Standard Disclaimer: The overall storyline is the intellectual and legal property of those August Personages: Ronald D. Moore and the SciFi Channel. This is being written without their leave, approval, knowledge (I hope), or with any hope of material profit on my part. In other words, this is done purely for fun and not profit. Please no-one sue me ‘cause I’m too broke from University to bother with. There will be violence, swearing, technobabble, a bit of romance, a few surprises, a few explosions, angst, a few more explosions, treacherous toasters, free alcohol, anxieties about pathogens, and the kitchen sink. Any of this bothers anyone, please leave now ‘cause I’m not apologizing later.
Summary: What if the Thirteenth Colony was real? What would they look like? And what would they make of their cousins from the stars?
Timeline: This takes place some two years following the events in “Maelstrom”, with the following provisos: Starbuck doesn’t return to the Fleet, Lee and Dee stay split up, Lee doesn’t rejoin the military, the Fleet survived Baltar’s trial, Baltar isn’t executed or assassinated, Caprica has followed Athena and joined the Galactica, and the Thirteenth Colony isn’t just a legend. What’s happened in the interim? You’ll just have to read and see.
Pairings: Not saying!
Remember: REVIEWS = MORE FANFIC!
That all said, onwards and upwards…
The Long Road Home – Book I
Book I: Promised Land
The virus was created by human hands.
It grew. It evolved.
It escaped. Humans called it The Blight.
It killed. Five billion humans died.
Humanity survived their mistake, barely.
Fifty years later…
20 July 2069 Common Era
1148 Hours GMT
Terran Defense Forces Headquarters – “The Octagon”
McLean, Virginia Territory, North America
For a man most directly responsible for the defense of an entire planet and its peoples and all its extra-planetary installations and ventures, Undersecretary of Fleet Operations Robert N. Cornwell did not strike a very cutting figure and made no effort to. He was comfortable in his role of chief bureaucrat of a fast-sprawling department who served as occasional eye-candy for the media. There was no question of his qualifications for his job, mind; he’d been among the first to make sense of the find in Alaska and had personally supervised the construction of the Olympus herself, as well as the laying down of her two sister ships.
It was not unknown for him to spend days on end at his suite in the Octagon, either terrorizing contractors who were slow in their delivery or badgering the uniform brass about one thing or another. It didn’t hurt his wife was currently serving off-world aboard the Bouhuchan currently.
That morning found the Undersecretary walking from a just-completed video conference between himself and his longtime bete noir and nominal superior, Undersecretary of Defense Anthony Baker, who had yet to ever step foot inside the Octagon itself or any of the ships he was supposed to be in overall charge of. The man was a borderline disaster as an administrator and director. His one saving grace was having the ear of powerful concerns in Hong Kong and within the Euro-Combine, which meant he could push through appropriations faster than most. The office of UNSECDEF was effectively toothless anyway despite its placement in the TOE and it was hoped his out-of-control ego would do the least amount of damage there.
Sadly, Baker had apparently made it his life’s mission to antagonize a certain CCAW, which caused FLEETOPS no end of worry that said CCAW might actually follow through with her many threats to geld, eviscerate, mangle, flay, or otherwise dismantle the UNSECDEF with a blowtorch and pair of pliers. The past week with her off-planet had been nothing short of heaven, even if it did leave daily arguments with Barker over readiness issues or Rear Admiral Cornelius about construction schedules.
He was heading to his own suite of offices, dreams of home-brewed espresso dancing in his head, when he noticed his uniformed aide hurrying toward him. “Sir?” the younger man called, slightly out of breath.
“Catch your breath, Marcel,” Cornwell grinned. “Nothing’s that urgent.”
The aide handed him a single sheet of hardcopy that had been folded over so only its heading was visible. “Emergency Flash Traffic from the Olympus, Sir.”
“Yes, the big block letters at the top are a little hard to read.” Captain Janos Marcel was one of those literal types Cornwell could never resist gently needling. He put on his archaic reading glasses and unfolded the paper.
“It’s signed by Admiral Rice…” Marcel attempted to continue.
The Undersecretary took off his glasses and waved them toward the aide. “These do work you know.” He quickly settled them back onto his nose and refocused on the paper before him. There was a dangerous undercurrent to his voice when he spoke a second or two later.
“Have you read this?”
“No, Sir. It was marked your eyes only…”
“This is nearly three minutes old.”
“Coding delays, Sir.”
Without taking his eyes off the paper, the Undersecretary broke off into a brisk trot down the wide corridor. Marcel hustled to keep up with him and make sure he caught the many orders his civilian superior snapped off.
“Signal a recall all staff and implementation of all COACs.”
“Yes, Sir.” He’d already pulled his wireless pad from his uniform pocket and was typing in the orders and the ones that followed. Marcel didn’t notice the direction they’d been moving until they stepped into a very special elevator. He had accompanied his superior into here only once, nearly two years ago. The next words from the Undersecretary, fully expected as they were, left him chilled as no others might.
“We are at Case ZULU,” Cornwell stated, the doors clicking closed that same instant.
Eleven hours earlier...
0037 Hours GMT
2.35 Astronomical Units (AUs) from Sol
202.5 Million Kilometers from Earth orbit
Battlestar Olympus (TBS-1)
Advance Patrol/Training Cruise
Day 6 of 8
The six Vipers of Black Wing shot out of their launch tubes at standard acceleration and quickly formed into their pre-assigned pairs and vectored towards their CAP sectors. The Vipers were the newer, dart-shaped Mark Vs, some of the first ones off the production lines back in Norfolk and Detroit. They had just completed their shakedowns over the White Sands Test Range so it was no surprise Black Wing was assigned them for their first run.
Terran humanity had only recently left its home world’s gravity and taken its first steps to Earth’s closer neighbors. This didn’t mean it was wholly ignorant of the dangers it would likely face someday. Hence, the rigorous on-the-job training Viper pilots received with their hardware. Olympus’s Black Wing was the oldest ‘classes’ of Viper drivers to survive their introduction to aerospace combat flight school, and so always got first crack at the newest models.
Their departure was monitored via the AEGIS sensor array. An evolutionary outgrowth of the Advanced Electronic Guidance Information System used by various ‘wet’ navies of the previous century for integrated missile guidance and defense, AEGIS acted as the integrated sensory and analytic brain of the Battlestar, constantly receiving streams of geo-astronomical and astro-radiological data as well as internal reports and meshing them all into a single cohesive picture. The AEGIS was a Battlestar’s first ‘shield’ against dangers both natural and artificial, ideally capable of alerting the CIC to anything larger than a grain of dust approaching the ship. If worse came to worse, it could be released from manual interfaces and able to respond to multiple incoming threats instanteously.
The current exercise was intended to look in on a Euro-Combine mining expedition that had recently started working in the edge of the ‘Belt while also giving the Fleet a chance to shake the bugs out of the new planes. The second shift had finished taking over in CIC and the standard rounds of updates and reports were being collated for review by the Command staff. In all, another quiet day aboard Terra’s first Battlestar.
It was rather a surprise then when Commander Richard Avery-Hunter, the ship’s CO, cried out in his distinctive Oxbridge accent “Admiral on the Bridge.” As one, the crew straightened where they sat or stood for a moment as Admiral Theodore Rice stepped into sight.
“As you were,” the Admiral immediately declared, privately relieved when the crew returned their tasks and all visibly relaxed. He was an American by birth but distinctly African in heritage, complete with a complexion of dark mocha and equally dark eyes that missed nothing around him. Like the Commander, he wore the familiar Duty Uniform the Terran Fleet had adopted, a double-breasted tunic with buttons on the right side, with fitted trousers tucked into combat boots, but wore a white beret, whereas the Commander and other officers wore ones whose midnight blue matched the fabric of their uniforms. His tunic also sported gold piping and a single gold band about each wrist, where the others wore silver and slimmer bands denoting their rank.
He was intimately familiar with the workings of the Bridge, having stood precisely where Avery-Hunter now did for the better part of two years before his promotion six months ago. Rice, then a mere Lieutenant Commander back then, had been among the naval personnel who had assisted in the excavation of the Olympus’s “mother” from the Alaskan tundra nearly twenty years ago. Since then he’d been immersed in building the Terran Fleet from the keel up and likely was the second-best expert on the technology and tactics involved in the whole damned fleet. The first best, the real expert, on the other hand…
“Launch run okay?” he asked his former XO.
The Oxford native nodded, eyes on the AEGIS screens mounted overhead. “No worries, Sir. Mark Fives seem to be running fine.”
“Remind me again why we agreed to this?” The question had been asked frequently between the two of them over the last six days. Every time Black Wing launched from their tubes, in fact.
“Because a certain person stated she would geld Cornelius and tear Barker’s face off unless granted some ‘stick time’.” The reply was as practiced as any order Avery-Hunter might bark to his staff and crew, delivered as evenly as calmly as the question itself. Admiral Antonius Cornelius was the director of the Fleet Bureau of Ships, responsible for the design and construction of every hull of every Battlestar, Viper and every other Fleet vessel planned, while Anthony Baker was the civilian head of the Terran military offices; both were necessary pains to deal with. Threats of violence against either or both were not unknown.
The difference was the person in question would actually go through with such threats; hence the need to get them off-planet and back behind the stick for a bit.
“Sir,” called out Specialist First Class Neil Sorrenson, one of the AEGIS monitors. Avery-Hunter took a last long look at the monitors overhead and turned to step towards the monitor in question. Normally he’d have left such things to his XO, but Colonel Callisto was down in Engineering at that moment. He wasn’t surprised to find Rice shadowing him over.
Sorrenson gave both a nod of acknowledgement, but addressed his CO directly. “Sir, I’ve been monitoring the, uh, wireless channels used by the Viper patrols…”
“Well, sir, I seem to be getting a bit of interference at the upper 400 band.”
“That’s unusual,” Admiral Rice noted quietly, letting his mind pick at this little puzzle. Wireless communication still wasn’t that far removed from old fashioned radio, save for the power used to generate the signals and the sensitivity of the receivers used. Civilian transmissions were limited to the 100 to 299.89 transmission bands, while the Fleet had exclusive rights to everything in the 300 to 499.99 bands. Interference like Sorrenson was reading was only possible if you had a stronger signal source transmitting along a higher band near the specific band-setting.
“What setting are you monitoring?” the Admiral asked.
“497.99, sir,” Sorrenson replied, then specified. “Black Alpha.”
The CO groaned and Rice couldn’t help but wince. Both men understood better than the Specialist did what those two pieces of information might portend. The first was that there was something out there that was broadcasting somewhere in the low 500 wireless setting. For reasons few within either the Fleet or the public knew about, settings at 500 and higher were strictly prohibited. At the very least, they were looking at a potentially serious breach of military security protocols.
The more worrying was the second part. ‘Black Alpha’ was the designation for Black Leader and wingman while they were on CAP. And given precisely who was acting as Black Leader this week…
“We’d better bring ‘em home, eh?” Avery-Hunter’s grin held neither cockiness nor joviality right then as he quickly moved back to his ‘desk’ in the middle of the bridge. He quickly pulled the wireless from its cradle on the side and ordered, “Patch me to Black Alpha.”
The Comms officer, First Lieutenant August Samson, tapped several keys on his keyboard then looked up. “Connected, Sir.”
“Black Alpha, Olympus Actual.”
“Greyhound responding, Olympus Actual.”
“We’ve…stand by, Black Alpha.” Avery-Hunter gave the Admiral a puzzled look at his superior’s sudden gesture for him to stop. “Sir?” Since their respective promotions, both men had been conscious to keep the expanded professional distance between them. Not to say it was easy for either of them, though.
“Keep them out there for an eye-spy,” the Admiral said quietly.
“You want to keep ‘em out there?”
The Admiral shrugged and pointed out, “They’re fairly close to Bingo Fuel as it is. And this is why we’re out here in the first place, right?” It wasn’t really a question and didn’t require a real answer. The Commander simply nodded his understanding and raised the wireless handset again.
“Black Alpha, we’re picking up a transmission on the restricted band in your sector. We are sending new vectors to you now. Check out the general vicinity of the transmission and report your findings. ROE is now eye-spy.” Avery-Hunter looked back to Specialist Sorrenson and snapped his fingers. Sorrenson quickly typed the commands into his console, and then gave a thumbs-up sign.
“Eye-spy. Copy that, Olympus Actual. Receiving new vectors now.”
A second voice filtered through the wireless; Greyhound’s (temporary) wingman stated, “We’re about ten minutes from Bingo Fuel, Olympus Actual.”
“I am aware. Your discretion.”
“Understood, Olympus Actual. Black Alpha clear.”
Both Commander and Admiral looked back up at the main AEGIS display, watching as the two blips representing Black Alpha moved from their established route and veered sharply towards the ‘Belt itself.
0055 Hours GMT
Five minutes to Bingo Fuel
Captain Charles Barker, call sign Greyhound, kept one eye on his AEGIS and the other on the Viper on his starboard wing. The section of the ‘Belt they were now cruising over had recently played host to some of the Euro-Combine’s remote miners, though you wouldn’t be able to tell simply because the ‘Belt itself was about as substantial as a light fog and even less of a navigational hazard to them right then.
This was just as well as his attention was taken up by his wingman’s decidedly uncharacteristic silence. “You okay over there?” he asking into their ship-to-ship commlink.
“Copasetic,” was the terse reply, putting a lie to the word.
“Right. What’s up?”
“Just…remembering the last time I flew an op like this.”
“Not bad bad. Just…we had an ace fighter we were hunting back then. Plus I was paired up with a real piece of work, y’know?”
“Worse than the current class?” The thought made Greyhound chuckle, as if there were something amusing about there being a bigger screw-up in the universe than the current crop of ‘nuggets’ undergoing instruction back Earth-side.
“Good stick-jockey. Lousy drunk, tho’.”
“Takes one t’know one, eh?” Greyhound chuckled again as his wingman nudged their Viper unsettlingly close to his own. He caught sight of a decidedly rude gesture being thrown his way from the other cockpit. “Back attcha.” There wasn’t a single bigger teetotaler in the Fleet than this one.
“Anytime, Boss.” Greyhound stole a glance at his HUD and continued in a more serious tone. “We’re less than two minutes from Bingo and I’m picking up nothing but dust.”
“Same here. Guess we’re chasing ghosts…hold it.”
“Movement on my Five.” Without further comment, his wingman fired their maneuvering thrusters and took off at a 60-degree angle below the horizon, firing their burners and heading on a collision course with the fog of the ‘Belt itself. This behavior made perfect sense a moment later when Greyhound caught sight of a flash of movement far below them. He quickly guessed it was over 20 kilometers distant and just emerging from the ‘Belt itself, the small trail of dust and stone that followed in its wake a clear sign of its passage.
He had no time to discern more details however as the object flashed…and vanished. Whatever curse he might have offered was overwhelmed by the vitriol his wingman began shouting that same instant.
“It jumped! Frak!”
“Olympus Actual, this is Greyhound. Come back?”
“Olympus Actual here, Greyhound. We registered an FTL event near you.”
“The frakker jumped right in front of us!” his wingman growled, then continued in a calmer voice. “I got a shot of him on my nose plate, though. Might be enough for analysis.”
“All right. Come back to the Barn, both of you. Black leader, you are to take your data-card directly to ISA when you land. I’m launching Gold Wing to take over. Acknowledge.”
“Acknowledged, Olympus Actual. Greyhound clear.”
“Acknowledged, Olympus Actual. Black Leader, clear.”
With that, both Vipers returned to formation and hit their burners, winging back to their home. Behind them, the celestial wreckage drifted on, seemingly as undisturbed as when the stars and planets beyond first formed.
0103 Hours GMT
Portside Hanger Deck
There was a trio of Marines waiting for Black Leader’s Viper as it was lowered from the recovery deck. They were careful to keep out of the way of the Deck Crews who hustled forward to begin their standard workups of the newly returned planes, moving forward only when all six Vipers were locked and their engines had finished cycling down. The Deck was quickly filled with the sounds of machinery and movement that was nigh unto deafening. The Marines quickly found the pilot they sought and nimbly weaved their way there. “Colonel?” shouted the senior of the trio, a rough-faced Captain named NFN (No First Name) Flynn. He was XO of the Olympus’s Marine detachment and had the sort of voice you’d take pains to avoid having directed towards you, no matter the occasion.
Black Leader simply held a hand up and assisted the Chief Petty Officer in opening the nose of the Viper. So great was the haste involved that the Colonel hadn’t even broken the helmet seals yet. The CPO, a wiry specimen with parched-looking skin and gray hair named McCoy, reached into the nose assembly and gently pried out a small card out of the tangle of wires and sensory instrumentation there. “Data card for your AEGIS,” McCoy stated unnecessarily, his voice barely audible over the din.
The Colonel nodded and cradled the wafer-thin piece in both hands, allowing Major Flynn and one his men to take the lead out of the Hanger Deck, the third quickly bringing up the rear. The Marine’s uniforms, similar to those worn by the ship’s officers but khaki and trimmed with olive green, cleared a path for them through the labyrinthine corridors of the ship as surely as if the CO himself had ordered all personnel to hug the walls until further notice.
The Imaging and Signals Analysis Unit was located Portside on Deck Kappa (K). Even so, it was a good ten minutes of power walking before they reached their destination. The ISA Unit area itself was little more than a series of dedicated workstations and standalone mainframes with a handful of specialists operating them. The unit’s head, Lieutenant Glenn Collins, was standing ready to receive the card when they arrived. He was holding an internal comms when they arrived and spoke into it as soon as they were in sight.
“They’re arriving now, Sirs. I’m putting this on speaker.” With that, Collins hit a side control and settled the handset back on its cradle. “Sirs, are you hearing us?”
“Affirmative, Lieutenant. This is Admiral Rice. Who’s down there with you?”
The Marine officer cleared his throat and called out “Sir, this is Captain Flynn. With me are Lance Corporal Jilani and PFC Hamlaan.”
The Colonel, who had deposited the data card into Collins’s hands while Flynn was speaking, made quick work of the catches on the flight helmet and pulled it off. Taking a moment to shake a head of short, sweat-streaked blonde hair free of the helmet, the Colonel stated, “This is Black Leader, Admiral. I’ve had the data card in my hands since landing and in full view of Major Flynn and his men. I have now placed it directly into Lieutenant Collins’s hands.”
“Confirmed. Chain of Custody noted. Collins?”
“Make this your priority. Work back from the FTL event recorded and give us as much as you can wash up on the vehicle in question.”
“Aye-aye, Sir.” The junior officer was quick to relocate himself to a workstation well away from the others.
“Please escort Black Leader back to her quarters.”
“Aye-aye, Sir.” The Marine officer tone and stance gave nothing away. The Colonel was far less restrained, quickly grabbing up handset and argued in a completely respectful yet forceful tone “Sir, I have to debrief Black…” She paused and listened. “Yes, Sir. Greyhound is perfectly capable…no, Sir. I haven’t forgotten my other…obligations. I appreciate that…very well, Sir.” She placed the handset back on its cradle and gathered up her flight helmet. “Let’s go, boys.”
Her tone was flint-hard now and she marched with the sort of purpose that no fool would dare stand in the way of. The Marines were quick to form up behind her. More than a few of the rest of the crew in the hallways made it a point of getting out of the much-respected and volatile officer’s path as well.
The Colonel spared none of them glance, her attention instead taken up by two small tasks: number one was maneuvering her way to her quarters on C Deck, which would have proven far, far easier if she didn’t also have to, number two, studiously ignore the tall figure that took up position at her shoulder. His unshaven chin and scruffy civilian clothing stood out like a beacon amid the crisp uniforms surrounding them.
In another time and place, the figure would have gone by the name of Leoben Conoy. But not here, not now.
“The Admiral was right, you know,” the figure said quietly, for the Colonel’s ears alone. “You have been…remiss…in your personal duties.” They were intimate words, free of malice or rancor.
“Frak off,” was the Colonel’s equally quiet reply, though far heavier with both malice and rancor.
“You’ll have to make a decision at some point, you know.” He leaned close enough that his lips practically tickled her ear. “There’s no escaping it.”
“When I want your damned opinion, I’ll give it to you.”
“Colonel?” The Colonel cursed under her breath, irritated that she’d raised her voice enough that Flynn had caught it.
“Nothing, Major,” she said with a throwaway smirk over her shoulder. “Just…thinking aloud.” Another glance behind her confirmed Leoben had vanished back to where he’d come from. Nearly two years now, he’d been bothering her and she was still overreacting to him. She refused to bother further with that train of thought and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.
They ate up the remaining deck space to the residential section. The Marine who stood guard at the door to the quarters she had been assigned immediately straightened and snapped a parade-ground salute to her. Kara returned it and studied the nameplate that had been affixed to the door as she unconsciously tapped in the entrance code into the small keypad that served as the door’s handle.
Colonel Kara A. Thrace
The door unlocked automatically and Kara Antigone Thrace, call sign “Starbuck” and Commander of Combined Air Wings, Terran Fleet, stepped through with a jovial call of “Honey, I’m home.” The door automatically shut behind her, cutting off any reply that might have been heard within.
Bingo Fuel –a prebriefed amount of fuel that would allow a safe return to the base of intended landing
CAP – Combat Air Patrol
CCAW – Commander of Combined Air Wing
CO – Commanding Officer
COOC – Continuity of Action Contingencies
FLEETOPS – Undersecretary of Terran Defense Fleet Operations
FTL – Faster Than Light, used in reference to the spatial drive systems that allow a ship to ‘jump’/teleport great distances
GMT – Greenwich Mean Time
HUD – Head’s Up Display
ROE – Rules of Engagement
TOE – Table of Organization and Equipment
XO – Executive Officer
UNSECDEF – Undersecretary of Terran Defense