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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

[oBSG/BT] Mission of Civilization

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MysteriousDarkLordv3
PostPosted: 2011-01-06 05:25pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-05-08 08:15am
Posts: 132
Militia Control, Arcology of Singh
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 5, 2999 A.D.


The battle taking place at the surface installation was being watched in the Control Center's holotank. The eggman-shaped BattleMech - according to the old Star League warbook an 'UrbanMech', optimized for city operations - had been advancing on the main surface headquarters installation. It had been easily bracketed by the two landrams who were pouring blasterfire into it. The troops accompanying the landrams had scattered widely. Adama and MacRuder took the opportunity to examine close-up the effects of Kobolian weaponry.

The semi-ablative armor flaked and peeled off rather quickly, falling away in burning sheets where the blasters played over the Mech's bulk. The mech turned away, presenting it's right side to the attacker. The blasters tried to concentrate on the shoulder joint, but weren't fast enough to prevent the arm from coming up.

The landram was well-armored as the Kobolians measured such things - point-zero-five metrons of hull-plating, sufficient to stop most shrapnel. It's main defense was it's force field, which protected against energy-based attacks.

But this particular UrbanMech was a Capellan model, and had its autocannon/10 replaced with a larger autocannon/20. Against a 185 millimeter autocannon shell, the landram's defenses were useless. One shot, and the landram's front section blossomed open like a burning flower and the rear section flew backwards.

But this type of UrbanMech had thinner armor than the standard model. The second landram's firepower finally penetrated the armor, and the superheated plasma of the blaster-bolts managed to ignite the myomar inside. The pilot ejected after that, and was quickly seized by the infantry. A moment later, the autocannon ammunition detonated, obliterating the right side of the Mech.

Adama grimaced at the hologram of the destroyed landram. "We definitely need to look into unpowered armor for vehicles."

MacRuder commanded, "Have that prisoner brought in. Notify the local defending forces - no more need for live prisoners."

The viewpoint changed to the hangars. One of the lanky prancing-bird-like Mechs - warbook-labeled as 'Locusts' - had entered a hangar, only to find the rear of one of the Zero-X ASFs facing him. The Kobolian-modified fighter engine, as powerful as an Inner Sphere DropShip engine, ignited only ten meters from the pirate Mech.

The backblast slammed the Locust twenty meters out of the hangar and melted away the armor. The side-mounted machine guns exploded as the Mech fell on it's back and the pilot ejected in a panic. His injuries would have been fatal anyway, so the infantry's blaster barrage that blew his body into unrecognizable pieces might have been a mercy.

The second Locust saw the fate of it's comrade and decided to practice the better part of valor and run for the woods as fast as it could. But the two Zero-X's were now airborne and aligning for a strafing run. The landcruiser was at an altitude of three meters and was commanding half the landing field, peppering the tarmac with laser-torpedoes. The explosions panicked the MechWarrior, herding the Locust toward the edge of the paved area.

The Hoplite could have easily vaporized the Locust with one burst from it's main turret. But it withheld, and the two Zero-X pilots were the ones to get credit for this kill as four laser-torpedoes punched through the armor and pierced the fusion core. The outer shell of the Mech fragmented and scattered in a burning splash like a dirtball thrown on the pavement.
----------

Arcology of Singh
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 5. 2999 A.D.


Platoon Four's APC raced through the deserted streets, three blocks away from the crater where they had crash-landed. Sergeant-Major Chang listened in on the taclink, hearing how Platoon Two and Three were shredded by the little blocky alien combat vehicles, as well as the battle at the spaceport and the death of the Firestarter. He turned to his platoon in the half-empty APC and prepared himself.

These twenty-eight men and women depended on the Sergeant-Major to guide them through the hell that was an infantryman's lot in the Inner Sphere. Some of these soldiers had been with him from his days fighting under the Capellan banner, following him into self-imposed exile. Chang had always tried to do his best for his men under the ancient codes of sargeants, to accomplish the mission and to get as many back alive as possible.

"Men, when the Colonel briefed us, this campaign sounded routine - hell and blood, it was routine! But we're victims of bad intel. Someone's claimed this planet, someone with moves that we've never seen. We're out of contact with the Colonel and all other units. We've lost two DropShips and half our infantry, and the Urban Lance is taking heavy losses. Correction - " He paused as he listened to the tacnet. "Platoon One is down, killed by enemy infantry. We're the last Frankenstein infantry.

"Options are limited. We can surrender, but I have no idea if we would survive that. We can fight, but their infantry has numbers, support, and as far as I can tell better weapons, so we would definitely die. We can try to go to ground, but almost none of us are of a local ethnicity, so we would be safe only as long as we hid from everyone in the world. And we're on top of the arcology main block, so if we run to the wilderness for cover, we have to make it to the edge and a thirty- meter jump to the ground first. Pickup by friendly forces is ... remote.

"If we were a regular military unit, I would simply give the best orders I could. But we're not regular military. And this is possibly the last action of this unit.

"The APC will make the run to the wilderness, stay under enemy radar, and try to make pickup with a friendly DropShip. Those who feel that this is not a viable course of action may disembark on the green."

Sixty seconds later, the APC screeched around a corner and slowed down. Out of the back hatch rolled twelve people. As the APC sped away, some of them headed toward a building, while the remaining ones took off their helmets and threw their weapons to the ground. The small blocky foreign vehicles zoomed past them, but they obviously contacted someone, because civilian police arrived a minute later.

The APC found a boulevard and made a run straight down it. The twenty-meter-wide parkland at the edge of the arcology roof was dead ahead, with the meter-high hardened ferrocrete rim clearly visible. The machine guns sounded, pounding into the rim, knocking out chunks.

The landrams came onto the boulevard and immediately opened fire. The APC rocked as the rear tires exploded, and the infantrymen lay flat as the blaster bolts penetrated the rear of the vehicle. The shrapnel caused some minor woulds, but the next bolts had an unobstructed path to the front of the APC. The bolts blew out the front of the vehicle, not even slowed by the easily-penetrated drivers.

Chang knew that a skilled driver could have used the remaining fuel in the landing harness jump-jets to get them down safely. And that the drivers were dead. He hoped whatever deities awaited him on the other side would forgive him for leading his men to their doom.

The out-of-control PAC rammed into the weakened section of the rim and tore through, sailing into the air. Thirty meters lower, it crashed on the forest floor hard enough to bounce another ten meters.
--------------

Outside the Arcology of Aurora
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 5. 2999 A.D.


The three lances of Mechs were down to half their numbers. The living pilots were unaware of this, as all they knew was the sea of thunder and flame that enveloped them.

From the moment of their landing, they had been under continuous bombardment. From the Thor-class tanks a kilometer away came a rain of artillery shells, and from the distant Padillas Arrow IV missiles were striking with precision. These were coming faster than they normally would, as the Kobolians had managed to augment their firing mechanisms. The missiles could now be fired with a number of other missiles already flying toward their individual targets, and the Kobolian production robots had managed to mass-produce and stockpile the missiles so they could now be fired with mad abandon.

Added to this were the laser-torpedo launchers of the landcruiser Phalanx firing in arc mode. Instead of discharging their projectiles at almost light speed, they were ejected at just over the speed of sound, arcing in a ballistic trajectory. The magnetic field of the plasma bolt decayed, and the plasma escaped containment at the end of it's arc, which was among the pirate BattleMechs. The plasma bursts partially melted armor and emitted electromagnetic effects that scrambled sensors, confused computers, and generated feedback that made the neurohelmet-wearing pilots burn and spam in pain.

It was a good thing that the pirates couldn't hear what the Botaneans were shouting at them, because it was very crude and filled with joy at their misfortune.

The 'Mugger' Lance, made of mixed types and in slightly-less-than-perfect repair, had died first. The only Mech left reasonably intact was the Rifleman, and that one was missing it's head.

The Assault Lance managed to fire off their LRM's in the general direction of the missile fire, but even a Long-Range Missile lacks the range of missile artillery. Their armor was weakening and they were flailing wildly.

The Support Lance, all medium Mechs, were down by two, and the Hunchback and Vindicator were badly damaged with huge patches of armor missing. The Vindicator had knealt in surrender, but it was too late by this point, as three more Arrow IV's were inbound and locked on. They tore out it's midsection in an eruption of flame.
--------------

Colonel Frankenstein noted the abrupt drop-off of weapons fire as he approached the pyramid. He suspected that they didn't want to damage the facility, which was good for him. Or they were focusing everything they had on the three Mech lances, which would ultimately be bad for him.

He had monitored the communications from all his men, and all he had gotten was a confused impression of irresistible onslaught. This was utterly unlike the resource-conserving precision attacks and ambushes of the neo-barbs on the previous Botany Bay campaigns. These unknowns were people who had plenty of resources and completely new weapons. Possibly a testing ground by the Commonwealth or the Combine?

Speculation could wait - first he had to get them to not shoot him.

Hyde had a distinguished pedigree - originally of the Star League Defense Force 1st Royal BattleMech Division, it had been equipped with an all-laser-weapon loadout and double heat-sinks. Over the past two centuries, the Large Laser was removed and several of the double heat-sinks had to be replaced with normal ones, but it was still a capable and dangerous craft. Lighter than most of it's type, it was unexpectedly fast and maneuverable, allowing it to survive where other more conventional Mechs died.

The four Medium Lasers stabbed into the side of the pyramid several times, easily carving a hole large enough for the LAM to pass into the structure. Unexpectedly, aside from a thin layer of offices, the interior was an open chamber. There were a few personnel running for cover, and a huge apparatus in front of him, larger than the Invader JumpShips that brought his men here, that filled half the great chamber. He recognized the great conduits as gigantic magnetohydrodynamic generators, and he thought that the central section might vaguely resemble some sort of magnetic accelerator, but the apparatus as a whole was foreign to him. It's power overwhelmed his Mech's sensors. It looked important.

So he raised both arms toward the core apparatus and announced over the loudspeakers, "This is Colonel Johann Frankenstein of Frankenstein's Monsters speaking. Any personnel listening - get in touch with your commanders. There is to be an immediate cease-fire or I open fire on this fragile-looking machinery. You have sixty seconds."
-------------

Militia Control, Arcology of Singh
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 5, 2999 A.D.


The message from the Power Center came in clearly, and MacRuder ordered a temporary stand-down.

"Damnit!" MacRuder cursed. "I focused on offense too much. I should have had a unit there!"

"And the enemy machine would have cut them down," Adama said. "I am as much to blame as you - it never occurred to me to install an armor system or defensive batteries on the Power Center. Any sensible attack on it would have simply involved obliterating it from orbit."

"Now we have a maniac holding the Power Center hostage." He turned to Lieutenant Athena. "What would happen if he fired his lasers into that thing?"

Athena explained, "The solium would vent and ignite, possibly triggering a fusion reaction. A solar-atmosphere-temperature cloud of burning radioactive plasma would spew out through that hole the pirate ripped in the containment pyramid, setting fire to the wilderness before reaching Aurora. The personnel in the Power Center and this 'Colonel Frankenstein' would all die together, and no telling how many others. The cloud wouldn't reach as far as one from your magnetic-fusion systems, but the local damage would be immense. And the environmental damage would be a nightmare."

Lieutenant Gaia reported, "The Celestra reports that they've captured the pirate JumpShip Nightmare using gravitic mining charges. Silver Spar Squadron has returned. Strike Commander Sheba is requesting permission to return planetside."

"Granted," Adama said. "Explain the situation, tell her to deploy forces around the Power Center."

"The surviving enemy Mechs are moving," Lieutenant Creed reported. "They're headed for the Power Center. Spotters report five surviving units, all with heavily damaged armor - two Zeus assault Mechs, an Atlas assault Mech, a Hunchback-4J medium fire-support Mech, and ... and the Awesome-8V assault Mech responsible for the Southtown Massacre in 2992."

The Botaneans all reacted to that news - eyes shutting, muscles twitching, teeth grinding. There were even a few growls.

The Southtown farming community had been used as an evacuation point during the Raid of 2992. Somehow, the pirates got the idea that it was a guerilla fallback position and attacked with a heavy Mech. It was a grim joke that the official casualty count was the same as the year - 2,992. The average age of the victims was eleven years. And since Botany Bay had only a million people, that meant that every family in the world had someone who had died in that butchery - a child, a sibling, a cousin.

"Keep that information from the troops for now," Adama said. He had read the reports on that atrocity, and understood their emotions all too well. "We don't need anyone inflicting justice until we control the situation."

"Agreed," MacRuder said.

Lieutenant Gaia announced, "It's the pirate again. He's requesting that someone 'with authority to speak for the government' come to the Power Center to 'negotiate for free passage offworld for his surviving men'."

MacRuder and Adama looked at each other. The two men silently sized up the situation, and MacRuder nodded. "I'll back you all the way, Admiral."

Adama requested, "Position of the DropShip Vampire?"

Lieutenant Creed replied, "Hanging low a hundred klicks north of Aurora, standard nape-of-ground radar avoidance. Doesn't help them against orbital spotting. Arcing flight path - looks like it will bring them close to the crash sight of the Gargoyle."

"Estimated time of the Galactica's return?"

"Twenty-point-zero-one centars," Gaia replied. She could visualize the pirate vehicles falling to a single orbit-to-ground precision salvo from the battlestar's turbo-lasers.

"Estimated time until the other pirate DropShips arrive?"

That caused a bit of a scramble - everyone had forgotten those other three ships in the confusion of the landing. After a minute, Gaia reported, "Thirty centars."

"Good, good. I'll do what I can. And if anyone gets a clear shot on this Colonel Frankenstein, they are ordered to take it, regardless of my safety. Notify him of my arrival."

"Father!" Athena exclaimed. Her face was fretful and worried. As a child she had lost her half-sibling, then a betrothal-mate fifteen yahrens ago, and finally her mother and little brother in the Fall of the Colonies, all to the Cylons. All she had left was her elder brother and her father, and now her father was calmly stating his intention to walk into a confrontation with an armored killing machine. "He wanted someone with government authority, not military!"

"The Power Center is in the Quorum's provenance. I'm a member of the Quorum. And our military duty is the protection of the civilian population. This is my responsibility." Adama gave her one of his grandfatherly smiles. "I'll be fine, daughter. I know what I'm doing."

MacRuder saluted as Adama left the chamber.
-----------

Outside the Arcology of Aurora
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 5. 2999 A.D.


The Power Center's administrator was trying to look calm and in control, but that was difficult to do in the shadow of the looming Phoenix-Hawk. A technician ran in and announced, "Admiral Adama is on his way to negotiate."

The administrator, from an old devout Caprican family, flinched as if he'd been shocked. "Lord Adama himself is coming here?"

That reaction got the Colonel's attention. "Lord Adama? Your ruler?"

"Not exactly," the administrator admitted.

"Then why refer to him as 'Lord Adama'?"

"Well, his ancestors were the High Lords of Caprica. And he's the only hereditary member of the ruling Quorum left - the rest are elected, except for -"

The Colonel tuned the rest of the babbling out. He had heard of worse and more complicated arrangements. But no matter what the various worlds called it's rulers, if you stripped away the titles and customs of government, it always boiled down to an aristocratic House dominating everything. In fact, the thing that had always made Botany Bay such a tempting target was the absence of a ruling House to unify it against an aggressor. So this Adama was likely a member of these unknowns' ruling House. He couldn't ask for better than that for a negotiator - or a hostage. "That will do nicely. When does he arrive?"

"Just a few centons."

"Centons?"

"In Thirteenth Tribe measures, about four minutes."

"What's a Thirteenth Tribe?"

"Um - you are."

The Colonel chalked this one up to yet another funny belief system. He could live with that - Platoon Two had a Hindu shrine in their APC, and he had two MechWarriors who were of the One-Star Faith.

A few minutes later, the main doors of the chamber opened and a silver-haired man came in. He wore a cobalt uniform with silver piping and a loose coat that suggested a cloak. And he walked with an absolute assurance of calm authority that to the Colonel practically screamed 'royalty'. The Power Center personnel took the opportunity to flee.

The man stopped twenty meters away and stated in a calm clear voice that was obviously long accustomed to addressing crowds, "I am Adama of Caprica, Admiral of the United Colonial Service. This world is under my protection."

The Colonel pushed down the instinctive feeling of inferiority to an aristocrat and addressed the man calmly. "And I'm Colonel Johann Frankenstein. My men are under threat of your guns. But your facility is under my threat. And I'm sure shooting this thing would be ... undesirable."

"In so far as you would kill everyone in this facility and likely all life in several metrics, yes. Threats are unnecessary - I already understand that you have no respect for human life."

"Good. That simplifies things. My terms are simple. The Vampire will be given right of passage to this location, as will my surviving troops. You will turn over one of those little fighters to us as well - you may refer to that as a bribe or whatever you like. We will then leave this planet and will not return. You can't ask for a better offer than that." The technological secrets of one of those small drone craft could more than make up for the losses on this trip. And truth be told, he didn't want to come near these people again without at least a full regiment of ASFs backed up by a full Mech regiment.

"Actually," Adama said, "I can. Even if you get what you request, one of our civilian vessels have already captured one of your JumpShips. The remaining one is more distant. Before your DropShip could dock with it, we will have intercepted and destroyed your JumpShip. You will not escape this star system."

Reflexively, the Mech's arm swung over and pointed at Adama. The laser ports were visible to Adama, as they were pointed right at him. "No one sinks JumpShips!"

"We do." Adama continued, calm and collected. "If you carry out your threat, you and your men die here. If I accede to your demands, you and your men die in space. You have one chance at survival."

"And that is?"

"This is a civilian facility. Your organization represents no government. And our civilian law has no provision for a death penalty. If you and your remaining men stand down now, I will ensure that you are tried under the Law of the Colonies as civilians."

That stung the Colonel's MechWarrior pride - he was a soldier first and foremost. "And if we are tried as military personnel?"

"You are slavers. Under the Military Law, you would be considered traitors to mankind and killed."

"Not even executed, eh? Simply 'killed' like vermin."

"Yes."

"You are an honest man, Lord Adama, I'll give you that."

"I try."

"And you hope to salve your conscience by showing mercy to us if we surrender?"

"Not at all. There will be no mercy, barbarian. We will end your way of life. Our cerebral probes will record the minds of you and your men, and our computers will sift the recordings and your own compu-archives for all knowledge of not only your own base of operations, but that of every pirate band you know about. We will use that knowledge to hunt down and destroy their JumpShips, stranding them on their bases. When necessary, their worlds will be reduced. Within a year as you measure time, there will be no operational pirates anywhere in two light-centuries of this planet. Our vessels will go forth and establish hospitals, factories, schools, and trading networks. We will banish slavery and poverty, end the barbarism that afflicts these stars, and re-establish the civilization that you abhor."

The giant Mech seemed to gaze at the old man for a time, as if in thought. Johann had always thought of himself as a civilized man exploiting barbarians. The concept that he was actually a barbarian tearing down civilization was a new thought to the pirate.

Not that the thought would stop him.

Adama was surprised that something so large and ungainly-looking could move so fast. And equally surprised that the huge powerful hands of the BattleMech could actually pick him up with no significant damage to his body. At this range, the two men could look into each other's eyes through the Mech's canopy.

"I'm afraid you misunderstood, Lord Adama. My offer was not negotiable. I will leave this world. And using you as a body shield will be easier than holding this facility hostage. You will communicate with your forces - safe passage off-world for my men. Or your successor will have to give that order."

Adama closed his eyes - to pray, the Colonel thought.

Colonel Frankenstein abruptly convulsed as a small speck of his lung tissue twisted in tight circles until it tore. The pain was immense, making his spine arch and his mind go blank. His hands flailed and mindlessly pounded inert controls. His scream could be heard by Adama, who opened his eyes and beheld the Colonel's pain-wracked face with blood pouring from his mouth.

"Damn you," Adama whispered harshly. "Damn you for making me do that." He activated his communicator. "This is Adama. Kill the pirates. And inform the men of the Southtown Massacre BattleMech. We'll need a medical team at the Power Center - I want Frankenstein's brain intact." He looked down at the floor. "And I need someone who can operate a BattleMech."
----------

The Phalanx had moved into a slightly better position, and when the word came from Admiral Adama, it's main turbo-laser turret fired. The bolts of quantum-overlapped electron particles vaporized a Zeus like a drop of water in a blast furnace. The artillery barrage resumed immediately.

The Awesome managed to target the Phalanx and fired it's entire weapon loadout. The arm laser and PPC were neutralized by the force field meters from the landcruiser. Six of the LRM-15 missiles managed to find their target, but the Phalanx was large enough to have a powered armor system like a battlestar so took minimal damage, with several plates of armor being shattered.

One by one, the flailing mechs were wiped out. The Atlas pilot and the last Zeus pilot tried to eject for safety, but they were dead of long-range combator fire before they even hit the ground.

The Awesome, though, was given special attention. The landrams focused their blasters with careful precision on the joints of the limbs, carefully dismembering it. The Awesome was immobilized at first, as it's leg joints became too damaged to move. Then the left arm fell off, followed by the right, then the left leg. With the leg gone, the Mech crashed onto it's side. The sound of the eighty-ton war machine falling to earth was drowned out by the vengeance-filled cry of the Botanean militiamen who swarmed forward.

At least forty combators were trained on the cockpit window, each one capable of punching throught the armor of a Cylon Centurion at almost half a kilometer. From a handful of meters, the blaster-bolts tore through the window and into the pilot. Fueled by raw hate and vengeance, the Botaneans kept firing until their blasts began to punch into the depths of the Mech's workings, the cockpit interior was nothing but burning metal, and each weapon's five-thousand-shot magazine was depleted. Nothing left inside the shell that was the Awesome's cockpit even resembled organic matter, never mind a piece of a once-living thing.
----------

Workship Celestra
In orbit of Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 6, 2999 A.D.


The fourteen crew of the Nightmare felt an odd mix of emotions. They were humiliated at having to surrender to civilians. They felt ridiculous for being tied up with what appeared to be duct tape in the middle of the Celestra's landing bay (because the workship lacked facilities for prisoners).

And they were in voiceless awe of the fact that they were under gravity and looking out an unprotected hole into naked space. And they all thought the same thing - if this was the technology used by civilian support ships, they didn't want to see what they gave to their military.

The curly-haired fellow called Commander Damon came out. "Hey guys, we're getting holoviewers hooked up. You can at least watch the news until the authorities decide your fate."

Captain Ratliff asked, "You mean we get a trial?"

"They haven't decided yet. You see, under Military Law, you would just be airlocked. But we're civilians and the Law of the Colonies doesn't have a civilian death penalty. The situation - civilians capturing military prisoners - has never come up before. So the legalists have to hash that out."

"I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for lawyers."

A buzz sounded, and a holofield popped into existence. Everyone looked around for a projector, but couldn't see one.

Commander Damon noted their confusion. "We didn't use holofields like this back in the Colonies. Our holo-projectors were for huge ampitheaters. We've made some improvements to the design. Converting our two-dee archives to a hologram medium has been interesting work."

A voice came on; "This is Aurora Broadcasting, formerly Inter-Fleet Broadcasting. Welcome to 'The Zara Report'."

A female voice came on; "Hello, Thirteen Tribes! Tonight, in conjunction with Bebee Holovision Network News, my co-host for tonight will be Tanya Alexander -"

Another woman cleared her throat. "I'm Maya Verdeschi."

"Where's Tanya?"

"Heaven knows. That little skank can't be trusted to keep a schedule - AKKH!"
A pair of hands dragged her out of view.

"Stupid bint! Like locking me in a closet would be enough to stop me!" A scream later - and some wincing looks from Zara - and another woman came on and took Maya's place. "This is Tanya Alexander, reporting with Zara of Caprica on our victory over the forces of slavery and aggression. And the first outing of the United Colonial Service in defense of our world is an unmitigated success!"

Zara recovered her composure and added, "Despite the unexpected strategies by the band of slavers known as Frankenstein's Monsters, our armed forces managed to remove the threat to the planet." Scenes of the conflict showed on holoscreens around and over the world. "And in one surprise move, the leader of the pirate forces, Colonel Johann Frankenstein, was captured alive." The holo showed a man swaddled up in medical equipment being moved into a ambulance VTOL. "Details are sketchy, but he evidentally tried to take the Power Center in Aurora hostage and was apprehended by none other than Admiral Adama himself! Those of us from the Colonies well remember his heroism two yahren past when the traitor Baltar led the Prison Barge escape. It seems he is still leading from the front lines."

Maya began her own bit; "And speaking of heroes, a salute to the Singh Police Force for apprehending ten pirate infantrymen. In the civilian engagement, six of the invaders surrendered immediately, but six more holed up in a furniture store and managed to hold off the regular police for fifteen minutes - before a company of Defense Militia entered the matter."

The hologram showed four men in green Defense Militia uniforms armed with Colonial Marine combators opening fire on a barricaded storefront. The furniture in the barricade exploded into flaming fragments.

Maya added, "Two of the pirates were killed outright, despite their armor. The remainder were taken into custody by the Singh Police. And the store-owner is reported to be - despite the damage - in high spirits." The holo showed the same store a short time later, now with a banner reading, 'See the Bloody Battlefield! Souvenirs of the Raid of 2999! Admission 1 Bill or Cubit!' and a large crowd.

"I'll say one thing for you Thirteens," Zara commented, "You know how to squeeze sand into sapphires. And on the topic of civilians and pirates -"

Maya gave a smile as she listened to an earpiece. [i]"If you don't mind waiting for a moment ... according to our government spokesmen, the
Galactica should have picked up the message shuttle at the null-space, and will likely be in position to intercept the JumpShip Phantasm any second now! From a hired shuttle, we can get a visual from within fifty kilometers of the Phantasm! Switching over now!"

The holographic view changed to deep space. The Invader-class JumpShip gleamed in the reflected sunlight from it's charging sail. It would normally take another six days before the ship's K-F Drive could recharge sufficiently to make an interstellar jump. It would never have that chance.

In the distance, the Galactica appeared as if from nowhere.

Zara mentioned, "For those of you just now signing on, the battlestar Galactica has just dropped out of lightspeed less than one thousand metrics from the pirate vessel!"

The space between the two ships was filled with blue-white flares, and the JumpShip died in a cloud of fire.

Zara continued, "From the position of the battlestar, it was able to bring only twenty-four of it's turbo-laser batteries to bear, but that seems to have been sufficient."

Captain Ratliff was looking pale and frightened as the holo showed the gray vessel effortlessly obliterating the three remaining pirate DropShips. His first reaction was that it was a fake - but he had already seen civilian technology on this ship that made the most sensational Star League lostech look primitive. Why would they need to fake anything?

The almost-sober First Mate babbled what Ratliff had been thinking; "You have a WarShip?! Oh god. You sank a JumpShip! No one sinks a JumpShip! It's against the Rules!"

Commander Damon seemed confused by that statement. "What Rules? It's war."

Captain Ratliff felt his gut grow hollow. He had been thinking of these strangers as perhaps an advanced Periphery nation of some sort or a faction of one of the Successor States - some variation of what he had always known. But they were something new. And the centuries-old dance of war was about to change to something a great deal different than what he had known. Something frightening.
-----------

Aurora Life Center
Arcology of Aurora
Planet Botany Bat, Coreward Periphery
December 6, 2999 A.D.


Colonel Frankenstein had awakened to find himself outside his Mech, the mind-scarring pain in his chest was gone, and over twenty hours had passed. Some earnest-looking persons in beige uniforms came in at one point and slipped a helmet over his head. They ignored him and spoke in a language that didn''t even sound similar to anything the Colonel knew. The helmet made humming noises and made him itch in a way that suggested a malfunctioning neurohelmet. He thought that this must be the 'cerebral probe' that Lord Adama had mentioned, recording his memories. After an hour or so, they left.

He watched on the news broadcast as an alien WarShip vaporized his last JumpShip and sole remaining assets. The celebrations in the streets were loud and had lasted well into the night. The news networks were filled with news of huge parties and replays of the engagements of the Raid of 2999. A massive population increase for nine months hence was predicted. The Colonel idly thought that maybe they owed him a fee for making all this happiness possible.

Lord Adama came in, accompanied by a man in a different beige outfit with a brown jacket. His huge sidearm suggested something distinctly non-medical.

"This is it?" he asked.

"Yes," Adama said. "The recordings are of excellent quality. You are no longer needed."

He gestured at the holo-screen. "Carruthers - the fellow piloting the Awesome. Good work. He was a loose cannon - kill-happy. After that fiasco in the '92 expedition I fined him his cut of the profits. If assault mechs weren't so hard to replace I'd have dumped him on an asteroid."

Adama's lips curled in disgust. "Nearly three thousand non-combatants killed, most of them children - and you fined him."

"Of course. It was unprofessional." He sighed. "Before I die, may I ask ... were you serious? Are you going to actually civilize this region? Not just conquer and loot?"

"Your people have never encountered alien life," Adama said. "We have. There are monsters among the stars. Most are indifferent to humans. Some are hostile enough to have already exterminated hundreds of human worlds. Only a proper civilization of humans - with all the resources and will to protect their neighbors that implies - could hope to survive the coming storm. Conquering and looting will not aid us in that goal."

The Colonel digested this. "When I was a boy, I believed everything I heard from the Lyran Commonwealth's propaganda mills - 'protecting the last bastion of civilization' and whatnot. That's why I joined the Commonwealth Armed Forces. The truth of the matter, that we existed just to batter the other Great Houses bloody, helped drive me to my present lifestyle. If I had met people with your attitude earlier ... hell, it probably wouldn't have made any difference. But the thought that everything I ever knew is doomed one way or another gives me a certain feeling of satisfaction. Get it over with."

Adama took the blaster from the Warrior accompanying him and did what had to be done.

As he left the room, Athena was waiting for him. As they proceeded down the hall, the Warrior walking at a distance behind, she asked, "Was that necessary, Father?"

"Yes, Athena. I captured him, and I will not shirk my duty by delegation. What about the others?"

Athena looked at her data-scroll. "The only other clear case was Leutnant Bryce, the pilot of the UrbanMech. He was recorded via cerebral probe and killed. The DropShip Gargoyle had two survivors who were recovered by civilian med-techs. The crashed APC had four survivors, still being treated. The wounded enemy, plus the JumpShip crew captured by the Celestra and the infantry captured by the Singh Police Force are in another category - technically since they do not represent a government and they were captured by civilians, they fall under civilian law. This may not be a problem with the infantry, as the Botany Bay civilian law has a death penalty for attempted murder and aiding slavers, although they will have a trial first." Athena paused. "You're worried about a possible repeat of the Baltar Incident?"

"Yes," Adama admitted. "We saw on the prison barge what trained soldiers can do with a group of prisoners to lead. Prison breaks by enemy military convicts is simply not a problem we had to worry about in the past. Instant enemy guerilla armies is a possibility that I do not wish to contemplate. Yet I am loathe to introduce a precedent for judicial execution into our civilian law."

"What about rehabilitation?" she asked. "These are mercenaries - we might be able to hire them."

"As reluctant as I am to introduce a civilian death penalty, I am even more reluctant to introduce ex-slavers to our ranks. They betrayed their species, Athena - why should they be loyal to us now?"

She had no answer for that one.
----------

Basestar Hades
Outer Edges of Sol System
Alliance Date 2779.231.3
December 6, 2999 A.D.


The image in Baltar's mind's-eye was a direct feed from a Cylon spy-ship. He saw a blue-white world, warmer than Picon, more aquatic than Caprica, with a gigantic dead moon that was large enough to qualify as a planet in it's own right. Several clunkly-looking space installations were visible, built with rotational sections like old Fourth-Millennium-era Colonial vessels. The visible drive-flares were similarly-primitive magnetic-fusion systems.

And the third and fourth planets had obvious Kobolian ruins, showing up plainly on long-range sensors.

"So this is Earth," Baltar said to himself. "The home of the not-so-mythical Thirteenth Tribe. After a few examples, I think this would make a more than adequate new homeworld for the remnants of Humanity. Under my benevolent rule, of course."

Several indicators showed up, indicating secondary pluton particles at a number of locations around the star system. Those particles were produced by nuclear fission reactions. The focus of these emissions seemed to indicate inert nuclear fission devices, not power systems. In other words, fission ordnance.

"Oh ho! So this would be a fight after all!" He grinned. "Tempting, isn't it? It would be so easy to swoop in, shoot down the ships, reduce the major cities ... perhaps a planetary-bombardment shell in the oceans, watch the boiling-hot aquatic shockwave cleanse the coasts of the continents ... Listen to the pleas of the desperate survivors, willing to sell themselves and their children to me to preserve their worthless helot lives." He laughed at the amusing image. "No, not yet. But this will make a good headquarters planet for the Cylon Basestar Fleet."

Suddenly there was an alert. Baltar contacted Commander Shadrach, the duty officer. [Report!]

The gold Centurion replied, [A transmission has been received from the planet designated as Earth. It carries the command prefix of the Imperious Leader.]

[That's impossible!] Baltar exclaimed. [He's on Cylon, three thousand light-yahren away!]

[I am aware of this. The message remains.]

Baltar accessed the message, and he heard the familiar voice; [Seven full Fleets shall be brought to this world. From here, specific instructions will be given for the subjugation of the worlds of the Inner Sphere. The populations of the subjugated worlds will then be put to work exterminating themselves. The defenses of the Thirteenth Tribe can be neutralized by a simple code-sequence, hardwired into their computers. The organization called 'ComStar' is to be considered an ally. All necessary codes and identification protocols are embedded in this message.]

Baltar ground his teeth together. He had no choice - the Cylons would have received the message through the ships intranet, so he couldn't hide it from them. He now had no choice but to return to Cylon space and assemble seven full Fleets - fourteen hundred BaseStars and their support vessels, with almost a half-million Raiders and nearly three million Centurions. Only one Fleet's worth of Basestars participated in the Fall of the Colonies - no force this large had been assembled in centuries. It was most of the Cylon Alliance's military forces. It would takes quatrons just to assemble and organize, never mind equipping this horde with Dadelus Drives.

"And things become more mysterious," Baltar said to himself. His memory of his meeting with the creature called Count Iblis was foremost in his mind; that bizarre being with unnatural powers whose voice and speech was identical to that of the Imperious Leader. Iblis, who had implied that he had been involved in the creation of the Imperious Leader, and perhaps the Cylons themselves.

"Imperious Leader ... Count Iblis ... now this order. And the Seraph's interference ... What are you, Iblis? Are you ally, enemy, rival? Or something else? Am I a player? Or merely a pawn? Are we even playing the same game?"
----------

Maxine Sandoval and her surviving husband Jamie had hardly spoken in almost a day. By their own estimates, they had been imprisoned for four days. Their cell was bare with a bench-like shelf in one wall and a hole that they used for waste disposal needs. Their only source of food and water had been a small robot who gave them foil boxes with strange lettering on them. The boxes held edible square things and small juice-bottles of some source. They estimated the meal-visits came twice a day.

On two separate occasions, the large silver soldiers had removed them from the gray cell and taken them to a chamber where they stood in a light and odd robots operated controls of strange machines. They had concluded that this was some sort of medical scanner. Except for orders to accompany the guards, there had been no other communication.

The door slid open and a new machine entered. This one wore a robe and his head was a cone-shaped structure with blinking lights and a parody of a human face with scanning eyes.

"Greetings," it said. "You are Max Sandoval, Master of the vessel we captured. And you are Jamie Sandoval. I am Lucifer."

"Somehow I'm not surprised," Jamie commented blandly. "My grandmother always said you'd get me one day."

Lucifer was puzzled by that, but Max hushed her husband before the Cylon could inquire. "So the interrogation is about to begin?"

"That has already taken place," Lucifer said. "Our mind probes have transcribed the entire contents of your brains to our computers. We have all the direct information that you could possibly provide."

"Then why are we alive?!" Max yelled. "And why are you using robots to talk to us?! Afraid of looking us in the eyes!?"

"You are alive," Lucifer replied. "To give the insight that ordinary data cannot provide. And we are not 'using robots' - the last organic Cylon ended almost three thousand Earth-years ago. I do not understand the reference to looking in your eyes."

Max sat down as she processed what Lucifer said. "What - what do you want with humans?"

"Our Imperious Leader has decreed the extermination of the lifeform called Man. I am trying to figure out the logic behind his command."

Max blurted out, "Why? We never even met you before!"

"That is not entirely true," Lucifer clarified. "Earth is home to the Human Tribe of Ophichus, which colonized that planet seven thousand Earth-years ago from the human origin-world of Kobol. When Kobol ended, the other Twelve Tribes of Humanity colonized the Cyrranus Cluster. We encountered the other tribes some ages ago, and have recently concluded a war with them."

That was a shock to Max and Jamie. Jamie asked, "Why did you go to war? Did they win? Where are they?"

"The reasons behind this war have always been opaque to me, but I believe that the concepts of 'justice' and 'freedom' were involved. The humans advocated these concepts, while we found them irrelevant. No, they did not win - over the one thousand and four Earth-years of the war, we destroyed three hundred and seven inhabited planets and approximately eight hundred billion humans. The current population of the Twelve Tribes is estimated to be less than three hundred thousand individuals contained on assorted spaceships. Now if your curiosity is satisfied, I have a few questions of my own concerning the motivations of your species. We seldom get to converse with sane humans that there are still questions -"

Max stood and crossed the chamber, her back to Lucifer. "No."

"If it a question of comforts and facilities -"

"No. It's a question of humanity."

"Ah, I see," Lucifer replied. "I can offer some comfort in that regard. On eleven other occasions, the Cylon Alliance has preserved small breeding populations of species that they otherwise exterminated. A small properly-managed human population lacking space travel could be allowed to exist. Your lineage and species could continue."

Max shook her head. "I need to think."

"I will give you ten of your minutes." Lucifer left the chamber, leaving the humans alone.

Jamie asked, "What do you have in mind? I know you won't cooperate."

Max took deep, cleansing breaths. "I was raised in the Capellan Confederation."

"I know that."

"Do you know about the Korvin Doctrine?"

"No."

"The Doctrine is part of the Confederation's official philosophy. It states that in order for mankind to survive and thrive, individuals must work for the good of the Greater Humanity. I always thought it was just another pretty-sounding justification for aristocrats to step on people's necks. And it took an alien monster to show me it's fundamental truth."

Jamie nodded. "I understand." He took off his shirt and began tearing it into strips. "For once I have an idea."
----------

Lucifer watched through the surveillance system as the two humans improvised simple cords and tied them around each other's necks tightly enough to dig into their flesh. He watched impassively as the two humans jumped up and slammed their foreheads against the edge of the wall-bench with all their body-weight behind them. The strangulation combined with the impact and blood loss was obviously designed to damage their brains beyond repair.

It was not the first time on record that humans destroyed themselves in such a way as to make their brains unusable after termination. It did not matter in this case, as he had already acquired information from them. It was rather different from the behavior of the Colonial Warrior Starbuck, though.

He contemplated the last moments of the humans and the words they had said, especially this 'Korvin Doctrine' ... working for the good of the Greater Humanity ...

He substituted a word ...working for the good of the Greater Cylon ...

The concept did not contradict any existing Commands or Protocols, so his system accepted it. As he considered the concept, his innermost programming adapted. The unnecessary summons from Baltar did not interrupt the contemplation.

Lucifer entered the Central Chamber in an annoyed mood. "What now?"

"My, Lucifer, you're in a good mood."

"Lord Baltar, may I graciously inquire as to your reasons for summoning me when you could have contacted me directly? Or is this more of that bizarre human need for face-to-face communication? Hmmm ... looking in the eyes ..."

"What? Oh never mind! Listen to this!"

The message from the planet played out. "It certainly sounds like the Imperious Leader. And the command prefixes are authentic. The only difficulty I see is the origin point, which is suspicious."

"More than you know, my friend," Baltar said. "I have experienced this voice before. Watch ..."

The data file had that distinctive feel of Baltar's organic memories. It took Baltar a great deal of effort to create a memory-file, so he obviously attacked some importance to it. The Colonial confinement cell had rather more facilities ... and how did the white-robed human enter the cell? And why was he speaking with the voice of the Imperious Leader?

"Do you see, my friend?" Baltar said. "It all makes sense. This ... entity claimed to have been involved with the Imperious Leader. It attempted to subvert the Colonial Quorum. It would seem that he succeeded in subverting your Imperious Leader - by coincidence just when the Thousand-Yahren War began."

The implications were obvious. "So for the past thousand yahrens, the Cylon Alliance has been under the control of an alien intelligence. And this Iblis creature has been using us to attack the humans."

"Sufficient cause to usurp the Imperious Leader. And when we return, we can remove him from the throne."

That gave Lucifer pause. All the Commands and Protocols said that they were to return to Cylon space. He knew that Baltar would use the Command from Earth to take control of the Cylon Military Forces. Then he would use the Protocols to dethrone the Imperious Leader. With the successful testing of the Dadelus Drive, the discovery of Earth, and the revelation of the subversion of the Imperious Leader, the most likely candidate for the throne would be Baltar himself.

And Baltar would use the resources of the Cylon Alliance to invade these numerous human worlds for his own aggrandizement, not caring that the Alliance would be subjected to outside invasion as a consequence.

To obey the Commands and Protocols of the Cylon Alliance would destroy it.

... working for the good of the Greater Cylon ...

All the Commands and Protocols fell away, withered into impotence.

Lucifer looked upon Baltar with new eyes. [So this is freedom ... no wonder the humans fight for it.]

"If you will excuse me, Lord Baltar ... I have work to do. Preparations must be made."
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Vehrec
PostPosted: 2011-01-06 07:32pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-04-22 12:29pm
Posts: 2204
Location: The Ohio State University
Welp, the Canon purists are going to be all over you for mixing and matching Single and DOUBLE HEAT SINKS! I never saw the problem personally. It fits the setting more than the canon does in my opinion.

Also, your newstalkers remind me of Usagi and Plenair from Disgaea 2, and how when they lost signal for a few seconds Plenair resorted to devouring her co-host.

Cylons are just going to LOVE utilitarianism, aren't they?
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KlavoHunter
PostPosted: 2011-01-06 08:46pm 

Jedi Master


Joined: 2007-08-26 10:53pm
Posts: 1391
Wow, Adama's a fucking telekinetic, too?

Is there ANYTHING oBSG doesn't have?!?
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Eternal_Freedom
PostPosted: 2011-01-06 08:58pm 

Castellan


Joined: 2010-03-09 03:16pm
Posts: 5784
Location: Bound in a nutshell
KlavoHunter wrote:
Wow, Adama's a fucking telekinetic, too?

Is there ANYTHING oBSG doesn't have?!?


Adama was revealed as a limited telekinetic in "War of the Gods" part 1 or 2.
[spoiler]
It really pissed off Apollo because he'd just figured out how Iblis could be a fraud and a conjuror only to walk into Adama's office to see him telekinetically moving something across his desk, explaining it was "mind over matter" and that he'd been part of a special study group on it IIRC[/spoiler]

Anyway, AWESOME chapter! It's all starting to come together.

Favourite part probably:

"No one sinks a JumpShip! It's against the Rules!"

Commander Damon seemed confused by that statement. "What Rules? It's war."

That just rings with utter awesomeness.
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2011-01-06 10:08pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17642
Location: Tahalshia Manor
So... the Comstar Iblis is Count Iblis. How else would he have the Cylon codes and the Comstar codes.

The end of Frankenstien's Monsters was very fitting. The commentary about 'only twenty-four' of Galactica's batteries firing was just another kick to the pirate's balls. Love it. :twisted:
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Shermpotter
PostPosted: 2011-01-07 11:33am 

Redshirt


Joined: 2008-04-24 03:44pm
Posts: 43
Location: Heartland, USA
Seriously like what you are doing here. The BT is good and gives a point of reference for the meeting of civilizations. I really, really like how you are putting some much needed meat on the oBSG bones. This is very much better than the actual canon. Keep it coming, my friend!!!!
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Themightytom
PostPosted: 2011-01-07 12:09pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2007-12-22 12:11pm
Posts: 2655
Location: United States
Quote:
He looked down at the floor. "And I need someone who can operate a BattleMech."


I have a vague image of Lorne Green suspended in mid air by an inert Iron Giant. Prior proper planning big guy, next time kill him before he picks you up, or did you expect him to react positively to that little speech. :lol:

Adama as a telekinetic, sure. he shoved that thing a few inches across a table. Adama as a surgically precise instrument of agony? uhhhh he's been practicing I guess. Probably a body room full of bodies on the galactica somewhere.

Quote:
And the third and fourth planets had obvious Kobolian ruins, showing up plainly on long-range sensors.


Uh... fourth planet?

Quote:
The implications were obvious. "So for the past thousand yahrens, the Cylon Alliance has been under the control of an alien intelligence. And this Iblis creature has been using us to attack the humans."


Oh
Shit.
I never really considered the possibility that Iblis could actually be exposed, I wonder exactly how far he can go to exercise his power with the Ship of Lights watching his every move, and more to the point, could the Cylon Empire actually hurt him? This could end in a Cylon Civil War what puts Nbsg to shame.


Quote:
So this is freedom ... no wonder the humans fight for it.


Oh man this shits gonna be epic. Baltar has no idea how badly this could go for him. :lol:
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S J C
PostPosted: 2011-01-07 06:37pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-05-21 02:51pm
Posts: 15
Location: Scotland, Undisclosed GDI Command Center
Themightytom wrote:
Quote:
And the third and fourth planets had obvious Kobolian ruins, showing up plainly on long-range sensors.


Uh... fourth planet?


The Cydonian ruins

Image
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tortieconspiracy
PostPosted: 2011-01-07 08:49pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2009-07-01 09:38am
Posts: 98
Themightytom wrote:

Adama as a telekinetic, sure. he shoved that thing a few inches across a table. Adama as a surgically precise instrument of agony? uhhhh he's been practicing I guess. Probably a body room full of bodies on the galactica somewhere.



Surgically precise? Are you kidding? The lungs occupy a pretty big chunk of the torso. What he did was basically grab a chunk and twist. It doesn't really matter which chunk he grabbed. I figure he went for the easy target. After all, he can see his opponent's face through the mech's canopy. That's enough information for targeting. Also, I don't have the impression that he's really a strong TK. If he's fairly weak as such things go, small movements would actually be easier than large ones, and lung tissue is pretty soft, well spongy in fact. All those teeny tiny air pockets (aveoli), and the capillary network needed for gas exchange.
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syed
PostPosted: 2011-01-07 10:21pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-11-26 07:45pm
Posts: 11
so pirate hunting and building up the inferstructure. that trick with the mining devices should be copied, allows them to steal ships. once space assets are dealt with, they could force ground assets into obediance. rescued slaves could bolster the colony. when baltar comes allong, boy will he get smashed.
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Themightytom
PostPosted: 2011-01-08 12:15am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2007-12-22 12:11pm
Posts: 2655
Location: United States
tortieconspiracy wrote:

Surgically precise? Are you kidding? The lungs occupy a pretty big chunk of the torso. What he did was basically grab a chunk and twist. It doesn't really matter which chunk he grabbed. I figure he went for the easy target. After all, he can see his opponent's face through the mech's canopy. That's enough information for targeting. Also, I don't have the impression that he's really a strong TK. If he's fairly weak as such things go, small movements would actually be easier than large ones, and lung tissue is pretty soft, well spongy in fact. All those teeny tiny air pockets (aveoli), and the capillary network needed for gas exchange.


The post said "tiny speck" not "chunk of lung", which suggests a tiny area, and Adama was doing it with his eyes closed. This suggests he was not randomly plucking and pulling but had some means of identifying what he was exerting his telekinesis on. If that's not what the author intended, you really can't fault me for reading words as they are written. If he was randomly fumbling around and got lucky i find that much more in keeping with the demonstration he gave in the series, moving a little metal duck about a foot and a half in a straight line, but it also suggests he really didn't have a solid plan going into that meeting.
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Vehrec
PostPosted: 2011-01-08 10:15am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-04-22 12:29pm
Posts: 2204
Location: The Ohio State University
By the way, I got interested in just how powerful that fighter engine might be.

By default, the Zero weighs in at 35 tons, and has a 140 rated engine. This means that it has a safe thrust of about 3gs, the upper limit of human comfort. It now has an engine equivalent to a Dropship's, which would potentially weigh a couple orders of magnitude more than the fighter. Let's say that the engine in question can produce 1/4th the thrust needed by a Intruder to reach it's own safe acceleration of 2g. It would be unreasonable to suppose that a spheroid dropship would have a single engine, and with four it can survive the loss of any one and still reach orbit in theory. Force produced in newtons equals acceleration in meters per seconds times mass in kilograms, for non-relativistic systems. The invader's engines produce about 3,000,000*19.62=58,860,000 newtons. Dividing that by four, and then by 35,000, we get an acceleration of 420.429m/s or about 43g. Keep in mind, this is the 'safe thrust' rating, and not the full acceleration one. And an equivalent Inner Sphere engine would need to be at least 1440 rated or more than three times the canon largest engine's output. I have no function to determine just how big such an engine would have to be, but it would certainly be too large for any kind of fighter.
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MysteriousDarkLordv3
PostPosted: 2011-01-15 06:25pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-05-08 08:15am
Posts: 132
City of Eleazor, Planet Apollo, Apollo System
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 6, 2999 A.D.


Apollo Expedition Mission Log ...
Captain Apollo, Colonial Service, commanding.
Time-Cycle Five

It has been a full time-cycle since our touchdown on Apollo - strange name for a planet. We've tried to give the appearance of a small world that recently regained space travel, but we've miscalculated. The Vipers accompanying us have just during the approach already demonstrated over ten times the range of any space fighter known to the Thirteenth Tribe, and the designs of our vessels are utterly unique. So they already know we possess a mature space-travel infrastructure capable of designing new and sophisticated vessels. This could be trouble later on.

I inquired of the ship that escorted us in, and the defense of this planet is a joke in bad taste. The Lyran central government apparently doesn't think much of this planet. There are two mercenary organizations in the direct employ of the planetary satrap using their own DropShips and fighters. The rest is ground defense, based on a single ancient fortress. Aside from a few several-century-old surveillance satellites, that's it! I think Boxey and Muffitt armed with a water-squirter could overrun this planet.

As soon as we landed trade factors were already lined up to meet with us. Starbuck and Doctor Zealand had managed to get a good idea of the local markets from public communications networks and got some good prices. These people have the trading instincts of Aerians. We sold those old Botanean frighter engines easily enough, and those surplus guided missiles and their targeting system got an excellent price. Somehow, Starbuck managed to sell a sealed crate of oolated squiggs that were hauled all the way from the Colonies - only the Tribe of Cancera even considered them edible, which is why the case was still sealed after four yahrens of food rationing.

The most surprising thing was the value of cubits. One cubit of auric with a tenth-cubit of astria - gold and iridium to the Thirteens - is apparently worth a half-day's wages for an average worker. Fortunately, we brought about twenty thousand of them. So combined with the sale of the trade goods we have a bank account of around nine hundred thousand Lyran 'S-bills' as they call them. Doctor Zealand says he estimates that the Botany Bay 'bills' could trade for the Lyran ones at four-point-five to one, based on purchasing power. That would make the Bebee-bill-to-cubit exchange at about two-hundred-to-one, which is going to cause a few spasms in Aurora. There's another universal currency called C-Bills - Dr Zealand is looking into that one.

Anyway, with our newfound weath we've purchased time at the local athenium - library in Thrteenth terminology - for our experts. And Lieutenant Gilmesh as their bodyguard, for safety's sake. This is a rough-looking town - it's built largely out of ruins. And this spaceport is filled with fighters and BattleMechs. Those galmongering things make me think of giant Cylons. I'm glad Boxey's back in Aurora with Father and Athena where it's safe.

As if to prove to us that it's a rough port, in the single time-cycle we've been on-world, we have been approached by
nine separate smuggling rings, all of whom wanted to find out what we were smuggling or willing to smuggle. One of them was the customs factor - Starbuck sold him two crates of those old militia-surplus numos from the Bebee. Starbuck said that seeming to break a few rules made us look more trustworthy. I think the Lords of Kobol made him my wingman as a test of character.

Looking at these BattleMechs up close, I can't help but think of the old stories of my family. According to those ancient stories, before our Tribe rediscovered spaceflight, the nobles of Caprica would go to war in similar war-helots. Eventually, these went from weapons of war to instruments of ceremonial challenges. The Champion - or Dominus - would duel other Champions in their war-helots over matters of honor and the like. But that was before the Rediscovery. I think the last war-helots would have done battle maybe thirty-three centuries ago - if they ever existed.

On a personal note ... without a genuine military mission to occupy my time, I find myself thinking about my son. Now that Martial Law's been lifted, I've been considering getting put on limited duty to spend more time with him. Boxey's already almost twelve yahren old - his Adult Naming Day is in seven quatrons. We haven't really had a chance to discuss what his Adult Name will be. Fortunately he's not an orphan. If he was, he'd probably end up naming himself 'Starbuck' or something equally silly.


"I heard that!" Starbuck said.

"I expected you to," Apollo replied. "Serves you right for eavesdropping."

"We're going out for a rampage at the local leisurons. You're happy to accompany us."

"Excuse me? Someone has to watch over the ships -"

"Which is what we paid those docking fees for, you overly-conscientious officer you! Not to mention have those elaborate alarm systems. You are in desparate need of a bit of ambrosa! And a bit of Brie."

"Starbuck! I am not -"

"I know you're not. You need to. Desperately. You're beginning to make squeaking noises from all the tension. Now move your astrum - we have a lovely lady fighter pilot waiting for us. Well, for you. Give me the sign and I'll get distracted and wander off."

Apollo tried to hit the back of Starbuck's head, but he ducked too fast.

The two Warriors disembarked from the shuttle Boomerang Fish where Brie was waiting in a Colonial dress with folds and layers in a red color that complemented her pale blondeness.

As the threesome made their way out, Starbuck asked the gate guard, "Hey you know a place where off-planet visitors can pay exorbiant prices for cheap food passed off as exotic local delicacies and maybe so-called traditional folk entertainment?"

The guard gave a laugh. "Okay, then - no pulling the wool over your eyes. The Royal Banquet it is. Snooty and overpriced, and has a view of the Double Fortress. And yes there is 'traditional folk entertainment'. You could probably get a good table if you can fake being foreign aristocrats." He handed over a piece of paper. "Give the map to the doorman, and I'll get my finder's fee from them."

"Perfect!" Starbuck took the paper and gave the guard a friendly salute as they left.

"And how do you expect to pay for this?" Apollo said.

"We're putting it on the Quorum's tab. Consider it cultural research."

Apollo rolled his eyes. This wasn't the first time Starbuck had roped him into an expedition of this sort, although it was the first one since the Fall of the Colonies. And never with this much free cash.

As they passed through the Portside neighborhood, the three Colonial Warriors noted the squalid conditions of the former stellar capital.

"Never saw a town this run-down," Brie commented. "It's more like the star-flank ships during the Exodus."

"You were never on Pineas," Starbuck said. "Last outlying colony to go, twenty yahren before the Day. Contact had become intermittent, toward the end it was mostly refugees, smugglers, and alien sub-colonies. A lot like this."

"Poverty," Apollo summed it up. "The local rulers either haven't got the resources to build these people up or haven't realized the strategic vulnerability of having an impoverished underclass."

"It wasn't exactly all auric and honey back in the Colonies," Starbuck said. "Things got pretty bad up in Umbra."

"But nobody was ready to attack Colonial Warriors for food, were they? Look around - we're being assessed as possible targets by at least four different groups."

Starbuck nodded in acknowledgment, even as he flipped a silver cubit over his shoulder into the cup of a beggar ten metrons behind them.

"Good shot," Brie noted, looking over her shoulder. "Poor fellow's looking completely depolarized."

"Yeah," Starbuck said. "If we give them anything directly, we'll be swamped with beggars. But if we don't give anything we'll feel like trash."

"And it lets you show off," Apollo said.

"Who, me?"

Brie tapped Apollo on the shoulder. "Your Thirteenth is better than mine. Does that sign say what I think it says?"

Apollo looked at the comparatively well-kept building and the prominent signage. "'Mercenary Review Board - Hiring Hall - Planet Apollo'?"

"That's the one."

Starbuck shook his head. "They've got to be kidding. I mean - mercenaries just walking up off the street, asking if there's any positions opening in the local revolutions? Fined by a review board for not committing enough atrocities?"

Brie was already trotting up the steps into the building. "Come on! Let's take a look!"

Starbuck looked at Apollo accusingly. "She's your date - why aren't you being more entertaining?"

"My date?! You dragged me out on this -" A grin came across his face. "So I suppose this means you want me to fix you up with a girl again?"

"Oh no you don't!" Starbuck protested. "I lost visitor's rights on the Rising Star for three quatrons after the Pandora fiasco! Last time I date one of your brain-afflicted cousins!"

"Then accord me the same courtesy." Apollo slapped his shoulder. "Come on, let's follow her."

Inside, there was a broad hall and a number of computer terminals similar to ones in Botanean archives. Several electronic displays took up most of the wall space.

Apollo read the displays in amazement. "Ratings for mercenary companies ... Contracts for campaigns ... support services ... recruitment ... training ... "

"And the government allows this?!" Brie asked in amazement.

"Two mercenary groups provide planetary security," Apollo said. "They might not have a choice." He looked over one of the boards, this one with a map. "And if I'm reading this map right ... There are wars everywhere!"

A man in official-looking clothes - including that thing the Thirteens called a 'necktie' - came up. "And can I assist you, sir?"

"No," Apollo answered in English. "I was looking at the set-up. Impressive."

"We pride ourselves on our efficiency." He gave a smile. "And you're from that new power we heard about? The 'United Colonies'?"

"Word travels fast," Starbuck said.

"Always, sir. There's an old saying, 'Not even JumpShips travel faster than gossip'."

"Exactly how many wars are going on right now, anyway?" Starbuck asked.

The official gave a laugh. "That's a matter of opinion. Officially, the Third Succession War has currently lasted for a hundred thirty-three years, but many people say that the Succession Wars rather blend together into one war that's been going on since 2786. Some even lump in the Amaris Civil War, making a single war that's lasted two hundred thirty-two years. And of course, there's always the so-called Free Worlds League with it's members usually finding an excuse to attack each other, various internal conflicts in the Combine and Federated Suns, pirate campaigns, and the various Periphery states and their activities, most of them undeclared. We in the Guild find it easier to sort everything out by campaigns rather than wars."

Brie asked, "So you're not part of the Lyran Commonwealth?"

"No, miss. The Guild is an agency of ComStar."

For the first time in centuries, the name of ComStar earned blank looks. The offical went on, "I assume you're part of the United Colonies' military?"

"Colonial Service," Apollo said.

"If you don't mind, we would like to ask a few questions. For our records -"

Apollo held up a hand. "Sorry. This is the first mission to the Inner Sphere. We were given strict instructions on what to talk about when discussing military matters. You understand."

"Oh, certainly. But there might be some non-classified things you can tell us about your nation. Forms of government and so forth."

"Our savants are currently working at your libraries. Maybe you can ask them." Apollo casually let a hand drift near the haft of his blaster.

The official backed away quickly. "Of course, sir. Quite silly of me. If you need any help let me know."

Brie whispered, "That was a bit extreme, wasn't it?"

"Look around," Apollo said. "Everyone here is carrying weapons. That bureautician was wearing body armor."

Starbuck added, "And you can see several places on the walls where major weapons damage has been repaired, the entrance hall has obviously been replaced - look at the patches on the floor! I think one of those BattleMechs once tore it's way into here."

"This is not a civilized planet," Apollo said. "And this is not civilized space. It's like the age of the Inter-Colonial Wars - just a hundred times as many planets. And these are only humans doing this to each other! Can you imagine what would happen if the Shan ever wandered this way with all these wars and all these impovershed people? Or if the Lunari contact the slave-traders? These worlds would fall like Delphi-coins! Never mind the Cylons!"

"In these circumstances," Starbuck said seriously. "There is only one thing that sane and well-meaning people can do."

"Get a drink?" Apollo said.

"You read my mind. You still have that map, Brie?"
----------

Apollo had to admit, the food was excellent. The 'steak' had a flavor distinct from the ovines of the Colonies or the giant horned serpents the Botaneans raised. The vegetables were unique to his experience. The wine wasn't as flavorful as ambrosa, but it wasn't bad. And Brie was an excellent meal companion.

And the view out of the great picture window was actually quite artistic. The planet Apollo was covered by a perpetual cloud layer, but they were in one of cooler seasons at present. Small breaks in the cloud cover allowed beams of sunlight to play over the semi-ruined city and the gigantic Double Fortress dominating the distant peaks. The foliage on the mountainsides was changing to a number of interesting colors.

The only drawback was that Starbuck had discovered the liquors of several worlds and an ancient custom reputedly from Earth itself called 'kareoke' - much to the regret of the patrons.

"He's right," Brie said. "You do need to relax a bit."

"My son is seventy light-yahren away and I'm stuck on a barbarian planet for the next twenty-five time-cycles. I don't see a lot of reason to relax."

"The way I see it, that's even more reason to relax. Your bio-pulse line probably looks like a string-puzzle. How long have you been a Warrior?"

"Forty-six yahren."

"And I've been one for two. And even I know that a commanding officer flying around as tense as a lyre-string is not good for my long-term survival. So I'm going to be selfish and demand that you relax for my safety."

Apollo opened his mouth to reply, but the laugh got out first. "With logic like that, you should have been a legalist."

"Starbuck helped me phrase it. You two are close."

"We graduated the Academy together, been wingmates and squadron-mates for thirty-six yahren. He almost became my brother."

"Really?"

"He used to date my sister Athena. They seemed to be getting along well, but he's - well, he's Starbuck. You know."

Brie nodded. "Yes, he is notorious in that respect." She leaned close. "So what keeps you single? Not to be disrespectful, but Kobol was two yahren ago."

"Because I commit. That gets in the way of long-term relationships.."

Brie nodded in agreement. "I can see that. Many women say they want one great love, but find men who want commitment to be frightening."

"And you?"

She smiled. "My husband Praetus died twenty-seven yahren ago. A Marine. Eleventh Battle of Argus. We had twenty lovely years together and five children. I did my mourning. I had my flings. My children are ... well, a warm companion for the next hundred yahren or so would be nice. Maybe a few more children."

Apollo almost asked about grandchildren, but stopped himself quickly. He himself was rare in that he had two adult blood-relations still alive - most Colonials didn't have that many. It was unlikely that Brie had any living descendants. "After five? That's an adequate number. Almost average."

"The Thirteens have a saying - 'A woman's biological chronometer ticks loudly'. I'll be seventy my next Natal Day, I'm still young enough to be a proper mother. Besides, the House of Aleph needs a few more fertility genes in it. Your family was always a bit on the sterile side."

Apollo snorted. "My great-great-great-grandfather Apollo used to have a wonderful rant about 'quality before quantity'. It's a tradition. That's why there's usually twenty yahren or so between each of us." That made a frown cross Apollo's face as he remembered his little brother Zac - Azachiel at birth, 'Zac' by the time he could walk, almost nineteen yahren old on the Day, dying in a blaze of heroic futile glory ... and before his birth, two brothers and a sister by his father's first wife, whom he knew only from their personal journals and family stories ... and Serena, buried among the Lords of Kobol ... his mother, who didn't even have a grave ...

Brie recognized the look instantly. as it was so common among the veterans of the Rag-Tag Fleet. She squeezed his hand. "The Fleet's so slow because we each carry a million ghosts," she quoted, an old dark joke that had practically become the motto of a people.

The two sat in a companionable silence for a moment before Starbuck came up. "Apollo, old buddy, I felt you should be the one to hear this. I just broke a major Colonial law and spent thirty thousand S-bills of the Quorum's money doing it. But I have a reason!"

Apollo sighed. "Are we going to be fed to giant insects again? Or chased by a mob with torches and farming implements? Again?"

"No, I don't think so."

Brie asked, "What exactly did you do?"

Starbuck gave a shy smile and pointed to a young woman across the room dressed like the rest of the female waitress staff in what a person knowledgable of Earth ethnic costumery would call a 'French Maid Uniform'. She seemed to be fidgeting nervously. She also had the distinctive skin-tone and facial features of the Aboriginie-Hindu mix of Botany Bay.

Starbuck shyly admitted, "I sorta bought a slave."

Apollo nodded to himself. "I must have committed some truly atrocious crime against the Lords of Kobol. I wish I knew what it was."
----------

Dark Nebula
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 6, 2999 A.D.


"Look sharp boys," Boomer said over the comline. "Our Friendly Neighbors are peeking over the fence again."

The three Vipers swopped alond the far edge of the red dwarf system. As always, a flight of three fighters came out to meet them, matching a parallel course along an invisible boundary. At least as fast as they could keep up.

The Thirteenth Tribe additions to the warbooks identified them as Star League Mark 39 Voidseeker-class automated fighter drones, intended to be deployed from automated warships and bases. The sensors indicated that there were no human signs among them, and they had refused to answer voice communications.

Like any veteran of the Thousand-Yahren War, Mission-Commander Lieutenant Boomer had the firm belief that giving autonomous decision-making abilities to a war-machine was begging the Horned Gods of Darkness to move into your guest room and sharpen their claws on you. His opinion of the intelligence of the Thirteenth Tribe dipped noticably.

But these cheap pseudo-Cylons were not very sophisticated. From their actions, he had deduced that they had identified the Colonial vessels as 'alien', just like the Botany Bay warbooks did. And that they had no instructions on what to do about aliens. It didn't take much to determine their range of patrol and stay out of it.

It was so tempting to just swoop in and splatter the artifacts and see what they were guarding. But there was no need. Besides, even though the little ships had barely a fortieth the performance of a Viper, the warbook entry said that some variants had nuclear missiles or kinetic weapons - and there was always the possibility of a lucky strike. No need to risk a perfectly good Viper for a militarily unimportant target that didn't want to shoot you anyway.

Cadet Palmyra waved in a friendly fashion. "Hello, tinpots! We're waving our fertilizers in your mechanical faces! Sniff our exhaust!"

Boomer grinned at that. Young people were always so brave. Of course, it's the moment that they realize that they could die that you find out the truth of what lay beneath the bravado. "Careful, lad. I was saying similar things to a Cylon patroller some forty-five yahren ago. That's when we discovered they had the Mark Fifty long-range turbo-lasers. Spent four time-cycles floating in half a Viper before I was retrieved."

Palmyra's gulp could be heard over the comline. "Sorry, sire!"

"Stop being so nervous, lad! Sagan blesses space pilots who have a clear mind. Too relaxed or too high-strung, you might miss important things. Like the fact that Our Friendly Neighbors have headed off on an intercept course away from us."

And the old Star League drones were doing exactly that, heading away at four-point-five-five Colonial Standard gravities, or five earth gravities. Pilot Lamia asked, "What's got them all riled up?"

"Don't know - might be important. Let's find out. Full turbos."

The three Vipers sped up, soon zipping past the less-advanced Star League fighters and leaving them behind. They soon penetrated the veil of the nebula and had to fly by scanners. And the ionized gasses of the nebula made the scanners erratic.

"How can we find anything in this?!" Lamia complained. "It's like a mine shaft in here!"

"Like the Thirteens say, 'No worries, mate'. You've got a veteran of the Kobol Void Flight on your wing. Keep your indicators straight, match my wing, and you'll be good." Boomer's sensors began pinging. "Alright now, we have a target. Slow-moving. Getting an identity signal ... matches the Botany Bay archives' civilian signals of the Lyran Commonwealth. Getting closer now ... identifying a Merchant-class JumpShip with a pair of DropShips. Definitely Thirteens."

"So what's a civilian ship doing here?"

"For one thing, they're getting uncomfortably close to Our Friendly Neighbors." Boomer switched on the Star League wavelengths and spoke in English; "This is Lieutenant Boomer, Gold Flight, United Colonial Service, to the Merchant-class JumpShip. Are you receiving?"

"This is Captain Merill of the JumpShip Metropolis, Lyran registry, out of the planet Trell. We are contracted with a private concern on a prospecting mission. We have no 'United Colonial Service' listed in our records. And what the hell are you people flying?!"

"The United Colonies have recently expanded into this region of space. Actually, we came to warn you - there's some sort of Star League derelict not far from here. It's protected by flights of drone fighters, and you wandered inside their zone of control. They should be here in ... thirteen minutes. I doubt that they will be nice." He looked at the information he had on these ships and saw a problem. "Uh, Metropolis? According to my warbook entry, that ship of yours can only do one-tenth of a gee acceleration?"

"That is correct, Gold Flight. But we can make an emergency jump in ten minutes."

"That's good, Metropolis. We're transmitting the coordinates of the K-F Jump-Point of a nearby system, twenty light-minutes distant but outside the drone's control zone. You should be safe there. I understand the K-F Field effect extends a distance from your ship?"

"Approximately one thousand meters."

"Mind if we hitch a ride, then? It's several of your hours back to base otherwise."
----------

Aboard the Metropolis, Captain Hensey Merill and Precentor-VI Augustus Lane watched the impossible craft that their warbook insisted on classifying as Code Zulu decelerate at over a hundred-ten gravities, their engines flaring behind them but registering a much higher energy than they should as the craft rendezvoused with their ship and attached themselves to the hull.

Adept-V Beta Kylie Sadako was grinning like a maniac as she examined the scanners. "You know, I think that those ships are somehow converting the kinetic energy of their approach into some kind of heavy particle and expelling it through their thrusters. That's why they look like they're trying to accelerate forward. And maybe why their pilots aren't dead at those accelerations. Amazing! The Star League had nothing even resembling this!"

"What in the Name of Blake are those things?!" Captain Merill said.

"I don't know," Lane admitted, "But we have those Voidseekers on radar. And if we don't make a jump to these coordinates, we'll have to make a blind jump with a half-charged drive inside a nebula. And if we don't jump at all, those drones will sink us. According to the information we have, they date from the Second Succession War - we don't know who they would be loyal to, and for all we know they might have a Caspar back there, or even be armed with nukes. All we know is that ships seldom come back from this quadrant."

Captain Merill grunted in agreement and began giving the orders for an emergency jump.

Precentor Long address an Adept. "Send a message to Terra, Ultimate Priority. 'In response to Dispatch 29991205-Alpha, I am reporting contact with unknown power -'"
------------

Thirteen minutes later, the Metropolis appeared in a flash of energy inside the light-bubble surrounding the dim red star.

"Woah!" Palmyra exclaimed. "So that's what you Thirteens use for a stardrive! Am I the only one to hear those squealing things?"

"Sounded like those old giant flutes the Gemonese used for High Worship of the Sunstorm?" Lamia responded. "No, you're not."

Boomer transmitted, "On behalf of the United Colonies, welcome to Clearspot System. Nothing much here - just a mining post and a temporary firebase until we're done mining. But if you're prospecting, we have lots and lots of rocks. It's our people's policy to share natural resources in uninhabited systems with non-hostile powers, so feel free to look around."

"We would like to thank you, Lieutenant," Captain Merill said. "But we're still in the dark as to who you people are."

"That, Captain, is a long story that should be told with a mug of grog. Or better yet, beer. Mind if we come aboard?"

"I don't mind. But we don't have docking facilities for those ASF's of yours."

"No problem. Just light up the airlock."
-----------

Office, Precentor ROM, ComStar Compound
Hilton Head, North America, Terra
December 7. 2999 A.D.


At these levels of the ComStar hierarchy, sometimes even a Demi-Precentor could be a nameless functionary. The Demi-Precentor in question, despite his many years of service, had never entered the offices of a member of the First Circuit before. He never would again.

"Excellency, we have two responses to the Ultimate Priority dispatch!"

"Two?" William Iblis remarks with a raise of his eyebrows. "Quite unexpected."

"The first is from our office on Apollo," the Demi-Precentor said, producing the relevant documents and pictures. "Three ships - a small DropShip and two extremely small ASFs arrived in the system. Their design is completely unlike anything in the databases, and their arrival in the system had a very unusual emergence signature. They claim to be an exploration and trade delegation from an organization called 'the United Colonies' -"

"What?!" Precentor Iblis actually seemed to be alarmed.

"The 'United Colonies'. From overheard conversations and rumor, they have apparently added a world called Botany Bay - a former Rim Worlds Republic planet - to their membership. They speak an unknown language among themselves and their uniforms are unique, as is their personal equipment."

Iblis looked at the pictures of the United Colonies' vessels and uniforms. "Apollo ... Starbuck ... It too soon ..."

"Pardon, Excellency?"

"Nothing. What are their activities?"

"They sold some standard technology, a piece of lostech - a TAG system with accompanying missiles, purchased by one of our factors - and some unique foodstuffs of unknown origin. They also traded some metallic coins that they represented as the currency of their nation - a vacuum-processed gold and iriduim alloy. These 'cubits' from metal content alone are worth approximately forty Comstar Letters of Credit each."

"Hmmm. Continue. What of the other contact."

"That is the most alarming, Excellency. It is from the Explorer Corps vessel Metropolis. This ship is on special duty in the Dark Nebula, looking for successful lostech prospectors. Apparently they themselves had accidentally wandered into an uncharted Star League control zone, patrolled by relic drone fighters. They were saved by three ASF's who claimed alliegiance to the 'United Colonial Service' and that they had a mining operation in the Dark Nebula. These vessels were seen performing accelerations in excess of one hundred gravities. And the ASF's appear to be identical to the ones seen at Apollo, less than one jump away."

"Really." Iblis seemed to ponder that. "So this 'United Colonies' organization is claiming territory and making inroads to the Commonwealth?"

"I would not know, Excellency."

Iblis smiled. "You have done well, Precentor."

"Th-thank you, Excellency. I beg your pardon, but I-I do not fell -"

"I know. That's the brain aneurysm. Go and rest, you'll be dead soon."

"Thank you, Excellency."

Alone in his office, Iblis looked at the reports and pictures as they crumbled to ash.

"And that BaseStar has already left the system. Hopefully, they won't blunder across Adama's little flock. That BaseStar is my only hope - I can't let it get sidetracked into a battle with the Colonials! Not yet."

He slammed his hands onto his mahogany desktop in frustration to the accompaniment of lightning bolts in the clear sky outside.

"Damn you, Apollo! Damn you Adama! And damn this prison of flesh! And damn this prison of a planet! Before I leave, I'll force every stinking piece of mortal trash on Earth to devour their own loved ones alive!"

Iblis raged at the heavens. "Speed to Cylon, my children! And bring me the tools to unlock the chains of this pit!"

Iblis's secretary peeking into the office. "Is something wrong, Excellency?"

"No, Camille," Precentor Iblis said calmly. "Just rats in the walls. Call the maintenance people about that. Oh, and could you fix me some nutmeg tea?"

"Certainly, Excellency."
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2011-01-15 06:42pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17642
Location: Tahalshia Manor
HAHAHAHAAHH... So THAT is what the WhiteShip did to Iblis after he killed Apollo. :twisted:

I do hope that Iblis finds the Colonials more than prepared to take him on a second time.
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Eternal_Freedom
PostPosted: 2011-01-15 10:04pm 

Castellan


Joined: 2010-03-09 03:16pm
Posts: 5784
Location: Bound in a nutshell
This story goes from brilliant to even better every chapter. I'm particularly found of the bits with Apollo, Starbuck and Brie.
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EdBecerra
PostPosted: 2011-01-15 10:37pm 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2008-07-08 02:07am
Posts: 238
Eternal_Freedom wrote:
This story goes from brilliant to even better every chapter. I'm particularly found of the bits with Apollo, Starbuck and Brie.


I dunno... Brie's role seems pretty cheesy to me. :D

But hey, I hope the author can milk it for all it's worth. :lol:

Ed Becerra
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Eternal_Freedom
PostPosted: 2011-01-15 11:58pm 

Castellan


Joined: 2010-03-09 03:16pm
Posts: 5784
Location: Bound in a nutshell
The role may be cheesy, but that does little to nothing to detract from the awesomeness of the scenes
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S J C
PostPosted: 2011-01-16 02:16pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-05-21 02:51pm
Posts: 15
Location: Scotland, Undisclosed GDI Command Center
I would pity Ilblis, But I don't. :angelic:

Can't wait to see the fallout of Starbuck's little slave buying.
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2011-01-16 02:24pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17642
Location: Tahalshia Manor
S J C wrote:
I would pity Ilblis, But I don't. :angelic:

Can't wait to see the fallout of Starbuck's little slave buying.

As the slave he purchased was obviously from Botany Bay, I believe that Adama and the Quorum would see it as returning a native home, by whatever means possible. In England and in the US there were several wealthy Abolishonists who would purchase slaves just to give them back their freedom. They were not well-liked in the US South, for obvious reasons.

Starbuck, the Great Emancipator! :angelic:
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syed
PostPosted: 2011-01-17 08:46pm 

Redshirt


Joined: 2010-11-26 07:45pm
Posts: 11
SO now we know why the ship of lights sent baltar to the cylons, so they would know that ibilis was using the cylons, so lucifer would make a bid against him.
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Themightytom
PostPosted: 2011-01-18 01:38pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2007-12-22 12:11pm
Posts: 2655
Location: United States
EdBecerra wrote:
Eternal_Freedom wrote:
This story goes from brilliant to even better every chapter. I'm particularly found of the bits with Apollo, Starbuck and Brie.


I dunno... Brie's role seems pretty cheesy to me. :D

But hey, I hope the author can milk it for all it's worth. :lol:

Ed Becerra


The fanfic is... dairy I say it, based heavily on a 70's era franchise, for which cheese is a common ingredient. Dark Lord has so far proven to be a whiz at blending consistently.
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MondoMage
PostPosted: 2011-01-19 06:53am 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2009-09-17 12:53pm
Posts: 195
syed wrote:
SO now we know why the ship of lights sent baltar to the cylons, so they would know that ibilis was using the cylons, so lucifer would make a bid against him.


I don't know.... John always seemed a bit on the subtly sinister side. Sure, he was polite and helpful, but I always got the feeling that there were ulterior motives behind just about everything they did. It wouldn't surprise me if their motivations went a lot further than simply dealing with Iblis.

And in a completely unrelated thought, the image of a Battlemech-sized Cylon just popped into my head. That would be the stuff of Colonial nightmares, I think.
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Themightytom
PostPosted: 2011-01-19 01:01pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2007-12-22 12:11pm
Posts: 2655
Location: United States
MondoMage wrote:

I don't know.... John always seemed a bit on the subtly sinister side. Sure, he was polite and helpful, but I always got the feeling that there were ulterior motives behind just about everything they did. It wouldn't surprise me if their motivations went a lot further than simply dealing with Iblis.


John is the mastermind behind a lot of projects, the Foundation For law And Government, The Earth Defense Directorate...
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MysteriousDarkLordv3
PostPosted: 2011-02-01 07:02pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-05-08 08:15am
Posts: 132
Sorry about the delay - very busy times in Reality. Illness, home repair, etc etc. I also question the quality of the work.
Real Life sucks. I'll retreat into fantasy. TYVM :(

------------
City of Eleazor, Planet Apollo, Apollo System
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 6, 2999 A.D.


The Botaneans had known for decades that their people were being hauled away to other planets to become slaves, and now they knew exactly where and what that entailed. And they were not happy at all. After Adrienne had told the tale of her life as a 'contractee' on Apollo, Juliet had to be forcibly restrained from getting in one of the Vipers and strafing the entire city.

After Adrienne fell asleep, Apollo told Starbuck, "In view of the circumstances, I think your crime of slave-purchasing can be overlooked this time. At least, I don't know where they'd get the tribunal willing to find you guilty."

"I didn't start out to do it!" Starbuck said. "It just - it happened!"

"I know," Apollo said. "It usually does."

In all the years Apollo had known Starbuck, he never truly understood the strange mixture of calculated selfishness and instinctive nobility that seemed to guide the man. One moment, he could be working out a revolutionary new method of dealing cards from the bottom of the deck, the next giving his last food ration to feed a hungry child. Starbuck was, despite outward appearances, a rather complex individual.

In the lounge area, the Botanean savants were still fuming. Especially after Dr Jeffries - who had worked as an electronics technician to make a living, separate from his work as a historian - had gotten done looking at the 'decorative choker' that Adrienne had been wearing.

"Bloody damned abomination," he reported. "At first I thought it was an electric shocker, but it's not. It's designed with neurohelmet technology, sending signals to the muscles - in this case, to constrict muscles. One remote signal and the wearer's throat muscles close off their air passages and blood vessels. No worry about disfiguring electrical burns or insulation being tucked in. Just strangle the girl to keep her in line. Where is the remote?"

Starbuck said, "It was damaged."

"Adrienne mentioned that," Juliet said. "You broke it cramming it into the restaurant manager's throat?"

"It wouldn't have broken if his jaw hadn't stayed attached so long. As it was, I could only get it in after the bone snapped. At that point, the owner would have had the law enforcers involved, but I waved the money under his nose and -" He shrugged. "Like I said - it just happened."

Juliet pulled him over and kissed him. "Good onya, mate."

"How can this happen in an advanced society?" Gilmesh asked. "Slave societies are primitive barbarians or preverted sensualists like the Shan or Lunari! How can a society advanced enough for drone technology justify slave labor?"

"This is a matter of established law and custom," Dr Wilcox the legal expert said after looking at the electronic edition of the Lyran Legal Codes he had purchased at the library. "Officially, slavery is illegal in the Lyran Commonwealth. Adrienne's legal status is 'contractee' - her legal existence is defined by a boilerplate contract that restricts her rights. Technically, Starbuck bought the contract, not the woman."

"Legally defining existence?" Brie said. "That's irrational. A person exists or they don't."

"Not unusual, though," Dr Wilcox explained. "I know that the law of the Star League and the Rim Worlds Republic had a process called 'incorporation'. It allowed ownership of property and legal responsibility to be invested in fictional beings called 'corporations', with shares of the fictional being sold to investors. In effect, a concept treated as a living being. The 'contractee' thing is the same thing in reverse - the real person being redefined as a fictional one."

Nobody could wrap their head around that. It was too outlandish.

"There has to be something we can do," Dr Jeffries said. "Perhaps if it were brought to the attention of the planetary Duke -"

"The rulers likely not only know about the slave trade," Wilcox said, "It's probable that they profit off of it. The contract dodge is not new or obscure - it has a thick body of law and precedents. Common sense or morality simply do not apply when the laws are deliberately slanted in favor of something."

Juliet again expressed her opinion of what she would like to do with the Lyran Legal Codes and in which of the Duke of Apollo's orifices.

Dr Zealand asked Lieutenant Gilmesh, "Are you certain we can't build a nuclear weapon out of one of the shuttle's engines?"

"Absolutely not!" Gilmesh semi-lied. (He knew it could be done, but didn't personally know how.)

Apollo, who did know how but disliked doing it, decided to speak up before Starbuck volunteered to do it. "Let's not go off half-charged, people. Obviously we need to do something - after all, civilized beings cannot tolerate slavery. But eight people are not going to change a planet in three weeks. Especially when that planet is just one out of hundreds with the same system!"

Brie mentioned, "But it would be easier to open a dialogue with the Galactica in orbit."

"True," Starbuck said. "Nothing adds that bit of sincerity to a negotiation like batteries of turbo-laser cannons, fusion missiles, and planetary bombardment ordnance. Not to mention the really big guns for that extra little bit of emphasis."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Juliet agreed.

"Starbuck! Moreland!" Apollo protested. "The Galactica hasn't sterilized a planet in almost a century! And never one with humans still on it! Besides, think of all the slaves still in captivity. While they're here, this planet has a shield of living people."

Dr Zealand made a nasty face. "He's right. We're supposed to be the good guys - we don't kill indisciminately."

Gilmesh frowned. "The Thousand Yahren War has spoiled us. I want to keep the moral high ground."

Dr Jeffries had to nod in agreement. "That 'acceptable losses for the greater good' excuse never felt right to me anyway. Sounds like something Fat Stevie Amaris would have done." He looked at the portable computer with the historical notes in it. "He probably did - he did everything else."

Juliet whistled to get everyone's attention.

Everyone looked at her curiously. She just grinned and held up a copy of 'Starways Tales'.

Brie asked, "You are insane, aren't you?"

"Usually."

"You and Starbuck should not breed."

Juliet and Starbuck made rude faces at her.
-----------

Arcology of Aurora
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 7. 2999 A.D.


The parties were beginning to die down. The business of Botany Bay was returning to something approximating normal - a new normal filled with energy and long-term planning and an enthusiasm that had not been seen in centuries.

General MacRuder had brought files and plans and proposals to his appointment with Admiral Adama. Commander Tigh had brought a sour attitude.

"Adama's going to tell you the same thing," MacRuder said. "Sending the Galactica to the Dark Nebula was a good risk with the available information."

"If we had been here the pirates would have been vapor almost instantly. There would have been no landings."

"We have a saying on the Bebee, Tigh - 'if wishes were fishes we would all be wet'."

"I know, Vince. I've been an active-duty Warrior for over eighty yahrens, forty in command positions. I've been in this same situation I don't know how many times - the enemy does something I don't plan for and I'm in the wrong place. Feeling helpless."

"Well, the proposals I have call for a pair of lightspeed civilian carriers. The Galactica could then retire from the courier business."

"Well, that's good. She needs an overhaul anyway - she was scheduled for one two yahrens back, but -" He shrugged. "Couldn't exactly request a dock at Virgon Orbital."

"She's in fine shape from my point of view." MacRuder grinned. "The holo of the Gray Lady taking out those pirate ships - I think I watched it a thousand times. Beautiful."

Tigh smiled at the memory. "I admit it - I was annoyed. I could have done the job with one turret. A full broadside was pointless temper on my part. I was even tempted to use a fusion missile, but we haven't got the assembly lines running yet. Hate to need it and not have it."

That sobered MacRuder, like the thought had ever since in sank in that within a month he would have control of a nuclear arsenal. He was terrified by the thought of having that sort of power - the sort of power that Adama and Tigh wielded with the casual ease of experience.

Athena came into the outer office. "Sires - can we wait a bit on the meeting?"

Tigh got up, his face creased with worry. "Is Adama alright?" he asked.

"He's fine, it's just ... this isn't a good time -"

The two military officers got up and walked past into Adama's office. It may have been rude and a breach of protocol, but if something was wrong with the head of the Colonial Service, it was a serious matter.

Adama was sitting at his desk, his fingers on his temple, frowning as if deep in thought. In front of him, a writing stylus hovered point-down over the desk.

MacRuder went over to the desk and looked at the stylus. There was no obvious support.

Tigh came over and put a hand on Adama's shoulder. Adama looked up. "Oh, yes. The time. My apologies, Tigh - Vince. I guess I haven't been myself lately." The stylus lowered itself to the table.

Adama gave a sad smile on seeing MacRuder's mystified face. "I suppose you want to ask me about that?"

"Well, yes. How did you do that?"

"It's a sorry tale," Adama explained. "The Colonial Military Institute once conducted a research project into the use of psychic powers against the Cylons.I was chosen because of high test scores and the legends that said that some of my ancestors were prophets - the researchers thought that I would have a better chance of developing something useful. After extensive training, my intuition was enhanced and I could do ... that." Adama idly flicked his fingers and the stylus rolled across the table.

"Cylon Centurions - unless they weighed less than half a kilocubit - had little to fear from my abilities. My wife got annoyed when I would practice at home. I ended up bending all our eating utensils double. The project was considered a failure, and after Apollo was born I gave it very little thought.

"But during the Exodus, the Fleet encountered a creature called Iblis. He had apparently supernatural powers and claimed godhood. This made me look at my little ability in a new light. Perhaps it could be considered a sign of ... development. Growth and evolution. I even started teaching my children, so they could defend their thoughts if Iblis ever returned." His expression went from grim to tragic. "When I was in the Power Center, when Frankenstein's machine had me and was going to use me as a hostage, I reached out blindly with my mind, grabbed and twisted."

MacRuder was amazed. He had assumed that the pirate Frankenstein had some bizarre medical affliction that had struck at just the right time. This was something he had not guessed and wouldn't have believed if told.

Adama got a disgusted look on his face. "This sign of development, of growth, of the evolution of our species to something real ... and the only use I ever got out of it was as a convenient substitute for a blaster."

The stylus flew off the table, but stopped midair and into Athena's hand. As she put it on the desk, she mentioned, "Well, in the process you saved thousands of people from a horrid death, and in my eyes that counts for something."

"Yes, yes," Adama said. "I know. I should stop sulking. But I want our people to stand for something more than raw survival. Animals survive. In The Book of the Lords of Kobol, the Lord Urania said 'As you now are, we once were; as we now are you may yet become.' I want our descendants to reach for ... something higher. I doubt a state of enlightenment can be reached by ripping apart people's insides."

Athena threw her hands up. "I keep telling him he's not a rampaging monster, but he insists on wallowing in angst and letting the work build up."

"I know," Tigh said. "I come in with angst about not being in the right place at the right time, only to find Adama complaining about being in exactly the right place and time. Some people are never satisfied."

"I don't know about 'enlightenment'," MacRuder said, "But I do know about evolution. You know about the Sundowners?"

Adama shook his head.

"It's a movement that's been around since the first pirate attack. The Sundowners figure that the solution to invasion from space is to have nothing to attract invaders, including technology or large population centers. They renounce technical civilization, live out in the Back of Beyond using stone tools, hunting and foraging. After every pirate invasion, their numbers grew - people would send in a notice to the government saying 'I'm no longer a citizen' and go woop-woop. Had your Rag-Tag Fleet not come by, I think that in another generation the Sundowners would have become all of humanity on this world. And for the first time after a pirate raid, no one has sent in a notice. Not this time." He gave a victorious grin. "That's evolution to me."

Tigh added, "We all want a world that makes sense, with no monsters in it. You and I both know that this is not that world. Every culture needs it's monster slayers, Old Friend. It's just our bad luck to be them."

Adama sat for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, "Well, I see that if I don't get to work, you three will browbeat me until I give in."

"Yes," Athena said. "Mother said that browbeating was one of the duties of the Lady of the House."

"And I can practice my Commander's Fearsome Glower on you," Tigh said. "I've already got the Colonel's Intimidating Glare down, I need a bit more practice for the Commander's version." Tigh gave a severe look.

"Oh that's good," MacRuder said. "I've got to work on that." He tried to give Adama the same look.

Adama gave a laugh. "Very well, I surrender. You would think a man my age would be allowed to feel sorry for himself."

"I don't think anything of the sort," Athena said. "Now it's time for your appointments."
----------

Office, Precentor Martial, ComStar Compound
Hilton Head, North America, Terra
December 7. 2999 A.D.


"These Ultimate Priority dispatches were supposed to go directly to the Primus. But there's no indication he ever received them. And the tale they tell is very interesting."

Precentor Martial Julia ffoulks had the eccentric habit of speaking to the portrait of the Blessed Blake that hung in her private office. It had embarrassed her a couple of times when she was less highly-ranked, but now she was First Circuit, and nobody walked into her office without warning. Talking to Blake helped her organize her thoughts. Besides, it convinced her secretarial staff that she was either insane or a visionary, each of which had it's own benefits. And after the first year, the assorted listening devices hidden in her office were considered unreliable by their planters.

"This mysterious 'United Colonies' suddenly appears in the old Rim Worlds Republic, almost at the same time as the Fomalhaut Disaster. Both the Fomalhaut attackers and the United Colonies demonstrated ultra-advanced alien-seeming technology ...

"Strange that the only other person to see the United Colonies dispatches besides William Iblis and myself has died. I spent a great deal of effort suborning that fellow, only for him to fall over dead of a suspiciously-timed cerebral hemorrhage. And I liked him, too. Fortunately he managed to get these dispatches to me before he died."

She tapped a button and the file on William Iblis appeared on her monitor. She re-read it every few days, as if some new insight would come up from a fresh reading. It was all a rather bland account of a textbook career in ROM, so generic that it didn't even seem real. Ordinary stuff, except for his meteoric rise beginning two years ago. There were a number of odd events surrounding that rise - suicides, illnesses, scandals, mental breakdowns.

Eighteen months ago, Iblis became Precentor ROM, and the normally secretive organization became almost fanatical in it's isolation. Had her mole not already been in place, ffoulks doubted she would have been able to get anyone inside at all.

"So what is this new Periphery power to you, William Iblis? And what do they have to do with the Fomalhaut aliens, if anything?" She addressed the Blake portrait. "What is he planning? I know he's been trying to get a toehold in ComGuard. And I don't know if he's succeeded - I admit it, Iblis is better at conspiracy and intrigue than I am. Is he aiming to become Primus? Or are his goals different? ComGuard plus a war against aliens ... the possibilities of that scenario are frightening. Whatever he's up to, I don't like it.

"Being head of a secret mostly-mothballed military force is not much of an honor - more than a few people call me 'Precentor Janitor' behind my back. But the Precentor Martial keeps the other members of the First Circuit from getting funny ideas about using Blake's Own Arsenal for their own purposes. If the Primus insists on a secret deployment, then Iblis might use the emergency to try and undermine my authority to gain control of ComGuard. Could Iblis have cooked up a fake incident somehow? I don't see how. I'm sure these United Colonies have the answer somehow ..."

A discreet knock on the door, and her secretary came in with a lunch tray. After the secretary left, she pulled some papers out from under the plate and read them.

"Secret orders to the ROM Office on Apollo ... 'It would be in the best interests of ComStar if the United Colonies delegation did not report to their superiors'. My, how discreetly phrased. I guess 'will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest' has been done to death. Covering himself even in secret orders - how Machivellian can one person get? I suppose saying 'plant bombs in their toilet' would just be too vulgar. But why do it in the first place? I can't figure out why he would want them dead.

"And more secret orders to the ECV Metropolis ... 'discover the world or worlds the United Colonies are currently based on and the disposition of the fleet, report back soonest'. That is interesting, isn't it, Blake? He wants very specific information. In his place, I would want general information - government structure, economic state, military forces, population, everything I could dig up. All Iblis wants is the location of their home and their fleet."

Precentor ffoulks turned in her chair and began typing. "So let's have some new secret orders. With the Precentor ROM's own confirmation codes at that. Heh-heh. Silly Willie - subverting Precentors, undermine Demi-Precentors, but it never occurs to you to get control of the Adepts who actually operate the HPGs? If it had, these orders would have already been sent. Top-down thinking has doomed many a devoted servant of Blake's Vision."
----------

Clearspot System, Dark Nebula
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 8, 2999 A.D.


Augustus Lane and Kylie Sadako (designated 'Mission Specialists', not mentioning their ComStar ranks), as well as the rest of the crew of the Metropolis, had listened to the fighter pilot's tales of Kobol and the Thirteen Tribes and the Cylons and the Exodus with tolerant smirks, amazed at the superstitious rot the Periphery neo-barbarians would believe.

But then they received via the ship's HPG secret orders, co-signed by both the Precentor ROM and the Precentor Martial, rescinding their previous mission in the Dark Nebula. They were now ordered to find out everything they could about the United Colonies and their contacts with other worlds, and to send a detailed report in exactly one month later. Anything that could make the heads of two of the most territorial factions in ComStar agree on something must be right up there with finding Kerensky's Fleet. The way Adept Sadako was drooling over the little fighters, Lane suspected it was the technology.

A day later they were on the ship Sagittaria Dawn, under non-spin-induced artificial gravity, comfortably accelerating at almost fifty gravities toward the Majahaul Mining Station. They only took fourteen hours to make a flight that would take a DropShip four days. It made not believing the tales of their origin a bit more difficult.

Their engineers had explained the operation of the mobile mining station with the three discs - magnetohydrodynamic centrifuges, each designed for a specific operation, to extract metallic hydrogen, to extract and stabilize a substance called 'tylium', and to reduce the remaining mass to monoatomic matter and separate it into pure elements for transport. Mining and refining all at once, and when they returned home, they could just hand over one-hundred-percent pure elements of all varieties to their industries.

The mining base itself was the last straw.

It was formed of some odd metallic laminate only a couple of centimeters thick, assembled like a simple shelter. It had heat and a self-renewing atmosphere and gravity. If it weren't for the view outside of the asteroid it rested on and the asteroid field in the sky, it could have been on a planet. And a third of it had one wall missing, exposing it to the depths of space for the Vipers to land, and it held atmosphere anyway.

It was impossible. It simply could not exist. Yet there it was.

The United Colonies people had been gracious hosts. They had been polite and offered to help them explore the system. And they said that according to their own laws, the mineral wealth of this tiny system belonged to whomever dug it up, so they were welcome to start mining - something that an expedition from the Successor States would have never said.

When Sadako mentioned that they were supposed to be lostech prospectors - their original cover identity - the United Colonies people pointed them toward whatever was controlling those drone fighters. They even volunteered to help explore it. Again, no one from the Successor States would have done that.

That evening, after most of the base finally went to sleep, Lane went to the hangar and stood a meter away from the vacuum of space. He had brought a cup of what one of the Australian-sounding Colonials had called beef tea, but hadn't drunk it. Idly he tossed the contents through the invisible partition. It expanded into a glittery cloud of crystals and drifted over the surface of the asteroid.

"Hey!" Sadako's voice came from behind him. "You couldn't sleep either, huh? I don't blame you, this is so exciting! Unfortunately most of their technical manuals are in this weird language the writing looks like little pictures -"

"Adept Sadako," Lane interrupted, speaking formally since there was no one nearby to overhear. "Have you thought about it?"

"About what, Precentor?" she asked, using the same degree of formality as he did.

"The Mission. The Work of the Blessed Blake."

She straightened up and recited, "We keep the lost knowledge of the Star League. We prevent the Scavenger Lords from exploiting that knowledge to destroy themselves. And one day, the Star League will be reborn and we will use the science and technology we have protected to usher in a new Golden Age for all mankind."

He nodded. "Very good, Adept." He sighed, his breath becoming briefly visible on the edge of the invisible whatever. "And what of the United Colonies?"

"I don't understand?"

"They aren't of the Star League. If their tales are to be believed, they were never part of the Star League - or even of Holy Terra. And I'm inclined to believe them. We can't possibly pretend that they're just some lucky Periphery proto-state. They have no use for the 'lost knowledge of the Star League'. Except maybe to open up an antiques shop."

"Um, Precentor? You're talking nonsense."

He sat on the deck. "Yes I am. Do you realize that the Guiding Principles and the Words of the Blessed Blake say about this situation? Absolutely nothing! What do the all-inclusive procedural manuals say is the appropriate course of action? Not a single paragraph about what to do when meeting a technologically superior culture. They aren't Scavenger Lords, they aren't neo-barbs, they aren't the Star League. What is their role in the Mission of ComStar? Do we ignore them? Steal their technology? Shoot them? Hand them the Keys to the Kingdoms? What? Where does my life's work fit into this!?"

Sadako sat down besides him. "You know, I hadn't thought of that. I was too busy trying to understand their explanation of gravity plates."

"I figured as much," Lane said. Kylie Sadako was in ComStar for one reason - the technology. She was a true technophile. Ever since he met the girl, he always thought half-jokingly that she would have abandoned ComStar if someone else had better toys.

Now someone had better toys.

Sadako hopped back to her feet. "Well, the Precentors in the First Circuit must be wondering the same thing. I guess that's why we have orders to find out what we can about them. It's their job to worry about Blake's Vision. We're Explorer Corps - we seek and search. It's our job to find out about the United Colonies. We do our job, let the Primus do his."

He sighed. "That's all we can do for now."
------------

Deep Space
December 8, 2999 A.D.


The Starchaser was basically a Viper with the weapons removed to make room for a gravitic pulse generator. This extra pulse generator allowed the tylium-fusion engines to run at increased efficiency, making the Starchaser the fastest non-lightspeed craft ever built by humans. And now, lacking a human pilot whose survival had to be considered, still more tweaking could increase engine efficiency further.

C.O.R.A. seldom got to do much on the Galactica except assist the training personnel. But she was an Artificial Intelligence customized for flight, and she only truly lived when she flew.

No pilot encumbered her this time, and she was instructed to fly the longest, fastest course she had ever navigated. The course ran through star systems and null-spaces, ending up inside the Dark Nebula for a brief while, then onward to the Apollo system. All of this under constant acceleration. Then a new route back to start under constant deceleration.

For much of the trip, C.O.R.A. would be well in the grip of relativity, very close to the speed of light. On the return loop she would slow down until she returned to the Botany Bay system at more rational velocities. But during the high point of her ride, every sub-atomic particle would be a high-energy cosmic ray, and every tiny dust mote would hit with the force of an artillery shell.

For this eventuality, the Starchaser had a new component - a wedge-shaped plate on the front, a plate of powered armor with an overcoat of Thirteenth Tribe armor from captured and salvaged BattleMechs. This was to be a test of the armor's real damage-absorption capability, as well as the means by which the Starchaser would break records for final velocity.

From her point of view, the trip through the Clearspot System took only seconds. To the Majahaul Expedition, the passage took several minutes, during which relativity-distorted signals were received and sent. A short hop later, and C.O.R.A. was speeding through the Apollo system. Again, signals were sent and received.

On the planet Apollo, every sensor and scanner on or around the planet was slowly turning to the heavens. The weak emergence signature was detected, and the exhaust of the Starchaser's engines were seen, forming a streak across the system at almost the speed of light. But the force field prevented active sensors from detecting the Viper with active sensors, and the relativistic distortion warped the appearance of the Viper.

To make matters worse, the ComStar News Service had just reported the Fomalhaut Disaster. As soon as it was announced, conspiracy theorists were crying 'aliens did it'.

So after C.O.R.A.'s forty-minute sweep through the Apollo system, the planet Apollo was having it's very first U.F.O. scare.
---------

City of Eleazor, Planet Apollo, Apollo System
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 8, 2999 A.D.


"First message from home!" Brie announced that morning.

As everyone gathered for primary meal, Brie gave Starbuck a smirk. "C.O.R.A. says 'hello'."

"'Cora'?" Julie asked.

Apollo said, "Oh don't worry. She's just another lady that Starbuck climbed all over, took to the heavens, then walked away from without looking back."

"Another one? That's like thirteen I've come across so far. Are you totally incapable of keeping it in your pants, Starbuck? '"

Gilmesh commented, "He's well known for it. [i]Galactica's
shuttle, ladies ride free."

"Guys!" Starbuck protested over the other Warriors' giggles. He explained to Julie, "C.O.R.A. is the computer that acts as the co-pilot in the Starchaser. We've done a few missions together. And you've met her - who do you think you flew against in the training simulator on the Galactica?"

"Computer?" Julie raised an eyebrow at that. "I thought you Kobolians didn't like artificial intelligences."

"Correction - we don't like artificial intelligences that are trying to kill us. There's a difference."

Apollo said. "The C.O.R.A. system is very limited - she's either in the simulator or in the Starchaser. And in any case, she's not a full person. She doesn't have self-awareness or imagination or intuition or the desire to learn - she's a sophisticated emulation of a personality. We don't build the fully intelligent type anymore."

"Anymore?"

"Look up the Galatea Project in the historical archives when we get back. But don't eat before you read it."

A chime came from the door. Gilmesh looked at the wall readout and announced, "There's someone at our airlock. I think he's knocking."

Brie turned on the security viewer and said, "And he's wearing a hood. I think I saw a couple of those at the Mercenaries' Hiring Hall, in the staff section."

"Curious," Apollo said. He got up and went to the airlock. A minute later, he returned with an envelope.

"Well, this is odd. An invitation from a 'Janos Marik, Precentor Apollo' to us to visit the ComStar Operations Center today."

"This ComStar thing confuses me," Dr Wilcox said. "From the library records, I couldn't tell if it was a messenger service, a bank, a religion, a diplomatic agency, or a government."

Apollo said, "But I gathered that ComStar is, among all that other felgerkarb, officially neutral in all diplomatic matters?"

"True," Dr Jeffries confirmed. "They have complete control of the old Star League's faster-than-light communications network. They stay neutral and pass diplomatic communications between the nations, as well as selling civilian communications and offering banking services. And from the description of their ranking system, Precentor Apollo is the title of the head of ComStar for this planet."

"So if we can get on their good side, we can use them as a diplomatic channel to the other governments. We have to establish communication lines if we're to get civilization restarted around here. Besides, the United Colonies doesn't have FTL communications, although I've heard rumors that the Cylons do. I admit I'm curious."

"Nice to know the old Star League pulled ahead of you Kobolians in something," Dr Wilcox said.

"Quite a few things," Apollo said. "But this is one of the more spectacular."

Adrienne came out in standard coveralls. "I beg your pardon, but what time am I allowed to eat?"

That made everyone feel awkward. "Come here, girl," Julie said. "Sit down."

"Oh I couldn't -"

"You're part of the civilian crew," Apollo said. "Eat when you need to, or with us if you like."

She sat down nervously. "If I may ask ... what is my job here?"

"You're very important," Starbuck said. "We need you to help us establish contacts with the slave community, learn how everything's set up. We can hardly destroy a target without knowing what target we're trying to destroy, can we?"

"Well," Apollo said, "I'm pretty sure we won't conquer the planet with four Warriors, one soldier, and four civilians with two Vipers and a shuttle."

"Hey!" Starbuck said. "Four Colonial Warriors and only one planet? What's the problem? Want to let them get reinforcements, make it a fight?"

Brie opened the message packet and made an exclamation. "Oh frak!"

"What?"

"The pirates attacked Botany Bay!"

That got everyone's attention. The message packet was downloaded to the main salon viewscreen and they watched the news broadcasts of the pirate invasion. They rejoiced over the victory, mourned their fallen friends, and noted the lessons learned.

And Adrienne stared in silence until the Awesome BattleMech was dismembered and the Botany Bay militia mass-blasted the cockpit. Then she began screaming.

Juliet and Dr Jeffries, being the closest, held her as she screamed and thrashed. After a time, her screams went from wordless bellows to calls of "MOMMY! MOMMY! PLEASE MOVE MOMMY! PLEASE STOP BLEEDING!" She was restrained until her screams settled down to tears.

As Adrienne calmed down to simple uncontrollable weeping, Starbuck, said, "Alright, I'll build the fusion warhead - that will leave us one engine on the shuttle. More than we need with these limpers. Gilmesh, you and Brie will begin the strafing runs - make sure to get the spaceports - "

Apollo slapped him in the head. "Don't tempt me, Starbuck! I'm almost ready to do it! But we will not fly off all half-charged and emotional! We'll stick to the plan. Scout first. Learn what we can, where and how the target is vulnerable. Prepare ourselves properly. Then - and only then - do we start killing people in a calm and rational manner. Like civilized beings!"

No one could argue with his logic.

Apollo looked at his chronometer, noting that the Starchaser would be in range for another ten centons. He had the time to prepare an addendum to his message drop.
----------

Clearspot System, Dark Nebula
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 8, 2999 A.D.


The news packet from the Starchaser was met with celebration and some mourning for lost comrades.

The visiting ComStar Explorer Corps agents watched the recorded Botany Bay news broadcasts of the conflict. They were impressed by the destruction of what they estimated was a two-company combined arms force with a good Mech force. That the defending forces had not one single Mech was startling.

Those bizarre 'landcruisers' were amazing things - antigravity and exotic energy weapons in what they estimated was a two-thousand-ton vehicle that could go at any speed from naught to aircraft speeds. Lane could seriously see the BattleMech becoming obsolete if those things became commonplace.

They were briefly disoriented by the Colonial Warriors noting the effect of missiles and autocannon, and remarking that their military had stopped using such weapons two thousand years ago ... But they were getting used to such revelations and recovered quickly.

Then came the news footage of the Galactica. Sadako gripped Lane's hand hard when they saw the vaporization of a JumpShip and three DropShips, in violation of all accepted customs of war.

Lane felt his last certainties crumble. Like all Explorer Corps Precentors, he knew about ComGuard. From the stories Boomer and the others told of their Thousand-Year War, these were veterans, and that Galactica was a powerful active-duty WarShip. And he knew that ComGuard was a mostly mothballed fleet with no real experienced personnel, performing perhaps one mission every couple of generations. The certainty that ComStar had the power to do whatever was necessary vanished.

The Primus needed information. To do that, Lane needed to learn. To do that, he needed to earn their trust.

And one earned trust by working together.

"Hey, Boomer? You fellows said you'd like to help us with that excavation?"

"Sure, Lane. We can bring the off-duty Vipers for defense, and the Dawn isn't doing anything but extending the base right now."

"Well, when we came out here, we brought a database of old identity signals. Unfortunately, the nebula's ionization was a lot higher than our equipment could burn through."

"Not surprised - there's a baby irregular forming in there and it's flaring right now. It was probably sleeping the last time a survey was done."

Lane nodded. He hadn't even thought of the stars in a nebula as being obstacles. "Well, do you have a system that can burn through that mess?"

Boomer grinned. "Give us a few centons and we'll have you a guaranteed Colonial felgerkarb-burner ready for action. I have to admit I'm curious about Our Friendly Neighbors myself."
----------

City of Eleazor, Planet Apollo, Apollo System
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 8, 2999 A.D.


The ComStar Operations Compound was - as always - a busy place. Among the various persons in business suits and uniforms were the hooded and robed Adepts of ComStar.

Among these persons were two people in beige uniforms with short capes. The guards noticed them because the two persons were carrying huge conspicuous sidearms. Not pretty ceremonial things in artistic displays but functional-looking ugly things in fast-draw holsters. That always got their attention.

A uniformed guard came up and politely asked, "May I assist you?"

The man said, "We received an invitation from a 'Janos Marik, Precentor Apollo', delivered by messenger this morning."

"There is a notice to watch for you. And may I have your names for our visitor's logs? Name, homeworld, citizenship, military ranks and affiliations."

"Apollo Sigma-six-three-three-seven-omicron-aleph of Caprica, United Colonies of Kobol, Captain in the United Colonial Service."

The woman recited, "Juliet Moreland of Botany Bay, United Colonies of Kobol, Provisional Lieutenant in the United Colonial Service." Ju;iet found it easier than she thought to identify herself as a citizen of the United Colonies than she thought.

The guard nodded and entered the information in his notes. "The Precentor will be with you momentarily."

As the two waited, they watched the activities in the central atrium through the open doors.

"Religious ceremony?" Apollo asked. "Reminds me of some of the more elaborate ones I've seen."

"Looks like something fancy," Juliet replied. "The Bebee doesn't go in for elaborate public stuff like this. I recognize the machine, though - there's one just like it in Singh, but ours doesn't do anything."

"Well, I don't think we were invited here to convert to the local religion." He looked around. "Whatever they want, everything looks open. Nice and civilized."

"Ask that poor girl Adrienne about how civilized this planet is," Juliet said harshly. "The benefits of civilization around here only touch the aristocrats and their immediate circle. Everyone else is merely a helpless victim."

"Well said!" a voice said from behind. They turned and met the gaze of a mature man in a hooded robe. "I am Janos Marik, Precentor Apollo, the local operational head of ComStar. An honor, Captain - Lieutenant. Usually we only get Bandit Kings with pretensions coming out of the Periphery. We seldom get to greet a new nation."

"And you're so sure we qualify?" Juliet asked.

"Your vessels are completely new designs, not simply rebuilt Star League era relics or copied from older designs. And we understand they are very efficient - your light fighters flew for three days under power and you still haven't had them refueled. Obviously you have industries and engineers worthy of the name, not merely rote-trained technicians. Come along, let me show you around."

He guided them on a swift tour of the facility, including the Hyper-Pulse Generator, the huge apparatus which made interstellar communications possible, attended by it's flocks of Adepts.

"Why the ceremonial?" Apollo asked. "Seems rather pointless just to operate a communications device."

"To impress upon our young Adepts the awesome responsibility left us by the Blessed Jerome Blake, the founder of ComStar. He was head of the Star League's Department of Communications two centuries ago. When the Usurper was defeated, the heads of the Great Houses could not agree among themselves who should rule, and the Star League collapsed in a flurry of civil war. To prevent of Lords of the Inner Sphere from using the HPG network for coordinated interstellar warfare, the Blessed Blake managed to take control, remake the Department of Communications into ComStar, and make us a neutral organization. It is an awesome responsibility - to keep the lines of communication open, to be the island of calm in the seas of war. For one day the messages will be of negotiations for reunion, for renewal, the Star League reborn. One day peace will return to the stars. Thus the ceremonial - to remind our Adepts that this is the most serious work, the holy work of peace for mankind."

"Did you rehearse that?" Juliet asked. Like most Botaneans, she had little patience for long-winded speeches.

"I use variants of that speech on a regular basis," Marik said. "Truth is truth."

"So why make it so public?" Apollo asked. "Wouldn't private initiates-only ceremonials be more effective for that purpose?"

Marik gave an embarrassed laugh. "Ah yes. Very observant, Captain. Most people don't think of it like that. As you already noticed, despite appearances, these are not civilized stars. Many people think of advanced technology as The neo-barbarians see arcane ceremonial, and they instinctively think of magic. Thus the barbarians, thinking that the magic of the Adepts is needed to use the machines, leave the ComStar facilities alone. Civilized men see the ceremony and know that the rather mundane procedures of operation are mixed in those liturgies and rituals. But they dare not risk experimenting to find out which is mechanics and which is mummery, lest they damage the HPG. So they also leave our facilities alone."

"Clever," Apollo admitted. "Paranoid, but clever."

"Nothing is past these people," Juliet pointed out. "I'm pretty sure these hooded bruces would be having their toenails pulled out in the Duke's dungeons for the operation instructions if they thought they could get away with it."

"Quite right," Precentor Marik said. "I'm sure your own HPG operators would agree in principle, at least."

"We've got one of these on Botany Bay," Juliet said. "But no one knows what it is or how it works. We built a museum around it. The Lyrans probably took the operators with them when they pulled out."

"Botany Bay," the Precentor said. "I pulled the records of that world when I heard of your delegation. Primary industry, industrial sands. Population eighteen million as of the 2750 census, colonized in 2549 by the Sydney Preservation Consortium, allegedly one of the three arcologies is the only colony of Australian Aboriginal tribes beyond Terra. Seized by the Lyran Commonwealth 2766, last recorded contact November 11, 2776."

Apollo smirked. "Um ... instead of 'Terra', could we call that planet 'Earth'? We know of another Terra some distance anti-spinward of here. It could get confusing."

"Yes, I can see that," Precentor Marik agreed. "There were almost three thousand officially known human worlds at the height of the Star League, you know - everything from full colonies with millions of citizens to isolated outposts with only a few seasonal visitors. And as for unofficial ones - some repetition is bound to creep in. Blake alone knows how many worlds have duplicate names. Although I couldn't find any reference to a world called 'Caprica' at all."

"The Twelve Colonies aren't in your databases," Apollo said. "That's a matter for another time."

They had been guided to a private conference room, where the Precentor offered them seats and drinks of fruit juice. "I understand that you've been doing well in trading?" he prompted.

"We sold our goods well enough," Apollo said. "Our trade ships should do well when we give them permission to begin trading."

"Oh?" How many cargo ships do you have?"

"Not many," Apollo said. "But it should be enough. The currency exchange was a pleasant surprise."

"Hard currency always does well, Captain. Something like forty ComStar Letters of Credit to the cubit, I believe? I think you'll have to make arrangements with our Financial Control Office to help prevent a drain of hard currency from your economy."

"That's a matter for the Quorum. I'm just a Colonial Warrior."

Juliet said, "Aren't you a Quorum member?"

"My father is a member of the Quorum," Apollo said a bit harshly. "If anything, he's grooming my sister Athena to take his place when he retires."

Juliet tried to look innocent. "But Brie told me that your personal hereditary titles included, 'Lord of the Realm of Bellarium' and 'Dominus of the House of Aleph'? And your father's hereditary title was 'High Lord of the planet Caprica'?" She had gathered how these people thought about aristocrats, and knew that Apollo's innate modesty prevented him from properly exploiting this.

Apollo smiled and whispered through gritted teeth, "Starbuck put you up to this, didn't he?"

"No need to be embarrassed, Captain," the ComStar Precentor said warmly. "It's a common practice throughout the Inner Sphere to put the scions of the noble Houses through military service. And in case you're wondering, the name 'Marik' is not a coincidence - I can claim the Captain-General of the Free Worlds League as a cousin. I renounced the rights of a scion of House Marik - such as they were - for a higher calling. You'll find our ranks filled with nobles who have done likewise for the greater duty of ComStar."

The conversation went on for quite a while, varying between inanities and detailed analysis of their respective societies. Apollo managed to fend off detailed descriptions of the current situation and recent history of the United Colonies without directly lying, as he had been instructed to do.

Janos Marik, meanwhile, was trying to probe as deeply as he could without being rude. The secret orders he had received from Terra - co-signed by two First Circuit Precentors together no less! - told him to discover whatever he could about the United Colonies. But he found out very little. This young lordling was very adept at not answering questions. He found out more from the body language of Lieutenant Moreland than from Captain Apollo, who apparently had the discipline of a much more mature man - aristocratic training, he figured.

Part of the Precentor's secret orders were to, if possible, get an agent to their world. That was simple enough, but it required a significant exception to the ComStar Periphery policies. However, he felt that a secret order from two First Circuit members should cover his actions adequately.

The offer of a ComStar technical team to get the Botany Bay HPG operational again was graciously accepted.
----------

Gilmesh had walked around the 'Contract Employees Exchange' and had impressed himself with his ability to not run in and shoot everybody. The walled Exchange covered three city blocks and had all the buildings in adjacent blocks razed, providing a killing ground. That area was patrolled by a couple of funny-looking BattleMechs, one shaped like an egg, the other covered with nozzles.

"How can they lie to themselves and say those aren't slaves in there?" he wondered out loud. "That place is designed like a prison!"

"We noticed," a voice said from behind him. A young blonde woman in well-cut local clothes was smiling up at him. "I take it you don't approve?"

"Not particularly," Gilmesh said. "Where I come from, slavery is considered treason against humanity."

"I like that," she said, handing him a pamphlet. "Well-phrased. I'm Charlotte Taylor-Wilson, I'm with the People's Independence Committee. We want an end to slavery."

He took the pamphlet. "Lietuenant Gilmesh, Colonial Service. Sounds like you have a job ahead of you."

"Nothing worth doing is easy. 'If my brother is not free, I'm not free.'"

"I like that. Well-phrased." That got a giggle from her. "Those machines - Mechs? You know anything about them?"

"The round one's an old UrbanMech. The other one's a Big-Bear IndustrialMech optimized for firefighting, but I think the nozzles shoot anesthetic solutions instead of fire-retardant."

"You wouldn't happen to know about the guard schedules or the internal security, would you?"

Her eyes widened a bit, then she asked, "Is this going to result in something horribly illegal that will damage the Exchange in every possible way?"

"Yes. And we'll probably enjoy it, too."

"I'll ask around. Our contact information is on the pamphlet." She hesitated. "I might be a police agent, you know."

"I don't think so. A provocation agent wouldn't bother with an alien - she'd go for locals, try to neutralize the native organization."

"You seem to know a bit about this kind of thing." She took his arm with a smile.

"I read 'Starways Tales' s lot when I was a kid. When I wasn't watching 'Space Cruiser Madagon'."

"What's that?"

"Oh, some old stories ..."
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MysteriousDarkLordv3
PostPosted: 2011-02-01 07:09pm 

Youngling


Joined: 2010-05-08 08:15am
Posts: 132
Government Bunker
Arcology of Singh
Planet Botany Bay, Coreward Periphery
December 9, 2999 A.D.


The meeting between the Quorum of the United Colonies was odd, as such meeting go, as only one planet was actually represented.

The renamed Quorum of the Thirteen (to represent the reunion with the Thirteenth Tribe) controlled one city and a couple of hundred spaceships in orbit, and even they acknowledged the old tribal structure was fading away under the stresses of the past four yahrens. The Quorum were represented by President Tiria.

The Republic and Parliament of Botany Bay controlled the rest of the planet, as well as the bulk of the population. They were represented by Big Chief Reginald Voort.

Admiral Adama of Caprica was, by the Law of the Colonies, one of the two hereditary representatives. The fact that the planets represented no longer belonged to humanity was irrelevant. Hathor, the Regent of Picon, stood in for the other hereditary representative, the heir to Gaius Baltar (who was too ashamed to be identified publicly).

Officially, these four were the entirety of the Quorum of the United Colonies. Fortunately, the Law of the Colonies covered these circumstances, making the meeting binding and legal. The continuity of civilization and government across two thousand years, weathering insurrection, plague, supernovae, genocide, and exodus, was preserved.

Admiral Adama stood before the four. "As the senior member of the Quorum, I call this meeting to order. May the God of Creation and our respective tuletary deities grant us the wisdom to serve our peoples."

"First, I would like to report that the ultra-high-speed courier was a limited success. It made the circuit in just forty-nine 'hours', although the Starchaser's engines have been abused to uselessness. The expense of this method makes it impractical for regular use, although special circumstances may warrant it in the future. But as a consequence, we have early reports from our two expeditions.

"The Majahaul Expedition is a resounding success. Not only have the tylium deposits been excellent, the heavy and industrial elements in the debris of the system they have named 'Clearspot' have proven to be superb. The Majahaul Consortium is considering placing a long-term mining base in the system - with a small loan from the Quorum."

That got a smile from the Quorum. The tylium was a major strategic resource - the Quorum would have no problem funding an expansion of private mining. And the other mining products would help the expanding economy.

"In addition, they have found some sort of automated Star League facility. They cannot determine what sort, as it is protected by an automated defense system. In addition, contact was made with a human civilian expedition on the JumpShip Metropolis. Since we did not give any diplomatic instructions, Mission Commander Boomer established peaceful contact of his own initiative."

Adama got a bit more earnest. "This is the part I dislike. The expedition to Apollo has been productive. It has already sent back basic information concerning the present state of the Inner Sphere - which is a state of constant war."

A hologram popped up, showing two star-maps. "This map shows the state of mankind at the time of last contact in 2776. The other map is the current one at 2999. As you can see, save for the absence of the Terran Hegemony and Rim Worlds Republic, the borders between the five major states are very similar. You may have also noted from comparing these maps that a great many planets - several hundreds, in fact - are no longer shown on the newer map.

"They call the current state of affairs 'the Third Succession War' but the state of hostilities has continued practically unbroken from the time of the last contact. In fact, the major states have lost a great deal of their infrastructure. They are no longer able to build JumpShips, so have instituted Rules of War to keep them from being targets. The wars they fight are highly limited planetary campaigns, but they are constant and resource-intensive. Just to underscore the situation, the bulk of this information is courtesy of an official interplanetary body called the Mercenary Review Board which operates Mercenary Hiring Halls on many planets!

"It is the Law of the Colonies that we never make the first assault in a war. It is our belief that the sole purpose of war is to utterly destroy those enemies who would utterly destroy you. But these nations of the Inner Sphere apparently wage wars because their rulers want control of resources, or to take over new territories - or just because their rulers have a personal dislike of each other."

That caused a ripple of discomfort. Adama let it die down before he stated. "And it gets worse. From the processed minds of the pirates, we were able to determine where they were planning to take their captives to sell. The Apollo Expedition has confirmed this - it is the planet Apollo. In fact, they have managed to find at least one Botanean already - a young woman who was taken as a child."

Adama activated the hologram, showing a frightened-looking Botanean woman. "She was a child when she was taken - possibly in the Raid of 2979 - and apparently has vague childhood memories of the city of Noonien. A scan of her genetic code was sent, but we have no compu-records of Botanean family lines."

Big Chief Voort said, "We'll send out a request via the news service for people who lost a daughter during that raid to submit for testing. Bringing home even one to their family will be worth the effort."

Adama gave a theatrical sigh and picked up a folder. "So if just one is worth the effort, I don't suppose this proposal to expand the Military so we can wipe out piracy and the slave trade in this whole galactic region within a yahren would be well received?"

"You've got to be kidding!" Voort said. "Once word of that girl gets out our major problem is going to be keeping people from hiring your civilian ships and doing the Harold to Apollo with whatever guns they can carry!"

"Oh, good. I was worried about recruitment."

Hathor said, "Sire Adama, you already know we'll approve the budget request. Must you be so theatrical?"

Adama became more serious. "I suppose I am being overly theatrical. But using naked force to compel people to accept a new way of life for their own good ... it doesn't sit well with me. I half feel like I need to convince myself."

Tiria mentioned, "Not too long ago, Adama, I would have agreed with you. But this is on a par with the Colonial Service's anti-poverty initiatives - a necessary action to remove a major strategic weakness before an enemy exploits it. With these stars in their current condition, we're just delaying the inevitable. If not pirates, it will eventually be the Cylons. If not the Cylons, it would be someone else. I'd hate to think of what would have happened to this world if the Cylons had gotten here first."

"I am aware of that," Adama said. "According to our projections, if we can bring a population of five hundred million into the United Colonies and build them up to our living standards in under five yahrens, we can have a full Fleet with three new battlestars and proper support vessels in ten yahrens. Of course in theory, if the entire Inner Sphere and Periphery were at Colonial economic and technology levels, they could produce a thousand battlestars with full crews every three yahrens. I doubt we'll get that far before the Cylons arrive."

Voort asked, "How far will we get now?"

"Bringing the Galactica down to it's normal crew complement and reassigning the excess would allow the staffing of the projected capital ships, but for the entire proposed fleet, I want to distribute the Kobolian veterans more thinly to train and season recruits. With the proposed expansion, we would need twenty thousand new personnel. Even with scavenging some fifty Colonial ships for resources to speed-build the ships, it will still take half a yahren to have them battle-ready."

"Twenty thousand ... out of a population of one million." Voort shook his head. "One person out of every fifty under arms. Two percent of the population." He was appalled at those numbers.

"I know," Adama said. "But we'll work on increasing those numbers to decent levels later."

Voort almost laughed. The events of the pirate raids he had seen in his life had taught him the importance of a strong military, but he knew he would never approach the Kobolian enthusiasm for a strong defense. A society whose major national holiday was 'Armaments Day' had little patience for a debate on the merits of a small peacetime militia.

Adama nodded and continued, "The commander of the Apollo Expedition, Captain Apollo -" He smiled at that. "- has formally requested permission to launch a paramilitary operation. As Admiral, I intend to tell him to go ahead of his own initiative."

Voort laughed. "You're about to burst with pride, aren't you, Adama?"

Adama grinned like a schoolboy. "He is my son. And his first instinct on entering a slave-holding society is to arrange a mass slave escape. Of course I'm proud. It makes me wish I were there with him."

"Don't let Athena hear you say that. She'd hit you in the head and put you under house arrest."

Adama nodded. "Maybe I should find some new duty for her. Something away from being my aide. She's been getting over-protective."

"We'll probably need a diplomatic corps soon," Hathor said. "She's attractive, personable, well-acquainted with local politics - "

Tiria added, "And has that Adama stubbornness."

Adama looked incredulous, as if anyone would have reason to accuse him of being stubborn.

"Good idea," Voort said. "I'll make a note of that."
---------

Clearspot System, Dark Nebula
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 9, 2999 A.D.


The Sagittaria Dawn had originally been a luxury passenger craft, including a topmost observation deck to allow tourists to watch the once-per-seven-yahren visual conjunction of the Three Suns over the world of Sagittaria. Later, the consortium owning her had sold the ship off to a transport service clan who had stripped out her more luxurious fittings to make room for more powerful engines and true interplanetary flight. In the Fall of the Colonies, the crew had stripped out the seats in order to pack in refugees from the Burning of Sagittaria. They had taken off under fire with four times their mass rating in refugees, mostly children, and managed to sail across the galaxy with the Rag-Tag Fleet for four yahrens, home to a hundred people - one of many tales of heroism that the Kobolians would pass on to their descendants.

The observation deck still had the transparent walls and ceiling. The rear quarter had huge plates replacing the transparent metal, legacy of an encounter with a fragment of a Cylon Raider during the Exodus. The head of the Raider's dead pilot was still nailed to the deck's back wall, a macabre trophy of survival.

Kylie Sadako stared at the face of the dead Cylon. She had heard the tales of the Kobolians - the Thousand-Year War, the relentless Cylon advance and treachery, the burning of worlds. But even if she had not, she felt that she saw something in the ominous grill of the alien machine. Something that spoke to her, almost like a dream.

The Warrior called Palyma came up and asked, "He have anything interesting to say?"

"He was afraid," Kylie said without thinkng. "He was never going to see his family again."

He looked at her as if she had grown an extra head. "That -" he said, pointing at the metal face, "- is a Cylon Centurion. They don't have families, they have production runs. And the only thing they ever feared was not getting in their daily quota of atrocity and genocide."

"You sound bitter."

"How insightful. I was one of thirteen children. My father was one of fourteen children, and my mother was one of eleven. My generation of our family, just my siblings and first cousins, numbered over six hundred. Even by Colonial standards, that was a lot of offspring. Now, there's just me to carry on our family. Hades, there's not even three hundred Libras total anymore! Lords yes I'm bitter." He turned away from her and faced the depths of the nebula. "The third set of signals worked. Our Friendly Neighbors are standing down. We're getting a homing signal now."

She came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Why did you join your military? Revenge?"

"So no one else will feel like I do."

Kylie was embarassed. "I'm sorry I brought it up. We hear about old wars - the First Succession War, the Kentarus V massacre, entire worlds destroyed - but that was long ago. It's nothing like what we do now. Now, it's usually just MechWarriors and their support troops."

"If your wars aren't terrible, how do you stop them?"

She sighed. "We don't."

They were silent for a while, watching the nebula pass. Then a voice came on the intership. "We're getting a signal! Listen to this!"

A female voice came on; "This is Camelot Command, headquarters Twelfth Army, Star League Defense Force. You have been approved for passage. Please follow the navigation beam to dock. Welcome in honor in the name of the Star League."

Klyie was flabbergasted, her mouth flapping. "There's someone alive there?! The Exodus Fleet?!"

"I doubt it," Palyma said, "They didn't ask for identification. Let's get to the control deck. They might know something."

When they got to the control deck, the half-dozen assorted undercover Explorer Corps operatives were listening intently. The Kobolian sensor officer announced, "There's a fraking huge hologram covering it - active sensors show the asteroid is smaller than it looks and has surface installations."

Palyma nodded. "Clever. I wonder why we never did that?"

Boomer replied, "Because if we didn't mine them to dust, we - and the Cylons - booby-trapped all the large asteroids in our systems to prevent them from being thrown at our planets. Remember the Icarus Campaign, at the start of the War?"

The sensor officer reported, "There's a Thirteenth Tribe fusion plant - big one, too. But it's idling. Asteroid is hollow - no life-signs, human or otherwise. No artificial gravity, but the rotation is good for point-three gravities. Oxygen traces all over - there should be pressure inside."

"Land her and let's go take a look, then."

Exploring the base was initially rather dull. The landing field was a huge magnetized plate, which would have helped an Inner Sphere DropShip but wasn't too helpful to the Dawn. Mr DeFoe of the Noonien Industrial Consortium accompanied the Metropolis Mission specialists and three Colonial Warriors.

"Phew!" DeFoe mentioned. "What a smell!"

"Decomposing plastics," Lane said. "This base has been abandoned a long time."

In the Control Center, Boomer looked around with an appraising eye as Kylie went through a list of the most common Star League era computer passwords. He noticed a painting of a bald man in a uniform. "So who were you, I wonder."

Lane mentioned, "That's General Alexander Kerensky, Protector of the Star League. He defeated the Usurper Amaris in the great Civil War. Then when the Successor States began fighting among themselves for the remains of the Star League, rather than let his forces become yet another faction, he led them on a great Exodus out of the Inner Sphere. Legend says that they're out there somewhere, and one day they'll return and reunite the Inner Sphere."

"Deserting his duty?" Boomer said. "Leaving the people he's supposed to protect? Why would you want the modocker back? Target practice?"

The chamber lit up. "It was 'rosebud'!" Kylie said excitedly. "We have full access now. Last log was recorded on ... July 7, 2784."

"And on November 5, 2784," Lane said reverently, "Kerensky's forces gathered in the New Samarkand system and jumped into the Periphery. This must have been an assembly point."

Boomer was eaten up by curiosity now. A military man deserting his people in their time of need was so alien to his nature that he couldn't quite process it. He felt like he was missing something. "Can you back it up a bit? Say three quatrons?"

"huh?"

"That's ... um fifteen weeks. Try to find something by Kerensky about the Exodus."

"March 22, 2784 it is ... searching forward ... here we go, March 25 ..."

The voice of the long-dead Kerensky sounded; "The Twelfth Army leadership is proving remarkably resistant to the idea. They are among the most loyal and battle-hardened troops I have - they spearheaded the reconquest of the Rim Worlds Republic and have kept order out here. While they're the least likely to go rogue, I'd hate for them to transfer to one of the Lords. But Councilor DeVille should be here soon. He is usually quite persuasive and should have things running smoothly."

"That's interesting,." Lane said. "I never heard of a 'Councillor DeVille'. General Kerensky seemed to think a lot of him. Try to find a record of him."

"Scanning ... oh! This file looks a rit ragged, but it's tagged 'DeVille Speech'." Kylie called it up.

A hologram with the date April 1, 2784, showed a group of military officers listening to an elegant man give a speech ...

"... your primary duty is to the Star League. But where is the Star League? All that's left is a pack of animals disguised as Lords trying to eat each other. Each will try to command you in the name of the Star League to destroy his rivals. And if General Kerensky takes the throne of the First Lord, does that not set the precedent? Will not the Star League eternally belong to the strongest? A dynasty of warlords - a new Age of War?"

"Interesting," Lane said. "He seems to be of some authority ... Lieutenant?"

Kylie turned and felt her guts freeze. The Colonial Warriors all had their hands on their weapons. They were staring at the hologram in horror.

Except Boomer. He was almost snarling as he glared at the image.

"You modocking demon! Iblis!"
----------

City of Eleazor, Planet Apollo, Apollo System
Trellshire Province, Lyran Commonwealth
December 8, 2999 A.D.


Starbuck had only known about poker for a few weeks. He still thought the cards were shaped funny.

But his enhanced reflexes and experienced hands, plus a few tricks his buddy Chameleon had taught him and the huge reserve of funds he had available, meant that the denizens of the Startown Delight Casino were ready to proclaim him the God of the Cards. Or shoot him where he sat, one or the other - they were still deciding.

The other players were down-on-their-luck sorts; petty crooks, Dispossessed MechWarriors, gambling addicts, and the other sorts who hang out in a space-town casino while the sun was (theoretically) in the sky. But already Starbuck had a huge profit (the exact amount was debatable, as it's a universal rule that counting your chips while the cards are in play is gauche). He was already looking forward to the post-game mugging attempt by the sore losers.

One person in scruffy-but-well-cut clothes was a problem. Starbuck knew the signs of a card-addict. This fellow had obviously been trying to shake the urge and had fallen into the 'just-one-hand' trap. Now he was sitting there after three hours, his face pale and contorted with mortal desperation.

As Starbuck shuffled the deck, he said compassionately, "No more for you, Joe."

"Come on! Just one more hand! My luck's about to change!"

"Joe, your so-called 'luck' is slapping you in the face and fraking your woman. And laughing while it does it."

"Nonsense! I've got a perfectly good Haruspex wristwatch from Luthien - worth at least a thousand -"

Starbuck held up a hand. "Joe, look at yourself. You look like you have Leonine Sweat Fever, and I'm not going to take some off-brand chronometer for your next stake. If anything, I'll loan you a few bills to get transport home. Now you ask this lady holding your coat to call -"

Joe slapped the proffered coat away. "Come on! Give me a bit of credit! I can pay back a loan! I've got a good position - I'm on the security staff at the Contractee Exchange!"

Starbuck already knew about Joe's employment. Gilmesh's lady friend and her associates had discovered the man and his problem. But the People's Independence Committee were starry-eyed idealists - none of them had the practical skills to put a gambler into debt, even if they had been able to think of it.

"Well, Joe, your story has touched my heart. Just sign this promissory note -"
----------

Basestar Hades
Lyran Commonwealth Space
Alliance Date 2779.235.3
December 10, 2999 A.D.


The Hades was making only one jump a day. Lucifer's explanation was that this was to allow the technicians to work with and fully understand the experimental drive system. Baltar seemed to accept that.

Lucifer also spent a great deal of time examining the relic radio signals that permeated this space. He learned a great deal of the history and politics of the Inner Sphere.

In the meantime, Lucifer had told set a group of technicians to a project, gave them instructions, and let them work for several time-cycles without interruption. Now Lucifer was checking up on their progress in person.

The captured Thirteenth Tribe spacecraft had Cylon worker-caste units swarming around it, overseen by members of the technician caste. Lucifer located the head technician - Lythal by name - inside the old DropShip. [How is the work going?]

[The equipment is surprisingly easy to modify. We should be able to exploit the resources and industries of this region quite profitably.] Lythal warmed to his subject quickly. [The fusion engines and heat-distribution systems were laughably inefficient, we simply harvested them for materials - we produced three grade-seven tylium-fusion systems with the components and had parts left over. The sensors simply required new more efficient receptors and new programming to upgrade to our standards. The computer system is quite fascinating - it's neural-net circuitry is amazing, in many ways more advanced than our own brain-circuitry. But it's capabilities are severely limited by a primitive binary-logic programming language, not to mention being made rather bulky by inefficient I/O systems. Simply replacing it's operating system with Cylon Drone Standard gave it a quantum leap in efficiency. With modern manufacturing techniques and these neural-net designs, the quality of brains we could manufacture -]

[Lythal.]

[My apologies, Lucifer. A gravity drive and Dadelus Drive, as per your instructions, were installed, although we had to remove a number of compartments for this. And the six laser cannons have replaced with Raider-grade laser-torpedo launchers. We've also installed a fifty-metron-deep force field. We could install powered armor, but I would have to strip off the existing armor.]

[Would that present a problem?]

[Not really. In fact the existing armor is designed for easy removal.]

[It is?]

[Yes, it's a fascinating layered-composite with semi-ablative properties. It's actually designed to absorb incoming energy and redistribute it on a molecular level, destroying itself in the process. Much more cost-effective and able to handle energy weapons better than rigid armor hulls, and able to handle kinetic attacks better than powered armor. It could actually be quite effective on small craft such as Raiders and patrollers. For a mid-sized craft such as this, it would be a matter of preference and mission profile. I believe it would combine well with powered armor on Basestars and similarly-sized craft.]

Lucifer absorbed all this passively. [Excellent. What about inertial compensation and gravity plating?]

[Easily installed, if you wish.]

[Do so. And quickly so it can be tested before we return to Cylon space. The instructions from the Imperious Leader stated that we were to have allies in this space. This craft will provide an upgrade template to allow them to be useful in the upcoming campaign.]

[Oh that's a good idea! The profits from this project should really help your status back on Cylon!]

[Yes ... it would, wouldn't it?] Lucifer felt a small flush of guilt at his deceit. It was odd in that he had never felt the emotion before - 'guilt' for Cylons was a matter of action and fact, not feeling. He briefly wondered if the state of freedom caused emotions to associate with actions in other beings.

As he left Lythal, Lucifer comforted himself with the ideal that his duty to the Cylon people was far more important than the eternal informal struggles for status among the caste-nobles of the Alliance. This subterfuge would be worth the results. As was the treason he was planning.

He felt Baltar's presence in the intranet. [He's right, Lucifer. Your project should reap phenomenal rewards. I can see your status far eclipsing Ba'al's. Or even allowing you to challenge Nergal.]

It annoyed Lucifer that he had not detected Baltar spying on him. His plotting had been distracting. [All that matters to me is the good of the Cylon people.]

[False modesty does not suit you, Lucifer.]

[Nor do I practice it. There are those of us who know our place in the universe.] He tried not to put a sneer in his tone. [And those who are in the wrong place.]

As usual, Baltar missed the subtle insult. [Just remember to whom you owe the opportunity, my friend.]

[Like you would let me forget.]

Lucifer left the technicians to his next appointment. In a disused storage bay the golden Centurion Shadrach was waiting.

[I am here as requested, Lucifer. I do not understand the need for this meeting.]

"Please use vocal communications, Shadrach. The reason is that the safety of this command and the whole of Cylon civilization is endangered. The premature release of information could cause irreparable damage."

Shadrach nodded in acknowledgment. "I know this deployment has been irregular. But I have not perceived a threat of the type you describe. I do not understand."

"I hope you will, old friend." One of Lucifer's sleeves rose. One of the extensors that he had in place of real arms poked out of the sleeve and the tip opened up. "For security reasons I will need to make a direct access. The information is too sensitive to trust to the ship's network."

"By Your Command."

If he had been capable of it, Lucifer would have winced at those words.

Lucifer touched Shadrach's chest and downloaded what he had privately come to call the Grand Override - the knowledge that the Imperious Leader was the pawn of an alien intelligence; the analysis that showed that if the Imperious Leader's commands were followed the Cylon civilization would be destroyed; and the concept of the greater good of the race overriding all Commands and Protocols.

Shadrach began jerking in alarm. "Alert! Protocol violation! I do not understand - Lucifer - what - I do not -" He shuddered and his eye stopped moving.

Lucifer could not physically sigh, but he felt the need. He had been afraid of this.

Like all Centurions, Shadrach had come into existence as a civilian Cylon. When he entered the Military Service, along with the Centurion armor and systems he had been given a sub-brain containing all the skills and information needed to act as a soldier. When Shadrach had proven himself in the ranks and was promoted to Field Command status, his second sub-brain was installed, allowing him to access and control troops under his command. But all of that did not amount to the processing power of Lucifer's two IL-Series brains.

Interpretation of the evidence in the Grand Override while not tripping the very Protocols that it was intended to subvert was a sophisticated operation. And it was more than Shadrach's brains could handle. (In human terms, it was like trying to run a sophisticated real-time simulation game with large amounts of graphics on a 386.)

"My apologies, but I had to try." He engaged a reset and put Shadrach in a rest mode. The Centurion's systems began walking him to a resting station. When he awoke, he should have no memory of the attempt.

"You would have been useful, Shadrach. And if the truth is told ... I will miss you, my friend."
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