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Out of the Frying Pan…

Authors: Andrew Caruthers
Categories: Adventure
Show Year: Y3
Rating: PG
Date: 2012

Story 6 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
Drifting deeper into the new region of space, Alpha once again encounters the Cylons... and helps bring a dead civilization back to life.
Average Rating: No reviews.


"Nothing whatsoever, Commander," reported Yasko cheerfully, as Commander John Koenig logged in for the start of his shift in Command Center. "All the scanners are clear, and the airwaves are silent."

"Kind of good news," said Koenig, adjusting his weight to the chair. It just never seemed comfortable enough, no matter how many times he'd fiddled and tinkered with it. "The last thing we want is more..." He trailed off, searching for a word.

"Excitement?" asked Kate, smiling. "Adventure? A minor diversion? Malevolent alien battle fleets closing in on Alpha, guns blazing?"

"What, again?" added Tanya Alexander, handing Koenig his first report of the day for his signature. "Really, I can hardly wait for the next unspeakable alien terror, Kate."

"Give it time," laughed the other woman, as Tanya took the report back from Koenig. "Racquetball?"

"Soon as I'm out of here," said Tanya. "Then, prepare to meet thy doom!" She logged off, and was at once replaced by Sandra Benes logging in. As always a few minutes early for his shift, Koenig liked to watch the night crew switch over to days, and observe the interaction between the two groups. He prided himself as being a good judge of character, and the choices he'd made in staffing the various posts since Breakaway had, he felt, proven themselves.

It was now the morning of the ninth day since the Moon had drifted beyond range of the planet Terra, a world that had been locked in the midst of a long and exhausting struggle between two main political factions. The Nationalists, a society built around freedom and an open, representative form of government, and the Eastern Alliance, a militaristic dictatorship seemingly straight out of Hitler's Germany, or Stalin's Russia, right down to the bloody purges and jack boots. Alpha had drifted into their sector of space, and ended up in the crossfire of their war, but, despite all the danger, lies, and backstabbing intrigue, had been the catalyst to bringing about the fall of the Alliance tyranny, and the brokering (hopefully) of a new era of peace. Before finally losing all contact with Terra, they were informed that the planet's new leaders were well on their way towards dismantling the machinery of terror.

But, Koenig reflected, with no little annoyance, neither side had been amenable to allowing the Alphans to settle on their planet, a world remarkably like Earth, not only in the name, but in the complete biological Humanity of the inhabitants. "Too volatile," was how they'd put it, the political situation on Terra just now. "Too sensitive to permit outsiders into the mix." As if a bare 258 refugees from a similar world and culture posed a lethal threat to their own. Oh well, he sighed; it was just not to be.

Some people!

Arra had made that quite clear, as a matter of fact. The mysterious Queen, unseen since the collision of Alpha with her own now-vanished world, had reappeared, in the company of beings that inhabited what Athena Carter, a refugee from their encounter with the Battlestar Galactica, called "The Ship Of Lights". Beings of immense power and mystery, they had literally stopped the Moon from colliding with the planet Paradeen, altering both its course and position in space in the blink of an eye, Arra and another of these beings calling himself "John", informing him that Alpha was here, moving through this sector of space "for a purpose".

Koenig couldn't argue with power like that. But he was no less unhappy that, once again, his people, in what seemed to him like an enormous outpouring of ingratitude, had been denied a place to live, a new home to call their own. How much longer? he wondered. How many more opportunities were they going to have to give up on, before they could at last breathe real air, and live under a real sky? He looked at the small snapshot of Helena on his desk. How long before their baby could live like a real Human being, instead of inside this...this glorified bottle, this gopher hole in space?

How long, O Lord? How long? he asked, silently.

Turning from prayer to paper, or rather plastic, he began perusing what they knew about the space ahead. Unlike earlier times, they now had a fairly well-documented, if maddeningly unspecific, knowledge of where they were going, thanks to the star charts obtained from a number of sources, including those of the Human warship, the Colonial Battlestar Galactica. The Colonials, survivors of a long and terrible war with a robotic adversary, had passed near and collected data on a number of solar systems since fleeing their homeworlds, and data from Terra filled in a few blanks as well. Sadly, the charts often lacked the very details they would need to decide whether or not to commit to Operation Exodus.

And, ominously, there was also the ever-present possibility of running into the Cylons again. Their one, and hopefully only, encounter with the cybernetic killing machines had been by chance, and only the timely encounter with the Galactica, a nearby supernova, as well as the Cylons' initial ignorance of Alpha's existence had saved them from total destruction. Koenig did not expect that state of bliss to continue.

"Catching up on your reading?" asked a voice. Koenig looked up from the hardcopy to see Tony Verdeschi looking back at him.

"Sort of. Just looking over these charts, Tony." He punched a few numbers into his terminal. "And hoping."

"I hear ya, John."

"How's Maya? She's late."

"She's okay," shrugged Tony. "I guess. She's sorry about being late, but the morning sickness seemed to slam her like a broadside this morning. But she'll be here. She can't wait for the kids to get here. Helena?"

"The same. In fact, she told me last night that..." Koenig stopped, as Professor Victor Bergman entered Command Center. The old astrophysicist seemed in a good humor, greeting one and all as he passed. "Victor. How goes it with the Swift?"

"She'll be ready in an hour or so," replied Koenig's old friend and teacher. "And Brian is fully reprogrammed as well."

"Saints be praised!" said Tony, almost seriously. "His last persona was no great shakes. In fact, John, I'm still wondering if we should even have reactivated that homicidal ATM."

"Oh, he's been fully purged of all anti-social impulses, Tony," said Victor. "He's even gotten over his yellow plastic wheel fetish, Mister Kano says," he added with a smile.

"Well, I'm sure the trolley in here will feel much safer now. How did you do it?"

"After we downloaded all the data from his memory core, we altered Brian's own memories about Captain Michael and what he'd done to him and the Swift crews. That, and an alteration of his emotional programming and algorithms to eliminate jealousy, and he's as obedient and as happy to serve as a puppy."

"Well, as long as he's headed away from Alpha," snorted Tony. As a security man, he'd always felt that fundamental personality traits never changed. That was true for people, and as far as he was concerned, he suspected it was also true of Brian the Brain.

Koenig's decision to make use of the formerly homicidal AI, the only "survivor" of a semi-clandestine mission from Earth in 1996 was not merely a whim. During their recent adventures, attacks by a Dorcon battlewagon, the Cylons, passing through a violent vortex of radiation, attacks by Eastern Alliance warships and just general wear and tear, a lot of the base's Eagle fleet, as well as the hangar and lifts, were in serious need of some serious downtime for maintenance, repair and upgrades. The constant string of emergencies had kept pushing things back, but now, with a few days breather, and both a cracked bolt in one landing gear and a blown lift motor, it could no longer be shoved aside. Half the Eagles were undergoing overhaul at the moment, new parts and such courtesy of all the recently acquired materials and technology.

So, Koenig had decided, the old Swift, one of five that had left Earth and been recovered from the toxic "Planet D", still in the hangar and perfectly functional, was to be hauled out, reactivated, and pressed into service as a probe ship, with Brian the Brain guiding her through the space ahead. Eventually, the rest would follow, Koenig had decided. Though not capable of lightspeed ("Yet," Victor had said. "My next project."), her engines (a non-lethal variation of the Queller Drive involving plasma propulsion) were nonetheless good for more than triple the speed of the Eagles flat out, with more extensive sensors, recording equipment and computing power than the standard Alphan shuttle craft. She had also at last been fitted with a laser, culled from a totaled Eagle.

"And no Human life is put at risk, either," said Koenig. "If it should run into Cylons, or anyone hostile, there are no living beings aboard to detect, and they've never seen a Swift."

"What about Brian, though?" asked Tony, frowning. "He'd sing his diodes out if you threatened to so much as scratch his paint job, or looked cross-eyed at his antenna."

"We've planted a command in his programming," said Victor. "Any attempt to forcibly remove his memory core without the proper command code will result in the entire thing being dumped. Same with the Swift's onboard computer."

"Okay, sounds good," said Tony, turning to look at the big screen. The Swift was being brought into position on Launch Pad Four. "But, now that I think of it, why not use the two Cylon Centurions? They're programmed pilots."

"They're busy down in the hangar for the moment," added Koenig. "With their strength and all, they're helping with the work. We're shorthanded as it is, and Brian can't very well crawl under a support beam and use a welding torch."

"Guess not," shrugged Tony.

"But as soon as we can prep and use the other Swifts, as well as finish the 'Brian Mark II' Captain Michael was building, we can press them into service," said Victor.

"Well, I hope it works out," Tony added, moving to his station in Command Center. "I for one am ready to dig my boots into some real soil again, John."

"You and me both, Tony. To dig, and plant and grow things." The Commander looked up. "Sandra?" The petite data analyst turned to him. "What about you?"

"A garden, Commander," she answered, after a few moments. "Yes. Wherever we settle, I want a garden. Flowers. Roses, lobelia, lupine, gladiolas and tulips. And of course, my orchids."

"Orchids?" asked Victor, raising an eyebrow. "I had no idea you were an expert on orchids."

"Hardly an expert, Professor. But I do have a small bench in the hydroponics area they let me use."

"Well, this is a surprise, Sandra. I have orchids in my quarters as well." He moved over to her station. "In fact, I have an ansidium hybrid which..."

"No!" she said, surprised. "Seriously? An ansidium?"

"Oh yes. Been working on it for almost a year. A renenthera annamensis, too. In fact..." Koenig smiled, as the two went on about their arcane hobby. Funny, he reflected. In all the time he'd known Sandr

a, he'd never known she was into such esoteric horticulture, or that she spent her off-times in hydroponics. Come to think of it, he didn't know that Victor bred orchids either, and he'd known the man for twenty years or more.

Koenig, you gotta get out more!

A light flashing rapidly on his console brought him back to reality, and he punched a control. The countdown for the Swift was now on. T-Minus ten minutes and counting. He counted the time, greeted Maya as she logged in (late) for her shift, and perused a progress report on the repairs. Helena walked in, just as the countdown reached zero.

"There she goes," said Tony, as the Swift lifted off the pad.

"I hope Brian finds something," said Helena. "I'm not sure our people can handle too many more disappointments, John."

"Me too, hon," he said, taking her hand in his. "Me too." They watched the ship climb higher and higher.

"Swift has cleared the atmosphere," reported Sandra. "Receiving telemetry." She put the view up. The Moon filled the screen, the new atmosphere they had acquired giving it a bizarre, surreal look. On the top edge of the picture, the black sliver of space was growing as the Swift climbed ever higher.

"Everything reads as A-ok, Alpha," said Brian, as always his annoying nasal twang of a voice grating on Tony's nerves. Why the hell couldn't Victor have reprogrammed his voice? "All systems nominal."

"Sounds good, Brian," said Koenig. "Keep the line to Alpha open at all times."

"Roger that, Alpha," replied the robot. On screen, the Moon was now visibly shrinking as the Swift gathered speed. Within a few moments, Brian switched to the forward view, and then cut in the main thrusters. With a blur, the Swift was soon lost to sight.

"Well," said Tony, "finally. He's gone. Maybe now we can..."

"Commander!" said Sandra, excitedly. "Picking up a signal."

"What kind?"

"Unknown as yet," she replied, and put it on the speakers. Amidst the hiss and crackle of static, there was a definite pulse, repeating regularly. Sandra ran it through both the computer and the buffered telemetry demodulator, trying to clear it up. After several frustrating minutes, she was no closer to success than before. Then, it seemed to clear for a brief moment, and they could pick out a voice amidst the muck. A Human voice, and a few fragmented words.

"...ttlestar Pegasus. Repeat, this is...lonial Battlestar Pegasus...ny ship within ran..."

Chapter One

"The Pegasus?" said Athena Carter, after she'd been called to Command Center, and heard the recording of the fragmentary message. "Lords of Kobol, we haven't heard a peep from her since Gamoray, Commander. Not since she pulled out and took on two BaseShips single-handedly."

"What exactly happened there?" asked Tony.

"Well, we were still over Gamoray ourselves. The Galactica I mean, loading up as much fuel and munitions from the Cylon depot as we could manage. Gamoray was the Cylon's Outer Capital, and their major source for both in the sector. When we detected a huge Cylon force incoming, Commander Cain headed out to intercept Baltar's task force, and try and lead them away from us. Buy us some extra time. Or at least that was the plan."

She recounted the entire episode for them, of how Cain, in violation of orders (as usual) had headed directly for the traitorous Baltar, rather than veering away as ordered, and been intercepted by two other BaseShips. In typical Cain style, he'd flown right between them, without even reducing speed, loosing a broadside of missiles into each enemy ship as he did so. From the flight recorders on two Vipers that survived the encounter, it was confirmed that both BaseShips had been destroyed. Cain's fate, however, remained unknown.

"Apollo couldn't see anything beyond the explosions of the two Cylons," she continued, "and their fighters were closing, so he and Starbuck hightailed it full turbos back to the Fleet. We never heard from the Pegasus after that."

"And you're sure this is genuine?" asked Koenig, replaying the transmission Sahn had picked up. She had run it through the computer, and Athena studied the waveform on the screen.

"Yes, Commander. That's a genuine Colonial signal, no question about it, and what we can recover of the ID code is that assigned to the Pegasus. The only other Battlestar ever unaccounted for was the Callisto, and that was nearly, oh... five-hundred yahren ago. Her ID number isn't even close."

"I see," said Koenig, sitting back and rubbing his chin. "The thing is, this signal isn't coming from the Gamoray area." He put the starchart up on the big screen. "Based on the data we have, Gamoray lies here." A flashing dot began to pulse on the screen. "But according to the directional fix, near as we can tell the signal is coming from this area." Again, another dot, this one clear across the chart from the first one. Athena studied it a few moments, then turned to Maya. "Could I use your terminal a cent...a moment?"


Athena settled herself into the seat, and began working the equipment. After a few minutes of data manipulation, the image on the screen began to rotate, the stars taking on different aspects. Finally, Athena leaned back, seemingly satisfied. "Yes."

"What?" asked Koenig.

"It was your computer's way of projecting the data, Commander. I just converted it as best I could into something similar to our own stellar cartography. Now I can figure out what I'm looking at."

"Whatever works," said Tony, with a bit of a hrumpf.

"Nothing personal about Alpha or your equipment, Mr. Verdeschi," she replied, a bit put off by his comment. "They were just built with different uses in mind."

"So what are we looking at?" asked Helena, pouring her patented, time-tested balm upon the waters.

"Alright, here is the Moon's course as the computer projects it through the sector." A large flashing icon appeared, riding a line that cut across the chart. "And here is what we called the Gamoray Sector. As you can see, Alpha will pass right through."

"And the signal?" asked Koenig. "From the Pegasus?"

"Alright...triangulating based on our first intercept, where we are now, and the latest relay from the probe ship...the signal came from" She highlighted another region. She leaned back again, and she frowned.

"Athena? What is it?" asked Koenig.

"Well, if this is correct, Commander, if I'm working with good robust data here, then the signal is coming from somewhere in the general direction of the Colonies. Reasonably close to them, in fact."

"Your old homeworlds?" asked Maya.

"Yes. And unless I am very much mistaken, the region of the Void."

The "Void", Athena explained to them, was a region of space that was totally, utterly black. Dead. Without a single discernable navigational reference point or benchmark. Even radio signals did not propagate normally within it. Her brother, Captain Apollo, and one-time lover Lieutenant Starbuck had discovered it while on patrol, a few weeks after escaping the Cylons trap on, and bringing about the destruction of, the mining planet Carillon. Forced into it to escape Cylon patrols, the Colonials had found, much to their shock, the planet Kobol, which, according to their ancient histories, was the planet from which the settlers of their own worlds had set out, some seven thousand or so years before.

"But Father knew it was there," Athena went on. "He believed in the old stories, and the Book Of The Word with an absolute, unshakeable faith. I have to admit I never really believed it. But, sure enough," she shrugged, "there it was." She told them of how Adama had sought there the information as to where the Thirteenth Tribe, the one believed to have headed for Earth, had gone. Their exact course. But, discovery and a sudden Cylon attack had destroyed the old inscriptions, and they had been forced to flee Kobol in a mad dash for survival.

"And it was dead?" asked Victor.

"Completely," answered Athena. "The sun was extremely dim, flaring up only now and then, and all the oceans and rivers were dried up. We scanned, but never found so much as a weed. Utterly lifeless."

"What caused it?" asked Maya, thinking of the slow death of her own world, Psychon.

"No one knows for sure. Some think it was environmental pollution, some said it was over-exploitation of resources. Some scientists thought that perhaps the Void itself had affected both the planet and the sun in some way. But we never did find out for sure. All we know is that when the settlers arrived in the Colonies, they destroyed all their ships and technology, as a sort of penance to God for misusing it."

"Seems an awful waste," said Tony. "Settling on a new and unknown world, and then throwing away the very technology that could mean your survival. Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me, Athena."

"Personally," she sighed, crossing her arms, "I must say that I agree, but they felt it was the thing to do. It took us over seven thousand yahrens to climb back up to where we'd been, and even then there are aspects of Kobollian science we just can't fathom."

"Is Kobol in the data files we downloaded from the Galactica's memory banks?" asked Victor.

"I think so," said Maya, and began a search. Within moments, the file was there, showing Kobol in all its desolate, dust-choked glory. The Psychon compared it to one of the few images of the planet surviving from the time before the people had fled. "Almost like looking at two different worlds," she said. One was watery and lush, wide seas draped in clouds, reminding the Alphans of Earth. The other made Mars look good, with a surface totally void of water or detectable vegetation, an atmosphere almost completely free of any appreciable moisture. Victor asked for the file to be sent to his lab for study. Koenig spared him a glance. He knew that look. Already, the old academic had an idea brewing.

But for the moment, the Commander was more concerned with things closer to home. While Brian had as yet to report anything of note, and the scanners baseside remained clear, the thought of Cylons was never very far from Koenig's mind. Since the Moon's course at the moment was within seven degrees of that taken by the Colonial Fleet when heading this way, he spent much of the day studying such of her scanner logs and patrol reports as had made the transfer. Sadly, they had been so absorbed with the exchange of historical and scientific data at the time, and the medical treatment of several of Alpha's injured, such mundane matters had been relegated to the back burner, and the data was incomplete.

So it was with some degree of relief that Koenig learned that Launch Pad Two was back on-line several almost an hour ahead of schedule. Since the interception of the, now stopped, distress call, Koenig had been feeling a slow but nonetheless rising sense of uneasiness. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something was definitely gnawing at him. That, and the fact that if they could pick up the signal, so could someone else. He ordered one of the other Swift's brought up to the pad, and programmed for a probe. Greenbean and Brie, like Athena refugees from the Galactica, and fighter pilots as well, asked permission to be allowed to patrol ahead of Alpha in their Vipers, but Koenig said no. Unlike the Swifts, Vipers were well known to the Cylons, and he didn't want to alert them to a Human presence here in this region unless he had absolutely no choice. And, should they encounter the cybernetic killers, he wanted the Vipers close to home.

"Two Vipers won't amount for a lot," said Greenbean. "Against a whole Cylon attack force."

"Better two than none," said Koenig. "Besides, we're having the Devil's own time trying to synthesize their fuel in sufficient purity and quantity, with only one synthesizer on-line right now. I don't want to waste a drop unless I have no choice."

"Right, sir," said Brie, understanding.

So, it was to be the second Swift, this one piloted by Falxa and Hasta, the salvaged Cylon Centurions, which set out to follow Brian into the void ahead. Alan Carter grumbled a bit at the loss of their labor down below, but he understood. The Swift, and her pilots, would be ready on time.

"Why not one Cylon per ship?" asked Helena.

"Cylons are programmed to operate in teams," replied Athena. "We're not sure why. It may have to do with the social aspects of the culture of the original organic Cylons that created them, or because they have so little initiative of their own. Either way, Cylons need to operate in groups to be really effective. A minimum of two, three is optimal."

"You'd think that a computerized machine could multi-task a lot easier than a Human could," said the CMO. "Especially one programmed for flying a fighter craft into combat."

"Yes, but for whatever reason, Helena, that's not the case. If it had been, they would have won the war a lot sooner. As it was, it took a Human to show them how." She scowled for a moment, as images of the Destruction of the Colonies flitted across her memory, and the actions of the treasonous Count Baltar.

"And there they go," said Maya.

"Hopefully, they'll find absolutely nothing," said Athena.

"Except a new place to live," amended Maya.

"Amen to that," said Tony.

Alone in Alpha's cafeteria later, what passed for java ("coffee?") in front of her, Athena mulled over the question of the Swifts, and what the available data told her about her husband's homeworld. Like her own planets, Earth had taken the first struggling steps towards the stars, constantly striving to improve and enhance its space technology. But the official history of that campaign was often a bizarre one, infected with politics and personal ambitions.

Come to think of it, it sounds a lot like the early Colonies!

She had read the early history of Earth's space exploration, from Sputnik through the Apollo program (she wondered how her brother, Strike Captain Apollo, would feel about that). Skylab, ("stupid, stupid to let it die!") Mir, and all the other footholds Man had established in space. But it all seemed so...haphazard at times. Americans, Europeans, the Japanese, the Soviets, Red China ("What makes a nation red?") all vying to outdo each other, and all hiding behind one sort of political agenda or another. And while space exploration, whether one flew old-style one-man chemical rockets or Battlestars, was an inherently dangerous business, the record of accidents and disasters in Earth's space program struck her as curiously excessive. The Uranus Probe, an ambitious, perhaps too ambitious, scheme using new and untested technologies to try and establish a base in the outer solar system, had vanished, only to turn up in a bizarre fashion on some alien wasteland light-yahrens away. Astro 7, a mission to the huge gas giant Jupiter and still partially classified, had ended in silence as well, until the Alphans had found answers on the dreadful world dubbed Terra Nova. The Ultra Probe, that had almost spelled the end of Koenig's space career, and had resulted in the horrific deaths of all but one of the crew due to some bizarre creature that made the Cylons seem like good neighbors. All these missions had their origins in different agencies, or under the auspices of a variety of nations, most in competition with each other. Only the Mars Terraforming Project seemed to encounter some measure of success. It was a wonder that any kind of serious space exploration had continued!

But the Swift mission, of which Brian the Brain was the sole "survivor", had been the most mysterious. Not sponsored by any nation or space agency thereof, it had been unknown even to Koenig and Alpha's senior staff, and referenced in but a single computer file. Why? she wondered. Why would a space mission obviously costing an immense amount of money, and requiring the investment of enormous planning and talent, be largely unknown to most people on the planet that had launched it? She had dug deeper, and found that the Swift mission had been entirely a private affair, funded by a group of shadowy, as well as extremely wealthy individuals and corporations, that felt that it was not only well past time to make serious moves out into the galaxy, but that Earth no longer had a place for them. They wanted a new world, where they could start afresh, and build the sort of utopian, "spiritual" civilization that they felt Earth no longer could. After almost six years of clandestine work, and vast sums of money artfully hidden, the ships, their technology culled (legally and otherwise) from various sources, they were ready. The crews, an equal number of men and women drawn from the cream of the scientific and academic worlds, had been chosen not just for their brains, but also for their genes. This was to be a mission of colonization, and in a spirit smacking no little bit of eugenics, they wanted "only the best".

Thus it was that on December 4th, 1996, with much of the public still caught up in the Ultra probe mission, Cellini's crew still a month away from reaching the newly-discovered world, that the Swift mothership, the Lief Erickson, had lifted off from a secret installation in Borneo, much to the surprise of the rest of the world's space (and intelligence) agencies. Within an hour, the other Swifts, the Columbus, Saint Brendan, Thor Hyerdahl, and the Daniel Boone, had joined her, and they were blasting their way out of orbit, on course for Alpha Centauri, Captain Bernard C. Michael, RAF, Ret. at the helm. Their revolutionary new drive system, derived from Queller's basic design but without the hideous side-effects, worked to perfection, and all five ships were soon tearing their way across the solar system at unheard-of speed. Ignoring orders from a variety of sources to turn back, they continued on, transmitting their manifesto back home, and bidding goodbye to Earth forever. Then, twenty-three days out, a few hours after entering the Oort Cloud, telemetry began to break up. With a burst of static, and what sounded like a cry for help, each ship in the expedition went silent it its turn, telemetry going dead, and the fate of the Michael Expedition remained unknown.

Immediately afterwards, strong, and not always ethical, moves, first by Space Commissioner Dixon, followed by one Gerald Simmons of unblessed memory, were made to amalgamate all of the various space exploration agencies on Earth into a single organization. All surviving data and materials from the Swift Project were seized, many news morgues and archives were purged, and before long, the LSRO was the sole organization on Earth tasked with reaching out into space, and private expeditions were...discouraged, the renegade Swift fleet forgotten. At least publicly.

Until Brian, from orbit over Planet D, had detected and then made contact with Alpha.

Way too many disasters and frack-ups for just chance, Athena told herself. Sure, accidents happen, machinery fails, but this seemed oddly top-heavy with failures. Okay, the Swifts had, according to their data recorders, encountered some sort of weird energy distortion beyond the Solar System that they could not quantify, that seemed to transport them countless light-yahrens across space, but the rest of it made her suspicious. And they way they tried to bury Captain Cellini...something sure stunk, there.

But, she told herself, that was the past, and on a world countless light-yahrens away that she would never see. Her main point of concern at the moment was the signal they had picked up, seemingly from the lost Battlestar Pegasus. Was it real? It certainly seemed so. Why now? And why so open a call, naming the ship, and practically lighting a beacon to give away the vessel's location? The Cylons weren't stupid, and if she, with Alpha's more primitive equipment could get a rough fix on the source, then the Alliance's BaseShips would have no trouble at all in pinning it down to the micron.

Like taking confections from an infant, she mused, wondering how in Hades Hole the Alphans could put up with this...stuff they called a beverage. Shuttle thruster turbine lubricant was more like it. Water from Caprica's Caspian River delta just below the power plant at low tide on wash day, but most assuredly not java.

BaseShips! If we pass anywhere near Gamoray, we're fracked!

"Hey, Athena," said Alibe, sticking her head into the room. "Ready for movie night?"

"Sure," said the other, dumping her empty. "What's tonight's feature?"

"Midway, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. A double-header."

"Sounds good. I'll call Alan."

Moving ahead of Alpha on deep probe aboard the Daniel Boone, Brian the Brain sat silently, all sensors and instruments straining into the void ahead. Though a machine, he nonetheless felt "good" at being back in the saddle as it were. He was also grateful that the Alphans had "let him live" after the events on Planet D. Like all sentient creations, and Brian considered himself as sentient as any organic being, he needed a sense of purpose, something to make his existence meaningful. Letting him come back on-line, and work for the good of Alpha had filled him with a deep sense of satisfaction.

As he mused in his electronic fashion, he was aware through his telemetric link with the base that a second Swift, the Saint Brendan, had launched from Alpha a few minutes ago, the two Cylons in control. He had "met" the two alien robots briefly, in the Technical Section while being prepped for this mission, and felt rather dismissive towards them. While extremely capable in a number of ways, he was far more intelligent, for more Human, than the two Centurions put together. After all, it took two of them to fly the Swift, whereas he could do the same job alone. Chrome-plated wind-up toys, that's what the mechanical men were. Glorified toasters. Not an example of genuine artificial intelligence. Come to think of it, they didn't even...


Brian's musings were interrupted by a contact on the scanners. He shifted his attention, analyzing the incoming data. Hhmm... Looks interesting, he decided. Entering the command into the Boone's helm, he eased on over that way. But no point in calling Alpha just yet.

Chapter Two

Koenig had just reached the part in Midway where the carrier Yorktown was crippled by the Japanese attackers, when his commlock vibrated. Checking his message, he excused himself, and headed from the theater to Command Center.

"Message coming in from the Boone," said Tony. Koenig waited for the time lag. Brian had discovered debris, and was requesting a follow-up analysis. As thought, the debris was indeed Cylon in origin. Fighters, long-since destroyed, their wreckage slowly dispersing in space.

"We're getting closer," said Koenig, checking the star charts. "That's close to the region where the Galactica was attacked by Cylon kamikazes several days after fleeing Gamoray."

"We're moving right into disaster, John," said Tony. "A whole empire of psychotic robots, and we can't even steer." He trailed off, mumbling.

"What was that?"

"Huh? Oh, just wondering out loud. Wondering if maybe Luke and Anna didn't have the right idea, jumping ship and staying on Arkadia."

"They're out of harm's way, that's for sure. At least as far as the Cylons go."

"Farming sure is a damn sight healthier than tangling with those glorified sets of drainpipes. So, what's next? Check in with the other Swift?"

"Right. See if Falxa and Hasta have found anything at all."

"Wouldn't they have called in if they did?" asked Tony.

"Well, they were instructed to, but who knows with Cylons?"

After a few moments of time lag, the Cylons reported in. Nothing so far beyond dust and natural space debris. No ships, no signals, nothing whatsoever. A Human would have been bored stiff by now, but of course, the Cylons weren't. Cylons could not be bored anyway, Koenig reminded himself. Though fast and powerful computers, they had the, well, brains, of a retarded mollusk following a lobotomy. The very concept of boredom was beyond their capabilities.

Sometimes, Koenig found himself envying them that. One of the toughest things to fight here on Alpha was the threat of boredom.

"John," said Tony suddenly, "another message from Brian."

"What is it?"

"He's been shot at."

"It was just a single Cylon pilot, still floating amongst all the debris," said Brian, a short while later. "I guess it was still active after all this time." The Brain replayed the scanner recording for them. Against the blackness, there was a single Centurion, floating alone amid the wreckage of its fighter. As it caught sight of the Swift, it had drawn its weapon, a pistol, and fired. As per his new defensive programming, Brian had responded, targeting the offending object, and firing back. It had been blown to bits with a single shot, and Brian could detect no more active Cylons within range.

"They must build 'em tough on Cylon," said Tony, "to have lasted all this time in vacuum near absolute zero. Good shot, Brian."

"Thanks Tony," replied the other. "Well, I'm back on course. I should just barely be within scanning range of the Gamoray solar system by this time tomorrow, Commander."

"Good, Brian. Keep us posted of anything you find."

"I will, sir. Daniel Boone out."

"Gee, he's getting respectful in his old age," said Tony.

"Just his programming, Tony," said Koenig, and turned to peruse another repair report. "Still, there are times I admit I enjoy the bow and scrape routine."

"Does Helena know that?" grinned Tony.

"Are you kidding? I plan on keeping my skin just a little while longer, Tony."

"Skin? More like your..."

"And how is Maya this evening?" smiled Koenig.

At 08:54 Lunar Time the next morning, Brian got his first close look at the solar system ahead of him. It was much as the charts downloaded into his memory described it. A binary sun, the smaller of the two yellow stars orbiting the larger at a distance of seven point oh three AU mean, with Gamoray circling the inner sun at a range comfortable for Humans and similar life forms. No surprises there. Brian did not like surprises. Surprises could not be easily indexed, catalogued, classified or otherwise neatly arranged in his data banks. He much preferred the familiar, the expected, the easily accommodated.

Once the homeworld of a race of advanced and highly civilized beings called the Delphians, Gamoray was rich in a wide variety of mineral wealth, and had thus, at last, come to the attention of the Cylon Alliance. A few years before the destruction of the Colonies, the Alliance's BaseShips had shown up here, part of their grand scheme of encirclement of Human space, and in the course of a few days, wiped out a rich and sophisticated culture at least three thousand years old. Turning it into their outer Capital, the Cylons also made it a major source of their military's fuel and munitions, and spent a great deal of time and effort to insure that not one single Delphian remained alive. The Alliance had myriad slaves as well as machines to do its work. It did not need any more.

But, the planet had never lived up to its promised potential, in Cylon eyes. After his surprising and terrible defeat at the Battle of Molocay, Commander Cain of the Battlestar Pegasus had headed this way, staging numerous hit and run raids on both the Cylon base, and their convoy routes. Time and again, his Vipers had reduced the installations there to scrap metal, and many a Cylon tanker never made it out of the sector, their fuel finding a new home in the Pegasus' cavernous bunkers. Thus had the Galactica found the situation when the Colonial Fleet had crossed this area of space on the flight from annihilation.

Together, the two warships, veterans of many a campaign together, had reduced the entire Cylon capital city to rubble, ground defenses included, and plundered the place of every drop of fuel they could stuff aboard the Fleet, along with munitions, data, and huge amounts of spare parts. What had happened here, after the Colonials left the sector, was unknown.

And my task to find out! thought Brian. Yippee! I have a purpose again!

As if reflecting his excitement, the Swift accelerated slightly.

About two hours later, as he entered the cafeteria, Security man Donald Schanke, once a homicide detective with the Toronto P.D., looked around to see if there were any familiar faces in attendance. He'd been going to meet Tony here for a quick coffee break and to discuss some Security matters, but he seemed to have beaten him here. He heard a sound, and turned.

"Athena?" he asked, moving towards her, mug in hand. The former Galactica bridge officer was in a seat off to one side, double over, seemingly in pain. "You okay?"

"Do I look it?" she replied through clenched teeth. "Ahh..."

"Uh oh," said Don, and grabbed his commlock.

Thus it was that Eric Zac Carter came into the world, at least that world, a few hours later, and somewhat ahead of schedule. Named for a friend of Alan's, one of the deceased Meta Probe astronauts, as well as Athena's younger brother, he weighed in at a healthy seven pounds on the dot, and had a set of lungs that, Helena quipped, would put him in line for Command someday. Koenig scowled at that, but she didn't care. She much preferred helping to bring life into their small community, rather than always dealing with the dead.

"Congrats, Alan," said Tony, slapping the chief pilot on the back. "Looks just like you, too."

"Yes, poor kid," teased Maya. Alan bared his teeth at her, then laughed.

"I think he looks just fine," said the new mother, proudly, to those gathered around her.

"Alan, here," said Victor, handing him a small cardboard box. Inside were the last of Victor's cigars. Havana #5s. "We must keep our traditions alive," he smiled. Alan took one, sniffed it, and passed them around. Almost at once, Helena swept them up, put them back in the box, and handed them to Alan.

"Not in my Medical, you don't!" She glared at him. "No smoking within twenty-five feet of the airlocks. Outside!"

"How's it feel, Alan?" asked Bill Fraser, another pilot, pretending not to look at Helena. "Being a daddy now."

"Not sure yet. For so long I figured...well, it looks like I have a lot to get used to."

"Ahem!" said Athena, managing to put hand to hip while still in bed. "It looks like we have a lot to get used to. Dear."

"Right. We."

"Anytime you want to know something," said Don, "either of you, just ask. Since I'm one of the few people on Alpha who has any experience with children."

"A daughter, right?"

"Yeah. Jenny."

"Thanks, I will," said Alan. "Looks like we'll be picking your and Sue Crawford's brains a lot."

"Well, I must go," said Bill, setting down his drink. He was scheduled to fly the next Swift out on probe, the Columbus, with Winters as co-pilot. They bid him Godspeed, and returned to the matter at hand.

"Lost sleep, smelly diapers, cranky babies and cranky wives, but in the end it's all worth it, Alan," said the former cop. "Kids are God's way of telling us we get to keep going."

"I'll keep that in mind," said Tony, looking over at Maya, and wondering when his own little bundles of joy would put in their appearances. He watched Bill take off on the monitor, then turned to John. Athena was about to comment on the "cranky wives" crack, when the compost bleeped.

"Commander," said Sandra, on the little screen, "message coming in from the Daniel Boone."


"Brian is now within visual range of Gamoray, Commander."

As per his mission profile, Brian approached Gamoray with caution, cutting a circuitous path through the system, and using any convenient space body to obscure his presence when possible. Through it all, he kept his sensors peeled, ever alert for anyone, or thing, else.

But there seemed to be no one here. He scanned, again and again to the limits of his equipment, but he could find no active energy signatures within range, at least none that seemed to be of any significance. As he drew closer, and Gamoray grew from tiny speck to visible crescent, he concentrated all his instruments on it. It was a habitable, Earthlike world, with an atmosphere of 19.7% oxygen, and an extensive biosphere. All in all, a comfortable home for any sentient race with a congruent biology. In orbit still circled the many satellites, civilian and military, that his data told him would be there, most now dark, shot to pieces by the Colonial forces.

And no current signs of the Cylons, strangely. As he scanned through all the frequencies he was capable of, there was only dead air. No radio traffic, no video signals, no active scanning devices, nothing.

That's weird, he told himself. After several long milliseconds of deep thought, he took the risk and moved to enter orbit. As he did so, one of his passive sensors beeped loudly. One of the old dead satellites turned out to not be quite so dead, and began tracking him. He had no idea if its weapons were still functional, but once his instruments detected a target acquisition, that settled the matter. Responding at once, Brian targeted it right back, blowing the alien machine to scrap.

Better call Alpha, he decided, as he at last achieved orbit, 200 miles up, at fifteen degrees inclination to the equator. As he waited for the time lag, he began mapping the surface below.

"They never came back?" said Athena, upon seeing the telemetry from Brian. Still in Medical, she was sitting up in bed between feedings, and frowned. "That makes no sense, Commander." She studied the images a moment longer. "Why in Hades Hole would the Cylons just abandon it? All that tylium for fuel, as well as other minerals and a strategic location on their Outer Rim? I can't figure it out."

"Well, I won't complain, Athena," replied Koenig. "I've no desire whatsoever to see the Cylons again."

"But it is odd, John," said Tony. "They obviously put an enormous investment into conquering and occupying Gamoray. Sure, the Colonials kept bombing the place, but they kept coming back, like the folks who refuse to quit living next to an active volcano. Why quit all of a sudden?"

"Maybe this time was one time too many?" offered Maya. "They saw it as a diminishing return on the investment required? A computerized mind might view it in that way."

"Maybe. Or perhaps their Empire has problems somewhere else, and hasn't been able to attend to Gamoray yet," opined Koenig, frowning. "Rebellions, maybe. Whatever the reason, they aren't there. And that suits me fine. According to our trajectory track, we'll pass within close range of Gamoray as we move through this sector of space. If the Cylons have abandoned the planet for whatever reason, then that's just so much less danger for us to have to worry about."

"Here, here," said Tony, looking at Maya. "Maybe we'll even be able to pick up some things there we can use. Technology we can adapt, or usable fuel. Any word from the other two ships, John?"

"Falxa and Hasta report only a system with a dim K-type star, full of asteroids and one dead planet. Bill's picked up a system, but it'll be a while before he's got anything meaningful on his scanners."

"As long as it isn't Cylons," said Athena.

"Well, well," said Fraser, checking his instruments. "Look at that."

"Yes," said Winters. "Radio."

Chapter Three

Brian was on the third orbit of Gamoray when he passed over the former capital city for the first time. Adjusting the orbit, and reorienting the scan platform to get better detail, he zoomed in on the city below.

Or rather what was left of it. The attack by the Colonial forces had left the place in sad shape. The buildings that had once housed the defensive control center were a burned-out shell, the Main Hall, where the Imperious Leader had addressed his minions just before the attack, was likewise blackened and empty. All across the city, burned and collapsed buildings were in evidence, the native plant and animal life beginning to reclaim the site for nature once more. As the site fell astern, he mused upon this state of affairs. Why would the Cylons not return to claim their once-important Southern Capital for the Empire? Without realizing it, his curiosity was reaching near-Human levels. He once more reviewed his mission profile, and all its options. He was, upon achieving orbit of the planet, to map the surface, first. After that, he had the option of landing, if it appeared to be safe.

Which is just what he would do. As he began the fourth orbit of the planet, Brian plotted his atmospheric entry vector and landing site. Wouldn't Koenig and the rest be so pleased with him?

"Commander, the Saint Brendan is reporting in," said Sandra, next morning, at 0814.

"Put them on," said Koenig. He waited until the time lag caught up with the two robot pilots. The Cylons had reached the end of their assigned patrol area, and were turning around to return to the base. They had found nothing at all of any interest or value to Alpha. And, thankfully, no sign of any potential danger, either. "Very well, Saint Brendan, lay in a return course, and return to Alpha."

"By your Command, Imperious Koenig," said Falxa, and the transmission was cut.

"One of these days, we're going to have to teach them some new responses," said Tony, shaking his head. "They are in serious need of some variety."

"Oh, I don't know," said Koenig, leaning back in his chair. "That word... command; it has a certain, well, ring to it, don't you think, Tony?"


"And...Imperious Koenig. I mean, ya gotta like that." Koenig had an insufferable look now, hands behind his head, clearly enjoying himself. Tony's mouth fell open, and Sandra was trying not to laugh. "I mean it has, well, has style. Don't you agree?"

"I'll agree, it's got plenty of..." began Tony, when the commboard beeped. It was Brian calling in again.

"Put him on," said Koenig.

"By your command, Imperious Koenig," said Sandra, deadpan. Before Koenig could so much as blink, the Brain was on.

Brian had chosen for his landing site the Cylon AirDome, where most of the planet's traffic had used to come and go. Once deep enough into the atmosphere, he had located a long-disused road leading towards the city from another destroyed settlement. Apparently when the Cylons had seized the planet, they had bombarded every major city save the capital from orbit, using both plutonized nuclear weapons, and their powerful megapulsars to just extinguish them in a moment. Only the capital had been spared this, its doom coming in the form of attacks by fighters, coupled with chemical toxins. The Cylons wanted the city, but without all the pesky inhabitants. Almost before these Delphians had breathed their last, Cylon forces had begun the task of occupying and refitting the buildings of the sprawling city to their own use. As he closed on the site, he was surprised to see the gigantic form a of Cylon BaseShip, toppled to one side and still partially tethered to it's huge mooring stanchions, looming up vast and threatening over the empty facility. Beyond it, the Cylon airfield, where their fighters had been stationed, was littered with wreckage.

It was a bright day, with rain clouds just moving out of the area, and Brian spent some time carefully scanning and rescanning the area. He detected no life forms beyond the plants and animals slowly moving in from the countryside, but did pick up a few scattered energy signatures, both from inside the huge ship and across the city, that could have been some stray machines still operating. At last he decided to go and scout the area himself.

Getting out of the Swift was easy, and fortunately this time he had a smooth, paved area to travel across, rather than the bumpy surface of Planet D. As he rolled off the lift for the loading hatch, he stopped, surveying the area. Again, he detected no sign of anyone within the range of his instruments, and began to roll.

The Colonials had done quite a job, he decided. The landing field here was fairly intact, but the closer he got to the hangars and other buildings, the more holes blasted into the concrete he encountered. As he wound his way around one he saw his first Cylon. Charred and blasted in half, it was rusty and of no threat to him, but it still made him uneasy. Why? he found himself asking. Because this was a fellow machine? Another robot, albeit a less-endowed one? After a few milliseconds, he cast aside such thoughts as wasteful of processor space, and moved on.

Yes, the Vipers had done a most thorough job on the installations here. Virtually every hangar, control tower or repair facility was ripped to shreds. Wreckage from Cylon fighters and shuttles could be seen inside the ruined structures, or scattered about the area. He looked up at the huge bulk of the derelict BaseShip, and shuddered. Even though it was dead, it still scared him somehow. He scanned it, noting how well the Vipers had done their work. Scores of laser wounds pitted the vessel's surface, one of it's vast bay doors was still open, and one section of the hull had crumpled when it had hit the ground, buckling a part of it's mooring gantry. He circled the BaseShip, sensors wary, but detected no sign of active Cylons. As he progressed, Brian reminded himself to be wary of possible unexploded ordnance. It would hardly do to blow himself up on his first mission now would it?

He actually flinched at a loud noise. Turning, he saw a cloud of dust and ashes billow into the still air. After a moment's scan, he relaxed. It was merely the roof of one of the bombed-out hangars collapsing at last.

"Oh shit!" he said aloud. "I am such a scaredy cat." Admittedly true, since bravery was one thing Captain Michael had never thought to program into his creation. Why would a glorified computer adjunct need to be brave? Of course, being such a coward, it was the fear of replacement, and thus of "death", that had finally motivated Brian, void of any moral paradigms, to exercise another Human trait; premeditated murder. None of that, of course, went through his electronic mind now, since Koenig had had all memory of what had been done to the Swift crews expunged from Brian's data banks.

But the fellow was still as cowardly as a mouse.

"Better call Alpha," said Brian.

Koenig was quite happy to learn that Gamoray was, so far, of no threat to them. As Brian left the grounded BaseShip behind and progressed towards the ruins, they watched on the big screen in Command Center. While some sections of the city seemed largely intact, huge swaths were naught but charred rubble. Apparently, with no one to fight them, the fires had raged unchecked for weeks. At one time, the entire city had covered an area nearly the size of modern London or Berlin. Now, at least forty percent of it was in ruins.

"How close are you to the Control Center?" asked Koenig.

"From the plans you gave me, about half a mile..." Brian turned his blockish body "this way, Commander."

"When you get there, see if you can access any records or data," said Victor. "Your operating system has been upgraded to read Cylon code."

"Will do, sir. I just hope they are wheelchair accessible."

"Yes, I had forgotten about that," smiled the Professor. Victor turned to look at Koenig. "John?"

"Just thinking. Maybe what we need down there are some Cylons of our own. Sandra, raise the Saint Brendan."

"Right away, Commander."

"Going to join the two of them up?"

"Sure am. After all, the Centurions have feet."

"I have the Saint Brendan, Commander," said Sandra, a few minutes later.

"Good. Falxa?" Koenig waited a few beats.

"By your Command."

As he waited for the Saint Brendan to reach Gamoray, Koenig mulled over his options. If it weren't for the threat of the Cylons suddenly showing up again, Gamoray might make an excellent place to settle. Though slightly smaller than Earth, it was, according to their information, richly endowed with everything they would need to survive and begin anew. As part of his exploration of the planet, Brian had been ordered to take soil and water samples for analysis, just in case.

"We'll pass pretty close, astronomically speaking," said Victor, in his lab. "Within a single AU, in fact, according to our updated tracking data. Our proximity to the planet's sun is also going to alter our course slightly, John." The old academic put a chart up on one of his monitors. It showed the Moon's projected path through the region.

"How long will we have near it?"

"Well, based on the latest calculations," replied Victor, hefting a sheet of computations to show him, "we should be within Eagle range for about two and a half days, before we drift beyond Gamoray's gravity well."

"Hopefully, that will give us time to gather whatever we might need. Minerals, fuel, spare parts. And that BaseShip should prove a treasure trove."

"I should think so. Besides that fuel processing depot the Colonials raided, there were several other mining operations the Cylons had there. From the overflight scans we got from the Galactica, it looks like they were extracting and stockpiling some of the very things we need on here on Alpha."

"Such as?" asked Koenig, perusing the printouts.

"Platinum, nickel, aluminium, ytterbium, polonium, fissile uranium, a whole wish list for Father Christmas." He showed Koenig a hard copy of a photo, taken by Brian on landing. "It seems they missed some of the warehouses when they strafed the industrial area. The Swift's scans show that it's absolutely rotten with processed metals as well as manufactured goods the Cylons never managed to ship out." Victor chuckled a bit. "I just hope we can grab it all in the time we have."

"Well, if the Moon were only predictable when it comes to our travels," said Koenig, shaking his head. He noticed some other papers on Victor's never-clean desk. Next to them were some shots of the wrecked Cylon fighter they had encountered months ago, still lying in pieces down in the hangar. "Victor?"

"Eh? Oh, another of my projects, John." He showed Koenig a picture of some parts from the fighter, and a sheet full of engineering sketches and calculations. "I've identified the parts from the Cylon engines which permit their fighter craft to exceed the speed of light."

"Really? And?"

"I think we may be able to back-engineer and adapt it."

"When? I mean, why haven't you kept me up to date?" asked Koenig, a tad sharply.

"Well, I've had so much on, and there was no point in bothering you until I had something solid. Right now it's only a bare hypothesis."

Translation, he forgot about it, with everything else I keep piling on his plate, Koenig told himself. Sometimes, he realized, he expected too much too soon from Victor. He was, after all, only Human. He thought back to when they had had to do without him for so long. How did we ever survive, with him comatose and inactive? Thank God we had Maya!

"Okay, my apologies, Victor. I didn't mean to snap like that."

"Ah," said Victor, waving it away. "Anyway, John, this unit here,' he indicated a set of coils, originally fitted around the fighter's engines, "takes in the energy from the burned fuel, and uses it to generate an energy field, the exact nature of which I'm still working on. The two combined, field and thrust from what Mister Greenbean calls their "turbos", allows this to push the craft past the speed of light for short periods."

"And you can adapt it to our equipment?"

"I think so, John. The Swifts anyway. I still need to do alot more tests, and of course reams of computations, but I think so."

"What about data from the Cylon BaseShip we encountered?"

"Very helpful, after I finally managed to decipher their engineering notation system. That and the data from Terra."

"How soon?"

"Well, what with everything else on...two months, before we can begin even the first static tests. Maybe three."

Koenig looked at Victor's data, and the photos of the Cylon engine parts, and considered. Traveling faster than light itself. Man's dream for a long time. In their journeys, they had seen that it was indeed possible. Queller had come tantalizingly close. So had Captain Michael's people, as well as the Menon. Now, the keys were in their laps, and considering where it was they were heading...

"Jump it up, Victor," said John. "Priority."


"We're heading into a region where FTL travel is as common as fuel-injection for cars back home. We can't afford to be the only slowpokes on the block. And if we can salvage more data or parts from that other BaseShip..."

"Alright, John. Priority it is. But I'll need help."

"I'll send you Jim Haines. He worked with Queller for years, and did some of the examinations of the Menon ship, as well as salvage of the Ultra Probe. And Maya, too, if you need her. The Colonials too."


"Good, Victor. I know you can do it." Victor watched his old student leave, his step as always the firm, determined one of command. As always, John Koenig had found a course of action, and settled on it, determined to see it come to fruition.

No wonder they had survived this long.

"But...ah, I'll tell him about the other thing later," said Victor. He went to his desk, picked up a sheet of figures. He studied it for a few minutes, a track of the Moon's course through a previous world's gravity well, and their projected course through Gamoray's, and then pressed a button on his terminal. "Alright, computer..."

Chapter Four

Brian had had to detour a few times, to get around holes blasted in the streets, or piles of rubble from collapsed buildings, but at last he reached the structure that had once housed the old Cylon control center. The top of the building was partially sheared off, and the upper floors were mostly burned out, but the front doors, their glass panes still intact, were standing wide open, beneath a large sign imaginatively labeled "Control Center".

Clever, these Cylons thought Brian. Trouble was, it was at the top of a flight of steps, and the wheeled Brian could not manage them. For a fleeting moment, he wished that Captain Michael had seen fit to give him feet, then decided to go around the structure, hoping to perhaps locate a more commodious means of ingress. It was slow going, with piles of rubble, creeping plant growth, and not a few destroyed Cylons littering the area around the building. But, in the back, there was what looked like some sort of loading dock or ramp, and it was at an incline! No steps! Brian made his way slowly up the ramp, and through a huge set of doors, blasted off in the final conflagration.

It was gloomy inside, save where the occasional shaft of sunlight stabbed down through the open roof, with more rubble, plants, and even a few wild animals in his path. None of the light fixtures were working, but that didn't trouble Brian, since he could "see" in a dozen different wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. Large sections of the ceiling had fallen in, cables and conduit hanging like jungle vines, giving the place a primeval feel. He continued to move cautiously through the empty building, scanning and recording, but so far had found nothing remotely resembling an intact or active data terminal.

What was that? He turned his head quickly around, at a noise. On his sensors, there was a fleeting IR trace, and some bio-signs. Something alive was moving about in the wreckage. Something...

"Ahhhhhhhh!!!" he cried out, as something plopped to the floor in front of him. He backed up a few clicks, then another whatever-it-was dropped to the floor next to the first. "Please don't hurt me!" he wailed, as yet another of the creatures appeared, now surrounding him. One of the things moved closer, touching him. Brian responded with a short blast of ultraviolet from his head turret, and for a moment the intruders seemed to back off a bit. Then, Brian's world went crazy, as someone...

"Don't step on my antenna!" he screamed, then more of the mysterious creatures grabbed hold of him.

"Commander!" cried Sandra. "Contact with Brian on Gamoray lost!"

"What?" Koenig rose from his seat, to move to her station. "How long ago?"

"The signal ceased less than ten seconds ago, Commander. Brian seemed to have encountered something." She moved her deft fingers across the board, calling up the telemetry for Koenig. They saw Brian's POV, on the big screen, as he was slowly moving into the wrecked Cylon command post on Gamoray. Then, in a quick blur, his encounter with mysterious shadows, then snow. The other half of the screen still showed the view of the Air Dome from the external camera on the Swift.

"What the hell were those?" asked Tony, looking at Koenig.

"I have no idea. Sandra, capture an image of those...whatever they are, and see if you can enhance it. Run it through our data banks."

"Yes, Commander."

"You've got an idea, John?" asked Tony.

"Well, who but Cylons? Maybe the Colonials missed a few." He hefted his commlock. "Greenbean?"

"I was busy blasting away, Commander," said Greenbean, summoned to Command Center. "My whole squadron was. All I had on was my attack scanner, lining up targets as we made our runs over the city."

"Which areas did you hit?" asked Tony.

"My squadron," said the Colonial, "was assigned this sector of the city, here." He indicated a grid on a chart. "It was, so we were told, the industrial and power generation area. We knocked out the bulk of their electrical power on our first pass. I remember the power station going up like sunbursts. Scorched the underside of my Viper, in fact."

"Me, too, Commander," said Brie. "I was in the same squadron, and I took out the small hydroelectric dam, right here." She indicated the structure. "I got a piece of shrapnel in my wing as we climbed away from the place."

"So, the Control Center couldn't still be operating?"

"I don't see how," she replied, shaking her head. "Jolly's wing ripped through it like a hot blade through butter. The solar panels went when they took the roof off. I saw the scans later when we were being debriefed."

"Nothing was left functioning that we could see, Commander," said Greenbean. "There was fire everywhere. There might have been some batteries or auxiliary energizers that kicked in somewhere, but we didn't scan any. They might have been shielded underground, maybe. We were recalled to the Fleet, and then headed out to intercept Baltar's attack force almost at once."

"Well, something is still active down there," said Tony. "And whatever it is, it's attacked Brian." Tony looked from the big screen, now showing just the Swift's view of the landing field with the BaseShip vast and looming, back to the pilots. "What's the service life of a Cylon's power cells?"

"About...a yahren or so," replied Greenbean. "Uh, I mean a year. But that's an approximation. I really don't know a lot about how they're constructed, Commander Koenig. We mostly spent our time blasting them apart."

"I see." Koenig thought for a moment. "Are you two up for a mission?"

Bill Fraser's ship was now back in scanner range, but Koenig had decided to send the Colonials to Gamoray in one of the other Swifts. Though a superlative pilot in his own right, Fraser had scant experience dealing with Cylons, nor had Winters, and despite his initial wish to keep the Viper pilots close to home, the Commander decided that with Brian going silent on Gamoray, their expertise was needed there. So it was that the Thor Hyerdahl was clearing the atmosphere just as the Columbus was back in visual range of the Moon.

"Interesting ship," said Greenbean, as they accelerated away from Alpha. Flying her was turning out to be a snap, reminding him a lot of the old shuttles that he had trained on at the Colonial Academy. "A bit backwards by comparison to our stuff, but still interesting."

"Alot backwards compared to our stuff. She reminds me of that beat-up old freighter Starbuck brought back from Proteus Prison," replied Brie. "He said it was like trying to fly a museum. Which is where this thing belongs. Or maybe a scrap heap."

"She's not so bad, Brie," said Greenbean, checking the scope ahead. "In fact, she's more advanced in some ways than those Eagle shuttles the Alphans usually fly are. Like her speed."

"Sure," replied Brie, "she's faster, but, really..."

And so it went on for some time, as the Moon fell astern and then vanished from sight. Greenbean, who loved antiques and old machines of all sorts, was obviously growing ever more enamored with the Earth vessel. As he pushed her speed up towards maximum, he regaled Brie with stories of some of the craft he'd flown as a cadet, with and without permission. She, for her part, had never actually graduated as a pilot, having washed out of pilot training by a single point. However, she'd proven to have a good head for machines. Assigned to the Battlestar Atlantia as a mechanic/maintenance specialist, she had spent almost every off-duty moment hanging around the pilots, listening to their stories, learning everything she could from them, spending many free centars in the simulators, until Commander Riordan had at last, reluctantly, let her try for the shuttle. She'd breezed it, getting her certification, and field promotion to Flight Sergeant, just days before the ship left home for the ambush at Cimtar.

When the attack had come, and the pilots had to scramble like mad to respond, she had been at her post in one of the Battlestar's maintenance bays, working on the fighters. While precious centons ticked by and no one appeared, the damage to the ship was piling up. Finally, on her own initiative, and despite orders from the Master Chief to stand down, Brie had grabbed up a helmet and the rest of the needed gear, and climbed into the nearest Viper. She launched off the Atlantia just in time to miss the first big blast to rock one of the bays. Although her experience was limited to simulators and shuttles, she actually managed to take out thirteen Cylons that day, and saved the lives of several other pilots. When at last the few survivors had made it home to rendezvous with the Galactica over a devastated Caprica, her ship was shot up, almost out of fuel, and had neither functioning life-support nor landing gear.

She had gotten an instant field commission from Commander Adama, a promotion to Lieutenant, and a medal.

"Okay, we're locked on course for Gamoray," said Greenbean. "Homing in on the Daniel Boone's long-range beacon."

"Affirmative. Greeners?"


"What exactly is a "Daniel Boone"?"

"Haven't got a clue, Brie."

Slowly, bit by bit, Brian returned to awareness. Slowly for him, that is. It took only five full second or so for all his systems to re-initialize, and his operating system to return to its default settings. As things got back to normal inside him, memory flooded back about what had happened. He'd been moving along, slowly, through the ruined command building on Gamoray, when suddenly...

He'd been ambushed. Ambushed by...something. Something that had stepped on his antenna! That is what had knocked him out. Once his internal sensors detected possible damage to his antenna, and all the extra garbled incoherent "data" flooding into his buffers, he had automatically shut down to safeguard his systems from overload. Now returning to functionality, he began performing his hardwired internal diagnostics. All seemed well, there. Then he turned up the gain on his passive sensors, and tried to figure out just where he was.

It was dark, and as he adjusted the wavelengths, it became obvious he was in some kind of room, with no lights at all. He could see power conduits, shelves, and stacks of boxes or crates. He could also hear, somewhere in the darkness, a constant drip, drip of something leaking somewhere. He looked around, but his "head" wouldn't bend back far enough to get a good view of what was leaking. He drew in a sample of air, for a "sniff'. Water.

Oh great! Dripping, and I'm not waterproof! I hope I don't short out or something!

As he mused on the cruel vagaries of design, he realized that along with being alone, in the dark, and in danger of rusting, he was also tipped onto his side. Who, or what, ever had put him in here and also made quite certain that he couldn't go anywhere. Not for the first time did Brian the Brain wish that he'd been built with arms.

But, at least he still had his antenna. He sent out a signal to the Swift. It at once answered him, its computer still obligingly on stand-by, and he re-established the link between them. According to its on-board chrono, he'd been inactive for almost seven hours. He accessed and rotated the Swift's scan platform, surveying the entire landing area. The sun had passed its zenith, so he was well-past local noon. Other than that, nothing seemed to have changed out there.

Even as he pondered his next move, he learned that Alpha had been calling. He accessed the commsuite, scanned the messages, then replied, filling the Base in on his situation, and learning that relief was on the way.

"I don't know, Commander," he said, replaying his data. "Who or whatever they are, they aren't in my database at all. Maybe some sort of wild creatures, but they knocked me out, and stuffed me in some kind of closet."

"Can you get out?" asked Koenig.

"No. They tipped me over on my side, and I can't get up. I really wish Captain Michael had given me arms! I really...I'm scared of the dark!" wailed the robot, and began to cry. An angry snap from Koenig brought him out of it. "Yes, sir. Okay, sir. I won't cry any more, Commander."

"Good." Koenig looked over at Tony, but the Italian only shrugged. "Now help is on the way, Brian. They should be there sometime late tomorrow. Can you hold out till then?"

"Yes, sir," replied the chastened automation. "I'll try."

"Good," said Koenig, wearily. "Now, keep us plugged in to your telemetry at all times, Brian. We'll keep you informed."

"Right, Commander. I'll....hey!"

"What is it?"

"Someone's coming!"

Brian shut down most of his external lights, attempting to feign inactivity. There was the sound of rasping metal, then the door opened with a creak. Light flooded in, and he saw...

Chapter Five

"It's a Delphian," said Bill Fraser, later in Koenig's office. "It has to be."

"How can you be certain?" asked Greenbean, on video conference from the Thor Hyerdahl. "We never saw any."

"That close-by system we checked out," replied Fraser. "Our instruments detected what looks like a small settlement down there." He relayed the data. "A few hundred of them at the most, and they are using primitive, low-gain radio and video communications. But, they look like whatever it was that attacked Brian."

Koenig put an enhanced image from Brian up next to one taken by Fraser. They both showed the same sort of being. Short, bipedal, skin hard and rough, seemingly almost crystalline, with a sharp-planed face, big eyes, and long silvery hair. Those captured by Brian's scanners had been dressed in rags, those seen by Fraser better clad, but they were undoubtedly the same species.

"Refugees," said Helena. "They must be. Athena, how long ago did the Cylons capture Gamoray?"

"From what we learned from Commander Cain, sometime within the last ten yahrens or so. I don't know exactly."

"Well, this settlement we saw didn't look all that old," said Winters. "The buildings were simple, maybe made from breaking down their ship. Some were of timber."

"Some of the Delphians must have escaped when the Cylons attacked their homeworld," said Helena. "Somehow, the Cylons missed them, especially with the Pegasus on the loose like it was. They escaped to settle somewhere else and start over."

"Not very far, in terms of the Cylons," offered Brie. "That other system is pretty close."

"Maybe they couldn't go any further," offered Bill. "My scans showed no sign of a ship."

"And our data says the Delphians form of FTL propulsion was barely over light-speed," said Koenig. "Very slow, compared to the Cylons. They weren't much interested in exploring beyond a few light-years, or minimal trade. And they probably cannibalized their ship on arrival, in order to build whatever structures they needed."

"So, that settles the mystery of who attacked Brian," said Helena. "Despite all their slaughter, the Cylons missed some."

"And now, they've found Brian," said Tony. "I hope they don't think he's an invader or something."

Like I can understand a single word you're saying, thought Brian, as one of the alien creatures spoke in a rapid-fire torrent of words. Though he had no translation matrix (with an all-Human crew that shared a common language, Captain Michael hadn't seen the need for one), Brian knew that Alpha's mainframe did. His link was working for the moment, and he tried to access the data banks. After what seemed an eternity to an electronic intelligence, he found what he was looking for. An old data file, downloaded during their encounter with the Galactica, containing what was known to Colonial anthropologists several centuries ago about the Delphians. While thin on specifics of grammar and syntax, it did contain a bi-lingual dictionary of about five hundred or so of the most common words, with some audio-visual files. Within a few seconds, he had created a translation database of his own, albeit a crude one. As the minutes ticked by, he began to unravel the alien lingo he was hearing, the voices high and tinny.

"...Cylons!" one of them was saying. That at least needed no translator. "Come back they!"

They'd mistaken him for a Cylon! How...insulting! He was smarter, heck, certainly a lot better looking than any...

"Different be this one. Not Centurion it is."

Obviously the Delphian language had changed over the centuries.

"Machine is. Talked. Only Cylon talk machine!"

"No!" said another voice. Still using only passive sensors in order to appear inert, Brian could not see who had spoken. But the voice sounded...older, somehow. Perhaps someone in authority? "Markings not like Cylons. Cylons walk like us. This one has no legs."

"Wheels," said another, shining a light on Brian's exposed undercarriage. "No, not like a Cylon." This one put a hand to one wheel, trying to spin it. Brian wanted to scream out for him to stop, but held his voice synthesizer. The apparent leader said something Brian couldn't translate at once, and soon several pairs of hands were all over him. But instead of an attack, they were righting him, until he once more stood upon his own wheels again. In a second or so, his gyros had compensated, returning his sense of balance to normal.

Finally! he said to himself. Once fully level, he let his lights go up, and the Delphians leapt back a few steps. Then, he tried to communicate.

"I'm not a Cylon! My name is Brian, and I come from the planet Earth. Can you understand me?" For a moment, none of the Delphians said a word, and Brian wondered if he'd made a translation error. From the looks he was getting, he might have threatened them with death, or asked for a date. He couldn't be sure.

"Brian?" said one of the aliens, at last, pronouncing it as "Bwian?"

"Yes, I'm Brian!" he replied. "Brian the Brain. Well, that is, a brain is what I am. I got called that because the first time I tried to speak, I said 'brain', only it came out 'Brian', so my creator, Captain Michael, decided to name me Brian, and everyone on the Swifts called me that. Oh, and they still call me that on Alpha, and so I..."

"Silence!" said one of the Delphians, apparently the leader. "Not Cylon," the leader said to the others. "Cylon not talk so much!" This was greeted with laughter all around. At least Brian assumed it was. It sounded more like someone jumping up and down violently on squeaky springs coated in rust. "Why here?" the leader asked Brian, crossing arms over his (?) chest, and assuming what in a Human would be a no-nonsense pose. Brian felt afraid again, and not for the first time did he wish he could curl in his antenna, like a cat does its tail.

"Like I told you," he repeated, "I'm here, from Moonbase Alpha. Our Moon is headed this way, and I was sent on ahead to scout this planet. Our Commander is..."

He was interrupted, as another of the Delphians came up, and began chattering rapidly to the leader. The leader turned to look at Brian again, and it wasn't a friendly look. He barked an order of some sort, and Brian was pushed forward, and forced to accompany the others out of the dark room, and deeper into the wrecked building.

"Okay, I'm coming!" he said. "Please, don't step on my antenna!"

Still quite a distance away, the Saint Brendan now had the stars of the Gamoray system on it's scanners. A tiny yellow dot for the moment, the larger star was within just a few degrees Kelvin of Earth's sun, and only slightly larger. Gamoray itself was at this moment just disappearing behind it's stars, relative to the incoming vessel, obscuring both it and the smaller companion sun, and the Cylon pilots altered their trajectory accordingly.

"By your Command. ETA to Gamoray, seven hours, forty-one minutes and counting," reported Falxa to Koenig.

"Good, Falxa. When you get there, try and locate Brian. We've lost his telemetry again. And keep us posted in the interim. Hourly check-ins till you land."

"By your Command, Imperious Koenig," droned the robot in reply, and cut the link.

"John, I think you like that entirely too much," said Helena as the screen went dark.

"Moi?" replied Koenig, all innocence.

"Vous," she replied, with a minxish smile.

"Well, can I help it if both Cylons keep calling me that?" he replied.

"HA!" said a voice somewhere in Command Center.

"One minute to Gamoray orbit," said Hasta, in the Swift cockpit. "We are picking up the beacon from the other ship."

"Excellent," replied Falxa. "As soon as we achieve orbit, contact Alpha."

"By your command."

As he piloted the ship, Falxa reviewed everything in his data files about the planet, and it's erstwhile inhabitants, the Delphians. His BaseShip had been part of the Task Force that had wiped the Delphian civilization out, and he was at once assigned to the garrison there. Although rotated back to shipboard duty soon afterwards, he had heard the rumors. The initial campaign had taken little time, but there had been repeated indications that a number of Delphians had survived, both the initial orbital bombardment, as well as the ground campaign. The Base Commander, an IL series named Mendax, had, some said, falsified reports sent back, both to the High Command on Cylon, and to Commander Baltar, as to the real situation, both on the planet itself, and in the surrounding sector. Because of this, the Colonial Battlestar Pegasus had been able to make repeated raids, and small numbers of Delphians had continued to both survive, and strike back. After the Colonials had raided the depot and destroyed two BaseShips, the Base Commander had been "recalled" to Cylon, where, it was rumored, he had provided spare parts for others more worthy.

"Daniel Boone detected," reported Hasta. "It is situated at the Air Dome."

"Begin landing procedures. Inform Alpha."

"By your command."

"They're landing now," said Tony, to Koenig. "Still no sign of Brian, John."

"And Cylons?"

"No indication of any ships besides ours anywhere within scanner range, Commander," said Sandra.

"Let's just hope it stays that way," said Koenig, and returned to his screen.

Brian had been led to another room, this one larger, and once more left alone for a while. His internal chrono told him it was only a couple of hours, but it felt like forever. When the natives returned, he was surrounded by many more of them, and the lights went up. The room was filled with electronic gear, much of it obviously cobbled together from pieces of whatever the Colonial raid had not succeeded in destroying. A screen came to life, and he saw a scratchy image of his Swift, still sitting on the landing field. On another, an equally bad rendering of a Cylon, apparently talking to someone. It was Hasta, making contact with Alpha.

"Cylons, headed here!" said one of the Delphians, this one looking much older than the rest. "And it talks a Moonbase Alpha!" They all turned to look at Brian. "And in the same kind ship!"

"Sure, we have a couple of salvaged Cylons on Alpha. They found an old ship a while back, and the Professor..."

"Silence!" said the older Delphian, slapping a hand down on a table. "Explain, if you not with Cylons!"

As fast as his processors could juggle the electrons, Brian tried to come up with the best possible answer that he could. He sure hoped it would satisfy these unfriendlies. While he did so, he also sent out a command, turning the Swift's sensors in this direction They seemed to be undamaged, although he could see several Delphians crawling in and around the Daniel Boone. The suite scanned and scanned, sending him a real-time data stream on the building he was in. It seemed the Delphian survivors had jury-rigged together enough of the old Cylon equipment to both scan the surrounding area, and listen in should anyone come calling again. Seeing the other pilots contacting Alpha had given them the wrong idea.

"They work for us, now," said Brian, returning his attention to the others. "We just wanted to know if this planet was safe, was all," he went on. "Everyone on Alpha has been looking for a new home ever since they left Earth, and they wanted to be ready, in case the Cylons showed up again."

Come on, telemetry! Punch through will ya? Koenig and the rest have got to be able to see this! Oh sh.....

The scan suite was still okay, but someone had broken off the high-gain antenna from the Daniel Boone, effectively cutting him off from long-distance communication. He sent out a command to slam the Swift's hatch shut after the last Delphian had gotten out of it, then to try the low-gain back-up antenna. It didn't appear to be responding properly. He could neither warn Alpha, nor the approaching Cylons in the other Swift.

Brian wanted to cry again.

Chapter Six

"Commander, we're picking up something from Gamoray," said Sandra. "Very weak. I think it might be a signal from Brian."

"Can you enhance it at all?" asked Koenig. He waited while she adjusted the equipment.

"No, sir. It is too weak to do anything with, until we get closer."

"Which won't be for a while," said Koenig. "Alright, try and contact Falxa. See if they can pick it up, and relay it to us, from the Saint Brendan."

"Right away, Commander."

"If the Delphians decide Brian is some sort of Cylon or a Cylon spy, John, they may just decide to shoot first and ask questions later," said Tony, moving over to Koenig's desk. "Not, I confess, that I'd miss that pazzo pasta machine." He took a breath. "Too much, anyway."

"He does sort of grow on you, doesn't he?" replied Koenig, with a slight smile.

"Yeah," retorted Tony, scratching his scalp, "like psoriasis."

"Still, he's brought us a lot of data, Tony. But what I keep coming back to is why the Cylons never came back here, after the Galactica and the Pegasus cleared out. It doesn't make sense to me that they'd just abandon the place. After all the effort it's taken them."

"Maybe it's like Maya said, John. Diminishing returns on the investment, with it being destroyed all the time. I don't know if the Cylons use anything resembling money, but that place must have been one hell of an investment in resources, even for a big, interstellar empire."

"Yeah, maybe."

"You're worried," said Tony, skilled in reading Koenig's moods.

"Yeah. I'm worried that while we're busy scrounging up the things we need to keep Alpha running, we're going to have visitors again. We barely made it, last time we encountered a BaseShip. This time, we don't have the Galactica or a convenient supernova to come to the rescue and save our hides."

"You want to abandon the plan, then, John? Skip Gamoray as we drift by?"

"I'm tempted, but we can't, Tony. All those material resources, just waiting for us. Things Alpha desperately needs." He picked up a print-out, and showed it to Verdeschi. "Some of the metals on this list are getting critically low. The warehouses at the Gamoray Airdome are stuffed full to bursting. We can't afford to pass them up, if we want to keep Alpha functioning."

"A risk, either way, then. Have you seen computer's latest prediction?'

"Which one?"

"The one that says we'll pass just close enough to Gamoray that we stand a nearly forty percent chance of going into orbit around her suns." He punched up the file, and let Koenig read.

"So we can either get ambushed by the Cylons while on the planet," began Koenig.

"Or we can go into orbit, and get ambushed if they show up later."

"Lovely choices," sighed Koenig, and put through a call to Victor.

The Gamoray Air Dome was much as Falxa remembered it. Of course, for him, that meant the layout and arrangement of the various structures. As he swept the area, he saw the derelict BaseShip, still at it's moorings, but registered this only as data, his Cylon "mind" being utterly incapable of anything so Human as either awe, regret, or nostalgia. The fact that Gamoray was in many ways a fabulously beautiful world completely passed both he, and Hasta, by.

What also passed them by, for the moment, was the fact that a number of eyes were watching them. Unfriendly eyes, tracking their every move as they debarked from the Saint Brendan. Hasta moved to the Daniel Boone, and signaled for entry. Still locked down, the hatch refused to open, and he reported this to Falxa. Adjusting his internal sensors and telemetry, Falxa established an uplink through the Swift to Alpha, Hasta following suit. As with Brian, Alpha would see and hear everything they did as they moved about, along with Greenbean and Brie on the Thor Hyerdahl.

"Signal from Brian detected," droned Hasta, after a full sensor sweep. "Location plotted.

"We shall rendezvous."

"By your command."

And the two Cylons were off, their every move watched by Delphian eyes.

"Commander," said Sandra. Koenig looked up from his desk at her.

"Yes, Sahn?"

"Gamoray's primary sun has just came within scanner range. Barely."

"Let's see it."

Sandra switched over to the main screen, and there it was. It was barely discernible as larger, compared to all the other countless dots at this range, but it matched the spectra they had in the computer. And it was "dead ahead" as they continued to drift through this sector. As before, the Moon's actual velocity was problematical, making predictions about speed and distance between systems wrong more often than right. One of these days, Koenig hoped, they'd figure that one out. It would sure give them all a better sense of where and how.

"Magnify, please, Sandra," asked Koenig. The tiny yellow dot swelled to a huge fuzzy blob. No planets, no asteroids, nothing but the star itself. Koenig sighed and shook his head. That would be all that they'd be getting for now. "Alright Sandra, call Victor, Maya, Tony, Alan, and Helena, along with anyone from their departments they wish to include. Command Conference. In fifteen minutes." He stood up.

"Right away, Commander."

"You lie!" said one of the Delphians. "Cylons work only for Cylons. Cylons only kill!"

"No," said Brian, "not these two! They were captured, and then reprogrammed to serve us." Quickly, he told them again of how the two Centurions had been found, and reprogrammed by Professor Bergman to serve the needs of Moonbase Alpha. The Delphians muttered amongst themselves, considering this. As they debated, Brian watched the Centurions move into the ruined building on the Delphian's viewscreen. He wondered if they were aware of the Delphians observing them, or were as oblivious as most Cylons seemed to be about most things. He dismissed that as a pointless waste of processor space, and sent out a fresh signal to the Centurions, for them to home in on. He also switched frequencies to that of the newly-landed Swift, and re-established a link with Alpha.

He hoped.

"Sir," said Sandra, excitedly. "Telemetry link with Brian restored. Putting it up on the main screen now."


"Are you sure we can't risk settling there?" asked Alan. As much as anyone on Alpha, while he understood the risks, he had familial responsibilities now, and both he and Athena longed to settle on a real planet at last.

"If the Cylons ever decide to come back," said Tony, clearly not liking it, "we'd be sitting ducks. Even if we could make use of every defense aboard the derelict BaseShip, we'd be overwhelmed, eventually."

"I know," said Koenig, sensing the mood. "But, even if there were no Cylons, it turns out that the planet is inhabited. There are survivors of the native Delphians, trying to rebuild their civilization. Aside from the fact that they seem understandably suspicious of outsiders, we can't just move in and take their planet for our own. We'd be no better than the Cylons were. That, and we've had no chance to do the kind of environmental and biological testing needed before we commit to it." He looked across the table, and felt empathy with his people. He wanted to stop this seemingly endless voyage, too.

"What do we have from the surface?" asked Helena. John put the telemetry on a monitor.

"The wrecked Cylon city seems to be much as the Colonials left it when they hit it," he reported. "But, the Colonial attack concentrated mainly on the power station, the Cylon control center, and the airfield. As you know, the warehouses at the edge of the Air Dome are full of materials we need. Refined metals, electronic manufactured parts, as well as all the fuel they couldn't manage to take with them, or destroy."

"That, and what appears to be a largely intact BaseShip," said Victor. "Stripping it of whatever we can would give us another edge, John."

"I agree," said Koenig. "Victor, pick a team, and prep them for that task, once we're in range. If the projected course of the Moon is correct, we'll have a few days to do the work."

"But John," said Helena, "what if we do end up going into orbit around Gamoray's suns?"

"Then we deal with that problem when and if it happens, and hope to God that the Delphians understand. Either way, we aren't going to have much of a choice in the matter."

"I just hope the Delphian survivors will be understanding," said Maya. "The last time someone from space came calling, they lost everything."

"Hopefully, Brian can make that clear to them," said Alan. Tony decided not to snort. "Yeah, Tony. I know."

Brian wasn't finding making things clear to the Delphians at all easy, just then. Their suspicions of him, and their hateful memories of the Cylons, were producing a bad mixture. Brian expected to be blasted into scrap any minute, from the way they were acting. If only...

Yes! He at last succeeded in connecting, by way of the two Swift's computers, with the approaching Centurions. They stopped, as their "brains" received new instructions. He hoped they didn't question them, or dither. They did not, in true Centurion fashion, at once turning around, and heading back for the entrance to the building. Sadly, they didn't get very far.

As with Brian earlier, the two Cylons were suddenly surrounded by several armed Delphians which descended on them from above. Before either Centurion could raise a weapon and fire, Brian ordered them to stand down and make no hostile moves. There seemed to be considerable arguing among the Delphians, some wanting to blast the intruders into scrap, but the older Delphian that had spoken with Brian took charge, and after disarming the Cylons, brought them to the same room where Brian was being held.

"Brian, by your command," said one upon seeing the Brain.

Oh I could get used to that!

"Alright!" said the older Delphian, and his voice was sharp and angry. "Explain! You say," and he pointed to Brian, "not part of Cylon Empire. Yet, see two Cylons land in ship like your ship. Tell all and tell truth, or we will destroy you."

Of course this part isn't so good!

"We're here on behalf of Moonbase Alpha," said Brian. As calmly as he could, he laid out the story, and the reasons for their being here on Gamoray. While he had little experience reading the Delphian face, Brian was pretty sure he wasn't scoring any brownie points with these folks.

Chapter Seven

"Anything at all?" asked Greenbean, returning to the pilot's seat. As they had drawn closer to Gamoray, he had gotten in some bunk time, leaving Brie to fly the Thor Hyerdahl. Now he was back, and it would soon be her turn to crash.

"Just the scheduled check-in with Alpha a few centons ago, Greeners. And the scanners are still clear of anything artificial." She snorted softly. She obviously didn't think much of the Earth ship's scanner capabilities, compared to it's Colonial counterparts. "We're still getting telemetry from the other ships on the surface, but nothing more from Brian."

"Maybe he's shut down again."

"Or they stuffed him back in that closet," she chuckled. "Anyway, we passed the heliopause just as you got up, so we are now officially within the Gamoray system." She looked down at the controls, and the display of a graphic of the system. "Adjusting course one point three five degrees port."

"One point three five degree port, aye," replied Greenbean. "Revised ETA Gamoray, six cen...hours, nine minutes." He sighed. "I wish I knew just exactly what a minute was, Brie."

"Like you haven't seen it on the charts Maya gave us a thousand times, Greeners. What's so tough?"

"Well, you would think that people from Earth would use the same basic systems we did in the Colonies. After all, our most basic units of measurement come from Kobol originally. We kept them pretty much intact for all the millennia we lived in the Colonies. Why not them?"

"Hard to say, Greeners," she replied. "From what we've been able to learn from the Alphan's history scans, it seems they have no real cultural or racial memory of Kobol. A few words hint at it. Atlantis. Eden, and the like. But we have no idea what Earth was like when the Thirteenth Tribe got there. Earth may already have been inhabited, or others may have come later. It looks like they were split into many nations and sub-cultures that warred with each other for millennia. Lords know why, but those pictures we saw? From...ah, Egypt? Now that sure looked like the ruins we saw on Kobol. The connection is there, but there are a lot of pieces missing from the puzzle, still."

"Including why centons, sectons, and the like have been totally forgotten."

"So, we use what they use, till we know more, or something better comes along," she said, looking back out the viewports. The main sun of Gamoray was already standing out from the rest, and growing. Gingerly, Brie edged their speed up another fraction, anxious to get to the planet. She yawned and rose. "Alright, Greeners. My turn."

"Okay, Brie. I'll scream if anything goes wrong."

"You would," she laughed, and headed for the crew cabin.

"And this...moon will drift by Gamoray?" asked one of the older Delphians, weapon still pointing in Brian's direction. "How can this be so? Moon do not drift!" This one, an older female, seemed ill-disposed to believe a word Brian spoke.

"The Moon was torn from Earth's orbit by a terrible accident," replied Brian. "It has drifted through space ever since." Brian projected a holographic image of the waste dumps exploding, and the wrenching aftereffects. The Delphians muttered among themselves. "That is how we encountered the Centurions, adrift in space, when we found the Galactica."

"How you prove you just drift by?" asked another Delphian, this one seemingly a bit younger. "We look in sky. See no wandering moon."

"The Moon will not be visible for several of your days yet," said Brian. "It is still too far away to be seen without scanners."

"Should not wait," said the older female. "Should destroy them. Now."

"You can prove all you say?" asked the leader.

"If I could be allowed to return to my ship," said Brian, unable to keep the hope out of his voice. "I could use her scan..."

"We not stupid!" said a young Delphian, Brian estimated the equivalent of a teenager in Human terms. He kept fondling the weapon he held, much to Brian's anxiety. "Once in your ship, you use your weapons on us!"

"No, no!" insisted Brian. "I am speaking the truth! Please!!! Don't shoot me."
"No Cylon this cowardly," said another, with the hint of a laugh.

"We make you prove what you say about moon," said the leader. "Bring him to control room. If he speak truth, so. If not..." He gave Brian a look that needed no translation. "Agree?"

"I...uh, yes! Yes!" squeeked the Brain.

"Bring!" ordered the leader, indicating both Brian and the Centurions.

"Here she is," said Greenbean, as Brie returned to her seat. On the scanner, Gamoray was now clearly visible. "Initiating full scan."

"Time to visual?" Out the port, the planet was still just a twinkling dot.

"About four hours, present speed."

"Well, she certainly looks inviting, I must admit, Greeners. Atmosphere, oceans, all those lovely white clouds, the lot." Sigh "A lot like home."

"And a lot better when no one is shooting back at us, and no Baltar breathing down our necks with three BaseShips."

"Amen to that!"

"I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that worm-infested piece of daggit mong," said Greenbean. "Is it too much to hope he was exiled again to some horrid planet, and perhaps some wild animal came along and devoured him?
"Probably it would refuse to eat him, and he'd escape again, knowing Baltar. Personally, I wish..."



"What is it?"

"A scanner. We're being probed."

"Source?" He began going over the instruments."

"The planet ahead. Some kind of scan energy being directed into space."

"Okay, shut down our own scans. Passive only."

"Right. Passive only."

"And activate all available ECM."

"Activating ECM, aye."

"Any ID on the scans, yet?"

"Computer is munching it. Lords this thing is slower than...yes."


"Scan profile identified as..." She turned to look at him. "Cylon."

"Holy frack!" He mulled his options a moment. "Raise Alpha. Tight beam, unidirectionally."

"Hailing Alpha, aye."

The "control room" the Delphian had spoken of was deep inside the old control center building, in the same room which Starbuck and Boomer had blown to bits during the assault on the city. Several of the consoles had been repaired, if somewhat haphazardly, with cables and parts of other machines of unfamiliar design, strung together in a crazy-quilt arrangement. However, it all seemed to work, as one of the Delphians flipped up a bank of switches and several of the consoles began to blink. Brian didn't see any obvious power source, but no doubt it had been hidden elsewhere, shielded from future attack or detection, perhaps. Several of the Delphians moved to various consoles, and after almost a full minute, he was "escorted" over to one. As he studied the alien machinery, trying to make sense of it, the other said: "This space around our planet. Show where this moon be."

"I do not have arms!" pointed out Brian. "I will need to use one of the Centurions. Please?"

"Very well," said the other, after some grumbling. Hasta was motioned forward, and began.

"Direct scan into quadrant delta epsilon, sector four," he told the Cylon.

"By your command," said the other, and complied. A small blip appeared, definitely on an approach vector. The Thor Heyerdahl! Brian decided. Getting closer by the minute, too.

"I see small object, but no..."

"There it is!" said Brian, as suddenly the scanners picked up the large body of the Moon. The leader moved to the console, brushing the Centurion aside, and made adjustments to the equipment. After almost another full minute, he grunted.

"True?" asked the young hothead.

"Yes. Is large body. Moving this way." He dumped the scan to the other screens. It was fuzzy and lacked any sharp detail, but it was recognizable. After a few more moments, the leader looked at Brian, and said in a dangerous voice: "Now, you do just as I say."

"Commander," said Sandra, "another message coming in."

"Hold on, Greenbean," said Koenig, as Sandra informed him of the new development. "Who is it, Sahn?"

"It is from the planet Gamoray, Commander," declared the other.

"Gamoray?" asked Koenig. "It is Brian?"

"No, Commander. It is a Delphian, they say. Someone called...Chak, wishes to speak with you. Personally."

"Chak...put them on, Sahn."

Chapter Eight

Rather than recalling Greenbean and Brie, Koenig ordered them to wait, in a high orbit over the planet, while they dealt with this new development. The Delphian leader, an older individual named Chak, had requested, nay demanded, to both see and speak with him.

Chak, it seemed, was not pleased with the "intrusion" of these newcomers to their planet. They had already been attacked and nearly wiped out by the Cylons, their species reduced to a handful, their civilization destroyed. Humans, in the person of the Colonials, had done nothing to help, and had themselves contributed even more destruction to what remained of their world.

"But the Humans made the Cylons leave," argued Koenig. "Surely this is good."

"Mayhap," said Chak, clearly not impressed with Koenig. "Mayhap not. But make Cylons even more angry. What if return?"

"That is in the future," said Koenig. "Neither of us can control that. But what is it you want of me, Chak?"

"Want truth! Why you send ships here? Why you send Cylons here?" Clearly, Chak wasn't in the mood for any dissimulation or half-truths.

"We are refugees," said Koenig, "searching for a new place to live. We cannot return to our home planet."

"Not here! You cannot be here!"

"We understand," said Koenig, clearly trying to hide his disappointment. A planet, perfect to their needs, just ripe for the...

"Then why?" demanded the younger hothead. "Why?"

"We needed to scout ahead," said Koenig. "We did not know until our people got there that any of your races had survived the Cylon assault. Since you do survive, we of course will not attempt to settle on Gamoray."

"But?" asked Chak. It was obvious that the alien leader was a shrewd reader of others. Even non-Delphians. The hint of...what? A smile? The look on his face told Koenig that he had a very subtil counterpart in Chak. Also a very untrusting one. He would have to go carefully, to get what he was after.

"But, we know that the Cylons left things behind. Things we can use here on Alpha. Supplies we are in critical need of."

"What things?" asked Chak. As the leaders spoke, Brian sent out a signal, to the computer on his Swift, ordering it to reorient the scan platform towards the area of the intact warehouses. The close-up scans were at once transmitted to Alpha on a separate channel. Within minutes, Maya was getting a detailed set of readings.

"Metals," said Koenig. "Refined metals and manufactured parts, which the Colonial attack did not destroy, and the Cylons did not take when they evacuated. We desperately need those materials. We were going to acquire them when our Moon passes within range of your planet."

"Steal, you mean!" said Chak.

"No!" I told you, we had no idea your world was still inhabited. We believed that your race was extinct."

"Then why you send ships here?" demanded the young hothead. "Eh? Why you send them!" He indicated both Brian and the Cylons.

"We wished to be certain," said Helena, next to Koenig.


"Yes. Certain that your world was uninhabited, and that, if we did settle, that it was safe for our life form. As our Commander has said, we did not know that any of your kind remained alive on Gamoray."

"Well, now know that we do!" said the young one. "We rebuild, and we breed! We not going to die for Cylons! Or for you!"

"No one has to die for anyone or anything," said Koenig. "All we want is raw materials to support and maintain our Moonbase systems. Your planet is your own."

They watched, as Chak turned away, and several of the Delphians muttered among each other in low tones, for the moment seemingly ignoring the Alphans.

"John," said Tony, "you're not worried about them destroying Brian, are you?"

"No, Tony, but I do want to get as much of the materials as we can. And if they're going to start shooting if we come down, that might be a problem."


"Victor," said Koenig, into his commlock. "Could I see you please?"

"On my way, John," said the old scientist, over the link.

"Sahn, see if you can sneak a signal through to Brian. Get him to reorient the scanners on the Swift towards the derelict BaseShip. I want to scan the hell out of it."

"Right away, Commander."

"Chak?" asked Koenig.

"We talk!" replied the alien leader, and turned away again, once more ignoring the Alphans.

"I guess they're going to talk," said Tony.

"Well, Victor?" asked Koenig, perhaps an hour later. The Delphians were still "talking", and Victor had had time to give the intense close-up scans of the old BaseShip a good perusal.

"John, we might be able to," replied Bergman. "From what I can see here, the main power systems and drive core are undamaged. But, there is still a lot about Cylon technology and engineering systems that we don't understand."

"Athena?" asked Koenig, turning to her.

"Well, I never had the full Academy course in enemy technology, Commander," replied the Colonial woman. "Just the basics, but..." She leaned closer, to study the schematics that the scans had provided, plus what they had gleaned from the BaseShip destroyed over Alpha during the battle with the Galactica, months ago. "If, and I say if, I can get help from Greenbean, we might be able to kick start at least one of her auxiliary power" She pointed. "And if any of her solar arrays are intact, that will only help the process."

"What are you planning, John?" asked Tony.

"Well, the Delphians don't seem very trusting. They might not even let us take what we need. But, they hate all things Cylon. Maybe...maybe if we offered to take the BaseShip away, they might be more tractable."

"You mean reactivate it? Use it?" said Verdeschi.

"Possibly, if that becomes practical. Maybe we could salvage her main batteries. At the very least. Moving into this area of space, we're going to need all the protection we can get."

"John, that's pretty wild," said Helena. "Can we even begin to use and operate something that enormous?"

"I don't know, Helena. I just think that we should start thinking outside the box. Our potential enemies..."

"Koenig!" said a voice. It was Chak.

Chak, a somewhat cooler head it seemed, had prevailed. Yes, they could have some of the materials from the Cylon depot, but...

Chak wanted to meet with him face to face. Yes. As soon as possible, he wanted to see Koenig, right here on his own turf. The Commander could understand, actually. For Chak, this was as much about politics as about survival. While the Delphians could hardly defend against another attack from space, something Koenig had no intention of doing, Chak still needed to maintain an image of strength in front of his own people. Especially the young one, whom, Koenig suspected, probably felt that he was better suited to the job than the older Chak.

Politics! It's the same everywhere!

Koenig agreed, since the alternative was no supplies, and the possible loss of the Swifts. While he would not have mourned the loss of Brian much, the two Cylons had been of considerable use since their recovery, and the Swifts were a resource not to be lightly tossed aside.

While still little more than a smudge on their scanners, the Moon continued to drift ever closer to Gamoray. With Chak's permission, he recalled one of the grounded Swifts, the Daniel Boone, to return and pick him up. As it cleared Gamoray's atmosphere, he told Victor to assemble whoever from his department that could be spared, in case they got a crack at the BaseShip.

Chapter Nine

Feeling the pressure of time, Koenig departed the base in an Eagle, to rendezvous with the Swift midway. He took Victor, Haines from Technical, as well Spencer and one nurse from Medical. The transfer complete, Quinton flew the Eagle home, and they turned the Swift around, and he floored it all the way back to Gamoray. Even now, the Moon was growing more distinct on the rear scanners.

"Here they come," said Brian, looking at the Delphian's scan suite. "I told you he'd come."

"Good," said one of the Delphians. "For you." The young hothead, he noticed. The Delphians had at last picked up the other Swift in orbit, flown by Greebean and Brie, and permitted it to land, but for them to remain inside for the present. Brian wasn't sure just what the Delphians had up their sleeves, but he wasn't sure that Koenig would be able to trust them, any more than he did.

"So what do we do, stuck in here?" asked Greenbean, as they finished their shutdown of the ship. "I feel a bit like...oh, what was it Don Schanke called it? A sitting duck. Yeah."

"Well, at least we have the BaseShip between us and where they're at, Greeners. That's a bit more comforting."

"I hope so. But it's the waiting I hate. Like waiting for the klaxon, before a scramble. Just sitting around, stuck inside here, and..." He stopped, as she put a hand to his face, and turned him to look at her.

"Hey, who says we have to sit?" she grinned. She stood up, and he followed her aft.

"Gamoray sure is beautiful," said Spencer, as the planet at last became visible. "A lot like Earth." The yearning in his voice was hard to miss.

"Yeah," said Koenig, as he hailed the Delphians. Chak granted him permission to land, and he began the landing cycle. There was a heavy formation of rain clouds moving in over the ruined capital, and they had to buck some pretty good winds, but they set down about a hundred feet from the other Swift without incident. Almost as soon as the engines had whined down, a vehicle came out to meet them. According to the data in the computer, it was an old Cylon ground transport, obviously recycled by the Delphians for their own use.

Koenig descended the Swift's ramp, and greeted his Delphian counterpart. He introduced his party, and then sealed up the ship. He asked permission for Greenbean and Brie to leave their ship, and after some discussion, this was granted. He ordered them into the derelict BaseShip, to assess her condition. Then, it was off to Chak's HQ.

"Do you think this really has a chance?" asked Helena, as much of the air as of anyone around her.

"If anyone can pull it off, the Commander can," said Maya, looking up at the main screen. Gamoray's sun was now distinctly visible, and growing by the hour. "It wouldn't be the first time he's done it."

"I have confidence in him," said Sandra. "We have to keep it."

"Oh I do, Sahn. I do," sighed Helena. "It's just the Delphians I'm not certain about."

"Lords, what a mess!" said Greenbean, as they worked their way inside the derelict Cylon ship. They had climbed the gantry, and then crawled around until they found an airlock. Once inside, they saw what their strafing runs, as well as close to a yahren of exposure to the elements had done to her. Water had run in from various points, and pooled here and there. Rust was spreading along some of the ladderwells and corridors and the place had the smell of an old basement. But all in all, she seemed remarkably intact.

"Do you think any of her systems remain sound, Greeners?"

"We won't know until we get to her control center, Dee." They stepped over a wrecked, rusty Centurion. "Which, if I recall what Starbuck told us, is at the bottom of the Central Core."

"Which is where? Besides in the center someplace."

"We can access the core from the landing bays. And," he shone his light around, "that should be this way, if our scans are any good."

"Okay, let's get going."


Koenig sized Chak up, fairly quickly. The Delphian leader was much like himself, someone faced with enormous burdens, through no fault of his own. He, like Koenig, was first and foremost, concerned with the survival of his remaining people. While they obviously worried about the Cylons returning, at least, Koenig reminded himself, they still had their own planet, and not some wandering, lifeless rock to call home.

Chak's point was simple. He and his people wished to rebuild their civilization, and remain unmolested by both the Cylons or anyone else. Why should they give up even a handful of the resources the Cylons abandoned to anyone? His people not only needed them as well, but after all it was their planet. For a moment, Koenig felt as if he had been royally bamboozled, but Chak was, it seemed, willing to trade.

"What do you want?"

The Colonial attack had of course devastated the city, leaving vast swaths of it in ruins. The main power station had been well and truly plastered during the assault. Now, much of the city's infrastructure below ground had not been touched, and there were a few outlying areas that were virtually intact. But, electrical power was a problem. Water treatment facilities, subways, and other features had just quit, with no power to run them, and with constant raids from the Pegasus, the Cylons had not gotten very far in restoring much of it. None of Chak's surviving people it seemed, save for himself and one or two others, had any technical or engineering training beyond the basics, and so far their efforts to restore things had meet with only minor successes. A few Cylon solar panels, and a surviving energizer running off the tylium fuel still to be scavenged from the depot were about all they had been able to cobble together.

Would Koenig be willing to help?


"We can try," he replied, looking to Victor. "This is Professor Bergman, one of our scientists."

Oh yes, and there were many, still sick from the weapons the Cylons had used, with injuries that had never healed right. Perhaps..?

Koenig felt like he'd run up against a slick used car salesman after his own ride had gone south, but he really couldn't blame the other. A vibrant, vital civilization reduced to this; who wouldn't try to grab all the help they could, from whatever source?

"If you'll show me to your power systems?" said Victor.

"And your hospital?" said Spencer.

Both were directed to follow, and Koenig turned once more to Chak.

"Now, about those supplies..."

Brian sat, unregarded and alone, for most of the rest of the day. He tried tapping in to the Delphian's scanner systems, but there was no path he could find from himself to it. Becoming both concerned, and bored, he tapped in to Greenbean and Brie, aboard the derelict BaseShip. They were having a lot more "fun" than he was. They also seemed to have some real news to report.

The main power plant of the BaseShip seemed to be intact, it had just been shut down. Aside from a number of breaches in the hull caused by Viper fire, the bulk of the vessel appeared to be intact. Although littered with Centurions, none of them, fortunately, was active, much to both Colonials' relief. Like most of the rest of the vessel, the Control Center was as pristine as they day it had been abandoned. One small light was still blinking on a panel.

"She still has reserve power," commented Brie, checking out the controls. Across the room, Greenbean was unshouldering a portable power pack. Within a few centons, they had several of the consoles blinking and bleeping once more, screens full of snow.

"Can we reinitialize the solar arrays?" asked Brie. She was studying a graphic of the ship on her monitor. The various power feeds and data trunks were highlighted, but she had trouble reading the Cylon script. She wished she had paid more attention as a cadet.

"Not sure," said Greenbean, slowly resetting a series of breakers, one by one. "Several of the arrays got shot to bits when we strafed her during the attack, Brie. We might need Baltar's pilots to...ah!"

"Got something?" she asked, looking up. Before he could answer, the main lighting grew brighter and brighter. She turned back to her console. "Hey, the sun is coming out. And if I read this right, we are getting power from one of the intact solar cell arrays."

"Uh huh. Energy cells charging, Brie. Just hope I don't hit the self destruct or anything."

"Yeah. That could ruin my whole day, Greeners."

"Ya think?"

"Careful. You're starting to sound like the Alphans."

"Terrible thought."

After almost six hours of nonstop negotiations with Chak, Koenig felt as if he'd been grilled by a crack military interrogation team, and then hung up until later. The Delphian was sharp, shrewd, and seemingly quite adept at reading Humans. But, it seemed that Alphan and Delphian had at last reached a tentative modus vivendi, as regards Alpha's needs. In exchange for help restoring power and other machinery, as well as medical aid, the Alphans could avail themselves of whatever supplies were not used in the process of rebuilding their infrastructure. It was, Victor said, half a loaf, and that was better than none at all.

And that loaf seemed to be just fine. As Koenig leaned back, listening to his spine crack and pop, he got a call from Haines. Accompanied by his ever-present Delphian "escorts", he stepped out into the gathering dusk, and was rewarded with a welcome sight. Across the valley, in an undamaged part of the city, entire tracts were lit up, as partial power was restored to the surviving sections of the grid.

"We were able to get the one remaining intact turbine going at their geothermal plant," Haines told him. "It's total output is only the equivalent of about ten thousand kilowatts, but already it seems to be helping."

"Good to see," replied Koenig, over his commlock.

"And," Victor chimed in, "the water treatment and pumping plants merely quit with no power, and unless I'm mistaken, getting them back up and running shouldn't be too tough a nut to crack, John."

"As always, Victor, you're magnificent. Keep me posted.' Koenig clicked off, then signaled Alpha. ASAP, he wanted as many technicians and machinists as the base could spare, to come down with their equipment. While restoring the city's systems was not impossible, it would nonetheless require a lot of work.

In return, Alpha could have whatever wasn't needed immediately by the Delphians. They could also have the old BaseShip as well. None of the Delphians would even venture into the cavernous derelict, and it was, understandably, a hateful eyesore. Koenig could take it, or as much as they could strip in the time they had near the planet...


"Cylons maybe come back one day," said Chak. "Must be ready. Need something from you, for such time."

Oh great! What now?

Chak wanted the main mega-pulsar gun from the BaseShip's upper hull. A truly fearsome weapon, the first time the Delphians had come up against it, when the Cylons had first invaded, it had wiped out over half of their pitifully under-armed space fleet in the first few minutes of the attack. From orbit, several cities had been reduced to glassy stumps by it's awesome beam. By the end of that terrible day, not a single Delphian ship remained intact, and over four and a half million Delphians had been reduced to vapor.

Of course, Koenig told them. They could have it. Privately, he wondered how they were going to remove it from the huge warship, since they had so little experience with (intact) BaseShips.

"Well, we'll just have to see," said Victor.

Chapter Ten

As Alpha drifted closer, Koenig's people got to work. From the solar cells, enough power had been derived to fire up many of the BaseShip's systems. With the (grudging) permission of the Delphians, Falxa and Hasta were released, and taken aboard the Cylon vessel (under guard). With their programmed knowledge, it was possible to reinitialize the one, then another, of the secondary reactors, and restore the ship to near-full power levels.

"She looks better, on an even keel now," commented Koenig, as the ship was righted in her slip. Even so, the basically...evil lines of her construction did not fail to give him a shiver. "Can we get her up, back into space?"

"With the help of those two Cylon pilots, I think so," said Victor. "But of course, we have to remove the pulsar first."

Koenig just grunted.

Since the overhead crane system servicing the gantry had been blasted by the Colonial attack, there was no system in place to lift the gun from the hull of the BaseShip. After information from the Cylons was obtained, Koenig decided to use a cargo Eagle, and winch the now-decoupled weapon from the BaseShip's upper hull. It was a slow and difficult process, the Eagle pilots having to fight the wind, but in time it was done. Chak decided that the gun should be placed atop a hill near the spaceport, inside the ruins of an ancient stone fortress, and so it was done.

As the work went on, Koenig looked up at the sky, and saw the bright twinkle low on the western horizon that was the approaching Moon. Again, he was struck with the befuddling mystery of her velocity; crossing interstellar distances within timeframes that should have been impossible, yet sometimes remaining within range of a planet for days. Once again, he had no answers. Victor had, along with so many other things, been working on a new theory to explain it, but so far... Koenig sighed, and turned away.

I just wish we were either going to settle, or were on our way the hell out of here!

At that very moment, far far away, over a world once called Caprica, a single Cylon BaseShip was powering up. Within centons, she was breaking orbit, and laying in a new course. A course for the planet Gamoray.

Within moments, she cut in her lightspeed engines, and with a smear of colors, she was gone. A few centons later, another followed suit.

Her course: the Void.

Chak stood on the roof of one of the few surviving buildings erected by the Cylons. From this vantage point, he could see the progress as the city slowly returned to life. Or at least a semblance thereof. More lights were visible across the city, though sadly many were separated by wide swaths of darkness. As things began to improve, others came. Slowly, in ones and twos, others who had survived the Cylon assault and occupation, began to come out of their holes, to help in the reclaiming of their heritage. He was glad to find that among them were some, still vastly too few, who had been engineers or mechanics before their civilization had been wiped out. Every little bit would be of help in the coming days.

But the Human Koenig had been as good as his word, Chak mused. His people were not only repairing and restoring things, the one called Victor was showing some of their younger people aspects of science and engineering that they would need, once the Alphamoon was gone, beyond the planet and back into the unknown depths of space.

And that could not come soon enough, for some of his people. Even as the city's population crept back up, some were already grumbling about these "aliens" in their midst. A few openly made it clear that they wanted them gone, and gone now, and in a way Chak could hardly blame them. But thankfully, the bulk of them were, on the surface at least, glad of the help, especially from the Human healers. While in many ways very different, the two species nonetheless had much in common, physiologically, and the proper setting of bones, and even the delivery of babies, was not that different between them. That at least, in Chak's view, was good.

He turned, as another street far across the city suddenly lit up, then at the once-more bright and humming BaseShip. It was cold, and he decided to go inside.

"How are we doing?" Koenig asked Brian, next morning. Now that they were the "honored guests" of the Delphians, Koenig and his people had been "put up" in what had once been a reasonably comfortable apartment building. It still could boast a few amenities, and it sure beat camping rough. For his part, the Brain had been released from his closet prison, and returned to the Alphans. Once more locked into everything, he was keeping track of their progress.

"Very good, Commander," he replied. "Haines and his people are still at work on the city's electrical grid, and one of the Swift's lifted off for Alpha about forty minutes ago with a load of germanium ingots."

"How much?"

"Almost four hundred pounds, Commander. There were also two crates of electronic parts and a pallet of high-voltage cable on her as well. ETA Alpha seventeen minutes from now."

"Very good, Brian. Where are Greenbean and Brie?"

"Aboard the Cylon BaseShip, Commander, along with Ouma and Malcolm. They say the progress is really good."

"Right. Tell them I'll be aboard shortly."

"Yes, Commander."

The Cylon vessel was cavernous, as well as a bit spooky, and Koenig found that he could easily get lost inside her. But Hasta the pilot was there to guide him, and he soon found his way to the engineering section, where the former Colonial Warriors were working on her systems. The huge reactors and other machines were a little intimidating, making even Alpha's main power stations look small and homey by comparison.

"How are we doing?" he asked.

"Slow but sure, Commander," replied Brie, head buried under a console. Cables and tools lay strewn about her. "This normally takes a full crew."

"Yes, but we don't dare reactivate any of the remaining Centurions," he reminded her. "There's no telling what might happen."

"True. Maybe once we're safely back in space, we can risk it."

"I wouldn't," quipped Malcolm.

"We'll see. Where's Greenbean?"

"Control Center. It's at the very bottom of the Central Core." She crawled out, and stood up, grimy and smudged, and started punching controls on the panel.

"Right." He looked around, and saw Falxa, the other Cylon pilot, bent over a bank of equipment. "Falxa?"

"By your command," replied the Cylon. They always replied like that.

"How long until we can restart her engines, and lift off?"

"Approximately three hundred centons, Commander," replied Falxa. Koenig tried to do the conversion in his head.

"Well, keep me posted. I'll be in the Control Center."

"By your command, Imperious Koenig." Behind him, he heard Brie laugh softly. Malcolm was louder.

Koenig smiled, something entirely lost on the Cylon, and turned to Hasta, ordering him to continue assisting in the work.

"By your command, Imperious Koenig."

Gotta love that. Yeah!

Now where the hell is the Core?

Work continued all day, and while it was apparent that even with an army of workers it would take months to return the city to even a semblance of normalcy, Koenig was nonetheless impressed at the degree to which it had already been revived. As they worked, even more surviving Delphians emerged from hiding, some reluctant to believe that the Cylons were really gone.

Let's hope they stay that way! he mused privately.

Busy as bees, it wasn't long before the Delphians had power cables strung and attached, and were ready to test their new defenses. The blue beam ripped into the sky, much to Chak's satisfaction. Another thing that would be to his satisfaction would be to visiting the Alphamoonbase, he told Koenig. Koenig hadn't expected this, but, Chak declared, fair was fair. They had come to his world, he wanted to pay a visit to theirs.

Shrugging, Koenig agreed, and by the time Alpha was clearly recognizable in the Gamoray sky, a Swift was lifting off for the Moon. Chak had never seen his world from space before, and clearly found the sight of it from orbit an awesome one. Wide blue seas and swathes of white clouds begirdling it, it truly was beautiful. When asked, Koenig replied that it was very much like his own world, yes.

Alpha, however, Chak judged to be unlovely. Pocked with countless craters and swathed in a thin and ugly atmosphere, now more active as it was warmed by the suns, it certainly could not compare to his own world. Koenig could hardly but agree, and as they began the decent to the Base, he explained how they had come to possess such an atmosphere, from their passage through a thick and opaque nebula. The Delphian leader grunted, but said nothing. Then they were down.

Chak and his retinue made a bit of a wave, as they moved through the Base. Koenig gave them something of a tour, and then offered them a meal, with Alpha's command staff. They accepted, and for the moment, it seemed as if diplomacy had triumphed over suspicion. As they finished up, Koenig's commlock beeped.

It was Greenbean. They would be ready to attempt a full restart of the BaseShip in just under one hour.

"Excellent, Greenbean. Keep me posted," he replied.

"All in all, everything seems to be going well," said Helena, aside to Koenig.

"Yes. So why do I keep waiting for something awful to happen?"

Maya shrugged.

Because it usually does? she thought, but said nothing.

But for the moment, it was only good news. As Alpha drew closer, her course curved slightly, due to Gamoray's, and her suns', gravity. While it was soon clear that she was not going into orbit, either around the suns or the planet itself, it would still give them almost five hours more time within Eagle range, for the transport of equipment and supplies.

"Why," Helena asked, as they watched another ship lift off for Gamoray, "does every planet we come to that could support us have to be inhabited?"

"Or have some weird properties that could kill us?" Koenig added. "I don't know, Helena. "I just know that we can't stay here, if the Delphians forbid it. I know how I'd feel if it were Earth, and some group of aliens came along."

"I agree, John," she sighed, hand absently on her abdomen. "It's just....I want a real world for our child. This..." she indicated Alpha about them, "isn't a world. It's a tin can."

"I know, Helena," he sighed as well. "I know." He looked out the window, at the lunar surface, recalling their time near the planet Ariel. Given an almost Earthlike atmosphere to keep them from landing on the planet, the aliens had taken it away again when it became obvious that the Moon would not be going into orbit around the sun. He had often wondered-an intelligence capable of such an incredible technological feat, as well as altering the Moon's spin and gravity to compliment the new air, surely could have altered their course, to make sure they went into orbit about that sun. Why not? Fear? He had no answers, despite having asked the question a thousand times.

And now, they had an atmosphere once more, but it was a far cry from the first. Chiefly of ammonia, xenon, argon, and carbon dioxide, it was also rotten with various radicals and toxic oxides of nitrogen. Utterly unbreathable, yet....beautiful in a way. As it soaked up the sun, patterns of wind and storm were developing, and, much to his surprise, venting. When it had rained before, across huge swathes of the lunar globe, vast amounts of water had soaked in to the incredibly dry soil. Once back in the cold vacuum of space, much of that water had frozen, trapped in the subsurface strata. Now, with "air" once more and a more even spread of temperatures, some of it was venting out, adding water vapor to the new air. Victor had posited that, in time, it might be possible to terraform the Moon, rendering the air breathable eventually.

If we ever get a new sun of our own, Koenig thought resentfully. All we ever get is the back of someone's hand and the icy cold of dead space.

He was roused from his musings by the landing of one of the Swifts. The Daniel Boone. Aside from some damage to her main antenna, the Swift had weathered her first mission since being found on Planet D well. Once the antenna was replaced, Koenig ordered Brian to fly her ahead of Alpha, to give them some eyes in the void.

Thus it was, several hours later, that Brian got a contact on the long-range scanners.

And something else detected him.

Chapter Eleven

"By your command," said one of the Centurions in the Control Center of the Cylon BaseShip. Tearing through the void at near-flank speed, they had so far encountered nothing of interest or value to the Cylon Alliance.

That was about to change.

"Speak, Centurion," replied Command Centurion Syphax.

"A contact, on the long-range scanners, sir. A vessel."

"A vessel, Centurion? What type? Colonial?"

"Undetermined at this range, Commander. It is moving at sublight velocity."



"Life forms?"

"None detected at this range."

"Slow to sublight velocity. Launch a fighter patrol to investigate."

"By your command." The Centurion turned to his console. "Duty patrol to the launch bay."

"John!" said Tony, over the commlock. "John!"

"What is it?" demanded Koenig, roused from sleep in the wee hours, Alpha time. Next to him, Helena was still asleep, breathing peacefully. Not wanting to wake her, he slid carefully out of bed, and crossed the room.

"It's Brian, John. He's got a contact. A ship." Tony scowled. "It looks Cylon, John."

"Damn!" He grit his teeth angrily. Of all the... "Try and get more information from Brian. In the meantime, contact Greenbean and Brie. Have them try and scan with the suite aboard the BaseShip on Gamoray. And get me a revised ETA on when she can launch."

"Right, John."

"And double-check all the surface stations, and the scanners on the Menon cruiser. We'll need all the head's up we can get."


Koenig slipped into his uniform as quickly as he could. He almost roused Helena, but she was so damned tired lately, she needed all the rest she could get. Leaving her a short note, he slipped out, headed for Command.

Brian had seen the Cylon fighters coming, and with all the courage and fortitude for which he was famous, turned the ship around and headed back for Alpha. Of course, they caught up with him, and after a few passes scanning him, they seemed to break off, holding their distance. Then, he got a call.

Or rather the ship's computer did. A connection was made, and the Swift was taken over by the intruders, who turned it back around, and headed towards their BaseShip. Brian sent out a coded distress call to Alpha, but had no idea if the newcomers had even let it get through.

Brian was, once more, a prisoner.

"All scanners are clear, John," reported Tony, a short while later. "At least for the present. Nothing either on Alpha or up in orbit has picked up anything." They both looked, as the computer reran it's analysis of Brian's telemetry.

"Sure looks Cylon."

"The computer agrees."

"How long before the BaseShip can be launched."

"Greenbean says any minute now. It seems her engines have to cycle up to the right temperature before they can be initialized."

"Damned robots," grumbled Koenig. He watched on the main screen, as the BaseShip, now trim and aglow in her slip, began to roar with power. As the computer counted down, and they kept their fingers crossed, all moorings were cast off, and the ship began to rise. Barely noticeable at first, then more and more as her power swelled. Gradually, almost maddeningly slowly, the Cylon war machine began putting some serious distance between herself and the ground, the moorings below it shaking under the force of her rise. Once she passed a hundred feet or so, the ship began to slowly spin, one of the characteristics of Cylon ships that Koenig found the most disturbing.

The screen switched to an image of the ship's Control Center. One of the Cylon pilots, Hasta, was in evidence, Brie next to him.

"Ah, Commander."

"ETA to orbit, Brie?" Koenig asked.

"Nine cen...minutes, Commander, present velocity. We're taking it slowly, first time out."

"Understood. You've heard?"


"Brian, on the Daniel Boone. It looks like he encountered Cylons, then nothing." He waited, while Brie vented a few choice Colonial words. "What kind of shape is she in, if it comes to a fight? We have to assume that if the Cylons have found Brian, they know where Alpha is. Or soon will."

"We'll check her out, Commander." Brie turned to Hasta. "Level one diagnostics on all defensive systems, Hasta. Immediately."

"By your command."

"And I want the scanners fully operational once we reach orbit."

"By your command."

Brian found the Cylon BaseShip...scary. It was soooooooooooooooooo big! He was drawn in by some sort of electronic beam control, and settled down inside a huge hangar bay. It made Alpha's hangar look like a closet by comparison.

Since he was a machine, and not an organic being, he decided that this was why the Cylons seemingly had not detected him upon their first scanner sweep of the Daniel Boone. They had remotely accessed the ship's mainframe, and scanned her data banks. Cutting his link to her at the last moment, he hoped that this ignorance might continue, and he would, of course, survive.

He listened as the ship's engines powered down, and a few moments later, the hatch opened, and two Centurions entered, armed with pulse blast rifles. They looked around, apparently decided there was no immediate threat, and took up positions across the cabin from each other. A few moments later, another Cylon entered, this one with golden armor, rather than the silver Brian had seen before. Behind him were two more robots, of a type he had not seen before. Short and with blocky heads and flashing lights on their faceplates, they carried strange and mysterious devices with them. The gold Cylon, after looking around, turned to them.

"Scan the entire vessel, and report to me immediately anything you find."

"By your command," said one of the others. Brian was surprised at the almost-Human qualities of the voice. Then, after the gold one had left, the other two set down their equipment, and began looking around.

I wanna go home!

Chapter Twelve

Greenbean felt a weird sense of power, as the Cylon BaseShip rose higher and higher into the air, the city below growing smaller by the moment on the scanners. He had not often visited the bridge of the Galactica, or any other warship he'd ever been assigned to, and he'd never had a crack at the controls. But here, he was definitely, if only for the moment, in charge, and it felt exhillirating. Over a million gross tons of war vessel underneath him, and it was responding to his will.

Lords of Kobol!

"Altitude?" he asked

"Altitude fifteen thousand metrons, and climbing."

"Climb rate?"

"Thirty metrons per micron, and holding."

"Maintain, Centurion."

"By your command."

For a few moments, Greenbean watched the clouds rip by, as the ship climbed ever higher, rain pelting the hull. Too heavy to be affected by any but the fiercest winds, the BaseShip shrugged off the planet's weather, which was actually beautiful in a way, he decided. Greenbean had missed things like clouds and rain, real weather, in all the time since fleeing home. Then, they were above the cloud deck, and the air began to quickly thin out. After a few more microns, a few stars became visible as they drew nearer to the edge of space. Then, Alpha became visible. He sighed, and turned to the other Centurion.


"By your command."

"Open a channel to Alpha."

"By your command."

Greenbean wanted instructions, and Koenig told him to remain over Gamoray, once orbit attitude had been achieved, and keep the scanners peeled.

"How's she doing?"

"So far so good, Commander," replied the displaced Colonial Warrior. "We had to bypass one of the damaged attitude thrusters, but otherwise she's keeping trim just fine."


"Diagnostics in progress. So far, all the defensive guns are charging up just fine."


"Coming back on-line, Commander. Slowly. We're having to re-initialize them in stages. I have no idea why the Cylons built them this way."

On one console, the images were gradually gaining resolution. Both Gamoray and Alpha were going from fuzzy blobs to coherent images. Within a few moments, data as to distance, size, mass, composition, etc, were scrolling past.

"What about her computers?"

"We have rebooted them successfully," replied Ouma. "Ready for linkup with Alpha's mainframe on your order, Commander."

"Do it now."

"Orbit attitude," reported Hasta. "Current altitude two hundred and twenty kilometrons, inclination to equator fifteen degrees."

"Maintain," replied Greenbean, returning to the scanners. With a click, they reached further out, each stage going through its own start-up and diagnostic routine. Then, after several centons of work and checking...


"Oh Lords. Commander Koenig!"

"Here, Greenbean."

"Scanners now fully operational. Transferring long range scan data to Alpha."


Holy Shit!

Another BaseShip, right on the very edge of the scanner's range. Heading towards Alpha.

Brian held stock still as the two Cylon techs went through the Daniel Boone, with their equipment. He shut down all but his most essential functions, relying on passive scanning only, as the instruments were swept over him. Either by luck, or difference in design, they did not seem to recognize him as anything other than another part of the instrument panel. If he'd had lungs, Brian would have let out a huge sigh of relief.

But now what? Remain stuck here, until such time as the Cylons either discovered him, dismantled the ship, or both? All he could think of was escape. And surviving. Oh, and getting back to Alpha with the news of this new threat, too. After all, from what he'd heard, Alpha had barely escaped being flattened last time, and he was sure that this time, the Cylons would make good and sure that Alpha was well and truly hammered. But how...


"What?" asked one of the Cylon techs.

"I am detecting organics," replied the other, rechecking his instrument.

"Impossible. The ship is clear."



"Here," said the other, and moved towards the ladder to the crew quarters. It was of course, empty. "The reading now is gone,"

"Perhaps the equipment is malfunctioning."

"Impossible. I have checked it."

"Even so..."

"There it is again," said the first Cylon tech. He swept the cabin yet again with the scanner. Sure enough, it read numerous biological contacts. And, sure enough, they were none visible.

Then the scope went blank again.

"It is malfunctioning," said the other.

"Apparently. I will go and replace it."

"I will accompany you," said the other.

Brian watched them leave. Now it was just him and the two Centurions.

Now what? He asked himself.

As all of Alpha's defenses were brought up to full, Koenig ordered the BaseShip to move from Gamoray orbit, to Alpha's. It had been Sandra's idea, actually. Since the BaseShip had been last seen on the planet, the Cylons would likely look for it there first. If they timed things just right, the enemy could be caught between the salvaged BaseShip, and the pulsar on the planet below.

"ETA, Alpha, enemy vessel?"

"Forty-one hours, six minutes, current speed, Commander," replied Sahn. "She has dropped below light speed, and is remaining at sub luminal velocity."

"That's odd," said Tony. "Why aren't they heading our way, flat out?"

"I don't know, Tony, but I'm not complaining about it. It gives us time." He turned to Sandra. "Put a tactical display up, Sahn." She did so. The screen snowed, then showed a computer generated tactical display of Gamoray, the Moon, the salvaged BaseShip, and the enemy's current position. "Greenbean?"

"Here, Commander."

"I'm uplinking the tactical situation to you. Keep the BaseShip out of sight of the Cylons for as long as possible."

"Affirmative, Commander," replied the Viper pilot. As they watched, the BaseShip's position began to shift, relative to the Moon. "I'm tapping in to the polar weather satellite for telemetry relay."

"Good. How go the repairs?"

"Well, fortunately, we didn't damage this ship as much as we thought," replied Greenbean. "We've either patched the holes in her hull, or sealed those areas off. Aside from a few secondary systems, and one auxiliary reactor, she's doing fine. Screens and weapons will be ready by the time they get here, sir."

"Keep running those sims," said Koenig. "How are Brie and Malcolm doing?"

"Down in the main engineering section, keeping things humming. Brie's a natural when it comes to working with machines, Commander."

"Thankfully," replied Koenig. "Keep me posted, Greenbean. Every half-hour."

"Understood, Commander."

"Do you think we can do it, John?" asked Tony. "This time?"

"Well, the Cylons have only one BaseShip. At least so far. That works to our advantage, as long as they don't detect the other one."


"Sandra? Get me Victor, down on Gamoray."

Victor took the news stoically, cursing under his breath. He looked out over the Delphian city, where life was visibly returning, then up at Alpha. He felt almost like a doctor, bringing a new life into the world, as the city slowly recovered. Below, he could hear the sound of the first ground transport vehicle, back on the streets. If left alone long enough, and with whatever help the Alphans could give before they were gone, this civilization stood a good chance of being restored.

If, if, if!

With a shake of his head, he went back inside the power station, and sought out appropriate shelter.

"What happened?" demanded Command Centurion Syphax, aboard the incoming BaseShip.

"Unknown, Commander. Our engines have shut down, without warning."

"Without warning?" asked Syphax, a note of menace in his voice.

"Yes, Commander. No alarms or prior indications of malfunction."

"Restart them, Centurion."

"By your command." The Centurion worked the controls, until at last the BaseShip began once more to pick up speed. Syphax went to his command console, and accessed the Master Data Interface. The computer had no answer to his question; the engines had simply shut down. Right now, the engineers were working on identifying the cause of the malfunction. He looked at the instruments, and...

It happened again! The engines just shut down! Some incompetent fool in engineering was going to get recycled fast, if...

"Computer," ordered Syphax. "Trace recent fault in propulsion system. Full system diagnostic." The machine flashed some lights on the console in reply.

Up in the landing bay, aboard the Daniel Boone, Brian reviewed his work so far.

Okay. That worked.

Everyone in Command Center watched as the BaseShip took up her position over the Moon, opposite Gamoray. She fired her station-keeping thrusters, maintaining position over the Lunar equator as the Moon spun below. From the link-up with Alpha, Koenig could see that all was as well as could be with the former Cylon warship, and her new crew.

"If we get through this," Helena said, watching the monitor screen over his shoulder, "you know what this means, John."


"We'll have a ship that is capable of faster than light travel." She indicated the Cylon machine. "And we could all fit inside a ship that size, along with our Eagles. We could maybe get back to Earth."

"Well, we have the Menon cruiser, and we could never figure out her FTL drive, Helena."

But now we have data from the Colonials, as well as the Cylons. And with Greenbean and Brie, we might make it work this time."

"Possibly," he nodded. "Providing it survives too."

"Well, yes. I..." She stopped, wincing, and putting a hand to her abdomen.

"You alright?"

"Yes, just a reminder. I think maybe your child is getting an early start on kendo practice."

Chapter Thirteen

Brian couldn't help but feel a certain mixture of glee, and terror. He was still aboard the Daniel Boone, remaining stock still in the presence of the two guards. Unlike Human sentinels, these suckers would never get bored, tired, or even fall to chatting among themselves to break the monotony. They didn't even understand the concept of monotony! They would remain here, on guard, until Doomsday.

Or until they got orders to stand down.


Brian slowly turned his head, just as the Cylon technicians returned. He at once stopped. Damn! Still, what worked on Centurions might also work on these Cylons as well. He calculated the odds, then made his throw.

Both Centurions began to shake and stumble, as Brian's emitters poured out continuous pulses of microwave energy, on a very narrow frequency band. The first Centurion fell to the deck, the second spun around, and slumped against the support brace. The two technicians, less shielded than their fighting counterparts, succumbed even more quickly, falling to the deck in a smoking pile.


Okay, now what?

Watching the Cylon BaseShip approach, Koenig was puzzled at it's odd movements. It would streak into lightspeed, then after a time, anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, it would drop out, either remaining still, or just crawling along. Of course, the longer it took the enemy vessel to get here, the better he liked it. Even as he watched, another Eagle was clearing Gamoray's atmosphere, full as a tick with material scavenged from the bombed Cylon depot. Alpha's storage lockers would be overflowing soon.

"Provided there's still an Alpha," he muttered under his breath.

Syphax was growing irritated. Or at least the Cylon equivalent. His ship had emerged from spacedock, with a 100% result on all systems checks. Everything was exactly as it should be. Yet, now that they were in space, it seemed as if one system after another was malfunctioning at random.

For the moment, they were back into lightspeed, on course for Gamoray. All engines and weapons were working as expected, and he had an updated ETA Gamoray. After considering their situation, Syphax pressed a control, to open a channel to the High Command.

Communications failure?

Something was obviously amiss. This was too much to be some sort of random series of failures. Syphax ordered a full scale diagnostic of all ship's systems, and then a check-in from the scan techs in the captured ship.

The techs were not answering.

And neither were the guards.

"I will be in the landing bay," he told one of the Centurions. "Keep me advised of any changes in ship's status."

"By your command."

Things on Gamoray were about as good as they were going to get, defensewise. The pulsar was tested, charged, and ready. The BaseShip was in position behind Alpha, her scans relayed back and forth by the old Menon ship and Alpha's weather satellites. All serviceable Eagles, the Swifts, and the two Vipers were fueled, prepped, and ready to go at a moment's notice if needed.

All they could do now was wait.

Koenig hated waiting.

"What is it?" Helena asked Kate, in Command Center. The younger woman was bent over her scanner, eyes and face intent on something.

"Just observing the planet is all, Helena. Hoping..." she sighed.

"Who isn't?"

"Provided we don't wreck the place," added Kate. She indicated her screen. "Alpha seems to be causing some problems down there."


"I'm picking up quakes in the southern hemisphere," she told Helena. She showed the doctor scans of massive high tides in the southern ocean, and a, thankfully, uninhabited, area, being ripped by landslides and fracturing of the crust, and Alpha's passage was not yet even at it's closest.

"I hope it doesn't hit any inhabited areas," said Helena. "If the Delphians decide we're to blame deliberately..."

"Yeah," said the other woman. Then, her console bleeped. She cursed under her breath. "Cylon BaseShip has re-entered lightspeed, Commander. Back on course for Alpha."

"Understood. Revised ETA?"

Syphax noted but did not return the salutes of the guards surrounding the captured vessel. Despite all attempts, the alien script in evidence on her sides and hull had defied translation. It was not Colonial, nor that of any race known to the Empire. It had also defied all attempts so far to crack it's on-board computer, and extract the information inside. Obviously, it was time for more forceful measures.

Why are the technicians not answering? Something is not right.

"Guard, open the hatch," ordered Syphax.

"By your command," replied one of the Centurions. It climbed the ladder, and pressed the control on the side of the ship. The hatch slid open, and he, then the second guard entered, followed by Syphax.

The door slammed shut abruptly, and Syphax turned. When he turned back, he was hit in the face by a powerful blast of microwave radiation. Within moments, he began losing control of his servo-functions, then his balance. Smoke wafted from his joints, and he began to topple to the deck, screeching commands but unable to move. He fell atop one of the other guards.

"Okay," said Brian, watching the enemy fall to the floor. "Now, how do I get out of here?"


"Commander!" It was Maya, straightening up in her seat suddenly.


"New scanner contact, Commander. It's departing the Cylon BaseShip, on course for Alpha."

"A new contact?" Koenig half-rose from his seat.

"And the BaseShip has stopped again."

"Stopped?" said Koenig, confused. "What in the world..."

"A signal, Commander," said Sahn. "It is from Brian!"

"Brian? Put him on!"

"...llo Alpha! It's Brian, on the Daniel Boone. Can you read me?"

"Affirmative, Brian," replied Koenig. "We read you. Report your status."

"I have escaped from the Cylon ship. Oh boy, it was awful, Commander! They did all sorts of terrible..."

"Later, Brian! What's going on now?"

"I sabotaged the BaseShip, and managed to escape. I have captured the ship's commander, too." There was a drawn out silence in Command Center.

"Repeat, Brian," said Tony, as usual, reserved about anything from Brian. "You what?"

"I sabotaged the BaseShip. I planted a virus in their computer system, and I have their commander aboard with me. Heading back to Alpha at full speed, Commander."

"Maya?" Koenig asked. She checked the scanners.

"Tying in to the scanners on the Daniel Boone. It looks like he's telling the truth, Commander. The BaseShip has stopped dead in space again, falling behind Brian. And it looks like she's on fire."

"On fire?"

"Yes." She manipulated the controls, and replayed a part of Brian's telemetry. It showed the interior of one of the ship's landing bays. Brian was firing the Swift's laser around, somewhat wildly, and then he blasted several huge, fragile-looking objects, which immediately exploded into flames. Then, he was out into space, and screaming away from the BaseShip as fast as the Swift could go.

"How'd you manage it?" asked Tony, surprised, to say the least, at the brain's actions. He'd sooner expect Brian to try and hide under the bed than pull something like this.

"They took over my ship's computer guidance when I was captured, and brought me inside their vessel. But they made the mistake of leaving the link open, while they tried to scan me and crack the data banks. I was able to probe their computer, because a link opened by their commander was sacrosanct, I guess. Anything that moved along it had automatic clearance." Brian swiveled a camera around the Swift's control cabin. Sure enough, there was a pile of Cylons, motionless.

"My God," said Koenig. He exchanged looks with both Helena and Tony. "That easy?"

"So I used all the codes I could gather, and began making their ship malfunction, until I had it all figured out. Then, I impersonated their commander's voice, and ordered them to allow the Swift to launch, just as I put a whopping big virus into their computer. That and all the damage I did to the inside with the laser will keep them busy for awhile, I hope."

"Are you being pursued?" asked Tony. He looked at the scanners; Brian was flooring the Swift, pushing her speed almost to the limit.

"No sign of pursuit, yet, Mr. Verdeschi," replied Brian, scanning aft. The Swift was now beyond visual range of the BaseShip, but there was no indication her status had changed. "We've gained some time, Alpha," said Brian, the fear in his voice obvious. Yet, were he Human, he might also have sounded... proud.

"Thanks, Brian," said Koenig, watching the tactical situation on the screen. "You've given us time. And an edge, I hope."

"Anything to help, Alpha. If I make it back ahead of the Cylons, maybe you can get something out of their commander."

"That might be a big help," said Maya. "With our experience with Falxa and Hasta, we might be able to download all sorts of information from the Cylon Commander's memory banks."

"Brian," said Koenig, "transmit all of the Cylon data you have acquired. We'll need time to examine it."

"Roger, Alpha." There was a lag of several seconds, and then Brian spoke again. "Transmitting now."

Back aboard the Cylon BaseShip, the fire in the launch bay had been contained, but was still burning. Several reserve fuel tanks, along with some back-up pumps, had been ripped through by the weapons on the enemy ship. The bay was currently useless for flight operations.

But so was the rest of the ship, Sub-Commander Carnifex had been informed. Not only had the fire and explosions done considerable damage, but the computer was not responding to commands!

Such things did not happen on BaseShips!

For now, it was a waiting game, mingled with a race. Would Brian make it back to Alpha, before the BaseShip could get underway again? Even at sub-light velocity, the alien war machine was faster than the Swift, and if she managed to make it into lightspeed...

But for the present, Koenig wasn't going to waste time on worry. He had defenses to prepare, and he hoped, as he went over them again and again, that there was nothing which he had overlooked. No detail, however insignificant, that the enemy could exploit. The Cylons, he had learned, were famous for that.

He watched the main screen, as Alpha approached her closest point to Gamoray. He also looked out at Alpha's new atmosphere. The heat from Gamoray's suns was making it surprisingly dynamic, with strong winds whipping across large areas of the surface, and cyclonic storms near the equator. It was also causing some interference with the ground-based scanners, making him thankful for all the satellite relays.

"Maya?" he asked.

"Brian ETA Alpha...four hours, seventeen minutes, Commander."

"Status, Cylon BaseShip?"

"Long range scans show she has begun moving again, Commander," replied the Psychon. "Back on course for Alpha. Her velocity is low, however."

"Still..." replied Koenig. For the umpteenth time, he reviewed Alpha's defensive measures, as well as those of the Delphian survivors. Barring Divine Intervention, there was nothing more that could be done. All they could do was wait.

And pray.

"Status?" demanded Sub-Commander Carnifex, aboard the BaseShip.

"Ship's velocity is up to point three of lightspeed, and accelerating," replied an underling.

"How long before we can go to lightspeed?"

"Unknown, Sub-Commander."

"Find out," demanded the Sub-Commander. "At once."

"By your command."

Brian would have jumped, had he been built to, when Alpha became visible on his forward scanner. Being the essentially cowardly creature he was, he hoped not only that this whole mess didn't result in a fight, but that if it did, he could find someplace to hide until it was all over. Of course, he knew that, history being any indication, this wasn't likely at all. The Cylons were like collection agencies-they never gave up.

His musings were interrupted by an alarm, first in his internal systems, then a sounding beep from the control panel. The main reactor had been at maximum rated pressure for too long, and was overheating. He would have to cut back speed, and soon, or risk at the very least a burnout of the main drive.

"Damn it!" he swore aloud, unconsciously aping Human action. He delayed a few extra precious seconds, before sending through the command. Almost at once, he could "feel" the ship slow down, as her drive was throttled back. He watched, as the engine temperature slowly began to fall, and the alarms ceased. He "breathed" a sigh of relief, and checked his rear scanners. The enemy vessel was picking up speed, and was, slowly, starting to gain on him. They must have managed to clear their main computer, and reboot the most essential systems.

He looked ahead. Alpha was a little closer. As he crunched the numbers, it looked as if he would, barely, make it back before the enemy reached striking range of Alpha. Hopefully...

"Oh shit!" he said aloud, as one of the motionless Cylons stopped being motionless, and got to it's feet.

Chapter Fourteen

Victor studied the scans in front of him, as the Delphians around him scurried about their various tasks. He felt a little like those people, down in the bunkers, during the Battle of Britain, eyes glued to maps, listening attentively to their headphones, plotting enemy positions, and all hoping to be still alive at the end of the day. Though as yet unborn at the time, he remembered well his mother telling him the story as he was growing up. Of how she had been one of those controller/operatives, trying to stay cool as hoards of Nazi aircraft closed in on them, all bent on their annihilation. And of how she had gone into premature labor, after a particularly nasty air raid.

"What an irony, Mother," he whispered to himself, watching the various participants in the upcoming drama move closer to their final positions. "Full circle."

At that moment, Koenig was doing much the same as Victor. He looked from the scanner screen to Helena, and sent up a prayer that their children would live to see their own birth. He turned back to his instruments.

Why doesn't Brian answer?

Brian was, at the present, too frightened to be doing much but, well, be frightened. After Alpha had come into range, he had felt excited, a haven was within reach.

Then, one of the Cylons had stood up, and ruined his whole outlook on the day. From the heap of inert robotics on the floor of the cabin, one of the enemy creatures was moving, trying to regain it's feet. Almost reflexively, Brian stopped talking, and shut off the speaker, silencing Alpha for the moment. He held stock still, as the Cylon, the gold-colored Command Centurion, steadying itself, and looked around the cabin.

"Centurion," it spoke, voice garbled but identifiable. "Get up." It looked down at one of the fallen soldiers, but none of them moved. "I order you to rise!" repeated Syphax, but the Centurions remained motionless. Getting no response, Syphax looked about the cabin, and began to move towards the flight controls. His steps were unsteady, and Brian decided that the microwave burst had done some major systems damage to the other. He debated another burst, but this one seemed to be better shielded than even the regular Centurions, and he didn't want to either risk damaging the electronics in here, or burning out his own emitters.

Syphax reached the controls, and began studying them, absorbing and analyzing what he saw vastly more quickly than a Human would. Brian surreptitiously watched as the Cylon reached out for the panel, towards the controls for the forward scanners.

"Stop!" he cried. Syphax did so, snapping upright as best as his internal systems would allow.

"Who has spoken?" demanded the Cylon. "Reveal yourself!" When no response was forthcoming, he reached for one of the dropped weapons, next to the inoperative guards.

"Stop!" said Brian again, this time imitating the Command Centurion's own voice. He risked a moment's microwave burst, and Syphax began to shake, dropping the weapon. Brian shut it off, and Syphax stopping shuddering, maintaining his feet. Behind him, one of the airlock hatches slid open. Syphax turned as it did so, then turned back to Brian.

"Identify self!" ordered the Cylon, and Brian rolled out of his usual spot. He faced the Cylon Commander, and did something that would have shocked even himself once upon a time.

He challenged a Cylon face-to-face.

"Back up!" he said, trying to make his voice sound as authoritative and menacing as he could. Sadly, such things were lost on Cylons of this class.

"Surrender!" demanded Syphax, standing his ground. "You are a prisoner of the Cylon Alliance."

"Like hell!" replied Brian, trying to imitate someone with courage. As he did so, he checked the scanners. Alpha was now getting closer by the minute, and the BaseShip was gaining on them. He re-opened the channel to Alpha, and initialized a video link. "Get in there."

"You will obey!" retorted Syphax. "You are a prisoner of the Cy..."

"Shut up!" said Brian, and gave Syphax another burst. The Command Centurion raised an arm, trying to shield his optical sensor from the deadly rays, but it was to no avail. "Get in there, or I will destroy you!" shouted Brian. He advanced on Syphax, and blasted again. The other backed up, closer to the open hatch. Unlike the silver-colored models, Centurions of Syphax's rank were programmed with a rudimentary survival instinct. This was kicking in big time right now, and Syphax decided that perhaps compliance, given his weaponless state, might be an advisable course of action. He backed into the airlock, and the door slid shut. Brian locked it, and then let out a long "breath", as the danger passed.

"Did you get that, Alpha?" he called, reopening all channels.

"We did," came the reply. Koenig's voice. "Good job, Brian."

"Thanks, Commander!" said Brian. Right now, had he been living, he would have felt like collapsing. He ran a check on all systems. "Alpha, I read my ETA as forty-one minutes. Do you confirm?"

"We confirm, Brian," replied Koenig.

"By your command," said the Centurion.

"Speak," said Sub-Commander Carnifex.

"Engineering reports that we will be able to re-enter lightspeed in approximately twenty-seven centons from now."

"And computer functions?"

"All viruses cleared, Sub-Commander. All banks have been rebooted and are functioning nominally."

"The launch bay?"

"All fires extinguished. Repairs in progress. Flight operations will be possible in approximately one hundred centons."

"Very well. Current speed?"

"Point seven oh four of lightspeed."

"Continue of course."

"By your command."

"ETA Cylon hour, two minutes," said Maya.

"Oh shit!" said Brian.

Sub-Commander Carnifex would have felt elation, had such things been a part of his class, as the abused BaseShip at last streaked back into lightspeed. This time, there were no surprises, nor unforeseen malfunctions, as the huge warship ripped through the darkness, on course for Gamoray. In the absence of his superior officer, whose electronic brain contained greater flexibility than his own, he was forced to confer with several other Centurions, as well as access the tactical database in the ship's computers, in order to reach a consensus and formulate a plan of attack.

Since flight operations were not possible yet, the BaseShip would take up a position approximately twice that the distance from the planet as her furthest moon, and plot any enemy positions. Since all of the Delphian defenses had been obliterated long ago, they had nothing to fear from that quarter. But, the ship they had captured, then lost, had obviously originated there, and was returning there, according to their tracking scanners. Since the craft was obviously not Delphian, someone else must have begun to occupy the planet since the raid by the Galactica's Viper craft, so a mission to reoccupy Gamoray had de facto become one of re-conquest.

Being slightly more self-aware than the rest of his crew, Syphax had not contacted the homeworld, to request additional BaseShips, once it became clear that Gamoray was not the empty world they had expected. Such a request might reflect...badly, on himself as a Commander, and even result in his early replacement. Like the far more conniving and ambitious IL Series, Syphax was, as far as his circuitry and programming would permit, to a large degree interested in...Syphax. Thus, Carnifex neither had orders, nor even the idea, to contact the High Command at this point.

After all, they were Cylons. They would achieve victory. The possibility of failure never occurred to them.

"By your command," said a Centurion.

"Speak," said Carnifex.

"Gamoray on scanners, Sub-Commander."


"There is an anomaly."

"What anomaly?"

"There is a previously unknown moon orbiting Gamoray."

"A moon?" asked Carnifex. What little curiosity he possessed kicked in, and he moved to the other's station. Sure enough, the planet sported an extra satellite, which was not at present on their charts. Large, and possessing a thin, toxic atmosphere, the object was just emerging from behind the planet, relative to their position."

"Yes," said the other. "The escaping alien craft is on a course directly for it, Sub-Commander."

Carnifex was...perplexed. The alien craft, so it seemed, was not from Gamoray, but from this mysterious unknown moon. Being more limited than his superior, it took him much longer to formulate possible scenarios, and even then, he was left with few genuine answers.

"Continue to track it," was all he could come up with. "And try and activate the transponder aboard the BaseShip that remained on Gamoray."

"By your command."

"Hey! What..." said Greenbean, in the Control Center of the restored BaseShip, as a light on one of the consoles began flashing.

"By your command," said Falxa, at his station. "We are being hailed."

"Hailed? By whom?"

"Another BaseShip, sir. The one approaching Gamoray."

Holy Frack! If they get a fix...

"Do not reply, Falxa. Shut the circuit down."

"By your command."

"Stopped?" demanded Carnifex.

"Yes, by your command. We received a momentary response from the transponder aboard the other BaseShip, then it stopped."

"Attempt to reestablish contact, Centurion."

"By your command."

"Status of intruder vessel?"

"It has entered the atmosphere of the uncharted moon."

"Concentrate scanners on the moon."

"By your command."

Brian touched down on Pad Three with a great sense of relief. Although the enemy was but a short distance behind him, he was home! Back on Alpha. As the Daniel Boone was lowered into the hangar, Brian could see the large Security detail awaiting him. Although the Cylons he carried might have been dealt with already, it seemed that Commander Koenig was taking no chances. They were carrying enough firepower to blow the lot of them into scrap.

"Release me!" demanded Syphax, pounding on the door of the airlock. "I demand you release me at once!"

"Fine with me," said Brian, and opened the airlock.


Syphax dropped like a rock to the hangar floor, crumpling his legs and sprawling in a fashion undignified even for a Cylon. Unable to rise, he began pounding on the floor with his fists. Almost at once, four Security men surrounded him, lasers leveled. The Cylon looked up, and said what Cylons always said.

"You will surrender, Humans! You are prisoners of the Cylon Alliance!"

"Is he kidding?" asked Don Schanke.

Chapter Fifteen

They were here. The Cylon BaseShip dropped out of lightspeed, amid a massive burst of radio noise, and began gliding towards Alpha. Not Gamoray, as everyone had anticipated they would, but towards Alpha. Aboard the huge Cylon vessel, Carnifex had at last identified the mysterious Moon. Repeated scans and comparisons with their data banks had resolved the mystery, at least partially. This was the planetoid that had, some sectars back, been encountered during their pursuit of the Galactica. Why it now supported an atmospheric envelope, not to mention was here in the Gamoray system, was something quite beyond Carnifex's ability to fathom. So, he didn't bother to try.

But here it was, along with the Human base designated Alpha. Imperious Leader had already given orders that the base and all in it were to be destroyed, should they ever be encountered again. And, once the ship was fully repaired and battle-ready, that was precisely what Carnifex intended to do.

"Time until we reach orbit?"

"Seventeen centons."

"Arm all weapons batteries," he ordered. "Target the lunar base immediately upon arrival."

"By your command," came the reply.

"He's bypassing Gamoray," said Tony, in Command Center. "Heading straight for Alpha."

"Yeah." Koenig hit a button. "Brian?"

"Ready here, Commander," replied the brain.

"Okay." He signaled Sandra. "Three. Two. One..."

"Incoming signal, sir," said a Centurion, to Carnifex.


"It is Commander Syphax, sir."

"Put him on," said Carnifex. The screen at his station cleared, and showed the face of Commander Syphax. The Gold Centurion looked at him, and spoke:

"Sub-Commander, this is Syphax."

"By your command," replied Carnifex.

"Do not attack the Alpha base. Enter orbit, and await instructions."

"Orders from the Imperious Leader..." began Carnifex.

"I have received new instructions from Imperious Leader," replied the other. "Enter orbit, and await further instructions."

"By your command, Commander," answered Carnifex, having neither the programming, nor processing capacity, to either wonder at this, or to question, the orders of his superior. "Orbit insertion in five and one half centons."

"Good. Contact me upon achieving orbit."

"By your command."

"Think it'll work, John?" asked Helena.

"I don't know, Helena," replied Koenig, shaking his head. "We can only hope."

"This something Commander Cain would do," said Greenbean to Brie, aboard the resuscitated BaseShip.

"Yeah. Remember that time he lectured our graduating class at the Academy?" she asked him.

"Uh huh. He said 'when you find yourself outmaneuvered, outmanned, and outgunned, what's left? Guile.' "

"And he was right," said Greenbean. "Koenig thinks like Cain a lot of the time."

"For which we should be glad," smiled Brie. She looked at her tactical plot. "Okay, here we come. One centon."

"Right. Falxa, stand by on engines. Hasta, all weapons to full."

"By your command."

If Carnifex wondered why the signal from his superior was emanating from the Human base on Alpha, that wonderment did not reach the level of conscious awareness in his electronic brain. As ordered, he slowed, entered orbit around the Moon, and waited until the BaseShip was over Alpha, just over a two hundred kilometrons above the surface. Once in place, he ordered the channel reopened, and Syphax hailed.

"These Humans are surrendering," Syphax said, on screen. Carnifex was neither confused, suspicious, nor surprised. He merely accepted this statement as a fact due to their superior forces. "Prepare to land troops to occupy the base."

"By your command, Commander Syphax."

Helena looked at John, who looked from her, to Tony. Maya looked at them all, then to Athena.

"John..." said Tony, indicating a readout.



"Doctor Barber?"

"Ready, Commander."

The BaseShip was still under repairs, as far as flight ops were concerned. Only when they were fully ready to launch any craft would the Cylons drop their defensive shields. Koenig was sweating as he counted down the time, until the enemy would be able to launch once more, and thus lower their shields. As they waited, he downed six cups of Alpha's hideous excuse for coffee, and kept his eyes on the tactical display.

Beep. Beep.

"Okay, now!" he shouted into his mic.

Carnifex watched on his screen, as the shuttle carrying fifty Centurions, all heavily armed, lifted off from the deck, and made for the opening hatch. If requested, another fifty would follow, until the Human base was entirely pacified. The shuttle's nose reached the edge of space, when suddenly...

A thick beam of green light tore upwards through the murky sky, and slammed the Cylon BaseShip just to the left of the opening bay. A bright splash of destruction blossomed against her unshielded hull, as molten metal was spewed into space. Another shot followed moments later, this one striking the shuttle dead on. It exploded violently, sending debris ripping into the carrier's hull. Another shot from Alpha's guns cut loose, slicing into her hull, before the enemy got their screens back up.

"Okay, everybody!" said Koenig. "All banks, fire!"

"Let's go!" exclaimed Greenbean.

Every salvaged laser battery surrounding Alpha opened up, lathering the BaseShip with intense and unrelenting fire. Barely had Carnifex ordered defenses raised and fire returned, when his ship was rocked again by a secondary explosion.

Carnifex opened fire on Alpha, his first shot wild, the second deflected by the Bergman Force Field. The entire screen momentarily went an opaque blue, as enemy fire struck it at an angle. He ordered continued fire, and then he got a nasty surprise:

"Sub-Commander, BaseShip approaching."

"A BaseShip?" Carnifex was about as confused as a Cylon of his level ever got.

"Yes sir. It is the BaseShip that was abandoned on Gamoray, when the Imperious Lead..."

But the Centurion never got to finish.

"Fire!" ordered Greenbean.

"By your command," replied Hasta.

The intense blue beam of the BaseShip's mega-pulsar battery slammed into the other with the force of many atomic bombs. Carnifex's shields flared up into the visible, and he turned his attention from Alpha to assess this new threat.

"Fire all batteries at the..." he ordered, when his ship rocked again. Both Alpha's batteries, and Greenbean's, were hammering him between them. The ship rocked, and a panel blew out spectacularly, and the Control Center began filling with acrid smoke.

Greenbean held on, as fire from Carnifex connected. He at once returned fire, his salvo burning along the top of the BaseShip's upper hull. His second one was a direct hit.

"Withdraw!" ordered Carnifex. "Withdraw to Gamoray!"

"By your command!"

"He's falling for it," said Victor, down on the planet. He watched as Carnifex's ship pulled away from Alpha, still taking fire, and moved towards Gamoray, no doubt intending to put the planet between themselves and Alpha. Closer and closer he got, still spitting out fire at his attackers, Greenbean's ship took a hit, and fell back herself. Carnifex accelerated towards the planet, and would soon be within range.

"In arc of weapons lock now," said the Delphian next to him. Victor nodded.

Carnifex was nearly knocked off his feet, the pulsar beam from below slamming into him, as they drew near to Gamoray. For a moment, he could get no information whatsoever, tactical or otherwise. Several of the Control Center's instruments were either dead or intermittent. Then, they were hit again.

"Retreat!" ordered Carnifex. "Withdraw!"

"By your command," replied a Centurion, and moved to obey.

"He's pulling out," said Tony, as they watched the enemy vessel on the main screen. From the scanners, they could see that Carnifex was seriously hurt, and apparently in no shape to continue the fight against both ground batteries and another BaseShip. Another shot from Gamoray skimmed close to him, and the BaseShip began to gather speed, pulling away from Gamoray.

"But he's not getting far."

"How long was the tim..." began Helena, when a bright flash erupted from the BaseShip's lower hull. Chunks of hull plate were flying in all directions, and the ship was visibly beginning to tip over onto her beam-ends. Another explosion rocked her from inside, and she lost headway entirely.

"Tony?" asked Koenig, after a few seconds.

"Her power output is way down, and she reads as dead in space, John. The planet's gravity is beginning to pull her down."

"Thank God for that," said Koenig. He watched, as another salvo slammed the enemy vessel. "All batteries, cease fire. Repeat, cease fire." All batteries acknowledged. "Tony, check out the base."

While Alpha took stock, and Greenbean removed to a higher orbit, they all watched the crippled and now impotent Cylon BaseShip, as she was pulled ever closer to Gamoray. Within an hour, she had reached the outermost layers of the planet's atmosphere, and was obviously beyond help.

"She's trying to fire some of her maneuvering thrusters," said Maya, scanning the enemy.


"No appreciable effect, Commander," she replied. "Not enough thrust. Her mass is too great. She's continuing to accelerate towards the planet.

"Ah!" said Athena, as the first visible traces of hot gasses began to trail behind the BaseShip. It slowly began to tumble end over end, pieces breaking off as the hull came under greater and greater stress. Even with braking thrusters firing wildly, it was useless contest with gravity. "There she goes, and good riddance."

"Damn right," added Tony. Even as they watched, the fiery envelop of ionized gas grew brighter and brighter around the doomed Cylon vessel, as her hull first began to glow, then to break up, trailing molten metal in her flaming wake. Then, as the unstoppable heat finally hit the main reactors...

"My God," whispered Victor, on the planet, watching the enemy vessel tunnel her way to destruction. Then, in a sudden flash, the whole monstrous thing exploded, filling the sky with a flower of hellish annihilation. Almost a minute passed before they heard the tell-tale sound of her end, a rolling boom wafting across the land.

"Great job, Brian," said Koenig, as the brain rolled into Command Center, followed by Doctor Barber. "You too, Nick." Nick nodded in acknowledgement, and Brian asked if someone would remove the head of the late Commander Syphax from his own.

"Yeah, he did it," said Nick.

"Sure did!" replied Brian, in a perfect replica of Syphax's voice. The brain had used his flexible voice synthesizer, and the still-oscillating eye of the Cylon, to deceive their enemies. Nick, utilizing the transport chamber technology, had "beamed" a powerful explosive charge onto the BaseShip's hull, and detonated it.

"Remind me to be nice to you," Tony said to Brian.

"Oh I will, Mister Verdeschi," said Brian, in his own voice. "I will."

"Oh boy, I'm in for it now."

Chapter Sixteen

Damage to Alpha was, thankfully, minimal this time, with no casualties. The BaseShip's fire had damaged the Bergman Force Field badly enough that it would be off-line for at least a week, and both the electrical systems and cameras on Pad Four had been knocked out. That, aside from a few blown busses and breakers, was about it. Koenig sent up a silent prayer of thanks.

Greenbean's first command had likewise fared pretty well. Though hit full-force by the other's weapons, he had sustained only moderate damage, mostly to areas of the ship at present unutilized, and a few secondary systems. The survivors down on Gamoray had emerged unscathed, much to everyone's relief.

The Delphians and Alphans celebrated, mutedly, in an open air section of the capital city. Over a thousand Delphians, more than Koenig had yet seen, converged, as the two races got to know one another. Now that the immediate danger was past, their leader, Chak, seemed to unbend a bit, displaying a more avuncular disposition than he had heretofore. Koenig could understand, in a way. With the Cylon threat removed, at least for now, he could let his "leader" mask slip a bit. Especially with it now shown that the Alphan Humans were friends, and not another slaughtering enemy from space.

Though Alpha was not going into orbit, they would still remain within easy Eagle range of the planet for almost four more days. During that time, Koenig was most liberal with his people, helping the Delphians to continue repairing and restoring their city, water and power systems topping the list. Plans were drawn up and technology shared, that would insure, they hoped, the renewal of the Delphian civilization.

If the Cylons left them alone.

"What I wouldn't give for a share in that," said Don Schanke, watching as a small group of Delphians began plowing a field near the city edge. In the distance, they could see the burned-out remains of buildings, perhaps the original farm. Thrown back onto the old-fashioned methods, the Delphians were nonetheless persevering. Soon, the soil would give forth of it's goodness, covering the land with much-needed food. Food for growth."The soil."

"I hear ya," said Nick Barber, over the commlock, from back on Alpha. While neither could not come down to the dayside surface, he and his wife, Natalie, could at least watch the proceedings over one of Alpha's monitors.

"Hey, don't let it get you down, Nick," said Don, hearing the longing in the other's voice. "At least we helped a whole world get back on it's feet."

"Yeah," said Natalie. "At least."

"Well, whither Alpha?" asked Kate, rhetorically, as they all watched, in Command Center, as Gamoray, now a crescent no bigger than a quarter, held their attention on the screen. The last Eagle was just clearing the planet's atmosphere, to catch up with Alpha before the sling-shot effect of the planet's gravity put them out of range.

"Back into the hideous black void," sighed Sahn, looking up from her instruments. "Where no doubt more vile and unspeakable alien horrors await us." She looked over at Kate, and smiled weakly.

"What, again?" the other woman smiled back.

"Well, we couldn't just settle, and shove the Delphians aside," said Koenig, part of him wishing that they could have done precisely that. But he knew it was not the way. Eventually, the descendants of both races would have come into conflict, probably lethally, and that was the last thing anyone wanted.

So it was back to the usual, drifting aimlessly through space, at the mercy of their errubundic excuse for a home, until...


"Commander." It was Maya's voice.


"Alan on Eagle Nine reports he will be landing in nineteen minutes."

"Acknowledged." Koenig sat back, and watched the planet grow slowly smaller, as the two bodies moved ever further apart. He hoped that their work here, born of necessity, would bear fruit. They had left the Delphians most of the fighters remaining aboard the revived BaseShip, regardless of their state of repair. With their advanced technical skills, the Delphians would soon reacquire spaceflight capabilities. That and a slew of Cylon probes for use both as sentinels, and weather/communications satellites, the people of Gamoray were about as prepared as they could be for what the future might bring.


It was Helena, in Medical. The work-up on their latest arrivals was ready.

Koenig mused that Alpha was getting more cosmopolitan all the time. First, it was the addition of Maya, the last known survivor of Psychon but one. Then, through a truly bizarre convergence of forces, a Medieval English king and one of his knights had joined them. Now, two Delphians had also crashed the party.

He stepped into Medical, and saw them, introduced earlier as Nes, and Rea. Two young Delphians, male and female, who had, it seemed, an unslakeable desire to explore the universe, and no desire to remain on their home planet. Before the destruction of their world by the Cylons, they had been two young and promising research scientists, slated to remove to one of Gamoray's few off-world colonies. Then, when it all ended, they were driven underground with the rest of the survivors, and had no surviving family whatsoever. But now...

Could they join Alpha? Koenig had tried to explain the hardships they would face. Never knowing where they would be, a few days from now. At the mercy of often unfathomable space forces. Hostile aliens. But they seemed ready to take the risks. And, they had something to bring to the table. Nes was an electronics engineer and researcher, with a sub-specialty in space propulsion systems. Rea, his wife, held degrees in both agronomy and plant biophysics, as well as being a chemist. Koenig had to admit, these were all skills that they could certainly use on Alpha.

As well as the rebuilding Delphians. However, as the two explained, they were not from the dominant tribal group, on Gamoray. Long before outside contact, Gamoray had been divided into several tribes and clans, some less tolerated and weaker than others. When high technology and spaceflight had exerted their influence, and begun to break down these old prejudices, Nes and Rea's tribe had been, if somewhat grudgingly, tolerated by the majority society.

Then the Cylons came, and those who remained had been driven underground. Freed from the once-dominant social pressures, old bigotries had begun to reassert themselves, and the two had been marginalized, even to being accused of complicity in the Cylon attack. Chak, a wiser head, had made use of their skills in the fight to survive, but liked their "barbarian tribe" no more than the rest. So, when Alpha had come along, and they had learned about other "stowaways" having found a home there, they made their choice. While leaving one's only home is never easy, this was deemed preferable to a future that seemed bleak.

So, after reaffirming that their life-support systems could handle the extra demands, and conferring with Chak on Gamoray, who seemed more than willing to be quit of the two, as much for politics' sake as any other, he had reluctantly agreed. Now, sitting in Medical, the two new Alphans had just completed their medical, and were awaiting Helena's report as anxiously as Koenig.

Physiologically compatibility rating with Humans was, she said, over eighty-six percent. They could survive on both Human food, as well as Alpha's oxygen levels and other factors. They carried no inimical disease organisms, and Alpha's slightly different gravity and air pressure were no trouble.

"Welcome to Alpha," he said, after reading over Helena's report. "I hope we can learn from each other."

"Yes, Commander," replied Nes, through a translator. "We hope as well." They all looked, as the door slid open once more, and Maya entered.

"This is Maya," said Koenig. "Like you, she joined Alpha after we left our home planet. She can help you assimilate to Alpha, and can show you to your new quarters. Tonight, once you are settled in, I'd like you to join my wife and I for dinner."

"Yes, we would like that," replied Rea.

"Good. At 2030 hours, then." He turned to Maya. "Tony Cellini's old quarters, I think."

"Yes, Commander," said the Psychon. "Well, if you'll follow me?" Koenig watched as the newcomers left, carrying their meager possessions with them. He shook his head.


"John, Victor here. Can I see you in the lab?"

"On my way, Victor.:

"Commander?" asked Natalie, next to Helena.

"I don't know, Natalie. Sometimes I think God must be laughing at me."

Far away, in his Control Center on the planet Cylon, the Imperious Leader of the Cylon Alliance reviewed the data at his disposal yet again. The BaseShip dispatched to reconnoiter and begin the reoccupation of the planet Gamoray had gone silent. The fragmentary telemetry seemed to indicate the presence of another BaseShip, then nothing. While he had nothing definitive, the Imperious Leader strongly suspected Human interference. Could the Galactica have returned to this region of the Star System? Or, perhaps the other surviving Colonial Battlestar, the Pegasus, was, indeed, still in existence, and once more on the prowl? Neither possibility pleased him.

Nor did the loss of Gamoray's fuel, so vital to the Empire, since the destruction of Carillon. Were it not for numerous other problems demanding his attention, and that of the military, the place would have been reacquired long ago. As it was, the Empire's resources were stretched thin, dangerously thin, and now, if Syphax's ship were lost...

"Centurion," he said, to the unit nearest him.

"By your command, Imperious Leader."

"Bring me Baltar."

"By your command, Imperious Leader."

Also very far away, over a long-dead planet, a lone BaseShip orbited. The planet was known to them, from a previous encounter with the Human vermin. The Cylon vessel scanned and scanned, her scopes showing nothing. Her Commander was about to attempt to contact the Homeworld, when a powerful blast struck her, rocking the ship down to her frame.

"Alert! Alert!"

They turned, to face this new threat, emerging from behind the ancient Human world of Kobol.

This is story 6 in the "Forever Alpha" series. Previous story - Next story
Copyright (c) 2012. Reprinted with permission.

Space:1999 is (c) 1976 by Carlton International Media. All stories are the property of their respective authors.
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