A Day In The Life Continued - This is my version of how "A Day in The Life" by imjustaguy should have ended

CHAPTER EIGHT

Present Day - Cyrannus System - Spattered Raindrop Nebula: 18,000 light years from milky way galaxy.

ROU Kicking Down the Door continued talking to the cylon command aboard the compromised basestar.
"I am the Rapid Offensive Unit Kicking Down The Door and I represent the Interstellar civilization "The Culture". Our Civilization is composed of trillions of sentient minds from human standard intelligence to Minds many orders of magnitude more intelligent. We wish you no harm, but the time for games of death is over. We demand you cease and desist your war of genocide against the colonials or face the consequences. In return, we offer eventual membership to The Culture."

The Cylons aboard, however, heard only silence.
The three asked intently, "Is it gone? Maybe our missiles destroyed it."
An eight said, pursing her lips with a serious expression, "We still don't have control of our systems. They must be infected with some kind of virus."

"The Gods quarrel. Hydrazyne composition of engines adjusted. Failsafe memory core rebooting."

"What the frak are the hybrids talking about?" said a three, shaking her head

"Don't listen to them, it's gibberish."

Slowly, the various tactical, sensor, life support, information systems and associated hardware began to reboot and the red emergency lights flickered off and were replaced with eerily bright white fully operational systems lighting.

"We have systems back online" said an eight, looking up from the green glowing terminal.

"Lock on target and take out the enemy vessel." demanded the three.

Nuclear tipped missiles sped towards the target and passed through empty space.

The eight responded, "There's nothing there."

The Cylons looked at each other incredulously.

Present Day

Brian looked intently at all of them and gritted his teeth while clenching his stomach tightly and closing his eyes. He pressed the button to detonate the micro warhead buried in his chest cavity.

He said his prayers to God as the button fully depressed and contact was made with the bomb.

Nothing happened.

He opened his eyes again and looked around.

Everyone was still there.

Except Baltar who had apparently just disappeared.

"What the frak"

-
Six Months ago (Colonial Reckoning) - Interstellar Space - Spattered Raindrop Nebula - 18,000 light years from Milky Way

Steppe Class MSV "Science Project" dropped out of ultraspace at the outer edge of a G4 planetary system and started scanning with a wide band electromagnetic and optical scan using onboard Effectors. As normal for systems of this type there were a number of gas giants, one huge multi-coloured banded hydrogen-helium giant and another, less brilliant but with a gorgeous rock-dust water-ice ring at an angle to its ecliptic. There were two additional featureless and cold smaller gas balls The fourth planet was just on the edge of the habitable zone but was so small it's atmosphere and all traces of water vapor it had once had had leaked away millions of years ago leaving it barren, bone dry and completely lifeless. The second planet was a super greenhouse death ball where the metal lead existed in a molten state with clouds of sulphuric acid in an atmosphere heated to over five hundred degrees centigrade. The first planet was barely a moon but orbiting so close to the star that it had ceased to rotate and was gravity locked to the star. It was a one-face world.

The third planet out, however was a typical oxygen-water world with optically obvious signs of late stage 3 early stage 4 civilization.

-To-Incident Group

-From - MSV - Science Project

I'm here. I think I've found the originator planet where the signals in the 2,000 year old electromagnetic envelope we intercepted were coming from. The planet which according to the signals best as we can make out translates as "Soil" in Marain.

-From - GSV - Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)
-To-MSV-Science Project

Good work. Get a wide range of data and report back. You know the drill.

-To-Incident Group

-From-MSV - Science Project

No problem boss.

-From-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)
-To-MSV-Science Project

Don't call me that.

-To-Incident Group -From-MSV

- Science Project

LOL.

OK I'll report back when I have more. Science Project out.

Present Day

Rapid Offensive Unit Kicking Down the Door was mystified in as far as a Mind could be.

It ran a complete check of its sensing instruments and then a double check and then a triplicate. Jarringly, it wasn't in fact seeing things in spite of the impossible evidence. According to the readings whereas it had been deep inside the nebula containing both the colonies and the Cylon territories, incredibly it was no longer where it expected to be.

Now, according to best evidence calibrations with the stars around it from verifiable records it was floating at least two hundred light years outside the nebula back in the direction of the milky way.

The optical sensors reported a vibrantly beautiful view of the sworling aquamarine galactic cloud which was known to The Culture as the Spattered Raindrop Nebula or NGC 3603 to Earth astronomers.

With some confusion the Mind deliberated. For all of four hundred microseconds it ran back through its sensor records and there was no discernible time lapse between when it had been there and arriving here.

"Very interesting" it thought.

If it had been a human it might have shuddered a little.

-To-Incident Group

-From - Rapid Offensive Unit Kicking Down the Door

LOL. You're not going to believe this. Well maybe you will on second thoughts given all the goofy shit that has already happened so far. But regardless, I have a little issue.

-
Six Months Ago (Colonial Reckoning)

MSV Science Project coasted slowly towards the blue white planet at .05 lights on plasma engines, a gentle whorl of highly charged noble gas ions swirling behind in its wake. As it coasted starwards it collected all the usual reams of data about the planetary system and carefully categorized and logged every data point fastidiously for safekeeping. Although The Culture could sublime at any minute if it chose to, like countless Elder Civilizations that had gone before it, they still had an interest in the mundane, in the real universe.

The Culture was obsessed with real data and always collected as much as it could, regardless of how insignificant or trivial such data might seem at first glance. That said, the bulk of its sensors were directed at the third planet in spite of the reams of data it was accumulating from the rest of the system.
All normal electromagnetic spectrum effectors showed the expected traces indicating a typical class 3 to early class 4 civilization.

From the indications, the planet would be heavily populated, numbering around five and a half billion human type species estimated. By Culture standards, the planet was bursting at the seams and a more comfortable level of population would have been around a half billion total.

Drilling down to a greater level of detail, the continents showed a high level of urbanization from poles to tropics with several hundred cities of a million or more people and a couple dozen megacities in the range of ten million or more.

The planet itself was unremarkable. It had eight continents, about sixty percent concentrated in the southern region, but also two rocky continents at the poles, glaciated and though not heavily populated, even so had signs of inhabitation. These people whoever they were, were tenacious.

The atmosphere also was typical of such worlds with 19% oxygen, less than one percent Carbon Dioxide, some noble gases, an estimated few hundred years of industrial crap and the rest nitrogen.

Unfortunately the Mind could already see an issue in the electromagnetic spectrum sweep of the planet at high frequencies.

There was radiation everywhere and a scan of the most concentrated radioactive elements and their proportions correlated with the known half lives of these elements lead to the inescapable conclusion that the population had clearly fought a thermonuclear war some two thousand some years ago.

Using yet more sophisticated scans capable of detecting the tell-tale signature of life the disappointing result was the cities were all radioactive ruins and everyone was dead. The Mind sighed mentally and extended the scan to the other planets and moons that could theoretically have been reached by a civilization with this level of technology.

Sadly, it appeared there were absolutely no signs of human life left alive on the planet or anywhere else in the system for that matter.

The Mind consulted with itself for a split second and then made the machine equivalent of a heavy sigh and switched to sensors using more exotic forms of energy including hyperspace sensors and ultraspace sensors and made a broad sweep of the planet looking for any clues as to what had happened to them.

What it saw, it recognized immediately.

"Shit"

CHAPTER NINE - A Day in the Life Continued

Six months earlier - Colonial Reckoning - Spattered Raindrop Nebula

Although the blue-white water planet floating in front right ahead of it was unremarkable when viewed using realspace instruments such as those that measure the electromagnetic spectrum, neutrinos, gravity waves et cetera, it was altogether a different sight when seen using ultrawave instruments.

Surrounding the planet out to about half an astronomical unit was a shimmering white barrier with a particular ultrawave radiation signature that MSV Science Project recognized only too well and had seen once before at Schar's world.

Hastily before attracting any kind of attention, Science Project snapped a high resolution photograph in ultrawave and reversed thrust back out towards the edge of the system as fast as sentiently possible.

At the very edge of the system when it was sure it was out of trouble, it communicated with GSV-Tripping Through the Stars to let it know what it had seen.

To-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)

From-MSV Science Project

-sending urgent data-

I thought you might like to see this. You will of course recognize this image as soon as you see it. As a precaution I have aborted the mission to investigate the planet pending further instructions. I will of course, continue to collect data on the outer system but for now, I'm gong nowhere near it. One thing at least, we know one of the players out here. The Dra'Azon…. Science Project out.

Six Months ago - Colonial Reckoning - Spattered Raindrop Nebula 18,000 light years from Milky Way

To-Incident Group

From-GSV - Tripping Through The Stars (Incident Coordinator)

Certainly the conversation Science Project had with the Dra'Azon is very interesting.

Good work by the way Science, although I must say, a little unorthodox in how you got the guardian to respond.

To-Incident Group

From-MSV Science Project

Thank you. I do what I can.

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-How Many Roads can a Mind Walk Down

Can we be sure that it's not really the Dra'Azon who are running the whole show in spite of what they say? They certainly have the power to be able to do this given their command of technology in advance of ours. I for one am not convinced they have no hand in this. I don't trust the Dra'Azon further than I can throw them. Which is to say, not at all.

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-Dancing on Pinheads

Well as far as I can make out, the Dra'Azon don't seem to do much other than act as sort of museum curators. They don't seem to actively interfere like us Involveds do.

To-Incident Group

From-ROU Kicking Down the Door

Nice picture Dancing, but I think they're more like bouncers throwing out undesirables trying to get into a fashionable dance club.

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-How Many Roads can a Mind Walk Down

How droll Kicking. Just like you. I think you spend too much time spying on the humans. You're just like Meatfucker in some ways.

Tp-Incident Group

From-GCU-Dancing on Pinheads

Regardless of what analogy we use here, it seems to me that this is not the style of the Dra'Azon. I really don't think it is them doing it. Shall we take a vote? For it being the Dra'Azon, against it being the Dra'Azon?

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-How Many Roads can a Mind Walk Down

For

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-Dancing on Pinheads

Against

To-Incident Group

From-ROU Kicking Down the Door

Against

To-Incident Group

From-MSV Science Project

Do I get a vote? Yippee!

OK then, seriously?

Against

To-Incident Group

From-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars

Against

To-Incident Group

From-GCU Dew of the Morning Flower

Against

To-Incident Group

From-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars

Well we seem to have reached a consensus and agreed that most of us don't think it's the Dra'Azon based on past evidence of behavior, excepting our good friend Roads. Given that we suspect it's not the Dra'Azon and we know of no other Involveds out here and the Dra'Azon have been known to be somewhat obtuse in the past, I suggest we continue, but maintain a low profile. Science Project, why don't you withdraw to the edge of the system and keep quiet unti something crops up?

PRESENT DAY - Baltar's quarters - GSV - Tripping Through the Stars - Ten Light Years outside Cyrannus System beyond the range of Cylon or Colonial instruments - Spattered Raindrop Nebula - 18,000 light years from Milky Way

Baltar raised his eyebows and smiled lopsidedly, taking in the view of his spacious cabin. In spite of his instant change of surroundings his face betrayed no sign of surprise, instead he registered just a trace of sardonic humour.

He said out loud to one in particular, "Well isn't this a surprise?"

"Baltar? What are you doing here?" said the ship's Mind.

"I'm not sure, but it is very interesting, isn't it?"

"Like the ancient curse Baltar. By the way, where is your terminal? You don't usually go without it."

"I'm not sure. When I was displaced by Kicking on board ship along with the Cylons, I guess he must have assumed that since I had the drone with me I was in good enough contact."

"Speaking of whom…"

"Hello Baltar, it's a relief to hear you. I was a bit worried you had been displaced along with the missing Cylons... " said the voice of Kicking Down the Doors

"That sounds ominous" said Tripping

Present Day - Interstellar Space, just outside Spattered Raindrop Nebula, 18,000 light years fro m Milky Way

To-Incident Group

From - Rapid Offensive Unit Kicking Down the Door

By the way, just for shits and giggles people, can you guess where I am?

To-Incident Group

From-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)

You're not usually this flippant, KD, what's going on?

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-Dancing On Pinheads

Do Tell.

To-Incident Group

From-ROU Kicking Down the Door

I am now located 200 light years outside the Spattered Raindrop Nebula. I can see a very pretty Herbig Haro object just barely visible that wasn't here the last time. It's quite nice actually

-sending image-

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-How Many Roads can a Mind Walk Down

How Droll.

-receiving image-

Yes it's very pretty I'm sure. I always liked baby stars. Nevertheless, let's get back to the topic on hand shall we? We have important things to attend to, but you're traipsing around sightseeing. Could you go back to the Cyrannus system to deal with the Cylons now please?

To-Incident Group

From-ROU Kicking Down the Door

The point is…. people…. I've only been here for about a minute real time.

From-GCU-Dancing On Pinheads

To-Incident Group

Ooops...

Just out of interest...

Do you happen to have a copy of your mind state or at least the relevant frames from the period where you transferred so we can examine?

From-ROU Kicking Down the Door

To-Incident Group

You know, if I was insane I wouldn't even have mentioned it, but the point is, I got here in a timescale that's impossible. I can of course transmit my mind state to you if absolutely necessary but you have my word that I'm not compromised or making things up. I simply don't know how I got here

To-Incident Group

From-GCU-Dancing On Pinheads

woooo-oooooo spooky! Ghosts!

To-Incident Group

From-GSV Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)

No slight is intended Kicking I'm sure. The others don't have the evidence you and I have. I for example have Baltar aboard as you are aware, so something strange has definitely happened. Do you think the Dra'Azon are taking a hand in this? They seem to be involved somehow. I'm going to add Science Project to the chat.

-cc'ing Science Project-

To-Incident Group

From-MSV Science Project

Hello everyone. I'm glad to hear from you. As much fun as I'm having out here on the edge of this dead system, I'm a little bored with nothing to do except collect data. BTW Can you add me to the Incident Group as a full member instead of having to add me in to the cc list all the time?

To-Incident Group

From-GSV-Tripping Through the Stars (Incident Coordinator)

Of course.

-adding Science Project to Incident Group-

Well I have some news for you sending transcript of previous conversation. I don't think you'll be bored much longer, even though I suspect you've probably spent as much time as you could in Infinite Fun Space to while away the hours.

We'd like you to ask the Dra'Azon if it's doing this.

To-Incident Group

From-MSV Science Project

Woo-hoo. Fun and games indeed. Of Course. I'll move in right now.

PRESENT DAY - Spattered Raindrop Nebula 18,000 light years from Milky Way. Outer edge of previously unknown Dra'Azon Planet of the Dead System.

MSV Science Project fired up it's hyperdrive and in less than a minute was in geostationary equatorial orbit round the third planet.

It noted with interest the shimmering barrier visible only with ultrawave instruments.

Using it's broadband ultrawave transmitter/receiver it beamed directly at the barrier

"I have a question"

No response.

Science Project waited over an hour, an interminably long period of time for a Mind before a response was received.

"YOU MAY NOT PASS THE BARRIER"

"I don't want to pass the barrier. I want to ask you questions."

No reponse. "Dickhead fucking typical Dra'Azon response just exactly like the transcripts read from earlier contacts." thought Science Project, "These elder civilizations, however advanced they may be, have little in the way of wit or social graces."

Science Project transmitted once more, "I'm going to send a Drone in. It is a sentient entity and thus it would be most uncouth to destroy it."

"YOU MAY NOT PASS THE BARRIER"

Drone Eta Gumpferdugoo metaphorically looked up from his hobby of tending to rare fungi.

"Yes MSV-Science Project, what's going on?"

"I want to send you outside to take a look at something."

"You have my interest."

"It could be dangerous."

"Of course it is. But don't worry about that. Danger is the reason I signed up for SC in the first place. So what do you want me to do?"

Less than a minute later the drone was floating right on the edge of the shimmering barrier, hovering just out of physical reach and maintaining distance with attitude jets ready to take it back to the ship at a moment's notice.

"Get as close as you can"

"Will do"

The little drone flew closer to the barrier ever so gently using a bare whisper of attitude jets until it was less than a half-centimeter from the barrier.

"IF YOU ENTER THE BARRIER YOU WILL BE DESTROYED."

MSV Science Project transmitted back at the sphere: "Now we have your attention. Are you responsible for the displacement of Culture Vessel Kicking Down the Door to outside this galactic nebula?"

"WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN THE AFFAIRS OF LOWER CIVILIZATIONS"

"So you didn't do it then? In that case who did it?"

No response. After ten minutes MSV Science Project asked drone Eta to move yet closer.

"YOU ARE VERY CLOSE TO DESTRUCTION"

MSV Science Project transmitted back, "You're not very fucking helpful are you? Just bloody well tell us who did it."

"THERE ARE OTHERS"

"Whooping fucking obvious. Who are they and what are they doing?"

"WE HAVE NO INTEREST IN OBSERVING ANY OTHERS. THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT WHERE THEY ARE."

"How bloody cryptic of you. I'm beginning to wonder if you Dra'Azon guardians are actually sentient or not"

No response. After ten more minutes, MSV Science Project deliberated with itself and concluded there was no further point in risking damage or death to the Drone.

"Drone Eta, you may return to the airlock. I don't think we're going to get much else out of this bucket of bolts."

To-Incident Group

From-MSV Science Project

-transmitting recording of conversation with Dra'Azon guardian-

A Day in the Life Continued - Chapter 10 - Aboard Cylon Dradis Vessel - Cyrannus Sytem - Spattered Raindrop Nebula - 18,000 light years from Milky way - Present Day

The model One looked skeptically at the other Cylon humanoid models and without warning burst out laughing. It was a horrible laugh full of an evil cynicism which, had there been any human present, would have given said human shivers. The laugh silenced the others.

He spoke in a condescending supercilious tone, "Do any of you toasters actually, honestly believe in this total frakken crap that the human Baltar tried to pull over your eyes?"

The Three was looking at her feet, shoulders slumped with a look of acute embarrassment.

The Three spoke up pointedly, without raising her eyes to look at the One, "Do you believe that this could be anything else other than powerful Aliens? Baltar has disappeared for example, and we all remember being aboard the other ship?"

The One laughed cruelly once more, "You are so naive Three. And your suggestions are counter to our teachings received from God. The humans are weak. They are animals and we have been given a holy command from on high that they are an abomination to be destroyed. To say anything else is heresy."

The One paced back and forth, tutting and rolling his eyes.

The Six spoke up, shaking her head, "I'm not convinced One. How did we get aboard the other ship and how did Baltar disappear?"

The One shook his head in reply, "There is no sign of any alien ship on our sensors. There is no trace of a hyperspace wormhole having closed. There is no radiation signature. HOW could a ship just vanish into thin air?"

The Three spoke, less surely this time, "But we all remember being there. We remember being with Baltar."

The One rolled his eyes, "We remember nothing of the sort. Are we not networked machines? Clearly what has happened is a virus which affected our systems. Six you yourself have tried to 'befriend' Baltar because he alone among humans has intelligence almost equal to one of us. He alone is capable of defending the colony's systems. I suggest that this is Baltar's work. An anti-intrusion defense mechanism in the Colony mainframe picked up your attempts to probe the system and what we all think we heard and saw were the results of our systems (which by the way are derived from colony designs in case you have forgotten) being targeted for destruction by the colony anti-virus system."

The others were slowly nodding, except the Three. The Six had a look of surprise, mixed with resignation and just a touch of dislike. She dropped her head and looked down.

"Three" spoke the One, "I suggest you check yourself in for repair, many of your sisters are also exhibiting strange cyber-neurological symptoms and at least some of them have had to be boxed. Since what you are suggesting verges on heresy, I suggest you rethink your position before we have to take any further actions. That is all."

Without looking at any of them, the One turned his back on them and strode from the room.

CHAPTER 11 – A Day in the Life Continued

ping Incoming signal from sub-sentient Terminal attached to Gauis Baltar.

To: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network Node

From: Terminal 129523 Gaius Baltar attached

Baltar is acting funny. He doesn't know the password even though his biometrics otherwise check out. He also is behaving as if he doesn't know what I am or what I am for. Please provide me with a response since for me this is an out-of-context situation I don't know what to do with.

To: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

From: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network

Terminal 129-523-8856, you say Gaius is with you? Can you verify and please elaborate on methodology of verification?

To: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network Node

From: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

Affirmative. Gaius Baltar is physically present standing beside me, examining my physical external. I have verified by retinal scan, heat signature, heartbeat signature, electrical skin resistance signature, pheromone signature , gait signature, breathing signature and voice signature. It's Gaius. The only remaining tests not done are DNA analysis and brain scan, which I won't do because it is of course uncouth to do so. Again. This is Gaius but he appears to have lost his memory because he's otherwise normal but doesn't know how to interact with me or indeed even what I am.

To: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

From: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network

Thank you. Interesting. Could you please collect a sample of DNA. We don't need a brain scan for now because as you say, that would be a disgusting invasion of sentience.

In Baltar's apartment, Baltar continued to examine the weird looking device on his coffee table that he had found wedged between his mattress and his box spring. It looked somewhat similar to an older model laptop and definitely appeared to be of colonial design from it's aesthetics but he had never seen anything exactly like it and wondered what it could possibly be. It had spoken to him in an unknown language and then in Colonial standard asking for an identification phrase. For a brief instant he had also though he may have seen the briefest glimpse of a laser retinal scanner but there was no way to identify exactly what it was. Perhaps it was a Cylon device?

As Baltar continued to examine the device, a small, microscopically visible nano-structure detached from the surface of the terminal and rearranged into a gossamer form somewhat resembling a microscopic mosquito. It flew towards Baltar, landed on him unnoticeably and injected it's proboscis, gathering both a skin sample and a blood sample. It then detached with its cargo, flew back to the terminal, reconfigured itself into what was essentially a beaker in a tiny bio-chemical lab just constructed milliseconds before on a tiny bubble on the surface of the terminal, invisible to Baltar's eye and unknown to him. In less than a second it had the result of the analysis that it was looking for and transmitted the data back to the waiting ship.

To: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network Node

From: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

I can confirm that this DNA sample matches exactly to within acceptable statistical deviation with my records of the several tens of thousands of DNA base pairs corresponding to Gauis Baltar. The mithochondrial DNA also match. As far as I can tell, this is indeed Gaius Baltar. Please provide identification reset instructions.

To: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

From: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network

Interesting. Do nothing for now unless Baltar decides to take you out of the building.

To: Dancing On Pinheads Terminal Access Network Node

From: Terminal 129-523-8856-Dancing On Pinheads - Gaius Baltar attached

Acknowledged.

"Heh Baltar" said the disembodied voice of the ship Dancing on Pinheads

Baltar looked up from his currently occupied recreational room which was formed into an exercise facility wherein he was working out on board the vessel Dancing on Pinheads.

"Yes"

"Did you know you have a twin?"

"What?"

CHAPTER 12 A Day in the Life Continued

Nine Months Ago - Spiya-Namark Orbital, Tripatch system, six hundred light years from Idiran sphere of Influence, Milky Way Galaxy

Spiya-Namark orbital was small as Culture Orbitals go. Most modern Orbitals were several million kilometers in circumference, whereas Spiya-Namark was only some eighty thousand. Spiya-Namark was also very ancient. At six plus thousand years old it was one of the oldest surviving orbitals remaining in the Culture. Interestingly, however, though it was one of the first orbitals ever constructed in the Culture, nothing about it was old in terms of functionality. Like some of the most recently built orbitals, it was not statically bound to any particular star system.

The Orbital was capable of interstellar travel and this star system, Tripatch was one of several hundred systems that Spiya-Namark had called home in the last sixty five centuries. Spiya-Namark was nothing like ordinary and was a formidable starship in its own right.

In terms of flight hardware, it had triple redundant ultradrive engines, the same in backup hyperdrive engines and as a last resort, massive plasma ion sublight drives.

Additionally to its flight capability, Spiya-Namark was armed to the teeth with all the standard tried-and-tested military hardware the best Culture Minds could provide. Last but not least though the human and drone population numbered in the region of eighty million citizens, not a single one of them were civilians.

The Tripatch system itself was very unusual for a home system of an orbital, though truth be told this was not Spiya-Namark's home system at all. Usually, an orbital home system was cleared of debris in order to eliminate the risks to the population of any impacts. This star had a full complement of debris which rained down towards the orbital on a regular basis. Additionally, the star itself was unusual. It was part of a binary pair, one half of which was a brown dwarf, just under the size at which nuclear fusion ignited the star, and the other half of the pair, the primary was an unstable Cygnus type red dwarf. Every four and a third standard months, the star would flare and eject a massive pulse of lethal radiation which washed over the entire orbital.

All of this made Spiya-Namark both a very interesting and a very dangerous place to live by Culture standards. Its location in the Galaxy was odd too.

Although Spiya-Namark was relatively close to the Idiran sphere of influence which were now nominal Culture allies, the Idirans knew nothing of its existence. Nor was Spiya-Namark listed in the public directory of orbitals, accessible to all Culture citizens. Indeed, very few Minds knew of its location.

In fact, Spiya-Namark was a classified military base belonging to a secret branch of Special Circumstances.

Like many of the statements made about the Culture for example, "The Culture has no standing Army" this statement was mostly true.

Out of a population of umpteen trillion humans and drones and billions of Minds, less than a tenth of a percent of the population even knew a military existed. Another almost true "common knowledge" statement made about the Culture was that if you were turned down for a career with Special Circumstances you very rarely were reconsidered. If you failed the entrance exam you failed and that was the end of it. Period.

Special Circumstances, however, was a nebulous organization, whose structure and organization was unknown not only to the average Culture citizen, but also within itself. Special Circumstances had many branches. The largest branch of Special Circumstances in terms of population was also its least known branch. Officially called "Administrative Support", this section of Special Circumstances was really the military arm of Special Circumstances.

Therein lay the lie to those who believed there were no second chances to join SC once you were turned down. Although a very tiny percentage of Culture Citizens had what it took to be in effect what was a covert embedded agent, a much larger percentage of the population had the raw material to become a military recruit. It was these that formed the Military arm of the Culture and they lived, breathed and trained on places like Spiya-Namark Orbital. Somewhat cynically, the origin of the phrase, "Don't Fuck with the Culture" came from this nebulous branch of Special Circumstances.

Another day, another military drill.

Deepak Climch looked uneasily at the sky, a deep azure interspersed with whorls of cloud patterns. His sunglasses adjusted within microseconds, to block out most of the harmful glare of the sun, protecting his eyes. Tripatch, this system's primary was at a slight angle to noon but still very high in the sky. Although there had been no flares for six weeks and another wasn't due for a couple of months, he felt like he could see the star flickering, though this was clearly his imagination.

Glancing away from the star, away in the distance, rising majestically up from the horizon in both directions spinward and anti-spinward, could be seen the beautiful blue-white ribbon of the orbital itself. Deepak sighed and continued with the suit check drill.

Though atmosphere was Culture standard, every Administrative Support recruit was required to wear their suit four hours every day. Unlike virtually anywhere else in the Culture, including most of Special Circumstances itself, there were actual rules here on this orbital.

Having to follow rules was grating at first, for every new recruit, but eventually you got used to it. And anyway, though there were rules, they really were voluntary to a certain point. You could either follow the rules and become a trained warrior in the service of the Culture or else you could leave. That rule existed as long as a recruit remained in Administrative Support. One could leave at any point. Few who could tolerate the conditions ever did and every Administrative Support agent was very proud of that fact. Above all, the Culture prized two virtues. First was sentience, which was why the Culture Minds as powerful as they were deigned to take part in a mostly human civilization. Second was choice. No Culture citizen, nor any Culture Mind no matter how powerful would ever coerce another entity to do something it did not want to do unless that entity was directly threatening the death of another unwilling entity and was being unreasonable. Those two tenets formed the core of Culture civilization and applied directly to the Culture's military arm. The Culture needed humans as a military backup but it would not coerce anyone to join this military. As such, all the military personell in Special Circumstances Administrative Support branch were strictly volunteers who had not quite met the requirements for Special Circumstances itself but easily met the requirements for Administrative Support. Many in Administrative Support later came to say they preferred that they had ended up in this branch because it was clearly more exciting and rewarding than being a mere spy even if the regular branches of SC disagreed.

That said, like soldiers from virtually every civilization that had ever existed, soldiers everywhere loved to grumble. Deepak mumbled minor insults as he completed his suit inspection in minute detail and then checked and double checked. Finally he went through the process of putting it on manually piece by piece as if the power had failed. Then and only then would he make contact with the suit's mind.

Deepak had a blinding headache and, his mouth was dry and he had a mild sense of nausea in the pit of his stomach. Additionally his balance was a little off. This would have been unusual for most Culture citizens who were Gen-modded away from human-basic and were easily able to overcome fatigue and many minor, even major diseases due to their enhanced immune systems. In order to uprate their effectiveness, however, all recruits had their glands damped down to human basic in case they were forced to operate in circumstances in which Culture body-types could be detected.

"Fucking neck brace" he swore as his helmet clicked in place and the telltale sign of air pressurization hissed in his ears. He staggered a little and put his hand out against his apartment wall to steady himself.

"Tsk. Tsk. You took your time today Deepak, I'm disappointed." said the suit

"Whatever you bucket of bolts. I'm tired today."

The suit laughed, "You volunteered for this. And you shouldn't get shitfaced with your buddies on a worknight either."

"Yeah. Yeah. So what's the drill today? Another comet impact drill? The last one was a humdinger, though we only lost twenty two million people, virtual."

"No idea."

"Yeah right. You say that every day but every day you know exactly what's going on. So?"

There was a slight pause. Just enough to annoy Deepak ever so slightly. He started to tap his foot.

"Oh well, I suppose I can tell you. There's a ship coming. I think there might be an actual mission, though I don't have details."

"Oorah!"

FIVE MONTHS AGO - Unknown planet Spattered Raindrop Nebula

The Rapid Offensive Unit "Can't we just be friends?" cruised silently towards the night side of the lone planet straight ahead from its recent hiding place in the planet's primary lagrange points. The ship's hull was jet black , perfectly absorbing all radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum. The only evidence it was there to any unaided observer was an almost indiscernable and brief ripple as the ship passed in front of the sparse star field. The ship emitted no signals of any kind in normal space and all its internal heat waste was radiated out into the grid through an ultrawave antenna.

A few minutes later the ship braked abruptly, decelerating at a pace of hundreds of standard gravities, enough to crush any unprotected human being to a thin smear an atom thick and more than a thousand kilometers wide. It glided quietly through the murky planet's stratosphere and came to a dead stop in the upper troposphere, barely noticing the raging hurricanes all around it.

An eighty strong legion of Administrative Support Special Circumstances Marines waited in the airlock for the green light, in order to drop down silently to the surface of the planet twenty kilometers through the soupy air below to their target; a flattened stocky hyper-concrete structure weighted at an obtuse angle against the immense pressure of the heavy atmosphere.

The green light flickered on.

"Good to go marines, we have a pipe ten by ten of stability, drop zone twenty clicks below. Good luck!"

Eighty marines slid silently into the syrupy air below the ship, their chameleon suits switching on their billions of advanced nano-structure micro-prisms, which gave the effect of perfect camouflage against the squally turbid backdrop of the night sky to their destination below.

The Ship's Mind closed the airlock doors behind them as the last marine dropped into the night and said quietly to an empty ship,

"Oorah!"