Please comment, proof read, spell check, grammar check, etc. (or just plain Beta). Your help is much appreciated, itzhakts.

X X X X X

Chapter 03: The Black

New Caprica

"There she is," Messaline tells River, pointing to the planet in the distance. Sitting in the pilot's seat, knees against her chest, Messaline enjoys playing with the dinosaurs. Somehow, every time she picked one up, she was overcome with a feeling of love and warmth. At times, the feeling she got from them even made her giggle.

Mal enters the bridge and sits behind River, He looks out the window and sees a white sun lighting up a small world within a thick black soup. Neither one of the girls stir. They just look out the window. It's too quiet, Mal decides, "We there yet?"

"Just about," River answers, almost in a trance.

Looking at world, slowly getting closer, Mal asks Messaline, "What do we do now?"

"We wait," Messaline never looks at Mal, she also appears to be in a trance. Messaline only has eyes for the planet.

Mal looks from one girl to the other, not sure what to think. At first he curses to himself in Chinese. He then sighs, repeating, "We wait." For the umpteenth time, he thinks it's a bad idea, but he won't renege on his promise unless he sees danger. For the life of him, he doesn't know why he promised the two girls that they'll all take a gander. We wait, he thinks to himself again. Hope we find something worthwhile. He gets up to leave the bridge, all of a sudden he finds himself thinking, it's good that we're headin' out there. What we find may be more than a little profitable.

X X X X X

Carol, off duty at the moment, watches Serenity on the monitor, wondering what they are up to. Why would they come all the way out here? Everyone is certain that the small ship and its crew could not have detected either the UFPCOO or the folding of space created by the small survey vessels investigating the planet which they have designated as New Caprica. The aborigines of 34Tauri(2020) call this area of space 'The Black' because their sensor equipment will not operate in the nebula, thus, the indigenous population avoid the area. Over the centuries, ghost stories and the like have popped up due to their fear of the nebula. So why have the crew of the transport arrived here? Carol watches as Serenity approaches the planet and enters orbit. They are not doing anything. Not landing, not sending shuttles to the planet. Just waiting. Suddenly she sees a flash of light and a vessel appears. The magnetic turbulence from the jump pushes the tiny Serenity aside, spinning out of control. Immediately afterwards, many ships of all shapes and sizes jump in orbit of the planet. A final ship appears, even larger than the first. The outpost's klaxon is sounded signaling general quarters. Carol jumps, startled by the noise and lights. She puts on some clothes and heads for the control room.

X X X X X

Lieutenant Felix Gaeta scans his monitor in the Battlestar Galactica's CIC and reports, "Jump complete. We are in orbit around New Caprica."

Immediately after, Petty Officer Anastasia (Dee) Dualla reports, "We have all ships present and accounted for, Sir."

Admiral William Adama is at the central command console, his back to the two officers, turns his head slightly, ordering Dee, "Send word to Pegasus..."

The Admiral never finishes his order as he is interrupted by Gaeta, "Admiral, we have an unknown contact just outside Galactica. It's possible that we jumped almost on top of it."

"Launch the alert fighters, set Condition One throughout the fleet." The Admiral orders. He looks over at his XO, Colonel Saul Tigh. "I want to know what that ship is and if it is Cylon."

Saul Tigh receives the signal that the alert fighters on Galactica and Pegasus are launching. In the background, the following can be heard, "Action Stations, Action Stations, Set Condition One throughout the fleet. This is not a drill."

X X X X X

"What the [speaking in Chinese] was that?" Mal yelled out, hitting his head on the window as suddenly there was nothing holding him to the deck. With the exception of emergency lighting, everything is dark. The only other source of light is from the windows of Serenity, flicking in and out of existence as the ship spins, occasionally letting in light from the star or the reflection from the planet.

"I don't know Capn', everythin's fried," Kaylee is heard yelling from the engine room, "Nothin's workin'. No propulsion, no life support. It's as if we were hit by an extremely powerful electromagnetic pulse of some kind."

Jayne could be heard from the dining area, "Somethin's out there. A lot of somethins'."

Mal suddenly saw them too as soon as he shook the stars out of his head. Outside the window of the bridge, he saw what seemed to be a squadron of long slender fighters and boxy support craft on one side as the ship spun. On the other, he just saw a wall of metal. The wall obviously was part of a ship. Hearing clanging on the outer hull, he knew that one of the crafts was attaching itself to Serenity, probably one of the boxy craft. Though Serenity began to stop spinning, nothing inside did. Everyone (and everything) continued in the direction Serenity was spinning in until they encountered something that stopped them. Suddenly, they all started hurtling aft while the ships outside towed Serenity forward. Mal floated from the bridge to the aft section of the dining are before he got a hold of something to stop him. "Everyone alive?" he called out. Voices from all around him confirmed so, though Kaylee and Simon reported some bumps and bruises. Mal went over the voices in his head again. Inara had not answered. She's probably in her shuttle. Mal struggled forward through the dining area and down the gangway to the cargo bay. Moving along the safety rails, he made his way toward Shuttle One. Though difficult, he managed to open the airlock. "Inara, you in there?"

"Yes. I'm here. I'm OK." Inara was grateful to hear Mal's voice. It was pitch black. Without gravity, she didn't know which way was which. She focused on the dim light coming from the hatchway and tried to move toward it. She was unable to get a hold of anything, so she tried swimming, hoping that the air would provide enough resistance for movement. She was halfway there when all of a sudden the floor made itself known to her, and it was hard. "Ow, [speaking in Chinese]!" she let out. Gravity was restored somehow, but there was still no power.

"You all right?" Mal said, not sure to be grateful if gravity was back or not. His arm was hurting from the impact against the airlock door's knee knockers. Less than a minute later, he saw light coming at him.

The light was getting closer. "Sir, are you all right?" It was Zoë with a search light. She handed a spare to him.

Turning it on, he shined it into the shuttle looking for Inara, "Yeah. You know what's going on with everyone else?"

"Everyone is assembled in the dining area, waiting for us." Mal had gone into the shuttle and was already on his way out with Inara.

"Let's get up there and join them."

X X X X X

Everyone was accounted for. Simon had a bandage on his head and Kaylee on her arm. But everyone seemed to be none the worse for their experience thus far. Suddenly they hear creaking and then a voice. It was a man's voice, but they could not understand him.

While the man was speaking, Messaline turned her head to pay attention. She answered the man. None of the crew understood her, but she was conversing with him. Looking at each other and then to her, the crew just waited. Realizing that all eyes were on her, Messaline asked, "What?"

"Did you understand him?" Mal asked.

"Yes, why, didn't you?" Messaline looked around at her mates and each one just looked at her dumbfounded.

River just smiled, "Everyone here thinks that they're Alliance. They're not. They're who you were waiting for."

From each end of the room they saw incredibly strong lights shine in. The crew was barely able to make out the weapons pointed at them. The man barked out instructions and Messaline answered. Then to the crew, she said, "I told them that you don't understand their language and that I will translate."

Mal looked at her, "well?"

"He wants all of us to put our hands on our heads while they search us for weapons."

X X X X X

Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace dressed in marine uniform entered the Pegasus' CIC and walked up to Commander Lee "Apollo" Adama. They together walked over to a relatively quiet corner to talk.

"What's up Kara, what did you find?" Lee handed a clipboard to someone and looked up at Kara.

"I'm not sure what to make out of it. It's a weird group. There are eight of them all together. Out of the eight, only one of them can communicate..."

Lee cut her off, "What do you mean, they can't talk?"

"No, I mean that they don't speak any of the languages that the fleet speaks. The one that did know Caprican, also knows all the languages. I mean fluently. I mean, she even speaks better than I can," Lee smirks. Kara cuts him off, "Not a word, Lee."

Lee gets serious, "Could they be Cylons?"

"Well, if they are, then there are two more Cylon models than the twelve the old man was warned about. Something else, I think that one of them is pregnant."

"Pregnant? How do you know?"

"I don't know, she just looks it."

"Did you ask?"

"No, that's the Doc's department anyway."

"OK, better let him know that just in case."

"Yeah. Anyway, the transport they were on closely resembles the ones used in the colonies, but there are differences. The big things are that everything is written in a language that no one can identify and the computers are weird."

"What do you mean weird?"

"Weird. I mean that they seem to follow a different set of rules than our computers do."

Lee considers. "OK, take pictures of all of them and see if Sharon can identify them. I'm going to talk to the old man."

"Already have them and they were transmitted to Helo on Galactica right before I got here. He said that he'll ask her." Lee wasn't surprised. Kara was very good at what she does. "You think President Elect Baltar will test samples from these guys or you think he's above all that already?"

"Now that's a good question." Lee smiles at her, "Let's talk to the old man."

X X X X X

Many people of the fleet think that the Major in Doctor Sherman Cottle's title refers to, not his rank, rather the level of suffering and distress which people feel in their posterior when around him. Still, he is the Fleet's Chief Medical Officer and he was the best person for the job, though his bedside manner was rumored to be the worst. Cottle entered the Pegasus' sickbay. All he knew was that he was supposed to give physicals to prisoners and he made sure that everyone knew that it was a waste of his time. His first patient walked in. A short blonde girl who didn't stop smiling and was looking at everything, taking it all in. Behind her, three armed female marines. Cottle really didn't like firearms in the sickbay, but he didn't have a choice.

A nurse asked the marines to take the girl into a curtained room and handed the girl a medical gown. After donning the gown, all the time under constant supervision of the marines, the girl sat on the bed and waited for the doctor. The curtain was pulled aside and Cottle walked in. Closing the curtain again behind him, he picked up the chart, scanned it, put it down and looked at the girl. He was in an especially grumpy mood today.

"What's your name?" he asked the girl.

"Didn't you just see it on the chart?" the girl asked?

"Yes." Cottle's mood didn't improve, "What's your name?" he asked again.

"My name's Messaline, what's yours?" the girl responded, all bright eyed, cheery and smiling.

"I'm doctor Cottle. Where are you from?"

Messaline's smile faded, "I don't know."

Doctor Cottle took this as a sign of defiance, and decided to forgo the questions. The dossier he was given noted that the girl had memory problems, but he'll be the judge of that. He pulled out a stethoscope from a drawer and checked her chest. Something was wrong. He put the stethoscope to his chest. He returned the stethoscope to the girl's chest. He took the stethoscope and threw back into a drawer. "Nurse," Cottle called out.

The nurse pulled the curtain aside and stuck her head in. "Yes, Doctor?"

Turning to the nurse, "Get her to imaging. I want her checked out from top to bottom." He then turned to the girl, "go with the nurse, she'll tell you what to do."

"I think that you are going to be somewhat surprised at what you'll see," Messaline commented.

"After what I heard in your chest, I bet I will." Cottle walked out and lit a cigarette. The marines escorted Messaline and the nurse.

X X X X X

In Lee's quarters, he, Admiral William Adama, President Laura Roslin, President Elect Doctor Gaius Baltar and Kara discuss the current situation regarding their newfound 'guests'.

Kara is doing most of the talking, "Doc Cottle is giving them physicals right now, he said he'll let us know if he finds anything unusual. According to our resident Cylon, none of them are Cylons, but then again, she didn't let on that dear Brother Cavil was a Cylon either. Patrols have conducted a visual search of the surrounding space and have found no signs of Cylons, or anything else for that matter." This does not fill the Admiral with much confidence since DRADIS is not functioning properly and visual scans are extremely limited. Kara continued, "Telescopic visual scans are limited because of the peculiar properties of the nebula. The vessel brought aboard Pegasus' landing bay has been transferred to the Celestra for examination. They said that they'll have something for us within the next day or so.

"As for our guests, Messaline is the only one of the group that can communicate with us, so we utilized her as a translator. Messaline claims that she doesn't know where she came from or why or how she's familiar with all our languages. Apparently she had an accident some time back and lost her memory. The crew of the vessel found her and she's been with them since. She claimed that they come from this system which contains at least five more stars and hundreds of planets and moons populated by billions of humans." This has everyone's attention.

Baltar looks as if he's coming out of a trance, suddenly understanding what's happening, "Are you telling me that these people are from around here? They aren't from the colonies?"

"Yes, Doctor," Admiral Adama answered calmly, "For now, I want to keep this information confidential until I know if there is any threat to the fleet."

"Threat to the fleet?" Baltar repeated in surprise. "Threat to the fleet? You bring aboard people from an environment which we have never encountered, letting them have casual contact with who knows whom and now you're telling me that you want to know if there's any threat to the fleet?"

"Doctor," the Admiral says calmly, "What are you trying to say?"

"Not all threats are bullets, missiles and robots. If these people are really humans from another civilization, one we have never encountered before, they may be carrying germs for which we have no immunity." Baltar simply stands and looks at him, "Does Doctor Cottle know who they are and where they're from?"

"No," Lee adds, "All he knows is that they are prisoners and suspected Cylons."

"Has anyone left the Pegasus since these 'guests' have been brought aboard?"

Admiral Adama considers what Baltar has presented while Lee calls CIC and cancels all departures and arrivals to and from Pegasus. Once he is off the phone, Lee turns says, "No one has departed Pegasus since the arrival of the newcomers other than to and from the Celestra. Pegasus is now quarantined until further notice."

"The Celestra will also have to be quarantined along with any other vessel the crew and passengers have come in contact with. I think that I should head down to medical and run tests on our guests or prisoners or aliens or whatever you would like to call them." Baltar gets up and leaves.

"Lee, go with him and try to keep this on a need to know bases only. I don't trust him to keep this under his hat if he's stressed." The older Adama tells the younger. Lee gets up and goes after Baltar. Admiral Adama gets on the phone ordering the Celestra to be quarantined and that a marine detachment be sent immediately to enforce it. Additionally, the Celestra is to travel in tight formation with Pegasus. Once finished, he turns to Kara, "Try to get coordinates as accurate as possible for the location of these planets and moons and then organize a plan for Raptor teams to verify," the Admiral considers further. "Make sure that the teams understand they are strictly to observe and under no circumstances are they to initiate contact."

"Yes, Sir," Kara acknowledged, and continued, "Right now, Messaline's with Doc Cottle getting a physical." Kara looks at her notes and continues.

"Malcolm Reynolds is a Merchant Captain. His primary occupation is the trading of goods. He pretty much tells the same story that Messaline did regarding population centers. When I asked him what they were doing out here, Messaline told me that she had convinced him that there would be profitable opportunities here. I also asked him why we haven't detected any traffic other than his vessel. Apparently, this area of the system is known as the Black. He doesn't know why no one travels here, but it's been tabooed for generations.

"Zoë Alleyne Washburne is the First Mate of the vessel. She is pregnant about two thirds along. She also tells the same story of the population centers.

"Simon Tam is the vessels doctor. He appears to be the most educated and has the most knowledge regarding what they call the core worlds and their system of government.

"Kaywinnit Lee Frye is the vessels mechanic. Beyond what her work entails, she doesn't appear to know much else, but she does tell of the population centers.

"Jayne Cobb is what Messaline labels a mission specialist, but if you ask me, he's a mercenary. He didn't say much, but it seems like he isn't too bright either. He began to lash out at one point, taking out three marines and knocked me on my..."

"Three?" Laura repeated in surprise, "How did you subdue him?"

Kara looked uncomfortable, "Messaline did."

"Messaline?" This time it was the Admiral's turn to repeat in surprise, "Did she say anything regarding the incident?"

Kara smirked, "Yeah, she said she loved him, but sometimes he's a pain in the ass." Adama and Roslin both smiled at the remark.

Kara continued, "Inara Serra is a Socialator, though she doesn't service the crew. It seems that a Socialator in this society is a psychological therapist specializing in sexual disorders. I don't see the difference though. She also seems to be very educated and understand a great deal of the system of government.

"River Tam is Simon Tam's sister. Her attention was all over the place. I can't be sure, but I think that she suffers from some kind of communication disorder or something.

"I also asked them about Earth." This was a definite attention getter. Would Admiral Adama and President Roslin object to her asking potential hostiles this question? She hoped not.

"Well," Laura asked, "Don't keep us in suspense."

"None of them knew where Earth was, but Simon, River and Inara all talked about an 'Earth-That-Was', saying that they are the descendents of the inhabitants of Earth who left because the planet could no longer sustain life."

The phone rings and Admiral Adama answers. Cottle is at the door and is granted entry. Cottle is clearly disturbed. "What's wrong Doctor," Admiral Adama asks.

As Cottle enters, Baltar and Lee run up behind him, obviously catching up to him, and they all sit down. Cottle hands the results of Messaline's scans to Baltar. "The girl Messaline, she isn't human." Everyone looks at one another, except for the Admiral who continues to look at Doctor Cottle.

"Is she a Cylon, Doctor?" Admiral Adama asks calmly.

"I don't know, but she's like nothing I've ever seen, not in a human and not in a Cylon."

"This is incredible," Baltar said after skimming the results of the scan, "You have verified these readings?" Everyone looks towards him.

"Did them twice. She's got two of things she should have one of, none of things she should have two of, and a whole bunch of things that I have no idea what they are. Her blood has no hemoglobin. Even the Cylons have hemoglobin in their blood. She also has an extra lobe in her brain."

Everyone absorbs what the Doctor is saying. Admiral Adama takes off his glasses, rubs his eyes and puts them back on, "Do you think that she poses a threat?"

"A threat? What? Do you mean if she'll explode at any second? I don't know. I have no idea how she's even alive, or functioning, or whatever. She looks human. She looks as if she's breathing, but she has no lungs. She's warm to the touch even though her core temperature reads less than 44% of what a normal person should be. I don't know what to make of her. In the meantime, I have sent her back to the cell. We're running tests on the rest of the prisoners."

"Make sure that you run tests for anything that may be infectious to us." Baltar jumps in.

"I can only test for what I know, I can't test for what I don't." Cottle throws back at him.

"Let us know what else you find out, Doctor," Admiral Adama acknowledged him. "Dismissed." Cottle just gave him a look, then turned around and left. The Admiral turned to Baltar, "If these people have brought about some sort of infection, how long would it be before we see any sign of it?"

"Every disease has its own incubation period." Baltar seems to mentally disappear for a moment and then returns. He continues, "I would imagine that if there are no symptoms after sixty days, then we can be fairly certain that there are no infections from our guests."

"Sixty Days?" Kara repeats out loud, not liking what she was hearing.

"Settle down, Starbuck," Admiral Adama says. Laura, on more than one occasion, notices that the Admiral is always so calm under pressure. "In the meantime, I suggest that we conduct business as usual as long as we can avoid physical contact with others in the fleet. Doctor Baltar, I suggest that we let President Roslin act as Colonial Ambassador once you have taken over the duties of the Office of the President, so that she may find a way to open communications with the Humans of this system."

Baltar didn't like the idea, but he didn't want to butt heads with Adama if he didn't have to. He'll have to pick his battles. Besides, he was anxious to get to sickbay and begin running tests. "Very well, Admiral." Baltar got up, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think that I should be with Doctor Cottle."

Baltar leaves and Lee is on his heels.

When the door closes, "Colonial Ambassador?" Laura looked at William Adama.

"I could think of nobody better for the job if we want these people to take us seriously." William Adama smiled at her.

Kara looked at them uncomfortably. She waited for a moment, stood at attention, then, "Permission to leave you two alone, Sir?" Kara asked.

Both Adama and Roslin straightened up and rose from the couch, " it's time we found something to do as well." Adama said as he and Roslin headed for the door arm in arm. Once in the main junction, the separated and Kara ran up to join her Admiral.

"Don't you think it's time you two got a room?" Kara asked playfully. The Admiral shot her a look and Kara quickly added, "Sir."

"What do you hear, Starbuck?" the Admiral asked Kara.

"Sir?"

"What do you hear?" he said louder.

"Nothin' but the rain," Kara answered confused.

"Make sure that's all you hear when you see Roslin and me together." Adama said with a straight face. Kara just looked at him, not knowing how to react. Then he let out a tiny smile and a wink. She then grabbed his arm and hugged it. "Don't you have something to do?" He asked her as they walked towards Pegasus' CIC.

"Roger that, Boss." Kara almost couldn't contain herself.

X X X X X

Quarantine

The Fleet had been advise that Pegasus was under quarantine and that there was no cause for alarm, it was just precautionary. Caps were flown, but there were no landings on Pegasus other than those which departed from Pegasus. None of Pegasus' aircraft landed anywhere else.

After everyone of Serenity's crew had completed their physicals, they were escorted back to their cell. The area consisted of three rooms side by side approximately four meters by eight meters each. Each of the outer rooms had bunk beds. The central room had four doors, one to each cell on opposite sides of the room and one on an adjacent wall leading to a storage room and bathroom, and on the opposite side, leading to the rest of the ship. It was this last door that opened. The central room was completely empty. The soldiers, unarmed, brought in a lot of stuff.

"What're they up to?" Jayne was fed up with being confined. Actually they all were, but it was most easily seen on him. They all watched behind the thick window.

When the soldiers were finished, their construct turned out to be a large table with twelve chairs. As soon as they left, another team came in bringing items.

"It seems that it's dinner time." Mal noticed they laying out utensils and placing trays of food in the center of the table.

"Fine by me, I'm starvin'" Kaylee was trying to see what exactly they brought. When this team finished, the left without a sound.

The next to enter was a single marine with his weapon slung over his shoulder. This was a nice change. Behind him, a woman, obviously someone of import and not connected to the military, came in, smiling.

The door to the cell opened. The woman turned to Messaline and asked her to translate. "Please, come and sit down," Laura invited them to the table. As soon as they stepped out of the cell, they noticed two marines by each side of the door.

When did they have a chance to come in without being seen, Mal thought. As his point of view changed, he noticed two more marines stationed outside the door as well.

As soon as they were all seated, Laura spoke up, "My name is Laura Roslin..."

River, smiling at Laura, interrupted, "The President Teacher. You I like." Everyone turned to River, surprised at what she said. One marine, turned an eye over at her for a second, then was back at attention.

"You can speak Caprican?" Laura was surprised. The grammar needed work, as did the pronunciation, but the girl was very understandable.

"Yes," River answered. "I listen, I associate, I repeat."

"That's wonderful!" Laura was elated.

Messaline explained what happened to the crew and continued to translate as Laura spoke. "I have been assigned to look after you and learn as much as you can teach me about your star system."

"Wait a second there," Mal was confused. "Are you saying that you're not from here? That you're from somewhere else? As in beyond the black?" Jayne, Simon, Inara and Kaylee were noticeably uncomfortable with Mal's revelation. Zoë sat still, the perpetual soldier under these circumstances, observing everything. River just smiled at Laura, extremely pleased with her.

"We are a fleet of refugees looking for a safe haven. Our home is, was a long way from here," Laura revealed.

"How long did it take you to get here?" Simon asked. Laura answered and Messaline translated the time. Simon considered, "Well, it couldn't be that far away, if it took you less than a year to get here."

Messaline smiled and informed him, "They have the capability to travel by folding space and can move about 16 light years in an instant."

Looking almost numb, Simon amended, "It could be a long way away from here."

Kaylee was excited at the news, "anything that can make a ship move that fast, I've go to see."

"They're not moving when they're traveling. They're just here and then they're there." River said while looking at something on the ceiling. During the whole conversation, Laura was enchanted by River. She read the report by Doctor Cottle that she went through some sort of medical procedure on her brain. River turns to Laura, smiling at her again, in Laura's language saying "You're family is here."

"What?" Laura is astonished by her words. Behind her, William Adama, Lee Adama and Kara Thrace walk in. "Oh."

"I apologize," the Admiral said, mostly to Laura, than to anyone else. "I was detained."

As the three sat down, the speakers blared out, "Action Stations, Action Stations. Set condition one throughout the fleet. This is not a drill."

Lee got up and ran to the phone beside the door, picked it up, pressed a button and waited half a second, "Report," he ordered. After a few seconds, he hung up. He turned to his father and said, "Cloud Nine has exploded. Initial reports say that it was an internal explosion. Debris has destroyed ships in its vicinity and damaged many others. Alert fighters have been launched just in case."

"Excuse us, please." Admiral Adama was always polite toward guests, no matter the situation. The Adamas and Kara left the room.

X X X X X

After their meal, Laura informed the crew that they were not prisoners and that the three rooms are for their use. Movement around the vessel is only under escort, but they may request an escort at any time barring any crises situation, whereby they were to be confined to these three rooms until it was over. She then left to meet with Cottle and discuss what his result revealed regarding the examinations. Cottle mentioned that Mal, Jayne, Simon and Kaylee are in good health and seemed to be genuine humans, as is Zoë who, at the end of her second trimester, is well as is her daughter. Inara and River are also human, but both are not in prime health. River has been operated on. For no apparent reason, she has had brain surgery multiple times with partial removal of tissue regulating suppression and other functions. Inara has a form of degenerative disease that he has never encountered before, a sort of cancer, but not really. She is in no immediate danger, but she has at most ten years to live. Messaline is the only real anomaly. He can't make heads or tails of her. She simply is not human, but she also does not appear to be Cylon, unless she is a model that is unknown to them, and he has absolutely no explanation for it.

The Raptor investigative teams had returned from their survey of the system and had confirmed almost everything that the crew of Serenity has told them about. Hundreds of inhabited worlds, billions of humans throughout the system. One team had encountered a hostile vessels in the vicinity of a technologically advanced world that seemed to have been abandoned. All this information was passed on to the Colonial Ambassador to prepare her for her assignment.

Laura works with the crew of Serenity over the next few weeks in order to learn their language and as much of their culture as she possibly can. Laura was especially drawn to River. River picked up the Caprican language very quickly, and within two weeks, was speaking at a level that she was able to assist in basic translations, including reading and writing. Each were assigned duties. Simon and River were assigned to Medical. Messaline and Inara were assigned as aides to Ambassador Laura Roslin under the supervision of Tory Foster, Laura's former Presidential Chief of Staff. Mal, Zoë, Kaylee and Jayne were assigned to Pegasus' Deck Chief, Peter Laird. Duty shifts are purposely very relaxed to provide ample time for the crew to return to their quarters to study the Caprican language by Messaline. Messaline also invests much time in teaching Laura and Tory English and Chinese so that they may perform their roles as Ambassadors, when the time came. Jayne spends much of his free time in the Pegasus' gym. Simon and River spend much of their free time in Medical because Simon feels obligated to help as much as he can. Doctor Cottle often converses with Simon, with River's help. Though unwilling to say so, Cottle is very impressed with Simon's abilities. Kaylee ends up spending as much of her free time volunteering in medical just so that she can see Simon as much as she can. Zoë is frequently asked to rest during her off hours, but refuses to do so (it appears a pregnant woman is a precious commodity in the fleet and everyone goes out of their way to be extra kind). Zoë does not appreciate the extra attention and prefers to work instead. She is then assigned to assist Simon in Medical so the staff can keep an eye on her. As the end of the Quarantine grows near, Zoë approaches the end of her eighth month. Mal and Inara have come to spend much time together during their free time, not really doing anything, they are satisfied to just walk together quietly roaming throughout the halls, occasionally being turned around by security personnel when straying too far.

By the end of the quarantine period, Jayne is getting very antsy. "I don't know how much longer I can take this. I need to get off this ship already. It's boring as hell here. There's no decent bars and you can't even start a brawl with anyone without the marines stickin' a rifle in your face. I'm goin' batty here!"

"I know what you mean," Mal agrees, "but in the mean time, I don't see that we have much choice without Serenity."

Suddenly, as if to answer Jayne's prayers to end his boredom, the loudspeaker announces, "Action stations, action stations, set condition one throughout the colony. This is not a drill."

"Well, you said that you were bored, didn't you." Mal smiled at Jayne and tried to use his broken Caprican to communicate with the guard outside the door, "What's going on here?"

"I don't know, sir." the guard answers, remaining at attention. "I try not to speculate if I can avoid it." The phone beside the door rings and the guard answers by stating his name. "Yes, ma'am. Captain Reynolds is here." a pause, and then, "Yes, ma'am." The guard turns to Mal and informs him that Laura is on her way and she would like to ask you a few questions.

Laura arrives with Tory, Messaline and Inara. She asks everyone to sit by the table. Tory pulls out a few sheets of paper and places them on the table. They are pictures of a ship from different angles.

Zoë and Mal instantly recognize it and become deadly serious. Laura and Tory both look at them and see the recognition on their faces. "What is it?" Tory asks.

"It's a Victoria Class Corvette, Alliance military, Special Ops." Zoë states.

"Special Ops? Why would it be out here?" Tory looks from Mal to Zoë, "Looking for you?"

"They've detected the nuclear explosion and were sent to investigate." River is doing a handstand in the corner, tights concealing the portion her upturned skirt normally would had she been standing upright. "Somebody had better say to them, 'We come in peace,' before they find you and get too nervous."

Simon begins to get nervous. He turns to Laura and asks to speak to her privately. Trying to tell her what's on his mind, he's unsuccessful, so he asks River to help. "My brother is afraid that they will find me and take me away. But it won't happen because you won't let them," calmly, playfully, River tells Laura what is on Simon's mind. "He's afraid that they will torture me as they once did, trying to force me to do bad things."

Laura is surprised by what she has heard. She heads off to speak to William Adama.

X X X X X

We Come In Pieces

William Adama, Laura Roslin, Tory Foster and Messaline walk off the Raptor on to Galactica's hangar deck. Colonel Tigh is there to meet Adama. "Good to have you back. Enjoy your vacation?"

Adama smiles at his old friend and comrade in arms. "Ship still in one piece, Saul?"

"As much as it could be. The crew will be glad that you're back." Tigh reports to Adama as they walk side by side toward the CIC. "Raptors are monitoring the Alliance vessel. We're ready to intercept them when you give the word."

"Spool up the FTL drive," Adama orders.

X X X X X

On the small bridge of the corvette, a soldier suddenly notices something that he swears was not there a second ago, "Ma'am, we are detecting a ship about 10,000 kilometers ahead on an intercept course. It's larger than a Crete Carrier, Ma'am. Much larger."

"No sign of it prior to now? Interesting. Hold course." The Commander of the corvette didn't even have a rank. She simply was addressed as 'Ma'am'. She simply had no other designation. In fact, she did not even have a uniform. She wore a black skintight full body leotard, black stiletto heeled knee high boots and a black sari that draped her two meter tall well toned body (totaling 212 centimeters with her boots), her extremely long black hair was braided so neatly and tightly that not a strand was out of place anywhere. Though everyone, behind closed doors, tries to guess, no one is able to identify which mix of ethnicities she comes from nor can they guess her age, she is an absolutely timeless beauty. With an even dark complexion and clear dark eyes she is so breathtaking that it is difficult for the crew, even the female members, to refocus on their duties once they have looked at her. When she speaks, she's hypnotic. Everything about her is graceful, elegant, personable yet mysterious. But, with all this, her mind is always on her mission, and it never strays, even when it appears to others that it does. She is a very efficient agent of the Alliance. She always gets the job done. She does not wish to cause harm or destroy, especially without cause, but if she must, she has no qualms about it.

Behind her, another soldier addresses her, "We are receiving a transmission, Ma'am."

"Let's hear it." She tells the soldier, sitting casually in the seat beside this soldier.

A female voice is making the address, "This is Admiral Adama representing the refugees of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. We humbly and respectfully request an audience with the commander of your vessel. Please respond."

Interesting. Could this be a trick? "Could you give me a close-up of the ship?" the agent addresses the first soldier.

The soldier which discovered the ship works at his keyboard. "I can, but due to the properties of the nebula, the image is rather poor."

"That's fine, let's see it." Very interesting. She's never seen anything like it before. What the hell, she decides. She turns back to the female soldier, "Open a channel."

"Online."

"Admiral Adama, I would be honored to meet with you. How do you suggest we proceed?" This promises to be very interesting experience.

X X X X X

The agent's crew did not like it when she crawled through an airlock into the small craft the Galactica sent over. The agent thought to herself that she needed to suggest to the designers of the corvette that an auxiliary craft would be useful at times. There were two people manning the craft. The Pilot and the the Radio Electronics Officer? They both had helmets on. The REO looked up at her, she was very young the agent thought.

"Plis Sit hir," The young woman said. The young woman obviously didn't speak English. The agent sat down and allowed the REO to secure her. "Oh Ki?" The woman asked, smiling?

"Yes, Xie xie." The agent replied. The young woman seemed please. She secured the airlock, returned to her seat, secured herself, and said something the agent could not understand, apparently into a communications device. What language was that? The craft detached from her vessel and headed toward the Galactica.

X X X X X

As soon as the REO unstrapped the agent, she took off her helmet and opened the door of the craft. A reception was waiting for her. As the Agent exited the Raptor, many people just looked at her in awe, these were obviously the civilians. The military personnel were extremely professional at perpetual attention. She noticed only the slightest deviation from them, actions that the untrained would not have noticed. The military uniforms were unfamiliar to her, but some of the civilian fashions would not be unfamiliar on many worlds. An officer stepped forward with a very petite young blonde girl at his side. Looking up into her eyes, the distinguished man said something which the agent could not understand.

"I am Admiral William Adama, commander of the fleet of refugees of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Welcome aboard the Battlestar Galactica." The blonde girl said, obviously translating.

Looking at Adama, "Hello Admiral, the pleasure is mine. I am an agent of the Union of Allied Planets." How is it that this girl knows our language and none of the others do? Is she a specialist whose task was to study us? Is this a prelude to invasion or are they as the say they are, refugees? So many questions. She now began to wonder if there were first contact procedures at all in existence. The little she had already seen convinced her that these people were not of the 'Verse. None of the writing was familiar. None of the words spoken during the trip from her ship were recognizable. She must assess the security threat these people posed and then report back to the parliament as soon as possible.

"How may we address you?" Adama asked, via Messaline.

"You may address me as Agent," courteous as ever.

"We have a tour planned for you, if you'd like. Afterwards, we would like to discuss the possibility of open peaceful relations between our governments." Adama stepped to one side and extended his arm, obviously as a gesture for her to proceed forward.

Perhaps these people aren't so different from us, judging by their body language, "I would like that very much, thank you." She proceeded and Adama walked beside her continuing the conversation via Messaline who was a step behind, ever smiling.

X X X X X