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The Final Cut

Jeb Barr

The Final Cut
Rating:  T for Teen due to Medium Language
Date:  25th November 2005
Author:  Jeb Barr
Characters - Mel Schmidt (Original of my Devising) Various out of the series
Category:  Relationships
Spoilers:  Vague Impression of what future episode is about without giving away anything that actually happens in the series.


      "What the frak do you mean I have to talk to a reporter?"  I was pissed, seriously completely mind blowingly pissed off.  Back in the days after my accident I had more than my fair share of reporters.  The glorious stunt pilot, a team famous throughout the Colonies now with clipped wings she had led the news for six weeks. All reporters are the same, then and now, if it bleeds, it leads.

             "Mel, look the fleet, we're not all that popular in the civilian sector right now.  They're pissed because the old man talked Roselin into instituting a labor draft of people we need."  I gritted my teeth as Kara paused, taking the moment to press out another rep on the bench press.  It was the only thing that kept my temper even some days, the burn and the strain of lifting concentrating my thoughts on other things, today it was not working.  "One of the stations wants to do a `Faces behind the Name' piece.  You're a name in the fleet, as is Lee and the Old Man, as I am.  You're not the only one that is going to give them an interview who doesn't want to Mel.  Talking with a reporter is one of the last things I want to do, Lee even wishes he could squirm out of it, and I doubt that Bill is going to take much pleasure in it.  Still Mel, the old man isn't demanding that you give one, he's asking.  Are you going to say no?"

             "Frak."  It was all that I could think to say because I realized that what she was asking was not whether or not I was going to say no, but if I was going to let the old man, and Galactica down.

             "I'll take that as affirmative to doing the interview.  There will be a briefing at 0800 tomorrow with the reporter, cameramen and all involved to brief us on what is going to go on during this.  See you."

*****

             I did not like being followed, but that is what I was going to have to put up for the day.  The reporter was putting together something of a documentary, a `day in the life of' piece for each and every one of us before an end of the day interview.  It was going to be personal for all of us, and more embarrassing for some of use than others.  Lee would change some of his routine, as would Tyrol no doubt, Kara would let them see all hang out just to be contrary, and I, I had little or no choice in being embarrassed.  I lived every day of my life trying to get around my shortcoming, to keep people from seeing who I really was, and avoiding the shame that came from their pity.  Today I had no such choice.

             I met them at the door to Pilot's quarters, it was actually Officer's quarters but well, there was not anyone in there but flight officers.  Prior to Judgement there would have been others in there on a normal Battlestar.  Junior officers of the Bridge, flight control personnel communications, maybe even a staff member for an Admiral or two.  Galactica and Judgement made all that irrelevant. Quarters were simply Pilots country and the few nuggets we had we kept close.  It was the one thing that had been guaranteed a no entry during the briefing with the newsies from the Intersun Post.

             "Good Morning Mel."  I gritted my teeth as the voice greeted me; nobody had a right to be that cheerful in the morning. Especially this morning of all possible mornings.

             "Morning."  I said simply not in a mood to talk right off the bat, and made my way down to the head.  I could already feel my face heat with the coming embarrassment I was going to face.  Not because they were going to be filming me in the shower or something, there had been a line drawn at nudity, mainly because some taboos were more common in the fleet than others.  No my embarrassment was not going to be because I was letting them see my weakness in a way that I tried to let very few see.  Which is why for my shift, I was up so early, there were very few in the head at this time of day.

             My morning routine was my routine.  Pants and a clean if ragged sports bra down to the head.  A shower, drying off with one of three carefully hoarded and hand washed towels, back into underclothes.  Brush teeth with the baking soda concoction someone had come up with and an old worn brush. Then back into duty clothes for a trip into the mess, and then to flight briefing.  Due to the tag along today, I wasn't going to be on my normal duty of overwatch on the fleet, but rather playing taxi driver for inspection teams.

             I sat down on the lip of the sink, after undoing the pants and the waist belt, thankfully hidden by the higher waist of the uniform trousers, wiggled a bit and pushed down to get at the straps for the knee device.  There was an intake of breath that I took to be surprise and looked up to meet two pairs, well one pair, an eye and a camera lens staring at me.

             "Yeah, it usually takes people like that.  Which is why I try to be the only one in here?  First people stare, just like that and for a long time that's all they do.  Then they won't look at you anymore for an even longer time, not wanting to be reminded that flesh and blood are frail.  Then they pity you, help you out with this or that, never take your word that you can do it, get it yourself.  Some people never do start treating you normally again." I knew I was coming across as angry and bitter, and damn it I didn't care.  I was angry and bitter, and with hurried fingers I finished undoing the straps and buckles.  I had a feeling that this day was only going to go downhill.

             "You're that Melissa Schmidt the one…"  The voice followed me into the shower stall as I began to strip what little clothing I had on off, and toss it in the waterproof laundry bin hung on the wall. Individual stalls were one good thing about the old Galactica.  The newer Battlestars were all communal as stances shifted and the volume became necessary during the Cylon war for additional armaments.  The Galactica and her eleven sisters had kept their old fittings mainly because tearing them out wouldn't have really made the space available.  Had to be designed from the ground up.  At least it meant she had an opaque door between her and the camera.

             "Yeah, the one that crashed and burned in the Golden Spears what is it now?  Six years ago?  I was the one that made news headlines everywhere, the one that caused the Quorum of Twelve to demand an investigation into maintenance and training procedures fleet wide costing the fleet billions and thousands of man hours for no purpose.  That Melissa Schmidt is me."

*****

             "Sorry about the delay people, had some last minute changes to shuffle due to new information that Command just received."  I looked up from where I had been twirling my pencil studying the day's briefing.  Easy work, shuffle this person here, that person there. Mainly engineering specialists to ship to check out various problems they had.  Galactica was the only ship that had been more or less self sufficient before Judgement.  Every other ship was used to there being a repair depot just a day or two away for supplies and specialists for repairs.  "Lieutenant Schmidt, your taxi gig is cancelled.  Seems that the Mandelyn's Pride had a broken gas gauge and they didn't seem to think that being full for the last month was all that big of a deal.  They're now empty and drifting free.  Mel your shuttle is reassigned to command the op, we're giving you one of the nuggets to watch the controls while you baby-sit so make sure that Gyre doesn't scratch the paint, and keep it under fifty."

             There was laughter in the room as I groaned, the new briefing being passed back through the ops room for my perusal.

             "Bloody hell, I don't know what's worse, the fact that I've got to make sure that Gyre remembers that my left and his left are the same, or the fact that I've got to boss the Mandelyn to a refueling when I know they can't remember Port is Left and Right is Starboard."  I had to smile at the betrayed look on Gyre's face as he looked shocked at me.  It was a senior Pilot's prerogative to put a nugget in his place, and Gyre was one of the better ones.  He'd been feeling it too much in my estimation and he could use being taken down a notch or two.

*****

             The refueling operation had been frazzling, with the camera over my shoulder, and the Pride completely fuming out halfway through.  Luckily everything had worked out with only a little paint scratching on the freighter's behalf.  It had been touch and go there for a couple moments but things worked out after all.

             "We've followed you through your day Lieutenant; I've got to ask, are things always like this?"  I thought about that for a bit, sitting back in my chair, enjoying one of the last of my cigars.  The day, as bad as it had been with having the camera around really had not been all that bad.  Saul was off this evening, Gaeta having been rotated in to relieve him of a shift, so it was looking to be better.

             "No, in fact some are a lot worse.  We work day in, day out shift on, shift off with only an occasional break.  Sometimes you're coming back from a scouting mission and a fuel seal blows and you come in for a landing trailing fire and prayers.  Some days there are cylons and you are praying that everybody makes it back alive." I gave a sigh and looked at my cigar.  "Some days you are just tired. You wake up wondering why you continue on, why you still fight, why you just don't give up and get the dying over with.  To die, to sleep…."

             "Why do you continue on?"  I could hear the wonder in the reporters voice, the curiosity as if she was really trying to understand just why.  "Why don't you just give up, take off the uniform and just quit, give it up?"

             "Where would that get me?  True I wouldn't be up at all hours anymore but I'd still know what darkness was out there trying to get me.  I get up and go on every morning because the old man, Commander Adama does.  I keep doing my job because it is expected of me, because to do any less I fail.  I can't let him down, not after he gave back the only life that ever meant anything to me."  I gave a sigh and looked at the cigar.  "I continue on, because I can't do anything else.  It is all I have left, this…" I gestured around me, "is my home and everyone on here is my family."