EPILOGUE:

THE KATASI NEBULA:

Storms were raging inside the bed of protostars, continuous, seemingly eternal radiation-energy storms that would last for the next million years.  The protostars, actually immature stars, would then be flung out into the dark void to meet their own fates.  Some would develop planets that they would claim as their own.  Some of the more massive ones would simply blow up and their remains would feed new, hungry newborns.  And some would simply die before they developed their full potentials.

          One of the best things- or worse depending on what side you were on at any given moment- was that detection by the enemy, both visual and with sensor enhanced equipment, was limited.  Because of the variable gravities, a result of hundreds of proto and newborn stars, the solar winds, dust from a million sources, heat and radiation storms; the game of cat-and-mouse took on a very dangerous tone.  In such conditions, shields both navigational and defensives were useless. Cylon sensor buoys had an operations rating of less than a two hundred kilometers and many times the false positives far exceeded the detection of actual targets.  To compensate for this hundreds of thousands of buoys had been sequestered in the Katasi nebula, because here was the weakest defensive point of entry to the Katasi star system.

          And the Katasi nebula was home for the time being to two starships, one Federation and one Colonial stealth vessel, preparing the way.

          The first was the Federation Starship Khe Sahn, a modified Excelsior-class vessel, mother ship and companion to a smaller accompanying craft.  The smaller vessel was the Colonial Adder Taura named for one of the twelve colonies.  It was a destroyer, designed for speed, stealth and surveillance.  Together they had been observing the Cylon Star Command for the last month, playing hide and seek with the ever-increasing numbers of Cylon warships patrolling inside the nebula.  This was something that Captain Pat Duvalier excelled at.  She had been in special Ops for years before she became a starship Captain although her first command had almost wound up a being her last.  During the Dominion war, she had been infected with a Ciona parasite, much like the ones that infiltrated Starfleet Command so long ago. Fortunately it was extracted in time to save the ship and her crew, but the price had been high.  She never remembered what had happened, but dreams haunted her sometimes, and it took years to relieve herself of the guilt.  But that was over now and she was here on her ship avoiding Cylon Hunter-killers and the new larger Cylon destroyers, gathering information on the weapons system that had subspace-microwave the Imperial world of Romulus into an un-recognized mass.

The Cylons, who knew that the Khe Sahn was inside the nebula, actively hunted her with a flotilla of warships.  Twice they had caught her and twice the Khe Sahn had escaped, licking her wounds and coming back to torment the robots.  The overall size of the nebula itself helped protect the ship from its attackers and the intense radiation and energy storm helped also, reducing sensor images to a mere two hundred kilometers distance on a good day.

          Staying inside the nebula made the ship a perfect target.  That was its purpose, allowing the second ship to travel within the nebula relatively unmolested.

          The Taura was a heavily armored observatory, gathering information on the strengths and movements of the Cylon Imperium centered around what was left of Katasi four. The aliens had strip-mined the entire planet now, leaving a reduced hulk in their wake.  The information they had was funneled to the Khe Sahn who in turn passed the info to a needful Starfleet.  So far the Cylons in their obsession to find and destroy the Federation ship, were unaware of the smaller stealth ship of their traditional enemies.  However that hadn't kept the vessel from almost being obliterated a short time earlier when the Cylon super-weapon had been fired.

          The Taura was fifteen kilometers from direct contact and still her outer armor had been almost completely stripped.  Captain Greenbean still shuddered at the thought of being any closer to that death ray.  Of course with all the interference that the beam had generated they were able to observe on the actual weapons platform with a high degree of stealth.  After that they had been spotted and almost destroyed during the chase that followed.  The sight of the entire complex shocked his entire crew into silence.  After that they had been spotted and almost destroyed during the chase that followed.

          The weapons platform itself, orbiting a dead world, was a twisted wreck.  It had been constructed with the hardest materials known to both Colonial and Federation sciences but still the tremendous energies that had spewed from it had half destroyed it.  Subspace and normal radiations levels were so high after the blast that Captain Greenbean was glad that they couldn't get any closer.  The planet itself had suffered earthquakes large enough so that the tears could be clearly seen from space.  The once viable, life sustaining planet was now a stripped, barren wasteland. The Cylons didn't really need the planet as an anchoring device but it had been an effective terrorist ploy-that was the point of the exercise.  With the things happening here, the destruction of the Romulan home worlds and the overt threat of the Borg and their apparent alliance with the Cylons, civilizations anywhere near this area were panicking.  The Cardassians had made it clear that they would soon get involved as Cylon raids had occurred on their shipping lanes as well.  Even the Alpha quadrant representatives of the Dominion had sent diplomatic tendrils with intentions of improving relations to include increased security.  And from everything he'd heard about them, that was a bad sign.

Captain's log: Greenbean reporting:

The war has taken on even an uglier turn that I believed possible.  We have had reports that the Romulan Empire has fallen to the Cylons.  The reports have been few and far between as the interference of the nebula limits the efficiency of our communications. But what we have heard is enough to make us re-double our efforts.  Still, I am glad we are not alone out here.

          The Khe Sahn is still functioning and we make contact with her as we can. Neither of us have shields as the energies surrounding us makes them effectively useless.  But the good thing is that the Cylons have no shielding either, just layer upon layer of armor. So far with the excellent help of my scanner's mate Hazin and his assistant, we have avoided direct contact with Cylon patrols and the multiple sensor units they have placed within the nebula.  But it is getting harder now. They must know that a response by our people is imminent and they are preparing accordingly.  Scans indicate that they are preparing their super weapon again, recharging for a second firing.  The planet that they are using as a gravity anchor will break apart on the second firing of that we are sure. They are shunting incredible amounts of energy into the battery units still functional on the planet.  But we estimate that the accelerator will be ready for firing within a sectar.

          The Khe Sahn has been our shield and an excellent decoy but they have been attacked and hurt once by some new type of Cylon warship.  They managed to destroy it but at the cost of nearly thirty of their crew.  I feel for the Captain and her crew.  The life of one living being is worth more than the entire Cylon population and when the time comes I will personally be there to see them all burn.  I only hope that the forces gathering will be enough end this useless war forever.

The political complexities swirling around this part of the galaxy were enough to drive anyone crazy. Greenbean had simply been a Viper pilot, one among many, looking for Earth.

          Well, he got his wish he mused solemnly. Now he was Captain of a Destroyer surrounded by a bunch of kids, at least from his perspective, all looking at him to pull miracles out of his pocket in case they got caught.  The fifty officers and crew were a mixture of Colonial, Mariposian, and Ligon Two men and women who volunteered for this unbelievably dangerous mission.  He was proud of them all and his laid-back style of command seemed to work well for this particular mission.  The only thing he didn't like was that his son was with him.

          This was Hundroi's, or little Greenbean as his father liked to call him, first tour of duty.

Greenbean could have simply rejected him in favor of someone else, but his mind overcame his heart and he relented without Hundroi ever knowing about it.  This way he could keep an eye on his oldest child.  After all Joliet and so many others were in the service and it was just as dangerous to be on the sidelines as it was to be at the front.

          "Captain," Ensign Shanell announced quietly.  She was a former inhabitant of Ligon II whose family had migrated to Mariposa just before the Colonials had arrived. She was a dark-skinned, braided hair beauty with the ability to observe and analyze what she saw like nobody's business.  No one played pyramids or poker with her-ever-unless they had a desire to lose.  "We are within range. Shall I begin?"

         "Yes," he responded.  "Implement full stealth mode.  Maintain communications silence and passive sensors only."

As he listened to her melodic voice he understood why his son had a crush on her.

Unfortunately for him, she was involved with someone else.  But Hundroi kept trying and he had to give his son credit for having the ability to be shot down on a constant basis and getting back up again no matter what the odds were.

The lights dimmed and all nonessential power systems were turned off.  The spot picked for the observational run was particularly hazardous.  It was right next to a 'smart' mine field.  If the Taura were detected, the mines would alert one another and together chase the offender down at warp speed if necessary.  They were very complex and hard to manufacture so there were not that many, to which both crews were forever thankful.

"Lieutenant Hazin, status."

          "Passives are on and reflex scanners are functioning within established parameters," the scan officer answered.  Like almost half the crew he was of Mariposian extraction, the first of a new generation children whose mother was a clone of the original settlers of Mariposa and whose father was grown the old fashion way as they loved to say.  In any case, although young he also excelled at his job as the sensors and countermeasures specialist.  Greenbean had come to depend on him as the young man have gotten them out of several situations when Cylon H-K's had tried to run them down. Also his expertise save them from running into hidden mines and sensor traps. "We're showing blue light across the board. Activating-now."

With everything shut down, the Colonial ship was just one more piece of debris, another unimportant artifact in a space surrounded by artifacts that had a tendency to blow up, burn up, melt or try to vaporize something.  Passive scans or not, the Taura had no intention of scanning the structures directly.  The technique that had been used was called reflective observation.  The scanners were aimed at a specific point and the surrounding energies reflected the scans to their intended points of interests.  The scan's resolution wasn't as perfect as direct examination but it kept the Taura from being easily tracked and destroyed by Cylon countermeasures.

          "We're receiving imaging now," whispered Shanell. There was no need to whisper but it was a habit that was now hard to break. "We're getting non-specific radiation spikes, but I should be able to filter the interference out momentarily."

Greenbean responded with a quick nod. While the Ensign engaged her work, he was depending on Hazin to keep them from being caught. The Cylons were getting smarter all the time and not for the first time did he wonder how this all happened.

          "They really work fast don't they?" It was Shanell who made the grim comment.

          As for himself, he looked at the complex in awe.  It was clear they were preparing for a counter attack everybody knew would come.  There were normal and subspace minefields surrounding the factory and the military complex.  Twenty-five Basestars of various classes patrolled the area along with over a thousand smaller craft of various configurations moving around the big ships like nervous gnats.

          At this point, they were not his problem.  He and his people were simply there to obtain as much data as possible and live to tell about it.  The Romulans had finally shared the information they had-far too late, of course. They knew about the structure, being re-built, that had killed so many of their people but their natural paranoia had won out.

          And look at their prize.  Annihilation.  Just like his twelve worlds.  At night he dreamed about those planets, a million fires burning.  He dreamt of plagues, fire, storm and death.  Then in his dreams the twelve worlds turned in the visages of Mariposa, of Vulcan, of Earth.  He would awaken, sweating and crying, finding his wife cradling him in their bed comforting him as if he were a child. For those few moments, he was and he hated it.  The years between fact and past meant little for him and thousands of other Colonials because they were not yet safe. The terrornauts were still there trying to beat down the door, waiting to get in.

"How do Starbuck and Apollo do it?" he murmured oblivious to his crew watching him.

          "Captain, I believe that is our objective," Shanell whispered.

"Actually, one of several," The Captain replied squinting to see better even though the clarity was perfect. "They'll be ready to fire in less than a secton."

The subspace gateway cannon, as it was now being called, was surrounded by hundreds of smaller repair modules and worker-class Cylons working ceaselessly in open vacuum replacing melted components and generally repairing the damage resulting from the first firing. To Greenbean they looked like so many insectons scurrying about. But these things looked frightening in their efficiency. A voice on the comms pulled him out of his musings.

"Engineering here."

It was his son.  "Yes?"

          "We've been doing calculations down here," he began. "The good news is that the cannon can only be positioned in a limited arc for effective firing. The nebula and individual stars block most of the targets of interest. The bad news is that Vulcan lies right at the edge of the effective range and so does Mars in the Earth system.  Neither planet would be destroyed like Romulus may have been, but they would definitely be cooked.  We're talking an eighty-five percent kill rate."

          Lords of Kobol!  There will three billion people on Mars and about the same number on Vulcan.

          "Recheck your calculations."

          "Yes, sir.  We will."

          He did not mention that they had calculated this four times. Hundroi knew his father knew that he had confirmed the data several ties before calling.

          "Less than a secton." He hoped the allies would be ready. "We've done our bit. We leave now," the Captain said. "But we'll be back. I promise."

It was time to leave.

To the Cylon Empire, the Katasi system under the control of possessed precisely four things of value. The first was the subspace canon. The second was a staging point for the main attack and conquest of the Alpha quadrant. The third was the massive space docks and factory complex now completed and working at sixty-three point five percent capacity. And the fourth was the Katasi nebula itself, which acted as a protective wall shielding their front.  Of course, the wall worked both ways, but for now it served it's purpose.

          The factory complex was now completed and the energy fields protecting the moon-sized structures would make sure that nothing interfered with its operations and output.  Raw material was plentiful and now the twelve million worker drones were completing the transported transit ways that now ensured ease of movement between the four artificial constructs.  Already, the fleet that ravaged the Romulans was put on reserve, screening the Cylon star station from possible attack from the direction of the Neutral zone.  Not that they had to worry about the Romulans; their secondary fleet huddled in the far corners of what remained of their Empire.  Both home worlds were shattered.  The main fleet consisting of seven Basestars and accompanying support craft would be sufficient for a flanking force as needed.  And they would be needed.

Reports from everywhere all pointed to one fact. The Humans and their allies were planning a counter attack.  Where and when it would occur was disputable but all of the data suggested that it would be very soon.  Already there had been several skirmishes between Klingon and Cylon Hunter Killers and the newly designed heavy fighters called Obliterators.  Although designed like their Raider counterparts, these were five times larger than the H-K's and maintained a crew of fifty-two officers and crew.  Each had enough firepower to take on and destroy a New Orleans-class Federation ship.  There were only a few of them in production so far, not more than a hundred.  But eventually, they would be the backbone of the Cylon military as more and more worlds fell to their might.

          If the Imperium Supreme had any doubts whatsoever that there would be even more wars in this section of the galaxy, it was dissipated by this last meeting.  The Dominion representatives had made it perfectly clear that if their territory in the Alpha quadrant were violated once more there would be war-no more talks no more negotiations.  The Supreme leader of the Cylon people was not impressed with mere threats.  The Dominion's presence in the Alpha quadrant was not nearly as strong as it had been five yahrens past.  The Vorta spokesperson had spoken very eloquently about the repercussions of invading Dominion territory.  It explained as patiently as it could that there would be no invasion as long as all of their humanoid population was properly disposed of within a specified period of time.  That proposition was firmly rejected by the Vorta creature who stated that the humanoids were under the protection of their government.  Idly, it wondered if they knew that they were next on the long list of conquests.

For the first time to its processed memory, Lord Lucifer regretted killing Baltar.  It would have been most interesting to observe how he would have reacted to this latest victory. He was always assuming that the latest victory was the final one and Lucifer took careful note of that attitude because it had no intentions of repeating it.  That was one of his greatest failings and had put the Cylon Empire in jeopardy more than a few times. The Imperious Leader also missed the illogical, but fascinating conversations and the paranoia associated with it.  In the back of its processors, it felt that this entire approach was wrong.  Making enemies with everyone at one time usually served to make all those enemies forget their differences, and form temporary alliances to eliminate their common foe. Together the Federation, Colonials and Klingon confederation could be overcome. But what about the Dominion and the Gorn and the pitiful, but persistent Cardassians together would they not make a credible threat?

          The short answer was yes.  But the long-term goal of total domination would be pushed back yahrens if not ten's of yahrens.  On the other side of the processor, the destruction of Romulus and Remis had the desired effect.  Almost twenty worlds were in mass panic.  Three had broken away from the Federation, making separate deals with the Cylons.  Four worlds were undergoing mindless mass evacuations, but most have simply went neutral in order to avoid the coming conflagration.  Those worlds it heaped scorn upon.        

There was only one or zero.

          There was nothing in-between. Refugees were fleeing everywhere, further confusing the carefully prepared plans of the enemy.  That was for the best.  There were plans within plans unfolding.

          It faced the ten-story window composed of re-enforced transparent aluminum, its optical visors locked onto the gleaming black Basestar being fitted with the quantum slipstream propulsion engines.  The project had taken a little while to construct, especially considering the source of the drive unit itself.  The Imperium took some time analyzing and reconfiguring the device before committing it to their own usage.  The Borg were not to be trusted and everything had been inspected carefully.

          "How long?"

The golden hued IL series subordinate answered the question with the machine efficiency.

"Six weeks, Imperious Leader."

Six weeks it thought.  Six weeks before the great journey begins.  Once started, then it would not matter whether the fleets won or lost in the long run.  The Children would be in their grasps and with them would come contact with the Machine Consignment Intelligum.  What would be next?

          God-hood.

          The Imperious Leader, followed by its entourage moved and bowed deeply to its leader.

"By the command," it greeted.

          "Greetings Imperious Leader.  I am pleased to confirm that the beings of the Sheliak Corporate are indeed an offshoot of the Cylon race.  Much of their culture still corresponds to our own history reports before the organics on our world ceased to function. They have no objections to our presence here and we will not violate their territories as a sign of respect to our ancestral brethren."

          The Sheliak Corporate were a remnant of the original Cylons race that had fled the wars on their planet hundreds of yahrens before the cybernetic beings rebelled and slaughtered their masters.  How they wound up in the Alpha quadrant, no one was sure since the records were incomplete, lost in the passage of time.  But one common trait had remained between both species and that was their shared hatred of humanity. The Cylons of the Sheliak order considered humanity a threat and advocated war, however, the main body objected.  In the following civil war they escaped extermination by the Cylon warriors, immediate predecessors to the robots now trying to conquer the Alpha quadrant. Now hundreds of yahrens later, the Sheliak hatred of humanity had faded into simple contempt.  Now their attitude could be summed up as- 'don't bother me and we won't bother you-but stay out of our way'. The humans of the alpha quadrant never had a clue why the Sheliak held them with such disdain, other than that they considered humanity inferior.

"There are reports that the Khe Sahn is in the nebula. Why has it not been destroyed?"

          "The nebula presents difficulties," Imperious Leader intoned.  "However, I have personally sent a Basestar to hunt them down.  It is only a matter of time."

          "That may be of the essence.  Scans detected an anomaly at the edge of the nebula.  It was very likely a small ship gathering data. The Khe Sahn may be simply a ruse to lure us away from the true threat. T he border patrol has been made aware of the incursion and are taking the appropriate actions. Were you not aware of this?"

          High Lord Lucifer's data processors faltered for a moment.

          "I was aware my Lord," he lied.  "But I have been pre-occupied with the great journey and did not give due consideration to the reports."

          In truth, it had not had its internal comm net opened.  Keeping its processes to itself was becoming more and more common as it went over the details of this most audacious of plans.

          Furthermore, it did not trust the false IL called Iblis. The creature's motivation was suspect to say the least.

          "I acknowledge your failings in this matter," the Imperium Supreme responded offering the mild reproof.  Captain Patricia Duvalier of the Federation starship Khe Sahn now deserves our attention."

          There were only six weeks left before the beginning of evolution.  Baltar was correct: patience was not necessarily a virtue.

USS ENTERPRISE-E:

Captain Janeway watched with intense interest when she saw Commander Cain sniffed the air cautiously. She was about to ask the man what was wrong when Captain Kagth entered the conference room decked out in full regalia and the new Wildfire insignia plastered on the left side of his vest.

          "Captain Kagth, it's you," Cain laughed. "I thought I smelled you coming down the hall."

          "Cain, it is good you're an old man," Kagth retorted. "Otherwise I would be compelled to kill you."

          The Klingon smiled. Cain was older than he was but due to the transporter accident he looked like he was in his late thirties, early forties-the perfect image of a true command warrior.  The perfect human Kagth thought.  It was good that he was Colonial and not Federation otherwise he would be ruined by now.

          Janeway simply rolled her eyes. Those two were becoming the best of friends. What that meant for the universe only God knew.

Both men slapped each one on the other's shoulder and sat down.

          Picard waited patiently for everyone to be seated before he began. The doors close and were then sealed. Two guards stationed themselves in front of the doors to make sure they were not disturbed.

          "Captains," Picard started. "Starfleet Command and the Klingon Empire Joint Operations have designated the people in this room to be the spearhead of a first strike against the heart of the Cylon base located in the Katasi star system.  We have waited because we needed time to organize the ships and materials to be an effective force against the sheer power the Cylons will throw into this fight.  Our objective is to destroy the subspace weapon at any and all costs.  We cannot allow them to repeat the brutal assault that was done against the planet Romulus.  The Romulan Empire has been effectively neutralized and it is clear we are next on their list. The Enterprise-E and my battle group, along with the Fifth Klingon Attack fleet will wedge an opening allowing the Wildfire group to attack and destroy the weapon. Then elements of both governments will eliminate all opposition.  Our second objective is to damage or destroy the factory complex rendering it inoperative."

There was absolute silence in the room. The possibility for success was remote. The Cylon warships were gathered and they knew that an attack was imminent. They would be prepared and thousands of lives would be lost.

Janeway stood up.    "It's not as bad as the picture we've just painted, everyone. We understand our weaknesses. Yes, many of our Captains and command staff have graduated directly from the Dominion wars and are, shall we say a touch rash in their actions.  The same thing goes for the Klingons.  They're not fully seasoned but they are aggressive that's exactly what we need in this coming war. This isn't a fight for conquest but for our very survival.  There can be no negotiations with these robots and they have made their mandate quite clear.  We must be as resolved in our hearts as they are in their programming.  Plus, we will have a little surprise in store for them.  Also you know that extermination is not their end goal.  They want to capture and control the children of V'Ger and we cannot allow that to happen.  If they achieve that goal, everything that we've worked and died for will be tossed away.  They can't get those kids, which is why the Battlestar Galactica will not be in this conflict.  Neither will Voyager or the Klingon vessel Swift Hunter.  Their mission will be to find the children before the Cylons do. The working quantum slipstream drives will be installed on all three ships in about five weeks and together they will find the children.  We have the general directions provided by Q and will find them.  But to do that, we will have to go through the territory of the Yongi-Sinhidrea.  By the way they were described by Q, he's not happy that we're going there. Evidently the make our encounters with the Borg seem like a warm-up exercise."

          She shivered as she recalled the things Q had told her concerning these creatures.

          "Commander Sheba will be in charge of the Battlestar Pegasus which will also serve as the command center for the Wildfire strike," said Captain Picard. "Commander Cain will penetrate the Cylon command center and attempt to do as much damage as possible while we engage the enemy ships and the factory complex.

          "Excuse me, Captain Picard," Cain said. "I don't attempt things, I will do it."

The man was smarting from the un-intentioned insult.

          "I apologize, Commander," Picard responded rather coldly.

          There was only one way to deal with someone like Cain. Direct with no holds barred.  His personality was too willful.  He was like a young Kirk without the restraint. He touched a padd and the information appeared on the front screen.

          "These are the details…"

President Adama sat heavily in his chair onboard the Galactica while his wife rubbed his temples gently.  Again he thanked his God that he was wise enough to marry this woman.  She was his comfort in his old age and when the time finally came to rest, she would be there sharing everything with her.  Despite whatever came, he had her, and the knowledge that they would not go down without a fight.  When it came down to it, it was not much, but it gave him faith.

President's log yahren twenty-three, day seventeen, Adama reporting: I am frightened. I fear for my people. I fear for my brethren who have given so much to help us. The stakes are so much higher now. Never did I imagine that a war, a brutal one but a simple war nevertheless would come to this. But now there's a possibility that these Cylons might ascend to godhood. What will we do then?  I have no idea in what shape we will be, but I cannot believe that this is the end.  There is more in this universe that we can imagine.  Not the Q, not the ships of lights, not Count Iblis, can shake my faith in this.  For all those others who have died in this foolish, foolish war, I can only say that we will strive to make sure that you have not died in vain.

          So to my children, to my posterity I can say that freedom is precious and is not to be taken lightly. It is a horrible fact, but a true one nevertheless. The blood of heroes keeps us free.  And the blood of heroes keeps us in bondage.  Until we can lay down our arms in peace we will remain in bondage.  Until that time comes we will fight, not because we want to but because we have too.  It is a horrible solution to a horrible problem but it's the best solution we have for now.

          These memories are for the future to contemplate and argue over.  Whether we were right or wrong in our endeavor will be discussed in the future generations-if any. For me, it will not matter what conclusions are derived from this but I pray my people will have the opportunity to argue over the semantics.  We have united to destroy the Cylon menace before it destroys us and I pray with every bit of power that I possess that we will succeed.

          "President Adama," the intercom blared breaking him out of his contemplations. "Your presence is requested on the bridge."

It never ended.

He slowly got up, embraced his wife and moved towards the lift.

FIN-for now

The next arc will be in Nov. 2003

'THE SEARCH FOR V'GER'