Divergent Circle Version 2

Authors Notes: After reviewing this story again prior to working on the next chapter I've come to the conclusion that it's in need of a relatively minor makeover, before it can continue, especially considering the events that transpired towards the end of Battlestar Galactica season four. To this end I'm going AU from the events at the start of the fourth season premier He That Believeth In Me.

Chapter One

Commander Alan Chaffin, first officer of the Earth Alliance starship Prometheus frowned slightly at the odd readings that had just appeared on his scanner display. What in the world, he thought studying what the ships advanced sensors were trying to tell him all the while wondering why they had to pick up something like this now, considering what their mission was. Prometheus and the small task force of ships accompanying her were now only two jumps away from the territory of the mysterious Minbari, travelling along a part of Alliance territory that was dominated by the looming multi-coloured mass of the Eye – a massive nebula complex that spanned several sectors and marked the border of known space and the unknown and barren regions towards the edge of the Orion arm of the galaxy.

The Prometheus was the newest Hyperion-class heavy cruiser in Earth Force, many of her systems were a massive improvement over any of her sisters, multiple systems like her fusion reactors, some of her weapons and especially her sensors were partially reverse engineered from captured Dilgar technology giving them greater range and better accuracy than those on her sister ships. And now a short distance inside the perimeter of the Eye they'd picked up a series of strange spatial distortions and energy discharges that almost read like opening jump points but were far to brief to be any known form of jump point.

"Captain," he called out turning his chair slowly and carefully in the zero-gee environment of the ship to look up and over at Prometheus' proud master Captain Michael Jankowski. Chaffin didn't really want to serve under the man; Jankowski was known to be something of a carrier minded opportunist, a loose cannon that couldn't always be trusted to follow his orders. But Alan was far to career minded to turn down the chance to serve on Earth Force's newest and most advanced cruiser. Enduring service under Jankowski for one or two years was a sure ticket to a command of his own, possibly even command of one of the new heavy battlecruisers Earth Force was developing to replace the aging Nova-class dreadnoughts.

"What is it, commander," Jankowski asked looking over at his new first officer, Chaffin hadn't been his first choice for the role – he'd so wanted to pinch John Sheridan off that old fool Sterns – but he was good enough. At least from what he'd seen of the younger mans performance so far.

"Sensors have detected a series of strange energy and spatial distortions a short distance inside the perimeter of the nebula," Chaffin reported. "They read almost like jump points opening inside the nebula, however they are far too brief in duration to be jump points as we understand them."

Jankowski raised an eyebrow. "Can you detect any vessels," he asked in curiosity.

Chaffin carefully checked the sensors again. Radiation from the stars forming deeper inside the massive nebula complex reduced the penetrating power of the sensors but he could see well enough to see approximately forty vessels of various sizes.

"I'm picking up approximately forty vessels of varying size inside the nebula, unknown configuration," he reported. "They appear to be holding position."

Jankowski frowned slightly in concern. A fleet of unknown ships appearing in the Eye so close to Jericho and the other new colonies on the edge of Earth Alliance territory was not good, especially if they were warships with hostile intentions. Forty vessels was a sizeable attack force that would cause major problems for everyone around here, with the possible exception of the Yolu, the mysterious Minbari and the even more enigmatic Vorlons. For a moment he wondered if the unknown ships were Dilgar – there had been rumours for the last twenty years that a fleet of Dilgar ships had fled their empire before Earth Force and various League forces drove the Dilgar all the way back to Omelos and confined them there, unknowingly to die when their home star went nova.

A shiver went down his spine at the thought that after twenty years the Dilgar could be back. He'd been a young lieutenant in the Dilgar War and to this day had the occasional nightmare about the horrors the cruel cat-like humanoids had unleashed upon the galaxy. Who knew how many ships could possibly have escaped the Dilgar Imperium prior to its defeat and ultimate destruction, and what horrifying new weapons they'd come up with in the intervening decades. The border colonies only had minimal defences – certainly defences that weren't strong enough to repel an attack by an enemy whose technology rivalled the Centauri's.

"Communications, contact the other ships. Tell them we are changing course," Jankowski ordered. "Navigation will you plot an intercept course into the nebula, bring us in off the bow of that fleet.

"Aye, sir," the lieutenant manning the navigation station reported before working with his colleagues elsewhere on the ship to plot the desired course.

"Sir are you sure this is wise," Chaffin felt compelled to ask. "We only have three warships and our orders…"

"This is a clear potential threat to Earth Alliance security commander," Jankowski replied. "We will investigate this first, the Minbari can wait they will still be there when we're done."

"Yes sir."

With quiet grace that almost belied there blocky, angular forms the small explorer division came around. The task force of two Hyperion-class heavy cruisers, one older model Nova-class dreadnought and a single exploration ship came about and glided in towards the nebula. Intent on in investigating just who it was who could be a potential threat to their vulnerable border colonies.

Combat Information Centre

Battlestar Galactica, A Few Moments Earlier

Admiral William Adama blinked away spots from in front of his eyes as with an audible humming sound Galactica's power systems came back to life and the main lights came on flooding the battlestars nerve centre with light. Moments ago when they'd jumped in almost every single system on the ship had shut down with the exception of life support and artificial gravity.

"Dradis contact," Gaeta abruptly called out as over the map table the dradis screens flickered briefly, washed with static then came on at full resolution. Five large angry red dots could be seen, bearing down on the cluster of green dots that marked the position of the fleet. "Massive Cylon fleet on an intercept course," Gaeta added with a clear note of alarm and fear in his voice.

The fear was understandable. Five Cylon basestars and their accompanying swarms of Raiders was a force not to be trifled with lightly. It was a force that was more than sufficient to destroy a single old battlestar and the ragtag fleet of civilian ships that she was protecting. Between the heavy capital missile batteries on the basestars and the missiles and kinetic energy weapons carried by the Raiders the Cylon battle group had enough firepower to blast the entire Colonial Remnant out of the stars in very short order. And there would be little or nothing that the Galactica could do to stop them; which left William Adama and the fleet with only one choice, the only choice they'd really had since the destruction of the Twelve Colonies by the Cylons three years before.

And that choice was to run.

"I want an emergency jump for the whole fleet," Will ordered.

"Sir, all fleet ships were powered down during the outage," Karl 'Helo' Agathon reported grimly from where he stood in the place normally occupied by Saul Tigh. "It will take at least twenty minutes for everyone to spool up their FTL drives."

"We just don't have twenty minutes," Will replied feeling a pronounced sense of dread settling on him like a smothering blanket. The Cylons had them this time; it didn't look like they were going to get out of this one. He faintly heard the sound of Gaeta calling the crew to action stations and ordering the launch of every available Viper.

At that moment Colonel Saul Tigh came running into CIC from wherever else he had been on the ship and looked up at the dradis display. His one remaining eye widened in horror at what he saw, the Cylon fleet was bearing down on them with the arrogant confidence of someone who knew that they had there enemies well and truly at their mercy. In moments they would be within range of the basestars missile batteries, and when that happened all hell would break loose. How the hell did they find us, he thought then inwardly shivered at the revelation that he, Tory, Tyrol and Anders had only just come to, the revelation that they were Cylons. Did we somehow cause this, he thought.

"Oh frak," he said softly looking at the horrifying spectacle of death moving towards them.

"Basestars launching Raiders," Gaeta reported as dozens then hundreds of small red dots appeared as each of the basestars began launching its full compliment of Raiders. "New dradis contact, single fighter to our stern."

"What," William said looking over at Gaeta in surprise even as the overhead speakers crackled to life with an incoming transmission.

"Galactica, Apollo," Lee Adama abruptly said. "I've got the bogey on my ten o'clock am moving to investigate."

"What the frak is he doing in a Viper," Saul asked.

"It doesn't matter now," Will replied, he didn't have to wonder why Lee was in a Viper though he was no longer an officer in the Colonial Fleet; Lee had heard the alert, read the tone of Gaeta's voice when he'd ordered alert status and jumped in what had been his Viper to help in the only way he could. He would have done the exact same thing in Lee's position. "We need every pilot we've got out there. Saul scramble every bird that we've got, everything that can fly, any pilot whose ever held a stick get them out there. Dee put Lee on speakers."

"Yes sir," Dee replied.

"Hello, Lee," a female voice said from the speakers, a voice no one had ever expected to hear again. A voice from the past, belonging to someone who was supposed to be dead. The voice was that of Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace.

"Kara," Lee replied sounding as shocked and disbelieving as everyone in CIC. "No this is crazy, I saw you… your fighter blew up."

"Afraid not, I've been to Earth, I know the way. And I'm going to take us there."

"Authenticate her ship ID," Will ordered a second before new contacts appeared on the dradis display.

"New contacts," Gaeta reported. "Four ships have just appeared on dradis, there heading this way on an intercept course. Configuration… configuration unknown."

"What," President Laura Roslin breathed before looking up at the dradis display with Adama and Tigh. Sure enough four yellow dots were approaching the fleet at slow speed. There appearance appeared to have caught the Cylons by surprise as well as the wall of red that had been advancing on the fleet came to a dead halt in space.

"Incoming transmission from the unknown ships," Dee called out.

"Put it on speakers," William ordered.

"Yes sir," Dee replied before carrying out the command. The overhead speakers crackled then a strange background humming sound, the transmission crackling with the power that was behind it, came from the speakers followed by a deep, masculine voice speaking words that rocked everyone in CIC to the core.

EAS Prometheus

A Few Moments Earlier

Captain Michael Jankowski frowned at the tactical display; he didn't like the looks of this situation one bit. The initial scans had resolved into two distinctly different groups of ships, one looking battered and tired headed by a single large ship that looked like it had been through hell. The other a pristine looking group of five large star shaped warships that were disgorging scimitar shaped fighter craft, towards a screening force of dart like fighters.

"It looks like we've stumbled into someone else's war," he said softly. "Mr Chaffin, what do our sensors make of those ships?"

"The first group of ships appear to be almost entirely unarmed ships sir," Chaffin reported as he studied the sensor readings. "And one large warship, the warship is armed with a large number of kinetic energy weapons; they look like some sort of rail or coil guns and a small number of nuclear missiles. No energy weapons of any known kind detected. Life signs… sir the life signs on all the first group of ships read as Human."

Jankowski's eyes widened slightly in astonishment and he turned his head to look at Chaffin. "Confirm that?" he ordered.

Chaffin rechecked the sensors though he had already done so twice, mostly to assure himself that he was not seeing things. "Confirmed sir," he reported. "Life signs are human; I read just over thirty-nine thousand separate signatures. Some of the ships seem to be in quite a bad way, there is an awful lot of stress on their spaceframes, engines and power systems. My guess is they've been travelling through space far longer than they were ever intended to… okay that's odd."

"This whole thing is odd, commander," Jankowski replied. "What have you found?"

"Sir there doesn't appear to be jump engines on any of the ships, not even on the warship."

Jankowski frowned. "Then how did they get all the way out here without jump engines," he asked. "There are no jump gates beyond this nebula, their signals would have long ago been picked up if their were."

"Unknown sir, sir the second group are targeting the first group. Sensors read multiple missile tubes opening."

"What can you tell me about the second group?"

"The second group of ships is substantially more advanced that the first group. All five warships are powered by some sort of nuclear fission reactors – though there pumping out far more energy than that kind of power source is normally capable of generating. They appear to have some sort of gravimetric engines. Armaments appear to be entirely missile based exact nature unknown. Sensors read only minimal armour for the size of the ships and there is a lot of empty space inside them, especially in the radial arms. My guess is their some kind of missile cruiser/heavy carrier hybrid. Life signs are confusing, the ships themselves appear to be giving off life form readings but they don't appear to be organic."

"Stranger and stranger," Jankowski said thoughtfully. "Either way we cannot let this happen, we can't just sit by and let whoever are on those ships slaughter largely unarmed people. Communications have you been able to identify their stellar comm. frequencies?"

"I'm afraid not sir," communications reported. "However I am picking up radio transmissions between the first group of ships, analysis shows there speaking a language that has not been spoken in thousands of years."

"And that is?"

"Ancient Greek," communications replied.

Jankowski blinked in surprise, these people whoever they were spoke a language that Humans hadn't spoken in thousands of years. It only added to the mystery of what is going on here. "Can you broadcast on the same frequency in the same language," he asked.

"I believe so; it might be a little rough."

"Then open a channel to both groups on as many frequencies as possible."

"Aye sir, channel open."

"Attention unknown vessels," Jankowski said. "This is Captain Michael Jankowski of the Earth Alliance starship Prometheus. You are engaging in hostile actions near Earth Alliance territory, on the authority of Earth Force Command you are hereby directed to cease your actions and stand down immediately. If you fail to comply with this order we will be forced to consider you hostile and will respond accordingly."

Combat Information Centre

Battlestar Galactica

Stunned silence reigned in the Galactica's command centre as the sound of Captain Jankowski's words faded, but only for a moment. Then an excited hubbub started as the command centre crew all began talking at once, after all this time, after all they'd been through in the last three years they had at last encountered ships of the Thirteenth Tribe. Ships that were demanding that both themselves and the Cylons – especially the Cylons – stand down.

"Everyone quiet," William ordered raising his voice slightly to be heard over the noise. Instantly silence descended upon the room as the dradis display changed, showing the Cylon basestars and some of their Raiders breaking off their approach and advancing towards the Earth ships.

"Admiral Cylon forces are changing direction," Gaeta reported. "There targeting the Earth Alliance ships."

"The Cylons are going to blow them right out of the sky," Tigh said softly, inwardly he was ashamed at the beings he now knew to be his own kind and what they were about to do. The Thirteenth Tribe were innocent in the conflict between the Twelve Colonies and the Cylons they shouldn't be drawn into there war.

"Dee open a channel to the Prometheus," Will ordered.

"Cylon baseships launching missiles, twenty, forty no a hundred and twenty missiles heading for the Earth ships," Gaeta reported a note of sorrow in his voice.

"Lords of Kobol protect them," Roslin said softly, though she knew very little about military tactics she knew that a hundred and twenty high explosive ship-to-ship missiles against a mere four ships was more than a touch of overkill.

EAS Prometheus

"Vampire, vampire, vampire, multiple missiles inbound," Commander Chaffin called out as the threat analysis screen of his station went crazy. "I count a hundred and twenty missiles targeted on us and the rest of the group. Sensors read some sort of high explosive warheads, exact composition unknown, unable to calculate blast yield."

"Interceptors fire," Jankowski ordered. "Launch Starfuries target incoming missiles. All forward guns target the closest hostile ship and open fire."

From gun arrays mounted along there gun metal grey hulls the Prometheus and her companion ships came alive, spewing out bolt after bolt of superheated plasma from their interceptors on specific trajectories, aiming at the massive storm of projectiles bearing down on them. Combing their fields of fire the Earth Force ships created a virtual storm of energy in space that blasted towards the missiles, searing through the dust and gasses of the nebula as they did so creating a brilliant lightshow as they did so.

Rapidly tracking interceptor bolts began slamming into missiles, punching them into haze balls of rapidly dispersing, disassociated ions. Missile after missile died, vanishing in momentary bursts of flame as the kiss of superheated plasma sent them to their doom, but the sheer volume of missiles fired by the Cylons worked against the interceptors.

Breaking through the storm of energy flak three missiles impacted the side of the Prometheus exploding on contact with the cruisers electronic defence web. Brilliant fireballs momentarily blossomed on the side of the Hyperion-class ship, before fading revealing no damage to the thick armour plating, the electromagnetic fields of the e-web having dispersed the heat and explosive force of the high explosive warhead over a larger area of the hull resulting in a minimal amount of damage.

Even as the Prometheus shuddered under the impact, her compliment of six Aurora-class Starfuries scrambled from her flight bay and her massive main armament opened up. The heavy plasma cannon just back from the cruisers prow on the dorsal side along with her port and starboard laser cannons fired a twin bolt of blue-white superheated plasma along with two slender red beams of pure energy shot away from the cruiser towards her enemy.

Moving far faster than the plasma bolts the lasers struck the closest basestar first, smashing into one of the massive ships lower radial arms with searing force. Cylon armour immediately began heating up as the concentrated beams of energy disrupted molecular bonds causing the bio-metallic alloy that the Cylons built their ships from to begin to melt. The lasers shut down revealing two glowing molten scars on the basestars where its outer armour belt had been partially penetrated. Then the blast from the heavy plasma cannon arrived, smashing into the same section of the radial arm, already compromised the outer armour layer had no chance against the blast of superheated material, the remaining armour vaporised allowing some of the plasma to punch through to claw at some structural supports and the secondary armour band over the inner hull before its fury was spent.

Even as the Cylon basestar rocked with the impact of the first assault, the lasers struck again, cutting right through the secondary armour band and into the organic material underneath. The living flesh of the organic computer systems threading through the basestar like a nervous system vaporised as the lasers began to cut there way through the radial arm, eating through flesh and bio-metallic bulkheads alike. Secondary explosions erupted as fuel cells and oxygen supply lines ruptured, sending a plume of gas fed flames into space as the lasers once again shut down, only for another heavy plasma round to streak into the gap blown in the hull and explode inside the ship, flooding dozens of sections on dozens of decks in the arm with matter so hot, so energetic that it was on the very threshold of energy conversion. Tertiary explosions spread along the radial arm as fuel, ammo and atmosphere ignited steadily tearing the arm apart. Structural integrity hopeless compromised and wracked with fires and explosions the damaged arm snapped off the basestar like a rotten tooth and continuing to break apart tumbled away into the clouds of the nebula trailing gas fed flames.

The main guns of the Prometheus spoke again, slamming more heavy plasma bolts and laser blasts into the better armoured core of the basestar. The Enola Gay the companion cruiser to the Prometheus joined in the onslaught; both Hyperion's peppering the basestar with heavy firepower the likes of which the basestar had never been designed to withstand, and which was steadily ripping it apart. In a testament to Cylon ship building the basestar weathered the storm for three long seconds before critical systems detonated and hull members collapsed and the ship came apart, disintegrating in a massive series of explosions that sent shrapnel from its destruction flying in all directions.

Combat Information Centre

Battlestar Galactica

A cheer went around the CIC as the crew observed the complete destruction of a Cylon basestar in mere moments by the Earth ships. To a soul everyone was enjoying watching the Cylons taking a pounding at Human hands for a change.

"Sir Cylon Raiders are completely breaking off their engagement with our Vipers," Gaeta reported keeping his eyes focused on his dradis display. "There advancing towards the Earth ships."

"Makes sense now that the Earth ships have shown how sharp there teeth are," Tigh said thoughtfully a second before radiological alarms went off.

"Cylon basestars launching more missiles, targeted at the Earth ships," Gaeta called out. "Conventional and nuclear warheads. Reading a hundred missiles, eighty conventional and twenty nuke."

"Helo instruct half our Vipers to pursue and engage the Cylon Raiders," Adama ordered. "Instruct the other half to form a defence perimeter around the fleet. Dee try and get me a comm. link with the Prometheus I need to speak with Captain Jankowski."

"Yes sir," Helo replied and picked up the phone on the side of the map table.

"Yes sir," Dee echoed a moment later.

"What are you planning, Bill," Saul asked his old friend softly.

"We can't jump yet, Saul. Our only choice is to stand and fight," Adama replied.

"There doesn't appear to be any other choice," Roslin agreed. "And we have to help the thirteenth tribe against the Cylons."

"Even though they seem to be quite good at pounding the Cylons without us," Saul said not at all unhappy at seeing Cylons dying. Though he now knew he was a Cylon himself he was first and foremost Colonel Saul Tigh of the Colonial Fleet, XO of the battlestar Galactica. That was who he chose to believe he was not some stinking Cylon skin job.

"We still have to help them, colonel," Roslin pointed out. "The Thirteenth Tribe has just been pulled into our war, if we want there help and there protection then we need to help them now."

"True, madam president. Very true."

The massive salvo of missiles from the remaining four Cylon basestars streaked through space towards the Earth warships at high speed, as if determined to reap revenge for the destruction of the fifth basestar and the temporary deaths of the hundreds of Cylons onboard. Raiders followed behind, preparing to volley their own shorter range missiles upon the Earth ships when they came into weapons range themselves.

Immediately the sensors on the Earth Force vessels detected the nukes imbedded amongst the salvo of conventional explosives. Automatic threat analysis systems cut in and redirected priority interceptor fire at the thermonuclear weapons. Once again Cylon missiles began dying, punched into balls of hazy disassociated ions by raw plasma. But the sheer volume of incoming missiles began to overwhelm the interceptors and as quick and accurate as the Earther point defence was they had no chance of shooting down all the missiles before they reached their targets.

A single surviving nuke slammed into the side of the Enola Gay and detonated enveloping the ship in the searing heat and energy of a fifty megaton thermonuclear explosion. Armour vaporised allowing the raging energy and hard radiation into the interior of the ship, vaporising crew and equipment in a millisecond of time, before flash heating the jelled deuterium tanks that fuelled the ships fusion reactors to the point of detonation.

The Enola Gay ruptured wide open and vanished in a brilliant fireball that merged with the flash of the nuclear blast, blinding sensors on all sides for several moments. When the fireball faded there was nothing left of the Enola Gay or the five hundred and fifty-six souls aboard her, beyond a dispersing cloud of dust and radioactive debris.

EAS Prometheus

For a few Captain Michael Jankowski stared at the expanding debris cloud that was all that remained of his companion cruiser in horrified disbelief. Then he got angry as he thought of all the people who had just died, the souls snuffed out in a blaze of nuclear fire. So that's how you want to play it then, well two can play that game you murdering bastards, he thought glaring at the four star shaped alien warships before toggling the communications switch on the arm of his chair.

"Bridge to firing control," he said. "I'm authorising the use of tactical nukes, load tubes one through four with ship to ship fusion missiles."

"Aye sir," firing control replied a moment before a series of explosions rocked the Prometheus as a dozen Cylon missiles exploded against her flanks simultaneously, overloading the e-web's dispersion capacity resulting in carbon scoring starting to appear at the points where the missiles had struck the ships six metre thick armoured hide.

"Multiple direct hits," Chaffin reported. "The e-web is down. Minor damage to the outer armour, interceptors are running hot, eighty percent capacity and dropping. We're going to get a lot more of those."

"Firing control to bridge, missile tubes one through four are ready to fire," firing control reported over the comm.

"Fire," Jankowski ordered.

A soft shudder ran through the Prometheus as powerful electromagnetic launch rails hurled four missiles into space from tubes located on her underside. Each missile was tipped with a ten megaton nuclear fusion warhead, the moment they cleared their tubes the missiles own engines activated adding to the inertia imparted by the launch so they shot away from the heavy cruiser towards the new enemy that was slowly pecking her apart. The salvo split apart into a two pronged attack as their seeker heads confirmed a target lock.

The Cylons immediately detected the nuclear warheads bearing down on them. In milliseconds the hybrids that were the central processing units of the basestars computed all possible impact vectors. Missiles with specialised warheads roared away from all four basestars even as another of their number shuddered in agony as a massive volley of eight twin heavy plasma bolts and six laser beams from the Nova dreadnought Persia ripped into and through one of its upper radial arms tearing it apart in a single massive salvo and sending destructive secondary and tertiary explosions rippling through the rest of the warship. The Persia's heavy twin plasma cannons fired again and again in the murderous, rapid, rain of firepower that had made the Nova-class dreadnought one of the most feared warships of any of the younger races, pounding the wounded basestar steadily tearing its hull apart. Overwhelmed by the Persia's fury the basestar disintegrated in a massive, fiery explosion.

As the glare of a second basestars explosive death faded the salvo of defensive missiles exploded scattering shaped shrapnel in dense clouds in the path of the fusion warheads launched by Prometheus. The smart seeker warheads of the Earth Force missiles immediately detected and registered the danger but it was too late. All four missiles impacted the shrapnel clouds and detonated into billowing plumes of plasma from the kinetic force imparted by the high speed impacts.

Jankowski scowled as he saw the destruction of their missiles on the tactical display. Shrapnel clouds, he thought with grudging respect for his adversaries, damned clever trick.

"Captain we're getting a hail from the warship protecting the first group of ships," communication's reported a moment before the ship rocked as half a dozen fighter launched missiles impacted on the starboard side despite the best efforts of the outnumbered Starfuries and overtaxed interceptor grid to stop them.

"Starboard interceptor banks three and four are out," Chaffin reported even as two more missiles detonated against their armour. Sparks shot out of an overtaxed power conduit at the back of the bridge. "Those last two hits have taken out our starboard laser cannon. Outer armour integrity at sixty-three percent, twenty percent power loss in starboard sections three, four and five on decks nine through twelve. We can't stay here much longer sir; the enemy are pecking us to pieces."

"I'm aware of that, commander," Jankowski replied waving a hand at the thin haze of smoke that was beginning to filter into the bridge, even as yet more missiles impacted jolting the ship with ever more violence. Powerful as his ship was he knew full well that the sheer volume of missile firepower being directed at them would be their doom if they stayed here much longer. "Communications put the contact on speakers."

"Aye sir."

The overhead speakers crackled then a powerful male voice spoke. "This is Admiral William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica to the Earth Alliance starship Prometheus, respond please," the voice said.

"Admiral Adama this is Captain Michael Jankowski," Jankowski replied as half a dozen hits in rapid succession rocked the ship, triggering more sparks from power conduits as the blasts against the hull sent shockwaves ringing through the vessel, rattling memory crystals and chips and causing power surges all over the cruiser. "We cannot stay here much longer," Jankowski continued. "What is the status of your ships? Can you escape?"

For a moment there was silence. "Negative," Adama answered. "The FTL drives on the bulk of our ships are still off line and we can't leave them here."

Jankowski thought quickly as more blasts rocked the Prometheus and a new alarm began to sound, an alarm that made his blood run cold as it was the alarm that all spacers dreaded. It was the alarm warning of a hull breach.

"Hull breach starboard section four deck five, internal bulkheads buckling in adjoining sections," Chaffin reported. "Dropping pressure doors."

"Navigation adjust our position to keep them off our starboard side. Commander, are our jump engines online," Jankowski asked. "And can we open a jump point in this nebula?"

"Yes sir we can," Chaffin said as manoeuvring jets fired altering the position of the Prometheus so her forward undamaged portside faced the Cylons, turrets rotated and continued firing plasma bolts at the fighters swarming between them at the warships. "Its not recommended but we can do it," Chaffin continued.

"Admiral Adama," Jankowski said into the comm. "We're going to move close in to your fleet and open up a jump point. We'll hold it open if you can instruct your ships to go through into hyperspace one ship at a time"

"What is hyperspace," Adama asked sounding honestly curious. Jankowski blinked in surprise. These people knew nothing about hyperspace? What else did they use to bypass the restrictions of Einsteinium space time and make space travel viable? It would be interesting to find out but that could wait until later. Right now they had to escape before they were destroyed; a fact that was reinforced by another series of violent shudders as more missiles exploded against the ships hull.

"It's complicated but the simple answer is hyperspace is another dimension where spatial distances are shorter than in normal space," Jankowski replied. "Its perfectly safe to travel through as long as your ships stay together and wait for us to join you, if you try to navigate there on your own you'll become hopelessly lost."

Combat Information Centre

Battlestar Galactica

William Adama frowned slightly at what he was told about this hyperspace, it sounded quite dangerous and he wasn't sure if he wanted to risk taking the fleet into it. When he thought about it he released he didn't really have a lot of choice but to trust this Captain Jankowski, after all the man was fighting to save them and taking a hell of a pounding in the process.

"We don't have a choice but to trust them," Roslin said softly seeing how the admiral was torn.

"The president's right, Bill," Saul Tigh added. "The Earth ships are being steadily swamped with Raiders and missiles, they'll be destroyed soon and then we'll be next. Though the Earth ships have destroyed two of the basestars and some of the Raiders there's still to many Cylons out there for us to defeat. We have to trust this Captain Jankowski, our only other option is to stay and be destroyed."

William sighed and nodded agreement before speaking into the microphone. "Alright captain we'll do as you suggest," he said.

"Excellent," Jankowski answered, his voice punctuated by what sounded like an explosion in his command centre. "We'll approach your fleet now and open up the jump point. We can only hold it open for a finite amount of time so your ships will have to go through as quickly as possible and stick close together on the other side."

"Understood," William answered before putting the microphone down and glancing up at the dradis display and seeing the large blue allied dots that represented the Earth ships changing position and coming towards the mass of green dots of various sizes that represented the fleet.

"Dee inform the fleet to get into a single line formation," he ordered. "Advice all Vipers to screen them, and tell Apollo to keep a close eye on Starbuck until we can authenticate her ID. Navigation move us to the back of the line, we'll cover the withdrawal."

"Yes sir," came the replies from the various stations.

The two remaining Earth warships and the exploration ship, Magellan, that had been hanging back, using its limited defences to swat any Cylon Raider or missile that came to close to it, came around and headed for the Colonial Remnant, aft cannons opening up, unleashing fresh plasma salvos that blasted Raider after Raider from the heavens and occasionally managed to reach and strike the basestars, inflicting punishing damage to the Cylon capital ships. The handful of surviving Starfuries also flipped over and added fire from their weapons to the onslaught while continuing to retreat.

Ahead of them the Colonial Remnant awkwardly arranged itself into a line of ships, screened by Galactica's Vipers. The battlestar for her part moved to the back of the line and turned so her powerful dorsal gun batteries were trained on the Cylons.

Slowly the range wound down and then the Prometheus, Magellan and Persia were passing over the battlestar, continuing to fire on the Cylons with their aft batteries raining streams of plasmatic destruction on their enemies. For the first time since the battle had begun the Galactica opened up, filling space with a lethal hail of projectiles that ripped into the pursuing swarm of Raiders like a swarm of locusts into a corn field. It did about the same amount of damage as the scimitar shaped Raiders shattered and exploded under the hail of kinetic death.

The rest of the Raiders veered away to the flanks, hoping to outflank the battlestar and hit the vulnerable civilian ships she was protecting. While out of the Galactica's gun range the staggering but still largely functional and thus dangerous, Cylon basestars began launching additional volleys of missiles all of them focused on the Colonial fleet. Though this battle had been costly to them the Cylons – with the determination that only machines were really capable of – were still determined to wipe out there enemy before they could escape.

Lee's Viper

Lee Adama grinned as he pulled the trigger on his stick and sent a salvo of railgun rounds tearing through a Cylon Raider. The machines right wing snapped off and for a second the Raider drifted – spewing blood from its organic components, then its fuel and oxygen store detonated turning it into a brief lived fireball.

Part of him was glad to be back here in the cockpit of a Viper, it felt like this was where he belonged. Especially now that Kara Thrace had apparently returned from the dead, an event that sent shivers down his spine. It brought back the memory of what Major Kendra Shaw had tried to tell him before the Guardian basestar was destroyed, that Kara was somehow dangerous. Delighted as he was to see Starbuck alive again he would be sure to keep a close eye on her, as he couldn't discount the possibility that she was and always had been one of the final five humanoid Cylons that Athena had warned them about in the past. As hard as that possibility was to stomach.

Looking around he spotted Kara blowing another Raider out of the heavens, one that had been angling to lob missiles into the side of Colonial One, an action that would have wiped out most of the Remnant's government with the exception of President Roslin. Two more Raiders angled towards Kara intent on blowing her out of the sky. He started to open his mouth to issue a warning when both Raiders exploded as blue-white bolts of energy from one of the Earth ships bizarre X-shaped fighters tore into them.

"Whoever that was, thanks," Starbuck said over the radio.

"Anything for a fellow stick jockey," an unfamiliar voice with an accent that sounded like a combination of Gemonese and Caprican replied.

Lee smiled slightly and was about to add in a comment about Starbuck having a new admirer when something happened that took his breath away. Ahead of the fleet a glowing orange vortex burst into existence, it was strangely beautiful to look at, a swirling whirlpool of energy that seemed to lead into infinity.

For a moment nothing happened then the smallest of the three Earth ships entered the rift and seemed to vanish in the shimmering energy field. Resolutely leading the way Colonial One followed and also seemed to disappear as it passed through the glowing centre of the vortex. One by one the other ships began to follow, with the Earth ships standing sentry, occasionally picking off a Raider with a bolt from their formidable weapons, weapons that appeared to Lee to be some kind of coherent energy or plasma blast – a weapons technology that Colonial science had long thought impossible but which obviously wasn't anymore. Glancing back at the Galactica Lee scowled when he saw half a dozen missiles explode along the old battlestars back, even as she slowly came around to follow. Come on dad, Lee thought as the badly battered and battle scarred warship came around and started to head for the vortex herself, her few aft facing guns pounding out heavy flak to keep the Cylons off her tail.

Abruptly Lee's helmet radio crackled with an all channels broadcast. "All Vipers, Galactica begin proceeding into the vortex," Dee's voice said.

"Rodger that," Lee replied as the Vipers began following the civilian ships into the vortex, though strangely Kara's Viper just sat in space. "Starbuck, Apollo what are you doing? Follow the fleet into the vortex."

"This is wrong we can't do this," Kara answered. "We're going wrong I know it, this isn't the way were supposed to go."

"Save it for later, Starbuck," Lee replied. "Just get in formation, or do you want to stay here and be blown to a zillion pieces by the Cylons?"

"This is wrong, Lee we can't do this," Kara insisted sounding almost hysterical.

"Kara go through the vortex," Lee repeated allowing a note of irritation to creep into his voice.

"No we can't we have to…"

"NOW, KARA," Lee shouted angrily. "Or so help me I'll shoot you myself."

"Get in line, Apollo," Sam Anders answered as his Viper appeared beside Kara's.

"Sam," the surprise in Starbuck's voice would have been comical if the situation had not been so serious. "What the frak are you doing in a Viper?"

"It's a long story, Kara," Sam answered. "I'll tell you later, that is if you're coming."

"Alright, alright I'm coming," Kara said. "But I still don't like this."

"No one's asking you to now get going," Lee snapped.

"Okay, okay keep your shirt on, Apollo."

Despite himself Lee grinned. That was Starbuck through and through; true to her word her Viper got moving and vanished into the vortex following the last of the civilian ships. Lee took a deep breath before guiding his Viper towards the glowing orange funnel and heading inside. As he crossed the threshold there was a momentary sensation of falling then suddenly he was in a space that was very different.

Instead of the shifting clouds of gas and dust of the Ionian nebula this place was a dark red and black vista that seemed to go on forever. The red and black areas seemed to waver, shimmer and shift location constantly making it impossible to lock onto anything long enough to get his bearings. It was disorientating and it was all he could do not to throw up into the helmet of his flight suite. To prevent that he locked his eyes on the closest civilian ship, making it his anchor.

"Is everyone alright," he asked over the squadron command frequency.

"Yeah but this place is really weird," Hotdog replied. "I feel like I want to be sick."

"Focus on the civilian ships, make them your anchor," Lee instructed. "That should help."

"Copy that, Apollo."

Glancing down at his dradis display Lee saw the alligator-like form of the Galactica appear behind the fleet. Followed moments later by the other two Earth warships the fuzzy mass of the energy vortex evaporating seconds after they cleared it. Well looks like we're committed now, but to what, he thought a moment before his radio crackled with a private channel.

"Lee?" his father's voice said.

"Yes, dad?" Lee asked repressing the instinct to respond with a 'yes sir' as his father wasn't his superior officer anymore.

"Bring 'Starbuck' aboard," William answered. "Take her straight to the infirmary so Cottle can examine her."

"Do you think she could be a Cylon?"

"I don't want to believe it son but we have to consider that possibility."

"It's occurred to me as well. I'll make sure she goes straight to the infirmary."

"Good. We will meet you there." The communications link closed down with a hiss of static. Lee sighed before switching back to the squadron's frequency.

"Starbuck we've got orders to report back to the Galactica," he said.

"Lead on then, Apollo," Kara replied sounding like she had expected the summons to come sooner or later.

Lee didn't answer her further; instead he turned his Viper around and headed for the Galactica's port flight pod. Starbuck matched the manoeuvre and side by side the two Vipers headed into land.

EAS Prometheus

Captain Michael Jankowski relaxed once they were in the relative safety of hyperspace. The battle was over, but he suspected it was the first of many to follow. Something told him that whoever it was on the star shaped warships would come looking for Earth and start a new war. A war that Earth Force was more than ready for as their fleet was even larger and stronger now than it had been when they had fought and defeated the Dilgar twenty years ago.

"Set course back to Jericho base," he ordered. "Are all the Colonial ships with us?"

"Yes sir," Chaffin confirmed.

"Good. Communications tell the Colonials to follow us and to stay in as close a formation as possible, after what we've gone through to get them here I don't want to loose anyone to the hyperspace tides."

"Aye sir."

"Then establish a Gold Channel connection to Earth Force Command, I need to speak with General Lefcourt. He needs to know we may have just started a war."

"Aye sir."

"We've saved thirty nine thousand lives sir," Chaffin pointed out. "Whether we've started a war or not we're heroes for saving so many from certain death."

"Yes so why don't I feel like one," Jankowski asked softly thinking about the Enola Gay and all the people who had died with her. People whose lives he as fleet commander had been ultimately responsible for. The fact that they had died for a noble cause and wouldn't have felt any pain as their existence was snuffed out in milliseconds of nuclear fire offered him no comfort.

Chaffin didn't answer, their was no answer he could give. So instead he turned back to his station and got back to the never ending tide of work that first officers on warships had to deal with.

Cylon Basestar

Ionian Nebula, That Same Time

Silence reigned in the smoke filled haze of the command centre of the Cylon basestar that had been the command ship for the fleet intended to wipe out the Colonial Remnant once and for all. The gathered humanoid Cylons had just watched their erstwhile quarry flee into a strange energy distortion unlike anything they had ever encountered before, a distortion generated by the powerful Earth warship that had called itself the Prometheus.

"Well it seems that things have now changed for us," Cavil said breaking the silence at last. "And it appears I owe you sixes an apology the Thirteenth Tribe is real after all."

"Apology accepted," a auburn haired Six who referred to herself as Natalie replied. "Though we take no pleasure in being right. It appears that the Thirteenth Colony is considerably more advanced than the other twelve were. Defeating them will be a challenge."

"Yet the Earth ships at first glance appeared to be very primitive, aside from a very high power reading," Aaron Doral pointed out. "Our scans revealed no artificial gravity system that we could detect and ion engines that are nearly eighty years out of date by Colonial standards."

"Yet their weapons are far more advanced than has ever been thought possible," Leoben added looking deeply concerned and a little confused by the apparent contradiction. "Sensor records confirm our ships were hit by lasers and some kind of powerful focused plasma energy bolt, types of weapons that our bio-metallic armour is not designed to withstand, as evidenced by all the damage we've sustained and the destruction of two of our baseships."

For a moment there was silence in the room, all the assembled models lost in their own thoughts. This battle had been very costly to them for very little reward. The destruction of one Earth warship for two basestars and dozens of Raiders was not a good exchange, even though the lives of the Cylons and the limited sentience of the Raiders was not lost for good as they were within range of a Resurrection Ship. What if promised for the future was also not particularly good, especially if the Thirteenth Tribe was as powerful as their warships appeared to be.

"So what do we do now," Simon asked.

"We must continue in our search for Earth," Cavil said. "The Human race must be eliminated if we are to flourish."

"The destruction of two basestars for one Earth ship tells me that objective is going to be more difficult than we ever imagined," Natalie answered. "But God is testing us, testing our faith in him. We cannot turn away from this, the greatest test he has ever set for us."

"We agree," Cavil replied and he did agree but for different reasons than Natalie. The sixes like the threes had long been deeply religious – a flew that there particular models seemed to have, a flaw that had already seen the threes boxed. The reason he was agreeing was more pragmatic, they had to destroy the Humans before the Humans destroyed the Cylons. The catastrophe of New Caprica had proven that the galaxy was not big enough for the two of them. For the survival of the Cylon race to be assured the Humans had to be eliminated and it was as simple as that.

"We do not really have a choice," the number eight once known as Boomer added. "If we do nothing then we will still eventually end up dealing with the Earth Alliance as Admiral Adama and President Roslin rally them against us. Either we find and destroy them now, or they will destroy us later."

"What say the rest of you," Cavil asked.

For a moment there was silence as each model in the room polled all the others of their particular model on all three surviving baseships. At least those who were not already involved in critical repairs or assisting the Centurions and damage control units in fighting the fires that were burning in a number of sectors on all three ships.

"We agree," Leoben said at last. One by one the others all nodded their agreement.

"Then it is decided," Cavil said. "We find this Earth Alliance and destroy it."

"By your command," the others replied in the a-typical Cylon response to a decision being made. A decision that though they didn't know it yet would have profound and long lasting implications for the future of both Humans and Cylons.