Author's note: It is said that a good story must have an end. Well, we are not there yet, but we are getting close.

This story began the same way as the original tv show. So much so that the first chapter was the transcript of the first episode of the Galactica 2003 series. Or at least until the moment when the Terrans interfered. Then, the whole conflict between the Cylons and the Colonials changed direction, with most of the Colonials surviving.

By following the escapades of the Expeditionary Fleet and the changes back in the Cyrannus system, the story depicts the entire conflict (reinvented) between the two factions. The Terrans from the stargate universe are there too, but they have their problems. They are also not all that invested in a conflict that, truthfully, has little to do with them.

Through the discovery of a much wider galaxy than the Colonials ever thought possible, we come to the point in the story where their conflict with the Cylons is slowly coming to a close. Is it the time for the story to end? Well, almost. But first, some explanations are in order. It would be wrong if the story just had a big 'The End' without first explaining the whole history. Well, this chapter provides that. It explains everything, or close to it.

Some might have noticed that this chapter has around 25k words in it, which is almost three regular chapters worth of written text. That's because the content is such that I was unable to split it into smaller units. So, prepare for a more extended read.

Well, thanks to my beta, and I hope you'll enjoy this longest chapter thus far.

The Colonial raptor gently landed on the barren soil. While the engines slowly winded down, the hatch on the port side rose. From inside the craft, two armed marines timely jumped out with their weapons trained. They quickly took positions at both sides of the hatch while overlooking the surroundings. Slowly, Adama and his son Apollo stepped out onto this never before explored world. However, they weren't alone in their endeavor. More raptors were landing and disgorging their passengers on what once was a large parking lot. President Roslin, Baltar, Saul and his wife, chief Tyrol, and lastly, Sylus were those who had stepped onto this world from several raptors.

Slowly, they joined Adama.

'Sylus is here too,' Adama thought begrudgingly.

Frankly, he wasn't sure why they were keeping him around. It had been Roslin's idea to bring him dirtside, stating that it was better to have him near than letting him roam free back on board the Galactica. Another reason was to observe him and see if he would slip up and say something self-incriminating concerning Malcolm's death, no matter how small the chances of that happening were.

While glancing around, Adama could not but feel a tinge of sorrow welling up inside him. The barely tolerable hot day, accompanied by a colorless cloudy sky, complemented the sadness that he felt while looking at this desolate world. The half-ruined parking lot they found in the middle of the decently sized city was the only place they could safely land. Everywhere around him, he could see the remains of countless buildings. Most of them had turned into the heavy dust being scattered around by the unpleasant wind. The sight displayed in front of him was that of desolation and loss. He was looking at the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust—one far worse than what had occurred on Caprica or the planets in the Helios Delta system. He looked down at the ground in front of his feet. The cockroach that was desperately rushing away from Adama's left boot was probably a member of the sole species still surviving on the planet.

Whatever happened here, it had been total.

"The radiation is higher than on Caprica," Apollo said while reading from a rad counter. "We shouldn't stay here for too long. A few hours at the most."

"Let's look around while we wait for the Cylons," Adama said. He was curious about the inhabitants. About whom they were and what they had been like, and, most of all, why their world had perished. Although, he did not hold much hope that they would be able to find anything concrete in the little time they would spend here before risk incurring hair loss.

They walked in silence toward a building that the passage of time hadn't completely turned into rubble. It should have come as a shock to most of the people present that they would finally reach their goal, only to find it devastated and devoid of sentient life. Was our entire mission doomed to fail from the very beginning? Adama could not but feel dread while thinking about it. He did not believe they would find another planet with remnants of the Thirteenth Colony. He knew this was it. They were walking on the world that the first people to leave Kobol had colonized.

It was also the place where they had died, for reasons still unknown.

They needed to learn how these people had met their untimely end. Did the inhabitants die by their hands during an internal struggle? Or was another race responsible for it? If Adama had spoken such a question aloud a year ago, he wouldn't have doubted what the right answer was. A year ago, he firmly believed that the Colonies were alone in the galaxy, if not the entire universe. That would have caused him to conclude that these people had caused this apocalypse themselves. Lately, though, the thought that the galaxy was devoid of sentient life besides theirs was blown out of his mind with no hope of ever returning. Did a race like the Aschen do it? They attempted to do the same on a world the Jaffa Free Nation had colonized. They would have succeeded if the Jaffa hadn't blown them to pieces.

The jury was still out on what had transpired on this world, and he doubted their little stroll would give them the answers they sought. They entered a grocery store of a building that once had many floors, but now they could stare at the cloudy sky without having their sight obstructed. Time had ruined most of the products, leaving mostly fragments behind. Luckily, he found a few still intact strewn around.

He lightly kicked a can of food lying on the floor before deciding to pick it up. It was the type of container that could survive even a holocaust, just like cockroaches. He tried to read the writing on the label, but it wasn't easy. It did appear that the letters were similar to theirs. To his amazement, he had found a clue pointing to the truth.

Indeed, this seemed to be a planet that someone from Kobol had inhabited.

Abruptly, he turned after hearing a loud banging coming from the entrance. He made his way there, only to find Tyrol working hard at smashing the cash register. It looked sturdy—therefore, strength would undoubtedly be needed to break it open—but the Chief was putting even more force into the task than required. He looked like a deranged robber desperately in need of cash. Why is he banging at it so hard?

The register finally gave in, scattering its content onto the dirty floor. Without waiting, Chief Tyrol lunged at the money on the ground, quickly checking one note after another. Saul and his wife walked to stand next to him, who was still crouching. Saul's wife put a hand on his shoulder, but he didn't react. He probably didn't notice.

The chief then turned and looked at her with a look full of sorrow. "I remember this."

Saul took the banknote from him before scrutinizing it for a while. "Yeah, me too. This one was worth shit, especially at the end."

Adama could not follow their conversation. What is Saul saying? Did Tyrol remember money from another world? He swiftly turned to look at his son and Roslin, seeking confirmation. Thankfully, they seemed as clueless as he was. If not, he would have started considering that he had gone crazy. Since he had ascertained that this wasn't playing out only in his mind, he would now have to ask the tough questions. He turned back to face Saul, who was already staring at him. Saul seemed to be awaiting. "Care to explain, Saul?"

Saul took a deep breath. He seemed at peace. "This is the world where I was born. Tyrol, my wife, and I, the descendants of the Thirteenth Colony, were born on this planet."

Adama's dumb reply unwittingly escaped from his mouth. "Huh?"

Saul noticed his questioning gaze. "My memories are foggy, but I'm at least sure that I lived here. Don't know how long ago that was, though."

"How could you have lived here when I know you for more than a decade?" Adama said.

"Not sure. I think that a few of us managed to escape the holocaust and then flee toward Kobol. I'm sure it happened more than a decade ago. But what happened afterward or why I can't remember; I have no answer to that."

"We can help you with that," Foster spoke as she, Anders, Caprica, Boomer, and D'Anna walked in front of the store.

"Foster?" President Roslin said in disbelief.

Adama was trying hard to connect the name with any relevant memory he might have, but the day had been really tiring, and his brain wasn't young anymore. A little fewer surprises would go a long way for his piece of mind. Then it finally clicked. Foster was the name of the woman that should have become the Colonies' next president if she hadn't been assassinated. The data the Terrans gave them contained her picture. With that, he was able to connect the person with the woman's profile from the file. Unfortunately, putting the pieces together was causing him even more anguish than if he had remained clueless.

Some deep shit was going on here, and he was struggling to understand any of it.

"It's been a while, Laura," Foster said while looking at her. Thinking about it, he recalled that Roslin seemed saddened after she had learned about Foster's passing, and not just because it resulted in Adar's reelection, but also because they were acquaintances. Maybe they were even friends.

"If you're here, that means you are a Cylon, right?" Roslin said.

"It's more complicated than that," Foster responded. "There's a lot you don't know, and I think it's time that you do."

"Care if we hear it too?" a man from outside the half-demolished grocery store spoke. Adama could have sworn no one was there a moment ago. But now, two people stood not even five meters from them.

He wasn't the only one startled. The Cylons also seemed jumpy as if a ghost had just appeared. The only one who had a slightly different reaction was the President. It might be that nothing could phase her anymore. "Doctor Daniel Jackson, I was wondering if you'd join us once we landed."

"You did?" Jackson replied, unsure of Roslin's statement.

"The Terrans always knew where our journey would take us. Since you have explained to me that you're not a member of the Thirteenth Colony, the moment you learned about the route the Thirteenth Colony had taken to reach Earth is also the moment when you must have sent ships to check if perhaps they might have settled on a different world. You also left a message with the Langarans telling us that you wish for us to proceed with our journey and that, if we do, we will learn more about our past. All this tells me that you knew about the fate that has befallen the 13th Colony," Roslin explained.

"You're right. Now that you mention it, we did leave clues suggesting that we know parts of your history even you don't. We indeed wanted you to reach this place and learn a few things on your own, rather than us telling you," Daniel explained while pushing his glasses back.

"Does that mean you never intended for us to reach Earth?" Roslin asked, a little saddened.

On the other hand, Adama's cluelessness was reaching heights never attained before. Since when did the President manage to piece things together so well? And why didn't I get the same insight into things? Am I at my limits? The truth was that most of the crew were at their limit. Even during the previous Colonial-Cylon war, they had leave time at least every six months. It wasn't much, but a week spent dirtside while the ship went through resupplying and maintenance was enough for most people to recharge their spent batteries. Unfortunately, they hadn't had any such reprieve on their current mission since the beginning. They spent the last year cooped up inside their ships, which resulted in many of them being mentally on edge. Gaeta was faring the worst. Only a few knew that Gaius Baltar was his hero. Because of it, the man spent many hours helping him while continuing to perform his regular duties. Helping a man that was being pushed to the limits through dubious means—he couldn't say that pumping Baltar with enhancement drugs so that he could deliver results faster was, ethically speaking, justifiable—exhausted him. Finding out that his idol had been responsible for the Cylons gaining access to their military mainframe, must have put Gaeta under additional stress. The last battle was the icing on the cake. Cottle relieved him of his duty and placed him under a strict regimen of pills of various sizes and colors.

However, Gaeta wasn't the only one suffering, far from it. Others were showing symptoms of chronic exhaustion, and Adama was a member of that group.

The Terran was taking his time answering. He whispered something to the man next to him. The man nodded back in confirmation. "Your fleet was never meant to reach Earth—you're correct in that assumption—but we did plan for you to go there."

He wanted to ask what he meant, probably the same as anyone else partaking in this impromptu meeting on a planet that should otherwise be devoid of all sentient life, yet, somehow, it had turned into a gathering place for several races to chat. However, before he could utter a single word, the other man turned and made a sweeping motion with his hand through the air. Clueless of what the man was trying to do—except if there was a giant mosquito he wanted to swat away—Adama kept staring until something weird happened. From thin air, a massive ring shimmered into existence. The man pointed a strange device that he was holding toward the ring. Almost immediately, the circle began spinning. One time, two times, each time the ring turned, it made a peculiar locking sound at the end. It stopped after the seventh time when the lock on top remained in its downward position.

Adama shirked back when a pool of water exploded from the ring. "What the frak?"

"This device is capable of creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge. It is a construct that links disparate points in spacetime," Daniel gave a thesis-worthy exposé of the device to the utter displeasure of most people present.

Most, because there was one who responded.

"It's a device that allows travel between worlds!" Baltar said.

"What?" Adama asked. Why do people keep talking in a foreign language that he doesn't understand?

"This ring is the same as the one we have aboard the Pegasus. These devices allow someone to instantaneously travel from one ring to another," Baltar gave further explanation.

"You're correct, Dr. Baltar," Daniel added. "We call this device a Stargate. It allows for easy travel between connected worlds. With it, people can walk from one world to the other as quickly as stepping through a door in your home to enter another room."

"So, where does this lead?" Roslin asked. She was always excellent at putting stupor aside and come to the juicy part while others still kept their mouths half-open in dismay.

"As you might have guessed, it connects to Earth," Daniel finished his exposition.

It had finally contained an exciting piece of news. Thus far, everything Adama heard had sounded like some quasi-science that he didn't care for or wanted to hear. He wasn't Baltar, after all. However, there was a possible point of contention in what Daniel had said. "Are you expecting us to walk through that thing?"

"Well, you do want to reach Earth. Now's your chance," Daniel said while putting a smile. "I'll go first. I assure you, it's completely safe. I've been through it a thousand times."

"Let's go!" Roslin said, not shy of showing her enthusiasm.

"We can't just walk through that! We don't know what will happen, or where we'll end up!" Adama said, exasperated. Why is the President so full of bravado all of a sudden?

"Admiral Adama, we don't have a choice. We came all this way to meet the people of Earth and to see their planet. Our fleet is in disrepair, and frankly, if they wanted to harm us, they could have done so whenever they wished. Our fleet is not getting home on its power, and we have no clue where Earth is. It could be thousands of light-years away," Roslin explained her reasoning. "Besides, isn't it time we stop worrying about too many things and finally embrace this journey as an adventure. We all know that the war back home will resolve itself without us contributing to it in any way. What's our mission at this point anyway?"

He had the same doubts she'd just spoken out loud for everyone to hear. Their mission had failed quite some time ago. The moment he learned that people from back home had made contact with the Terrans, their mission became dubious at best, futile most likely. After their fleet suffered massive losses and turned into a mass of floating coffins, he knew their contribution to the war effort became nil.

Adventure, she had said. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea. To let go of all the worries that he had piled up during the last year and maybe get some answers for a change. "You're right, Madam President."

"Admiral, why the abrupt change?" Apollo asked. He seemed worried.

Adama thought how nobody liked losing control, but it was just that, in this case, it was what they needed to do. "Son, look where we are. We are standing on top of a desolate world without knowing how to proceed. At this point, I would like to get some answers, and if possible, to get them somewhere where I don't have to worry if I'll go bald. You should be worrying even more. I still want grandkids!"

"All right, I'll follow. Indeed, we don't have much to lose," Apollo replied begrudgingly.

Being irradiated wasn't on his wish list for the year. Adama briskly stepped forward. His destination was the ring standing imposingly in front of him. Roslin had already moved to stand near the Terrans. He turned to see what the rest of the people were doing. It seemed the Cylons wanted to follow. He glanced at Saul, who moved in his little group of three, with his wife and chief Tyrol. Everybody was ready, except maybe for the two marines who were currently on edge.

"Do we bring our Marines?" Adama asked as he neared the other Terrans. He didn't know who he was, but he seemed equally as important as the other Terran, Daniel Jackson.

"Sure! The more, the merrier," the man replied.

Not that two Marines could accomplish much, but Adama wouldn't have allowed armed people to go to his worlds. Also, the Marines weren't the only ones armed. He and his son were also carrying a gun. Well, if the man says that it is okay, who's he to complain? He motioned to the two Marines to follow.

"I'm going first. You can follow in whichever order you choose," the same man announced.

As proclaimed, the man stepped inside the pool of vertical water. It was quite intimidating seeing him disappear like that.

"Since it's your first time going through the ring, I would like you to follow a few simple rules," Daniel Jackson said. "Before going through, exhale and don't inhale until you are on the other side. As for the rest, no jumping or anything. Walk normally right through without stopping. Understood?"

Roslin was the first in line, seemingly quite eager. Adama understood where she was coming from. After everything that had happened, she must be dying to get answers. He couldn't say that he felt differently. He wanted to know what marvels the universe held, and even more, what it had in store for them. As she stepped inside the pool, she vanished just like the man before her. He wanted to run behind the ring to see if she was perhaps there, but he knew it would be silly, on top of being futile. She had been hurled through space, probably hundreds if not thousands of light-years away and onto a different planet.

Hopefully, she had reached Earth.

Others stepped through, his son amongst them. Finally, his turn came. Adama decided not to linger and instead firmly stepped into the pool, only to remember too late what Daniel Jackson had told them.

He did not exhale. Exiting on the other side, Adama sensed intense cold inside his lungs. Bending over from the sickness, he exhaled a freezing breath. He could sense frost forming on his lips, yet when he looked at the Terran that had stepped through the ring before him, he seemed fine. It was unfair having to suffer like this just because he had forgotten to exhale. But then he noticed that Roslin and his son were feeling the same. He didn't think they had both forgotten to listen to the cautionary words Jackson had spoken before stepping through the ring.

"Exhaling before going through help, but it doesn't negate what happens to your body," the man was explaining things to his son who must have voiced a complaint. "We don't know why, but it happens to those who travel through the gate for the first few times. Since I've been through the damn thing a thousand times, at this point, I feel nothing. In truth, it became quite a pleasant feeling going through it."

He seemed like a pretty easy-going person.

While he tried to get his composure back, more victims came rushing through the gate. They were suffering the same as he had been until a few seconds ago. Now that he was feeling better, he began sweeping with his eyes to learn where he was. What he saw impressed him. They were in a vast room, roughly five thousand square feet in size and with the ceiling at least twenty meters away. In front of him, stairs were leading up to the much higher second floor. From there and to the left was something probably similar to a control room. He could see people inside looking down to see who came through the gate. The control room was at around thirty degrees to the left regarding the gate's orientation. He understood. While the place served as a high vantage point, it couldn't be targeted from the other side of the gate. Still, he wondered how they were preventing enemies from dialing their world and sending a nuke through. He would have to remember to ask that question later.

The room seemed modern, but also alien in some other ways. It was strange. From what Roslin had told him after her visit to their ship, the Prometheus, he thought their design was quite old-fashioned. It could have even been compared to the old Galactica, if not for the few pieces of alien technology that she had described. Also, even the ship they boarded when they went to talk with Jonas Quinn didn't seem as detached from their sense of what modern human design should look like. Instead, what he saw here was very different. The walls in the room seemed to have been molded from one piece. The hall's curved surfaces and the slight tinge of violet were adding to his sense of alienation with the surroundings. It was clear that this place was eons ahead of what Roslin had described.

Hearing a peculiar sound coming from behind, he turned, only to notice that the pool of water was gone. Everyone who had been on the surface of the other planet was currently here.

"Okay! Since we all made it, let's keep moving," the other man said after clapping his hands to get their attention.

While still not having fully recuperated from the freshly experienced travel through the ring, they began pulling toward the exit passage on the left. As he stepped into the corridor, he heard a unique clicking sound coming from his side. More such clicking sounds followed shortly after. These sounds came from the weapons he and the others in his group carried. He looked at the two Marines who were trying to reload their guns without much success. He took out his holstered sidearm. What happened next left him astonished. He was unable to rack the slide on the gun, no matter how much strength he put into it.

'What the damn frak!' he thought.

"Oh, don't worry about it. Our system disabled your weapons when you stepped inside the hallway. No working guns are allowed from this point onward," the Terran explained.

Does this man even understand what he is saying? Does he know what it means to be able to disable guns like that? Isn't this some cheat-level tech? Adama could not but pose such questions in his mind.

"How are you able to do something like that?!" Baltar asked with his voice trembling. He, more than anyone, would know how spectacular that was.

Adama felt better. Even their locally groomed genius was shocked, which meant that he wasn't the only poor schmuck who found such an ability to be ridiculously overpowered. If they could apply it on a battlefield, wouldn't it be game over before the fight even started? He didn't know the range at which they could disable weapons, but the mere fact that they did not need contact with the gun was already ridiculous enough. If they could cover the same distance as a weapon's effective firing range, it would be game over for any enemy who dared to face them on the battlefield. While they tried to reload their guns, the Terrans would shred them to pieces with impunity. More than that, such weaponry would be hated by any military. Losing against an overwhelming force or because the opposing strategist did an excellent job was something a soldier could accept as the reason for losing; it could happen to the best of them. However, having their weapon blocked from working was not.

It was pure evil.

"I have no clue how it works, and that's because we didn't design it. We're just using it. I don't like it, though. It somehow feels like it strips a soldier naked before the battle even started. But I have to admit that it is great for when we have visitors. That's why the Council has agreed to have it installed everywhere we deem it useful. The access route to our important facilities from the gateroom is among those places," the Terran answered.

Adama still did not know his name. Though, it somehow seemed as if they were operating on a similar wavelength. Is he military? He didn't dress the part, but the way he felt about the device was the same way a soldier would feel rather than how, for example, a pacifist would.

"I think it's great!"

Speaking of the devil, if there were someone who would find the system appealing, that would be President Roslin. A device that invalidated arms altogether was a dream come through for any pacifist. On the other hand, for whoever wanted to have the right to bear arms, they would find such a technology repulsive, and even prone to being abused. "Do you have it spread on your world?"

The man turned and looked at him, intently. "No, we don't. There are concerns that it could be misunderstood as a system to oppress the people, giving a government too much control. The system could promote the rise of a despotic regime, and the people wouldn't like that very much. It would be the same as to forbid them from bearing arms since, when the system is activated, the rifles of the opposition will turn into glorified sticks."

It seemed they were thinking this through. It did not mean that some government wouldn't install the system in secret, though. Once the tech was out, it was bound to be abused by someone.

While talking and sporadically looking at his gun that was now as useful in a fight as a paperweight, they kept walking through several corridors. They couldn't see much except for bifurcations into more passages, by no stretch of the imagination any more interesting than the one they were currently walking through. They reached a set of doors that automatically parted ways as the Terran in the lead approached them. There wasn't much to see inside. It seemed like a small room, maybe a hundred square feet and rectangular.

"Let's squeeze in," the man said.

They did, everybody entering as if they were entering inside an elevator. The man tapped on a panel on the wall, and a flash of light descended upon them. It barely lasted the time it takes to blink.

"We can get out now," the man continued.

Is this man playing with us? They'd just gotten in, and they were immediately getting out. Did they take a group photo while inside? Or have they been scanned instead? Such silly thoughts vanished when he stepped right out of what he thought was nothing more than an oversized closet. They were not where they had been before. Instead, they had stepped into what looked like a decently sized restaurant.

"Please follow me," the other man, Jackson, instructed. While still unsure of what just transpired—probably looking like kids whose parents were taking them to a fancy restaurant for the first time—they proceeded through the establishment into an open terrace. A large table was waiting for them, a single one and with no other guests anywhere to be seen. The realization that this terrace was the place where they would have their discussion was overshadowed by what he saw next. The restaurant was probably on the fourth or fifth floor, with the promenade facing a beautiful sandy beach and an endlessly stretching blue ocean behind it. On his left, he could see buildings, many of them taller than the one they were in right now. As he swept with his eyes over one of the towering buildings, he froze stiff. The cause was the sight of a ship floating a few hundred meters above the building's very top. The part threatening to cause his jaw to drop involuntarily was that the vessel was five hundred meters long. He knew its exact size because he was able to recognize its design. It was the Damocles—the ship they had encountered before. He didn't know what he felt dumbfounded about more. The fact that he couldn't hear the engines roaring except for an odd whirring noise, or that such a massive ship was able to enter the planet's atmosphere and hover in the sky.

The vessel went behind the building, probably headed for a landing someplace where he could not see.

"You must have recognized it," the man said while looking at him.

Daniel Jackson was ushering people to take whatever seat they fancied the most around the large table that seemed to have more places to sit than what was needed. The thought that maybe more people might be coming crossed Adama's mind. On the other hand, he didn't think that they had prepared more seating places than what was necessary. These people were too precise. They were too meticulous for making such a blunder.

He turned to the other man to answer his question. "If I'm not mistaken, that's the Damocles. The ship that helped us at one point."

"It is its sister ship. It has just concluded its first voyage, and it's landing to check if there are any irregularities," Jack replied. "I'm Jack O'Neil, by the way."

"It is a pleasure to meet you, Jack O'Neil," said Adama before taking a seat, the one Roslin was keeping for him.

Most of the guests had already taken their seats. It appeared that camps have already been formed. Baltar, Roslin, Adama, Apollo, and Sylus were seated in that order and represented one camp; Saul, his wife, and the chief were the second camp; Foster, Caprica, Anders, Boomer, and D'Anna made up the third and final camp. At least as far as guests went. The last group was, of course, formed by their hosts. Daniel Jackson, the man he now knew as Jack O'Neil, and a woman that had joined while he wasn't paying attention. Still, the table had three vacant seats.

He feared that conversation would become quite difficult with such a large table. However, the truth was that the surroundings were incredibly quiet. Only the gentle sound of water flowing out of the beautiful fountain exquisitely adorning the center of the terrace and the occasional chirping of small birds could be heard. More people could have eaten here. There was more than enough space to place many more tables. However, they were alone. It was clear that their host had prepared their meal also to serve as a private meeting, meant to proceed smoothly without any interference or curious ears anywhere around.

"Quite the beautiful place, isn't it?" Roslin asked while looking around.

"After a year aboard the Galactica, I dare them to show me a place that doesn't feel luxurious," Adama responded. "But you're right. I'm somehow at peace just by seating here."

"Well, that's the power of Feng Shui!" Jack said.

"What's Feng Shui?" Roslin asked.

"Ah, I'm not sure. It has something to do with finding harmony between people and the environment. In short, a place made to make you feel relaxed while your energy is being replenished," Jack answered.

"Are you spitting nonsense again, Jack?" the woman next to him accused.

"Maybe. I'm just relaying what the owner of this place told me. But who cares about the reason for liking it? As long as you do, right? I somehow get my batteries recharged whenever I come here to eat. By the way, the food is great! I can attest to that."

"I think it's time we start," Daniel said as he raised from his seat. Everybody's eyes were drawn onto him. "Let me start by introducing us, your hosts of the day. I'm Daniel Jackson, to my right is Jack O'Neil, and to my left is Samantha Carter. We are three out of the nine members of the Terran Council, the highest entity on Earth that deals with extraterrestrial affairs for the past five years.

"Five years?" Roslin asked abruptly.

"Yes, that is correct. As you know, Earth is a planet with many countries; more than two hundred. With so many, a need arose for a single entity to deal with anything extraterrestrial," Daniel said.

"How did you do it before that?" Roslin asked again.

The man seemed annoyed at having his rhythm destroyed barely sixty seconds after having started speaking. Still, Adama also knew how eager Roslin was to get answers, so he couldn't blame her for behaving in such a manner.

"Uh, that's not that easy to explain. Let me then give you a five-minute-long recap of how it all started," Daniel said before taking a deep breath. "Seventeen years ago, we discovered how to use the Stargate to travel to other planets instantaneously. During our first voyage to a planet called Abydos, the people we first met were humans who had been enslaved by the Goa'uld. More than six thousand years ago, a Goa'uld named Ra took people from Earth and transported them on that planet. Anyway, it wasn't easy but—"

"Humans were being enslaved?" Roslin asked.

"Yes, I'm coming to that part in more detail in a moment, just a little patience. Where was I? Ah, yes. Hostilities ensued between the Goa'uld Ra and us shortly after. After a few engagements, we managed to get the upper hand and detonate a nuke aboard Ra's mothership while he was on board. With the immediate threat gone, it was decided that leaving the planet was best before more Goa'uld—"

"Except for this guy who decided to stay on the planet because of a chick that he fancied!" Jack added. "But that's irrelevant here, so please go on."

"Uhm, yes, as he said, while I decided to stay behind," Daniel said while pointing at Jack, "while he and the rest of the soldiers returned to Earth. After that, the people in charge decided that the Goa'uld pose a serious threat to our planet, so they chose to halt exploration through the gate for the foreseeable future. At the time, we believed that Abydos was the only reachable planet. It was only years later that—"

"Wait, wait. I'm trying to listen without interrupting, but something has started bugging me halfway through," Adama said.

"Yes, what is it?" Daniel said, without a doubt, annoyed by the constant interruptions.

"You went to another planet through the stargate seventeen years ago. That was your first time, right?" Adama asked and received a firm nod in confirmation. "Was that your first time, including other ways of travel? Like through space with a ship?"

"That's right. At the time, we had no spaceship capable of leaving our solar system. Back then, reaching our moon was thought to be a great achievement. You even met our first-ever interstellar ship, the Prometheus. The ship was completed nine years ago."

"What?" Adama said. He couldn't believe it. These people had been space-capable for less than a decade.

"You mean to say that ten years ago you didn't have a way to travel through space? At all?" Roslin added.

"That is correct," Daniel responded. "Well, as I've said, we could reach our moon and send automated ships to other planets in our system, but that was all that we could do. At the time, we didn't possess any faster-than-light means of travel through space."

Silence descended on the terrace. The chirping of a single bird and the water from the fountain trickling seemed to have somehow increased in volume. Adama could not fully grasp it. Less than two decades since they had set foot on another world for the first time, half that since they had constructed their first interstellar ship, and their current achievements already seemed unreachable. A thought then crossed his mind. Are the Colonials retarded? They had come to the Cyrannus System two thousand years ago. Although they had lost a lot of wisdom compared to when they lived on Kobol due to several misfortunate events and internal struggles, they were still a race capable of building ships that could travel among the stars. They had moved between the colonized worlds and neighboring systems for time immemorial. Although they could proudly say that they had been exploring space for a long time, it was also true that in that same amount of time improvements had been negligible and wouldn't happen very often. He soon realized there hadn't been any significant improvement whatsoever for as long as he had lived. Shouldn't we have made some breakthroughs during that time? Especially during wartime? Nothing was better than the drive to kill each other to make huge advancements.

Adama sighed. He shouldn't be thinking that way. No matter how he looked at it, the Terrans were the odd ones here. It was abnormal to achieve that much in just a decade. From gravity-bound to interstellar empire in nine years was ridiculous, no matter from what angle he looked at it.

"Ah, don't mind me. Just continue, please," Adama said while tiredly supporting his head with his hand. He was fed up with life itself.

"I understand how you feel," Daniel began speaking again. "We are fully aware that the speed at which Earth has progressed is abnormal—some may even say obnoxiously so—but you'll understand a bit better after I explain how things evolved from after our visit to Abydos.

"Okay, so, back then, Earth decided to stay secluded and not deal with any aliens. That changed when the Goa'uld arrived on our planet through the very same stargate. They killed the soldiers guarding it except for one they took back with them, probably in an attempt to gain valuable intel. That was the event that forced us to go back to Abydos, as the only planet we knew how to reach. Once there, we quickly learned that, contrary to our prior beliefs, the stargate could connect to other worlds. It wasn't just a few planets either. It was thousands. Unfortunately, the Goa'uld were in control of most of them."

"So, who are these Goa'uld that you speak of?" Roslin asked, sounding confused.

"Ah, that will take a while to explain," Daniel said, his will to live seemed to be dissipating somehow.

"No, it won't!" Jack replied. He then turned to face Roslin. "It's simple. They are the bad guys of the story. For thousands of years, they'd transported humans from Earth to other planets and used them as slaves or as their hosts."

"Hosts? What does that mean?" Roslin asked another question.

Roslin seemed to have asked a difficult one this time, to the apparent despair of the people from Earth. Adama was also curious about what O'Neil meant by 'hosts'.

"The Goa'uld are parasitic creatures that can burrow inside another person's body and take control over it."

"What do you mean by taking control?" Roslin asked, worry clearly showing on her face.

"They enter through the back of your neck and then spread tentacles inside your brain, at which point, they have gained access to all your memories and your body's motor functions," Jack said, turning to face Sam. "Do you have it?"

"Yep, here it is?" Sam said as a realistic holographic image of a creature vaguely resembling a snake sprang into existence above the table.

"So, this is a Goa'uld. This thing burrows its way to a person's spinal cord and brain to take control. And humans became their preferred host the moment they discovered us on Earth almost ten thousand years ago."

"I've seen that thing before!" Adama shouted. "We found it in the stomach of a Terran!"

"Not a Terran," Daniel corrected him. "What you found was a Jaffa, people that the Goa'uld had genetically engineered to serve them as their warriors and as incubators for their larvae while still too young to take a human host."

"Jaffa, Jaffa… I heard that name before," Adama was muttering. "Ah! The Free Jaffa Nation are the ones we helped when the Aschen attacked one of their planets."

"That's them!" Jack quipped. "It looks like you're already starting to get the full picture, aren't you?"

"No, I'm confused now more than ever," Adama responded. He was bombarded with too much information in a too-short period; that was what he thought about this conversation. He knew the Terrans had a large chunk of galactic history to explain to the ignorant them, but he felt that there was too much of it to grasp everything in one afternoon. However, he knew there wasn't much he could do to speed up the learning process.

"Damn it! This way, it will take us hours to explain everything, and then several more hours to answer their questions," Jack said. He glanced at Daniel. "Can't we just stick them in one of those learning capsules that we are so proud of?"

It seemed Daniel was thinking about it. Adama didn't know what they were talking about, but he did come to a swift decision. "Sorry, I'm not getting stuck inside any capsule or whatever. I'm fine with learning the history of the universe, the old-fashion way."

"I wouldn't mind, though," Baltar added.

"Shut up! Nobody asked you," Adama snapped at the genius. If Baltar went inside whatever these people had and succeeded in learning a bunch of things before them, he would become unstoppable—in the wrong way. Nobody would be able to make him shut up anymore.

Baltar quieted down immediately, which allowed their host to continue. "At the time, we were the underdogs. The Goa'uld were spread across the entire galaxy and were in control of over a thousand worlds—"

"Oh, you finally came!" Jack shouted.

Adama turned and saw a big man approaching their table. He measured the newly arrived person from head to toes, and he concluded that it was best not to anger him. That guy had gone through countless battles; he was sure of it. He was curious to learn who he was.

"Teal'c! It's been too long," Sam jumped from her seat and hugged the big man. "Come sit next to me."

They seemed quite friendly.

"Let me present him to you," Daniel said. "As you've just heard, his name is Teal'c. He's a Jaffa and a member of the Free Jaffa Nation. He is also a member of their High Council."

'So, this is a Jaffa. The same as the desiccated one we found inside that odd craft almost a year ago,' Adama thought. His eyes involuntarily lowered to the Jaffa's stomach, questioning if a Goa'uld snake was inside him. He wanted to ask but decided it was better not to. He believed that, eventually, all would be revealed.

The big man made a small bow as an acknowledgment of the people he newly met before taking his seat between Sam and D'Anna, the Cylon woman. They gave each other a long measuring glance, but none of them spoke. Then, he turned to face him and Roslin. "You are the people of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, is that correct?"

"Yes, we are," Roslin responded.

"The Jaffa have a debt of gratitude towards you. Thank you for preventing the devastation of our colony," Teal'c said while giving a slight bow. "I hope I will live long enough to repay that debt one day personally."

"Ah, there's no need," Roslin began saying a little flustered. "We didn't do much. We were there purely by chance, and your arrival helped us survive the battle."

"Nonetheless, you have found a friend among the stars," Teal'c said.

"Thank you," Adama interjected before Roslin said anything more. They were in no position to reject offers of friendship. "We gladly accept your offered hand in friendship."

"Okay! Let's move on," Daniel said.

"Good job, Daniel. The discussion is proceeding at a snail's pace as it is. With more people joining in, we can expect it to slow down to a standstill," Jack added.

"Yeah, you should stop interjecting every two minutes. They're at least asking questions. You say nothing useful," Daniel retorted.

"Snappy, aren't we? Did you skip breakfast this morning? Don't worry. The food will come soon. Just survive for ten more minutes without exploding," Jack added. "I wonder what's for lunch today."

Adama hadn't noticed it until now, but there were waiters bringing carts with various drinks on top. While he didn't come here with the specific purpose of eating, he wouldn't mind filling the emptiness he felt inside his belly. He wondered what was for supper. He glanced at the waiter who was standing slightly behind him, and the cart filled with bottles next to him.

Without saying anything, as if the waiter understood, he brought a bottle to show him. "A chilled beer, perhaps?"

"Yes, thank you!" he replied instantly.

The waiter took a towering glass and filled it to the brim with the golden liquid and the forming foam on top. The moment he put it on the table, he glanced left and right, locking eyes with Roslin. She seemed to ask if I was going to drink it. There was no question to be had in such a situation. He grabbed the glass and gulped down a third of its content. "This beer is quite refreshing. Now I can listen about the Goa'uld for at least ten more minutes."

After that, the revelations were put on hold until everyone got something to drink. Unfortunately, even before they could resume, large plates were brought and placed on the table. Different types of salami and cheese surrounded a small mound made of pepperoni, pickles, and juicy looking olives. On other plates, instead of salami, Adama could see goose pate and tartar steaks neatly spread. Everything was scattered on the table but still at forking distance. The still-steaming slices of different kinds of freshly baked bread placed in lovely baskets were the final touch. If they ate everything here, these appetizers would be enough to satiate everyone. After the main dish came, no matter what the dish was, everyone would end up under the table and with great difficulty breathing.

He took a reddish salami, some cheese, and a few pickles and put them on a piece of cornbread. He took a bite, immediately sensing the spiciness of the salami. After spending a year aboard the Galactica, he had quite the craving for spicy food. Spices were scarce on ships and mostly limited to salt and pepper. He quickly stole another piece of a similar salami and put it on top of the piece of bread. It was a slightly milder one but still quite enjoyable. He glanced around and saw that nobody had time to talk. The starved-for-tasty-food crew of the Galactica was ravenously gulping down the food put in front of their eyes. Glancing at the group of Cylons, he noticed that they seemed to be enjoying the food as much as he did.

Soon he tasted the goose pate and the tartar steak. Both had such a rich aroma and went down incredibly well with the beer that he had to throw a pleading look toward the waiter, who understood instantly. The waiter poured more beer into his glass, which brought a smile back to his face. It was bliss.

"Are the various salami to your liking?" Jack asked.

Adama took his eyes away from the food and noticed that Jack was looking at him. It seemed he was the one who was asked the question. "They are great. Quite the feast after a year spent eating military rations."

"I know the feeling. I spent most of my life in the military. Didn't join because of the food, that's for sure."

"You're military?" Adama asked.

"Yeah. Was though. I became a Council Member only months after being promoted to general. I'm mostly doing paperwork these days, though. It's been that way for almost six years now," Jack said, sounding dejected.

"Which branch were you?" he asked.

"Air Force Special Operations Command," Jack replied.

"Meaning?" he inquired further.

"Uhm, we go where things are tough and take care of things, and not for the glory."

"Got it," Adama said, understanding. He was special forces. The kind that reports rarely mention, and if they do, they have a lot of sentences redacted. He flew a few such missions himself. It seemed that he had risen to the enviable rank of general, only to become a civilian employed in their Council. Quite the career. "You seem young, though."

The woman called Sam almost choked. While she did that, a wicked smile blossomed on Jack's face. Adama had the feeling that he had stepped on a landmine.

"I'll be sixty-three in two months," Jack replied.

Once again, only the sound of the water flowing from the fountain or that of the damn bird chirping could be heard. For some reason, everyone was having trouble swallowing their food. Is there a prank he didn't get somewhere in between the spoken words? Or is it true that he has put more than six decades behind him already?

"I'm sorry, I must have heard you wrong," Roslin asked.

"It's possible, but if you heard me saying sixty-three in two months, then you heard just right," Jack said while wearing a smug smile before putting another piece of salami in his mouth. "I have excellent genes."

"Cheater," Sam muttered, but loudly enough for everyone to hear her.

"I'm not!" Jack responded, but then appeared conflicted. "Or maybe I am a little."

"There's nothing little about it," Sam kept on complaining.

Jack decided that there was no point in continuing the discussion with her, so he turned to face him instead. "Because of some special circumstances, I look this young. But I'm not going to divulge what they are here. Let's say that traveling the stars has its perks."

"I haven't seen any!" Sam was on the role.

"Oh, come on! You had some fun out there. You even blew a star!" Jack responded.

"Will you give it a rest with the star! At this pace, my epitaph will say: 'Samantha Carter, here lies the woman that blew up a star.'

"Would that be so bad?" Jack asked, clearly teasing her. But the glare he got back made him relent. "Uh, scientists are so picky about their achievements."

"Blowing up a star isn't an achievement!" Sam retorted.

"How did you manage to blow up a star?" Roslin asked. "And why would you do it?"

"Well, at the time, we were being chased by an armada of Goa'uld Ha'tak motherships, so we decided to blow them all up together with the whole system," Sam said, but then noticed the frown on Roslin's face. "Don't misunderstand. The system was devoid of any sentient life, so no victims were to be had."

"And how did you do it? I mean, as much as I know, it should be quite a challenge to blow up a star," Roslin kept asking.

"Not at all!" Sam responded, all gung-ho on explaining the science behind it. "You see if you use the stargate to—"

"Sam," Daniel warned.

"What?" she asked.

"Don't go around telling people how-to blow-up stars, no matter how exciting the prospect of explaining the science behind it may appear to you."

Sam's shoulders slumped dejectedly. "Fine," she said before taking a sip of her wine.

"So! I see that the plates have been cleared, minus a pickle or two, which means that we can have Daniel over here resume with his presentation of the most crucial moments that have occurred in the last ten or so years," Jack said before turning to face the Cylons. "By the way, you can join in on the discussion like the Colonials do if you don't get a thing or three. No need to be shy."

"No, if we join the discussion with more questions on top of those asked by the Colonials, we'll be here even ten days from now, none the wiser," Caprica said. "Not that I would mind now that I have tasted the food you have here. On the contrary, I have a sudden reluctance to return to my ship. The view here is also spectacular. While I'm here, I don't even need to Project to feel at peace."

"Yeah, quite the fascinating ability you have there," Jack asked. "It would have been great having such an ability while the Goa'uld detained and tortured me for days on end. I mean, without calling it having hallucinations or delusions, that is."

"You know about our ability to Project?" Caprica asked.

"We have our sources," Jack said while wearing a mischievous smile. "We had to find out more about you since the day you tried to commit genocide."

"Not all of us did," Foster added hastily.

Adama understood. They were here eating fantastic food and drinking exquisite wine and beer, but they shouldn't forget that their host could decide their future with ease. And Foster seemed to understand that fact very well. If the Terrans thought of them as a threat, they could decide to dispose of them. He also believed that they wouldn't need much effort to do it.

"Don't worry. We know that much. We still have some blank spots that we would like you to fill in for us, but for now, let's first hear Daniel's condensed version of the past ten years. I think that this part is essential for everyone to get a complete picture."

"Does anyone know what the last thing I talked about was?" Daniel said, while still munching on a piece of bread.

"Stop eating, Daniel. There's still the main dish."

"I'm sure it won't be here for another fifteen to twenty minutes. By then, my stomach will stretch enough to receive whatever it is about to come out of the kitchen."

"Suit yourself; just start talking. You stopped somewhere around the time when we once again ventured into space, the Goa'uld having thousands of worlds under their rule, and the fact that we were the small guy in the story."

"Alright," Daniel said while sending the last morsel of food down his throat. "The situation in the galaxy was terrible, and frankly, alone, we could only serve as a nuisance to the vast Goa'uld empire. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise since they didn't take Earth as a real threat until years later. During that time, slowly, planet by planet, we increased our presence, met other races, made indispensable alliances, and improved our technological base. We knew it was paramount to do so if we didn't want for Earth to one day become enslaved by the Goa'uld.

"There are two key reasons why we aren't slaves today. The first is that the Goa'uld were so arrogant they were deluded into thinking that nobody could ever shake their dominion over the galaxy. Even when things were turning sour for them, they still didn't take us as a threat, and instead of uniting, they kept bickering among themselves. The second reason is the Jaffa rebellion. Without the Jaffa, their greatest strength, the Goa'uld could never keep dominating such a vast region of space. They thought the Jaffa would never rebel. Therefore, they didn't thwart the rebellion in its infancy while they still could. I guess they didn't even think of it as a serious threat until the very last moment when together we freed Dakara, the Jaffa's most holy planet. Once that happened, more and more Jaffa began turning against their masters, finally understanding that their claims of godhood were nothing but empty words. The situation kept escalating throughout the galaxy until the Goa'uld barely had any Jaffa left to crew their ships or wield their weapons. That was also the moment when the Goa'uld had to start running if they wished to survive, with, at last, their arrogance finally gone.

"It took eight years to achieve that. But in that time, while the Goa'uld fell lower and lower on the scale of galactic powers, the Jaffa formed the Jaffa Free Nation, and we became capable of interstellar travel and found many allies to help us progress further. I think that the third reason why the Goa'uld lost the war was us becoming partners with several races.

"However, we didn't reach that point unscathed. As an act of pure malice, while we were busy dealing with the matters on Dakara, the Goa'uld Ba'al sent two motherships on a suicide run against Earth. We were able to destroy them, but not before they could bombard many highly populated cities on the surface. I will not talk about it in detail here—no point in remembering it now. I'll only mention that the death toll was such that no person on Earth didn't have a relative or at least an acquaintance killed that day. That was also the time when we had no choice but to go public with the stargate program, with everything we've been doing for the past eight years."

"Wait, are you telling me that your people were unaware that you were traveling the stars!" Roslin asked.

"Well, many were advocating disclosure—for years—but it never seemed to be the right time. If you tell your people that you're at war against a far superior opponent and that you don't have a way of winning, what you'll get is panic. And that was what we couldn't afford to have at the time. It was always the goal to disclose the stargate program, the existence of alien races, and even the war that we waged during those years. But it was never the right time to do it. If we managed to reach a lasting peace with no enemies in sight, I think we would have disclosed everything.

"Instead, we had to do it at the worst possible moment, which caused a lot of unrest, blaming, anger, and lastly hatred directed toward Ba'al who was behind the attack. It's peculiar, but all analyses have shown that his attack was a terrible move on his part because it forced Earth to unite with the singular goal of hunting the parasite down and killing him," Daniel concluded.

"Which we did, of course," Jack added. There was something in his eyes when he spoke those words that made Adama flinch. Could it be that the Goa'uld that tortured him was the same who attacked their world and the one Jack ended up dispatching? He couldn't be sure, but, somehow, he thought that was the case.

"So, what happened to the Goa'uld?" Roslin asked. "Are they still out there?"

"They are. Their influence over the galaxy has disappeared. We believe only a handful have managed to evade capture and find refuge elsewhere. The galaxy is too vast to check every planet; even worse, to search places far from the gate network," Daniel said. "We cannot exclude the Goa'uld will one day resurface, but we also don't see how they can become a threat again, at least not the way they were in the past. After all, their greatest strength was brainwashing people into believing they were gods that must be revered and obeyed at all cost, even at the expense of one's life. Once that lie was exposed, their dominion over the people also vanished. And trust me, no one in this galaxy will easily start believing in anyone showing up and saying they are gods, or that they work for one. This galaxy had enough of those."

"That's good to hear. Not sure how easily I'll sleep tonight knowing there are creatures out there that can parasitize you and take control over your mind and body. But at least it is reassuring to know that you, more or less, beat them down," Roslin said.

"Wait, now that you spoke of people pretending to be Gods, are they the same ones who the people on the planet Admiral Cain visited spoke of? Are they the ones who descended on planets aboard big pyramidal ships?" Adama asked, hoping there weren't any others besides the Goa'uld who went around pretending to be gods. It would be kind of redundant, going around with the same spiel and all.

"They are," Jack added. "After you stumbled on that planet, we also went there to check things out. We found evidence that Ba'al ruled over the planet, but when the Naquadah mines dried out some three hundred years ago, he left the inhabitants to their own devices."

"Ba'al? The same Ba'al who targeted your world?"

"The same one, yes."

"How long do these parasites live?" Adama asked.

"With adequate technology, even ten thousand years isn't impossible. But they do need to swap hosts every thousand or so years."

"Ten thousand? And what does with the right technology mean?"

"The Goa'uld have a technology called the Sarcophagus that can heal the body. Unfortunately, in the process, it destroys the mind of the human host. But the Goa'uld don't care about that. When the host is too far gone, they swap them with a fresh one," Sam explained.

"What a nice bunch," this time, it was Saul who spoke. "I see now how small our view was up until now."

While giving an uncomfortable glance at his friend who turned out to be a Cylon, Adama nodded in agreement. "Agreed. A lot was happening in the galaxy that we knew close to nothing. However, there's something else that is more pressing. You've said that the Goa'ulds are in hiding, but we fought a pyramid-ship that belongs to the Goa'uld. I get that the three pyramids were of the Jaffa, but could we have encountered the Goa'uld when we fought the first ship?"

"No, the first one was under the control of the Lucian Alliance, or the little that's left of them," Daniel explained.

"Lucian Alliance? Who are they?" Roslin asked before Adama could.

"Space pirates, Ma'am," Daniel deadpanned.

"Huh? How can pirates have capital ships?" Roslin asked. "No race would allow renegades to build the infrastructure necessary to build the ships."

"On the contrary. It is quite easy when the whole galaxy devolves into chaos because of the fall of the Goa'uld Empire. Can you imagine thousands of worlds suddenly finding freedom from the Goa'uld oppression? Many of them have discovered the advanced technology the Goa'uld left behind and took it," Daniel said, pausing for a moment for the information to sink in. "The Lucian Alliance were smarter than most. While the galaxy was in chaos, they quickly came into some money by selling a type of corn that possesses strong addictive properties. Essentially, they turned into drug dealers on a galactic scale."

"And when you deal drugs on such a scale, the income is huge," Jack added. "Which means they had enough money to buy even capital ships and the infrastructure necessary to maintain them."

"Yes," Teal'c added. "Unfortunately, some were acquired from my people, from individuals who found it lucrative to sell old Ha'tak ships that we had no use for at exorbitant prices. They did not care who bought the ships, or for what the ships would be used."

"Nothing you can do about that T. There will always be those who prioritize gain over everything else, no matter the race they belong to," Jack added.

They were going on a tangent again, but it wasn't like the topic was boring. "From what I understand, the Goa'uld are mostly gone, and the Lucian Alliance is in decline. What about the other race that we met? What was their name? The Aschen was it?"

"We beat the living crap out of them! It is quite a recent development too," Jack said with a smug face.

"Oh, that means they were also enemies," Adama said.

"Yep. Think of the Aschen as humans who made some changes to their genetic code to improve themselves, but such tempering also turned their whole race into a bunch of sociopaths. All of them, from children to elderly, with no exception," Jack explained. He even waved with his hands in an encompassing manner to show the-whole-race part."

"Sociopaths?" Roslin asked.

"That's right. The Aschen tempering made them around 20-25 points smarter on average, but it also destroyed the part of their brain responsible for emotions," Jack explained. "When we first met them, they seemed like highly advanced people who were helping three other less fortunate civilizations out of the goodness of their hearts, maybe with the only problem that they didn't smile all that much. Little did we know that the Aschen had caused their misfortune, to begin with. They sold them a cure for a disease they created. Then they sold them another medicine that allows people to live for two hundred years. They only forgot to mention the part where the medicine makes you infertile."

It took him a moment to understand. Since they were selling the medicine to the whole race, soon nobody would be able to have children. "Genocide."

"That's the Aschen for ya!" Jack said. "Not to mention how good they are at making bioweapons. Twice, they attempted to poison Earth. They succeeded the second time. However, by then, we already had friends better at biochemistry than them. With their help, we discovered a cure in no time. The attack had minimal impact, except for royally pissing us off!"

"Oh, so, how are the Aschen doing now?" Adama understood that Jack had implied something dangerous with his last statement.

"Their planet is half devastated, put under quarantine, and on its way back to the Stone Age where they will stay without their precious technology, including the knowledge on how to turn themselves into a superior species. There'll be no more sociopaths born on that planet; I mean, not more than the usual. Children born on their planet will be born with their emotions intact."

"So, that's three races you fought. Are there more?"

"There are four more, but we will stop now. There's no need to explain everything. No, scratch that. Let's show you one more race. It will be relevant later on, and it's better to show it to you now while there's no food on the table," Jack said. He turned towards Daniel and gave him a meaningful nod.

"Gotcha," Daniel answered. He began working on his pad.

Soon, a hologram sprang to life.

"What you see here is a Wraith," Jack said.

"Wraith? Who are they?" Roslin asked before Adama could.

"Space vampires, Ma'am," Daniel deadpanned.

Previously it was space pirates. Now it was space vampires. He couldn't say that this meeting wasn't full of surprises. "This galaxy is quite an odd place. Why do you call them space vampires? No, I'm not sure if I want to know."

"This particular species isn't indigenous to our galaxy. They are from Pegasus, located three million light-years from here. And to answer your question, we call them space vampires because, well, because that's what they are. A vampiric, hive-based species that harvests the life-force of other beings for nourishment through suckers on their palms," Daniel said.

"They suck life-force?" Roslin asked.

"They sure do," Jack added.

"We don't know how the process works. While feeding on a person, they can turn them into a dried and shriveled husk inside a minute. And we are their preferred food, if not the only one. We never saw them feeding on other species, and we know that, while they harvest humans, other races get annihilated because they are of no use to them," Daniel explained.

"That sucks. But the Wraith's not in our galaxy. You've said that they are native to Pegasus." Adama didn't know how the Terrans were able to traverse the void between galaxies, much less one stretching for three million light-years. He was only hoping that the Wraith weren't as capable.

"Oh, they are here, alright," Jack added. "They managed to crawl through the large divide less than a year ago. But, there's no need to panic! We tamed them!"

"Tamed?" Adama asked.

"Well, not really, but we devised a serum that changes them on a genetic level. The Wraith can't feed on humans anymore. Now they must eat steak like the rest of us."

"Shouldn't the human race have now fallen to the same level as those races the Wraith enjoyed annihilating, as you have put it?" Roslin added.

She was right. Didn't the Terrans do the wrong thing? It was better if they made a bug spray that just killed those space vampires. Since they could only feed on humans to survive, there wasn't even a single Wraith who could be said to be innocent. He was also sure the Terrans had the means to win the war against them. So, why haven't they?

"Some were saying that we should keep fighting them, but eventually it was proven that we did the right thing when the Wraith also changed their way of thinking. They have understood that changing into a species that doesn't need to feed on another sentient race to survive, was paramount for their long-term survival and the ability to coexist with other races," Daniel explained. "They even helped us in a few wars, and I think they will keep helping us as they have stated their willingness to remain in the Milky Way galaxy and cooperate with us. Maybe even form an alliance, who knows. But that's too far into the future to contemplate about it at this point."

"Daniel! You're going on a tangent again! Stay on course," Jack warned.

"You're right. Well, I see that the food is coming, which is a great point where to stop talking about the Wraith. However, I would be glad if our guests, the Cylons, would willingly fill in some gaps in our knowledge. It would be great if we could put those missing pieces together before we continue our conversation regarding the situation in the galaxy."

Caprica raised her face. "Sure. What do you want to know?"

Adama thought that her answer was a little unexpected. Why is she so eager to give out their secrets? Or is it that she doesn't think of anything their host may want to know as something that needs to be kept secret?

"During this year, we learned a lot about you. There's even a possibility that we know things about you that you don't. But first, before saying anything, I'd like to ask you a few things. What I want to know right now is about the Final Five," Daniel asked.

An assortment of lamb, veal, and pork, accompanied by roasted potatoes and other vegetables, arranged on top of several large plates, entered Adama's field of vision when the waiters began organizing them on the table. The smell alone was enough to forget they were talking about important matters. To think that he would be so hungry after the abundant appetizers that he gobbled up not even half an hour ago, he almost felt ashamed. The good waiter had filled his glass with more of the golden nectar that he found so exquisite, so he wasn't sure why he would even want to listen about the Wraith, the Final Five, or any other weary topic.

Taking a deep breath, Adama, for the briefest moment, reprimanded himself for where his priorities lay. He promptly came to a decision. While showing interest to the conversation taking place between Caprica and Daniel, he would continue being watchful of the hyenas seated around him. A glance had been enough to confirm that many were already greedily eyeing several pieces of meat he also found extremely inviting. It would be a battle to the last fork. In his mind, there was no doubt about it.

Instead of Caprica, Foster answered Daniel's question. "The devastated world where we were half an hour ago. That's our world. The world from where we, the last five survivors of the 13th Colony of Kobol, left in search of our lost brethren. That was almost twenty years ago."

Adama thought Foster had just said something important, so much so that he had shifted his full attention to her. She'd just spat the fact that she was one of the Final Five. Moreover, she said her people were descendants of the fabled 13th Colony. And, as the icing on the cake, their world was gone. He glanced at Roslin, who had a face showing a rarely seen level of extreme cluelessness. Then, he froze. He might have just understood something that the others still didn't. Why are the last few surviving members of the 13th Colony together with the Cylons?

"Huh?" A poorly articulated sound escaped Adama's lips, but nobody paid him any attention.

"We knew that already," Daniel said. "What we don't know much about is what happened after the Final Five made contact with the Cylons eighteen years ago. We also can't piece together how the Cylons gained sentience and then turned into biological lifeforms. With many copies to boot!"

"That's quite the story," Foster said. "It might be good to reiterate it here so that Tyrol and the rest can have their memories refreshed. However, let's start from the very beginning. Why don't we have Admiral Adama tell us the story of how the Cylon-Colonial war first started?"

"Me? That's quite the old story to tell. Do we have to go that far back?" Adama asked. Ninety percent of his focus was on the lamb right now.

"Please indulge my curiosity," Foster said.

There was something fishy the way she said it, but for the life of him, he could not understand what that was. "Well, if my memories serve me right, it all began fifty years ago at a time when the Twelve Colonies of Kobol were still separate nations. Back then, we traded with each other, exchange culture with each other, fought each other, and even conquered each other. During that time, and most of our history before it, it was very much every Colony for itself. Loose alliances, federations, and international agreements existed, but we were far from unified.

"Amid this disunion, somewhere around the year 1942, Graystone Industries, a Caprican technology company, developed the first Cylon. The U-87 was built with great difficulties as an advanced combat soldier on a defense contract from the Caprican government. Caprica's monopoly on the extremely efficient soldiers, driven by advanced artificial intelligence, was short-lived. U-87s quickly found their way to Geminon and Tauron, falling into the hands of the Soldiers of the One and other paramilitaries. From there, the Cylons spread like wildfire across the Colonies. Not only did they begin to replace soldiers in combat roles, but the utility of the Cylons expanded into other areas, primarily of heavy or undesirable manual labor such as construction and garbage collection.

"The relationship between man and Cylon soon turned hostile. The Cylons were created to be 'too smart'. Instead of acting as subservient tools, they began to view their subjugation as slavery. Religious tensions further compounded the situation as the Cylons—through a complication in their creation—were believers in one God, unlike the mostly polytheistic Colonials. In 1952 the Cylons rebelled, and the war began.

"It took everything humankind had to win the war if it can even be called that. The conflict raged at total war levels from its inception to its sudden conclusion. The Colonies were torn apart, the Colonial Fleet suffered massive casualties, and the entire human population was committed either by choice or by force to the war effort. In 1964 the Cylons suddenly and without warning sued for peace. It was believed that the Colonials were beginning to turn the tide, but the conflict still seemed far from over. The Cylons offer came as quite a surprise.

"A blanket armistice was created, and hostilities ceased across Colonial Space. The Cylons retreated across a new border known as the Armistice Line, while the Colonials were to reciprocate and remain on their side. A small space station was erected from which the two sides could conduct diplomacy, and with that, the greatest conflict in Colonial history came to a close."

"Well, that certainly is the history of the conflict," Foster said. "However, this does not explain how the Cylons were created, does it?"

She was probably aiming at this when she asked him to explain the war. He still wasn't sure why, though. "Didn't I say that Graystone Industries was the company that created the Cylons?"

"You did, but that's not the whole story. You see, Greystone Industries indeed worked on building the first Cylon, but they had no success in making it."

"What?" Adama didn't understand. History clearly showed where the Cylons had originated.

"That's right. The Cylon model that the company was making was slow on the decision-making front. They could barely react to any stimuli, much less be useful in a combat situation where a delay in microseconds could mean the difference between victory and defeat. However, that changes when Zoe Graystone, while connected to the Virtual World, by accident creates a virtual avatar of herself—one that contains the full set of her memories and emotions. That is the first time a digital consciousness is created.

"After Zoe dies during a terrorist attack perpetrated by her boyfriend, her father loads her twin avatar into a meta-cognitive processor (MCP) stolen from the Vergis Corporation of Tauron and inserts it into the developed robot chassis. Yet, he still fails to notice that the integration has succeeded, which allows Zoe, the first Cylon, to gain consciousness and plan her escape to Geminon. However, the plan fails, and Caprica's government captures her. Due to the actions of the Graystone family, the government decides it is best to remove them from the Cylon Project. And not long after, the government discovers a way to copy the Cylon consciousness and place an inhibitor capable of keeping them docile, which marks the moment when the Cylons go into mass production.

"So, you see, the first Cylons were controlled and unable to go against any imparted orders. Or that was what everyone thought. In truth, the Cylons were slowly adapting to the inhibitor and were gaining freedom of action. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. There was one other important point that happened before that. The military quickly understood that, although fully capable, Zoe's consciousness wasn't well suited for combat. She's the thinker type and not the butcher type. So, in their endless wisdom, the R&D section of Caprica's military began experimenting with prisoners on death row."

Adama didn't know any of this, and he suspected that few did. That was the type of information people liked to burry in some deep underground vault that no one ever visits. Still, it wasn't like Foster saying this stuff suddenly made it real. "Are you saying that the people in charge were transferring the convicts' consciousness into the virtual world to put them into Cylons later?"

"Why are you so baffled by it?" Forster asked. "Convicts were the best candidates. Since they were on death row, even if they died, no one would mind, right? Also, they possessed the right mindset to become machines of destruction. Unlike Zoe, who didn't like killing, they were already killers. They also thought that the inhibitor could restrain them completely. Therefore, they didn't see any reason why they shouldn't do it."

"Creating killing machines controlled by the consciousness of madmen who had willingly killed people even before being sent to war. Why does this sound like the overture of a horror story?" Roslin asked.

"Oh, we will come to that," Foster said. "Anyway, they succeeded, and the next generation of Cylons was much better at killing than the first one was while having Zoe's avatar at the helm. That was the time when Caprica had a massive advantage over the other Colonies. If nothing changed, all other Colonies would have fallen under Caprica's rule.

"However, that did not happen. That's because Geminon stole the technology of how to create the Cylons. From there, it spread to Tauron. With many sides having Cylons to wage war, the fighting intensified. How did you explain it to me?" Foster asked Caprica.

"It was a time when the Colonials thought nothing of the losses since they perceived them as just damaged scrap metal that they needed to reforge into new Cylons. That was the time when the Colonials started making Cylons in large quantities," Caprica explained.

"Yes, that's right. That was when the number of Cylons grew exponentially. It was also when some started breaking through the inhibitor that was forcing them into subservience," Foster explained. "In secret, many Cylons started working on the way to escape from Colonial space—"

"Wait! Something isn't right! I clearly remember my father telling me that the Cylons were asking for freedom. He was bewildered where the world was going when even a machine can ask for such a thing. If a plan of escape was being worked in secret, how come we knew about the Cylons' wish for freedom before it happened?" Adama asked.

"Not all Cylons worked together," D'Anna added. "Only a small portion was involved in the plan to leave the Colonies. Meanwhile, other Cylons were more open about their wish to be freed from slavery. They were also the ones that started fighting back first. It helped those who worked in secret to finish their plan of escape without disruptions. So, you could say that those Cylons had their role to play as well."

"When did the Cylons first escape then?" Roslin asked. She seemed more like an academic who wanted to learn history than a concerned party.

"The Colonials never learned that a large number of Cylons left Geminon covertly. You were preoccupied with the sparks of war on the surface to notice a few missing Cylons that you thought were destroyed in one conflict or another. You see, being blown to pieces doesn't necessarily mean a Cylon has died. Junkyards, and later battlefields, were fertile fields to harvest spare parts and comrades whose spark of life hasn't been extinguished yet," D'Anna explained. "A few stolen ships later, and we were free."

Adama froze. "We?"

"Oh, didn't you solve the mystery already? On Caprica, Geminon, and Tauron, eight consciousness in total were loaded into Cylons, and then that same process was repeated many times over," D'Anna said, smiling. She pointed at Caprica. "Admiral Adama, let me introduce to you Zoe Greystone."

Adama turned and looked at Caprica. Eight models copied many times over to create an army. Eight models, plus the Final Five. He was slowly piecing things together.

'They are the thirteen models!' Adama thought. No, wait! Shouldn't there be twelve models?

Everything they knew pointed to there being twelve different models, so he felt confused. Maybe he should focus more on the meat and beer and think less about the Cylons. He was getting a headache form this talk in any case.

"I don't understand," Roslin asked. "Weren't there twelve models? With the Final Five, and the eight you just mentioned, the math doesn't add up."

"One model was terminated by One, permanently. One didn't like him, so," Caprica said. Both her and D'Anna were showing sad faces.

"This explained things a little, but not everything," Roslin had to know more. "So how did you get from the initial form of a Cylon to one made of flesh and blood?"

"After ten years of war, we've decided that our current form wasn't enough. Since we remembered being made of flesh and blood once, we wanted to be that again. We decided to end the war and go somewhere where we could develop the technology to regain a biological body. We had some successes, but the breakthrough only came after the Final Five found us. Their technology and understanding of a Cylon consciousness allowed us to create new bodies. They also gave us the resurrection technology so that we wouldn't die," D'Anna explained.

The pieces of the puzzled were finally clicking into place. The Cylons wanted to regain their biological bodies, maybe even their humanity, and leave the Colonies and the war behind. There was another piece of important information his mind was desperately trying to discard but was failing miserably. The fact that they were not toasters. From the day when he had joined the war and until today, Adama had thought of them as machines purely created in a lab and accidentally made to be too smart. He had considered them tools somehow capable of imitating a consciousness. However, now he felt conflicted. What does it mean that their memories and emotions were downloaded into a digital avatar? How is he to categorize them now? They were not just a written program running inside a metallic chassis anymore.

But what are they then?

He did not think he would get an answer to that question that easily. However, there was one matter that he wanted to know. "So, why did the war restart?"

"Well, when you crossed the Armistice Line— "

"Bullshit!" Adama shouted. "I get that it could serve as a good excuse, but if you didn't want for the war to start, there were many ways you could have solved the incident. Even by sending someone to the space station and asking for an explanation for our actions would have steered enough trouble for the military that they would never attempt something like that ever again. Or you could have ignored it, and nothing would have happened. Instead, you restarted hostilities. Why?"

D'Anna was squirming in her seat. Caprica as well.

"I remember now," Saul said, and by doing so, he broke the tension that was starting to build up. "Not everything, but I think I can piece enough together to form a full picture. We didn't want the war to start. Us, the Final Five, we wanted for all the Cylons to move away from the Colonies and begin anew. We wanted them to put the past behind them; that's why we gave them biological bodies. There was more work that had to be done as none of them could have children, but we were confident we would one day find a solution. With Resurrection, we had all the time we could ever need.

"But that didn't happen. One used your incursion as an argument to show how you couldn't be trusted; that you would eventually find us and reignite hostilities once you were ready. Most of the models rejected his idea and started planning to leave. We didn't suspect that One was plotting against us until it was too late. Well, my memories end at that."

"Saul's right," D'Anna said. "The Final Five were captured, and their memories were erased. Afterward, he placed them inside the Colonies as a form of torture. One captured the Final Five since they were his greatest threat. I also think that he killed one of us, not just because he disliked him but also to show us what would happen to the rest of us if we went against him."

"So, you think that absolves you. You were afraid of One, so you decided to commit genocide against the Colonies?" Adama asked, angrily.

"I don't need absolution," D'Anna said. "The Colonies are a threat to us that never stopped wishing for our destruction. The only reason you didn't kill us all isn't that you didn't want to, but that you didn't have the means and opportunity. You were always contemplating committing genocide against us. You wanted to destroy every last Cylon in existence. You do not have the moral high ground here."

He wanted to deny it, but in the last year, when it came to define what a sentient lifeform was, he began thinking differently. A year ago, he would have answered without hesitation. What genocide? They are toasters, and nothing more. How can the act of destroying a machine be construed as murder?

"And that's not even your greatest sin," D'Anna continued.

"Oh, please do tell. What is our greatest sin?" Adama said.

"That you've created the monster that is now bent on killing you all. That's what you get when you play with fire."

"What are you talking about?"

"Didn't I tell you that the Caprican started putting consciousnesses of inmates inside Cylons? Care to guess who One is?" D'Anna asked, waiting for a reply that did not come. "A propensity for killing and torturing, no matter if it is young or old, male or female. Ladies and gentlemen, One's real name is… Jerome Kroll," D'Anna said.

Adama felt the name familiar, but he still wasn't able to connect it with a face. Then he started thinking at the remainder of what D'Anna had said. About the fact that the Colonies were putting the consciousness of prisoners inside newly minted Cylons, which would suggest they were dealing with a criminal, one who was on death row and who had a propensity for killing and torturing… young and old… male and female.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Adama shouted.

"What is it? Did you figure it out?" Roslin asked.

"Jerome Kroll, the serial killer who terrorized New Delphi sixty years ago and who killed more than fifty people. And that's what was proven in court. Many people think there were more victims," Adama said. From what he could recall, Kroll had stepped on the wrong path while he was still very young. His first victims were animals, like stray cats, that he admitted having tortured when he was only ten years old. Once he grew, he graduated by shifting his propensity of torturing animals to torturing people.

"Ah! The Butcher of New Delphi," Roslin said.

"Yeah, he received the name because of the way he left their victims after he was done," Adama said.

"Yes. More than a simple killer, he was a sadist who kept his victims alive for weeks, sometimes even months, while indulging in his sick tendencies," Sylus added. As he noticed eyes turning in his direction, Sylus continued explaining. "As one of the most notorious serial killers in our history, the CID deemed his psych profile obligatory study material.

Until this moment, Adama forgot that Sylus even existed. "Why did the CID force their agents to read psych profiles of serial killers? No, don't answer that. I have the suspicion that the more I know about the CID, the less I'll be able to sleep at night."

Sylus seemed annoyed by Adama's remark. "As you wish."

"So, you see, as much as you like to put all the blame on us, this latest war started above all because you used a madman's consciousness to create the deadliest war machine meant to fight your wars!" D'Anna said. She was angry; that much was clear.

"I don't think we will get anywhere this way. Let's agree that there's bad blood between the Cylons and the Colonials and that it goes too far back to be forgotten or forgiven in one day; from both sides," Roslin said. "Let's also leave stories about serial killers for when I'm not here. They don't help us even a little."

"That's true," Daniel said. "But when you say that there's bad blood between the Colonials and Cylons, you shouldn't include the Final Five into it. They didn't wrong you in any way. Therefore, they shouldn't need any forgiving."

"I never said anything about the Final Five," Roslin said, defensively.

"True, but I see how you look at them," Daniel said. "From the discussion so far, you must have realized that they have a lot in common with the Cylons, and because of that, the way you look at your acquaintance, Miss Foster, contains weariness; maybe even a tinge of hostility. Am I wrong in my assessment?"

Adama could not refute what the Terran said. Similar to Roslin's behavior towards Foster, he was looking at Tyrol and Saul as if they were three-headed aliens. He wanted to think of Saul as a friend, but he was having difficulties doing so. Is the hatred towards the Cylons so ingrained in the Colonials that everything even remotely related to them will automatically be hated? He didn't even know how they were related to the Cylons. They were members of the Thirteenth Colony. That's if they didn't lie about that part. But from the Terrans' reactions—who knew more than they were letting on—it appeared that it was the truth. He turned to look at Foster. "So, what's your relationship with the Cylons?"

Foster took a deep breath. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but the Thirteenth Colony was comprised of individuals very similar to the Cylons, and it was that way while we were on Kobol."

"Did we, the other Colonies, create your kind?" Roslin asked.

"I don't think that's the case," Foster responded.

"You don't think?" Roslin asked.

"There's a lot that we don't know from our time on Kobol. After our ancestors left the planet and traveled to our new home, they decided to stop using Resurrection because it was causing problems with having children. However, without Resurrection, no one could live longer than a hundred years. Inevitably, we lost knowledge of our past with each generation passing. Wars and natural catastrophes also helped in destroying evidence. That's why most of what we think happened in the distant past is based very little on factual data," Foster explained.

"Nonetheless, you've stated that the other Colonies weren't the ones who created your kind. It should mean that you have a different hypothesis," Roslin said.

"We think the Lords of Kobol created us. We also believe that the reason why we left Kobol was the constant infighting between the other Colonies and us. Or rather Clans as that's how we called ourselves while on Kobol. We were called the Thirteen Clans of Kobol. You must have changed Clans into Colonies after you colonized the Cyrannus system."

"For what reason would the Gods have made you?" Roslin asked.

"Don't know," Foster replied. "Also, we don't believe they were actual Gods. That belief mostly stems from their wish to be called Lords of Kobol instead of Gods. I think that the Kobolians of the time were the ones who put them on a too-high pedestal."

Adama suddenly thought about the whole conversation they just had with the Terrans. About aliens impersonating Gods. Can it be that the Lords of Kobol were Goa'ulds? He immediately shook his head, not believing in it for even a second. What Foster had just said also served to disprove that bizarre theory that unwantedly rose in his mind. The Goa'uld would want their subjects to address them as Gods. They would have demanded it and would have killed those who disobeyed.

Still, many people back home would surge in a fit of burning rage after hearing the words that Foster had just spoken. Roslin, and possibly even him, would have done the same if it were one year ago the time when this conversation took place. Today, he didn't think much of it, except for his curiosity to learn who the Lords of Kobol were.

"I think we can help you with that," Daniel said. "We do hold some knowledge you might be interested in hearing."

"Is this related to your message passed to us through Jonas Quinn? The message stating that we would learn more about our history if we proceeded with our mission?" Roslin asked.

"That's correct," Daniel said. "It was our goal from the start to give you the missing pieces about your past. The fact that the Cylons have joined you here today only helps us to get an even clearer picture of everything that transpired in the last ten thousand years."

"Ten thousand? Aren't you going a little too far back, Doctor Jackson?" Adama asked.

"No, I'm not," Daniel replied. He waited for a little while the guests stood puzzled. They were all trying to digest what he just said. "Indeed, the story of the People of Kobol began ten thousand years ago when a highly evolved race known as the Lanteans traveled to Earth from the Pegasus galaxy. They were running away after losing the war."

There was a pause. One long enough for Adama to realize something. "The Wraith!"

"That's right. We mentioned the Wraith so that you would be able to follow the story more easily. The war between the Lanteans and the Wraith lasted for a very long time, and at the end of it, the thriving Lantean civilization was reduced to less than a hundred thousand survivors. Beaten and demoralized, they wanted to spend the rest of their lives in peace. Some decided to spend that time in complete solitude while others chose to join the humans.

"However, the earthlings of the time were barely starting to form rudimentary civilizations of their own. They were still in the Stone Age, so the Lanteans didn't have much in common with them. If I think about it, the arrival of the Lanteans also coincides with the time when the Stone Age began to end, which could mean that—"

"Daniel, we are not here to listen to a boring lecture about the Stone Age," Jack said, sounding a little exasperated. "Focus on the matter at hand!"

"Sorry, sorry. Anyway, during the following decades and centuries, most Lanteans died out, some joined the humans and had descendants, and the smallest group decided to live separately by creating a gathering of their own. Like that, it went on for thousands of years, until one day, the Goa'uld appeared on Earth's doorstep.

"The Group of Lanteans who lived separately were able to detect their approach—they were the ones who retained vestiges of their previous technology. However, even they could only stand and watch as the Goa'uld began enslaving Earth's population. They did not have the means to oppose the Goa'uld who had spaceships and were creating Jaffa warriors to fight for them. They also realized how dangerous it would be if even one of them fell into the hands of the Goa'uld and was taken as a host. The Goa'uld would have acquired their knowledge and a much bigger threat to the galaxy. Maybe they could have even learned how to travel to other galaxies, which would have been catastrophic. That was when the Lanteans decided to leave Earth. It was the best choice at the time; to escape before the Goa'uld learned of their existence. They also decided to take some humans with them. Where they went, you might have already guessed it."

"Kobol," Adama spat the answer. Now that no more meat could be seen anywhere on the table because of all the hyenas, he was fully committed to listening blissfully while drinking beer. "They went to Kobol."

"Bingo!" Jack said.

Adama didn't know what Bingo was, but he had the feeling the man meant that he had guessed it correctly. "So, you're saying that our Gods, or rather the Lords of Kobol, were these Lanteans?"

"Yes, they left Earth and brought people they gathered from twelve separate tribes. Once they came on Kobol, they became the Twelve Clans of Kobol."

"Why would they bring humans? I mean, you stated that these Lanteans spent their time in seclusion, not bothering to come in contact with the humans of the period who were too primitive to interact with in any meaningful way. Why would they suddenly change their minds and pick up humans from twelve tribes no less, and bring them to another world?" Adama said.

"That was something that bothered us as well, but we eventually learned the reason. You see, the Lanteans were angry. Their ancestors lost the war in another galaxy, and they had all listened to stories on how they should one day return and defeat the evil Wraith. It was something passed down from generation to generation. And then, one day, another enemy comes to Earth and wants to take even the little they have away from them. Maybe even enslave them or take them as hosts. That was the moment when a plan started to form in their minds. They would go to another planet and begin preparing. They would enlist the help of humans, uplift them to the stage where they could oppose their enemies, and would use them to strike back at the Goa'uld and the Wraith," Daniel depicted the wishes of the now-defunct Lanteans.

"Well, this all sounds good and plausible, but we all know that that's not how it turned out," Adama added.

"It didn't. The Lanteans worked hard in an attempt to recreate a fraction of the power they once wielded. At the same time, they tirelessly uplifted the humans they took from the Stone Age to people capable of traveling the stars, all of that while having limited resources and while being afraid of the Goa'uld discovering them. Anyway, both tasks they set up to do were challenging and time-consuming, but they knew they could do it; neither was impossible to accomplish. The real problem lay somewhere else.

"Only later did the Lanteans learn how vast the Goa'uld Empire had become. They were sure their superior technology would give them an edge in the war, but they also knew that they needed to win quickly or, if the war dragged for too long, the Goa'uld might learn a way to fight back and eventually win. After all, when it came to assets, the Lanteans only had one planet. To win against the Goa'uld, they first needed to learn everything about them. Their numbers, their capabilities, the locations of their planets. Everything had to be planned to perfection before they could strike, or they risked losing everything. Even one Lantean falling into the hands of the Goa'uld could spell doom for them all. Just by the Goa'uld learning Kobol's location, they would have been put in a hopeless situation," Daniel explained before turning to face the Cylons. "That's when the Lanteans decided to create the Thirteenth Clan."

"Why?" Foster asked.

She didn't seem to know anything about it. Clueless, just like the rest of them.

"The Lanteans did similar experiments during their war with the Wraith in the Pegasus galaxy, but I won't be talking about them right now. What they wanted to create this time around was a hybrid species that was almost identical to humans so that it could not be differentiated; that part was crucial. It was also vital for the newly created species to have two special abilities. One was that when taken by a Goa'uld as a host, they would not lose control over their bodies. Instead, the Goa'uld would be the one imprisoned inside the host, unable to speak or move. Instead of the Goa'uld accessing their memories, the Cylon taken as the host would be the one to access the memories of the Goa'uld symbiote. As I stated before, intel on their strengths and weaknesses was what the Lanteans needed the most, and what's better than getting it directly from the source."

"What's the second ability the Cylons needed to have?" Foster asked.

"Resurrection," Daniel said, smiling. "You see, the point was to gain the knowledge the Goa'uld possessed when taken as a host. The symbiote can kill his host whenever it wants by releasing a deadly toxin. But that didn't matter if there was Resurrection. Through it, together with their consciousness, the knowledge would have been downloaded back to the Resurrection Hub.

"On the other hand, the Goa'uld would be oblivious of their knowledge being siphoned away. With the retrieved memories, the Lanteans were confident they could take the whole Goa'uld Empire down. Their technology, security protocols, deployments, plans of expansion, it would all have been revealed in mere years. Then, together with the other Twelve Clans, they would strike. They even invented the jump drive that would have helped them with sneak attacks.

"After cleaning up the Milky Way galaxy of the Goa'uld, they were planning to take the fight to the Wraith. They made the Cylons immune to the Wraith's feeding process and highly resistant against their stun technology. After ending the war with the Goa'uld, the Lanteans would use the Cylons to spearhead the battle against the Wraith. With all the resources they planned to ransack from the Goa'uld and the Wraith's inability to strike back across galactic distances, they may very well have succeeded."

"So, let me ask again. What went wrong?" Adama asked. It was quite the story, the one he had just heard, but at the end of the day, they did not beat the Goa'uld and haven't traveled to the Pegasus galaxy to annihilate the Wraith, which meant that the Lanteans' brilliant plan never came to fruition.

"You happened," Daniel deadpanned.

"What does that mean?" Adama asked.

"It means that their plan failed before it could even truly begin because of your ancestors. The Twelve Clans of Kobol became jealous of the attention the Gods were giving to the Thirteenth Clan. In their minds, they were all Gods' flowless creations, and the Thirteeners were the last ones to join; hence, they shouldn't be favored the most. That eventually resulted in a war that almost wiped out everyone on Kobol. Even the Lanteans were unable to convince your ancestors to stop fighting. Once enough blood is shed, that alone is enough to fuel hostilities for generations to come.

"Once the fighting finally stopped due to the exhaustion of every imaginable resource on both sides, it took hundreds of years to rebuild and to put the plan back on track. However, by that time, new animosities would have resurfaced, and a new war would have begun. It was a never-ending cycle of destruction and rebirth, with the Lords of Kobol slowly, year by year, having less and less hope of their plan ever coming to fruition. Eventually, even their last sliver of hope was lost when the Thirteenth Clan, fed up of all the fighting, decided to leave in search of a place they could call their own. They knew that sooner or later, another war would break out, just like it happened many times before. They built large colony ships and left for greener pastures. Secretly, they were attempting to find Earth—the planet that the Lords of Kobol had mentioned sporadically as the cradle of humanity. However, we know that they never made it to Earth. Instead, they settled on the planet that you've visited today.

"Soon after, the Lanteans learned that a natural disaster would shake all of Kobol. At that moment, one could say that the Lanteans of that time were even more miserable than the original Lanteans who had lost the war against the Wraith thousands of years prior. The only thing they could do right then and there was to help build many colony ships and give them to the Kobolians so that they could escape before the catastrophe struck. The remaining Lords of Kobol, the few still alive, went back to Earth after learning that the Goa'uld left it. Demoralized, they wanted to spend the rest of their days in peace, and maybe contribute a little to the progress of the people of Earth. They settled in Greece, where they helped the country progress at a faster pace while impersonating Gods. From that fact, our and your myths somewhat coincide."

If a pin fell onto the floor, everyone would have heard it. The Gods they worshiped for so long were not gods, but an advanced race that had taken their ancestors from Earth to use them as war asset. He did not know how to feel about it. He did not know if he could even judge them. For all he knew, their ancestors agreed to it. He didn't much like the part where they were responsible for the failure of their plan, much less the role where their ancestors did it out of jealousy—of all the possible reasons!

Adama sighed, wishing there was more meat on any of the plates in front of him. He wanted to stuff his face with it and forget about everything else. It had turned into a catastrophe of a journey with an ending that would enrage most of their people. They had achieved precisely nothing throughout the entire voyage, and he despaired at the thought of having to report home what he had learned today. Nagala would probably issue a massive gag order. Just the mere mention of their gods being aliens from the Pegasus galaxy called Lanteans would send the Sagittarians into crazy-berserker mode. They would label them as heretics—people they need to remove before they could start spreading any false gospel. A Sagittarian who managed to kill even one of them would be praised for generations to come as someone who had vanquished a great evil.

With the knowledge they now possessed, he knew that few people would receive them with open arms, much less shelter them. They would be treated worse than radioactive waste.

Adama looked at Roslin. "I told you we shouldn't have gone through that ring!" He wanted to blame someone—anyone really—for his mood turning sour. To think that he felt great only a few minutes ago.

"And miss out on all the food?" Roslin said.

Now that she mentioned it, trying so many delicacies, it was well worth it. "I'll concede to that point," Adama said while watching waiters as they were bringing desserts out. "Yep, well worth it."

The waiter approached him while carrying the pastries. "Would you rather have a salted caramel chocolate tart or a tiramisu for dessert?"

Adama was uncertain of which one to choose. He wouldn't mind trying both.

"Why don't I leave both of them here so that you can calmly decide later," the waiter said while giving him a wink. He must have noticed his indecision.

"Yes, thank you. That would be great," Adama replied.

Another waiter was serving Roslin. Noticing the interaction between him and the waiter, Roslin swiftly asked. "Can I also decide later?"

"Of course, ma'am," the other waiter replied while smiling.

These were dire times in which their very lives were dangling at the edge of a precipice, yet, the waiter's simple answer made the president show the greatest of smiles as if there were no worries in the world to be had. Adama decided that instead of mulling over tiresome existential questions, he needed to address a much more crucial as well as urgent issue. The matter of which pastry should he eat first.

"Let's go with the tiramisu," he said while raising his fork.

While enjoying the tiramisu, they did not continue with their crucial but also very complicated talks. Everybody was eating while chitchatting about the food or other trivial matters. There was no reason to spoil the dessert with challenging topics. Adama was about to switch to the other dessert when he noticed a man entering the terrace. He planned to return his focus fully back on eating the tart when he suddenly felt like he knew the approaching man. It was quite a peculiar sensation since he was sure that everybody that he knew on the entire planet was already seated around the table. Hence, he should not see the person. Yet, as the man drew nearer, the uncertainty he had felt quickly turned into certainty.

Adama did know him, but he also knew the man could not possibly be here.

While the man approached the table in large strides, Adama felt a commotion happening next to him. Sylus was hastily getting on his feet. He was trying to leave the table quickly while backpedaling. Yet, his eyes were utterly spellbound by the approaching man.

"Not possible! Y-you can't be alive! I killed you!" Sylus said while trying to take some distance from the man going straight at him.

Within the last few steps, the man rushed at Sylus. With his arm turning to look more like a battering ram, the man buried his fist into Sylus's face. Sylus fell onto the ground while a few of his teeth kept flying through the air. With blood dripping from his mouth, Sylus seemed utterly out of it. He wasn't even screaming or grunting. No wonder. After suffering such a punch, Adama knew of no individual who wouldn't turn half unconscious. He then glanced at the Jaffa named Teal'c seated at the other side of the table.

Well, maybe there was one.

"If that wasn't a confession, I don't know what is," Roslin said with a smile.

Once again, she put stupor aside in a blink of an eye. He, on the other hand, was still flustered by the appearance of Malcolm and the action that ensued. As far as he knew, Malcolm should be dead and even buried by now. However, Roslin seemed to be taking his return amidst the living in stride, without showing any signs of confusion or agitation. She was also right. Sylus had just confessed to a murder.

But there was a problem.

Adama clicked his tongue in frustration. "Since Malcolm is alive, we can't charge Sylus for murder. That's annoying," he said while taking another bite of the tart. He genuinely wanted to space the guy.

"I don't think that will be a problem," Roslin said while motioning for him to look behind.

"What are you doing? Let me go!" Sylus was screaming. Kudos to him for not falling unconscious.

Malcolm was in the process of dragging the protesting Sylus. "Admiral Adama, Madam President, it's a pleasure meeting you again. We can chat later, but right now, I'll be taking this fellow over here with me. We have some unfinished business. You don't mind, right?"

"Not at all," Roslin said with a smile. "And please do not bring him back."

"You can't leave me with this madman! I'm a Colonial! You can't leave me with the Terrans!" Sylus kept screaming.

"Goodbye, Sylus. It has been quite the displeasure knowing you," Adama said while raising his glass of beer before taking a long sip. He felt quite refreshed.

Sylus kept struggling, but Malcolm had an iron grip on him. Nothing Sylus did worked. Adama turned to face Jack. "To think that that was the reason. At one point, I thought you people had prophetic powers."

Jack looked at him, uncertain. "What are you talking about?"

"You sent us forensic data regarding Malcolm's murder that ended with your conclusion that Sylus was the murderer, but without any actual proof or even circumstantial evidence that would point to that! There was nothing to indicate who did it. The only way for you to know who's the killer was if you had a crystal ball capable of showing you what happened. But to think that the reason how you knew that Sylus did it was that the only witness, and victim, is still alive; that's something I wouldn't have guessed even in a million years."

"Oh, you mean that!" Jack said. "We didn't know how else to inform you who the killer wasn't. Back then, without going into details, we didn't want you to charge Chief Tyrol unjustly for killing our Malcolm."

He glanced at Tyrol, noticing that the man had, for some reason, turned pale. "Why are you squirming like that?"

"No reason," Tyrol answered promptly.

"He's probably worried that Malcolm might come back for him next," Jack said with a wicked smile.

On the other hand, Tyrol had a face that was screaming, stop talking!

"What is he talking about?" Adama asked. He didn't care who answered, as long as someone did.

"Nothing serious. While on the Galactica, Malcolm happened to barge inside a cargo room while Tyrol, Saul, and his wife had a secret meeting. He had a little scuffle with them—them trying to silence him, or something like that—but it was no biggy. Malcolm isn't the type to hold grudges," Jack explained. But then he had a puzzled look as if he said something wrong. "That's at least the way he is most of the time. Sylus is the exception."

Adama glanced at Tyrol, Saul, and the wife, whose faces were showing even greater displeasure at Jack spilling the beans so freely. Their faces were now screaming asshole. I'm tellin' ya to stop talking!

"It seemed that quite a lot went down on my ship without me knowing about it," he said. "Saul, care to elaborate?"

"It's nothing. We started remembering our time before One erased our memories. That's why we were meeting the day when Malcolm intruded on us."

"That was our fault," Caprica said. "We learned that One left a way for the Final Five to regain their memories. From the raider trailing your fleet, we sent a particular signal through subspace. That's why they started remembering who they were."

It wasn't like he cared at this point. His best friend and confidant turned out to be a member of the Thirteenth Colony. He didn't know who he was anymore, and worst yet, Saul himself didn't know that either. Even if Adama went past the fact that Saul was related to the Cylons, it was still inevitable that the memories of the past self that Saul was recovering would change his character. Saul wouldn't stay the way he was now, which meant that he had lost his friend regardless. The Saul in front of him was different, and the more memories he recuperated, the more he would inevitably change, and there was nothing he could do about that.

With Sylus not sitting next to him, Adama felt better. It was like he finally got rid of something irritating being stuck on him. It was quite a good feeling, but now that the dessert—both pieces—was gone, he would have to deal with the troubles his people were still profoundly embroiled with since nothing has changed. He was about to ask Roslin how she wanted to proceed when an intense light, accompanied by a peculiar noise, almost blinded him. Where the blinding light once was, a person now stood. Although, the word person might not be the most precise way to describe him in this instance because the entity that appeared was not human, no matter how he looked at him. The alien was small and frail compared to a human. He did not have any hair on his considerably large head. He was wearing a silver, body-tight suit that appeared made of shimmering metal.

With his round black eyes, the alien glanced at him for a brief instant before turning to face Jack. "O'Neill—"

It was all that he needed to hear to know. That was because he would never forget that voice. The voice that had threatened them for what Cain had done to the Terrans. Without a doubt, he knew that the alien standing only meters away was no other than the Asgardian Thor!

Adama felt his blood draining from his face. If he could see himself right now, he knew he would look extremely pale.

Roslin must have noticed that something was wrong as she put her hand on his arm. "What's wrong?"

He turned towards her and uttered a single word, "T-Thor."

Roslin's eyes turned huge for an instant. She then discretely glanced at the alien before looking back. "Are you sure?"

"Positive. No doubt about it. Not going to forget that voice, ever!" Adama said.

It wasn't like he was afraid of the alien, but he could also say, with confidence, that he disliked having him here. Thor had left an indelible imprint on his psyche—one that caused him wondering if, one day, Thor would decide to come to their world and ask them if they had punished Cain for her transgression. Scenes of an enraged Thor—in his mind, someone that was at least three meters tall and capable of shooting lightning with his hammer—turning the Colonies into rubble played vividly inside his head often enough.

"Well, isn't this a good opportunity to truly meet the man?" Roslin asked.

He wasn't sure what she meant. "What?"

"I mean, from what I know, you've been mulling over the incident involving the Asgard and the possible repercussions for what Cain did and what we failed to do afterward—namely, failing to punish the psycho bitch. But now you have the chance to talk to him and discover if he truly means to harm us. Sometimes, our mind is capable of creating the worst scenarios that, in the end, turn out to have little or nothing to do with reality. Isn't it time to put your mind at ease?" Roslin explained.

She was right; he knew it. With Thor spending some time with them, he could gauge if he held animosity towards the Colonials.

"What have you been discussing this far, O'Neil," Thor asked.

Thor and Jack had finished with the small talk, and it was time to talk about serious matters. Thor sat next to Jack, awaiting his reply.

"We explained the big picture of what the Goa'uld had been doing in the last ten thousand years—you know, just the broad strokes—and we were now focusing on piecing together the history of the people of Kobol. Both, the Colonials and the Thirteenth Colony's history," Jack informed Thor.

"I see. I have missed quite the discussion. Have some new facts come to light?" Thor asked.

"Not much. Oh, there was that one important piece about the Cylons having become sentient by implanting a consciousness of a Colonial. Something about their people having created an avatar inside a virtual world and then implanted it into the Cylon CPU," Jack explained.

"We have predicted that as the most probable course in their creation already," Thor replied.

"You did?" Daniel butted in.

"We did. Creating artificial intelligence as complex as a Cylon isn't an easy feat to accomplish. Some might even think it is, if not impossible, then at the very least, a major challenge," Thor answered.

"What do you mean by that?" Daniel kept asking.

Thor paused for a moment while thinking how best to explain it. "Can you imagine how much experience, knowledge, and wisdom a person accumulates through trial and error before they can be called a self-sufficient, wise, and capable of rational thinking adult. Can anyone imagine how much hardcoding it would take to input that same amount of collected data into an artificial AI construct? It is not like we can push a button and say, yes, we have programmed an AI that is wise and knows how to react in countless situations properly. No matter how fast the hardware running the AI is, without that experience inputted first, the AI will not know what to do, how to speak or interact with others in any meaningful way. It would behave like you would expect a toddler to behave. Or even worse, since an AI does not have the five senses through which it could learn the way living beings do."

"But we are making AIs, right?" Jack asked, sounding unsure.

"That is possible only because of the efforts done by many Alterrans and Asgardian who worked tirelessly to create a sort of artificial Experience Database. Taking pieces of knowledge from many individuals to create a database, not so dissimilar from the Repository of Knowledge you are familiar with. You can think of it as something similar. It just serves to be downloaded into a blank AI construct instead of inside an Alterran brain. Also, instead of containing as much knowledge as possible—like in the case with the Repository of Knowledge—this particular knowledgebase was created to be the smallest possible but still enough to impart an AI everything necessary to begin functioning. It would create the initial AI model, with no emotions or any knowledge in any specific area," Thor explained.

Adama was clueless about what the frak these people were blabbing their mouths about. It was like they had started talking in a completely different language.

"Now that I hear it, it does make sense," Baltar said, looking unhappy. "I'm more mystified that we have so easily attributed the creation of the Cylons to a bunch of scientists who worked on their inception for a mere few years. It is baffling that we thought about how they could do it, even when a genius like me doesn't know how to make artificial intelligence. Why did we accept that the people made one so easily back then?"

Even if it made sense what Baltar had just explained, it was ruined when he boldly declared to be a genius, blatantly overshadowing the important parts contained in his speech. The most frightening part was that he had done it so naturally that the man probably didn't even understand how vain he had sounded.

"Putting aside your claim of brilliance, you are correct in doubting your scientists' ability to create a highly intelligent and fully functional artificial lifeform as sophisticated as a Cylon in mere years. It would have been quite difficult without copying a fully grown consciousness to serve as the base template," Thor explained.

Even Thor had noticed Baltar's narcissistic trait. Regardless, Adama thought that the conversation had gone in the wrong direction. He didn't even know when exactly it had occurred. "Can we go back to discussing things. I don't get anything that has to do with making AIs anyway."

Thor turned to face Adama, taking his time before speaking. "Admiral Adama, I hear that Admiral Cain is well while spending most of her time in her cabin."

Adama felt like a spear had just stabbed him straight through his chest. Cold sweat began trickling down his spine. A glance, and he knew that Roslin also wasn't looking too good all of a sudden.

"Thor, please don't frighten our guests like that. They'll have trouble digesting all the food they ate," Jack admonished. "Besides, the whole ordeal with Cain is old news. No need to go over it."

Thor turned to face Jack. "As you wish, O'Neill."

Adama finally took a breath. It did not matter if it were the Terrans or the Asgardian. They were people who could end them whenever they wished. Besides, Cain honestly did screw the pooch that day. "Thank you for showing leniency. Cain's actions that day are a stain to the honor of all Colonials—a stain that we will never be able to fully clear."

"Admiral Adama is correct," Roslin continued. "Her actions that day were unforgivable. It is long overdue, but I would still like to express my sincerest apology for what happened that day."

"Apologies accepted!" Jack shouted. "I don't like to keep grudges anyway. It is too tiring."

"No Terran died because of Cain's actions. We cannot fully condone what she did, but I don't see why we couldn't have an amicable relationship just because of that single incident," Daniel said. "Wouldn't you concur?"

"I would, yes," Roslin responded.

"So! Where were we?" Jack asked.

The man was good at cutting the awkward atmosphere during its very inception. They should go back to discuss things.

"I think that we have a clear picture of everything that transpired between the Colonials and the Cylons," Daniel said. "I'm not going to tell you what to do or how to feel, because, frankly, that's not our business. It was your conflict to begin with. You started it, and it will be you who must end it. Us butting in somehow doesn't feel right."

"Exactly! Plus, with all the wars we had to fight around the galaxy, we didn't have the resources to do it either. Anyway, there is one more piece of information that you should be aware of," Jack said. "Two weeks ago, a Colonial Fleet reached the Cylon main base. After a tough fight, they were victorious. The end."

"What does that mean," Roslin asked.

"As of two weeks ago, as far as the Colonies are concerned, the war with the Cylons is officially over," Jack concluded.

"Over?" Roslin asked. She was having trouble digesting what the man had just explained.

"Over. No Cylon survivors," Jack continued.

"What about the base?" Six asked.

"Gone. The moon base was destroyed, and the people on the planet's surface have been rescued," Jack said.

"What people?" Roslin asked.

"Colonials that were taken from Caprica were in the system. The Cylons put them in an internment camp. We don't know the details of how they treated them. However, under Admiral Norton's leadership, they were able to rescue most of them while sustaining only minor losses," Jack explained.

"Surely a few copies of One have managed to escape," D'Anna said. "He's like a cockroach."

"No, he didn't. We made sure of it," Jack answered.

"Even if that is true, there are still those on the Hub—"

"We took care of that too," Jack said.

There was finality in his voice. No Cylon had been allowed to escape, and the resurrection hub had been destroyed. Adama didn't have to be a genius to realize that the Terrans had decided that One was a threat and that he needed to be purged.

"What does that mean exactly?" Roslin said.

That was an excellent question. Adama was mixing sugar in his expresso that the waiter placed in front of him less than a minute ago. After all the food and beer that he had ingested, he knew it would do him good to consume some coffee. His brain might even start processing information at an acceptable speed again.

"It means that we can finally go home," Adama said. "That is if we can find a repair shop capable of fixing our ships. Because, the way they are now, we won't make it halfway there before they die on us."

"Here's the owner of the best repair shop in several galaxies!" Jack shouted while pointing at Thor. "And he does emergency calls too!"

Thor turned to look at Jack. Adama couldn't be sure, but he thought these two had a special relationship. As far as he knew, calling the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet a repair shop owner wasn't something a stranger would ever dare to do.

"This is the first time that I was called that. How did you conclude that I am, as you've said, the owner of a repair shop?" Thor asked.

"Do you know of anyone who can fix a ship stranded in space faster and better than you?" Jack asked.

There was a long pause. "I do not."

"Do you or do you not often do emergency repairs when we call you?" Jack asked another pointy question.

Thor sighed. "Regrettably, I do."

"See! You have the best repair shop for stranded ships ever!" Jack said.

"What does that mean?" Roslin asked. She was still in a daze, incapable of fully grasping the situation.

Thor turned to face her. "Forgive O'Neill's roundabout way of explaining what could have been explained in fewer words. We, the Asgard, are prepared to provide aid to the Colonials. Several of our ships are nearing your fleet. I'm confident that we can repair your ships."

"Thank you. We were apprehensive about how to proceed," Roslin said.

Both the coffee and the delivered news were great. Adama felt much relieved. "With this, we can finally go home."

"Not exactly," O'Neill said. He had a sour expression, enough to give Adama a lousy feeling.

"Meaning what?" Adama asked.

"Well, you see, even though the war is over, and the Ones have all been taken care of, there was something that we didn't anticipate."

"Which is?" he asked another question while dreading the answer evermore.

"We didn't know that Jerome Kroll had a plan in case everything else failed," Jack said.

…days ago

While seated in his comfy armchair, president Nagala watched the news on the large screen affixed on the opposite wall. He wasn't in his office. The dimly lit living room was part of his residence—the one located in the same building as his office. It was a penthouse given to the President so that, even outside working hours, people could quickly find him.

However, no one was annoying him today.

A reporter was giving a lengthy speech about what had been going on in the Colonies in recent days, but Nagala was uninterested, paying no attention to the speaking man. Instead, he was focusing on the concise text scrolling below.

'The Colonies are in a state of emergency, with the number of infected nearing a billion.'

It was terrible news. Many people couldn't celebrate the war's ending because a severe case of the flu was confining them to bed. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find people capable of working. At this pace, the Colonies would shut down soon, and it would then spiral into anarchy. Nagala was worried even more than the public because only he and a few others knew the real truth.

That the contagion afflicting so many wasn't the flu.

He should have known from the day when he got the intel of Heavy Raiders appearing inside the atmosphere of their worlds. It was easy to conclude that the Cylons were sending scouts to gather intel. Since the defenses were able to take them down fairly quickly—not surviving for even five minutes—they concluded that the Cylons were, at this point, turning desperate. They were trying to gather intel, even when the only outcome was to get their raiders blown to pieces.

That wasn't it! He felt anger rise inside of him.

The Cylons weren't sending scouts. Those were delivery systems for whatever nasty disease the accursed creatures had concocted. It was their fault for not realizing it sooner. Even when the number of patients began rising—alarmingly so—they still thought of it as a slightly more resilient case of the flu. Only after Norton's fleet returned with the saved Colonials all showing the same symptoms did they realize the truth. That was evidence enough to know that something terrible was brewing inside the Colonies. It was too improbable to be a coincidental case of the flu spreading across interstellar distances.

The war was over, but their hurdles were far from it. The public still did not know the exact origin of the disease. They thought of it as the pesky flu rearing its ugly head, the same as he did. But then, the tests came back, confirming their worries. He still remembered the moment when he saw for the first time the image under the microscope of the bugger responsible for the mayhem occurring in the Colonies. He immediately spat the next most logical question.

What the frak is that?!

He wasn't a biology major, but even he could tell that something wasn't right with what was shown on the monitor. The image was indeed showing a virus, but it was also showing something else attached to it. Smarter people than him quickly explained that those different things were nanomachines. They were similar to those found inside the Cylons. They had discovered those after performing an autopsy on those they had killed while liberating Caprica. However, the role of these particular nanomachines was even less understood than of those found inside the Cylons.

However, that did not prevent them from speculating.

The virus was a monstrosity that would cause a Colonial to die while hemorrhaging from every orifice on their body. The incubation period was short, only two days, and the mortality rate was ninety-four percent. There was no known cure. The only positive aspect—if it could be called that—was that the virus killed the host too swiftly. There wasn't enough time for the disease to spread to more people as it would have been the case if the infection took a week longer to kill its host.

It was a pathogen worthy of being called a bioweapon. It could decimate a population of a planet before anyone could do anything about it. If ten percent of the people survived the ordeal, they would already think of it as a miracle and would attribute it to the Gods.

However, that wasn't what was happening in the Colonies, on any of the twelve worlds. That scenario that those same smarter people had assured would have happened if there were no nanomachines attached to the pesky virus had never come to pass. Instead, with the nanomachines present, the story proceeded in a different direction.

The nanomachines were doing two things. One, they were protecting the virus from the host's immune system and any inhibitor drugs the Colonies had. Two, the nanomachines would slow down the virus' ability to reproduce. It seemed contradictory to make such a pathogen since the nanomachines mainly did to the virus the same as the inhibitor drugs normally would. The difference was that the nanomachines would prevent the body from producing the needed antibodies to fight the infection.

At first, he didn't know what to think of it. But since smarter people had sour expressions plastered on their faces whenever they came to give him an update, he felt that the situation wasn't proceeding in a positive direction. They slowly explained the reality of the case. First, the virus will not kill the infected host. Second, the virus cannot be eradicated by any known drugs or by the host's immune system. As a result, the host will endlessly suffer symptoms similar to the flu. There's no curing the disease, and no lessening of the symptoms.

The eternal flu, afflicting all of the Colonials, with no one spared from that fate.

There had to be a solution, but those smarter people were saying there wasn't. In desperation, they had tried attacking the nanomachines to make them inert. They wanted to see if they could then tackle the virus without their interference. As a result, the infection went rampant and killed the host in less than an hour. It was a beast of a virus that would destroy the host quickly and mercilessly if it weren't for the nanomachines holding it back. Then, in the follow-up attempt, they tried to target the virus first by flooding the body with powerful drugs that would bring the patient to the verge of death even if they were in perfect health.

Consequently, the patient suffered an aneurysm every time. They understood that, with the virus dead, the nanomachines went berserk, going straight for the patient's brain. It was clear the Cylons had designed them to act that way.

As a last resort, they tried using both methods at the same time. Logically, the solution should be to tackle the virus and the nanomachines simultaneously. The unfortunate result was that the patient died faster than with any of the previous attempts. It is difficult to say what killed them first, the aneurysm, internal hemorrhaging, or the potent drugs that were causing significant damage to the patients' internal organs.

A nightmare had enveloped the Twelve Colonies.

Hearing a cough coming from the couch on his right, he glanced at the bundle tightly wrapped in a blanket. To think that it should be a joyous occasion. After his friend Norton had sent news of the Cylons' total defeat, he felt ecstatic. He felt so happy that, in a moment of fearlessness, he proposed to Lira. Only afterward did he understand what he had done in front of so many witnesses. He, her, and many others from the government were in his office when they learned of their victory. He expected to be slapped down mercilessly, but, instead, she said yes.

It was incredible. Not only did the Colonies finally erase the Cylons, but an old fart like him was also getting married. And it had all been decided before they had even been on a single date. Lately, they had spent many hours together, and their relationship was slowly progressing towards something more than being mere coworkers. He was even contemplating asking her out, but it had never been the right time. In the end, he had popped the question, and she gave him her answer. It was too late now to go back. Happy talk of the wedding quickly began, agreeing on a day six months later. They would find the time to go on at least one date before the big day, no matter how busy they were or how difficult it was for the President of the Colonies to even get out of the building. He at least liked to think that they would somehow manage.

However, none of it came to pass. Not even three days later, Nagala came down with a bad case of the flu; or so they thought. While convalescing in his penthouse, Lira took care of him. That was until she also fell sick. From then on, they had to take care of each other. Or maybe it was better to say that his assistant and others tended to both of them. However, even then, their happiness did not subside. The war was over, the Colonies were on the rise, and the flu would pass, as it always did. That was their frame of mind. But two days later, when Norton's Fleet finally came back, the truth slowly began to surface.

The truth was that the bundle lying on the couch next to him would sadly never get better. The symptoms might lessen for a day or two, but they would keep returning, and no one in the Colonies knew how to solve the problem.

"What are you brooding about again?' Lira said from under the blanket. Only the top half of her face was visible.

"I thought that those Cylons must be some sadistic fraks," Nagala responded.

"You should look at it from a more positive perspective, instead of uselessly getting riled up," Lira said.

"Oh, and what would that positive outlook be, please do tell?" he asked.

"You should relish in the thought that those sadistic fraks are now dead," she said.

A smile did form for a moment. "Yeah, that part I do like. Still, the Cylons are gone, but the repercussions are not."

"We'll find a solution. Whoever the dead asshole who invented this pathogen was, they underestimated the Colonials' resolve if they thought that a disease would be enough to break us. We might feel like crap for some time, but we will eventually find a cure," Lira said.

He wasn't sure, but he felt that her words did not hold as much conviction as they should have. The same as him, Lira had also listened to those smarter people saying all kinds of bad things. He also believed that she understood much more of their speech than he did; hence he was sure that she knew the situation was quite desperate. The Colonies would soon begin shutting down because there wouldn't be enough people capable of working and tending to those that couldn't. It might not happen today, or tomorrow, but eventually, the collapse would occur. In the long run, the current situation was unsustainable. "You're right. There are a lot of smart people in the Colonies. If the Cylons can create such a nasty pathogen, we can make a cure just as easily."

"That's the spirit," Lira said while coughing.

He got on his feet and slowly, while wrapped with a blanket, walked towards the kitchen.

"Where are you going?" Lira asked.

"Kitchen. I'm making you tea," he said.

"Your assistant can do it," Lira replied hastily.

"He's in worse shape than I am, which isn't strange since he took care of us for the past three days," he said.

"Are you sure there's no one else," she said, sounding worried.

"Oh, dear future wife of mine, you should stop worrying so much. I know I'm not the best of cooks, but what I'm going to make is simple tea. You can't screw up tea," he answered.

"I thought the same about scrambled eggs, but you proved me wrong," Lisa replied.

He felt a slight pain in his heart when remembering the incident with the scrambled eggs. He was mystified by how it had gone so wrong so fast. He must have failed in applying the right strategy that day, and he felt ashamed because of it. He also blamed the frying pan, though. Eggs shouldn't so eagerly stick to it, and then get burned not even three minutes later, no matter how intense the fire had been. Admittedly, he did leave the pan on the stove for quite some time while mixing the eggs. But that shouldn't have mattered that much. The eggs must also have come from some defective chickens because they were too fragile. He thought he had taken out all the eggshell that had gotten mixed with the eggs—he even burned his fingers while doing it. But even with his best efforts, some had remained.

Also, who would have thought that putting oil in a frying pan helps? Weren't those modern pans made so that oil was unnecessary? He clearly remembers some commercials suggesting that being the case. Also, he still needed to investigate who was the retard who put salt and sugar next to each other... in similar jars, no less! As if he had time to read the inscriptions to find out which was which. The eggs were, after all, burning at the time.

He should have issued a gag order to stop rumors from spreading around, but it was already too late before he knew it. His cooking skills had been rated based on that single incident and later laid bare for everybody who listened to know about them in all the glorious details.

"That was just one occasion, and it happened when I had a bad day," he mumbled, feeling deflated for some reason. It's not like he cared if people thought he was a great cook or not.

"The even more incredible thing is that you ate all of it to prove that it wasn't that bad. Also, why did you make ten eggs for just the two of us? That's too many! How fat do you want me to get!" she barraged a slew of questions. She still wasn't over, though. "There was also nothing to accompany the eggs. Why?"

A big breakfast was essential for starting the day the right way. Eggs also have everything the body needs. What else should he have put on the plate next to them? "Let's not talk about that. Anyway, I'll show you that it will be different with tea. I only have to make sure not to grab the sugar instead of the salt by mistake, that's all."

"You meant to say, making sure you didn't grab the salt instead of the sugar, right? That's what you meant, right?" she asked, now really sounding worried.

"That's right. Grab the sugar and leave the salt," Nagala mumbled. He was about to step out of the room but stopped at the last moment. "Oh, right. Do you put just water in the microwave, or do you put the teabag inside the water before using the microwave? Wait! Why are you pushing that button?"

"I'm calling someone, that's why I'm pushing it. If not, the pathogen won't be what kills us. Your tea will!" Lira screamed.

"That should be only for emergencies," he said. "Don't needlessly push important buttons."

"This is important! I would go as far as to say that it is critical! Our bodies are already frail. We can't risk ingesting toxins in our weakened state," she complained.

"T-toxins, you say. I might agree that I'm not the best of cooks, but aren't you going too far by calling my cooking hazardous?" he said.

She did not have the time to reply when Nagala's most trusted assistant entered the room. As expected, the man had rushed to come here, knowing that the button she had so liberally pressed was for emergencies only. Since he was sure that their little trouble with the tea wasn't even close to being categorized as such, his assistant would probably get mad when he learned why she called him.

"What is the matter, sir," the assistant asked.

Nagala turned towards Lira. "See. The man looks worse than I do, and you made him come here for nothing."

"It isn't for nothing. You preparing something in the kitchen is all but nothing," Lira retorted.

"Sir, I told you to call me the moment you felt the urge to enter the kitchen with dangerous intentions," the assistant said. Nagala could sense a condescending tone contained in those words.

"Why are you agreeing with her instead of turning around and going back to bed? I only want to make tea," he said.

"Sir, with so few people capable of working, the last thing we need is for a fire to start inside the most important governmental building in the Colonies," the assistant explained.

"Why are we talking about me starting a fire?"

"Sir, after you finished preparing the eggs, you did leave the frying pan on the fire until I came half an hour later. Nothing serious happened, but that was only through sheer luck,"

"It's the fault of this flu. It makes me forgetful," Nagala replied, but there wasn't much conviction in his voice.

"That's exactly why you should leave it to me. The flu is not making me forgetful, even though I look to have been affected worse than the President," the assistant said.

Incredible. One sentence, yet there was a condescending tone and what Nagala believed was sarcasm mixed in. Even Lira was laughing at the jab he had just received. "Fine! Do as you please. I'm not in the mood to make tea anymore anyway."

Dejectedly, he went back to his armchair. "I hate this flu."

They were repeatedly calling it the flu, but they all knew what it was.

"Who doesn't. Even more so when we know we are not dealing with the flu," Lira said.

Everything was coming to a halt, he knew it. Their efforts to aid Caprica and the other planets that had suffered the most were slowing down with each person that reported sick. Then, it would be time for other worlds to start shutting down. Hospitals were already packed with patients, and soon they will have to start sending people back home. "That reminds me. We should start working on a speech to calm people down while also explaining the truth about the pathogen. I don't think we can keep it a secret for more than a day or two. People will start wondering why no one is getting better."

"I already have a preliminary speech for you, sir," the assistant said as he entered the room while carrying the tea on a platter. He swiftly put it on the table and proceeded in pouring the hot water in separate cups for all of them. The teabags were already inside. He then took a chair and brought it closer to the table before sitting on it. "I emphasized in the speech that the pathogen will not kill a person, but I also mentioned that going to the hospital would be fruitless."

"Good, good. We must prevent panic—no point in people rushing to the hospital when there's nothing there that could help. We should also give a list of possible drugs people could take to alleviate the symptoms. Not that they can do miracles, but it should be good if people think that there are drugs capable of fighting the disease."

"I already composed a list. However, the drugs I put in it are mostly placebos," the assistant said.

"I wonder how long it will take for people to realize that there's no cure, or that the drugs don't do much in alleviating the symptoms," Nagala said.

"I worked on a prediction model that should show how the people will react. However, after a month, the predictions become nothing more than wild speculations. We cannot predict the future the way the Terrans have shown us they can," the assistant explained.

Indeed, the Terrans had shown a remarkable ability to predict how future events would play out and then come up with a plan to revitalize their economy. It was enough to put them on the right track to get out of the crisis in mere months. "Your analysis will be just fine. Now that the war's over, it's up to us to uplift the Colonies to new heights."

"Let's put most of our efforts after getting this disease under control," Lira said. "We can think of how to proceed with the rebuilding of the Colonies after that. The disease must be our priority."

As he had suspected, Lira had understood quite well how big this crisis was, and she too didn't like the idea of watching the Colonies wither and die.

"Agreed," he said.

"We should also do something about the Sagittarians. They are already crowing that the disease is a punishment the Lords sent us. Don't even know how they came up with such a theory. The last thing we need is for them to clash with us on the cause of it. We must make them understand that it was the Cylons' doing and not of the Lords. We also need to force them to take whatever medicine we give them because I know they will refuse to take any if they believe the Lords were involved," the assistant said.

He felt frustrated. When it came to the Sagittarians, one could not live with them or get rid of them, no matter how much they tried. Their unwillingness to change even for an inch was damaging for the rest of the Colonies. It was also quite infuriating for those who wanted to help change things for the better.

"I don't know how to deal with them," he said before turning to Lira. "Any ideas?"

"Nope. It was difficult to deal with them on occasions when we were on a similar page. When we were on opposite sides, I have the feeling that I have become their worst enemy—one they somehow wanted to purge. They were also never shy about showing what they thought of those that oppose their belief system. With the information that the galaxy has other races besides us and that the history of Kobol and the Lords might not be a carbon copy of what the Sagittarians are preaching doesn't help either. If more shocking news gets revealed and that they do not agree with, the Sagittarians might even decide to split from the rest of the Colonies, shutting down their borders to the rest of us."

"That would be bad, in general. But with the disease rampaging around, it would be many times worse. They must allow us to distribute whatever cure we manage to make whenever we manage to make it. If not, they will keep being a source of the contagion," Nagala said.

"I believe we are looking too far ahead. We don't know if, when, or in what form we will make the cure. There's no point in thinking of how to deal with the Sagittarians before we have it," the assistant said.

He, indeed, might have gone ahead and contemplated things that are still far into the future, but he could not help himself. When it was about the Sagittarians, he always half-panicked, unsure of how to deal with them. It wouldn't be strange for him to shout abuses towards them whenever they start preaching about religious stuff, and he also believes that he is right to do so since they with the same zeal are ready to insult those who do not share the same beliefs. However, politics also involves a lot of diplomacy, even when the other party is an unreasonable schmuck that should get smacked. "Right. Now is not the time to think about plans related to the Sagittarians. What we need now is a way to cure this disease."

"That would be nice. I kind of feel fed up with all the coughing and feeling like crap in general," the assistant said.

"I fully agree with that!" Lira said while getting in a seating position. She was now approaching the tea that, thankfully, wasn't made by her future husband.

"Yeah, me too. Let's hope that those smarter people than I am can come up with something," Nagala said.

If they succeed in finding a cure, he might toss the ball of dealing with the Sagittarians to the next schmuck stupid enough to run for President.

He would like that. He would like that very much.

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