I was challenged to write a fanfiction including the new BattleStar Galactica in the TGG universe--a broad crossover universe created as an old spacebattles.com "story debate". It now includes the fiction stories The War That Wasn't, by "Big" Steve, The Anatomy of a War, author the same; A Southern Belle in Empress Intalasha's Court by Mayabird, and "55 Days in Kalunda" by myself and Steve as co-authors. The last two include a species I've exhaustively created, the Talorans, with background information and short-stories about them available in this thread here. The challenge was essentially to posulate that the TSE-universe (the TGG being a multiverse of many universes) is the same one as neo-BSG is set in, and then to write out the contact between the Talorans and the Colonial Remnant.. So that is what I did, and here is the story for your enjoyment thusly. I'd also like to take a moment here to thank Maya who is providing extensive advice on the nBSG side of this story to maximize the plausibility and who deserves mention with all the chapters as materially aiding in their form and development.
352 - 353 C.E. By the human count
The people of the Astrian valleys had risen up in revolt. Grim old and proud warlords, with their retainers in full bronze panoply. They were to no longer tolerate the destruction of their golden idols and the replacing of their Gods of old with the strange one God and his female devil-servant of the far-off Grenyans, with their foreign devil queens who behaved as no woman ought.
Though the rule of the Grenyans, some said, was lighter than that of Trasjak the Conqueror of old, most ignored them, and plotted against the converts to the religion of the devil queens; they rose up and slaughtered them, and inevitably, for the followers of the devil queens were, one might grant, no cowards, there was a retaliation against them. Against the mustered strength of eighty thousand Astrian tribesmen, who held the high ground in the rugged uplands of the central Ghastan Island, there was mustered in the vales below a somewhat understrength division of fifteen thousand of the Royal Grenyan Army—three-fourths of whom were local levies—supported by only a thousand and five hundreds of cavalry, all rostok.
None of the descendants of Trasjak the Conqueror feared the fire-tubes of the Grenyan Army; certainly not the Great Chief of the Istarlan Valley. His force in the centre was to receive the full weight of the Grenyan assault up-hill while either wing swept down and arround to surround the Grenyan Army and annihilate it. He did not envy his position, yet he knew that the chance of defeat was small. The Grenyans would have to attack uphill, and using women in the ranks, their forces would be weak and easily tired....
A strange and terrifying wooden reed-horn sounded below enmasse
, and the beating of drums. Censers attached to great wooden poles were swung 'round in front of the Grenyan troops, and the sweet fragrence of incense drifted up the slope to the waiting Istarlans, unnerving them, that the troops below took the fight as though it were a woman's bath-party, and their music was so exacting and precise, without a cry among their ranks.
Then suddenly there was quite a lot more of smoke, and the echoes of thunder howled around them as the arcs of mortar shells crashed down in the midst of the Istarlan troops. Many of them at once regreted their confidence as the mortars burst, and with them, the strange whirling scream of the rockets, shrapnel everywhere and men falling dead and dying with blood as the Grenyans waited calmly below, the smoke of the censers and of the cannons obscuring the incredible brilliance of the polished silver domed and effavsur-plumed helmets of the ranks of Grenyan regulars right in the centre.
Under this fire the Istarlans found themselves compelled to retaliate for the sake of their own spirits; they ordered flights of arrows down into the waiting Grenyan troops. At this, one of their officers below, a stately woman who at close range could be seen as wearing the uniform of a brigadier, snapped an order with brilliant green eyes set in pale face gazing up calmly toward the Istarlan warriors beyond. The trapdoor rifles of the Grenyans were raised at a sharp angle, bayonets fixed, and served as a great forest which deflected the majority of the arrows which would have otherwise found their mark. Only a few of the soldiers fell wounded over the course of the twenty minute barrage.
The drums beat a long and constant roll. Brass horns added to the cacophony of sounds, which suddenly became clear and brave as the priests with their censers fell back, and officers in silvered cuirass and gold-plumed helmets advanced to the front rank of the line, swords crisply drawn. The rolling of their drums as a signal, some four thousand infantry of the Royal Grenyan Army's 145th “Estafvi” Brigade of Foot surged forward at the double-quick, black kilts twirling at the knees of the infantry as they pressed uphill with the greatest rapidity, the front ranks firing their rifles as fast as they could be loaded on the advance, somehow maintaining their footing on the treacherous ground as they surged on. Silver sashes over khaki jackets and red regimental badges, they were resplendant under the brilliant heat of the summer suns and even through the now-omnipresent clouds of dust.
A young girl in the front rank playing a reed-horn was struck repeated by arrows; she fell to the ground with her legs cut through and bleeding badly, but with a stubborn sort of defiance reached for her instrument and played on as the troops closest to her broke their disciplined silence at the sight to raise a haughty cheer. Several officers in the front rank had been wounded, but against arrows their cuirasses were more than simply ornament, and the advance continued unabated. For the Istarlans the sight became progressively more and more frightening since it seemed like few of the Grenyans were falling, and their assault was unabated, whilst the mortars, at least, continued to crash down amongst them, and for men used to single combat with the axe or sword there was something terrifying in the way those unyielding bayonets were presented, the whole assembly of rifle and cutlass bayonet amounting to some two meters or more of rigid half-pike which was for them worse to consider than the bark of the blackpowder rifles which was laying them low by the dozen.
Both wings were swinging into action against the Grenyans; certainly all the Istarlans needed to do was hold, and the Grenyan force would be annihilated, the greatest victory of the people of Ghastan against the Grenyan devil-queens in the short, bloody, and defeat-ridden history of their contact from the day the first of the black ships of the Grenyans arrived in a distant Ghastan port. Yet the Istarlan ranks were thinning under the constant fire, and the Grenya regulars drew inexorably closer...
And then, at the crest of the ridge, point-blank to the Istarlan lines, halted and delivered hellacious volley after volley point-blank. Hundreds
of warriors were falling now... ...And the vicious fusillades were followed by thrown flintlock grenades, at which point the Grenyan officers, twirling their swords, led their troops forward at the double-quick once more, crashing down into the midst of the Istarlan warriors with the bayonet.
There was nowhere for a man to put his sword or swing his axe! Instead, there was simply a bayonet everywhere—and when a man tried to cut down the Grenyan soldier in front of him, he would find his right side run straight through by the bayonet of the next soldier down in the Grenyan line. They made no attempts to defend themselves, in inconceivable behaviour for the Istarlans, but instead relied on the person to their immediate left in the line to defend each one of them in turn. Only the file closers with their halberds on the extreme left fought the men directly in front of them.
The Istarlan Chief dashed forward with his reserve in a desperate effort to stem the collapse, one of his sons holding the banner of Trasjak which they had inheirited. This band of a hundred warriors fought in the centre, and fought, and fought, as their men died and melted away around them. They fought, and for a long time it seemed like they might in fact rally their men and hold. Yet inexorable bayonet-thrust after bayonet-thrust ground into them, and steadily their numbers fell. The son of the Istarlan Chief died holding the banner of Trasjak, and his father swung his sword in great strokes over the body of his son even as he was stabbed through a dozen times by a half-dozen bayonets in the relentless advance. The banner was taken, and the regulars swung to the right even as the Astrian right flank itself was suddenly confronted by a charge of rostok lance, and those troops who thought they would have an easy victory against the local levies of the Grenyan Army instead found themselves faced with 53mm revolving cannon spitting out thirty-five explosive shells a minute.
In the one-sided massacre that followed, 168 Grenyan troops lost their lives against more than ten thousand Astrians.
There was a girl who lived in the Istarlan valley. Her name was Ghanniar and as the second child of the old Istarlan chief she ought to have been married off to the chief of another of the Astrian valleys. But of course this had not happened; her brother was dead, her father was dead, and her mother died of starvation in the long winter that followed. Her second-cousins had taken her in and were destitute, for they had been thrown down from their position as chiefs of the valley, and occupying troops were everywhere, mostly locals from the lowlands who hated them.
Ghanniar had heard her second-cousin and his wife discussing the possibility of selling the useless welp of a sad remnant of her father's line. It made her shudder in fear, and so out of desperation and knowing nothing else, she had dared one day to speak a few words to one of the priests of the devil-queens; when she had mentioned her heritage, he asked her a few unusual questions, and seeming satisfied, headed off at once.
The tidings that returned were most unusual. A brilliant green-eyed and tall woman in the uniform of the Grenyan regulars appeared, and there was murmuring. The mud-brick village turned out in all its numbers to see the proud Brigadier and her guard of a squadron of rostok enter the village. They watched as she exchanged pleasantries with the local missionary of the religion of the devil-queens, by which it was meant Farzianism, and then approached the reasonably prosperous fortified compound of the relatives of the deposed chief of a conquered people.
“Bring me the daughter of the Chief Ystar!” The woman snapped in her imperious voice, in excellent Istarlanian dialect, however. It was obeyed at once, with some relief from the second-cousins of the fallen chief, after all; the burden of another mouth to feed during the horrible famines which had followed the death of so many of their men and the taking prisoner of so many others, and more still crippled, would at least be alleviated somewhat the next winter.
They hasted to deliver the girl, who was only four years old by the Taloran count and scarcely begun to develop into a woman, having only begun the precocious stage of growth when Taloran faculties so rapidly mature, and having beautiful lush purple hair and deeply amber eyes, her long ears very fine and pleasant in their shape and carriage.
She looked up, wide-eyed, at the Royal Governor of the vale. The governor, in response, silently dismounted.
“You are the daughter of Ystar... Son of Faras?” The Brigadier bit over the unfamiliar term.
“Aye, Governor. Though it matters not, since you have taken the place of the chief these days.”
“Until you come of age, Baroness,
” the title rolled off her lips in its alien lineage, and the surrounding crowd gasped at it, as the brigadier unslung from across her back the heavy cutting sword of Ystar's, which his daughter stiffened in shock in seeing.
“Can you lift it?” The tone was almost accusing.
The girl responded simply, by forcing it up in one shaking wrist, to demonstrate that she could before using a second hand to hold onto the lower scabbard as she asked in a querrelous voice: “Why do you return such a spoil as the sword of one of the line of Trasjak?”
“It's not spoil—it's your's. These lands are your's by birthright, and I am returning with you to the Citadel of Trasjak at Herral to see to it that you are raised to rule well over your birthright.”
SPINWARD OF THE TERRAN PROTECTORATES
19 J'ina, IY 619.
Fraslia tapped gently against the rock with her iron chisel, carefully, ever so carefully, delineating another line in the pictogram. “What would my ancestors think of me?” She mused aloud, here, gazing with vivid amber eyes into the reflection of veritably gray skin, unusual for most Talorans, and her lush purple hair, pulled back to neatly reflect the uniform of her young captaincy. Fraslia was not very old by Taloran standards, and she owed this command to her excellent reputation; Baronesses did have the power in title to receive control of even an exploration ship like the Jhammind
without having earned it through and through.
Here, then, she showed her skill as one of the few remaining people who could make pictograms in the Ghastan style, the only writing of her people. It was a rare skill for a noblewoman; rarer, still, on the Isle of Ghastan, where the stereotype went that it was male rulers who were old and conservative and the women fiercely proud of their gains...
“But,” muttered the Captain softly, “They forget that I am, regardless of my sex, also of the blood of Trasjak.” So strange are the heirs of Valera, who smashed my people, smashed their religion, and virtually annihilated us with disease and revolving-cannon, and then gave us all privilages and positions which we had not before known. But for those privilaged, it has always seemed like we are so separate from our people of ancient days that we have been transformed into the overlords. My duty is to prevent this from being the truth
. And in that she was one of the last of a dying wisp of barbarian pomp and pagan splendour which had been Ghastan before the Grenyans came with their iron ships and rifled guns and the books of the sayings of the Prophet Eibermon. That had been more than seven hundred and eighty years ago, of course, but by the extreme count of Taloran lives, the memory still ran close, and the gentle reign of the Grenyans had ironically perpetuated it.
Now Fraslia indulged this most unusual of hobbies to write out long messages in the style of the religious speech of the Ghastan priesthood of old. She was not really a pagan, and maintained herself in good standing with the Church, but she was deeply fond of the past, which she, with a mellow sort of gentleness, regarded simply as a matter of ignorance, not of actual demonic origins of the old gods. It was a faint flirtation, nothing more, and none could doubt her piety.
They were welcome to try. They were also welcome to accuse her of being a slattern, as had happened once at a drunken party when the peculiar gray colour of her skin easily gave her away as a Ghastan Highlander. That
Baronesses' daughter had not been prepared for the great weight of the sword which Fraslia used, which had battered her's out of the way and cut her arm to the bone—which was shattered—in the first stroke.
No surprise. It was, after all, the sword of Ystar.
Her musings, and her off-duty time, were soon interrupted. The Jhammind
was coasting on an exploratory run through a major—extremely large, in fact—nebula, rare so far spinward, beyond even the human territories and in space where they had not found anything save a few uninhabited worlds, and one or two with primitive alien populations, where the number of worlds with breathable atmospheres were few and far beyond. Their job was to survey it, of course, and confirm that no threat to the Taloran Star Empire existed spinward as it certainly did coreward, now that the humans had been brought into the fold.
So far it had been completely uneventful, and stellar cartography was their only actual pursuit, improving astrogation maps for the region for the great mining cartels which would be sure to soon enter it. And then...
She reacted to the chime of the comm immediately, bringing it up to visual, not embarassed to show off her hobby. “Captain here.”
“Captain,” the expression of her first officer, the daughter of the Countess of Rasamblid, named Dhamis, was one that surprised her at once. Dhamis was normally a very calm and professional individual and... “We have a situation here.”
“What is it, Dhamis?”
“We've detected a fighter patrol. They're squawking IFF's we've never encountered before.”
“That's right, Ma'am. It's not even someone else's expeditionary cruiser. Someone's got a carrier task group out there. And it definitely isn't our's.”
“Go to Condition Two. I'll be on the bridge immediately.” She got up, and left the pictogram unfinished for another name, buckling the sword of Ystar to her belt in a swift motion and grabbing her vac suit helmet under one arm as she dashed out the door and down the corridor. Dhamis was to reliable to not have thoroughly checked already, and that meant this was a first-contact situation, without question, and that in turn meant.. Well, I had better not pray to the Lord that he let me finish a Ghastan pictogram
, the Baroness of Istarlan mused wryly, and then turned her thoughts to the situation at hand.
On the Battlestar Galactica
“One contact. One big
contact. That's all we know. And how long could they have been trailing us for, exactly?”
“As long as two weeks, Sir, though it isn't likely. And we can at least be pretty sure that it isn't a Base Ship; the energy signatures are all wrong for that.” Lieutenant Felix Gaeta was back to himself, pretty much. But then, hadn't everyone in the fleet had a much needed boost to their morale with the total annihilation of a Cylon strike force of nearly three hundred fighters and heavy assault ships? There was nothing more that needed to be said there
; it was their first real chance at vengeance.
“There's nothing that says the Cylons only have to have one class of capital ship. Now that we've confirmed this tail isn't a false contact we need to move quickly to get an idea of what we're dealing with. It's the ideal sort of mission for using the Blackbird
, and the Raptors
already tracking the contact can relay if necessary.”
Colonel Tigh had been before that moment largely silent. Now, however, he interjected into the conversation. “Sir, it's clearly a capital ship. We can't say why they haven't attacked yet, but I don't think we should even bother with waiting for further details. Let's jump clear now. We've got the security of the fleet to worry about.”
“That's a risk, but it's clear this contact is something we've not encountered before,” a brief shift of his attention back to Gaeta. “if you're correect, Lieutenant, that is—and if you're not then there's clearly something they're doing to make it so. Which demands investigation, itself.”
None of which, of course, avoided the need to take every precaution, particularly to Colonel Tigh, which he emphasized quite gladly. “I understand the need for intel, Sir, but if that is a Base Ship employing some kind of masking technology on its engines—hardly impossible as we've shown with the Blackbird
, though I'd hate to think the Cylons have applied it on such a scale—we'd be facing a hundred or more Raiders in mere minutes.”
Adama was a decisive commander when he had to be, and “We'll only have Raptors
and the Blackbird
out, and they're all jump capable on their own. The fleet will stand ready to immediately jump out should the slightest hostile action occur.”
“Understood, Sir. I'll inform the CAG at once,” Colonel Tigh abandoned the effort.
“I do have something to add, Sirs,” Lieutenant Gaeta spoke up again, displaying his usual determined certitude, though the words bordered on the absolutely bizarre. “I don't think it's a Cylon contact at all.”
Adama paused, as he had been about to turn away, and looked back to the young dark-skinned lieutenant. “Then what would it be, Lieutenant?”
“Something we've never encountered before. That's all I'm prepared to say, Sir.”
Commander Adama didn't reply, as he moved over to the bridge's tactical plot and looked at the hazy circle that indicated the vague position of the unknown ship. Gaeta's words bothered him much more than he would care to admit.
Recon Fighter Blackbird
Starbuck's briefing by Apollo had been short, direct, and to the point. It was some sort of new Cylon ship—Saul Tigh had chosen to disregard Lieutenant Gaeta's last cryptic comment—and they needed to find out what exactly it was up to, and anything of its capabilities that could be cleaned at close range. And so it was time to use the Blackbird
--named the Laura, to be precise--in her first operational sortie
and a mission she was uniquely suited for.
Starbuck found out it was actually turning into the most boring combat mission of her life. But then what did you expect? Acceleration on course, deacceleration, and... Frakkin' coast the rest of the way there
. A sigh from inside the vac suit; there was nothing to be done for it, and the mission at the end, at least, might be very rewarding and also very dangerous. At least she felt able to focus. The Turkey Shoot had been a great weight lifted off their chests, and immensely satisfying. So was the completion of the Laura—after all, they might just be able to build others and keep their preciously small numbers of fighters from shrinking further still.
Reassuringly, and to distract her from her boredom, the signals of the Raptor
s on patrol remained steady. She coasted onward along her intercept course toward the unidentified ship, the fleet drifting far behind. Whomever this was, they weren't trying to get close, that was for sure. In fact, their position seemed to distant for almost anything at all...
Except may electronic surveillance of the civilian signals in the fleet
. The thought was important enough that it made her think it was some sort of Cylon reconaissance vessel out there; a very big one, which in turn suggested a very large sensor array. But you'd think they'd be closer, even so, to try and crack our military comms, considering their... Ah, hell. I'll find out soon enough
Another hour passed, which certainly wasn't soon enough by her standards. Laura's drifting abilities were proven, but that sarcastic thought of Starbuck's was the only one which came out of the eeriely quiet episode. Now she was being much more attentive. After all, the Laura was rapidly approaching suspected visual range of the contact, and now she was scanning the stars aroundd for any sign of it. There was none; it was pitch blackness.
It didn't seem to resolve itself. Another fifteen, twenty minutes passed, and Starbuck was starting to think she had been sent on a frakkin' pointless ghost hunt of a mission, all for nothing, or completely in the wrong area, when she saw a star disappear to her extreme right. Automatically she craned her head as far back as she could... And every muscle in her body tensed stiffly. She had just passed the bow of the ship, in fact, nearly collided with it, and it seemed to actually be veering away from her...
Without a shot being fired. Without any sort of indication that contact had been made. It's just a figment of your imagination, or a random course change
. She swung the Blackbird
around, still coasting forward, and beheld the whole of the ship. It looked nothing like a Cylon design. It was pitch black, invisible except for the veritable hole it made in space, even at a range of mere kilometers. Indeed, the overall design was superficially quite a lot like the Galactica
The central hull was a blocky, squared off cylinder with a forward-facing domed bow, and the overall length had to be at least an impressive 1.3 klicks. Three-fourths of the way back down the hull were immense, blocky fins that formed a squared cross and were terribly thick. These were surmouned by large ellipsoid pods which at both the fore and aft ends had engines in them—the rear ones active on low power and yet the ship could not be detected from the engine trail. That alone was ominous.
There were no lights and no windows visible anywhere on the ship, which seemed incomprehensible to a human designer. Yet there was one thing on the ship, the sole variation in the matte black of the hull. Massive, highly stylized and impossible to decipher symbols stretched out along the length of the hull, in dark red-black crimson. They were impossibly complex, and seemed to be like ancient pictograms. There was no other way to describe them. And there was certainly nothing about the ship to make her assume that it was Cylon.
Now she was drifting further out of range, and she tore herself away from the fading sight to double-check that the footage had all been recorded and saved to hardcopy. Content that the reconaissance had been a success, Starbuck at once looked up again to continue watching the ship drift away until it had been reduced to a simple dark spot against the vastness of space once again, easier to see now that she had seen it before but still almost impossible to detect.
“It doesn't explain their success in masking energy emissions,” she spoke out loud, just to hear the words after the hours alone which would get to any human. But at least on the outward drift she had something to amuse herself with. She settled down to replaying the footage over and over, focusing in on the vast sigils painted so proudly on the hull of the other ship. Pictograms were alien to the modern Colonies, and these sigils were so stylized they didn't really qualify, anyway. Beyond that, nobody, Cylon or Colonial, made such a broad display of anything on a ship's hull. And the design was most unfamilar, only a hint of sleekness in her and lots of blunt power.
The distant point at which activation of the engines for the jump maneouvre back to the Galactica
became possible (well, safe from detection was the proper way to say it) was reached much sooner with the footage of that mysterious ship to entice her. Cylon? Like hell it is. But maybe that's what they want us to think...
Imperial Taloran Ship Jhammind.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen,” and the term here referred to the fact that they were all commissioned officers of the Empress. Fraslia, 26th Baroness of Istarlan, presided over the court of the department heads of her ship. The encounter with the stealth ship had frankly been shocking and disturbing to all of them, and they all sat around the table, Fraslia on the raised head for the captain, with their vac suit helmets at their sides. They were still on condition two, and for the past nine hours had been on it. Fraslia had given the crew a brief break when it became clear an attack was not following immediately on the heels of the detection. They needed to figure out what to do next, anyway.
“We have ourselves a situation which is very strange. In fact, I'm still not sure what to make of it, which is most of the reason for why you are here. There is a civilian convoy of about, what, seventy-five ships, protected by an escort carrier?” The question ended up hopelessly sidetracking the conversation.
“That's the approximate size of it, yes, Your Ladyship,” Lieutenant Commander Risima—the electronic warfare officer--answered, blonde and tan in the characteristic fashion of only the Dalamarians, short and amused even in grim circumstance. “There doesn't seem to be any other military ships in the convoy—two at most, one an armed merchant cruiser and one a communications ship, and we're not sure about them—which means that they think their fighters and parasites can handle small stealthed attackers. Arrogant of them.”
“Well, it's a very big ship for an escort carrier, so maybe they've chosen to churn out the things cheap—steel is always cheap, after all—and just load them with fighters rather than bother with destroyer escorts and frigates,” the green-haired executive officer, Commander Dhamis, remarked. “What I'm more worried about is the fact that their FTL technology is so much more refined than our own. That thing was smaller than a fighter, and it clearly went to supralight.”
“This doesn't explain the nature of the fleet. It's not some organized force of large bulk transports; in fact, there aren't any,” Ivstar Remmid, the ship's gunnery officer, brought his opinion into the conversation. “Your Ladyship, this is most likely some sort of private colonization sortie. They probably have one hundred thousand people on those ships if it is luxurious and rich, and close to half a million if they are poor freeholding settlers. They must be drawn from every part of a great star nation for the purpose of settling another world; why else would they be headed into such empty space as stands between us and the Imperial Border March?”
“I can see such a force retaining the use of a great combine's escort carrier, Lieutenant,” Fraslia answered at last, leaning her head to one side pensively, ears flattening as she propped her chin in her right hand. “But what about the trailing squadron? It is right at the edge of our detection range, consistantly, and they're exchanging fairly often, if low-grade, burst FTL transmissions. There seems to be two very large vessels there which we can't even really categorize, you've said as much yourself, possibly planetary assault ships, along with maybe a heavy repair vessel and some light escorts.”
“I think they're factory ships for aiding in establishing a new colony, actually, Your Ladyship. We don't have any evidence that they're military,” Ivstar answered.
“That makes no sense. They're in a classic position of deep cover for a convoy. They have
to be warships, Your Ladyship, and that means this is a regularly organized convoy,” Risima pressed, running a hand through her blonde hair as she gazed earnestly up at the gray-skinned Ghastanian who ruled their ship. “I suspect that third big one is a carrier, actually, and those are some sort of battleships, all of which furthermore implies...”
The sentence was never finished. Dhamis turned back in surprise as the door simply burst open, and someone in a vac suit minus their help—in complete contravention of all regulations, burst into the meeting, a flustered naval infanterist following her inside and trying to stop her, an immensely long shock of orange hair, the ears over-long even for Talorans and the frazzled look of bloodshot red eyes showing to them all that it was Lieutenant Chylisi. Who should not be here, or behaving like she was. The brilliant cryptographer had been working on the deciphering of the alien language, which might take weeks longer..
... “THEY'RE HUMANS!!”
Chylisi slide a stylus down the table toward the Captain, and repeated the declaration: “THEY'RE HUMANS.” Adding a not-really-embarassed moment later: “Your Ladyship, it's impossible. It's simply impossible. We tracked every human colony, we've annexed every single one, tracked them down, and yet, here they are, beyond their deepest penetrations... ...And the language is like no modern human one!”
“Calm yourself!” Fraslia hissed softly, as she read through the data-report. She didn't know what 'proto-sanskrit' was, other than the fact that it was a moderately old human language—it had not been in use since long before the isle of Ghastan had been conquered by Grenya, let alone the development of any human technology, so young and precocious as the latest subjects of the All-Highest were as a race. “Remember that you are an officer, and even for so great a shock as this I will not stand behaviour unbecoming.”
Chylisi stiffened at once, her ears rigidly at attention and face flushing a deep gray-green in embarassment. “My apologies, Your Ladyship,” she bowed with sweeping grace and flying hair from the whole height of her two-meter, lanky body.
“Well...” Fraslia connected the stylus into the table projector and brought up the information for everyone to see.
She allowed another long set of minutes to pass in silence as they digested it all, and then began to speak, authoritatively, and leaving Chylisi standing. The girl was a genius but scarcely able to keep discipline, even if this shock was admittedly very great and worthy of her excitement.
Satisfied that they had been given enough time to read through and consider the material, Fraslia began to speak:
“The good news is that we can talk to them, thanks to these...” Fraslia decided against trying to figure out why vid programming was packaged with audio text for the words, but in the end decided against asking Chylisi in this state. That and she wasn't about to question a veritable miracle for the translation process... “Well, at any rate. The bad news is that this is possibly the greatest mystery in the history of our people, unless you are some sort of crazed atheist who thinks Valera actually disappeared rather than ascended to heaven. Since none of us are atheists, well, we have just entered the record books in a very, very dubious fashion, and I suggest we remember that as we proceed from here.”
It was very uncomfortable, and Fraslia was glad it was that way. She wanted people thinking carefully as they composed the first second-contact
message in the history of the Taloran Star Empire.
On the Battlestar Galactica
“It's a Cylon trap.” That was also about the fifth time someone had said that during the meeting, and Adama was getting frustrated with it. Colonel Tigh and, surprisingly, his son, had agreed that it must be some sort of Cylon scheme to get the fleet to lower its guard. Lieutenant Thrace had, based on her experience in personally seeing the ship, simply seemed unsure as to if it was or not and as the subject of the debriefing, the eyewitness, vascillated as Gaius Baltar, brought in since it was clearly very new and different technology, and Lieutenant Gaeta, defended the idea that it was something else.
Nobody had brought up the possibility which was, nonetheless, clearly hovering in the air. Commander Adama realized they all must be thinking it, even those who doubted it, and even himself. is it an Earth ship?
Yet there was no evidence of that. The strange sigils on the hull were totally indecipherable, even if the design, equally, seemed so much more tantalizingly human than Cylon.
“If it's a Cylon trap, Sir, then why don't they just build a Battle Star? If they're able to build a ship like this, they could easily build one, and such a ship broadcasting false IFF's could approach within range to do fatal damage to the fleet. Why build a ship that we're going to be suspicious of, when the capability of building that ship is clearly the capability to also imitate an actual Battle Star? It doesn't add up, Sir.”
Adama actually thought that Lieutenant Gaeta's point there was the best of the whole debriefing, and he also inwardly predicted his son's almost inevitable response.
“They could be thinking one step ahead of us, and realizing that we'd be so suspicious of another colonial warship having survived that something like this would be striking the best balance, and best chances of success...”
“Enough.” Commander Adama grated abruptly. “We've had enough of a discussion here to clearly demonstrate that opinion on the unknown contact is completely deadlocked. So, we will operate simply on what we know about it, not what we speculate, and plan our course of action, which seems at this moment, regardless of what the ship is, to be evasion.”
A gentle signal indicated an incoming message, which quickly began insistant and showed its urgency from the start by interrupting the debriefing.
“Petty Officer Dualla, Sir,” came her voice, unusually rather unsteady. “There's something you need to see, Sir. It's a broadcast for us... In our own language and real time... From the unknown ship, Sir. I can transfer the recording as it's being made..”
Adama felt the temptation for his face to twitch into a frown. This was altogether very unusual behaviour, and.. “What is the message about? Is it Cylon?”
“No, Sir. I can't really describe it, Sir, it defies description. Permission to send?”
“Do so,” Adama snapped.
A moment later Lieutenant Gaeta put the message they were receiving, now a half-minute or more old, up on the project where moments before images of the unknown vessel had been shown, playing from the beginning. They all fell silent...
Staring at the gray-skinned face of an unusual being, dressed in a resplendant and one might even say gaudy dress of white, and heavy gold and silver braid and chains and a silver sash upon it. There was a helmet tucked under one arm, and at first glance Adama could not tell if the creature was male or female. But the texture of the skin was clearly unnatural, the tone.. The set of the face was to long, uncomfortable, almost like a ghost, and their bone structure was intense to the point of even shaming acquiline. The high-set ears, like an animal's upon the head, shifted, seemingly of their own volition, as the creature spoke. The long hair was an intense dark purple colour, seeming like it had been dyed and yet also very natural; and the amber eyes were such as no human could have. The lips were green, also, and most remarkably of all, almost insane, the creature had a scabbard, sword inside, buckled to her belt.
The computerized voice was, though, very clearly feminine, and gradually Adama became aware of the faintest indication of what might be breasts, of the comparative narrowness of the shoulders in that ever-so-tall and lithe figure. The lack of expression in the face seemed made up for by the movements of the ears, but Adama had no idea, specifically, what those could possibly mean, which was disconcerting. Yet by that time the words had fully registered.
“Human convoy, human convoy, I greet you in the name of Her Serene Majesty the Empress Saverana the Second, Sovereign over Great Queens of the hundred thousand suns, Defender of the Farzian Faith. She is the ruler of the Taloran Star Empire; we are Talorans, and this is the Imperial Taloran Ship Jhammind
, an exploratory cruiser charting space we acknowledge to be unclaimed, to our prior knowledge, and beyond the Border Marches.
“We greet you in peace and with good tidings for your force, humans. That we have previously encountered your people we shall gladly admit to, and we have found them in every sense respectable. Let us communicate and arrange for an exchange of maps and survey data and the various diplomatic formalities, on the grounds that we confess we have no prior knowledge of humans in this region of the galaxy and wish to offer tidings of peace to your government.
“All these things asked, I introduce myself as Fraslia, the Baroness Istarlan and Captain of the Jhammind
, and again stress that our intentions are only a peaceful exchange of information and proprieties, and that we salute the superiour stature of your convoy in deep space, beyond the writ of Taloran law. Should we be your guests in your space here, let us know of this fact, and we shall withdraw; but for this, we must have knowledge of your borders, and so it is for that, regardless, that we ask you provide us first, that we might reciprocate a friendly exchange with you.
“So with this considered I ask of you as an officer in Her Serene Majesty's Starfleet and a fellow space-farer to hail us and give us reply as to your nation and as to the status of the space in which we travel, and how we might approach your people properly to render appropriate honours and make peaceable exchanges. Until we hear of such a reply, we shall hold our distance from your forces and not close or open the range alike. Jhammind