Phoenix Rising - Part 1, Act 3
By C. Demetrius Morgan
From the Aella Chronicle
As adults it falls to us to teach the young. For children are born empty slates, thus they can be forgiven their youthful folly. Alas folly in an adult too often is perceived as stupidity, and stupidity unchecked becomes recklessness. As children of Kobol our ancestors, who crossed that vast void of space to settle the 12 Worlds, acted as children so often do when out of sight of their parents. So it was that, for a time and a season, our ancestors forgot who they had been. Those wondrous technologies of legend were laid down or forgotten, the colonies went their own ways until, over the course of time, all contact was lost.
We may wonder why and how, alas, after a thousand yahrens of unrelenting warfare, the colonies once more had been treading upon that same dangerous path toward isolation. We wanted to be left alone, to live our lives without being bothered, alas it was not to be. Had we but looked to our own history perhaps events would have unfolded differently.
Each of the 12 worlds recorded the return to space slightly differently, for it was not entirely a peaceful affair. We were, and ever have been, a prideful race. If our ancestors were able to do it then, so the logic followed, so too must we. But it wasn't until the colonies put aside their differences and came together, sharing fragments of ancient data, freely sharing our similar yet divergent histories; only then did colonial science and technology truly began to excel and evolve. It was together, as a single Colonial nation, not twelve individual planet-bound 'tribes', that we routed the Cylons when they first dared attack our worlds. Alas, even after a thousand yahrens of shared conflict against a malevolent alien foe, the ancient divisions remained beneath the surface.
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ACT III - DELOS
"Alright people," Talbot began, "Soon as we get the green light from Delos control let's make this quick and as painless as possible. We all have Armistice celebrations to attend but fuel needs to be loaded and before we can do that we need to dock and disembark the passengers."
"Sounds like you have plans, captain." Sestina teased.
She knew full well that Talbot had spent more cubits than was in his comfort zone for a special Armistice costume, not that he'd let anyone see it, then again for his roguish affectations Talbot was a great big daggit. Of course there'd been some speculation amongst the crew who the lucky lady was.
"As a matter of fact," Talbot replied, "I do. First, and foremost, is seeing that this ship docks without incident."
Chuckling, "So will you be going to Caprica City or- ?"
"And waste perfectly good cubits on a skybus? Hardly. I will be attending the festivities at Planet Leisuron."
Talbot left out how he'd come to that decision after seeing how much his Armistice costume was going to cost. But if all worked out the way he hope with his paramour, well, then it would be worth every cubit.
"Nice place. Bit swanky for my tastes though." Brackett noted.
"Bet that cost a few cubits," Sestina commented, "hope it's worth it."
"She is," Talbot, momentarily distracted by new data on his board, murmured.
"Looks like we've got green lights all across the board from Delos." Bracket announced.
"She's ready for docking. Waiting your orders, captain."
"Let's take her in then."
* * *
Niobe entered the small Phoenix lounge and did not like what she saw. Tychon and Egg were hefting frosted mugs and, judging by the expressions on their faces, it was probably of something better than the usual grog they got back home. She only hoped it wasn't their first round because they weren't going to enjoy another sip. Sometimes life was an unfair bitch; today that job fell to her.
"I thought I told you two to get to quarters," Niobe said as she took the mug from Egg's hand.
"Ma'am?" Tychon inquired with innocent puppy daggit eyes.
"Don't ma'am me," her eyes cut through Ty's light buzz like lasers through paper, "you know you've both got duties to attend on Delos that require a clear head. This isn't a dog run. No time for playing, boys.
"There'll be plenty of time for," she punctuated her remark by lifting the mug to her nose, "ambrosia later. And I'd suggest you stay away from the socialators."
"Socialators?" Egg's mouth actually dropped open.
"E-T-A to Delos station dock 10 centons," a voice chimed in over the intercom.
Niobe's stern retort and unflinching glare left no room for misinterpretation.
"Ma'am," the ensigns said together as they turned heel and made haste toward the door.
"Bit harsh, don't you think?"
Niobe turned at the sound of the sweet, yet gratingly intrusive, voice. A lovely young blonde woman stood by the bar, empty glass in hand. Yet despite her charmingly disarming smile and the sparkle of laughter dancing in her piercing azure eyes Niobe's warning klaxon was ringing red alert.
* * *
"We have a problem." Sestina announced in her familiar no nonsense tone.
"Oh?" Talbot inquired.
"Looks like the port stabilizer's malfunctioning again."
"Ignore the red light," Brackett injected, "It's a minor problem with the internal sensors. Nothing a bit of station maintenance can't fix."
"I'm not made of cubits, you know." Talbot cautioned.
"Be that as it may, sir," Sestina replied, "I'd feel better if we got it looked at. I don't like seeing red lights on my board."
"Point taken. Might as well mention that when Delos control contacts us. And don't forget to tell them about the Demeter."
Rolling her eyes, "Not that there's much to tell."
"I have a feeling, call it a hunch, that there's more to the Demeter than meets the eye."
"I don't know," Brackett countered, "she didn't look like much, Cap'n, but according to the sensors she really was as beat up as she appeared."
"So does half the outlaw traffic out there. Looks can be deceiving, and sensors fooled."
"If anyone knows about being deceiving," Sestina muttered.
"What was that, first officer?"
"Nothing, sir, nothing."
'Youth today,' Talbot thought as he shook his head in mock disdain.
* * *
The first thing visitors to Delos noticed was choreographed chaos. It was a dance between checking baggage through station security, keeping out of the way of embarking and disembarking visitors, logging in, and dodging yet more people to find which terminal was the right egress to the level assigned each visitor; or at least to where it was they wanted to go. To Creusa, as steward aboard the Phoenix, he was all too happy to get the passengers into that stream of chaos as quickly as possible.
"Safe Journey and Happy Armistice," Creusa said with a formal bow as the group of Socialators approached to disembark.
"Thank you," the tall blonde said with a polite, if less formal, curtsey.
"It's been a pleasure," Creusa replied.
"Not quite, but then there's always the return trip."
Creusa actually found himself blushing at that mild jovial retort. There was something about the tall blonde. She exuding a charm and charisma that went beyond the usual practiced elegance most Socialators affected.
"Behave yourself," Calybe chided.
"Always," Cassiopeia winked conspiratorially at Creusa.
Creusa's eyes lingered on the blonde after she left just the barest of moments longer than decorum allowed and, not for the first time this trip, he entertained thoughts about how things might have been if he were but a few yahrens younger. It was a nice flight of fantasy, one he'd like to contemplate in depth, but he had other passengers to attend to.
* * *
Delos wasn't just a space station in geo synchronous orbit above Caprica. It was the space station. It hung in space amidst smaller fueling and warehousing platforms like a majestic leviathan around which starships glided like minnows. Its eateries were renowned throughout the colonies for, it was said, there was not a colonial dish, no matter how exotic or obscure, that could not be had there. Delos was a hub of activity with separate and distinct levels operated and maintained by delegations and personnel from each of the 12 Worlds.
The first thing Egg noticed about Delos was the smell. That there was one wasn't unusual. Most space stations, and vessels, had a scent of sterility covered up by a slight charcoal-like smell caused by the apparatus used to filter out body odor and other less than hygienic fragrances. Not Delos. The first breath of Delos air through his nostrils smelled vaguely of a damp spring meadow with a hint of something floral.
"Smell that!" he exclaimed.
"What?" Tychon asked.
"The air," Egg punctuated his remark by taking a deep audible breath.
"Probably just some scent a pompous Siress had her attendants spray."
Egg turned to glare at Tychon, but found him already busy leering at a group of young female greeters standing near a Scorpia Cooler dispenser. How anyone could stomach that bottled swill was beyond him. Flavored sweet water was all it really was and-
"You both know where you need to be," Niobe framed her question as a statement of fact.
"Yes, cousin." Egg blushed at the slip of the tongue.
Smiling, "Big place. Lot's to see. You sure you two boys will be alright?"
Egg visibly blanched at the jibe but Tychon just turned, his most endearing smile plastered on his youthfully smug face, and nodded affirmative.
"Of course, ma'am."
"Co- I mean, yes, Ma'am!"
"And no dawdling for ambrosia or scorpia coolers this time," she yelled after the departing pair but she doubted they heard her.
* * *
Talbot watched the fuel readouts nervously as the Phoenix eased out of the main docking area. There was a lot of civilian traffic waiting to dock; mostly skybuses, and he didn't trust the maneuvering thrusters or piloting skills of the operators of those smaller craft.
"Let's try not to burn up anymore of our fuel getting to the fueling port than we need to," Talbot admonished to no one in particular.
Sestina bit her tongue from pointing out, as she had on many other occasions, that worrying about wasting fuel while maneuvering in space dock made about as much sense as worrying about a leaky airlock when a ship's been exposed to vacuum.
Instead she said, "Lights are all green. Fuel consumption is nominal."
"Good. Let's keep it that way."
Talbot got up, "Sestina take over. I've got just enough time to get into that fool suit I bought and prep the shuttle."
"You're going to pilot her yourself?" Brackett asked incredulously.
"Any reason I shouldn't? You did say she's-"
"Oh, yes, she's fine. Just a problem with a faulty coil."
"Alright then. The big seat is yours Sestina"
And with that Talbot Chabrol left the bridge.
* * *
Niobe wasted little time logging in and was soon entering the main dance floor of an establishment not quite as swanky as Planet Leisuron yet it was a hive of activity. She entered with a group of handsomely attired colonial warriors in freshly creased new uniforms, none of whom she knew, but what drew most eyes their way was wasn't her company or their smart new uniforms but rather what she was wearing. She wore a dress uniform, which was just as new, yet it was like something out of a HD play from the beginning of the thousand-yahren war. However on her it was elegant simplicity. Her silken dress tunic was tightly formed to display the most flattering aspects of her shape, even where it tapered into a pleated peplum almost-skirt.
Alas her uniform was also, to some eyes, archaic. Many whispered remarks were made, some none too discreetly, about Gemonese intractability about moving forward into the modern age. It was all Niobe could do to kept from biting her tongue off while attempting not to voice the venomous counter remarks she'd like to make.
'Some people,' she thought. This was supposed to be a celebration. Some people just couldn't let outmoded stereotypes go.
"Nice dress uniform, Niobe."
Niobe turned, a biting retort ready to launch from her lips like a Viper into battle.
"It was Niobe, wasn't it?"
"Uhm, yes. ."
Niobe nervously straightened an imaginary crease as she tilted her head to hide a blush.
"You were one of the, uhm, women aboard the Phoenix, right?"
"It's a classic pattern," Niobe found herself suddenly blurting, " Never been officially retired."
"And you wear it well. You look like you could go straight from the dance floor into the cockpit of a Viper."
"Starhound," she corrected absentmindedly.
"Starhound? That like a Viper?"
"Not exactly. It's an older model fighter that used to be in regular service close to a hundred yahrens ago. There probably aren't many left in service with line fleet units but some bases and outposts still use them and, of course, they make great trainers."
Niobe knew she was blathering but she was earnestly embarrassed. Living on Gemoni one can become insulated to trends, especially those concerning fashion, and she did ask for a simple classical dress uniform. It was her right after all, not that most Warriors bothered anymore, what with the cost. But it wasn't merely that she could afford it. The standard dress uniform she was issued never quite fit right.
"Oh? Why's that?"
Niobe looked up with a start, she was so nervous she'd almost forgotten Aella was there.
"Why's, oh, because their basic flight characteristics aren't too dissimilar from that of Viper models currently in active fleet service."
"If they're so similar to Vipers why aren't they still in use?"
"It's complicated. For starters if you saw one they would look similar to a Viper but with the cockpit moved further up the fuselage to make room for a oversized top thruster/engine, larger pulse canons, yet neither of them are as powerful what's mounted on Vipers today."
"Can't you just put new engines and pulsars in them?"
"That's part of the problem. Starhounds only have two wings. They're slightly larger than the wings on a Viper and swept forward with inset ailerons, uhm, stabilizer fins that flip up when the fighter is in planetary flight mode."
"What does that have to do with engines and pulsars?"
Aella smiled warmly. She realized the young warrior was babbling out of nervousness and decided to put her training to use and help her feel more at ease. It seemed the right thing to do.
"It's something about weigh ratios. The engines in a modern viper are proportionally half to a third the size and, thanks to advances in poly composites, weigh a lot less than the same sized engines we made even a hundred yahrens ago. And that doesn't even take into account compatibly issues with the power planets. To get new hardware into those old war daggits would require a total rebuild and. ."
"And there's no point to do that since you've got Vipers."
Aella noted that Niobe was smiling just as warmly now and seemed to no longer seem as ill at ease in her own skin as she did a few moments ago.
"Good," Aella said, "Now how about we find some refreshment?"
The few lingering looks that followed the women were for entirely different reasons. And had either woman been aware of the lewd speculation behind some of them a few of the individual may have spent the remainder of the Armistice in a life station pondering quite different matters.
* * *
(To be continued in: Galactica Saga: Phoenix Rising - Part 1, Act 4)
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Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan