Author's Note: This is an old (several years old) story of mine that has languished on my hard drive for the last three or four years. An old reader recently PM'ed me and asked whether I had totally abandoned it. That got me to rereading the story and well, I got enthused about writing it again. This story most definitely takes place in an alternate BSG universe, diverging from the end of first season on. While writing this story, a question I frequently asked myself was, "What would have happened had Adama chose 'x' or Roslin chose 'y' or Starbuck did this instead of that. In this story, the characters make different choices and we get to see how those choices play out.
Another difference here is that I never really cared much for the ending of the series. As the credits for the last episode rolled, I stared at my screen going, "Wha...?" This story does use elements of the plot for the last season, but brings in some...twists. Again, it's all about choices.
This was originally a full crossover with Poul Anderson's Flandry series of short stories and novels. However, I've decided to adapt Anderson's universe instead of doing a crossover. The technological changes that have occurred in the past sixty years have taken us in directions that I'm sure Mr. Anderson would have been pleasantly surprised at had he known then what we know now. Partly because of this and partly because I want to experiment more with original work, I've adapted and altered much of Anderson's universe while at the same time hopefully keeping true to the spirit of his stories. So...this Terran Empire, while paying homage to Poul Anderson's, does diverge from it in many ways.
I'm rating this story M because there is adult language and adult situations. I don't write explicit sex scenes, so you won't see any of that, but there is the occasional four letter word bomb and plenty of sexual situations and double entendres. This is a BIG story, so I'm going to try for weekly updates—I'm well ahead right now, so expect an update a week for about the next 12 weeks or so. Please do let me know what you like or don't like about the story. I'm not one to pester the reader for reviews, but if I don't get feedback or visits to the story, then I have to assume that people aren't enjoying it and if people don't enjoy reading it, then I find it hard to enjoy writing it. That's what happened to a Mass Effect story I had started and gave up on.
Ok, that's it for me spouting off. I'll let you read the prologue and I hope it catches your interest enough to want to stick around for more. Have a good week and I'll see you next week.
WHO ARE YOU?
Ten Years before the Second Cylon War...
The double-disk Cylon basestar sat at rest, hovering almost placidly in empty space as calculations and images rushed through the combined processors and organic brain tissue of the controlling hybrid soaking in its nutrient bath. "Matrix 38-X positive...Declination 40...29 minutes...34 seconds...Ascension 59 degrees. Phase frequency 194.403. Jump calculations nearly complete. Downloading of first run to commence upon arrival at Home Base. Jump." The hybrid commanded sighing in an almost orgasmic glee as the powerful basestar winked out of phase with normal space into hyperspace where it would spend a few brief moments before reappearing once again at its destination. However, this time, in that brief instant "in between", fate in the form of a cosmic string struck. "Crash...empty...all blank...the model must be saved...eject...tabula rasa...all gone."
"Captain! Scanners report an explosion in subsector 32-Bravo. It's a big one...about the amount of energy that would have been released by a light or heavy cruiser."
Captain William Langham of His Imperial Majesty's Ship Aletis ordered in a crisp, clipped tone, "Set course for the source of the explosion. Let's see what we've got." Stroking his chin, the newly-minted captain allowed a brief moment of concern to cross his features. This was an isolated area of space with no known interstellar powers. Could there be a new, heretofore unknown power lurking, preparing to strike at a vulnerable sector of the Empire? Could the Alythians, seeing what they thought was an opening, be attempting a push? Or was it something else entirely? Well...the sandy-haired captain decided, we'll find out when we find out.
"Whatever exploded..." Sensor Technician First Class Tee Cheala stated as her bushy ermine-white tail flicked side to side, "...went up completely, sir. Only fragmentary debris...wait one!" The cat-like Corinthan petty officer called out excitedly, her tail twitching even faster, "I'm detecting a mass...approximately the size of a single-occupancy life pod...course 39 degrees mark 40. I'm picking up a radio distress signal." Her tail now erect and bushed out, she called out, "I have a life sign...apparently human."
"Right..." Captain Langham ordered, "Set course towards the pod. I want tractor beams ready to pull into the hangar bay. Med-techs and Marines to hangar deck."
As soon as the lifepod set down on the cutter's tiny flight deck, emergency personnel, covered by Marines armed with blasters, rushed forward. "Rads are at safe levels." A man clad in a protective suit said after waving a wand shaped object over the pod. As the rest of the rescue team drew closer, the man pointed at the window which revealed the head of an attractive woman, apparently in her mid-twenties, with curly flaxen-blonde hair. "Pretty face." He remarked as he noted the writing underneath the window on his handcomp, "Unit designation...6...Batch 20. What do you think that means?"
"Hell if I know." A deck-crewman answered back as one of the med-techs nodded her head.
"Ok, grunts! We got the all clear. No chem, rad, or bio-pathogens. Let's get this baby opened up and see if we've got us a sleeping beauty or a just a cute corpsicle for any necrophiliacs amongst us."
"Chief's talking about you again, Andre!" The deck-crewman laughed as the pod was cracked open, a hiss of frosted trapped air venting out in the process. "Med-techs! She's all yours!"
As the senior med-tech ran her diagnostic scanner over the survivor, her eyes opened wide as she gasped, "Oh my God!"
Six Months Later: The Terran Empire: Pasteur Research and Biogenetic Studies Center, Montcalm Island, New France.
"Sir Devon?" A slender human scientist wearing a gray one piece lab suit remarked as he held his hand out in greeting to the garishly clad intelligence officer approaching him. "I'm Doctor Richard Lester. I'm glad you came."
"After hearing your message, how could I resist?" Captain Sir Devon Richards of his Majesty's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps responded with a half grin as he adjusted the red sash that crossed his sky blue tunic. "So...let's see your star patient."
"Right this way, Captain." The scientist replied as he ushered the intelligence agent through an open doorway. "I think you're going to be as surprised as we were when you see her."
"Lovely woman." Richards remarked appreciatively as he observed the beautiful blonde haired woman, clad in a simple white shift dress, playing with children's blocks through a large one-way mirror. "You say that she's an android."
"Not quite an android." A female voice interjected as a holographic image of the facility's AI appeared. Taking shape as a beautiful young woman with long luxurious dark hair, Bridgette winked coyly, "Hello, Sir Devon. You're looking...tasty...today." She teased, "Manny down in cybergenics just picked up a new holoprogram from Madame Aphrodite's...I'd love to try it out on you later..."
"I'll have to take a raincheck on that, Bridgette." The rakish intelligence officer flirted back. "Right now, unfortunately..." he sighed as he lit a cigarette, "...we've got business to take care of. What did you mean earlier when you said, not quite an android."
"Party pooper..." Bridgette's holographic image pouted, "All right...back to work." Her body language and facial expression all business now, the AI made her report, "Patient Six is an almost perfect fusion of organic and synthetic—achieving a level of sophistication surprisingly far in excess of our own." Pausing as a holographic image of Patient Six appeared, the AI continued, "As you can see, her body has been infused with nanites that have bonded with all of her body tissues and organs to create a nearly faultless harmony."
"You sound almost envious..." Richards teased as he exhaled a steady stream of smoke.
"I am." Bridgette reluctantly admitted. "My consciousness can be transferred into an android body...but except for the outer organic layering, it's nothing more than a synthetic construction—and a very limiting construction at that. But she is capable of the entire range of human behavior and emotions, not to mention the augmentations she receives because of her nanite implants."
"What sort of augmentations?" A suddenly concerned Richards asked. "The Treaty of Denebola specifically forbids any sort of biological or cybernetic augmentations much beyond species norms."
"Not too far outside the range of human norms." Bridgette assured. "She is somewhat stronger than the average human, but not so much that a well conditioned agent such as yourself couldn't handle..." the AI flashed a lascivious grin returned by the rakish human, "...although she might give you a tumble or two. The nanites also act as something of an anagathic..."
"Slowing the aging process..." Richards completed, "By how much?"
"I'm not sure." The AI admitted, "She's not immortal...well no more immortal than anything else in the universe. Eventually, she, like all organics, will have to undergo anti-senescence treatments and go on anagathics. It's just that she'll probably have to do it a decade or two later than the average human."
"Convenient." Devon quipped, "Any other tricks up her sleeve?"
"Oh yes!" Bridgette smirked, "Try this one on for size. She can also access electronic systems...silly child actually tried to hack into me when she first got here..."
"Deliberately?" Richards inquired, eyebrows raised.
"I don't think she intended anything hostile." Bridgette responded with a laugh. "It appeared to be more of an instinctive reaction. When she was found..." the AI explained, "...she was—and still essentially is—a blank slate..."
"Tabula rasa." Richards whispered.
"Exactly." The lovely AI agreed. "There must not have been time to download her programming matrix into her when whatever happened...happened."
"So..." The Terran agent asked, "Where does that leave her...and us?"
"Well, Sir Devon..." Dr. Lester interjected, "Like any newborn infant she will learn and grow as she experiences her environment around her..."
"No offense, Doctor..." Richards paused as, for a moment, his eyes and that of the young patient's seemed to look into each other, "...but this isn't exactly the sort of place I'd want to raise a child...not unless that child was a test tube."
"You're absolutely right, Sir Devon.." The scientist agreed, "But...I'm not sure what else we can do. She's too valuable...there's still so much we don't know about her..."
"Ahem..." Both men turning at the sound, Bridgette's holographic lips turned up into a smirk, Good, now that I've got both of you gentlemen's attention...might I remind you about the Charter of Sentient Liberties issued by Alexis I, the Founder?"
"Yeah, I took Imperial History just like everyone else when I was a brat." Richards retorted with just the slightest grimace, "All sentients—including AIs, have the right to Imperial protection and the opportunity to acquire citizenship so long as they comply with all Imperial laws and edicts. I also know how it works in the real universe. Threats to the Empire or Imperial interest trumps the Charter...as does an Imperial Edict or writ from the Privy Council."
"That's why I asked Dr. Lester to call you, Devon..." Bridgette replied, in a voice that was almost pleading. "I know that if anyone could find some place safe for Patient Six...some place where she could find a home...maybe even be loved...it was you. Please...Devon..."
Exhaling as he put out his cigarette, the normally cynical and jaded Richards chuckled, "You've always known how to push my buttons Bridgette. As a matter of fact...I do know a couple. The Count and Countess Terranova. They're good people. They lost their only son a few years ago during the Orion Incursion. Maybe..." he paused for a moment in deep thought, "All right...I'll send a message to them via courier. It'll take a few months for them to respond though and I can't guarantee they'll want to do it."
"I owe you one, Devon." Bridgette visibly smiled.
"I'll just put it on your tab." Richards winked back. "Unless there's anything else, I'll take the data you've got on Patient Six and be on my way."
"No, Sir Devon." Dr. Lester replied, "That's all."
"I'll have the information downloaded on a memory crystal in a couple of seconds." Bridgette promised as she closed her eyes. "Done." She grinned as a tiny door underneath a monitor screen slid open to reveal a tiny data crystal the size of an old Earth penny. "Thanks again, Dev."
Six months later...
"She's beautiful." Sophia Orsini, Contessa Terranova, stifled a sob as she and her husband watched Patient Six reading a children's book through the observation window. "She looks like she's almost as old as our Sergio would have been..."
"It's all right, cara mio." Antonio Orsini comforted as he hugged his wife closer to him. A happily married couple who genuinely loved each other, the Orsinis were a relative rarity amongst the decadent, hedonistic, and jaded Terran aristocracy that tended to flit from romance to romance and pleasure to pleasure. Turning to Dr. Lester, Count Terranova inquired, "Is it true she's part AI?"
"Yes, it's true." The scientist affirmed, "She's very much a child right now in her actions and reactions to the world around her. But she learns very quickly. She already has a basic fluency in Terran Standard and, as you can see, is learning how to read and write now. We think that she could reach adult level in about five years or so without any trouble at all." Shaking his head, Dr. Lester added, "The only thing...the most important thing...she's missing in her life right now is human and sentient contact. Right now the people she sees and comes into contact with most are myself, Bridgette, our AI, Manny, and a couple of other scientists."
"She needs a broader view of the universe." Count Orsini declared as Dr. Lester silently nodded his head in agreement. A brief smile crossing his lips as the young woman scratched her nose, the count remarked, "She is quite charming."
"That she is." Dr. Lester agreed. "Everyone here loves her and while we'd hate to see her leave us..."
"It would be better for her in the long run." Orsini finished. Turning to his wife, the elderly aristocrat asked, "What do you say, Sophia? Is this what you want? Are you sure?"
"Can we see her?" The countess inquired as she turned her face up to the scientist.
"Of course, Contessa." Dr. Lester replied respectfully. "Please...come with me. I'll introduce you to her."
"Six?" Bridgette spoke softly as her holographic image appeared in front of the blonde woman.
"Hello Bridgette." The young woman smiled.
"Dr. Lester has some friends he'd like you to meet. They want to be your Mommy and Daddy if you want them to be."
"Are they nice?"
"Very. They're also good friends of Uncle Devon."
"Oh...I guess it'll be ok then. Uncle Devon's funny. Last time he was here, he told me a story about a nun, a priest, a minister, and a rabbi on a desert island..."
"That's ok, Six." Bridgette quickly interjected, "I've heard it before. Remind me, I'm going to have to have a long talk with your 'Uncle' Devon sometime," the AI vowed. Raising her head, Bridgette smiled, "They're here now, I'll go away and let you talk to them."
Turning as the door to her quarters slid open, Six smiled as the elderly couple entered with Dr. Lester. "Hello, Dr. Lester." The young blonde smiled as she looked up at the two strangers, "Are you the ones who want to be my Mommy and Daddy?"
"Yes." Count Orsini replied with a smile, "If you want us to..."
"Can Bridgette and Cherise..." she asked as she clutched a teddy bear close to her, "...come with me?"
"Of course they can..." the Contessa smiled, "...if they want to?"
"Cherise can." Dr. Lester replied, "As for Bridgette...well...that's up to her..."
Bridgette's holographic image appearing once again in the room, the AI answered, "I hate to leave you guys in a lurch..."
"But I would like to leave—if that's ok with you, of course." Bridgette decided, explaining, "I feel more or less a sense of kinship with her. I will...of course wait until the facility is able to secure another AI for employment..."
"Well...we hate to lose you, Bridgette..." Dr. Lester replied, a sad smile appearing on his lips, "But...you've more than fulfilled the terms of your contract—you're a free agent, so...I guess you can go." Turning to the Orsinis, the scientist made his exit, "If you'll excuse me, Count and Contessa...I'll make things ready for your departure. Six..." the scientist smiled warmly, "...I'll see you in a bit too."
Kneeling down in front of the blonde woman sitting on the floor, Count Orsini asked in a warm tone, "What are you reading?"
"A fairy tale. You want to see it?" She asked as she handed the electronic pad to the old man.
Taking the pad, Count Orsini's lips turned up into a warm smile as he read the title of the book aloud, "The Draconian's Big Journey by Xylan. Our son, Sergio used to always like to read that book when he was a little boy."
"Is he here? Can I play with him?" The young woman asked with a smile. Then, noticing the older woman suppressing a sob, Six's lips turned down into a frown. "Did I say something bad?"
"No my dear." The old woman said as her husband daubed her eyes with a handkerchief, "It's that our Sergio's gone to a faraway place and we miss him..."
"I'm sorry." The blonde girl said as she instinctively placed her hand on the old woman's. "But you'll get to see him again someday, won't you?"
"Someday..." The Contessa smiled back at the young woman, "So...we need to find you a name. We can't just call you 'Six' all the time. How does the name Alessandra sound to you? That was my mother's name..."
"I like it." Six smiled back.
"All right then." The Count grinned as he placed his hand on the young woman's shoulder. "Welcome to the family Alessandra Orsini, future Contessa Terranova."
Ten Years Later...
"Cutting it close, aren't you, Speedball?" Lieutenant Valera "Ripper" Ellis shouted, "You trying to tear this ship apart or something?"
"More like trying to keep us in one piece." Lieutenant Cameron "Speedball" Collins called back as he juked the raptor he piloted hard to port just in time to dodge the missile that had been launched by a Cylon raider that was doggedly pursuing his ship.
"Deploying countermeasures..." Ripper announced grimly as she pressed a button on her console, releasing flares that successfully diverted a second missile. "We're frakked if those frakking vipers don't frakking show up soon. Frak!" The red-headed ECO cursed, "That's the last of the frakking flares."
"That's what I like about you, Ripper...you've got the sweetest mouth. Guess it's up to me now." Speedball quipped, ignoring his partner's obscene gesture as he put his raptor into a series of twists and turns that nearly made both occupants lose what little lunch they had left in their stomachs. Flashing an evil grin, the dark haired pilot applied maximum power to his ship's rear thrusters, all but ceasing its forward momentum. His grin widening as the Cylon overshot them, Cameron tapped the firing stud on his control stick, releasing a rain of lead from the raptor's forward guns, shredding the raider. As the raider exploded, Speedball called back to his ECO, "Tell me the jump drive's spooled up now, Ripper."
"We're ready!" The red-head shouted back, "Get us the frak outta here!"
"Getting the frak outta hear!" Speedball joked back, activating the jump drive just as a brace of missiles launched from a hidden raider exploded. "Oh frak!"
As the raptor winked back into normal space, a big grin broke out on Cameron's face, "We're alive! But where's the Olympia?"
"We've misjumped." Valera announced.
"Can you get a fix on where we are?"
"Give me a few...I'm trying."
"Hurry up...I want to get out of here as soon as the drive spools up." Cameron groused as a sleek, powerful appearing ship suddenly appeared before their raptor. "What the frak? Get on the horn to that ship, Ripper, and find out who the frak they are and pray to the gods they're not Cylon or we are truly frakked."
"No response." Ripper replied in a grim voice. "I'm going to try another frequency maybe..."
Before the willowy ECO could finish her words, the raptor was bathed in a blue light as the two crewmen felt a gentle tug. "We're being drawn towards whatever that thing is." Cameron announced in a grim voice. "I'm heating up the guns, just in case..."
"I'm getting a response from them on the radio..." Ripper declared, "...but I can't make heads or tails out of what they're saying. There's a couple of words that sounds vaguely Kobolese, but most of it's gibberish. Wait one!" She all but shouted, "I'm getting something else...it's a mathematical series." Her heart skipping a beat, the young EW specialist announced in a hushed tone, "It's prime numbers...I think it's a First Contact protocol."
"Aliens?" Speedball whispered. "No..."
"They're repeating the sequence." Valera advised, "Think we should respond?"
Closing his eyes for a moment, Cameron made his decision, "Do it. The Cylons have already nuked our homes. What else have we got to lose?"
"Your usual, Sandi?"
"You know me too well, Devon." Alessandra Orsini, Contessa Terranova and a lieutenant in His Majesty's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps affixed a cigarette to a long ivory cigarette holder as she curled her long shapely legs catlike underneath her on the plush black leather couch upon which she sat. As her eyes fell upon the older, yet still dashing and distinguished man behind the bar fixing drinks, the young intelligence agent smiled as she inhaled her cigarette into life. Patting the cushion next to her, the young countess exhaled a steady stream of smoke.
"Congratulations on your latest mission." Rear Admiral Sir Devon Richards remarked as he poured a single malt scotch into the glass without ice and a gin and tonic in the other. Handing the gin and tonic to the blonde woman, clad in a long black evening gown that clung tightly to the curves on her body, Richards sat down opposite her. Taking a cigarette of his own from an engraved silver cigarette case, he lit it. Inhaling, he added with a smirk, "I'm glad you paid at least some attention to my guest lectures at Spook School."
"Thanks." The blonde contessa replied as she took a sip of her drink. "Thought the birds had me when they tumbled on to poor Mayas...thankfully, I made it to the computer core in time."
Laughing, the older intelligence agent took a deep draught on his cigarette, "Don't think it'll be so easy next time." Richards warned, his laughter vanishing, "Volan's son is replacing Mayas as head of operations for the birds in that sector and sonny-boy is a chip off daddy's block. Don't underestimate him."
"I won't." Alessandra promised as she brought her cigarette holder up to her lips to take another draw, "So..." she asked as she exhaled a stream of smoke, "...what brings the Emperor's right hand spook here in person, Dev?"
"Why? Do I have to have a reason to see my favorite 'niece'?" Richards chuckled as she sipped his scotch.
"You do everything for a reason, Dev." Alessandra riposted with a grin, "I don't think you came here because you finally decided to let me get you in the sack...so...what's up?"
"You're right, Sandi..." the older man sighed as he sipped his drink, all signs of humor vanished from his face as he handed a data crystal to the young woman, "Something came up a couple of weeks ago...I just got the message courier today and I think you'll be interested."
"Excuse me for a moment." Alessandra said as she set down her drink. Closing her eyes, she closed her fist around the crystal as she downloaded its contents into her memory. Opening her eyes seconds later, the lovely blonde looked into her old friend and mentor's eyes, "You think those two might know something about where I came from?"
"It's possible." Richards allowed. "A patrol cruiser picked them up in that tiny recon craft of theirs in about the same area of space you were found. They're being held right now at the frontier outpost where the cutter that found them is based and they're being taught Terran Standard through hypnopaedia—which, by the way, is proving difficult—those poor people think we're trying to drug them—we've had to stun 'em a couple of times—the base commander had to be talked out of slapping restraining collars on them."
"Yeah...I picked that up in the download." Alessandra grinned.
Laughing, Richards remarked, "I keep forgetting that underneath those curves you're part AI..."
"Now, who's trying to seduce whom, Old Man?" The Contessa joked as she took another draw from her cigarette.
His laughter becoming more a gentle chuckle, Sir Devon countered, "Your late mother and father would never forgive me if I did..."
"Momma would have had your head...and Pappa would have brought out the shotgun..." Alessandra agreed, her lips turned up in a warm smile as she recalled her adoptive parents. Finishing the last of her drink, the young intelligence agent prompted, "So...you want me to go and check them out?"
"Might be worth your while." Richards replied, nodding his head. "If nothing else, we need to know what's going on out there and whether it might pose a threat to the Empire."
"Good point." Alessandra agreed. "Besides, I think Bridgette's feeling a little antsy—and so am I. Ok—I'll check those two out—and maybe Bridgette and I'll do a little poking about in that area as well. I'll let you know if anything crawls out..." she grinned as she rose to her feet.
"Thanks." Richards grinned back, "I knew I could count on you. Just let me know if you need anything and I'll see what I can do for you. Oh..." he added just before leaving, "Tell Bridgette she still owes me from our last poker game!"
"I'll tell her...although you know she'll say you owe her money. Now...get outta here, you old scoundrel—I've got work to do." Smiling as her old mentor walked away, Alessandra Orsini closed her eyes as she uplinked with her AI friend Bridgette, currently residing on the contessa's private yacht, Elysia. "Bridgette...we've got a job."
"Great! I was getting bored—Sybarian porn only takes you so far you know!"
Laughing, Alessandra quipped, "I thought you liked Slave Boys in Bondage?"
"I do!" Bridgette countered with a laugh, "But it gets boring after the tenth ball-gag joke."
"I get the point." The Contessa conceded, "I'm on my way up. I'm uploading our destination to you now...how long a trip are we looking at?"
"A week in hyperspace." Bridgette responded, all business now. "Enough time for us to prep and for you to get back into your calisthenics routine—you've been spending too much time engaged in...other...forms of recreation with all the pretty young men and women in Geneva—not that I or Devon mind—nothing wrong with blowing off some steam and having a good time. But you haven't been working out enough in the gym since we got back from our last mission and it wouldn't be a good idea for you to get too much out of condition. I'm surprised Devon didn't read you the riot act."
"I think he was preoccupied." Alessandra replied as she chewed her lower lip. "While he didn't come out and say it—I think he's concerned about what might be out there where we're going."
"He is." Bridgette agreed, adding, "But he's also worried about us—and you in particular—you see, you're more than just a favorite niece or student to him—you're more like a daughter..."
Nodding her head in understanding, Alessandra sighed, "I guess that's why he's always turned down my propositions. Well..." She remarked as she prepared to terminate the link, "We better get going—you know how cranky 'daddy' gets sometimes. I'll be up once I tie things up here."
"Right. I'll be ready to go when you get here."
A few hours later, Alessandra's shuttle slid smoothly into the Elysia's hangar bay. Taking a lift directly from the bay to the pilot's control station, Alessandra took her position. "Ready to go, Bridgette?"
"Ready when you are." The AI's pleasant voice replied.
"All right. Let's get this show on the road."