Hello. I'm Simon Cross.

I've got two things two say to you that basically cover how I feel: Thank you so much & I love you guys! I'll admit that for a while I was slacking off on writing this, but I was motivated to write this from all of the amazing reviews I was recieving. You guys are the best fans an author could have! Thank you for continuing to read this story, and I really really hope you love this episode... I can see everything I wrote in my mind, and I just hope I did it justice with words. I started this around a year ago, and It's been amazing the entire time.

I couple of shout-outs. Thanks to Emma for the wonderful comment, and just hope I can keep your faith in me alive. Same goes for the 'no-name' Guest, that was too much praise for me, but I will humbly accept it and thank you! To Sephirmaug, Angel1973, and MarsterRoo, thanks for the comments and the kindness; I try my best to keep everything as real and grounded as possible. Bhoy1888, I agree that they were a little tougher, but that wasn't exactly my idea. I did some research and it was hinted that Daniel Jackson claimed the Lucian Alliance developed shields to counter the Asgard Plasma Beam weapons, so I used that idea to make them tougher. Maybe I did get carried away. A huge thanks to everyone else that I didn't get a chance to mention; you guys are all awesome.

Episode Ten, the Mid-season finale; I am so excited to have finished this! I did what I could to make this a nice variety episode and to try and keep it as real as possible. Hopefully almost every question should now be answered, and personally I'd love it if a few jaws dropped; I did my best to come up with an amazing plot line; I seriously hope that you all love reading it just as much as I loved writing it! Review, please please please! I love your reviews, and I know it makes me seem needy, but I genuinely love them! If something fell flat, or you have questions, comments, or anything, review or send me a message! I'm not perfect, I can always be clearer or better, so help me by reviewing!

Since this is the Mid-season finale, expect a break. I realize I've already had lengthy breaks, so I can't say how long a break I will take. Anyways, I've rambled enough... now, enjoy!

NOTE: I do not own Stargate Universe and all of these ideas are mine and not taken from anything the original writers of SGU had intended or from other fandom to the best of my knowledge. The opening statements in quotes are from SGU episodes and are not my words, except for quotes from my episode, "Reboot", "Flight", and "Tides of War". The episodes "The Greater Good", "Twin Destinies", "Epilogue", and "Gauntlet" are sources for the quotes and they were obtained from the transcripts available on the Gateworld website.

310: Signal

"The Ancients did not devote the efforts of an entire generation to build this ship on a whim, neither was Destiny named on a whim.

The Ancients discovered a complex structure, the fingerprints of an intelligence.

Destiny was launched in search of that intelligence.

Who knows how close we are to finding it; how close we are to learning ... in the Ancients' words ... "the destiny of all things"?

I just wanna get these people home.

Well, I'm starting to think that seeing this mission through may be our only chance of ever doing that.

I only know that Destiny has come this far, and if we abandon her now, there'll be no coming back.

This ship was launched to solve a mystery by accumulating knowledge bit by bit.

Our mission is - and always will be - the journey itself.

Mandy, is this you?

When the time comes, don't be afraid to let go.

A message, perhaps, or a sign of intelligence from the beginning of time.

Sent by?

Well, that's the very question they sought to answer when they launched Destiny. Once I'd broken the code, I had access to the ship's complete archive. There are thousands of pages devoted to this: scientific research, philosophical debate.

So it is about power.

Yes, Colonel. Power to change things, control our fate, right the wrongs.

To play God?

I mean, there's more to this encounter than just what we're seeing. The Ancients don't do anything just because they feel like it. There is a reason to everything, and there is a reason these humans exist here. I know that that reason is important to us, just like everything up to now has been important. In this particular case, there is a plan in the works. We have to go somewhere specific, and the ship is gonna make sure we get there.

Whatever it is, it can wait.

No actually, it can't. We need to talk."

The Colonel briskly walked up the ramp of the long hallway. A few months ago the walls were covered in Dr. Rush's scribbles. Now they were all cleaned up and the walls were bare and held a small shine from the buffing. Getting Rush to part from his hallway of equations was only made possible by giving him dozens of sheets of Destiny-made paper and the sap from a planet they came across a while ago. The sap served as a mild adhesive and turned the walls in Rush's quarters into post-it heaven. As long as the mess wasn't present in public areas, Young didn't care. Turning around the corner, he encountered Wray and Ryder at the end of the hallway. They spoke quietly with each other and the hiss of a pipe kept him from hearing what they were saying. He merely stopped where he was and waited from them to stop, as he needed to speak with Wray.

While continuing to speak with Ryder, Wray quickly shifted her eyes past her and met with Young's. He gave her a short look of urgency. She gave a brisk nod to him, acknowledging that she was going to be over soon. They spoke for a few more seconds, after which Wray gave a broad smile. Ryder turned around and walked past the Colonel, greeting him and leaving the hallway.

Once they were left alone in the hall, Young shuffled over to Wray. "How is she?" he asked, skipping over any usual pleasantries.

Wray shrugged mildly. "She's better than she started of as. I've only had one counseling session with her, but she already showed improvement."

"Are Brooks' memories affecting her?"

"Well, they're still with her," she said, wondering with a smidge of curiosity what that felt like, "but I think I've been able to strengthen her mind to block out those foreign memories. For now it's helping."

Young nodded and gave Wray a look of satisfaction. "Alright, keep me aware of her recovery." He didn't move after saying that, and Wray took that as a sign they weren't done talking.

"Did you need me for something, Colonel?" she asked slowly, not used to seeing Young at a loss for words.

He sighed and looked around the hallway to make sure that they were alone. Satisfied that they were, he spoke to her using a quiet voice. "Something… important…" he started, pausing as he wasn't too happy with that word choice, but he chose to continue nonetheless, "has come to my attention. Come with me; Rush will explain."

Mentally, Wray had been waiting for Colonel to drop the scientist's name. However, she decided to listen first, and then pass judgment. "This should be interesting."

Weighed down by a bag filled with plants and seeds, Greer stumbled out of the tree line. Following him was Scott, James, Park, and a half dozen other Marines, all carrying a similar load. Greer squinted as the bright light for the sun hit him in contrast to the shady forest. In the center of the clearing, the Stargate stood prominently. Eli was already scrolling through the many 'Gate symbols, dialing Destiny's address, while around twenty expedition members were milling about. Scattered around the ramp were more bags and crates, all filled with food they had found over their many hours of exploring the forest.

"Let's move it!" Greer shouted to everyone behind him. "I do not want to spend the rest of my day playing delivery boy!" With that he quickened his pace. He reached the 'Gate right as the wormhole settled, and lowered his bag, giving himself a quick moment to relax. In that moment, he reached for his radio. "Destiny, this is Sergeant Greer."

"We hear you, Sergeant," Brody responded. "How were the pickings?"

Greer lifted his bag and walked up halfway the ramp. He tossed it through the horizon. "How's about you tell me, 'doc?" Turning around with his typical business-as-usual countenance, he pointed at the bags and crates and waved his arms at the wormhole.

As the Marines started to push their bags through the event horizon, they replaced their loads with more bags. "I'd say we're all going to have a good dinner," Brody answered a moment later.

"Seriously though, this place was full of food," Scott remarked as he lifted a crate with James' help. "Sucks we've gotta go."

"Yeah," Eli commented, tucking his dialing remote into his travel gear, "I like it here." He smiled as he looked around and enjoyed the sun.

The Sergeant picked up the heaviest bag he could find and walked up to Eli. He dropped it right onto Eli's arms. "If you like it so much, you can go sightseeing all you want, after we've got all the supplies back on board." Struggling under the weight, Eli nodded and wobbled over to the 'Gate quickly, rushing to get to Destiny.

"It is nice here," Scott supported, carrying the crate through the wormhole right after Eli. A brief, exhilarating moment in the wormhole was replaced with the chilled and dark atmosphere of the Gate Room. He sidestepped along with James and dropped the crate at the edge of the room, leaving plenty of room for arrivals. Eli had already dropped off his bag and was now at the computer terminal, reading off data over Brody's shoulder. "TJ, this is Scott," he said into his radio, moving over to the spiral staircase so he wasn't in anyone's way as more supplies and crew kept coming through the 'Gate.

He waited there for a few seconds until TJ responded. "TJ here. What do you need, Lt. Scott?"

"We just returned from the planet with a heck of a lot of plants. Park cleared it all as edible, but you might want to come down and see if there's anything medicinal here," Scott offered.

Usually, on such a scouting mission, TJ would have gone along with them in the first place. She stayed behind this time to examine some new medical equipment Eli found in a cargo hold on the port wing. At first glance she figured it might be an advanced cellular scanner. Whatever it really was, she was pretty excited to take a crack at studying it. "I'll get right on that. Thanks for the heads-up," she responded, somewhat cheerfully. Using that to judge, Scott took it to mean she was pleased with the machine.

"No problem," he said. Most of the civilians were back on board right now and the Gate Room was flooded with bags and crates. They had started to open the crates and examine the contents to figure out where everything had to go. At this moment, Scott looked around the room and up on the overlooking catwalk. "Hey, where's the Colonel?" he asked Brody after making a quick inspection looking for him. "Or Wray? One of them is usually here for this."

Brody glanced up from the Kino feed on the terminal. He gave Scott an apologetic shrug. "I radioed him as soon as you dialed in. He didn't say much."

"Where's Greer?" Eli asked right then as Scott was about to reach for his radio to talk to the Colonel. The Lieutenant turned to look at the event horizon. Everyone else was back on board and the puddle was calm. The Kino had just been sent through to the ship. Eli groaned at losing his eyes and ears to the connected planet.

Scott made his way into the middle of the Gate Room and gave a loud whistle to get everyone's attention. "Has anyone seen Sergeant Greer?" he asked loudly.

"He was right behind me," one of the civilians, Dr. Kemp said from the edge of the 'Gate. "I was the last one back."

The Lieutenant decided to wait another moment for Greer, and then reached for his radio. "Greer, this is Scott. Do you copy?"

His response came quickly. "Requesting radio silence." After that brisk message the radio spat out static for him.

Scott backed away from the 'Gate and gestured to everyone cautiously. "Give me some space here, people!"

Eli grabbed the Kino as it floated up to him. He made an angry face into the lens and then shoved it into his bag. "Did you guys run into any kind of hostile wildlife or something?" he inquired, trying to put some pieces together.

"No, I didn't see anything. But we didn't go too far," he admitted. Scott readied his weapon at the thought of some giant alien dinosaur. "But if there was something dangerous he would've just left."

They didn't need to wait too long to find out what it was. Within a minute, Greer came through the wormhole, struggling as he pulled a thick rope that was originally in his backpack for climbing purposes. Scott watched as the rope slithered out of the event horizon. At the end of it, a creature was tied up to the rope. It resembled a large mole, with no tail, and a thin layer of grey, mottled fur. It was a fat animal and as he dragged away from the 'Gate, it smeared nasty navy-blue colored blood across the floor.

"Okay," Brody said with a face that showed he wasn't surprised with Greer's action, "I'm not cleaning that up." He pointed distastefully at the blood streak.

"What is this?" Scott asked, slowly walking up to the creature once Greer stopped dragging it. The Stargate shut down at that point and the air vents burst to life. When the air started to circulate, Scott realized just how much this animal stunk. Wrinkling his nose, he poked the creature with the barrel of his rifle.

Greer dropped the rope and backed away. Panting lightly and resting his hands on his knees, he stared proudly at his catch. "A whole herd of these…" he thought about the word for a second, "big ass rodents came out of the tree line, right as I was about to leave. I tossed the Kino on through and watched them for a second. They looked really full of meat to me, so I waited till one got close."

Scott scoffed at Greer and patted his shoulder. Everyone else in the Gate Room stared for another moment or two and then continued unpacking. "Help me get this to the mess," he said to Scott. "We eat well tonight!"

Wray sat almost perfectly still at one of the terminals in the Control Interface Room. Rush sat at the adjacent console, the target of her frozen gaze. He seemed perfectly fine with the attention, as he was splitting it between looking at her, the Colonel, and the various data that kept popping up on the screen in front of him. The Colonel was standing by Rush, his hands in his pockets, waiting for Wray to say something.

Finally she took a long, deep breathe. She shifted her gaze so it looked as if she was staring at both of them at the same time, as she indented to speak to both of them. "How long did you know?" Her voice was sharp and toneless, but in a professional and not intimidating manner.

"I just found out last night," Young answered first and immediately. He visibly relaxed once she started to speak. "Rush told me then, and I was convinced that this was something you needed to be let in on." His response was sincere, as seemed to partially satisfy her. With a small nod, she turned fully unto Rush.

He waited and returned the gaze for a moment. Wray's gaze remained constant and endlessly patient. In the end, Rush decided on telling her the truth; or as much of it that she asked for anyway. So far he had avoided mentioning the existence of Amanda. "I found the lab a couple days ago," he said, referring to the computer lab in which he was first introduced to the information, "around the same time you were uncovering the IOA agreement with the Alliance on Earth. It seemed like a bad time to bring up something of this magnitude."

At hearing this, Wray seemed somewhat shocked. She came in assuming Rush could be found at great fault somehow, but this wasn't quite as she thought it might be. "So… have you checked out this lab since then for more information?"

Rush slouched a little and rested his elbows on the console. The shock was over now and he could relax. "There's been nothing new in the computer. It seems that it's waiting."

She relaxed and took on a posture of interest. The conversation now wasn't just about a confession, but about sharing. "Well… waiting for what?"

"I honestly don't know," the scientist confessed after a moment of staring at the glowing lights on the central core. "But I can say that when whatever we're waiting for happens… we'll know it, and have to make a choice." He turned from the core and looked gravely at Wray for a quick moment, and then craned to look at Young. "And we won't have a second chance if we choose wrong."

They remained in silent for a moment, and then Wray spoke up. "We have to tell the crew." Both Young and Rush visually scrutinized her. "This is something that affects all of them; they should know and have a say in this."

"That would only create panic," Rush argued, sitting up straighter and gesturing right at Wray. "If you go and tell them this, they crew will fall apart. Even if they reach a decision on this, an indefinite waiting period will only make them second guess their decision." He paused and waited to see if anyone else had a comment, which they surprisingly didn't. In the void, he decided to offer a suggestion. "We should wait to tell them, until we need to make the decision. I've found that people make the honest choice when they have no warning."

Wray scoffed lightly at him. "I thought by now you would know what kind of trouble we can get into by not being honest."

"I told you," he returned, gesturing to both her and Young. "I am being honest about what I know. All I'm saying is that we shouldn't give the crew too much time to…"

This entire conversation had been carried out in a hushed tone, whether they knew it or not. Because of that, they easily heard it when footsteps marked someone's entry into the room. Rush immediately stopped speaking and everyone turned to see Volker walk in and slowly stop at the threshold to the room. His initial countenance reflected grave importance. It quickly shifted into suspicion at Rush's quiet tone, and then returned to its original appearance.

"Uh, sorry to bother you," he started, walked over to the nearest terminal, "but something's come up."

Young groaned and pulled out his radio and showed it to Volker. "Has everyone on this ship forgotten we have radios for a reason?"

Volker pressed a few controls and activated the holographic display. "I know, but I needed to show this to you." A map of this quadrant in the galaxy appeared, with a small blue dot about a third of the way from the edge to the center of the galaxy.

"Fine, what is it?" Young asked, giving a quick look to Rush indicating that they weren't done talking.

After giving Young a short confused glance, he returned to the terminal. "Umm, I was monitoring communications and long-range sensor data when I noticed this." Fourteen red dots appeared, scattered about the upper portion of the quadrant. "Those are the Nati ships were tracking. It looks like they've started to rebuild their fleet, and they're not staying to one place anymore."

Young forgot about his discussion for the moment and directed his attention to the matter at hand. "Are they blocking our path?"

"It doesn't look like they are, or at least not in any coordinated way." Volker adjusted the data to show the paths the ships had taken. "For the most part it looks like they're just scouting out their territory; jumping to one of their planets, spending a few hours at them, and moving on to the next one."

"Sounds like they're running damage control, or looking for survivors," Wray suggested as she rose from her chair and moved over to Volker.

Volker nodded in agreement to her. "From what I can tell that seems about right. I've backtracked their paths since they dispersed and there's been no indication they're looking for us."

"Well, we should still be careful," Rush warned, remaining at his chair but pointing to the display. "Some of their ships are dangerously close to our flight plan. Whether they plan it or not, we may have an encounter."

"Taking our flight path and scheduled drop-outs into account, we should clear their outer colonies in about a months-time," Volker predicted.

Young took the cautioning statement and nodded. "It doesn't seem like there's anything that we can do really. Just keep going and watch out. Maintain a weapon-readiness level," he said to Volker, "and I'll speak with Sergeant Greer about planning a few drills." The Colonel turned to Rush at this point. "It's been a while since we've run into any problems. I hope that means the ship is capable of defending itself?"

Rush nodded lazily, clacking a few buttons on his own terminal and overriding Volker's holo-display. He brought up a schematic of Destiny. "All the shield emitters are functioning; weapon platforms have power; and we've managed to seal up a few more hull breaches with the use of the repair robots. Dr. Park is particularly pleased that the dome is repaired."

"Speaking about the dome," Volker interjected, turning off the display, "Scott and his team returned with a lot of edibles and seeds. And I hear Greer caught some wildlife. TJ checked it to make sure it's safe, and Becker is gonna work on adding it to the dinner menu." He looked slightly nauseated at the thought of what Becker would have to do to prepare it; skinning and cleaning and blood came to mind.

"Sounds like an exciting day," Young said in a monotone. He glanced up at the countdown clock which still had around eight hours on it. "Why don't we get some of the crew off planet for a little while; let them relax before we set off again?"

Volker shrugged happily at the idea. "I heard it was nice there."

"Why don't you check it out?" the Colonel offered, not at all subtly. Volker kept any questions and suspicion to himself, but didn't keep it from showing on his face. Instead, he nodded and quickly walked out.

"Wonderfully handled if I do say so myself," Rush said sarcastically, folding his arms and glaring darkly at him. "The whole crew will know something is the matter before we jump to F.T.L."

"This isn't over," Wray said, stepping between them. "How are we going to deal with this?"

The Colonel stood still and stared at Rush for a moment. He thought for a moment, and finally spoke after a sigh. "I think he's right."

"What?!" Wray said, aghast that Young agreed to hide the truth.

Rush was satisfied that the Colonel was with him and chose not to push his luck. "Now that this is settled, I should go to Earth for that research I was talking about." In his opinion, having convinced one of them was enough for him. With that he promptly left the room, leaving Young alone as the target of Wray's anger.

"Can't you see he's just playing the same game again and again?" she said, half anger and half disappointment.

Young slowly turned to look at her. He rested his hands back in his pockets and leaned against the door frame, feeling tired all of a sudden. "It could be days, weeks, or even months until anything happens. Tell me honestly, that as a sane person, having that much time to dwell on this wouldn't boggle your mind every minute." He paused here and waited for her to speak. Wray opened her mouth, but she partly agreed with what he was saying, and decided it would be better to let him talk for now. "Now, I won't deny that he can be a self-centered bastard who cares about nothing but the mission, and that's hurt us before. But I'd like to think he's changed enough for us to trust each other."

Wray returned the stare for a moment. Finally she broke the stillness with a laugh. Loosening up, she tossed her hands up in surrender. "I suppose… that telling the crew now… could hurt morale. And it is already pretty low," she admitted.

"Good. Now I suggest we just try to lay low and forget about this for the time being," Young suggested, heading to the door. "Rush will figure out all the hard stuff like he always does, and we'll deal with this later."

She stood with her arms folded for a moment after the Colonel had left. There was a small grin on her face as she was reflecting. "Some things never change."

Becker stood behind the table he had moved to the side on the Mess Hall. Atop the table was the cleaned and cooked carcass of the animal Greer killed. He was wielding a large pair of knives and was slicing the smoking meat into long, thin pieces. A line of crewmembers extended out of the mess, all waiting for a taste of meat, something that they had missed for a long time. Occasionally a team caught an animal in this manner, but those instances were rare.

Currently at the head of the line, Eli had a small pile of mixed leafy vegetables and tubers, and was eagerly waiting to get a slice of meat with that. Graciously accepting the piece Becker put on his plate, he turned and sat at the nearest empty table. He had gotten there early so most of the Mess was available. The moment he sat down, Brody, Volker, Scott, Chloe, Greer, and Kalin all came out of nowhere and sat down at the table with him. Eli looked around in confusion as they filling into the bench quickly. "Wow. I give that a 9.8 for creepy synchronized seating."

Greer was to his right. He picked up his utensils and acted normally while he responded. "We need to talk," he mumbled as he cut his meat.

Needless to say, Eli's attention was with them. Since all of them were trying to act normal, Eli decided to follow the act. "Okay, so what's this about?"

At this Volker, seated beside Brody and across from Eli, leaned forward and looked around cautiously. "The Big Three," was all he said, in a slow and dramatic voice. Eli gave him a funny look and scoffed lightly. Volker sighed and leaned back in his seat.

"He's talking about the Colonel, Camille, and Rush," Scott simplified.

At that Eli gave a silent 'oh' and grinned at the connection. "Good one. Well, what about them?"

"Come on, man," Greer said in mock disappointment as he chewed on the meat, "don't pretend you haven't noticed something weird going on with them." Half of his attention was on the conversation, and the other half of it was on the meat which he was thoroughly savoring. "Now that is some good home-cooking."

Eli groaned at him and looked doubtfully at the meat. "The last time you said something like that I puked up not -sweet potato," he griped.

Continuing to cut the meat relentlessly, Greer shook his head to Eli. "Trust me this time."

Brody and Volker went ahead next, taking a small piece of the meat and carefully chewing it. A moment later they both gave a look of satisfaction. "Tastes like chicken," they uttered in unison. Everyone chuckled at them as they exchanged odd looks with each other. Eli went along and took a small bite of the meat and found it to be amazing. It was well-cooked and tender, but Eli was pretty sure half of the reason it tasted so good was that he hadn't eaten meat in his own body in such a long time.

"Can we get back on topic, please?" Scott begged, giving a sidelong glance to Chloe as she nudged him in the side. She had one of the most serious countenances at the table, which made him more interested in moving on. "Even since we woke up from stasis, Rush has been acting weird."

Eli scoffed at him. "When isn't he acting weird?"

"Well, yeah that's what we were thinking," Volker spoke up. "But this morning after you dialed back in, I ran into the three of them in the Control Interface Room. They were talking about something, and they were all jumpy when I showed up."

At this point Eli put down his utensils and gave his whole focus to the group. Cautiously he looked around the room for Rush, Wray, or Young. "Do you know what they were talking about?"

"Not a clue," he grumbled, looking down at the table, "but I do know they didn't want me to be there."

Eli reflected for a second and spoke again. "A couple of days ago, when Dr. McKay was here to help us find the robot, we lost contact with Rush for a good half an hour. I didn't think about it, but he did seem a bit off after that." Eli felt disappointed with himself, not having pursued the matter further.

"I'm pretty sure that it has something to do with the transmission," Chloe said softly, gazing straight ahead with a blank expression, mostly ignoring Eli's realization. "The one from the Nati planet," she clarified. With that her expression lightened and she slouched down a light bit, pulling the sleeves of her shirt over her hands. "It's important."

"Dr. Rush has been persistent in unraveling the contents of the program," Kalin added from the far end of the table. "He's asked me to assist, but I haven't made any significant progress. Should we really be talking about them like this?" he inquired, looking around the Mess Hall uncomfortably. "I mean, shouldn't we trust them?"

Eli sighed and looked at the naïve scientist. "I'll forgive you that because you haven't been on this ship for too long. Rule number one is don't trust Rush until you've thoroughly proven everything he says."

Kalin frowned in response. "I thought the first rule was getting back onboard before the clock times out?"

"That's the second rule. The Rush rule takes precedence over all other rules," Eli explained with a heavily serious expression.

"Oh," he responded quietly. "Well, he has been acting… strange. I've heard him talking to himself a lot. Whenever I ask about it, he denies it, but he always seems angry about something." He shrugged and ate a small piece of a tuber. "But if Volker is right, then Wray and Colonel Young are working with him. From what I've learned of your previous… problems, is that Rush always acted alone."

They all paused and took a moment to think and eat in silence. "Kalin's right," Chloe said. "The Colonel wouldn't do anything with Rush unless he was sure there was no endgame. Usually he's the one trying to debunk Rush's ploys."

"So what, this is something serious? Not just a game?" Scott asked, gazing at Brody with a doubtful glare. "Still seems more than likely that something rotten is going on."

"I don't know, but maybe it would be a good idea to leave this alone," Chloe said, reassuring them immediately, "just for now. If things stay weird and they say nothing, then we should speak up."

"If life on this ship has taught us anything," Brody interjected, "it's that keeping secrets never helps. How can this be any different? How might this be a good thing? I mean, seriously, do you think they're planning a surprise birthday party in there?" He paused and leaned in, lowering his voice. "It can't be good."

"They'll tell us," Chloe argued, leaning into Scott's side, feeling uncomfortable with the heavy arguing. "Whatever it is, it has to be about the mission, or something from the download. Only Rush could have figured anything out, which means he had to have told Camille and the Colonel. If he told them, then they'll tell us; when they're ready." She spoke so calmly and was so sure of herself, as if she had been a fly on the wall of Rush's conversation and was just relaying the news.

Scott stared at Chloe for a tense moment. He turned to Brody who put his hands up in surrender. Then he looked to Eli who shrugged agreeably. Finally, he sighed loudly and threw his hands up as well. "Fine; we let this go."

"I'll keep a close eye on them," Greer said as his condition for accepting this decision. Everyone nodded and immediately dropped the topic.

Eli turned enthusiastically to his plate and enjoyed a few good bites of the food. After feeling slightly less hungry, he looked up and rested his elbows on the table. "So, who's who?" he asked with a smirk. When he received many funny looks he clarified. "The Big Three reference; I can say without question the Rush would be Uncle Joe. I feel like Young would have to be FDR," he said with a thoughtful gaze.

Brody gave his a derisive scoff. "No way; he's got to be Churchill. He was a military man which fits perfectly with the Colonel. FDR had all of the social programs and was a huge political man. That's got Wray written all over it." Eli looked up in thought and nodded in agreement quickly.

The elevator doors open loudly for the Colonel as they grinded across the floor. He ignored the sound and walked right out heading for the Bridge. They had dropped out around six hours ago, but he hadn't bothered investigating anything until now. This was the only destination on the ship he actually used the elevator for, which made him realize just how small of an area they occupied on Destiny. He made the short walk to the Bridge to find the door open with Sergeant Greer guarding it. Seeing the Sergeant there told him that Rush was on the Bridge.

"Afternoon, Sergeant," Young greeted as he walked up to him.

"Sir," he responded, standing tall and respectfully nodding his head.

The Colonel proceeded to enter the Bridge. His suspicion was confirmed as he saw Rush leaning over the console at the head of the room. He walked in noisily which introduced his presence to the scientist. Rush rose and turned around. "Hello, Colonel."

Young continued to walk and made his way to the captain's chair. "Anything to report?" he asked as he settled in.

Rush shrugged and moved to each of the three stations, taking brief readings before going to the next one. "There's nothing major to report today. There's a dark-matter nebula half a light year away from us. Destiny is actively scanning it right now; I may look over that later. We've only got one Stargate in range, but it's a desert planet with nothing useful in the immediate area. Eli went to retrieve the Kino; I imagine he returned a while ago."

"Not what I meant," Young said once Rush stopped talking long enough for him to say something.

"I know what you meant," Rush responded with more than a hint of aggravation. "You've asked me the same question every day for the last three weeks."

"I know, you remind how long I've done it for every time I ask," Young countered with a tilt of his head.

The scientist looked at Young for a moment and then calmed down. "No, there's no change."

"Fine," Young said, satisfied to get a direct answer. He was getting slightly anxious about waiting, but he didn't show it. "Is there any new intelligence on the Nati ships?"

At this Rush didn't quibble. He navigated to the center station and activated the overhead monitor. "They've been maintaining similar progress since I've been observing them more closely. I envy them their shipyards because they just finished up on another ship." The monitor showed a map of the galaxy with a tactical overlay.

"That makes it four more ships in the last three weeks," Young vocalized, astonished at the capabilities of this foe.

"More than likely they are just commissioning ships that were already in construction when their fleet was massacred," Rush reasoned, also slightly intimidated by a rapidly growing enemy.

"By a force that we still don't know anything about," the Colonel appended snidely, still quite unhappy that some mysteries were unsolved.

Rush stopped and looked uncomfortably at Young. "Yeah, I've still got no idea who did that. I tried using the weapon signatures from the debris field to search for similar energy signatures when we are in normal space. That hasn't done a bloody thing," he said with disappointment. After a short moment of reflecting he turned back to the terminal. "Anyways, the new ships are following similar patterns of reclaiming their colonies. We should be safe from them," he reassured, sitting in the chair and turning to face Young.

The Colonel watched the monitor for a minute before lowering his eyes to Rush. He felt well rested for once and tapped his fingers the chair in anxiety. Constantly waiting for something to happen had his nerves slightly on the edge. "I guess everything's worked out alright then."

"How do you mean, Colonel?" Rush asked slowly, sitting straight up in his chair. The tone sounded almost like an accusation of something, but that was just how Rush spoke sometimes and Young had learned to ignore it.

"We'll be out of Nati space in a week at most, meaning we can breathe easy. The Nati also seem to have the resources and willpower to rebuild their civilization. I didn't wake up from stasis with the intention of annihilating an entire species, so I guess I'm… happy there's something of them left."

Rush leaning back into his chair and gave Young a cold look. "Is that how you see it?" The Colonel gave him a short nod, but braced himself for whatever insight he was about to gain into Rush's mind. "Yeah, we'll be out of their space soon enough. I wouldn't celebrate about that though. From what we learned about the Nati, they maintained full control within their empire; it was just them. With access to their communications," he gestured up to the monitor above him, "we could follow them and be prepared. Out of their space, we have no idea what will await us. Maybe their empire stops here because something worse lies beyond it; we don't know. And as for their… continued survival, well I'm pretty sure they'll rebuild, repopulate, and expand their empire once again; maybe annihilate a few more civilizations in the process. We already know what they do when they encounter a threat to their power." Rush stared darkly at the Colonel. "The rest of the galaxy might've considered it a service to them if they had actually been destroyed."

"Wow," Brody said from the door to the Bridge, staring blankly at Rush, "just when I thought you couldn't get any more grim." He was standing in between Volker and Eli, and all of them had the same expression directed to Rush. The Scotsman shrugged off the comment and turned his chair to face the controls. Everyone moved to take their customary positions, Volker at the left station, Brody at the right, and Eli at the rear science station.

"I don't know if anyone cares, but the Kino recorded some interesting EM patterns from that planet," Eli said after a minute of silence. "Apparently the planet has a weak magnetic field, coupled with an A-Type main sequence star that puts out killer infrared. Guess that makes sense why there was no life there. I was there for a minute and was nearly boiled alive." He gestured to the chest of his shirt which was sweat-stained. "I'd have changed into something else, but… well, you know…" he drifted off when no one paid much attention to him.

"Doesn't really matter we didn't get anything useful here," Volker chipped in. "The hydroponics bay in the dome should have fresh food ready in a couple months, and we've got enough on board right now to last us that long if it had to."

Young nodded while staring down at the ground. "Seems like we are on pretty good ground," he said, more towards Rush than anyone else.

Rush slightly turned as if he was going to retort, but something on his terminal caught his attention. "Colonel…" was all he said.

Before anyone noticed anything, before there was any odd sound, Rush heard something no one else did. A soft, disembodied voice that raised the hairs on his neck spoke to him. "It's time," Amanda whispered to him, the voice fading immediately, being replaced by something everyone heard.

A dull sound echoed through the bulkheads of the ship, somewhat akin to the whine of an underground metro. It grew in strength for a quick second and then immediately subsided. From the front window, Rush could see the lights casted onto the hull from the windows flicker for a moment and then come back on. This wave started at the nose and left a brief area of darkness in segments of the hull as it worked its way across the ship. When it reached the Bridge compartment, all of the electronics in the room flickered for a brief moment as well, throwing all of the occupants into the dark. Within a few seconds, the lights were steady and the only noise they heard was the hum of the engines.

"What in the hell was that?" Greer said, standing dumbfounded in the doorway to the Bridge.

Allowing himself only a moment to be in wonder, Rush quickly turned to his console and frantically brought up the sensor telemetry from the event. In that moment, the countdown clock pinged sharply. Everyone felt the bulkheads shake mildly as the ship's thrusters activated and adjusted their heading. Within another moment, the ship's engines began to whine loudly and the floor rumbled. A blinding blue-white light shined through the windows, and Destiny was in F.T.L.

"How the…?" Volker started, staring quickly from the window in front of him to the clock at the other end of the room. "We had over four hours left on the clock! Why did we jump?"

Young sat in his chair silently for a moment as he watched the scientists voice their concerns and ask questions. After that, he looked to Rush, who had actually been doing something useful, and addressed him. "Rush, what just happened?" The Scotsman didn't respond immediately, which quickly pissed him off. "Rush!"

"Destiny received a transmission," he said quietly. Slowly he spun in his chair and looked Young right in the face. "A signal."

Without any further information, the Colonel understood what this meant. He stood from his chair and walked up closer to the forward consoles. "What did it do?" His first concern was still to the ship and the people on it, and he needed to know everything about this event.

"It was a subspace pulse, carrying a small data sequence within it; that was the source of the disturbance. The high energy must've affected systems for a short moment," Rush explained.

"Then what did we hear?" Eli asked, following in Young's steps and moving to the head of the room.

Rush turned to look at him. "That was the message."

"What message?!" Brody said angrily, making fists in the air. "Stop talking in code; just get to the point."

Sighing impatiently, Rush turned back to his console and pressed a few buttons. A slow sound played over the speakers, filled with static, beeps, whirs, and pulses. Eli raised his eyebrows and looked at the speakers. "So we're cursed with having AOL dial-up."

Giving Eli the stink eye before speaking, Rush explained. "That was the message carried on the pulse."

"What's on it?" Young asked.

The holo-display activated and showed a map of the galaxy again, only this time, there was a new addition to the map. Right in front of Destiny's flight plan, there was a small glowing dot. "Coordinates?" Eli asked incredulously. "That was the message?" All of the senior officers were crowded around Rush's console in the Control Interface Room, anxiously awaiting his explanation of recent events. Young was resting by the core with Volker, Brody, and Kalin by his side.

"Coordinates to what?" Wray asked pointedly, standing off his shoulder.

He proceeded to zoom in on the display to show a solar system. "A planet located sixteen light-years away. There's no Stargate on it, but it is within the Goldilocks zone, so it can most likely support life."

"So you're saying another civilization just hacked us?" Eli asked, trying to reason this.

"No," Rush said bluntly. "The information, when I translated it from the machine code, was definitely Ancient."

Eli shuffled uncomfortably before speaking again. "So… there are Ancients out here? I'm sorry, but that makes even less sense."

Rush sighed in exasperation. "It was an automated transmission, similar to the one we received at the Nati planet. Most likely there is an Ancient installation that was deposited by a seed ship that sent the pulse. I've since confirmed that it's related to the transmission from the Nati planet, actually. Apparently it was awaiting input."

"So, it's all part of some million year old plot from the Ancients?" Eli tried one more time, this time with a comical expression and a chuckle.

"That's actually pretty much it, yeah," Rush responded which left his interlocutor wide-eyed. "There's something on this planet that is important enough the Ancients created a plan to make sure we would find it." Unhappily, Rush modified the display to show a wider area and Nati vessels. "Unfortunately, we're not the only ones who know about it."

"Crap," Eli muttered as he saw a flurry of red dots on their way to the planet.

"The subspace signal travelled across a wide radius, to make sure it could reach Destiny. I'm not sure if there was a Nati ship that didn't hear it," he said glumly. "Their lead ship is much closer than we are and will beat us there by six hours. Any reinforcements should arrive about a day behind that."

"What would they find there?" Brody inquired, arms folded with a look that burned into Rush.

He didn't answer at once, instead gazing at the blinking dot. "Do you think I would know?"

"As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure you do know," he said bluntly, taking a large step forward and dropping his arms to his sides.

Rush started to reciprocate but Young stopped him. "Rush, stop. This is the right time."

Clearly he didn't want to agree with the Colonel, but Rush surrendered, feeling inside that it was time. "Fine. I do know what is there." He sighed and leaned forward, grasping for words for a little while. "I'm not really sure where to begin."

"Start from the very beginning; it'll make the most sense," Wray suggested.

"The beginning," he mused to himself. Everyone other than Young and Wray perked up and got ready to listen to a long story. "Well, you all know that when the Ancients discovered the signal embedded in the microwave background radiation, they built Destiny to try and reconstruct the signal, uncover who sent it and what it contained. What you don't know, is that it almost wasn't launched." Rush paused and took a moment to turn off the display as he found it to be annoying. "Within the data entries stored on the computer are lengthy texts devoted to philosophical debates. They dealt with whether or not to actually launch Destiny. A large sect of Ancients believed the construct was hidden and broken apart for a reason. They claimed that whatever knowledge it contained would be too great, too divine. To fuel their campaign, they compared that drive for power to the Ori. That conflict was still recent history for them at that time, and so they amassed a large following. After Destiny had been completed, the mission was abandoned; it wasn't launched.

"The lead architect of the mission, Palos, also the scientist who first discovered the construct, continued to petition that the mission had to be undertaken. He wasn't successful for a while, but one day he completely changed. Suddenly his opinions were more assertive, he advocated heavily for the launch, gave an impromptu speech to the scientific community, and managed to succeed in launching Destiny; all in the course of one day." Rush stopped here and took a slightly lengthy pause.

Everyone gave him a slightly strange look, not seeing anything in this other than a history lesson. "So, what's the big deal?" Eli asked as the voice for the rest of the officers.

Rush took a moment to scratch his chin before continuing, not relishing telling the story. "When Palos was found the next day, his personality had gone back to its original self and he had no memory of the previous day. He couldn't remember launching Destiny, or having worked so hard to launch it. Within a week he was murdered by a fanatic on the opposing side of the argument; it was a tragedy for the Ancients and set their community to a more progressive stance. Among his personal affects, there were two items that were surprising. One was a communications stone that had been severely modified." At that moment his voice started to break, and he grew very quiet. "The second object was a peice of paper with one word written on it, in a language the Earth wouldn't see for many millions of years." He reactivated the display with one button, and showed an image of a document with the word 'Destiny' scrawled into it in English.

Everyone's eyes bulged and Eli's jaw practically dropped. Stepping forward, Brody closely examined the writing. "But that's…" He couldn't finish, but Rush did for him.

"That's my handwriting."

Wray and Young both stared at the ground, allowing the impact to sink into everyone. They went through it themselves; they knew how it felt. Kalin's hand slowly made his way to cover his mouth as he gasped silently. Volker back stepped to the nearest chair, sat down, and froze. Brody and Eli continued to watch Rush intently, waiting for him to finish this tale.

"Apparently, Palos had a plan the entire time; one to ensure the launch of Destiny. He knew without a doubt that the mission was important and would have stunning results. So he took two communication stones and modified them. He linked them so they could only communicate with each other. One he kept with himself, and froze its quantum signature, anchoring the link in the past with him, at the exact second he imprinted upon it. The second one was secretly placed on a seed ship with a special objective; to have a member of Destiny's future crew encounter it and take over his body with the desire to save the launch. That stone, is here," he said, returning to the map on the holo-display and pointing at the blinking planet. "If we don't go there, and if I don't use that stone to return to the launch date of Destiny, then none of this will have ever happened. This ship will be scrapped, an entire chapter of Ancient history will be destroyed, and we will never arrive here."

"Are. You. Freaking kidding me?!" Eli shouted, flailing his arms and taking a lap around the core in frustration. "You knew about something that could possibly erase the last five years of our lives and kept it to yourself?"

"We agreed to keep this quiet until this moment," Young interjected. He knew the conversation would head in this direction and had hoped to speak up before that happened; Eli ruined is hopes. Brody gave him an appalled look, having expected that from Rush, not the Colonel. "If this had been exposed to the crew too early, then we could have expected a panic, and maybe even violent actions that wouldn't give us the chance to fairly discuss this. Before any of you say anything," he said gruffly to everyone, "we will tell the crew and bring it to a vote. They will decide if we do this, as this is a matter that directly affects all of them." His glare was mostly at Rush, who mentally hated the Colonel for potentially ruining his life's work.

"You can speak for me this time, Colonel. You've heard this three times now, and from my experience in two timelines, the crew rarely responded well to me addressing them," Rush said as courteously as possible. He rose from his console and turned off the display. "I trust you do be fair for my case. For the time being, I'll wait in my quarters and lock the door to keep out blood-thirsty crew members." He spoke sincerely to Young about his trust, and received a short nod of approval. Slowly turning and glancing at the occupants of the room, he let out a long breathe. "I imagine you know what my vote will be," he said as he turned and left.

Young stood at the top of the balcony of the Gate Room. Crammed into the lower floor was the entire crew of the Destiny, with the exception of Rush. The senior officers stood by the control consoles, having already heard the news. The sight of the crew gathered here was one that the Colonel was accustomed to in the early days of their stay on Destiny, but saw less and less as time went on. Once the room fell silent, he descended the staircase and stopped halfway. From there he had a perfect speaking point and could see everyone in the room, including the senior officers in his peripheral. He took a moment to prepare himself, knowing he had only one chance to say things right.

"We've asked the crew to come here, to help make a very… difficult decision. I will be speaking for Dr. Rush who chose not to be here right now. As of this moment, Destiny is on course for a planet that is a part of mission the Ancients left for us. This is a different mission than we have been pursuing in recent months, but its success will determine if we will continue on…"

Rush walked into his quarters. Stopping at the threshold, he palmed the control lock and sealed the door. It was a moment before he lumbered over to his bed and sat on the edge. He took a Kino remote from his desk and activated it. Having been modified with a wireless link into the ship's computer, he could access all the data he wanted. Scrolling through the thousands of data files, he pulled up a biography on Palos. It showed the picture of a middle-aged man dressed in a sand-colored cloak, typical of Ancient garb of the time

"…The how is not something I can explain, but the stone will allow Dr. Rush to occupy the Ancient that launched this ship. All of this was planned millions of years ago by this man, in the hope that we, the crew of Destiny, would come across this device…"

After slapping a large piece of paper on his wall, Rush sharpened a pencil with a small knife. He set to work writing long and complex equations on the paper, half composed of mathematical and physical constants and half composed of 'Gate symbols as variables. Muddling through the numbers and variables he continued to work on solving problems. Time spent solving such mysteries was what he liked doing best anyways…

"…realize that this is not the same thing as going home. We're not opening a wormhole back to Earth. Destiny will not go on without us. Every moment that was affected by the launch over sixty million years ago, will be rewritten. The Icarus project will never happen, and we will never come here. Destiny… will never be launched, this mission will remain incomplete, and who knows what else will change in history. This isn't to say that the last five years haven't been difficult and that there are people we'd rather be with back on Earth…"

Videos were playing on the remote; Kino dairies that the crew had made when they first reached Destiny. Everyone mentioned family members on Earth, and how afraid they were; afraid of dying so far away from home. A recording Riley made came up; he said how hard it was, not being there with the people you loved…

"…As I said when I started, the decision should rest with you, the entire crew, as to whether we will continue moving forward… or end this journey right now."

Rush watched the F.T.L. vortex wisp across the wing of the Destiny. He rested his arms up by the window and placed his chin on top of his arms. For what felt like the longest time to him, he just stood there and watched.

Around two hours after he had locked himself in his room, someone knocked on his door. "Rush, are you in there?" Young asked, his voice coming through muffled. Rush didn't react and Young knocked again. Taking a small breathe, Rush walked away from the window and unlocked the door. He took a few steps back and rested on his bed, allowing the Colonel to walk in.

As he entered the room he craned his neck around to look at all of the papers stuck to the wall. The room was a chaotic place, with more crumpled and torn papers on the ground. "The crew voted," he started quietly, looking at Rush with no emotion, "unanimously to continue."

Much like the Colonel, Rush showed no emotion at the news. "That's not surprising, really," he said, which for a second made Young fume at his attitude. Rush continued to amend his statement. "I mean from a temporal point of view; causality. If the crew had voted to do nothing, we wouldn't be having his conversation. Time would have already rewritten itself and I'd be at Berkeley, giving a lecture blissfully unaware of what could have been."

Young shook his head in disbelief, at how this man could always pull science to explain away anything. Finally, he loosened up and allowed himself a chuckle. "You're never going to stop surprising me, are you?"

"What'd be the fun in that?" Rush said. He tapped his fingers together for a moment and then looked to the floor. Turning back to the Colonel, he started to speak with sincere emotion, stammering a little bit. "Colonel, thank you… for trusting me, and for being on my side. I don't think I can tell you how much that means to me."

"I can guess. I've informed Earth of our mission; I can't say they loved it, but they support the decision."

Rush smirked. "Can't imagine how Colonel Telford reacted to the news."

He raised his eyebrows and grimaced, indicating it wasn't a pleasant conversation. "We'll be planning our approach in the Control Room in an hour; I imagine you'll want to be there," he informed, turning to leave.

"Colonel, there is one thing… I'd like to speak to you about." Young stopped and slowly turned around, inwardly hoping that he hadn't just misplaced his trust. "I think the transmission contained more than just a lockout code. There was an AI that helped me to find out this mission." He paused and choked on his words. "It was… Dr. Perry."

"That can't be; her program is still in quarantine with Ginn," Young said, walking up to Rush quickly and lowering his voice. "Eli keeps checking on them regularly, so if you're going to tell me that you set her loose…"

The lights dimmed and the doors slid closed. Young rapidly turned around and looked concerned, but Rush knew what was happening. "He didn't, Colonel. You don't have to worry about me." Turning around again, Young saw Perry standing on the other side of the bed. "I'm sorry for the lights; projecting my image into multiple people takes a lot of power."

Maintaining his calm, Young looked at Rush with the corner of his eyes. "You knew that she escaped?"

"Let me explain, to both of you," Perry interjected, dissolved the tension. "I never appeared to Nick for more than a moment, and I couldn't tell him my true origin." She walked around the bed and stopped in front of both of them, smiling that she could talk freely now. "You won't be the only one to go to Destiny's launch date. In the first iteration my program was sent through the stones via your neural patterns. My objective was to provide protection for the stones. The Nati were made to provide that defense, but I will admit they became… overzealous."

"They've been trying to kill us," Young said candidly, with a bit of anger seeping into his voice. "Seems pretty counterproductive to me."

Dr. Perry acknowledged his point by bowing her head. "True, but it cannot be denied that their ruthlessness has protected this region of space."

The Colonel sighed and reluctantly agreed with her "Ruthlessly efficient," he commented.

Smiling, she stepped up directly before Rush. "I've been waiting all this time for you to return," she said, holding back her emotions. Looking at Rush, for a moment it seemed she could cry. "I couldn't tell you this before; I couldn't let you know how much this meant to me. But the truth is that it isn't about me, so there's no time. You need to release the quarantine and take your Perry with you. Explain everything to her. She'll understand; trust me." She grinned, kneeling down to be level with Rush. For once, he showed an emotion to her other than anger; he was happy to see her.

"Why can't we send your program?" Young asked pointedly, interrupting her focus on Rush. "If you've already done this, then won't that make the most sense?"

"I…" she started, looking away from Rush for a moment, "I have my own journey to embark on." When she looked up again, her eyes emitted a bright blue light. The power in Rush's quarters suddenly surged to life. Perry stood up and smiled widely. She stretched out her hand and touched Rush. He gasped when he actually felt her and was left speechless. "I have to go." Her voice was real. It didn't just appear in his head, it reverberated through the room. "A mutual friend will explain everything." She leaned forward and kissed him lightly. Smiling at him, she backed away. Her veins were glowing blue as well, and her aura was visible. "I love you. It's good-bye for now, but I'll see you; I know that for certain. You are Destiny; you are its present, future, and now its past." A pulse surged from her heart and swept across her skin, turning her figure into a shining, blue-white light. The pulse moved through the room quickly. Rush felt a burst of heat as it washed over him. Her shapeless figure floated through the room and passed through the wall, vanishing into the F.T.L. vortex.

"Mandy," Rush whispered as he watched her disappear. He walked up to the window and struggled to find her, but had no success.

They stood in the room silently for a minute, the sound and light from outside poured into the room. "Rush," the Colonel said quietly, taking a step towards to scientist, "what just happened?"

"She's gone," he said to himself. Taking a deep breath he composed himself and turned to face Young. "I honestly can't tell you what that was. I promise you I'm not keeping anything from you… I…" he trailed off slowly, tearing up and bringing his hands to cover his face.

"It's alright. I believe you," Young reassured. "You did well this time around, and if we're gonna stay on this ship then I can't keep holding a grudge against you." He sighed and slowly lumbered up to Rush, placing a supportive hand on his shoulder. "Let's get this thing done, okay?"

Rush sniffled and held back his tears. He took a few long breaths and brought himself back to normal. Feeling at ease again, he nodded to the Colonel. Returning the look, Young turned and left the room, giving Rush a chance to collect his thoughts.

Eli sat at one of the consoles in the Control Interface Room and was drumming his fingers on the console. Brody was seated at the station by the core and Volker was at the third station. Wray and Young stood side by side in front of Eli. Greer, Varro, and Scott were at the far end of the room chatting between themselves. "How much longer are we gonna wait for him?" Eli finally asked impatiently.

"As long as it takes Eli," the Colonel said shortly. "He'll get here when he's well and ready."

At that moment, Rush came strolling into the room. He appeared normal, not a sign of sadness or any negative emotion on him. Seeing everyone gathered in the room he raised his hand apologetically. "Hope you haven't been waiting too long for me."

"We were just getting ready to plan our approach on the planet. I asked Eli to prepare Dr. Perry's program for transport," he said carefully to Rush.

"I brought down the quarantine around Dr. Perry and Ginn. Perry's program has already been transferred to the forward communication array," Eli informed in the same calm manner. He was inwardly jumping for joy at the thought Ginn could be back, but realized this meant the opposite for Rush. For the moment he figured he could keep his emotions calm.

When Rush responded casually with a nod to the information, Young went on. "Got any suggestions for the attack?" he asked.

The holo-display popped into existence as Eli activated it. It showed a red dot rapidly approaching the planet, with Destiny a distance behind it. Rush glanced at it and slowly walked up to the display. "Well it is only one ship right now. We've taken on more than that before; I don't see any problem."

"So we drop out and destroy their ship, quickly," Young summarized. "Scott, you'll take Rush down to the planet and…" he paused and turned to look at Rush. "Do you know where we have to look on the planet?"

He looked over his shoulder to the Colonel but kept the display facing him. "Not yet, no. But it should be easy to find. The stone will require a powerfully energy source to be able to send my signal through time. A simple scan of the surface should be able to reveal its location."

"Simple as that?" Eli asked lightly, shrugging his shoulders.

"The work on this end shouldn't prove to be too much. However," Rush said, turning around to face the whole room, "once I am connected I will need to be protected. According to Palos' account, he missed almost a whole day, so that's how long I'll be connected."

"Well, the Nati reinforcements will arrive here before that time is up," Brody informed, adjusting the display to show a wider area in which several more red dots could be seen, all heading for the same planet. "I doubt if we can handle a half-dozen ships as easily."

"Hopefully we won't have to," Wray said calmly. "The closest ship would arrive twenty-two hours after we get there, and it would only be one. They all have significant gaps in arrival times, so we shouldn't be swarmed at any one moment. And if we hurry and get Rush back on board once he's done, we can leave just as quickly."

"So it's all about the timing. A wonderful, time-travel, space battle, and getting out of the frying pan relay race," Eli said perkily.

"Let's go get a gold in this," Volker replied excitedly. Everyone else merely turned to look at him with frowns, and he slunk into his seat dismayed.

"I'm more worried about the fact that they'll be there for six hours," Greer said pointing at the ship ahead of them. "There's no telling how many troops they can put on the surface in that time."

Varro took a step forward and looked a little uncomfortable. "I've been doing inventories on our weapon supplies, and we're getting dangerously low on ammo. Recently I finished making a mold to make bullets with, but I don't have the raw materials to make them with." Young looked at him in surprise, having just learned about this project. "It was something I learned to do with the Alliance," he explained. Varro could hate them with a passion, but they were resourceful and it taught him a lot.

The Colonel nodded his head in approval. "Well, I guess we should add those materials to the shopping list next time we go off-world."

"I expected you might have that concern," Rush said suddenly, smirking at Greer, "and may have a solution. Kalin!" he shouted into the hallway.

He appeared a few seconds later pushing a Kino sled. There was a blanket covering it that had some large objects under it. Kalin stopped it in the middle of the room by the core. Striding to it, Rush grabbed the blanket. "Now, I can't take the credit for this one, but you might find it useful nonetheless." He pulled off the blanket and tossed it onto the ground. On the table were a half dozen Nati rifles. They were short weapons, but somewhat stocky, having a thick barrel and a long handle.

"We got those weapons from the Nati base," Young recalled, walking up and picking one of them up. "I also remember that they didn't work for us."

"Yes, well apparently the Nati installed a failsafe so that only their species could use the weapon, similar to the ATA gene," Rush explained, pointing to the trigger. A small piece of it was a slick gel-layer which he indicated to be the interface. "You can thank Kalin for getting around that problem."

Kalin flared up slightly from the recognition. "It wasn't too hard really. I just had to interface with the weapons software and change the accepted genome. The Nati were human, but having evolved on another planet, their genetic structure was slightly different, which accounted for their system rejecting you." He pointed at various people, referring to their descent from Earth. "Luckily, I'm only a couple of thousand years removed from you, so it still accepts my genome," he said with a grin.

"Also, since they are energy weapons, their power supply can be recharged on the plate here," Rush added, indicating the blue core at the butt of the rifle. "With the occasional maintenance, they should last us indefinitely.

Young handled the weapon for a moment, feeling the weight of it. He leveled it and looked down the sights. Satisfied, he put it back on the sled. "Good work, both of you; these should come in handy." He turned to Greer at this point. "Sergeant, I want you to organize a team to escort Dr. Rush to the planet. Take Kalin and have a little weapons training in the firing range." A long time ago, they had converted one of the innermost cargo bays in a firing range, but with ever decreasing amounts of bullets, it didn't get used much. "We've got eight hours until we reach this planet. I want all of you to be rested and prepared for what's to come. Dismissed."

Wray passed through the hallways and soon found herself in the well lit Infirmary. It was a relief to see all of the beds empty. A new piece of equipment sat by the first bed, its large thick scanning arm hanging high above the bed. Once TJ had figured out how the new scanner worked, she had it moved to the Infirmary to be put to use. Sitting at the far desk, TJ was resting comfortably reading from her laptop. Wray noticed a cup of tea on her desk; the tea bag was one that she had made for the crew to enjoy. She smiled lightly to herself when she saw it. Knocking on the frame of the door, she announced her presence.

"Oh, hi," TJ chirped as she looked up, closing her laptop. "How's everything going?" She rose and walked up to Wray.

"Everything's fine," she reassured. "I'm not here to complain about anything."

TJ continued to look cheerful. "Well that's good."

"We should be at the planet in a few hours," she explained. "I just figured… if things go south during the attack… that you might want to have an extra pair of hands down here." She was no use on the Bridge for the fight, and she wouldn't help in any military way. This was the only thing she could think of as a contribution.

"Oh, sure," she said, smiling. "I'd appreciate that."

"Good, I just hope nothing bad happens," Wray said sincerely, wishing that something would work according to plan. "I think we could all appreciate some smooth sailing for once."

Chuckling agreeably, TJ sat on the nearest bed. "It would be nice."

Wray sighed and gave her a wide smile. "I'll just head to my quarters. Get some rest before everything goes down." She got a small nod from TJ before she turned around. On the way out she bumped into Varro, startling her slightly. He apologized as Wray walked out of the Infirmary.

He lumbered over to TJ and sat down next to her. "I'm going with the team to escort Dr. Rush to the planet," he told her, sitting straight and looking right at her.

Resting her chin on his shoulder for a moment, she just stared at him. "Just be careful," she asked.

"I will," he chuckled, leaning in slowly and gave her a quick kiss.

"I know you will," she responded with a grin.

Half a dozen Airman marched into the firing range, lead by Greer. Behind all of them was Kalin pushing the sled with Scott by his side. The cargo bay had already been mostly empty when they boarded Destiny, and its incredible length made it perfect for this use. Three thick targets had been placed at the other end of the room with an adequately hand-drawn bull's-eye on them. Kalin stopped the sled by the door and gave one to Greer, one to Scott, and grabbed one for himself.

Greer gave Kalin a comical expression. "You sure you want to use that?"

"I've worked with this weapon for a long time, and I've personally tested it," he returned, playing a tough-guy attitude that he had learned worked well with the Sergeant. "You'll need someone to teach you how to work it right."

Smiling widely, Greer gestured to the firing range. "Be my guest."

Kalin took the offer and walked up with the light weapon. He activated the power core and lowered the intensity to a safe level. Switching off the built-in safety he pulled up a small iron sight across the barrel of the weapon. He extended the butt of the rifle and raised the weapon, resting it against his shoulder. All of this he did quickly and expertly. Lightly tapping the trigger, he fired a small blue jet of energy into the center of the target ahead of him. The energy washed over the target and quickly dissipated, leaving a small scorch mark where he hit it. Quickly pivoting left he fired another perfect shot at the next target, and snapping to the right, hit the third target, each time without any kickback. Lowering the weapon and reactivating the safety, he turned and gazed proudly to Greer.

Still smiling, Greer stepped up to the firing range. "Not bad," he said.

Accepting the compliment, Kalin lifted his weapon and explained some of the dials and buttons. "This weapon doesn't have a stun/kill setting. But you can adjust the strength of the pulse with this dial, setting four being the most effective for combat," he said, sliding a small, sticky digital knob around. The higher the power setting, the brighter the power core glowing, providing a visual cue. "It fires a semi-automatic directed energy pulse with a point-zero-three second recharge and cooling time. Overheating shouldn't be a problem. I could spend an hour talking about the features of the weapon," he admitted, handing his gun off to Airman Richmond. "You'd probably rather have some practice with them instead."

"Still think I prefer our rifles," Scott complained, holding the weapon uncomfortably. His usual weapon had a much longer barrel which allowing him to stretch his arm out to support it. This smaller weapon fit slightly awkwardly in his grasp.

"You'll get used to it," Greer said simply, charging the weapon to the fourth setting and raising it. He fired a trio of shots at his target, the pulses briefly illuminating the room. The weapon whirred loudly when it was fired, but it was very quick before it settled down. The Sergeant lowered the weapon and examined it again. Nodding, he held it comfortably and looked to Scott. "I like it."

The Observation Deck was always a favorite of the crew to visit when in F.T.L. The view was amazing and relaxing, but right now only Eli was sitting on the couch. Everyone else chose to spend their preparation time sleeping or double checking the weapons and shields. Eli came here, figuring that every now and then, he could trust things were going right without him and just take a break.

"Hi Eli," Ginn said from the other end of the couch. A smile crept onto his face as he heard her voice. Honestly, ever since he had released the quarantine he had been waiting to see her. He turned to look at her and gave her a full smile once he saw her. She was just the way that he had remembered her. Sitting comfortably in the chair, as much as it seemed she could since she wasn't really there, she returned the smile to him. "I've missed you."

"I haven't stopped hoping to see you again," he said. Instinct told him to move closer and hold her, but his mind reminded him of the one problem in doing that. "I never got to apologize, for locking you up," he said sadly, his eyes reflecting guilt.

She stared at him in mild shock, upset that he blamed himself. "No, don't feel that way. I told you to do that, to keep Dr. Perry from hurting Rush again."

"Yeah, well she's not going to be here much longer." Saying that almost made him feel bad; he couldn't blame Dr. Perry for what she did, even if it did make life harder for him.

"Spending all that time in quarantine," Ginn started, taking a moment to look outside the window, "I had a lot of chances to get to know her." She paused and turned back to Eli, her expression somber. "She regrets what she did."

He sighed, feeling a little worse now. "I don't really blame her for anything. If anything, the whole problem started with Rush." Ginn gave him a look that told him to stop. "Right, not exactly what you waited three years to talk to me about."

"You've got to look forward," she said, gazing around the room. "There's no room for blame here; just progress."

Eli chuckled and watched her, just feeling happy right now. "You're right. It's just… it's just good to see you again." He smiled warmly to her, just wanting to be able to reach out and be stopped by flesh and blood, not pass through her. "What was it like, stuck in there?"

She shrugged. "At first it was… uncomfortable. Dr. Perry wouldn't speak with me. We interacted with a virtual Destiny that was built from both of our memories. She locked herself in the Observation Deck for a long time."

"Sounds like it got tedious really fast," he commented.

"I did some exploring, but we didn't have too much memory within our quarantine; our minds could only render so much of an environment," she reflected, speaking quietly on the events. "I couldn't create any characters without more memory. You might have separated where we were in memory, but that doesn't mean I couldn't do a lot with that space. I created new compression protocols and modified the buffer to be more efficient. With the new processing power I made a program that created several NPCs for the environment and instituted a random event generator, trying to bring some action to life."

Eli's eyes bugged out and he stared at her incredulously. "You did all of that, in there?" She nodded modestly. "Wow, I am really glad I've got you back here."

Ginn smiled happily at his recognition. "Anyways, soon after that Dr. Perry started to leave the Observation Deck. At first she was distraught; absolutely horrified at what had happened to us. It took awhile, but she started to take up an interest in things again. She never did stop regreting though. I wouldn't call our existence exciting or anything, but it was alright." She stopped and looked at Eli, taking her turn to watch him. "So tell me, what have you been up to?"

He let out a short puff of air and guffawed. "Oh boy, where to begin?"

Sitting in the Captain's chair, Young watched the monitors descend, informing him that they should be getting close to their target. Brody, Volker, and Kalin were stationed at the front three stations with Eli at the aft station. Rush was preparing the shuttle with Lt. Scott, so he could take-off as quickly as possible.

"We're approaching the planet," Volker informed, judging the approach vectors and planet's coordinates. "I don't know exactly where we'll drop out, but there's a good chance it won't be on top of the Nati ship."

"Understood," Young said, having already come to this conclusion on his own a while ago. "Brody, final check; how are the weapons?"

Humoring the Colonel, he checked the systems one final time. "All weapon platforms are fully powered and operational. Main weapon is on stand-by for deployment moment we exit F.T.L. Shields and sublight drive are all functional."

"Good to hear." He looked to the small terminal on the side of his chair and activated the comm line to the shuttle. "Lt. Scott, I hope you're ready down there."

The response came in loudly over the Bridge's speakers. "Yes, sir. We're all aboard and the shuttle is ready to launch as soon as you give the word."

"Copy, Lieutenant." He punched off the line.

"Here we go," Brody announced. The tell-tale whine sounded through the ship. As the engines groaned to a halt, a blinding light flashed through the windows and deposited the ship back in normal space. In front of them was a large green world with two small moons. This region of space was thick with cosmic dust, which filled the expanse with a purple-red hue. The star shone brightly through all of the particles, creating a beautiful vista.

A flurry of sounds erupted from various stations, informing the crew of the new sensor information available. "Talk to me," Young ordered the moment they left F.T.L.

"The planet is dead ahead at a range of eighteen hundred kilometers. Thrusters of firing automatically," Volker said, interpreting the new navigational data. "Looks like we're plugged into a geosynchronous orbit over the planet."

"Main weapon is successfully deployed," Brody said shortly.

"Where's the Nati ship?" Young inquired, putting priorities first.

"She's on the far side of the planet," Eli answered after a brief second. "I'd say we haven't been spotted yet; they aren't moving to intercept yet."

Young immediately turned the comm back on. "Lieutenant, the enemy is on the other side of the planet and currently unaware of our position. Launch now while we're not discovered."

"Copy, sir." A series of beeps emanated from Kalin's console indicating the shuttle detaching from Destiny. Within a moment, the shuttle was flying across the bow of the ship, on a direct course for the planet.

"Eli, have you found the location of the stone?" Young asked, craning to look at him.

Taking a little longer to answer, Eli sorted through the new data trying to find that out. Finally he answered. "Got it; I'm reading a moderate power signature in the middle of the largest continent. Sending the coordinates to the shuttle," he said, hustling over to the communication station to transmit the information. "I'm also getting an automated message from the surface," he said with a curious expression. "It's in Ancient; I think it wants Perry's program."

"Send the program," Young ordered immediately. He knew they were on a time crunch and didn't want to give even a moment of hesitation.

Eli nodded in response and started the transmission. "It should only take a moment," he said quickly, and the beep that went off soon confirmed his statement.

"Lieutenant, confirm you received the coordinates," the Colonel asked. "Also, Dr. Perry's program has been transmitted to the planet."

"We've got them, and copy about Dr. Perry," he answered. "We'll be there in a few minutes."

"You're not the only ones there," Eli announced worriedly, having returned to the science station. Young turned his chair around to look at him. "I'm reading at eight landed Nati fighters at that location and around twenty life signs in the adjacent area."

Young took a moment to sweat mentally before speaking. "Did you get that, Lieutenant?"

Static remained for a short second. "Yes, sir. I'll try to take a strafing run before I land; maybe I can clear out the area."

The Colonel was about to speak, but a low beep came from the back of the room. He turned to see Eli rushing to the communication station. "Colonel," he said dismally, "I think our cover just got busted. The Nati ship is sending a video and audio feed." He looked up with a confused expression. "I think they want to talk."

Frowning at this news, Young muted the line to the shuttle and grabbed the small Nati translator he had waiting on the arm of the chair. He stuck it to his temple, to which the device adhered to immediately. "Patch them in," he ordered, not really sure what to do.

Similarly unsure, Eli fiddled with the controls as this had never happened before. After a moment, the three monitors at the head of the room faded to static before showing a Nati control room with the commander at the center of the image. He was an aged man, and if the dozens of adornments on his uniform meant the same thing for the Nati as it did for human militaries, then he was a very decorated officer. There was a translator attached to his temple as well. A small chamber opened on the floor of the Bridge, right in front of the Captain's chair. Young leaned down to watch a Kino float up and stop right below the middle monitor, allowing the Colonel to watch the monitor and address the Kino without moving his heads. "That's cool!" he heard Eli exclaim at the sight.

Following expected protocol, Young looked at the Kino and addressed the Nati commander. "This is Colonel Everett Young of the Destiny. What do you want?"

The commander maintained a cold, intimidating countenance as he spoke. "I am Admiral Vesari, of the Imperial Defense Force for the Portan Nati. This is our protected space; you must withdraw immediately."

When Young didn't answer, Eli got curious. "What did he just say? I haven't got the Rosetta Stone for this sublanguage of Ancient."

"They're asking us to leave," he informed, saying it slowly to emphasize his surprise.

"Since when have they played nice?" Volker commented. Young too was puzzled, having expected a more direct statement of authority, not just a statement.

"Maybe they're scared of us, after everything we've done," Eli suggested. It was a reasonable idea that Young accepted.

He sat up in his chair and watched the Kino adjust to follow his motion. "I'm sorry, but we didn't realize this was in your space. Unfortunately, we can't leave; our ship needs to remain in normal space for a minimum of four hours before continuing on," Young started, preferring to avoid mentioning the fact they just launched a shuttle to the planet. In his mind, a practical reason should work. "If you give us that time..."

"No, that is unacceptable," Vesari growled, cutting off the Colonel. "Nothing prevents you from using your sublight; make your way out of the solar system at once." He stared darkly at Young. "You have until we intercept your vessel to leave this area. After that, you will be considered a hostile craft and will be dealt with as such," Vesari threatened. The image vanished the next moment and the terminals once again displayed pertinent tactical data.

Young rapidly ripped off the translator, slamming it onto his console. "This just got harder. Volker, where's the enemy ship?" he asked in an urgent tone. The Kino quickly fell back into the opening in the floor that immediately sealed itself, blending into the floor.

He rushed to check his station, urged on by the seriousness of the situation. "Um… they're not moving," he said dumbfounded. He had assumed from the context of Young's statement that they should be approaching, but was as shocked as everyone else in the room.

Ignoring the surprising situation, Young un-muted the line to the shuttle. "Lt. Scott, be on the alert, our position has been made be a Nati warship. I don't know if they've detected you as of yet," he warned. On the left monitor he saw that the shuttle was getting close to the planet, but was still a couple of minutes away from the atmosphere.

"Understood, sir; we'll be careful," Scott assured.

"Hang on, Colonel, I'm reading a large power surge from the Nati ship!" Brody announced worriedly.

Before Young could ask for more information, Kalin shouted out. "A hyperspace window is opening above the planet!" They were significantly closer to the planet now than when they exited F.T.L. Only the northern hemisphere was visible from the Bridge, and when Young squinted he could make out the glimmer of the shuttle metallic hull. He didn't have any trouble seeing the massive blue-white vortex appear in front of the shuttle.

"Rush, what is that?!" Scott shouted the moment a blinding mass of energy burst into existence before their shuttle. Without him having time to answer, the cloud flashed for a second, and left an enormous ship immediately before them. "Holy sh-!" He quickly pulled the shuttle up to avoid a collision as multiple alarms throughout the cockpit blared loudly. The shields sputtered to life as the bottom of the shuttle splashed against the hull of the warship. Everyone in the shuttle was jostled violently from the impact and spark flew from the consoles above Scott's head. Quickly leveling the shuttle, he piloted it along the hull, passing windows across its seamless and featureless hull. Suddenly, they dropped into a deep trench along the side of the ship, which was riddled with turrets and uneven hull patterns.

A few of the nearby turrets quickly spun to point at the shuttle and launched fast moving bursts of boiling plasma. Scott weaved the shuttle around adroitly, avoiding the blasts.

"We might stand a better chance of survival if we leave this area!" Rush shouted, more like an order than a suggestion.

"I'm on it," Scott replied. He slowed the shuttle and pulled up gently, trying to ride up to the edge of the trench. On his way up, a turret on the opposite ridge successfully fired a shot at the starboard side of the shuttle. They were violently rocked around as the shuttle briefly spun out of control before escaping the trench. An explosion resonated from the right station where Corporal Barnes was posted, showering sparks and shrapnel around the cockpit. "Corporal, are you okay?" Scott asked, allowing himself a second to glance backwards at her.

She lifted herself off the ground and got back to the weapons station. "I'm fine, sir."

"Let's make sure that's the only hit we take," Rush warned, now that they had left the trench and were safely gliding along the hull that was devoid of weaponry. "That practically took out our shields; we wouldn't survive another shot from this ship."

Scott let out a puff of air, trying to calm his nerves. "Right, I'll try to be more careful." The hull of this ship was very long, longer than he thought it should be. For the time being, he didn't risk moving away from the ship, seeing as they were safe from the warship's weapons this close to the hull. "Destiny, we could use some cover fire on our approach to the planet," he said into the communicator. Static was returned to him.

"Communications and starboard weapons are also off-line," informed Rush, answering the inevitable questions.

"Damn. We've still got the coordinates, right?" he asked, not taking his eyes off of the hull that he was hovering a few meters above. He could see the bright blue glow of the engines at the rear of the ship resonating through the cosmic dust in the area, informing him he was nearly past their ship.

Rush grunted affirmatively. "Yes, they're patched into your navigation system."

Taking a deep breath, he quickly started tapping controls and piloting the craft more aggressively. "Then hold on!"

The engines roared to life as he pushed them to their maximum. They quickly sped across the remaining part of the ship and passed their engines. The warship's engines were incredibly loud as the craft passed over them. Finally, the ship was behind them and only the planet was visible, now very close. Within a moment a heat wave started to emanate from the nose of the ship as they passed through the atmosphere.

"Eli, assessment," Young ordered, the moment he watched the behemoth of a ship exit the hyperspace window. It had the configuration of Nati ships they encountered previously, but it was significantly larger, with a flat nose and deep trenches that cut through both sides of the ship. On either ridge of the trenches he could make out a flurry of weapon emplacements, making it very dangerous to be to the side of the ship as Destiny was right now. In the center of the fat ship several small towers protruded from the top. The aft housed two massive engines flanked by a dozen smaller sublight drives. Between the large quantity of weapons and gigantic features of the ship, this seemed to pose a serious problem.

Staring at the monster of a ship for a second, Eli gawked at it, and Young thought he heard him mumble "All hail Galactica" before he tore his gaze away from it and moved to his science station, scanning the ship. "It's comparable to the ships we encountered before, but I'd say this is a capital ship. The power output from this thing is ridiculous!"

"Colonel," Volker called out, getting his attention, "the shuttle just passed the capital ship and is on the way to the planet."

"They're locking weapons on us!" Brody shouted. From the bottom ridge of the port side trench, at least a dozen blue pulses lashed out simultaneously. They rapidly closed the gap between starships and slammed into Destiny's shield in the same instant. All the shots were concentrated on the mid-section of the ship, but the impact was still felt all the way up in the Bridge. The hull quaked moderately and a few sparks flew from Volker's station. A second volley of weapons fire came from the top ridge, striking Destiny in the same place. The shields flared brightly in that area, shaking the bulkheads in the Bridge again.

"Mr. Brody, I'd appreciate it if we were firing back!" he shouted over the flurry of alarms sounding across the stations.

He nodded agreeably in response. "Right; firing lateral weapon platforms. Can't fire the main weapon in this arc," he informed. Dozens of orange pulses zoomed away from Destiny and crashed into the Nati capital ship. They flew in a much more irregular pattern, splashing all over the shields, causing them to briefly sputter to life.

"Bring our bow to face them," Young ordered. His command was swiftly enacting, the hull creaking and the view shifting around to address the enemy ship more prominently. "Divert as much power as you can to the shields." Another set of barrages plowed into the shields, this time in the area around the Gate Room. More sparks flew from a circuit behind the Colonel.

"I'm reading multiple new contacts!" Kalin said as dozens of new red dots began to move across the tactical displays. "They've launched fighters!"

Looking out the viewport, the Colonel could see a large amount of the small craft flow over from the starboard side of the capital ship. A group of them turned and started towards the planet while the majority headed straight for Destiny. "Brody, do what you can to focus on the planet-bound fighters. We've got to help out the shuttle if we can." A large explosion tore across the right side of the room and sparks showered everyone, flying from what seemed like every direction. The shields lit up brilliantly across the window after having taken a heavy barrage at the bottom of the command structure. Displays flickered for a moment before settled back to normal.

"I'll do my best!" Brody said having to yell over a conduit by him that was sending a continuous stream of sparks. While most of the weapons fire, now including the main weapon, was focused on the capital ship, a few shots flew out towards the planet. Most of them seemed to be successful as Young could see several explosions at the edge of the atmosphere.

A fighter flew right past the Bridge's viewport, reminding Young of the more immediate threat. The dozens of small craft were buzzing around, pelting the shields all around. What he took the greatest care to notice was that the capital ship ceased firing.

"Are they damaged?" Young asked, watching as a few fighters were destroyed. They were fast, but without any shields they were much easier targets to eliminate than the capital ship. Regardless, the intensity of the fire against the Destiny had reduced, allowing Brody to more accurately target the fighters and allowing Young time to ask questions.

"I'm reading almost no hull damage, and their shields only dropped by a marginal percentage," Kalin relayed in a downcast voice.

"How's the possible?" Young asked, watching as they were still firing a flurry of energy bolts at the capital ship, all striking the shields.

"The power output from this ship is incredible," Eli said, echoing his previous statement. "They are channeling so much power to their shields its crazy. And just look at the size of that ship! Even without shields that thing has a lot of protection."

One of the attacking fighters fired a trio of shots at the Bridge before being dispatched by turret fire. A circuit under Young seat exploded and the chair caught fire immediately. He jumped from his seat and patted the small flame away. He turned and looked angrily to Eli. "You do whatever you have to; get me more power!" Another explosion rocked the Bridge, this time coming from the floor and ripping right through it. A few large plates of metal flew around the room and exposed a large ruptured conduit beneath it venting out a lot of gas. "Shut that off!" he shouted to no one in particular. Holding onto the armrest of his chair, he stood relentlessly by the side as the gas stopped pouring into the room.

An annoying beep resonated from Eli's station. "That's it; we've got no more power to spare."

"Shields are powered up to maximum; if it stays like this we might make it!" Brody shouted. The small fire from the fighters was lessening as consistent defenses measures on his part were successful. As such, the ship was faring much better.

Kalin blanched at the read-out on his terminal and yelled out in a panicked voice, "The capital ship is firing again!" He looked up from his station just in time to observe the dozens of bright blue pulses collide with the top section of the command structure.

An absolutely deafening explosion could be heard as the weapons fire partly breached the shields and torn through the hull in an adjacent area to the Bridge. Being the only one not seated, Young was flung across the room, banging himself across the hard metal floor and debris. Kalin's entire console became one giant inferno, and the Colonel watched in horror from the ground as sparks, flames, and sharp metal pounded the young man's body. The chair he sat in went flying down to the ground, and Kalin was encompassed by the inferno, completely taken in by the fire. Young gazed for a terrible second before a torched body was propelled from the blaze, screaming in a blood-chilling voice of someone in torture. The body slammed into the railings by the back of the Bridge and he immediately fell to the floor, quiet and still.

Young felt himself shout out his name, but there was no luck in being heard. He rose up from the floor immediately, but didn't move towards Kalin. He stared at his back, the only part of him that didn't look like it had been cooked, and gazed painfully for a moment. Taking a sharp breath, he looked away and went back to his chair, taking his seat again. Both Brody and Volker were still staring, similarly aghast at what just happened.

"Gentlemen!" the Colonel shouted to get their attention, inwardly feeling guilty at the detachment he had to exhibit as a commander. "Gentlemen!" he repeated louder when they didn't respond. Finally they both turned abruptly to look at him. "We have work to do." They nodded and quickly snapped to their stations. He looked over his shoulder to Eli. "Call TJ," he said softly to him, feeling a dagger stab into him that that was all he could do.

"I've got a good arc with the main weapon!" Brody announced, wiping the sweat off of his forehead.

"Fire with everything we have," the Colonel said vengefully.

A quick triple shot moved off from the nose of the ship, followed by a flurry of smaller shots from every single turret that could hit that capital ship. Brody was ignoring the fighters now; there were only a few left at this point that were attacking. The massive barrage all slammed into the shields of the enemy ship at one location, down by the top of one of the important looking towers. Silver-blue shields flared around that area, taking heavy punishment from the intense weaponry. It was still impossible to determine how much damage they were inflicting.

Reciprocating the attack, the capital ship fired another barrage, this time plowing into the ship all across the bow. The shields fizzled back and forth between existence and oblivion, and a jet plume exploded from the hull. More sparks continued to fly from all across the room. Kalin's station was a blazing wreck, with the entire terminal having turning in a piece of twisted metal.

"Shields are falling!" Brody cried out from his station. Dozens of alarms filled the Bridge at this point, and Brody didn't know what to tackle first. "The main weapon is running hot!"

"Maintain fire," Young resolved, staring right at the capital ship with a dark gaze. "I'd rather we blow ourselves up before we give let those bastards do it."

"What the…" Volker started, glaring dumbfounded at his console. He turned at looked urgently at Young. "I'm reading multiple hyperspace windows, right off our bow."

Young took a deep breath of the smoke filled air, and closed his eyes.

The shuttle cleared its way through the atmosphere without any more problems. Once the puffy white clouds were behind them, the large green expanses filled the vista.

"I'm approaching the coordinates; we'll be there real soon," Scott informed. "How's communications looking?" he asked Rush.

Trying once more, the scientist shook his head. "Nothing, and I can't get a good reading of anything beyond the planet; too much interference from the atmosphere." Rush checked scans of the planet. "I'm still reading the eight landed ships."

"Good, I'll handle them nice and easy," he chirped, happy of some positive news. The earth beneath them rapidly approached them, prominently displaying a set of tall and jagged mountain peaks in the region. Based at the bottom of the mountain range Scott could see the glint of the fighters. "Corporal Barnes, do you see them?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," she responded, charging up the weapons. "The port cannon is ready to fire."

He nodded approvingly. Gliding past the highest peaks of the mountains, the fighters could be seen in detail. Four of them were the regular craft they had already encountered, and the other four were somewhat larger. Judging by the amount of soldiers milling around outside, they were probably troop transports. "Lock onto the big ones first, and fire when ready," he ordered once they were a kilometer from the surface. Reducing the speed and trying to keep in a straight line, he offered the Corporal as clean as shot as possible.

Immediately following his orders, the port cannon burst to life. A steady series of energy burst slammed into the ground at incredible speeds. Explosions came from the landed craft which were easy picking in their vulnerable state. The fire raged and encompassed the surrounding area. The entire landing zone for the Nati fighters was quickly pulverized into craters and smoke. A few surviving troops scattered for the nearby forest, trying to hide from the line of fire from the shuttle.

"I'll set you down by the rocks right where the signal is the strongest," Scott informed once Barnes stopped firing. The shuttle's engines slowed down and landed with a jolt on the ground. The rear hatch was facing the mountain side.

Greer unlatched himself from his harness in the rear section and walked up to the door, brandishing his energy rifle. Varro followed him, as did Airmen Atienza, Chu, Dunning, and Richmond. "Are you ready to go, 'doc?" he called to Rush, who was still at his station.

Giving a sigh, the scientist nodded and left his station, not wasting another moment to join the team. "Absolutely."

Nodding, the Sergeant looked back to Scott. "Open it up!"

The rear hatch slid open and bright sunlight flooded through. Varro rushed out first with Dunning at his side. He called all clear and the other Airmen marched out, keeping Rush in the middle of the group. Greer was the last to walk out.

A warning alarm sounded from the cockpit, catching Greer's attention. "What's going on?"

"Incoming fighters," Scott announced, turning around to look at the Sergeant. "I've got to take off or I'm a sitting target. I'll do what I can to cover you."

Greer backed out of the shuttle slowly and gave a quick salute to Scott. "Give those sons o' bitches my regards." He walked out and followed after the rest of the group escorting Rush.

Sealing the hatch, Scott powered the engines up again and lifted off the ground.

"Here they come!" Barnes announced, not taking her eyes off of the targeting system.

A wave of blue pulses rained from the sky and pelted the shuttle and the ground around it. Noticing that Rush and his escorts had entered a large cave, he told himself they were safe from the barrage. The shuttle wasn't safe though. Sparks flew across the interior of the shuttle, and very soon the protective shimmer of the shields that could be seen through the viewport vanished.

"We've lost shields!" he yelled, not sure why because Barnes could definitely determine this information as well. "Hang on!" He pushed the engines forward and headed straight up to address the fighters. "Fire if you have a shot!"

He weaved around a lot to dodge incoming fire, afraid to risk getting hit without shields. There were at least a half dozen incoming fighters in front of the shuttle, rapidly closing the distance and firing haphazardly. Two were destroyed before a hit was scored against the shuttle. The weapon station let loose a flurry of sparks and a small breach in the hull caused the air to fizzle out.

"I'm alright!" Barnes shouted over the hissing air, "but that last shot completely disabled the weapon systems."

"Oh crap," Scott mumbled. Not knowing what else to do, he pulled the nose of the shuttle down and moved straight into the labyrinth of mountain peaks. "I may regret this later!"

Slowing the shuttle to a manageable speed, he navigated through the rock wall and sharp peaks, moving as close to the mountains as he could. Judging by split-second glances to the sensors, the fighters were following him, and not doing as well. One moment within the mountain range and he already could hear the ships colliding with rock. Doing a quick lap around a thick peak, he straightened out only to be faced with a solid mountain wall dead ahead. Waiting as long as he could before changing course, he flew straight for the wall. Giving himself one second to look at the sensors he saw the other fighters disperse. Relieved, he slowed down a little and dropped the shuttle parallel to the wall, heading straight for the ground.

"I'm going to try and set us down in the small opening right there," he said, gesturing to a ravine moving through the mountains that looked flat and well protected from prying eyes. "We should be safe until we can make some repairs."

"Sir, something's wrong with the rock!" she shouted out, confusing the Lieutenant with her vague statement. Quickly checking with sensors, she confirmed what was happening. "The fighters are concentrating their attack on the nearby peak; they're bringing it down!" she yelled in panic.

Scott tried to bring the shuttle out of the ravine, but it was too late. Intense weapons fire from over a dozen newly arrived fighters was slamming into the side of a peak just above the shuttle. Explosions ripped across the mountain and threw large rocks down into the ravine. They pelted the top of the shuttle relentlessly, banging against the hull, and sending more sparks flying. Scott did what he could to stabilize the shuttle and bring it out of this rockslide, but the rocks damaged the engines and cracked the window in front of him, obscuring his view.

"Lieutenant Scott!" Barnes shouted over the cacophonous roar of the mountain coming down. She was pointing to the peak. A loud crack was heard from the peak, and a large chunk of the mountain split from the rest. It came falling right onto the shuttle, and dropped it down into the ravine, burying it.

Quietly approaching through the thick foliage, Greer eyed the single guard at the entrance to a cave through the rifle's sight. Once he was close enough, he rose from the brush and gently tapped the trigger. The energy pulse struck the soldier right in the chest, burning his uniform and skin. He quickly fell without any problem.

"Alright, let's move!" he shouted, as everyone else appeared out of the tree line a few meters behind in. "Airman Richmond, secure that weapon; I want to bring home as many of these babies as possible."

She immediately complied, running up to the dead guard and grabbing the rifle, stowing it in her bag.

The Sergeant walked up and stopped at the mouth to the cave. It was clearly not natural; the walls were flat and it went on in a straight line. Several scones decorated the walls every few meters, illuminating it for around a hundred meters before it reached a junction. "I'm gonna take a guess and say this is it."

"How very astute, Sergeant," Rush said gruffly, walking ahead of everyone else into the cave.

Greer stopped him, grabbing onto his shoulder tightly. "I'm sorry, but we are here for a reason," he said in an authoritative voice, gesturing to the half-dozen armed men around the scientist. "You just stay there in the middle."

Rush reluctantly agreed, and gestured for Greer to go ahead of him. The Sergeant did so, taking Chu and Dunning with him, and letting Varro, Atienza and Richmond take the rear. They went down the long corridor for a while, finally reaching the junction in a few moments. It was a large junction in which everyone could fit. Greer stopped in the center of the three-way intersection and looked at the two options. Both curved inward, so he couldn't see anything past ten meters. He turned and looked at Rush. "Which way now?"

"You can follow me," a soft voice said from the left corridor. Everyone turned around quickly to identify the source. Standing at the threshold of the hallway, Amanda was smiling and looking carefully across everyone.

Keeping his weapon trained on her, Greer took a step closer. "Easy, Sergeant. It's Dr. Perry," he said softly, putting his hand across the weapon and moving up to her. He figured that the Sergeant had never actually seen her before, so he decided to answer the question as quickly as possible. Rush tried not to show any emotion, but seeing her one more time filled his heart with joy. He had already come to the realization he might never see her again, and this was a moment he wanted to have in peace.

He remained still for a moment, and then lowered the rifle. "Ma'am," he greeted her politely, "I'm not usually this abrupt, but we've got places to be. If you don't mind?"

She smiled amiably and stepped down the corridor, Rush following right after her. "Of course, it's right this way."

Greer nodded and pushed himself in front of Rush again. "We just had this talk, 'doc." He followed after Amanda who was quickly walking down the curved hallway. A few meters into the hall, he pulled out his radio. "Lieutenant Scott, we are en route to the stones. Do you copy?" Static was his answer and it aggravated him. "Scott, do you hear me?"

"We might be too far into the caves," Rush suggested as Greer gave him a glance over his shoulder. "We shouldn't make any conclusions; we have a mission to finish," he asserted, not stopped even though Greer slowed down for a moment. Reluctantly agreeing he continued walked at Perry's pace. "How are you able to project yourself to so many people?" Rush asked, trying to alleviate the tension of the moment.

Amanda turned to face him and walked backwards, perfectly keeping up with the curve of the hallway. "I'm actually a hologram this time," she said with a wide grin. "The technology here is very complex."

"Do you know why you're here?" he asked, dreading hearing the answer said aloud.

To his surprise, she smiled happily. "Yes, all of the information was here. As soon as my program arrived it was downloaded. It's… it's amazing really." At that moment she stopped and held out her hand, her face becoming serious. "The stone chamber is right through there," she said, pointing around the bend, "but there are several soldiers as well. They don't know we're here yet."

"Let's go get them," Greer said enthusiastically, holding his rifle up.

"I'll give you a distraction," Amanda offered, and at that moment ran off down the hall. Greer, Varro, and the Airmen all chased after her, leaving Rush behind them. He was in a partial daze, stunned as he watched the calm and brave manner in which Amanda was acting. It brought a small smile to his face as he finally started to move again.

He walked down the last stretch of the corridor and watched as Amanda moved into a large antechamber with around ten Nati soldiers within it. The room had a tall ceiling and had many alcoves across the walls with bright lights washing up them. A grand door was on the other side of the room, and it looked as if though one of the soldiers was trying to get it open. "Hello," Amanda said, gaining their attention. As soon as they turned to look at her, she started to run across the wide room. The troops, focused on her, raised their weapons and fired, not yet noticing the armed Airmen coming in behind. She made it across the entire room, befuddling the soldiers as their energy pulses passed harmlessly through her.

Greer was the next one in the antechamber, and started to fire his weapon rapidly, hitting two soldiers square in the chest before ducking into an alcove for cover. Varro, Atienza, and Dunning charged out as one group, firing a large volley at the soldiers. One Nati was shot, while the remaining forces dispersed through the room and took cover in alcoves, now ignoring Amanda standing by the door. Chu and Richmond stayed at the neck of the hallway, crouching by the corner. They fired a flurry of shots at the enemy positions, keeping them pinned in the alcoves. Chunks of the rock came flying from the wall as the high energy pulses struck the sides of the room. Varro took a few steps closer, hugging the wall on the left of the room, and fired a short burst at the soldier hiding in the opposing alcove.

"Move up!" Greer shouted, advancing from his alcove to the next one, gaining a few meters into the room. He ducked quickly into its safety as a pulse whistled past his head, splashing him with heat. Several Nati troops leaped out of their cover and rolled across the floor until they stopped in the center and raised their weapons. They let loose a rapid blast of fire from their rifles, striking all across the room. Chu took a hit to the leg and fell down, shouting out in pain as the shot cooked his skin. Richmond gave him covering fire, and with Dunning's support dropped the enemy troops. They quickly rushed to Chu's side and dragged him back through the corridor to Rush's position where they were safe from weapons fire. After that they moved back into the antechamber.

Rush didn't know what to do with the injured man, but helped him to sit up and straighten his leg out. "Thanks, Doctor," he said through clenched teeth. Tired of waiting around, Rush nodded to him and quickly grabbed the rifle and ran out into the antechamber.

Most of the Nati were dead by now, but there were still two hiding in the furthest alcoves. Greer and Varro were making their way up one alcove at a time while the Airmen were laying down cover fire.

Almost at the end of the room, Greer turned around the corner to attack the soldier when he jumped from his opposing alcove and grabbed the Sergeant's arm, pushing him back to the wall. Greer pushed with his strength to get the Nati of him and noticed Varro quickly dispatch the second Nati. The other Airmen were watching the Sergeant's predicament, but didn't risk shooting while he was in such close quarters. He managed to get the soldier off of his arm, but in that moment the Nati pulled a dagger from his belt. As he lunged to stab the Sergeant, a blast lashed out from the side and struck the soldier across the face. He immediately collapsed to the ground.

Looking back to where the shot came from, he saw Rush holding a rifle, aimed at his now deceased adversary. "You were that sure you'd miss me?" he commented, noticing the large distance between them and the lack of training Rush had with firearms.

"It was a calculated risk," he returned, dropping the weapon to the ground, not seeing a need for it anymore. "You're welcome."

"It's this way," Perry said, reminding Rush of her presence by the large door. Right by her side in a moment, Rush was examining the door, which lacking any designs or opening mechanisms. "I can take care of that." She closed her eyes and focused, tilting her head as she worked. A loud hiss and whir came from the inner workings of the door, and it slowly slid open at that moment. Inside was a small room. The walls were covered with vertical, transparent power conduits that cast a deep red color into the room. In the center of the chamber there was an Ancient stone terminal with a conduit running across the floor to reach it.

"Is that it?" Greer asked disappointedly, having personally expected something bigger.

"I'll be waiting for you on the other side," Perry said, immediately dissolving into thin air. Once she did, one of the slots on the terminal lit up. A large crystal lay in that slot instead of a stone.

Walking up to the station, Rush saw a single stone sitting on the side of the terminal. He gingerly picked up the stone and took a moment to look back. Chu was being dragged back into the now secured room while Richmond and Varro were gathering more weapons. Greer stood by the door with Rush, giving the scientist a supportive nod. "Wish us all luck," Rush said softly, giving a small grin to the Sergeant as he placed the stone in the first available slot.

For a long moment, Rush was nowhere. Everything was black all around him, and there was nothing but a long, persistent whine. He felt sick to his stomach and couldn't breathe, and started to feel a huge pressure against his skull. Just at the moment when he felt he couldn't take it any longer, everything was alleviated.

The bright light of his surroundings blinded him, leading him to close his eyes. He gasped loudly as he struggled to fill his lungs with air, and felt relieved that his head didn't hurt anymore. His eyes still closed, he listened to his environment, hearing only a slight humming. Finally, he slowly opened his eyes and carefully looked around.

In front of him there was a stone terminal, and his hand was rested on the only stone on it. The terminal had a different configuration than he was used to seeing, and the stone looked just like the one from the Ancient database. He was in a spacey room, built out of smooth polished rock. A large balcony was on the opposite side, looking out onto the sunset outside. It cast a deep red-orange glow into the room. The room was surrounded with a clutter of papers and devices. It was a thorough mess.

Gazing at himself, Rush make out the same sand colored coat that Palos had worn in his image. A loud beep resonated from the door a few meters to his right. He jumped in light surprise at the sound, but didn't do anything. It was a small door, but lavishly decorated with an embossed pattern. It beeped again. Rush walked up slowly and observed a control mechanism on the side, somewhat similar to those on Destiny. He pressed it and let the door slid open. A young Ancient stood on the other side, holding up an electronic pad and looking flustered.

"Where have you been, Palos?" he asked in aggravation, handing him the pad. Rush was confused but accepted the pad slowly. Gazing over it quickly, he saw it was a lengthy document. "I had to speak with the Archon for hours so he would allow you a final chance to petition to the council. Don't destroy all my work," the man begged.

Rush nodded, understanding the relevance of this document as permission to address the Ancient scientific council. "I won't; thank you," he said unsurely. He hoped that he wasn't acting too suspicious.

The young man smirked and walked away, apparently having more to do elsewhere. Rush closed the door and took a few steps back, skimming over the document. He took in the information while simultaneously considering what had to be done next.

It was at that moment he became aware of another presence in the room. He looked straight up to the balcony where a middle-aged man stood, dressed in the same clothes as he was. "Dr. Rush, I presume?" the man said slowly, with an entertained grin.

For a whole moment Rush stood frozen in position, staring at the man with complete shock and a bit of fear. It took him a moment to realize that this man knew his name, and then he panicked even more. His heart was racing, but he still felt curious about the situation and had to speak. "How do yo… who… who are you?"

The man merely gestured for him to join him on the balcony as he walked up to the railing and gazed straight to the sun. His heart beating out of control now, Rush took a small step first before regaining full control. He continued to walk until he reached the balcony, and immediately froze again. A moment passed and then he took a giant step to the railing, standing side-by-side with the stranger, and just watched.

Before him lay a vast desert field, completely flat for kilometers. He was standing high above the ground on what seemed to be a massive complex, the only building in the area. Sitting at the foot of the tower was a large ship. Its parabolic curves that defined its shape were perfect, flawlessly built. The orange-red glow from the sun reflected off of the hull in the most beautiful way, complimenting the natural earthy tones of the hull's color. Across the entire exterior of the ship, all of the lights were on and brilliantly glowing, making the vast craft come to life. Not a single spot on the vessel was damaged in the slightest, and its freshly assembled hull was still glinting from how clean it was. Rush gasped and rested his arms on the railing, completely blown away. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was Destiny.