Joined: 12 Jul 2006
|Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:36 am Post subject: VS #7-"The Derelict" (Chapter 7)
The instant the lights went out, Apollo knew he had to quickly remember where the hatch was, and keep his hands extended where he'd anticipated it would be. One endless micron passed and he felt his left hand grab the edge of the opening, but he could feel his right hand bang against the side of the shaft, sending a wave of pain through him that he knew made his hold on the ledge totally precarious.
"Apollo!" he heard Sheba's voice cry out from across.
"I'm okay, I've.....got hold of the ledge!" Apollo managed to shout back, and then he let out a grunt of pain.
"Apollo, are you okay?" there was no mistaking the fear in her voice.
"Just my damned right hand.....I," he grunted, "Can't get enough leverage to pull myself in!"
"Hang on!" Sheba cried, "Colonel, what can we do?"
"I wish I knew," Delambre felt a sick air of defeat coming into his voice. He had seen so many others before fail so much earlier than this, but to see these people on the brink of success left him with the most hollow feeling he'd ever known in his five centuries of captivity. "But he's got to pull himself in by himself."
"Just give me a centon," Apollo took a breath, but already he was feeling the strain building up in his left arm. Slowly, he lifted his right arm up to get another hold on the ledge, but the pain was making it hard to lift. "I----,"
"Apollo, don't let go!"
There were too many things happening for Apollo to get his mind back at an even keel. The time he needed to catch his breath and collect his strength was putting an increasingly painful strain on his left arm, and he still didn't feel as if his right arm could handle the attempt to grab hold of the ledge.
"Oh my God," Delambre whispered. "Look."
Both Sheba and Delambre could see several of the winged beasts flying up from the darkened shaft and coming alongside the spot where they knew Apollo was hanging on for dear life. Two on each side seemed to hover, their mouths open.
"Acid," Delambre whispered, "He's totally vulnerable. That stuff hits him, and then his will will eventually collapse."
"No," Sheba whispered, "Please, no."
Suddenly, a loud laugh filled the giant Central Hub. And then, Sheba heard that voice she had managed to defiantly stand up to just centons before.
"Well, my princess, what do you think of this new predicament? Your lover is trapped, surrounded by my minions who could enslave his soul in an instant, and you have no way of escape."
"Sheba, whatever you do, don't listen to him!" Apollo called out sternly, "My life doesn't matter next to yours."
In the dark that was only pierced by the red glow of the demons, Sheba found herself looking up angrily, "Show yourself. No more games, show yourself!"
Abruptly, the lift apparatus roof was illuminated so that Sheba could see Delambre standing next to her, and three paces in front of her, the robed figure of Count Iblis.
"Still defiant and challenging," he said with admiration, "This newfound strength does wonders for your personality. You are truly your father's daughter."
"Don't bother making me an offer, Iblis," Sheba showed only hate in her voice. "Whatever it is, I refuse."
"Yes!" Apollo called over, feeling the strain increase, but now he finally managed to plant his right hand on the ledge. "And that goes for me too! You have no power to command anyone who refuses to follow you, and no power to take their lives away!"
"Of course!" Iblis said mockingly. "Colonel Delambre is living proof of that. But as he knows, I have the power to keep you both alive in this vessel for eternity where the price for not following me is never-ending terror and fear. That is what I do to those who think they can take satisfaction in refusing to follow me."
"But only in places like this, right Iblis? Not away from here, though. That's when you have to watch yourself lest those who keep their eye on you step in to enforce the rules even you are bound by!" Apollo knew he had to keep talking to prevent the terror from infiltrating him.
"This is my dominion," Iblis said, "Where you chose to enter of your own free will to satisfy your curiosity. But that curiosity is your undoing unto eternity." He paused, "Unless of course, dear Sheba, you choose to provide a more hopeful outcome for the one you care so much about. Even more than you care about your own father."
"You will not make me waver," Sheba said, "Not even with your demonic acid. I can't be afraid of someone I've faced down before, no matter what he throws at me again. If you want to consign us to Colonel Delambre's fate, then go right ahead because we'll just keep trying again to find another way out even if it takes us five hundred yahrens like it has for him."
"Yes!" Delambre suddenly shouted, "Yes, and I will help them! And I will gain strength from the fact that for the first time in five hundred yahrens, I am truly not alone." He then turned away from Iblis toward the chasm, "Captain, if you let go you will not die because Iblis can only condemn you to my fate, and you know he can not harm me physically aboard this ship!"
Apollo suddenly in a flash felt all his strength come back. "Of course," he said aloud as it hit him, "Of course! If I let go, you have to save my life because like last time you can not take the life of one who has not freely given himself to you! That means I can let go of this ledge and plunge to the bottom of this shaft and I'll be able to try again, and because I know the way out, I know it's only a matter of time before I'd succeed, and we all find a way out!"
"Yes!" Sheba joined in, "You are ultimately powerless to stop us! We know the way out, and we won't bend no matter how much your demons jump out at us or try to use acid on us. We will not let it weaken us! We are strong, and you are weak!"
"What's it going to be, Iblis?" Apollo could now feel the strength to start vaulting himself up into the ledge, "Do you let us go now and plot a new strategy for another day, or do you just bore yourself by having us come back and try again and again until we inevitably make it out?"
"Or do you risk the wrath of those who even you fear by destroying our lives without our giving in?" Sheba taunted. "We have seen their power, and we have seen you cower before them."
The smile was gone from Iblis's face, replaced by an angry scowl. But both Sheba and Delambre recognized it as the expression of one who had been backed into a corner he couldn't argue his way out of.
"Go," he said contemptuously, "Return to your miserable lives for which you will not have as much time to enjoy as you think. There shall still be another time and place of my choosing when I decree it."
He then waved his arm and then in the blink of an eye was gone.
The lights suddenly came back on, and again the demons that had moved so perilously close became frozen and immobile. Sheba and Delambre looked across and could see Apollo grunting as he finally lifted himself inside the opening.
"I'm in!" Apollo exclaimed, "Okay, get ready." he then removed his jacket, "I'll use this to pull you in if you need to."
Sheba nodded and then backed up to the edge of the roof. She then took the running start and leapt across the chasm. Her jump proved more effective than Apollo's had been as she landed half inside the opening and only needed to pull her legs up inside.
"Thank the Lords," Apollo gave her a quick kiss and embrace and then looked back across to Delambre. "Okay, Colonel. Jump!"
For the first time, the Callisto executive officer seemed at peace. He backed up and then leapt across, and with Apollo and Sheba both stretching their arms out, they managed to grab him in mid-air by each arm and haul him in.
Slowly, they all got to their feet and without looking back moved down the passageway until after three centons of walking, it finally came to an end. But instead of an open door, they saw only a wall that suggested a dead end.
"Colonel?" Apollo looked at Delambre with an edge of uneasiness.
"That's thin sheet metal, Captain," Delambre said, "Knock yourself against it and it will give way. That's why you didn't see any open hatchways when you first entered the passageway from the landing bay."
"What kind of ship used thin plating like that?" Sheba asked.
"The ship from the Thirteenth Tribe," the Callisto executive officer said simply.
Apollo's eyes widened and he grabbed him, "Colonel, while there's still time you've got to tell me about that!"
"There isn't time, Captain," Delambre shook his head. "We managed to outwit Iblis, but as long as you're still on this ship, he has time to change his mind and make one last attempt. Save your questions for another time and another place, and get back to the things that matter most right now. For the both of you."
"He's right, Apollo," Sheba said, "Let's break this thing open, now."
Reluctantly, the captain nodded and the three of them all threw their bodies against the plating. Apollo felt it bend and deform under the first blow. Finally, on the second attempt, it gave way and a large hole opened up, revealing the pipe-laden ceiling and grayish walls that Apollo and Sheba both recognized from when they'd entered this compartment in what seemed like an eternity ago.
"Left turn," Delambre pointed.
They looked and Apollo could see a brightly lit opening at the end. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in so many ways.
Two centons later, they stepped out into the landing bay and saw their vipers still there. Apollo could never remember a time when he found the sight of his ship more beautiful than now.
"We've made it," Apollo said, "Sheba, get in your ship and power it up. You maneuver yourself for launch, and I'll follow."
Sheba nodded and dashed across the tarmac toward her viper. As soon as she had vaulted herself up and into the cockpit, Apollo turned back to Delambre with gratitude.
"Colonel, you saved us by giving us the enlightenment we needed as to what we were up against," Apollo said, "I wish we could save you and bring you back to the Galactica with us."
"It's not possible, Captain," Delambre said, "Once I'm away from this ship, five hundred yahrens of aging will catch up with me at last. And.....I don't think it'd be fair to you to watch that happen in the back of your viper and then have a decayed skeleton to explain." He smiled, "Besides, even if I could live outside this ship, I don't think my system can handle the culture shock. I just want.....to be at peace for eternity now. To be with those like Harriman and the others who died before Iblis got his hands on their souls, and.....with my family again too."
"But if you don't want to get off in my viper, then how....."
"Don't worry," Delambre said reassuringly, "I know what to do. You just get into that viper and go back to where you belong." he smiled again, "And don't ever let go of that girl for as long as you live."
"I won't," Apollo nodded, "That's a promise."
"Godspeed, Captain," Delambre clasped his hand and shook it.
"May the Lords of Kobol receive you with peace for eternity, Colonel Delambre." Apollo returned it.
"They will," Delambre nodded, "Thank you for restoring my faith in their goodness."
The sound of Sheba's viper canopy snapping shut and the sound of her systems powering up finally convinced Apollo it was time to go. He turned and sprinted over to his viper and lifted himself inside.
Delambre watched as Sheba's viper swung around so that it was now facing the landing bay exit. And then, the engines roared to life and he saw it exit the landing bay and disappear into the starry blackness of space. Thirty microns later, he saw Apollo's viper move into position and then leave as well.
The one-time executive officer of the Battlestar Callisto then lifted his arm in a farewell salute and made his way over to a control panel that he knew would still be there after all these centuries since this had been the landing bay of his own ship.
He opened the panel door and saw the familiar words in Colonial printing. LANDING BAY DECOMPRESSION UNIT.
One switch would deactivate the zone that emanated from the landing bay and allowed ships to land in here and for people to stand comfortably inside without opening or closing any kind of hatch. It had been one of the revolutionary breakthroughs of Colonial technology that had enabled the first battlestars to be constructed at the onset of the war with the Cylons.
Delambre pressed the button and heard a popping sound as the force field slowly turned off. He found himself smiling in blissful contentment until the process finally completed and
his life came at last to a long overdue end.
For over a centon after they launched, no words passed between Apollo and Sheba. It was as if neither of them had the strength to believe they had actually gone through the experience they had shared, or if it had all been a nightmare.
Finally, when Apollo looked back over his shoulder and saw
that the Derelict was no longer visible, he was able to break the silence.
"Sheba, what does your chronometer read?"
Sheba activated the switch and let out a disbelieving exclamation, "It says it's only been eight centars since we entered that thing."
"Which means that if we just head back, we'll only have been three centars overdue. Barely long enough for them to have started worrying, but not long enough to have panicked or for them to have sent out some kind of search and rescue mission." He shook his head, "I feel like we were in that thing for as long as Delambre was."
"Apollo," Sheba sounded drained, "What do we tell them?"
The captain sighed, "I say we tell them nothing about this. Not unless, God forbid, the Fleet runs into that monster, but that's not going to happen. I know Iblis's not going to use that ship as bait ever again, and certainly not this soon after failing. Besides," he shrugged, "Who would believe us, other than the Commander?"
"You're right," Sheba nodded, "We...tell them we were unable to chart out the full extent of our patrol sweep, and had to power down to make internal repairs."
"Sounds good to me," Apollo said and then took a breath, "Sheba......"
"Sheba, I----," he faltered for an instant, but then cleared his throat as he realized he needed to show as much strength now as he had back in that demonic hell. "I just....wanted to tell you that while we still have a problem to deal with regarding Boxey and his attitude, that doesn't change how I feel about you and what I want us to do."
Sheba tilted her head and glanced over at Apollo's viper. "What do you mean, Apollo?"
He looked over so he could see her face, "Sheba, will you marry me?"
For ten microns, there was only the sounds of their viper engines, until finally, Apollo could see Sheba smile brightly at him.
"Yes," she said with all the sincerity and joy she could communicate. "And Apollo, I know in my heart we can make things work with Boxey."
"Hey, if we can talk Iblis down, why should we have any trouble talking sense to a good little boy like Boxey?" Apollo chuckled, "But....Sheba, let's not deal with it when we get back. Because....after what we just went through, the first thing I want to do is take you over to the Rising Star and just spend some.....time with you."
A coy edge entered her smile, "It will be my pleasure, Captain."
The six centars that remained in their flight back to the battlestar seemed to go by quickly in the blink of an eye for them. Until finally, they could see the reassuring sight of the Galactica and the various ships of the Fleet surrounding her.
"Galactica, this is Alpha Patrol requesting clearance to land in starboard bay."
"Apollo, thank the Lords!" Adama's reassured voice sounded through their helmets. "We were beginning to worry."
Apollo then glanced over at Sheba and flashed her one last smile before it would be time to move ahead of her and set himself up for landing approach.
"I can't imagine why, Father," he chuckled, "We'll talk to you when we're aboard."