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Exodus Into Fire

Chapter Text

“Three … two … one … jump.”

Admiral William Adama had heard those exact words from Dee countless times since the Cylon attack on the colonies, and he sincerely hoped that this would be the last time. If the jump didn’t work, the Colonial Fleet would once again be at odds with the rebel basestar - delaying disaster rather than averting it.

Though he was doing his best to project a calm and in control exterior, the people around him - those who knew him well, at least - could easily see the signs of tension. Laura Roslin, first an adversary and then an ally and a friend (and so much more); his son Lee, a different kind of leader than his old man. Even as he tried to focus on the possibility of finally reaching Earth, his mind kept wandering, jumping over to the revelation that Saul Tigh was a Cylon. Tigh, his closest friend and trusted subordinate; Tigh, who had been by his side through the ups and downs of this whole insane journey.

He felt the familiar sensation of FTL embracing him and then letting him go as the Galactica traveled from once place to another.

“Jump complete.”

His gaze shifted to Felix Gaeta, missing a leg but determined to do his job nonetheless. “DRADIS is - wait, multiple contacts!” Gaeta said. A heartbeat later - “Unknown signatures. They don’t match anything we’ve seen before.”

“How is that possible?” Adama asked. “Never mind. Launch the alert Vipers!” Such as they were. Everything was depleted these days, running on reserves - including himself, including the crew. For a moment, he wished Lee was in uniform. But his son had chosen a different path.

“Tell me when we have a visual,” he ordered, and heard the message being passed to all the Viper pilots.

“Hot Dog here. I don’t have any frakking clue what’s going on, Galactica. There’s all sorts of ships here - but they’re not ours, and they’re not Cylons. Scratch that, some of them look like ours, but some … never seen anything like it before.”

“Hot Dog, are any of them hostile?” Dee asked.

“None of them are shooting right now. The big black ones seem to be focused on the planet.” A long pause. “The others seem to be bugging out, Galactica. I think we jumped into another shit storm.”

“Incoming transmission!” Gaeta said abruptly.

“Can you identify which ship it’s coming from?” Adama asked.

“Negative, sir.”

Adama didn’t like that, but he needed some answers. “Patch it through.”

“Sir.” Gaeta tapped a few keys, and then a woman’s voice came over the speakers.

“Unknown vessels, this is Commander Shepard, SSV Normandy. Earth is under attack, I repeat, Earth is under attack. Advise you to head to the Charon relay and get to the Citadel ASAP.”

A murmur went around the CIC at the mention of ‘Earth’. A few people made loud exclamations of joy, but they soon tapered off. No one, it seemed, knew what to make of the idea that Earth was under attack.

“Sounds human,” Laura said, raising her voice to be heard above the hubbub.

“So do the Cylons,” Adama replied. “Dee, see if you can get some clarification on any of that.”

“Yes, sir,” Dee replied. “SSV Normandy, this is Battlestar Galactica. Who is attacking Earth, and where is the Citadel? Can you send FTL coordinates?”

“FTL?” the woman replied. “You forgot where the relay is? How do you forget a relay?”

Dee looked up, and Adama nodded, giving her permission to continue. “We’ve … never heard of a relay. We need FTL coordinates.”

“Not that it matters,” Lee said, leaning forward to look at his father. “We need time to do the calculations. We’re sitting ducks, and it sounds like there’s something going on that we don’t want to be here for.”

There was a long pause before the person on the other end of the comm replied. “Galactica, you’re not making any damned sense, but if you stay here, you’ll get killed. I’ve got orders to head to Mars. Follow along under engine thrusters. I’ll explain more when we get there. Shepard out.”

“Mars?” Lee asked, a frown on his face.

“Must be another planet in this system,” Adama said. “Dee. Tell the fleet to follow. We need answers, and I don’t like the looks of those big ships.”

“Agreed, sir.” Dee started relaying orders to the rest of the fleet, including the Cylon basestar.

Commander Artemis Shepard, lately reinstated to the Systems Alliance Navy, killed the comm and shook her head. “As if I needed any more complications,” she said to Joker.

“Hey, at least you’re back here,” Joker said. “I was going crazy cooped up here with all those Alliance techs poking over every inch of my ship.”

Shepard grinned. “Missed you too, Joker.”

“What do you suppose that was about, anyway?” Joker asked. “Some lunatic FTL-only group deciding to return to the mother world?”

“If so, they picked the wrong time,” Shepard said with a rueful chuckle. “Can you imagine that? Coming back to Earth only to find it under attack.”

“The fleet is not a uniform one,” EDI said, her holographic image coming to life. Shepard turned to look at the blue ball that was EDI's projection of herself. “There were many different types of vessels. Most are damaged and in need of repair. There are many civilian vessels. The ship that identified itself as the Galactica was one of two large military vessels. The Galactica deployed several fighters as it finished the jump. The other military vessel is packing considerable firepower.” EDI paused. “There was something odd about the other one, Shepard.”

“Odd how, EDI?”

“I am not sure. None of the vessels were familiar, but the Galactica and the civilians are close enough to contemporary vessels that I can make safe extrapolations. The other one … is more like a Reaper.”

“But it was traveling with a bunch of organics,” Shepard said, furrowing her brow.

“It is a mystery I cannot explain.”

“I really don’t have time for this crap,” Shepard groaned. “Have Ash and Vega meet me in the armory.” She paused. “Which is … where these days?”

“Deck Five, Shepard.”

“Thanks, EDI.” As Shepard walked away, she reflected on just how far she and Joker had come from the early days of doubting EDI. Then, she had seen EDI as an annoying and unnecessary watcher from Cerberus. Now, she had no doubt that the AI would have her back, no matter what came at them.

Shepard was struck by a profound sense of nostalgia as she walked out of the elevator onto Deck Five. It was a hell of a lot more like the first Normandy, which made sense given the Alliance retrofits. There was a guy she didn’t recognize behind one of the terminals, and she saw Vega and Ash checking out the armory. She walked over, and Vega saluted. Ash just nodded at her.

“Because today wasn’t exciting enough, we’ve got some unknown vessels tailing us to Mars,” she said. “In the brief conversation I had with someone on one of the vessels, they managed to confuse the hell out of me by saying they had never heard of a relay.”

Vega snorted. “That’s some kind of joke, right?” he said. “How do you not know what a relay is?”

“That’s the question of the day, Lieutenant,” Shepard said wryly. “I have an idea for dealing with them that I wanted to run by the two of you first.”

Ash lifted an eyebrow. “What would that be, Commander?”

I wish she’d call me ‘Skipper’ again. “I’ve seen some really weird stuff since that first run with Nihlus,” Shepard said. “Despite how crazy it seems, I’m inclined to take these people at face value. Somehow, they’re complete newcomers to this corner of the galaxy. EDI gave me a quick analysis of the vessels, and at least one of them is packing enough firepower that even Harbinger might think twice about taking a shot at it. I’ve built my career on working with whoever needs to be worked with.” She shot a quick glance at Ash, who had been so anti-alien at first. Ash nodded, which reassured Shepard. “I’ll take whatever allies I can get. So we need to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. Again, I have an idea -“ she shifted her glance to Vega - “but you may not like it.”