Out of the Black
A Battlestar Galactica/Firefly Crossover
It could not have come at a more inopportune time. The FTL drives spun up, fleet in formation to jump, Dualla counting down from 5, 4, 3, 2... Earth was just a few moments of light speed travel away, when the scanner picked up a small ship traveling at sublight. Hearts all clenched with anticipation, the room was overcome by the tension, as no one could bring themselves to speak.
"I'm not picking up any transponders." Gaeta finally followed up. "It's a completely unknown vessel."
"I'm getting a message from the baseship, sir." Dualla cut in, "They report the same signal, small ship traveling at sublight. It's not theirs."
"Bill," Roslin placed her hand firmly on his shoulder, leaning close to whisper in his ear, "If we're this close to Earth, they may be part of the thirteenth tribe." Her voice was filled with a kind of breathless wonder- one of the things he admired most about her was awe of the universe. But he knew why she whispered it only to him.
"Open communications with the ship," he commanded, "Put the reply up on the speakers." His hand gently grasped Roslin's as Dualla nodded in acknowledgement.
She adjusted her headset, trying to gather her voice as she opened the communication line. "Attention unknown vessel. This is the Battlestar Galactica. Identify yourselves." As she made the connection, Adama reached for his phone.
The dull hum of the speakers kicked in, followed by the soft mumble of voices on the other end of the line.
Gao yang zhong de gu yang! Have you ever seen a fleet that big?
Nothing that wasn't Alliance.
Since when does the Alliance go 'knock knock, what's your name?' They're more of the 'Shoot first, ask questions later' persuasion.
Well if they aren't Alliance what are they?
Don't ask me, I just fly the thing.
You know, last time I checked I was the captain of this ship. I'm thinkin' it's only proper someone come get me when we find a whole mess of ships flyin' towards us.
Zen me le?
A ship called Galactica is asking us to identify.
We're thinking no.
Dualla adjusted her headset. "Attention unknown vessel," she paused, "We can hear everything you're saying." She gazed out across the rest of CIC and her fellow officers who seemed to be just as bewildered by the incoming messages.
iI thought something seemed strange.
Bi zui. Galactica, this is Serenity, over. Sorry for the confusion, we don't usually find ships this far out. Especially not in numbers like what you've got./i
"Far out? From where?" Roslin asked. He wasn't even sure when she had snatched the phone from his hand, but she had definitely taken control by that point.
Far out from where? What are they, addled in the brain?
Not now, Jayne; let the grownups do the talking.
Just because you're the captain around here doesn't make you the boss of me.
Actually it does. Galactica, you are a long way from home, aren't you?
Roslin handed the receiver back to the Admiral. He wasn't sure why the words came, why he opened up to a ship full of complete strangers. Though strangers they were, it was the first human contact they'd had since the Pegasus. "We have almost forty thousand people within our fleet. We have been traveling with minimal food, supplies, and fuel for almost three years now. And we have come here in search of Earth."
The comm line suddenly went very quiet, and the CIC fell into an uneasy hush as well; it was a sea of silent faces which gazed about, never once making eye contact with another but unable to stay still.
I'm thinkin' this is a conversation best had face to face.
"I agree. Mr. Gaeta, do you have a reading on their dimensions?" Adama remarked.
After a moment Gaeta looked up from the screen, "Sir, it'd be a bit of a tight fit but with careful flying the landing bay should be able to accommodate them."
Galactica, not lookin' to be rude, but you're a military ship, correct? Last time I docked my ship aboard a military vessel is an experience I ain't lookin' to repeat. Had some unruly soldiers aboard her make a real mess of things. Took a good week to get her livable again.
"Mr. Gaeta, make arrangements to send a Raptor to Serenity to bring over Captain…"
iReynolds, and unfortunately can't do that either. We've got a cargo bay, not a landing bay. We just have docking for our two shuttles. However, if you like we could send a shuttle to retrieve you and bring you back over our way. /i
"Captain Reynolds, thank you for the offer but I am reluctant to leave my fleet at this juncture." Adama replied, strains of tension leaking into his voice. He felt the gentle, but admonishing squeeze of Roslin's hand against his upper arm.
"It seems," she said, speaking over Adama's shoulder into the receiver, "That Captain Reynolds is apprehensive about coming aboard a military ship, and that you, Admiral, are uncomfortable leaving the fleet. I propose that we arrange a meeting on Colonial One. Captain Reynolds, Colonial One is a ship of the democratic civilian government. I hope that will be acceptable to you."
Democratic civilian government? Now there's a laugh.
Jayne. Bi zui.
It sounds as good a plan as any, Sir.
Galactica, we accept your offer.
Roslin was smiling, and Adama couldn't help but feel its contagious effect, "Rendezvous on Colonial One in one hour."
Adama observed that Roslin was paying particular attention to her wig. She stood before the mirror in her quarters on Colonial One adjusting it, taking a moment to pause and frown in disapproval before moving to adjust it. The Admiral rose from his seat and crossed to her, placing his firm hands on her shoulders. "You look fine," he said against her ear.
"I know it's silly," she replied, a smile that was not quite right tipped him off. A gentle squeeze on her shoulder brought her around to confession, "When you mentioned Earth…" he watched her take a moment to gather her mind around impossible thoughts, "They are clearly not from Earth. Which begs the question where are they from, who are they, and what kind of world have we just walked into?"
A knock on the doorframe cut off Adama before he could continue.
The curtains pushed apart and the first person to appear in the doorway was Lee, he stepped aside quickly to allow two more people to enter the room. The first was a man with a squarish jaw, wide set eyes that seemed to have seen everything before, and the most notable thing about his dress was the long brown coat that swept down to his calves. Following directly behind him was a dark skinned woman with a wild mane of curls and full lips; much like the man she dressed primarily in red and brown. "I would like to present," Lee spoke up, "Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Zoë Alleyne Washburne." He nodded to the newcomers he had escorted from the landing bay, he then nodded towards his father and the President, "Admiral William Adama and President Laura Roslin."
"Captain," Roslin said stepping forward, extending her hand in greeting, "It's a pleasure to put a face to the name."
He grasped her hand in a firm shake, "Likewise."
"I apologize for the… somewhat cramped accommodations, but I thought this may be a more comfortable setting than the press room," she said, "Less formal."
"You are a group of refugees and you have members of the press?" Zoë remarked, voice even but eyebrow raised.
"Well, we're still a society," Adama spoke his first words of the meeting, "The civilians will do as they wish."
"Never thought the Verse was goin' to be throwin' me any more surprises," Mal remarked as he paced around the room taking stock of the presidential quarters. "I've been to the verge of the black more than a few times, and I could swear all of what was out there was a lot of nothing."
"And yet here we are," Roslin replied.
"I take it you haven't always been livin' on these ships." He replied, helping himself to a seat. "Since we're takin' such a friendly approach to this meeting, mind indulgin' me with your story?"
Taking a cue, the others all took up more comfortable positions, Zoë in a chair beside Mal, Lee leaning against the wall, and Adama and Roslin side by side on her bed. "If it's not too much trouble," Roslin pressed, "You seem to know something about Earth."
Mal leaned back in his chair, crossing his right ankle over his left knee, "Indulge me."
A compelling story by anyone's standards- human kind endeavored to make life a bit easier, putting their faith in technology only to have their creations turn on them. Years of war followed by four decades of peace and without warning or expectation, the bombs began to fall. All that was left of a once great civilization was a handful of ships on the run from their own creations, which were determine to wipe them out. The first source of relief came in form of an uninhabited planet, and though they tried as hard as they could to settle and make a life, their past caught up with them. They fought back against the machines that took over their lives and ran away, traveling ever since in search of the rest of the human race. Just hours ago they found they would never truly escape their past, and that the cylons were among them and in need of their help, leading to a tentative alliance not even a day old.
When Adama and Roslin had finished their tale, Adama observed that both Malcolm and Zoë had less tension about them. "Beautiful tale," Captain Reynolds said as he glanced over at the warrior woman and a silent communication passed between them.
Adama watched the glance that passed between the two and folded his hands in his lap, "You two, you're former military yourself aren't you?"
Zoë's hand subconsciously drifted towards the bootlace tied around her neck.
Mal on the other hand, simply gazed towards the uniformed man, "Keen observational skills you've got there, Admiral."
"It seems," Adama interjected, "That you have quite the tale of your own."
Before anyone else could speak, Lee cut in. "When we first contacted you, you mentioned the Alliance. Or, rather, you were worried that we might be Alliance. What exactly-"
"Get any closer to the central planets and you'll find out." Zoë replied.
Mal uncrossed his legs and leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. "If we're gonna talk about the Alliance, we'd best start with talking about Earth-that-was…"
Helo was crouched by the table, wiping a bit of algae from Hera's cheek, "Well you're just a messy eater today." That's when the knock came. Giving his daughter a quick kiss on the top of the head, he rose to his feet and opened the door to his quarters to find Kara standing in the doorway.
She seemed for a moment like she was searching his face, as though some secret was written there. After a second, she gathered her breath, "Hey." It was more of a sigh than a greeting.
"Long day?" he asked in a tone that smirked, and it was enough to start a smile on her face.
He stepped back from the doorway to let her inside before closing the hatch behind her. He watched her scan the room, her eyes landing on Hera and then sweeping the rest of what could possibly make a casual suburban life, was it not set up on a warship. "Sharon's not here," he said, causing Kara to turn towards him, whites of her eyes showing just a bit. Frowning slightly, he continued, "She flew the Old Man and the President over to Colonial One to meet with… whoever it is from that ship."
"Oh, yeah. That." With those words Kara slumped into a chair, "Just a few hours ago we were having a standoff with the baseship, and I'm running to the launch bay to stop Lee from airlocking people, because my Viper started picking up signals from Earth and now, just before we jump, this ridiculously small transport ship shows up with gods know who on board, and… it's just a lot for one day."
Frowning, Hera reached over and gave Kara a pat on the knee. The earnest look of concern in her young eyes was enough to bring a smile to Kara's face once more. "What is it about you Agathons that always manages to cheer me up?" she beamed towards the young girl who couldn't help but beam in return. Ruffling the young girl's hair Kara pushed herself to her feet and crossed over towards Helo.
"So, what do you think is going on over-"
"Sam's a Cylon." She cut him off in a hushed voice. She cast a glance over her shoulder and saw that Hera had picked up some paper and crayons and was drawing, not hanging on every word the grownups were talking about.
"Ah," he replied, giving a nod as the pieces clicked into place in his mind.
"I told him…" she shut her eyes and shook her head, "I told him if I ever found out he was a Cylon I'd put a bullet between his eyes."
He wasn't sure what she expected to hear. Did she expect him to scold her? To be told from the spouse of a Cylon that she was a horrible person for being unable to deal with the revelation? Truth be told, he hadn't handled it that well at first. "Do you want to?"
Letting out a deep sigh, all she could do was shake her head. "No… I don't… I don't know why I don't…"
"Because he's still your husband. After you've gone through so much with him… Does it really matter that much?" Helo asked.
"I'm just… having a hard time getting my brain around it. How did you… when you found out about Sharon… how did…?"
Helo just smiled, "I love her. Who she is is more important than what she is."
Kara ran her hands through her hair from her temples to the back of her head and letting out a heavy sigh before allowing her arms to drop to her sides. "Thanks."
"Maybe we should start a group," Helo mused, "Cylon Spouses Anonymous… something like that."
Adama felt the need for a stiff drink.
Why are we as a people worth saving?
It dawned on him that humanity always seemed to self-destruct. It was their own foolishness that forced the thirteen tribes to leave Kobol all those millennia ago.
Earth-That-Was. It had been gone long before their journey began, thousands of years ago the planet had become uninhabitable, used up by the people who had lived there. The people of Earth set out to terraform the planets; create colonies, homes.
There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become people.
Somewhere along the line, this had been forgotten. It started out as a centralized government of just a few core planets, but they sought to expand their rule over all the colonies. Yet, there was a group that did not believe that a single government should control all the planets, that they should be free to rule themselves.
War broke out.
And this was the world they had found.
"Now, I'm a bit biased as you can imagine," Mal continued, "You can keep goin', let the Alliance find you, hell you can seek them out your own selves, but I don't reckon they're going to take too kindly to 40,000 refuges just showin' up out of the black."
Lee's gazed was fixed at some place on the wall, over the heads of anyone in attendance at this gathering, "So this is the end of the line…"
"We spent so long searching," Roslin said in a soft voice, mostly to herself, "We didn't stop to think what would happen when we actually found it…"
Those words spoken, the room descended into a hush. The captain and his first mate continued to engage in their silent communication as Adama observed the wheels spinning in the President's mind. "Is it even possible to hide all of our citizens on these planets?"
"Madam President?" Lee asked, his attention suddenly snapped back into the circle.
"You said it yourself, Mr. Adama. This is the end of the line. This is civilization." She spoke, her voice calm and resolved.
Lee stepped forward, "We are talking about subjecting our people to spending the rest of their lives in a government that they did not elect, did not ask for."
"And what do you think would happen if we turned away now?" She asked, rising to her feet to meet his opposition. "We could travel for another thirty years and never find another habitable planet." She watched as the realization sunk in over the younger man. "Call an emergency meeting of the Quorum. We will need everyone involved in creating our plan of action."
He gave a solemn nod, "Yes, Madam President." With those words he excused himself from the room, and the echoes of his footsteps in the hall faded shortly thereafter.
"Captain Reynolds." Adama spoke for the first time since the words that-was were uttered. "Whatever decision we make, it is clear we are going to need someone who knows these planets." On some unspoken cue, both men rose to their feet. "I intend to have the fleet retain position for now. Would you do us the favor of remaining with us for the time being? We could use your experience." He extended a tentative hand.
After a moment of pensive silence, Mal gripped his hand and delivered a firm shake. "Glad to be of service. I believe you know how to get in touch with us."
"Actually, Captain." Roslin spoke. "I was hoping you would attend the meeting of the Quorum. They can be obnoxious political vultures, but they do need to make an informed decision."
Before Reynolds could reply to the sentence, Zoë interjected. "A word in private?"
"Pardon us," Mal said, as the Browncoats stepped out into the hallway.
"Sir," she said in a hushed tone, "Are you sure it's wise getting involved in their politics?"
Mal cast a glance back towards the President's quarters. "After our last little run in with the Alliance I'm thinkin' it best we lay low for a little while. We might as well; take some time to get Serenity in top condition. We could probably barter for supplies. It could prove to be a mutually beneficial arrangement."
Her gaze narrowed, "That's not the whole reason and you know I know it."
Mal got that look on his face, that one she knew from battle for so long ago. "We lost our war and our world ended."
"Sir, this is not our war." She had to say it just to later say that she had, but Zoë knew that there was no changing his mind. The pair turned on heel and rejoined the Colonials.
"I would be happy to join you," Reynolds said, with something of a bow towards Laura.
She smiled graciously in return, "You have no idea how grateful we are, Captain. Also, if it wouldn't be too much of a problem. After meeting with the representatives, I'd very much like to get to know your crew, since it seems we will be spending some time together."
"I suppose in light of our new accord that can be arranged." Mal replied. "By the by, do you have someone that could take a look at our engines?"