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The diplomatic spaceship emerged from its Jump with a momentary flash of light. Its prior inertia carried it like a boat on a river toward its destination. The only propulsion required was braking thrust.
The spidery space station hung silent in the darkness, billions of miles from the nearest inhabited world. A row of navigational marker lights winked along its vertical spine, barely illuminating its outline. The approaching spaceship, an ungainly white transport, pierced the darkness with tiny flares of its maneuvering jets as it slowed. Nearing the docking section, it rotated and pitched upward to align itself with the station. Practice made the intricate ballet of the docking maneuver seem casual; the pilots had performed it so many times it was an automatic movement, like a hand slipping into a glove.
The thrusters brought the ship to a halt a hundred meters from the station. A telescoping passagewayemerged from the side of the station's docking port and stretched out, crossing the gap with a single gliding movement. It drew up into place against the ship's airlock, and with a series of thunks, the mag-locks made it fast.
Another scheduled meeting was about to begin. In theory.
The intercom crackled to life, and the pilot's voice filled the departure lock. "Colonel Wakefield, we are docked. You may enter Armistice Station at your discretion. If you need anything, we'll be here. I hope you don't get too lonely over there."
The colonel pressed the TALK button on the intercom. "Don't worry about me, Captain. I'm used to it by now. I'll be back soon enough, no doubt with nothing to show for it." With the sigh of someone who had done this job many times already, he drew himself up straight and stepped to the airlock hatch. The latch mechanism stuck for a moment, then swung open, revealing the interior of the passageway. Picking up his briefcase, the colonel stepped across the threshold and began the long, deliberate walk down the passageway and into the station's interior.
There was an unavoidable grimness to the job, but he vowed not to give in to a sense of futility. If the Cylons did not show up--and he fully expected that they would not--he would not let that reflect on his own performance.
His footsteps echoed in the silence of the station as he left the passageway and airlock and passed through the long corridor leading to the meeting chamber. He shivered a little, and wrinkled his nose at the musty smell of the place. There was dust in the air--the filters must be in need of replacement--and a patina of grime everywhere. The maintenance robots must bebreaking down, he thought. They were Cylon-built machines, of course--humans no longer had robots--but really, the wonder was that they still functioned at all. He doubted they'd been serviced since the station was built. What did that say about the endurance of the Cylon technology? The thought caused him a little shudder, which he did not allow to the surface.
Only once a year was there any official activity in the station. And that activity consisted of the colonel arriving, waiting three days for his Cylon counterpart to show up, and then leaving. Not once in the last thirty-nine years had a Cylon representative appeared, to meet with him or with any other member of the Colonial delegation. The colonel often wondered why they bothered. But he knew the reason: Even if the Cylons did not honor their commitment to the armistice terms, at least the Colonials were keeping up their end of the agreement. And how else could they maintain vigilance, since they did not even know in what direction to look for the Cylon world, or even if it really existed?
The colonel came to the massive closed doors of the meeting chamber and pulled them open. The sound reverberated in the room as the doors slammed closed behind him. He strode forward, heels clicking on the broad-tiled deck. The chamber was itself practically a hallway--long, widening slightly toward the center, with outward-canted walls and steel support beams arcing low across the room in closely spaced rows. It was a spare space, devoid of decoration or color, lit along the edges of the floor and by widely spaced ceiling lights. Its very shape seemed to suggest the meeting of adversaries: long, to permit ample time to view the approaching opposite, and barren, as if to deny any possibility of emotion or warmth.
A narrow table stretched most of the way across the center of the room, a single chair on either side. TheColonial flag hung at rest on its pole at the left end of the table; there was no flag for the Cylons. The colonel sat down in the chair and snapped open his briefcase. With efficient care, he removed two framed photos from the briefcase--one of his son, and one of his wife--and placed them at his left hand on the table. He gazed at them for a moment, allowing himself the reminder of home, of what he was here to protect--before firmly assuming again an attitude of detachment. Then he took out a sheaf of papers and began leafing through them: briefing documents on the Cylons, as they had last been seen, forty years ago. He knew the documents by heart, but he reviewed them nevertheless, with the steady weariness of someone who has done the same thing over and over, year after year, for a very long time.
Nothing had changed, he thought, except him. A year older, a year closer to retirement, a year wearier of this charade. The Cylons would never come. For all he knew, for all anyone knew, they were extinct. Maybe they had turned on each other and annihilated their entire mechanical civilization. Wouldn't that be justice. Or maybe they had set off across the galaxy in search of new realms to conquer. But how would the Colonials ever know? When the robots departed the star system forty years ago, they hadn't left a forwarding address.
The colonel sighed and closed his eyes, resting his head against the seat back. It was silent here, but he was used to the silence. It was restful, in a way. Later, when the wait got to be too long, he would catch up on some reading. Or return to the transport ship for rest and relaxation. But for now, he would just sit here as a representative of his worlds, and soak in the solitude.
It wasn't long before he caught himself nodding off, and he drew himself up with a deep breath. It wouldn't do to nap. He was on watch--even if he was here as adiplomat, and even if he passed the three days alone.
He glanced at the photos of his wife and son, and then looked over the Cylon briefing sheets once more. After a few minutes more, he closed his eyes again.
He jerked awake. Maybe he was getting old. It used to be he could stay alert on marathon watches with the best of them. He blinked and stretched his mouth in a yawn, shifted uncomfortably in the chair. Gradually, he closed his eyes once more. And began to dream of a place, more than a light-year behind him, where the sun streamed down onto a beach on Caprica, where he and his wife, both younger then, had played with their two-year-old son. That had been a happier time, perhaps the happiest of his life. That was before the stresses of parenthood, and those of the military and diplomatic life, had combined to take their toll.
He loved his wife and his son, of course. But still, there were times in his dreams when ...
The colonel started awake again. What was that?
He jerked up straight. The doors in front of him, at the Cylon end of the hall, were swinging open, splitting to reveal a blaze of light. Sweet Lords of Kobol. It couldn't be ...
The sounds of footsteps were soft, but unmistakably metal on tile. Two huge chrome robots marched in through the open doors, then stepped to either side as guards. Cylon Centurions. Modified, but clearly recognizable. The colonel blinked, every sense afire now. The robots raised their arms, which appeared to end with the barrels of built-in weapons; the weapons folded back suddenly, revealing long, talonlike fingers that flipped forward to form something like hands.
The colonel stared at them, pulling momentarily at his collar before catching himself. The robots stood utterlyimpassive. Each had a single crimson eye that slid back and forth across the angular brow, scanning, scanning.
Something else was coming; the colonel could hear the footsteps. Another robot, he assumed. The two standing guard did not move an inch. The colonel licked his lips nervously, waiting.
A shadow moved in the light, a figure coming toward him. Walking. Emerging from the light ...
It was a blonde woman, dressed in a crimson jacket and skirt, and elegant boots that came nearly to her knees. She was stunningly beautiful. She walked toward him with a precise, confident stride, one foot in front of the other. The closer she came, the more unnervingly beautiful she looked. She exuded sensuality. Her hair fell in loose waves and curls to her shoulders; her figure was riveting, her eyes sharp and probing. He drew a hoarse breath, only half-believing what he was seeing. But what he was thinking was, A hostage of some kind. They're releasing a hostage.
But why? Why would they do that? And why now?
The woman walked directly to the table, then came around the end, without a word. She leaned against the edge of the table, directly in front of him. Can't get much more direct than that. She might as well have been in his lap. His heart began pounding.
On her face was a hint of a smile, rather pensive. She cocked her head and listened, or perhaps was waiting for the colonel to say something. She leaned forward, bringing her face close to his. And she spoke the first words the colonel had heard since leaving his ship. In a low, sultry voice, she asked, "Are you alive?"
The words went through him like electricity. He stammered, trying to reply, and finally managed, "Yes."
One hand on his shoulder now, she leaned closer still. He could feel her breath, warm and sweet on hisface. So beautiful, so ... Before he could complete the thought, she said, just a little more forcefully, "Prove it." And then, in an exquisite torture of slow motion, she moved her hand to the back of his neck, drew him to her and kissed him.
Kissed him. But why?
His mind went utterly blank, then returned with an awareness only of this moment. There was a power in this kiss, almost a supernatural power, that made other thoughts and cares flee. Her lips were afire with passion; they worked to discover the exact shape of his lips. Her breath was hot on him now. Lust, awakened from a deep slumber, began to flare to life in him. He returned the kiss now, answering passion with passion. Her grip tightened on the back of his neck. All thought of his mission fled, all thought of his wife ... .
In the deep, deep darkness surrounding the station and its docked spacecraft, another ship was moving. It was immense, and shaped something like two sea stars joined face to face, kissing, their arms twisted at odd angles. It was, unmistakably, a Cylon base star. Beside it, the Colonial ship and the station looked like tiny plastic toys. It was now moving away from the station, gaining a little distance--but not too much--before a single white point of light streaked out from somewhere within it, and began to turn in a graceful curve around the extensions of the base star's arms. Then the light whipped back inward, toward the little space station.
As it struck the station, there was a blinding flash ... .
The colonel felt the deck shudder beneath him, as the kisses came more and more urgently. It was almost asthough she were trying to draw something out of him, some passion no human had ever touched before. Something terrible was happening--of that he was certain--but his mind was too fogged by her raw, commanding sexuality to focus and comprehend. And not just her sexuality, but a feeling that she was touching him in some inexplicably deep way, drawing from him emotions he could never express. Another shudder shook the room harder than before, and he tried to break from her kiss. For a fraction of an instant she smiled, a bit sadly and sweetly perhaps, and with a probing gaze, murmured, "It has begun."
He struggled to pull free, but there was an inhuman strength in the hand pulling him back toward her lips. Her mouth met his again as the papers on the table began to flutter and fly away. As she breathed in his mouth, he felt all the air rushing from the chamber. If he did not break free and get to a safe place, he would die.
The third and final shudder jarred his senses, but only for an instant--before he, the woman, and the entire space station exploded in a ball of fire and hull-metal shrapnel.
In the silence of deep space, there was no sound of the explosion. No human still living was close enough to see the flash of the fireball. And no warning signal was ever sent.
Its single, simple mission concluded, the Cylon ship quickly moved away and vanished back into the darkness of the interstellar void.
Copyright © 2006 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. Battlestar Galactica © USA Cable Entertainment LLC. Licensed by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP. Teaser copyright © 2006 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP.