[nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

The cell for Meridina was an open air cell that used a chain-link fence structure around it in a cube. Armed guards were posted around when they arrived. Robert watched passively as the Marines escorted Meridina into the cube. Her shackles were linked to the ground. A bedroll was beside them as the only concession to bedding. "If she has to use the bathroom...?", he asked in a low voice.

"We'll provide her the means," Adama answered. "But she's not leaving this cell until her trial."

"So even with me as a hostage, you still don't trust her to not try and escape?"

"I think it's better to prevent temptation."

Robert looked at him. There was something in his voice that made him think Adama wasn't just talking about Meridina being tempted. "I suppose. So, this trial... how will it go?"

"On Galactica. Lee is looking for a defense lawyer for her now."

"Lieutenant Borja can assist."

"You can discuss that with the attorney."

Robert nodded. "Can I speak with her very quickly?"

"Yes. But not inside the cell."

Robert nodded. He got the feeling that Adama wasn't being paranoid about them so much as making sure others couldn't be. He stepped up to the cell door. Meridina had assumed a sitting position and closed her eyes. "Are you uncomfortable?", he asked.

"I am fine," Meridina answered. "This is quite satisfactory given my current situation. Thank you, Admiral Adama, for your courtesy."

Robert didn't look back to see Adama nod silently. "Listen, we'll find a way out of this. I'll smooth things over with Roslin and give her compensation, something to get her to stop this."

"If you think you can." Meridina took in a breath. "Whatever happens, I am at peace with it. My swevyra is settled."

There was nothing more Robert could say at that point. He stepped away and walked back to Adama. "I'm ready to go to my quarters."

"This way," Adama said, gesturing toward the door.

"After we drop my things off, I want to see Roslin."

"The President is resting right now. I'll have Cottle inform you when she's able to talk."

"There has to be a way to smooth this over without this mess about a trial," Robert insisted. "We can make other concessions."

"It's not for me to decide, Captain." Adama shook his head. "You'd have to talk to Roslin or the Quorum about that."

Again, Robert got the feeling Adama was trying to tell him something. He filed that reference away for later and said nothing more as they walked on in the company of the Marines.

Angel was already fuming when she got to the medbay. Her mind was full of anger toward everything. Toward Robert for his damned "I'm responsible for everything" martyr complex. Toward Julia for that damned speech about the military or chain of command or what have you. Toward Meridina for causing this mess and the Colonials for being obstinate jackasses and...

She entered the medbay through the starboard entrance. The nurses looked at her and she saw one pale a little. Fear suddenly surged in to match her anger. Had something happened to Cat? Had those pagan bastards done something to her little...?!

"Angel, over here."

She looked to where Leo was standing at the entrance to the operating room in operating scrubs. "You're just in time," he said. "I was about to go in. Tom was shot."

Angel snarled. "Where is Cat? Did they hurt..."

Leo pointed to the next section. Angel tromped in. She started to hear a familiar sound. Caterina was sobbing.

She turned her head to the source of it and saw Cat sitting up in a bed, now wearing a blue medical gown. A nurse was standing beside her with a dermal regenerator applied to her face.

Her black and blue face, with blood seeping from her mouth, her split lip, and her nose. Her eyes were nearly swollen shut.

For the moment sheer worry overwhelmed the fury Angel felt. She ran over and gently hugged her crying sister. "I'm here Cat. It's okay, I'm here."

"Th-they k-kept hitting m-me," Cat sobbed. "They k-kick-ed me a-around. I... I-I d-don't kn-know why...."

Tears were coming down Angel's cheeks. "They can't hurt you anymore. They can't. It's okay." She tightened the embrace a little, letting Cat bury her face into Angel's shoulder.

"W-why? I-I was he-helping th-them..."

As Cat continued to sob, Angel put a hand into her dark hair and held her sister close. "They'll never touch you again," she hissed. Rage began to build inside of her. Pure, fiery rage. "Never again. I'll never let them." I'll kill them, I'll kill every last one that tries to hurt you!

Cat's only reply was to cry some more.

Adama was brief in checking on the defenses of the Fleet following the stand-down on both sides. He was due in the infirmary. When he arrived he found Roslin was awake again, looking as miserable as before. "Bill." Her voice was weak and strained. "What happened?"

Adama found a seat before speaking. "We made a mistake and it almost cost us."

"What do you mean? Did you get the Cylon back?"

"He wouldn't back down," Adama said. "I thought maybe he would. He was young, I thought I could get him to doubt what he was doing. But he wouldn't back down."

Roslin nodded gravely. "So we still have their officers?"

"We have two. The engineer on Pegasus sabotaged their shields, she and the other officer over there were transported out by their matter transporters."

Roslin showed no reaction to that. "What about here?"

"I exchanged them," Adama answered. "Commander Meridina offered herself as a prisoner in their stead and agreed to stand trial for taking the Cylon. Captain Dale is here as a hostage to her cooperation."

Roslin licked at her dry lips, prompting Adama to give her a cup of water. "A trial?"


"No." Roslin shook her head. "She would reveal the Cylon pregnancy in her defense. That's the very thing we've been trying to avoid. Everything in the Fleet would go insane if the news went public."

Adama wasn't surprised by the response, but he couldn't quite hide his disappointment. "What do you suggest?"

"I don't suggest anything, BIll. My order is simple. She's a Cylon sympathizer who undermined the security of the Colonies. And she represents an unacceptable security risk." Roslin sipped at the water again. "Throw her out of the nearest airlock."

"We could make it a closed trial," Adama suggested.

"And risk her defense leaking it anyway?" Roslin shook her head. "No, it has to be done this way." She looked at the expression on his face and narrowed her eyes. "I can see you're not in agreement."

"I think your illness may be interfering with your judgement, Madame President."

Her look turned frosty. "Well, Admiral, that isn't your call to make."

"If we did that, then we give up any hope of getting help from these people," Adama pointed out.

"If their help means being subjugated, then what good is it?" Roslin's breath grew raspy. "Have faith, Bill. I was right last time, remember? We don't need them. The Gods have been on our side so far."

Adama sighed. "I think you should sleep on this."

"I don't think it's necessary. The choice is clear." Roslin frowned. "We can't let news about that Cylon baby get out. Commander Meridina knew what she was getting into when she offered to surrender." Seeing he didn't look convinced. "The last time you fought me on something, Bill, it split the Fleet. Please don't do that again."

"Those were different circumstances," Adama replied. "The Alliance can change everything for us. I think you're being paranoid."

"Yet you followed my orders to stand up to them."

Adama's voice became a low growl. "And we nearly got destroyed because of it. You're asking me to sacrifice the security of the Fleet over your fear. I'm not going to spit on the hand Captain Dale's offering."

Roslin looked ready to continue to argue. But she halted. Her strength was clearly drained. "I suppose it doesn't matter," she said. "I'm going to die soon anyway. And you'll be following Baltar." She turned away in the bed. "I wash my hands of this, then. Just leave me to die."

"They might still be able to save you," Adama pointed out.

"I've made my peace with my death, Bill. And right now I'm just so tired I don't care anymore."

With nothing more to be said, Adama left the infirmary.

Even though he was officially the Vice President of the Colonies, Gaius Baltar still preferred to work out of his lab most times. Especially now, as he was going over his notes on the Cylon's baby and reviewing the samples he'd taken from the fetus.

"Distracted, Gaius?"

"Well, now I am," he mumbled. The Cylon in his head was hovering over his shoulder. "I'm still analyzing the child's cellular makeup. I'm trying to find something I can bring to Roslin. Something to get her to agree to the baby living. Then maybe the Cylon will be returned and I can..."

"Don't worry about the child," Six cooed. "She is safe where she is, right now. The important thing is how to deal with the Gersallian woman."

"Knowing Roslin..." Baltar stopped when he heard the door open. He looked up and saw Adama enter. "Ah, Admiral. I see we haven't been blown to pieces by our new friends yet. I take it the negotiations have gone well?"

"That's why I've come to you, Vice President." Adama clearly didn't like that either, not that Baltar quite cared. "President Roslin... is no longer capable of making reasonable decisions."

"Oh?" Baltar frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Captain Dale and his security chief replaced the two officers we had," Adama explained. "Commander Meridina has surrendered to our courts. Captain Dale is staying with us as a hostage to her behavior. They made the agreement on the belief that she would get a trial. President Roslin, in her condition, has ordered Commander Meridina's immediate execution."

"For once, I agree with Roslin," Head-Six said to Baltar.

Balter ignored her. "What? She... but if we did that, then..."

"...then we would alienate our best hope of survival, yes," Adama said. "Doctor, I would like to request that you go to the Quorum on the matter."

"Well, yes," Baltar said. "The President's suffering has ruined her mind, that much is clear." He nodded briskly and tried not to sweat. "I will call the Quorum immediately."

"When you do, I would like to ask that the Quorum take up the issue of Commander Meridina."

"In what way?"

"To negotiate her release in return for other concessions," Adama replied.

Baltar blinked. Behind him, he heard a hiss from the Cylon in his head. "You want to let her go?"

"I can't keep her a prisoner and Captain Dale a hostage for the time period of a full trial. And a trial would mean public exposure of the Cylon baby and provide the peace movement openings for sabotage."

"You can't let him, Gaius," Head-Six insisted. "She could tell them that you warned her about the child. She is a threat to you! She has to die!"

"Well, Admiral, I shall ask the Quorum about it, but surely a closed trial is a suitable alternative," Baltar remarked.

Adama looked at him intently for several sconds. "I'm not sure that's a good idea, Doctor," he answered in a low tone.

"It might be the best, though. People will talk if we let her go." Baltar fought to keep himself from flinching. "Perhaps a private trial by the Quorum? Just to determine if we can safely release her."

"I'll leave that to you." Adama turned toward the door. "Let me know as soon as you have an answer."

After Adama stepped out, Baltar looked back to the Cylon in his head. "You're awfully vicious today."

"I'm pointing out the obvious."

"Are you?", he asked skeptically. "If i didn't know better... I would think there was something more about this Meridina woman and her kind that has you on edge."

"Gaius, trust me. She is a threat to you." Head-Six drew close to him. "Do what you need to, but you need to make sure she dies."

There was something in the intensity in the being's eyes that worried Baltar. Actually it scared him. But he wasn't going to cause a fight he couldn't win either, not even for his own little Head-Cylon.

So he put his thoughts to the side and went to his lab phone. "Communications, patch me through to Cloud Nine," he said upon the comm specialist answering. "I need the Quorum on the Galactica immediately. It's about the President."

Robert found that the VIP quarters were smaller than the ones aboard Aurora. He quickly set up his belongings and took out the laptop-sized portable system that would let him communciate visually with the Aurora.

First the bridge popped up. Locarno was in the command chair. "Captain, is everything alright?"

"Yes." Robert shifted in his chair. "Where is Commander Andreys?"

"In the medbay. Doctor Gillam just brought Barnes out of surgery. He's going to be fine."

Robert sighed with relief. "Oh thank God." Tom's fine. "Can you patch me down there?"

"Transferring you now."

The screen blipped and changed to show the medbay from one of the interior walls. Leo and Julia were standing around a bed. Tom Barnes was asleep in it. "How is he?", Robert asked.

Julia and Leo turned. "He's going to be fine," Leo answered. "Nothing vital was hit and Cottle got to him in time to stop the bleeding."

"That's good to know."

"What's happened over there?," Julia asked.

"I'm under house arrest. Meridina is chained to the floor of a cube with a platoon of Marines ready to shoot her. All things considered..." Robert sighed with resignation. "This is about the best outcome we could have hoped for. How are Lucy and Cat?"

The look on their faces told Robert he'd just asked a question they didn't want to answer. Leo reached over to the controls off-screen and tapped them. The image shifted to a different bed in the medbay. Angel was still in uniform, sitting beside her younger sister and comforting her.

Robert looked at Caterina's face and couldn't stop the gasp from coming out. "My God... Cat? Cat, are you...."

"She's not okay," Angel hissed, embracing her trembling little sister. "She looked worse when we got her back." Angel's eyes burned with a rage Robert rarely saw from her and knew to be nasty. "This is what those bastards did to her, Robert. They beat my little sister! For nothing! For the sheer joy of it! And you still want to work with them...!"

Robert found his own anger was starting to rise. "I'll handle it Angel."

"It's not going to be enough, they'll..."

"I said I'll handle it!," Robert shouted in irritation, causing her to go quiet, still visibly fuming. "I'll talk to Adama and..."

He heard footsteps and turned to see Adama was standing at the threshold of the VIP quarters. "Yes, Captain?", he asked.

Robert knew he had an angry look on his face. He didn't care. He pulled to the side and allowed the image to show Caterina. She looked away from the camera, but the bruising and wounds on her face were still visible. Angel looked into the camera with a glare that by all rights should have killed. Robert pointed a finger accusingly at the screen. "It's not enough you took my people into custody when they were trying to help you instead of pursuing a more diplomatic action. Or that one of your Marines got trigger happy and shot my officer, my friend. Your people are so out of Goddamned control that they did this to one of my people! Not just anyone, but Cat, and she..." Robert lost his words at that point. The idea that someone would want to savagely beat Cat of all people. Sweet, inoffensive, geeky Cat?

Just what the hell is wrong with these people?!

Adama looked at the screen pointedly for a moment. Robert reached over and cut the transmission. "I'll have it investigated," Adama answered.

Robert shouted, "That's not good enough!"

Adama met his expression coldly. "It's the best you're getting. This is for the Fleet to deal with."

"You people..." Robert sank into a seat. "My God, Cat. She must have been terrified." He looked up at Adama. Had he been calmer, he might have recognized that the old man's look wasn't stern defiance, but constrained shame. But all he could think of was Caterina being beaten. "We just wanted to help. That's all we want. To help. And you... look at you, seriously, look at how you are! Ordering the abortion of a baby because you find her existence inconvenient, hurting the people who came over to give you the means to protect yourselves! All for what?!"

"What about your side?", Adama asked. "Your security chief bluntly violated all of the trust we showed you. She didn't try to appeal the decision. She didn't come to us and offer to take the child. She took our prisoner by force."

"Oh, you really think Roslin would have handed Sharon's baby over if we asked nicely?", Robert guffawed. "Don't even try that. We both know she wouldn't have cared."

"That doesn't justify betraying our trust," Adama retorted. "Because that's what this comes down to. Commander Meridina violated the trust I extended to her."

Robert was still fuming, but said nothing more while he struggled to regain control of his anger.

It was clear the two had nothing else to discuss. "I'll come back when you've cooled off." Adama turned and walked out.

Zack was the last one to arrive to the staff meeting Julia called. He took up her usual seat while she took Rob's. The absence of Cat, Angel, Meridina, and Barnes gave the air further tension; Lucy was sitting in for Barnes.

"We did too good a job," she said. "I mean, the shield systems aren't fully up to spec, but they're pretty secure from transporter exploits."

"I know there are ways to beam through shields," Julia said.

"Aye." Scotty nodded. "But it isnae easy. Ye could kill th' people ye're beamin' out if ye cannae match the shield harmonics completely."

"Can't we?"

Scotty looked to Jarod. "Mister Jarod, maybe."

"Maybe six out of ten," Jarod admitted. "But the shield harmonics can be unpredictable. I honestly don't recommend it."

"Are we even sure about trying?", Locarno asked. "Even if we succeed it'll completely destroy our relations with these people."

"I know." Julia nodded at him. "I'm not saying we will, but I'd like the option if we had to do it."

Zack nodded at her. "We can't leave Rob and Meridina, though," he said. "We need to talk to them and get this smoothed out."

"They've made it pretty clear they don't want to talk about it," Jarod said. "Nothing we offer can change that."

"There's got to be something." Zack looked to Lucy. "You've been learning that life force stuff from Meridina, right? Maybe you and I could go over there and find out what might change their minds?"

Lucy blinked and clenched her fists. "I..." She looked away. "I'd rather not."

"Then I'll go alone," Zack said.

"No," Julia said. When he looked at her with clear frustration, she returned it with a disciplined look. "I know you want to get Rob and Meridina out of there, Zack. But I can't risk any problems with the Colonials right now. You can make calls, but that's it."

"I think this is a mistake," Zack said. "The risk is worth it."

"That decision is mine to make. And I'm in command. So no."

"Oh, that's an original argument," Zack said, rolling his eyes. "'I'm the boss, so I win'."

Julia shot daggers at him and Zack quieted over it. "So for now, just work on finding a safe way to beam through the sheidls we gave them," she said. "For now, we're not breaking the agreement."

She was answered by nods. A sullen one in Zack's case.

"Well, you're all dismissed. Except for Commander Carrey."

Zack stopped rising from his chair and let the others leave first. "I know that things between us have gotten complicated," Julia began, "and that you're probably not thinking things through. But remember that until you get the okay to leave this command, you still have to accept orders, and that includes mine. And while I shouldn't have to say this, your behavior is showing I do, and I don't like that, Zack. I don't like it one bit."

He remained quiet for a few seconds before finally speaking. "Maybe that's become our problem," Zack finally said. "We're trying to balance being friends and being officers, giving each other commands when we used to give suggestions." He looked over at her. "You really like this too, don't you?"

"What do you mean?", she asked.

"This 'Group Mom' thing you've got going on. No, not just that. You like being in command. Even back during our days in the Facility, you were always taking charge of projects and missions."

Julia nodded at that. "Yeah, I suppose I do. It's a lot of responsibility."

"And you've always liked that." Zack sighed. "Dammit, Julie, I don't want to be the troublemaker. But you're asking me to sit here while Rob's in danger."

"I'm asking you to trust his judgment. And mine."

"Really?" Zack looked to her. "I just wonder if this is Rob trying to make up for the screwed up mission with that Darglan base. Putting himself at risk like that..."

Julia sighed. "Yeah, well, you know Rob. Always putting himself at risk when he can get away with it."

"Yeah." Zack tapped a finger on the table. "Listen. I know that those people like me. And my crew. We saved one of their ships. If they know it's me, I don't see how I'd be in danger. Especially if I'm not on Galactica and they can't think I'm trying a scheme to get Rob and Meridina out. I really think you should let me make contact with someone. Captain Adama seemed pretty reasonable."

"Not right now," Julia answered. "Give it a day to see if things finish settling down. Then ask again."

"Fine. A day."

Julia nodded. "You're dismissed."

"Aye Commander," he said, a little flippantly, before walking out of the conference room.

"A private trial?" Tom Zarek looked at the others in the Quorum. "Are you serious?"

"Absolutely," Baltar said. He sat at the head of the table in the Galactica wardroom, the flag of the Colonies behind him. The twelve members of the Quorum were seated to either side of the table. Zarek, representative of Sagittaron, was two seats down from Baltar's right. "There are sensitive matters at stake."

"You mean Adama and Roslin are trying to save face for nearly getting into a shooting war with people who came to help us," Zarek retorted. "If the trial is public then they have to admit what's going on."

"What is going on?", Miksa Burian of Aquarion asked. "What did this Alliance officer do?"

Baltar took a drink. He knew it likely that word of what Roslin had ordered would leak if it the entire Quorum heard it. It was bad enough she was dying and would leave him in charge. If they removed her early, that would put him in the hot seat even faster. And if they tried and failed, it would put him on Adama's bad side, which he preferred to avoid.

On the other hand, they would find out eventually, and turning the Quorum against him seemed even less reasonable. "She took the Cylon prisoner from our cell and spirited her to their ship using their transporter technology." Baltar took another drink as the assembled all stared in bewilderment. "The Cylon is... pregnant."

"What", the Piconese representative blurted out. "You can't be serious!"

"I am. I've examined the fetus extensively."

"Who's the father?", Zarek asked.

"A Colonial Raptor pilot, Helo Agathon. He was taken over to the Aurora as well." Baltar held up a flimsy. "They've filed for political asylum in the Alliance."

"Why?" This was Burian again. "Why would they help the Cylon?"

"By the Gods, I knew it," Sara Porter of Gemenon muttered. "They're siding with the Cylons. They're against our faith and they're siding with the Cylons."

"That's premature," Baltar answered. "In fact, the reason has to do with the Cylon's baby. President Roslin's order is that the pregnancy is to be terminated as a potential threat to the Fleet."

That bombshell silenced the room. Zarek blinked. "She what?"

"She's right," the Tauron delegate said. "It's... it's some kind of abomination, that thing should be terminated."

"This is why the alien officer took the Cylon?", Burian asked. "To save the child?"

"Yes." Baltar nodded. "At least, by her admissions."

"I'm with Roslin, throw the alien out of the airlock."

"That would be inadvisable," Baltar remarked bluntly. "A legal trial would give any sentence we impose the force of law and they would have to respect that. If we summarily execute their officer, the Alliance may very well leave us and never re-open relations. You could even push them into relations with the Cylons." Baltar put a finger on the table. "This is the single greatest opportunity the Fleet has ever had. We have to do this right. If Commander Meridina is to be executed, it should be from the finding of a trial. A private trial by the Quorum."

"Why don't we negotiate for concessions?", Zarek asked. "The technology these people have could revolutionize life for the people of the Fleet. They could help us find a new world to settle. Their replicator technology would give us food and medicine that we need." He looked at the others. "I say forget a trial. We negotiate with Captain Dale or his superiors for compensation."

"And we just let that Cylon get away?", the Tauron delegate demanded. "What will that say to our people then?"

"That we're putting the future ahead of everything else," Zarek countered. "We have a chance to change Colonial society for the better. It doesn't matter how many gods the Alliance worships, if they're willing to help us, we need to accept it."

"I'm with Zarek," Burian said. "I call for a vote on Vice President Baltar's private hearing suggestion. We will interview all of the key witnesses and Commander Meridina herself. We can use a possible decision to prosecute to extract concessions."

"No!", the Tauron shouted. "We can't be that weak!"

"We're already weak," Zarek countered. "And I'm tired of it. Better to make a deal now while we have an advantage. I second Delegate Burian's motion."

Baltar dutifully counted up the votes as they came. The motion was brought forward and passed by eight votes to four. The meetings and trial would be held on Galactica.

Now he just had to decide whether to listen to the Cylon in his head and ensure Meridina died.

Roslin spent most of the day in and out of sleep. She could feel the end was coming on.

A part of her welcomed it.

It had just gone so insane. These other humans, their talking about multiverses, about Earth being the home of Humanity and not Kobol, it was so much. Just too much.

This, the Cylon having a baby, it was like the entire universe was conspiring to drive her mad even as it killed her. Roslin felt adrift and she had grabbed onto whatever constant she could to stay stable. The need to protect the Fleet, to keep it from falling apart, just as it would if the Cylon having a baby was made public, or if they bowed to the Aurora's crew and their imperious behavior.

Roslin looked around in the infirmary, groggy-eyed, her mind struggling to focus. What could she do to end this madness? She hated the thought of leaving her people such a mess.

"Madame President?" One of Cottle's nurses walked over to her. "Ma'am, are you okay?"

A small and wistful smile crossed her face. "I wish I could say I was. Where is Billy?"

The nurse looked out of her vision. There was the sound of her aide being roused and after a minute or so he stepped into Roslin's view. "Ma'am?", he asked.

"Can you deliver a message for me?"

"Yes, of course."

"I want to see Captain Dale. As soon as possible." She licked at her dry lips. "While I still have time."

The dreams came again.

For Robert, they were familiar imagery, still chilling and terrifying. Third Reich starships burning planets. Fassbinder killing Beth. The girl in the red and gold clothing leveling everything around her, begging for his help. He could feel the burns on his body as an armored, red-haired figure urged him toward a distant red light, spewing forth destruction. A dark robed figure looked at him from a throne raised high. He turned and saw a young girl, maybe eight years old with disheveled red hair, huddling beside him in fear. Dark energy came from the robed man's upraised hand.

He expected pain. Instead he was in a room on Galactica. He recognized Adama, Tigh, and what looked like the Colonial Quorum at a table. Meridina was sitting beside him. A shot rang out and blood erupted from Meridina's temple. She tumbled over dead into his arms. "Meridina!", he cried out. He looked up in time to see someone holding a gun to his head. He could just make out blond hair framed around the face.

The gun went off.

Robert sat upright. A brief cry had been coming from him when he awoke, terminating as he regained control with wakefulness. His arm reached out for Angel before he remembered she wasn't there. He was alone.

He reached over for his time piece. It was still morning on both ships. He had gotten maybe four hours of sleep. Robert rubbed at his eyelids and cursed the starkness of the dream. It seemed so much more. And he knew he wouldn't be going back to sleep any time soon.

Lucy woke up screaming.

The images still stuck in her head. Meridina and Robert dead. Guns going off. She'd been helpless to stop it, like she was seeing it as a ghost and not a person. She touched her arms as if to reassure herself that she was flesh and blood.

As she did so, she realized that it wasn't just a dream. It didn't feel like it was one. Her senses, the new ones, were still tense and excited. Meridina had told her that sensing the possible future was one possible outcome of her growing attunement to her swevyra. Or it could have been her experiencing the thoughts or dreams of someone else.

Her first thought was to seek out Meridina and ask about it. Her mind quickly reminded her that Meridina was currently a prisoner over on Galactica. She would get no answers from Meridina.

....couldn't she? Lucy thought about it for a moment. Could Meridina feel her mind? Could they communicate? She breathed in. She could try, couldn't she?

You cannot try. You must do. Lucy smiled a little at the thought of Meridina's rebuke to those thoughts. She curled her legs up and set her hands on them in what felt like a natural meditation pose. She focused herself, her essence, and reached out, seeking another. Meridina? Meridina! Are you out here? I want to talk! Please?


She bit into her lip and concentrated. She would make a connection, she would do something about this, she had to. She....

Images came to her head. Not of Meridina and Robert dying, but of an open field, grass and trees. A sky? It was interspersed with a big starship with a wide dome. Other images came. There was a blond woman, other figures... another woman, a bit older looking. Something familiar about her, very familiar. A gun was changing hands. "This will be our chance," someone said

Lucy opened her eyes. She knew that hadn't been a dream. It was something more.

Trust your feelings. Meridina's words came to her mind. Your swevyra will show you the way through your feelings. Trust in them.

Which meant she had to find the ship.

As an assistant department head Lucy didn't have quarters near the hull, so she had no window to look out into the fleet. But she knew she had seen that ship before. She went to her personal monitor and accessed the Rio Grande's sensor logs with her personal clearance. Ship after ship from the Colonial fleet popped up. She isolated them by size and....

"Bingo," she murmured to herself. "And I cannot believe I just said that out loud."

The domed vessel was on the screen, along with its name: Cloud 9.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

The VIP quarters Robert had been put in had a small shower stall. He was grateful for that, feeling like he needed one. An old note reminding people of water rationing was still visible at the entrance. He smirked at that. At least they'd topped off the Fleet's water reserves before everything went insane. At least I won't feel guilty for taking a long shower, he thought while letting the warm water wash over him.

When Robert emerged from the shower, towel around the waist, the door to the room was opened. He recognized Billy Keikaya, Roslin's aide, who looked as exhausted as he felt. His clothing was disheveled in a way that testified to his living in the infirmary now. "Mister Keikaya?", Robert asked. "Can I help you?"

"President Roslin wants to see you," he said, his eyes bleary.

"At this time of night?"

"Yes. And she'd like it as soon as you can get there."

Robert rubbed at his tired eyes. He had thought about trying to sleep again. He acquiesed with a sigh. "Let me get ready."

The Marines on watch followed Robert and Billy to the infirmary. Robert watched quietly as Billy checked on Roslin to ensure she was awake. He nodded to Robert and Robert stepped up, accepting a chair from a nurse while Roslin turned in her bed. She looked even worse now. "Captain," she said. "Thank you."

"It's nothing," Robert said.

She remained silent for a moment. "Do you have anything you want to ask me, Captain Dale?"

He did indeed. But Robert didn't want to press the matter. "I admit to some curiosity, but you're not feeling well. I would rather you rested."

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," she muttered in reply. "Which won't be long from now."

"Despite everything... Leo will still help you," Robert said confidently.

Roslin turned her head to face him. "I believe that. But I think it's too late."

Robert nodded. "So... that's it? You're just choosing this? You're choosing to die?"

Roslin's silence resumed. "You're not pleased with me, are you Captain?"

"Honestly?" Robert shook his head. "No, I can't say that I am."

"I understand that." Roslin's weak voice cracked a little. She reached for the styrofoam cup containing water. Robert grabbed it before her weak fingers could knock it over, preserving the fluid from spilling. He gently handed it to her and let her take a drink. "But do you understand us?"

"I've tried. But I can't. Not when it comes to that baby." Robert shook his head. "Why would you order such a cruel thing? Why would you kill that child?"

"The very existence of such a thing is a threat to the Fleet," Roslin insisted. "It will... people won't understand. They'll become angry and lash out."

"That doesn't justify murdering a child."

"One life for thousands," she answered. "Do you even know what that child could be? Who knows what the Cylons are planning?"

"I don't. Do you?" Robert sat back in the chair and crossed his arms. "Or are you letting fear decide what you're doing?"

"Every day," she countered. "I'm afraid of my people dying out, Captain. I'm afraid of losing any more than we've already lost. And I'm afraid that the world has gone mad, and that you're the reason why."


"It's not your fault," she sighed. "But you're changing everything. You've taken the most fundamental facts of our history and ripped the foundation out from under them. As news of this spreads, my people are going to.... Gods, I'm not sure what. Lose their minds, perhaps."

"Your people have been through a lot," Robert agreed. "But is this the legacy you want to leave them, President Roslin? Look at what fear has already done to them? They shot my friend. They beat up my other friend, they were trying to beat her to death. All because of their hate and their fear. Now look at where it's gotten us?"

Roslin' shook her head. "Do you know what it's like, Captain? To see everything you love destroyed?"

"I know what it's like to have my world crumble around me," he answered. "I lost my parents and my sister. I lost the family home." An old and familiar pain panged within him. "I.... I moved on, yeah. And I've lost people since then. I've had to be responsible for sending people to die. It hurts. Every time. And..."

Roslin looked at him expectantly.

"I'm afraid," Robert admitted. "I'm always afraid I'll end up sending a friend to die. They're the closest I have to family now. I..." He swallowed. He thought of what would happen if he lost any of the people close to him. "I'm afraid I'll lose more people. That I'll lose my world again."

There was a nod of reply. "Yes," Roslin said. "This is all we have left. And we could lose it again. And I can't let that happen. I... I can't lose what we have left. No matter what."

Robert swallowed and nodded. "Yeah. But maybe..." He swallowed. "What if you fail to make a new world because you're too scared of losing what you had? I had to rebuild my life and it made things better in the end. Maybe it's going to be hard for your people to understand the truth, but how much better off will they be when it's over? You'll have a world again. Allies who will protect you from the Cylons. Your people won't be running and trying to save what little they have left."

There was quiet after that. Quiet until Roslin finished processing what he had said. "It's odd to see idealism like that still alive." Roslin took another sip. "If only we'd met you sooner."

"Yeah." Robert nodded. "Madame President, Meridina wasn't trying to... she meant it for the best. Isn't there anything we can do...?"

"Not now," she said. "It's come too far. It's out of my hands. You'll have to ask Baltar and the Quorum tomorrow."

Robert nodded. "Okay. Yeah."

"For what it's worth..." Roslin sunk her head onto the pillow. "I'm sorry about your friends getting hurt. There's been enough suffering on this Fleet."

"Thank you," Robert answered. It wasn't the best of apologies, but for the moment.... well, what better was he going to get with Roslin in this condition? Better to make progress.

He remained seated until Roslin had returned to sleep. At which point he nodded to the detail watching him and had them escort him back to his VIP quarters.

The feeling of fingers on the hairs of his neck jolted Baltar back to wakefulness. He blurted out a wordless protest at the sudden waking. The stiffness in his neck and arms made him realize he'd fallen asleep against the worktable in his lab. "Good morning, Gaius," the Cylon in his head purred.

Baltar rubbed at his eyes and yawned. "Oh, thank you very much," he muttered. He blinked his eyes to adjust to the lights of his lab and his head turned toward his monitor. "Wait... what?" Results from some of his studies of the cells from the Cylon's baby were showing. "That can't be right... can it?"

"Oh, it can," the head Cylon said. "You know what this means."

"I need to find Adama," Baltar said. He pulled on his lab coat and rushed toward the door.

Meridina had rested surprisingly well despite the chains and having to sleep on the deck. She returned to her meditations upon awakening. She let her swevyra pulse quietly inside of her, feeling the life around her, sensing the flow of energy, practicing her focus and senses as if she were in her quarters and not a cage.

The stiffness and anxiety of her guards spiked. Without opening her eyes Meridina spoke out, "Hello, Admiral Adama. You wish to speak with me?"

"How did you know it was me?", he asked.

Meridina opened her eyes and looked at him. The commander of the Colonial fleet was pulling up a metal chair outside of the cage. He looked moderately rested. "I sensed your swevyra," she answered. "You have a particularly robust life force."

The look on Adama's face spoke of his instinctive disbelief. "You can do that? You can sense people with.., your mind?"

"Not my mind. At least not like that." Meridina put her hands together in front of her. "I am a farisa as well, yes, so I can sense minds even without using my swevyra. But it is with swevyra that I feel the life forces of others. I can see what is within them. If they are in darkness or in light."


"It is cold and terrible," Meridina said. "It clouds judgement, it corrupts mind, body, swevyra, and soul. It is found everywhere that fear, hate, and anger dominate." Her eyes fell. "I have felt much darkness in your Fleet. Painful darkness. I fear for the souls of your people."

Adama crossed his arms at that. "Is that so?"

"It is. Look at your poor leader. Her fear led her to the terrible orders she gave. The extinguishing of a new life and the attacks upon those who came to give you aid." Meridina focused her eyes on him again. "Where else could such terrible demands come but from darkness?"

"So you decided to take matters into your own hands," Adama said. "You violated your orders from Captain Dale and our laws."

"Yes." Meridina nodded. "I did. To protect an innocent life."


"Because it is the Code. 'Do not injustice to another. Defend the weak and innocent. Do not act in hatred or spite. Let courage within you spark your swevyra. Stand firm even when alone. Be to all a swevyra'se without fail. Do all these things though it cost you your life.'" Meridina's heart swelled as she repeated those words. They were the core within her. They were the light that guided her. Others might view them with cynicism or believe them too simple, but she did not.

Adama was in thought at hearing those words. "Those are nice words. But the world doesn't always work like that."

"It does not," Meridina agreed. "Which is why I hold to them as I do."

"You realize you could be executed?", Adama said. "If we find you guilty, you will be shot or spaced."

"Yes." Meridina drew in a breath. A brief surge of fear came up and was reflexively forced out of her mind. "I have faced death before, Admiral Adama. I have seen the horror of those ends. And I have long understood such might be my fate, either at your hands or those of another. If that is what I am called upon to do, I will do so."

Adama remained quiet for the moment. "You didn't have to surrender to us," he said. "Why did you do it?"

"To save the others," she answered. "And to save your people."

"You were afraid that Captain Dale would have destroyed us?"

"Not just that." Meridina looked him directly in the eyes. "Since I came here, I have sensed the darkness amongst your Fleet. All of the pain and despair and grief of your people... and your fear. Fear is the basic fuel for darkness, Admiral Adama. My people have long taught that fear drives the mind and soul to anger. The anger becomes hatred. And hatred leads to suffering."

"We're already suffering," Adama pointed out. "We've lost almost everything."

"Almost, yes," Meridina agreed. "But not everything. It is when all light is gone that all hope is lost, that life loses meaning, and all fall into darkness. Your people would be lost forever. I do not want that. I would be an example to the Colonies of light, of standing for what is right and dying for it, and to keep your people from losing the hope that the Alliance now provides you. If my life must be extinguished to ensure your people are saved, to rekindle the light within your hearts..." She bowed her head. "....then I make the sacrifice willingly."

There was quiet in the room. Adama put his hands together and considered the young woman. "You believe in this?"

"With all of my heart," Meridina pledged. "I am a swevyra'se of Gersal. I stand for Light and the Code of Swenya. I honor her teachings, passed down from the wise Reshan, tempered by Swenya's spirit, and given to my people to guide them. That is the calling that has been in my heart since i was young."

The sincerity of Meridina was evident to Adama. He thought bitterly on what had transpired. How much of this was his fault? He knew Roslin's judgement was being impaired by her illness, but he let his own fears of breaking the Fleet again lead him into the confrontation that now saw this noble woman chained down and threatened with death.

He didn't like the Cylons. He was irritated beyond words with Helo's affection for the damn Cylon, the one wearing the face of the traitor that had shot him. He still didn't trust her, for all that the Cylons loved to play the long game.

He would have spoken more if Gaeta hadn't shown up at the door to the cell. "Admiral? Vice President Baltar wants to see you. It's urgent."

Lucy was at Zack's door when he emerged. "Did you get my message?", she asked.

"Yeah." Zack nodded. "Glad to see you changed your mind. Now we just need to change Julia's."

"I think I can," Lucy said.

They walked to the nearest turbolift and got in. "Bridge," Zack said after they entered.

"So..." Lucy cleared her throat. "You're still leaving?"

"That's the plan," Zack answered.

"You really think that will make things better?"

"Maybe, maybe not, but I know that staying here is suffocating me," he answered.

"So it's... that." Lucy nodded. "We want to help you, you know that right?"

"Yeah. But this isn't something I can get helped with," Zack replied. "It's something I have to do for myself."

There was nothing more for Lucy to say. They remained silent until the lift let them out onto the bridge. "Angel's taking the day off, I see," Lucy murmured upon seeing Lieutenant Jarke at Tactical. Ensign al-Rashad was at Science. Seeing Caterina was missing reminded Lucy of what had been done to her and she breathed a silent prayer that Cat would recover emotionally from the beating.

Julia was in the conference room, using it as an impromptu office space mwhile she ran the ship. The morning reports were piled beside her while she munched away at a breakfast pastry. "....delicate situation, Commander," they heard Admiral Maran saying. "While I applaud Commander Meridina and Captain Dale for defusing it, allowing anything to happen to either will go too far for the government. We already have Congressman Palas talking about an investigation. If the Colonies do anything to hurt Meridina, it will destroy any hope they have of getting Gersallian support for resettlement near the borders. I can't guarantee the Dorei will be willing to go it alone on their defense. You need to make this clear to the Colonial authorities."

"I'll try, sir..." Julia started skimming a datapad. "But the more we push them, the more likely they might just act ouf of spite. What Meridina did cost us a lot of trust with them."

"I imagine so. Whatever you and Captain Dale do out there, Commander, the President has your back." Maran briefly went silent. "And just so you know, Your guests' asylum requests are in the system now. Whatever happens, you can't return the Cylon named Sharon or Karl Agathon to Colonial custody."

"I imagined as much sir."

"Good luck, Commander. Maran out."

There was a chirp to confirm the channel ahd closed. "Well, that's handled," Julia sighed. She looked up to them. "Let me guess. Here to ask for permission to go over again?"

"We need to go to Cloud Nine, Julia," Lucy said. "Immediately."

"Well." Julia's expression showed some surprise. "You've changed your mind. What happened?"

"I reconsidered it," Lucy answered. "I need to go over there."

"What would you do over there?", Julia asked. "The Quorum is returning to the Galactica for their hearing about Meridina."

"I was thinking it might be good neutral ground to talk to Adama, maybe through his junior officers," Zack said. "His son's a cool guy. Maybe we can discuss things. Not just this mess with Meridina but getting mutual cooperation back on track. Or if not Adama, maybe the civilian leadership of the Fleet?"

Julia seemed to consider it. "It is a good idea, in general. I can call Adama and see what he..."

"Bridge to Commander Andreys." Jupap's chirping voice interrupted them. "Admiral Adama wishes to speak to you."

"Speak of the devil," Julia said. She put away her breakfast. "Put him on, Lieutenant."

After several moments the old man's voice rumbled over the speaker. "{i]Commander. Vice President Baltar wants to make a visit to the [/i]Aurora concerning the Cylon baby. He's determined something special about the child."

Julia blinked. "Well, I can certainly meet the request, but I'm shocked you're considering it in these circumstances, Admiral."

"Only because of what he's found. He needs to discuss it with your Doctor Gillam. But due to the situation, I need a guarantee of some kind."

"You mean beyond having Captain Dale as a hostage?", Julia noted wryly. She looked to Lucy and Zack. "Well, we have our own request. Commander Carrey wants to talk to someone on the Cloud Nine. He thinks that we can get a dialogue going again on cooperation."

For a moment there was silence. "I can send a couple officers to meet with him."

"Great. Our people will transport over to the Cloud Nine in an hour and you can send Doctor Baltar to us. Anything else, Admiral?"

"The Quorum will be meeting in a few hours to debate what's going to happen to Commander Meridina. I'll keep you informed of any decisions."

"Please do, Admiral. Andreys out." Julia tapped a key to cut the transmission. She leveled a look at Zack and Lucy. "Alright. Head over there. See what they might want to release Meridina and get this crisis over with."

"Without telling them that the bosses back in Portland are talking about cutting them off if anything happens to Meridina?"

"Uh, yeah," Julia answered. "Best to do it that way for now."

"Sure." Zack looked to Lucy. "Want to get some breakfast before we go?"

"Alright," Lucy answered. She felt she'd need it to settle her nerves. The energy inside of her was starting to vibrate with the feeling that something bad was about to happen.

Lee Adama stepped off the shuttle from the Galactica and found Tom Zarek waiting for him. "So, Captain." Zarek smiled at him. "I've heard you're coming to meet with officers from the Alliance ship?"

Lee smiled diplomatically. "You hear a lot of things, Mister Zarek."

"I'm good friends with the ship's staff." Zarek followed Lee to the door leading away from the landing bay. "I've got an hour before we're due over on Galactica. I wouldn't mind meeting this officer."

"Of course you wouldn't Zarek." Kara walked up. "Captain."

"Captain. Although we don't have to be formal." Lee nodded at her. "Nice to see you. I hear you had some trouble."

"A bit." Kara eyed Zarek. "So, when does our party show up?"

They were answered by the sight of an Alliance shuttle entering the last berth in the bay. It came to a perfect landing beside Lee's shuttle. The side hatch opened and Zack stepped out with Lucy behind him. Lee and Kara saluted first, recognizing Zack's superior rank. "Commander Carrey, good to see you again," Lee said.

Zack straightened his spine and nodded. "Captain Adama, Captain Thrace. You remember Lieutenant Lucero?"

"I do." Kara nodded at Lucy. "I'm glad I didn't have to shoot you yesterday, Lieutenant."

"I'm glad I didn't have to smash you into the bulkhead, Captain," Lucy answered with a thin smile.

Kara smirked briefly before her expression darkened. She wanted to ask about Cat Delgado but not with Zarek in earshot. Lucy sensed the desire and, on her own, added, "Lieutenant Delgado's good as well."

Zarek stepped up between them. "Commander Carrey? You're the commander of the Koenig, right?" He offered a hand. "Good to meet you, Commander. I want to give my personal thanks to you and your crew for saving the Faru Sadin."

"Likewise, Mister..." Zack took the offered hand.

Lee moved his eyes toward Zarek. "This is Representative Thomas Zarek of Sagittaron," he answered. "He's a member of the Quorum."

"Your... legislative council, right?", Lucy asked.

"Yes," Zarek answered. "We're the civilian government that runs the Fleet alongside President Roslin." He smiled at Lucy. "You are?"

"Lieutenant Lucilla Lucero, operations officer," Lucy replied simply.

"Ah. Were you one of the officers the military tried to seize when Roslin and Adama nearly ruined everything?"

Lee and Kara shot looks at Zarek. Lucy and Zack couldn't help but notice the tension. Lucy nodded slightly. "I was over on Pegasus, yes."

"My apologies, Lieutenant, for any harm caused," Zarek said. "The Quorum is planning on investigating this entire incident thoroughly. We hope to get this situation resolved so that our relations with your people can be put back on track."

Zack nodded and looked to Lee. "Well, I came over to try and get some cooperation going again. A lot's going to rely on your people releasing Meridina, though."

"I thought so." Zarek smiled. "I have a reserved table at one of the best lounges on the ship. Why don't we head there to discuss matters? Captain Adama can take over for me when it's time for me to head to Galactica."

Zack noticed the obvious consternation from Lee and Kara. But he also knew that he was dealing with a political figure who had the sway to make things work more smoothly. He nodded. "Sure. I'd like to."

Julia was waiting in the shuttle bay when the shuttle carrying Baltar arrived. He instructed the pilot to remain on standby and pulled out a briefcase. "Commander." Unlike his prior tour, this time Julia had the feeling she wasn't getting undressed behind his eyes. He was actually intent on something else. "I'd like to go straight to your medbay."

"Doctor Gillam is waiting for you," she answered. "Follow me." She led him out the door. Two security officers, a blue-skinned Dorei and a red-feathered Alakin, fell in to escort them.

When they arrived in the medbay Leo was waiting for them. Sharon and Helo were at one bed with life sign scanners active behind them. Caterina was still in the other bed for observation, sleeping quietly in the arms of her big sister. Baltar noticed them and the remaining bruises on Caterina's face. "Did we... do that to her?", he asked.

"Yes," Julia answered... simultaneously to his head Cylon. She moved around and stood beside Julia. Baltar took notice for a moment but kept any thoughts about two beautiful blondes being beside each other from entering his head.

"I'm sorry," Baltar replied. He looked at Leo. "Doctor Gillam?"

"Doctor Baltar, yes?" Leo extended his hand and allowed Baltar to shake it. "Your preliminary information was pretty interesting. I've been running my own tests, but I never imagined..."

"Imagined what?", Sharon asked.

Leo turned and looked at Sharon. "Your baby's cellular structure is... well, I've never seen anything like it. The cells are biochemically flexible to the extent that they're quite capable of repairing cellular damage."

"So our baby is what, more surviveable?", Helo asked.

"More than that," Baltar replied. "The child's cells could likely be used to heal others."

Leo shot a look at Baltar. Julia saw this and realized what Baltar meant. "You mean... President Roslin?", Julia asked.

"Probably," Baltar said. "The baby's cells could send her cancer into complete remission."

Leo perked up at hearing that. "Which would buy us time for treatment to get rid of it."

"Exactly," Baltar said.

"You're okay with this, Doctor Baltar?", Helo asked. "I mean, you'd be President..."

"That presumes, Lieutenant Agathon, that I want the job," Baltar answered. "I have many interests, being President isn't necessarily one of them."

"She tried to kill my baby," Sharon protested. "Now you're asking me to risk my child to save her?"

"The risks are non-existent," Leo assured her. "We won't have to cut anything, we'll use microprobes to gather the cellular material we need."

"I assure you, your child will be perfectly safe," Baltar added.

Sharon bit into her lip. She looked to Helo. "Not unless they return Meridina safe and sound," she answered.

"Pardon?", Baltar asked.

"I want Meridina returned safely to the Aurora," Sharon answered. "Let her go. And I'll consent to the operation."

"President Roslin may not have that much time," Julia said. "She's pretty bad."

"That's her fault," Sharon answered. "Meridina was ready to risk her life to save my baby. She's risking her life now to save the Colonial Fleet. I'm not helping the woman who could get her killed." She looked intently at Baltar. "Meridina for the treatment."

"The Quorum is intending to discuss whether criminal charges will be levied today," Baltar said. "But I don't think we can get an answer that quickly..."

"Don't expect me to say yes until you do."

"Don't, Gaius."

Baltar saw his head Cylon move beside Julia and toward Leo. "Don't do anything to let Meridina go," the head Cylon insisted. "She has to die." The blonde smiled and purred, "Besides, that would make you President."

"But I don't want to be President!", Baltar blurted aloud.

"Then I suggest you listen to the woman." Angel stirred from the bed. She glared at him. "You give us back Meridina and Robert and your President gets her cure. Otherwise you'd better be ready to hear 'Hail to the Chief.'"

"Lieutenant..." Julia shot a look at Angel.

"Gaius...." The Head Cylon was glaring at him. "She's a threat. She has to die. No matter what."

Baltar swallowed. "I... I...." He looked fearfully at the head Cylon, which meant he seemed to be looking at Julia. She looked at him quizzically, not sure whe he seemed so upset and frightened of her. "I understand. Yes, it's your choice. I'll... well, we'll see what the Quorum wants to do." Baltar looked to Julia. "Commander, I would like to return to Galactica. I need to prepare for the Quorum meeting."

"Of course. This way, Doctor." Julia escorted him out of the medbay.

Angel looked at the pensive look on Leo's face. "You don't seem happy," she said.

"I'm not," he replied. He glanced toward Sharon. "I understand you're angry, and you have the right to make this decision.... but I don't agree with leaving a woman to die."

Sharon didn't answer him. She looked to Helo and laid her head back.

Leo retreated to his office to look over readings. Angel followed him, vibrating with anger. "Have you forgotten what that evil bitch caused?", she demanded.

"No, I haven't," Leo answered. "But that doesn't mean I want her to die." He looked squarely at Angel. "And if you were in your right mind, you wouldn't either."

Angel crossed her arms. "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you're so mad you're not thinking straight," Leo replied. "I know you're a better woman than this, Angel."

"She caused Cat to get hurt. Because of her Rob is over there, in danger. All because she wanted to kill a baby. So you tell me why I should give a damn."

"Because you're a better person," Leo answered. "At least, I thought you were a better person."

Angel's nostrils flared. She looked like she'd been struck. For a moment it looked like she was struggling to speak, but she gave it up and stormed out of the office.

Leo sighed. Angel was passionate to a fault at times. He darkly wondered how much of this was her frustration at Robert not letting her come with him. As much as he enjoyed seeing his friends being happy, he was starting to doubt it was such a good thing given their new jobs.

He decided to get his mind off this by turning his attention to the scans he had of the half-Cylon baby's cells. This was a biological mystery he would love to solve.

Lucy had to admit her surprise. She was convinced Zarek's focus on economics and politics would cause Zack's eyes to roll up into his skull and his brain to go into shutdown mode. But he remained attentive the entire time, responding to Zarek's remarks about economic unfairness or the oppression of the Sagittarons by bringing up bits from their former lives in Kansas. Zack wasn't an economist, of course, but with her input he talked up how replicator technology altered supply and demand for an economy.

"You're a pretty smart man, Commander," Zarek said, pointedly shaking Zack's hand again. "Hopefully we can implement this replicator technology across the Fleet. It would make the lives of our people a lot happier."

"Hopefully we can get to that," Zack agreed. "We just need to clear up this situation with Meridina over that Cylon."

Zarek smirked and ignored the uncomfortable looks from Lee and Kara. "Yes, well, I believe we can get that out of the way today. I'm going to bring everything up in the Quorum to make it clear Roslin acted stupidly. Not that I don't admire her accomplishments, but I think Roslin's sickness has ruined her mind."

"I'm not one to speak about her, honestly," Zack said. "But..."

There was a tone. Zarek pulled out a mobile phone unit and answered it. "The Quorum's ready? Fine, I'm on my way." He closed it and stood. "It was great talking to you, Commander. I look forward to seeing the Colonies and your Allied Systems working together in the future." He offered a hand and Zack accepted it. Zarek walked away.

Lucy and Zack watched him go for a moment. When Zack was sure Zarek was out of earshot over the background chatter of the lounge, he looked back to Lee and Kara. "Well, that was fun," he sighed, taking a drink from the club soda Zarek had ordered for him.

"You handled yourself pretty well," Lucy remarked.

"He certainly took a liking to you, Commander," Lee said. "It can be tricky when Zarek does that."

"I learned how to deal with that stuff from Rob and Julie," Zack said. "I smile and nod a lot and say something here and there to break up the monotony. Honestly I don't even know half of what I said about replicator-based economics." He set the glass down. "So, can we talk about cooperation?"

"Sure." Lee nodded. "I think the Admiral wants this Meridina situation out of the way. If we can get anything to show for it, to show you understand you crossed the line with us, I think you'll find that the Quorum will let her go."

"Okay." Zack put his hands together. "What do you have in mind? More shield generators? Replicators?"


"...actually." Kara leaned in. "What if you helped us raid Caprica?"

Lee gave her a look. Zack blinked. "Your capital world, right? The one the Cylons nuked?"

"Yeah. There are survivors," Kara answered. "I've seen them myself. They're fighting a war with the Cylons that they can't win. Sooner or later they're going to run out of radiation treatments and they'll all die."

"And you want to raid Caprica to give them supplies?"

"No," Kara answered. "I want to raid Caprica to get them out. We can bring them to the Fleet. Hell, with your technology we could hit all of the Colonies. There's got to be more survivors."

Zack nodded. "If I remember right your home systems are weeks away from here. I'm not sure we could launch an operation like that so easily."

"It's not so far if we use Cylon drives..."

Lucy started to look away, letting Zack debate the idea with Kara. As her eyes scanned toward the front door of the lounge she saw Zarek was still standing there. There was a woman with him, blond, looking away from Zarek and talking. Lucy focused on her senses, feeling with her life force, and felt their speech come to her. "....private meetings, Councilman? What about the transparency we were promised? How can you keep the people of the Fleet in the dark about what's going on with the Earth ship?"

There was something in that voice that got Lucy's attention. Zarek answered, "Sometimes we have to be careful about the information we give out, Ms. Biers. You know that. But I assure you, the findings of the Quorum will be publicly....

"How can we guarantee we get the full truth if everything happens behind locked doors?", the woman retorted. Lucy focused on the voice. She knew she'd heard it before.

Zarek sighed. "What if I let you in on the session then? You can report on the findings when the Quorum agrees to go public. And not a moment before. That's the best I can do for you."

The woman seemed to think on it. "You drive a hard bargain..."

Lucy's eyes widened.

She knew that voice.

And just where did you come from?

I hear your ship had some form of... teleporter?

We have tests to run. We'll let you know a final price when we get back.

Lucy focused again, trying to sense Zarek's sight. She couldn't mind-read like Meridina so she couldn't do it directly. But Meridina had shown her how the power she was using could sense things even without direct mental link. She tried to focus on the image.


"Shh," she hissed, ignoring the look on the faces of Zack, Lee, and Kara. "That woman...."

"Who?" Lee looked beyond. "Are you talking about D'anna? The reporter leaving with Zarek?"

They did indeed step out. Lucy couldn't get the image in her head and growled in frustration. "I need to see what she looks like," she insisted. "Please."

"Her news show is on in a few hours..." Kara began.

"I need to know now," Lucy insisted. She turned to face them. "Picture her in your minds. Please, trust me."

Lee and Kara exchanged looks. Kara knew some of what Lucy could do but Lee had not yet seen it. When Lee looked to Zack he shrugged. "Hey, I've seen the stuff Meridina can do, and Lucy can do it now too."

"Alright, fine, do your mumbo jumbo and..."

Before Kara finished the sentence she sensed something in her head. The image she had of D'anna Biers almost slipped but she kept it. "You're actually reading my frakking mind?"

"I'm just sensing the image in your head, it's not entirely clear but..." Lucy felt the image come clear in her mind. She gasped and fell back into her chair. "Oh God, I was right. I was... oh God it's her."

"Who?", Zack asked.

"The woman who tried to buy me on Djamar Station. Remember, back when we first met Meridina and the Gersallians and the Dorei?", Lucy said to him. "When those pirates abducted me?"

Zack's brow furrowed. "But... that doesn't make sense, the Colonies haven't come this far out before, and definitely not to the frontier of Dorei and Gersallian space."

"What are you saying?", Lee asked. "That you've met D'anna?"

"That's her!", Lucy insisted. "I remember her. She was with this other guy, this... dark-skinned bald guy..."

Kara grabbed Lucy's forearm. "What did you just say?"

"Dark-skinned bald guy. Uh, a little lighter in color than Leo," Lucy answered. Lucy thought of the two of them together. The blonde woman - D'anna, she could swear - watching as the man drew blood from her.

Kara's jaw dropped. "Frak me," she said. "Frak me... I see his face. How the frak..."

Lucy blinked. She didn't think she was projecting the mental image that much...

"He's a Cylon I saw on Caprica," she continued. "And.... oh frak me.."

"Excuse me?" Lee looked at the two women. "What are you two talking about?"

"She's one of them," Lucy said. "That... that explains why Meridina has footage of her at that Faith Summit that got bombed five years ago. And how she was at the station."

"Who's one of what?", Zack asked.

"D'anna Biers..."

"....is a frakking Cylon," Kara finished for Lucy.

The final Quorum members were preparing to board the shuttle to Galactica. Zarek was going to go last and have D'anna with him.

"Excuse me." D'anna got Zarek's attention. "I'll be right back." She motioned to a man standing off to the side, waving at them. "Interviewee. Before this happened I was scheduled to talk with him today."

"Well, don't keep me from giving him the bad news," Zarek answered. "Although if he's patient, maybe he'll get that interview today after all."

"Thanks. I'll be right back." D'anna hurried over to the man, dressed as priestly clergy. "What is it?", she asked.

"You know your purpose," the priest said. It wasn't really a question.

D'anna nodded. "I do. But is the ship..."

"It is," he pledged. "The Humans only got one. You will be welcomed back with open arms."

D'anna nodded and looked very reassured. "I look forward to it. I'm tired of living here."

"Aren't we all?", Brother Cavil said, a sarcastic smirk on his face. "Remember. The Gersallian must die. Everyone else is extra."

"She's the priority target. I'll shoot Captain Dale and Admiral Adama afterward," D'anna whispered back.

"Yes." Cavil put a hand on her shoulder. His voice became loud. "Of course I understand, my dear child. This is a momentous event, you should be there to observe it. I will patiently await your return!"

D'anna smiled and nodded before she pulled away. Zarek gave her an amused look as she boarded the shuttle before he did.

All of this time living amongst the Humans, and it came down to this. A great blow to be delivered for the Plan. For God.

And she would be the one doing it.

"So let me get this straight." Lee held a hand up. "You two are going to accuse a leading journalist of the Fleet of being a Cylon with evidence based on reading minds?"

"No," Lucy sighed. "Based on the fact I saw her years ago on a pirate station where she tried to buy me. In the company of a known Cylon."

"But that link is based entirely on Kara seeing inside your mind somehow," Lee protested. "This... it just isn't going to work."

"So we need proof," Zack said. "Something that confirms someone is a Cylon."

"Doesn't Doctor Baltar have a Cylon detector?", Lucy asked.

"It didn't work before," Kara snorted. "And I bet he's already tested her."

Zack smirked and clapped his hands together. "Well, a good thing Baltar's not the only genius around here, right? Let's take this to Jarod and Cat and see what they come up with."

"You mean we'd build our own Cylon life detector?", Lucy asked. "How would we know it works? We'd need a... Cylon...." Lucy laughed. "Of course. We have Sharon."

"Bingo," Zack said. He stood up. "We'll return to the Aurora. You two want to come?"

"Probably better if we don't," Lee said. "I'll get back to Galactica and see what I can do to stop Biers."

"I'm going too," Kara said. At that, the two groups headed off from the lounge.

Robert had an early breakfast and was ready when Tigh came to collect him. "They're moving your friend to the starboard hanger deck," he said.

"Thank you, Colonel." Robert took a final check of his uniform in the mirror and stepped out to join the older man. The Marines followed them as they walked through the corridors of the big ship. Robert noticed Tigh was struggling with something. But he kept quiet.

Finally Tigh broke his silence. "Thought you should know the Old Man is going to clean house over on Pegasus."


"We heard about what they did to that sweet little scientist girl," Tigh continued. "It's a Gods-damned disgrace and I don't mind saying it."

Robert fought down a surge of anger over what had been done to Cat. This was, at least, something being said in the right direction. "Yes. It was."

Tigh made a noise from his throat. "Not that I think your people were right. All this talk about being our friends and the first thing you do when we're not seeing eye to eye is poke us in the eye." Tigh turned his head and faced Robert. "Just how were we supposed to take that, huh?"

"Well, obviously not well," Robert remarked. "We both screwed that up. But we weren't the ones who were going to force a woman to abort her baby."

"You deal with Cylons long enough, you're going to lose that attitude about them quick," Tigh retorted. "As far as I'm concerned, you can keep her, and Helo too if she's that damned important to him. But if you trust them that quickly you'll get burned. Understand?"

"You might not believe how many times I heard people tell me that about people they hated."

"Oh yeah? How many of them got nuked by the people they were warning you about?"

Tigh's question was right on the mark. Robert frowned and sighed. "None."

"You kids think you're smart, but that won't do you a bit of good if you walk around just trusting people," Tigh continued. "The Cylons are bad news. Keep that in mind."

At that point Robert didn't think the discussion would go anywhere else, so he ceased talking about it.

Julia entered the medbay and found Zack, Lucy, and Jarod in the corner, Leo nearby and checking on Cat. "You said something big happened over there, what was it?"

"We found another Cylon," Zack answered.

Julia's jaw dropped open. "What?"

"Not just that," Jarod continued. "But going by Lucy's description, it's the same being who tried to buy her from the pirates at Djamar Station over two years ago."

"Or a copy at least." Lucy held up her multidevice and showed the image of a blonde woman. "They call her D'anna Biers. She's this big time video journalist for the Fleet."

"And you're certain that's her?", Julia asked. "It's been..."

"I won't forget that day," Lucy said, almost harshly. "I... it's not something you forget, Julia."

Julia nodded in understanding. "Okay."

"Besides, Meridina and I found her in other footage," Lucy said. "That Faith Summit the Dorei nations held back before our contact? The one where Captain Potana from the Mayala had his entire family blown up? She was there too. She's the leading suspect for planting at least one of the bombs."

Julia let out a breath. "Meridina said the Cylons already knew about the Gersallians and Dorei, but this is beyond that. I mean, if it's true..."

"...odds are it is," Jarod interceded.

"...if it's true, the Cylons have been attacking two founding nations of the Allied Systems for years." Julia gritted her teeth. "I need to tell Admiral Maran. And we need to do something about this..."

"We are," Jarod answered.

"That's why they're taking up room in my medbay," Leo called out, looking up from where he was treating the fractured bones in Caterina's face.

"We're putting together a scanning protocol to detect humanform Cylons," Lucy clarified.

Julia blinked. "Really? How? Our sensors haven't been able to pinpoint any Cylons in the Fleet."

"It's an issue of resolution," Lucy replied. "The sensors used for those kinds of lifesigns aren't programmed to look for the internal indications that a Human has Cylon bits inside. That's what we're fixing here."

Jarod held up a medical scanner. "Just doing some final tweaking. We're using Leo's examination of Sharon and her baby to establish a base point for scanning differences between Human physiology and Cylon."

"Good. When will it be ready?"

"Twenty minutes or so, need to finish patch updates," Lucy replied.

Julia checked her multidevice and the clock on it. "Alright. I'll go call Maran."

"Of course."

Meridina remained in cuffs for the procession through Galactica, surrounded entirely by the Marines with Adama alongside her. She noted the way he was looking about. "Are you concerned, Admiral?"

"A little," he admitted.

"This would be about the other Sharon being shot?"

He didn't look at her or give any indication of how much that thought annoyed him. "Maybe," he conceded.

"I shall be careful to observe for attackers, then," Meridina pledged. Bound hand and foot she had only limited mobility, but some people could be surprised what a swevyra'se could do even in her situation.

As she said that, Meridina did feel a tingle of warning within. She felt like something might happen, she just wasn't sure what.

D'anna took leave of Zarek outside of the hanger deck. She slipped away from him by alluding to a need to use the restroom and was directed to the nearest "head" by helpful crewmembers. The Galactica facilities were unisex, but at this point they did include semi-private stalls. Knowing it was the best choice she had, D'anna went to work. From her personal bag she pulled several ceramic pieces out, rods and flat pieces and the like.

It would only take her ten seconds to assemble the light firearm and put the clip in. Five shots. It would have to be enough.

Lee and Kara came in hot to land on Galactica. The flight deck officer confronted them at the exit. "What is your problem, your velocity was..."

"Fleet emergency," Lee said. "Where's Admiral Adama?"

"Off with the Quorum, I think. Starboard hanger."

Lee nodded and, with Kara, they took off.

Zack watched impatiently as Jarod and Leo fussed with the scanner. "The setting should be working," Jarod protested.

"It's not," Leo countered. "See? Human scale returns. Nothing to say she's a Cylon."

Sharon sat passively. Helo stood nearby, looking ready to hold her hand and frustrated at seeing Sharon used as a test subject. "Maybe there's just no way to tell?", he said.

"No. We should be able to detect the electronics inside of her body," Jarod answered. "The bioelectric field shouldn't be this close to baseline normal."

"What if Cylon bioelectrics only trigger when a Cylon's actively using their electronics?" Lucy suggested.

They all looked at Sharon, who shrugged. "It's not something we just consciously do or not do," she said. "It's a part of us."

"That Quorum meeting is about to start," Zack reminded them. "We need a way to prove D'anna Biers is a Cylon, and this is our best hope. There's got to be something...."

"Why not try a focused electromagnetic scan?"

Eyes turned toward the nearby bed where Caterina was sitting quietly. She looked far better now. The worst bruises still showed a little but she no longer looked like she'd gone twenty rounds with a heavyweight boxer. Caterina slid off the bed and smoothed out her hospital gown for modesty's sake. She walked over. "The Cylons probably have signal shielding built into their electronics. But that kind of shielding will stand out if you run it through an EM scan on the right wavelengths."

"That's not a bad idea," Jarod said. He handed Cat the scanner. "What do you think?"

Cat accepted it and started tinkering with the object. She tried a setting and got nothing. She focused and went through them, seeing if she got any results. Just as Jarod went to take back the scanner, Caterina called out, "Wait! I've got it." She prompted Jarod and Lucy to look. The scanner was shining gold over Sharon's profile. Cat moved it to scan Helo and Zack, but there was no golden aura like on Sharon. "There, see? The scanner senses the insulation. You can see she's a Cylon."

"Brilliant," Zack said, applauding.

"I'll say." Jarod put an arm on Cat's shoulder. "Way to go, Cat, that was a great idea."

A smile broke through Cat's expression. She blushed slightly.

"Carrey to bridge." Zack took the scanner and went for the door, Lucy behind him. "Alert Galactica, we need to get over there now."

D'anna returned to the large hanger deck and smiled at the Marine guard at the door. She handed him her personal bag and he gave it a quick check before satisfying himself there was nothing inside of it. Since landing on the ship had required going through more extensive security procedures she wasn't subjected to the kind of search that might have revealed the gun she had assembled. She was waved in and found a seat in the front row. She had pencil and paper in hand to complete the facade.

Most of the Quorum was already in its seats and the handful that weren't had gravitated around Baltar. D'anna considered shooting him if she could, but Cavil's priority list was still in her head. The Gersallian, then her captain, and then Adama. Baltar would come fourth if she could actually get the shot off.

She steeled herself, ready to implement this phase of the Plan.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

On the bridge of the Aurora Julia watched Jarod resume Ops. "So this device can find Cylons?"

"Yes. Cat found the right EM wavelengths to pick up their internal signal insulation." Jarod ran his hands over the Ops station. "I think that given time I can refine our ship sensors to do the same, but I'm looking at hours of work."

"So we need to get the device over there." Julia leaned forward. "Put me through to Galactica."

Tigh took up the phone when he got notification of the signal. "Colonel Tigh? This is Commander Andreys. We have a device that can scan for Cylons, we think one of them might be going after the Quorum. Can we send a shuttle over?"

Tigh frowned. "Awfully convenient," he murmured. "I'm afraid that's a no. The Admiral's orders were strict; no ships coming in during the meeting."

"This is important, Colonel."

Or a trick. Tigh allowed the suspicious thought to nearly come to his tongue. But he didn't give it a voice. If they were right - and Gods knew they had the techno-wizardry to pull it off, as far as Tigh thought - then this was something worth the risk. "I'll get Adama", he said. He nodded to Dualla. "Patch me through to the hanger deck."

The Marine phalanx with Adama and Meridina entered from the door opposite of where D'anna had come. She had expected that and wasn't ready to take her shot anyway. Not until she was seated beside Captain Dale at a table facing the makeshift half-circle where the Quorum were taking their seats. She needed every second.

Adama saw the tension go through Meridina's body. "Something wrong?", he asked.

"There is danger here," she murmured. Meridina's swevyra'se was buzzing with a warning sense. Something was dreadfully wrong.

"What kind?"

"I'm not sure," she had to admit. "But there is real physical danger in this room."

Adama's skepticism nearly had him dismiss her words. But he didn't. His instincts told him something was wrong here. The room was a big target for the Cylons, after all, even with all of the security to ensure the proceedings remained private. He cursed the necessity of using the larger hanger deck over the smaller but more easily-secured wardroom. Before he could say anything, one of the Marines called out to him. "Admiral, it's CIC for you, Colonel Tigh says it's important."

Adama went over and accepted the phone. "Adama here."

"I've got Commander Andreys asking to send people over. She says she has a Cylon detector and that one of her people identified a Cylon in the Fleet."

"Suspicious timing," Adama murmured.

"Damned suspicious," Tigh agreed. "I mean, don't their shuttles have those transporting devices? If we let one get within the shields..."

"Yeah. Put the Commander on for me." Adama remained quiet until he heard the clicking of the channel being piped in. "Commander Andreys, this is not the best timing."

"I know," she said. "But Commander Carrey and Lieutenant Lucero just got back a short while ago with the news. Lieutenant Lucero saw a suspected Cylon over on Cloud Nine."

"Were you field-testing this device you say you have?"

"No. She says she's seen the woman before. Years ago on a trading outpost on the outskirts of Gersallian space. None of your people could have been that far out, but Sharon says the Cylons have been poking around the edges of Gersallian and Dorei space for years now. She would have to be a Cylon to have been there."

Adama frowned. "You'll understand my skepticism, Commander."

"I know. But this is something we can use to make up for what Meridina did. We could gift you the scanner and the means to make more. It's a handheld device."

"If it works," Adama answered. "You wouldn't happen to have the name of..."

"Admiral, Captain Adama's at the door," one of the Marines said. "He wants to see you." The Marine leaned in. "He says they found a Cylon on Cloud Nine."

Adama put two and two together. "Bring him in, quietly." He started visually scanning the crowd. Meridina was still tense, far moreso than she'd been at any point of this crisis. And he could feel it in his bones. Something was wrong. He started scanning the crowd of Quorum aides and members of the Galactica crew being brought forth for testimony. His eyes moved across the crowd.

"Commander, are you still there?"

"Yes. You wanted the name of the person Lieutenant Lucero believes to be the Cylon?"

"Yes." Adama's eyes kept scanning the room. They passed across the front row of seats and he saw...

"D'anna Biers."

D'anna kept looking at her targets. Robert Dale looked pensive but unaware. He had more mundane concerns at the moment. The Gersallian was different. She looked... tense and concerned, if not outright fearful. Like she knew that someone was coming to kill her but didn't know who it was or how her death was going to be brought about. That worried D'anna.

Adama was on the phone along the wall. People moving about obscured her sight of him at points. But she watched his eyes scan the crowd. They swept over her and stopped for a moment.

A moment enough for D'anna to begin feeling suspicious. Was she somehow betrayed? Should she just shoot now? What if...?

Adama's eyes kept going. D'anna calmed her thoughts and returned to looking around.

Meridina felt the intent come across her conscious. There was someone here with the intent to do violence. She was certain of that now. She started looking around the crowd and knew she would be the intended victim.

But where would the attack come from?

Adama forced himself to keep his eyes sweeping. D'anna Biers, a Cylon?! The thought filled him with disgust and horror. She was in the perfect position to undermine the Fleet with her journalism. There were few people he would be more horrified to hear were Cylons.

"That's a big charge, Commander," he said.

"We can prove it. We've tested the scanner, it works."

"And all I have to do is let you penetrate Galactica's defenses. I'm not sure I trust you that much, Commander."

On the bridge of the Aurora, Julia cringed and put her hand to her forehead. That was the problem, wasn't it? Trust. Adama had to trust her and she had to trust him. And after everything that had happened.

This is your chance, a voice inside of her said. Convince him and beam Meridina and Robert out. You can sort it out later. It'll even be better for them since they won't do anything to make the government back in Portland cut them off!

Locarno and Jarod gave her looks. They didn't have to say anything. They knew the temptation she was facing.

It was a strong one, too. All it required her to do was violate Adama's trust - should it be extended again - and decide what was better for the Colonials. She was certain she was right about what they needed. But...

No. That was not how this should go. They had to start building a relationship of friendship with the Fleet. That couldn't happen if there wasn't any trust.

"I understand, Admiral," she said. "We've got trust issues going on here. But shouldn't we move past them? It's the only way any of us can be safe from the Cylons. Meridina stole your prisoner. Your people shot one of our's and brutally beat another. We've each done something to the other. Let's stop it. Please. We have to."

Adama was mulling it over when Lee and Kara were brought up by the Marine. Lee leaned in close. "It's Biers," he said in a low voice, nearly a whisper and just as good as one given the noise in the background. "Lucero recognized her."

Adama nodded. "You believe her?"

"I do," Lee answered. There had been no mistaking the horror and instinctive fear on Lucy's face.

"Yeah." Kara nodded. "I don't know what these people can do, but I... she showed me the face of the guy she said was with Biers. It was that Cylon I met on Caprica running the fake hospital. She saw them together, Admiral."

Adama's jaw clenched. He didn't ask again if she was sure. He could see it blazing in Kara's eyes. Lee looked just as certain. He was ready to stake everything on his impression of Lucy Lucero.

Which meant the Cylon was here. Now. It had wanted to be here. It was up to something.

Trust. The key issue was... could Adama trust Commander Andreys? Could he trust the woman to respect him and not snatch back her captain and her crewmate the moment the Galactica's shields lowered? If he was wrong.... then the entire Fleet and Quorum would be humiliated. They would never recover from that.

Every thought in his head told him it was a bad deal. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, that he could do to hold Commander Andreys to her word. She had every reason to retake her people. He wouldn't even really be able to blame her for that, when it came down to it; protecting her own like he would protect his own.

"Sometimes you have to roll the hard six," he mumbled to himself.

"Sir?", Lee asked.

"I'm about to do something potentially stupid," he sighed. He held up the phone again. "Biers is here, Commander. Starboard hanger deck. Send your people and the scanner over by your transporter, we need that thing now." Adama flipped a switch to reconnect to CIC. "Tigh, lower the shields to allow a transport from the Aurora."

"What? Say again?"

"Lower the shields. Now."

There was clear hesitancy in his voice. Adama almost repeated the order before he replied, "Lowering shields."

"Galactica's shields are lowering," Jarod said. He didn't point out he could get transporter locks on Meridina and Robert. There was no need.

Julia's temptations returned. Augmented by what Adama had said. The Cylon was there. It - she - could be up to something! Robert and Meridina were in danger! Beam them back, you don't have to risk anyone else....

Her hand hit the intercom button. "Bridge to Transporter Room 4. Beam over now. Starboard hanger deck. The Cylon is there!"

Adama half-expected to see Meridina and Robert disappear.

Instead two more figures materialized nearby. He recognized Zack and Lucy. "Raise shields again," he ordered into the phone.

"Yes sir," Tigh said with relief in his voice.

Adama could feel the same relief in his. He noticed the looks Baltar and Zarek were giving him, indeed the eyes turning toward the new arrivals, and felt the relief surge even stronger. He had shown trust and Andreys had honored it; now she was showing trust in him by giving him two potential hostages.

"Admiral, what is going on...?" Baltar asked.

Adama went to answer.

But he didn't get the chance.

D'anna's attention went straight toward the two pillars of light that coalesced into two figures. More of the Alliance officers... she even recognized one as having been on Cloud Nine earlier.

That made her apprehensive enough. She looked to the woman... just as the woman looked at her.


At that point, D'anna knew she had been identified.

So she pulled out the gun, aimed at Meridina, and fired.

Meridina had been looking away from D'anna when she felt the warning through her swevyra'se. The arrival of Lucy and Zack had distraced her from one threat she thought she felt, an aide of one of the Quorum members who radiated disgust and hate at her.

And for all of her skill and power, that warning time was simply not enough to prevent the attack.

Meridina tried to jump anyway even as the gun barked out. The shackles on her ankles limited her movement and kept her from getting clear of the shot. Pain surged throuugh her chest from where the bullet struck her body, ripping through flesh and bone to lodge in her ribs. Blood erupted from the wound and hit the floor while she was in mid-air. She hit the ground and wheezed. She fought against the pain and looked up.

The blonde woman. She hadn't noticed her yet. But she was there... and Meridina remembered her. The woman from the Faith Summit videos. The one Lucy had seen on Djamar. Even she could remember the glimpse she caught of Lucy's prospective "buyer" from that day when she had met Robert and Lucy.

With everything that had happened... she hadn't realized the true ramifications of what Sharon had said about her people knowing the Gersallians and Dorei.

She didn't have time to say anything, though. The mysterious blonde pointed her gun at Meridina's head. She would be dead in a second.

Meridina had a second to live when Lucy acted.

She gathered her will and grabbed the gun with it, lifting upward with enough force to try and yank it out of D'anna's grip. The Cylon woman was stronger than she looked and, as it turned out, actually joinde the gun in the air. Shot after shot rang out, sending bullets into the hull plating. A scream came from one aide.

After four shots went off the gun clicked, emptied of ammo. Lucy let go and the Cylon plummetted to the ground. Two of the Marines who had been guarding Meridina grabbed and restrained her. "The Plan will succeed!", D'anna screamed. "God will not be denied! He will not be denied!"

"Who are you?!", Lucy shouted. "Why did you take my blood the last time?! Why..."

"Lucy." Robert stepped up to her and shook his head. He looked to Adama and nodded. Nearby Baltar, Zarek, and the Quorum were watching with stunned faces. "Admiral Adama?"

Adama was already giving orders to the Marines. A corpsman amongst them was tending to Meridina's wound and giving advice to an aide who had been hit in the arm. "Admiral, shall we take the prisoner to the cell?", one of the Marines asked.

"One moment." Adama looked to Zack. "The device?"

Zack nodded and handed it over. Adama turned it over in his hands. It looked relatively simple. A few buttons, a display showing a frequency wavelength, and a screen showing everyone in bright blue silhouette. He brought the device up and pointed it at D'anna and the Marines flanking her. They remained blue. D'anna lit up with gold light. "I'd say it works," he said. "Get that thing out of here."

D'anna began screaming again as she was dragged out.

"A Cylon detector?", Robert asked Zack.

"Yep. Lucy, Jarod, and Leo slapped it together. Cat figured out the best way to use it." Zack smiled at him. "And Lucy and I spotted the crazy blonde over on Cloud Nine and Lucy recognized her from... where was it?"

"Djamar," Robert said. Looking at Biers he thought he could remember her face too, although there had been a bunch of pirates between them so the memory wasn't the clearest one he had. "Holy crap. The Cylons have been messing around on the frontier for years, haven't they?"

"Looks like it," Zack murmured.

Robert nodded and looked over to the Quorum, where eyes were on Zarek. "I had no idea...!" the Sagittaron protested. "Who believed Biers was a Cylon? I mean, come on!"

"Maybe you're one too," the Tauron delegate barked.

"He isn't," Adama barked back. He held the scanner up to the Quorum. "Going by this thing none of you are."

"Right." Baltar settled back into his seat, looking like he was sick. He looked to Robert. "Captain. I believe I speak for the Quorum and the entire Fleet when I say that we are grateful for your people revealing this treachery to us. And for the technological means to find other Cylon infiltrators."

"You're welcome, Mister Vice President," Robert replied formally.

There was hushed muttering in the Quorum, but Zarek and Baltar ignored it as the former whispered to the latter. "Ah, yes, that makes sense," Baltar said. "Captain, seeing as how the efforts of your people have helpfully replaced the Cylon prisoner your officer seized, I think it is safe to say the Quorum is willing to let the matter be dropped. I can hold a vote if it is liked."

"Tauron will not stand for this miscarriage of justice, this defiance of..."

"Then Tauron's representative can sit down," Zarek declared, glaring at the Tauron representative.

"I demand a vote!"

"Very well," Baltar said. "All in favor of dropping the matter concerning Commander Meridina?" He raised his hand alongside Zarek. Eight more hands went up within four seconds. "All against?" The Tauron rep and two others raised their hands sullenly. "The motion from Tauron fails. The Quorum hereby drops all charges against Commander Meridina. I imagine she will need medical treatment," Baltar continued, "but she is free to leave when the doctors clear it, as is Captain Dale. Hopefully not immediately, however." Baltar nodded at Robert. "I also believe a resumption of talks is in order?"

Robert smiled slightly. "Yes, I would agree. I'm grateful the situation is clear so that we can resume discussing the relationship of the Colonial Fleet to the United Alliance of Systems."

"Well, since we're gathered here..." Baltar looked about at the Quorum, still assembled as they were. "...perhaps we should start by discussing the means to produce these new Cylon detectors..."

Ship's Log: 6 June 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. The crisis with the Colonial Fleet has passed and we are resuming cooperation on several important matters. I have remained on Galactica to continue talks with the Quorum, but we will soon be transferring these discussions to Cloud Nine.

However, this has allowed me to be present for the most important fruits of our cooperation.

Robert stood with Adama, Billy, and Baltar as Cottle and Leo finished the examination of Roslin. She was sitting up in her bed, very weak but not quite so weak as the last time Robert had seen her. Leo showed the results of his medical scan to Cottle, who nodded. "The cancer is gone," he announced. "Complete remission."

"Is it gone for good?", Roslin asked.

"Probably not," Leo conceded after exchanging a look with Cottle. "But we can deal with it now. Early detection cancer prevention treatments can keep you cancer free."

"So she's effectively cured?", Robert asked, just to make sure of things.

"Yes," Cottle said. "She is."

Roslin blinked and took in a breath. "How...?"

Cottle and Leo glanced toward each other. Baltar was not so reluctant. "Cells taken from the Cylon baby," he explained. "They have cancer-destroying properties that we used."

Roslin stared at him. "What?"

"The baby saved you, Madame President," Baltar answered. He smiled slightly. "The universe has a funny way about things, doesn't it?"

Roslin breathed in and looked away. "Yes. I thnk you're right. What else have I missed...?"

"Billy can bring you up to speed from your bed," Cottle said. "You're going to need time to recover, so get used to seeing me every day for the next week."

"So you say, Doctor." Roslin licked at her lips. "Before you go... I would like to talk to Captain Dale and Admiral Adama."

They stepped forward while Billy moved away and Baltar left. Roslin liked at her lips. "Captain, I want to thank your people for their patience," she said quietly. "i'd like to put this behind us."

"So would I," Robert answered. "We need to trust each other."

"Agreed. I want to arrange compensation for your officers that were harmed by our people. I know we don't have much to offer, but if they need anything from the Fleet, tell them to ask and they'll get it."

"I will." Robert leaned forward a little. "Madame President, we've each made mistakes, but I'd like to think we can work together despite them. I'm making solid progress with your Quorum on setting up permanent relations."

"Thank you." Roslin grinned weakly. "I've come to realize that your people are the best thing that have happened to the Fleet since we left our homes. I thank the Gods we haven't been driven apart. Whatever happens from here on out, your Alliance has my support."

"Thank you, Madame President."

Roslin nodded and the general gesture and look told Robert his part in the conversation was over. He left to return to discussing things with the Quorum. This left Adama and Roslin to talk. "Feeling up to getting back on the job?"

"No," Roslin admitted. "I 've thought about just giving it to Baltar." She held a hand up. "Don't worry, Bill, I'm not. I have to go on and do what I can for our people."

Adama nodded.

"You trusted them," Roslin said. "Despite everything that's happened, you trusted them."

"Yes." Adama found a seat. "I admit that it didn't look like the smartest choice, but it was the right one."

"I agree." Roslin nodded. "I've made some mistakes, Bill."

"We all have."

"But mine were worse. The idea of questioning what I've believed for so long, it made me take bad decisions. By all rights I should be dead because of them." Roslin blinked. "That Cylon woman would have had every right to deny letting them use her baby for my treatment. I mean, I tried to kill her baby. By the Gods, Bill, why was I so scared that I ordered something like that?"

"We all were," Adama answered her. "There's no telling what a half-Cylon child means for us."

"Still..." Roslin shook her head. "Things have to change. We've been so scared that we haven't dared to really hope for something better, and we almost lost our first real hope since the attack. We can't do that again. We can't afford it. These people are our best hope, even if they're not the Thirteenth Tribe, even if Earth is our homeworld or whatever else we have wrong about our past." She seemed to search for more thoughts, but her fatigue was clearly getting the better of her. "Thank you for trusting them, Bill. Thank you for avoiding my mistake."

Adama nodded quietly. "You should get some rest," he said. "We need you back to full health." After she nodded and laid back down Adama stood up to leave. He had a few things to arrange in CIC first, but after that he was due on the Aurora. He had something he needed to do.

Baltar returned to his lab and sighed. Roslin had survived. He wasn't going to take a leadership position he wasn't sure he wanted. Everything had come out quite alright, all he needed to do now was get ready for the next Quorum session with Captain Dale and....

"You fool."

The voice made him spin and face the frowning visage of the Cylon in his head. She was dressed more modestly than usual; she wasn't here to tittilate him. "Pardon?", he asked.

"Meridina is still alive," the head Cylon said. "She's still a threat to you."

Baltar rolled his eyes. "Listen, with what happened I couldn't exactly demand we continue trying her. Zarek carried a majority in the Quorum."

"You didn't even try!"

"Why?" Baltar walked around the table and glared at her. "Why is this woman supposed to die? Why are you so determined to kill her? Why do the Cylons want her dead more than they would want to kill Adama or me?"

"Because God demands it," the head Cylon hissed. "Her kind are the enemies of God. His plan requires her death."

"What Plan? How is she an enemy of God? This doesn't make sense!"

That lovely face contorted in anger and Baltar expected to get yanked by the tie again. But slowly she seemed to control her anger. "I understand, Gaius. Your means are limited. God understands." She smiled thinly and put a finger on him. "God will ensure shhe does not meddle with the Plan. Meanwhile..." She looked down and away from him. Baltar followed her eyes.

She was looking at the sealed letter Roslin had left for him earlier in the week.

"...I wonder what President Roslin had to say?", the head Cylon cooed. "Maybe you should open it..."

Adama went over on a Raptor to the Aurora, piloting it himself. He landed in the fighter recovery bay along the top of the drive hull and received instructions from there to his destination.

The medbay of the Aurora looked almost alien to him. Displays were built into the walls, the beds weren't the same, and the signs of the high technology of the Alliance were everywhere. He was met at the door by Commander Meridina. "Feeling better?", he asked her.

"Yes," she answered, smiling slightly. "They're ready for you."

"Thank you," he answered, moving past her. A dark-skinned nurse that Meridina referred to as Nasri showed him to a wing. On one bed he saw Lieutenant Barnes, now pouring over a PADD and looking mostly recovered, and on the other was Lieutenant Delgado. She didn't look too bad now, with only a little bruising, but Adama had seen an image of her after the Pegasus crew had abused her. The security camera picture hadn't been pretty.

Seated beside Caterina, Angel Delgado was in her predominately black duty uniform with olive brown tactical trim. The others were still in civilian clothes. And all looked intently at Adama. "Lieutenant Barnes, Lieutenant Delgado." Adama put his hands behind him. His expression remained reserved and his voice firm as he spoke. "I've come to thank you for the help you have provided to the Fleet, and to issue my personal apology for the injuries you received when you were taken into custody during this past crisis. It was never my intention that any of you be harmed. And I know that it was a violation of your good will to seize you while you were giving us aid. On behalf of the Colonies, of the Colonial Fleet, and of myself, I am sorry. I ask for your forgiveness."

Angel was staring daggers at him. Cat slowly looked at him, clearly uncomfortable with making eye contact. She swallowed. "I.... thank you for the apology, Admiral Adama. I forgive you."

Hearing Cat's reply, Barnes remained quiet for another moment, pretending that he was focused on his personal reader. He set it down and sighed. "Sure. I'm not happy with you people, but at least you're admitting that you frakked things up with us. Apology accepted and you've got my forgiveness. Just don't frakking shoot me again." He returned to his PADD.

Adama nodded. He turned to face Meridina. "I'm sorry for any discomfort we caused you, Commander."

Meridina nodded. "And I am sorry for not attempting diplomacy with you and President Roslin first. Had I done so, perhaps this matter would have been handled without violence."

"Apology accepted," Adama said happily.

Angel slid off the bed. "I'd like to ask you something, Admiral," she said. Her voice was a little flat, almost emotionless. Meridina cast a look at her, full of worry and concern. She knew that the voice was deceptive in what was really going on in Angel's heart.

Adama looked to her and nodded. "Your question, Lieutenant?"

"Who hurt my little sister?", Angel asked.

"Crewmembers aboard Pegasus, who are being disciplined for their behavior," Adama answered.

"That's not what I asked." Angel drew closer. Barely-contained rage was starting to drip into her words. "Who is responsible for my little sister getting beaten? I want to know."

Adama looked over the young woman. She reminded him of Kara with her body language, all angry tension and raw physicality. He knew that she wouldn't be satisfied with his answer, or any other answer he was enjoined to give. She wanted names. She wanted something to grasp.

So he gave her a different answer.

"As Admiral of the Colonial Fleet, I am responsible for the conduct of the men and women under my command." He leaned in toward her, given his slight height advantage, to look her eye to eye. "So if you want to hold someone responsible, you'll have to settle for me."

Angel was quiet for a moment. "Fair enough."

The next thing Adama knew, his back was hitting the wall behind him hard. Pain shot through his face as he slid to a sitting position against the wall. He brought a hand up to his face and felt blood trickle from his lip and nose, the result of Angel's fist slamming into the space at his nose and mouth. He cracked a grin. Damn, she is fast, was his thought. He barely remembered seeing the punch as more than a blur.

"Woh," Barnes said, peaking over his digital display. Cat said nothing.

Meridina gave Angel a dissatisfied look. "Was that truly necessary?", she asked.

"Yes," Angel replied laconically, returning to her sister's side.

Meridina sighed and offered Adama a hand. "My apologies Admiral," she said. "I shall take you to get medical attention."

"It's fine," he answered, rubbing at his jaw. He followed Meridina out off the room. "Remind me to invite the Lieutenant to Galactica for fight night. A punch like that should make her a regular."


Two days later, Adama, Lee, Kara, and Colonel Fisk were assembled in the Aurora conference room with the senior officers of the ship. "We've finished integrating the sensor systems," Adama said. "Both of our Battlestars have the promised scanning ability."

"Good," Robert answered. "Now as for parts..."

"I've got a question." Kara held a hand up, but only after speaking. Eyes turned toward her. "It's all nice and cuddly to cooperate over this stuff, but the fact is we need more help than this. We've got people back on the Colonis who are still alive, fighting the Cylons. But they're not going to last much longer."

"We've gone over this, Captain Thrace," Adama said, a little exasperation evident in his voice. "It's too far away. Too many jumps, not enough fuel, and the Cylon fleet would be ready to attack us."

"Maybe we have another way," Zack said. "I mean, I can take Koenig in close under cloak and..."

"Going by starmaps, the Colonies are another two weeks away at maximum warp," Locarno said. "You're talking about spending that much time stuffed to the gills iwth people, if there are any more left."

"So we're just supposed to forget they exist," Kara scoffed. "We can be there in hours with Cylon jump drives. And..."

"Wait." Caterina held a hand up. Robert pointed to her. "The Cylons can jump further than you, but that's not from better drives, is it? I mean, they're not any more robust, they just have the means to calculate further jumps."


"Then the answer is perfect," Caterina said, smiling. "We use the Aurora computers and the long range probe data to calculate jumps even further than the Cylons. It'd shave a lot of time off."

"That would require having the Aurora joining the expedition," Lee pointed out. "Unless you have the means to build us better astrogation computers."

"We only have so much raw material for computer parts," Barnes said.

"Aye, and we've used some already for th' shield systems an' sensors," Scott added.

Kara frowned. "So we're back to not doing anything for all of the people back there? Admiral, remember..."

"I know they helped you and Helo, but we just don't have the means," Adama said bluntly. "Your plan would require about every Raptor we had left.."

"Why can't we just put a jump drive on the Aurora?", Caterina asked. Everyone looked at her and her shyness made her blush. "I-I mean... w-we find some ast-asteroids, b-build some w-with raw ma-material..."

"Nice thinking, Cat," Zack said to her, smiling.

Julia raised an eyebrow and looked at Robert. "Tom, Scotty?", she asked.

"Well, we did put in some spare space to accept secondary drives," Barnes admitted. "I mean, Farmer did, given all of the data the Facility had on higher bands of hyperspace. I suppose we could install a jump drive."

"Aye, but th' power, lad, th' power we'd need tae make these jumps." Scotty shook his head. "We'd have tae disconnect th' warp drive an' power our jumps directly from th' main reactors."

"So we couldn't use warp and jumps at the same time?", Robert asked.

"Nae sir, not at all."

"And it would take hours to change all the connections back and forth," Barnes continued. "Even with every engineering and operations hand on task, it would take a while, too long to switch back and forth."

"I see." Robert scratched at his chin. "Still..."

"Building a jump drive large enough for this ship would require a yard," Colonel Fisk said, smirking. "It's not happening out here."

"Why not build it on Cloud Nine?", Cat asked. "It's got a lot of internal space..."

"Carefully designed artificial garden space," Fisk clarified. "Building a drive there would expose the environment to all sorts of toxic materials."

"So that plan won't work anyway," Zack lamented.

"Well, actually..." Cat had stopped stuttering, but with everyone looking at her again it came back. "Th-there is a-another pos-possibility."

"Yes, Lieutenant?', Adama asked directly.

"If we h-had a d-drive already b-built.... we could j-just beam i-it in and in-install it..."

"I can't risk pulling any drives off our ships," Adama answered.

"So we don't," Zack suggested. He looked to Kara, who smiled widely as she realized what he was thinking. "We get the drives we need by another route."

"That is?", Adama asked.

"Simple." Zack put his hand on the table. "The Cylons have been hunting you, right? I say we return the favor. We hunt them and take the drives from their Baseships. They should be large enough for Aurora."

Robert and Julia looked at each other and then Adama. "It's awfully risky, Commander," Adama said. "But it's not impossible."

"Hunt down the Cylons and steal one of their drives," Julia asked him in a deadpan tone of voice.

"Yes. That's what we should do," Zack said. "We cripple their ship, take it over, install the drive, and boom, the Aurora can jump. Then we can lead some of the fleet back to the Colonies and rescue anyone we find that's still alive."

"Oh, I like it," Kara said.

"I like it too," Lee said, looking at his father. "On top of rescuing people, it might give us a better look at the extent of the Cylons' forces."

"I'll have to get approval of the mission from Portland," Robert said. "But the chance to get a clearer picture of what they're doing on your Homeworlds, that should convince President Morgan and Admiral Maran."

"So it's a plan?", Julia asked. "We hunt the Cylons down, take a drive from one of their Basestars, and head back to get survivors?"

Adama nodded, seeing Kara smiling widely and looking particularly happy with Zack. "It's a plan," he agreed.

"Well." Robert smiled slightly. "Let's get started on it."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »


The Starship Koenig twisted in space, her dorsal phaser blazing away at Cylon raiders on her tail. The ship completed its maneuver and turned slightly to face its main target: a Cylon Basestar. One of three in the immediate area. Missiles and railgun rounds from the ship lashed out at the smaller Koenig, which maneuvered sharply with rolls and turns to avoid most of the hits. Blue energy shined against the hull from full hits and bright blasts from proximity nuclear initiations.

"Shields holding at sixty percent," Magda reported from Operations.

Zack nodded, keeping his focus on the fight. "Status of the fighters?"

"No friendly casualties yet."

"Good. Sherlily, prepare to lower dorsal shields." Zack reached down and punched his intercom. "This is Carrey. Are you ready, Commander Meridina?"

"We are, Commander," Meridina answered.

"You heard the lady, Ap." Zack pressed the comm button. "Captain Adama, we're ready."

"We read you, Koenig," Lee answered. "All Vipers form on me."

"Extend shields around our fighters," Zack ordered.

With Lee's Vipers flying close escort, Koenig moved in close to the Basestar. Around them other Vipers and the Mongoose fighters from the Aurora were steadily eliminating the Cylon fighters.

Apley's expert piloting kept most hits from striking them. Lee's pilots matched his maneuvers closely, keeping their vulnerable fighters within the extended shields. They gave suppressing fire that shot down several of the Cylon missiles before they could get close while Koenig's blazing phaser cannons took out more. A spread of solar torpedoes raced across the distance and smashed into one of the arms of the Cylon Basestar. Explosions rippled up and down the arm and its weapon emplacements went silent.

"Drop shields! Commence beaming!"

For several seconds, Koenig was vulnerable to enemy fire as she sent boarding teams over to the Cylon ship components. Missile and rail gun fire converged on the ship and was fought back by the escorting fighters and Koenig's own weapons. Nevertheless the ship rocked violently as one nuke got through and initiated on its armored hull. Powerful rounds slammed into the housing of the port nacelle.

Magda finally brought the shields back up. "Transport complete," she reported. "Shields are holding at forty-five percent. We have minor damage on all decks, partial armor loss on Deck 2 starboard section, and some damage to the port nacelle housing."

Zack gritted his teeth. That was too close. "What about the engines?"

"Warp drive inoperable."

"Not surprising," he muttered. He hit the intercom button. "Bridge to Engineering. Derbely, I need shield power back."

"I'm on it!"

"Shields still holding at ninety percent," Jarod said on the Aurora bridge.

"And Pegasus?"

"Their shields are at eighty percent."

On the viewscreen phaser fire from the Aurora sliced along the arm of one of the Cylon Basestars. Weapons fire receded from the enemy ship. "Over seventy percent of Basestar Bravo's weapons are now offline," Angel said.

"Excellent. Prepare to lower shields." Robert hit his intercom. "Commander Kane, we're about to send you over."

"We're ready, bridge."

The Aurora traded shots with the other Basestar, which was focusing on them almost exclusively now, freeing Pegasus to use the transporters rigged into their ship to send Marine teams to do the same job. At the right time Jarod dropped the shields and the Aurora beamed the strike team over.

"Let's get these ships disarmed and disabled," Robert said. "We've got a schedule to keep."

Undiscovered Frontier
"Necessary Risks"

Ship's Log: 9 June 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We have successfully completed our attack on the Cylon Basestars shadowing the Colonial Fleet. Although we took a few casualties in the battle, we gained our primary objective by salvaging enough parts out of the Cylon ships' drives to build a jump drive for the use of the Aurora. Soon we will know for sure on whether we can bring the Aurora with the raid on the Colonial Homeworlds.

Robert sipped at the morning coffee that was waking him up before looking back at his panel screen, where Admiral Maran was looking at him. "The engineering teams are working with their Colonial counterparts to put the pieces together for one intact jump drive. The trick is going to be the course calculations more than anything. Our Darglan computers are powerful enough to lengthen the jump range beyond the Cylon standard. Jarod and Cat are crunching the numbers now."

"I see." Maran nodded. "President Morgan has okayed the operation."

"That's good to know. Even if we save just a few thousand.... it should really improve morale for the Fleet to get survivors from their homeworlds." Robert set his coffee down. "President Roslin has asked me about the relief convoy."

"Princess Syrina cleared it with the Council of State yesterday. First Minister Henzi is going to require some of what President Morgan called 'horse-trading'." Maran smiled with contemplation at the intricacies of the politics of the Dorei Federation and its 185 nations. "But we should have a convoy ready to go out by the end of the month."

"It's going to take them the better part of a month just to get here," Robert mused. "Can we really stay out this far until late July?"

"Probably not. Honestly, Captain, the President is already planning on ordering you to get back here by the start of next month." Maran's expression hardened. "Admiral Lithgon has reported increased Reich activity on their end of the Krellan Nebula. They're using the nebula's sensor shadow to obscure some of their ship movements."

"What about probes? Cloaked ships?" Robert frowned. "You could call in the Weaver or the Rodriguez."

"We're not willing to poke at the Nazis again. Not after what happened with your ship. We're still trying to get them to talk but all we've gotten is silence." Maran shook his head. "It doesn't look good, Robert. The more this situation lasts, the more I'm convinced that we're going to have a war."

Robert winced. "We'll try to get this operation wrapped up quickly."

"Good." Maran held up a PADD. "Now, about your other matter. Commander Carrey's transfer request. I have a few questions from you on this situation..."

Robert, Julia, and Zack were waiting in the shuttle bay for the arrival of the shuttle from Galactica. Behind them Commander Kane and an honor guard of Marines were standing with rifles at parade rest. A newly-replicated copy of the Colonial flag - or rather the Colonial bird-insignia seal on a flag - was held up by one of Kane's honor guard while another held the Alliance flag.

"Seems rather silly to go through all of this for a strategy conference," Zack whispered to the others.

"Orders are orders. Extend full courtesies," Julia replied. "That means we follow protocol on visiting government dignitaries."

"Right." Zack sighed. He briefly fidgeted with the golden tassels hanging from the epaulets of his dress uniform jacket. "So we're wearing dress uniforms for a standard meeting."

"Yes. Now shush."

Julia hushed him for good reason, as the door on the shuttle opened. Admiral Adama stepped out with his son Lee, Captain Kara Thrace, and Colonel Fisk behind him. Tom Zarek and Dr. Baltar emerged next.

They felt some surprise at seeing President Roslin up and about as well. Or at least she was for stepping down. Her aide Billy Keikaya came up behind her with a wheelchair that she settled into. After she did so she looked around at the shuttle bay.

"Permission to come aboard, Captain?", Roslin asked.

"Granted. President Roslin, it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you aboard the Aurora," Robert said to the woman who just a week before had caused two of his friends to get hurt and had nearly started a shooting war between them. It made him grateful that he left Angel on bridge watch. She didn't forgive so easily.

"Thank you, Captain Dale." She nodded and smiled thinly at the assemblage. She was already looking healthier after a week of treatment by Leo and Doctor Cottle. The cancer that had nearly killed her was in complete remission and anti-cancer treatments were underway to kill it permanently. "I admit I'm still rather weak from my recovery. As much as I would like a tour of your ship, I think we should get down to business."

"Commander Jarod and Lieutenant Delgado are waiting for us," Robert answered.

The command crew of the Aurora and Koenig were gathered with Roslin and the Colonial contingent in Briefing Room 2. A set of curved tables were arranged in a circle around each other with a holographic projector in the middle. The two groups sat in their listed spots while Jarod went to the holoprojector. "Madame President, Admiral Adama, Captain Dale." Jarod nodded at them. "We've been going over the data from the long range probes that came into proximity of the Helios systems." He tapped a key and brought up a holographic space map. Icons lit up on both sides. "We're here." He indicated one icon with the Alliance torch insignia and the Colonial seal side-by-side. On the other end was a larger Colonial seal. Around it small dots glimmered in the holographic projection, with a few more visible between the two icons. Small red markers popped up at a few points along the way. "Going by the records from the Galactica and what we can piece together from the destroyed Cylon force, the Cylon fleet is currently located in these areas."

"A search pattern," Adama said, noticing the layout of the purported Cylon fleets. "They're out looking for us."

Jarod looked to Caterina. She swallowed and nodded. "Space is too big. And what we've seen of their sensors means they don't have the means to scan long-range for the Fleet."

"They've probably relied upon Cylon infiltrators to keep them informed of our movements."

"That's our best guess." Jarod nodded. "And since we can find them now, their ability to pass information on is limited."

"It's going to take a while to use those hand scanners on everyone in the Fleet," Adama remarked. "Have you made any headway on using ship sensors to locate Cylons?"

"No sir," Cat said simply. She licked her lip. It was very apparent that Cat was speaking carefully and deliberately. "The sensors for detecting life don't let us scan for their insulation. At least, they don't yet."

"How long would it take for you to make that work, Lieutenant Delgado?", Roslin asked.

Roslin's voice was, if not friendly, at least gentle in tone. She clearly recognized Caterina and Adama noticed the slight change in her expression, the guilt at knowing what had been done to the brilliant young Alliance science officer and how it was due to her orders.

Nevertheless Caterina, who had so far managed to control her shyness, clearly started to lose her control. "W-well, Ma-Madame President," Caterina stammered. "It's a m-matter of...."

"It's an issue of resolution, Madame President," Jarod finished for Cat, looking at her with understanding and concern. "The sensor we developed for Cylon detection relies on ultra-fine resolutions to detect the tell-tale signs of a Cylon in biological form. Ship-based sensors aren't made for that kind of resolution at that scale, just as how our ship-mounted sensors didn't detect your cancer."

Roslin nodded. "I see. Can these technical limitations be overcome?"

"We would have to build an entirely new sensor system," Jarod answered. "That takes time."

"So that solution is out, then," Zarek sighed. "We're stuck with the hand scanners. And any Cylons left will go out of their way to avoid them."

"Maybe we can install versions of the scanners at chokepoints on every ship," Meridina suggested.

Jarod nodded. "That we can do."

"Then it's something the Fleet will implement with your assistance, Captain Dale," Roslin said. "However, I would like to return to the issue of this operational plan that Captain Thrace and Commander Carrey have been proposing."

There were nods. Zack and Kara stood up and walked over to join Jarod. "Lieutenant Delgado and I have been analyzing the drives and their physical limits. Since the real limitation is how accurately computers can control the jump effect to certain distances, our ability to apply the processing power of the Aurora's computer cores allows us to plot jumps even further than the Cylons."

"How much further?", Adama asked.

"Around fifty percent," Caterina answered, having found her voice. And very deliberately keeping her eyes off Roslin. "Maybe seventy-five percent with our most optimistic projections."

Lee looked at his father. "We could jump back to the Colonies in about six jumps that way."

"As few as four if our best estimates prove true," Caterina confirmed.

"What if we have a jump miscalculation?", Fisk asked.

"We use subspace transmissions," Jarod answered. "And we calculate a rendezvous point."

Adama nodded. "And if things go south we can always abort and form back at the Fleet."

"Just how much force are we taking for this?", Zarek asked. "Are we going to leave the Fleet undefended?"

"No." Adama shook his head. "Galactica will remain behind to cover the Fleet. I'll transfer my flag to Pegasus for the operation."

"And who's going to be in charge?", Baltar asked.

Robert looked at Adama and nodded. "As far as we're concerned, you're an allied force, and the military chain of command is clear. For this operation I consider myself under Admiral Adama's command."

"Thank you, Captain." Adama nodded to the officers in the center area. "Captain Thrace, Commander Carrey, now that we know we can do this, can you tell us what we're doing?"

Kara looked at Zack, who nodded and hit a key on the holo display. A series of points linked the Fleet to the Colonies. "It's a smash and grab," Kara said.

Zack hit another key to show an icon representing the attack force jumping across the points. "We jump in, scan for life signs, and then beam as many people as we can off each of the Colonies before the Cylons can react."

"Given the speed of their communications and jump drives, they'll react pretty quickly," Julia pointed out. "They'll swarm us."

"That's why we split up," Zack continued. "Pegasus and Koenig will cover one group and Aurora the other. And if the Cylons react in force, the Aurora will move to engage. We've already seen that the Cylon Basestars don't have the firepower to hurt this ship."

"You can't jump frequently, though," Adama pointed out. "Once the Aurora is committed to one area, she's stuck there until the drives can spool back up."

"Yeah, I know." Zack looked at Jarod. "How long would it take for warp to be restored?"

"Going by what Scotty's been saying?" Jarod shook his head. "Hours. Unless we rework the drives in a yard, the reconfiguration is manual. Even with every member of engineering and operations on hand, we're looking at two hours for a switchover. An hour if Scotty pulls a miracle."

"Knowing Mister Scott, he may just do that," Robert said. "But I don't like the thought of having to wait that long. Unless we absolutely have to, we'll stick to using the jump drive exclusively for this operation. Which means we need... how long?"

"If you keep the drives spooled up, you can do it every ten minutes or so," Lee said. "But that will wear the drive out."

"And we're already cobbling it together from the remains of three different Cylon capital drives." Jarod nodded. "So we can only keep the drive spooled up for so long. I'd suggest that before our final jump we take a few hours of downtime to run drive checks on all ships."

"I have a question," Baltar said. He shifted forward in his seat. "Commander, Captain, have you given any thought to how many people we can reasonably bring back? If we run out of room from the first Colonies we go to, we could end up leaving people from the other Colonies behind. This could be a political nightmare for the Fleet if some Colonies get more people rescued than others."

"A good point, Doctor," Zack conceded. "That's why we want to get volunteers from the Fleet."

"Excuse me?", Roslin asked.

"We'll ask some of the larger passenger-carrying ships to join our rescue fleet," Kara clarified. "The more volunteers we get, the more space we have for people we get off the Colonies."

"And we're just supposed to risk all of those civilians?", Balter asked pointedly.

Zack shook his head. "Honestly I doubt we'll get that many ships. And we can't accept any that provide a vital service to the Fleet. What few we do get, well... we temporarily evacuate the people living on those ships to the ships remaining behind. Cloud Nine alone has all the space we need. Between that and Galactica's unused hanger, that's space for thousands at least."

"When it comes to bringing people back from the Colonies, the Aurora has space for thousands of refugees," Julia added. "Captain Farmer estimated we could bring aboard twelve and a half thousand without overloading the ship. For a short time we could probably double that."

"That alone would be about half of our population," Roslin noted. "Finding all of those people places to stay is going to be... difficult."

"We could always bring some back with us," Robert noted. "There are refugee stations and camps that could accept them until we find you a planet to settle."

Roslin nodded. "I see."

"So we're not landing on any of the Colonies?", Zarek asked. "We're just using the matter transporters? Are we putting them on each individual ship?"

"We can rig some transporters on each ship that volunteers, yes," Robert said. "And assign transporter control officers to operate them. It might slow down our operations, but transporter operations training is universal throughout our engineering and ship operations departments and preferred in several other fields. Even trainee officers could handle some of the load, so long as we're not making them get too fancy."

"If we do have to land, I suggest we have Marines on standby," Commander Kane said. "Just in case of the unexpected."

"Agreed," Adama said. "We'll coordinate with you on that. Are there any more questions?"

There were none for the moment. "Then President Roslin and I will deliberate on whether to launch this operation or not," Adama said. "Expect our answer by tomorrow. You're all dismissed."

Once everyone was out of the room, Caterina leaned against one of the tables and let out a nervous breath. "Everything okay?" She turned her head and saw Jarod was standing by the door.

Caterina shook her head. "Not really," she admitted. "I thought I was doing well. But..." She plopped into one of the chairs. "She's the reason I got beaten. I can't get that out of my head. Why did they have to hurt me?" Tears were forming in her eyes. "I w-was just th-there to help t-them..."

Jarod took a seat opposite from Caterina's. "I know."

"A-and they sh-shot Tom..." Caterina sniffled and wiped at her right eye. "I'm sorry, I, I just..." When he didn't say anything she continued. "Look at m-me. I'm b-being a big ba-baby."

"You went through something horrible. It takes time to come to grips with that."

"Be-being a sh-shrink again?", Cat asked him. "Mister Pre-Pretender?"

"Don't need to go into that to know what's hurting you," Jarod answered. "You just have to understand that it's okay to be upset about it. You're not being a big baby, Cat, you're just a very sensitive young lady."

"Maybe too sensitive..." Cat had managed to get her sniffling under control by this point. "What am I going to do? I keep falling to pieces. I can't be like this and do this work. Maybe I should just leave..."

"You're stronger than you think, Cat." He patted her on the back. "Listen, why don't you take the rest of the day? Lieutenant Lumwe needs a bridge watch for training anyway."

Cat nodded. "He can have it. But I need to get back to work."

"We've done all the preliminary calculations for the planned jumps," Jarod pointed out. "We really don't need to do any more until we get final confirmation of when we're launching."

"Not this," Cat answered. "It's the data from that Darglan database we recovered in S4W8. We got a lot of raw astrographical data as well as a few new universal coordinates to try out. I'm hoping some of the data will lead us to their Facility in S4W8." She lowered her eyes. "It would at least be something after that mission went so badly."

Jarod sighed and nodded. "Yeah, you're right about that. Want any help?"

"You're going to have your hands full helping Scotty and Tom get that jump drive installed," Caterina pointed out. "I'll be fine." She wiped away the last tear in her eye. "I promise."

Jarod nodded and gave her a pat on the arm. Cat stood and walked out of the conference room.

With the bridge watch over and his official day wrapping up, Robert returned to his quarters and went over the final bits of paperwork so helpfully sent down to him by Julia. He went from scowling to amusement before finishing.

He had just filed the last report when the door opened. Angel walked in, still in uniform. Robert rose from his chair and met her just past the door. It was closed by the time they embraced and their lips met in a quick kiss. "Hey. Nice day?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling slightly. "Actually, I was pretty mad at things today, but shooting up Cylon Basestars in the tactical simulations let me vent."

"Ah, good." Robert gestured to the table. "I figured we'd decide on dinner when you got here and then..."

"...actually, I'm just coming by to pick up a couple of things," Angel said. "Cat's still having trouble sleeping so I'm going to spend a few nights with her."

Robert blinked and nodded. "Oh. Alright." He nodded. "Yeah, if she needs you that's the best thing to do."

"And yet you sound disappointed," Angel noted.

He sighed in reply. "Yeah, I guess I am. I was looking forward to spending the evening with you just in case we're running off to the Colonies tomorrow."

"Ah." Angel nodded. "Well, I can't blame you. Carpe diem was pretty much my argument for us getting back together, after all." She settled into the chair for the moment. "But Cat's still.... Rob, you didn't see her...."

"I saw the pictures," he answered, shuddering.

"Even that wasn't enough," Angel said. "They beat her so badly, I mean, Leo was considering surgery to fix her face if he couldn't repair the damage." She glanced out the windows. "And here we are, being buddy-buddy with them again."

Robert could hear the edge in her voice. "Angel, some of them did that. But that doesn't mean they're all guilty. I mean... from what Lucy says, it was Captain Thrace that stopped the beating. And she's the one pushing this mission."

"Yeah." Angel clenched a fist. "Yeah, I know. But it doesn't change the fact that they hurt her, Rob, and I wasn't there to stop them. I'm supposed to protect Cat. For God's sake, she's all I have left!"

A stab of irritation went through Robert. What about us? Don't you have me too? But he didn't give voice to it. Not just because he knew it would be wrong to say it, but because... did she really have him in the same way her sister was hers? As in family? The two of them were a couple, but he couldn't lie to himself on how close they were, or rather, how not close they were. Since they'd gotten back together Robert had been waiting for the day the other shoe dropped. "I know. Angel, I know how much your little sister means to you, and how much she looks to you. Give her as much time as she needs. I'm just asking you not to take things out on the Colonials."

Angel looked beyond him. Robert watched her wrestle with her emotions. "Yeah, you're right," she conceded. She stood up and went to the nightstand where her things were kept in a drawer. She pulled out the small carrying bag she'd brought them in and started putting them back. "I need to get going to make sure Cat gets a good supper before she goes to bed tonight. You'll be all right?"

"I'll be fine," Robert assured her.

"That's good to hear." She finished zipping the bag up and walked beside him. Angel leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Love you."

"Love you too," Robert called back to her as she went to the door. He said nothing more as she left.

Adama had a restless night. He didn't get many restful ones these days, of course, but this one stood out. The questions weighing on his mind demanded he consider every angle. Every potential issue.

On the one hand, he owed it to the Fleet to protect them. If this adventure went south, the Fleet would lose Pegasus. Galactica alone could only do so much against Cylon forces and being overwhelmed was a distinct, and frightening, possibility.

On the other hand… ever since Starbuck had returned from Caprica with news of survivors, Adama had felt gnawing frustration that he could do nothing to come to their rescue. And they deserved that. Leaving someone behind… it struck at the very core of his feelings, no matter how often he had felt it necessary.

But it wasn't necessary here. Now he had a powerful asset that they could use to rescue thousands of Colonial citizens on the Colonies and give the Cylons a real bloody nose too.

How could he pass that up?

When morning came he went to the VIP cabin that Roslin was staying in while finishing her treatments with Cottle. She was looking a bit healthier today. But Adama could see the lines on her face from a night of worrying. "Did you have any better sleep than I did, Bill?", she asked him.

"Not likely," he admitted.

"It's a big decision. Risk the security of the fleet to maybe save a few thousand survivors." Roslin remained silent for several moments. "If you had asked me to authorize this two weeks ago, I would have said 'no' right out. Even with the Aurora available."

"I'll stand by your decision," Adama assured her. "Whichever way you go."

"I know." She nodded. "The damnedest thing is… my head is telling me I should say no. That we should be satisfied with what we've managed to walk away with."

"I know the feeling."

"...but I can't get that ship out of my head, Bill. Every time I think about the Aurora, I start to feel hope like I haven't felt in… a very long time." Roslin drew in a sigh. "And I can't just listen to my head on this one."

Adama waited expectantly for what she was to say next.

"You've got my permission, Bill," Roslin said. "Find as many of our people as you can and bring them back. May the Gods be with you."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Once word came down from Roslin the Aurora crew got to work. Every engineer and operations officer with the necessary aptitude began to take the assembled engine and, with input from the engineering officers sent by Galactica and Pegasus (in a bemusing reversal of the ships' prior roles), prepare them for operation. The warp drive was carefully disconnected from the ship's power systems in order to power the stolen Cylon jump engine. Gardner from Pegasus oversaw the process of replicating whatever parts they had not been able to salvage from the Cylon ships.

Robert was waiting in his ready room going over the usual reports and paperwork demanded of him when Julia entered. "They're almost ready," she said. "Scotty wants to do a test jump in two hours."

"Right. He says it will work?"

"If it doesn't, the safeties will kick in. And Jarod's confident that there are no reasons it wouldn't work."

That prompted a nod. "Well, if he is…"

Julia took a seat and crossed her arms. "Having second thoughts?"

For a moment he said nothing. But as he collected his thoughts, Robert finally nodded. "Yeah, a little," he admitted. "We're going to be plunging into the heart of Cylon-held territory using a drive cobbled together from battle salvage and some guesswork. We have no idea on the actual strength off the Cylon forces in the Colonies. And even if we prevail, we won't be able to get everyone."

"Unless there aren't many left to get," Julia noted. "But I get your point."

"And there's no telling what effect it would have on the Fleet if we have a disproportionate number of people from some Colonies over others. We could be introducing major political instability in their system.."

Julia nodded at that. She had made similar calculations. "Those are all good points. But I think the potential benefits make it worth the risk. The Fleet will get a morale boost from this. And it will give us a better look at Cylon capabilities."

"And it might convince the Cylons to be less intrusive on our frontier," Robert noted. "It could buy us time. Especially with the Nazi situation."

Despite everything, Julia could tell he was distracted by something. And it wasn't too hard to guess. "Everything okay with Angel?"

"Why wouldn't it be?"

"Because you seem distracted," Julia answered.

"Nothing much to say. Things are going steady. She's not staying with me at the moment, Caterina is still recovering so Angel wanted to stay with her a few nights."

"Ah." Julia had no immediate reaction to that. She had some thoughts on the matter, of course, but nothing to share. Especially not with Robert. "And yet you seem a little put off."

"I suppose," he admitted. "But it's not important. Especially not when you consider what we're about to get up too."

"Right." Julia stood from her chair. "Well, I need to go have a talk with Jarod about how many of his ops people will need to be assigned to the Colonial ships that are volunteering to join us. Meridina and Kane will be assigning personnel to assist and scan for Cylons."

"It makes me wish we had brought more personnel," Robert sighed. "Or had more time to train Adama's people."

"We don't always have the luxury of time," Julia noted. "So, let's make the best of it."

That prompted a thought from Robert. On what he had discussed with Maran. "As for making the best of things," he began, "I'd like to get your opinions on something I'm discussing with Maran. It's about Zack's request."

Julia's face made it clear how she felt about Zack's imminent departure. "Alright, I'm listening."

Meridina waited patiently for her chance to see Robert while final preparations for departure were made. Security teams had to be assembled, arms distributed, assignments made… it was the the part of this position that she had heard the others call the "paperwork tyranny". Monotonous, surely, if necessary to keep organization going strong.

Once this process was complete Meridina was able to meet with Robert. in his office. He nodded to her and asked, "Meridina, I guess everything is ready on your end?"

"It is," she said. "But I have a request to make."


"I would like to stay with the Refugee Fleet."

Robert stared at her for a moment. He would be wondering about her motives, obviously. And wondering why she would stay when they could use her help. "May I ask why?"

"It is… a feeling," she said.

"Ah. One of those feelings then?" Robert sighed. "Meridina, this is going to be hard for me to justify…."

"Not necessarily," she said. "President Roslin and her people could always use assistance in securing the many refugees evacuated to Cloud Nine for this rescue mission. Since my subordinates and Commander Kane have matters well in hand for the rescue, it should not be out of the question that I stay and help President Roslin maintain order."

Robert considered that line of thought. "I'll grant you that it is justifiable there, yeah." He sat forward in his chair. "You think the Cylons still in the Fleet are going to try something?"

"It is not a surprising thought, no," she said. "They know our scanner works They know we will soon be able to detect them across the Fleet. Instead of waiting for the inevitable they may attempt an attack."

"One you can possibly sense coming." Robert contemplated that. He had his own gut feelings on the matter, feelings that said she was right. "Okay. I'll approve it. But I can't leave Lucy with you, she'll be needed here to help with operating the jump drive and the evacuation."

Meridina nodded. "Her training has progressed enough that I believe she can make it on her own for these next few days," Meridina agreed. "I will inform her of what her training requires while alone and then prepare to embark for Cloud Nine."

Robert nodded. "I'll inform Adama and Roslin."

The preparations for the raid had created organized chaos in the fleet. Shuttle after shuttle disgorged residents of several of the Refugee Fleet ships, all tasked to join the Pegasus and Aurora on their expedition. Personnel from Cloud Nine struggled to accommodate the inflow of ship after ship of people displaced, at least temporarily, from their "homes".

Galactica's functioning landing pod was undergoing the same process, with shuttles bringing in loads of refugees to be settled in the starboard module for the time being. Admiral Adama watched this press of bodies continue working their way into the ship and past the Cylon scanners being waved by two technician petty officers. Tigh and Lee stood to either side of him. "Don't you think we should be taking Galactiica instead?", Tigh asked. "Leave Pegasus with the fleet?"

"I want to bring as much force to bear as I can," answered Adama. "Just in case."

"Do you think the Cylons will put up a fight with our new friends around?", Tigh asked.

"They'll have to. Just letting us fly in without resistance will make them look vulnerable to the Alliance."

Lee almost expressed his wish to go with them. Adama nodded at him, he recognized what the look meant. He put a hand on his son's shoulder. "If things go bad, keeping the fleet and President Roslin going will be on you."

"I understand," Lee answered. "We'll follow the course that the Aurora plotted for us and get the Fleet to the safety of their Alliance." Lee reached forward and hugged Adama. "But I'd like it if you were the one leading us there."

Adama nodded. He would have said more but a look at Kara stepping out of a shuttle reminded him they were almost out of time. He gave Lee another pat on the back and excused himself from the two.

"Colonel Fisk and the Pegasus are ready for you, Admiral," she said when he stepped up. "And despite everything, we've got three Alliance technical officers setting up their transporters."

"Good. I don't want any problems." Adama shook his head. "After seeing what they did to Lieutenant Delgado, I'm concerned with the discipline of Cain's people."

"The idea of returning to the Colonies to pick up our people has them excited." Kara climbed into the shuttle beside Adama and took the pilot seat while Adama took to the co-pilot seat. "I don't think they'll give us any problems."

Adama answered with a wordless nod. Their shuttle launched from Galactica just behind an empty one going to ferry in another load of evacuees. The shuttle peeled away in a different direction, leaving Adama the sight of the Aurora in her place along Galactica. She looked different, alien, compared to the aesthetic designs of the Colonial ships. As they moved along he was able to watch Koenig make a slow and careful approach to the opened doors of her launch bay. "Hell of a thing," he mused.

"Yeah," Kara agreed. "I always figured this would be a raid on Caprica with a group of Raptors to get a few dozen people. Now we're going back with enough ships to carry out thousands."

"The Cylons won't make it easy."

"Let them try," Kara said. "You saw what the Aurora did to those Basestars."

"I did." But what Adama didn't feel he needed to mention was that the Cylons would learn from that. When they challenged this rescue mission, they would have a plan drawn up to account for the power of the Aurora.

Aboard Cloud Nine, a group of people - lost among the crowds of thousands being set up to live on the ship for the short-term - remained hunkered together in a spare room.

Among them stood Cavil, still in priest garb.

"The scanners are being spread out among the fleet," one of his charges said. "It won't be safe for us much longer."

Cavil nodded. "Regrettably, our effort to drive a wedge between the Human groups has failed."

"Well, we need to do something," another of his followers protested. "They're raiding the Colonies now to free more of their people. The Plan is in jeopardy…"

"The Plan will be completed," Cavil insisted. "As promised."

Another voice spoke up. This from someone wearing the garb of a technician assigned to Galactica. "They have stolen our technology for the new ship to make the jumps. This could be an opportunity."

"It is quite the opportunity, yes…" Cavil nodded and grinned slightly. "And it will be used. As for the rest of us, we must prepare. Our time is short and there is much to be done…"

There was quiet tension on the Aurora bridge when the time for the test came. Everyone was at their assigned stations. "All systems are green," Barnes said from Engineering. "Everything checks out."

"Do we have a destination plotted for our test jump?"

"We're going to make a baby hop first," Jarod said. "Just ten light years."

"Right." Robert nodded. "Whenever you're ready, Jarod, Nick."

The two went to work. "Navigational data loading now. Jump plotting."

"Transferring power to jump drives."

"Course plotted. Feeding to jump controls now."

After several seconds Jarod looked back. "Ready when you are."

Robert wasn't the only one to take in a forced breath. "Here we go," he murmured to himself. And he gave a nod. "Jump."

At the press of a button, power from the Aurora's banks of naqia reactors surged into the giant jump engines assembled in the ship's spare machinery spaces. Energy surged until the drive generated the jump field. In a flash of white light Aurora disappeared from her place among the Refugee Fleet.

On the bridge everyone let out a breath. "So." Robert nodded. "Nothing went wrong."

Jarod chuckled. "Just as I said."

"That was so cool," Caterina added enthusiastically. "That subspace shift, the way it works… I'm going to spend hours going over it! I've got papers to write!"

"Engineering tae Bridge. All systems intact. Th' drive is powered down, spooling up can commence in twenty-five minutes."

"Thank you, Mister Scott," Robert replied. "Jarod, please signal Pegasus with our coordinates."

"Signalling now."

After another forty seconds, several flashes of light filled the holo-viewscreen. Pegasus and over a dozen ships of the Refugee Fleet appeared. Jarod put an incoming hail on speakers. "Congratulations on your first jump, Captain Dale," Admiral Adama said.

"Thank you, Admiral," he answered. "Next time we'll try for a long-distance jump, so long as Mister Jarod and Mister Scott concur."

"It should be no different," Jarod said.

"Aye, sir. Th' principles were th' important part, and we've just confirmed they work. Th' only problems a long range jump cud prove is if th' calculations are off."

"I'm starting them now," Caterina said. "They should be done by the time we jump again."

"Well, good to see everything is getting off to a good start then," Julia mused.

Robert nodded. "Now we just have to keep it that way."

The refugees seemed in fairly good spirits on Cloud Nine, spreading their blankets and mattresses out on the well-kept lawns and over the pavilions of the luxury liner starship as if it were some grand camping experience. Meridina thought of how this might have actually become an improvement for them. They Had spent months living in the cramped quarters on all sorts of starships, after all.

But more to the point, she could sense a change growing in the Fleet's populace. When they had arrived she had felt uncertainty, fear, grief, and anger that sometimes went over the line to hate. The Refugees had been understandably traumatized by their sufferings and it made Meridina's heart ache to consider that suffering. But now there was a gentle thrum of hope and of happiness. The replicator food stores that Captain Dale had arranged for the ships of the Fleet ensured everyone received a full meal, at least. After the regrettable confrontation that Meridina had caused by her actions, it seemed that the Aurora crew had resumed acts of personal charity, sharing little items and luxuries with the suffering co Colonials. This is how a people heal. This is how those falling into Darkness are brought back toward the Light.

"You look content, Commander Meridina."

Meridina turned and faced President Roslin. She was still in a wheelchair from her weakness, but whatever physical issues she had, her spirit seemed to be recovering. This woman, who just a week ago had done the unthinkable, and who had then ordered Meridina's execution without trial, now seemed to appraise her with friendliness, and warmth. Perhaps dashed with guilt, too, given the emotions Meridina felt emanating from the Colonials' ,political leader.

"You don't wear the same uniform as the others?", Roslin asked.

Meridina had, for various reasons, opted not to wear the basic Stellar Navy uniform she typically did in normal duty situations. She was instead clad in the robes and armor of a Gersallian Life swevyras'e, or "Life Force Knight" as Lucy insisted on terming it. "This is my uniform, Madame President," Meridina replied.

Roslin nodded. Meridina was aware she looked out of place with her blue robes over dark purple body armor, with the striped rank insignia of a Lt. Commander on her collar. ""I have heard that your people are considered 'Knights'."

"We are," Meridina said. "Sworn to the Code of Swenya, which has guided us for three thousand years."

Roslin nodded. "Three thousand years…. that would mean your people have been doing this since Kobol was our home."

"It would appear so," Meridina answered. "Although much has changed in those years."

"How is it that your people are not more advanced than this, then? From what I have heard, there are civilizations in this Multiverse that are just as advanced as you but have not had such a long life."

"All civilizations, cultures, and species progress at their own paces, Madame President. We Gersallians tend to believe in contemplation and acceptance of what we have. I have been told this differs us from the Humans we so closely resemble."

"Maybe," Roslin agreed. "

"There are other races besides mine that tend to be slower in advancement," Meridina continued. "Perhaps the longer a race lives, the more patient their members are It is our experience that the Dorei tend to be as impatient and changing as Humans do."

Roslin nodded. "Commander, I have heard stories about your… abilities. Can you tell me why you thought it necessary to stay with the Fleet and not join your ship and crew on the rescue mission?"

Meridina considered that question. She almost prevaricated, but it occurred to her that honesty was a superior policy to such acts; it would inspire trust. "I have uneasy feelings about this, Madame President. I fear that the remnant Cylons in your fleet may attempt something due to the success of our scanner."

"The thought had crossed my mind," Roslin agreed. "Colonel Tigh has Marines on standby if something happens."

"I fear that may be what our foes are relying upon," Meridina admitted. "Their greatest concern must now be your people reaching the safety of our space."

""Yes." Roslin nodded. "I need to go see my people now, Commander. Once again, I thank you for your help, and I am sorry of what came between us."

"Thank you, Madame President. Please, have a pleasant day."

Roslin rolled off in the wheelchair and left Meridina to her thoughts. Through this general brightness, physical and emotional, Meridina thought she could feel a darkness but she wasn't sure. She had to be ready.

Cavil hadn't expected to find dissent among the others. And he had never anticipated the dissent he found from the one he expected to be most willing for his plans.

The Number Six model had adopted a name. Gina. Gina Invieve. And she had suffered horrifically the abuses of Admiral Cain and the crew of the Pegasus.

"This is for the best," he insisted. "If you don't, they'll find you with their new technology. And they'll do it all to you all over again."

Gina didn't look at him. She just kept looking off into space. Beside her were fliers from the Demand Peace movement. "The Plan," she murmured. "What is it?"

"I don't follow," Cavil answered.

"What is the Plan?", Gina asked. "And what has it brought us?"

"It's the Plan of God," Cavil said "The plan to punish those who enslaved and abused us. Who abused you."

"So God demands death?"

"God demands justice. The annihilation of those who believe in false deities."

Gina's eyes looked back to the fliers. "I wanted to hate them all," she said. "For what they did to me. For my suffering."

"They should pay," Cavil insisted.

Gina picked up one of the fliers and held it to Cavil. "Even the ones who wrote this?"

Cavil stared at her. He took the flier and read it. The Demand Peace movement listed out all of the "crimes" that the Colonial society had committed against the Cylons before and during the last war. It spoke of the military causing the Cylon attack, of the military's continued desire to wage a war that could never be won, and how the only hope for peace and the future was to accept the Cylons and make peace with them.

"They only say these things because they know we will annihilate them," Cavil said. "They would never say them otherwise. Cavil threw the flier aside. "You can't abandon the Plan. God's will must be obeyed."

"One of them is the only reason I got away from Cain's torturers," Gina remarked. A haunted look filled her eyes. "I'm just… tired of it all. Tired of the treachery and death. If this is what must be done, I'll do it. She said those words with the lack of conviction that Cavil had been looking - She said those words without any of the conviction Cavil had desired. They weren't the words of a true believer in the Plan of God, simply the saying of someone who looked ready to die.

She will have to be boxed, Cavil thought to himself. He couldn't afford her thinking such things.

The funny thing was that Gina would probably consider that fate a mercy, if it meant an end to her existence.

They were at the last jump before the relief fleet would begin their run around the various Colonies. While Scotty and Barnes attended to checking the jump drive and making sure it was functioning, Admiral Adama came aboard with Thrace and Zarek in order to go over their final plans.

"We'll start here," Thrace said, standing beside Zack at the main holo-display in the briefing room. "Aquaria. From here we can move on separately to the other Colonies and rendezvous at Caprica."

"Isn't Caprica the known location for the other survivors?", Robert asked. "Shouldn't we start there?"

Adama and Thrace exchanged looks. That was enough for Robert to understand the choice was not military or practical, but political. "Julia was the one who inquired, "You're both Capricans, right?"

"We are," Adama admitted.

"And if we went to Caprica first, the others would accuse you of unfairly favoring your own world over theirs. But if Caprica goes last, then they can't question the order."

"Not as effectively, anyway," Leo observed.

"Do we have any solid indications on the Cylon fleet, Jarod?", Robert asked.

Jarod and Caterina exchanged looks and shook their heads. "Nothing definitive," Jarod said. "I'm not sure if this means they're not maintaining a close patrol of the Colonies, or…"

"....if this is a trap," Thrace added for him. "That they know we're coming and are waiting to jump us."

"That is my concern as well," Adama said. "Until the evacuations are done, we'll need to keep a constant CAP out."

"That'll be a strain on our flight crews," Julia noted. "But it's worth it."

"After Aquaria, where do you think we should go?"

Adama listed out the remaining colonies in order. Aurora and half of the expedition would move on to Canceron while Pegasus went to Aerilon. From where they'd split into the different systems, Helios Beta for Pegasus and Gamma for Aurora, before converging in Alpha and ultimately meeting back up at Gemenon.

"Given the size of the Helios Cluster, Koenig can effectively switch between groups if we sustain high warp speeds through the entire period," Zack pointed out. "We can also move ahead and start small-scale evacuations on the other Colonies ahead of the rest of you."

"It would be better if you acted in the support role, Commander," Adama replied. "Keep your ship at the halfway point between Pegasus' group and Aurora's."

"It's your call, Admiral," Zack said. "I'll keep our long range sensor sweeps active and be ready for any incoming signatures."

"Are the other ships ready to begin evacuations?", Robert asked Jarod.

Jarod nodded. "I've already consulted with our officers on the accompanying vessels. The transporter systems are as ready as they'll ever be. Backup pads are in place should we get a short in any of the systems. But we will have to be careful with the pace of the evacuation. And any battle damage to the ships in question, especially to their power systems, could knock out the entire portable system."

"Our priority will be keeping the Cylons off of those transports then," Robert noted. "Angel, please make the necessary tactical preparations."

Angel nodded at Robert. Very business-like, too. A Just as it should be, but he admitted that customary familiarity might have made him feel better.

"It appears everything is in order,", Adama noted. "With that, I consider this briefing adjourned. May the Gods be with us all."

That won a number of nods from the assembled. Adama had to appreciate the irony that he had just given that exhortation to people who were, by custom, monotheistic.

With everyone filing out of the room, Robert stepped up to Adama. "Admiral, you don't seem entirely comfortable."

"I don't see the Cylons letting us get away with something like this," Adama admitted. "They're going to hit us. Hard."

"I get the same feeling," Robert admitted.We just have to wait and see what they try, I guess."

"Keep your eyes open.

"Good luck, Admiral," Robert said.

The Adama's response was a nod that said the same sentiment. Adama and Thrace departed to return to the Raptor that they had taken over to Aurora.

It was after their final briefing and meeting to determine the courses the evacuation fleet would take splitting up after the colonies of Helios Delta if no resistance was met, coming back together in Helios Alpha to check Picon and Tauron before merging for the final two Colonies, Gemenon and Caprica. Jarod remained behind to clear up the briefing room before it would be time to finish the final drive checks.

Julia came back into the room. "You've been busy the last few days," she observed. "Maybe you should take some time to rest before we make our plunge."

"I'll be fine," he answered. Julia regarded him with a hint of skepticism. "Jarod, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Do you still beat yourself up over the Dalek attack?"

Jarod looked up at her and considered that question. The Daleks had forced them to destroy the Facility to keep the Darglan technology out of the Daleks' metaphorical hands. During that time Jarod had matched wits with one of the creatures, trying to keep control of the Facility computers from its stubborn hacking attempt. At best, he had delayed the creatures only; the Dalek had consistently outmaneuvered him in the equivalent of cyberspace. Nullifying every code change, eliminating every counter-intrusion software written on the fly. He had faced a creature far more intelligent than he'd realized.

"I suppose you could say that, yes," he admitted to her. "Farmer would still be alive today if we had stopped the Daleks."

"Maybe," Julia admitted. "But how many of us would have died if you hadn't held them off."

"We nearly lost everything because I wasn't good enough," Jarod mumbled. "I've always relied on my smarts. My ability to figure things out. That Dalek… he made me look like a putz."

Julia walked closer, shaking her head. "No. None of us understood how intelligent and powerful the Daleks were. You saved our lives that day, Jarod. That's the past you should focus on. Not the loss of the Facility. Things worked out regardless."

"Again, tell that to Carlton Farmer."

Julia sighed wistfully. "Alright. You don't want to let it go yet. Just, please don't be afraid to talk about it."

"In my own time," he answered. As he did so, he felt that familiar disbelief and anger at having failed so completely. He knew that couldn't happen again.

No matter what. He had to win the next time. Or he might lose everything… and everyone.

The flotilla of ships jumped right into the orbital space of Aquaria. The planet below bore the scars of the atomic devastation of the Cylon attack on the landmasses standing out from her oceanic surface. From sensors Caterina could see the remnant radiation circling the planet. She shook her head. "I… I mean, I always knew this was the result of major nuclear initiations, but to actually see it…"

"Steady, Cat," Julia said softly. "I know it's horrifying. But there could still be people alive down there."

"Right. Scanning now." Caterina ran the light sign scans. "Remember that I can't tell the difference between Humans and Cylons up here."

"Yes. That's why we're going to beam up samples from each concentration of life signs you find," Julia noted.

"Okay. Starting scan." Caterina went to work. A sense of uncertainty came over the bridge as she did. Would there be anyone alive down there?

It passed when Caterina's voice picked up to her more happy, excited tone. "Life signs! Several hundred of them, at least!" It looks like they're scattered in some of the smaller islands without major city centers."

"Start beaming them up" Robert said. "Jarod, coordinate with the transporter operators on the other ships."

"Maybe we should broadcast first?", Caterina suggested. "I mean… think of how scared they'll be just being yanked up like that."

"This is why we've got someone from the Fleet waiting for them here," Julia said. "There's no guarantee any of the survivors have anything we can broadcast to."

"And when it comes down to it, we're still pressed for time." Robert took in a breath. Julia noticed that. "Is everything okay?"

"I'm just feeling… off…" Robert admitted. "No Cylons yet? Not even their fleet?"

"I know." Julia nodded. "All we can do is complete the mission and see what they throw at us."

"It'll be something big," Robert said. "I'm sure of it."

But there was nothing more to be said about the intense anxiety Robert felt about the situation. All he could do was wait while the transporter operators on all of the ships did their work.

The evacuation was proceeding better than anyone might have expected. Adama remained quiet and introspective as he overheard the reports coming in to the Pegasus CIC. Lieutenant Hoshi relayed the successful transports of the last identified survivors on Virgon.

"Bring our fighters back home for jump," Kara ordered from her place near him. she looked apprehensive and for understandable reasons; the number of survivors on the various Colonies were pitifully small. Only a thousand from Aquaria, 300 on Aerilon, and their last report from Aurora revealed there were only 400 from Scorpia. Sagittaron, Canceron, and Libran had each yielded over a thousand, many of them suffering from radiation sickness. Leonis had taken them a couple of hours; there were a surprising 2,400 survivors to be found.

But survivor counts over 1,500 seemed to be the exception, not the rule. From all appearances the Cylons had openly hunted down and killed any concentrations of survivors they could find on the various Colonies. It made anger fester in Adama's heart at the sheer brutality the Cylons had shown; extermination just for the sake of extermination.

"Makes you wonder how this fighting will inevitably end," he muttered.

"Sir?", Kara asked.

"The Cylons want us all dead," Adama said. "Why? What's their purpose? Why do they hate us so much?" Adama's expression grew dark. "And what will they do once we have the colony world in the Alliance that Captain Dale says is being determined?"

"You think they'll still attack us even there?"

"Seems to me that they'll stop at nothing to murder us all," Adama noted. "They've been toying with us the entire time, hunting us like animals…. why would they stop simply because they find we're in Alliance territory?"

"Maybe we should look into leaving this universe then?", Kara asked. "I mean, this whole 'Multiverse' thing that the Aurora people having going on. I've heard some of them talk about an entire world and colony set aside for people like us, people needing a home."

"New Liberty?" Adama nodded. "Yeah. Yes, Captain Dale spoke about it with me. He thinks that we might be better off settling some of the open space on that world and working with their New Liberty Colony."

"Other Humans," Kara said. "It'd be… well, I don't know. Interesting? We'd have to learn how they live, find ways to get along…"

"The question is, give or take a few generations, would there be anything left of our people?", Adama observed. "Would we still be the Humans of the Colonies of Kobol, or just one part of the greater whole? Our grandchildren talking and acting and praying like them?"

"They'd be alive, I guess."

Adama nodded. "Yeah. But it's when I think of that outcome that I come to understand why President Roslin wants us to have our own world."

"Well, there has to be other worlds out there we could colonize, in all those other universes. Somewhere we can get away from the Cylons."

Adama didn't comment on that thought. There was a part of him that rebelled at it. Mostly from his understanding of what that meant; they would be forever abandoning their homeworlds to Cylon occupation. Sure, one day in the far future the Alliance might drive the Cylons out, but by then their descendants would have been living together on a new world for how long? How many would decide to stay on a virgin world they had helped to build up instead of returning to the broken, irradiated Colonies?

It was silly. But he couldn't help but see it as a betrayal of all of the people who died . Of everything that made the Colonists from Kobol whom they were.

"Last flight is landing now, sir," Hoshi reported. "All ships are ready for jump."

"It's time to finish this," Adama said. "Prepare a jump to Tauron. And keep your eyes open. The Cylons are up to something. There is no way they would let us get this far without something up their sleeve."

"Preparing FTL jump now… fleet reporting readiness."

Adama looked to the plotting. Aurora would be off to Picon while they were at Tauron and the ships would rendezvous to finish Gemenon and Caprica last. And he was certain it was at Caprica that the Cylons would show their hand. That was his only explanation for why they had yet to launch any further attack.

And we had better be ready for them.

Koenig moved quietly through the interstellar space between the Helios cluster stars, under cloak and watching for Cylon activity. Zack sat at his command chair with a cup of rich replicated coffee. Hours of waiting and near boredom were growing more and more tense by the second.

"So, where do you think we'll get assigned?", Magda asked him.


"When we leave Aurora," Magda continued. "Where do you think the fleet will assign us?"

"Probably a frontier patrol," Zack mused. "Or back to M4P2 so we can chase the Batarians around."

"I wouldn't mind going home myself," Apley said. "As in, being assigned to the Abdis command back home."

"I don't know if I'm the diplomatic type," Zack admitted. Abdis in D3R1 tended to be a posting requiring careful diplomacy to balance the ever-continuing tensions of the Sol Republic and the Colonial Confederation. Both being members of the Alliance had not entirely eliminated the decades of heated ideological differences.

That would be a tricky posting, but a chance to do some good," Zack considered in his head.

"Shooting up Batarian slavers sounds more fun," April said from Tactical.

"There's always going back to S5T3," Magda pointed out,. Patrols along the Cardassian border, dealing with Maquis…"

"Would be nice to visit DS9 again sometime," Zack pondered. "I owe Commander Sisko a few baseball games."

Magda sighed. "You yanquis and your baseball. No appreciation for real football."

"Speak for yourself, Lieutenant," April answered. "I was captain of the high school team."

"Oh really?"

"I scored five goals in my senior year," April continued.

"I never went for either kind of football," Zack admitted. "Huh. I wonder what kind of sports the Colonials like to play?"

"Probably nothing like we have," Apley noted. "Well, unless they're actually long-lost descendants of Earth colonists. Maybe they were on this 'Kobol' world for so long that they forgot they came from Earth? In"

"An interesting thought, sure," Zack mused.

There was a tone at Ops. "Signal from Pegasus," sir." Magda looked back at him. "Still no opposition. They're jumping to Tauron now."

"Take us into the Helios Alpha system, Ap," Zack said. "We'll go scout out Gemenon."

"Changing course from patrol route now."

Robert had taken some time to eat in his ready room while the evacuation of Picon's 2,000 or so survivors continued. Julia entered with a happy look on her face, a new thing given how dour everyone had been as the hunt for survivors had proven so difficult and unrewarding. "Well, I do have some good news for their Fleet," she said.

"What?", Robert asked.

"The Piconese survivors apparently have a ship," she said. "Some of them survived by hiding their ship in a jungle canyon and keeping it powered down. Lucy is planetside helping them get the ship spaceworthy. Her jump engine is intact and they'll be able to join us. Jarod calculates she can hold up to around fifteen hundred people comfortably."

Robert raised an eyebrow. "That is good news. The Colonials could use that extra space."

Julia's smile faded. "I know you were hoping to recover more people, Robert. But we shouldn't have held out too much hope for a lot of survivors. As it is, just our half of the fleet has gotten nearly 6,000 people out. Picon is just one of the lucky ones."

"One wonders how Mister Zarek will take it that only eleven hundred of his people survived," Robert mused.

"Not well. But at least it's eleven hundred more," Julia observed.

"I'm just wondering what comes next," Robert said. "Because this can't be the end of it. The Cylons are going to continue pursuing Adama's fleet. I'm surprised they haven't already attacked us, they have to know we're here."

"I think they'll hit us over Caprica," Julia said. "Angel and I are in agreement on that."

"Maximum terror and effectiveness?", Robert proposed. "It makes sure they get a shot at annihilating all of the survivors in one swoop."

"Yeah. Laurent and his people are ready for a combat launch the moment that time comes."

"And what about Zack?"

"Currently waiting under cloak at Gemenon."

"Good. We're almost done." Robert looked out the window at the broken planet of Picon. He felt unsettled. So much death. It's like I can feel it in my bones, in my soul. "I'm tired of flying through this graveyard."

"You and me both," Julia answered.

At Gemenon Koenig was already finished scanning the planet when the two halves of the rescue fleet jumped into orbital space. Zack nodded when Magda informed him Pegasus was hailing. "Koenig here, Admiral," Zack said as soon as the channel opened.

"Commander, I want you to move on to Caprica. The Cylons are most likely to ambush us once we're completing the Caprica evacuation."

"Understood, Commander. We'll get underway right away,. At full impulse it shouldn't take us long."

"One other thing," Adama said. "Captain Thrace wants to go with you."


"She'll be taking a team of Marines led by Commander Kane," Adama continued. "Just in case the resistance on Caprica is under siege."

Zack looked to Magda. "Have the transporters ready. As soon as Captain Trace, Commander Kane, and their teams are here, we'll head on out."

After a few minutes Kane and Thrace stepped onto the Koenig bridge. Kane was in Marine combat armor and Thrace was wearing what passed for Colonial field gear, complete with a sidearm. Both were carrying the new Cylon detectors. "Zack."

"Starbuck." he nodded back. "It's going to be an hour or two at full impulse. Might want to find somewhere to sit."

"What, can't you just use those 'warp drive' engines to get there faster?", Kara asked.

"Warping through a gravity well is a tricky business," Zack answered. "Especially if you're moving at distances rated in light-seconds. Sometimes it's just better to take it slow."

"Besides, if there is a Cylon ambush waiting for us, we're more likely to see it coming in at impulse," Sherlily pointed out.

"Yes. My esteemed tactical officer raises my other concern," Zack said. "Last thing we want to do is warp right into the gunsights of a Cylon ship."

"Even under cloak?"

"Magda can explain how a ship coming out of warp doesn't necessarily remain completely undetected," Zack remarked. "Normally I'd be all for getting this done. But it's best to be careful for this one."

"Good point," Kara conceded. But she still seemed very impatient.

"I'm guessing you know someone down there?", Zack inquired.

"Yeah." Kara nodded. "Yeah, you could say that."

"Don't worry, Starbuck," Zack said. "We'll get him back. All of them. "

"If they're still alive," Kara mused sullenly.

"Until we know otherwise, they're all alive, right?"

"Yeah." She nodded. "Right."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

When Koenig made orbit of Caprica Magda began scanning immediately. "I'm detecting Human life signs at various points on the planet."

"Numbers?", Kara asked urgently.

For a moment Magda examined them closely. "At least…. twelve hundred."

Thrace sighed and lowered her head. "Gods, that's... " She swallowed. "I had no idea that there were so many left."

"The question is, how many are Cylons?", Zack asked.

"Well, several dozen are very isolated all across the planet," Magda noted. "With a few I'm picking up concentrations of refined metallic substances. Presumably those are the Cylons."

"I'd put a solar torpedo into each and every one of those concentrations if I could," Zack mumbled. "But that's not what we're here for. Magda, anything on sensors?"

"Just some planet-based sensors. They can't see us, that's for certain."

"But they can probably call in help," Zack noted. "April. Lock on to each of those locations. The moment that the fleet is due to jump in, I want a torpedo dropping on their heads."

"They seem to be concentrated around the largest of the cities," Sherlily said. "I think I can get them all with one spread."


"So now the question is, how do we get down without being seen?", Kane asked. "I don't suppose any of the shuttles cloak?"

"Nope," Zack said. "But there is one trick I remember Sisko talking about back on DS9." Zack reached over and hit his intercom. "Engineering. Karen, do you think you could pull off a transport under cloak?"

"It'll be tricky. But I might be able to get you enough power. The problem would be the cloaking field disrupting the transporter beam."

"Any way to account for that?"

"Give me a moment to think. The problem is that if I weaken the beam too much - weaken the field - the cloak won't hide us from detection by most common space-detect systems."


While this discussion went on Thrace walked up to Operations. She leaned over beside Magda and pointed to a part of Caprica. "Can you show me more about this group?"

Magda nodded. "Sure." She zoomed in the vie, allowing the clump of life signs to become more refined and show more individual people. "Looks like thirty-six life signs. No, thirty-seven. All Human."

Relief was visible on Thrace's face. "Thank the Gods, they're all still alive."

Magda nodded. "I'm not detecting…" She squinted. "Wait." She hit a few keys and shifted the view to a short distance away. More life signs were moving across the screen joined by other signatures the sensors were detecting. "Those aren't Human signatures. Those are energy signatures. I'm detecting metal concentrations…."

"Dammit," Thrace breathed. "Commander, we have a situation!"

"What?" Zack turned to face them.

Magda answered, "I'm picking up what looks like a Cylon attack group approaching one of the concentrations of Human life."

"Crap," Zack sighed. He looked to Kane. "Get your people ready. I'm sending you and Captain Thrace down." Zack looked to Apley. "Bring us in toward the north pole of Caprica, Ap. As close to the atmosphere as you can get us."

"Commander, this might not work. If their sensors are too refined or we make too much of a disturbance in the upper atmosphere..."

"it's a risk I'm willing to take, Karen," Zack answered.

"Right. I'll get my best people to the main transporter room then. Good luck. Engineering out."

By the time this was said Thrace and Kane had already left the bridge.

For weeks, Samuel Anders had been nursing a hope he knew to be unlikely. That Kara Thrace would return with reinforcements from Galactica. That he and his band of survivors might actually survive.

Today his hopes and prayers were answered.

Albeit not in the way he expected.

He and the others were cleaning their firearms in the central, open area of their base when the half-dozen pillars of light formed in front of them. When they dissipated he saw Kara standing among five other people. Two were in Colonial uniforms, but the other three had on body armor that he had never seen before and carried guns like out of some science fiction serial.

Another group of lights appeared nearby about five seconds later. Six more beings appeared in their number, all of them with the strange armor and weapons. As Anders went to speak Kara's name, his eyes widened as he focused on one of the appeared beings.

Despite said creature's helmet, he could see that he or whatever it was was not human. A blue beak protruded from its face like a bird's beak.

"By the Gods?!" The cry of surprise caused several people to start going for weapons.

"Woh! Woh, hold it!" Kara held her arms up. "They're friendlies!"

"What the hell is going on here, Kara?!", Anders demanded, still shocked.

"It's okay," Kara said. "They're our allies against the Cylons. We came down because the Cylons are moving to attack you, right now!"

"Speaking of Cylons…" Kane raised his head from looking at a display on his arm. "Sensors have them almost to the perimeter of the compound."

"That's ridiculous," one of the others said. "They'd…"

Gunfire erupted in the distance.

"The pickets." Anders nodded at Kane. "Right. Everyone get your weapons! They're coming for us!"

"Ijala, find a perch!", Kane shouted.

Ijala chirped in reply. The Alakin Marine pulled out his sniper rifle and went for the nearest building with a roof he could snipe from.

"Dijalas, Mendelssohn, you're on the north end. Lewis, Rashid, South!" Kane finished assigning four of his other Marines to the other main points of the compass. "I don't want those toasters coming in on our blindside," he explained to Anders.

More gunfire temporarily interrupted Anders. When it was over he nodded in agreement. "So what now? How did you just appear like that?"

"Beamed down from a ship in orbit. And no, we can't just beam you out, they'll detect our ship and the rest of the fleet isn't here yet."

"Fleet?" Anders looked to Kara. "They're going to drive the Cylons out?"

"No, just to get you out," she answered. "We've been sweeping the Colonies getting all of the survivors we can."

More gunfire came from downhill. "Time to talk is over," Kane said. "Get your guns and find some cover!"

Shortly after the last transport was finished on Koenig Zack finally asked," Any sign they detected us?"

"None at the moment," Magda said. "But…"

"But? But what?"

Magda was busy looking over the sensor returns from the surface. "I've been scanning all of the remaining life sign groups. I'm now detecting more energy signatures approaching each."

"A concerted attack," Apley pointed out. "They're going to wipe the Caprican survivors out."

"Can we do anything about it?", Zack asked.

"We don't have the security personnel or surplus crew to hold all of those points," Sherlily pointed out. "And if we fire torpedoes we might just hit friendlies in the process.

"Yeah. Of course. Because nothing can be simple. Alright, get me Pegasus."

Roslin and Billy were at the restaurant on Cloud Nine enjoying their late lunch. Roslin felt good to be able to hold down food again. She also noticed that she wasn't the only one looking better. "My illness was a drain on you too," she noted.

Billy didn't deny it. "It was my job to take care of you, Madame President. I felt helpless to see you dying like that."

She nodded. "I understand." She turned her head to look outside. Children were playing in the grass under the supervision of a pair of adolescents. "Despite everything, people seem so much happier now."

"Meeting the people from Earth - or whatever they are - is giving everyone a feeling that we have a future." Billy took a drink and put his fork into his salad. "I mean... a place we can go to be away from the Cylons. Somewhere we don't have to worry about them chasing us. Maybe we should go to one of those other universes they have so the Cylons can never find us."

"It's a thought," Roslin agreed. "I'm just happy to see so many smiles again."

Unfortunately, it wasn't a smile that was on Lee's face when he stepped into the restaurant. He saluted to Roslin, who nodded back. "We have a situation, Madame President."

"What?" She considered the possibilities. If the Cylons had begun attacking there would have been an alarm across the ship to jump. That was the plan for any Cylon ships coming in.

"We were ready to begin the scanning procedures," Lee said. "But... well, there's a protest now."

"A protest?", Roslin asked. "Over the Cylon scanners?"

Lee nodded. "Yes ma'am."

Roslin took in a breath. She set the salad fork down and nodded to Billy. "Let's go, Billy. I need to talk to these people. We need to make sure they're not being manipulated by Cylons."

"I've already signaled Commander Meridina to meet us there," Lee said. "It's at the podium for the address you planned later."

Roslin didn't answer that. She was already thinking through all of the possibilities of what was going on.

Adama was listening, along with Robert from Aurora, to Commander Carrey's report. Inwardly he mused that this was likely not a coincidence. The Cylons had yet to challenge them because Caprica was clearly their chosen battlefield. "Do what you can, Commander. We're almost done here."

The line cut, but Adama remained on with Dale. "We can jump ahead, Admiral," Robert said. "I have enough security and Marine personnel to secure those ground sites even if we can't safely bombard from orbit."

"It's risky, Captain," Adama pointed out. You'll likely trip whatever Cylon trap is waiting for you. And if they launch at us instead, it'll take time for your drives to cool down for another jump."

"I know. But I think it's a necessary risk, sir. Without it hundreds of innocent people will die."

Adama noticed the attention of the CIC crew. Undoubtedly they were already weighing his choices against Cain's. An amusing thought since Cain would have undoubtedly started a war with these people over the Cylon Sharon.

They could judge as they wanted. He would make his decision based on what needed to be done, not to measure up to a dead woman.

"You're right," Adama agreed. "It is. Jump ahead, do what you can. We'll follow as soon as the last ship signals readiness for the jump to Caprica."

"Yes, Admiral. Jumping now."

Meridina's senses were alert. She followed Roslin to the improvised stage so she could address the citizens who were protesting the scanners. "They're all fake!", one man yelled. "They're here for the Alliance people to turn us against each other and conquer us!"

"Really?", Roslin asked. "Because I have seen these devices. They work. They have been demonstrated to me and to Admiral Adama, who supports their use."

Cavil stepped up through the crowd, acting every inch the humble priest. "Please, Madame President, understand their fear," he said calmly. "It is easy to forget how wild the stories are that cross our fleet. We have heard about how certain Alliance personnel, such as their security officer, can enter and alter minds.''

"Are you suggesting I am being mentally influenced?", Roslin asked, bemused.

"I'm only saying how people might take it," Cavil answered. "You know I have often tried to tend to the souls of our people and assuage their fears. I did not want any misunderstandings." Cavil looked to Meridina. "Can I help you?"

Meridina had indeed been paying careful attention to him. She sensed deception. She could not be sure what kind, not without entering his mind, but this man was not being as honest as he depicted. He had a greater agenda. "I am merely contemplating the issues, sir," she answered politely. Now was not the place to be confrontational. "I understand that fear can be a powerful agent in the minds of people. Especially those who have already lost so much."

"Then you would understand why it might be best, to delay these scans?", Cavil asked her and, through her, asked Roslin. "Until Admiral Adama comes back, perhaps. When people will feel safer."

Roslin put her hands together. "I understand that so much change has come to the Colonies lately. I'm sympathetic to you all. I was scared myself at first. To have so many things questioned. To find out how much there was that we didn't know about the universe- so to speak - and our place in it. But I learned, the hard way, that fear is not the answer to this. We must face the future as it is. And we must not let fear cloud our judgement. " Roslin shook her head.

Meridina looked back to Lee, who was quietly looking through the scanner he had brought along. His gaze was fixed on the readout screen. She stepped over and looked at what he was seeing.

He had focused the scanner on the crowd. Most were showing up as blue figures - Humans.

Built several, not many but several - were gold.


Cavil seemed to focus on Meridina and Lee. A small smirk crossed his face.

Meridina had only seconds to react. She used her power to push Roslin and her wheelchair off of the podium.

Force erupted from beneath the spot where Roslin had been sitting. The blast knocked both off their feet as well as the Marines brought along for Roslin's security.

The impact from that fall dazed Meridina momentarily. Gunfire began to erupt around her.

Aurora jumped into orbit of Caprica. The moment she did, Koenig decloaked and sent a spread of solar torpedoes into the surface of the planet, hitting the identified positions of Cylon communications and sensor arrays.

On the Aurora bridge, Julia was busy working with Lieutenant Kemap, Meridina's second in command, and Lieutenant Gurel, the senior Marine commander on the ship. They were already preparing to beam down even as Robert gave the order to launch all of Aurora's fighters.

"Koenig's torpedo bombardment is complete," Jarod said. "From what I can tell, they completely suppressed the Cylon control and communications in this system.

"They're not likely to take long to see what we've done, though."

"Teams beaming down now," Angel reported.

"Angel, do you think you can take out the Cylons with orbital fire?", Julia asked.

"In a few of these cases, yeah, but I'm risking friendly fire in some cases."

"Do what you can," Robert ordered. "Every point you can't send someone down, we'll dispatch teams and begin evacuations."

In Anders' resistance base, Kane eyed an approaching Cylon robot through the scope of his assault rifle. His finger squeezed the trigger and bolts of azure light slammed into the machine. Its polished gray exterior turned red and orange wherever the bolts scourged its hide. Sparks erupted from within and the red eye died down. Given that the firearms of the resistance weren't doing so well, Kane didn't seem surprised by the looks his Marines were getting from the others. This was the first firefight between the Cylons and Alliance troops, and Kane intended to make the Cylons fear the combat firepower of an Allied Systems Marine.

He drew a bead on another Cylon pouring fire into a Resistance position, keeping them pinned in. Before he could pull the trigger a bolt of orange light came from behind and overhead. Ijala's shot took the Cylon's head clean off.

"Gods, we're going to actually win this thing, aren't we?", Anders said, surprised and gladdened at the same time. "Where did you find these people, Kara?"

"They're from Earth," Kara answered, smirking. "Or something like that. It's a really long story."

"Sir, no fire from the south yet. But I think they're moving to flank," said one of Kane's Marines over the radio.

"Engage and destroy if they come close, but hold your position." Kane keyed his command frequency to the ships above. "Kane to Koenig, got any ETA on our pickup?"

To Kane's pleasure, it was Commander Andreys who answered. "We're completing an evacuation of a pressed survivor position. Standby."

"Good. Because we've got several dozen people down here who need evac."

Julia nodded. "Understood, Commander. We'll get those people up ASAP." She looked to Robert. "Interesting timing, don't you think?"

"I don't think it's just timing," Robert answered. "This is intentional." He looked back to Cat. "Anything on long range sensors?"

"No," Cat answered. "I'm not picking any subspace spikes. Nothing consistent with the Cylon fleet."

"They could be hiding," Julia pointed out. "Adama said something about an anchorage? Ragnar?"

"So they could just jump right on top of us."

"Shields are still up whenever we're not beaming," Angel said. "They won't get any first hits on us."

"We've finished evacuating the most threatened groups," Jarod reported. "Transporters are standing by to pull Kane's group out."

"Start the process."

Kara left cover to begin lining up the non-combatants of Anders' group for transport. "Just stay in these positions," she said. "Stay in them and you'll be fine. "You're going up to a ship."

The first group was taken a moment later. Kara moved on to the second group as they lined up. Dammit, I should have remembered one of those scanners. But at least they've got them up on the ship too. We've got to get these people out of the firing zone or someone's going to get killed.

As her eyes passed over another waiting group, she spotted one pair of eyes and the face that went with it. Familiarity struck her. She'd seen….

"Oh frak," Kara cursed. "Stop him! Stop that priest, he's a Cylon!"

Kane and his Marines responded immediately, wheeling around with weapons raised.

The Cavil unit in Anders' resistance couldn't keep the smile off his face, even though he had just been outed. The contempt he felt for even these advanced Humans swelled eagerly at the mistake of letting the attack distract them.

His finger was already on the activation key of the transmitter he carried with him. He pressed barely a moment before Commander Kane put two rounds into his torso.

In Engineering Scotty looked up at hearing the alarm tone. "What in blazes is that?", he asked.

Nearby Lucy, working with him on keeping the rigged jump system working, went over to a monitor. "That's odd. That jump drive… there's some sort of activity coming from it…." Lucy's eyes widened. "Jamming field! Get a jamming field up now!"

Scotty was too far away from the relevant control, but one of the engineers got to it immediately and did as ordered.

The lights went out a moment later.

The first sign that something was wrong on the bridge was when Jarod noted activity in the ship communications system. "That's odd," he said.


"Something's being transmitted through the communications syst-…"

The lights on the bridge died out, replaced a moment later by the white emergency lights.

"I'm getting widespread system failures across the ship," Jarod reported. "Something's locking out our controls."

"What just happened?", Robert asked, although he already knew the answer. Cylon virus, it's got to be, but how?

"It's some sort of virus. Advanced, very smart, it's already learning..." Jarod's hands started running over the Ops station controls. "I'm trying to purge it but it's putting up protective controls. It's usurping administration control of our computer control systems."

"What systems do we still have?", Julia asked.

"Life support's on a closed automatic network, it can't access that. Manual helm control is possible, armor and hull self-repair systems are also isolated, but we've got no shields and no FTL, FTL communications are out."

"Send a signal to Koenig…"

"Not advisable," Jarod pointed out. "This thing could use our signal as a piggyback ride into Koenig's systems."

"Subspace spike!", Cat shouted. "I've got a subspace spike on sensors, it's….!"

On the screen, flashes of light appeared. From within them the shapes of Cylon warships formed.

"How many?", Julie asked.

"Ten, at least," Caterina said. "They're launching fighters!"

"Direct our fighters to intercept… dammit, are our fighters affected too?"

"Not from what I can tell," Jarod said. "But if we try to tie our command-and-control into their networks the virus might spread."

"Enemy boarding ships launching too!"

"Evasive maneuvers," Robert ordered. "Evasives, now!"

"I'm trying!", Locarno answered. "But manual helm control hasn't giving me a lot of options!"

The ship began to shake steadily as Cylon fire struck the hull. Robert clutched the arms of his command chair. "Jarod…?"

"I'm trying to keep it out of the other systems. The virus keeps shifting its position in the computers, writing itself new permissions and access authority every time I cut off one of its access points."

"Can you get us engines back at least?"

"That's what I'm trying, please stop distracting me!" Jarod kept at his work, writing new command access procedures on the fly and using them to try and cut off the virus from the systems it was shutting down remotely. It retaliated each time he tried, circumventing his new protections.

It's happening again, he thought. His mind flashed back to the Dalek that had beaten him for control of the Facility's systems.

Once again, he was losing.

The plight of the Aurora was not lost on Koenig. "What the hell?!", Zack had cried out upon seeing Aurora's acceleration decrease and her shields drop. And then the Cylons jumped in. "What's going on?"

"It looks like they're suffering multiple system failures," Magda reported. She reached over and tapped several keys. "I'm picking up further transmissions from the Cylon ships. They're trying to access our computer systems."

"Can they?", Zack demanded.

Magda shook her head. "No. The firewall precautions Jarod and I set up are too strong. The signal receiver is isolated from computer control and can't be used as a conduit for their virus coding."

"Well, thank goodness for small favors, right?"" Zack nodded to Ap. "Okay. Code Red, Ap." As the klaxons blared and the running lights for the ship turned red, Zack turned to Sherlily. "It'll take us too long to actually deal with those Basestars. Concentrate your firepower on any boarding ships. I'm not letting them put any forces on Aurora.

"Roger that."

"Accelerating to combat speeds," Apley said.

"Get me Adama."

Adama listened with consternation to the report from Commander Carrey. A thought occurred to him; that jump drive system they'd installed. The Cylons must have left a little surprise.

"How long until the fleet is ready to jump?" he asked Hoshi.

""Two ships are reporting mechanical troubles. They need ten more minutes to check their drives," Hoshi answered.

Adama nodded. So that was it. He had a choice; stay and protect his defenseless ships an
"How many of our people are on those ships?"

"All of the Aerilon survivors," Hoshi answered. "And most of the Leonis survivors."

So that was his choice. Risk those ships and the precious survivors on board them, further hope for their people, or risk that the Cylons might either destroy the Aurora or, even worse, seize her and reverse-engineer the technology on the powerful ship.

"Inform those ships that they are to jump to Caprica when ready," Adama said. "As for the rest of the fleet, we're jumping for Caprica. Have the civilian ships make the jump to two thousand kilometers out and maneuver to the opposite side of the planet from the Cylon forces there."

"Yes sir," Hoshi said. "I'm recalling our Vipers now. Estimate two minutes until we can jump."

"Tell them they have one minute," Adama answered. "All hands, Assume Action Stations, Condition One."

Cavil knew he had been found out, but that had been expected.

What he hadn't expected was to see the Gersallian woman react quickly enough to save Roslin. That irked him; the blast meant to kill her had simply thrown others on the podium back.

"It's a Cylon attack!" he screamed, wanting to laugh at what he felt to be a sort of joke at the Humans' expense.

The attack occurred with brutal swiftness. Cylons pulled out guns and started firing into the crowd. More explosives went off. Not all of the blasts were deadly, it was simply meant to add to the chaos. All across the ship more bombs would go off and other Cylons would begin setting off attacks with their firearms.

Of course, that wasn't the only thing being done. With this scanning technology the Cylons in the Fleet were all dead. That much was certain. But with the ships nearby to catch their minds and resurrect them, there was no fear in that. Simply the duty to God, the need to kill as many of these apes as possible.

What surprised Cavil was the speed with which the Gersallian recovered. The Cylons knew of these 'swevyra'se" of course, but they had always been careful never to face them.

That policy proved wise given what happened next.

Meridina moved with speed even the Cylons couldn't match. One moment she was barely back to her feet, but the next there was a sharp metal sound in the air and her blade was out and extended. There was a shimmer of blue around the memory metal blade as it swung out and deflected a bullet intended for Roslin's head. Cavil scowled and started pulling the trigger repeatedly, but it was to no avail as the lakesh caught each bullet in mid-flight. Meridina calmly lifted her hand and extended her arm. Cavil felt like he had been hit by a shuttle.

The other Cylons were starting to react, turning away from the Colonial people they had been shooting with abandon. They faced Meridina with guns drawn. Surely the amount of firepower would keep her from deflecting all of them.

And she wouldn't have deflected them all, true. But that didn't mean anything, as it turned out. Meridina dashed forward and reached her arm out again. Raw force sent the Cylons flying She got to the nearest one and with a single cut removed the male Cylon's hands from his wrists. He screamed and fell. The next Cylon compelled Meridina to go for a more permanent solution, a blow to the neck that sliced out the carotid artery.

Lee struggled to his feet. He looked up in time to see Meridina slice through the ranks of the assembled Cylons with perfect poise. He stared in disbelief at how fast and decisive she was. Every strike fell home. Every Cylon shot was deflected or evaded, as if she knew where they were going to shoot. The only reason we ever held her prisoner was because she let us, he realized

Billy, defiant of the firing, rushed to Roslin's wheelchair. "Madame President!", he called out, reaching for her. Roslin looked daze as her hand came up, feebly, to reach for him. "Ma'am, we have to get to safety!"

Billy's shouts drew the attention of one of the remaining Cylons, a blond woman that Lee recognized. Shelly… Godford, he thought, if he remembered the name correctly. She w as drawing her weapon into a ready position. Lee could see she was only seconds away from killing Billy, Roslin, or both. There was barely enough time to think when pulled his weapon and fired. Blood erupted from the Cylon's body where his bullets struck home.

A moment later Meridina knocked the Cylon over with her abilities. The threat had passed.

"Captain Adama, do you read? This is Corporal Hansforth, sir."

Lee pulled out the radio he'd taken. "I'm here."

"We've got reports of violence and casualties all over the ship, sir."

"It's the Cylons," Lee said. "They've launched a terrorist attack. The President is wounded but alive."


Lee felt frustration come to his face. "Deploy the Marines. Try to quell the violence without killing any civilians. Just make sure the Cylons aren't killing them either. And make sure the Quorum are protected!"

"Roger that, Captain."

There was a grunt of pain. Lee saw the last Cylon go down with Meridina's lakesh over his head. She'd just smacked him with the pommel. There was some blood on her robes, but the sword was surprisingly clean for all the cutting it had just been used for. "Captain Adama." She nodded respectfully. "Do we have any more information."

"It's a general attack," Lee said. "The Cylons are going out in one massive strike."

"Yes. I suppose it makes sense from their perspective." Meridina sighed. She was clearly not as unmoved by the carnage as she had seemed. "But I sense greater things planned than a mere shooting attack."

There was a choking laugh nearby. Cavil got up on his side. "You can't stop us," he said. "You'll never stop us. Our way is the way of the future."

Lee and Meridina stepped up to him. "You were a Cylon all along," Lee said, frowning.

"The worst part was pretending to follow your false gods," Cavil answered. "You have … it's so funny, you have no idea who it is you worship. No idea…"

Meridina looked at him with curiosity. She no longer sensed deception, not immediate deception. "I am unaware of how their religion has any bearing on this."

"It has everything to do with it!"," Cavil laughed. "Stupid organic meatbags, that's all you are. "

Lee's retort was immediate. "That's funny, because from where I stand, it looks like you're just as organic as we are."

"No," he rasped. "I'm more. I'm so much more…."

Meridina went to inquire further but stopped. "A distraction," she said.

"What?", Lee asked.

"He is distracting us. This entire attack is meant to grab our attention." Meridina knelt beside him. "What are you really planning?"

Cavil smirked. "Why don't you find out, Mindwalker?"

Meridina considered that response for a moment. "You want me to read your mind. You…" Her eyes widened.

With only seconds to spare, she threw herself on Lee and knocked him clear.

Cavil's finger was already pressing the detonator.

The explosion would have killed them both if Meridina had not jumped at just the right time. Instead she and Lee rolled on, coming to a stop on the natural grass with burning wreckage and charred chunks of cyber-ized flesh lying around them. "Frak it," Lee mumbled. Pain was shooting through his side.

Meridina put a hand on him. She felt bruised and worn too. She felt certain there was nothing broken though. After a moment of concentration she said, "You have a cracked rib. My apologies."

"Better than being blown to pieces, I guess," Lee answered hoarsely.

Meridina stood and focused. She felt out with her essence, her very life force, for the injury, and did what she could to mend it. Lee stared at her in some amazement at feeling his pain recede. "We are not in circumstances that would have allowed me to heal you more fully,' she explained.

"Thanks anyway."

Meridina nodded. She turned her attention away from him for the moment, sensing for what may come, what was going on. Looking for…


"We must hurry," she said to Lee.

"What? What's wrong?"

"This was all a ruse," Meridina explained. "The real Cylon plan is still progressing. I believe I can find their operative."

"Well…" Lee reached down and checked his sidearm. He still had several rounds in it. "Lead the way."

The advancing Cylon combat drones continued to pour fire into Anders' burning resistance encampment. Kara and Anders hid behind a one of the disabled vehicles for cover . "Some rescue," Anders remarked.

"Frakking Cylons," Kara growled. "They must have sabotaged the Aurora with a virus. Something hidden in that jump drive."

"It sounds that way," Kane said from his own nearby cover. He poked his head out and let out a spray of fire. They could hear the Cylon he targeted shrieking as it was ripped up by the burst. "I can't raise them on comms!"

"Suggestions?", Kara asked.

"Yeah. We hold out until help arrives," Kane replied.

Koenig plunged into the group of Cylon fighters and heavy raiders approaching Aurora's port side. Her phaser cannons blazed away with pulses of amber light. The Cylon ships, even the heavy ones, burst like eggs as they were hammered in turn by the fury of the attack ship. Behind her a flight of Mongoose fighters peeled away and engaged another of the Cylon boarding ships. Their own pulse weapons peppered it with energy fire. One of the pilots let loose with a missile that finished the raider ship off.

On Koenig's bridge the ship rattled. "Direct hit from the nearest Cylon vessel," Magda said. "Shields holding at eighty percent."

"I really didn't want to find out how much those things could possibly hurt us," Zack noted. "Ap, evasive maneuvers where you can."

"I'm trying, but I can't do much if we want to keep those boarding craft off of Aurora," he answered.

Dammit guys, what's taking so long. The Cylons couldn't have knocked out your systems that badly… could they?

On the Aurora there was another harsh shaking as more Cylon weapons impacted on the hull. "Damage report," Robert said.

With Jarod busy dealing with the virus, Julia had taken over that task. "Damage to Decks 18 through 23, Section G, and Decks 25 and 27 Section L," she said. "Self-repair systems are repairing what they can, but with our systems compromised they're being overloaded."


"Weapons systems aren't responding," she said. "I can't aim my fire, if I just shoot I might hit our side."

Robert almost asked Jarod for an update, but held himself back. Jarod was clearly locked in intense combat with the Cylon virus in their system.

Cat's voice spoke up. "Subspace spike!" She looked at him with a smile. "It's the Pegasus!"

"DRADIS contacts confirm ten enemy base stars," Fisk reported to Adama.

"Raising shield systems." This was from another officer on the bridge, Lt. Kendra Shaw.

"Great circumstances for a full combat test of the shields," Adama sarcastically mused to himself. Aloud he gave the necessary orders. "Engage the basestars nearest Aurora. I want our Vipers to keep any enemy boarding craft off of her."

With Adama's order the Pegasus plunged into a battle that just two weeks before would have looked suicidal. Her railgun mounts opened up with fury on the nearest Basestar while Vipers shot from her launch deck.

"Don't accept any incoming communication from Aurora," Adama said. "Not until they get that virus under control."

"Assuming they can," Fisk mumbled.

Adama grunted. He didn't think that possibility needed mentioning. Besides, the kids over there were smart. Fighting these kinds of viruses was their thing.

Jarod was ready to grind his teeth with frustration. This… thing was out-thinking him at every turn, circumventing everything he threw at it. It refused to release its iron grip on the Aurora's defensive systems or propulsion. The only progress he could claim to be making was that the virus couldn't start locking out more systems while it took up commandeered processing power fighting him.

Not again, he thought. "I'm not getting beaten again," he said to himself. "Not by something like this."

"Jarod?', Julia asked.

"Not now," he barked back,too intent on decorum or protocol to care. He took a moment to ponder the foe he was up against. A virus specifically tailored to render ships helpless, to identify any software obstacle to its control and bypass it or, over time, eliminate it. That was the key. How could he deal with this thing? Get it to stop going after the vital systems, to trap it in Aurora's computer systems?

The ship rocked heavily again, reminding him of their time constraint. "Hull breach on Deck 6," Julia declared. "Emergency forcefields not responding."

"How many?", Robert asked.

There was strain in Julia's voice too when she answered, "I can't tell. Not yet. At least five people were in that section."

Jarod closed his eyes for a moment and thought about this problem, even as he kept feeling the pressure of the situation push him down. Every moment he failed to get the ship running again, members of this crew were dying. How long before this kind of thing killed one of them? The wrong hit and the entire bridge might get taken out - certainly the Cylons were going to start targeting the bridge soon enough. ''I'm picking up damage to Deck 10, Section C," Julia said. "One of their breaching pods got through. I'm sending Marines and security to contain the Cylon boarding party."

Jarod got back to work. They were running out of time.

The Cylons moved with machine precision into the Aurora after breaching the hull. They came across a damage control party and opened fire just as the party reacted to their presence. Two of their targets fell with no life signs remaining; the others fled down the corridor. The Cylons moved ahead, not so much in pursuit but to achieve their objective: access to the ship's control bridge.

They neared the lift when the counter-attack began. Pulses of particle fire destroyed the lead Cylon utterly, leaving only a pile of half-molten scrap. The Cylons reacted by turning and firing to force their foes back into cover. There was a flare of energy ahead; their rounds were striking a personal forcefield.

Their fire redoubled. One Cylon activated its anti-personnel grenade launcher and loaded an explosive grenade.

It never got the chance to fire.

A series of objects flew ahead and into the Cylons' midst. They had never seen such objects before. Their systems did calculate the likely purpose of the items and they responded appopriately; two of the raiders jumped on them to preserve the rest of the attacking force.

The resulting explosions blew those raiders apart. It also turned their broken, shattered pieces into projectiles that battered their comrades. The Cylon team began a tactical retreat, obeying the tactical command programming to find another route that was not defended.

They fell back toward their breaching pod... and into another hail of fire. This time from even heavier weapons.

The Marine fire was precise and rapid. They were the hammer to ship security's anvil, and the effect of their firepower showed. The Cylons whipped around frantically, returning fire, but their weapons proved insufficient against the protective gear of the Marines. The two last Cylons poured enough fire into one target that they got through his shields and managed several successful hits.

This proved only a slight retribution for their destruction.

Meridina followed Lee through Cloud Nine to the engineering decks, past signs warning about authorized personnel being required and the like.

As they approached the reactor chamber Meridina could feel an increasing sense of pain and anguish. Bewilderment, uncertainty, anger… it was all indications of a traumatized mind.

When they arrived they found one Colonial sitting against the wall. The young woman was breathing hard and clasping a wounded arm. Blood was pouring from the gunshot wound and onto the ground.

Banks of tylium-fueled reactors were arrayed across the room. Standing beside one, at a control station, was a blond-haired woman. Meridina and Lee had already seen another like her, with the Cylons at the crowd, making who she was seem obvious.

But this Cylon was different. She was the source of all the emotions Meridina had been sensing as they approached. Meridina felt deep surprise at what she was sensing. For this woman's feelings to be so strong…

"Please, do not do this," she said.

The Cylon woman looked at her. There were tears already streaming down her eyes. "Don't," she ordered, looking at Lee and his drawn gun. She opened her blouse; a belt of explosives was underneath. "I'll blow up," she threatened. "And the reactors will go."

Why do you wish to destroy yourself?", Meridina asked. "I do not sense the same conviction in you as in the others."

"Because I don't have a choice," she said. "Because I'm not going back."

Meridina stared at this frightened being and wondered what she meant. That left Lee to make the connection. "You're Gina Invieve," he said

The Cylon seemed to nod a little.

"Whom is this 'Gina'?", Meridina asked Lee.

"She was a Cylon infiltrator on the Pegasus," Lee explained. "After the attack, the crew discovered who she was. They…" Lee swallowed. "Admiral Cain was out of control."

Meridina didn't need further explanation. She had known what the Pegasus crew had done to Cat. With their brutal commander still alive? And the attack on their worlds fresh? Gina's suffering was evident, even if thoughts of it weren't constantly flowing from her mind to confirm all the horrid details. "You will not go back," Meridina pledged. "I will not allow you to be harmed."

"You can't stop them from hurting me," Gina said. "And you can't stop the Plan."

"What is it?", Meridina asked. "What is the Plan?"

"We're not told the full Plan, none can know it. It unfolds piece by piece, as they say God intends."

Meridina nodded. "Yes. Sharon said much the same thing." Meridina kept a serene expression on her face as she approached Gina. "I feel your fear. I understand how much you suffered. But I will protect you. Just as I acted to save Sharon and her baby."

Gina seemed more confused by this than disbelieving. "Why? After all that we've done, why?"

"Because, it is the right thing to do," Merinda answered. "Because you are a wounded soul who needs to be healed. You did not kill the people of the Colonies. Your leaders did."

"You shouldn't be here," Gina said. "You're not supposed to be out here. The cycle has to end…"

Meridina kept herself from asking about what Gina was talking about. There would be time to satisfy curiosity later. "Gina, you have suffered too much, yes. Please, let that suffering end here. Do not be the source for more. It must end.."

"Don't take another step closer," Gina insisted. "Not one more step!"

Meridina nodded and stopped. She got onto her knees in a meditative position. "Very well. I shall remain here and we can talk peacefully."

Lee stared in disbelief as Meridina set her weapon to the side and looked back to Gina. "I pose you no threat, Gina Invieve. You are not at any risk by my hands. All I wish to do is talk."

Anders' base was now almost completely overrun. The handful of surviving fighters who hadn't been beamed up before everything went to hell were joined by their Marine rescuers in the central structure of the facility. Outside gunfire still raged from the Cylon war machines trying to mow them all down. At every possibly interval Kane and his men popped back up out of a window to pour more fire into them.

But just because they were using energy weapons didn't mean ammunition was unlimited., Several of his people were short now of the energy clips that let them fire their weapons. "Looks like they're preparing for a big push," Kane remarked while checking out side the corner of a window.

"We can't hold here," Kara noted. "We need to do something."

Anders smirked. "Well, there was my final 'Frak you!' measure."

"Oh?" Kane looked at him. "That would be?"

"We built a bomb," Anders explained. Big enough to level the whole place. It would be our final farewell if the Cylons ever arrived to wipe us out." He frowned . "I'm not much for dying, but I had always figured that if I were going to, best to take as many of the frakkers with me as I go."

"Heh." Kane smirked. "Good thinking. Where's the bomb?"

Anders gestured to a tarp in the middle of the structure.

"Can you set it now?"

"Guess we're giving up on the rescue?", Anders asked.

"Nope." Kane looked back and smiled. "I've got a plan."

Koenig shook once again. "Shields down to forty percent," Magda warned. "Slight damage on Deck 2 port side."

The Cylons were clearly more interested in capturing Aurora than destroying her, but they weren't showing the same restraint toward Pegasus or Koenig. Zack watched Pegasus' jury-rigged shields flare blue again as several more Cylon shots slammed into her. "Status on Pegasus?"

""Their shields are barely above fifty percent," Magda said.

"Right." Zack eyed the display. "Pick that Cylon on our port side. Take us in close."

"How close?", Apley asked.

""Close enough to skid the paint off if we want," Zack declared. "Sherlily, torpedoes and phasers, please. Keep them coming."

"What are you doing?", Sherlily asked. "At that range we won't be able to evade."

"Not them, no," he admitted. "But their buddies ….."

Apley allowed himself a grin. "Of course. They keep shooting at us too, they'll hit their friend."

"Exactly. Take us in!"

Koenig raced in toward her target. As she drew close several Cylon shots that missed them slammed into their target instead. Sherlily added to the mayhem with phasers and torpedoes. Explosions plumed from the basestar's hull at the onslaught. as Apley kept them weaving around the ship's emplacements, giving Sherlily all of the time she needed to hammer the enemy ship.

Behind them several of the fighters from the Aurora came soaring in to support their attack. Anti-ship missiles dropped from their hardpoints and slammed into the wounds Koenig was carving into the Cylon ship.

The coup d'grace was delivered by two Raptors from Pegasus. Apley flew them clear of the basestar just in the nick of time. The nuclear warheads in the Raptors' missiles blasted through the weakened armor of the Cylon ship and set her tylium reactors off. The entire ship blew apart.

But that was just one basestar, Nine more remained in the fight - nearly eight now, given how badly one was faring against Pegasus's guns - and Aurora was still helpless before them.

Back on Caprica, Anders was finishing the arming fuse. "Are you sure about this?', he asked Kane.

"Damned sure!", Kane answered.

"This is Godsdamned crazy!", Kara laughed.

"Goddamned crazy is our job, Captain," Kane agreed.

Anders nodded and set the fuse. "Twenty seconds!"

"Alright everyone! Now!" Kane motioned to Rashid, who blew the south wall down and immediately opened fire. Ijala came up beside him and sent off a shot with his sniper rifle that blew the head off another Cylon machine. The Alakin sniper jumped to the next bit of cover while the other Marines behind him came up and poured fire into the enemy in that field.

Nobody stopped for long. There was a cry of pain as rounds found Anders' leg. "Come on!", Kara shouted, and she pulled him up. Kane noted with approval that Lance Corporal Toussiers was quick to give her aid, helping Kara pull the injured Anders along with them.

The Cylons from the other angles surged toward the house and on to their rear. Which seemed bad, especially as they had yet to get clear. But that was, in truth, exactly what Kane had been counting on.

At the twenty second mark, the blast deafened them all and sent them flying. Kane scrambled back to his feet despite the disorientation of being thrown down. An inferno raged behind them, complete with bits and pieces of Cylons scattered about. "Ha! Semper Fi, you toaster bastards!"

The rest of Kane's Marines got up just as the remaining Cylons ahead of them recovered from the blast. Particle fire ripped through them and finished opening the way to safety for the assembled survivors of Anders' resistance.

"Mission accomplished," Kane declared.

Now all they had to do was wait for Aurora to get them out.

The reactor chamber's silence was thick with tension. Lee felt sweat on his brow as he waited for something, anything, to happen. Even if it was the Cylon setting off her explosive and starting a chain reaction that could destroy the ship.

The quiet tension was getting to Gina as well. "I'll kill us all," Gina insisted. "You'll die too. You'll die."

"I am ready to die," Meridina answered. "I knew the moment I took up my lakesh that the Code might require my life. I chose to take up the burden anyway because some things have to be done. Evil must be confronted. What was done to you, Gina Invieve, was a terrible evil. Regardless of what your people did to the Colonials, evil cannot atone for evil. Would that I had been there, I would have raised my lakesh in your defense."

"Commander…" Lee began. He was hoping she would do something more than talk; the lives of everyone on Cloud Nine were at stake.

"Captain Adama, please. It must be done this way," Meridina urged.

Lee swallowed and nodded. He hated not doing anything about this situation, but he could see that the wrong move from him would cause Gina to set off the bomb and destroy the ship.

"I can sense it in you, Gina Invieve," Meridina said. "A desire to do good. To end the suffering, this cycle of hatred between the Humans here and the Cylons. But bloodshed can never end hatred. It only feeds the darkness with the fear and anger and hate that it creates. Don't give in, Gina. Please, do not give into that darkness. Choose life. For yourself and for others. There is hope for you and your kind."

Gina met Meridina's eyes for several crucial seconds. Meridina felt all of the emotions roiling up within the heart and being of Gina Invieve. Including some surprising feelings of guilt, of treachery.

She loved Cain, Meridina realized. Despite what she was doing, she fell in love. The trauma of what Cain had allowed to be done to her had no doubt made the betrayal all the worse for her, not just Cain's betrayal of what they had, but her own betrayal.

Was she wrong to have not acted by now? There were a few ways Meridina could disable Gina, could stop her, but most were likely to be fatal. And every moment she waited, it made it less likely she would stop the Cylon woman in time.

Was she hesitating? Hesitation was not something a swevyra'se was supposed to do; it weakened the use of one's swevyra.

But she couldn't just kill Gina. She was a victim too. A victim of leaders who had caused this horrible genocide, who had put her into that position, and exploited her loyalty.

"Have hope for the future," Meridina pleaded to her. "Follow the Light. Step away from Darkness. I implore you, see that there is worth in these people and in yourself. Breaking the cycle can begin with you. With one decision."

Gina took in several more breaths. She looked to the reactors and then back to Meridina and onward to her suicide vest.

And then Gina let out a cry of frustration and pain.

Her hand went to the belt and pulled at it. It came loose. She threw it to the floor and collapsed to her knees, weeping.

Meridina did not move quickly. She stood only long enough to move beside Gina Invieve, whom she put her arms around. "Thank you," Meridina said.

"Don't let them take me," Gina pleaded. "Not again."

"Never again," Meridina promised. "I will make sure of that." As she said this she looked back at Lee with a stern expression. It made clear she would brook no dissension on this and that was good enough for him.

"I'll go and check on how the others are doing," Lee offered.

"Thank you, Captain. I will take Ms. Invieve somewhere private." Meridina watched him go before returning her attention to the weeping woman in her arms. "It will be fine," she assured her. "You have made the right choice. And your future will reflect that choice."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

On Aurora, the ship remained mostly immobile and completely defenseless against the Cylons. Fire was pouring into their hull now, even as the auto-repair systems struggled to restore it. "I think they've given up on boarding us," Robert observed as they continued to shake. "Jarod?"

Jarod said nothing. He was too busy. With one hand he was still writing circumvention programs, trying new and more complex algorithms to override the virus' remote shutdowns of the vital systems. This proved futile; the virus adapted to each one in turn and re-asserted control over those systems. Shields, weapon aiming, helm control…

But this was now just a distraction. Jarod's real focus was what he was doing with the other hand. It was the kind of multi-tasking only he could hope to pull off.

Julia noticed something was up. "Jarod? Why are you isolating the tertiary auxiliary computer core?"

"You'll see. I'm transferring ship functions over to it now. With it isolated we'll get most control back and the virus won't be able to touch it." He finished his final touches on that and loaded the final programs from backup memory. A near-perfect clone of the shield and weapon control systems was now installing in the aforementioned auxiliary core. It was almost surprising how compacted the core was. Jarod imagined the core was storing backup data as it was, but it clearly held more data than he'd thought it did.

"I'm getting helm control back," Locarno said. And indeed in the following moments the other functionality was due to restore itself as well.

But the virus had other plans. Detecting the transfer of control, the virus reacted by beginning to transfer itself into the core with the other programs, keeping a slender thread of command open through the connection to keep its lock-down on the main core and systems.

"We've lost helm control again," Locarno reported, sounding irritated.


Jarod didn't reply to Julia. He was too busy. He had to make sure. He used his own connection into the auxiliary core to run purging programs and force the virus to rewrite its adaptations on the fly. It had to transfer its functions completely into the auxiliary core to resist the extra computing power.

All of its processes.

At confirming that, Jarod smiled. "I've got you," he muttered.

The virus had understandably locked down the connection to the auxiliary core to keep him from cutting it. He had fully anticipated that.

But what the virus didn't know, could not know, was how the cores were designed. How Jarod and Farmer and Barnes had set them up for just such cases. What he and Barnes had later done with the lessons learned from the Dalek invasion of the Facility.

Jarod reached to one corner of his panel and pressed a button. The button controlled a circuit, a manual one isolated from the software operation of many ship systems.

With the press of that button, the physical connection of the auxiliary core to the others was cut completely. And with that, the virus was now trapped. Helpless inside the auxiliary core.

Jarod laughed with triumph. "I've got you. Now…" With the virus cut off, it could no longer reimpose remote lock-down on the ship systems it had secured. Jarod swiftly deployed a new set of override commands that eliminated the lockdowns and restored central system control. He tapped a key. "Engineering, this is Jarod. You've got reactor control back."

"Aye. Restoring full power… now."

The emergency lights were replaced by the main lights of the bridge. "I've got helm control!", Locarno declared, smiling.

"Aiming control for weapons is back online," Angel said. "I'm raising shields!"

Just as she said that another series of nuclear-tipped missiles came in from the Cylon ships. Before these weapons had destroyed the armored hull they'd impacted, blasting away debris and threatening to irradiate people within the ship. Now they crashed almost harmlessly into the raised deflector shields of the Aurora.

Robert felt a rush of excitement. "Well done, Jarod," he said, unable to keep from smiling. "Lieutenant Delgado, please let those Cylons have it."

"With pleasure," Angela purred. A feral grin was already crossing her face; she had felt her own frustrations at their evident helplessness, and now she could give vent to them.

Aurora's main battery opened up a second later, directed at the nearest Cylon ship on her bow. Bursts of sapphire energy slammed into the unshielded Basestar and nearly blew it in half. A follow up barrage of phaser fire from the bow-facing strips completed the job. The Cylon ship was torn apart in an explosion.

Aurora surged forward, her shields at full and her weapons blazing. Her forward cannons again found a victim to rip into while on both port and starboard sides her phasers were blazing away. Solar torpedoes erupted from her launchers and wrecked another Cylon basestar scourged by the barrage of phaser fire. Robert watched with satisfaction as Aurora set into her tormentors like a bear freed from its cage.

"Shields still holding at ninety percent," Jarod remarked upon a series of impacts. "They're throwing everything they have at us and they can't make a dent."

Robert nodded. "Maintain firing until they withdraw, Angel."

"You're assuming I let them withdraw," Angel said.

Robert exchanged grins with Julia while Angel and Nick continued to assault the Cylons. But as he observed this sight, a prickly feeling came to Robert. A sense almost of deja vu. I've… seen this before, haven't it?", he asked himself.

He closed his eyes and focused. Yes. Yes, he had seen this before. He'd seen Aurora tearing into ships like this. In his dreams.

Suddenly he found he could barely keep up the smile. One of my dreams… it came true, he pondered. He thought back to things Meridina had said, about sensing the future, and felt dread build up.

This might be a victory, but not all of his dreams were so appealing. Visions of Nazi warships setting New Liberty ablaze, of Nazis murdering his cousin Beth and countless other colonists he knew on that world, came to him. A new sense of horror filled Robert that even the victory here could not get rid of.

There was a flash of light. "That last Cylon ship just made a jump," Caterina said,. "There's no way for me to track where they went."

"Let them run," Robert said. "We've had enough fighting for today." He nodded to Jarod, who re-established the communication line to the other ships. "Aurora to Pegasus. Thanks for the assistance, Admiral."

"It appears your crew had things well in hand," Adama noted. "Did you manage to purge the Cylon virus?"

Robert looked to Jarod. "I've contained it in an auxiliary computer core for the moment," Jarod answered, knowing Adama could hear him. "Although I'm also going to spend a few days fixing up our main computer systems. They're a mess of override programs and access workarounds right now."

"Can you jump?"

"Before we do, I think Scotty and I need to take a look over those jump engines," Jarod replied. "Just in case there are any more surprises."

"Understood. We'll finish the evacuation of Caprica in the meantime. Adama out."

Jarod stood up. "Sir?"

"Go ahead, Jarod," Robert said. "Go help Scotty make sure this thing isn't going to screw us over again." He forced himself to smile again, for Jarod's sake. "And Jarod? That was magnificent. You did good."

Jarod nodded. "Thanks… Robert." He gave a nod and smile of his own and headed to the turbolift doors while an Ensign at the secondary tactical station shifted over to assume Ops for the time being.

Once in the turbolift, Jarod drew in a breath and sighed. That had been so close. Far too close.

But he'd done it. He'd won, and saved all of their lives in the process. He'd outsmarted that damn Cylon thing.

Their technology in starships might have some inferiority to ours, but their computer programming is impossibly good, Jarod pondered to himself. That wasn't just a virus, that was an AI. But there would be time to consider that more thoroughly later. They had to check that jump drive over thoroughly, and quickly, so they could get back to the Refugee fleet and be assured the virus didn't have a copy waiting to surprise them.

Kane, Kara, and the others ended up being beamed up to Pegasus, where the medical staff quickly helped deal with the injuries among Anders and his people. Kane and Kara reported to the CIC to report their success. Kane saluted Adama smartly. "Admiral, our operation was a complete success."

"So I've heard." Adama turned and faced them. "And the Aurora is clear of any further Cylon virus issues."

"What happened over there?", Kara asked.

"Apparently that Cylon drive we cobbled together had a hidden data module in its machinery," Adama said. "That Cylon that slipped past you activated it remotely once he was on the Aurora."

"So everything should be good now?", Kane asked.

"I'm told Mister Jarod and Mister Scott have already purged the data module of any copies of the virus," Adama said. "They should be ready for jump shortly. Captain Kane, I'll have you returned to your ship with your Marines immediately."

"Of course, sir."

Once Kane was gone Adama and Kara exchanged looks. "Well." Adama's voice was sounding growlier than he seemed to actually be. "Looks like your rescue mission was a bit more exciting than you'd intended, Captain Thrace," he remarked.

"Indeed, sir." Kara nodded. And she smiled too. "But we got what we came for."

"That we did," Adama agreed. He looked back to the DRADIS screen. "Hard to believe how things have changed so much already now that we've met these Alliance people. I just took Pegasus up against 10 to 1 odds and won We were holding our own even before the Aurora came back online."

"They're great people, sir," Kara agreed. "Thanks to them, we just rescued thousands of our own from whatever the Cylons had in mind for them."

"A shame that they'll be going home soon," Adama said. "I wouldn't mind having them accompany the fleet on our way to their space."

"You could always ask them about the idea, sir?", Kara pointed out.

"I already intend to. In the meantime, why don't you go get some rest? Check up on your friends from that resistance force." He looked back to her. "You're dismissed, Captain."

"Before I go, sir?" Kara remained standing there. "That Cylon. He's a priest back on the Fleet. Brother Cavil."

"So I heard," Adama answered. "I'll inform Roslin as soon as I can."

At that Kara nodded and walked off, leaving Adama to his thoughts.

Roslin listened patiently as Lee finished his explanation of what had happened and what was going on. "Only thirty dead," she breathed. "Thank the Gods. I hate to say that, but given what they might have done…"

"We'd all be dead if not for Meridina," Lee answered.

"So you've said." Roslin put a hand on her chin. "And the Cylon she stopped in the reactor deck?"

"They're in a private suite I arranged. Under armed guard," Lee answered. "We'll see what happens when the expedition gets back."

"Yes." Roslin accepted water from Billy to quench the slight thirst in her throat. A bandage from the medics on Cloud Nine was handling the bruise on her arm from where Meridina had knocked her over to save her life. "At least they came through alright. I was worried that I was letting the Admiral and Captain Dale take too much of a risk..."

"It was a necessary one."

That prompted a nod. "I agree." Roslin took another sip and returned the cup to Billy. "Well… I suppose that's enough said. Now, we should probably talk about the housing issue…"

Ship's Log: 13 June 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. The Rescue Fleet has made its rendezvous with the Refugee Task Force unit as scheduled. It is my pleasure to announce that altogether we rescued over eight thousand people from the remaining twelve colonies. It was, perhaps, not as much as was hoped for. But for those eight thousand people, and for the Fleet as a whole, it's still a great boost to morale.

The Cylon virus' ability to attack our systems has been a puzzling development. How did they get such a capability to adapt their virus so quickly to our Darglan-based computer technology? This is a mystery I will leave it to Commander Jarod and Lieutenant Delgado to solve whenever they can. On a final note, Commander Meridina returned to the ship with a story of her own to tell and, unexpectedly, another Cylon refugee seeking asylum in the Alliance.

Robert and Meridina stood in the medbay watching Leo and Nasri give an examination to Gina Invieve.

"She has suffered terribly," Meridina remarked. "It would appear Caterina and Lucy were most fortunate in their own dealings with the Pegasus crew."

Robert sighed and shook his head. "It makes me think. About..."

"About what?"

"The human condition," Robert answered. "We can do such great things and turn around and be utterly despicable."

"Such is the way with all sentient life," Meridina replied. "All are open to the allure of darkness, just as all are capable of following the course of Light." A worried look came to her face. "Robert, I sense great anxiety in you. I do not think you should feel that way about this mission, it was quite the success."

"It's not the mission, it's…" Robert swallowed and sighed. "After we got the systems back and Angel went to town on the Cylons, I realized that… I was feeling Deja vu. That I had seen this happening already, seen our ship rip through the Cylons' forces."

Meridina appraised him carefully. "Truly?"

"Yes I saw it in one of those dreams I told you about." He looked into her eyes. "Does this mean my dreams are going to come true? That I can actually…"

"It simply means this particular one was the path the future was on," Meridina assured him. "Do not let it worry you, Captain."

Robert nodded. He wasn't entirely convinced of that, but he knew he should let it rest.

Besides, sometimes things more ominous and frustrating and annoying than visions of the future were at hand.

Things like paperwork.

Lucy was the last to arrive in the tertiary auxiliary computer core chamber. Contained on Decks 15 and 16, the two deck-high chamber held thee centralized core structure that contained the hardware of memory and processors for the tertiary core, providing the ship with emergency extra processing power and memory in the event of an emergency.

Jarod and Cat were already present. at the controls for the core. Nearby was a blackened spot that separated two sections of wiring. This would have been where the emergency physical isolation circuit had been placed, made to burn out the wiring completely and cut the physical connection of the auxiliary core to the main computers. That was how Jarod had saved the ship.

"You're just in time," Cat said to her. She looked up from where she was sitting by Jarod. "We're just about to examine the core."

"Examine… oh." Lucy nodded. "You're going to examine the virus in its isolated state before you wipe the core.

"That's the plan," Jarod said. "With a sample of the virus we'll be able to understand more about how the Cylons'' coding could attack our systems."

"Sounds like a worthwhile cause," Lucy agreed. She pulled up a chair. "I'll monitor the core from here and make sure the virus doesn't try anything nasty."

"That works. Okay… initiating search now… It might take a few minutes, there's a lot of corrupted data from my bait."

"I've got the time," Lucy answered.

"Really?" Cat blinked. "Because between your actual; shifts and all that weird mystic stuff Meridina's having you do, I didn't think you had a lot of time for yourself."

"I get enough," Lucy answered."Oh. Well, that's good. I guess." Cat looked back to her screen. She gave a puzzled look at it. "Jarod, are you seeing this?"

"That depends," Jarod began. "What is it?"

"I…. I'm not finding any trace of the virus in the core," she answered. "Or anything from your bait either. It's like someone wiped the whole core."

Jarod brought up his own screen. "Huh," he said. "You're right. The virus' coding has been deleted. It's just a bunch of inert data in the system now."

"So you're saying something made the virus inert?", Lucky asked.

"Yeah. I mean, the basic coding is still there. But all of the executable elements have been removed. Like someone ran a program specifically to shred the command elements of the virus."

"What… how could it do that? We didn't have any protective software in our auxiliary core, did we?", Cat asked.

Jarod shook his head. "Nothing in here but some backup data for the main systems."

"Maybe the Cylons' viruses are programmed to go inert after a while?", Lucy said. "So nobody can recover them and examine them?"

"No," Jarod answered. "This isn't right for that. Too much of the code is intact. I could use this, right now, to write sniffer programs and security gates to specifically thwart this virus. Whatever this is, it isn't to protect the virus from being examined and countered."

"Damned peculiar then," Lucy agreed.

"Well, the important thing is that the computer systems are okay," Cat said. "We'll get the connection re-established soon and everything will be back to normal." She gave Jarod a look and a smile. It was one he returned with sunny enthusiasm.

"Well, you're a bit sunnier than you've been lately," Lucy commented. "Something new?"

"You could say that," Jarod answered. "Everything is fine now." Jarod started tapping keys. "Let's go ahead and set up a firewall around this virus, we can transfer it to an isolated system for for further study."

"I'm on it."

"Same here."

Sharon and Helo had spent the crisis helping where they could. This had primarily meant seeing to the refugees transported up from the Colonies. Now that those people had been moved over to the Colonial Refugee Fleet, they had the stateroom Commander Andreys assigned to them to themselves.

Helo was busy looking out of the stateroom's window toward the fleet. Galactica loomed closely in the view. "I feel a little odd,' he admitted. "It seems like I had just gotten back. And now I'm leaving again. Probably for good."

Sharon stepped up beside him and took his hand. Her other hand settled on her belly. "I understand," she admitted.

"Same for you, right." It wasn't a question. They were both well aware that they had become exiles. "What do you think about that New Liberty Colony that Commander Andreys and Doctor Gillam talked about?"

Sharon smiled gently. "I think it's a great place to find a fresh start. But there are plenty of worlds. I don't think we're in a hurry."

"No. We're not," Helo agreed. He turned and faced her. "I'm just happy that after everything's that happened, you're finally free. And we're together."

"Sometimes I wonder if it's just a dream." Sharon smiled back at him. "If so, I never want to wake up."

They didn't say anything after that. They shared a kiss instead.

Just after the kiss ended there was a tone at their door. "Come in," Sharon called out.

The door swished open and Commander Meridina stepped in. "Helo, Sharon." She bowed her head and received a similar gesture in return. "I don't wish to intrude, but would you mind giving me assistance with something?"

"Anything," Sharon answered.

Meridina stepped to one side. The two watched as a Gina Invieve stepped in, head bowed. "She is in need of help," Meridina said. "Someone willing to show understanding. I thought you two might wish to provide it."

Helo and Sharon exchanged looks. Those looks turned into nods. "Yes," Helo said. "Of course."

Meridina smiled and nodded. "Thank you." She turned and looked at Gina. "Whatever your life was before, whatever you did or what was done to you, that is over. Here you are among friends. People who will care about you as a person."

Gina nodded. "I'm grateful," she said. "I just want to put the past behind me."

"Yes. It is best for your heart and soul. My apologies,but I have some final duties to attend to."

With that spoken, Meridina left the traumatized Cylon woman to the care of her peer and Helo. Meridina suspected there were none better-suited to helping the poor woman.

Zack had just finished securing the Koenig when he got the call to Robert's ready room. He made his way via the turbolifts to the bridge. Julia stood up from the command chair. "Thanks for watching our back out there, Zack," she said.

He allowed himself a smile and nodded. "You're welcome, Julia." He swallowed. "Despite… everything, how I feel, how you feel…. you only ever have to ask and I'll help any of you in any way I can. I won't let… my issues come between me and my friends."

II know." Julia thought on it and decided she could risk a friendly hug. Zack accepted it in the spirit given. "Somewhere out there is someone for you, Zack," Julia assured him. "It might not be me. But she's out there."

"Maybe," he murmured back. "But for right now, I just want to get on with my life."

They parted ways. Zack nodded to Barnes, who had an apprehensive look on his face. Zack understood how upset his friend had to be. he might be Robert's best friend for the most part, but but he was definitely Barnes' best friend, full stop. And now he was leaving him behind.

Sorry, Tom. It's something I have to do..

Zack stepped into Robert's office. Robert was consulting the holo-display image of Admiral Maran over subspace. Telltale crackles told of how the signal was not quite real-time, taking several seconds to pass via subspace between Aurora and the IU transceivers that connected them t Portland int.

But what Zack hadn't expected was to see Adama present as well, standing to the side.

"Ah, Commander Carrey." Maran nodded. "Good to see you. You came just at the right time."

That made Zack curious. "Sir?"

"Captain Dale informed me of your transfer request," Maran said. "I believe you are looking for some time to operate independently?"

"I am, sir."

"Well, as I told you and your friends some time ago, these sorts of things can become permanent. And no assignment is truly independent." Maran folded his hands. "However, I believe I have an assignment that fits your desires without leaving you prospects of being shut off from a return to Aurora in the future."

"Sir?", Zack asked.

"Commander Carrey." Adama was speaking now. "I've requested that the Alliance provide the Fleet with assistance for our journey toward Alliance space. "I would have preferred it being the Aurora, but I'm told they're needed elsewhere."

Robert nodded to second that.

Zack put two and two together. "You want me. Me and my crew."

Adama nodded as well. "Correct. I'd,like Koenig to join us as a scout for the Fleet. And a little extra firepower wouldn't hurt just in case the Cylons start pursuing us again."

Zack looked to Maran. "So you're assigning me to join the Colonial Fleet?"

"For the time being, yes," Maran answered. "Until they reach Alliance space."

Zack looked to Robert, who grinned slightly. Zack returned it. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, my crew and I would love to do that. But how are we going to work out the FTL drive issues?"

"I've got an engineering team working with Aurora's machinery shops to build a jump drive big enough for the Koenig," Adama answered. "They tell me they're already in the process of assembling it."

"And you won't even need to spend hours changing systems around," Robert added. "Maybe half an hour to swap drive systems, at most."

Zack nodded. "Well… that's just… that's awesome, yeah." Zack nodded to Maran. "Thank you, Admiral. This is the sort of assignment I was looking for.'

"I expected as much, Commander."

Zack looked to Adama, who quietly extended his hand. Zack took it immediately. "It'll be a pleasure to work for you, Admiral Adama," he said.

"Likewise," Adama agreed.

The debriefing was held on Aurora. Roslin and her aide had brought the entire Quorum this time, with Lee accompanying them from Cloud Nine while Adama, Thrace, and Fisk arrived from Pegasus. This time Roslin had insisted on waiving the ceremony and Robert had (gratefully) agreed.

The debriefing went smoothly. More than smoothly. The rescue fleet had accomplished all that it could have reasonably hoped to. The further destruction of nine Cylon Basestars, combined with the casualties inflicted earlier in the week, would make the Cylons take a pause in threatening the Fleet any further. The eight thousand survivors were being distributed among the fleet. Space would be a bit tighter now, but it wouldn't be a problem for the ships, especially with the one gained at Picon.

"You've all done so well," Roslin said to the assembled officers of the various ships. "Eight thousand of our people rescued from Cylon hands. And these new technological gifts to help us feed and sustain ourselves for the remaining flight to your space. I couldn't ask for better allies.":

Robert responded quickly. "We're honored to have aided you, ma'am."

"On behalf of the Colonies, I thank you for your bravery and service." Roslin's expression turned somber. "And our condolences go out to those of your crew who perished in this operation. They will be remembered as heroes of the Colonies."

Robert rose. "Thank you, Madame President, for your kind words and the sentiments toward our fallen crewmates. My crew and I are proud to have helped rescue so many of your people. Just as we're proud to have established positive relations with your people, as we were sent out to do." Robert allowed himself a smile. "I'd also like to state that Admiral Maran has confirmed that a convoy of ships is being prepared to meet with the fleet and escort it into Alliance space, if that is your desire."

"It is," Roslin said. She looked to the others, who nodded. "The Quorum has agreed to a motion made by myself and Representative Zarek. We will seek sanctuary in the territory of the United Alliance of Systems. We're still determining which of your offered worlds we will accept. Honestly I suspect that this decision will not be settled until our forthcoming elections. But we will be on our way."

"I'm glad to hear it. I think that the Colonies will be at home in the Alliance. Our societies have much to offer to each other."

"Will the Aurora be accompanying us into your space?", Baltar asked.

Robert shook his head. "I'm afraid that we have been called back. There is still some battle damage the Aurora will require yard work to fix and my government believes we're needed elsewhere." Realizing how that might sound, Robert added, "Instead, we are leaving Commander Carrey and the Koenig to join the fleet." Robert looked to Zack, who nodded and grinned. "Commander Carrey has been looking forward to independent operations for himself and his crew. Working with your fleet as a scout was something Admiral Adama and I felt was a perfect fit."

"I'm looking forward to working with the Colonial Fleet on its way to Alliance space," Zack added. "My crew and I will be glad to help your people in any way required."

"I think the crew of the Faru Sadin is well aware of truth of that commitment," Roslin answered, smiling. "You and your crew will be welcome with the Fleet, Commander, as if you were our own."

"You will be our own," Adama added. "As far as I am concerned, Koenig and her crew will be a part of the fleet and will be given the same treatment I would give to any of my other subordinates."

"I'm honored, Madame President, Admiral."

After Zack sat down Robert said, "It may be some time before we see you again. But I'd like to express my best wishes for the rest of your journey. I look forward to hearing about your arrival at your new home, whichever world you choose."

There were a number of nods of agreement at that.

When Baltar got back to his lab, he took a seat and breathed a sigh of relief. "They're not staying," he said. "She is not staying."

His Head Cylon appeared beside him, slinky red dress and all. "Yes," she purred. "That is good."

"You never told me why you wanted Commander Meridina dead," Baltar said.

"Because, Gaius… she is the Enemy." His Head Cylon appraised him like she was wont to do sometimes, when it seemed like she wasn't sure if she wanted to punish him or not. "But I understand your reasons for letting her live."

"It wasn't my choice!", Baltar protested. "There was not a single thing I could do to justify harming her after that D'anna Biers tried to kill her."

"Our chance will come. One day." The Cylon spirit thing, whatever it was, smiled at him. "Now. The election."

"Yes." Baltar felt spite well up within him. Roslin's letter to him, her presumed final words after her death and his succession, had been a slap in the face. A preachy, sanctimonious prattling by a jumped up schoolteacher. And he wasn't going to take that lying down. "I'm running," he said.

"Against Roslin."

"Yes, against her." As he said that he knew it would be hard. Roslin's popularity was going to soar over these past events. A bitter irony given how close she had come to spurning their new allies, just to get the credit for making them allies. "I'm going to put Roslin in her place. I'm going to become President of the Colonies."

"Good. God is with you on this, Gaius." The Cylon leaned in close to him. Baltar could swear he could feel her breath on his neck in a sensual, arousing way. "All is going according to God's Plan..."

Across a space of thousands of light years, a number of figures gathered around a central location. Eleven in all.

Chief among them, the First began speaking. "Things will still progress according to the Plan," he assured his brethren.

The Third looked at him with narrowed eyes. "I am not so sure. We did not anticipate contact happening so quickly."

"We were supposed to keep any Colonials who fled from approaching the others," the Seventh added. "This failure may cost us everything."

"Do not be alarmed, my brethren," the First insisted. "Again, this changes nothing. A handful of remnant Humans will not change the fate of our enemies. Their doom will come in due time."

"And the Alliance?", the Eighth said. "They will interfere."

"They will have other concerns. As we have known. As we have foreseen."

"You underestimate them," the Second said. "Just as you underestimated the Gersallians before. The Enemy's order of knights are powerful. We must avoid conflict with them."

The First snarled at him. The failure of the plot to turn the aliens against each other did rankle, yes. What should have been a savage religious war was defused by those same damnable meddlers. "Thanks to the action of our Third and Fourth, we now have our own weapon to turn on the Enemy should they interfere further," he said. He looked off into the shadows. "Come."

A lone figure joined them. Hands of light bronze reached up and pulled down the hood of her robes. The face they all saw was that of a young Human woman. Her dark hair was naturally curled toward the ends. Her eyes were blue in color.

"Greetings to the Twelfth of our kind," Cavil said "Please, demonstrate the talents."

The Twelfth nodded. "By your command." She turned to the others and reached out to the Seventh. He started to gasp for air. The rest watched in stunned silence as the Seventh fell to his knees, choking and clawing at the air between him and the Twelfth. She showed no immediate emotion but her satisfaction was evident.

And everyone noticed how her blue eyes turned into an unnatural gold.

The First waited until the Seventh was facing severe damage before he announced, "Enough."

At the First's command the Twelfth pulled her hand back. The Seventh sucked in air greedily.

"We can now face the Enemy on even terms," the First said. "Twelve will provide us with the finest of our infiltrators. Once the proper training is completed, of course."

The others nodded in agreement. They had been suitable cowed by the newest demonstration of the First's power.

"Let the Humans run," the First continued. "Let them scurry into the arms of the Alliance. Their fate is still sealed. God has spoken. The Plan will succeed. The Enemy will be destroyed."

"God has spoken. The Plan will succeed. The Enemy will be destroyed."

The twelve continued the chant until the meeting broke up. The First looked to the Twelfth. "I am pleased," he said. "You have done well."

The Twelfth nodded in gratitude for his thanks and departed as well. The First was left to consider their plans.

Soon. Soon they would find the Gift. They would have the power to destroy the Humans, to destroy the Enemy, and to rule as they were meant to.

God's will would be done.

Zack was the last of his crew to get their things off the Aurora. Not from any desire not to leave, simply because he had arrangements to make with the rest of his stuff.

Which was why Robert was in the room with him helping him pack up the last few pieces. "Beth's got a storage locker lined up and ready," he said to Zack. He held up a picture of Zack with family members when he was younger. "A shame Koenig doesn't have room for all of this."

"Well, you know, she's not built for it," Zack pointed out.

"Yeah." Robert shook his head. "Zack, I'm sorry."

Zack finished putting his baseball mitt into his duffel bag. He turned and gave Robert a confused look. "What?"

"I'm sorry that I haven't been able to help you deal with… things," Robert continued. "I'm sorry that I let things get so… distant when it came to us. So distant you feel like you need to leave."

Zack sighed and shook his head. "It's not like that, Rob. I… honestly it's not too much distance that became the problem. It was the lack of it." Zack set the duffel bag down on the table. "Listen, things got heated over that LA33 disaster. Yeah. You've made mistakes and I've made mistakes. I just did whatever I had to, you know?"

"All we can do sometimes," Robert pointed out.

"Exactly. But when the day's over, Rob, you're still my best friend." Zack chuckled. "Hell, we've been friends since we were what, five years old?"

"A couple months after I turned five," Robert answered.

"Yeah. I mean, the only people your age who knew you longer were your sister and Julia," Zack pointed out. "I'm not going to give up on twenty years of friendship, man. I just got frustrated, that's all."

"Yeah." Robert tried to think of what to say. Apart of him wanted to talk Zack into not going through with this. Into letting him find someone else No matter how late it was.

But he couldn't. He knew Zack felt this separation necessary. Whatever risks it posed. And since Robert had been the one to get him pulled into this life, who was he to deny Zack the room to fully grow into it?

Maybe serving with Adama will be good for him. Adama's got the experience to help him deal with things.

Zack remained silent for the moment. "So." He checked his multi-device. "It's about time, I guess.

"Yeah." Robert sighed. "It is. I'll walk you back to Koenig."

They remained quiet on the walk there. When they got to the corridor leading to the airlock, they were no longer alone. The rest of the Aurora crew turned out. Leo came up to Zack first and gave him a supportive pat on the shoulder. "Good luck, Zack," he said. "Keep in touch."

"I will, Leo."

From Angel it was a handshake. "Take care of yourself out there, Zack.," she said.

"I'll do my best," he promised.

"Good. Because if something happens you, Cat will cry." Angel gave him a mock glare. "And I'll have to hurt you then."

"See, you do love me… for given values of love." Zack chuckled and moved onto Caterina who, enthusiastically, put her arms around him in a hug. "Woh. Hey… Cat? Have you been eating a lot of protein? I think you're going to crack ribs soon."

"I'm going to miss you," Cat said. "I wish you weren't going."

"Aw, Cat, don't worry. I'll be back before you know it," Zack said. "Now… about those ribs…"

Cat let go of him. Scott gave him a smile and a handshake. "Good luck, lad. I'll look forward to hearin' any stories ye've got when ye're back home where ye belong."

"Thanks, Scotty. Take care of things while I'm gone, alright?

"As if ye have to ask, lad."

Jarod gave him a handshake. Nicholas Locarno did as well, wishing him luck. While accepting a hug from Lucy Zack realized someone was missing.

Julia stepped up and gave him a hug. "You okay?", she asked.

"Where's Tom?", Zack inquired, seeing a distinct lack of Barnes in the group. "I know he's upset, but…"

"A moment." Julia considered him and gave him another hug. "Be careful out there, Zack. We're going to miss you."

"I'll miss you too," he answered, patting her on the back as briefly as he could.

When the hug ended attention turned to the end of the hall. Barnes was standing there in his uniform, with tool belt on, and a duffel bag on his shoulder too.

"Tom?", Cat asked, confused.

"I'm going," Barnes said.

Zack looked at him. "What?"

"I said I'm going with you," Barnes repeated. "Karen's going to have her hands full overseeing the modifications to the Colonial ships and stuff. You're going to need an extra set of hands in engineering. And I know Koenig just as well as she does."

"The paperwork's already signed," Julia said. "The temporary assignment has been logged."

Zack looked back to Tom and sighed. But he couldn't keep the grin off his face. He gave Barnes an affectionate, friendly smack on the shoulder. "Coming along, eh? Mister Scott, are you sure you'll be fine without Tom to keep things in order?"

"I'm sure I can manage," Scott answered, grinning knowingly. "Best if you bring your friend along. I cannae have th' lad frettin' about ye bein' gone th' entire time, now can I?"

As Caterina gave Barnes a hug, everyone had a moment to reflect on just what this meant. Barnes was going to stay with the Fleet, with the people who had shot him just over a week ago, simply because he wanted his friend to have a buddy along.

Zack understood that too. He had to concentrate to keep any tears from forming

"I hope I am not too late." Meridina stepped up and grinned at them. "I wanted to see you both off as well."

"Not too late at all," Zack said. He offered her a hand. She took it and gave Zack the handshake. "Please, keep them safe."

"I will. I promise you." Meridina and Barnes shook hands. Afterward she stepped back and nodded her head in a goodbye gesture. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Zachary Carrey, Thomas Barnes."

Zack returned the nod. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Meridina."

Meridina's eyebrows went up. "You've learned the proper pronunciation." She looked to Lucy with some humor. "Hopefully Lucy will learn it as well as you have."

Lucy chuckled at that. Her blue eyes glinted with amusement and a bit of mischief. "Well, I was starting to think of it as a fun way to tease Meridina after a particularly hard training session."

Meridina gave her a bemused look. "It appears I may have to make things yet harder for you then."

That earned her a playful glare from those same blue eyes.

To that exchange, Zack took a moment to respond. "I had some down time to look the pronunciation up, actually." He stepped up to the airlock with Barnes behind him. "Alright everyone." Zack turned back to them and waved. "Be careful, stay safe, don't be strangers... and Rob, if you dump Angel again you'll have earned every bruise."

"Yes," Angel said, smirking, "he will." She gave him a knowing look that made Robert blush and caused the others to chuckle and giggle at his expense.

After another moment Robert recovered from that. "Good luck out there." He gave Zack a meaningful look. "Come back to us when you're ready."

Zack nodded back. "Yeah. We will."

"Adios, compadres!", Barnes called out.

Everyone remained and watched as the two entered Koenig's airlock. "Well." Robert sighed. "It's time for us to depart too."

They left for the bridge.


Everyone took their normal places upon the return to the bridge, save the conspicuous absence of Barnes from the Engineering station. Lucy had taken it instead. She brushed a lock of her curly dark hair out of her eyes and focused on her screens.

"Koenig is ready to launch," Jarod reported.

Robert nodded and restrained a desire to sigh. "Alright. Let her go."

"Completing launch procedures now. "

They watched on the screen as Koenig pulled out of the launch bay and moved over to a new position by Galactica. A light appeared on Jarod's board. "Hail from Galactica."

"Put them on."

It was audio only, as usual. "Aurora, this is Admiral Adama."

"We read you, Admiral."

"This meeting has been a turning point for our people. I hope to see you again some time. May the Gods, or whomever is out there, watch over you."

"Godspeed, Admiral Adama," Robert answered. "Godspeed to all of us."

"Farewell, Captain Dale. Adama out."

"Well." Julia settled completely into her seat. "This was quite the first contact mission."

"Yes it was," Robert agreed. "So… Jarod, you were saying about that jump drive?"

"We removed the data module from it," Jarod answered. "But the entire thing was never meant to be used constantly and our return trip left some of the components nearly burnt out."

Julia spoke up next. "Were there any problems hooking the warp drive back up?"

"None at all. Scotty thinks we need to take it easy on the way back, though. He recommended no higher than Warp 9."

"That'll add a couple of days to our trip back," Robert noted.

"Best not to wait around, then," Locarno operated his board. "Laying in course to Gersal, Warp 9."

Robert and the others waited for Locarno to finish that task. The Refugee Fleet covered the holo-screen. Almost 60,000 souls, huddled together in a ramshackle fleet. The few survivors of billions of slaughtered people and all that was left of a unique Human civilization. Robert pondered on how much things had changed for these people since they had met them. The Colonials had been given the one thing that made their situation tolerable.


Despite everything that had happened, he and his friends had given these poor people hope that they had a future beyond fleeing the Cylons.

"So." Julia was clearly thinking out loud. "How much do you think Hawthorne and Davies will protest all of the risks we took on this mission? And our decisions?"

"They can try," Robert answered. "But we can show that whatever risks we took, they were necessary. And that the outcome was better for them."

"Course laid in."

"Alright, Mister Locarno." Robert nodded. "Take us out."

The Starship Aurora accelerated past the Refugee Fleet and turned. On a number of the ships curious Colonials watched with awe and joy as the large starship pulled away, becoming ever smaller against the backdrop of space. The warp nacelles lit up with bright blue light for a moment, after which the Aurora surged forward at warp speed on her way home.

Adama watched Aurora disappear from the DRADIS scopes. "There they go," Tigh said. "Hope they stay safe out there."

"I thought you didn't care much for them, Saul?", Adama asked.

"Well, they're rough around the edges. Need some discipline." Tigh smirked. "But, hell, they were a good enough sort. They gave us a lot of help right when we needed."

"They still are," Adama noted, looking at the DRADIS signature for Koenig. Commander Carrey's ship had taken up its new position ahead of Galactica. "Lieutenant Duala. Put me on with the rest of the fleet. I want to make a quick address."

Duala blinked at that. It was quite the request; it would require each ship putting Adama on their internal PA systems. "Yes sir. I'm patching you to the other ships." Duala keyed the necessary channels and opened the necessary bandwidths to carry the signal. "Admiral Adama wishes to address the people of the Fleet. Please open this channel to ship PA systems."

After about twenty seconds Duala looked up. "You're on, Admiral."

Adama nodded. "This is Admiral William Adama addressing the people of the Fleet. A lot has happened in these past two weeks. We have met new allies of incredible capability, but most importantly, incredible charity. Thanks to the help of Captain Dale and his crew, we are better prepared to defend ourselves from the Cylons than we've been ever been. And we now count another eight thousand of our own among us again. We are now setting course for Alliance space. Earth is there. We can't move in just yet, but it's there. As are so many other Earths over the Multiverse we've been introduced to."

"But we're not going alone. The Alliance has pledged its aid to us. We are already due to meet with a convoy in some time that will provide us with material aid and protection. Until we meet that convoy, however, we have not been left alone by our new friends. It is with great pleasure that I welcome Commander Zachary Carrey and the crew of the Koenig to the ranks of this Fleet. You may have heard of these people. They risked their own destruction to save the Faru Sadin from a Cylon nuclear attack. They helped us get thousands of our people out of the occupied Colonies. And now they are staying behind with us, to help protect the Fleet until we get to the safety of Alliance territory."

Adama let that last point sink in for a moment before continuing. "It is my hope and expectation that from this point onward, Commander Carrey and his crew will be treated like any other part of this Fleet. They will be shown all of the courtesies you would show to any member of the Colonial Navy." He gave a look to the rest of his crew in the CIC, who all looked on with support. So he finished with, "So say we all."

"So say we all.," the CIC crew echoed. The speakers echoed with more repeats of the same line as other ships in the Fleet echoed Adama's words.

Adama's address had been heard on Koenig as well. Zack nodded to Magda. She put him on as the final echoes were carrying, allowing him to add his own "So say we all" to the chorus.

"Thank you for your support. Adama out."

Once the line was cut, Sherlily remarked, "Always good to be appreciated."

Zack smirked at that. He looked over to where Barnes was sitting at the engineering station for the bridge. "Settling in?"

"Sure," he said. "Although it's a bit redundant up here compared to the Aurora."

"Well, Karen's going to start making the rounds of their ships to set up shields and all sorts of stuff, you'll be getting plenty of time down in Engineering."

"I just wouldn't recommend changing too much," Apley added. "Karen has her own system in place."

"Yeah, I understand that," Barnes said. "So, ready to give this new jump drive a spin?"

"As soon as Adama signals our course."

"We're receiving that now," Magda said. "Galactica is signalling the fleet to prepare for a jump."

"It's a shame we don't have Aurora's processing power," Barnes sighed. "We're months away from the Dorei frontier at the rate these ships can jump."

"Ah, it's no big deal," Zack answered. "Think of it as a chance to get away, Tom. Spread our wings a bit."

"Yeah, sure. Until some Cylon starts shooting our ass up."

"Don't worry, Lieutenant," Sherlily said. "I'll return the favor."

"Jump set in," Apley said. "We're ready."

"Jump when we get the go signal."

"Right. Five, four, three, two…. one."

With a press of a key, Apley jumped the Koenig in time with the rest of the Refugee Fleet.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »


Ship's Log: 2 July 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. I'm pleased to record that the warp drive system overhaul that Commander Scott required is now complete. With our repairs completed I am looking forward to departing on whatever mission we are called upon to complete next.

We have yet to receive a replacement for the Koenig, left behind to provide additional support for the Colonial Refugee Fleet. It remains to be seen whether we will receive the replacement ship before we embark on a new mission.

Robert finished putting in the morning ship's log and took a sip of coffee. It was replicated and lacked the flavor of the coffee he could have gotten from Hargert in the Lookout. But with departure imminent, he thought it best to save time by eating breakfast in his quarters.

Well... that wasn't entirely his motivation.

He looked back as the shower door opened. Angela stepped out with a towel wrapped around her from shoulders to hips, revealing muscled arms and legs. Her wet hair glistened in the soft light of his quarters. He smiled at her and gestured to the plate of eggs and pancakes he'd replicated for her. "Hungry?"

She responded by leaning over him and kissing him on the cheek. "Thanks." She settled into the chair opposite him and began to partake of the breakfast while drying off. "You were up early."

"Yeah." Robert gestured toward his computer monitor. "I wanted to make sure all of the dock paperwork was in order."

"Well, we got that damned Cylon drive out and over to the tech people where it belongs," Angel said. "And Scotty's finished the drive overhaul. It looks like we're ready."

"Mostly. There is something I wanted to show you." Robert picked up a digital pad and handed it to her.

Angel set her egg-covered fork down to accept and read it. Her brow furrowed. "You're expanding our torpedo locker? Two hundred extra torpedoes for the ship?"

"It seems reasonable."

"S4W8," Angel sighed.

"Nothing new from there," Robert said. "Just the same reports of Reich activity near Krellan Nebula. Fourth Fleet's on position in the region. I hear they're forming a Ninth Fleet to join Lithgon's forces. But it'll be a week before they can get into place."

The reminder of the possibly imminent war in a universe where Nazi Germany prevailed in World War II turned the breakfast into a working one. Angel let her expression turn into a frown as she sat the pad down. Her appetite drained away. "Have another dream?", she asked.

"Not last night," Robert said. He grinned thinly at her. "Thanks to you, I think."

She returned the grin, even if she didn't feel it. "That's sweet of you. But I'm just... worried, I guess."

"We all are."

"Not about Nazis. Not about Cylons either. About you. You're blaming yourself for what's coming," she pointed out.

Robert couldn't deny it. "I have good reason. It's my fault."

Angel's temper flared. "Dammit, Robert," she hissed. "Stop this failed messiah crap. You made a bad call. But let's face it. Nazis, Robert! Nazi's for Christ's sake! We're going to end up at war with them anyway!"

"It's how soon that is that worries me," Robert remarked.

"Alright. Yeah, you're not going to stop this." Angel shook her head. She pushed the plate away. "You know what? I'm done with breakfast. I'm going to get dressed and check on Cat." She stood from the chair.

Robert opened his mouth to call out to her. But he said nothing as she entered the bedroom. He couldn't think of anything to say. Anything that she'd accept, anyway.

She'll calm down, he assured himself. She's just being protective of me, I need to recognize how protective she is.

He said nothing further, even after Angel stepped out in a brisk pace. She'd left in such a hurry she hadn't even taken the time to brush out her wet hair.

Robert decided to finish his breakfast. But he only got a few bites into it when he received a call over the ship intercom. "Bridge to Captain Dale," the chirping Alakin voice of Lieutenant Jupap said.

Robert sighed and hit the response button on his desktop. "Dale here."

"Admiral Maran is calling over IU radio for you."

"Relay it to my quarters." Robert looked down to make sure his uniform undershirt had no stray bits of breakfast on it in the moments before Maran's gray-haired visage appeared on his screen.

The Gersallian admiral looked none the worse for wear. "Captain, I've been informed that Aurora's drive overhaul is complete and you're due to launch today?"

"Yes, Admiral," Robert replied.

"That's good news," Maran answered. "Because we have a mission for you. Something we think is suited for the Aurora." His expression shifted to show the weight of what he was about to ask. "S4W8, Captain."

Robert frowned. They'd had enough experiences in that universe so far. It was one of those alternate timeline types of universes, and one with a particularly nightmarish outcome to history; The "Third Reich" of that universe now stretched across entire sectors of space and commanded a starship force that was potent and dangerous. Robert and the others had been the ones to accomplish first contact with the Reich, actually working with them to deal with pirates that based themselves in the Krellan Nebula along their border.

But then, of course, had come 33LA. "Anything else on the diplomatic initiatives, Admiral?", Robert said. "I can't imagine the Reich will be happy to see us around given what happened at 33LA."

"Still no response to diplomatic contact attempts. We're seeing continued Reich fleet activity near Krellan, but our analysts are starting to believe this may be saber-rattling, or even a feint. Lithgon's continuing to observe near our end of the nebula."

"So, if it's not trying to get them to talk, what is it?', Robert asked.

Maran put his hands together on the desk. "According to your report of the first meeting with Captain Lamper, he spoke of something called 'the Remnants'."

"He did. I got the impression they were Humans who defied the Reich."

"We have confirmation that this is true. The Phosako have informed us that a grouping of these Remnants have been moving on the periphery of their space recently. We would like you to make contact with them."

"As in you want us to meet these 'Remnants' and get to know them."

"Yes. We'd like to know more about them. And, if possible, to take them as an ally should the Reich attack."

Which is probably a certainty at this point. Robert nodded. "We'll jump to S4W8 once we're out of here."

"I'll have coordinates relayed to you. There are several Phosako patrols in the region that will provide assistance. I needn't remind you that relations with the Phosako are of immense importance in this time. Make sure everyone maintains their diplomatic composure."

"Of course, Admiral."

"I look forward to hearing your report on the first contact, Captain. Maran out."

Robert reached for the communications key after Maran's image disappeared. "This is Captain Dale to Bridge. Inform the Command Staff we have new orders. I want everything ready for our scheduled launch."

"Yes sir."

And with that done, there was little Robert could do save finish his rapidly-cooling breakfast.

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Survival of Hope"

Most of the Command Staff were in the Main Conference Room when Robert arrived. "Sorry if I'm running late," he said. "I was just conversing with Admiral Kermayis about getting our final replenishment done as highest priority. We can't afford delays in launching."

As Robert took his seat, he noticed two chairs were empty. Barnes' chair, obviously, although Lucy was supposed to be taking it up for the moment, and Meridina's chair.

Right. They went planetside this morning.

"Admiral Maran has new orders already?", Julia asked.

"Direct from President Morgan," Robert confirmed. "We're heading to the frontier of Phosako space."

"Back to Naziverse, then," Leo muttered.

"Exactly." Robert put his hands on the table. "They want us to make contact with the Remnants."

"The who?"

To answer Leo's question, Julia spoke up. "When we made first contact with Captain Lamper, he said something about the Aurora being too large and powerful to be a Remnant ship."

"They must be the outcasts of the Reich and its conquests," Jarod said. "With nowhere to go in Human-inhabited space, they'd have to head out into the frontier."

"So what, they're freedom fighters?", Angel asked.

"Presumably, although more likely they're more like the Colonial Refugee Fleet," Jarod replied. "Constantly moving through space, having to stay ahead of the Reich's expansions. At best, maybe getting to settle a planet every generation or so and getting pushed off when the Reich's explorers find them."

"I'm guessing the President would like them on board in the event of a war," Julia noted. "But that doesn't sound like they'd be very capable of fighting one."

"Not directly," Jarod agreed. "But there's still so much we don't understand about Reich space in S4W8. The Remnants could have knowledge of how things work in the Nazi Empire. Worlds with viable resistance movements. Political divisions within the Reich government. We already saw some evidence for that."

"You mean the fact that Captain Lamper treated that SS guy like he was a rabid dog needing a leash?", Angel said, smirking.

"Exactly." Jarod nodded. "If we're going to war, this is information we can use."

"And the Remnants could know it," Robert said, finishing the thought. "So our objective is to find them and open a dialogue."

"The Phosako were polite, but I'm not sure they'll want us poking around on our frontier." Julia shook her head. "I doubt 33LA endeared us to them either."

"We're scheduled to link up with a Phosako patrol cruiser, the Diligence, tomorrow," Robert answered. "Apparently the Phosako actually want us to meet the Remnants. They'll be helping us locate them."

Caterina actually grinned. "Oh, that's great! I like the Phosako."

"They didn't quite like us, dear sister," Angel reminded her.

"I'm not sure you can say one way or the other," Leo pointed out.

"They seemed all right tae me." Scotty leaned ahead in his chair. "What concerns me is these Nazi scunners. Dinnae tell me they might nae be showin' up."

"We have no reports on Reich activity in that zone," Robert said. "But I'm sure Cat and Jarod will be keeping an eye out." Robert eyed the chronometer. "Well, I know we all need to make final launch preparations, so I won't keep you. Any questions?"

"I've got one." Julia tapped the table. "We don't have a support ship anymore. What's Command doing about that?"

"I'm told one will be assigned to us shortly," Robert replied. "But I wasn't told anything beyond that."

"Good to know we'll be going in without that backup," Angel muttered, crossing her arms.

"We do what we can," Robert said. "Julia, can you message Meridina with the new plans?"

"I'll do that right away."

"Good. Alright everyone, this meeting is over. Let's get to work."

Lucy Lucero among the vaulted ceilings and thick columns and felt a sense of wonder tempered by her irritation. She expressed the latter by fidgeting with the blue robe over her shoulders. It turned out that comfortable wear was not always a perk of having super mind powers or life force energy or whatever you wanted to call it.

Meridina looked at her with bemusement as they crossed the Courtyard of the Great Temple. "It is not wise to keep a Mastrash waiting."

"Yeah, sorry," Lucy answered. In truth it wasn't as great a sacrifice to don the robes as Lucy otherwise felt. What was more aggravating was that they were likely to depart today.

But instead of preparing Aurora for launch, she was down here dealing with this "swevyra" stuff.

Okay, so I have all of these powers now, but I still have other stuff to do, she thought. Loudly.

She knew it was loud because Meridina faced her with patience written on her expression. "I understand this is an imposition, Lucy," she said. "But these things must be done."

"Your boss wants to see me… why? They don't trust you in doing this?"

"There are some… issues, perhaps," Meridina remarked delicately. "Although I am hoping you are finding compensation in seeing this place."

Lucy looked over the structures around them again while they approached the main building. It almost reminded her of pictures of big European cathedrals, not counting the fact that instead of high spires and roofs they were built circular and round. It was still quite stunning, especially when one looked back over the sprawling capital of the Gersallian Interdependency in the valley below, with all of the tall building spires shining in the yellow sun of Gersal. They've had interstellar government since before the Greeks had city-states, Lucy thought. It did give her a sense of humility. Among the explored universes so far, the only species that could claim a similar age of interstellar capability were the Asari in M4P2 and the Goa'uld of R4A1.

As they entered the structure there were more robed individuals milling around. Some had blue robes, like those being worn by Meridina and Lucy, while others were in simple light cream-colored ones and a few reds. "So the colors of the robes mean something?", Lucy asked.

"They do," Meridina said. "The light-colored ones are for those who work with the Order but do not have swevyra attunement sufficient to wield our power. The blues are us. And the red are those of our Knights assigned to security."

"Any other colors I should know about?"

"Green denotes those who are not trained in combat but have shown skill in healing," Meridina continued. "And purple is for Mastrashs. Purple with blue trim are for Mastrashs on the Council."

"What's the difference between that last set? I mean, between a Mastrash and one who's on the Council?"

"It is an issue of denoting one's time in the Order. To get a seat in the Council they must provide decades of service and show incredible understanding of the way the energies of the universe and of our life force intertwine."

"So basically, they have to put their time in and show they've been keeping up on the work," Lucy said.

"Yes, that is one way of putting it," Meridina said.

They approached a door flanked by some of the red-robed security people. They looked intently at Meridina and Lucy and gave Lucy the uncomfortable feeling her brain was being picked at. "What's behind here?", she asked, looking up and up and up at the high double doors of what looked like fine crafted wood.

"The Council and Assembly Chamber," Meridina answered. "The Council meets here and can hold sessions with an audience."

Once inside the doors, Lucy muttered, "And by audience you mean a crowd big enough for a football game."

It was like entering a great stadium from the floor level. Across from her and around were rows and rows of seats stretching skyward. In the middle of the chamber there was a large round table made of stone, finely carved and designed. Chairs ringed the table.

Beyond the table, in an indention within the wall beyond the table, there was a vaulting painted image. Lucy looked up at the image. The figure was a dark-haired woman, tall and graceful-looking, wearing a tattered robe and holding a lakesh blade. The lakesh was painted as if it had an otherworldly light to it, more light than substance. At her feet were a series of figures in dark clothing. "Is that…?", Lucy began, walking up to the giant picture.

"It is Swenya, yes," Meridina answered. She took in a breath and didn't disguise her own awe. "It was not contemporary, unfortunately. Much of our art of the time was lost in the Uprising of the Brotherhood."

"The who?"

"Those who had given in to darkness," Meridina continued. "A secret clique under the Mastrash Kohbal that attempted to usurp control of the planet a hundred years after Swenya's death. They were inevitably defeated and destroyed. But they caused great suffering before they were driven off Gersal."

"That sucks," Lucy muttered. She walked up toward the altar or whatever it was at the foot of the painting. Several surfaces glinted in the light; protective glass coverings. Lucy looked down at a tattered pair of blue robes. "Let me guess," she said. "Swenya's?"

"Yes," Meridina said. "Her robes… her sandals…" Meridina rested a hand on the glass covering in the center, "...and her lakesh"

Lucy looked at the lakesh of Swenya. It had no blade that was visible. The hilt was rounder than that of the lakesh Meridina used. "It looks like your hilt design changed over the millennia."

Meridina answered with a nod.

"Does the blade work? I mean, you could use it in ceremony?"

"Sadly, no. It was broken millennia ago and it never functioned afterward."

Lucy looked back at the case and the sword within. She put a hand on it. The idea of fixing the sword came to her. Silly, perhaps, but it would be something to see the lakesh of a woman who was evidently considered the heroine and founder of the Gersallian order.

"It is quite the sight, is it not?"

Lucy and Meridina turned from the artifacts of Swenya and faced a new arrival in the chamber. The older, wolf-haired Gersallian man drew a pleased smile from Meridina. "Mastrash Ledosh." She bowed her head respectfully. "This is Lieutenant Lucy Lucero."

"Mastrash is a word for 'Master', isn't it?', Lucy asked while giving a bow of her head too.

Ledosh returned the gestures respectfully. "I believe that is an approximation that works in your Human tongue." Ledosh looked over Lucy. "Your swevyra burns brightly. Meridina tells me your training is progressing well?"

"I suppose," Lucy said. "I've had to use my, uh, 'powers' a few times already."

"Lucy is a quick thinker, Mastrash," Meridina said. "I cannot give her enough credit in that regard."

"Well, that is good to hear."

"So, uh, how is this going to work now?", Lucy asked.

"You will be trained in the basic uses of your power," Ledosh said to her. "Should you choose to join our Order, you will be trained in more advanced techniques."

"Joining your Order means…"

"Well, you would come to Gersal," Ledosh answered. "We would give you further instruction in our ways here at the Temple. In time you would serve in the field alongside a knight like Meridina. When judged ready, you would be made a Knight yourself."

"So I'd have to leave the Aurora," Lucy pointed out.

"Well, yes," Ledosh said.

"Why can't Meridina train me? Besides, she's in the fleet, why can't I be as well?"

Ledosh drew in a sigh. He gave Meridina a careful look that was returned evenly. "Young lady, Meridina's current status is something of an exception to the rule. Our knights do not usually serve with armed services. Our place is to protect the innocent and administer justice, not to serve as military personnel."

"Oh. Well." Lucy shrugged. "I guess. I mean, I can see. But I'll tell you right now, Mastrash Ledosh, that I have no intention of leaving the Aurora."

"I understand," Ledosh said. Lucy noticed his expression remained passive and accepting. Nevertheless she got the feeling he had not liked her answer. "That is your choice."

"Mastrash, would it not be permissible to train her further in anticipation that Lucy could then train other Humans in ways that more closely fit various Human cultural practices?", Meridina asked.

Ledosh looked at Meridina with consideration. "You mean to emulate how we dealt with the Dorei."

"It seems the most reasonable course to take," Meridina said. "Humans have their own cultural views and concepts, indeed, still have many diverse ones from what we have seen."

"You will remember, Meridina, that our introduction of the Dorei to swevyra did not go smoothly."

"Oh?" That piqued Lucy's curiosity. "What happened?"

Meridina lowered her head. "There were…. difficulties. The diversity of religion and race among the Dorei, much like your own species' diversity, prompted distrust between nations that had closer relations to Gersal and those that did not."

"The Dorei had yet to form their Federation," Ledosh said in elaboration. "We drew closest to the most spiritual and friendly of the Dorei nations, like the Astra and Lushan. Others felt endangered by this. Once swevyra began to be trained among those Dorei nations those who were not as close to us became aggressive and hostile. Other factors went into play as well, but the result was what the Dorei call their First Unification War. Millions of innocent Dorei died."

"It sounds like an obvious side-effect of First Contact, though."

"Perhaps," Meridina allowed. "But it was not in keeping with our purpose. Our inability to assert our neutrality led to attacks on our people as well. In the end, the Dorei states that formed the Dorei Federation won the war, although a second one was required thirty years later after the equally disastrous First Contact with the Jeaxians to finish unifying the Dorei."

"I apologize for the impromptu history lesson, Lucy Lucero, but it is necessary for us to illustrate the reluctance my people would have to contemplating the training of Humans outside of the order."

"And so you think people wouldn't approve because they're afraid it'll cause conflict between Human states."

"It is perhaps more complicated than that, but basically the answer is yes." Ledosh nodded. "They would rather not train you at all than train you outside of the Order and its rules."

"So, bottom line is, Meridina can only show me the basics," Lucy said. "After that I either have to leave the Aurora or give up on learning more."

"This Order is built upon sacrifices of such sorts, yes," Ledosh said. "We have all made them." He looked to Meridina.

Lucy did too. Meridina shook her head. "It is nothing. I appreciate how close you are to the others on Aurora."

Lucy said nothing to that. She supposed she shouldn't be shocked at it, after all. These people were warrior-monks or what have you, naturally they'd want to instill discipline and train someone like that.

"Making a decision at this point will not be necessary for you, Lucy Lucero," Ledosh said kindly. "It will still be some time while Meridina teaches you the basics of swevyra."

"Yeah." Lucy nodded. "And I suppose I only get the cool memory metal sword if I sign up?"

"The lakesh, you mean?" Ledosh smiled and nodded. "Yes. They are the symbol off those who serve with us."

"Right. Yeah, I get that." Lucy looked back to the display of Swenya's relics. Lucy's eyes settled on Swenya's weapon, to be precise. "Has anyone ever managed to make Swenya's blade work?", Lucy asked out of curiosity.

"No. Not for thousands of years,," Ledosh said.

"Do you ever try?", Lucy asked. "I mean, just to see what it was like? I'm guessing it was one of your species' first attempts at a memory metal construct like that."

"There are certain… requirements one must fulfill to even be allowed to touch the hilt," Ledosh said. "Actually trying to activate the blade within has no standing rule in our Order."

"Huh." Lucy turned to him. She offered a hand. "Well, whether I come back to sign up for the robes and knight stuff or not, it was a pleasure to meet you, Mastrash Ledosh."

Ledosh considered her hand for a moment before smiling and accepting. "Ah, yes, your handshake." he nodded. "May whatever choice you take be the calling in your heart, Lucy Lucero. Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

They were walking out of the Temple again and toward the shuttlepad when Lucy looked to Meridina. "It's pretty lovely here."

"It is," Meridina agreed.

"Everyone sacrifices, he said," Lucy pondered. "What was your sacrifice?"

Meridina remained silent for a moment. "My sacrifice was to lose my father," she admitted.

"Huh?" Lucy furrowed her brow. "What happened to your father?"

"He is a Mastrash as well", Meridina admitted. "Once I agreed to be swevyra, I was no longer his daughter. I was his student in the Order."

Lucy took that in. "Yeah, that's rough," she said.

"I believed the cost was worth it." Meridina felt a pang of sadness. "We all make sacrifices for what we believe in. You are already familiar with the things one might have to endure in doing the right thing, yes?"

Lucy's skin crawled. She knew precisely what Meridina was referring to. "I don't like thinking about that," Lucy said to her. She flashed back to that damned room in the Duffy home. She remembered terror and pain at the hands of Patrick Duffy. "Being tortured to death wasn't something I expected to happen," Lucy mumbled.

"I can only be grateful you were rescued," Meridina said quietly. "I am truly honored, Lucy, to have you as a student in swevya."

Lucy took in a breath and recovered from those old memories. "Yeah. I'm glad too. And thank you for showing me how this stuff works." She grinned thinly. "Or, at least, showing me what you can show me."

"Simply because I cannot show you the more extensive abilities does not mean I cannot advise you in developing your power on your own," Meridina said, her voice low. "I could not show you things, but I am morally obligated to make sure you do not dabble in the darker powers that misuse of swevyra can cause."

"I suppose that makes sense," Lucy answered. She brought up her left arm and pulled the robe sleeve back enough to reveal her multidevice. She tapped a key on it and brought up the chronometer. "Given the time, maybe we should get going. The ship's due to launch in an hour."

"That is advisable, yes," Meridina noted.

The bridge crew was all set when Robert got to the bridge. Lucy was again in Barnes' place at Engineering, reminding him again of how Zack and Tom were gone. "And will be for the rest of the year, probably," Robert mused to himself under his breath.

"All moorings are clear," Jarod said. "We're no longer connected to the station."

On the viewscreen they could see the vista of Gersal's surface and its western ocean below them. A Gersallian dreadnought starship loomed ahead, nearly the same length as the Aurora but wider.

"Impulse engines to one quarter," Locarno said.

"I thought thrusters only in these places, Nick?", Julia asked.

"It's an old Starfleet tradition," Locarno answered, grinning. "To make sure the Captain is awake and paying attention, I've heard. But you're right. Switching to thrusters. 20 kph and rising."

Robert and Julia exchanged sly grins at Locarno's remark.

Aurora's thrusters gently pushed her out of the confines of the docking space they had occupied. Once they were fully clear Locarno returned the ship to one quarter impulse. Aurora picked up speed. Soon they were away from the station and making for sufficient open space to jump. "Establishing link to Harris Station for jump," Jarod said. "I'm getting the necessary telemetry,"

"Jump when ready."

It never got old for them. Watching space split open with an interuniversal jump point of swirling green color. That sensation that rippled through you as you passed between universes.

They emerged on the other side at Harris Station. Several warships from various Alliance member states were milling about the station. They were the nucleus of a new fleet for self-defense with an increasing number of original construction to join starting toward the end of the year. There were a few ships Aurora's size to be seen. A Dorei battle starbird, two FedStars battleships, an Alakin capital warbird with sleek winged form and red and yellow coloring to contrast to the purples and blues of the Dorei starbird. It was a demonstration of all the various ship aesthetics that existed in the Alliance. The diversity of the Allied systems in action.

"Set a course for the Phosako frontier, Mister Locarno," Robert said. "Warp 9.2."

"Course laid in," Locarno answered "I'm using the coordinates Admiral Maran provided. We should be there right on schedule."

"Engage when ready."

Aurora turned away from Harris Station and jumped to warp speed.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Caterina had turned over the bridge science station to one of the junior science officers so she could return to the Science Labs, 1 in this case, to continue another project. Angel soon arrived with a container of food in one hand. "You missed dinner, Cat," she said, her voice partly scolding. "Again.."

"Sorry," Caterina answered, wincing. "I just got really busy here."

Angel put the plate down at the work station beside where Cat was working and looked at the screen. She recognized it as raw data being examined. "Isn't Jarod handling the computer scrubbing and fixing?"

"That's already done," Caterina insisted. "This is something else."


"It's the data we recovered from that Darglan data site at 33LA," Cat answered. "I've been making some progress restoring some of the files that were lost or only partly downloaded before we had to get out."

"Right." Angel put a hand on her sister's shoulder reflexively. Being reminded that she had nearly lost her sister twice in the span of a month was not welcoming. "So?"

"So what?"

"What's so important about it?', Angel asked. "So important you're spending most of your free time in here now?"

"Angel…. that other data facility said there was a full-scale Darglan Facility in this universe," Cat replied. "Do you know what this means?"

"You're worried the Nazi jerks might find it first, aren't you?", Angel said.

"Exactly! If I can find any data on its location, we'll know for sure if it's in danger of being found or not."

"Right. That makes sense." Angel tapped the food container. "But you're still going to have to take breaks to eat, little sister."

"I had a nice lunch, I'll be fine."

Caterina made a face a moment later as a very audible growling noise seemed to come from her stomach. Angel crossed her arms and smirked.

"Okay, so I didn't eat lunch today," Cat admitted.

"Cat, I love how enthusiastic you can be about things, but you need to remember to do things like eat too. You're still recovering from what happened on Pegasus..."

An involuntary shudder went through Cat. "Please, don't remind me about that," she sighed. "Please."

"Right. Sorry."

"I'll eat in a moment, okay? I just want to see if this data compiling routine will…."

Before she could finish, the data on the screen stopped flowing. An error message popped up.

"Ugh. I was so close," Cat groaned. "So close."

"How about you eat, get some rest, and come back at this fresh tomorrow?", Angel suggested.

"You're probably right," Caterina sighed. She looked to Angel. "So, are you moving back in with Rob?"

"Are you ready for me to?", Angel asked. "You've been having nightmares."

"Yeah, but I did well enough last night," Cat answered. "I'm starting to sleep better. Really. Go be with him, sis, I'll be fine."

Angel sighed at that. It seemed that between Cat and Robert she was spending most of her time not sleeping but hugging someone gripped in bad dreams. At least if it was getting better for Cat…

The nightmares came to Robert again.

The familiar imagery returned. The cybernetically-enhanced alien from M4P2. The girl in the red and gold clothing. Lamper with his eyes shining an inhuman blue. The ruins of the New Liberty Colony. Strange warships blasting Aurora repeatedly. Same as always.

He heard a scream. Robert turned and watched Julia, stripped down to what looked like undergarments, writhing in agony in a metal chair. "Julie!" He reached out to her.

But he couldn't get to her. He was in a dark room. A star burned outside the window. "You can't save them all," a man's voice said. Robert turned and saw a strange man with odd blue eyes appraising him coldly. At his feet were Angel, Cat, Zack... everyone. Unconscious. Or dead. "If you can't accept that, you'll lose them all. We'll all lose."

The figure faded. It was Julia again, sprawled out on the floor. Robert watched a familiar face look over her. The man in the dark uniform looked at him with unnatural eyes of yellow and gold and smirked. "She will be mine, Kapitan," the voice of Fassbinder, the SS man, cooed.

Robert yelled in rage and charged at him. He brought his fist up to strike. But before he could there was a flash of red light from behind. Pain surged through his belly. He looked down to see red light and...

Robert woke up. Not with as much of a start this time, more of a gentle tremor. He believed this is why Angel didn't stir and seemed to remain fast asleep at his side. He drew in a breath and laid his head back against the pillow. Already the images from his dream were fading back into the background of his mind. They didn't make sense to him. So many faces he didn't know, he didn't recognize. The image of Julia suffering was the one that stuck out the most strongly in his head. I can't let these dreams impact my judgement again, he thought. He'd allowed his fears to be amplified by them before. It had contributed to his bad call over the 33LA mission. I can't let that happen again. Even if Meridina is right and they really are potential futures.

Looking at Angel made him think of what she had said earlier. He knew she spoke from worry. Worry that he was trying to take on too much and not unburden himself to others. He understood that. He darkly wondered if he was starting to come off as brusque and unfriendly to the others.

"I can't do that again," he muttered to himself.

"Mmmmm?" The querying sound came from Angel.

"Shh. Sleep," he urged her. She'd need to be at their best in case they ran into into trouble.

Of course, the same applied to him, so Robert turned over and tried to go back to sleep as well.

The Aurora dropped out of warp near the uninhabited star system Everyone had assembled on the bridge for this meeting. "Well, there's nothing special about this system," Caterina noted. "I mean, beyond it being a system I've never scanned before. Three gas giants in the outer system. A rocky world with carbon dioxide and methane atmosphere. No asteroid belt or anything. No settlements."

"An empty, useless star system, basically," Locarno noted. "Perfect place for meetings off the beaten path."

"Is it?", Julia asked. "Because if anyone detects ships here they're going to know they're trying to avoid being seen together."

"Good point," Jarod agreed.

"So, where are the Phosasko?", Robert asked.

"We're about five minutes early," Julia said. "Maybe they're going to show up right on time?"

"Looks like it," Cat said. "I've got them on long range sensors. They'll be here in three minutes."

"That's reassuring. Anything else on long range sensors? Or any trace of recent ship transits?"

"Nothing," Cat answered. "Looks like there might have been a ship through here days ago. There is an old radiation pattern mixed with basic gases from sublight drive byproduct. But it's so old it's almost completely faded."

"Well, nothing for it then. We wait for the Phosasko."

When the Phosako ship came out of warp, it did so within 20,000 kilometers of the Aurora - an incredibly close range. "That was pretty precise," Locarno noted.

"It's not surprising," Jarod noted. "They're pretty good at precision behavior."


"You didn't see their traffic patterns on their homeworld," Jarod mentioned. "The Phosako don't have traffic jams. They're a very sociable species."

A light appeared on Jarod's console. "They're hailing."

"Put them on."

Robert knew what he was going to be seeing when the Phosako captain appeared on the screen. The Phosako were bipedal and mammalian, typically shorter and stockier than Humans. They had blue fur covering their skin to give them something of a bestial, almost feline appearance. The feline nature of their appearance was aided by their eyes. Typically yellow in color, the eyes of the Phosako had bands and patterns of color in their eyes that could look like swimming movement to a Human and be incredibly disorientating. Differences between individuals tended to be in actual size variation and, from what Robert recalled, specific details in their facial structure and sometimes the tint of their fur.

The Phosako on the screen, clad in the gray tunic and jacket of the Phosako space forces, gave a slight nod. "Captain Dale. I have heard of you. I am Vessel Commander Kelsuulo of the Diligence."

"Commander Kelsuulo, my pleasure to meet you, sir."

"I will transport over to meet with you in ten of your minutes. Is that satisfactory?"

"It is, Commander. I'll be waiting for you in the transporter room."

Kelsuulo accepted Robert's greetings with quiet introspection upon his transport to the Aurora. "You have become something of a known quantity among our forces, Captain," Kelsuulo said while accepting the offered handshake. "We are most fascinated by your recent attack into Reich space."

Something about the way he said "fascinated" didn't make him seem to be approving.

Robert didn't let himself think of the decision that led to that error. "Some judgement calls have to be made, I made them. And that one was wrong."

"An understatement, certainly," the Phosako commander judged. "But that is not the matter at hand. You are looking for the nomadic humans of this universe, are you not?"

"The ones called the Remnants, yes."

"Interesting title for these transients. Come. I will share my information with your command crew as planned."

The Conference Room was ready when Robert arrived with Kelsuulo. "I appreciate your hospitality, Captain Dale. It is easy for us to forget that there are Humans capable of providing such in this universe now." Kelsuulo sat down at the table across from Robert's place, allowing him an easy view of the entire Aurora command staff.

"Thank you, Commander," Robert answered, putting on a diplomatic smile. "As much as I enjoyed our visit to your homeworld earlier this year, I'm afraid our mission could turn out to time sensitive. We won't be able to satisfy curiosity with the Phosako as much as we would like."

"Of course. You are here instead to find the Remnants." The Phosako captain put a furred paw against his chin. "I have had some encounters with them in my career. They are not permitted settlement in Phosako space, you see, but we have allowed them to trade with our worlds. They tend to move around the edges of our territory."

"Pardon me, Vessel Commander." Julia raised her right hand slightly. "Why is it you don't let them settle? You still have plenty of open worlds on your periphery."

"Yes. But to give sanctuary to these people would invite the violence of the Terran kadahuli."

"The Nazis, you mean," Robert said.

"Yes. I believe that is what you call the dominant Human government in this continuum," Kelsuulo remarked. His jaw worked from side to side, the Phosako equivalent of a nod. "The... Nazis. You are perhaps aware that they are prone to sudden outbursts of irrational savagery. They have delusions that others have hostile intentions toward them and employ violent demonstrations to ward off the same. They have already exterminated three species that we made contact with in the decades prior to their arrival in our region of space."

Robert swallowed at that. "Yes, that sounds like Nazis to me," he sighed.

"Then you can understand our desire for discretion." Kelsuulo settled his hands on the table. "The Council could not afford to provoke them by granting sanctuary to the nomads."

"Can you tell us anything about the nomadic Humans, the Remnants?', Robert asked. "What their motivations are? Their tendencies?"

"Other than their wish to avoid being exterminated by the kadahuli?" Kelsuulo shrugged. "I believe they are of specific ethnic groups and nationalities that the kadahuli are intolerant toward. In my own dealings with them they have appeared to be fairly diverse in their colorings, their languages, and their traditions."

"So basically… anyone the Nazis hate," Julia said. "Which is most of the Human species."

"Or anyone who'd rather live out beyond their space than be a second-class citizen," Jarod added.

"Those two seem to be the primary characteristics that all Remnants have in common," Kelsuulo said. "As for the group currently on the outer edge of our space, I believe they are one of the more nomadic elements. In your terminology they are a religious and ethnic group… I believe the Reich calls them 'Juden.'"

Robert blinked from surprise. "Juden?"


"Jews, in other words," Jarod noted.

"Wow. " Cat's eyebrows went up. "You're telling me that Jews managed to survive a history where Nazis conquered the world?"

"Not easily, I'd guess," Jarod remarked.

"This group tends to be one of the better organized bands," Kelsuulo noted. "And even more cautious than the others."

"Hopefully they'll know how to get in touch with the other bands."

"I imagine you seek their alliance against the Reich?", Kelsuulo asked.

"More like their knowledge," Robert answered. "There's still a lot about the internal processes of the Reich that we don't understand."

"And with the 33LA incident making war likely, your government needs as much aid as it can get." Kelsuulo nodded. "A reasonable endeavor, yes. It will be interesting to see how you manage it. We are still uncertain how to take your Alliance."


In response to Julia's inquiry, Kelsuulo shifted his chin slightly. "My apologies. I should note that, among my people, it is common to believe the Human species incapable of orderly large-scale governance. It appeared to us that the largest Human organizations that could function in collective sanity were relatively minor ones in the order of a few million, like the Remnants you speak of."

Leo looked at him with surprise. "So you think that if we're too big we all get like Nazis?"

"Not necessarily, but it did seem that you lacked the... reasonable nature that would permit governance of large populations. Many of us speculated that Humans might also have other, entirely unknown forms of mass social madness, with the Nazis happening to be the least dysfunctional option available in Earth's industrial age. If so, their success would be explained by evolutionary processes. The Alliance's appearance has, obviously, compelled us to reconsider the question."

"And you don't think the Alliance proves we can?", Angel asked.

"You were nowhere to be found in our universe until a year ago. We are still considering the question," was Kelsuulo's answer.

"Aye, cannae argue with that, I suppose," Scotty said. "I'd think we were all a pack o' scunners myself if I only had Nazis tae measure Humanity by."

"Thank you for appreciating our position. I will add that we are happy to have the Alliance as neighbors. Your colonies are providing economic advantages to our worlds that did not exist before."

"Is there anything else you can tell us?", Julia asked.

"I am afraid I cannot give you further specifics. I am quite certain the Remnants know who you are now, Captain, and that may aid you in treating with them. Or it may not. May your reason prevail over such difficulties." Kelsuulo stood from his chair. "My ship will forward to your vessel our known locations of Remnant-held outposts and meeting places, I hope your work bears fruit, Captain Dale. I personally believe the Reich will be at war with your Alliance by the end of the lunar cycle."

"Thank you for your assistance, Vessel Commander," Robert said, not bothering to bring up his somber prediction. He stood up. "I will escort you back to the Transporter Station to be returned to your vessel."

Kelsuulo responded with a wiggle of his chin. "Of course."

With the Phosako captain departed, everyone else had returned to the bridge. "Commander Kelsuulo is away," Jarod said.

"I'm bringing up the coordinates he relayed to us." Locarno looked over the resulting data. "It's in unclaimed space. At our normal cruise warp we should be there within several hours."

"Let's get started then," Robert said. "Take us out."

"Engaging now."

After Aurora jumped to warp Angel noticed Cat was looking especially intent on her screens. "Cat?", she asked. "What's wrong?"

"Huh?" Cat looked up. "Oh. Nothing, sorry. I was just a little…"

"What was it, Cat?", Julia asked.

"Just… it looked like a bit of noise in the background radiation. But nothing special. I was just making sure my systems were properly calibrated so we didn't get any false signatures. We're good."

"Make sure you keep an eye out ," Robert said. "The last thing I want is to blunder into an ambush."

Cat nodded in reply.

Lucy kept her breathing regular and paced to help focus. With all of the blood rushing into her head it was not easy. She almost asked Meridina why this upside-down hand-stand exercise had ever been created, but knew better than to interrupt her own focus. Or invite that knowing bemused grin that Meridina always got when she heard Lucy protesting one aspect or another of the training.

And this is only the 'basics'?, Lucy groaned to herself. It made her intention to stay on the Aurora all the easier to keep.

"You're distracting your focus with thoughts," Meridina noted. She was again doing the same thing. And, again, holding a heavier object - an entire weight from the gym - while Lucy was still using the notepad.

Lucy frowned and kept her concentration. One hand holding her body up, aided by the power in her life force, while the rest of that power was going to keep the digital notepad rotating in mid-air beyond the reach of her right hand.

"Good. Yes, very good," Meridina noted. "We are done." She set the weight down and, with barely any effort, jumped off with her one hand and landed on her feet.

Lucy set her notepad down and tried to do the same. Much to her surprise, she actually managed it today. Mostly. She nearly fell over again upon hitting her feet.

"This is pretty complex stuff for basic training," Lucy said.

"It is standard training to develop the necessary focus when using your swevyra," Meridina replied. "The advanced training you would have done on Gersal would have involved more difficulties. Higher gravity, larger objects, irregular surfaces. There are many such things to challenge your focus."

Definitely a good thing I didn't stay on Gersal… Out loud Lucy asked, "Are you upset about my decision? To stay on Aurora?"

"I am not," Meridina admitted. "To be honest, Lucy, I believe your destiny, and my own, is to be met on this ship."

"Huh. Destiny and stuff?"

"Yes." Meridina smiled and nodded. Lucy looked over and noticed a couple of people were starting to stare at them.

"We probably look like loons saying things like that in the gym," she noted to Meridina.

"Humans have difficulty understanding the idea," Meridina said.

"Some do. Although for most people, destiny stuff is in literature."

"Interesting." Meridina took a seat and pulled a bottle of water from a cooling container they had brought with them for the training session. "For Gersallians, destiny is a way of expressing your potential, and where you are best suited to be in life."

"But doesn't that undermine your freedom to choose your path?", Lucy asked. "People can change their minds about what they're intending to be.

"That is a countervailing belief, yes. But I believe that destiny is expressed best when these decisions are made. Just because one has a destiny doesn't mean you are following that destiny correctly. It can take a long time to realize what destiny means for you."

"Huh." Lucy took a sip of her own water. "I got the feeling Ledosh wanted you to get me into joining full time."

"It is fine. I believe there is a greater conflict on the horizon. I believe the place you need to be is here, on this ship, with this crew." Meridina looked toward the other people in the room. "I can feel it in my very soul. This ship, and crew, are meant for great things. Many destinies will come together in the actions of the Aurora."

"Well, we'll see where destiny takes us then, I guess?", Lucy said. She held up her water bottle. "To destiny?"

"Yes." Meridina accept the gestured offer to clink water containers with Lucy.

Angel always preferred the punching bag when she needed an outlet. There were less bruises on her sparring partners' faces that way. Her muscles tensed under the bronze of her skin before being released with each punch. Sometimes she mixed it up by kicking the bag too.

"Another fight with Robert?"

Angel looked over and saw Julia step up. She was also in the service-provided sports bra and shorts for physical training. Gloves were already on her hands. "Not a fight," Angel answered. "Just… nothing, really."

"Ohly 'nothing really'?" Julia took up a bag beside her and gave it a few jabs to warm up. She didn't have quite the same developed muscle tone as Angel's, looking more lean than built. She threw off a couple of quick jabs followed by a slight kick to the bag. "Angel, I know you. This is your 'I need to punch something because I'm frustrated' thing going on."

Angel sighed and gave the bag another strong punch before stopping. "Fine. Busybody." She ignored Julia's follow-up laugh. "Cat's still having nightmares from what those bastards did to her on Pegasus," Angel said. "And Robert's been having nightmares too."

"He mentioned nightmares lately. But I thought that was just nervousness from the 33LA problem."

"I'm sure it's more than that," Angel said. She punched the bag again. "I've never seen him so riled up from dreams before. He's really agitated about it."

"Which means we have to be there for him. Keep him from making any more mistakes." Julia gave her bag another punch.

"Yeah." Angel stepped back from the bag. "You want to spar?"

"With that vicious mood you're in? Am I going to take a kick to the rib this time?"

"Hey, last time was an accident, I swear," Angel insisted. She grinned thinly. "And I'm a bit more mellow now, if you've noticed."

Julia smirked back. It was an ever so thin reference to her and Robert being together again. Despite the complaints about nightmares it had seemed to improve their demeanors. Hopefully they would continue to be happy together.

It'd be nice to have that, wouldn't it? The thought came and went before Julia could stop it. "Alright," Julia said. "You're on. Best out of three?"

"Sure," Angel agreed.

It was with trepidation and some irritation that Robert reported to the medbay after receiving the request through the ship's comm system. No sooner had he taken a step into the bay did he hear Leo all out, "Over here!"

Leo was already waiting for him by one of the biobeds. Robert sighed and walked up. "You wanted to see me?"

"Don't pretend you don't know what this is about," Leo said. "You're overdue for your checkup."

"Rapturous joy," Robert sighed. "I think you get too much enjoyment out of getting to boss us around like this."

"Makes up for all the frustrations you put me through when we were starting out," Leo answered. He pulled out his medical scanner. "And all of those times I had to keep you from frying your brains with the infusers."

"That was mostly Cat and Tom," Robert protested.

"And when it wasn't the infusers," Leo continued, as if he hadn't spoken, "it was keeping you from wasting away." Leo smiled thinly. "Well, at least you're eating right again. I'm not showing any of the nutritional deficiencies you had back at the beginning of this whole mess."

"You can thank Hargert's cooking," Robert answered.

That made Leo chuckle. "That works for me." He held the scanner up to Robert's head. His smile started to vanish. "Are you sleeping well?", he asked.

"About as well as I can," Robert replied.

"Your brain chemistry is a little off," Leo said. "Symptomatic of sleep deprivation."

"Maybe it's the nightmares."

"Nightmares?" Leo tapped a few keys and - of course - ended up shining a light into Robert's eyes. "What kind of nightmares?"

"I… well, not normal ones," Robert replied. "Just feelings of being elsewhere and of nasty things happening."

"Huh." Leo tapped another key on his scanner. "I'm showing definite signs of your brain chemistry being a little out of whack. I'd like to give you a small sleep aid if this keeps up."

"Aren't those habit-forming?"

Leo gave him a sardonic look, as if he was slightly offended at the insinuation that he wouldn't know that. "I was about to say that I'd like it if you had a psychiatric evaluation of sorts first. Nightmares recurring like that may be psychological and not physical. Sleep aids wouldn't help so much. Especially since the ones that might suppress your brain dreaming would also mess your brain up in other ways if taken for too long."

"And we wouldn't want that. Although Julia thinks my brain is already messed up enough."

At that Leo smirked. "She may be onto something." Leo reached into a satchel. "Now, let's….

There was a beep from Robert's multi-device. "Bridge to Captain Dale.

Robert brought his right arm up and tapped the comm key. "Dale here."

"We're approaching the first system the Phosako provided us," came the answer. It was Locarno, manning the bridge for the moment. "So far there are no signs of a ship. But sensors show indication of a vessel having warped through recently."

"Good. Relay that info to Jarod and Cat and set course for our next system. I'll be up shortly to relieve you. Dale out."

"I guess I'd better hurry," Leo remarked. "And you can tell me about those nightmares you're talking about."

"They're nothing something I can describe easily," Robert warned.

"That's fine. I'm not trying to find meanings from them or anything. I just figured it would do you good to talk about them with someone else. Have you talked to Angel?"

"I think Angel has enough on her mind helping Cat recover from that beating," Robe said a little too urgently. "I'd rather not burden her with my problems too."

"She's your girlfriend, right?", Leo said. "She's there for you. You think Angel would be happy to know you're playing the chivalric route with her? Like she was some wilting flower?"

"Of course not," Robert replied. "But I also know she's got a lot on her mind with helping Cat feel better. I'm not going to ask her to choose between us or overburden herself between the two of us. I'm a big boy. I can handle it."

"The sleep deprivation says otherwise," Leo retorted. He sighed. "But I know when you're not going to take my advice. Just remember that there are people who will help you, alright?"

"Of course." Robert nodded. He tried to convey his understanding with a small smile. "You guys, I mean, everyone… you've been the reason I haven't gone nuts."

"Tell me about it." Leo almost said more, about how self-destructive Robert's relentless need to be the hero could be, but thought better of it. He went back to the checkup. "Anyway, now I need you to open your mouth and say, 'Ahhhh'.

Robert glared at him. "You're not being serious."

Leo nodded at him, holding up the tongue depressor.

"I'm not a kid," he protested.

"If you behave, Captain, there will be lollipops."

"You're incorrigible…"

Everyone was back on the bridge, later than usual for their given shifts, when they arrived at the next system. "Three minutes from exiting warp," Locarno said.

"Which system is this?", Julia asked.

"System 29IR on the survey maps," Jarod answered. "A long range probe already scanned the system months ago. Gas giants, some moons that might have useful mineral resources, and a couple of terrestrial planets with one Venusian planet." Jarod tapped a key. "Hrm. This system is flagged for further study. The survey found signs of naqia deposits in the asteroid belt beyond the third planet. And significant supplies of Ripleyite."

"Ripleyite? Isn't that…."

Jarod nodded at Robert's query. "A room temperature super-conducting mineral. Something you can use in building antimatter generators, among other things."

"Sounds like it would be useful for space-dwelling semi-nomads," Julia noted.

"I'm picking up ships on sensors now," Cat said. "They're close to one of the terrestrial moons with a strong magnetosphere. It's why I didn't see them before."

"That might be them," Robert said. "Jarod, prepare to hail…"

"I'm picking up weapons fire between the ships," Cat added.

Julia and Robert exchanged concerned looks. "Code Red," Julia said. "Sound General Quarters."

The klaxons went off briefly as red lights came on around the bridge. "Laurent reports fighters are ready for launch," Jarod said.

"Can you tell us anything about the ships?"

"One's definitely larger than the other," Cat said. "And I'm picking up a couple of smaller ships now. Their energy signatures indicate they're offline."

"Preparing to bring us out of warp," Locarno said.

Aurora dropped from warp speed into the area of the moon where the battle was taking place. On their viewscreen two ships immediately stood out. One was large, wide, and powerful-looking, colored white and blue with weapon scouring on several locations. There were four large warp nacelles arrayed in an X pattern around the main body. This vessel was nearly the size of the Aurora but looked older and more run-down. Blue energy flared along the hull as emerald energy fire poured into the ship's side. It retorted with similar energy weapons that scoured the foe.

Their foe was a sleeker vessel. Built like a shark in space, a predator ship certainly, with thick cannon blasts erupting from the bow to rake into the big ship's side again. The shields of the large ship were clearly starting to falter. Near it were the two smaller ships, both disabled by weapons fire.

"Which one do you suspect is the Remnant?", Robert asked.

"For all we know, it's both," Julia pointed out.

"Going by sensor scans, I can't tell," Jarod replied. "The Phosako records have multiple specific energy signatures existing for all Remnant contacts."

"Well, that big ship's not as heavily-armed as she could be for her size," Cat said. "From what I can tell of her structure, a large section of internal space is given to other functions. A lot of life readings, that's for sure. There may be more than 5,000 people in the big ship."

"That sounds like Remnants to me," Julia said.

"Agreed." Robert looked to Angel. "Lock on to the attacking ship at my signal. Ready all weapons. Jarod, put me on."

After hearing a tone from the Ops station and getting a nod from Jarod, Robert spoke up. "This is Captain Robert Dale of the Alliance Starship Aurora. We request both vessels cease this fight and explain their grievances to us."

"Yeah, that's going to go over well," Angel remarked sardonically. "They're locking weapons on us now."


"Both ships."

Robert blinked in surprise. "Well, I didn't expect that. Put me back on." When that was confirmed he continued, "I repeat, this is Captain Robert Dale of the Alliance Starship Aurora, representing the United Alliance of Systems. We come in peace. I'm looking to speak to the band of Humans known as Remnants who wander this region of space."

The moments passed. The second ship promptly turned toward them. "They're locking weapons fully," Jarod warned.

"Brace for impact."

The smaller ship opened up with the same emerald energy weapons. Aurora shook slightly. "Shields holding at ninety-four percent."

"Return fire."

Angel's hands went to those appropriate keys. The pulse plasma cannons on Aurora's bow opened up with sapphire fury. Bolts of blue energy slammed into the the enemy ship as it maneuvered toward them. Its shields held for the moment. "It looks like their shield strength went down by a third with that volley," Jarod said. "They're maneuvering to get to our side."

"They're quick too," Locarno added. "I don't think I can keep them from getting out of the bow arc."

"They'll wish they hadn't," Angel said even as she was readying her starboard side weapons.

As the enemy ship came up and poured fire into their starboard, Angel readied the phasers. Beams and pulses of amber light lashed out from the phaser strips and pulse cannon emplacements along the starboard hull.

"Their shields are below fifty percent," Jarod reported. "Ours are still at ninety."

"And I think they know that," Locarno remarked. "They're breaking off."

"Let them," Robert ordered. "If this is really some skirmish between Remnants, I don't want to let them…."

Before Robert could finish, the big vessel finished coming about. An energy cannon emplacement in the bow fired off a shot. An emerald lance of enormous power lashed out through space and struck the rear shields of the escaping ship. Missiles erupted from emplacements in the bow and raced across the range, exploiting the weakened shields in that arc. Two went off against the shields and two more slammed into unprotected aft hull. The other ship stopped its forward acceleration and began to drift off-course.

Small craft began to emerge from the sides of the big ship. They moved toward the crippled vessels, the greater number of them toward the ship that had just been crippled. There was a tone from Jarod's console. "They're hailing."

"Put them onscreen," Robert answered.

The man that appeared had faintly-tanned skin. His face bore some wrinkles in his brow, the kind you see with someone used to carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His short dark hair was graying. A set of brown eyes appraised them carefully for several moments. "I am Arik Shaham," he said. "Master of the vessel Tikvah. I have heard of you and your ship, Captain Dale. I apologize that it took me so long to remember your name. We must be cautious of other ships."

"Thank you, Captain Shaham," Robert answered. "Who was attacking you?"

Shaham frowned. "Bounty hunters," he replied. "Privateers who hunt our people to win rewards from the Reich."

"I see." Robert took in a breath. At least this hadn't been a Remnant versus Remnant fight like he'd feared. "It looks like you have some vessels disabled. Can we provide assistance?"

Shaham seemed to consider it. "We are running low on medical supplies. And I lost my chief surgeon a month ago. If you can provide us assistance with the wounded…"

Robert nodded. Julia went for the intercom key. "Bridge to Medbay. Please prepare for wounded."

"Right away.," Leo answered.

"We're ready to receive your wounded," Robert said.

"My thanks, Captain," Shaham said. "In the meantime, you are out here to meet with us?"

"Yes," Robert said.

Shaham's expression darkened slightly. "You wish us to fight the Reich at your side, undoubtedly. This I cannot do."

Robert shook his head. "I didn't think you could and we're not out here to ask you to commit to any military alliance. We're out here to learn more about you and what you know of the Reich's internal structure and details. Any aid you give in that will be more valuable than having you on the battlefield when the time comes."

Shaham considered that. He nodded slightly. "Very well spoken, Captain. I will transport over to your ship shortly. Is there space in your shuttle bay?"

"Our shuttle bay has plenty of space, yes," Robert replied.

"I will arrive shortly then. Shaham out."

After Shaham's face disappeared, everything on the bridge quieted. "So much for sleep," Robert sighed. "We need to get this meeting off right."

"I'll see if Hargert can provide some finger foods to the conference room," Julia offered.

"A great idea. In the meantime, secure from Code Red. And make sure to get those wounded to Leo."

A series of affirmations answered him.

Robert and Julia were waiting in the shuttle bay as the shuttlecraft came from the Tikvah. It was painted light gray in color with no visible warp drive on it. Its shape reminded Robert more of a skycar from the FedStars' planets than a shuttle like in their shuttlebay.

After some discussion, it had been decided to avoid the full trappings of state, if only because there was no recognizable government that Shaham had alluded to. Robert and Julia were in their normal duty uniforms. Meridina had opted for hers as well.

The side of the craft opened. Arik Shaham stepped out of the side. He'd evidently been piloting. Beside him was a woman who looked perhaps a few years younger. She was not too thin but hardly solid in build. Dark hair and olive skin made her look more Mediterranean than Arik. There was only a slightly lighter coloration on the young woman who stepped out behind them, wearing a sleeveless blouse of vibrant blue color compared to the older woman's faded yellow color and the utilitarian gray of Shaham's suit.

"Captain Shaham." Dale nodded. "Welcome to the Aurora." He gestured to Julia. "This is my First Officer, Commander Julia Andreys."

Arik nodded his head. "A pleasure to meet you," he said in accented English.

"That's not translated, is it?", Julia asked. "You know English?"

"It's a common language for those of us who flee the Reich," Arik answered. "The first of those to flee came from North America."

"I see." Robert nodded.

"My wife, Sarah," Arik said, gesturing to the older woman. She smiled at them out of friendliness. "And my daughter Na'ama."

Na'ama Shaham was gawking at the size of the shuttle bay. "What is this one?', she asked, gesturing toward tone of the runabouts.

"That is the Vistula," Julia replied. "She's one of our twelve runabouts."

"We name them for Earth's rivers, usually," Robert added.

Na'ama continued to look at the craft with wonder and curiosity. Her parents gave a glance in that direction and returned to business. "My thanks, Captain Dale," Arik said. "I don't know how many of my people might have died if you had not come along."

"I'm glad we could help," Robert said. "It's why we went out into space in the first place."

"We have heard so many rumors of your people," Sarah said. "Where they come from, what you are. I'm curious to learn about you."

"The rest of my command staff is assembled in the conference room for us," Robert explained. "We're more than willing to share information."

"Lead the way, Captain."

On the way up Julia and Robert had barely been able to hide her own mirth at just how excited Na'ama seemed to be at seeing the Aurora. Whatever Tikvah was like internally, it apparently didn't have Aurora's azure-paneled corridors or any of the other aspects of the ship. She repeatedly asked about the ship's capabilities and size in a way that made both of them think of Caterina.

"Cat's going to love this girl," Julia whispered to Robert, who smiled and nodded in agreement.

Once they were in the conference room introductions were made. The Shahams sat at the other side of the table to face the Aurora command crew. "Your ship is so interesting to see," Arik admitted. "I'm afraid our vessel would lack in comparison."

"Having to fit 5,000 people and the means to maintain them in a ship of your size can't be easy," Jarod noted.

"What was that weapon you used on the enemy ship?", Angel asked. "The energy signature reminded me of Nazi super-disruptors, but the power of it was crazy. The Scharnhorst's main batteries don't match it."

"It was a super-disruptor cannon we salvaged from a destroyed Reich dreadnought," Arik answered. "They are typically fixed to those vessels as spinal mounts."

"You defeated a dreadnought?", Robe asked.

"Alas, I cannot claim credit," Arik answered. "It was during a war ten years ago. The Reich attacked an alien species, the Kameli. Kameli ships managed to disable and destroy one of their dreadnoughts in the final days of the war."

"I always liked the Kameli," Na'ama said sadly.

Robert had a bad feeling about how that war ended for the Kamali. "I see. Well, I suppose it's useful to have something like that."

"It has saved us more times than I can count," Arik answered. "But to get on to business… You said you wished to know of the Reich, Captain?"

"We need to know more about it," Robert explained. "How it's organized. If there are any weak points in its power structure we can exploit in event of a war."

"Of course," Arik said. "We do not keep in touch with many sources of information in the Reich's territories, but I am familiar with some of the unrest that can occur in the worlds of the subordinate nations." "He nodded to Sarah. "Sarah is something of a historian and can help explain how the Reich's structures came to be."

"We'll be grateful for anything you can tell us," Robert assured them.

"Might we ask questions of you, Captain?', Sarah inquired.

"Of course," Robert replied.

Sarah and Arik exchanged looks. Na'ama looked more attentive for the conversation's direction.

"It is a matter of some… importance to us," Sarah said delicately. "But might you know how many of our people are left in your multiverse?"

Robert considered that question. "Your people? You mean…"

"Jews, Captain," Arik said quietly. "How many Jews survive in your Alliance? And in other worlds?"

Understanding dawned on Robert. "I see. Well, to be honest, I haven't counted."

"A few billion at least," Jarod said.

The Shahams gawked at him.

"It can vary by universe, of course," Jarod answered. "But in general…. You're looking at over five billion in the Alliance alone. And that is being conservative. And there are Jewish populations on a lot of worlds, even small ones." Jarod looked at Caterina. "How many Jews do you think are on New Liberty? From all of those missions we ran into the Eastern European ghettos and the Pale of Settlement in C1P2?"

"I think around 10,000," Cat answered. "In the New Liberty Colony alone."

"Ten thousand," Arik said with astonishment. "On one colony."

"Five billion…."

The Aurora crew became uncomfortably aware that this information was having an effect upon their guests. Tears were already flowing down Sarah's eyes. Na'ama looked about ready to weep with stunned joy.

Even Arik, for all of his stern demeanor, seemed to suddenly be thunderstruck.

A horrible realization came to Robert at that moment. On why their reaction was so extreme. He looked to Julia, who nodded. She had realized the same thing.

It was Meridina who openly spoke what they were thinking. "You are the last of your people in this universe," she said gently.

"Yes," Arik answered with his voice hoarse from the feelings coursing through him. "The Jews on Tikvah are all that is left of our people."

"Five thousand," Jarod murmured.

Faces across the room darkened. It didn't take much to imagine why.

Leo was the first to speak up. "I imagine you have health problems with a population that small."

"It's not enough to maintain proper genetic diversity," Sarah agreed. "We have had to turn to genetic engineering to try and alleviate the effects. But there is only so much our means allow us in that direction."

"The Nazi, they hunt us without pause," Na'ama added. "For centuries they have hunted us, destroying our colony ships, our population vessels, any colony we have planted on a world."

"We once settled a colony with much of our population that escaped Earth," Sarah continued for her daughter. "It fell to the Reich a hundred and fifty years ago. Two million survivors of the Nazi purge of Earth, wiped out in a manner of minutes. Only two hundred thousand escaped."

"And still they hunt us," Arik finished.

Robert put his hands together on the desk and lost himself in thought for a moment. It was upon seeing the fiery, cool look on Julia's eyes that he realized what he had to do next.

"We can give you a home," he said. "A place."

That drew the attention of the Shahams. "Captain Dale?"

"A new colony world if you want it," Robert continued. "Or a place on New Liberty. Regardless of which you chose you would have a new home, in another universe, far away from the Nazis."

The offer left them quiet for several moments. "That is a…. handsome offer, Captain," Arik replied. "We will consider. Until then, feel free to ask any question you have."

"Before we start." Julia gave Robert a look before turning back to the Shahams. "Is your warp drive operational?"

"It was disabled during the attack," Arik replied. "My engineers believe it will take the next two days to finish fixing it."

"Two days." Julia shook her head.

She looked to Scotty, who nodded back. "I think I can find somethin' tae help with that, sir," he said to Shaham.

"Your assistance would be welcome," Arik answered.

And the reason was clear to all. If the Reich's hunters found and engaged a crippled Tikvah, they could complete the extermination that their forefathers had begun centuries before.

And without a word needing to be said, Robert and his people were in clear agreement. They would not let that happen.

Author's Note: Phosako used with approval and input from Simon_Jester. The Shaham family used with approval and input from Coyote.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Ship's Log: 4 July 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We remain in place in system 29IR to provide support for the Remnant vessel Tikvah. According to Mister Scott the ship is still half a day away from warp capability. Engineering teams are working with those on the Tikvah to get the ship back to warp capability as quickly as they can.

In the meantime I am left haunted by the weight of what we have found. We came out here to get information we might need to effectively oppose the Reich in a war. Now our mission may be vastly more important; saving the last of an exterminated people from extinction. I can only hope we're up to that task.

Robert looked up from his computer in his ready room when the tone came in from the bridge. "We have Admiral Lithgon on subspace for you, sir," said Lieutenant Jupap.

"Transfer him to my ready room, Lieutenant."

"Aye sir."

The face of Admiral Lithgon appeared. "Captain Dale." His voice had a bit of an accent to it, a sort of faded Commonwealth accent, almost English and almost Australian Robert thought. "Admiral Relini informed me of your progress." The older man shook his head. "My God. I'm actually surprised there are any Jews left in this universe."

"Not many," Robert said darkly. "And we're doing what we can to get them warp capable again."

"You think the Reich is going to attack them while crippled?"

"I'm certain of it."

"Do what you can for them," Lithgon answered. "Things are quiet around here, thankfully."

"Nothing new has happened?"

"The Reich activity has slowed down as of late. Granted, that might mean they're ready for whatever it is they're planning, or maybe they're getting cautious due to our increasing ties to the Phosako."

Robert shook his head. "I can't imagine these people will just let things slide. We entered their space. We blew up two of their ships."

"I agree. They're coming one day. But every day they don't come is a day another ship leaves the yards," Lithgon pointed out. "So I'm content to see them do nothing."

"I hope everything is fine with Fourth Fleet?"

Lithgon nodded. "We're on station near Krellan. Just to make sure the Reich forces across the border don't try anything. Fourth Fleet is the most powerful combat fleet in the Alliance right now so that has to be giving the Reich serious thoughts."

"Once this is over, Aurora can be there in a day's travel at high warp," Robert pointed out.

Lithgon smiled at that. "Yes, you do love to put that Darglan warp drive through its paces, don't you? But I don't think that would be necessary, Captain. The truth is, Aurora isn't meant for fleet operations like this. You're better put to use dealing with whatever issue or crisis the President and Admiral Maran think needs your attention."

Robert thought on that. He shook his head. "If something happens, I'm the one responsible for it happening. It's not right that you're on the firing line and I'm not."

"It's not about right or wrong, Captain. It's about what is needed for us to get through this situation," Lithgon pointed out. "And right now, the Aurora is needed where she is. If war does come about, the President will need your help keeping other sectors quiet, not facing down Reich war fleets."

And leaving others to die for my mistake, Robert thought darkly. "I can see your point."

Lithgon grinned at him. "You'll do your part, Captain. I'm sure of that." Lithgon looked away for a moment and accepted a digital pad from someone. "Duty calls, Captain. I'll talk to you later. Be careful out there, and good luck."

"Good luck to you too, Admiral. Dale out." Robert leaned forward and pressed the key to shut down the comm link.

"And that leaves me nothing left but paperwork," he sighed, turning his attention to that labor.

Lucy found the Tikvah to be a remarkable ship, from an engineering perspective. The hull had clearly been intended to be a colony ship, but had undergone major modifications since its original purpose. Hydroponics bays provided a small amount of food, just sufficient to prevent starvation in the colony's population, and a meat vattery provided raw cloned cell meat - beef and fish from what she had seen - to supplement their diet with animal nutrients.

Still, it was clear these people were living on the very edge of the precipice. Most looked, if not malnourished, slightly underdeveloped. Some had illnesses that they lacked the medicine to properly treat or manage. They lived in small spaces and their days were spent between what seemed to be enforced inactivity or frenzied work to keep their ship running. Their clothes were mostly unadorned and threadbare. One young woman had come to her offering a small ring if she could get a fresh set of clothes.

A ring. With a jewel and everything. For a set of clothes that Lucy could effortlessly replicate back on Aurora. She'd never forgive herself if she took the girl up on that offer.

That said, for all of their horrible conditions, despite everything… she didn't feel that darkness that had permeated the Refugee Fleet. The people here didn't show anything like the attitude of the refugees from the Colonies of Kobol had. While they had been terrified, angry, and quick to become nasty when pushed, these people actually seemed… hopeful. The one girl had offered the ring for clothes and others offered to sit and eat with her; not with her rations, but with their own portions. They had so little, but they offered it freely.

"We give them hope," Meridina noted. She stood beside Lucy and observed, a short distance away, one of the engineers teaching a group of adolescents how to maintain one of the power conduits. "For all that they have lost, hope still burns bright in their swevyra."

"It's all they've had," Lucy observed.

"Yes. Sometimes that is all one can have. And sometimes it is all that one needs." Meridina looked to her. "I did not mean to interrupt your work. I am here to oversee the return of some of their wounded. And to gauge their ability to resist boarding parties."

"Is there any real threat of that?", Lucy asked. "The Nazis want to blow them out of space, not abduct them."

"There is more than one way to do that," Meridina reminded her. "But I think this ship is about as secure as it could be. Their ship militia seems to have things well in hand."

"That's comforting to know," Lucy answered. She looked back to the plasma conduit. "Sorry. I need to focus on this. I'm surprised this conduit hasn't gone boom yet."

"I will await your return to the Aurora, Lucy," Meridina answered.

Julia and Scotty beamed over to the Tikvah and were led directly to the meeting room. On the way both had ample chance to notice how different this ship was. Darker, crowded, more confined spaces, with the interiors dull brown and yellow with faded gray in spots. Some of the bulkheads had to be opened manually by the young man escorting them because the automatic systems had failed.

Arik Shaham was waiting for them. This time he had a couple of young men with him. One was darker skinned than the other, and it was the second that drew Julia's attention for how much he resembled Arik. "This is my son, Yonatan," Arik said. "And my second in command, Benyamin Shameel."

"Commander Julia Andreys, and Commander Montgomery Scott," Julia answered, gesturing to herself and Scotty.

"Welcome to the Tikvah," Shameel said. He grinned at them. He had a well-kept beard and Julia considered him quite handsome, with a light olive complexion.

Yonatan seemed somewhat less cordial. He nodded briskly at them.

"I know our vessel isn't much," Arik answered. "But I hope you find our hospitality acceptable."

"More than," Julia assured him.

"Aye. Ye've done us a fine greetin', sir," Scotty agreed. "My teams tell me yer systems are workin' well given th' age on 'em."

"Yes," Arik nodded. "Starship maintenance is something we all learn. Every citizen of Tikvah over the age of 12 knows how to fix a power conduit or repair a burnt out circuit."

"She's an old girl, but she's healthy an' strong," Scotty observed. "A credit tae her crew, certainly."

"Speaking of them." Julia gave them a warm smile. "I was going to offer some replenishment for your food and medicine stocks. Aurora has replicator systems and raw materials to provide humanitarian assistance in a crisis."

Arik allowed himself a chuckle at that. "It is a shame our appetites were so horrible last night," he said. "Those 'finger foods' that your gallery served looked rather appetizing. Simple vegetables and vat-cloned meat get exhausting on the palate after a while."

"Hargert would be happy to send your people some meals," Julia said. "Although it might take him some time to make enough for your entire ship."

"There will be time enough for that later, Commander Andreys," Arik answered. "For now, we will focus on the repairs we need"

"Of course." Julia nodded. "As for our other offer?"

"I have submitted it to the community," Arik answered. "I intend to vote yes."

"Perhaps ye should let us send ye through to another universe now, Captain Shaham," Scotty recommended. "Just in case."

Arik smiled softly at that." "That is my thought as well. But abandoning our universe of birth is a major question for our people. I'm awaiting a final word from our Rabbinical Council on the matter." He sighed. "Although if need be I will act and deal with the repercussions later."

"It would probably be better to get the warp drive fixed first," Julia said. "Jumps between universes have specific spatial aspects to them, you can jump to somewhere further away relative to your starting position, but there's still a margin of error and you could end up deep in interstellar space."

"I understand. Hopefully our drives will be up shortly."

"Is there anything else I can do for you before Mister Scott and I examine our work teams?"

"Nothing," Arik answered. "Although my daughter has asked for permission to visit your ship again. She's quite taken."

Scotty and Julia exchanged knowing looks. , "Aye," Scotty said. "An' I think we have just th' lass tae show her around."

Caterina was quick to show Na'ama to her science labs. "This is Science Lab 1," she said happily, showing her into the chamber. There were port and starboard exits, with them coming through the port, with the middle being a series of control consoles and sensor displays, both 2D and holographic 3D. Even now models of some space phenomena were being displayed on various instruments. "We mostly study space phenomena here and computer systems work. Science Lab 2 is where applied physics simulations are run and readings looked over."

"Is there a Science Lab 3?", Na'ama asked. The young woman's eyes shined brightly with wonder.

"Deck 20," Cat answered, grinning widely. "Biological materials. It's mostly run by Leo and his medical staff with some of our biologists. I'll have to take you down there before we're done and see if Doctor Ke'mani'pala is on duty."

"Who is she?"

"She is… a relative term. Doctor Ke'mani'pala is a Gl'mulli. They don't really have genders. The Gl'mulli are a gelatinous species who sense their surroundings through sensitivity to energy and electromagnetic fields."

Na'ama's face betrayed her surprise. "Really?'

"Yeah. And they're really good at microbiology."

Caterina found a seat at one of the stations and invited Na'ama to sit beside her. Na'ama felt the science officer's enthusiasm to be infectious to her. I wonder what it's like. Getting to travel to so many systems, so many universes, and just explore.

"I'm running a data recompiler here," Caterina explained. "It's going through scrambled data we recovered from data we recovered from an alien computer system. It could have some important stuff on it."

"Really?" Na'ama touched the nearby console and found a key to bring up the coding. "I've studied lots of computer systems since I was a child. My mother considered it important to be able to record our history."

"You must not have a lot of open computer space over on your ship," Cat noted.

"No. But we have enough." Na'ama started typing in little commands. "I think I can apply one of our screeners to this."


"Yes. It's a program that analyzes the raw data and finds natural patterns in the data that hooks up to other fragments. It's excellent for defragmenting information."

Cat looked at her a moment before her smile turned into a laugh. "Why didn't we ever think of something like that?! Can you show me the plans?" When Na'ama nodded and used the console to hook into her systems on Tikvah, Cat called up Jarod.

By the time Na'ama was done, Jarod had arrived. "What have you got?"

"I'm ready to run the pattern compiler now," Na'ama told them.

"Let's do this," Cat agreed, smiling.

Na'ama giggled with excitement before hitting the necessary keys. Together they watched the program start to work, examining the data and slowing patching things together. "Wow," Cat said. "That's pretty good."

"I never imagined it would run so well," Na'ama said. "Your hardware is just so much better than ours."

"This could be a big help." Jarod tapped her on the shoulder. "Thank you, Miss Shaham."

"Please. Na'ama is fine."

"I'm Cat." Caterina offered her hand.

Na'ama nodded and accepted it. When the handshake was over she looked back to the systems. Her eyes followed various screens until she was looking at what looked like sensor returns.

What she saw made her frown.

Cat noticed it. "What's wrong?"

"What are these sensor readings?', Na'ama asked.

Cat looked at them. "Oh, you're looking at yesterday's sensor logs. They come from the first systems we came to in our search. It's some kind of power surge I figured it was in background space, maybe a flare-up of subspace energy, or barring that, a ship having a momentary default."

"No," Na'ama insisted. "It's not that." She looked up with growing horror. Her mind raced to things her parents had shown her, the work her father had given her in learning how to examine sensor returns. "You saw this on your way to find us?"

"Yes." Cat saw the way her face was looking. "Na'ama?"

"No. No no no." Na'ama shook her head. She couldn't keep her fear out. "It's them."

"Who?", Cat asked.

"The Nazi, the Hunters," Na'ama answered. "It's one of them."

Jarod, having overheard, leaned over her shoulder to look at the screen. "How can you tell?"

"I've seen these patterns before," she said. "It's from how they hide their ships from detection."

"You're saying that's a byproduct of their cloaking system?", Cat asked.

"Yes." Na'ama looked to her. "Did they follow you?! They might have suspected your purpose, please, did you see that signature anywhere else?"

"No… no, I didn't," Cat replied. She looked back to her station and changed it to connect to the sensors. "Here, let me run a long range scan. I'll see if I can pick it up anywhere…." Cat stared at the screen.

"What?", Na'ama asked.

Jarod was looking too. "Caterina, that's the signature."

"And it's almost on top of us," Cat said. She jumped from her chair. "We need to hurry!"

Jarod slapped his multi-device. "Jarod to bridge!"

"Locarno here."

"Nick, call Code Yellow!"

"What? What's wrong?"

"That signature Cat thought she saw at the rendezvous with the Phosako, it may be a Reich hunter vessel."

There was an intake of breath from the other end of the comm line as Cat and Jarod left the lab and entered the main corridor. They turned and ran on toward the lift doors. The ship running lights turned yellow as they did.

Robert got to the bridge just as Jarod and Cat did. "Report."

"Na'ama Shaham recognized that background energy signature I saw yesterday," Cat said. "It's a Reich hunter ship under cloak. And I'm picking it up again."

"What?" Robert felt his mind race. Did we lead them to these people…? No. No, that other ship might have already been transmitting their location. "Inform Captain Shaham." Robert looked to tactical. Angel was off-shift, so Lieutenant Luneri - a female Dorei - was on station. The purple-skinned, teal-dotted woman was already preparing the weapons. "Lieutenant, track that power signature. The moment it pops up I want you to hit it with everything."

"Yes sir," Luneri responded.

"On my mark, prepare to raise shields," Robert said. "Do we have any messages from Tikvah?"

Jarod nodded. "Shaham's people are preparing for combat. They're ready to raise shields the moment the enemy ship appears."

"Can they maneuver? I hate the idea of giving them an open shot, shields or no."

Jarod shook his head. "No. Their engineering teams had to take impulse drives offline to continue repairs to the ship's power grid."

"Dammit." Robert smacked his fist to the arm of his command chair. He felt his mind start to race. "They're sitting ducks. Nick, can you maneuver us to cover them?"

"If that ship is half as agile as I think it is, we could never stop it from getting by," Nick answered.

"I'm detecting a shift in the background energy of the anomalous signature," Cat said. "I… I think they're coming out of warp…."

"Lieutenant, can you lock on?", Robe asked.

Luneri worked furiously at her console. "Sorry. But I'm not getting a solid lock on the other energy signature."

"Even if you could, there's no guarantee you'd hit. It's an anomalous area, the ship could be anywhere within that volume of space," Cat pointed out.

"Regardless… manual aim, Lieutenant. Fire phasers when ready."

"Aye, sir," Luneri answered, going to work on her console.

The phaser strips on Aurora's starboard side lashed out, one by one. The beams of amber energy stabbed at empty space over and over again. But nothing seemed to connect.

"Cat, can you get a clearer image so we can shoot more accurately?", Robert asked.

"I'm doing my best, but the effect isn't localized enough."

More phaser streaks joined the other. Tikvah fired a few bolts of disruptor energy as well. But nothing hit.

Then it appeared. A squat, compact, shark-like warship painted deep black. There were no markings, nothing to see that announced their affiliation. Bot it wasn't hard to know just whose ship it was.

Luneri's aim las was true this time. Phaser fire lashed repeatedly against the small warship's shields. "Firing torpedoes!", the Dorei woman announced. Sparks of blue white light lashed out toward the Reich ship.

Just as torpedoes erupted from its main launchers.

The Aurora's torpedoes impacted first, defying the last minute maneuvers of the hunter ship. The small ship's shields broke down and two of the torpedoes made impact on bare hull. There was a flash of intense white light, the result of an anti-matter explosion, and then nothing was left.

The torpedoes of the hunter ship didn't cause such catastrophe on the Tikvah. One was even destroyed by the disruptors on the Jewish refuge vessel.

But the other two torpedoes made impact.

The first slammed into the Tikvah's shields. It soon became clear that the torpedo was meant to deal with them; the moment it made impact there was a wave of energy from the impact point and the Tikvah's shields wavered.

This allowed the second torpedo to bypass them directly and slam right into the upper starboard nacelle of the Tikvah's warp drive system.

The resulting explosion consumed that warp nacelle in fire. The Tikvah spun slightly from the force of the blast. Lights across the ship began to flicker off. Robert watched this in horror. "Jarod! Report!"

"Their warp system is crippled," Jarod answered. "I'm reading major feedback through their power grid. With all of the makeshift repairs they've had to do, it couldn't deal with the hit."

Robert watched the great habitat ship list in space and felt his stomach twist. "How many losses have they taken? What about our people?"

"I'm trying to establish communications again." Jarod's hands moved swiftly over his controls.

After several moments they got a signal. "Aurora, do you read? This is Commander Andreys."

"This is Aurora. Julie, how are things going over there?"

"Bad. Main power is offline. Most of auxiliary power is going to life support systems, and even those are offline on four decks in the engineering spaces. Mister Scott and their engineers are trying to assess the damage…. Robert, I'm sorry. But this ship is crippled right now. I don't think we'll be getting her underway any time soon."

"We took out the Reich hunter ship," Robert answered. "Hopefully that means we've got some time."

"What was that ship?", she asked.

Arik's voice came over the comm line. "A stealth attack vessel. They train to launch attacks like that, cloaking and firing shield-piercing torpedoes before an enemy can react. I suspect their commander thought he could evade your torpedoes"

"How do you defend against it?', Robert asked.

"By being able to go to warp and evade," was Arik's bitter answer. "I apologize, Captain, but I must see to my crew and people. We have casualties to attend to."

Robert swallowed. And there are so few left… "I understand. We're standing by to assist. Commander Andreys, please return to the ship so we can discuss our options."

"I'm on my way back now."

Everyone was gathered in the conference room on Aurora. "From what I've heard, the Tikvah is completely crippled," Robert said to his assembled command staff, including those returned from Tikvah. "What options do we have?"

"Well, the warp drive is completely out," Lucy said. "Tikvah needs major yard time too even hope of rebuilding it. And if the Nazis are gunning for us here, we don't have time to get a yardship out here."

Meridina nodded. "What if we were to create a jump point for them? Could they not escape through it?'

"There's no guarantee that they'd arrive close to a system," Caterina pointed out. "They could end up stranded in interstellar space."

"Actually, that's not the main problem," Jarod said.

"Aye." Scotty shook his head. "We cannae send th' ship through a point. She'll come apart if we put her engines tae th' necessary power tae enter a point."

"Maybe we could use our own SIF field to reinforce their structural integrity?', Lucy suggested.

"Nice idea, lass, but it's nae possible any longer. Even our ship cannae project an SIF field of th' necessary intensity and size. Nae enough tae protect from acceleration and th' gravitational shear of a jump point."

"So we can't jump them out or bring them under warp tow," Julia said.

"Nae, Commander, we cannae do any of that." Scotty shook his head. "If I have a day or two I might be able tae rebuild her systems enough tae be taken under tow by th' Aurora."

"That does seem to be our best choice," Jarod agreed. "I'll run the calculations to make sure, but…"

Before he could finish, there was a beep over the comm line. "Captain." Lieutenant Luneri was speaking from the bridge. "We have a ship on long range sensors coming in at high warp. According to Ensign al-Rashad, it has subspace fluctuations consistent with an anti-matter pulse drive."

Robert swallowed. "Relay the sensor information in here, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain."

A moment later the holo-projector over the central table activated to show the relevant sensor readings. Jarod, Cat, and Scotty examined them closely. "That… is a big subspace signature," Cat said.

"Real big," Jarod agreed. "I've not seen one this big yet."

"Can you identify it?", Julia asked.

"It's not on any of our recognition charts," he answered.

"Maybe Captain Shaham will know," Julia said to Robert.

He nodded and pressed the key on the table to re-open the channel to the bridge. "Lieutenant Luneri, put us through to Captain Shaham immediately. Prepare to relay sensor information."


After several moments Arik's voice came over the speaker. "Captain Dale. What can I do for you?"

"We're relaying a sensor return to you," Robert explained. "It just came up on long range sensors."

There was a short pause. Then not so short. Arik's voice was shaky when it came back. "Captain. That signature… that… that is a dreadnought."

Robert felt like he'd been punched. "What?", he asked, incredulous.

"I have only seen this sort of pattern a few times," Arik explained. "It is from the power assembly of an Aryan-class dreadnought."

Everyone looked at each other. Even Angel frowned. The Alliance didn't know much about the Aryan-class, the dread pride of the Raumskriegsmarine, but what they did know was that it was a full-sized dreadnought that likely had few, if any, equals in the Alliance fleet as it was now.

And the Aurora, advanced as she was, was not a dreadnought.

A Hebrew curse spat on the line. "I know this signature. That fluctuation pattern… yes. It's him."

"Him?", Angel asked.

"Oberführer Hendrik Eicke, commander of the Eichmann," Arik answered. "He and his ship have hunted us for years. He would be arrogant enough to risk the Phosako to pursue us…"

Robert groaned. "A ship named for Adolf Eichmann…" He shook his head. "Damned appropriate, I guess. How far out are they?"

Caterina hit a few keys to show the actual location of the signature, including speed and direction. "They're picking up speed. I think… no more than half an hour. Maybe forty minutes," she answered.

Julia shook her head. "There's no way we can get the Tikvah ready for a warp tow or jump that quickly."

Robert looked around. He swallowed and thought on the situation. Whatever happened, he couldn't abandon these people. But if they stayed, he knew the Eichmann, or any other ship of that class, would make short work of Aurora. "We're too far from Harris Station to ask for reinforcements," he said. "They'd never arrive in time. That leaves one last option." Robert drew in a breath. "We beam them over to the Aurora. All five thousand of the Tikvah's residents."

"Five thousand people. In half an hour?! Ye'll be puttin' heavy strain on all of our transporter systems!", Scotty protested. "Ye'll fry out everythin' from th' Heisenburg compensators tae th' subspace channel stabilizers!"

"But it is possible," Lucy said. "We can average about six people every fifteen seconds on just one transporter station. And we've got six on the ship. Twice that if we include cargo transporters."

"And the runabouts can manage another two per runabout," Jarod added. "The problem is sustained pace. Eventually we might have issues if there are any parts that go down."

"Still, it's our best hope," Robert noted. "And if push comes to shove, they have their own light ships. We can cram as many of them as possible into our shuttle bay and launch deck."

"That means no launching our own fighters," Laurent pointed out. "My pilots wouldn't be able to return."

"I know, Commander," Robert said. "But it's something we'll have to do."

"Couldn't we dock one of their attack ships into the Koenig's dock?", Julia asked. "That might carry another few hundred people, minimum."

"Something to consider," Jarod said.

"We're running out of time, though," Lucy said. "We need to start a transporter evacuation now if we want to be done when that Reich dreadnought shows up."

"Right." Robert touched a button beside him. "Captain Shaham, are you there?"

"We are, Captain Dale."

"My crew and I have discussed the situation. Our only chance now is to beam your people over to the Aurora."

There was a moment of silence. "As in your matter transporters?"


"I…. see. Yes. I understand. But can you fit all of our people together? Will I need to leave anyone behind?"

"Not if we hurry," Robert said. "Get your people ready immediately. We're going to start transporting in the next few minute or so. If you have any shuttles or craft that can dock with our ship or land in our fighter hanger or shuttle bay, send them separately."

"We will commence evacuation immediately. Thank you for your efforts on our behalf. Shaham out."

Robert looked to the rest of the table. "Lucy, go to Transporter Station 2 and do what you can. Mister Scott, you're on Station 1. Jarod, I need you at Operations making sure everything's running smoothly. And I want all cargo transporters going as well. We've got maybe thirty minutes left before that Reich dreadnought shows up. Let's get these people out of here."

Everyone left as quickly as they could.

Arik was no stranger to crisis. His people had suffered so many close calls over the years that he was used to them. This crisis just happened to be the worst of many.

"Take only what you can carry with you immediately," he urged into the ship's PA system. "It is a sacrifice, I know. But there will be opportunities to reclaim that which we lose."

His order circulated through the ship. Section by section, the representatives of the Tikvah Knesset responded to show their deck and sections as ready. Fifty responses in total, each representing one hundred or so people. Less than that in some cases given their recent fatalities.

And the wounded. They will need to be evacuated with care, he pondered, even as Sarah came up to him. "Yes?"

"I cannot carry everything, she said. "Arik… our history. Our records. We will lose so much if…"

"We can write histories again, love.," he assured her. "We'll be alive to do so."

She nodded. "I understand. I was just hoping there was a way to make sure they were preserved."

"I will carry what I can." Arik looked to Yonatan. "Help your mother. Carry the data drives to the Eagle."

"Father, you should let me stay with you," Yonatan protested. "There's still enough power in the capacitors to fire the super-disruptor once."

"And what good would that do?", Arik demanded. "Against a dreadnought?"

"It is something," Yonatan insisted. "Maybe give us an opening to plow our ship into them…"

Arik seized his son's shoulders. "I know you wish to prove yourself a worthy leader of our people, Yoni. You will get your chance. But I need you to live. Go with your mother. Help her and get her into the Eagle. It is under your command."

Yonatan's eyes widened. "Father?"

"It's yours, Yoni. Shameel and I will direct the evacuation until all is complete."

Yonatan's mouth dried. He realized what his father was saying. "Father, please…."

Sarah teared up. "Arik, you're not going to…"

Arik gave him and his worried wife a reassuring smile. "I will not throw my life away. Unless we have no choice, I will see you again on Aurora. Go now, and if the worst comes and I go to my judgement, tell Na'ama how much I love her."

"We will," Sarah promised. She reached around him and gave Arik a kiss. "Please, come back to us."

"I will," Arik promised. Now go."

They did so. Shameel looked at him. "Sir, what do you have in mind?"

"In case the Eichmann arrives early, we must have a backup plan," Arik answered. "Come. We have much to discuss."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Robert was watching the seconds tick away as they ran out of time. "Status?", he asked, mentally counting their time left to be within five minutes.

"Three thousand six hundred and sixty relayed by transporter," Jarod answered. "The runabouts have brought in another three hundred. Four hundred from the assault ship that just docked and ninety-five from their remaining shuttles."

"That leaves almost five hundred," Robert observed. "We're running out of time, we need to get those people out now."

"They're going as fast as they can, but we've already had delays from transporters being overextended," Jarod explained. "Transporter Station Five is still down. And Cargo Bays 2 and 7 have their transporters completely offline now due to strain."

"Are we going to make it?", Robert asked. He counted on Jarod's "Pretender" mind to do the math immediately.

"It'll be close," was all he said.

"Right." Robert looked around. Julia was off the bridge currently to oversee the settlement of the evacuees in specific parts of the ship, if just to ensure they weren't in the way if they had to fight off the arriving enemy warship. With Lucy and Scotty off manning transporters that left the bridge engineering station manned by a young Gersallian ensign, Mataran, but everyone else was in their proper place.

With a tap of a button Robert brought up a small holo-map zoomed out from the star system enough to show the approaching wapr signature. This might every well be the fight of his life, at least in terms of starship combat, if they couldn't flee before the process was over. And that was looking more and more likely.

"Susquehanna just reported in," Jarod said. "Their transporters have gone down."

"Bring them back in," Robert replied. "In fact, bring all of our other runabouts back in before that ship gets here. I doubt we can hold it off long enough for them to get to safety anyway."

"Orders sent." Jarod noted another item. "The last of the Tikvah shuttles is coming in for a landing, routing them to the fighter landing hanger."

All Robert could do was urge his people on mentally to finish in time. He kept a count as they neared the magic number, just past five thousand. And I know we can outrun that bastard.

They still had two hundred left, though, when Caterina cried out, "They just accelerated! They'll be on top of us in forty seconds!"

Damn! "Code Red," Robert ordered. "Angel, take whatever shots you can."

"Should I raise shields?"

Robert looked again at the figure. Two hundred and twenty-six. Two hundred and twenty-six people who would die if he ran. Captain Shaham was one of those two hundred and twenty-six; he'd be widowing Sarah and orphaning Yonatan and Na'ama.

Sometimes you can't save them all, he thought to himself.

But even as he did, another part of him simply rebelled at the idea of leaving anyone behind for these people. For Nazis of all people. "We don't leave people behind," he reminded himself.

"Hail from Tikvah," Jarod said. He put them on without asking or saying so; there wasn't time.

"Captain, if you can survive long enough to get the rest of my people off, I may have a way to buy you time," Arik said.

"I'm up for anything, Captain Shaham," Robert replied.

"Keep his attention then. Can you extend shields around Tikvah?"

"We'll lose so much shield effectiveness that it won't work for long," Jarod warned.

"We don't have a choice. Do it." At least this way we can sustain the evacuation.

"Extending shields," Angel said.

"Ship coming out of warp now!"

On the screen the enemy warship decelerated from warp. It was an ugly thing. The ship, which was nearly three hundred meters longer than the kilometer-long Aurora, had a gunmetal gray hull spotted with disruptor cannon emplacements, some of them quite large, and a battery of missile cells to go with the evident torpedo launcher in the bow. Like all Reich ships it had that bizarre slant in the middle of the length, spending about a third of its length in a ten degree incline before the hull straightened again for the drive hull section. Blue Bussard ramscoops were joined to warp nacelles that shined blood red. The ship's angle, coming at them from "above", showed the ventral side of the hull. A large Nazi swastika emblem - black cross on white circle on a square of red - was emblazoned one deck "under" a trio of large spinal-mounted weapon emplacements. They were clearly the super-disruptors that Robert had already seen used by Scharnhorst back at 33LA, but even larger than that battlecruiser's weapons.

An additional insignia was visible at several points; two lightning bolts side by side. Or rather, two "S"es side-by-side.

Robert waited to see if they would make a surrender demand.

Suddenly the three spinal mount weapons opened up, sending a trio of emerald disruptor beams at Aurora. Because Locarno was already maneuvering the ship away in an evasive maneuver, although one that wouldn't uncover the Tikvah entirely, only one of the beams struck their extended shields.

The shield met the beam... and yielded. The disruptor beam slammed into their primary hull.

Robert felt a tremor go through his heart and gut.

Just one shot. Even with shields extended...

"Starboard shields failed!", Jarod shouted. "Shield cohesion down to fifty-four percent!"

Even as he asked that fire already erupted from the other disruptor emplacements on the enemy ship, joined by missile bombardment. The interceptors on Aurora retorted to shoot down the incoming projectiles, but disruptor beam after disruptor beam struck at Aurora's overtaxed shields. The shields yielded on a couple of the larger shots, allowing the penetrating energy to scour Aurora's azure hull in multiple places.

Even as Jarod was busy reading off the damage, Angel was letting loose with everything she could. Phaser beams retaliated and slammed into the bow shields of the Eichmann, joined by whichever cannon emitters she could bring to bear. But they couldn't present bow or aft to the ship, not without uncovering the Tikvah to the dreadnought's murderous barrage, so there was no using the more powerful pulse plasma cannons or any effective barrages of torpedoes. What torpedoes Angel did fire, as a test, were taken out by intercepting disruptor fire due to the need to turn.

"Effect on shields?"

"Negligible," Jarod answered. "Their shields are still at over ninety-five percent."

Which means they can hammer us with their best weapons and we can't touch them. Robert looked to his displays. Whatever this plan is, Shaham... please hurry. I can't wait much longer and risk damage to our warp drive.

Arik had only three people with him. Shameel, the best shot, was at tactical, Miryam Levitsky was keeping an eye on the power readings at their auxiliary engineering station, and Michael Zedner was at the helm, preparing for his order to turn the ship.

"Sir, you realize this ship will start falling apart the moment we achieve full acceleration?", Miryam said.

"Well aware of that," he answered. "But it'll only start."

"And we only have one full-power shot from the super-disruptor," she continued.

Arik smirked and said, "I know. Status on the Aurora?"

Shameel checked his board. "They've taken hull damage. Their shields are already failing. They can't survive much longer."

That prompted Arik to check his displays. Only a bit longer...

"Shouldn't we let them go?", Shameel asked. "Better that most of our people get away than none do if they are lost."

Arik had thought of that. But the thought made him feel sour. No. He would not leave another of his people behind to die at the hands of the Nazi, not if he could help it.

You are being foolish, he imagined Sarah saying. And maybe she'd be right. But with these circumstances, he had a chance to save them all. And to give the SS a good black eye.

"Almost there," he muttered. "Almost. Standby to fire."

One of the secondary consoles sparked as Aurora's over-extended shields took another direct hit from the Eichmann's main weapons. This time all three beams hit. "Shields down to thirty percent! Hull breaches in Sections G and H, Decks 4, 6 through 10, and 14," Jarod reported. "Emergency forcefields in place."

"Any casualties?", Robert asked.

"None yet," he replied.

"I'm still not doing much to their shields," Angel said.

"Then forget it," Robert barked. "Mister Mataran, divert all weapon power to shields. Auxiliary power too."

"Aye sir," the Gersallian officer replied.

"Shields stabilizing at sixty-two percent," Jarod added. The ship shook again. "One of their anti-matter missiles got through." Jarod shook his head. "They're drawing to within five kilometers. At this range our interceptors are going to have trouble acquiring their missiles."

The turbolift doors opened and Julia marched in. "What's going on?!", she asked.

"We're taking a battering while the evacuation finishes," Robert said. "Captain Shaham has a plan."

Julia went to her seat and buckled her harness on. "This is crazy, Robert. We've gotten almost all of them off, if we take more hits like that we could lose the warp drive. We should leave."

"I know," he said. "But if Captain Shaham's plan..."

"He's not the captain of this ship," she retorted. "You are. Make the call."

Robert was ready to retort but stopped. He knew she was right.

But he also wasn't about to just abandon Shaham. He pressed the comm key to open the tactical link. "Captain Shaham, we can't stay here. I'm risking my entire ship..." They shook again as the Reich vessel's big guns laid into them once more, causing more consoles to spark from feedback. "...waiting for this plan."

"There are only fifty of us left, Captain. I just need fifteen more seconds."

"Shields are back down to thirty-eight percent," Jarod warned. "Primary Generator 2 just overloaded and went off-line. We have to restore the shields to normal or we'll lose the entire system." The ship shuddered again. "Thirty-two percent. Damage on Decks 22, 25, and 31."

"Enemy range is now six kilometers," Locarno warned.

"If they get any closer our interceptors will never intercept their missiles," Julia said. "Robert...."

"Ten left," Robert answered. "Almost there."

"Robert, you need to..."

"Captain, move your position, now!," Arik shouted over the tac-comm line.

"You heard the man, Nick!", Robert bellowed. "Full impulse! Evasive maneuvers!"

The Aurora accelerated suddenly, throwing off the aim of the Reich dreadnought just as more of its disruptors lashed out. Missiles that had been meant to crash into the ship's overextended shields instead flew into empty space. They had not been programmed to lock on to the Tikvah so they started to turn to pursue Aurora, causing them to fall victim to Aurora's pulsed-fire interceptors.

A couple of disruptors now sliced into the unshielded Tikvah, causing explosions to plume from her damaged, unshielded hull. The vessel started moving as well. Her structure quaked as she did; bereft of a structural integrity field, the old ship was starting to fall apart from the stress of the sudden acceleration.

On her bridge, Arik watched the Eichmann loom ahead. He thought of all the time he'd run into that ship. Into that villain Eicke. All of his people who had died at the hands of Eicke and his fanatics.

That would end today.

Due to the short range, Eichmann only had seconds to react to the sudden rushing hulk of the Tikvah. The massive dreadnought started to turn to port to get clear. Zedner's hands flew over the helm controls to adjust Tikvah's attitude, ensuring she followed the movement.

They wouldn't ram bow-on-bow. The Eichmann's maneuvering ensured that. But that was fine by Arik's reckoning. He didn't want to hit there.

In fact, Eicke and his helmsman had given Arik the target he'd wanted all along.

And as the red ramscoop of the Eichmann's starboard warp nacelle filled the bridge viewer, Arik felt an intense sense of satisfaction. "Fire!"

Shameel's finger stabbed down on the control. A thick beam of emerald energy erupted from the bow of the Tikvah. The dying ship's last defiant shot at her tormentors slammed into the Eichmann's shields.

They held.

But that was anticipated. It wasn't about penetrating the shields but weakening them. Making sure they weren't coherent enough to tear Tikvah apart from the impact. And now they weren't; they yielded before the power of Tikvah's mass and acceleration.

Arik breathed a silent prayer for the future happiness of his family and waited for the end that would inevitably come upon impact.

There was a sudden jolt as the Tikvah slammed into the Eichmann's warp nacelle.

And a strange sensation filled Arik at that moment. Was this what death was actually like? Tikvah's anti-matter fuel was going up. This had to be what it felt like to be....

....and suddenly he was elsewhere. A chamber, standing on a platform of blue and white light, facing a young woman in an Alliance uniform that he realized he knew.

"We got 'em!", Lucy Lucero shouted. She hit a key on her control. "Bridge, last survivors off Tikvah!"

And at that, all Arik could do was laugh. Judgement, it seemed, would be put off for another day.

The old Tikvah did not die quietly.

Already falling apart, wounded, crippled, the converted habitat ship slammed into the warp nacelle of the Eichmann. Her hull and structure, already weakened by the acceleration to the point of collapse, was crushed instantly by the impact.

The same impact also undid all of the magnetic field projectors In her anti-matter fuel bunkers. It crushed the smaller projectors attached to each pod of anti-matter fuel.

And thus matter met anti-matter and, as nature dictated, the two types of material annihilated each other in a burst of gamma ray photons and neutrinos. The resulting annihilation released massive quantities of energy that overwhelmed the structure of the Reich dreadnought's warp nacelle. The plasma surging within the nacelle was released from confinement, leading to further explosions that blew the nacelle apart. Debris and atmosphere freely surged from the wounds that appeared in that corner of the ship, the result of a catastrophic loss of electrical power due to feedback through the system.

The Eichmann was lamed now. But not toothless. The power loss did not take out main power on the dreadnought and her weapons, at least those facing Aurora, continued to blaze away.

Robert and Julia watched the destruction of Tikvah with wide eyes. My God... did he... Robert heard Lucy's cry come over the speakers. He felt a hopeful grin come to his face as a reaction.

But there was no time for celebration. Despite everything Eichmann was still shooting. Her super-disruptors again raked across Aurora. Even with shields restored to their proper tight projection, the ship still shook violently. "Shield effectiveness down to twenty-five percent," Jarod warned. "We just lost another generator. Stress damage to upper starboard nacelle."

"We've done all we can," Robert insisted. "Get us out of here, Nick."

"Yes sir!", Locarno answered. His hands seemed to fly over his controls as he laid the appropriate course into the system and orientated Aurora properly. The ship shook again even as he did so.

And then they were at warp. "Are they able to pursue?", Robert asked. "Backup warp field generators or something like that?"

"No," Jarod answered. "Their warp drive is crippled. Completely."

"I can confirm that," Caterina crowed. "They're not showing any sign of engaging warp drives. We're free and clear!"

Some cheers came from the junior officers on the bridge. Julia drew out a sigh and gave Robert a meaningful look. "We need to talk," she said.

"I know," he answered. "Stand down from Code Red, everyone." Robert sighed. Best to get this over with. "Jarod, you have the bridge." He stood up, nodded to Julia, and walked toward the ready room office.

Jarod left Ops, letting it be taken up by Mataran, and got to the command chair by the time Julia followed Robert into the office. Robert didn't bother sitting down. He went over to his desk, turned, and faced Julia. "I took a risk, yes."

"A stupid risk," Julia hissed. "You should have left the moment that dreadnought started pouring fire into us, Robert!"

"We would have left two hundred people to die if I had," he countered. "Including Captain Shaham, the leader of these people."

"Leaders come and go! We had saved most of them!" Julia shook her head. "That was stupid, Robby. Goddamned stupid."

Robert stared. It was not often one heard her use such language. And using his childhood nickname in that context? That was almost a violation of everything they'd been to each other.

"I get it," Julia said. "You want to save everyone. You have something to prove by standing up to the Nazis, to show you can face them in a fight. But this wasn't the time or place or circumstances! We're lucky we had no fatalities, Rob!"

"You would have left them behind?", Robert asked. "Really? You would have taken the Shahams' father and husband away?"

"Yes," she answered. "I would have. Because your job is to fulfill our missions and protect this ship and crew. You had accomplished all reasonable objectives on that score." Julia pointed back to the bridge. "You can't always be the white knight! You can't always save everyone when you're in that chair, Rob! You have to be ready to make the tough decision to save what you can and leave others behind."

"And what if it was you, Julie?!", Robert shot back. "Or Angel or Cat or Zack?! What if I had to leave one of you behind?!"

She stopped speaking for the moment. "I understand, okay?" Julia had found her voice again. "I understand you don't want to leave anyone behind. And I would hate myself if I had to leave any of us behind like that. But that's what we signed up for, Robert."

Robert looked at her intently. "Do you mean that?"

She nodded. "I do."

"You... would want to be left behind?"

"To save the ship? Yes."

"Left behind to someone like Fassbinder? Or to people like the Batarians, the Dominion, the Cardassians?"

Julia swallowed. Robert found his dream coming back to him. The idea of what those powers might do to her as a captive, might do to any of them... "If you're asking do I want to get tortured or enslaved or God knows what else?" She shook her head. "No. No I don't. I pray nothing like that ever happens to any of us. But it could. And that's part of our life now, it's something I've accepted."

"I've felt what the Cardassians do to people," Robert said.

"Through that mind-link Meridina had with the Maquis prisoners earlier this year?", Julia asked.

"Yes." Robert swallowed. "And I've dreamed... I've dreamed of things being done to... well, to you."

"More of those nightmares."

"Yeah. And..." He shook his head. "The very idea of you going through that, Julie? I... I can't. I can't stomach it. I can't imagine having any one of us go through that. And if it was because I left one of you behind..." He closed his eyes and lowered his head, trying to prevent any tears from flowing. "God, if I had to abandon one of you to torturers and slavers... I... I...." With a struggle he found his voice. "...I couldn't forgive myself, Julie. I can't leave anyone behind."

Watching Robert struggle like that was hard. Julia realized she'd touched a nerve. "Robert, you can't let these nightmares get to you like that."

"I can't do that to any of you," Robert insisted. "I can't live with the thought."

"Robert. You're the captain of this ship. You have a job to do and we all know that. Nobody could blame you..." She caught herself. "...except yourself. And I know you would. So listen." She stepped up and took him by the arms. "If that day ever comes, Robby... if you ever have to leave me behind to save everyone else, and the bad guys take me and... start hurting me." She swallowed and closed her eyes. "I want you to forgive yourself."

"I won't be able to," he admitted.

"Let me finish," Julia urged. "Forgive yourself. Focus on your job. Because I won't give them a thing. And no matter what they do to me, I'll know one thing." Julia pulled him into a hug and talked directly into his ear. "I'll know you're coming for me, okay? That you're going to save me. Just as I'd save you. Because we'd all do that for each other."

Robert listened to her say that and felt an ache in his heart at the very notion. "I'd still be responsible for your suffering."

"And you'd make up for it by rescuing me." She pulled back from the hug enough to face him, eye to eye. She smiled at him. "Because... well, let's face it Robby. You've always enjoyed the idea of being the White Knight."

He stared at her for a moment. And then, despite the twisted up feelings inside of him, all of the fears of those nightmares being potential futures plaguing his mind as of late... he laughed. A low, steady chuckle, growing and causing Julia to giggle and then laugh along with him. "I'm too much of one, Angel says," Robert said between laughs. Tears started flowing from his eyes.

"You are," Julia insisted. She let her tears come freely as well. "But that's what I love about you. Knowing that your heart's in the right place. There are worse flaws than being unwilling to accept that people are suffering."

He nodded. "I understand," he said. He pulled back from the hug a bit and turned to his desk. "I... I should probably get a report started for Admiral Maran. And call up Beth to see about arranging living space for five thousand people."

"Yeah," Julia agreed. "You should. I'll go man the bridge."

"Who's getting the people into living spaces?"

"I've got Leo coordinating with Sarah Shaham." Julia took a step backward. "It won't be for long. We should be able to make a direct jump to New Liberty by the time we return to Harris Station."

"They might be able to get some transports out to ferry Shaham's people to New Liberty," Robert said. "Although God knows I'd love to visit."

"Yeah." Julia straightened her spine. "Permission to return to duty, Captain?"

Robert nodded at her. He watched her turn to leave and found himself speaking again. "You know, Julie.... I've had a thought lately."

She turned back to face him. "What?"

He looked at her directly. "Maybe... I don't know..." He sighed. "Have you ever considered we have the wrong jobs?"

Julia smiled at him and shook her head. "No. I can't say I have."

"I'm not trying to be self-abusive or anything. I'm just thinking..." He smiled at her. "Maybe you should be the one in the big chair."

"Well, I'm in it often enough...", Julia pondered aloud, keeping her smile wide. "Captain Julia Andreys... sounds awesome, doesn't it?"

"I think so, yes," Robert said.

She shrugged at him. "Maybe one day, right?" And she went through the door.

As it swished to a close behind her, Robert sighed and said, "Yeah. One day." He drew in a breath and focused his eyes on his computer screen. "No more time for emo thoughts," he mumbled to himself. "Paperwork calls, Captain Dale. Paperwork calls."

Ship's Log: 6 July 2641; ASV Aurora. Captain Robert Dale recording. We have returned to Harris Station to begin repairs to the ship and send Arik Shaham and his fellow survivors from Tikvah on to their new lives. We are transferring his people to a waiting transport ship that will ferry them to New Liberty Colony.

According to Admiral Relini, the Phosako were unable to vector in any ships to deal with
Eichmann before she regained limited warp capability. The SS dreadnought has apparently managed to retreat successfully toward Reich territory. A part of me wonders if we could have finished the SS ship off instead of fleeing when we did, but given the tense situation already existing I'm quite sure that blowing up a Reich dreadnought would have instigated the war we're hoping to keep delayed.

Whatever happens, I look forward to seeing Arik Shaham and his family off.

The last of the transport shuttles was sitting in the main shuttle bay. The Eagle, the attack vessel Yonatan Shaham had docked to Aurora was already alongside the transport Star of Boise for its imminent jump to Universe H1E4, and the Shahams themselves were the last of their people who were going to transfer over to the two ships. Robert and the command staff of the Aurora were assembled to see them off.

Arik happily shook Robert's hand. "Thank you, Captain Dale. You and your brave crew have given us all new hope for a bright future."

"We're proud to have saved you," he answered.

Arik nodded. "I... apologize, Captain."


"I put your ship in danger," he continued. "I was so devoted to getting all of my people out, and to trying to harm those who have killed so many of us, that I didn't think of the trouble I might have caused you. I am thankful that none of your crew died because I refused to leave anyone behind."

Robert exchanged knowing looks with Julia, who grinned at him. "Yeah, I feel the same way," Robert assured him. "I hate the idea of leaving people behind too."

"Sometimes people in our position have to make hard choices. I'm just glad that our refusal to accept that caused no greater harm this time."

"Your cousin runs New Liberty, I'm told?", Sarah asked.

"Yes. Beth." Robert nodded. "She's already getting places set up for you. I mean, you'll start with prefab housing, but there are plenty of materials for full houses. And the economy on New Liberty is getting bigger all the time. There's a big boom in mining in the region and New Liberty provides a lot of consumer products and raw foodstuffs to the mining operations. Not to mention the thriving trade in hi-tech consumer gadgets for H1E4 Earth."

"And I'm told Mister Godedsky and the Rabbinical Council of New Liberty are eager to see you," Julia added. "They've done a lot of work on reconciling differences between Jewish traditions caused by different universal standards."

"We've done our best keeping our's," Sarah said. "I can't wait to see what we may have lost, or may learn, from the others."

"I'm just happy to know we're not all that's left," Yonatan said. "We're not on the verge of extinction any more."

"No you're not," Jarod said.

"I have a question," Meridina said. "'Tikvah'... what did that mean?"

Arik and his family smiled at the Gersallian Knight. "'Hope'", Arik answered.

"I see." Meridina nodded. "A fine name for your ship. I am sorry that it was lost."

"The ship may have been lost, but Hope is never lost," Sarah answered. "It survives in hearts even when everything seems lost. Just as our old home will survive in our hearts."

"Agreed," Meridina replied. "May Hope continue to bring Light to us all."

Arik checked the watch on his wrist, set now to ship time. "Well, the Captain of the Star of Boise shouldn't be made to wait for us. We had better get going."

"I wish we weren't," Na'ama said. "I'd love to stay on Aurora longer. This ship is wonderous."

"We're always back for the anniversary of the Colony founding," Robert said. "We'll see you next May."

"And I'll give you a real tour next time," Cat promised Na'ama.

Na'ama smiled back. "I'd like that."

Arik led his family in turning to board. He let his wife step in first. Na'ama was to go next, but she stopped and turned. "Caterina!", she called out. "Let me know how that computer screener works for you!"

"I will!", Caterina called back.

Na'ama waved again and ducked into the shuttle. Yonatan followed her. Arik went to enter and stopped. He looked back to the Aurora crew and smiled. He gave a bow of his head and then saluted them. "May the Lord of Hosts protect and guide you, my friends."

"God be with you too," Robert answered.

Meridina bowed her head respectfully. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

Arik got into the shuttle and closed the door behind him. Everyone waited as the shuttle's engines powered up and gave a wave goodbye as it turned and left the shuttle bay. The doors slid to a close behind the shuttle.

"Aye, that was a job well done," Scotty said. "Now, I'm off t' make sure th' repairs are gaein' along properly."

"And Meridina and I are late for mind powers practice," Lucy said, teasing her mentor. Meridina smiled gently and shook her head.

"We've all got things to do," Robert said. "So let's get to them."

That night, Robert laid in his bed and felt Angel's head settle under his chin. With everything that had happened, it wasn't surprisingly they had made love to each other, and intensely at that. Angel sucked in a breath. "I wish we could have finished those bastards off," she said. "They killed so many of those poor people."

"I know. But... let's face it, blowing up a Reich dreadnought would have sent things over the edge."

"Maybe. But we know the war is coming." Angel's fingers moved over Robert's rib. "So, you and Julie."


"Your argument in the ready room after the fight at 27IR," Angel said. "What did you discuss?"

"The necessities of command," Robert sighed. "And the idea that I might have to leave someone behind one day."

"Like me?", Angel asked.

"Anyone," Robert said. "Julia said she'd hate herself, but she'd do it."

"Sounds like her." Angel shifted a little. "Could you do it?'

Robert thought on it. "I don't think so," he admitted. "I... I just don't think so."

"Yeah. Julia's got a good heart too, but she's... she's a boss lady. She's Ms. Responsibility, Ms. Professional. She'd turn her heart off and make a call like that." Angel settled her forehead up against Robert's chin and kissed him over his heart. "But you can't. And that's why, despite everything, I love you."

"Thanks," he answered. "Angel?"


"Do you see us... lasting?", he asked. "Because I know we've been distant at times. And there's the whole fraternization issue and..."

"What I think," she began, "is that sometimes things end. And we've ended before. But right now, I don't give a damn. I've got you right here, and you've got me, and we're going to settle off into sleep together and see what tomorrow brings."

"Sounds... good, yeah," Robert replied, after which he yawned. Angel yawned too.

They dozed off.


Caterina didn't bother getting breakfast in the Lookout. She got a thermos of coffee, a doughnut, and went straight for Science Lab 1. It was empty when she got there, as she knew it'd be, so she was all alone to check the progress of the computer data compiling that Na'ama's programed was doing. Cat had to stifle a yawn before taking a sip of coffee and a bite of fluffy, replicated goodness. She would have to thank Jarod for helping her perfect the food replicators' doughnut-making.

After another bite she started tapping keys to see what data had compiled. There were a few more universal frequencies and designations to compile. Always cool. And some astrographical data...

Cat's eyes widened. She nearly knocked over the thermos as she brought her hand over and smacked the comm key on her multi-device. "Delgado to Dale!"

For several moments there was no reply. Cat decided to repeat herself. "Delgado to Dale! I need to see you, to see everyone! This is important!"

After what seemed like a whole minute, Robert answered, "I'm here."

Cat could barely make out a familiar groan and a mumbled sentence, the only words she was able to recognize being the equally-familiar phrase "crazy sister". Her cheeks flushed pink as she realized she'd interrupted her sister and her sister's boyfriend at an inopportune time.

Then her eyes went over the data again and that bit of embarrassment faded. "It's important! I just got some crucial data from the 33LA Darglan facility recompiled! This is... this is huge!"

After another two seconds Robert said, "Alright. Staff meeting in an hour."

Everyone had gathered for the meeting, Lucy in Tom Barnes' place, and Cat seemed ready to explode. "You have our attention, Caterina," Robert said to her.

"Okay. Na'ama Shaham gave me a program she called a screener, but it's more appropriately a VI data pattern recognition program," Cat explained, her voice almost squeaking with excitement. "And I've been using it to compile data fragments from our dumping of the 33LA facility's records before we blew it up."

"Did you find something?", Jarod asked her.

"Yes, yes I did!", Cat shrieked in excitement. She hit a key. The system brought up a large starmap, showing a chunk of the local galactic region. An overlay showed known astro-political borders. An entire section of space became highlighted by a field. "According to the recompiled data, this area - in N2S7 the Dorei call the system at the center of this spot BTA-992260 - is the location of the Darglan Facility!"

That got everyone's attention. "You're sure?", Lucy asked.

"Positive!" Cat tapped several keys, bringing up text data. "I don't have all of the coordinates yet, I can't say which system, but the galactic coordinates I do have show it has to be somewhere around here!"

"Good work, Cat," Julia said, smiling.

"This is.. Incredible," Robert added. He looked over the map and felt a bit of a frown form on his face. "But look where it is."

"The edge of Nazi space," Locarno observed. "The Facility is probably outside of it going by the margin of error, but even then it's a hell of a lot closer to their core areas than ours in this universe."

"That's the downside," Cat admitted. "But it's no big deal. Either we take the long way around or… or maybe attempt a jump from N2S7? Or another universe. Then we can scan for the signs of a DT field and narrow our search."

"Cat, that's risky," Jarod pointed out. "Without something to lock onto, the spatial aspect of the jump gives us a wide margin of error. We could end up jumping right on the Reich border. Maybe even over it. Even if we don't violate their space, their patrols will notice us jumping in. They can't help but notice it."

"So we go the long way around," Cat said. "Or… or we send a probe or something…"

"If the Nazis got their hands on anything we could rig to lock jumps onto, they could reverse-engineer it," Lucy warned. "Maybe not make an IU drive from it, but there's no telling what problems we could get."

"Aye, lass," Scotty agreed. "It wouldnae be safe unless we warped directly there. An' they'd see us comin'."

"A cloaked ship could possibly make the trip," Julia pointed out. "Maybe one of our old Darglan light utility ships? Weaver, Rodriguez..."

"I can bring it up with Admiral Maran," Robert said. "He'd have to make the call."

"We've got to do this," Cat insisted. "This… the opportunity here! Once we have that Facility there's all sorts of Darglan technology we might be able to further replicate! More universe signatures to find!"

"And we could make sure the Nazis never get it," Angel added.

"Yeah, that too!"

"I'm sure Peter or Jasmine would be up to the mission," Julia said. "Jasmine's been doing good training with…"

They were interrupted by a tone from the bridge. Jupap's voice crackled in. "Captain, we're picking up a distress signal on all frequencies."

Robert blinked at that. "What?" He could see the others were as confused. "Where's it coming from?"

"Identifying… sir, it's coming from the… the Liberty, sir."

Jupap's announcement felt like a thunderbolt slamming into the room, draining it of all the positive enthusiasm Caterina's find had filled it with. "What?!" Robert stood up. "Feed it in here!"

Everyone turned and looked at the flatscreen monitor behind Robert. The image came alive with crackles of signal disruption. The command bridge of the ASV Liberty was showing through the signal problems..

It looked like a mess.

Flames licked up from electrical fires consuming control consoles in the background. Smoke was obscuring some of the other figures rushing around. In the center of the screen a female Dorei, with teal skin and dark blue spots, was looking right at them. Light blue blood oozed from a piece of metal that had gone through her left shoulder, her left arm now dangling uselessly at his side. A cut on her forehead was pouring thick blue blood into her purple eyes. "....out of nowhere," she was saying. "I repeat, this is Lieutenant Commander Anjema Torsama, Second Officer of the Liberty. The Fourth Fleet…" There was a burst of static that cut the signal briefly. "...heavy attack. We are in need…." Another burst of static. "....assistance. I'm in command… Admiral Lithgon and Cap-... -bury are dead. We've taken heavy casualties. Over three quarters of the Fourth…. destroyed. They're killing us! They're wiping… out!"

"Where's this signal coming from?!", Julia shouted.

"The vicinity of Krellan Nebula," Jupap answered.

"...out of the Nebula…. Impossible, but they did it! The ambush… overwhelming for-.... drives inoperable! We're…. slaughtered!"

Torsama looked off the screen. A voice, barely audible, screamed, "They're coming back!"

The Dorei woman nodded. "I repeat… Lieutenant Comm-... Anjema Torsama of the Lib-...We have been amb-... by a Reich fleet coming out of… -lan Nebula! There are hund-... of them… made them earn it, but we cannot st-.... -em! The Fourth Fleet is be-... annihilated! You must pre-.... -or invasion!" Torsama seemed to look to something slightly beyond the screen. "The Supreme One for-… us all and grant… mercy." She closed her eyes as tears started to flow down them. A moment later Torsama was thrown off her feet by the ship shaking beneath her. Cries and screams came over the line.

And then the entire image disappeared in a final and violent burst of static.

The Aurora crew simply stared at the empty screen for several minutes. "...what…" Caterina sniffled. "Oh my God, what just…."

"You heard her," Jarod said quietly. "The Nazis attacked them."

"The entire Fourth Fleet." Julia's voice was full of horror. Her face paled. "There were over two hundred starships in that fleet. A dozen dreadnoughts. The Liberty. The Agamemnon. The Argus."

"The Park was one of their scouts," Locarno reminded them all. "Ibraham was commanding her."

"Two hundred of our best ships," Robert gasped. He fell backward into his chair and nearly slid off of it and onto the ground. "Gone. It's… it's my fault. It's…"

Julia swallowed and looked to the others. "Okay. Okay, let's get to work. Jarod, Angel, Scotty, we have to have the ship combat ready, and combat ready now. Patrice, make sure your pilots are prepped for immediate launch."

Laurent nodded.

"I'll get medbay ready for combat casualties," Leo said, saving Julia from having to give that order.

She nodded in thanks and looked to Caterina, who was crying. "Cat. Cat, get a hold of yourself. I need constant long range sensor sweeps. We can't let them take us by surprise." When Cat didn't immediately reply, Julia stepped up to her and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Cat, sensor sweeps!"

"R-...right!", she answered. "Right, sensor sweeps!" She looked to Lucy. "I need you to make sure our systems are calibrated."

"I'll ensure our security personnel are ready for any contingency," Meridina said. "Commander Kane and his Marines are still on the station, but we'll get them back as soon as I depart for my office."

"Good." Julia nodded. "I'll get with Harris Station's quartermaster and make sure we've got a full combat load for extended operations. Alright everyone, we need to get to work!"

They filed out and Julia looked to Robert, who was still staring off into space. "It's my fault," he said. "I… I… this war… I made the decision about 33LA… this is my fault, Julie."

Julia put a hand on his shoulder. Her green eyes showed sympathy for him. "The crew needs you, Rob. I'm just the First Officer. You're the Captain. Everyone in here might be willing to accept me taking charge for the moment, but the other officers and the crew? They need to see Captain Robert Dale somber and ready for action. They need someone to show confidence. Okay? This is no time to feel guilty about things."

Robert closed his tear-filled eyes and drew in a breath. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. I…. I just…" He slammed his fist against his chair arm. "God damn them," he swore. "And damn me for… yes. You're right Julia." He stood from the chair and took another breath, trying to compose himself. "Make sure everything is ready. I need to get a hold of Admiral Maran and find out our orders."

"I'll wait for you on the bridge." Julia turned and left, leaving Robert to make the call.

An hour later everyone, junior officers and command staff, were watching as Robert emerged from the conference room. He had total composure now. There was no sign of the tears that had flowed from his eyes. No indications of the guilt within him, or of the feeling his nightmares were coming true. His face was locked in a stoic look of calm, collected command.

"We're ready for orders, Captain," Julia said, standing beside her chair with her hands at the small of her back.

Robert looked at her and nodded. He looked to everyone else. Ensign al-Rashad was sitting at the Auxiliary station nearest Sensors, where Cat had also regained emotional control. Jupap was at Communications and Lieutenant Luneri beside him at Secondary Tactical. Scotty stood beside where Lucy was seated at Engineering. Angel looked at him expectantly from Tactical. Commander Kane and Meridina stood to either side of her. Laurent was over by the port rear turbolift door. Jarod and Locarno were, of course, at Operations and Helm. And Leo was in the seat to the left of the Command Chair.

"Thank you for being here, everyone." Robert swallowed and walked up to his chair. He didn't sit down. "Commander Jarod, please put me on ship-wide address."

"Yes Captain." Jarod hit the appropriate keys. "You're on ship-wide."

"Attention, everyone. This is Captain Dale. I have an announcement to share with you all." Robert took in a short breath to steel his nerves. "We've confirmed that a Reich invasion fleet has entered Alliance space along the Krellan Nebula. The Fourth Fleet moved to intercept them, but were ambushed by an additional fleet of Reich warships that emerged from the nebula when the battle began."

Robert stopped speaking for the moment, knowing that his crew needed to digest this information. "Despite Admiral Lithgon's best efforts, the Liberty and her entire crew have been lost. Almost every ship that was with her was lost as well to overwhelming force. There are only a few surviving ships that managed to escape the battle. The Fourth Fleet has ceased to exist."

"In light of what has happened," he continued, "President Morgan has sent official notice. By order of a Joint Session of the Alliance Council, the United Alliance of Systems has formally declared war on the Third Reich. We are now at war with the Nazi Empire."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »


Streaks of green, blue, and amber energy criss-crossed the orbit of the planet called Trenik. Small fighter craft buzzed in every direction, fighting their own duels in the airless void in keeping their counterparts away from larger targets. Ships continued to streak through this fire, taking hits against their protective deflector fields that would lit up bright blue over and over, all seeking the safe distance from the planet's mass in order to escape from the ongoing conflict.

An Alakin warbird came up beside them. A winged ship of red coloring and yellow wings, the vessel was firing repeated blasts of blue energy from the particle cannons in its prow and main body. Green energy ran across its faltering shields repeatedly until they collapsed. Flame plumed from the red hull where the energy bolts and beams now struck the armored hull plating. Ahead of this winged warship a gray-colored vessel moved into position, pouring missile and energy fire into it and blocking its path and that of the smaller ships it was protecting. The gray vessel lacked the sleek beauty of its foe; it was boxy, with smoothed edges, and its hull slanted in the middle to a lower section that bore twin engine nacelles much like the gold-colored ones at the tips of the wings of the winged starship; save that instead of the gold, it was tipped with blue light and majority red in the bulk of the nacelle's surface.

And along the upper and lower armored hull plating of the ship was an insignia known and dreaded across the multiverse.

The hooked cross, black, set on a white circle in a red square.

The insignia of the Third Reich; the Nazi Empire.

The Nazi warship was clearly getting the better of its winged adversary, which was too busy protecting those helpless civilian ships beside it to maneuver freely. The Alakins did not back down from the fight, but it was a losing fight.

This changed when a series of sapphire bolts of energy slammed into the flickering shields of the Nazi cruiser. Amber bolts and beams played over the shields and overtaxed them, leaving them weakened to the blue-white sparks of light that now passed effortlessly to crash into the hull of the gray-hulled ship. Its weapons quieted. Energy and flame briefly erupted from its damaged hull before defense mechanisms staunched the wounds.

Undaunted, Starship Aurora continued her attack.

The azure-hulled starship loomed gracefully over the stricken winged ship. Again her bow cannons blazed with sapphire fury; again the Nazi cruiser's shields failed. This time her torpedoes were joined by further blue bolts and torpedoes from the winged ship. The damage nearly gutted the enemy ship.

"Sedan-class cruiser is turning away, she's badly damaged and trying to get out of the fight" Jarod reported on the bridge of the Aurora. The ship shook again; their wounded foe was firing at them in defiance. "Shields holding at sixty percent."

Robert kept an eye toward the tactical display of Trenik and its orbital spaces. "Angel, finish them off," he ordered.

"Exactly what I'm doing, sir," Angel answered from tactical. Under her control the Aurora's weapons continued to batter their foe. "Their shields are failing. A few more good hits and…"

"I've got more warp contacts coming in!" Caterina turned in her chair at the science station. "Subspace distortions are consistent with anti-matter pulse drives!"

"Great. More Nazis," Julia breathed from her seat at Robert's right.. "Jarod, what is our status on the evacuation?"

"The last evac ships are lifting off now," Jarod said. "The current convoy is going to warp in three… two… one!"

The civilian ships that had fled Trenik elongated one-by-one and disappeared; bound at warp flight speeds away from the raging battle.

The ship shuddered again. "Shields at fifty-seven percent," Jarod said.

"The Wakipa's shields are failing," Julia added. "Captain Dukap is having to maneuver his ship away from the fight."

On the screen the Alakin warbird pulled away in space, trying to avoid further fire from the burning Nazi heavy cruiser. Angel was still firing into it; another barrage from Aurora's pulse plasma cannons in the bow caused the starboard nacelle of the Nazi cruiser to explode.

A sense of elation went through Robert when the next spread of solar torpedoes crashed into the enemy ship. White energy erupted from within the Nazi cruiser's hull. A moment later, the remaining debris and scrap metal was a dead, hollowed hulk in the orbit of Trenik.

That wasn't Lamper's ship…, he thought, recalling their first contact with the Third Reich not half a year before. Even then he, and Captain Joachim Lamper, had agreed with each other that regardless of their ability to work together against pirates, war between their governments was inevitable. "We are your nightmare and you are our's," Lamper had said.

And he had proven distressingly right.

"What about the Bolivar?", Robert asked, referring to the FedStar heavy cruiser that had accompanied them to Trenik.

"Still engaged to the other Nazi cruiser," Julie answered. "It looks like they're winning."

"Signal Wakipa, tell them to fall back to the last convoy, we'll keep the enemy reinforcements off of them."


"Oh my God…" Cat looked up. "Those warp signatures! Captain, one of them…"

Several more Nazi warships dropped out of warp ahead of them. Robert recognized four as Z-2500 destroyers. Their shield-disruptor torpedoes could pose a threat, but in general he wasn't afraid of even four of them, not with Aurora's advanced technology. More intimidating was another of the Nazi cruisers.

But even more intimidating was the big ship in the center of the formation.

"Confirmed. New contacts are led by an Aryan-class dreadnought," Jarod said, with far more calm than the situation merited.

Robert swallowed. They had faced one over two weeks ago. It hadn't been a conventional fight, and they'd gotten away after laming the dreadnought with a ram by the habitat vessel Tikvah. But this…

"We can't stay here," he said. "Evasive maneuvers!"

Locarno did what he could, and what he could do was very fancy flying with a kilometer-long starship. But they weren't a light ship that could shift and dodge incoming fire with the ease of an attack ship.

Missiles erupted from the enemy cruiser, joined by disruptor fire. Their interceptors met the incoming missiles and shot them all down. The disruptor shots played over their shields without effect. "Shields at fifty-six percent," Jarod said.

And then the dreadnought fired.

Its three spinal-mount super-disruptors were right on target. Their emerald beams lanced right into Aurora's shields. The ship shook violently from the resulting strain on her defensive systems. Communications exploded in sparks. The Alakin lieutenant manning the station, Jupap, fell back from the station with the skin around his hand digits smoldering.

"Shields down to thirty percent!"

At the Engineering station, Lucy Lucero looked up. "We've lost one of the primary shield generators, diverting power to secondaries! Port shields have lost cohesion!"

The ship kept rocking as disruptor fire poured into the weakened port shields, scouring hull and tearing into the armor of the Aurora. "Multiple hull breaches," Jarod warned. "Armor self-repair systems are working to cover the damage."

"Bring the bow to bear!", Robert shouted.

Locarno did so, enabling another shot from the enemy dreadnought to miss. Behind them the Bolivar moved up. Its design was arrow-like, long with sharp, sleek aesthetics. Phaser fire erupted from the cannons in the ship's prow. It was moving in fast with its gravitic drive lit up an intense blue.

Aurora's fire joined the Bolivar's. Angel let the Reich dreadnought have it with a full barrage from the bow pulse plasma cannons, the bow-facing phasers, and the torpedo launchers. Bolivar's own armaments continued to lay into the Reich ship.

But unlike the cruiser, the dreadnought's shields didn't fail from the barrage. "Enemy shields still at ninety-two percent effectiveness," Jarod said.

"Sweet Mother of God, how much punishment can those things take?!", Angel shouted, even as she poured more fire into the enemy dreadnought.

The Aryan-class dreadnought opened up again. This time, her target was the Bolivar. Bolivar jinked to avoid the super-disruptor shots and evaded two; the beam that made impact slammed into the ship's shields and destabilized them.

Unfortunately, this provided ample opportunity for the enemy Z-2500 starships to slip in. Intense bursts of white energy came from their blow emplacements. "Disruptor torpedoes!", Jarod shouted.

Aurora's interceptors fired, seeking to intersect the incoming torpedoes with particle bursts that would detonate them. But the energy fields propelling the projectiles - and providing them shield-disrupting power - kept most from being destroyed.

Again Aurora shook hard. The first two torpedoes slammed against her bow shields and caused them to flicker and degrade. A third slammed into the ventral hull of the primary section. The ship's shaking was so intense that the crew were being bruised by their harnesses. A cry of pain caused Robert to turn and see where sparks were still flying from tactical. "Angel!", he called out.

Angel looked up. Her hands moved gingerly back to their station as emergency systems restored the control panel; she'd suffered an electrical burn to her hands. "I'm fine," she lied. "Dammit, we've lost two of the bow pulse plasma cannons."

"Bow shields have lost cohesion!"

But what had happened to them didn't compare to Bolivar. Her shields failed completely on the first torpedo strike; four more of the torpedoes slammed into her one by one. Flame and energy erupted from the crushed prow of the cruiser and her gravitic drive started to die down.

The Nazi dreadnought fired again. And she didn't miss. All three super-disruptor beams bored into the Bolivar.

The FedStar cruiser blew apart in a white fireball.

More shots were striking Aurora's hull even as this occurred. "Bow shields aren't stopping anything!", Lucy shouted.

"We've got damage on all decks in the bow area sections!", Jarod added. "Hull breaches in Decks 3 through 10 and 12 through 15!"

"Come about! Get us distance!", Robert shouted. Locarno swung the Aurora away from the monster dreadnought, turning to port to present the starboard shields.

Just in time; the dreadnought fired again. Aurora shook hard. "Shield systems down to twenty-five percent," Jarod warned.

"Incoming disruptor torpedoes!" The Z-2500s again.

Despite the injuries to her hands Angel was able to use her phaser cannons to blast all but two of the torpedoes away before they slammed into Aurora's shields and exploded. Because the shields were still strong on that side the torpedoes didn't collapse them and the fire that poured into the starboard shield was resisted. For the moment.

"Captain Dale, you must withdraw!" The voice over the tactical comm line was Dukap's, identifiable by the chirping nature of Alakin speech translated into Human vocabulary. "Wakipa can cover the last convoy until its escape."

"Captain Dukap, your ship's shields are out, you won't last!"

"No. But our people must get to safety. And the fleet cannot afford to lose the Aurora as well. Withdraw, now!"

Robert clenched his teeth. Like most captains in the Alliance service, Dukap had seniority in rank and in rate. Most officers would consider his orders binding.

But it rankled. The idea of leaving someone behind.

The ship shuddered violently again. This time it was secondary tactical that exploded in sparks. "That dreadnought still has a bead on us," Jarod pointed out. "Our shields are collapsing!"

"The entire shield system is failing!", Lucy added.

Robert knew he had no choice. "Recall all surviving fighters! Now! Locarno, full impulse, break off from the fight! Jarod, have the transporters beam as many of our escape pods in as they can while we pass by."

Aurora broke away from the engagement. Her Mongoose fighters followed, coming in for a landing as she moved away from the planet. Around them intact escape pods, from ejected fighter pilots, began to disappear in columns of white light.

"The dreadnought's turning toward the planet. Enemy cruiser…" They shook again from another hit. One of the auxiliary stations sparked. "...is trailing. Two of the Z-2500s are pursuing us and trying to lock torpedoes again."

"Fire aft weapons, make them break off."

At Angel's command the rear-facing pulse plasma cannons fired. The two emplacements sent repeated bursts of sapphire energy that the nimble dagger-shaped warships jinked to avoid. A spread of torpedoes found one and battered its shields down enough that the last two torpedoes hit bare hull, leaving the ship a flaming wreck.

Behind them, the Reich cruiser engaged the Wakipa. The stricken Alakin warbird poured fire from her particle cannons into the fresh enemy. It was to no avail beyond keeping their attention as the final group of civilian ships broke from lower orbit and approached a safe position to warp out.

The dreadnought's disruptors lashed out. The spinal super-disruptors struck home on one of the solid-hulled civilian transports. The civilian ship literally disintegrated under the attack until it disappeared in a white ball of energy. Several of the other ships took hits and began spewing flames and atmosphere, their safety systems overtaxed by the assault.

Another barrage would have destroyed most of the remaining ships. But Captain Dukap maneuvered his ship to intercept that fire. Instead the fury of the Aryan-class ship vented against the armored hull of the Wakipa. Flames and debris spewed forth from the wounds that resulted in the warbird. But the Alakin ship defiantly retorted with torpedoes and particle cannon fire that battered the shields on the cruiser.

The Reich warships began a maneuver to get around the dying Wakipa and get at the civilians she was protecting. But they were too late. Robert felt a surge of elation at seeing the Wakipa's surviving charges start going to warp, one after the other. In the span of about five seconds, they were out of the system.

Wakipa turned toward her foes. But that was all she would do. Several beams and bursts of emerald disruptor fire tore into the warbird. The super-disruptors of the dreadnought ripped her guts out and sliced her wings off. A missile found her engineering spaces a moment later.

All Robert and his friends could do was watch as Captain Dukap and his crew of four hundred plus Alakin died in a white fireball of matter-antimatter annihilation.

Nobody immediately noted that the Reich destroyer pursuing them had decided not to risk the fate of her sister ship and had turned away. "Laurent's last flight is coming in," Julia said, if just to end the stunned silence on the bridge.

"Set course for Harris Station, Mister Locarno," Robert said quietly.

"The Reich ships are taking up orbits over the Alakin colony sites," Jarod reported. "They're firing."

Robert forced himself to watch the result. Emerald beams and bursts of energy slicing into the surface of the healthy garden world that the Alakin had settled just eight months before. Entire towns and cities being blasted into ruins in a matter of seconds.

Just as they had in his dreams for months.

"How… how many?", Robert asked. "How many didn't make it out?"

Jarod checked his numbers. Probably just for show, Robert figured; he would know the numbers in his head already. "There were still sixty-two thousand five hundred and sixty-four civilians on the planet and two thousand Alakin on that transport that was destroyed. Counting the nine thousand we beamed up, that leaves roughly forty thousand survivors from Trenik."

"Oh God…." Robert felt like throwing up.

Caterina looked at them with tear-filled eyes. "There are no more life signs coming from the planet's surface," she said. "They're… they're all dead."

"Flight deck reports all fighters have landed," Julia said, trying not to think about Caterina's report. "Commander Laurent is still counting casualties to the flight group."

Robert buried his face in his palms. "Get us back to Harris," he ordered, speaking through his trembling hands. "Maximum warp."

Locarno obeyed immediately. Aurora jumped to warp, leaving behind her victorious enemies and the thousands they had failed to save.

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Art of Diplomacy"

Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 23 July 2641. Captain Robert Dale recording. We're still ten minutes out from Harris Station. Repairs to the ship have proceeded as fast as Mister Scott and his engineers can manage. The hull breaches caused ten casualties, six fatalities. We were able to recover all of our ejected flight crews, but we still lost eight pilots. This means I've lost roughly ninety-seven crew since the war started, another four hundred and eighty wounded. And as for the war…..

We're losing.

Since Krellan Nebula the Reich's warfleets and armies have been relentless. Every colony within thirty light years of the Nebula has been abandoned or destroyed. With human colonies the Reich lands troops and seizes them; if they're non-Human, they're bombed from orbit. Thousands of innocent Alakin, Dorei, and other species have died in just the past few weeks.

And it's all my fault.

I started this war at 33LA. I know I did. Everyone tries to tell me this was inevitable. But we would have had more time if only I had held back at 33LA. If only I'd canceled the operation the moment we had the security breaches that Changeling caused.

All of this blood is on my hands too. And I'm not sure how well I can live with myself any more.

Robert looked up from his computer monitor at the tone at his ready room door. He hit a key on the hard-light keyboard to file the log. "Come in," he said.

The door slid open and Julia stepped in. She was holding a digital pad in her hand. Robert accepted it and moved his hand over the hard-light interface to check the data. "Looks like we won't be spending any major time in the drydock," he said. "This time."

Julia nodded. "Yeah. And Leo wants you to know that Angel's burns weren't severe. She's getting dermal regeneration done now. She should be cleared for bridge duty tomorrow."

"Good." Robert hput a stencil to the pad interface and signed his name in holographic light. A final stenzil press to the surface filed away the official damage report. "How's the crew holding up?"

Julia slid into the seat across his desk. "Morale could be better," she admitted. "People miss their friends that have gone down in the fight."


"Everyone's wondering about these reports that the Ninth Fleet beat them back at Grenaris," Julia continued. "If we managed to pull out a win here, maybe we can hold them back before they get to Harris."

"They'd already be to Harris if not for the Phosako," Robert observed. "Their attack on the Reich's fleet bases after Krellan Nebula is the only reason the Reich's blitz hasn't gotten that far yet."

"Probably," Julia agreed. "So that's a win for us, I guess. We're the ones who made first contact with the Phosako and made sure they would see us as natural allies."

"Not quite natural, if you remember what Commander Kelsuulo was telling us ," Robert pointed out.

Julia remained silent for a minute. "The crew needs you to be a leader right now," she reminded him for the upteenth time. "They don't need to see you wallow about in self-pity and guilt."

"My decision caused this war," Robert pointed out. "If we'd only had more time…"

"It wouldn't have mattered if the Reich had found that Darglan data facility," she said. "Then they'd have eventually found the Facility Cat's talking about. And we wouldn't even know it existed yet."

Robert went quiet at that. "You think we were the only ones who could have done that mission?' he asked.

"I think that if you had delayed, there was a good chance the Reich would have realized something was up and would have intensified patrols there, those patrols might have found it. Probably would have eventually." Julia leaned forward in the seat and reached across the desk, settling her hand on his. "I think, Robert, that we had already tipped our hand. You had to act then and there before the Nazis could respond."

"So you would have made the same call I did?"

"About that? Yes." She shook her head. "I would have told Zack about Draynal, though."

"Yeah." Robert sighed. His decision to not speak on the suspicion he and Meridina had felt, without evidence granted, that Lieutenant Draynal was not whom he had seemed had been why Zack had not paid any mind to his "last-minute" (and forged) transfer to Koenig for the 33LA mission… which had allowed the Changeling to sabotage the ship and cause the battle with the Nazis at 33LA. A call that he regretted bitterly, as it had contributed to Zack Carrey's alienation from the others and ultimately his desire to depart Aurora and get a different assignment for his ship, the Koenig. "I miss Zack," Robert admitted. "If he were here, he'd probably put an arm around my neck and try to talk me into a baseball practice or something."

"He'd know what to say, that's for sure," Julia agreed. She tried not to think about how Zack might feel over the situation between them, though. Sometimes she still had trouble accepting his confession of romantic love for her. "Anyway, I should get back out there. We're coming up on Harris Station by now, I'm sure."

"Probably" Robert agreed. "Maybe we'll have some good news…."

"Jarod to Dale," came the voice of the ship's operations officer. Jarod was presumably manning the bridge while Julia was in here. "We're arriving at Harris. You… should come and see this."

Robert and Julia exchanged worried looks and went to the exit. They arrived on the bridge, where Jarod stood up from the command chair. His eyes were still fixed on the holoviewer. They turned and faced it.

Harris Station was still burning.

It wasn't destroyed. They could verify that in the first several seconds. The core of the station was completely intact, as were many of the arms reaching out from the center to provide docking ports. But several of those arms were wrecks of metal and debris. Half of the drydock facilities were visibly destroyed.

Even worse was the number of ships that had been laid to waste. A Dorei starbird to their left looked completely dead. Several other ships were in various stages of disrepair.

And in one of the drydock berths, the dreadnought Achilles had been reduced to a burning, twisted wreck.

"What the hell…?!", Julia gasped.

Robert took his seat while surveying the destruction. "Jarod, signal Admiral Relini. Tell her that we're ready to dispatch rescue teams to assist."

"Sending the signal now."

"Looks like we've got some friends here," Locarno observed. Robert looked toward the distance and noticed what he meant.

Hovering near Harris Station was a fairly-sized flotilla of starships. He'd seen them before: Phosako vessels.

"Hell of a way to greet our allies," Locarno muttered.

"It doesn't exactly make us look good," Robert agreed.

"I'm reading debris from Reich attack ships," Jarod noted.. "It looks like this was some sort of mass raid. I guess our side got some before they could retreat."

"Yeah." Robert shook his head. They kept losing ground, day by day, and now this? Harris Station was the main fleet base in S4W8. And the Nazis had just given it a hard drubbing.

"Admiral Relini is responding," Jarod said.

The Dorei woman appeared on their holoviewer. She was blue-skinned and teal-spotted, with long purple hair bound up in a series of bunns at the back of her head. Piercing blue eyes looked at Robert and his crew, and they were fraught with tension and maybe nervousness. "Captain Dale." She didn't look pleased, or even relieved. "I haven't had a chance to read over your report from Trenik."

"Bolivar and Wakipa were destroyed," Robert answered. "We got most of the evac ships out before the main Nazi squadron arrived." He swallowed. "They had a dreadnought."

Relini nodded. "I see. God help them all." She looked distant for a moment. "As you can see, we are not in any condition to give you proper repairs."

"According to my operations officer our self-repair systems can handle the damage."

"That is good. I'll have Station Control relay a station-keeping position for you. You'll be wanted over on the station in a few hours, I imagine, so you may want rest."

Robert thought that curious. In general Relini and Admiral Rutsinov had not wanted him to be around for strategy meetings of any kind, not that he had particularly minded. "Admiral, I've never attended anything before…"

"And you won't be now," she answered. "[ii]But I have been informed they'll want to see you.[/i]"


"President Morgan and Admiral Maran," she replied. "They're due to arrive in a few hours to meet with the leaders of the Phosako for a war summit.

Suddenly the Reich raid on Harris made more sense. "Then this raid…"

"Undoubtedly an attempt to forestall the meeting, or a mis-timed effort to exploit it for an attack. Either way, it will progress as planned, and the President has relayed to me that he will have a personal meeting with you to discuss a report from your science officer."

Robert's eyes widened. "Oh. Oh yes, that one. I'll be ready for their arrival and when they call for me, Admiral."

"See that you are, Captain. Relini out."

"Morgan must have seen our report about the new Facility," Julia said. "Think this is a plan to do something about it?'

"I don't know," Robert answered. "We'll see."

"You look like hell," Julia pointed out to him. "You should go and get some sleep."

"Don't need it." "Didn't want it" was the more truthful reply, but he didn't say that. What good was sleep when his mind was constantly wracked by nightmares?

Julia gave him a stern look. "No sleep means poor judgement, Robert. Get some. We need you rested."

Ah. It was that look. Robert sighed and nodded. "Alright. I'll go get some shuteye. Call me if anything happens."

"You'll be the first to know," Julia lied. And he knew full well she wouldn't call him for anything short of a Nazi attack.

After being released from the bridge Caterina had rushed back to Lab 1 to check on the decryption of the Darglan data from the 33LA facility. It had become her main past-time since the war began; they needed to find that alternate Facility before the Nazis got any indications of it. And since its acquisition is what helped lead to the war anyway…. it felt like a way to justify all of the death that Cat had seen over the past three weeks.
There were a few more universe designations from the data. Some technical schematics. A late entry to the Omega Threats list, even. But nothing more on the coordinates of the S4W8 Facility. If only we knew where it was, exactly. We could find a way to get to it without alerting the Nazis…

The door swished open and admitted Angel. Her hands were still bandaged to protect the dermal regeneration that had healed her burns. "It's getting late, sis," she said to Cat. "You should get to sleep."

"Don't wanna sleep," Cat said. "Too busy trying to find that Facility."

"You've been running that program for weeks. And you admitted it'd take months to reconstruct everything." Angel went up and hugged her little sister from behind. "It'll still be here tomorrow."

"But don't you see. This… this is why so many people are dying now." Cat shook her head as tears came to her eyes. She thought of all those innocent Alakin on Trenik. "It'll mean nothing if we can't find it. We have to before they do."

"And we will. But not if you're too sleepy to do your job right," Angel pointed out.

Cat couldn't argue that. "Give me a few minutes," she said. "And I'll go to bed. I promise."

Angel nodded. "Still having bad dreams, Cat?"

"I'm not always having nightmares, Angel," Caterina protested. "And sometimes they're a bit of both and weird. I keep having these dreams of being chased through the ship by a big rock monster carrying a club."

Angel smirked at that. "Really?'

"Yeah and there's this really tall English guy running alongside me, wearing this really cool purple jacket and tie. " She shrugged. "But I can never remember much else when I dream of that."

"Dreams are like that sometimes." She felt relieved her sister was having something other than nightmares about the beating she received on the Battlestar Pegasus. Angel looked over one of the consoles and tapped a few keys. "Another Omega-level threat, huh?"

"Yeah. Must have been an extra one that our old Facility wasn't updated with."

Angel brought up an image. It was a small object that soon expanded into a humanoid form. "....what is that?"

"I'm not sure. It looks like some kind of gem-based life-form that form their own bodies, presumably made of hard-light or bio-replicated mass," Caterina answered. "I'm not even sure how such a species could evolve naturally. It might be artificially constructed."

"Somehow they don't sound more dangerous than Daleks…" Angel tapped a key and the humanoid figure was shrunk to stand beside a planet that became gradually hollowed out. "....unless that's what they do to planets. Okay, yeah, they're as bad as Daleks, I guess."

"A lot of those Omega level threats are really scary," Caterina observed. "But I guess you don't need to be one to do horrible things."


"How many colonies have we lost?", Cat said. "how many people have died already? And we're just a couple weeks into this war. What if… what if we can't stop them? They've got so many ships…"

"We'll stop them, Cat," Angel insisted. "Remember, they can't hit our shipyards. We'll just keep building ships and sending them through."

"Unless they manage to get enough debris to recover our IU drives," Cat pointed out. "Or if they get their hands on that Facility. Then they can attack us everywhere."

"That's not going to happen," Angel insisted. "Now, finish up what you're doing and go to bed. Okay?"

Cat sighed. "Okay."

Robert was grateful. He had been so exhausted he had slept without a nightmare.

Which was a good thing given the sight he woke up to.

The remains of Ninth Fleet.

He stood on the bridge and watched the wounded dreadnought Churchill limp into one of the few surviving drydocks she could be taken in by. The ship, from the British Stellar Commonwealth of Universe C5O2, had clearly been put through the wringer and she was evidently one of the luckier ones.

"Sixty-four ships," Locarno sighed from the helm. "Out of how many?"

"One hundred and eighty," Jarod said somberly.

"At this rate we're going to run out of ships faster than we run out of colonies," Angel muttered.

"At least the Park survived again," Julia noted, seeing the small Darglan-model utility ship take up a small dock near the core of the station. "Ibraham's been doing great keeping her alive."

Robert allowed himself a slight grin. Despite everything, the fact they hadn't lost everyone they knew at Krellan Nebula to the Nazi attack had been a bit of a silver lining in this terrible dark cloud that had settled over their lives as of late. "Hopefully the Ninth Fleet gave the Nazis a bloody-enough nose that they'll have to back off for a while," he mused.

"Interuniversal jump point forming," Jarod said. "I'm getting massive power signatures coming through. One of them… it's the Kentan."

And it was clear why. The Kentan was a massive vessel, single-hulled, with warp pod nacelles on either side and slightly angled upward by thick armored pylons. Launch decks on the top and bottom of the ship allowed for the massive Gersallian flagship to disgorge hundreds of starfighters; along the sides of the ship were massive particle cannon emplacements joined by legions of retro-fitted phaser strips.

"The flagship of the Gersallian fleet," Julia murmured. "A dreadnought-carrier. Who would have thought of something like that?"

"The Gersallians," Robert answered drolly.

It wasn't alone. Beside it was a very large Dorei starbird, nearly the length of Aurora but much wider and with far more weapons on her. "That's the Dormari," Jarod observed.

"Flagship of the Dorei Federation," Robert murmured. "Named for the founder of the Federation and its first President."

Behind these ships a third one came out. It was the closest to the design of the Aurora, with a clear distinction between the primary and drive hulls but no neck or slant like Federation or Nazi ships. "The Cincinnatus." Robert shook his head and smiled. "Flagship of the Earth Confederacy. I always wondered if we'd see her."

"It looks like someone's pulling out all of the stops." Julia marveled at the colossal ships now approaching Harris.

The large dreadnought joined the other flagships in taking up station near the station. The flagship of the Earth Confederacy of H1E1, its purpose here was fairly clear by the extra ID signal being given off. It had a special designation today: "PTN".

Presidential Transport - Naval.

"Looks like the President is here," Robert said, standing up. "I'd better go get ready. Julia, you have the bridge."

It was four hours before Robert was escorted into the Admiral's Office of the station. He found Morgan and Maran standing with Admiral Relini and… yes…. Admiral Davies. Robert showed no reaction to the hard look he got from the latter. "Captain Dale." Morgan gestured to a seat and sat down himself at the head of the kidney-shaped table. Robert was seated in the inward curve of the table, the President and the others on the opposite side. "First off, I would like to extend my gratitude for you for the fine work you did in the unsettled areas of N2S7. Princess Syrina and Director Anjila have informed me of their gratitude for your peaceful contact with the Colonies."

"And yet you have made an enemy of that machine civilization with a direct assault on their positions," Davies pointed out. This won him cold looks from the rest of the room. "You seem to be making our Alliance a lot of enemies lately, Captain Dale."

Morgan's look made it clear that he didn't appreciate Davies' remarks. Again Robert got a bad feeling about the tension in the room. It reminded him of when the Defense Committee had basically exonerated him over 33LA. He'd been given a reprimand, yes, but compared to the clear inclination of Davies and Defense Minister Hawthorne to remove him and the others from the Aurora, it had barely counted as a slap on the wrist. And Davies had not been happy.

"Additionally, your rescue of the people from Tikvah has been a morale boost," Morgan continued. "I'm informed that Arik Shaham and his people are already providing useful political intelligence on the Third Reich and further contacts with other Remnant bands that are proving vital intelligence as well."

"Thank you, Mister President," Robert answered.

"I'm sure you have questions about your new orders," Morgan said.

"I imagined we would be kept with Ninth Fleet," Robert answered. "Or at least under Admiral Relini's command. Aurora might not be a match for a dreadnought, but we can fight pretty much every other Reich warship we've seen so far. And we're able to evacuate thousands of colonists more than most ships our size."

"All true," Maran conceded. "but that's not where we need you."


"Effectively immediately, Captain Dale, you are being re-assigned," Morgan said. "We're pulling you and your crew off of the front."

Robert sat silently for a moment as he digested that news. He was disgusted to feel some relief upon hearing it. To be away from the soul-grinding mixture of battle terror and foreboding between desperate combats. To not have to worry about whether he was about to warp into a Nazi trap, or have their attack ships de-cloak and fire their shield-disrupting torpedoes at him. They'd be out of the war.

And leaving hundreds, thousands, of other crews to suffer that in their stead.

"Is there an issue with my performance?", Robert asked.

It was clear that Davies would have answered "Yes", but Morgan shook his head. It was Maran who spoke. "No, Captain. You have performed as well as could be expected given the situation."


"Captain, you were never meant to simply be used for field duty in the Stellar Navy," Morgan said. "Your ship was intended to perform missions my office deems vital. Right now, we need you elsewhere, not here on the front."

Robert considered that. He still didn't like it, but he could at least understand it and see it wasn't meant to be a punishment. "I understand, Mister President." He looked at Maran. "My new orders, then?"

"I'm transferring one of the Alliance's best diplomats to Aurora," Morgan explained. "You'll be supporting him in a crucial series of negotiations."

Robert nodded and swallowed. "So… I'm going to be working with diplomats then," He asked.

"Yes," Morgan said. "It's a vital mission, Captain. The outcome of this war depends on these talks."

Robert realized what he meant. "This is to gain allies, then?"

"It is." Morgan looked at his admirals, who nodded. "I'm not going to lie to you, Captain. It looks bad. We'd only just begun to ramp up fleet production, and if I push the members of the Alliance too far…. we might have some of them withdraw."

"Not everybody thinks we should be fighting this war," Davies pointed out.

"I understand the political situation might be… problematic, sir," Robert agreed. "So you can't mobilize fully for this war."

"Not yet," Morgan said. "Because as things stand, some member states of the Alliance are arguing for us to withdraw from S4W8 instead of waging a major interstellar war to stay."

"But that won't work. If the Reich finds the Darglan facility here…."

"I know, Captain, I know," Morgan answered. He barely glanced toward Davies, who kept a hard look on his face. "But not everyone believes that is worth the price of a war. They don't think the risk is too great. So I have to be careful about how much I push the other states. And that means we need allies."

Robert nodded. "And you want me to help win them over to our side."

"Yes. You'll be supporting our negotiator."

"Where do I pick him up?", Robet asked.

"He's already here." Morgan hit a key. "Send him in."

The door to the side entrance opened. Robert turned in time to see the figure walk in, wearing a purple robe with blue trim over a white vest and trousers. He realized he recognized the figure. "Mastrash Ledosh." He nodded and grinned. "It's good to see you again, sir."

"A sentiment I agree with, Captain Dale." Ledosh nodded. He looked to the President. "It will be my honor, President Morgan, to work beside Captain Dale on your behalf and that of the Alliance."

Robert glanced over in time to see Davies' look turn into an open scowl of hostility. He clearly thought very little of this appointment.

Robert, however, thought far better. This was Meridina's mentor. One of the leaders of her Order of Life Force Knights, trained in the same powers as she was, and a capable diplomat who had joined the Gersallian negotiators that helped write the Alliance charter and constitution. He was, arguably, one of the key figures in the foundation of the Alliance. "I'm looking forward to working with you again, Mastrash," Robert said. "So, where are we going?"

"We're still pursuing diplomatic endeavors on multiple fronts," Morgan explained. "But for now, we have a crucial summit for you to join."


"Sol System. Universe S5T3."

Robert blinked. "You're looking to negotiate with… but they'll never…"

"Yes," was the answer. "And we will be negotiating with the purpose of winning the support of the Federation and Klingon Empire." Ledosh had some optimism in his voice. "The Light be willing, we may even win their full alliance and their entry into the war with the Third Reich."

Robert sat in stunned silence. "You… really think we could get the Federation to join the war? That doesn't sound like them. They follow their Prime Directive pretty closely."

"I have studied their history," Ledosh noted. "So I am familiar with their General Order #1 and how it was shaped by events like the issue of the Valakians and Menk. I agree that the Federation is very stringent in its application of the Prime Directive. However, it is my hope to show them that, their penchant for non-intervention aside, the potential of the Third Reich to gain interuniversal technology makes their participation vital."

Robert put it all together. "And since we're the ones who've determined that there's a Facility near their space, we're perfect for demonstrating those facts." Another realization came. "But, for the Federation and Klingons to join the war…"

"....they would need IU drives, yes," Morgan said. "The Council is willing to accept that as a term."

"You're… you're talking about…"

"....giving away our monopoly on the technology, yes," Davies answered. "Unfortunately, Captain Dale, we have a war to win now. Prices must be paid. By all of us."

Robert processed that. He realized this was not the only group of governments that the offer may be given to. It had been presumed that the Alliance would only share IU tech in very special circumstances. Now… they'd be giving it to other powers in exchange for support in the war. Powers that could potentially be at odds with them one day.

No wonder Davies was so upset with him.

"I will transfer to your ship shortly," Ledosh said. "I hope to depart for the Federation capital by the end of the day."

"Yes," Robert said. "Of course." He looked to Morgan. "Is there anything else, sir?"

"Nothing, Captain Dale," Morgan said. "You're dismissed. Good luck and Godspeed."

Robert nodded and left with Ledosh. Once they were out of the door Ledosh bowed his head. "Allow me to get my things."

"Of course," Robert answered.

Julia had left Jarod in control of the bridge while she went to her office to look over the repair paperwork. As always, Scotty had filed his in record time, and Leo had filed the medical reports on their casualties. Five of the wounded had debilitating injuries that would end their service. Julia felt a twist in her gut at the names; three of them were denizens of New Liberty.

She knew she was supposed to feel equally bad for all crew members, but there was an extra hurt for those from New Liberty. They were, after all, "her people". She had personally helped in the rescue of so many of them over the years. To know that they had lost some of those people, whether to death or debilitating injury, meant more strangers on the Aurora. "The day's going to come," she murmured to herself, thinking of what it would be like when there were no New Liberty-ers left on the crew.

"IU radio transmission for you, Commander," Jarod said over the intercom. "It's Commander Carrey."

Julia felt some pleasure at that. "Relay it to my office." She looked at her screen and grinned wearily when Zack's smiling face appeared on the screen. "Hey Zack. How are you doing?'

"We're hanging in there," he answered. "Tom's stopped flinching whenever he sees a Marine from Galactica now."

"That's good to hear," she said "No Cylons, I hope?"

"No, the toasters are keeping their distance. We gave them a good bloody nose at Caprica. I think they might just back off until we get to safety, but they're evil religious robots, so who knows what they're thinking?" Zack chuckled and shook his head. "Nah, nothing wrong out here, it's you guys I'm worried about. I've heard about what happened."

"Oh, yeah," she answered. "Yeah, it's been rough."

"I hear from Admiral Maran that our support convoy might be delayed another week," he said. "And there won't be a permanent escort beyond Koenig."

"Given how many ships we're losing, I'm afraid it's not avoidable," Julia answered sadly. "Zack… it's a good thing you're out there. It's been horrible here. The Nazis have killed hundreds of thousands of alien colonists so far."

"Dammit," he answered. A bust of static went through the line. "And it looks like Tom's adjustment to our comm systems is going a bit wacky. We really could use Aurora for long range comms, I'm afraid our array has issues maintaining real-time connections.."

"I know. But duty is duty. And speaking of that, Robert should be back from meeting the President soon."

"Well, hopefully you all have a safer mission coming," Zack answered. "It's selfish of me to admit it, but I'd sleep better knowing you were off the front. Tell Rob I said hello, right? And give him a big hug. I'm sure he's beating himself up over this."

"I had to pull the whip away to stop him from self-flagellating," Julia answered. "Verbally, anyway."

"Yeah. And mind giving Cat a hug too? From me and Tom. Oh, and Starbuck wanted me to tell Cat 'hello' for her too."

"I'll pass that along," Julia said, allowing herself to smile widely for the first time in a couple of weeks. "I hope you make it safely to Alliance space soon, Zack."

"So do we. I'll pass on word to Roslin and Adama about the convoy delays. They'll understand."


"Alright. I've got a meeting with Adama coming up soon, I've got to vamoose. I'll call again when I can. Carrey out." Zack's face disappeared, replaced by the torch insignia of the Allied Systems.

It's good to see him smiling again, Julia thought. She started to get back to work. At least until Robert called for her to come to the command staff's conference room.

"So that's it?", Jarod asked, the staff now meeting in the conference room. "We're off the front?:

Robert nodded. "We're doing diplomatic detail now."

"Why do I get the feeling Davies is behind this?", Angel muttered bitterly.

"I get the feeling he'd still rather have us cashiered and the Aurora turned over to a 'proper' crew," Robert answered. "No, this is President Morgan."

"I am rather pleased to hear it is Mastrash Ledosh who will handle the diplomacy," Meridina noted. "He is an excellent choice."

"Yeah." Robert nodded.

"I'm just glad to be getting out of the war," Leo admitted. "I'm tired of having to put people back together." The look on his face belied the half-lie he'd just told; his real reason evidently had more to do with when he could put people back together, not the act of doing it.

"That's why it's so important that this mission succeed," Robert said. "The Alliance needs help. Any kind of help. Getting the Federation and Klingons to give us at least material support would go a long way toward that."

"So we're basically the British asking for Lend-Lease, right?", Cat inquired.

"That could be how it goes," Robert said. "But we'll take what we can."

"Well, good to know they still have some confidence in us," Julia observed. "Is there anything else?"

"Nothing at the moment."

"We still don't have a replacement for Koenig?", Jarod asked.

"Apparently not," Robert answered. "We need every ship we can get at the front, so it makes sense we don't get a replacement when leaving the front. He checked the time. "Mastrash Ledosh should be ready now. Time to head out to the bridge."

Ledosh arrived on the bridge within a minute of everyone getting back into places. "I am ready to depart, Captain," he said. "If you lock your jump drive on to the vessel Pillar of Light, it will bring you to the Sol System of S5T3."

"This mission's been in planning for a while then, if they're already at the Federation's Earth," Robert said. The Alliance did have an embassy on Earth, but for obvious reasons it did not maintain anything that a jump drive could lock onto. No tethering probes, no vessels on station with jump drives capable of being locked onto. A concession, and an honest one, to Federation security.

"Yes," Ledosh said. "But it has taken time to get the meeting set up. They will be ready shortly."

"Alright then. Jarod, go ahead and set us to Universe S5T3. Get Pillar of Light's drive code out of the database and lock on."

"Doing so now," he answered. After several seconds he hit a key and nodded. "Lock confirmed. Ready to generate jump point."


The Aurora generated a jump point that tore through the very fabric of reality between universes. The ship accelerated through and decelerated as it exited.

They didn't arrive in orbit of Earth but rather Enceladus, one of the moons of Saturn. A boxy brown vessel was ahead of them. Its warp nacelles, angled downward, had a gold coloring to them, and the brown and yellow coloring was distinctly Gersallian starship design aesthetic, particularly the blue highlights. It contrasted pleasurably with the saucer-and-drive hull distinction of the Federation starship, an Ambassador-class if Robert remembered correctly, that was beside it. A Klingon attack cruiser was nearby in a different orbital plane. A single hulled ship with the nacelles stretching outward and downward from the rear, it looked distinctly predatory; befitting the Klingons, certainly.

"So, we're not having these talks planetside?", Robert asked.

Ledosh shook his head. "Due to the… sensitive nature of some of the subjects in question, Captain, we will be hosting them on this ship, and away from normal travel lanes in the solar system. I believe you have the appropriate facilities?"

Robert nodded. "We do. And Hargert is an excellent choice for catering."

"Then it is settled. I will return to my quarters and inform the delegates that we will be ready in three standard hours. I hope that is sufficient time to prepare the proper facilities, I would very much like to get talks commenced before the day is out."

Robert looked to Julia, who nodded. "I'll get everything set up in Conference Room 1," she said before departing the bridge.

"Then I shall go make the necessary notifications and meditate for the time being," Ledosh said. "I will request you alert me to the arrival of the delegates, Captain."

"Of course," Robert replied. "Do we know who the delegates will be, yet?"

Ledosh nodded. "The Klingon delegation is being led by a member of the High Council. Councilor Kurn. As for the Federation delegation, Councillors T'Latrek and Bera chim Gleer will be leading their delegation with the assistance of Exterior Vice-Secretary Tanno. I was also informed that Starfleet has appointed an advisor to the Federation team as well, who will be coming with his staff."

"Oh?" Robert was curious at that. "Who?"
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Two hours later, Robert was patiently waiting at Transporter Station 3. "The Federation vessel Excalibur has transmitted that it is ready to send over its first delegate," the Gersallian woman at the station told him.

"Beam him over," Robert answered.

A column of white light appeared on the pad and coalesced into a familiar human figure. "Permission to come aboard, Captain?", the man asked in that proper English accent of his.

"Permission granted," Robert said, allowing himself a small grin. "It's my pleasure to finally have you aboard the Aurora, Captain Picard."

Captain Jean-Luc Picard nodded and grinned in return. "And my pleasure to finally get to see this magnificent starship." He stepped down from the pad and looked back to it. "The transporter system feels a little different than what I'm used to."

"The Darglan transporters don't use the matter-energy conversion process yours do," Robert replied. "It's something about subspace tunnelling of matter. You'd have to ask one of the engineers for specifics."

"Perhaps I shall," Picard replied. He offered his hand and Robert took it. "I have a great many questions about this ship."

Robert nodded. "And I can give you that tour, finally. If we have time." Robert grew somber. "I heard about the Enterprise. My condolences."

"Thank you." Picard nodded solemnly. "But there are plenty more letters in the alphabet. Before long I suspect another Enterprise will be announced."

"And hopefully you'll be in command," Robert said.

"Hopefully so, yes." Picard's expression turned not sour, but rather reserved. "Captain to Captain, Robert…." The switch to his first time meant they were switching to the informal as they stepped out into the corridor of the Aurora. Robert was leading him on to the Conference Room. "I thought it best to give you some forewarning."


"I'm aware of what your Alliance is seeking from these talks. You need to know, now, that the Federation cannot give you the assistance you will be requesting."

Robert didn't frown. He'd expected they couldn't do everything that Morgan and Ledosh were hoping for. But he had been hoping for something, at least. "I'm not expecting the Federation to go to war on our behalf, Jean-Luc," he said. "Not even against literal Nazis."

"It's not simply an inability to wage war, Robert," Picard answered. "With the lingering threat of the Romulans and the new Dominion threat from the Gamma Quadrant, the Federation cannot afford to get mired into another conflict. Not even with just material aid."

Robert remained silent at first. Finding the door to the Conference Room he entered. Tables and chairs had been set up for the three negotiating powers, with name plates already arranged. He was to be seated with Ledosh, as was Julia; the others of his crew were obviously meant to sit nearby as potential witnesses. In the area between the tables the main holo-projector was ready and now that they were in private, he felt he could speak more freely. "Okay, so no weapons. But certainly you can do something."

"I'm sorry. But I don't see that happening," Picard admitted. "The Federation is stretched too thinly. Even recovering from the Borg… we have too many other commitments to give anything meaningful."

That was not what Robert wanted to hear. "Jean-Luc, please. You haven't seen the refugees. The people who went out to start a new life and were driven from their homes with barely the clothes on their backs. And they're the lucky ones."

"I understand the scope may be horrible, but it's a matter of…"

Robert stopped and turned to him. "You didn't see them. You haven't seen the Nazis literally wipe a colony of tens of thousands of beings off the face of a planet! I have! And you're telling me you can't even spare the materials to resettle the people who escaped those massacres?!"

Picard looked at him quietly for a moment. Their eyes met. "You couldn't have saved them," Picard said. "I'm sorry, Robert. I'm sure you tried your best. But you can't save everyone."

For a moment Robert simply stared at him. "I guess I wasn't hiding it very well," he finally said.

"I'm afraid not," Picard replied. "And I suggest hiding it better when you deal with the delegates. Otherwise these negotiations may very well turn out that way."

Robert couldn't say anything for a moment. He was thinking about what was being said. And finally he felt a smile creep up on his face. "You want to help us," he said.

Picard's expression softened. "I believe it is in the best interests of the Federation to do so, yes. Not to mention that it is ethically paramount to resist the violent and barbaric regime your Alliance has found itself in conflict with. Especially if there is any chance such a regime might just acquire your interuniversal technology."

"Right." Robert nodded. "Well, there's a chance."

"Surely you put effective security to prevent their salvaging."

"Multiple redundancies and everything. Once in a while even our own crews trigger them and can lose a drive," Robert answered. "We can't keep this technology hidden from others forever, I mean eventually someone who's worked on them or knows them could sell enough information to give away the secret. But in the short-term, we don't have to worry about salvage."

"Then why do you say there's a chance?"

Robert thought on it for a moment. On whether to tell Picard or not. He decided to start with a question. "You told me to call you Jean-Luc in private."

"I did."

"Why?" Robert asked. "You're a captain with decades of experience; i'm young enough that you were captain of a starship before I was born. Why do I get the first name basis with you?"

Picard didn't answer at first. He walked over to the chair he would be sitting in and considered the nameplate assigned to him. "Starfleet is not like other organizations with a military background," he began. "Every species, every nation, has its own ideas of military discipline, of appropriate behavior. We could never have accommodated them all, so we have forged our own approach."

At that Robert nodded. The Stellar Navy had much of the same issue. Even their name was sometimes considered too Humanocentric; the Dorei and Gersallians had lobbied for the term "Stellar Fleet" heavily before being outvoted.

"This process began when it was just the Earth Starfleet. And for two hundred years, the Federation has worked to find the best to captain starships," Picard continued. "It's been something we've been working on since Captain Jonathan Archer took the first Enterprise out to explore the Alpha Quadrant. The most we have learned is that finding those best qualified to command starships is an art more than a science. There's only so much you can train someone to take on that.." He seemed to be considering a word. "..awesome responsibility," he finished, and Robert knew he was using the word "awesome" in a literal sense, not the vernacular that Tom or Zack might have. "In the end, starship captains are as likely to be born as they are to be trained. They require certain traits, certain ways of thinking, to succeed in the captain's chair. And when you find someone with those characteristics in one of those chairs, then there is no room for issues of seniority or age. A good starship captain is worth encouraging, no matter how young or untrained they might be."

Robert remained quiet as he thought about that. "I understand what you're saying."

"I've heard about an incident with the Reich two months ago," Picard continued. "With your ship in the middle of it."

"33LA," Robert replied. "We were… tracking down the possible location of a Darglan facility."

"The Darglan." Picard recalled the name. "The alien species that developed the interuniversal drive."

"Right. Caterina had designed a program to sort through recorded sensor logs across the fleet, looking for the signs of a Darglan dimensionally-transcendental field in operation. She found one that was in the system In system 33LA. So we got permission to investigate with the Koenig…."

Robert explained everything that happened. It didn't take long. As he did, Picard looked on in understanding. And when he was done, he nodded. "I see. And you think this incident fueled the war?'

"There's no way they did it over what happened to the Eichmann," Robert explained. "They had to have been planning on that attack for months, sneaking ships into the nebula, arranging means to communicate through the interference inside of it. 33LA had to have been the reason."

"Or perhaps they always planned to attack," Picard pointed out.

"Maybe." Robert shook his head. "But that's your answer. That's why we think there's a chance they could get IU drives. There's a Darglan Facility right outside their space. And we can't even get to it, not without drawing their attention right to it. And…" Robert closed his eyes. "...I can't stop thinking of all the people dying in this war, and that the choice I made at 33LA might be why."

At that Picard nodded. "Sometimes, we make the wrong decision," the older man said. "It can't be avoided. The important thing is to learn from it. To accept the error and move on."

"Hard to move on if I'm the one who started the war. I'm the one who didn't trust my people and who put them in harm's way when I knew there was something wrong."

Picard shook his head. "You can't think like that. Besides, I would have done the same thing you did."

Robert looked at Picard. "What?"

"I would have sent Commander Carrey and his ship out," Picard said.

"You would have?"

"In those circumstances, yes." Picard nodded. "The stakes were too high, the timing too critical. Such technology cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of a society like the Third Reich. You were right to send Commander Carrey on that mission regardless of the security risks discovered. Even if it had cost you the Koenig, it would have still been the right decision."

Robert remained quiet at that. It was one thing for Julia to say it. She hated him being mopey. But Picard? With all of that experience? The same man who had once lectured him on the need to consider the consequences of his actions?

"And Draynal?", Robert asked.

"What about him?" Picard shook his head. "The hard part about dealing with this Changeling threat is that they can so easily replace any of us. By the time you had any solid evidence about Draynal or idea that the Changeling had fully compromised your systems, the Koenig had already departed."

"I could have warned Zack."

"About what? A possibility about an officer with an otherwise fine record? With no proof beyond vague feelings from possible psychic sources? That's not something people ordinarily do, Robert. It would undermine the fundamental trust that must exist between officers serving together." Picard looked intently at him. "Yes, it is true that your decision had a negative consequence that another choice might not have provided. But that is with hindsight. A good captain considers all options, but doesn't shy away from a necessary choice simply because they're not sure of what could happen. Be aware of the possible consequences. Don't let them blind you to the necessities of the moment."

Before Robert could reply to that, there was a tone over his multidevice. He pressed it. "Dale here."

Julia spoke up on the other end. "We just received a signal from the Mok'ba. Councillor Kurn is ready to beam aboard."

"What about the Federation team?"

"Captain Korsmo already signaled that Councillors T'Latrek and Gleer will beam over at the planned three hour mark with Captain Picard's staff."

"What about the Vice-Secretary?"

"Apparently he has transporter phobia," Julia explained. "He's requesting permission to bring a shuttle over."

Robert looked to Picard, who shook his head. "The Exterior Vice-Secretary is an eccentric Bolian, a political scientist nominated to the post," Picard said. "I see no harm."

"Clear him for the main shuttle bay," Robert said into his multidevice.

"Doing so now. Do you want me to inform Mastrash Ledosh of Kurn's impending arrival?"

"I'll do it," Robert said. "Does Hargert have the meal ready?"

"Most of it. Apparently there are certain… elements of Klingon cuisine that proved troublesome."

Robert laughed at that. "Well, hopefully they'll understand. Have Meridina and Angel meet Kurn at Transporter Station 2 and escort him to Conference 1. I'll go rouse Ledosh. Dale out."

"I'll wait here for the others to arrive," Picard said when Robert lowered his arm. "And I hope you consider what I've said. I've seen promising careers fail to meet their potential because a captain loses confidence in their decisions."

Robert nodded. "It's something to think about. Thank you, Jean-Luc."

"You're welcome, Robert."

Robert had attended diplomatic meetings before, so that part was nothing new to him.

What was new was having the other side more interested in arguing against each other than debating the points proposed by his side.

"Again, Councillor Gleer, your logic fails," T'Latrek said. The older Vulcan woman was one of the Federation's elder statespersons; the packet Robert had read on her as the meeting came into focus reminded him of just how different some species were. She was older than his grandparents would have been if they were still alive and had served on the Federation Council for over seventy years. She had been one of the staff members of the Federation president who negotiated the Khitomer Accords. And for Robert, it didn't bode well that she was arguing against Federation assistance for much of the same grounds Picard had cited in speaking to him.

Bera chim Gleer scowled at the Councillor at the opposite end of his table. Aides flanked him, compared to just the one young Vulcan woman beside T'Latrek, with Picard and the Bolian Tanno in the middle. "This is a matter of the security of the Federation," Gleer retorted. "How is that not logical?"

"It presumes facts that are not in evidence," T'Latrek said. "It presumes a threat where none has been made evident."

At that, Mastrash Ledosh stood. "Madame Councillor, I had my own reservations about the first reports on the Reich's characteristics, but I found those reservations to be in error. I plead with you not to make the same error."

T'Latrek turned and faced Ledosh. "Emissary Ledosh, you are in error to believe I am not unaware of the extremes of the Nazi Reich. I have studied Human history in my own time and am well aware of the origins of your enemy and the threat they would pose. But I do not agree with your assessment of imminent danger. We have only your word that there is a facility of the Darglan that might provide them with the interuniversal drive technology."

"We have the data, Madame Councillor," Robert protested. "We've made it available to you."

T'Latrek's eyes turned to him. She appraised him with cool detachment. "Captain Dale, your reliability as the source of this information is sadly suspect."

"I beg your pardon?", Robert asked.

"You have a known history of interference in the affairs of other societies that did not match your standards," T'Latrek remarked. "According to your own government, you have already instigated hostilities with an alien species known as the Goa'uld without any provocation."

"Now just a minute." Leo rose from his place in the seating area. Cat and Jarod were beside him; in the next row over Picard's people - Riker, Data, Worf, and Troi - were watching with interest. "The Goa'uld enslaved an innocent woman and violated her to conceive a child. All we did was protect her and her village."

T'Latrek raised an eyebrow but did not speak. Gleer did, however, but not to score a point against his rival. "Captain Dale, your crew has no standing to speak unless called upon by a delegation. I insist you restrain them or I will move for their expulsion from the proceedings."

Robert sighed and looked to Leo, who was glowering right back at the Tellarite. "He's right, Leo. I'm sorry, but these things have protocols."

Leo looked to Robert and let out a grunt of frustration before sitting down.

Before Robert or anyone could then address T'Latrek's earlier point as Leo had tried, there was a loud smack of a fist on a table. Kurn stood in his seat. "Enough of this petty squabbling," he growled. "The Klingon Empire is not afraid of battle. But we are not hirelings to be paid like a pack of Ferengi, nor we are war targs to be unleashed at your whim." Kurn fixed his gaze on Ledosh and Robert. "The High Council is willing to join the Alliance in battle against these speciest to'baH Humans. But the Klingon Empire will require the Alliance to share with us the drives we will require to send our ships and warriors into the battle."

Ledosh nodded. "My government is aware of the likely price of your participation, Councillor Kurn. I am authorized to negotiate the terms."

Gleer let out a squealing hiss of frustration. "I protest! The Alliance giving the drive technology to just one power will destabilize the entire Alpha Quadrant! If the Klingon Empire receives this technology, so must the Federation."

Kurn smiled a toothy smile at his official allies in the talks. "If the Federation wishes to join its allies in gaining the spoils, I hope it is prepared to join in the battle to win them."

T'Latrek shook her head. "The Federation does not involve itself in the affairs of others. The Prime Directive…"

"...is not a suicide pact," Gleer growled. "If the security of the Federation requires it, we should…"

Before their discussion could continue, there was a tone from the ship PA system. "Bridge to Captain Dale," Julia said.

Gleer glared murder at their table for the interruption. Robert restrained the sigh that started to form in his throat and keyed his multidevice to answer. "Dale here."

"Captain, we have a shuttle approaching and demanding docking clearance. Sir, the shuttle, it's… Romulan."

Kurn snarled at that. Robert looked to Ledosh with concern, and the Mastrash for once seemed genuinely surprised.

T'Latrek was not. "The only Romulan shuttle that is kept in Sol system belongs to Ambassador tr'Lhaer."

"The Romulan ambassador to the Federation?", Robert asked. "But how did he know about this meeting?"

"An intriguing question, but one must never underestimate the ability of the Romulans to gather information," T'Latrek said. "I would request you grant the docking clearance. I suspect that he has come to insist on Romulan participation in these talks. Failure to accommodate him could prove to have severe consequences in the near-future."

In other words, the Romulans might get really nasty if they think we're shutting them out of the talks. Robert looked to Ledosh, who nodded assent to the suggestion. "Commander, send them to the main shuttle bay. Have security standing by to escort the Ambassador to Conference 1."

"Doing so now."

Conversation quieted until the Romulan ambassador arrived. He was wearing a dull brown and gray suit with the bowl cut that seemed typical of Romulans, male and female. An aide flanked him and Meridina was standing just behind him, quiet and introspective. A table was moved up to join the others and the Romulan took his seat there. "How interesting," he said.

"Welcome, Ambassador tr'Lhaer," Ledosh said politely.

"My thanks. I had presumed the lack of an invitation was merely a bureaucratic oversight by the Alliance government. Wars have such a nasty way of causing disruption in the operations of a state." Tr'Lhaer folded his hands together. "But I get the idea I was never to be invited at all."

"And we would have been the better for it," Kurn growled.

That won him a moment of condescending amusement before tr'Lhaer nodded to T'Latrek. "Madame Councillor."


"We may not have diplomatic relations with the Alliance, and we have only limited interest in their affairs, but it is not hard to imagine the Alliance's purpose here." Tr'Lhaer looked now to Robert and Ledosh. "You have provoked an enemy stronger than you had anticipated, Captain Dale. Now the Alliance you represent is losing the war you caused. It cannot demand further sacrifice from its own people lest they simply abandon it. So you have come to us with pretty gifts so we will shed our blood for you."

"We came, Mister Ambassador, because the Nazi Empire is a threat to us all," Robert retorted. "If they get IU drive technology…"

"Your point, such as it is, has been made, Captain." Tr'Lhaer looked to Ledosh. "So this is your strategy. Play up the threat of this empire acquiring the technology to convince other states to join the war caused by your own foolishness. The Romulan Empire has no interest in supporting such foolish behavior, regardless of other considerations. Although that too must be addressed."

"Meaning, Ambassador?", Ledosh asked with angelic patience.

"Meaning that the Romulan Empire cannot and will not tolerate its rivals gaining access to your technology." Tr'Lhaer folded his hands together on the table. "We will not dictate to whom you can devote your forces, of course, or if you will provide aid or sell resources to the Alliance. But if either the Federation or the Klingon Empire is provided the interuniversal drive technology without Romulus being granted its use as well, the Romulan Star Empire will consider it an act of war. And we will declare war on both parties of such an exchange."

The angry shouts of Kurn and Councillor Gleer were still ringing in Robert's ears when the meeting broke up unsuccessfully. Tr'Lhaer was returning to his shuttle, already promising to return the next day to "observe", and the Federation delegation was returning to the Excalibur (Tanno by his shuttle of course). So far the unobtrusive Federation diplomatic bureaucrat was the only one who had not irritated Robet in some way at the meeting. Not counting Picard anyway.

Robert escorted Ledosh back to his stateroom. "It would appear these negotiations will be more complicated than believed," Ledosh remarked stoically as they went down the corridor.

"Why did we leave the Romulans out?", Robert asked. "I mean, it was pretty obvious they'd get paranoid and suspicious if we did that."

"It was believed that they would ask for too much," Ledosh said. "And that they would be unwilling to gamble upon a war on two fronts."

"They could be bluffing," Robert agreed. "But can we risk it?"

"I will have to inform President Morgan and seek instruction. Until then I will endeavor to get what arrangements we can."

"I admit getting Klingons into the fight would be especially useful," Robert said. "And the Federation's technological abilities would help us locate the Facility even without the full coordinates. But I don't think we'll do well if the Romulans start a war over it."

"Indeed not." They arrived at the door to Ledosh' stateroom. The Gersallian stepped in and looked back. "On another matter, I sense you are troubled?"

Robert replied with a sheepish grin. "I suppose I can't hide anything from you 'swevyra' types. Yeah, I am. The war and… well, my dreams."


"Nightmares, really. Not like normal ones. Meridina thinks my 'life force' or however you term it might be connecting to the wider universe and telling me things that might or even will happen."

Ledosh considered that. "That would signify quite a special connection to the universe, Captain. I suggest you consider the possibility seriously."

"I am, Mastrash," Robert replied. He sighed. "And that's what scares me."

"Fear can cloud one's vision of the future," Ledosh observed. "Perhaps you should focus on more positive emotions. Consider brighter paths for your future."

Robert couldn't hide his skepticism. "So I can just make myself think of happy endings and I'll get those visions instead? If these are such visions?"

"Not necessarily," Ledosh conceded. "The thing to keep in mind is that one's emotional state can affect how one's life energy interacts with the universe. Light with light, Dark with dark. If you listen to your fears, your life energy will reflect that, and your connection will focus on those fears and the outcomes that cause them. Doing so the opposite ways can lead to possible endings you will find more palatable. Not that either need come to pass. This is about possible futures, not what will happen."

"I see." Robert considered that idea. It seemed fairly reasonable. As much as talking about your life force giving you peeks at the future can be reasonable, anyway.

With that conversation evidently over, Ledosh asked, "You are hosting Captain Picard's staff in the morning, yes?"

"For a tour of the ship."

"Hopefully that will provide some relief from your sufferings as of late," Ledosh noted. "Sleep well, Captain. I hope you find that focusing on the positive side of life will make the futures you foresee more bearable."

Caterina stepped out of her shower and finished wrapping the towel around herself. Her quarters' climate control immediately began warming the temperature slightly, to keep her from feeling cold as she finished drying off, while Cat brought up the sensor logs for the day since she'd spent so much of it at the diplomatic meeting. They hadn't met many Klingons, and never any Romulans, so it was a chance for some unique scanning.

She read over the results of the scans and felt her brow furrow. Something was off. She tapped a key and called the bridge. "Lieutenant Luneri here," was the reply.

"This is Caterina. Can you make sure I get relayed all scans of the incoming Romulan shuttle tomorrow? There may be something wrong."

"Do you want me to inform someone?"

"I'll talk to the others myself. But I need to see this. Please?"

"I'll make sure the note is passed on to Science, Lieutenant. Good night."

Caterina yawned on cue. "Good night." With her skin now mostly dry she swapped into her Geek Princess pajamas and slid into bed for a night of sleep.

Angel had helped Robert with the "positive" outlook part of what Ledosh had said to him. They hadn't shared a night of passion as they might have preferred, but the kissing and embracing and falling asleep in one another's arms had at least helped his disposition.

And now he was dreaming again. And it was one of those dreams. That he was sure of.

At first it had been the same as before. Dark ships trying to slice Aurora into ribbons. Julia being dragged across a metal floor by a couple of men in SS garb with Fassbinder following behind. The girl in the red and gold clothing crying for help as the power surging from her consumed her until her eyes seemed to disappear into a glow of intense white light.

No, he thought. Robert focused on Ledosh's words. No fear. The future has to hold more than things to be afraid of.

"Hey Rob." He turned and faced Zack. "Good to be home." Robert looked around and saw that they were in the Lookout.

"Three cheers for the Koenig!", Locarno cried out, and everyone started cheering.

Before Robert could join in, things were changing again. He was in a dress uniform. President Morgan stepped up and handed him a medal.

There was another girl a moment later. Red-haired, light-skinned, green eyes and with a scarred cheek, smiling as she waved at him from the airlock. "Please visit!", she called out.

The dreams changed abruptly again. This time he was in the conference room. The other delegates were there. Shouts were being made, accusations, threats of war. Tr'Lhaer glared at him. "This was your fault! It will be war!", the ambassador screamed.

Robert wondered what he meant, but before he could inquire further, there was a rumble beneath his feet. Energy erupted from the nearest wall and they were all consumed.

At that point he woke up with more of a start. As he had been laying his head across Angel's shoulder, his abrupt movement woke her up as well. "A nightmare?", she asked sleepily.

"Something… maybe both." Robert checked the time. 0400. Still two and a half hours for sleep. He leaned over and kissed Angel on the lips. "Go back to sleep. I intend to."

"Mmhmm…" Angel turned around and presented her back to him. Her right arm was now dangling over her belly and off the bed.

Robert put his right arm on her's, let their fingers interlace, and kissed her on the back of the neck before he settled back into sleep.

Picard and the rest of his officers returned at 0715 as scheduled, at least two hours ahead of the other delegates. Robert was with Julia, Jarod, Meridina, and Caterina to meet them. Caterina, he couldn't help but note, seemed particularly distracted.

Their first stop was the Lookout, where Hargert's staff had prepared breakfast. As they ate small talk began to pick up. "You're short a few people," Julia said to Picard and Riker.

"Yes. Mister La Forge is attending an engineering symposium at Antares," Picard replied. "They are looking into methods to prevent warp core destabilization like the effect that cost us the Enterprise."

"Tom would grumble about anti-matter blowing up if you looked at it the wrong way," Jarod noted with a grin. "And then encourage Starfleet to switch to naqia reactors."

"I am curious." Data looked up from his own plate. That he was eating was a surprise, but he had made it clear it was for the social benefits only. "Where are Lieutenant Barnes and Commander Carrey? I found the Lieutenant's tendency to use colorful language to be rather intriguing, particularly his creative uses of such vocabulary."

Cat, despite her distracted look, giggled at that. Jarod and Julia exchanged bemused looks. "The Koenig is on special assignment in N2S7." Robert looked up from his meal of pancakes and a breakfast ham steak. "They're escorting toward Alliance space a convoy of refugees from what may be the only Human population left that is indigenous to that universe."

"I see. An important mission, then." Picard nodded. "I hope they are doing well."

"They are from the last time I talked to Zack," Julia said. "The Colonial Fleet is still months away from our space, so it's going to be a while before we see them again."

Caterina suppressed a shiver. Troi gave her a worried look.

Jarod put his fork down. "And Doctor Crusher?"

"Medical Conference on Bolarus," Riker said.


"I can tell you have all gone through some traumatic experiences lately," Troi said. "The war especially."

"We watched sixty thousand people get butchered the other day, Counselor Troi," Jarod pointed out. "It has an effect."

There was only a momentary silence before Meridina and Troi both gave very concerned looks toward Worf. He thumped a fist on the table. "The Romulans have no right to dictate to us," he growled. "Your Alliance is fighting an honorable battle against a great evil. You deserve our assistance."

"It's not surprising they're worried about what it'd be like if the Federation and Klingons had IU jump drive technology," Julia said. "It would guarantee their defeat in a war."

"I do have a concern." Meridina looked up from her plate of eggs and soup. "How did Ambassador tr'Lhaer discover that these talks were taking place? The Pillar of Light is officially here on a cultural exchange mission. Its purpose to facilitate the arrival of a ship with an envoy was not determined until a few days ago."

"Maybe he had someone who noticed our ships gathering together for the meeting?', Caterina proposed.

"But we're not near Earth." Troi shook her head. "At this range, could even a Romulan shuttle's sensors have picked us up?"

"Going by what we know of their capabilities, it does not seem likely, Counselor," Data agreed. "Our proximity to Saturn and to Enceladus would have acted to obscure the incoming jump point of the Aurora from all but the most attuned sensors. And detecting our ships in the mass shadow of Enceladus and the wider shadow of Saturn is highly unlikely."

"So to find us," Julia began, "t'Lhaer had to know we were out here, he would have needed to know where to look."

Robert looked at Meridina. "Meridina, are you suggesting the talks were leaked to tr'Lhaer?"

"I have… concerns," she said. "There is another purpose at work here."

Picard's expression turned grave. "It is not unexpected that the Romulans would want to prevent an alliance between our governments."

"I do not think this is a mere gesture of diplomatic posturing," Meridina insisted.

Caterina looked up. "That might explain it."

Everyone looked toward her. "Explain what, Cat?", Julia asked.

"We were getting some sort of reading from the Romulan shuttle yesterday," Cat said. "Technical Officer Kelani was at my post since I was at the meeting so I think he missed it, but I noticed it when I checked my logs last night."

"What sort of reading was it?", Robert asked.

"An energy signature of some sort," Cat said. "It's not consistent with the kind of power sources the Romulans use in their shuttles."

"The Romulans use controlled quantum singularities to power their starships," Data explained.

"I can tell you it wasn't that, even if they'd use those on shuttlecraft," Cat insisted. "It was something else. Very faint. I'll need to examine the shuttle closely to actually figure out what it was."

"Unfortunately, Lieutenant, that shuttle is diplomatic territory protected by interstellar law and custom," Picard explained. "You cannot enter it without the ambassador's explicit permission. Which I doubt he will be forthcoming with."

"Well…" Cat shook her head. "Maybe… maybe there's a way to get the scans I need without physically entering the shuttle?"

"There may be a way," Data said. "If you can set up a subspace waveform detector of sufficient sensitivity and portability, it could be used to determine what sort of energy form is emanating from the Romulan shuttle by examination of the specific subspace effects that the energy form causes. This could be done without violating the ambassador's diplomatic protections."

Cat's eyes widened. "Oh! Yes! Yes, that's it! I… we could put one together from some of the planetary surveying equipment."

"I'll call Lucy and have her help to assemble it," Julia said. "But that doesn't tell us who told tr'Lhaer about the meeting."

"Given the timing, it has to be someone with one of our delegations," Riker noted.

"Could it be Kurn?", Caterina asked. "Because I've heard some Klingons still…."

Worf was already turning his head to face her with a scowl. "No. That is not possible," he rumbled.


"Councillor Kurn is Mister Worf's younger brother," Picard explained. "They lost their parents to the Romulan attack on Khitomer over twenty years ago."

"Oh. Sorry… Mister Worf, sorry." Cat put her hands together and looked a little sheepish. But she managed a grin anyway. "I'm sure it's great to get to see your brother here, then. To get to spend time together, doing… Klingon-y things that brothers do… I mean, whatever you and your brother like to do..." She stopped when noticing Worf was still not smiling.

Troi chuckled at that and grinned at Worf, who seemed taken aback for a moment. Finally the scowl on his face softened. "Yes," Worf declared. "I do enjoy seeing my brother again." He cleared his throat and looked down the table. "I find it hard to believe that a Romulan agent could have gotten close to my brother."

"Well, could the leak be in the Federation delegation?", Julia asked. "Or maybe even a crewmember of the Pillar of Light? They have to have been told something about why they came?"

"They only knew they might be employed to ensure the quick commencement of diplomatic talks," Meridina said. "The intent was never given to them."

"Still, maybe we should investigate both," Julia said. "Just to make sure."

"Between the Excalibur and the Pillar of Light, it is possible that a trace of a transmission could have been picked up," Jarod observed. "In background radiation, or hidden in standard communications activity."

"That is a strong possibility," Data agreed. "I would need to examine the sensor logs from both ships and examine all outgoing data packets to confirm."

"Although he and I have often clashed, I believe I can get Captain Korsmo to provide the logs from Excalibur," Picard said.

"I will speak with Captain Darmal." Meridina nodded. "I believe it will not be difficult to win his cooperation."

"I'll show Data to Science Lab 1, then," Jarod said.

"There may be questions, then," Picard said. "About why all of the technical experts that were arranged for our benefit are indisposed. If there is some sort of conspiracy going on here, I don't want to alert them to their possible discovery. That might provoke them into moving before we know what's going on."

Robert considered that problem. With Tom Barnes a universe away, Lucy needed to build Caterina's scanner device with her, and Data and Jarod on analysis duty, that left mostly junior officers…. But not just them. He smiled at Picard. "I suppose it's a good thing that we've got an engineering legend on board," Robert said. "Scotty's word should carry even more weight."

"A splendid idea," Picard agreed. He nodded to Data. "Mister Data, Mister Jarod, please proceed to investigate the sensor logs. I'll contact Commander Shelby and arrange for you to get Excalibur's readings."

"And that leaves the rest of us to keep Kurn and tr'Lhaer from killing each other," Julia remarked drolly.

"Or Gleer and T'Latrek," Robert added. "I think those two might just hate each other more."

The two groups broke up the breakfast at that point to begin the rest of the day.

When the sessions began again, there was some reaction to the change of technical experts present for the negotiators' help. T'Latrek actually went to the extent of bowing her head in respect to Scotty. "It is agreeable to see you are well, Commander Scott."

"Thank ye, lass." Scotty took a close look at her. "I know ye. Ye were at Khitomer, one of President Ra-ghoratreii's aides."

"Indeed, sir." T'Latrek turned her head to Ledosh. "Mastrash Ledosh, given the clear obstacles to aid that the Romulan Empire has announced, is it not futile to indulge in any further discussions along this line? There is nothing that the Federation or the Klingon Empire are offering that would involve a trade of anything less than the same technology that the Romulan Ambassador is considering going to war over."

"Unless, of course, you were to provide it to us as well," Tr'Lhaer said smoothly. "And the Romulan Empire would not be averse to providing some material compensation. We will not fight for you, however."

Robert looked to Ledosh, who had a stoic diplomatic demeanor on his face little different than T'Latrek's. "An interesting proposal, Ambassador. I have yet to hear from my government on the issue of Romulan possession of the technology."

"Perhaps they are not as desperate as the condition may seem." Tr'Lhaer shrugged. "Although there are other ways of gaining assistance than giving away such a vital means of technology. Financial compensations, materials..."

"The Klingon Empire is not interested in any financial arrangements." Kurn leaned forward in his chair. "It is either the drive or nothing."

"Understandable, Councillor," Ledosh answered. "I hope to have an answer to the Romulan ambassador done by midnight." Ledosh picked up the digital pad before him. "While I await my instructions from the President, there are other considerations to be made…"

Jarod and Data had split up the tasks relating to the incoming data. Data himself was surveying the sensor returns while Jarod was applying his own intellect to the outgoing data packets to see if there were any hidden elements. They worked quietly and rapidly for some time.

The doors to the Science Lab eventually opened. Riker entered and stood over the area between them to see what they were working on. "The Captain wanted to know your progress," Riker said.

"I have completed approximately sixty percent of the sensor logs from the Excalibur," Data confirmed. "And then I will commence reading the results from Pillar of Light."

"Nothing so far on my end."

"Keep us informed." Riker departed the room.

After he left Jarod asked, "Commander Riker seems distracted, or is that jjust me?

"Commander Riker is still disturbed by what happened to the Enterprise," Data answered. "I believe losing the Enterprise while it was under his command has caused a loss of self-confidence."

Jarod noticed the change in Data's voice. It had lost the calm "statement of fact" element it usually had. "Data, you sound upset about it."

There was a sense in Data's voice. "Quite," he said. "The Enterprise was our home for several years. It's loss has caused emotional turmoil for the entire crew, myself included."

"I could hear that in your voice," Jarod said. "Which is the surprising part. You have emotions now?"

"Yes. I installed an emotion chip my creator made for me." Data showed a brief facial tic. Embarrassment, mostly. "I have had some issues with it, however, so I keep it in a low power state as I acclimate to my new emotions."

"Good luck with that." Jarod remained intent on his work for a moment. "I'm not finding any signals."

"Nor have I. But there is still a large volume of data to go through."

"Yeah, tell me about it." Jarod took a moment to think. "What if we had help?", he asked.

Data turned and faced him. "Help of what kind?", he asked with evident curiosity.

"As part of our search for the Darglan facility, we have a decompiler program going over raw data from the 33LA data facility." Jarod hit some of the keys on his hard-light keyboard control to bring up the program from their main computers. "It was coded to sort through data and discover existing patterns for the purpose of recompiling fragmented data."

"I see. You are suggesting we modify the program's parameters to discover isolated data packets that do not fit the data they are encapsulated in."

"Exactly," Jarod said.

"I will need to create a copy of the program to begin the modifications," Data noted.

"Copying now and relaying to your station."

The raw code of the program in question popped up on the screen. "This is a very well-crafted code."

"I'll pass that compliment along to Na'ama Shaham."

"I am now processing the logs through this program now. It will still take some time for every result to be found."

"That gives us time to do direct examination of the rest of the logs." Jarod brought them back up. "The sooner we find this thing, the better."

Lucy and Caterina pulled the scanner assembly into the main shuttle bay. Cat almost asked, again, if Lucy was sure it would work, but she got the sense it would just be annoying and insulting to do so. She didn't want to imply Lucy hadn't done it right, after all, she just wanted an outlet to her own nervousness about this entire situation. What should have been a relatively-quiet diplomatic affair was becoming scary.

Even scarier were the pair of Romulans standing at the Romulan shuttle of the Ambassador. The pair, a man and a woman, were in those padded, sharp-shouldered gray uniforms with matching bowl-style haircuts that kept the hair trimmed away from their sharp Vulcanoid ears. The two eyed Lucy and Caterina suspiciously. Lucy immediately wheeled the scanner away from them and toward the lines of shuttles nearby. When they were behind one of the shuttles Lucy reached for her multidevice, popped up the hardlight keyboard, and typed something.

A message popped up on Cat's own multidevice screen. They can still hear us. We need to pretend we're doing maintenance on the shuttles. We'll find an opening for a closer scan when we can.

Cat made a face at that. It sounded boring and monotonous, and wouldn't do anything to settle her from the fact that they were about to do something potentially dangerous. She tapped her own reply out. Won't they be suspicious of me doing something like this?

Lucy gave her a look and typed a quick reply back. That's what cross-training is for. "I know you don't like it, Cat," she said out loud, "but orders are orders. They want to make sure you can do this work in an emergency."

"But all of them?", Cat complained out loud.

Lucy grinned. "Welcome to Operations duty, Cat. Now you get to see what my life is like."

A recess from the conference couldn't have come sooner for Robert. Hearing the go-around was taxing and it made him thankful that Ledosh was the one doing the talking for his end.

It was with Ledosh that Robert left Conference 1 to head for the Lookout and a quick meal. They took a corner table when they arrived. Hargert himself came out of the back to provide them with the lunch he had prepared, a plate of toasted lunch sandwiches and grilled pork with a salad plate.

"The arrival of the Romulans has been a complicating factor," Ledosh said.

"More like a complete disruption," Robert answered. "And I don't think it's chance."

"Yes." Ledosh nodded. "It would appear that someone here has a separate agenda. An agenda that includes thwarting these negotiations."

Robert took a bite and chewed on it as he thought. When he was done he noticed Ledosh was looking at him with curiosity. "Yes?", he asked.

"You are investigating?", Ledosh asked.

He answered with a nod. "It's being looked into."

"Of course." Ledosh took a small bite. "You seem more rested today. My advice to you did as you expected?"


"But… this would have to do with why you are looking so tense in the meeting?"

Robert sighed. "Last night I had the entire dream thing again. Toward the end, I saw us in the meeting. Tr'Lhaer was yelling something about war. And then… there was this big burst of white that filled the room."

"Hrm." Ledosh considered that. "I admit I have felt my own trepidation today. I sense something is amiss. Beyond our diplomatic impasse."

"Well, don't I feel better now," Robert muttered. He took another bite and tried to ignore the growing feeling that something was wrong. That they were all in danger.

Ledosh looked at him closely. "I sense it now. How interesting."


"Your swevyra," Ledosh said. "I knew you had potential. I had known since the day we first met on Gersal, when your organization made its official contact with the Gersallian people. But to feel it now…"

Robert didn't know what to think about that. "So you're saying I have this… life force stuff?"

"We all do," Ledosh noted. "But only some have a life force, a swevyra, that can connect to the energy of the wider universe."

"Including me?"

Ledosh considered that question for a moment. "Yes."

"So…" Robert put his food down and pushed the plate away. "Are you telling me I could end up doing the same things Lucy is learning to do?"

Ledosh remained completely quiet for several moments. Robert got the idea he was deep in thought, making calculations of a sort or trying to find out how the conversation could go depending on what he said? Either way, he did finally nod. "Yes. With training. I'm not sure you would have the same power that Lucy and Meridina wield, Swevyra is unique to each person. Your power may be more your connection to the flow of choice through time than to the energy fields of the here and now."

"So I might always have future dreams, but never the ability to win gunfights with a sword?"

That drew a bemused smile from the Gersallian elder. "An interesting way of putting that Captain. But yes, it is possible your abilities would be more for anticipating that which is to come than for using it to wield a lakesh."

"Ah. Well. People think I'm crazy enough as it is without me running around with a sword jumping into gunfights," Robert mused.

Ledosh showed a hint of wry amusement at that. "I understand that for your people, the idea of swevyra and its potential can be outlandish and strange. It is hard to accept when it is not something you are used to. But it does exist and it is something you have potential in. You must always be wary of the darkness, however. The dark emotions, such as fear and anger inevitably lead to corruption of the swevyra in a person. It encourages the indulgence of the darkest and most terrible parts of each of us."

"This is why Meridina is giving that training to Lucy?"

"In part, yes. She must learn to sense darkness and keep it out."

Robert nodded in reply to that.

"I am curious about you, Captain," Ledosh said. "You are one of a few people who can genuinely say you have played a major role in the events of our time. But you have often refused interviews on the matter.

"I suppose they don't interest me that much," Robert remarked. "My place isn't as a politician."

"Then what is your place?"

Robert had to consider that a moment. "If anything? Helping people."

"An admirable desire," the Gersallian replied. "But I should point out that many say such a thing, yet often cannot remain animated by it. Helping others, truly, often requires a strong underlying belief supporting that. The Code of Swenya provides myself and Meridina with that. We believe that by helping those in need, we increase the power of Light among living creatures and banish darkness. What do you believe in?"

Robert remained quiet for a moment. What did he believe in? What made him this way? He sometimes wondered about it. It was easy to determine why the others did this. Leo was devoted to the principles of medicine and the ethics of being a physician. Julia believed in her ability to lead. Caterina loved to explore.

Why did he want to be out here? Why did he want to put so much effort into helping others?

Robert thought about the Shahams for a moment. And the DMZ Colonists he had rescued from the Cardassians. All of the times he had been able to improve someone's life and the joy it had given them. Was it just that simple? That he enjoyed their joy?

After several moments, he knew it wasn't that.

There was a tone from his multidevice. "Jarod to Dale."

Robert took in a breath. Jarod's call had broken his concentration. "Sorry, I need to take this," he said to Ledosh before he brought up his forearm. Robert reached his hand over and accepted the incoming communication. "Dale here."

"You might want to get to Science Lab 1 before the conference resumes. We may have something to show you."

Robert looked at his unfinished lunch and at Ledosh. The Gersallian nodded. "I'm on my way. Dale out." He stood up. "My apologies for the short lunch, Mastrash."

"Duty must always be attended to," Ledosh noted.

"Thank you. I'll see you at the conference as quickly as I can get there."

Going through the motions of scanning all of the shuttles had become an annoyance. Caterina frowned as they started working on the last line. "Anything yet?", she whispered, confident that they were far enough away now that even Romulan ears couldn't hear her.

"Nothing," Lucy muttered back. She tapped her multidevice. The message "Stop being impatient" popped up on Caterina's.

"We're almost out of shuttles," Cat hissed. "We've got to find a way to get close."

"Working on it," Lucy insisted. And she had been. And still was, because she couldn't think of anything to fix the problem.

"We're running out of time," Cat hissed. "There has to be something we can do, something to lure them away."

"They would never listen to us," Lucy answered.

"Well, what else can we do?" Cat folded her arms. "It's not like they'll do it for us."

"Ha, yeah…" Lucy stopped. Her brow furrowed as she thought about it for a moment. "Actually, now that you say that…"

Caterina looked at her with confusion. "What?"

Lucy took the scanner and began wheeling it back to the shuttle. "That's exactly what I'm going to do."

That caused Caterina to gawk. "What?!"

Lucy hit a couple of keys on the scanner while they went along the shuttles and said nothing else. Once they cleared their rows of shuttles Lucy led Caterina straight toward the Romulan shuttle. The guards there tensed visibly and began to shift over to meet them. "Hey!" Lucy stopped about ten feet away. "We're making sure there are no radiation leaks in the shuttle bay, can we get permission to scan this one?"

"The Ambassador's shuttle is off-limits, Human," the male guard said. "I would suggest you leave."

"Well, if you insist," Lucy said. "I mean, what does neutron radiation do to you? So you can warn your physicians about the possible exposure?"

"We're not letting you anywhere near the shuttle," the woman barked. "Leave now or there will be consequences."

"Woh." Lucy raised her hands. "Here. If you don't want me to do it, why don't you do it?"

The guards looked at each other. "Pardon?", the male asked.

"The scanning interface is easy, you just hit this key" - and she showed the key - "and wait ten seconds. Boom, done, we know if your shuttle has a radiation problem. If it does, you know to be prepared and take precautions. If it doesn't, our job's done and we can walk away."

The guards eyed each other. Finally the woman guard stepped away and up to the two of them. "I will tell you the result if it does no harm to the Ambassador."

Lucy nodded and they waited patiently for the guard to do so. After running the scanner beside the shuttle the guard looked over the display. She hit a few buttons and the results vanished. "The ship is fine," she said, as if Lucy had insulted her with the prospect of it being otherwise. "Leave."

"Thank you." Lucy took the scanner and, with a bewildered Caterina following her, wheeled it out of the shuttle bay.

They made it a hall over before Caterina's stuttering, "W-wait" beam a "Hold on!" She jumped in front of Lucy and stopped her. "That's it? That guard deleted the results!"

Lucy smirked and held up her right arm. Her multidevice display activated and showed the scan results. "Remote data connection," Lucy said, grinning. "The Romulan's attempt to isolate the scanner was good, but I'd already created the link in subroutines. It was a bit out of their competency."

Caterina responded by giggling. "Okay, that was awesome."

"Let's get this to Lab 1."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Picard and Riker arrived right after Robert did. "Mister Data, you found something?", Picard asked.

"Yes, Captain," Data answered. He nodded to Jarod, who brought up a holographic display of what looked like a carrier signal. "This is the subspace communication that Captain Korsmo used two days ago when our ships began to take up position near the Pillar. This is, by all accounts, a normal Starfleet transmission."

"Someone hid a secondary transmission in the same carrier wave," Jarod added, noting a discolored spot in the graphic.

"Why didn't the Excalibur notice this?", Riker asked.

"For the same reason we didn't, sir," Data replied. "The signal was hidden in the peak points of transmission. We only discovered it after running it through a data pattern recognition program."

"This is a sophisticated method well beyond anything someone can just throw together," Jarod noted. "This was made to allow someone to hide their subspace communications from almost any observation."

"And whomever it was wanted Ambassador tr'Lhaer to interrupt our summit," Picard observed.

"I don't suppose there's any way to see where this was sent from Excalibur?", Robert asked.

"I am afraid there is not," Data responded.

"So we know a message was sent, but not who sent it." Robert took a chair. "Suggestions?"

"We're trying to decrypt the fragment we have now," Jarod said. "But I wouldn't hold out hope that it'll do more than confirm what we already know."

The door slid open and Lucy and Caterina came in. "Jarod, I'm relaying the results to you now," Lucy said, tapping the keys on her multidevice.

Jarod looked back to his screen as the scan results came up. Data looked at it as well. "Intriguing. But also quite disturbing."

"Data?", Picard asked.

"If these sensor readings are correct, the unexplained power signature may be from an ultritium device. There are traces of ultritium detectable on the hatch area of the Romulan shuttle, suggestive of the presence of an ultritium device of some magnitude."

"So you're telling me the Romulans smuggled a bomb onto my ship?", Robert asked.

"That is a possibility, yes," Data said. "However, I am not entirely convinced that the ultritium occurred merely from passive exposure."

Jarod nodded. "The concentrations seem off."

"Can you explain why?", Picard asked.

"I am afraid I cannot. I would need to get a closer scan of the shuttle in question."

"Good luck with that," Lucy said. "They would have shot at us if we had tried. I had to talk them into doing the scan themselves."

"If you could provide a distraction, I can get a tricorder close enough to confirm the authenticity of the readings," Data said.

"I'll keep at the message." Jarod tapped a screen to bring it back up. "Just to see if there's useful."

"Lucy, go with Data," Robert said. "Cat, I think you need to get to the bridge." He checked the time stamp on his device. "The meeting should be resuming shortly."

Their return to Conference 1 was just in the nick of time. It was clear the assembled diplomats had not regained their patience from the break. Robert could feel the tension in the room as if it were ready to explode.

"Interesting," tr'Lhaer said. His voice was harsh. "An Alliance and Federation captain returning together, late, as if they had been in deep conversation, and after your personnel insisted on the scanning of my shuttle."

T'Latrek looked to Picard. "Captain, I require an explanation."

Picard appraised her evenly. "We have been investigating a possible security leak, Madame Councillor."

"A security leak?", Gleer demanded. "From whom?"

"We're not sure," Robert said. "We're still conducting the investigation."

"And you would accuse me."

"No, Ambassador, I'm not. Yet." Robert went to his seat. "I want to find the offender so the task at hand can resume."

"Pah!" Kurn threw his hands forward in frustration. "The only way we will make progress, it seems, is if one of us guts that whining petaQ." Kurn's eyes were firmly on Tr'Lhaer.

"If you wish war with the Romulan Empire, Klingon, you need only ask. You might want to consult your allies first."

T'Latrek raised an eyebrow. "Hostility will get us nowhere."

"Why would I not be surprised if it was you who told the Romulans, T'Latrek?", Gleer shouted. "You know you can't prevail on this matter in the Council so this is an end-run around a vote you lost!"

T'Latrek gave Gleer a condescending look in reply. "Councillor Gleer, unlike certain Councillors I might name, I am unwilling to stoop to such measures simply over a lost vote."

Gleer jumped to his feet. "Are you accusing me of something, T'Lat...!"

"That's enough!", Robert shouted. "I…"

Before he could finish, he was interrupted by a tone at his multidevice. "Jarod to Dale. Priority One. We may have determined the origin of the message…"

As Jarod continued speaking, with all listening, Robert suddenly got a sense of terrible danger. Imminent, sudden death was coming upon them. Robert stopped speaking and looked across the room, at the infuriated Gleer, the tense T'Latrek, the irritated tr'Lhaer, the frustrated Kurn, Ledosh and his subtle body language hiding displeasure, Picard and his usual diplomatic patience, and…

…and Tanno. The Bolian. Who looked emotionless at the display. More emotionless than even Data had been, with or without an emotion chip.

Tanno, who refused to be beamed, and who insisted on coming aboard on a personal shuttle.

Tanno looked at him. And a small smile crossed the Bolian's lips.

Robert knew he didn't have time. He jumped from his seat and ran toward the door. This brought the bewildered attention of everyone present. "What is the meaning of this?", T'Latrek asked Ledosh, pointedly.

"I suspect," Ledosh said, "that Captain Dale has realized something, and is running to save our lives."

"Save us? From what?!", Kurn demanded.

"From what indeed." Ledosh closed his eyes and focused with his own sweyvra, from decades of practice and use of its abilities and its insights. He turned his head toward the Federation table. He faced down Secretary Tanno.

A moment later, Tanno disappeared in a swirling pillar of white light.

Gleer and T'Latrek looked especially taken aback. Scotty activated his multidevice's comm unit. "Scott t' Bridge! We just had a beamout, can ye track it?"

"Sensors already registered it, Commander Scott," replied Lieutenant Jupap. "But we cannot determine a point of origin."

"This is… not logical," T'Latrek said, frowning. "That Exterior Secretary Tanno would be some sort of enemy agent…"

"An agent of whom, I wonder?", Gleer stared daggers at tr'Lhaer.

"He is not one of mine", tr'Lhaer protested.

Kurn barked with laughter. "As if you would tell the truth, Romulan."

"I'll not be insulted by…"

Ledosh struck the table to interrupt the verbal altercation. "Presumably an agent of a power that wishes your governments, as well as our own, to go to war," Ledosh pointed out. "An agent with great technological support and the ability to effortlessly infiltrate another government."

Picard frowned. "The Dominion, in other words."

"Yes." Ledosh nodded. "And now, I suspect we will live or die given what Captain Dale does in the next few minutes."

Robert's heart thumped like a piston as he raced out of the turbolift and continued on to the shuttle bay. "Dale to Lucero! Pick up!"

A moment later a bewildered Lucy asked, "Captain, is everything…?"

"Forget the Romulan shuttle!," he shouted. "It's a decoy! Scan the Federation shuttle and get an EVA suit ready, I'm going to need it!"

"What… why…"

"Just do it!"

Robert kept running as fast as his legs could carry him. Perhaps faster than he'd ever run before. He nearly ran into the shuttle bay doors from his speed, as it was he had to turn toward his side to slip between them.

The Romulan guards were staring while Data and Lucy were scanning Tanno's shuttle. "I'm picking up a power signature," Lucy said. "It looks like it just became active." She gestured to the EVA suit.

"Open the shuttle!" Robert grabbed the suit and began pulling it on. It was an emergency-use life support EVA suit so it was designed to be slipped on in seconds, even accounting for him temporarily removing his multidevice to fit it over the suit. By the time he was grabbing the helmet for it, Data was finishing the override on the shuttle door.

Inside the shuttle, toward the back, was a large device. White light pulsed within it at a steady rate.

Lucy paled as she scanned it. "There's enough ultritium inside to vaporize most of the ship. We'd probably lose Excalibur and Pillar of Light in the blast."

Data was also examining it. "The device includes a field inhibitor for transporters. Neither Starfleet nor Alliance transporter systems will be able to remove the device."

Robert slid around the device and went to the helm of the shuttle. "I know." He started activating keys, starting with a quick press to his multidevice. "Dale to bridge."

"Bridge here," Julia answered.

"Warm up the jump drive and prepare a jump point. Preferably somewhere uninhabited.."


"Everyone stand clear!", Robert shouted back.

"What are you doing?", Lucy asked.

"Saving our lives," he answered as he hit the key to close the aft door. Even before it finished closing Robert keyed the thrusters. The shuttle lifted up under him and quickly flew toward the exit of the shuttlebay.

Picard and Caterina stepped out onto the bridge while Julia watched the Federation shuttle fly away from them, roughly toward Enceladus. "What's going on?"

"A Changeling infiltrator is attempting to blow up our summit," Picard explained. Behind him Caterina dismissed al-Rashad from the Science station. "It appears Captain Dale anticipated the Changeling's plan before he could trigger it properly."

"He's gotten the bomb out, can we beam him out now?", Julia asked.

Cat shook her head. "According to Data, that thing's got enough ultritium in it to blow us all up. And it's almost done counting down."

Julia realized what Robert was planning at that moment. "Be ready to beam him out as soon as we can."

"Dale to Aurora. I think this thing is about to blow. Is that jump ready yet?"

Julia looked at Jupap, who nodded. "I have located an abandoned system with a tethering probe for future scientific expeditions."

"Hopefully they won't miss that. Open jump point now, Mister Jupap."

"Yes, Commander."

Julia returned to the command chair and Picard took up the chair to her left. They watched on the screen as the shuttle drew further away. Ahead of the shuttle a point of green light expanded into the swirling green of an interuniversal jump point.

She closed her eyes. Get out of there. Now. Please!

Robert watched the jump point open up. A glance back told him it was just in time; the rapid pulsing of the device made it clear that it was about to explode.

Knowing he only had seconds, Robert cut the artificial gravity in the shuttle. He remotely activated the rear hatch. Before it had even finished sliding open, he finished slaving the shuttle inertial dampener fields to his multi-device and pushed himself toward the back.

As soon as he had clearance, he killed the inertial dampeners. Without them the inertia of the shuttle's acceleration acted immediately upon him, flinging him toward the back of the shuttle. Had he not opened the hatch, this would have been fatal.

But he had opened the hatch. Instead, doing so proved his salvation.

Aside from a couple of training walks during his time training with Admiral Maran, Robert had never bothered to go EVA often. He'd always been busy with the other elements of the job. It was something special, unique, to be out in the void of space. No starship, no station, nothing around him but empty void and the distant forms of the four starships gathered here. For a moment he took in the sight of Saturn's rings and realized that he'd been missing something special.

Then he remembered why he had done this and returned his attention to the shuttle.

The shuttle flew into the maw of the jump point. It began to recede, pulled through to another universe, where its deadly ultritium bomb would explode harmlessly. Robert began to breathe easier. "I did it," he murmured to himself. "I…"

The bomb exploded.

And the world turned red and then pitch black.

Julia watched in horror as a powerful light erupted from within the jump point. "The device went off!", Caterina shouted.

"All hands brace for impact!"

"I'm not picking up a blast wave," Jupap said. "Puzzling."

"The jump point!", Cat screamed.

Julia had already seen it. The jump point, once vibrant green, was turning a distinct blood red color. "I'm detecting some form of energy shift within the point," Jupap observed.

"The bomb went off right within the transit," Caterina said. "It's done… something to the jump point. I'm not sure…"

Julia didn't care at that moment. "Get Rob out of there!", she shouted. "Now!"

Jupap was busy working on his controls. "We cannot achieve a lock! The jump point is distorting space-time around itself, we can't lock on to Captain Dale's signature."

"Then get closer!", she yelled.

Locarno shook his head. "I can't. Any closer and we'll enter the gravitational shear, it'll tear us in half."

This can't be happening, Julia thought. No. No no no this can't be…

"What if we used the deflector to generate a… no… or…" Caterina pounded her hands on the control console.

"Do something, Julia," Angel demanded, from her seat at tactical. Her eyes were fixed on the screen, showing Robert - a small figure in an EVA suit - at the edge of the destabilized jump point. He was spinning around and looked like he was literally in the eye of the storm. "Julia, God dammit, do something!"

Julia's mind was racing. They couldn't move closer, they couldn't get a transporter lock… "Jupap, can we… can't we do something to…"

"It's too late," the Alakin said. "He's caught in the gravity well. It's pulling him in."

Everyone on the bridge could do nothing but watch in horror as Robert disappeared into the maw of the destabilized jump point.

A moment afterward, a burst of powerful energy erupted from within the point. "Shields!", Julia shouted. When the wavefront struck them, the Aurora shuddered violently under their feet.

"Shields held," Jupap reported. "Mok'ba and Excalibur report no damage… Pillar reports slight hull damage from their shields being overwhelmed."

Julia barely paid attention to the report. Tears started to flow down her eyes. "Robby," she breathed, in a voice so low only Picard could hear it. "No… no, not now…"

Locarno looked back at her and at the others. Caterina was starting to weep. Her older sister was just staring off into space. He felt his own face turn red with embarrassment at seeing Picard look uncomfortable in the chair, obviously willing to assume command, but not willing to insult Julia in the process. "Commander?", Locarno asked gently.

Julia swallowed and looked at him. Red was starting to clash with the green of her eyes. "Lower shields." She reached to the intercom button. "This is Commander Andreys. All sections, report any injuries to medbay. Bridge out." She pressed the button again and drew in a breath.

"Ledosh to Bridge. The delegates are most anxious to find out what has happened."

Julia looked wearily ahead. "Captain Picard, would you please go inform them of what happened?", she asked. "I… I need to call Admiral Maran. And... " She closed her eyes and didn't want to say it. "And I need to talk to Beth. And Zack. And…"

"I understand," Picard said. "If you need anything, let me know."

"Commander, Captain, a moment," Jupap said.

That drew everyone's attention to the Alakin officer. "I believe it may be premature to give up on Captain Dale. According to the last readings from his suit, he was still alive. Within the threshold of the jump point."

Caterina blinked. "The gravitational sheer, though.."

"I may suggest that the explosion had unknown effects upon the gravity profile of the jump point. Commander Jarod will probably know better than I."

Julia suppressed a sniffle and breathed in. "Right. Cat, get with Jarod, go down to Lab 1 and go over the sensor logs. I want to know if we can find any way of discovering where Rob… where Captain Dale was sent by the point before it collapsed."

Picard tapped his comm badge. "Picard to Data. Mister Data, report to Commander Jarod in Science Lab 1 immediately, he will require your assistance on a crucial project."

"Yes Captain," Data answered.

Picard looked at Julia. "Commander, you will have the full cooperation of myself and my officers in this affair."

"Thank you, Captain Picard. But it's best if you return to the summit meeting." Her face hardened. "Remind them that they'd be dead if Rob hadn't sacri… hadn't done what he did."

Picard nodded and left the bridge.

The delegates took the news somberly. Ledosh nodded as Picard finished describing what had happened. "Thank you, Captain."

"My thanks are to your people, Emissary Ledosh," Picard answered. He looked to the others. "There is still hope that we can discover a way to retrieve Captain Dale. Regardless, his actions saved the lives of every person in this room today, and may have prevented a terrible war in the process. It's clear that the Dominion infiltrator's intent was to frame the Romulan government for the explosion."

Tr'Lhaer nodded stiffly at that. "The Romulan government is thankful that this base manipulation was not brought to fruition. We extend our best wishes to the people of the Alliance for the recovery of their brave officer,"

"Indeed." Picard nodded slightly at him. "Of course, you must also realize, sir, that your presence here was meant to help foster this issue. The least you can do is to be more supportive of the Alliance's diplomatic efforts."

"I have instructions from my government, Captain Picard," tr'Lhaer pointed out. "I cannot diverge from them."

"Of course. But you can work to ensure a more pacific tone to the discussions." Picard turned to face his own table. "As can we all. Now, I believe there was a matter of proposals for material aid to consider?"

Gleer nodded. "There is, yes." He eyed T'Latrek briefly. "And we should focus on business."

"Agreed," T'Latrek concurred.

Angel had easily gotten Julia's permission to leave the bridge. She returned to her quarters, as unused as they had been lately, and sat on the bed.

How… how could he be gone? How could Robert be gone? After all of this, all of the close calls, the desperate battles, he gets lost here?

A part of her wanted to go to the gym and beat on a punching bag until her fists and feet became numb. Another part of her wanted to curl up and just die.

Why couldn't they just be happy?

There was a chime at the door. "Sis?" Caterina's voice called from outside. "Angel? Please?"

"Go away," Angel moaned.

Of course, Caterina didn't go. Just as Angel wouldn't have gone if their roles had been reversed. She entered Angel's quarters and looked at her sister. "We'll find him," Cat promised.

"You know that?", Angel asked. "You absolutely, positively know that?"

Caterina nodded. "Yeah. I mean, between Jarod and Data? We've got this. We'll have this."

"I thought… maybe this time… this would work, you know," Angel said. "Maybe…"

Cat put her arms around her sister's shoulders and leaned her head against Angel's neck. "It'll be okay. We'll get Rob back."

Angel couldn't find a way to answer her. All she could do was weep bitterly.


Cat returned to Science Lab 1 even with the hour having grown late. Jarod and Data were still looking over a sensor model of the jump point after the explosion distorted it. "I would concur with your hypothesis," Data said to Jarod. "The ultritium explosion produced enough energy to distort the horizon of the jump point, causing a dimensional shift."

Caterina blinked at that and walked up to the holo-display. "I didn't think that could happen. Jump points are supposed to destabilize when introduced to that much energy."

"Normally, yes," Jarod said. "But the explosion went off within the point itself instead of outside of it. That caused the shift."

The door opened and Julia entered. Picard was following her. "Do you have something for us yet?", Julia asked.

"Maybe so, Commander," Data answered. "We have ascertained that when the ultritium compound detonated the explosion occurred within the jump point's transition horizon."

"In other words, it happened at the exact point when a ship transits between universes, Mister Data?", Picard asked.

"Correct, sir. Commander Jarod and I have found evidence in the sensor logs that this timing caused the jump point to be shifted dimensionally."

"As in to a different universe from the one we'd selected?", Julia asked.

"No." Jarod shook his head. "As in, the point no longer bridged universes. It went somewhere else."

Caterina looked up from the model. She was gawking in shock. "Or somewhen else."

Julia gave Cat a look. "Caterina?"

"The tachyon surge, the neutrino shifting… this… this really happened. I… I never imagined."

"Mister Data…" Picard gave his operations officer a bewildered look. "Are you saying that the explosion turned the interuniversal jump point into a temporal point?"

"We are running simulations to confirm, but that is our best hypothesis so far," Data replied. "It is our estimation that when Captain Dale was pulled through the destabilized jump point, he was deposited into a different time."

"How different?", Julia asked.

"We are uncertain. Further calculation will need to be made to determine a reasonable range, Commander."

Julia shook her head. In time? Robert's been lost… in time? "Then… if he is in another time…"

"....how do we get him back?", Jarod finished for her.

Robert was surprised when he felt awareness returning. Light poured into his vision the moment he cracked his eyes open. His sides hurt, his arms hurt… just about everything hurt, in fact.

Through the chaos and confusion in his head Robert tried to remember things. He remembered sending the shuttle off into the jump point. He remembered the explosion. Red the shade of blood filling his vision. And then… just a feeling of drifting. No real memory, nothing he could grasp.

In confusion he sat up. "Leo?", he called out. His back protested to the act of sitting up. "Is this…"

"Ah, you're awake."

Robert heard the voice and turned. The intense light had blurred his vision for the moment and he could only make out a general humanoid figure. "Hello?"

There were words exchanged. The figure he was looking at initially moved out of sight. Two more, however, were in sight. He tried to focus on them and eventually chose the center figure.

Human. Male. A uniform of some kind, aesthetically familiar, but not quite the same. The primary color was blue, he thought.

The man he was looking at looked at the figure to his right. Robert could only see a blob of gray; his vision was still coming back.

"Where am I?" Robert swallowed. "My name is Robert Dale. I'm Captain of the Starship Aurora."

That prompted the man to look back at him. "Captain Dale?", the man asked.

"Yes," Robert replied.

"Of the Starship Aurora," the man continued.


The figure in gray to the other man's side seemed to look more intently at Robert. But said nothing.

"I've never heard of that ship, I'm afraid," the man said.

Did I get sucked into another universe?, Robert wondered. With his eyes clearing up he was able to make out the features on the other man's face. He was middle-aged, with some lines on his eyes and brow from responsibility and stress. Robert blinked and focused to get in the other details. Caucasian skin tone. Light brown eyes. Brown hair. "Where am I?", asked Robert.

The man looked at him intently for a moment. As if he was uncertain of Robert was. But he gave his answer only a moment later.

"I'm Captain Jonathan Archer," the man said. "And you're on board the Earth Starship Enterprise."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »


Robert Dale, Captain of the Alliance Starship Aurora, rubbed at the ache in his forehead. His vision was almost entirely back now. The brown-haired, middle-aged man in the blue uniform looked at him intently.

And the name he had spoken… Robert knew that name.

Captain Jonathan Archer took a step forward. "We found you adrift in space," he said. "You're lucky my communications officer managed to hear your transponder going off. When we found you, you had run out of air."

"Additionally, given the damage to your EVA suit, you suffered exposure damage to the tissues of several areas of your body." The initial voice Robert had heard came from beside him. He turned and faced a man with ridges beside his eyes and on his forehead. Colorful blue eyes looked back at him. "The sectional design of the suit seems to have saved your life. All of the damage was kept to non-essential areas."

Robert swallowed. His mouth was parched dry, but that wasn't the only reason he felt the need.

Archer. Captain Jonathan Archer. He could remember Picard mentioning him as the captain of the first Starship Enterprise, over two hundred years before their own time.

I've… traveled through time? The idea was stunning. He could remember Caterina once babbling excitedly about the concept of intentional time travel after sorting through the Darglan records back in the Facility - apparently it was something that the "Time Lords" mentioned in those records did, and quite often - but he had never given it much thought.

"I understand your curiosity, Captain, but Director Esaak is due to call shortly. I am certain he will want a progress report," the gray-suited figure beside Archer said. Now that Robert's vision was clear he could see that it was a woman, a Vulcan woman in a tight suit of gray coloring. And a very attractive one at that. Given their reputation, Robert thought it strange to see a Vulcan in anything but more loose-fitting robes.

"If he calls, T'Pol, tell him I'll be with him as soon as I can," Archer said to her. "I'd like to get to know our visitor a little more."

T'Pol nodded in a way that seemed to convey a bit of irritation. She turned and departed.

"How is he, Phlox?", Archer asked the alien.

"I've managed to heal the exposure damage sufficiently, he's stable," Phlox answered. "But I'd like to keep him for observation for the next couple of days. To be on the safe side. Watching over him shouldn't interfere with my current project."

"Of course." Archer nodded. His head turned and he faced Robert again. "I'd like a moment alone with our guest."

Phlox nodded. "Very well." He stepped out of the sickbay.

Robert was taking in more of his surroundings now. While still certainly more advanced than the doctor's offices he had seen growing up, the sickbay clearly had older technology than what he had known on the Aurora. There were containers of fluids or things everywhere that made him wonder about Dr. Phlox's interests. "Is this a sickbay or a zoo?", he asked Archer.

"Doctor Phlox believes in using nonstandard medicine," Archer explained. He found a chair and sat nearby. "We picked up a spatial distortion of some kind before we found you. Does that have anything to do with why you were adrift in space?"

Robert thought back. The shuttle explosion, inside the interuniversal jump point. Could it have done something to it? Made it shift him through time? "I believe so," Robert answered, as truthful an answer as he could possibly give.

Archer's intent look grew more intense. "You're another time traveler, aren't you?"

Robert caught that. Another. He put an honest look on his face and nodded. "Not intentionally, but it appears so."

Archer sighed. "I had the feeling it might be something like that."

"So you've met other time travelers?", Robert asked.

"I have. It's not something I particularly enjoyed." Archer crossed his arms. "You look awfully young to be a starship captain."

"It's something of a thing in the time I'm from." Robert leaned forward and put his hand on his head. What am I going to do? Could I get a message to the others? Something that would pass through history and ensure them I'm okay?

Archer seemed to digest his statement slowly before nodding. "Okay. I'm going to leave you with Doctor Phlox to recover. If you need anything, let me or Subcommander T'Pol know. But you need to understand that I don't know of any way to get you home. If you are a time traveler.... you might just need to get used to living in this century instead of when you came from."

"I understand." Robert sighed. He had never imagined his life ending up like this. Getting killed fighting Goa'uld or Nazis or Batarians, that's one thing. Being stranded in S5T3's past? That's another. "Where are we anyway?"

The intercom on the wall sounded a tone. "Bridge to Sickbay," T'Pol said, in a voice as flat as before. "Captain Archer, Director Esaak is requesting an update on behalf of the Valakian government."

Archer was already on his way to the intercom. He held a button down to speak into it. "I'm on my way up."

"Valakians?" Robert blinked as he tried to pull the memory of that term out.

"They're a local species," Archer answered. "We found one of their pre-warp ships just after picking you up."

Now he felt confused. Could the Federation have really changed that much? "You made contact with a pre-warp civilization?"

"Yes." Archer nodded. "They've been launching ships out on generational voyages to find help for the epidemic that's killing them."

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Good That Men Do…"

Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 27 July 2641. Commander Julia Andreys recording. We remain on station in the Sol System of Universe S5T3 while Mastrash Ledosh continues attempts to secure aid from the local powers in our war with the Reich. Some progress has been made since Captain Dale prevented the Dominion from destroying the meeting with a bomb, but we're still left with the impasse regarding the Romulan refusal to accept Federation or Klingon use of the IU drive.

As for Captain Dale, Commander Jarod and Lieutenant Caterina Delgado continue their efforts to figure out where - and more importantly,
when - the destabilized jump point took him. Commander Data, formerly of the USS Enterprise, has been assisting them in this effort. I'm just hoping that between the three of them, we can figure out a solution and get the Captain back.

Julia hated using the ready room office. She hated it for the feeling that she was already replacing Robert. That there was no hope to get him back. As much as it was silly, from a rational perspective, she couldn't help it.

The tone of a communication call came from the computer system on the desk. Julia noted who was calling and swallowed. This was not a call she wanted to take.

A press of a button accepted the transmission. The screen changed to show a darkened bedroom. The woman in the picture was dark-haired, and it was messy at the moment. Blue eyes looked at her with distinct redness in them. "Oh, Julia…"

"Beth." Julia felt a lump in her throat.

"I got your message last night," Beth Rankin said. Her voice sounded hollow and distant. "I'm… I'm sure you're doing everything you can…"

Julia nodded. "Jarod and Cat are sure they'll make some progress. I'll let you know whatever I find out."

"Right." Beth drew in a breath. It hid the obvious signs of a sniffle. "I just… I knew this job was dangerous. And I've been scared for you all ever since the war started. But I thought he'd be safer now…"

"We all did."

"I…. thank you for being honest with me." Beth sighed and seemed to look off the screen. "I have to go now. I have work. I just… please, Julia. Get him back. We're the only ones left, you know?"

"I know," Julia answered. "I know."

After finishing her call to Beth to check up on her Julia stepped out onto the bridge. Locarno was sitting in the command chair and stood from it when he saw her. "Commander. How did she take it?"

Julia gave him a sad look. "As far as Beth knows, her cousin may be dead. Or lost forever. She's… taking it about as well as we are, I guess. Grasping on to hope."

"Right." Locarno nodded and settled into the XO seat. Julia took the command chair. She was growing to hate it too, for much the same reason. "How long do you think we have until Admiral Maran decides to send us a new captain?"

Julia pondered the issue. "A week, maybe. Or however long it takes us to wrap up these talks."

"I wonder who he'll send?" Locarno looked intently at her. "Or maybe he'll offer her to you."

Julia gave him a look. "I don't want command. Not like this."

"I know. But… it might make it easier for everyone?"

Julia looked back to tactical. Angel was sitting there staring at her board. As if she couldn't hear them or see anything else. "Maybe not for everyone," Julia lamented.

Caterina felt like her brain was on fire. That's the last time I double up on energy shakes, she thought ruefully as data spun about in holographic form in her eyes.

Jarod sat across from her in Science Lab 1. With a press of a key he activated the recording. They all watched again as Robert, alone in space in an EVA suit, was drawn into the destabilized jump point. "We know from the various neutrino and tachyon eruptions that the jump point shifted and became a temporal vortex," he said. "What we need to figure out is what time period it went to. Was it in the past or the future?"

Riker and Data were seated nearby. "Of greater concern is if Captain Dale was thrown into the past," Riker said. "I don't think you've undergone the same training we have on how to interact with past timeframes. If he says the wrong thing, does the wrong thing, the repercussions to history could be disastrous."

"Robert's not dumb, though," Caterina protested. "He'll know to be careful."

"It is not necessarily an issue of intelligence, Lieutenant Delgado," Data pointed out. "Simply by being in the past, Captain Dale could inadvertently cause ripples to events that change the flow of history. Even the smallest action could produce what is known as the butterfly effect."

"Which makes it even more important for us to find a way to get him back." Jarod tapped a key. "Commander Riker, Starfleet's got experience with time travel. Do you think there's anyway to retrieve him?"

Riker shook his head. "Time travel's a tricky business, Commander. If anything, we should focus on finding out what time period he's in."

"Well, I don't think we can determine it just by reading the jump point," Cat pointed out. "All we know for sure is the temporal element to it from the dimensional shift."

"If your Captain has been sent to the future, the risk to our time is reduced, therefore I would suggest we focus our efforts on the possibility of the outcome most likely to cause harm to our timeframe," Data surmised.

"You mean we assume he went into the past," Jarod said. "So we look through library records. And…" Jarod frowned. "Well, let's be honest here. If he was sent back before a certain time, he'd be in an EVA suit with limited air supply in an era when Humanity still lacked spaceflight. So there would be no record of him to find."

"Because he'd be dead," Cat said, frowning.

"Yeah. So let's go with records from the era of Human spaceflight in this universe and work our way out from there."

"An excellent suggestion, Commander Jarod," Data said. "I will begin searching Earth-based databases immediately."

"If you give me a listing of unexplained spatial phenomena in the area around Earth, Commander, I can see if it matches anything that a distorted jump point might do," Caterina said.

They moved over to another workstation to begin that task. Riker watched them go and turned back to see Jarod looking at him. "Commander?", he asked.

"You seem less confident than before, Commander Riker," Jarod said.

"How very astute of you to notice, Mister Jarod," Riker responded. "Is this another of your specialized gifts?"

"Well, I did act as a psychiatrist and therapist a few times," Jarod mused. "But I'm not looking to be your therapist, if that's what you're asking."

"Your point, then?"

"I know what it's like, Commander Riker." Jarod frowned. "I've been in your shoes before."


"Yes. The Darglan Facility we called home. I wasn't able to save it."

Riker remained quiet for a moment. "Maybe so, Mister Jarod," Riker said. "But were you in command? If you had made the right decisions, could you have saved it?"

"I wasn't in command," Jarod admitted. "As for what decisions I made, I honestly can't say for certain."

"Then I respectfully suggest, Mister Jarod, that you don't actually know what it's like," Riker said. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go report to Captain Picard on our progress."

"And I need to do the same with Commander Andreys."

The two stood and left. Riker consciously avoided going through the same door Jarod did, which made the latter shake his head.

The pain and discomfort Robert had felt when he woke up had gradually faded over the following hours. He spent the time patiently watching Phlox at work with, presumably, the plague on the planet below. He didn't need to read minds to realize the Denobulan doctor was under a lot of strain.

Occasionally Robert would check his multidevice; he knew to be careful with it given the technology issue. He didn't want to impact the timeline negatively.

But eventually his boredom got the better of him. "Doctor, I get that you want to observe me, but there has to be something I can do besides sit here."

"Hrm. I would permit you to report for daily exercise, but I want to make sure your tissues have recovered from the trauma." Phlox looked away from his readings. "One moment please…" He watched something on the screen happen. "There. Hrm." Phlox hit a couple of keys and looked toward Robert with a tense expression. He pulled a seat up toward the bed. "Tell me, how did you wind up drifting alone in space?"

"I must have gotten sucked into the jump point," Robert answered. "Although why it sent me here, I'm not sure."

"Yes, I heard something about you being a time traveler of sorts? Hrm?" Phlox pulled out a light and examined Robert's eyes. Again. It annoyed.

Given his tone of voice, it wasn't a major leap in logic for Robert to make his next conclusion. "You think I'm lying. Or deluded."

"Well, it's not impossible that being abandoned in the middle of space could have a severe effect upon the Human mind," Phlox noted. "Delusions are possible."

"It'd be easy to figure out if I was just some lost space traveler dropped out of his ship," Robert remarked. "Were there any vessels in the area?"

"The inquiry was already made, the answer was no. But that doesn't mean there were no other ships, simply that we did not see any." Phlox pulled the light away. "Well, whatever may be going on in your brain, it does seem to be functioning properly. Perhaps something to listen to while I work?"

"Does this have to do with that plagued species Captain Archer mentioned?"

"Oh yes." Phlox seemed to think of something. "I intend to go down to the planet tomorrow. I suppose I could bring you with me. It would be a chance to stretch your legs, visit the homeworld of another species, and possibly be of assistance."

Robert nodded. "I think I'd appreciate that."

"Excellent." Phlox checked Robert's pulse next, smiled and nodded at the result, and put his things away. "Your vitals are stable. I would say you're healing well from the exposure damage. Tomorrow we'll know for sure."

Robert nodded and breathed in. "Thanks, Doctor. For saving my life." Robert shifted on the bed. He was feeling tired, presumably from the need to recover from what happened. But he kept thinking of his predicament. Being stranded centuries in the past, where one wrong decision could undo… well, how much of what he and the others had accomplished? If this universe had its timeline altered, they would have likely never encountered Picard and his crew, nor recruited Scotty, Farmer, and Locarno. He never would have been forced to think about the consequences of their activities from his argument with Picard.

"I would suggest you go to sleep if you are feeling tired, it will aid the recovery process," Phlox said. "If you need I can provide a sleeping aid."

The thought tempted him. Robert, however, shook his head. "No. That… I don't think that will be necessary." He laid his head back on the lone pillow on the sickbay bunk and closed his eyes. "I'll make do."

"It is your choice." Robert heard Phlox start walking away. "If you need anything, the intercom on the wall can connect to the bridge. I need to go speak with Captain Archer."

"Right…" Robert stifled a yawn and turned on the bunk to try and get comfortable.

It's going to be pretty embarrassing if I have any nightmares and wake up screaming again…

The day was almost over for Julia. She'd sent a message off to Zack and hadn't received a response yet. Admiral Maran had acknowledged her report and informed her she would be in command for the moment until a decision was made.

There was a tone at the door to her personal office. She called out, "Come in!" and watched Picard enter. "Captain. How may I help you?"

"I wanted to see how you were doing," he said. "I'm aware that what you're going through is not easy."

"No, it's not," Julia admitted. "What about the negotiations?"

"They are, unfortunately, still stalled as Ambassador tr'Lhaer insists on awaiting new instructions." Picard took the offered seat and set his hands down on Julia's desk. "Commander, I think it would be best if you were to sit with Mastrash Ledosh at tomorrow's session. I am hoping that, perhaps, a new insight may help break our deadlock."

Julia considered that request. "I'm not sure what good it will do, to be honest. The Romulans are pretty dead set against our drives going to either the Federation or the Klingons."

"Yes. But the Romulans are rarely as straightforward as they can appear. It is possible that they have another agenda."

Julia thought about that. "And another pair of eyes might help you find it." She nodded. "Yes, I'll attend. I suppose it's the least I can do with Robert gone."

"I get the feeling that you two are a lot closer than just your professional relationship," Picard remarked.

A thin smile appeared on Julia's face. "If that's your way of asking if we're together, romantically speaking, the answer is no." She shook her head. "Robert and I knew… have known each other for forever. My parents worked closely with his. We grew up together. Some of my first memories are of times when he was my playmate as a child." Julia smiled gently at old memories. "I never thought I would have to live life without him, to be honest."

Picard nodded in understanding. "Thankfully, we have quite the collection of talent on this ship. Mister Data, Mister Scott, and your redoubtable savant Mister Jarod and brilliant Miss Delgado. I trust that if there is a way to find where and when Robert was taken and to get him back, they will be the ones to discover it."

Julia smiled at that. "Thank you." She shifted forward in the chair. "Robert told me that you two are on a first name basis in private."

With another nod and a small smile, Picard answered, "Yes. I offered that to him as a gesture."


"Support. I believe that when someone with potential to serve as a good starship captain comes along, it's best to foster that talent. To show encouragement. Good captains are more rare than they appear to be."

Julia answered with a nod of her own. "I can see that, yes."

There was a beep on Picard's communicator. "Picard here," he responded.

The answer was from Counselor Troi. "Captain, Councillor T'Latrek wanted you to know they're ready to resume."

Picard gave Julia a meaningful look. She nodded and stood up. "We're coming right away, Counselor."

Caterina's squee of triumph echoed through Lab 1.

Data looked up from the records he was going through and looked over to where Cat was fidgeting with energy in her chair. "I think I found him!", she cried out.

That prompted Jarod to look up from his own workstation. "What did you find?", he asked, walking over.

"It's a science log from a Vulcan ship from the 22nd Century called the Seleya. Their long range sensors picked up what they referred to as a spatial disturbance in mid-2151 Local." Caterina busied herself with hitting keys and going over the record. "Look at those subspace distortions. And the spikes in the Groenitz-Hallen lower bands."

"And the neutrino concentrations." Jarod reached over to the console and typed in commands that brought up their own sensor logs from the distorted jump point. He put the readings up beside each other and had the computer compare them.

By this time Data was observing, albeit from his seat. "A 95% match," he noted. "Well within a reasonable margin of error given the natural instability of the temporally-shifted jump point. The odds of this being a separate event are astronomically low."

"This is it," Cat said. "This… this is when he was taken to!"

"Did the Seleya pick up his suit transponder?", Jarod asked.

Cat eagerly went into the database logs for Seleya. Her grin faded as she looked over the log. "No," she said, dejected. "No, they didn't."

"Still, we have a point in time," Jarod said.

"And," Data said, "I believe we may have a specific place as well."

Cat and Jarod walked over to where Data was bringing up old records. "I examined the coordinates of the Seleya's reading," Data explained. "It is within one light year of the Valakis system."

"Could these Valakis people have picked him up?", Caterina asked.

Data shook his head. "No. They did not achieve warp drive until 2236."

Caterina frowned at that. "Then…"

Data found himself intrigued by the young science officer and the way her emotional state could fluctuate so rapidly. He had felt similar tendencies himself when his emotion chip was still newly-activated, but that had been from the software and hardware having conflicts. This was an entirely organic reaction. "I do not believe you should consider this conclusive as to Captain Dale's fate. Another vessel may have…" New information popped up on Data's screen. "One moment…" After Data went over the new information, he nodded. "I used the narrowing of the timeframe and location to do a data search in the records of that era for anyone matching Captain Dale's physical description. I have found a possible match in Valakian video records of the era." Data tapped a couple of keys and brought the image up to the Lab's central holoviewer.

It was a rustic-looking setting. The buildings looked medieval more than they did modern, and humanoids with bone ridges along their temples. The picture focused on four individuals. Data hit a key and zoomed in on the four figures in blue uniforms. All but one had visible rank insignia and patches.

The last was Robert.

Caterina squeed again. Jarod smiled and nodded. "You did it."

Data was too busy looking at Caterina. He blinked. And then he smiled and, with complete accuracy, mimicked her squee of joy.

Caterina's hazel eyes widened. She stared at him in wonder. Data responded with a blink. "I was curious," he said. "I wanted to see if I could approximate the emotion of joy you were clearly experiencing."

"That was so cool," Caterina said. "Do it again."

Data blinked at that. And then he nodded, smiled again, and let out another squee.

Caterina echoed it.

Jarod cleared his throat and looked past them, causing Data and Caterina to look in the same direction.

Picard and Julia were standing at the door, waiting patiently and with great quiet. Picard had a bemused expression on his face. "Mister Data, I don't think I have ever imagined you with that level of… youthful exuberance," Picard remarked.

Behind his shoulder, Julia looked like she was trying to fight the urge to laugh.

Caterina's cheeks turned deep red. Data's eyebrows lifted up. "It is a most… interesting feeling, Captain."

"You found him?", Julia asked, not quite able to keep the hope out of her voice.

"Yes," Jarod said.

Picard and Julia drew closer and looked up at the viewer. "Those uniforms…" Picard pointed at the screen. "United Earth Starfleet from the mid-22nd Century. Before the founding of the Federation. Data, can you get identification on the figures with him?"

"Yes, Captain. I am running them through Starfleet historical archives now… We have a match."

On the screen, the Aurora computers took the Starfleet data and displayed it, placing the zoomed in faces of each person with Robert alongside.

Picard's face turned into a puzzled frown as he read the names personally; Data, for the benefit of the others, read them aloud. "It appears Captain Dale is in the company of Dr. Phlox of the Interspecies Medical Exchange, Starfleet Ensign Hoshi Sato, and Starfleet Crewwoman Elizabeth Cutler. They were all assigned to the Enterprise NX-01."

"The NX-01?", Julia asked.

"The first Starship Enterprise," Picard breathed.

"Wait." Caterina looked at Picard in confusion. "I thought Kirk's Enterprise, the one Scotty served on, I thought that was the first?"

"The Enterprise NCC-1701 was the first Enterprise to serve in the Starfleet of the Federation," Data corrected. "Enterprise NX-01 served with the pre-Federation United Earth Starfleet. She was the first Human-built warp-capable starship to be capable of Warp 5."

"Jonathan Archer," Picard said. A concerned expression came to his face. "Mister Data, do you know when in time this is?"

"The year 2151, Captain," Data answered. "Lieutenant Delgado determined the time through sensor logs from a Vulcan ship detecting the other end of the unstable jump point that deposited Captain Dale into the past. It was to a point just outside the Valakis system."

Julia felt worried when Picard's expression became more perturbed. "Valakis, Mister Data?"

"Yes sir." Data indicated the video. "This image comes from contemporary Valakian archives." Data checked information on the screen. "It was from a security scanner in a village of the Menk."

Picard shook his head. "Of all of the times to be drawn toward…"

"Captain Picard, what's wrong?", Julia asked.

"Captain Dale has arrived in a critical moment in history," Picard explained. "The First Contact with the Valakians and Menk."

"What's so important about it?', Jarod asked.

"Because, Mister Jarod…" Picard looked at Jarod with concern. "The outcome of this meeting will play a critical role in the creation of the Prime Directive."

The Menk village was a sharp contrast to the advanced metropolis visible over the hills. Light pollution from the Valakian city spilled over those hills and dulled the stars of the night sky.

Robert shifted the weight of the scanner equipment in his arms. He had accepted a Starfleet uniform for this mission to fit in with the others although they had taken off the patch and the rank insignia. The color trim was beige like Captain Archer's. Robert wondered if that was an indication Archer at least accepted his claimed rank.


Robert turned his head. One of the women who came down with Phlox, a Crewwoman named Cutler, was looking at him curiously. "Yes?"

"You're the one they found floating in space near here," Cutler said. "How did that happen?"

Robert thought of an answer for a moment. "Well, you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"I'd like to know too." The other woman was Asian and looked closer to Robert's age, but not much older. Robert had heard her name was Hoshi Sato, the ship's communications officer. "Your EVA suit was transmitting a transponder signal into subspace. That took a lot of energy."

"I suppose it does."

"So, let me guess…" Cutler smirked. "Visitor from another time? Or some strange alternate timeline where Humanity has discovered more advanced technology?"

Robert grinned slightly and shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me, so you might as well say that."

They walked into the center of the Menk village. The locals all looked toward them with the kind of interest Robert would have suspected from small children. Phlox spoke with one about the need to get samples from the population. Or, rather, he conveyed that message through Sato who spoke with the Menk in their own language. His own auto-translator working through his multi-device informed him of the conversation along all lines of the translation work, making it seem redundant from his point of view.

Phlox quickly chose a structure to set up in. Robert felt very much the unnecessary pair of hands afterward; Cutler was doing the handling of the samples taken and Sato was there to translate. This left him standing nearby, taking up the unofficial position of guard, or so Robert assumed. It was, at least, a chance to get away from the Enterprise sickbay for a while and take counsel of his thoughts. And his fears. Are they going to come for me? he wondered. Can they come for me? And if they don't, what do I do? The fact Archer had dealt with time travelers before gave him some hope he might find a way home, but how many months, or years, might that take him? And all the while he would be risking altering history by anything he did.

"You okay?"

Robert turned and saw a Menk male, the one who had led them into the village, standing beside him. "Yeah," he answered.

The Menk looked at him in confusion. "You speak Menk?"

"In a way," Robert said cautiously.

The Menk nodded. "You sad."

"Worried, mostly. But yeah, I guess that fits."

The Menk - Robert tried to think of his name but couldn't remember hearing it - lowered his head. "So sad. Valakians sick. Don't get better."

Robert nodded at that. "My condolences."

"Valakians good to Menk. Feed us. Give work."

"But didn't you say earlier the Valakkians didn't let you have the best land?", Robert asked. "You don't get to farm your own food."

"Farming. Farming hard. Not very good at it."

Robert considered that and he knew from personal experience that farming could be difficult. "So you just prefer to live here."

"Menk's home here. Yes."

Robert smiled and nodded. "Can't argue with that sentiment. I just wish I could return home."

The Menk smiled. "Yes. You return home. Good."

If only I knew how…

The Command Staff assembled in the conference room with Julia in Robert's chair and Picard assuming the chair she normally took. The present staff from the lost Enterprise filed in at Picard's left.

On the main holoscreen set into the middle of the table, the image of Robert floated for everyone to look at. "He's in the past." Angel drew in a breath. "And he's alive… you're sure that's him?"

Jarod nodded. Caterina put a hand on her sister's shoulder for comfort. "It's him, Sis."

"How do we get him back?"

"That is the tricky part," Julia said. "We're looking at time travel."

"The easiest method might be re-creating the accident," Jarod explained. "I can modify a spread of solar torpedoes with larger naqia devices. We open a jump point to the same destination as before and use a torpedo on it, detonating at the exact same moment the shuttle did."

"That is a decent starting point," Data agreed. "But I must point out that it would be impossible to recreate every single factor that was present. The odds of this method working are extremely low. Additionally, given the shockwave put off by the last destabilized jump point, we cannot ascertain whether another one might produce one of even greater magnitude."

Jarod nodded. "That's true. But it's still our most direct approach."

"It also begs the question of how a ship would get back to our time," Picard said. "Whomever went back could end up stranded in the past with him."

"Also a good point," Leo said. "We have enough responsibilities in this era. I don't like the thought of going back in time and staying there."

"Well, we have to get Rob back somehow," Angel insisted.

At that point, there was a chuckle from beside Jarod. All eyes turned to the oldest man in the room. "So, we need tae go back in time by two centuries an' get back." Scotty folded his hands together. "Aye, I think I know just th' thing." He leaned in on the table. "We slingshot around a star."

Caterina's eyes widened. "Oh! Oh! That might work!"

Julia looked at him intently. "Explain, Scotty?"

"Just what I said, Commander. We approach a star at high warp an' break away just as we reach th' right point."

"And the high speed breakaway at warp, influenced by the intense gravity of a star so close to its surface… that can actually do it! We could achieve temporal transition!", Caterina proclaimed.

"I am familiar with the effect you describe," Data said. "However, a slingshot has not been attempted in many decades."

"Not since Mister Scott himself, and Captain Spock, used it to move a Klingon Bird-of-Prey back to the 20th Century," Picard noted. "The technique is considered too dangerous by Starfleet for repeat use. And I imagine the Department of Temporal Investigations would not be happy."

Jarod crossed his arms. "You're saying that time travel is such an issue in the Federation that you have time protection police?"

"They can be… most unpleasant," Worf rumbled.

"Scotty, can we actually do this?", Julia asked. "Slingshot around a star?"

"Aye. I have th' base calculations." Scotty tapped a finger on the table. "Th' main problem I have is that th' Aurora's pure mass may be tae much. I'm nae sure we can manage t' break away from a star at th' proper point."

"Do you know for sure?", Angel asked.

"A slingshot has never been attempted by a ship of the Aurora's mass." Data looked to Angel with curiosity. Her emotional state seemed the most agitated of those present. "This ship's ability to achieve stellar breakaway is unknown, and likely to be very difficult."

"I should also point out that we're currently hosting a diplomatic conference," Julia said. "I'm not sure we can just haul three foreign delegations into the 22nd Century with us."

"Then what are we supposed to do?", Angel demanded. "Take their ship?" She looked to the Starfleeters.

"I'm not certain Captain Korsmo will agree to risking his ship and crew," Picard pointed out.

Julia tapped her finger to her chin in thought. "Let me talk to Admiral Maran," she said. "Maybe I can get him to send us some help."

When the meeting ended Angel, who was off-duty now, went to the turbolift that would take her back to the other decks. Despite her expectations, she was not alone. Troi followed her into the lift. Angel gave her a discontented look before saying, "Deck 13."


"Let me guess. You sense my emotions are all twisted up and you want to help me."

"That's my job," Troi pointed out.

"So let's skip the therapy session. Someone I love is lost. And we're not sure we can get him back."

"Fair enough."

"And I don't want to talk about it," Angel finished. "Sorry, I'm not into the psychoanalysis therapy thing."

That caused Troi to nod again. "I understand that. But there's more to therapy than just psychoanalysis. Sometimes it's just about talking to someone else. And getting your feelings out."

"The punching bags in the gym will work for that."

"It may feel that way, but that's not always…"

"It's how it works for me, Counselor," Angel shot back. "And if you want to talk about getting someone's feelings out, how well is that going for Commander Riker?"

The lift stopped and the door opened. Angel stepped out. "What about him?", Troi asked her.

"I noticed he's not as cocky as he was, most of us have," Angel said. "So why don't you worry about his feelings before poking around with mine." She stomped away after that.

Phlox was finishing up his work on the Menk samples. With their time on the planet almost over Robert stepped away from the others and looked up into the night sky of Valakis. For a time he remained alone.

Hoshi stepped up beside him. "You look thoughtful," she said. "Robert is your name?"

"It is," he replied.

For a moment they said nothing. Hoshi ended the silence. "It's incredible. Being under an alien sky."

"I've never gotten used to it," Robert admitted. "It always seems so unreal to me, no matter how many times I see it."

"You're an explorer?", she asked.

"Sometimes." Robert shrugged. "Much of my time with starships has involved helping people, though."


Robert smiled thinly. "Rescuing them, usually. Going into slave labor camps or dissident prisons or something like that, guns blazing, saving people from torture and suffering and murder." He swallowed. "I mean, I haven't done that in a while now. But it was something I used to do."

It was clear Hoshi wasn't sure whether to accept what he was saying. "And this has to do with your mysterious origin. Okay."

"So, what do you think of all this?", Robert asked. "The Menk and the Valakians."

"I'm… I'm not sure," Hoshi admitted. "It seems like the Valakians are exploiting them, almost. They've kicked them off the best land. They're see them as servants more than people."

"Fair enough." Robert smiled thinly as the subject brought up old memories. "My grandfather told me that his grandmother was half-Kansa."


"The Kaw people," Robert clarified. "A Native American tribe, their name is the one that was derived to name the state of Kansas. My grandpa always liked the idea that he was descended from the Kansa. He felt it gave him a real tie to our family land."

Hoshi nodded. "Well, your accent gives that away a little. You're actually from Kansas though?"

Robert sighed and nodded. "I am. Grew up on the family farm."

"A farmboy." Hoshi nodded. "I might have to look you up then. I'm sure there's public files on Kansas farm families."

Robert thought briefly about that. It made some sense, he had to admit, that he and the others might exist or had existed in the histories of the other Earths. I mean, why wouldn't they? But he had never gotten around to actually looking into that. It seemed… off-putting, if anything. But it was an intriguing idea to wonder how his counterpart in this universe had spent the 21st Century. Did Mom, Dad, and Susanna live longer in this world? What was I, he, like?

"So, what about the Kansa?", Hoshi asked.

"I'm just reminded a little about the stories my grandfather told," Robert said. "About how white settlers moved in and forced all of the tribes off the best lands. Grandpa always said he thought it was one of the worst parts of our history. Maybe even as bad as African slavery. And our family emigrated to Kansas as free-staters, so that's saying something." He looked out at the Menk. "And I guess it does feel a bit like that. The Valakians keeping the Menk off the best soil. But there's a difference here."

"That is?", Hoshi asked.

"They actually care for the Menk," Robert said. "They're in the middle of a species-wide pandemic that's killing them off, millions every year, and they still make sure the Menk are being fed and cared for. There aren't any lynch mobs. No soldiers. No hatred. They're not being cheated and abused by desperate Valakians looking to get ahead. There aren't any swindlers cheating the Menk out of their food or what land they have. Nobody pushing alcohol on them to try and make them addicts or trick them while they're inebriated. We never treated the Kaw and the other native peoples this well. God knows how we'd treat another species."

Hoshi seemed to think about that. "So you think the Valakians are in the right?"

Robert shook his head slightly. "I don't know. Maybe they should let the Menk have better farmland. And teach them to farm for themselves. All I know is that, even if this isn't a perfect situation, it's far better than it would be with other races. Even us."

"You may have a point," Hoshi conceded.

"Ah, there you are."

They turned. Phlox stepped up to them. "I have everything I need," he said. He looked over Robert. "And you look quite well. You've seem to have recovered well, Mister Dale."

"Thanks to you, Doctor," Robert answered, nodding and grinning. "Back to Enterprise?"

"Yes, we need to get back." Phlox held up the case in his hand. "I have samples to process."

Troi was indulging in a late dinner in the Lookout. She found that while she missed Guinan's company, the elderly German gentleman running the Aurora crew lounge had his own charms.

Hargert was sitting across from her, holding up a holographic image of a smiling young pair of twins. "My grand niece and nephew," he said. "From the Bavarian Alps."

"You have quite the large family, sir," Troi observed. "But I can't help but notice you don't speak of any children of your own."

Hargert nodded. "I was a different man in my youth," he admitted. "Always running around. Never stopping to think about the future. Until the day the future came… and I was an old man too tired to run anymore." He smiled sadly. "I will not know the joy of a child of my own, that is true. But I take solace in being able to guide the young."

"That's why you're here?", Troi asked. "On the Aurora."

"Oh yes," Hargert said. "Yes indeed, Counselor. This is where my calling is. This is where I belong."

"It can be hard to find somewhere you belong. I'm happy for you."

Hargert nodded. And he reached forward and took her hand. "I understand you grieve for your lost ship. I am sorry for you."

Troi smiled gently and shook her head. "It's not the Enterprise that bothers me. It's Will. Commander Riker. I've tried…"

"Excuse me? Counselor Troi?"

Both of them looked up. Hargert's face curled into a slight smile. "Mister Jarod," he said. "Have you come to have dinner? The stew turned out quite well."

Jarod nodded and grinned at the lounge host. "I'll have to try that," he pledged. "But I'm here to see Counselor Troi."

"Very well." Hargert stood from his seat. "Let me go get you a bowl."

Jarod took a seat beside the chair Hargert vacated. "Hargert's cooking is amazing," he said to her. "Don't you think?"

Troi dipped her fork into the chocolate fudge cake slice in front of her. "Very," she agreed. She took a bite and chewed on it a moment before swallowing. "So, Mister Jarod, what can I do for you?"

"Nothing for me. Not exactly," Jarod answered. "But maybe for Commander Riker."

"What about Will?"

Jarod nodded at her. "Let's be honest, Counselor. I've been a psychiatrist myself at times. We both know Riker is going through a major crisis of confidence over losing the Enterprise."

Troi couldn't argue with that assessment. "It's something that will have to heal itself, I think," she lamented.

"Maybe, but we can try to give him a boost in the right direction," he pointed out. "I just need a way to get through to him."

"Will can be a complicated person sometimes," Troi replied. "I've tried many techniques to get through to him, but nothing I know of works either."

Jarod gave a nod to show he understood that. "Alright. Maybe the offer of help isn't what he needs." Jarod put his hands together. "I recently… well, I've had something gnawing at me for years lately, and I was recently able to get over it by a similar experience." Jarod thought briefly of the Dalek attack on the Facility and the Battle over Caprica. "Maybe if we did something to make face his fears?"

"I don't know if that is the approach that will work." Troi thought for a moment. Jarod looked into her dark eyes and thought he could feel those thoughts working through to a conclusion; she certainly knew Riker very closely. "Will can be very competitive sometimes. Especially when he was younger. I think that might be the best way to help him."

"Competition?" Jarod noticed Hargert coming with the stew and leaned forward. "Do you have any ideas for that?"

Upon their return to Enterprise, Robert met with a novel experience. The decontamination room was understandable, at least. There were no bio-scanners here, none of the technology that could help prevent harmful contaminants from alien worlds from getting onto the ship.

The whole "strip down and rub gel over your skin" part, that was a bit weird though. The thought struck him that it wasn't too different from showering in the locker rooms back when he was in school, even less exposed than that.

Of course, there were no girls in those locker room environments either.

After getting the samples back to the sickbay Hoshi and Cutler went off to other duties. Phlox gestured to the sickbay bed and Robet sat on it for an examination. There were still parts where his body had a dull ache to it. He wasn't surprised to hear Phlox say it was continued trauma from exposure. "Still, you are improving quite nicely. Tomorrow I'll ask the Captain to find you spare quarters."

"That would be nice," Robert noted.

Phlox nodded slightly and went to his work station to begin examining the samples. "I'm not sure when we can get you back to Earth. There are no Human ships this far from your homeworld."

"Honestly, Doctor, I'm hoping it won't be necessary."

"Ah." Phlox smiled widely at him. "You think your associates can find you then?"

"I'm… pretty sure of it, yeah," Robert replied. "If anyone can, they can."

"Well, I hope that you turn out to be correct on that. Of course, if that doesn't come about, perhaps there are other careers you might consider pursuing? You seemed to have mentioned farming to Ensign Sato."

"I grew up on a farm."

"Well, there are plenty of farms on some of the Human colonies being established," Phlox pointed out. "Although you seem the kind of man who would prefer a more active lifestyle. Perhaps one where you can do some good in the galaxy. I'm sure Captain Archer would agree with me that you might want to consider wearing that uniform full time."

"Join Starfleet you mean?"

"Yes. Obviously your claimed rank is unlikely to be accepted, but with the talent you would necessarily have in order to hold it, I'm sure you would regain it in Starfleet service. Perhaps you would end up in command of another ship like this one, in due time. Exploring the galaxy for your species."

Robert tried not to chuckle. The thought of him joining Starfleet. That was… well, amusing. Especially given his continued philosophical opposition to their Prime Directive.

That thought brought him to another. Do they even have that rule yet? There has to be a reason they started it. He smiled at the amusing thought that if he were stuck in this time period and did take up Phlox's suggestion, then ended up in command of a ship, he might very well be the reason the Prime Directive was written. That would be major irony.

Phlox regarded him with curiosity. "Did I say something amusing?"

Robert shook his head. "Not directly, Doctor, no. I just had some personal thoughts about the situation, that's all."

"Ah. Right. Well, if you'll excuse me, the Menk samples must be examined."

"Of course." Robert laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. He drew in a weary breath that was mostly, but not all, a sigh. The idea of being stranded here… of being away from the people he loved, the people he worked with… of leaving them with the war that had to be fought when he did so much to help instigate it. It seemed so… wrong.

Having to start again. To, maybe, start normally, too. Working my way up ranks until I was a Captain in this time period. When I might do some good.

A pang of guilt filled his heart. I'll never see Angel or Julie again. Or Zack, Tom, Leo, Cat, Lucy… He shook his head. No. I'm going to find a way back to the future, someway and somehow.

Around that time he dozed off.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Angel had tried to sleep again. It hadn't worked. And so she did the next best thing.

Her fists were growing numb. Her arms were burning with fatigue from the strain. But she continued to punch the bag hanging in front of her like it was the sole embodiment of everything making her feel screwed up.

She wanted to trust in Cat and Jarod to find a solution. Especially with that super-smart android helping them with the tech and science stuff. But everything reminded her that Rob was gone. That he might not be coming back. Which reminded her, in turn, of why she'd been the one to restart their relationship in the first place.

There was a part of her mad at Rob. Like it was his fault and not the fault of that damned Changeling or whatever was happening in the past. You always have to be the damn hero, Rob, she thought. Always the damn white knight riding off to save the day. Normally she liked that about him. But now… now it seemed to be a warning of how quickly he could be taken away from her. Permanently.

Angel yelled in frustration and stepped back to deliver a powerful roundhouse kick to the bag. This actually knocked it off of the hook above from the clasp not being fastened right. The punching bag hit the floor with a dull thump. Angel frowned and looked on to see a young Dorei male standing with his own punching bag, now swinging slightly from the remaining momentum from the last hit. Angel scoffed at it and bent over to pick it up.

"I do not think you are training very effectively at this point."

The deep voice caused Angel to look over her shoulder. She smirked and said, "Who said anything about training?"

The Klingon Worf was standing nearby. He was clad in what looked like a cross between a proper martial arts gi and a bathrobe. It was quite a different style from Angel's preferred sports bra and gym shorts combination, the current ones midnight black in color and marked with Nike symbols. She had a standard issue set in her branch colors, but the black had seemed a better fit for her mood. "I had assumed you had a reason for working so intently. But your form was clearly lacking."

Angel hooked the bag back up and looked at Worf with a bit less of a smirk this time. "It's almost midnight ship time. Shouldn't you be in bed like a good little Starfleet boy scout?"

"Klingons do not require as much sleep as Humans," Worf retorted.

"Right." Angel walked over to another bag. "Well, they do the t'ai chi on the other end of the gym. Chief Ghayati teaches yoga and t'ai chi every day. Or maybe you Klingons have something like it?"

"Mok'bara," Worf answered.

"Ah. Well, it's all the same 'wave your arms around' stuff to me."

"It allows a warrior to focus mind and body," Worf continued. "The movements help prepare us for battle."

"Good for you. But that's not my thing." Angel gave the bag a playful whack with her fist. "I'm more physical with combat."

"And yet you are distracted," Worf pointed out. "In battle, that would be a failing. A warrior's mind must be unclouded."

"Someone very close to me is stuck two hundred years in the past. Being clouded is something I'll have to deal with."

"That would be a mistake," Worf pointed out.

Something about his attitude rankled. Angel frowned. "Care to prove it?"

Worf smiled a toothy smile. "Gladly."

Angel felt her blood rush. She was going to wipe that smile off his smug face. It was something constructive to do, at least, while she waited for the brainiacs to find a way to rescue Robert. "Come on, then." She motioned for him to follow. They walked to the vacant boxing ring. Angel pulled out a plastic tooth guard and handed it to Worf. He eyed it, smirked, and handed it back. "Your dentist visit," she sighed, pulling out one for herself. She climbed into the ring and worked through the ropes.

Worf followed her up and walked to the opposite corner. "Are you prepared?", he asked.

Angel put the guard in her mouth and nodded. She assumed an offensive martial arts stance and observed Worf's defensive arm placement for a moment while advancing. He wasn't attacking yet; fine by her. He had mass on her, she needed to be the one moving going for weak spots. His stance was solid enough, no advantage there. I guess I'll make my own, she thought.

First she threw a few punches and kicks to test Worf's speed. Not too bad for his size. But not too good either. She evaded his counter-attacks and gave ground around the ring.

When Angel thought everything was in place, she went on the attack again. A number of punches and kicks, deflected, but all to set up the counter-attack she knew had to come. When it came, she grabbed for his arm.

She was quite surprised when it was her right arm that ended up grabbed instead. Angel let out a short cry of surprise at that. Worf used his leverage on her to kick her in the side of the ribs - nowhere vital, just enough force to not break anything, but painful as hell - and then throw her into the opposite corner. The impact knocked the breath out of Angel. She looked up at Worf as she recovered it. "You are distracted," he pointed out.

Angel snarled back and got back to her feet. She went on the attack again. This time Worf didn't just block blows, he weaved and ducked as necessary to avoid Angel's angry punches and kicks. One kick grazed him along the cheek. But that wasn't enough to keep his hands from coming up and gripping her by the lower leg. He pulled her off-balance and tossed her bodily into the corner again. This time he said nothing while Angel picked herself up from the ground. She put a hand to where she'd taken the blow to the ribs and gave Worf an angry look.

That angry look became another attack. Worf had to work for it this time; Angel wasn't just fast, but quite strong for her size, and the punch she managed to land on Worf's jaw drew blood from his lip. A solid kick to his shoulder was enough to dislodge his left arm from an attempt to grapple with her again. He had provoked her into a frenzy of attacks that still showed some calculation to them.

For a minute it looked like Angel's burst of angry effort might put Worf down in turn. But her attack slowed slightly, slightly enough that Worf was able to land a flat-palm blow to Angel's bruised right rib. It took all of Worf's focus and control to restrain the blow from doing more than hitting a weak spot; just a little more force and he would have broken the rib completely.

The strike broke Angel's attack down. She let out a cry of pain and fell back. Worf followed her as she went to the mat and pinned her upper torso in place with his forearm. "You are fast and strong, but you are also not judging the battle correctly. You are letting your anger dictate the course of battle. That is why I have defeated you. Do you yield?"

Angel punched him in the face. Worf felt an urge to return the blow and held it. He wasn't here to punch her into submission. Instead he continued the pressure and acted as if the punch hadn't done anything. "Do you yield?!"

There were a few more moments of struggling and then a harsh released breath of exasperation. She nodded and Worf got off of her.

The fight wasn't over quite yet though, it had merely shifted away from violence. Angel glared at him and demanded, "What do you want from me?!" She sat up. "You want me to admit that I'm Goddamned terrified? Because I am! Because… there is nothing I can do for Robert, nothing I can do to help save him, and…" She stopped and swallowed. Tears were forming in her eyes. "...I'm not a scientist. I can't sit there and whip up fancy solutions to problems. I'm good at getting dirty and physical. I know how to get hurt and hurt right back, and I know how to shoot things with a ship's weapons. That's what I am, that's what I do, and I'm damned proud of how well I can do it so long as I can protect the people I care about! But I can't shoot or punch an out-of-control jump point! I can't crack my knuckles and smirk to intimidate the Goddamn space-time continuum! There is nothing I can do for him and…" Angel's tirade was broken up as she sniffled. "...and I hate it. I'm helpless and I can't do anything about it."

Nothing was said for a moment. Worf looked at her intently and thought of his own predicament. The Enterprise, his Enterprise, gone. His efforts to fight off the Duras Sisters had been insufficient. The crew would eventually be broken up, a crew he had been honored to serve beside for eight years. "I know what it is like," he said. "I have faced the same problem before. And I have no answers for you." Aware of how uncomfortable the admission had been, he nodded. "Thank you."

"For?", Angel asked.

"You have shown trust in me by admitting to the truth. It took great courage. I am honored by your gesture."

Angel considered him for a moment. "Thank you," she replied. "You gave me an excuse to get it out. I'm not going to feel any better, but maybe I'll focus more."

"You are most welcome."

"And…" Angel checked her discarded multidevice. "...I am really late to get some sleep. So are you, right?"

"Indeed. I will see you again later."

"1800?", she asked.

He gave her a curious look.

"1800. I'll be here training." She smiled thinly. "Perhaps you can show me how you do that 'wave your arms' stuff with Klingons."

A low rumble of a chuckle came from Worf. "Of course."

Much to his relief, Robert's dreams were more pleasant this time. He didn't dream of anything that might be the future. He didn't even dream of his life on the Aurora.

Instead it was the farm. His grandmother's cooking. His grandfather laughing jovially at a story from the war while his family looked on. Beth with a young woman her age, happier than she'd ever been on the farm. His parents, sitting beside each other and stealing small kisses when no one looked, while Susanna ran around in the nearby field with friends.

And Julia was there, and Zack, and Tom, and all of his other friends, laughing and joking. Angel's hand was holding his. The scent of her hair made him feel warm and alive.

Despite everything, despite the wonders of space and the thrill of being at the center of a new era… this vista was something Robert realized he would have picked over everything else.

The dream was still vivid in his mind when he woke up. But it came with a sharp edge now. That isn't how things had happened. His grandmother had died when he was ten years old. HIs grandfather lasted a few years after that and died after having such a fierce argument with Beth over her personal life that she left for Portland and never came back.

And his parents… his sister… they were gone now.

All this time. All of the brilliant things in his new life. And yet that loss still ached. A piece of his heart that was ripped out and never filled, just made numb by the passage of time.

Robert turned and tried to go back to sleep. But he couldn't. Whether he'd rested too much or was just too upset by those thoughts, he simply wouldn't fall asleep.

There was noise from across the sickbay. Robert looked up and cracked an eye open. Phlox was slipping out. And he looked… agitated?

After he was gone Robert got curious. He couldn't sleep anymore anyway and his curiosity became insatiable. He got off the bed and walked into the other part of the sickbay. Test results were visible on some screens. Helixes of DNA twiirling about on others, highlighting chromosomes or what have you. Robert didn't really understand it.

But he also noticed something new. A small tube with a liquid inside. Robert looked intently at it. Why would Phlox leave it behind? Robert held up his arm toward it and activated the scanner on his multidevice. The holographic screen popped up over his forearm and showed results. The first results were in technical language, so he wasn't sure what it meant. He activated the feature to have the device programming simplify its results, or as Tom Barnes had always called it, "Scan-Results-For-Dummies Mode".

The result popped up: Genetic resequencing formula.

Robert read that. Resequencing? Why would Phlox make…

The Valakian plague. It's genetic. Then this must be…

Robert took the scan and saved it in his device, just to ensure there was a backup of what went into what could be a cure.. But other than that, he wasn't sure what else he should do. Obviously Phlox was off talking to Archer, informing him of the good news. This was Archer's business, not his.

As he returned to the bed, Robert knew that wasn't it for him. He was too awake. Too… wound up, perhaps. He needed to work things off. Walking around the ship seemed the best way to do that.

The Enterprise - this Enterprise anyway - was in its own way more familiar than the one from two hundred years in the future. This one felt like a World War II vessel instead of a starship, at least the starships Robert was used to. He only saw a couple of crew on his way forward through the ship. A little rumble in his belly reminded him he hadn't eaten in awhile.

He ultimately came upon one of the junior officers, with a red-trim blue uniform. An engineer, given the belt. "Excuse me," Robert said. "Can you direct me to the mess?"

"Sure." He indicated a direction and Robert gave a thank you before continuing on.

It didn't take long for him to arrive at his destination. "...is a fundamental scientific principle," he heard a voice say from within the door to the mess. It slid open for him and Robert stepped in to find he wasn't alone. Phlox was standing nearby and looking toward Archer, by one of the tables. They both looked toward him. "Oh. I'm sorry, I was getting something to eat." Robert nodded. "I'm guessing you're sharing the good news?"

He was struck by the uncomfortable look that came to the alien's face. "Good news?", Archer asked. He looked rather tense as well.

Robert had the bad feeling nothing was as he had anticipated. Nevertheless he saw no reason not to be honest. "I… well, I assumed Dr. Phlox was telling you about what I assumed was the cure."

Archer evinced surprise. Phlox frowned at him. "I wasn't aware you were an expert in genetic matters, Captain."

"I'm not.." Robert tapped his multidevice. "But the scanner in my multidevice identified whatever you made as a genetic resequencing formula."

"Is this true?", Archer asked. "Did you make a cure already?"

Phlox shifted uncomfortably, which left Robert even more confused. Why would he be so upset about this? "Yes," he finally admitted. "I did."

"Were you going to tell me?"

"I admit I had some doubts. Clearly you are having difficulty understanding my position on the matter."

Robert held a hand up. He could feel the tension in the room and he wanted answers. "I'm afraid I'm lost here. This is good. This is the cure you're looking for. So what's wrong here? Why would you hide it?"

Archer looked to Phlox but said nothing. It was clear that his sentiment was that Phlox should explain himself.

Phlox sighed. "Human compassion is a remarkable thing. It's one of your species' positive traits. But it can be short-sighted at times, and I believe it's being short-sighted here."

"I don't follow, Doctor," Robert said. "What's wrong? I mean, you made the cure, simple."

"No, Mister Dale. Not so simple. I did make a cure. But I am of the opinion that it shouldn't be given to the Valakians."

The lights were dim in the XO quarters on Aurora when Julia woke up. She rubbed at her right eye and sighed. A temptation to roll over manifested. It intensified when she saw it was just past 0500. She had at least another hour of sleep available before the day would begin.

Instead, though, she rose from her bed. Her silver nightgown had a dull shine in the faint light of the room. Her shower beckoned and would come later; first, however, she wanted to check up on things.

The diplomatic negotiations were a nightmare. The Romulans were clinging to their claimed position; War if the Alliance provided IU drives to the other participants but not them, and they would not join in the anti-Nazi fight anyway. The Klingons demanded the IU drives and were wiling to fight. The Federation was the trickiest because they were clearly not of a uniform position. T'Latrek was arguing that the Federation couldn't easily involve itself, but the gist of it was that she did not want them in. Gleer, on the other hand, was very willing to support Federation support for the Alliance in exchange for IU drives, but he couldn't commit to actual Starfleet ships in battle as well.

Mastrash Ledosh was being cooly confident about the whole thing. Julia couldn't help but feel that the entire summit was about to unravel. Something had to be determined to break the deadlock.

The deadlock is simple enough. The Romulans see the IU drive as a threat. With it, someone could conceivably penetrate the deepest areas of their empire without tripping their border networks. The key, then, was to find some way to address this grievance without handing them the IU drives for nothing.

After a thought Julia brought up the hardlight keyboard for her computer and started typing commands. She needed to look up more on the Romulans, and Ambassador tr'Lhaer. There had to be something she could use.

Just as the Alliance Embassy's reports on him and the Romulans popped up, a tone sounded in the room. One of the night shift officers, Lieutenant Prymi, spoke. "Commander, someone just locked onto our drive. We have a ship jumping in."

Julia looked up in time to see the jump point form through her window. The green vortex swirled in space, but this time she held none of the appreciation for it she had before. To think that the wrong thing could turn it into a blood-red nightmare was now a bit disconcerting.

A ship came through the point. Julia tapped a key to direct link her screen to ship external cameras. The ship that had come through almost made her think it was Koenig and Zack was defying orders to come help Robert, but she immediately noticed this ship was a little different. The warp nacelles weren't swept either way like on Koenig.

Her eyes focused on the name. "The Sladen," she said to herself. It was one of the new Trigger-class ships, essentially sister vessels of the Koenig but with structural differences.

The Dorei man's voice came over the comm again. "They're hailing, Commander."

Conscious that her nightgown was fairly revealing, Julia went over to the stand by her bed and put her blue-colored bathrobe on. "Patch them to my quarters, Lieutenant," she said. She got back into her computer chair and pressed a key to send the signal to her monitor.

The image changed to the bridge of the Sladen. Julia was facing a woman of dark brown hair. Sharp brown eyes looked back at Julia; the impression she got was that she was dealing with a stern officer. "Command Andreys, this is Commander Elizabeth King, Commanding Officer of ASV Sladen." Her accent was firmly English. "Admiral Maran directed me to jump to Aurora as soon as we were ready and to place my ship at your disposal."

"Commander King, thank you," Julia replied. "I'm afraid it's still our night shift, otherwise I'd be in uniform."

"It is our night shift as well, Commander. Apologies are unnecessary."

Julia didn't react to that, but she could easily sense the underlying tone of the comment. This was an officer who prided herself on propriety and, presumably, sleeping in her uniform. Although maybe I'm just feeling catty from not sleeping all night. "I'm going to inform Commander Scott and the others that you're here. In the meantime, take up formation alongside Aurora, we don't want to spook our potential allies."

"I will await further orders. Sladen out."

This will be interesting, Julia decided. She reached for the comm control at her work station. "Lieutenant Prymi, please inform Commander Scott that our ship has arrived. I'd like him to double-check and triple-check everything for safety's sake."

"Aye, sir."

Julia eyed her bed wearily and sighed. "Oh, and please send a message to Captain Picard and Commander Data along with Jarod and Lieutenant Caterina Delgado. I want to meet in the Conference Room off the bridge, two hours from now."

"Sending. Anything else?"

"Nothing at the moment. Andreys out." Julia closed the channel and returned her attention to her computer. The files on tr'Lhaer were open in front of her. Time to find out if I can get any angle with the good Ambassador…

In the crew mess of the NX-01, Robert Dale stared at Doctor Phlox in utter disbelief. "What? But… you're saying you won't cure the Valakians? Why?"

"Apparently the Valakians' own genetic structure evolved to contain the defect that's causing the plague," Archer said. "While the Menk are showing signs of developing into a more intelligent species."

"Captain Archer puts it simply, but correctly," Phlox stated. "The Valakians are an evolutionary dead-end. The Menk are on the verge of an evolutionary breakthrough. Clearly nature has selected only one of these species to survive. It would be inappropriate for us to interfere with this process."

Robert stared at Phlox in utter surprise. He tried to wrap his head around the idea. "You're talking about condemning millions to die over the next, what, two centuries? Until their species dies out?"

There was a look on Phlox's face that made Robert think of his high school biology teacher explaining something complicated, that is, something he assumed nobody else understood. "I understand that it is difficult to accept that these things happen. But they have been occurring for billions of years. Sometimes species die. It's the way of things."

"That might be true," Robert said. "But you're not talking about coming upon something we can't change. You already have the ability to change it. You can save these people. Doctor."

"I'm afraid you're letting your compassion blind you to the larger issue, Mister Dale," Phlox insisted. "It is not our place to interfere in a natural process. Especially not when we would be doing so at the expense of the Menk."

"How would it be at their expense?", Robert asked. "You saw how they live. The Valakians treat them extraordinarily well."

"And by doing so, they keep the Menk from finishing their evolution," Phlox insisted. "There is no telling what the consequences would be if we interfered in the development of these two species."

"The consequences of not doing anything seem rather obvious, Doctor," Robert retorted. "One of them gradually dies out, and God knows what happens to the other."

"It's rather obvious the Menk will become the dominant species on Valakis."

"Assuming that the Valakians don't become angry and desperate and turn on them," Robert pointed out. "Your decision to damn the Valakians to extinction could result in them turning to extremist viewpoints. It's not hard to imagine one such extremist turning them on the Menk. You could be dooming the Menk just as much."

Phlox remained calm outwardly, but he was clearly going exasperated with Robert's defiance. "You are speculating wildly at this point. You don't know that would happen."

"But apparently you do know how it will turn out?"

"I know the Menk would complete their evolution," Phlox insisted. "You are engaging in wild sociopolitical guesswork with no firm data. Evolution is a fundamental scientific principle. It is proven. I know not everyone understands such science…"

Robert laughed at him. "I might be from Kansas, Doctor, and I know I'm no biologist, but I do know what evolution is. It's adaptation to the environment. There's nothing firm about it. You can guess how it will go, but all it takes is one unexpected factor and your prediction can go wildly off."

"What proof can you offer, Mister Dale, that there is a potential factor that would impede Menk evolution in the absence of Valakian dominance?"

"What proof can you offer, Doctor Phlox, that the Valakian genetic disorder is an actual result of 'natural' evolution and not an unexpected result from a man-made factor?", Robert shot back.

Phlox stepped away from him for a moment and turned to Archer. "Captain, this man is being unreasonable. He's letting his compassionate emotions overrule any rationality."

Archer folded his arms. "I don't know, Doctor. He's making a lot of sense to me."

Phlox looked at the two Humans for a moment. As if to judge which one he considered to be the most crazy. "I'm well aware of how horrible it is to see the Valakians die off," he said. "As a medical doctor, I want to save as many of them as I can. But this is a natural biological process you're talking about. It is not something you interfere with just to fulfill a whim of compassion. You are talking about playing God, Captain Archer. About deciding which species gets to thrive instead of allowing nature to take its course."

"Maybe," Archer conceded. "And I didn't come out here to play God. But it occurs to me that we interfere with nature all of the time. Every time we make ourselves immune to a different virus or disease, we're resisting the forces of nature."

Phlox and Archer continued to look toward each other. Robert felt for the moment like more of a bystander than a participant in the conversation

"Are you prepared, Captain Archer, to commit yourself, or all of Earth, to looking over this world?", Phlox asked. "Because if you provide a cure, you're taking responsibility for the result."

"That may be true. But would I want Earth associated with leaving an innocent species to die out?"

"Doctor Phlox." Robert moved around the table and stood to Phlox's left side. "I get that you're afraid that giving away the cure might be harmful in the long run. But this isn't just about what species gets to be dominant on Valakis. It's about the people who are dying down there. People you can save." Robert, having gotten Phlox's attention, shook his head as he continued. "I don't see how you can… separate the result to them of your choice. You're not just talking about some nebulous scientific principle at stake. Your cure can save millions of parents and children. Millions of spouses, siblings, family. You would be averting grief to those who love the dying."

Phlox breathed in. A gesture that seemed born of impatience and other feelings. "Are you prepared to play God then?"

"Never," Robert answered. "But are you prepared to go down to Valakis and tell the families of the dying that their loved ones can't be cured because of your stance on evolution? Are you going to look them in the eye when you tell them that? When you tell a mother that her sons will both die within the month? Or when it's someone's husband or wife? Are you ready to cause them that pain? Because that's exactly what you're talking about doing. You want to let them die when you can save them because…" For a moment words failed Robert while he considered how to translate his feeling, his idea on what Phlox was proposing, into words. "...because to you, they're nothing but sacrifices on the altar of your beliefs. You're treating them like things, not people. And that's not just short-sighted, it's not just callous, it's… it's evil, Doctor Phlox. It's the purest form of evil I can think of."

Phlox's blue eyes met Robert's green eyes and they stared at one another intensely. "An interesting viewpoint," Phlox stated. "And perhaps illuminating into the way your mind works." He looked to Archer and nodded. "I'll see you in the morning Captain?"

Archer nodded. "Yes. We'll finish this conversation then."

Phlox nodded and left the mess. Robert now faced Archer. "Well." The older man sighed and took a seat. "I'm afraid you're not seeing us at our best. Phlox rarely disagrees with me like this."

"I'm used to the idea of my medical officers arguing with me," Robert said. "Although Leo would honestly be even more appalled than I am."

"Right." Archer gestured to the food dispensers. "Why don't you get something and sit down. We can talk."


"About anything but plagues or evolution or interference in nature," Archer remarked.

Robert nodded at that. His stomach grumbled a little in agreement. "Alright. Let me find something good from your menu."

"I'd recommend the mashed potatoes. They almost taste like the real thing…"

Commander King stood at proper attention when Julia led Picard and Data into the conference room. Everyone else was already in place. "Captain," King said respectfully to Picard.

"Commander. Welcome," he answered.

"Has everyone been introduced to Commander King?", Julia asked the others. When she was answered with nods Julia went on to the head of the table. Robert's usual seat, now her's as Acting CO. "Commander King, thank you for coming."

"I was told you were in need of a ship for a special mission," King answered. "Something about recovering Captain Dale? I admit I am curious about what might happened to him."

"He was sucked two hundred years into the past by a destabilized jump point," Jarod replied.

King looked with bewilderment at Jarod. "Are you saying our IU drives can be used for time travel?"

"Apparently so," Caterina said. "Although it requires a large explosion with a lot of energy behind it to go off right at the moment of transit through a point. I doubt it will ever be useful as a time travel means, especially since we still don't understand how far back it can go or how to control it."

King nodded. "I see. So Captain Dale is stranded in the past. Presumably he could cause a great deal of damage to the timeline of S5T3 in the process."

"Precisely our concern," Picard said. "And why Starfleet and the Federation Science Council have agreed to the proposed recovery attempt."

The newcomer was quick to realize what that meant for her. "Using my ship, I imagine?"

"Yes." Data nodded. "My analysis of the Sladen indicates that your ship is capable of safely performing what is commonly called a slingshot maneuver."


"A high-warp approach toward a star of sufficient mass," Jarod explained for the Englishwoman. "At high warp speed, a breakaway around the star can warp time as well as space and achieve a temporal dislocation. It's been done before."

King seemed utterly shocked at the idea. "That's… rather incredible, I must say."

"Aye. But I've done it before," Scotty assured her. "Several times."

King seemed to mentally process this information for several moments. "Well, my orders are to give all necessary assistance. Very well. But I insist that the safety of my crew be taken into account. I request permission to offload non-mission-essential personnel. I'm not stranding anyone in the past if I can avoid it."

"A reasonable term, Commander, and happily accepted," Picard said, after getting a nod from Julia. "Commander Data will be joining you to ensure your ship achieves the warp breakaway necessary."

"I have faith in my first officer's piloting skill," King answered. Her tone was very defensive. "We have trained extensively during our shakedown run."

"I don't doubt that, Commander," Julia said. "None of us do. It's not about skill. Data's faster than most species and can make quick calculations. He's the best-suited for the slingshot, but outside of that your first officer and your other piloting officers will do their jobs."

King seemed to consider that. She gave a look at Julia that showed continued irritation as before, but now mingled with a bit of understanding. "Very well. When will we commence this operation?"

"I have determined a number of stars in the vicinity of Valakis of sufficient mass and size to ensure a proper slingshot effect," Data answered. "I will leave it to your discretion which star to use. We will need to make two different slingshot maneuvers so it is advisable to ensure the Sladen is completely prepared for the stresses of both."

"We will have time for an inspection on our way to any of these targets, Mister Data," King said. "Is there anything else I should know?"

"Commander Scott, Lieutenant Commander Jarod, and Lieutenant Delgado will also be accompanying you, solely for the reason of assisting Commander Data," Julia said.

Picard had his request as well. "Starfleet wishes me to remind you of the utmost importance in not just the success of your mission, but minimizing your exposure to the people of that time period. The 2150s were critical to the formation of the Federation."

"Understood, Captain Picard. We will observe complete radio silence and remain under cloak at all times."

Julia looked at everyone else to invite comment. But no more came. "Other than that, I believe we're done here. Data and Jarod can give you any necessary specifics that might come up."

"Very well." King looked to the officers that would be joining her. "I will await you in Transporter Station 3 to transport back to Sladen. I wish to depart within the hour."

"We'll be there," Jarod promised.

"Everyone else, back to your regular assignments," Julia said. "We're done here."

After everyone else had filed out, Picard looked to her. "As for our other problem, Councillor T'Latrek is already proposing that the talks be suspended. She fears that continuing them in the current environment will only escalate unnecessary tensions."

"Given her stance on the issue, I'm sure she finds that view very logical," Julia remarked. "But I disagree. In fact…" Julia smiled thinly and put her hands together on the table. "I may have found something that will make our next round with Ambassador tr'Lhaer more productive than anything else we've had."

Angel followed Cat to the Transporter Station where she would be beaming over to Sladen. "You're sure about this?", she asked her sister.

"Yes. I mean, Jarod will spend as much time helping Scotty with the Sladen's engines, so I can help Data with his calculations," Cat insisted. "Especially since we don't know which star King will pick yet. Each star has its own set of calculations that have to be made to account for differing density, size, and mass."

Angel nodded. "It's just, I…" She swallowed and took her sister's arms. "I've already lost Rob. I don't want to lose you too, little sister. Please?"

Cat put her arms around her sister. "Don't worry, Angel. We'll bring him back. I promise you. We'll all come back."

Angel didn't let go right away. She didn't want to at all. But she knew she had to and gradually did so. "Just be careful, please. Be careful."

Caterina and Jarod took a look around the bridge of the Sladen upon their arrival. It was rather close to Koenig's own bridge with the exception of the ship status display table being larger, along with the space to accommodate it. Caterina found a seat at the table and Jarod took another. The control panels gave them access to the ship's computer systems; though they lacked the raw processing power of Aurora's computer, they would still suffice for what was needed.

But for the moment, they took the time to look over King's command crew. At the helm was a man, an African Human. A blue-skinned, purple-spotted Dorei man with light blue hair was at weapons; operations was manned by a light-skinned Human woman with blond hair pulled into a bun at the back of her head. "Commanders, Lieutenant…. these are Lieutenant Caldwell, Lieutenant Trynis, and Ensign Skarsgard." King gestured to each in turn. "Mister Caldwell, set course for the following coordinate." King picked a system from the target list and relayed it to the helm.

"Plotting course," Caldwell replied, his voice also thick with a London accent. "Course laid in."

"Engage warp engines when ready."

Sladen pulled away from the other ships and pointed to open space. She went to warp as soon as she was clear.

The discussion with Archer had been quiet and unassuming. They hadn't talked about the issue of the Valakians, about whether curing them would condemn the Menk to remaining stagnant instead, or the issue of intervening in anything at all. For the most part they compared their lives and upbringing, although Robert had been careful not to mention too much that might alter history. Instead it was discussions of family life and growing up. The kind of talk that made Robert think about all of those memories and how painful they could sometimes be. Especially the memories of those blank hallways, the glass window and the blinds going up so he could identify the… bodies.

He had expected to be alone when he returned to the ship sickbay. Instead he found Phlox there, sitting at his work station and staring at the capsule containing the cure for the Valakians. He barely seemed to register Robert's arrival. It was only when Robert turned and came within ten feet of him that Phlox spoke up. "You're back. I hope you ate well, it will help your body finish recuperating."

"Well enough, I guess." Robert didn't move from where he was standing. "I figured you'd be asleep by now, Doctor."

"Yes, well... I have a lot to think about." Phlox put the capsule tube back in place. "You and I seem to have different viewpoints on the issue."

"Of the Valakians?"

"More than that." Phlox shook his head. "Far more than just the Valakians." Phlox turned in his chair and they looked toward one another again. "I get the feeling, Mister Dale, that given the choice, you would openly interfere with any situation you felt needed your interference. Regardless of the consequences."

Robert shook his head. "Not regardless of the consequences. But not afraid of them either."

"I fail to see a difference."

"I respect there will be consequences to my actions, Doctor Phlox, and that I am impacting the lives of other beings. But I won't let the fear of what might go wrong keep me from doing the right thing."

"Doing the right thing." Phlox nodded. "I'm sure you envision yourself as always doing the right thing."

Robert was wondering where this was going. He nodded in reply. "I always try to do the right thing."

"Yes. I thought so." Phlox seemed to consider his next words. "I, on the other hand, know that I can't change everything for the better. And that my definition of better may not agree with what other peoples consider better."

"Well, obviously you can't change everything. No one can." Robert took a step in one direction and began a gentle pacing of the room. "But just because you can't help every time doesn't mean you can never help. Down there, on that planet, is a species that you can save. Millions, billions, of individuals who you can save. And I just can't imagine saying no because you think they should remain doomed to go extinct."

"You misunderstand me. I have no desire to see the extinction of the Valakians," Phlox insisted. "If they found a cure of their own I wouldn't keep them from using it. It would be natural for them to apply it to their own preservation. But to just hand them the answer… we're doing more than possibly locking the Menk out of their evolutionary progression. We're making the Valakians dependent upon outside help. And that is help they might not always have available."

"But they won't be dying. They'll have time to learn on their own. That cure will buy them that time."

"And what about the Menk? The Valakians will keep them stagnant. They can't help but do so. The Menk will never have the impetus necessary to continue encouraging their evolution."

"Won't they? Surrounded by Valakians, by technology, why wouldn't the Valakians teach them to help as they grow more intelligent? That's evolution too; adaption to the environment."

Phlox was quiet for a moment. "A well-made point. I shall consider it in my report." Phlox folded his hands together. "And indeed, I shall file a report on this entire subject. But I have a different line of query regarding you."

"That would be?"

Phlox was choosing his next words carefully. "You clearly care a lot about saving the Valakians. And you feel justified in entering situations regardless of possible consequences. You seem the type of man who is ready to dive into danger at the stroke of a moment if you feel someone needs your help. I find that a fascinating character trait. I've observed it in Captain Archer before, in fact. I believe Lieutenant Reed once referred to it as being a 'White Knight'. A peculiar reference as from what I have read, the knights of medieval European culture were more elite soldiers in a rigid hierarchical society, hardly the same thing from what I have found."

Robert held back a chuckle. He had heard the term 'White Knight' quite a bit in other more sarcastic moments with the others. "It's… it's not about the history of knights so much as the fairy tales and legends about them. Brave knights who went into battles that seemed hopeless to save the day or protect people who couldn't fight."

"I see. And how many battles have you plunged into in order to save those you felt needed saving?"

"Quite a few," Robert found himself answering.

"As I said. Fascinating. Human compassion and Human aggressive impulses combining into a particular mindset, I suppose. Although there must obviously be a reason beyond this basic comparison." Phlox folded his arms. "What is your reason, Mister Dale? Why are you a 'White Knight'?"

For several moments Robert had to carefully consider that question. He felt a wave of memories go through his mind. People smiling as he helped get them out of horrible places of suffering. Moments of tension and fear as gunfire erupted around him.

"I like helping people," Robert answered. "I… I feel like I've accomplished something worth my time, worth my effort, by ending suffering. There is too much power wielded in a way to cause suffering and death simply to satisfy greed or ideology. Someone needs to use power to do the opposite. To help others and not themselves. To… instead of might making right, to say that might needs to be used for right."

"And that's it?", Phlox inquired. "That is your only reason?"

Robert almost answered yes. But he stopped. The questions were making him think about things. Memories. The idea of suffering and pain and loss reminded him of his own loss. As a result, he ultimately answered "No". Phlox responded with a patient look while he struggled for words. "I… I want to end suffering where I can because I know what it's like," he answered. "I…" Robert had to swallow. "...I remember hearing my grandfather plead with my grandmother to stay awake just a moment longer. He didn't want to lose her. He wanted to hear her speak one last time. I did too. And then, a few years later, it was his turn. I watched him struggle to breathe as he tried to reassure me that he was proud of me. And then he was gone." Robert felt warm tears begin to flow down his cheeks as he thought of those old pains. As he watched his grandfather succumb to the illness choking the life out of him. And more. "I saw how people treated my cousin because she loved the wrong people, and I couldn't do anything to help her. And…"

It was the worst pain of them all. The memory of that phone call, late at night. The journey to the county coroner's office. The trip down those bland halls and the sight through the window. Warm tears continued to flow as the old wound in his heart ached once more. "My parents. My sister. They… they had gone out. There was a driver in a truck who had a heart attack. They didn't have a chance. The family car was crushed. I…"

Phlox looked at him with concern. "I apologize if this line of inquiry has dredged up unkind memories."

Robert heard him. But all he could think about was seeing their faces. What was left of his parents'. The dead eyes of his little sister; even the covering hadn't been able to hide the extent to which her body had been crushed and mutilated by the impact. He tried to blink back the tears. Robert directed his gaze to Phlox. "I don't really talk about it. I don't like to talk about it. It just reminds me of how much I hurt. Seeing my parents and sister dead like that… it was like something was ripped out of me. It hurts like nothing else I can imagine. I'd never wish this kind of pain on anyone. Not even on my worst enemy. Certainly not on other people." He swallowed. "But a lot of people suffer this kind of hurt all the time. And if I can prevent that for just a handful of people…"

Phlox lowered his eyes in thought. "Compassion amplified by personal experience and empathy. That does sound like a powerful driving force for such an activist mentality."

"You're not the first person to tell me I should accept things that happen," Robert said. "I've had someone else already point out to me that just jumping in and acting can cause more suffering than doing nothing. So I've been trying to consider the consequences of what I'm doing. But when I know the consequences of not doing anything are leaving people to suffer like that? I figure that it's worth doing something to stop it. Even if it changes things down the road."

"I suppose there are worse motivations," Phlox agreed.

"What are you going to do?", Robert asked him.

"I think," he began , "I am going to take the rest of the night to think about this subject. Captain Archer will have the decision in the morning." He gestured toward the beds. "And you should probably consider getting some rest. You still have some recovery to finish."

"No argument from me," Robert said. He felt rather tired now. "No argument at all."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

The diplomatic teams met yet again. And it was evident to Julia that their patience was razor thin. The impasse they were faced with ran the risk of exploding the entire effort to get aid for the Alliance in its current war even if you didn't count the Romulan threats to go to war.

She took a moment to consult the notes on her digital pad. The information displayed here was at the heart of what she was going to argue to the others.

"This meeting is becoming a waste of time," Gleer declared. The short Tellarite politician frowned at the assembled. "Romulan intransigence alone is bad enough, but to have every issue clouded by indecisiveness is unacceptable! I move that if we do not come to an agreement by the end of this session, the talks be broken off."

"I would consider such a thing premature, Councillor," Ledosh answered. "Diplomacy is often slow."

"The position of my government has not changed," tr'Lhaer insisted. "We cannot allow the Federation or the Klingon Empire to gain the interuniversal drive technology if the Romulan Star Empire is not granted it as well. And we are not mercenaries to be bought by the Alliance; we will not send Romulan soldiers to die in a war started by your errors."

"If you will not fight for your spoils, tr'Lhaer, you do not deserve them," Kurn shot back.

"Again, I remind you Klingon, if you get the technology and we do not, the Romulan Empire will declare war. We will have no choice."

"Then perhaps we should go to war and settle this matter once and for all!"

Picard stood and held up his hands. "Gentlemen, please. We are not here to fight a war among each other. Especially with the Dominion threat revealed to us. There is a diplomatic solution to this impasse."

"I must respectfully disagree with that presumption, Captain Picard," Councillor T'Latrek said. "The positions of the participants are clearly irreconcilable."

"Actually…" Julia raised a hand. "May I speak?"

Picard nodded to her. "Commander Andreys, we would welcome any suggestions you might have."

"Thank you, Captain Picard. Mastrash Ledosh." She nodded to Ledosh, ostensibly the lead negotiator anyway. She turned her head to Ambassador tr'Lhaer. "Ambassador, pardon me if I'm wrong, but under the Treaty of Algernon renewal sixty years ago, the Federation agreed not to use cloaking devices. Correct?"

"That is correct," tr'Lhaer said.

"And yet, there is one Federation ship with a cloaking device," Julia pointed out. "The Starship Defiant under Commander Sisko."

Tr'Lhaer's expression shifted to concern. "Well, yes. That was the result of careful negotiating and the initial assignment of a Romulan officer to oversee the device's use. And that was just one vessel."

"Yes. But it does establish a precedent." Julia looked over the display showing the term signed between the two states. "What if we did something similar?"

"What do you mean, Commander?", Ledosh asked.

"Well." Julia kept looking to tr'Lhaer. "The Romulans are obviously concerned that the drives could be used to launch attacks in their space. Away from their border stations and defenses. The way to prevent this is by having an Alliance officer responsible for the use of all drives equipped to Federation or Klingon ships. That officer would make sure the drives could never be targeted at a location within Romulan space."

The others seemed to mull it over. "An interesting idea, Commander," T'Latrek agreed. "It would address the Romulan concern."

Tr'Lhaer wasn't going to give it up that easily, though; he clearly had his heart set on something more. "Not sufficiently," he insisted.

"It does seem sufficient for your needs, sir," Ledosh pointed out. "With further hardware and software guarantees, abuse of the drives would not be possible. The safety of the Romulan Empire would be guaranteed."

Tr'Lhaer scowled and shook his head. "No. This is not enough. If the technology is disseminated in this galaxy, we demand we be among the recipients."

"Then join us and fight the Reich," Julia said. "We'll welcome Romulan aid." She gestured to Picard. "As Captain Picard just pointed out, the Dominion is becoming a threat to everyone. Working together to fight the Reich may help create the ties the Alpha Quadrant needs to resist the Dominion."

Tr'Lhaer inclined his head slightly. "Well played, Commander. But no. The Romulan Empire will not fight for you. And we will fight you if you give this technology to others without providing it to the Empire. This proposed failsafe is simply not enough."

"The Romulan agenda of obstruction is unacceptable…"

Julia raised her voice to cut through Gleer's protest. "Mister Ambassador, sir, I think you need to reconsider. The observers will grant the Romulan Empire all of the security it needs on the issue."

"Perhaps Romulan observers could work with our own?", Ledosh proposed.

Tr'Lhaer smacked a hand on his table. "No! Your choice is simple. No drives to anyone, drives to everyone, or war. The Romulan Empire will not stand by…"

"...like it has for every other cause for war it's had over the past few years?", Julia demanded. She held up the pad. "I've got a list of here of every skirmish with the Klingons, every time the Federation or Romulan fleets have violated the Neutral Zone. The Romulan Empire has had plenty of reason to go to war so far. Bigger reasons than this one. But you haven't. You've maintained the peace whenever it was threatened. And that was without the Dominion as a threat on our common horizon."

"Just what are you saying, Commander Andreys?"

"I'm saying, Ambassador, that this is a bluff," Julia responded. "The Romulan Empire won't fight a war it can't win. You've already shown you're not willing to attack the Federation and Klingons. Not even when they were weakened by the Borg or civil war. And you'd add the Alliance to your list of enemies? You have to see how much damage that would cause. Even if we're already in one war, you're putting three powers against one. That's not a war you could win. And you won't get anything out of it. Not even the monitors for the IU drives we're offering to provide. "

The room was dominated by silence for several moments. Julia and tr'Lhaer continued to gaze at each other intently, a contest of silence and will that would continue until one or the other blinked.

Julia didn't bear to breathe when tr'Lhaer spoke again. "I see. Well, we certainly harbor no desires for a war. Allow me to communicate this offer to my government.'

"That leaves the matter of Federation involvement." Ledosh looked to the Federation table.

"Starfleet has other missions, taking losses in your war would jeopardize its ability to keep the peace," T'Latrek insisted.

"Then what if they don't take losses?" Julia tapped her digital pad on the table. "What if, instead of joining the fighting directly, the Federation pledges aid to our refugee populations and provides Starfleet vessels to guard Alliance frontiers in other universes? That would free more of our ships for the fight."

Picard replied to that with a small grin. "I believe such an arrangement would meet the favor of Starfleet Command," he said. "And, perhaps, given time… more direct assistance could occur as well."

Gleer nodded with approval. T'Latrek seemed less than thrilled with it. But then again, as a Vulcan Julia imagined the older woman was never thrilled with anything.

"And that leaves you, Councillor Kurn," Ledosh said. "If this arrangement with the Romulans is successful, would that satisfy the High Council?"

Kurn nodded and smiled. "It would," he confirmed. "With sufficient drives, we could have five squadrons ready for combat immediately and fourteen more squadrons by the end of your year."

"They'll be welcome at the front, Councillor," Julia assured him. "Is there anything else?" When no one answered, she looked to Ledosh. "Then with your approval, I say we recess and wait for Ambassador tr"Lhaer to get his government's response to the current proposal."

With the following murmurs of agreement, the meeting ended. Tr'Lhaer departed immediately for his shuttle. Kurn flashed her a satisfied, toothy grin before going over to join his brother while the Federation delegation filed out quietly. All save for Picard. He looked at her with bemusement and said, "Well, that was quite satisfying."

"Thankfully Commander Sisko saw my message immediately and got a reply back," Julia said. "I needed to confirm the arrangement about the Defiant."

"It's not a commonly-known arrangement, certainly," Picard noted. "The observer proposal is likely the best deal we can get with the Romulans. Calling their bluff, however…"

"...that's what I get for too many poker nights with Jarod," Julia said. "Not that we play as often as your crew does. Jarod wins too much."

"So I recall," Picard said wryly. His expression turned to show concern. "Have you heard anything?"

"The Sladen should be arriving at their target star at any time," Julia noted. "There's nothing we can do for them but hope and pray."

"Indeed. Lunch, Commander?"

Julia nodded. "Anything to get the nervousness out of my stomach."

The solar system Epsilon Laris was empty when Sladen dropped out of warp beyond the outer edge of the system. Ahead of them was an uninterrupted course to the system's star.

"Scans complete," Caterina said. "We're ready."

"Lieutenant Caldwell, you are relieved for the moment," King said from her chair. The younger man nodded and vacated the helm, which was taken up by Data. She keyed the intercom. "Engineering. Commander Scott, are you prepared?"

"Aye sir. All system checks complete. She's ready t' make history."

Data moved his hands over the helm controls for the Sladen. From their place Jarod and Caterina finalized their portion of the calculations and relayed it to Data's board. "Calculations complete," Data stated.

King now switched her intercom to ship-wide. "All hands, prepare for slingshot maneuver. Emergency power to structural integrity."

"I've shored up the SIF fields as much as I can," Jarod said. "The rest is up to Data."

"Whenever you are ready, Mister Data," King said. "Engage drives."

"Aye sir."

At Data's command Sladen went to warp again. The ship accelerated to high warp rapidly. "Warp 9.2," Data reported. "9.3…. 9.4…."

"Thirty seconds from slingshot point," Jarod added.

The ship began to shudder around them as they hit Warp 9.7. "Status on structural field?", King asked.

"Holding, but strained," answered Ensign Skarsgard.

".... 9.8… 9.9… 9.91… 9.92…"

Jarod added to the countdown while the ship continued to rock around them. "Slingshot in five… four… three…"


"...two … one!"

At the precise moment, Data shifted the course of the Sladen to shift away from the sun. There was a surge of energy.

And the Sladen was gone.

"You have the gift as well."

Robert blinked. He was in his quarters on the Aurora. But everything felt a little hazy. He looked beyond the bed to where Meridina was now standing. "Meridina?", he asked.

"It is a heavy burden," she was saying. "Darkness and corruption will tempt you. But I know you are meant to have it." She extended a hand. Robert reached out for it, and found that he was now gripping her lakesh.

Everything went dark. Suddenly he was in a massive windowed chamber looking out at a garden world. A single figure resplendent in white armor appraised him. His eyes were an unnatural gold-yellow color. "You have no idea of the power you stand against," he intoned to Robert. HIs voice was deep. His words were spoken with deliberation. "This is my domain. My Empire. And you will not survive."

There was fire and heat around him. A courtyard of some sort, or waiting area, and metal shapes that had flames and sparks licking from them. One shadowy metal figure looked above him. Robert reached for his weapon and felt a hilt. He thought it was a lakesh Before he could fight back, a blur of blue energy slammed into the robotic thing. There was a terrible thunder as a large round ripped into it….

And then it went quiet. He looked out to a field of gold wheat swaying gently in the summer wind. A familiar barn and combine harvester stood nearby.

It was the family porch, on the rear side of the family house. The house was painted light brown, an earthy tone his grandfather had loved.

"Well, Rob, how have you been?"

The voice had the gravelly character of a man late in life. The very sound of it made Robert's heart flutter. He turned his head and realized he was sitting on the family's swinging bench. Chains above suspended it from the ceiling of the porch. And beside him was his grandfather.

Allen Dale resembled him in a number of ways. Same chin, jawline, facial structure, and similar build. His eyes were a dark brown - Robert had gotten his green eyes from his mother - and his brown hair had long turned gray. He was wearing a traditional farmer's outfit; blue suspender pants with plentiful pockets over a green shirt. A straw hat was at his side. "How have you been, my boy?", he asked.

"Grandpa…?" Robert blinked. "What…"

"I know I'm supposed to be dead and all," Allen said. "But I'm a part of your life, Rob. Always will be. And you sound like you could use a good talk with your elders."

Robert stopped. He felt sadness at the knowledge that no, that wouldn't be happening. Not outside of a dream.

"It's what dreams are for," the elderly man insisted. "Reminds us of what we've lost and what we've got ahead. And boy do you have a lot of things ahead of you, Rob. Fightin' the same monsters I did."

"Is that why you enlisted, Grandpa?"

"I told you how I ended up in the Army when you were eight, Rob," Allen reminded him. "It's in the family blood. A Dale boy grows up on the farm, goes off to serve, then comes home to farm. It's how things are done. I'd have gone into the Army even if Hitler hadn't shown up." He clapped Robert on the shoulder. "Not that I'm against having fought the SOB."

"Why am I dreaming of this?", Robert asked. "Why this instead of…"

"I figure you wanted to talk, young man," Allen said, interrupting him. "Or you just needed someone to assure you that you're still on the straight and narrow of life. And you are."

"I like to think so," Robert admitted. "But… what if Phlox is right? What if I'm only doing this out of some psychological compulsion to follow my compassion? What if I cause more harm than not? What if… sometimes it's better to just nature take its course?"

"Well, maybe you will sometimes, Rob," Allen said. "Only the Lord knows what's really meant to be, though. He doesn't expect us to just blindly walk through life, though. We're supposed to act and do what we think is right. Let the worryin' about what's natural be with God Almighty. That's His place. Our's is to do right in the world, to do what we can, and have faith it'll work out in the end."

Robert swallowed and nodded. "I just… what if I make the wrong choice? I've already made bad ones."

"Not bad ones. Just wrong ones. All you can do then is try and make up for it, learn from it." Allen reached over and gave Robert a pat on the shoulder. "Now go back out there, boy, and have faith that you're doin' the right thing. And give those swastika-wearin' jackasses an extra kick in the ass from your Grandpa Allen, you hear?"

Robert went to react. But before he could speak again a strange sound came to mind. It was the howl of.. a wolf? But a wolf, in Kansas? Was that…?

Robert's eyes opened. The lights of the Enterprise sickbay were shining again. Phlox was standing nearby with a scanner. "Ah, you're awake. I hope you had sufficient rest."

"I… suppose," Robert replied.

"Good." Phlox tapped the monitor. "It looks like you have healed quite well from the remaining damage. Your recovery is quite nearly finished.

"I guess it will be time to…"

Before Robert could finish that statement, the sickbay doors opened. Archer entered. He looked as tired as Robert felt. He had, indeed, been thinking heavily of the decision being made.

Neither of them spoke while Archer approached. He nodded at Robert and looked to Phlox. "You've made your decision, Captain?", Phlox asked.

Archer nodded. "I have." He seemed to think on what he was going to say. "Some day, my people will come up with a directive on what we can or can't do out here. Until that day comes, I'm going to have to remind myself that we didn't come out here to play God." Archer shook his head. "But this isn't just about what's natural, or what constitutes playing God. This is about millions of innocent civilians who are going to die if we don't act to save them. Doctor Phlox, while I understand your position, I can't agree with it. Please prepare the cure for distribution to the Valakians immediately."

Phlox answered with a nod. "I do understand your position, Captain. I am still concerned that you are not taking into account the effect this will have on the Menk. But I can't deny that the issue is a complex one, and that provision of the cure is an ethical choice. I will start to follow your order immediately."

"Thank you, Doctor." Archer remained silent while Phlox went off to do just that. After Phlox was over in the lab area, he looked back to Robert. "He has a point," Archer said. "Maybe it doesn't apply in this case, but I know it will."

"You mean about getting involved, about interfering?", Robert asked.

"Exactly." Archer nodded. "For centuries, explorers and statesmen have gotten themselves involved with other peoples, other nations. Sometimes it's been out of greed and sometimes they met well. Either way, the results were usually bad. Entire civilizations and nations were destroyed or forcefully changed into something else. Explorers became conquerors. Statesmen built empires. I don't want history to repeat itself for us. Not out here. This is a chance for Humanity to make a new start."

"It's easy to say that now," Robert said. "But what happens when the choice is interfering and saving lives, or not interfering and allowing horrible things to happen? Can you really say it's worse to change a society if that society's become something like, say, Nazi Germany?"

"That's something of an extreme example, you have to admit," Archer pointed out.

"I know, but let's just say that I have my reasons for why the Nazis came to mind."

"Ah." Archer nodded his head briefly in acceptance of the point. "It's always going to be a tough decision. I'm not going to lie about that. We have to balance our better instincts, our compassion and generosity, with our understanding that we might not know what's best for another people. Either way, I think we're going to need a rule, a directive, on what we can or can't do out here. I don't want it to be a strait jacket, maybe more of a signpost to guide starship captains in these situations, but it is necessary. We need that reminder that our actions have consequences."

"I've had to accept that even good actions can have negative consequences." Robert stepped up to him. "I just don't believe in letting fear of those consequences keep us from doing good. Because men like us can do a lot of good out here. A lot of it."

"Well said." Archer checked a watch on his wrist. "Would you like some breakfast?"

"Breakfast would be good," Robert admitted, feeling a low growl in his stomach despite the late dinner. "But I have a question first."


Robert looked around. "I was wearing a uniform under my EVA suit. Can you tell me where it is?"

"I had it put away," he replied. "Follow me."

After the time spent on Enterprise in the jumpsuits or contemporary uniform, Robert felt good in being back in his proper uniform. It had a little damage to it from where the EVA suit had failed; the cuffs were the main sufferers, being dinged up as they were.

After taking the time to make sure it looked right, Robert stepped out of Archer's bathroom and faced the Captain of the Enterprise as he was sitting in a chair, rubbing his beagle's ears. The sight made Robert smile. "You brought your dog out here?"

"He's my buddy, why wouldn't I?" Archer smiled back. "Porthos, say hello."

The beagle gave Robert a slightly confused look, followed up by a light bark. He licked at Robert's hand as the younger captain reached down and gave him a pet on the head.

"We had a German shepherd while I was growing up," Robert said. "And later a collie."

"Big dogs."

"Well, good for the farm." Robert sighed. "We lost the collie just a year before… well…."

"I understand," Archer assured him. He set Porthos down and stood up. "So, breakfast should be ready."

Robert followed Archer through the halls of the ship and to the officers' dining room. The entire Enterprise crew, even Phlox, were present, sitting over plates with breakfast foods like cereal, sausages, eggs, and bacon. Robert had only met a couple of the others - T'Pol and Hoshi Sato - and was now introduced as "our guest in the spacesuit" to the others. Archer had given him a seat to his left, putting Robert opposite from T'Pol. A "guest of honor" sort of seat.

Tucker, the engineer, smirked at him. "You're lucky we heard ya," he said with a Southern twang to his voice. "Gotta say, I'd love to find out how to make an EVA suit like your's."

"From what I'm told, you might as well keep it," Robert noted.

"What ship did you come from?" That question was from Ensign Mayweather. "I didn't think there were any ships running this way?"

"That's… well… you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Well, with no debris being present, I think we can rule out an attack." That was from the English-accented Lieutenant Reed.

"I would suggest that it had something to do with the subspace disturbance I read on sensors shortly before Ensign Sato picked up your suit transponder." T'Pol looked up from her plate. Unlike the others, she had only toast and non-meat products on her plate. Robert was surprised to see she was still in a uniform that looked more like a catsuit than something he'd expect from Vulcans.

"You're probably right about that."

"Well, don't keep us in suspense forever," Tucker said. "Give us the lowdown."

Robert thought about it while helping himself to some pancakes and bacon. "Pass the syrup please?", he asked. Tucker immediately complied and he began pouring the thick brown liquid down on the pancake stack on his plate. He took a wad of butter and put it on the stack.

"So, subspace disturbance."

"Uh. Hrm. Well, the simplified version? There was a shuttlecraft. It had a bomb on board. I saved my ship and crew and best friends by flying the shuttle into what you might call a wormhole of sorts. I jumped out of the shuttle just before it went in, it went boom, and… there was a flash of red and next thing I knew, I was waking up in your sickbay."

"The most obvious explanation is that the explosion caused a destabilization in the… 'wormhole'..." T'Pol's voice made it clear she wasn't entirely believing of his explanation. "...and caused a gravitational shift that pulled you into it. You are quite lucky to be alive."

"That's me sometimes. Lucky." Robert finally got to take a bite of the pancakes. He allowed himself an audible sound of pleasure at it and, upon swallowing, said, "Just like Grandma's."

That seemed to amuse Archer. "I'll let the galley know you approve."

"Jumping out of a shuttlepod." Reed shook his head. "You would have been better off blowing it from a distance."

"The bomb was too big," Robert said. "It would have wrecked my ship."

"Sounds like you did the sort of heroic thing that can appeal to certain Humans," Phlox observed.

"Or maybe you just have a death wish," Sato suggested with some mirth.

"Everyone back… home… will probably call me crazy."

"Well, Hoshi tells me you're a Kansas boy," Tucker said.

"I am."

"How long's your family been there?"

"Since before Kansas was a state. The Dales emigrated to support the free-state constitution in Lawrence. And then my ancestors fought for the Union. Well, most of them anyway..."

"Well…" Tucker smiled slightly. "Can't all be perfect, can we?"

"Three hundred years," Robert sighed. "And you Southerners still haven't gotten over it?" It was a teasing remark, and the smile on Tucker's face showed he was taking it in that spirit.

The breakfast continued with small talk. Phlox's presence was due to the wait for his machinery to craft more of the genetic resequencing formula that would save the Valakians. Robert remained quiet for much of it, getting the chance to enjoy getting to know these people. It was interesting how alike they could be to what he knew despite a century and a half of separation from his own time. And one day their descendants will be Picard and his Starfleet. The march of history can be amazing.

"So, what are your plans now?", Archer asked him.

"Um. Plans." Robert shrugged. "Hope my friends can find me, I guess."

"Well, in case they can't, you might want to think about Starfleet…"

Just as Archer finished that thought, a beep sounded in the officers' mess. Robert brought up his arm and tapped the screen of his multi-device on. "Huh."

"I'd love to have something like that," Mayweather said.

"What is it?", Archer asked.

"It's… a signal. Something is remotely accessing my multidevice."

"Someone's hacking you?", Reed asked with obvious concern.

"No. Not hacking, just making a connection…." The screen changed to show an incoming message. Rob, is that you? He tapped out a quick reply to inquire as to who it was and confirm it was him.

A reply came through. Thank God. My sister's probably going to slap you when we get back. Standby for beamout.

"Your friends?", Archer asked.

"Yeah." Robert nodded and looked at everyone. He felt a relieved smile cross his face. "They found me, I'm going home."

"Happy to hear it," Archer said.

"Thank you, Captain Archer, everyone, for being good hosts," Robert answered. "Safe travels to you all. And thank you, Doctor Phlox." Robert looked down the table at him. "Thank you for saving my life and for making the right choice with the Valakians. You're doing the right...."

White light grew in intensity at Robert's place until he disappeared within it.

"That's not a normal transporter effect," Reed observed.

There was a beep on the ship's intercom. Archer stood and went over to the speaker, where he pressed the receive key. "Archer here."

"Captain, we just picked up a surge of energy in the officers' mess, is everything alright?"

"Everything is fine." Archer thought on it. "Did we just pick up a ship entering the system?"

"No, sir. No ships are on sensors."

"Alright. Stand down. Everything's alright." Archer looked back to the others. "It was just our guest getting his ride home."


Robert finished speaking as the transporter took hold of him. The Enterprise crew disappeared and he found himself on the transporter platform of another ship. For a moment he thought it was the Koenig.

Scotty looked up from the controls. "Ah, there you are lad."

Robert blinked at him. "Scotty? It's you… where are we?"

"Aye. We're on th' Sladen."

"The Sladen." Robert tried to think of where he'd heard the name before. "Right. One of the ships based off Koenig."

"That'll be her."

Robert stepped down and shook the engineer's hand. "Good to see you. Should I ask how you got back to this time?"

"Ye'll be seein' how soon, sir, we should be back at th' target star within th' hour."

Before Robert could ask what he meant, the door to the Sladen Transporter Station opened. Caterina rushed in, squeed in joy, and rushed up to embrace him. "You had us so worried!", she declared. "We thought you… you died!"

Robert swallowed at that. "Yeah, that was close," he admitted. "I'm sorry for making you worry. But… how did you get…?"

"Scotty, Jarod and Data want you to double-check the slingshot calculations," Cat said, looking to the older man. "I think they're right, but getting the slingshot to send us forward instead of backward is tricky in the math."

"That it is. I'll head straight t' th' bridge an' give it a look-over."

Scotty returned the controls to the young crew rating who had been manning the station. He looked barely over twenty and had only one enlisted rank stripe; Robert imagined he was fresh out of enlistment training. "So, what was it like?", Cat asked. "I mean, the being thrown back in time bit?"

"I was unconscious for that part," he answered truthfully. "I blacked out right after that jump point went red and woke up on the Enterprise."

"The NX-01. Oh, that must have been cool. Did you get along with them…?" Caterina showed sudden concern. "Oh, did you say anything to them about the future? That's really important, I don't want to go back and find the timeline heavily changed or anything."

"I didn't say word one about the future," Robert answered. "Although Archer has apparently met time travelers before."

Caterina blinked. "Really? That's strange, there was nothing in the history datafiles Starfleet showed us…"

"I'm guessing it got classified," Robert said. "Anyway, do you mind if we head to the mess?"

"Hrm?" Cat looked at him like he'd just said something weird. "The mess? Why?"

"Because…" Robert chuckled. "You guys snatched me up before I could finish breakfast. And I have the strangest need to devour pancakes right now."

Cat laughed at that, and Robert joined in the laugh. Just an hour ago he'd been afraid that he would never see them again. Now…. well, here they were.

He was going home.

Sladen dropped out of warp near Enceladus and signaled the Aurora, prompting everyone to get to the attack ship dock built into the back of the ship's primary hull.

Julia, Angel, Leo, and Lucy were waiting at the dock - as was Picard - when Robert stepped out with the others. The welcoming committee smiled and went up to him. Julia got the first hug. "You gave us all a scare, Robby," she murmured into his ear.

"I know," he answered. He gave her a pat on the back. "I'm sorry.

"I'd like to give you an examination in the medbay as soon as you can get there," Leo insisted, being the next to give a hug. A shorter one, granted. "I'm surprised you survived."

"I had help." Robert moved on to Lucy, who hugged him. He accepted Picard's hand. "Captain."

"Captain," the older man said. "I'm sure you've got quite the story to tell."

"It's going to be a long report, I'm sure," he replied. "I kept quiet about anything I thought might cause knowledge of the future to get out."

"Good. As it is, I suspect the Department of Temporal Investigations is still going to insist on a debriefing."

"I'm sure we can do that in the spirit of mutual cooperation." Robert sighed. "Although it sounds like I won't enjoy it."

"You probably won't," Picard admitted.

Robert nodded and move on to Angel, who had stayed back. He spread his arms for a hug and stopped. There was something in her face that told him that she was about to practically boil over with emotion. "Angel?"

Angel's fists clenched. Her body tensed. She looked ready to scream in frustration. But instead of a scream, her words were "Ah, to hell with it". She went up to Robert and grabbed him by the arms.

And she kissed him.

And it wasn't a short kiss either. The kiss lingered, like she was afraid of ending it, and Robert embraced her as he returned the kiss. Everyone watched with a varying amount of bemusement or quiet appreciation. When they stopped for air Robert smiled and said, "Well, I missed you too."

He saw her hand coming even before it rushed up and caught him in the side of the face. "Bastard," Angel swore. "Don't you ever do something like that again! Isn't it enough that we've already lost so much?"

"I'm sorry, Angel," he answered. "But it was something that had to be done."

Angel sighed with frustration and kissed him again.

Everyone moved around them. Julia did not, and so she saw the dark look that crossed King's face. She felt a sudden concern surge through her and walked to the two. "How about public displays of affection be held off for later?', she asked.

They complied and everyone left.

All except King, who returned to her ship.

Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 29 July 2641. Captain Robert Dale recording. The diplomatic impasse has been resolved. Ambassador tr'Lhaer informed us this morning that the Romulan Empire has accepted Commander Andreys' suggestion that Alliance observer officers, under Romulan oversight, will be assigned to any Federation or Klingon ship equipped with IU drives. While it is merely a short-term solution to the question of the Alpha Quadrant's balance of power, it will allow for the aid we are seeking to be provided in a timely fashion. While there will be further terms to iron out, Mastrash Ledosh's preliminary arrangements will allow for our current diplomatic representation in the Federation to finish the fine details. As such, we will be departing soon for another diplomatic mission.

As for my unexpected trip to the past… I found it an educating experience. The questions posed are those we will be dealing with whenever we go into the unknown and meet other cultures. I find that it gives me a little more understanding of what the Federation's Prime Directive was meant to accomplish. While I do not agree with how it is applied sometimes, I can see now that they had a reason for writing it. Captain Archer was right; we all need such a signpost to be sure we're not causing more harm than good.

There was to be one last conference on Aurora, a formality with the various delegations signing protocols to government the expanded diplomatic negotiations soon to begin back on Earth. Robert attended in dress uniform this time, as did Julia, with Picard in the Starfleet version of a dress uniform as well.

All four delegations had assembled with digital copies of the negotiating protocols laid out. The protocols were exactly what they had come to establish; they lined out that details aside, the Alliance would be giving IU drives away to powers that provided a material contribution to the war effort, be it Klingon participation or the Federation sending expeditionary squadrons to protect other Alliance frontiers, freeing up more Alliance ships for war service. The safeguards insisted upon for the Romulans were also laid out in language that Ambassador tr'Lhaer had put in and which, with some argument, had been accepted.

"So I hear that they should be calling these the 'Andreys Protocols'," Robert murmured to Julia while they waited for the final member of the Federation delegation: the replacement for "Tanno" the Changeling.

Julia blushed slightly. "I'll stick with 'Gleer', honestly. The last thing I need is everyone wanting me to be the diplomat."

"Heaven forbid," Robert agreed. He sighed. "I hear that Relini's ad hoc fleet forced the Reich to withdraw from Hakmari."

"She did," Julia confirmed. "We got the final report last night. She lost half of her fleet in the fight, but the Reich pulled back."

"So it's not a smashing victory," Robert said. "But maybe a start."

"Maybe." Julia's face darkened. "Or maybe they decided to pull back and build up for a bigger hit."


"So." Julia grinned at him, looking to change the subject. "Angel must have let you have it last night."

Now it was Robert's turn to blush. "She couldn't decide whether to scream at me for my 'idiotic courage' or throw me into the bed." He chuckled. "So she did both."

"Sounds like her. You really gave us all a big fright."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I just… felt like I knew what was going on. And I knew I didn't have much time to spare."

"You did what had to be done," Julia insisted. "And nobody got hurt. That's the important thing."

Before they could continue their conversation the door swished open and Meridina entered. She was leading the Federation Exterior Secretary, Darvan. Robert had never seen Darvan before so he turned and looked toward him.

And he found himself gasping slightly in surprise.

Darvan was a Valakian.

Nor was he alone. At his side was another male, with alien features Robert had seen before.

"A Menk?", he asked under his breath.

"Greetings to you all," the Menk said. "I am Paro, senior aide to Exterior Secretary Darvan. We're sorry for being late. Our shuttle was delayed."

Robert had questions buzzing in his mind while Ledosh thanked the man and directed him to his seat. Darvan consulted with the other Federation Council members in hushed tones before looking over the protocols. Without any further word he ran his stencil over them, giving them an electronic signature. This signaled everyone else to do the same.

When the signing portion was over the delegations began to excuse themselves. This was no conference to be ended with a dinner; negotiations would begin in earnest within a few days on Earth, with Ledosh handing control over to Ambassador Karpari. And they would be on their way elsewhere.

"Well, we did it," Julia murmured to him. "Whatever details get worked out, we'll be getting Klingon ships on the front soon."

"Given everything that's happened, I'm surprised we managed," Robert murmured back. He watched with curiosity as Paro approached him. "May I help you?", he asked.

The Menk smiled at him. "I was curious. I had heard of you. Wanted to meet you." His words were spoken with careful deliberation.

Robert offered his hand. "Well, it's a pleasure meeting you, sir."

Paro accepted it and they shook hands. "You are… familiar," he said.


"I am a historian of my people. I have studied the First Contact with the Humans. The Human crew and alien doctor who healed our friends the Valakians." A knowing smile crossed Paro's face. "You must have had an ancestor. I saw a face like yours in the records."

Julia gave Robert a concerned look. Robert nodded and smiled at Paro. "Small galaxy, sir. That's all."

The Menk chuckled at that. He looked to where his boss was chatting with Kurn. "Take care, Captain. Be well." He stepped away.

When he was apparently out of earshot Julia looked to Robert. "Looks like you have an admirer."

"I just look like a historical figure, that's all," Robert insisted.

"Sure." Julia shook her head. "This is why I don't want anything to do with time travel." She checked the time on her multi-device. "And speaking of that, you should be getting to your office. Those DTI agents should be arriving at any time."

Robert sighed. "I'm not Starfleet. Can't I duck them?"

"You saw Maran's orders," Julia answered. "Cooperation is the word."

"A small price to pay to win the war, I suppose." Robert nodded. "All right. Make sure Kurn and tr'Lhaer don't kill each other before tr'Lhaer's back to his shuttle. I'm off to get grilled by time cops."

Several hours of grilling later, Robert was nursing a headache and sipping a coffee when Picard entered his office. "Well." The older captain smiled thinly at him. "I see you have learned why Starfleet officers avoid time travel whenever possible."

"I thought Lucsly was going to drag me to your penal colonies himself," Robert answered. "I seriously thought Hawthorne and Davies were the harshest critics I'd faced until now."

"We take the Temporal Prime Directive very seriously." Picard took a seat. "The consequences of interfering with history could be truly disastrous."

"Well, I had no idea how the Valakian issue was supposed to go," Robert replied. "So I did what I thought was right."

"I've often wondered what convinced Doctor Phlox to change his mind," Picard said. "Captain Archer was a great figure but he was still so inexperienced at that point in his voyages, I had trouble believing he alone stood up to Phlox."

"It makes me wonder how the Valakians took it when they found out he wanted to withhold the cure," Robert said.

"By the time that became widespread knowledge, his understanding was more accepted," Picard explained. "Because of the provision of the cure, the Valakians' technological advancement languished for half a generation, and it took them a quarter-century longer to discover warp travel than was estimated. They gained a reputation in the 22nd Century for seeking out other alien species to buy technology from instead of developing it themselves, further impacting their ability to develop. As such, because of the clear issue of what Archer's decision led to, the Valakian case was seen as an important lesson in the need for a non-interference directive."

"Even though that intervention saved lives," Robert pointed out.

"Well, as the saying goes Robert… 'No good deed goes unpunished'."

Robert let out a small laugh at that. "You know…" He sipped at his coffee and cradled the mug in his hands. "I thought about what would happen if nobody could come back for me."

"Oh?", Picard asked.

"Yeah. I received some suggestions from Archer and Phlox on joining their crew, or joining Starfleet. Maybe becoming a Captain in Starfleet after some time."

Picard considered that. "Well, that would have been truly disruptive to the timeline. But I can understand the appeal. It was an amazing time, the mid-22nd Century. The founding of the Coalition, the Romulan War, the creation of the Federation, first contact with so many species that we take for granted today. I suppose that, if I had to choose another era of history to live in… I might choose that time period."

"I can see why. But what amused me was the idea that if I did stay, and I became a Captain…" Robert shook his head. "...that maybe I'd end up being the reason the Federation wrote the Prime Directive in the first place. And now, from what you've said… I am."

Picard chuckled in response. "You contributed, certainly. Rather ironic, I admit."

"Yeah." Robert sipped the coffee again. "So, from what I've read, the Menk have actually gotten better over the last two centuries."

"Yes. Several communities showed increased intelligence into the late 23rd Century and exposure to the increasing Valakian technology spurred them to progress further. Today we consider them to have undergone speciation, with Menk and 'Developed Menk' populations. It may still take them several centuries to finish developing into a more advanced species but they are on their way to becoming equal to the Valakians."

"So Phlox's fears about the Valakians making them stagnate weren't right after all." Robert nodded. "Would be nice to tell him. Well, if I could without having to time travel again. Or warp the timeline beyond all repair."


Robert set his coffee down and put his hands together on his desk. "Honestly, in a way, I think it was a good thing this happened."


"Yes. Even with time cops yelling at me." Robert smirked for a moment before his expression evened out. "Talking with Archer and Phlox, arguing about the Valakian cure, it all reminded me of why I'm out here. Of why I am the way I am."

"It's always best to be reminded of such," Picard stated. "To keep in touch with who we are and understand what makes us like that."

"Phlox made a comparison I'd heard before. That I behaved like a 'White Knight'. I'm willing to intervene, even if I don't know the consequences, because my sense of compassion compels me to help people suffering. But he also made me accept that… that a part of it is that it's how I cope." Robert closed his eyes as his mind briefly dwelled on the things that made his heart ache. "I know what it's like to lose the people you love. To lose everything. So I guess it makes me even more determined to keep other people from suffering the same. Because that's something you and me, that any person in any position, can do. The good we can do while we're out here… Being able to make that sort of a difference, to stop suffering, it's something I want to do. Something I'm willing to sacrifice for."

Picard nodded. Robert noticed, to some surprise, that he seemed very affected. "Quite well put," Picard admitted. A pained look was coming to his face.


"I know how you lost your closest family," Picard said, "and I can sympathize with you. More now than before." He swallowed. "I didn't just lose the Enterprise, Robert. My brother and nephew, they… died in a fire not long ago."

Robert swallowed at that. "Oh my God… I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your loss, Jean-Luc."

"I can see what you mean. This kind of pain, I don't think anyone should have to feel it. I wouldn't wish to see this happen to anyone. At the same time, I know I can't always do that. I swore an oath. And ultimately… sometimes there really is nothing we can do."

That prompted a nod. "I understand your position more now than I did when we first met," Robert said.

"And I understand your's."

They went quiet for several moments. "Well, I suppose there's nothing more to say on that," Robert finally admitted. "Jarod wanted me to make an offer to you and your officers."


"We're not due to leave for a couple more days at least. And I know our calendars don't exactly match up, but tomorrow is a Friday on the UAS calendar," Robert noted. "And Jarod wants to have a poker night again. You and your officers are invited. We'll have it in the Lookout."

Picard considered that. A small smile crossed his face. "We would be delighted."

"I'll let Jarod know so he can schedule things with Hargert. Now…" Robert noticed a light come on his personal system. "...I am getting a call. It's my cousin." He smiled. "Yeah, I imagine she wants to talk."

"I'll leave you to that." Picard stood up.

Robert smiled back and pressed the key to open the channel. "Beth, how are…"

"Robert Allen Dale, how dare you?!," Beth Rankin declared from a universe away. "How dare you put me through that and then leave me hanging with just a simple text message! You should have called me!"

"Beth, I…"

"I thought you were dead, Robert. We're the last of the family and I thought you were dead! And then Julia said things about time travel and it… it just seemed… and you...."

Picard stopped at the door and allowed himself a small grin of bemusement at Robert's failed attempts to calm his cousin. He moved on as Beth continued her tirade, until the closing door cut off her voice.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

The next day Robert and Julia were going over personnel reports in Robert's ready office. "....and the Gamma Shift shop staff is still two fabrication specialists short," Julia was saying. "They never made good on our casualties after that fight at Puril."

"Anything from Personnel about transfers?", Robert asked.

"We were in the pipeline, but given the message this morning… they're not eager to send us replacement personnel at the moment." Julia sighed. "I guess we're not a priority given we're off the lines."

"The problem is we'll be short on making replacement parts if that holds up," Robert mumbled. "I hate to do it, but maybe see about getting some of the engineers from Beta and Alpha shifts?"

Julia winced. "Oh, they're not going to like that. Honestly, it would be better to promote a couple of the ordinary crew ratings. I've got about a dozen, minimum, up for meritorious promotion."

"And send them to Gamma Shift for fabrication training?" Robert thought on that. "Well, I suppose. It does sound better. But won't that cut into our reserve to cover other losses?"

"I'll make it work," Julia promised. "Personnel might be more willing to throw a couple of newer enlistees our way instead of trained personnel."

"Which dilutes our effectiveness," Robert noted. He drew in a sigh. "But we're at war, so I can't be surprised. Although Personnel seems really stingy given our priority assignment status. They never even got around to replacing the crew we left with Zack to fill out Koenig's complement..."

"Yeah, well, you never know how many of them might be in line with Davies and Hawthorne." Julia couldn't hide the distaste in her voice. "Anyway, that…"

There was a chime at the door. "Come in," Robert called out.

The door slid open and Commander King walked in. She was holding a digital pad, which she handed to Robert upon walking up to the desk. "Captain Dale, I've been ordered to report to your command."

Robert and Julia exchanged looks before he checked the pad. It was a transfer order for the ASV Sladen, re-assigning the ship to be Aurora's new backup vessel in the place of Koenig. Maran's signature was on the bottom. "Ah. Good." Robert looked over the order. "I see you're still officially on shakedown cruise."

King nodded. "We are. I request permission to commence further deployments immediately. I wish to get my crew acclimated to their duties."

"Yes, of course," Robert answered. He used a stencil to sign his receipt of the order and handed it back to King. "Welcome to our crew, Commander. We're honored to have you."

That prompted another stiff nod. "Thank you, Captain. Permission to be dismissed?"

"Certainly. And you're invited to tonight's poker game, Commander."

"That's alright, Captain, I am not a gambler," King replied promptly. She left through the door.

Julia watched King go. "Well, this will take some getting used to," she said.

"Yeah. Just reminds me that Zack's no longer around." Robert sighed and checked the time. "We'd better go file our final reports. We don't want to be late for the poker game."

Julia smirked. "How many hands do you think it'll take for Jarod to wipe us all out?"

"Oh, I think we're getting better." Robert responded to the smirk with a wide smile. "I'll give us at least ten hands before someone goes down."

"Five," Julia said.

"It'll be interesting, at least. And come on, at least ten."

"Five," Julia repeated. "It's Jarod."

All Robert could do was chuckle.

Commander King stepped into her spartan office facility on the Sladen and took her seat. Lieutenant Caldwell had the new duty rosters drawn up for Sladen's crew to cross-train on Aurora for emergencies, at least while they were docked to the larger ship, and she took the time to check the rosters and sign off on them. Once that duty was over, she was clear to move on to other duties.

Her hands moved quickly over her computer controls, configuring the signal she was sending. When she received the appropriate response, she opened the private channel. "The assignment's been made, sir," she said. "I'm here."

On her screen, Admiral Davies was at his desk in his main office in Defense Command. The Portland skyline was visible in the windows behind him. "I heard about this time travel mission they had you do," Davies said. "I hope everything went well?"

"It went as planned," King answered. "Admiral, I can already confirm your suspicions about the fraternization issue."

"That doesn't surprise me, Commander," Davies replied. "But as unprofessional as that is, it's not enough for me to go on. The forces at play are too powerful to let that work."

"I understand," King said. "As soon as they do anything objectionable I'll make sure you are informed immediately."

"I know you will. But be careful around them, Commander. Dale and his people might trust you enough not to question your assignment, but that Gersallian's a mind-reader. And she's the most dangerous of them by far. If you have even the slightest inkling that she's onto you, report it immediately and take what measures you deem necessary for your own protection."

King put her hands together on the table. "My own protection? Do you really believe Commander Meridina poses a threat?"

"There's no telling what she and her kind are capable of, Commander," Davies said. He saw something on his end. "The carrier wave will dissipate shortly. Keep on your primary mission and keep me apprised of further developments."

"I understand, sir."

"Good. Davies out."

There was silence in the Lookout. All eyes, of players and observers alike, were on the two figures looking at each other across the middle of the oval table. The middle was full of small silver and gold discs - betting chips.

At the head of the table, Commander Data dealt out only two cards, face-up. "Queen of Hearts to Commander Jarod, Four of Hearts to Commander Riker." Data's own cards were all face up; he had folded at the second round with cards, two of which were spades, but no visible pairs or other combinations.

There was a sigh from one corner. "Here we go again," Angel groaned, seated close to Robert.

Riker and Jarod made no obvious response to that. The two had possessed the largest piles of chips when this round began and now many of those chips were in the pot, as were several others from various players who had all bowed out in the earlier rounds to avoid being bankrupted by the two. Each looked over their cards, not bothering to check their hole cards. Jarod now had a rich hand; the new Queen had given him a pair of queens and an ace. Riker had a pair of Kings, Clubs and Diamonds, and his new 4 showing. He had the best hand showing and opened up the betting. "Two hundred," he said.

Locarno whistled from his seat. Beside him, Caterina was slipping to the edge of her seat and brimming with excitement.

Jarod smiled slightly and reached into his own pile. "Two hundred and one hundred more." He tossed in his raise.

Riker's face remained impassive. It showed no more emotion than Data's. After several seconds of looking at Jarod's cards, he reached into his own pile. "One hundred," he said. Now the pile on the table was truly large, enough that the winner would easily win the rest of the night by attrition. After several moments of thought he tossed in the hundred.

Data dealt out two more cards. "Jack of Clubs to Commander Jarod. Ace of Spades to Commander Riker."

Riker's hand was still the best visible one. He opened the round with a hefty bet. "Two hundred." It was hefty, if not extremely aggressive.

Jarod looked at his own pile. And at Riker's cards, and his own. Calculation showed on his features, and for good reason; if he folded, he would at least manage to hold onto enough chips to stay in the game for several more hands. Of course, Riker would have the advantage for the rest of the night.

The smile on his face grew. "Two hundred." Jarod reached for more chips. "And another two hundred." This left Jarod with perilously few chips.

Riker looked over Jarod's cards and his own. Everyone watched and waited to see if he'd match or fold.

Surprise and disbelief was the response when Riker threw in the requisite two hundred, exhausting his pile to the point that the next hand would wipe him out. "Two hundred. Call. Let's see that hand, Mister Jarod."

Jarod's smile shifted slightly. He reached for his hole card and flipped it; the Ace of Hearts.

"Commander Jarod has two pairs, Aces and Queens," Data reported for the benefit of the gathering audience. "Commander Riker."

Everyone was waiting with held breath as Riker's fingers gripped the hole card before him and flipped it.

The King of Spades.

"Three Kings." Data blinked. "Congratulations, Commander. You win the pot."

Eyes widened. Jaws dropped.

Jarod inclined his head to Riker and handed his defeated hand to Data.

Finally a wide smile split Riker's face as he reached forward for his winnings.

"He beat Jarod," Angel gasped.

"That was so cool," Caterina declared.

"Congratulations, Will," Troi said, patting Riker on the shoulder.

"Excellent hand, Mister Jarod," Riker said.

"Not good enough," Jarod sighed. "I was hoping for that third Ace. And I thought you were bluffing."

"I've found that it's always a good thing to fake bluffing once and awhile," Riker remarked. "It keeps the other players honest."

"He beat Jarod," Angel repeated. She stared at the table in shock.

Robert, on her right, reached over and put an arm around her shoulders. "Someone had to eventually," he pointed out.

"He beat JAROD."


Angel turned and looked at Robert in amazement. "He beat Jarod, Rob! He beat Jarod!"

"About bloody time, if ye ask me," Scotty said.

"Zack and Tom will never believe this," Locarno said. "Hargert! Somebody, please tell me we're recording this!"

Leo looked over at Angel and Robert. "Are you going to be okay, Angel?", he asked.

"He beat Jarod!", Angel repeated. "That's… that's…"

Robert gave her a kiss on the cheek. "She's had a rough week."

Riker chuckled. "Well, anyone up for another hand?"

"I doubt we'll get that pile down tonight," Leo sighed, looking at his own modest winnings. "But sure."

Jarod tossed in one of his few remaining chips. "I'm still in." As he said that, he looked to Troi.

Troi returned the smile and mouthed the words "Thank you" while Riker, still grinning, tossed in his own contribution to the starting pot.


Robert and the others were finishing their Saturday morning staff meeting when a chime sounded at the Conference Room door leading to the bridge. Julia pressed a key to release the lock on the door, allowing entry. Picard came in with Data and Worf accompanying him.

Robert blinked and stood. "Captain Picard?"

Picard offered him a Starfleet standard PADD. "Starfleet Command has examined the information you provided about the Darglan Facility in S4W8. They agree that the threat of the Reich discovering the Darglan technology and making use of it is too high to be ignored."

"Well, you're already going to be sending ships to our frontiers to free up our ships for the war," Julia said. "What else is your Federation Council willing to do?"

"The Council will deliberate further actions as usual, but Starfleet Command does have some discretion in this matter," Picard explained. "Admiral Nechayev has consulted with your Admiral Maran. Given that the Aurora will likely be involved in whatever operation is finally launched to deal with the Facility, Starfleet has offered the services of two experienced officers to assist you in that operation."

It wasn't hard to see what Picard was getting to. "So you're assigning Worf and Data to us," Robert said, seeing the relevant order on the PADD.

"Admiral Maran's already sent a confirmation to us," Julia confirmed, looking over the day's incoming transmissions.

"I… well, that's excellent," Robert said. He smiled at them. "We're honored to have you aboard. I'm sure you have a lot to teach us."

"The honor is ours," Worf answered. "The chance to fight such a foe… it will be a great battle."

"I may also be of assistance in deciphering more of the Darglan data you recovered from 33LA," Data said. "It may provide us with further information that could be of use."

"Not to mention finding the rest of the coordinates for the Facility," Cat pointed out.

Julia stood from her chair. "Gentlemen, if you'll follow me, I'll find you spare officer quarters on Deck 4."

After Julia left with the two ex-Enterprise crew, Robert looked to the others. "I think everyone has what they need. The meeting is dismissed. Make sure we're on standby to jump to our next destination as soon as Mastrash Ledosh gets notification from President Morgan."

The others filed out. Picard did not leave for the moment. After they were gone he revealed another item; an isolinear data storage chip container, which he handed to Robert. "This is for you," he said.

Robert looked it over. "What is it?"

"A message in the Starfleet Historical Archives," Picard revealed. "A very specific set of instructions were left for its delivery to you personally."


"So I'm told."

"Huh." Robert put it away. "I'll look at it soon. What about you?"

"Commander Riker and I will be helping to coordinate the assignment of Starfleet ships for duty with the Alliance," Picard revealed. "And Counselor Troi has other duties that Starfleet Medical has asked her to take up for the time being."

"I see." Robert nodded. "Well, I guess you're going then?"

"For now." Picard offered his hand. "Good luck out there."

"Thanks. And I'll make sure Worf and Data get back." Robert grinned in reply. He took Picard's hand. "You're going to want them on the next Enterprise, I'm sure."

"Yes." They shook hands. "Bon voyage, Captain Dale."

"Bon voyage, Captain Picard. See you out there."

Robert, with nothing more to do, went to the far door for the direct turbolift to the conference room. Picard went toward the bridge door. Julia was waiting there. "Captain," she said. "I'm just waiting to escort you to the transporter station."

"Of course." Picard followed her out onto the bridge, where Jarod had assumed the watch for the moment, and to the turbolift beside the conference room entrance. Once they were inside, he turned to her. "Your first name is Julia, isn't it?"

"It is." She gave him a look. "Why?"

"I was just curious." Picard smiled slightly.


"Let's just say…" Picard directed the smile at her. "...that I have a feeling that you and I will be on first name basis someday too."

Robert stepped inside the holographic chamber and took the isolinear chip out. Thanks to Carlton Farmer, the systems of the chamber were set up to accept the data in it. Robert hit a key, confirmed his identity, and said, "Computer, activate communication link to Starfleet Museum's holographic recreation programs. Load the bridge to the Enterprise, registry NX-01."

"Processing. Datalink established. Loading program."

The blue-surfaced chamber changed. Robert found himself standing in a recreation of Archer's bridge. "Computer, using the datalink to Starfleet, load a simulation of Captain Jonathan Archer," he said. "And use the simulation to playback the video message in the chip."

A shimmer of energy in the air coalesced into Captain Archer's form, a little older than he'd been when Robert had seen him last. After a moment he moved slightly. And he began to speak. "Captain Dale, if you're hearing this, it means my plan worked. I arranged for this recording to be held by Starfleet until the appropriate time for you to get it."

"Well, it worked," Robert said, although he knew he'd get no answer to that. The system hadn't made an interactive Archer, just one to play back the recording.

"I'm not sure what time you came from, how many years separate the two of us, but it's a relief to see that in the future Humanity will still be out here, exploring the frontier like we are in my time." Archer smiled. "I thought you should know that Dr. Phlox's cure is working quite well. He's still not certain this won't cause problems don't the line, but you won him over by pointing out how much suffering was going to happen without the cure. He's thankful you kept him from leaving those Valakians to die. I'm not sure I could have convinced him as well as you did. You made a real difference here, Captain."

Although Archer's recording was likely a video one and stationary, the simulation program had him walk over to beside his chair. "Meeting you, getting to know you, reminds me of the responsibilities I have in my time period. I'm the first captain out here and my choices are going to influence generations of starship captains to come. The decisions I make are going to set the rules for everyone to follow. And I'm sure I'll make some wrong choices along the way. But I hope you can look back on my time and see that I did my best to pass on a better galaxy to your generation. I will do everything in my power to make sure of that. All I can ask is that you learn from my mistakes and make sure your own lessons will be passed on as well. That way future generations can continue to learn from our experiences. It'll be your place, your responsibility, to leave your galaxy a better place as well. To do all of the good that men and women in our position can do in order to make that better galaxy." Archer nodded. His expression showed pure confidence and respect. "And I know you will. Good luck and Godspeed, Captain Dale. This is Jonathan Archer, signing off."

The message ended and the system left the holographic Archer standing motionless before Robert. He considered Archer's message while looking over the archaic bridge around him. Here was the place Archer led from, a lonely starship for an Earth that had barely left its own solar system at that point, charting the path that led to Earth becoming the center of an entire federation of species making their way in the galaxy. Whatever he may have felt about the Federation's Prime Directive or some of its attitudes, there was no denying it had done a lot of good as well. Good that had started with Archer's voyages.

Robert smiled as he reflected on that. He looked to Archer's chair and, for just a moment, took a seat in it. It was fitting, really. This was the thing he shared with Archer; being the one to take those first steps into a new frontier. For Archer, it had been starting Earth of S5T3 onto the path of interstellar exploration. For Robert, the wonders of a Multiverse and all of the myriad things within it had started with him and his friends. "Glad to have met you too, Captain Archer," Robert said to nothing. "I won't forget it."

There was a beep on his multidevice. Robert reached to it and hit the communication key. "Dale here."

Julia spoke on the other end. "We have official notice from Portland. We're due at Layom in Universe L2M1. Mastrash Ledosh has a meeting scheduled with the Gl'mulli."

"Well, we don't want to keep the Gl'mulli waiting, do we?", Robert said. "Tell Jarod to jump out when we're ready."

"Yes, Captain."

Robert took in a breath and imagined, for a moment, how different it would be to command a ship like Archer's. Just eighty or so people exploring the frontier of space, no Facility, no New Liberty Colony, just a distant Earth that was often out of touch. It sounded terrifying and exciting all at the same time. "I'm not much of an explorer," he admitted out loud. "But it would be fun."

He stood from the chair and walked toward the door. "Computer, end program." He reached down and picked up the isolinear chip from the reading slot as soon as it wavered into view, the rest of the bridge hologram disappearing behind him. It was time to get back to work.

They did have a war to win, after all.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »


Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 20 August 2641. Captain Robert Dale recording. We are still in our station-keeping position beside Arcturus Station while Mastrash Ledosh and Ambassador Weekes finish negotiations with the Systems Alliance for aid in the war with the Reich. Ledosh has expressed his confidence that the Systems Alliance Parliament will pass an aid bill shortly.

Lucy Lucero kept her breathing still and her eyes on Meridina. The Gersallian woman stood motionless before her. The wooden practice blade in Meridina's hands was held upward in a ready position, much like the one in Lucy's hands. They were wearing brown padded robes over sleeveless magenta vests and matching pants; an exercise outfit befitting their current activity.

Lucy felt Meridina's movement a moment before it came. Her arms moved almost by their own accord, not Lucy's conscious decision, and there was a sharp thwack as wood met wood. She had successfully parried Meridina's first attack. She sensed more attacks coming and met them in turn, each second passing by with a thwack. Lucy backpedaled on her feet and waited for any opening to show itself. A sharp pain went through her forearm when the tip of Meridina's practice weapon smacked against it during a missed swipe.

Then she saw it. Meridina shifted her weight to change her attack pattern. Lucy swung the blade for Meridina's weak side. Meridina had to move to avoid the strike and that involved pulling her weapon back from an attack. Lucy sliced at her another time and smacked the side of Meridina's hand. Another slash and Meridina took a step backward. Lucy, feeling she had the advantage, moved in for a cut at Meridina's hip.

Meridina's free hand popped up as if to catch Lucy's sword. That was not normally a maneuver one would find in a sword fight since, in a real one, you would likely lose some or all of the hand. But Meridina's purpose was evidently not to grab the sword.

Lucy felt like she was struck by a battering ram. She flew back six feet to the edge of the mat and landed with a huff and a dull pain in her ribs. For a moment she felt out of air and needed to suck in breath.

In that moment, Meridina rushed in for the final blow. One strong strike knocked Lucy's practice sword away. She pressed the tip of the wooden practice blade to Lucy's throat. "You are bested, my student," Meridina remarked plainly. Her blue eyes shined with restrained mirth. "Although I believe your swordswomanship is improving."

"I give up," Lucy sighed. She held her hands outward in surrender. Meridina pulled her blade away and used a free hand to help Lucy up. Lucy held a hand outward and reached for the weapon with her power. It went to her hand, hilt-first. "I'm a little confused, Meridina."

"By what?"

"I'm not planning to join your order," Lucy said. "So wasn't my training only supposed to be in basic swevyra stuff so I don't become a raging murdering psycho? How does sword-fighting fit into this?"

"It teaches patience and fine control of the swevyra," Meridina explained. "Though you will not be issued a lakesh, there is no provision against teaching you basic use of that blade or any other."

"Ah." Lucy considered that. "It sounds like you've given it a lot of thought."

"Indeed." Meridina lifted her blade to a ready position. "Again."

Lucy sighed and mirrored Meridina's stance. A thought crossed her mind and she fought against the urge to smile.

As soon as Meridina moved to attack, Lucy moved as well. Instead of parrying the attack she ducked it and sent her blade toward Meridina's left side.

Her senses told her things had gone wrong a brief moment before Meridina's body shifted to the right, avoiding Lucy's blow. Lucy felt Meridina's foot make contact with her ankle and lower leg. In one quick sweep Meridina used that position to knock Lucy off her feet. Lucy hit the mat with a resounding thud and an "oof". Meridina's wooden blade again pressed against her neck. "A clever tactic," Meridina noted. "But you must remember that those with swevyra like ours can sense the imminent future and read our opponents' movements."

"I'll keep that in mind," Lucy sighed. She accepted Meridina's help in standing up again. "And shouldn't you just call it 'Life Force powers'?"

Meridina blinked. Her brow furrowed. "Such a term is longer. Why would I use that when our word swevyra suffices?"

"But it doesn't, though," Lucy pointed out. "Everyone has swevyra. But not everyone can use this… this 'force' you're training me in."

"So you believe to call the use of our talents something different?"

"Well, it might make things easier to say more quickly."

"Referring to our 'abilities' should suffice, then." Meridina brought up the blade. "Now, let us try this again."

With the Alliance Ambassador to the Systems Alliance working with Ledosh this time, Robert found he had time for a bridge watch. Julia was beside him at the first officer's station, looking over the results of their battle drill. "Commander King and her crew are working well in our practices," she said to Robert. "They're really good at covering for Commander Laurent's fighters."

"She's a consummate professional," Robet agreed. "Which is why I'm surprised she's able to work with us so well. Most of the pros seem to dislike us."

"Well, despite what others have said, she doesn't actually have her head up… somewhere sensitive," Julia said with a grin. "As for the other training measures, Commander Worf's suggestions about our targeting algorithms have increased accuracy across the board. And Jarod's work with Commander Data means we're getting about five percent better performance out of our computer systems.

"Good to hear that. We need every edge we can get." Robert tapped his fingers on his chair.

"You should relax," Julia said in a low voice.

"You heard about Grenaris?"

"The Reich retreated," she said. "The first Klingon ships helped to drive them off."

"But the colony itself was mostly gone," Robert said. "Only a few hundred people were left. Our troops mostly found empty homes and a few mass graves. Not enough for the population. Intel thinks that before the fleet showed up, they dragged most of the population back into their space to be slave labor."

Julia frowned. "Yeah. It's depressing to think about it. But things are looking up. Our talks have all been successful so far. The Dorei Federation's mobilizing their full fleet now and several of the wavering countries in the Alliance are coming over to supporting the war."

"Yeah. Now if we can just confirm they have no clue where to look for that Facility, I'll feel a lot better."

The door to the bridge slid open. Robert and Julia looked back to observe Ledosh coming in. They stood. "Mastrash, is there anything we can do for you?"

"The talks proceed well," Ledosh assured them. "But the Systems Alliance has a… term that must be dealt with."

Robert and Julia exchanged looks. "Which would be?", Julia asked.

"To ensure the security of Earth's territories in this galaxy, the Systems Alliance is reluctant to dispatch the fleets to justify their participation. Additionally, they have the obvious required term."

"Our IU drives." Julia sighed. "And we thought getting the Romulans to accept that deal was tough. There's no way this universe's leading races let the local branch of Humanity have our IU drives first."

"Exactly. Provision of the technology in the current environment will be politically destabilizing to a degree the Systems Alliance, nor our own Alliance, can easily afford. As such, President Morgan has given me direct instructions to commence further negotiations immediately to win the approval of the other races."

"Which means the Citadel Council."

"Indeed. I trust you are ready to plot a course."

"So… we're going to the Citadel," Julia said.

Ledosh nodded in affirmation. "Yes."

Undiscovered Frontier
"The Flow of Life"

The bridge crew had all assembled on the bridge by the time the Aurora was ready for the transit. Caterina was sitting at the science station and buzzing with excitement. "I've been waiting months to do this. Months!"

"It will be a most interesting experience." Data had taken up Tom Barnes' old post at the engineering station beside Caterina. "The Mass Relay system's existence may have a considerable impact on how we understand subspace physics."

"And I'll be scanning the entire time," Cat assured him.

Robert nodded. "Alright, Nick. Let's earn your paycheck."

"I hear that." Locarno activated the impulse drives. "I'm receiving telemetry from Arcturus for the Relay that connects to the Citadel. Setting impulse drives to three quarters and following the approach course."

Aurora accelerated through space toward the appropriate mass relay. It was several kilometers long - the size of a space station by itself - and shaped almost like a tuning fork of sorts with rings spinning in the inside hollow section. Hollow, that was, save for the surging sphere of material at the heart of the relay, glowing bright blue. "Element zero, right?", Robert asked Cat.

"Yup. Definitely. It's really widespread in this particular universe." She remained focus on her sensor screens.

"A thousand kilometers and closing," Locarno reported.

Everyone seemed ready to hold their breath as the bright glow of the Mass Relay grew in the holo-viewscreen. Locarno ticked down the distance. "Ten kilometers…. we will make transit in five… four… three… two… one!"

Energy surged from the core of the Mass Relay and gripped Aurora, crackling almost like lightning connecting the ship to the Relay's core. The viewscreen showed what looked to be a corridor of space appear ahead of them and the ship surged into it, like a boat swept along in a current.

The corridor abruptly disappeared. They were back in normal space. "Transit is complete." Locarno checked his board. "All drives are good. It looks like our drift was at about two thousand kilometers."

"Nice run, Nick," Julia said in congratulations.

"Fascinating," Data added, having relayed some of the sensor readings to the engineering station.

"You said it." Caterina tapped away at her board. "The Relay creates a massless corridor through space and uses the responding gravitational warping to…. this is so incredible."

Data nodded in agreement. "I would theorize that the technology essentially creates a subspace tunnel between two points in space utilizing mass effect fields."

"Given they call the technology by that name, it's probably a good guess," Angel pointed out.

"We're coming up on the Citadel, Captain," Locarno reported.

All eyes went back to the holo-viewscreen. Now it showed the opaque clouds of a nebula, dull blue and gray in color, parting slowly as Aurora flew through them. Lights appeared through the cloud that became more prominent until they emerged fully into the pocket of space within the Widow Nebula, revealing the Citadel.

The station was rotating around a ring; in the middle of that ring was a connecting pathway leading to a platform and tower pointing "up", in the same direction as the massive arms that came up from the center ring. In the space between the arms, several starships and spacecraft were coming and going, some of them very large. "Going by the recognition profiles in our computers, the majority of the defense fleet is made up of Turian warships." Jarod tapped a key. "Although there's one definite exception."

That exception loomed ahead of them. The ship in question was wider than the Aurora was long, a central hull with a large hollow section and large arms extending from each cardinal point. "That's not a Turian design," Julia noted.

"It's Asari," Jarod confirmed. "According to the Systems Alliance recognition profiles it's the Destiny Ascension, flagship of the Asari Republics. The construction of the ship is more advanced than anything we've seen in M4P2. The materials… I think the only ship that could match it would be the Kentan."

Everyone recognized that name; the flagship of the Gersallian Interdependency, one of the largest dreadnought-starships of the Multiverse.

"According to our information packet, those five arms are called the Wards, they're over 43 kilometers long and about three hundred and thirty meters thick," Jarod explained. "They have near-Earth gravity and provide the majority of the housing and most of the commercial districts. The ring is only point three Gs and is known as the Presidium. It contains the most expensive living areas and major offices for most of the galactic businesses, not to mention embassies and consulates for every major race in the galaxy."

"And the tower is where the Citadel Council is based," Julia finished for him.

"This place is so awesome," Caterina said in awe. "Tell me we're getting shore leave."

"We don't have any orders forbidding it," Robert remarked. "Just remember we're here on a diplomatic mission. I want all hands reminded that they have to be on their best behavior when on liberty."

"Tom is going to hate missing this sight," Cat sighed.

Mentioning Barnes caused Robert and Julia to look at each other with a bit of sadness. It was only a further reminder that their group had become reduced by Zack's decision to leave for now. "Yes," Robert sighed. "I think they'd both love it."

"Citadel Security Traffic Control is transmitting a station-keeping zone for us," Locarno said.

"Let's not seem too hasty. Reduce impulse to point one five and switch to thrusters when we're within the station arms."

"Yes ma'am." Locarno acted to implement Julia's approach orders.

Julia looked over to Robert. "Time to get the Mastrash, then. You'll be going over?"

"Yes." Robert looked at his multidevice. "He and I are due at the Earth Embassy in an hour to meet with the Systems Alliance's representation. Ambassador Udina is supposed to have arranged a spot for us in the Citadel Council's itinerary for later today."

"Good luck." She grinned at him. "I think you're starting to get the hang of this diplomacy."

"So says the woman who actually called the Romulans' bluff," he responded with a knowing smile. The smile dulled a moment later. "I wish Zack was here. This would be a fun place to just take some leave and explore a little."

"I know." Julia nodded. "I just hope he's doing okay."

"Well, you never know what he's getting up to these days…"

It looked like the start of a blessedly-quiet day for Admiral Adama when he arrived in Galactica CIC. Tigh looked up from the central table. "Good morning, sir. How are you?"

"Sleeping better," Adama admitted. He held up a mug. "Still getting used to this 'replicated' coffee."

"Godsdamned stuff tastes like it came from a dog's ass, if you ask me," Tigh grumbled. "I don't know how the Alliance's people put up with this replicated stuff. I'd rather go back to service rations than have another plate of that so-called 'pasta' from last night."

"Somehow I think Commander Carrey would agree," Adama said. He went over to the table and accepted the night's reports from Tigh. "The drive checks are going well?"

"We're having to fabricate some new parts for a couple of ships showing wear and tear," Tigh said. "And Zarek's making a lot of fuss over some issue with the Astral Queen's power grid." Tigh frowned. "Apparently the new shield systems installed over there are overloading their capacitors whenever they're tested. Zarek wants Koenig's engineers back over."

"Did you tell him that Lieutenant Derbely insisted on a full armed escort if she ever had to go back?", Adama inquired.

"He offered to escort her himself."

"Of course he did." Adama set the reports down. "Now…"

"Sir." Gaeta looked up from his station. "I'm picking up something on the subspace sensors. I… well, I'm not quite sure I know what it is."

Adama looked at him with some intensity. "Is it a Cylon ship jumping in?"

"No, I think it's a warp signature… wait. DRADIS contacts appearing, approximately fifty thousand kilometers from the Fleet. I'm not reading Cylon ships…"

Duala held her earpiece close. "Sir, Lieutenant Navaez from the Koenig just opened a channel. She says not to worry, it's the relief convoy."

Some scattered applause sounded in the CIC. Adama felt a pleased little grin come to his face at the news. "Well, that's good news. I'd better alert the President."

"We're getting a signal, sir. It's from a vessel, a Dorei… 'starbird'?... called the Xinal. Captain Tiniri Pakalos commanding."

"Put him on."

Duala operated controls for the new system installed nearby; a holo-emitter and recorder that not only provided an image to send back to the caller, but created a holographic flatscreen that displayed video coming in from another ship. Adama found himself facing a blue-skinned alien, one of the Dorei, with light purple spots on her spotline and dark blue hair cut short to her neck. Bright teal eyes looked back at him. "Admiral Adama of Galactica? I am Captain Pakalos of the starbird Xinal, escorting the Alliance relief convoy."

Adama nodded. "Captain Pakalos, we've been looking forward to this meeting. You're a day earlier than we expected."

"Yes. Our engineers were able to sustain a higher warp speed than we had anticipated. We have some need to finish this duty quickly so we might jump out."

"You mean you're due for the war," Adama said.

"Indeed. Xinal is needed at the front to fight the Nazi Reich. We will only stay long enough for the fleet to finish unloading your supplies, and then we and the fleet will jump to another universe before going to S4W8."

"I understand." Adama nodded. "Commander Carrey keeps us informed about the progress of the war. The Colonies stand with our new friends and pray for a swift Alliance victory."

"We thank you. We shall see how swift the battle is." Pakalos nodded her thanks as well. "Speaking of Commander Carrey, I will need to meet with him before long. Do you know where I can find him? His Operations officer stated he transported over to one of your ships."

Tigh smirked for a moment. Adama nodded and allowed himself a little grin. "Yes, um, Commander Carrey selected today to begin a special project of his. I believe he called it a..." Adama looked to Tigh briefly, who was allowing the smirk to become a grin. "... 'civilian morale-building exercise'."

Cloud 9 had met Zack's expectations. The specialized dome and its ability to simulate actual sunlight, the environmental systems creating just the right amount of warmth without being a summer broiler, and the fresh and soft grass that really added to the environment.

He took his place and looked out at the crowd of children. With only so many thousands of children in the Fleet, and only so many parents willing to okay this, it was surprising to see how many had turned out anyway. There were a couple hundred kids easy. And those were just the ones visible in the bleachers; others were spread out wherever they could find room.

He tapped his multidevice under his uniform, knowing the commkey by heart, and that activated the speakers that would boom his voice across the entire park. "Alright everyone, I'm Commander Zachary Carrey of the Koenig. And today I'm going to teach you something special. It's a pasttime from Earth…" He held up the object in his right hand. "...called baseball." He tossed the white ball with red stitching in the air a few times. "This is a baseball. And the object Lieutenant Apley is holding…" Zack indicated his XO, standing beside Tom Barnes. "...is called a baseball bat."

Apley nodded and swung the bat a few times in his hands. Like Zack and Barnes, he was wearing a specialized uniform just for this occasion; a white baseball player uniform with the Koenig emblazoned on it and the name Koenig written in fancy cursive lettering above the insignia. Like any proper uniform the back had their names and bigger versions of their jersey numbers compared to the small ones over their hearts on the front. Zack had his old high school number of 22 on his jersey. Apley had opted merely for 1 and Barnes, with much snickering, took 69.

"The goal of this game is for the pitcher to throw the ball at the batter and to try and make him miss it in the process. The batter, of course, tries to hit it. If he misses, it's a strike, and with three strikes you're out." He made a little motion, the umpire hand signal for being called out. "If he succeeds, he gets to start running for the bases." Zack pointed to each base in turn. "1st, 2nd, and 3rd." Three more Koenig crew were on each base; Chief Alberto Gonzales, Petty Officer Constance Felder, and Crewwoman 1st Rate Dreyna Sapana, who stood out as the only Dorei among them. Three more Koenig crew were in the outfield and April Sherlily was at short stop beside Zack. "If you hit the ball and it goes beyond these white lines…" He held his hands out and pointed to the foul lines from Home to the 1st and 3rd bases. "... it's a foul ball. If any of the team on the field catches your ball in mid-air…"

In short concise sentences Zack laid out the entire issue with how outs and runs worked, and ultimately how bases were scored and how three outs meant the teams switched places. Some children asked questions, including the expected ones inquiring about throwing the ball to make it impossible for someone to hit - Zack was quick to point out that these were called "balls" and too many led to a walk, a free base, so long as the player didn't swing for them - and soon enough the basics of the game were understood. "Your chaperones will hand out little rulebooks later," Zack assured them, holding up a copy.

As he did he looked out at the adults, most of whom seemed at least modestly interested in the game he was described as well. The real surprise, though, was the presence of President Roslin. She was finally out of her wheelchair and sitting in the bleachers, out of immediate sight of everyone. Billy was with her.

Zack forced himself to turn his head so he didn't linger too long and give Roslin's presence away. "Time for a demonstration!", he shouted. He nodded to Barnes, who got down on his haunches and brought up his catcher's mitt. Apley flexed his knuckles and brought the bat up.

"Hey, batter batter batter! Hey batter!"

Apley smirked at Barnes' attempt to distract and was ready when Zack threw the ball at him. It was a fastball. Too fast for Apley, who swung a moment too late to hit. The ball instead sailed into Barnes' mitt.

From a spot behind home plate, Samuel Anders called out "Strike one!" The pyramid player took his role as home plate umpire with relish. Zack had explained everything in the sport to him and made the rulebooks available; it didn't have the physical contact of Anders' own favored sport, but Anders had proven supportive regardless, and he and Kara Thrace had made sure to attend Registration Day.

Barnes threw the ball back to Zack, who caught it effortlessly with his mitt-clad left hand. He started playing with the baseball for a moment before nodding, seeing Barnes' signal, and throwing a curveball. There was another swing from Apley.

And this time, he was rewarded with a resounding CRACK.

Wood met baseball and the white orb went flying into the air. Zack watched it sail over his head and toward the backfield, where the middle outfielder raced toward the fence to grab it. But it was useless; the ball sailed over the chainlink fence that had been put up by Cloud 9 work crews over the course of the past couple of days.

Apley tossed the bat to his side and began a leisurely jog toward first base.

"And that, everyone, is what we call a home run!", Zack declared, extending an arm to the fence. "If the ball leaves the field between the foul lines, everyone on base gets to score a run. That's the equivalent, more than the equivalent, of a deep corner shot for you pyramid fans. And now, while Lieutenant Apley gets to strut his way to Home plate and live a little dangerously from one-upping his captain…!" That prompted some laughs. "...we're going to start with some registrations! We'll form teams of…"

Registration was well underway when Zack had an opening to walk over to Roslin and Billy. "Madame President." He nodded to her. "You came to see the start of training camp?"

"It sounded interesting," Roslin answered. She nodded to the lines of children forming to sign up for teams. "And I think parents will be more tolerant of your baseball over pyramid."

"Yeah, a lot of Moms never want to see their kid tackled." Zack crossed his arms and grinned. "Thanks for your support. I don't think Cloud 9's staff would have been willing to put up the baseball fields without you."

"No thanks are necessary." Roslin shook her head. "It's for a worthy cause. WIth everything that's happened, it will be nice to see children getting to be children. And their parents will feel better."

There was a tone under the sleeve of Zack's uniform. He rolled it back to reveal his multidevice. "Carrey here," he said.

Magda spoke through the comm link. "The relief convoy is here, Commander."

"Woh, really? They're a day early?"

"Yes sir. And Captain Pakalos wants to see you at your earliest convenience."

Zack sighed and looked back to where the registrations were ongoing. "I'd better take this." He nodded to Roslin. "I hope you enjoy your day, ma'am."

"Thank you, Commander."

Zack walked away to go find Apley. He'd need his XO to take over for him before beaming over to Xinal.

Julia reminded herself, for the umpteenth time, that she wasn't allowed to arbitrarily ban anyone from liberty on the Citadel.

It would make the job so much easier. Here she was, in her office, scrambling through the staff listings to assign leave periods to personnel, by order of those with the least amount of recent shore leave and the most time on the ship. But the way things were going, half of the crew would be over on the Citadel. Which meant more chance for trouble if anything.

The door swished open and Meridina stepped into Julia's office. "Commander, I have a request to make of you. I desire to spend some time on the Citadel."

"Shore leave?" Julia blinked. "You… actually want shore leave?"

"I suppose that is accurate," Meridina said. "I wish to take Lucy for the purpose of her training."

Julia blinked. "How… how does that work? I mean, training her in whatever it is, why do you need the Citadel for that?"

Meridina seemed to consider her words very carefully for a moment. "It has to do with how swevyra flows. How it works. I believe the term in your language would be 'the flow of life'."


"To fully grasp her potential, Lucy must be exposed to the currents of teeming life. And not simply that to be found on a station like Arcturus or in the Defense Command building. The Citadel is the first place we have visited since beginning the training that has the necessary abundance of life to qualify for this task."

"So you basically need to visit somewhere that's packed full of beings." Julia considered that. "Alright. Okay, I'll grant the leave for both of you. You can leave when Lucy's shift ends at 1600 and you'll be scheduled to return tomorrow morning by 1000."

"More than sufficient, Commander."

Julia nodded. "Alright, I'll put you and Lucy down for that." Julia brought up the list. "Shouldn't be too hard on things. Although you may face a line at the Transporter Stations with all of the crew who want to check things out."

"I apologize if this has caused any undue disruption."

"Two people I can handle. But when two thousand people all want liberty, I have to do a little juggling. Don't worry about it, I'll be fine." Julia grinned at her. "Go and enjoy… whatever it is you're going to do."

"My thanks."

Robert and Ledosh spent two hours getting briefed by Ambassador Udina on the Citadel Council's protocols and membership. As the white-clad Human ambassador spoke Robert got the feeling that half of the things he was saying about the Council were born from his own frustrations with them.

"Ever since your contact with Captain Anderson, the Council has been nervous," Udina was saying as they piled into the lift that would carry them to the top floors of the Citadel Tower. "The aliens of the galaxy are already jealous and suspicious of Humanity's advancement since the First Contact War. Now your Alliance has come along and they're even more frightened of us. They fear that the United Systems will give Humanity an edge over the rest of the galaxy and oppose the Citadel Council's authority."

"Captain Anderson expressed similar concerns at our first contact," Robert noted. "But is it really that bad?"

Udina snorted. "I spend half of my time reassuring panicking alien delegates that the Systems Alliance is still acknowledging the interstellar law overseen by the Council." He sighed. "I can't imagine the United Systems sending two Humans to negotiate will do any favors to your position."

"Ledosh isn't Human, he's Gersallian," Robert pointed out. "And they've been space-faring as long as the Asari have."

"My apologies, Captain, but he looks Human."

"We are not unfamiliar with the surprise that merits," Ledosh said with his customary refined patience. "It is apparent that President Morgan did not anticipate the full extent of distrust that the Allied Systems labors under. I know he would have not hesitated to dispatch a Dorei or Alakin emissary had he known better."

"It might not have done any good, Emissary Ledosh. This is about more than latent anti-Human prejudice in the Citadel. It's about the apparent threat that your Alliance poses to the Citadel's political authority in this universe."

"We have experience with other concerns such as this, I am hopeful that diplomacy will triumph over base, speciest fears."

The lift door opened. "You're about to find out," Udina muttered. He led them out of the lift and into a courtyard.

The courtyard area began with a circular opening area and went on to a larger courtyard with wings spreading in both directions. Beings of multiple species of M4P2 milled about, giving some looks to the newcomers; Robert in his black-and-burgundy formal uniform and Ledosh in his fine robes. Udina's words weren't entirely an exaggeration; Robert could swear he was feeling the fear and distrust in the air. He had seen images to know that some of the figures around him were of the Council-seated races - Turians, Asari, and Salarians - but the short and bulbous species in the environmental suits were a new experience, as were the massive aliens with arms that hunched down to touch the ground as well, making him think of a gorilla.

They passed by a skycab taxi panel and climbed stairs toward an extended platform. Three figures were standing beyond it, control panels beside them.

Robert stared.

He… had seen this place before, hadn't he? He could remember the heat and flame. The feeling of the end of a hard fight. The blue-eyed Turian with cybernetics all over his body, urging surrender. The voice vowing never to stop.

No. There was business at hand. Robert forced those thoughts out as Ledosh commenced speaking. "...and honored Councillors, it is my honor to greet you on behalf of the Allied Systems."

"Emissary Ledosh." The Asari Councillor, Tevos, nodded gently. "It is our pleasure to welcome a diplomatic mission from the United Systems. We have had much curiosity about your intentions."

"I am afraid other matters have repeatedly delayed the official assignation of an ambassador to the Citadel." Ledosh extended a hand toward Robert. "This is Captain Robert Dale, commander of the Aurora."

"We are familiar with Captain Dale." This was from the Salarian Councillor, Valern. He activated a light-based device over his forearm - Robert recognized it as an "omnitool", not unlike the multidevice on his own arm in function but definitely more sophisticated in appearance - and called up an image. "He was the Alliance officer who commenced direct first contact with Captain Anderson of the Systems Alliance several months ago."

"Yes, Councillor." Robert stepped up beside Ledosh. "It's my honor to meet you and to visit the Citadel. We've heard so much about it since the contact."

"But you're not here just for mere diplomacy, are you Captain?" Valern was looking over something. "You're here to seek the assistance of the Council."

Robert didn't bother to deny it and Ledosh did not motion for him to stop. "Yes, for the same reason our Alliance was so late in getting diplomatic representation established."

"But yet you managed to send an ambassador to your fellow Humans," the Turian - Councilor Sparatus - remarked bluntly. "That might suggest something of your priorities… and intentions."

"The dispatching of Ambassador Weekes had already been finalized before the war broke out," Ledosh observed. "Our Council had yet to vote on the appointment to the Citadel due to the need to deliberate the preconditions the Council requires." By this Ledosh was specifically, if not directly, referring to the arms limitations in the Treaty of Farixen that restricted naval development by various races. "An error, certainly, and one they are currently rectifying. For the time being, the President has empowered me to negotiate with the Citadel Council."

"We have already reviewed your credentials." Tevos glanced to either side, taking in her fellow Councillors' expressions, before she looked to them and continued. "We presume this has to do with your current war?"

"It does," Ledosh said. "The Alliance believes that the Reich may pose a serious threat to the rest of the Multiverse. There is a possibility they will locate a Facility of the Darglan, a now-extinct species that my people encountered when we became space-faring. Their Facilities contain the capability of providing any who discover them with the interuniversal jump drive technology the Allied Systems employ."

"The Systems Alliance is already prepared to give aid to the United Systems," Udina noted. "But since it would require our ships to be outfitted with the interuniversal technology, the Cabinet would prefer that an agreement be reached with the Citadel Council before we act."

The Turian Councillor clearly didn't like the sound of that. "I fail to see the threat." Sparatus gave a dismissive wave with his three-fingered hand. "They are your enemy, not ours. And this idea of disseminating your technology to just one species is blatantly unacceptable."

"I have authority from the President and Council to offer it to your species if you agree to assist us in the war."

"I fail to see why we need to shed our blood in a war between Humans."

Tevos frowned and looked over at her colleague. "I have examined Human history, Councillor. The Nazi Regime of Earth would prove a hostile foreign power if it ever achieved the interuniversal technology. Inevitably conflict would start."

"Then we'll worry about that then," Sparatus insisted. "But I fail to see how we benefit from any arrangement with the United Systems. They only serve to foster Human aggression and lawlessness."

"That is an outrageous accusation!" Udina slammed his fist down. "The Systems Alliance has been a willing supporter of this Council and the structure of interstellar law! We're not some Terminus scum for you to pass judgement on!"

"Should this proposed situation come to pass, we would be at a disadvantage." Valern also spoke now. "I would suggest we further deliberate the matter in private session."

"Of course," Ledosh said. "We will make available to you all information on the matter. I hope to speak with you again soon."

Councillor Tevos nodded. "Emissary Ledosh, Captain Dale, please enjoy your stay on the Citadel."

With the Council meeting ended they returned to Udina's office. "Now you see what I have to deal with," Udina remarked dismissively from his desk. "They're all a bunch of self-important jackasses."

"The age of their institutions may have indeed bred unkind arrogance into their mentality," Ledosh conceded. "But I would counsel patience."

Robert took the seat beside Ledosh. "I've only read enough to know their names. What are the Councillors like?"

"Sparatus is a typical Turian. He considers himself a soldier, votes as Palaven demands, and when he doesn't have their instructions to fall back upon, he goes with whatever policy seems the most ordered to his sensibilities. He's a stubborn ass when it comes to anything new. Which often means he opposes anything Humanity might request from the Council that doesn't involve using us as a barrier to frustrate Batarian expansion." Udina poured himself a small drink from a nearby bottle. "Valern is more independent-minded. He'll vote however he feels necessary for Salarian interests. I suspect he's the most concerned about the Nazi threat. Salarians prefer to win their wars before the first shot is fired through intelligence operations. They have little hope of that if the Reich does gain the drive technology."

"And the Asari?"

"She likes to think herself as the mediator of the Council and the most reasonable being in the room. But she won't move ahead of whatever popular opinion is on Thessia, and for all of her talk about putting the needs of the galaxy first, she's like a mother panther when it comes to Asari interests." Udina considered things for a moment. "If you want to get her sympathy, you would need to appeal to the Asari as a whole and hope your advocates prevail in the debates. Getting a matriarch or two on your side wouldn't hurt."

"Thank you for your advice, Ambassador Udina," Ledosh said.

"You're welcome. As for the next round of discussions, I think it best, Captain Dale, if you allowed myself and Emissary Ledosh to do the talking. We'll have you there as an eyewitness if we need you."

Robert gave a curious look to Ledosh. Ledosh merely nodded. "It is a reasonable request."

"I'm not much of a diplomat, so I can't argue with that." Robert stood up. "Well, I'll leave you gentlemen to handle the fine terms of whatever we're proposing. Ambassador Udina, if I may ask…"


"It's been a few months since I had any chance for a proper leave. I'd like to see about taking a colleague out for a good dinner while we're on the Citadel. Would you have any suggestions?"

"Hrm." Udina smiled a little. His omnitool came to life and he tapped at the controls for a moment. Robert looked down at his multidevice and accepted the incoming signal. "I would recommend the calamari," Udina said.

"Thank you." Robert tapped his device's commkey. "Dale to Aurora. One to beam up."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Meridina had selected the Zakera Ward to take Lucy through. They were wearing the robes of the swevyra'se as opposed to uniforms and had gone down unarmed, save for Meridina's lakesh, to avoid any problems with the Citadel's security service. Now they were weaving through the crowds of foot-traffic moving through one of Zakera's commercial areas.

Lucy shifted through the crowds to keep up with Meridina. She was about to speak when a monotone-sounding voice called out to them. "Strangers," it said, "this one would like to know if you are aware of the Enkindlers and their gifts to the galaxy."

Meridina turned and, like Lucy, faced the pinkish-skinned alien. Its central body was fairly small, the tip having lit up while it spoke, and it seemed to sway a bit while standing on some of its tentacles. Meridina bowed her head to the alien respectfully. "Some other time, perhaps, but I am quite interested in hearing about your beliefs."

"This one urges others to not delay in discovering the truth. Have a pleasant day."

They continued on through the Ward. "Is it just me, or was that a talking jellyfish?", Lucy asked. She had to shift slightly to avoid colliding with a short, stout alien in an environmental suit. "Oops, sorry!"

"It was, yes. But I would appreciate it if you focused on the whole."

"The whole?", Lucy asked her.

Meridina stepped off to the side, near an entrance to what looked like an electronics shop. Lucy followed her. "Breathe in, Lucy. Let your swevyra feel the life around it."

Zack spent that evening's conference with Pakalos and Adama in a state of partial distraction. He made himself follow along enough that he knew what was being said, but beyond that all of his thoughts were about Clara. He was trying to wrap his head around the fact that she'd actually come out here. Homely, sweet Clara had left home and come into space. For him?

"...offloading will still take another day, even with the transporters," Adama was saying. He gave Zack a look. "Commander, how many of your crew could you spare for helping to offload the convoy?"

Zack almost missed the question. He thought for several moments longer than it should have taken him - if he'd been concentrating anyway - before answering, "Maybe a dozen or so crew, if we're not active with anything else. I can give you half of my crew if the Koenig can go into operational standby. Powered down systems, that kind of thing."

"An extra dozen or so personnel would help," Pakalos observed. "With the Xinal present you can afford to go into standby."

Zack nodded at that, although he couldn't quite hide his irritation at it. This would put more workload on his crew while they were still at least two to three months away from returning to Alliance space at the Refugee Fleet's current pace. While the Fleet had accepted his people well enough, materials rationing and the sheer lack of space limited the recreation that liberty could grant, even on trips to Cloud 9. "I'll inform my XO when we're out of the meeting. I can give you twenty-six officers and crew."

"Have them report to Commander Druma, my Executive Officer," the Dorei woman instructed. They can join the work crews in fourteen standard hours?"

"Sounds right."

"Then I believe that is all the business we had to discuss?" Pakalos nodded to Admiral Adama. "By your leave, Admiral?"

"This meeting is dismissed," Adama agreed.

Fisk grumbled something under his breath and was the first one out. Pakalos didn't bother departing that way. She pressed the comm-bracelet on her left wrist and the Xinal's transporters whisked her away in a swirl of purple light.

Zack stood from the table and started walking to the door. Before he could get to it Adama called out to him. He turned. "Yes, Admiral?"

"Please, take a seat." Adama gestured to one of the empty chairs. By the time Zack took it Adama was sitting beside him. "So, what's your distraction?"


"I've been around long enough to recognize that look on a man's face," Adama stated.

Zack thought about not saying anything. About just excusing it as deep thoughts and continuing on. But he stopped himself. He knew Adama meant well. "One of the volunteer nurses the convoy brought out to us is a girl, I mean, a woman I know, Clara Davis. She's from my world. I went to school with her."

Adama replied with a nod of understanding. "And you didn't expect to see her out here?"

"No. Never. She was always attached to our hometown." Zack shook his head. "It's me. She came out here because of me. She didn't know I was on station here, but it's why she came into space."

There was no immediate response from the older man. "I see." Adama sat back in his chair. "You and this girl were close?"

"Closer than I used to think," Zack admitted. "When we were young I pushed her away. I didn't think it would work out and I didn't want her heart to be broken. I… well, when I was that age, I was a heartbreaker. Always looking for girls."

Adama nodded. "Some of us are at that age."

"But now she's here." Zack sighed. "And a part of me is telling me that we could try to be something. And another part of me is reminding me why I walked away in the first place. I don't want to hurt her. I don't want her to be yet another broken heart I've left behind." Zack took in a breath. "Frankly, Admiral Adama, I don't deserve her."

Adama had been listening silently while quaffing at his mug. When Zack was finished talking he nodded. "It's a tough decision." He crossed his arms. "Do you want my advice, Commander?"


"You're young. And when you're young, you think you've got time." Adama put his hands together in his lap. "You think you have all of the time in the world. But slowly, day by day, that time runs out. Suddenly you're older. And you realize that not only have you run low on time, but you never had that much to begin with." Adama leaned forward. "Especially in our line of work, Commander."

Adama's words had Zack thinking. Thinking, among other things, about his father. About how time had run out there, just as it seemed things were working out.

"And if I may be blunt, Commander… it's not your place to decide who Miss Davis deserves. That's her choice, not yours."

There was no immediate response from Zack. He brought himself to nod after a few moments. "Yes. I guess you're right."

Adama nodded. "Good. I'll talk to you later, Commander." He stood from the chair and walked out, leaving Zack alone with his thoughts.

Zack came to a decision. He stood from the chair and left as well, heading toward the interior spaces of the Galactica.

"Oh, that sort of thing." Lucy nodded and grinned. "Okay." She closed her eyes and breathed in. Meridina had taught her how to calm her mind and sense things through her life force. With her eyes closed and that sense shut off, it was easier to concentrate on that sense that had been growing within her since 33LA. She felt like she was in a sea of light. Streams of the same coalesced and split around her. "I…" She swallowed. "I can feel it."

Meridina smiled softly. "Good."

"It's…" Lucy swallowed again as she tried to seek for the words to describe what she was feeling. "It's beautiful. It's so warm and bright."

"That is the Flow of Life," Meridina explained. "It is not easy to feel aboard a starship, or even a normal space station. Not until you have become sensitive to it from long practice with your own swevyra. But here, among these multitudes? You need only open your swevyra to feel it."

"It's so…" Lucy drew in a breath. "This is what it's like for you? All of the time?"

"It can be. As I said, you don't feel it as much when you only have a thousand or so beings around. But in the heart of this great habitat? Any could feel it. I suspect many of them do, even if they do not understand it."

Lucy nodded. Her heart soared at the rich feeling of life around her, making her feel invigorated. She could even sense some of the emotions coming through. Not necessarily positive ones, in some cases. Joy, happiness, but also sorrow, despair, anger, frustration…


Lucy's eyes opened wide. She could feel the being's pain. She could feel the fear.

"I feel it too." Meridina nodded. "This way."

They worked their way back through the crowd. After moving down several more storefronts there was an obvious gap between them. A cry was coming from within the alley. But nobody in the crowd heard it, or if they did, they didn't seem to care.

They stepped into the alley and moved down to halfway between the stores before it became evident what they were facing. Lucy recognized the light blue-suited alien as a Turian, with a brown-tinged complexion and reddish-brown eyes, kicking away at something at his feet.

That something, Lucy realized, was another figure writhing in pain. Lucy didn't recognize this alien; he was in an environmental suit, but unlike the short alien she'd seen before this one's suit had a clear face-plate and two eyes faintly shining within, and the build looked more Human regardless of the three-fingered hand. "P-please stop," the alien begged. His accent was thick, and whenever he spoke a light on his helmet, near the mouth, lit up.

"What were you looking at?!", the Turian demanded. "What were you looking to steal, suit rat?!"

"I… didn't…"

The protest earned the alien another kick to the gut. He wheezed a complaint.

"He is telling the truth."

Meridina's statement caused the Turian to look their way. Lucy sighed and crossed her arms in a nonchalant way.

"Like you know anything," the attacker retorted. "It's a Quarian, they'll steal anything that's not nailed down behind a kinetic barrier. And sometimes even that stuff with how the little suit rats are with technology."

Meridina shook her head slightly. "Whatever your… preconceptions of this being's species, I can tell you that he was only indulging mild curiosity. I have felt no falsehood from him."

"Whatever. Go mind your own business."

Lucy shook her head, figuring what was coming next.

Meridina started walking toward the two beings. "I am sworn to protect the innocent," she informed the Turian. "Please." She held a hand up to him. "You are satisfied at this being's innocence. You will leave him alone."

"I…" The Turian blinked. Meridina noted that with interest; she could feel the being's mind, used to order and firmness, resist her impression. She repeated herself with a little more power. "I guess he wasn't up to anything after all," the Turian finally declared. "And that'll show the suit rat what people here in Zakera Ward think of his kind."

His kind. Lucy felt a stab of hot anger at that term. It was easily changed in her mind to her kind. "You know how it is with her kind. Do what you want, Patrick." And then had come the beatings and the other cruelties and…

...Meridina's free hand settled on Lucy's arm as the Turian stalked out of the alley. "It is alright," she insisted.

"Bigot," Lucy grumbled. "I ought to go back and…"

"That is not the Light speaking, Lucy. That is darkness. You are seeking revenge, not justice, with that thought. Be calm."

Lucy wasn't sure she was wrong or right. But at the first inkling of slight cold in her very core, she quickly snuffed the thought out. He's not worth it, she insisted to herself, even as the image of batting the Turian across several walls briefly eased her frustration.

Meridina stepped up to the remaining alien. She knelt down and put a hand on him. "You are safe now."

"I've… I've got a broken rib," the being whimpered. "I thought he would kill me."

Meridina settled a hand on the being's chest. She closed her eyes. "Lucy, pay attention to this, please." Since Lucy could be counted on to do so immediately, Meridina didn't bother wasting time. She focused her life force, drew upon the Flow around them, and felt that warm power surge through her very self. With the warm power she felt into this poor creature's body, felt the bruises and the broken bone, and felt the light begin to mend the injuries.

"How… how are you doing that?", the alien asked.

"I am a swevyra'se of Gersal," Meridina answered. "I can heal with my own swevyra."

"Life force," Lucy translated.

"You are beings from the other universes, then?" The alien looked at them with what Lucy sensed to be awe and surprise. "I… I never imagined I'd see one of you so soon. I am Lan'Durah nar Qwib-Qwib."

"I am Meridina. This is my student, Lucy Lucero." Meridina looked up at Lucy. "Please, assist me in helping him stand."

Lucy stepped up and pulled Lan'Durah's left arm over her shoulders. She and Meridina easily lifted the Quarian to his feet. "I've read up on some of the species of this universe, but I don't remember seeing yours," Lucy said. "You're a… what was it?"

"I'm a Quarian," Lan answered. "I'm here on Pilgrimage."


"Yes. When we reach adulthood, Quarians are sent away from the Fleet to travel the galaxy."

"How are you feeling?", Meridina asked him.

"Better. My ribs still hurt." The Quarian looked at her. "Thank you. I did not think Humans cared for my people any more than the other species do, even Humans from another universe."

"I am not Human, I am Gersallian," Meridina said simply.

"They just look like us," Lucy added. "It's confusing to us too."

"I… I see… unh."

"You still have some bruising," Meridina warned him. "I am not so good a healer as to completely heal your injuries. Do you have somewhere safe to stay?"

"There's a shelter about two hours' walk from here. It would only be ten minutes if we could rent a skycar, but…"

"Thankfully we worked out conversion of our money into galactic standard here," Lucy said. She held up her left arm and the multidevice showing slightly under her robe cuff. "I'm guessing that as the student, I pay?"

"I donate my salary from the Alliance to charity and the Temple," Meridina explained with a small smile. "Save a small portion I maintain for socialization purposes."

"'Socialization purposes'?", Lucy asked.

"Gifts," she clarified. "Lan'Durah, can you walk?"

"I think so." When they let go he managed to maintain his balance. "Yes."

"Then let us go. And you can tell us more about your people, and we can speak about ours. And thus knowledge is spread and the multiverse made a better place."

It wasn't far from Transporter Station 3 to the Aurora gym. Robert entered from the bow door and faced a number of his personnel doing weightlifting exercises on the machines to his right. On the left, others were doing aerobic workouts. The distinct smell of sweat from multiple sources created a sort of pungency in the atmosphere that brought back memories of high school sports training, made even more complicated by non-Human perspiration.

He walked past the aerobic area to another series of mats meant for martial arts exercises. He was quite surprised to see something different from what he had expected.

Instead of Angel and Julia going through their forms clad in sports bra and shorts, they were wearing martial arts robes - 'Gis', right? - and moving slowly and in sync. At first he thought it was t'ai chi since Julia occasionally did that and had failed to get Angel or himself to join, but the movements didn't seem quite…

That was when his brain called attention to the figure in front of them, making the same movements and clad in the same kind of martial arts robe. Commander Worf was clearly in the lead, making a movement and the two miming it almost exactly. That, more than anything, was interesting as hell for Robert, and he said nothing until the big Klingon led them through what looked like a final movement with arms circling outward and then inward, hands coming together and stopping. After a final breath his posture relaxed. "Well done. That will be all for today."

Angel and Julia nodded at him. "Are you interested in visiting the Citadel, Commander?", Julia asked him. "You'll be one of the easiest liberties I've arranged all day."

Worf nodded respectfully. "Thank you, but I have other duties to attend to. Commander Kane and I will be discussing your Marine contingent's tactical employments this evening for our training exercises."

"Alright, I understand. Just remember that the offer's open." Julia turned away.

By this time Angel had stepped up to Robert. They briefly kissed. "You're late for the lesson," she said to him.

"I'm not here for that," he answered. He held her hands. "I was actually coming to suggest dinner."

"Sure," she replied. "The Lookout? Hargert's breaking out leftovers since so many crew want to visit the Citadel, but…"

"Actually, that's what I was going to suggest," Robert replied. "Ambassador Udina directed me to a nice restaurant in one of the Wards, somewhere called the Silversun Strip. I thought you might like to make it a date."

"A date." Angel smiled at him. "Really?"

"Well, we haven't had one since we got back together," Robert pointed out. "It's been all Nazis and diplomats and Darglan Facilities and Cylons since. This is our first chance to celebrate getting back together with a proper date."

"Huh." Angel seemed to think about it. In a way showing she had already made up her mind. "Good. Let me go change and I'll meet you at Transporter Station 2?"

"I'll meet you there."

Zack spent longer than he'd wanted conversing with Pakalos on the situation with the Fleet. It was annoying to have to repeat everything he'd already reported to Admiral Maran in his weekly updates and daily logs. Pakalos hadn't seen some of those reports, unfortunately, and wanted to be assured that there was no known risk of Cylon attack.

Once that meeting was over with, Zack had then been waylaid by Pekanas, the Gersallian in charge of the convoy itself and distributing its materials, and been pulled into a conference call with Roslin, Adama, and Zarek on distribution of food packs, replicator stocks, and the other essentials being carried in the convoy.

Altogether, this meant that it was well into the afternoon when he finally got to beam back to Cloud 9 and check up on Registration Day. Apley had outdone himself as usual in getting the teams organized and prepared. The younger children would be learning with T-ball or the Junior Little League rules - stuff like automated machine pitching or coach-pitching - and those of sufficient age would play straight-up regular baseball. Enough kids had signed from each age group that they would have small leagues to compete in.

Kara and Anders met him as he walked up to the playing fields. "I think half of the kids in the Fleet will be playing," Anders said. "I should be jealous," he added with humor.

"I'm sure plenty of them will go right to pyramid soon enough," Zack laughed. He shook hands with the athlete. "Seriously, thanks for this. Having the captain of one of the most popular sports teams from the Colonies endorsing this has been a big help."

"Hey, it gives the kids something to do," Anders said.

"And you," Kara pointed out.

"Yeah, and me," he agreed.

"Interesting sport," Kara said. "I would've read you for a more active one, though, Carrey."

Zack smiled at that. "I've always loved baseball. Now, if you want a sport more like pyramid, next time you see her you should talk to Julia, I mean, Commander Andreys. She was team captain for the girls' basketball team back in High School. Won trophies and everything."

"I might have to do that." Anders looked back. "Oh, there's someone here looking for you."

"Oh?' Zack blinked. "Who?"

"Someone pretty." There was a mischievous smirk on Kara's face. "Already looking to break hearts out here, Zack Carrey?"

"I haven't had time," he retorted playfully, but he was wondering what they meant. "Who was it?"

"I think she… wait, she's over there."

Anders pointed toward the end of the fields and Zack looked over. A figure in white was waiting in the distance, one arm crossed over and gripping the other armor's elbow as if in anxious impatience. "I'd better go see what's up," Zack said. "See you in a couple of days for the start of training camp?"

"Wouldn't miss it!"

Zack gave Anders a thumbs up and started jogging over to the figure in white. Whomever she was, she was looking away, so Zack couldn't be sure of who she was. Caucasian, at least, dark hair… wait...

She turned as he got within twenty feet. He looked at her face and stopped moving. That's… how…?

"Clara?", Zack asked, incredulous.

Clara Davis, resplendent in a white nurse's uniform, smiled widely at him and ran up to him. She grabbed him in a hug. "Zack! Zack, I don't believe it, I never thought…"

Zack took her by the shoulders and stared at her. "Clara, what are you doing out here? I thought you were back on Earth?"

"I was." She smiled widely. "But I... I wanted to come out here, Zack. Like you did. So I resigned from the at-home service and volunteered for the New Liberty Aid Corps."

Zack's jaw was hanging open. He realized how silly he must look and forced it closed. "Well, I… wow, Clara. That was bold."

Clara smiled sweetly at him. "I didn't think I'd see you again so soon. Right after I got out of training I was asked to join the medical staff for the convoy. With the war going on they were really short of nurses so… here I am!" She gestured to the park. "So, this is your's, right?"

"Yeah. Something for the kids."

Clara nodded. "Given everything these poor people have lost… that's really sweet of you, Zack."


They looked toward each other for several seconds of quiet. Clara took a moment to check the multidevice on her right forearm. "Oh. Sorry, Zack, I need to… they'll want me back soon. They're sending us to Galactica tonight to get orientated with Doctor Cottle and his nurses."

"Ah." Zack nodded. "Well, they're good people. Doc Cottle, Admiral Adama… they'll treat you well." Well, now that we've got that Cylon business out of the way anyway…

"Maybe you and I… I mean, I know you're doing the command thing and… well, maybe we can have dinner?" Clara swallowed. "I mean, no… no obligations, just a quiet dinner."

"I… well…" It was Zack's turn to swallow and let his mind race. And his heart beat a little faster. He was still reeling from the surprise of seeing Clara here, and now that she was here, well… who knew? "I… Clara, I'm going to be pretty busy myself."

He immediately felt like kicking himself when he saw Clara's expression reflect a feeling of rejection.

"I'll let you know tomorrow," Zack promised, urgently. "Okay? I should know how my schedule's going to look over the next few days, maybe I can slip a few hours out for a dinner."

The look on her face brightened a little. "I understand," she said. "I mean, the life of a nurse can be tough too, maybe I won't have time for dinner either…"

"Yeah. Well, we'll see tomorrow, right?"

"Right." She smiled a little. "Right." Clara took a step back. "So I'll just… I'll go now. Work."

"Right." Zack nodded. "Work."

He watched her leave and felt like every part of him was twisting into a knot. Clara, out here?! It just… she was… why did she leave home? A thought struck him.

Could it be because of me? Did she come out here hoping she'd see me one day?

Mock applause caused Zack to look to his right. Barnes was standing there, out of catcher gear but still in the Koenig baseball uniform, continuing the slow CLAP CLAP CLAP of his mock applause. "Zack, Zack, Zack…"

"You saw it was Clara?", Zack asked.

"She was asking around for you," he answered. "She didn't see me, I was up to my ears in seven year olds signing up for the Junior League stuff." Barnes stepped up and poked Zack in the ribs. "Dude, you have to be the dumbest jackass in this entire universe. Maybe even the Multiverse, but I think Rob might have you beat. Clara just asked you out on a date and you… dude, where is the Zack Carrey ladykiller extraordinaire I remember? Where's the guy who was the terror of every father in half of Kansas?"

Zack snickered at that. "He grew up, I guess."

It felt strange to be in public wearing civilian clothing. Robert felt a little out of place regardless; his formal dinner suit was similar to what he'd once worn to the prom - black dinner jacket, light blue dress shirt with blue tie, dress shoes - and it seemed that dress ties had gone out of fashion in M4P2. The eyes drifting his way were often full of curiosity. Sometimes disbelief. I suppose I look like I'm dressed up for Halloween.

Or it could have been Angel, he supposed.

Angel was not the dress type. But she could still pull it off, and this was something he'd ordered to commemorate their getting back together, just in case they had a chance for a dinner like tonight's. It hadn't even caught up to them until they were in the Gl'mulli negotiations. The color was dark blue with light blue trim. It was a shoulderless dress that fit around her like a tube top, revealing her muscled shoulders and arms completely. It flowed down to her knees, with splits on each side that revealed her muscled, shapely legs with every step. He'd taken the time to re-comb; Angel had her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She'd applied some cosmetics, not normally her thing; blue eyeshadow and reddened cheeks.

"This looks pretty expensive," Angel said as they went down the stairs to the restaurant Udina had recommended. Ahead of them another Human was standing arm-in-arm with an Asari, both dressed up. "Are you sure you can afford it?"

"I looked over the menu prices and checked the going exchange rate for Alliance credits to M4P2 Galactic." He smirked. "I might have to sell a kidney after we're done, but I'll manage."

Angel laughed at him. "You know, we could have settled for something cheaper."

"Maybe." He took her hand. "But I think you deserve better. I… gave you a good scare, and a lot of it was from my bone-headed need to play the hero all the time."

"Mmm. Let's see how dinner goes, and I might forgive you."

They were next. The maitre d' actually had something like a French accent. "Captain Dale of the Aurora, plus one," Robert said. "Ambassador Udina recommended you."

"The Ambassador is most gracious. Please, this way."

They walked into the restaurant proper. Angel glanced down and noticed that they weren't just walking on a glass floor, but on what looked to be a fish tank set into the floor.

They made it to the table. A well-dressed waitress came up and offered them menus before moving on. "Are you up for calamari?", Robert asked.

Angel made a face. "Ew. No. I don't eat squid."

"Well, thankfully they have a good selection, from the look of things. I guess we could start with an appetizer."

"I never got the point of those. It just makes you less hungry for your meal."

"I'll let Hargert know that the next time he serves up some of those treats before dinner."

Angel made a face at him before smirking. "You've outdone yourself tonight. But I don't date you for your taste in fine dining."

"What do you date me for? I mean, why did you decide you wanted to try again? Besides the 'we might die tomorrow' thing?"

A mischievous, seductive little smirk crossed her face. "You mean beyond the obvious?"

Robert blushed and smiled. "If by 'obvious' you mean things having to do with our bedroom, then yes."

"Well…" She reached across the table and took his hands. "You're nice. I mean, you make friends, and you're kind to people, and you treat Cat like she's your little sister too. The only other times I've tried to date, guys resented how close Cat and I were. You never have."

A small pang of guilt over some thoughts he'd had at times, jealous thoughts about where he ranked compared to Cat, didn't stop him from nodding. "What can I say? She reminds me of Susannah. A lot." Robert sighed. "I mean, they're not exactly alike, but…"

"It's okay." Angel smiled at him. "I know what you meant."

"I just hope she's enjoying her shore leave too."

Angel gave him a look. The muscles in her arms tensed. "You and Julie let her come down here?"

"She's staying in the Presidium. It's the safest place in the Citadel. And she knows not to stray and to contact us if there are any problems."

Angel relaxed visibly. "Alright. Yeah, I suppose that is the safest area."

"With all of the statues and aliens and such, I'm sure she's having the time of her life," Robert assured Angel.

Caterina could hardly contain her glee while running along the lakeside walkways in the Presidium. That alone got her some attention from the locals; her purple "GEEK PRINCESS" shirt and pink skirt gave her a further exotic appearance compared to the 22nd Century fashions worn by the other Humans.

"This place is amazing!", she proclaimed to herself. The lower gravity of .3Gs meant that skipping along quickly was hardly a problem. She could cover distance quite quickly when she moved to a new location. Whenever she saw a new alien species she quickly consulted her multi-device. So far she'd seen her first Turian, her first Salarian, a Volus, an Elcor, and a couple of Hanar. The Hanar were especially interesting, even if all they wanted to was to talk religion or whatever it was.

Caterina came up toward the first of the lifts that went to the Citadel Tower. She didn't go that way though; she spotted something even more interesting. She went up to what looked like a model of a Mass Relay. The plaque claimed it was a Prothean trophy of sorts to celebrate their creation of the Mass Relays. She took a quick scan of it before moving on.

She crossed to the other side of the Presidium and continued along the walkway. On her left Caterina noticed a large statue towering up over the side of the Presidium lake. She got closer and looked over the dark material of the statue. "Krogan Memorial," she read. "Krogan? I wonder if they're really that big." She consulted her multidevice, which showed her archival footage of big lizard men in armor charging through things and shooting guns. "Yikes!" MP42 has some great aliens, but scary ones too.

After getting a really good look at the statue Caterina continued with her exploration. Ahead of her was an entrance to what looked like another shop or office. But the markings were different than any others she had seen. With her curiosity piqued, Caterina walked into the entrance. An Asari woman was behind a panel, conversing with a Salarian who departed a moment later. He seemed happy and content - at least Cat thought he did - to the point he virtually failed to notice her.

"Hello." The Asari woman looked at Caterina. Her skin was more purple than blue, and she had violet face markings. Her suit looked like it was made to tease, with no material covering the belly or shoulders and other various gaps to show skin, but with more risque bits still completely covered. The Asari looked over Caterina for a moment. "That's an interesting set of clothing."

"Um, yeah," Cat said. She blushed a little. "I sort of stand out, more than I thought I would. Uh… what is this place?"

"You've come to the Consort Sha'ira," the Asari answered. "I am Lantaea, the receptionist today."

"The Consort?" Caterina's blush deepened. She suddenly had a very good idea of what this place was. "Oh… uh… I see… I…"

Lantaea laughed softly. "You're not the first Human to think that of the Consort. This is not a brothel. The Consort and her followers provide all sorts of companionship to those who come here. A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. Many come here to lay down their burdens and make their lives better."

"So… you're like psychiatrists?", Cat asked.

"We do not give therapy in that fashion. Our purpose is not to help with mental illness but to give comfort."

"Oh. I… I see." Cat's blush didn't go away, but it did fade. "I'm terribly sorry for interrupting. How much is it to see the Consort then?"

"Payments can vary. Comfort should not be out of price for any being," Lantaea answered. "The real limitation is time. I'm afraid the Consort's schedule is filled for the next several months."

"Oh. Well, that's fine, I… won't be here. My ship leaves as soon as the talks are done, so..."

"Oh. You must be from the universe-traveling ship that just arrived." Lantaea smiled at her. "Oh, that sounds so exciting. If I weren't entering my matron stage, well, I'd love to get to travel to other universes and see all of the other species that exist out there."

"I know," Cat agreed ecstatically. "I feel the same way about exploring. I just love seeing new things. And all of the different species, there are so many in some of the other universes!"

A voice called out from down the hall to Lantaea's right. "Lantaea?"

Lantaea looked in that direction. "Yes, Consort?"

"Ask our young visitor if she would like to speak to me. If so, send her back right away."

"Oh. Of course." Lantaea looked at Caterina. "You don't know how lucky you are. I really encourage you to try."

Caterina smiled and nodded. "Of course I will."

"Go beyond the waiting seats and to your right, Sha'ira is back there."

Caterina was bursting with curiosity as she began to walk through the greeting area. Other Asari were seated with members of various species, talking gently and holding hands or rubbing shoulders gently. Caterina only gave them a cursory glance while walking ahead and making the turn into the Consort's room. The Consort was waiting for her on one of the couches. She patted the seat beside her. "Come, sit down young lady."

Caterina did so. The Consort looked at her and smiled. "Such an interesting choice of clothing. You stand out in the crowd of people. And your curiosity rivals any Asari maiden's."

"I just… I've always loved science," Cat said. "And finding new things. That's what science is about… at least to me, I mean."

"Yes. I can see that." Sha'ira offered her hand and Cat took it gingerly. "You seem reluctant."

"Me? Oh, I just…" Cat blushed.

"It's quite fine." Sha'ira shook her head. "I am not offended. And I understand."

"Why did you want to see me?", Caterina asked. "I mean, you're so busy and all of that."

"You are not the only one with curiosity." Sha'ira's blue eyes glinted in the light of the room. "To start, what is your name?"

"Me? I'm Caterina. Caterina Delgado." Almost as an afterthought, she added, "Lieutenant Caterina Delgado, I mean. I'm the Science Officer on the Alliance Starship Aurora. United Alliance of Systems, I mean, not Systems Alliance. I'm sure that's confusing."

"How fitting," Sha'ira said. "Please, tell me more…"

It had taken the better part of an hour to secure a skycar taxi due to demand, but eventually they had one. Lucy found the controls simple enough after a few moments' examination. With the skycar they were able to go toward the furthest end of the Zakera Ward in a flight of several minutes. The area looked like it was on the edge of an industrial and warehouse district with more housing toward the center of the station. The non-descript blue building had markings tagged on it with alien languages. Lucy's multi-device scanned the graffiti and translated it; it consisted of a host of bigoted slurs and such filth. The actual proper markings identified it as the Pilgrims' Shelter.

Lan stepped ahead of them and pressed a key on the door. "Viya, it's Lan. They're friendly. You can open the door."

There was no response.

Lan sighed. "Keelah. Viya, I'm not being coerced. If I were being coerced, I wouldn't mention that time you nearly caused a…"

The door opened. Another Quarian moved into the doorway. This one had a violet-tinted face plate and what looked like a red headscarf that matched the primary color of her suit. "Lan, you bosh'tet. You went into that tech shop again, didn't you?"

Lan coughed. "Well…"

"I told you, that Turian is bad news." The Quarian girl, presumably Viya, looked at Meridina and Lucy. "And you brought Humans here? It's not like we can host them for dinner, Lan!"

"They saved me," Lan said. "They're from the Alliance of the other universes, Viya!"

"And I'm next in line for the Admiralty Board," Viya retorted.

"We mean you no harm," Meridina said. "We wished to see Lan back safely due to his injuries. If you wish, we will depart."

"That won't be necessary," another voice called out from within the building. A female Turian in what looked like red-hued combat armor stepped into view. Her complexion was light gray, with sky blue eyes, and Lucy noticed a pistol on her hip. "If they wanted to cause trouble, Viya, they would have started already."

Viya sighed. "Fine. Come on, Lan. We need to get you patched up and make sure your suit wasn't damaged."

Lan followed Viya around the corner. "Please step in," the female Turian said. "I don't want to leave this door open longer than I have to."

Lucy and Meridina sensed the tension and obeyed immediately. The door sealed behind them. "I am Meridina, a Knight of Swenya's Order on Gersal," Meridina said as an introduction.

"Lucy Lucero."

"I am Oresta Deneri."

"You seem to be concerned with potential trouble?", Meridina asked.

Oresta sighed and looked toward a set of large doors nearby, the same that Viya had led Lan into. "There are a lot of people who consider Quarians to be easy marks for whatever vendettas stew in their tiny minds." Her expression softened toward the two. "I am happy to see that I am not the only one who considers Quarians worthy of protection."

"Yeah, we've gotten the feeling it's not common," Lucy said.

"Too many people close their minds and listen only to their prejudice." Oresta sighed. "Including the idea that Quarians are all thieves. It doesn't help when some of them act in ways that reinforce that prejudice. Some Quarians steal when they become desperate enough; a few because they're just bad and were exiled from the Migrant Fleet because of it. Mostly it's because they're starving, or because they don't quite realize what private property is. When you live in spaceships your whole life, the concept of privacy and individual belongings can be alien." Oresta shook her head. "And the ones who want honest work usually get turned away. Most of these people are just kids looking to bring home a useful piece of equipment so they can get accepted onto a ship in their Fleet. From what I've seen, they're lucky to make it back at all."

"Lan explained his people's history to us," Meridina said. "What confuses me is why your Citadel Council did not help them find a world to resettle."

"Garden worlds don't come cheaply, as you should know," Oresta pointed out. "And the Quarians unleashed a sentient AI race on the galaxy, so a lot of people believe they had it coming. Nobody wants to see a garden world written off as a Quarian world. They argue the resources of a garden world are put to better use by other species."

"Gee, that sounds familiar," Lucy sighed.

"I'm surprised that you don't know this already. Humans have already dealt with Quarians, I'm sure."

"We are not from your galaxy, well, universe," Lucy explained. "We're from the United Alliance of Systems."

Oresta stared at them. "Really? Because I figure those claims were just made up to cover for the Systems Alliance experimenting with new technology."

"They are not. We can show you our vessel if you want."

Lucy nodded. "I'm sure it's on all the local news channels. It usually is when we go somewhere new..."

"That won't be necessary," Oresta said. "Whether you're just crazies going along with a Human trick or actually from another universe or whatever, what matters to me is that you're willing to help these people."

"I am always willing to help the innocent," Meridina pledged. "Might we be of further assistance?"

Lucy had been hoping she wouldn't say something like that, but since the offer was given she wouldn't contradict her instructor. So much for training.

Oresta seemed to think on it. "Alright. I could use some help. Some of our equipment is down, and I've got a few sick Quarian kids running high fevers after taking suit damage."

"Lucy, I believe your technical expertise may come in handy here," Meridina stated. "I will tend to the sick."

So I go from learning more about my power to… being a technician. Hooray. When that won Lucy a sideways look from Meridina, she answered by sticking her tongue out.

Nevertheless, she joined Meridina in following Oresta.

Angel decided she enjoyed what she felt to be an overpriced cut of lamb and sparse portions of stir-fried vegetables and beef. The wine had been an expensive, if enjoyable, touch, and she felt just a bit tipsy after she and Robert left the restaurant arm-in-arm.

It felt strange. But good. This was what two people were supposed to do when in a romantic relationship; actually have romance. No ranks, no briefings, no paperwork. A nice dinner and just talking about things.

"We have to do this more often," Angel said to Robert.

"Well… I do have one more kidney I could sell…" He smiled at her. "I'm glad you liked it. We haven't had an honest-to-God date since… what? The prom?"

"That depends," Angel answered. "Do you count that night we had to eat out at the Burger King on HIghway 15?"

"Didn't we have Susie and Cat with us?"

"Yes, but they spent the entire time playing and studying."

"Hrm. Maybe?"

They shared a laugh at that. After following the stairs leading up and out of the restaurant they worked their way via walkways to the main level of the Silversun Strip. "Well, there are a few ways to finish the evening," Robert pointed out. "There's an arcade over there, a casino…"

"...'Armax Arena'?" Angel smirked. "That sounds interesting." She looked at him and smiled. "But not something for a romantic date." She used her left arm to wrap around his shoulders and pull Robert close. Their lips touched into a kiss that grew in intensity. When she was done kissing him, she suggested, "Maybe we should just rent one of those skycars and explore the Citadel."

"That sounds good to me," Robert answered. "Let's…"

His multidevice beeped.

"If that's Julia, you're going to need a new XO soon," Angel growled.

Robert sighed and pressed the comm key on the unit. "Dale here."

Much to Robert's relief, it wasn't Julia. "Jarod here. Captain, I need to see you in Science Lab 1. It's urgent."

Angel shook her head and sighed from frustration. Dammit. One night. That's all I ask. I know we've got responsibilities but all I want is one freaking night.

Robert noticed how sour Angel was getting and replied, "I'll… be there shortly, Jarod. Dale out."

Angel was biting into her lip. "I know," she said, already prepared for his likely protest. "I know, okay? I know you have to do this. I know you're the Captain and that things get hectic. I just..." Angel shook her head and sighed with exasperation. "Dammit, Robert, sometimes I wonder why I'm trying this, trying us, again. If I didn't care so much for you, I'd have already given up."

Robert swallowed. "I know. I'm… I can't tell you how grateful I am that we got to try again. Maybe when things get better we can… well, if it's Jarod calling me…"

"...then it's obviously really important. 'Safety of the ship' important." Angel nodded. "Right. I understand. It's… it's okay." She forced a smile. "We got to have dinner. At least we got to finish the dinner, right?"

"Yeah. That's the best part." Robert pressed his multidevice again. "Dale to Transporter Station Two. Two to beam up."

Angel reached for and took his free hand before the transporter activated.

Jarod watched Robert and Angel enter and winced. He hadn't realized it was that kind of evening for Robert. He quickly looked back and started bringing up the findings. "What's going on, Jarod?"

"Data and I have found something." Jarod nodded to Data, who was sitting nearby at another console. "We were checking up on that data compiling program Caterina's been running on the 33LA data when we found something."

"As in from the Darglan data?"

"No. I wouldn't have called you back for that." Jarod hit a few keys and brought up a screen of communications data. "Someone's tried hacking into our systems with a VI smart virus."

That caused Robert to frown. "What? How are they getting past our new firewalls?"

"They didn't," Jarod assured them. "We have the virus trapped in a specialized drive tied into the computers. It was something I put together after the Cylons got to us, a little false command module to trick automated hacking systems from penetrating the actual systems."

"I have been analyzing the virus in question," Data explained. "As Commander Jarod already specified, it is a virtual intelligence construct with enhanced data-mining and access siphoning capabilities. It was programmed to implant itself into the ship's library database and glean information through the communications system. This includes all regular updates you receive from Alliance Defense Command."

Angel held up a hand. "I thought we had a monitoring program or whatever to keep someone from remotely trying something like this?"

"We do," Jarod answered. "I've been going over it to see how it let this through our systems. But right now this virus is a priority. The last thing we need is for another to be sent that isn't tricked by my data trap."

"This virus is tapping into our comms, right?", Robert asked. "It's trying to access critical data?"

"It is," Data confirmed. "I have been analyzing the machine code, the format of the virus VI is unique and not on any records available to myself or to you."

Angel crossed her arms. "So we show up at the Citadel and by the end of the night, someone is hacking us. Isn't that a coincidence?" The last sentence was said with particularly thick sarcasm. She looked at Jarod. "But you said something was urgent. It's not just this, is it?"

"No." Jarod shook his head. "The VI is set to send regular updates into the Citadel's extranet transceivers every several hours. If we don't have it send an update soon, whoever sent it will know it's been caught."

"And their next try may not be so easily discovered. Right." Robert nodded. "Feed it data that's not essential to Alliance security. Maybe that will tell us what they're looking for."

"How about the day's declassified war updates?", Jarod recommended. "Battle reports, casualty lists, and basic strategic analysis findings. Nothing anyone won't find on our public sites anyway."

"I like it." Robert leaned a little against the work station beside Jarod, looking intently at the screen. "Put it up."

"Sending data now. I'll also includes our paperwork for the last shift for good measure and a few other bits of minor data."

"Go ahead and throw in the basic version of our report on the day's discussions," Robert added.

"Right. Doing so now. I'm transferring the day to the command module."

"And I will create a command path for the VI to access the Aurora's short-range communications array," Data added.

"Keep me updated." Robert looked apologetically to Angel. "Walk you to your quarters?"

Angel nodded. "Sure. The way things sound, you could end up having a busy night anyway. You'll just have to make it up to me sometime."
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Zack spent that evening's conference with Pakalos and Adama in a state of partial distraction. He made himself follow along enough that he knew what was being said, but beyond that all of his thoughts were about Clara. He was trying to wrap his head around the fact that she'd actually come out here. Homely, sweet Clara had left home and come into space. For him?

"...offloading will still take another day, even with the transporters," Adama was saying. He gave Zack a look. "Commander, how many of your crew could you spare for helping to offload the convoy?"

Zack almost missed the question. He thought for several moments longer than it should have taken him - if he'd been concentrating anyway - before answering, "Maybe a dozen or so crew, if we're not active with anything else. I can give you half of my crew if the Koenig can go into operational standby. Powered down systems, that kind of thing."

"An extra dozen or so personnel would help," Pakalos observed. "With the Xinal present you can afford to go into standby."

Zack nodded at that, although he couldn't quite hide his irritation at it. This would put more workload on his crew while they were still at least two to three months away from returning to Alliance space at the Refugee Fleet's current pace. While the Fleet had accepted his people well enough, materials rationing and the sheer lack of space limited the recreation that liberty could grant, even on trips to Cloud 9. "I'll inform my XO when we're out of the meeting. I can give you twenty-six officers and crew."

"Have them report to Commander Druma, my Executive Officer," the Dorei woman instructed. They can join the work crews in fourteen standard hours?"

"Sounds right."

"Then I believe that is all the business we had to discuss?" Pakalos nodded to Admiral Adama. "By your leave, Admiral?"

"This meeting is dismissed," Adama agreed.

Fisk grumbled something under his breath and was the first one out. Pakalos didn't bother departing that way. She pressed the comm-bracelet on her left wrist and the Xinal's transporters whisked her away in a swirl of purple light.

Zack stood from the table and started walking to the door. Before he could get to it Adama called out to him. He turned. "Yes, Admiral?"

"Please, take a seat." Adama gestured to one of the empty chairs. By the time Zack took it Adama was sitting beside him. "So, what's your distraction?"


"I've been around long enough to recognize that look on a man's face," Adama stated.

Zack thought about not saying anything. About just excusing it as deep thoughts and continuing on. But he stopped himself. He knew Adama meant well. "One of the volunteer nurses the convoy brought out to us is a girl, I mean, a woman I know, Clara Davis. She's from my world. I went to school with her."

Adama replied with a nod of understanding. "And you didn't expect to see her out here?"

"No. Never. She was always attached to our hometown." Zack shook his head. "It's me. She came out here because of me. She didn't know I was on station here, but it's why she came into space."

There was no immediate response from the older man. "I see." Adama sat back in his chair. "You and this girl were close?"

"Closer than I used to think," Zack admitted. "When we were young I pushed her away. I didn't think it would work out and I didn't want her heart to be broken. I… well, when I was that age, I was a heartbreaker. Always looking for girls."

Adama nodded. "Some of us are at that age."

"But now she's here." Zack sighed. "And a part of me is telling me that we could try to be something. And another part of me is reminding me why I walked away in the first place. I don't want to hurt her. I don't want her to be yet another broken heart I've left behind." Zack took in a breath. "Frankly, Admiral Adama, I don't deserve her."

Adama had been listening silently while quaffing at his mug. When Zack was finished talking he nodded. "It's a tough decision." He crossed his arms. "Do you want my advice, Commander?"


"You're young. And when you're young, you think you've got time." Adama put his hands together in his lap. "You think you have all of the time in the world. But slowly, day by day, that time runs out. Suddenly you're older. And you realize that not only have you run low on time, but you never had that much to begin with." Adama leaned forward. "Especially in our line of work, Commander."

Adama's words had Zack thinking. Thinking, among other things, about his father. About how time had run out there, just as it seemed things were working out.

"And if I may be blunt, Commander… it's not your place to decide who Miss Davis deserves. That's her choice, not yours."

There was no immediate response from Zack. He brought himself to nod after a few moments. "Yes. I guess you're right."

Adama nodded. "Good. I'll talk to you later, Commander." He stood from the chair and walked out, leaving Zack alone with his thoughts.

Zack came to a decision. He stood from the chair and left as well, heading toward the interior spaces of the Galactica.

Lucy decided there was something worse than trying to fix a broken down food paste processor that looked like it had been built out of spare parts, spit, and a bit of hope.

Namely, doing that on behalf of what seemed to be a species of mechanics.

Viya, the female Quarian who had been at the door, was hovering over her left shoulder. "No, look, the capacitor is…"

"...completely fried," Lucy sighed.

"But that was a high capacity unit!", another Quarian male protested. "Are you sure that it's not a fault in the wiring?"

"Reasonably sure." Lucy sighed and glanced at her multidevice's holo-display. "Yes, you have quite a few faulty wires in here too. But the capacitor was overloaded by whomever used it last."

"I was only getting a meal!", a third Quarian, a girl with an even younger-sounding voice than Viya, protested.

"Keelah, Dira, it's not like we're blaming you," came yet another voice.

Lucy growled in frustration and closed her eyes. Find your center. Find your center. No, you do not want to smack one of them across the head. Ugh, why did I end up playing mechanic for a group of mechanics? "There's a saying among Humans," she finally uttered. "'Too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the meal'."

"Really?" That was the first male who promoted the idea of bad wiring. "I thought Humans always cooked in groups? I remember working for a restaurant in the Tayseri Ward…"

Lucy shook her head. "It's a figure of speech. An analogy. What I'm saying is... having everyone standing around me throwing out suggestions isn't going to get this thing fixed any faster."

"Please hurry, I'm hungry," yet another of the Quarians protested.

Most of the others backed off. Viya knelt down beside her. "The capacitor shouldn't have fried like that. It was rated to twice the power draw that this processor uses."

"Isn't that a bit inefficient?", Lucy asked her while opening another part of the device's frame.

"We make do with what we can. Oresta isn't made of money."

"Where does she get her funds?"

"Well, we pitch in whenever one of us manages work," Viya answered. "And there are a few other shopkeepers or merchants who sympathize and give small donations. I hear C-Sec provides old material sometimes, she was in C-Sec once and they like having somewhere for Quarians to go. It reduces… trouble."

Lucy frowned. "Your people shouldn't be treated like this. It's wrong."

"It can't be helped. Many species still blame us for the Geth. It doesn't help that we exile our criminals, so many of the Quarians other aliens meet are our worst. Or people like me. In the Fleet, equipment is not owned by people. Anyone can use a tool as long as they put it back when they're done."

"Oresta said something like that," Lucy noted. She used a screwdriver to pry open the last part of the frame. The distinct smell of smoke from an electrical fire wafted into her nostrils. She looked at the blackened interior and sighed. "There's your problem. That capacitor was faulty, it looks like it drew in too much energy and overloaded the device."

"Bosh'tet scavengers," Viya swore. "They must have known." The Quarian looked it over and sighed. "I was afraid of this. This unit is completely destroyed."

"Where can you get another one?"

"I can see if Oresta can afford it. But she just spent most of her budget on parts for our suits. And not all of the top suppliers will sell to us anyway." Viya activated her omnitool. It flickered as the hard-light projections finished powering up.

"I'll love it if we ever upgrade to those," Lucy said. She held up her arm and tapped her multidevice. "These things are ultralight materials, but they still have a bit of bulk to them."

"Stay away from these models then. My original omnitool was fried out by a virus some bosh'tet loaded into our extranet site. This replacement barely functions." Viya tapped at the keys on it. "Maybe we can repair the unit? I might be able to get replacement parts…"

"You'll be replacing so many that it'll be just as costly, and you'll probably get plenty of bad parts in there." Lucy thought it over and sighed. "To hell with it." She tapped the commkey on her multidevice. "Lucero to Aurora. Patch me through to Lieutenant Jupap."

After a moment the Alakin operation officer's voice chirped over the line. "Jupap here, Lieutenant Lucero. What can I do for you?"

"Tell Chief Lostri that I'm calling in that favor. I need one of the backup replicator units at my position as soon as possible. I'll sign the requisition, don't worry."

"I see. I'll speak to the chief immediately and arrange the transport. Jupap out."

Viya looked at Lucy. Despite the faceplate obscuring all but the two points of light that were her eyes, Lucy could imagine the quizzical expression that had to be on the Quarian girl's face. "What are you doing?"

"I'm giving you a replicator," Lucy answered. "It'll use your raw biomass feed for the dispenser, and with better efficiency. And it's a design that won't fail for a long time."

"You… you're just giving us a piece of your technology?" Viya was stunned. "You're allowed to do that? You won't run into any problems with license holders?"

"I am the license holder," Lucy declared. "Well, me and Jarod and Tom Barnes. Point is, if I want to let you use one so you can all actually eat, that's my choice, and I'm sure Jarod and Robert - Captain Dale, I mean - will back me."

"As am I." Meridina walked up to them. "Lucy. I see you are doing well?"

Viya backed away from them respectfully; Meridina in turn led Lucy into the far corner. "I didn't expect to be playing mechanic when we came down," Lucy admitted. "How did it go for you?"

"Their sick will recover." Meridina smiled thinly. "I am happy to help where I can. And these people do need it. Do you not feel how the Flow is here?"

Lucy hadn't been thinking of that. She thought on it and felt for that swell of living energy she'd felt earlier. It was there, but here it seemed… weaker. The warmth wasn't as great, the light not as intense. "What's wrong?"

"You didn't feel the Flow when we were alongside the Refugee Fleet," Meridina pointed out. "I had not trained you to feel it yet, true, but even if you had known, it would still have lacked the brilliance of what I showed you earlier. This is why. The Flow of Life comes from Life itself, but Life has Light and it has Dark. As you know."

Lucy thought back to her anger at the Turian beating Lan. And even further back, when her panic and fear drove that cold within her that zapped lightning into the Changeling at 33LA. "Yeah. I know."

"In this area of the Citadel, there is despair and frustration and fear. And, yes, hate." Meridina shook her head. "These are the source of the darkness that can enter a heart. The Flow of Life reflects this; the Flow is colder, less vibrant."

"Yeah." Lucy looked out at the Quarians in the shelter. Some were lying down, others were in corners talking. She could sense those kinds of emotions in them. The desire to go home, to return to what they knew, the fear they'd never go back and the despair that caused. Lingering animosity, even hatred, for the other species that treated them like this. "And then it reinforces itself. A self-reinforcing loop that creates misery and suffering. It makes people do evil things."

Meridina nodded. "This is why Swenya created her Code. She recognized this pernicious cycle and knew that the only way to break it was to strengthen the Light. This is why we are called swevyra'se. The suffix is based on Old Gersallian, an addition to words to signify fortification and improvement. By following the Code, we strengthen not only our swevyra, but the swevyra of all, by using our Light to break the cycle of Darkness and to make the Flow of Life vibrant."

"Why was it so vibrant back in the commercial district, though? I mean, some of those people had to be feeling dark things."

"Yes. But not all. Many beings may not be always feeling things that are Light, but nor are they in Darkness. And Life inherently gravitates toward Light in that case. Darkness in the Flow comes when many in the same area are caught in it."

"Wow. This is pretty heavy stuff, isn't it?"

"I believe so, yes."

Before the discussion could continue there was a tone from Lucy's multidevice. She tapped the commkey. "Lucero here."

"Lieutenant, we have your replicator unit ready. But I'm afraid we can't beam it to you. There's some form of mass energy field over your location."

"Really?" Lucy looked at Meridina. "Where is Oresta?"

"I believe she was taking a late dinner."

"Standby, Aurora. I'll signal you when it's time."

Meridina led Lucy out of the main room of the shelter and into the side halls. They went up a flight of stairs, passed by spare rooms occupied by more Quarians, and entered another mess hall. Oresta was alone eating. She looked up at them. "I would invite you to eat, but I don't have levo-compatible food here," she explained.

"I understand." Meridina nodded. "Lucy has something to speak to you about."

"Your food processor is fried beyond repair," Lucy explained. "I can get you a replicator unit to replace it, but you've got some kind of shield over the building."

"Yes." Oresta set her utensil down. "I maintain a kinetic barrier over the building when I'm preparing to rest for the evening. It's not very powerful, but it keeps intruders out and prevents people from putting rounds through our walls." Oresta sighed. "Honestly, it's the only reason I get any sleep at all."

"Can't you lower it?", Lucy asked. "If just for a few moments?"

"I can't risk it," Oresta said. "The barrier's old and temperamental. Once it's been shut down, it takes an hour or longer for it to be ready to go back up. And that's on a good day."

"So we're stuck in here?"

"No. The barrier is one-way. You can walk out whenever you're ready," Oresta said. She put her hands together. "You just can't come back in."

"But your food processor is down," Lucy pointed out. "The Quarians won't have anything to eat until I can get that replicator going."

Oresta shook her head. "They'll survive the night. If you're that concerned, though, I'll be lowering the barrier in about eight to ten hours."

Lucy frowned in frustration. Meridina set a hand on her shoulder. "It is an understandable limitation."

"What if I can get your kinetic barrier back up and running immediately?", Lucy proposed. "Or find some other way to get around it? Would that work?"

The Turian woman looked intently at Lucy. "You are not going to let this go, are you Lucero?"

"I don't think they should have to go hungry," Lucy insisted. "Not if I can do anything to get this done."

The two remained locked in a mutual gaze. Meridina was quite impressed with Lucy's will on the matter; certainly she was confident she could make this work.

Finally Oresta sighed. "I'll tell you what. Go look over the barrier. Bring Viya with you, she helps me maintain it. Let me know what you find. If you can find a way to turn it off and back on without frying my system, I'll let you do it."

Lucy answered with a smile. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me until it works," Oresta insisted.

The answer was a nod. Lucy turned away, intent to go get Viya and find a way to make this work.

As he had expected, Robert got the call from Jarod right as he was ready to settle into bed. And so he had wearily put his uniform back on and trudged back to Science Lab 1 where Jarod and Data were looking over a display. Julia arrived a moment after he did. "Alright, what do we have?", Robert asked.

"The virus went through all of the data we fed it," Jarod said. "It gleaned most of it and then transmitted into the extranet."

"We attempted to track the data flow." Data shook his head. "However, the network architecture of the local galactic datanet presented too many issues with accurate tracking. We lost our trace of the data after several node changes, including networking into the Turian Hierarchy's military network."

"So this is the Turians' doing?", Julia asked.

"Perhaps. But it is just as likely that whoever planted the virus was tracking through their systems as a decoy," the android pointed out.

"So we're back to square one." Robert sighed.

"Not quite," Jarod said. "We analyzed the virus VI's approach to the data. It was trying to look like it was grabbing everything, but there were clear traces of a pre-programmed emphasis on certain data."

"That being..?"

"Reports from Universe S4W8," Data replied. "And all available material on the Alliance's war efforts, diplomatic initiatives, and current strategic position."

"Someone wants to know how good or bad the war is going for us," Robert observed wryly. "And I'm betting I know who it is."

"You think the Citadel Council is spying on us?", Julia asked.

"The more they know about our needs, the more they can squeeze out of us," Robert pointed out. "From what I've heard and Udina said, the most likely suspects are the Salarians."

"That is possible," Data agreed. "I would need a long period of study to compare Salarian coding language and practices to the VI virus."

Julia shook her head. "They wouldn't make it that easy, If they're being sneaky, I mean, I think they'd try to implicate someone else's coding style."

"Possibly the System Alliance's," Robert agreed. "They seemed awfully concerned about our relations with them."

"In the meantime, we should probably shore up the computer defenses and prepare to let that drone go."

Robert almost concurred with Julia's suggestion. But he began to think about the consequences to the mission. The Salarians, or whomever, would undoubtedly try again, and might not be so easily found the next time. Additionally, it was clear that the data they took was intended to play hardball.

He smiled a little at his thought. "Actually, Julia, I have a better idea. Don't destroy it. Not yet."

Julia looked at him. "Oh?"

"Yes." He looked to Jarod and Data. "This thing wants to find out how the war's going. Let's give them a good idea of it. Let's bring their worst nightmare to life."

Jarod eyed him for a moment before smiling widely. "Oh. I see."

"You want us to plant information that would lead the Council to a favorable decision," Data said.

"Not plant so much as… forecast." Robert leaned over them. "Let's start with a report from Defense Command on the counter-attacks near Grodni III…"

Cloud 9 was late in its night cycle. Late enough that the only remaining eatery open was the ship's bar, where the bartender was closing up for the night while the other workers swept up. Only a few people remained for late dinners.

And only one table near the bar had two occupants.

Clara had taken a few minutes to swap into a sleeveless green blouse with blue highlights and a matching knee-length skirt. She'd applied some eye shadow and lipstick on the way in. Zack, for his part, had quickly transported back to Koenig and used precious replicator rations to get a button down shirt, red primarily, and matching pants.

Now, slightly-unfinished meals sat between them, along with a glasses of port wine. Zack looked self-consciously at the wine and felt thankful Opani had stocked some detoxicants from Aurora before they left. Wine wasn't as bad as harder stuff, but the last thing he wanted was to dip back toward the bottle.

Clara had never taken the smile off her face from the start of the meal. "Thank you," she said.


"For tonight. For this." Clara gestured to the table. "I had the feeling earlier that you weren't happy to see me. I thought that maybe you had talked to Julia and she'd, well, reciprocated I guess."

Zack shook his head. "No. No, she did not reciprocate when I told her." He sighed. "After all of these years, I got my answer."

"i'm… sorry," she managed in reply. "I suppose… it's best that you got your answer, at least?"

"I guess."

"So if you and her aren't…" Clara stopped. "You didn't seem happy to see me today, that's all I'm wondering."

"I was more stunned than anything," Zack admitted. "And… well, I honestly felt this strange mix of flattered and, I don't know, sadness I guess. That you uprooted your life because you wanted to follow me into space."

"I don't regret it, Zack," Clara insisted. "It's so wonderful out here."

"It is," Zack admitted. "That's not... " He sighed and tried to find the right words. "I've always felt, Clara, that you deserved better than me."

Clara giggled at that. "Really? I deserve better? What do you think is better than you? Look at yourself, Zack. You're not the sports star heartbreaker of the county anymore. You're commanding a starship, you're doing responsible things… you're a hero now, you know that right?"

"So I've been told by a few people."

"Back on New Liberty, you and Julie Andreys and Rob Dale and the others… they respect you more than anything. And all of the people in this Fleet can't say anything bad about you. They talk about you saving one of their ships from being blown up and helping to rescue the last survivors from their homeworld."

Zack nodded. They don't talk about things like 33LA, do they? "I see your point."

"So, I want you to understand one thing perfectly, Zachary Carrey." Clara reached forward and took his hands with her's. "You deserve to be happy. And…" She swallowed nervously. "...if you want to…"

Zack felt himself swallow. It was almost surprising how fast things were now moving, and they made it even harder for him to even consider saying no. "That's… wow. I…" He searched for the right words to say. "I know it hurt you back in school when I…"

She shook her head. "That was back in school. And we were different."

"I'll say." Zack looked into her blue eyes; twin pools of brilliance that seemed to reflect the assertive and gentle woman Clara had grown into being. They had a confidence to them she had lacked all of those years ago. He realized how much he enjoyed that. How much he enjoyed having her around. Someone who he could be himself with and not have the baggage of everything that had happened over the past few years.

The night wouldn't end with the late dinner after all.

Lucy felt there was only one possible explanation for what she had before her.

Universe M4P2 technology actively hated her.

The kinetic barrier generator that Oresta maintained was as bad as the dead food processor. Cobbled together, barely functioning, and looking ready to shut down for good if it was glared at the wrong way… and Lucy was very much glaring at it.

"Ancestors, it is a miracle that this piece of junk still works," Viya said.

"I'll say. And getting you a forcefield generator is an entirely different beast than a replicator. That's defense technology."

"So what do we do?", Viya asked. "Nobody's going to starve to death. But there's at least ten of our people who didn't have anything to eat."

Lucy grunted with frustration and sat back from the side of the barrier generator. "Well, I can't tell Oresta we can make this work. She's right; if this thing gets turned off and turned right back on, it'll blow a fuse at the very least."

"Is there an alternative?", the young Quarian asked.

Lucy thought about it. The problem was that there were too many failure points. The kind of work to get around them wouldn't be done for hours. Almost to the point when it would be time to turn it off anyway. It'd be for nothing.

"I would need equipment from the Aurora," Lucy said. "And that would mean needing to get back within the field."

"Well, maybe you can get your tools transported down as well?", Viya asked. "And then we could fix the barrier. How long would it take?"

Lucy looked over the parts. She'd need to replace the main power supply, the capacitors, or install shunts to help absorb the power draw. "Fifteen minutes if I'm fast."

"Then we can do it in ten," Viya said.

"Oresta will probably tell us to wait until the morning anyway. She seems pretty worried that people will attack your shelter."

"She's probably right. The local Eclipse band tried to make her pay protection once. She called C-Sec and they arrested one of the Eclipse leaders on the Citadel." Viya shuddered.

"Eclipse being a gang of some sort?", Lucy asked.

"Mercenaries, gangs, it's the same thing," Viya replied with anger. "They pick on everyone. And they were angry with us for getting their boss arrested. One night they came and tried to kill us all. Oresta and a few of the others managed to hold them off until C-Sec arrived, but it was too close. One of my friends nearly died from getting a wound and suit puncture. That's why Oresta bought this piece of garbage in the first place."

"We probably don't want them on to show up while we're doing this then." Lucy sighed and stood up. "Well, I think that's all we can do. I'll be back in the morning with some parts and that replicator and we'll get everything set up." She stifled a yawn. "And then I'll be off to duty."

"Thank you for this," Viya said. "You've put a lot of effort into this work for us."

"It's nothing." Lucy shook her head. "I just hate seeing people treated like this. I saw it back home too. I saw Human beings treating other Human beings like animals."

"What did you do about it?"

"I reported it to the authorities." Terrible memories shifted through Lucy's head. "And because of that, the man in charge had me kidnapped and gave me as a plaything to his son to torture for fun." Lucy quivered at the memories of what Patrick Duffy had done to her in that dark room.

Viya's hand touched her shoulder. "Keelah. That sounds horrible. Thank the ancestors that you got away."

"My friends rescued me." Lucy sucked in a breath and forced those old memories out. That would never happen to her again. Never. "Working together. And then we all worked together to…"

She stopped. Could it be that simple?

"To what?", Viya asked.

"Of course," Lucy said. "It should… it… the kinetic barrier…!" She sprang to her feet and took Viya's hand. "Let's get your friends. I know how to get that replicator here!"

Meridina watched with quiet joy as Lucy finished her work with the others. "Does everyone have their omnitools ready?" A chorus of affirmatives answered her. Lucy tapped her commkey. "Lucero to Transporter Station 4. Do you still have my order ready?"

"We do, sir. But that field's still keeping us from beaming it."

"Increase the subspace tunnel's power to twenty percent above normal. That should handle the distortion from the kinetic barrier."

"Doing so now… but I still can't get a proper lock."

"Let me handle that." She looked to the others. "Listen, in order to complete the transport, our ship's system needs a solid signal or target lock, and the kinetic barrier makes that very hard. By linking all of your omnitools together and connecting them to my multidevice, we can create a solid signal for them to lock onto. Is everyone ready?"

The Quarians began operating their tools en masse. Lucy's multidevice confirmed the growing networked connection. Once they were all linked she called back. "What about now?"

"Trying now… it's working. I've got a lock."

"Send it down."

White light appeared at a corner of the room. Lucy noticed it wasn't as smooth as usual - the kinetic barrier's mass effect field was clearly distorting the subspace tunnel - but with the power behind it the tunnel could be sustained long enough for the matter to shift through.

One perfectly functional replicator unit now sat on the ground.

"We got it. Thank you, Transporter Station," Lucy said energetically. "Lucero out."

The Quarians milled around the device, but all were ready to accept Lucy's direction on installation. She took charge and made sure everything was installed as it should be. It was marvelous to see how well the Quarians learned the new technology and what it showed about their technical prowess. Lucy hoped that knowledge would do them well; some might even be able to gift what they learned to their Fleet in order to go home.

Soon enough, the first plates of dextro-amino food product were appearing. The residents of the shelter cheered the sight; the hungry among them were quick to take advantage of the new source of food. "Mmm. This is better than the nutrient paste," Lan'Durah insisted. "It almost tastes like real food!"

Lucy giggled at that. "I never thought I'd hear someone say that about…" She stopped to yawn. "...replicated food."

"Thank you so much!", a Quarian girl cried out. "I was ready to start eating the inside of my suit, I was so hungry!"

Lucy accepted the handshakes and nods and applause on her way to Meridina's side. She yawned again when she got there. "I need some sleep," Lucy admitted.

"Yes." Meridina's face beamed with pride. "You did well, Lucy. Do you feel it?"

Lucy stopped for a moment and felt for the energy around her. "It's… brighter. Warmer." She smiled.

Meridina matched that smile. "Yes. Thanks to your actions, these people are feeling joy. The Light is brighter within them now."

"Just by giving them food."

"No. Not just that." Meridina set a hand on Lucy's shoulder. "By giving them hope. You have reminded them that there are people in the world who follow the Light and will not show hatred to them. You have strengthened the Flow of Life." Meridina's eyes sparkled with happiness. "This is what it means to be swevyra'se, student."

Lucy nodded. The smile was still on her face.

"We should return to the Aurora. Preferably before you fall asleep where you stand." Meridina's eyes betrayed the hint of mirth within. "Let us say our goodbyes and depart."

There was a great deal of satisfaction for Robert when he returned to bed. All's fair in espionage, I guess, he thought to himself as he laid down. He was tired enough to go to sleep rather quickly.

He soon wished he hadn't.

The dream started. He was back in the Citadel Council's chamber. Flames licked everywhere. The Turian with blue eyes and cybernetic enhancements was standing there. "Those who serve will survive," he said. "If you continue to resist, we'll all die."

"Serve what?", Robert called out.

Everything went dark. A reddish tint filled the air. And then there was a thunderous sound, like a horn blown through a sound synthesizer, mechanical and utterly alien.

He looked up to see a four-legged thing - a creature, a machine, he wasn't sure - stomping over him. They were in the Wards of the Citadel. Flames flickered everywhere, consuming bodies. Creatures, species, he'd never recognized abounded around him. Every few moments they seemed to change, becoming different, as if new sets of beings were replacing the other ones. On and on, even as that horrible sound echoed again, an unending cycle of death.

There was a loud tone.

Robert woke up.

His mind was slow and bleary. He glanced at his chronometer; 0320. Another nightmare. He rubbed at his head and drew in a breath.

The tone went off again.

His sleepy mind quickly realized what it was. He reached over to his dresser and hit the key to activate the intercom. "Dale here," he said, groggy.

"Captain." The voice was that of Lieutenant Prymi. "'We're getting an encoded message relayed through the Systems Alliance communications network. It's from Admiral Maran and is marked 'Extremely Urgent'."

Robert breathed in a sigh and rubbed his eyes. "Alright." He slipped out of bed. "Relay it to my quarters."

"Right away, sir."

Robert walked over to his desk and activated his systems. "Computer, authorize opening of message, personal code Dale Tango Echo Kilo Lima Nine Three."

The computer beeped compliance. Text and relevant astrographical data popped up on the screen.

Robert felt his stomach twist as he read what was written within.

Artificial daylight shined in Zack's eyes when he woke up. That confused him for a moment. The Koenig had no windows, how did…


He remembered, groggily, that he wasn't in his bunk on Koenig. He was in an actual bed. With sheets and everything. His multidevice was sitting on the nearby dresser, displaying a time that was not too late and promised of at least some time before his crew would wonder where he went off to.

Zack turned his head the other way and saw the naked shoulders and back of Clara. His right hand reached up and touched her back gently. His finger ran up and down her spine and over her shoulder blades.

After a couple moments of this there was a giggle. Clara rolled over and on top of him. A happy little noise came from her throat before she gave him a deep kiss that brought every sleepy nerve to full wakefulness. His heart pounded in his chest. "Good morning," he said after the kiss ended.

"Good morning," she answered. She pressed herself against him and settled her head beside his. Her blue eyes seemed to sparkle in the light coming through the window. "Last night was…"

"Indescribable," Zack murmured happily.

"I was going to go for incredible," Clara corrected softly. "But they both work." She kissed him on the cheek. "How do you feel, lover?"

"I feel…" Zack closed his eyes and thought on it for a moment. And he realized what had happened. What he felt like now, what had been missing. "I feel… like I'm not alone anymore."

"That's good." Clara's breath was warm on his cheek. "I don't want to scare you, Zack, but I have to say…"

"Hrm?" He used his right arm, which felt like its blood flow was being slowly interrupted, to pull her closer. As if she could get any closer...

"...that I think I might be in love."

Once upon a time, Zack might have been scared of those words. "With me?"

"Why not?"

Zack sighed. "I used to be a jerk back in school."

"Not always," she pointed out. "You still cared for Tom, no matter what anyone else thought of him. You weren't mean to people, maybe a little selfish, but you weren't mean and you even tried to protect me with…" She giggled. "...what happened under the bleachers, and after last night I know you made a claim that was a complete lie."

Zack blushed at that. "Yeah, I guess. But it worked. Nobody poked fun of you."

"True." Clara kissed his chin. "You're not that skirt-chasing horndog anymore, Zack," she insisted. "You're grown up. You're responsible. You deserve to be happy."

Zack felt a tear in his eye at that. "Yeah." He turned his head and put his left hand on Clara's cheek. "And so do you." He swallowed. "And I feel like I'm in love with you too. You've always been someone I could think about as… I mean, someone I had feelings for. And that's why I'm not sure about…" He stopped and thought of what he was about to say. "I have duties now and all, so I'm not sure how often we can be together. I mean… once we arrive in Alliance space, I might be ordered elsewhere."

"I know," Clara said. She took his left hand with her's. "And I'm okay with that. But right now, we're here, we're together, and we're in love. That's enough for me. Is it enough for you?"

Zack didn't have to think twice on his answer. Not after so much time being alone, pining for someone he couldn't have, and knowing what that was doing to him on the inside. "It is," he assured Clara. "It's more than enough."

And with that said, he kissed her as deeply as she had kissed him.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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

American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.

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Re: [nUF] Season 1 - "Seeking The Past"

Post by Steve »

Robert was getting ready to beam down to the Citadel Embassies when there was a knock on the door. "Come in," he said, pulling his uniform jacket on. He had expected to see Angel or maybe Julia.

Instead, it was Caterina who stood in the doorway. "Um… hi," she said. She was in her uniform already, with the uniform skirt in place of pants.

"Cat?" He blinked. "Don't take this the wrong way but… what are you doing here? I thought you were going to Science Lab 1 to help Data and Jarod on that Darglan data?"

"Oh, I am. But I needed to make sure I got this message to you," she said. "Um, yesterday, when I was down in the Presidium and everything… I met this lady. Asari lady. Her name is Sha'ira and she's called the Consort and I know how that sounds but it wasn't like that and…"

"Cat, a breath?"

Cat stopped, as if his command was the only reason to take that necessary breath. "She wants to see you, Rob," Cat said. "It was sort of odd, she knew things about us… and she wants to see you."

Now that sounds totally suspicious, doesn't it?, Robert mulled to himself. He nodded. "Alright. I'll… well, I'm due at Ambassador Udina's office in ten minutes, Cat, so I don't have time right now. But I'll try to get to her, okay?"

"Yeah. I understand." Cat nodded. She turned to leave before stopping and looking back. "And I think Angel is, like, twenty percent happier now. She must have really enjoyed last night."

"Not as much as she might have," Robert sighed. Seeing Cat's bewildered look he blushed. "Not what I meant!", he added hastily. "We only got to have dinner, I mean. Then Jarod called me back."

"Oh." Cat nodded. "Okay, I get it. I'd better get going now, Jarod was going to make us waffles for breakfast, and he's good at that!" A look came over her face. "Of course, he's good at everything…" She sighed and on that note walked out of the door.

Robert arrived while Udina and Ledosh were going over something. "They are squeezing you," Udina declared. "These terms are outrageous."

"Ambassador, Mastrash."

They looked up and over at him. "Ah, Captain, good morning," Ledosh said.

"Captain Dale." Udina nodded, but he didn't look entirely pleased. "I wasn't aware you'd been called for. You may not be needed in the Council today, Captain. Especially if the talks fail, as they might given the Council's unacceptable behavior."

"Last night the Council gave us preliminary items, requirements for their support and what support they would give." Ledosh seemed serene next to Udina's irritation. "They are rather… extortionate."

"Extortion is a good term for this, Emissary Ledosh," Udina grumbled.

"What terms?", Robert asked. "Obviously they'd get IU drives."

"Yes," Udina said. "But the Systems Alliance would be forbidden from using drives on any ships not sent to the front, and Council-appointed officers would be placed on each ship to enforce compliance. And that's not all!"

Ledosh handed Robert the list. He read it over and sighed. The Council was essentially demanding the Alliance all but submit to Council authority on several matters. Some didn't sound off. One was for limitations on the amount of Alliance ships - especially dreadnoughts - that would be assigned to M4P2. But the other terms were excessive; trade barrier rules favorable to the Council races; the Alliance would be forced to submit any and all diplomatic disputes in M4P2 to Citadel Council arbitration and would be forbidden from pursuing treaties without Council approval; the Citadel would have the power to veto new Alliance colonial settlements and defensive installations; on top of the IU drive technology, the Alliance would be required to immediately provide technology, free of any compensation, in virtually every area that they had an edge over the Citadel Council's members, and were not allowed to share any technology or materials directly with Earth and the Systems Alliance. "They're even demanding territorial concessions in S4W8, I see," Robert said. "And resource concessions in our M4P2 colonies. The right to patrol Alliance space to enforce Citadel interstellar law." He smirked as he finished the list. "I was almost expecting a term requiring that the Alliance Senate seat a Citadel delegate with veto rights."

"These terms are rather harsh, which is why I believe they may be a feint of some sorts."

"It sounds like that old trick in compromising, asking too much so that you can 'compromise' it down to what you actually want," Robert said. "Because I figure that what they want is future security against our Alliance and the Systems Alliance opposing them directly. The drives alone might not be enough."

"We will see when our talks resume, as they will shortly," Ledosh said.

The Council was already in place when Robert followed Ledosh and Udina into place. "We have examined the terms provided last night," Ledosh said. "I fear I must dispute some of them."

"That is reasonable, Emissary Ledosh," Councillor Tevos said. "And unnecessary. After further discussion last night and this morning, we have decided to withdraw or revise many of them ourselves."

Udina looked surprised at that. Robert sighed in relief, although not the relief they would assume he felt.

Ledosh nodded. "I see. Then let us discuss matters."

"It has become clear to us that the risk of this Third Reich salvaging the interuniversal drive is greater than we had presumed," Valern said. "The Citadel Council must act to protect this galaxy."

"Of course. And the Allied Systems are more than willing to make necessary concessions to your security, so long as they do not damage our own security needs in this universe. The request for the Alliance to sign your Treaty of Farixen and limit itself to only four dreadnoughts in this universe during peacetime, for instance, is one that we can eminently agree upon." Ledosh held up a noteputer and tapped several keys. "I believe the other terms can be negotiated upon, as stated. Do you have your revised starting terms?"

"We do," Sparatus said. He started operating his omnitool, bringing up a list on the holographic screen in front of the address platform. Robert noted that they had watered down several of the terms; evidently they'd decided that the threat from the Reich was great enough to not try and drag excessive concessions from the Alliance. Although they still want a veto over the UAS signing alliances with species or governments in M4P2. They are really paranoid about us joining with the Systems Alliance.

Ledosh examined the terms carefully. "I believe these terms, as a starting point, will work. I see no blatant contradictions with President Morgan's instructions."

Now's the time to drop the bomb. Robert stepped forward politely. "Gentlemen and lady of the Council, I feel there's something I need to share with you. New intelligence that came to me directly from Defense Command last night."

Udina had a look of irritation. Ledosh's gaze was less hostile, but still firm; he understood something crucial was about to be revealed.

"You may speak, Captain," Tevos said.

"Thank you." Robert held up his multidevice and used it to transmit the report he'd received, including map data. "As you know, there is a Darglan Facility in S4W8 that could provide the Reich the means to manufacture its own IU drives. Once we learned of its coordinates, Alliance Defense Command arranged for stealth probes to be dispatched to the region. These probes lack the sufficient sensor capability to actually find the Facility, but they might have helped narrow down the location. What they have found instead, however, is this…" Robert brought up the second bit of map data; the area of space, including the fringe of Reich-held territory, now showed several icons: Nazi swastika emblems. "The Reich has deployed multiple scouting vessels to the region. They are currently maintaining active, wide-band scans."

Udina frowned. "You're saying they know where it is."

"Or they at least have an idea."

"How could they have learned the coordinates?", Ledosh asked. "They can't have penetrated our security…"

"Indications are that this is new," Robert explained. "Defense Command believes that they arrived at this by process of elimination; they knew we destroyed something on 33LA, so they examined sensor logs of the region. Eventually they may have found logs from a ship refined enough to detect the same telltale evidence of a dimensionally-transcendental field that led us to 33LA."

"Then they would have needed to go through all existing records to find similar readings." Valern put a hand to his chin. "Perhaps we have time then. They clearly do not have the technology to easily pinpoint the coordinates in question."

Robert nodded. "That's our estimation too. Defense Command analysts suspect they could spend anywhere from six weeks to four months scanning for the Facility before they get an idea where it is. We have that long to find the coordinates we need. Which means we have that long to deal a big enough defeat to the Reich's war fleet that we can get ships over there with a good chance of sweeping them out."

Tevos looked to her fellow Councillors. Sparatus had his arms crossed and was clearly mulling something. Valern nodded to her. Tevos looked to them and said, "I think it best that we recess for the moment, the Council needs time to deliberate this new report and confirm its authenticity."

Robert nodded. "Of course."

The three men stepped away from the Council, who moved away as well to deliberate in private chambers. They traveled to the lift heading down to the Presidium. Only as they neared the bottom did the silence end. "It would seem that we are now running out of time," Ledosh said.

"It should light a fire under them, though," Udina said. "They know our history. They know what a regime like Nazi Germany's can do, will do, to them if it ever gains the advantage. Their terms should soften even more now."

"And I may indeed accept some of those," Ledosh said. "But it is preferable to give them some concessions that they may yet yield out of fear. In the short-term they are concerned, but if I take advantage of that, then in the long-term they will feel cheated."

"That is your choice, Emissary. Just remember, the Systems Alliance has been willing to stand with you from the start. Don't let them drive a wedge between us."

"Of course not, Ambassador."

They arrived at the bottom. Udina went on ahead to the Embassy; Ledosh reminded behind with Robert. "Even before your report, they folded their opening terms rather quickly. They seem to have had a loss in confidence," Ledosh noted. He smiled at Robert, who didn't react to that but with a single thought: He knows.

"Perhaps they realized that they were playing games when a threat like the Nazi Reich was looming over them," Robert said. "And that the smart thing was to set aside the politics and prepare for a fight before their survival is at stake."

"Perhaps," Ledosh agreed. "You are returning to your ship?"

"Shortly," Robert said. "I have somewhere to go first. Someone who's asked to see me, apparently."

"Ah." Ledosh nodded. "Very well. I shall see you when the Council calls us back, Captain."

Data had found, to much consternation, that the Citadel had rules about "synthetic life forms" that were… harsh, to say the least. It had flustered his efforts to get to visit the Citadel so that he might write on it in his journal and relay interesting finds to the others from the Enterprise.

Then he got to go anyway.

"I am most thankful for this opportunity, Commander," he said to Julia Andreys, who walked beside him in the Presidium. "Given the laws in effect on artificial life, I did not think it wise to seek a shore leave without a superior officer present. Otherwise I might have prevailed upon Commander Jarod or Lieutenant Delgado for the opportunity."

"It's alright, Data," Julia said. "I wanted to get a look at it too."

"Of course." Data looked out at the waterway running along the middle of the Presidium. "Have you noticed the small insectoid creatures moving about?"

"The visitor's guide called them 'Keepers'. Apparently they're some sort of bio-drones that maintain the station."

"Curious. I have noted a constant signal connecting them. A control system would explain much." His eyes swept over the station. "It is a fascinating structure."

"That it is."

Data contemplated the sight before turning his head to face Julia again. "Commander, if I may ask, what has motivated your decision to pursue this career? Is it the same humanitarian goals that Captain Dale spoke of at our first contact two years six months ago?"

Julia took a moment. "Well, I see eye to eye with him on that, Commander Data," she said. "But it's not just that." There was a thin smile on her face. She leaned against the nearby railing and put her hands together. "I've always felt like I could do more. That I could be more. Honestly, Data, I think I would have left our hometown eventually regardless of Robert finding that facility. I want to do something with my life and earn a chance to gain more responsibilities."

"In other words, you wish to experience command," Data observed.

Julia tilted her head slightly as she considered that wording. "Yeah, I suppose that works."

"And yet you chose to be the First Officer and not the Captain?"

"Well…" Julia nodded. "I wanted to make sure Rob was alright too. He's… very much a do-er, and doesn't have the same tolerance I do for working in a system. I thought he would do better if he was Captain and I could back him up than if it were the other way around. Besides… he started all of this. Taking charge over him? That wouldn't feel right."

"I see." Data calculated his next question carefully. "Do you wish to become Captain eventually?"

"Well…" Julia thought on that question for a moment. "Actually… yes, I believe so. I do want to become a Captain. Especially of the Aurora. I just don't want it to be at Rob's expense."

"I believe Commander Riker has likely entertained similar considerations over the past years." Data began to visually scan the environment again. "I admit, I am perplexed by the dearth of sentient life forms in this galaxy."


"Yes. By all calculations, there should be many more species in existence than we can observe."

"Well, not necessarily. I mean, we have yet to find other species in my home universe," Juli