Author's note: Ah, it has been a while. This chapter took me quite a lot to finish. First, work kept piling up. Then, while writing the chapter, I realized that I forgot a few crucial details in the story. Without them, it would have been quite challenging to continue writing. So, no biggy, I thought. Let's go back and quickly skim over a few of the previous chapters to refresh my memory. The problem was that I found many mistakes and even inaccuracies written, and I couldn't leave it alone. So, step number two was to work my spelling program hard and clean as much of the story as possible. I thought, two weeks, maybe three at the most. Two months later and I'm still at it. Worst even, the spelling software updated and started complaining again that my writing was terrible. I should have been happy that it upgraded and became better since I'm paying for it, but somehow I wasn't. I was quite annoyed. Well, what else can you do when that happens, than to go through the whole thing again, right? It would be wrong to do a half-assed job after two months of hard work.

And so, even though it was May when I started writing the next chapter, it is August now when I've finished it.

In conclusion, to everyone who wants to reread the story (well, it will mostly be ch. 29, though) because you don't remember a few things, know that the story is now cleaner and that there are minor changes here and there. I hope it will make reading more enjoyable.

About the chapter. Well, it's a big one. It also signals the beginning of the final arc of the story. If no more bright ideas like to spell-check the whole thing come to me again, this story might come to an end in the next two months. Hopefully, work won't pile up either. Will see. In any case, I'm planning to finish this story first and then delve into writing the conclusion of the main story without any distractions.

Thanks to my beta and I hope you'll enjoy this chapter.


Roslin was lost in thought. She was thinking about the events that happened during the past year. She remembered the time when she had still been on Caprica - a time spent working as the Secretary of Education. An exciting job, though mundane compared to what she did now. However, those were also days when she was happy, or at least she believed that she was. She wasn't sure anymore if she could go back to her life the way it was and be content. At the time, she was dating the president. There was even talk of marriage.

Although she did not agree with many of his policies, she felt that he was a good enough choice for the president of the Colonies during the time of peace they had been enjoying. Unfortunately, that didn't apply to wartime, and evidence had also surfaced recently showing that he had more skeletons hidden in the closet. The CID was one of those awful skeletons. It was one of the reasons why these days people were condemning him, for how he had allowed unscrupulous people to infiltrate the government through the very agency he had created and allowed them to take control.

If only peace had lasted, he might have gone down in history as a decent enough president, with most of his misdeeds staying secret. However, that would not come to pass. His prospects also looked quite bleak.

She also had to deal with cancer. The doctors had told her that she had less than a year left to live. A terrifying outlook that, if the war with the Cylons hadn't started, would undoubtedly have become a reality. She lived because the war killed most of the government, hence prompting Adar - who didn't want to have her as the newly appointed vice president breathing down his neck - to have her join a mission that took her far from the Colonies. Thanks to the Cylons and Adar, she had joined the Expeditionary Fleet, which led to her – some may even call it fated – encounter with the Terrans. They made her cancer disappear as if it had only existed inside a bad dream.

In conclusion, those who brought her on the path of salvation were now on Hades' doorsteps.

Was it all due to some cosmic karma perhaps? Them awaiting execution, and her living happier than she ever had? She did not know.

But the journey hadn't been a tranquil one. Not one in which Roslin could relax and enjoy the gifted second chance at life. Perils and frustration followed the mission at every step, but also moments of reflection regarding her beliefs and the frightening possibility of them not necessarily being the same as the truth. As their voyage went ahead, she realized that the very reason why they were out here was wrong. The Terrans and the Thirteenth colony were not the same people. She still did not know what happened to the Thirteenth colony - if they were still out there, somewhere, or if they had failed to reach the Promised Land - but she was now sure they and the Terrans had no common ancestors the way the Colonies thought.

She believed the Terrans knew what happened to the Thirteenth Colony. She also understood why they weren't merely explaining everything they knew. They tried to, the day she'd spent in their company on their ship. But she hadn't listened back then. Consequently, they were now letting them stew while letting them discover the truth the hard way. On their own, a piece at a time. She understood that very well now.

The reason why she had so much free time thinking about such complicated existential matters was that she was waiting for Adama to join her in her office.

However, he was late!

It wasn't like him to be late to a morning meeting. But she understood that these were trying times for the Admiral. Therefore, she would allow him some leeway. It was a firm belief - both his and hers - that the individual who committed the heinous crime of murdering Malcolm was from the Galactica. Understandably, Adama was greatly troubled by it. Anyone would be, after hearing that someone had killed one of his Marines. Cowardly so, to boot. Even worse, they had discovered that Malcolm wasn't from the Colonies. He was, in fact, an infiltrator. The Terrans had sent him to spy on them. She knew Adama must have conflicting emotions bubbling inside him. Someone from his ship murdered another for reasons unknown, the one killed was a Terran spy, and, as the icing on the cake, she knew Adama appreciated the now-defunct marine.

A knock on the door snapped her from her musing.

"Enter," she said. It seemed that Adama had finally come.

The one who entered was no other than Admiral Adama, with his second in command Saul Tigh trailing a single step behind. She couldn't quite understand why Adama liked the XO so much. From what she knew, he was a drunkard who often missed coming to work on time, or at all. It was strange for a person such as the Admiral - who when it came to running his ship was quite the stickler for the rules - to allow a man the likes of Saul to keep a prominent position on the Galactica. It was maybe acceptable while the ship was back in the Colonies and was a tourist attraction, but she thought that after the war had resumed, he would have replaced the dead weight with someone more reliable. Still, her intuition was warning her that pointing out that fact to Adama was a bad idea and that she would be the one to earn negative points if she did so.

"Madam President," Adama spoke politely yet also weakly for some reason.

It seemed like there was no spunk in him today. He even looked like a deflated balloon. That was indeed unfortunate, for she did not relish seeing him in such a state. On the other hand, what she heard coming from Saul was some undecipherable grunt - a sound she firmly believed should not come from the mouth of a human being. Her impression of Saul wasn't going up any time soon. She knew that much. "Admiral, we should have met twenty minutes ago. You said that you'd come first thing in the morning."

Adama walked and sat on the closest of the two armchairs placed on the opposite side of her desk. She could tell from his demeanor that something was bothering him. Maybe pointing out that he was late wasn't the best move, but she thought that it was necessary to make a note of it. Still, she better find out why he looked so limp this morning. "What's wrong?"

"I didn't have a great waking this morning," Adama responded while sighing. She agreed that waking up on the wrong foot wasn't pleasant, but not reason enough to make her wait. However, she felt there had to be more, so she didn't say anything and just kept waiting, patiently, for him to continue. It did take quite a while.

He sighed. "When I woke up this morning and turned to turn the lights on my nightstand on, I found a package with a message written on its side. It said, 'This is the evidence in Malcolm's murder case."

"Oh my," Roslin replied. She tried to think of how Adama should have felt at that time but got nothing. Someone had to experience it to know.

"Who the hell does that?" Adama spoke angrily. "This was a threat! A veiled one, but a threat, nonetheless!"

Adama was going a little too far. Granted, learning that somebody had placed something on your nightstand two feet from you while you had continued sleeping unperturbed like a log wasn't the finest of ways to start a day. Still, thinking of it as of a threat was pushing it. "How do you see it as a threat?"

"Don't you get it? They are telling me that they can place anything they want next to me and that I can't do a damn thing to prevent it! They are saying, 'Yeah! This time it was the evidence, but we can send other things too!'," Adama explained, with his left eye twitching for a moment. "Things that may explode!"

He genuinely seemed on edge. For a military strategist, knowing that it was checkmate before the game was even started must be a nightmare. Therefore, his reaction might be understandable. "You knew that already, Admiral. Even three days ago, you knew that they could beam whatever, whenever, and wherever they want."

"I knew they could do it. But there's a big difference between knowing and experiencing it!" Adama sighed. After a moment of reflection, he continued calmly. "However, you're right. No reason in getting worked up over it. Nothing I can do about it anyway."

"Good!" Roslin responded firmly. She needed to quickly continue before he started thinking about it again and once more got depressed. "So! Tell me how's the investigation proceeding. You're saying that the Terrans sent the evidence. Was there anything useful?"

"You bet there was!" Adama responded. His blood pressure seemed to be skyrocketing now. Quite the opposite of his earlier defeated demeanor. How was he able to switch so fast?

"Calm down and start from the beginning," Roslin chided. She hadn't been the Secretary of Education for nothing. She had experienced dealing with unruly children many times before, both during visits to schools and during her daily dealings with a little more grownup group of children inside her department. If she was able to soothe them, then calming the Admiral down was a piece of cake.

"Yeah, sorry. Well, even before we received the package form the Terrans, we were already able to find the probable weapon used in the murder since it was the only weapon that was missing. The owner of the pistol is chief Tyrol. During questioning, he told us - repeatedly - that as far as he knew, his service weapon was in his room, stored in its proper box. He said that except for going on the shooting range once a month, he didn't take the gun out. He swears the gun should have been in his room and that he didn't touch it in the last two weeks."

"So, he's claiming he's innocent. However, there's no doubt that the chief's pistol is the murder weapon, am I correct?" Roslin surmised.

"We weren't sure, but since his weapon was the only one missing, we didn't have any other choice but to suspect that his gun was used. And now that new evidence has surfaced – that is if we decide to believe in such evidence - then there's no doubt anymore that Tyrol's service weapon was used in Malcolm's murder."

"And what evidence is that? What was inside the delivered package?"

"Among other things, they managed to virtually reconstruct the fired bullet in all of its details by using the exploded fragments from all four bullets lodged inside Malcolm's body. I don't know how they did it. I know from experience how small and deformed fragments of explosive bullets are."

"I don't much care," Roslin responded. "They have technologies that we don't. So, let's assume that they can do it. Besides, I suspect that you've matched the results with what we have on file and found that the bullet matches the striations caused by Tyrol's pistol we have on file, which means that this isn't even a question of them having some advanced forensic technology or not. Since they matched what we have on file, then it must be true, right?"

"You're right. I do believe the pistol used was Tyrol's."

"Does that mean that Tyrol is the main suspect?"

"He is, and he isn't," Adama replied dejectedly.

"It can't be both, Admiral," Roslin responded. She didn't like such answers. An explanation should follow.

"Unfortunately, it can," Adama said, taking a deep breath. "From our investigation, everything points to Tyrol as the culprit. We also don't have any evidence that would point to someone else. However, there's more that we've received from the Terrans."

"All right, please go on," Roslin replied, eager to hear what else they got. Adama was building the suspense on purpose. Better be something great, or she'll be disappointed.

"There was also an extensive report; fifty pages long. At the end of it, there was a short recap of the whole thing. As if they knew that few people would want to read the fifty pages long thing. Anyway, it explained everything in detail. But then there was another line where they wrote their conclusion."

Adama, again, stopped talking. Instead of finishing, he was now going through the printed document, slowly but surely, page by page, nearing the last page where she believed the conclusion had to be. She was getting antsy, more than she thought she would. "So, what's the conclusion?"

Adama passed her the document, "Here. Read it for yourself."

Roslin took the report, not sure what the fuss was all about. She turned it and looked at the bottom of the page. There, in regular letters, in no way looking more significant than the rest of the text on the page, it was written, 'Conclusion: Sylus did it!'

It took her some time to register what she'd just read. She wanted to explain - to herself first - how the Terrans could have come to that conclusion. "They must have used some advanced forensic method to-"

"Advanced forensic method, my foot!" Adama shouted, almost getting on his feet by the shear strength of it. "This has nothing to do with advanced tech! Or it does maybe if they can make a crystal ball capable of showing them what happened that day. That's the only way that I can think of for them to know the culprit was Sylus!"

"I agree there's no evidence pointing toward Sylus, but I think there must be a reason why they put his name at the end of the report," Saul spoke for the first time.

It was strange for Saul to disagree with Adama. Also, for some reason, he had been silent up until now. Too quiet, and somewhat out of character. "Do you have a reason for suspecting Sylus?"

"No reason, but the Terrans must have one," Saul answered plainly.

"That's not enough!" Adama shouted. "I can't indict Sylus for murder just because a Terran report says he did it. There isn't any explanation inside the whole damn thing! Even in the previous fifty pages that, in the end, I still had to read!"

She wanted to retort that he should have read the first fifty pages from the beginning and not just the recap, regardless, but now wasn't the time. "But I have a problem with indicting chief Tyrol too. If we don't believe in the conclusion the Terrans made, then we can't believe in anything that came from them. We can't use any of the evidence in the box. Not even the bullet virtual composite," Roslin explained. This puzzle was intriguing. There must be a reason for what the Terrans did. She was sure of it. "Why have they put that conclusion at the end?"

"I've been wondering about that," Adama began speaking like he had realized something and had a big revelation to deliver. "I think there's a very particular reason why they put that last line in the report. They knew our investigation would point to chief Tyrol as the culprit, and that's why they put that at the end. So that we wouldn't charge Tyrol with murder, but, at the same time, I also think that they didn't want - or they couldn't, I'm not sure about that – tell us how they knew that Sylus did it. I think the Terrans wanted to make sure we wouldn't indict the chief for a crime he didn't commit. As you know, if found guilty, the execution would be carried out at once."

"So, they are trying to stop us from making a mistake. I may agree to that theory if I thought the Terrans would allow for the man who murdered one of theirs to go scot-free," Roslin said. She wasn't sure what their real intentions were.

"That's if we assume Sylus won't get punished later. The conclusion in their report could be just a stalling tactic. I believe they will eventually give more proof. Or they are maybe thinking of dealing with Sylus on their terms," Adama said.

"Do you truly believe that they'd grab one of ours without asking first?" Roslin asked, not sure if the term 'one of ours' was the right one to use in this instance. Nobody thought of Sylus as one of theirs. She didn't relish the idea of the Terrans acting on their own accord though, even if they were talking about Sylus. It was already enough that there were Terran spies inside the fleet. To think that they would grab one of theirs without due process wasn't sitting well with her, especially when she took their earlier actions to gauge their moral principles. It somehow didn't fit.

"Don't know enough to be sure," Adama responded. "I don't know what line they won't cross. What I'm sure though is that they don't need to. If they show enough proof of Sylus' guilt and ask nicely, we would wrap him inside a nice package and ship him with the fastest delivery service available."

Saul snorted derisively. Still, more strange sounds were coming from that man that a human shouldn't be making. "I'm prepared to send Sylus even if they don't show any proof. They only need to ask."

Roslin smiled. She thought that Baltar was indisputably the most hated man in the fleet. However, it seemed Sylus was a contender for the top spot, and they hadn't decided the winner yet. "All right, all right. I get we all want the ex-CID agents in the fleet gone - Sylus in particular - but this conversation has veered off in the wrong direction. Except for the matter of the murdered Terran spy, we also have another thing to discuss, isn't that right? So, why don't we decide what future actions we are going to take regarding this case, and then move onto the next issue."

"There isn't much else to go on, I'm afraid. I'm sure that by now the killer dumped the pistol in space, which means we won't find it. I'm also positive that no sudden witness will come forward and make our lives easier by saying that they saw everything," Adama concluded. "Which means, we can indict chief Tyrol or we wait until we get more from the Terrans. That is if we believe in their conclusion."

"Let's wait then. This voyage won't end any time soon, and the culprit doesn't have a way to escape. I don't like thinking that there's a murderer on the loose more than you, but I think that waiting for now is for the best," Roslin said her thoughts on the matter. "Also, the chances are small, but I'd like for you, Admiral, to keep investigating Sylus' movements before, during, and immediately after the murder. Something might pop out telling us if he did it or not. Either way, progress with the investigation would be made."

"I'll keep investigating discreetly," Adama said.

"Then let's move to the real reason why we are here, shall we?" Roslin said, suddenly feeling down. "Let's talk about the state of the fleet."

Adama sighed. It wasn't a good sign when he did that before starting to speak. "It's not good, Madam President. What we feared is happening throughout the fleet. It's difficult to grasp which ships are in worse shape, our warships or the ships in the civilian fleet. We made our warships with durability in mind, but they are almost as old as I am, which balances out with the issues afflicting the newer but less durable civilian ships. In short, the jump drives are showing alarming signs of abuse. Also, microfractures are forming on the hulls. We didn't think the stress would increase by so much when we increased the range of our jumps."

"I understand, but, how bad is it, truly? And what can we do to remedy the situation?" Roslin asked. She knew the problems. What she was missing were the much-needed solutions.

"Decreasing the jumps to below 20 light-years is a must at this point, if not too late already. It will buy us some time before the jump drives begin breaking down, irreparably, ship after ship. The other problem, I'm afraid, has no practical solution. We cannot repair the microfractures without a shipyard, where we would have to replace most bulkheads with new ones. As we are now, we couldn't get back home even if we started limping in that direction this very instant," Adama explained, not looking too pleased with his summation.

Roslin was pensive. Of all things that she thought would hamper their voyage, structural damage wasn't one of them. She believed the Cylons would be if not the only then at least the biggest problem. But now that they were close to reaching their goal, the ships were breaking apart.

Talking about bad luck!

The Expeditionary Fleet was made up of old fossils from a distant war and many civilian ships that looked good on paper but were, in truth, only used to travel short distances. Like traveling between planets in the Cyrannus System, which, compared to their current voyage, wasn't much. Hence, the simple conclusion she came up with was that they were never meant to complete their given mission, both civilian and military ships. People like Adar would have known or at least suspected. Others in the government and military would have as well. Did they send them to die? Here, in the void of space? To just be forgotten by their people back home. She felt anger at this sudden thought. She then remembered that Adar was right now rotting inside a prison cell, waiting for the sentencing that would send him to the gallows. A thin smile returned on her face. "You're saying that our best bet is to move forward in the hope that Earth isn't far."

"I'm afraid it's the best - if not only - choice, Madam President. At this point, we have no means of returning. Worse even, this region of space has fewer Tylium deposits than initially foreseen. Its purity is also low. Our refinery is having trouble processing the ore."

"How much longer until we reach Earth? Give me an estimate."

"No way to know. We've passed the nebula shown in Athena's Tomb two days ago. We now know the exact bearing, so no more major course corrections are needed. But we have no way of knowing how far we still must go before reaching Earth. Our astrogator has found a candidate system. It's a little over three hundred light-years away, but we won't know if Earth's there until we enter the system."

"How long will it take to get there?" Roslin asked.

"A week, maybe ten days if the drives start acting up."

In ten days, their mission might be over, or in ten days they'd be disappointed because Earth isn't there. No point in mulling over it for too long. She would only get a headache. In ten days, they'll know. At least it seemed the rest of the voyage would be smooth sailing. Ever since the last encounter with the Langarans, they hadn't detected even a whiff of an alien race. Hostile or otherwise.

Suddenly, the alarm began blaring as if it was the end of times, with a red light blinking as if hinting at the precarious nature of the current predicament. Whatever that might be. She stiffened, her brain freezing for a moment. It had been quite some time since she had last heard the alarm going off. So, she wasn't quite sure how to respond. However, the Admiral knew and acted swiftly. He briskly walked to the phone on the wall next to the door.

"Talk to me," Adama spoke through the phone, then listened to the reply. "I'm on my way."

He hung the receiver before turning towards her. He didn't look happy. "Ten Cylon baseships just appeared. They are on an intercept course. We need to move to the CIC."

The man calmly replied before turning and storming out of her office. She jumped on her feet and went after him and Saul. She could feel her heart pounding wildly in her chest. Could things get any worse? They were so close to reaching their goal, she could feel it. Were they cursed? Not only were the ships in lousy shape. Now even the Cylons had appeared at a time she thought they were finally out of their reach. How did the Cylons find them so far out? "Admiral, can't we jump?"

"Impossible. Not for half of the ships in the fleet. We were purging the jump drives and making routine maintenance. We won't be able to jump the Galactica or Columbia for at least two more hours. Many civilian ships are in the same condition," Adama explained the crux of the matter.

In short, they were screwed.

Crew members were rushing past them on their way to their assigned posts. She had bumped into them more than once. Then she would have to speed up to catch up with the Admiral. He was walking very fast, eager to reach the CIC.

"We can't fight ten baseships," she retorted after coming near him. She also didn't like how her voice had sounded. She felt out of breath. Was it caused by a lack of exercise or anxiety? She wasn't sure.

"There's no third possibility. We can't run, which means we must fight," Adama responded with conviction. "It also seems the Cylons haven't launched their raiders, which is a good thing. It might be that they don't have any. That would give us some leeway with our strategy."

She knew that hundreds of vipers and raptors filled the insides of the Galactica and Columbia. They could employ them in many ways, especially if the Cylons didn't bring their counterparts. By arming them with capital ship killers, they could become a threat even to the Cylon baseships.

"Let's hope the Cylons didn't have time to upgrade this batch of ships," Adama added. "It'll be difficult, even if they didn't. With, it would be impossible."

Did he have to say it!? Couldn't he have kept his mouth shut!?

For a moment, she had felt a sliver of hope after she'd learned the Cylons might not have any raiders, but the good Admiral had dumped a bucket of cold water on her head to sober her up. Her anxiety was raising again, just as they were about to enter the CIC. She knew she shouldn't get in the way while the people in the CIC were trying hard to keep them alive. Upon entering, she fled to the back, out of the Admiral's way but still able to watch everything that was happening on the CIC and more importantly the screens that would be depicting the impending battle.

"Mr. Gaeta, talk to me," Adama spoke with a deep and commandeering voice.

"Ten baseships are on an intercept course, sir. We are retreating to gain us time, but the civilian ships with their weaker sublight engines are limiting our speed. The Cylons will enter weapon's range in fifteen minutes," Gaeta answered.

"I don't see any raiders. Are there any signs they are readying to launch them?"

"No, sir."

"Then maybe they don't have any. That would be excellent. Arm the raptors with anti-capital ship ordnance. They are to launch when ready. Let them circle the Cylon fleet while keeping outside of their weapons range."

With no raiders, the raptors could harass them from the back, above, below, or any other vector that wasn't from the front. To prevent that, the Cylons would have to change their fleet formation. However, with only ten baseships and no smaller ships to support them, even that wasn't a feasible option. She didn't understand why Adama wasn't complementing the Raptors with additional Vipers. Maybe Adama wanted the vipers close by to screen the fleet. The Cylons could decide to send a ship or two against the civilian part of their fleet. It would be good to have the Vipers ready to lend a hand if that were to happen.

"What about the Vipers? Shouldn't we be sending them too?" Saul asked the same thing that she had been thinking.

"We haven't confirmed if they have Raiders or not. At this point, it's only a conjecture. The Cylons might be waiting for us to show our cards before committing. With ten ships, they have some leeway. Our Raptors can always jump away if things get hairy, but the Vipers would be cut off while carrying anti-capital ship ordnance. The wrong type of ammunition to face a sudden attack by a swarm of raiders," Adama answered.

So, the Admiral was thinking that far ahead. The possibility that the Cylons were trying to trick them never crossed her mind. It seems that it was easy to make mistakes. Even a mistake that could cost them their lives.

"Raptors are on their way. Still no Raiders."

As far as she could tell, they were doing everything possible under the circumstances. She could also say with certainty that the crew wasn't panicking. Not the way she was. She was frightened, badly. They had come so far and learned so much. It would be so depressing to get blown away in front of the finishing line. She also thought that this time, the Terrans would not be coming to the rescue. They had aided them many times. A streak of unimaginable luck, but one that couldn't last forever. She wanted to ask the Admiral what they were going to do to survive this situation, but she didn't dare. Adama's answer could only drop the crew's morale, for she knew that he couldn't answer such a question with encouraging words without lying.

The situation wasn't promising.

She kept glancing at the clock on the wall, as one of its hands inexorably progressed one step after another, signifying that fewer and fewer minutes were left before the battle erupted. From time to time, the Admiral would issue an order or would ask a question, mostly directed at Gaeta or the XO. They mainly were inconsequential. They were as ready as they could be, and they had been that way for the past ten minutes.

"Cylon will enter weapon range in five minutes!" Gaeta informed.

As if the clock on the wall wasn't enough, she thought.

"Bill, why aren't we trying to use the same tactic as we did before?" Saul asked.

"Which one?"

"The suicidal one."

At first, she didn't know what Saul was referring to, but then it dawned. Around half a year ago, the Fleet had stumbled upon a bunch of baseships and had no choice but to fight. Adama had used a controversial tactic that used their newly installed shield to get the Galactica at spitting distance from their ships. He had then launched nukes from all tubes, which had blasted most of the baseships and forced the rest into a hasty retreat. At the time, the blast had grazed them as well. However, the shield had protected them from the brunt of it. The tactic had been considered suicidal by the crew, no matter how much Adama protested that it hadn't been. She sided with the crew on that one. Thinking about it, it might not be a bad thing doing it here.

"Not a good idea," the Admiral responded. "They know of our previous tactics. They will be expecting it. Also, they now have ten ships. That's a few too many to take down with that trick."

"All right, I get it. But why aren't we keeping the Galactica ahead of the rest as we did back then? It doesn't have to turn into a suicide run. The Galactica still has a shield that can absorb a lot of damage. Better the Galactica than the other ships, right?"

"They are probably prepared for that too. The Cylons would split their fleet and circumvent the Galactica. They would target the other warships first and only then focus on us. In the meantime, our fleet would be poorly positioned because we broke our wall formation for a failed tactic. No, it would backfire on us."

"So that's how it is. It makes sense. The opponent won't always do something stupid as we would like them to."

The talk these two senior officers were having was fishy. They had already decided on the strategy to use ages ago. No way was Saul discussing it just now for the first time. He might be a drunkard whom she didn't like much, or respected, but he wasn't an imbecile who didn't know why the admiral didn't use specific tactics only minutes before the battle began! She predicted it was to break the disturbing silence that had descended onto the CIC. The admiral had once told her that there was nothing worse than the crew getting anxious in the last few minutes before the fight started.

"Sixty seconds to weapons range!"

It was about to start. Roslin sensed her heartbeat quickening.

"You all know what to do. Let's show these toasters that we haven't come this far just with luck on our side. Let's show them that even ten baseships aren't enough to prevent us from reaching Earth!" Admiral Adama was riling up the crew.

"The Cylons are inside the firing envelope."

"All right. Begin splitting the fleet as planned," Adama ordered.

Roslin thought that the fight would have ensued the second they had entered weapons range. But even after a dozen seconds had passed, no shells or missiles were fired. They did not fire back either. "What are the Cylons waiting?" she muttered.

Adama must have caught on her general cluelessness. "Madam President, even though we are inside the firing envelope of our weapons, not us and much less the Cylons will start firing. We are still outside of the effective range of our weapons, and it's slightly worse for the Cylons."

"Why is it worse for them?" Since he had answered her question, he must have the leeway to do so, hence better ask a few more questions now that she got the chance.

"Because we are accelerating away from them. It has an impact on the range of the missiles and slugs." She still didn't understand, and Adama caught that. "It maybe isn't the most precise way to understand it, but it's certainly the easiest. Think of it as the Cylon missiles' true acceleration being diminished by our acceleration that's directed away from them. At the same time, think of our missiles' real acceleration being higher by the acceleration of the Cylon baseship who are acceleration towards us and the fired missiles."

She wasn't sure if she understood the exact physics behind it – Roslin wasn't sure if she could solve something so complex without pen and paper, some drawing, and even scribbling some math on the side – but it would have to be enough for now. It wasn't time for an extended lesson on the subject. "I understand. So, the one fleeing always has the range advantage. I didn't know that. So, why aren't we firing?"

"We are too far away. Ten baseships are too many to expect our missiles to penetrate their point defenses and interceptor missiles," Adama answered.

"Sir, the Cylons are splitting their fleet."

"How many are following us?" Adama asked.

"Five baseships are chasing us, and five are after the other group."

This part she understood. She had listened carefully while the Admiral had described his plan. The Galactica, Columbia, and the two Destroyers were escorting half of the civilian fleet while the Pegasus, led by Adama's son, and the Valkyrie were escorting the reminder of the civilian ships. Even from her vantage point, she could see on a screen how the two groups were inching apart by a few degrees. But at the high speed that they were traveling after having accelerated for twenty minutes, the distance between them was increasing at a staggering rate. The Cylons must have noticed and decided to imitate them.

"I thought more would go after us. Why split the fleet in the middle?" Adama asked no one in particular.

"Not sure, Bill. Our group has double the combatants. It would make sense to keep six or maybe even seven baseships following us and the rest chase after Apollo's group." Saul also seemed not to understand why they would choose to do that.

But she did. "Admiral, do you remember the content of the data we've received from Jonas Quinn?"

Adama turned to face her. "What about it?"

"If you recall, during recent attacks on the Colonies, the Cylons preferred targeting civilian establishments. They even went so far as to bombard highly populated cities while completely disregarding military targets," she explained.

"We are splitting our civilian fleet in half, so they are doing the same, is that it?" Adama responded a little baffled. "Not something a strategist worth more than five cubits would do."

She was nodding in agreement. "Whoever is in charge over there is looking at the civilian fleet as its prey. The warships are only a nuisance that they need to get rid of. But it's quite clear what the real prize is."

"I'm not sure if that helps. There should be a way to exploit it, but nothing comes to mind," Adama responded while mulling over the latest riddle. "Well, I'm not going to look at a gifted horse in the mouth. We were planning to have to face six ships at the very least. Instead, we have to deal with five."

"Missile launch detected. I'm detecting radiological emissions!" Gaeta shouted.

"What?" Saul shouted. "It's way too soon!"

Adama was a little more collected. "How many and what are their vectors?"

"Thirty fast movers! All on a course for the civilian ships!"

"Frakers!" Adama cursed. "It seems, Madam President, that you were right. They are gang-ho at taking the civilians out. Dispatch Vipers to screen the civvies. In the meantime, let's clear as many nukes as we can with our railguns."

"Good thing you kept the Vipers close by. Not sure if the Columbia and the old gal would be enough to stop so many,' Saul responded. "They are even looping around us to be outside our seekers' effective range."

The two Defenders were mostly useless when it came to intercepting missiles. They were heavy hitters that would need support from ships like the Galactica for that. The conclusion was that only the Galactica and Columbia had the number of railguns necessary to take down a more substantial volume of missiles. However, in this case, even these two ships would not be enough. The missiles were programmed to go around the two ships and then go for the civilian ships. The two ships would still be able to take down some, but a few would undoubtedly pass them. That was where the vipers would come in. Maneuverable, and with seeker missiles capable of chasing down nukes, the Vipers were perfect in this kind of unwanted scenario.

On the large display, she could see the icons representing the missiles moving in a curved trajectory around the warships and toward the civilian ships hiding thousands of kilometers behind. One went down; two went down; more followed suit shortly afterward. The warships had done their job and had removed two-thirds of the fast movers before they could pass them entirely and go out of range. However, the range of engagement had been extreme, and the ten remaining nukes had a lock onto ten civilian targets. Icons displaying the various squadrons showed that the forward Vipers were nearing the nukes. The large screen depicted the launch of the seekers. They eagerly began racing towards their respective targets.

"It's left to see how good their missiles' onboard sensors and evasion algorithms are," Adama muttered.

It seemed that missiles could evade as well. Roslin did not know that, but if she thought about it, it was logical to add such a feature if possible.

Three more missiles had gone down in less than ten seconds. A single viper was in the path of another missile. Five seconds later and the icon depicting the missile blinked out of existence. It seemed the viper had sprayed the missile with its railguns and got lucky. Or were they that good? The name next to the icon of the viper that took it down said, Starbuck.

"Three left," Saul added after three more missiles had blinked out of existence.

That was great, but for some reason, she didn't feel reassured. The situation depicted on the screen was bothering her. Yes, seven nukes had gone down, but the remaining three were approaching the inner protective circle the second group of vipers had created. It was the last line of defense. If they crossed it, nothing would be left to stop them. Even if more seekers were fired, they wouldn't have the time to accelerate to the high speed the nukes were traveling, gain on them, and detonate before they could reach the civilian ships. Also, the number of seekers going after these three remaining missiles was smaller than what was the case with the other missiles. She had a dreadful feeling that things might not play the way they hoped.

"Good! Another went down," she heard the Admiral cry.

"Another as well!" Saul was the bearer of this other joyous news delivered mere seconds later.

But then, there was only silence. No one called out saying that the last missile was down. Nobody called out saying that the missile missed either. She saw the display change the status at the same time as Gaeta shouted.

"Impact!" Gaeta shouted.

Eerie silence ruled the room.

"Who was it?" she asked meekly.

The answer didn't come right away. Adama turned before responding. "Cloud Nine is gone, Madam President."

She didn't know what to say or do. She was the President, but she felt unprepared to deal with such situations. Since the start of the journey, they had lost only one other ship, and that one had been a warship. It had been a tragedy then as it was now. But, somehow, a person was more accepting of vessels of war and soldiers dying than of civilians. Casualties in any war were inevitable. However, the loss of an entire civilian ship was a much heavier blow, and not only for her. She knew Adama had received the task of safeguarding the people in the Fleet. His job was to put his and the soldiers' lives in peril if need be to save civilians. In this instance, he had failed to do that. She didn't blame him for it, not under these circumstances, but, she knew, the man would blame himself.

She didn't like the lawyers, the rich people, and the rest of the very stubborn bunch who had bought a ticket to board the Cloud Nine. But she didn't despise them to such a degree that she would wish them such a fraked up ending.

"Frak! We just finished cleaning up that ship of criminals," Saul responded. He wasn't a tactful person; nobody would claim the opposite. "We ended up saving them by taking them off that cursed ship! What lucky bastards."

That was a glaring example of the Universe loving irony. She didn't think that it fully hit her what had just happened, not yet. She worried over what would happen next more than what had happened to the people aboard Cloud Nine. Some would think of her way of thinking as cold, and they might be right. Truthfully, she felt more anxious about her safety and that of the people she liked than thinking of the people who had just evaporated inside a massive nuclear explosion. People she did not know or cared about.

"Well, the Cylons are too close now to try the same thing again," Saul concluded.

He didn't give off the aura of someone who got emotionally scarred by recent events. Was he drunk right now? Better not overthink it. She would only gain a headache out of it. Instead, she better ask what he meant. "What do you mean?" She knew she shouldn't bother them, but it seemed important to know.

The admiral turned to answer. "Since they are now much closer, it is difficult to send missiles to loop around us. If they fired them like last time, the missiles would be closer to the Galactica and Columbia, which means we would have an easier job at taking them down."

That was excellent to hear. 'Sort of,' she corrected herself gloomily. It was true that the civilian ships weren't at risk of getting nuked, but Saul's statement also contained the little detail of the Cylons being much closer. The fact that she wanted to save her hide at all cost was telling her that that particular piece of news was more important than the rest. It was also a quite awful piece of information.

Instead of around them, they'll now start sending nukes at them.

"I think they'll start shooting in less than a minute. What do you think?" he asked Saul.

"They are aggressive, and with ten ships, they should have a lot of ammo to waste."

"That's what I was thinking. Twenty-one minutes since the Cylons came. Okay, let's keep it defensive for now. All railguns are to intercept missiles. No point in wasting ammo at this range by targeting their ships. So, let's do without any fast movers for now."

"Once we turn our starboard side to face them, our acceleration will drop. Should the civvies keep accelerating as we've initially planned or-?" Saul asked, without even needing to finish the sentence.

"Good question. If they are so antsy when it comes to the civilian portion of our fleet, they could jump their ships smack in their middle the moment their jump drives are able," Adama explained.

She didn't like hearing this. Leaving the civilians to fend for themselves while the enemy was trying to evaporate them shouldn't be done. She also knew that keeping them close wasn't the greatest of choices either. "Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't."

"You took the words out of my mouth," Adama responded without turning. He was still looking at the tactical display. "I don't like it, but we must keep them close."

"Yeah, we are here to protect them after all," Saul replied.

Did he mean it? She wasn't sure. It didn't sound like it, though. Could her opinion of the man be any lower?

"Cylons are launching missiles!" Gaeta shouted.

"Here we go. Give me the details!" Adama instructed.

"I'm detecting radiological emissions originating from a fifth of them."

"Standard pattern then. Anything that we haven't seen?"

"No, sir. Only a few of them are ECMs. The rest is a five-to-one ratio of conventional versus nuclear ordnance."

"How's our new contraption doing?"

After Kobol, the Galactica had used the alien computer core to speed up the calculation of jump coordinates. Since then, they had used the very nifty device to gain more advantages. They didn't want to integrate the thing inside their ship's systems, so they'd decide that sending data coming from the sensors to the alien core instead wouldn't be a bad idea. The data was then processed, and the results were spat on a separate console. They could then send it to the system to be used as seen fit. With this, they were almost sure that a virus wouldn't be able to infect the ship.

On the other hand, the Core was very quick at crunching numbers. Currently, it was working on cleaning up the false information the sensors were receiving. The ECM missiles were there to deny targeting information. They would make missiles be where they weren't, or they would multiply them as ghost signals.

Additionally, they would send jamming signals meant to dazzle or blind detection equipment. That was particularly useful with interceptor missiles that would be trying to take down the incoming nukes. They would become blind at the worst possible moment, making it much easier for the nukes to evade with a slight course correction. However, there were patterns and discrepancies in every ECM system. The Core was high-speed, and the software loaded onto it was meant to find those patterns and inconsistencies. With them found, they would be able to discern which blips were the actual missiles and which were the false ones. With the Core, they would be able to go through the jamming and keep seeing the incoming nukes. The targets they needed to take down no matter what.

"The Core can already discern the false blips from the real ones, sir. There's still no jamming, so we won't know how it fares against it until later," Gaeta answered.

"Send the data to the system. Prepare the firing solution for the seeker missiles with the new data, and fire when in optimal range. Prepare a second salvo to be fired after the Core defeats their jamming."

Jamming would be employed only when the seeker missiles were close to hitting their intended targets, mostly the nukes. It was then the best time to use interference. In that short period, the nukes would make random course changes to evade the seekers that were blinded by the jammers. Since the speeds involved were very high, there would be no chance for the seekers to catch up with the nukes once passed. It meant that the first time around, the jamming would be the most effective. The Core would not have the necessary time to decouple the jamming signal's structure the first time around and for the new information to be sent to the seekers. However, the second salvo would receive the processed data. Still, even older data about the ECMs was helpful. Therefore, not all seekers in the first salvo would go wasted.

"Three seconds to optimal firing range. Firing seekers now. Intercept time twenty-eight seconds."

"Prepare railguns as the last line of defense," Adama ordered. There was always the chance of a nuke unluckily getting through. With the collected and processed sensor data, the railguns would also gain a boost to their precision.

"Cylons are launching a second salvo," Gaeta informed. The first was still in the air, yet they were eagerly shooting more. They indeed didn't waste any time. "Same composition as the first, sir."

"How uninventive of them," Saul said.

"Yes, but it's also quite like them. Just like a machine would do."

"The seekers have intercepted the fast movers. Twenty-two missiles out of forty-six have been intercepted. Five were nukes."

They were putting a priority on the nukes, so it wasn't strange that five out of the eight nukes were taken down. Quite the excellent result since the Cylons must have tried to protect them the most. "It seems their ECMs have failed them rather spectacularly. What about the jamming?"

"The Core is coming up with the data now. I'm sending it to the main computer. Done. We can now fire the second salvo with the update data, sir."

"Fire away."

"Firing the second salvo. Intercept in fourteen seconds."

They were all waiting patiently for the outcome of the second salvo. She was quite anxious about the result. What she had heard thus far was very encouraging. Hitting so many with the first salvo even though their countermeasures weren't yet the best they could be was already an excellent result. Still, the fact that even one nuke reaching them might be the one that blasts them into oblivion didn't leave her with a sense of security. The Galactica could take a nuke or two on its hull, but she would rather not have to find out how many the ship could take before breaking apart. She also knew that this was only the beginning of the battle. The real fight would start when the Cylons got much closer and when, sadly, there wouldn't be much time to intercept the incoming warheads.

"The second salvo has intercepted the incoming missiles."

"How many?" Adama asked.

"One," Gaeta responded, baffled.

"What? We hit only one! Did the Core screw up?"

"No, sir. Only one missile remaining. And it's a jammer."

"Mr. Gaeta, one of these days you're going to give me a heart attack. Be more specific!" Adama admonished.

Adama suddenly looked like the devil. He could be scary sometimes, she thought.

"Sorry, sir. I was confused for a moment because of the result."

"You're forgiven, this time," Saul added. "Frak, the railguns didn't even have to fire."

"That's not true. Let's leave the last jammer to the railguns while we prepare another salvo for the second volley," Adama ordered.

It went well. That was all that she could think of right now. It was just a small victory, but she was happy that it went better than expected. If they could keep up with the outstanding streak, who knew, they might manage to exhaust the Cylons' missile reserves before getting blown to pieces. At that point, even the Cylons should decide to give up and crawl back home. It was a very positive way of thinking. The idea that the Cylons would exhaust every nuke they had without scoring a hit. But she didn't see any alternative to getting out of this mess. They did not have the assets to face ten baseships, no matter how much she thought about it.

"Let's not put our guard down. We are only starting." Adama seemed to be thinking the same way. They both knew grasping victory wouldn't be easy.

The second salvo had been dealt with quicker than the first. Their ECM got demoted to 'trash level'. She so wished to see the faces of the Cylons now while they were trying to figure out what went wrong. They were keeping at it with their third and fourth salvo, but with no change in the overall result. Of course, the Galactica was sharing the same insightful data with Apollo's group. They too had to deal with a few barrages.

It was incredible that a small device such as the alien core could make such a difference – a difference that on its own could almost save them.

"It's getting more difficult taking down all of them," Saul added his five cents.

It was true. The fifth volley was more difficult to intercept. Even their the railguns as their last line of defense had to catch a few.

"Bill! Isn't it about time we raise that shield of ours?" Saul asked.

It was a good question. So good that she wanted to retort that she didn't even know they didn't have it raised this whole time!

"Not yet. They might think it's broken. Poor chance, but they might come to the wrong conclusion and do something stupid." Adama was quite the trickster. He was putting little traps at every corner, dearly hoping the enemy would hang themselves with them. She wasn't worried anymore, or at least not as much as she had been at the beginning. Adama was good at what he did. Besides, they designed the Galactica with no shields in mind. He would undoubtedly know the right moment when to raise them, would he not? "Let's spring all our surprises when they'll do the most damage."

"How devious of you," Saul responded. They were at it again, with their banter. The duo was once again trying to calm the crew as if nothing too dangerous was happening. Was anyone buying it?

"We have to give them a few surprises since they came here uninvited," Adama responded.

"Truly rude of them," she joined in. They weren't the only ones who could talk crap. "They must be punished for every mistake they make."

"My thoughts exactly," Adama responded while smiling at her. "How are we proceeding with our main plan? Is Apollo's group ready?"

"I've been monitoring them closely. Their alignment with us is book-perfect. They are still faster than us, though. I've already informed them about breaking a little."

The ships in Apollo's group were far away from theirs, but they were still traveling in the same direction. They were now moving on the same vector.

"It would have to be soon, or the window will close on us. How much until the Cylons are on our ass?"

"They'll be in close combat range in fifty seconds." When that happened, they would have to rotate the ships and rely on their railguns on their broadsides for defense more extensively. Otherwise, they would get hammered quick.

"Send a message to the Raptors. They are to initiate operation Scorpio at T-plus-30 seconds. No other change."

"Sending a message to raptor group with a change in orders now. Execute Scorpio in T-plus-30 seconds."

"Inform the fleet we will be lowering our acceleration in twenty seconds. In twenty seconds begin rotating the Galactica and Columbia by ninety degrees starboard. Be prepared to roll ships by hundred-and-eighty if the starboard side gets severely damaged. The Defenders are to turn to face the Cylons with their bows."

After soaking damage with their starboard side, they would roll their ships and present their intact port side. The Defenders, on the other hand, would keep their heavy frontal guns pointed towards the baseships at all times. They would have to rely on the two bigger ships for cover.

"Ships are turning. Acceleration is zero."

The real fight was about to start. Everybody on the bridge took a stifled breath. Right now, it was do or die. If they did everything correctly - and the Cylons cooperated - they might survive this day. In the last year, she had learned more about military matters than she cared to admit. She had been a pacifist for a significant part of her life. Now, she could talk to admirals and understand what they were saying. Even discussing with them wasn't impossible for her anymore. A year ago, it would have been unthinkable.

"Cylons are launching a new salvo."

"We won't have the time to fire two salvos of seekers to take them down."

"Admiral, their ECM has changed pattern," Gaeta reported.

"We knew it might happen. You know what to do," Admiral replied calmly.

The alien core would have to do its magic again. They would also have to rely heavily on the last line of defense, the railguns.

"The Core is coming up with the new numbers. I'm feeding the results into the ship's main computer," Gaeta responded. "Seekers are being launched now."

In the end, the alien core did its job so quickly that the outcome didn't change by much. They fired missiles a little later, but since they wouldn't have the time to fire a second salvo, the delay due to the new calculations didn't hamper their defense one bit.

"Seventy percent of the incoming missiles have been taken down. Railguns will begin with defensive fire in ten seconds."

Vibrations indicative of the railguns spitting bullets at supersonic speed began shortly after. She knew they had fed the railgun system with new tracking data as well. The Core should have upgraded their precision as well.

She suddenly felt a mild impact on the ship's hull. That shouldn't have happened, she thought worriedly.

"One conventional missile unexpectedly got through," Adama responded. He turned to face her. "No need to worry, Madam President. Nukes are our priority, and we took those down with time to spare." He turned to face Gaeta. "What did it hit?"

"The secondary communication dish," Gaeta reported. "Nothing to worry about."

"See. We have redundancy in our systems, and conventional missiles are only good at taking out installations that are exposed on the hull. They can't harm us."

"The raptors are initiating Scorpio," Gaeta informed.

"Let's see what they come up with now," Saul added.

She didn't worry anymore. If the Admiral was confident, that was enough for her. She glanced at the tactical display. The Raptors trailing the Cylons fleet had jumped. They were now above the Cylon fleet where the ships should have the least active defenses. Eighty missiles flew toward the Cylon fleet, all of them targeting only three out of the five baseships. Three different types of icons were depicting the missiles. One model had the sign of nuclear material next to it, another didn't have anything next to it, while the third had a symbol depicting a crossed radio antenna. The Admiral had explained to her that those were ECMs. The ones with no logo were conventional missiles. There weren't many of those, but they were still useful. Their ECM would fool the Cylons' sensors so they wouldn't know which were the nukes and which were the conventional ones that they didn't have to worry about all that much.

"Fire!" the Admiral ordered. It was time to launch more missiles — this time, from their capital ships on the other side.

It had all been prearranged. Operation Scorpio was to inflict damage on three Cylon baseships from two sides. Their idea was to overwhelm the enemy — not the easiest thing to do. The Cylons had five baseships worth of defensive guns and missiles. Unfortunately, in this instance, the alien core couldn't help. They were using the native tech they had inside the missiles even from before the journey had begun, and it was showing. The Cylons knew their hardware well. They hadn't merely infected the military mainframe with a virus meant to disable their ships. They'd also accessed their schematics. They did take some measures to improve their odds by making small changes to their arsenal, but having your hardware's inner workings exposed couldn't be negated easily.

The missiles were disappearing, one after the other.

"We have multiple impacts!" Gaeta shouted. "Two baseships have taken two nukes each, and the third took one.

On another monitor, she could see the magnified image of one baseship engulfed in blinding light. The light subsided, revealing the aftermath of a nuclear detonation.

"They are still in one piece. The Cylons did well at taking down the most dangerous missiles. Those that hit didn't manage to reach their ships' central strut," Gaeta explained.

Adama seemed vexed. "Keep at it!" They had lost the element of surprise. The next salvo would not have the same effect, but that didn't mean they should stop with what they were doing.

"Three closest baseships are accelerating! They are on an intercept course with the Galactica!" Gaeta responded.

"Not just us!" Adama responded as he watched the tactical display. "I expect they want to take out the Galactica, the command ship, and then proceed through and toward the civilian fleet. Quite bold of them, but understandable. They think we don't have our shield, our greatest defensive asset. Let them come closer! Then we'll raise our shield and nuke the bastards!"

"It will be like what happened the first time we used the shield. Just this time it won't be us doing the suicide run, but them doing it," Saul added.

"Raiders! They are launching Raiders! On course towards the Raptors, sir," Gaeta informed.

"So, they have them. Few, but still enough to face our Raptors. Order the Raptors to stop firing and to start luring the Raiders away from the Cylons fleet. Let's spread them a little. Also, inform the fleet to fire everything they have at the three approaching Cylons ships. We need to break their backs before they break ours. I'm not sure Galactica alone can do the job."

Two Cylon ships were keeping the Raptors at bay, while the other three were going for the Galactica. It seemed like a good tactic, and even with the shield, it was dubious if they could survive this. More so since they need to be careful not to receive crippling damaged. Five more baseships were engaging Apollo's Pegasus and the Valkyrie. They shouldn't forget that.

"It's been twenty-six minutes, and the Cylons are fully committed. It's about time we initiate our plan," Adama said.

"There's no better time than now. Send the message. Operation Grasshopper is a go," Saul said.

Chaos was all around them. The three baseships reached spitting distance from the Galactica, launching their missiles as if they were confetti. However, the shield sprang to life before any could come near its hull - probably to the great disappointment of every Cylon nearby. Different to the conservative attitude of the Cylons, the Galactica launched nukes, not carrying about the proximity.

Shields were really great, she thought.

"We are detecting detonations on their hulls! They are also launching nukes! They are mad!"

We had a shield while they didn't. They didn't seem to care, though. Radiation would blast their ships too.

"Apollo has executed operation Grasshopper!" Gaeta shouted.

Honestly, it was pure chaos. She didn't know what to watch and on which display, and she shouldn't even think of asking a question right now. Adama had thought of Operation Grasshopper even before the fight broke out. The idea was to split the fleet in two. The Galactica, Columbia, the two Defenders, and all the civilian ships that for one reason or another couldn't use their jump drive would form group A. The rest of the vessels would make up group B. Half of the Cylon fleet went after group B, and they were now quite a distance away. However, no Colonial ship was there anymore. The civilian vessels had jumped to rendezvous point Alpha that was light-years away, while the Pegasus and Valkyrie went to support the small flotilla of raptors against the raiders and the two baseships.

Adama had explained to her that it did not matter how many hulls you had. What's important was how many guns you could bring to bear at any point in time. At the moment, five Cylon baseships were doing nothing, with their weapons staying completely silent.

"Apollo is blasting the raiders by the dozens!" Gaeta reported cheerfully.

"Good. Order the Raptors to go back to targeting the baseships. They have two moderately damaged ones to deal with while having the firepower of the Pegasus and Valkyrie to aid them. They should be able to destroy them," Adama said at the same time as the Galactica shook. "Even with the shield if you get hit by a nuke, you still feel it."

"They are changing targets. Two are going for the Columbia, and one baseship is turning to face the Defenders. They are all in pretty bad shape, though. Two have lost a pillar each, and the third got hit by a nuke straight in the central column," Gaeta notified the damage that could be seen. There was probably a lot more damage, but there was no way of getting a complete picture of their ship's conditions during such a chaotic situation.

"They are getting desperate," Adama added, but it seemed there was something else bothering him. "Why haven't the Columbia fired her main gun?"

"Uhm, they reported a problem with it, sir. But with so many reports coming in, I'm having trouble reporting everything."

"What kind of trouble?"

"Unknown. The captain said that a warning flashed the moment the gun's charge neared firing levels. He says a hard reset solved the issue. They are recharging it now. He also says that next time he's gonna fire it even if ten warnings start blinking."

"He must be pissed. The crew had put a lot of effort into installing the damn thing. It would all go to waste if they couldn't use it today."

Adama had come complaining one day that they could not face the races lurking in the galaxy they once thought as devoid of any other life. However, he did not come to whine. In a way, he had come to brag about their luck into finding enough working pieces of alien tech to do something about it. Namely, they had found a few of the cannons the pyramids employed in the graveyard they had stumbled upon a month or so ago. Of course, neither one of them was in working condition. However, by combing them, and by putting Baltar on a strict regimen of enhancement drugs that helped him sleep very little and work bizarrely hard, they had managed to recreate one plasma cannon.

The Galactica could not house the cannon. The ship already had a shield that was draining its limited energy reserves like it was frakking tap water. Adding another such sucker wouldn't do them any good. The Pegasus was a no go either. The ship already had powerful frontal railguns, to begin with. It would have been a waste to have them removed only to install a different type of primary weapon. The solution they had come up with was to put the thing on the Columbia.

However, the thing had refused to work.

"It's firing!" Gaeta reported as if Roslin's thoughts had offended the weapon. "Direct hit on the central column! The cannon is firing again. Another hit! The baseship is in bad shape but still pushing. The other baseship is launching nukes at the Columbia. Seekers and railguns are firing. They are intercepting them- NO! One got through! The ship's starboard side got hammered. Wait! I'm getting a report from Columbia. They say they are still in the game! Unbelievable!"

Roslin shivered. Gaeta seemed to have turned into a sport's commentator. As if he was relaying live coverage of the latest pyramid's game. It might be that Gaeta had finally blown a fuse. The admiral was also looking at him suspiciously. A visit to Dr. Cottle might be unavoidable.

His commentary continued, and although some might call it inappropriate and weird, the man was able to relay everything that was happening inside the vast battle theater, swiftly and with an overabundance in details. The Pegasus was slaughtering the Raiders while firing its main railguns and nukes at the two baseships. The Valkyrie was mostly dealing with the Raiders. The Raptors were launching missiles at the two baseships. One of the baseships had just broken in half before a blinding flash scattered its pieces to the wind.

One down, still many to go.

"Raiders are leaving! They've jumped in the middle of the civilian fleet!"

"Frakers! They are still at it," Adama said, furiously.

There was no strategic reason that would explain the decision to jump their Raiders into the middle of non-combatants. Nonetheless, they did it, and now the Vipers would have some clean up to do.

"Baseship-4 is gone," Saul reported the moment he'd seen it on tactical. It was the one closest to the Columbia. It seems they were gaining momentum and that victory might be in sight, but it was too early to celebrate. They were also taking damage — all ships except the Galactica that had a shield to protect her. However, even the Galactica was losing its energy reserves with each detonation against its barrier. It could be almost thought of as damage. Three baseships left, and they were all in bad shape.

"Multiple jumps detected!" Gaeta reported. "Baseships six-through-eight have joined baseships-2 facing the Pegasus. Baseship-9 have joined baseship-3 facing the Columbia and baseship-10 has jumped behind the Defenders."

"They've surrounded us. How long has it been?"

"31 minutes since they jumped in," Saul answered.

"I was hoping they couldn't jump for 33 minutes. It appears that I was wrong. These two minutes could cost us dearly," Adama said.

Indeed. She could imagine the difference. If the Cylons jumped two minutes later, they could have dealt with the three damaged baseships first. After that, they would have to face the other five. Not an easy prospect, but they could do it. The Cylons might also have decided to give up if confronted with the same number of hulls. However, they were now fighting against eight baseships at once. No matter that three had sustained substantial damage, they were still in the fight, and they didn't seem eager to give up.

Every screen was showing fights happening in some part of the battle theater. Raiders and Vipers were dogfighting near the civilian ships, and the Columbia was hammering on the damaged baseship-3 while baseship-9 was hitting the Columbia back. The Galactica had switched to suicide tactics again – to the joy of the whole crew - not allowing baseship-4 to gain any distance. That ship seemed to be at breaking point. However, baseship-10 was hammering the Destroyers, which weren't great at defense. Why their class was called Defender was a mystery.

And finally, three baseships were attacking the Pegasus simultaneously. The crippled fourth baseships was keeping the Valkyrie at bay.

"Yes! Baseship-2 is gone!" Gaeta shouted, just as the Galactica shook again, this time even stronger than the last.

"How's our shield doing?" Adama must have thought the same thing.

"47%, sir. There are holes in it now," Gaeta said. The man was all sweaty from the frantic commenting. "It seems that the shield can't hold as a perfect bubble when under heavy strain."

"It wasn't meant to protect a ship as big as the Galactica. It's good that we have something." Adama knew how lucky they were to find a shield capable of protecting the Galactica. There was no point in feeling unhappy because it wasn't perfect. More than that, he'd been dejected because they hadn't found another one in the graveyard where they found the cannons. It would have been great if they could have put one on the Pegasus.

"Ah!" Gaeta yelled.

She looked at the tactical. It took her a moment to notice an icon missing. A Defender was gone. But that wasn't all. As she kept watching, the tactical display lost two more. One was baseship-4 that the Galactica had blown into nothingness.

The other was Columbia.

Cold sweat ran down her spine. They were losing. There were still six baseships, and they had just lost two vital combatants. She wasn't an expert, but somehow, she thought that the Galactica, Pegasus, Valkyrie and a single Defender were not up to the task. Not against five fresh baseships and a damaged one. Galactica's shield would not last long either.

"Switch fire to baseship-3," Adama ordered. Nobody had even mentioned that the Columbia and the other ship were gone. No point.

Baseship-3 was the most natural next target. It was the badly damaged one that fought the Columbia. It might be vengeance for that, though.

The Galactica pushed boldly toward baseship-3 and the accompanying baseship-9. Her weapons barked, missiles flew in droves, all targeting the detested ship.

"Baseship-3 is spinning. It's out of the game," Gaeta reported.

"Finish the frakers!" Adama ordered.

No one complained. Two nukes hit the ship thirty second later, breaking it apart.

"How are our ships?"

"The Defender is on the run. She alone can't face an undamaged baseship. We are still fine thanks to the shield. We are fighting baseship-9, and we should be able to hold our own. Two baseships are hammering the Pegasus while the Valkyrie is facing the third one. Both ships have already taken significant damage, sir. The raptors are also out of nukes."

It didn't bode well. Even the greatest of tacticians wouldn't be able to win this. That was what she was thinking right now. From Adama's expression, she could understand two things. He wasn't giving up, but he didn't have a solution either. Coming so close to the Promised Land, being so close to receiving sanctuary, and possibly even getting help in their war against their cursed creation, the wretched Cylons, and they were going to die.

"Contact!" Gaeta shouted.

Were the Terrans once again coming to the rescue? A sliver of hope rose inside her heart. They might still survive this.

"Nine baseships!"

Her heart sunk. All hope was lost.

"For frak's sake!" Saul cursed. "They are sprouting like mushrooms after a rainy day. Why are there so many Cylons so far form the Cyrannus system?"

"Where are they?" Adama asked.

"We will cross paths in thirty seconds. Their velocity is slightly lower than ours."

"Maybe we can evade them," Adama was thinking aloud. However, everyone on the CIC knew that it would be unlikely and also futile. What can four damaged ships do against fourteen baseships? For how long could they play a game of cat and mouse without jump capability?

Seconds slowly passed by, and the time they crossed paths came.

"They are shooting at the other baseships!" Gaeta shouted.

"What!?" a chorus of voices echoed.

"They are frakking up the other five Cylons baseships instead of us!" Gaeta shouted joyously. Quite understandable. After all, they were still alive!

Adama and Saul seemed frozen in time and space, not getting anything of what was happening. She wasn't faring much better. She had been sure her left foot had been soaking in the river Acheron while she waited for the ferryman to take her to Hades.

"Wow! One baseship is already gone. The others don't look too good, either." Gaeta kept reporting to the multitude of frozen statues that were the CIC's crew. Gaeta, who was the only one whose brain was still working, kept commenting as any professional commentator always should no matter what the situation was. Of course, with nine baseships aiding the four Colonial ships, it would be more than enough to blast the five remaining baseships into oblivion. "HA! Another one's gone!" Gaeta said it while punching air. "Their new Raiders are also targeting the old Raiders near our civilian fleet. Our Vipers don't know what to target."

"Tag the new Raiders as friendly and send the data to the Vipers." It seemed that Adama had rebooted while Saul seemed to be attempting to do so but failing miserably.

"I don't know what the frak's going on," Saul said just as another baseship blew up. "But it's great to watch."

She didn't know either, but for now, she was content to keep being alive. They would have to sort out everything else later. Her wish of reaching Earth might still happen.

"Sir!" Gaeta shouted for the umpteenth time today. "We have a comm request originating from one of the newly arrived baseships."

Adama turned to look at her. "What do we do?"

That was an excellent question.

They should probably answer.


Nagala leaned backward, deeper into his armchair. He was about to conclude another meeting. This one was with the representative from Geminon, Lira Machen. The time when he had to listen to her request had inescapably come. He had to deliver what he had promised her a long time ago, but every time they would meet, some more severe matter would prevent them from finishing their talks. Today, they were to finally conclude their business, hopefully in a satisfactory manner to both parties. Geminon needed as much help as Caprica. Therefore, it wasn't strange that Miss Machen had come armed with a plethora of challenging to grant requests. He had agreed to those that weren't beyond the realm of possibility, while for the rest, she would have to ask a higher authority because there was nothing he could do.

"I hope that Miss Machen is satisfied with what we discussed here today."

"I am," she smiled. "Geminon needs help, lots of it, and it will finally get it. Hopefully, the next five years will be enough to bring Geminon back on its feet.

"I wouldn't go as far as to say that Geminon was lucky, but the planet indeed has fared better than Caprica or the planets in Helios Delta. Those planets will need extensive help in cleaning the radiation. Thankfully, what we got from the Terrans will prove to be highly effective in achieving exactly that. The radiation meds have already proven their worth."

"True. Meds that could remove radiation from inside the body are already something, but meds that can even regenerate the tissue damaged by radiation is something on a whole new level."

"Incredible, right? Suddenly, we could save people we thought were goners. Even stranger, we haven't seen any side effects caused by those drugs," Nagala contemplated out loud. Few would be happy with meds that helped them get back on their feet, but, for example, got them erectile dysfunction as extra. Chances are the Terrans would get cursed if the meds caused such nasty side effects.

"You're thinking about something weird again, Mr. President," Lira said while showing a wicked smile.

"Am I so transparent?" Nagala asked.

"In moments when you're relaxed. They don't often happen, though," she answered. "You're also not a trained politician who had slowly crawled through the ranks to the highest position that you now serve."

"Ah, thank you, Ms. Machen. Telling me that I don't look like a politician makes me feel better. No matter how many times I hear it," Nagala quipped back.

"I figured it would," she replied before continuing. "Were you perhaps planning to watch the five o' clock broadcast from here? Mind if I join you? There are only fifteen minutes left."

"You may. I haven't prepared any snacks, though," Nagala said.

"That, I believe, would have been too much. I know there was no love lost between you and the ex-president but having popcorn while watching his execution would have been a little improper, I think.

"Agreed," Nagala said. "Contrary to popular belief, I'm not looking forward to it, you know."

"Oh? I thought you'd want to witness Adar and the rest of the people involved getting their just deserts."

"At first, I was. But too much anger is floating around. The whole thing has gone too far, and I'm partly responsible."

After he had executed Order 298 and had jailed the people involved, a plethora of incriminating evidence had surfaced. They had displayed it all bare for everyone to see so that they could judge these people's greedy actions. Adar's incompetence, the corrupted CID, the power-hungry industrialists behind it, all it had come to the light of day for the public to view and judge. Nagala firmly believed that such people strived the most while working in the shadows. So, the best way to stop them was to show the public everything that had been happening until now.

Consequently, public outrage had reached unseen heights. So far so that they had asked for a public lynching. He granted it, mostly in anger than through sound reasoning. He rationalized it that the people needed closure before they could move on, so he let it keep building up out of proportion. However, he didn't predict there would be that much anger directed towards the ex-president and the people responsible for everything that had happened.

During an execution through a firing squad, eight shooters would fire one bullet each. However, only one round would be the real deal, and no one would know who had fired the actual bullet. But, in this case, all the shooters had petitioned to have real bullets. It even went viral, with the public agreeing. Reluctantly, he consented. He was a military man who personally wanted to shoot those involved. He couldn't do it since it would be unfortunate if the current president went around killing people on television, but he understood how people felt. A lot of pain could have been prevented if these people hadn't existed. Caprica was a prime example of how twisted these people were. Adar used a whole planet and its inhabitants to further his political career. Of course, people wanted to shoot him.

The industrialist got served their own medicine. The imbeciles kept records of their misdeeds, which Nagala had, of course, released to the public. They joined the same group of people as Adar and Baltar, which was individuals people wanted to shoot in person.

Regretfully, today's execution wouldn't be one that people would remember fondly. Granting the shooters' wish to each have a real bullet, also meant that these convicts would receive eight rounds simultaneously. Not something people should witness. But the public would understand that only after seeing it happen.

"Are you sure you want to watch?" Nagala asked.

"Yep, I do," Lira said with conviction.

"I don't think you understand what will happen. Keep in mind that none of the marksmen will miss."

"I'm aware. And I'm aware that I won't like it. That's the reason why I want to watch it."

She had her reasons, even though she admitted not to be looking forward to the carnage. Nagala used his pad to activate the screen on the opposite side of the room, the newly installed one that had replaced the one he had shot in anger days ago. It was a much better model than the last one, so he wasn't reflecting at all about what he had done.

The screen came to life, already switched to Channel 7. The only thing on it right now was a text warning about viewer's discretion… blah, blah, and some other crap. In short, no children were to watch it. Not that it mattered much. Once aired, it would be copied a gazillion times in zero seconds flat and put on the Datanet to be discovered by whoever had a brain more developed than that of a monkey. They weren't doing much with the notice, but for legal reasons, Channel Seven that got the exclusive had to put it so that people wouldn't sue them because their kids got traumatized and nobody told them they shouldn't have let them watch people getting drilled by bullets while eating dinner. Go figure.

"Thinking about weird things again. You always have that strange wry smile when you do," Lira explained while smiling. She seemed amused.

"Can't help it. Sometimes my mind wanders in bizarre directions," Nagala responded while looking at the screen. "We have some time before the execution begins. What should we talk about?"

"Uhm, not sure. How about you tell me how things are progressing on the military front."

"I could do that," Nagala responded. "You'll get a report on the matter sooner or later anyway."

"If I can, I'd like to skip as many reports as possible. Hearing it from you should be more enjoyable than learning about it from a dry report."

"Alright. Well, for starter, we are close to finding where the Cylon final base is. We already found three locations, two of which contained shipyards in them. It is only a matter of time before we begin the final assault and wipe them out. That's what admiral Norton thinks. At this point, I don't think there's anything the Cylons can do to prevent their complete demise."

"You're not worried about the upgrades the Cylons might have done in the meantime? It has been months since they attacked the Helios Delta system. They could have upgraded many more ships. If they did, those should all be waiting for us where their final base is."

"I'm not sure if they could have recuperated what they've lost, much less upgrade more ships than what they had at the time of the Helios Delta incident. And it doesn't matter either. Our upgrades went ahead by leaps and bounds in these few months. We have upgraded forty percent of our capital ships with the new plasma cannons and fusion reactors to properly power them. There won't be any ships without these upgrades inside the fleet slated to take down the Cylon final stronghold. The only thing that causes me slight apprehension is the Cylons jumping away, escaping into the unknown and then staying there for decades. Then, one day, when our guard is down, we get another Adar as president, and they come back."

"Can we do something to prevent such a development? And I don't mean the part about getting another Adar as our president."

"Nothing. We wracked our brains to find a way, but there's simply no way to stop a ship from jumping away. We are planning to place a net of scouting Raptors around their base. We should know when they jump away and where they went. But if they all scatter and then keep jumping and jumping like some deranged rabbits, there's no guarantee we can catch them all."

"Understood. Disappointing, but, as they say, impossible things are impossible after all, so no need to lose sleep over them. What about our safety? I mean, couldn't the Cylons keep making suicide runs here in Cyrannus and harm us that way?"

"They could. Guaranteed safety is only a pipe dream. However, they wouldn't have an easy job doing any serious damage. Our new detection grid is up and running. No ship can jump inside Cyrannus without us knowing their exact coordinates. Just the other day we had several stealth raiders paying us an unexpected visit. They didn't survive even two minutes. The detection net performs beyond expectations."

"We did? What happened exactly?"

"A single stealth raider jumped inside the atmosphere of each of our planets. They were probably there to record the situation on the surface. They would have escaped and relayed their findings, but we were on top of them in less than two minutes. Not even the time to charge their jump drives before ending up in pieces. They must have thought that a stealth raider can indiscriminately collect data and jump away without us even noticing."

"Why send more stealth raiders to collect data? They shouldn't be in a position to think offensively. Am I wrong in thinking that?"

"Yes. In a way, you are."

"What does that mean?" she asked while squinting threateningly.

"The way you're thinking isn't the problem, but that we can't think like the other party is. We don't know how whoever is in charge over there thinks. Many actions they've taken against us are mindboggling to us. No military strategist worth his paycheck would make plans like those the Cylons made. They could have caused severe damage to us if they just attacked Picon Anchorage the moment when they had those ten upgraded ships. Even waiting until they had more upgraded ships would have been a healthier choice. They had the advantage when it comes down to upgrading ships. They could have waited until they had twenty, or perhaps twenty-five, before acting. We would have been in serious trouble if they did. They always go for civilian targets while leaving our assets that could hurt them unscathed — no clue on why they do that. Taking potshots at our malls and hospitals won't win them the war. At least they should have done some desperate runs at our military installations, instead of malls!"

"So, tough luck for them. They are losing, and there's nothing they can do to change that."

"That's how I see it, yes. Of course, we should keep being on our toes. No slip-ups are allowed in front of the finish line," Nagala concluded.

"Ah well, that's good to hear coming from the President. Now, if only the situation home would stabilize, and everything would be sparkly perfect."

"I'm not sure if that can happen. You, as someone from Geminon, should understand that better than most."

"True. The release of classified materials has done quite the damage. Geminon isn't happy about a few insinuations you made in your speech. However, they came out much angrier after the religious leadership on Geminon had perused through the whole data dump a few times."

"Why is that? I mean, I don't get it. My speech has already clued people in on the existence of extra-colonial life in the galaxy. As far as I know, that was the biggest revelation. What information did push the wrong buttons with the religious leaders?"

"It's not a single thing," Lira began but then stopped for a moment to collect her thoughts. "Faith and religion depend heavily on people believing that the church and the priests that represent the Lords of Kobol are their messengers. Not sure how to explain it properly. It's like, they must, at the very least, be more knowledgeable than the average Joe on everything. Especially big things, like where we came from, what is our purpose, what's in store for us, and what marvels await us out there. Those are questions that people who are in doubt often ask when visiting our churches. And the priests give them reassuring answers when they do."

"I get it now. The data dump spits in their faces. It says that the religious leaders are a bunch of ignoramuses who know as little as the rest of us clueless fools," Nagala surmised.

"Yes, exactly. Although, I wouldn't have put it so harshly. It's mystifying how you, Mr. President, can manage to belittle everyone so concisely. It took you just one sentence to do it; quite remarkable."

"But it's the truth! We only pretend to know everything, and then when reality slaps us in the face with facts we knew nothing about, we get angry at reality itself!"

"Nope, Mr. President, you are wrong there. The religious leaders have a much more concrete target for their ire than something as intangible as reality."

"Ugh, yes, go blame the messenger for speaking the truth."

"Exactly! How dares he undermine them?" she quipped sarcastically. "If he speaks the truth or not, that is only a secondary concern."

She did point out the crux of the problem. They didn't care about the truth. Most people wouldn't if said truth inconvenienced them. "I get it. They are pissed because they are losing face."

"That's right. Well, it's not as bad as you might think, Mr. President. They are not so far gone to be completely blinded by their dissatisfaction. They are still capable of reasoning, and the concessions you agreed upon today will go a long way for them to, umm, forgive you."

"How nice of them to forgive me."

"Yes, it is. However, that's not the case with everyone in the Colonies."

He knew what she was referring too. The power structure of the Colonies had changed quite a bit since the war had started. Caprica's fall had been felt far and wide, and Tauron was the first to take advantage of the newly created power vacuum. However, that alone wouldn't be enough to destabilize the Colonies. There were still other planets that could keep Tauron in check, but that changed after the Cylons had attacked Helios Delta.

Canceron was a planet with the highest population in the Colonies. Consequently, it had a massive economy that allowed it to dictate policies. However, now the planet was in desperate need of help since nukes had blown most of its largest cities, and with them, their industry as well. Instead of playing as a counterweight to Tauron, they had to curry favor from them. Tauron's two primary industries were farming and livestock. A world as devastated as Canceron that still had 2.6 billion starving people to feed had no choice but to work with them. No matter the price, reluctantly, they would have to pay it.

Tauron's local government didn't comment on what the president did to the people who had leaked the information. Or about the relation between these people, the CID, and the ex-president. They knew better than to make such a blunder. Others might think of them as sympathizers of the wrong people – people all the Colonies were hating with all their being. Their reluctance to speak put aside, they surely weren't happy with Nagala. In the end, no matter what these industrialists did, they were bringing wealth to Tauron. On the other hand, Nagala had prevented that from continuing and had caused massive disruption of their news services. The total losses were incalculable.

Virgon was robust, with a lot of influence everywhere. But they were keeping to themselves, without committing to anything or anyone. Such a behavior during trying times filled with many domestic issues in need to be resolved quickly wasn't commendable.

Picon was the only bright spot in this whole mess. As the home to the Colonial Fleet, it was the planet that supported Nagala the most. Its population was rising together with its influence. Many who lost everything on the devastated worlds but had somehow managed to survive had decided to relocate there. It was becoming the new capital planet of the Colonies on which, to the other planets' displeasure, the central government would end up residing.

"The biggest problem is Sagittarion," Nagala muttered. "Not sure how to solve that one. Or if I should even attempt it."

"Not sure how to solve that one either, but I'm sure that you have to," Lira retorted.

"Why?"

"The crazy ones need to be under a short leash," she said without even blinking.

She was right. Sagittarion was contemplating seceding from the Colonies. At first, his response was, 'So what?' To him, the biggest concern if they had left would have been how silly 'The Eleven Colonies of Kobol' would have sounded. Sagittarion wasn't wealthy. They were falling behind on the technology front by quite a bit, and even worse they were doing it on purpose. They were refusing to advance, both by modernizing their everyday lifestyle, but also their medical technology. It was all related to their religious beliefs that had quite the influence on the planet. Even Geminon was a secular planet, no matter how religious they were. However, there was no separation of church and state on Sagittarion.

On the contrary, the planet was closer to a theocracy than to a democracy. True, people voted their elected officials. However, among the pool of candidates, there was never a person unassociated with the church. Even if there were such an individual, no one would dare to vote for him.

Hence, Nagala thought that dumping the planet wasn't such a bad idea. If they wanted it themselves, why not let them? However, what Lira had just told him made him rethink. It wasn't like Sagittarion would change its address. They would remain where they were now. If they seceded, Libran would blow a gasket. With Scorpia, it would just take a little longer for them to react. They were very easygoing people, after all.

"Having a crazy neighbor is never a good thing. I also know what they want. It's just that I can't give it to them."

"They want you to refute everything you previously spoke about. They want you to spit on the data that spread throughout the Colonies as if it was a bad joke."

"They could have also asked me to jump out of the window while they were at it. The chance of me doing any of it is exactly zero. Maybe it even goes into the negative because they are pissing me off, and when I'm pissed, I usually do the opposite of what they are asking me to do. How can they even think that I can go out in public and say, 'people, what you've heard in the last few days was all a joke'. Not possible. No one would believe me anyhow."

"Maybe you could give them a lifeline. You could say something like, 'we haven't vetted the released data yet, so don't pay too much attention to it.'"

"First, it would be a lie. I believe the data is very much correct. Second, I asked them if that would be enough, to test the waters, and they didn't even bother replying. Hmph! How rude of them!" Nagala concluded, feeling quite miffed.

"I don't think that even sanctions would work with these people. It would only serve to rile them up more."

"I agree. No sanctions can break them. They are accustomed to living in relative poverty, and they are on the path of banning any tech more advanced than a lightbulb anyway. What kind of sanctions could I impose to make such people reconsider? They don't lack food either. On the contrary, we could use some of their food for humanitarian aid. It would help us not having to rely so much on Tauron for it."

"Maybe the Terrans can send us the answer. They have been so obliging lately."

"Asked. They answered, 'Don't know!'" Nagala said. He has sent an email to the same address the Terrans had used to send the materials that helped them get out of the crisis. The answer this time was depressingly short and unhelpful. Well, it was their system. They shouldn't expect outsiders to solve all their troubles.

"Not sure what can be done. Even for Geminon, it has always been difficult to deal with Sagittarion. More then any healthy religion, their beliefs border with fanaticism. The moment you say something that isn't exactly how they understand it, they explode in, for them, righteous anger. And Mithras always wants to talk to me about religious stuff! I always keep him as far from me as possible every time there's a reception that the Quorum must attend."

"Yeah. I saw it a few times. It was pretty funny watching you flee away as Mithras walked towards you," Nagala said, smiling.

"I-I don't see what's so funny about that. It's quite stressful having to keep tabs on where he is at all times, you know. I'm not some trained operative who's on constant alert."

"Well, he must feel neglected. Only someone from Geminon might – and I'm stressing the might part here quite considerably – understand him. He probably gave up trying to talk to any other member except if it is strictly business-related," Nagala stated half-jokingly. But then he became more serious. "And I'm bad at talking to him. I tried a few times to open a dialog, but I'm not sure if he even speaks if it isn't somehow related to the Lords of Kobol or their greatness. I don't think I'll be able to solve the problem with Sagittarion so quickly."

"It seems you're having more problems with domestic issues than with the Cylons, Mr. President."

"You can bet on that! The Cylons are our priority, but the local situation is also dangerous and in need of constant nursing," Nagala said, agreeing wholeheartedly that the domestic situation wasn't the greatest. "Ah! And with that damn flu spreading, things are getting even worse! Trying to quarantine it only serves in delaying the spreading of goods between the planets while the damn thing will spread anyway."

"Flu?"

"A few days ago, the health department issued a warning about a new flu strand spreading, cautioning us that we should try to contain it. Of course, it's not easy when you must move so much stuff from one planet to another while also trying to prevent something as small as a virus to follow. We are installing some new quarantine measures to stall the spreading, but I'm afraid that it won't help much. It never does. Except maybe to delay our efforts to rebuild the devastated worlds that is."

"Ugh, I better go get vaccinated. With the amount of work that I have, getting sick is the last thing I need!"

"I already got vaccinated. Not sure if it will do me any good since it was the vaccine from last year. It might not work with this year's flu," Nagala said, at the same time noticing the screen finally changing. He had almost forgotten that they were waiting to watch Adar's execution. They were now showing the place where the shooting would take place. There was no one there yet, though. "It should be starting soon. It's five already."

Lira also turned to face the screen. "Ugh! I still don't get why you allowed the execution to be televised. People shouldn't be watching this!"

"I'm aware of that, but they won't understand that unless they see it first."

"What?"

"People were outraged, and they wanted to witness the end of the man who had caused so much sorrow. It all started because some stupid host said that his execution should be televised for everyone to see. Once it spread, there was no stopping it. If I forbade it, they would only get angry at me and wouldn't learn anything. Instead, this way, I'll be able to see how many people will realize what they had asked to watch and how many would switch off the TV after witnessing the first gruesome execution. I think most people will," Nagala explained his train of thoughts. There would be one execution every ten minutes, and he wanted to see the polls on how many stayed glued on the screen and watched more than one execution after Adar got blown by eight shooters.

"I get what you're saying, but I'm not sure if I like you using billions of Kobolians as test subjects to see how many would hate what they'll see. I get that the military does things differently. Like pushing someone off the boat five miles offshore in shark-infested waters while saying something like, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! See you tomorrow!' leaving the poor schmuck alone to fend for himself the next instant."

"Ah, yes. I went through something similar back in my youth days while going through special training," Nagala said while smiling.

"Those shouldn't be fond memories! You shouldn't be smiling while remembering them!" Lira retorted, but it was in vain. Such events had made him the man he was today. No way would he remember his past and think of it as bad. "Ah, forget it! Don't know why I bother. Let's watch this awful thing and then go home to a stiff drink. Or a bottle worth of it!"

Despite what she might think, he wasn't fond of watching Adar's execution. However, it was his duty to watch and not flinch. It had been his doing. He had brought Adar in front of the firing squad, and the least he could do was to watch the man die. "Yes, let's watch a chapter in Colonial history concluding. Let's also hope that this will work as a deterrent to anyone who would try to repeat what Adar and the rest did."

"Yes, let's."


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