BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 11:

THE NIGHTMARE MACHINE

By Robert Thurston

Greenbean is captured by the Cylons in battle. After being tortured, he reveals the Galactica's location. Baltar is having nightmares, feeling guilt about his betrayal of the Colonies. Lucifer wakes him up one night and reveals he was testing a machine called LEADER that can inflict intense emotions on people. Baltar has Greenbean's memories of being captured erased and has the LEADER machine wired into the buttons of his clothing. Greenbean is set free and returns to the Galactica. Everyone is overjoyed that he has returned from the dead, but soon the LEADER machine is turned on and almost everyone aboard the ship (except Boomer, Athena, and Sire Uri) become depressed and feel guilt about their pasts. Starbuck and Adama are affected worse than most. Uri wants to be allowed to settle on the habitable planet of Vaile, and when Adama is taken ill, decides to try to stage a mutiny. Adama eventually falls into a coma, and he begins to relive memories of the past such as the destruction of the Colonies.

Robert Thurston does it again!Spectre makes an inspection visit on Baltar's basestar. Spectre flatters Baltar with feint praise, making Lucifer unhappy. It is announced that Imperious Leader will be making a visit soon. When Imperious Leader finally arrives, Baltar takes credit for inventing the machine. Imperious Leader asks Baltar to show a demonstration of LEADER. Starbuck is on the verge of going mad. His craziness drives him to go after Greenbean, whom he somehow realizes must have something to do with what is happening. Greenbean runs away and winds up in a place in the lower regions of the Galactica called the Devil's Pit. Starbuck, with Apollo, Boomer, and Cassiopea right behind him, follows and tries to kill Greenbean, but an old man living in this unused area interferes and buys enough time for Apollo to disarm him. The mindwipe begins wearing off, and Greenbean starts to remember that he was captured and that the clothes he was wearing are causing this. The clothes are then incinerated, and everyone suddenly recovers (including Adama, who comes out of his coma). Sire Uri's rebellion, which had stormed the bridge, suddenly dissipitates.

The spirits of everyone are now high, and, after debriefing Greenbean, the Colonials are able to estimate where the Cylons must be waiting, and they decide to launch an attack to take them by surprise. Lucifer uses LEADER to inflict guilt on human prisoners. Baltar orders him to increase the power to dangerous levels, and the machine goes out of control. Imperious Leader is affected and begins to feel waves of unbearable guilt for destroying the Colonies. He jumps off his pedestal and attacks Cylons within his reach, eventually smashing and destroying the LEADER machine. His guilt disappears and he quickly leaves. Spectre goes with him. At that moment, the basestar picks up the approaching vipers, and Baltar launches his raiders. The vipers devastate the defending raiders and swarm the basestar, scoring several telling hits. Baltar decides to cut his losses and orders the basestar to warp away. There is a celebration afterwards onboard the Galactica.


Robert Thurston returns to the Berkley Battlestar universe, and it is truly a breath of fresh air. Best of all, we are given an entirely original story. Thurston writes an exciting tale, finding a way to use Imperious Leader and bring back Spectre, a devilishly fun character from The Young Lords episode who had a lot of potential.

I know some fans don't like this story, but I really enjoyed it. I admit that part of the reason I enjoyed the Berkely novels more than most is because I didn't have access to any Galactica fan fiction until just a few years ago, so these stories were all I had. But there's a lot of exciting things going on here. First, there is Adama's journey into the past through his dreams. This allows us to see, in effect, "Untold Tales From Saga Of A Star World" such as the death of Adama's wife, Ila (although since Adama never witnessed the event, it's hard to believe that the dream could be accurate, but we are given the impression that it is). Then there's Starbuck slowly going crazy from his guilt, Spectre's hilarious manipulation of Baltar, Lucifer's observations about everyone around him, and Imperious Leader driven by an insane, raging guilt due to the LEADER machine. Lucifer continues to be the most interesting character in the Berkely version of the Galactica universe. The battle with the Cylons at the end is done really well, and I feel this is one of the best Berkely books yet.

If there is one major flaw with this book, it is that it is unclear if the story occurs after the events of the original series or before War of the Gods (when Baltar is captured by the Colonials). The next novel reveals that it definitely occurs after the events of the original series, but then how did Baltar get back with the Cylons again? Did they rescue him after the Colonials dropped him off on some planet? Thurston should have addressed this.

Still, the book manages to succeed. And as good as the story is, Thurston would outdo himself with the very next novel.


Baltar is getting frustrated over his inability to defeat the Galactica. His body is extremely thin and gaunt because he hardly eats anymore.

It is revealed that Greenbean secretly loved Serina.

Adama is very reluctant to let any of the Colonials leave the fleet to settle on any of the habitable planets they pass because the fleet is badly understaffed as it is.

A Cylon squadron is often called a wall because of the tight way its raiders fly together, looking at times like a solid wall.


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