"Exodus"

In the beginning:

And this is the Book of the Lords of Kobol, the story of their wisdom and the days of their rule from the time of its beginning, and how that rule came to an end. This is the truth of their vision. Heed it well, sons and daughters of ancient Kobol, and learn what the past can tell to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

For we are not of Kobol alone, but that is a truth from another time and place, and is not meant to be written here. It is enough that you know we are not alone, and why.

I

Kobol was a dying world.

Her people were happy enough. The world was fruitful, supplying all their needs. They were reaching for the stars, yearning to see what might lie beyond their own system, but always knowing this was the place to which they would return - Kobol, world of wonder, beauty, mystery; world of thirteen tribes of humanity. Other humans might lie scattered elsewhere in the universe, but they had ceased to matter to the children of Kobol.

But humanity was in danger. The star that had sustained Kobol and given her life for all the billions of yahrens of her existence was becoming unstable. There were subtle changes in its radiation spectrum, dangerous changes that boded disaster for its planet. The star wouldn't reach its next evolutionary phase for millions of yahrens, but soon its changes would alter both the world and her people. Mutations, extinctions - anything was possible. Perhaps Kobol would become uninhabitable. Her assorted scientists couldn't predict what direction the human species might take if they continued to dwell on the planet they called the world of their birth.

The radiation shifts would eventually pass, and the star would stabilize. But for the next few millennia, it would be dangerously wild.

And the star might not be Kobol's greatest danger. Her children, the humans, were numerous, and they required a great quantity of resources to sustain them. It was foreseeable that Kobol could not continue to feed and supply her children, careful though they be. They could gain much from trade and expansion through nearby star systems; but, eventually, their numbers would exhaust their world. Perhaps it was time for them to become wanderers.

The ruler of the human tribes considered all this as he looked out his window at the brilliantly lit city spread below him. From his high tower, he could see to the farthest reaches of Kobol's capital. Fair Eden, so beautiful at night - a gleaming diadem of light, challenging the stars beyond the Void for brightness.

Sagan, ninth Lord of Kobol, knew there were people awake in the city, wondering and questioning their lord's motives. He had called a Council not long before, and the men and women of the Great Families who formed that Council had gathered. Soon, he would have to face them, and tell them.

Sagan had thought it best to keep his fears secret until he reached a decision. Ever since the dreams began, he had studied the possible future of Kobol, with the help of every scientific discipline at his disposal - and some of the unscientific as well. All the intellectual and mystical resources of the planet were at his call, bound to secrecy at his wish.

Finally, Lord Sagan had made a choice - as he saw it, the only choice for his world. But would his people believe, and accept? Could they put forth the mighty effort it would require?

"Father?"

Sagan turned to see his oldest son standing at the door. Young Adam would one day follow his footsteps as Lord of Kobol, the tenth lord. Only a title, perhaps, with no meaning, since there would be no Kobol to ward and guard and care for. But perhaps on a new world....

"The Council is waiting, my lord. And the media are getting edgy. I think it's time you came and made the announcement." The young man seemed preternaturally calm.

Sagan had to smile. Adam, his handsome face often brimming over with his emotions, could be so distantly formal when he felt it necessary - a hazard of their positions and duties. Sagan nodded, and started down the hall to the Council chamber, leaving the image of Eden behind. He wished the walk were longer. It would be difficult to announce to a planet's population that they were abandoning their home. He loved this world, all of it. The people were happy here. He steeled himself with the reminder that there was no real choice.

Sagan entered the ornate Council Hall, scanning ranks of men and women settled in quiet, tense discussion. Many of them were old friends, some related by marriage ties, and most were from the ancient Great Families of Kobol, the traditional rulers of the tribes. Their attention turned to him, waiting at the door, and the murmurs of conversation died. They waited for the heart-breaking decision. They'd known of his work, of the emotional struggle as he tried to pierce the veil of the future, but they'd kept silent before their people, respecting the will of Lord Sagan.

He took his place at the head of the small table at one end of the room; Adam, his heir, took the chair at his right. The representatives of the families and regions of Kobol were silent, watching from the semi-circle of seats ranged around the room. The media personnel took a few moments to move their cameras and other equipment into position. When all disturbances had died down, the ninth Lord of Kobol rose to speak.

"I will be brief. We will all have more than enough to do when this meeting is over. I will not keep you long, Councilors. I know how valuable your time is.

"You are all aware of the alarming changes our star has evinced these past few hundred yahrens. Changes on Kobol have also occurred - changes in climate and geology. I won't take the time to list these well-documented disasters. Our best advisors predict the stellar changes will continue for several millennia. They do not know if our population can survive thousands of yahrens of fluctuating radiation and its attendant effects on us. This has led to the necessity of a very serious decision, whose outcome will affect the entire future, if there is to be one, of our people.

"It is not feasible, in my opinion, to remain on this world. Our resources, great as they are, are limited, and Kobol may be incapable of sustaining life when the millennia have passed.

"It is therefore my decision, after much thought, after viewing and examining our options with care, that humanity cannot remain on Kobol. Though it will take yahrens to prepare for, and a tremendous expenditure of materials, we are going to abandon this world. Humanity will take its chances among the stars."

There was utter silence; shock spread across the surface of a world. Across the planet, all who heard the astonishing message waited with open mouths and staring eyes. All activity seemed to stop, while dazed men and women struggled to accept the awesome concept of an entire population leaving a planet. Only children couldn't sense the enormity of the decision. They watched their parents express fear and amazement, and they wondered in silence.

"Are there any questions?" Sagan asked in the deathly stillness of the Council Hall.

There were long moments of silence before an unsteady whisper, barely audible, reached him. "There is no other way?"

Sagan's voice was grave. "We have studied every option we could conceive. This is our best hope."

"How...?" continued the desperate, thin whisper of the newswoman who'd spoken.

"We have considered some of the details, and have a number of possible solutions, if you wish to hear."

Throughout the chamber, those who'd comprehended and assimilated the lord's words nodded in mute assent. Sagan glanced once at Adam, who stared at his father with an expression akin to worship. He must be right, for his people's sake, and for the sake of the young man who would be left to follow the trail he chose.

"We must turn the efforts of our people to preparing spacecraft capable of spanning half the galaxy. We don't know where we will find hospitable worlds to settle, and we may be in space for generations. We have the resources for this now; in a few hundred yahrens, we may not.

"You know, of course, that even now we do not have the resources to feed and supply our entire population for a voyage of perhaps hundreds of yahrens. Most of our ships will be sleepers. I know we haven't used them in a hundred yahrens, but they are our best - perhaps our only - hope now; and we will of course be updating them with all the technical advances we have made over this past century.

"We will not leave ourselves defenseless on this journey. Along with sleepers for over ninety-nine percent of our people, we will also have multi-generational ships, with full weaponry; there will also be full watch crews aboard the sleepers. Warriors and technicians will be awake, alert, and available constantly on all vessels. Most of us will sleep and wait, but a portion will stand guard.

"We will travel in fleet phalanxes. Perhaps we will even find several habitable worlds in close proximity. The settlement of those worlds will be the responsibility and joy of the children - our children - who will reach them. We in this room-" Lord Sagan gestured at the Council, still pale and mute in surprise "-will not survive so long."

There was little to say when Sagan was at last silent. The economy of Kobol would have to undergo many changes, and those changes would have to be examined and explained before they were implemented, but this was hardly the place for details. Whatever was necessary would be done, by Sagan's plan. Sagan was not yet an old man, and his son shared the dream. When the time came, everything would be done.

II

The yahrens passed. The will and resources of a very will-ful, resourceful people were turned to the future. The present didn't matter much as shock gave way to understanding and acceptance. They stripped their entire system of its resources and potential, of everything it could give that they could possibly need over a lengthy voyage. Kobol would look to the future alone and abandoned, but she gave freely to her children. Their hopes lay elsewhere.

Children grew up with the knowledge that their world would not be "home" for long. They dreamed of worlds of fantasy, where anything might be possible. They grew, learned skills that might be needed on new planets, and played games that took place on exotic worlds filled with creatures their parents had never dreamed of. It was a great adventure, and there were no limits to their imagination.

The elders watched their children grow, and sighed. Most would not reach the new world-to-become-home. Their energies were spent to assure their young of safety and hope. They wondered at their children's plans, and smiled sadly. They aged - and died. Their dreams were of an afterworld, and the past that had once been all they could ask for.

A mighty fleet formed in the vast emptiness of the Kobolian system, ships of many sizes. Most were sleeper ships, with great compartments of cryonic tubes to hold the bodies of those who would become colonists. Some were warships and supply ships, to carry the defenders and their families, who were to care for the living and maintain the lives of the sleeping. Necessary supplies filled every ship. The people were provided with sufficient stocks to enable them to survive aboard their ships for several hundred yahrens, for once they were beyond what stars they had already explored, they had no idea what they might expect to find, or how long they might have to travel. Their own scattered colonies would help as they could, but most were abandoning their own worlds to join the migration, for however many centuries it might be.

But the voyage was not expected to take so long. They were prepared for the worst, but they expected better. The supplies were also for the children to use to begin a new world. Everything that could be taken, would be taken. Only the past and a raped, dying planet would be left behind. If life survived there, it would be without a human touch.

A generation passed.

* * * * *

"You may see him, my lord," the doctor said formally.

Adam shook his head sadly. "I'm not a lord; I'll never be a lord. Father was right. I am simply Adam. The ninth Lord of Kobol is also its last." He entered the quiet room. Adam was the oldest child, the heir. His father was dying. It was his duty to hear any last words and commands.

Sagan was neither a coward nor a fool; he knew he was dying, and accepted it. He'd set all his affairs in order, and visited his friends and every member of his large family. He could face death. Now, he had only a last request for his son, the one who would lead the human race from Kobol.

Adam knelt at his father's side, heartsick at how thin, colorless, and old Lord Sagan had become in so short a time. "You summoned, lord?" There was great sorrow in his voice, but he kept it strong. The dreamer was dying, but the dream would be carried forth. Adam hoped he was strong enough to be worthy of the lord's trust. Dear Father....

"Adam." The voice was low, strained, but utterly calm. "I know I have very little time left. There is one more thing I must say, one more dream to leave on Kobol...."

Adam thought he understood. He took his father's hand. So thin, so light. Oh, Father! "We will take your body with us, wherever we go. You have earned the right to see our new home."

"No!" The old man shook his silver-white head. "That is the one thing you must not do. I would become an idol, the god of the Migration. I'm only a man, and this is my home. Bury me here; leave my bones on this world. I lived as Lord of Kobol. I wish to die and be entombed as Lord of Kobol. You will be the new lord of a new world; I belong to the old. Do not let them make me into anything more, Adam. If you love your father, let him be a man."

"Father...."

"No. I must stay here, to guide the way.... You have given Cain his command?" he asked, suddenly changing the subject - and effectively settling the matter.

"Yes, as you wished." Adam wondered why this was so important to Sagan. Cain was one of his own sons, Sagan's grandson. He was still very young, and had not even been born when the decision to leave was made. Sagan had insisted Cain be given command of one of the tribes, one of the fleet, even over the objections and better claims of other, experienced commanders.

"Some day, Adam, your distant children will return here. I will be waiting, to point the way. Remember Cain, whatever you do. As I have trusted you, trust your own son, and remember him...."

"Father?"

"My son, I think.... I know. It is time. Fare well, Adam. Take care of our people. Take care of them all...."

Tired old eyes faded and closed. Breathing ceased. Sagan, ninth Lord of Kobol, dreamer and seer of the future, architect of the greatest migration in the history of man, was dead.

Adam stayed alone for nearly a centar, kneeling at his father's side. He had much to do, much to consider. The fleet was ready for the migration. He had a tomb to prepare for the ninth lord. Final preparations had to be made for many things. He wanted to speak to Cain, ask what the youth knew of Sagan's wishes, what they'd discussed in their last meetings. He had so much to think about, to finish, and to begin before he could truly rest. But all that would wait. First he had to mourn the passing of his father.

When he finally rose to his feet, his knees were cramped and his back was stiff, and a headache throbbed with the memory of tears. He left the room, standing tall, his face composed, to announce there was a new lord.

Through the window, the bright star of Kobol seemed to pulse more brightly for a moment. It almost seemed that a smile creased the old man's face.

* * * * *

Cain, commander of the Thirteenth Fleet, stood before Sagan's tomb in the pyramid of the ninth Lord of Kobol. It was lavish, brilliantly painted and gilded after the fashion of the Great Families, designed to keep out both strangers and the elements. No one ever thought to prevent entry by a grandson with a "borrowed" key.

Two young men were with him, and the trio surveyed a new mural secretly added to the burial chamber. Tubal and Prometheus were the only ones he'd trusted to help him. They were excellent artisans, friends of his, and would be aboard one of his ships.

"It is done," Prometheus said softly. The star map and the image giving directions in a special code had been of his devising. Tubal had carried the work through, bringing it to enigmatic life in the dimly lighted crypt. The beautiful mural would be hidden for unknown ages before light would reach this deeply into the pyramid again.

Cain smiled wearily. He'd helped as much as he could in the long night, but he was a warrior, not an artist. He was of the royal house, trained to rule and fight if necessary; the intricacies of this work meant little to him. His own work wasn't over yet, but theirs was.

"Thank you both," he said. "It is lovely, and it has the message. You'd better go now. I still have something to do."

Tubal quickly gathered his tools, and with a murmured farewell to his friends, disappeared through the low stone passage. Prometheus lingered for a last look at what was undoubtedly his masterwork.

"Cain," he asked, "are you sure what you're doing is the right thing?"

"I only know what I feel," the young nobleman replied. His features were shadowed as he looked away; with dark hair and eyes, clothed in gray, he almost vanished into the dimness beyond him. "I know what my grandfather told me. This is the right thing. It may be the only thing. It feels right. I have to trust it."

Prometheus sighed, nodding, and picked up his torch. "That's enough for me, I guess. Don't forget the time, though. See you aboard the ship." He followed Tubal. Departure would begin in less than six centars.

Cain walked slowly to the burial sarcophagus. All the ankhs in the universe had no meaning to the dead man within; the power to restore the dead was beyond humanity.

On top of the stone lay the tape and the letters Cain had prepared. In the morning, he would slip the last pages into the book his grandfather had written over the yahrens. Some day, when the book was read, if the language could still be translated, someone would know to come here, and to find the way to Earth. "Earth" was the world the thirteenth tribe would seek, following a dream and writings even more ancient than the lordship. Earth was part of the heritage of Kobol; perhaps it would yet be the salvation of its children.

He picked up the top sheet and read it one more time....

* * * * *

I am Cain. My father is Adam, Lord of the Migration, who leads us from Eden. My grandfather is Sagan, ninth Lord of Kobol, the dreamer who sends us forth.

There are thirteen tribes, descendants of Kobol, children of humanity. Twelve of these tribes will follow my father. He expects me to do as well, but my fleet will not follow. Rather, our course will be to another world. I pray it will be as beautiful as Kobol, as shining as the planets the twelve will colonize. But we go. We must. It is our destiny....

Remember Earth. When the ancient powers gave Kobol to humanity, they also gave us another world - Earth. Our legends and writings speak of this world, and its location, and that there are humans there, brothers of Kobol. It was our knowledge of them that first called us to reach for stars we cannot even see in the dark Void around us, that taught us we were not alone. Now, by the will of the ancients, by the pain of future fate, our destiny lies there.

For I dreamed a dream so similar to my grandfather's that he declared it must be true, and gave me leave to pursue it. And so I pronounce what I know.

The children of Kobol must separate.

I dreamed I saw twelve worlds, happy, prosperous, glad to be alive. They were brave and strong, unbeaten by anything in the stars, reaching with laughter and joy and awe for the glories of the universe.

Then a silver cloud swept over them. They resisted, but fell, one by one. Their last alliance was swept aside, and the defenders died by the millions in a great war, but their lives were lost in vain. Their children died by the sword. Twelve worlds ran red with human blood, their soil soaked with human tears, their silence broken by human screams.

Only a few survived. These gathered together, under one command, one tribe for the first time in millennia. They fled across the stars, across the all but endless sea of the great Void. They returned to their home world, our world, Kobol, long still and dead.

A clue had been left for them, a clue that lay in the tomb where Lord Sagan lay. The descendants and survivors of Kobol found the clue - a clue that pointed to Earth.

I do not know if there is any way to turn aside the silver cloud of death, or why so many of our children must die in it, but it will not be the end for humanity.

We wait for you on Earth, as Lord Sagan predicted, and as do I. This dream is true. Come to Earth, my brothers and sisters! When the time has passed, come to us! We wait for you.

* * * * *

Cain set down the page. With all that his grandfather had written in the most ancient tongue of their world, these words should be decipherable, in time. He picked up the recorder. There were some things he was not going to write for the book. He had to leave a message for his father, and this would be the hardest thing to say.

"Father," he began, starting the tape, "since you're hearing this, you know that the thirteenth tribe has disappeared into the Void. We are not lost. We ... I ... have deliberately chosen another route.

"I had a dream of the future. You know some of our family are gifted with precognition, Father. Lord Sagan believed my dream to be a vision of the future. I can't tell you what it is, but believe me, the day will come when the colonies of Kobol will need a refuge. When that day comes, remember us.

"All you need to do is return to Kobol, to the tomb of our ancestors. I have left the route, the clues, there, to lead you to us. Lord Sagan has also given you clues, in his writings, if you can decipher them.

"I know this must be a shock to you. You're probably very angry, to lose such a portion of our people on a voyage you may not understand. But please, realize that I am doing what I have to do. If you follow, or call me a traitor, that must be your decision. But the only thing that will stop me from what I am doing is my death. If you choose to kill me, that, too, is your option, your decision. You must do what you think best for our people. I am expendable.

"Father, I can't think of anything to say that will ease the hurt you must be feeling. There probably isn't anything I could say. I'm not doing this to hurt you or anyone else. I am doing what I must.

"I love you; please know that. I love Mother and my brothers and sisters, and all our people. I would never do anything to hurt you or them unless there was no option.

"Some day....

"The planet we seek is described in the ancient writings - beautiful, blue and green and white, growing and new, the gift of some merciful power over all. Blood will call to blood. Mankind will know its own. Do not be afraid to follow our path.

"The tribe you gave me to command is, perhaps, not the best for the difficult duty I must obey. They are the wildest, most unruly group of people Kobol possesses. The thirteenth tribe, the wild ones. Perhaps we'll need to be, to survive. I don't know what lies ahead. I'll try to keep them together. It won't be easy, for you, or for us. But we'll survive, as a race. Humanity must survive.

"Father, I'm sorry. I'll never see you again. But there's nothing else I can say or do. Some day, our children will meet, and be glad for this day. Until then, good luck to you, all of you. I pray you will wish us luck as well, and give us your blessings."

There were tears in Cain's eyes as he finished the recording and switched off the tape. Duty was hard, but he could not deny the future. There was nothing more to be said.

The tape would now be smuggled aboard the flagship, into his parents' quarters. If it were discovered too soon, Adam would likely relieve him of command, and Cain would make the trip as a virtual prisoner. The true disaster, however, would be to the human race.

He left the tomb. When the last people abandoned Kobol, in a few days, the tape would be with his father. Some day, Adam would find it, and know what had happened to the vanished tribe. In the meantime, it would have to appear that they had somehow become lost in the Void. It was the easiest explanation.

Cain fingered the royal medallion around his neck, the medallion that had given him access to the tomb. It was a simple thing, but its preservation would be essential to the future ones who would return here. He suddenly felt very alone, with a heavy weight on his shoulders. He shuddered at a vision of destruction, hoping his other visions of salvation were equally true, that there was a chance. Some day....

* * * * *

The ships were loaded. Sleepers dreamed, suspended in their cubicles until they reached a new home or died in oblivion. Those who would be awake to see the passage of yahrens among the stars had stowed gear and settled their families, and had taken up their duties. The fleet was ready to get under-way.

Kobol lay all but deserted.

Aboard the flagship of the thirteenth tribe, Commander Cain watched the scanners intently. His was the last to begin, of his own choice. A spearhead of ships fanned out behind his, using the flagship as their navigational fix. Shortly after entering the Void, he would order the slightly skewed maneuvers that would soon take them on a completely different course than his father planned.

It would probably be several days before anyone knew they were missing. They could intercept messages and send acknowledgments of position for some time. Then they would simply cease to exist, as far as the rest of the fleet was concerned. The magnetic sea would hide their true course, and Adam couldn't be sure of their actions until that sea was far behind.

A signal came along the comm lines.

"Ready?" asked his scan officer, Athene. She was one of a small group entrusted with the secret, part of his conspiracy. He'd chosen them all carefully. It had to be held in confidence that they weren't following the rest of the fleet, at least for a time. If it became common knowledge, this proud and volatile tribe might become unmanageable; it might cost his life, his command - and their future.

With a deep breath and a desperate hope that he wasn't making a fatal mistake, Cain nodded. "Ahead full. You know the course. Make sure all ships continue to fix on us."

Athene nodded, her eyes carefully devoid of emotion, her face fully composed. She gestured the order to another officer, then turned to her own console. They began the trek to Earth, on a path no humans had followed for unremembered eons of time.

* * * * *

"No, Commander, my scanners are not malfunctioning! And they haven't been malfunctioning this past secton, either. We're far beyond the range of the Void. Why don't you admit it, my lord?" The term was almost a curse, spoken sneering-ly. "We're not following the fleet - we're lost!"

Cain faced Captain Brent, who commanded one of the other warships - not by Cain's choosing. Brent had stormed into the briefing room, followed by half the watch captains of his fleet, and demanded an explanation. Cain realized the moment had come, and almost felt relief that the matter had been forced. It was time to explain.

"Marcus, send word through the fleet. I want to see all the watch captains here, as soon as possible. If you will sit down, Brent, I will wait until the others arrive."

The communications officer ran from the room. Unobtrusively, Athene also left. Cain let her go. Better if she were out of the firestorm to come. It would be difficult enough to explain. Although he would have appreciated her support, he could understand her wishing to be elsewhere.

Brent finally threw himself into a chair, scowling at his commander. Cain watched with an assumed air of calm. His mind was in turmoil. These were a volatile enough people in easy times. How would they react to being told they were cut off from the rest of humanity?

It was nearly a centar before the rest of the captains were assembled. Cain gathered his courage to face the men and women who guarded the sleepers. It would not be easy, not with Brent staring at him like a thunderhead, and several of the others looking dubious. The rest watched with expressions of unquestioning obedience, or awe that almost scared him. He was responsible for that, too - and worship was a thing he found hard to accept.

He spoke. "I understand there are questions about my running of this fleet. Would you care to ask them of me to my face, or are they only for muttering behind my back?"

Brent rose promptly, his expression forbidding. "Our scanners haven't picked up any ships but our own for over a secton. I demand to know what's going on."

"The Void made it difficult to keep a constant fix on anything. Perhaps its effects linger-"

"I've been on your bridge. You aren't picking up anything either. You're hiding something from us. What is it?"

Damn! Who'd allowed Brent on the bridge without his knowledge? "What are you implying?" he asked, as calmly as possible under the circumstances.

"We're lost, or deliberately led astray."

Cain was silent. Brent faced him belligerently.

Finally, Captain Vesta rose. Cain knew she was loyal to his family. "Commander, I've noticed it too. Something strange is going on in this fleet. We're your captains, for whatever reason we were chosen - ability or skill or intuition or your father's royal capriciousness. Won't you trust us with your decisions?"

He couldn't refuse such a direct request. "Very well. Sit down, Brent, Vesta."

The fiery-haired Vesta sat, but the darker-hued Brent remained standing.

"We are not following the fleet," Cain said simply.

"I knew it! We're lost!" Brent snorted.

"No, we are not lost. It was never my plan to follow them."

Cain faced disbelief and astonishment in his captains, as well as the pained, wary expressions of his senior officers.

"What have you done?" whispered Vesta.

"I don't expect you to understand, but there is a reason we aren't following the others. We have a different destiny. We will settle on another world, one called Earth. We go with the blessings of Lord Sagan."

"Sagan is dead. That's not good enough." Brent spoke through clenched teeth, coldly furious, his eyes glittering dangerously.

"I command here. I say it is good enough." Two very stubborn men locked stares.

"And how do you propose to hold us?" His captain's voice dropped to a menacing hiss.

"While you follow this fleet, you follow me. You obey me. If you choose to leave the fleet, that is your business, your choice. Or do you suggest mutiny?"

Other captains drew back with audible intakes of breath. Brent and Cain were battling for control. If Cain backed down, he might as well surrender his authority at once. He would lose control. He might not survive the day. And Brent, for his part, would never accept the loss of face from backing down.

"We're doing what is necessary for survival," Cain said finally. Not a note of pleading or disdain entered his carefully neutral voice. He had to handle this with the utmost caution.

"Dying alone in space? Traitor!" Brent spat the last word at Cain. "You're leading us to death! Why? Inflated imperial ego? Damn the lords!"

"I do what I must!" Cain snapped as shock rippled through the others.

"Then you do it alone!"

Athene reentered quietly, slipping back into her seat under cover of the argument; no one noticed.

Cain rose, turning to face the others. "Brent may well be right. I lead on the strength of a dream and an old man's last command to me. But lead I will, until death or my goal end this journey. Consider for yourselves what you feel you must do, what answer you will make for your people, for the sleepers. You can follow me - or you can turn back, and make your own way, alone or together, as you wish."

Cain stared them all down. They squirmed, eyes searching elsewhere. Taking responsibility for abandoning the exodus, against the old lord's command, was a serious decision. There was a great deal of respect in these people for the line of the Great Lords of Kobol, left from centuries of rule. Most of them would be held by the power of that respect, Cain saw.

Brent was another matter. "I will not stay. I'm turning back, going to Kobol, to try and follow the rest of the fleet, and Commander Adam. Who goes with me?"

Athene rose, as quietly and gracefully as she'd sat down. "I think you should consider other factors before making this decision. It will be more difficult than you imagine, navigating the Void."

Brent glared at her. "We have the coordinates. We know the route we've been following. We know how to return, and the course we should have been following."

"I don't think so," she replied.

"If Cain is fool enough to try to overrule a majority of us, he deserves his fate. You, too, if you stand by him."

"A mutiny will do you no good," she stated. "Cain's dream is all we have to go on, now. If he's dead, we're completely lost." Something in her tone finally penetrated the man's anger.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, deeply suspicious.

Cain's eyes widened in horror. He understood.

"I've already mutinied - against you, Brent. I erased the navigation scan tapes, and fed a pulse into the helm computers of the other ships. We can't go back, because no one has any idea where back is, except me, and I stand with Cain."

Brent's hands were around the woman's throat almost before she finished speaking. Cain tore him off her and threw him back against his chair. He stood poised to attack again, or to defend himself if it should be necessary. Brent glared at him, then at Athene, and finally around the room where the others stood, shocked and uncertain.

"I'm not following the likes of him. Anyone who wants to go with me, I'm leaving, as soon as we're ready. I may not know where we're going, or where we are, but it doesn't matter. I'm going to look for the fleet. Anyone who's with me...." The sentence was left dangling as Brent stalked from the room.

Men and women glanced covertly at each other. Suddenly, a man rose, exiting the room hastily. Another swiftly followed. Others shifted uneasily.

Cain ignored them, checking his officer. Athene was all right - only a bruise on her throat, and that would soon fade. He turned, then, to face his other people.

"It's your choice. You're all dismissed, unless you have questions or comments. Consider carefully what you will do, because it will affect your children, and their children, and perhaps your entire tribe. The choice you make today will be for life or death, maybe for eternity for all our people. Consider it well."

Slowly, they began to shuffle out. There was no conversation. They no longer seemed willing to look at one an-other.

Cain turned back to Athene, who stared at the floor. "Why?" was all he could say.

"They'd have killed you otherwise. Brent would have killed you and taken the fleet. It's not his right."

And do I have the right? Lord of All, what have yahrens of our rule done the people of Kobol? Cain asked himself. "Maybe," he hedged, knowing her words were true, that Brent would have tried to kill him. "But why such a desperate measure? We needed that information."

"Not as much as we need your dream, which I can share. I know what was on those tapes, and I'll help you all I can." Cain sensed a barter in her words, not quite a demand, but an offer with many possibilities. He'd never taken a wife; perhaps....

He nodded in acceptance. What the future held, they would discuss later. He looked around the room. Only Vesta remained. She'd been one of his staunchest and most loyal support-ers. Had he lost her now?

"Vesta?"

"She's right, Commander. We need your dream. But when we do get to this Earth, what do you expect to find? What will you say to the tribe? They expect to join the others. They'll be alone."

"Perhaps - and perhaps not. What do you think?"

Vesta shrugged eloquently. "Some of them will be glad to be free of the shackles of the old ways. Others will be very angry. They may revile the very name of Cain. Your name may be cursed forever, by the sleepers and the guardians both, when or if we reach Earth, alone."

"I accepted that when I chose this path. I knew what it might mean."

"I understand, Cain. I follow you."

"Thank you, Vesta. What of your crew?"

"They will go with me. They are, after all, from my clan." He remembered Vesta was from one of the minor Families, related in some way to his elder brother's wife. Family loyalty was important to most of the lesser Families, whose position often depended on their interrelationships with other clans.

Cain smiled without humor. "I left my clan."

"You're the last lord we have, and you have the gift of dreams. You aren't like ordinary men and women. You have other sights, other duties, perhaps another destiny. A clan must not stand before that."

"I'm not sure that's complimentary."

"I don't know either - but it is necessary. Commander, what shall we do now?"

Cain turned to meet Athene's gray eyes. She watched him silently, her face impassive. He sensed her belief in him, and Vesta's more wary acceptance of facts. He would have to talk to them both, and depend on them. Yes, he knew in a flash of insight, he would depend on both of them very much in the future....

"I'll know in the morning, after I've dreamed."

* * * * *

They lost several warships, and a number of sleepers, for Brent made good his threat to leave, but the majority of the fleet remained intact. They traveled on the strength of Cain's dream, and they traveled with hope.

They found a world called Earth.

* * * * *

Across the stars, Commander Adam, Lord of the Migration, stared through the port across space, a tape in one hand, several sheets of actual paper in the other.

"Why, Cain? Why couldn't you tell me?"

He crumpled the letter and struck the wall with his fist. Tears ran freely, despite his anger. There was nothing he could do, no way to follow his son, no chance of contacting him and calling him back.

The twelve passed on, to their destiny.

* * * * *

Epilogue:

Across the yahrens, Adama, commander of the battlestar Galactica and leader of another Exodus, looked up from the Book of the Lords of Kobol, rubbing his tired eyes. He'd again read the passages that foretold the end of the Colonies, if they'd had the wisdom to look back and understand it. The passages also spoke of another planet - Earth - hidden somewhere in space, a waiting haven for weary refugees.

"You were wise, lords, to foresee this. What you must have endured, to assure our salvation....

"I pray you succeeded...."


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