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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writing Colonies, Part II: The Final Five and The Colony

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw me post the image for Book Fourteen: The Colony.  (If you don't follow me on Facebook, you should.)

This is the part of the book(s) I'm currently writing.  Why?  Well, I just finished Book One: Earth which featured the Final Five.  In this book, the Five finally reach the Twelve Colonies.  It made sense for me to go ahead and keep writing with the same characters while they were fresh in my head.

As mentioned on the show, this happened in the twelfth year of the First Cylon War and they convinced the Cylons to end the conflict in exchange for the Five giving them resurrection technology.

For a long while, this book was going to be subtitled The Enemy only because I thought Colonies of Kobol - Book Fourteen: The Colony was kinda redundant.  But that would conflict with the naming convention I established with every other book in the series.  So The Colony it is.

Minor spoilers next, though you'll likely forget about it by the time I'm ready to release the damn things.

Book Thirteen is Caprica.  It will pick up after the end of that series and show the revolution that led to the war, as well as the first parts of the war.  Fourteen will have more of the war, then the Five arrive and the book will become more about them helping the Cylons create the "skinjobs."

Before that, though, I wrote some chapters about the Five's journey to the Colonies and a big problem I didn't know I had.  You can read about it after the JUMP:

In the show, Ellen told Cavil that the Five followed the Thirteenth Tribe's path from Earth back to Kobol.  They went to the algae planet (which I dubbed Oasis in these books) and then to Kobol.

Do you see what's wrong here?

At no point do we find out how the Five knew where to go after Kobol.  They could have gone literally anywhere, and yet they happened to go in the right direction, ending up in the Colonies?  I don't think so.

This is a problem I didn't realize I had until just a few weeks ago.

I toyed with several solutions to this.  Maybe some of the Twelve Tribes left a "note" on Kobol when they left.  Maybe the Five picked up some stray signal from the fleeing tribes or from the Colonies themselves.

I settled for a different, more character-based solution.

Here's the chapter in question:

(One note first.  Ellen's grandfather, Sebastian, was the Messenger of The One True God that guided her in the last days of Earth.)

1,286 Years After the Holocaust


The five stared at the bank of monitors silently.  The track of the tear that fled Tory's eye had already begun to dry.  Saul's eyebrows wrinkled and he chewed the inside of his cheeks.  Ellen breathed slowly and deeply while her wide eyes drank in the data.

"Probe four away," Sam mumbled.  He pressed a few more keystrokes and then swiveled a small screen toward himself.  He sighed and bit the top of one of his fingers.

Tyrol sat up from his scope and wiped his eyes.  He cleared his throat and then shook his head when he decided not to speak.

While they waited for the next round of Anders' data, the command deck was stone silent.  There was only the hum of equipment and the soft beeping of telemetry.

Saul broke the quiet.  "So that's it."

"No."  Ellen answered quickly and vehemently, but she didn't take her eyes off the monitors.

The seas of Kobol were deep blue.  The continents were green and lush.  There were mountains and there was a large desert, but nature had reclaimed the world.  The telescope had centered on one ancient city and found ruins of concrete and stone.  There were large, unmistakable craters visible, too.

"We're too late, Ellen."  She broke her gaze from the screens and looked down at Galen.  His eyes were red and wide.  His forehead wrinkled from the sympathetic raising of his eyebrows.  "I'm sorry, but it's true."

Sam's computer beeped again and he started typing.  "OK, hang on."  He drew his finger across the front of the monitor and then nodded.  "Yeah.  Same."  Foster shook her head and fell into a chair.

Saul asked, "What's the level?"

Softly, Anders said, "Just under five mikes."

Tigh folded his arms over his chest and said, "Habitable."

"Yeah, but," Tory cleared her throat and said, "no one survived.  The radiation at the time of the attack would've killed just about anyone."

Ellen's throat clenched and she felt her eyes sting as tears welled.  She tried to push them away but she blurted out, "How long?  How long ago?"

Tyrol scribbled on a notepad and talked aloud as he did, "Going by the isotope levels from the first two probes …"

"Kiminian-ninety," Sam said.

Galen tossed his pencil and said, "Between twelve and thirteen hundred years."

At that, Ellen seemed to deflate.  Her shoulders sagged and she exhaled all the air she had in her lungs.  Her face turned to the floor and she swiveled toward one of the work tables.  She braced herself against the edge and eased into the chair.

The five were silent again.

Tyrol took off his glasses and folded them up.  After placing them in his pocket he said, "Earth and Kobol both … died at almost the same time.  I don't know what you think," he scanned everyone's faces, "but I believe our 'mission,' such as it was, is over."

Ellen shook her head but Saul spoke.  "I agree."

She looked up at him and scowled.  "How can you say that?"

Her husband's face fluctuated from bewilderment to anger and then to sorrow within a few brief seconds.  "Ellen, everyone is dead.  Whatever war it was is over."  She lowered her head and cradled her face in her hands.  "We were coming to warn them about Cylons.  About treating artificial life with the proper respect."  He looked at the screen again and saw the green lands of Galatia.  His lips parted and he remained still in the last breath before he spoke.  Finally, he said, "I wanted to go home.  Earth was gone, but we were going to make Kobol home."  Saul looked at the sobbing form of his wife and said while staring at her back, "When that first probe came back and the first telescope images … I was ready to jump out the airlock."

Ellen stopped crying and she looked into his face.  Her expression was one of confusion and she asked, "Why?"

His eyes widened and his voice raised, "Despair!  Who knows how many people have died.  We spent more than a decade working on something that failed and we flew hundreds of light years to this!"  He jabbed his hand at the screen.  "Then I looked at it.  I looked at Kobol and saw the beauty."  He softly took Ellen by the shoulders and knelt so he could look into her face.  "It wouldn't be so bad."

Anders looked at the monitor and started to nod.  "Yeah."

"We brought seeds for crops.  We have processors if we grow algae."  Saul turned one corner of his mouth up and said, "Let's land.  Let's call Kobol 'home.'"

Ellen's mouth hung open and she looked at Tyrol.  He was smiling and looking toward Tory.  "I agree.  We can build a house by a lake."

"Right."  Saul took his wife's hands in his and said, "Or a beach.  We can live wherever we want.  We'll be together."

Ellen saw the smile on Sam's face, too.  She looked at Foster and found her dour expression more unreadable.  Finally, Tigh said, "No."

Saul blinked and said, "What?"

She stood and said, "No."  She wiped her cheeks and walked toward the bank of screens.  As she pointed at the ruins of one city, she said, "Billions of people used to live here.  Why would you think they're all dead?"

"Why wouldn't we think they're dead?" Anders asked.

"Because we're here."  She looked at their confused expressions and said, "We five escaped Earth.  Isn't it possible that five or fifty or five hundred escaped Kobol?"  Galen looked at Anders and she continued, "The One True God wasn't limited to just Earth.  We might not have been the only ones who saw angels."  Tory's head began to rise.  "If there were survivors from Kobol, we can't stop now."

Foster nodded and said, "She's right."  She looked at Tyrol and saw his concern.  "I'm sorry, I'd love to have a house with you by a lake but …" she motioned toward Ellen, "if there are more people out there, we have to find them."

Saul inhaled sharply.  "Oh, frak."  He walked away and stood near a wall.  After a moment, he asked, "What do you want to do?"

"Yeah," Sam began.  "I'm pretty sure they didn't leave a note."

Tory shrugged, "Maybe they did.  But we can't search the whole planet, I know."

"Galen," Ellen said, "can you look for star systems nearby?  Ones that might have a habitable planet?"

He nodded and said, "Yeah.  I can set the telescopes up for a scan.  It'll take a while, though."

It was four long days of waiting, but Tyrol produced several large star charts.  He, Anders, and Saul went through the arduous work of marking the main sequence stars, the ones most likely to support life.

With a sigh, Galen stood up from the big table and said, "We're done."

Ellen leaned over the charts and showed a slight smile.  "What am I looking for?  Right now, I just see a lot of dots."

Anders chuckled and said, "We marked the ones that fell within the Ermian Range.  F through K."

Saul yawned and said, "There are quite a few."

"What about ones nearest Kobol?" Tory asked.

Tyrol turned the chart on top of the table around and started to point.  "These.  We found eleven within thirty light-years."

"Eleven?" Foster's voice was louder than she intended.

Sam said, "But we don't know how many of them have planets.  We can use our scopes, but it'll take much longer."

"Frak."  Tory walked away from the table.

"Of course, the farther out you want to go," Tyrol lifted the chart and pulled another out from under it, laying it on top.  "There are hundreds of possibilities."

The dark sheet of plastic was littered with white, yellow, blue, and red dots.  Somehow, the thick, black ink of their markers circling many of those dots felt more numerous.  Numbers were carefully scrawled alongside each encircled sun.

Ellen's grin faded and she straightened.  Her eyes moved from one corner to the other and then back again.  "How big an area is this?"

"This?"  Anders looked at the writing on the lower border and said, "One thousand light years radius."

Foster stepped toward the chart and shook her head.  "We need a plan.  We need … something."

Ellen took in a deep breath and put her hand on the table.  She realized that she was covering a great many marks and she feared she may have smeared them.  She jerked her hand up and saw a large bunch of yellow and orange dots.  "What's this?"

Tyrol raised his chin to look to the far end of the table.  "That's a loose star cluster.  Lots of possibilities in there."  Galen reached under the stack of charts and removed another sheet.  He let it drift on top and then pointed toward the center.  "There were so many in that cluster, I made a close up."

Saul shook his head.  "Almost too many to count."

Her eyes drifted over the sheet.  From sun to sun, she looked.  Ellen settled on one group of four.  From her perspective, they were arranged with stars at the primary compass points; one above, one below, and one on either side in the center. 

Suddenly, she remembered herself as a little girl.  She was five or six and playing with her grandfather.

"Hey, baby girl!" Sebastian called out.

Vividly, Ellen remembered running across the room and into his arms.  She recalled how large his hands seemed as they lifted her and how warm he felt when he hugged her.  She sat in his lap and looked into his large eyes.  The hairs of his long moustache flicked over his lips when he smiled and when he spoke.

"Boop!"  He touched her nose.  Then he touched her mouth and said, "Boop!" again.  Then he touched each of the dimples in her cheeks, saying, "Boop!" twice more.

On the Aetherjet, Ellen smiled.  Her finger touched the four stars and she imagined her nose, mouth, and cheeks beneath each one.  Softly, she said, "That's it."

Anders squinted and said, "What?"

She took in a deep breath and smiled broadly.  She jabbed her finger onto the star cluster and said, "There."

Saul moved to her side and looked down.  "A double-binary system."  His expression wasn't welcoming and his eyes squinted.  "Why?"

She smirked and pressed herself against him.  "A feeling.  A damned good feeling."

"Well," Sam said, "I'd like a little more to go on than that before we commit to an eight hundred year journey."

Ellen nodded and said, "My grandfather."  Tory's eyebrows raised.  "It's something to do with my grandfather."

Galen glanced to one side and asked, "Is he here?"

"No, but it's a memory.  A memory from when I was a child.  It suddenly came to me when I saw those four stars.  It felt much more … real than most memories I have from back then."

Anders nodded and said, "OK."  Tyrol turned in his chair and they began to pull up charts on their screens. 

Ellen closed her eyes and sighed.  She felt Saul hold her arms and draw her near.  Without opening her eyes, she embraced him.

"Promise me something," he said.

"What's that?"

"If this turns out to be a wild goose chase, we go back to Kobol and build that house by the beach."

She smiled again and pulled back, cupping the side of his face in her hand.  "I promise."

That's all.  More to come.

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