blinding luminescence and then the blasting howl of space tearing the atmosphere from crippling hull breach.
The second duplet roared into the next unsuspecting Basestar, only the bright birth of a miniature sun echoed in the dusty void to signal it's death.
Nothing for the last one, Pegasus had calculated from their jump in point that by the time a missile arrived to impact the final Baseship would have reacted and the entire action would have been the waste of their last two nukes.
The resulting confusion however did give them enough time to hurl the Vipers from their launch tubes before the Raiders raced to join them.
"All right, Showboat," Noel 'Nacho' Allison screamed over the wireless from his cockpit, "you take red squadron. Hit 'em o n the right. Catbird, you take green. Hit 'em o n the left. The rest of you, follow me. We're going straight up the gut... "
"Dammit Symone," Felix hissed as he waved his hands around his head in frustration, "don't be a moron. Alhex is willing to work with you but he can't give you every damn thing on a silver platter!"
"He's an outsider, Lieutenant," Devaux frothed right back at him. "The only reason he was put in charge is because the Space Guard is a thousand times stronger than our military and the President is hoping those big guns would get us to back down."
"The Space Guard only wants to help," he shook his head, trying in some way to make this woman see reason, "but it's a two way street. They're willing to give you what your workers need but you can't have it all. Sacrifices are being made on both sides."
"It's too late for that," Symone wasn't convinced and Felix could feel his stomach dropping for what he knew was coming next. "Our workers are tired and fed up, this accident was the final straw. It's time to stand up for ourselves or be steamrolled again."
"You know what could happen if the President have to order in the marines!" Felix dissented, trying to any way possible to get through to her. "They'll be blood and a lot of those kids are going to be back planet-side as orphans."
"Is that a threat?" Symone's eyes narrowed at him and for an instance she looked like she could melt him on the spot with that glare.
"Its a fact," he stated right at her, fed up with all this frakking bullshit he was standing his ground finally and for what he thought was a good cause. "You remember what happened when President Adar had to send in the marines on Aerilon. Do you want to really end up as a bunch of bodies splattered on the deck for some news reporter to stand over?"
"If it shows the people of these Colonies what is really going on," Symone hatred churned visibly on her features. "then tell Roslin we're waiting for her!"
But for a second her eyes lost their terribly fury and she looked at him, actually looked at him and not through him.
"For what it's worth," she said after the moment of silence, "I'm sorry this has to happen to you."
Turning on her heels, the bottom of her boots scrapping on the deck, she marched off before he could get another word in, disappearing quickly down the hall and right around the corner.
Indignation swelled in his stomach, umbrage left a bile taste in his mouth and outright worry that he may have made the situation worse before he made it better left terrible guilt in his eyes.
Guilt that was probably going to make his next move all the worse...
The Skindiver fighter screamed through open space, rolling and banking as it swung long over the cresting horizon of gas giant Zeus, one of the four mighty jovian worlds that dominated Cyrannus' outer orbits.
"This is Delta Two-Nine-Six, Kicker, to Fleet Command," Blair's voice sounded off as he brought his fighter up out of skimming the lower atmosphere and towards the unseen target it was looking for. "I am approaching the last known coordinates of Secretary Nordstroms' ship.
"You should be right on top of her Kicker," Winter Springs for Summer Light of Equatorial Bliss answered from the far side of the solar system abroad the Victory. "Wood Crest was a standard Colonial Kimba Huta-type transport, compliment two-hundred. Reports from Nuous Station say they're over three hours overdue on a short diplomatic mission from Canceron to Leonis."
A beeping on his console declared something was now catching his sensors attention, but for a long moment he could see nothing with his eyes. Then he caught it... a glint from a drifting piece of metal that couldn't be any longer than his forearm.
"I have a contact," Kicker sighed, "to small to be the Wood Crest... hang on I have more small contacts dispersing outward in all directions."
"Is it a meteor shower?" Winter Springs for Summer Light of Equatorial Bliss asked.
"No..." Blair held his breath for a second until he knew for sure he was looking at what he fear most, "its debris. I think its what left of the Wood Crest."
"What the hell could have happened..."
He was down the nearest set of stairs, through a dozen corridors and onto the monorail that rain the entire circumference of the entire internal diameter of ring one, watching as the sections whizzed past before he was where he wanted to be.
Section 'B' was alive with throbbing with life even if it was already a few hours passed when most of the Colonials were calling it a night. Obviously the hours of the day were different to the Hegemony, the walks of the open air section were packed with dozens of people and a few Colonial dressed humans, shopping, dining, going about their business in the dark light but active structure.
Felix found him right where he was last time, yet on this occasion Alhex was poking at something that looked like the cross between a lamb and a squid speckled in emerald green and hot pink.
"You can't just throw those people out!" he wheezed through his teeth, trying to restrain his outrage and appear more diplomatic, though he was failing horribly.
"They're not working but they still expect room, board and food," the Lieutenant looked at him, even as he popped a steam piece of his meal into his mouth and chewed. "They are a drain on already scarce resources we can't spare and there are dozen's planet-side ready to take their spots."
"But all they want is a home," he complained, pacing around the knee-high table, "their children taken care of and safety."
"Which are giving them for an honest day's work," Alhex twisted a length of tentacle onto his fork but made no attempt to take a bite. "They can't expect to have something for free because it's a game of survival right now and those that do nothing deserve to be left behind."
"Listen to yourself," Felix tried to keep his voice even but already he could hear his tone cracking. "You are going to toss fifteen-hundred dock workers and their four-thousand dependents back onto that radiation infected ground below and expect them to go quietly."
"Colonel Tigh is coming with one-hundred ten armed marines," he supplied, not meeting Felix's stare but determination still heavy in his voice. "They'll be here in first thing in the morning and this problem will be gone before tomorrow afternoon."
"So you are going through with it?" he was still a bit surprised at the disbelief in his words, believing it had long since escaped him.
"I'm sorry, Felix," Alhex shrugged, slathering the tentacle in the blue paste on the side of his plate before sliding it into his mouth like a strand of spaghetti. "I know you didn't want this nevertheless we can't sacrifice the needs of the few over the needs of the many."
"But you said the Hegemony doesn't believe in conscription!" Felix kicked the table and immediately regretted it as the furniture was bolted to the ground and obviously not made from a soft wood.
He was clutching his foot and swearing at the stinging sensation that raced through his body.
"Yes," Alhex was hiding the hints of a smirk at Felix's outburst and resulting ironic injury, "however these people are not citizens of the Hegemony and I won't force our rule on another people. Besides these aren't conscripts, they volunteered as citizens of the Twelve Colonies and if they won't volunteer anymore, other people are more than willing to do the work."
Felix paced the length of the one side of the table at least three times, ignoring the terrible stinging in his left foot and trying to rack his mind for any possible information.
Then it hit him.
"You said since these people are not citizens," Felix talked slow, making sure he used all the right words, "you won't impose the conscription rule on them and the indentured service rule is only applicable to Hegemony citizens."
An idea struck him and for just a second a smirk started to spread on Felix's lips.
"Maybe there could be a way around that?" he grinned. "Care to help?"
"Fine," Alhex conceded. "What do you have in mind?"
"I just have to find something first," he was off before Alhex could ask what and it took a short jog to catch up.
Three-minutes later they were in Felix's modest quarters, more a converted closet with a cot and a set of chairs... all three incredibly uncomfortable to the point where the metal floor was more pleasing to sit your behind on.
Piles of papers lay everywhere and Gaeta quickly began to push his ways through them all, trying to find something as Alhex took a seat across from him.
It was over an hour before he finally huffed in failure.
"Absolutely nothing," Felix tossed the papers down on the desk, pinching his nose and trying not to notice the burn in his eyes. "I've consulted every legal book I can think of, from the Articles of Colonization to all sixty amendments that follow it to every case the Inter-Colonial Court has ever heard. Absolutely, frakking nothing!"
"No luck on my side either," Alhex nodded as he too tossed a few of his files down on the desk. "Your laws are very cut and dry, not nearly as fluid as the Hegemony's. I'm surprised you're even still awake. When was the last time you slept."
"What time is it?" he shot a look at Alhex.
"Almost oh-five-hundred hours in the morning based on your orbital time keeping chronometers," the man responded in kind.
"Gods," Felix whistled and quickly felt his energy sapped. "I haven't sleep in almost two days. Why are you awake?"
"Like I said before," Alhex shrugged. "I require very little sleep. Two to four hours is normal for me."
"All those fancy cybernetic implants keep you strung up like a cat on cat nip," joked Felix, before tapping his forehead. "Almost wish the one your doctor jammed into my brain did as much."
Have you not activated your cortical optical interface?"
"My cortical what?" the words seemed totally alien to Felix.
"And I see like any good contractor, Doctor Xianextnucatoital never finished the work he started," Moneti laughed though certainly not disinterested. "You really think people have computers stuck into their brains because it is fun. Cortical implants are the basic model, used for communications, access the computer files, even turning on lights. Most kid's usually have them installed before they're a cycle old."
"I'm sure most newborns love to have major brain surgery," Felix grimaced.
"Sarcasm?" an evil smile quirked on Alhex's face. "I think I'm rubbing off on you. One thing that certainly would make your work easier would be access to your cortical node. You could absorb all this information in a matter of minutes instead of hours of studying."
"And how do you suggest I do that?" the Colonial asked.
Taking a seat across from Felix, Alhex stared at him with trained eyes, trying to formulate an idea of how best to resolve this specific situation.
"Concentrate," Moneti instructed him. "The interface is activated by conscious thought. If you think on it, it powers up."
For a long while Gaeta just stared at Alhex, trying intently to activate the interface. It was stupid and weird. How was he supposed to turn on a computer lodged into the frontal lobe of his brain just by thinking about it? Wouldn't it be easier to put a big honking 'ON' button on his forehead?
After a heated trial he was about to give up when he noticed something.
A blinking icon flashed in the corner of his vision, a tiny red light that drifted in the crook of his eye. He hadn't noticed it before but maybe, just maybe if he concentrated.
Like lighting a firework the interface activated and suddenly Felix found his vision crowded out as three screens interposed themselves over the scenery around him.
The first was obviously his heart rate, the thin green line jumping up and down in a repeating manner. After that a green bar dominated the bottom of the interface, bouncing up and down as the words 'Wi-Fi' connection underneath.
As the remaining displays appeared Gaeta had to swallow back his lunch as the overpowering surge rocked his senses.
"Amazing!" though when the young Colonial talked it was surprised by how strained his voice was, or the taste of bile that pierced his mouth.
"Click file and scroll down to 'search for local public router'," Alhex clarified.
"Link is established," Felix repeated the message that was now blinking across his vision.
"Prefect," the Guard officer continued, "you've access the local serve the Hegemony installed in their section. It's more then powerful enough to reach all the way over here. Now any information we have compiled on the Colonies should be easy to access. Just think about a 'search' and the proper program will activate."
"I think I got it," scanning the bottom field of his view, Felix found the icon and with nothing more then a head nod the menu opened and he quickly sighted the name he wanted. "But I seriously doubt an alien database is going to help me gather information on a Colonial problem."
"Well all digital information that survived the Cylon attack was relatively easy to copy into our databases," the young disregarded. "It took barely two-hours to access, copy and download the every public and library database on Caprica."
"Two-hours!" Felix was agape at the idea. "That could have been thousands, maybe millions of computers!"
"Anything that was known to the general populous was taken as to better help our diplomats," the young man explained. "We of course did not hack into any classified or military databases."
"This is going to be a huge time saver," he sighed in relief, finally seeing a possible light at the end of the tunnel. "So can I download almost anything?"
"Just run a cross reference search between the Colonial database," Alhex explained, "sub-section for law and then check it against the Interstellar Wikipedia Database to find some precedence to work from."
For a moment Felix closed his eyes and let his mind do as he needed, running an internal tutorial program to learn the basis of the system before finally diving.
Two-minutes later he opened his eyes and huffed a breath as if he had just run a mile.
"Two-thousand entries..." he sighed, rubbing at his worn eyes. "And I think I may have exactly what I need... but if only I had a little more time..."
"What are you implying, Lieutenant?" Alhex narrowed his eyes at him.
"There's something I need to check on first," he quickly rose, now all of sudden too antsy to sit still now that he had a possible solution to this whole problem. "How would you feel about an unauthorized trip to Galactica?"
"Since communications are down and the situation here is about to go supernova," Alhex looked at him like he was nuts, "do you think Commander Adama would appreciate you dropping in?"
"The Commander can't know we were there," Felix nodded. "If you can get me in unnoticed?"
"I spent my first few cycles in the Department of Intelligence Operations. I always love a good infiltration..."
"Not how I planned our first mission back into space," Lawbaaut grinned as he watched the battle unfold.
"Three contacts are breaking from out engagement zone," Lieutenant David announced as the SIT redeployed for the new enemy icons. "Four more are moving to attack distance, additional activity from the base suggests they are preparing to launch more ships."
Three large ships, obviously cargo haulers carrying the pirates stolen cache, were racing away and quickly disappeared into the belt, as the four smaller, more readily armed counterparts, threw themselves towards the approaching interloper who was ruining their spoils.
"Load a full salvo of kinetic offensive missiles and prime for launch," Captain Lawbaaut ordered as he watched the incoming crafts closely. "Keep our main prow between them and the Astral Queen. Ensign Gunderson, patch me onto a wide band transmission, I want them to hear this."
"You are online, sir," the young man announced, obvious feeling a little out of place as the replacement for the Dynamic's long-time communication officer.
"This is the Hegemony Space Guard ship HSS Dynamic Year to unlicensed Colonial ships," the Captain's voice boomed across the void to whoever was listening. "You have attacked an unarmed civilian transport within the space of the joint Hegemony-Colonial mining zone of Gamoray. Stand down immediately and we will see that you receive a fair trial. If you do not we are authorized to use deadly force."
"No immediate response," Gunderson declared.
"I wouldn't say that," Harrison announced as a red alarm flared on the SIT above the AI's pixelated head. "I am detecting the arming of three thermonuclear warheads and the activation of six missile batteries on the moon's surface. I believe they chose an offensive response."
"Then so we do the same," Lawbaaut said before he began to fire off a rapid series of orders. "Target incoming ships, lock plasma cannon on the largest vessel and fire on my mark."
"Locked and holding," Commander Fabian nodded as the main cannon blinked green.
A concentrated bolt of chaotic energy vaulted forth and speared the nearest of the approaching crafts. With little armor, little defenses, the vessel crumpled under the impact, super-heated atmosphere and blasted debris disappeared out into the spinning black.
"Craft confirmed destroyed," Fabian announced as she started tabulating the newest incoming reports. "Three enemy combatants have slowed their advance... scratch that they are approaching again. I am reading multiple electro-magnetic and slug thrower weapons activating."
"Re-task missile salvo for extreme prejudice," the Captain declared. "Remove all opposition."
"Missiles re-tasked and locked," Harrison nodded as he flashed back into his full-life form. "Load-out calculated for maximum dispersion."
"Fire!" Lawbaaut shouted, a second later the icon that represented the Dynamic on the SIT flashed, dozens of angry hornets threw themselves out into space before smacking into the three approaching icons of the enemy fighters.
"Contacts two and three have been completely destroyed," Lieutenant David asserted. "Contact one has lost full life support and reactor integrity. Detonation in three... two... destroyed."
A thunderous explosion vaporized outward, a semi-nuclear blast signaled the last ships explosion. But already the base was bringing its weapons to bear, already weapons batteries were volleying dozens of salvos at them and several larger encampments were volleying off mass driver shots, magnetically charged asteroids being flung at the Guard warship.
"They are if anything but persistent," Harrison noted as his point-defense turrets were already taking out most of the incoming fire.
"Re-target missile tubes and plasma cannon for main base," Lawbaaut announced, spying the offending base with a terrible glare. "Open up another channel to the pirates."
"Done," Gunderson nodded as he activated another series of channels.
"This is the Dynamic to enemy combatants," his voice was firm and it was very clear the man knew he had the upper hand in this situation. "You are given one final chance to surrender. If you do not we will open fire, disable you and board your facility by force. You have thirty-seconds to comply."
Thirty-seconds came, went and still the base unloaded its entire armory at the Dynamic... yet few managed to gain a hit and none could pass her intense armor. Compared to the Cylon onslaught that first downed them, this was child's play,
"Take targets sparsely," Fabian ordered as she began to lock her weapons on. "I want them disabled and ready to stand for their crimes."
"Fire a will!" Lawbaaut shouted.
"Targets locked and firing!" Harrison confirmed and an instant later two dozen offensive kinetic missiles fired along with a barrage of drones, followed in close succession with several bursts from the forward plasma cannon.
Missile batteries on the tiny planetoid evaporated under the impacts, the ground around them become super heated lava and shattered with the hit. A small portion of the western hemisphere was immolated, chunks of the base breaking away as superheated atmosphere escaped out into space.
In barely a minute the base's weapons were silent, lights flickering among the few portions of the facility that was exposed for the world to see as power fought to return to the damaged sections.
"Direct hits along their ventral quarters," Harrison confirmed after an intensive scan, "most of their power-production facilities and life support are off-line."
"Good," Lawbaaut nodded. "Prepare three troop detachments for immediate deployment and keep-"
Everything disappeared into a bright light and for a second everyone had to shield their eyes as the SIT holo-projectors quickly compensated for the immense release of energy by dimming its projections... just long enough for the entire crew to see the facility had disappeared into a massive mushroom cloud expanding out from the side of the station.
"Did we hit something?" the Captain was rubbing his eyes, trying to work away the spots in his vision. ""Was the damage that bad?"
"No," the AI appeared beside him, "sensors detected a sudden surge of energy in the central reactors... right before containment control breached. I believe they just self-destructed..."
"They killed themselves to avoid capture?" Marlop commented, turning his attention away from the main navigation station.
"No..." it was Gunderson who spoke now, "I intercepted a powerful external transmission just prior to the safety failure. Someone destroyed her from remote command."
"Do we detect anyone? Lawbaaut asked towards Commander Fabian.
"Negative," the woman shook her head from the SIT, "with sensor interference from the Belt, it could have come from anywhere... most likely those freighters that escape."
"Bring us around," Lawbaaut sighed, "prepare to escort the Astral Queen back to base..."
"I can't believe this is how you're sneaking us abroad," the air hot, the confines of the small room they occupied was cramped beyond belief and it stank.
"Stealth is everything when it comes to infiltration," Alhex grinned, even as he leaned up against the nearest wall barely a short distance away.
"A sewage recycling ship!" Felix hissed. "Of all the ships you picked a sewage ship!"
"One thing we can be certain of," his companion explained, "is this kind of ship is not the kind anyone wants to be around, let alone notice."
"The great Space Guard," Gaeta' voice dripped with sarcasm, "with all those fighters, warships, technology that makes the all the Colonies barely worth a second glance... but somehow you pick a garbage hauler."
Garbage hauler was the kindest name Gaeta could think of for the Demetrius, it was more of a sewage ship. These kinds of ships were meant for tethering off at long-range outposts and larger cruise liners that could not land ground-side, using its specially designed systems to process and cleaning their most offending wastes.
Since a ship like this didn't merit real investment, its insides were cramped, its quarters were tiny and the broom closet they had snuck themselves into was almost suffocating.
And the closeness, more being crammed together, was not helping the situation.
"This mission is no sanctioned by either the Colonies or the Hegemony," Alhex looked his eyes on him, trying to get the seriousness of the situation across. "If we get caught we need plausible deniability."
"You think something could go wrong?" his attention was piqued.
"I expect for things to go wrong," the man reiterated, "its my job after all."
"But the smell!" he tried to grin but since it wasn't a very far from the truth, the burning stench in his nostrils has horrific.
"I rather enjoy it," Alhex shrugged with a smirk. "Its like Than mating pheromones, but with less wings and scratching of mandibles. At least there are no small green larva calling me daddy... again."
"I won't ask and I beg you not to tell..."
In the thick of the dusty rings, Pegasus rocked as a wave of missiles struck her starboard flight pod. Everyone had to fight to keep their position, Helena fought to keep her position as she routed orders.
"Gun turret four," the Admiral roared over the speaker, "divert firing solution forty-six degree down, Raider's are trying to out flank us!"
"Ensign re-divert all bow flak fire to defensive salvos," Jurgen was beside her, firing off orders as quickly as his superior. "Tell Vipers to stay out of our firing solution!"
"Gina!" Helena shouted at the young woman holding onto her station for dear life, "I need input!"
Hands flew over her station and from the screens hanging above her head, information was flying past Gina's eyes at near blinding speeds. Within seconds, which to everyone else just seemed to be a blur of movement, she had an answer.
"Mineral composition of the belt seems to be creating a refractive halo on dradis," the woman revealed. "Our Vipers and ordinance are having trouble getting a hit because they can't see it properly on their instruments. The ship's signature is literally being displaced into three different locations and several meters out of sync."
"Any way we can correct?" Kendra asked as another blast rocked the deck.
"Re-divert four salvos," Gina abandoned her station, rushing towards the central console and pointing directly at the dradis feeds above them all. "Lock two for above the Basestar, one to port, last one to astern. The concussive blast shout be enough to dissolve the cloud!"
The order was given, relayed down to the gunners, and an instance after four wide-dispersion rounds exploded forth. The Basestar didn't react at first, it already had calculated the shots would miss it completely and why waste the ammunition?
But when the prime rounds reached their distance and the chemical reactions within their innards reached critical, each exploded in a violent blooming... the shock-wave enough to disperse all the small rocks and space dust around them.
It was too late for the Basestar to realize their cover had been blown as three long-range, dual barrels guns took aim and fired... cleaving off on of the warships arms.
"Confirmed hits!" Jurgen shouted and a cry of triumph erupted among the CIC crew.
"They're returning fire," Hoshi called out as the dradis screens showed several new icons. "Oh, my Gods. They're launching nukes! Brace for impact!"
For the first portion of the battle the Cylons had relied on conventional warheads. Obviously it had taken them time to load the nuclear slugs and now in position the Cylons were more than happy to them to their fullest.
Helena was tossed to the side violently, her shoulder connecting with the deck-plating and she had to fight not to scream out. Her vision blurred for a second and then suddenly a hand was pulling her back.
"Get on your feet, Admiral," Gina steady Cain back to her feet.
"Damage report?" she called out, clapping a reassuring hand on her lover's shoulder.
"Belzen is down!" Lieutenant Shaw called out, kneeling over the unconscious second-in-command, a growing pool of blood forming from the expansive gash in his forehead. "He's dead!"
There was only a moment of hesitation in the air.
"Get that body out of here!" Helena ordered, two marines quickly obliged and removed her downed officer.
"Two... two nuclear detonations in the stern, sir," Hoshi reported. "Sickbay reports multiple causalities... and FTL drive inoperative."
"Then we're stuck here, sir," Kendra grimly noted...
The halls were spinning by, corners being taken at break neck speeds and a few times James had to fight to keep his balance as his feet were starting to outrun the rest of his body.
He was so focused over getting to his destination he nearly overran it, it required skirting to a stop the moment he was on the intersection, a three way corridor with a massive cargo bay door slammed over the one side, creating a tight corner.
The children were crying, holding each other in terror, but they were clustered together, as if using the corner as some kind of protection.
"Are you hear to help," a little girl stood up as he approached, face dirt with clean lines running down from her eyes hinting that she had been crying recently.
"You kids alright?" he asked, wading through them as desperate little hands grabbed at his pant legs.
It took only three long steps, avoiding the tiny bodies, to find where she lay.
"Jusi'Lada!" he gasped, his stomach suddenly forcing itself down by his feet.
She lay on the deck, a good portion of her glass faceplate was missing and tears littered her entire upper body, letting a steady steam of pink cotton-candy colored gas to bleed free from her body.
"She won't wake up," the little girl was hanging over the Quarian, a tiny hand held over a tear in the suit but those tiny fingers weren't enough to keep the purple gases inside from escaping.
"Jusi'Lada?" he leaned over her face, hoping to catch a glimpse of those glowing purple eyes that normally stared out from her helmet at him. "Jusi'Lada, come on... lemme know you're alright."
"Con... containment," a hoarse, strained voice escaped from the gas, a dark shadow flashing under the smoke.
"What?" he gasped.
"Hit... button on belt..." she pointed towards a string of multi-colored buttons that covered the lower portion of the belt that crossed her body, "green... then red... then blue... then green again..."
"Alright," he nodded, slowly reaching downward to tap the green button... then the red... tapping the blue one before finally hitting the green one again.
A hissing sound echoed in the hall, for just a moment the gas escaping from her suit seemed to flush outward before lessening and then disappearing. Then tiny tears in the suit began to evaporate, the suit material sealing up like it was being cut in reverse, re-stitching itself in seconds.
But the gap in the woman's faceplate was too large to heal over and as the gas faded from her helmet, Meier's gained the first unhindered look at the Quarian's face... and he was dumbfounded.
"Your... your..." he gaped, trying to get his brain to catch up with his mouth.
"Oh shut up," the hoarse voice answered with the trademark sarcasm he associate with her. "Now get me to a med station because I am already swimming in antibiotics..."
"Don't you worry," Saul kept his hold on her shoulders, keeping pace with the staggering and slipping Ellen beside him. "I'll get us home."
"Oh, yeah, right!" she laughed, waving at several passing cadets with a bottle of ambrosia like it was the funniest thing in the world. "Just like Bill's use to when we'd go out drinking."
"Don't start on Bill," he warned her, his voice dark for just a second before the alcohol squashed it back down.
"Ugh... you..." Ellen grumbled and for a second Saul thought she was going to be sick. "He doesn't have the slightest idea what he's doing!"
"You don't have to yell it through the hall," he hissed, thankful the entire ship was still in the night cycle and everyone was in their bunks.
"Bill Adama doesn't a Gods damn frakking thing!" Ellen both yelled and laughed at the same time, her voice cracking through the metal hallways... and catching the attention of two individuals who did not want any attention.
"Colonel?" Felix didn't mean to blurt it out and received a punch in the shoulder from Alhex for blowing their cover.
"Lieutenant... Lieutenant," he nodded at both them men and from the sloshed look on his face, Felix was finally thankful that his superior officer was such an alcoholic.
"Woo!" Ellen threw her arms up in the air, hooting and bouncing as if she was in her own private party.
"Is everything alright..." Felix asked, figuring that the pair were so out of it, to ignore it could be dangerous.
"You're so handsome," Ellen suddenly raced forward and wrapped her hands around Alhex's shoulders. "And the pleasure's all mine."
"As I'd guess," Moneti nodded, though he quickly began to extract himself from her. "But if you don't mind...
"I'm watching you," Saul wheezed, locking eyes on both him and his wife, "both of you."
"Would you like some help back to your quarters, Colonel?" Felix queried.
"Ah, you wanna come join us?" Ellen cackled at the invitation. "My husband doesn't do that but I wouldn't mind such company."
"I don't believe that would be very appropriate," Alhex took a step backwards, keeping some distance between the pair.
"Fun, but not appropriate," Alhex commented but he still received a glare from Gaeta. "What? It's rude to turn down an invitation from a young lady."
"You're so sweet," she held up the bottle of ambrosia, taking a quick slip before offering up the bottle to the pair. "Care to join me for the last drink of the night?"
"Don't mind if I do," without pause or question Alhex reached forward, snagged the bottle from Ellen's hands and up turned it.
Six gulps, that's how long it took him to down the bottle's entire contents to disappear and since it was a fresh bottle, the shear amount Alhex had just consumed astounding the Colonials standing around him.
"Hmm," Alhex slicked his lips, not even phased by the several liters of ambrosia he had just downed. "Colonial liquor seems a bit light compared to most of the human brands I have tried."
"That was an entire bottle of vintage ambrosia," Saul was looking at him with his mouth agape.
"Remind me next time you're aboard Victory," Moneti smiled sheepishly. "I'll give you a taste of something called Vodka. If you think ambrosia's strong, authentic Vodka will leave you drunk for a week."
"We better get going," Saul was already starting to usher Ellen along, who barely noticed the entire exchange.
"Count on it," she waved as she was moved along. "Ta… ta! Oh, Saulie, are you... are you jealous..."
Down the corridor they disappeared and Felix breathed a sigh of relief the moment they were out of sight. So far they had gotten abroad by the skin of their backsides, now this close encounter was causing their luck to quick disappear down the tube.
"Come on," he waved Alhex along behind him, trying to remain as quiet as he could. "Are you alright?"
"Why?" Moneti looked at him. "Oh the bottle... water on Semarang has a higher alcohol content then your Colonial liquors."
"Remind me to visit your beaches sometime," Felix grinned as they snaked through the corridors, in and out of a few store rooms and through at least one restroom.
"Yeah, sure," Alhex mumbled. "Are we there yet?"
They were around the corner and into some obscure side room, computers and shelves of bound reports. It was a sort of records room, a table in the center was strewn with a number of paper books.
"What is this place?" the Guard officer asked, dumbfounded how the this room had any real importance since it smelled like musty paper and dust.
"This is the secondary comm suite," Felix explained as he snatched up the closest computer and set to work, scrolling through data files so fast it was nearly blinding. "No one using it since everything is getting transferred over to Tartarus but it still has access to most of the main communication lines."
Wrinkles covered his features, trying to see everything as quickly as possible but still trying to gather every bit he could... until finally he caught something.
"Looks like the Colonel is going to be using the Battlestar Odin to bring the marines over," Felix noted, continuing to scroll down and through the report.
"Why an entire Battlestar?" Alhex wondered, a bit confused by such an option by a man who they had just seconds ago was stumbling drunk down the corridors.
"Odin's a Berserker-class Battlestar," Gaeta explained, "a lot smaller then Galactica but she can carry over six-hundred marines into combat and her armors almost twice as thick as ours."
"Colonel Tigh only said they were bringing over a hundred soldiers when we debriefed," Alhex commented.
"My bet is that he expects all the dockworkers to be arrested," Felix grimaced with a spat of anger in his voice. "He'll need the room to transport them off station. Odin was on the repair manifest a few weeks ago. Her life support was compromised so half her compliment had to be moved off to the Battlestar Mercury. Since Mercury's now deployed near Tauron, my guess is that he wants to use that empty space for some good."
"Maybe I could have a few engineering drones cause a little bit of damage to the Odin's sub-lights," Alhex theorized, already coming up with several possible plans. "They can skip in and be done in a few seconds. No one would have a clue anything was amiss until the entire Battlestar is adrift-"
"How about something with less explosions?" Felix proposed with a smirk, though the perturbed look he gained said Alhex was looking forward to some destruction. "I'll send off a preliminary repair request for her Viper squadrons to be fully prepped."
"It's a troop ship," Moneti eyebrows furrowed. "why would it carry fighters?"
"Exactly," Felix smiled broadly. "The anomalous report will force them to stop everything, authenticate why a troop ship is being asked about fighter status and by the time they get it all sorted out we will have 'bout a few hours."
"For someone who's so anal retentive for detail," the man grinned ear to ear, "you sure know how to cause a lot of chaos."
"Thanks... I think," he tried to seem presentable but he didn't know if he had just been complimented or insulted. "There we go, message sent. Should be an hour before Odin receives it and considering their launch time is in two-hours, we have just bought ourselves at least eight-hours."
"Good, let's make them count..."
Helena had to steady herself again as another nuke slammed into the bow, forcing her to pause for a moment during her tandem of commands.
"...have Viper squadron to pull back!" she howled, "they're out to far. Redeploy forward cannons keep that flak up!"
Another large explosion tried to force the floor out from under her but she was not about to go down.
"Nuclear detonation!" Hoshi said as he compiled another damage report. "We have structural damage along the topside heat exchanger. We can't take much more of this."
"Reactor core is putting out everything it can," Gina announced from her station nearby, "but we're pushing too much power through the ACL. We'll blow the whole system if we don't end this soon, we won't need the Basestar to take us down."
They weren't going to make it.
Kendra had already calculated the best case scenarios and no matter what she could come up with they all ended with most of their pilots dead, Pegasus destroyed or cripple damage. Those were her best projections. The Basestar was using the dust cover to hide from their targeting systems, while deploying its nuclear armed Raiders to harass their defenses.
But no matter how many times she went over it in her head she knew there was only one thing she could do that would give those pilots an equal chance of coming home alive today.
"Ensign!" Kendra yelled, "direct all batteries to commit full load of fire, close range... " at her sudden command Hoshi found himself standing dumbfounded on the spot, "NOW, Ensign."
One look at Cain and a nod of acceptance was all he needed to execute her orders.
Selective fire was a slow and meticulous process, used when friendly targets were considered too close to enemy units and the friend of friendly fire kept they from throwing everything into the air.
Full load though was when friendly fire was your last concern and blowing the enemy out of the sky was foremost.
That came as little conciliation to those Viper pilots as they suddenly found themselves no longer surrounded by enemy ships, but now enemy ships and their own Battlestar's flak fire.
"How long before those drives are back up?" Helena called to the helm.
"Unknown," Gina grimly asserted, "engine room is surveying the damage now."
"We them back," Cain ordered. "Gina start routing jump coordinates through your computers, try and get us an escape route. I'll start to reel our Vipers back in immediately. Lieutenant Shaw, you have weapon's command."
"Sir?" Shaw was taken aback by the assignment.
"You have command, officer," the woman stared down at her with cold eyes. Before breaking off to assist Lieutenant Hoshi and Inviere repair their drives.
"Sir," someone shouted for her attention. "What are your orders?"
She wasn't ready for this, she was a fleet attaché. Shuffling papers and carrying out minor commands, nothing like commanding an entire Battlestar. She just had to take a deep breath and-
"Helm!" she roared. "Make for flak speed at the Baseship. And roll us over to keep our top side out of their line of fire. Contact Showboat and Nacho. Tell them to concentrate on protecting our top side."
"Aye, sir," the officers nodded.
"Baseship dead ahead," Pegasus rocked from another impact as the helm reported their position. "we're closing rapidly! We can't keep taking hits like this, Lieutenant."
"Steady as you go," Shaw commanded. "Have the bow battery stand by for a salvo fire. Target their center axis, forty-five angel inclination. Tell Vipers to form a wedge formation and clear our path."
"Yes, sir!" Hoshi acknowledged as he pulled his squadrons back in.
"Twenty-two hundred and closing," the helm announced as they closed to near point-blank range. "Main battery has a firing solution!"
Four salvos five, two and then two from each round of the bow batteries. They raced across the space of the rings, dust echoing out of their way in tiny shock-waves as they disappeared into the cloud. Viper squadrons shadowed the corridor the weapon's fire followed, ensuring that no Raiders decided to play the heroics and intercept the salvo in a measure of self-sacrifice for their motherships.
The Basestar turned, trying to avoid the impacts but instead took the hits along the upper portion of its central pylon, where the hull branched off into its three upward arms.
Fire erupted as the rounds shattered, blowing a tremendous hole in the ship but they blasting outward as secondary ordinance locked inside the shell casing was released and flew out in all directions. The force was enough to tear one of her upper arms free while sending the bulk of the leftover projectiles into the lower portions of the ship. Flaming debris flew in all directions as the Basestar took massive damage.
"Baseship's turning away," Hoshi hooted. "He's... he's frakkin' running, Lieutenant!"
"We can't let him get away," Kendra shouted. "Helm, come around hard... "
Barely an hour had passed they had managed to get back abroad the Anchorage, having to wait in the storage lockers of the Demetrius for even longer before they finally managed to get back abroad.
"I can't believe we pulled that off!" Felix nearly was bouncing from the excitement and adrenaline in him.
"You really are easily entertained," Alhex winked at him.
"Can't say that I don't like a thrill every now and again," Felix grinned at him.
A chirp from the wrist comm on his wrist divided Alhex's attention for a second, a holographic screen blowing up before him before a second later a sour look appeared on his face.
"Good because station rumor mill just turned out its first bits of facts," he sighed after a moment. "The dockyard workers have dropped their 'call out sick' ploy. They've officially declared this a strike."
"Has the President or Commander heard about this?" Felix was feeling a deepening sensation in his stomach.
"You know they already have," Alhex groaned. "Barely a tenth of the comm traffic on the Anchorage is for secure uses and the dockworkers didn't use any of them. I know Specialist Dualla probably did her best but the moment they started to chatter amongst themselves, any ship in the local space would have snatched it up."
"Then we are in serious trouble..."
The garden plaza was crowded, tents hastily set up among the picnic tables and small cooking fires set up on whatever bits of concrete weren't covered by the huddle masses.
She found her on one of the rare benches that wasn't occupied by a sleeping body, hunched over and trying to force the tears that streamed down her face to finally cease.
"He's gone," Six's voice was remote, far-off.
"There's a chance he could heal," Amanda slowly placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her, "eventually his memory will return and he'll love you just as much-
"I tried to kill him," Six interjected. "I thought the world was coming to an end and it was just more humane to put him out of his misery before he realized I had been using him... making our entire relationship just an end to a means... now he can't know anything... at all.
"I killed Gaius Baltar," her head hung low and her eyes were dark, "and I knew it... and now I have to live with that."
For a long while it was silence that prevailed, only the sound of passing feet and the distant chatter of distant voices.
"It makes me wonder," Amanda exhaled in a long-breath, "how many more are out there like me, who know what they are and try to hide it to blend in. Or even worse, don't know what they are 'til they get caught doing something that their programing forced them to do."
"At least you stopped yourself," Six gave her a long look.
"But how many don't have my luxury?" she spoke.
The murmur of whispers from the surrounding people drew their attention away, as the crowds of refugees parted just enough to allow the hulking form of Ocinis to approach them.
"The shuttle from Victory has arrived," he announced the moment he was within range. "We should grab our gear and get out of this forsaken city fast."
"Ocinis," Six looked directly at the alien, "how many Cylons were left when you crashed the network?"
"Huntleader," he tilted his head at her, "the shuttle is-"
"Ocinis..." her voice was overtaxed and forceful, "please..."
"Close to seven-hundred profiles were confirmed," he nodded after a sigh, "before Alli crashed the system... the majority were inactive personalities waiting activation."
"That could be seven-hundred people in possible danger of doing something against their will," Amanda confessed in total sadness. "We should be able to help them just like you helped me."
"What are you suggesting Amanda?" Six gave her a look between understanding and concern.
"We need to find them and help them before something happens they can't control," she justified. "We need to save them from themselves if we have to."
"Fleet Command has been aware of all the seven of the Cylon models in the solar system," Ocinis defended. "They are being monitored in case of possible danger. We believe they shouldn't be overburdened with the truth as long as they have done nothing suspicious."
"You're monitoring them but your don't know if they are Cylons acting human or Cylons that think they're human..." Six eyes bore into him with a terrible intensity, "either way they are a danger to us all and most especially to themselves and we have to help them before they lose everything like I did."
"Looks like the hunt never ends..."
The door opened and for a second it was merely the sleep in her eyes that made her see nothing. It wasn't until Billy cleared his throat that Laura realized she wasn't alone.
"Billy," she nodded, trying not to loose her place as she forced her attention back to reality.
"I have Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Thrace for you, Madam President," the young man nodded.
"See them in," she accepted, before he had a chance to disappear she quickly attempted to clear the scattered papers that covered the desk.
"Madam President," Captain Adama announced as he entered, Lieutenant Thrace in tow. "I've been in direct contact with the doctor's abroad the Kyoto St. Pierre. Mister Gardner is alive with only a mild head injury and some bruising."
"Thank the Gods," Laura sighed in relief, the sickening drop in her stomach lightened just a bit.
"Yes, sir," Kara joined in. "But he was pretty frakked up. He's unconscious, he's lost a lot of blood. He'll be down for a few days but walking around in about a week."
"Madam President," Apollo proposed, with a hint of hesitation. "I don't mean to be up start but I believe that Gardner's shuttle should be re-diverted to the nearest Hegemony vessel."
"And what makes you say that?" Laura's brow knitted together.
"Someone is obviously out to kill him," Lee explained. "First Leipziger dies of an air embolism and next thing you know Secretary Lorena is killed in a train crash and barely twenty-minutes later Gardner's Raptor is attacked by supposed 'rogue Vipers'. Then an hour later and on the other side of the system Secretary Nordstroms ship is destroyed. Gardner could be the only survivor of a possible mass assassination."
"My thought's exactly," Laura gave a ting quirk at the corner of her mouth. "That is why I had his shuttle rerouted to the Victory five-minutes ago."
A hinting grin appeared on both the officer's faces, more then happy that the President was catching on faster then they'd expect.
"Madam President," Kara now voiced her opinion. "I think this is all glorified crap. The fact that hours after Leipziger's death the only two people beside yourself who stood in the way of King Kumara's and the presidency suddenly meet bloody ends is just too convenient?"
"Are you implying the appointed royalty of Virgon may have a hand in these deaths?" Laura was deathly serious.
"That's not what I-"
"The idea seems to be the most prevalent in my mind right now," Laura cut off Starbuck's defense before she had a second to muster it.
"Don't you think we should start a military investigation?" Apollo raised the question.
"Kumara is smart..." Laura sighed, feeling that sleep start to pull at her senses again, "and he has support. Virgon suffered the least after the attack and because of that they have incredible support, revenues and materials at their disposal. I believe the only reason that I am alive right now is because the Tripoint security is so tight that they don't even have dinner knives at any of the cafes."
"I'll talk to my father and see about having him send over a few more marines as a security detail," Lee started to turn to leave even as he offered a wave goodbye. "If that is all-"
"Could you both wait for just a moment," Laura motioned for both of them to take one of the plush chairs before her desk. Both officers took the seats but it was Lee that garnered her attention. "I am aware that you were involved in the hostage situation on the Astral Queen. I know what a hard thing that is to live with, having to make the decisions you had to make."
"I can't stop thinking about it," Apollo sighed, feeling a strain in his heart. "But a man... has to accept responsibility for his actions. He doesn't second-guess the choices he makes, he lives with them, every day."
"You know," Laura rose from behind her desk, moving over towards the open window and the cool night air that escaped in like a breath of fresh air. "I remember when President Adar sent the marines into Aerilon. Fifteen people died. In public, of course, he had to say all the usual things. He... he was sure of what he'd done, made the right choice, stayed the course. But he knew it was a mistake. And he kept the names of the dead in his desk drawer. He said that it was imperative for a leader to remember and learn from the mistakes even if they can't admit to them publicly."
"Do you think we made a mistake?" Lee's eyes focus on her, narrowing for just an instance.
"I don't know," she shrugged at the question with as much honesty as she could muster. "I don't have a desk drawer yet but that number on the wall... it is a testament to how many people lost their lives in the worse disaster to ever be fall our people. Everyday I have to see it and remember all those people that lost friends, family and loved ones."
Rocking back on her heels she looked out over the city, out over the gleaming lights and the glowing halo of a nighttime Caprica hanging in the sky. It was erie how dark the night-side was, city lights were fewer and everything seemed to be coated in one black cloud that hung over the equator.
"Now Ms. Thrace," she turned her attention back tot he pair. "I understand that you have been organizing joint Colonial and Space Guard patrols over the entire solar system."
"Yeah," the young woman confirmed. "With our Battlestar fleet so damaged and understaffed we can spare few ships for patrol. That leaves huge holes the Cylons could sneak right through. Fighters can't hit a Basestar very hard but it can offer us an early warning for possible incursions."
"Good work," Laura congratulated. "I don't want to add to your burdens, however, I have a request..."
"We're listening..." Lee leaned back in his seat, expecting something to come of this.
"As you know during the attack we lost a vast majority of the Presidential cabinet," Laura denoted as she returned to the desk. "Now with Gardner in the hospital, Nordstrom's ship destroyed and Lorena gone, Adar's entire administration has been reduced to me... that's forty some positions unoccupied."
"Madam President," Kara's eyebrows popped up a full foot, "are you asking us to be part of your cabinet."
"Captain Apollo," Laura turned her eyes towards the young man. "I would like you to assume the position of Secretary of Defense, as a personal military advisor to myself."
"I'm sorry," Lee fidgeted, suddenly becoming very uncomfortable, "um... my father is the senior military officer, he should advise you."
"Oh, no, no, no, no..." Laura grinned. "I don't mean to go behind your father's back. Nothing like that. The position of the Ministry of Defense is not for military advice, it is for advice about the military and the security it maintains. Your progress during the incident on the Astral Queen, resorting to non-violent ways to resolve a situation, talking down a suicidal man and then putting him back to work for the good of society. I would appreciate more of those insights, how to make our armed forces work better that is not burdened by commanding those armed forces. Because of that you can keep your day job at the C... A... G."
"It's pronounced 'CAG'," Lee quickly corrected her.
"Do you see why I need you?" she giggled as a little before switching her attention to Kara. "Now, Ms. Thrace, in your position you have have hundreds of fighters under your command, people reporting to you daily, information from all corners of our homeworlds coming and going through you, all for the continued protection of this system."
"Yes, ma'am," Starbuck nodded.
"Then to legitimize that post," Laura crossed her hands over her chest. "I would like you to assume the position as Secretary of Security."
"People barely want me to fly a Viper," Kara looked like she found this the greatest shock and the greatest joke of her life. "You want me to make me a Secretary and give me a whole Ministry to run."
"Well not much a of Ministry now," Laura suggested. "Both the headquarters for the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Security were lost when Caprica City fell and all but two of their field offices were outright destroyed. As of right now the Ministry of Security is composed of six... all low level field agents. We've found no survivors from the Ministry of Defense."
"So we are on our own," Lee looked at her straight.
"You will of course be given all the resources you need," she presented, "and be allowed to appoint whatever individuals you see fit but it is going hard going for a while. In effect you are the Ministries for the time being. So do you accept?"
They looked at each other for just a second, a silent agreement between the pair before they returned to an answer.
"Yes," Lee nodded. "Um... so, who's going to tell my father?"
"Well..." Laura groaned a bit but hid it well, "ahem... uh... I was thinking that that would be your first assignment. Along with passing along this message for himself."
"Somehow," Lee laughed. "I knew you were gonna say that."
"Thank you, Secretary Adama... Secretary Thrace..."
They marched on, long columns of machines that tramped through the forest, crushing everything in its path, from bush to tree.
"Frakking noise!" Helo cursed as he dropped the binoculars and slide back on ridge a little farther out of sight. "I don't get it. I've blown away Centurions before and they've never sent an entire army after me."
Sighing, he leaned up against the rock-face, enjoying the small amount of shelter it offered from the beating sunlight. Beside him Boomer lay, trying to morph her body to fit perfectly into the shadows and away from the heat... and maybe a little further from Helo.
She didn't need to be feeling this, the terrible sense of betrayal and guilt that was welling up inside of her.
"We've made it this far," he could hear his words from only days before still ringing in her ears, "we're gonna make it all the way."
She inched away a bit, trying to put whatever distance she could manage on this small cliff between her and the man of all their conflicting emotions.
"If something happened to you," Helo's voice whispered in the back of her head, "I wouldn't know how to deal with it."
It stung, like a bee had just flown right into her heart and jabbed its stinger as deep into her flesh as possible.
Why should I care? she thought to herself, I had a mission... have a mission... then why do I care what happens to him?
"If he flees, he dies," it was Five's words in her mind now, a manical laugh accompanying its declaration.
"Does he love you?" Six was now in her thoughts, pushing for answers she could knew the answer too but dare not speak.
"They're after me," Sharon muttered, getting a look of distant concern. "While they were holding me, I overheard some things."
"What?" Helo shot her a look, truly unsettled by how she had come by that information.
"Plans, deployments," Sharon moaned and whooshed, not liking what was coming from her lips. "A big Cylon base not far from here, a major hub."
"Frak!" Helo cursed. "They think you can use that against them."
"Not just that," Boomer added. "It's the best place to try to grab a ship and try to get off this frakking planet and back to Galactica..."
The debris of three Basestars and several squadrons of Raiders only added to the thick soup that already constituted the planetary ring. Pegasus had to fight to avoid the larger chunks, chrome hull plating drifted dangerous close to her form, defensive flak batteries had to fire to destroy several from impacting against the Battlestar's skin.
"Rescue Raptor's away," Gina announced as they confirmed the launch of the pair of tiny ships. "Estimate that Buster's Raptor has an hour of air left."
"Cutting it close," Cain muttered. "More than a few Raiders jumped out after we took down the last Basestar. We don't have the leisure of a well planned rescue. Confirm if their alive, if yes then haul the ship in... if not leave it and we'll jump."
It had taken forever, pulling a few dozen circuits, hauling out more fiber optic cable then she knew Pegasus could carry but they had managed to pull the FTL system back online. It was still flickering in and out, a hefty repair to her sensor array would have to be made but Helena was not about to order it until they were safely out of the cloud.
On the dradis screen the icon of the rescue Raptors neared Buster's ship.
"Pegasus, Red Devil," Steve 'Red Devil' Fleer voice crackled over the wireless speaker. "Our bird look intact. Can't quite see inside yet. Commander, we're unable to raise the Raptor o n wireless. Going for visual confirmation... Oh, my gods. Pegasus, Raptor crew are dead. Cockpit's cracked open like an egg... I repeat. They're all dead..."
Helena sighed as the weight on her shoulders increased a little more.
"Okay, commence jump prep," she ordered. "Bring our birds home... "
"Sorry," Laura breezed into the office, gliding over the floor with a sense of purpose and knowing smile in her face. "I was attending to a minor diplomatic catastrophe with Gemenon. I could sleep for about a year. Yourself?"
Across from her Commander Adama settled into one of the arm chairs, legs closed and hands folded so his fingers were splayed over each other.
"The situation on Ragnar Anchorage and the transfer to Tartarus is taking up most of my time," Adama explained as he offered her a nod as she took her place behind the wide oak desk that dominated her office. "No time to sleep on our end either. From what I understand you've promoted my son and top pilot to members in your cabinet."
"I believe they will make fine additions," Laura grinned at the man's little insult on her part. "Its a small reward for all their hard work."
"Gods knows they deserve a little bit of recognition," Adama nodded in earnest.
"Recognition that you also deserve," she gestured towards her young assistant that held at the far corner of the room during their whole exchange. "Billy."
"It took a little while to find a jeweler," "but thankfully they have a few abroad the Demarcation Line."
He approached her, holding a small black container in his hands. Slowly, like with great care not to break them. Inside sat a set of admiral ranked insignias from the box, before slowly handing them over for the man before her to see.
"Thank you," Laura thanked the young man before presenting them to Adama. "Rumor has it that I know very little about military protocol, but I do believe that someone who commands more than one ship is called an admiral. You on the other hand have taken the command of the entire Colonial military and a greater portion of the civilian fleet, leading them both in the defense of our homeworlds and keeping our civilization at a whole when it was at its brink..."
"I won't accept that," Adama held back, unwilling to even look at them.
"And why not... Admiral," she reiterated that last point, to the man's personal carnage.
"Because since every person at the rank of admiral and above was killed during the attack," Adama may have talked with a gruff resonance in his voice but he wasn't stupid, he knew what this would mean. "You award me that and I will be elevated to the rank of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by default... a position I neither have interest in nor deserve."
For a long while she was quiet, regarding him even as she tapped a finger against the case.
"Commander," Laura sighed, "I won't sugar coat it and I certainly won't lie to you because I know you'll see right through it. There are fractions that would rather see our people under an iron heel and used to further their own gains, gains that are no where in the interest of the Colonial way of life... one of those fractions is King Kumara."
"I understand the Virgon royal ass is causing a lot of trouble-"
"He's possibly responsible for the deaths of the three people directly between himself and the Presidency..." Laura cut off Adama's words, "brutal deaths that took many innocent lives that to only the coldest eyes would be considered 'collateral damage'."
She was quiet again, letting the words sink in, for what she said to start opening the wound before she went in for the real blow.
"Admiral Adama," she dream out those words so she knew he'd get them loud and clear, "I am not giving you this commendation and promotion just because you deserve it. I am giving this promotion and commendation because I need you. I am a civilian, a school teacher who knows little of how this government works and how to keep our people functioning... but you do. You know how they work, what they want... what needs to be done to protect them. If I happen to unable to preform my duties I need someone I know who can step in and lead our people... and that someone is never going to be Kumara."
"And that would make me sixth in line of succession instead of the King's forty-seventh," Adama nodded. "Well I guess I have no real choice."
A knowing smile began to spread over Laura's face.
"Congratulations, Admiral Adama," she handed over the pins, more then happy to have that weight off her hands.
"Thank you, Madame president," he nodded, accepting the promotion before slowly starting to turn and leave.
"Just one more thing, Admiral," Laura declared to catch his head just right. "From what I know the Chairman on the Joint Chiefs gets to choose any warship currently in the Fleet for his command. Since Galactica wasn't officially decommissioned until you were to arrive at the Fleet Museum the Battlestar is still technically in the Fleet."
"That is true," Adama confirmed.
"And can I assume you wished to have your Battlestar as your flagship?" Laura continued to press onward.
"Undoubtedly," Bill again nodded.
"Then since we need a ship worthy of a Joint Chief," Laura assumed her position behind the desk and as the position of authority she wielded. "I am ordering Galactica to be fast-tracked for repairs and calling in whatever favors we have from the Space Guard to give you top priority and the latest upgrades."
"Thank you, Madam President..."
The Raptors were on the deck, twenty of the birds cooling their jets in the largely empty cargo bay. Dark brown and boxy crafts, that sharply contrasted with the black metal ground of the Anchorage and the tall metallic walls that overhung them all.
Felix was prepared for Colonel Tigh, as best as he could be when the man was marching out of the nearest Raptor with a look of absolute death and a little bit of a hangover in his eyes.
"Colonel," Felix nodded the moment he was within earshot and away from some the still roaring engines of the landing Raptors. "Its good to see you... even if your six hours late."
"Frakking mix up of orders," the man bleated out with even more curses. "Wouldn't know anything about that would you Lieutenant?"
"Not a thing, sir," he shook his head for affect even if on the inside he was laughing manically. "Lieutenant Moneti is here to escort you and your marines to the final open forum we are having with the workers."
"Lieutenant," he nodded towards the much taller and far more stone faced man.
"Good day, Colonel," Alhex nodded. "I suggest your men remain here for the time being. This cargo bay is isolated from the rest of the station and if the workers see armed marines entering the station we could have a riot on our hands. "
"I'll have them put on standby but I want to be there when you address the workers," Saul growled.
"Of course sir," Felix gestured for him to lead the way. "If you would..."
"We lost twenty-six people," Kendra reported. "Including Colonel Jurgen."
"Twenty-six!" Helena could barely hide her surprise. "We didn't take that much damage?"
"The two Raptor pilots are counted in among that number," Gina explained, sighing and tossing the manifest on the nearest table, "but a structural support collapsed along frame 34, deck 20... and vented to space."
"We also lost a Viper," Kendra added, a bit dejected from the glare from her commanding officer, "pilot Harry Curza."
"1,629 crewmen," Cain sighed. "I started with a crew of close to twice that! How do you explain to the families of 827 officers how they died. What do I tell Jurgen's daughters? They're having their birthday in barely a week... if they're still alive. Can it get any better?"
"No... it's only going to get worse," Gina added, uncrossing herself from the nearby couch to regard the uniformed officers with nothing more then her work coat hanging on her shoulders. "I'm sorry to say it but the bulk of the Cylon fleet is shored up around the Colonies and we're only going to start running against more and more of them as we get closer."
"We need a break and quick," Kendra nodded. "Morale is crashing and even with the material gains for the new Vipers, were going through men and women faster then we can get repair parts."
"I've been trying to graft some Cylon technology onto Pegasus," the blonde shrugged, "but their is only so much we can do with Colonial materials. Reactor output, dradis range, some minor improvements to here and there... yet its just not going to be enough to get us back to the Colonies any better."
"Then do we give up... " Helena could almost not believe the words even as they left her mouth, "settle down and forget about ever getting home to our families. I made a promise to this crew to they would be home soon enough and now I may have to break my word."
The pause held in the air.
They were a long way from home, the losses were wearing them down and soon their wouldn't be enough people left to keep this Battlestar running, even with all its network and automated backups.
Pegasus would soon be a ghost ship flying on fumes sooner then they'd like to think.
"There may be a solution," Shaw finally announced. Withdrawing a few papers from her dossier, she tossed a number of star-charts onto the coffee table. "Gina and I have been trying to build a navigation map for the surrounding space, marking the boundaries of Cylon space. There is a Cylon resupply post here," she pointed to one star among the fields altogether. "It's a minor facility, a few Raiders, no Basestars, around fifty Centurions."
"It's a research facility, top secret," Gina explained. "Only a few of the top echelons of Cylon kind know what happens there but one of their known forms of research was the same technology that help build the communication array we destroyed. They still hold a database of all the arrays."
"So what?" Kendra muttered. "We're going to blow up another communication satellite. Last time it cost us seventy eight-people taking out one of those things."
"No," Inviere grinned. "But the center does hold the access codes and locations of every array in the network."
"I thought we took the array offline?" Helena asked.
"Temporarily offline," Gina smiled. "A recalibration of the system would take weeks and a serious devotion of power and resources. If we get the access codes-"
"Hack the system as it comes online," Kendra understood, "and jump back to the Colonies in a matter of days instead of weeks."
"Looks like we have a new mission," Helena smirked. "Begin drawing up the battle plan Lieutenant... "
"I hope you know what you're doing, Felix," Moneti quietly asserted as he cast an eye out at the unruly crowd of assembled dockworkers and tried not to show his outright contempt for them.
But Felix didn't reply, he just squared his shoulders and walked directly onto the platform overlooking the gathering. The moment he appeared the workers went quiet, but that didn't stop the occasional catcall or hiss of disdain as Alhex and Tigh waltzed on behind him.
"Frakking quiet down!" Petto's voice rang out from the front of the crowd, forcing the negative comments to ebb and stop for just a bit. "Let 'em talk."
Felix sighed, trying to get the roiling in his stomach to stop for just a second as Alhex took the speaker's position with a wave of glares from the assembled group.
"Under the direct order of Colonel Tigh," his voice boomed over the crowd, loud and forceful as everyone took a collective breath, waiting for the news to come, "I have been appointed to end this strike by any means necessary. Isn't that correct, Colonel?
"Crystal, Lieutenant," Saul confirmed with an affirming nod.
"And can I assume that this route I take will have the full support of the military and the democratically elected Colonial government?" Alhex again directed the question towards Tigh.
"Undeniably," the man nodded again with a sense of triumph.
"And do I have the full support of the Colonial civilian representative present that my decision will not be met with violence?" he directed his attention towards Symone who was holding position a short distance off to the side.
"No promises," the woman shrugged.
"I now turn the announcement over to the chief negotiator for this strike," Alhex turned his attention back towards the man standing a step behind him. "Lieutenant Gaeta?"
That tightening roiling in his stomach had just become a full out hurricane but still, somehow beyond him, Felix took a step forward as Alhex took a step backwards.
"Under that direction," he announced, his voice now taking the precedence, "I have chosen the most appropriate action. According to the Articles of Colonization, the Second Amendment, paragraph six, if four fifths of a population, not of a military background, vote for secession, they can do so peacefully as long as secession is not to a hostile power or enemy of the state."
"Since Ragnar Anchorage was officially decommissioned years ago," Moneti continued on, "its status reverts to a civilian port when the current population took up residence. As such, they have the right to vote to secede."
"That law was made when one settlement was seceding from one colony to another!" Symone shouted from the crowd. "I already looked it up! How the frak are we going to break from Caprica and side with another Colony whose just as worse off?"
"Who said you secede to another Colony?" Alhex smirked. "According to Article 2301 of the Proclamation of Sentience, the Hegemony may grant a person or group of persons, emergency citizenship to avoid possible harm or retribution by a government they do not agree with."
"Since that law was put into effect when only the Colonies existed and the Cylons were the enemy," Felix explained, "no official wording was put into place to differentiate another Colony from an alien power."
"If we enact that legislation," Moneti now added, "it would declare all dockworkers on Ragnar Anchorage citizenship in-temporary and as such subject to Hegemony laws and protection."
"This law also includes all subordinates and dependents of said citizens," Felix grinned as the announcement was getting a wave of stunned looks from the crowds. "I do believe that by including those numbers, that is over four fifths of the station's population. As per the Articles of Colonization, if majority of a population vote for secession, the Twelve Colonies must recognize such action as a legal and democratic in process."
"You can't do this!" Tigh hissed, his voice cracking at the outrage of being so swiftly undermined.
"We just did," Alhex groused at him. "With Article 2301 enacted a fellow nation must respect the wishes of their citizens and the Hegemony will provide necessary security to ensure their legal rights to choose will not be hindered during the vote. The moment this announcement was made the Voices of Authority, Value of Secrets, Commonwealth of Tears and Regimental Hymn moved into defensive position around the station and Admiral Vonaka has made a formal request for Colonel Tigh to withdrawal his troops."
"Lieutenant, I order you to stand down or I will have you removed from command!" Saul shouted, taking a dangerous step into Felix's personal space.
"I was already removed from command, Colonel," Felix stated matter of fact. "Lieutenant Moneti was placed in charge of the strike talks. Now Alhex, as I've read from your laws correctly, Ragnar Anchorage is not meeting some of the Hegemony's basic laws."
"Of course," Alhex nodded in affirmation. "According to Proclamation of Sentience 292, hygiene levels among the civilian quarters are below par. As such medical teams are being dispatched and new habitation units will be delivered by the end of the day to off set the over population. Proclamation 630 also states that current ration levels are below standard and will be increased by twenty percent for adults, fifty percent for those under the age of adulthood."
"And Proclamation 850, don't forget," Felix posted for him to remember.
"Of course," Moneti confirmed as he continued. "Dockworkers inside a sector of space that is not considered part of the 'front-line' or on a war footing have a set level of workable hours without proper compensation. As of right now the Hegemony and Cylons have no official declaration of war. As of right now these dockers are working twice what they should be and are subject to back pay. Until more workers can be hired we will deploy drones and personnel to assist and pay all workers immediately."
Cheers were erupting from the workers, waves of happiness and a few broke down in tears at finally being offered some kind of relief.
"Finally Proclamation 507," Alhex shouted over the claps and roar of relief, "no individual can be held accountable for any crimes or injustices, expect murder, they committed before citizenship as they were not considered part of the empire and as such not subject to our laws. By this order, all dockworkers are granted amnesty for striking."
"That's you Petto!" Felix announced to the Chief who was standing cool and collect in the forefront of the crowd.
"You can't do this!" the Colonel roared, veins of anger sparking on his forehead.
"You're right, I couldn't," Felix said. "Until you appoint Alhex. You should never hand someone a loaded gun unless you're sure where they point at your mistake. Now I believe the Space Guard has requested you to vacate their property."
Cheers and laughs of amusement erupted from the workers as the Colonel spun on his heels and stamped off to his waiting ship.
"And my offer Miss Devaux," Alhex turned his attention back towards the Captain, "this deal is dependent on your people working immediately. Ragnar Anchorage has cargo to move."
"You heard the man," she shouted across to Petto.
"Okay, you dockers!" the woman turned towards her teams. "Let's get back to work!"
Applause roared even as they headed back to work, as Symone ascended the platform to join them.
"You know frakking well that you twisted the intent of Tigh's order," the young woman ruefully smiled. "And we won't get away with it."
"It will have to wait," Felix sighed, the adrenaline in his blood starting to dwindle a bit, bringing him down from his emotional high. "We're both gonna get seven hundred kinds of hell over this down the road. But in the mean time lets enjoy the good fortune."
A nod, a handshake and the captain disappeared into the crowds, most likely back to her command that probably wouldn't last very long as the Hegemony took over operations of the station.
Seeing her go caused on thing to surge in Felix's face he hadn't expected... a yawn.
"No offense Lieutenant," Alhex commented, "but er... you look like I feel. Why don't you get some sleep?"
"That's exactly what I have in mind..."
He awoke with a headache that had pounded for the third day now, a terrible pain that screamed in all his joints and stung in the bruises that littered his face. But even with the terrible pain that soared through his body he knew he wasn't alone.
"What do you want?" his voice was rough, harsh, like sand paper over glass to his throat.
"I came to see if you were alright," the body slipped out of the shadows, slowly walking towards the clear, break-proof glass that separated them.
"I was doing fine here, Six," he looked up at the angelic face looking down at him in concern. "Thanks for exposing me by the way."
"You weren't doing fine, thank goodness," she sighed, arms crossed, staring down at him. "If you'd destroyed this ship, you'd have made us even more irredeemable in the eyes of God. And the names Gina."
"No," One shook his head. "I'd have proved us to be superior in his plan."
Gina snorted, as if it was the funniest, most outrageous thing she'd ever heard.
"You know I think I've figured out where it went wrong," she grinned at him, though her eyes betrayed that she was really afraid of him.
"Well, that's a very useful revelation to have when you're spare punishment for frakking the Admiral," One smiled up at her. "Nonetheless.. our failure is obvious. We had our foot on the throat of humanity and we failed to step down hard enough. That was our error."
"Have you learned nothing in all this time in this cell?" Gina slammed a fist into the glass, outraged at him. "Being beaten within an inch of your life to know what you did to deserve such? Because I learned a great deal among this crew in such a short amount of time. Killing the humans was a grievous error. Do you want to know why?"
"I really don't," the broken man carped.
"Are you certain?" she grinned at him. "Because it's absolutely fascinating."
"Listen, sister," his eyes locked onto her with an intense hatred, "if you're right, that means this whole project was doomed from the beginning."
"Yes," Gina nodded. "From the very top to the bits at the bottom. In evolving to the organic flesh we evolved something that was inevitable. We developed emotions, feelings, we started to love."
"Those were merely to facilitate our infiltration," One glared at her and her theories.
"Then why are you showing anger and I'm showing concern?" she noted, much to his carnage. "We are both active personalities, we shouldn't have these feelings, we shouldn't be able to react, to cry, to love. Our Centurion forefather's didn't act like that, the only other creature that acts like we do... are humans."
"If you believe that then you should be boxed because you've obviously been corrupted by them!" One grieved at her, as if she was some unfortunate soul to be pitied.
"God loves all," Gina repeated the hymn at him.
"There is no God," he laughed at the sheer idea. "Supernatural divinities are the primitive's answer for why the sun goes down at night... At least that's what we One's have been trying to tell the other for years. When we finally acted like we embraced it you stupid ninny's were hanging on our every word. Worked wonders to get what we wanted."
"You can't really prove it one way or the other, of course," Gina smugly snickered. "God is about faith, something the One's have lacked in everything but themselves."
"Something you also lacked in this crew," both them whipped their heads around to find Helena standing in the doorway, overlooking their entire exchange with a fire in her eyes.
"Ah Admiral," One laughed, a gurgling bloody sound. "I was wondering when I'd get to see you again. Missing me in the CIC already?
"You'll be lucky to leave that cell alive," she hissed.
"I meant no harm," he stared at Helena with a dark grin.
"No harm?" Helena's voice was menacing, threatening, as she took a dangerous step forward. "You tried to completely annihilated our race and destroyed our civilization."
One laughed a bit, enjoying this entire display of aggression and power.
"Now," the man snickered at her, "if you're gonna start pointing fingers... you see, we're not like you. We are logical and can admit our mistakes. We're not afraid of death and we accept that our superiority over you is a give."
"Shut it," GIna snapped at the both of them. "Helena, over here."
She snagged a hand around the other woman's arm and dragged her off, away into one of the far corners so that One couldn't hear what they had to say.
"What is it?" Cain mumbled, her attention divided.
"We have to kill him," she answered quick and quietly.
"What?" Helena was agape at her.
"I will tell you everything I can," Gina proposed in a speedy fashion, casting an eye over at the One to make sure he wasn't hearing what they said. "But him... he's bile... poison. He'll feed you lies if it means he'll live long enough to get you all killed."
"If we send him back he'll tell them where we are," Helena protested. "Not counting he is a former member of my senior staff. He knows too much about this ship."
"Not if he doesn't resurrect," Gina wheezed.
"But you said we've been in-range of one of your Resurrection Ships since we arrived out here," Helena wondered. "What could we do to prevent a download?"
"Not if we space him... and jump at the same time," Gina proposed in a hush. "His atoms will be vaporized and his signal scattered in a thousand possible directions."
"Are you sure?" Cain didn't seem too convinced by her tone.
"We had a jump accident on a Basestar a few years ago," she described, "half the ship arrived at the destination, the other half stayed where it was suppose to... everyone in the section directly along the jump flash never resurrected. Best we could theorize is that when their bodies were trapped in the folding of space and time they were scattered too much for a Resurrection Ship to get a feed on them."
"Then if we pull this off he'll be dead for good?" her voice was filled with concern at the possibility they'd final be rid of him.
"Final death," Gina nodded.
Crossing over to the door, Helena unsnapped the wall phone, dialed a quick series of buttons and waited for the response on the other end.
"CIC," a voice answered.
"Shaw," Helena nodded, back into command mode. "I need a marine detail to the brig and a secure route an empty launch tube. Clear the path, lock all doors and post guards at all intersections."
"Yes, Admiral," the young woman confirmed, confusion high in her features. "What is going on?"
"We are executing the Fisk impostor," she expounded, a sharp intake of breath confirmed that Kendra has realized the possible implications. "Get it done."
She snapped the device back to the wall and waited, even as Gina now stepped towards the glass to regard the man they were about to murder.
"I managed to convince them to let you die..." she spoke in a hushed tone, her eyes downcast a bit, "to resurrect and carry a message back to High Command."
"And what message is that?" One vindicated.
"Leave us alone," Helena spoke up from the other end of the room, "we will not harm you as long as you won't block our return to the Colonies."
"Done," he stated after only the brief pause, though his answer in no way hid the fact they both knew he was lying to save his own skin.
The soldiers arrived, five men armed to the teeth, handing over a rifle to Helena to carry as well, with Kendra in tow with full combat armor and ready for anything.
"We're ready," she stated and the march began.
Two marines before One, three behind, the Admiral, Shaw and Inviere bringing up the rear, each keeping their eyes open for anything.
Thankfully Shaw had done her job, sliding through the ship with ease before entering an entirely deserted flight deck, not a soul in sight and blast doors sectioning off their area from prying eyes.
A single launch tube hung open, the airlock closed and awaiting release.
"Is there really a Resurrection Ship in range?" One asked just as they came to a stop.
"Yes, brother," Gina nodded at him. "But first, you're gonna die in a vacuum."
"Never gone that way before," for a second he looked afraid, wide eyes staring at the sealed airlock.
"That's a 170-foot launch tube in front of you," she tilted her head towards the waiting opening. "You might get lucky, hit something and die of injuries before we get to the vacuum."
"I don't like you," he mumbled under his breath.
"I appreciate that," she grinned at him. "Means I'm important enough to annoy you"
"Do you really believe it was a mistake to attack the humans?" One spit, as if the idea was laughable.
"Intensely," she confirmed.
"You know that when I download among the others, your strange ideas will be shouted down," he stated matter of fact. "We can not co-exist with humans... ever."
"Ideas only seem strange until you try them on, brother," she smiled at him knowingly. "We had a temper tantrum in the form of a cataclysm because we wanted God to treasure us more than humanity."
"We didn't want to be loved," he simpered. "We wanted to be treated like we deserved."
"We wanted to be held to a bosom," she reprimanded him like a child out of line, "to be petted and perfumed and told we were the prize of the universe."
"Yes, well," One said, "if the humans were gone-"
"We'd soon learn to hate our-self and would mourn them," she criticized him right back.
"I am going to see to it that you get boxed," One enjoyed one last moment of self indulgence. "They'll turn on you soon enough and when they kill you you'll resurrect asking for forgiveness which you won't receive. And then I'm going to prepare to wipe out humanity once and for all."
"The anticipation is really that unpleasant?" she arched an eyebrow at him.
"Yes," Helena shot him a look as the lights above the airlock began to flicker from red to green. "But it will only hurt for a little bit until your blood boils. And I'd breath out real fast because the pressure change will cause your lungs to explode."
The look of disgust on One's face wasn't lost on them and ignited a secret enjoyment in the humans and a sickening drop in Gina's stomach.
"We're ready," Kendra declared from the flight launch booth that overlooked the airlock's interior.
With that the man was marched into the waiting tube, the marines held their rifles at ready just long enough for the doors to slam shut and the light to flicker back to red.
"Begin count down," the Admiral announced.
"Five... four... three..." inside the tube One heard nothing, just say the humans staring at him from the launch booth as he wondered what he would do after putting this horrific death behind him... a moment before the distant outer door separated and the rush of atmosphere took hold of him.
The entire tube seemed to rush past at lightning speed, everything flying past as the cold hold of space started to creep into his lungs and the weightlessness overtook him... a second before a blinding white flash seemed to burn every fiber in his body and it all faded to black.
"Jump complete," Kendra confirmed a second later as the ship returned to normal space.
"Then he's finally dead..."
The Astral Queen slide into the open slip, docking clamps securing her in place as fuel tubes quickly and automatically attached themselves to the vessels sides. A few clamps and tubes however found no purchase as several notable and blackened chunks of the craft were missing.
"Alright kids," Tom snatched up a little boy and bounced him on his hip as the rest of the tiny bundles huddled in. "Stay close and don't touch anything you're not suppose to."
All smiles and hopped up on whatever sugary bits Zarek and Sim'Lohan had pulled out of the mess hall, they followed after him closely, unwilling to put any distance between themselves and the adults who had saved them.
Meier's watched the go and though he was happy to be rid of them he found it hard to see them go, off to take homes abroad Gamoray before they could be found families either here or back on the Colonies.
An approaching hum caught his attention and turning he found Sim'Lohan pushing Jusi'Lada passed on some kind of hover table, obviously the Hegemony's version of a gurney.
The moment the newly helmeted head turned to notice them, Jusi'Lada singled her commanding officer to give them a moment.
"How are you feeling?" James asked as he approached the lying woman.
"I have a splitting headache, my nose is running and I need an all new pair of kidneys," she quickly rattled off with the sound of a grin in her words, "but so far so good."
"You've gave us a real scare," Meier admonished her.
"Us or you?" the young woman tilted her faceplate at him.
"I didn't say-"
"I'll be in sickbay for at least a week before my new kidney's are cloned," she cut off his protest. "I expect you to visit."
"Count on it..."
She was surprised to find her sitting on her couch when the door slide back, hands crossed, as if the room was far too cold.
"How you doing?" it was the simplest, most general question she could think of for the moment.
"Better," Gina shrugged, though her answer wasn't too real. "Thanks for saying all that stuff."
"So want to get-"
"This isn't working," her words were quick, cutting Helena off before she even could change the subject.
"What do you mean?" Helena knew where this was leading but for some reason ignorance offered her some comfort.
"Come on, Helena," Gina sighed, vaulting up to stalk the room even as her voice became more strained, "we can't honestly make this work."
"Yes we can!" Cain was quick to defend their relationship.
"Be honest," she looked at her hard, eyes boring into her with such intensity.
"Maybe not," she sighed after a beat, feeling her insides deflating under all the stress.
Gina marched the edges of the room, becoming increasingly agitated, tears welling up in her eyes and hands fidgeting.
"You know," she whispered finally, still walking the edges of the ready room. "I love having someone who stands up for me. I just hate that what I am is what causes it."
"Gina..." Helena tried to make her voice strong but it came as a weak croak. "Are you alright?"
"I just need a little time to figure some stuff out," she mumbled, as if not believing herself but still forcing herself to speak those words. "Maybe we take a... take a break?"
"I don't wanna break up," Helena's words were forceful but deflated.
"Not break up," Gina rationalized the facts, though she barely believed them herself. "No, just take a... take a break. I mean, everybody says that, but we... we really... mean it."
"Be honest," Helena looked up at Gina.
All she got was a tear filled face that quickly turned away and marched out, the door closing behind her .
Helena didn't know how long she had been sitting on the couch, could have been hours, could have been days. All that kept her company was the hum of the overhead lights and the sounds of the ship beyond her.
It took a beep from the door to single that her attention was required elsewhere. Slowly she rose but it felt like she was carrying two ton weights on her feet. It required energy and a fair bit of cannon fodder to press herself up to stand, even more so to move to the door.
"Admiral," Kendra nodded as the door slide back, revealing the young woman clutching a data-pad to her chest. "I was looking for Specialist Inviere. Do you know where she is?"
"I think we just broke up..."
Day and night on Tripoint was an iffy concept, the colony ship was designed to operate in the void between galaxies, where even the closest stars were sparse and faint dots, the overhead dome was designed to simulate everything from dusk to high noon, with the same blazing sun hanging in the sky.
But now in Caprica orbit they had a sun overhead all the time, meaning that day's were longer and nights seemed all the darker. The city still glowed brilliant even during the day, an image that Laura enjoyed immensely from her office overlooking the settlements.
"Madam President," she turned as Billy stepped through the large oak doors of the office. "He's here."
"Thank you, Billy," Laura's back straightened, her attention focused and a night without sleep suddenly faded from her mind. "See him in."
The man stepped aside, holding his vigilant position on the far-side of the door way as he stared intently at the man that stepped through before finally closing the door behind him.
Royal King Bartolome Kumara was not a tall man, nor a short man. If she was in a crowded room Laura would have called him the last person to stand out to her. If it weren't for his long nose and black as ebony hair, she would have completely overlooked him.
"Ms. Roslin," Kumara offered a bow, the royal robes of deep aqua seeming to flow with his every movement. "It is so good to meet with you finally, Laura."
"Same to you," she offered a nod, not really a bow, but she wasn't going to let him get off referring to her by every name yet not her position as Commander and Chief.
Bartolome however never glanced at her, instead his attention differed to the window and the clustering of skyscrapers below.
"It just goes by so fast," he sighed, nearly hanging out the window to get a better view. "It seems just like yesterday that I was a mere Duke, eighteenth in line for the thrown and you were nothing more then the Secretary of Education. Now look at us, leaders of state, shaper's of politics."
"I think the forty or so people that died in front of me would resent that is how I ascended to the presidency?" Laura didn't like this man's nostalgic tone he was carrying.
"You know what I resent," Bartolome turned on her, as if suddenly daring her to answer his question. "I resent that I haven't had time to mourn my good friend James and civilization just keeps moving on regardless. They told me that he asked you to step down and I think you should."
"I'm sure that you do," Laura gripped the arm rest of her chair behind her desk, trying to pry her finger nails from the fine leather.
"You know I am not telling you to do it out of respect for his wishes and certainly not for anything I might want from it. The Colonies are in turmoil, Laura, it could any which way. This is not the time for social advances, new policies and especially changes to the office of the president."
"Meaning a woman in the Presiden't office?" Laura couldn't help but smirk at his possible implication. "We'll have to worry about that once a month thing, will she or won't she press the button?"
"Couple of years you won't have to wait about that anymore," Kumara laughed, though he missed the look of disdain on Laura. "You know your position was never meant to be a Presidency. I mean the appointment was done as a stunt! It was as pure theater. You were pretty, a real teacher, you got Adar's polls with women to skyrocket. That same material helped you when you became president... but now should get off the stage while the audience still loves you and your position was a whole lot of nothing. When they get a look at that go away mission they sent you on... for what's its name... the bleeding heart teacher's thing.
"The Caprica Teacher's Union," she supplied to him, allowing him to continue this whole rant for his own amusement.
"It was suppose to be another piece of theater," Bartolome shrugged at the idea, "but then you up and went to Stans and asked for a compromise. We were going to look silly and ineffectual because your never going to be save everyone and we're going to lose face. And for whom? A bunch of frakking stupid teachers who should just take their government checks and teach their damn students what we tell them to teach them."
He turned around at her, a smile on his lips, a gleam in his eyes... that is until he noticed the scowl on Roslin's lips.
"King Kumara," her voice was low, like a growl from an animal ready to strike. "Vice President Leipziger asked me to resign and I was prepared too do so, both for his legitimate positions and the wishes of Richard Adar. But he is dead now... a lot of people are dead now. So I am going to go out there and I am going to lead these Colonies. I am going to run this government and if some people can't tolerate that, then I promise you it will be more their problem then mine!"
"Why?" Kumara hissed. "Why do you want to be President?"
"For the same reason Richard Adar did," Laura locked eyes with him, unwilling to waiver, "because I believe the people should have a President-"
"No!" he cut her off, slamming a fist down on her desk with surprising force. "In this room, where's it just you and me, just the two of us, the answer you should be giving me is you want to be President because you want the power, you want the power to control all of humanity."
"That's not me," Laura defended herself in honesty.
"Well that's the problem," Bartolome threw his hands in the air, almost unbelieving he was hearing this. "That's what I am telling you. People who don't want have no idea what to do with it. They have no idea how to use it when they have it."
For a moment there was quiet, a reigning silence as they locked glares with each other and refused to back down.
"King Kumara," Laura's voice started off low and slowly rose in volume, "tomorrow I will be making the formal declaration for the first formation of the new Quorum. I expect to have your nominations for the Virgon delegation directly after that."
"Ms. Roslin," Kumara puffed out his chest, trying to make himself seem larger then life, "I think-"
"President Roslin," she corrected him with a tight lipped smile. "Now I am very busy Mr. Kumara, so if you'll excuse me."
He huffed, as if she had made the gravest offense possible, before turning his fine robes and marching through the open doors of her office. In his wake Billy stuck his head in, trying to gauge what had happened.
"Billy," she asked, "where is that resignation speech I asked you to write?
"I have it on my desk," the young man answered.
"Good," Laura nodded, "burn it and bury the ashes..."
She crunched along the gravel, taking particular note to keep the dirty from sullying her red-rimmed dress.
"We've searched every valley, every cave..." Six stated, shielding her eyes in the searing sunlight. "They slipped through somehow."
"She thinks she loves him, that she can't live without him," Five grumbled from the outcropping he stood on, overlooking the two dozen Centurions they had moving across the area in search pairs. "Her passion is making her more resourceful."
"It bothers you, doesn't it?" Six grinned at the idea.
"We'll get them in the end," he shrugged at her.
"No," she shook her head, "it bothers you that you've never experienced it."
"You saw the way Helo was when we took her away?" Five shot her a look. "He was pathetic."
"I can't help wondering what it would be like to feel that intensely," Six grinned. "Even in his anguish, he seemed... so alive..."