Port Flight Pod, Flight Deck

Battlestar Galactica

The flight deck was in a state of controlled pandemonium as the deck hands frantically moved with focused purpose to make the flight deck look as immaculate as possible. With the arrival of the dignitaries from Earth, Chief Tyrol wanted his bay to look as spotless as possible. So for the past 24 hours the knuckle draggers of the port flight pod had been spending as much time as they could cleaning the bay as if they were preparing it for inspection from a visiting admiral. It's likely the Earthers wouldn't notice the difference but that wasn't the point. One did not host dignitaries with a dirty flight deck.

No. Sir.

"So, has anyone seen them yet, what are they like?" Specialist Cally asked her two fellow deckhands working alongside her. The trio, Cally, Prosna and Socinus had become something of an inseparable trio when they had been first assigned to the Galactica. Having gone through basic training then viper mechanical school and finally their first space flight training-cruise on the Galactica, the trio of deckhands had learned to rely on one another. Unfortunately they had developed a bad reputation during that training flight with numerous practical jokes, one of which had turned very serious when one of the trio had tricked the ships fire alarm system into activating in the middle of the night. The officer of the deck for the night watch, also on her first cruise, had panicked and nearly ordered the entire flight pod vented in response. Thankfully a surprisingly sober Colonel Tigh had intervened and had dealt with the situation before it deteriorated any further. Later the three deckhand trainees were brought before the Commander still fully doused from head to toe fire retardant chemicals.

The three were punished for their reckless stunt with extra duty and letters of reprimand on their records. A serious black mark against them but thankfully hadn't been enough to cashier them from the Fleet. Such a black mark on their record could have affected their ability to find high quality employment in the civilian sector as service in the Fleet was looked on with a pride throughout most of the Colonies. Unfortunately upon completion of their training tour postings to prestigious assignments didn't happen. Word about their little stunt always seemed to reach the incoming commander who would promptly reject the assignment of what he or she saw they were getting a perceived trouble maker. So Commander Adama had taken the three crewmen back aboard the Galactica determined to give them a second chance.

Prosna looked up from his inventory checklist, "Nope, but word is Jammer got a good look at them when he went down with the detail to help set up the air field"

Cally and half a dozen other deckhands within earshot stopped what they were doing and turned to Jammer with interest.

The young deckhand stopped piling crates of spare parts on a cart when he noticed everyone looking at him. 'What?"

"Come on Jammer, so what did you see?" Cally pressed.

"I saw people." Jammer said dismissively before returning to work.

"Come on Jammer!"

Jammer sighed, "Okay, okay. I saw depressingly ordinary people. Happy now?"

The deckhands stopped what they were doing and gathered around Jammer. Clearly they were not going to let this go. Socinus walked up to his buddy and wrapped a friendly arm around his shoulders. "Buddy, pal…."Socinus gripped the shoulder hard. "Friends don't leave friends in the dark. You gotta do better than that!"

"They looked like soldiers, Socinus," Jammer responded. "A lot like our own."

Socinus removed his arm from around his buddy and crossed them over his chest. His face went from eager to almost sad. "So you mean they're not like the Earthers in the movie 'Ophiuchus Snake'?"

The collective team of deckhands groaned at that. A few even face-palmed.

"What?" Socinus asked? "It's a classic!"

"I preferred the 'Homecoming Saga' myself." Another deckhand named Tarn piped up. "I mean the first three anyway. The last two got very depressing."

"Which ones were those again?" Prosna asked.

"Homecoming: the Memory of Earth; Homecoming: the Call of Earth; Homecoming: the Ships of Earth." Tarn answered.

Jammer groaned, "I remember those. I didn't much like them. I'm not into all the touchy feely emo crap. Now,' Homecoming: Kobolfall' and 'Homecoming: Kobolborn'. Those were awesome!"

"Frakking depressing is what they are." Cally rolled her eyes. "I was kinda hoping for the 13th Secret, myself."

Everyone stopped to look at her.

"What?" Cally asked confused.

Prosna was smirking at her, "Cally, that's a kid's movie…from Aquaria."

"So!" Cally responded defiantly, "I liked it. So what if it's a kid's movie?"

"Nothing at all, Cally." Prosna smirked. "Even if 'Star Cluster Patrol' did it better."

Cally scoffed, "At least they didn't die like redshirts in 'Star Cluster Patrol'!"

Jammer snickered, "I'm just hoping no one shows them 'Cylons at the Lost Colony'. I'd seriously doubt they appreciate it all that much."

"Are you kidding? That movie has enough Colonial wank to vaporize a Battlestar. You show that to Earth, we'll be at war in a week! At least, it's not as awful as I Worship His Shadow at Earth." Cally shuddered. "Eldritch abominations and all that."

"What are we talking about?" A new voice interjected itself into the conversation. The group of deckhands stopped and turned to see two pilots, Helo and Boomer, both of whom rated as 'cool' in their books. Even if most of them wanted to strangle Boomer for the numerous dents and rents she always left on her Raptor.

Cally answered, "The Earth people and which movies we wished had been on the mark."

"Still going with 'Cylons at the Lost Colony', it's a great movie," Jammer stated.

Boomer rolled her eyes. "Gee, which part? The ignorant 13th Tribe being attacked by the toasters, or the mighty benevolent Colonial Fleet comes to save them…oh and then while they're at it, destroying the blasphemous local religion and setting them up on the true path of oneness with the Gods? And then having them thank us for bringing them enlightenment and salvation? Gee…I'm sure that'll go down real well." Boomer replied sarcastically. "Personally I always loved 'Earth Runner'."

Helo nodded his head sagely, "Earth Runner was solid. Huge hit all across the Colonies. If we ever do a movie night down on the planet, maybe we could bring that. I'm sure they'll like it."

There were general mummers of agreement.

Helo frowned in thought as something occurred to him, "Say, Jammer, didn't Boomer and I ferry you and the rest of the detail down to Theonpolis to set up the air field?"

Jammer nodded.

"The Earthers were close by. Didn't you get a good look at them? Hear them talking?"

"That's what I was asking!" Cally stated as the conversation and the people turned back to Jammer.

Jammer looked around conspiratorially "Okay, I might have heard something."

The deckhands and the pilots leaned in eagerly; all of them hungry for information.

"I heard something about a major war going on right now on Earth. Big war involving a coalition of nations against some sort of super state called A…stan? No that's not it…I think it was 'Argastan' or something. Apparently it's been ongoing for a while now…lot of casualties."

Boomer frowned in disappointment. "You're saying Earth is divided and in the midst of a civil war?"

"That's what I heard," Jammer said.

Helo looked intrigued, "A coalition of nations. Sounds an awful lot like Canceron, doesn't it?"

"I'm kinda disappointed to hear about a civil war," Boomer answered. "I thought Earth was supposed to be some sort of paradise?"

Helo shrugged indifferently. "Guess not."

"You hear anything else?" Socinus asked.

"About Earth, not so much. But I did hear that during the assault, some of the Marines captured some of the Earth guys. Heard they roughed them up real good, too."

The group cursed amongst themselves at hearing that.

"Anything else?" Boomer asked.

"Yeah, I heard Captain Adama talking with Colonel Carthan. Earth really could have frakked us up down there if they wanted to, would have been a bloodbath."

"And Zeus warned the leaders of the twelve tribes that any return to Kobol would exact a price in blood." Boomer recited glumly.

Helo looked at her. "Stop that, its spooky, not to mention depressing." Helo turned back to Jammer. "Are you sure that's for real?"

Jammer shrugged, "That's the rumor going around the camp. We attacked and captured some of their people. Earth somehow sent a company of troops called 'Rangers'. Apparently, they're some super elite soldiers on their planet. Like our Knights of Kobol."

The deckhands and pilots looked skeptical.

Boomer was scowling now. "How did they send troops? We've been combing the entire system and the planet. We haven't seen a hint of a ship."

Now Jammer looked as if he had been spooked but at the same time, like he wanted to talk, it was a weird combination to see on his face.

"What is it?" Cally asked, intrigued.

"Okay, I heard the Marines talking about it down on the planet. They said the Earth troops came through something in the Temple of Aurora."

The group leaned. "What was it?" Tarn asked.

"I don't know, but it had the Marines on the ground spooked. Everyone's all hush, hush about it."

The group traded skeptical glances but didn't respond.

Prosna looked about worried "Ah, guys you think maybe we should get back to work? That Raptor ferrying the Earth delegation will be here soon. And the Chief is on the warpath."

Boomer grinned, "Don't worry about the Chief. I have him well in hand."

I bet you do, Cally thought darkly.

Speak of the Devil….

"What are you all doing standing around? Let's go, let's go people, move it! Prosna, finish up that inventory, Socinus, Tarn, the Viper at C13 hasn't been locked down, hurry and get it done. Cally, Jammer, get those component carts secured in the storage lockers. Now, people!" Chief Tyrol snapped to any crew man who moved too slowly for his liking.

"Moving, Chief!" the various crew men called back as they scattered like startled quail.

Considering the Old Girl's long service, Cally didn't think the bay had ever looked more spotless, even when she was fresh off out of the yards. But woe to the poor soul who tried to tell that to the Chief! The man was riding his people hard and he showed no signs of stopping now. Even with the Raptor inbound he was trying to get minor things done. When they had set off on this mission into the unknown, the last thing any of them expected was to host dignitaries from the mythical 13th Colony. While an honor guard, resplendent in their crisp and clean dress greys, set up, Colonel Tigh, also dressed in dress greys, briefed Captain Kelly. Captain Kelly ran off to finish whatever task he had been assigned, leaving Colonel Tigh with the ship's honor guard and looking entirely uncomfortable with the situation.

"Hey! Hold on there, Tyrol!"

Chief Tyrol paused to see who was calling for his attention. It was Boomer. "Not now, sir."

"No way, Chief! I gotta make sure that my Raptor is primed and ready to take the Earth people back down to Kobol. You know the gymbal on my Raptor's pretty bad."

Tyrol rolled his eyes. "It's bad because you keep having bad landings."

"Then check it and replace it!"

Tyrol began to walk through the bay, followed by Boomer. He patiently said as if speaking to a child, "I listen very closely to what each and every pilot has to say about their ship. Even the rookies."

"Oh now I'm a rookie," retorted Boomer. "You're not the one worrying about getting foreign emissaries back home in one piece in fifty tons of Raptor—"

"And this isn't the time because those emissaries are coming at any moment and rookie landings just brighten my frakking day—" Tyrol paused to open the hatch to one of the bay's tool rooms and stepped over the threshold. Boomer hopped in after him. Cally, seeing this, rolled her eyes. Frakking the division officer…that's just wrong, she thought.

The small walk-in storage locker was crammed full of tools. The hatch swung shut behind Boomer.

"—and I'm frakking busy!" finished Tyrol.

"—and I'm frakking busy," echoed Boomer with a smile.

They stopped and stared at each other, toe to toe. After a moment, they fell into each other's arms. Deep passionate kisses of two forbidden lovers who had to grab every moment they could. After a minute, Tyrol pulled away to take a much needed breath.

Boomer took advantage of the pause to say, "Now that we're away from the nuggets and knuckle-draggers, tell me the truth: what do you think of the Earth people, really?"

Tyrol threw her a quizzical look. "Here we are, Sharon, sucking face and you're thinking about the Thirteenth Tribe?"

Boomer laughed. "You know what I mean." Her head descended in a swinging inquiring way. "So…?"

"They're just another bunch of people," Tyrol said with a frown.

"But…?" prodded Boomer.

He sighed. "Well, you know my father is a priest and my mother's an oracle so the Thirteenth Colony and Tribe were a big deal to them. A very big frakking deal. They were always trying to trace the Thirteenth Tribe's route to Earth. The Temple of Five, the Eye of Jupiter, the Great Lion watching the Caravan of the Heavens, you name it." Tyrol shrugged. "Me, they're just people like you and me."

Boomer nodded slowly and pensively.

A voice came over the intercom system: "Attention all hands, Raptor two three niner touching down, port flight pod. Honor Guard, stand ready to receive dignitaries."

"Well, Sharon, we have work to do."

"Yes, Chief." Boomer stole a quick kiss from Tyrol just as he pushed the hatch door open. He hopped out. Boomer, however, remained behind, taking a moment to think.

Tigh grumbled, "Well let's get this bullfrak pony show on the road." He turned to Chief Tyrol. "Get your men into position."

Tyrol nodded, "Yes sir." Tyrol turned to his deck gang. "Alright people, you heard the Colonel! Everyone get in formation. Dress and cover!"

Like a well-oiled machine, the deckhands formed into ranks.

The Raptor was pulled into the maintenance bay and at once a trolley backed up into the Raptor and locked into it. The trolley then pulled the Raptor to the reception area. When the Raptor stopped Colonel Tigh called them all to attention.

"Group, Atteh-enshun!"

The deckhands and the Honor Guard snapped to attention.

The side door of the Raptor opened slowly and the first person to come out was Captain Adama, who turned to help a woman in civilian clothes, who nodded her thanks to the Captain after her feet hit the deck. The assembled deck crew was slightly disappointed, hoping for something more exotic or alien. Next out were three people wearing obvious military uniforms with what looked to be some medals or awards on their chests. The dress uniforms looked odd to them except for the navy blue color—it looked civilian with the ties and light blue shirts beneath the formal jackets, yet they were unmistakably military. The only one who appeared different was a tall bald man dressed in a heavy caped robe and had a gold emblem apparently tattooed on his forehead. Each looked about eagerly but professionally.

Colonel Tigh stepped forward, came to attention and saluted. General Landry came to attention and returned the salute with a serious and professional demeanor. Captain Adama did the introductions.

"Ambassador Mulhern, General Landry, please allow me to introduce Colonel Saul Tigh, Executive Officer of the Battlestar Galactica. Colonel, this is Ambassador Kathryn Mulhern of the United States and Major General Hank Landry of the United States Air Force."

For once in his life, it looked as if Saul Tigh might have had some wonder in his eyes as his mind processed the fact that he was actually meeting people from Earth. Tigh recovered quickly though and returned to his normal, though sober, state.

"Ambassador, General, on behalf of Commander Adama, welcome aboard. Commander Adama apologizes that he isn't here to greet you personally but he was called away to attend to an operational matter. I'll be escorting you to one of our conference rooms to meet him."

Mulhern smiled one of her perfect diplomatic smiles. "Thank you for welcoming us, Colonel. We look forward to getting to know the Twelve Colonies better and furthering relations between our peoples."

"Thank you, Ambassador. If you'll follow me."

"Of course."

As Lee and Colonel Tigh led them from the port flight pod to where the Commander was waiting, SG-1, General Landry and Ambassador Mulhern took time to view their surroundings. The interior of the Galactica felt both alien and familiar. Its trapezoid corridors seemed to follow no straightforward logic as they branched at odd angles and often had steps. Unlike ships of Earth's blue water navies or even its fledgling space fleet, both of which tended to follow a more straightforward internal layouts, the Galactica just felt different.

The interior was bright yet had the feel of a battleship or carrier back home, something which the military members found comforting. Further emphasizing of this was the myriad of differing uniforms of the Galactica crew as they passed by. All of them alien yet in a fundamental way, familiar.

Captain Adama took them along another turn in the winding and confusing maze of corridors. By this point everyone quietly admitted they were hopelessly lost, which may have been the point of the odd angles and turns in the ships internal layout; to confuse enemy boarders. Despite the slightly alien feel of the personnel's uniforms, the slanting walls, vertical light tubes, the lack of right angles and the artificial gravity, the technology seemed to be on par with Earth-bound military forces. In several areas it even seemed slightly primitive with the whirring hum of the air recycling tanks at intervals in the corridors, the corded phones, lack of computer networking and computers that…well…barely even deserved the name.

Yet the sheer engineering capacity to build a ship like this, even a dozen or more and to sustain them for long periods of time again spoke of a society that was no stranger to space travel and had the military and industrial might to support a large space going force. This could be very good news for Earth…or very bad news for Earth if the Colonials ever turned hostile. But then that was Ambassador Mulhern's job, to make sure that didn't happen.

The party finally came to what appeared to be an air locked door guarded by a Marine in dress uniform. The Marine smartly opened the door and held it open as the group was ushered in to a large room. The room was obviously important, the walls lined with what looked to be flat panel monitors. There was a large table, covered in cloth set in the middle of the room to facilitate negotiations. Upon entering the delegation saw Commander Adama, as well as other Colonial officers, standing and waiting. A momentary and somewhat uncomfortable silence took hold as both groups were hesitant to be the first to act, as if fearful of making a mistake. Finally, Commander Adama stepped forward, an uncharacteristic grin upon his face.

Adama came forward and extended his hand to each member of the Earth delegation in turn. "Ambassador Mulhern. General Landry. Colonel Carter. Colonel Mitchell. Teal'c. On behalf of the Armed Forces of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, I would like to welcome you aboard the Galactica."

Ambassador Mulhern smiled. "It's a pleasure to be here, Commander Adama."

Adama motioned to their seats and each side sat down. The room was set up with one main table and enough seats on each side. On the Colonial side it had Adama at the head with Colonel Tigh on his right and his son on his left. For the Earth Delegation it had General Landry sitting on the far right, next to him sat Ambassador Mulhern. And sitting on her opposite side were Colonel Carter, Colonel Mitchell and Teal'c respectively.

Adama could sense the hesitation from his guests. He supposed he could understand it. The circumstances of First Contact was like a dark cloud hanging over this meeting, marring what should have been a joyous reunion between the Twelve Colonies and their long lost siblings. But Earth seemed determined to put the issue behind them as evidenced by them sending a high level diplomat and flag officer to the Galactica.

"Before we begin, I'd like to inquire about the welfare of your three personnel. Are they doing well?"

Mulhern and General Landry shared a brief look. "They're doing fine and are expected to make a full recovery," Landry answered.

Adama nodded. "That's good. I'd like to state for the record that the Marines in question have been arrested and have been charged under the Articles of War. They're in confinement now and will be prosecuted once we return to the Colonies."

"What kind of sentence does that carry?" Colonel Carter asked.

Tigh and Adama shared a look and it was the bald Colonel who answered. "Depending on their service record; commendations or previous disciplinary actions; at minimal they're looking at a dishonorable discharge. Up to fifteen years hard labor on Sagittaron or Proteus, worst case."

"Pretty harsh," Colonel Mitchell commented.

Tigh nodded to the younger Colonel, "That's how we do it in the Fleet."

Ambassador Mulhern smiled tightly. The atmosphere in the room had suddenly become charged and she could feel an air of expectation. She knew just how to maneuver the talks back to more positive settings. "In the spirit of cooperation, we are grateful to learn that justice will be served. But now is the time to move beyond this unfortunate situation."

Adama nodded in acceptance. "I agree. But before we begin there is an ongoing situation that we find ourselves in. Part of the reason why I wasn't able to greet when you arrived aboard the Galactica. It's a rather serious situation that has grave consequences for all concerned here. Especially Earth."

Ambassador Mulhern, General Landry and the members of SG-1 exchanged concerned glances before General Landry straightened in his seat. "What grave concerns would those be?"

Adama truly felt out of his depth handling these delicate negotiations. He wasn't a trained diplomat and neither the Fleet nor the government ever thought to send one along. Now Adama was the man on the spot and he had to break the bad news.

"There is no easy way to say this, so I'll just lay it out straight. This fleet is currently being shadowed by an enemy of the Twelve Colonies. They're known as the Cylons." Out of the corner of his eyes, Adama could see his son stiffen and shoot him a startled look. He was now due for another conversation he was going to have.

"Cylons?" Mitchell asked.

Adama took a deep breath, "They're a race of sentient robots. Fifty years ago we fought a war…"

Rocky Ridge


A modified Humvee rumbled, its tires thumping, rising and falling on the rockiness of the High Road leading from Olympus through the Gates of Hera to Theonpolis. The Humvee was brought through the stargate from Earth in parts and reassembled. The vehicle was followed by a line of three FREDs. Field Remote Expeditionary Devices were used as cargo carriers in lieu of MALPs. Five SGC soldiers walked alongside the FREDs while more rode in the Humvee. Civilians also walked beside the FREDs, mostly scientists from Earth. The others were cargo personnel hired from among the Colonials. Their responsibility was the crates that the FREDs were carrying. These contained items that could be removed from Olympus. They would be divided between the Earthers and the Colonials for analysis back home.

In the Humvee, Dr. Cyrus raised his eyes up to the tree branches obscuring his view of the Cambunian Mountains surrounding them. A tire fell hard into a hole in the path, causing the Colonial to grunt in discomfort.

"If only we could bring a hover-mobile from Caprica," complained Anthem. "Or at least use a Raptor."

The Humvee driver in the seat in front of him chuckled. The commanding officers of the SGC and the Galactica had agreed to not use flying vehicles like Raptors due to the risks posed to the valuable remains of the Ancient city-ship. It wasn't that they didn't quite trust each other, but it was there beneath the currents. "This is a vacation for us, Doctor. Be glad we're not in Afghanistan. Hot as hell in the day, cold as a witch's tits at night. If the local province isn't secure, we'd be watching out for terrorists and insurgents. Even if it was secure, you'd still be watching your back."

"This…Afghanistan? Is it one of your provinces on Earth, Menard?"

The driver, Army Lieutenant Jim Menard of SG-11, laughed hard. There was no indication whether he noticed Anthem's refusal to use his military rank. "No way, Doc! The United States is not an empire, though some idiots would say differently. A-stan is a shit-hole of a country full of tribes who kill over the smallest crimes against their religion, force women to cover themselves up completely and have made rape within marriage legal. If it wasn't for the mountains and steep river valleys all over the country, it'd be a desert."

In the seat beside Lt. Menard, Colonel Martin Edwards grunted his agreement and expressionlessly looked over his shoulder at the Colonial civilian. He was the commander of SG-11. He didn't much like the idea of a foreign civilian riding in his Humvee even if it's part of a diplomatic effort. In the seat beside Anthem, Lieutenant Carl Grogan was looking bored.

Anthem said, "Sounds like the Borellian Waste on Canceron." He read between the lines in Menard's answer. "So Earth has different countries and you still have wars between them?"

Menard steered the wheel as he negotiated a way around a large boulder before answering Anthem. "Of course. Not nearly as much anymore but it's human nature. Much as we hate to admit it, if we don't have enemies, we'd create one in our midst and have civil wars." The driver glanced at the archaeologist in the rearview mirror. "Now that we're out in the galaxy, Earth will unite to keep itself safe from the dangers of the galaxy."

"I hope so," said Anthem neutrally. In his mind, he thought that Earth's internecine warfare explained why the Thirteenth Colony was not apparently more advanced than the Twelve Colonies despite the two thousand years head-start it had on his people.

"Don't tell me that it's all sweetness and roses at your planets," dug the driver.

The Colonial hesitated as he thought of how to answer that. "Well, what you said is true, Lieutenant. We have pirates and terrorists, sometimes even rebels. Not every world in the Colonies is united. For example, Canceron has 88 nation-states united under a world congress. Even then, Borellia is not part of the Canceron Congress."

Lt. Grogan's interest piqued. "So Borellia's been giving you as much of a headache as A-stan has for us?"

"The Borellian Nomen…they are a fiercely independent warrior culture, if that's what you mean, Grogan. We leave them alone. Mostly. Years ago, when President Tevet wanted to send in the army over some incident, Admiral Nagala, who was a commander at the time, said, 'Send the troops in? Are you mad? These are the people who stopped Cylons in their tracks with knives and bolas. I'm not that crazy.'"

Lt. Menard chuckled. "This Nagala certainly has balls, I'll give you that."

Grogan wanted to satisfy his curiosity if only to distract from his boredom. "What's the Twelve Colonies like? I mean, what are the planets like, how many people there are."

Anthem shrugged. "The Twelve Colonies are complex. You'd have to visit to know what they're like. Each is beautiful in its own right. The farms of Aerilon, the beaches of Canceron, the plains of Leonis, the jungles of Scorpia, the pastures of Tauron, the harbors of Picon, the cities of Caprica, the cold oceans of Aquaria, the courthouses of Libris, the forests of Virgon and the temples of Gemenon. There's a lot to do in the Colonies. You could hang-glide on Scorpia, gamble in the casinos and chanceries of Leonis and Canceron, ski on the mountains of Picon and Leonis, play or watch the Pyramid sport anywhere. For me, it's swimming with the Alanc, tattooed island folk of Picon during the summer. The ideal vacation for me is skiing and enjoying the sunny beaches at the same time on Leonis, eating the best Tauron steak and drinking the best Leonis wine on the same beaches during the Hedon Film Festival. Sometimes I like to visit Virgon. You see, not only are the seas blue but the plant life have oils that evaporate in the sunlight and cast a bluish tinge in the air. There's a lot of anthracene, which when it's exposed to UV light, causes the ground to look blue. That's why Virgon is called the Blue Colony." He sighed nostalgically.

The archaeologist now had the full attention of the Earth men in the Humvee.

"Anyway, if I can't afford those vacations, there's always the annual Festivus where you wear masks, drink and frak all you want. Costumes are optional." Anthem winked. "There's also the nightlife of Caprica's cities, and Caprica Beach—it rarely snows. That, and my work at the Delphi and Caprica universities, is why my home is the apartment I own in Caprica City." He smiled as he added, "My home-world is Caprica even if my birth-world is Tauron. If you hate flowers, Tauron is for you—it has no flowers except in the gardens of the rich and eccentric."

Edwards said, "You have twelve colonies. So your people live on twelve planets in different star systems?"

"Actually, they're all in a single system with four stars, the Cyrannus Cluster."

Confusion was the unanimous reaction. "How's that work?" wondered Colonel Edwards.

Anthem shrugged. "As far as we know, Cyrannus is unique in the galaxy. It is two binaries that orbit a common barycenter. In Helios Alpha, Caprica and Gemenon orbit a common barycenter while they orbit the Alpha sun—Gemenon is like a huge moon in the Caprican sky and when Caprica happens to be away from the sun during the winter, it snows in Caprica City. In Helios Delta, Aerilon and Canceron are in two of the Libration points of the gas giant Hestia—L4 and L5 to be exact. Other than that, the planetary system makeup is completely normal in Cyrannus except there are more habitable planets in the habitable zones of each of the four stars."

Menard was impressed. "I know that our scientists would love to take a look at your star system. Definitely different."

"What about the Earth Star System?"

Grogan corrected Anthem. "The Solar System. It's an ordinary star system with one sun. Earth is the third planet out. No other habitable rock in the system, though the fourth planet, Mars, is in the habitable zone and if we decide to terraform it, it will be centuries before we could go outside without spacesuits."

"Sounds like Pallas in Helios Beta," remarked Anthem. Nodding, he added, "That fits the Sacred Scrolls. In it, Pythia described Earth as a shining planet that has a single yellow star and moon. There's another verse describing how when the Thirteenth Tribe landed on Earth, they looked up into the heavens and they saw their twelve brothers. What are your constellations like?"

Edwards pursed his lips. He did not think much of the Colonial mythology and their insistence on Earthers being this so-called Thirteenth Tribe. Furthermore, he couldn't allow himself to fully trust Dr. Cyrus. Something about his silent refusal to verbally recognize their military ranks rubbed him the wrong way. He mentally shrugged as he doubted whether the Colonials could use the information to find the location of Earth. The galaxy is a big place, after all. "There are twelve main constellations based on the zodiac."

"Pisces, Cancer, Aquarius, Scorpio and the rest?" excitedly asked Anthem.

Edwards shrugged uneasily. "Yeah."

That meant the Sacred Scrolls matched the revelations revealed by Athena in Olympus. Anthem looked out the window in happy thought. However, Colonel Edwards wasn't finished with him. "What about the people? How many are there?"

"Well, there are almost 30 billion people with Canceron having the most people at 6.7 billion. Caprica is the second most populous at almost 5 billion. The settlements and outposts outside the Colonies themselves, I think, have a total of 1 point 5 million people."

Colonel Edwards and Lt. Menard whistled. "That's a lot of people," said the Colonel quietly. If the Twelve Colonies' infrastructure was on par with that of Earth, it meant a hell lot of resources and wealth that the Colonials could throw around. With an advanced space program already well established, complete with FTL technology and commonplace civilian shipping if the fleet in orbit was anything to judge by, it could mean trouble for the neighborhood. And now they knew about the stargate and had potential access to its network….

"Yes, sir," agreed Menard. "Earth has almost 7 billion people."

Anthem nodded. Though the Thirteenth Colony had a two thousand years head-start over the other Colonies, there could only be so many people that one planet could support. However, he noticed that these men said nothing about whether Earth has off-world settlements or outposts. He mentally shrugged. That information would come later with the diplomats and traders. He looked down at Lt. Grogan's shoulder patch. "SG-11. That means anything?"

Edwards proudly said, "Stargate Team 11. All the guys you see here are part of SG-11." He pointed outside at Lt. Peter Woeste, Captain John Rathbone, Specialist Owen Paris and Dr. Charles DeSoto walking outside alongside the FREDs, some casually carrying their FN 90 PDW submachine guns while Paris carried an M-4. He chuckled wryly. "We got a raw deal. If only you knew our history." He smirked with pride. "Like Lt. Grogan here." The named lieutenant lazily waved a hand at Anthem from his seat beside him. "He's been shot many times and has always survived when he should have died. Always."

As Grogan chuckled ruefully, Menard swerved the steering wheel to avoid a short standing stone that had a faded carving on its face. "What's that?"

Anthem looked at the stone for a while as they passed it. "A grave marker. When the war ravaged Kobol, the people had a choice: to board the Great Ship or take the High Road through the Rocky Ridge. Those who didn't board the Galleon took the road to the Tomb of Athena at the Gates of Hera. " He leaned forward to point down the path in front of the convoy. "At the end of this road, we'll come out of the trees into a field. That's the Galleon Meadow, where the Great Ship took my ancestors to the Twelve Colonies. Many of the people who chose the High Road died along the way."

Menard slowed down as he took a closer look out his window at another gravestone. "Macabre."

Dirt and rocks fountained in an explosion in front of the Humvee. The slowing down to see the gravestone had saved their lives and the driver slammed down on the brake, pitching Anthem forward to smash into the back of the driver's seat. But the braking kept the Humvee from plunging into the sudden crater.

Gunfire erupted from the trees, causing several soldiers to topple over. Everyone else dove for the ground or for cover behind the FREDs. A couple of civilians who had no experience with this kind of situation froze. They screamed with shock and pain as bullets ripped into arms and legs as they fell, finally joining their compatriots on the ground.

"Contact! "Frak!" "Fuck!" "Get back!" "Get back! Get back!" "Take cover!"

A soldier shook and fell as bullets ripped into him. Only his Kevlar protection saved him.

Anthem crouched down on the Humvee's floor, nursing his jaw which was nearly knocked off when he smashed into the driver's seat. He felt as if someone had shaken his head hard. He couldn't focus his eyes on anything with all the noises and the screams distracting him. His ears rang.

Anthem shouted, "What the frak?!"

Or at least he tried to say it. He couldn't hear himself over the ringing in his ears. He jabbed a finger into each ear and rubbed some of the ringing out.

Carl Grogan was also crouching on the floor beside Anthem. He visibly shook himself from the confusion and disorientation caused by the land mine and the initial gunfire. He looked over the back of the front seat and saw that Colonel Edwards had already jumped out of the Humvee. He ducked down as bullets shattered the windows. Both he and Anthem cringed and sheltered their heads as bits of glass flew everywhere.

"Doctor. Doctor!" Grogan slapped Anthem's shoulder hard enough to get his attention. "Dr. Cyrus, no matter what happens, stay behind me."

Dazed, Anthem stared at Grogan.

"Do you understand me, Doctor?"

Anthem nodded and continued to stare at Grogan's soft face as the lieutenant squeezed his shoulder in reassurance. The Lieutenant's lips drew in a flat line as he nodded in determination. He rose up just enough to shoot out a shattered window.

The Colonial peeked between the front seats and looked at the rear-view mirror and the side-view mirrors while staying below the windows. He could see reflected in them that Earth soldiers were crouch-running, pulling civilians to cover, sighting over their guns and rifles at the source of the gunfire, weaving their weapons back and forth, and sending off bursts of gunfire into the foliage beside the path.

He glanced down at Grogan's squatting back.

These strangers from another world, who by rights had no reason to trust them or even like them, thanks to the recent near-battle between the Colonials and Earthers, were willing to lay down their lives to protect Anthem and his people. That touched him in a way he didn't think it would.

"Cack," swore Anthem.

Lt. Woeste ducked behind a crate in the FRED immediately behind the Humvee. A civilian man was lying on the ground, groaning and staring at a bleeding wound in his arm in shock. Woeste swung his FN 90 PDW rifle around and let it speak his anger into the trees by the road. He nearly jumped out of his skin when a soldier crouch-ran to his side. He relaxed only a bit when he saw it was his teammate, Dr. Charles DeSoto. DeSoto looked around as he held his own handgun in one hand and an emergency medkit in the other hand. Satisfied that no one was shooting in his direction, he opened the medkit and checked the wound on the civilian man. He grunted in exasperation when he saw that it was just a scratch from a bullet grazing his arm. Inexperienced people tend to think bleeding bullet scratches were terrible wounds until they knew better. He quickly swabbed it with medical alcohol and slapped a large bandage on it.

A bullet whizzed close by, causing Dr. DeSoto's pants to ruffle. Looking down, he saw that a hole had been torn through a loose fold of the pants. He frowned grimly at it and hunkered down behind Woeste as he took his handgun out again and shot back into the trees.

Eventually, Woeste and DeSoto could see men wearing black head masks approaching through the trees. Grogan could see them, too. The lieutenant shot a masked man who fell from cover. But he only groaned and covered his right shoulder.

Colonel Edwards, crouched at the end of the Humvee took a moment to regard the now clearly visible enemy in his line of sight. The only enemy he could see was engaging them from a slightly elevated bank of dirt to the right side of the road. There was no enemy engaging from the other side of the road, nor advancing on them from that side. Had there been, this engagement likely would have been over by now. That implies that the attackers had no real military training. Colonel Edwards took a moment to study the enemy. They wore black tactical vests and black ski masks, clearly not marking them as Earth personnel. Which meant they had to be clearly Colonial. Edwards frowned as he took stock of several Colonials, under his care, writhing in pain from obvious gunshot wounds. What was this? A black op gone bad? An internal squabble the Colonials hadn't deemed to mention? Or was this the work of a third group?

A round bounced off the hull of the Humvee, forcing Edward to crouch lower. Finding out what was going on could wait, he had to neutralize the enemy that was attacking him and the people he was responsible for, both Earth and Colonial. And he had to do that right the hell now!

Edwards raised himself up only slightly to peer over the curved rear of the Humvee to note the enemies' position in relation to his own team. There were at least ten that he could see; some firing from the hip, others just pouring a large amount of gunfire ineffectively in the general direction of anything that moved. None of them seemed to be utilizing cover or concealment at all and were slowly advancing on their position. And all of them were about fifty to seventy meters out; well inside the SG team's effective range.

Those facts plus the lack of a flanking element or a setup crossfire lead to one inescapable conclusion in Edwards's mind. He was dealing with untrained amateurs. Well...if they were stupid enough to break from concealment this close to them, he was smart enough to take advantage of it.

At the front of the Humvee hunkered down were Lt. Grogan and Lt. Menard. Five meters back taking cover at either end of the FRED were Lt. Woeste and Dr. DeSoto, with DeSoto desperately trying to keep a panicked Colonial down on the ground. And further back and pinned down in a small ditch were Captain Rathbone and Specialist Paris with a group of Colonials scared of out of their minds.

It only took a moment for Colonel Edwards to formulate his plan.

Edwards clicked his radio "Rathbone, Paris, what's your status?"

The voice that answered was Specialist Paris. "Sir, Captain Rathbone took three in the chest and one to his left bicep. Those new ceramic plates stopped them from penetrating, but he's probably got a cracked rib at least. I'm more worried about the arm wound."

Rathbone was quick to add his own assessment. "I can still fight Colonel. I'm good to go!"

"All right people, this is how we're gonna play this. Menard, Woeste; fresh magazines now! Provide suppressive fire, do what you can to keep those bastards pinned in place! Grogan, you and me steady fire. Shoot to kill and make every shot count. Rathbone, Paris, as soon as we start lighting the bastards up, break from your position. Tree line fifty meters, flank from the right, Radio me as soon as you're in position. I'll give you the signal then you move in and mow 'em down while we keep 'em pinned in place. Doc, you stay put and keep that Colonial from doing something stupid."

The Colonel's orders were carried out instantly as the entire team switched out their current magazines for fresh ones.

"Everyone green?" Edwards asked. He got his answer as the team answered in the affirmative for him.

"Light 'em up!" Colonel Edwards ordered tersely.

At once, Menard and Woeste popped up from behind cover and began firing a steady stream at their attackers. Their attackers seemed to pause at the unexpected level of gunfire and only reacted and dived for what cover they could find when one of their number was riddled with lead. Edwards and Grogan then popped up and sighted an attacker each and fired controlled three round bursts that dropped their targets. They switched to targets of opportunity and began laying down a steady stream of fire.

At the same time, Paris and Rathbone sprang to their feet and broke for the concealment of the tree line. Two enemy attackers saw them out of the corner of their eyes, turned in their direction. Untrained they may be but the two ambushers were not stupid and were quick to realize getting attacked from two angles was not something they wanted to deal with. One of their numbers cried out a warning but was suddenly silenced by a 6.8 mm NATO full metal jacket round through his temple by Colonel Edwards' FN P90. However, the man had lived long enough to get out a warning and three of his comrades turned in the direction of the flanking element and began spraying rounds wildly in Edwards' direction.

A big burly man rose up from the prone position and began firing for all he was worth at the Humvee. Rounds punched through the thin material of the hood and hit the engine block underneath.

Grogan and Menard cursed as they were forced to cease fire and duck into cover, but then Grogan popped right back up and fired a perfect three round burst that caught the man's center mass. The man fell back onto his back with limbs flaying but just as Grogan turned toward his next target, he was amazed to see the guy get right back up and then move to take cover behind a convenient tree before Grogan could finish him off. Clearly he had a vest on, unlike his unluckier compatriots.

They could hear a male voice shout from the vested man: "Frak it! NOW!"

Over a dozen small black cylinders fell in arcs from behind the trees and shrubbery, bouncing on the ground all around the soldiers and civilians.

DeSoto and Woeste exchanged a widened glance, recognizing the objects.

Colonel Edwards had also recognized them. His voice instantly carried all over the area, "Grenades!"

A blinding flash of light overwhelmed the entire area and deafening bangs came in quick succession as the grenades exploded. With over a dozen blanketing the area it was complete overkill and all resistance between the Humvee and the FRED ceased at once.

Anthem had been watching all this happening from the Humvee as he sheltered behind its metal doors. White light erased everything from in his sight. He blinked and squeezed his eyes but all he could see was painful white. He jammed his hands into his eyes, trying to rub the blindness out. He also couldn't hear anything and seemed unable to keep his balance at all as if he was very drunk or as if he had recently spun himself very fast and stopped suddenly. He had to put his head down on the seat beside Grogan who was also as disoriented.

Very dimly, he was aware of a hand roughly grabbing his arm and yanking him out of the Humvee. The absolute silence eventually gave way to a whistling in his ears and the intense white light faded from his eyes, though purple spots seemed to dance in his sight. From what he could see through the spots, the cargo handlers, scientists and the Earth soldiers gathered in one spot, surrounded by men wearing what appeared to be black skiing masks that left the eyes free. Some were on their knees while others were lying on the ground, wounded or still dazed from the flash-bang attack. Several appeared burned from being too close to a flashbang or two.

Anthem counted the men wearing the SG-11 uniform. There were only four left alive, and Edwards was lying on the ground, bleeding out of a wound. Clearly, when the flashbangs exploded, the attackers rushed the soldiers, shooting them down.


The soldiers and civilians hesitated. The masked men brought out what appeared to be a bazooka and aimed it straight at the crates in one of the FREDs.


One of the civilian handlers immediately raised his arms. The other civilians looked at him and soon followed suit. The remaining four soldiers exchanged a quick communicative look and lowered their guns. They didn't want to risk civilian casualties even if they made stupid decisions.

One of the masked men came out of the trees. Now that the Earthers could see his body, they saw that it was actually a woman. She aimed a gun straight at the captured people. "Get on the ground. Now."

Anthem and the others immediately obeyed, arms raised. He looked at the first civilian who raised his arms and saw it was that guy he saw at Olympus. What was his name? His grasping mind found the answer.

Leoben Conoy.

It still bothered him that Leoben looked so much like the guy he'd killed on Scorpia years ago, Korben Cawdor. Practically twins.

The masked woman swung her gun around at the civilian scientists and handlers. "Help us load these crates into the car."

The civilians looked at each other. They cautiously got up from the ground and began to take the crates from the first FRED into the vacated Humvee. Another masked man got into the driver's seat and familiarized himself with the vehicle's operation. Yet another man raised his gun and shouted, "We are the Sagittaron Freedom Movement, and we are taking these in the name of the Revolution!"

A taller masked man gave him a sharp look. He got only a shrug and a short laugh in response. He muttered under his breath, "Frak."

The masked woman rolled her eyes.

Leoben stumbled and dropped a crate. The woman was furious and stalked over to him. She punched him. "Be frakking careful!"

Leoben looked up at the woman and smirked. "Trying to make me your bitch?"

The other civilians were amazed at Leoben's audacity. He was the first to surrender and now he was being defiant?

The woman looked even more furious. She leaned down to Leoben's face and whispered, "When you download, tell them to come now. It's time, my brother."

The blond man blinked up at her. He laughed and spat in her masked face. "Make me!"

The woman stood up in a feigned towering rage and whipped her gun across Leoben's face. He toppled over to the ground. She then shot him point-blank in the head.

Shocked silence reigned as soon as the gunshot faded.

"My God, you are one fucking crazy bitch!" said Woeste. He reached for his rifle on the ground. The woman immediately stepped forward and shot the Earth man in the face. Then she shot DeSoto point-blank for good measure.

"Anyone else?"

Heads all around her shook.


The taller masked man seemed to shake himself out of his own shock and aimed his gun at Anthem who was helping load the crates into the Humvee. "You. Close the doors. I want them secure, got it?"

The archaeologist nodded. He did not show fear. Only contempt. Tomb-robbers. They came to Kobol and thought they found tomb raiders on the planet, but there were actually raiders among their own people. The other masked people frisked everyone else and took out walkie-talkies and smashed them on the ground with their boots or guns.

Once the Humvee was secured, the engine revved despite its damage. The ambushers got onto the Humvee, while keeping their guns trained on the prisoners. The vehicle drove around the crater created by the mine they had planted before. Soon, it disappeared down the road.

Now left alone, Lt. Grogan, the only surviving intact member of SG-11 as far as he knew, glanced down at Colonel Edwards who was unconscious from his wound. He rushed over to one of the three FREDs and accessed its radio components. The attackers had either forgotten about that or were thankfully ignorant of it. He hurried to make a report to his superiors.

Paris and Rathbone came out of the forest, looking around and appearing chagrined. Grogan was relieved that he wasn't the only intact survivor. When the flashbangs and the following rush by the attackers came, there was little they could do.

But a reckoning would be sure to come.

Battlestar Galactica

Anastasia Dualla pressed her headphone to her ear so she could hear more clearly. As the chief communications officer, she was almost always the first to hear reports and news. So her position required a lot of vigilance on her part and a lot of trust on her commanders' part, not only Adama but also the other ship commanders in the fleet. In these days of prohibition against networking between crafts of the Colonial Fleet, communication consoles were the only main conduit of cooperation between ships.

This particular report coming over the ether was troubling. Dee decided that this communique was important enough to warrant her commanders' attention. She typed a command that would make the message repeat itself so that the computer could record it stenographically. Once finished, she pressed a button that would print out the recorded message. When the printer stopped clicking, she tore out the piece of paper, nodded at a fellow officer to temporarily take her post while she went to Colonel Tigh with the printout.

Tigh was going over duty rosters. He had never liked being in command, even briefly. Being the XO gave him the pleasure to put the men and women of the Galactica in their places, but having the conn gave him the barest taste of what being a battlestar commander entailed. He did not like it at all.

Dee stepped up to him and handed him the printout.


Tigh absent-mindedly took the printout and read it. His eyes widened.

"Frak me." Tigh looked up at Dee. "Terrorists way out here?"

Dualla decided that the Colonel was being rhetorical. "Yes, sir."

"Get me Kobol Air Control."

"Yes, sir." With that, Dee left to do her job.

Tigh shook his head slowly confoundedly. "…what the frak is going on down there?"

As soon as Dee gave him the go ahead, Tigh grabbed the phone and activated the private intercom. "Now what the frak is going on down there?" he repeated.

"Galactica Actual, we can confirm that members of the Sagittaron Freedom Movement are on planet. Repeat, the Sagittaron Freedom Movement is on planet. We are alerting all other ground controls planetside."

"Ground Control, are all ships accounted for?"

"Affirmative, Galactica. Base is going into lockdown. Be advised we are locking down air traffic. Recommend you intercept any ship making orbit now. They may be attempting escape."

Tigh grunted into the phone and then slammed the phone into its holder. He shouted, "Dee, order all shuttles to dock at the nearest ships and stay there until further notice."

A rising flurry of noise signaled the CIC's rush to accommodate this latest development. Tigh watched the DRADIS screen closely as several labeled dots disappeared as they complied with his order.

Once more, he muttered to himself, "What the frak is going on here?"

Orion's Sword

Civilian Shuttle

"What the frak were you thinking, yelling about the Sagittaron Freedom Movement like that?!"

Dyson laughed as he shrugged and piloted the shuttle up into the sky. "Let's call it artistic license, Arvin."

Teresa scowled. "What you've done is focus their attention on us. If you hadn't shouted that frakking idiotic thing, the Earth people would suspect Adama and his goons of being behind the ambush. Sow dissent to distract them while we make our getaway. Instead, by painting us as terrorists, you've focused all of their attention on us."

Dyson shrugged again. "Oh, we'll get away with it."

"Pray we do, Dyson," gritted out Teresa.

"And you, Teresa," said Tyler as he turned his attention to his erstwhile girlfriend. "What in the flying frak was that?! You murdered those Earth people in cold blood! What the frak's wrong with you?!"

Teresa flicked her hair as the shuttle shook off atmospheric shear. The sky darkened into the vista of space in the cockpit windows. "Like I said, sow dissent. Confuse them."

"Confuse them!" barked Tyler. "More like piss them off to the point of going to war with us!"

"Oh yeah, they're pissed," put in Dyson. "Look out there, folks."

Through the windows, they could see pinpoints of metal and glowing afterburners shoot out of the Galactica's port pod in sequence and in a line along the pod.

"Vipers," Teresa said, as if there was any doubt as to what they were.

Battlestar Galactica


Tigh turned at the gruff curt voice of Commander Adama. He saw that as his commander half-walked, half-ran down the steps into the CIC pit, General Landry and Ambassador Mulhern were on his heels.

Tigh's face darkened in disapproval at allowing them into the Galactica's CIC. Nevertheless, he reported, "Terrorists claiming to be from the Sagittaron Freedom Movement attacked a convoy on the road from Olympus to Theonpolis and made off with some crates that the convoy was transporting. Frakkers murdered people from both sides."

"Both sides?" queried Landry for clarification.

A quick glance at Adama earned Tigh a nod for him to be free with his situation report. "Our people and your soldiers were killed in cold blood. Kobol is on lockdown." He nodded up at the DRADIS screen which showed blue-white dots and symbols representing the ships of the fleet. A few of the tiny circles were moving up fast as the top half of a ring swept through the space in an arc. A red dot was moving in from the upper left side. "DRADIS shows one ship coming up from the surface despite the lockdown so we've launched alert birds."

Mulhern's eyes were wide, a rare break from studied neutrality for the seasoned diplomat. "You're telling us that some of your people turned coat, murdered our soldiers and stole valuable items from Olympus?" She turned to Adama. "If we find out your government is behind this, the United Sta—"

Adama raised a hand, interrupting the Ambassador. The hand also forestalled Tigh's upcoming angry retort. "They're not our people, Ambassador."

"You're going to say they're…agents of those Cylons you talked about?" The tone of Mulhern's voice told Adama that she wouldn't buy that story.

"They claim to be from the Sagittaron Freedom Movement. It's a terrorist organization aimed at disrupting Sagittaron's ties with the federal government. They killed some of my people, too, Ambassador. We'll find out the truth as soon as we arrest them and bring them in for questioning."

Before either the Ambassador or Landry could say anything, Adama grabbed the phone off of the central table and pressed a button. "Dipper, Galactica Actual. Major, get them on the wireless and order a stand-down!"

In his Mark VII Viper, the Galactica's CAG, Major Spencer "Dipper" Jackson had the distant boxy shuttle squarely in his sight. "Wilco, Actual." Dipper looked up and around at other Vipers in his squadron. "All right, you heard the Old Man. Keep tight on their perimeter and keep mark-one eyeball for any surprises."

He toggled a switch on his console. "Civilian ship, stand down. Repeat, stand down. State your business."

On the running shuttle, Dyson tapped his headphone and microphone to be sure that it was working. "Uh…this is the Sword of Orion. We're a transport ship working off of the civilian travel ship Orion. We're just transporting crew back to the ship. We're tired from working down on the planet. Um…we have nothing to declare."

Captain Tyler whispered, "Spooling FTL drive. Two minutes to jump." He nodded to himself. Once his ship sees that the shuttle had jumped out, the Orion would immediately jump to a pre-arranged coordinate to take in the Sword, and then make their escape away from the fleet.

On the Galactica, Adama heard that the shuttle was from the Orion. It was then he knew that he should have listened to Dr. Cyrus' warnings about the crew of that ship. Angrily, he said, "Get Marines on a Raptor Ultra and launch with Viper escort, ASAP! Immediately board and seize the Orion."

Also known as a Raptor drop-ship, the Raptor Ultra acted as a personnel carrier capable of holding 14 people, including two pilots. Black-clad and black-armored Colonial Marines scrambled to follow Adama's orders as more Vipers shot out of the launch tubes toward the Orion.

On the shuttle, Dyson, Tyler and Teresa could see those Vipers and eventually a Raptor Ultra launch toward their mother-ship. Battlestars could be seen slowly yet inexorably moving to help box in the Orion.

"Stand down!" ordered Major Jackson once more.

Dyson nervously glanced at his captain. Tyler was concentrated on the FTL console, mentally coaxing the drive to spool up to the strength needed to jump.

A burst of gunfire swept in front of the shuttle, startling Dyson. His reaction caused the Sword to waver in its course. But it was only a warning shot from a Viper. Again, he glanced back at Tyler. If he didn't stop now, they might become an expanding cloud of freezing gas and debris, fated to orbit humanity's mother-world for eternity, or at least until they burn up in the planet's atmosphere after a decaying orbit.

On the Galactica, Adama's sharp eyes held the DRADIS screen as he held his phone to his ear. Suddenly, a new tiny red circle appeared on the screen.

"DRADIS contact!" someone called out.

After a moment, a label appeared beside the circle which turned a friendly blue-white. Stealthstar.

Cold crept up Adama's spine. For it to come at this time….

Dee said loudly, "Commander, receiving message from Stealthstar." A slight frown showed her confusion. "'Tally Bandit. Repeat, Tally Bandit.'"

A wash of cold swept through Adama completely. He got the confirmation he didn't want to hear.

"Set Condition One! All civilian ships, spool up FTL drives. Jump to the emergency coordinates. All Vipers, turn back and establish a screen around Galactica."

Dee took a deep breath. Clearly, Adama knew what the message meant and it was obviously not good. She spoke into her microphone without any hesitation. "Action Stations, Action Stations. Set Condition One throughout the fleet. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill."

Ambassador Mulhern exchanged a worried look with General Landry as the hatches leading out of the CIC slammed shut.

"Commander, what's going on?" she nervously asked.

Adama only watched the DRADIS intently, grimly and silently.

Orion's Sword

Dyson looked around out the cockpit windows to confirm what he was seeing. Surprised, he said, "Captain, sir, the Vipers, they're leaving us!"

"Why would they do that?" wondered Teresa aloud.

Tyler nodded. "Let's not waste this blessing. Throttle up!"

The shuttle immediately sped up straight for the Orion's yawning open docking bay in the head of the ship.

As the pancake head of the salvage ship loomed ever closer, white lights flashed far in the dark distance. Tyler leaned close to the DRADIS in his console. Eventually, the DRADIS informed him that there were seven Cylon baseships even though they were of an unfamiliar configuration. One of them was unusually large.

"Holy Lords…," gasped Tyler.

The shuttle plunged into the docking bay, its bottom screeching and screaming against the deck, causing everyone onboard the Sword to bounce in their seats and wince. Up in the ship's bridge, Sora Tyler had also seen the baseships jump in. She thanked her lucky stars that she already had the FTL drive spooled up.

The Orion vanished in a flash of white light and blue Cherenkov radiation. Unknown to everyone, Teresa Manning was grinning in delight.

The Cylons were back.