Title- A Brave New World
Chapter- 21/?
Author- Dekardkain
Date- 5/03/07
Rating- NC-17
Category- Very AU, L/K romance, action.
Archiving- Would be an honor, just ask.
Warnings- Violence/consensual sex
Disclaimers- I don't own this, no money, yadda yadda. Sue me,
it's not like I have any money anyways.

Summary- What if things had taken a very different turn after they returned from Kobol?
What if instead of finding the Peg they found Earth? Or if Earth found them?

Authors Notes: A.S. After Settlement
A.O. After Occupation

Chapter 21 "Phoenix Rising"

"I have studied the enemy all my life. I have read the memoirs of his generals and his leaders. I have even read his philosophers and listened to his music. I have studied in detail the account of every damned one of his battles. I know exactly how he will react under any given set of circumstances. And he hasn't the slightest idea of what I'm going to do. So when the time comes, I'm going to whip the hell out of him."

- George S. Patton

Voices filtered slowly through the fog of Kara's consciousness, pulling back the darkened veil obscuring her vision and allowing her to refocus on the world around her - a world far different than she'd been expecting. The clean lines and soothing smells of Galactica's hangar were like distant memories as she found herself standing under an unfamiliar sun, on the cusp of a grass-covered hill. An overwhelming and bone-deep weight seemed to sap her strength with every movement, like she was trying to slosh through a thick fluid. Low trees obscured her view of the valley stretching before her, but the rocky outcropping on the other side was clearly visible in the crisp light of mid-day, as were the white ruins dotting it's surface.

Small figures milled about, seemingly oblivious to her presence as they snapped photos and admired the crumbling facades of the buildings in the distance. Considering that Starbuck's last memory was of collapsing in Lee's arms on the hangar deck, this locale was more than a little disconcerting. Though her surroundings contained an undeniable beauty, she sincerely doubted that the afterlife would be occupied by gawking tourists.

A soft laugh from behind had Kara turning on her heel to face the young woman sitting upon the high grass a few meters behind her. Absently chewing on her bottom lip and scribbling lines across the small pad resting upon her crossed legs, she addressed the Viper pilot without looking up from her work. "You're not dead, Kara. Though you have looked better."

Approaching slowly, Starbuck was more startled by the girl seated before her than she had been by the sudden change of scenery. Her long blond hair was pulled back into a strict ponytail, revealing porcelain-white skin and a generous mouth. Striking green eyes darted back and forth between her pad and the ruins in the distance as her oil pencil danced across the canvas. Designs - most in a language she didn't recognize - spread down her arms from the straps of her white tank-top. Kara's breath caught in her throat when her eyes encountered a figure her fingers had traced too many times to count tattooed just below the curve of the girl's elbow, it's expansive wings and flaming sword clearly visible in the noon-day sun. It couldn't be...

"After all you've seen, I didn't expect this to be such a shock. For that I apologize." Setting aside her work and finally focusing on the woman before her, the girl's eyes danced with wry amusement as she rose to her feet, a worn pair of dog tags tinkling at the movement. A few steps brought her to Kara's side, guiding the older woman's attention back to the ruins with a small nod of her head. "Breathtaking, don't you think?"

Her mind seemingly unable to form coherent thoughts, Starbuck continued to stare numbly at the girl's profile. "That depends.. what exactly am I looking at?"

Glancing over her shoulder with a quizzical expression, it took a few moments before the young woman came to a realization. "That's right! You haven't been here yet." A light chuckle carried itself out from deep within her chest, a familiar smirk spreading across her features as she assumed the roll of 'tour-guide' with a flourish. "You're standing on the hill of Pnyx, and that," a hand gestured to the rock outcropping across the small valley, "is the Acropolis of Athens. The big boy in the middle there is the Parthenon: the chief temple of the Goddess Athena."

Allowing her gaze to drift from the achingly familiar visage in front of her, Kara examined the crumbling edifices for herself, looking for anything she could mark as familiar. "I don't recognize it."

Resting a calloused hand on the shorter woman's shoulder, the girl's tone was light and teasing. "Of course you don't, it's on Earth."

"This... this is Earth?" Glancing up to the heavens as if to confirm the woman's claim, Starbuck's view of the constellations was thwarted by daylight. Turning back to the enigma standing beside her, a flood of questions pricked at Kara's consciousness. She decided to start with the most obvious. "Who are you?"

"You know who I am, your mind just isn't ready to accept it." Catching the dubious expression that stole across Kara's face, the deep green orbs rolled with exaggerated impatience. "I know you Starbuck, and I can see the wheels spinning from here. Right now you're trying to convince yourself that this is a hallucination, a dream, a Cylon trick - anything but what it really is. Unfortunately we don't have time to dispell your customary level of paranoia, so you're just going to have to trust me."

A bitter laugh exploded from Kara's chest, more a cathartic release of tension than any true display of emotion. "You expect me trust that this is real? That you're who you appear to be? You obviously don't know me as well as you think you do kid."

"I know you well enough to realize that nothing I say is going to prove to you that this is real, and I don't like wasting my time. That doesn't change the fact that you're going to shut your frakking trap and listen to what I have to say." The hint of annoyance creeping into the girl's voice was replaced by genuine humor as soon as it had arrived. "Sorry, i've been waiting a long time to say that."

"I can tell." Kara couldn't help returning the smile, though under it all her mind was racing at near light speed. Running her eyes over her companion's face, seeking out any sign of deception in the startlingly familiar features, she came to an inevitable decision. "Well, i'm not going anywhere - fire away."

"Always the pragmatist, that's one of the things I love most about you." Clapping her hands before her with a full-bodied grin, the girl continued. "You should take a seat, we have a lot to cover."

To Lieutenant Gruber, the assembled troops crammed into the vehicle maintenance bay deep within the subterranean bunker looked more like a band of disheveled refugees than an effective fighting force. Bowed heads and slumped shoulders could be attributed as much to their disposition as their wounds and sheer physical exhaustion - hope was quickly becoming a scarce, and thus ever more precious, commodity.

The last caravan of necessary supplies had been delivered to the mountain complex hours ago, and they were ready to abandon the deceptive safety of this bunker as soon as the Capt'n gave the order to move out. Though many of the gathered men and women were wounded, and most hadn't so much as layed eyes on a rack in days, they had shuffled into the common area, as per Kinkaid's orders, with only minimal complaint. Few spoke, but they didn't need to, the 'thousand yard stare' which characterized battlefield shock was evident across the board. How would they react when the shock wore off and the cold reality of their situation set in? Would they break? Only time would tell.

Rachel's inspection was cut short as the few voices echoing across the bay were quieted in the wake of their commander's arrival. Striding through the hatch at the far end of the room, Major Kinkaid parted the mass of bodies by sheer force of presence, determination etched across the deepening lines of his face. Sporting a clean shave, a crisp set of Terran BDU's, and -once again- his customary buzz-cut, Tyler barely resembled the man Gruber had left to his thoughts a few hours before. From his position flanking the shorter man, Helo confered with his CO as the two made their way across the room. A quick motion of Tyler's hand had Karl breaking off into the crowd, settling just off of Sharon's arm with a troubled expression.

Coming to a halt at the center of the gathered troops, Kinkaid didn't hesitate as he hopped up onto the hood of a tarp-covered vehicle, turning to eye each of the assembled soldiers in turn. Removing the smoldering cigar butt from between his teeth and flicking it off to the side, the Major's voice boomed from deep within his chest, shattering the cultivated silence with all the subtlety of a frontal assault.

"Heroes. History is full of 'em, probably more than deserve to be there. Great men who defied the odds, defied their enemies, who strove to do the impossible. Even today, they remain symbols of our most sacred values, our greatest triumphs." Lowering his voice to the point that the furthest occupants of the room were straining to understand his words, Kinkaid continued. "Such men seem in tragically short supply today, when they're needed most, and that has to change.

We can't win this war - not alone. It's simple numbers people, they have more of them than we do. As much as you don't want to hear it right now, we need the Terrans."

Silencing the stirrings of dissent drifting up from the crowd with a sharp wave of his hand, Tyler fought to keep his voice level over the torrent of emotion welling within him. "Humanity is a sleeping giant - slow to rise, and difficult to provoke. But make no mistake, once it has been shaken from it's slumber no force in the universe can stand against it's wrath.

My people have lost their way, there can be no doubt of that now. They've grown soft and complacent," the disdain in the Major's voice bordered on the venomous, "they've become... civilized. They have lost sight of their convictions, and the meaning of noble sacrifice. Now it rests on our shoulders to remind them!"

Dropping back to the floor with a clatter of concrete and boots, Tyler moved among his men, speaking directly to each in turn. "We must become more than men, more than soldiers. We must become a symbol - a rallying cry that will resound across the black and motivate our brothers to action! We will remind them what it means to be human, to be free. We. Will. Hold! Like a swarm of insects angered by an assault on their nest, we fiercely defend our home. Attacking from all directions, destroying anything we can get our hands on before slipping away like a wraith in the darkness. We will become the scourge of our enemies! We will make the Cylons regret the day they ever set foot on this planet."

A bitter laugh rang out from the rear of the assembled group, the crowd parting slightly to reveal the dissenting voice. Lieutenant Corrinth appeared startled upon being singled out, but covered his momentary disquiet with a look of indignation. "We have less than a hundred men! They wiped away our defenses in a matter of hours, killed hundreds of our camarades, and you expect us to stand against them? You'll accomplish something alright - you'll get us all killed!"

Focusing on the shorter man with an indulgent smile, Kinkaid spread his arms, including the entire group. "You're afraid, it's understandable. Hell, i'm fucking terrified! So are the Terrans. Has their cowardice taught you nothing!? It's not the presence of fear that matters, but your ability to overcome it. Courage is just fear holding on a minute longer."

Leveling an arm at the source of the outburst, he continued, picking up momentum with every word. "Tell me Rian, what would you have me do? Would you have us cower in the hills to be hunted like the vermin they see us for? Would you have me surrender our forces to the tender mercies of the Cylons? Would you sacrifice all you hold dear for the thin promise of continued survival? I can't speak for you son, but I would sooner die than accept a 'life' like that. The question is, will you die on your feet, or live on your knees? I bow before no man, and certainly no machine!

I've never lied to you, and I won't start now; the odds are stacked against us. The prospect of seeing this through is grim to say the least. But it's not about the victory, it's about sending a message. We have an opportunity to build a legend here, to provide humanity the rallying cry they need to carry them through this struggle and on to ultimate and complete victory! Damn the odds! We must remind the universe that there are men - free men - who will stand against such evils. That we're willing to sacrifice everything we have, everything we are, in the protection of our people and our freedoms."

Rachel could feel the mood within the crowd shifting, and Tyler was riding it like a wave, nurturing the seeds of defiance his words had planted within them. "We will shame them for their cowardice. We will provoke them to action through our continued struggle. The tide will turn and it will start here, in this moment - this place!"

"Fight, and I promise you this: they will remember. Though the words spoken today may fade from history, our deeds will echo for thousands of years to come!" Placing his hands on the shoulders of the woman before him, he met her gaze with challenge clear in his eyes. "Should our cities fade to dust, our nations dissolve into nothingness, they will remember our valor!"

Catching the fervor he'd kicked up at it's zenith, Kinkaid ran with it. A few loping strides carried him back to the center of the room. Locking eyes with those nearest him, the change was palpable. These men were primed, ready to explode. Almost there. "We will stand together, awash in a sea of enemies, and we will hold! This I swear to you: long after we've driven the machines back to the hell from which they were spawned; they will remember this day, remember this hour, and by God - they will remember New Caprica!"

The roar rising from the gathered ranks shook the walls of the enclosure with it's intensity, drowning out all but the desire for vengeance. Weapons raised above their heads, the words were carried across the room with nearly religious reverence. "For New Caprica!"

A moment of near-prescience seemed to pull at the back of Rachel's mind at the scene, and in a flash she gathered up the threads of the Major's plan. Visions of soldiers, millions of soldiers, echoing that cry as they threw themselves into battle against their sworn enemy shook her to her very core. He was right, there would be no losing this fight for them. If they lived, they would become symbols of human resilience in the face of machine oppression. If they died, they would become martyrs of the cause.

Almost unnoticed in the fray, Tyler made his way over to his best friend, eyes reflecting the steel Rachel knew resided within him. Shouldering the rifle Helo tossed him, he called to her over the rising din. "They're ready Lieutenant - move 'em out!"

Closing the distance between them, dropping her voice to a point that none of the soldiers near their position would overhear, Rachel's lips quirked into a knowing smile. He was good, but she knew him better than these Colonials could ever hope to. "So, you really believe any of that shit Capt'n?"

Motioning to the group, who moments before had seemed on the edge of defeat, yet now were thirsting for vengeance and blood, Tyler matched her smile with a feral grin. "They do. For now, that's all that matters."

"Make a hole!" Realizing quickly enough that he was out of his depth in the medical arena, Lee Adama had appointed himself a job that was more his speed: battering ram. Running a few meters ahead of Kara's gurney, Lee was on a mission to make sure nothing impeded their progress on the way to life-station: by any means necessary. A startled specialist that failed to move quickly enough learned that the hard way, Lee barely broke his stride as he shoved the unfortunate man through a nearby hatch.

The tell-tale pull of the FTL engaging nearly sent him crashing to the deck in his all-out sprint for the finish-line, and for a moment he cursed the Colonel for following his orders. Bouncing off a bulkhead with a resounding thud, Lee managed to take the final corner without even slowing down. A group of technicians clustered in the hallway seemed taken aback by the sudden appearance of their Commander, sweating, disheveled, and moving like he had a squad of centurions on his ass. "Out of the frakking way!"

Slamming open the hatch with a lowered shoulder, Apollo barely had time to vacate the doorway before the gurney rolled past him and towards a cluster of waiting diagnostic equipment. Moving quickly to catch up, he was intercepted halfway by a hand on his chest and the gruff voice accompanying it.

"This isn't a spectator sport Commander, you'll have to wait outside." Taking on a more conciliatory tone, Cottle nodded to the unconscious pilot behind him. "I'll send word as soon as we know what's going on."

Feeling the last threads of rational thought his mind seemed capable of slipping away at near relativistic speeds, Lee snapped. "The frak you will! There is no way in hell I am leaving her to..."

"Captain Thrace has sustained major internal injuries Commander, and is fading fast. I'll have to move quickly to save even her life, and i'll need a damn miracle to save them both. So with all do respect sir, unless you have a medical degree i'm unaware of, you can walk the frak out of my infirmary or be dragged out!"

Lee stood for a long moment, sputtering in indignance. A suitably acerbic reply locked and loaded on the tip of his tongue, his verbal jab was intercepted when a cooler head prevailed.

"Lee!" Having fallen a few steps behind in the group's frantic run through the battlestar's passages, William Adama pushed aside the need to catch his breath and focused on his son. "The best thing you can do for her right now is to leave the Doctor free to do his job."

Seeing that Lee needed a little more persuasion to make the right decision with emotions running hot and heavy, Bill decided to play the 'Admiral card'. "Besides, I have a lot of questions that need answered before we can decide on the proper course of action. We can both check on the Captain's progress as soon as we're finished with the debriefing."

Glancing over to the med-techs stripping Kara's flightsuit from her unmoving body as they ran electrodes and I.V. lines to various points on her impossibly pale flesh, Lee nodded numbly. "Yes, sir."

"She didn't come all this way just to give up now son, it's not her style." The whispered words were as much a reminder to himself as they were to the younger man standing beside him. Placing a hand on Lee's shoulder and leading him through the hatch Bill forced himself not to look back, lest his own resolve waiver. What was this weakness Kara Thrace managed to find in the heart of all Adama men?

The long walk to the Commander's officer was made in silence, both men too emotionally drained to muster even a half-hearted attempt at small talk. Not that either had made a particularly concerted effort to maintain any relationship beyond the strictly professional over the last year. Lee had grown distant in his 'exile' aboard the aging battlestar, shunning every attempt Bill had made to get him down for a visit. Hell, the last time he'd seen him in person had been the Chief's wedding nearly seven months before.

There had been perfectly valid excuses, as there always were with Lee, but to his father it had seemed oddly reminiscent of the years following Zak's death. No one could hold a grudge like Lee Adama, and if Bill had found yet another way to let him down, then the path to reconstructing their relationship would be an arduous path he would rather have avoided. The Admiral had never thought it appropriate to compare his children, though he couldn't help but wish his eldest had inherited just a little more of his younger brother's laissez-faire attitude. It certainly would have made things easier between the two of them. But if he'd learned anything from Zak's death, it was that it wasn't Lee's job to be who his father wanted him to be - it was his job to love his son, no matter what.

Stepping through the hatch into his old office was almost like taking a step back in time. Though his personal affects had been replaced by Lee's sparse possessions, the room retained a powerful sense-memory he was unable to deny. Ignoring the need for formality in such situations, the Admiral slipped his arms out of his sweat-dampened flight-suit and sprawled back onto the worn couch against the far wall while he waited for Lee to settle in.

Depositing his jacket on the hook behind his desk, Apollo pulled his chair out with an extended foot before dropping into it like a stone. He hadn't slept in days, and was starting to look a little worse for wear. Rubbing furiously at his eyes to will focus back into the errant orbs, he noticed his father's blatant perusal of his office. "Something wrong?"

"You should fire your decorator, son." Motioning to bare walls and nearly empty shelves, Bill donned a tired smile.

"Seven months, and the first thing I get is tips on office decoration?" Lee couldn't completely stifle an indignant laugh, "I tried my hand at ships, but never quite understood the attraction."

Deciding this was as good a segway as any into an uncomfortable topic, the Admiral rested his elbows on his knees and tried to sound as casual as possible. "You should have talked to Kara about it, she's been painting up a storm lately. I don't really 'get it', but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the beauty."

Lee couldn't help but think that was an apt description for nearly every facet of Kara Thrace. Sliding down farther into his chair, Apollo cocked an eyebrow at the man across the room from him. "I didn't know Captain Thrace would be the subject of this 'debriefing', Admiral."

Deciding Lee seemed less than receptive to his offer of a friendly ear, Bill stifled his disappointment and moved on to more pressing business. "Very well. I haven't had time to review your logs, but it doesn't take a tactical genius to know you made the right decision."

"I left those people to die!" Rocking forward in his seat and slapping a palm smartly onto the top of his desk, Lee ground the words out between clenched teeth. He still hadn't come to terms with the suffering he had allowed to occur on his watch, and was in no mood to receive accolades for it.

"You cut your losses and saved your ship. I would have done the same thing, son. That however was the easy decision, and now it's time to face the hard one - where do we go from here?" The Admiral felt a pang of regret that his bottle of Caprican ambrosia no longer occupied his bottom drawer, but instead had become another trophy to the Cylon invaders. They would pay for that.

Kick-starting his nearly exhaustion stalled mind, Apollo forced himself to examine the situation with 'fresh eyes'. "We can't go back, that fleet would eat us alive before we got anywhere close to the planet. We're completely unfamiliar with this section of space beyond the general outline of Terran territorial boundaries. I don't see what we can accomplish by running, and fighting is out of the question. Frak, pick direction sir, one seems as good as another under the circumstances."

Shaking his head slowly Bill stood and approached his son's desk. "You're not getting off that easy Lee. This is still your ship - your command. Don't think for a second that just because i'm back on board i'll be making your decisions for you. Great commanders aren't bred or trained in war colleges, but forged in moments like these. It's time you found your bearings and started acting like the man I know you're capable of becoming. The crew needs you to be that man if it's going to hold together. Now, what are YOUR orders Commander?"

Lee's molars ground so hard he was sure one would give way any moment. On the heels of the biggest frak-up in his military career, his father expected him to bail their collective asses out of the fire singe-handedly!? Given a free hand, Lee knew exactly what he would do: load up Galactica's atomic stockpile and find the frakkers that had betrayed them...

Anger quickly giving way to insight, Apollo laughed aloud. It had been so obvious! "I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to shove it right down their throats. I'm going to take Galactica straight for the heart of Terran space. If the Cylons want to follow us they'll have to abandon whatever deal they've made with our 'allies', and it will force the Terrans to decide just how far they're willing to go with this thing. Something tells me that while they were content to stand by and watch, they won't find directly attacking fellow humans nearly as palatable.

No more politics, no more games. From this point on, you're with us or against us. Either way, this action is sure to provide a decisive response." Lee didn't bother waiting for confirmation before snatching the receiver behind his desk from it's cradle.

A few moments later a gruff voice broke the silence on the other end. "Tigh."

"Colonel, have Mr. Gaeta plot a course directly into Terran space - fastest route possible. Jumps every thirty minutes, maximum range, and I want CAPS at full capacity. Is that understood?"

"Commander? They just practically handed us an open declaration of war, and you want to.."

"Is that understood, Colonel? Because if you won't carry out my orders, i'm sure I can find someone who's willing to." Locking eyes with his father from across the desk, he saw the older man's small nod of encouragement.

"Aye, sir. First jump in thirty; Tigh out."

No sooner had Lee replaced the receiver than the unit sprang back to life, sending both men jumping. Nearly three days of running on nothing but adrenaline was obviously effecting their nerves. After readying himself to deflect whatever Saul's latest bitch was, Apollo pulled the phone back to his ear. "Adama."

Surprise was quickly replaced by apprehension when Cottle's voice broke over the line. "Commander. We've managed to stabilize Captain Thrace for the moment, but she's not out of the woods yet. With her body in the state it is, we have no choice but to perform an emergency cesarean."

Closing his eyes, Lee tried to force a level of calm he wasn't sure he could achieve at this point. "Is... is the fetus viable?"

"If we move quickly. But we have a shit-pot of a problem here Commander. This is still technically an elective procedure, and in her weakened state it could very well cost the Captain her life. If we do nothing, that child will die. Starbuck won't be waking up anytime soon, and normally the decision would fall to the father. In this case, as her Commanding officer, it's your call."

Apollo felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under him, thoughts pulling his mind in a million directions at once. He couldn't lose Kara, not again. But if he made a decision that cost that child it's life, even if she survived she would never forgive him. In the end, there was no choice. Swallowing hard, the six hardest words he'd ever spoken slipped past his lips, "you have my permission to proceed."

"Understood Commander, we'll let you know."

Though the line had been severed as soon as Cottle spoke the words, Lee found himself clutching the receiver in his fingers as he leaned forward to rest his head in his hands. "You do that..."

"I don't believe you." Turning her back to the girl a few feet away was the only way Kara could suppress the urge to throttle the life out of her. As if the physical act of turning away would make the words she spoke less real - less frightening. "Just... no!"

Nodding slowly, Kassandra knew any words of comfort she tried to level on the older woman would ring hollow, and decided to stick to her guns; the truth. "We all have our roles to play mother, and i've never envied yours. I know it won't make this any easier to shoulder, but I assure you that it's all necessary. The Gods don't ask more of us than we're capable of giving."

Spinning back in a full-blown rage, Kara's fingers slipped into the folds of cloth covering the woman's chest, slamming her backwards into a nearby tree. "Frak you! And frak the Gods! Haven't I - haven't we - been through enough?"

Looking down at the irate woman pinning her and ignoring the sharp sting of bark against bare skin, Kassandra's voice was oddly quiet and eerily resigned. "The stage is set, the players are already in motion. Not even you can stop what's coming."

A sudden shock overtaking her, Starbuck dropped the target of her wrath. Even on the slim chance this was real, that this girl was telling the truth, she had just tried to harm her daughter! Fighting down the bile stinging the back of her throat, a few shaky steps backwards had her leveling an accusing finger at the woman currently picking herself up off the ground she had just been so carelessly dumped on. "But you can! If even half of what you've told me is true, you could make it so none of this happens!"

This was the moment she had been dreading, the moment the truth would thrust itself out into the open and shed light on her ultimate betrayal. Lowering her gaze and fighting to keep the tremor out of her voice, she addressed the Viper pilot twitching with combat-readiness. "I could... but I won't."

Something inside Kara snapped, leaving her too overwhelmed to level the appropriate amount of rage this situation warranted. The tendons in her neck throbbed a with tension that was bordering on the painful, her pulse echoing through her temples leaving a sickening lurch in her stomach. Harsh words and vehement denials swarmed through her mind like errant dust-devils, but she could latch on to only one thought. "All of those people. How can you stand there and... and justify that kind of bloodshed!"

"Because i've seen the alternatives. The human race is nearing the abyss, and this is the only way to avoid it." Motioning to the people still milling around them, mostly families and children, she continued in a voice that reminded Kara of Tyler so much it hurt. "They have no idea what's coming, and it's our job to protect them. Even now the Cylons are using the Terran withdrawal as an opportunity to amass their forces for a coup de grĂ¢ce. All they need is the location of Earth."

"They've been trying to find Earth for decades, they seem pretty frakking deficient in the 'path-finding' department." Starbuck nearly scoffed at the absurdity of worrying about a people who had just left them all to die.

"They're closer than you might think Kara." Kassandra clutched idly at the dog tags hung loosely around her neck, glancing off to the horizon. "On New Caprica, at this very moment, are two people with that knowledge. What's worse, he knows who they are."

Starbuck's eyes widened impossibly, pieces falling into place in her mind with the force of a thunder-clap. "Tyler wouldn't..."

"No, but Roslin might - and they're not going to be bashful when it comes to extracting that information." At the sickened look stealing across Kara's face at the thought of what sort of torture the machines had in mind for the President of the Colonies, Kassandra shook her head ruefully. "It's so much worse than you think. They won't risk losing the information by harming her Kara. The executions start tomorrow, and you can bet your ass they won't stop until they get those coordinates."

Rubbing her temples in utter frustration, Kassandra continued in a small, almost exhausted voice. This foray to the past would cost her deeply, her reserves were nearly drained already. "He's outmaneuvered me this time, and it's going to take a miracle to pull the time-line back from oblivion."

Kara could feel her hackles rise, they had been dancing around this subject for the better part of an hour - if time had any meaning in this place - and her 'daughter' still refused to elaborate. "Who is he Kassandra? If you want my help you had better start coming clean. You don't ask someone for help and then keep them in the frakking dark! I know i'm not a poster child, but didn't your father teach you any manners?"

Visibly flinching, Kassandra turned to avoid her mother's gaze. She had hoped it wouldn't come to this. Naively believing she could convince Kara of the desperate need to fulfill her own destiny without full disclosure of the facts. She had in her mind the best of intentions for her deception though, her mother was already on the edge, and the girl had no desire to be the one to push her over. Exhaling a breath that carried on it the last of her resolve, she turned back slowly. "I can't tell you everything, the time isn't right for that. I'm only telling you any of this in the hopes that it will prove my loyalties, and motivate you to do what's right for our people."

Weariness beginning to overwhelm her, Kassandra slid down the trunk of the tree behind her, leaning back and covering her eyes with a folded hand. "Nature has a way of balancing the universe, a cosmic scale that never tips too far in any one direction. Call it karma, call it the Gods, call it fate... it exists. I am the result of such a balancing - a counterweight to offset a being of overwhelming power. While this damned war has raged across the cosmos for two decades, we have been locked in a battle unlike any the human race could ever imagine. The prize isn't territory, or strategic advantage, but control of time itself... of destiny.

When my... abilities, began to manifest themselves, he was always there. Haunting my steps like a ghost from the shadows. The Cylons have taken to calling him 'God', but he is so much more than even they understand. Until recently, the machines could 'clone' life, but they were unable to create it from the scratch of random genetic material. A privilege enjoyed only by us and other biological entities. A single Cylon could live thousands of lifetimes, but it couldn't evolve beyond it's original framework and inherent limitations. In one respect at least, humans are undeniably superior.

Their first attempt to get around this hurdle was a failure - from a certain perspective. If one being couldn't advance beyond it's original programing, what if they combined all of their thoughts and experiences into a sort of mental community? Think of the implications! Thousands upon thousands of lives, an infinite number of thoughts and observations all collected into a central repository. To this day, every time a Cylon dies, it's 'soul' is copied and deposited into this immense reservoir of knowledge.

It seems that fate's sense of irony is greater than we could have ever imagined though, and it didn't take long for their 'creation' to take on a mind of it's own. As it's data grew, so did it's power. Prediction, after all, is merely the accumulation of know quantities used to extrapolate a likely outcome. They had failed to create an answer to their problem, instead they had created a prophet... a God. He IS the Cylons Kara, every one of them, stretching back to their creation."

Nodding slowly, Starbuck found herself for the first time entertaining the possibility that this girl was telling the truth. With a pang, she realized that accepting this would mean accepting what she'd been told was coming, and Kara was not ready to do that. Forcing herself to push those thoughts aside for the time being, she pressed on. "Can we stop him?"

Kassandra's fight to remain lucid was bolstered by Starbuck's unspoken declaration. 'We' meant that she was willing to help, or at least was open to the possibility. "I've managed to derail his plans before, but he's learning... it was to be expected. A few coordinates in the right hands brought you to the Terran fleet, and out of immediate danger. Even I didn't understand the depth of his plan though, until it was too late for anything but damage control.

From the beginning, he's been convinced that you hold the key to breaking the cycle the Cylons have been locked in since their creation. He predicted your arrival within a vanishingly small percentage of error, and planned accordingly. Decades ago, a model was created with the sole purpose of fulfilling this 'prophecy'. One of a kind and more advanced than any of his predecessors, his existence was a secret kept even from his fellow Cylons. When uncle Karl proved that God's predictions were not only possible, but probable, everything was set in motion.

I had to move quickly, before he managed to catch you in his trap, and I was forced to reveal my plans much earlier than I would have wished. Since then i've had to choose my battles more carefully, satisfying myself with merely narrowing his options. New Caprica was an unfortunate, but utterly necessary, set-up for what's to come. He underestimated you though, and it's going to cost him dearly. His victory may have been complete, but you passed through his fingers again and thus forced his hand. And now his trap is going to become mine, with your help. Time is running out, and he'll be desperate to launch his offensive before the Terrans are able to prepare for him.

As is almost always true, hasty decisions are rarely good ones. He's moved a large portion of his fleet, as well as his 'Champion' to New Caprica - where they are vulnerable. We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to their war machine that will keep them on their back foot for years and save uncounted human lives in the process."

Starbuck was startled to see the world around her begin to shimmer and grow hazy, as if she were viewing it through tinted glass. For the first time noticing the sickly shade of her daughter's skin, Kara kneeled beside her and rested a hand on the girl's shoulder. "What's happening? Are you alright?"

Placing a shaking hand on top of her mother's, Kassandra nodded. "I've never had to try something like this before, it's harder than I expected. I wish I could answer all of your questions, but i'm going to need everything I have to face what's coming - and you have a job to do."

"I... I can't. I don't know how." Fear cut through Kara and took up residence in the pit of her stomach. Not fear for herself, but for everyone else. This was too much for her to handle, and if she managed to frakked it up... WHEN she managed to frak it up, all would be lost.

Moving her hand to Kara's cheek, Kassandra met her eyes with an exhausted smile. "You've always been so strong. You taught me to fight, to fly, to be who I am today. And if there's one thing i've learned it's that one human, properly motivated, can accomplish anything they put their mind to. It's always been your destiny, and when the time is right you'll find a way to fulfill it."

Feeling as much as seeing the world contract around them, Starbuck returned her daughter's easy smile. For the first time she could remember, the idea of raising this girl didn't terrify her to her very core. After all, she must have done something right to mold the person sitting before her. With her surroundings phasing in and out of existence, Kara squeezed Kassandra's hand, vowing to make herself worthy of this girl's faith. "I'll do everything in my power. What about New Caprica? The President? Tyler.."

Failing in her battle to keep her carefully constructed 'reality' together, Kassandra felt a great weight lifted off of her shoulders. She wouldn't be going this alone. With a determination born of years of struggle, she made her own vow. "I have a Champion of my own, and the Cylons are about to learn the hard way exactly what one very motivated human can accomplish."


We're nearing the end of book 1 here, but you can rest assured I have already outlined the first few chapters of the second book, which will encompass the Cylon War. Thanks to everyone for your continued patience and wonderful feedback, I can't thank you all enough for the support i've received with this story.