"The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Shroom Man 777 wrote: Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:05 pm Finally.
Finally what?
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

The strange ass pseudo-Sith, Cylon and Fassbinder's clique alliance make their move!

Though I wonder what the Neanderthal's role in this is.

"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

The battle that erupted in the Temple courtyard filled that space with the buzz of lightsabers and the hum of lakesh blades, though mostly the former. The Cylons set upon the present members of the Order with a savage glee, as if years, decades of patience were finally paying off.

Lucy's first foe was a Caucasian-colored male Cylon, one of the models she wasn't familiar with. He moved with a fury and speed that she struggled to match. Beside her Gina was locking blades with one of the D'anna Biers-looking Cylons and Meridina was facing one of the Cavils. Talara, unarmed, had no choice but to keep moving, focusing on avoiding the lethal blade of one of the Sharon Valerii models.

While they held their ground as best as they could, the rest of the Order wasn't doing quite as well. The Mastrasham and the handful of Temple Knights present were also holding their own, but some of the Knights were struggling with the sheer ferocity and power of their foes. Each of the Cylons was gifted with dark power, and they used those powers happily, mixing lightsaber strikes with attempts to choke or bind their foes, or to channel purple-tinged lightning into them.

In ordinary circumstances this may not have been enough. But such circumstances didn't exist. The Order's recent malaise, its clear demoralization, were exacerbated by the sudden shock of the attack. One by one, some of the Knights - especially those not as experienced - fell to the attacks of their foes, while the Cylons suffered fewer losses at the hands of the Order.

Lucy herself was in the fight for her life. The SS men she'd fought in the Fuhrerhaus had been neophytes compared to the Cylon she was fighting. The last time she'd dueled someone this powerful had been Goras himself, and that was when she was far less experienced in the art. She remained on the defensive, using maneuver and short blocking strikes to defy her foe repeatedly. Talara needs me, I can't let this go on…

Then her opponent, perhaps sensing her desperation to aid Talara, got overconfident. His attacks were stronger, but less agile, more exposing. After the third such attack, aimed at her head, Lucy twisted in one direction and struck out with her armored boot. It slammed into the knee of her opponent from the side with enough strength to dislocate the entire joint. The Cylon's leg came out from under him. As he cried out, Lucy completed her maneuver with a horizontal slice of her weapon, cleanly taking the head off the Cylon.

A quick check of the battlefield told her the Order was struggling. Meridina and Gina were still in combat and Talara was running out of room to run. Lucy ran to her aid, just to be intercepted by the lightsaber of one of the bald, dark-skinned Cylons. Immediately she was forced on the defensive.

Talara gathered what strength she had left and pushed out with her power, trying to knock her armed foe away. The Cylon absorbed the strike with her own power. Her hand came up and purple-tinged lightning erupted. Talara tried to resist it, but she wasn't experienced enough to do so. It blasted through her attempted defense and seared her body. She spasmed and fell, screaming from the shock. Her foe, grinning, advanced with blade raised to end Talara's life.

And then unseen force slammed into the Valerii-model, into Lucy's foe, into Gina's, into Meridina's. All four Cylons went flying as if struck by a speeding air car. Two collided with such force that their heads smashed together and inflicted fatal head trauma. The four could feel a sense of confident, strong light amongst them, someone openly defying the darkness sapping at them and the rest of the Order. They turned to see the robed figure, his purple robe lined with blue to mark a Council member.

Mastrash Karesl held out a hand clutching the lightsaber that Lucy had personally taught him how to make. It ignited in a flash of green light. But it wasn't the weapon he used. They all felt raw power gather around them and release, an invisible plow blade that ripped through several approaching Cylons and sent them flying.

It occurred to Lucy that she'd never seen Karesl fight. She always knew he was powerful, very much so. But to see him use that power… it was like how Robert now fought, but refined. Controlled. Completely confident, not restrained.

The sight of Mastrash Karesl joining the battle gave heart to the beleaguered Knights of Swenya, who fought all the more fiercely to protect their temple.

Karesl turned to them. "Ledosh was in his office. See to him!"

"But you'll need…"

Before Lucy could finish, Karesl thundered "Go!" in a voice that brimmed with stern command. She felt the sheer strength in him vibrate in harmony with the command. Here and now he was in charge, and his orders were not to be questioned. Too much was at stake.

"Come, Lucy, Gina," Meridina said, accepting her father's command without protest. "We must hurry." Be safe, Father, Meridina urged mentally as the quartet departed.

The same to you, Meri. Karesl plunged into the fray after sending the thought.

Amidst the rubble that had once been part of the Order's organization offices, Mastrash Ledosh gave a final surge of effort. Broken masonry and stone flew away from the protective bubble he'd pulled around himself the moment he sensed danger. Sunlight poured into the ruins around him. Only his desk and the books, with their notes, were preserved.

He could feel the dark power near. A battle raged nearby. His fellows in the Order were struggling against a foe. And in the distance, fire rained down on Jantarihal and other places. His worst fears were realized. I was too late!

For a moment despair took him. But only for a moment. He could feel Meridina, Gina, Lucy, all alive. All here. There was still hope. He would not let the darkness drive him to despair, not now.

He grabbed the protective container he used to move the books around from its place by his desk. It snapped open and he quickly stashed both the books and his notes into it, after which he snapped the container shut and slung it over his shoulder.

And then he set off to find Meridina and the others.

Onboard the Pegasus, now a storied and infamous survivor of thirty or more engagements thanks to the Reich War, Major Hoshi had taken the report of Aurora’s shields going up and alerted Colonel Shaw, who had (like usual) refused leave and remained onboard to drill new arrivals and oversee inspections and repairs. Then he’d asked the Aurora what was going on.

He’d barely finished when Kendra Shaw arrived at a dead run. The short woman was in her uniform trousers and boots and a sports bra, wet from head to toe with the shower she’d been taking and with her uniform jacket draped around her shoulders and flapping open from where it was half tugged on during her run to the bridge.

“Mister Rawlin,” she ordered the engineering lieutenant on the bridge without even asking any details, “Spool the jump drive!”


“That’s an order. Mister Hoshi, Report?”

Aurora has raised her shields and there’s an unknown jump beacon active on the planet.”

Kendra Shaw’s damp brown skin paled. “Shields, now!”

Hoshi had been dealing with Kendra for long enough to know better. The survivor of the Scorpion shipyard had gotten steadily more functional over that period, but she was utterly inflexible in this kind of situation, and..

“Sir, jump-points forming!”

Kendra gazed at Hoshi for a moment like she was going to berate him for not having already raised the shields, but then she just pulled a handset off the wall next to the red toggle switch which she firmly depressed, the alarms immediately sounding around them.

“All hands, this is Colonel Shaw. General Quarters, Set Condition One throughout the ship.” She released the toggle on the handset. “DRADIS, what do we have?”

As she asked the question, the Pegasus rocked, but not severely.

“Shields holding, Colonel!”

“Colonel, multiple significant contacts. Schutzstaffel warships emerging from interuniversal jump points. We are taking fire from at least four heavy cruisers.”

For a moment, Kendra Shaw’s face was fixed and chiseled in place, expressionless. The entire thing was brutally like Scorpion. Hoshi had been unconscious the entire time and the event remained at a remove for him. With her free hand she reached into the pocket of her still hanging uniform jacket and gripped hard at the closed metal form of Cain’s razor. Then she spoke with confidence and decisiveness. “Prepare for emergency jump!”

“Sir… Preparing for emergency jump.” Rawlin turned back to his console and Kendra watched him, remembering herself in the same position only a few years before. The ship rocked under her again.

“Nazi dreadnought is bearing on us with its spinal mount, Sir!”

“Jump the ship.”

For the first time in the Colony's history, the space around New Liberty was filled with the violent spectacle of starship combat. The disruptors of the arriving SS vessels lashed out at the unprepared ships in orbit, joined by the visible tailfire of their missiles and torpedoes. The vessels in orbit over New Liberty barely had a chance to begin maneuvering before the emerald beams began to carve through them. One of the vessels, a Narn cruiser, took several hits against bare hull before a terrible explosion blew the vessel in half. A Bajoran ship managed to evade much of the incoming fire due to its small size and maneuverability, until it took a direct hit from a heavy disruptor that blasted through its shields and speared its engine section, destroying the vessel in a white fireball.

Where weapons fire struck the Aurora, it encountered fully-engaged shields. On the bridge, Nicholas Locarno found himself in command of the ship. "Send out a fleet alert," Locarno ordered. "And open a tac comm link."

"Doing so now," said Tra'dur. "The Pegasus just jumped out."

Locarno frowned at that. Not that it didn't make sense - it did, tactically, since Battlestars were primarily carriers and the ship's fighters would need time to be launched - but that it made the job of protecting the Colony even harder. Perhaps impossible.

"Targeting enemy vessels now!" called out Lieutenant Syrandi Luneri, the Dorei woman at Tactical.

As disruptors played over her shields, the Starship Aurora turned to face the enemy. Her weapons began to blaze. One by one, the other ships around her joined in the battle, the cerulean fury of the Melissa Davion's naval PPCs joined by the amber strikes of the Charleston's phasers. Both ships contributed missiles and photon torpedoes to the barrage.

Unfortunately, most of the ships were not so lucky. With every passing second more of those vessels in orbit died, many of them civilian ships. Locarno gripped the command chair arms tightly at the thought that there was nothing he could do for those poor people. It would be hard enough keeping his own ships alive given the number of enemy contacts showing up on the holo-display. A destroyer squadron, several cruisers of varying classes, all centered around an Aryan-class dreadnought with SS colors and markings.

Even as they engaged the SS task force, some of those black ships were not responding to the challenge from the orbiting defenders. They were too busy pouring fire into the Colony.

Cat and Jarod were the first to hear the boom of explosions from inside the ops van. Jarod scrambled to the front of the van in time to see an emerald disruptor beam stab down from the sky and blow apart a nearby structure. Beyond more explosions flowered, some without aid from the sky. "We're under attack!" Jarod shouted into the omnitool before getting behind the wheel. He brought the van's motor to life and sent the vehicle into gear, pulling out on the road to bring them back to the warehouse the others were in.

Behind him, Cat was looking at the van's instruments in utter shock. "The… this is all… we're under attack." Her voice squeaked the repetition of Jarod's remark. "But I can't get anyone on comms!"

"Sabotage," Jarod said grimly. He tapped at his omnitool as he turned the wheel. "Jarod to Aurora, what's going on up there?!"

"SS ships just jumped in. They were using IU drives," Locarno answered. "We're trying to fight them off now, but the comm network is acting up. We aren't getting replies from Defense Command."

"New Liberty's comms are down too, try to patch in to Julia and as many others as you can."

"We're a bit busy, but we'll do what we can."

They pulled into the parking lot of the warehouse as Robert, Angel, and Tony emerged from the door. They ran toward the van.

As they did so, another pair of vehicles pulled in behind the van, moving to block its exit. From the vehicles several men in civilian clothing emerged, but given the uniform shades of blond hair it wasn't too hard to guess their affiliation.

At a barked command in stern German, the group opened fire.

The initial explosions sent the Colony into chaos. They could be heard in every corner as pre-set bombs destroyed or damaged buildings across the city. Some of the targets seemed random, simply to add to the chaos, but with one bomb nearly gutting Colony Security HQ and another damaging the Government Building, it was clear that there was a purpose beyond mere chaos. Only later was it realized that the bombings were well-placed to disrupt the city's power grid, preventing the raising of the protective theater shield.

Moments after the bombs went off, emerald beams struck at the Colony with deadly precision. Entire buildings were demolished with a moment's contact with them. People were vaporized where they stood.

The explosions disrupted the opening session of the Summit, meeting in the Legislative Chamber of the New Liberty Government Building. The entire building shook violently from the blast, although the chamber itself was not directly affected. From her place at the Presiding Table Beth Rankin rose and looked toward the sergeant-at-arms, Sergeant Bomayako. The African woman drew her pulse pistol and spoke into her omnitool. Beth knew something was wrong the moment confusion showed on Bomayako's face. "Communications are down," she said. "Madame Governor, we should evacuate."

"Agreed." Beth looked to the assembled delegates. With the exception of the Narn and Bajoran members, not to mention Governor Kuhln, they all showed various levels of uncertainty or fright. "There is a protective bunker here. Please follow me."

Trying hard to keep her own rising fear and worry at bay, Beth stepped away from the table toward a side door. She opened it… and immediately closed it at noticing the armed man down the hall, firing a Reich-made disruptor rifle into another room. "Armed intruder," she said to Bomayako.

"The other door, quickly!" the other woman hissed, moving to take cover in sight of both doors. "I will buy you what time I can."

Beth didn't argue. She knew better, just as much as she knew Bomayako was sacrificing herself to protect the summit delegates. Beth rushed across the room to another door. She activated her omnitool and found a basic life sign scanner app loaded into it, part of the base firmware of the model. The scanner told her there was nobody ahead, so she opened the door. The corridor ahead led toward various offices for the Council members and their staff, and from there she knew the way to the entrance to the bunker. She motioned for the others to follow and walked out into the hall.

Bomayako watched them go, breathed a silent prayer, and had her gun leveled and ready when the first intruder came through the door.

The first boom interrupted Julia and Lee in their game. Julia stopped dribbling the basketball and let it bounce away on the court. "What the hell…?"

"It sounds like a…"

More booms could be heard. Going from confusion to worry, Julia went for her omnitool.

Before she could activate it, Lee grabbed her and pulled her toward the west door. Julia nearly stumbled and just managed to keep her footing. "What is…"

Before she could finish, she heard a voice snarl in German. This prompted Julia to glance back at the far door, where an armed man in basic civilian garb was entering, disruptor rifle readied, and more followed. He scanned the room and noticed them just as they got to the door. A moment after Lee pulled Julia through a disruptor beam sizzled through the door, barely missing her.

"Did you bring your sidearm?!" Julia demanded, forcing down the questions racing through her mind. Was it just a coincidence, or was she actually facing some kind of remnant forces of the Reich? Released POWs turned mercenary?

"No," Lee answered, looking ready to kick himself.

"Don't feel bad, I didn't either." They kept running, going past the shower area and toward the front of the lodge. Behind them the armed men burst through the door. Julia, remembering the Lodge layout, pulled Lee with her into a room to their side. It was full of tables and chairs, recognizable as one of the Lodge's rentable meeting rooms. They continued on through the door on the opposite side. "Jeong might, though."

"The owner?"

"Yeah," she said. She activated her omnitool as they came to the end of the recreational area. "Andreys to Aurora, I'm under fire!"

"So are we," Locarno replied. "SS warships have jumped into orbit. We're under heavy fire, most of the orbiting ships are already heavily damaged or destroyed."

Julia felt a sick feeling in her gut. "They jumped, as in…"

"They have the IU drive," Locarno confirmed.

The horrible ramifications of that fact bubbled to the surface of her mind. If they had the drive, the SS could attack anywhere. They could hit any target in Alliance space.

But there were more pressing matters to worry about. "Do what you can to keep the Colony and ship safe!" she ordered. "We'll hold out as best as we can."

"Planetary comms are down, but we'll do what we can to keep comms going through our systems. Stay in touch."

"I'll try," Julia answered.

In the warehouse parking lot, Tony and Angel raised their rifles and opened fire just as the incoming attackers did, nailing one and sending the others to protective cover. Both had to hit the ground before fire converged on them.

Robert's lightsaber flashed to life. Its green nearly matched the green of the disruptor beams fired at him, beams his blade deflected. He moved to guard Angel and Tony and keep any fire from converging on them. They remained prone, firing from the ground.

Several shots hit the van as well, even as Jarod kept it moving. It stayed moving thanks to its construction, being made to potentially end up in a firefight, but it wouldn't take many hits before succumbing.

Thanks to intense practice Robert knew how to multi-task with his abilities. How to maintain his defensive posture while preparing to go on the attack. He carefully divided his will, keeping up his defensive posture while gripping with his will the vehicles the attackers were blocking the van with. His will was that the vehicles would spin outward, both opening the way and slamming into most of the shooters.

The shooters had no time to react when their aircars spun in place, slamming them with the hood areas with enough force to knock most over. The ones not knocked over were momentarily confused by the sudden lack of supporting fire. Robert effortlessly deflected their shots back into them, taking both out.

The van pulled up as Angel and Tony moved ahead to secure the shooters. Both pulled out the zip cuffs they'd brought along in case of prisoners. While they restrained the shooters, Robert took in the sight of disruptor beams lashing down from the skies, slicing through buildings and bridges. The bombardment was indiscriminate, and fires were breaking out across the city.

New Liberty in flames. Just as he'd dreamed for years. Just as he'd dreamed that night before the fateful operation at 33LA, when the fear from those dreams drove him to bad choices. Choices that helped precipitate the war with the Reich.

For a brief moment, the thought This is my fault crossed his mind. He was broken from it by Angel, who called out, "Oh crap."

She was standing over one of the prisoners, having patted him down for more weapons. With his shirt pulled up to his arm, a tattoo under his armpit was revealed. A pair of lighting bolt runes. "What the hell is an SS guy…"

"They're here," Jarod said, now hanging out of the van. "They've got ships in orbit, the Aurora and the others are fighting them now."

Angel almost asked how, but she immediately realized what that meant. "They've got the drive. Holy sh…"

"The summit," Robert said. "They're here to disrupt the summit."

"Makes sense, a lot of the attending nations are their old victims," noted Jarod. "So we need to get to the Government Building."

"And Colony Security," Angel said. "Maybe we can get comms going."

"So we need to get back into the city center," Robert said. He eyed the captives. "We don't have room for them. Take their weapons and leave them. We'll…"

A sudden cool feeling came to him. A dark presence, not nearby but somewhere in the Colony. "Let's go, now," he urged, going over to grab some of the SS shooters' guns. Tony and Angel got the others and threw them into the van, piling in with Robert. Jarod got back in the driver's seat and drove between the two dormant aircars.

The orbital space over Gersal was filled with the chaos of battle as individual Alliance ships started arriving. Most were Gersallian vessels approaching from the Ring Station around Gersal's moon, others jumped or warped in to respond to the litany of distress calls from ships that were now broken hulks, some already drifting into the atmosphere.

The Cylons greeted the arriving ships with the same fire, taking fire in turn. Some still fired missiles or weapons into the planet's cities. Jantarihal and some targets were facing energy fire from disruptor cannons mounted on the Basestars; other Gersallian cities suffered far worse from the nuclear warheads deployed against them. Across the planet and further out those with sensitivity gasped in horror at sensing the thousands of lives being snuffed out of existence.

The fire against the planet only stopped as, one by one, the civil defense theater shields started coming online. Delayed by sabotage, and some still non-functional due to the same, these deflector shields absorbed the incoming fire with little effort, protecting damaged and intact cities across the planet.

The Cylons reacted by turning their attention to the incoming ships. Their numbers were not great, but until a full fleet response could descend upon them, their cohesion gave them the advantage against an Alliance still reeling from the sudden attack.

Below the engaging ships, another battle still raged in the Great Temple of the Order. Under Karesl the surviving Knights were rallying and holding their own in the Temple courtyard.

And yet, as they ran across the complex, Lucy and the others knew something else was going on. They could feel it in their very being, and in the facts of the attack. The explosions that preceded the Cylon arrival, taking out the Temple Knight barracks and the Council offices. There is more to this than the Cylons, Lucy insisted mentally. She gave Gina a curious look. None of the other Cylons ever used swevyra before. None except my clone on New Caprica.

They are Inner Circle
, Gina revealed. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

Inner Circle
? inquired Talara.

I was with the Consensus, the majority of organic and non-organic Cylon models. The Inner Circle directs and advises the Consensus.

They were the ones responsible for the genocide of the Colonies. That note, not a question, was from Meridina.

Yes was the simple response from Gina. They were the ones who told us it was God's Plan.

They found an intact hall connecting to the Offices. As they went down the length of it they came upon a prone figure in purple robes. Meridina was the first to note the blue trim of the robes and went up to roll the figure over. "Mastrash Tinaran," she gasped, and not just from the sight of the senior member of the Order dead before them.

Sticking in Tinaran's chest, right through his heart, was a dagger. Blood was pooled around the blade and the fabric surrounding it, having run in rivulets to the ground beside him. Meridina and Lucy examined the dagger closely, noting that the hilt guard was marked by a hexagon insignia, the same as the ones worn by the Cylon Inner Circle. Lucy pulled the blade out and looked over the bloodied weapon. It was made of common steel, not memory metal, with a sharp tip for stabbing as well as slashing. "He didn't even defend himself," Lucy said, noting Tinaran's lakesh hilt was still on his hip.

"Treachery," Meridina said. "We must hurry."

Far below them, in the dungeons of the Temple, two of the Temple Knights remained on guard over the cells. The two men wore the armor and red robes of their station and quietly meditated, even as they felt the death and violence raging above them.

The attack came without warning. In a split second they sensed the dark energy nearly on top of them, but before either could even pull their blades, blood-red energy blades cut them down despite their armor. The Knights' bodies fell in a thump to the floor.

Nearby the fallen Mastrash Goras sat in quiet meditation, reveling in the fear and death he sensed above. He opened his eyes. Their unnatural gold color betrayed the extent of his corruption. He smiled at the approach of his former "apprentice". "Sister Intalarai," he said. He held up his arms, as if to gesture toward her. But he could not actually gesture for the lack of hands.

"Brother Goras." Intalarai's own gold eyes took in her former master's appearance. Her hair was growing back, coal-black in color, given she no longer needed to keep up the appearance of being his pupil. "Your time has come." She set a case down and, with a gesture, opened his cell.

Goras was still chained, so he summoned the case to him with his power. It slid across the stone floor, rattling as it did, until it was before him. It opened. Inside was a hilt, the same kind that dangled from Intalarai's waist, placed over a set of dark robes the same as hers.

And beside them were two metal hands.

Beth's heart pounded in her chest and her body burned from the unexpected exertion of flight from danger. With a line of panicking, worried dignitaries behind her, she turned the corner in the maintenance wing of the Government Building. The entrance to the bunker below the Government Building was now ahead, in a supply room.

The bunker was not originally planned for New Liberty. It wasn't like there were any known enemies in the H1E4 Universe, after all. But starting a couple of years before Robert had insisted on creating them, for reasons she was still not sure of, and with openings in the budget New Liberty had done so.

The bunker door itself was reinforced starship-grade alloy, tied to an isolated computer system. Beth placed a hand on the panel beside the door. The armored door popped open, revealing a flight of metal stairs leading to the underground emergency living area that would keep a population of hundreds alive for at least a month, with an isolated naqia reactor and attached replicators with stocks, as well as living quarters. "Go!" she urged.

The delegates, Human and non-Human alike, surged by her, moving nearly at a panic. Yvonne Steiner-Davion stood beside the door to help guide them in. The redheaded Inner Sphere princess was joined by her older counterpart Isis Marik, both seeming relatively calm and collected despite the situation.

Beth was joined by Sonek Pran. "I didn't see Governor Kuhln," the multi-species Federation delegate said. "I've no idea where he is."

"He's a powerful telepath, so he's probably safe wherever he is." Safer than us.

Beth turned toward the hall further down. In their haste nobody in the rear of the line closed the door to the storage room, so she could see the armed man step into the hall. Just as he turned toward them she rushed up and shut the door. Given the situation it was no surprise that she slammed it, certainly giving away their position. "Go go go," she urged the remaining delegates, following them up to the bunker door. Isis took Sonek's offered hand and stepped in with him.

By this time the door behind them was being pounded. Just as Sonek and Isis crossed the threshold, leaving just Beth and Yvonne, the distinctive sound of a disruptor firing came through it, and the door exploded.

Beth acted instinctively. She shoved Yvonne through the door. The younger woman shrieked in surprise as she fell through the portal to safety. With no time left Beth forced the door closed and slammed the emergency lock key on the control panel, putting the bunker door on internal lockdown. Only those inside could open it.

When the attacker stepped through the door, gun raised, Beth was convinced she was about to die. Instead the gunman stomped across the room and slammed the butt of his rifle against her belly. Beth doubled over in pain. A steel-toed boot slammed into her ribs, cracking one, and she fell over moaning.

Fear and pain gripped her while the gunman tried, in vain, to open the bunker door. She heard him speak in German. "Brigadeführer, the door is locked from the inside."

Another voice replied coldly, "It is of no consequence. When the Colony burns, they will burn as well. We have what we came for."

A moment later another foot viciously kicked Beth, this time in the side. She rolled with the impact and looked up to see another man standing over her. To her shock and horror, he was in a dark SS uniform, complete with a red swastika armband. Blond hair, well-combed, was visible under his officer's cover.

But instead of blue eyes, his eyes were an unnatural, vicious gold color.

"Elizabeth Rankin, elected Governor of New Liberty, and the cousin and only living blood relative of Captain Robert Dale," the man said. His expression betrayed hate and disgust. "And a degenerate who entered a sham marriage with a mongrelized half-African whore."

Beth hissed in anger, "Don't you dare call Annabelle anything like that, you…"

Before she could continue, the SS officer's boot crashed into Beth's cheek. She felt two of her teeth break, one popping out. Blood welled in her mouth as she toppled over.

"Shall I execute her, Brigadeführer?" asked the gunman who'd caught her.

"No," said the yellow-eyed SS man. "She is the perfect bait for my prey. Bring her!"


Beth was still reeling from the blows, so she couldn't fight back as she was forcibly lifted to her feet and dragged away.

The Offices for the Council were barely intact, and half the building was a wreck. As Lucy and the others approached they found another fallen figure in a Councillor's robe, this one a tanned woman with gray hair. "Mastrash Hadisina," Meridina noted as they approached, seeing her face and the look of stunned shock that she'd died with. Another of the hexagon-emblazoned daggers was stuck in her body, this through her back and into her heart.

"She was betrayed," Talara said, her expression betraying her own pain. They could feel the deaths that still came from the courtyard, both of their foes and of the Temple's defenders. "The Cylons, how could they have allies inside the Order?"

Meridina frowned. As shocking as it was, in retrospect she didn't feel surprise. Goras' followers had been more than willing to slay Maklir, after all. And there was the matter of Dralan Olati, who received training but without any record of his existence in the Order, or even the Gersalllian government. "They still exist," she murmured.

"Who?" asked Talara.

"The Brotherhood of Kohbal," said Lucy. "That's what you're saying, isn't it?"

"They were supposed to have been wiped out… but we cannot ignore the facts before us."


The new speaker drew their attention. From the direction of the demolished section of the building, a dusty and haggard Ledosh approached, bearing a case slung on his shoulder. His free hand gripped his lightsaber. "It is good to see you," he said. "We haven't much time."

"What is it, Mastrash?" Gina asked. "What do you mean."

"This is a plot nearly three thousand years in the making," Ledosh said. "The Brotherhood bided its time well. If we are to survive, we must keep them from their goal."

"Their goal being?" asked Lucy.

"These." He offered the case to them. Gina took it. "Inside is the Life of Reshan and Gartanam's translation guide to the written language of Swenya's era, along with my notes. The knowledge you need is in these books. Continue my work. Get the books to safety, and do not let them fall into the hands of the Brotherhood."

"Mastrash Karesl has rallied many in the Temple in the courtyard, they're fighting off the Cylons now," Lucy said. "If you join him you might defeat them."

"The Cylons…? They… yes…" Ledosh nodded. "The lightsaber you found on New Caprica. The connection makes sense now. But the Cylons are not the only threat, we…" Suddenly he became alerted. "You must go. Now. Go and retrieve Swenya's Blade, and leave this place." At their confusion, Ledosh added, "It is the key to Reshan's knowledge! You must…"

The others felt it too now, a dark presence, a familiar one. They turned toward an open hole in the damaged wall, facing the other side of the Temple.

Dark-robed figures were entering said hole. Meridina and Lucy felt a shiver of recognition at the bald head of the leader of the group, clad in black robes, a lightsaber grasped in his metal hands.

"Ledosh," purred Goras. "Meridina. And Lucero. It is good that you are here." A sinister smile crossed the fallen master's face as he ignited his lightsaber. Its blood red beam was joined by those in the group around him, one of which Meridina and Lucy recognized as Intalarai. "You took my hands, Lucero. I will take much more from you before I let you die."

"Gina, Talara, get the blade! Go!" Meridina shouted in the moment before Goras, Intalarai, and their allies charged the group. Ledosh's lightsaber blade ignited and intercepted Goras', leaving Intalarai to attack Lucy and the other robed figures to go after Meridina and Gina. Gina's lightsaber flashed to life as well, but Meridina intercepted the three opponents and forced them back with her will. "We will hold them. GO."

"Both of you, go now!" Ledosh added, his lightsaber and Goras' locked together.

Gina nodded. She handed the case to Talara, gripped the Falaen woman's free hand, and pulled her away from the battle.

The SS group didn't see the attack coming.

They entered the lobby of the Lodge with guns drawn and moved to clear the room. A pulse blast from near the area of the main desk put the lead man down. His fellows turned their weapons to the desk and opened fire, damaging it and the displays and key shelf behind.

They were so focused on the shooter hidden there that they didn't see Julia and Lee strike until it was too late. They came from the nearby restrooms and rushed across the distance before the gunmen could bring their weapons to bear. Lee immediately punched one and sent the Nazi to the floor. As he went for the man's gun, Julia swept away the rising rifle of the other and struck him in the throat with a chop. While the Nazi gagged for breath, she grabbed his head and smashed his nose into her rising knee, breaking the cartilage and tissue. The blow sent a spurt of hot red blood onto her skin.

The fourth member of the team brought his rifle to bear on her. Another pulse shot rang out and the side of the Nazi's head turned into a blackened mess. He fell over, dead.

Julia reached down and grabbed her opponent in a headlock while Lee struggled with the other for the disruptor rifle between them. Julia's foe was not the largest she'd ever seen, but he was on the larger side, and genetic engineering made him stronger than he looked. Even as her arms cut off blood flow and air through his throat, desperate strength brought him to his feet, lifting even the six foot tall Julia off hers, allowing him to start slamming her against the wall. Despite the pain she held on.

Lee took a punch from his foe that rivaled anything Kara had ever thrown, but held on to the rifle regardless. He replied by headbutting the Nazi in the face, smashing the blonde man's nose with a sickening crunch. The surprise of the blow, and the pain, loosened the man's grip on the rifle enough for Lee to wrench it from his hands. One of those hands balled into a fist and slammed Lee in the jaw. As he stumbled backward, the Nazi followed up with a vicious kick aimed at Lee's knee. The steel in his boot smashed the kneecap, drawing a cry of agony from Lee as he tumbled over.

The Nazi went to reclaim his rifle. He took a shot to the chest before he managed it.

By this point Julia's foe was losing consciousness from her headlock. He smashed her against the wall again for good measure, but before he could try one last time he stumbled forward. Within moments he went down completely. Julia let him drop and winced in pain from the repeated impacts. She noticed Lee writhing on the floor and went over. His smashed left knee was turning purple, as was his left cheek. Blood seeped from a split lip. He looked worse than she did.

Lee noticed her concerned look and forced a grin to his face. "It's fine," he gasped.

"It's a shattered kneecap," she pointed out, helping him up. She brought him over to the desk where Jeong Jin-Taek, the owner and operator of the Colony Visitors' Lodge, rose from behind his desk. The Korean man was middle-aged, with salt and pepper hair, wearing a nice buttoned down dark red shirt and black slacks. He was one of the few Koreans in the Colony who was not rescued from North Korea but had, years before the Facility started liberating North Korean camps, escaped on his own. Family that the crew had gotten from the camps led to Robert and the others contacting him in America, where he quickly agreed to move to New Liberty and help get his family members settled in their new lives. In his arms was a Darglan-model pulse rifle. "Do you have a first aid kit?" she asked.

Jeong nodded. "Over here." His English was thickly accented. He reached down and pulled the kit out.

Julia brought Lee behind the desk. Jeong applied a bandage to the injured knee, with a wrap. "You'll need a medtech," he said to Lee. "I cannot heal with this."

"It's fine," Lee said. "I'll…"

His attention, and Julia's, was taken up from the sight through the glass doors at the end of the lobby. Two air cars pulled up. From them stepped more blond-haired, blue-eyed men cradling Reich-model disruptor rifles. They motioned to each other, one of them clearly giving orders.

"That's not good," Julia said. "But why here?" While Jeong attended to Lee she went over and inspected one of the defeated Nazis. The most prominent object was a hypo-syringe dangling on his belt. From what German she knew, she recognized words for combat and for improvement, showing it was a combat drug of some sort. In the pocket beside the syringe was a datapad. When she activated it, it showed images with the German for "target" on top of the screen. She noticed her face immediately, and Robert's, Jarod's…

"They're after us," she said. "They're after the Aurora command crew. Why?"

"And they don't want you dead." Lee held up the disruptor rifle he'd worked so hard to keep. "This is set to stun."

"They want to capture us, then." The thought sent a shiver down Julia's spine. "They're after me, that's why they're here." She returned to the desk. "There's too many out there. If they attack…"

"You saved my sisters and my father from the camp," Jeong said firmly. "I will gladly fight to protect you, Captain."

"I know, but with Lee in his condition, you won't be able to retreat from here. They'll outflank you…" As she spoke, Julia knew exactly what she needed to do to protect both.

Lee noticed the look in her eye and nodded. "I'm sorry," he said. "If I wasn't…"

"It's fine. Help Jeong hold out. I'll draw them away."

"Don't be a hero. Get away from them," Lee admonished.

"That's my plan. I've seen what they do to prisoners," Julia replied.

Jeong stepped into the office behind his desk and came out with a second rifle. "My backup," he said. "Charge clip is old, but we can…"

She took the second rifle instead of his main one. "I'll make do. You're the one facing a siege situation." She slung it over her shoulder. It occurred to her that given she was in clothing meant for playing basketball - white tank top, burgundy red sports bra and shorts that ended above the knee - she looked like she was from some action movie more than anything. Tom would make some kind of smartass comment about that right about now.

She and Lee might have exchanged more words, but the sound of the door opening ended all of that. Jeong opened fire from behind his desk. Lee brought up the disruptor rifle he'd taken to do the same. Julia, no options left, dashed for the door they'd entered from. She sprayed the door with fire with another disruptor beam sizzling by her head, an inch or so away from her shoulder. Jeong shot down the shooter.

After Julia went through the door she heard a distant voice barking in German. Figuring they were circling to take the direct exits around the lobby, she ran the way they came, looking to exit out the back. As she did she keyed her omnitool. "Locarno, I'm being pursued by SS, they're after us, as in everyone from the Aurora! Warn the others and see if you can find anyone to come help Jeong and Lee, they're in the Visitors Lodge lobby!"

Thanks to the Aurora, this transmission was immediately heard in the van. Robert felt a lump in his throat. Julia was apparently on her own and being chased, and the other SS attackers would undoubtedly pursue them as well.

"I guess we know what was going on with that warehouse," Tony noted grimly. "They weren't just smuggling in explosives, they were bringing in SS men too. And weapons."

"Cat, Jarod, can you track where Julia is?" Robert asked. "We can go help her."

"We can, but Colony Security HQ should be our priority," Jarod reminded him. "Not to mention securing the summit reps."

He was right, of course, but the idea that Julia was in trouble… he needed to get to her, to help her, and then together they could deal with the situation.

"Do it anyway, we'll do what we have to," he said. As they went to work Robert tried to quiet the surge of emotion he felt. The idea that the SS were after them, as in the crew of the Aurora in particular.

Not that I should be surprised. If he's behind this attack then…

"There's a general transmission coming from the Government Building," Cat said. "Video and audio."

Robert turned to face the ops van screens. "Put it on."

The image showed the shattered foyer of the Government Building. Beside the broken reception desk stood Erik Fassbinder, in an SS uniform, with the three branch rank tab of a Brigadeführer on his collar. "I know you are out there, Herr Dale. We have unfinished business from Germania, indeed, from the day we met."

"That bastard just doesn't know when to die, does he?" Angel grumbled.

"Allow me to make it clear. Come to me at your Government Building, and I may indulge in mercy for your colony of pathetic untermensch and leave in peace. Refuse and I will kill everyone. Starting with the ruler of this pathetic place." Fassbinder turned and the video recorder followed his eyes. Beth was on her knees between two armed SS fighters, bruised and beaten. A third SS trooper smashed the side of her face with a baton, sending a spray of blood from her nose and mouth. Robert felt a surge of horror and blind anger at his cousin being abused. "Her life is in your hands, Kapitan. Don't keep me waiting."

When the call ended, Angel immediately said, "Trap."

"Trap," Jarod agreed.

"Trap," said Cat.

"Obviously," added Tony.

Robert nodded grimly. Even as he did, he knew that he had a choice to make. Go to help his cousin, or to help Julia.

It was a choice he never imagined he'd have to make and one he didn't think he could make.

And yet, he'd have to. And do so decisively, with the others watching.

Robert breathed in to steady himself, and then made his choice, praying it was the right one.

Near the broken remains of the Order offices, Lucy and Meridina fought with all they had to help Ledosh, who stood alone against Goras. The fallen former Mastrash seemed even more powerful, and even more corrupt, than the day he'd tried to kill Meridina. He wielded the lightsaber in his prosthetic hands with deadly power and skill. Ledosh was clearly not his equal, but had the raw power to stymie Goras' attacks.

Lucy recognized her opponent from the attack on the Alliance Senate. But her hair was growing back now, coal-black in color, and her eyes now had the unnatural yellow of someone given over to darkness. Lucy had the feeling Intalarai had been holding back that day in the Senate; despite her own increase in skill since then, she was struggling even more to hold off Intalarai's strikes. Intalarai kept Lucy on her back foot, her red lightsaber flashing through the air with a speed even Goras never managed, and it was everything Lucy could do to parry the blows.

The three other robed figures were teaming up on Meridina, each eager to kill her. Despite her skill, their training was sufficient to overwhelm her if anything else, and she too was being driven back. But Meridina had an edge they did not. She revealed this when, after buying a moment with another quick retreat, she focused her mind in an attack on her lead opponent. Telepathically she slammed through his mental defenses, altering his perception of reality. Convinced suddenly that gravity had shifted around him, he lost his balance in trying to compensate for what did not actually exist. As he fell over Meridina struck, slicing his arm off at the shoulder. He howled as he hit the ground.

"Goras, what have you become?" Ledosh asked. "I feel it in you. You embrace this madness."

"I have had the scales lifted from my eyes." Goras' blade came within a centimeter of slicing through Ledosh's shoulder before he successfully parried. "I know the truth!"

Ledosh said nothing in reply. Mentally he insisted, You must go! Get the Blade and leave!

You will be overwhelmed!
protested Meridina.

That does not matter! The books and the Blade must be taken from this place, taken somewhere safe! They are the key to everything! If Goras and the Brotherhood acquire them, they can break the Circle!

What circle?!
Lucy demanded, jumping to the side and barely avoiding a strike from Intalarai. She parried the follow-up cut.

The book will explain! Now go! With that Ledosh turned away from Goras long enough to focus his power on the other combatants. Intalarai and her compatriots all went flying. Go! he urged, turning back and barely stopping a strike from Goras.

Lucy and Meridina might have stayed anyway, but they sensed the danger to Gina and Talara. More than that, they sensed that Ledosh was right. Though it hurt, especially for Meridina, they broke out into a power-augmented run to catch up to the others.

Intalarai recovered. With a snarl on her face, she took off after them. Her compatriots were slower to recover, but they followed.

The Council Chamber was more intact than other parts of the Temple. One of the bomb blasts left the entire north side a pile of rubble, but the pit where the Council met and where Swenya's relics were kept was untouched. Gina and Talara rushed in and went to the pit and the ceremonial stands there. Swenya's robes and sandals were still in their cases.

Her blade was gone.

"Where is the blade?!" a male voice demanded. The two turned and faced three of the Cylons. One was a doppelganger of Gina, accompanied by one of the Cavils and one of the Valeriis.

And all had their lightsabers active.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Tomyris wrote the Pegasus POV scene, I'll add.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

I approve of the kneecap-smashing kicks here.

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

I can't wait to unleash the conclusion upon you in the morning... :twisted:
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

The Cavil was glaring angrily at them, his eyes burning red like coals. Dark power crackled around him. "What have you done with the blade, traitor?!"

Gina snarled back. "Don't play me for a fool. It's what you're here for, isn't it?"

"You have betrayed your kind, Gina Inviere," her counterpart hissed. "There is no punishment terrible enough, painful enough, to atone for that."

"I've suffered for my part in our crimes," Gina retorted. "And don't pretend that you have the moral high ground. The Inner Circle's been using the Consensus the entire time, hasn't it? All of it, the idea of God's Plan, the promise of a better world, it was all a lie for this!" She swept her hand to the destruction. "All so you could destroy!"

"The Consensus has its place," the man said. "Now give us Swenya's Blade and Reshan's book, and we'll let you die with the rest."

Gina held up her weapon. There was nowhere Talara could run, but if she got them into a fight, Talara might get an opening to escape with the books. "Come and take them," she challenged.

The orbital space over New Liberty Colony was littered with the broken debris of destroyed vessels, victims of the sudden SS attack. One of the few remaining ships, the Asari cruiser Thelana, unloaded a full salvo from its mass effect cannons into a struggling Sedan-class cruiser. The Reich-designed cruiser suffered from the impacts, losing a weapons emplacement. Phaser fire from the Charleston raked across unshielded hull and a photon torpedo slammed into the cruiser's nacelle, destroying it.

The Thelana maneuvered to finish off the SS vessel. It never got the chance to fire again, however, as three thick disruptor beams from the spinal mount of the SS dreadnought - the Reinhard Heydrich by its ID code - smashed through the Thelana's decayed deflectors and tore the ship to pieces.

On the Aurora bridge Locarno noted the loss of the cruiser. That left just the Aurora, the Excelsior-class Charleston, and the FedCom battlecruiser Melissa Steiner in the fight. They were badly outgunned and outnumbered, but to leave would doom New Liberty Colony to bombardment and destruction, so the three ships remained and fought, hoping for reinforcements.

A series of disruptor beams from two of the accompanying cruisers raked over the Aurora's faltering shields. Syrandi returned fire, sending plasma beams into the weak side of one of the cruisers. The Melissa Steiner's naval PPCs and refitted plasma cannons fired on the other side. Large anti-ship missiles from the Commonwealth ship erupted from launchers on her side. With new impulsor drives on the missiles they raced across the distance faster than the SS ship could handle, their warheads degrading the ship's deflectors to the point they were losing cohesion.

Another of the cruisers moved in, absorbing further shots for their weakened ally. Disruptor beams and shield-disrupting torpedoes retaliated against the FedCom ship. "Melissa Steiner's shields are down to forty percent," Tra'dur stated. The Aurora rocked again. "Our shields now at thirty-five."

'Anything on fleet comms?" Locarno asked.

"Still nothing," Tra'dur replied. "I'm not sure if we're being jammed or if something has overwhelmed the fleet comm system."

That was not news Locarno wished to hear. Three ships against a dreadnought with that many escorts? We're not going to win this. Aloud he ordered, "Maintain evasive maneuvers. Our priority is surviving until help can arrive!"

"Aye aye, sir," Ensign Rawlins said from the helm.

It's still a question of whether we can survive, Locarno mused to himself while the ship rocked again.

Jarod brought the op van to a stop outside of what was left of Colonial Security's vehicle garage. A bomb had wrecked the place, damaging or destroying every vehicle inside and burying the entrance in enough rubble to make getting through an insurmountable challenge. Upon opening the door Jarod heard the distant whine of disruptors firing, joined by the familiar sound of pulse rifles. He scanned the area and shook his head. "No way in," he said. "This entire side of the building's been gutted."

"Then we go around," Angel said. "They'll need every gun. There's no telling how many people they've lost."

Jarod nodded and drove on. Rubble blocked the nearest road, but the sidewalk was not covered. He drove the van over said sidewalk.

After the next turn, the sight of fighting was visible. A line of aircars were covering the entrance to Security HQ, men in combat suits using them for cover while firing green disruptor beams into the building. With only a second to spare before being spotted, Jarod slammed the accelerator on the van. The engine went straight to the maximum output. The vehicle shot forward, anti-gravs whining in effort, toward the blockade line. A couple of the combatants had time to notice them coming. Warnings were shouted, but far too late. The van slammed between two vehicles, clipping two of the armed attackers in the process, and broke through. Keeping control of the van was one of the hardest things Jarod ever did. The impacts and the speed made it begin to tip. He resisted the urge to correct too far, keeping the vehicle balanced until he could spin it to present the driver's side to the blockade. He immediately ducked down and scrambled to the back, where Angel and Tony were jumping out already. A disruptor beam damaged the glass that had been beside his head a second ago. A second went through just as he was out of the way. He joined Cat in exiting the van and scrambling toward the broken-open door to Security HQ. They had to walk over fallen figures in security uniforms to make it. Inside, rifle-carrying security officers helped them to cover.

By that point the van gave up the ghost. Struck too many times by the enemy disruptors, it fell apart, little more than a skeletal frame. Disruptor beams sizzled into the open door of the HQ. Angel and Tony joined the other security figures in cover, joining them in returning fire when able.

"Jarod! Some help?" The cry came from Broots, who was kneeling beside the fallen form of Chief Almerda. The former Colombian police officer had a severe disruptor burn on his right arm and, from what Jarod could see, a neck injury that likely came from the bombing. He scrambled over to help Broots. "I've done what I can," Broots said.

"And it's good," Jarod said, looking over the injury. He summoned up his own medical knowledge to assess Almerda's injuries. "Where's your medic?"

"Dead," Broots said, his voice hoarse. "The bomb took out the garage and administration." He indicated the cut on his head. "I was just coming back from the bathroom. If I'd been a minute faster I'd…"

"Don't think about it."

He nodded. "Debbie," he said. "I can't reach her. They… they sabotaged the comm net somehow."

"Cat?" Jarod gave her a look.

"Right." Cat nodded in reply. She wasn't a computer expert, but if there was jamming from an emissions source, she could find it. She used her omnitool and went to work.

"Debbie's out there, Jarod, and I know she's scared and…"

"...and you'll see her when this is over," Jarod insisted, hoping that he wasn't wrong. "Now, I need to get Chief Almerda stabilized. I'm going to need your help…"

A short distance away, Robert came upon a patrolling unit of SS in the combat uniforms and suits of their Marine detachments. His weapon flashed in the air, deflecting the first shot at him. He allowed no time for them to fire another, sending a wave of violent force outward that threw them into the nearest building violently. His lightsaber literally disarmed the two that got back to their feet. Their cries of pain at their mutilation ended with another jolt that knocked them to the ground, unconscious. He took a second to slice up their weapons.

The Government Building was just a few blocks away. If he encountered no more resistance, he'd be there in minutes. Every sense in him told him that was where he needed to go. But a small part insisted otherwise. Insisted that Julia was in danger and that she needed his help.

But Beth needs me more, he reminded himself. He clenched a fist in revolt at the entire idea. Having to pick either? That seemed like a cruel joke.

But it was no joke, it was necessity. And everything in him told him he needed to go help Beth. To face down Fassbinder. He went on that path. Be safe, Julie, please be safe...

Once out of the Lodge Julia went for somewhere that would lessen the risk that innocents would be caught in the crossfire. Given the situation, the Lake Park was the best bet, and it wasn't too far away. Even if it wasn't an urban environment, the forested paths and the lake were all places she could lose her pursuers in.

She crossed Suun Avenue. As always the name of the street brought her back to those first months in the Facility, and Suun Tek's team being the first of their number to die. We got complacent. And here we are, complacent again. The Nazis got the drive and we never saw it coming!

Julia reacted the moment she heard the scuff of feet against the replicated pavement. The SS man came at her from the nearby alley, weapon raised. With nowhere to go but forward she dropped and lunged. A disruptor beam sizzled an inch over her head, singing some of her blond hair. She crashed into the man and didn't quite knock him off his feet. He was left open to her follow-up strike, a palm strike to his throat that briefly interrupted his breathing. As he started to gag reflexively she hooked her leg under his and brought his foot out from under him, knocking him down. A pulse shot to his chest finished him off.

Julia felt a rush of almost feral joy at her triumph, but it was short-lived. She glanced back and noticed an armed team of SS coming from the direction of the Lodge. They spotted her and shouted a command in German. She replied with a couple shots from her rifle before running for the park.

Lucy and Meridina could feel Intalarai and the others pursuing them as they crossed back toward the Council Hall. They also felt that Gina and Talara were in danger. Both facts prompted them to run as quickly as possible.

What stopped them was the sight outside of the Initiates' Quarter. The round structure was partially damaged from the bombing; in the shadow of the Council Hall, it was one of the less-adorned buildings, being the housing and living quarters for the children admitted to the Order for training. At its great double doors, now sealed, two dark-clad Cylons were melting through the door with their lightsabers.

The two only sensed Lucy and Meridina coming at the last moment. One, the second of the younger Caucasian male models, brought his blade up in challenge. He successfully deflected Meridina's initial attacks, but couldn't get his blade in place to stop Lucy from sliding her blue blade through his guts. He fell over in pain, defeated.

The other Cylon was a model neither had seen before, a brunette Caucasian. She turned away from the door. Lightning crackled from her hand. Lucy's lightsaber intercepted it, holding the energy back. Meridina went in for the attack and was parried. Instead of slashing again, she attacked mentally. The Cylon's brain was partially technology, but there was organic matter too, organic elements, and she was able to identify the vision center and shut it down. The Cylon's lightning stopped as she lost all sight of her foes, suddenly plunged into visual darkness. Her metaphysical senses still functioned, but the sudden loss of vision threw the Cylon off-balance. She could do nothing before Lucy's lightsaber blade went through her chest.

Lucy stood over the Cylons, one critically wounded and one dying, then glanced toward Meridina. "I've never seen you go after someone telepathically like that," she said.

Meridina was paling and nodded. "I have had experiences recently in the possible range of my gifts," she confided. "On Babylon-5. Necessity provided the rest."

Lucy wasn't sure she liked hearing that, but she couldn't argue with the necessity part. Not here and now, with the Great Temple itself a battlefield.

Both turned in time to see Intalarai approach. Far behind her the other dark-robed members of the Brotherhood joined her. "Kill them!" Intalarai hissed to her evident subordinates.

Lucy and Meridina nearly started to run. But they sensed staying would provide the best outcome, so they held their lightsabers ready and prepared to fight. Both met Intalarai, who whirled and twisted between, parrying their strikes one after the other Her lightsaber slashed back, nearly missing Meridina's head one moment, the next singing Lucy's arm through the armor. It was clear she was a strong match for either of them and could fend off both for some time. With three allies, she would have the advantage.

Then there was another snap-hiss. A lightsaber blade of dark purple suddenly went through the torso of one of the approaching attackers. The others turned and were thrown violently away by solid will. Behind them, a red-robed man was now visible.

Meridina sensed him. Sergeant-at-Arms Hajamar, she thought.

The leader of the Temple Knights was already in motion again, his lightsaber flashing through the air. It caught one of the red blades and forced it back, after which he delivered a rib-crunching kick to the black-robed Gersallian attacking him. That one went back down. The one remaining foe on their feet attempted to channel lightning at Hajamar. He contemptuously absorbed it with his hand before gripping his attacker and throwing the dark-robed man into Intalarai. Both went to the ground in a heap.

Lucy favored her injured arm for a moment. "Nice timing," she gasped.

"Fools," Intalarai spat, pushing her ally off. "You've already lost! The time of Swenya's Order is over!" With that declaration Goras' former apprentice seemed to shimmer from sight. Even her essence faded from their senses, as if she wasn't there. The remaining dark-clad figure scrambled to his feet and started to run, but Meridina put him to sleep with a mental command that pierced his mental defenses. He collapsed to the ground.

Hajamar approached them. He was still bald, with his tanned skin a shade darker than Lucy's. Brown eyes appraised both. Given the ease with which he'd taken down Intalarai's allies Lucy couldn't help but think back to the day Hajamar and a half-dozen of his subordinates came to the Aurora to arrest Meridina. Robert had held her back from interfering, and it was clearly a good thing he had. "Commander Meridina. Lucilla Lucero." He nodded to them. His voice showed his respect for them. "Swenya's Light, it's good to see you both alive. Did you find Mastrash Ledosh?"

"He bade us to meet with his apprentice and Lucy's," Meridina said. "He sent them to retrieve Swenya's Blade. He believes these Cylons are after it."

"I see. He and Karesl are the only members of the Council still alive."

"Swenya's Light, no," Meridina replied. "We found Tinaran and Hadisina already dead, but I had hoped…"

"They were betrayed," Lucy said. "Attacked by someone they trusted."

"So were the others," noted Hajamar. His expression was dark. The protection of the Council was one of his duties, after all, and Maklir's death on the night of Goras' coup attempt had been bad enough for him. "The Brotherhood right under our noses all this time… where is Ledosh then?"

"Fighting Goras," Lucy said. "We should go help him!"

"The children take priority," Hajamar said. "I have had one of our transports readied for launch. But the anti-transporter defenses must be lowered before we can evacuate."

"You two stay and guard the children," Lucy advised. "I'll get to the Hall and lower the defenses."

Meridina nodded in agreement. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso, Lucy."

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

Lucy took off for the Council Hall.

Gina had never faced a tougher battle than the one she was waging. Three foes, each as well-trained as her if not moreso, and Talara had no knowledge with a blade to aid her in the duel. Talara was trying to help as best as she could, throwing loose chairs and items from the damaged room at the Cylons while Gina matched blades with them. Whenever it looked like Talara might escape, one of the three would break off long enough to cut her off, while the other two continued their relentless assault on Gina.

Her best efforts kept her alive, but just alive. Lightsaber scorch marks left damaged portions on her robes and suit, revealing blistered and burnt skin. Gina blocked out the pain - she was used to pain - but slowly her body was being weakened by the damage. She would lose this fight, and only her own will to stand, to oppose these dark beings that corrupted her people, kept her on her feet. She deflected blows from both, knocked back her doppelganger, brought her lightsaber over to block the Cavil's next attack. She watched the Valerii model come in, lightsaber raised for the kill.

The Valerii's lightsaber slashed through the air… and severed the Cavil's head from his shoulders.

Gina's doppelganger had no time to react. The Valerii turned and drove her blade into the copy's forehead. The red blade easily punctured flesh and bone and destroyed the brain and cybernetic pieces within with ease.

Gina and Talara stared at the Cylon in bewilderment. The Valerii model extinguished her lightsaber and placed it on her belt. "I'm sorry for the burns, Gina Inviere," she said. "But you must leave. Now."

"Who are you?" Gina demanded. "What is going on?"

"This place is marked for destruction," the Valerii replied. "Once the others know that Swenya's Blade and Reshan's book are beyond their reach, they will atomize the Temple. You must flee."

"She's telling the truth," Talara said. "But why did you turn on your people? Who are you?"

A sad, forlorn look came to the Cylon. "I am her, daughter of Altea," was the reply, the Cylon indicating Gina. "I saw my people turn a grand vision into a nightmare, and I have done what I can to change that. Now, you must go, please. The Brotherhood would break the Circle, and the Darkness would win!"

"What Circle?" Gina asked. "Who are you truly? What is your name and why should we trust you?"

Frustration showed on the Cylon's face. Frustration and resignation. "I was once called Athenina," the Cylon confessed. "And I must go now. Please, flee to your ship, and retrieve Meridina and Lucilla. They must survive!" With that she turned and ran.

As the Cylon departed Talara looked back to the stands. "If they don't have the Blade, who does?"

"We'll find out later. Right now…" Gina left the pit area and walked up to the Council's position above the relics and the portrait of Swenya. She ran her hands along the controls while Talara followed. "We need to get out of here," Gina said. "And the quickest way is your ship."

The door to the Hall opened. Lucy raced in. She looked up to Gina and Talara. "Hajamar wants the anti-beaming shields down," she said.

"I'm lowering them now."

Lucy looked to the two fallen Cylons with surprise. "Both at once?" she asked.

"No," Gina replied. "Another of the Cylons, Sharon Valerii's model, she… she turned on them."

"She helped us," Talara added. "She warned us the Temple is going to be destroyed soon."

At first Lucy didn't know what to say. Then a thought came to her. "New Caprica," she muttered. "Someone killed the Cylon who was going to pump poison gas into the bunkers and kill the Colonials." She shook her head. "Never mind. Did you get the Blade?"

"It wasn't here," said Talara. "And the Cylons were still looking for it."

"Dammit," muttered Lucy. By now she was running up to join them. "We'll figure this out later. Right now we need to get those anti-beaming fields down. Hajamar's evacuating the initiates, and if what you said is true, we need to get everyone out of the Temple."

"I'm getting into the system now."

"Do you have a passcode?" Lucy asked.

"No. It's not accessed by passcode," Gina replied. "The system is closed with no access to outside networks. A passcode is seen as redundant."

"Nice to know how secure this place is then…" Lucy went for her omnitool before noticing that comms were still down. She went for the other, less-jammable form of communication, reaching for Meridina's being with her own. She felt Meridina's presence not far away, still with Hajamar, twin bright beacons in the darkness the Cylon Inner Circle brought to the Temple. Meridina, we're lowering the field now. Evacuate to the Rio Grande. The Cylons are planning to destroy the Temple.

I will join you there. But I must evacuate my father first.

Alright. Let me know when you have
. Lucy tapped away at her omnitool. The jamming was a problem, but she managed to get a comm line to the Rio Grande's systems. "I'm keying the transporter to take us the moment that field comes down," she told Gina.

"Field is coming down… now." Gina hit a final key. The display before her showed the image of a circle of light around the temple retracting.

Lucy nodded. "Good. Let's get to the Rio."

Robert arrived at Landing Circle and found a scene right from his nightmares. Fires blazed from buildings damaged by bombing and orbital fire. Bodies of slain residents were lying everywhere. The green parkland at the center of the roundabout, marking the point where the first survey teams beamed down to begin inspecting the colony site, was ablaze. The sculpture of the surveyors was blackened, if intact.

The Government Building started as a prefab Darglan structure. Since then a facade of marble had been added to the front, including the steps leading up to the main entrance and the foyer within. Debris from a bomb filled the steps, as did several fallen bodies. Robert felt the dark presence ahead of him and, moreso, his cousin's fear. Beth was there, along with other hostages. Staff or other officials, Robert thought, seized for this purpose. He felt a surge of pain from Beth and his steps quickened. He was in a full run by the time he reached the top of the steps. His lightsaber blazed to life in his hand as he entered the broken doors.

On the first floor, damage from the bomb was evident. This had been at or near the blast point. To other side Robert saw a line of SS soldiers, all in combat armor. Two large Panzergrenadier suits were looking straight at him.

Beyond the lines were another line of SS troops. This one stood behind about half a dozen people on their knees, hands tied behind their backs. The one nearest to Robert was Beth. She looked at him through black eyes and cheeks swelling purple from the blows rained on her face. Blood poured from a broken nose and from her mouth. Her expression betrayed her fear and her misery. He felt her sadness at his arrival, knowing she'd been bait for this trap. Worry for her people, for Annabelle, for Deborah, filled the rest of her thoughts, and there were tears in her eyes at the thought of all of the people of New Liberty killed this day.

Without waiting, Robert looked up to the second floor overlooking the foyer. Fassbinder stood there in full uniform, flanked by more SS soldiers, his formerly-blue eyes turned unnaturally yellow from the darkness in his being. "Let them go!" Robert demanded.

"Ah, there you are. Right on time." Fassbinder smiled, and it was an evil thing. "You thought me dead, Herr Dale, did you not? At Gamma Piratus." Fury flashed through Fassbinder's eyes. "Now you will pay for your presumption."

"Yeah. Lesson learned." Robert's face twisted into an angry snarl. "I'll make sure you're dead this time."

Fassbinder laughed at that, although the angry look never left his eyes. "Ah, Herr Dale, such a thing to say for someone following that pathetic drivel the Gersallians believe in," he said with delight. "Perhaps there is some stirring in your watered down Aryan blood. It's quite amusing..."

"Let's get down to it, Fassbinder," Robert growled. "This isn't a negotiation. You wanted me, you got me."

"Indeed. And I am happy to see it. There are many things you must answer for. The torments I will inflict upon you for your crimes…" Fassbinder savored the anticipation. "It is quite appropriate you once thought me dead. You thought the Reich slain too. We, the great nightmares of your past, finally vanquished. Such pathetic vision you and your precious Alliance have. Hitler's vision lives on, and it will remain alive long after your pathetic Alliance has been broken into dust and this colony turned to ash! I will ensure it!"

"After today we'll be ready for you," Robert declared. "The SS won't get to pull off another sneak attack like this."

"We won't need to," said Fassbinder, who chuckled with delight. "The terror we have wrought is a toxin that will do the work needed. And it brings me great pleasure to know I am the one who poisoned your Alliance." He laughed and, sensing Robert's incredulity, continued, "Your people will build defenses, yes. They will take measures against another attack like today's. But the need to maintain these efforts will change them. The Alliance was built on softer foundations than the Reich. It is made of pathetic fantasies of collective security and mutual cooperation. With our threat and your other enemies, we will expose the insufficiency of these delusions. To stop us, you will have to embrace our strength and make it your own. You will have to become us, Herr Dale."

"No we won't," Robert insisted. "The Alliance is strong enough to fight you without going that far."

Fassbinder laughed. "So naive, Herr Dale. So naive! I may let you live long enough to see otherwise. A final torment among all the others. Either way, let us dispense with the charade. You are here. You are mine. I no longer have a need to let this degenerate filth you call family live. Beth Rankin will die and you know it. It's just a matter of how long I wish to enjoy your suffering on the rack of false hope."

Robert glanced around the room and drew in a breath. Fassbinder likely did have him, and the only way for him to escape this trap was to go all-out, to throw everything in an uncontrolled, raw wave of power that might harm Beth and the other hostages.

He felt a sense of warning and raised his lightsaber in defense. Purple lightning shot from Fassbinder's hands. His weapon intercepted the lightning.

But Fassbinder wasn't the only one present with this power. Two more of his SS, these on the ground floor, attacked as well, from opposite angles. Robert couldn't deflect them all at once. The darkness-powered lightning crackled around him. His body spasmed and pain filled him, drawing a cry he couldn't hold back. His weapon lowered and Fassbinder's lightning enveloped him, increasing the agony.

"Rob!" Beth cried out, but she could do nothing. The SS soldier behind her pressed a disruptor pistol to the back of her head.

Robert tried to gather himself to fight back, but the attack he was under was too strong, too intense. He fell to his knees, dropped his weapon, and then to his side. His eyes fixed on Beth, and his mind went to Julia, as he felt he was failing them both.

When Julia arrived at the park end of Suun Avenue, she nearly ran right into the trap.

Only her caution at rounding the coffee shop kept her from walking right into a kill zone of SS. She fell back just before a disruptor beam sizzled through the space she'd been standing in. Turning back the other way, her pursuers were visible again. She was left no choice but to go into the shop. There was no one inside, no one she could see, and unfinished coffee mugs at the diner-like bar spoke of a hasty evacuation. Julia went to the bar and grabbed one of the mugs. The coffee was stronger and more bitter than she liked, but the caffeine was welcome. Food would have been as well, but there was no sign of that.

She got behind the bar just as the first SS came through the door. She turned and shot him just before he could shoot her. The trooper behind her target fired even as he entered, a shot that struck the wall by her head. Staying low, Julia followed the bar back to the storage area. She heard others entering to knew she had to get out, if she could find a way through the back.

The backroom was somewhat cluttered, giving it a used look, like something you'd expect from a family business. In her rush Julia nearly tripped over a box of coffee filters and she had to squeeze through two piles of big, industrial-sized coffee ground bags. She looked down and noticed one was still on an anti-grav palletjack. She grabbed the handle, twisted it so the jack was on track for the door, and shoved it with all of her might.

The pile of grounds hit the first SS man as he came through the door, knocking him back and off his feet while briefly blocking the doorway.

Julia continued on, entering a small office area, and went for the door beyond. She slammed into it and pushed the handle.

The moment it opened, disruptor shots filled the doorway. One caught Julia in the left arm, deadening the entire limb. She brought the rifle up and fired a shot with the rifle before the door closed. Swinging back the other way, the rifle lined up with a pursuer entering the hall. She pulled the trigger again.

Nothing happened.

The situation was growing worse by the time Jarod finally got Chief Almerda back on his feet somewhat. The fire coming in the entrance was escalating. The enemy had reinforcements; they didn't, nor could they get any.

Near the entrance, Angel briefly looked out from cover and laid down a barrage. It hit nothing, only succeeding in compelling a charging SS trooper to drop. A disruptor beam sizzled past her head and Angel fell back into cover. Nearby Tony did the same thing. He too avoided getting shot. The Venezuelan criollo beside him was not so lucky, taking a fatal disruptor shot to the head. Angel swallowed and looked to Tony. "Get Cat out of here, Tony. Her and Jarod. Now."

"I'm not leaving you babe," Tony vowed. "You take 'em."

"Dammit, I'm the superior officer here, remember?!"

"And the more badass fighter, yeah," Tony said. "So you'll do a better job protecting them."

Cat came back, although remaining out of the line of fire. "The comm arrays were sabotaged directly, like, physically damaged or destroyed. I'd have to get to one to repair it and get comms back."

"That won't be easy," Almerda said. "The bomb ruined most of the ways up."

"Well, we need reinforcements," Cat insisted.

"You need to get out," Angel said. "You'll be trapped if you go up."

Beside Almerda, Broots looked up. "I'll go," he offered.

"Broots, Debbie…"

"...won't live if we don't kick them out," Broots finished for Jarod.

"And she needs her Dad," Jarod countered. "Cat and I'll go."

"We won't hold them for long," Tony said. "They're getting to the door."

Almerda looked barely able to stand, but he drew his pistol anyway. "Go on, we'll do what we can. But we need reinforcements."

A moment after he spoke that, Angel heard more weapons fire from outside. Not the whine of the disruptor, but the distinctive whum whum whum of pulse fire and the particular thunder of mass effect-field firearms, among other sounds. Shouts in German, Spanish, and other languages abounded, and less and less of it was in German.

Angel crept toward the door and looked out in time to see one of the SS troopers gunned down by pulse fire. The distinctive sound of a Klingon disruptor joined it, creating an emerald beam that vaporized another of the SS troopers. The shooters were coming from the southwest. None were uniformed, all wearing civilian clothing. Some had tattoos over their arms, some didn't, and they were from every ethnicity in the Colony. Angel noticed one couple that looked Vulcanoid and fired Romulan disruptors instead, using them to vaporize another SS attacker.

The SS forces didn't stop fighting, but they did fall back. As the battle was pushed away from the Security HQ door, Angel saw who was leading them and muttered, "I'll be damned."

By the time Almerda came up to the door with the others, they were treated to the sight of the heavyset Hernan de Corelo jumping off of the open bed of a flatbed truck. Bandoleers of charge clips and grenades criss-crossed his torso, making him look like a guerilla more than a bar owner and criminal boss. He met Almerda's eyes, a fierce look on his face. When he finally spoke, it was with a raised fist smacking against his chest over his heart. "Viva Nuevoliberteños!"

Almerda nodded and, despite his injury, repeated the gesture. "Viva Nuevoliberteños!"

Angel nodded to Corelo. "Good to see you, Hernan," she said.

"And you too, Angry Angel," Corelo said. "Like I said before, this is my home, and the people of New Liberty, they are my people. All of them." He nodded to Almerda. "Whatever else, nothing harms them. Nothing hurts them. So if you don't mind, we have some Nazi pendejos to kill!" He raised his voice at the end, drawing a roar of approval from the others.

Corelo and his impromptu, mostly-criminal militia continued on. "And to think I wanted to charge that man," Almerda said.

"You have good reason. He's still a criminal," Angel said.

"True. And I'm here to uphold the law. But on a day like today… whatever his failings morally, Corelo is one of ours, and that's what matters."

"Yeah." Angel approached the most intact-looking of the vehicles the SS left behind. "Cat! Jarod! Come hotwire this damn thing," she said. "We've got to go save Rob and Julia."

Locarno was gratified to find that Ensign Rawlins was every bit the helm officer he'd expected her to be. The African-American woman's maneuvers were just what was needed to keep the Aurora alive and in the fight, and she showed great judgement in shifting the ship's relative positioning and attitude.

But there was only so much she could do to alleviate the numbers difference, as fire was coming at them from multiple directions. Disruptor fire brought their shields down further. "Shields now at twenty percent," Tra'dur warned.

That was not good. What was worse was the other vessels. Again the spinal mounts of the Nazi dreadnought fired. The Heydrich's beams were now targeting the Melissa Steiner. The FedCom battlecruiser's overtaxed shields couldn't resist a full barrage of all three, but they managed to twist their ship to make the third beam only glance against the hull. Nevertheless the shields of the cruiser were brought to the brink of failure, and the fire it was taking would ensure they failed soon.

The Charleston was in even worse shape. Despite Captain Asmund's best tactics, the Excelsior-class ship's shields were gone. Disruptor beams carved through her big drive hull and missiles blasted holes through her saucer section. Locarno was aggrieved at the sight of the Starfleet ship, which he knew was not going to live long.

And yet… they still had a hope. His eyes glanced toward the clock and back to the holotank. They'd remained alive this long, and their maneuvers had the SS ships out of formation trying to finish them off.

Thirty two and a half minutes

The ship shook again. "Eighteen percent shields!"

A second after the thirty-three minute mark, Locarno was relieved to hear al-Rashad call out "Subspace ripple! Someone's jumping in… it's the Pegasus!"

Battlestar Pegasus reappeared in high orbit of New Liberty in a flash of light. The moment after, Vipers and Raptors seemed to explode from her launch tubes and hangers, with a speed that rivaled the best the Colonial Navy ever managed. Some of the Vipers burned hard for the fighter battle, where the outnumbered remaining wings of the Aurora and Melissa Steiner were holding off the greater numbers of the SS fighters. The others kept formation with the hard-burning Raptors, on course for the nearest SS cruiser.

The next-nearest belonged to Pegasus herself. In her CIC, a fully-uniformed Kendra Shaw ordered, "Fire on target!". The Pegasus' bow lit up with thick sapphire pulses from the Darglan-tech pulse plasma cannons the ship had been refitted with. Their target, a Sedan-class cruiser already weakened fighting the dying Charleston, suffered a shield collapse halfway through the volley. Entire chunks of the cruiser's black hull were blown away by the impacts. The Charleston, not dead yet, turned and fired a full salvo of photon torpedoes into her tormentor, adding to the carnage besetting the ship. A final burst of phaser fire, joined by a barrage from the Pegasus, finished the cruiser off.

The Raptors fired their first salvo a moment later. A barrage of naqia-enhanced torpedoes slammed into the faltering shields of their target, another Nazi heavy cruiser. Said shields flickered ruby red until they collapsed, allowing several torpedoes to impact directly on the cruiser's hull. Flame and debris erupted from the new wounds in the black hull. One of the torpedoes annihilated the swastika insignia entirely.

On the Aurora, the Pegasus' return was a morale boost. The battle might not be so unwinnable now… thought Locarno, before he began giving orders to exploit the Pegasus' entry into the battle.

Amidst the ruin of the Temple offices, Ledosh and Goras exchanged another series of strikes. Goras' technique as a swordsman was far superior, albeit rusty, while Ledosh had more experience with the weapons they were wielding. Given the gap in their dueling abilities, it was a major reason why the fight was still raging.

The other was that Ledosh, while not the best with a blade, was more attuned to the life energy within and around him. He combined his attacks with that power, knocking Goras back or channeling energy to hold him in place, forcing Goras to concentrate on his own abilities to break free.

With their lightsabers locked again, Ledosh said, "You have truly fallen, Goras. You revel in this darkness."

"I do. It is the true path for our people. I have had the scales thrown from my eyes, Ledosh. I have seen the truth. Swenya was a fraud!"

Goras pushed off, forcing Ledosh back. Ledosh dodged the next blow and then parried the one after it. "Is this what the Brotherhood has told you?"

The reply from Goras was a smirk. "I can sense the curiosity in you, Ledosh. You, too, have learned more about what Swenya has done to our people."

"She gave us unity. She gave us hope, she made us a better people!"

"Lies!" Goras hissed. "She deceived us!" With fury he drove back Ledosh again. "We were a strong people and she shackled us to her dogma!"

"She gave our people a new future!" Ledosh shouted before parrying another blow from Goras. "She saved us from the Darkness!"

"She was nothing but Reshan's puppet!" spat Goras. "To spread alien dogmas!"

"No. No, that is a twisted claim," Ledosh replied. "Reshan taught her how to reach the Flow of Life, but Swenya forged her own path. She made us what we are!"

"She made us weak! She was not even one of us!"

With that Goras' power surged and he slammed Ledosh with it. Ledosh recovered quickly and parried Goras' powerful blow.

But the blow's power was the point. It forced Ledosh's blade away from the center of his body. Goras' foot came up and slammed into Ledosh's knee. Ledosh didn't go down from the blow, but it left him unbalanced and reeling. In one fluid move Goras' blade whirled in his hand, moving into position so that he could drive it into Ledosh's chest. Ledosh's eyes widened as the pain from the mortal blow filled him. He let out a rasping sound in the moment Goras pulled the blade from his chest. He collapsed at Goras' feet.

"Go to oblivion in this knowledge, Ledosh," Goras rasped. "The Order will die. Swenya's legacy will be wiped from Gersal and our people. Kohbal's way will triumph. And your beloved pupil and those Humans she trained? They are going to die, and with it, your precious Prophecy!"

Ledosh tried to gasp something in reply, but he couldn't find the breath. All he could do was watch as Goras walked away.

Meridina was back at the courtyard when she felt it. She felt Ledosh's pain and knew he'd been struck down. The pain of that fact… for a moment it overwhelmed her. Ledosh taught her everything. He set her on the path she was following, the path to bring about the Prophecy of the Dawn. To herald a new age for their people.

Now he was dying. At the hands of one of their own. The pain worsened, joined by a hot anger at Goras for his treachery. For turning against the Light.

The courtyard battle was still raging, fallen forms in black robes as well as the blues and greens of the Order, but the Cylons were on the defensive. Her father, ignoring a wound to his leg and to his side, ran his shining blade through another of the male Cylons, killing his foe instantly. Another of the Mastrasham absorbed the lightning from one of the Cylons long enough for a Knight to strike the dark-haired man down.

Meridina's lightsaber came up and she met one of the D'anna models. The woman's yellow eyes burned with fury, but her arm was wounded and her skill poor. Meridina easily parried two blows and drove her blade into the Cylon's chest, killing her. She came up to where her father was finishing off one of the Cavils. "Hajamar is evacuating the Initiates," she said. "The Cylons may be planning to destroy the Temple!"

Karesl took the news grimly. "Then we should evacuate too."

The urgency of that was made clear the next moment as, one by one, the living Cylons were pulled away by the bright light burst of transporters.

Gersal's orbital space was a debris field of shattered vessels. More and more of those ships were Cylon vessels, with Gersallian and now Dorei ships responding to the attack. A handful of Alliance starships, led by one of the Excalibur-class battlecruisers dropped out of warp next, coming in from the system zenith to cut off the Cylons' options for maneuver.

Even as the fighting grew intense, the central Basestar of the Cylon fleet stopped firing on the enemies in orbit. A brace of missiles descended toward the planet.

Below, the sense of danger filled every Knight in the courtyard. All understood precisely what was happening… and that there was little they, in their exhausted state, could do to stop it.

Then they, too, started to be snatched away by transporter, while beyond the Temple two ships emerged from the damaged bays of the Temple's private spaceport. One was a blocky personnel transport, the other the runabout Rio Grande.

Aboard the Rio, Gina and Talara piloted the vessel free while Lucy frantically worked the transporter, going as fast as she could get the arrivals off. There are so many left, I know Hajamar is getting the others, but can we get them all?

The answer was no, no they couldn't.

"There's a ship decloaking in the atmosphere above us," Gina said. "It's firing on the incoming missiles!"

"How well?"

"It's already destroyed the first wave. Now it's going for the second. The Basestar is launching fighters…"

Lucy drew in a breath and, upon the feeling inside of her, made her decision. "Talara, swing us back around! Land in the courtyard, we're letting them board directly!"

Talara didn't need to have the order repeated. She obeyed. "The Lankam's Word is hailing, Sergeant Hajamar wishes to know what we're doing."

"Saving as many as we can," was Lucy's answer. "And Talara, when we launch, don't hesitate to hit full impulse."

"Understood." Talara said nothing about the usual regulations against full impulsor use in atmosphere, with all of the negative effects it could have. The situation made those effects moot.

The Rio Grande descended onto the courtyard. Lucy continued beaming in people even as they landed and the door opened. Outside Karesl and Meridina guided people in.

"The second wave of missiles has been destroyed," Gina reported. "Another two waves coming in, and the ship above is being attacked by fighters."

"Do we have its energy signature on profile?"

"Checking, but nothing yet. We're cut off from the Alliance database," Gina replied.

Moment by moment more robed individuals entered. Some in green robes carried the wounded.

"Third wave destroyed." Gina blinked. "That ship above is something else. Direct hits from the Cylon raiders are barely damaging the shields."

By this point the runabout was reaching peak capacity. Outside one of the elderly green-robed figures stopped and stepped to the side of the entrance. Meridina looked at him with concern. "Mastrash Otanam?"

"You and your father should go, Meridina," the old man said. "You have your own destiny, and your father is the last of the Council. The Order will need you to rebuild."

"I am not leaving," Karesl insisted. "Not until all others are aboard." He said this even as it was blatantly clear the runabout was filling to capacity.

Inside Gina called out, "Fourth missile wave destroyed. Another Cylon basestar is firing!" The console blinked. "Incoming hail. I think it's from the other ship."

"Put them on," Lucy insisted, as she weaved through the others to the airlock door. She found Karesl and Meridina there, facing the others who had now stopped boarding. "We're almost at standing room only. Let's go!"

From within, the comm system played a distorted voice. "Fools! Launch now! I cannot stop them all!"

"I cannot abandon so many," Karesl insisted. As he spoke another pair were pulled away by transporter, presumably the Lankam's Word.

"Then we will not board," another of the Knights said. "Not until you and Meridina are aboard."

"I am not even in the Order anymore," Meridina pointed out. "I have made my choice."

"You chose to follow your swevyra, as the Order trained," said Otanam. "And you are working with the Bearers of the Dawn, daughter of the Lumantala. You must survive this day."

It was clear to both that the others would not break, and every moment spent not boarding would simply cost them more time.

Father and daughter alike had tears in their eyes as they stepped into the runabout. Lucy gestured them in, as she did the Knights and others who followed. Finally there was clearly no more room behind her. The runabout was at capacity. Lucy's mind raced, considering what Scotty had done with transporter cycles. But it takes time to rig them like that, we don't have that time!

"Go, Lucilla Lucero," Mastrah Otanam said. "You are a Bearer of the Dawn. Your destiny awaits."

The only thing Lucy could think of to say was, "I'm sorry." Knowing she could save no more, and hating every moment of it, she closed the airlock door. "Lift off!" she cried.

Talara responded immediately. The Rio Grande took off. One of the younger apprentices offered to stand in the airlock, allowing Lucy to weave her way back to the cockpit. Seeing Talara and Gina had everything in hand, she went to the back. Meridina and Karesl were crowded in with the others. Healers were working on the badly wounded, who were provided the beds and the table. Other wounded were allowed the chairs, and the place gave Lucy bad memories of the trucks that the Duffys would pack full of illegal immigrants to work on their farms.

The unknown ship has gone, Gina projected. The missiles are almost to impact. Five, four, three

Lucy blocked out the countdown. She activated a monitor to show the feed from the rear-facing sensors. With it she could see the battered, familiar buildings of the Great Temple, majestic even with the damage they'd suffered. She could sense all of those left behind, the Lankam's Word's transporters grabbing them away as quickly as it could. Those remaining worked to find peace with themselves, knowing their deaths were coming. She felt obligated to watch, as if it let her be with them in their final moments.

And then the temple vanished from the screen. Repeated bright lights represented atomic initiations, one after the other, the ship's computers keeping the flashes from becoming blinding. All of those lives winked out in a sudden, terrible moment. Lucy's cheeks ran hot with tears. She heard some sobs from the others, silent weeping, a cry of despair… and felt Meridina's heart simply break. She worked her way over to Meridina and took her free hand while the blasts became an ominous mushroom cloud over what had been the Great Temple.

"The Library, the Forge, the Council Hall. Swenya's Relics…"

"...are safe," Lucy said quietly. "They're packed in storage. I… I made sure to grab them."

Many heard her. She was almost overwhelmed with the gratitude they felt for her.

But Meridina was unconsolable. "All of our knowledge and history. It's lost."

"But the Order is not," Karesl assured Meridina, holding his grieving daughter close. "And we will rebuild."

Meridina heard him, but it did not stop the pain in her heart at the deaths of so many, the loss of so much. She quietly began to sob.

In the foyer of the New Liberty Government Building, Robert kept looking from Fassbinder to Beth as he writhed on the floor in pain. He could feel Fassbinder's cruel satisfaction, his enjoyment of Robert's pain, of his fear for his cousin, and of Beth's realization she was about to die.

"I think that's enough," the SS officer said, still channeling the lightning into Robert's body. "Rottenführer, kill the degenerate."

In desperation Robert tried to fight back again, but the cold, deadly energy cascading through him kept him from doing so. He felt like his life was being drained away second by second. He was helpless.

He'd failed. He could do nothing to save Beth.

Beth closed her eyes and stifled the sob in her throat. He could feel her determination to die with whatever dignity she could manage, rather than let the Nazis enjoy it.

Seconds passed, in which Robert struggled to break from the lightning. He sensed Fassbinder's bewilderment, Beth's patience… why was she alive?

"Rottenführer, schießen!" Fassbinder bellowed, briefly directing his attention away from Robert and the lightning he was channeling into him.

But the Nazi didn't. He simply stared ahead. Slowly the disruptor pistol he'd held to the back of Beth's head lowered. As it did, blood started to pour from his nose and his lip, the latter from how tightly he was biting into it. Then crimson fluid started trickling from his eyeballs.

Robert felt the pain recede and realized the same was true for Fassbinder's lieutenants. The two other sources of the lightning cascading through him were gone. The SS men were themselves locked in place, bleeding from the eyes and nose and mouth.

A moment later, all three dropped dead.

Beth heard his body fall. Her eyes snapped open in bewilderment, not to mention amazement that she was still alive.

And then a Hebrew-accented voice sounded through the foyer. “Shabbat shalom, Nazi schmucks.” Then more Nazis started dying. Max was standing in the foyer with death in and coming from his eyes. The small form of Golmar Kuhln stood in front of him, and Colin behind. They lashed out with their minds launching invisible attack probes at the minds of the SS men in the room. Max was lethal enough on his own, but Golmar was somewhere in the liminal space between P12 and P13, and Colin was a fully trained Psi Cop with over a decade of experience tearing consciousnesses asunder. The Nazis were shown no mercy.

Max was particularly fond of making them shoot each other. He seized control of two NCOs, respected by their men, and reveled in their existential horror as their bodies were moved like puppets on a string to shoot their own comrades in the face.

Colin was more utilitarian than that, efficiently attacking their minds, directly erasing their ability to breath, stopping their hearts cold while they were still conscious, lobotomizing them into Schutzstaffel zucchinis.

Golmar was particularly brutal. He didn't use simple fast attack probes. He simply scanned them en masse, sending Nazis to the floor in fully-conscious seizures until their brains literally burned out.

It took a moment for the Panzergrenadier to figure out what was going on and orient on them to begin firing, but Colin put a stop to that. He locked every skeletal muscle in their bodies into contraction until bones broke and tendons snapped, they fell, their armor contorting around them as their own movements overwhelmed the mechanical assist the armor provided and important pieces broke.

Under normal circumstances the mind-screams and open-shut sensations of souls departing the mortal coil would disturb a telepath, traumatize them. Not this time. These were Nazis, and it didn’t matter what you did to them, the screaming, audible or otherwise, was reinterpreted into music.

An angry, frustrated look came over Fassbinder, but he couldn't hide the emotion he also felt: fear. He'd learned enough about telepaths to know even the abilities he'd learned weren't an absolute protection. There were many things those with life force powers could do that telepaths couldn't, but in terms of mental powers, telepaths had the clear advantage. Robert smiled at him and, with Fassbinder's doubt interfering with his channeling of his power, Robert was able to focus his own. He forced himself to a knee and, with his arm struggling and twitching, reclaimed his lightsaber from the floor and brought it back up, using the emerald blade to absorb the crackling lightning.

Fassbinder’s minions within the SS were dropping like flies. Some silently, some died screaming shot by their own comrades, others died writhing in agony, but there were very few left after a few seconds. Some of them tried to shoot back but there was something about the telepaths that kept their eyes from being able to focus on them. As if their minds simply couldn’t pay attention to the telepath’s existence, no matter what was done to them. Then, threat of being overwhelmed eliminated, Colin turned his attention to Fassbinder.

Guten Tag, Evolutionsbremse!” Colin said, beaming, and laid siege to Fassbinder’s brain.

The telepathic attack was the last straw. Fassbinder felt the Psi Cop begin to rip through his defenses as if they were barely there, his will to resist mental intrusion and his own terror feeding his defenses were the only things keeping him alive and both were buckling with startling alacrity. Almost faster than he could process. His lightning stopped and he threw himself faster than any normal human could move out of the room, breaking line of sight before Colin could finish the job.

Ja, du Feigling! Fliehe vor dem Homosexuellen, dem 'minderwertigen' Liliputaner, und dem Juden!" Colin shouted after him in his mother tongue, mocking him.

Lilliputian Colin? Really? Golmar gave him the side-eye. Colin shrugged.

It’s better than midget, and I never claimed to win insult contests.

Anger and frustration filled Fassbinder, giving Robert a beacon to home in on. He jumped up to the foyer's second floor and took off after Fassbinder. The chase took him through the halls of the building, halls that became progressively more damaged until, finally, he got to the large wound in the structure. Fassbinder was already outside, running for the trade association building. Robert leapt down, hitting the ground with a small shockwave of air, and took off after him. "Fassbinder!" he shouted, his lightsaber at the ready. His face twisted into an angry expression. After all of this devastation, it was time to put Fassbinder down. Time to…

Fassbinder rounded the corner of the association building. As Robert approached it, he heard a vaguely familiar humming sound. And like that, Fassbinder's dark essence was no longer here.

Fassbinder getting away was bad enough. But Robert could sense that the danger wasn't over, not by a longshot.

One of the SS destroyers vanished in a white fireball after being speared by the plasma beams coming from the Aurora's starboard side. This left the SS dreadnought in an increasingly precarious position given it was getting increased attention from the Pegasus' air wing. Only one of the cruisers remained intact, and it was currently taking fire from the Melissa Steiner. The Charleston was effectively dead in space, too damaged to continue fighting, its surviving crew scrambling to restore power and maneuvering.

For a moment Locarno thought the Heydrich would attack the Charleston and finish it off. But he noticed its maneuvers turned it in the wrong direction to do that. More importantly, for the moment weapons fire seemed to be suddenly striking the ship. "Are there shields down?"

"Confirmed, sir," al-Rashad remarked. "But it looks like they lowered… I'm detecting transporter signatures. They're beaming up individuals from the surface."

"All fire on the dreadnought, now!"

Syrandi's hands flew over the console and Rawlins turned the Aurora to bring her bow weapons to bear. Their fire started blasting away the dreadnought's armor. One of the plasma beams sliced away at a smaller disruptor emitter, destroying it.

"The spinal mounts are charging," Tra'dur noted. "It looks… it appears the SS dreadnought is targeting the Colony."

Locarno paled. In its current state, the Colony's defenses were out. It would be destroyed with a single super-disruptor discharge. "Put us between them, now!"

Rawlins obeyed. The Aurora's engines went to full and under the young woman's guidance the ship maneuvered into position. The arrival was just in the nick of time, as three powerful lances of disruptor energy slammed into the Aurora's shields. Weakened as they were, they collapsed immediately, and much of the damage was taken on the armor. "Shields are completely down," Tra'dur said. "Generator overloads. Damage on Deck 35, multiple sections. Enemy shields are back up and they're charging for another shot!"

"Keep us in place," Locarno demanded, knowing full well the Aurora's armor could only take one, maybe two more hits before the ship was wrecked. It was still time for something to happen…

"Jump points opening!" al-Rashad announced, a moment before the disruptors fired again. They lanced into the belly of the Aurora, scouring armor and inflicting damage on the lower decks. Locarno didn't need Tra'dur's damage report to know they probably couldn't take another hit.

"On screen," he demanded, wondering if these were reinforcements or the SS coming to finish them off.

The holo-viewer shifted to show the swirling green vortices that the incoming ships had created to transition between universes. From each vortex ships emerged. A handful were vessels of the Alliance.

But it was quickly clear that they had merely opened the jump points for the bulk of the ships arriving. They were of myriad design, a regular hodgepodge of ships and almost all from the M4P2 universe. The most common design were ships with bow sections that looked like wheels, with the rest of the hull trailing from behind. Locarno recognized those immediately, even if he'd only seen them a few times.

"Tac comm links being established," Tra'dur confirmed.

An accented voice distorted by an electronic vocoder came over the line. "This is Admiral Hans'Gerrel to Heavy Fleet ships. Engage the enemy dreadnought."

Locarno recognized the name and accent immediately. The Quarians!

Another voice spoke, this one female, with the same Quarian accent. "This is Admiral Shala'Raan. Patrol ships, move forward. Protect our allies."

Turreted guns tracked toward the Heydrich and began to blaze away. Some were mass effect cannons, others fired phasers and disruptors and plasma, reflecting the Quarians' readiness to adopt technology from multiple sources.

The Heydrich took the brunt of the Quarian assault. The middling damage taken during the time she was recovering forces from the Colony hadn't been much, but it degraded the shield capacity of the Nazi dreadnought enough that the sudden overwhelming barrage from the incoming Quarians began to make localized penetrations of their shields. Other Quarian vessels moved ahead to engage the remaining light ships, clearing them away from the drifting Charleston and the nearly-crippled Melissa Steiner. Hans'Gerrel's heavy ships not only pounded away at the Heydrich but at the last of the intact cruisers as well. The Pegasus joined them in finishing off the Tannenburg-class ship. One of the Quarian mass effect rounds penetrated into the Nazi vessel's fuel bunkerage, turning the ship into a massive white flare from the destructive release of antimatter.

For a moment Locarno thought the dreadnought would fire again, leaving the Aurora as badly off as the other ships, but the dreadnought's commander realized his predicament. The Quarians' fire was too heavy, too vigorous, and certainly too numerous for his deflectors. They would fail completely if he didn't get away. The dreadnought turned away from the Colony, and the battered Aurora. A green vortex began to form ahead of it. "All sensors on that vortex, now," Locarno urged.

"Permission to fire?" Luneri asked.

"No. I need that jump point stable, we have to find out where they're going!" Locarno answered.

The other remaining SS ships were also fleeing, although few would do so successfully given the volume of fire they were taking. The dreadnought made good its escape. Locarno looked to al-Rashad, who sighed and nodded. "I got what I could," she confirmed. "It looks like they jumped for… C1P2."

That brought a small frown to Locarno. "A double jump," he said. "That's what they're doing."

"And the likelihood that we would jump near enough to catch them before they jumped out again is infinitesimally small," Tra'dur noted, her calm voice hiding frustration that the attackers would get away. "And our warp drive is down, so we wouldn't be able to intercept them even if we were close."

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Locarno sighed. "Send out a warning to the C1P2 patrols, maybe they'll spot something." He allowed his hands to cease gripping the command chair arms so tightly. "Signal our thanks to the Quarians and the other reinforcements, and to Pegasus for their timely return."

"Yes Commander."

Locarno tapped at his comm controls. "Aurora to, well, anyone still down there. The SS have withdrawn. The Colony is safe."

Somehow, even as he said it, he wondered if that last line was ever going to be true again.

Far from Gersal, a lone ship drifted quietly in real-space. Inside the cockpit a dark-robed figure again activated her comm system. The blue hologram of her master appeared. "I have heard the reports Tisiphone. The attack was as fierce as I sensed it would be."

"Indeed, my Master."

"Did you acquire it?"

"I did." Tisiphone brought up her hand, and the lightsaber hilt it held. "Swenya's Blade now belongs to you."

A pleased expression came to her master's face. "Now I will get an equal say in the matter. Return to Xanadu. We have much to prepare for, my Fury."

"Yes, Master."

Moments later, the ship formed an interuniversal jump point and departed Gersallian space.


From across the N2S7 universe, and indeed from other universes, ships were converging on Gersal. Hospital ships, liners and transports carrying relief workers, doctors, nurses, engineers and rebuilding specialists… everything. In orbit Stellar Navy and Gersallian military teams were already sorting through the wreckage of destroyed ships and orbiting facilities, as well as the remnants of destroyed Cylon Basestars.

On Gersal itself, the attack was over, but the shock was still reverberating across the planet. The death toll was going to reach to the million mark just from the light bombardments against urban targets. The atomic attacks guaranteed it could spike to well over ten times that.

From the living quarters of the Lumantala family, Lucy and Talara quietly looked out at the cityscape. Damaged and fallen buildings were everywhere. The Interdependency government had a planetwide state of emergency in effect as cleanup efforts commenced. As always the Gersallians were coming together as a community. It was almost instinctive to them, the desire to make themselves and others feel better, to find balance in the needs and wants of all. But now it was joined by a fragility Lucy never felt in them. The Gersallians felt… vulnerable.

Which, given the situation, was not a surprise.

Nearby Drentiya and Leniraya were tending to Meridina. She shook her head quietly while, nearby, her father examined the dagger pulled from Hadisina's body. "All gone," she murmured.

"She is not just referring to the Temple," Talara observed. "What else…"

"The Temple of Perception," Lucy said, recalling said temple. "And Trubin, and the Temple of Birth. The Cylons hit them with nukes too. The Temple is one thing, it's out in the countryside, but Trubin… it's a… was a fairly-sized city. Over a million people lived there. They didn't have a chance…"

"How could this have happened?" Talara asked. "Surely defenses…"

"They were compromised," Karesl said. His voice was bitter, brittle. He set the dagger down beside him, his emotional control straining. "The Brotherhood sabotaged our defenses for the Cylons. They're working together."

"They're not just working together. They're… one and the same, I think," said Lucy. "They've been hiding for thousands of years. Probably waiting for this chance."

"The Order still stands. You saved dozens of our people," Karesl said. "We will recover."

"But we will never be the same," Meridina murmured, glancing at her omnitool now. "And we have a greater foe than the Cylons and Brotherhood. Or rather, their new confederates."

Lucy blinked. "What?"

Meridina responded by relaying the message to Lucy's omnitool. She stared in horror at the report. "New Liberty, they hit… the freaking SS hit New Liberty?!"

"We have already seen indications that they have links to the Cylons. Now they are confirmed. The darkest of our foes, together…" Meridina shook her head. "The Alliance may never be the same again."

As they spoke Talara opened the pack there and pulled out the two books. She marveled at the lovely calligraphy on the Life of Reshan. Inside of it she found a sheath of notes scribbled in very basic Gersallian. Karesl noticed them. "My thanks to you for getting that volume to safety," he said. "It is one of those we did not have a digital backup of."

"Then the other books…"

"Lost," said Meridina. "As is all of the artwork. The catacombs of our greatest. The Forge, where we train to build our weapons, was the work of Gersal's finest architects. They're all gone now. The Cylons, the Brotherhood, they have left us with little save our lives." Her fists clenched from the heartache. "I know I must be strong. I…"

As she broke down weeping again, it was Karesl who went over and cared for her. "This has been the darkest day in the Order since Kohbal fell to darkness," he said. "But the Light is still with us. Many of the others live. The Order can and will rebuild, and in large part thanks to you, daughter."

"There is more to this book than its rarity," said Gina. "Mastrash Ledosh has been studying it for over a year. He tracked down Gartanam's volume to help him translate the meanings of the older dialect."

"He said it was crucial to finding Reshan's knowledge," Lucy said. "And something about protecting a circle. Not letting the Cylons break it."

"I'm not sure what he means," Karesl admitted. "On this matter Ledosh, I am afraid to say, kept his own counsel. It is clear now he cannot be blamed. More than any of us, he may have sensed the hand of the Brotherhood." For a moment Karesl seemed deep in thought. He turned to Lucy. "Lucilla Lucero, I entrust the Life of Reshan to you."

Lucy blinked. "You do?"

"We cannot be certain the Brotherhood did not leave agents who might seize the book from Gersal," Karesl noted. "It will be safer with you. And you and Meridina can continue Ledosh's research. Gina Inviere can assist."

"Of course."

There was an unspoken tension between them. Karesl spoke with a soft tone to relieve it. "I sense your feeling of loss for the death of your teacher, Gina. For now, I would like you to go with Meridina and Lucy. Finish your training with them."

"There's more to it than that, Mastrash Karesl."


Talara was briefly confused, but Lucy made it clear to her mentally. Other Cylons of Gina's model were among the attackers. Members of the Order had seen their own struck down by an enemy with Gina's face. They had fought with that enemy. While Gina's innocence was undeniable, there would likely be an unconscious tension between her and the others. With emotions so raw, it was best for all if Gina came to the Aurora. "We could use you," Lucy said aloud. "Robert can officially sign you on as a member of his operations team."

"I will gladly join him," said Gina. She smiled despite her bitterness. "It is much the same work I expected as a Knight, after all."

"One thing still troubles me," said Karesl. "You state one of the Cylons betrayed the others to aid you?"

"Yes," said Talara. "She struck them down to aid us. The way she spoke, it was clear she is not in league with them."

"Whoever she was, she may have been the one who saved the people of New Caprica by killing the Cylon who was left to release poison gas into their bunkers," Lucy added. "Did she say who she was?"

"She compared herself to Gina, and when pressed, called herself Athenina."

Karesl's eyes widened. From the chair Meridina looked up in surprise. Noticing this reaction, Lucy asked, "Okay, so why are you looking like that? You recognize the name?"

"Yes," said Karesl. "From the historical texts. Athenina… she is a figure in Gersallian history."

"Oh? What was she? Who?"

"The apprentice of Mastrash Kohbal," Meridina answered.

The cleanup effort began the moment the shooting ended. While some of the residents were too shellshocked to act, many went to the work of rebuilding their colony, their home. Hernan de Corelo's militia aided in securing the Colony while Broots and Jarod undid the sabotage inflicted by the SS, allowing communications to be restored. This accomplishment was what allowed Jarod to observe when Broots was tearfully reunited with his terrified daughter, who was among the many children that the schools brought into the bunkers as soon as the attack began.

It gave way to his own tearful reunion with Sydney and Emily, his sister. With his father off-world and safe, it meant Jarod had not faced the loss so many others in the Colony were facing with the attack over.

In their post-attack efforts the people of New Liberty were quickly joined by a people they'd yet to meet, as increasing numbers of envirosuit-clad Quarians arrived by transporter or shuttle to aid in the rebuilding process. They focused on the technical issues, repairing and rerouting utility systems to restore power, running water, and other vital services. The other starships in orbit sent what help they could manage, although most of the aid was from the relatively-undamaged Pegasus.

The Government Building, damaged as it was, remained the nerve center of this effort. While doing what she could to direct the recovery Beth was getting her wounds treated by medical staff from the Colony Hospital, a process only interrupted when Annabelle arrived. "Oh Beth," Annebelle wept, rushing to her wife and embracing her. "I was so worried for you."

Beth's eyes filled with tears. "I was worried about you. They were killing everyone."

Robert arrived at that point. He felt relief that Annabelle was okay. Behind him, a line of the dignitaries Beth brought to safety approached. He felt their consternation, even shame, at what Beth had endured for saving them. Sonek Pran stepped to the forefront, flanked by Princess Syrina, Director Anjilo, Isis Marik, and Princess Yvonne. "Governor Rankin, on behalf of everyone who came to the summit, we thank you for doing so much to save our lives," Pran said solemnly. "It warms all of our hearts to see you survived."

"Thank you, Mister Ambassador," Beth replied. Even here, diplomacy mattered.

"New Liberty is not alone," said Yvonne. "The people of the Commonwealth will aid in your recovery, however we can."

"As will the Federation, and all of those assembled," Pran added. "We will show the Multiverse that your people are not without friends, and the strength of the values we all uphold."

"Thank you again, Mister Ambassador. Thanks to all of you. We will humbly accept any aid available in our rebuilding," Beth said. Her voice was somber and withdrawn. Robert could sense that she felt everything to be almost unreal, and her survival the most unreal thing of all.

"Director, my condolences to your people," Beth added, looking to Anjilo.

The male Gersallian, his complexion a mocha color close to Annabelle's, nodded. "My thanks, Governor. We have both suffered today."

"The enemy struck at Gersal and New Liberty because you are both potent symbols of the Alliance," Princess Syrina asserted in accented English. The Dorei woman looked as regal as she sounded, and there was no denying the angry fire in her teal eyes. "We will show them that we are not so easily cowed."

"I think there's more to it than that," Robert said. "Fassbinder has a personal grudge against us."

As he spoke Robert noticed the looks he was getting. He couldn't hide the worry he felt. He noticed the look on Colin's face and didn't bother to hide it from him. Jarod and the others were tracking where Julia went after she fled the Lodge. She'd undoubtedly saved Lee Adama and Jeong Jin-Taek, but that meant facing SS pursuit alone.

There was a tone from Robert's omnitool. He lifted his forearm and tapped the blue light at the back of his left hand. A holo-display screen enlarged to show Admiral Maran. The stress that had so recently left the man's face was back with a vengeance. "Captain, I've looked over the preliminary reports from New Liberty. I'm grateful that Governor Rankin survived the ordeal."

"Thank you, sir."

"Consider this forewarning to remain on standby for new orders," Maran said. "This attack… intelligence suspected the SS had more resources than what we accounted for, but we had no indications they independently developed the IU jump drive. Intelligence believed their goal, if they had more resources, was to flee beyond Reich borders and rebuild elsewhere. We never imagined they achieved this. Their alignment with the Cylons makes them even more dangerous."

"It's an alliance of convenience for both, but until it breaks up, they could hit anywhere. And they won't hesitate to attack civilian targets."

"Agreed. Every world in the Alliance is on full alert. We've begun reactivation procedures for the reserve fleet to ensure we have the resources for the necessary defenses. And every measure will be taken to discover their new base of operations."

Robert nodded. "I'll be ready to help with the search, Admiral, just tell me…" He looked up in time to see Jarod walk up. He felt his knees wobble at the look on Jarod's face. "Did you find…?"

Jarod shook his head. "She's gone," was all he said. All he needed to say. But he continued. "There's signs of a struggle, but that's it. Cat's scanning to see if there's any… residue from a vaporization."

A sledgehammer of grief and worry crashed down on Robert's soul. His legs nearly gave out from under him. Colin and Jarod rushed forward to catch him if he fell, but he managed, just managed, to keep his footing.

"Captain?" asked Maran.

"She's gone," Robert rasped. "Julia's gone."

With a loud thump, Julia landed on her left side on the deck below her. Zipcuffs kept her wrists bound together at the small of her back, and a similar set kept her ankles immobile. She looked up and kept a blank expression as two gold eyes looked over her.

"Here she is, Herr Brigadeführer," one of her SS captors said. "She gave us a chase."

"So I see," said Fassbinder. He smiled at Julia before turning away. Her eyes tracked the way he turned, toward a display screen. A voice reported, in German, an incoming communication, and Fassbinder nodded.

On the screen appeared several figures in dark clothing and robes. Julia's eyes widened as she recognized some of the faces: they were Cylons. A Gina model, a Cavil, a Biers, and of that unknown model she'd seen during the New Caprica standoff.

Standing with them were more figures that, after a moment, she recognized. Goras?!

"The Brotherhood of Kohbal thanks the Schutzstaffel for their assistance," said one of the women. Julia was pretty sure she recognized her as Goras' missing apprentice Intalarai, the one Lucy dueled in the Senate.

"And we are thankful for the distraction your attack provided for our own operation."

"It has been fruitful," said one of the Cavils.

Intalarai nodded. "After nearly three thousand years, the Brotherhood of Kohbal is whole once more." Her wicked smile was full of satisfaction. "And Swenya's legacy has been wiped from the face of our homeworld."

Fassbinder chuckled. "The Alliance trembles in terror at our combined strength," he declared in a delighted tone. "I look forward to the recording of the Great Temple of Swenya being atomized."

Horror and shock nearly choked Julia at that. Meridina, Lucy, and Talara were on Gersal! Were they…?!

"We have much to plan before we act again," the Cavil model said. "Until then, may your will continue to dominate the universe around you, Fassbinder." With that the image blinked out.

Julia bit back the impulse to call Fassbinder a bastard. She couldn't keep her face from twisting into a scowl.

He nevertheless turned to face her. "I have awaited this day," he said. "Oh, I have long waited to have one of you in my… care. The officers of the Aurora, the founders of the Alliance." His expression flashed hatred at her. "Especially now, when you have so much to answer for. Welcome, Kapitan, to your future. Allow me to give you a demonstration of what it will be."

His hands came up and purple-tinged lightning shot from them, enveloping Julia. As her body spasmed and twisted, with cold energy that seemed to be sapping away at her very life, she tried and, after a couple of seconds, failed to bite back a scream of pain.

Fassbinder started to laugh.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »


The Jeaxian and Miqo'te guards of the M'nhra Clan Trading Company warehouse were well-armed, well enough that the local security forces of the independent Miqo'te colony T'Chana always gave the facility a wide berth. They had extra incentive given that the operation was one of many for a powerful warlord of the Jeaxian statelets, Uharas avam Tithsa. Tithsa's past responses to police interfering in his operations had been suitably brutal to encourage the forces of the law to stay away.

So it was a great shock to the assembled when the door was ripped from its hinges. Through the door came Robert Dale and Lucy Lucero, in Gersallian robes and body armor, with a green and blue lightsaber blade flashing to life in the hands of each.

The guards brought their weapons up just to be jolted by a powerful blast through the ceiling. Combat-armed Alliance Marines dropped down on zip lines. More blasted through a side door, including in their number a squad of Marines in full power armor. Major Gabriel Anders lifted a rifle and put a shot between the three eyes of the biggest of the Jeaxians. The other Marines opened up as well while Lucy and Robert rushed ahead, slashing with their weapons while using their abilities to their fullest.

When the dust settled, the remaining defenders were zip-tied and under control. The Marines began an inspection of the crates around them. Many had weapons, including the distinctive disruptor rifles of the defeated Nazi Reich of Universe S4W8.

Lucy's expression hardened when she opened another crate and found a stasis crate inside. Within were two Miqo'te children, a male and a female, who were about the age of four in Human terms. Each wore a collar. Another crate revealed an adolescent Dorei of teal coloration.

With that sight Robert looked back to the line of guards. "You cooperate, you get leniency," he said. "Don't cooperate, we give you over to the Miqo'te and the Dorei for supporting slavery."

"You do not make us fear, Human," one Jeaxian rumbled. "You are a weakling. Why should we fear those who cannot defend their own worlds?"

"Oh, but we did, and we can," Robert retorted. The cold tone of his voice brought Lucy's concerned attention. "We've tracked the SS shipment to New Liberty through this warehouse. Tell us what you know."

"I will not betray Lord Tithsa," replied the Jeaxian. "You do not…"

Robert's voice dropped to a cold hiss. "Tithsa isn't here. I am." He swept his gaze down at the others. "Do any of you want to try my patience further?"

It was, perhaps, something in his voice. Something in his eyes. Something that told them this man, with all of these powers, was a desperate man, and like all desperate men, would be willing to do anything.

So they talked.

The orbital space over New Liberty was nearly clear of debris from the efforts of the Quarians. The broken remains of the ships lost to the SS attack were treated carefully, the dead within collected for return to their homes. The process was still underway below as the thousands of dead were identified and prepared for burial.

Among the ships in orbit the Starship Aurora kept her place. Work crews were steadily laboring to repair the battle damage she'd endured, trying to restore her warp power and other systems.

In the Conference Lounge off of the bridge, the staff officers of the Aurora were seated. There was a depressive air to them that none could avoid noticing. A weight on their spirits, not just from the attack on the colony they'd founded, but for the missing figure of their captain. In Julia's place sat Meridina.

On the main screen Admiral Maran spoke to him from his office in Alliance Defense Command, the six-towered structure that stood on the north bank of the Columbia River across from the Alliance capital in Portland. "The death toll on Gersal is still being counted," he informed them quietly. "Currently we expect it to reach at least five million. Proportionally speaking, I am aware that New Liberty suffered greater loss."

"Twenty thousand and nine hundred fifty-three dead," Jarod clarified. "Estimates are as high as twenty-five thousand when you account for vaporizations."

"I understand."

"The death toll on Gersal would have been higher if they didn't manage to get some of their shields going," Jarod added. "We should feel lucky for that.

"We do." Maran's expression slipped briefly. He was clearly exhausted, emotionally and physically. "We've moved fleet units to protect all major worlds. The reactivation of the reserve fleet we established after the war is proceeding. In time we will be able to protect all of our key systems from surprise attacks. And an overhaul of the communication system is being implemented to prevent another failure."

"And the Nazis?" asked Tom Barnes. "What will we do to pay them back for this?"

"Intelligence efforts are still ongoing. When we locate a central base, the fleet will go and wipe it out. I suspect it will be some time before we can finish annihilating them, however," Maran noted. "They will be a persistent threat for years with their current capability. How are your repairs proceeding?"

"We're gettin' there, Admiral" Scotty answered. "Warp power should be up soon."

"Alert me when you're ready to depart. On a related matter… Commander Meridina, as of this moment, you are Captain of the Aurora. Depending on matters here in Portland, we will have a new captain out to you in a week or so."

"A new Captain?" asked Locarno.

"I am afraid Commander Meridina's current command experience does not justify a promotion, at least according to the Promotion Board," Maran said.

"You mean Davies would have an epic hissy fit if Meridina got to be a captain," groused Angel.

"It is alright," Meridina remarked. "If we can recover Captain Andreys first…"

"Personnel is listing her as missing in action and presumed dead," Maran informed them.

"But, we've got no proof she's dead," Cat protested. "And if she's alive…"

"I'm told the vaporization issue is undetermined," Maran said. "And given their proclivities during the attack, it is considered likely she was killed resisting, whatever orders to capture they may have had. That is the current determination of Personnel on the matter. Either way, you do have my condolences. Captain Andreys was proving herself to be one of our best. The Alliance will mourn her loss."

"She's not dead," Angel insisted. "They have her, and we need to find her."

"Given their reputation, Lieutenant, I sincerely hope not. For her sake."

The cold metal of the chair was uncomfortable against the bare skin of Julia's arms and shoulders. Bands over her wrists and ankles chafed the skin there, rubbing it raw from when she would press against them.

She couldn't help but do so. They were too strong for her, but it was an inevitable consequence of the writhing from the spasms shooting through her body.

Standing about five meters in front of her, Erik Fassbinder gave her a delighted look with his unnatural yellow eyes. "One would think you would grow tired of this," he said. "That you would start to cooperate."

Her green eyes flashed defiantly at him despite the lingering pain in her body. "Andreys, Julia Megan," she replied, her voice hoarse. "Captain. Serial Number Bravo Zero Zero Zero Three One Zero One Hotel One Echo Four."

Fassbinder's face curled into a manic little smile. His hands came up and purple-tinged lightning shot from them. The lightning enveloped Julia with pain, an agony that seemed to reach from her flesh right into her soul.

She couldn't hold back the scream.

Undiscovered Frontier
"In Enemy Hands"

With the aid of other ships, the Jayhawk returned to the Aurora swiftly once the mission to T'Chana was complete. Once they were back, Robert, Lucy, and Anders went straight to the conference lounge to meet with most of the others. Scotty and Locarno were not in attendance, as the engineering teams were still incredibly busy, and Locarno remained for the bridge watch.

"We know how they beat our customs scanners on New Liberty," Lucy revealed to the others. "They smuggled the SS operatives and their weapons in on sensor-shielded cargo containers layered with legitimate goods to fool visual inspection."

"We should relay this data to customs authorities. Greater care will be necessary," noted Meridina.

"Did you find out where their base is? Where they might be coming from?"

It was clear the answer was no. Robert confirmed it. "They got the shipments through another neutral world in N2S7. We couldn't track them past it."

"So it's a dead end," Cat sighed. She was taking it as bad as the others.

"They're not stupid," Angel grumbled. "They knew we'd look."

"A usual tactic," Jarod noted. "We have to face the likelihood that the SS aren't based in any universe we are familiar with. Hunting them down will be like finding a needle in a haystack the size of a solar system."

"I don't care," Robert insisted. "We don't give up. They have Julia, and we're getting her back."

"The Alliance is listing her as killed," Jarod said.

"I know. And I understand it. But they're wrong," Robert insisted. "They took her. And we're getting her back. It's just that simple." I made a promise… Seeing their expressions, Robert forced himself into a new conversation line. "Did Dr. Meier and the others manage to get a ship?"

"Beth pulled some strings with Defense Command," said Jarod. "The Maimonides is taking them back."

"Right. Nasira's new ship. I'm sorry I missed her." Robert noticed the concerned looks of the others, especially Meridina, and sighed. "I… thank you for helping with this. I know you're all busy trying to get the ship back into working order after the attack."

"You don't need to thank us," Leo said. "We're here if you need us, like always."

"I know. If you'll excuse me, I need to go file my report to Admiral Maran." Robert got up and departed.

Soon the others did as well, save Lucy and Meridina. Lucy, like the others, couldn't help but notice the fourth gold strip on Meridina's collar. "So you're Captain now," she said.

"Temporarily," Meridina answered. "Admiral Maran does not believe I will be given the permanent promotion from the Board. He is looking into a new Captain to assume command soon."

"That's going to go over really well," Lucy mumbled. It would, of course, not go over well at all. Unless someone like Li Ming-Chung or Madeline Laurent got the command.

"Robert concerns me," Meridina said. "I can feel the weight pressing on his being, on his swevyra. I worry that his worry for Julia may drive him toward darkness."

"Tell me about it." Lucy thought back to that warehouse on T'Chana. Robert had been cold and quiet and utterly terrifying in interrogating the guards there. She hadn't sensed any compulsion, of course, but she remembered their fear they'd felt at being confronted by him. And his emotions, the desperate need he had to get information… "He got a little intense on T'Chana."

Meridina nodded in acknowledgement. "His emotions are raw. I have never felt him in this state. He seems unbalanced."

"Robert and Julia… well, you know how they are. They've been together since they were toddlers. They grew up in each other's company to the extent that everyone considers them inseparable. That kind of bond, it can be pretty powerful. I can even feel it, like their souls aren't entirely separate."

"I have sensed the same. But Robert must be cautious. And in the end, he may have to accept she is gone. Or he could become something terrible."

"I'll keep an eye on him," Lucy promised, knowing full well what Meridina was afraid of.

In his quarters Robert silently read over the reports from Portland. The hunt for the SS base was on, but they had so little to go on. The SS had done an excellent job in covering their tracks when they abandoned Himmlerwelt and flew off to God knew where. All of the leads gleaned from M'nhra went nowhere, it seemed.

He stopped reading and closed his eyes. Tears of fear and frustration welled in them. She was out there. He could feel it. Julia was alive and she needed him to find her, to get her away from Fassbinder.

It's your fault, a part of him said. You could have helped her first! You could have stopped them from taking her!

His mind flashed back over two years. The eve of the war, when they'd just rescued the last surviving Jews of Universe S4W8. Julia had given him a dressing down for staying too long under the guns of the Eichmann, for refusing to accept sometimes people had to be left behind. She'd told him that if it came down to her or the ship, she'd want to be left behind.

The words came back as if they'd been spoken yesterday.

"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… I want you to forgive yourself."

"I won't be able to."

"Let me finish. 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. 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."

I'm coming, Julie
, was his response to the memory.

His personal system's controls lit up with a green light, showing an incoming communication. He checked and saw that it was on an encoded frequency. He tapped the key, wondering who it was.

The person that appeared surprised him. Indeed, it was someone he'd only met once, and not on the best terms. His called was an older man, dark-hair just turning gray, clad in a dark uniform with just one adornment on it: a brass pin with the Greek letter Psi.

"Good day, Captain Dale," said Alfred Bester, the most notorious of the Earth Alliance's Psi Cops. "You and I need to talk."

After more hours spent alone in the dark, still strapped to the cold metal chair, Julia was finally released from the confinement. Two medium-sized men in SS suits grabbed her arms and roughly bound her wrists with a strip of zipcord. One barked at her to follow, although with their grips on her arms they didn't give her much choice.

She was brought to an SS shuttle. The Reich craft had a wide-winged design, the warp nacelles at the extent of the wings and lifted slightly above the main body of the shuttle. Inside a pilot was already in a seat. Fassbinder was in a black SS uniform as before. Julia felt distinctly underdressed in her gym clothing. The tank top she wore was still damp from sweat.

Fassbinder grinned at her, but said nothing as the pilot confirmed launch checks. The shuttle lifted off and descended toward a planet that looked like a marginal garden world. The seas were more green than blue, it seemed, and the landmass was whiteish when it wasn't brown or dark green.

They descended toward the northern continent. Julia watched the empty space became less so. As they neared the surface, specifically a series of river valleys flanked by rocky ridge lines, the shuttle raced in on one. In the distance a tower was visible. As it drew closer, Julia noticed that the tower was not alone. Spreading out from the tower and linked structures at the center were five more groups of structures that seemed to be based within the soil and ground below, although none were nearly as tall as the central tower. They were laid out in a pentagon pattern around the central tower, not unlike the secondary towers of Alliance Defense Command in Portland. But the design was unique. Like nothing Julia had ever seen before. It was certainly not of Reich construction.

The shuttle landed at an open area between the central tower and the southwestern section. "Out," Fassbinder instructed. After a moment of refusing to move, Julia prompted them to force her out of the shuttle's rear hatch.

An entrance to the southwestern structures was beyond the shuttle pad. Along the path from the pad to the door, lines of men in SS uniforms were standing at attention.

"Go on, Kapitan," Fassbinder instructed. "Go through the door beyond."

Julia knew it wasn't so easy. At first she refused to move, so Fassbinder pushed her ahead. Sensing she would gain nothing from continued defiance, Julia stepped forward and entered the area between the two lines. She kept a steady pace, steeling herself for what was coming.

It didn't take long at all. One SS man lashed out with a baton, smacking her across the back. A fist flew in and caught her in the stomach. After doubling over for a moment she kept on. A few steps later another baton smacked her in the hip, a fist split her lip, and the attacks of the soldiers lining the way picked up. There was nothing she could do but endure the blows as best as she could, trying to maintain forward progress.

And then a blow came lower than usual. A baton smashed into her knee with enough force to damage the bone. It also knocked her off her stride. She dropped to a knee. A voice barked, "Who said you could stop?!"

At that point all pretense was dropped. More blows rained on Julia. She collapsed to the ground and tried to adopt a fetal position, to protect herself in some way, even with her wrists cuffed behind her back.

But there were too many. Fists and clubs rained on her, joined by shouts and enraged cheers. Muscles burned with pain, skin bruised, bones threatened to break. For a terrible moment Julia wondered if she was going to die here and now.

Then a powerful blow struck her in the head. Everything went dark.

Robert considered the image of Bester on his screen. A year before, Bester tried to capture him and Meridina to turn into lab experiments. Whatever his amended views of Psi Corps since meeting Colin Meier and the others at Tau Atrea, Robert did not have any kind thoughts for Bester. "Mister Bester," he replied. "What can I do for you?"

"Nothing. I, however, can do something for you." Bester kept a quiet expression. His left hand, gripped as always in a fist, was balanced against his open right hand. "To begin with, I have been ordered to apologize for the Kalnit Station situation last year."

"Alright." Robert didn't keep the impatience from his voice.

"I know you've got other things on your mind, so allow me to get to the point," Bester said. "Psi Corps recently raided a slaver vessel aligned with the same people that attacked Tau Atrea. We've obtained intelligence from them, intelligence that confirms the Aristos are trading technology to the SS remnants. They have an alliance forming."

Robert frowned at that. "What's in this intel?"

"We're not sure yet. We just got it ourselves so we've yet to finish analyzing it. But I'm aware of your situation and I'm sending you a copy on an encrypted subchannel."

Robert checked the system and confirmed the incoming subchannel. He directed it into an isolated computer drive. Looking back to Bester he said, "Thank you. I owe you."

"No, you don't," Bester said. "At Tau Atrea you risked your life to protect my telepaths. Your people saved over fifty of them from the Aristo ship. While I may disagree with Doctor Meier's decisions on some matters, he and I do see eye to eye on the matter of the Corps' position toward you. You saved over three hundred of my family members, Captain. As far as I'm concerned, I'm the one in debt, and this is toward that."

Despite Robert's suspicions, there was no denying the genuine feeling in Bester's voice, or the subtle shift in his expression. "You're not used to owing non-telepaths, are you?"

"No, I'm not. I'm not used to cooperating with them either. It's a rather… interesting feeling, I must admit. It's not very easy. The last time I worked with mundanes, Captain, thirty of my people were used as weapons. But you've paid up in advance. I'll forward you any further intelligence on the SS if we acquire it. Good luck finding your friend, Captain. Bester out."

Bester's image disappeared from the screen. Robert turned his attention to the intelligence pouring in. He finally tapped the key on his desk to open a commlink. "Dale to Lucero, Richmond, and Jarod. I need to see you in Science Lab 1 in fifteen minutes."

Sixteen minutes later, the three were watching the data Bester provided flash in code format across a screen on an isolated system. Jarod looked up and nodded. "It's clean," he said.

"I figured it was," Robert remarked. "But with Bester, you can't be too careful."

Lieutenant Commander Phryne Richmond, the ship's Chief of Security, went to another screen and started pouring through the actual data files. "Shipping manifests, vessel IDs, IFF codes, bank accounts," she read off in her high-class Australian accent. Her green eyes read along the flowing papers. "And personal identities. A Lord Karex seems to be the primary link in the chain for extrauniversal Aristo operations. He's listed as a Silicate. I'm not sure what that is."

"They're the least-important of the Aristo castes," Robert said. "According to our intelligence on them, Silicates are responsible for economic matters and trade. Primarily the internal slave trade of the Concord, but also foreign trade with the Allied Worlds of Earth and, to some extent, the Skolians."

"Why would anyone trade with slavers?" Lucy asked, incredulous.

"Because they want to make money," Jarod replied.

"That's not what matters right now," Robert said. "There could be a clue in this intel. The next link in the chain leading us to Julia. We need to find it."

"I'll get Lieutenant Liton and his team on this right away," Richmond promised.

"I'll help," Jarod added.

"So will I, but I'm… well." Lucy sighed. "I'm not sure I like getting intel from a bastard like Bester. We all know he got it by mind-raping people."

"Right now, the important thing is that we have it," Robert said. "However he got it, we need it."

Lucy gave Robert a perturbed look. Jarod looked at him carefully. After a few moments he nodded in understanding. "Yeah. We'll go through it and let you know if we find anything useful."

"Thank you," Robert said before departing, Lucy's eyes watching him the entire time.

An interuniversal jump point over New Liberty drew concerned looks from tactical officers across the system. That concern evaporated when the arriving ship's IFF code registered. The ASV Koenig immediately requested landing clearance from the Aurora. Operations officer Sabiha Neyzi agreed to it, opening the support dock to allow the Koenig to dock.

Zack stepped through the airlock and met Tom and Leo. The look on his face said it all. "How's it going?' he asked immediately. "The search, I mean. Robert's been sketchy with the replies."

"The search is just us right now," Leo said. "The Alliance is listing Julia as missing and presumed dead."

Zack's expression turned stormy. "They're what?" he demanded. "What… why would they?!"

"We're still not sure if the SS vaporized her or ran off with her," Leo replied.

"Don't tell me you believe that for a damn moment," Tom growled. "That bastard Assbinder's been after us for forever. He's taken her and we all damn well know it."

"I'm sure of it too," Leo said. "But Maran's trying to get defenses up across the Alliance. That's what he's focusing on right now."

"I don't give a damn," Zack said, heatedly. "We have to find her, and if the Alliance is going to abandon her, I'm going to Goddamned resign."

Leo flashed him an annoyed look. "I'm not happy with it either," he said. "But the Alliance has a lot on its plate right now, walking away won't get Julia back. Julia would want us to focus on protecting the Alliance."

Given the glare on Zack's face, Leo was certain his point was accepted, but not liked.

In one of the smaller quarters on Deck 6, Meridina stepped into the suite to find Gina Inviere sitting at a work desk. The blond-haired Cylon woman was intent on the two books she'd laid out on the table. Meridina immediately recognized them as the Life of Reshan, and Gartanam's translation guide to Swenya-era Gersallian writing. "Mastrash Ledosh would be pleased to see you continuing his work," Meridina said, fighting back the pain in her heart. She and Gina were both trained by Ledosh, and both felt him struck down by the fallen Mastrash Goras during the attack on the Temple.

"He died for this," she replied. "He believed the key to defeating the Brotherhood and the Inner Circle was in this text."

"What have you found so far?"

Gina looked over one paper of notes. "From what I've seen, the translation guide reveals errors in the text. That the book's text does not completely match the dialect of the time."

"Our people suffered much in that era. More than one language was changed or died out," Meridina pointed out. "This may have been written in an alternate dialect."

"Gartanam's guide suggests differently," Gina said. "Or so Mastrash Ledosh felt. He believed the errors were intentional. Extra characters, extra words."

"As in a code."

"Yes," said Gina. "If he is correct, the first chapters of the book speak of something called 'the Circle', which is vital to the future and the past." Gina set the paper down. "I'm not sure what it means yet."

"We will find out, I promise you that."

Gina nodded and turned her head to face Meridina. "How are you feeling?"

"I am… recovering, I suppose," Meridina replied. "As things are, the crew need me to be strong. I am in command, and everyone has taken a shock."

Gina's expression betrayed her own. "I never imagined the Inner Circle was like that," she said. "They were our leaders. The wisest. They knew God's Plan. But it was all a lie. They weren't wise beings leading the Cylons to a better world, they were… power mad monsters out for revenge. That's all it was in the end. All I suffered for, all the blood on our hands, all for… revenge in some millennia old vendetta."

"I am still wondering how the Brotherhood of Kohbal became involved with the last Humans of our home universe," Meridina admitted. "Or why those same Humans began to worship ancient gods their ancestors hadn't followed in millennia. What were they doing?"

"I'm not sure," Gina said. "Maybe it doesn't matter in the end. The only thing that does is defeating the Brotherhood and the Inner Circle. And if Mastrash Ledosh was right… we need to finish his work."

"For the time being, you can focus on this," Meridina said. "Robert is preoccupied with the SS matter, but Lucy is inquiring about your admission to his team."

"If the Alliance will allow it," Gina said, sighing. "I do not wish to cause him trouble. I can't imagine his superiors being pleased with a Cylon on one of their teams."

"Robert has great leeway in these matters, I am told. And your record since coming to Gersal has been irreproachable. None can deny you stand against the evils committed by your people, Gina."

"Even if they can't, that's not the problem. Trust… it is a fragile thing." Gina glanced back to the books. "I shall resume my work. I know you have much to do. If you need anything, let me know."

"Of course," Meridina answered. "May your swevyra grant you the insight you need." With that said, Meridina departed.

Julia's head still throbbed when she woke up. She was aware of a strange feeling of… weightlessness. Was she in a zero G chamber? A moment's sensation told her no to that. She felt wet. As if suspended in water. But her face was (mostly) dry, and she was breathing.

When Julia opened her eyes, everything took on a greenish tint. She was in a canister of green fluid. Her arms and legs wouldn't move. She glanced toward her sides and downward to see, through the green fluid, her wrists and ankles secured by metal stocks, holding her feet to the bottom of the canister and her wrists to its sides.

She faced forward again. Through the green haze of the fluid she noticed Fassbinder standing outside of the canister, not far from what looked like controls. "You are awake," he said, his voice distorted in her ears. "How do you feel? Wait… an answer is unnecessary. You undoubtedly feel rejuvenated, yes? Stronger than you have been these past days?" She noticed the satisfied smile on his face. "We healed your worst injuries. I cannot afford you dying just yet, you understand. And this remarkable substance did the rest." He walked over to the controls. "We found it in a stasis field of some sort. Three thousand years and the field never lost cohesion. The technology in this city… magnificent. And yes, it is a city, Kapitan. We are unsure of its origins, save that it is not Darglan, merely used by them. But its secrets will be ours soon enough." Fassbinder seemed to fiddle with the controls. "This is a substance that the Darglan listed as 'kohltou'. It is a wondrous biological material with quite potent healing capability. It can stabilize the condition of even the most gravely wounded and even provides needed nutrients to a body. We have also provided you with sustenance. Intravenously, of course. I have no intention to give you even the most basic pleasure of food or drink."

Julia pulled at her restraints, but they did not yield at all. She said nothing.

"Now, you may wonder why I've used such a wonderful healing material on you. The answer is that we have many questions to ask you, Kapitan. In your position, your… special status even as a Captain, you are undoubtedly aware of all sorts of interesting facts that the SS might find useful. Collaborators in the fallen Reich, for instance. Alliance plans. Diplomatic arrangements. Things that it is in your best interest to share. Do you understand?"

Julia's response was immediate. "Andreys, Julia Megan. Captain. Serial Number Bravo Zero Zero Zero Three One Zero One Hotel One Echo Four." She spoke plainly, but there was no mistaking the defiant glimmer in her eyes.

Fassbinder responded with a chuckle. "I am aware of your prisoner of war conventions. The Reich did away with such sentimentality long ago. Whatever it is you wish to hide, we will find it out." Fassbinder's hand went to the control. "There is another aspect about this kohltou you should know about. So you don't get too comfortable." He gave her a grin of sheer, sinister anticipation. "It is very conductive." With that, he twisted the dial.

Electricity coursed through the tank.

Light years and a universe away, Robert was at his work desk, asleep from exhaustion. Suddenly he sat up straight, a scream of pain erupting from his lungs.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by wellis »

"Kohltou." Sounds like kolto. And I read "Skolians", "Eubians", & "Allied Worlds." We're going to be seeing the Saga of Skolian Empire universe soon aren't we~?
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Lucy felt Robert's anguish across the ship and raced from Science Lab 1, fueled more by Hargert's Milchkaffee than anything else. Once she made it to Deck 6 and arrived at Robert's quarters, she smacked the chime repeatedly. "Robert!" Robert, I know you're in there, what's wrong?!

After a few moments the door opened. Robert was sitting on the couch, shirtless and in pajama pants, his head cradled in his hands. When he looked up, baggy-eyed and tired, Lucy saw tears streaming from his eyes down to his bearded chin. "I… I felt her, Lucy," he said hoarsely. "I felt Julie. She's alive… Fassbinder… he's.. he's hurting her."

Lucy stared at him for a moment, but she felt his conviction, his certainty. The feeling that he'd personally felt something like an electroshock reverberate through his body, inflicting terrible agony. He certainly wasn't lying.

But the idea of it. Of a connection across universes. It was beyond anything she'd ever heard of. "Are you sure it's that?" she had to ask. "This… it's never happened."

"I know. It sounds insane," he said. "From what we've experienced, the Flow of Life doesn't traverse universes like this. Connections don't. But I feel her, Lucy. I feel Julia! She's alive and she's in pain and we have to find her."

"We will," Lucy said. "We're making progress on the intel, we should have something later today."

Robert's response was an impatient look. "This is taking too long," he insisted. "It's been days, Lucy. Days. I promised her I'd come for her if this happened!"

Lucy felt his desperation and impatience and it made her heart ache. She wondered how Robert would survive if something would happen to Julia, or if the pain might destroy him. "And you'll get to keep that promise, we all will," Lucy said. "Just… you need to hold it together, Rob. Julia's going to need you to, if we're going to rescue her."

There was a surge of irritation at Lucy's words, as if she was patronizing him. But Robert bit it back. Lucy was trying to help, as always. "I… yeah. I know. It's just…" Robert swallowed. "I saw this coming, Lucy. I've been dreaming of this for years and I still let it catch me by surprise."

"Your dreams of the future have always been potential futures. Not prophecies of what will be. Don't blame yourself for not seeing this coming. None of us saw it." Lucy sat down beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Robert, get some sleep. Get Leo to give you something if you have to. But you need to rest, really rest I mean, because we're going to need to be at tip-top shape for this to work."

Robert nodded slowly to that. "Right. I'll… I'll go to bed."

Lucy looked to his work desk and noted the telltale signs of someone having laid their head on it out of fatigue. He stood and she followed, making sure he laid down before she departed back for Science Lab 1 and the intel that might yet lead them to Julia.

Among other things, the attacks on Gersal and New Liberty had brought Defense Command in Portland back to its peak wartime level of strenuous activity, with the officers and personnel present directing the reactivation of the reserve fleet so recently taken out of service, along with the necessary infrastructure to support and man those extra ships. The prospect of SS or Cylon ships launching another surprise attack ensured the presence of a fleet in orbit and the heightened activity of the planet's assigned fighter units.

The need for defense fleets for the Alliance's major worlds occupied much of Maran's time now, as this need had to be balanced with other defense needs, like the maintenance of the 5th Fleet at Horizon to face potential Dominion aggression, and the demand for ships to protect the spacelanes of the fallen Nazi empire. The Defense Committee was meeting daily, requiring updates, and President Morgan required the same activity.

It was thus after a long day that Maran retired to his office in Defense Command. The skyline of Portland showed the twilight visage of the Alliance's capital city, located at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. He allowed himself a moment to enjoy that sight before he turned to one matter he'd been required by duty to hold off: the Aurora's command situation.

The sad truth was that it was unlikely that Captain Andreys would be recovered soon, if at all. It pained him to think that the promise she'd shown was going to be cut short in this manner. Even if she were eventually rescued, after a prolonged period in SS captivity she would be in no shape to resume her command. Likely not ever. The Alliance had lost one of its leading lights and an excellent starship captain.

Another sad truth was that Maran doubted he could arrange a promotion from within the ship's crew. Meridina, as capable a woman as she was, had only the past year of suitable command experience, and Maran doubted he could talk Personnel into giving her command of the Aurora. A year ago Commander Carrey would have been an acceptable candidate, even if his experience was primarily in attackers, but his difficulties with alcohol since New Caprica were not unnoticed by Personnel. Restoring him to the Koenig had required extensive work and Zachary Carrey's own continued sobriety, not to mention his conduct on the Citadel and Germania. A promotion and command of a star cruiser was a less likely prospect at the moment, when his restoration was still a fresh one.

Assigning another Facility hand with command experience was Maran's first choice, but only so many of them had command experience, and they were all in the middle of assignments on key vessels. Personnel would resist such a reassignment, and on the sound grounds of those existing assignments being more important. Thus, after days of thinking it over and testing the waters at Personnel, Maran had one prospect left that didn't involve causing such a struggle with his own people.

He returned to his desk and, after noting the local time for his intended contact, brought his interface online. "Computer, activate IU comms, standard encryption. I need a channel to Rohric. The office of Warmaster Shai'jhur." He waited patiently for the system to work through the needed protocols until it opened the requested channel.

The screen on his desk activated. The tired expression of the gray-tinged figure of the Dilgar Warmaster blinked into appearance, with wide yellow eyes gazing, a bit hoodedly, at the Gersallian Admiral. Maran had trusted her to lead the support forces over Germania, and she had served the cause of light with the same calm aplomb which had let her save the rearguard at Third Balos. “Admiral Maran,” she acknowledged, harboring no ill-will to any. “It has been a tumultuous week.”

"It has," he acknowledged. "I have heard no reports of attacks on Dilgar space. I trust this holds true?"

“Nothing. I thought the Nazis might regard us as a convenient target for their terror attacks, but we also have a fleet out of proportion to our population, and quickly re-mobilised it,” she answered.

"That is good. I am uncertain as to why, but it appears the SS exiles have gone quiescent for the moment. Whether or not this is to build up for a large attack, or if their numbers are lower than we expected and their losses at New Liberty were prohibitive, I cannot say. But I have called you on another matter." Maran set his hands down before him. "You have heard about Captain Andreys?"

“I am afraid not. She was slain at New Liberty, I take it, then?” Shai’jhur’s face twisted into a peculiar sort of grimace.

"She is considered missing, and is presumed dead," Maran clarified. "There is some uncertainty on the matter. Her crew are insistent that she was taken captive, and some of our analysts believe that a possibility given what we know of the attack's commander."

“Admiral… I must say that she would be better off dead. This is truly unfortunate. The Nazis will hate her for destroying all they had.”

"I said as much to her officers." Maran's expression was grave, as Shai'jhur's point hammered home the horror of that outcome. "Either way, the issue at hand is the command situation on the Aurora. That is the reason I have called you."

“I have already given you my eldest daughter, Admiral. I am grooming Tia’jhur for my heir, and the others did not follow command tracks, or are too young. Of the ones not my blood, War Captain Fiy’jash is a psychiatric casualty after the death of one of her children to the mercenaries during the Tiran crisis. I am not sure who else I would recommend.”

Maran nodded. "I understand. But there is a candidate I have in mind, who could make the transition more smooth for the ship's crew." With gravity in his voice, he said, "I would inquire as to the availability of Captain Kaveri Varma."

“My wife.” A fond look crossed Shai’jhur’s face for a moment. “Admiral, she may have commanded Explorers, and have been used to being a negotiator, a conciliator; but she is an Earthforce officer, and a Dilgar officer, and stricter than your Aurorans will like.”

Maran nodded in acknowledgement. "That is true. But the same can be said of many other candidates being considered. I feel that Captain Varma may be the best chance to prevent the crew from splitting up. I…" Maran, for a moment, felt uncomfortable. The thoughts he had were not those he shared. The one man he might have spoken to on the matter was Mastrash Ledosh, and he was now gone. "There is a… matter, Warmaster. It is a delicate one, and one I myself wrestled with for some time, and it pertains to the crew of the Aurora and my efforts to keep them together despite the opposition in my own service."

“By all means, Admiral, you have my confidence. You know I have faced delicate matters before,” Shai’jhur answered, her tone and posture creeping into some sympathy. Shai’jhur’s wounds were old; Maran’s homeworld had been hammered but days before.

"The crew of the Aurora are the standard bearers of our Alliance. That, alone, merits to me every measure I take to keep them intact, regardless of my peers," Maran said. He kept any remaining doubt about this measure from his voice. He would have to trust someone, after all, and Shai'jhur was among the few he would do so with. "But they are more. To a number of my people, a growing number I suspect, they are the Dawn-Bearers."

Shai’jhur braced her hands against her desk and leaned closer, as if to share a secret in person.

"I myself have only come to this view slowly, after consideration and discussions with the late Mastrash Ledosh," Maran continued. "You are aware of Swenya, and what she was to our people. While we lost much in Kohbal's uprising a hundred years after her death, among those things we remember is a prophecy she is said to have given late in her life, using the gift of foresight that the Flow of Life grants to those sensitive to it. That is the Prophecy of the Dawn." Maran reached over to transmit the text to Shai'jhur, in its entirety, the final line once omitted restored due to his correspondence with Ledosh and Robert. He watched her note the incoming data and waited quietly for her to read it.

“To a Dilgar, without the benefit of thousands of years of context and Swenya’s stories, it seems maddeningly vague, Maran,” she said, informally. “But, I also recognise a real power when I see it. I saw what Lucy Lucero and Meridina showed. I would never discount this power… Being guided by a hand, toward a purpose. One might disbelieve, but one would truly be a fool to disregard. And frankly, from what I have heard of the attack on Gersal… Your enemies may believe it more than we do. That begs the question of whether or not they know something we do not.”

Maran nodded grimly. He'd read the reports from Gersal himself. The things said, the things seen. All of the indications that the Cylons were in truth guided by the survivors of Kohbal's dark brotherhood. Given the knowledge lost in that ancient war, how much more did they know of the past than Maran's people? And what was their plan for the future?

With these thoughts still on his mind, Maran continued, "The final lines are, to me, the most important," he said. "There is much my people forgot due to Kohbal, but we remember the stories of Swenya confronting an ancient darkness, and our contact with the time traveling being known as the Doctor confirms that the Darkness do exist. That they are an ancient force, and they are still out in the Multiverse somewhere, on some level of creation, a threat to everything we know. And according to Swenya, the crew of the Aurora may very well be the key to defeating them."

“And if we accept that there is anything good in the universe at all, then… You wish to try and preserve their relevance to prophecy, and also their relevance to hope, as a symbol of the Alliance. You cannot be sure it is enough, but you must try. Am I right?”

Maran nodded. "Yes. We need that symbol. Not just my people, but the Alliance, indeed the entire Multiverse. Especially if our worst fears come to pass, and we do face this ancient threat ourselves."

“Well. Maran, Kaveri is commanding the Wrath, on peacekeeping duties in the former Reich. With this mobilisation her battlecruiser is needed as part of the fleet. But I will raise the idea with her. I will impress upon her the importance, and I will impress upon her the gravity of the request. I had hoped we could be together, but this is serious, and I must convey to her the seriousness of the opportunity. And you can tell the other Admirals of the Alliance that you have her in mind, perhaps that will give you a little more time to find Captain Andreys in.”

There was real gratitude in Maran's expression, as stoical as it usually was, and the same was in his voice when he replied. "My thanks to you, Warmaster, and I do understand that I have asked much of you and of your wife. I can indeed buy more time from Personnel with Captain Varma's candidacy. Enough time for Captain Dale's efforts to be fruitful, if they are not done in vain." For Shai'jhur, or anyone that might observe him and know Maran's usual demeanor, there was a visible weariness to Maran he did not normally evince. The attack on Gersal had left its mark on him as thoroughly as any other Gersallian.

“Then you have my blessing, Maran. The storm breaks, still shall we remain.”

At the bar in the Lookout, Zack sat without saying a word to anyone. He asked for no food, no drink, nothing but quiet. He needed the quiet. He felt like his heart was going to break into pieces.

The idea of Julia being dead was bad enough, and the year had already been terrible. He'd lost Clara, lost his self-respect and only painfully rebuilt it, then survived the attack on the Citadel and the Battle of Germania. For the woman he loved to die too… there were few things worse than that.

One of those things was the alternative. That Julia was a captive of the SS. An SS which didn't have other factions holding it back anymore. The things they'd do to her, the kind of torture and humiliation they'd put her through, he could barely stand the thought of it. He tried and failed to keep his imagination from considering all of the possibilities.

After letting out a breath Zack started looking for Albert, figuring a small meal or at least a soda were necessary. It was when his eyes scanned across the shelf on the wall that Zack spotted the tall, square bottle of green liquid. He recognized it immediately as Aldebaran whiskey.

For the first time in months, it struck him. A deep, raw need for the haze, the obliteration of his senses. To make everything numb and forget, for even a moment, his pain. Zack looked at the bottle and craved its contents like a man dying of thirst craves a bottle of water. One is too much, he reminded himself. But with his imagination tormenting him with the idea of Julia suffering, with his fear giving him grief that she was dead, or worse than dead, that he would never see her again, would never hear her laugh, never get to exchange jokes or tease each other or put up with her well-intentioned take-charge mother hen bossyness…

Zack's hand twitched. Just a motion and the bartender would come, and he could enjoy a drink and just… no, no he couldn't do this, not again, not after he promised, not after all he went through… he couldn't give in and yet he just needed a drink, just a little one, just to take the edge off, just to dilute the anguish. One drink to make the pain easier to bear...

"Hey Zack."

Jarod's voice got Zack's attention. By the time Zack looked over Jarod was slipping onto the stool to his right, the last stool at this end of the bar. He motioned with a raised hand for the bartender to come over and said, "Another pitcher, your best."

"Yes Commander," the young man replied in a thick accent.

When Zack gave him a wondering look he answered, "Coffee. For those of us in Science Lab 1 going through all of the intelligence Robert got from, well, an unexpected source." Jarod gave Zack a close look and then followed Zack's eyes to the shelf. "We're all worried for her. And we're all wondering the same thing. That it might be better if she died fighting. If they took her…"


"She's a fighter. And we'll do anything to find her."

"Even if it means going rogue?" A dangerous look came to Zack's eyes. "The Alliance is writing her off as dead."

"MIA, presumed dead."

"This is Davies isn't it?" Zack asked aloud. "He thinks he can get one of his people in command."

"It's a lot of things, I'm sure. But we're not going to stop looking for her, you can be sure of that." Jarod noticed the dangerous look in Zack's eyes. At that moment he fully believed that Zack would, if it came down to it, steal the Koenig if he needed to in order to save Julia.

Although by that same measure, Jarod was certain the crew would steal the Aurora if they needed to accomplish the same.

After glancing to the Aldebaran whiskey on the shelf again, Zack asked, "Did Sydney ask you to come see me?"

Jarod nodded. "He did. But I would have come anyway."

Zack blinked back tears. "Thanks. To both of you."

While Science Lab 1 was the center of the hunt for Julia, Cat was utilizing Science Lab 2 for the same purpose. It was meant for physics and materials sciences, after all, and analysis of the debris from SS ships was part of that. She looked over the twisted, blackened sample she'd acquired from the debris collection now sitting in the lab's analysis chamber. A formidable array of advanced scientific equipment was giving her everything she could imagine on the debris. Its material composition, remnant radiation traces, atomic makeup, every piece of data she might find useful, data that might yet provide a vital clue.

Results from scans flashed over her screens, and Cat set up comparison analysis to see if anything matched. Maybe a unique radiation trace from exposure to a pulsar or some other unique space phenomena. Or if the piece had a unique element or isotope, the origin of which could indicate a possible base.

Minutes passed, hours. Bit by bit, the results came in. And…

...and nothing. Nothing unique. Nothing she could use.

Cat didn't initially notice that she'd started to weep. She just did. She sniffled and let out a small sob full of despair. Julia was out there, she needed help, and Cat could do nothing for her. She didn't have anything to lead her to Julia. Not one damn thing.

The tears were dripping from her chin when the nearest door to Science Lab 2 opened. Tra'dur entered and approached. The young Dilgar pulled up a chair and sat beside her, her feline eyes focusing on Cat. "Cat'Delgado," she said quietly, using the combination of personal and family or clan name that Dilgar always did. "What is wrong?"

"I thought… I thought maybe I'd find something," she said. "Something that would give us a clue on where they came from. Where they might have taken Julia." Cat sniffled and wiped away at the tears flowing from her reddened, fatigued eyes. She glanced at the time display on the nearest screen, which showed the time as 2350. She was due to be up in less than seven hours to report for her morning watch. "But there's nothing. Nothing I can use."

"I see." Tra'dur nodded in understanding. "I know you want to find her desperately, but there will be the next watch to keep the data reduction going. You also need sleep to do your best, Cat’Delgado. That’s science, too.”

Cat nodded. "But if we don't find her, if I've missed something…" Cat stopped and wiped again at the tears. "I've known her since I was little. I wasn't even ten years old yet, and she was this awesome big kid who could fight my sister and win, and was really cool and nice and… well, she was the first girl outside my family I really liked. Her, and then Susannah. I've already lost Susie…" Cat drew in a breath and the resulting sniffle. "It's funny. Rob was the one who led us into this, and he was the Captain at first, but she was always the one to take the lead for us. To get us to do the job right. And she's done so much and always looked out for us, for me… now I can't even help find her."

"You have tried," Tra'dur replied. "She, the Captain, would understand. She would be proud."

"Yeah, she would. But I just feel… I feel like I haven't done enough."

"Everyone feels that way. Everyone."

"And you?" Cat asked. "Do you feel that way?"

Tra'dur nodded quietly. "Captain Andreys has done much for my people. And she sponsored me through the Officer Training program and gave me my post here. I'll always be grateful to her. I pray that the Gods give her strength and us insight so that we may bring her home."

Cat sniffled again and nodded. "I guess that's all we can do. Pray, I mean." After running her hand over her eyes again, trying to clear the tears, Cat treated Tra'dur to a hug. "Thank you," she said.

Tra'dur, surprised briefly by the embrace, returned it carefully, uncertainly. "You really should get some rest, Cat'Delgado," she said quietly.

Cat responded with a mumbled, "Yeah", and with Tra'dur departed the Lab, bound for her quarters and a good night's sleep.

Even with everything that happened, daily routines were still a part of the lives for those on the Aurora. This included the daily training regimen of Angel Delgado, who was busy pummeling away at one of her punching bags as part of said regimen. Sweat coated her bronze skin, her muscles visibly bulging beneath.

While Angel had a reputation for being hard on the gym punching bags, she was usually not so rough on them. Today was one of those exceptions, as she cut loose, punching and occasionally kicking with enough ferocity that the material of the bag was giving way.

She only stopped when Tony Zah, her boyfriend, called out her name. She turned to face him. He was fresh from a jog, shirtless and in gym shorts. Usually the sight of him like that, with his developed musculature under his tanned complexion, made her appreciate having Tony as a boyfriend. Today she barely gave him a glance.

Tony didn't mind that. He knew why, and he said nothing more until he was beside her. "Want a partner?" he asked.

"I'm fine." She focused on the bag and slammed her fist into it.

"Babe, she's your friend," he said gently. "I understand."

"This wouldn't have happened if we'd been more careful," Angel insisted. "The war ended and we decided it was back to business. We should have been scouring for the damn SS the moment we found out some of them got away! Not building Goddamn science ships!" As she spoke each sentence she picked up the pace of her punches.

"Hey, Babe, look at me?"

Angel turned to Tony, snarling. She looked like she was ready to explode from fury. Wordlessly he stretched his arms open, offering an embrace that by all appearances she was too furious to be interested in.

And yet, she took it, moving up to him and putting her arms around him, letting Tony do the same to her. Tears welled from her hazel eyes. "She's my friend, Tony," Angel said. "They've got my friend."

"I know," he said.

"Aside from Cat, she's the one… I mean, you know about me and Rob, but I met her first. She's my match on the mat. Back in the day, back in Kansas, it was always awesome with her. I'd win, she'd win, and we always shook hands and… and we stayed friends, and did things, and she brought me into the group with the others. As bossy as Julia is, you could, you can always count on her."

"We're getting her back, Angel. Doesn't matter what Portland says, you and the others, you'll find a way. You always do."

The term prompted a small giggle from Angel. The giggle was the only thing stopping a sob instead. "Trying to make me think you're some brilliant therapist type?" she asked.

"I'm just a lunkhead with muscles, what do I know about therapy?" Tony kissed her on the forehead.

"No more than me, I guess." Angel let out a yawn. "I guess I should shower and get to bed. You're due to go on duty soon?"

"Soon, yeah." He let go, and she did too. "See you later for dinner?"

"Your dinner, my breakfast," Angel answered. "Sure."

Tony nodded and walked away. Angel admired the view of her boyfriend from behind before going over to collect her water bottle and towel, which she used to wipe the sweat from her face. He's a keeper, she thought, after which her mind went to the main topic for her. We'll find you, Julia. We'll get you back. Just hold on until we get there, wherever you are…

After being shocked into unconsciousness, Julia spent untold hours in the tank. Her wounds were fully healed by the point that she was fished out, which jolted her back to consciousness.

The men who took her away, two of Fassbinder's troopers, handled her roughly, half-dragging her across the ground. It took several minutes for them to arrive in what was clearly a confinement area. The cells they passed were empty and inactive. All save one, which was to Julia's right. It was to the opposite cell on the left that they took her. One bellowed "Get in!" and drove a black stick in his hand into Julia's ribs. Not only did the impact itself hurt, the stick delivered an electrical shock into her body much like a taser would. Her body seized up painfully. With a contemptuous look they picked her up and tossed her into the cell. The lights around the entrance lit up, warning of an energy field to keep her in.

As they stomped off Julia took in the empty chamber. There was nothing here for her. No bedding, no seats, nothing but a bucket and the hard floor. Fassbinder was determined to make her suffer.

With her energy waning, Julia turned enough to glance to the opposite cell. It was also occupied. She got a glimpse of a figure in red clothing. Before she could notice further detail, her eyelids dropped, too heavy for her to keep them open any longer. Within seconds she was asleep.

Robert's sleep was restful enough. When he awoke he checked for further messages. Finding none, he took the time to process the necessary paperwork to confirm Gina Inviere, as a naturalized citizen of the Gersallian Interdependency and member of the Order of Swenya, was being signed on as a non-military operator for his operations team. He expected it to cause some waves in Portland, but he had the leeway in the Paladins' operating charter, and plenty of character witnesses to Gina's capability and trustworthiness.

Next was a check on the new day's intel reports. There were no further reports of SS or Cylon activity. A major Jem'Hadar and Cardassian force was on sensors near Horizon, drawing in the 5th Fleet, but intelligence believed it was a Dominion test of Alliance defense response after the attack. Another report marked the Romulan activity near Altharra and incidents there. Alliance Intelligence believed it had to do with the pretender to the vacant Romulan throne.

He was just starting to read that report, if just to get his mind off things, when he received the call from Lucy to come to Conference Room 1. He turned off his systems, donned his uniform, and went straight there.

Richmond, Lucy, and Jarod all looked exhausted. Meridina and Anders were present as well, as was a small table with breakfast pastries and treats from Hargert's kitchen. And several pots of coffee. He poured himself a cup and snatched up a jelly-filled strudel to appease his hunger.

Once they were all seated Richmond took the lead. "We've found an item of interest," she said, bringing up an image of several manifests and the image of a space station. It was a ring station with an inner cylinder. Some weapon emplacements were visible. "Toutaine Station," she said. "In orbit over the third moon of a rather nasty desert world in SOT5 Wild Space. The planet is neutral and is home to the Yildiz, a Human nation or tribe of sorts. Toutaine has a marginal habitable zone in the temperate and subpolar regions, and they are for the most part a non-industrial agricultural society going by Solarian records."

"And yet there's a space station in their space," Robert said. "Black market?"

"Officially independent by charter from the planetary government, with links to certain Cevaucian figures of import. They do a hefty traffic in various illicit goods, including, going by this evidence, slavery. In fact, the Amir of Toutaine sells families into off-world slavery as a sort of ultimate punishment."

"And the Aristos are involved now?"

"They're using Toutaine Station as something of a customs point. We're still determining the exact nature of how they get jumps back to A5R0."

"Probably the same way the Orion Syndicate and the Batarians and all of these other criminal organizations do it," Lucy noted. "They pay for jumps like any other ship. And if the jump station network ever gets put into operation…"

"However they do it, Toutaine Station is currently a central point for the trade. Not really surprising given that S0T5 also has a large population of telepaths." Richmond tapped a key and highlighted documentation. "The important part is that we have journal entries and manifests confirming the link to the SS. The SS has been trading captive telepaths and certain technologies to the Aristos in exchange for examples of Eubian technology they consider of interest. And Toutaine Station's position in Wild Space, far from standard Solarian patrols, is an optimal location for these exchanges."

"So we need to go there and find the next link in the chain," said Jarod. "Which is the hard part."

Robert already knew what he was getting at. "The distance is too far for the Jayhawk," he said. "At Warp 6 it would take weeks to get there."

"The Aurora could manage the trip in a few days," Jarod replied. "But Scotty's still working on repairing the warp drive. We're at least a day from warp capability."

"And with the fleet mobilization, we are not free to join you, Robert," Meridina remarked.

"Even if not, I doubt the Aurora could make the journey," said Richmond. "Toutaine is past the far end of Solarian and Cevaucian space. Neither state would appreciate the Aurora entering the area. The Bragulans are another threat. Frankly all of the powers in that region would react badly to the Aurora warping in."

"So what we need is a ship that won't tick them off," Lucy said. "One fast enough to get the Jayhawk to Toutaine." A thoughtful look crossed her face. "Meridina, do you think Kasszas might help? Maybe someone at the Enclave has a ship…"

By this point everyone noticed the thoughtful expression on Robert's face. Lucy and Meridina could sense his distaste and growing resolve. He was about to do something he didn't want to, something he knew would come back to bite him in some way, but at this point he'd do anything to help Julia. "I've got someone better in mind. I'll be back as soon as I'm done." With that he rose from his chair and left.

The walk back to his quarters on Deck 6 gave Robert time to run what he was about to do, about to say, through his head. Over and over he considered his options and knew this was the only viable one. Julia couldn't wait for them to get another ship, a slower one, or to get permission from the Solarians, or any other thing they'd have to do in order to get to Toutaine. He had just this one option. And for Julia, he'd do it, even if it cost him in the long run.

When he arrived in his quarters, Robert immediately sent out a message over the interuniversal comm network. It wouldn't take long for it to go along the relays to its destination. Indeed, only a few minutes passed before the system notified him of an incoming encrypted communication. He confirmed his identity with the system and waited for decryption to process.

When it was done, he was treated to the view of an office desk, behind which a sunset sky was filled with skycars and other vehicles. High rise buildings were plainly visible in the distance. But they weren't the focus of his attention. The figure in the fancy chair was, the chair with the emblem of a winged Moebius sign.

"Hello, Captain Dale," said Sidney Hank.

"Mister Hank, thank you for responding so quickly."

"It was nothing special. I've been waiting for your call," he said. "I have been since I learned Captain Andreys is missing, likely dead."

"She's not dead," Robert said.

"Agreed. Anyone bothering to analyze Erik Fassbinder's known history would know that. He's been after you for a while now." Sidney smiled. It was a very unsettling smile, as if he was savoring the moment. "So what can I do for you?"

Robert had to fight back the urge to scowl. He drew in a breath. It's for Julie, he reminded himself, before answering, "I need your help, Mister Hank."

"Ah." Sidney shifted himself in the seat slightly. His sky blue eyes focused on Robert. "Well, let's be honest, Captain, you can't afford me on a Paladin's salary. Frankly it wouldn't matter, I have more money than I honestly know what to do with, so at this level I don't accept cash payments anyway. And while you have President Morgan's ear, I have other ways of exerting influence with the Alliance Government, I don't need a Paladin to speak for me. In short, there isn't anything you can give me as payment for my services."

"You're right, I can't," Robert said.

"Then you know my price?"

Robert swallowed and nodded. "I do. Just as you offered to me in your office."

"A favor…"

"...for a favor," Robert finished for him.

"And you accept this? Unconditionally?" There was no denying the immense pleasure Sidney showed at the occasion. While he said nothing, the overtone was clear: he was seeing just how far Robert would go, and if Robert was desperate enough to sell his soul. Given that Sidney Hank epitomized the image of being "a man of wealth and taste", there was a certain foreboding quality to the idea.

"Don't make me act against the Alliance, New Liberty, or those I love, and don't ask me to commit mass murder," Robert said. "Those are my conditions."

"Oh Captain, you needn't worry. I'm not a cruel man. I have no intention of ripping your precious conscience to shreds by forcing you to do something you'd find reprehensible. I have people I pay for those kinds of things. People who don't share your peculiar obsession with heroism." The tycoon snapped his fingers. "Your condition is accepted, Captain Dale. Now…" Sidney leaned forward. "...how may I be of assistance?"

Every muscle in Julia's body hurt when she woke up. Her spine protested all of the time spent on the hard floor and her stomach growled a demand for food, food that she was not going to be provided. Her throat was parched dry. Even boiling water would be satisfying.

With her eyes open Julia looked across the cell hall to the other cell and its occupant. Now she could see her fellow prisoner was a Human, a young woman with East Asian coloration and facial features. She had shoulder-length black hair that was disheveled and unkempt. Her clothing was predominately red, a set of loose pants and a short-sleeved vest. Gold trim on the cuffs and neckline, and on the cuffs of the pants legs, provided extra color to her clothing. Julia guessed she was a teenager, or just past twenty at the oldest. Physically she was built solidly, but not thickly, with the faint hint of muscle on her visible arms. The girl's eyes were closed and she looked like she was in a meditative stance.

After a moment's thought Julia prepared to call out to the girl. The sound of stomping feet stopped her. Moments later figures appeared outside of her cell. Fassbinder looked down at her, his unnatural yellow eyes focused intently on her face. One of the troopers with him turned off the cell. "Have you rested well, Kapitan?" he asked, sardonically. "Either way, it is immaterial. The time has come for your interrogation to begin in earnest."

The chamber Julia was brought to was dominated by one large chair with wrist and ankle restraints built into it. A control panel was visible nearby and, along one wall, a flat viewer screen. Fassbinder stood beside it while his troops put her in the chair.

After she was strapped into it a headpiece was lowered, pushing up against her forehead. THe chair began to spin until she was orientated facing away from the viewer. Fassbinder walked into her vision, wearing that small sadistic smile he'd held ever since Julia was brought before him. "This device is a remarkable interrogation tool, Captain Andreys. I admit the Schutzstaffel did not develop it ourselves. We discovered the builders in our initial extrauniversal explorations. Among them was a rather willful, biologically unique individual who was quite willing to trade technology for data on… wurmloch, I believe is the term? Either way, we had data he found useful, and he gave us this." Fassbinder chuckled, as if privy to a brilliant joke. "I am quite amused by the irony. His people refer to this device as the 'Aurora Chair'. It will allow us to pull information from your mind. You will not hide anything from us."

Julia stared at the wall past him, giving no indication she heard him.

"Activate the Chair, Untersturmführer."

Something ripped into Julia's mind, eliciting a strangled cry from her throat as her entire head became alive with pain. She felt like someone was running drills into her brain. Fassbinder diverted his attention past her, where the screen came alive. She felt the chair grab at a memory in her head, the day Maran asked her to become the Captain of the Enterprise, and heard the conversation play over a speaker.

This memory was followed by others. Memories of battles, memories of meetings. Every moment brought searing pain. She struggled briefly against the braces holding her wrists and ankles before letting out another cry.

Whether it was desperation to escape the pain, a desire to feel better, a subconscious impulse to fight the machine… whatever her motivation was, Julia focused on her happiest, most cherished moments. She focused on memories of warm days under the Kansas sun, playing in the Dale farm's endless fields of golden wheat. She thought of sitting and watching movies with her parents. She immersed herself in these happy memories as if they could shield her from the pain.

They didn't. They couldn't. The device continued to burrow into her mind regardless. But all the pain managed to do was redouble her efforts.

She was too focused on these efforts to notice the growing expression of irritation on Fassbinder's face as those same childhood memories played out on the screen. The pain in her head only seemed to grow worse, as if the machine sensed the defiance in her efforts and was determined to thwart her.

It would be some time before the pain became too much, and everything went dark.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

The jump point generated by the Aurora deposited the Jayhawk in the S0T5 universe. Upon exiting the jump point a wave of nausea filled Robert and the others. Lucy was used to this feeling, but Gina and Talara were not. "I… I do not remember feeling this bad the last time," Talara admitted. "I just felt a little worn."

"You're more sensitive now," Lucy pointed out from the piloting seat. Her skin paled a little. "God, I hate this place."

Robert's stomach was twisting. He could see why the reports on the Fracture were fully justified. The place was simply wrong. Everything felt distorted, as if space itself, as if reality, had been smashed with a sledgehammer and twisted up afterward. Robert noticed something on his screens. "There's a ship nearby. Sending you coordinates."

Lucy activated the main engines on the Jayhawk. The impulse drives gave the ship excellent speed and maneuverability. It closed the distance to the incoming ship in record time. Everyone looked out at the vessel with increasing incredulity. "It's… a giant donut?" Lucy asked.

The craft ahead was a torus in shape, much like the pastry Lucy compared it with. Its hull was a fine, brilliant silver. Robert noted it was at least a kilometer in diameter. Its surface was mostly smooth and unmarked, but he noticed white light pouring from one section facing slightly toward them. The center of the torus was visibly empty, although sensors detected energy fluxes within the center that would certainly keep them out of it.

From the spare seat Gina was monitoring communications. "We're being hailed. Audio only."

"Put them on."

An electronic voice spoke. "Greetings, Captain. I am the Joyride Madonna, and I take great pleasure in saying I am the fastest ship in the Pan-Empyrean fleet. I am here to bring you to the Toutaine System posthaste. Mr. Hank's other agents will be waiting for us there. Please land in the designated landing bay. For your safety, it is advisable that you remain aboard your vessel during our flight."

"What do you mean you're the ship?" Talara asked.

"I am a Computational Intelligence," the voice replied. "I am aware that those outside of Solarian space can be perturbed by excessive interaction with CIs, so I will endeavor to make your trip a pleasant one. Please, inform me if there is anything you need."

Course data came through over the channel, which Robert relayed to Lucy. Their destination was the source of light along the surface. Lucy flew the Jayhawk in. As they neared it, no further detail appeared on the vessel. Its surface appeared completely smooth. Robert checked the sensor readings and noted that while it could determine some of the minerals in the hull, the specific material was not on file.

The landing bay itself had a red and gold interior. Several fighter craft were visible, as were personnel shuttles. Worker drones were visible in one corner, inactive but presumably ready to service returning vessels. When the bay door closed it did so as if it were a liquid. "Memory metal?" Robert asked aloud.

"Maybe," Lucy said. "I'd need a sample for an atomic analysis scanner, and I doubt Mr. Hank will approve." She relayed sensor data to the pilot station. "It looks like the ship is building up to a transition to hyperspace. But this pattern, the wavelengths, it's all atypical for S0T5's drives."

"File it for later," Robert said. Everyone felt a sudden, minor shift through the ship. The sick feeling of the Fracture dissipated.

"We are now in hyperspace," the operating CI said. "Estimated Time of Arrival to Toutaine is six hours."

They exchanged surprised looks. "Only six hours?" Lucy asked. "That's… amazing. I'm not aware of any drive that fast."

"I am built with only the best in technology developed by Pan-Empyrean, Lieutenant Lucero," the CI replied cheerfully. "I am fully justified in stating I am one of the most advanced, capable vessels that exists in the Multiverse. If you wish to know more, I am happy to provide answers so long as they do not counter the interests of Pan-Empyrean Holdings."

"Right. Well, there's nothing for now," Lucy replied.

"Very well. I will inform you when we are ten minutes from hyperspace egress. Good day." The line cut.

"This is… I mean, I thought Sidney Hank was just some ludicrously wealthy tycoon," Lucy said to the others. "But this is… why would someone like him want a ship like this?"

"I have a feeling there's a lot more to Mr. Hank than any of us realize," Robert said quietly. "And we may not enjoy finding out just what he's really up to." As Robert spoke those words he thought again on the deal he'd made. He'd given Sidney Hank something close to a blank check. He wondered when it would be cashed, and just what it could cost him in the end.

Another thought quickly came. Whatever it cost… it would be worth it if he rescued Julia.

Julia awoke with a jolt, her right cheek stinging from the impact of a backhanded slap against it. She opened her eyes to find herself laid out on the ground. A set of cuffs held her wrists behind her back. An iridescent powder, something like fine glitter, covered her skin. She blinked at that, wondering just why she was covered in glitter.

"It is good that you are awake," Fassbinder said, standing over her. On his left hand and forearm was a gauntlet with a control panel of some kind. "I sense you are curious about what we have coated you with, Kapitan. Allow me to explain." He knelt down beside her and looked into her face while she turned away. "We acquired this technology from another of our new trading partners. They were quite… eager to acquire our telepathic prisoners of war and provided us with useful technology and resources in exchange. This… glitzerpulver is actually composed of nanobots. You are familiar with nanobots, yes?" She didn't have to answer, as he could sense that familiarity. "It can be keyed to DNA. We have done so with yours. The nanobots hook themselves into your skin and extend threads that attach to nerve endings. Allow me to demonstrate." He reached for the gauntlet and pressed a button.

The pain was unreal. The surface of much of her body came alive with it. General, unspecified pain, as if the pain was itself a sense. A choked scream came from her throat at the intensity of the sensation.

Fassbinder let out a satisfied little sigh, as if her agony brought him physical pleasure. He knelt there for several seconds, enjoying the sight before him, the screams and cries of pain sweet music to his ears, before he keyed the gauntlet again. The pain receded and Julia sucked in a greedy breath, the screaming have driven the air from her lungs. "Now, Kapitan, what do you know about the defenses over the Reich's homeworld?"

Grim resignation was in Julia's voice as she responded, by instinct more than intent, with, "Andreys, Julia Megan. Captain. Serial Number Bravo Zero Zero Zero Three One Zero One Hotel One Echo Four."

"Still uncooperative. Let's see how much pain you can endure, then." His finger stabbed at the gauntlet.

The pain returned.

Across the Aurora the repair crews were putting the finishing touches on their work. In Engineering Tom looked over the ship systems status display and noted nearly everything was green. The last yellow or red lights went green one by one.

Given that they didn't have the aid of a dockship or a full repair yard, the completion of so many repairs in such a length of time was an accomplishment to be proud of. Ordinarily he would have. But the sick feeling inside of him kept him from that sense of accomplishment. The repair work was all well and good, but it did nothing to get Julia back.

For all of his excitability, Tom Barnes was not normally a hater. He could be angry at someone, utterly livid, but hate was too strong for his usual feelings.

But now he knew what it was like to hate. To hate the SS, who had caused so much misery on his adopted world. Killed so many good people and taken a friend he admired and respected.

The last system went green and there was some applause from the assembled. None came from Tom.

"Tom, how are you feeling?"

The line might have come from Julia, who was missing, or Scotty, who wasn't there. Instead it came through a machine, a vocoder, built into the suit of the speaker. Tali'Zorah took a place beside him and looked over the control display. "Your ship is ready," the Quarian woman said.

"Yeah. Thanks for the help." He glanced toward her. "So you're back with the Fleet? Your Pilgrimage is over?"

"It is, yes," Tali replied. "I offered the Neema captain the Geth data that Commander Shepard allowed me to copy. I'm a member of the Neema engineering crew now."

"Good for you," Tom said, with as much sincerity as he could muster. "How long until you reach chief engineer?"

Tali let out a small laugh. "It will be some time, I imagine."

He nodded.

"I'm sorry about Captain Andreys, Tom. She… she was a good captain."

"Is," he insisted. "She's still out there, she's alive, and we'll find her. That's for damn sure."

Tali went quiet at that. She could see how much Tom was hurting, regardless of what he said. It was a familiar pain to Tali. She felt it whenever she thought of Shepard.

"I'm sorry about Commander Shepard," Tom said. "She was good people."

"Yes. And it's how I know what you're going through."

"Right. Except you didn't have jerks planning on replacing her." Tom made a fist. "There are people in charge who hate us because we don't salute right or whatever. They'd love to take over the Aurora."

Tali looked at his face and understood. Losing his friend was hard enough. Tom was afraid that in the end, he'd lose everything he cared for. His ship, his friends… he might get split from all of them. "I understand, Tom," she said. "What you're afraid of."

Given where they were Tom had already said too much on his private feelings, so he didn't respond audibly. He replied with a nod. "Thank you," he finally said. "Well, I'd better get back to work before Scotty finds me standing around."

"Of course. And I need to get on a shuttle back to the Neema," Tali replied. "Keelah selai, Tom. If she's out there, you'll get her back."

Tom nodded in reply and returned to work. Tali left Main Engineering. Down the corridor she found Commander Scott in an office space, checking a report. "I did what I could, Scotty."

"I thank ye for it, lass," he replied, his accent strange to Tali's ears. "Th' lad's hurtin' more than he lets on."

"How are you feeling?"

Scott gave her a knowing look. "She's still out there, an' we'll go get 'er, even if I have tae steal th' Aurora t' do it." A dangerous glint in his eye made it clear that this was something he'd given thought to. Tali had the feeling that it was something he'd even done before and wouldn't care about doing again.

"Good luck, then," she said before walking out.

The nanobot session was followed by another period of immersion in the "kolhtou", although this time Fassbinder did not turn on the electricity. When the healing session was over Julia found herself being escorted to another section of the "city". That she could even walk was entirely due to the green fluid she was being immersed in. Nevertheless her guards had to half-carry her at points, at one point earning her a vicious punch to the stomach out of frustration and endless insults and curses, some in German and some in German-accented English.

The place she was brought to was essentially an auditorium, or had at least been refurbished as one by the SS. In the seats were various figures, who had just finished listening to an actual SS Choir that had sung the Florian Geyerlied for them, the muscular blondes in uniform filing away as she was brought in. Some were in SS uniforms, others had dark clothing. She recognized one as one of the Cylons, the older male model, indicating the others were Cylons as well. A third visible group were in fine suits and uniforms. She glanced long enough to note their skin was marble white and their hair dark as night--save for one woman, of average height in the group but a powerful figure, whose haughty, perfect face was set with splendid ashen silver-platinum hair and whose eyes glimmered in a lush red bordering on purple, dressed in a black formal dress with white opera gloves. Several other sets of carnelian eyes settled on her, the eyes reminding her of Robert and Lucy's reports from Tau Atrea of the slaving "Aristos".

Her guards marched her up on the platform. The Aurora Chair was sitting in the middle of it, with attached viewer and controls. She was placed in the chair as before.

Fassbinder approached from the other side of the stage. "My fellow Aryans, treasured allies, allow me to introduce our prisoner, the Captain of the hated Aurora, and one of the founders of the Allied Systems. I will now demonstrate the efficacy of this device on her." He walked to the controls.

Julia steeled herself for the chair, but it did little to offset the immense pain of the device drilling into her mind again. She cried out from the intensity of the experience.

"As you can see, it is quite unpleasant," Fassbinder said. "We are still learning how to tune the machine to more accurately attack a Human mind, allowing an efficient extraction of information from the subject. In time we hope to adapt it to other species, including Gersallian."

"Herr Brigadeführer, can the subject trick the device? Resist it?" asked one of the SS officers.

"They may potentially try to guide it, according to our tests so far. We are learning ways to make more targeted scans of the subject's memories. Testing will tell how successful we are." He glanced with amusement toward Julia. "It is that consideration which is currently determining the pace of our subject's interrogation, in fact."

This conversation continued with the backdrop of Julia moaning and struggling against the braces holding her to the chair. Her face was twisted in a rictus of agony all could recognize. Behind her, the screen displayed the sight of a number of Africans, adults and children, running past the viewer. A bolt of blue light appeared from the bottom of the screen and struck an approaching armed man.

The memory of rescuing people during the days of the Facility bubbled up from Julia's suffering psyche. It was a silent plea to the universe, a subconscious one, that after helping so many people, she now asked for the same.

Fassbinder sensed that sentiment and turned, laughing. "As you can see, the subject remembers her days of aiding the weak and unfit," he declared loudly. "The machine shows us this image. In time, it will show everything in her mind. Every memory. Fine-tuning needs aside, there is no secret she or any other prisoner can hide from us once they are in the chair. Over the passage of time, they will be revealed to us."

That brought agreement from the audience, but Fassbinder was more satisfied with how it felt for Julia. He sensed the sentiment of violation building inside of her. While the pain in her head was excruciating, she still had the other senses, enough to hear, enough to know everything being said. Her pain was for the pleasure of others, and the most private memory might yet be plucked out by the Chair for their entertainment.

The idea that her happiest memories could be made into entertainment kept Julia from seeking solace in them. She fought the machine as best as she could, but wherever its drilling probes went, her mind yielded. Memory after memory flashed on the screen.

The pain finally faded. When she was released from the chair Julia thought her head might explode. Her guards roughly handled her, pulling her up and dragging her away.

"Now, if you will follow me, I will answer all questions, while our subject is healed once more," Fassbinder offered.

Another of the halls in the city was now made up as a reception hall. The best food and drink the SS could acquire was on display for the delectation of their visitors. The Cylons were clearly not as interested, mostly staying to themselves, but the Aristos behaved as if this was their due, indeed, as if it was insufficient, but accepted regardless as a gesture of magnanimity toward the SS.

That part made Fassbinder bristle a little. While he appreciated the wealth of the Eubian Concord, not to mention their own approach to racial hygiene and their ruthlessness, he found the Aristos' love of luxury utterly undesirable. It gave them a softness he found palpably irritating. Nor was he blind to the idea that they were out to use the SS, and would reduce Aryans to slaves as swiftly as they reduced others.

At the approach of their delegation's leader, Fassbinder forced those thoughts away. "Yes, Lord Karex?"

"An impressive display, Brigadefuhrer. Your prisoner's pain was an enjoyable diversion." The Aristo smiled with remembered pleasure. "And such a pretty specimen. If only she were a psion, she would make a lovely provider." Karex laughed at the remark. "But onto more important matters. From what you have said, the machine does not work properly on Humans."

"There are certain inefficiencies that time and testing will wean out, Lord Karex. It is one of many reasons why I intend to keep Captain Andreys alive as long as possible."

"Yes, your leader implied you had a special desire to deal with the Alliance founders yourself," said Karex. "Much as any Aristo would love to deal with the so-called 'Ruby Dynasty'... ah, Lady Taruar?"

“Lord Karex,” the woman with her brilliant white opera gloves arrived, her hair pulled back into a bun and still long enough to fall from that in a braid down her back, with a tremendous line of alternating rubies and black opals in a silver necklace around her neck. “You must absolutely take the time to introduce me to the Brigadeführer.

"Of course. Brigadeführer Erik Fassbinder, this is Lady Danaine Taruar, the personal representative, and a most excellent conversationalist I might add, of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Jaibriol III."

Fassbinder appraised the silver-haired woman with interest. He sensed something odd about her. Something he didn't feel in the other Aristos. It may simply be from her being of the higher Diamond caste. Or perhaps she has the metaphysical gifts too, but if so, they are woefully undeveloped. "My Lady," he said politely. "I hope my demonstration will meet the approval of your Emperor as much as it does my Führer."

She answered in flawless upper-crust old-style German of the First Führer’s days. “Seine Majestät der Kaiser Jaibriol ist am meisten interessiert diese Wunder das Deutsche Reich uns zur Verfügung stellen kann.”

Fassbinder found his estimation of Lady Taruar increasing. "Such elegant use of my race's tongue," he said in the same. "I was led to believe the Earth of your universe was another sad example where the German people proved incapable of fulfilling Hitler's dreams for them."

“Unfortunately you are correct, however, during the course of my studies into the humanity of Earth, I had the opportunity to take an education in Germany, at the University you likely still knew as the Königlich-Sächsisches Polytechnikum, and I became quite fascinated with the history of that which was, to me, then, without knowledge of the Multiverse, this brief flowering of potential in which the Germanic race seemed poised in the Sun and Lightning to become a true Master Race. Now I meet you, Brigadeführer Fassbinder, and even in your hour of trial, I do not believe the hour of the Germans has passed. You surely must take heart in the stories of Frederick, in Berlin’s occupation and liberation during his wars, in the Miracle of the House of Brandenburg.”

"Yes," said Fassbinder. "We will yet reclaim Germania, our Earth, our worlds. And the Alliance will burn before this is over."

By this point it was clear to Lord Karex that he was being left out of the conversation intentionally. He stated, in Eubian, "It is pleasing that initiative always wins reward, is it not, my Lady?"

“The only certain rewards are in initiative, when one permits the rival or the enemy to gain initiative one wins victories and rewards alike only by luck, and then rarely. That we have taken this initiative against the Ruby Dynasty means much.” She returned her attention to Fassbinder, but kept speaking in Eubian and let the translators handle it. “Brigadeführer, let me assure you, we are also aware of the risk that the Alliance poses with their interuniversal drives, because of the initiative they provide. We would never be concerned about a trifling alliance of weaker, misguided races and peoples united by the popular passions of democracy, except for the enormous strategic advantages of the drive. But because those strategic advantages accrue against all practicality or sense, we are grateful for the profitable relationship we have established, and pleased to see our estimation correct, in that the hour of your possession of the drive at once brought powerful blows to the Alliance.”

Fassbinder's own translator - a hated concession compared to what things were like before the Alliance - allowed him to understand all that was said. He felt an impatient tic against the Aristos' love of hearing themselves talk and indirect remarks with potentially hidden meanings and allusions. But his orders from Kranefuss were direct; diplomacy was necessary. "It was a great pleasure to watch New Liberty burn," he said. "That it brought pain to my enemies made it all the more satisfying." As he spoke he decided not to say a thing about the IU drive. There would be no opening given for the Eubians to believe the SS had promised the technology to them, for that would never happen. "Do you have any more questions or concerns I may answer for the Emperor?" Fassbinder felt the flicker of suspicion and dislike from Karex. He fears the Emperor will assume control of this connection, depriving him of profit. "I would be honored to assist."

“If I could schedule a meeting with your technical personnel personally to review the documentation and specifications, I would deeply appreciate it. I would like to thank them, and also to ask some questions, on the matters of the faster than light communications and the warp drive. This would be a lovely possibility as well for me to answer any technical questions on our information as well… Of course, Taskmakers deal with the petty details of such things, so we will keep ourselves to high theory and other interesting matters. Your people are much accomplished in technical affairs theoretically and we… Appreciate integrating your worthy contributions to science into our own.”

Fassbinder considered his orders and the request. Warp drive was of little consequence, and he'd already made arrangements with Karex for subspace radio, so there was no harm there either. "I will make the necessary arrangements," he replied. As he spoke Fassbinder allowed himself a grin. By now Captain Andreys was back in the kohltou tank. He would have to check in on things when he was done here, and perhaps, test the nanobots on her again. They hurt quite a bit, he sensed.

Lady Taruar saw the grin and how similar it was to the ones on the faces of her compatriots during the public torture session. “My, my, Brigadeführer, we have heard much about the not-psion abilities of these other universes… Can you actually… Sense her continued agony at this remove?”

"If I focused, I would," Fassbinder said, and did. Yes, he did feel his prisoner's lingering pain. "She is not like me, or I would sense her more strongly." As he said that Fassbinder pondered on just how it was that he did sense her as he did, more than others. Did she indeed have a slight capacity? Was it something else? "My enjoyment is not so visceral as yours is. It is not a physiological enjoyment for me, my Lady, simply the satisfaction that my hated enemy is suffering at my hand."

It was quite clear to the others, indeed, that Fassbinder hated his prisoner. It was the kind of hate that you didn't get just from a sense of superiority. It took wounded pride, deep loss, and a need for savage revenge.

"That is why Skolians make such pleasing providers," Karex remarked. "The hate makes transcendence sweeter. Now, my Lady, may I introduce you to one of the Firsts? I am reminded that a common enemy can make for profitable relations."

Fassbinder observed them departing. There was something about Taruar he found vaguely unsettling, but it made her interesting, in a way Karex never was.

In the long run, the only thing that mattered was that these powerful allies were providing him the means for both revenge against his foes, and the chance to reclaim the Reich from those that had destroyed it.

Talara sat on the bed in the quarters assigned to her on the Jayhawk. The room was small, given the size of the ship, but it was not uncomfortable. In here, she had time to meditate.

On her lap, a digital reader showed the report from Fala. The Defense Fleet was on full alert and ready for a Reich attack. Fala was sending aid to both New Liberty and Gersal. Her parents' reply to her message confirming she was okay was loaded as well. She read it again, if just to reassure herself that they were okay, and returned her focus to herself. To the power within her being.

But it wasn't easy. Robert, across the way in his quarters, seemed to have lost his usual friendly, kind qualities. She sensed anguish and yawning despair. A desperation, a need. He had to rescue Captain Andreys, had to, and she feared that if he were to fail, it would break him.

Any further consideration ended when Gina's voice came over the comms. "We're ten minutes out from Toutaine," she said.

A moment later Robert replied. "Suit up," he said.

Talara left her quarters. Robert was already on his way to the cargo/armory area. Lucy emerged from the engineering division at the back of the main deck, discarding her tool belt. "How are you feeling?" she asked him.

"Horrible," he answered. "But I'll live."

He passed her by and Talara approached. Lucy stopped her from following for the moment. "I have something for you," she said.


Lucy led Talara back toward the four cabins. Her cabin was a little more lived in, with discarded spare suits and clothes over the one available dresser and in the small closet. A collapsible tray by the bed had tools laid on it, along with a crystal of lavender hue, much like the color at the center of Talara's irises.

Talara gave Lucy a surprised look. "You… you believe I am ready?"

"I think you are. But that decision is yours." Lucy put a hand on Talara's shoulder. "Gersal was as bad as Germania. Worse in some ways. And I know it hurt you. But I also saw how you handled it. I think you've found your way to deal with darkness regardless of how sensitive you are. And with everything happening, I want you to be fully prepared. It's up to you, of course. I'll support you either way."

Talara looked to the tray and back to her teacher's face. "I understand," she said, after which she sat down and concentrated on the contents of the tray. She quieted her mind and felt the connection to the Flow of Life, allowed that connection to flow freely, unobscured by thought.

Piece after piece lifted from the table. Talara sensed those pieces, the way they were supposed to flow together, and her will commanded the same of the objects provided. She felt them move toward one another, matching up as they were built to, creating a device of such precision that only those with this power could hope to assemble them.

For a moment, a brief moment, she stopped. This was not a work of art. It was a weapon. It could defend, true, but like any weapon, it could cause harm. It could kill. By crafting it, making it, Talara was accepting that. And a part of her didn't want to.

But Lucy thought she was ready, or she would never have presented the parts to Talara. And as much as she disliked what the lightsaber could do, Talara knew what it represented. What it meant for an increasing number of people in the Multiverse. It was a symbol of hope, of good. The weapon of what she aspired to be, a Knight of Life.

The moment of hesitation passed. Talara's will resumed the task of assembling the pieces and planting the lavender-hued crystal into its cradle in the mechanism. She shifted the housing into place and felt the final pieces snap together. Only then did she open her eyes. She reached toward the silver and blue-colored weapon hovering in the air before her, her will summoning it to her hand. Nearby Lucy watched quiet pride for her to complete the last step. In the confined space of the small quarters there wasn't much room for Talara to do so, but she found enough space to hold her arm out and activate her new weapon. A blade of lavender-colored light surged from the device with a lingering electronic snap-hiss sound.

"Think fast." Lucy tossed a slab of metal toward Talara. Her blade easily intercepted the slab, sending its severed halves between her to thump against the wall of her quarters. "Congratulations, Talara," said Lucy. "You've successfully built your first lightsaber."

Talara extinguished the blade and nodded with respect. "Thank you for your faith, Lucy. I will not cause you to regret it."

"I'm sure you won't. Now let's go suit up. We should be at Toutaine in a few minutes."

The Joyride Madonna emerged from hyperspace in the Toutaine system. With unseen engines the toroid moved toward the space station. From the Jayhawk the assembled group monitored communications. They detected the larger ship transmitting a code into the space station. The ship's operating CI spoke again. "The Wild Geese have secured much of the station. They are awaiting your arrival at the transmitted coordinates."

Under Lucy's control the Jayhawk launched and flew from the Joyride Madonna. Again Lucy kept the ship clear of the inside of the torus, flying around the Pan-Empyrean vessel and toward the similarly-shaped space station ahead. They entered the provided landing bay and found several combat-armed figures with Solarian rifles waiting for them.

Jason Chandra, the head of the Wild Geese, was waiting when they emerged, all four in the Gersallian-style of robes - Lucy, Gina, and Talara in blue, Robert in brown - and armor - again purple and blue respectively. Her new lightsaber now dangled from Talara's belt, and the others could sense her quiet pride in the accomplishment. It was evident to Chandra too.

"Captain Dale," he said. "Nice to see you again. I hear you've had a career change." He gave a diplomatic, welcoming smile. "I didn't take you for the black ops type."

"We're more white ops," Lucy replied sardonically. "Black ops, but without the ruthless jerkiness."

Chandra flashed her a knowing grin. "We'll see how long that lasts. Follow me."

As they emerged into a corridor of rust-colored metal, they found the station mostly empty save for Solarian combat drones and armed men in Pan-Empyrean markings. "Under Mister Hank's orders we've secured the station. Most of it, anyway. There's a section near the middle that's holding out. We considered storming it, but you might be better able to take it and leave us captives alive to be interrogated."

"Good call Captain Chandra," Robert answered. "Take us there."

"Already was." As they continued on to a cross-walk to the inner core of the station, he continued, "We've rescued about a dozen abducted espers, mostly from Wild Space worlds. Looks like they were being sold into slavery to some foreigner with red eyes."

"An Aristo," Robert growled. "Just as we expected."

"Well, he's in the isolated zone with some cyborg troopers. With your abilities we should be able to break in and take prisoners without needing excessive force."


Chandra brought them to a hall with a corridor ahead. Energy fire occasionally blazed through it, stopping at a deflector field. At the field were several troopers with the unit. Robert recognized the cyber-modified assassin Matsubara - the one Zack called a "cyborg ninja" after the mission to Solaris - and the diminutive form of Scirocco Montague, the specialist psion of the unit. Her eyes were about as large as any Human's could ever get, her head larger than normal, and otherwise looked physically puny. Robert had good reason to know she was anything but that; her appearance was from the Apexai DNA that she, as a hybrid, possessed, significantly boosting her psionic power.

Scirocco gave him a penetrating look. Robert felt her presence at the edge of his mind, viewing his surface memories and thoughts. Her look lost some of its intensity. "My condolences," she said. She motioned beyond. "Whatever that… thing is, he's nasty. A Blank of some kind. Just feeling his mind is… annoying."

"He's called an Aristo, Universe A5R0," Lucy said. "They're a bunch of slavers who feel pleasure when they sense the pain of others, especially telepaths. They keep telepaths as slaves to torture them for the pleasure it brings."

Scirocco's face hardened. 'Well, I look forward to shredding this one's mind," she said. "I've faced worse."

The others could believe it. "We'll take the lead," Robert said.

"Right behind you," replied Chandra. He started issuing orders.

The four stepped up toward the deflector field. They ignited their lightsabers in tandem. Lucy's and Gina's were blue, Robert's blade emerald green, and Talara's new weapon the same lavender color as the crystal she'd used. "We'll take the lead," Robert said to Talara. "Just watch our backs."

"Yes sir," she replied.

Together they went through the field, the three experienced fighters in front and Talara behind. The energy fire descending on them was vicious and lethal, and each seemed to come within microseconds of taking a deadly hit, but every time their lightsabers intercepted the shots before they could land. They advanced down the corridor and into the besieged section of the station, a residential hall and attached dining area. It was richly decorated, if now bearing the marks of battle.

The defending enemies, cyborgs all, continued to fight back, even as the Wild Geese stormed in behind Robert's team, even as they fell one by one. The last went down to a strike from Gina's lightsaber.

There were survivors left. Human beings, mostly in immaculate, pressed robes and uniforms that Lucy recognized as similar to those she'd seen on the ship that attacked Tau Atrea. They were the servants then, slaves themselves, if favored ones.

Among them was a red-eyed man in the finest garb, his black hair combed immaculately, his skin almost porcelain in its coloring. He stood at the back, unarmed and no threat, but clearly unbowed as well. He looked them over and a sullen smile came to his face. "I recognize you," he said in an accent Robert previously heard at Tau Atrea. "You are the Alliance founder. The one who helped kill Lord Tyral and his wife." He laughed. "Oh, such timing. Such timing… which, it occurs to me, is the point, isn't it?"

"We know you're trading things with the SS," Robert said. "Start talking. Tell us where their base is."

"I am Lord Haron, and I will do no such thing, Alliancer," the Aristo replied. "Do you think I fear your pathetic people? The SS may be pathetic in their own way, but at least they understand how the universe works. They have a will to power, an understanding of racial greatness, not unlike our own."

"Comparing the Nazis favorably to yourself isn't going to do you any favors, jerk," Lucy pointed out.

"Are you aware of what I sold to them?" asked Haron. When they didn't answer he laughed. "In exchange for captives, I gave Brigadeführer Fassbinder a supply of the nanobots we use on our providers. They are specially made just for what he needed."

"The base. Where is it?" Robert demanded.

Haron ignored him. "The machines are keyed to DNA. Once this is done, they affix themselves to the skin of the selected provider. They thread themselves to touch the nerve endings."

Lucy didn't like where this was going. "The base!" Robert shouted. "Where. is. IT?!"

"I have no idea," Haron asserted. 'I do not study the interuniversal system very closely. The universe coordinate is beyond my knowledge. Or that of my taskmakers." He laughed. "Your friend is a captive of the SS, isn't she? Oh, how awful for her. Brigadeführer Fassbinder will certainly use the nanobots on her. Will coat her with them and leave her screaming from the agony the bots will inflict. I can hear her cries now…"

Lucy felt Robert's patience snap. Before she could stop him he lashed out, grabbing Haron with his power and tearing him from the floor. With a wave of his arm Robert sent the Aristo into the ceiling with bone-jarring force. He slammed Haron into the nearby wall next, smashing the Aristo's nose in with the impact. Blood poured down Haron's face as he went flying backward into the opposite wall for another hard impact.

Gina and Lucy exchanged worried looks as they felt the rage in Robert release. He snarled at Haron and held him in the air. "WHERE IS SHE?!" he thundered.

"Screaming," Haron replied, defiant and vicious. "Screaming like a new provider."

Time slowed for Robert, or so it seemed. He felt cold power surge behind his hot, desperate rage, dark power tied to the most visceral and primal of his emotions. In that moment he felt the temptation to give into it. To smash Haron into things until the Aristo's broken body was at his feet. To give release to the fear and anger in his heart.

But he felt Talara's worry, her sensitive nature, and her warm heart. He felt Gina and her devotion to the ways of Swenya, her ability to rise above the pain of her past. And he felt Lucy, who had taught him through example, who understood the anger in his heart but was even now readying herself to intervene and stop him. For his own good.

Ultimately, as much as Robert wanted the Aristo dead, he wasn't going to pay for the pleasure with his soul.

Robert's hand opened and the wounded, battered man fell to the ground, hitting his knees. Blood poured from his smashed nose. His red eyes glared murderous hate at Robert, as if he could incinerate Robert for his deeds.

But that look went blank, replaced by brief terror and then a loud, strangled cry. Haron's body tensed up, his muscles contracting until they started to tear, ligaments and tendons snapping like twigs from the unnatural pressures Haron's body was being forced to exert. His eyes poured blood as well before rolling up into the back of his head.

And then Haron collapsed like a puppet with his strings cut.

Lucy knelt down and examined him. "No pulse," she said. "He's dead."

"That was the point," said Scirocco. "Something like him doesn't deserve to live." She looked a little pale, but just a bit. Contact with the Aristo's mind had been painful. She turned to face Robert, who was breathing heavily and staring down at Haron's body. "I learned a lot of things from his memories while I tore his mind to pieces, but I'm afraid universal coordinates was not one of them. I'm sorry."

"You were able to tear his mind apart? By yourself?" Robert asked quietly. "It took twenty telepaths to do it the last time I saw it happen."

"I'm not just any normal telepath, Captain, as you well know," she replied.

Robert nodded. In his head he did the calculation. If he wasn't wrong, Scirocco was probably one of the strongest telepaths alive. She may even be at the level of someone like Lyta Alexander, if not stronger.

Chandra stepped up. "Command center's this way. CI should be finished soon with an analysis."

Wordlessly Robert walked away, causing the others to follow.

The woman calling herself Lady Danaine Taruar, as haughty and regal as any of the Aristos, settled into her private quarters on her starship which would, with the assistance of an SS cruiser, take her back to Eube’s Glory, or simply Glory to most. She began to compose the message, written in her native tongue, which none in either universe knew, but that she had taught the Eubian Emperor, for the secrecy it provided.

At her side was a glass of some immensely calming natural beverage of one of the worlds of the Carnelian throne, which a taskmaker had provided to her. She was naturally in command, utterly prideful, spectacularly perfect by Eubian standards, a Diamond who had clear hints of pretension toward being a Highton, the perfect kind of person to be used as a high-level functionary by the Emperor himself, and discarded just as perfectly if she pushed beyond her station. Some, of course, made mock of her imitation of the Empress’ natural hair colour, the white-platinum which was all the rage now that ranking Aristos near the Emperor were displaying it, instead of sculpting to correct that sign of age. It made her look odd, for she could be a woman in her twenties otherwise, but that was normal enough for a bodysculpted Aristo.

The subtleness of the shade of her eyes, a bit more purpleish than the Carnelian norm, different in a completely opposite and more regal direction from those of interbred half-caste Taskmakers, was remarkable and had helped lead to a few marriage offers already. Those she had demurred. She was the Emperor’s woman, not in that sense, she would never think to disrespect the Empress Tarquine so, but if this all worked, she might yet be remembered in the same breath as Talleyrand.

Your Imperial Majesty, Hail!

Sire, the situation is dire. The Schutzstaeffel are providing subspace communication capability including all the necessary equipment to arrange for mass production, and also tactical warp drive. Because of the dissemination through the connections of the Silicate caste, it is now inevitable that these technologies will proliferate throughout the Concordate, and thus give us inestimable tactical and strategic advantages over the Imperialate.

If Your Imperial Majesty desires to complete Your objectives geopolitically and morally, they will be limited by the realities this situation imposes. Of course, it is clear that the SS does not wish to share IU Drive with the Concordate, however that is not of any particular benefit to Your objectives, it merely reduces the pressure for interstellar war. I would nonetheless warn that such a war is entirely possible due to the activities of the Silicates who have been very aggressive in diversifying the sources of Providers. In short, it is necessary and required to consider kinetic alternatives to the current plan.

Honourably Your’s,
Lady Danaine

The woman smiled for a moment, satisfied at the characters she had put on paper. She folded it up and slipped it into her bodice. “Markeina, prepare my bed for me, I am tired after all these discussions with the Reich officers and scientists, and should rest on my return to Glory.” The words slipped from her with all the ease and comfort of someone used to directing servants, and that much about her was indeed very true.

The station's command center looked as worn and used as the rest of the station. Some of the surfaces used hardlight construct controls, others flat panel touchscreens, and yet others physical switches and dials. Screens showed sensor readings and data files. At the center, Robert and the others joined Chandra and his tech people. "We've completed a search of the systems," one man said to Chandra. "Indexing is finishing now. Give us a search parameter and we'll find whatever's in here."

Chandra looked to Robert, who said, "Anything on SS bases. On the SS period. Universal coordinates too."

"Searching now." After several moments the man shook his head. "While I'm getting some info on SS-linked trade, there's nothing in the files on their bases. Definitely nothing on universes."

Lucy tied her omnitool into the system. She ran her own search parameters. Moments passed and she shook her head. "Nothing," she said. "They probably kept it off the systems on purpose." She gave Robert a worried look. "I'm sorry, but the station's not giving us anything."

She felt the little snap in Robert's heart. He grabbed at a console to right himself as the despair filled him. He let out a low sob at the weight of it all.

He'd promised Julia he'd come for her. He'd promised. Now she was being held by one of their worst enemies, one of the most sick and vicious beings they'd ever faced, and there was nothing he could do. Every time it looked like he had a way to find her, it didn't pan out, no matter how hard he tried or how much he gave. He'd put himself in the debt of Sidney Hank, a debt he was already certain would be something he regretted, and yet… and yet it would be for absolutely nothing. Julia was still beyond his reach, suffering, waiting for him to come for her like he'd promised.

Lucy set a hand on his shoulder, feeling Robert on the brink of breaking down completely. "It's not over," she assured him. "Trust me. We'll find…"

One of the Pan-Empyrean operators looked up from a console. "Gravimetric spike. Incoming interuniversal jump point."

"Put it on," said Chandra.

The holographic viewer came alive, showing empty space. A green vortex expanded into view. From it flew a blocky, ugly-looking space vessel painted utterly black. Only the lights of its warp nacelles and the visible lightning rune insignia stood out in the void around it.

Lucy was already checking the profile. "It's an SS ship alright. An armed transport ship, Calypso-class."

As she spoke, Lucy felt hope light up inside Robert's being. He looked up with a look of utmost determination. "We've got to get aboard!"
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Dayum Siege, what's up with Scirocco?!

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

The others followed Robert as he raced for the Jayhawk. Enhanced speed allowed them to get there quickly. By the time they did, Chandra spoke over the comm line. "They're suspicious, but I've got them on approach again through codes we extracted from Haron's personal CI implant. We'll fire to cripple as soon as they're in range."

"And we'll board." Robert rushed up the ladder to the port-side airlock. The others followed.

They were rushing toward the cockpit when all felt a fifth presence on the ship. They turned and faced the black-clad figure of Matsubara. He appraised them with cold eyes. "You will need my services," the figure said in a quiet, cold tone. "Mister Hank ordered me to ensure you recovered the data on your friend's location."

Lucy and Gina felt uncomfortable around the cybernetically-enhanced assassin. Robert merely nodded. "We'll go over by short-range transporter once we're in range. Strap in."

The Jayhawk cloaked and launched from the station. Lucy flew them on a course to keep the ship out of the crossfire when the station opened fire. "They're still on approach," she noted. She turned back briefly. "No shields. We could beam over, but we'd have to decloak."

"Let's leave that on the table for now. Continue the approach," Robert replied. He glanced to Talara. "You'll stay behind and bring us back. The transporter can only handle four at a time at an absolute maximum."

"Yes sir," she replied. Robert sensed she was quietly gratified that she wouldn't face any more violence today.

"They're stopping," Gina observed. "I think they're suspicious."

Robert watched the transport as it hung in space for a moment, not moving. "You're right, they suspect," he said. He glanced at the sensor readings. "They're building a particle charge for a jump. We've got to move now before they…"

Without warning the weapons emplacements of Toutaine Station opened up. Brilliant ruby light played over the warp nacelles of the vessel, wrecking both. More fire cut into the ship's navigational deflector and the sections behind it. On the sensor screen the particle charge dissipated, much to Robert's relief. "Take us in!" he shouted.

Lucy answered and the Jayhawk accelerated, its course and speed now bringing them up to the other ship in seconds. Talara took the helm controls from her so she could join Robert and the others. Lucy tapped at her omnitool. "Remote transport in three, two, one…"

The transporter on the infiltrator snatched them away. The Jayhawk cockpit disappeared in a burst of light. When the light faded they were on a bridge full of men in SS uniforms.

The ship's captain lunged for a control, intending to lock down his ship's database. Just before he could key in the command Robert's power flung him into the air, smashing him first against a roof and then the far wall. Matsubara became a sinister black blur, his superhuman speed and monomolecular-edge blade letting him dismember those whom he targeted. Gina sliced the hand from another officer raising his pistol and pushed away others with force. Lucy cut down one foe before getting to the doors.

Within the span of five seconds the bridge was secure. Two seconds later Lucy declared, "I've locked down the door!" She rushed for one of the nearby control panels and started working her omnitool.

Matsubara seemed to materialize beside her. An interface port emerged from one of his fingers. He pressed it against one of the control surfaces. "Commencing download," he said. "Decrypting enemy database."

"That's fast," Lucy observed. With Matsubara's help her job was easier. The cyborg's software ran smart-decrypt procedures that allowed them to progressively crack the encryption.

Gina looked to one of the consoles. "You'd better hurry. It looks like the engineer is in the middle of shutting down the anti-matter containment system." She started operating the console. "I'll do what I can to stop him, but he's going to cut off my access soon."

Robert went over to the captain and picked him up. "Where is your base?" he asked.

The captain narrowed his eyes at him and said nothing.

"I'm losing access," Gina warned. "We don't have much time left."

"I'm into their navigational data and drive database. Downloading logs, viewing…" After precious, terrible seconds passed, Lucy grinned and looked up. "I've got it! Interstellar coordinates and… universal! N1C4!"

"Containment field going down!"

"Talara, now!" Robert shouted into his omnitool.

The transporter on the Jayhawk yanked them away. They materialized on the small pad in the armory section and dashed for the stepladder leading up to the main deck. Just as Lucy made it to the first step the ship rocked violently, pitching out from under their feet. The lights flickered and went out, replaced by weaker blue and white lights after several moments.

The ship exploded, Talara explained mentally. I tried to get us to a safe distance, but we were still too close. I'm reading multiple systems damaged across the ship.

We'll get to work on the repairs. Do we have IU comms?

Negative. The transceiver took a direct hit.

Then get to work on repairs. Lucy, the data…

His heart skipped as Lucy looked over her omnitool with consternation. She smiled and nodded, relieving his worry. "It's here," she said. "Computers weren't damaged, and I saved the coordinate data anyway. Universe N1C4. That's where we're going."

Robert let out a sigh of relief. I'm coming, he thought. I'm coming for you, just like I promised I would.

Another blow from a stun stick jolted Julia's body and caused her to collapse into her cell. The SS guard who'd happily caused the shock spat into her face before departing. The field imprisoning her popped back into existence. Julia, motionless on the floor of the empty cell, heard the guard walk away. Her clothes were soaked from the green healing fluid and days of sweat. Her muscles twitched from the shock of the stick.

Despite this Julia began to move, crawling slowly on the floor until she was facing the opposite cell. There her fellow prisoner was sitting, leaning across the far wall of the small cell. Her brown eyes were of a light tone, approaching amber. For the first time Julia noticed a collar on the girl's neck. A persistent green light blinked at the front. The look on the girl's face suggested barely-hidden frustration laced with resignation.

After a ragged breath came from Julia's lungs, she spoke, her voice still hoarse, "My name is Julia Andreys. Do you understand me?"

After a moment the younger woman nodded. "I can. They put a device in me so I could understand them."

"An auto-translator," Julia noted. "Who are you?"

"My name is Miko," the girl replied. She gave Julia a discerning look. "They've only put me in that chair a couple of times. They just leave me here usually. They must really hate you."

Julia, despite everything, chuckled at that. "Oh, yeah, they do," she said.


"Because my friends and I founded the Alliance. And the Alliance destroyed their empire. We liberated all of the enslaved nations under their rule."

A satisfied little grin crossed Miko's face. "Good," she said.

Julia grinned back before setting her head on the floor. She needed her rest if she was going to endure.

With their mission accomplished on Toutaine Station, the Jayhawk returned to the Joyride Madonna. The Wild Geese withdrew from the station as well, prisoners and freed slaves in tow, leaving the station's former operators to reassert control when they could manage to regain command of the station's systems.

"It was interesting working with you again," said Chandra on the screen in the Jayhawk's small galley. "I hope the intel you picked up is what you're looking for."

"Thank you," Robert replied, seated at the table. Gina and Talara were seated with him. Lucy was at the stove frying an egg for her meal. All four were out of their armor, wearing an assortment of civilian clothing. "I hope those freed captives can find a better life."

"My boss has some connections to Lyra Saxon and her fellow philanthropists. They'll be well cared for. Chandra out."

The viewer disengaged. "Commencing hyperspace transit now," the Joyride Madonna's CI informed them. They felt the subtle shift of the ship around them at the transit.

For a moment afterward the only sound in the room was the sizzle of the egg on the stove. "Anyone want some?" Lucy asked, checking the small spice cabinet as she did. "I'm making my mother's recipe."

"Sounds delicious," Robert replied. As he spoke there was a clear weight to his voice, mirrored by the feeling within him that the other three all sensed. He held up a digital reader. "From the information we picked up, it looks like the SS got the universe coordinates from Gamma Piratus. They've set up shop in a Darglan outpost."

"Fassbinder must have accessed the databanks of the Facility during the fight," Lucy observed, glancing back to Robert before cracking open another egg. Again the pan let off a dizzle as the yolk hit the hot surface. "Or maybe some kind of data siphoning device was planted where we didn't see it."

"Possible," Robert agreed, distracted.

"Do we know for sure that Captain Andreys is being held there?" asked Talara.

After a moment of silence Robert nodded. "I can sense it. She is. But even if she wasn't, this is still a lead worth pursuing. Going by the logs this N1C4 universe base they have is one of their major ones." He eyed something on the files he was looking through. "And look who's listed as being in charge?"

With a swipe of his finger he loaded the file onto their omnitools. Gina and Talara read it. "Fassbinder," noted Gina.

"Exactly," said Robert.

"Gina, Talara, can you give us a minute?" asked Lucy.

The two glanced from her to Robert before nodding and leaving. Robert looked at Lucy as she came over and sat down beside him. "Let's talk about what happened on Toutaine Station," said Lucy.

"Not much to talk about," Robert said.

"You almost lost yourself," Lucy said. "I felt it. You let your anger take control. You know better, Robert."

"Yeah." He clenched a fist. "I do." There was clear shame in his green eyes, shame and pain. "But I… Lucy, I've felt Julia in pain. Hearing that monster mock what was being done to her, I just couldn't... "

"I know. I understand. But it worries me. This feeling you have of sensing Julia, I think it's causing you a lot of harm." Lucy reached over and set her hand on his arm. "I'm not saying you're not sensing her, I'm just worried about what it's doing to you. You're becoming unbalanced, frustrated. Angry. You're allowing your darkest emotions to come out."

"Yeah." Robert nodded. "It's just, I… I can feel it, Lucy. He's hurting her. He's hurting Julie. She's in terrible pain from what he's doing to her. And we have to get her back, but always seems like something's in the way…" He broke off speaking as a low sob broke his voice. "I can't lose her, you understand that, right? I can't lose her too. I… I don't think I can even stand the thought of it."

"I know." Lucy shifted the chair over and put her arm around his shoulders. "Rob, I do understand. I just don't want to see you break. I don't want you to become something she'd hate."

"I don't either," he said. "But I… what if I can't save her, Lucy? What if… what if Fassbinder moves her before we get there? What if we never get her back, and he just goes on hurting her until she dies from it, and… and I don't keep my promise to her?"

"Don't dwell on that," Lucy urged. "You're just hurting yourself. We will get her back."

He nodded in response. Lucy felt the fear within him persist, fear he struggled against, knowing what it was doing to him. He couldn't quite banish it despite everything. "Maybe Zack was right," he murmured. "Maybe I dragged everyone into this life without appreciating what it could mean."

"We made our choices, Robert, not you," Lucy said.

"But I'm the one who put the idea in your heads. And now… now it might… I feel responsible for this. For this all." Robert gestured at their surroundings. "I know it's not just me, I know you all signed up for your own reasons, but if I hadn't jumped at it, we wouldn't be out here, and Julia wouldn't be…" He shook his head, trying to regain composure, fighting to, and losing. Tears clouded his eyes. "I promised her I'd come for her. I promised."

"And you are. But right now, you need to get a handle on your emotions so you can keep that promise. And you need a good meal." Lucy stood up and returned to the stove. "Including a slightly-singed egg."

He gave her a knowing look. "Only slightly-singed?"

"Well, one is. The other… egh." Lucy made a face and shook her head. "I should've finished cooking before playing therapist."

Despite everything, Robert let out a low chuckle. He wiped at his eyes. "Well, I need to get my game face on."


"We should be at Avalon soon," he said. "And I'll need to get King Galahad's help for what I've got in mind."

"It won't take much to get him on your side," Lucy remarked. "As long as your epic storytelling has improved since last year."

A determined look came to his face. "I guess we're about to find out."

The command staff of the Aurora gathered again in the conference lounge off the bridge. "All systems repaired, sir," Scott confirmed for them. "Th' Quarians did a fine job with th' work, I'll tell ye. Widnae mind havin' a few of them on my staff."

"Perhaps you will one day, Commander Scott," Meridina said. She noted the feelings of the others at seeing her in Julia's chair, wearing a Captain's rank insignia. They bore her no dislike, but the entire situation was a frustration. An understandable one.

"So what are our orders now?" Angel asked.

"Admiral Maran will call shortly to give us our assignment," she replied. "It will most likely be to join a defense fleet. For the time being, Lieutenant Tra'dur will act as Operations Officer and Commander Jarod as First Officer."

Jarod frowned at that, but his nod was one of assent. Tra'dur was up to the task of fulfilling his job. Locarno's second, Rawlins, was still in training for a command role. "It makes sense," he said.

"Have we heard anything from Rob?" Cat asked. "Has he found any clues?"

"Nothing yet, and the Jayhawk isn't responding to hails," Jarod replied. "But given were they're going, I'm not surprised. Whatever means they found of getting out to Toutaine, they're probably still in hyperspace. IU comms don't work."

"Do you think they'll let us go after Julia?" Cat then asked, looking concerned. "I mean, if Robert finds her?"

"It depends on whether they have the response fleet ready, and if they assign the Aurora to it," Locarno said. "I wouldn't get my hopes up."

There was a soft little sound of disappointment from Cat. Her sister, seated beside her, put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"Regardless of where we are going, we should make certain the ship is ready for combat. Commander Laurent?"

"Twenty fighters were lost in the battle, twice that number were damaged. Eight pilots and nine sensor officers survived from the lost craft," Laurent said. "That is the final count. We haven't replaced the lost fighters yet, and we won't unless the fleet sends them out. I have deactivated Fox Squadron and reorganized the others to bring the other squadrons up to full strength once fighter repairs are complete. Give us another ten hours and all remaining fighters will be ready for combat."

"We've got a fresh load of solar torpedoes," Jarod confirmed. "And we replaced crew losses with transfers from the Pisces, Rembrandt, and Maimonides. If we end up in a combat situation, we're stocked for it."

"Very well. I…"

Meridina was interrupted by a tone and the voice of Tra'dur. "Captain, we have Admiral Maran on comms."

"Please relay him to the conference lounge, Lieutenant." Meridina and the others looked to the main viewer behind her head, where Maran's image appeared. "Admiral, the Aurora is prepared to resume field operations."

"Good. We're sending you to Avalon, Universe S0T5. King Galahad personally requested your presence to secure the system. You will be under Avalonian command until further notice."

Meridina nodded. Behind her the others exchanged looks, many of them hiding their feelings. "Understood. We will arrive as quickly as possible. Might I ask on the effort to find the SS operating bases?"

"We've made some headway, but we're still gathering the response fleet. The need to establish defenses is delaying us. But we can't afford to allow the Reich to raid our worlds at will, so it's a sacrifice we must make."

"Indeed. Is there anything else?"


"When you have a target, can we be with the strike force?" Angel asked.

Maran considered Angel's request. "I'm afraid that's unlikely, unless Avalon is secure by that time." After a moment he gave them a reassuring look. "If we secure an SS base and discover Captain Andreys or her location, I will inform you as soon as it is practical. You have my word."

"Thank you, Admiral," Meridina said on the others' behalf. "Mi rake sa swevyra iso."

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso," he responded, after which he disappeared.

There was no hiding the disappointment in the assembled. Meridina acknowledged it with a nod. "Julia would want us to ensure the Alliance's security," she reminded them gently. "Should the worst come to pass, that is how we should honor her memory."

There was clear anger on the faces of Zack and Angel, but aside from that nobody said anything. Meridina gave Zack a worried look before saying, "You are all dismissed."

The assembled officers got up to leave, all save Zack, who lingered while deep in thought. Meridina turned back to him. "Your anger is misdirected," she said.

"No, it's not," Zack retorted. "It's damn well not. Davies is playing politics, I know it. That's how he operates. It's why Julia's being listed presumed dead, he doesn't want us looking for her because he wants an opening to put one of his people on the Aurora."

"I suspect Admiral Maran will be unwilling to do so."

"You're assuming he can stop it. Think about it, Meridina. These attacks happened on Maran's watch. Even if there was nothing he could have done to prevent them, people are going to blame him anyway. It's what people do. And Davies is going to take advantage."

"Perhaps. Either way, we must trust in Robert's efforts, and that Julia will be found."

"I just hope she's alive. And… whole."

Meridina sensed his thoughts at that. Of the catatonic, or nearly-catatonic, prisoners liberated from Nazi control. He was tormenting himself with finding Julia alive but such a broken shell of a person that she was never the same again. Or with not finding her alive at all, but merely confirmation of her death, a lonely and painful death at the hands of SS cruelty. "You dwell very much on such terrible possibilities. Do not forget that Julia is a strong and willful person. She will do what she can to resist, and we may yet recover her whole."

Zack nodded. There was little conviction in it. "That's what I hope to see," he said. "But we all hoped the war was over, and yet… it never was." He stood up. "I'd better get back to the Koenig. You may need us."

"A good idea, Commander. Thank you for anticipating the possible need."

Zack said nothing before leaving.

The journey to Avalon required two interuniversal jumps and a few hours at warp between them. The second jump deposited them in the arrival zone of Avalon's system. Nearby the garden planet and its single moon continued their slow orbit of Avalon's G3 sequence star. Multiple ships were on site, enough that Jarod outwardly mused, "The system looks pretty secure to me."

"They may fear a major attack, either by the SS or other elements seizing advantage of our current situation," Meridina pointed out. "Inform System Command that we are ready to assume system defense duties."

Tra'dur nodded. "Aye Captain… we are getting a signal."

"They wish to speak with us?"

"No Captain." The Dilgar shook her head. "Captain, it's the Jayhawk. They're asking permission to dock and..." She turned back to face Meridina. "...and are advising us to prepare for interuniversal jump."

Robert and Lucy arrived on the bridge to find the others waiting, clearly mystified. "We did it," he said, walking up to Jarod and handing him a data disk. "Universal and spatial coordinates for the base where Fassbinder operates from, straight from an SS armed transport."

Jarod took the disk and used his omnitool to scan its contents. "Universe N1C4," he noted. "It's not on any of our lists."

"They got it from the Gamma Piratus Facility." There was an eager tone in his voice. "We should get going. The longer we wait, the more time the SS has to bail out when they realize their location is compromised."

"I am afraid we cannot," Meridina said. "We have direct orders from Admiral Maran to secure Avalon. We are under Avalonian command until further notice."

The others expected Robert to react negatively, or at least insist on taking the Koenig. Instead he actually grinned. "Go ahead and put King Galahad on, then. Since he's effectively in command. Actually, if you'll let me…"

Using his omnitool Robert re-established the short-term comm channel he'd used to talk with Galahad earlier. The stout, solidly-built King of Avalon appeared on the bridge holo-viewer, his full beard of gray and white long enough to cover his upper chest, partially obscuring the rich regal robes he was clad in. He looked almost like Santa Claus, if Santa Claus were a hard-partying, boisterous bruiser of a monarch who seemed to be permanently bellowing. "Ah, Sir Robert!" he declared. "I see your vessel has arrived!"

"It has. Captain Meridina is currently in command."

"Ah, good, good! A Knight of Gersal you are, Lady Meridina, I do recall that. Perfect for the mission of securing Avalon's honor!"

Meridina sensed the confusion of the others, much like her own. Robert and Lucy did not share it. "My orders were to secure Avalon, Majesty," she replied politely. "I am ordered to place my ship under your command."

"Indeed, and as I requested, you will secure our honor by reclaiming the Lady Julia from the foul clutches of our enemies!"

Jarod gave Robert and Lucy a bewildered look.

Meridina took a moment to consider the situation before nodding politely. "I understand, Your Majesty. And I thank you for giving us the opportunity to perform this duty. Our honor is also at stake."

"I would assume so, and it warms my heart to have the chance to grant you this quest! The stories they will tell of this day, why, they will be grand! Knights rescuing knights always makes for glorious tales! Now, I will not keep you any longer. Sir Robert, I will relay the information you provided to Admiral Maran upon your departure. Now go forth, heroes of the Alliance! Go forth and bring Lady Julia home!"

Galahad's image disappeared from the screen. The others all looked to Robert and Lucy. "This was all you?" Cat asked.

"Much of it," Robert admitted. "The response fleet isn't going to be ready for another day, at least, and Maran would be reluctant to go in before then. But we can survey the area and be in position to call ships in if they start to flee. And if we have an opening..." His green eyes hardened. "...then we go in. I'm not leaving her with them one moment more than is absolutely necessary."

"And since we took out one of their armed transports at Toutaine, it won't be long before they know we're coming," said Lucy. "So we should get going."

"We've made two IU jumps today already," Jarod noted.

Meridina responded by triggering the ship intercom. "Bridge to Engineering."

"Engineerin' here," answered Scott.

"Commander, we have the location where Captain Andreys is being held, and orders from King Galahad to see to her rescue. We will need to commence another interuniversal jump. Can the drive take it."

There was no hesitation from the other end. "To get our lass back? Ye dinnae need t' ask, sir. She'll manage. Might need some time t' get her ready for th' jump home, but she'll get ye there."

"Understood," said Meridina. "Lieutenant, set drive coordinates to N1C4. Mister Locarno, use the positioning data provided to plot a course the moment we are through."

"Aye Captain" and "Aye Ma'am" were the responses.

Moments later the Aurora generated and entered an emerald-colored vortex, off to reclaim her captain.

As always, Julia had no way of knowing how long she'd dozed off. When she awoke she looked across the way and into the other cell. Her fellow captive was seated up by the field now. One of her fists was clenched with what seemed like frustration. Julia noticed her eyes were reddened, as if she'd been crying. "Hey," she said weakly.

Miko glanced her way. Her amber-toned eyes focused on Julia with equal parts pity and frustration. "You're awake," she said. "What are they doing to you? It's not just the chair?"

"No. They're torturing me between sessions," Julia admitted frankly. She gestured to the way her skin seemed to glitter. "Some kind of nanobots that signal pain into my nerve endings."

Miko's other hand clenched. "I'm sorry," she said.

"Not your fault," Julia said. "You're just a prisoner too."

"How did they take you?" Miko asked.

"They attacked a world, well, it's basically my home," Julia answered. "When I'm not on my ship."

"Your ship? What kind of ship?"

"I command a starship called the Aurora," Julia replied. "I'm a Captain in the service of the United Alliance of Systems."


"A vessel that travels between solar systems, through deep space," Julia elaborated.

Miko nodded in understanding. "A voidship, then. You command a voidship? My mother used to as well, when I was little. She left the service to raise me."

Julia felt intense curiosity over Miko. Was she Human or simply Humanoid? What kind of culture did she come from? After considering all of the possible questions, Julia started off with the same Miko gave her before. "How did they take you?"

Miko's expression betrayed anger, at the SS and herself. "I was visiting an outlying colony when the SS attacked it. I joined the colonists in trying to fight them off, but they were too powerful. They… they killed so many…" Miko let out a low, pained sob. "And they threatened to kill more if I didn't surrender. So I did, to protect the other people. But…"

Julia immediately saw where this was going. "The SS killed everyone anyway."

"They're so vicious and just evil, I…"

Their conversation came to an abrupt end at the sound of boots on the floor. Fassbinder appeared with guards. He looked into Julia's cell and smiled thinly. "I have seen off my guests and had a short rest, now it is time to resume our session. You may yet have secrets we can find of use."

At the snap of his fingers the two guards lowered the field and entered to grab Julia. She couldn't resist beyond scowling at Fassbinder. They forced her to her feet and dragged her off.

Once in the uncharted universe, the Aurora immediately warped away from her arrival point, bound for the coordinates the recovered intel showed for the SS-held base in N1C4. On the Aurora bridge Cat was focusing entirely on her sensor returns.

In the center of the bridge, Jarod gave Meridina an interested look. "You seem distracted," he said.

"I feel an… oddness about this place," she answered. "Within the Flow of Life. But it is not debilitating to me as the Fracture was, so please do not be concerned."

Jarod nodded. "Right." After a moment's pause he said, "Have you thought about appealing to the Promotion Board on the issue? With the fleet re-mobilizing we need all of the experienced Captains we can get."

"That is true. But I have less than a year of starship command experience. A vessel like the Aurora would be unacceptable as a first command to many. Julia's appointment undoubtedly cost Maran much influence."

"A new captain is going to be hard on the crew," Jarod observed.

"I know. But we must persevere. Julia would want that from us." Meridina focused inward for a moment before asking, "Lieutenant Delgado, do you have anything on sensors?"

"No ships yet. Something that might be a faint warp trail. And there's a sort of spatial distortion in this area of space. From what I can tell, we're along the outer edge of it. But unless we get closer I can only speculate on the source. And it could be just about anything."

"Log the results and keeping scanning. We may come upon an enemy ship at any time."

Cat nodded in reply. "Yes sir," she said.

Sharp pain filled Julia's head. The Aurora Chair was on, full-power, drilling into her mind to extract memories to display. She let out a breath and focused herself on happy memories. Memories of playing with Robert when they were little, running through the wheat fields of the Dale family farm under a warm summer sun. She thought back to those peals of laughter at all of their games and chases.

The same memories played on the viewer beside the chair. Fassbinder watched the scene with growing frustration. She couldn't hold out much longer… could she? The chair was so powerful. Her mind should be failing to it. But so far… nothing. Nothing even remotely useful, indeed, very little even remotely relevant.

With a curt hand signal Fassbinder had the chair turned off. Julia lost some of the tension in her body while under the machine's mental invasion. Fassbinder stepped up to the chair and glared into her eyes. "This defiance is pointless," he said. "The more you hold out, the harder the Chair will break you in the end! This petty resistance will do nothing for you!"

Julia met his eyes and bit into her lip, as if denying herself the passionate response she felt in her heart. Instead she leveled a look at him and said, in measured tones, "Andreys, Julia Megan. Captain. Serial Number Bravo Zero Zero Zero Three One Zero One Hotel One Echo Four."

"Still fighting, Kapitan? Do you think fighting will make it easier? That resistance will reduce your suffering in some way?" Fassbinder's right hand went for the gauntlet on his left forearm. "We'll see about that." His finger found the key for the nanobots.

Julia screamed.

Robert and Lucy were in the Lookout when she noticed the color drain from his face. He gasped in shock and gripped the table. His right hand locked up, releasing his fork to clatter onto the plate before him.


He took in a breath. "He's torturing Julia again," Robert finally said. "I… I can feel it."

Lucy swallowed and extended a hand. "We're going after her, okay? Focus."

"I… I am. It's different here, though. I can feel it. Not like before, stronger. Like… like whatever he's doing… " He let go of the table. While he was still pale, Robert was at least moving his hand again. "God, Lucy, the pain she's in."

Lucy didn't sense the same, but she sensed how Robert was feeling it. A constant, savage pain, general to the whole body, no obvious cause to promise relief. "She won't be for long," Lucy urged. "Now, focus and try and block it out. Will the connection to quiet."

Robert drew in a breath, a long one. Color started to return to his cheeks. Lucy could sense that he hadn't entirely banished the feeling, however. His connection to Julia was too intense for that. "Doesn't this place feel odd to you?" he asked.

"A little, I suppose. It's not the Fracture, at least."

"God no, just one visit was enough for me." Robert shook his head. "It's just… there's something with the Flow of Life here." As he spoke, Robert felt the pain intensify. He winced in sympathy and kept his focus. It's not my pain, he thought. I have to block it out, I have to be functional. As those thoughts filled his head, angrier thoughts about Fassbinder followed, and he forced them away too.

Lucy sensed all this. To help Robert keep his attention focused, she continued their current conversation. "It feels like the Flow of Life is diverted," she said. "Not weakened, just… like it's weaved in with something. Something we can't sense."

"Right." Robert nodded. "I don't think it'll have an effect on what we do, though. It won't undermine us like the Fracture would."

"Agreed." Lucy took another bite. "Something to consider for later anyway…"

Klaxons filled the Lookout, red lights appearing by the doors. "Ship Status is now Code Red. All hands man battle stations. Repeat, status is now Code Red…" the computer informed them.

Robert and Lucy rose from their seats and left for the bridge.

By the time they arrived the command crew was in position. Jarod was now in a uniform with burgundy red command trim color, although his rank insignia remained that of a Lieutenant Commander. He sat beside Meridina at the First Officer's chair, turning and looking up at them. "We picked up an SS cruiser on long-range sensors," he explained. "We're on an intercept course now."

"The Koenig just completed in-warp launch, Captain," Tra'dur confirmed. "They are cloaking."

"Fighter squadrons are ready for launch," Jarod added.

With nothing to do on the bridge, Robert and Lucy took seats toward the rear and harnessed themselves in. At her station, Cat called out, "SS cruiser on sensors, Tannenburg-class. I've also got another ship, but the configuration is unknown. And the power signature, it's… new. It's not matching anything I've seen before. Nothing in the databanks either."

"Interception in five minutes," Locarno said. "Maintaining Warp 9.8."

"Are they allied to the SS or opposed?" Robert asked.

"I'm not sure yet. We're not close enough for me to…" Cat stopped long enough to check her sensors. "...okay, they're fighting. I'm picking up weapons fire."

"Accelerate, Mister Locarno," Meridina ordered. "Bring us in now."

"Accelerating to 9.86. Interception in fifteen seconds."

The Aurora dropped out of warp within weapons range of the two ships. The Nazi cruiser looked like any other they'd seen under SS command: black hull, a swastika emblem on the dorsal bow, and the sides of the ship marked with the twin lightning bolt runes.

It was now beside a vessel of dark gray coloring. It was a single-hulled ship, broad and flat in shape. Visible warp nacelles pulsed red, integral to the ship's hull to either side of its aft sections. A visible bridge area was built into the bow. Any markings were in the areas of the hull burnt black from weapons fire, with multiple hull breaches present.

"Hail the other ship," Meridina said.

Tra'dur attempted to do so. "No response," she said.

"Looking at the readings, I think their comm systems are down, possibly destroyed," Cat added.

"SS ship is locking on," Tra'dur warned.

"Fire," Meridina said.

The Aurora's main guns opened up on the Tannenburg-class ship. The cruiser's shields held briefly under the barrage from the sapphire bolts… and then yielded, broken down by the full power of the Aurora's bow batteries.

"Alpha Squadron, on me," Laurent said over the comms. "Bravo and Charlie, engage."

The three squadrons raced ahead of the Aurora and hit the cruiser with a full barrage of torpedoes. With its shields broken down, the SS ship was helpless against the attack. One by one, white-blue sparks collided with the SS ship, blasting through armored hull into sections below. A strike to its antimatter fuel reserves atomized it in a white fireball.

"Enemy ship destroyed. And going by these readings, I think they were beaming people over to the second ship while we approached," said Cat.

"Boarding parties," suggested Jarod. "We should probably render assistance."

"Agreed," said Meridina. She tapped her command chair control. "Commander Richmond, Major Anders, prepare teams immediately to repel boarders on a possibly friendly vessel."

As the two gave confirmation, Robert and Lucy released the harness straps holding them to their chairs. "We'll join the counter-boarding teams," Robert said.

"Mi rake sa swevyra iso," Meridina replied.

By the time Robert and Lucy were at Transporter Station 1, the Aurora was alongside the unknown vessel. Over the comms they consulted with Anders and Richmond. Lucy would join Anders in beaming near the other ship's engineering spaces, where weapons fire was being detected. Robert, Richmond, and security forces would beam in close to the bridge. Talara was joining the second wave, as was Gina.

Once they materialized Robert and Richmond headed forward through the ship. The corridors were lined by walls of dark red metal with gray flooring. Along the way they found bodies at some of the junctions. Some were SS, and others were Human or Human-like forms in uniforms of dark red and gold.

Behind him, Richmond and her teams swept forward. "Weapons fire in this direction," Richmond said, facing a corridor leading to port. "Disruptor fire and an unknown signature."

Robert nodded. At the fringe of his senses he could sense something, a ripple in the Flow of Life. "You go that way. I'll go this way." He indicated the way ahead.

"Right. Lindstrom, your squad is with the Captain. The rest of you, with me."

WIth Lieutenant Lindstrom and his squad behind him, Robert moved on. After passing several closed spaces, he found metal steps that led to an upper deck. Robert vaulted up them, leaving his security escort behind. He wouldn't get too far ahead of them, or at least he wouldn't try to, but he was eager to find the source of this feeling he was sensing. The sense was not quite like a biotic, he thought, remembering how Shepard and Kaidan and Wrex sometimes made his heightened senses feel whenever they employed biotics.

A port door ahead slid open. He emerged onto an upper deck area for a large bridge area. Control stations nearby were empty and below him the sounds of fighting continued. He went up to a railing looking out over the main bridge of the ship.

It was clearly meant to be a flag bridge, with what looked like a large command holotank in the center. Around it were stations for command staff officers. Further forward were seats for the command crew and stations for, Robert presumed, the rest of the ship.

The SS boarders were mixed. There were no Panzergrenadiers among them, but there were men in combat armor, and all were firing disruptor weapons at the bridge crew. The bridge crew in turn, clad in the same uniforms he'd seen among the slain, sticked to cover while firing rifles. Beams of purple energy sizzled in the air, a couple hitting SS targets, some not.

But his attention was immediately drawn to figures who were not armed, yet emerged from cover. Again he felt a ripple through the Flow of Life, such that despite the difference he half-expected to see them hurl dark matter or some other form of biotic power at their foes.

But instead of the purplish-blue bolts of biotic power he was familiar with, Robert watched as red-hot flame erupted from the palms and fists of the defenders, creating violent projectiles. It was a surprise to see it, especially as it became clear they weren't using mechanical flamethrowers of some kind, but generating flame from nothing.

No, not from nothing. From their own life energy.

One figure in particular jumped past the others, using the return fire as cover to close with the boarders. The woman was on the lithe side and quite agile, evading a shot as she drew close. She jumped in the air and twirled, her leg outstretched in a kick. Pure blue flame seemed to erupt from her heel as it swept through the air, creating a powerful arc of blue flame that slammed into the SS forces, setting them alight or otherwise forcing them back. The attacker turned when she hit the ground and made a punching motion with her fist. Another tongue of blue flame moved through the air at another of the SS boarders. The man screamed as blue flame enveloped him.

All the while, Robert sensed these attacks through the Flow of Life. It was something he'd never seen before, that he'd never known was possible. But there was no denying the truth of what he was seeing.

Below him more SS forced themselves through a side door. The lead figure was exposed; she would be gunned down before she could retreat to cover. Robert jumped down between her and the SS reinforcements, his lightsaber igniting in mid-air. He intercepted the fire, sending the beams back into their shooters. One disappeared in a haze of emerald energy, two more going down to the reflected beams as well. Robert lifted his hand and willed their compatriots to fly backward. The universe answered his will and they did just that, slamming into the far bulkhead with enough force to knock them out. He repeated the action with the squad behind them, knocking them back through the door they'd entered through. With his will he forced the door shut, cutting off that entry to the bridge. A check of his omnitool confirmed that Lindstrom and his squad were approaching the same, taking the SS under fire. Trapped against the bridge door, they went down quickly.

Robert turned and found the armored figure staring at him. Her eyes were a light brown, amber in tone, and there was an intensity in them beyond the rush of combat. Her hair was dark, brown bordering on black, pulled into a tail at the back of her head kept in place by a gold metal band with a red flame crest on it. Robert sensed she was older than her barely-middle age appearance suggested. Behind her, her crew were turning their attention to him now that the SS boarding teams were driven from the bridge. "Who are you?" the woman demanded. "What are you doing here?"

Given how on edge the woman was, not to mention her crew, Robert extinguished his lightsaber to emphasize he wasn't a threat to them. "My name is Robert Dale, a Paladin of the United Alliance of Systems," he replied, trusting in the auto-translator to make his speech understandable for them. "I'm here to find a close friend of mine captured by our enemies." He gestured toward the fallen SS on the bridge. "We'd like to help you, if you'll let us."

The woman's eyes narrowed slightly. But only slightly, and only for a moment, as she made her judgement of him. Robert felt her concern and surprise give way to curiosity… and a flicker of hope. "I see. We did not expect to find friends," she said.

"Can I ask your name, and what you're out here for?" Robert asked.

"Yes," she replied. Her voice took on a firm, determined tone. "I am Princess Ursa of the Fire Nation, a Captain of the Fire Nation Void Navy, and I have come to free my daughter Miko." She gave Robert an inquisitive look. "We accept your offer of aid."
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

LOL what a jam-packed episode. Killing Nazzies which is always good, and Solarian CYBORG NINJAs, and then AVALONIANS, and then Space Avatar-verse!

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Lucy felt the danger and rushed through the engineering spaces of the vessel. The dead and wounded were around her, but for the moment they were best served by stopping whatever the SS had in mind.

She found an entrance leading onto catwalks in an engine chamber of some size. The power plant was visible enough, purple light glowing from its inner compartment, while wounded and dying figures were visible on the catwalks and below on the main deck. Near the wounded, two armed SS men were raising rifles to fire.

Her lightsaber flashed to life with an electronic snap-hiss. The noise drew their attention, too late for Lucy to rip the weapons from their hands with her will. She closed the gap as they went for other weapons. Two slashes were all that was necessary to put them down for good.

Ignoring the sensation of life extinguishing, Lucy looked down at the lower level. The SS teams were trying to get to the power plant, from the look of things, but were being held off by two figures who either were or resembled Humans of East Asian heritage. One was a woman, shaved mostly bald save for a tail of brown hair at the back of her head, wearing monastic robes of yellow and orange that left her thin arms of corded muscle bare. Beside her, a tan-complexioned man in a suit of green and beige stood in a ready stance, his dark hair cut short. Lucy noticed his left hand was held out toward a floating plate of what looked like a metal. It absorbed green disruptor beams that tried to strike both.

Recognizing the danger to the two, Lucy ran up to a point above the two groups before she jumped down. She landed in time to deflect a shot with her lightsaber and into another trooper, who went down with a bad disruptor burn on the shoulder. To keep the SS off-balance Lucy threw out a wave of force, an inelegant but effective strike that knocked two over and left the rest unsteady.

The two defenders behind her joined the attack. She felt energy rippling around her through the Flow of Life, in a way that reminded her somewhat of biotics. The woman twirled on one foot, as if gathering energy, and then thrust her hands forward. A gust of tornado-strength wind slammed into one of the boarders, throwing him back into the bulkhead near the entrance with enough force to knock him unconscious.

The other man made motions in the air with his arms, as if throwing something. Metal plates flew from the man's belt in time with these motions. Some flew in at an angle to cut flesh, others seemed to curve, forming solid bands around the wrists or ankles of the boarders, subduing them and disarming at the same time.

The return fire could have easily killed both, but Lucy's arms were almost a blur as she caught said fire, directing it away. Her lightsaber zipped through the air intercepting every shot while her new comrades of the moment used their unique abilities to their fullest. It was easy to notice the theme; one seemed to control the air, moving and shifting it, and the other focused on guiding his metal weapons in to bind or disarm the SS.

The arrival of Anders and his Marines swiftly brought the fight to an end. Through the doors they came, pulse rifles blazing, and the remaining SS were caught in the crossfire. Seconds after their arrival the SS were down, defeated or dead.

Seeing Anders, Lucy shut off her lightsaber and called out, "I think they were planting bombs."

"They were," he confirmed, his voice somewhat tinny through the electric speakers of his helmet. "I'm trained in EOD, my Marines will handle it."

"Right." She turned and faced the two defenders, who were astonished and curious. She sensed the questions forming in their minds and said, "I'm Lucy Lucero from the United Alliance of Systems. We're here to help."

The two nodded. The woman spoke first. "We are grateful for your intervention, Lucy Lucero. I am Yeshe Beifong. This is my cousin Komin."

"The man I was just talking to is Major Gabriel Anders, the Commander of Marine Troops on the Alliance Starship Aurora, where I'm based from," she explained. "We're already clearing your ship of boarders. We're here to…"

"Attention all assistance parties." The voice was Tra'dur, over on the Aurora. "Nazi vessels are entering range. We are raising shields and engaging."

The arriving SS cruisers were a formidable formation, another two Tannenburg-class ships accompanied by two smaller ships, Innsbruck-class cruisers. Together they posed a formidable, though not insurmountable, threat to the Aurora.

On the bridge of the Aurora Meridina responded to the arrival with engagement orders. The holotank beside Jarod's seat showed the relative position of the Koenig, nearby and under cloak, ready to engage. "Are they launching fighters?"

"Yes," Tra'dur confirmed.

Jarod was already at his controls. "I'll detail the fighters and Koenig to deal with one of the cruisers."

"Excellent. Tactical, fire when they're in range."

That range came moments later. The Aurora's main batteries opened up, battering away at the shields of one of the smaller Innsbruck-class ships. The Koenig rippled into view from "above" the ships, adding its firepower to the attack. The fighter wings of the two groups met in the space between the Aurora and the cruisers, exchanging missiles and energy fire.

Disruptor beams sliced through the open space and into the Aurora's shields. Angel triggered plasma fire in retaliation, focusing her fire on the weaker Innsbruck-class ships to knock them out of the fight.

Meridina activated the comm system to link to Robert and the others. "Boarding teams, what is the status of the friendly ship? We may need their assistance."

On the other vessel, Robert was being joined by Talara and a couple of security personnel when Meridina's call came. He looked toward Ursa, who was seeing to the wounded of her crew. "Enemy reinforcements have arrived," he said. "Can your ship help to fight them off?"

"The General Iroh has suffered extensive damage in our previous battle," Ursa answered. "But we may be able to get sufficient power to our weapons and engines to aid your ship. Another matter is that many of the crew have been wounded or lost in this battle, including our helmsman."

"We'll provide what aid we can," Robert replied. He glanced back to Talara. "Lieutenant, take a look at their helm controls, if you think you can operate them…"

"Yes sir," Talara said, recognizing his intent. While it was likely many personnel on the ship had at least some helm training, helm operation in combat demanded more. She approached the vacant station forward of the command pit and glanced at the controls. They were physical controls, switches and levers and a prominent wheel. She couldn't read the ideograph-based language on the controls. She drew in a breath and focused inward, sensing their intent through her power instead. As she came to recognize the controls in question, she started working them slightly, getting a feel for them.

Gradually she became aware of intense attention from the others. She glanced toward a uniformed man standing beside her. "Is there something wrong?"

"I have never seen a spirit like you before," the man said.

"Spirit? I am a Falaen." A tone from the helm station drew Talara's attention back to it. She didn't recognize the characters that flashed red, but a moment's consideration gave her insight into the meaning. "It would appear that the ship's engines are inoperable. We cannot maneuver."

At her chair Ursa flipped a switch. "This is the bridge. Engineering, concentrate repairs on the engine systems. We need combat capability." Several moments passed without a hint of reply. "Engineering?"

Robert tapped at his omnitool. "Dale to Lucero. What's the status of Engineering?"

"Secured, but there's some damage in the section. And a lot of dead and wounded."

A hard look was on Ursa's face. "Is Chief Lee there?"

A couple of moments passed and another male voice, one Robert was unfamiliar with, came over the line, "He was wounded, Highness."

Ursa seemed relieved to hear the voice. "Komin. You are well?"

"I am, and so is Yeshe. We received aid from these newcomers just in time."

"Can you restore power? More enemy voidships have arrived. Our new allies are fighting them off, but they will need the General Iroh in the fight."

"I'll get right to it," was the reply.

When Komin's conversation with whomever was on the bridge was over, Lucy watched him turn to the reactor. His cousin gave him a look Lucy thought of as wry. "You have always wanted to work on a Varrick generator," she noted.

"I never imagined doing it in a situation like this," he confided.

Lucy walked up to them and to the power plant. She felt a ripple through the Flow of Life from it. It reminded her, somewhat, of what she'd felt from the Balmera crystal powering the Castle of Lions. Although the energy itself didn't seem to come from the Flow of Life, merely disturbing it, making ripples in it.

As she examined it, Lucy felt a sense of something wrong. The machine was being held back. She realized it was likely broken or damaged power relays. She followed one of the lines until she found a point of damage, likely from a disruptor bolt. "Here," she said aloud. "Damaged lines."

Komin followed where her eyes were looking. "Good eye."

"Not just my eyes. Let's get to work."

With a friendly ship to protect, the Aurora was at an inherent disadvantage. Multiple disruptor bolts struck at her shields, green beams causing blue energy to flicker into view where the deflectors resisted their power. On the Aurora bridge Tra'dur stated, "Shields now at fifty-six percent."

At tactical Angel focused the ship's main weapons on a damaged Innsbruck. The pulse plasma cannons built into the bow sent ten distinct streams of thick, sapphire pulses into the enemy ship. This time they slammed through the shields of the SS cruiser and ripped into the main hull, wrecking entire sections of the ship. A spread of torpedoes inflicted further carnage on the light cruiser, leaving it with great massive wounds.

Angel didn't get a chance to finish it off, as one of the heavier Tannenberg-class ships moved into position to take her next shot instead. Missiles erupted from its launcher, aimed directly at the Aurora. The particle interceptors spewed fire into the missiles' path to take them out before they struck, but only some were destroyed before the salvo crashed into the shields. "Shields now at forty-nine percent," Tra'dur said.

"I'm doing what I can," said Locarno, "but keeping us in a position to shield the other ship is reducing my choices."

"We must give them time," insisted Meridina, while the ship shook around them again.

Lucy's lightsaber made another cut, severing the damaged trunk line for one of the General Iroh's main power conduits. "There," she said.

Komin nodded. Lucy watched with interest as he used his gifts to move a new section of trunk line into position. She felt his power ripple and the result of it, as the interior lines pressed together until the connection was restored. He rotated his hands together and motioned as if compacting something between them. Metal shrieked lowly and the new section of trunk pressed into shape with the rest.

"That was a five minute welding job," she said aloud. "You did it in less than a minute."

"I'm a Beifong of Zaofu," he replied. "I've been training in Metalbending since I was a child. It runs in the family."

Lucy felt a number of questions welling up within her that she would file away for later. "What's the status on the power systems?" she asked into her omnitool.

"Looking at their readouts, main power is still cut from the engine assembly," replied Anders. "But you've restored full life support and weapons."

"Relay that to the bridge. We'll go to the next break." Lucy moved on, Komin following, both carrying the necessary materials to effect repairs.

"That sword you have," Komin said. "I've never imagined anything like it."

"It's a lightsaber," Lucy said. "It's a personal weapon for people with my abilities."

"I've never seen Bending like yours," Komin said. "I thought you were an Airbender for a moment there, the way you threw those invaders back, but Yeshe didn't feel you move the air."

Lucy gave him a look brimming with curiosity, but she held it back for the moment. "I can discuss my abilities later, but right now…" They came up to another damaged section of power line. "Let's get this ship going."

Komin nodded and pulled out another section of power trunk cabling. Lucy measured it and re-ignited her lightsaber to make another cut. She felt the sense of warning just in time to brace herself. The deck lurched below them. "The ship's under fire," she said. "Let's get this done now."

A second barrage of disruptor fire sliced along the General Iroh's port side, sundering armor and carving a wound into the ship's hull. Weapon emplacements twisted to face the Tannenburg-class cruiser responsible for the wound. Brilliant purple energy retaliated, meeting the ruby gleam flaring of the Nazi cruiser's deflector shields.

On the other side of the SS vessel, beams of sapphire energy impacted against the cruiser's shields as well, the ship gaining the full attention of Angel Delgado on the Aurora. She acquired a hard target lock and continued the barrage, firing the port plasma cannons. Bigger brilliant beams of blue energy stabbed at the SS ship.

Nor did she ignore the other two craft. A spread of solar torpedoes erupted from the aft launcher toward the more stricken of the two Innsbruck-class cruisers, already badly hurt from the attack runs of Commander Laurent's fighters. The sparks of blue-white light crashed into the unshielded hull of the Nazi cruiser, exploding the blood-red port nacelle and blasting huge wounds in its port side. The aft-facing plasma pulse cannons erupted in sapphire furry, the bolts crashing into those wounds. The enemy cruiser blew apart in a series of explosions.

But that was merely one of four ships in the fight. Even as the Aurora moved to aid the General Iroh, two cruisers remained to focus fire on her. The larger of the ships, another Tannenburg, also fired a disruptor barrage into the path of the Koenig, slashing across the attacker's shields as it bore down on the remaining Innsbruck.

The bridge shook under Zack's feet. At Ops Lieutenant Commander Magda Navaez, his Operations Officer and First Officer, reported, "Shields now at sixty-two percent."

"Continue attack run," he responded

"Yes sir," came the replies from Lt. April Sherlily at Tactical and Lt. Jean Hajar at the helm.

The pulse phaser cannon emitters installed beside the forward-swept warp nacelles of the Koenig opened up, spitting furious amber-toned energy in bolts at the smaller of the two cruisers ahead. Solar torpedoes followed the bolts in, all crashing against thee cruiser's shields and continuing to degrade them.

As the Koenig peeled away to begin another attack run, Delta and Echo Squadrons from the Aurora fighter wing followed them in, firing torpedoes as well and evading the rapid-fire disruptor bolts of the cruisers' point defenses. One fighter took a direct hit from said defenses and nearly disintegrated, the pilot and sensor officer ejecting from their stricken craft a moment later.

The torpedoes hit home. The Tannenburg-class ship's shields held, but the other cruiser's shields faltered, losing cohesion. Recognizing his opportunity Zack bellowed, "Attack Plan Whiskey on secondary target, now!"

"Aye sir!" Hajar responded while performing the ordered maneuver. Under her control the Koenig whipped around in space, straining the G force-absorbing inertial dampeners as she did.


The moment Sherlily spoke, her finger triggered the pulse phaser cannons again. The Koenig's main battery was tremendously effective for a ship of her size. She was, essentially, a flying cruiser battery, and that meant her weapons were a threat to cruisers. With failing shields, the Innsbruck-class ship took damage directly from the Koenig's bow weapons. The bursts of phaser fire ripped into the Nazi vessel's hull, blasting chunks of metal and material from the wounds in said hull. Flame and atmosphere erupted in the wake of the hits.

And then the torpedoes hit home. One blew off a piece of the cruiser's nacelle, another wrecked a disruptor emitter. The others hit at points along the four hundred meter-long ship's hull, blasting more debris away from it, leaving the Innsbruck-class cruiser with significant system damage.

The cruiser's return fire continued, playing green disruptor beams over the Koenig's shields and over the Aurora's. It wasn't out of the fight yet. And its two larger allies were bracketing the Aurora with energy fire.

"Aurora's shields are down to thirty-five percent," Magda said. "They can't take much more of this."

"Return our focus to primary target," Zack said, frowning. That other ship had damn well better join us soon...

Another disruptor beam played over the dark-colored hull of the General Iroh, slicing away armor and hull material and exposing more sections to vacuum. "Breaches in void hull, forward decks, Sections 3 through 6," stated one of the bridge personnel.

Robert noticed Ursa and one of the older men, a man of kept dark hair and a stern expression, exchange looks. Ursa pressed at an intercom on her armrest. "Engineering, what is our status?"

The reply was from a young woman. "They are nearly done."

"We are under fire, we need power back now."

"That is understood."

The ship rocked again under Lucy's feet, nearly throwing off her aim as she cut free another damaged portion of the trunk line. The moment it fell away Komin moved a replacement into place with his Metalbending, tightening it and twining together the new connections..

"Princess Ursa is insistent that the ship's power must be restored shortly," Yeshe said over the internal comms.

"I'm sure she is, whoever she is," said Lucy. "But this takes time, even with abilities. We…"

"...are done," Komin pronounced. "That should be the final repair necessary."

Lucy ran a scan with her omnitool, confirming Komin's assessment. "Power's circulating freely through the system."

"Yeshe, the board in Engineering, is it…"

"...it is, cousin," came the reply. "The ship's engines have power once more."

Lucy immediately keyed her comms to Robert. "We've got engine power," she said.

On the General Iroh bridge, Talara noticed the warning signal disappear, turning to another ideograph glowing green. "The engines have power, Captain," she said. "Engaging drives." From her examination of the control board, she identified the engine thrust lever and pushed it forward.

"Present strong side to the enemy," Ursa ordered. "All weapons, fire at will."

Talara nearly asked what she meant, but she sensed Ursa's intentions and turned the ship to port.

The General Iroh's engines were firing already, due to Talara's initiative. Now they roared to full power. Powerful cannon mounts tracked toward what Robert considered the ship's starboard side. With power fully restored, the weapons were at full effectiveness again. They focused on the Tannenburg-class ship between the General Iroh and the Aurora. Brilliant beams of purple light lashed out in sequence, stronger than before, straining away the ruby-tinted shields of the SS vessel.

The Aurora's maneuvering picked up, the other ship freed now from the need to protect the motionless General Iroh. Robert watched its sapphire beams playing over the SS heavy cruiser's shields and knew Angel and Meridina saw the same opportunity; the chance to overwhelm the SS cruiser's shields and finish it off. Its sister ship was still laying into the Aurora, with the Koenig and the Aurora's fighters harassing it in turn, and the remaining Innsbruck-class cruiser contributing what fire it could given its damaged situation.

The battle wasn't over, but at least they had a shot now.

At that moment, his attention was diverted. Robert collapsed to his knees as phantom pain flooded his being, with it a distant scream of agony echoing in his mind.

Ursa noticed with concern. "What is wrong? Are you injured?" she asked.

"No. Not me," he croaked. "Julia… I can feel it… they're hurting her…"

In the healing chamber with the kohltou tanks, Fassbinder observed with satisfaction at the scream coming from Julia. She spasmed from the Eubian nanobots flooding her nerve endings with pain signals. From where he stood he sensed the enormity of it, the inescapable agony, and he delighted in it.

And there was something more to it now, he felt. He could feel something in Julia's being, the faint hint of a tether, a connection. What was it? Who was she connected to? His grin grew as he considered the possibilities and found further cause for enjoyment in them.

That satisfaction faded when he felt Julia's mind shut down. He'd pushed her too far. She was no longer conscious, and her body was failing from the abuse. He tapped the gauntlet key to shut down the nanobots and dialed down the electrical current to nothing. Another step and the kohltou's circulation picked up, ensuring she would heal effectively. That was the important part, indeed, the entire point of using the miracle fluid. It healed her body, restored some of its vitality, and ensured she would not die from the tortures he was inflicting. And there were so many more he had planned once they finished testing the Aurora Chair with her...

He sensed his approaching subordinate a moment before the Sturmbannführer entered the room. "Sieg Heil!" the man shouted, arm held up ramrod straight in a proper salute.

"Heil Kranefuss," Fassbinder replied, returning the salute. "Report, Sturmbannführer."

"We have received a message from Oberführer Franck of the Dogger Bank. His squadron is engaged with the Alliance vessel Aurora and one of the local civilization's ships."

Immediately Fassbinder realized the implications. A part of him surged with irritation: he'd hoped to have more time to make preparations before being discovered. But then again, this was precisely what he hoped, wasn't it? If they were coming in alone like this, that meant the Aurora and the Alliance were likely not ready for a major effort either.

"Well, how intriguing," he said. "Thank you, Sturmbannfuhrer. I now have much to plan." He looked to Julia's unconscious form floating in the kohltou. "Oh so much to plan," he said, cherishing the anticipation for the scheme forming in his mind.


Another disruptor beam struck at the Aurora, making the ship shudder. "Shields now to nineteen percent," Tra'dur reported. "Cohesion is faltering."

"Maintain fire."

Angel did so happily as she directed more plasma fire to port on the faltering Tannenburg there. Their new ally likewise maintained a full barrage of brilliant purple energy, scouring the enemy ship and keeping its shields at the brink of collapse. Angel likewise directed a solar torpedo spread to aft at the Innsbruck-class ship limping up toward the rear.

The enemy cruiser's disruptors fired, weakening further the Aurora's. With her own gone, however, there was nothing to stop the solar torpedoes from striking. The hits to damaged hull proved too much. The light cruiser was blown apart.

"Two targets remaining," Angel crowed.

Meridina replied with a nod. 'Return fire to our main target"

"Koenig is moving to engage as well," added Jarod.

Meridina observed that process. Zachary's ship threaded the needle of friendly and hostile fire, coming in from a third angle on the enemy ship's ventral arc. The belly of the SS cruiser was barely-protected, their faltering shields desperately directed to repel the batteries of the Aurora and General Iroh.

With the rapidity of a bird of prey, the Koenig struck, diving "down" (by her own relation) at the belly of the enemy ship and opening up with full forward batteries. The shields on that arc failed after the first torpedo spread. The Koenig swung from left to right (relatively speaking), zig-zagging around oncoming fire as her pulse phaser cannons continued to rip through bare hull. Explosions flowered from the enemy ship at every impact. More solar torpedoes erupted from Koenig's launcher, each blowing out more and more guts of the cruiser.

The damage was telling. The enemy ship's shields failed, and now the General Iroh and Aurora joined in the slaughter, blue and purple beams cutting into the ship as it fell apart around its crew. The SS ship fired a last few shots in defiance, but did no appreciable damage before the cruiser went completely dark.

The Koenig shot away from it, and with good reason. Meridina steeled herself at the sensation of what was coming. Somewhere on the SS ship, someone on the crew intentionally shut down the magnetic fields confining the ship's antimatter fuel, allowing the volatile substance to make contact with ordinary matter. Opposites met and annihilated each other in a flare of brilliant energy, one that utterly consumed the cruiser in a white fireball.

That left one foe, the second Tannenburg, which was still firing on the Aurora while fending off the remaining fighters of the same. With the odds so clearly against them, the SS cruiser turned away. "They're preparing to go to warp," warned Cat.

Meridina considered the option of pursuit. But a glance at the battle damage told her it was not wise. This cruiser was still fairly intact, not very damaged at all, and the Aurora's shields were faltering with several systems already harmed in some way. A pursuit would be unwise. "Allow them," she said.

A moment later, the enemy ship warped away.

"Stand down to Code Yellow status, recall all fighters. Lieutenant Tra'dur, signal Robert and the others on the other vessel," said Meridina. "It would appear that we have conducted a first contact mission under fire."

"Yes Captain," replied Tra'dur.


Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 23 October 2643 AST. Captain Meridina reporting. Our mission to recover Captain Andreys has resulted in an unexpected outcome, a first contact with a space-faring Human civilization native to N1C4. They are pursuing the SS exiles for their own purposes involving SS raids on their outlying colonies. We are currently providing assistance in repairs for the vessel we assisted, known as the General Iroh. I have alerted Defense Command to the first contact situation.

While there are certain aspects to their technology that are of interest, their 'Bending' capabilities are of the greater interest. It would seem the local Human civilization has developed a unique connection to the Flow of Life. I sense this may be why the Flow of Life feels different in this universe.

The Aurora and the General Iroh were now side by side in the middle of interstellar space. Mongoose fighters from the former were flying outward, forming a perimeter defense should SS ships arrive. The Koenig was patrolling the parsec around them for the same purpose.

Meridina and Jarod beamed aboard the General Iroh with one of the repair crews sent by Scotty. While the engineering personnel went off to help with repairs they were met by Yeshe. Meridina sensed a serenity in the young woman that would have fit well with the more contemplative members of the Order of Swenya. "You are Meridina and Jarod?" she asked.

"We are."

"Please, follow me."

Yeshe led them further into the ship. Their ultimate destination was the officers' wardroom, with a table and chairs of tropical hardwood, the wall adorned with red banners and a gold flame insignia in the middle. Robert, Lucy, Talara, and Richmond were waiting there, with Ursa and Komin present. Meridina sensed vibrant life energy in both, as she did in Yeshe. It was a peculiar feeling, clearly linked to what her people considered an active, connected swevyra, but yet different than she was used to.

"Princess Ursa, Mister Beifong, this is Meridina and Jarod, the Acting Captain and the Operations Officer of the Koenig respectively." Robert turned to the two new arrivals. He seemed pale and tired. Meridina knew it couldn't just be from the fighting. "Meridina, Jarod, Princess Ursa of the FIre Nation and Komin Beifong. You've met his cousin Yeshe."

Meridina nodded. "I am pleased to meet both of you. Your ship's aid was timely in the battle."

"Your arrival was rather more timely," Ursa replied evenly. "We did not expect to find allies against the Invaders."

"That is your name for the Schutzstaffel, then? It seems fitting."

"These… 'Nazis' as you call them have raided several colonies on the frontiers of the Five Nations." Ursa was a woman of clear self-discipline, but the worry of a mother showed through it. "It was their last raid that claimed my daughter. The survivors told us they took her as a prisoner."

"Have they tried to ransom her?" asked Robert. "The SS wouldn't take a prisoner if they didn't need her for something."

"No. Nothing." Ursa clenched a fist. "We have been tracking them for two weeks in the attempt to find wherever their forces are based. We are certain it is not far from here, but the void is vast and the stars spread out."

"It is likely that they took your daughter to the same place they took Captain Andreys," Talara noted.

"The friend you have come to rescue?" Ursa nodded. "We have common cause then."

"That we do."

"You say you are from an Alliance. Will more of your people come to aid us?" asked Komin.

"We've informed them of where we are and of the first contact with your people," Jarod replied. "As things are, we're gathering our fleet to hit the Nazis back, but it may be a day or so before they can join us. We have many worlds that need protecting now that it's clear the SS have copied our interuniversal drive."

That last term caused clear bewilderment and uncertainty in the others. "Interuniversal drive?" asked Yeshe. "What do you mean by that?"

"It is a jump drive that generates temporary transit points between universes," Meridina replied. "It makes our civilization possible. Unfortunately, toward the end of our war with their Reich, the Reich's leadership completed the project to replicate the technology. Or, at least, their SS did."

"I see. So that is how they came to our space, and now you are here as well."

Robert nodded. An old feeling of guilt welled up within him. "We never intended for people like the Nazis to get our technology. I'm sorry that our failure to stop them from copying it has caused your people loss."

"The fault is not yours," Yeshe said. "The fault is theirs."

"We've been telling him that for years now," Lucy remarked drolly, giving Robert a knowing look. He returned it and sighed. "Anyway, your ship should be good to go soon enough. But since we have time, I'd like to know more about your people. The abilities you showed, for instance…"

"I feel the same toward you," said Komin. "You don't move the air or earth, and you don't throw fire, but you seem to know where your enemy's attack is going to be every time. And you threw back the invaders without using any elements."

"We use the connection of our life energy to the universe. Well, it can be more complicated than that, but it's a good starting point. And you?"

Ursa was the one to answer. "The people of our world are divided into the Four Nations. I am from the Fire Nation. Komin is Earth Union, from the state of Zaofu, and Yeshe is from the Air Nation. And there are also the Water Tribes who dwell at our world's poles, Northern and Southern."

"You mentioned that your colonies are from five nations earlier," said Richmond. "The fifth is…?"

"The United Republic," Yeshe replied. "The Republic was founded in the aftermath of the Hundred Years War as a home for people from all nations. Over the last two and a half centuries, the Republic became its own nation. It is the heart of the Five Nations Compact."

"I'm guessing that members of each original nation wield the elements they're named for," Lucy observed.

"Some, although many are non-benders."

"Huh," Jarod murmured. He glanced toward Robert and Lucy. "Is this like your abilities?"

"They may be related," Robert said. It was clear his mind wasn't on the conversation, even with the speed of his reply. "It's something to consider for later. Right now we need to figure out what we know about the SS presence, and how we can get back Julia and Miko."

"Agreed," said Ursa. "Please, tell us more about these SS, and what kind of foe they are."

"I'd like to hear more about your Alliance, and the non-Human life like Talara," Komin added. Noticing Ursa's look, he almost sheepishly added, "When you're done, I mean."

"Very well," replied Meridina. "Allow us to explain."

In the quiet of his room, Erik Fassbinder read the reply from his leader. Kranefuss was displeased to learn their prize had been compromised so quickly after the operation. The SS would have to abandon this remarkable place. And they would do so with maximum destruction.

It would be quite a shame.

But an even greater shame would be losing this opportunity. He sensed what was coming. The Aurora crew were aware that they were running out of time, that if they didn't come soon, they would lose the chance to reclaim their friend. The same was true for the local untermenschen and reclaiming that brat in the holding cells. They weren't going to wait for the friendly fleet. They were going to come now.

And Fassbinder would be waiting for them.

Another stun stick blow caused Julia to collapse into a heap on the floor of her cell. Her guards retreated back across the threshold of the cell's forcefield before activating it, confining her again. She heard them walk away and began to stir. While that green fluid healed her body, it did nothing to ease the ill feelings within her. She crept slowly over to the cell door. Contact with her fellow prisoner was the only thing to help her stay sane.

Across the way, Miko regarded Julia with compassion and clear frustration. Her hands balled up into fists and tears flowed from her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said.

Julia looked toward her, thankful to see mercy and sympathy in at least one set of eyes in this hell. "There's nothing you can do about it."

"I know, but still…" With an ever-more furious look, Miko finally drove her fist into the ground beside her, not quite hard enough to crack the knuckles at the impact. A wince came to her face, but it mattered little compared to the tears flowing from her eyes. "What you're going through, the way they keep taking you to be tortured, it's terrible. I should be able to stop it."

To that Julia chuckled. "That sounds familiar," she sighed, thinking of Robert. "Save your energy for battles you can win."

Julia didn't expect the vehemence that came from Miko. "That's just it! I should be able to fight back! To… to get out of this, but I can't!" She gestured toward the collar. "This keeps me from bending! And… and I don't know how else I can fight them, I don't know how to use their weapons…!"

"Be patient," Julia advised. "You never know when we'll get an opportunity." As she spoke she looked over the collar on the younger woman before returning to looking into her eyes. "It's not your responsibility to protect me, Miko."

"That's where you're wrong," Miko insisted.

"I am?"

Miko nodded. 'You are."

"Alright," said Julia. "Can you explain? You're responsible for helping me because…?"

Miko nodded and drew in a little breath. She was regaining composure from the outburst of emotion.

"Because," Miko said, "I'm the Avatar."
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Coincidentally we recently talked IRL about how the show's sequels would be set even further into the future. Cyberpunk, space opera...

"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by wellis »

Shroom Man 777 wrote: Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:17 am Coincidentally we recently talked IRL about how the show's sequels would be set even further into the future. Cyberpunk, space opera...
I'll be very interested to see their tech~. I remember that mecha in The Legend of Korra~.
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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »


Through the clear forcefields of their respective cells, Julia Andreys looked over her fellow prisoner. The young woman, who had introduced herself as Miko, was on the lean side in build, wearing a slightly tattered sleeveless vest of red with gold trim and pants of matching color. Her dark hair, shoulder length, was disheveled, much as Julia's own blond hair was. Amber-toned eyes looked to Julia with shame and frustration welling inside of them.

All things considered, Miko was the better off of the two of them. Julia herself was ragged from Fassbinder's abuses. For the untold time since the ordeal began, she'd been wearing the same clothes she'd had on when the attack on New Liberty began; a white tank top and burgundy red shorts with a sports bra of matching color below the tank top. The colors were now faded from days of sweat and immersion in the fluid her captors used for healing her.

The question of time was bewildering for Julia. Between the torture sessions and the time she spent unconscious from them, she wasn't sure how many days had passed since she was captured during the SS exiles' attack on New Liberty. She wasn't even sure what happened to the others. Was the Colony gone? Had her ship, the Aurora, been destroyed in the attack? She could remember that Cylon working with Fassbinder, the SS officer who oversaw the attack, talking about a similar strike against Gersal. Was it possible that everyone she knew and loved was dead?

No. No, Julia would not let herself consider that. That was the road to despair, a despair that would crush her spirit far more thoroughly than the torture Fassbinder delighted in inflicting on her.

It was as much to escape such thoughts as it was to satisfy curiosity that she returned her attention to Miko. The young woman brimmed with frustrated energy, unsurprising given what she'd said. That she felt she had to help Julia, to stop what was being done to her, and why she felt that way.

"What did you mean?" asked Julia. "When you said you were 'the Avatar'?"

Miko turned her head to face Julia. "It's who I am. What I am. The Avatar is… I am responsible for the balance on my world. The balance between the Nations, between the Human World and the Spirit World. The Avatar is the only one who can bend all four elements instead of just one."


"It is our word, perhaps the translation does not work so well with your language." Miko opened her fist. Julia watched as, for a moment, a flicker of flame flashed into being over Miko's palm.

The collar around her neck lit up. There was the distinct sound of an electrical device activating and Miko's body seized up. She let out a cry of pain and clenched the fist again, banishing the flame from existence.

"The Avatar is reborn in a cycle within the Four Nations, one nation to the next," she continued, her voice more hoarse given her earlier cry of pain. "Air Nomads, Water Tribes, Earth Union, Fire Nation. I am Princess Miko of the Fire Nation, and I am the Avatar of this cycle, born the day that Avatar Komin died."

Julia nodded as understanding came to her. "So… the people from each nation can use, can 'bend', the element their nation is named for, but only you can bend all four?"

"Not all are born benders. But yes," said Miko. "It's a heavy responsibility. The Avatar keeps the peace among the Nations. It's my duty to protect people. People like you, Julia Andreys." She closed her eyes, tears brimming in them. "It's why I surrendered to these 'Nazis', so they would spare the people of Tangshan."

"But they didn't."

"No. They opened fire anyway. They made me watch."

Julia didn't find it hard to imagine who ordered that. "Fassbinder?"

"The one with the evil eyes?" Miko shuddered. "I can feel the darkness of his spirit. The hatred."

"His entire society is built on that. Hating those they consider inferior. Enslaving or exterminating them." Julia grimaced as she shifted into a sitting position. Her body still ached. "Your people are spacefaring?"

"Yes. We first reached into the void during Avatar Korra's lifetime, and it was during Komin's that the Five Nations went to other suns."

"You only said four nations before, what's the fifth?" Julia asked.

"The United Republic. It is a combination of people from all four nations that was founded after the Hundred Year War, created by Avatar Aang and my ancestor Fire Lord Zuko nearly three hundred years ago." Miko's eyes glistened. "It's built around Republic City, the greatest city on my world." After a moment spent considering said city, Miko turned her eyes to Julia. "What of your people? Your Alliance?"

"The United Alliance of Systems is, well, this is the hardest part for people to understand if they don't see it," Julia began. "We're an interuniversal society of multiple systems, including multiple copies of my homeworld Earth, made possible by technology called the interuniversal jump drive. We have worlds, colonies, in many universes, and through them contact with even more nations and species. The Alliance itself has four species currently, we Humans, of many universes, the Gersallians and Dorei of Universe N2S7, and the Alakin of A7R6."

Miko looked at her in some confusion. "When you say other species, you mean... "

"Aliens. Sapient life forms other than Humans. Yes."

"Amazing." Miko's eyes widened. "What are they like?"

"Well, Gersallians actually look Human. Dorei look like…"

Julia stopped as she heard the distant stomp of boots hitting the floor in a steady cadence. The noise increased over seconds until two guards arrived. One lowered the forcefield for Julia's cell. The other reached in and grabbed her arm, forcing her up, shrieking at her in German to come. He and his ally both brandished stun sticks to make clear they weren't taking no for an answer.

Julia got up and approached her captors. As she stepped between them both thrust their stun sticks into her torso anyway. She shrieked in both pain and surprise as her body seized up. She fell to her knees.

"Leave her alone!" Miko shouted.

As one guard kicked Julia in the shoulder, knocking her over, the other turned to Miko and snarled at her. "Shut up, witch!" His hand went to a device on his belt. As soon as his finger pressed down on a button, the collar around Miko's neck lit up. She let out a short cry and doubled over in pain.

By the time she looked up, the guards - and Julia - were gone.

Light years away, the Starship Aurora and the Fire Nation Voidship General Iroh remained side by side, both ships undergoing repairs from combat. The vessels were possessed of marked differences: the four warp nacelles on the Aurora were arranged at the end of pylons from the drive hull while the Iroh's were built into the main hull, the visible weapon turrets on the Iroh in contrast to the emitter banks and emplacements on the Aurora, the Iroh's dark gray hull contrasting to the Aurora's azure sheen. By size the Iroh was barely half the length of the Aurora, although she looked more heavily-armed for her size.

Activity aboard the Iroh was even more hectic than on the Aurora, with repair teams from the latter ship helping the surviving crew of the Iroh return their vessel to full readiness.

In the wardroom of said ship, those looking to aid Julia and Miko were likewise sharing information about themselves. The specific nature of the United Alliance of Systems, the existence of non-Human life in many universes, the actual existence of the interuniversal jump drive, all of these things were taken in with wonder by Princess Ursa and the Beifong cousins.

The particulars of their world invited Lucy to say, "So everyone born into a particular nation has a chance to be born with the ability to manipulate, to 'bend' as you put it, the element corresponding with their origin nation?"


"Is this true for everyone?"

"There are those in each nation who do not bend," replied Komin. "And only one person can bend more than one element, and that is the Avatar."

"The Avatar is reborn into each nation in a cycle," Yeshe added. "Air, Water, Earth, Fire. Every Avatar is meant to be a mediator and peacekeeper, protecting the world from any force that threatens it and standing apart from the other nations."

"And Miko is the current Avatar," Robert said.

The three gave him an intent look. "How did you know?" Ursa asked.

"I sensed it," Robert answer. "Our life energy abilities give us insights. We can sense the truth of things. Although in this case, it was easy to see she was important in some way that the SS would want her as a captive."

"Our world is in turmoil over the issue," confirmed Ursa. "Some advocate negotiation for her safe return. Others support my efforts to find and free her."

"Negotiation with the SS will be futile," Meridina said.

"So I am convinced. And that is why my uncle, Fire Lord Daizon, authorized me to take the General Iroh out to scout for her."

There was a certain fierce desperation, a frustrated impatience, in the older woman's voice, and in her heart. Those present could easily notice it, whether it was from metaphysical insight, telepathy, or in Jarod's case, careful observance and deduction. Ursa, whatever her skills or capability, was ultimately a desperate mother trying to rescue her child from a threat that, to her people, was still an enigma. And all the Aurora crew could do was confirm that some of her worst nightmares might very well be true, given the tendencies of Miko's captors.

The Beifong cousins were quick to pick up on it as well. "Miko has a strong heart," Yeshe assured Ursa. "And I sense she is still with us."

"Are you two friends of Miko?" Lucy asked. "Given neither of you are Fire Nation, from what I see."

"She asked us to train her," said Komin. "Yeshe is her Airbending instructor. When she has mastered Water, she will come to me for Earthbending."

"Although knowing my cousin, he has already shown her some," Yeshe remarked with a knowing smile.

"Why was she out on this colony Tangshan?" Meridina asked. "Given her importance, and the raids on your colonies beforehand, surely the risk…"

Ursa laughed harshly. "My daughter has a fierce spirit. She did not get along with the Water Tribe instructor we sent her to and believed she would find a better one in the outer colonies. In truth, I think she was trying to assert her independence from me."

"Teenagers often do," Lucy noted. "Most anyway." She flashed a grin toward Robert.

He returned it. Just as he went to speak, he felt a scream fill his being, echoed by intense pain. He gasped in shock at the intensity of that pain. Everyone turned to him and watched Robert nearly bend over.

"What's wrong?" Jarod asked him.

"I feel it again," Robert replied. "He's hurting her!"

Undiscovered Frontier
"Trial by Fire"

There were no questions. Not a single attempt at interrogation. There was only the agony, the evil cold energy of the lightning that was a manifestation of all of the hateful and arrogant energy in Fassbinder's twisted soul. And Julia could do nothing but suffer. Her muscles twitched and spasmed, her body burned, and nothing she could do could help her escape it.

Worst of all, she could feel her life slipping away, drained by that dark energy from Fassbinder. An open abyss seemed to open up around her, and she was falling toward it, falling...

Julia was barely conscious when the lightning stopped. She didn't feel herself being freed from the chair, or carried away to another room in this strange city. She remained at the cusp of the abyss until the now-familiar sensation of the soothing green fluid covered her.

From outside of the tank, Fassbinder watched Julia stir slightly. She couldn't move, of course, given the restraints locked around her wrists and ankles to keep her trapped in the open-topped tank. He looked over the controls and noted that her vital signs were improving slowly.

"You should just end her," said a female voice. He turned his head and saw the blond Cylon, one of his teachers in the talents he'd long sought to tap. "Kill the Dawn-Bearer. She is of no use otherwise."
"No," Fassbinder said. "She has not suffered enough. Not nearly enough for what she and her people did to us." The frustrated look gave way to a small, sinister smile. "Besides, do you not sense it? The connection to her?"

The Cylon "Six" seemed to concentrate a moment. "I believe I know what you mean."

"She is connected to one of them. To him, I am convinced. Dale feels what is being done to her. When she suffers, he suffers. And I will use that." The smile grew as his hand went to the dial on the control. He twisted it halfway to full, sending an electrical current into the "kohltou", and watched with satisfaction as Julia's body spasmed despite the restraints.

With the discussions over, Meridina and Jarod returned to the Aurora. Lucy remained, joining Komin in heading to engineering to help in the General Iroh's repairs. This left Ursa with Robert. She gave him a searching look as he clasped the side of the door, the color leaving his face. "You are in pain."

"Not physically. I… my friend, Julia, I can feel it. She's in pain. The SS are torturing her right now." He tried and failed to blink tears from his eyes. "I need to get to that base. To get to her, to free her from… from what they're doing."

Ursa approached him and, with great solemnity and sympathy, placed her hand on his shoulder. "I do not understand how these gifts of yours works. How your spirit is connected to hers. But you have the same assurance from me that your people have given us. We will reclaim your friend as well as my daughter."

There was a quiet determination in her voice that Robert appreciated, even if he sensed her own lingering fears and doubts. They were just two ships, two against however many that the SS might call in. And what if their loved ones were moved? There were still so many ways they could fail here. It was frightening.

As such, her words were welcome, a glimmer of hope, and Robert appreciated them. He nodded to her. "Thank you."

"We should see to our duties. Miko and Captain Andreys will not be rescued by our desire alone," Ursa said. He watched her leave to resume command of her ship.

In the heart of the General Iroh's engineering section, Lucy finished patching the power cable line that their earlier repairs had only partially restored. Afterward she checked the integrity of the repair and reassured herself it was done. She glanced toward the reactor. Purple light filled the ports of said power plant. Even now, with its output dialed down, Lucy could feel it creating a ripple in the Flow of Life.

In a way, it was a marvel. The reactor they used tapped into a powerful energy source, more than the fusion or antimatter power that their technological level would otherwise permit. This greatly helped the Iroh's capability whatever the technological issues they faced. Lucy was unable to hide her interest in that aspect.

And yet… yet she felt wary. Whatever the power systems tapped into, it had some connection to the Flow of Life. She didn't think it was the Flow of Life itself, not in the way the Balmeran crystal worked on the Castle of Lions, but there was some kind of connection there. She couldn't help but wonder if that made the technology dangerous in some way. As she once pointed out to Cat, the Flow of Life was not merely a physical source of power. The same might be true for whatever they were using. And she felt naturally leery about it.

After verifying the integrity of the power trunk with a scan, Lucy turned her head and watched Komin complete a repair as well, using his gift for manipulating metal. After he finished she said, "I suppose that you can move, I mean 'bend', metals so long as they're an earthly compound?"

"That's how it works," he replied.

"Including alloys? Purified metals?"

"That depends. It's possible to purify or alloy a metal to remove the raw earth and make it unbendable. It's what we use in voidship hulls, for instance," he answered. "That's why I carry these." He indicated the metal plates on his belt and trousers.

"I see. Options in case you're not around something earthen or with metal that still has natural impurities." She glanced to the reactor again. "I've never seen a power source like this. It's some kind of energy tap?"

He nodded. "Varrick reactors draw latent energy from an alternate dimensional space. The principles have been around for a couple hundred years."

"And why are they called Varrick reactors?"

"For the family that did the most work in developing them," said Komin. "They were working on these kinds of energy sources as far back as Avatar Korra's time. The Varricks and their company have been refining the technology over the generations." Komin led her over to a board showing the ship's power distribution system. More of the sections were green-lit now, but a few still showed damage. "What kind of technology do you use?"

"Our primary power sources use a material known as naqia, it acts as a power amplifier and absorber," she replied. "Among other exotic properties. We also use fusion reactors as a backup power supply."

"Deuterium-fueled fusion?"

"Usually," she confirmed.

Komin nodded. "We have a backup fusion reactor for the General Iroh. The technology was first postulated by Gan Sing over two hundred years ago, but it was another hundred years before Fire Nation scientists successfully tested the first viable fusion core."

Lucy gave him a knowing grin. "Someone's interested in studying the history of power generation science, I see."

"Well… yes, that's me," Komin admitted, grinning slightly. His green eyes glinted in the light with immense satisfaction. "I've always been fascinated with machines. I've spent years studying Varrick reactors, but actually getting to work on one…"

Lucy nodded in appreciation of Komin's position. It reminded her of Tom, whom she decided to introduce to Komin at the first opportunity.

"Did you always want to be an engineer?" Komin asked her.

"Not really," she replied. "It was just a job for me, at first. But it's been useful, and I'm not sorry I became one."

Komin replied with a nod and returned to examining the power distribution network. Lucy joined him. She couldn't read the language on the displays, but the ideograms looked familiar. She used her omnitool to scan them. To her surprise the translations came right up, or at least proposed ones.

Komin noticed and grinned at her. "Those… 'omnitools' your people use are impressive," he said. "I hope to get one. And they must be very well-programmed to read our language so quickly."

"That's just it. It didn't," she said. "The translation programs are reading your language as Chinese."


"They're a nation of Earth," Lucy explained. "One of the most populous nations, in fact, and a dominant nation of Asia, our largest continent. So maybe your people are descended from Earth as well?"

Komin shrugged. "I don't know. Ancient history, that's not really my field," he admitted. "I've got a cousin who might be interested, though."

"I'm sure a lot of people will be, once contact is opened up between your world and the Multiverse," Lucy said.

There was a look on Komin's face, one of wonder, that made Lucy smile warmly. His people are in for quite a shock, just as we were. I hope they take it as well as he is, she thought.

With her captain a captive, command of the Aurora was now in the hands of the ship's First Officer. Meridina, normally a Commander but currently serving as an Acting Captain, sat in the chair that Julia usually occupied and looked over the things belonging to Julia. The trophies, the family photos, the other personal items… Meridina looked at them all and found herself hoping that Julia would be back here, where she belonged.

But there was more on Meridina's mind than the fate of her superior, someone she considered a friend. For the sake of the others she had to keep a strong appearance, even as her heart still ached with the loss her people suffered from. On the desk viewer, footage from her homeworld played, showing the rescue and cleanup efforts in the wake of the Cylon attack. The reports of the losses taken in the bombardment were stabilizing at an estimate of ten million dead and over twice that number injured.

It wasn't just the dead, though. The Cylons, in their attack, revealed their true nature as followers of the fallen Kohbal, the man who nearly wrecked Gersal in his war to seize control over twenty-nine centuries ago. The attack also revealed that other followers of Kohbal remained hidden after their supposed defeat and expulsion from the homeworld, as said followers had committed acts of sabotage across the planet in the minutes before the attack, ensuring the Cylons complete surprise.

And they had won. That was the worst thing. Meridina, Lucy, Talara, they'd gotten away, as had Meridina's father and many others, but the Cylons succeeded. They destroyed the Great Temple off Swenya in a barrage of atomics. They did the same to the Temple of Perception and the Temple of Birth, as if to wipe Gersal clean of all references to Swenya. Many of the Order's best, many of its wisest, died to the bombs, the blades, or the atomics of the Brotherhood. She had even felt the mortal blow dealt to her mentor, Mastrash Ledosh, struck down by the fallen Mastrash Goras.

It was all so wrong. A nightmare made reality. After all of the fights, all of the hard victories over darkness… darkness, in the end, was not vanquished, and had indeed returned to deal the Light a terrible blow.

And a part of Meridina believed it to be her fault.

A chime sounded at the door. She looked up and called out for the figure to enter. She was surprised to see Doctor Tusana, with her civilian wear, enter. "Doctor, how may I help you?' Meridina asked.

The civilian psychiatrist gave Meridina a knowing look. When she replied, it was with a mental cast into Meridina's mind, a telepath communicating with a fellow telepath. I am here to help you, Meridina. I can feel your grief.

Meridina nodded in acknowledgment of Tusana's point, if not agreement. It does not matter. What matters is reclaiming Julia.

Do not ignore your pain, Meridina. It could consume you.

I am not ignoring it. I am simply leaving it to the side so that I might do my duty
, Meridina cast back. Captain Andreys' life may hang in the balance. I cannot take time right now.

You will do her little good if you can't function.
Seeing Meridina's look Tusana shook her head. I will be here if you need me. With that she turned away and left the room.

Meridina promptly returned to work. She had little time to complete it before a blue light appeared on the back of her left hand, timed with a tone from her omnitool. She relayed the call to the desk. "Meridina here."

"I was just lettin' ye know that th' repairs are complete, sir," answered Commander Scott. The Starfleet legend's voice had the usual pride in getting his ship back in action. "We're ready t' go find th' Captain whenever ye're ready."

"We will be leaving as soon as our new allies are ready, Commander. Thank you for your timely repairs. Meridina out." She cut the line and sat in the quiet for a moment, considering Tusana's words, and the feeling in her heart.

Robert, Lucy, and Talara, along with Komin, stepped onto the General Iroh's bridge. It was a rather larger chamber than the one they were used to on the Aurora, more like a major command operations chamber for a station, with two levels and multiple stations. Ursa sat in the middle chair with Yeshe standing beside her. Ahead of her, another member of the crew was at the helm, freeing Talara from having to execute that duty again. "I am informed our repairs are complete?" asked Ursa.

"Yes, Highness," Komin answered. "Chief Lee is giving some systems a final check now, but the Sato drive is ready."

"Sato drive?" asked Talara.

"It is a space-warp drive," Komin said. "Based on…" He quieted at seeing Ursa's look, as she was clearly not interested in hearing him recite the history of the technology.

"From what I saw, your ship's best sustainable speed is about Warp 7 on our charts," Lucy said. "The Aurora can easily match that."

Robert didn't quite keep the aggravation at that from showing on his face. Warp 7 wasn't a slow warp speed, not at all, but it was still quite slow compared to what the Aurora could do, even at a leisurely cruise warp, due to the Darglan-designed warp drive. But they didn't have Darglan data. We should probably be happy they're capable of Warp 7 and not 5.

"Before we depart, I would ask the status of our communications array," Ursa said. "I would like to update Admiral Hanraq on our situation."

Komin shook his head. "Enemy fire ripped away the transceiver completely. We can't contact home."

"Then I will do so," said Yeshe.

Komin gave his stoic cousin an uncomfortable look. "This far out?" he asked. "Has it even been tried this far from into the frontier?"

"I do not believe so," she said. "But I should still be capable of reaching home. I can relay our situation to the others.

"Then do so," said Ursa. "Captain, your… teleportation machines, they do not work at warp?"

"Only if velocities are matched exactly, and they work best if both ships are using them to ensure a connection," Robert replied. "I'm not sure portable transporters would be sufficient."

"Probably not for warp-speed beaming," Lucy offered.

Robert nodded. He had a look of impatience growing on his expression. "I'll be returning to the Aurora before we depart, I have reports to file for our leaders. I'll leave Lieutenant Lucero and Ensign Talara here so that we have working communications between the ships."

"I will arrange quartering for them," Ursa answered. "We should depart now. We cannot give our enemy time to flee."

"Agreed, we can't," Robert said. He tapped at his omnitool. "Dale to Aurora, one to beam back."

He transported out. Moments later, their ships accelerated and made the jump to warp.

For his part, Robert was not entirely truthful when he attributed his return to filing reports. He went straight to his quarters, a desperate plan forming in his mind.

Sharp, harsh pain filled Julia's head, and her arms struggled in vain against the restraints holding her wrists to the arms of the Aurora Chair. Aside from her instinctive struggles, Julia could do nothing to fight back. All she could do was try to bury herself in other memories, cherished memories.

Whether it was irritation with her condition or perhaps a desire for amusement, the memory she found herself dwelling on was the time Robert put an entire canister of her play-doh into the harvester. She recalled how upset that made her when she was young. "How could you do this, Robby?!" she'd scolded angrily, drawing an uncertain look from her close friend. "That was my play-doh!"

These same words echoed in the chamber. On the screen the image of a young boy dominated, along with an empty plastic container.

Something about the memory drew her in. Not just recalling how upset it made her at the time, but the genuine look of contrition, the realization that an impulsive, selfish act caused harm to someone he cared for. The pain of the Aurora Chair became distant, less a drill boring into her mind and more of a pinprick, a splinter at the edge of it.

"I'm sorry, Julie," the child Robby said. "I just… I thought it'd be fun. I didn't mean to make you upset."

"Why didn't you ask me?! You know better!"

While Julia seemed to grow still, Fassbinder looked at the viewer and frowned. Somehow she was resisting, that he was certain of. How, he couldn't say for sure. There was something about her energy, her being, that the Chair seemed to be failing to reach. But it was infuriating regardless.

"Turn up the chair," he ordered the technician.

"It is already at the maximum setting, Herr Brigadeführer,' the man replied. "I cannot intensify the effect any further."

Fassbinder considered that for a moment. When he spoke again, it was to bark, "Shut it down!"

The technician did so. Julia's body relaxed. She drew a breath in. Slowly, she seemed to come back to recognition of her surroundings. Fassbinder sensed confusion. "The Chair must be having an effect upon her memory state," he said to the technician. "Scharführer, I want it inspected. Thoroughly."


He gestured to Julia. "Take her to the tank," he instructed the others.

Light years away, seated on the floor of his quarters' living area, Robert opened his eyes. He drew in a breath as the sharp pain that he'd felt through his head faded, leaving as its mark the sweat covering his brow and the memory of that pain.

Regardless, a small smile crossed his face. "It worked," he mumbled. "It worked."
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Activity in the SS base was escalating from the preparations for evacuation. Fassbinder noted with approval the efficiency of his men as they took up everything that could be removed. Engineers started the process of preparing demolition, should annihilating the alien city from orbit prove impossible. Others catalogued the stores of everything from weapons to the powerful combat stims that the SS, given its deficiencies in numbers, was issuing to all combat personnel, preparing everything for transport to an evacuation ship.

From his office, Fassbinder monitored all of this from screens. As he did, he considered whether to escalate his prisoner's torment or not. The way she was interfering with the Aurora Chair was vexing, but the data was still valuable. That argued against any further use of the nanobots or the shocks in the tank.

But yet… he wanted to feel her suffer. His hate for Julia Andreys, for what she represented, for what she accomplished, demanded she suffer. The dark energies within him stirred at the thought, urging him to it. Order them to turn the dial. Commence the shocks. MAKE HER SCREAM.

"Petty sadism does not suit a man of your power, Fassbinder," said the Twelve. Cosmetic alterations aside, she was a clone of one of the accursed Aurora officers, Lucy Lucero. Whenever Fassbinder looked at her, he couldn't help but remember that Lucero had once batted him aside with barely an effort, back on New Brittany. He looked forward to the day he got a rematch with her.

"You waste time," the Six added. "The evacuation plans…"

"...are proceeding," Fassbinder finished for her, feeling a little irritated. He felt a deep suspicion that the Cylons wanted Julia Andreys' death for some unknown reason. He fully intended to give it to them, but only when he chose to do so. "But my plan to destroy the Aurora requires that she remain alive." Fassbinder checked his reports for a moment before continuing. "Dale will sense her death. That would spoil everything. But so long as she is alive, he will feel it, and he will tell the others so. When she is in pain, they will know, so they will be desperate to end it." Fassbinder grinned ferociously. "And I will use that desperation to my advantage."

The Cylons said nothing in response. Fassbinder turned his attentions to his work while his hand reached for his comm. "Fassbinder to tank room. Return the prisoner to her cell," he instructed the guards. "We will try the Chair again soon."

Miko watched in quiet horror when Julia was returned to the cell. She collapsed bonelessly to the hard floor the moment the guards released her, neither bothering to give her a final blow from the stun sticks this time. They turned the forcefield back on and departed. On the other side of it, Julia was on her stomach, unmoving.

"Julia. Are you…" Miko stopped herself from finishing the question "Are you okay?" It was clear she wasn't. She was simply too weak to move.

A deep despair threatened to fill Miko, a despair at never seeing her mother again, nor the Beifong cousins, or her grand uncle… none of those whom she loved. She would be trapped here, alone save for a woman who, at any time, might succumb to the abuse their captives delighted in inflicting on her. And when Julia finally died, she would be truly alone…

Or maybe not, she considered. She recalled some of what Master Gyatsun taught her about the Avatar's spiritual abilities. It took effort, too, and her situation helped with that. The truth was that Miko often felt impatient at the stodgy old Airbender, preferring to train with Yeshe.

But she wasn't such a poor student that she garnered nothing from those lessons. The spiritual side of who she was, that was important too.

Miko sat on the floor of her cell and began the long, slow work of quieting her mind.

The General Iroh had the kind of austere functionality Lucy expected given both their technological level and the behavior of the crew. Her quarters, apparently those for VIPs, were only half the size of those she had on the Aurora, and were quite spartan. The walls were painted in deep reds and golds, presumably to make the living quarters aesthetically appealing, but the bed was little more than a cot and the shower barely a walk-in closet.

After some time using the computer hookup and her omnitool to research the ship and these people, Lucy decided to give the communications system another check. After her trip through the vessel, she found Komin already inspecting the guts of what had been their primary comm transceiver. "What's the verdict?"

"Chief Lee was right," he said. "Even if we could construct a new set, the damage in here is too extensive. They'll have to rebuild the comm system in the docks."

Lucy glanced over it and nodded in agreement. "No secondaries?"

"The designers judged them to be unnecessary, I suppose. Or impossible."

"Or, more likely, a lower priority to other systems. A tradeoff that's biting you in the rear now." Lucy had a thought. "What if we used the Aurora to send a message to your people?"

"I'm not sure your communications are compatible," he replied. "Ours relies on the existence of the Spirit World, and from what you've said, it's unique to our universe."

"Yeah, about that… Different layers of reality are known to us, things like the various bands of hyperspace, but this 'Spirit World' you're talking about…"

"It's linked to our world at a fundamental level," Komin said. "It's played an important role in our development of technology ever since Avatar Korra left the portals open. Observation of the Spirit World is what led Korra's granddaughter Yasuko Sato to the discoveries that proved the possibility of the space-warp drive."

Lucy blinked. "You mean you… you can actually enter this plane? You have openings to it on your homeworld?"

"Three, yes. To enter physically, anyway. There are other ways into it. It's why Yeshe is our best hope of getting a message back to the Republic and the Fire Nation without forcing us to go back ourselves."

"Your cousin?" Curious, Lucy asked, "Is this your way of saying she can enter your Spirit World mentally?"

"She can project her spirit in." Seeing Lucy's increased curiosity, he added, "Follow me."

They went back into the section of the ship with private quarters. In a set of quarters much like her own assigned room, Yeshe Beifong was seated on a map in what seemed a universal meditative posture, legs folded under her and hands on knees.

Lucy felt a kind of rippling in the Flow of Life, not unlike that of the ship's power core. Yeshe's being seemed… diverted, not entirely present anymore. Her body was almost in a sort of stasis, her breathing quiet and shallow, but not labored.

The part that really gained her attention was that the feeling she had from Yeshe was not unlike the general feeling of the Flow of Life in this universe. As if it were also diverted in some way.

"I'm worried for her," Komin admitted.

"Oh?" Lucy turned her head and faced him. The look on his face was drawn and pensive. "Why? Because you're so far from your homeworld?"

He nodded. "It's known that the connection to the Spirit World gets weaker this far out. Our communications systems aren't as effected, but attempting to enter the Spirit World this way is said to be harder. Much harder. There's no guarantee she will be able to keep herself there long enough to find another of the Airbenders, or anyone else, to tell them about what we've found."

"This is dangerous, then?"

"I'm not sure. This isn't something I'm familiar with," he admitted. "Yeshe is convinced she can manage it."

"Then we should have faith in her that she will," said Lucy. "Even if it's not easy."

"You're right, it's just… I've known Yeshe since I was little. I don't want to lose her too." Komin took in a breath before turning for the door. "I'm going to get some rest. You?"

"I think I will too," she said. "I'll see you later."


With that, they parted ways.

The lights in Robert's quarters were set just above the dim level. He was in the living area adjacent to the bedroom, seated on the floor on the mat he'd carried with him from Gersal after finishing the training to control his now-enhanced talents. He breathed in and out slowly, focusing himself in meditation.

The link he shared with Julia was stronger than before. He could sense she was resting. Fassbinder was presumably busy with other matters. That he was sparing her made Robert feel gratified, but worried. Given his whole-hearted embrace of darkness, all of Fassbinder's nastiest traits were stronger now, including sadism and hatred. If he wasn't trying to make Julia suffer now, it implied a reason.

One such reason was that he might be too busy overseeing an evacuation, which meant they were running out of time to get to Julia and Miko.

The thought of her being gone came roaring back, and the reaction was fear. Solid, unrelenting fear. He couldn't imagine a world without her in it, he didn't even want to try, and having to live in it… the mere idea was maddening. A source of maddening anger.

It had more than one source, more than one target. He was angry at the enemy, certainly, for what they'd done to his adopted home, for what they were doing to Julia, for all of the suffering and terror they'd inflicted.

He was also angry at himself. They were here because of him. Because of his mistakes. He'd helped start the war before the Alliance was ready for it, for one, when he let his fears dominate his decisions at 33LA. Two years on, and that mistake haunted him, all the more since those very mistakes brought about the nightmare he'd foreseen. The attack on New Liberty, Julia taken as a prisoner, Beth nearly dying…

That made him think of New Liberty. If he had come for Julia first… then she wouldn't be suffering. He made the choice to not go to her rescue, to walk into Fassbinder's trap instead. A trap he only escaped because of telepath allies that came to his rescue. Allies that would have rescued Beth anyway while he was rescuing Julia.

I didn't know, he thought to himself, but the greater part of him rejected that defense. How could he have not known? With all of this power, his talents, how couldn't he see how it would go? How was it that he didn't know to save Julia instead?

After all, hadn't he lost enough already? His grandparents, his parents, his sister… why should he have to lose her too?

Robert felt power in this anger. A deep power, cold and hot at the same time. He instinctively drew back from it, as one might pull a hand back from an open flame. But even as he did, a part of him felt a visceral rush at the thought of it. That deep, dark part that lies in any living, thinking being's heart, the one that is drawn to power like a moth to flame, drawn to strength, to the means to impose one's will upon a universe that seemed to just not care…

A treacherous voice echoed in his being. And if it's what you need to save her? Fassbinder is more powerful now, and he has allies.

At the periphery of his senses, Robert heard his door chime. He ignored it for the moment, dwelling on the problems before him. The chime repeated. When he gave no answer, it went off again… and again…. and again…

"Fine! Come in!" he snapped irritably.

The door slid open. Meridina stepped in, wearing her uniform. The fourth gold strip on her collar was another reminder of Julia's absence. Her very being radiated concern. "I sense it in you," she said. "Your feelings of anger are calling up the darkness within."

"As you've said before, we all have it," he replied. "I'm not giving into it."

"Not right now. But the next time you face Fassbinder?" Meridina took a seat at his small table and apprised him with a worried look. "You are angry and frustrated by him. It is becoming hatred."

Robert's eyes opened and he looked at her, a hard light to his green eyes she'd never seen before. "We had him on Gamma Piratus," Robert said. "He should have died there. But we were sloppy. We let him get away. And then on New Brittany, when he escaped Lucy, and then in Germania… And every time he gets away from us, Meridina, he causes more suffering, and he grows more powerful."

"I am aware."

"We should have made sure," Robert said. "We should have made sure he was dead on Gamma Piratus. Or any of those other places."

"We did all we could," Meridina reminded him. "You know full well that part of being a swevyra'se is knowing that distinction. We do what we can. We do not try. But neither do we regret those things that we cannot do."

"But because we didn't get him, look at what he's done!" Robert's fists clenched. "Look at what he did to New Liberty! What he did to Beth! He was a moment away from killing her! If Colin and the others hadn't…" He lowered his head, replaying the scene in the Government House foyer again. "I felt her ready to die. Beth stopped herself from weeping. She wanted to die with dignity, to not give him the satisfaction of her crying or begging to live, even though she was desperate to live. What he did to her is going to stick with her forever, Meridina. Because we weren't good enough, I wasn't good enough. And now he's got Julia, and he's hurting her, because I didn't see it coming, because I didn't do what I needed to in order to protect them both!"

Something in his words struck the aching wound in Meridina's heart, echoing with her own. You weren't good enough to forsee the Brotherhood attack. You weren't good enough to save Ledosh from Goras. Irritation with that thinking filled her. "You are being arrogant," Meridina chided. "Presumptuous. You alone cannot do everything, Robert, and your insistence on this matter is egotistical and vain. You are allowing your expanded power to lead you astray. To 'go to your head', the others would say."

Robert's face, his being, betrayed his surprise at her harshness.

"There are things you cannot do. That we cannot do. If we do not accept this, then we create frustration for ourselves. Frustration and anger, and anger is on the path to darkness. Much as you displayed when you attacked the Aristo on Toutaine Station, an act of darkness that I once thought you incapable of."

Robert remembered that dark feeling when he was on Toutaine, listening to the Aristo who called himself Haron mocking him about Julia, about everything. He'd nearly broken the man himself, but stopped before he could go that far. But only just that far; he'd crossed a line, and he knew it.

That she was right only made him feel worse. It wasn't helped by what he also felt. In his feelings and sentiments, Meridina saw her own mirrored. She was feeling frustrated by what happened on Gersal. Frustrated… and guilty.

Something about that gnawed at him. Here she was, dispensing advice to him that she herself wasn't heeding. She insisted he accept what happened and move on, but she wasn't doing the same for herself. "Maybe you should take your own advice," Robert said, not quite nastily, but coldly.

Meridina's expression blanched.

"You blame yourself for Gersal," he continued. "I can feel it in you. You think you should have been faster. Stronger. More prescient. Then maybe Ledosh would be alive, more of your people would have survived. Maybe even you would have prevented the loss of the Great Temple."

The response was Meridina closing her eyes. His words hit home.

Robert swallowed. A bitter part of him wanted to point out the hypocrisy again. To hammer home that she had no right to demand he do something she would not. He only barely kept that bitter feeling down. "It's more than that, though, isn't it? There's a part of you that wonders if this might not have happened if you hadn't made the choices you did. That you and Ledosh, by promoting the Alliance, investigating our place in the Prophecy of the Dawn, by all of that, you made this attack possible. Maybe inevitable. That if you'd listened to Karesl and Goras from the getgo, none of this would have happened."

Meridina's eyes met his. She didn't need to say it.

"I think you're wrong about that. And I think you know that." Robert nodded at her. "And maybe you're right about me. But you're not the one feeling her pain, Meridina. He's torturing Julia and I feel it. And the reason Julia's a prisoner is my choice. I chose to go for Beth instead, and if I hadn't have… if I hadn't have, odds are Beth would've lived anyway, that Colin and Max and Governor Kuhln would have saved her, and I could have helped Julia get away. My choices are why Julia is a prisoner now. Why she's not home. Why she's suffering. You're asking me to ignore my part in that outcome, and I can't. Please don't ask me to. Not now."

Meridina said nothing more. With pain in her own heart, pain at how true Robert's words about her feelings, she stood up and left without a further word.

Robert watched her go before returning to his meditation. Whatever else, he had to be ready if Julia started hurting again.

Julia stirred slowly, fitfully, from her place on the floor of her bare cell, bare save for the bucket that was meant to be her toilet as another act of degradation. While the green fluid she was being repeatedly dumped into was healing her body, she still ached everywhere, especially in her head.

The sound of conversation prompted Julia to turn her head toward Miko's cell. Her fellow captive was seated on the floor in a legs-crossed meditative posture. Across from her was a human figure, a man seated similarly to Miko. An aura of blue light surrounded him, giving him a spectral look. The man's face had a soft expression; he looked to be early middle-aged, with a pointed beard of light gray color, to match the fringe of similar color at the temples that streaked through darker, close-cut hair. He was wearing a suit of dark green fringed with an earthy brown color. His eyes were heterochromatic: one amber, one green. Physically he looked to be in the peak of health even with middle-age, with broad shoulders, although his expression gave the sense of a "gentle giant" sort of person.

Julia had just enough time to take in the features of the figure before he seemed to dissipate into a fog, vanishing completely in the span of a couple seconds. Miko drew in a sigh and lowered her head.

The thought moved through Julia's mind to ask what she'd just seen, but before she could speak, the familiar thumping of boots to the floor heralded the arrival of the SS guards. Julia drew in a quick breath and steeled herself for the resumption of her ordeal.

With the hours to their arrival dwindling down, Meridina took what she imagined would be her last quiet meal period left to her. It was necessary to rebalance herself given her discussion with Robert and the emotions it drew up, her fears for him and her feelings over what happened on Gersal.

Hargert, with his customary diligence, seemed prepared for her with a meal suited to lifting her spirits. The liyume, a Gersallian dish comparable to what Humans called "dumplings", had a rich flavor to it that was authentically Gersallian (Hargert's previous experiments in mixing Earth-native spices or ingredients had been of mixed success, and in this case were undesired). Altogether it worked as a comfort food, and Meridina greatly enjoyed it.

But it did not, by itself, lift her spirits. As much as she tried to ignore it, Meridina was working with a broken heart. The horror of that day on Gersal, with the Cylon attack and the fall of the Temple aided by the treachery of the long-hidden Brotherhood, it kept coming back to her. Indeed, even the welcoming dish seemed to sour in her mouth as she contemplated everything that happened.

The sour look on her face was noted by the new arrival at her table. "Do ye mind, lass?" Meridina lifted her head to notice Commander Scott, a mug of coffee in one hand and a plate of food in the other. When she quietly gestured toward a chair he took it, setting his meal down. "Well now, ye dinnae seem t' be enjoyin' yer meal," he said to her. "Still thinkin' of home?"

"The meal is fine. I am simply distracted." She took another bite of it, as if to ward off any further inquiry.

"Nobody blames ye for thinkin' of home," he assured her.

Meridina nodded in reply. But she said nothing. Se could think of nothing to say, nothing that wouldn't admit of the feelings inside of her.

There was no hiding them from the veteran engineer beside her. "Ye're tryin' t' be strong for th' crew's sake. Aye, I get that," Scotty said gently. "But ye cannae ignore what's on yer mind forever, Meridina. Ye have t' face it."

Behind the gentle persistence in the old man's voice, Meridina sensed his warm spirit, and his desire to help her. Not just out of general concern for the younger officers and crew, but from his understanding of the pressures they were under, and of the terrible things she'd endured.

He was right, of course. Meridina couldn't avoid facing her feelings. Not forever, not even for much longer. She had to face her fears, her guilt, if she was to lead them effectively.

The irony made her want to laugh bitterly. She'd never imagined being in this position, having to command the Aurora herself. Being the Captain. Even when she accepted Julia's request and decided to become First Officer, she'd never imagined it coming about, as logical as it was. Now she felt regret for accepting the promotion and new post. This wasn't what she'd wanted with her life, after all. She was, or at least had been, a swevyra'se, a Knight of Life, sworn to the Code of Swenya. Her place was in the thick of danger, using her talents to aid, not sitting in a chair commanding the fates of two thousand people.

Although that didn't really matter in the long run, did it? Regardless of what she wanted, this was where she was, and whatever her choices, Gersal had burned. The Temple was gone, millions were dead, the Order was reeling. Nearly broken, maybe.

What would this do to her people? For the Gersal she knew? Change was inevitable, but would it be for good or ill?

With all of that weight in her heart, it was no surprise that tears formed in her eyes. They began the journey down her face to her chin in seconds, followed by more tears, an even greater flow of them.

"We have lost so much," she admitted to Mister Scott. "The Cylons destroyed the Temples with atomic weapons. They did everything they could to annihilate the legacy of Swenya from our world. Three thousand years of history that inspired my people to be what they have become, and the Cylons annihilated it in less than a day. They knocked down the Yahana Towers in Jantarihal. The fires they caused burned half of Iltahad's parks. And the death they brought. They… they killed millions in Trubin alone. Ten million of my people are dead. Ten million." She shook her head, fighting back a sniffle. "Light help us, we have never taken a shock like this. Not since… the Brotherhood. Which they are led by!"

"Aye, it's a great loss, an' a terrible shock," Scott agreed. "It's more than that, though, isn't?"

She nodded. "I am haunted by the thought that I brought this about. That if I had not pursued the path I did, Goras would not have fallen. The Order would not have lost its heart. It would not have fallen into the malaise that left it vulnerable. We would have seen this attack coming." She wiped at the tears on her face. "Ten million of my people, Mister Scott, and I may have contributed with my choices. How can I continue this with such a weight on my swevyra?"

The elder Scotsman listened patiently to her. When Meridina's question came his way, he replied softly. "Ye have t' remember that ye didn't make th' choices that caused all this. Goras is th' one who couldn't accept th' way things were goin'. He decided he'd rather murder ye. And nothin' ye did would've stopped th' Cylons' attack. They were comin' for ye at some point. That's clear t' us all, lass." He reached a hand over and laid it on her lower arm, a gesture of reassurance. "Meridina, my heart weeps for what ye've lost. I dinnae know anyone who wouldn't be wonderin' what ye're wonderin'. But ye cannae forget all th' good ye've done with th' crew. The lives ye've saved, an' everythin' good that's come of that. That Cylon lass ye brought aboard, for starters. Ye showed her mercy when it would've been easy t' kill her, an' she helped save th' people o' New Caprica. Ye taught Lucy how t' use these skills o' yers, an' Robert as well, an' look at what they've done."

Meridina's blue eyes met his, tears flowing freely from them. "They have done so much," she agreed.

"Aye. Ye've accomplished a lot since ye came t' th' Aurora, Meridina. It's no wonder Captain Andreys asked ye t' be the First Officer."

"We both know I was not her first choice," Meridina said. "Jarod and Nicholas turned her down."

"Dinnae change th' fact she asked ye," he pointed out. "An' I think she was right."

"But I… now I must be the Captain," Meridina said gently. "And I am not sure this is what I am meant to be. The role comes naturally to Julia in a way I do not share. The others are concerned with Julia's replacement and that I am not being offered the command, but when I consider myself, I must admit I do not wish it. I would only accept it for the sake of the others."

A twinkle formed in Scotty's eye. "Aye, I know what ye mean."

"You have commanded before, have you not?" she asked.

"Well, lass, back in th' day, I was third-in-command on th' Enterprise," he said. "When Captain Kirk an' Mister Spock had t' be elsewhere, I was left in command. An' I admit, I was never happy at th' chance, never at all. I only cared t' be an engineer."

That fit with the sentiments Meridina had long noticed in the older man. Scott's engineering spaces were his pride and joy. "But you commanded when necessary. Much as I am now."

"Aye." The twinkle in his eye remained. "Did I ever tell ye about th' time I took th' Kobayashi Maru test?"

Meridina thought of the name. It sounded like it came from the Human language of the Japanese nation, but she was not familiar with the significance. "I do not believe so. I am uncertain of what this test is?"

"It's a simulation that Starfleet used t' run command candidates through, a test o' character ye might say," he explained. "Well, I'd been put in Command School, an' th' test came up. As ye can imagine, I was nae t' happy t' be in there in th' first place…"

While Commander Scott's story did not directly pertain to her situation, Meridina found her spirits much lifted by the time her conversation with the engineer was over. Her heart still ached at everything happening, but she knew that for the moment she must cast aside uncertainty and be the captain the crew needed. Julia needed them all, and Meridina would do her best to make sure the ship and crew would come through.

After her meal she returned to the bridge. Locarno, Tra'dur, and Cat were all on duty, with Lieutenant Luneri standing in for Angel to allow her a meal period. At the science station Cat was busy examining readings. "This local space is just… really interesting. Some of these readings remind me of the Fracture, but I'm not seeing anything else that matches. Stars are, roughly, where they're supposed to be, there's no spatial warping effect, and no reports of illness from anyone with psionic or metaphysical perception."

"No sign of a DT field yet?" Jarod asked.

"No. But…" She checked something. "The target system is now on long-range sensors."

"And still no DT field."

"Then wherever this is, it is not a former base of the Darglan," Meridina noted. "Or at least, not one they made after acquiring the dimensional-transcendence field technology. Perhaps it is another repurposed base like the one we found in N2C5."

"Going by sensors, there are signs of power signatures in the system, consistent with starships." Cat examined her readings even more closely. "And I am detecting a warp trail near here, the subspace wake is consistent with the anti-matter pulse reactors the Reich uses."

"So we know the coordinates are good," Jarod noted. "The question is, what's waiting for us there?"

"An excellent question. Do you have a proposal to find out, Commander?" Meridina asked.

"Long range probes could scout the system for us," said Jarod. "Even if they're destroyed, the data we get before they're lost could be invaluable."

"Could the Koenig not go on ahead of us and quietly reconnoiter the system?" Tra'dur suggested. "They have a greater chance of going undetected."

Meridina waited for Jarod's reaction to the suggestion. It was a nod. "That would also work," he agreed. "If they stay under cloak and are careful about transmissions."

"Agreed," she said, before keying the tac comm. "Koenig, we have the enemy system on sensors. I would like the system scouted."

"Sounds good to me," said Zack. "We're accelerating now."

The Koenig's warp engines intensified the field around the ship. The ship accelerated until she moved beyond the Aurora and General Iroh.

The drilling agony of the Aurora Chair assailed Julia's mind yet again. She writhed against the restraints of the chair, feeling as if her mind was coming apart under its relentless, mechanical assault. Fassbinder hovered over her like a bird of prey, eager, and frustrated at the prey for not succumbing.

With her brain feeling it was on fire, Julia delved into memories that promised any sort of respite. The pain she was in caused a memory association to form. Her thoughts turned to after Robert's grandmother died. They were just eight years old. That cooling summer day so long ago came back to her; the rolling fields of wheat of the Dale farm, the solemn quiet of the family home… her parents came over to give their condolences for the Dale family's loss.

On the porch, eight year old Julie found eight year old Robby, sitting on the stairway with tears flowing down his face. "Oma's gone," he wept. "Oma's gone."'

Memories of Oma - Anna Dale, Robert's German-born grandmother - were of a warm elderly woman who cooked delicious food and delighted in teaching "meine kleiner" her native language. Those memories reverted back to the porch, where she'd responded by embracing her dear friend and playmate closely, crying with him, not so much for grief over Anna's death as it was sympathy for his grief.

As they embraced, the pain in her brain decreased again. Indeed, it felt like it had never been there. She was just here, a child again, with her poor suffering friend. Her poor Robby, hurt so much from losing his beloved grandmother. She clung all the tighter to him, as if she could banish the deep pain she felt within him.

The image of this on the Chair's viewer brought a derisive, frustrated snort froom Fassbinder. He eyed the technician, who shrugged. "I'm sorry, Herr Brigadeführer. The technology is at maximum."

Fassbinder snarled at that. He looked to Julia for a moment before pulling the headpiece away from her forehead, shutting down the machine automatically. In a rapid motion his arm came up. His fist smashed into her cheek with enough force that it broke one of her teeth. "You will yield!" His face drew close, his eyes glaring hatred at her.

The blow jolted Julia back to reality. She looked into Fassbinder's eyes and contempt appeared on her features. She rolled her tongue inside of her mouth until she felt the broken pieces of her damaged tooth. She collected them, and the attendant blood, and in a moment of impulsive defiance spat them into Fassbinder's eye.

Fassbinder recoiled backward. Only momentary instinct kept the chips of enamel from impacting on his eye directly, his eyelid absorbing the projectiles instead. Red blood covered the right side of his face. His expression twisted into a look of deep rage. His hand went for the controls on his gauntlet.

The nanobots on Julia's skin activated, flooding her nerves with pain stimuli. She cried out from the sheer agony of the experience.

"I have a confession," he said, even as she writhed in the chair, barely hearing him through the intensity of her pain. "Your interrogation is, to me, meaningless. The Führer ordered it and I will obey, of course, but I am not foolish enough to think we can gain immediate benefit. Your command codes have been shut off, your access to Alliance databases rescinded. The Aurora Chair may yet pull some useful intelligence from your mind, but with each passing day the worth of that knowledge decreases. Whatever your exalted status in the history of the Alliance, you are still ultimately just a starship captain. Your leaders do not share everything with you."

Julia said nothing beyond letting out another strangled cry. A tightness in her chest kept the cry from reaching the volume of the last, the pain so intense the muscles in her body were contracting instinctively, trying to escape what could not be escaped. Beyond the pain, she felt a growing sense of despair, a sense that her life was going to end like this. That after everything she'd done, everything she'd accomplished, her fate was to be tortured to death by Fassbinder.

"Ah." The SS man chuckled. "Well, I see you have an idea of it. You realize what your fate is to be, do you Kapitan?" He leaned in closer, her blood still around his eye. "I savor your suffering like a fine wine, yes. After your crimes against my people, how could I not? So allow me to confirm your fears, Julia Andreys. My sole intent is to torture you. To make you feel pain, over and over and over, without end, without mercy. I want you to suffer. I want you and all of your friends to suffer for what you have done." His voice became a bitter snarl, laced with deep rage, and his unnatural yellow eyes glistened with malevolence. "Because of you and Robert Dale and the others, your Alliance destroyed my Reich. You burned our cities! You tore down our glories! You uplifted untermenschen and aliens at the expense of the Aryan race! You humiliated us! And I will have my revenge for that. I will make you suffer as no other human being has ever suffered, Kapitan. Your anguish will be my greatest pleasure. And when the time comes and you are utterly broken - and you will be - and you are a madwoman who can only beg and mewl for mercy… I will continue to torture you anyway. Until your suffering no longer entertains me. Then I will give you to my men to do with as they please, and when it is all over, your broken corpse will be left for your precious Alliance to discover, so that they might all know how deeply they have failed you." He turned to the guards. "Take her to the kohltou tank. And I want the current on. Make her suffer."

"Jawohl, mein Brigadeführer."

Almost as an afterthought Fassbinder turned off the nanobots, merely for the purpose of making her guards' job of transporting her easier. As Julia was dragged off, a Scharführer entered and saluted. "Heil Kranefuss!"

Fassbinder returned the salute. "What is it, Scharführer?"

"Brigadeführer, long range sensors are detecting two of the three vessels that the Dogger Bank reported from its battle. Sturmbannführer Diekmann believes the third vessel, an attacker, is cloaked."

"The Koenig, undoubtedly," Fassbinder said. A thoughtful smile crossed his face. "Scharführer, inform Oberführer Krebsbach to commence the Phase 1 evacuation procedures, and make sure he knows that there is no urgency. He can take his time."


Fassbinder watched the soldier leave and allowed himself a small smile. Everything was proceeding exactly as he desired. Revenge and destiny were at hand.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

Robert's efforts at meditation were not working out as he wanted. The anger would not fade, nor the temptations of the power within it. The pain in his head from his efforts to shield Julia, to protect her mind from whatever device or being was attacking it, was making it harder to focus. And with the pain he sensed her in, pain he could only partially absorb for her, a deep, desperate need to get to her side now filled him, in defiance of all other considerations.

With that desperate need came the dark thoughts again. Against Fassbinder and his troops, and his Cylon allies, they would need a lot of power to prevail. Even now he felt the sense that Fassbinder was preparing for them. A trap was being laid, a trap that they had no choice but to spring if they were to get Julia back. To deal with all of that, he needed to be at his best. He needed the power to break them down and…

He cried out in frustration, at the situation and himself. He knew what that power was, why he should never touch it. How corrupting it was. He thought of how he'd described it to Zara Tam and Husn Maina and the other Psi Corps children on Tau Atrea, about how corruptive and toxic it was to the spirit. What good would it do for Julia if he stopped being who he was? How much would he hurt her and the others if he abandoned what they believed in?

Again a small treacherous voice, laced with fear and need, whispered in his being as the sensation of electrical shock gnawed at him. That harm is nothing compared to what she suffers now.

Slowly he realized the door chime was going off, repeatedly and insistently. His first impression was that Meridina was coming back to scold him, or otherwise try to deal with him. Maybe even to put him to sleep, to save him from these dark thoughts before they tempted him over a line he couldn't return from. But after a moment he could sense it wasn't her. It was another.

The door slid open without him authorizing it. Robert looked up, surprise and some anger on his expression, and he watched Leo walk in, wearing his blue-trimmed medical uniform with a white lab coat over it. Leo's dark skin softly reflected the lighting of Robert's quarters. There was a hint of stubble on his chin. Robert could guess Leo was just finished dealing with the casualties from the General Iroh that the Aurora medbay was asked to handle.

"I didn't actually invite you in," Robert pointed out.

"No. But given my scan of your vitals showed elevated pain indicators, I consider my medical override justified," Leo said. He sat down on the simple couch beside where Robert was seated on the floor and looked down at his friend. His eyes reflected what Robert sensed in Leo's being: compassion, worry, the need to heal that was integral to Leo's heart and soul. "Everyone's worried about you."

"So this is the first step in an intervention?" Robert asked.

"More like I'm the only one who's not busy with something related to getting Julia back," Leo answered. "So it falls on me to help you."

Robert said nothing. A grimace came to his face as he felt the pain escalate.

"Well, that's something I never thought I'd see," Leo said, glancing at his medical omnitool's scan display. "Your body's showing signs of responding to, I don't know, some kind of electrical discharge." A sour look came to his face. "It's how they're torturing her, I guess?"

"Yeah," answered Robert, his voice hollow. "It is."

Leo took in a breath and nodded. "Yeah. I've seen the results of SS handiwork before." He leaned over in the seat and pressed a hand to Robert's shoulder. "It's bad enough that you're already in torment from the worry over her. Having to feel that, to know for certain how they're treating her…"

"It's not just that. I'm… I'm using our connection to shield her," he said. "To try and alleviate the pain." His fists clenched. The charge was being increased on the other end, and through his connection Robert was feeling it acutely. He groaned lowly before continuing. "I owe it to her to help her, Leo. I'm the reason she's there," Robert said. "I could've gone to her on New Liberty. I could've helped her get away."

"And left Beth to die instead?"

"She wouldn't have. Colin and Max would've saved her, just as they did with me there," Robert said.

"Are you so sure of that?" Leo asked patiently, keeping a nervous eye on Robert's vitals. He didn't pretend to understand this metaphysical stuff, but everything on his instruments told him Robert was being subjected to painful electrical shock. "Fassbinder's people probably kept in contact with him. And I know your metaphysical abilities let you sense each other. If he'd sensed you going after her instead of coming to him, do you really think he'd have waited that long?"

Leo's question brought silence from Robert. He thought the answer over and found only a vexing uncertainty.

"Rob, Julia knows how to take care of herself. Beth, well, she does to an extent as well, but you knew she needed that help. That without you coming, she would have died. Julia had a chance to get away. It didn't work out for her. But that's not your fault."

"I've had dreams for two years," Robert said. "Dreams of New Liberty burning. Of Julia being held as a prisoner. I… I had them the night before we launched the 33LA mission, Leo. The mistake I made… this wouldn't have happened if I…"

"That's all the past. Might-have-beens. I have them myself, you know."

Robert nodded, sensing in Leo the memory of a frail, leukemia-stricken boy of barely ten years of age. "Joshua Marik."


"But it's not just a might-have-been. I should have realized something was wrong," Robert insisted. "I should have seen this coming!"

"And you think that your dreams would be proof enough to get the Alliance to mobilize?" Leo asked. "You really think even Maran could force that through?"

Robert shook his head. He winced again from the pain sensations filling him.

"Listen, I get it," Leo continued. "This… this power you've got. It makes you feel responsible. Makes you think there's something more you could, you should, do. But you're still just Human, Rob. There are some things you can't see coming. Things you can't stop. And dwelling over it, that's not going to help Julia, man."

Leo was right. Of course he was. Robert knew it, he accepted it, but it didn't change the hurt. Not just the torture he sensed and tried to divert, but the hurt inside. The fear. "I can't lose her," he said. "God help me, I can't. She's… she's been a part of my life, a part of me, I can't lose her too." As he spoke he felt the pain recede. He breathed out in relief and wiped at the sweat coating his forehead and face.

"Your vitals are improving," Leo said. "The pain indicators are gone. They stopped."

"For now." Robert swallowed. "Whatever happens, Leo, we have to save her. I don't think I can endure it if she..."

"We'll get that shot," Leo assured him, his answer keeping Robert from considering the alternative. "Just get your head straight first. She can't lose you either, you know."

Robert's reaction was a laugh choked by a sniffle. "Leo, I love her."

"On the 'No Duh' scale, that's an 11 out of 10," Leo responded. "I always find it funny that the two of you seem determined not to hook up."

"We don't want romance to interfere," Robert replied. "All of the emotions that come from it."

"I think I get it." Leo nodded and clapped him on the shoulder.

"I'm scared. Oh God, I'm scared. For her. For what Fassbinder's doing to her. He's killing her inch by inch, drawing it out just to make her suffer."

"That's the kind of man he is, for lack of a better term," said Leo.

"What if he takes her away before we get there?" Robert asked openly. "What… what if he kills her instead of letting us rescue her…?"

"What if he doesn't, and we get her back safe and sound?" Leo shook his head. "Don't let it beat you up on the inside, Rob. Just do what you can, and we'll do the same, and God willing, Julia'll be back in her ready office clucking away like the mother hen she is."

Despite everything, Robert chuckled at that. Tears still flowed down his face. "Yeah. She does have to be the mother hen. Look out for us."

"We look out for each other. It's how it's always been."

As Robert nodded in wordless reply, Leo's words soothed his spirit. He felt the fear and attendant anger recede away gently, replaced by a cautious confidence. With it went the temptation to tap the dark power within that anger. "Thanks, Leo," he said quietly. "For looking out for me."

"You're welcome," Leo replied. "Now, as your physician, I recommend you get a hearty meal from the Lookout. Whatever this is you're doing to help Julia, your body needs the calories to keep it up."

Upon return to her cell, a return she knew would likely be short, Julia laid still on the ground, looking into the opposite cell. Miko sat up and looked at her, despair in the young woman's face. Fatigue set in and Julia's brain, desperately in need of sleep, pulled her into that sleep.

It didn't last, not with the way she felt. When Julia opened her eyes again, Miko was no longer facing her, but rather facing to the side, sitting in a meditative pose like before with her eyes closed and a concentrated look on her face.

Before Julia could speak, blue light formed around Miko. It formed from her, like a fog, and flowed away. A short distance from her it coalesced into a human figure, seated similarly to Miko with legs folded. This time it was a woman with dark brown skin and brown hair. She was in a sleeveless suit of light blue color with white trim lines, a brown animal skin wrapped around the waist of a pair of baggy blue trousers. Blue eyes focused on Miko on the face of someone just on the cusp of middle age, not old, but with the energy of youth tempered by years of hard-earned experience. With her skin color, and the thick muscle of her bared arms, the woman reminded Julia of Angel. There was a gentle softness in the voice that spoke. "Hello, Miko."

"Avatar Korra," said Miko. Her eyes opened. "I… I need your advice."

"Of course." The holographic figure nodded.

"I've talked to Avatar Komin, and he was helpful, but you… you've actually faced this too," Miko said. Her voice cracked and tears formed in her eyes. "I've been taken prisoner. They've made it so I can't bend without hurting myself, and… and I don't know what's going to happen." Miko sniffled. "And… and they've hurt me… and I'm scared. I'm scared I won't be strong enough to get away. I won't see my family and friends again."

The image nodded. "I know what that's like," said Korra. "It's okay to be scared."

"But… but how do I fight it?" Miko asked, almost pleading. "I've never been so scared in my life, but if I'm going to get away, if I'm going to help our world fight this new enemy, I have to be stronger than this. I have to get away!"

"Yes. And to do that, you have to accept your fear. Don't try to hold it down or avoid it. Face it, and then let it go. Do that, and you'll be ready to act when your time comes."

"But without my bending…"

Korra smiled thinly. "I've been there too. It's scary, I know. Without it, it makes you feel helpless. After all, it's part of who we are as the Avatar. When I thought I'd lost my bending, it felt like the whole world was ending." The look in her eyes hardened. "And while it was hard, I accepted it. It helped me, in the end. Your situation isn't the same as mine, but what hasn't changed is that bending doesn't actually make us what we are. It's something deeper than that. You can still fight back, Miko, and find a way out." The image's head turned toward her, and Julia got the sense that whatever this being was, she was not unnoticed. "For you and your friend."

Miko glanced Julia's way. Noticing she was awake, Miko sighed with relief.

"You're not alone in this, Miko," Korra continued. "You've got a friend here, and those who care about you will be coming to help you. Don't hold onto the fear. Face it and let it pass. Believe in yourself, pick your moment to strike, and you'll get home." The gentle smile returned. "Good luck to you both."

The image dissipated back into fog, which thinned until there was nothing left.

"What was that?" Julia asked. "Who?"

"Avatar Korra," replied Miko. "My past life, two lifetimes ago."

"So you really reincarnate…?"

"Yes and no. It's… complicated. We're all bound together by Raava, a powerful Spirit of Light. When one Avatar dies, Raava joins with another in the next nation in the chain, and the connection links us to those past lives. But we're not the same individual each time. Each life is different."

The entire idea was both strange and, in a true use of the word, wonderful. Julia found it astounding even considering all of the other strange and "out there" things she'd seen since the opening of the Multiverse.

"I'm trying to be strong," said Miko. "But I still don't know how we'll get out of this. I can't bend, and with everything they've done to you, you can't even stand. How are we going to fight back?"

"We'll make it work. Trust me on that," Julia urged. "Just be patient and wait for our moment."

Miko almost asked what she meant, but held back at the familiar distant sound of approaching steps. She gave Julia a knowing look as the two guards returned. One opened Julia's cell and the other reached in to force her to her feet.

A little flicker of anticipation built in Miko as she watched Julia's aquamarine eyes. While her face showed weariness and misery, her eyes were busy examining her guards. As Julia was carried off, Miko thought back and realized that was how Julia's eyes always seemed to look.

And despite everything, that thought brought a small smile to Miko's face.

Everyone on the Koenig was ready for action when Jean Hajar disengaged the attack ship's warp drives. From her station, newly-minted Lieutenant Commander Magda Navaez, the Colombian-born operations officer and First Officer of the ship, checked the sensor readings. "SS vessels are in orbit over the fourth planet of the solar system," she said aloud. "It looks like a garden world, Class E, just inside the outer limit of the habitable band."

Zack nodded. "What else can you tell me?"

"Not much from here. An exotic power signature indicates a settlement or base of some sort on the surface of the planet, northern hemisphere. I'm detecting transporter activity between the two."

"What kind?" he asked.

Magda checked and double-checked before answering, "Outgoing. Almost entirely outgoing."

Zack gripped the arms of his chair tightly. "They're evacuating," he said.

"It appears so."

"Get the Aurora on the tight-beam," he said. "They need to hear and see this."

In the conference lounge of the Aurora, everyone looked at the holo-image above the center of their table. The Koenig's systems actively relayed to them the sight of SS ships in orbit. Innsbruck and Calypso-class vessels were the only visible types.

The same image, courtesy of the omnitools of Talara and Lucy, was also displayed on the vidmonitor in the wardroom of the General Iroh, where Ursa and the Iroh's official commander, Captain Saizen, were seated with their officers and Komin Beifong. "This energy trace you are seeing," Ursa was saying. "It is more of the teleportation technology?"

"It is," Cat said. "Definite beaming activity. Not too heavy, but constant."

"And it's all going one way," noted Zack over the line. "They're evacuating."

"Then we're out of time," Angel said. "We need to attack now."

"Admiral Maran's response fleet has yet to completely gather," Meridina said. "He requires another ten hours, minimum."

"We don't have ten hours," Zack insisted. "We may not even have ten minutes! If we're getting Julia back, we have to strike now."

"We do have some time," Robert murmured, his face pale and flushed. Sweat glistened on his brow and he looked very much distracted.

"How do… right." Cat stopped herself and swallowed. "They're… torturing her?"

Robert nodded quietly. "Yeah. I can feel it, and I'm shielding her from it as much as I can. Fassbinder's not pulling out right now if he's busy hurting her."

The others gave him looks that ranged from incredulous to worried. The same went for their new allies.

"I don't think he's taken Miko either. I don't feel like he has," Lucy added. "We still have some time."

"This feels like a trap," Locarno said. "They have to know we're coming. Maybe we should wait for reinforcements."

Robert and Lucy nodded in agreement. Lucy said, "It's definitely a trap."

"We have not heard from Yeshe yet about whether she's gotten help," Komin said. "So we can't promise any."

"Maran may not agree to committing what he has without knowing the extent of the enemy force," Meridina said.

"What if we were to send in the Jayhawk and Gonzales?" asked Major Anders. "Use Marine teams to infiltrate and sabotage their base and retrieve the prisoners."

"We don't know what kind of systems they may have monitoring the planet," Lucy said. "If they pick up either or both ships trying to slip into the atmosphere, we'll be sitting ducks without the big ships to cover us. And we have to enter the system anyway, the Jayhawk's warp drive is still offline due to our damage at Toutaine."

"Not that it would matter. They have to see us on their long range sensors by now, so if we stop outside of the system they'll suspect we're sending in insertion teams," Jarod added.

"So let's spring the trap first," Robert suggested, distracted as he was. "Then when we can see what they've got in reserve, we call in reinforcements or withdraw if they're too much for what Maran has ready."

"And if their forces are too strong for the reinforcements you would summon?" asked Ursa. "The enemy's evacuation could be accelerated after we withdrew. They will take your friend and my daughter..."

"That's why we use the arrival and withdrawal to sneak the teams in," Robert said. His voice was hoarse from effort, a wince almost permanent on his face. "While their attention is diverted to the Aurora and General Iroh."

"I will be joining you," Ursa said. "Captain Saizen will command the Iroh."

"Of course," Robert said. "We'll go in with our best. Myself, you, Lucy, Gina" - he glanced to her, Gina nodding in acknowledgement from her corner seat - "Talara, Komin, Yeshe if she's awake, and one of Major Anders' Marine platoons. If you want some of your Marines too, we'll bring them along."

"What do you suggest, we beam straight to the secondary shuttle bay upon arrival?" Lucy asked.

"Exactly. We take both ships in and we get our people out. Anders, your platoon will cover our mission by going for their command center. There could be valuable intel we could gain if we take control of their systems."

"Understood," said Anders.

"We have a plan," Meridina noted. "Let us enact it, and trust in the Light to aid us."

After everyone was gone, Robert and Meridina were left alone. She gave him a sympathetic look. "I am reminded of our mission to the DMZ, in the hunt for the Mayala."

Robert nodded. "When you sensed the torturing of those Maquis by Gul Evek and his Obsidian Order lackey."

"And you offered to link minds with me. To share my discomfort."

"And we ended up broadcasting it across this ship and to the Enterprise."

"Yes." Meridina nodded. "It was then that I knew what you could be. And now here you are, sensing the pain and suffering just as I did, and trying to alleviate it."

Robert nodded. Inside he felt pain in his head. Much of his attention was diverted to Julia, to maintaining the construct around her mind to shield it. But he had enough presence of thought to say, "I'm sorry for the harsh things I said earlier. I know this can't be easy on you. Having to focus on duty and not giving time for your grief. I'm so sorry about Gersal."

"Thank you." Meridina nodded gently. "Although your words were harsh, they were not untrue. I was not facing my feelings."

"I've been letting myself stew in mine, and in the darkness of it all." Robert shook his head. "I… I could feel myself slipping to that. A little voice in my head telling me that I needed to wield those dark powers if I was going to save Julia. I still feel it a bit. It's so easy with that power."

"Indeed. Which is why we must never use it. It is too easy. And it does nothing but destroy."

"Yeah. I'll hold it back. For Julie's sake as much as my own. She'd… never accept me if I turned into someone or something like that."

Meridina nodded in acknowledgement and agreement. "I am hopeful of her recovery. Being a captain of a vessel is not a thing I have ever considered as an outcome for my life. I am not certain I wish it. Truthfully, there are times I would prefer being Chief of Security. The role is closer to what I wish to do."

"And you miss being on the away missions," Robert noted. He inclined his head toward her. "I'm not surprised." His left hand went to his forehead unconsciously, as if to banish the pain he felt there from his shielding of Julia. "I miss it. Sometimes," he admitted to Meridina. "Being Captain, I mean. But this was what Julia was meant to do this entire time. She probably should've been the Captain of the Aurora from the first day."

"She is quite capable. Among our many personal reasons, this makes it vitally important that we rescue her."

"That's the plan." Robert checked the time. "I have things to get done before we launch. It's going to be hard enough with…" The wince on his face finished that thought for him.

"Of course," said Meridina.

"And I've got a stop first, something that I need done before we leave."

Meridina wondered just what he meant. Then she picked up on the thought with his intention and smiled gently in recognition. "Yes, of course. Let me know if you need assistance."

"I will."

Once again in the Aurora Chair, Julia felt her mind slip deep into memories, the pain sloughing away and becoming, for lack of a better term, bearable. She was back on the Aurora in the first months of their time on the ship, before encountering the Nazis' home universe, before all of this started.

Those memories led her further on to before the war.. To the day they saved the Tikvah. She was in the ready room office beside the bridge, still just the First Officer, arguing with Robert for his dangerous decision to risk the ship to save everyone. She told him to save the ship even if it meant leaving her behind.

"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.".

"Let me finish. 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."

Although in her state she didn't see or hear it, the conversation played out over the chair's viewer. Fassbinder observed with mounting frustration. He thought he could sense something in her, something shielding her mind from the pain and the machine itself. This aggravation was infuriating.

That same feeling prompted him to have the chair shut down again. He leaned in and frowned into Julia's aquamarine eyes. "You believe he is coming for you? That he will get to you and bring you away from this place? I look forward, then, to showing you his final moments. To destroying him and everyone else you love. And I will make you watch."

For a brief moment Julia considered taunting him. But she reconsidered. This eventuality was why Maran sent them for training back in the time before the Alliance finished forming. Engaging with her captor would violate that training. "Andreys, Julia Megan," she said. "Captain. Serial Number…" She stopped speaking when Fassbinder's hand smacked her on the mouth. Once his hand was away, she continued, "Bravo Zero Zero Zero Three One Zero One Hotel One Echo Four."

Fassbinder scowled at her. He recognized her defiance for what it was, pitting their wills against one another's, and he was not about to accept defeat on the matter.

"When your friends are here, I will bring you here to watch them die, and enjoy the torment that will bring." He looked to her guards. "Return her to the cell!"

The guards took her away. Julia said nothing, gave no resistance, as she was again taken back to the cells. When they arrived her eyes remained on them.

One of the guards responded by punching her in the stomach. Julia went down with a groan, doubling over until the two threw her into her cell. They exchanged remarks in German while stomping away, leaving Julia and Miko alone again.

Miko glared at them as they went. When they were gone, she looked across to where Julia was laying on the ground. "Are you okay?" she asked, more out of habit than expecting any positive answer.

Julia looked up at her. A satisfied smile came to her face. "Better," she said. "Be ready."

Miko almost asked what for, but the look on Julia's face was answer enough to that.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

With their arrival imminent, the crews of the Aurora and General Iroh returned to their combat stations. Both crews knew the stakes and were ready for the risks involved.

On the bridge, Meridina nodded to Jarod, who tapped at the station beside him. "Tac comm established.

"Captain Saizen?" Meridina asked aloud.

"We are receiving you, Captain Meridina," replied the Fire Nation officer. "The tactical communication link is secure."

"Then we are as ready as we can be," she said.

"Our people are ready for your teleport systems to bring them to your ship."

"The transport will commence when we drop from warp."

Lucy and Talara arrived in one of the General Iroh's storage bays for their transport out with the others. Ursa was present with several of what Lucy took to be her ship's Marines, wearing the same combat uniform as they did. The combat uniform was red with gold trim, with a helmet of the same coloring that looked like someone took a samurai helmet and molded it down to work like a motorcycle helmet.

Yeshe was wearing a suit of lighter red with yellow striping, sections of darker red crossing over her chest and ending at the shoulder blades. From what she saw, it looked like they were held in place by velcro strips.

Komin was in a dark green, beige-tinged uniform. The shoulders had what looked like epaulets fashioned from metal plates, similar plates ringing his belt. A disc with metal wire coiled around it hung from the belt at each hip.

"Any luck with calling reinforcements?" Lucy asked.

"I was able to contact Master Gyatsun," Yeshe confirmed. "He assured me that he would call the United Forces immediately and relay the star coordinates your people provided. But he is unaware of where Admiral Hanraq's forces are right now."

"We shall have to hope he is not far." Ursa nodded to Lucy. "We are ready for your 'transport' Lieutenant Lucero."

"It won't be hard at all, I promise," Lucy said. "Think of it as something like a water slide. You're being shot down a slide through subspace."

The look on Ursa's face, and on several of her subordinates, told Lucy that didn't help.

"Dropping out of warp now," Jarod's voice said over the line. "Beaming."

In a group everyone in the bay was pulled away by the Aurora transporters. They arrived in the secondary shuttle bay of the Aurora, built into the stern of Deck 34 to facilitate the Marines on the ship. The insertion runabout Gonzales and Robert's infiltrator, the Jayhawk, were lined up and ready for launch. Komin took the longest to recover his bearings after the transport.

Robert and Gina were waiting at the rear cargo door of the Jayhawk. "Your team should fit in my ship," he said to Ursa. "We should get moving."

It seemed to take him a moment to recognize Lucy was staring at him. When he did, Robert grinned slightly at her and, perhaps for effect, ran a hand over his shaven, hairless chin. His hair was cut back down to what it had been before he left for Umintamil, combed into place.

"So, not the monk look anymore," Lucy said. "Why did… oh. I see."

"It's as good a time as any," he replied. Around him the Fire Nation marines piled into the Jayhawk armory ramp to join the Aurora Marines already aboard.

"And it will make Julia very happy," Lucy observed. "Let's go show her."

They filed onto the ship and went for the cockpit, where Lucy - as usual - took up the helm. With the pre-flight checks already done by Gina, now sitting at Ops, Lucy went right to launching. The Gonzalez left first, wavering out of sight as she did. The Jayhawk's engines fired and she too emerged from the bay, cloaking as she did. Invisible to sensors and the naked eye, the two vessels turned about their mother ship and made a full-impulsor beeline for the enemy-held planet. The Aurora and General Iroh followed, deliberately drawing attention as they moved ahead, as if daring the SS exiles to react.

In the command room at the top of the central tower of the alien structure, Fassbinder stood beside Sturmbannführer Deikmann's station. The advanced sensors of the city displayed the new arrivals to the system on the viewscreen built into the wall. "There are no other vessels on sensors, Brigadeführer," Diekmann said.

"Then it is as I thought. They came alone. All ships remain on standby." Fassbinder grinned widely and glanced toward another of his men. "And have the Alliance prisoner brought to me. I want her to see this."


"Standartenführer, the device, is it ready?"

Another of the officers stood at a different control interface. He faced Fassbinder and nodded. "Ready for activation."

"Good. Do so."

The familiar sound of the guards' boots stomping on the ground drew Julia's attention, as it did Miko's. She looked up from where she was sprawled out on the floor of the cell in time to see the two SS men appear in the door. "Come, Alliancer," one of them said. "It's time for you to watch your friends die."

She scowled at him as the forcefield dropped. The speaking guard entered. He reached down and grabbed her arm. "Come!" he repeated, his grip bruising in its strength. He forced her to get up, first on her knees, and then to her feet.

Julia's arm snapped forward without warning, her flat hand slamming into the guard's throat in a chopping motion right at the vulnerable Adam's apple. The SS guard's eyes widened in shock and pain as the breath was caught in his throat by the blow, causing him to falter.

His compatriot took a second for training to overwhelm shock at his captive suddenly lashing out despite her apparent helplessness. That second allowed Julia to pull free the first guard's stun stick. With every ounce of strength and will she had, Julia forced her body to move fast enough to dodge the second guard's strike at her, barely succeeding. Her appropriated weapon came up and struck the guard in his unprotected throat and neck, sending a stun shock into him that brought him down. For good measure Julia used the stick on its former owner as well, rendering the wheezing guard unconscious. She reached down and yanked the object she'd spied earlier, a flat device with a pair of prongs at the end, from his belt.

Miko watched the entire thing in stunned amazement. "How… how can you move?"

Julia shook her head, a signal she couldn't talk. And she couldn't. Just that spurt of activity took almost everything she had. Grabbing the second guard, stun-sticking him again, and pulling him to the door took the last of it. The mere act of moving was bringing forth screaming protest from her abused body, demanding every iota of willpower Julia had in her to not just move, but to pull the dead weight of her guard with her. Once she had the unconscious guard close enough, Julia brought the guard's hand up to the control for Miko's cell, ensuring any biometric security for the controls would be bypassed. The field confining Miko dropped and so did Julia, toppling to her side in Miko's cell, her strength spent. She feebly offered to Miko the device she'd pulled from the guards. "For your collar," she said hoarsely.

Miko nodded and took the device in question. She remembered when it was first attached to her and lined up the prongs to her collar. It took her several moments to line them up right, given the port was on her neck and out of sight, moments in which Julia slowly turned and crawled back to the guard she'd used to open Miko's cell. Julia's hand sought out the guard's belt until she felt the shape of a cylinder there and pulled it loose. But that was all she could do. With all of her suffering, not to mention the bare necessity of nutrients Fassbinder allowed her through injections, Julia's body simply could not go on.

There was a loud beep and a clicking sound. The collar around Miko's throat fell free, baring lightened skin there to show how long it'd been on her. She knelt down beside Julia. "Take it," Julia said, her voice strained and raw. Her eyes glanced toward the syringe in her hand. "One for you, one for me. It'll give you the energy you need to fight."

"And you?"

Had she the strength, Julia would've shaken her head. "It should give me what I need to move. But I won't be much good in a fight."

"I'll do the fighting," Miko promised. "Where do I…?"

With effort Julia forced her hand to move again, this time tapping her wrist and the veins there. Miko pressed the syringe there and triggered the device, sending the combat drug cocktail into Julia's body. She went for the syringe on the other guard and did the same to her own wrist.

It didn't take long for them to feel the effects. Julia felt the weakness in her body fade. It wasn't gone, simply hidden under the chemical effects of the drug. When it faded she'd be even worse off. With it working, she rose to her feet, taking the time to pull away the pistol holster. She considered the rifle before dismissing the idea; in her state it might be a little too much to carry.

Miko felt an euphoria fill her, tinged with a need for aggression. Weeks of frustration and terror fueled a fury she was ready to unleash on her long-time captors. She noticed Julia wobble a little on her feet. "If you need to, go on without me," Julia said.

"No, never," Miko replied, her voice fierce. "I'm not abandoning you to what they're doing to you, will do to you. We both get out." She put an arm under Julia's right shoulder to help stabilize her. "Can you fly us out if we find one of their ships?"

"I don't think we'll need that," Julia replied, her voice no less hoarse than before. "My friends, my ship, are here. They'll send a rescue team for us. But we have to stop whatever trap Fassbinder's laying for them."


"Let's see if we can find the power plant."

"Right," Miko agreed, bringing Jula alone. With grim determination on their faces, the two continued their escape.

The final approach to the planet was done in tense quiet. The Aurora and General Iroh approached openly, their sublight drives at standard acceleration, while the Koenig moved in under cloak ahead of the two smaller insertion ships. Tight-beam communications allowed the cloaked vessels to remain in contact with each other on their approach.

The enemy ships in orbit, being lighter vessels, withdrew to the other side of the planet as the big ships entered weapons range. On the bridge of the Aurora Meridina and Jarod exchanged skeptical looks. Their gifts, different as they were, led both to the same easy conclusion: a trap was laid for them. A trap they had to spring to cover the rescue party. "Maintain standby on jump drives," Meridina ordered in a quiet voice.

"Aye Captain," Tra'dur responded.

Ahead of them, the rescue ships made atmospheric entry. While Lucy flew the Jayhawk, Gina observed the sensor returns and displayed them for Robert and the others. The one artificial structure on the planet, the obvious location of the enemy base, was a great tower surrounded by five groups of buildings. "They have a theater shield raised. I'm looking for weak points… wait." Gina checked another screen. "Ships dropping out of warp."

"How many?" asked Robert.

"Nearly two dozen," Gina answered.

The same was noted on the Aurora bridge. With the ship already at battlestations no further order needed to be given to prepare for what looked a hopeless fight. The two dozen enemy ships was weighted toward lighter vessels, but with a large Lutzow-class battlecruiser and several heavy cruisers of the Sedan and Tannenburg-classes present, the Aurora and General Iroh were plainly outnumbered.

"Incoming hail from the planet," Tra'dur informed them.

Since every moment bought gave the rescue team more time, Meridina nodded. "On screen."

A chill went through Meridina at the sight of Erik Fassbinder. He and those with him were of a kind - all blond-haired blue-eyed men, all of refined physique brought about by centuries of genetic engineering - with the exception that Fassbinder's blue eyes were now the golden yellow color of a sensitive given over to darkness. His malevolent eyes glinted with satisfaction. "Ah, the untermensch Knight," he said. "I invite you to surrender, Gersallian. You and your vessel are outmatched."

"We will not," she replied simply. "We know too well the fate of those in your mercies, swevyra'kse."

"Good. I was hoping you would resist. I look forward to showing Captain Andreys your final moments. It should break her spirit quite thoroughly. All vessels engage!"

The moment he disappeared, Jarod grinned slightly. "He fell for it. I knew he'd tip his hand."

"Signal Command," Meridina instructed. "Inform them we have found a major SS concentration and request immediate reinforcement."

"Transmitting… Captain, IU comms are not responding."

Cat was quick to explain. "There's some kind of interference pattern coming from the planet. I've… I've never seen anything like it."

"Is it why our comms aren't working?" Jarod asked.

"Likely. The signature acts like a dimensional stabilizer, given the strength of it, it will prevent interuniversal communications or jump drives from functioning in its area of effect."

"And the size of that area?" asked Jarod.

"Most of the solar system, at least," replied Cat.

At that point the ship shook as the enemy's first shots struck them. "Evasive maneuvers," Meridina ordered. "Prepare for warp on my mark."

"I wouldn't recommend that," Locarno said. "They've got us boxed in. A warp-speed collision is likely."

"Then we fight," Meridina said. "Engage at will. Call Commander Carrey into the battle as well."

"Aye Captain," Tra'dur responded, keeping any nervousness about their dangerous situation to herself.

Moments later the Koenig made its entry into the battle, its pulse phasers blazing and wrecking the lead destroyer of a formation approaching the Aurora on a torpedo run. The rest of the destroyers broke away, firing their torpedoes early, and the Koenig immediately came under fire from a nearby Dresden-class cruiser.

And so the battle began.

While the battle above raged, the cloaked ships approached the SS-held facility, or rather the deflector dome protecting it. Gina and the others looked over the area carefully. "The dome is solid," she noted. "And I haven't found an approach that we can fit through. The river is too shallow and narrow."

"What if we vaporized a tunnel through the north ridgeline?" Robert suggested.

"I doubt our weapons are precise enough to make a working tunnel there," Lucy said. "It'll collapse, and the deflector dome will expand to cover the space."

"I can make you a tunnel," said Komin.

The others turned to face him. Even his cousin and Ursa. "Komin, have you ever moved that much earth?" Yeshe asked, a hint of concern in her otherwise calm voice.

"No. But I know I can do it."

Robert and the others sensed Komin's resolve. A tiny sliver of doubt was inside of it, but he kept that doubt suppressed with the weight of his determination to rescue his future student. "Bring us over," Robert said to Lucy. "Present the rear of the ship toward the ridge." He nodded at Komin next. "Come with me."

Komin followed Robert back down the corridor to the armory, where the squads of Ursa's hand-picked troops were waiting. Robert grabbed a cable from one part of the armory and latched it on to a ring beside the cargo bay door. His hand reached up and smacked the controls, causing the ramp to swing down, revealing the beige-tinted wall of rock ahead of them. He wrapped the cable around Komin's waist to secure him before nodding. "Alright. Do what you can."

Komin nodded and took in a breath before turning his attention to the ridge. He shifted his legs, assuming a solid stance, and raised his arms up. He made a spreading motion with both arms.

The rocky surface of the ridge shifted outward, as if it were a portal opening, and the rock beneath did the same. Each second more and more of the raw earth separated. Sweat dripped down Komin's brow as he continued exerting his will on the stone, prompting Robert to put a hand on his shoulder and reach through the Flow of Life into him. Komin was setting a personal record with this, and it took everything he had. Robert tried to help by applying his own life energy to reinforce Komin's.

Beyond light and air started to show through the opened hole through the ridgeline, with a tunnel at least fifty meters in diameter now present.

Komin went down to a knee, sweat coating his face and caking his dark hair. Robert helped him back in, closing the cargo door as he did, and pulled an energy drink from a container of the same. He offered it to Komin, who started drinking from it. He made a disgusted face. "Ugh, what is this stuff?"

"Energy drink with… hell if I know the flavor."

He took another swig and shook his head, the expression on his face intensifying. "I think it's helping but whoever made it has no sense of taste."

Robert chuckled despite the situation. "Tell me about it."

Lucy's voice broke into the conversation. "Alright everyone, we're through the tunnel and inside the deflector shield. But it looks like they know we're coming. This is going to be a hot landing."

Robert responded by activating his omnitool. "Land the ship and join us, Lucy. We're all going in." A determined look crossed his face. "Let's go get our loved ones back."

Julia and Miko didn't make it far before running into a patrol of SS troops. She brought her stolen pistol up to open fire on them.

She never got a chance to pull the trigger.

Miko exploded forward with the kind of eager aggressiveness Julia usually saw in Angel when she was spoiling for a fight. She jumped up to the wall and kicked off of it, bringing her leg up to make a sweeping kick in the air. Her foot hit nothing, but the wave of flame she generated with the move slammed into the four guards, throwing them all back before they could raise weapons. Two recovered by rolling with the hit. As their weapons came up Miko spiraled on one foot before thrusting her fist forward. A gust of tornado-strength wind slammed into the guards and sent them flying into the wall with enough force to take the fight out of them.

Miko turned to check on Julia, who watched with approval at her partner's swift takedown of their opponents. "And I thought I was used to seeing impossible things," Julia said.

That brought a smile to the younger woman. "Let's keep going!" Miko urged. After her time in captivity, the chance to strike at her captors was invigorating, cathartic.

Julia nodded in reply and glanced around. There was still no immediate signs of where anything was in the complex. She doubted the guards' data devices would provide much help on that score either, given the ease of biometric-based security, so she sought out her memories of being taken through the complex. "This way," she said, eyeing one of the paths available.

As the two infiltration craft approached the SS base, it was clear that the enemy had some idea that they were coming, with their troops active at all levels. On the Jayhawk Robert spoke into his omnitool. "Major, you start at the top of the tower. See if you can find and take whatever they're using for a central command center. We'll land at ground level and look for the prisoners."

"Confirmed, Captain. Bring our people home."

"Happy hunting. Dale out."

"Bringing us in low," Lucy said. "They still haven't detected us, but the closer we get… woh!" The ship shifted under their feet. "Never mind, they have an idea where we are. Decloaking and opening fire!"

The Jayhawk rippled into view just as a ground-based disruptor cannon sent an emerald disruptor beam sizzling through the air again, barely missing the infiltrator. At weapons Talara retaliated with the Jayhawk's forward-facing pulse plasma cannons. Bolts of sapphire light slammed into the ground-based cannon and wrecked it.

Others came online and came under fire from the craft's pulse guns, while above the Gonzales rippled into view and started disgorging Marines onto a balcony of the structure.

Under Lucy's control, with Talara's firing, the Jayhawk circled the structure, its main cannons and ventral-mounted pulse gun turrets wreaking havoc on the enemy's weapon emplacements. The return fire the Jayhawk took did not lack for trying. Against another pilot, the infiltrator's deflectors would not have been enough against the volume and resulting successful strikes. But Lucy's skills gave her the means to evade the vast majority of the fire while Talara eliminated the guns.

Once they finished clearing any weapon that could fire on the Jayhawk or Gonzales, Lucy brought the infiltrator in for a landing. The moment the ship hit the ground Robert turned to two of Anders' Marines, an Alakin male and sniper named Sergeant Ijala and a Dorei Marine of lower rank. "Sergeant Ijala, Private Heytam, stay with the ship, you'll be our cover fire for the extraction."

"Lee, Ranjan, you will aid them," Ursa said to two of hers.

Both sets of Marines affirmed their orders. Behind them, Lucy, Talara, and Gina arrived from the cockpit. Komin finished the last gulp of the energy drink provided him with a wince. Lucy noticed it and grinned. "Horrible stuff," she said. "I told him to get the fruit punch-flavored, not the generic."

There was no time for Robert to reply to that before the bay door opened. Outside the Jayhawk's pulse guns were already firing away, suppressing some of the SS defenders behind cover. Robert, Lucy, and Gina went first, their lightsabers flashing to life and catching incoming enemy fire. Behind them Talara personally protected Ursa while she issued orders to her people. The Beifong cousins went to work disrupting enemy cover, Komin ripping the enemy's protective positions out from under their feet while Yeshe sent blasts of wind into, around, and through them. The Marines opened fire with their weapons, blue-white pulses and purple light striking down enemies deprived of their vital cover.

Robert joined the efforts of the Beifongs while deflecting incoming fire. His will lashed out at the enemy, creating waves of invisible force that smashed their defensive positions.

It was while they were working on this that he got the call from orbit. "Aurora to landing party, we have a situation," said Jarod.

"Go ahead."

"We sprang their trap. But they have some kind of IU jammer up, it's keeping us from contacting the Alliance or jumping out. If we're going to get through this, we need that jammer down, now."

Robert clenched his jaw at that. He wanted nothing more than to go to Julia immediately. To get her out of this nightmare. But he couldn't lose their home, her ship, in the process. And everything inside him told him he needed to see to that first. "Roger," he replied to Jarod. "Alright everyone, let's get this done."

In the command center of the base, Fassbinder observed the developing combat in orbit with approval. His ships were arrayed in excellent formation to thwart any attempt at a warp-speed escape, and with the alien jamming device activated, he had the Aurora precisely where he wanted it.

"The second wave of ships is still en route," Diekmann informed him.

"Tell them to come," Fassbinder said. The screens showed that the Aurora's shields, while holding, were already faltering from the sheer volume of fire she was taking. The ship's evasive maneuvers were excellent for a ship of its size and mass, more nimble than any Reich vessel of equivalent size ever managed. The Darglan technology of the Aurora represented the edge that gave the Alliance its victory in the war. Fassbinder felt lingering irritation at the thought of how, if only that fool Lamper had been more Aryan, they might have taken this ship at the first contact, and its technological secrets put to the use of the Reich. Then they would have won the war, would have had a Multiverse to conquer…

"They do not try to flee," he observed aloud. "They must believe their attack forces will remove the jammers." He turned his head and barked at another officer, "Status of our defenses!"

"We have reinforcements moving to pin down the enemy that landed in the tower," replied the junior officer. "And others are in position to slow those who landed on the ground."

Fassbinder nodded. He sensed the others even now, moving to intercept those attackers. His Cylon allies would have a chance to blood the other students against them. Now all he had to do was wait for the arrival of Julia Andreys and…

"Brigadeführer, we have a radiation spike," declared Diekmann. "More vessels are arriving."

Cat noticed the new power signatures coming in later than she might have managed otherwise, given the active jamming of the battle. "Incoming contacts," she said while the Aurora shook under them.

"More SS ships?" asked Jarod.

"No. The power signature isn't right. The signature's similar to the General Iroh… they're dropping out of warp now."

The vessels that appeared all bore some similarity to the Iroh, with some differences of layout and coloration visible. Some were just a little larger than the Koenig, others the size of the Iroh, and one was a little larger than the Aurora herself.

In one great barrage the arriving ships opened fire on the nearest vessels of the SS formation. With their weapons fire concentrated on individual targets, the new arrivals quickly cut up one of the lighter cruisers and a destroyer of the SS fleet. The biggest ship was especially capable with the batteries of guns firing thick purple energy beams that were wearing down the shields of one of the newer Tannenburg-class enemy cruisers.

"General hail from the main ship," said Tra'dur.

"Put them on," replied Meridina.

While the holotank viewer beside Meridina and Jarod kept a tactical display up, the main holo-viewer screen shifted to form the image of a man with a dark bronze coloration. His uniform was red, with service ribbons visible on one breast of the jacket. His long brown hair, whitening at the temples and ends, was braided into a tail at the back of his head. "This is General Hanraq of the United Forces, commanding from the Avatar Kiyoshi, to vessels Aurora and General Iroh. Please respond."

"Captain Saizen here, General. Commanding on behalf of Captain Ursa. She is with the strike team to extract the prisoners."

"General, this is Captain Meridina, acting commander of Aurora," said Meridina. "We are tying your ships into our tac comm channel. We will conform to your maneuvers and provide our knowledge of the enemy's capabilities."

The man on the screen nodded. "Thank you, Captain. Transmitting formation coordinates now."

"Conform to them, Mister Locarno," said Meridina.

"Aye ma'am," Locarno replied, while under his control the Aurora shifted her position to join her new allies, her faltering shields relieved of some of the fire she was under.

In the command center Fassbinder did not let the unexpected reinforcements cause any doubt. From experience the SS knew the locals to have somewhat inferior technology, with weaker weapons and deflectors. With equal numbers, they were not as great a threat. At least, without the Aurora they weren't, but the Alliance vessel would tilt the balance if allowed.

"Call in the second wave," he ordered. As he spoke, he felt a sense of developments that made him frown. "What do we have on the prisoners? Andreys should have been brought here by now."

"Base Command to Rottenführer Dietrich. Report status."

At that moment Fassbinder felt a surge of vicious anger. He didn't need to wait for the lack of reply, he could already feel the truth, that his captives were on the loose. That he hadn't before he blamed for his focus on the arriving Aurora.

"The second wave is coming in," Diekmann said. "Their arrival is soon…"

"Keep me informed!" Fassbinder barked as he headed for the door.

The space around the marginal garden planet was now the site of a furious combat between starships. Fassbinder's ships, by arraying themselves in a formation to encapsulate the Aurora, made themselves vulnerable to a concentrated attack from another vector. General Hanraq's vessels exploited this to the fullest, concentrating their firepower on a handful of enemy vessels.

In his command center Hanraq stood beside a plotting table. A bulky holo-projector system built into it provided a three-dimensional view of the battlespace. This was already shaping up to be one of the largest voidship battles of his career.

The Kiyoshi shook under his feet. "The largest of the enemy void cruisers is directing its firepower against us," one of the other officers reported.

"Maintain formation," answered Captain Mushi, the ship's commander. "Direct all cannons on target."

While the Kiyoshi's impressive array of energy cannons returned fire on the vessel, Hanraq noted the maneuvers of the newly-encountered friendly vessel Aurora. Although the ship was nearly the size of his own, it moved like a void cruiser half its size. Its own energy cannons blazed with pulses of sapphire light that pounded away at the enemy vessel's shields, disturbing their coherence. Projectiles of white-blue light slammed into the ruby field around the enemy ship next, making a partial breakthrough of the enemy deflectors.

"General." Beside him, Engineering Captain Sen Yang observed the ship closely with her green eyes. "This unknown vessel's performance characteristics is superior to anything the raiders have shown before."

"Yes," he agreed. "Which is to our advantage. If anything, the analysts who predicted the raiders were exiles of some sort may have been closer to the truth than previously imagined." His eyes narrowed. "Jagala, Senjo, maneuver to your down angle, give firing clearance to the Zhu Li." Satisfied that the two lighter ships were following his order, giving an easier firing field to the void cruiser Zhu Li against one of their foes' ships, Hanraq glanced toward a readout of the planet. There was indeed an enemy facility there. Good luck finding your daughter, Princess Ursa, he thought. Things have been difficult enough for the Five Nations with these raids. I shudder to think of how things would go should we lose an Avatar so young…

He pushed that worry away, returning his focus to the battle at hand.

The SS defensive forces were on the retreat from Robert and the others, allowing the group to access the structure itself. They entered the central tower along a path coming from one of the five groups of outlying buildings. One squad of troopers tried to hold the hall ahead of them. Lucy and Robert deflected their fire, giving Yeshe an opening to knock them off their feet with a strong gust of air. Her cousin's arms shot forward. Bands of metal left his belt and raced through the air until they reached the fallen soldiers, at which they wrapped around wrists and ankles, binding the SS troopers in place.

Ursa and Robert took the lead in rushing further ahead. They led the others through a large sliding door that proved to lead to a barracks area. Metal-framed bunks in perfect lines filled the room, save a central area where tables were laid out. Opposite their side of the chamber was another large door leading deeper into the tower.

The group barely had time to enter before that door opened. Through it stepped two figures in dark robes. Lucy, Gina, and Talara recognized their headbands as the same worn by the Cylon Inner Circle, and both female figures quickly reached for their lightsabers. Behind them men in dark suits with SS rank insignia and markings filed in. Some went for rifles or pistols, others for their own lightsaber weapons, which flashed to life with the same red color as the two Cylons' blades.

Only as they approached was it clear which models of Cylon were present. Ursa and the others glanced toward Lucy and Gina.

"They copied my DNA to use as a model," Lucy said, her voice brimming with anger at that fact. "And Gina was once one of their puppets before she turned against them."

Her counterpart grinned in anticipation. "The traitor and two of the Dawn-Bearers. We look forward to striking you down."

The fight only took seconds to break out, at which time the room exploded with the buzzing sound of lightsabers whizzing through the air. Lucy and Gina went after their Cylon counterparts. Robert and Talara eyed the students the moment before they charged, moving ahead through the lines of bunks.

Komin was the first to strike. With a gesture of each arm, the bunks toppled over and fell on the approaching foes. Two got caught before the others caught on, jumping over said bunks, using their own abilities to stop their fall, or simply cleaving through them with lightsabers. Some were thrown back as Ursa and Yeshe joined the fight, sending bolts of flame and powerful air gusts at the attackers, acting as flank guards.

Behind them came the sounds of battle. A Fire Nation Marine called out, "We will hold them, Highness!"

"Very well." Ursa returned her focus to the fight ahead, while in the center of the room Lucy and Gina were already locked in a duel with their doppelgangers.

The third SS patrol the two escapees ran into was the biggest, forcing Julia to open fire for the first time with her appropriated pistol. The shot went wide of the target but still sent him into cover, giving Miko an easier time as she tore through the others. She moved with purpose, every punch or kick generating flame and air that knocked around the SS. One brought up his rifle just to have flame superheat it in the man's hands, causing him to reflexively drop it, at which point Miko spun and kicked, creating a gust that tossed him on his back. She pivoted on her foot, evading an attempt to slam the back of her head with a rifle with the motion. Spinning around put her at the back of that foe. Flame erupted from the open palm she thrust at him, enveloping the SS trooper. A cry of surprise at his immolation was stifled by Miko's second blow, this time air that sent the trooper into the wall. He slumped.

Julia's return fire worked to keep two of the foes in cover. When one popped up to fire on Miko she squeezed off a shot that connected this time, the emerald beam of her acquired weapon striking the soldier in the chest.

The other SS trooper charged her. His gambit paid off; in her state Julia was too slow to bring the weapon over to bear on him. He slapped at her hand and knocked the pistol out of it. Pain filled Julia's hand from the force of the impact. She observed the next blow coming and let her training take over, moving to evade it.

Under normal circumstances, Julia could have faced this foe in hand-to-hand with a better-than-fair chance at prevailing. But even with the combat drugs circulating through her body, she did not have the full range of her physical prowess available to her. She managed to dodge and redirect the first two strikes, but the third caught her squarely on the torso with enough force to take the breath from her and crack a rib. She doubled over in pain, allowing a second blow from the butt of the rifle to smash into her right cheek. Bone and flesh cracked under the force of the blow and Julia toppled.

The SS trooper had no opportunity to take advantage of his victory. Miko caught him in the back with a powerful gust of wind that slammed him into the far wall. She gave him a strong punch, no elements this time, to put him down for the count. Once he was she went over to where Julia was struggling back to her feet. "Are you okay?" asked Miko.

"Broken cheekbone," Julia said, wiping at the blood trickling from her mouth and nose. "I think. And a cracked rib. But other than that, nothing hurt but my pride."

"I'll fight better next time," Miko vowed. "You shouldn't have to."

"It's not like we have a choice." Julia drew in a breath. "Do you hear that?"

There was conversation coming from one of the fallen troopers. They approached and knelt over. "The translator, I'm not sure it's working," said Miko.

"Probably a security feature for their comms. I know a little German myself… they're relaying battle information. This place is under attack, there are Marines present."

"My mother has come for me," Miko said, her voice cracking a little. "We should find them."

"Wait…" Julia furrowed her brow. "I'm not catching everything. They're trying to hold out. To delay. Something about a jammer, and my ship's here…" She shook her head. Nothing else useful. But… "This jammer, it sounds pretty important. That's what we've got to take out."


"Like I said, the power station. We cut their power, their jammer goes down. I think." She stood to her height and looked around. Her eyes narrowed at a far wall, just around a corner. She stumbled over to it. "Here. This means power plant." She indicated a German word. "This way!"
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Julie's going like Snake in the prison escape scene of Metal Gear Solid 3!

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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Steve »

In the barracks Lucy faced a Cylon doppelganger yet again. It was disconcerting to see her face marked with the sign of corruption, a feeling her very survival forced her to keep suppressed. As with prior Cylons she'd fought, she sensed the raw aggression and anger fueling her copy's movements and power. Her foe was given over, completely, to dark power, and it made the Cylon dangerous.

Given the close quarters Lucy kept to the defensive, goading on her opponent with the swift defensive parries that frustrated all the attacks against her. She willingly gave ground as well, and this for another reason: by doing so, she was bringing her powerful enemy further from the others, especially Ursa and the Beifong cousins, that might otherwise be threatened by her doppelganger's sheer power.

Her opposite went for a series of high attacks toward Lucy's head and shoulders, then dipped low with a swipe at Lucy's belly. Her blue lightsaber intercepted the red five centimeters from her armor. The lightsaber pulled back, but instead of another strike the next blow was from the Cylon's corrupted gifts. Her counterpart willed that Lucy be thrown backward. Lucy could not prevent that motion, but she could will herself to stop before she flew into the wall behind her, allowing her to roll from her back and to her feet. Her lightsaber came up and intercepted the overhead swipe at Lucy's head.

Beside her, Gina fell back from her own doppelganger, evading one swipe at her shoulder and deflecting another. Unlike Lucy Gina did not hold back from any attacks, responding instead with a strike aimed at her counterpart's side. This was deflected at the last moment. Another series of exchanges resulted in frustrated attacks.

Without looking at each other, Gina and Lucy knew what they were to do next, and moved in near-sync with each other. They moved away, side-stepping their attacking foes until they were facing the wall of the barracks. After thwarting attacks, they gathered their will and lashed out with their wills, bound together in common action.

Their counterparts were ready for the attack, but they were mistaken about its intent. They steeled themselves for a solid wave of force against themselves. What happened instead was said force acting against the wall behind them, smashing it down and revealing the outside. Individual chunks of debris showered on them, causing injury and general irritation.

This brought the opening for Lucy and Gina to slam their foes with pure force, throwing them through the open hole and outside of the barracks. Both tumbled across the ground before rolling to their feet, meeting Lucy and Gina's weapons with their own again.

Hopefully that will give the others the room they need, Lucy thought before she returned her attention to her deadly foe.

On the Aurora bridge, the deck shook from a missile impact. Tra'dur noted the loss in shield strength but did not immediately relay it, judging the change insufficient to warrant interrupting the orders Jarod and Meridina were issuing.

At those orders, the Aurora continuing maneuvering and firing. Her secondary weapons were busy spitting sapphire light beams at smaller enemy ships while her main bow battery pounded away at the enemy battlecruiser's shields. The enemy ship's super-disruptors fired in reply, aiming not at the Aurora but the vessels in Hanraq's force. One of their void cruisers fell apart from the sheer damage to its structure from the direct hit.

The General Iroh came up and engaged before another super-disruptor shot could be fired, joining their barrage with one from the Avatar Kiyoshi.

With all three ships focusing fire upon it, the Reich battlecruiser's shields were nearly out, and multiple wounds already showed on the dark hull of the SS ship. Around this combat the other ships were fighting Fassbinder's forces to a stalemate, buying time for their ground teams.

Meridina sensed this would not be enough. Whatever shock Hanraq's flotilla caused the SS ships was rapidly fading. They were recovering quickly, and the battle was still one they might win. She looked to Jarod and said, "Have the Koenig break away. They must get out of range of the enemy jamming system as quickly as they can and alert Admiral Maran."

Jarod nodded and transmitted the order.

For his part, Zack took the order without emotion. It worried him in that the battle was tight enough that without Koenig in it, the SS could easily take the advantage back. But the reasoning was clear regardless, and the battle had forced a change in the enemy formation sufficient that the Koenig had an opening to get away. "Break us away from the combat space," he ordered Hajar. "Maintain evasives until we're clear to make the jump to warp."

"Aye sir," Hajar answered.

The Koenig twisted, breaking off from a fight with an SS-crewed A-2000 gunboat and racing for open space beyond a formation of cruisers. Their disruptors blazed away with lethal emerald light, missiles joining them. Some of these hit the shields of the attack ship, but only some: Hajar's maneuvers evaded most of the incoming fire, and at tactical April Sherlily's skilled use of the Koenig's weapon systems eliminated a number of the incoming missiles. The gunboat they were engaged with followed, pulse disruptor cannons blazing away as it pursued its quarry. It might have caused them some problems if not for one of the United Republic destroyer-sized ships, which engaged with missiles and a barrage of purple-hued energy fire that forced the gunboat to break off.

A corkscrew maneuver brought the Koenig through the disruptor fire of an enemy cruiser and toward open space. Hajar immediately started the process of powering up the warp drives.

"Enemy warp signatures!" cried Magda from Ops. "They're dropping out of warp right…"

She didn't need to finish. The viewer showed Zack all he needed to see, as another dozen enemy vessels came out of warp ahead of the Koenig. Which, by its maneuvers, made itself their first logical target.

The disruptor beams and missiles and torpedoes converged on the attack ship as Hajar swiftly changed her heading. With her impulsors to full the Koenig was agile enough to evade much of the incoming fire, but given the enemy behind them firing as well, they could not evade everything. Disruptor hits degraded shields already worn by the intense fighting, with a couple of the enemy missiles managing partial strikes against unshielded hull.

"We have a plasma leak on the starboard nacelle, shock damage," Magda reported. "Warp drive inoperable."

Zack clenched a fist at the news. Now we can't escape. They've got numbers on us. The Aurora will never get away. C'mon, Rob, take out that jammer already…!

The newly-arriving SS vessels not only stopped the Koenig's withdrawal, they immediately shifted the battle back in their side's favor. Meridina watched with quiet grief at the annihilation of one of the Republic cruisers, overwhelmed by three enemy cruisers before it could evade the incoming fire. SS destroyers came screaming in on a torpedo run on the Avatar Kiyoshi herself. Angel's quick thinking and quicker trigger finger kept that torpedo run from completiong, as the Aurora's torpedoes and plasma fire intersected the destroyers' attack vector, forcing them to break off with one destroyer badly damaged. Nevertheless five torpedoes struck the Republic battleship, degrading the shields as they were designed to do.

"Suggestions?" she asked.

"If we could slip a runabout equipped with a portable IU radio out, they might be able to get away," Jarod proposed.

"The enemy's numbers would make pursuit and destruction far too easy," Tra'dur pointed out. The ship rocked from another solid hit by the enemy battlecruiser. "Shields down to twenty-nine percent, Captain."

"We must buy time," Meridina said. "Divert all available power to tactical systems."

"Aye Captain."

It is in your hands, she thought, considering the ground team.

Two crimson lightsabers swung toward Robert while a third nearly clipped Talara's right arm. Her lavender-colored blade came up to catch the next strike. She was holding her own, barely, but with increasing confidence.

Robert caught one of the incoming blades with his own while he maneuvered to the side, allowing the other to harmlessly slash across the very edge of his left shoulder. He felt nothing but a twinge of painful heat, indicating the blow barely penetrated his armor there, not even enough to endanger his arm's function. He continued his maneuver and directed his will toward the SS trooper who gave the successful strike. By instinct he not only hit his opponent with enough power to overcome defenses, he also threw the SS soldier into one of his compatriots menacing the Beifong cousins. Both toppled to the floor. Before they could get up Yeshe bent the air down around them, creating a downward gust to keep them down long enough for Komin to bend the metal frames of a couple of nearby fallen bunks, turning them into ad hoc restraints to tie down the two men.

This opened Robert up to his other opponent, but said foe never got to exploit that opening. A bolt of blue flame slammed into the Nazi before he could strike, throwing him off-balance. Ursa quickly struck him with more bolts, culminating with a vertical kick that created a wave of blue flame that not only set the trooper on fire, it knocked him onto his rear.

Freed from battle, Robert turned to help Talara against her foe. He immediately saw it was unnecessary, as Talara's lavender blade was already scything through the man's extended arms, removing them at the elbow. A cry of surprise was cut off by Yeshe blasting the same with a gust of wind that knocked him back into one of the standing bunk frames. Komin moved his hands in the air and the wire frame parts of the bunks bent with the motions, forming rings around the soldier's arms and ankles to hold him in place.

With only the Cylons left to fight, Robert turned to do so, but they were missing. He'd been so occupied with his own opponents he missed someone blowing out one of the walls, and Lucy and Gina were gone, as were their foes. Lucy, where are you? We can help!

No! The
Aurora needs us to take out that jamming device! We've got this!

Robert felt worry. Despite the confidence, he could sense Lucy forcing some of the confidence. She was in a difficult fight, as was Gina, and victory was not guaranteed at all.

Go Rob!

Her insistence was persuasive. Robert's own feeling that he needed to heed it decided the issue for him. He motioned to the far door, the one their opponents had originally gone through, and said, "This way."

The others fell in with him. It was just the five of them now, given the ongoing battles around them. They continued a path through the central tower toward its heart. "This jamming device, do you have an idea on where to find it?" asked Talara.

Robert shook his head. "Not sure, but I can feel a pull in this direction. I think it's where we need to be."

Behind them Komin was taking in their surroundings. "The design of this place doesn't give any clues as to where to look. But maybe instead of finding the jammer, we should find the city's power core."

Talara responded by checking her omnitool as they ran. "Power emissions are this way," she said. "If we…"

The sight ahead brought them to a stop. Numerous SS men were unconscious on the floor. None showed signs of being shot by weapons, but they had visible burns in some cases and blunt trauma in others. "None of ours have been this way, have they?" Robert asked.

"I do not believe so."

"Miko," said Ursa. "She is free!"

"Not just Miko." Talara's omnitool was on wide-scanning mode. "I've got blood traces in this hall. They match Captain Andreys!"

Robert felt a surge of elation, followed immediately by worry. Julia being free brought that elation, just for him to consider what it might mean if their enemies got to her first. They might just kill her over escaping.

"I wonder where they're going?" Yeshe asked aloud. "Certainly they would try to leave the complex."

As the Airbender posed that question, Robert's eyes ventured to a sign bolted onto the wall, arrows matched with the SS-preferred Gothic German script. Reading the entries, a small smile came to his face. "I think I know what they're doing," he said. "Come on!"

They turned the corner, and danger prompted both Robert and Talara to turn and raise their weapons, deflecting the incoming fire. A squad of SS troopers was approaching from the other direction. "Go on!" Talara urged. "I'll hold them!"

The Beifongs stepped up to join her. "We'll watch your back, Highness," Komin said. "Get to Miko!"

Robert and Ursa turned and continued on, spurred by the desire to regain their loved ones as much as they were the mission at hand.

Miko was the first into the chamber where the city's power was being provided. Julia walked in behind her and fought down the strong desire to just stop. Whatever cocktail of combat drugs had been in that syringe, it was clearly wearing down. Nor was she sure another dose was wise, if it resulted in an overdose.

Fortunately the defenders of the room were not so much that Miko couldn't take them. Again the young woman sprung into action. Julia noted her fighting style and thought she recognized some of it, bringing to mind exhibitions she'd seen of Shaolin practitioners. And another style too, but one she couldn't remember. She was still getting used to the fire and air manipulation involved. Miko's attacks were swift enough that none of the enemy got off more than a wildly-inaccurate shot that hit nothing.

Julia moved on into the room and approached what looked like a control station. It was rigged to a triangle-shaped middle platform, with three distinct circles in the surface with black outlining like a framework, and an orange-yellow glow emanating from within. She examined the station, her knowledge of German tested by the effort.

Behind her, Miko twisted on her foot, her fist coming up in a motion that the air on the floor followed, creating an upward gust of air that blew the weapon right out of the hands of her last opponent. She continued the circular motion and swung her other arm forward, creating a second powerful gust of air, more of a horizontal tornado, that sent the soldier flying into the wall behind him. "Do you know what to do?"

"I'm not sure. My German's never been the best." Julia blinked and forced her tired mind to think. It looks like the SS weren't sure how this worked either. The power source is beyond their technology… looking at these figures, it's even more advanced than naqia-based power generation. What is…

Without warning pain erupted across the surface of her body. Julia let out a cry and collapsed, stunned by the ferocity of it. The nanobots! was the agonized thought that came to her.

Miko heard her scream and turned toward her. Through the portal beyond, Erik Fassbinder stood, flanked on each side by a soldier. A sinister sneer formed on his face while malevolent glee shined in his unnatural yellow eyes. He pulled his right hand away from the gauntlet on his left hand and wrist. "Well well, I see you had some fight left in you," he noted. "Perhaps we should have put you through sessions as well."

"Leave her alone!" Miko went into motion a moment later, diving for cover as a green energy beam came at her, narrowly missing. She hit the floor opposite of the power station. Another strangled cry came from Julia as Miko crouched in readiness.

"We have you cornered, untermensch," Fassbinder continued. "Your… metaphysical talents will not avail you, especially against me." He nodded to the soldiers, who moved forward to flank Miko.

Through the pain Julia tried to command her body to move. To tackle, to retrieve her own stolen weapon, anything, but the nanobots were doing their job too well. She simply couldn't do more than writhe from her body's desperate, instinctive attempt to escape overpowering agony. The only thing her effort gave her was another strangled cry.

"You have much spirit, Kapitan, but it will be broken." Fassbinder tapped at the gauntlet again, or rather an omnitool interface that formed around the same lower arm. A holo-viewer popped into place showing video from orbit. The Aurora was central to it. Blackened patches of hull were visible, and the blue flickering of her deflectors was noticeably weakening. Beside her a small vessel with a dark gray hull was suffering from multiple hull breaches and related fires. "I wanted you to watch as your precious ship dies. With all of your friends aboard."

Through the pain Julia noticed the viewer. Desperation filled her at the sight.

"I have called for reinforcements from the fleet. Your allies on the planet may hold out for a time, but they will be overwhelmed," he continued. "Their rescue attempt will be for naught. I suppose I could just kill you here…" A wicked grin came to his face. "But we have so much left to do, Kapitan, so very many things…"

By this point his troops were almost in position. Each was ready for Miko to pop from cover as well.

Not quite as ready, perhaps, for her to come at one of them.

Which is precisely what she did, with flames streaming from her feet. Instead of bending air or fire at her target, the one coming from Fassbinder's right, she tackled him physically with such speed that both went flying into the wall. Or rather, her foe did, but she jumped away at the last moment, again with such speed that the other soldier was still tracking to shoot at her. She hit the floor hands first and swept her legs parallel to the ground. A wave of flame rushed across the room and slammed into the SS trooper and his weapon, knocking it out of his hands as he hit the ground.

She was turning to Fassbinder when the lightning stuck her. The same purple tinged lightning Fassbinder had tormented Julia with for days enveloped Miko, drawing a cry of agony from her as she went to her knees.

"Do you think your talents are a match for mine?! Against my superior blood, my natural perfection, and the power that it is enhanced by?!" Fassbinder intensified the lightning shooting from his hands. "I know what you are supposed to be, and it makes me laugh! A whelp like you is the champion of your world, their precious Avatar?! How pathetic! You are nothing!"

Through clenched teeth MIko forced herself back up to one foot. The pain was excruciating. She felt like the energy assailing her was not just harming her body but her spirit, draining her vitality. It was going to kill her.

She glanced toward Julia, who visibly struggled with the pain paralyzing her. Her eyes were locked on the viewer hovering over Fassbinder's lower left arm, the viewer showing her ship struggling to survive, turning and twisting and taking fire and returning it. Julia's head twisted to face hers, and while there was pain in her green eyes, Miko saw the same determination she'd noticed before.

They'd come so far, despite everything.

And, Miko decided, they would go further still.

With a roar of pain and defiance forming in her throat, MIko gathered her energy and swung her right fist forward. Flame erupted from the air in front of her fist, forming a vast crimson tongue that enveloped Fassbinder's left arm. He let out a surprised, agonized shriek and stumbled backward, the lightning he was channeling into her ceasing. Freed from it Miko rose to her feet and channeled a gust of wind that slammed Fassbinder against the far wall. It didn't knock him out, but it bought her another few seconds.

Her… and Julia.

The flame hadn't merely harmed Fassbinder. Miko's power made it hot enough to melt the circuitry of the composite materials inside his gauntlet. The loss of signal disengaged the nanobots that were tormenting her. The pain filling her body ceased. She remained on the floor for a moment, gasping for air.

Her eyes remained fixed on the screen still beside Fassbinder's forearm, the holo-viewer displaying the ongoing fight in orbit, and her ship, her friends, continuing a desperate struggle to survive… a struggle to save her.

Why isn't the rest of the fleet here? she wondered. Why haven't they called in help? The comm systems or jump anchor couldn't have been taken out that quickly

Fassbinder got back to his feet and channeled his lightning again. Miko dodged to the side and threw another bolt of flame at him, one he dodged as well with speed beyond normal human levels. Undaunted Miko nearly caught him with a wide-arcing wind gust generated by a roundhouse kicking motion, causing him to fall back into the wall, but not knocking him down.

Julia forced herself to think. They can't call for help… that's it. That's the jammer mentioned before. She wasn't sure how, but something about this city - a city that was clearly made by another species, not the Darglan - something in this city allowed the SS to jam interuniversal technology.

How much power would that require? She wasn't sure, but she suspected it might be a lot. And that meant her instincts had been right. They had to disable the power systems.

Her muscles protested Julia's commands to move. She ignored the resulting pain, the ache, demanding her legs and arms to shift. To get her back on her feet. The effort was taking everything she had left, with the combat drugs now nearly depleted, but she had to move. Her ship, her friends, her comrades, her crew, they all needed her to move.

She got back to her knees while, nearby, Fassbinder caught Miko with a blast of lightning even as she nailed him with another fire blast. Both faltered, which let Miko avoid the follow-up attack. Julia reached up and used the nearby station to pull herself up. She didn't know if she could stand, but at least she could reach the controls. She read over the German language on the display and, by more intuition than knowledge, hit one of the keys.

The three circles on the triangular platform rose. Underneath the flat top of each circle, the rest looked almost like a crystal, still glowing that same yellow color. Black lines ran over the objects. Whatever they were, she wasn't sure, but it was clear they were part of the power system.

Behind her now, Miko somersaulted over another burst of lightning from Fassbinder. Julia overheard the snap-hiss of a lightsaber activating, and the fast buzz of it scything through the air. Fassbinder grunted a moment later, having presumably missed his attack on Miko.

Julia gripped the station and pulled herself up. Her arms threatened to quit. Her legs didn't want to take her weight. She made them. She forced them. This got her high enough to lean over the platform and start removing the crystalline objects. The light within each died as she pulled them out, one after the other.

When the last one came out, the room's lights temporarily died before flashing back on.

Julia had only seconds to feel victorious before Miko slammed into her, sending both to the ground. Before she could even begin to think of moving, Fassbinder's deadly lightning played over her and over Miko, drawing cries from both.

"Enough games," he roared, his voice full of impatience. "Die!"

The Aurora bridge shook once more under the command crew, straining them against their harnesses. "Shields down to nine percent, cohesion loss is escalating," Tra'dur reported from Ops.

Meridina didn't react. There was no point. The Aurora, while fighting back, was under as much fierce fire as the other ships. The General Iroh was nearly crippled at this point, the Koenig was suffering major damage, and multiple flames and hull breaches were visible on the Avatar Kiyoshi. By all appearances, the battle was lost.

And yet, Meridina did not feel like they were lost.

"Maintain fire," she ordered.

On her board Tra'dur noted the damage increasing to the ship's hull. Ensign Mallory, at Engineering, reported the loss of ten percent effectiveness in the armor self-repair systems, while she noted the system damage from the incoming fire no longer being stopped by the failing deflectors.

For the hundredth time since the battle began, Tra'dur checked the IU comm system.

Even as she did, Cat cried out, "Captain, the interference pattern from the planet, it's dissipating!"

Meridina felt the hope fill the others. Tra'dur breathed a silent prayer of thanks to her own gods and preempted Meridina's command of "Contact Defense Command with our situation". She sent the signal out into the network, including a data packet on everything happening, including the enemy concentration.

The ship shook again. One of the remaining Republic ships came apart from an SS-fired missile, leaving only half a dozen of them, most nearly crippled. A disruptor beam created a plasma leak in the lower starboard nacelle.

Did they receive us? Tra'dur wondered. They should have received us, they're not going to just…

Her board blinked. "Multiple signatures are locking onto our jump drive!" she called out.

Moments later, the natural result came. "Interuniversal jump points forming!" Caterina cried.

Given the events of the past week, this no longer carried the immediate and instinctive relief it used to, even given Tra'dur's report. Not until Cat added, "They're ours!"

Even as a multitude of Alliance starships appeared, more jump points formed. Cat tried to identify individual ships, but she gave up when their number hit thirty. Her screens showed a varied number of vessels. Earth Confederacy ships, Sol Republic, Colonial Confederation, a number of the Alliance dedicated designs…

...and Gersallians. Lots of Gersallians.

The arriving Alliance fleet engaged with a gleeful vigor. Weapons fire of all types descended upon the SS flotilla. An SS cruiser trying to finish off the General Iroh found itself assailed by an Alakin warbird, two Dorei starbirds, and a Sol Republic cruiser. Gersallian destroyers launched a barrage of torpedoes that blasted away the shields of another SS cruiser, allowing one of the arriving Excalibur-class battlecruisers, the Zulfiqar, to devastate the cruiser with its powerful pulse plasma cannon armament. Another of the same, the Kusanagi, blew apart an Innsbruck with her starboard weapons even as her bow armament wrecked a Sedan-class ship. SS destroyers attempting a torpedo run on the Avatar Kiyoshi found themselves under the gun from multiple Trigger-class attack ships, cousins of the Koenig, and a light Dorei starbird.

The command officers on the Avatar Kiyoshi were more than grateful from the sight, and also quite astonished. The variety of the incoming ships was like nothing they'd imagined.

"We're picking up a signal from one of the incoming vessels," Tra'dur noted. "It's the Kentan."

"This is Admiral Maran of the Allied Systems to friendly vessels," stated the esteemed Gersallian admiral. "Do what you must to protect yourselves. We will assume your burden."

Even as he spoke, Meridina and Hanraq and Saizen and Zack all noted the Kentan joining the fray, turning her guns on the SS battlecruiser trying to kill the Aurora and Avatar Kiyoshi. Powerful beams started eviscerating the damaged battlecruiser, which lacked the shield strength to resist the Kentan's batteries. The tactical officers on the Gersallian flagship proved efficient in their carving up of the SS vessel.

The SS ships responded gradually, without cohesion, with one clear goal: escape. And with that came an end to the threat against the Aurora and the other vessels that had fought so hard at their side.

Fassbinder's rage, his hate, poured through his being and into the lightning assailing Julia and Miko. They struggled, they cried out, but nothing could free them from the grip of the lightning.

Fassbinder was so focused on them that he failed to notice the arrival of Robert and Ursa. They stormed through the door to find the sight of their loved ones under his assault. Ursa rushed forward, driven by maternal fury, and thrust both palms forward, screaming, "Leave my daughter alone!"

As she did, Robert took in Miko's features. Recognition shot through his mind. He'd seen her before, in his dreams, in the visions the Flow of Life had often given him. The same red and gold outfit, tattered, the same face and amber-colored eyes.

And beneath and beside her, Julia was laid out, spent utterly. Just seeing her brought a surge of emotions through him. Worry for her condition, relief that she was alive, happiness that he'd found her, he wasn't going to lose her...

He was so intent on that that he didn't sense the danger until it was too late.

The blue flame that came from Ursa's palms was so tight as to almost be a beam. Fassbinder reacted almost immediately, moving just enough to avoid the flame. He turned to face his new foe and the lightning from his hand followed, enveloping Ursa. She stopped in place, seized by it, and struggled to move forward.

Fassbinder didn't give her the chance. He shot forward and plunged his lightsaber into her chest.

Robert was already in the middle of reacting as the crimson energy blade came out through Ursa's back. She let out a surprised, pained choke as his hands came up. Raw power rushed from his being and struck Fassbinder, or rather his gathering defenses. Fassbinder turned his lightning on Robert, who intercepted it with his lightsaber.

Whatever battle they might have had was terminated with a loud, terrible wail. "Mother!" screamed Miko. Grief and horror filled the young woman at the sight of her fallen parent. "MOTHER! NO!" Both combatants felt the power shift in the room, a sudden and terrifying thing.

Again Miko cried out, "NOOOO!!!", and with that cry power, pure energy, surged and exploded from around her. Her eyes flashed to pure white and the air beneath her wrapped around until it literally picked her up from the ground. She looked to Fassbinder with pain and rage written on her face, while the SS officer was utterly transfixed by the raw power he felt inside of Miko. So transfixed, in fact, that he did nothing to stop the flame that erupted from her outstretched hand. It enveloped the right side of his body, drawing from Fassbinder an agonized and terrified scream. A wind gust exploded from Miko, throwing both Robert and Fassbinder back into the chamber wall, even pushing Julia's prone form at least one meter away from Miko. The wind and the impact put out most of the flames afflicting Fassbinder.

Robert managed to absorb the impact partially with his own power, keeping it from causing injury. He stared at the sight of Miko, her eyes glowing with solid white light, sheer power circulating around her. The Flow of Life itself seemed to burn with the intensity of the energies. Indeed, there seemed to be an entirely new presence within Miko, as if a second being was manifesting within and through her, fueling this display of raw energy.

With the right side of his face a massive burn, Fassbinder reached his left hand out. One of the crystalline power core pieces flew through the air and into his palm. A finger on the right hand, burnt as well, struck at the omnitool interface over his left forearm. He bellowed "Transport me now!" in German and vanished in a column of bright light.

Miko screamed in frustration. Not just at Fassbinder's escape, as Robert could feel her terror at the realization that she couldn't control this power raging inside and around her. The winds still whipped around her, turning Miko into the center of a tornado. Robert took a step forward and felt like the wind might throw him off his feet.

Nearby Julia's head rose. Her eyes widened at the sight of Miko.

"Julia! Julia, help me!" Miko cried. "I… I can't control it!"

The sudden feeling of a surge of power interrupted the ongoing duel that had now made its way to the outside of the city. Lucy parried a blow from her clone while Gina, behind her, had an offensive strike parried in turn. These were the last strikes made as all four felt the energy whipping up within the city's heart. "My God, what is that?" Lucy gasped.

Their counterparts briefly seemed ready to keep fighting, but their aggressive intent suddenly vanished. Frowns came to them. "We will end this another time," Lucy's clone informed her, her hand going to her belt. Gina's copy did the same, and both were claimed by the buzzing white light of transporters.

Lucy lowered her weapon. "Damn," she muttered at the escape of their foes.

The Six and the Twelve materialized inside one of their heavy raiders, already launching from the tower. They found Fassbinder at the controls with one of the alien power generators beside his foot. The right side of his head was a burnt ruin, as was his right hand, and his uniform was still smoldering. He looked to them with savage fury in his intact left eye and they opted not to inquire. Behind them, more of his personnel were transporting aboard.

The Six sat down beside him at the controls. "Alliance fighters are inbound," she noted. "We must flee."

"The fold drive is already spooled," Fassbinder said. "Get us out of here."

The Six nodded, her disheveled blond locks shifting position on her head as they did. She reached for the controls and tapped several keys. "Rendezvous point coordinates loaded. Jumping."

The Cylon vessel jumped away in a flash of white light.

"I can't control it!" Miko wailed. And she couldn't. She knew what this was, of course; the Avatar State, which she'd never experienced before. She never imagined it had so much power, and that power was now wrapped up with her fury, her horror, while before her Ursa was laying on the ground, wounded badly. Mortally, she feared.

Robert watched her with fascination and worry. He'd seen this before. Another of the dreams, the visions from his life force, was now coming to fruition. But he didn't know how this would end.

Hearing Miko's words, Julia tried to rise. It was a struggle to do so, not just from the winds, but from a sheer lack of energy inside of her for such movement. With a cry of effort she managed to get herself up to all fours. Her limbs threatened to quit on her.

They never got the chance. The winds grabbed her first. She felt like she'd been sucked into a tornado and could do nothing as she was pulled into the air.

Robert, panicked by the prospect of Julia being smashed against a wall head-first, reached out with his own power and plucked her from the air. She shot through the winds to his side, and he held tightly to her, spreading his power to protect her from the winds. "We have to get to Miko!" she called out to him.

"Hold on!" With his right arm holding Julia around the waist as tightly as he could and his left stretched before him, Robert forced himself forward one step at a time. The winds threatened to tear Julia from him, or to draw them both off their feet, forcing Robert to focus the power in his own being to absorb the wind. It sloughed around him gradually, allowing him to make the forward movement.

When they were within arm's length of Miko Julia mustered every erg of energy she could to reach up and take Miko's ankle. Robert took it as well. They couldn't pull her down, but the contact helped as Robert projected himself into both. He became the bridge, allowing Julia to reach for the anguished turmoil and fear inside of Miko. Robert reached into the Flow of Life and its warmth, projecting it into Miko, while Julia's voice filled the room. "Miko, it's okay! You're safe. He's gone. We can still help your mother! Please, Miko, you can control this!"

"I… I can't," she protested. "I'm… I'm not strong enough!"

"Yes you are!" Julia insisted. "I know you are! I've seen you! You can do this, Miko! Trust me!"

As she spoke Robert continued to fill Miko's being with the power of the Flow of Life. He felt it resonate within Miko, and through that he felt her own connection to it, through it. He sensed now the presence within her, a great and powerful force. A gentle blue and white light suffused her being in his senses, and a formless being around Miko took on a translucent appearance as if an aura.

"Mother." Tears flowed down Miko's face. "My mother!"

Robert felt for Ursa. She was hurt. Badly. But her life was there, and he connected Miko to it. Your mother is alive, Miko. She's still with us.

I don't want to lose her!

I know.

We both do
, Julia added.

Together, they shared their pain with her. Their mothers, their fathers, were gone. They knew the pain she feared, and they would not see her suffer it. Not here, not in this way.

The power is within you, Miko, Robert projected into her. You can control this. Just as I had to! He shared with her his fears about his own powers once they expanded. His fears. His need to accept the power, to focus on it and control his use of it.

"You're strong enough," Julia added, speaking aloud. "Take control. You can do it."

Their thoughts, Robert's power, Julia's words, they got through to Miko. She closed her eyes and focused on the power. She felt within. I am the Avatar. I control this, it does not control me. With that thought echoing in her head, in her heart and very being, Miko's will focused on the power and directed it. She bid the winds to die down, and so they did. She ordered calm within, and the calm came, grudgingly, but it did so.

Miko dropped to the ground and then down to her knees. Immediately she crawled over to her fallen mother and pulled her up to embrace her. She wept. "Mother, hold on."

Robert turned toward the door in time to see Komin, Talara, and Yeshe enter. They all showed signs of having been in a vicious fight, but none looked deeply harmed by it. Instead their concern immediately went for Miko and Ursa. "Spirits, what happened here?" Yeshe asked.

"She needs medical attention," Robert said. "We…"

Julia reached for his face. "Robert, help me. I know where to take her!"

Despite the hoarseness of Julia's strained voice, Robert understood completely. He picked her up, lifting her feet from the ground in what was effectively a bridal carry. "Get Ursa!" he called to the others.

The Beifong cousins did so, and Komin took the burden of carrying her while Talara tried to focus her power on Ursa's lightsaber wound.

Julia didn't speak, and didn't need to. Robert sensed what she was thinking and where she thought they needed to go, and he led the others out of the power chamber. Their destination was in the tower, indeed on this floor, and while Julia wasn't completely sure of the direction, Robert felt the Flow of Life direct him toward it. He sensed her recognition of the halls, the rooms around them, the stairs they went past.

They entered a room dominated by a tank full of green fluid, attached to a wider series of fluid tanks. "Put her in! Quickly!" Julia urged.

Komin carried Ursa up the metal steps beside the tank, eventually bringing him high enough to set Ursa into it. Talara used her powers to levitate the breather mask onto Ursa's face in the second before they dropped her in with a splash of the green fluid. Robert couldn't help but notice the restraint frame built into the tank, and he wasn't surprised when the controls Julia directed him toward included a dial marked for voltage. Yeshe stepped up beside him and set her hands on it. "I do not understand this," she admitted.

"Raise the circulation," Julia instructed. "That's what I overheard them talking about."

Robert found the controls for such and shared them with Yeshe, who operated the console. Machinery began to thrum and vital signs flashed on a holo-screen. Ursa's body was in bad shape, Robert was sure, but the system seemed to consider her saveable.

Miko stepped up to the tank and looked into it. She set a hand on the tank while, within, Ursa's eyes opened slowly. "Mother," she said, setting her hand on the tank. Tears flowed freely down her eyes.

Within, Ursa slowly did the same.

Robert and Julia watched as he took a seat on the ground, his arms still holding Julia. He turned his eyes to hers at feeling her hand weakly touch his shaven chin. "You shaved? Finally?" she croaked.

"Yeah." Tears were welling into his eyes. "For you."

"For me." Tears formed in hers as well. She let out a small, low laugh. "And you cut your hair. You look… you look like you again." She giggled. "It took all of this to get you to do that!"

He laughed in response, fighting back a sniffle. "Yeah, I guess so."

For a moment they continued to chuckle and laugh, even as the tears flowed down their cheeks. Robert felt the lingering pain inside of her and tried to soothe it as best as he could, and Julia could feel him try. "You were trying to help me," Julia said in realization. "When I was in that chair…"

"I tried. Until I could get to you. Rescue you."

"Like you promised."

"Yeah. Like I promised."

Julia nodded. She still let out a few giggles, but gradually the giggling became sobbing. All of the pain, the fear that she would never get away from Fassbinder, the despair that she would never see Robert, her Robby, again, never see any of them again, it all just came flooding out of her in deep sobs.

Robert felt that. His own fears and despair that he'd lose Julia, his Julie, to the lingering and horrible death Fassbinder planned for her, and that he'd destroy who he was trying to save her, make himself unworthy of her, it flowed out too. His laughter became sobbing in turn, and he tightened the embrace, as if Julia might yet be yanked away, while he felt Julia embrace him with what little energy she had left.

Given the ordeal behind them, there could be no surprise they cried. But there was happiness in that crying.

After all, they were crying together.


Ship's Log: ASV Aurora; 24 October 2643 AST. Captain Meridina reporting. Our rescue mission has been a complete success. Captain Andreys and Princess Miko have been recovered from SS captivity. The SS exiles' forces have been dealt a telling blow with our victory over their trap against us. The Alliance fleet is continuing to secure the system and perform search-and-rescue operations for those vessels crippled or destroyed in the battle, with the aid of another force of vessels from the United Republic and affiliated states. There is much we still have to learn about these Humans and their particular nature, but there is no doubting their courage and willingness to stand against the forces of darkness.

While this victory has not removed the threat we now face, I believe it has aided with the morale of not only our crew, but the entire Alliance. I have found my own spirit recovering from the shock of what happened to Gersal and New Liberty.

When Jarod arrived in the ready office, Meridina was staring out the window at the sight of the ships around them. The battered Avatar Kiyoshi was now joined by a sister ship, the Avatar Aang, which looked pristine compared to the damage of the former. She turned from the sight to face Jarod. "What have you found?"

"Anders and his Marines came through for us," Jarod said. "They took the enemy command center before they could complete a memory wipe. We didn't get everything, but we've recovered quite a lot of information and intelligence."

"That is excellent news. Do we know more about their remaining facilities?"

"Some. There are four more SS bases we have coordinates for, and Maran's already sent parts of the fleet to deal with them." Jarod's expression showed his satisfaction at that. "A couple are in universes we haven't entered yet."

"Then we may yet find other allies like Princess Ursa and her world." Meridina returned to her seat. "I feel as if we have made a first contact that, on its own, would have been a momentous occasion."

"People who can literally influence elemental forces with their own will and bodies?" Jarod chuckled. "Oh yeah. I mean, biotics is one thing, there's a physical aspect to it. The same with psionics. But this is more like your abilities. It's all metaphysical. Leo's already confirmed there's nothing in their physiology that powers this."

"Indeed." Meridina gave Jarod an intent look. "And now, Commander Jarod, I would suggest you get some sleep. We all need the rest."

"So do you," Jarod pointed out. Meridina sensed his concern. "Julia… do you think she'll be okay?"

"She has suffered a terrible ordeal. It may be some time before we know for sure," Meridina said. "But I am confident she will persevere. And she will return to us, when she is ready."

"And when the service agrees to it. I'm sure they'll require evaluations before letting her resume command. In the meantime…"

"In the meantime, we will do what we must, to ensure everything is here for her to return to."

"Right." Jarod let out a small sigh. "Well, I'd better get some rest. And so should you."

"As I said, I intend to," Meridina assured him. "And I will see you in the morning."

The door to the medbay OR slid open and Leo emerged, Doctors Opani and Hreept behind him. The latter two went to remove their surgical scrubs while Leo approached the waiting patients and visitors in the receiving area. Julia and Miko were in anti-grav chairs. Robert, Lucy, Gina, Talara, and the Beifong cousins were crowded around them. Miko especially showed deep apprehension when Leo stopped in front of them. "Your mother's going to be fine," he assured her. "She took some severe damage to vital organs and her spine, but whatever that healing fluid is down there, it stabilized her condition enough that we were able to repair the organs with replicated tissue. She's not a hundred percent yet, but I'm confident she's going to recover. Right now she needs to recover for a while before we can begin the spinal repair operation."

"Can I see her, Doctor?" Miko asked.

"When we've got her in the Critical Care Ward, yes. The nurses should have her transferred shortly." He turned his attention to Julia. A deep frown came to his face.

"I'll be okay, Leo," Julia said weakly.

"Right. Well, you're going to be here for a few days," he told her. "And no duty until evaluations clear you."

As he spoke, Robert felt Leo's quiet fury at what he'd found attached to Julia's body. The Eubian nanobots were nothing more than torture machines, and they'd left their mark on her nervous system.

"I figured," she said. "And I'll be a cooperative patient, don't worry. Right now I… I'm just glad to be home." Julia's voice cracked as she spoke.

Leo nodded. "I know. Let me go clean up and write my surgical report." He nodded to them and left.

Miko looked toward Robert and Julia. "Thank you," she said, for the hundredth time it seemed. "For saving my mother. I... the last time we talked we fought. We were each angry. I don't want that to be the final things we said to each other."

"I understand that, and no thanks are necessary," Robert assured her.

Miko gave him a small smile before turning to the Beifong cousins, who pushed her chair to take them to wait in Critical Care.

"Thanks for coming for me," Julia said to the others. "Thanks for everything."

"Just returning the favor," Lucy said softly. "You pulled me out of a torture chamber too, remember?".

"Duffy," Julia said simply.

"We should leave you two to talk," Lucy added, glancing to the others. She looked back to Robert and continued, "Although we should talk about Gina."

"I already processed the paperwork to add her to the team," he said.

"There's… another matter involved with that which we need to go into," Lucy said. "But it can wait." After sharing a look with the others, the three walked out.

Robert brought Julia back to the Standard Care Ward and helped her up onto her assigned bed. They were not alone here, as wounded from the battle filled nearly every bed. Julia laid down and closed her eyes for a moment. She savored the simple pleasure of a soft surface beneath her and a similarly-soft pillow under her head. With her eyes closed she didn't see Robert pull up a chair. But she did feel it when Robert took her right hand and held it within his. She opened her eyes and looked at him again. "You look better this way," she said.

"I suppose I let the long hair and the beard go on for too long," he admitted. "A goatee and a mustache, maybe?"

"I like you just the way you are," she replied. Julia felt her eyes droop close and let out a contented sigh. "I was afraid I'd never feel comfort again. Fassbinder was determined to let me have nothing."

"He's a sadistic bastard. He was even before he tapped his potential," Robert said, his voice heated. "And we let him get away again."

"We'll catch up to him eventually. And I can't imagine his bosses are going to be happy with him."

"I wouldn't think so." Robert looked at Julia's face and let out a ragged breath. His emotions welled up within him again, relief being the most powerful. "Julie, I… I'm so sorry this happened. Maybe if I'd come to you on New Liberty…"

"He would have murdered Beth," Julia said. "Just… be happy you got me back. Don't regret what happened, okay? We have enough regrets."

"Yeah." He sniffled. "I…" Robert blinked back the tears in his eyes. "Oh God, I almost lost myself," he admitted. "I was so angry with myself and with Fassbinder, with everything getting between us… I could've become something terrible. I… I just couldn't stand the thought of losing you."

"You didn't," she pointed out. "I was worried I'd never see you again. That you all died on the Colony. And that I was going to die there, alone, in pain. I was so scared that's how I was going to end. It didn't seem fair, not after everything we've done." She shook her head weakly. "I keep thinking back to all the times he was hurting me. How that might have been what the rest of my life was like."

"He'll never touch you again," Robert insisted. "I swear to it."

"Don't. You don't need to, and I don't want it," she said. "I just… right now, I want to stop that thinking. I want to forget it all happened. I just want to rest."

There was little Robert could say at that point. He simply nodded and remained quiet, even as he sensed Julia gently slide into much-needed sleep.

After leaving the medbay, Lucy and Gina left Talara to go rest and headed to Meridina's quarters. Meridina was in casual sleeping robes of cream white and blue, seated on her couch and reading a datapad when they entered. She looked up. "You fought a hard battle," she noted.

"Tell me about it. I'm getting tired of my clones trying to kill me," Lucy said. "Hell, I wonder why they cloned me in the first place."

"I am beginning to wonder if they knew, from the start, your potential for a connection to the Flow of Life," said Meridina.

"I don't know. Although I thought it wasn't just hereditary? What guarantee would they have that a clone of me could use it?"

"They might terminate any formed versions of you without the power," Gina said.

"Right. Well, we have other things to discuss."

"Indeed." Meridina set the pad down on her table. "Julia has been recovered. We have damaged the SS exiles. Certainly we have won a victory for the Light to offset what occurred. But so much remains unexplained."

"I've got one big question for you," said Lucy. "Who took Swenya's Blade, and why?"

"It wasn't the Inner Circle, that's clear," said Gina. "And the Order has found no evidence it was taken by one of our own during the attack."

"At least nobody who survived," Lucy said. "But we do have another suspect. That mysterious ship that helped us, the one that bought us time to evacuate people. Who were they and what were they doing there?"

"Who would steal the blade and turn around and help us?" Gina asked. "It doesn't make sense."

"There is something about this we still do not know," Meridina remarked. "This calls for meditation."

"And work," said Gina. "Ledosh gave his life to ensure we got the Life of Reshan, not the Brotherhood. We need to figure out the secret he thought he'd found."

"Well, we'll help in anyway we can," Lucy promised. "You've got the books in your room, right? Maybe I can get Jarod to help out too? He finished learning Gersallian, and he's always up for puzzles."

"An excellent idea."

"I'll take it up with him tomorrow, then," Lucy promised. She let out a tired breath. "I think we should get some rest too. It's been a tough week, and I have a feeling things are only going to get worse."

"Indeed they will," noted Meridina. "The forces of darkness have revealed themselves to us, and their strength is greater than we imagined. We must be ready for their next move."

Lucy and Gina nodded, and left to take up their own rest. Meridina, for her part, returned to her bedroom and laid down in her bed. She would get what rest she could, knowing that it would likely not last long for the Alliance, not with their enemies working together.

But whatever came, Meridina had faith they would prevail in the end.
"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: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Nice, really really nice. And jeez it was really shocking, so much so that I can get how after all this time Robert wasn't able to react to it since it was so quick and he was a total wreck already.

"Sometimes Shroomy I wonder if your imagination actually counts as some sort of war crime." - FROD
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