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Greetings from Cylon

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Categories: Alan/f
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG
Date: 2000

Story 2 in the "Forever Alpha" series +
1 - Forever Alpha
2 - Greetings from Cylon
3 - ... Et Willelm Ad Pevensae Venit
4 - Schanke Resurgens
5 - Crossfire
6 - Out of the Frying Pan…
7 - The Path To Eternity
The Alphans encounter a Cylon ship during a routine mission.
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Chapter One

Alan Carter was bored. He'd been out on deep probe for nearly a full day, now. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nihil. The only evidence of anything was a single-planet system, nine degrees to port, relative his current position. Fading white sun, its solitary world barren and nearly airless, it proffered nothing in the way of a home for the people of Moonbase Alpha. Still, it never hurt to check things out, and he eased Eagle 6 over in that direction. He looked over at his co-pilot, Douglas. Hhmm. Still asleep. Alan shook his head. He was absolutely certain that Douglas could sleep through a bloody air raid! Well, soon, it would be Alan's turn, and Douglas could stand watch for a while. Then it would be time to turn around, and head back for Alpha.

He'd actually started to doze himself, when the computer gave a beep. Something was just coming into sensor range. Shifting in his seat and stifling a yawn, he took a closer look at his display screen. It was quite far, and the resolution was lousy, so he edged the speed up a notch. After a few minutes, the sensor image began to improve.

"Hey, Doug," he said, nudging his co-pilot. "Doug!"

"Huh? Yeah?" said the bleary Douglas, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. "Got something, Alan?"

"Maybe," replied Carter, trying to fine-tune the sensor image a little more. "Contact of some sort, Doug."


"It's metal."


"No. It reads as refined." He studied the data scrolling by. "Titanium, iron, aluminium..."

"Sounds artificial. What's the range?"

"Uh...187, 600. We're closing."

"Contact Alpha, yet?"

"No. This sun's between us and them. Range 167, 200."

"Arming laser," said Douglas, bringing their weapons array on-line. "Power at 27%."

"Range...159,500, and closing."

"Visual, yet?"

"Sensors only," replied Carter. He adjusted the instruments, and furrowed his brows at the image. It was, unquestionably, a spacecraft. About as wide as the Eagle was long, it was slightly ovoid, or crabshell-shaped. It was, relative to his position, sitting upright, on one "wingtip", one engine on either side of its midline. "Range 140,000 on the dot."

"Lasers to full," said Douglas. He checked another instrument. "No response to hails, but I'm picking up some sort of signal. Very weak."

"Let's hear it, lad," ordered Carter. "Range down to 98,000"

The speakers filled the cabin with a whistling pulse, rising and falling every 1 1/3 seconds exactly, on a frequency of 450 Teracycles. They listened for a few minutes, as the computer analyzed the data. But, the onboard computer had no record of any similar signal, and could make no sense of it.

"Range is now 55,000, said Carter. "50,000. 44,000"

"Visual," said Douglas, needlessly. Out the cockpit windows, the alien machine was just becoming visible. They watched in silence a few minutes, Douglas at last turning the speakers off. "Wooow. Look at that, Alan."

"Yeah. She's been hit, lad. Torn up."

The underside of the craft, for that was the side they were approaching, was torn by a long black gash in the structure. Pieces of debris protruded from it, and something that glinted in the weak sunlight was trailing from one engine pod. The upper pod was damaged as well, giving them a view of its wrecked interior.

"Shot up, badly," observed Douglas. "Still no answer."

"Must be a distress beacon," said Carter. "The same signal over and over again. And computer doesn't read any life forms aboard."

"Not surprising," said Douglas. "Those engines read very cold. Same with the inside. No way anything we know of could survive in there."

"No telling how long she's been drifting, then," said Alan. "Anything else?"

"Whatever she's trailing looks like some kind of highly volatile compound, according to the spectro on it. Fuel, I'll wager."

Alan swung the Eagle around the drifting derelict. The stern sported two large exhaust ports, one ripped open, the other seemingly intact. The hull was pitted and scarred, partly obscuring a turquoise-colored polygonal emblem on the wingtip.

"I read power aboard," said Carter. "Minimal, but there. Something's functioning, besides the beacon."

"Uhhh'" was Douglas' non-committal reply. Around the topside, they could make out some sort of canopy forward. Louvered, it reminded one of a Venetian blind. "Hey, look!"

"Yeah, I see 'em," said Alan. "They look like weapons to me." Mounted between each wingtip and the center section was a long ugly tube. Scans showed it was indeed a weapon of some sort.

"Look!" said Douglas, pointing. One of the engines flashed momentarily, visible through the torn housing. The computer said it was trying to ignite. "Someone's trying to fire her up. But according to the sensors, her tanks are empty."

"Then there must be..."

One of the weapons flared to life, and a blue pencil of light shot out from it, passing close to Eagle 6. "What the..." began Alan, as he banked sharply away. "Someone's shooting at us."

"But no punch, Alan. That shot was only a few hundred watts. Very low power."

"Still, so much for no one on board. Sons of bitches!" He brought up the targeting scope, and locked on. With a touch of his thumb, he pinned the alien, drilling right through the craft, sending debris flying.

"Commander Koenig," said Sandra Benes, Alpha's chief data analyst, looking up from her console.

"Yes, Sahn?" asked Koenig.

"Alan, reporting in from Eagle 6. He's on his way back."

"So soon?' said Koenig. "He's not due for another day and a half."

"Maybe that solar system checked out," said Helena Russell, Alpha's CMO, next to Koenig.

"Let's hope so," said Koenig.

Ever since Alpha's scanners had detected a solar system along the path they were moving, the inhabitants of the vagabond moon had been keeping their fingers crossed. Was this the one? Would there be a habitable planet ahead? Would the Earth's former moon go into orbit around this newly discovered sun? Or, would this be just one more disappointment, one more cosmic dead end? Koenig tried not to let himself feel the excitement, as he ordered contact with the Eagle.

"Commander," said Alan, image broken and crackly. "we're on our way back to Alpha."

"What about that solar system, Alan? Anything?"

"She's a no go, as far as life's concerned, Commander. No liquid water, no vegetation, nothing. Very thin, unbreathable atmosphere. But the mineral scans look promising." The disappointment in Command Center was palpable, but no one said anything.

"Well, that's something," said Koenig, hiding his own disappointment. "Anything else?"

"Yeah. We ran into somebody."

"Who?" asked Tony Verdeschi, Alpha's security chief, at once tense and alert.

"No idea," said Alan, his image a little clearer now, and related events just past. "I'm transmitting our flight recorder data, now, Commander."

"Maya?" asked Koenig, turning to his science officer.

"Receiving it now, Commander," replied the Psychon, nose to console.

"Good. What's your ETA, Eagle 6?"

"Nine hours, 56 minutes, Commander. And we've got a present. We're bringing something back with us."

Indeed they were. Trailing behind the Eagle on a tether was the battered alien craft. After having shot back, Eagle 6 detected no power or atmosphere inside. With his military mind, Carter decided it was better to have an idea of what they might be facing, now, rather than waiting till Alpha drifted this way. If it was from around here, better find out quick. If not, well, they could use any and all technological help, if ever they ran into the Dorcons or their like again.

Fortunately, Koenig seconded his decision. Once back under lunar gravity, the alien wreckage was gingerly let down onto pad one, then Carter headed for pad four.

"I've never seen anything like it, Commander," said Maya, Alpha's only resident non-Human. "The configuration is unlike anything we knew of, on Psychon."

Koenig, Maya, and Verdeschi walked around the wrecked craft, now sitting in the hangar bay. A moment later, Alan joined them.

"You were right, Alan," said Koenig, running his fingers over the alien metal. "She's been shot up, and badly, too."

"Well, she took a shot at us, but I think it may have been automatic."


"Yeah. No life aboard," said the Australian. "Minimal power. I'll bet when we moved in front of her, we triggered an automatic system."

"Commander," said a voice, and Koenig turned. Pat Osgood, one of Alpha's engineers, was on top of the ship.


"Looks like a way in, sir." Koenig climbed up the ladder. The top of the alien craft was battered and dented, and they could peer inside through the hole Alan had blasted. There was a floor, and visible debris. Gingerly, Koenig eased his way through.

"John!" called Verdeschi. "Don't..."

"It's alright," replied the Commander. It was cramped, this ship. Pieces of equipment hung in tatters, and the front canopy was blackened with soot from a burned panel. But what really caught his eye were the seats. He drew his commlock, and keyed the video, giving the rest a share in what he was seeing. There were three seats, all facing forward. Two in front, one behind. And all three were occupied, more or less.

"What are they?" asked Helena, later, in technical. On a long bench, the occupants of the derelict were laid out.

"Cybernauts of some sort," said Victor Bergman, moving along the bench in his motorized wheelchair. "This one is wrecked, as you can see." The cybernaut was badly scorched, with part of the head and chest blown away, the left arm missing. The other two, though blackened and dented, seemed more or less intact. All three were built along Humanoid lines, and plated with a highly reflective, silvery metal. The chest and upper back area was slightly top-heavy, with, oddly, a fine-mesh metal cloth hanging from the waist behind. Even more oddly, each robot wore a sword, scabbard hung from its belt.

"Ugly," said Verdeschi, looking at the face of one. There was a saggital crest running along the top of the head, with small panels on either side. Bergman had one open, displaying its electronic innards. There was no nose nor mouth, a truncated triangular grill in their place, the neck a thick piece of corrugated tubing. Where a man would have had eyes, there was only a slit, dark and surrounded by a raised metal border.

"Sure are," said Koenig. He picked up the wrecked head of one. Inside were thick cables, fiber optics, and circuits more sophisticated than anything he'd ever seen.

"Whoever built it was a genius in cybernetics," said Ouma, Alpha's resident computer specialist and engineering wizard. "The limbs seem to be actuated by tiny servos. See?" He held up a small motor, with linkages. "But there's a hydraulic system, too."

"Redundancy?" asked Maya.

"More like complimentary, I'd say," replied Ouma. "I'll wager these could move with considerable fluidity."

"Maya?" asked Helena.

"I've racked my brain," replied the Psychon. "We knew of a number of cultures that made extensive use of cybernetics. One that was entirely so. But I never studied them, much, and all our records were lost, when Psychon was destroyed."

"Well..." said Koenig, but turned as Victor gave a loud "there". He'd been probing the right access port on the most intact robot's head, and had apparently made the right connection.

Two things happened. The dark slit in the robot's face suddenly came alive with a red bar, about half an inch wide. After a few seconds, it began to oscillate back and forth, accompanied by a pulsing sound. Then, it sat up, head turning this way and that, taking in the entire room. As it turned its head, there was a slight crackling sound, as if something wasn't quite right.

Tony drew a weapon, as did Carter, but Koenig motioned them still. After a moment or two more, it got off the table, and stood up. Wobbly at first, it at last seemed to find its sea legs. It looked down, apparently regarding itself, then up again, at last fixing its electronic gaze squarely upon Koenig.

"We mean you no harm," Koenig began, but the other interrupted him. Its voice was grating and electronic, but the words were clear, if a little laced with static.

"By your command."

Chapter Two

As always, Captain Apollo approached the Battlestar Galactica with mixed feelings. He was glad to be back home, yes. As soon as his Viper touched down, he'd be back with family and friends. Starbuck, Boomer, Sheba, Greenbean. Fellow warriors, comrades in countless scrambles against the Cylons.

But, he always reminded himself, the vast Colonial Battlestar was not, truly, home. Home was, the Lords of Kobol knew how many light-yahrens away, back on Caprica, the planet of his birth and one of the now obliterated Twelve Colonies. Back where his mother, numerous friends and relations, and everything else he had ever known had been wiped out, laid waste by the final Cylon assault that had ended his civilization. For the present, till such time as the huge warship and her fleet of survivors reached Earth, he would have no home.

Shaking off such lugubrious musings, Apollo watched his wingman and student, Cadet Grumio, approach Alpha Landing Bay. Like all of the pilots they had trained since fleeing the Colonies, Grumio was eager, a little impatient, and utterly terrified. After all, his instructor was a legend! Captain Apollo. The Captain Apollo. But, the Fleet needed pilots, and one's fears had to be overcome. And Cadet Grumio, Apollo decided, was doing a more than fair job of it. He listened to Grumio, coming back from this his first patrol, request landing clearance. His voice was a little shaky, but he got it right. Apollo smiled, recalling his own first patrol. Yes, it was going well.

It had been just over three sectons since they had engaged and destroyed a BaseShip, the existence of which they had stumbled onto by surprise. Attempting to locate the source of a mysterious signal, he, Starbuck, and Sheba had found the Cylon warship orbiting a desolate planet. Waiting. Watching. Looking for them.

But they had struck first. Using a captured Cylon fighter, he and Starbuck had snuck aboard, and destroyed the BaseShip's computers, just before the Galactica attacked. It had been hard fought; a BaseShip was no easy prey. But the Galactica had gotten in the first salvo, slamming the now-blinded Cylon. Unable to accurately track their attacker, the BaseShip had been sent reeling, hammered by blow after blow at nearly point-blank range, till at last she'd been ripped open and blown to Kingdom Come.

But not without cost. The Galactica had lost six crewmen, as well as nine Viper pilots. While the damage was not crippling, it did require some layover time, and though the first three planets offered nothing of value to the Colonials, the fourth was another matter. Verdant and lush, it offered fresh air, water, and food. Rich in minerals, it allowed them to restock vital materials, and resume their voyage.

But vigilance could never be allowed to slacken. Who knew where else a BaseShip might be lurking? Or what other potential enemies, such as the oppressive Eastern Alliance of Terra, might decide to shoot first and screw the questions, if ever they met?

Apollo watched Grumio touch down, and followed him on in. They had found nothing while on patrol, but he and his wingman would have to report to the Galactica's exec, Colonel Tigh, regardless.

If only, he thought, as the cavernous landing bay blocked out the stars, if only the next stop was it. The last stop. Earth. It was a lonely quest, this. If only they had something! Something solid. Some piece of Earth, as it were, to hold on to.

Far, far away from the Galactica, one of her deep probes powered back up, Lt. Boomer and his wingman coming out of sleep mode.

For several seconds, no one said a word. They all just stared at the robot, as if waiting. For its part, the cybernaut did the same.

"Who are you?" asked Koenig at last. The cybernaut seemed to take several seconds to come up with an answer, but at last it spoke.

"Flight Leader Falxa, by your command."

"Ah...where are you from?" asked Koenig.

"I am Falxa, Flight Leader, Squadron Four, BaseShip 97H663-R, assigned to Outer Rim patrol, Quadrant Ortygia."

"That sure helped a lot," muttered Alan. Then, louder, "What race are you? What world do you come from?" Again, the robot seemed to take some time in answering. Alan wondered if this was due to damage, or an attempt at deceit.

"I am Cylon, Human. My world of origin is Cylon."

"Human?" asked Victor. "You recognize our species?"

"You are Human," the Cylon replied simply. Then, to add to the mystery: "Is this the Galactica?"

"How do you know about Humans?" asked Koenig.

"Humans are the enemies of the Alliance. All Cylons know this."

"Why?" asked Maya.

"Humans are illogical and disordered. Humans pollute and bring chaos to the universe." The Cylon studied Maya a moment. "You are not Human."

"No, I am..."

"Why are you among Humans?"


"Yes?" answered Koenig, into his commlock.

"Osgood, sir. We've found something in the alien craft, Commander."

"On my way." Koenig clicked off, and turned to Ouma, drawing him aside. "Keep on them Ouma. Try and decipher their programming, if you can. As soon as Kano is through with his work on Main Computer, get him on this, too."

"Right, Commander."

"It mentioned an Alliance, and it has obviously met Humans, before. We've got to know what it knows. We have to know what lies ahead. I don't want us to get caught with our pants down, again."

"We'll get on it, Commander," Ouma assured him.

"Uh...Flight Leader Falxa," said Koenig. The Cylon turned to face him.

"By your command."

"While I am gone, you will obey these Humans." He indicated the rest. "Their examinations are not an attack. Do you understand this?"

"By your command."

"Guess that's the all-purpose answer," said Tony, turning to Maya. The Psychon shrugged.

"And answer all questions," added Koenig.

"By your command."

Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh were pleased with Apollo's report. No signs whatsoever of Cylon pursuit. As far as they were able to scan, the spacelanes were clear. Not, of course, that they were taking any chances. Since destroying the BaseShip, the Galactica had led her fleet of survivors on a circuitous route, hoping to confuse any possible pursuit. Asteroids, nebulae, anything that might afford them cover.

Starbuck's patrol, returning a few centons after Apollo's, gave a similar report. Clear. No sign of the Cylons or anyone else. His patrol, also training as much as scouting, reported only a small, single-planet solar system at the very edge of scanner range. They hadn't had the fuel to check it out, but like the rest, no indication of Cylons.

"Even so," said Adama, Commander of the Fleet, and Apollo's father, "we cannot afford to be complacent. We thought we had lost them once, and look what happened. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into that pattern of thinking, again."

"That's not all," said Tigh. "At least a dozen fighters from that BaseShip are unaccounted for."

"They could never have made it back to Cylon space on their own," said Sheba, another pilot. "Their fuel..."

"I was thinking of their long-range beacons, Lieutenant," replied Tigh. "The BaseShip's transmitter was knocked out when Apollo and Starbuck blew their computer banks. But we don't know about before that."

"Theorizing is pointless," said Adama, holding up a moderating hand. "We've escaped for the moment, and that's the important part." He looked at the time, and sighed. "When is Boomer's patrol due back?"

"He's not scheduled to be back in com range for at least ten centons, sir," said the Colonel, checking his watch.

"Good. Let's pray they've found a habitable planet. After all, I have a promise to keep." Apollo nodded, understanding.


Boomer focused on his scanner, trying to get some resolution out of it. On the edge of his range, he had picked up a large asteroid. A planetoid really, though not orbiting any sun. It was apparently drifting through space on a course of it's own. He switched wavelons, and something at once popped up on his screen.

"You see it?" he asked his wingman, Cadet Bregens.

"I do now, sir," replied Bregens. "Looks like an infrared source on that asteroid. Volcanic?"

"No, the energy signature is too even. I'm picking up some radiation, too, but we're a long way off."

"Do we check it out more closely, sir?" asked Bregens, as the planetoid grew larger on the scanner. It was, as yet, only a dot amongst the stars. He waited, while Boomer pondered it.

"No." He looked at his instruments. "Our fuel's borderline as it is. If this is another Cylon base, we might never make it back. We'll get back, and show the Commander what we've got."

"Right, sir," said Bregens, watching Boomer peel off, and head back for the Galactica. He followed suit, and left the mysterious planetoid alone in the void.

Chapter Three

Alpha's technical crew had indeed found something. Something interesting. The Cylon craft now sat in pieces on the hangar floor, techs going over it.

"This laser," said Petrov, Alpha's gunner, "is more than ten times as efficient as ours, sir. It can recycle faster, and has more than five times the kick of our Eagle's weapons." The fighter's weapon, over eight feet long, lay on the floor, wires and linkages hanging from one end.

"And we've found what we think is a flight recorder," added Osgood, motioning Koenig over to a bench.

"Any data from it yet?" asked the Commander, examining the gray metal rectangle.

"Only bits so far, sir. The programming language seems to consist of ones and zeroes, like our own. Apparently this craft launched off a carrier of some kind, and was engaged in combat when it was damaged."

"She looks like it," said Koenig, looking back at the fighter. "And you're right. She launched off a carrier. Something called a BaseShip."

"How'd you find that out?"

"Victor got one of them working, Pat." Koenig relayed the conversation. "It called its carrier a BaseShip, and said that it a Cylon."

"Great," groaned Osgood, eyes to the ceiling, "just what we need. Another hostile alien race."

"Funny thing, though," said Koenig. "It knows about Humans, and recognized that Maya isn't one."


"And, it wanted to know if this was something called the Galactica."

"A ship, you think?"

"Yeah, maybe."

"Well, we've found nothing like that yet, sir, but we've only scratched the surface, so far."

"Well, keep on it, Pat," said Koenig. "I have a feeling we're going to be meeting more of these Cylons. And they did fire first." He turned, then turned back. "Hey, you coming to Tony and Maya's engagement party? Pat?" No answer. "Pat?" Koenig chuckled slightly, and left the oblivious Osgood to his work.

For his part, Falxa was the Cylon equivalent of confused. He was active, and according to his internal diagnostics program, mostly functional. His ship had been damaged during combat, out of control, and now he was here. According to his internal chronometer, he had been inactive for an undetermined amount of time, and he had no data on the interim period at all.

He looked about him, studying his surroundings. Nothing he saw fit what little data he had in his memory banks on the design of Colonial vessels and equipment. The clothing worn by the Humans did not match the uniforms of the Colonial Warriors, either. He scanned his memory again, but found no data on such garments. He also noted that he had been disarmed.

Why had these Humans reinitialized him, rather than destroyed him? This was not in accordance with Human behavior, as he understood it. Humans always attempted to destroy Cylons on sight. This...this...

Had his database been corrupted? Perhaps his memory systems and sub-processors required further diagnostics.

What he did know, or at least was aware of, was his impulse to obey the one called Imperious Koenig. This Human certainly was in control, acting much like a BaseShip Commander in the exercise of authority. He also found himself know about the female called Maya. Falxa rechecked his memory banks yet again, but found no data on such a species. Nor on the strange digital ornament she wore on her left hand. Driven by an unfamiliar set of motivations, Falxa addressed the female.

"I am Maya," she replied, "daughter of Mentor."

"Daughter?" There was no such word in Falxa's memory banks. "Explain." Maya did so, and by the time she had finished, elaborating on the associated concepts, Falxa realized just how little data on Humans and other species he had been programmed with. Inadequate data, his operating system told him. Rectify.

As he continued to ask questions, absorbing and organizing this new data into files, he watched the dark-skinned Human called Ouma, now joined by another designated as "Kano", begin to examine one of his fellow Cylons. One was wrecked beyond repair. The second Centurion seemed reasonably intact.

"What are you doing?" Falxa asked. Kano replied that they were attempting to ascertain how he and his kind were constructed and functioned.

"Can you help us?" asked Kano.

"Are you programmed with data on your own construction?" posed Victor.

"By your command," replied the Centurion, and began spewing forth technical data.

The planet was habitable, if a little on the rugged side. Oceans, ice, and vast prairies covered most of the surface, and it had an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. It was liveable, and that was all it had to be.

For Baltar, this was going to be home, from now on.

As good as his word, Adama had released the traitorous Colonial in return for his help in destroying the BaseShip. That done, it was time to pay up, and so here he was standing in an unnamed valley, on an unnamed planet, watching a river flow by as his soon-to-be ex-captors unloaded the shuttle containing the provisions and shelter he'd been promised.

How far he'd come, he mused. Once Count Baltar, business tycoon, member of the Colonial Council of the Twelve and Commander of the Battlestar Pacifica, he'd sold out his own race. He'd decided that the Colonies could never win the millenium-long war against the Cylon Alliance, and so, to make sure he was on the winning side, he had secretly conspired with them to make the Colonial government a false offer of peace. The Colonies, weary of war, had accepted, and the bulk of the Colonial Fleet, including the President and the Council, were lured to an "armistice signing", in reality an ambush, from which only the wary Adama and the Galactica escaped.

But the Cylons had no intention of honoring their word to Baltar, either. His Colony, promised to him in return for his treason, was destroyed as well, and the Cylon Imperious Leader ordered his death, quoting the Cylon credo-

"So long as one Human remains alive, the Alliance is threatened."

Only the Leader's destruction pursuing the Colonials, in the obliteration of the mining planet Carillon, and the accession of a new Imperious Leader saved his life. One of the Leader's advisors, Lucifer, had counseled saving Baltar, theorizing it was smart to "set a Human to catch a Human". Of course, there was a catch...

Find the Galactica.

Being given a BaseShip, an unprecedented move, he had pursued Adama across space, time and again having his quarry slip through his fingers. Failure after failure, humiliation after humiliation. It had all taken its toll on Baltar, till, his mind bent by the power of the demonic Count Iblis, he had surrendered to Adama, never after able to exactly say why.

Since then, he had been a thorn in Adama's side, plotting escapes and other mischief, but he'd certainly had enough of his cell. Thankfully, he told himself, the Colonies had no death penalty.

He looked around him, again.


"It's better than the prison barge," Adama had said. Baltar could almost hear the words, even now. He turned. The supplies were almost out.

Along with the convicts. Yes. Adama had decided to take the opportunity to clean out the prison barge, and give the cons aboard a choice. Remain there for the rest of their sentences, life in some cases, or take their chances on a new world. Of the nineteen left aboard the barge, eighteen prisoners, eight men and ten women, murderers and cutthroats all, had taken him up on it.

Of course, Adama had neglected to tell Baltar about this little detail. The Colonies may not have had capital punishment, but perhaps justice would, at last, catch up with Count Baltar.


"Yes, Sahn?" replied Koenig, in Command Center.

"Something on the long-range scanner, sir. Very faint."

"Let's see it," said Koenig, at once alert. Up on the screen, Sahn put the images from the sensor scans. Against the background of stars, there were two objects. "Enhancement?"

"Computer is working on it," replied Yasko, sitting in for Maya. "Results in a few moments, Commander."

They watched as the images slowly resolved. Two objects, small and sleek, had passed close to Alpha. According to the data, they were artificial, and under power. As the image improved, it was obvious that they were looking at fighter craft of some sort.

But whose?

"Range?" asked Koenig.

"Just under two A.U., sir," said Yasko. "They appear to be banking away, sir. Increase in infrared emissions."

"Firing their engines," said Koenig. "Sounds like some sort of recon. Any signals?"

"None, sir," said Sahn, scanning her board.

"But they did scan us," said Yasko. "We were swept by some sort of sensors."

"Anything more from the computer?" asked Koenig. Just then Tony came in, and John brought him up to date. The computer rendered forth its best possible image on the interlopers. Both men stared at the hardcopies. Sleek craft, utterly unlike the Cylon they had, it sported a narrow nose, three engines in back, and a cockpit large enough for only one occupant. As to its mode of power, it had been too far away for any useful data there, or for information on life aboard. Now they were gone, beyond range.

"I guess we weren't worth the look," said Verdeschi. "Not that I mind, John. After all we've been through, of late. I don't want any more junk coming between Maya and I."

"Yeah, maybe," replied Koenig, thoughtfully.

The runaway Moon continued on, at last coming into range of the lifeless planet Alan and Douglas had surveyed. Alpha's sensors on alert, they detected no other presences, here. Certainly, no more Cylons. Alpha's course through the system would take it much closer to the planet than its dying sun, and they would be in range for almost a day. Detecting mineral deposits below, Koenig sent down teams to wrest from this nameless world what they needed in the time they had. Native copper, germanium, uranium, bauxite, sulpher, and a petroleum-like substance oozing from fissures that could perhaps be processed into plastics.


As the teams worked, Koenig and his staff again pondered the Cylon. Where had it come from? Further analysis of the flight recorder had yielded a wealth of data, but the navigation and coordinate system used was entirely unfamiliar, and had yet to be fully deciphered. But, from what they could determine, the Cylon had entered this system from roughly the direction they were drifting, and ten degrees above their plane.

"The fighter was damaged in combat," said Osgood, in the hangar, sitting in front of a monitor. Data from the Cylon ship scrolled by on his screen. "Its throttles were stuck full open, and it just roared on on the one engine, till it ran out of fuel. It just kept on drifting, after that, till Alan found it."

"Any idea how far, or how long, Pat?"

"Not yet, Commander," replied Osgood. "But this engine." He led Koenig to the surviving power plant, now hoisted onto a bench. "Man oh man. You want to talk about advanced, Commander."

"How advanced?"

"She makes our Eagle engines look like the Wright Brothers Flyer, next to an F-14," said Carter, looking the engine over. "The response time is more than 80% faster, according to the computer."

"What fuels it?" asked Koenig.

"Well, the tanks were empty," said Osgood, "but we found traces. It appears to be a derivative of jarosite, Commander."

"Which is?"

"A highly volatile mineral. And if our prelim on this baby is right," he said, indicating the fighter body, "she's got 23 times the kick of our Eagles, to the floor." Koenig whistled, and looked at the fighter. "When can I see the flight recorder data?"

"We managed to download it to Main Computer. Kano's got it now, and he and Maya are working on enhancement."

"Good work, guys," said Koenig. "I'm going to talk to that Cylon again."

"Good idea, Commander," said Douglas, sitting in one of the fighter's removed seats, and indicating the wreck. "After all, a ship that powerful. I'd like to know who it was who beat them."

Once Baltar and his fellow cons were settled on their new world, the Colonial Fleet resumed its voyage. For the next two days, all was well, till a long-range patrol picked up signs of an unstable star directly in the Galactica's flight path. An unstable binary, in fact. Two swollen red giant suns, in orbit about each other, all planets void of life. As they drew closer, the scientific minds aboard the Battlestar jumped at the opportunity to study this phenomenon, gleefully lapping up the data streaming in from the scanners.

Then, they got worried.

BaseShip 97H669-F signaled again, but received no answer. BaseShip 97H663-R was due to be relieved, but had not responded. In fact, there had been no communication from it since it had entered Quadrant Ortygia.


Base Commander Syphax mulled this as he entered his Control Center. True, this region was far out of communications range with Cylon, but not the Border Territories. The Galactica was thought to be heading into this general area of space, part of the reason for the others being here. Had the other ship, an older vessel and scheduled for refit, encountered the Human vermin?

"Status?" requested Syphax.

"No contact with 97H663-R," answered one of the Centurions. "All channels clear."

"Scans?" asked Syphax, turning to another underling.

"All clear ahead. No sign of any vessels."

"Continue at full speed, until we reach the last reported position of the..."

"By your command," interrupted the scan Centurion. "Scanners indicate spacecraft directly ahead."

"Identity?" demanded Syphax.

"A Raider."




"Six centons."

"Slow to intercept," ordered Syphax. "Contact the fighter."

"By your command."

"What is it?" asked Koenig, next morning, as he entered Command Center. Maya had called him, as he was about to leave his quarters, excited and worried.

"A star, Commander," said the Psychon. She called up a graphic on her screen. "A red-giant binary, orbiting a common center. And, we're heading directly that way." He looked at it.

"I see," said Koenig. "But what...uh oh."

"Exactly, Commander. I put the computer on it, but I have no doubt as to the results." Maya straightened up. "One of those stars is going to go supernova, soon."

Chapter Four

"There's nothing we can do," said Maya, later, in a Command Conference. "We cannot change Alpha's trajectory, and our course will bring us to just within one A.U. of the binary."

"How long?" asked Helena Russell and Tony Verdeschi at once.

"Hard to say," replied Maya. "But we were very advanced in astrophysics on Psychon. Applying Mencom's Theorem to the available data, I believe that the star will explode in less than 30 of your Earth days."

"Will we be past it, by then?" asked Helena, almost unconsciously putting a hand on John's arm.

"If our velocity data is correct," said Victor, "yes. And the closer we get, the faster we'll move. Of course..."

Yes, of course, thought Koenig. Alphas ever-vexing problem. Velocity. Ever since Breakaway, one problem that had confounded the best minds here, not to mention the computer, was the Moon's actual speed. When they had so abruptly departed Earth, Victor had initially calculated their velocity at approximately 34,000-40,000 miles per hour. The next check gave a result of nearly 70% the speed of light, the one after that 90%! Then, virtually dead still, then the one after that barely 10,000...

In short, their true speed was unknown, regardless of who did the checks, or the methods employed. Whenever Alpha approached a planetary system, the Moon's course and speed in relation to the other bodies could be calculated easily. The time taken to transit a system, the changes in their course due to a star or planet's gravity well, the effect of the Moon's gravity on the bodies they passed, all that tallied out with no surprises.

But travel time between the stars did not fit! In theory, they should not even have passed the distance to Alpha Centauri yet, a mere 4.3 LY from Earth. But, they had encountered their first extra-solar planet within just days of Breakaway. Many theories had been floated, and sunk, to account for this. None had panned out, and at last they had given up on it, just accepting the unpleasant fact that the rogue Moon would go on, recking nothing of physics or celestial mechanics, carrying them on this endless cosmic adventure.

Trouble was, they couldn't steer the bloody thing!

"Okay," said Koenig, "we do what we can. Helena," he turned to Alpha's CMO, and now his wife, "double check everything down in the deep shelters, in case we have to ride anything out the hard way. Every bit of medical paraphernalia, every spare morsel of food, all of it."

"Right, John."

"Maya, Victor, keep on those calculations. See if you can refine the projections on the red-giant."

"Already on it, John," replied the old academic.

"Pat," Koenig went on, turning to Osgood, "any more from our Cylon friend?"

"Well, we think we can repair the second one, from parts of the third. The first one has given us a lot of technical data, and seems willing to help us analyze his ship and equipment."


"And he's bloody strong too, Commander," said Alan. "He helps us move and shift equipment on order. No complaints."

"And he's told us a lot about this Cylon Alliance," added Tony. "They sound worse than the Dorcons. Scares the hell out of me, let me tell you."

BaseShip 97H699-F scanned the system wherein the other ship had encountered the Galactica. There was nothing. Nothing but debris, slowly spreading out in orbit about the third planet.

The crew of the recovered fighter had been debriefed. After the destruction of their carrier, they had eluded the Vipers, and headed for the nearest Cylon base, continuing on till they had run out of fuel. Broadcasting their distress beacon, they had coasted on, till the power died away.

So, thought Syphax. The clever, vile Humans had done it, once more. Destroyed a BaseShip, most of its fighters, and escaped! Had he been so programmed, Syphax would have kicked something, or cursed. But, fortunately for his subordinates, Cylons of his series were not so programmed.

They are, however, tenacious. After thoroughly scanning the wreckage and the entire system, he at last detected traces of exhaust from the Colonial Fleet, on a course out of this system. Launching a fighter patrol to scout ahead, he set off in pursuit.

Though barely sentient by Human standards, Falxa's Cylon brain was faster than Alpha's X-5 computer by more than 19%, much to the wailing and gnashing of teeth of David Kano. Once she had realized this, Maya, with caution, made use of him.

The computer from the wrecked fighter had also shown itself to be a boon. Though built solely for navigation and attack, it was leagues ahead of the best astrogation hardware in the Eagles. But the best part, so Koenig thought, was the ship's ID chart.

Hardwired into the unit was an enormous collection of data on ships of all types, most of them according to Falxa, enemies of the Cylons.

About the same time they got the ship's computer up and running, the second Cylon was reactivated as well. Like Falxa, it stood up and looked around, but this one demanded to know where it was. Of course, it had never heard of Moonbase Alpha, and Ouma had to shut it down, when it threatened violence, telling them that they would be destroyed, and that resistance was futile.

On the screen in Command center, the red giant was slightly larger, now, as Alpha drew ever closer to this new peril. They were heading straight into the heart of it, and the predictions hadn't gotten any rosier.

But the binary wasn't the only celestial object they could detect of interest. There were other stars, closer though not on the same vector. Alpha's sensors, however, had never been designed with deep space travel in mind, and their effective range was little over one A.U. So, Koenig sent Eagles out to probe them. If the binary blew, and there was time, perhaps a habitable planet could be found to evacuate to. As the Eagles lifted off on their respective missions, Alpha's technical crew kept at it with the Cylon fighter. For his part, Falxa continued to work with the Alphas, obediently performing all tasks required.

And trying to remember what it was about Humans that seemed to be missing from his programming.

Once more altering course, the Galactica led the fleet away from the hideously bloated suns, towards a star a few degrees to port. Powerful as she was, Adama knew that there was no way that the Colonial Battlestar could survive the massive shock waves that a supernova would generate. So, once more they had to take a detour, on the course to Earth that they had followed for almost a yahren now. Once through this sector, they could resume course, as if nothing had happened.

Syphax watched, as the bloated suns grew slowly larger on his command screen. So, the wily Adama was making for a violent spatial phenomenon, no doubt hoping that the violent energies therein would serve to obscure all trace of the Colonial Fleet.

Well, Syphax was no fool. He saw right through the Human leader's scheme, clever as it was. His ship's vast historical database held information on myriad past encounters with the Human warriors. This was an old trick, and Syphax would not fall for it. He would follow Adama, for as long as it took.

He would not fail.

Bill Fraser felt his pulse jump, as he read what the computer had to tell him. The system ahead had four planets, orbiting a G-2 binary sun. The fourth planet read out as fairly earthlike, and sported a moon nearly the size of Alpha.

"Does that look good, or what?" asked Jim Haines, his co-pilot.

"Sure does," said Fraser, nosing Eagle 16 towards the planet. "Yeah. 68% seas, polar caps a little smaller than home. Oxygen at 20%, pressure at sea level 14 psi. Looks good."

"Commander," said Tigh, turning to his superior. "Vessel on scanners."


"Unknown, sir," said the Colonel, after a few moments. "It matches nothing in the Warbook."

"Commander," said Omega, breaking in. "Cylon patrol craft coming into range, sir."


"They will...they aren't heading for us, sir. They're vectoring for the unidentified ship."

"Bill, we're picking up something."


"A signal." He put it on the speaker. It was a steady, regular pulse, repeating every 2.1 seconds precisely.

"Sounds artificial. What's the frequency?"

"Dead on 21.66 gigacycles, Bill. About 10,000 watts, or a little less."

"What's the surface read?" said Fraser, deflated. He had so hoped this world would prove uninhabited.

"Nothing, Bill. No cities or technology." He waited while they drew closer. The planet, a one-third crescent in the viewports, was growing larger by the moment. As they approached, the computer generated a map, with latitude and longitude, for this new world.

"Gotta be something," said Fraser. "That's a frequency modulated radio signal." He adjusted the Eagle's course, heading for orbit insertion.

"Got a fix, Bill. It's coming from...37 degrees 14 minutes North, by zero degrees."


"The transmission site. I picked it for zero."

"Greenwich Mean, eh? That'll work." Bill checked his instruments. "Orbit attitude. We'll pass over the transmission site in 19 minutes...mark."

"Let's call Alpha."

"Right. I..." He stopped, as a voice came out of the speakers, replacing the pulsing sound.

A Human voice.

"To anyone within range. This is Count Baltar..."

Chapter Five

This system was also boring, decided Alan, as Eagle 2 passed a small asteroid. Primarily of carbonaceous chondritic material, if offered nothing of any serious interest, as far as minerals went. In fact this entire system, two planets, seven moons, and God alone knew how many asteroids, was uninhabitable to Humans. A write-off, as far as Alpha was concerned.

Carter began to whistle to himself, as he turned around and headed back for Alpha. Soon, he would...

"Hey," said Douglas, straightening up. "Contact, Alan."

"What?" asked Carter.

"A ship. And approaching awfully fast, too," said Douglas, glad to have that whistling stop.

"Power up," said Alan, wary after last time, and accelerating. "Moonbase Alpha, this is Eagle 2. We have contacts, hopefully peaceful." Almost as soon as the laser came on-line, they saw it.

Or, rather, them.

"It's them," said Douglas.

"Yeah," said Carter, as four of the alien craft zipped past the windows. "Cylons." Almost too fast for him to believe, the alien fighters roared by, and then turned about and headed back for them. Carter's fighter pilot instincts told him they were about to attack, and he nosed the Eagle down, hard and fast, the engines roaring as she was slammed to the floor. The Eagle was slow and sluggish compared to the Cylons, but it was enough.

Blue pencils of light leapt from the lead ship, barely missing the Alphan craft. The ship rocked, and Alan put her to the wall. The Cylons came around again, and once more he violently yanked his ship.

"Get out a distress call," he ordered Douglas. "Warn Alpha." He banked again, and fired as one of the attackers crossed his sights. But the Cylon was too fast, and it fired once more.

This time, the Eagle rocked as the shot hit home. Sparks belched, and red lights spread across the panel.

"We've been hit," said Douglas, needlessly. "Underside."

"Bugger the little..."Alan growled, once more demanding of the Eagle moves it was never designed for. Engines howling, he tried heading back for the small asteroid, weaving and looping as much as the damage would permit. As one of the attacking Cylons passed in front of him, he fired again.

And hit! Sparks flew from the enemy, but it was a mere glancing blow, apparently doing the attacker scant harm

"Here..." Douglas began, but was cut off by a massive crash aft, and more red lights.

"We're hit, mate," Alan shouted as smoke began to fill the cockpit, panels frying around them. He and Douglas closed their helmets quickly as the decompression alarm sounded. The hull was punctured somewhere. This was...

The Cylon ahead suddenly erupted in a ball of roiling vapor, utterly destroyed. A moment later another craft, of totally different design, zipped past the windows.

"Who the hell..." said Douglas, as taken aback by this sudden turn of events as Alan was. The new ships were more numerous than the Cylons, and seemingly intent on then, rather than the Eagle. "Overload in main motor," he announced, as yet another alarm sounded. "She's red line! Manifold pressure..."

"Shut 'er down," ordered Carter. Damn these Cylons! Damn what they've done to my ship! Angrily, Alan grabbed the firing controls, and scanned. One fighter was left, and coming into his crosshairs. He fired...

And hit the Cylon smack in one engine housing. There were sparks, then the engine ripped itself apart, taking the fighter with it.

"You got him, sir!" cried Douglas, slapping his chief on the shoulder.

"Yeah," said Carter back, but did not allow himself too much exhilaration. He looked around his toasted cockpit. "What's our status, lad?"

"It's hard to say, sir. It's red lights up and down the board. Half our systems are off-line, and our passenger module's been hulled." He checked a dial. "But the cockpit's okay."

"Bugger the little..." Alan began, but was cut off by a voice. He turned at the sound, surprised to find the radio still working. A Human voice! He flipped up his helmet, and reached over, turning up the volume.

"...ain Apollo, of the Battlestar Galactica. What is your status? Respond, please."

"Commander Koenig," said Sandra Benes at the commstation, "we are picking up a distress call."


"It is only a fragment, Commander, but the frequency and identification number match those of Eagle 2"

"Alan," said Koenig, barely above a whisper.

"Incredible," said Fraser, as he stepped out onto the green turf. The planet was a wonder, his first glimpse, and sniff, reminding him unavoidably of home. Above them, the vault was a hard blue, fleecy white clouds on the horizon, above which the planet's moon was rising.

Alpha had been just out of range, so Fraser decided to take a chance, and investigate the signal. It came from a wide, verdant valley, a deep fast river running through it. They'd flown over it, at last selecting a wide green bray to land upon.

"Yeah, smell that," said Haines, sniffing the air as well. "This place is perfect for us."

"We hope," said Fraser. "We'll take soil and water samples, and let the lab back on Alpha..."

"Sir," said Haines, drawing his weapon and pointing. A man was emerging from a thick stand of trees about a hundred yards back from the water's edge, and was heading their way. He was of medium height, appeared to be middle-aged, and was dressed almost entirely in green.

"Steady," said Fraser. "He appears to be unarmed, Jim."

"So did the Dorcon ship at first too, sir, if you remember."

"Like I could ever forget."

"Greetings," said the man, stopping about ten feet away. "I am Count Baltar." Close up, his age seemed about fifty or so, and his smile was pleasant enough, though Fraser at once got an uncomfortable feeling about the man. Something in his eyes...

"Bill Fraser," replied Fraser, "and this is Jim Haines, of Moonbase Alpha."

"Are you alone, here?" asked Haines, looking up and down the valley.

"Yes," replied Baltar, eyeing Haines' weapon. "My ship crashed, yahrens ago, and I am the only survivor. You have no idea how long it's been, gentleman. How long I have prayed for rescue." He looked at the Eagle, appraising her. Though primitive compared to Colonial technology, it was obviously a capable ship. He doubted, looking at her engines, that it had lightspeed capabilities, so these people hadn't come all that far.

Fraser looked at his watch. If this planet was to be there new home, they'd have to be getting back to Alpha with their data, and soon.

"Well, consider yourself rescued, Count Baltar," said Fraser, gesturing towards the Eagle. "Gather up whatever personal effects you have, and let's be on our way."

"Certainly," said Baltar, working hard to conceal his joy. To be rescued so soon! As he turned back towards the thicket where he had erected his simple shelter, he caught snatches of conversation behind him. Part of which caught him up short.

" gorgeous, Bill. Hell of a lot like Earth."


Carter's mouth fell open, as he caught site of the Colonial Fleet. Never had he seen so many and varied ships, nor had he expected to.

The Eagle, despite her damage, could still fly, if only just. He and Douglas reset breakers and bridged connections, till they at last accessed auxiliary power. One thruster fired, and they began to move. Navigation was shot, so they just followed the fighters, which, said the voice over the radio, were called Vipers. Sensors were mostly down, but they could tell that the craft were manned.

"Can we trust 'em?" Douglas had wanted to know, as they began to move.

"Well, they're not Cylons," said Alan. "And they did save our arses, mate. I think we...Lord O' Mercy!" He fell silent, as he caught site of the first of the Colonial ships.

"God, look at them," said Douglas, as the passed a large, sleek vessel, emblazoned Rising Star. "It looks like a convoy, sir."

"Yeah, it does. And a motley one, too. Some of these ships look pretty beat up, Doug."

"My God, look at the radar, sir," said Douglas, and Alan did so. Ahead was an object of enormous size, and they were dead on for it. "It reads as over two miles long, sir. If this thing is working right."

"Maybe it's an..." Alan broke off, as the Galactica came into visual range, growing from a pinpoint of light, to filling their cockpit windows. "Oh My God! We're still three miles out!" The voice identifying itself as Captain Apollo gave them landing instructions, then a few moments later the cavernous landing bay took up the entire view, and they passed inside.

The Eagle glided to a stop, just short of a metal bulkhead, and Alan tried to set her down. The Alphan craft thudded to the deck, at once listing to port. One by one, he and Douglas shut the surviving systems down. "Well, shall we go and meet them?" he asked, sliding his seat back, and getting up.

"After you, sir," replied Douglas, making sure his weapon was securely in place.

The twin red suns filled the screen at Syphax's station. They were closer to the binary than prudence warranted, but the Command Centurion would not give up. The distress call from his patrol had not been heard through the heavy interference this close to the photospheres, so he did not as yet know of his error.

His deadly error.

"By your command," said a subordinate. "Radiation on outer shields at 54% of maximum tolerance."

"Long range scan?"

"Scanners unreliable," said the second Centurion. "Radiation and magnetic flux are distorting our scans."

"Increase power to scan emitters."

"Already at maximum boost."

"By your command," said the first. "Radiation is now at 79% of tolerance. Solar eruption is..."

He never finished, before the solar flare from the largest of the red suns rammed into the BaseShip. The lights in Control Center flared up, then went out, then panels erupted everywhere as the shields collapsed. Everyone was knocked off their feet, as the Cylon vessel was heaved up nearly on end, circuits blowing out all over the ship. The engines screamed, thrusters firing erratically, sending the BaseShip wildly tumbling through space, out of control.

Eagle 2 was, Alan decided, a sorry sight. One whole side of the passenger module was blown out, the left front landing gear gone. Frankly, he didn't know why the thing was still together, let alone functional. He and Douglas had emerged from the gaping hole, still in their spacesuits, to find the landing bay full of people.

Some wore hardhats and heavy boots, obviously hangar crew. Some wore blue uniforms, and carried large pistols on their belts. Security guys, no doubt. Others, in buff-colored attire, were emerging from the deadly-looking Viper planes. All were headed their way.

"Take 'er easy lad," said Alan, over the suit radio. "Hear me?"

"Yes, sir."

As the crowd drew closer, Alan cautiously lifted his visor. The air in here smelled a lot like the air on Alpha. Artificial. Reprocessed. One young man, a pilot, came forward and extended his hand.

"Captain Apollo. Welcome aboard the Galactica." Alan loosened the snaps on his helmet, then took the proffered hand.

"I'm Captain Alan Carter, chief Eagle pilot, Moonbase Alpha." He looked at the assembled pilots. One was blonde, with the face of a debauched choirboy, and was introduced as having the improbable name of Starbuck. The next, a rotund fellow with a moustache, was named Jolly, and the third, a buxom honey-blonde woman, was called Sheba.

"We're sure glad ya came along when ya did, mates," said Alan, after giving the security guys a long look. "I didn't think we were going to make it."

"Well, you didn't do so bad," said another pilot, joining them. This man was about Alan's height, but of dark complexion. Back home, he'd have been called black, or Negro. "You took that last one out all by yourselves. I'm Lieutenant Boomer."

"Yeah, good shooting," said Starbuck, then turned, as two more men approached. One was, like Boomer, Negroid in appearance, though some few years older. The second was, Alan judged, about 60 or so, and carried himself with a confident, almost regal air. Something about him put both Alphans in mind of Commander Koenig.

"Greetings," said the older man, extending his hand. "I am Commander Adama." Alan introduced himself and Douglas again. As he spoke, Adama studied the battered Eagle. "And where do you come from?" he asked at last. Friendly, but with an air of authority. Yes, like Koenig.

"Moonbase Alpha," said Alan, "though that's not our original home, of course."

"And where was that?" asked the older black man, introduced as Colonel Tigh. "This system has no habitable planets."

"No, we ain't from around here. Our original home was a planet called Earth, but our Moon was blas..."

"Earth!!?" said several voices at once. They all looked at Alan strangely, Adama the most. What had he said?

"Colonel," said Adama, "get these men to Dr. Selik, in Life Station. Then bring them to my quarters."

"Yes, sir," said Tigh. "Gentleman."

"But," said Douglas, "We've got to communicate with Alpha."

"And we shall," said Tigh. "But for now, follow me, please."

Chapter Six

Baltar was actually impressed at the sight of Alpha. A totally self-contained facility, on a barren, airless world, wandering aimlessly through the cosmos. These people, considering how primitive they were, had done well.

So, they were from Earth! Fascinating, he decided, as the Eagle touched down. So Earth really did exist, it wasn't just same ancient fable, some fantasy of Adama's. Interesting, Baltar smiled, as always turning his mind to finding a way to make this new situation work for him. He was also glad, upon reflection, that the other marooned cons had taken such a rapid dislike to him, and moved to the far end of the valley, leaving him in isolation. He didn't have to fight them to get aboard the Eagle, and off that God-forsaken planet.

The cowl latched on to the Eagle, and the hatch opened. From there, it was travel in some sort of tube car, to the center of the base. As he sat in the very comfortable, if somewhat worn seats, he studied the screens and controls on the bulkhead across from him, as well as the equipment carried by the guards. Baltar's quick eyes took it all in.

Tony and Commander Koenig greeted the newcomer, and Baltar put on his best happy face. He was, diplomatically, relieved of his weapon and satchel, and escorted to Medical Center for a thorough check. Once he was out of earshot, Koenig sent the pistol and the rest down to technical, for evaluation and testing.

Yes, decided Baltar, this Moonbase Alpha was fascinating. Primitive by Colonial standards, but it sure beat that virgin planet Adama had dumped him on. Baltar, from earliest childhood, had always hated anything that was wild and open. Anything not easily controllable. All his life he had preferred the trappings and comforts of civilization. Technology. Machines. These the Alphans had aplenty.

Finished with Dr. Russell, he was being escorted to the Commander's office, when he heard a sound. A familiar one, and one he had not thought to hear again. A mechanical sound. He turned, and saw...


It was not often that Steiner pulled flight duty, but he enjoyed it, when it came. A quiet time, away from Alpha, among the stars. Searching. Seeking. Learning.

Putting up with his chatty co-pilot.

Spiros Tomaras was a perpetually talkative guy, always on about his hobbies and interests. Calligraphy. Egyptology. Photography. Vowel mutations in Indo-European languages. Whatever the topic, he could pontificate upon it at length. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

Why, wondered Steiner, had they ever assigned a linguist to Alpha?

Ahead, the swollen binary nearly filled the cockpit windows. Even at this distance, over six billion miles, the temperature on the hull was well over the boiling point of water.

"And we're going to pass through this?" asked Tomaras, eyes to screen, taking a short break from regional dialectic variations in Mycaenean Greek.

"Looks that way, Spiros," said Steiner. "No way around it."

"Sensors read the temp between the two at over 20,000, Dave."

"Yeah. We're going to have to give the Commander the bad news. Let's hope that system Bill and Jim..." He stopped, as the computer beeped. "Contact."

"I have it, Dave. A ship, heading this way." He adjusted the scanners. "Damn. Too much interference from the suns, to get much else at this distance. Except her mass. She's big, whatever she is."

"How big?"

"Hard to be precise, but over 200,000 tons, at least, Dave."

"Full stop," said Steiner. "All defensive systems to full."

"Full stop, aye. Weapons to full."

"Alien at 55,000," said Steiner. "Visual in...twelve seconds." He switched sensors over to a small screen. All they got was an amorphous blob. "Range 47,849."

"I'm not reading any active energy signatures," said Tomaras.

"Hard to, with all that radiation. Range 40,000 and closing. Alien directly in our flight path."

"Then we'd better move out of the way," said Tomaras. He fired thrusters, and nudged the eagle out of the path of the oncoming vessel. Slowly, the image on the sensors began to resolve, as the range counted down. "38,000. 35,000. Make that over 300,000, on the mass reading, Dave."

"Weird," said Tomaras, looking at his screen.

"Yeah. That shape."

Then, the image cleared up, as both the binary settled down a bit, and the mystery vessel drew closer. 30,000. 27,000. It was now a tiny speck in the windows, backlit by the huge suns.

"Hail her," said Steiner. They did so. No answer. Again. Still silent.

"Her drift will take her directly by Alpha," said Tomaras. "Panagia mou!!! Look at that!"

"Yeah," said Steiner, as the sensor return resolved into a much clearer image. He ran a full scan. Nothing. No life signs. Minimal power.

The Cylon BaseShip was slowly tumbling, dead in space.

Alan found Commander Adama to be a very likeable man. Once they were through in the Galactica's medical section, they were escorted to his quarters. A true gentleman, he offered them drinks, then got straight down to business.

"You are from Earth," he said simply.

"Yeah," said Alan, "we came from there."

"Then Earth is close," said the silver-haired Commander.

"Not really," said Carter. "As a matter of fact, we have no idea where she is."

"How's that?" asked the dark-haired Apollo, Adama's son.

"Well, I'll tell ya," said Alan, and described how the Moon had been blown out of Earth's orbit by a massive explosion in the nuclear waste facility, and by a miracle survived. Survived black suns, hostile aliens, weird storms, demented computers, space warps, and God knew what else. For his part, Carter wanted to know about the Cylons. If Alpha was going to meet them again, and it seemed certain that they would, they would obviously be a serious threat.

Not stingy, Adama reciprocated, telling his Alphan guests of their own odyssey. The destruction of their home worlds at the hands of the Cylons, and their search ever since for Earth.

"We need to contact Alpha," said Douglas, breaking in. "We're way overdue, as it is."

"I think that can be arranged. Apollo, escort our guests to the bridge, and give them access to the communications suite."

"Yes, Father," replied the senior pilot.

"Oh," said Alan, rising. "Our Eagle. Our ship. We..."

"Oh, of course," said Adama, and ordered the hangar crew to expedite repairs.

Though preliminary examinations had shown Baltar to be Human, Commander Koenig was taking no chances. He ordered the visitor to be given the fullest ranges of scans and tests of which they were capable. As the tests proceeded, Tony Verdeschi and Maya debriefed him, two men on guard at the door to the ward.

Baltar was already beginning to feel very much at home. But, he wondered, as Helena went on with her tests, had that Cylon come from?

"Commander," said Sahn, in Command Center. Her pleasant voice cut through his doubt and fear. Doubt about this newcomer, Baltar, fear for Alan Carter. He was so long over...

"Yes, Sahn?"

"We are receiving a message, Commander."

"From?" He put down his pad, and gave her his full attention.

"From Alan, Commander."


"Yes, sir," said Sahn, and switched over. The image of the binary was replaced by a slightly blurred one of Alan, Douglas right behind him. The two men were standing in a room filled with electronic equipment, and they could see people in the background, wearing strange uniforms.

"Commander," said Alan.

"Carter, where are you? We'd almost given up hope, after we got the distress signal." He turned to Sandra. "See if you can get a coordinate fix on the signal, Sahn," he whispered. She nodded in return.

"We're okay, Commander," said Carter. "We were rescued. And just in time, to, let me tell you."

"We thought we were goners, Commander," interjected Douglas. "We ran into those Cylons, again."

"Cylons? Alan, I..."

"Commander, these people are Human," said Carter. "And Commander, they're looking for Earth."

Apollo and Cadet Grumio approached the runaway Moon with surprise. Not that an astral body of such size was adrift in the universe. The Galactica had encountered a few in her travels. Arcta for one, where the Cylons had set up a pulsar cannon of unprecedented destructive power, lying in wait for the Galactica. But this one was different.

"My scans match the data from Lt. Boomer's patrol, sir. It's the same planetoid, for certain." Grumio continued scanning. "Incredible, sir. Look at the distance it's covered, in this short space of time."

"I see it, Cadet. I don't understand it, either."

"Picking up their base, now, sir," said Grumio, eyes on scanner. "Some sort of nuclear power generating system operating down there. Looks like an old-style fission reactor setup, Captain. Primitive."

"I see it," said Apollo, adjusting his scanner. "And life-signs, too. Looks like they were telling the truth."

"Did you doubt them, sir?" asked the young Cadet.

"I've learned to be cautious, Cadet." They slowed, banking slightly, as the Moon began to fill their canopies, swinging around her.

"They are Human, sir," countered the Cadet.

"So are the Eastern Alliance Enforcers, Cadet. Every bit as Human as you or I. Just being Human does not guarantee truthfulness." They crossed over to what had once been known as the dayside, and homed in on Alpha.

"Yes, sir." Grumio looked at his scanner again. "We're being painted, sir. They're tracking us."

"I read it. Captain Carter said there were defenses." He looked from his scanner, to Plato Crater, about 12 metrons below. Alpha's windows glinted in the light of the distant binary. "I read two laser batteries, Cadet. Primitive, but powerful enough to take us out, if we aren't careful."

"Shall we open a channel, sir?"

"No, Cadet. Our mission is just to confirm Captain Carter's information. Nothing more. We're heading back to the ship." He set the course, for return to the Fleet.

"People from Earth," said Grumio, as the Moon rapidly shrank behind them. "What do you think they'll be like, Captain?"

"Time will tell, Cadet," he replied, and fired his turbos.

"Incredible," said Maya, as the images of the two Vipers were run through her computer. "I've never seen ships like these, Commander." Koenig leaned close, studying them. "They match the craft that scanned us from a distance, over a week ago." She shook her head as the data scrolled past. "They must be at least a century ahead of our Eagles, Commander. Possibly more."

"Like that Cylon ship," said Koenig, quietly. "They sure look like fighters to me."

Adama found the data from Apollo and Grumio's patrol interesting. It not only confirmed everything Carter had told them about Alpha, as well as the data the technicians had retrieved from the savaged Eagle craft, but helped him to reach his next important decision as well.

The Colonial Fleet altered course, bound for Moonbase Alpha. At the speed of their slowest vessels, they would arrive at IP with Alpha's position in just under two and a half centars.

"Commander," said Sahn, voice excited. "Another message from Alan."

And not just a message, but a sensor contact. A huge vessel was approaching Alpha position, and a few seconds later, several more came within range. Alan's greetings were replaced by the dignified white-haired man they'd seen earlier. Commander Adama. The Caprican greeted Koenig again, and requested permission to enter orbit around the Moon. It was given, and the entire population of Moonbase watched as the biggest ship they had ever seen came into visual range, and began decelerating into orbit.

"Moonbase Alpha," said Adama into his private log recorder, in his quarters. "According to our information, the one-time, and only satellite, of the planet Earth. How such a catastrophe could have occurred is beyond understanding, yet even more baffling is the fact that we have encountered it, in the trackless wastes of space. The one and only image set we possess of Earth, preserved through the millennia from the archives on Kobol, match those taken from the damaged Alpha craft. We are getting closer. I can feel it.

"Yet, I cannot shake a sense of danger, as well. Even with this good news, I feel the need for more precaution and wariness than perhaps at any time since fleeing the Colonies. It has not been all that long, since last we encountered the Cylons. The Alphans, it seems, have as well. What this portends, I do not as yet know. Lords of Kobol, give me wisdom."

As he paced his guest quarters for the umpteenth time, Baltar wondered what was going on, outside his door. His guarded door. Obviously, these Alphans did not trust him. Indeed! Who were these primitives, to treat him in so haughty and high-handed a fashion? It never occurred to him, of course, that here, he was the stranger, the outsider, and that these people he looked down his nose at were being far more merciful than he deserved. After all, they had rescued him, brought him here, treated him with kindness and courtesy. If they showed a certain reticence in giving him the freedom of the base, it was only natural.

But Baltar could only see that he was locked up, and not being allowed to...

"Frack!!" he swore, as he tripped over the satchel he had brought from his prison world. Koenig had returned it and its contents, minus the laser, upon his release from medical. He kicked it across the room, his pent-up irritation about to blow.

"Attention, all sections Alpha," came a voice over the IC. Koenig's, he recognized. "Alien vessels are at this moment entering orbit around the Moon. Their intentions and origin are unknown. However, Eagle pilots Carter and Douglas are aboard the alien fleet, and have assured us of the newcomer's good intentions. We will be making formal contact shortly. In the meantime, remain calm. Do not show any overt hostility towards the newcomers. Security, go to level two."

Baltar went to the window, and looked out. At first, he could see nothing but the crater, and the sky. Then, he spotted a big glint of light, moving overhead, trailed by others. Retrieving a pair of electro-binocs from his satchel, he aimed them at the lunar sky. He adjusted them, and swore.


Chapter Seven

Steiner had matched the Eagle's motion to the BaseShip's tumble, and set her down onto the hull. There had been no answer to their hails, no indications of life detected aboard. There were no running lights operating, and only a few weak energy signatures. Once secure on the hull, Steiner fired a low-power burst from the thrusters. No effect. Again, stronger this time. The BaseShip's tumble began to slow, then at last came to a stop. He kept on firing, till the huge ship was right side up, relative to their original flight path.

"Now what?" asked Tomaras. "We're still out of com range with Alpha."

"How long till we can communicate?"

"If those suns stay quiet...about two hours, at this speed. Maybe a little less."

"Okay. Until then, we scan the hell out of this baby."


"Then we go find us an airlock."

The sight of the huge Colonial Battlestar filling his cockpit windows awed Koenig. The sheer technological prowess needed to design and construct such a vessel astounded him, as did the fact that it had been built by Humans. Not Darians, not Tritonians, not Pirians, not the loathsome Dorcons. Not some megalomaniacal race bent on God knew what, but men.

The Galactica's guidance system interfaced remarkably well with the Eagle's, and they were shepherded into the Alpha landing bay. As they passed inside, Koenig noticed dents, scars, and blackened sections of metal, some welded together haphazardly. Obviously, the Battlestar had taken its share of punishment, and been kept together as best as conditions permitted.

Much like Moonbase Alpha herself.

Once down, they headed aft, and Koenig read the pressure gauge. It was nearly 3 psi higher in the bay, but they could handle that. He keyed the hatch, though Tony insisted on exiting first, followed by Helena, Maya, then himself.

"Commander!" called a voice, and Koenig turned from his inspection of the Eagle, to see Alan Carter heading towards him, followed by Douglas. "Can you believe this ship?"

"Yeah, she's pretty impressive," said Koenig. Behind Alan were Adama, Tigh, Apollo, Sheba, and several other people in strange robes. Adama introduced himself and his officers, and then the members of the Council. Adama's eyes lingered a moment on Maya, noting her non-Human physiognomy.

"I am Maya," she responded, "daughter of Mentor. Of the planet Psychon." Adama, of course, had never heard of it, and Maya explained that it no longer existed.

"I must thank you for the return of my people," Koenig told Adama, offering his hand. The Caprican took it. "We thought we'd lost them for good."

"And you would have," said Alan, indicating Apollo and the other pilots, "if they hadn't found us. Those Cylons had us, Commander. Dead on." He indicated the pasted Eagle, up on struts for repairs. Koenig and the rest shook their heads, taking in the savaged Alphan ship.

"Well, your man is no slouch himself," said Starbuck, a brash young pilot, who gave Maya a long and appreciative look. "He nailed one of the Cylon fighters himself. Blew it right out of the sky, even after his ship was crippled."

"We could use him in Blue Squadron," said Jolly, with a slight chuckle.

As he had with the pilots, Adama offered these newcomers the hospitality of his quarters. A man driven by his dream, he was hungry for anything that the Alphans could tell him about Earth. Where? How far? What was its current state? How...

Helena, for her part, found the Battlestar's medical facilities a complete revelation. The technological level of the equipment aboard her made her feel almost as if she were wearing animal skins, beads, and still using bleeding bowls. But all doctors use a common language, and soon she and Doctor Selik were chatting like old colleagues, and she invited him to visit her own medical domain.

Koenig was also impressed by the Battlestar. More than impressed. Of all the alien warships they had encountered, this was by far the most imposing, and the most powerful. And, he reminded himself, the only one he'd gotten to see the inside of, as well as the only one that hadn't turned up and just started blasting. After the tour, he reciprocated the Caprican's offer, and invited he and his staff to visit Alpha at once. Adama accepted.

"What do you think, Colonel?" asked Flight Officer Omega, on the bridge, as the Galactica's shuttle launched, following the Eagle. "People from Earth?"

"I don't know, Omega. From what we've seen so far, Earth is not as advanced as we had hoped." He sighed, a bit miffed at not being taken along. Still, it was his duty, and Adama had decided to leave him, as the most experienced officer aboard, in command during his absence. And Colonel Tigh of the Colonial Fleet always did his duty.

The cowl on the launch pads did not interface with the Colonial shuttle, so it had to be lowered into the hangar bay. Athena, Adama's daughter, was impressed by Alpha, as well as what she had so far heard of their heroic struggle for survival. She watched her panel, as the hangar pressurized, mulling it all. Then the light went green, and she popped the shuttle's hatch.

"Well," she announced to all and to none. "We're here."

In his quarters, Baltar was slowly drifting into sleep. Frustrated, he'd given up on the computer interface in his room. He'd been locked out, with only historical, entertainment, and emergency functions open to him.

What, he still wondered, was a Cylon doing here? How had it come to be on Alpha? Would it obey him? Where was the rest of its crew? How long would it take for him to weasel his way into power, here on Alpha? Could he make use of the Cylon, in doing so?

Adama! How had he turned up here, like a bad cubit? What should he do, now? Stay here? Call Koenig? Perhaps...

He yawned. Again. His circadian rhythms had not yet caught up with Alpha time, and he was bloody bone tired. Perhaps...

Adama and his officers sat, reviewing the data on Earth in Alpha's computer. Kano handed them hardcopy photos, and they studied them intently.

Earth! At last, Adama could see an actual modern picture of the planet. Wide seas, green continents, glistening polar caps, white clouds swathing the surface in an envelope of fertility. A world that was in every way perfectly suited to support them. He at once wanted to know more. He must know more.

"Why," asked Koenig, "do the Cylons hate you so intensely? What were the causes of your war?"

"The Cylons seek to impose their view of perfection upon the entire universe," replied Adama. "Humans, and all other races who do not fit that view of perfection are summarily destroyed, without mercy."

"And your homeworld was wiped out by the Cylons?" asked Maya.

"All of them," said Adama. "We were a Republic of twelve planets, bound together by ties of race, religion, and language. We were attacked by the Cylons without warning or declaration of war, Miss Maya. That was just over a thousand yahrens ago."

"Yahrens?" asked Tony. Adama explained that with twelve major worlds in the Colonies, a standard time unit had been necessary. Yahren was the standard year. Almost at once with her quick, agile mind, Maya worked out the relationship of the Colonial Yahren to the terrestrial year.

"That works out to approximately 940.6 Earth years, Commander," she informed Koenig. Koenig whistled. To remain at war for an entire millenium! How could any society survive?

"Your ship is just...incredible," said Alan. "It's hard to imagine her as being on the losing side in anything."

"Yes," said Helena. "How did you come to lose this war?"

"Actually, we were winning," said Athena, her father giving her the nod. "In one of the last major battles, led by the Battlestar Rycon, a massive Cylon offensive against the Colonies was turned back. Of the six attacking BaseShips, three were destroyed, and two were badly mauled. Shortly afterwards, the Cylon Imperious Leader contacted our President directly, and sued for peace."

"It was a lie, obviously," said Tony, still nettled over the way Starbuck was looking at Maya.

"Yes," said Adama. "We were betrayed. By one of our own. The Fleet was led into ambush, and the Colonies were annihilated. Only the Galactica escaped that day. Since then, we have searched for Earth, the Alliance ever nipping at our heels."

"I see," said Koenig. He keyed the IC on his desk. "Okay, Pat. Bring it in."

"Right away, Commander."

"Now," Koenig went on, "you've told us how you came to be so far from your homes. What I don't understand is how you know of Earth, and why you want to find it." As he leaned back, Adama told him of Kobol, the homeworld of their people, and how, over 6,000 yahrens ago, a group from the dying Kobol fled for Earth. AS the last known Humans in the universe, Adama had wished to seek them out, for aid against the Cylon monsters. Koenig listened in silence, wondering how this dovetailed, if it did, with what they knew of the survivors of Arkadia, another planet that had died, long ago. As he mused, the door chime sounded. It was Osgood.

"Come in."

"Commander..." began Adama, as the door opened. He turned, and saw...

The reaction of the Colonial Warriors was instinctive, and blindingly fast. Starbuck, Apollo, and Athena leapt to their feet as one, forming a wall around their Commander, lasers drawn. They raised their weapons...

"No!" shouted Koenig. The Colonials obeyed, though they remained between Adama and the Cylon. "Falxa?"

"By your command," droned the battered Cylon. For the first time, the newcomers noticed that it was unarmed.

"Do you know these people?"

"This one," said Falxa, pointing at Adama, "is Adama, Commander of the Battlestar Galactica."

"And the Galactica?"

"It is the only surviving Colonial Battlestar. The rest were destroyed at the peace conference."

"Very well. Return to Engineering, with Pat."

"By your command, Imperious Koenig." So said, Falxa turned and left the office.

"How in Hades Hole did you end up with a Cylon, here?" asked Athena, body still tense. Alan explained the finding of Falxa and his fighter.

"I see," said Adama, and ordered his people to sit down again. "You were testing us." He looked directly at Koenig.

"Yes, it was a test," Koenig admitted. "Falxa told us about you people, but we had to be certain that you were really telling us the truth."

"You trusted the word of a Cylon?" asked Starbuck, clearly pissed.

"It was all the information we had, Lieutenant," said Helena. "We've met other races. Humanoid ones, who appeared benevolent. One, the Dorcons, quite recently. By the time we learned the truth about them, it was nearly too late for all of us." She cast a glance at Maya, who shuddered, but said naught. No sense dredging that horror up again.

"A cheap trick, perhaps," said Koenig, "but I'm responsible for nearly 300 lives, here on Alpha. We could not stop you from orbiting Alpha if you were hostile, but once you were down here, your people were unlikely to open fire, if things went badly. I trust you will understand. As one Commander to another."

"I do," replied Adama, trying to cover his irritation at being taken in so easily. He also recalled the seemingly benevolent Count Iblis, who had tried to take over the Fleet. A being who had turned out to be none other than Satan himself.

"Now, this traitor," said Tony. "The Colonial who sold you out to the Cylons."

"Yes?" Tony punched up an image on a screen, and turned it to face the Colonials.

"That him?"

"Lords of Kobol, yes!!!" said Adama, half coming out of his chair, as he recognized the face on the screen before him.

"Baltar!" croaked Apollo.

Steiner and Tomaras spent close to an hour before finding an airlock into the BaseShip. However it was dead, and short of blasting it open, it was stuck tight.

But the landing bay wasn't. One of the BaseShip's landing deck doors was jarred partly open, and they made for it. Once inside, they looked for a place to set the Eagle down. However, they weren't going to find one, it seemed.

The landing bay was a wreck, fighters and equipment scattered about in heaps. Here and there were the crushed bodies of Cylons, caught in the carnage. "See?" Steiner called to Tomaras. "Cylon ship." As he took another step forward, he began to float up into the cavernous bay. Then, just as abruptly, he plopped back down to the deck once more.

"The gravity must be spotty," said Tomaras. "Whatever it was that hit her, it must have been incredible." He looked up at the ceiling. Cables and conduits hung loose, a ladder was torn free of a bulkhead, and a circuit box was sparking. Tomaras, who was actually an engineer, was astounded at the sight. Across the deck was a huge cylinder, emerging from the floor, and disappearing into the ceiling. Obviously, the centermost part of the ship's structure.

"We'd better be getting back," said Steiner, voice tinny over the suit radio. "We're overdue for our check-in, now. We should be back in range by now."

"You're right," said Tomaras, getting video of the bay. "She'll drift by Alpha, soon enough." He scooped up several handfuls of debris, and put them in his bag for later analysis.

"Then let's haul our butts out of here."

"Adama," smiled Baltar. "fancy meeting you here."

Chapter Eight

"The feeling's mutual," said Adama at last, glaring at his foe as the traitorous Colonial was led into Koenig's office. Next to him, he could sense the rage simmering in Apollo. As usual, his son had difficulty keeping his feelings under wraps. Apollo utterly and irredeemably hated the traitorous instrument of the Colonies holocaust. His mother, his brother Zac, an entire civilization, gone. Irradicated. Thanks to Baltar.

"And how come you to be here?" Adama asked, at last getting his own emotions under control, then looking from Baltar to Koenig. Alpha's Commander explained the finding and rescuing of Baltar on a scouting mission.

"And you let this...this medakka mong have the run of the place?" rasped Athena, as angry as Apollo.

"Count Baltar has committed no crime, here," said Tony. "We have no cause to imprison him."

"He is responsible..." choked Starbuck, "for the deaths of over seven billion Humans. The greatest criminal of all time!" His fingers twitched, longing for the feel of his pistol grip. "An entire civilization." He was infuriated at Baltar's smug look. Oh, that smile...

"Then, you can have..."

"No, he can't," smirked Baltar. "You marooned me, Adama. Remember? Under our laws, all is forgiven a marooned man, who escapes." The traitor waited a beat. "And we all know how great is your respect for the law, old friend."

Damn him!!! Damn him if he wasn't right!!! For an instant, Adama felt like throwing law, and all, to the winds, and burning down this worm-ridden...

"But Tony," said Maya. "He did lie." All eyes were on the Psychon. "You say he was marooned with others?" she asked Adama. The Caprican responded in the affirmative. "Well, he lied to our Eagle crew, and he lied to Commander Koenig." She crossed her arms, and watched Baltar's smirk begin to fade. He glared hatefully at her. "He gained access to Alpha under false pretences."

"Lord 'o Mercy, if she isn't right," said Tony, shaking his head.

"Yes. His deposition to Commander Koenig was a tissue of lies, and that is actionable, under the regulations governing Alpha."

"Good job, Maya," said Koenig. "Very well. Count Baltar is hereby confined to quarters till further notice." He motioned the guards to remove him.

"But, but I ..." spluttered Baltar, as two of Tony's guards escorted him from Koenig's office.

"Now, " said Koenig, "we need to talk, Commander. Alpha..."

"Commander," came Sandra's voice, as her image popped onto the commpost.

"Yes?" answered both leaders. Koenig smiled.

"A message from Eagle 10, sir. Steiner and Tomaras are on the way back, sir."


"Four and a half hours, sir. They are transmitting their data, now."

"Very good," said Koenig, and looked to Adama. Now that there had been some degree of trust established between the Capricans and Alphans, things moved more rapidly.

"This is incredible," said Tigh, in Adama's quarters, during the Galactica's "night'. They were reviewing all the history files downloaded from Alpha's computer to the Galactica's. All of Earth's history was laid out before them, followed by Breakaway. "I wouldn't have believed it possible. Their moon breaking away from their planet like that."

"Yes, it does seem an improbable event, Tigh," said Adama, rubbing his eyes. "But true, nonetheless. Remember that signal Apollo picked up, a few sectons ago?"

"The one he thought might be from Earth?"

"Yes. Well, the original turned up in Alpha's history files, Tigh. It was the first manned landing on their moon, in the Earth yahren...year 1969. And the ship's name?"


"Apollo 11." Adama smiled, and switched over to something else on his desk monitor. It was an image, from the main sensors, of the surface below them. "See? The same primitive craft they saw." The remains of Apollo 11, flag and all, were passing underneath. "And there are half a dozen of this class of ship scattered all over this moon, Tigh."

"I had begun to wonder if we'd ever find Earth," said the Colonel, looking out the port. "I'd even begun to wonder if it even truly existed."

"Old friend," said Adama, leaning back, "we should never doubt. Earth is there. Moonbase Alpha is proof of that, Tigh. Solid proof."

"Well, their society certainly seems to need help," said Tigh, turning back to images from the history files. "Wars. Disease. Social and economic upheaval. Genocidal pogroms. This Nazi Germany State seems very much like the eastern Alliance."

"Much like ourselves, once," said Adama. "But they strive, Tigh. They strive to be better, to improve themselves. Just as we did."

Steiner and Tomaras put down, and gave Commander Koenig their report. Good news and bad. A Cylon BaseShip headed this way, a treasure trove of technological bounty. The down side was that Moonbase Alpha would pass directly between the bloated red suns.

Which meant that Koenig would have to decide, and soon. For within just over a day, the planet from which Baltar had been unwittingly freed would pass beyond Eagle range.

Far, far away, in the system wherein the wreckage of a BaseShip orbited a lifeless planet, a single fighter was sniffing around, sensors spread wide.

Victor Bergman was amazed. In return for their history files on Earth, Adama had authorized a technology transfer. And not just technology, either. Detailed starcharts on every world and system known to the Colonies. Everything was in there, from the Cylon Empire, to the positions of Terra and Paradeen.

Victor also found the Battlestar fascinating for more personal reasons. Ever since just before the runaway moon had encountered the space warp that had dumped them near Psychon, he had been confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the chest down. A malfunction in a control circuit had triggered a violent fluctuation in one of the science lab gravity generators, nearly wrecking the place. It had also, in ripping a shelf down from a wall, wrecked Victor, striking him hard across the back and shattering two vertebrae.

A man once active in both mind and body, Victor hated being a cripple. He despised being, as he saw it, a burden on his friends. More than once he had contemplated suicide, so useless did he often feel.

But no, said another voice. Victor's body might be battered and helpless, but he still had the fabulous brain God had given him. That titanic mind could still be of inestimable use to Alpha, in their ongoing struggle for survival.

And it had been. Helping to train Maya in both Human scientific terminology and customs, had been an enjoyable undertaking. Though it was not in his nature to look down upon his fellow Alphans as inferior, Victor Bergman often longed for another mind like unto his own. Someone with whom he could discuss the rarified heights of electrodynamics, or the almost mystical frontiers of quantum mechanics, with the same breezy ease with which other people chatted about their romances, or their gardens.

The English Professor had found such a mind in the daughter of Mentor. Not only had the Psychon received a superlative education by the standards of her culture, but also she had been gifted with a mind rare among any race. Faster even than Alpha's mainframe, she had, once over the trauma of losing her father, and the language barrier, absorbed all that Victor could possibly teach with a rapidity that not only astounded him, but with an innate cheerfulness that served to bring him out of his often suicidal funk.

And he was out of it forever, now. Dr. Wilker, the Galactica's chief science officer, had visited Alpha, once Koenig had given the go-ahead. Victor was elated to have yet another scientist to talk to. Wilker shared notes on his own researches into the Cylons, and together the two went far in deciphering both their programming, and the flight recorder. As they worked, Wilker, with his usual lack of tact, broached the subject of Victor's injury.

And now here he was, in the Battlestar's Life Station, undergoing regenerative treatment on his spinal column. Wilker had called Adama, and with a nod from Koenig, Victor was on his way. Helena sat in the observation lounge, watching her friend go under the knife, reviewing all the medical data on the procedure Dr. Selik had given her.

"Praise God for the Battlestar Galactica" she whispered to herself.

Baltar growled in frustration as the computer told him: "You are confined to quarters until further notice" for the fifth time. How dare these....these primitives!! treat him this way? It did not, of course, register with him that these "primitives" had rescued him from the life of a castaway. No. As always, Count Baltar viewed everything through the lens of his own conceit. Though he had done absolutely nothing to earn it, the Alphans owed him!!

And now, by all in hell, Adama was here! Damnation! If only he could get to the communications center of this base, and signal the Alliance. At last, he could deliver the Galactica!

Koenig gave the order for Operation Exodus. But, even as the first Eagles were being loaded, nature cast a vote.

One of the bloated red suns ahead hiccuped. A huge flare, spewing enormous amounts of radioactive garbage, was boiling its way through space, directly towards Alpha. And it was boiling its way good and fast, too. At nearly 80% of lightspeed, it would hit well before O.E. could get into full swing. By the time it was past, the planet would be out of Eagle range, forever. Now, it was a mad rush to get everyone and thing down to the deep shelters, before it hit.

Until Adama offered them all the shelter of the Galactica. While Alpha would be at an oblique angle to the incoming peril, the Colonial Fleet could use the body of the Moon as a shield. With less than two hours until impact, it was a no-brainer. Every Eagle, and a few shuttles, was pressed into service, and the entire population evacuated to the Fleet. The Bergman Forcefield, first used during the Black Sun crisis, was left on to provide whatever protection it could to the derelict base.

After that...

The flare slammed into the Moon almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule. From the safety of the Galactica, the Alphans watched the long wave of plasma and heat break over their home, like some malevolent ocean.

With Alpha off-limits, they partook themselves of what amenities the Battlestar had to offer. Victor, recuperating, continued to study Colonial science along with Maya and the rest. Alan, predictably, had to get a look at the Vipers, and Starbuck took him to the simulators. Much to his surprise, the Alphan was a fast learner.

"I flew F-14's back home," he explained, looking over at the next simulator, where Athena was finishing up with her own student. "That was before I came to Alpha."

"F-14's?" asked Starbuck.

"Fighter plane, mate. American design, but we flew 'em Down Under, too." He saw Starbuck's blank look, and explained.

In another part of the ship, Pat and Michelle Osgood were enjoying the hospitality of their hosts, when, inside her chest, something began to go wrong.

Koenig and his command staff spent the time with their Colonial counterparts. Adama seemed supplied with endless questions about Earth and her cultures, and the Alphans readily answered them all. And, as promised, Adama came through with the results of an extensive computer search. There was no record, not even the tiniest scrap of data, on any species resembling Maya, or on the now-destroyed planet, Psychon. Maya's friends were disappointed. One of the Psychon's fondest hopes was that somewhere, sometime, she might hear word of her brother and the other refugees who had fled Psychon after the planet had become nearly uninhabitable.

"Let us pray they never encountered the Cylons," said Adama. He turned to the starchart on the screen in his quarters. On it was Colonial space, the Cylon Empire, the Eastern Alliance Territories, and, now, the position of Earth.

"Psychon, from what your data tells us," said Tigh, "was here." He indicated a spot nearly 15,000 light-years from Earth. Koenig shook his head. That warp had taken then a lot further than they had thought. The next warp, the one that had trapped he and Tony aboard a derelict vessel, had transported them light-years yet again. The Colonies were so far from there, they would never have encountered the Galactica otherwise.

"No way they could have made it anywhere near the Colonies, in what they were flying," said Tony. "Maya tells us that her homeworld had no operational hyperdrive technology."

"But we do," said Adama. "Which leads me, Commander Koenig, Doctor, all of you, to my next question."

"Which is?" asked Helena, unconsciously inching closer to her husband.

"We have the course for Earth," Adama told them, explaining how they had acquired it, during an encounter with a mysterious super race. A race so unbelievably advanced, it made the technology of the Galactica resemble that of the Wright Brothers, compared with the Queller drive. "Now, with the data from Alpha's computer, we know that we are indeed on the right track. When we resume our voyage, Commander Koenig, Mrs. Koenig, how would you and the people of Moonbase Alpha like to return to Earth with us?"

Chapter Nine

In the Galactica's huge council chamber, all but a handful of Alpha's people were assembled. Up near the table on its raised platform, with the Moon filling the window behind, Commander John Koenig stood to address them. As he waited, finding the words, he saw a couple more Alphans trail on in.

259 of them left, he mused. Too many. Too many of his people, his charges, lost since Breakaway. Some had been friends, some he'd barely known. Still, even one Alphan life was too many. No more, he told himself. No bloody more. He looked up, as Victor was wheeled in, fresh from Life Station, his chair pushed by Cassiopeia. The rest of Alpha made a path for them, then he got up, and leaning heavily on canes, made his way to the table. Cheering spontaneously erupted from Alpha personnel, and continued after the Alphan elder statesman took his place, next to Koenig, and Helena. Alpha's "Holy Trinity", some had dubbed them.

"Thank-you," said Victor, as the applause died down. "I am glad to be back on my feet. Believe me. And, I'm warmed. Warmed by the faith, and the love, of my friends." He waited a beat. "Of my family."

"As you know," began Koenig, after the second round of applause at last died down, "we have, ever since Breakaway, searched for a new place to live. Disappointment has been our quest's constant companion. We long ago gave up the idea of ever returning home." He waited as murmurs rippled through the crowd.

"But no more. Our hosts, the survivors of the worlds they call the Colonies, are Human. They are looking for Earth. And what's more, they know the way." He watched them absorb the news. "Yes. They know the way home, my friends. That's why I called this meeting. Commander Adama and the Council of Twelve have invited us to join the crew of the Galactica on its journey." More murmuring. "We need be at the mercy of our wandering Moon no longer. We can have someplace to go." He waited a beat. "We can go home!"

The assembled Alphans cheered, and Koenig watched them slap backs, pat shoulders, and give skin. YES! They wanted it. Wanted it so badly they could taste it!

"However," Koenig continued, "it would not be fair if we hid from you the bad news. As many of you are aware of by now, the Galactica and the Fleet are the survivors of a terrible war. A war with the robotic Cylons." Koenig looked to Adama, and the Caprican rose from his seat.

He unfolded to the Alphan's the story of his people's war with the malignant Cylon Alliance, and their eventual destruction at the hands of the mechanized killers. He told them of the many running battles they had fought with the Cylons since their escape, and of how finding Alpha was practically an answer to prayer.

"Because of you," said Adama, "we now know that our quest for your world, for Earth, is no vain one. We not only have a course to follow, but we now have a precise distance and location. All who wish may join us aboard the Fleet, on our journey to Earth."

"What about these Cylons?" asked a voice from the crowd. Jim Haines.

"Exactly," said Adama. "There are the Cylons. The Cylons are a ruthless, inflexible race, utterly committed to the eradication of all organic life forms. We have encountered them many times since we fled the Colonies, most recently a few...weeks before encountering Alpha. No doubt, we shall do so again. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that we will survive to reach Earth. But, we have spoken at length with Commander Koenig and his staff, and all who wish to do so may join us here, aboard the Fleet. We have several days, by Earth time, till Alpha passes between the red giant suns. Each and every one of you must decide for him or herself. Give yourselves time."

"No one will be turned away," said Tigh, next to Adama. "If you decide to join us, we can accomplish the total evacuation of all personnel and equipment to the Galactica in just under four hundred centons."

"How much time is that?" asked Yasko.

"Yeah," said Alibe. "What's a centon?"

"Approximately ten hours," said Maya. She began handing out several sheets of paper. "Pass these around. These are conversion charts, giving Colonial measurements in both Imperial and Metric equivalents. Study them."

"Now," said Adama. "The bridge reports that the solar flare will dissipate in approximately 20 of your hours. Take your time, get to know your fellow Humans. Consider your next move."

"What's to decide?" asked Sarah Bullen, from Command Centre. "Commander?" Next to her, Petrov nodded in agreement.

"There's a lot of emotion involved here," said Koenig. "Alpha has become home to a lot of us, not merely a lump of dead rock. And, there is the matter of the Cylons, as well. I cannot order us out of the lifeboats, and onto the decks of what may turn out to be the Titanic. It affects all of us, so it must be decided by all of us, not just by one man."

They all nodded, understanding. Yes, they'd mull it. But, in the end, Koenig had no doubt about what the final decision would be.

Leaving behind the solar system where the BaseShip had been destroyed, the Cylons continued their search.

Aboard the wrecked BaseShip, Syphax lay prostrate under debris. Repeatedly, his cybernetic brain ran diagnostics, and attempted to reinitialize his servos.




Suddenly, Syphax's left arm moved.

As he left the conference room, Bob Mathias came up to Koenig, face grim.

"It's Michelle Osgood, Commander."

As the flare at last began to dissipate, the drifting Cylon wreck came onto the Galactica's sensors. Normally, this would have had klaxons blaring and pilots speeding for their fighters, but this time they knew it was coming. Giles and Jolly launched, and confirmed the Eagle pilot's report.

They also confirmed that the BaseShip was full as a tick with tylium. Sensors confirmed she still held over 6/8 of a maximum fuel load. As the BaseShip came into visual range of Alpha, Adama ordered shuttles launched, to board and salvage her.

Never, in the history of the Thousand Yahren War, had a Colonial warship had the opportunity to board and seize an enemy vessel as a prize of war. The Cylons either retreated, destroyed themselves, or were destroyed in combat.

"This is too great a prize to pass up," said Adama, watching the first shuttle dock, unopposed. "A BaseShip, adrift for the taking. All her technology, as well as her fuel."

"I never would have dreamed of such a chance, Commander," said Tigh. "I just hope we'll have all the time we need, to get what we want."

"Then let's not waste any," said Adama. He called down to Omega, and was put through to the salvage crews.

"The Alphans were right," said Engineer Tranio. "This ship is a total mess. A solar flare of enormous power must have hit her." Behind Tranio, Adama could see the wreck the landing bay had become. "We've found kicked breakers and blown circuits everywhere, sir. We're trying to reinitialize the stabilizers, now."

"Well just make certain you don't reactivate any Centurions," said Adama with a half-grin.

"No, sir."

"How are the Alphans doing?" asked Adama.

"Like waterfowl to wetlands," replied Tranio. "Their engineer, Osgood? He seems to have an instinctive feel for it, sir. He's as adept as any I've seen." Tranio looked in Osgood's direction, then back. "He seems to be holding up well, considering."

"Glad to hear it," said Adama. "Keep me posted." He switched off, and turned to his Exec. "Well, it seems we and our Earth brothers are working well, on our first joint mission."

"It bodes well," said Tigh. "This Osgood seems to be a strong personality. Working like this, with his wife in Life Station."

"I think they have all had to learn to be that way, Tigh, considering what they've been through. Their odyssey has been much like ours."

"Any word on her condition?"

"Not yet."

"Adama," said Tigh, looking out the port, watching the BaseShip be nudged into lunar orbit, "what are the chances we could refit her?"


"The BaseShip. Refit her to our use?"

"I never considered that," said the silver-haired Commander. As he pondered the idea, numerous objections came up. Time. Resources. Still, it was an idea. He'd have to consult with the engineering staff about its feasibility.

In Life Center, Michelle Osgood lay unconscious, her life sustained by machines. Some years before, her heart had failed and been replaced with a mechanical one. Despite an initially excellent prognosis, the mechanical heart had begun to intermittently malfunction, leaving her on total life support. As she slept, Helena discussed her case with the Galactica's CMO, and once more had her eyes opened to the level of Colonial medical science.

Mechanical prosthetics had been as routine in the Colonies as TV remotes on Earth. But, asked Dr. Selik, after studying Michelle's medical history and a long consultation with Alpha's staff, why aim so low? Why not a transplant?

A cloned transplant.

Helena had been taken aback, but readily absorbed the radical idea. Cells from the patient could be taken, specific genes stimulated, and a new organ grown artificially. Once ready, it could be transplanted into the patient, without the risk of rejection or the other complications that had plagued earlier techniques. It had a better than 85% chance of success. It was Michelle's best hope.

"Go," said Pat, and the doctors got to work.

As the flare subsided, the crew of Alpha returned to find the base barely touched. The Bergman Force Field had, once again, proven its worth. Kano and his crew got the systems back on-line, and began the laborious task of inventorying Moonbase Alpha, for the evacuation to the Galactica.

If the vote went that way.

Aboard the battered BaseShip, Pat Osgood and his team were getting quite an education. The technology of the Cylon Alliance was, he estimated, at least 500 years ahead of the Earth of 1999.

As tempting as it was, Adama had decided against trying to refit the BaseShip. What resources the Fleet had were better spent stripping it, and using it in the battle for survival. Lords of Kobol knew that the Cylon vessel had enough sheer metal to repair most of the ships in the Fleet, more than once.

For once it felt good, the Alphans aboard the BaseShip decided, to interact with others. Usually, they had been treated, at best, as primitive barbarians, or some alien's playthings. But here were people who, although centuries ahead of them technologically, treated them with equality and respect.

About time.

One of the first things identified and scheduled for stripping was the BaseShip's computer core. Falxa was of considerable help, here. He identified many of the crucial systems, and supplied numerous codes for accessing this and that. Within a mere centars, the BaseShip'' mainframe, scanner assembly, and seven of her laser guns were on their way to the Galactica.

Chapter Ten

"This is great," said Alan, in the Galactica's simulator room. He'd just blown away his fifth virtual Cylon, and was finding the Viper a total dream.

"How does it compare to your Eagle craft?" asked Athena. She waited till Carter ended the sim, and popped the canopy. "Hhmm?

" racing a Ferrari, compared to a Tin Lizzy," he replied, removing his helmet. He noted her blank stare. "Sorry," he smiled, and explained. Athena tried to understand, but internal combustion power, piston engines, and wheeled transport had gone out in the Colonies well before the start of the war with the Alliance. Instead, she just smiled, and went on.

"You were a fighter pilot?"

"Yeah. I flew in the RAAF, before I went to Alpha." She looked blank again, so he explained once more. "Always wanted to fly, even as a tyke. Me old man got me started, flyin' with him in the Outback, and it just went from there." He hopped down from the simulator and looker her up and down. He liked what he saw. "You?"

"Family tradition," she shrugged. "My family has served for generations. Either in public life or in the military."

"The women, too?" They'd left the simulator room, headed for the Officer's Club, Athena in the lead.

"Some." She turned to look at him. "Do women serve on Earth?"

"Depends on where you're from. Some societies are very restrictive, others not." He gave her a thumbnail sketch of Earth's cultural spectrum, describing everything from Islamic Fundamentalists in Arabia, to modern Australia.

"In the Colonies," she said, as they entered the OC, "women were free to serve in the military. Not all wished to of course, but when you're surrounded by God knows how many Cylons, you do what you have to to survive, personal wishes aside."

"Right," said Alan. "Like Israel, and all those Arabs." Unfamiliar with the Galactica's fare, he let Athena do the ordering. She got them two tankards of ambrosia, and handed him one. Alan tasted...and was carried away.

"Israel?" she asked, after a few moments, staring at him over the rim of her tankard. As she felt the ambrosia warm her insides, she decided she liked this Alphan, and was glad her father had given her the job of liaison with the inhabitants of the runaway Moon. Alan was likeable. Lords of Kobol, he was more than likeable. He was damn cute!

"Yeah. Tiny little country in the Middle East." He explained, and slowly began to notice others were listening.

"Something wrong with the drink?" Athena asked, as Alan looked into the bottom of his tankard.

"Wrong? Blazes, no. Quite the opposite, Athena. This stuff's great. I was just thinking it sure is a damn sight better than that engine cleaner Tony's always mucking about with, on Alpha."

"Engine cleaner?" Athena's brows furrowed. "I, uh..."

"Beer. Tony, our Security Chief, he's always trying to brew beer. Hasn't got it right yet, let me tell you, lass."

"How can you brew,, on a lifeless planet?" Alan explained Alpha's hydroponics section, and Tony's growing of barley, hops, and whatnot. At last count, the Italian was up to formula 109, with no end in sight. Athena smiled, and decided that Alpha desperately needed Caprican ambrosia.

Dr. Selik found Maya to be charming, witty, and able to converse easily upon a wide range of topics. A naturally very curious man, he had asked her to submit herself to a physical exam, and she readily agreed. It gave her a chance to examine Colonial medical technology up close, and Selik the opportunity to study an entirely new species.

Maya was, as far as he was concerned, stunning. Her physiology and biochemistry gave his medical mind new vistas to explore, while her DNA gave him something new to add to his collection, for Dr. Selik had made a repository containing the DNA of every species the Galactica had encountered since fleeing the Colonies, on top of a gene bank of each and every member of the Fleet. Just in case.

"And you are the last?" he asked, as the biosensors scanned her respiratory system.

"Yes, as far as I know," she replied. "The last ships, carrying what remained of our people left Psychon a few years before it was destroyed. My brother was amongst them."

"Refugees," nodded Selik. "Rather like ourselves."


"And what caused your planet to become uninhabitable, so rapidly?"

Maya explained how Psychon's orbit had shifted, due to a passing astral body. In it's new and chaotic orbit, the gravitational pull of it's sun, along with the other major bodies in its system, had served to stretch and flex the planet, much in the fashion of Jupiter's moon Io. The result, along with a more than doubling of heat from the sun, was a slow heating of Psychon's interior, with massive volcanism and poisoning of the atmosphere. Within a single lifetime, Psychon had been reduced from supporting billions of species to a mere handful, from a virtual paradise to a volcanic hell with a population of two.

Sentient population.

Selik was still scanning her when Starbuck entered, looking decidedly glum. It was well past time for his annual physical, the part of his being a Colonial Warrior that he hated. As soon as he checked in and caught sight of Maya, he at once looked considerably less glum.

Frankly, the Psychon entranced the Viper pilot. Not merely because she had a killer shape, graceful neck, and dazzling eyes, but also for the air of mystery that surrounded her. The rest of the Alphans were of his own kind, from the world they had been seeking. But Maya was different. Her race was unknown to the Colonials, and (nearly) extinct to boot. It made her a mystery, and Starbuck most definitely liked mystery in a woman.

For her part, Maya found the rakish Caprican alluring as well, in his pilot's uniform. Odd, she thought, that a warrior should stir feelings within her. It had been over three hundred years since Psychons had fought each other, and by the time of her birth, there wasn't even a word for warrior in modern Psychon. There just weren't any more warriors.

"Seen much of the Galactica, yet?" he asked, as a medtech took a blood sample. "Or the Fleet?"

"No," she replied, as one of Selik's instruments began scanning her brain. "I haven't had time, Lieutenant. It is Lieutenant, is it not?"

"Yes, it is. Just Lieutenant." He was quiet a moment, then turned as a mechanical sound came to his ears. It was Muffit, the cybernetic canine, preceeded by a five-year-old boy. He looked up as Boxey came in. "Hi, kid. Looking for your Dad?"

"Yep," said Boxey, Apollo's adoptive son. "Seen him, Starbuck?"

"Last I saw, he and Boomer and Bojay were heading for the gymnasium along with some of the Alphans, kid."

"Okay. Thanks, Starbuck," said the boy, who turned to his mechanical pet. "Come on, Muffit." With an electronic "woof", the daggit followed him out. Selik smiled, but said nothing. Boxey was such a fixture all over the ship, no one questioned his presence anywhere anymore. Starbuck lay there, after Boxey had gone, and let the medtech go on with his work. Then, turning to Maya-

"Ever see a game of Triad?"

"Commander," said Omega, on the bridge.


"Astrophysics has an update on the binary star, sir," said the other, and dumped it to Adama's station. For a few moments, the Commander kept his eyes on another screen. A docking coupling had been contrived, and huge hoses now stretched between the Battlestar and the BaseShip. Already several tons of fuel had been pumped into the Galactica's tanks. When they were once more full, and the fighter fuel bins too, then the rest of the Fleet could belly up and share in the bounty. Good.

Adama turned to regard the new data. Not good. The sensor data on the stars the Moon was drifting ever faster towards was looking worse by the centon. Every reading showed increasing instability, and only confirmed what Alpha's Professor Bergman had already determined.

The suns were going. Soon.

Athena found her second visit to Alpha much more relaxed than her first. This time there was no suspicion, no uncertainty, no apprehension.

Of course, that Cylon was still there. The Galactica had her own, true. Baltar's former pilots. But they were kept deactivated in Wilker's lab, and not given the run of the place. She had never gotten used to the pulsing sound of one of them, or the expressionless red scanner eye, and here Falxa seemed to have the run of the place!

"He's turned out to be a real help," said Carter, as they watched Falxa stack crates in the hangar, near his dismantled fighter. "He does whatever we ask, and makes no fuss."

"Still makes me nervous," said Athena, shivering slightly as she watched the mechanical man do his work. She pulled her datacorder from the pouch on her thigh, and began making cargo lists. "Have your people decided yet?"

"No. Commander Koenig's letting everyone read through the data you gave us on your ships and people" He led her over to what looked like an Eagle cockpit on a platform. "Here."

"What's this?" asked Athena.

"Our simulator," replied Alan. "Like any and all pilots, our guys have to keep their skills sharp, right?" Athena nodded in agreement. "But we can't afford to expend precious fuel just on training flights anymore." He led her up to the simulator, and she followed him inside. "We salvaged the cockpit from a wrecked Eagle, and linked her to the computer." He gestured her to a seat, and stowing her datacorder she took it, running her eyes over the unfamiliar instruments.

"It's so..."

"Primitive?" Alan asked, with a grin. "Well, yeah, I guess. By comparison with you, or the Cylons. But then so would The Spirit of St. Louis, I guess, next to an Eagle." Blank stare. Once more Alan explained.

It's like sitting in a museum, thought Athena, as she studied the controls in front of her. But, as a student at the Academy she'd studied old aircraft, and this was similar to the old Nebula-class shuttle the Colonies had flown, long before the Cylons began the war. She moved swiftly through the pre-flight, as Alan read off the list.

Athena found herself very drawn to Alan Carter. Oddly drawn, she decided. What, after all, was the man? A primitive Human, stuck in space because of a stupid blunder his people had made. If, after all, they had done this to their moon, what in Hades Hole must their world be like, now? Had their childish, no infantile attempts at science left it in much the same sort of mess?

But, she felt him drawing her, nonetheless. As he ran her through the systems, she found the Eagle a real challenge to fly. Out the cockpit windows images of Earth, the Centauri Space Dock, the International Space Station, and myriad other orbital craft filled her with wonder. Earth was a beautiful planet, even in CGI. What by the Lords of Kobol must it be like, in reality? She felt a sudden wave of homesickness, kicking her in the gut with a deep, hard longing for home, a longing she had tried to deny, for the sake of her sanity, since the day they had fled the Cylon final assault. She missed Caprica, with its green land, blue seas, and white clouds. Caprica, where she'd been born, and where virtually all she'd ever known lay in ashes.

Trying to throw off her emotional miasma, she "docked" with the Centauri Station, and the lights went green across the board. The computer even added a loud "thump", and a shake, for the sake of realism.

"Perfect," said Alan, and switched simulations. This time, she touched down on Alpha, pad four. Or rather tried. She wrecked the Eagle on the first try, splaying it across the pad, but made it on the second. Then, the windows cleared, and she found herself facing a Deltan dreadnought. Dione's ship.

A skilled fighter pilot, Athena scored two direct hits to the Deltan's hull before it tagged her. Alan reset the simulation, and this time she managed to take out one weapons pod before the Deltan buttoned her once more. The third time, she battered the bridge mercilessly, to great effect. There was an explosion of gas and debris from the bridge, and the Deltan veered, blind in space, and Athena used the Eagle's 40 megawatt laser battery to start slicing up her target. She cut away at the engines, the underside, and then the weapons arrays. Finally, in a violent wash of light, the hull of the virtual Satasius split open, blowing itself to bits. She cheered, grabbing Alan's hand and squeezing it in her triumph.

"How'd the hell you do that?" asked Alan, almost in awe. "No one's ever done that, before." He turned from the instruments to Athena, fixing her eyes with his.

"When...when you've spent your whole life fighting Cylons, you learn," said Athena, eyes locked on his. "This ship of yours may be slow and backwards, but in the right hands..." Her gazed was riveted on his, her hand sweating. She shouldn't...what...

Then, as if on cue, they kissed, forgetting the simulator, the Eagle, and everything around them.

Chapter Eleven

At last, Command Centurion Syphax got to his feet, his internal back-up systems partially coming on-line. His internal chrono was unable to uplink to the ship's, and he had no idea how long he had been inactive.

His Command Center was wrecked, its crew destroyed. Moving haltingly, Syphax went from station to station checking systems, but nothing worked. Virtually all of them seemed to have been burned out. Destroyed by the flare's impact. Dead screens, dead instruments...

No. Not all. On one security monitor, intermittent as it was, were Humans! In one of the BaseShip's hangar bays Humans were busy dismantling and removing equipment. Syphax pressed the alarm, to call out ship's security detail. Nothing. The circuit was dead.

Had he been organic, Syphax would have cursed vehemently. Did nothing work around here? He tried yet another control...

And the BaseShip's main transmitter array whined into life...

And was almost as quickly taken down, again. As soon as the multi-gigawatt signal was detected, Adama ordered the BaseShip's antenna array targeted and destroyed. The pulsar smashed into it, and it was blown to bits, after a mere seven centons on the air.


A single Cylon patrol craft, at the very edge of its operational range, was just turning around to return to its BaseShip when it picked up a very weak and attenuated fragment of a signal. A Cylon distress signal.

Finally, something to report.

Adama cursed, as only old sailors can. His and Koenig's people had found a few still functional Cylons aboard, all quickly dealt with. The Alphan's sidearms had proven to be as effective against the cybernetic demons as the pistols issued to the Colonial Warriors, much to the relief of all. But, obviously, they'd missed someone, and now the fat was in the fire, as Helena had so colorfully put it. Adama at once dispatched a full security detail over to the Cylon ship to hunt down any survivors, and ordered the engineering crews to expedite their work. No telling...

"Gol!" he swore aloud, slapping his thigh, and growling in his throat. Both Tigh and Omega turned to look at him, eyes wide. Never had the Galactica's Commander lost his temper on the bridge, in front of his officers. Not when all had been lost, in the ambush at Cimtar, not when in the heat of seemingly hopeless battle. Never. Omega held back a moment, unsure of how the latest news would be received by Adama. Adama looked up, and motioned him forward. He took the printout, and read it, turning even redder as the veins bulged.

"FRACK!" he bellowed, louder than before. As if things weren't already bad enough as they were. Another flare from the binary sun was on its way.


Chapter Twelve

Maya found the brash young Lieutenant fun to be with. After leaving the Battlestar's Life Station, Starbuck took her to the observation deck, the launch bays, the hangar deck. While vessels of war didn't do it for Maya, she found the ship fascinating from a technological standpoint. How had such a huge ship been designed, constructed, and maintained? How was it powered? And, she had to admit, there was something compelling about Starbuck's company.

Not that she was overly tempted, as far as he was concerned. The Viper pilot was obviously, even to her, an old hand when it came to the ladies. From his smooth talk to the way a number of female crew members looked at him as they passed, it was clear that she had become the latest target for his efforts. She wasn't going to play false with Tony, certainly not now. She looked down at the ring on her finger. Yet, somehow, it was a pleasant feeling, all the same.

"What does that patch stand for?" she asked, as they passed two crewmen. She noticed that some wore a red patch with a winged sword on it, rather than the Galactica's abstract starburst pattern.

"They're originally from the Pegasus," he told her.

"The Pegasus? Was that another Battlestar?"

"Yeah," he replied, and told her of the other ship, the Pegasus, commanded by Sheba's father, the legendary Commander Cain. Thought lost in combat yahrens before, they had encountered the Pegasus by chance, and fought together, once more, this time obliterating a Cylon base, and stealing as much fuel as the Fleet could carry. Then, to cover their escape, Cain had taken on two BaseShip's single-handedly, destroying both. "Here. I'll show you."

Deep in the guts of the Battlestar, he brought her to a door labeled Stellar Cartography. Inside, the walls were lined with countless lenses, and there was an operator's seat in the center. Taking it, Starbuck brought up the console, and almost at once the walls vanished, replaced by vast starfields.

"Incredible," said Maya, as the images solidified around her, making it seem as if they were literally floating in space. "And this is all the galaxy that is known to you?"

"Uh huh," said Starbuck. "And you too. All the cartographic data from Alpha's memory banks has been incorporated into our system." He operated the controls in silence for a moment, and they seemed to zip across the void faster than any ship could possibly carry them, at last zooming in on a planet. "Caprica," he announced at last. For a moment, they watched the world of his birth slowly spin in virtual space.

"It's beautiful," said Maya. "It looks like..."


"Well, it just...reminded me of home for a moment. Psychon." Starbuck nodded, and showed her the rest of the worlds that had made up the Colonies. Gemon. Taura. Virgon. Saggitara. She watched them all in turn, until the images became ugly. A dozen BaseShips dropped out of hyperspace, and took up positions over the inner planets. Almost at once, they began to spew countless fighter craft, each and every one bent on death and destruction. Below, the cities began to burn, the Cylons raking them over and over with deadly fire. Then the same happened with the outer planets. Before her very eyes, Maya saw twelve beautiful worlds reduced to flaming hells, as wave after wave of Raiders descended upon them. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was spared.

"This is...horrible," said Maya, watching as defenseless ships in dry-docks were blasted into scrap. One, a Battlestar undergoing repairs, was sliced up by the Cylons as though it were a bird on the table. "Were there no defenses at all?"

"There were, yes. But they were sabotaged. And the bulk of the Fleet was at the so-called Armistice."

"Sabotaged? By...ah. I see. Count Baltar."

"Yes. He saw to it that our Fleet was away, and that our defenses were off-line, at just the right moment, Maya. Just long enough." For a few more moments, they watched the Colonies being hammered and ripped by the seemingly endless waves of attacking Cylons. A few Viper fighters of the home defense made it up, a few Raiders were destroyed, but the issue had never, could never have been in doubt. Within the space of a single Earth hour, a vibrant, flourishing Republic of nearly twelve billion people had been reduced to flaming, smoking rubble.

"Well," said Starbuck, after a moment, and worked the controls again. Once more the stars shot by, and after passing through several "blank" zones, slowed, at last zeroing in on another planet. He could hear Maya's sharp catch of breath, as she once more looked upon the world of her birth. Psychon spun before them, its atmosphere visibly laced with toxins and volcanic garbage. "You weren't kidding," said Starbuck. "Your world was in a bad way." He watched as data scrolled by, the letters seeming to hang in space. Collected by Alpha's sensors and enhanced by the Galactica's vastly superior systems, it told the brutal truth. A world yanked and pulled by competing gravitational stresses, its interior heated to the point of extinguishing almost all life, held together only by the power of Psyche, and Mentor's black will. After a few moments, Starbuck ran it ahead and they watched as, with Psyche gone, the errant Moon's gravity delivered the final coup de grace; the crust began to crack open, and Psychon st arted to irreparably break up.

"Hey, I'm sorry," he said, as he heard Maya let out a quiet sob. He turned to her. "That was pretty damned insensitive of me, by God." He took her in his arms, and let her wind down. "Here, let's look at something else. Okay?"

"Right," said Maya, straightening up. Starbuck went back to the controls, and they saw another world. Maya did not recognize it, but knew the name, once it came up. Arkadia, a world scoured sterile by its long-dead inhabitants, and only now being brought, slowly, back to life by two Alphan castaways. Rhetha, a bizarre jungle world. Ultima Thule, a frozen, immortal wasteland. Ariel, whose unseen inhabitants had first given the Moon water and air, and then just as quickly taken it away again. Piri, where time had stood still for countless ages. The ship from Kaldor, and the horrid fate of the unlamented Commissioner Simmonds. Balor. The Sidonians. The Taybor. All the travelers they had met, all the worlds they had visited.

Including the one she'd come from.

He switched to Earth, at last giving reign to his own curiosity. Now, it was Starbuck's turn to stare. The only image of Earth they had was very old, believed to have been sent back, long ages ago, by an automated probe, and giving scant details. But here...

Here was a file, stuffed as full as a lupus after a kill! Every image of Earth taken from space since the late 1950's, up until the last glimpse on September 13th, 1999. He watched, spellbound, as the virtual Earth rotated, circled by the Moon.

Tony stood on one wing of the bridge, watching the crew of the mighty Battlestar go efficiently about their business. They were a lot like the Alphans, he mused. Busy, dedicated, struggling for survival on their own wanderings through the cosmos. Wanderings which, like those of the Alphans, were not of their own choosing. Had Maya's people ever...

Where was Maya, he wondered. She was supposed to meet him, over an hour ago, after she got through with the doctors, and help him coordinate the evacuation. Where...

He noticed the boy, Boxey, patter onto the bridge, in pajamas, with that wind-up dog of his, and head for Commander Adama. Adama turned, regarding the boy with a warm smile, and a few words. He heard the boy say "Goodnight, Grampa," and head back the way he had come, Energizer Puppy in tow. Kind of like the Galactica's own Jackie Crawford, he seemed to have catre blanche about where he went on the ship. Maybe...

"Ah, Boxey?" he called, and the boy turned.


"Have you seen Maya, by any chance?"

"You mean the lady with the funny eyebrows?" asked the boy, eyes all innocence, as Apollo came up behind him.

"Yes. That's..that's her. Have you seen her?"

"Yeah. In the Life Station. She and Starbuck were headed somewhere, I think."

"She and...Where? Do you...?

"Boxey," said Apollo, glaring down at the boy. "You know better than to make fun of the appearance of non-Humans."

"Yes, Dad," he replied, slightly chastened.

"It isn't their fault, what they look like. Right? And, you also know better than to gossip about others, too. Now head back to quarters. I'll be along." The boy left, and Apollo turned to Tony. "I'm sorry, Mr. Verdeschi. He's not quite as well-mannered as he should be, around strangers. Raising him properly since his mother's death hasn't been easy. I apologize." He looked back towards the departing boy. "Do you have any children?"

"Kids? Ah, no." said Tony. "Do you know where Starbuck is, Captain?" Apollo buried a smile, clearly sensing the jealousy in the other man. He went to a computer terminal, and requested Starbuck's location.

"Lieutenant Starbuck is in Stellar Cartography," replied the machine.

"Woo!" said Apollo, as Tony at once quit the bridge, forgetting to even bother asking where Stellar Cartography was.

Once out of sight, Boxey grinned the impish grin of the cat who's swallowed the canary.

"Let's go find Cassiopeia, Muffet."

"It's beautiful," said the pilot, quietly. "I'd...never thought about it that way, before."

"Earth is much as Psychon was, long ago," said Maya. They watched as the computer created a virtual Alpha, and then the waste dumps blew up, sending the vagabond Moon on its way, into the unknown.

"It's incredible you've survived," said Starbuck. "With only your airless moon to support you and your systems."

"It's been a struggle, for sure," said a voice, and they turned. Tony Verdeschi stood there, by the open door, hands on hips, almost glaring at Starbuck. "But we've managed."

"Oh Tony," said Maya. "Come on in."

"Thanks, I will," said the Security Chief, and did so.

"Here's the Pegasus," said Starbuck, quickly turning back to the controls. The virtual sky over them resolved to the image of a Battlestar, scarred, battered, closing in on two Cylon BaseShips, the antagonists trading vicious salvos.

"And this is?" asked Tony, now next to Maya, hand on her shoulder.

"Commander Cain's last battle," said Starbuck. Down and to the left of the "battle" a picture of Cain came up with a short bio, followed by scrolling data.

"What's a Gold Cluster?" Verdeschi asked.

"Our highest military award. I have two."

"And this Commander had seven?" asked Maya.

"Uh huh. The most decorated warrior in the history of the Colonies. The only warrior ever to earn a Gold Cluster while still a Cadet, I might add. Seven Gold Clusters, four Silver, one Bronze, six Blood Stripes, that's for being wounded in battle, the Civil Crown, six-hundred and twenty-seven confirmed kills as a fighter pilot, Baton of Victory." Starbuck sighed. "Yeah, Cain was the living legend every cadet dreams of being."

"And he took these two ships on, single-handedly?" asked the Psychon.

"He did."

"That's crazy," said Tony, watching the Pegasus continue exchanging fire with the Cylons. The Battlestar was taking merciless fire, and dishing out as much in return.

"No," said Starbuck, turning to Tony with an irate glare. "It was brilliant. He covered our escape from the Gamoray Sector, after we'd raided a Cylon fuel base, not to mention their outer capital. While their fighters were out, closing in on the Galactica and the Fleet, he headed straight for them. True to form, Baltar pulled back, left these two to cover his butt, and called his fighters off of us, just in time." He turned back, to see the Pegasus launch her first missile at one of the closing BaseShips. "No. If it hadn't been for this maneuver, we'd all be dust, orbiting Gamoray."

Tony grunted, but watched, fascinated in spite of himself, as missiles from the Pegasus struck home, ripping open one BaseShip. The Cylon belched flames and debris, before disappearing in a cloud of her own wreckage. Cain took murderous fire from the second Cylon, but slammed her with first one missile, then a second, keeping his laser batteries firing all the while. First the Cylon's shields, then its hull, buckled, till the entire ship vomited its guts out into the void, spewing energy and debris everywhere, obscuring the Pegasus. Then, the sky cleared, and there were only stars.

"What happened to the Pegasus?" asked Maya.

"We don't know," said Starbuck, a little somberly, as the CGI program terminated, and lenses surrounded them once more. "Since then, there has been no word from the Pegasus. Not a peep. Apollo and I had to get out of there, and fast."

"You and Apollo?" asked Maya.

"This animation was generated from the flight recorder data in our Vipers. We were the last fighters to launch off the Pegasus, on our way back to the Fleet," Starbuck explained, recalling the story, but leaving out his and Apollo's part in crippling the BaseShip's missile launchers. "Anyway, that's why some of our warriors wear Pegasus patches. In memory of the old girl, as it were. Wherever she may be."

"Fascinating," said Tony, drolly.

Starbuck watched as Alpha's Security Chief led Maya from the room, his jealousy still palpable. That didn't go so well, he thought, powering down the equipment. Frack, but he's jealous! Parades it like a lovesick schoolboy.

Oh well, he shrugged, easing out of his seat, and heading for the door himself, there would be other occasions, once the Alphan's joined them on their journey to Earth. Starbuck enjoyed a challenge, and Maya would be quite a challenge to his well-honed skills, yes. He slowly drew a fumerello from his inner pocket, and stopped before the door, to light up. As he took his first slow drag, he nodded confidently to himself, smiling. Yes. Before long, the mysterious, sensuous alien woman would, unquestionably...

The door opened, and Cassiopeia stood there, arms crossed in front of her, glaring at him like the Imperious Leader on a bad day. He started, guiltily, face suddenly feeling hot.

"Ah...Cassie. I...what's up?"

Chapter Thirteen

Athena awoke, to find herself staring at an unfamiliar sight. Windows. Windows? There were no windows in her quarters aboard the Galactica. She puzzled for a moment, wondering where on Kobol she was, and why she did not feel the ever-present vibration of the Battlestar's engines. Where in the Colonies was she? Then she felt something touch her leg, and she realized she was naked, covered only by a thin sheet. It all came back at lightspeed.


"Well, good morning," he said as she turned, up on one elbow and already watching her. "How'd ya sleep?"

"I...uh, great," she said, sitting up and running her fingers through her hair. Alan got up, and went straight for the coffee machine, bringing her a cup as well. She sniffed, then took a tentative sip. "What is it?"

"Coffee," he replied, taking a long drink. "We usually drink this, in the mornings. At least in the Western societies." He watched her. "Yeah, it is a bit horrid. All we have left is the synthesizer version. No more real coffee beans, except for the precious few we saved. Maybe, one day, when we'd found a place." He took another sip. "We had several coffee plants, in hydroponics, at Breakaway. We had a contract, from one of the major coffee companies, to develop new strains and increase yields through genetic engineering. But...none of them have survived. So, we took what little we had left, and put it through the synthesizer."


"Yeah. It can reproduce a lot of things. Even complex organic molecules. It was developed right before Breakaway, by Doctor Nicholas Barber and his..."

"Alan," she said, setting the cup down, "I..."

"Don't," he said, putting out a finger, and touching her lips. "It happened. We both wanted it. There's no going forward in regret. And, I have something to tell you, Athena."

"And...what is it?"

"I'm voting to join the Galactica, Athena. No, not just because of you," he added quickly, as she opened her mouth. "I'm tired. Tired of being stuck here on this stupid lump of rock, with no control over where I go. At the mercy of this or that gravity field, or spatial phenomenon we can't even understand. Like a lot of the rest of my friends, I want to go home!" He got up, and went to the window, gazing out at God alone knew what stars. "I just want to go home!"

"It'll be dangerous, Alan," she said, rising and coming to stand behind him. "We never know when the Cylons, or the Eastern Alliance, or some other enemy will turn up and attack."

"We're the same," said Alan. "There were Jarak's people, the Dehltans, Gwent, Mentor, the Golosian exiles, the Dorcons. We've faced our own share of bad guys."

"But to exchange one set of dangers for another..."

"There are big differences, Athena, when it comes to your people. Real big ones."

"What are they?"

"First, you aren't headed out of control towards a couple of stars about to go pop."


"You've got a motor, and you can steer."

Athena laughed, and Alan joined her. He reached out, and without a word they fell together, once more lost in their passion and desire, needs perfectly matched.

"Besides," said Carter afterwards, running his finger along her nose, "now that I've found you, I ain't about to lose you."



"Alan," she said, rising up, "you don't know anything about me. I..."

"I know all I need to, Athena. I know that you're what I want. Anything else is just...icing on the cake. So what if we were born half a galaxy apart? I..."


"Lieutenant Athena," came the voice of Colonel Tigh, "report to the Galactica. Lieutenant Athena, report to the Galactica."

"Duty calls," she sighed, and got up to dress. She keyed her communicator, and acknowledged Tigh. "When's the vote?"

"Not sure, yet. Commander Koenig's giving us plenty of time to get to know each other."

"It should be now. Hades, not even a vote! Alpha is drifting closer to the binary all the time, Alan."

"Yeah," he said, getting up and reaching for his uniform. "I know."

The Cylon patrol craft, running practically on fumes, returned at last to its BaseShip and reported its findings. The signal they had picked up was unquestionably Cylon, and carried enough of the ID tag of the now missing 97H699-F to make its identity a certainty. Once all this vessel's fighters were back aboard, they would make their next move.

Athena reported to the bridge to see an angry Adama. Does he know? she wondered. But the formidable umbrage of the Galactica's Commander was not directed at her. Several of the bridge personnel were on Life Station relief, struck down with a new illness. An illness, it turned out, caught from one of the Alphans.

"Some sort of respiratory distress," Adama told her. "Commander Koenig's wife called it 'pneumonia'".

"Aren't they immunized?" she asked, as she slid into Omega's seat.

"Yes, and Dr. Selik is producing a supply of vaccine from their formula, but it would appear that someone slipped up, somewhere."

"Are we in danger, Father?" she asked, logging in.

"He says that our drugs will take care of it, and the vaccine should protect those not yet infected," sighed Adama, looking at his monitors. "Anyway, I need you to cover several posts, with Omega, Rigel, and the rest off sick."

"Yes, Father." She looked at a status board. "All of Red Squadron is out?"

"Someone on board the BaseShip got out a distress call. We don't know if anyone heard it or not, but I'm taking no chances."

"How goes stripping the BaseShip?"

"Slowly. Too slowly." He looked at a monitor. Right now, the livestock ship was pulled up alongside the Cylon, filling her tanks. So far, over half the Fleet had fueled up, and the BaseShip still had plenty left.

"How did you enjoy your time on Alpha?" he asked. "Do you think we'll be able to integrate smoothly with them?"

"Very, yes."

"I hear Captain Carter did quite well on the Viper simulator," Adama went on.

"Yes he did. He's a natural pilot, Father. He flew fighters, on Earth. He said he's been flying one sort of machine or another since he was a child."

"I see. That might be useful. Piloting skills are at a premium."

"And he showed me the simulator that he uses on Alpha, to train the pilots there. It's primitive, by our standards, but it works surprisingly well. I destroyed an alien dreadnought, in it."

"And what do you think of him?" He looked up from her to regard Cassiopeia, bringing him a report from Life Station, and carrying a hypospray. He began to peruse it, then got his vaccination.

"He's honest, Father. Straightforward. And, he's going to vote for Alpha joining with us. The others respect him a lot. I'm sure his vote will carry a lot of others." She extended her arm, and got hers, then it was Tigh's turn.

"Well, let's hope they don't bring any more germs with them," said Cassie. "Our medical database has nothing on this disease, and Cadet Grumio just went critical."

"Better we find out now, what Earth has in store for us, Cassie," said Adama, signing the report. "Forewarned is forearmed." Cassie merely shrugged, took the signed report with her, and finished the vaccinations. "Testy today," he observed, watching her depart the bridge.

"She doesn't want the Alphans joining us," said Tigh. He looked at a monitor. The livestock ship was pulling away from their impromptu filling station, and the freighter Gemini was moving in to get her fill. "It's that simple."

"Oh? Why not?" asked the Commander.

"The Psychon woman," said the Colonel. "It appears that Starbuck has been paying a little too much attention to Maya."

"Really?" asked Athena, who had once been Starbuck's main squeeze. Or rather, one of them. Her voice was laced with an unmistakable sarcasm, which she instantly regretted. "How out of character for him."

Still smarting, daughter? thought Adama, recalling how the Viper pilot had dropped her, for Cassiopeia. Though he respected Starbuck as an officer, and a Warrior, it still rankled now and then, this treatment of his daughter. Does it still hurt, that much?

"Father, leading edge of the latest flare now 50 microns, and closing. Contact estimated in...24.48 centons."


Syphax was as angry as it was possible for a Cylon of his class to be. Human vermin running loose, all over his vessel!! A vessel that was being stripped of its equipment, robbed of its fuel, and now rendered mute. What new, unheard of Colonial perfidity was this?

Crawling through an air vent into a service crawlway at last brought him to an auxiliary control substation, where he accessed a working internal sensor array. His ship was apparently orbiting a large, airless planet, slowly drifting towards the binary star. The binary that had nearly destroyed them. All around him, the accursed Colonial Fleet hovered, sucking the fuel from his barely functioning ship.

There was only one course of action, then.

Crawling along till he reached one of the launch bays, the Command Centurion keyed in the code for the emergency bulkhead to slide back, and he passed through into the open, dropping to the deck. Giving the wreckage littering the cavernous bay a lookover, Syphax began to wend his way through the mechanical carnage, till he finally came to a storage bunker. It opened, and he at once was rewarded with what he'd been looking for.


All but a handful of Koenig's people were back on Alpha. For the vote. Most were gathered in Alpha's theater, and as expected, only a fraction voted to stay on the wandering Moon. 93% of them cast their ballots to cast off Alpha, and join their fortunes to the Colonial Fleet. As they began to vote, each vote cast from their commlocks, the leading edge of the new flare began to sweep over Earth's former remora, cutting Alpha off from the Fleet, for now. Unlike the first time, they knew for sure that the Bergman Force Field would do the job, and they passed the time in packing up and inventorying everything they wished to take with them. Greenbean and Bree, two of the Galactica's pilots, would, it seemed, be waiting the storm out with them. On the way back to the Battlestar with equipment from the BaseShip, they'd had an engine on their shuttle flame out. With thrust down, and Alpha much closer, they'd opted for the base.

Baltar looked out the windows of his quarters, and sighed. Back aboard the Galactica he might be, but he was still no closer to delivering her to the Imperious Leader. Still, thanks to a legal technicality, he was here, and not back aboard the prison barge. With a guard outside his door.

For his own protection, of course.

He sat down, and removed the commlock he'd stolen from Alpha from his bag. He regarded the device. Primitive and with a limited range, it was still his best hope. Perhaps if he could modify it, sufficiently... He hadn't risen to the command of a Battlestar without learning a few things.

Chapter Fourteen

"It's eerily beautiful," said Athena, watching the cosmic storm rage around them.

"Yeah, it sure is," said Alan, next to her on the bridge. She was showing him basic helm and scanner functions, with Adama's approval. News of the Alphan vote had spread rapidly through the Fleet, and Adama was pleased. The presence of these Humans would smooth their assimilation into Earth society immeasurably, once they finally got there. At least now they had proof that Earth's society was reasonably advanced technologically, rather than a bunch of Stone-Age primitives. And, if the educated were as quick to adapt as Alan, then bringing them up to a level where they could help fight the Cylons would prove just that much easier.

"Who are you?" demanded Syphax of the Human he had captured. The Alphan, Byrne from Technical, had been at work stripping power distribution nodes from one of the landing bays when he'd run afoul of the ship's piecemeal gravity, and had a serious fall. His leg broken in two places, his partner had gone for help, then the order had come to evacuate because of the oncoming flare. Then a bulkhead had slammed shut, trapping him here. Why it had tripped now Byrne neither knew nor cared. All he cared about was that he was alone, on a wrecked alien ship, with a broken leg.

And a really pissed off Cylon.

He'd drug himself to a pile of wreckage, and biting back the pain set the leg as best he could, splinting it with a piece of scrap metal from a fighter's hull. He'd just about had it done when Syphax turned up.

"Kevin...Byrne," he hissed through gritted teeth, not at all liking the look of Syphax's rifle, leveled at him. The constantly oscillating "eye" didn't do a whole lot for him, either.

"What are the orbital coordinates of the Galactica?"

"The what? What's a Galactica? I've never heard of that."

Syphax studied his captive a moment. The uniform was totally unlike that of the Colonial Warriors. Yet, Syphax had seen Humans dressed this way, in company with the Colonials. Obviously, this Human was attempting to deceive him. The Galactica was nearby. He'd seen the evidence with his own optical sensors.

"You lie. The Galactica is close by. Who are you?"

"I...told you, you hunk of tin! Kevin Byrne, junior engineer, Moonbase Alpha."

"What is that?" asked Syphax, who of course had never heard of it. Obviously, another Human deception. "What vessel? Tell me your true designation, Human, or I will kill you now."

"I TOLD YOU!! Kevin Byrne. I'm a junior engineer, on Moonbase Alpha."

"What is this Moonbase Alpha?" demanded Syphax, who felt a strange distress at admitting any lack of knowledge to a Human.

"The world your stupid ship is in orbit around," said Byrne, through gritted teeth. God! Are all these tinheads this stupid? Damn, he hoped he hadn't slashed a blood vessel in his leg! "It's...Alpha."

"The world below is uninhabitable to all organic life forms, Human. Do not attempt to deceive me further."

"There's a base on it!" shouted Byrne, in real agony, now. "Didn't you...see it?"

"No," said Syphax, after several seconds. Then, after several more: "Why are you here?"

"The travel posters were just too sexy to resist," snarled Byrne. Syphax, mystified at this response, said nothing. "We are trying to resupply our base."


"Why? Are you kidding me? We're...ah! We're adrift, on a dead rock. We need all the materials and equipment we can...get our hands on."

"You are with the Colonial Warriors. You are lying." Syphax held up the solonite charge. "Tell me the truth, or I will detonate the solonite, and destroy us all."

"You are crazy, chrome breath!" growled Byrne. "You'll destroy yourself, too."

"And the Galactica. I saw her on the monitors. You know nothing of value, Human, there is no reason to keep you alive any..."

The wing of the wrecked fighter next to Syphax erupted in sparks, and the Command Centurion flinched. Momentarily distracted, he did not see Byrne draw his own weapon. He did see Byrne fire, and the beams tore into his chestplate. Syphax erupted in smoke and sparks, his systems blowing out, and dropped to the deck.

And the solonite charge slid away, out of sight.


"Come on!" cried a voice, and Kevin turned. It was Osgood, Alpha's senior engineer, laser in hand.

"That Cylon had some sort of explosive charge in his hand, I think," said Byrne, limping towards Osgood. "It was flashing, and he dropped it when..."

"Forget it," said Osgood, giving Byrne an arm. "No time to look. Let's get the hell out of here, kid." He led Kevin towards an air vent. "Couldn't get that blast door open again," he said, scrunching down to move through the opening. Once through, he pulled Byrne after him.

"Lucky you picked up my commlock signal," said Byrne, trying not to scream. "I was sure that robot would see me activating it."

"Well it did, Kev," said Osgood. They emerged into a long corridor strewn with wreckage and dangling cable trunks. At the far end was a still half-open blast door. On the other side was the still functional landing bay they were using. "Come on, kid. We..."

The near end erupted as orange flames ripped through the vents, bending the blast door outwards visibly. The entire vessel shook, and more debris rained down, lights going on and off. They made it through, skidding to the deck. Byrne screamed as he slid on his leg.

"What the hell was that?" cried a voice. It was one of the Galactica's pilots, next to the shuttle.

"A Cylon," gasped Byrne. "He had some...something called solo..."

"Solonite? Oh frack!" swore the pilot. "This whole place is going to..." He was cut off as another explosion rocked the BaseShip. Wreckage from the ceiling rained down, smashing into the shuttle. Her nose was crushed, her view ports caved in. It sparked, then began to burn. The pilot swore again. "I told you we shouldn't have..."

"Shut up! We can still get out of here!"

"Oh yeah? How?" yelled the pilot, Barton, back at the Alphan. Osgood pointed, and Barton turned. A still intact Cylon fighter... "Right."

"Right," said Osgood.

"Repeat, this is Count Baltar," said the villainous Colonial into the modified commlock. "Any BaseShip receiving me, respond." After a few moments and no response, he ran the unit up to full power, and tried once more.

Far, far away, a Cylon fighter picked up a signal, on an old, rarely used frequency, and answered it.

"Commander," said Athena, eyes darting from one console to another, "Red Squadron reports scanner contact with Cylon craft. Raider class."


"One hundred twenty-five microns from Red Squadron's position."

"Location and bearing?" requested Adama.

"Far edge, Sector Omega. Bearing Delta 9," she replied, checking another screen. "Heading this way."

Another blast ripped the dying BaseShip as Barton began powering up the Cylon fighter. He had, like most Colonial Warriors, little experience with enemy equipment, but there was, as Starbuck often said, no time like the present to learn.

"Can you fly this?" asked Byrne, almost in a pained whisper.


"Here," said Osgood, activating the second engine. "I studied the hell out of the one we captured." He settled into the right-hand seat, after propping Byrne up in the third. Another explosion shook them, and next to them a whole section of bulkhead collapsed in sparks and flame.

"What about...the bay...the bay doors?" asked Kevin, almost ready to pass out.

As he watched, Osgood opened up with the fighter's guns. The bay doors in front of them disintegrated in a miasma of rubble and light as they were sucked out into the void.

"Screw 'em!" said Osgood, as Barton punched it. The Raider shot out, scraping her landing gear on the heaving deck, seconds before the bay erupted into oblivion.

"Commander," said Maya, at her monitor, "there's been a huge explosion aboard the Cylon vessel." She put a picture up on the main screen. One of the BaseShip's landing bays had blown open and was spewing wreckage into space. "And a fighter has been launched."

"A fighter? Headed where?"

"For the Galactica, Commander."

"Sahn, try and raise Adama. Let him..."

"Commander," Sahn broke in, "I am picking up a signal from the Battlestar. It is Count Baltar."

"Baltar?" said Koenig. "What's he want?"

"It is not for us, sir. He is calling to the Cylons!" Sahn put the signal up. Scratchy and distorted by both the flare and the limitations of the commlock, Baltar's message was plain. He was giving the Cylons both the location of the Galactica, and a signal to home in on!

"Can we jam it?" asked Tony.

"He appears to be using a commlock, sirs. I believe so."

"Good," said Koenig. "In the meantime, inform Commander Adama."

"Commander," said Athena, "Red Squadron has engaged the Cylon attack force."


"They're taking a beating. They report many Cylon casualties, but the main body of the attack force has broken through!"

"Commander," said Tigh. "Incoming message from Alpha."

"What is it?"

"They are picking up a signal from the Galactica, sir. It's Baltar! He's signaling the Cylons fighters!"

Adama reached for the comswitch with the speed of a snake, nearly ripping it apart as he did so. Tigh had never seen his CO so apoplectic with rage.

"Security, this is Commander Adama. I want a team to Baltar's quarters, now. Arrest him and bring him to the bridge at once!" He turned to Tigh, who was pulling com duty.

"Can you block it?"

"I'm having trouble find...there!" He moved a bank of switches. "It's not on any of our usual frequencies, sir." He adjusted the controls some more. "Blocked, sir."

"Never," seethed Adama, face red with fury. "Never again will I show mercy to that...that son of Satan!"

"Father," Athena broke in. "Cylons on our scanners, now, and closing. Range 1,130 microns."

"Scramble all squadrons," ordered Adama. Athena hit the klaxon, and pilots all over the ship rushed for the launch bays.

All of those that could.

"Father, we're short."


"Yes, We're still short nearly twenty pilots. They're in Life Station, still listed as unfit for duty."

"Request permission to report to launch bay," said Tigh, at once on his feet. Adama made to protest, but Tigh prevented him. "I know I'm well past the average age, Adama. And yes, it has been a few yahrens since I saw combat. But, I have kept my rating up. And we need pilots."

"Me too, Father," Athena chimed in. "I'm a pilot, too."


"No buts, Commander. There's a full Hades Class BaseShip on the way here. You know as well as I do what that means." She watched the anguish on her father's face. Then, after a last glance at them both, he straightened up.

"Very well," he said, voice heavy. He hated it, every time one of his children went out. He'd lost Zac, at the very beginning of this quest, the first victim of the Cylon's treachery. He'd nearly lost Apollo more times than he could remember, anymore. Now, Athena. Athena, who was so like her mother, so like his beloved Ila...


"Commander?" called Alan. "I'd like to volunteer, too."

"You? But..."

"I flew a fighter, back home. Now an F-14 isn't a Viper, but the basics are the same. And I've flown Eagles through some pretty hairy situations, let me tell you. Athena's been putting me through the simulator, and she says I'm doin' okay, sir. We brought the disease that's taken your men down. I'd like to help balance the scales a bit, if I can."

"Very well," said Adama, sighing heavily, and the three ran from the bridge, heading for Beta bay. In their wake, the Security team reported to Adama. Alone.

"Commander," called an operative from the pit below. "All pilots report ready to launch. Cylons at 900 microns, and closing."

"Maya?" asked Koenig.

"I've got something on the scanners, Commander. But with all this interference, I can't make it out. And our range is so..."

"The Cylons," said Helena, looking to John. "It has to be."

"Where is he?" seethed Adama, seeing no Baltar. "Where in Hades..."

"He was gone when we got there, sir. The guard at the door was nearly dead from a laser blast, and we called Life Station. Baltar's escaped."

For several moments, Adama said nothing. Gone! Escaped! How? How did that rotting, maggot-infested pile of daggit felcercarb do it? How did he always manage to...

"Commander, Cylons at 700 microns."

Adama continued to be silent, absorbed in but a single thought. Only slowly did he again begin to notice the bridge, or his crew. When he did, he pounded his fists on a console, and lost it on the bridge of his own ship.

"Cylons at 600 microns and closing."

BALTAR!!!!" screamed Adama, his voice burying all other sounds. "DAMN YOU!!!" He turned, fire-faced, to his underling, eyes like the Wrath of God.


Chapter Fifteen

Four and a half billion miles and some change ahead, the largest of the swollen red giant suns finally lost its ages-long struggle against gravity. Radiation pressure from its fusion reactions no longer sufficient to maintain equilibrium, its outer layers began their inevitable, unstoppable collapse inwards towards the core. The entire star system reverberated with the sun's death throes, then began to evaporate in a pitiless, impossible wave of pure heat and light, as the dying sun turned into a supernova.

Chapter Sixteen

Barton had opened a channel to the Galactica, convincing them he wasn't a Cylon, and was cleared to land. To his surprise, Osgood insisted on landing there as well. Barton heard him say something about his wife being ill, but wasn't really paying him any attention.

He touched down as the alert sounded, and at once ran for his Viper. He was surprised to see so many fighters sitting idle on their launch catapults. Inwardly, Barton cursed the Alphans and their alien diseases. He climbed up into the cockpit, scarcely acknowledging the hangar crew, and put on his helmet. Within moments, skipping all checks, he was shooting down the launch tube.

On the screen in Command Center, they watched as the Galactica began to pull away from the wrecked BaseShip. On their own scanners, the Cylon fighters were now clearly visible, the attacking BaseShip only just coming into their more limited scanning range.

Compared to the power of the Cylon forces, Alpha was the proverbial sitting duck. Virtually stationary and with pitiable shields by comparison, the base would be easy meat if the Cylons should decide to turn their way. Koenig ordered everyone down to the bunkers, with the exception of those needed here in Command Center, and Petrov's gun crews. Most of the lights throughout Alpha and all other non-essential systems were shut down, the life-support systems reduced to 50%. Maybe, just maybe...

"Commander, Cylon fighters will be visual in 30 seconds," said Maya.

"How many of our people are up there, on the Galactica?" Helena asked.

"Alan," said Sahn. "Pat and Michelle Osgood. Kevin Byrne from engineering. That is all, Doctor."

"Damn," said Koenig.

Alan leapt from the elevator as they reached the launch bay, right behind Athena. The sheer size of the launch bay awed him, he had to admit. The Satazius had been a big ship, yes. So had the Dorcon vessel. But this ship...this Battlestar surpassed them all. And, it had been built by his own kind.

"I'm sorry, but you cannot enter..." said a crewman, on seeing Alan heading for a Viper.

"Yes he can!" ordered Tigh, heading for another vacant fighter. "It's been authorized by Commander Adama." He tossed Alan a pilot's jacket he'd picked up somewhere. "We're short of pilots, Master Chief Varica."

"Colonel Tigh? You are..."

"Like I said," Tigh went on, climbing into a cockpit, "we're short of pilots."

Alan slid the jacket on, then into his own cockpit and reached for the helmet. Why the hell does it have lights on it? he wondered, as he put it on. He looked up to see Athena above him, quickly pointing out some things he'd not seen in the simulator. Emergency force field for air leaks, the UNI-COM, where the ejection switch was, and where the survival pack was stowed. He dropped the canopy, giving her a thumbs up, and was sealed in. He started up the turbines, revving the engines, and waited for the green lights.

"Okay, Carter," he muttered. "Here you go, lad. First to fight..." He thumbed the button on the stick, and the Viper shot down the tube, on Tigh's six.

"...last to think."

On the Battlestar's bridge, a still boiling Adama watched as the last of the Vipers launched. They were still short of pilots by a half dozen or more. God help us, he prayed silently.

Down on Alpha, Koenig and his people watched as the Cylons headed straight for the Galactica. Both the fighters and the oncoming BaseShip hailed the wrecked Cylon vessel, of course getting no response.


Suddenly, Maya got an idea. Watching the Vipers and Raiders clash, she realized how badly outgunned the Colonials were. If...

"Commander, we need to divert the Cylon's attention."


Alan found the grim reality of combat both familiar, and strange. Familiar, for he was a trained fighter pilot. Strange, for he had never faced so inhuman, so alien, an enemy, in all their wanderings through the galaxy.

Within seconds, he had joined up with Athena and Tigh, and headed straight for the Cylon attack force. His heart went cold, when he looked down at his scanner. Hordes of the little buggers headed this way, and all wanting just one thing.

To kill him.

He locked on to the first Cylon to come close, and fired. It wasn't a direct hit, but knocked the enemy fighter askew. He fired again, and the next Cylon was blown to dust, quickly followed by another.

"Nice shooting," came a voice over the speaker. One he recognized as Sheba's.

"My pleasure," replied Alan, and banked sharply left, to avoid another Raider. It's salvo passed over his head, and he offered up a silent prayer of thanks.

In the cockpits of the Cylon fighters, and in the Control Center of the attacking BaseShip, the scratchy and badly distorted image of a Cylon Centurion was displayed. The other BaseShip was in serious trouble. Send help, at once. The treacherous Human...

The signal grew more distorted, then abruptly died, but it was more than enough. Atrox, Command Centurion of the attacking BaseShip, immediately ordered two of his squadrons to disengage the Galactica, and proceed at once to the defense of their fellow Cylons.

"It is done, Imperious Koenig," droned Falxa, in Command Center.

"Thanks, Falxa," said Koenig, to their own Cylon. "Good job. Now report at once to Petrov, in weapons control."

"By your command, Imperious Koenig."

Adama watched the new BaseShip move in, now clearly visible on their screens. The Viper pilots were putting up a brave defense as always, and as he watched the anti-aircraft took out its seventh Cylon fighter, but the Galactica was still beginning to feel the sting. Two suicide runs had been beaten off, but how long could it be until one of the Raiders...

"Commander!" called a weak and labored voice. It was Rigel. Despite looking like death on a mushie, she had returned to her duty station. "The Cylon force!"


"It's splitting up, sir!"

"Wha...Good Lord."

"Yes, sir. Look." She transferred to his console. "Their fighters are splitting up. Heading for the other BaseShip, sir."

"But why? It has..."

"Sensors picked up a signal, beamed there from Alpha a few centons ago, sir," she replied. "Maybe..."

"Maybe Koenig has a plan."

Half the fighters from Atrox's ship obediently broke off their attack, headed for the crippled vessel, and again got no response. No signals, no normal energy signatures, no answer to their hails. And, most curiously, no sign of any attacking Warriors on their scanners. The lead fighter had just begun to scan again, when...

One Cylon fighter, then a second, erupted in a shower of glittering particles. The squadron leader had no time to ponder this, before he too was ripped to bits by Alpha's number one laser battery.

Petrov swung his gun in a wide arc, firing. On the first pass, he destroyed six Cylon fighters. After the gun recycled, he cut another swath through the Raiders. This time seven of the craft were blown to hell, and he hit the BaseShip's hull. Metal and gas erupted into space, rocking the derelict Cylon carrier.

"Commander," said Rigel. "The Alphan laser battery..."

"That's what he's up to," said Adama. "Target that BaseShip."

"Targeting BaseShip, Commander," Rigel replied. "We have target lock, sir."


"Firing, Commander."

Apollo watched as a huge number of Cylon craft disengaged the Galactica. Hades Hole, it must be half their attacking force. What in Kobol was going on here? He fired, destroying the Cylon in front of him, and then banked sharply to the right to avoid another.

"Captain?" asked Boomer.

"Yeah. I see it, but I don't get it."

"Well, that evens up the odds over here a bit," said Starbuck, taking aim on a Raider diving on the Galactica. He fired, and missed. Then, a laser shot slammed into the side of the Cylon and it went spinning, spewing fuel, to crash into another. The two blew up in a satisfying light show. "Thanks," he called into his mic.

"My pleasure, Lieutenant," replied Tigh.

"Colonel?" asked Starbuck, plainly surprised to hear the voice of the Galactica's executive officer.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

", sir. Why..."

"Needs of war, Lieutenant. We're short of pilots, if you remember?"


"I need some help here, folks." came Sheba's voice. "Keelside."

"On our way," replied Starbuck, and he and Tigh headed that way. "Underneath" the Battlestar, a score or so of Cylons were seeking out weak spots. Tigh heard Starbuck whoop as a Raider disintegrated under his guns, then he rolled sharply to avoid the fire of another.

On Alpha, they watched as a salvo from the Galactica slammed into the defenseless BaseShip. The Cylon's hull blossomed in a wash of destruction, taking a few fighters with it.

"He's picked up on it," said Koenig, watching the BaseShip rock. The first shot was at once followed by another. "Sahn, jam the Cylon frequencies as much as possible."

"Yes, sir."

"Petrov," he called into the IC. "Target the BaseShip again, and open fire. Full power."

Dozens of confused Cylon fighters buzzed about the dying BaseShip. They hailed her again, but received no answer. Their commsystems were buzzing with interference, as well. Why? What Colonial...

Two Raiders evaporated as a 50 Gigawatt beam sliced through them, on its way to the BaseShip. It cut a livid swath across the hull, sending huge chunks of metal into space as it sliced into the massive carrier. After a few millicentons, another beam swept across the dying vessel, ripping deeper into her.

"Three degrees right," said Falxa, next to Petrov. Petrov made the appropriate adjustments. "That is tylium storage area four."

"Right," said Petrov, and fired again, followed by battery two, a second later. The beams drilled into the BaseShip, and they were rewarded with a massive eruption of flame and debris as huge bunkers, still filled with fuel for the fighters, went up in a single blast. The hull was ripped wide open, and the BaseShip began to tumble.

"Another direct hit from Alphan batteries, sir," said Rigel. "The BaseShip is on fire."

"I see it," said Adama, watching as Petrov continued carving up the Cylon. Despite its ablative armor, the BaseShip was defenseless against a laser of this power level without her shields, and Petrov was having it as easy as carving up a bird on the table. Adama watched as yet another beam scythed through her, cutting straight through into the engines, and sealed her fate. Fuel blazing, power coils shredded, the BaseShip began to come apart, the lower hull splitting open. Within seconds, it had disintegrated in a blinding flash, tearing the upper hull nearly in half and sending it tumbling wildly away.

Cheering erupted on Alpha as the BaseShip and most of its covering fighters were destroyed. Almost at once, the wreckage of the once-fearsome alien vessel began to tumble towards the surface of the Moon.

There was cheering on the Galactica, as well. A BaseShip and dozens of enemy fighter craft destroyed. Fighters that could not now return and resume their attack upon the Galactica.

Atrox stared at his screen in the Cylon equivalent of utter disbelief. A Hades Class BaseShip, and nearly a hundred of his own fighters destroyed, and all within the span of a few centons. How? How could this even be possible? He ordered all of his remaining Raiders to close on the Galactica, and ordered his helm officer to move them in closer to the Battlestar.

As the first pieces of debris from the destroyed BaseShip began impacting the lunar surface, another Viper launched off the Galactica. Near the catapult, Master Chief Varica lay motionless, his jacket burned by a laser blast.

Chapter Seventeen

With the first BaseShip gone, and the second one now closing to visual range, Adama turned his attention away from Alpha. Outside, Athena had caught sight of a Raider, and fired. Its wing was sliced off, and it tumbled away, breaking up. Seeing another, she went after it.

It was heading for the bridge! Recalling the last time, she tore after the Raider, determined that that would not happen again. She lined up, fired...And missed. What? An alarm sounded. Her targeting scanner was off-line! She caught a whiff of smoke, and the screen went dark. Frack! Of all possible times to...

Having no choice, she tried to line up by sight alone, and fired. Too wide, and the Cylon was nearly there! How...

The Cylon blew apart, its wreckage raining down onto the Galactica's hull. A Viper zoomed across her line of sight.

"Thanks," she called, at last letting her breath out.

"My pleasure," said Alan, voice scratchy over the speaker. "Didn't figure that'd be too good fer the old girl."

"Well, damned good shooting."

The new BaseShip, now at near-killer range, opened fire on the Galactica, with her main batteries. In return, the Battlestar replied with full lasers, pummeling the Cylon with salvo after salvo. As quickly as possible, Adama turned the ship's nose towards the BaseShip, increasing power to the forward shields, and simultaneously giving Atrox a narrower target to shoot at. Like her Colonial counterpart, the BaseShip doubled her shields facing her foe, dropping the rest.

Petrov watched the tactical display, and thought furiously. He had to help the Galactica, but the Moon's rotation would carry them beyond line-of-sight of the combatants, in just under nine minutes. How...

"Falxa?" Petrov pointed to a sensor graphic.

"By your command."

"What does this mean?"

"Commander!" cried Maya, pointing. Koenig turned, then followed her direction. On the main screen the computer had created a virtual image from the data returns. The bloated suns ahead had turned into an ominously expanding fireball, and a shockwave from Hell was headed their way.

The beam from Petrov's first battery struck the BaseShip's unshielded quarter, followed by the second battery seconds later. Atrox's Control Center rocked, then again, as blast after blast from Alpha's guns slammed into his ship's naked hull. Momentarily confused, none of them could say exactly where the shots were coming from, except that they weren't coming from either the Galactica, or any of her Vipers.


Barely had his underlings begun to scan, when another salvo from the Galactica connected, then another. He was now being attacked from two directions, that much was clear. But the ships of the Colonial Fleet were hanging far back, and there were no other Battlestars...

"Extend shields around BaseShip!" ordered Atrox, trying to keep his feet.

"By your command," said a subordinate. "Source of secondary attack detected. Ground based batteries on the planet below."

"Full report of all damage! Target..." He broke off as the ship was violently rocked once more.

"By your command. Missile from the Galactica has impacted. Shield number four weakening. Shield generator at redline."

"Target ground batteries."

"Impossible. Planet's rotation has carried ground source below horizon."

"By your command. Hull breaches in section six," reported another Centurion. "Venting reported on decks four through seven. Maneuvering thrusters six and seven destroyed. Mega-pulsar battery is one off-line. Damage control parties en route." Again the BaseShip rocked, as the Galactica connected once more, this time zeroing in on the weakened number four shield.

This engagement was definitely not going the way Atrox had planned. A surprise attack on the Humans, guided to the very spot the vermin were hiding by a homing signal, catching the Colonial Fleet between the hammer of the BaseShip and her fighters, and the anvil of this dead planet. Easy.

Only is wasn't. A full squadron of Vipers had intercepted them, in plenty of time to warn the Galactica. In that engagement, he had lost twenty Raiders to six Vipers. And now, with the missing BaseShip destroyed, Atrox was down by nearly half his fighter force. How was this possible? How was it that the organic trash always managed to do this?

Again the BaseShip lurched, as the Battlestar guns connected. Adama was not giving up, continuing to pour fire into his enemy. Though technologically superior to the Battlestar in almost every way, the BaseShip was nonetheless taking a beating.

And what a beating! The whole ship suddenly tipped sickeningly, as an explosion flowered close by. One of the control panels to Atrox's left sparked violently, then erupted in flames.

"Report!" ordered Atrox.

"By your command," said a Centurion. "A Raider has impacted on the hull."

"A Raider?" said Atrox, voice betraying a nearly Human level of surprise and disbelief.

"Confirmed. One of our own fighters has rammed us. Number four shield has collapsed, defensive laser turrets seventeen through twenty-eight destroyed." The ship rocked yet again as he spoke.

"Attempt to overlap remaining shielding!"

"By your command."

"Good job," said Adama, watching the fighter explode against the enemy's hull. Below, Rigel acknowledged his praise. They had taken the fighter Barton, Osgood and Byrne had escaped in, packed it to the gills with solonite, and remote controlled it at full speed right into the BaseShip. Adama looked around the bridge, smoke getting thicker, felt the ship lurch from a hit, and hoped. "Ready?" he asked Osgood, next to a control panel, with Rigel and Dr. Wilker.

"Ready," replied the Alphan engineer, and they quickly input the code.

Starbuck fired, getting a Cylon off of Cree, then banked. To his left, a Viper went down, then a second. In the cold fury of his nature, he sought out another Cylon. He found it, diving directly on him! Dead ahead...

And then it was gone, evaporated under Alan's guns.

"Thanks," he called, letting his breath out.

"My pleasure, mate," said Alan, who was soon on another Cylon. He lined it up, thumb to button...

And missed! The Raider swerved suddenly, more violently than he thought the craft could move. In a bizarre turn, he watched an undamaged Cylon fighter go into a power dive and roar downwards, straight for the lunar surface. It accelerated, faster and faster, till it slammed into the ground!

"What the..." began Apollo.

"What's going on, Captain?" asked Bojay. "Did I just see a Cylon do a suicide run on this moon?"

"I don't know," said Apollo, watching a second Raider do the same. A third just stopped, its engines suddenly shutting down. Not one to waste such a gift, Cree blew it to bits. Yet another broke off her dive on the Galactica, and made an erratic course for the BaseShip, colliding with the carrier. Another, right behind it, was taken out barely in time by the BaseShip's guns.

"What in Hades is this?" asked Jolly.

"Yeah, Captain," chimed in Giles. "I don't get it."

On the Galactica's bridge, Osgood and Wilker were bent, nose to panel, inputting numbers as fast as Human fingers allowed. As they did so, one Cylon fighter after another went wild, tried to ram their own BaseShip, or just plain shut down. Adama watched as the enemy fighters fell prey to their scheme, and ordered the Galactica to continue firing on the BaseShip. It was down to a battle of attrition, now. Each ship had the other by the jewels, and both Commanders knew it. It was just a matter of which one...

He turned sharply, as Osgood swore loudly amidst smoke and sparks from the console. Rigel batted at the flames until the boraton mist put them out, and Wilker was cradling his scorched fingers, hissing obscenities.

"Overload in the high-gain transmitter array, Commander," said Rigel, trying to get a reading. "Control circuit burned out."

"Commander," cried another voice. Adama looked down at one of his monitor screens, and saw...

Saw what they all, till now completely distracted by battle, had failed to notice, moving unswervingly like some cosmic Roman Legion, a horrifying wall of irresistible force, boiling its way across space towards them. And boiling its way frighteningly fast, too.

"Damnation," swore Adama.

Chapter Eighteen

Atrox saw it too. He also realized that his ship could not take much more of this, and broke off. Quickly, he pulled away from the Galactica, arcing around the Moon. The Battlestar, short manned as she was, was slow to respond, and of her next three shots, two went wild. Sluggishly, some of her own thrusters damaged as well, the Colonial vessel came around, pursuing Atrox's.

Inside one Raider cockpit after another, the controls were returning to normal, and the crews could again fly their ships. But their confusion was not over, for what remained of the squadrons were scattered, out of formation. As the surviving flight leaders gave the orders to form up, the Galactica began to pull away, and the Vipers were still taking a murderous toll on the attack force.

"Commander," said Maya, pointing towards the screen. "Cylon BaseShip coming around, sir. Headed this way."

"I see it," said Koenig. "Petrov, stand by. Victor?"

"The force field output is at maximum, John," replied Bergman. "But the emitters weren't designed for anything that powerful."

Atrox regarded the oncoming blast wave. As a machine, he had no fear. As one tied into a vast database, he understood exactly what it meant. And he knew that his ship, even were it still undamaged, could never survive it.

Around the Galactica, the Raiders, controls clear once more, resumed their attack, but their numbers were sorely depleted now. More than half their number destroyed, there were now were more Vipers than Raiders. Bad.

With a few moments of breathing space, Atrox took stock of his ship. Number four shield was entirely gone, its generator badly damaged. Eleven defensive guns out of action, two maneuvering thrusters dead, one landing bay door jammed. Not good, not good at all. How...

Once more, Atrox's ship was jolted, as something connected. Almost before he had regained his balance, it happened again.


"By your command. We are under attack from the ground-based battery once again. Fire penetrating area of number four shield."

"Recall all Raiders to defend BaseShip," ordered Atrox.

"By your command."

Petrov fired once more through the weakly covered gap in the Cylon's screens, and was rewarded with debris flying off the BaseShip's hull. His second gunner fired as well, as was as well rewarded. The third shot, however, was stopped, laser energies sluicing off the shields in multi-colored waves.

"Damn!" said Petrov, pounding his fist on his board. "He's rotated the ship so the good shields are facing us." He scanned the BaseShip again. "Alright. Let's see if we can find a weak spot."

Alpha shook, as a powerful beam from the BaseShip lanced down. It missed, striking one of the hills surrounding the base, sending boulder-sized chunks flying. Some rained back down onto Alpha, sparking against the force field.

"Good Lord!" said Victor, picking himself up and extending a hand to Maya. "That was no..." He stopped again, as this time the spear of light slammed the force field dead on...

And it held! A panel blew, the lights dimmed for a few seconds and smoke filled the room, but the Bergman force field held.

This time.

"Some sort of plasma weapon, Commander," reported Maya, back at her scanner. "Not laser energy at all."

"Damage?" requested Koenig.

"Shields down by almost 80%, Commander," replied the Psychon. "Number two and four emitters are rocky."

"They won't handle another shot like that one," said Victor. "That's for certain, John."

"Damn, we can't get through their screens," snarled Petrov. "We just don't have the kick."

"I'm picking up Cylon fighters on the way back," said the junior gunner.

"Falxa, what's this?" asked Petrov, pointing to a spot on the BaseShip's lower hull.

"That is one of the mega-pulsar batteries," replied the Cylon.

"And this?" Petrov pointed to another location.

"That is the lower hull sensor array."

"Target the sensor array," ordered Petrov. "Full power."

Athena approached Alpha to see a bright beam shooting upwards towards the enemy vessel. While it could not penetrate the enemy's shields, the radiation it spawned effectively obscured the BaseShip's targeting sensors. As near as she could tell, one of Alpha's guns was lathering the pulsar battery, the other one trying to get through to the sensor array itself.

"Good job, Petrov," she heard Alan say. A shot from the BaseShip lanced down, but went wild. Whatever this Petrov fellow was doing, she decided, it was working for the moment.

"Commander," said Maya, her voice surprisingly calm amidst all the chaos. "Shock wave from the supernova will intercept Alpha position in 29 minutes." Koenig did not answer her, but only nodded. He looked at the screen, shaking his head. Supernova, or Cylons. Some choice.

"Uh oh," said Alan, looking downwards towards Alpha. At least four Cylon fighters had broken off from those defending their carrier, and were heading directly towards Plato Crater. He swore colorfully. "Athena!"

"I see them," she replied, and banked after the Raiders. Above them, the Galactica, still sluggish, was coming around the Moon in dogged pursuit of the BaseShip. Below, the first Raider was making its pass over Alpha, firing. The Bergman force field momentarily became a translucent blue dome over the base, as the Cylon's lasers washed over it. Against the weaker guns of the fighter, it held. After its run, it headed for Petrov's gun emplacements.

Athena dove on Alpha herself, taking a bead as best she could on a Cylon. She fired, missed, then fired again. On shot struck the Raider along its dorsal side, slicing open the cockpit. It nosed down, crashing into the surface. Another fighter was more fortunate, as it opened fire on one of the defensive batteries. It erupted into glittering molten fragments as the shots went home.

"Number two laser battery out of action, Commander," reported Maya. She looked at another readout. "Shield down to barely ten percent. One more pass..."

"Understood," responded Koenig. "Time to impact?"

"Wave will intersect Alpha position in 21 minutes," replied the Psychon.

With Alpha busy for the moment, Atrox turned his attention to the Colonial Vipers. Too many of the Battlestar's fighters had found the hole in his shields, and were taking advantage of it. His Raiders were, naturally, putting up a valiant defense of their carrier, but bit by bit, the Vipers were wearing them down.

"Commander," said Rigel on the Galactica, "supernova blast wave will intersect our position in 38.4 centons, sir." Adama growled, softly. He hated the very idea of leaving a BaseShip intact, but he had no choice.

"Order all ships to pull out of the Moon's orbit at once. The Galactica will rendezvous."

"Yes, Commander."

"Recall all Vipers."

Alan got on to a Cylon's six, and painted it. He thumbed the firing button on his stick, and the Raider, intent on Alpha, took four shots in one engine. It shredded itself, and the fighter broke in half. Alan whooped as the enemy craft flew into bits, then the cry of victory died in his throat. The Raider's last shot had struck one of Alpha's shield towers, and the whole assembly had blown out most spectacularly, taking what remained of the deflector screen with it. Alpha was defenseless!

"Alan!" cried Athena's voice. Barely had he heard it when his Viper rocked. A Cylon had gotten behind him, and found its mark, one laser slicing off his tail, and part of the high engine's cowling. A panel sparked, his cockpit filling with smoke and alarms. He rolled as best he could, but his ship was in a bad way.

"Shit!" he yelled, as his ship began to wobble. "Bloody little..."

"On my way, Alan," she called, just as they got the recall signal.

"No! The Galactica's recalling all..."

"Alan!" she snapped, and roared his way. Having no choice, she hosed fire at the pursuing Cylon, praying silently. It exploded, its debris raining down onto the surface.

"Can you fly?" she asked, getting close. His top engine was ripped open, trailing fuel and debris. The tail fin was gone entirely.

"Accordin' to this, me top motor's out, and I'm leakin' fuel, fast, Athena. My...damn! My stick'll... hardly... move." She could hear him grunting with the effort. Alan looked up from his dying instruments, out his canopy. He was losing altitude rapidly, then there was another bone-rattling thump. "Lost another engine."

"I'm following you down," she said.

"No way! You heard the recall order! Get back to the Gal..."

"Alan, I am following you down!" she shouted, and began doing so as he arced towards the surface.

"Athena, there's still another Cylon loose over Alpha! Forget me, I'll make it down in one piece! Alpha..." There was a crackle, then silence.

"Alan? ALAN!!" she called, but his radio was dead. Reluctantly, she turned back, leaving him to his fate.

And just in time. A single Raider was making a run over Alpha, having destroyed another tower, and was coming around for another pass. Petrov was trying to get it off, but the Cylon craft was too nimble. She fired, and missed. Cursing her dead scanner, she got as close as she dared, and opened up.

The Cylon fighter ripped apart as her guns sliced into it, the torque from the turbines sending bits flying in all directions as it began to break up. Like Alan, she whooped in victory over her enemy. And, like he, it died in her throat. She'd had to get far too close to her target, and now she would pay the price.

A chunk of wreckage from the disintegrating Cylon slammed into her Viper with a hellish crump. It rocked, and alarms went off and the instruments began to spew sparks. She heard the telltale whistle of an air leak, and hit her force field. One engine was dead, another running wild, and she shut it down.

Ahead, the surface was coming up on the TFS, assuming they were working, and she hit both the emergency fuel dump, and the distress beacon, followed millicentons later by the violent burn-out of another bank of controls. She yelped, as her hand was burned by the eruption. No power, no landing gear, no instruments, zip. Like Alan, she was headed towards the ground, out of control and blind as a bat. She looked up, through her canopy, and...

"Oh felcercarb!"

Another shot from the Galactica's forward guns slammed Atrox's ship, at the same moment as Alpha's remaining laser battery. With no other choices open to him, Atrox recalled all his remaining Raiders. The jammed landing bay door was now, if barely, functional, and turning his shielded side towards his foes, he collected his remaining fighters. He watched the ships land, and the approaching shockwave too. His electronic brain crunched the numbers again, and he gave the order no Cylon "likes" to give.


As if to punctuate this, a final shot from Petrov punched through a weakened shield, and a large chunk of metal cracked off the hull in a brilliant flash. The next shot was a clean miss as the BaseShip began to move away from the Moon, shrinking as she accelerated beyond scanner range, at last going into lightspeed.

Chapter Nineteen

"BaseShip is now beyond our scanner range," said Maya, letting out a loud breath.

"Good job, everyone," said Koenig. "The shock wave, Maya?"

"It will strike us in...11 minutes, mark, Commander."

"Cylon BaseShip retreating, Commander," said Rigel. "She's going...she's gone into lightspeed!" The bridge erupted in cheers, crewman slapping each other on the back.

"Our Vipers?"

"The last of them are coming aboard now, sir. Both landing decks are intact." She scanner the numbers. "All but..."

"Yes?" Adama could feel the cold knot in his gut. He knew. He knew...

"Both Captain Carter, and...and Athena, sir. They went down, over Alpha, Commander." She saw Adama's eyes close, the raw emotion cross his face. "But we have the distress beacons from both ships, sir. They made it down to the Moon's surface in one piece."

Athena! he thought. Crashed onto a dead moon. He froze for a moment. Go after her! He should, he must. He'd lost Ila, he'd lost Zac. He'd...

He looked up as Tigh and Apollo returned to the bridge. Through the main viewport, he could see the Moon, looking about the size of a coin, now. So near, yet so...

"Life-signs?" he asked, voice choked, fingers whiteknuckled on his chair..

"We're getting bio-pulselines from both Vipers, sir," reported Rigel. "They survived."

"Commander," said Tigh, "shockwave 12 centons and closing."

"Signal from Alpha, Commander,' said Rigel. "It's Commander Koenig."

"Put him on, Rigel."

"Well, Commander," said Koenig, "it looks like we won't be travelling together, after all. The supernova it seems had other plans."

"Yes, a shame, Commander Koenig. I..."

"We tracked them down, Adama. We'll find her. And she shall be as one with us. My word."

"As will your people, here," said Adama, sparing a look at Pat Osgood.

"Impact in 7 minutes, Commander," said Koenig. "You'd better start hauling ass."

"And Alpha?"

"The Moon's rotation will carry Alpha out of direct contact with the wavefront. Maya has detected some small degree of attenuation in the wave, as it spreads outwards from the nova. We'll just have to hope and pray it's enough. That's about all we can do, Commander."

"Our prayers go with you," said Adama.

"Commander," said Osgood. "Let...let 'em all know, sir. Michelle's recovering. The new cloned heart. It did it. She's gonna be okay, Commander."

"I will, Pat," said Koenig, but the signal was already beginning to break up.

"Commander," said Tigh, voice urgent.

"Farewell, Alpha." Adama stood, straight as a new cadet. "Helm, bring us around. Course Epsilon 6, Mark 21."

"Course laid in, sir," said Tigh, at helm.



Below, they watched the huge Battlestar, still graceful for all her wounds, arc away, to rejoin her charges. Tony, wordlessly, moved next to Maya, taking her hand. Helena did the same with John, as they watched the ship retreat, and the wave draw ever closer.

Aboard the Galactica, everyone watched the Moon begin to shrink, till it was but a dot against the oncoming cosmic tsunami. Behind it, the wave crept ever closer, like some hungry predator creeping through the jungle of the night. The Galactica and the Colonial Fleet formed up, the Battlestar resuming her normal position, and increased speed, putting ever more distance between themselves and the swelling wall of death.

Adama watched the scanners as they retreated. How could Alpha possibly survive? The planets that had once orbited in this system had been pulverized by the supernova. Blasted into dust. Surely, the Moon...

Maya felt it first, as the vibrations began. Her tactical display showed Alpha, relative to the wavefront, touching it... now. Then, the shaking really began in earnest. The remaining lights all over the base went dark, then the main screen as she was hurled out of her chair and onto the floor, landing on top of Tony. She heard everyone cry out, and grasped blindly for purchase. She got hold of something reasonably solid (Helena's leg), and held on like Grim Death as Moonbase Alpha, and everyone inside her, went through a sickening rerun of Breakaway.

"There she goes," said a voice. As he watched, the wave passed over Alpha, and the Moon was lost to sight.

Chapter Twenty

Athena looked up through her canopy, and watched the horrifying wave roll across the sky from horizon to horizon. She had nosed in, leaving a long furrow in the lunar soil till she'd gotten caught up on a big rock, about a metron from the base. She had at once taken stock; her atmospheric force field was holding, as was the distress beacon. Everything else it seemed, including life-support, was down, and it was starting to get cold in here.

It was also starting to shake. The ground was vibrating, as Moon and shockwave met. With no options, she held on, sat back, and tried to enjoy the ride.

Almost as soon as it had begun, the violent shaking abated, leaving a single snowed screen to illuminate the darkness in Command Center. After a few seconds, the emergency lights came up, followed shortly by the ventilators. Maya struggled to her feet, helping up both Helena and Victor, and noticing that the gravity was wrong.

"Everyone okay?" asked Koenig. All indicated that they were. "Maya? What's our status?"

"Checking, Commander," replied the Psychon. "Power is down across over half the base. Life support is sustaining on emergency batteries. And gravity is off-line, too. We are at lunar normal."

"And the shockwave?" asked Tony. As he spoke, the base jostled under his feet once more.

"We...we have passed through it, Commander!" she said, excitedly. "It must have attenuated just sufficiently for us to pass through it in one piece."

"What about visual, Sandra?" asked Koenig, moving to her station.

"Working on it,' she replied, but got no response. Koenig called down to the bunkers and recalled all hands to stations, with Kano and Ouma to Command Center.

"Commander," said Sahn, "I am still getting signals from both Alan and Athena's Viper craft. They are intact, sir!" She turned beaming eyes to Koenig.

"Try and raise them, Sahn."

After nearly a sectar, amid screams for relief from engineering, Adama throttled back the Fleet, at last bringing them all to a dead stop. All over the Galactica, techs and repair crews were scurrying about, working feverishly to patch the old girl back together one more time. As the men repaired, replaced, and reinitialized, Adama kept his eyes glued to the scanners. The expanding wave from the dying star was now no more than a ripple in the infinite pond of space, it's attenuating edge left sectars behind them.

Almost without a thought, he read and signed a damage control report, and handed it back to whomever. Moments later, a mission report was also handed to him. He signed off on it as thoughtlessly. He kept looking at the scanners, hoping. Perhaps...

But the screens were clear, for as far out as the Galactica could scan. No sign of the BaseShip, no sign of Cylon pursuit. And, no sign whatsoever of Moonbase Alpha.

"Father," came a voice, and Adama felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Apollo, eyes as full of pain and loss as his own, looking down at him.


"Anything at all?"

"No, nothing. All clear."

"Commander," said Starbuck, behind Apollo, "I'm sure she's okay. We picked up her Viper channel, after she went down."

"And the Moon was still on our scanners for several millicentons after it entered the wave," added Tigh. "As near as we could tell, it was attenuated just..."

"I know," said Adama, voice strained. "I know, Tigh."

"I'm sure they made it," said Sheba. "They've been through too much to have it all just end here."

"And I trust Koenig, sir," Boomer chimed in. "He'll live up to his word."

"You can bet he will," said Pat Osgood, hovering close. "Koenig's the best."

"I know," Adama said, or tried to, but nothing came out. He stared again at the scanner display, as if willing something, anything, to appear. But it was still clear, as were all frequencies used by Alpha.

Launch a probe, he thought. Go and look for her. Launch a patrol, head back...

"Commander," reported Omega, back on duty but still pale and wobbly, "engineering reports full power restored to starboard engines. Port engines up to 87% capacity. We can proceed at three-quarters power, sir."

Again, Adama felt the pain of a father, ripping at his heart, but it was quickly overruled by the discipline of the warrior. He sat upright, and straightened his shoulders. All those around him saw a familiar light come back into his eyes.

"Commander?" asked Tigh.

"Omega, inform the Fleet. We are resuming course for Earth."

"Yes, sir."

"Helm, lay in the course. Ahead best possible speed."

"Laid in," reported Tigh. "All stations reporting ready, Commander."


"Executing, sir."

With a graceful leap, the mighty Galactica, survivor of yet another encounter with the Cylons, arced away into the night, her fellow survivors following in her wake.

Chapter Twenty-One

Living rough had taught the Alphans how to do things fast, and it was little more than an hour before most of the base, and all of Command Center, was back up and functioning. Scanners, video, radio communications, all back to normal.

Athena, once the launch pads were operational, was rescued first, being the closest to Alpha. Her Viper was hoisted up by two Eagles with winches, and carried to pad three. Alan's, in the shadow of Mt. Pico in the Mare Imbrium south of the base, followed hard on.

On the main screen in Command Center, the now destroyed binary was nothing more than an intensely bright spot, down in the lower left hand corner of the screen, diffused by the cloudy miasma of its own death.

"Deflected?" asked Athena, in Medical Center, late that "evening". She was laid up with a broken left femur, left wrist, and three badly bruised ribs. In the bed next to her, Alan had a whiplashed neck, broken left shoulder, but little else. Somewhat perversely, though the more lightly injured, his Viper had been the more damaged of the two.

"Yes," said Victor, right hand bandaged. "It seems we and the wave met just at the point where it had attenuated sufficiently to not smash us to bits, Lieutenant. That, and we intersected it, with the critical angle of incidence..."

Alan smiled, glad just to still be here, able to once more listen to the old academic drone on with his sometimes interminable technobabble. It was, he decided, going to be good to have Victor active once again, on Alpha. Very good, indeed.

Athena leaned slowly back, looking from her clothes hung on a rack, to the windows filled with stars. Alone, she thought. Alone and adrift on a dead rock, seperated forever from all she had ever known. Great job lieutenant, she said to herself. Lieutenant of nothing, she amended her thought. Here, on Alpha, she was nothing. She had nothing. No position, no status. What on Kobol was she going to do with herself, now?

"Lieutenant," said Greenbean, entering Medical with Bree in tow. They were still wearing their Warrior uniforms. Athena looked up at them, her surprise evident.

"Gr...what in Hades Hole are you two doing here?"

"Didn't you hear, Lieutenant?" asked Greenbean. "One of our engines failed, on the way back to the Galactica from the wrecked BaseShip, and we had to land here in a hurry, when that last flare hit."

"Our shuttle's full of equipment from the BaseShip, Lieutenant," added Bree. Then, shifting gears; "Any word from the Fleet?"

"Nothing," said Commander Koenig, entering with Tony and Maya. "All frequencies are quiet, and the scanners are clear." He looked at the Colonials, reading their sad faces. "I'm truly sorry, all of you. It wasn't supposed to be this way. I'd change it, if I could. Believe me."

"It isn't your fault, Commander," sighed Greenbean. "It was Baltar's."

"Yes!" snarled Bree, with a vehemence in her voice at odds with her small frame, and clenching her fists. "He led the Cylons here. Just like back home!"

"Well speaking personally, I hope Commander Adama shoots him out an airlock in his undies," said Alan. "I've never met any man so unrepentantly evil."

"And you never will," said Athena, "not if you live to be a thousand yahrens old. Uhh, years. Well, Commander," she asked, looking to Koenig, "what now? What's my job?"

"For the present," said Helena, her tone all doctor, "your job is to stay in bed and heal, Lieutenant. We haven't had the time yet to construct the medical equipment in the Galactica's database, so you'll just have to put up with our old-fashioned 20th Century methods."

"As long as I heal quickly, Doctor Russell. I..."

"Helena, please. Keep calling me Doctor, and I'll have to find something noxious to inject you with." She looked to Alan, and winked.

"Lords of Kobol, what a bedside manner," she laughed. "It's just that I'm not made to...sit. I have to be moving. Earning my keep you know."

"And you most certainly will," said Koenig. "Once Helena's decided you're medically fit to be released, we'll assign you some quarters, and you will coordinate scientifically with both Victor and Maya on adapting Cylon and Colonial technology to Alpha."

"And us?" asked Greenbean.

"I want you two to work with our pilots, Mr. Greenbean." Koenig winced inside. What sort of name was that? "Miss Bree. With what we've gotten from the Raider and your Vipers, our Eagles have a lot of upgrading in store for them."

"Here, here!" said Alan.

"And," said Tony, "speaking of here here's." He cleared his throat. "What with Cylons and supernovas and all sorts of stuff lately, a fella hardly has time for himself." He reached out to Maya, and put his arm around her. "As some of you may already know, Maya has consented..." He held a beat, looking around the room. "To become my wife." His next words were lost amidst the cheering.

"When?" asked Victor.

"A week," said Maya. "That should give all of us time to finish the cleaning up, first."

"I'll be there," said Alan with a chuckle and a wink.

"We'll be there," corrected Athena, looking at him. "Right?"

"Uh, right," said Alan, corrected. "Only, ah...Tony?"


"No beer at the reception, okay? I mean, after all..."

"Helena," said Tony, coldly, "turn him over. I think it's time for his shots."

Atop the Galactica, in the old observation bubble, Adama watched the stars go silently by. For the last two sectons, nothing had happened. All was clear.

He still painfully missed his daughter, but the raw, searing agony of a father's loss was gone, replaced by a dull, ever-present ache. Though he prayed that it might be otherwise, he knew that in this life, he would never see Athena again.

Still, the Fleet had profited from their encounter with Moonbase Alpha. Much enemy equipment, technology and fuel were now theirs. They understood the functioning of their enemies far better than ever before. With the help of the Alphan Patrick Osgood, they had at last cracked the Cylon programming, allowing them to take over their fighters during battle. Hopefully, if the Cylons found them once more, they could use it again.

And they knew far, far more about Earth than ever before, too. Her peoples and her cultures. Her level of technological development. He hoped that, contrary to the dolorous theorizing of some, the Moon's violent wrenching away from the planet had not damaged her environment seriously. He sighed. Only time would tell.

He got up, but left the equipment up here active. Perhaps, perhaps... He stood a moment before opening the hatch, looking down at the rock he held. It was a white stone with small black crystals, a paperweight that Koenig had given him. Affixed to one side was a small metal plate, emblazoned with four tiny faces, and the words "Mt. Rushmore". Whatever that meant.

"A piece of Earth," he muttered. At last, an actual piece of Earth, to look at, and to hold onto. He looked up, one last time, at the stars about him, and found a single nagging question in the back of his mind. A question that no one, absolutely no one, seemed to want to voice aloud.

Where was Baltar?

With the help of Falxa, and his fellow Cylon Hasta, now fully reprogrammed, clean up and repair of the base proceeded with great speed. The two Centurions, needing neither air nor suits, and able to automatically compensate for changes in gravity, cleared away the wreckage of the force-field towers, completing the dangerous work in less than two hours.

"Those two are a Godsend," said Alan, watching them work through a window. At last having cracked their programming, a great deal was now clear. "When he was damaged, Falxa's programming was corrupted. Somehow he confused Commander Koenig with the Cylon..uh..."

"Imperious Leader," Athena supplied. "That's what they call their ruler. I see. And they are both totally safe, now?"

"Completely, Athena."

"Still makes me plenty nervous, though," she said, shaking her head, "having Cylons running about as they please." She winced slightly, as she adjusted her leg brace. Oh for Dr. Selik's bone-welder!

The Colonials were a Godsend, too. With their knowledge and equipment, Alpha's infrastructure was considerably improved. Both the air and water recycling systems were made more efficient by over 20%, their scanners soon had more than double the range and resolution, and Sahn was able to peruse a vast range of new frequencies, both above and below the speed of light. From the destroyed Cylon BaseShip, enough sheer metal was retrieved to nearly double the size of the base, allowing damaged or incomplete sections to be brought on-line, and put to use.

Hundreds of light-years away, as his ship limped back home, Atrox studied and restudied the engagement just past. As always, he could come up with no definite answers as to how the Humans had eluded destruction, yet again. No matter how the question was approached, the results were unsatisfactory. And he was going to have to explain this new defeat to Imperious Leader. He was not grateful for this distinction. But, he did have one thing, one bit of news. A new enemy of the Cylon Alliance. A new enemy, and a new name. Another outpost of the Human race, to be sought out, and destroyed.

Moonbase Alpha.

All in all, decided Koenig, Moonbase Alpha had profited from her encounter with the Galactica. Both better defended and better equipped now, they also had a much clearer idea of what potential dangers the galaxy held in store. He turned from the windows in his old office off Main Mission, watching Falxa and Hasta setting up a defensive battery courtesy of the destroyed BaseShip, to regard Tony Verdeschi. Decked out in a tuxedo that someone had scrounged somewhere, he stood near the commpost, waiting for Maya.

His bride, resplendent in white, was brought in, on Victor's arm. As the oldest man on Alpha, he'd requested the honor of "giving her away". He, Helena, and the Fraser's had given her a crash course in Human wedding customs, and, as in all things, she learned quickly. Incorporating some Psychon traditions as well, she was trailed by Jackie Crawford, Alpha's only child, and his mother Susan, who held portraits of both her parents, and her brother, painted by Dr. Barber of the Medical staff. The ancestors, she'd told Tony et al, were thought by Psychons to be actually present at such times, and were made "real" by the carrying of their images, usually by children, as a symbol of the continuity of the life of the family. She'd foregone the more ancient version of the custom, wherein members of the household wore masks of the ancestors.

Alan, as best man, held the ring, forged from a gold nugget brought back from one of the planets they'd passed. He, of course, went through the very ancient and incredibly sacred traditional act of pretending to have lost it, and obviously enjoyed the smiles and giggles it reaped.

"Beautiful," said Athena, as Alan rejoined her.

"Maya? Yeah, she sure is that. Tony's a lucky dog fer sure."

"Yes, but I meant the rite, Alan. It's actually not too unlike the way it is on Caprica. Was, I mean." She leaned close, and put her good arm around him. As the couple of the hour said their vows, in Italian, Psychon, and English, she felt both joy and sadness competing for space within her. As they moved along to the reception, she felt the sadness slowly recede.

"Not bad," she told one of the doctors, Natalie Barber, as she tasted the synthetically reproduced ambrosia. "Not bad at all."

"Thanks," said Nat. "Best we can do."

"Have you had some?"

"I never"

"Like our Commander, your can do weddings, too," she remarked to Alan, upon returning to him with the glasses.

"Well, yeah. After all, we don't have a priest or a rabbi around. Kind of like the Navy, or the old whaling ships. I guess the Commander's close enough, though. His father was a rabbi."

"And how long beforehand," asked Athena, looking into her glass, "did they announce their engagement?" She indicated the Verdeschis.

"Uh...right after we got rid of the bloody Dorcons. Oh right, that was a few weeks before we ran into you lot."

"So, such announcements in plenty of time, eh?" she pressed, as Tony made a mess of the tux with the cake, much to the delight of all.

"Uh, well yeah. Athena, what's..."

"Once all this is over, Alan, I think that we need to make an announcement of our own." She looked him right in the eyes. "I think Helena called it...uh, 'the banns'?" Her eyes twinkled. "Did I say it right?"

"You th...Athena?"

"Yes?" she grinned.

The resulting "whoop" emitted by one castaway Australian nearly blew the windows out of half the base.

The Moon herself, recking nothing, continued on, on her endless journey across the cosmos, carrying with her that little piece of Earth yclept Moonbase Alpha.

Far, far away, beyond the range of any scanner, a single Viper sailed on, unseen and unregarded by mortal eyes. Within, all but unconscious from the cold, hunger, and lack of oxygen, sat Count Baltar, his mind close to the edge of hallucination. He raised an arm, but no longer had the strength to wipe the frost from the canopy. Soon, the last of the Viper's power would be gone, and he would die, to sail on forever, a frozen corpse within this small metal tomb.

"No," he rasped, barely able to speak, his breath frosty in the illumination of the one remaining emergency light. "Don't. Don't let it end this way." Barely had he taken his next feeble breath, when he felt...

Warmth. Warmth, and a presence. He looked weakly about, but saw nothing. Then, it was as if there were a hand upon his shoulder. Something beeped, and he looked up. Summoning his last reserves, he wiped a narrow swath of frost from the canopy, and wiped his eyes. could not be. No, he must be mad! How...

Ahead, he saw the telltale crescent of a planet, and orbiting it was a BaseShip. Yes. YES! He was saved! He was rescued! Then, he heard a voice. A voice? Impossible. There was not enough power for the...

Once again, he felt the presence, and the hand upon his shoulder, and this time there were words in his ears. Audible. Words, and a voice that he knew, very well.

"Do not fear, my friend. All is not lost."

Dedicated to the memory of John Colicos (Balthar)

This is story 2 in the "Forever Alpha" series. Previous story - Next story
Copyright (c) 2000. Reprinted with permission.
Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media.
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