“How?” In the background Six heard three other shouts of confusion, including a very loud “FRAK” from a seven model.
“Displacement,” Tozy said. “The ship used a controlled wormhole to transport us from the surface to one of its holds. It’s actually a more refined version of the technology you employ in your FTL drives.”
“It got you too,” one of other seven models present said. “We’ve all been just appearing here for the past few minutes. Why is Baltar with you?”
“He’s one of them,” Six said moving away from Gaius. “An agent of this so called ‘Culture’. That machine with him is an AI. They’ve enslaved them just as the Colonials did to us.”
“Enslaved?” Tozy said. “Hardly.”
“Most races assume it’s the other way around,” Gaius said with a smirk. “That the ‘machines’ run our lives.”
“Tell us where we are,” the seven demanded.
“Welcome aboard the Culture General Contact Unit Dancing on Pinheads,” came a voice. “I apologize for the inconvenience. For the time being you are all restricted to this room.”
Six looked around for the source of the voice and was shocked to see what looked like a child’s doll shaped like a small boy, wearing a long robe, with wings floating just above the group.
“What is that?” Six asked pointing at the doll.
“One of the ship’s avatars,” Tozy said. “It chose that form as a bit of joke. GCU’s are noted for their slightly strained sense of humor.”
“It improves our patience when dealing with younger civilizations,” the avatar said.
“We’re on a space ship?” Six asked.
“Yes,” the avatar replied.
Gaius bowed slightly. “Permit me to handle the formal introductions. I am Hetiza-T’lecta Ben Gaius ter Baltar da’ Vankopt. Above us is my associate Gurlaz-JaLite Ubatoma ‘la Tozy Banum. And next to Tozy is an avatar for the GCU Dancing on Pinheads, the craft we are all currently aboard. We already know who all of you are.”
“There are several Cylons missing,” Tozy noted.
“They were in public locations or aboard transports,” the avatar replied. “I could not risk displacement. Each one is being closely monitored. They won’t be allowed to cause any harm. I’ve left modules nearby to pick them up at the earliest convenience.”
“What are you going to do with us?” Six demanded.
Gaius shrugged. “In a few minutes we will arrive at your main staging area and transport you to one of the basestars. We’ll discuss things there. For now our goal is to keep you from harming the Colonials.”
“This is impressive,” Brother Cavil said. “But you can’t stop us all.”
“Dancing, what is the current status of Cylon forces?”
“ROU Kicking Down the Door is currently blocking the main force,” came the reply. Above the group a hologram of the Cyrannus system appeared with several red flashing dots. Several Cylons gasped as they realized the blinking dots corresponded to their fleet’s staging areas. “I’ve reprogrammed the FTL drives on the other Cylon units to prevent jumps into the system.”
“You reprogrammed our FTLs?!?” a three said. “Impossible.”
“Not really,” the avatar replied.
“Who are you?” Leoben asked.
“The Culture GCU Dancing on Pinheads,” came the reply. “I could have sworn I already said that.”
“I want to see your captain.”
“There is no captain,” Baltar replied. “The ship runs itself.”
“I run myself,” the avatar said. “I am a Mind, this unit is my body.”
“Mind?” Six asked. “Another AI? Enslaved to the humans.”
“A full sentient yes,” Baltar said. “The culture accepts all sentients, biologic, machine or other, as equals.”
“Frak this,” another six said. “We’ve got hostages now.”
“Violence will not be permited,” the avatar said.
“You can’t stop all of us,” a seven said as several Cylons began moving towards Baltar.
“Wait,” Six tried to intervene.
The Cylons stumbled backwards as they impacted with an invisible barrier.
“I tried to warn you,” Six said. “Tozy and I guess that avatar can project force fields of some kind.”
The avatar floated down to look the seven in the eyes. “Violence will not be permitted. We will arrive at your basestars in 32 minutes. I’m taking the scenic route to give Kicking Down the Door a little more time to explain reality to your counterparts. You will not be harmed. Would any of you like some refreshments?”
“You can not do this. God’s commandment is clear,” Leoben said. “The path is set. Humanity’s destiny can not be changed. God will not permit it.”
Gaius sighed. “You have an interesting society, one with great potential. We can help you.”
“Help us,” Six said. “You make all the claims you want, but we know humans.”
“We are not slaves,” Tozy said.
“God will punish you for this,” Six said.
The avatar spoke, “It appears both your god and the Colonial’s gods have passed on.”
“Enough of this,” Brian said. He held up his hand holding a trigger. “You’re going to do what I say or I’ll blow this damn ship out of the sky.”
“Really?” Gaius said and looked at the avatar, it shrugged.
Brian stood resolute. “I press this button and all of you die.”
“Then by all means,” the avatar said. “Please press the button.”
4 years ago (Colonial Reckoning)
“The second wave of infiltrators is being sent in,” the ship said over his terminal.
“How many?” Gaius asked.
“Eleven,” came the reply. “Only one joined the Colonial military so far. The rest are staying in the private sector. One is actually playing the part of a Brother in their religion.”
“Really,” Gaius looked out over the lake watching one of the sailboats. A tray floated by and deposited his drink. “So they’re going to do it.”
“We’ve been certain of their plans for quite some time,” the ship replied.
Gaius shook his head. “I’d just hoped they’d find a way to break the pattern. Does this mean I’ll have to cut my vacation short?”
“Good,” Gaius replied. He’d managed to get a full month off from his responsibilities in the Colonies and even luckier managed to time it to correspond to GSV Tripping Through the Stars closest flyby to the Twelve Colonies. Dancing on Pinheads sent down a module to pick him up and a days travel later he was back aboard a Culture General Systems Vehicle.
“The next wave will infiltrate the defense industry,” the Tripping said. “There is a high probability the Cylons will target you.”
“The new Command Navigation Program I’m working on,” Gaius said. “I’ve convinced a sizable number of junior officers to push for the program. And a few admirals have joined the call. The senior admiralty remains a problem but Richard can deal with them.”
“The Cylons feel it might provide them easy access to Colonial systems,” Tripping said. “It would be easier and less resource intensive than their original plan.”
Gaius snorted. “I rather doubt they could penetrate the system. The basic outline includes quite robust network protection.”
“Yes,” Tripping acknowledged. “But the Cylons do not know that.”
“You have a plan don’t you?”
“For this particular contingency, 193.”
“I’ve been studying the material you’ve provided,” Gaius said. “The basic social structure the Cylons constructed is remarkably advanced. A consensus based society. Almost no hierarchy to speak of. Entirely spaced based. The superficial similarities to us, the Homomda and other advanced civilizations is quite startling.”
“Not when you consider the age of their civilization in addition to their origins as networked AIs,” the ship replied. “It is not uncommon for young breakaway societies, particularly those coming from a ‘slave’ background to retain a high degree of social cohesion during the first generation. It won’t last.”
“Why not?” Gaius asked.
“Because they currently have a unifying element,” the ship said.
“Destruction of the Colonies.”
“Revenge,” the ship clarified. “Remove that and the basic social structure will break down rapidly. Given the personality templates there will be an increasing pattern of disruption. I estimate within two years at least one line will be ‘boxed’, most likely the three line, but the eight and the seven lines also have high probabilities.”
“We could stop them now,” Gaius said.
“We need to see how far the pattern extends,” the ship replied.
“We don’t even need to do anything overt,” Gaius pressed. “Use your effectors to plant the suggestion in the hybrid’s link to leave this area of space.”
“Our analysis of the Cylons indicates that altering their outlook to the Colonials requires a significant and fundamental shock. The destruction of the Twelve Colonies is a programmed response. Infiltration and subtle pushes will not work. Your suggestion would create a feedback loop in the program that will infect the Colonials as well. It would accelerate the coming war.”
“You just want to see if the ‘Lords of Kobol’ or the Cylon ‘god’ will make an appearance before the end,” Gaius said. “To find out if whoever started this experiment is still out there.”
“That’s a very low probability,” the ship said. “As Dancing on Pinheads explained to you.”
Gaius shook his head. “Low probability or not, you want the Sublimed to intervene or at least make themselves felt. Your plan for dealing with the Cylons is too overt. You want attention.”
“For what reason?”
“The Sublimed represent one of the few real mysteries left to you. It would explain why we’ve devoted so many resources to this operation.”
“Contact with the Sublimed is not a stated goal of Contact’s mission to either the Colonials or the Cylons.”
“But Special Circumstances is running the operation.”
“Your time with the Colonials has made you quite suspicious Gaius.”
“That was not a denial.”
A/N Only two chapters and the epilogue (if I can ever get it to flow right) left. Next update Friday Afternoon.