Title: The Torches of Other Worlds

Rating: M

Genre: action/adventure/romance/angst

Warnings: mild language, sexual situations and/or brief violence in some chapters

Spoilers: None

Characters: Lee/Kara, BSG ensemble, others of author's invention

Disclaimers: Others own all BSG series characters both human and Cylon. I have just borrowed them. The author-created characters are mine.

Image Credit: Messier 43 Nebula courtesy of ESA/Hubble & NASA

Summary: AU sequel to Siren's Kiss. The Colonials deal with the discovery of the Cylon homeworld and move toward another confrontation as relationships are tested and traditional ideas of who is the enemy are challenged.

.

Chapter 1

Prisoners

The poet stands in the lecture hall and tells his tales in metered verse
Like his ancient ancestor, the troubadour, who spun his stories
Around the fires of a distant planet, nothing but a myth now.

There was a time, the poet says, when mankind lived in harmony with the gods.
There was a time on Kobol before man turned his eyes to the sky and dreamed,
A time of peace and unity before the tribes were sundered into twelve and one.

Then the gods gave to man the gifts of fire and love and immortal souls,
And man grew restless and looked to the stars and yearned for more.
The poet stands in the lecture hall and begins his story.

Over the velvet black and deep, the torches burn of other worlds,
And I tell to you a tale tonight of distant places and other times.

- Kataris, from A Poet's Dream, The Torches of Other Worlds

.

The Cylon Raider floated at the outer edge of the Prolmar Sector like a crescent pewter charm laid on a piece of midnight velvet. Inside Kara Thrace waited for her heart to stop pounding and her breathing to slow.

She glanced at Noel Allison, her unintended passenger, but was unable to see his face clearly in the dim green glow of the ship's instrument screens. Her visual monitor was dark except for the solar system's distant yellow sun and the ten planets which orbited it. One of them was her destination, the fourth planet, Nereid, the Cylon homeworld, the only planet in the Prolmar Sector that supported human life.

She nudged Narcho. "You're too quiet. Are you okay?"

"Dizzy," he mumbled.

"My dad said that happens sometimes after an FTL jump, especially a long one. Give it a minute. Your head should clear."

Ten seconds ago they were climbing toward twenty thousand feet over Caprica's ocean with Vipers in pursuit. Now they were thirty light years away. But the distance she had just jumped across was far more than a hundred eighty trillion miles. She had stolen the ship, a captured Raider that the government of Caprica had invested a million cubits in modifying for a human pilot and loading with equipment for reconnaissance. She knew the ship well. She had brought it to Nereid twice before on recon missions and both times she had returned to Caprica to report her findings to Admiral Adama. This time she would face a court-martial and prison when she returned…if she returned.

But returning to Caprica tonight had never been part of her plan.

At one time they had thought this distant planet might be Kobol. Now they knew that it was not. They knew that it was the planet where the Thirteenth Tribe had stopped after the exodus from Kobol…stopped and lived for twenty-five hundred years before vanishing, leaving behind a temple and a city and a number of other settlements that had long since fallen into ruin. The other Twelve Tribes had continued their journey to the next solar system and had founded the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Their history had been recorded from the beginning of the first settlements on Caprica and Gemenon until there were twelve separate colonies on twelve worlds. The fate of the Thirteenth Tribe, the only one that had worshipped one God, had passed first into legend and finally into myth. The stories that existed about them now were not history but rather cautionary tales about the consequences of turning away from the gods of their ancestors.

Sixty years earlier the second of two scientific expeditions to this distant sector of space had also vanished, their fate still a question mark in history. Kara now believed that they had made it to Nereid but that something had happened to their ship which had prevented them from returning to Libran. Kara also believed that descendants of the expedition's survivors were still on the planet, but she had no proof, nothing to support what Admiral Adama considered only a theory.

What they did have proof of, though, was that the planet's current occupants were Cylons, both centurions and humanoids, or skinjobs as some liked to call them. They had come here twenty-five years earlier when they had withdrawn from the long war they had waged with the Colonies. An armistice had been declared and the Cylons had disappeared.

Only a few top military and civilian leaders on Caprica had been told what Lee's and Kara's earlier missions had proven, that the Cylons had gone to the fourth planet in the Prolmar Sector and were creating a world of their own, constructing new buildings and manufacturing basestars. The planet of the lost Thirteenth Tribe had re-emerged as the Cylon homeworld. It was from this place that five years earlier the Cylons had launched their genocidal attack against the Twelve Colonies and had succeeded in destroying all but one.

Caprica alone had been spared and had spent the last five years under Cylon rule…until four months previously when an audacious and daring plan scripted in secret by Bill Adama had ended Cylon rule on Caprica.

Even though neither Kara nor Lee had been able to find positive proof of any human inhabitants on Nereid, Lee's earlier mission had gotten a few photographs of campfire smoke in the vast forest a hundred miles west of the ruined city. He had also found some newly-constructed buildings on a high, treeless plateau far east of the city. One of the buildings was surrounded by a wall and a fence topped with razor-wire. Admiral Adama had surmised that the complex housed more than just a prison. He and Kara's father had decided that it probably contained labs for the Cylon's genetic research and other experiments. They believed the labs were located next to the prison because the Cylons had used humans in their experiments...humans taken during the genocide.

But three recon missions had failed to get them any real proof of human existence on the planet. The admiral seemed to have ignored the fact that from the three missions they had a total of less than four minutes of footage taken over the prison. Neither she nor Lee would linger over an area where there were so many Cylons centurions. Kara could easily understand how they could have missed any humans. That is if there were any humans still there. That is if the Cylons hadn't killed them all already in their experiments.

Several weeks earlier on her last recon mission Kara had found at least fifty Colonial ships under the snow near the planet's north pole. The one that she had managed to partially uncover with the Raider's propulsion wash had been identified as a cargo vessel that had disappeared during the fighting five years earlier. But there was no evidence of humans anywhere, not even any bodies. Kara thought that the Cylons had taken the humans and the cargo from all the ships and had then flown them to a place where no human would be able to reach them. But to the admiral, this idea was also only a theory.

Without proof of human existence on the planet, Bill Adama refused to risk his battlestars and the lives of his pilots and Marines to mount a rescue mission. Laura Roslin, Kara's stepmother and the newly-inaugurated President of the Colonies, had agreed with the admiral. Kara had not. Lee agreed with Kara up to a point, but he had also been able to see his father's point of view. He had enough of his grandfather Joseph Adama in him to be able to argue convincingly for either side. Kara had found that when it came to military decisions, though, Lee usually agreed with his father.

Bill believed the safety of the millions of humans on Caprica outweighed the risk of taking even a few of his seventeen remaining battlestars to Nereid and fighting a possibly prolonged and costly battle to rescue humans that Kara hadn't even been able to prove were there. During questioning Sharon Agathon had told Lee that there were a lot of humans on the planet, but the admiral refused to take her word for it. He believed that Sharon was trying to keep the Colonials from destroying her homeworld and had told them the one thing she thought would stop them.

There was another reason that Kara was there in a stolen ship, however, a reason more important to her personally than all the humans on the planet. She believed that her father was on Nereid. Everyone else believed that John Gallagher had died four months earlier when he had flown a Raptor into the Cylon basestar over Caprica and set off a massive explosion that had resulted in its destruction. Kara had since come to believe that her father had set off the explosion by jumping the Raptor inside the basestar. She believed that the explosion had exaggerated the jump's end point and he had wound up far past a Raptor's normal jump capability.

She believed that he had made it all the way to Nereid. The brilliant astrophysicist who had worked on the Raider had confirmed that although extremely unlikely, it was at least possible. And the Oracle had given her hope. Yolanda Brenn's words, spoken on her deathbed, had given Kara hope that she would see her father again…alive, not just in the afterlife.

Kara believed that Lee would now do everything in his power to convince his father to mount a rescue mission. She believed that Lee loved her enough that he would do whatever it took. She had staked her life on her faith in Lee's ability to sway his father. Admiral Adama would either listen to his son or Kara would die in a rain of nukes along with everyone else on the planet, both human and Cylon.

Either way she was all right with the admiral's decision. She had followed her conscience and her beliefs, but in doing so, she had crossed a line and there was no turning back. She would accept the consequences no matter what. She just hated that she had inadvertently dragged a friend into it with her.

Because of Noel she was going to have to alter her plan. The Raider's four hours of oxygen was based on one occupant. What would have gotten her to dawn and enough light to see to put the Raider down on the planet near the forest was not enough for the two of them. They would never make it for four hours. She was going to have to set the Raider down somewhere soon, open the hatch, shut down the oxygen tanks and wait. That's the only way they'd make the three or more hours until dawn in the forest where she thought she would find the free humans. Finding them was her first step in finding her father. She had prayed every day that he was with them and was not a prisoner of the Cylons.

There was just one big problem. It was still night on Nereid's main continent, and she couldn't land the ship in the dark on unfamiliar terrain. She realized what a predicament she was in.

"Damn."

"What?" Narcho asked.

"We don't have enough oxygen for the two of us to make it until dawn. I've got to land somewhere so we can open the hatch for a couple of hours, and I can't do it in the dark."

"What about the other side of the planet where it's light now?"

"I don't have any jump coordinates for the other side of the planet and we'd use up all our oxygen getting there. According to the first Hyperion mission it's nothing but scattered islands and a few volcanoes."

"So what are we going to do?"

The stress of what she had done that night finally reached her voice. "Relax. I'll think of something."

"Better think fast."

She switched her dradis over to the long-range scanners and looked at Nereid. Three basestars hung in orbit over the planet just like they had on her two recon missions. At least there was no surprise there. She pulled up her map on the navigation computer's monitor and looked at Nereid's one main continent and the two much smaller ones.

"Okay, everything on the main continent is still dark, but off the coast to the northeast there's an island where it's already light. There's nothing there. It's mostly ice, but it looks like that's where we've got to go."

"Have you ever put this ship down on ice before?"

"I've never put any ship down on the ice before, but I don't have a choice. Everything else is still dark."

"I guess you put it on the ice, then."

Kara almost snickered. "I bet you wish you'd taken your chances with the MPs out at the boneyard."

"I'd be in handcuffs right now, probably on my way to the brig."

"That still might happen…only it won't be Colonial MPs or Colonial handcuffs."

An edge of disbelief crept into Narcho's voice. "You mean you went to the trouble to steal this ship and you don't have some kind of plan?"

"I've got a plan. Let me get the ship down and I'll explain it. I'll tell you everything. We're going to have to jump again, but it won't be as far. Are you still dizzy?"

"No, my head cleared just like you said."

Kevin Abinell, the young computer genius who had worked on the Raider for the last year and a half had given her dozens of jump coordinates over the main continent. All she had to do was key one of them into the nav computer and press a combination of keys. The Raider's sophisticated FTL drive would do the rest. She chose a set of coordinates as far to the east as she could find and keyed them in.

"We're jumping into the atmosphere over the prison. I just hope none of the skinjobs are looking at the sky and see the flash. That's one thing about an FTL jump. If you know what you're looking at, there's no mistaking it."

"Won't the Cylons pick up our Raider on their dradis anyway?"

"We're using a Cylon transponder. It got me and Lee through the other missions just fine. Hang on. Here we go."

They were instantly fifteen thousand feet in Nereid's atmosphere. Below them, somewhere in the dark, lay the edge of the high plateau where the Cylons had constructed their prison and lab. Kara wondered again if there were any human prisoners still there before she turned the Raider northeast and flew toward the dawn.

Lee Adama sat at his desk on the morning after Kara took the Raider. He was on his third cup of coffee and it wasn't quite 09:00. All he had done so far was power up his computer. At the moment he was staring at his screensaver, his mind on the events of the night before…starting with the midnight phone call from Kara and his frantic race to the boneyard to try to stop her. The MPs who were already there had detained him, and his father had arrived shortly afterward. Lee had borne the brunt of his father's fury. Bill Adama had a hard time believing that Lee had not known of Kara's plan, especially since she had been staying at his apartment more than she had been at Marble House with her stepmother.

After they had left the boneyard, he and his father had the heartbreaking task of telling Laura Roslin, the newly elected President of the Colonies, that her stepdaughter had stolen the recon Raider and had jumped to Nereid with no apparent plans to return. Bill had been kind and gentle with Laura. He hadn't even told her the worst part…Kara's irrational belief that her father was alive and on the planet, but Laura had still taken the news very hard. Nothing could change what Kara had done. Nothing could change the fact that Laura had lost her husband four months earlier and it now appeared that she might have lost her stepdaughter as well.

Afterward Lee had gone back to his apartment and for the next few hours, until time to take a shower and leave for work, he had lain awake in the dark, searching his memory for any clue that Kara was even thinking about stealing the Raider and taking it to Nereid.

He knew Kara disagreed with the admiral about his plan to destroy the planet in order to wipe out the Cylon homeworld. Kara had made no secret of her belief that the humans on the planet deserved to be rescued. She had argued openly with Adama on several occasions. But Kara's belief that her father was alive, much less that he was on Nereid, had come so totally out of left field that Lee was still trying to wrap his thoughts around it. During the fighting to rid Caprica of the Cylons, John had flown a Raptor into a Cylon basestar and set off a massive explosion that had destroyed the ship. Everyone had sadly accepted John's death as a consequence of his heroic act.

Lee knew Kara had a hard time accepting her father's death, but following the memorial service three weeks after the explosion of the basestar, she had seemed to reconcile herself to it. Now he knew she had never accepted it. Yolanda Brenn had told Kara something on her deathbed that had caused Kara to come to the conclusion that John had not only survived the massive explosion, but that he had also somehow jumped a Raptor thirty times the distance it was designed to jump and was now on the planet of Nereid.

Lee became aware that someone was standing in the doorway of his small office. He looked up and saw his commanding officer, Major Brandon Parker.

"Good morning, lieutenant."

"Good morning, sir," Lee said.

He knew his eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep and he had nicked his jaw while shaving that morning. He did not look like his usual polished and pulled together self. He didn't have to wait long to find out that Parker already knew what had happened.

"I hear you had a rough night."

"Yes, sir."

"Did you get any sleep?"

"No, sir."

"I gather that nobody saw this coming."

"No, sir."

"Your father is here with Dr. Rafferty and Mr. Abinell. They're in the conference room down the hall. We've been asked to join them."

Lee groaned. He didn't think he could relive what he had gone through with his father the night before.

"I know this is going to be difficult for you, but they're waiting for us," Parker said.

"I swear to you, sir, I didn't know Kara was going to do what she did. I would have found a way to stop her if I'd known."

"I believe you, Lee."

"I'm not sure my father does. For the last four months Kara and I have been…she's been staying at my apartment a lot of the time. My father thinks I should have known what she was going to do, or worse, thinks I knew about it and didn't try to stop her."

Parker smiled. "I've been married for fourteen years and my wife still surprises me from time to time. I'll admit not quite on this scale, but it's impossible to completely know another human being. I don't care how close you are. Don't start this meeting by taking a lot of blame on yourself. Now…come on. It might not be as bad as you think it's going to be."

Lee stood. He started to leave his cup of coffee on his desk and then changed his mind. He and Parker walked down the hall to the small conference room just outside Parker's office. The mood was as somber as Lee had known it would be. Parker followed him in and closed the door.

Lee nodded at Rick Rafferty and Kevin Abinell before he sat down and glanced at his father. Bill's eyes were also tired and bloodshot from lack of sleep.

The admiral addressed his first comment to his son. "Last night you said you believed Kara had planned this carefully. You were right. Kevin, tell us what she asked you."

Kevin looked sick. "Before her last mission we were talking and Kara asked me a couple of questions about security out at the boneyard at night. I didn't think anything about it at the time. I told her about the alarm system and the MPs patrolling. We even joked about her stealing Sadie. I never took her seriously." Lee could hear the anguish in Kevin's voice.

"It's okay, Kev," Rafferty said. "No one is blaming you for what happened. I let her watch me key in the door security and disarm the interior alarm. I never once thought she had an ulterior motive for her actions. I just thought she got there early like she said."

His words triggered a memory for Lee. "So that's why we had to be there at 05:00 the morning she flew her last mission…so she could watch you open up."

"It looks that way," Rafferty said. "But I think I played a bigger part in this plan of hers than unintentionally revealing the alarm codes to her. I'm probably more to blame than anyone."

"I'm not trying to place the blame on any of you," Bill said. "I'm the one who chose Kara to fly the missions to Nereid after Lee broke his leg. If anyone gets the blame, it's me. I just want to understand how she pulled this off and why."

Rafferty spoke again. "Kara asked me months ago about the possibility that Major Gallagher could have survived if he had jumped the Raptor inside of the basestar in order to set off the explosion. I did a few calculations, ran the scenario through some software I had written and told her that there was a slim chance."

His words were met by stunned silence.

"How slim?" Bill finally asked.

"Less than ten percent that the Raptor completed the jump. Less than five percent that it emerged in one piece. Even less chance that Major Gallagher survived. I'm not sure that I gave her the exact odds. I told her it was possible, but highly improbable. So much would have depended on the timing of the jump and the distance from the explosives. I told Kara several times that the Raptor probably disintegrated in the explosion. She seemed to accept my findings. She made it a point to say we were just talking theory. I had no idea she would put so much faith in something as highly unlikely as her father's Raptor making it to Nereid."

"But it could have happened," Bill said. "We're not talking about something that is outside the laws of physics are we?"

Rafferty looked almost as sick as Kevin. "No. Given what we currently know, it's possible. If the Raptor was near the Raider we had filled with explosives, the jump would certainly have set them off. I'm sure Major Gallagher knew that. And a massive explosion like that would have caused the end point of the jump to be significantly altered. Like I said, timing and distance would have been the key to whether the major and his ship completed the jump or were destroyed in the explosion."

Lee said, "I don't think it was just what you told her, Dr. Rafferty. The night that Yolanda Brenn died, she told Kara something that led Kara to believe John is alive. I didn't get to the hospital in time to hear what Brenn said, but I think that's what prompted Kara to talk to you." Lee glanced at his father. "I didn't know any of this until last night when it was too late to stop her. She called me just minutes before she took off in the Raider."

"Who's Yolanda Brenn?" Kevin asked.

"She was an Oracle," Lee answered. "She used to be a priest in Delphi. In the bombing five years ago, she was injured and lost her eyesight. Kara said that's when she began to see visions of the future or something like that. Kara claimed that everything Brenn had ever told her turned out to be true."

"Kara isn't the only one to get taken in by that so-called prophet," Bill said. "Laura put a lot of stock in her words, too."

There was an uneasy silence. Lee took a sip of his coffee and wondered how the rest of them felt about Oracles. He knew exactly how his father felt.

Bill finally looked up and addressed his next question to Rafferty. "How long until you could have one of the other captured Raiders ready to go to the planet? I'm not talking about all the bells and whistles that are on Sadie. Just get it ready for a human pilot?"

"Two months if we work around the clock. Retrofitting Colonial equipment into a Cylon ship is tricky to say the least. We worked on Sadie for nearly a year."

"Get started," Bill said. "I'll be out to see you in a couple of days. We'll talk specifics."

Rafferty nodded. "Yes, sir. Unless you need us for anything else, we'll leave. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

"One thing before you go. What happened last night stays under wraps. I'm going to ask Laura to have her staff defer all questions to me. I don't want anything leaking from anywhere else. Let me handle this one. Is that clear to everyone? "

They both nodded. "We understand," Rafferty said.

After Rafferty and Abinell were gone, Lee asked, "How do you plan to keep two missing Viper pilots quiet without a good explanation?"

"They're on a mission for me. That's what I've already told Lieutenant Allison's roommates." Bill smiled wryly. "I believe Lieutenant Thrace's roommate knows the truth, but I expect him to go along with our cover story. If you are asked by a member of the press or anyone else...and I expect you will be…I want you to say that you are not at liberty to discuss the mission."

"Dad, I'm sorry you've been put in this position," Lee said. "I'm really…"

"No," Bill rubbed his forehead, "Don't apologize, son. I was upset last night. I came down hard on you. I'm the one who picked Kara to fly those recon missions. She's such a damned good pilot that it's easy to forget how young she is."

"Still I should have seen…"

"No. Kara knew what she was doing. She obviously planned this carefully. And if she did that, then she would have kept her plans to herself. No one else saw it either."

Lee kept his head down staring at his coffee cup as his father continued.

"I knew a long time ago that she's something of a non-conformist. I knew well over a year ago that she thinks outside the box. She spent a couple of years surviving in a refugee camp. And the way she dealt with Cavil…using a slingshot and a big marble to knock him out. She's resourceful as well as young and idealistic. Add to that what she went through getting separated from John five years ago and what finally brought them together again. You were the one who told me what a hard time she was having dealing with losing her father, how she wouldn't even talk about it. I should have seen the warning signs. She wouldn't let this thing about the humans on Nereid go, either. She kept bringing it up…even at the inaugural dance when I asked her if she wanted to say something to me about her father. I thought she wanted to get it off her chest about me letting John take that Raptor up to the basestar. Instead she said something about Nereid, about feeling the same way he did about Nereid."

Major Parker said diplomatically, "I'm sure if all of us look back, we can see many points where we should have seen the warning signs of something and missed them."

"Or ignored them," Bill said wearily.

Lee said, "Maybe sometimes we see something and don't want to think…"

He didn't finish the sentence. He was remembering the way Kara had hugged and kissed her little brother two afternoons previously when they had left Marble House, how Braedon had seemed to sense something and had clung to her, crying when Maya took him. Kara had even hugged Maya, something Lee had never seen her do before. And she had insisted they go visit Dreilide Thrace even though it had been a long day and they were both tired. Now he realized that she was saying her goodbyes. Remembering the letter Kara had left him, Lee realized that she knew she might never see them again. She was prepared to die on Nereid with the other humans if that's how Admiral Adama dealt with the planet.

Parker spoke again. "Well, it's done. We have to accept it and move forward. Admiral Adama, is there anything we can do for you, sir?"

"About Nereid, no. I have a meeting with the President later today. I'm probably going to have a mission for Lee after that meeting."

"What kind of mission?" Lee asked.

"Ever since Tom Zarek found those survivors on Tauron near the tylium mines, the refugees from the other ten Colonies have wanted to know if there could have been anyone on their planets who survived. The Cylons, of course, refused to let us send a ship to check it out. Over two months ago Laura and Adar approved a mission to visit the other Colonies. Everything is almost ready. I'd like for you to be a part of that mission."

"You don't seriously think we'll find any survivors, do you?" Lee asked incredulously. "The Cylons nuked all of those planets. Even if people had managed to survive the initial bombings and the centurions, the radiation would have killed them by now. It's been over five years."

"That's the prevailing scientific opinion. It has been since day one, but the President wants to make it official. She wants to give those refugees from Picon and Arielon and Libran and all the other planets some closure. Laura understands their feelings. That's the humanitarian in her. She's going to make the announcement to the press later today."

Parker said, "I guess there's nothing worse than wondering if a loved one is still alive even when we know that hope is not logical."

Lee and his father shared a brief look and then Bill glanced away. Lee knew that he and his father were both thinking the same thing. They were both thinking of Kara and her illogical belief about John.

"Are you going to tell Laura that Kara believes John is alive and on Nereid?" Lee asked. "I know you didn't do it last night, but now that you've talked to Dr. Rafferty…"

"No!" Bill said decisively. "You heard Rick. The chances are less than ten percent that John's ship even made it out of the basestar. The area of space between here and the Prolmar Sector is vast and empty. If he did get thrown somewhere into it, I don't want Laura to suffer thinking he died slowly and alone. She's got enough on her as it is."

"John has survived against incredible odds before. He's a good pilot. He would have understood how to execute that jump."

"That doesn't mean he made it all the way to the planet. Do you not think I haven't thought about what happened to him? I think about it every day!" Bill said passionately. "John was my friend, too."

"I know," Lee said quietly.

Bill's voice changed and took on a gentler quality. "Do you think he's alive?"

Lee faltered. "No. As much as I want to believe…I don't see how…no. Still, shouldn't Laura be told there's a chance, however small?"

"I've made a decision on this, Lee. I don't have to make it an order, do I?"

Lee dropped his eyes. "No, sir."

Bill stood and Parker and Lee both stood. Bill said, "I've got to get back to my office and get my thoughts together for my meeting with Laura this afternoon. Then I guess I'd better go back to square one with my plan for Nereid."

After Bill was gone, Lee said to Parker, "Last night Laura told my father that she wanted him to plan a rescue mission of the humans on the planet. She said that she wouldn't look at her son one day and tell him that she could have done something to save his sister and did nothing."

"How do you feel about that?" Parker asked.

"It will cost us. A lot of us will die on that planet…or over it, but it's the right thing to do. Kara told me that she was putting her faith in me to change my father's mind. As it turns out, Laura made the decision. So I guess you could say that Kara's crazy plan worked."

"It hasn't worked yet," Parker said.

Lee swallowed hard. "Kara may never know if it does. If she gets caught by the Cylons…"

"I'd be more concerned about any free humans on the planet. If she lands near the forest in that Raider, they might shoot first and ask questions later."

"I hadn't thought about that."

"If a Raider landed here on Caprica and a human got out, my first thought would be that it was a new skinjob."

"I agree, sir," Lee said.

"Remember what happened on Kara's first recon mission. If she hadn't jumped away when she did…well, we both saw the footage. Something was down there."

"You're right. I just hope she has enough sense not to go back to those same coordinates."

"Kara's smart. I'm sure she has a plan. She managed to steal the Raider, didn't she? That took some planning."

"She started studying the information on John's laptop months ago. She'd sit at the kitchen table for hours sometimes. We.." Lee took a deep breath. "We fought over it at first. I thought she'd gotten obsessed. Then I decided it was just part of her grief process…her way of dealing with her father's death. Now I know she had started planning this insane mission of hers."

"It's always so much easier to recognize the signs when we're looking back."

Lee and Parker began walking down the hall toward the offices.

Lee said, "I really don't want to go on a mission to the other colonies. I know what we're going to find."

"I think the mission is a good idea. The admiral is right. The refugees from those planets need closure."

"He doesn't need me on that mission. He probably just wants to get me off Caprica for a while to try to get my mind off…what Kara did. Like that's going to make a difference."

"It's not such a bad idea, Lee. It will take Dr. Rafferty and his assistant two months to get another Raider ready to do recon. Longer than that before we go to the planet with any force. And things are slow for us right now. A mission off planet might be the best thing for you."

"I don't think it will take Dad too long to rethink his plan for Nereid. Maybe three or four months. We know where most of the Cylons are. We know where the basestar shipyard is. We know where their landing fields are. We could take those out with conventional missiles. If we jump in and destroy the three basestars first before they can launch their Raiders, then maybe we could do it without much loss. But I'm probably being too optimistic. We'd still have to take the prison complex. It's heavily guarded by centurions."

"You've got to have faith, Lee," Parker said. "Sometimes that's all that keeps us going."

"Kara is the one who has all the faith. She's the one who believes in the gods and the words of an Oracle. Sometimes I envy her that faith," Lee said softly.

"Then try to have faith in our human ability to survive and overcome adversity. If there's one thing that impresses me about Kara, it's that she's strong and resourceful and a survivor. She's a good soldier."

"She's like her father," Lee said.

The prisoner was more dead than alive now, and he knew that the next time the Cylons took him into that little gray room and tied him to that chair, the next time they beat him or almost drowned him in ice water or used the electrodes on him or any one of the other ways they'd found to cause him pain, or the next time they filled his veins with drugs would be the last.

He had made his peace with death a long time ago. He would welcome it now. His only regret was that he wouldn't be sitting in the cockpit of a Viper like he had been during the First War, guns blazing, taking as many of them with him as he could.

He should have died in the Raptor when he'd jumped it inside the basestar in a last-ditch attempt to set off the explosives packed into the Raider, or he should have died at the other end of the jump when he had reached his destination. But he hadn't. When his head had cleared, he'd expected to see Thyone, the larger of Caprica's two moons, the end point of the coordinates already programmed into the Raptor. Instead he was far out in space in what looked like the Prolmar Sector. Only it couldn't have been. A Raptor's jump capability was limited. It could barely jump one light year. A Raptor could not make thirty light years in one jump.

And yet it had. But it had not emerged at the other end of the jump undamaged.

His ship had no power and his cabin pressure had quickly vented through several gaping cracks in the ship's hull. The only thing that had kept him alive was his flight suit and helmet and an auxiliary oxygen tank. He had four hours of oxygen, but he knew he'd be dead before then from the cold. His suit would protect him for a while, but without power to heat the Raptor's cabin, the cold of space would eventually get to him and he would freeze to death...if he didn't run out of oxygen first. Freezing wasn't a terrible way to die. There were a lot of worse ways, but it wasn't near the top of his preferred list, either.

Now he wished that's the way it had happened, freezing to death inside the Raptor. Now he wished that the Cylon Heavy Raider had never come along, attached a magnetic tow and pulled his ship aboard a basestar. From there several centurions had dragged him from the damaged Raptor, shoved him into a Heavy Raider and taken him to the surface of the planet. He had been shackled before they'd landed and they had hustled him out of the ship and into the back of a windowless transport, but he'd seen enough to know that they were taking him to the prison in one of the sand-colored buildings on the arid high plateau.

He'd been there in a small, windowless cell ever since…except when they had taken him to the little gray room.

He didn't know how much time had passed. The light in his cell was never turned off. He had no way to judge day or night. He knew it had been several months. His hair had grown, but he had come out of a drugged stupor once to discover that someone had shaved his head and beard. They hadn't kept him shaved, though. He now had a good half-inch or more of stubble on his jaw and scalp.

He clutched the scratchy wool blanket around his naked body as a coughing spell racked him.

On the first day three big humans working for the Cylons had taken everything from him, his flight suit and undergarments, his dog tags and watch. They'd even taken his wedding ring, the ring that had not been off his finger since his wife had put it there on their wedding day two years earlier. It was the only thing he'd tried to stop them from taking. That had earned him the first beating. His refusal to give the Cylons anything more than his name and serial number had earned him the second.

He should have known a lot worse was coming. He was no stranger to pain, but the cocktail of drugs, administered by Number Four, the copy known on Caprica as Simon, had finally been too much and he had talked, not talked so much as babbled. He had rambled about his childhood on Virgon and flying a Viper off the Solaria as a young lieutenant. He had talked about destroying Raiders. He had talked about losing his parents and the foster home and running away and going to work on a fishing trawler when he was sixteen.

But he couldn't answer the question they kept asking him over and over. He couldn't tell them how he had gotten to the Prolmar Sector in a nearly-destroyed Raptor because he didn't know. He didn't think he had told them anything about Bill Adama's plan, but he wasn't sure. He wasn't sure of anything anymore.

For days after they drugged him, he lost touch with what was real and what wasn't. He no longer trusted his memory. He didn't know what he had said in that little gray room or what he had just imagined. They must not have gotten what they wanted from him, though, because they'd continued to question and torture him.

For most of his lucid moments he thought about his wife and his daughter and his son and how much he loved them. He thought often of his beautiful daughter Kara and prayed that she had survived the battle. He thought of his bright and happy son. He tried to imagine Braedon growing up, developing into a youth and then a handsome teenager. His son would have all the breaks that he had never gotten in life. His son would get an education at the best schools. His son would become a great explorer and would fulfill an Oracle's prophecy. One day his son would map the stars on the way to Earth.

He knew that eventually Kara and Lee would marry. He tried to imagine their children, his grandchildren. They were little blonds, like Kara had been as a child. He saw them playing on the sandy beach of the island. He saw his brown-haired son with them, a boy of nine or ten, watching over them as they all ran squealing with delight, the waves breaking around their feet.

He lived in his head most of the time now. His reality was more than he could endure.

He knew that everyone on Caprica had written him off as dead a long time ago. He didn't blame them. He was sure they all thought he had died in the explosion of the basestar. How could they think otherwise? He wondered how long his wife would mourn him. He wondered how long it would take Bill Adama to make a move on her. How long would Laura resist her first love, the man who had never stopped loving her?

He knew that the longer he survived, the greater the chances were that Bill would bring some of his battlestars to Nereid and destroy the planet. He thought of the irony of dying in the white heat of a nuclear explosion, maybe put into the heart of the prison by his daughter or his best friend. He was all right with that. They would have no way of knowing he was there, and he would welcome a quick death right now no matter how hot. The small cell was cold, but not cold enough to freeze him.

The Cylons had left him alone for several days now. If they didn't come soon, he knew that he might not make it until they came for him again. He was fairly certain that he had pneumonia. It was getting harder to breathe and for the last day or two, he had been sweating even though he had been shivering with the cold.

He'd stopped eating anything on the tray that was pushed through a slot at the bottom of the door twice a day. He was ready to die and go on to whatever reward or punishment was awaiting him in the afterlife.

He coughed up something vile-tasting and rolled over and spat on the concrete floor. He wished now that he'd frozen to death in space. Slowly suffocating as the pneumonia infiltrated his lungs was a hell of a lot worse.

The cell door opened, a woman this time, the one he'd known on Caprica as the reporter D'Anna Biers. The Cylons were nothing but numbers to him now, all of them, faces that came and went as they'd questioned and tortured him. She was Number Three. He didn't know if they were the same copies each time or different ones. It didn't really matter to him now.

She stepped over to the bunk and pulled the blanket off of him. Her eyes moved over his bruised and battered body. For just a moment he thought he saw a flicker of shame or pity in her eyes. He wanted neither from her, from any of them.

"I know you like looking at me," he rasped hoarsely through chattering teeth, "but you've got me at a disadvantage. It's really cold in here."

She threw the blanket back over him and looked at him blankly. "I don't understand what you mean, Major."

He coughed and spat on the floor near her feet. "Have one of your thugs explain it to you. They both got it."

She turned and said something to the two big humans behind her. Four hands roughly pulled him off the bunk. He didn't resist like he usually did. He no longer had the strength. It would be over soon and he would be dead.

But instead of dragging him down the hall to the little gray room, they put him on a stretcher. The Three covered him with a softer blanket. He saw the lights in the ceiling as they moved down the hall and into an elevator. He could tell they were going up. Then there was another long hall and they moved out into the sunlight. He winced at the brightness and shut his eyes. The glaring overhead light in his cell was never turned off, but it wasn't nearly as bright as Nereid's sun.

The warmth on his face felt good. He thought of the island again, and of holding both of his son's hands as he toddled on the sand. He saw Braedon looking up at him, saw his smile, heard him laugh as the water touched his feet.

The men carried the stretcher into another building, a warmer place that smelled of antiseptic, like a hospital or a lab. The images of the beach vanished. He remembered what Bill had told him about the ice planet and the horrors that had been visited on those helpless humans. He had an almost primal reaction. The Cylons were going to cut him up in one of their experiments. Alive. He tried to get up and managed to roll partway off the stretcher before the Three's hands pulled him back and held him down.

He struggled ineffectively, surprised at her strength, and gasped. "Gods damn it! Just kill me! Get it over with!"

Her blue eyes studied him. "For someone who has endured so much and struggled so hard to stay alive, why do you now want to die? I don't understand."

"I'd rather be dead before you chop me up like sushi."

"I thought you would be pleased to get out of your prison cell."

She motioned to the two men.

Their rough hands lifted him onto a bed. He was covered with a crisp, clean sheet. Another man leaned over him, human not Cylon, and gently put a stethoscope against his bruised chest. He was wearing a white jacket and moved the stethoscope around, listening for a long time.

"Kill me before you cut me up," he rasped to the man in the white jacket. "Please kill…" his words ended in a rattling, choking cough.

The man turned to the Three. "You expect me to save him? You should have brought him to me days ago. I'm a doctor. I treat the sick. I don't raise the dead."

Her throaty voice said. "God won't let him die. He's part of the prophecy. God will give him the strength to live and give you the wisdom to heal him."

The doctor leaned over him again and smiled faintly. He had kind eyes and a kind voice.

"Is she right? Are you going to live and make a liar out of me?"

"I used to tell a friend that I had more lives than a cat," he managed to say before another spasm of coughing shook him.

The doctor paused for John Gallagher to finish coughing. "Then perhaps you won't mind becoming her house pet."

TBC…

.

Author's Notes: Because this is a sequel, much of the "character building" occurred in the previous story. Some things in this story will not make sense without knowledge of the events that happened previously. For those who have not read Siren's Kiss, I recommend reading at least the last 7 chapters (beginning with chapter 73) of SK for the background needed to understand where this story begins. It picks up quite literally where SK ended.

To reiterate, this story is AU. The time line and events are very different from the television series and the characters are younger than their series counterparts, especially Laura Roslin and Bill Adama. All are similar in personality to those on the show and yet some have notable differences. As with SK this story deals with the conflict of humans and Cylons in a science fiction setting. It has action and adventure but at its core it is a love story on many levels, not only the love of man and woman, but the love of parent and child and the love between friends.

Siren's Kiss is told from the points of view of Kara, Lee and Laura. In this sequel I have picked up John Gallagher's point of view.

One additional fact: There are no "Final Five" in either SK or this sequel. The characters are included but they are humans, not Cylons. The "creators" of the modern centurions and the humanoids are also human beginning with Amanda and Daniel Graystone as depicted in the series Caprica.

So, with that background information out of the way please continue reading.