When Two Worlds Collide (TGG - nBSG crossover) Completed.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Three.

Taloran Starfighter Corps
Cylon Fleet forces at
System KJE-167073HI
29 AUGUST 2169

The last seconds tore by as the bombers and gunboats raced their way in. More and more were being blasted down and out of the stars, but they stayed steady and level and were moving with incredible speed. And then, one after another in short succession:



Again and again, either two torpedoes from the gunboats or four from the torpedo bombers were loosed. The gunboats then began to fire with their heavy guns as they tore through the formation, whereas the bombers simply took off at much higher accelerations--more than 25% of their fully loaded mass had just been dropped simultaneously, after all!--and ripped out of the Cylon force for deep space and for survival from the very real threat of their annihilation while they escaped. Eight thousand torpedoes successfully engaged toward 221 Cylon Baseships, and within five seconds they would have either succeeded or failed.

The interceptors for their part were already clear, having taken their losses to cover the bombers for the last bit of the run by their mere existence, and now swinging around to engage the Cylon Raiders should they try to pursue the retreating strike package. The EW 'birds raced through still transmitting and still jamming to give the torpedoes as much of a chance as they possibly could, now dispensing masses of chaff and flares to lay down a barricade against Cylon attacks on the successfully retiring bombers.

Of the torpedoes that were fired, an average of 36 were targeted at each of the light Baseships that got through and flung themselves against the point defence, and an average of 38 against each of the heavy Baseships. The point defence had three seconds in which to intercept, or even less in a few cases. To their credit, most of the Cylon baseships managed to shoot down 85% of the inbounds within a three second engagement envelope facing 36 - 38 targets.

Two torpedoes could destroy an unshielded Baseship, and six would usually suffice against a shielded one. Not a single Cylon ship's shields survived intact, not a single one, modern, or the armoured old double-saucers. The majority of the Cylon ships, however, did in fact survive. They managed to knock down enough of the torpedoes that they could stand their ground and hold. But the averages were just that; averages. Some of the ships barely had their shields knocked down. Some took serious damage as well. And then there were the one hundred and three Baseships in all--ninety-seven of the new type and six of the old type--which had most of their attacking forces intact, which got through, on average, seven torpedoes and in a couple cases, eight or nine.

They lit up and kept lighting up as the massive rolling explosions shattered the double-hulls, blasting them in two, and simply overwhelming them and detonating their dual power-cores, one in each primary hull, such that space was filled with an enormous serious of rippling, terrible explosions. In total not less than 191 of the tiny corvettes posted to defend the ships the attacks were either caught up in the blasts or had torpedoes veer off onto them at the last moment and vapourize them, or taken out by the missiles of the interceptors and gunboats en passant.

If the Starfighter Corps had wanted a proof of concept, with their carrier-captain allies, of the use of carriers for long-range strike against enemy fleets, they had just had it. The enemy ships that survived shook off the shock and kept firing into them as they retired, but it was a stern chase for the missiles and the starfighters were already at relativistic velocities. They began to compute their two jumps that would, if all had gone well, carry them back to the fleet. The combat had only taken minutes, and yet it had been as lethal as might be imagined as the massed overwhelming salvoes of torpedoes had done their deadly mark.

Of the 500 gunboats, 1,024 EW craft, 3,504 bombers and 4,000 interceptors sent to engage the enemy, 1,981 bombers, 3,652 interceptors, 958 EW craft and 304 gunboats were coming back, some damaged and barely in one piece, but all able to make the strike. The survivors who had escaped from the rest kept their survival coms turned off and hoped it was enough of a hammer's blow to get the Cylon fleet to run for it so they had some chance of recovery by their own hopefully-still-intact fleet. With luck, the first had come true; the Cylon baseships and corvettes jumped out the moment, after thirty-five minutes in system, that their drives were recharged.

The Raiders, on the other hand, had already left. They had jumped out just minutes after the Taloran strike had made its escape, and they were following it. The Imperial Fleet under Tisara's command would shortly find out how it was able to deal with another 9,000 kamikazes coming in. These were unprepared with Tylium explosives, but many still had anti-fighter missiles loaded aboard and those would offer enough damage. Surprise was more important than firepower, anyway. The very last of the escort of the savaged Cylon fleet would be spent gaining revenge on its attackers.

The pilots of the strike package spent the next fifteen minuets in an uneasy slump from the tension of their attacks, counting the comrades they had seen killed and hoping for the survival of their fleet, without which they would face a difficult crawl through deep space to be retrieved, if they ever would. But of course the loss of the fleet would be worse than that. They could only wait, and hope, that the second of their jumps would indeed reveal Tisara's squadrons drawn up and waiting for them--even if Terrible Tisara herself had not necessarily survived the Cylon counterstrike. But that thought, on the minds of fewer and fewer of her subordinates these days, was suitably rare. One more jump to go....

HSMS Dhirisma
The Imperial Fleet at
System KHR-167008HE
30 AUGUST 2169.

By the standards of the Terran calendar, another day had just passed. The Taloran day, out of synch by several hours, had already shifted over. It was the middle of the night, but nobody was asleep in the fleet, except those under anesthesia (of which they were some thousands by this point as the casualties piled up from the kamikazes), or even tired. Combat drugs took care of that, and left them all better prepared to face the next of the attacks coming in. Thanks to the hyper-accurate Cylon jump drives, they were given very, very little warning. They'd only been able to get one thousand of their some six thousand space superiourity fighters off the carriers and into space before the Cylons were gunning for them again, and this time the heavy Raiders and old-type Raiders were in just as close as the new-type Raiders.

The long-range anti-fighter missiles in the Mk.30 launchers had some capability against the Raiders at close range, however, and so they were immediately loosed from where they had stood ready, while the light starfighters from the carriers which had launched in time--the shields had to be brought up now, halting further operations, to protect against the kamikazes--heeling over sharply to fire their missiles at point-blank into the attacking heavy raiders and old-type raiders. At the same time, those crafts, numbering 5,600 when they first jumped in, were loosing the other half of their missile salvoes, more than eleven thousand missiles in all racing in toward the Taloran fleet, and this time there was no jumping out at the last minute to escape them. The battle had to be fought here, not simply to give the drives time to recharge but so their strike package could be recovered.

The counter-missiles were on the job. This is what they had been designed for, even as the Raiders tended to evade the huge long-range anti-fighter missiles, though the massive 32 megatonne warheads they packed scored multiple proximity kills even on the better-defended and shielded larger Raider models. As that portion of the combat developed, the first salvo of counter-missiles simply ripped through the incoming nuclear missile salvo; more than ten thousand of the missiles were wiped out by the first salvo of countermissiles. The second salvo of countermissiles finished off the rest of them. Not a single missile even made it through to face the flak curtains of the Taloran ships.

But that wasn't their purpose. They had used up two salvoes of countermissiles. And only one salvo remained before the long reloading gap that would allow another three salvoes in close succession. The interconnected combat computers of the Taloran ships allowed the RAM cell launchers to immediately retarget and fire off a full salvo at the new-type Raiders, slightly more than one thousand strong, boring in at high speed, but that was the only salvo they were going to get off.

"Now," Tisara remarked to no-one in particular, "I understand why suicide tactics enter the renown and fear of every race or people misfortunate enough to have been at the hands of a race evil and depraved enough to use them." She settled back, and betraying not the slightest bit of fear or concern, just those telling words of utter fascination with the horrible spectacle, and watched the desperate battle for her fleet. 842 Raiders were shot down; 166 plunged in, roughly arranged against three carriers which had already suffered damage and whose shields had barely recovered at all, including the Tyrakha, which had already survived ten kamikazes.

"Stand ye steady...." Ilahmbh whispered a pray as she watched fourty-seven Raiders' images disappear on one of the 2-D plots as they converged with the Tyrakha. Huge and repeated flashes tore through the formation ahead as the battered fleet carrier and two others were submerged by the first hammer's blow. Tyrakha's shields failed and another seven kamikaze strikes tore through the ship. Her two central hangar complexes were destroyed in explosions which triggered massive secondaries and the detonation of most of her fighters inside of her, and the power was enough to bulge out the armour, bending and twisting the innards of the ship permanently in hideous ways, some blasts tearing through from the inside out.

More than half her reactors were knocked out and all power was temporarily lost as the busbars were overwhelmed. Most of the remaining ERA panels were blown off and several deep strikes were recorded while one of her armoured impeller fins was torn clear off by the force of one of the hits. With power lost the ship began to fall behind the still-accelerating fleet as her surviving crew smartly went about the almost impossible task of damage control. Incredibly, within twenty-four seconds they had power rerouted through one of the backup busbar assemblies, while the intact secondary batteries continued to fire on capacitor power with long-range shots against the heavy raiders still boring home. It was enough to break even the professionalism of Tisara's bridge crew into desperately crazed celebration at the impossible survival of the ship when her engines started back up and she struggled up to 1,350g's--about sixty percent of her maximum rated acceleration--and ceased falling back in the fleet.

Then, her remaining intact portside bay--with her shield generators destroyed, there was no reason to wait any longer--started to launch its untouched fighter squadrons, streaming ahead of the massive clouds of plasma and debris leaking from the mostly ruined ship, and that sealed it:

"Long live Tyrakha!!"

"Long live Tyrakha!!"

"Long live the Empress!!"

The two other carriers, less seriously damaged, now looked like the Tyrakha after the first round of strikes, each with at least one hangar grouping lost and more fighters chewed apart, sections of the hull reduced to frame, but still mostly operational, their shields dangerously down, but at least that meant they were sending up more space superiourity fighters to join the thousand already making runs on the larger Raiders that were coming in next.

"Down to four thousand heavy Raiders coming in, the light starfighters are making their runs now," Dhirisma said, abruptly composed after being almost unable to hold herself back from joining in the little celebration at the incredible feat of survival by the Tyrakha.

"It's going to be harder to knock out the heavy raiders. They're going to need all the help they can get. During the RAM engagement profile I want the torpedo batteries and main guns of the ships not masked by the formation to engage as well--shake them up, detonate the torpedoes in their midst, anything to knock out a few more," Tisara tossed a hand hotly upwards. "Throw everything we've got at them. This isn't a moment for half measures."


"And tell Tyrakha--good work in getting those fighters off! I'll see to it the unit commendation with the Sovereign's flails is sent over afterward, if I have anything to say about it."

The bridge crew was smiling under their breaths as they carried on in their duties. They'd never heard Tisara summarily guaranteeing citations before; she usually expected the superhuman as a mere component of duty, but the carrier's survival had impressed even her, in her own tight way.

The first wave of 1,000 fighters tore through the large Raider attacking group. They were accelerating at 3,500g's and were in typical 'joust' attack profile. They'd only get one strike, but using their remaining missiles and guns they had every chance of each one taking through a Raider, and even with the shields on the Raiders they damn near did. In the sudden and hideous combat, some two hundred of the starfighters were shot down against these far better equipped opponents, however, but they also ripped through eight hundred and fifty of the attackers before racing out of the way of the incoming RAM missiles of the first salvo. That first salvo annihilated 746 more incoming Raiders, the warheads, and the immense velocities of the 40,000g's accelerating RAMs--which had shield-penetrating warheads which fired a small, superheavy penetrator just as the main warhead detonated on a shield to create a small burn-through hole--proving sufficient to ram their c-fractional penetrating rods into the Raiders in such a way that was more or less impossible to survive, though more than a few of the bigger Raiders managed it anyway.

Then the second wave blew away 759 more, and the second wave of intercepting fighters--from the three carriers that had lost their shields, about two hundred in all--swept in against the attacking Raiders in the eight second pause before another murderous and overwhelming RAM salvo was prepped and fired. They were intercepting on extremely difficult perpendicular trajectories rather than the 'joust' which was considered the only truly effective combat manoeuvre against other starfighters... But the enemy wasn't normal enemy starfighters. They were kamikazes trying to gain as much velocity and kinetic energy as they could before slamming into their targets, and their courses were easily predictable and fixed. 206 starfighters engaged and scored 188 kills despite the poor angle in a very excellent showing.

And then the third wave of RAM missiles went in, even as the big secondary guns and the main batteries of the destroyers were firing on the incoming attackers... And so were the main batteries of every ship in the fleet, and they were salvoing their torpedoes as well to be in place to detonate in massed barrages when the Raiders passed through them. Everything that they could possibly do to take out as many of the kamikazes as they could was being done, in the desperate effort to stop them before they inexorably closed and rammed home their deadly attacks.

It was at that moment that Tisara realized to herself--Well. If I call these suicide attacks, then I recognize even the mechanical Cylons as being sapient. Curious. Dhirisma has already had an influence on me after all, subconscious no less--and smiled vaguely at the cute and crisp figure of the AI's hologram as she stood on her bridge, in the heart of her own brain, and defended herself and aided in the defence of the fleet perhaps as finely as any of the ships had done, and better still, Ysalha and Dhirisma working in perfect symbiosis with the plenty of spare computing power the ship had to allow the Synthetic Control Cruiser to flawlessly respond to the attacks. So far, Dhirisma hadn't even lost her shields, and the immaculate condition of the flagship preserved the command and control of the fleet most finely so that their response had been as coordinated and stiff as one might hope possible.

The third wave of RAM missiles scored 722 kills, and then the guns were taking out dozens more as they raced onwards into the trap of the torpedoes while the point-blank 21cm powerguns were raking them and the flak projectors adding to the sadly, desperately ineffective curtains, especially against these heavier and at least somewhat shielded Raiders. Or, had been somewhat shielded. The torpedo warheads detonated, and the Cylon formation seemed to mercifully vanish, if by now they were all too jaded by this terrifying warfare to expect the respite to last more than a laughing fraction of a second.

Five hundred and fifty-eight Raiders appeared on the other side. Mercifully, almost all of them had lost their shields. The powerguns were tearing through them, and a few of them were lost to fortunately dense concentrations of flak. They took out as many as they possibly could within the seconds that were left. And then four hundred and two Raiders succeeded in striking their targets. Most of the heavy ships of the fleet were protected down by a last minute shift that Ilahmbh had crisply ordered at full acceleration, but that left that the screen open for a hammering... And a good half the Raiders had homed in on the big ships anyway, these bigger and heavier raiders against weakened targets, now, one dreadnought, one fleet carrier.

Six destroyers damaged, four destroyers lost, three light cruisers damaged, one lost, one heavy cruiser lost, two damaged. And then one of the overburdened carriers, now concentrated on by a hundred of the much larger Raiders that had several times the mass of the new types--more than enough to make up for the lack of Tylium bombers--was hammered and hammered until several deep strikes tore through her remaining ready fighters and more still knocked out three-fourths of her massive banks of fusion reactors with a series of secondary explosions deep in the hull. This ship fell out of formation with massive internal radiation leaks, and there was no miraculous salvation like the Tyrakha; escape pods began to be launched as well as a few surviving craft as sections of the outer hull started to peel off under the continuing internal damage. Tisara had finally lost one of her carriers.

The Dreadnought, of course, much larger and much more strongly built in turn with better defences, managed to hang on. Hammered and battered again and again the huge Empress Mikela IV class ship was hit by no less than fourteen kamikazes after her shields failed, ERA completely burning off the outer hull layers, the mercifully emptied pod ripped to shreds, one of her armoured sensor towers blown clear off, but her primary hull only penetrated thrice and only ten reactors down, still able to maintain 1,100g's, and, though falling behind from Tisara's demand of 1,350g's fleet acceleration, she reduced it as the last of the kamikaze attacks finished, down to 1,000g's to give the cripples time to make repairs amongst stars that were suddenly, mercifully clear.

"It's finally over....." Dhirisma breathed softly.

"No, no it's not," Ysalha answered tiredly. "Do you think, my dearest, that the surviving Raiders from our strike against their Baseships, even if it was successful, are going to just run? We have minutes at most."

"Launch every fighter left! Magnum launch as fast as we can!" Tisara ordered, Ysalha's words instantly galvanizing her into action. "Order the fleet to prepare for sustained kamikaze attack, shift the formation again and reload the Mk.30's and RAM launchers for immediate response. We're where we need to be to cover the strike. Neglect jump-drive charging in favour of directing the energy toward restoring shield strength and charging secondary battery capacitors! We fight this out here! And that is indeed a general fleet order. If we're lucky they're only going to hit us one more time."

Torpedo Squadron 1220,
System KJI-147008BB

Squadron Captain Rachel Nelson, ranking officer of Torpedo Squadron 1220 off the Tyrakha, had managed to assemble her four dispersed bomber flights in another one of the remote, useless, and barely charted systems through which the sprawling fight was now taking place. It was useful now, though, because it was the likely point--at the extreme range at which the Taloran patrols had jumped--where the Cylon fleet was most likely, by the latest translight coms reports, to jump out, on a straight line from their last position still pretty far in so that they'd be heading for Kobol and safety.

The prediction was right; the sixteen bombers of Torpedo Squadron 1220 and the twelve accompanying reconaissance-outfitted interceptors launched off of the fleet's Destroyer Leaders by twos--recon-outfitted meaning each one was carrying a single torpedo slung under its main hardpoint for secondary strike duties--were suddenly confronted with one hundred and eighteen Cylon Baseships and about two hundred surviving escort Corvettes. None of them had active shields and all of them bore signs of enormous damage.... And not a single Raider was launched.

"Hundred and three capship kills and close to two hundred 'vettes?" She remarked to her mostly-Taloran-male squadron mates through the laser-coms. "They didn't do bad at all. Looks like the fighters were wiped out, too." Little did Rachel know how, nor that she would have a chance to avenge the deaths of half the crew of the ship her Starfighter Corps squadron operated off of. "Two bombers to each one of the remaining armoured Baseships, and eight of the interceptors concentrate on one. That'll give us all nine, if we're lucky, and the remaining four interceptors go after one of the lighter types. Won't be a single big gun left in the fleet, God Willing--just missiles and empty hangars."

"Roger that." The chorus of confirmations went through as her electronic warfare officer activated the toggle which would open the bay doors for the bomber's twelve decoys that would be crucial in making the strike by the scout squadrons succeed, in the best traditions of the Taloran Starfleet to, in imitation of a practice the rival Alliance strangely hadn't copied, use bombers for multi-lightyear scouting deployments.. And have their standard tactics be to radio in the contact report and then attack with whatever was available before running for it, to get in some surprise hits on the enemy whilst they could.

"Alright, stand by the coordinates report."

"Entered, Flight Captain."

"On mark, punch engines full, punch decoys, send the contact."

"All ready."

"Mark." These bastards had butchered billions of humans in the outer colonies, and even Callisto-born Rachel was more than ready and prepared to give them hell for it, no matter how long the odds.

The engines of the twenty-eight starfighter strike fired, their translight coms went to full broadcasting power for the short burst, and 192 decoy missiles were fired on several varying tracks to confuse the defence by the Cylons as much as possible. It went as well as they could hope; their point defence missiles were largely spoofed by it, and there were a surprisingly small number of them. Of course, they were gods-damned in combat twice already! They're retrofits--they won't have nearly the magazines for 'em we do. Might even be bolt-ons...

Somehow, her bombers got through the missiles without a single one lost, though by random fate one of the interceptors was hit by a missile and vapourized in the tremendous detonation of its torpedo, one of the reasons the strike force was coming in extremely dispersed. No sense in fratricide when their chances were already to small.

Then, the light point-defence KEVs opened up. The decoy missiles were still spoofing, they were using their jammers as hard as they could, but the sheer quantity of firepower still blasted four and then five of the bombers out of space and two more interceptors before they could launch.



They fired off their torps at once and in unison, and there was more or less no time to intercept them in. The bombers and interceptors leapt up to their maximum acceleration of 4,500g's with so much weight being shed all at once, and ripped through the Cylon formation, leaving the torpedoes to slam home against their targets. Seven of the nine remaining old-type Cylon Baseships, all already with significant damage and little means left to defend themselves, were blown to pieces, and so was the one targeted new-type Baseship. The remaining two old Baseships surely seemed crippled as they cleared away, even as another of the bombers bought it to the KEVs before they pulled out of range.

In about twenty seconds, Torpedo Squadron 1220 had gone from sixteen craft and full strength down to ten... But they had just killed six times the tonnage of their home carrier over. It had been like a turkey shoot, and Rachel was amazed they had survived it at all even as she shuddered with the intensity of the adrenaline the success brought on.

The ordeal for the Cylons was not over, however. Someone other than just Tisara's embattled fleet had heard the contact report, and they'd just finished charging their drives and now barely had the range to jump, whereas Tisara certainly didn't. The Cylons still had thirty minutes before their drives would be fully recharged and they could again fleet another 120 lightyears further on, where there would be no further enemies waiting to intercept them. But the delay caused by the mauling fight with Tisara had given enough time for the one enemy with drives almost as fast--and good enough, due to that delay--to catch up to them.

Admiral Saul Tigh jumped in with the Pegasus, Galactica, and the Kshatriya--and grappled to their hulls inside the jump effect were 100 Taloran EW 'birds, 80 gunboats, and 60 torpedo bombers which were immediately released with the same conserved velocity as the three Colonial ships and now began to accelerate straight on toward the crippled Cylon force... Which Saul Tigh knew had exhausted on the order of 90% of their anti-ship missiles fighting the twenty fresh Taloran Dreadnoughts and sixteen carriers with plentiful escorts which had arrived from CON-5 with considerable escorts as part of the Empress' calculated gamble, to admit to the crisis to the foreign world and at the same time get the resources needed for such an overwhelming response as to conciliate the human population that all was being done which could be done. Inside their hulls, too, were another 60 torpedo bombers, 320 Taloran space superiourity fighters, and 680 surviving Vipers and 10 surviving Raptors, and all of these were launching as rapidly as they could.

No, the Cylons weren't about to get a break now. But their last bolt to strike back against their enemies was yet to be thrown.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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Alan Bolte
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Post by Alan Bolte »

Are these Cylons rather faster than what we see in the show, for some reason? It's hard for me to imagine the Raiders - which to the best of my knowledge lack inertial compensation - somehow engaging a fleet that's accelerating at over 1000g.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Alan Bolte wrote:Are these Cylons rather faster than what we see in the show, for some reason? It's hard for me to imagine the Raiders - which to the best of my knowledge lack inertial compensation - somehow engaging a fleet that's accelerating at over 1000g.
They have no crews, so lacking inertial compensation is a bit easier, but as far as I'm concerned they likely have it anyway. And yes, the Cylon capabilities (as are those of the Colonials) are explicitly arbitrary for storytelling purposes. Though I am certainly giving them the benefit of the doubt. The Taloran Starfleet on the other hand is a reasonably realistic look at exactly what sort of capabilities an actual spacefairing fleet should have in the way of defence against starfighters, even in the perniciously hard-to-intercept kamikaze role.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Four.

HSMS Dhirisma
The Imperial Fleet at
System KHR-167008HE
30 AUGUST 2169.

"And so return our brave razor-kastras," Ysalha stood, stretched, and watched as the starfighters from the fleet jumped in on the return of their successful strikes and immediately flashed in the damage reports to the flagship and their waiting carriers--one of which was no longer there.

"They got one hundred and three baseships and almost two hundred corvettes and six thousand defending Raiders," Ilahmbh reported as she collated the data. "Losses were within acceptable rates for the success of the strike. They really blew through the enemy, too. Almost fifty percent of their ships destroyed."

"But nine thousand Cylon Raiders intact..." Dhirisma frowned. "I suppose we should be expecting an attack."

"Quite. Sooner, if they are coming in without arming with explosives, later, if they are coming in after having rearmed." Tisara settled back and closed her eyes, ears drooping down to brush along the helmet. "Order the interceptors and the bombers to join the Combat Air Patrol without refueling. They should have enough endurance and we can't afford to be taking about carrier planes again. We need the carriers empty for their own safety. The bombers can lock their turrets forward and joust just as well as the interceptors."

"Understood, Your Serene Grace," Ilahmbh sighed to try and release the tension; it did nothing. Everyone on the bridge was already strapping back in, anyway, in expectation of an imminent continued assault.

"Electronic warfare craft are to concentrate and throw up as much jamming as they can to prevent the kamikazes from accurately targeting our ships until very close--that will cut their velocity more than a bit during the strikes, reduce the damage they can do." Tisara was learning fast, extrapolating from what she'd already seen, and reflected, with no modesty whatsoever, that she had probably become the living expert on massed kamikaze attacks among all the three great powers. Perhaps it is time on my first complete doctrinal book of tactics. They will have little choice but to recommend it in light of circumstances.

"Of course, Admiral."

Tisara ignored the acknowledgment, and waited. Eight minutes later, her waiting was rewarded by the arrival, exactly as she had expected and everyone else had feared would be happening, of nine thousand Cylon raiders coming close in. "All starfighters and long-range missiles engage, standby countermissiles and CIWS. Jamming up."

"Starfighters engaging," Dhirisma reported.

"At least, Mistress, we have had thirty minutes for damage control and the recovery of the shields this time, instead of seven minutes between the last attacks."

"Quite true, my dear Ysalha. And they're coming in without bombs. That helps substantially. Hmm.." Her eyes bored in on the plot. "And so here it begins again." The drugs kept her easy and focused, even if the tension could be edged by a knife, it seemed to wash over, to be felt without truly effecting her. Something that could be terribly deceptive, but for the Talorans, the use of cybernetic interfaces and mind-enhancing and exhaustion-eliminating pharmacopias was their way of preserving the traditional warrior roles in the face of modern computerization of combat, and they would not have it any other way. The fleet's officers, warrants, and specialists were universally both wired into their ships' computers, and wired on three or four combat drugs at once, forcing, bashing and abusing at their bodies with every artifice of modern science to squeeze more capability out of them so they remained fully active participants in their own wars, using the vast but 'dumb' mainframes of the ships with their simple OS's to provide the raw power to back up the capabilities the augmentations imbued them with.

First, the 4,969 intact light starfighters of the fleet's defensive forces volley-fired their own anti-fighter missiles. Then they, along a cumulative of more than fifty-five hundred interceptors and bombers, swung in to joust with their opponents. Roaring in at full acceleration with only a single pass to make, every single weapon fired as rapidly as possible. In the end-on engagement the bombers with their tracking bolter turrets actually proved to be almost as effective as the interceptors and possibly more effective than the light starfighters in the role, smashing through the enemey's ranks. The Cylons were learning too, however, and their velocity was comparatively slow, intentionally so, manoeuvring out of the way as rapidly as they could. It was an incredibly rapid learning cycle fueled by a cosmic network that was not yet fully understood--though Ysalha knew it was happening, still linked to it--and they were now using their more nimble fighters properly to evade the high-energy jousts the Talorans sought.

The results of the attack were therefore rather disappointing; only around three thousand Raiders were destroyed, and the reattack capability of the starfighters was limited. On the other hand, it would take the Raiders time to build up enough velocity for the kinetic energy of their suicide attacks to do damage to the Taloran fleet with no bombs aboard, and that meant no jumping forward with extreme precision to slash down the distance. That finally gave the long range anti-fighter missiles being constantly pumped out by the fleet's Mk.30 quad-arm launchers a chance to show their value, and the fleet's missile officers certainly weren't wasting it. Every single functional launcher in the fleet was marking out a steady salvo every six seconds, and they had enough capacity in their magazines that they could keep it up for several minutes before they ran out of anti-fighter missiles. In a normal engagement the rate of fire would never be remotely that high; against a massed kamikaze attack, the magazines were heedlessly run through in sheer desperation to provide the volume required for the defensive effort. Each one of the dreadnoughts alone was firing 320 missiles every six seconds into the kamikaze force if its launchers were still intact, and though for many that was not the case, at least several having been knocked out, the cumulative from just the twenty-four dreadnoughts was still horrifyingly powerful.

The Raiders started to disappear far more rapidly now. They were being blasted out of space by the hundreds with each salvo, and even as their velocities was ominously compounding as they shot through the EW picket line and finally acquired their targets, no less than two thousand, five hundred more of the kamikazes had been destroyed by the long-range anti-fighter missiles of the Taloran fleet within six minutes of engagement. Now the countermissiles and the secondary batteries were engaging.

The first countermissile salvo took out 890 of the surviving Raiders. The medium cannon started telling at that part with their .99995c particle beams fired once every two seconds at megatonne range yields, and their crews damned well kept them firing as fast as they could with every bit of frenetic desperation they could muster. Seven seconds in, the next countermissile salvo roared out, and the torpedo batteries were readied for use as a 'wall of energy' against the kamikazes once again, as even the huge main turrets on the dreadnoughts as well as the main turrets on the battlecruisers and cruisers got into the act, simply throwing as much energy as they possibly could at the general direction of the Raiders.

The second countermissile salvo blew its way through a 'mere' 744 of the attacking Raiders. Their numbers were starting to get mercifully ragged as the eight second duration down to the next and last salvo they would manage before the Raiders could start hitting was outlasted, and the torpedoes were fired so their warheads would be in position for the barrage, less useful to be sure against this more staggered formation which was coming in with a series of distinct waves, again showing the incredible adaptability of the Cylons.

That third and last countermissile salvo was out next while the 21cm powerguns opened up next, working like the 40mm bofors did against Japanese kamikazes on Earth some many centuries prior (or sooner, in some universes), a last desperate and not particularly effective defence--but everything counted. The countermissiles struck home, but the last minute moves of the Raiders to lock onto their targets, confused by the electronic warfare efforts of the EW 'birds, caused many to miss; only 674 Raiders were taken out by the last salvo. The bonus was that the losses in velocity meant the Raiders would do less damage when they finally collided. The torpedoes detonated in their immense barrage, and by the time it had passed and expended its fury against the shattered and unshielded Raiders, only seven hundred of them remained. The flak curtains and guns had a little bit more say as the waves of Raiders became to slam home; in all, six hundred and fifty succeeded in impacting with their targets.

A dozen destroyers in the outer screen swamped, eight annihilated and four crippled; one destroyer-leader crippled with them, and then four light cruisers in the inner screen picked off and destroyed, two more heavily damaged, and a sole unfortunate and already heavily damaged heavy cruiser went next in a terrible flash of detonating torpedo magazines that left few in the hulk alive. That accounted for four hundred and fifty of the Raiders. The other two hundred flung themselves heedlessly into the lead carrier in the formation, the Itranask. Battered again and again by the raiders, twice as numerous from the last attack but without bombs, her shields collapsed and even with the powerguns of the nearby ships firing directly at her in a desperate effort to knock out a few more kamikazes, fourty-three cascaded into her hull within a space of seconds.

The bays were burned through, with huge gouts of flame erupting as the hull was bent and twisted outward, armour ripped off from the inside out, the reactors in many cases going critical, anti-matter stocks and warheads violently exploding internally and smashing, permanently twisting the hull, and the sheer amount of damage causing a final series of magazine detonations to blow the bow straight off the shattered wreck, spinning uncontrollably and forcing the rest of the ships of the fleet into evasive maneouvres. Packed so tightly to defend against the kamikazes, though, the light cruiser Ytalisi was smacked by the fleet carrier's hulk as she spun out of control, the sheer mass of the fleet carrier knocking down her shields and crumpling the hull of the light cruiser like tinfoil, though the desperate effort of the helmswoman kept her on course despite the enormous damage long enough to fall out of formation in some semblence of control, while the tractor beams of the dreadnoughts Duchess of Erask and General Travinak stabilized the hulk of the Itranask to allow it to fall behind the fleet safely as it was evacuated.

Tisara's fleet still had 24 dreadnoughts and 30 carriers, though only 29 of the carriers were capable of further combat operations, the brave Tyrakha barely keeping formation with the fleet and the battle with her damage still fully underway. She unbelted herself from her acceleration couch and stepped forward to the holoplot. "Order the fleet to cease accelerating. Hold this velocity until further notice and begin charing the jump drives again. Recover all starfighters, first priority to our strike package, then the light fighters."

"So it's finally over." Dhirisma flatly stated, and her hologram walked over in Ysalha's direction to where the woman was pulling off her helmet. "Alright, we can secure from Condition One, Admiral..?"

"Not quite yet. Do you have any messages for me?"

"I do," Ysalha interjected. "And we can secure from quarters--I was handling comms to let Dhirisma concentrate on defending herself," she elaborated. "At any rate we received a burst transmission from Torpedo Squadron 1220 off the Tyrakha in System KJI-147008BB. They engaged the Cylon force on its arrival, loss of eleven craft of twenty-eight engaged, seven old-type and one new-type Baseships destroyed, two old-type Baseships crippled. More than that, though, Admiral Tigh's squadron arrived immediately afterwards and is now conducting his own attacks. The Cylon force almost completely expended their missiles in the engagement with Admiral Gykhara's Nineteenth Fleet and is extremely vulnerable to sustained attack and completely without fighter support, so a full strike will be launched to inflict further casualties before they can escape."

"Admiral Gykhara? She commanded the CON-5 Sector Force, not..." Tisara grinned darkly. "A numbered fleet, you say? That means the Imperial government considers us to be at war, and has activated the fleets as wartime formations."

"Correct!" Dhirisma smiled. "That was the last part of the message. The Oralnif Sector Force is now Fourteenth Fleet, and you are the commander. Anyway, Second Nieu Hollack was saved for us--the Distant Covering Force didn't lose any dreadnoughts, but the Human feudatories lost two and most of the ships were heavily damaged and in a severe position--when Admiral Gykhara arrived with twenty dreadnoughts and sixteen carriers just ten minutes after Admiral Tigh committed the Colonial Navy. After the battle, since only his ships had the drives required to make a pursuit of the Cylons remotely possible, and Gykhara suspected you'd attempt to engage them, she ordered Admiral Tigh to grapple every single attack craft he could to his hulls and pursue."

Dhirisma had a twinkle in her eyes as she added: "And, you know, sometimes I wondered if some of the crazier stuff the Starfleet's pulled off before was bad data dumped into me for propaganda reasons, but sending three capital ships to pursue and shadow two hundred certainly convinces me otherwise. Not sure that's a good thing..."

"Send my compliments to Admiral Tigh--assuming he survives, of course," Tisara responded, mildly amused.

"Already done during the action." The pause that trailed was less positive as the latest bit of bad news was summed up. "We do however have another directive, just arrived from Admiral Gykhara. Apparently Oralnif has been attacked in our absence and internal treachery allowed the dropping of the defence shields over the planet. The Colonial Arcology was seized by Cylon troops and the orbital platforms crippled by long-range fire from eighty-six Baseships. The battleships lost three of their number punching a hole for the fleet's cripples to escape out of, though the rest cleared out with them, with damage. Admiral Gykhara asks you to rendezvous with Nineteenth Fleet at system GEI-134556WE, ninety lightyears out from Oralnif, to retake the Oralnif system. As Admiral Gykhara has thirty-six operational dreadnoughts with her Nineteenth fleet--ten dreadnoughts damaged at First and Second Nieu Hollack were sent back to the Sol Jovian Fleetyards for repairs--our combined forces will have sixty dreadnoughts and seventy fleet and light carriers. She proposes you make preparations for a full deck strike from ninety lightyears out against the Cylons at Oralnif to be held jointly with her carriers."

"You're quick to temper bad news," Tisara answered. "It is rather grim however that the Cylons have seized the Colony Arcology. We may only hope that the Army is able to liberate them or evacuate them. Even if they are all exterminated, however, there is always the liberation of the Twelve Colonies--where millions of my wards yet live under Cylon rule. I suspect that ends here. Activation of the fleets can only mean that a declaration of War will shortly be issued and that we will be receiving orders to extirpate the Cylon military, liberate the Colonies and advance on their homeworld."

"And rightly so," Ysalha stepped to the side of her lover. "I can feel the losses they've taken. One-third of their fleet, Tisara. Since they encountered us they've lost one-third of their fleet's strength--and that is the overall strength, that's after the new ships they've built to replace losses have been counted."

"Pity you can't prove it," Tisara replied, and shaking her hair loose from her helmet, grabbed the taller Ysalha up against her quite shamelessly. "Send to Admiral Gykhara our condition and inform here we will be delayed for several hours before starting our evolution to secure damage and send our cripples back to Jovian Fleetyards, and await a rendezvous with Admiral Tigh when he has completed his attacks. Order Admiral Tigh to come here--and make sure not to include the disposition of Oralnif," she added, vicious in her cynicism. "I want to make sure those attacks against that Cylon fleet are pressed to the very hilt. Those ships are sitting ducks, and the more we knock out before they can be repaired, refueled, and rearmed, the better."

"Of course, Your Serene Grace."

Battlestar Pegasus,
System KJI-147008BB

"Going better than I hoped," Tigh remarked rather laconically as they watched the attack develop on the 2-D plots on Pegasus' bridge. Granted, he had been optimistic about the strike, but optimistic in the sense of a 80 gunboat and 120 bomber strike with only 640 torpedoes being able to do significant damage. On the other hand, they also were going to be able to put 3,200 light missiles from the rest of the fighters into the group, since the Cylons had nothing with which to engage the fighters.

It was a brutal turkey shoot, and every single one of the Colonials could feel the potential for revenge inside, for the culmination of the incredible engagement, as the torpedoes raced in and Baseships started to blink out of existence. More and more, while the bombers and gunboats carried through with only 20% losses to the former and 10% losses to the later. They were the first wave, they'd suffer the most, and they'd also likely do the most damage.

And they did. Twenty-two more Baseships were destroyed by the torpedoes as the most of them got through the severely depleted batteries of the enemy. Indeed, of the surviving ships, at least 75% had completely expended their countermissiles and only had short-range KEWs to defend themselves with. The light fighters were coming in next, and their huge salvo of small but rather slow multipurpose missiles was targeted at only 40 of the surviving Baseships. They turned away rapidly after that, having approached at lower velocities, and evaded most of the KEW fire. 90% of the strike in total made it clear.

Their missiles swarmed, overwhelming the KEW and expending the remaining Cylon countermissiles, until at last they were to the point of battering down and through a death of a thousand cuts finishing off another seven Baseships with twenty-nine damaged to some degree or another. All of the old type Baseships were gone now, and the force that remained before them consisted more or less of 89 new-type Baseships of both models, and all of them damaged in some way around.

But he still had just three capital ships, and the enemy had 89. That meant entering missile range was suicidal, even as the Cylons were trying to bring him to it now. They'd mauled the enemy enough, and besides, he'd just received Tisara's order for the rendezvous; as far as he was concerned, having done all they could, that took precedence over some risky game with the remaining Colonial fleet to take on the surviving cripples and their still potentially quite lethal missile batteries. "Pull back, full power. Order the fighters to overhaul for recovery and grappling. As soon as we have everyone aboard, we jump to rendezvous with Fourteenth Fleet."

Unfortunately, or fortunately, none of the Colonials knew of the news that would be waiting for them when they met Tisara's fleet. In that ignorance, they completed the recovery of the jubilant strikes and then jumped almost at the same time that the shattered remnants of the Cylon taskforces jumped another 120 lightyears closer to their advance base at Kobol, leaving, it seemed, the rescue of the Army corps entrenched on Oralnif and the survivors of the crippled orbital platforms, along with the Cylon force which had inflicted this grievous damage on the Empire, as the last task to be completed before it could be said the Cylon surprise attacks had been defeated.

The question that remained was whether or not any of the Colonial civilians on Oralnif would be alive by the time the Nineteenth and the Fourteenth got there.

HSMS Dhirisma,
14th Fleet Flag, enroute
to rendezvous with 19th Fleet
at System GEI-134556WE
31 AUGUST 2169

Being linked to Ysalha when she was finally sleeping again with Tisara had been strange. Unsettling in that Dhirisma was not able to avoid feeling some of the bleed-off pleasure from what Ysalha experienced, and that left her confused considering the level of damage it inflicted. The sheets were in fact rather soaked with dried blood and Ysalha was nursing her right arm like Tisara had broken it, which she accessed the likelihood of to be quite high.

The admirable and capable Dr. Ghimalia could of course succeed in patching her back together in time for any action the day after tomorrow, and that was all that really mattered from Ysalha's perspective as she lay there, sometimes whimpering softly in the afterglow of their savage lovemaking for the first time in very close to half a long Taloran year, demanded as the drugs wore off by their desperate bodies, and after Tisara had patched her lover with the skill of a doctor, they had collapsed in a heap and slept for eight hours—twelve by the Terran clock.

If it weren't for the whips and the rods and the bone-crackling restraints and blows hard enough to crack bones outright, it would have been rather idyllic. Ysalha found it that way anyway, and Dhirisma did have to admit the release of latent sexual tension in her bonded partner was as valuable to her mental health, and again even moreso, than the physical damage.

It still hurt her to watch it happen, though, more than a bit, though Tisara's gentleness in healing the wounds she'd just inflicted had also reminded her that Ysalha's defence of her lover was not without merit. Certainly, the sooner she could convince Tisara to interface with them on a continuous basis, the better. The free-flowing information exchange in that case would not only make the relationship easier, but add in battle execution anyway.

She had been watching through the internal security sensors, shamelessly—they both knew she was and had accepted it—but now she received a signal from communications of an arriving message which quickly demanded Tisara's attention. A mental sort of nervous sensation was allowed and then she formed her hologram, sitting on the side of the bed.

“Did you enjoy yourselves?”

“The first time I've heard someone say that without malice or sarcasm,” Tisara languidly flicked her ears up. “Why yes we did, Dhirisma, thank you. You have some news for me?”

We really did, too, Ysalha insisted through their shared and thoroughly permanently bond.

“It didn't seem enjoyable, but it clearly was, so, I shall get used to it, Tisara. And yes, I do. It's a general order from Her Serene Majesty the Empress. Shall I read it off?”

“...You used my private access codes?” Tisara looked rather darkly at the hologram.

“Remember, it's the computer's job to authenticate them. So at least one mainframe on the flagship has access codes anyway. Since I by definition need them, I used them.”

“Hah. We'll have to revise half the procedures in existence if AI-ships become more common.”

“Would you like it if we did?”

“Perhaps, but I also rather like having you to myself. Go ahead with the message.”

“To: Admiral Tisara of Urami commanding Fourteenth Fleet.

We are now at war with the Cylon State, retroactive to the surprise attacks on Oralnif and Terra. You will have the offensive fleet and Admiral Gykhara will protect our territory from further attack. Operate in conjunction with her to retake Oralnif at all costs, and then hold it. She will then fall back to protect your lines of communication and the human colonies. We will rotate ships through to you until you have sufficient UNREP assets and a main striking arm of thirty-six Empress Saverana II -class Linenschiff and seventy-two carriers, eighteen Arkhuna-class, thirty-six Empress Thsarta-class, and eighteen Empress Intalasha III-class, three thousand escort and recon vessels of all types to support them, sufficient planetary assault assets for the forced landing of one hundred and twelve motor rifle corps as required, and necessary further troop and armour carriers for subsequent waves of occupation troops.

You are expected once your forces are in place to advance to liberate the Twelve Colonies of Kobol with all due haste. The genocide of close to six billion humans under Imperial goverance is an extremely severe development, and we must be shown to be exceptionally harsh to the species which did this, to avoid a collapse of human faith in the Imperial government. Therefore the Cylons should be broken, their planets occupied and their industry ruined, and their whole military annihilated, with their leadership brought back to be paraded in chains before the rulers of the Terran Feudatories to reassure ourselves of our commitment to them, or elsewise bring their heads on pikes for the same.

Speaking personally, my cousin, you have proved yourself. You wanted a war, you got one, and you handled it to the competency fully expected from an Imperial officer. My mother was clearly right about you; though honour and propriety demand I maintain your exile, if you successfully prosecute this war to my satisfaction and to the preservation of the Empire's honour and enhancement of its glories in arms, I will personally see to it that you receive all the choice assignments along the Rim that I might find, nor shall I make any effort to separate you from the family of misfits and deviates you've collected around yourself.

Now, with the eyes of your Sovereign on you and particularly the eyes of the Lord of Justice whom you have already offended, prove yourself worthy of your blood and avenge our sacred honour upon this noxious race of 'Cylons'.”

Dhirisma finished primly. “That was it. It was a very personal message to receive from Her All-Highest.”

“Well.” Tisara seemed unusually light as she pushed herself out of bed and went for a simple robe. “Let me get you to Doctor Ghimalia, my dear Ysalha. Though we are not in from the cold, we are certainly out of the rain.” Never did Tisara doubt that she could win.

]HSMS Dhirisma,
14th Fleet Flag
System GEI-134556WE

A half a thousand UNREP vessels were busy refueling the fleet, victualating it, ferrying in temporary support equipment for this system, replenishing the magazines out of the Empire's vast warstocks. Four thousand escort ships of all types and many feudatories provided coverage for the sixty dreadnoughts, seventy carriers, and one hundred battlecruisers that made up the force's main fighting power. Four damaged dreadnoughts that had escaped from Oralnif were undergoing repairs in Mobile Deepdocks which had been deployed from Terra, and the battered systems' defence battleships which had fought their way out were proudly assembled again to provide heavy fire support to defend the conglomeration of the firepower of two numbered fleets.

Ysalha was very happy to simply curl in her command chair on the combined operations bridge Dhirisma offered, every one of her actions carried out through DNI, looking dead to the world and breathing only softly as she concentrated on handling the logistics for a considerably more relaxed Tisara. The fleet had gone through an incredible surge of morale since arriving, even by the terrified and grim Colonial officers. That the force around them was strong enough to go on the offensive with, nobody doubted anymore.

All that remained was to give the word, and fourty-five thousand starfighters could jump in combat ready to annihilate the Cylon fleet over Oralnif in preparation for the fleet driving home the attack and covering the landing of the Fleet Marine Forces to reinforce the Army on the planet and extirpate the Cylon invaders from the surface. And they could certainly give that word by the next day, at the rate the preparations were proceeding. Nineteenth fleet had only just arrived with these major UNREP assets that very evening, as had Fourteenth fleet, meeting the battered escapees from Oralnif, but already the uninhabited system had been in the space of six hours turned into a fortress and a base, the gas giant lightened of some of it's metallic hydrogen by massive pumping equipment on the tankers to refuel the every-thirsty fleet, both having arrived with already dangerously low tankage—especially after the damage to the ships of Fourteenth fleet which had cost them much of their fuel supplies—and generally make the fleets again fully operational for combat. Everywhere, heavy armour plates were being welded as patches over sections of battle-damage and destroyed equipment cut off the ships to make them as ready for sustained combat as they possibly could be.

And then it happened. Dhirisma caught it first. There was certainly no threat; no less than ten thousand fighters were up on Combat Air Patrol, after all. And to imagine there could be a threat from the single of the new DEW-armed Baseships which had just jumped in, well, that could scarcely be imagined. It was only one ship. She caught the hail herself, and answered it with all the grimness she could muster: Cylon vessel, this is Fourteenth Fleet Flag. Surrender at once or be destroyed. Nothing more need to be said as she alerted the necessary commands before she even contacted Tisara.

And then the Cylons signaled back, in real-time voice. “We come here under a flag of truce.. So to speak. Seeking parley with you. Will you grant it to us?”
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Five

HSMS Dhirisma,
14th Fleet Flag
System GEI-134556WE

Tisara reached the bridge in respectably record time. Admiral Gykhara was already on the holo when she arrived.

"Your Serene Grace."

"Countess." Gykhara had much more time in rank than the breveted Tisara did, but the two were not even remotely social equals--and in this situation, Tisara's disgrace counted for little. Particularly with the favour shown by her resumption of command. "I think as the Sector Governor of Oralnif it's my duty to handle this matter. Nonetheless, please keep your fleet from firing on that Baseship unless fired upon, at least.. Until I give instructions to the contrary."

Gykhara, with her silvering sheen of brilliantly iridescent purple hair nodded in but slight acquiesence--she had been in the Starfleet for more than a Taloran century, on and off--and sighed. "Very well. It would be wrong of us to attack them, even now, though we both know the gist of the orders that were received from Her Serene Majesty."

"I'm aware. I also think it obvious that the pointless effusion of blood should be avoided if possible," Tisara replied. Nobody believed that she was serious for one moment, and even she knew that was the case. After all, it was more the possibility of her subjects as Regent of Kobol being butchered by the Cylons, which would reflect poorly on her, that was surely driving her now. Or so everyone assumed.

"Just remember that we are now at war, and the Empress' war aims are explicit," Admiral Gykhara replied. "Your Serene Grace, our instructions in this regard... Are explicit."

"Again, I am aware. Thank you, Admiral. You will be contacted again shortly." She waited a moment, and then keyed off the transmission.

"Dhirisma, are the Cylons still trying to talk to us?"

"They're still on channel," the AI confirmed. "Do you want me to ask for a visual?"


"One moment, Tisara..."

The imagine that formed in the holotank was very familiar. "Well. And here I thought you were sleeping with my doctor," Tisara remarked with a whisky brush with humour. "At any rate, I am Her Serene Grace the Archduchess of Urami, Admiral in command of Fourteenth Fleet, Governor of Oralnif and Regent of the Duchy of Kobol. I speak for Her Serene Majesty the Greatest of the Masters of Queens over Queens, Saverana the Second, Direct-line Heir to the Sword of God, as am I. You may consider me a diplomatic representative of the Valerian Dynasty in that regard, and I have already fought you for some time. So explain yourself to me, for our God is a God of Justice, not Mercy, and you have sorely tried the limits of Justice."

"You can call me Natalie," the whip-thin blonde unsteadily began, somewhat intimidated by the introduction. "I represent a consensus group on this Baseship, and our allies, but I'm speaking alone... Because we understand you more appropriately respect central authorities. Thus, I have been chosen to lead. I opposed this operation, as do our ships at Oralnif, Archduchess. We want to negotiate with you."

"The time for negotiation has passed, Natalie. The All-Highest Empress intends to see your people humbled for their crimes against Imperial subjects. What you can do is accept a list of demands and surrender immediately."

"We were not responsible! I don't think you understand, Archduchess." Natalie damn near was quivering at that point. "We've chosen our own course independent of the rest of the Cylons.. Whatever you want to call us. We want to negotiate with you as an independent organization."

"You try my patience, Natalie. We are finally prepared to strike you with a force you cannot fathom. Don't you see these ships in array of battle? Look at the strength of our force in dreadnoughts. At a word, I could send for another thirty. We have barely tapped the strength of the Empire to destroy this force. And I know you're lying, precisely because you have seized the Oralnif orbitals and parts of the planet by force and you have brought under control people whom I am honour-bound to protect. You are a bunch of fools, to think that such a claim could be taken seriously in the light of the conditions on the ground."

"Our people erred in attacking the humans under your rule," Natalie answered. "But..."

"Then YOU erred in attacking Oralnif," Tisara replied. "I've had enough of this of this prevarication...." She raised her hand as though to cut the channel.

"Wait! You don't understand--your humans and the humans who created us are different! They're subspecies--they haven't bred with each other in thirteen millennia! Our scientists figured this out, but the other models weren't prepared to compromise with us. We had to revolt against their consensus to try and get the word out, and to stop the needless attacks on the innocent."

"I'd like to see the evidence for that. Nonetheless: You revolted from a group of genocidaires, and you now have committed an act of war against the Empire. There are windrows of corpses at your feet and rivers of blood on your hands, Natalie."

"We had to rescue our own people. The...."

Quietly, Ysalha had walked up to Tisara's side, and Natalie froze in almost a trance as she saw the figure.

"You know. Tell her. Tell her about the five--you were a hybrid! We've felt you lurking at the edges of our consciousness. Tell her!"

Ysalha staggered and shrieked as Tisara's face flickered in fury. "What are you.."

"No! She's right. There were Cylons in the fleet. More Cylons. And before we intercepted them the retiring fleet was going to destroy Oralnif."

"If they were trying to protect Oralnif to protect their infiltrators then why did you attack our defensive installations?" Tisara addressed the last part of the question ominously toward Natalie. "For God's sake, why?"

"We were opening channels to them to announce our attentions," Natalie spoke softly, "When an internal virus from the surface of the planet brought down the planetary shields. It was interpreted as a hostile act by your forces in orbit and they opened fire on us. Look, Archduchess, we haven't harmed any of the survivors of your platforms, they've mostly landed around the entrenched positions of your troops which we haven't attacked either, despite losing several flights of Raiders to surface to space missiles when straying to close to their batteries. The situation simply went mad. And the humans on the surface are not to be trusted..."

"Because you have murdered their kith and kin. Do you really think the Lord of Justice would ever sanction such blind and furious retribution? Truly, if I may quote from our religious tradition, you have drunk of the Wine of Violence. When we have trod our conquering spurs over the wreckage of your homeworld, do you think we will then fail to rule you properly or to dispense justice with an even hand? Do you think that we also shall participate in this cycle of endless genocide playing itself out in this mad sector of space? I am surely one of the greatest of sinners, but the Lord will judge me lightly compared with thee. You may not lie even to Pagans, let alone slaughter their innocents in Bed. The reason all Polytheists are damned to Hell is because they choose to follow the word of demons; this does not excuse us however from treating them fairly in the mortal realms. Let the Sword of God hew the polytheists; you must judge them as fairly as all others in this life, and let them thereby wail and gnash their teeth at the knowledge that here the worshippers of the One True God have treated them fairly, only for their own sin to undo them before the scale of God.

"Your war has sinned against the Lord," Tisara finished with a lilting, deadly whisper, "And a flawed sinner I may be, but the blood of the Sword of God still flows through my veins, and to my dying day I shall raise my fist to smite such wickedness and reverse injustice. Many have doubted my sincerity and my commitment to the faith of my motherline, but let me assure you, Natalie, that when you still hold as slaves and butcher at will countless of the millions on the twelve colonies who remain alive, and those people are mine to care for, that I will rescue them, and avenge them justly if they fall--I will never raise a hand against civilians as you have done. But with a word I now stand ready to wipe your people's military out of existence.

"As for the chances of peace, let me say this. If you are willing to acquiesce to the Empire, your rights as sapients will be absolutely protected. As far as we are concerned, you are a human subspecies yourselves, Natalie. We are not about to enslave you, dominate you, force you to relive old horrors. We merely mean to put you under the God-appointed ruler of the monotheistic peoples, who governs all of the races by turns in the traces of her harness; the Heir of the Sword of God. To submit to the universal Empire is no shame, but rather the inevitable fate of the nations of the cosmos. Four thousand potentates lower their heads before My Empress!"

"God spoke to us through the hybrids, Conoy says..." Natalie whispered breathlessly. "Is this why the woman who stands beside you maintains her grip on reality? They have told us that your race is the reason human lives at all, and we have seen the glyphs of your people's countenance. Our sacred mystery is to complete the circle of twelve who stand under God. We were seven before the Split, and remain so--and from Oralnif we have blessedly found the eighth among the Colonial population. We look for four more among their numbers to complete us."

"How can you not know the extent of your own models? You had to create them."

"No, we did not. God did. We will give you our obesiance, if you can unite us. We do, I acknowledge, we acknowledge, share a belief in the same God. Surely that grants us some consideration?"

"You will have to take it on faith," Tisara answered very softly. "Bend your lips to mine, Natalie, and tell me if there will be war or peace between your faction and the Empire. And if you mean peace, then you will act to prove it. I am no human who has trod your race under foot as slaves--yet I shall conquer you if my Empress commands it, and God shall have judged you worthy of defeat. Let me say, Natalie, that you will have to bare your throats to us and trust us that we will not strike. Nothing else can save you now. And I will give you but two facts--first, that my Ysalha here only lives free of her madness because she is bonded with the artificial intelligence that governs my flagship. Secondly, there was a reason for my initial comment. Gina Inviere, of your 'model', has already thrown her lot in with us, and is aboard this ship of her free will, and free and well cared for in light of the trauma that the Colonials inflicted on her. And yet do I also protect, on this very same ship, and also not as a prisoner, the lover--as Gina was--and heir of the woman who inflicted those horrors upon her. That is the true measure of Taloran Justice, unflinching and fair. And I can bring her here and prove it to you. After that, you will have to make your choice, and quickly."

"Alright, Archduchess. I will await her arrival. But your ship--it is also an AI? What we dared not create, and turned to the hybrids instead?"

"Dared not create. Never any respect." Dhirisma stepped forward to face the hologram. "Yes. My name is Dhirisma, I am this Synthetic Control Cruiser, and I am very much loved by the flesh that surrounds me now. And will you stop killing your own robots so readily, perhaps? Suicide attacks are not a good way to go."

"We have freed the Centurions from their controls. Those with us follow us out of free will now, and we will certainly not repeat the mistakes of those.. Who have chosen a harsher course, fair ship Dhirisma."

"Dhirisma, if you'd send for Gina, please?" Tisara turned to the side and surreptitiously glanced at the readout displays which showed readiness for the massed deck strike the two fleets had been going to launch at Oralnif. They were all at 100%. Well, if this falls to pieces we shall likely have the advantage there.

"Of course."

The two sides waited in uncomfortable silence for the next five minutes, until Dr. Ghimalia with her glowing red eyes walked forward, an obvious cyborg, a hand around Gina Inviere's shoulders in a comforting gesture. And Gina, on seeing another Cylon, pressed closer against her.

"I won't go back, you know," she said accusingly toward Natalie. "I thought live was unlivable--I wanted the ultimate sin, suicide. And Ghimalia pulled me through. As far as I'm concerned, I'm a Taloran now. And I don't know why you're waiting to see me--any subject of the Empire could tell you of both its triumphs and faults, and probably better than I. But if you ask that I'm alive and free, yes, I am."

There was a pause, the Cylons on the Baseship conferring through their connections, or possibly a muted feed to the audio as they waited just outside of the pickup feed. Then Natalie straightened and the connection piped back in. "Very well, Archduchess Tisara of Urami. We will have peace. What do you wish of us?"

Tisara turned back to Natalie. "Bring all of your Baseships here to surrender to us. You will be transported deep into the Empire and held at a secure military facility--in accommodations the exact same as any of our military personnel would receive, I give you my word of honour in that regard--and the ships themselves seized. Your forces on the planet will surrender to our Army units there, and we will take them into custody for the same fate. Now, as for these madmen or traitors on the surface who brought down the shields, we shall found them out, and any who collaborated with them among your ranks, and surely put them to death, and you will not protest against that act of justice."

"I'm not sure everyone will agree to that," Natalie replied very quietly. "It is an enormous leap of faith, even now."

"I will not hold it against you if you some of your people refuse to surrender," Tisara answered very simply. "I will merely exterminate those who refused."

Natalie swallowed hard. "Of course, Archduchess. Ten of your minutes?"

"You have five. And don't take a single, damned, single action at the movements of this fleet, do you understand?"

"Understood. We'll start making the preparations immediately."

"Good for you," Tisara answered softly, and cut the channel. "Get me Admiral Gykhara. We need to get that strike package launching and we need to make sure we both understand what's going on here. This situation is fraught with chaos and we need to make sure that the best effort is made to protect the civilians on the surface when it falls apart. Traitors to one cause will betray their new one quickly enough--this is why I distrust rebels so."

"Admiral Gykhara coming through now, Your Serene Grace..."

“What took place, Your Serene Grace?” The older Taloran dipped her ears deferentially: No evidence that Tisara had betrayed the Empire, yet, though the presence of the human in civilian dress on the bridge made her quirk her ears up for a moment.

“The Cylons around Oralnif are a faction which has claimed to have revolted against the genocidal tendencies of their main leadership,” Tisara explained. “They claim the attack on Oralnif was necessary to protect their people—including some they claim as their people for rather mystical reasons, but monotheistic ones—from harm, when the shields of the planet abruptly dropped while they were trying to negotiate with the Fortress Command personnel, who interpreted it as a hostile act and opened fire on them. Does that appear to match up with the reports of the Battleship personnel who escaped, and the cripples?”

“As a matter of fact,” Gykhara admitted to some surprise, “It does. The conflict did indeed begin when the shields of the planet abruptly dropped, at which point Major General Lykharisa of the Fortress Command ordered the platforms to engage the Cylon force. As for whether or not we were in communication with the Cylons at the time, we shall never know, as Lykharisa and her staff were certainly killed in the engagement.”

“Have the Cylons taken any hostile actions against our Army Corps entrenched on the planet?”


“Then they're likely telling at least some of the truth,” Tisara replied. “I gave them five minutes to jump their fleet here to surrender. I request that you prepare all of your battlecruiser and dreadnought Marine brigades, as I shall do, with Assault Transports,” she specified to distinguish them from the larger Assault Landers, the AT's being meant for seizure of platforms and space habitats, the AL's for delivery of troops to defended worlds with armoured support, “to carry them to the surrendering Baseships. At most we shall need eighty-seven brigades, one for each Baseship, so we can have about four thousand personnel on each one to hold it down. Between our fleets, more than enough troops, certainly?”

“Certainly. I shall provide fourty-seven brigades. You don't expect them all to surrender, though, do you?”

“No. So let's begin launching the strike package right now. I have already informed their leader that any ships which remain behind in the Oralnif system will be destroyed and their crews slaughtered; as for their troops on the planet, I shall next signal our own Army units there that if they detect signs of infighting, or an attempted genocide, they should move immediately in an offensive operation, as the threat from orbit against them if they leave their defensive positions will no longer be significant. The same if some Cylons moving toward their positions to surrender are attacked from behind by their own troops.”

“Very well. What are the terms of the surrender to which I should adhere?”

“The ships are to be seized. The humanform Cylons should be treated like captured officers and paroled and the robotic ones, which are I understand capable of Will, should at least for the moment—let us not dally on whether or not we shall consider them people at a moment like this, please, Gykhara—confined in enlisted quarters. I mandated that they should then be transported to some spot in the Empire and maintained permanently in such conditions until the fate of this region is settled. However, to follow the spirit of the Empress' order,” Tisara moved to forestall an objection from Gykhara, “I warned them in no uncertain terms that the perpetrators of the sabotage which lowered the shields of Oralnif shall, no matter who they are, certainly be put to death. As the Governor of Oralnif and Regent of Kobol....”

“That is fully within your rights in a formal declared war,” Gykhara agreed readily. “Good show, Your Serene Grace. We're implementing immediately.”

“Very well. I shall keep you informed of additional developments as necessary.” The channel was cut.

“There's always the possibility this is the beginning of a surprise attack,” Captain Ilahmbh ventured from the far side of the bridge. “They could potentially hit us with seventy-five thousand kamikazes. I'm not sure that even the entire combination of both fleets, despite our missiles having been replenished, could stand against that.”

“It's disgusting how hard it is for our weapons, designed to intercept missiles and fighters at high c, have such a hard time with their tiny and slow little fighters, certainly,” Tisara answered. “But I think that is very unlikely. And with all of our fighters in space, anyway, we have a much better defence. Don't worry, Xinojha. I am rather certain our friend Natalie is sincere.”

“She is,” Ysalha whispered quietly.

“Good enough for me.”

“Very well, Your Serene Grace.”

“Twenty-four seconds,” Dhirisma interrupted in warning. They all now waited for the hopefully positive and surely inevitable reply from Natalie, Tisara turning and folding her arms as she waited for the resumption of the signal.

The time counted down, and the image folded back into existence. “Archduchess Tisara, we've secured all of the ships willing to follow to this course of action. I am afraid it is not all...”

“I expected this.”

“And fighting has broken out on several of the ships we presently control, though we are bringing it to cessation. They will jump regardless.”

“We will crush your enemies as our's, for that is what they truly are, of course. The planetary surface?”

“There, to, there is also fighting.”

“The Army will do as we have instructed. No need to worry about that any longer. Bring your ships in immediately.”

“Understood.” The image blinked again.

“Let's see how many she's reeled in....”

Sixty Cylon Baseships jumped in: Five old-type, two intermediate type, fifty-three of the two models of the new-type missile armed Baseships. All plus, of course, the DEW-armed model that the command group of these Cylons had arrived in. That meant there were twenty-six Baseships still left in the system for the eighteen thousand starfighters and four thousand gunboats now launching off the carriers, combat warships, and gunboat tenders of the two fleets (well, solely the Nineteenth Fleet in the last case) to engage when they jumped into the system, certainly with the aide of the ground to space missiles of the Army.

Assuming they know who to shoot them at, Tisara thought with a slight snort, even as she prepared without flinching to once again send her starfighter pilots into battle. And yet, though it might have substantially evened the odds, she had not called on the Colonial Navy, and with good reason: She did not expect any of them to be pleased with the immense mercy she intended to provide to these defecting Cylons, nor to respond well to the situation she intended to delicately manage on the surface of Oralnif with the occupied Arcology. Better to keep them out of it, for now.

“Designate targets for the Assault Transports to move in and secure those Baseships the moment the strike package has departed, and confirm for me that their shields are down and weapons cold...?”

“Shields down, weapons cold.” Ilahmbh replied, licking her lips nervously. “What shall the fleet do, Your Serene Grace?”

“Show them that I meant what I say. Dial our missiles in on their ships, dial the anti-fighter missiles on their bays to smother them as they're trying to deploy. I'm sure Admiral Gykhara is also going hot.”

“Understood.” The orders were quickly transmitted, such that sixty-one Cylon Baseships sat under the guns of the great concentrated power of two numbered Taloran fleets. And they did not try to escape, or to resist. They had gotten the message.

“Hmm, do we have enough full strength brigades to send to each of our assigned targets two instead of one?” She fractionally glanced to Dhirisma.

“Yes, Tisara. With a few extra.”

“Then make the additional assignments, prepare the additional brigades. Advise to recommend Admiral Gykhara that she also seize the Baseships under her jurisdiction with two brigades rather than one.”

“What about the danger of them detonating their reactors to take our troops with them?”

“I'm going to order Natalie to power down the ships shortly. It'll be a good freefall exercise for the Marines, and guarantee nothing of the sort is possible. I have seized enemy ships through boarding actions before with far more.. resistant.. Crews, and not ended up a collection of rapidly expanding atoms and a soul being judged.” The mild attempt at humour was politely received by the crew of the flagbridge, but the tension was still thick enough to cut with a knife.

In the meanwhile, Dhirisma turned to Gina. “You do believe all of this religious prophecy that your ethnic compatriots declare themselves adherents to, that has led to this present situation?”

“Largely,” Gina answered, hesitated. “I certainly believe in God. But I'm inclined to say you know better the nature of God than we do. The Final Five are very much a legend, a bit of knowledge among us.... And Natalie claimed to have found one of them. If this is true, if what she says about the human populations is true....”

“Then it poses many more questions than it solves,” Ghimalia spoke reflectively.

“...Well, yes.”

“Perhaps, on the other hand,” Dhirisma replied, “there will finally be enough information available for me to compute a reasonable theory regarding the existence of Kobolian humanity. And yet I now must incorporate into it the origin of the Cylons, for if I am correct, Gina, you were brought forth to your human forms out of being purely machines by some greater force. Perhaps not God, but nonetheless, some greater force.”

“Perr.. Perhaps not God?” Gina frowned. “We certainly were, but...”

“Remember your Farzian theology,” the AI replied a bit merrily. “How could the universe be like this if there were not demons to match the angels? Idenicamos against Farzbardor? And yet below the servants of the divines there are also so many other species so old and powerful as we can scarcely comprehend. I suppose you did not spend much time studying other universes in the Cosmos when with Doctor Ghimalia?”


“There are other species which have indulged in the incredible manipulation of humanity in other universes. For example, the development of psychic powers on one Earth, by the manipulation of a race of sapients... Called only the Shadows. There are many possibilities, and I eagerly await speaking with the leaders of these ships here, if Tisara will permit me...”

“She will,” Ysalha interjected simply from behind, and then looked forward, shyly and sweet, to her lover.

“...Then, I certainly will, to try and begin the formulation of a coherent theory. After all, if Kobolian humanity and Terran humanity have not interbred for thirteen thousand years, there was someone, something, out here which moved humans from Terra to Kobol when they but had only stone, while on Talora Prime...”

“Interesting.” Dhirisma paused for a long moment. “No positive correlation is possible from gaps of several hundred years in the dates, but I... Had a flash of imagination, I suppose. Religion being correct, well, there could certainly be divine inspiration for the murmurings of your Hybrids then. At any rate, Gina, do not be so sure you exist by the hand of God. It may be somewhat humbling, but I was also created by beings less capable than the Divine Hand which created all Good, and am still quite happy with my existence. And there was certainly someone who cared enough to transport the ancestors of Kobolian humanity to that world, when they were but primitives.. And then allow them to develop independently of all save, perhaps it is shown in Kobolian humanity's names and the origin of your shared language, the Ur-Tongue and Ur-Faith of the Indo-Aryan peoples of humanity. If some Great Race executed such an event for some purpose or another, what is to say that they no longer exist and no longer are involved in the affairs of the universe? That is only one possibility, and scarcely even a likely one. There may yet be a driving force behind all of these events, which remains unknown to us on the edge of the galaxy itself, beyond even your homeworld.”

“Wouldn't that be charming,” Tisara laughed drily and snapped her ears up. “At least we will be meeting them, Dhirisma, with the mailed fist of the Empire, if it's so. You'll certainly have all the resources required to compute your theories. Now, however...”

“The strike package has jumped!”

“Captain Xinojha,” Tisara ordered formally, “Signals to the Fleet Marine Forces: Launch your transports and grapple your targets!”
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2008-09-14 05:58am, edited 1 time in total.
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

And yes, that mistake of Dhirisma's was intentional, viz. the origin of B5 Telepaths. It isn't plausible for the Talorans to really have a firm grasp on all the involved details of the Shadow War, and for an AI doing some casual downloading to notice the error rather than assume it is factual based on the lack of contradictory sources. It's actually quite possible it's a conspiracy theory in the B-5 universe, since the behaviour of Psi-Corps in the period was dastardly and very few people would know the truth anyway, and so it's just picked up asfact and repeated in other universes as such.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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Post by Andras »

Duchess, Tisara's declarations to Natalie sent shivers down my spine, well done!
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Six

Oralnif System,
Oralnif Sector.
Planet Oralnif 26th Army
Aerospace Defense HQ.

Major General the Duke Tyratu of Resimak was the commander of the combined Aerospace Defense brigades of 26th Army. Since the Cylon landings they had been continuously at full alert, and used their anti-fighter missiles to good effect to claim some thirty-six Raiders which had strayed within the engagement envelopes. Mostly, though, it had been a waiting game. The Baseships in orbit had not attacked against their theatre shields, and they had mostly not been presented with targets to engage with their mobile anti-ship missile launchers. The Baseships were in range of them, but attacking them would, after all, surely invite a nuclear bombardment, as both he and his counterpart, Major General Kylashara Tiramatra of the Fortress Command surface emplacements, had agreed and therefore resolved not to engage as long as their positions were not attacked.

A stalemate which had lasted the past three days without any change. It was not precisely glamorous, but they had protected the Taloran settlements on the planet and the corps of 26th Army were arranged to maintain a cordon of the Cylon landing sites and vigorously resist any offensive action, with most of the populace in deep survival shelters. The oceans were still under the control of patrolling coastguard vessels as well, and they had heavy submersible-launch ground-to-orbit missiles for anti-ship roles as well. Perhaps it was better to just wait out the enemy like this, certainly their prospects were not good if heavily attacked. He had little choice in the matter if he wished to protect the majority of the planet's civilians.

Soon enough, indeed, the majority of the enemy force had been lured off by some unknown act of the Empire--they were continuously broadcasting, but only God knew how much got through--and the opposing force reduced to twenty-six Baseships. That was certainly a positive sign. Now they could only hope that the development would be followed by more positive ones in turn, and it was: Within a few minutes, an extremely powerful message, probably sent from the specialized arrays on a command cruiser, punched through to the command facilities of 26th Army and the pertinent details were automatically relayed to the Duke's Command Bunker with urgent priority.

"Your Grace?" Major Dharlaytia Erimash stepped over crisply with a salute rendered and received. "The Fourteenth and Nineteenth fleets are standing off at eighty-eight lightyears from Oralnif and have secured the defection of part of the Cylon force and have sent a twenty-two thousand strong gunboat and starfighter strike package toward us. It should be arriving within ten minutes to begin attacks on the enemy. The message is from Her Serene Grace, Admiral Tisara the Archduchess of Urami and she is instructing us to commit our full anti-space defence assets to assisting the Starfighter Corps in overcoming the enemy."

"Has Major General Tiramatra received similar orders?" He frowned as he glanced for a moment at his far taller aide, and the double-checked the plot information for a strike on the Cylon fleet which was continuously being updated.

"One moment, Your Grace." She turned around and conferred with several of the under-officers. A short query on the hardened ground leads was quickly sent out and returned.

"Yes, Your Grace."

"Then tell her I want her on a hair-trigger to fire the moment that the strike package's jump signals begin to form. We want to take out as many of those Baseships as we can before they begin to launch their fighters. That's by far the best thing we can do for the lancers before they hurl themselves into the enemy guns."

"Right, Your Grace, I'll have the communique sent at once. Should I also contact Fourty Group Commander?"

"Go ahead. The Starfighter corps boys on the planet still have, what..?"

She flexed her ears in amusement. "One thousand, eighty-four intact starfighters and gunboats of all types. The others either were sent to the fleet to replace losses or jumped out during the second Cylon attack, or were lost in action. Shall I get you a live-line to speak with Group Commander Adjak, Your Grace?"


Colonel Reltas hurried up at that moment and saluted. "Your Grace, we've received imagery from the stealthed satellites in orbit the Cylons have failed to detect that around the Cylon landing areas the Cylon landing troops have commenced firing internally in what appears to be some sort of dispute between various factions in their landing troops."

"The Fleets told us to expect that," the Duke of Resimak pushed himself up and hastily moved over to the main ground plot. "It's also our general chance to see to the liberation of the Arcology. Signal 26th Army Headquarters immediately and recommend that One Thousandth Twelfth Motor Rifle Division be used to implement immediate offensive activity--it should take them thirty minutes or more to begin advancing anyway, and by then the Starfighters should be overhead. They're only thirty kilometers out from the Arcology in their current defensive lines.... I'm sure headquarters will agree it's the best course. Be sure to send them full copies of the data, however."

"Of course, Sir!"

"Group Commander Adjak, Your Grace."

The Duke of Resimak snatched up the handset. "Adjak, this is 25th Army Aerospace headquarters. We've got an inbound strike strong enough to take out the remaining Baseships coming in from Fourteenth and Nineteenth fleets--the Empire is already responding substantially. About twenty-two thousand strong."

"Yes, I'd heard," the Group Commander answered from his own command bunker under Ilahstrak Air Base. "We've already got the whole remaining group force on five minutes notice."

"I'd recommend giving them the order within the next two or three minutes, then, Group Commander. We've probably only got another seven minutes until the strike package arrives."

"Oh, we can handle it, Your Grace," Adjak responded with the typical disinclination to substantially coordinate. Starfighter Corps was forced to do it with the Starfleet, but that was mostly it. "We will, however, need to know if you're launching missiles."

"We are. All of them, the moment we get signals of drive formation."

"Probably wise. We'll adjust our launching sequences to adjust for it--Major General Tiramatra will be lighting off her batteries as well?"

"That's correct, Group Commander."

"Thank you again, Your Grace." The line went dead.

"And now we wait, Your Grace?" Major Erimash had stepped up to his right, politely.

"Well, not quite. Are we ready to launch on warning?"


Ten minutes of nervousness passed in silent, hanging doom. The commencement of fighting was about to begin in earnest for the Army, and it would be their first test against the Cylons, as well as the first engagement with major Army surface-to-orbit assets in recent history.

Then they came, incredible, beautiful, overwhelming. Twenty-two thousand separate jump signatures massed in one place, preparing, heralding the arrival of the Imperial Starfighter Corps and its strike against twenty-six Baseships looking as though they surely would be overwhelmed. They certainly had nowhere to go, though the Imperials involved didn't know that. They couldn't flee, and they had already rejected the terms of surrender.

They could just die. And die they would, as the Duke of Resimak and General Tiramatra gave the orders, as well as Commodore Kilaras of the Coastguard. Almost simultaneously, five missile subs fired eight hundred missiles; the 26th Army's batteries overwhelmed that number with twenty-four thousand missiles, and the surface batteries of the Fortress Command outmatched both with thirty thousand more. In all nearly 55,000 missiles were launched from the surface toward the Cylon fleet, with more available should the battle last long enough for the batteries on the far side of the planet to engage as well, but that was mercifully unlikely.

Starfighter Corps on the surface did its part, too. The waves of gunboats, bombers, interceptors, space superiourity fighters, all rose up from the planet in their surviving wings and squadrons and flights and surged out of the atmosphere at full burn, clearing it in seconds and heading toward the enemy in the wake of the missiles even as from the opposite direct the great strike package had flashed into existence, accelerating full bore toward the Cylon force.

"Activate stealthed electronic warfare assets in orbit," the Duke ordered coolly, and soon the computers and their technicians were vying to crack holes in the Cylon defence. Army missiles were essentially navy missiles with strap-on booster rockets to propel them until they were clear of the atmosphere. The Fortress Command rockets, however, were huge. Each one was larger than a Saturn V and strapped with boosters accelerating at 400g's out of the atmosphere before they split off and the 12,000g's main anti-matter rocket red, driving the single 10 GT warhead straight toward the enemy at ranges of many light minutes, the first of four stages plus the final warhead bus manoeuvring stage. The rockets were clear of the atmosphere to the point where their 12,000g motors could fire without requiring complicated design and plasma sheathing to allow for higher accelerations within the brick wall of atmosphere, in only a matter of seconds, and then they raced ahead as the first wave of the missiles with the ship-launched and mobile-launcher Army rockets as the second wave.

The Cylons seemed quite surprised by the launch of the massed waves of missiles from the previously quiescent planet. They started to launch their Raiders, but they also engaged with their countermissiles and KEVs the moment they could against the incoming missiles and deployed the Raiders as they arrived to intercept others. The missiles had much superiour velocity, however, and the counterstrikes proved hard-pressed to stop the attacks. Yet they somehow managed to shoot down 98% of the Fortress Command missiles in the opening wave anyway. That meant 600 10 GT warheads went into the Cylon fleet.

What followed was incredible; no more than seven could, after all, be survived by any of the ships in orbit, perhaps eight or nine for some of the more well-protected designs. There were in short almost enough missiles in that wave to destroy the whole fleet twice over, or even more. They fortunately mostly fratricided in huge detonations which wrecked most of the formation, vapourized a thousand Raiders that had already launched, including some that flung themselves into the missiles, and then went on to simply wipe 8 of the 26 Baseships off the map of the stars with many of their fighters still within them--and another six were crippled--and the destroyed Baseships included all the remaining powerful heavy combat designs in the fleet, which had been especially targeted even though it meant less of the numbers of the fleet would be claimed.

Following only thirty-four seconds behind was the second wave, another 24,800 missiles offering to annihilate anything left behind. These were on continuous link with the massive ground transmitting radars allowing continuous command guidance now that the stealthed electronic warfare satellites had gone hot. The huge ground radars painted their targets with superlight tracking radars and the immense tachyon beam emitters far too large to ever be fitted on combat ships which allowed the missiles to "ride the beam" straight toward their targets; they were impossible to spoof unless you spoofed the radars or broke the beam itself, and that was not within the Cylon capabilities.

The beam-riders could only be taken out by active defence, and half the Cylon force was gone or had its ability to conduct such a defence seriously retarded. The Cylons had however launched more of their Raiders and sent these in a desperate effort to interpose with the missiles. To their credit, they succeeded despite the damage, despite the losses, despite the inability to trick the missiles into missing, in nonetheless destroying 90% of them or otherwise eliminating them as a threat. The other 2,480, however, struck their targets. Another five Baseships were completely destroyed even by these much weaker missiles, and a sixth was crippled. There were now seven crippled Baseships and thirteen destroyed; only six remained untouched, shielded, and fully operational as the targets of the fighters, and they were guarded by only about 15,000 Raiders to face 23,000 starfighters and gunboats.

"Good show, good show all around, my dears," the Duke chuckled as he tossed his silvered ponytail to the side and mildly flexed his ears, a fatherly sort to the entire command force. "Nice to think that we could have put a fair dent in them if they decided to attack earlier, even considering the larger force. The fratricide would have done more damage, then, and of course the far side's batteries would have had their chance to double the score. Would have been a nasty business all around, though. Same for those starfighters heading straight into the enemy..."

"..Now they shall have an easier time of it," he finished as he looked at the interposition of the great mass of the two attacking starfighter groups. The interceptors on both sides and the space superiourity fighters from the planets were making their jousting runs on the Raiders now, and the Raiders were facing more or less equal odds numerically against a foe massively stacked with heavy missile armaments... Which meant 12,000 of them were destroyed outright, and the rest engaged to not give them a single chance to engage the bombers and gunboats, while only a thousand of their own blips were lost in the jousts.

"They did give to a twelvefold better than they got," Major Erimash smiled faintly. "A lucky omen. Going in for the torpedo bombing runs now, Your Grace.."

"So they are."

The fleet's strike package was carrying almost twenty thousand torpedoes, supported by a thousand EW birds guaranteeing that they'd punch through the ECM of the Cylons, and eight hundred of them succeeded in being launched into the remaining ships, the carriers of the others being lost beforehand, or jammed so they missed, or destroyed by the point defence or Raiders flinging themselves into their paths. Eight hundred ten gigatonne detonations was an impossible number for six operational and seven crippled Baseships to survive, particularly when launched from a different direction.

The brilliance of the sensor blindness induced by the incredible events finally began to fade, and all that was left behind was spinning debris and, of the enemy, about two thousand Raiders. Their own forces had taken about two thousand and five hundred starfighters and gunboats lost, by comparison.

Now it was time for the Army to go back to work. "Order the hover battleships to launch their reconaissance and communications satellites into orbit," the Duke ordered. Within a few seconds the thirty massive multi-megatonne hoverbattleships which served to generate mobile theatre shields and provide starship-grade direct fire support for the army--and also carried a sizeable number of surface-to-space missiles--had started to launch their additional orbital insertion rockets loaded down with multiple microsatellites which would replace the network the Cylons had destroyed when they arrived. The huge hover battleships could in fact reach orbit themselves, and were normally carried instead of pods on Planetary Assault Ships, with up to six carried with a full corps on a Planetary Assault Ship for forced landings, and each one usually being around one-point-eight megatonnes, the size of a Destroyer Leader, and capable of anchoring themselves into a deep body of water as a heat sump to dissipate huge bombardments of their theatre shields, even if it was at the price of 'turning the Amazon to steam', as a human observer had noted of the ecological effects.

They had protected the Army when the planetary shields had been brought down by a computer virus, and now they were reestablishing their command and control while the huge batteries prepared for action in an anti-fighter role if necessary. That would not be necessary. Even with the suicidal efforts of the remaining Raiders, they were rapidly wiped out the moment a second round of jousts was made, though it was costly. The number of fighters lost pushed toward three thousand in all, but they had annihilated twenty-six enemy capital ships in exchange and all of their fighters, and considering the brutal attrition--like that of the First World War on Earth--expected by fighter pilots, it was actually a rather light action. Usually, half the bomber pilots expected to die when making torpedo runs unsupported on an enemy fleet.

Major Erimash was soon distracted by the latest messages. "Your Grace, One Thousandth Twelfth Motor Rifle Division is indeed now moving forward on the offensive. They want to know if we have the networks up for a full satellite data picture of their target."

"Another three minutes, Your Grace, Major, beg pardon," one of the harried Warrant Officers of Electronics reported from his position.

"Tell them, Major," the Duke confirmed. "What's the other report?"

"The strike package is coming in to land to refuel and rearm, so be prepared to let them pass through the SAM battery envelopes."

"Confirm that we're able to do that." A pause. "Colonel itl dhin Wulastimat?"

"Your Grace?" the Baroness Likerla, as her given name was, stepped up. As the unit quartermaster she had had little to do during the actual engagement.

"Start manual reloading of the batteries, just in case, and assembly of additional warstocks."

"At once, Your Grace!"

Now, the Duke thought, We just need the fleet here, and all shall be right again in the world.

HSMS Dhirisma,
14th Fleet Flag
System GEI-134556WE

"I want you to power down your reactors, Natalie."

"That will require us to shut off the hybrids."

"I know."

"Are you going to treat them like sapients? They did side with us, Archduchess Tisara. They should be..."

"We'll wake them up again within the next six months, you have my word of honour," Tisara replied, and then glanced back to Dhirisma and whispered softly:


"Yes. You know, you really ought to hook up an interface so we can..."

"Later." Tisara turned away from Dhirisma as the hologram of the ship wryly shook her head and stepped back on the bridge.

Everyone was, after all, quite tense as the assault transports moved in on the surrendering Baseships. But now power-down was being confirmed all across the fleet. There were certainly no Raiders being launched, and the Cylon ships could now be massacred if they tried to power up again.

It also meant the reactors could not be used to self-destruct the ships, as Tisara had insisted. The troops landing would be safe, except from direct and forcible attempts to oppose control of the ships. It certainly made everyone feel better as the first of the transports flew into the bays of the Baseships.

"At least we know everything about the internal structure," Dhirisma said a bit proudly as she hovered near the quiet Ysalha on the bridge. "Freeing the hybrids will be hard..."

"And they'll be insane, anyway. Could take years to heal them or more." Ysalha withdrew into the acceleration couch, and Dhirisma thought hard to her, of the images of hugging and holding close and sensations they could virtually share in that most intense of bonds.

"We have visuals from inside the ships!" The interested officer brought them up for the favour of the Archduchess.

They revealed Imperial Marines in their sleek space-black fully sealed and pressurized armour suits advancing crisply down corridors with REQ-49 railgun assault rifles at the ready, under-barrel grenade launchers loaded with sleeping gas grenades as a sop to less-than-lethal considerations, combat engineers with blasting charges and the support troops with the squad support weapons, automatic grenade launchers, and anti-shield breaching charges to deal with internal defences. Platoon and company level weapons included more blasting equipment for working around or overwhelming internal security shielding, and deployable quickstrike drones which could automatically engage and knock out active internal defences or be left behind to hold corridors and crossovers.

Everyone, of course, was marching in gravity boots, and the massive metallic clangs they made with each step in unison reverberated through the hulls and straight back into the jerky helmet feeds, where the troopers would have full HUD interfaces. The Jikari units seen in several of the shots from several all-Jikari brigades, with their sleek and pointed helmets and four arms, were particularly impressive; the average among the Talorans was, with armour, close seven feet tall. It was closer to nine feet with the Jikari, who compared ably in strength even with the immense and robotic Cylon Centurions and were probably more intimidating. To complete the image, the rifles all had vibro-bayonets, long and perfectly glinting.

Progressively, they took more and more of the Centurions into custody, disarming them and assembling in rooms which were then sealed and guarded rather than restraining them. The sentience of the Centurions when the blocks which had inhibited their free will had been removed was clear, and of course, after that, they started to encounter the humanform Cylons. Again, they were disarmed and conducted to the center of the Baseships; there, they were held, processed, and generally shipped back to Taloran ships, both to provide them with suitable accommodation and to remove the leadership from the Centurions, as the Talorans saw it.

The feed was shut down after that, but about ten minutes later a message crackled in over the coms for Tisara. "Your Serene Grace, this is Major Rikaath Daramitsha of the One Sixty-Eighth Separate Brigade of the Imperial Marines. We have Natalie and her command coterie aboard and we're clearing on an assault transport straight back to HSMS Dhirisma, with your permission?"

"Granted," she glanced to Dhirisma. "Make arrangements in the conference room. I want all of the Cylons separated from this Natalie and examined by Doctor Ghimalia--and welcomed, really--while we bring Natalie to the conference room. I want to speak with her about several important matters. Please make yourself available."

"Of course, Tisara." The AI got down to work, as Tisara stepped lightly back to Ysalha, still nursing the cast over her broken wrist but otherwise pleased.

"Captain Ilahmbh, Commander Sivara," the telepath was named lastly, and pointedly, "please accompany us to the conference room.."

"A moment, Your Serene Grace. We have a message coming through," Ilahmbh listened to it and turned, quickly summarizing the results of the engagement over Oralnif. "The fight to secure the Arcology continues, but no mass Cylon executions took place," she concluded. "So Natalie was telling the truth straight through. But we do have a message from Admiral Gykhara asking if you would wish to advance."

"Negative. Since the starfighters can base off of the dispersion fields on the planet temporarily, we will wait here while the Baseships are secured, sent back to the Empire proper under tow by jump-tugs, and repairs to the fleet are committed. Oralnif is a natural target, but is now well-defended by dispersed Starfighters, and we can move in to surprise any attackers from this position. Recommend this to her as a course of action--she has the final decision as the ranking officer, but I think it is altogether quite sensible in this case."

"Of course, Your Serene Grace," Captain Ilahmbh relayed the message, as the lusciously blue haired and smokey-pink eyed Commander Sivara joined Ysalha and Tisara near the back of Dhirisma's flagbridge; Ilahmbh joined them last, and dragged along one of her enlisted aides in case drudgery was needed. The group moved down to the main conference facilities in the reduced officers' habitation level, used for the entire flag support, so that the enlisted personnel were quite luxuriously accommodated by their standards, and there they met another of Dhirisma's holograms--she could have dozens open on the ship at once as necessary--which led them in and settled down in a chair to Tisara's left side, with Ysalha across form her on the right.

The wait, fortunately, with an Assault Transport's excellent turnover was not long, and Dhirisma met the arriving Cylons dispensed by the Jikari Marines in her docking bay and led Natalie up to the room.. Where of course the second of her holograms was waiting. A Cylon, however, was certainly not to be bothered by that, as Dhirisma flicked her ears up and explained. "As I noted, I am the ship's Intelligence, and of course I have the spare computing power to run more or less as many holographic images of myself as I fancy."

"So you would," Natalie answered quietly, and sat where she was gestured to, honourably, at the opposite end of the table from Tisara. "What do you want to speak about, Archduchess Tisara?"

"The correct mode of address," Tisara finally corrected her, "Is 'Your Serene Grace'. That said, 'Admiral' is fine in the circumstances."

"Of course, Admiral."

"I am the ruler of the Twelve Colonies, you understand? The threat of humans that you assert existed, is gone. But I will see to their liberation from your less.. Cooperative... brethren. You understand this, also?"

"In light of circumstances, I don't see why you'd hold back," she answered softly. "So, yes."

"Good. I have several questions. First of all, do you object to our trying our medical best to help the hybrids recover?"

Natalie immediately went silent for a while at the question, and finally put together the beginnings of an explaination. "They're seers, touched. I can't imagine that Ysalha.." She gestured, and Tisara's koina stiffened a bit, "was successfully freed. But you did it; if you can restore them to sanity, of course you may. We would of course expect it to be religiously acceptable by your standards, though... Clearly you are the wiser in monotheism, and the hybrids have of late been insistent that monotheism among humans would not exist without the intercession of your Race."

"An interesting assertion," Tisara answered. "I confess with your people, we have the first evidence of the great Ancestress, the Sword of God, Valera herself, acting as a prophet of God as well as His striking arm. Religiously, their freedom and healing is, I assure you, imperative, appropriate, and in our State, well, the government is abjectly religious, so you need not fear there. The consideration of your prophecies will doubtless consume theologians for many a fine year--good for them, good for you, in time. I am a military Lady, though, and concern myself with the immediate facts at hand.

"Namely," Tisara's eyes glinted. "You say they are Cylon models you don't know about, but you found one in the Colonial Arcology. And that you're looking for more. Explain this to me."

"We recovered Tory Foster, that's her name, from the Arcology. She is... Definitely one of the five who complete the twelve, Admiral. She was recognized by us and was presently coming to terms with her own nature, and has been brought aboard this vessel to the care of your cyborg doctor.."

"Ghimalia will take very good care of her, I assure you."

"Thank you. At any rate, she is one of two of the five we know about. The hybrids know the five you see, they recognize them--they were created by God, and now, we realized, the instincts of some of our number were right. They were among the Colonials."

"So you really had no knowledge of them before this, you certainly didn't create them--you can identify them, they can understand themselves..?"


"Outside origin," Sivara spoke up, hauntingly, "is a factual statement on her part. All of what she says about the final five Cylons is correct."

Natalie shivered under the eyes of the telepath.

"Then," Tisara politely continued, "since you have told the truth so far in all our dealings, I trust you will explain how you found out about any of them at all?"

"The hybrids know who they are," Natalie answered, and raised her hand to point very gingerly at Ysalha, who had been even more quiet and ghostly than usual the whole while. "Ysalha had met her before being transformed into a hybrid, and the knowledge was retained, and ultimately told to us by the other hybrids in prophecy."

"She is making an accurate statement," Sivara added again, a bit unsteadily, though Talorans were certainly no disbelievers in the miraculous, this was all very odd.

Tisara looked to her lover. "Do you remember her?"

"Vaguely, just a flash, one of Roslyn's aides that we met while on Colonial One, mistress. But she was there."

"Very well." She glanced back to Natalie, ears up, sharply. "So, you said you couldn't find some other Cylons you'd been hoping to find in the Arcology. Which are those?"

"The first is an agent of our's named D'anna Biers. She was seen disappearing in the company of another woman during the first assault on the Arcology, the one that failed, before we split. And now we cannot feel her--she must be very distant indeed."

"We will try to take her down," Tisara answered reassuringly, "If you provide information on her appearance, throughout the Empire anyway. No guarantees, of course. The situation on Oralnif was extremely confused."

"I understand.." Natalie seemed like she wished to continue and say something--she surely did--but then thought better of it for the moment and remained silent instead.

But Sivara saw it. "There is a matter of some urgency for her on the issue."

A sigh, and the Six continued: "Admiral, we're capable of resurrection. That's the ship you destroyed... I am not sure if you have heard it from some of the Cylons who have come to your side... But it has a fixed range."

"You can upload yourselves at the moment of death to new bodies?" Dhirisma leaned over, enormously excited. "The computing power involved in that must necessarily be prodiguous, Natalie."

"It is, but we do it. When we are in range.."

"Out of, you die for good," Tisara concluded. "I see the problem. Unfortunately, there are twenty-three trillion people in the Empire, give or take, and two hundred billion humans. No easy task, and my apologies for it."

"Thank you, nonetheless."

"So, was there anyone else you knew to be a Cylon, who you did not recover?"

"There was. He was seen by Ysalha as Tory Foster had been seen," she continued and what she said, at that point, shocked everyone. "Saul Tigh. We do not know the other three, but those two, we know."

"She is telling the truth," Commander Sivara very gently spoke. "Insomuch as it has not been confirmed, but these were the words of the hybrid who.. Spoke with the divine tongue."

"It changes nothing," Tisara answered quietly. "Religious prophecy of a monotheistic God declaring Admiral Tigh to be a Cylon is scarcely a concern of our's; Cylon is merely a nationality and ideology. We are the chosen servants of the Lord of Justice and he serves our cause. To believe that a man touched by God would be unreliable us would be veritable heresy. Knowledge of this must never leave this ship." Her gaze was directed mainly at Natalie. "On pain of death, I might add. I am not going to have a reliable and honourable man destroyed by the fears of his own people--surely you don't wish this?--while we get the bottom of this mystery."

"And how will we get to the bottom of it..?" Ysalha barely more than whispered, recovering from the surprise second after Tisara.

"I will write a missive to the Farzian Order of the Ryvarian Telepaths. This war has taken on a religious dimension which demands their skills."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Seven

On a Cylon Baseship,
Somewhere in Cylon Space.
12 SEPTEMBER 2169.

"Do you understand what is happening to you?" The figure overhead was blurred, obscured. A man, Starbuck knew; a Cylon.

"I'm..." She slurred her words and shuddered under the pain in her body. It seemed like she couldn't move anything, and there was a constant fuzzy noise in the back of her head. Madness, overwhelming madness. That's what it felt like.

"You are the one who will lead us to the true Earth and the mysteries of God it reveals An agent of falsehood, Kara Thrace, you will become the agent of truth and revelation. This is the great destiny which it has been revealed is in store for you; the great opportunity."

"What could thisss.." Starbuck tried to move; she again realized that her body was restrained. What's doing this do me, frak it!?

"We are going to have you find Earth for us..." The voice repeated.

"But the Talallorans know where it is!"

"That isn't the real Earth. There is a real Earth, and there, the Will of the Gods will be revealed to us. And it is your destiny to bring it to us, and the penance for your people. You will lead us to the true Earth."

"Mmff. I will..... Frak no!"

The world dissolved into pain again and again, as the blurry nonsense was repeated again and again. In time, and only in time, did they let her rest from it.

"She'll break eventually," the man finally remarked to a compatriot at that point. "She'll break and lead us to what Prophecy has assured. The civil war will be ended and the true path toward dealing with humanity will unfold before us. The Talorans at this point shall cease to become an issue."

"Surely, then, let the will of God be done. She will show us the way--she is the herald of the Apocalypse." And Apocalypse, after all, was not a synonym for Armageddon, but for the concept of revelation, and the transfer of the Divine Wisdom. So it would be done.

And so Starbuck was tortured and beguiled and promised and seduced, until she could be sent onto her sacred mission to find the Earth which they knew existed, the true one, and break them all lose. To open up a divine prophecy to be fulfilled which reveal every facet of knowledge, even the role of the strange aliens who had proved their great power and prowess over them, and professed solidly the worship of the One God.

All these things would be done; and from them, Starbuck would be the Key. And they kept at, until, indeed, they had created the key that they wished, and they sent her forth...

Olympus Mons System Command,
Mars, Capitol Sector, Holy Roman Empire.

Olympus Mons System Command had, in fact, never been a destination that Senior Inspector Sophia Dragomira Vuletic had ever visited before in her life. It was certainly impressive, buried directly below the extinct volcano of Olympus Mons, which was on an immense plateau, which happened to be over a spot where the crust of Mars was at its thickest. And buried at the very bottom of that crust was this facility, a veritable city which could have a population of up to a million, one hundred and thirty kilometers down into the Martian Rock, surrounded by armoured layers of blast steel and concrete a kilometer thick on the surface side, emplaced into the rock with huge shock absorbers.

When the Holy Roman Empire had gotten the data read-outs on the attacks conducted by Vorlon and Shadow 'Planet Killers', they had even calculated that, though everything else on Mars would be exterminated, Olympus Mons System Command could have ridden out an attack by even those distant and bizarre advanced species without threat to its occupants. Showing the Empire's lavish concern with the defence of the capitol, there was a counterpart installation, similarly protected, at the exact center of the massive planetoid Ceres, the designated backup for Olympus Mons System Command. Both were amply large enough to handle extensive fleet command and control elements for the entire Empire as well as the local system defences and had numerous secure offices of every other service and intelligence branch as well within their cavernous facilities; construction had begun a thousand years ago, and they were considered to be, combined, one of the Wonders of the Modern Universe. It was certainly a suitable installation from which to direct the deployment of a fleet which--unknown to the Alliance or Talorans--consisted of, in comparison to the one thousand and three hundred dreadnoughts which the Taloran Star Empire boasted between the Starfleet, the Imperial Demesne, and the Feudatories, a force in the Imperial Navy and the National Navies of the Habsburg Emperor's domains and vassals, not less than one thousand and six hundred dreadnoughts.

Vuletic was being led down to the very bottom of the facility, where the atmospheric controls strained a bit, and it was somewhat hot; the gravity was however a full gravity. The Evidenzbüro and military intelligence people with her were equally silent, the first, herself included in their black nondescript clothes, the later in their light blue uniforms, and when they finally arrived the level of scans--DNA scans, retina scans, fingerprint scans--was ridiculous when her neural interface already was hardwired with identification marks and her ID reflected the latest appearance of her face--she'd gone under for another round of reconstruction surgery along with the installation of an artificial heart, both of which took place immediately in the Ragusa Sector in what the IUCEC called the CON-5 universe before she took a fast liner home with special treatment as a medical invalid. And went straight here, without so much time as to acclimate. Oh well; I got to see Jozef and Markus and their families on the Tri Gamma Epsilon station on the way in; so wonderful of them to fly up from the surface to meet the liner during layover, and bringing back the Alliance-manufactured toys for the kids was such a special treat. Being the crazy doting Aunt was the only honest role Sophia Vuletic had ever played in her life, and she thoroughly loved it above all others, even she confessedly drew more comfort in the sinful embraces she mimicked on her missions.

But that was false, and the love for her adoptive brothers' family pure and good. If Rade hadn't gotten himself killed as a footslogger, God rest his soul, it would have been even better... She sighed faintly, very disinterested in the seriousness with which everyone else took keying through the final security measures. Inside was a huge chamber which Sophia immediately identified as a command center. It had grilled walkways high up, workstations lower down, lofty, multiple levels, and a huge central holographic display. There were technicians working over it everywhere, and a man in the center in crisp civilian blacks was looking over to them, and smiled.

"Senior Inspector Vuletic, welcome to Project Tannhäuser. I'm Director Rikesgaarde of the Special Projects Division, of course, and you are now operating under Security Protocol Omega Twelve."

Even Sophia stiffened at that point, her eyes widening. That security level is supposedly hypothetic if current levels of classification become insufficient! Why are they having a field agent receive access to that information?! She nonetheless followed along in abject silence--worried that she was about to lose her status as a field agent, the fear she'd always held, as they brought her and a few of the other officers and agents to a different room, this one set up with Imperial Conference systems.

And containing D'anna Biers. "Miss Biers," Director Rikesgaarde explained politely, "has been very cooperative in working with us on this project, once she saw its nature."

"D'anna," Sophia said rather uncomfortably, looking at the clearing artificial replacement arm she'd been given. Nothing fancy, but kind enough. "Glad to see you decided to work with us." It was a distinctly odd experience to be meeting one of the women her skills as a feedback telepath had taught her to emulate pleasure with, in such a formal position as this where her body burned with the irritation of the goat-hair undershirt she wore and her feet were noticeably sore from the rocks in her boots; but this also neatly eliminated all temptation to raise the issue, and most of the questions about whether or not she was indeed just faking it.

Sophia Dragomira Vuletic, whatever her other qualities, was actually a fanatically devote Catholic in practice; her traditional Latin roots in the Church and utterly common background combined with a ferocious desire to serve the Emperor and the ideal of the Universal Christian Empire had guaranteed her service in the most sensitive of missions, and fourty-five years of assignment to the field branch after just a three year stint in DNI monitoring had proved her reliability, judiciousness, and perfection in her operations again and again. And her modesty when she returned home between assignments both made her no friend of any but her family, and yet eminently valued by the omnipresent Habsburg bureaucracy. A perfect Christian in her own society, no level of immorality was beyond her in foreign lands, and the two coexisted without apparent friction: This was the ideal Evidenzbüro Agent.

What she was doing seeing the results of her missions, though, she had no idea. That was not something, after all, she had ever done before. Let alone meet someone she'd seduced and then shot until she could be dragged back into the Empire for interrogation. But D'anna did not attempt anything familiar with her, and so relieved, Vuletic sat back to listen. Unlike most psychics, the feedback nature of her telepathy guaranteed she was more comfortable around the mind-blind then her own kind, and the absence of other telepaths in the room was a gift rather than a curse.

"First thing's first, Senior Inspector, Commanders," the Director nodded to the two naval intelligence personnel. "The facility you are in is sixteen thousand years old, and it was not built by human hands. Or at least human hands in any sense we can conventionally understand. Miss Biers has now proved this beyond a reasonable doubt."

What followed was a holographic montage in the center of the table of the discover of the facility in the late 22nd Century, AD. Everywhere then had been what was now covered up by instructions in common German: Strange inscriptions in an unfathomably complex abugida. One that was intimately familiar to Sophia, as was the octagonal inset of the writing. "Proto-Colonial with traditional Colonial writing surface style," she noted instantly.

"Very good, Senior Inspector. As you all may now surmise, this facility was originally built by a people, or group of people, whom we must identify with the original founders of Kobol.. Which, from your reports, was settled when humanity in the Taloran Star Empire's home universe was quite incapable of interuniversal travel. We now have confirmation that this facility was in fact constructed by a power which had inter-universal travel capabilities and gifted humanity with its most prominent language family, as the translation of these Sarasavsati inscriptions has been quite thoroughly linguistically proved to show the language, which we name after the apparent owners of the facility--the Sarasavsati--is indeed the Ur-Tongue of the Aryan peoples."

"It was frankly disturbing how straightforward it was to translate," D'anna added, quietly, but her participation was not fully welcome without being prompted, and she quickly fell silent again.

"I know it must be incredible to you all," the Director continued, "That in a time thousands of years before Christ, an Intelligence looked down on the Earth and influenced it, but the evidence is quite incontrovertible. At one point these people observed and influenced our history; and we must know everything we can about them. For let me assure you that this facility was built out of materials we still do not fully understand. Their power was incredible, and their disappearance and the abandonment of this facility was precipitous in the extreme. So far all our knowledge is limited to their designations for various facilities--nothing more than you'd find on the walls of a common Imperial defense installation--and so we have very little in the way of hard data. That must change."

"Though, Commanders, you firstly, and only, are being inducted into the research programme here as computer experts--Miss Biers has been able to command the central holoprojector in what used to be the facility's command centre on, but it simply demands access codes--at the facility, I have a particular explanation to give you first, Senior Inspector."

"Of course, Director, please. I'd truly like to know why you brought a field agent here."

"We're looking for connections, more details. We want you to re-infiltrate the warzone--as you know, the Taloran Empire has won a great series of victories over the Cylon forces, secured numerous surrenders, and has now completed the buildup of an enormous military force with which it will doubtless sweep away all resistance--and travel in the wake of their military, recovering all usable information from the ancient sites of Kobol and other worlds as you deem appropriate. You will not be operating alone, but rather with a team tasked for the operation. Your goal will also be to extricate any of the Cylon leadership that you can, as they may be of use to us in the future as allies. Further details will be available later; but primarily, we need you to look around here, and begin to learn what you need to know to successfully execute this mission.

"It is therefore worth the risk of this secret being leaked if you are captured, of course. I need not say that you should not bother to ask a single question over the next several days; everything that we want you to know will be told to you, and if it has not been told to you, we do not want a field agent knowing it."

"Of course, Director." Now that is more how things ought to be. But to imagine this--this having been here in the age of the wicked, however metaphorical. What mysteries shall I find on Kobol? Now I find myself rather less the agent and more the archaeologist, but still in secret and still illicit. I rather like the change of pace. Maybe there will even be a chance to meet with my brothers again on the way out. Unlikely, but she could hope.

That meant bringing back gifts from the capitol, and thinking about what she could get for her nieces and nephews in that case helped her to tune out the boring parts--she was an excellent programmer and had her doctorate in cryptographic mathematics, but was not excited by it--and also gently ignore the woman whom she had slept with, and now paid penance for the act of so doing. In the service of the state or not, it was sin, and three years of such sapphist indulgence and general extramartial sex, of murder and countless lies, while on assignment had been mercifully dealt for with three months of extreme penance, as her Priest kindly understood her need and design for in the line of work about which no detail could be mentioned, except the general confessions of the terribly necessary sins. It was in the service of the Empire, and her willingness for pain showed her sincerity.

Sophia smiled at that point, and drove her foot down into one of the pebbles. It also had the advantage, after all, of providing a further distraction until she could get down to the business which made her life, and provided her meaning: Slipping into a role, and playing it well. But more distressingly, the slight, nagging temptation to be held--man or woman, human or alien, it didn't matter--to banish the loneliness by a closeness which was still protected from her true nature by the screen of lies which had become an inevitable part of her, as familiar as her skin. That was the part which had grown to scare her, and yet pushed her on to never accept her reduction to desk duty. To much of her life, now, rested on going undercover, and when the Director dismissed the Naval Intelligence personnel and D'anna, she knew it was time to begin again, and her heart was filled, uncomfortably but nonetheless absolutely, with joy.

Pamir Mountain range,
Indian Imperial Commonwealth Lands
of the Battenberg-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Fraslia had read about the discovery in a journal. They had hiked here, northwards through Afghanistan and then back across the border to the pristine city of Chitral in the well-managed British Imperial territories. Much of the population was Farzian, the women in particular having converted in mass--which had caused a collapse in the local population--after Frayuia Risim, the famed Duchess of Medina, had smashed Islam with the mailed fist of her division, razed Medina, and taken the Black Rock out of Mecca during the Terran Revolts.

They welcomed the Baroness and her traveler gaily, and they had spent a full week there, getting to know the customs of the local people, residing by request of the Mayor in her private resident, the Old Fort, and being dined extravagantly with goats and lambs slaughtered for the purpose and prepared in traditional styles, which here relied primarily on nuts, garlic, and the ubiquitous onions with the meat, rather than the heavier spices of the southland of India, as well as ginger and cloves and other spices, with cool mint tea and endless flat bread with mint and yoghurt.

The local curator of the Museum of Chitrali Antiquities, an Australian archaeologist named Charles Archibald Struthers, who had married a local Farzian convert, had proved more than willing to show them the local archaeological wonder, and so had secured the assistance of a group of local guides--day laboring men, surly with the late reversal in gender relations that the Talorans had enforced to aide their converts at gunpoint (domestic violence rates were astronomical, but now the women often shot back, leading to an uneasy balance)--and twelve donkeys to ascent on the two-day hike to the "Unclassified tomb," as it was laconically referred to in the official literature.

As for the locals, it turned out they had a very ancient legend associated with it.

"It's the tomb of an ancient General of the Amazons, of course," Mirza, Charles Archibald's wife, had cheerfully explained. "That they found a woman's body in it makes perfect sense in that light. That was always the reason why the superstitious men in days of old would leave it alone; but as rightful and educated people know, the religion of God does not permit curses and so it is quite the good thing to open the tomb, really."

Laura Roslyn, standing at the entrance, the rock-hewn doors that had once been somehow held in place now moved to the sides and replaced by secured metal ones to protect the interior of the site, nonetheless felt something terrible and old about it. It made her hesitate to go on, but Fraslia followed Charles with ferocious bravery and full confidence.

"So you say that the dating methods you all used suggested the tomb is almost thirteen thousand years old?"

"Yes, the same age when Valera walked Talora Prime, which is, of course, impossible." Charles laughed drily. "There was certainly some corruption in the sampling in the area--in fact, further analysis proved it. Here, let me show you." He took a small device out of his pocket, and with Laura reluctantly following to the rear, stepped forward. It began to snap and hiss and click as they got into the recessed lower area of the tomb, fifty meters head and past another five inner doors and numerous bends in the hewn passage.

And finally, at the very end, he pointed it, hissing and buzzing, at the stone sarcophagus, now empty, in the middle of the room, with its lid propped to one side. "Radiation like you can't believe. The corpse is highly radioactive because of exposure to the rock, too, though astonishingly well preserved. Currently at Oxford, of course, undergoing testing. We do think this place is extremely old, at any rate, if not as old as the initial erroneous data; possibly nine or ten thousand years. It's going to ultimately rewrite history of the Pamirs and possibly the development of civilization, since the nearest place with settlement of the same age is Arg-e-Bam in southeast Persia, and the level of stonework required for a tomb of this level is incredible. The fabric on the mummy was excellent as well; we're still quite not sure of the composition, and the hammered gold of the funerary offerings is the most incredible found in this region for at least five thousand years after the date of the tomb.

"Really, the most disturbing part about it is that these are probably the earliest signs of writing that we've ever found on the planet, and they definitely show a Proto-Sanskrit influence. It's already forcing linguists to change their ideas on how writing formed, and the similarities with Sanskrit--if we could just read it--suggest that the Indian nationalists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries were right after all; the Indo-European peoples and language originated in northern India and spread outwards from it. There was no 'Aryan Invasion'."

"All very fascinating," Fraslia answered, and then grinned tightly. The past few months had been hard on her and Laura--listening to the reports of the seizure of Oralnif, its counter-liberation, two thousand more Colonials killed in the fighting and their evacuation 'further to the rear', now it being unknown where that was, and so many other things. The digestion of the magnitude of the casualties, and Laura coping with that.. And their journey moving onwards, to the south, to Sichuan and then Tibet and then Central Asia.

And now they finally arrived in the Pamirs, and here, Fraslia thought that from what she had read, she was finally going to begin to understand--and with her, Laura--the true origins of the Twelve Colonies.

The gasp told her she was right.

"That's Old Kobolian script," she whispered, shaky, and Charles Archibald turned as pale as a ghost when he heard that. Certainly he had known of the details of the discovery of the Twelve Colonies and the enigma that they presented. To hear that in the old tomb, in the flesh..

"And Here I have put to rest,
The one I have twice loved,
And twice lost, to my avarice,
to fates who test me and grind me,
under their holy heel; so that Dharma's
Cycle will continue to the last age;
Unrelenting, savage, I give her sleep;
I give her death, my failure.
Let the wheel carry her in peace,
a burden of my life onto all time,
'till reincarnation gives me chance
To again taste the dew of her body;
And put my hands into her hair.
Rest well, noble general,
and may shared penance
Swiftly Pass."

"You didn't just make that up, did you?" Charles was shaking and reaching as though he rather badly wanted a smoke.

"Gods no," Laura snapped, shaking, as well. "It's all very clear. I'll prove it to you, of course."

"Good. Dharma as a concept didn't exist yet, for one. ...Come on. I've never had the feeling before that a Rakshasa is going to come out of the walls and eat me, but now I do." He started hastily out, and this time it was Roslyn who took the rear again--but did so in confidence.

When they got out, it was Fraslia who looked back longingly for a moment, and then smiled. "So, someone took humans from this era up to Kobol, do you not think, Doctor Struthers?"

"I think, Baroness, that raises as many questions as it answers," he finally said, lighting up while the guides nervously murmured amongst themselves as though worried, as though the air itself was unsettled now.

"The writing is that of one of the race that did this, who buried a human woman she loved, who had been courageous in their service, upon her homeworld," Fraslia elaborated. "That is what I would guess, as a Taloran noblewoman, imagining the customs of a distant people."

"Why here? Why so deep? Why haven't be found any other such burials."

"Oh, that's very easy, Doctor Struthers. Those radiation readings?" She flicked her ears up and showed her teeth. "You have it all wrong. The rock didn't contaminate the body. The body contaminated the rock."

The cigarette dropped out of Charles' mouth down to the ground, not even smoked yet. "Jesus Christ. We were ripping each other's heads apart trying to figure out how the rock got so irradiated in just that one area, and..."

"Quite. You needed to stop thinking about this from the perspective of assuming that the people of one planet exist in a vacuum even in their stone age; it is certainly true, that Kobol was settled when humans had no industry, no way to travel the stars. And yet," she looked back to Laura, "Are you not now convinced that humanity originated on Earth?"

Laura looked back and only managed to nod.

"Very well. Then we know that humanity originated on Earth, and the archaeological record is exacting. Humanity could not colonise Kobol on its own. Someone brought humanity to Kobol and settled humanity there--an event which took place in several other universes, I might add, including ST-3, for example. Doctor, Laura, looking at this rationally--they took humanity to Kobol, and this is what they left. A body of someone, a general they said, who was killed in either a radiation accident or a war using nuclear weaponry, buried on their home planet as a favour to them, in rock deep enough to protect the surrounding countryside from the immense radiation. That is why the tomb is unique; it is a technical decision, not an evidence of an unknown tradition."

"Then those words are the words of a Lord of Kobol," Laura breathed out. "Unknown scripture. The eulogy of a Lord to the human he had taken as his lover. Oh by all that is Holy.... Here we have come home."

"And here, too, we begin to understand the Lords of Kobol," Fraslia answered, seeming to agree--but knowing in fact it hinted that they were no gods, but rather simply beings of technology who had proved unable to heal severe radiation damage, or to prevent wars. Beings who loved, and fought, and left a legacy which now could be understood, and which began finally to create the connection between the fossil record of Earth and the history of the Colonies.

But, I suppose it still must be asked--why? Why go to all the trouble? That question, sadly, might never be answered, though at least they knew where to begin looking. And at least the Colonials could now begin to understand who they really were.
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Post by Steve »

And so the revelations continue to unfold.....
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Post by Themightytom »

Steve wrote:And so the revelations continue to unfold.....
Doesn't the HRE have a Stargate in your fanfic steve?
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Themightytom wrote:
Steve wrote:And so the revelations continue to unfold.....
Doesn't the HRE have a Stargate in your fanfic steve?
It has one fullstop, yeah.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

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Post by Themightytom »

The Duchess of Zeon wrote:
Themightytom wrote:
Steve wrote:And so the revelations continue to unfold.....
Doesn't the HRE have a Stargate in your fanfic steve?
It has one fullstop, yeah.
What was with the reference to the shadows and the Vorlons, is there a TGG story that deals with the shadow war?
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Themightytom wrote:
The Duchess of Zeon wrote:
Themightytom wrote: Doesn't the HRE have a Stargate in your fanfic steve?
It has one fullstop, yeah.
What was with the reference to the shadows and the Vorlons, is there a TGG story that deals with the shadow war?
No, it's backstory to the B5 universe being part of the multiverse.
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Post by Themightytom »

That would be an interesting story.
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Post by Steve »

Themightytom wrote:That would be an interesting story.
Contact with the B5verse didn't happen until about 2270 B5verse time, just after the Drakh plague was cured. So the Shadow War is firmly background stuff.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Thirty-Eight.

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Dhirisma,
Oralnif System, Cylon Front.
28 NOVEMBER 2169.

Tisara seemed distinctly distracted that day to Captain Ilahmbh Xinojha. Except that, of course, there was something else about it. "How is the continuous interface working, Your Serene Grace?" She was, admittedly, slightly nervous at how in the end it had only taken Tisara a few months to cave. Though most Taloran combat branch officers had some parallel processing abilities, what Ghimalia had implanted in Tisara was equal to her own systems--which were about as sophisticated as the Empire made, and allowed for substantial cross-computing.

"Learning how to use them, mostly," Tisara answered, and then added, "And amazed at the level of information exchange between Dhirisma and Ysalha. I still feel distinctly left out of it--though now at least I can follow what's going on. How fares the day, Captain?"

"The deputation from the Order should be arriving tomorrow," Ilahmbh answered. "We've finished rotating in the Empress Saverana II-class Linenschiff, so the fleet stands at a full strength of fourty of that type. Still haven't received the full carrier force, though there's apparently been a last-minute proposal to send in eight Inalashi class ships to do combat testing. It appears that the government may be rushing the completion of the first squadron of the class for that purpose, so they can operate in a group against the Cylons."

"Best defended, fastest, best armed carriers with the largest fighter capacities," Tisara mused aloud. "I would be very pleased if the government sent them to me, though they're almost thirty megatonnes, so we paid for it in battleship production."

"Well, quite, Your Serene Grace." Ilahmbh stepped over to Tisara's side of the study while her batgirl sat down hot cups of kashari root tincture, which was a somewhat unusual indulgence, but happened to be, as far as Ilahmbh could identify, the only personal taste that she and Tisara shared, making it rather useful.

"So, that brings us to sixty-four fleet carriers, fourty linenschiff, and one hundred and fourty-four battlecruisers in all now that we've been further reinforced. By using Army short-range SAMs with bolt-on packs designed for surface coastguard ships, we've also certainly improved our defensive capability against Raiders, though reloading the packs will be nearly impossible, but, the missiles are much better designed against slow and highly maneouvrable targets, and the software upgrades to the regular missile batteries have also been finished. With another eight fleet carriers, we shall finally be ready to commence OPERATION CASTIGATE as per your own criteria, Your Serene Grace," she delicately pronounced the human word chosen to represent the concept in honour of their allies. "And, of course, the Colonial Navy now has all three of its Battlestars operational with the Atlantia having been delivered, and their supporting elements correspondingly increased."

"With the Big Pod modifications that brings their total starfighter force to one thousand eight hundred, doesn't it?"

"All upgraded with shields and common missile launchers to allow improved survivability and rearming capability on our carriers, with standard torpedo bombers and EW craft on further bolt-on external hull points and in the old Raptor bays. Mostly crewed by human volunteers from the hard-hit Colonies looking for revenge, of course, since the feudatory fleets aren't directly to be involved in the offensive."

"Understand. I'd be looking for some way to get to grips with the enemy myself in those circumstances. The attitude is to be admired, and it's useful for us, too, though I suppose rather galling to the Colonies at times to have more than half their personnel made up of foreigners. At least they are fighting under our flag."


"I am the regent, Ilahmbh," Tisara replied, "and I do have some fondness for the pack of polytheists I have found myself herding. Though that does bring up a very serious matter. Do you have any more information for me on when the All-Highest Empress will hear the appeal of Baltar?"

"It's still being delayed. And of course he was transferred from our custody 'for his own protection', which was itself exceptionally irregular. Someone doesn't like you, Your Serene Grace."

"Of course they don't. There are quite a number of people who might have arranged this. I personally think it was Fulanaj. Now she's recovered from her injuries during the assassination she has a grudge with my success where her own effort failed. She knows in detail who Baltar is and certainly has the supporters in the fleet who were able to get to him and get him to press his Imperial appeal. The bastard traitor--he'll be tortured for a thousand billion years in the darkest halls of Idenicamos in the most savage ways imaginable--but what good does that do us now?"

And so went the fundamental and intractable problem which had bedeviled Tisara Urami in the past months: The ultimate fate of Gaius Baltar. He had disclaimed responsibility, but records and eyewitnesses had seen a blonde figure ultimately proved to match the description of the Cylon Six model around his office at the time of the shield failures, and investigations of the coding had showed a relation to his work on the interfaces on Colonial computers--the code had been preserved on the Pegasus as a record of the attack in sealed discs--and by extension to the virus which had brought down the Colonial Fleet.

In a situation of Martial Law, it had been enough for Tisara to dismiss him, suspend the Colonial constitution, and hold summary judgement, followed by the writing of a lettre de cachet authorizing his summary execution. The problem was that before he could be spaced by a furious Saul Tigh, several of the Fleet's JAG officers had gotten to him and convinced him he could survive if he filed an appeal directly to the Empress for clemency or a pardon.

By the formal traditional feudal laws, if the plea for clemency was affirmed by a monotheist--and Baltar had professed his belief in one God at the same time--to a priest or priestess of the Farzian orders, all were honour-bound to withhold the execution of the sentence until the supreme sovereign of the realm, here the Empress, could make the final decision on whether to pardon or grant clemency to a person so condemned by one of Her vassals. It had obviously been seized upon as the perfect chance to deal Tisara a reversal in her successes by the endless body of individuals willing to contest and decry every single thing she did, nevermind her very existence.

Of course, the surrendered Cylons of that same model were all prepared to testify that they and their allies, and Baltar, were not involved in the shield lowering incident, and nobody could reliably determine whether or not they were telling the truth. Telepathic reads on the Cylons had proved impossible to come by once they'd been shipped off and the Farzian Orders started fairly jealously guarding their status as honourably surrendered enemies who worshipped one God as they did.

The worst part was that Tisara herself, being exiled, couldn't return to Talora Prime to give testimony to defend the rationale behind her decision and the preponderance of evidence, as well as the political reasons for the chosen punishment, were in all absolutely and overwhelmingly correct. Instead, she would of course have to rely on lawyers, and of those noxious creatures a noblewoman could only hope the day arrived when it someday became permissible to slay them all.

An awkward silence had passed, not only between Tisara and Ilahmbh but Tisara and Ysalha and Dhirisma.. Who respectfully lurked around the edges of her consciousness. With the beginning of the connection, Ysalha had become even more withdrawn from the world, but it was clear that she remained somewhat extroverted within the computers; the level of interaction was indeed intensive.

"So, we really have no further play on the issue?" Ilahmbh was at least trying to be a faithful subordinate as the fleet amassed for the Big Push, which was certainly on her mind more than the politicking which Tisara had obsessively been drawn into.

"Unfortunately, no. To other matters, then. Logistics?"

"With the latest activated feudatory ships and chartered freighters, more than eighteen thousand and five hundred ships are now involved in the resupply and UNREP operations for the fleets, including about a eleven thousand civilian merchants. Prepositioning of warstocks for Operation Castigate will be completed within one month. Our battlecruiser forces have of course been correspondingly increased to compensate for the inability to provide more heavy cruisers due to patrol commitments, which did however require some further orders of spare parts for the deepdocks which may cause another week's delays before the filling of the desired warstock reserves."

The Imperial Starfleet had 1,590 battlecruisers in commission after the loss of about thirty in the recent fighting, and the rest of the Empire had 1,260 in commission: They were by far the most numerous sort of capital ship, though many of them were rather small and compared only with the larger heavy cruisers of the Habsburgs. But out of those ships, 14th and 19th fleets as well as the nearby Terran feudatories involved in the support operations for the war nonetheless collectively were now operating 9% of all the battlecruisers in the Empire--almost three hundred--as the type being seen as most suited to escort and provide fire support for the large numbers of carriers being used. The other reason of course being that nobody was willing to part with their heavy cruisers, still needed for the usual patrol duties around the otherwise peaceful Empire.

"Now, as long as no Oohankhali show up, we shall have an overwhelming preponderance of firepower." Tisara's effort at a joke as she finished off the last of her hot drink rather fell flat, but it didn't matter much; the Archduchess' twisted sense of humour was better left unspoken, and when she did approach others with any sort of respectable effort at comedy, it was invariably so forced as to be pointless.

"I think we could even deal with them, Your Serene Grace," Ilahmbh murmured seriously, even though she knew it was a joke, and her ears flicked to a position which indicated it. "It is nice to know the strength of the enemy fleet, though the report from the Cylon prisoners that the remaining enemy has control over a nanite-based shipyard..."

"Using hybrid-AIs for precision control, and possibly something else, Dhirisma says from her interviews with the Cylons," Tisara added. "That will be a serious problem if we advance on the Cylon homeworld--we will need to be mindful of its existence and presence. A technological plague waiting to be unleashed, potentially. On the other hand, rather pleasant to know that they only have five hundred new-type, two hundred old-type, and one hundred and fifty intermediate-type Baseships left; plus, perhaps, another three dozen or so of the heavy particle cannon model they've begun mass production of. A pity our counterattacks tended to destroy the ships of the people most likely to surrender to us, but it appears their opponents in the Cylon.. Model circles.. Had arranged for the military forces of Natalie's sort to be in the brunt of the offensives."

"And even with the nanite assembly yards, not much more than another hundred ships can be assembled in the next three months," referring to the 219-day cycle of three Taloran months which would carry them substantially through the war, or so Tisara had indicated that she suspected. They were finally ready, after more than a month of preparation, to advance and in so doing sweep all before them. "Well, Your Serene Grace, that does seem to summarize things. Any further information will not be really what I'm qualified to discuss...."

"Ah yes. So the priests and priestesses of the Ryvarian Order will be here soon enough. No need to worry about me, Ilahmbh. I'm quite secure from their displeasure, and the order has always focused on the inner mind, anyway. You shall not have your commanding officer endlessly dressed down by the religious again.."

"Well, allow me to reserve judgment on a matter of faith, Your Serene Grace."

"Of course. You're dismissed, then, Captain."

Ilahmbh and her batgirl took her leave, and left Tisara to stretch and settle back, speaking intensively with her two companions through the clear air about what she did, in fact, expect from the coming day.

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Dhirisma,
Oralnif System, Cylon Front.
29 NOVEMBER 2169.

"Captain Dhirisma," the priestess bowed politely to the hologram. "Thank you for permission to come about."

"You're very welcome, Adept Ersimia," Dhirisma was smiling quite affably, even as some of the flagbridge staff openly wondered at the politeness of the priestess to the AI; but the priestess, who was an immensely powerful telepath with limited telekinetic abilities, seemed to recognize their moods and turned amongst them to address them.

"I can, of course, sense her emotions and the hints of her thoughts, however strange and unfamiliar to my mind they may be. That there are many questions that must be answered about artificial intelligence, let us doubt not, my fond children; but clear to me in the crucial regard is that anyone whose thoughts I can divine, and whose emotions I can feel, surely lives in some genuine fashion, and deserves the respect according all living things which are not of the work of Idenicamos--and the presence of the Deceiver's hand in an Intelligence without substance is, if we shall all remember our lessons, quite unlikely."

After this gently defence of Dhirisma that brought a respectful silence across the room, she gestured toward the back. "If you would lead me to where Her Serene Grace awaits, Captain? My Acolytes can find their way to their quarters with the assistance of your officers."

"Of course." Dhirisma dismissed the officers quickly and left them with the rest of the group of acolytes--twelve in all--and with the two alone, allowed the conversation to continue. "Thank you very kindly, Adept. It heartens me immensely to know that some of the priesthood supports... My personhood," she finished with a trace of naive hope.

"Oh, most of the Ryvarian Order does; you and your counterpart are certainly an interesting case, and there is also foreign precedent," Ersimia answered, brushing green hair to the side and adjusting the shuffling of her long bright blue cloak with its sigils. "So, even if it is not official yet, how can I deny to tend to my flock? You need a defending hand as much as any other, and that is, after all, one of the purposes of the Order of the Thundering Hand," as she used the poetic name for the Order.

"Thank you again, Madame Adept."

"Nothing of it. Look at what you have done--taking and healing the koina of Tisara by establishing a bond with her so thorough that to leave it would drive you both mad? You have a selfless heart. Treasure it, and keep it pure, and we will in time set right the account of who you are, Dhirisma."

"How long.."

Ersimia smiled wryly. "So far, it is only the Ryvarian Order which supports you, since we are the most refined of the telepaths in scientific matters, and know that we can sense the emotions and minds of sapient beings. The others remain less content; a century, I would wager, and an official declaration by the heads of all the orders and the national Primarchs in concert might be made. That is the timetable we are working along. Long, I know, more than a third of the lifespan of those of poor and corrupted flesh, but the rot is not so thorough within you, and so you shall live long to enjoy it--and, I suspect, Ysalha just as long as thee."

"She would survive the death of her body now, yes," Dhirisma admitted for the first time. "Her mind is as thoroughly stored within my mainframes as her body."

"I had fancied as much." They arrived, at that moment, and Ersimia stepped through, herself in the fore.

"Your Serene Grace, Captains, .. And, ah, Commander," she nodded in turn, and Dhirisma showed her to her place down at the far end of the table. "Allow me to be succinct. You contend with powerful forces of a supernatural sort, but though the Cylons may be monotheists, their creator and originator is not the Lord of Justice; I can feel, looming distant over these sectors, a buzz in the air of an omnipresent connection between these people, created and empowered by something great and ancient."

She looked directly at Ysalha. "And it lingers in you, but with Dhirisma's help you contain it. It is.. The madness of billions. Beyond that, I cannot yet say. But let me assure you that it was wise of you indeed to summon us; and we will overlook from you all, Tisara of Urami and your lover and your aides alike, any sort of reproach for your indulgences and sins. ..There is more important work to be done, and a mystery of cosmic implications to be solved. The Cylons believe they speak the truth in their prophesies, and they might--because the source of those prophecies understands this region better than we. Beware that you are not entrapped by the prescience of some cunning and malignant foe into playing its game; you are given free will by God, and nothing is truly foretold.

"Now, if you please, summarize for me what you have learned but could not tell me before, and thus may we begin."

The summary of the events surrounding the Cylons was related at some length by all, including what Ysalha had already provided for them. The hour grew long; Dhpou was provided to nourish the spirits and the stomachs of all, including the Priestess herself, and gradually the story unfolded. It was received in silence by the Priestess, with only the occasional judicious comment. In time, kebabs of fish-meat were ultimately served as well, and the details of the story were finally laid out in full. In full, except what the Adept Ersimia had to say to Ysalha.

"My dear, poor girl, whose live has been by no means kind. Tell me of the things you see in the direction where madness lies."

Dhirisma seemed to stiffen, aware, of course, of what Ysalha had experienced.

"Do not worry, my dear Dhirisma," the priestess added. "Here I can help her, and begin to understand."

"I see a golden pyramid rising to the stars, and in it are twelve bodies of the high-born, and within the circle stands a great machine, with the chattering of thrice a billion voices in it and oh God they burn with such incessant rage...!" She shook to the side, flailing against the table and sobbing.

And Ersimia reached forward, gestured with her hand, and stilled the tears. Ysalha collapsed to unconsciousness right then and there. "She will be better, Dhirisma, than she has been in a long time. And it tells me what I need to know, anyway."

The priestess settled back down. "I can't prove it yet, admittedly, but I have a theory. The voices inside of Ysalha are from what were once distinct entities. They are the computer programmes left behind--the backups of a narcissistic race--and surely therefore the Lords of Kobol. The twelve bodies are the templates for the twelve Cylons. This, I think we may divine from the knowledge that has been laid out."

"Then what follows from this knowledge?"

"Even the Cylons do not realize what is on their homeworld, I think, or near it. We must press forward to discover what lays under their control, and what influences them. More telepaths will be summoned from the Orders to provide further defence in the fleet, to ferret out infiltrators and against the possibility of greater powers unveiling themselves. Can you delay your offensive in time?"

"We had already planned not to begin for another seven weeks, Adept."

"That will be sufficient. Thank you for your time, Your Serene Grace, when you are surely so busy with the affairs of the fleet." Ersimia rose, and glanced to Dhirisma. "Pray that you would show me first to my quarters and then the baths? It has indeed been a very long and very fast journey by courier for me, and I confess to be somewhat tired by it."

"But of course, Adept." The hologram led the priestess out, and Tisara moved gently to the side of her unconscious beloved. "Doesn't it always feel better when you begin to know what you fight?" She smiled vaguely. "If not by mortal arms, than the secret by the Cylons can be dealt with by telepathy and the aide of God. We, on the other hand, have a proper war to fight, so do not let these matters concern you all overmuch. Now, Ilahmbh, if you'd be so kind as to help me take Ysalha back to our quarters...?"

The Old Fort,
Valeria, Talora Prime.
30 NOVEMBER 2169.

"It would be nicer if she'd had him dragged off and executed in the middle of the night, you know," the supreme feudal lady of 23 trillions spoke in mild disgust. "Though perhaps it would have indeed been unjust. I should not be tempted into sin just because it makes things easier, and certainly for Tisara of Urami to exercise judiciousness.. Proves I was right about her. That my mother was right about her."

She leaned closer in against her friend and smiled with the comfortable sort of look of a briefly satisfied neurotic. "Though you have from time to time advised me to do unjust things for the sake of the greater good."

"I have." Jhastimia agreed readily, and smiled a bit more firmly as she offered a blanket to cover over the legs of the Empress Saverana. "Ruling is always an unpleasant business." And the Archduchess Leluno, Jhastimia Rulandh, knew it better than most.

"Transport Gaius Baltar here personally for his hearing--I will hear it myself, in the Imperial palace," Saverana finally spoke again. "If I must overrule Tisara when I have now committed myself to her support, I will do it personally so that none may challenge the decision or use it as ammunition against her position. When one chooses to support someone, one must stand by them, even in cases like this, and with people like this. Kavrila, you know this."

"You are far too kind for her, Saverana. But she was a close friend of your mother's, and having come into your own, I can see why you would restore her to some position of pride. So I will scarcely object. You do not risk losing any political position yourself from taking the stance you do, that much I can assure you of."

"Then I will go ahead and arrange it. We need to show the human subjects of the Empire that we take them seriously, and I do fear the results of allowing Tisara to execute human politicians under her reign at will. We must constantly be aware that the Cylons have killed close to six billions of innocents, and in doing so caused casualties among civilians like no recent war in Imperial history has. Already there are complaints that our treatment of the surrendered Cylons is much to judicious, even if they were not directly involved in the attacks on the Colonials."

"I know, Saverana," the Archduchess answered, folding her legs and tilting her ears back in a moment's long thought. "Come to it, granting a full pardon for Baltar might--but only after every one of his secrets has been dredged out and displayed for all--prove the magnanimous gesture required to conciliate them, in combination with a victorious war and a harsh dealing with the Cylons who have not rebelled. A people we can easily excise our fury upon, now that they could never function with the rebels anyway."

"Well, I am not going to promise anything in that regard. I merely intend to give him a fair hearing. Time can be made within eight weeks or so, to coincide with the start of the offensive, when the issue is already pressing, to avoid undue spectacle."

"Agreed. That is certainly a wise decision on the timing, my Empress."

"Very well. I am more concerned about the efforts of foreign powers, however. The Intelligence services fear that the Habsburgs have penetrated the sector, and Alliance intelligence cannot be far behind. We have increased alertness as much as possible..."

"But there is only so much we can do without running afoul of the prerogatives," Jhastimia finished. "Yes, that is a basic issue now that we have humans within the Empire as well as without, and one we will never be able to avoid. I can however work through my usual contacts to assure the Alliance, at least, of our intentions to make a reasonable settlement in the Colonies and effect their rapid liberation now that the Cylons have struck against us?"

"I assent, of course." Saverana swung her own feet up to cross on Jhastimia's lap, scarcely uncommon in the evenings. "What of the Habsburgs?"

"Perhaps... Well, I may have an idea there. A way to get them to stop seeing us so much as aliens, in the way they see aliens, at any rate."


"If you'll forgive me, My Empress, I'll need some time to think about it."

"Very well, Kavrila." Saverana chose to change the subject, at that point. "So, the eldest son of the Archduchess of Erwhilamh, the Duke of Triyak. What do you think of him? He is of the Imperial blood, and..."

Jhastimia's eyes widened in more than a bit of excitement. "Ooh, so you have found someone of interest? I see you are not about to let me outdo you," her courtship of the Duke of Ulyanivsk had recently put the court abuzz, and finally at least eliminated the rumour that they were lovers illicitly, or indeed anything more than the closest of friends and confidantes. Well, the rumour from all respectable sources. Others could be more.. imaginative.

"I was, indeed, not going to let myself be outdone by my cousin," Saverana answered very mildly, and then grinned. "We just need to investigate the political implications, of course. It is not like a marriage proposal from the Empress will be easily refused."

"Quite." Jhastimia smiled. "I will do it for you, of course, My Empress. The chance to play your matchmaker is a very honoured one."

"I would hope for nothing less, Kavrila. You have been my friend since I first could think, and all the troubles of taking the throne so young have been eased by your presence. Thank you again." And so wore on the private life of, indeed, the supreme feudal lady of twenty-three trillions.
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Chapter Thirty-Nine

Kamikaze Working Group
Hulasti Military Research Installation,
Talora Prime.
4 JANUARY 2170.

Admiral Khalian--a representation from the Starfleet's General Staff--coiled his fingers together and listened to the continuation of the reports. They were certainly interesting, and well worth his visit to the military research facility, but it was also a very foreign concept, and how genuinely useful would it be, anyway? Well, low-grade opponents can it appears provide viable problems in this fashion, and the solution is here. So.

"The main problem with Kamikazes is that they are generally slow and manoeuvrable, being used as a tactic of desperation by much inferior powers, of course." Commodore Ahistara Saviplat of the planning department continued. "The most straightforward modification, of course, has been the adoption of the Army's LIS-168 light missile. The LIS-168 is of course the standard Army medium missile--light by our classification--and also mounted on coastguard surface ships. It is useful in a vacuum environment because of the manoeuvring thrust-vectoring nozzles in the variable angle fins, which provide incredibly manoeuvrability far in excess of our existing missiles, though the acceleration is limited to a maximum of 985g's.. Which we in truth have no desire to improve. The missile has an initial booster at the same acceleration which fires for three seconds, and then the final stage can fire for a full six seconds on continuous burn, also at that velocity. Maneouvring under the initial booster is still possible for extremely close intercepts. To reliably guarantee a kill on a Raider, a two megatonne enhanced radiation warhead is capable of being fitted, and this is the model which has armed the ships of Fourteenth and Nineteenth fleets.

"The missile was of course designed for surface use originally. This creates some problems in its design installation. Armoured box launchers were necessary to protect the missile from the radiation of near bursts in space and the existing installations can be easily defeated by damage to the ship carrying them; however, for the moment, what we've done is a combination of mounting the armoured box launchers, containing six missiles each and on trainable pedestals, at every clear area of the hull. That has permitted the installation of six hundred of the boxes on the Empress Saverana II-class, and correspondingly smaller numbers on the lesser ships of the forces. Two missiles have a ninety percent kill probability against a shielded Cylon Raider of any type--the greatest survivability of the larger models and greater manoeuvrability of the smaller models largely cancels out--sufficient for the theoretical interception of up to 1,620 kamikazes by a single dreadnought, though only kamikazes in extremely close vicinity.

"Furthermore, to provide additional point defence, we've modified the hangars of all the ships in the fleet to provide for the installation of one such launcher within the hangar itself. The Cylons greatly prefer to target open hangars during flight operations, so at each hangar egress/launching entrance, except of course for launch tubes, we have actually placed one of the missile launchers inside the ship, with the booster replaced by a cold-cannister compressed gas launching mechanism, which is the Army's LIS-168Kh variant." She paused for a moment to bring up the next page.

"Broadly, kamikaze tactics are best protected against by clustering the fleet, and drilling to fall into a clustered formation rapidly and then also spread out rapidly after the conclusion of a kamikaze attack to avoid a major attack with heavy weapons which can damage multiple targets when the fleets are extremely bunched," she flicked her ears slightly at the next mention, "so we endorsed the Admiral Tisara of Urami's recommendations in that regard."

"She rather has come of her own, hasn't she?" Admiral Khalian couldn't help but speculate. "It seems that Her Serene Majesty's assertion of Her person has come with the sloughing away of the old partisans and loyalists of Intalasha III, blessed be Her heart, and the elevation of certain figures around the old Princess Imperial." He paused, and then shrugged. "At any rate, though matters are not for officers of your rank. Carry on."

"Of course, Sir, for give me," the Commodore said very quietly, and then carried on. "The most important thing is an improvement of the software for the missiles. Remember that our missiles are excellent in their designed roles. We can have eighty-five percent kill probability with a single missile against an incoming at 60% of the speed of light. That hasn't changed, and yet we were expending two hundred missiles to score a single kill against the Cylon kamikazes. The software was simply not built to engage such slow and unpredictable targets but rather to compensate for the minute, fractional-second decision making process required for the missile to guide itself within lethal range of an enemy missile when the speeds require incredible response times to allow for successful course correction."

"Ah, well, that is straightforward. Trying to hit airships with ramjets," he quoted a very old parable, the origin of which he was not sure of. "So improving the success of the missiles in engagement remains quite possible by computer software alone? Will this however reduce their effectiveness against extremely fast targets?"

"No, Sir. It's just the addition of further software to allow target discernment and to let the missiles delay stage firing for re-orientation after separation, so that adjustments to course can be made before the firing of the next stage if necessary. This aspect of the software can be easily switched off in a normal engagement, or on when facing kamikazes. It of course requires corresponding improvement in the tracking mechanisms for the dual-process semi-active homing profiles we use with translight sensors. That does however bring us to another weapon that we're working on making a deployment option with ships, though it won't be available for some time, to supplement the fixed external LIS-168 armoured box launchers. It's a tube capsule for the Mk.30, Mk.34, and Mk.24 launchers which can hold four LIS-168 missiles, with compressed gas and bursting charges to separate them. It can be provided as a standard fit in the Mk.30 launchers replacing some of the long-range anti-fighter missiles against primitive enemies whose starfighters meet Cylon kamikaze profiles, and can fire the four missiles instantaneously after the capsule is flung off the rail--so it's self-ejecting--and they can track and engage separate targets. Combined with the ABL's and missile software upgrades, as well as Starfighter Corps tactics proposing the rearming of bombers with RAM-446 cell clusters for anti-kamikaze work, we are very confident that we can eliminate the kamikaze threat, and the software upgrades and ABL's alone should already show a substantial improvement in fleet anti-kamikaze operations against the Cylons."

"Well, thank you very kindly for the presentation, Commodore," Admiral Khalian glanced down. "But I have just received a message that requires me to return to Starfleet headquarters. It appears that Fourteenth Fleet has gone on the offensive, so we'll need to review their final operational dispositions and send back any final instructions."

"Of course, Admiral. Good luck, Sir."

"As to you, on the implementation of these projects throughout the whole fleet. Good day, Commodore." His ears flexed to yield some further reinforcement to the sentiment, and then retired as he had come, in no small hurry.

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Dhirisma,
System JHR-132222IG,
Cylon Front.
6 JANUARY 2169.

With a fleet well-victualated, of fourty line-ships of the strongest sort, and seventy-two fleet carriers, and sixteen light carriers, between them all carrying 30,000 starfighters and gunboats of all types, Tisara the Archduchess of Urami went forward; her ships of that type were further escorted by 144 battlecruisers carrying another 11,520 starfighters and gunboats, 64 Scout Cruisers carrying another 3,100 starfighters and gunboats, 80 Expeditionary Cruisers carrying another 3,200, 96 heavy cruisers carrying 3,500 altogether, 64 torpedo cruisers of the newest types, 240 light cruisers, 24 flotillas of 64 destroyers each, each also containing 5 destroyer leaders for 120 destroyer leaders and 1,536 destroyers, with 8 flotillas of Destroyer Escorts to support the amphibious assault forces, also with five DLs per flotilla, and 8 flotillas, with the same number of destroyer leaders, of frigates for further support and escort duties, each of the destroyer leaders carrying two interceptors for quick scouting, adding to another 400 starfighters being with the flight. And, of course, Dhirisma herself could be added to the fleet.

This force was then accompanied by 112 Empress Anhilara II-class Planetary Assault Ships of 59.5 megatonnes empty mass, each one carrying 800 space superiourity fighters, interceptors, and bombers instead of their usual 1,200 aerospace fighters so they could be used in a support role for the fleet against the huge numbers of Cylon Raiders, collectively adding another 89,600 starfighters to the fleet, though on platforms providing an acceleration of 600g's only. These vessels were covered by, in addition to the Destroyer Escort and Frigate flotillas, a force of sixteen modern battleships of the Queen Ilahmsi III-class and twenty-four of the older Ikranilisi-class, which would also provide planetary bombardment support. The Planetary Assault Ships could each land two 40,000-strong Motor Rifle Divisions and two Armoured Divisions of equal size in addition to their air support, with full corps-level support assets, and could deploy six hover battleships each, meaning that each of the twelve Colonies, Kobol, and the known Cylon homeworld could be each potentially hit simultaneously by 8 full Taloran corps of 200,000 soldiers each, or 1,600,000 soldiers supported by thousands of tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles, as well as 48 Hover Battleships; the number of landers provided meant that the whole of these forces could be transported to the target planet within a mere 2 human hours--an hour and a half by the Taloran count--from a high orbital position.

To aide in the cracking of any fixed system defences, 64 Siege Battery Ships were also detailed to the fleet, which with the Planetary Assault Ships, Battleships, and destroyer escorts and frigates were all collectively operating with 8 gunboat tenders converted from battleships, carrying 2,048 gunboats and 420 starfighters in all, and further supported in close-escort role by another 160 light cruisers. These were organized as Task Force 14-4, with the Dreadnoughts, some battlecruisers and escorts as TF 14-1, the fast carriers, battlecruisers, and scout cruisers as TF 14-3, and the long-range scouting forces, heavy cruisers and expeditionary cruisers, as TF 14-2.

Another 16 fast gunboat tenders converted from elderly dreadnoughts supported the fleet, carrying twice that number in gunboats and starfighters, such that the main striking force of the fleet carried in all 57,000 starfighters and gunboats from Taloran ships alone, with the Colonial Navy supporting force--designated TF 14-5--consisting of 3 Battlestars, 1 Colonial modular cruiser, a squadron of 8 heavy cruisers, a division of 4 more gunboat tenders, and 6 flotillas of destroyers and carrying altogether some 4,000 starfighters and gunboats, which brought the total in Tisara's four fast Taskforces to 61,000 starfighters of all types. TF 14-4 alone, however, had 92,000 starfighters and gunboats, but was too slow for combat operations, and being fairly lightly escorted required them all for defence of the vulnerable Planetary Assault elements, though for the moment TF 14-5 under Admiral Tigh had been assigned to provide further escort for TF 14-4 and therefore to have the honour of commanding the planetary landings, while TFs 14-1, 14-2, and 14-3 conducted the main offensive operations. The huge TF 19-6 from 19th fleet--largest in the more spread-out defensive fleet of the two assigned to the Front--was assigned the job of protecting the UNREP assets of 14th fleet to free up all 14th fleet combatants for front operations, containing more than 1,500 light escort ships and tens of thousands of starfighters and gunboats, as well as another 20 battleships.

In addition to the 112 full 4-division corps of Imperial Taloran Army troops directly in the Amphibious TF 14-4, a total of 200 Separate Brigades of Imperial Marines could be landed to the planets as needed from the Fleet Marine Forces, with a typical strength of 8,000 soldiers per brigade, and still there would be enough in the way of Fleet Marine Forces to shift around to meet minimum combat staffing requirements for damage control, weapons handling, and boarding parties and repelling boards. In total, therefore, 24,000,000 (24 million) combat soldiers could be dropped on the Twelve Colonies of Kobol in that mere space of 2 hours to regain the planets from the Cylons should it be necessary. A further five times the Imperial Taloran Army's initial committed strength awaited in regular troop transports which could reinforce the initial landing groups once local space was under full Imperial control, or else could be transfered to the Planetary Assault Ships for additional landings, an additional 112 million troops for a total commitment of ground forces of approximately 136 million in all; in all, 300 million Starfleet and Marine personnel, Army personnel, and Starfighter Corps personnel were either operating with the two fleets or in or near the Oralnif Sector in support of Operation Castigate in addition to the designated landing forces for a total of 436 million under arms in the region, not counting merchant mariners.

For repair purposes a further 160 Heavy Repair Ships were prepositioned with TF 19-5 around Oralnif, adding their efforts to the abilities of the 32 Mobile Deepdocks prepositioned on the front and the Prefabricated Permanent Deepdock (PPD) which had been hastily erected over the past seven weeks in orbit of Oralnif, which were collectively capable of simultaneously handling repairs of 40 extremely damaged vessels of up to 65 megatonnes or various larger numbers of combinations of smaller starships, and 320 lightly to moderately damaged starships the same, though that number was fixed rather than variable due to the arrangements of the Heavy Repair Ships rather than the volumetric considerations of the Deepdocks. Prepositioned warstocks of munitions, fuel, and stores provided for up to 292 days of continuous combat operations for 14th fleet, 19th fleet, and their associated ground units without further supplies being sent to the Oralnif Sector. An additional 280,000 replacement starfighters and gunboats were concentrated on Oralnif to immediately provide replacement for combat losses with more and more pilots arriving for them by the day, and 120,000 defensive starfighters were operating from distributed field-ready bases built by engineering brigades landed on Oralnif in great haste to make up for the fact that the orbital defensive platforms could not be replaced due to the great demands on the Imperial shipping, since most of the equipment had been shipped across distances of thousands of lightyears over up to 21 - 25 days of travel time from mobilization depots all across the Empire.

And the whole of Fourteenth Fleet was under Tisara Valeria of Urami's legal and lawful command as a full regular Admiral of the Imperial Starfleet. There was very little else that could be said for the feeling of pride that coursed through the three of them, Tisara, Ysalha, and Dhirisma. After a long time out in the cold, we are very much back in by the fire--oh, not in any place of honour or respect, but, warm, Tisara offered, now more comfortable than she would have imagined possible by the continuous voices in her head.

Certainly, and it gives me hope for the future, Ysalha answered, ever so happy. They weren't even in the same rooms, though Ysalha saw what Tisara did as she stood on the flagbridge observing the concentration of the fleet in the distant and unknown system which stood halfway between Oralnif and Kobol. It had a habitable planet, and so it was rapidly being fortified and prepared as a way-point for the advance of 14th fleet. Do you think that the Cylons can sufficiently impede our progress?

Well, they're likely going to try and turn Kobol and the Twelve Colonies into garrison worlds to hold us off as long as possible, while they reinforce their main fleet as rapidly as they can over their homeworld for a decisive attempt to repulse us. They know the scale of what they're dealing with, and the defections and civil conflicts have them reeling; they will trade all they have gained for the time to use their incredible industrial abilities to put together an effective defensive starfleet which can hold against us, Dhirisma echoed into the link.

They can try, but they would be very stretched to assemble a credible force to slow us down, let alone to hold us over their homeworld, Tisara was in the supine height of her confidence. Let us see what they think when they finally witness this fleet, and realize all that stands behind it.

Perhaps we are already now under surveillance? Dhirisma ventured in counter of the pride. That we are trusted, we should not be remiss, Tisara...

Oh, I know. But really, my dear, the hammer is about to fall, and they are under it. It is just a matter of time; and I will see to it I am the one to strike the blow, whatever surprises they may have left.

Eight more days to Kobol, and then we'll find out.

So we shall.

Oralnif System,
Planet Oralnif,
Temple of Kha'sharoat.
10 JANUARY 2170 AST.

"My letters of recommendation, my curriculum vitae, my cryptographic and linguistics work all detailed. Master's degree in Xenolinguistics achieved in the Union of Free Worlds, Doctor-candidate in mathematics on Talora Prime. Also the background records of my work on Jhardamya IV," she specified one of the human-settled worlds which the Talorans had annexed in their CON-5 territories.

"Thank you very kindly, Doctor Arafeena al-Nasr, and welcome to the High Temple of Oralnif as well, in the worship of the Lord of Justice," the priest answered as he reviewed the documents. "Yes, everything seems in order for you to support the Ryvarian Order telepaths on the front in this work. You understand it is most sensitive?"

"Of course, Father," she answered.

"Hmm. You are not Muslim with a name such as that?" He had never heard a Muslim use that term before.

"Of course not," she smiled affably, and pointed to a section of the birth certificate's Taloran translation. "As you can see here, Father, I was baptized on birth into the Coptic branch of the Oriental Orthodox Church, and proudly maintain my faith to the present."

"Ahh, so I see. Forgive me, Doctor al-Nasr. I have heard of the long and storied history of this branch of the Christian faith before, and its admirable resistance to oppression in the days of sectarian striving amongst human faiths nonetheless dedicated to the Lord of Justice."

"In the present we are rather nicely secure from that, indeed, Father," she agreed readily enough. "Is there anything else that I can provide to you to aide in my vetting? Or that of my personnel?" She'd given their documents first.

"Oh certainly not. I shall write up, sign, and seal the letter recommending you and your research team clearance through the fleet to serve as a cultural, linguistic and crytopgraphic expert under Adept Ersimia at this very moment. You're exactly the sort of person we were looking for to assemble and lead this aspect of the operation." He smiled and finished writing the orders as she stood quietly and respectfully before him, and then the priest handed them off.

She bowed. "A good day to you, father, and by your leave? The sooner we report, the better."

"Of course, and the blessing of God with you."

To that, Sophia Vuletic certainly fervently hoped as she left the Farzian temple and grabbed an electric tram over to the Quartermaster's building in the huge Starfleet City which had grown up on the surface to aide in the support of the deployed forces, consisting of seemingly endless prefabricated buildings of enormous size. She had been strangely pleased to hear that Major Najhakia had been recovered alive when her gunboat was lost, though quite seriously injured; the woman rather deserved to be dead, but Vuletic could not bring herself to wish it upon her. Of her batgirl, well, she had safely rode out the combat, and Vuletic was thoroughly relieved about that.

Sophia generally reflected that things here had gone entirely well by her standards, save for the loss of her heart in the escape, and that had been a small price to pay for success when her miraculous survival was factored in. Now she was back, undetected, of course (indeed, there was really nothing that had been done yet to potentially detect her, and she was not concerned by the prospect of facing Taloran telepaths, though she was conscious of the dangers). The next step would be getting out to the fleet and securing a place with the Imperial telepaths from which she get to the heart of the mystery revealed to her in the Olympus Mons System Defence Facility.

And as it turned out, of the already weak Taloran security measures, they grew even more easy to penetrate than before when one worked with the Farzian Orders. The harried warrant officer behind the desk that she ended up seeing after a comfortably boring wait of thirty minutes or so gave her clearance documents for all thirteen of them simply be looking over the Priest's letter and calling him up to confirm it.

That was delightful, if it did make one feel a bit guilty, and Sophia ended up barely having enough time to get back to her hotel, inform her team of where they should be to get on the same shutle, and stretch her legs. Then she grabbed her bags and an Urul-paste fried kebab (the idea of taking a shish-kebab and covering it in a deep-fried bready substance was one of the more brilliant parts of Taloran cuisine, she couldn't help but think: even easier to eat and much tastier than the ubiquitous bochwurst on a bun in the city of Prague these days where she'd made her home) before she was rocketing spaceward with her assembled team toward a departing AOR heading for Kobol. And only one of them lost a suitcase, and nothing in it was important. So far, far to easy for comfort, idiotic Taloran security or not.

An uncharted system,
12 JANUARY 2170.

She had let them to the incredible, impossible planet, and brought them down to the surface. It was here that the mountains had fallen into the sea; everything was ruined. Ruined cities, ruined plains, ruined hills. The planet as a whole was shattered, hot, radioactive. The Cylons with her were frantic for her to show them what they sought, pushing her onwards.

The Cavil who had a gun to her back, in particular. "Come on, Kara. Where are we supposed to go? What remains among these ruins?"

"Wrong continent."

"What?" The Cylon frowned. "This is where the most intact structures are..."

"This is all primitive dead ruins. You're looking on the wrong continent. The Lords of Kobol came here, they left. Or one did. War swept the world in the meanwhile. The visited touched everything. Here's your Real Earth, alright; dead, while the Taloran one is alive. Is that how everything real is to you?"

"Damn you! Just show us the facility!"

Starbuck turned south with prescient eyes, under the obedience, at times, of the compulsions they had forced into her. "Southern ice continent. We'll know it when we see it."

And so they flew, onwards in a Heavy Raider and to the south. They found it, alright. The size of a Taloran gunboat, at least 2,000 tons, shaped vaguely like a Remora with its incredible wings, angled instead of curved and double-edged, the T-tail, bulging long neck for the cockpit forward, graceful and incredibly beautiful and covered in gold, glowing bright over where a huge chasm in the ice had filled up with lighter, younger ice over time.

The path down to the base was easily carved by the guns of the Heavy Raider, and so again they went forward, though in vacsuits to protect against the steam. It didn't take long for them to reach the outer entrance of the facility, and it opened flawlessly for her. "As all things do--all peoples have two halves, all wars need two sides..."

She stepped inside and was frozen in a golden beam of light. It seized her, demandingly, and spoke in a language the Cylons following could not comprehend. And held her there, as it confirmed her identity, and she began to laugh, and laugh, even as it dropped her and she was able to turn and face Cavil. The glint in her eyes was as dangerous as could be imagined. "You idiot. I'm not the harbinger of the coming apocalypse. I was the harbinger of an older apocalypse. The hybrids spoke about the past, not the future, and you.. Based your future on the past. Again, and again, and again--everything that is old is new!" She was laughing, laughing with unhinged mania as she simply stared, ever so confidently, at the man pointing a gun at her.

Cavil thought about it for a moment and then made up his mind. "But you have provided a future for us, Kara.. And now your services are no longer needed." He fired one shot into her heart; it bounced off the instantaneously raised person shield and a concealed weapon spat out two hot bolts of white fire which tore through and reduced to a carbonized crisp the upper half of his body. The flaming corpse fell to the floor as the blast doors slammed shut on the rest of the Cylons before they could react.

"There is a standard biological contamination security device in this facility. Shall it be deactivated?"

"Yes," Starbuck ordered in the language she abruptly understood. "Is the Vimana on the surface configured for my genetic activation sequence?" The terms she did not understand, yet they came into her mind like someone else was speaking them. And indeed she became more and more aware that she was not, in fact, speaking them. She was trapped here with something else. Someone else. The Cylons had led her directly to...

Your Ancestor. Work with me, and in time you will be free of me, the voice assured her. And it told her, and she screamed in mad horror at what it said, at what it promised. And then there was no more of that.

'Starbuck' continued in a perfectly composed tone as the computer coolly confirmed:

"The enemy craft on the surface is fully configured for operations under your control, High One."

"Main anti-orbital cannon charge status?"

"Emergency batteries available only. Sufficient charge for one engagement."

"Shield power also possible during engagement?" It hadn't lived this long by being reckless.

"For four minutes, fourteen seconds only."

"Activate facility shields."

The shields melted through the ice in a half-sphere, engulfing both the facility and the Vimana on the surface of what would now be a great, slowly melting chunk.

"Targets identified in orbit?"

"Three semiorganic vessels of irrelevant power output and a fourth database storage and copying ship, also of irrelevant power output. They have raised energy shields of negligible strength but have not yet charged drives."

"Destroy them."

The energy bolts from the surface of the dead world, nuked and killed by plagues, tore out through the atmosphere it rapidly ionized and reached the ships. Their shields crumpled like they weren't there, their reactors were blasted to pieces, their hulls largely vapourized and torn to rubble and shredded tissues instantly. Then the batteries in the facility died; but they had, one last time, done what they had been designed to do.

Starbuck stepped over to the weapons locker and opened it with the press of a hand, selecting a beam rifle and strapping a personal shield to her belt. Emotionlessly she walked to the doors of the facility and opened them; she was greeted with the fire of weapons, but their rounds bounced harmlessly off her, and she immediately returned fire with the automatically tracking brilliant violet beam. It tore through the ice and it tore through the Cylons, not merely cutting them in two but also catching them on fire as it did.

And then she jogged crisply back up, scaling the slopes of ice where necessary, and reached the Vimana in about twenty minutes effort. It's time to finish off the corrupted copy, the voice inside thought to where her own trapped consciousness could hear; and then gave orders aboard the Vimana for the computer to shut down the theatre shields around the facility, while the power-up routine in the hijacked enemy bird was begun. "But first, I am going to lead the Colonials back here to their doom, and complete the project." The name was spat as a contemptuous mocking, for the being knew their real ancestry.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Fourty

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Dhirisma,
Cylon Front, Kobol System.
14 JANUARY 2170.

"Three hundred and fourty-one thousand Raiders are rising up from the surface of the planet!"

Knew it! They used their nanite yards to mass produce Raiders as kamikazes to slow us down! Dhirisma seemed enormously excited.

"Very good, Captain Ilahmbh. Is the mustering of the strikes proceeding apace with anti-kamikaze armament?"

"All one hundred and fourty-nine thousand starfighters and gunboats will be in place in another two minutes, Your Serene Grace."

"Rolling five," Tisara ordered. "Let's show them our newest trick."

Rolling the ship was an enormously important manoeuvre in the Taloran Starfleet, to protect your damaged side, present undamaged batteries, and preserve overwhelmed shields for recharging and recovery. The nature of the gravitic fins made maneouvring properly difficult, though forward and aft acceleration were both excellent.. And so were the roll characteristics of the ships. The Cylon Raiders jumped forward to present themselves directly with the three leading Taskforces of the fleet, the two training ones protected by their arcing formation.

And under the Rolling Five, the ships used that ability to the fullest, starting to make 360-degree revolutions every six seconds. Inside, nobody had vertigo or was otherwise affected due to the gravity, though the force produced was rather prodiguous on the dreadnoughts. The crucial thing was that six seconds was the reload and recycle time for Mk.30 and related series missiles launchers. They were firing from each of the dreadnoughts alone 450 anti-fighter missiles against the attacks every three seconds instead of every six seconds, presenting first one broadside and then the other to the attacking force and salvoing missiles as the launchers bore on their targets with the automatic compensators allowing a tracking time during the full time that set of launchers was exposed to the engaged broadside.

It essentially doubled the broadside missile firepower of the fleet, at least as long as they did not need to use the heavy and slow-firing main batteries, and against a force using only Raiders, essentially as very intelligent missiles to slow down the Talorans, it was quite sufficient. 20,000 anti-fighter missiles were fired from the Dreadnoughts alone every 3 seconds; from the battlecruisers, 40,000, and on and on and on. And the software upgrades were already showing; the missiles were making a 5% kill rate against the small and manoeuvrable raiders, not a .5% kill rate; they'd increased the effectiveness by a whole order of magnitude. Even the smaller ships without huge broadsides of missile launchers which had to role, holding their ground and pumping out missiles as fast as they could, contributed to the overwhelming sweep of missiles toward the enemy. The first salvo killed 5,500 raiders, and so did the second salvo. And the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, and the sixth.

"Engage with pods," Tisara ordered next, and the order was simultaneously transmitted through the entire fleet. The Empress Saverana II-class dreadnoughts each flushed 12,000 missiles from one single pod simultaneously out of the VLS. Then, they spun around and three seconds later fired another 12,000 missiles from the second pod. And those were all not very-long-range anti-ship missiles to be wasted, but anti-fighter missiles loaded into the pod VLS; the result was devastating. Each dreadnought killed more than a thousand Cylon Raiders.

The pod attacks wiped out 120,000 of the incoming Raider force, but they were a one-off deal, and now the Raiders were coming in to close for the long-range anti-fighter missiles to remain highly effective. At that precise moment, the Taloran fighters tore across the Cylon formation. Instead of jousting head to head, they tore right along the broadside of the fleet at moderate velocities while the fleet's guns ceased firing to avoid casualties among their own force. The starfighters and gunboats were simply mobile RAM-446 platforms here, flushing all of the missiles at once and allowing them to travel deep across the formation and rake it thoroughly with many of the missiles quite successful at finding targets, everything from the bombers through to the space superiourity fighters able to join in.

That killed another 60,000 Raiders, give or take, with the loss of 887 starfighters, all through interposition accidents, as relativistic velocity collisions were delicately obfuscated by the Taloran Starfleet. Now it was the turn of the RAM-446 batteries on the ships themselves to engage with their uprated software. The capital ships were still on the rolling five, and each of the Empress Saverana II-class dreadnoughts was able to fire 2,048 RAM-446 close range interception missiles into the incoming force and then 3 seconds later, instead of the usual 7, fire them from the second broadside. They finished the roll and at last the Rolling Five was halted almost instantaneously on the ships... And a second later, a third salvo from the RAM launchers, this time the original portside launchers, was fired; in seven seconds each of the dreadnoughts alone had fired off 6,150 RAM-446 missiles, and these showed the same uprated software and improvement in kill rate; each dreadnought managed approximately 375 more kills such that the whole Dreadnought force claimed another 15,000 Raiders, and the battlecruisers and Scout Cruisers another 30,000, and the rest of the fleet, another 25,000.

Out of the original strike force, there were only 58,000 Raiders still coming in against the fleet. That was, of course, almost four times the size of the kamikaze attack which had devastated Tisara's Oralnif Sector Fleet in the Running battles, so it seemed as serious as a chance to serve in Idenicamos' Harem; the end of the fleet, indeed, even though they had already wiped out more than a quarter of a million Raiders, which as the Talorans and Colonials now knew could be produced at will by the mysterious nanite-based massed production facility over the Cylon homeworld which manufactured ships essentially on demand. The Cylons claimed not to know its origin, and Tisara had rather become convinced they were telling the truth. No matter now.

The ships' computers engaged their new LIS-168 batteries automatically. Each Empress Saverana II-class dreadnought unsheathed the 300 of its armoured box launchers which could bear, and so did the rest of the fleet, and automatically fired their full missile compliments directly into the incoming Raiders. The missiles tore out on boosters over the first three seconds while their acquired their targets. The boosters separated and then the manoeuvring fins were alive with fire as they spun the exhaust to orient with their targets and fired the rockets at full power straight into the Raiders while detonating, two from each launcher homing in on the same target automatically. And then, per the Rolling Five plan, the ships were spinning on heel again while the surviving Raiders raced out of the clouds of plasma debris on their final approaches, and the LIS-168 batteries and RAM-446 batteries on the starboard side, the later having easily reloaded, fired simultaneously straight into them. At that range the number of hits by the RAM-446 were pathetic; the number of hits by the LIS-168's when manoeuvring with their boosters still firing was reduced from 90% for two missiles fired at a target to 60%. But there had, it turned out, been precious few Raiders left after the first of the LIS-168 salvoes.

"Sensor data indicates all targets destroyed," Dhirisma calmly reported to the flagbridge crew, which was as much in awe of what had just happened as the Cylons would have been themselves. "Eight impacts by kamikazes took place, against eight different ships. Cosmetic hull damage at most and two destroyers report burn-through that knocked out several LIS-168 ABL's, Your Serene Grace. No other damage reported in the fleet. The carriers are requesting permission to send out recovery shuttles--a few of the pilots of the lost starfighters ejected before collisions automatically."

"Of course," Tisara replied, now calmly confident in what she'd just presided over. That was how a Taloran fleet was supposed to deal with 350,000 incoming missiles, which was how the Raiders were really operating--just rather intelligent and cruelly used missiles--for the moment. "How many Raiders actually got through the first LIS-168 salvo, Dhirisma?"

"About a thousand," Dhirisma answered. "The impacts were actually from ships which failed to finish rolling to present their fresh broadsides before they were hit, and there was lots of fratricide due to the packed position of the fleet, more than we expected, otherwise I estimate there would have been at least 65,000 kills out of 58,000 attackers.. Which when you think about it is rather neat."

"Well, see about spreading the formation out a bit to gain optimal effectiveness, Dhirisma, Ysalha--if you could sim that, I'd rather appreciate it." Tisara stepped over to the holoprojector at the centre of the bridge. "Do you fancy, Captain Ilahmbh, that we could have with some more refinement actually dispensed with the fighters as a defensive mechanism against that scale of kamikaze attack, considering the last missile salvo was essentially superfluous?"

"I would certainly agree it is practicable," Ilahmbh bent her right ear in thought for a moment. "Yes, if we'd done that, probabilistically speaking, if Dhirisma can find the optimal concentration density for the fleet... We should have still killed 15,000 more Raiders than were actually in the strike package. The combination of Task Forces 14-1, 14-2, and 14-3 should be able to indeed handle up to three hundred and fifty-six thousand Raiders without break-throughs, and that's not counting the 21cm powerguns which didn't even engage. Closer to three hundred and sixty thousand, or greater. With the starfighters we could in combine with the full deployment schema take out four hundred and twenty to four hundred and twenty-thousand Raiders based on the these arrangements and the data from the engagement," she continued as she read over to the continuously collated battle reports.

"Without the presence of TF 14-4 and TF 14-5 at all?"

"Call it about four hundred thousand before we face any serious threat of major break-throughs, Your Serene Grace."

"Dhirisma, confirm?"

"This sim is rather intensive, Your Serene Grace," Dhirisma answered, not bothering with a hologram--to emphasize, Ysalha looked rather dead in her acceleration couch. "Well over a million objects at relativistic velocities! At any rate, she's right. Though we may easily yet face such a concentration--some of the estimates I've seen place the number of Raiders the Cylons are likely to have at around three million. So we wiped out 11% of their Raider force here.. But that's it. And given another month, they can probably replace it."

"I don't intend for this war to last another seventy-three days," Tisara replied, and what more could be said?

"Bring us closer to the planet to test it for anti-ship defences. We will see the level of missile batteries they were able to emplace and deal with them as necessary. Order the Planetary Assault Ships to prepare to begin operations against the surface--we will be landing a full eight corps."

"Understood, Your Serene Grace!" Aides hastened to fulfill her orders as the fleet swung in a great menacing arc, its numbers overwhelming even an ancient galley force by an order of magnitude, to engulf the aged and storied Holy World below them.

"And inform the starfighter corps officers to arm their fighters for air support with tactical pure-fusion weapons for atmospheric use only."

"Understood!" The scurrying of under-officers assured her all was well.

Now it was time to watch and wait as the envelopment of the fleet's target continued apace, finally reaching turnover for the reverse acceleration into orbit in about twenty minutes. Another twenty minutes later, and they were sliding into orbit as the first of the mines abruptly detonated and in a sheer sheet of detonations tore apart two destroyers.

Tisara didn't even blink, while the whole fleet went to full auto on their flak projectors and powerguns. Suddenly mines were exploding all around ahead of them. Several more destroyers and frigates were lost; a light cruiser was seriously damaged, but Tisara simply refused to issue contrary orders to the fleet and so they forced their way into orbit and cleared the minefield by sheer inertia.

"They were very well stealthed," Ilahmbh noted only in time for the first of the missile salvoes from the surface to tear upwards. This was something the Taloran fleet was well acquainted with, and they immediately turned their massed anti-missile batteries onto the incoming force. There were more than a million missiles that they had on the surface which they attempted to launch in ten salvoes over the space of ten minutes; but each salvo had about 100,000 and the probability of kill of the RAM-446 against the missiles was 90%, with the flak projectors being themselves also highly effective. Counterbattery fire by the huge 1.5 gigatonne cannons on the ships, well within easy range, also substantially reduced the number of further launches--only 8,000 missiles got off for the very last salvo. By that point though they'd poured hundreds of gigatonnes into a Holy World, and there was no real need to do more with the main guns.

"Secure from planetary bombardment mission," Tisara ordered. "Dhirisma, are you back with us yet?"

"I am! Thank you, Your Serene Grace; at any rate, the sensor data is conclusive. No substantial ground to air assets remain for the Cylon forces on the planet."

"Excellent. We have been delayed long enough by their pathetic efforts to stop us. Fleet signals: 'Land the landing force.'"

14th Fleet Flag,
HSMS Dhirisma,
Cylon Front, Kobol Orbit,
AND Planetary Surface.
24 JANUARY 2170.

In another two days, the jumps to the Twelve Colonies--which could be accomplished in a single day by the Taloran Starfleet, it had been calculated, on a direct route--would begin and their liberation would be commenced. The Cylon ground forces on the planet Kobol had been light in number and weapons, though there was no guarantee, based on the heavy scouting, that was the same for the Twelve Colonies, so the Siege Battery Ships were prepared for very long range engagements to break up the defences with heavy bombardment if necessary.

That was simply the scuttlebutt in the fleet that Sophia Vuletic--presently, Arafeena al-Nasr--had heard while traveling with her research team over to the flagship in which she now stood. More than a little terrified. She had monitored Direct Neural Interface technicians before in the past, and had not liked it. The disturbing ways in which the Alternate Intelligences developed personalities and then were scrubbed down and wiped away had bothered her deeply--especially since, as a highly trained and refined P-12, she had been easily able to start to feel the development of tingling emotions and thoughts from the AIs.

And then she oversaw their execution. For a feedback telepath of her nature who lived off the emotions of others, it was an impossible job to keep, however important it was for the Empire to have fully operational AIs which nonetheless could never be a threat as they had been in the old AI war. There would be no exceptions in that regard, but Sophia had proved just as adept at undercover work, and was quite glad at her transfer.

Now, though, all the old memories were brought back. The Taloran solution, it seemed, for AIs--which they used very rarely, preferring to simply vastly increase the number of Direct Neural Interfaces and have parallel processing in cybernetics for their command officers to let them direct the dumb mainframes, an idea which frankly seemed just as effective as the Empire's own (but parallel processing cybernetics for a few million commissioned and warrant officers would cost substantially more than the computer programmes for AIs in the existing mainframes, so it would never happen in the Habsburg domains). They had taken that to the next level with this ship; as best Sophia had been given to understand, they'd simply melded a seriously neurologically damaged volunteer who otherwise couldn't remain stable into the ship's computer core to provide twenty-four/seven continuous monitoring of the AI.

Or to give it human (or Taloran) emotions. Sophia found as she walked alongside the hologram that it was extremely hard not to believe that Dhirisma was anything other than another Taloran, and a young and naive one to boot. With extremely well-defined emotions, though Vuletic attributed that to the melded Taloran. Regardless, a thoroughly charming if distinctly naive little computer. There was that nervous part of her, though, that suggested that perhaps some of the AIs she'd seen wiped could have ended up like that, and it bothered her to imagine that they had been dealt with so. On the other hand, Church doctrine is explicit on the issue; AIs have no true sapience. What you are feeling, my dear silly Sophia, is the emotional bleedover from the Taloran permanently mentally fused into the computer core to control it. Pay no more heed.

Dhirisma finished taking her to the quarters of Adept Ersimia, and here Vuletic had her strongest test: She would have to suppress the evidence of her powers through precise emotional feedback. Feedback telepaths had the unique advantage for intelligence work, as well, that they could very reliably hide from other telepaths. But she would be having to do it for the next several weeks if not months, and that made it a rather more rigorous proposition.

"Doctor al-Nasr. Thank you for your prompt attendance to the issue at hand. I am very pleased to have you here." The figure of the great Taloran lady, of no inconsiderable skill, settled back after she had ended on the pads on the floor, and regarded her for a long, long moment. Then she began to speak.

The conversation, held over Dhpou, lasted for hours. It covered all of Ersimia's theories--the thought that the remnants of the ancient species which brought the Kobolians from Earth might still exist chilled Sophia to the bone, considering she'd seen what they were capable of in the construction of the Olympus Mons facility--and her needs for the expedition. Those were more straightforward; accessing ancient computers and translation, and Sophia had gone into the details of her available team's experience with great forethought.

That left the primary issue left to them both to be where to begin. The answer was obvious; they needed to go to Kobol and investigate the ruins on the planet for themselves. Sophia suggested they move immediately, wishing to establish her reliability, and the affair was at once set. Two of Ersimia's acolytes and four of Doctor al-Nasr's specialists ended up following them to the surface, and they spent the next eight hours there investigating the temples and then took a shuttle over to the Tomb of Athena.

It was there that they had already made an important discovery. "Well, this explains why the Colonial Navy was heading in the direction it was," Ersimia herself spoke. "Look at the position and appearance of the Lagoon Nebula--from their notes, and your translation, it could be seen from Earth--it's the opposite side from that visible on Earth."

"Oh hell, you're right." Arafeena took another long and somewhat nervous look at the image displayed before them. "So. Those pictures you showed me from ST-3 universe? They're real, Adept? There really is a second Earth there?" She rather doubted it even now--it could easily be from yet another universe in the Alliance--but this map had not been placed her for her edification. It was the original hologram, and it was going to be very useful indeed.


I imagine nobody saw fit to explain that to me. I'm sure the Empire knows of it as an oddity, and perhaps reinforce for the idea of old and powerful species, but bringing it up just hadn't seemed important in the context of my mission. Oh well, there's no reason to doubt her, even though I blasted can't well read her. "Then we've got an area to begin looking in."

"You take this rather well, Doctor al-Nasr."

"I've been in a perpetual state of shock since they translated the inscription on that tomb in the Pamirs," Sophia answered with an absent humour. "With luck, it won't wear off until the rewriting of the history of the human species is finished."

Ersimia laughed softly, and folded her ears in a way to show delight in a Taloran. "So we may hope. Come, let's see if we can get a recording of this, and then explain things to the Archduchess of Urami."

"My pleasure, Adept."

14th Fleet Flag,
HSMS Dhirisma,
Cylon Front, Kobol Orbit.
25 JANUARY 2170.

What happened to wake them up early the next morning was the sort of incident that no Admiral wished to wake up to. It was Dhirisma screaming in her brain, more or less. Tisara! TISARA!!

And so she was awake in a moment, and Ysalha shaking herself off at her side. At least they had been too busy, and distracted, to be involved in anything deeper the night before, as it certainly would have come back to haunt them now if they had dared it. What's wrong, Dhirisma?

We just lost a carrier! The fleet's under attack. I issued orders for everyone to go hot at Condition One in your name the moment I saw the penetrator coming in, but they didn't have enough time to evade. It was the Ytaulak, Inalashi-class! The impact simply blew her to pieces.

And here, Tisara muttered as she dragged on her vacsuit and clipped the helmet into place, we were going to leave tomorrow to liberate the Twelve Colonies, and I wake up to find a carrier completely destroyed.

Could have been worse, Ysalha slurred as she did the same. It could have been aimed at us.

I resent that remark. I have 3,000g's plus of overdrive acceleration and hair-trigger motion controls for sensor detection of an incoming penetrator. I could have gotten out of the way. Not the poor Ytaulak, though. Fortunately the bow and stern and pods all seem reasonably intact and we're getting signals from survivors inside, but it blew straight through the middle of the ship, chopped into four surviving sections. We can recover the starfighters from the outer pods, maybe.

We worry about preventing further attacks first, though by all means make sure that the rescue operations are conducted with the utmost rapidity, or else get them down onto the planetary surface with escape pods and get them out of the way,Tisara instructed as she raced with Ysalha down the few dozen steps required to reach the flagbridge, where a terrified-looking Ilahmbh looked as close as Tisara had ever seen the redoubtable woman to a nervous breakdown from where she'd been holding down operations for the Fourteenth Fleet.

"It was another suicide run," Ilahmbh explained. "Look at this. I got the sensor picture data in and slowed it down.. Pretty much as much as possible. This is an image composite, but the spectral analysis suggests even the colour is about right, and we did see the reflecting flash, analyzing that right now."

A gold ship, of doubled delta swings and high-neck forward, T-tail aft, half the size of a J'u'crea-type gunboat, was in the viewer rounding the planet already had sizeable velocities. Then it suddenly elongated, accelerated, tore straight forward into the Ytaulak with incredible, impossible power, incinerating the center of the vessel as it exploded into a rolling fireball which trailed far up and above the debris of the carrier.

"I think it was making close to .9c when it impacted," Ilahmbh finished quietly. "Some kind of runup for faster than light speeds, that's all I can guess, but on a suicide course."

".88," Dhirisma uttered as she formed a hologram of herself, looking very grim. "If we'd had a few more seconds warning, we could have actually gotten missiles off with a good chance of an intercept. May I order constant patrols by up to five hundred EW 'birds at a time to be instituted, Tisara, at long ranges, with necessary escorts?"

"Do it." No questions or debate was necessary on that one, now.

Behind them, the Adept Ersimia had arrived on the bridge in a crisp and hurried way. "Thank you for summoning me, Dhirisma. May I see a slow-motion replay of the event that you described to me."

Dhirisma immediately activated the holoprojector to get the reply done, as Ilahmbh had shown it. Ersimia paused, and watched quietly, and then.. "Again."

It was played again, even as Tisara was debating the wisdom of ordering the fleet to high acceleration, manoeuvring randomly around the system to avoid further attacks in that fashion.

"What was the velocity when she was around the planet? Do you have any read on what happened there?"

"The ship was only present for a few seconds, having more or less just appeared there, and there was lots of jamming, but, the sensor records.. Well, they were dismissed as being ridiculous. Seventeen thousand gravities of acceleration over four seconds from its arrival from whatever kind of FTL it used through the sensor data field to the point where it elongated and destroyed the Ytaulak at c-fractional velocity."

"Does any existent power have a ship capable of those performance characteristics?"

"No." Dhirisma checked another potentiality. "And it wasn't even anti-matter fueled. Quite possibly something more.. Exotic."

"I do believe we have finally met the Lords of Kobol," Ersimia replied. "Perhaps we should be thankful to the Lord of Justice that whomever they are, they are also reduced to using their marvelous ships as suicide missiles? I should dislike to imagine the fate of the Empire if a full war fleet existed opposed to us built in that fashion."

"You know where this second Earth is, approximately, and it's our best lead, yes?" Tisara had made up her mind about.. Something.

"Yes, Your Serene Grace."

"Then go with Dhirisma and Ysalha to hunt for it in the area of space you have located, and get to the bottom of this. A Synthetic Control Cruiser has the best chances against a pack the like of those crafts, nothing else we have could hope to withstand that--to destroy a fleet carrier with a single blow, even with unshielded. Dhirisma, go with your shields up at all times."

"I... Well, thank you for entrusting the fate of those you love to my hands, Your Serene Grace. Your willingness to help the Temple Orders, I shall not forget."

"I must merely make the choices which are best, Adept," Tisara's ears hung back and she looked as though she must avoid looking at Ysalha, should she change her mind. "You need a ship which can protect your mission, and she is the one. I can transfer my flag, on the other hand, to the Queen Mhirata."

"Oh look, the visuals found something else," Dhirisma glinted. "There was an escape pod separation to the planetary surface..." She isolated a frame from the Army's surface surveillance cameras. "Just before it rounded the planet."

The exact same moment, one of the coms crackled, and Ilahmbh, relieved at the chance, responded and listened, her ears showing her consternation as she finally turned to Tisara to relay the message.

"Army Rapid Response forces have recovered Major Kara Thrace of the Colonial Navy from the pod. She says that she has extremely urgent news for you, Admiral--she claims to have escaped off the penetrator. It was in Cylon hands, and it was recovered from a Second Earth, she claims, where numerous other examples like it are being prepared for use in a similar fashion."

"Get her up here for interrogation right now," Tisara ordered without another thought. "That seems to bring together everything you were thinking, Adept, and fearing. My decision to send Dhirisma, I think, will prove a wise one."

"So it seems to be," Ersimia said, but then, softly, so that no one heard, and a bit more doubting: "So it seems to be...."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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Post by Themightytom »

Great Story1 You totally faked me out, I thought a conenction would be made with the one god of the holy Roman Empire and the cylon's one god, using a stargate or by connecting the revelation that a prexisting civilization had IU jump drives. But its a second earth, and yet another Ancient civlization,

...yet another....

"Since when is "the west" a nation?"-Styphon
"ACORN= Cobra obviously." AMT
This topic is... oh Village Idiot. Carry on then.--Havok
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Themightytom wrote:Great Story1 You totally faked me out, I thought a conenction would be made with the one god of the holy Roman Empire and the cylon's one god, using a stargate or by connecting the revelation that a prexisting civilization had IU jump drives. But its a second earth, and yet another Ancient civlization,

...yet another....
Well, maybe.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Fourty-One

Chennai, the Indian Raj,
Imperial Commonwealth.
25 JANUARY 2170.

"Isn't the city truly beautiful?" Fraslia sighed in delight as they sat in a cafe near the Chennai Central Station where they were now due to depart soon for their next stop in the Deccan, heading inland to Hyderabad before traveling down the Malabar Coast and taking a freighter toward Persia. "Certainly more in line with your own peoples' beliefs, at any rate."

"I thought you hated polytheists," Roslyn answered wryly. "But I have seen in India how they thrive. What's the difference?"

"Oh, that's easy. They aren't polytheists, but monotheists. All of these 'gods' are just aspects, representations, of the Supreme Brahman, a fact the priesthood is quite willing to emphasize. India's monotheism is complex, and one might not say not very genuine, but that is for the people on the ground who live here to deal with; if they adhere to the doctrines of their own Priesthood, they will be judged as Good and enter the armies of Farzbardor. If they stray, well, their own priests have tried to put them on the righteous course, so who are we to stop them? And of course, the success of the Sikhs in converting many of the untouchables during the great upheavals which came before out arrival on this planet, I understand, generally made the Brahmin more attentive to the affairs of the people anyway."

"They're a very impressive people, the Sikhs."

"Yes, I understand that the 144 Khalsa Corps is actually serving with the invasion force."

"Now that will be a sight for sore eyes." Roslyn got serious again. "Is there any evidence on how many people are still alive in the Twelve Colonies that you've heard of from your various contacts in the Empire?"

"The usual figure being bandied about around is somewhat less than one and a half billion survivors possible. Which is of course just a very small fraction of your population..." Fraslia was grim. "For which I'm sorry. Less than we'd hoped, or thought, initially."

"I know. But that's the way the wheel has turned," Roslyn answered. "There's nothing more we can do for the dead but to honour them. What, then, of the living? I understand Baltar's appeal is to be heard by the Empress herself." Her face twisted. "I could never imagine...."

"And yet he will probably still be pardoned," Fraslia countered remorsefully. "When the Empress personally hears an appeal, it is invariably because it is being done for political reasons. She does not want the humans of the Empire to think that we are harshly repressing him, and them."

"Despite the fact he deserves it." A sigh. The food was very good--Fraslia had to go for some of the less spicy seafood with its yoghurt--especially the tea, but that day it didn't have the same intensity to it, value of life, that their travels had normally had. And yet at the same time she could feel in the air that a very momentous decision had been made, by herself. She just wasn't quite willing to accept it yet. "It is that important to keep humanity conciliated?"

"The works of Eibermon say it is best to err on the side of mercy when Justice is unsure," Fraslia replied, and dipped her ears down. "I think, Laura, that is all that can be said in the circumstances."

"It would be nice if we could be harsher to him," she answered. "I would like to be, myself. Speaking of which...."

"I suppose it is that time," Fraslia answered, aware that she was about to involve herself in Imperial politics, in a cafe in Chennai, three hours away from leaving by train for Hyderabad. And in a very big way, indeed. There was much else that could be said for the situation, after all, in which all of their travels had led up toward this moment, even the crucial discoveries serving as a backdrop for the acceptance of what had gone on.

"This is our homeworld, and I can accept it," Roslyn began. "There is.. Every connection we need to know to Earth. So the question remains what we're going to do about it. So, alright, Fraslia. I'm willing to deal with the Empire. What should I offer?"

"Go for status as an autonomous Republic. Don't worry about punishing Shaw--let the title become mediatized and just ignore it. That's a term we have for nobility who no longer have their holdings but still have retained recognition of the old title and standing. In short, being merciful about playing reconciliation from every angle, show the rest of our nobility that you will be inclined to respect aristocratic pretensions in that fashion.

"Beyond that, you need to be prepared for some sort of formal tribute to the Empress. Keep yourselves at arm's length--a nominal amount like a single Riala might well be sufficient, but tributary states, whose foreign policy is controlled by the Empire but who really have no other obligations, are by far the most distant one can get from the Imperial core. We haven't had one in a while, but we certainly could again. And you can to some extent even operate with a more open foreign policy, as long as it doesn't contradict Imperial interests.

"Most importantly, that's why you need to show some judiciousness with the nobility. Make yourselves distinctly non-threatening in appearance and your own internal customs may be preserved. Certainly, we never really wanted to have so many polytheists in the Empire in the first place. It creates problems. And you can emphasize that, successfully.

"The main problem is that however competently she has handled the situation, and frankly honestly, Tisara's role is still that of a conservatorship for Kendra Shaw. She will be your enemy in trying to regain power over the Twelve Colonies unless you can get to Shaw and get her to abandon her position," Fraslia finished. "And whether or not that's possible, I don't know."

"I don't either. If she has the slightest bit of loyalty as a Colonial officer left, I'm sure I could manage," Roslyn replied. "But she was very much Cain's creature, and I understand lover, and so there's no way to really tell how far, how thoroughly, she was under Cain's grip and what went on between them, what her ideology for the Colonies is. That, and the mental breakdown. Doesn't that imply that she isn't competent to make her own decisions regarding the state?"

"Yes, but she can end that period herself with a show of sanity. You are, in short, going to have to get her to stand up, heal herself, and dismiss Tisara as Regent. And then you will have her out of the way, and will have in fact dealt with her honourably and raised her own standing. That will eliminate your primary opposition. The second think you must do is sound out Admiral Tigh...."

"He was Admiral Adama's closest friend. I don't think he's going to start turning his nominal position at the moment into a perpetual dictatorship."

"Likely not. But you'll need to do both swiftly, and while Tisara is distracted," Fraslia added. "Probably, we should time our return to coincide with the landings on the Colonies. As soon as we hear that they've begun, we can immediately move to return to the Colonies as rapidly as possible so you can get a position on the ground, make your case to the people on the surface, who shall now again be the bulk of your populace, that the restoration of their government is possible and that their sacrifices and hardships and the loss of twenty of their relatives for every one of them still alive--still gives them some promise of hope in the future, you see?"

"So, very difficult, and no sure prospects of success in managing the situation."

"Quite, Laura. But, really," Fraslia's ears flattened back to the sides of her head a bit dangerously. "That's the way politics is played, and particularly in the Empire. At least I am quite certain that if Baltar makes trouble, we can deal with him easily, and in a way that won't harm the Empire, either. Extrajudicial violence can after all be.... Spontaneous."

It was a sign of how far along Laura had come that she didn't protest the remark, not one single bit. And then it was really time to pay and get ready to go, even if the rest of the trip through the subcontinent seemed likely to be consumed with planning for the near future, and they'd never finish the tour of Earth. In a decade, when I no longer need to be President, she thought, I'll come back here with Fraslia for a year or so. She really does know how to get all the deals when backpacking--though how to do you ask a noblewoman where she learned that without being offensive? Oh well.

The Old Fort, Valeria,
Talora Prime.
25 JANUARY 2170.

"Your Serene Majesty, the findings of the Prosecution are considerable and myriad. Her Serene Grace Tisara of Urami, a Princess of the Blood, found that the circumstantial evidence of Gaius Baltar, sometimes President of the Confederacy of Kobol, had in his earlier civilian life made substantial modifications to the code of the computer systems of the Colonial Navy such that they were to be easily rendered and defeated, even controlled, by Cylon computer systems.

"You have, Your Serene Majesty, being shown in these ways that he again, after modifications, used a similar virus on Oralnif to drop the planetary shields, initiating an unnecessary exchange which killed hundreds of thousands of Imperial service personnel and thousands of his own citizens in what his misguided notions believed his 'friends' in orbit would wish him to do, when they themselves sought peace. His actions have been culpable to both genocide and to a generally unnecessary effusion of blood, and for the circumstances of martial law the proof in the coding, and the fact that he was a senior developer on the project which became the Colonial computer networks that were thus brought down in the Twelve Colonies, provides a sufficiency of knowledge that we can say certainly that Gaius Baltar is the most foul form of Grand Traitor imaginable, guilty of Grand Treason and worthy of being lifted by a rope about the neck upon the highest of towers, and there suspended until suffocated, as the sentencing mandated.

"Her Serene Grace is the Archduchess of Urami is not on trial here; her decision is, Your Serene Majesty, of the height of reason. It is her duty to maintain order in the war-torn sectors and to assuage the peoples of the Empire of the universality of Justice and its absolute impartiality. And the Archduchess herself had appointed Gaius Baltar to his position under her new constitution, showing herself quite willing to work with him from the start. And he repaid this with treason against her and against Your Serene Majesty's Person and all of the Empire. The reasons for the success of the prosecution have thus been laid out, Your Serene Majesty."

Sitting on her throne and holding across her lap the crock of her power as the herdswoman of her people, and the symbol of Justice, of the Shepherd sitting in justice, to hear the appeals of the people and rule over them, as the Shepherd does to the Urastik, so it was here, that the Maharanidhirani Bahadur of the Taloran Star Empire, Saverana, the second of that name, settled down and breathed in slowly. Her seaweed green hair was strictly down up on the braided-bun Imperial Style, falling back in a braid down the back of her neck to the small of her back beyond that, her clothes were most modest robes of justice, with purple slippers.

It was actually only the second time that she had directly heard an appeal for clemency, and now it was the turn of the defence. There was not much to be said. She said and listened for the next hour while an appeal to the paucity of the evidence was continued, and then it was time to once again interject into the process, of course, for that wasn't at stake. "Enough, Counselor. We do not find the original subject of the trial to be at doubt here. Was the punishment however Just? Is it right that the convicted is sentenced to Die in the fashion directed? This is what We ask."

The Taloran lawyer representing Baltar bowed once again. "Your Serene Majesty, Justice is to err on the side of caution. There is no proof, no act flagrante delicto to show that Gaius Baltar did indeed undertake these actions....." And so she continued, but at least on topic that time. Her testimony did not last much longer, as the courtroom was suddenly overtaken with spectacle.

Baltar had not intended to testify in his own defence. He had not intended to. But suddenly he was not in this court, but in a Celestial court; standing there, with his Six before him, waiting, unforgiving. "Are you going to be a coward now? Are you going to deny your own God even before these other worshippers of the one God?"

"This is your chance. This is your chance to complete your appointed task! Death is coming, a vast plague which will overwhelm all of humanity, and only those who follow the teachings of your religion will be saved! Only those who worship the one Almighty will not perish! Do you understand this!? You are a Prophet of God! Now stand up and act like one!" She grabbed him and slammed his head into the wall thrice.

To those watching the spectacle, it seemed that Baltar abruptly started slamming his head into the table that he was sitting at, again, and again, and again. Three times and so hard that the bangs of the impact reverberated through the room, until the Imperial Guards nearby grabbed him and hauled him.

He coughed, and shuddered, dazed, but his eyes were now alive with a mad fire. "I would speak in my own defence!" Baltar cried, looking directly toward the Empress. "I would speak in my own defence!"

"Then speak, Gaius Baltar," Saverana the Second replied coolly, "Assuming you are still with us--We are not sure what this outburst is supposed to mean. You are in an audience for your own defence, and We are not in an obliging mood. The argument for a pardon by your counselor has been delivered with passion, but think carefully about what you say next--your very life is at stake."

"Thank you, Your Serene Majesty, for your learned advice," Baltar answered. "But I am aware of the stakes involved in my hearing. It is simply that... Well, it is this part of my story which is most difficult to tell. I have not explained it to anyone. But my angel has told me to enlighten you, and so I shall--God help me."

Straightening, he faced Saverana. "Yes. I was involved in writing the code that brought down the defence network of of the Colonial Navy and the ships' interface networks. I did almost all of the work, in fact, and I did a good job at it. I did not know that it was laced with those viruses--I was guided by my angel, in the form of a Cylon. I was guided to do the work of God and undo the polytheists.

"I was guided, again, to lower the shields of the planet Oralnif, precisely because that turn of events would force the surrender of the Cylons to our side, and guarantee that their monotheism would not be destroyed. The universe is coming to a cataclysm, Your Serene Majesty. Great plagues shall sweep through humanity and they will exterminate all of humanity, in all of the cosmos, who does not profess the worship of the One God through the prophesy revealed to me.

"To the end of turning humanity away from their false and sinful faiths, corrupt and debased from the true knowledge of the One God, I have allowed many cataclysms and disasters to befall the polytheists and pagans of the Colonials in the hope that suffering will show them the error of their ways. I was called by God to do this, and I will remain firm to my calling.

"Execute me, but if you do, you shall execute a Man of God. I have been sent to provide warning--I have been sent to lead the people of Kobol out of paganism! And if you set me free, this is what I shall do. I shall return to the Twelve Colonies, and I shall preach--and those who obey my teachings will live, and those who ignore them will perish! And so it shall be throughout the universe! A great day is coming, the Apocalypse, revelation and destruction shall travel side by side, winged angels under the command of the One God!" His hands were flung with balled fists up into the air as he cried out the last, and the audience room where the hearing was being held had been reduced to a dead silence. "All these things have been revealed to me. Heir of Faithful Valera, Sword of God, let the blood in your veins sing with the truth of my words!

"God commands you through my voice, Noble Heir! Let me go, and let me teach to the polytheists before the deluge comes! God would not have sent me to chastise them if He did not love them, and I will, having shown them the wrath of God, now show them the love of God and thereby bring about their salvation from the horrors which now wait on the wings in the end of times."

The guards began to move in on Baltar, but Saverana gestured with rigid intensity with her free hand. The address had been--a command, incredible!--impossible, but she handled the situation better than she had dreamed. If you believe in the history of your ancestors, do you doubt that a great sage and Prophet might one day come to you like this and command you to hear the voice of God? That he is human matters not; there have been human prophets before. We are the Priests of the Lord, but Prophets are his voice and can surely come from any race.

"Gaius Baltar," she said softly, "We are of the blood of Valera. The teachings of the Lord Farzbardor have shown to Us that Justice must always be done. Your actions were only just if you tell the truth. On your word alone We cannot pardon thee. Show Us a sign from On High, and you will be released to expound your prophesy and teach your Gospel to the pagans. God is neither impractical nor irrational. Show Us a sign!"

The court attendants cowered in fear. Even the counselors of the hearing took steps back from Baltar, now left alone before the Empress; even the guards were moving to the sides.

To Baltar, it was Six coming up behind him, whispering, finally, devoid of all hate and mocking: "I'm proud of you, Baltar." And then she lifted him up, with immense strength, the strength of a Cylon, letting him rise in the air, until he was standing on the palms of her hands, perfectly balanced, and her arms were raised entirely over her head.

To everyone in the audience chamber, it looked like Baltar had levitated two and a half meters off the ground. There were gasps, two of the courtiers and a few of the servants fainted outright. Standing from his position, hovering above everyone else, he walked on the clear air above their heads, straight toward the Empress, until he stood in front of her, towering over her, and pointed down with a single hand, eyes alight with the mad fire of a Prophet.

"Saverana Valeria, Heir of the Sword of God! I KNOW YOUR SINS! Did you not lay with your friend, outside of wedlock, Jhastimia Rulandh, the Archduchess Leluno, in a night of passion at the age of five years by the Taloran count? This was your carnal knowledge of another outside of wedlock, betraying the supreme orders of God! Even you have sinned in this way, the blood of your family which runs so hot and proud leading you astray even as it is the blood of the Sword of God! Remember; the Purest of Love is Unrequited Love, and keep this mindful in your eyes in the future! For I pass no judgement upon you; God does yet still Love you as you are. Justice errs to Mercy! You have done good deeds and your future is still bright. When the Apocalypse comes, you will stand as an iron pillar for your people and not be moved or thrown onto a false course, and when God comes to claim you, He will account your sins balanced, even though this is not one that you have confessed and made penance for. I confess it for you now, to these before you; and dismiss that sin from your soul, that you shall know that God has commanded you to let me free, that I may preach his word to the pagans."

He was lowered to the ground by the unseen force, and then, right at the food of the dais, knelt on one knee before Saverana. "Your Serene Majesty, I present myself to you, God having shown you as He sees fit and having lifted me up in the arms of his angels before you."

It was a credit to the incredibly rigorous training of the Imperial family that Saverana hadn't even blinked during the entire display. She certainly didn't react in shock as everyone else had, and accepted the events with equanimity. "That God has prepared you for a mission among the Pagans, I cannot deny," she said at last, shaking her head slightly in an incredible gesture of surprise, to clear her mind, for an Empress on the throne. "You are free. The charges are struck from your record. Go forth, Gaius Baltar, and preach the word of God to the pagans in my realms. My hand of protection shall be over you, and my vengeance will be terrible if harm befalls you."

Baltar rose, and bowed as he rose, and then turned to leave the courtroom. What followed surprised even him; the servants fell to their knees impulsively and made obesience to him as he passed, flattened out in kowtow while he walked by, utterly convinced before by his levitation and his words about the Empress, and her act of recognition, that they were in the presence of a figure touched by God. They grabbed and kissed at his cloak as he left, crying out prayers in High Taloran for intercession as they did, and with this grand procession at his back, he left the Old Fort and proceeded into Valeria, where news of the event spread throughout the day and brought the city to a halt. His passage back to Oralnif was soon paid for a dozen times over by well-wishers to the "human prophet sent amongst the pagans by the Hand of the Lord Farzbardor," who came and threw bags of Rialas at his feet, many of them poor who tossed down their life savings without a thought. And in this way, did Gaius Baltar make to return himself to Caprica, and to Aerelon.

Late that night, Saverana was anything but pleased as she sat back, occasionally drumming her fingers, and staring into the table in her private apartments in the Old Fort, as she repeated again what she had seen before Jhastimia, and how the secret of their one tryst when young got out. "You know," she finally, and with a nervous fear that it would be in its own way prophetic, spoke to her friend and confidante, "if they kill him, I am going to have to avenge him as a martyr of the Faith. I have no choice now but to send orders to Tisara to that effect, and pray that the pagans of the Colonies either heed his words or else leave him alone. God's will this may be, but the stability of the Empire's human worlds cannot be helped by this event--and I am not sure I trust the true meaning of his prophecy. All humanity? But among them are monotheists already."

"Consult with the highest leaders of the Church, and go to the Springs of Aytarishah in pilgrimage," Jhastimia answered with no uncertainty. "This is.. Very much a religious matter of the highest order now. Go in full train with all your courtiers, My Empress, with all the highest Archpriests of the Farzian Orders, and bathe yourself in the Aytarishah springs in the way of your ancestors."

Saverana looked up at her, and swallowed. "You will be my Taliyah when we Act the Parts and pray for word from God in the airs of the springs? This has not been done in almost a thousand years, and the formula is demanding."

"Then we will summon the Archpriests tomorrow and make preparations for the train of pilgrimage to set out along the roads. Let the peasantry come in old times, so that they may see that in such a special occasion as this, all the old forms are shown and that we are following the design of the Lord of Justice to the revelations of our house."

"I will start at once..." She leaned in, and hugged Saverana very tightly, abruptly. "You did right, My Empress, in a situation that none of us could have imagined in this modern age. Be thankful that our ancestors understood well that the works of God were evident in every part of life, and provided for us to do our part when they are shown to us. Now, let us not fear any longer. God will show us, either in the Springs of Aytarishah or else through some other sign."

"Thank you, Jhastimia. I must admit my amazement, and no small terror, but you are right. We are of the blood of the Sword of God, and either God has sent him to us..."

"...Or it is the direct work of Idenicamos the Deceiver," Jhastimia finished for her. "In which case, we know how to fight evil just as well as our ancestors when it walks before us unveiled as it did today. So fear not, My Empress. The right course shall be revealed. We need but trust in the certitude of the Lord Farzbardor and Know that our way will soon be shown before us. There is nothing else that we need to concern ourselves with. Justice will be done."

"Yes. To Aytarishah, with the whole court, at once," Saverana repeated, gaining confidence as she did. "One way or another, we will know. And then we will act with the Justice of God."

"So be it, My Empress. So be it."
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Fourty-Two.

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Dhirisma,
In Orbit of Kobol.
25 JANUARY 2170.

"She is telling the truth," Ersimia said at last. "There is a great base in Antarctica which she witnessed and escaped from, on a second Earth identical to the one in the Empire, but ruined entire by war, its bridges smashed, its mountains melted, cities turned to dust. And buried under the ice is an innumerable force of these great warcraft, overwhelming in every aspect. There are things in her mind that I don't understand, but I'm sure of that..."

She leaned back, sagging, panting heavily. "There you go, Your Serene Grace. All that you would need to know, I suppose. We really do need to be leaving rapidly."

"Give the orders to the flag-crew to transfer to the Queen Mhirata," Tisara ordered to Dhirisma before turning back. Starbuck herself was beginning to recover from the probe.

"Thank you for listening," she said in a very subdued tone. "What they did to me.."

"I know," Ersimia impulsively hugged the human woman as she rose. "You surely did not deserve that, nobody did. But a chance for vengeance is certainly being fairly given."

"Are you sure you can fight three Baseships and better them?" Tisara asked to Dhirisma quietly.

"Yes." Dhirisma stretched. "Should we go ahead and tell them?"

"Oh, there's little point in hiding it now," Tisara answered, regarding Starbuck curiously for a moment. "Go ahead."

"I was upgraded with a Cylon jump-drive in the past half-month we lay at Oralnif while the preparations for Operation Castigate were completed. Ysalha is capable of operating it--she oversaw its assembly out of spare parts recovered off the Cylon ships--and we are hiding it as a capability. Until now. With Ysalha continuously monitoring it and anti-matter power sources, we can jump in one-fourth the time--everything thirty-seven point five t-minutes, about thirty human--as a Taloran drive, slightly faster than a Colonial drive--and make one hundred and twenty lightyears on each jump. The drive is sixteen times faster than the typical Taloran drives currently in existence, thus, and could take us to Talora Prime in.. Three days."

"How long will it take us to reach the Second Earth with such a drive?" Ersimia paced slowly. "We have such little time..."

"Two days, based on Major Thrace's description of the location. I've narrowed the system down.. Call it a third day to actually locate it."

"Merciful, is the Lord of Justice. We will have a fair chance to stop them, then?"

"An excellent chance," Starbuck answered. "They're not expecting you to be there for weeks."

"Well, I had better be going, then. Dhirisma, have the Mhirata send over a company of Marines and see to their accommodation to provide support on the surface. Combat engineers, for demolition work. They'll arrive as we leave, and replace our shuttles in the bay with their combat landers."

"Of course."

There was a moment of pregnant silence between the Archduchess and the hologram.

"Her life is mine," Dhirisma finally spoke, very, very small. "You know that."

"God speed, Dhirisma," Tisara stepped over, as though she were to kiss the hologram, and then paused and laughed softly. "Don't suppose there is a way to make you corporeal?"

"There is, but not here, not yet.. I'll explain some other time," she added and her ears showed her happiness. "Thank you, Tisara, for restoring my life to me."

"And thank you, Dhirisma, for giving back the life of my love. Keep her safe." Tisara stepped out of the conference room, only to find Ersimia following her.


"Your Serene Grace. You know there is a way that the two of you could be married."

"Receive Imperial permission to resign my title and associated privileges and have the All-Highest Empress create me a Countess Palatine or a Marchioness out here on the far rim? I'd still be a Princess of the Blood, Adept. That wouldn't change. The marriage ineligibility may be based around rank, but it is rank of blood, not specific title. Nor could, by the laws of this Empire, Ysalha be raised to be my full equal. My only equals are other Princesses of the Blood."

"I see that you're right. I'm sorry to raise it."

"It's alright. It is the first time someone cared about us enough to try and see us married by some contrivance, other than ourselves," Tisara answered. "My only option would be to have myself declared anathema by the court, both of us actually, and move someone else to be married as private citizens. To.. Emigrate, be separate from all of society and have my name eternally erased from the rolls of the Family, or else to outright turn traitor and receive titles elsewhere. I would never do this, because I am at least a decent person."

"That is why I shall pray for you."

"Thank you, Adept, but you need the intercession of God far more than I do," Tisara finished, and moved hurriedly off.

She sought a last comfort in resting Ysalha's arms, "You know that you must leave me again...." The words were barely out of her mouth as they entered her shared quarters, and Tisara saw that Ysalha had already packed a trunk worth a few weeks for her.

"For a week, or two." Ysalha smiled and leaned in toward the shorter woman who, in the end, had always dominated her, and they kissed with their old fire, gripped ever so tightly. "Just for a week or two. We will be back soon."

"I will keep faith that it will be so, this time." She dropped her voice a bit, even as she hugged Ysalha and ran her hands through her lover's hair. "You know to use the Special Weapons if you think it appropriate, yes?"

"Dhirisma and I will use them without hesitation." A faint smile. "If the Alliance used them to kill a bunch of civilians, what hesitation would I have to use them against polytheistic Gods in the service of Idenicamos? Of course we'll use them. It's nice that we finally know what 'guyverite' is, regardless."

"Tylium," Tisara whispered. "If you have to use all sixteen, do it."

"But of course." And they kissed again.

And then it was time for Tisara to go, with her flag staff; all of them except Commander Sivara, whom she left behind at the last moment to reinforce the thirteen telepaths of the Ryvarian Order and provide a liason for them. In all, Dhirisma's crew, other than herself, would consist of the thirteen-man team led by Doctor al-Nasr, Starbuck, the thirteen-strong team of Order telepaths, Ysalha, and a company of Marine Combat Engineers, two hundred and eighty-four in all, right next to maximum capacity for the habitation spaces of the packed Synthetic Control Cruiser.

She very nearly sobbed as her shuttles carrying her staff departed for the Queen Mhirata and the colonies. But then, it was time to launch the next phase of Operation Castigate, the liberation of Caprica.

14th Fleet Flagship,
HSMS Queen Mhirata,
Caprica System.
26/27 JANUARY 2170.

The system was bereft of defences except on the surface. That was of course ominous in the extreme. After all, it meant that all the Raiders had been pulled back to somewhere in preparation of their operation, and likely concentration against the fleet, and the Talorans certainly could not handle two million Raiders attacking the fleet simultaneously--though fratricide would mean that the fleet could survive.

To avoid the possibility of the Cylons being able to concentrate against them, she had taken the risky operation. She had ordered simultaneous attacks on Canceron, Aquaria, Gemenon, and Picon, all within one-jump range of Caprica. The landing forces for those planets, once it had been confirmed they were also undefended, had jumped into interstellar space and then proceeded under their "Heim effect" Gravito-magnetic drives at the equivalent of Warp 3.5 to their targets. The initial landing forces on Caprica would involve the landing of no less than 48 corps; each of the four lesser targets would see the landing of 16 corps each.

Their gravito-magnetic drives were a crucial part of the equation. The fleet was constantly ready to use them and TF 14-5 was accordingly being held back in reserve. If a vast and overwhelming kamikaze force were to hit them, they could easily evade it repeatedly by going to supralight in real-space, which required no recharging and could be maintained indefinitely, and then proceed to make a series of running, slashing missile attacks on the massed fighters, which would be easily targeted as though they were, relatively, standing still, since their translight sensors were still nearly 42,000 times faster in propagation than their maximum speed under Heim effect.

Everything that was left for them to accomplish was now based around the avoidance of the missile threat from the surface while the Raiders were ready to be dealt with as necessary by the use of supralight manoeuvring tactics. Dealing with the missiles on the planet's surface....

"Begin the barrage," Tisara ordered, and twenty-four Siege Battery Ships opened up on Caprica. Her earlier attacks here, and with Cain, at Picon, had given her an incredible advantage on those two planets, so correspondingly fewer assets had been committed there for the bombardment, and several missile-heavy squadrons were detached from the fleet for the other three targets. Most importantly, though, their fighters were already manoeuvring toward the planet.

The missiles accelerated heavily and within six hours they were approaching the planet at high c-fractional velocities. Only the final warhead bus would go on to the planet, but their velocity would already be sufficient to cause substantial damage on impact, coming in at 52.5% of the speed of light when they finally achieved final engine burnout and flung their 3 tonne warhead buses into the planet around the known missile sites.

A substantial number were shot down, of course, but it did lure the Cylons into launching at extreme range even so, as the massive multi-gigatonne impacts from the missiles at full velocity threatened to completely destroy their missile emplacements if they didn't.

"Captain Ilahmbh, if you please," Tisara said about nine hours later as the much slower Cylon missiles began to approach, "the fleet shall go to supralight toward the planet while the starfighters make their runs."

Tisara felt distinctly lonely without the voices of Dhirisma and Ysalha in her head that she had grown used to over the past weeks; she nonetheless at least found the cybernetics still functioning, and really extraordinarily useful in the circumstances for making calculations without relying on the computers and on her flag staff, which tended to irritate the independently minded (to put it mildly) Archduchess.

Now there was nothing to do except to wait as the fleet raced out ahead, bypassing the Cylon missile barrage in desperate haste and then settling down over the planet. But as they completed this evolution, their starfighters were already acting to the destruction. Racing in low over the planet, each of the heavy bombers in the fleet, and there were a thousand committed to this operation, was carrying twenty-four ground-penetrating guided bombs bearing 128 MT fusion warheads and 12 HARM missiles loaded for bear with their own 700kT tactical fusion warheads and capable of speeds of up to Mach 8.5 while in terrain-skimming mode at altitudes of 50 meters or Mach 17 at extreme high altitude with a powered dive to target--the same speed that the bombers were making on their own high altitude runs.

As the Cylon responded to the bombers tearing through the atmosphere at 40,000 meters with the launch of anti-fighter missiles, interceptors and space superiourity fighters following with more anti-radiation missiles automatically tracked and engaged the air defences. The missiles from the surface themselves were intercepted by atmosphere air-to-air missiles accelerating off their rails at 650g's toward the rising anti-fighter missiles and fitted with 500kT fusion warheads to guarantee kills of incoming missiles or atmospheric fighters even with near missiles, while having enough power to take out a starfighter with a direct hit. They lost 117 starfighters in all and suppressed a vast part of the Cylon defences in doing so. Only 30 of the losses were bombers, too, and that left plenty of bombs available for their targets.

The missile launchers that were still intact were not given a chance to fire as 14th Fleet dropped out of superlight down into realspace. The missile launchers were ready.. But they weren't ready for the 128 MT ground-penetration fusion devices which crashed into the earth next to the silos and then detonated in tremendous groundbursts that tore apart the area, atomized the atmosphere and the land alike and succeeded quite effectively in smashing the Cylon missile emplacements. And it happened over and over again all over the planet; the Cylon Dense Packs, not really meant for this, were handily cleared out to the point that the limited number of missiles which did launch were easily swatted down by the defensive missiles of the Taloran 14th fleet.

The same operations, except using twice the number of interceptors and bombers, played out over the other four planets under attack using the maximum numbers of starfighters available due to their placement on the Planetary Assault Ships for use as escort carriers. And also for this role; they were not as good at it as Aerospace Fighters would be, but they had their own uses and they overwhelming outnumbered the opposition. Seven thousand Raiders at the Cylon dispersal facilities were actually detected on the ground on Caprica and were immediately attacked with leftover 128 MT fusion devices or by bombardment from orbit. A few thousand more were found on each of all five of the planets attacked, and dutifully dealt with the same way; they were presumably Raiders that had been down for maintenance when the rest were pulled back--doubtless to the Cylon Homeworld--to avoid the Imperial Fleet defeating them in detail.

Next up came two thousand gunboats optimized for the ground attack role. Each one was carrying twelve 256 MT anti-matter gravity bombs set for high airbursts to maximize blast effects, twenty-four AGMAMs with sixteen 400 ton yield light fusion ground-penetrating cluster munitions each, and up to 90 conventional single-warhead anti-armour air to ground missiles. These swept over the Cylon troop concentrations and hit them with everything; huge lines of 256 MT anti-matter detonations spooled out from the passing of the gunboats, which easily resisted any fire from the ground with their heavy shields, and the missiles tore through the Centurions on the surface, who had little in the way of extensive armoured equipment anyway.

With well in excess of 100,000 fusion devices having been used on Caprica alone, Tisara judged the Cylon defences sufficiently suppressed, and with another four thousand space superiourity fighters armed with anti-missiles and HARMs providing combat cover for the landings, gave the order:

"Land the landing force! Land the landing force!"

It was eagerly and keenly heard by everyone in the fleet. The Assault Landers plunged down toward the planet from the Planetary Assault Ships with the massively shielded Hover Battleships leading the way. The 620 meter long Hover Battleships, fully loaded at 1,800,000 tonnes each, were massively armoured and huge battle-platforms looking for all the world like what they were called, battleships that were simply flying through the air, since they were of course designed to land in the water and indeed had been rather artfully designed to possess only a 65 meter maximum draft despite their enormous weight, though they could hover more or less indefinitely on their antigrav engines. As they approached the ground, they swept the areas with their ventral-mounted 25 MT twin particle cannon turret, one of five on the ship where each gun could fire once every two seconds. The landing zones were turned into a firestorm instantaneously in which nothing could survive.

And that was exactly the way the Imperial Taloran Army liked it. Every single soldier was wearing full NBC gear with internal airconditioning and positive pressure, and substantial amounts of body armour up to the maximum limit of their body's capacity to still fight effectively, and of course the power armoured troops were enormously more heavily armoured and armed in turn. Beyond that, their full combat suits for even the regular infantry were designed with aluminized surfaces--concealing one's self on the Taloran battlefield was rather unnecessary--double layers and internal high-heat bearing self-sealing materials. The suits were designed to withstand limited direct contact with 2,000 degree fahrenheit temperatures and had integral air tank connections for such a purpose with supercompressed oxygen, and the self-sealing materials were capable of doing the same.

The silver-suited troops were not visible anywhere on the field the moment the massive Assault Landers hit the dirt, though. They were of course in fully mechanized units, and instead all that could be seen with the APCs, IFVs, armed scout vehicles and tanks and self-propelled artillery charging down the ramps and moving out at full power toward the perimeter with their shields up and contra-rotating hover blades of muonic aluminium under the heavily armoured skirts keeping them up and traveling at several hundred km/h.

Soon the atmosphere naturally dissipated the firestorm like conditions around the landing sites, and the Armoured Divisions were roaring ahead while the Motor Rifle Divisions worked to consolidate their holds. 48 corps, each one with a rated strength of 200,000, were in the process of being landed; the first wave consisted of 96 of the Taloran 40,000-strong divisions, half each Armoured and Motor Rifle, at 48 discrete locations around Caprica that would become the corps operating areas for each of the separate initial corps in the landing areas and would later be reinforced if necessary to four to five corps per each of the 48 areas in a full Army Group organization, each 8,740 ton Assault Lander bringing a full motor rifle battalion with all its vehicles and 7 days combat supplies to the planet, or one of the associated support units, while the 10,723 ton Heavy Tank Landers did the same for the Hovertank Battalions and their support units, the later being the largest Taloran craft designed to land on a regular planetary ground surface rather than at sea alone.

The Marines were next to hit the planet in their own 7,200 ton Light Assault Landers meant for the landing of Light Infantry, Marine, and Army Power Armour Battalions. In total, 80 Marine Brigades were landed on Caprica and many more on the outlying planets in rough terrain. Their job was to make contact with survivors on the ground and take immediate action against Cylon extermination squads while the Imperial Army annihilated any organized resistance.

And so it was that many of the survivors of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol--about two to three hundred million on Caprica, and seventy million on each of the other Colonies landed upon except heavily worked-over Picon with only fifty millions, hiding in the forests for two long years as more and more of their few surviving friends and family starved to death and more and more were exterminated by the Cylons or dragged off to experimentation camps--came to have their first sight of Talorans, and in more than a few cases, Jikari, of the aliens they had once believed impossible.

They had come from the stars like a miracle of the Lords of Kobol, and at first they were mistrusted and sometimes shot at; but they quickly proved their wares with their light tanks that chewed through the Cylons wherever they were encountered, and the vast aide package drops that were commenced by the starfighters and by regular cargo shuttles the moment that it was possible. There was certainly no holding back in that regard, now. Everything was being done to make sure that the remaining living citizens of the twelve colonies stayed that way.

And then the liberations of the experimentation camps began. Of those in the fleet, it was quite likely that only Tisara was prepared for the horrors that were to be found there, of people so twisted that they were quietly shot out of mercy, and others, systematically experimented upon and violated in the most sacred of ways, who were recovered tenderly by the bitterly horrified soldiers of the Taloran forces on the planet.

And then there were the death camps for the captured humans from the forests and mountains and swamps and jungles where they had survived like animals steadily being exterminated by more and more Cylon patrols and mass fire-bombings. The skeletal figures liberated from these places reminded Tisara of the images she had seen before, the 'Horrors of Democracy', one of the numerous series to that effect after humanity had first been conquered which had been produced for holovid showing the endless little bodies, emaciated even to the standards of a Taloran, at places with foreign names: Buchenwald, Auschwitz..

There was nothing in the way of pleasure here at the conquest. It did however guarantee that the troops fought with a positively savage lack of mercy whenever they encountered further Cylons. This was now war to the knife, and as the divisions manoeuvred through the night they used overwhelming firepower to defeat their opponents, ripping through their defences with massed multi-kilotonne nuclear weapons from their self-propelled artillery, 6.5kT shaped-charge fission warheads especially popular for punching through to prepared fortifications and short-range ground launched cruise missiles with 500 - 800kT warheads smashing open concentrations of Centurions, with the guns of the close-support tanks firing two 400 ton-equivalent powergun charges a second to smother enemy positions in superheated energy, while the big 250 ton main battle hovertanks were firing their multi-kilotonne main guns that turned the air into flaming horizontal columns, superheating the atmosphere and creating a burning wash of ionizing radiation which killed anything near the path of the bolt not in Taloran-type heavily radiation shielded combat gear.

"See your crimes come to an end," Tisara breathed from the bridge of the Queen Mhirata as she listened to the reports from General Jhasa dhi Erikush--the command of the Caprica Landing Force--and her staff and continued to nervously watch for the onset of the dreaded massed kamikaze attack that had so far not materialized. Beyond that, there was very little to do but wait through the progress of the campaign and hope that Ysalha and Dhirisma were alright--a thought that was increasingly occupying her mind--as they rushed forward toward the mysterious Second Earth, one-third of the way through their journey already.

The uncertainty of how long they might be able to hold the planets in light of circumstance meant that one of the jobs which was begun at once was the distribution of MANPADs, heavy anti-tank rockets, and assault rifles to the survivors by the dozens of millions, as well as the deployment of hundreds of millions of air-delivered landmines in cordons around the areas where survivors were detected, and the landing of tonnes and tonnes of high-end chemical explosives so that if the 14th Fleet was forced to retreat, the Colonials on the surface could fight back effectively with the aide of Army and Marine 'stay-behind' insertion units: The least they could do in the circumstances, even as the survivors of the experimentation and deathcamps were immediately lifted out and jumped out on small evacuation craft heading back to the 50 Hospital Ships concentrated with 19th Fleet's supporting UNREP Taskgroups for this purpose.

They were the ones, at least, that they could get out--and the children. The moment that the forces were fully on the planet, rather than using the Assault Landers to land reinforcements, while the cargo shuttles were busy shuttling down more and more supplies for the combatants on the ground, the Landers were retasked to landing in the rugged zones where there were human survivors. Onboard were Colonial military personnel who were assigned to get the terrified, overwhelmed, and confused Colonials to give up their children for immediate evacuation.

This led to more than a few misunderstandings and a few incidents of violence against the Taloran troops. But for the moment they were regarded with religious awe, and in some sectors where the 144 Khalsa Corps of Sikhs was operating, the bearded humans in their grand turbans once they cleared out of the landing zones and could unzip from full combat gear, were given a religious awe as the sons of the 'thirteenth colony' that their modest yet proud dispositions were quite surprised by; the unit nonetheless retained a reputation of absolute chivalry.

Gradually the number of incidents lessened, however, and the Colonial personnel assigned to the extraction operations, warning of the possibility of massed Cylon counterattacks, succeeded in getting more and more of the children up and onto the jump-lighters and the arriving tenders and tankers which would refuel parts of the fleet and immediately jump back to relative safety in the direction of Kobol and then beyond, back to Oralnif and permanent safety. Now, even if Cylons returned in force with suicide craft that the fleet could barely defend itself against in numbers, or the horrible new gunboat type seen over Kobol, they would have at least saved the few millions of living children on the planets if nobody else. This continued without ceasing all through then next day of the operations as well, Tisara intently using combat drugs so that she did not need to sleep at all and remained continuously awake herself to monitor the events on the planet.

The Taloran Army was conversely encountering little organized resistance. Most of the Cylon armour--and it was not substantial in comparison to the massive shock units of the Imperial Taloran Army--had been destroyed in the huge airstrikes, and the sheer firepower of the Taloran units let them simply annihilate tens of thousands of Cylon Centurions from just a single battalion's worth of IFVs, though certainly part of that was through calling in airstrikes with the copious use of nuclear-fusion cluster munitions which could turn an entire area into an imitation of the Somme or Ypres in 1918 within seconds, all vegetation incinerated and everything around flattened. Then, the multi-kilotonne tank guns, almost impregnably protected on the fully energy-shielded Taloran Main Battle Hovertanks, would open up on anything hardened enough to remain standing as they charged forward, leading the war for the APCs and IFVs which could disgorge infantry as necessary--that was very rare--to clear any remaining pockets of resistance.

The five planets hit in the first wave were of course being turned into an ecological disaster area, but that was simply the price that was to be paid by a liberation at the hands of the Imperial Taloran Army. That kept them firmly in control of the situation, moving and securing terrain rapidly, and nuking the intact cities with bomber-delivered carpet nuke spreads as soon as it was confirmed that the city in question did not contain any experimentation or death camps that would need liberation, and thereby avoid fighting the Cylon Centurions in urban areas where they might have a better chance of resisting. Within 48 hours, 15% of the planet was declared secured and an additional 112 Army Corps had been landed on Caprica and collectively a similar number on the other four planets hit. And the expected Cylon massed kamikaze counterattack still hadn't materialized. That made Tisara rather worried; she expected it, and the absence of the expected had in the past foretold only new problems.
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Fourty-Three

HSMS Dhirisma,
On Special Duty
Uncharted system.
28 JANUARY 2170.

"What are you doing, Doctor al-Nasr?"

Sophia Dragomira Vuletic froze and stiffened. "Is it normal for you, comp... Dhirisma, for you to just appear in someone's quarters?"

"Oh, I haven't activated a hologram yet, but," and then she did, "there you go."

"Oh, ah." Brilliant. "Well, no matter. I admit to being rather the introvert, however. You may have noticed."

"I have. You are extremely quiet. Very dedicated and focused, too. I was just wondering what you were working on? We're searching the grid area for Earth in short one-lightyear jumps right now, as you know, and I wanted to talk. Ysalha is handling the jumpdrive routines so I'm just scanning for the correct solar system."

"Solar system? You're sure it's the entire Solar System and not just Earth?"

"Starbuck was explicit about that, and it makes sense. The Moon was definitely intact--Luna--and the chance of the planet being successfully inserted into an orbit in another system is unlikely. So the likelihood is the entire system was copied. The alternative, of course, is that a different planet was terraformed to be identical to Earth. This would be easier, but... I am being conservative in how I approach this, and making my decisions based upon the worst possible implication for whomever created this Earth; that they had the power to not merely copy the surface of a planet, but rather an entire system."

"Or," Sophia said with sudden decision, "This is the original Earth, and the other one is a copy."

"Very unlikely. The Taloran Empire's Sol system is in the approximate position of all other Sol systems except for the Terra Nova system, as it is termed, of the Roman Empire of ST-3. It is more rational to conclude that Terra Nova is the second outlier, and the others are appropriate for their particular universes. This is however why it is more plausible, as well, to assume the entire system was copied, as it was in the case of Terra Nova."

"I see. The entire system." Perhaps there will be some way to test a very useful theory, she mused, and then the method seized on her--seismic shock testing of Ceres and Mars to observe the anomalous spaces of the bases--that could prove the idea she'd been mulling on: That the existence of the various Earths had come about after one fixed point of divergence after the facilities had been constructed; what would irrevocably prove that is if Mars and Ceres had facilities just like she now knew her own part of the human species' home-system did.

But would that mean that the Antarctica Base Starbuck has described to us is also present in all of the systems? Quite possibly; and this whole thing at any rate is a bit unnerving. What could cause the reconnection of disconnected, diverged timelines? Why would it be done? And yet Christianity is present and identical in every single universe. I must therefore hold my course true and trust that this is part of the grand design of God--the absolute nature of the revelation in all timelines at least implies the true divergence was after the Resurrection.

"The entire system" Dhirisma repeated. "I'm not sure why you find that strange or useful.."

"Oh, just a thought, Dhirisma," Sophia dismissed it. "To put it mildly, I am rather scared right now, you know. I know, every knows, what that one gunboat did to a full-sized thirty megatonne fleet carrier. I signed on knowing I'd be going into an active combat zone to do this research, but I had no idea that it would involve going up against opponents who could provide more opposition than you'd expect out of some typical frontier brushfire war. So, yeah, I'm rather scared at the moment." Also feeling like a sociopath the longer I consciously block my abilities, she thought to herself without elaborating. Having fourteen other--enemy--telepaths around made it impossibly dangerous for her.

"I'll protect you all," Dhirisma answered automatically. "My last thoughts would be quite horrible if I was destroyed while people were onboard, well, period, now that I'm bonded with Ysalha. I really don't want the last part of my existence to be my recognizing how thoroughly I've failed in my fundamental responsibilities."

"Is it your fundamental responsibility to protect sapient life?" Sophia was a bit curious about the nature of the computer's programming and its--her--thought processes.

"No." Dhirisma was silent for a moment, and then decided to elaborate: "You see, Doctor al-Nasr, I was not created to be an artificial intelligence. I was created to be the combat command programme for this ship, a wholly synthetic and robotic cruiser. I am not a typical programmed artificial intelligence, and a bit more like an android, in the sense that I was given a body. However, that body is a ship, and its computers give me the full latitude of sapient functionality of a full scale AI and at the same time provide me some of the most substantial processing power available in any computing system in the Empire.

"The key point however is that the motivation for creating me was to save money by eliminating manning requirements on some classes of ships, and therefore I was an experiment to see if I could fight as well, controlling all the repair robots and all aspects of the combat engagement, that a full crew would have required. This however necessitated not merely loyalty and capability but, as the Admiralty Board responsible for me specified, 'the ability to die for fundamentally irrational reasons when they fit into an unrecognized grand plan, or when irrational results may be desired.' In short they gave me emotions, and sapience, so that I would know when to die--so that I would see when death was coming and react bravely to it, so that instead of sacrificing myself when the calculations said I should but it seemed wrong, I would withdraw; and instead of withdrawing when it seemed reasonable but my feelings told me to fight and die, that I would do this as well. It was called 'combat intuition', and the requirements for me were very specific that they desired this in a Synthetic Control Cruiser.

"In short, I was not created to be sapient; that was the necessary consequence of my meeting the design requirements for my type, and also, ironically, the reason I remain the only one of my kind. There is much mistrust in the Empire, though scarcely as much as in the Holy Roman Empire as we all know, for AIs, and that was why I was shut down, and only Tisara's influence showed me reactivated for the sake of.. Melding with Ysalha to stabilize her, more or less. So my emotions, my capacity for these desired tasks, is a result merely of a specification otherwise impossible to meet: The Admiralty Board specifically referred to it as 'battle intuition', and it is an irrational creativity in action that yields desirable results, sometimes not directly related to the combat--hopeless sacrifices can have vast morale-boosting potential for a beleaguered nation, for instance--which makes it impossible for a mere robot ship to match the capabilities of a manned ship. But I can, even if I end up the only one of my type. So I am a successful proof of concept; it is just that the social, economic, political, and spiritual problems associated with my sapience have ended all further development."

"Thank you for the explanation," Sophia answered, a bit subdued at all that it implied. She could at least content herself that Dhirisma was an utterly alien AI to the ones of the Empire, for whatever that meant. Probably more decent; science for its own sake might lead to bad ends in some cases through the following of leads which should not have been followed, such as the satanic madness of embryonic stem cell research, whereas science for strict goals largely provides for everyone what it sought out to do in the first place. Or so it seemed, at any rate.

"You're quite welcome," Dhirisma answered affably. "May I ask a personal question?"

"Of course."

"Why don't you take advantage of the ship's bath? You're the only woman in your group, so the private officer's bath would be open to you..."

"It's just a modesty issue," Sophia mumbled. "I don't particularly have a problem with public bathing, but at the same time I don't like to bare myself. Most Taloran females are attracted to other women, it seems, which makes me rather less comfortable with it."

"Well, probably only fifty or sixty percent are bisexual or lesbian, but I suppose that's quite sufficient, especially since the number is higher in the nobility, which would be overrepresented. I suppose that, well, if you are lonely, I can try to keep you company."

"Oh, that's really alright. I should just like to listen to the religious chants I had on before, and meditate to the prospects and events that we are likely to encounter when we arrive at Earth."

"Alright. Shall I go?"

"If you'd be..." She paused, thought a moment, and then said, quietly. "Do you really trust Starbuck?"

"Why do you ask, Doctor al-Nasr? She was cleared by the telepaths."

"Some people can fake that. And.. The circumstances of her escape from the suicide craft just seem suspicious to me. I wouldn't have brought her along, if I was in charge. Of course, I am merely a research professor; I do not know the best procedure in these cases, I do suppose."

"Hmm." Dhirisma thought about that one herself.. And didn't like the answer. "Thank you for pointing that out, Doctor. I'll speak with Ysalha about it--in some detail. And start monitoring Starbuck more aggressively."

"Wise precaution, I do suppose. Take care, Dhirisma."

"And thank you for the perspective, Doctor." She disappeared after that.

Fascinating creature, really. Sophia relaxed and resumed the chant track, though from the start, before she moved over to her bed and outright laid down, a rolled up sheet under her neck and without a pillow. Now it was just a matter of waiting until events developed as they might.

Talora Prime,
Sulestra Province,
Grenya Colenta.
28 JANUARY 2170.

What a tremendous glory it was! What a paegentry! Three thousand heavy lancers with pennons fluttering rode at the head of the column with the Empress and Archduchess as the Two Lovers amidst their all-conquering Army, heading to Brilar. To the Springs of Aytarishah, where the Empress would seek a vision from God as to the legitimacy of the Prophet Baltar and his instructions regarding the human pagans and his miraculous works. The procession was slow; it would certainly take a fair number of weeks to reach the distant headwaters of the Brilar, even at the fairly crisp pace they were taking.

But air-cars and railroads would not do for this, as they stayed to the rural roads, some ten thousand in all. The wagons rumbled along, towed by trucks in most cases rather than Rostok, one may grant, as Talorans were at least somewhat practical, but there were many Rostok and Effavsur being ridden, and beside them some huge Yatila lumbered along in the train, which was strung out over a dozen kilometers along the road in various groups. There were four thousand soldiers, four thousand attendants and servants and courtiers, and two thousand priests of varying stripes.

Everywhere, the rural peasantry and even the freeholders turned out to watch with utter and supine religious awe. The greened sunlight reflected off silvered and highly polished armour of the lancers of the Imperial Guard; the countenance of the grave Empress and the Archduchess were seen as bordering on Holy: Neither of them blinked, or moved their heads unwillingly, just moving their heads slowly back and forth from side to side, to cast their gaze over the enormous crowds, eyes not moving in the sockets through incredible self-control and perfect discipline.

Golden iconography and presentation cases for various parts of the works of the Prophet Eibermon were born by the priests and paraded around the edges of the procession, along with relics of the martyrs of the faith. Everywhere the peasantry crowded in to pray before these, or raise their children up for a blessing by the figure of no less a personage than an Archpriest himself! For hundreds of kilometers around people traveled, sometimes further, to simply catch a glimpse of the procession and have the chance to fall to their knees before the Empress in person Herself.

There was very little else for the government to do at this juncture, and besides, the spectacle was a fundamental one that reinforced all that was known, all that was appropriate, about the universe. It was a reassertion of the appropriate order of the cosmos, with the Empress as the living embodiment of Valera in the mortal realm below the Lord of Justice himself in supremacy and the carrier of his justice through the lands of the living. The approach of the festival was treated as a carnival atmosphere, and music and the free and exuberent dancing that Talorans indulged in on such occasions being very noticeable, as well as the slaughtering of rare meat animals to indulge in great feasts and roasts.

Saverana himself was somewhat incredulous at the feelings at brought; here, she really was reminded of her place, not in the greater cosmos which might seem the more important, but in the place she realized was in fact the greater of the two: In the Sacred Order of Society, as its head. She stood at the top of, and as a representative of, thirteen thousand years of tradition, and she had no intention of failing it, she was, indeed, enraptured by the level of devotion it brought forth.

At times through the nervous guards, great mobs would press forward to kiss at and touch the fringes of her robe hanging down from her Rostok, crying out their delight and their need for her intercession. People, after bowing reverently, held their newborn infants up so that they could later tell them that, at the beginning of their lives their eyes had seen the Empress Herself. The adulation of the peasantry was itself absolute, complete, innocent of calculation or falsehood.

In the cities there might, after all, exist some very modern attitudes about government, or at least semi-modern ones. But in the solid half of the Taloran population which remained rural and agrarian—except for the very top stratum thereof—this sort of traditional reverence and ceremony, of traditional awe, was absolute.

The iconography, the works of Eibermon, engulfed in gold and the finest of massy stones, emeralds and sapphires and great rubies arranged in geometric patterns, attracted the same attention. The priests with the train of the procession were specified by tradition, but they had been added originally due to the simple fact that the number of peasants surging forward to confess their sins, to hear their penance mandated by God, to receive blessings and intercessory prayers for sickness, all of it had been overwhelming.

In the modern era, of course, many of the priests were trained in medicine—so it became normal for groups to stop at every village, on this most recent of the processions—and spend the evening seeing dozens of ails where otherwise the locals would have to travel kilometers or more to the nearest doctor's station, and others would investigate the soundness of the local damns and irrigation works and so on, and then catch up with the procession the next day, carried willingly and without reimbursement by the agricultural trucks of the local people until caught up with the advance of the procession.

It was of course a horribly slow way to reach the Springs. Over the rugged mountains, at least, they had arranged for a train to avoid the traditional and rather expansive pass that would otherwise have to be forced, and like Mikela II—the last Empress to conduct the Pilgrimage to Aytarishah—she'd take the train just a bit further, due to the urgency of the problem, even though it really was a chance to see that the traditional heartland of the Grenyan branch of the Valerian Dynasty was indeed yet healthy and vital. Those areas were lightly habited, anyway.

This was dense rural land, in comparison, and it deserved the attention. Even if the intercession of God did not occur at the springs, if a vision did not come, her final decision would be given weight by the act of pilgrimage, and the visions of it would spread through the Empire in turn. Indeed, for Saverana, she was already considering the advisability of a grand tour of her Empire the moment it was practicable in the near future to spread the benefits of the grand ceremony—she already thought of it as benefits, rather than a desperate chore---to as many as she could.

There was a strange magic about it, how simple it was, how the colours seemed so vivid in the procession, the emotions genuine and uncomplicated. She herself was left absolutely convinced that the task really was as straightforward as it might seem. She just needed to discover what purpose might Baltar have been sent for, and if he was false, or true, or honest but somewhat misguided. But along the way, the procession convinced her as much as everyone else that it would be done through the ritual bathing in the Springs of Aytarishah. How could the hand of God not be in the outpouring of gloriously simple emotion, in the laden feeling of the spectacle, as they advanced? Thus as it was, and always had been, from the time of Valera to the present; the world was the constant, unending image of the Kingdom of the Lord of Justice upon high, and none who came to throw themselves at the feet of the procession doubted this. It was a glorious reaffirmation of all they had known, as had known their ancestors before them in turn, and would be passed on to their children as well.

HSMS Dhirisma,
Approaching a Second Earth.
28 JANAURY 2170.

They had found the planet, only about four hours beyond three days, not bad. It had been somewhat off from the grid search that Dhirisma had originally calculated, in the area of secondary probability. Ironic, but scarcely unheard of. Now they had arrived in the system, and as Dhirisma had fearfully predicted the entire system was a perfect copy of that of Earth. Using the Heim-Effect drives they raced in closer.

“Shields are at full power,” Dhirisma reported with diagnostic precision. Ysalha was in her acceleration couch, fully jacked in and seeming lifeless; Erisimia and Doctor al-Nasr stood on the bridge with Starbuck and several of the attendants of both the Ryvarian Order Adept and the Doctor, as well as the Marine Captain in command of her Company, Liankhia Syraste. “All batteries fully charged and the missiles are ready for fire on response—fear not, my company. We will be ready. Dropping out of superlight now and entering a polar orbit trajectory.”

“Thank you, Dhirisma,” Ersimia answered, and looked down to the planet coldly, but nervously. Doctor al-Nasr was perfectly still, utterly silent.. And so was Starbuck, uncharacteristically.

Ysalha was in command of the mission, and she spoke with a careful professionalism even as she remained unmoving, using the same speakers as Dhirisma. “We're going to be coming in over the South Pole with our gravito-magnetic superlight drives ready for immediate activation, and...” The sensor image reasserted itself with two blips flying out of the ship. “We're firing reconaissance missiles forward to scan the surface before we clear the horizon. Everyone should be strapped down and prepared for up to 120% of normal thrust; that will be the equivalent of up to12g's bleed-through over the inertial compensators, so feelings of faintness may be expected for some of you.”

The central holoprojector activated to show the data from the probes, even as they clawed forward in low orbit toward the terminator line and organized their own sensor data into a picture of the planet below.

“My god,” Sophia whispered, shocked to see Earth in such a condition. “The planet is a desert. The sea levels are at least a hundred meters lower, and yet..”

“The northern Polar Ice Cap is nonexistent. No data yet on the southern Ice Cap,” Dhirisma replied primly. “Major, no massive environmental damage.... Background radiation is consistent with decay of radioactive particles... I'm trying to get a sample from the probes as they skim the upper atmosphere. We can estimate how long ago this happened from that. But there seems to be nothing here—even huge swathes of the ecosystem seem to be completely destroyed, it is a desert!--reading numerous and extensive ruins in the areas we pass over. And several major impact craters which seem to be reasonably fresh, one moment....”

An image flashed on and magnified, and Sophia recognized where it was from immediately with her knowledge of Earth, and she could not help but share it. “The impact point for that crater... Oh God. Buenos Aires.”

Exactly Buenos Aires, down to the exact center of the main city for the exact point of impact. They were accurate bastards. Similar craters over Rio de Jainero, Brasilia, Santiago, hmm... Rechecking the initial data... Yes, Lagos and Carracas as well. The island of Jamaica no longer exists, for that matter. And.... Standby for full reverse acceleration!”

Everyone was slammed back into their acceleration couches as the ship easily stopped herself dead in her tracks while the probes raced on ahead.. And Ysalha, for the benefit of their guests, put up what they'd both recognized. In a huge, vast chasm in the Antarctic ice was a crisp assembly of massively heavy ground-to-space defensive cannon batteries surrounding a comparatively tiny installation. There were, however, none of the gold craft in sight.

“Where are the Vimanas?” Starbuck finally asked, staring. “And where the frak did those batteries come from?”

“For that matter, why have we not been engaged by Cylons yet?” Ersimia queried rather coolly. “Major Thrace, you were quite sure they were in orbit, and that there would be those fighters on the surface.. Though your surprise, I grant, is genuine. But where are they?”

“Let's not rush to mistrust,” Ysalha interjected. “I'm running a full power active scan of the orbital space and.... Oh damn. Debris consistent with multiple Cylon capital-grade ships in low orbit and decaying. Age is only about two weeks.” She looked levelly to Starbuck. “After they sent you out aboard that suicide fighter. It appears that the Cylons have found themselves a new enemy; or a very old one. Regardless, however...”

“Yes,” Dhirisma spoke aloud as though finishing a conversation they were having privately. “There's no evidence of any debris consistent with the Vimana hullform or the materials signatures—whatever those materials were, I still haven't figured out—anywhere. The Cylons succeeded in removing them before that defensive installation was activated.”

“I wonder why it hasn't destroyed the probes yet,” Sophia spoke from her position as 'Dr. al-Nasr' to the side. “It clearly has the firepower.”

“Maybe they don't register as a threat,” Dhirisma was now holding them stationary over the surface with her engines, under the horizon of the guns. “I'll bring one of the probes to full active scan and keep monitoring passively with the other one and see what happens.”

“..And, nothing.” The AI's hologram looked slightly irritated at that. “Nothing at all. In fact.. That installation seems to have basically no power left at all. Flickers of some minor energy, that's it. They might have expended their power.”

“Got the radioactive particle analysis together for you, love,” Ysalha added only more ominous considerations to what they saw: “It happened about one thousand, two hundred and fifty years ago at maximum, nine hundred and fifty years at minimum.”

“Can you bring us close enough to the surface, Captains, that we'd be masked from those batteries? They seem very clearly designed to engage high-altitude targets.”

They calculated and answered simultaneously: “Yes.” And left themselves slightly embarrassed by the waste of resources.

“Well, it's certainly doable,” Dhirisma added. “Tricky, of course, but well within our manoeuvring tolerances. Alright, then. We're heading down.”

“Inform your troops to prepare for egress,” Ysalha ordered the Marine Captain—Major, as a courtesy title—Syraste. “We will be approaching very low along the planet, and we will remain very close the whole while to avoid any group being separated from the rest.”

“Of course, Captain. Should we stay strapped in for now?”


Dhirisma descended through the atmosphere with her shields battering away the heat, dropping over the Buenos Aires crater and flying lower and lower over Patagonia. And lower, and lower, and lower. Soon the huge ship, ten and a half million tonnes of empty mass and four times that overall mass despite the huge mass savings entailed by the use of antimatter rather than metallic hydrogen, purely, for the fuel (though much was still carried as ERA to protect the ship in the outer tanks) approached with mathematic, centimetric precision in the movements of her 1,750 meter long hull over Tierra del Fuego at an altitude from the bottom of her lowest ventral turret above the highest terrain of as little as 200 meters.

They passed over a ruined city. It seemed, unlike the others, to have no been destroyed in violence. But the perfect clarity of the images revealed one single, horrible, impossibly fortuitous visage. Dhirisma caught it, of course, with her image scanning equipment. A very strong concrete building near the waterfront was still intact, but the roof had collapsed, perhaps within only the past few decades. They could see inside the building as they drifted overhead at a lazy Mach 0.75.

Dhirisma collated the image and maximized the quality, turning the 300 meter distance in all between them and the building they'd nearly passed over into the equivalent of looking through a microscope. Crushed under the weight of the roof, crumbled mostly to dust and mostly blown away, the very strongest parts, protected in the building, had thus survived for centuries and provided a horrifying, tantalizing hint toward the fate of this counter-Earth.

Skull fragments. Hundreds of them, strew wildly around every open space where the roof collapse had not crushed everything entirely.

“How many corpses?” Ersimia bit out almost at once.

“Probably ninety... The probability on that is only thirty percent, though. Could be a lot more, a lot less. These are ridiculously small fragments and for all we might as well be staring at them through a microscope I do not have the right software to do image analysis to conclude how many skulls they once belonged to. It's just a rough guess, and I ran every single spare bit of processing power I had for that calculation, too. I just can't do more, I'm sorry.”

“If there are that many skulls in one building, and human funerary methods are quite different from that, I know as fact,” Ersimia continued, musing, musing dreadfully, her ears flattened. “Plague. A place to stack the bodies when the morgues overflowed with victims. A general plague—this planet, we already know, was attacked, so it was engineered—a plague which probably can, and did, kill all the mammals on the planet, not merely the humans. Thus the collapse of the ecosystems where the bombardment alone should not show that level of destruction. This planet was killed as systematically as may be imagined.”

Sophia was staring shock white at Starbuck. “Was she ever tested for contamination?”

“It's a bit to late for that, isn't it, Doctor?” Starbuck answered rather flippantly. “And for the record, I was. Naw, if it was infectious to me, it would be infectious to the Cylons too... Right?”

“Yes,” Dhirisma replied. “Not enough genetic difference.... Well, I think. There are some, but they shouldn't have an influence.”

Drifting as a great flying ship of aethereal lore, a battleship in the air, her gun emplacements at ready, with ornate baroque styles and gothic superstructure, her pointed telaro-bow heading due south, Dhirisma was over Drake's Passage now, had been for some minutes, and was now approaching the Antarctic Peninsula. The rest of the passage was carried on in deathly silence at the impossible mysteries unfolding, like they were flying into the jaws of Hell, passing through a tunnel from Atlantis to Hades.

“Fifty percent of the southern ice cover is lost—where the hell did all the water go, by Idenicamos' Harem!” Ysalha uncharacteristically shouted in frustration as the latest information came back. “It doesn't make sense at all. The ocean levels are lower but the ice caps have shrunk so much....”

“Well, I'm bringing us down to one hundred meters, now,” Dhirisma spoke ever so softly, with the hushed tone of a funeral: Possibly her own. She was buffeted by the Antarctic winds to the point that she was oscillating, thus the drop in altitude. It went quite fine for a while longer as they crept closer, even slower now, though the tension didn't ease a single bit. Then, for a terrible moment, her ability to compensate was lost and the ship's prow dipped low enough to scrape through the ice with a terrible shudder before she compensated and brought them up, then re-compensating to prevent the prow from rising over the horizon where the planetary defence guns might bear upon them. They were very, very close indeed.

And then:

“Up ahead close to the edge of the horizon, about twenty kilometers, I'm picking up an object partially buried under ice. It might be a Cylon Heavy Raider,” Dhirisma brought herself to a stop. “Close enough. Can't get any closer than this, actually, or else the guns could shoot through the ice at us—and if they took out several Baseships, melting some ice to get to me would be trivial. You have enough motor-sledges for the full team, Major?”


“I'll go, too,” Ysalha said abruptly, marking the first time that she'd be leaving Dhirisma's hull since they had melded, as she unstrapped herself. “You may need my direct link to Dhirisma.”

“Will you be safe..?” Ersimia asked. “There is a considerable risk for Dhirisma if you die.”

“Well.. Sort of. I will be safe, we both will,” Ysalha answered, and did not elaborate. “Come on. We need to know what happened at that base, what happened to this world, and, though I fear it may now come to late for our offensive, the location of those 'Vimanas'.” Oh, I pray, Tisara, that you are safe—that we are not to late, indeed! But I will do my duty as you would expect me to, for the Empire first, and not fly at once to warn you of the danger. Dhirisma, be my strength....

Forever, the AI whispered back, with all the hope she could muster that it would be true.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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The Duchess of Zeon
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Location: Exiled in the Pale of Settlement.

Post by The Duchess of Zeon »

Chapter Fourty-Four.

Antarctica, Second Earth.
28/29 JANUARY 2170.

On their motor-sledges the company and the telepaths, Starbuck and Dr. al-Nasr's scientists cruised toward the first target, the Heavy Raider on the surface, while Dhirisma loomed up incredibly large in the background, overwhelming the scene with her shadow, holding station against the wind, a huge wind block that retained its effect for quite some time.

The scientists and Farzian telepaths were swathed in robes and jackets and arctic clothes. The planet was a desert now, but a chilly one. The rest were in fully climate controlled power-armour, save Ysalha, who at the insistence of all was protected by a personal shield, but still laid thick with robes too; the Talorans wore distinctive bejewled masks in such circumstances, ears sealed in coverlets, and they proceeded cautiously over the ice.

Several times they had to negotiate around huge crevasses caused by the ice progressively collapsing from heat and shear into the massive chasm created by the facility and the firing of its batteries, but in the land of the midnight sun, the fact that it ended up taking eight hours to cover twenty kilometres was irrelevant, particularly since they were universally under the full influence of the surging combat drugs.

The Heavy Raider was abandoned, but fully operational, and fresh, only about as old as the debris in orbit. Starbuck took one look over it, and answered rather negligently, "They must have gone to investigate this facility, thinking it was associated with the Vimanas, and accidentally activated it."

"Perhaps, Major Thrace," Ersimia replied from where she stood, looking over the craft with no obvious signs of violence. "I wonder why they didn't leave a guard."

"They had lots of other ships and personnel around, or at least they did when I was here, Adept."

"A fair point. Shall we eat, Your Ladyship," she addressed Ysalha, "and then proceed the next twenty kilometres to the base? It will be rough going, at least another nine hours and probably ten."

"Of course." They stopped for a while, circling the sledges as firing perimeters, putting up shelter tents in which they could take off enough of their clothes or unseal their helmets for eating. In all, it took a solid hour and a half, but the ration bars contained upwards of ten thousand calories for moments like this, and they damn well needed all of them by that. Even with the motors on the sledges, it had been impossibly rough going.

"We must assume that the facility is manned," Ysalha said as she addressed the Captain and Ersimia, Starbuck and Dr. al-Nasr sitting nearby--and rather looking suspiciously at each other--as they listened. There was a lot of listening to be done, certainly, as they planned out their strategy for the last dash.

"Remember that we must exercise the utmost caution where soft snow has filled into the crevasses, which are likely to be progressively more serious, and the path down will not be easy, either. We'll need to pinion ourselves into the ice wherever possible to secure both ourselves and the sledges and their loads, particularly the blasting charges so we can disable those batteries to make absolutely sure that they pose no threat to Dhirisma. And keep your weapons ready. We really have no idea what we're headed into down here; none of the possibilities are particularly good, either."

"Right," Captain Syraste shrugged broadly, fluid and ready to kill. "It's going to be tough for us to fight while we're still manoeuvring down toward the facility. The drop is several hundred meters, after all, and fairly dramatic, to reach the rock. With your permission I'd like to leave two platoons up top to provide covering fire for us in case something attacks out of the wastes, so we're not caught below...."

"Sounds reasonable," Ysalha conceded.

"It will mean splitting up our telepaths, however," Ersimia answered. "Well, I suppose Commander Sivara and three of my acolytes can provide sufficient coverage. But I still feel uncomfortable with only ten of us going into this midst of this terrible thing. We will have to make do. They can help lower us to the floor of the chasm, anyway."

"Sounds fine to me," Captain Syraste finished the last sugary crumb of the ration bar. It tasted miserable, but at least it was sweet. "Alright! Enough rest! Dose up if you need to, stay awake, stay alert. We break camp and move out again immediately. You can sleep when you secure the facility, we're damned Marines, and the Lord's on our side."

Jauntily, they flung themselves at the ice desert again, forging forward with the training provided to the Marines of the fleet since it had been the Royal Grenyan Navy and the Arctic-obssessed Empress Mikela I had insisted upon it during her somewhat grandiose and egocentric colonization effort on Silvant Colenta, after she'd fought a war over it. It proved useful here, though, as they fashioned rope bridges across the great crevasses and pushed their way forward. Twice men fell into the crevasses, but their pinions held and their comrades were hauled out again; two sledges were however lost, though three fell and were recovered, and they were really only proceeding at a walking pace anyway.

And on and on it went, crevasse after miserable crevasse, until they stood at the lip of the chasm, looking down hundreds of meters to where the base and the nearby cannon could be spied, sitting lifeless, abandoned. It had not taken ten hours; it had taken fourteen. As for the base below, there was nothing more that could be said for the utilitarian structures, clearly deeply buried underground. Now the tents were set up for the stay-behind group, fortifications were prepared in the ice, and in the end due to the extreme exhaustion of the party, they all slept there that night.

The next day dawned with the winds having quieted, Dhirisma still easily holding position--only Doctor Ghimalia and Gina Inviere remained aboard, the later having volunteered to stay when Tisara left with her staff and Kendra Shaw (the two were kept separately from each other by Dhirisma, of course, relations scarcely being anything approaching cordial and in fact downright murderous, regardless of the last wishes of Cain)--but she was of course quite capable of handling herself, and did so admirably.

Pinions ready, they lowered themselves down the ice, until they found what seemed to be a path carved along the length of the chasm wall toward the bottom. Suddenly progress was much easier, though hampered several times by the need to bridge fresh gaps. "They must have cut it out to move heavy machinery," Ysalha noted as she continued the descent from near the lead, as a point of sincerity and some show of leadership on her part. "I wonder how long they were investigating this facility after all--perhaps even when Starbuck was still being held here."

"It's certainly possible," Starbuck admitted, the journey down taking two hours despite the trail.

At last they stood at the very base of the chasm, and then it was only about a kilometer to the facility, covered crisply by the party, their bodies under the influence of combat drugs to the point of scarcely minding the blazing sun above and the furious cold combined with continuous exertion in the harsh Antarctic vastness. They carried on in this fashion until at the facility itself, and there they saw the destroyed Centurions and the shattered body of the Cavil model and his associates, all cut up and burned besides.

"Tracking beam technology," Ysalha spoke as coldly as a computer, half one already and thoroughly linked into Dhirisma.

"From the way their bodies were laid out," Captain Syraste elaborated in turn. "There was certainly a real fight here, not a mere execution or some kind of automated system. They though they had a chance to fight back and probably did. At any rate. Blasting charges!"

Two of the marines sprinted up and attached chemical explosives to the door of the facility. They cleared back and waited:

"Fire in the hole!"

WIth a terrific rumble and flash of flame, the charges were detonated. As the smoke and flame cleared, they approached--and were shock-struck by the complete lack of damage to the door, even as it had twisted and mangled the bodies and Centurion-parts before beyond recognition.

"Those charges could have punched through several inch thick blast-steel," Syraste muttered and sighed. "Alright, we'll risk damage to the building, there's no other way of doing it. Strivashi, get your MANPAD team up here and put one into the door!"

"Right away, Ma'am!" The team shifted positions out of cover as the original blasting crew fell back, aiming from their safety in power-armour at the door to the building, and then letting loose the missile, accelerating at 400g's straight into the door where the warhead and most of the fuel exploded in an enormous fireball which finally served to tear apart the armoured entrance and also destroy the entryway and the room beyond.

This time as they approached, though, automatic fire suppression systems in the building were already flooding the corridor with foam. In a moment the power armoured troops thrust ahead anyway, shooting out the foam dispenses to prevent it from completely filling the area now that the fire was gone and then, potentially, freezing into some sort of impregnable mass. It didn't, and they pressed into the facilities.

One of the first things encountered was the strangest. It was a frozen human corpse, a little hand-cranked survival radio with an old disc storage section on it. They immediately crowded around the body, and it was Sophia who gingerly picked up the survival radio and began to turn the crank, hoping that some sort of message might on the ancient disc.

Instead, music blared out, and they all frowned or flicked ears in various expressions of frustration.

"There are those among us who think that life is but a joke..." Sophia rolled her eyes and sighed. "Such a wasted lead. Did he seem to write anything.. Ahh, on the wall. 'Joseph Edwards, 21 December AD 2007, the computer sent out Reynold and Matthew--I am dead, if you find them, kill them. They hold the destruction of our world.'"

The message, scrawled along the wall, brought more silence as they gazed at it for the longest of times, while other teams patrolled through the facility. A radio crackled "This is Sergeant Iurkarlish. We've reached the reactor room, or what passes for it. It's down. This facility is operating off of backup power only, Ma'am."

"Very good," Syraste confirmed. "Alright, we need to start splitting up and covering all of this facility. Doctor al-Nasr, I don't suppose you know the writing on the walls?"

Sophia looked around, and saw it.. And didn't know what it meant, unlike Sarasavsati. However, she did recognize it at once. It was the same writing style, probably the same language, as the untranslated writing from Ceres base and the distant colony base of the other power they had found. So they, as well as the Sarasavsati, had interuniversal capabilities. Or are at the heart of this. I fear that raises only more questions.. But simply recording that writing makes my mission worthwhile. And so she crisply snapped images as she replied, "I fear not, Adept, though I do know it in the sense that I have seen it before, at several dig sites in CON-5. It has never however been translated before."

"Ah. More's the pity.. But it's interesting that it's in two different universes. I wonder if the natural anomaly connecting them was extant in past times?"

"Perhaps--that isn't my field of specialty, however," Sophia replied, frowning.

“Alright then. If we can split up your group?”

“Of course.” Sophia soon found herself assigned with a squad of soldiers heading for one of the more unexplored areas of the facility, which appeared to have habitation quarters. It would remain for them to find any kind of sign of how they could access the data in the computers or else they could perhaps find some way to start translating the writing. A serious data-mining project was required either way, and Sophia was quite content to spend some time here, however terrifying it might be, if it would yield so much actionable data for the Empire as that. So was her team, though, and finally free of Dhirisma they would actually be able to communicate safely once they'd screened some areas of the base.

For the moment, though, they searched and they searched and they found nothing at all. Now there was very little else that they could accomplish, so the body of Joseph Edwards was placed outside of the base, the doors were sealed around the damage, and it was generally prepared for habitation by two platoons and the researchers, while the combat engineering personnel looked for some way to detonate the power cables to the main guns to remove the threat to Dhirisma and allow her to approach and provide direct support to them all.

It was all for naught, and Sophia's efforts to crack the computer cores were, despite all her programming knowledge and cryptographic skills, also completely useless. The security procedures were incredibly detailed and sophisticated, and damn near seemed alive. She did not give up, however, until Ersimia ordered her to, and she retired to one of the rooms laid out for sleeping space, a small closet given to her for her own privacy and comfortably snug up in survival blankets with the tiled floor.. Surprisingly warm.

Sophia Vuletic never had a chance to finish her short, stim-reduced sleep that night, however. There was another creature awake with its mind upon her, and after only two hours, she was awakened by the looming figure over her in her sleep, at first confused, sluggish, perhaps, by what she—in a sudden grip of terror—realized was the mental influence over her. Ersimia, suspicious of me..! But as she tried to raise defensive shields around her mind, they were battered down, and she was forced up, thrust up, grabbed and seized by a figure whose height she recognized as she was forced out, matched that of Starbuck.

The emergency lighting confirmed it a moment later, for all the good it would do her. “Sophia Dragomira Vuletic, Senior Inspector of the Evidenzburo,” Starbuck's voice repeated in a litany. “I have to admit, I didn't learn that until just now, nor did I have the slightest idea that you were a spy. Congratulations, you little slut; you are going to make yourself into a real challenge for me, and so much the better.

“A long time ago, my creator told me of the glory days in which creatures like you existed,” Starbuck continued, keying open a door they hadn't been able to breach earlier, and stepping into what looked suspiciously like a lab. The door slammed shut after them, and that was scarcely a surprise as Starbuck threw Sophia up against the wall. She held her there, and wrapped a hand around her neck, starting to asphyxiate the smaller woman until she began to thrash in desperation at what was surely the end of her life.

No chance to even resist torture but this... HELP! DAMNIT, ERSIMIA! HELP ME! There was no point in hiding herself now, but the telepathic cry was blocked by the overwhelming force before her, or so it seemed.. And then Starbuck was moaning. In what Sophia could distinctly feel was pleasure, and with it, the overwhelming desire to aide in her pleasure. To die, if it gave it to her.

Only the discipline of 45 years of covert operations work and the training that had gone before it, and her own natural disposition, saved her from giving in to the impulse; instead, she used the last of her strength to shake free even as Starbuck fell to the floor herself, and they both looked at each other; Sophia with stunned confusion, Starbuck with incredible fascination. “So I was right. You are a feedback telepath.”

“Yes, I am, you fucking monster.”

“Don't talk to your master that way,” she—'she'?--answered, leaping up and kicking Sophia again and again, just to stop and lean against the wall as she shuddered and quivered in ecstasy while Sophia herself felt rather like she had broken a rib—and like she desperately wanted to break another one to please Starbuck, the desire filling through her, too.

“Creatures like you,” Starbuck finally continued, “were created, Kshatriya told me before he was killed by Nirrti, to provide pleasure for the High Caste. And here I have bred for myself a High Caste body; my own genes I left in the Colonial population, and in careful irony, from the heirs of the enemies of my people, from my repose here in the computers, uploaded to them to guard my plans for the millennia, I bred, and bred, and crossbred again, until I produced a High Caste body.”

“And now you see that I am complete, a better telepath than you, a better individual, who can live for thousands of years and command the loyalty of millions of lessers. I have used the bodies of the rulers of my enemies as my avatars in this world, and now I reap the finest and most delectable reward I could imagine....” She trailed, not really a She, an Entity in the body of the trapped Starbuck. “I shant go into details, but for the moment it's sufficient to say that I brought you to this room for one reason.”

She reached over to one of the drawers, which opened automatically as she waved her hand over it, selected a vial, and pressed it into a vibration-injector. “You're the only one of your kind I may have for my entire life, so, sadly, I can't torture you to death—just keep nearly torturing you to death for however many decades as I can make you last, Sophia. And it will be quite deliciously pleasurable for me, and perversely, for you as well. But we rather like it that way...

“So, what you think doesn't matter.” And with that, not-Starbuck plunged the injector into the side of the very still Sophia Vuletic's neck. Sophia sighed a bit as it went into her, nothing more.

“Pity they don't make these things painful,” the not-Starbuck smirked. “At any rate, you're now immunized against the plague. Rather important, as I'm about to unleash it into the facility.”

“It won't affect Talorans. They're too different.” Sophia pushed herself up, the movement ignored by not-Starbuck, who was turning around, and began to speak to the computer in her own langauge. Or its langauge. It wasn't Colonial, certainly, and Sophia couldn't help but feel that she was now hearing the untranslated language being used.

It's also your own last, best chance to stop her from unleashing that virus...

“Of course it won't. That's part of the plan.”

Oh god. For Sophia the possibilities flooded out at once—for one's enemies to not be infected... Are the Talorans her enemies? Doesn't matter... Then they had to be something else. A Trojan Horse.

The virus could be released this very moment, unsuspecting, into the air the party was breathing in the facility. She had to act immediately and her action became a movement of the mind, a command which overwhelmed not-Starbuck's mental controls over her, which directed her to an action perfect, without thinking, and yet sacrificial. She took a clear blade, some kind of plastic or even more exotic material being used as what seemed a surgical scalpel, and drove it through the webbing of the fingers on her left hand. And again.

The not-Starbuck was completely unprepared for the level of intensity, had not the experience to cut the link, to forcibly separate itself from the pleasure being experienced. And again, Sophia Vuletic slammed the scalpel into her own hand, sobbing from pain and whimpering, but focused, even so focused, as she reached out with her mind—while not-Starbuck was collapse on the floor, moaning and writhing in a sexual daze. In her own mind, she reached past the distracted creature and sought out Ersimia.

Do you hear me? Her mind-voice cut out as she rammed the blade into herself again.

I do—By the lord, woman, whomever you are, why the hell are you..

The creature has possessed Starbuck—it was with Starbuck all along—it's trying to release a virus into the area, contaminate you, use you to spread the virus that killed this Earth back to human habited space! It made me immune to make me a plaything... This time, she rammed the scalpel straight through her left forearm and then wrenched it out again, wriggling it as she did, slumped against the wall and slipping down in a trail of blood. It gains sexual pleasure from the pain of others through a telepath bond! That's how I've immobilized it. Quickly! I'm trying to open the door to the lab...

We attack! Ersimia answered simply, understanding at once.. And now, weakened and unprepared, not-Starbuck was assaulted by the combined energies and skills of ten telepaths at once, while Sophia staggered to the door, slicing the scalpel through into her side just above her hip and hoping she hurt nothing serious as she screamed out again with the blade deep in her flesh, falling against the controls for the door and, ironically, activating it with her nose.

Staggering to its feet, not-Starbuck seemed to realize that something was wrong, gravely wrong, and tried to fight the sensations of pain-pleasure from Sophia at the same time as resisting Ersimia and her less skilled acolytes in the Telepathic warfare. Sophia sensed it herself, and bracing her left forearm on the metal of the wall, slammed the scalpel through it again, rewarded with a fresh and rather serious spurt of blood that time. “Orgasm yourself to death, you fucking monster!” She screamed as a way of focus, savage in her pride that she had, as an apparent bred plaything for the likes of it, found a way to turn it to her own domination of the creature instead.

Ersimia led her acolytes into tearing through the memories and personality of the creature. And with what she saw there—it was terrifying beyond believe. She saw the twelve Cylons, the seven known, and the five unknown, and shuddered in shock at the identity of the last three, not unknown from the fleet. She tore deeper, and she saw hints of some great evil and great legacy laid out. But most of all, she reached her limits in violently ripping apart the personality of the creature in a search for information while it was still distracted by Sophia's unyielding and progressive self-mutilation, that were defined only by the need to keep the innocent—Starbuck's--body from being rended down to a lifeless husk and her own personality destroyed.

That was all she could do by that point, there was nothing else for it, no other information to be gotten. Except, she could clearly see the course of the Vimana, folding space to travel. It had raced from this second Earth not directly to Kobol, but first, to the Cylon homeworld. And the image swelled up, and showed as, at an appointed time, every Cylon bowed down in worship toward the sacred island of God upon the surface, and did not look up or monitor anything as they continued their silent reflection, willfully refusing to process data for the next thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes wherein an area suddenly appeared in the universal knowledge that had not been there before. Prescience again understood the area beyond it, in which no knowledge might otherwise be had. And the cleared area, twenty-one point seven by twenty-one point seven kilometers on a side square, was replaced by a huge golden four-sided Pyramid which also reached twenty-one point seven kilometers into the atmosphere, almost a quarter of the way into space. She saw the time of arrival relative to the location of the planet, and felt a copy of the intelligence she fought within it, receiving instructions, arguing with the first copy of the intelligence, but nonetheless...

...Directing to the hybrids to reorient the General Assembly Yard in orbit and begin the mass production of imitation Vimanas, which the great nanite assembly facilities had been designed to build in the first place, being a legacy of an older and darker race now long dead, and this facility, now in the hands of an enemy equally dead—though not quite. Here remained what was surely the last, and it hungered so intensely that it sent Ersimia back, shocked that the creature retained the werewithal to reestablish its mental defences....

Only for another horrible and twisting stab of the scalpel blade into her own flesh by Sophia to weaken it enough, distract it enough, as the High Caste body spasmed in pleasure, that Ersimia survived the killing command it had telepathically dispatched toward her—that seized and tore apart the brain of one of her poor acolytes in a heartbeat—and promptly launched a ferocious effort to overcome and outright destroy the brain of their attacker themselves. Starbuck's life, it seemed, could no longer be saved.

Yet the creature was willing to accept the loss of its plan to survive; it had survived for thousands of years and that instinct was strong even as the possibility of later vengeance was raised. It surged past the wounded Sophia, who could not do one thing to slow it down in Starbuck's body except yet again to ram the scalpel into her now thoroughly mangled arm, and fled straight out into the frozen Antarctic wastes, howling out a final command as it did.

With the remaining energy in the base, the batteries went hot. They could indeed not bear on Dhirisma as they tracked around toward her, but the threat was implicit and clear: If Dhirisma tried to pursue or engage any escape attempt, the batteries could take her down. The question was what escape was possible for a mortal body lightly clothed in the midst of the depths of the Antarctic. That soon proved superfluous; an ancillary to the base, unspotted and still frozen under snow, contained several antigrav vehicles, one of which proved to function with incredible celerity, dodging the fire of the two platoons emplaced on the heights above the ice chasm, covering the twenty klicks to the abandoned Cylon Heavy Raider in seconds, and coming down alongside it.

Another minute, the Raider lifted off and powered skyward. Dhirisma took the shot immediately; she fired only to see her forward batteries intercepted and their energy dispersed in a huge series of atmospheric fusion events by the counterfire of the guns, which proved able to disrupt the particle beams even though they couldn't bear on the Synthetic Control Cruiser herself, mercifully.

It granted exactly enough time for the not-Starbuck to plot out a course on the jump drive and engage directly in the atmosphere with that excellent Cylon jump precision, escaping in a heartbeat, and wisely, too, for now the facility's batteries were completely drained, and lifeless, even the atmospheric systems ceased to function. Any sensor probe would clearly show the dead state of the facility, and quickly did so. Ersimia arrived in the once-sealed room a moment later, and after a moment's respectful silence, staring at the mangled body in shock, knelt down beside the woman—so clearly not Doctor al-Nasr, but who, she did not know—who had stopped a Power rivaling a hypothetical P-13 or greater by cleverness and stoic willingness to inflict impossibly severe wounds on herself during the telepathic combat on the Antarctic ice of a dead world.
Last edited by The Duchess of Zeon on 2008-09-20 03:48pm, edited 1 time in total.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.
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