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Monday, April 17, 2017

Colonies of Kobol - Book One ... A Few Chapters from Earth



I'm nearing the end of the #BSG #TotalReWatch and I'm already about a third of the way through the first section of Colonies of Kobol, the sequel to Lords of Kobol designed to fill in the blanks between, during, and after that book series and all of the Battlestar Galactica TV series.

What do you need to know?  You should have read the Lords of Kobol trilogy and Prelude.  If you haven't read that free series yet, here's the link.  (Naturally, I'm expecting that you've seen all of the Battlestar Galactica TV series.  Duh.)

Even though I wrote most of what follows a couple of months ago, it's oddly timely.  Also, there's likely to be changes regarding the timelines, word choices, etc.  This is largely a first draft.

All of that being said, read on after the JUMP.






I
IOLE
Unknown Years Before Activation

"It didn't take as long to get to Earth as Lord Apollo said it would."  She crossed her legs and grinned.  "Still, fourteen months was a long time."

Iole Auroratous straightened a crease along the side of her dress and continued.

"Twenty-five ships made it.  We lost one in the Magadon Star Cluster."  She looked down and spoke more softly.  "But thirty thousand people were able to walk free.  On Earth."

"How was it in the beginning?"

Iole inhaled and rolled her eyes upward as she thought.  "There was excitement, of course.  We landed all of our ships in one place, on a coast.  Some of the ships were immediately dismantled to build permanent shelters.  One of them became the framework for the first temple we built."

"For Aurora."

She smiled.  "Yes."  Iole closed her eyes tightly.  Her throat clenched as she remembered her adoptive mother.  "She was our guiding light."

"Aurora's drive and spirit was inspirational."  Iole nodded.  "What about the weeks and months that followed?"

Iole nodded as if she understood where the interview was leading.  "It was fun at first.  We got together and talked about plans.  Big plans for cities and such.  We designed flags and symbols."  She grinned, "We were called 'snakes' on Kobol, you know, …"

"Right."

"… so we embraced it.  There was the old story of Ophiucus and Asclepius.  We liked the idea of a serpent bearer so we took that."  Her voice trailed off.  She looked to one side, into the darkness, and her eyes lost focus.  "We had supplies.  We had … a lot of algae left from our stopover.  It lasted for some time.  Getting farms going was difficult, however.  The weather wouldn't cooperate.  The soil wasn't … ideal."  She licked her lips.  "There were some riots."

"Yes."

"The camp broke apart.  A few took supplies and moved in one direction.  Others took supplies and moved in another."  Iole shook her head.  "I was left standing there, alone.  Not alone, really.  But you know what I mean."

"Yes."

"It was harder than I thought it would be.  I tried to keep them all together, but I knew …"  She made a fist and pressed it against the top of her leg, "All of those people together with frayed nerves, trouble would follow.  So I didn't fight them when they wanted to leave."

"What's the last news you heard?  Did you find out if they were doing well?"

Iole winced a little and tilted her head.  "People came back to the city to trade and to visit.  For a while.  One group was nearly wiped out by some illness or something.  Another went north or west … they ended up doing well."  She moved a bit of her hair to one side.  "The last I heard, things seemed to be on the upswing.  Then I died."

"Are you upset with the Lords of Kobol?"

She blinked for a second and thought.  "I'm sorry.  What?"

"The Lords of Kobol."

"Right."

"Are you upset with them?"

Iole shook her head.  "No.  The gods are the gods.  They have their ways and they've been that way for millennia.  I will always be grateful to Lord Apollo and to Aurora, of course.  Because of them, we got another chance.  A chance for real freedom.  Real lives.  I fought for that for so long."

"We know you did."

"I didn't care what happened to me.  I only wanted what was best for the Megarans.  We had to get off Kobol."  Iole raised her chin proudly.  "I know some of the gods didn't want us to leave, and I'm sorry about that.  But we did leave.  We left with some of the gods' help.  But we did it."

"What about … God?"

"I don't understand."

A different voice intervened, "On the algae planet, you were delayed, yes?"

"Right.  We named it Oasis."  Iole nodded and leaned forward as she tried to recall.  "There were ship breakdowns.  Almost inexplicable ones until an engineer discovered it was sabotage.  Turns out, there was a group of people building a temple in the hills, away from the algae coasts.  They were sabotaging ships so they would have more time to build it."

"Did you see this temple?"

She cocked her head to the side and squinted.  "It was carved into a mountain.  I didn't go in.  There were … several priests involved.  A few people from the Tribe, too.  They were punished."  She raised her hand and waved it a little.  "Not severely, though.  But they stayed in their own little group after that.  Even after we got to Earth."

"It was for the god whose name cannot be spoken."

"That's what they said."  Iole shrugged.  "Whatever that means."

There was a long pause.  She looked down at her limp hand and turned her head side to side, as if she was trying to focus on something that wasn't quite there.

"You were one of the original twelve types of artificial beings."

"Yes."

"Did you ever think that you might be Cylons?"

Iole smirked.  "The thought occurred to me a few times.  We could certainly be used like them."  Her face sagged and became harsh.  "We were certainly treated like them."

"Did you not want to be reborn once you got to Earth?"

She shook her head.  "I lived for … more than six hundred years.  Bringing our download equipment to Earth was impractical for everyone so we only brought enough supplies for a few.  I chose not to be one of them.  It might have been nice, though."

"What's that?"

"Seeing what happened to the Thirteenth Tribe."  Iole closed her eyes and nodded.

"What do you hope happened to them?"

Iole said, "I hope they grew.  I hope they covered the land and became strong.  I hope … I hope that they worked together and," she smiled as she remembered something, "lived happily ever after."




II
CAVIL
18 Years Before the Holocaust

Ambassador Sebastian Cavil walked through the tight corridor.  Almost two meters tall, he instinctively ducked his head under the lamps that hung from the ceiling.  Far ahead, on either side of a set of double doors, he saw one enemy soldier glance at another and mutter something.

He looked quickly to the officer on his left. "You have the packages, lieutenant?"

"Yes, sir."

At more than eighty years old, the ambassador had a long career behind him.  For most of the last thirty, he had helped maintain the peace between Erigeneia and Peraea.  Not even "Quiet Cavil" could hold back the tide of war forever.

"Gentlemen."

The two Peraean soldiers nodded, still gripping their automatic rifles tightly.

"I believe I have business inside."

One of the young men licked his lips and said through a thick accent, "Yes, ambassador.  I must wait for the command to allow you in."

Sebastian said, "I understand."

He clasped his hands behind his back and shuffled away for a moment.  His head lowered and he looked up, seeing the Erigeneian lieutenant about ten meters away, down the corridor.  Cavil looked back at the door and noted that the two Peraean grunts hadn't moved.

"Have you at least informed the minister that I've arrived?"

One soldier nodded.  "He knows."

"Right."  The ambassador stood still and stared at the closed door.  He blinked slowly and pursed his lips, forcing his exhalations to slightly ruffle his silver mustache.  In his periphery, he saw the two soldiers begin to fidget, but he ignored them.  He watched the long lashes of his eyelids snag on the wild hairs that hung low from his eyebrows. 

From within the room, there came a muffled, "Bring him in."

The soliders each grabbed a handle and pushed the door inside.  Cavil raised his head and saw a man at a desk on the far end of the low-ceilinged room and a long conference table at the center.  Two attachés were already seated at the table.

"Ambassador Cavil."  The man stood from his desk and walked along the perimeter of the room and extended his hand long before he reached the doorway.

"War Minister Liagam," Sebastian responded.  He strode inside and thrust his hand forward, too.
The much shorter man accepted the ambassador's grip and shook.  With his other hand, he raised a single finger and waved it side to side.  "No longer 'war minister.'  My general has changed the title to 'defense minister.'"

"I see."

Liagam smiled and motioned toward the table.  "A signal, perhaps, that things are ready for change."

"I would hope so."  Cavil placed his hand on the high, black headrest of one chair and pulled back, letting it roll on the carpet.  He sat down, slid forward, and rested his elbows on the glass tabletop.  "Shall we begin?"

Liagam looked toward the still-open door and said, "Have you no attendants, ambassador?"

"I do not.  There is a lieutenant in the hallway with additional information, should I require it."

The minister nodded and motioned toward the soldiers at the entrance.  They stepped outside and pulled the doors shut.

Liagam laid his palms flat on the table and spoke with a loud, forceful voice.  "For six years, the Sabaoth has kept Erigen forces out of the Holy City.  For six years, you have tried to retake it and you have failed.  You have, instead, invaded other parts of Peraea to salve your wounded egos."  One side of Cavil's mouth turned upward into smile.  "Have I amused you in some way, ambassador?"

"Yes, minister.  It is always interesting to hear someone else's perspective."

Liagam sniffed and said, "Do you find our perspective … incorrect?"

"Well," Sebastian tilted his head, "not 'incorrect' so much as 'incomplete.'"

"By all means, ambassador.  Complete it."

Cavil flattened the front of his closed jacket and said, "Six years ago, in violation of the Founders Agreement, you forced Erigeneia and other nations out of Cleitus, the … 'Holy City.'"

The minister interrupted, "You do not understand, …"

"Sir, please."  Sebastian raised his substantial hand and said, "You may correct me point-by-point later, but for now, allow me to complete our perspective."

He glanced down at his brown shirt and adjusted a copper medal.  "Very well."

"Do you not agree that Cleitus is important to all nations on Earth?"  Liagram inhaled slowly and didn't speak.  "As the landing site of the Thirteenth Tribe of Kobol?"  The minister was still silent and Cavil smiled, "Of course it is."

"It is."

"Thank you."

"But the Founders Agreement …"

"I know, minister."  The ambassador leaned forward and said, "It is old and you wish to have changes made to it.  Let us table that element for now."

"Very well."

Cavil moved down to the next item on his mental list.  "Peraea took Cleitus and held it, in part, with the aid of Cylon armies.  This is, of course, in violation of the Rhodon Convention."

"Our parliament declared the Rhodon Convention to be null and void."

"That would be convenient for you, were it not wholly out of order."  The minister began to speak but Sebastian moved on.  "Peraea also invaded the nations of Midia, Malekan, and Rabban.  The atrocities committed in Midia led to our rather severe military response."

"The Midians were dogs.  They received better than they deserved."

Cavil regulated his breathing and was still for a moment.  Pictures of tortured children and gassed families flashed in his mind.  "The targeting of civilians and the use of chemical weapons also violated the Rhodon Convention."

"Our parliament …"

"And it violated simple human decency."  The ambassador's voice had gotten louder than he intended.
Liagam smiled a little and said, "I see that perhaps 'Quiet Cavil' has a heart, after all."

Sebastian's nostrils flared.  "I always have."

"In the Sabaoth, that is a weakness."

"I am not surprised."  He clasped his hands and interwove his fingers.  "Word has reached us of more atrocities being committed in other nations Peraea controls and within Cleitus itself.  We have surveillance of Peraean forces massed near the borders of two other sovereign nations and images of Cylon infantry moving toward Erigen holdings in the north."

The defense minister shook his head.  "I cannot confirm the location of our armed forces."

"I'm not asking you to.  We know where they are."

Liagam folded his arms and caused two medals to clink together.  "Is this why you're here?  To beg us not to invade you?  Or your weak allies?"

"Yes."

The short man blinked and leaned forward.  "I'm sorry.  I believe I misheard you."

Cavil didn't move or react except to say, "Yes.  I am begging you not to invade."

Laughter rounded the table.  The minister looked at his attachés and they lowered their heads meekly.  Instead of admonishing them, Liagam began to laugh, too.  "Mr. Cavil.  You are always a surprising man.  But this.  Today, you have outdone yourself."

The chuckles continued and the ambassador softly asked, "Have you heard of Dissers?"
Liagam blinked as the others kept laughing.  "Say again?"

"Dissers."

"Oh, yes.  Your … DSRS."

Sebastian nodded and straightened in his chair.  "The Department of Special Research and Sciences."

"Of course, I have heard of them."  The jovialty of the Peraeans ended.  The ambassador had gone silent.  "Why do you ask?"

He took a few moments to let quiet fill the room.  Then, he said, "The information I have is classified, but … I am free to tell you that we have developed a weapon."  The last word didn't actually echo in the wide room, but Cavil gave it time to do so, nonetheless.  "A very serious and deadly weapon."

Liagam bit the inside of his cheek.  He raised a hand from the table and rolled his fingers.  "What kind of weapon?"

The ambassador was silent and he blinked slowly.  He cleared his throat and leaned back in the chair.  "It is something new.  An REFB."

"A what?"

"Radiation-encased fission bomb."

The minister blinked rapidly and glanced toward his men.  Neither one's expression showed any kind of recognition.  "A radiation bomb?"

"Yes.  An atomic weapon."  Cavil saw that Liagam's breathing had quickened.  "Launched by missile or land vehicle.  Dropped by high-altitude planes.  Either way, once the device reaches a certain altitude over your cities, it will detonate."  The minister's eyes widened.  "Radiation will flood the air and kill everyone within two to four kilometers."  One of the attachés mumbled something in his native tongue.  "The force of the blast should be small enough that the buildings themselves won't be damaged, but that would be small consolation, I'm sure."

Liagam ground his teeth.  "This is a ruse."

Sebastian shook his head slowly.  "No.  It's not."

One adjunct turned toward the ambassador and said, angrily, "It is an Erigen trick.  They have no weapon."  She looked at her superior, "They would not use such a weapon even if it existed."

"Yes."  The minster placed his palms on the tabletop and said, "This is not the Erigen way."

"Erigeneia has been forced to change our ways," Cavil pointed at Liagam, "thanks to you.  Your Sabaoth army has violated the agreements that kept conflict civilized.  You have invaded our friends.  You have laid claim to Cleitus, the city that is home to us all."  The minister rose in his seat and opened his mouth to speak.  Sebastian kept going, "So Dissers has worked hard to think of new ways to fight you.  To fight your Cylons.  We have developed many, many weapons, but," he shrugged, "it was felt that the REFB would make a far greater statement at a lesser cost to our side."

"You would kill thousands and thousands of innocents …"

Cavil interrupted, "As you have."

Liagam became flustered and grunted.  "Innocent people!"  He stretched his neck and continued to shout, "That you would only kill to make the war easier on you?"

Sebastian looked toward the ceiling and said, "That is not how I would put it, but yes."

The minister fell back in his chair and he softly asked, "Why?"

The ambassador was still again.  Formulating his words before his lips parted.  Finally, "Quiet Cavil" said, "In the last century, Peraea has instigated open conflict with Erigeneia on six separate occasions.  Nine additional occasions when it comes to other neighboring countries.  We take no solace or comfort in visiting this horror upon you," one of the attachés barked an expletive but Cavil ignored it, "but the president has been in touch with the leaders of other nations.  Including Midia.  Including the exiled ruler of Rabban."

"Whom you have hidden in your country."

The ambassador nodded.  "The point is, we spoke to many world leaders.  All of them felt that this was an acceptable decision."  Cavil leaned onto the table with his elbows and folded his hands under his chin.  "They all said that Peraea needed to be taught a lesson."

The minister shouted and screamed.  One of the attachés pushed away from the table and stomped toward the far wall.  Sebastian merely blinked.  He breathed through his nose and slowly moved his index fingers up and onto his lips.  He watched the military leader as he processed and reacted to the news.  He will try bargaining soon.

After more than a minute, Liagam scooted his chair up to the table and became quiet.  His face was blank and, finally, he said, "If we verify that you have this weapon, would you accept a withdrawal of our forces from certain territories."

"Perhaps."  Cavil straightened.  "The Sabaoth would leave Rabban?  Malekan?"

"Yes."

"Midia?"

Liagam's mouth wriggled and his face was sour.  "Perhaps.  Yes."

The ambassador lowered his voice.  "Cleitus?"

Sharply, the minister inhaled.  "This I cannot promise."

Sebastian nodded.  "I know."

A fist pounded the table and Cavil looked up to see one of the attachés grumbling toward Liagam.  Then, he turned to face the ambassador.  "Erigen dogs.  You have denied our rightful governance of the Holy City!"

"Elyon bestowed the land to us," the female general interrupted, "it is our right to take it!"

"So you have said."  Sebastian fought the urge to roll his eyes, "For ages."

"Lord God blessed our people with plenty from the beginning, the Five Prophets be praised."

"Praise," the other adjunct said.

Liagam slapped the table and continued, "From the mouth of Lord God to mankind, we obey.  His finger brushes the land and he says, 'This is yours.'  So we take."

The ambassador chose not to respond.

"We lived in peace with you for many years.  Centuries.  We tell you of Elyon and his commandments," the minister shrugged, "and you did not listen.  You still believe in your Pantheon."  He crossed his arms.  "Are you a believer in Zeus and the others?"

Cavil blinked.  "I was raised in the faith.  I'm not an adherent, no."

Liagam nodded.  "I am fine with you.  Believe what you will.  I think you are wrong, but that is your decision.  But," he rapped his knuckles on the tabletop, "but now you would kill our women and children for obeying the will of our God."

"I'd rather not." 

The minister leaned forward.  "You made it sound as though the use of your weapon was as set as cement?"

Cavil said, "One week from today, if we have not seen withdrawals from the three nations we've discussed, as well as the city of Cleitus, the weapon will be used on three predetermined targets."

Liagam's eyes widened.  "You've already chosen targets?"

"Yes.  If you will, please call my lieutenant in."

One of the attachés pushed a button on the table.  A solider opened the door and the adjunct spoke to him.

"By putting names and faces on your fates, perhaps your generals will be more inclined to act."

The Erigen lieutenant entered and snapped to attention.  He glanced toward the ambassador and strode to his side.  "Sir."

"The yellow one, please."

He reached inside his uniform jacket and removed a small paper envelope.  He handed it to the ambassador who then held it up.

"I am begging you to not invade any other territories.  Promise me, minister, that you will make an impassioned plea for your nation's withdrawal from the territories you have invaded."

Liagam stared at the envelope.

"Promise me that, should you fail to make the case, you will begin evacuations as soon as possible."

Quietly, the minister said, "I will.  I do."

Cavil placed the envelope on the table and slid it toward the opposite end.  The three Peraean officers stared at it.

"Two are coastal cities.  Primarily military and industrial targets."  Sebastian stood slowly and towered over the conference room.  "The third is more … populous."

Liagam snapped the envelope from the table and tore open one end.  He removed the slip of paper within and his eyes raked across the handwritten words.

"The deadline is midday, Shomra time.  Eight days from now."

Cavil and the lieutenant walked out of the room and back down the long hallway.  The minister's doors shut behind them and there was a quickly muffled cry.

"If I may ask, sir," the lieutenant said, "who determined the targets?"

"I did."  The young officer's eyebrows raised and the ambassador nodded.  "After some research on the minister's family and the families of the Sabaoth chief of staff … the choices were obvious."

The lieutenant reached the exit door first and held it open.  A large contingent of Peraean guards formed a gauntlet to the small airship a hundred meters away.  He lowered his voice and asked, "Will it work?"

Cavil was quiet while he walked most of the way to the vehicle.  Its rotors began to spin and he said, "I hope so."





III
PERAEANS
18 Years Before the Holocaust

It had been one week.

The captain looked across the park at the regiments of his soldiers, assembled in their combat gear and waiting.  He lowered the binoculars and looked toward the sky.  He heard and saw nothing.

"Anything, sir?"  His lieutenant looked up from her reports.

He shook his head.  "The skies are clear."  He looked at his watch.  Here in Phaesala, they were one hour behind Shomra, the capital.  It would be midday there in three minutes.

The lieutenant stood.  "Shall we go outside and greet our troops?"

The captain pinched the brim of his hat between his thumb and forefingers, slapped it into his armpit, and said, "Let's go."

The elevator ride down was silent.  Both officers stared at their feet.  The elevator doors opened into the expansive lobby and several soldiers at computers and communications stations stood up, snapping to attention.  The captain saluted and strode through them toward the front doors.

Outside the occupied office building, the park at the center of the city stretched for a few hundred meters.  Three thousand soldiers stood at attention among the bushes and benches, and over the grass slopes.

"Attention!" a sergeant yelled.  The troops turned and clapped their hands against the butts of their rifles.

The captain took in a deep breath and walked between the companies.  He stopped at the center of the park and, again, looked toward the sky.

The silence was unnerving. 

The naval port had been closed days ago.  The admiralty was long gone.  The civilians who had been willing to leave everything behind were shepherded out of the city for six full days once it was clear that the commander general would not acquiesce to Erigeneia's demands.  Today, the few thousand residents who remained knew the risks and accepted them.

"It's time."  The lieutenant cleared her throat after she spoke.  She drew herself up and gripped her hands behind her back.  Like almost everyone in the park around her, her eyes were cast skyward and scanning for any motion.

The captain's skin tingled.  His stomach roiled.  Nerves.  He had felt it before.  Usually on the eve of a major battle.  Once on the morning of his wedding day.  Time moved along and he found himself needing to remember to breathe.

"Maybe the colonel was right."

The captain glanced toward her without making eye contact.  Two days ago, his commanding officer ordered him and his units to remain in Phaesala.  "In case it's a trick," she had said.  "In case … once we leave … they decide to roll in and take an empty city."

He understood the logic.  Here, in the moment, he exhaled a long, hot breath through his nose. 

"There!"

The men to his right were pointing at the sky and screaming.  The captain followed their fingers and saw it, too.  A silver shape, thousands of meters aloft, streaking out from behind high clouds.  Twin vapor trails fell behind it but no sound blanketed the city.

The captain opened his mouth.  He wanted to tell his people to stand their ground.  He wanted to shout a prayer to Lord God.  Instead, he froze.

There was a flash.

The light filled the sky above the buildings, above the city.  Everyone in the park turned away and covered their faces.  Screams came from the far side of the assemblage and then heat, painful heat, washed over the captain.  His skin itched with warmth and he felt as though his entire body was pressed against a hot stove.

The screaming faded but not because it stopped.  It became diffused as the airblast rolled over the slope of the open field.  The glass windows of nearby office buildings shattered and began to fall.  Before the captain could turn toward the new sounds, he found himself on the ground and sliding into a pile of his men. 

The world beneath him rumbled and he looked toward the flash.  The sky was washed out and white.  The tall structures were scorched and two of them were now split and yawning toward the high sun.  The thousands of men and women under his command were lying on the ground. 

He stood and staggered back toward his original position.  Somehow, his lieutenant hadn't been blown from where she stood.  She straightened and wiped blood from her ears.  She looked to her commanding officer and spoke, but the captain couldn't hear her.  He reached up and felt his lobes and he touched wetness.  He retracted his hand and saw blood, too.

Soon, the dull din of the world came into focus and he could finally hear some words and detail.  "Help!"  "My God!"  "Medic!"  His people needed him.  He grabbed the lieutenant by her elbow and pulled her into the regiments on the north side of the park.  The side nearer the blast. 

The hundreds around him were sitting up and cradling their heads.  Some had removed bandages from their personal kits and were wiping their ears.  Dozens of them had shards of glass and splinters of metal and wood in their torsos or arms. 

He broke into a slight jog and found himself surrounded by soldiers rolling in the grass.  Their skin was blistered and they were bleeding from their ears, eyes, and noses.  Some bled from their mouths.  More of them seemed to be hurt by debris.  The captain knelt by one sergeant and held his arm.  The lieutenant, though, tapped the captain's shoulder and pointed toward the edge of the park.

There the two officers found hundreds more soldiers.  They were still on the ground.  They slumped against their packs with a few of them propped up and facing their dooms.  The airblast had blown some of them into contorted shapes with their limbs akimbo.  Most of them were still breathing, but it was labored and quickened.  Their skin, though, was red and beginning to slough away.

The captain grew dizzy and fell to his knees.  He thought he was overcome with emotion at seeing his troops this way, but then he vomited.  As he wiped his mouth, he turned to face his lieutenant and saw that she, too, was reeling on the ground. 

If I can just rest for a moment …  He lay back on the grass and stared up into the sky that had once been so vibrant and blue.


The lieutenant looked through his binoculars at the city center.  Modin was largely deserted but the tall spires of commerce still gleamed in the midday sun. 

His colonel had ordered him and his soldiers to remain in the city, lest the Erigen army move in and lay claim to it.  The lieutenant agreed, but he moved his people to the city's outskirts.  "If the rumors of their weapon are true, I will not sacrifice my men."

"Now."  The sergeant lowered his arm and resumed looking out the window and into the open sky.

The lieutenant put the binoculars against his eyes again.  He saw no movement along the avenues nearest him.  He saw no military airships hovering low to the ground.  He saw no one at all.

"Standby to move in," he said.  "I don't see anything yet, but …"

"Yes, sir."

Almost one million people lived in Modin just a week ago.  In just six days, more than eight hundred thousand had been evacuated.  The operations were twenty-six hour-long affairs, all day and night.  The roads were choked until just yesterday.  People screamed and yelled.  Tent cities were erected two kilometers behind their present position.  Setting those up had been a week-long chore, too.

Now, in the silence of waiting, the lieutenant breathed easy.

"The tension is heavy," the sergeant said.

The lieutenant grinned.  "But it's quiet."

"It is."  The sergeant looked toward the city streets again with his lenses.  "I prefer the noise."

As he looked away from the window toward his watch, a flash illuminated the outside world.

The sergeant fell away from the window and dropped his bincoulars to the floor.  He pressed his palms into his eye sockets and began to groan.

The lieutenant winced and saw the point of light diminish behind a large office building.  It was faint, but he saw a visible circle radiate outward from the city center and ripple across the tall faces of several buildings.  Then, the house they were in shook.  The noise lasted for several long seconds and the decay finally faded until the pain of the sergeant was audible again.  The ground began to quake and the officer looked through his binoculars again. 

Glass fell like sharp rain and bricks were pulverized into a whirlwind of dust.  Five tall structures were listing.  A sixth and seventh crumbled and fell toward the main boulevard.  The gleaming gold dome of the city's government center was ripped away and the tarnished covering hung like a husk alongside marble.

A medic entered the room and tended to the sergeant.  The lieutenant stood and looked at his comms officer.  She removed her headset and said, "No signal."

"Very well."  He looked out the window again and saw that another building was starting to fall.  "Get some runners.  Send them to the company commanders and tell them … it wasn't a trick."  Of course, by now, they would already know that.  "Maintain position and await further orders."

"Yes, sir."  She saluted and ran out.

The lieutenant put his hand on the sergeant's shoulder and said, "I am sorry, my friend.  If it's any comfort, I believe the war will be over soon."


"For Phaesala!"  The crowd cheered.  "For Gerasa!"  They cheered again.  "For Modin!"  The roar became even louder.

It had been two days since the Erigen weapons had been deployed and rumors abounded that the Peraean commander general was preparing to surrender.

The major flipped the safety off.  He held the automatic rifle close to his chest and looked toward his captains.  "Our generals may be cowardly but we are not!"

"No, sir!"

He looked around the corner of the building and tried to see along the straight road that lead from the center of the city, Memnon, toward the borders, where the Erigen forces lay in wait.

"I haven't seen anything, major," a captain said as she lowered her binoculars.

"No matter."  He pointed at his tech captain and said, "Call them."

"Yes, sir."  He held his left forearm up and flipped open a small screen.  He tapped a few buttons and then they waited.

From far behind them, they heard the noise.  Metal upon metal, echoing and reverberating through the bombed-out shells of buildings.  Loose debris fell from the walls and piles nearby.  Soon, the first line of Cylon soldiers emerged from the hill behind them.  They jogged up the slope and ran in paths dodging through the detritus-strewn streets.

"Go, my machines!" the major yelled.  The soldiers around him cheered, too.

Seven hundred units noisily moved through what remained of Memnon.  The major gripped his rifle more tightly and his eyes lit from one Cylon weapon to the next as they moved.

"Fall in, Sabaoth!  Move with them!"

The troops screamed and jogged in time with their fellow robotic soldiers.  When the major saw the last of the machine contingent clear the crest of the hill in the city, he moved out from behind his cover and ran alongside them, too.

He looked at the unit nearest him.  Its metal was dull gray with black accents.  The back of its head was covered in a long, sloping frill, studded with rivets.  Its two eyes glowed alternately as it scanned the way ahead.  He had seen these machines in action for nearly six years.  They dealt far more punishment than they ever received.  That is why the weak Erigen banned them in the Rhodon Convention, he thought.

The army hadn't left Memnon when a single smoke trail leapt up from over the horizon.  The major nearly stopped running but he continued.  His eyes followed the white, billowy line as it climbed higher and higher.  It arced east and seemed to be going far above.  Whatever weapon it was, it was soaring far behind them.

"Keep moving!" the major said as he saw his men become distracted by the errant rocket.  Their focus returned and they kept time with the Cylons.

Just seconds later, a flash of light behind them cast long shadows ahead.  The major turned to see the quickly dimming point in the sky above Memnon, and as he did, he ran into the shoulder of a deactivated machine soldier.

Stunned, he backed away and watched the Cylon slump and then crash to the ground.  He held his rifle limp by his side and slowly turned toward the other units.  One tilted face first into the dirt.  Another's arm twitched and then stilled.  There was a loud click and it seemed to settle on its haunches.

Their eyes were empty.  The major had gotten comfort from the constant thrumming of the Cylons' red eyes.  Many a night in the thick forests of northern Peraea and eastern Erigeneia, he had felt cold and alone.  But if he was surrounded by his machine men, he felt safe.

Now, they were dead.





IV
CAVIL
18 Years Before the Holocaust

They stood in the warm breeze.  The sun shone down on the assembled thousands and the tall buildings of Cleitus gleamed brightly in the light.  Flags of several nations fluttered and the dais remained empty.

"Are they changing something?" General Kostas murmured.

Ambassador Sebastian Cavil shook his head.  "Doubtful.  I would have been called."

Kostas looked down and then turned toward the taller, older man.  "Since it's done, maybe you can tell me."

"Hmm?"

"I heard rumors that Peraea would have to publicly renounce the Divine Directive."

Cavil smirked.  "No.  Just rumors."

"Shame."  Kostas sighed.  "Believing that 'God' gave them this land is half the problem."

The ambassador didn't respond.  He looked to the opposite side of the grandstand and saw most of the Sabaoth War Council.  Several members of the Perean cabinet were there, too.  He didn't see Defense Minister Liagam.

"I heard there won't be much in the way of reparations."

"That's true."

"Wait, it is?"  Kostas' concern was interrupted by the sight of several generals and diplomats emerging from the tents in the city center.  They took their seats on the dais quickly and quietly.  The crowd hushed and flags snapping in the wind above their heads became the loudest sound.

Without introduction or fanfare, Allied Flag General Elmora Benjamin stepped to the podium and began to speak into the microphone.

"Today is a good day."  She paused and slowly scanned the crowd.  "Today is the first day of our future.  Our future.  I stress that word, because I want everyone to understand it.  We will move forward together."

Kostas breathed loudly through his nose and Cavil glanced down toward him.  The ambassador knew many in the military wouldn't like the details of the treaty.  That was immaterial. 

"Cities and towns and countrysides across Peraea have been devastated.  Of course, so have parts of Midia, Malekan, and Rabban.  The Allies and Peraea – together – will rebuild them all.  Equipment is on the way as I speak to begin the physical process of healing.  Devastated offices, homes, parks, infrastructure … they will all be restored with the newest Cylons Erigeneia can offer."

Kostas groaned.  Cavil ignored him this time.

"Medical care will be withheld from no one, regardless of which nation they call home.  Food will be distributed.  Clothing." Benjamin made a fist and slowly set it on the edge of the podium.  "When the rebuilding is done, people on both sides will be able to call each other 'friend.'"

There was scattered, polite applause.  None of the Sabaoth War Council seemed to stir.  The same could be said of the Allied generals.

"Cleitus will, for the first time in centuries, belong to no nation."

"What?"  Kostas' voice was barely audible, but he quickly looked to either side to see if anyone heard him.

"The city of our forefathers will be governed by a council of representatives from all nations.  Never again will one nation lay claim to it."

The crowd's applause was more enthusiastic at that line.  Cavil looked across the park and watched the expressions of people he believed to be Perean.  Cleitan.  Erigen.  All seemed tired.  Only a few seemed hopeful.

"Unreal," Kostas said.  The ceremony was over and the treaty had been signed.  "No punishment?  At all?"

The ambassador looked away from the awkward handshakes being shared among the various generals.  "None."

"Why?"

Sebastian looked at the general steadily and smirked, "Think on it, Max.  How many wars has Peraea been involved with over the past two or three centuries?"  His eyebrows arched and he looked away as he thought.  "Every single time they lost, Erigeneia or whoever put harsh restrictions on them.  Made them send monthly payments to their victim nations, right?"

"Exactly.  That's the way it should be."

"No."  Cavil shook his head.  "That fosters anger.  Thoughts of revenge.  Feelings of resentment to the people they have to send money and goods to.  This way, we can head it all off.  We'll help them pay for the rebuilding of their cities.  Something we never did before.  They'll look at us, when it's all over, as … friends."

"That's a stretch."

"Maybe."  Cavil was quiet for a moment.  "At the very least, they won't think of us as the enemy.  Kinda hard to want to shoot the guy who just helped you put a roof on your home."

Kostas looked away and shook his head.  A moment later, he turned back and said, "How much of this is repayment for what happened in Modin?"

Sebastian tilted his head and nodded slowly.  The REFB devices dropped in Gerasa and Phaesala worked exactly as planned.  The detonations caused some damage, but not too much.  People too near were killed, but the cities themselves were largely intact.  In Modin, however, the device's altimeter failed and it exploded too close to the ground.  The city center was nearly destroyed in the blast.

"Other cities were more damaged by traditional bombing, but, yes."  The ambassador's voice became lower.  "A fission bomb goes wrong and half of Modin gets blown away, it's only natural to feel bad about that.  It made my job of selling no reparations to the generals that much easier."

Kostas nodded.  "It was your idea then."

"It was.  I've seen too many conflicts – bloody conflicts.  They ended the same way and, sure enough, months or years later, they started again."  His usually genial face became a scowl and Cavil said, "I wanted to break the cycle.  I wanted to try something new."





V
TIGH
18 Years Before the Holocaust

Saul Tigh looked across the crowded ballroom and scanned the faces of everyone he saw.  He recognized them all but he didn't see the one he wanted.

Great, red swaths of fabric hung above the tall windows.  Chandeliers threw golden light onto the wooden floor.  Dozens danced to the music from the orchestra while the rest sat at tables talking or loitered by the bartender sipping their drinks.

"Saul!"

He turned and saw her glowing face.

Ellen Cavil bounded across the floor and her blonde hair swayed from one side to the other.  When she reached him, she leapt up into his arms.  Saul laughed and feigned fatigue.  "I'm too old for that!"

"Bull."  She put her feet on the floor again and kissed him, hard, on the lips.  "I knew you'd make it."

"I thought the brass would never shut up."  He glanced toward the bar and wondered at the options.  "Want a drink?"

"You know I don't."

"I can get you a soda or something."

"I'm fine."  She took his hand and dragged him across the floor to a table that sat nearly empty.  "What did they say?"

"You know the military."  The chair he pulled out from the table screeched on the wood.  "They want all the data we had on every project we were working on."  He looked around at the people nearby and decided to lean in closer.  "They want me to thin the herd and keep researching some projects."

"What?"  Ellen scrunched up her face and shook her head.  "The war's over."

"Yeah, but the generals don't think it'll last."

"Hey, boss."  Saul turned and saw Galen Tyrol.  He had his hand on the back of a metal chair.  "Anyone sitting here?"

"No, go ahead and take it."

"May we sit?"  Tyrol was pulling a woman closer to him.  A woman Saul didn't recognize.

"Sure."  Tigh straightened and wiped the edges of his mouth.  He glanced toward the bar again.

"This is Tory Foster," Tyrol said. 

She was young and pretty with dark hair and skin.  Her smile was bright and she quickly thrust her hand out.  "Mr. Tigh, it's a pleasure."

"You know me?"  He reached toward her hand and gripped it lightly.

"Tory works in biologicals."  Tyrol gripped her shoulder and said, "Some of the first aid techniques she developed made it to the battlefield."

"Right, biological."  Tigh smiled and shook her hand.  "Good work.  Good work."

Ellen leaned on the table and raised her voice to be heard above the music.  "I'm surprised you're not the guest of honor, Galen."

"Why's that?"  He sipped a drink and looked from side to side.

"Your rockets.  Didn't one get used for the REFBs?"

He shook his head and shrugged.  "Just one.  The other two were dropped by planes."

"Still," Tigh said, "good job."

Ellen took Saul's hand and squeezed it tightly.  He smiled at her and saw Galen and Tory speaking softly to each other.

"Ask him."

Tyrol rolled his eyes and said, "Sir?"  Tigh raised his eyebrows.  "We know you had a meeting with the brass tonight … did they say what the future of Dissers is?"

Saul grinned and shook his head.  "I can't say.  Not yet, anyway."

Galen accepted it and leaned away from the table.  Foster, though, leaned forward and asked in a hushed voice, "Should we start looking for a new job?"

Saul said, "Not right away."

That seemed to satisfy them.  They sat in their seats normally and held each other's hands.  Ellen pulled Tigh's face toward her and she said, "That's enough business tonight, Mr. Director."

He grinned and leaned in for a quick kiss.  "This is a party, right?"

Her face brightened again and she said, loudly, "Right!  It's a victory celebration!" She stood and tugged on Tigh's arm.  "Let's dance!"

He winced and turned his head aside.  "I'm not the dancing type, you know that."

"Saul."  She pulled again and looked at him plaintively.  He looked into her eyes and saw her mouth curl on one end.  He chuckled.  "It's a slow dance."

"I can't say no to you."

She laughed.  "I know."

He stood slowly and groaned as he did.  Tigh shook his head and mumbled, "Let's go."

Ellen led him to the open dance floor and quickly spun to face him when she found sufficient space.  She wrapped her hands around his neck and he put his around her waist.  She cocked her head and looked into his eyes.  The warm light filtered through the thinning brown hair on his head and she saw him scanning the people around him.

"Saul."  She put a finger on his cheek and turned his face toward hers.  "Look at me."

He complied.  He blinked slowly and bit the inside of his cheek.  "Sorry.  I got distracted."

She nodded.  They stared at each other for a few moments as they swayed side to side.  Finally, she stood up on her toes and kissed him lightly on the lips.  "I love you."

For the first time this evening, Saul smiled broadly.  He inhaled deeply and threw his shoulders back, as though they had just been unburdened.  "I love you."

The song came to an end and scattered applause erupted near the stage.  Someone jumped onto the platform and hoisted a guitar.  He leaned down and yelled into the microphone, "Where my comms people at?"

Ellen laughed and pushed Saul toward the bar.  "He's crazy.  Have you met him?"

He pulled a strap over his head and began to strum.  The slow song was over and Tigh continued toward the drinks he had been eyeing for the last few minutes.  He put his hand on the bar's top and looked at the stage.  "Yeah.  Anders is a showoff."

Cavil nodded and said, "But he's good at what he does.  He created the interface for RAVs."

The bartender set a glass of translucent brown liquid down.  Tigh took it and savored a sip.  "Doesn't mean I have to like him."

Sam continued to play and he leaned into the microphone, singing the lyrics to a pop song.  Dancing continued on the floor, but a small group of people gathered at the foot of the stage to clap and watch Anders play.

Ellen got a clear soda and sipped through a straw.  She smiled and watched Sam for a moment before turning and looking around the ballroom.  "I'm going to miss these people."

Saul put his arm around her.  "The war's over, but our work isn't.  Not yet."





VI
THE MESSENGERS
18 Years Before the Holocaust

"He has no clue."

The being turned away from Saul Tigh and drifted through the crowds.  Though her guise was usually female, it took no form now that it had arrived on Earth.

Hades stood at one table, staring at the two people who sat there.  The tender looked at his companion and said, "These as well."

The messenger came to a stop and said, "The tree of free will created by these people is small.  But God will still harvest it."  Her companion ignored her religious labels.  "I see many potential ways to lead them from this world."

"As do I."

The beings looked toward the ceiling and saw echoes of a future to come.  They saw choices upon choices building toward a great calamity.  Through the tall fires, only a few paths stretched into the stars.

"We cannot save many thousands," the first tender said.  "Not this time."

"I see it."  The image of Hades faded away and the messenger moved toward the orchestra.  "But with the few who escape here, we can save all."

"Their paths are thin and frail.  Any contingencies we create will teeter near failure.  There will be little room for error."  The female seemed despondent.  "The cycle seems doomed to repeat for eternity."

"It will until humanity gets it right."  The male looked toward the companion and said, "What happened to your hope?  What happened to your faith?"

"It remains."  Her light shone brighter.  "Even I am allowed a moment's doubt."

The male looked at the one playing a musical instrument.  He saw that one's path, too.  It built onto the tree of this world and tapered away into the heavens.  There, the path became firm.  The tender stared at the man.

"What is it?" she asked.

The messenger watched fingers strum against metal strings.  Other fingers held vibrations at bay and allowed sound to resonate loudly.  The music moved in his mind in a way unlike anyone else the being had seen before.

"I have an idea."

...........................................................................................................................

And that's that.  More to come.

Thanks for reading.




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