Okay, this is unbeta'd and so if it sucks, that might be why. Or it just might plain suck; I went through three versions and still aren't entirely happy. Sadly, I do need to introduce you to the universe as I've made it, so this chapter and the next have to be history lessons between the Cylons and Colonials. And if this really sucks, who knows, I may rewrite this chapter before I move on.
"Alright, if everyone could take a seat… ladies, your seats each have a piece of paper with your name on it. Try not to mix up your holobands. Your avatars are stored in the bands and so Admiral, unless you want to end up looking like Gina or Kendra…" Helena shook her head, quickly taking the seat marked with her name. Interestingly enough, the six seats were arranged in a circle but rather than grouping the humans together and the Cylons together, the two groups were intermingled: Lucy sat to her left and Lida to her right, with Gina beside Lida, Zoe beside Gina, and then Kendra between Zoe and Lucy. "If you're tired at all, please let me know; falling asleep with the holoband on creates all sorts of problems I don't want to deal with. Nobody? Good. Now, they go on like glasses… which means yes, yours have to come off, Gina… then run your fingers back along the sides to flick the earpieces down and into place."
Helena did as instructed and then leaned back against the very plush chair she was sitting in, feeling very silly as she did her best to peer around the metal and plastic now obstructing her vision. The three Cylons leaned back into their seats with eerie synchronicity before going limp but before Helena could ponder what that meant, the inside of the band lit up with orange and green lights that blinked rapidly… and then she was falling…
…into the room with the Ring of the Gods in it. Or rather, something similar to the Ring of the Gods. But just as the 'Stjarna Dyrr' of the Sleipnir
was different from the one on Caprica, so to was this version. Was each a one of a kind artifact? Rising to her feet, Helena left the others behind as she wandered over to the new version of the Ring of the Gods, reaching out to touch the black metal surface. The segments that composed the inner ring were a completely new design and the symbols that filled them didn't match what had been a common set both displayed digitally on the Stjarna Dyrr and protruding from the stone of the Ring of the Gods. They almost resembled, upon closer inspection, the signal code that the Colonial Fleet used to send messages via a ship's running lights when its wireless equipment failed. Then Helena noticed something else and, feeling a bit cheeky, decided to point it out. "Ours is bigger."
"By slightly more than half a meter in diameter. Big deal. And this isn't 'ours', Helena… can I call you Helena? I hate being official in my own head." Looking back over her shoulder at Zoe, whose gold and black lace outfit had turned into a rather sharp looking black skirt suit, Helena shrugged before nodding. If it got things moving, she'd even let the little brat call her 'Hel'. "Like I said, this isn't ours. You've seen the one we use. Our lesson starts here, though, because in the words of the Sacred Scrolls… all this has happened before and all this will happen again." Approaching the Ring herself, Zoe waved her hand theatrically and a pair of naked people - a man and a woman - appeared inside the Ring, startling Helena and sending her stumbling back a step. "May I introduce the Anquietas, who were the first sentient species in the this galaxy? They look a little familiar, don't they?"
'A bit familiar was an understatement. As Helena moved back to retake her seat, reorienting it towards where Zoe was standing beside the Ring of the Gods and the two nude figures, Kendra voiced her thoughts. "They look exactly like us. Does that mean… are we..?"
Shaking her head, Zoe waved her hand and made the two figures disappear again. "No, you're not the Anquietas. Not quite. Now… you'll have to forgive me because even after centuries of study, the Asgard have only scratched the surface of a computer core they recovered from a former Anquietas outpost. What they do know is that the Anquietas came here from another galaxy. Why? No clue. But they arrived, looking just like you and I, and began settling in this galaxy. And one of the things they did was establish a method of moving instantly between their different colony worlds." Zoe moved to stand inside the Ring, taking the place the two Anquietas had occupied and spreading her arms wide. "The Astria Porta."
A third name for the same device, and the second that didn't sound like any language she was familiar with. Fabulous. Just what she needed: more useless crap clogging up her brain and raising more questions. Helena gestured for Zoe to continue. "No offense, but what do they have to do with us and… you mentioned this needing to happen before an alliance. Why do you suddenly want an alliance? You've ignored us for forty years… you clearly don't need us…"
"Actually, you don't know it yet, but you need us. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Now, for sanity's sake, I'm going to be using a time system that easily synchronizes across a couple of cultures here. The year you guys left Kobol will be called 0 CE… if it makes you feel important, you can think of it as Colonial Era, but it actually stands for Common Era. Before that, the years count backwards and are BCE: Before Common Era. Got it?" Helena nodded. Which made sense; the Cylons had split before the Colonies had unified and created their current timekeeping method, so attempting to synchronize their calendars on a universally known date was a smart move. "Okay. Good. Now, the Anquietas arrived and began settling in this galaxy over fifty million years ago. Our proof - and how the Ring connects to all of this - is the oldest artifact of the Anquietas ever recovered." Zoe walked over and patted the side of the Ring. "This is actually the prototype, rendered for you using a set of plans the Asgard found in their computer. We've never found one of them in the real world. We have, however, found what we think is the first production model on a planet called Terra. It's certainly the oldest, at slightly under fifty million years old." The black metal ring rippled under Zoe's hand, turning into the familiar Ring of the Gods that Helena had seen at the Delphi Museum. "Again, look familiar?"
So the Ring of the Gods wasn't actually a religious artifact of any type, but more of an advanced race's way of creating an interplanetary MAGLEV? Huh. Boy, the groups of scientists and priests who'd been granted alternating periods to study the Ring over the past several decades were going to be upset. There went several years of their lives that they were never getting back. "So if it came with us from Kobol… does that mean Kobol was one of the colonies of these Anquietas?" Wait. If the devices were some sort of interplanetary transportation system, and she'd seen Zoe return from somewhere else by walking through a pair of linked ones… "They all connect to form a network, don't they? And since we have one on Caprica, you could just open it up and walk through, couldn't you?"
Zoe winced. "Let's save your first question for a bit later when my answer might make more sense. As for dialing in to Caprica… yes." Well frak. That would shoot any sort of security effort to hell. They could weave the tightest web of ships imaginable around the planet and the Cylons could just walk in the back door if they were so inclined. "Which should prove that we're not here to fight, shouldn't it? If we wanted Caprica, we'd have it by now."
Yes, 'we could wipe you out at any time but choose not to' was so frakking reassuring. Helena looked over at her two human companions who, at some point, had tugged their chairs to sit in a line next to hers, leaving the two other Cylons behind them. Kendra didn't seem any more comfortable with Zoe's statements while Gina looked… thoughtful. "If I remember Natasi's ramblings right, the… erm, Astria Porta…"
"Stargate." Zoe's words brought Gina to a halt and she shrugged defensively. "I know you have at least two names for yours - Ring of the Gods and Daktýlio to
n in the old tongue - while we took the name our Asgard friends use for theirs - the Stjarna Dyrr - and there are dozens of other names out there across different planets and cultures: Chappa'ai, Portal, Ring of the Gods, Ring of the Ancestors, Circle of Standing Water, Doorway, Stone Ring, Gateway, Annulus, Circle of Darkness… the list goes on. Astria porta, which is what the Anquietas called them, translates roughly to stargate in Colonial Standard. I figured I'd save us all the trouble of tripping over foreign words. Oh, and stargate would be lowercase. Common noun and all. If you give your stargate a fancy name, it becomes a proper noun and all… kinda like how the word 'car' is lower case but different models are capitalized."
Gina mouthed the word a few times before nodding in thanks even as Helena filed away the tidbit about the apparent collective consciousness away. "Anyways, I remember being told that the stargate on Caprica is around ten thousand years old. That puts it at 8,000 BCE by your timeline. Does that mean the Anquietas were still around back then? And if they were, how were they on Kobol without making it into more of the records? We don't have much, but you'd think the Sacred Scrolls would mention a group of humans with incredible technology who lived on Kobol with us."
Looking around nervously, Zoe's eyes suddenly fixed on something over Helena's shoulders and she snapped her fingers. In a flash of white light, she disappeared and Lucy appeared in her place… promptly falling on her ass due to the sudden lack of chair beneath her. Grumbling, she forced herself to her feet. "Coward. Alright, I'll do your dirty work. Kendra, Gina are either of you particularly religious? I didn't see any news about Tauron being destroyed in a rain of fire, so I'm assuming you're still an atheist, Helena…"
"Frak you, toaster."
"Seeing as how I'm not the incest type, Helena, I believe I'll have to pass on that delightful offer. If you're serious and Gina wouldn't mind, I suppose I could mark my genetic profile for sharing and arrange a meeting between you and whatever Cylon decides to take my form..?" Both the idea and the casualness with which Lucy spoke of it made Helena shudder in disgust and she shook her head rapidly. "Didn't think so. Now… you're absolutely right, Gina. The Sacred Scrolls would… and they do. 'And the Arrow of Apollo will open the Tomb of Athena.'
" Her emphasis on the names of the two Lords of Kobol were unmistakable. "You might recognize the names of a few others: Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Ares, Apollo's sister Artemis…"
As Lucy spoke, she slowly created a line of figures with waves of her hand. Each was a perfect match for one of the statues of the Lords of Kobol brought to Caprica from Kobol itself and stored in the Delphi Museum. And each time Lucy moved on to the next figure, the one before it would shift from a traditional form of dress to futuristic-looking, tighter fitting clothes in shades of brown and white. By the time she reached the end of the twelve most prominent Lords of Kobol, Helena couldn't contain herself anymore. "You have got to be frakking kidding me. You expect us to believe that our gods and goddesses are nothing more than… extragalactic aliens with really fancy toys?"
"If you think that's bad, wait until we get closer to the end of the story. It's going to blow your mind." Helena shot a glare back over her shoulder at where Zoe and Lida were nibbling on a bowl full of some unknown substance. "Hey. Eyes front. Professor Cain is lecturing."
Scowling, Helena did as told and gestured for Lucy to continue. The Cylon shaped like her sister just let out a sigh before muttering something about laziness and continuing on with what had been Zoe's lecture. With Zoe's mannerisms and speech patterns, which was just plain creepy on the older and definitely not-Zoe woman. "Now, the next forty million years or so are pretty boring. The Anquietas grew as a people, colonized world after world, discovered new technologies, et cetera, et cetera. Then came the Plague. We're still not quite sure where it came from or exactly what it was, but it was deadly. And as it spread through their people, after all attempts to cure the Plague or even slow it down failed, the Anquietas essentially split into two groups. One group managed to undergo a process called 'ascension' and become energy-based life forms. The other, those who had yet to become infected, gathered in a massive vessel they called Atlantus
and launched themselves into space before leaving our very galaxy behind. Then the last of the corporeal Anquietas activated a device that destroyed all organic life in our galaxy before recreating it in a pure, uninfected state… and the cycle began anew. Having mastered genetics to a degree we can only dream of, the Anquietas used the device to create what would eventually become the second evolution of humanity on Terra, a process their wandering brothers repeated on several planets in the Pegasus Galaxy. In other words, they created us."
Almost as one, all three humans voiced the same thought. "Humanity came from Kobol."
Behind them, it was evidently Lida's turn to be the one with the snide interjection. "And your 'lords' aren't actually aliens with 'really fancy toys'. Besides, don't you know the very first words of the Sacred Scrolls? 'Life here began out there.'
Like I said, your ancestors knew. You've just forgotten."
Lucy waved her hand, dismissing the images of the twelve Lords in their futuristic clothing. When she began speaking again, she sounded like herself once more. "I can't make you believe anything, of course; free will is one of humanity's defining characteristics. But the Asgard have been discreetly visiting Terra for years, while the Cylons have been working on Kobol for just over forty years now, first with the Thirteenth Tribe and now with the Asgard. Terra has fossil evidence of modern humans dating back to 195,000 BCE. Kobol's oldest fossils - if you can call digging up a graveyard that - date back to about 8,000 BCE. Gina… I can see it on your face. You know what happened."
The Thirteenth Tribe. That was the second time Lucy had mentioned them in connection to the Cylons; they had also been the reason she'd survived being captured by the Centurions on Tauron. Did she ask for more information about that or… no, if they were part of Cylon history, they'd be in this history lesson at some point. For now, she wanted to focus on the fact that her lover was supposedly buying into all this. Turning to look at the blonde, Helena stared at her incredulously. "You can't possibly think this is true. I know you're always in favor of a scientific explanation, but… I'm sorry, don't aliens from another galaxy sound more like bad fiction than a reasonable explanation?"
"Well I'm not saying I believe her outright, Helena; I'd need to see actual hard proof that backs up what she's saying. I'm just trying to keep an open mind because… well, it does make a lot of sense." Helena continued to stare at her incredulously and Gina just shrugged defensively. "What? The Sacred Scrolls say that life came from another planet. We have an artifact from Kobol - our oldest artifact - that's ten thousand years old. The oldest human remains the Cylons can find are ten thousand years old. And that ten thousand year old artifact is an interstellar gateway. So… somehow, a small group of Anquietas survived their plague, created a gate on Kobol, and moved some humans from this 'Terra' place to Kobol. And if the Anquietas had the power to turn into energy beings like Zoe says… the idea of our ancestors seeing them as gods or even just them surviving from then till the exodus is hardly impossible to believe."
Coughing lightly into her hand, Lucy drew their attention back to her. "Actually, we do have some proof we can show you. The Sleipnir
is a 'battlestar' in name only; our fleet has only a handful of dedicated warships, with the rest of the ships being similar to the Sleipnir
in that they're multi-purpose with an emphasis on exploration. We were on our way from Kobol to Valhalla with a new collection of Anquietas technology to be studied when we were diverted to investigate the battlestar group deploying along the border. It might take us a bit longer to find some human remains we could turn over to your scientists for testing so you can verify they are as old as we say they are, but we can take you down to the cargo hold and prove the Anquietas existed. Who knows, we might even be able to prove that the blood of the 'gods' flows through the veins of you or one of your crewmen." After a second, her serious expression cracked and she chuckled. "Actually, we scanned your crew when we first arrived and I know it does for a fact. I just thought I'd try my hand at being mysterious and foreboding."
Helena stared at Lucy as she contemplated the offer; it felt undeniably like she was being baited and led towards something the Cylons wanted instead of them being willing to satisfy a curiosity of theirs… but if they were willing to try and back up their outrageous claims, who was she to turn them down? Granted the supposed 'Anquietas technology' could be of Cylon manufacture, or belong to these Asgard that the Cylons had allied themselves with, but she supposed she could at least allow them to present it to her before dismissing it. "Fine. Let's see this proof of yours. How the frak do we get out of here?"
At least they'd been courteous enough to contact the CIC and warn Colonel Belzen - and indirectly her - before they'd transported her from the Pegasus
to the Sleipnir
, Annika mused as she followed her guide down the hallway. After moving to stand in the middle of the CIC as directed, she'd been transported aboard the Sleipnir
in a flash of white light and met by a woman named Skye, whose voice she recognized as the Brunhilde who'd taken Kendra out in a Raider earlier. The two had discussed piloting and the unique neural interface system the Cylons used aboard their ships, both capital and fighter, as Skye had escorted her through the battlestar's curiously featureless hallways towards their destination. And as they entered a massive cargo hold, a familiar and very irritated voice reached Annika's ears. "…how do we know you're not messing with it? I've seen you control your stargate with your mind or your hand or… something."
"We're supposedly trying to prove that the Lords of Kobol were really the same aliens who made this technology and that they bred into your people." The brunette woman that the admiral had referred to as 'Lucy' during the Cylon party's arrival in the CIC pointed at the object they were all gathered around. "Why would we keep it from reacting? Wouldn't we make it turn on for all of you? You know, false positives?"
The admiral just shrugged, her arms crossed over her chest as she scowled at Lucy. "How would I know? I'm not a toaster; I don't pretend to understand how your minds work."
Groaning, Lucy rubbed her forehead with one hand before looking over and spotting Annika and her escort. "Ahh. The woman of the hour. Skye, you can go back to what you were doing." Skye gave Annika a pat on the back before wandering off and Lucy beckoned for the blonde to approach. "I had Zoe summon you because so far, your admiral, Lieutenant Shaw, and Miss Inviere have all failed a very simple test: sitting in a chair."
"Oh?" Annika eyed the trio of humans curiously; Lucy's words had caused the admiral's scowl to spread to her companions. As she drew closer, she spotted the chair in question: it was a rather odd-looking combination of grey stone, silvery metal that seemed to flow almost organically, and some sort of dark blue material that reminded her of the pendant that the admiral had given her back when they were simply Helena and Annika, rather than commanding officer and subordinate. The entire thing was mounted on a two-tiered hexagonal platform made of darker grey stone, the surface broken up in dozens of places by a dark blue material in all sorts of shapes. "So all you wish for me to do is sit in this chair, and then I can return to my duties?" Lucy and the two other Cylons nodded in perfect synchronicity. "Very well."
And so she sat down.
Annika barely had time to register the dark blue segments of the platform lighting up in multiple shades of lighter blue and white before she was tipped back, her hands automatically seeking out the chair's armrests as the back reclined. The chair came to rest at a forty-five degree angle, her feet almost level with her hips as she balanced them atop the footrest that had extended. There was utter silence for a moment and then someone leaned over her: the platinum blonde woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to the woman currently sharing Helena's bed. "Just looking at her… anyone want to bet she's of Aphrodite's bloodline?"
Another face appeared over her: the Zoe Graystone look-a-like. "Funny, Lida. Okay, Lieutenant… I want you to think about the space surrounding us. Want to know more about it. The ships of your battlestar group, the Sleipnir
, Raptors, CAP Vipers, everything…"
With barely a thought, what could only be a hologram of some sort burst to life above her. Every single ship was rendered in incredible detail, from the Sleipnir
, to the larger Pegasus
and its companion battlestars and support ships, to the Mark VII Vipers flying CAP around each ship, to the few Raptors still floating in space to plug the gaps between the capital ships. Annika blinked. "…intriguing."