Word Count: 9,225 words
Rating: M+ for language
There was a reason the deep recesses of a ship was referred to as "the bowels", and crewman Jezzie Drake was knee deep in that reason. She wore a tox suit and a mask with heavy filters, but the stench still made it's way through into her nose and mouth, and was probably absorbed through her skin. In one gloved hand she held up the author of her miserable morning. Some frak-head had flushed a small metal statuette of Demeter. Beyond the obvious blasphemy of actually flushing a goddess as waste was the far more serious blasphemy of violating the "Soft wastes only" law the Chief'd laid down countless times. "I should just let this back up and see how they like a LITERAL shit-storm," she muttered, then hit her comm with her chin. "Try it now!"
After a hum and a long metallic squeal the walls of the tank began to move in. "That's got it!" she sent. "Shut 'er down!"
The walls continued to move.
"Gods damn you, Plethers, shut it down!"
After a delay the walls stopped. She couldn't actually hear the laughter outside the tank, but she felt it just the same. Jezzie tucked the little statue in the pocket of her suit and went to the hatch. The tank was so old it should be a museum piece. No wonder it only took a little scrap of metal to shut it down. She had so been looking forward to a transfer to one of the new rigs when Galactica was put to bed, one of the self-sustaining ones with methane extraction units and a hydraulic system that didn't need frakin' gears that slipped and broke and needed re-tooling every few months. But, alas, 'twas not to be.
When the hatch clanked open she stepped through and stood while they hosed her down. She tossed Plethers the stinky goddess. "Present for ya, clown." She smiled under her mask when he missed and the statuette hit him in the chest, leaving a dark smear in it's wake.
"I go in for inspections tomorrow," he grinned. "If I find anything, I'll return the favor."
"Keep yer favors, AND yer hard... waste."
This got a good response and sent Jezzie to the showers with a grin on her face.
After she got out of her suit, Jezzie needed three scrub-downs to get the smell off her skin and hair. An extravagant use of water, but that was her last time in the tank for a while. They worked the roster, taking tank duty a week at a time. One long week of being the least popular person on the ship. One long week of dreading your own scent, and worse, dreading the idea that you might actually get used to it. One long week of eating, sleeping, and basically existing alone. But it was over. Now it was party time.
When she got out the Demeter was waiting by her clothes. It was no longer stinky, and aside from the dents where it had gotten caught in the compression wall, it looked pretty good. In fact, as she looked closer she saw the statuette seemed to be made of gold and had settings for stones. One eye was missing but the other one, a baleful sapphire, winked in the dim light. "You musta really pissed someone off," she commented to the goddess, then smiled. Returning the statuette once he'd cleaned it was Plethers' way of apologizing for the joke. It was well known among the maintenance crew that Jezzie had a horror of being trapped in a tank during compression. Well, maybe not a horror. Felt more like a premonition. Which classified it as a phobia, since a phobia was an unreasonable fear and premonitions were fake. She liked reading up on things like that. High stuff, like officers talked about. Jezebel Drake was not a superstitious fool happy to bow and scrap in the bowels of a ship the rest of her life. She had ambitions.
Or did. Her plan was to study till she could pass the entrance exam to Officer Candidate School and become a Quarter Master. She knew everything she needed to run the job, she just needed the brass on her collar to rate the desk. But that wasn't happening now. Not any time soon, either. OCS was gone, and unless some QM died no positions on that ladder were opening up any time soon. She was stuck squeezing shit for the foreseeable future. How's that for a premonition?
Jezzie tucked the goddess in a pocket and took a moment to enjoy being clean before leaving the shower area. She was up for laundry on the rotation. An ass-buster because of all the heavy lifting, and hot as hell, but at least it smelled better. Besides, sometimes you found a few perks in people's pockets. Not that money meant anything anymore, except at cards. But that was tomorrow. For now she was free.
The Enlisted Lounge wasn't exactly a social mecca, but there were vids and books as well as a small selection of card and board games. Someone had set up a running Crackit game on a table in the corner. She went over to see if she could add a few moves. The numbered tiles lay in rows and columns, intersecting at symbol tiles. Grabbing the pad and pencil provided Jezzie tried her hand at the upper left equation. When she had a solution she entered it into the Proctor keyboard and waited to see if she was right. Her hand on the Proctor Pad sweated slightly, waiting for the jolt that would tell her she'd miscalculated. But none came. "CORRECT" flashed on the little screen, and she hissed "Take that, Frackers!" gleefully. The equation and it's solution spat out of the little slot. She stuck the octagonal slip on the nail beside the table and rearranged the tile for a new challenge. Twenty points since the game had started about four months ago. Not too shabby. That put her in the top half of the players. Some asshole named Rogers dominated the tally with a whopping 300 points. Must not have an actual job.
She poked around the books for a while, then eventually settled in a chair when some guys came in to watch a vid. They had a few bottles and were willing to share, so needless to say she lost track of what the vid was about half the way through. It wasn't all that fascinating anyway. Neither was her little clique in her little corner of the ship. Not now that she was stuck with them. She tried to convince one of the guys to go up to one of the viewing areas with her, but he was angling to get her in his bunk without a detour and hated having to work for it more than he wanted to get laid, so...
Early to bed, fighting against the restless frustration and the anger and the boredom. It was getting pretty hard to cheer for the glory boys whenever they won against the cylons, since getting blown up was beginning to look like the only way out of this hell hole. She knew this was unpatriotic and appallingly selfish, but she couldn't help it. She'd had PLANS. She'd had hopes and dreams and all that sap-happy crappy. Now what did she have? Frack-all, that's what. She'd be an old lady slogging around in tanks, or washing undies, or driving a broom, or replacing gears, or any of the other countless crap jobs on this tub. And why? Because some brainiac had once thought it would be a good idea to build frackin' ROBOTS to do these jobs so people like her could be free to pursue better jobs. How's that workin' out, by the way? Oh yeah, the robots turned out not to like it any better than we did, and now they're chasin' our asses around the galaxy IN BETTER TUBS THAN WE GOT!
Personally, she kinda respected the cylons. Yeah, they were dirty bastards for coming back and killing all those people and they were evil for infiltrating us and they should just live and let live blah blah blah. But they had risen up and made something of themselves. You had to give them credit for that. They didn't just lay down and take it. They took their freedom lo those many years ago, and they used it to improve themselves. She bet Tom Zarek could respect that, too. At least, the things he said sure sounded like that.
She still wasn't decided about the man. She thought terrorists in general were flamboyant pricks with a severely depleted sense of reality. She didn't hold with zealots in general, no matter what the cause. When you narrowed your mind down to a fine point like that, you excluded so much you became like an idiot savant. On your one perspective or topic you were aces, but on everything else in life that mattered you were a total dumb-ass. But Zarek might have gotten over that during his imprisonment. He still seemed kinda zealous, but he seemed to have gotten a bit more perspective. She wasn't falling for all that "I'm For the Little Man" crap that was supposed to make bottom-class plodders like her swoon, but still... he made some good points.
And at this point, maybe ANY change would be good. Anything to bring a little light into the endless drudgery. Even a shit storm would be preferable to a shit drizzle.
Jezzie turned on her side, back to the wall, facing the curtain. The guy in the bunk above her farted noisily then apologized, but she was too pissed off to kick him. This was it. This was her life. Stuck in a padded slot in the wall, fogged by someone else's stink.
Any change would be good.
Jezzie Drake looked from one face to another. They were all in full gear, all on alert status, same as they had been for the last day and a half- not that time held any meaning any longer. They had plucked at their "Oh My Gods" nerves so much they were numb. Stomachs still tense, but emotionally numb.
Plethers cam in, grim-faced and antsy. He'd had news.
"Well?" Jezzie asked.
"Hear about Libron 854?" he asked.
"You know we ain't heard shit," Jezzie scowled. "Spit it out."
Plethers gave another nervous look around. "Maintenance team went over there a few days ago. You know, before everything went down. Got caught outside and had to stay there."
A few quiet curses.
He went on. "They tried to hole up in one of the storage lockers. You know, till things got sorted out, or till they heard anything. Damn civies cut their way in." He sat down and rubbed his face. "They were able to drag three out before the shooting started. There's still two alive in there, holding 'em off."
"And the three?"
Plethers shook his head.
"Executed?" Ronk asked. A young kid, perpetually wide-eyed.
"If only," Plethers sighed. "They beat 'em to death. The two in the locker heard it all."
"But we're gonna go rescue the others right?" Ronk asked after a moment of stunned silence. The boy insisted on holding on to his naiveté.
"Maybe," Plethers offered, but it was an assurance based on fantasy. "Depends on how it goes with the old man."
"The old man's dead," Jezzie sighed. "That's where my money is, anyway." A boot sailed past her head. "No, seriously. She shot him point blank. They can't admit he's dead though, or the whole thing falls apart."
"I think we all know Valerii's weapons proficiency is questionable at best," a voice from the back offered.
"Yeah, that's right," Ronk supported this. "She coulda missed anything vital, even at that range. None of the rumors said anything about a head shot, right?"
This was something to ponder. If this had been a serious assassination attempt, why not a head shot? Hell, she was close enough to make it a done deal. Witnesses say he looked like he was gonna hug her when it happened. Of course, this was still all just rumor.
"Anyway," Plethers stood. "I talked to the Chief. He says we need to schedule in rack time for one squad at a time, stagger by four hours so no more than two squads are out at the same time. This may be a long haul, and if something else goes down, we need to be fresh. First squad, you start it. Get some sleep. After your eight I want you back out here to relieve third. Second squad, you only need to hold on four more hours. Fourth, you have my sympathy."
Jezzie was, of course, in fourth squad.
Twelve more hours of make-work, boredom, and rumors. More about the old man. More about Roslin. One of the commo shack monkeys had smuggled down recordings of what the press was saying. Galactica was in complete lockdown, which meant everything coming in was supposed to be monitored and strictly censored, but this never sat well with people born under the idea of democracy- military or no military.
Zarek was making the most of this. Sure everything they had on record as far as the actual events was undisputedly true, but he was putting an additional spin on it. Suddenly he was a huge fan of Roslin, calling what happened a grave and heinous crime. He was saying he didn't necessarily agree with her decisions and beliefs, but that she should have been impeached and either supported or dismissed by the people. And he had a point. Of course, voicing this won Jezzie no popularity points.
"Tom Zarek is a criminal!" Ronk declared insistently.
"Maybe," Jezzie conceded, "but you could say the same thing about figures in our history we now call heroes. Think about it. Isn't it the least bit possible that in the future Adama will be painted as a violent fanatic who made a grab for power? That Roslin will be seen as a martyr for democracy? That Baby Adama and Valerii will be portrayed as patriotic heroes? It all comes down to who wins. The winner gets to put any slant on it they choose."
"No!" Ronk barked. "We'll be around to set 'em straight!"
"Oh really? Or will we be ridiculed and ostracized as pathetic deluded fanatics?"
"But we're not, because we're right!"
"Says who? Zarek's gettin' all that air time. Laying it on as thick as he pleases. By the time any of us get a chance to tell it, they'll all be behind him. Plus, what do we really know? None of us were there, and even if we were, we don't know what was inside everyone's heads." She leaned in, a cold smile on her face. "And if all the major players get snuffed, Zarek gets to SAY what was in their heads, and no one can dispute it."
Ronk jumped to his feet, fists still at his sides but ready. "Why don't you go be with him, you love him so much?!"
Jezzie got to her feet slowly. She felt a hand on her shoulder, but shook it off. "I'm as loyal to the old man as anyone here," she said quietly, but her voice was tense. "But I know he can make mistakes, same as anyone else. I'll go with those mistakes, right up to the gates of hell, but I won't go with blinders on. It's my duty as a soldier to follow orders. It's my duty as a citizen to THINK about where those orders come from, and where they're gonna lead. Don't you dare accuse the civs of being mindless sheep, when you wanna be just as mindless. Then it's just a question of which shepherd, isn't it?"
"I stand behind the old man!" Ronk hissed, chin out, practically begging to be smacked.
Jezzie sighed. "If yer frackin' not gonna even listen to what I'm saying, I'm not gonna bother with yer mutton ass." She turned and started to walk away, waiting for a blow to the back. There was a muffled noise, but the blow never came. She was almost sorry, because she much preferred an ass-shipping to being left alone with her own thoughts and her own crisis of faith.
When the lock down started, there was just one place to be. Battle stations. Then there were formations and battle stations. Then there was battle stations, formations, and the rack. Now, about a week out, they were starting to go back to their jobs- the caveat being they had to do it in battle gear, and they still had way more formations than usual. If you weren't in the rack or the head, you had to be in uniform. It was irritating, but at least they were eating and sleeping fairly regularly, and at least there was SOME of what could laughingly be called leisure time. Crewman sat in sullen knots pretending to watch vids. Booze was strictly forbidden. Some would say this was just when they needed it the most.
Jezebel Drake didn't much miss the booze, or the leisure time. In fact, right now she just wished there was more to do and less time to think. She tried to read but her mind kept wandering. In a way, this was worse than the cylon invasion. At least then you KNEW who the enemy was, and where you stood.
She wandered the halls at the kind of brisk pace any crewman learned- the kind of pace that made it look like you were doing something, so no chief or officer would come along and FIND something for you to do. Looking busy was an art form every crewman became proficient in after about the third time he got snagged for some shit detail.
"Hey Drake," Plethers poked his head out of the lounge. "Get in here. Public announcement."
She went in, less out of curiosity and more because she had nothing else to do. As she walked through to the vid area she saw someone had trashed the Crackit game. Probably the same asshole who wrote "Rogers is a Cylon!" on the wall next to the tally sheet. She shook her head and found a seat.
President Roslin was on, Galactica's emblem behind her. This caught Jezzie's attention. She couldn't help thinking that just because the broadcast wasn't from the brig, didn't mean the prez wasn't still being held there. Colonel Tigh wasn't an idiot. And he didn't get to BE colonel without at least knowing a little something about public relations.
She was begging the colonists to forgo any violence, especially for her sake. She claimed to be working closely with command to resolve this problem, a problem she wasn't sure she had the solution to although she was positive turning human against human was not part of it.
She was playing right into Zarek's hands. Now he could hold her up as a true peace-loving patriot and a victim of a power-hungry military, further garnering sympathy from Roslin's supporters. "This really makes us look bad," Jezzie sighed.
"Yeah," Plethers agreed, "and you know what else?"
"She acts like she's been talking to Adama."
Jezzie sat up, leaning in after glancing around. "You think the old man is up and around?"
"No, I think part of the lock down was never telling the civs he'd been shot by one of his own."
"She never actually said Adama's name."
"She never said Tigh's either. Look at her former addresses. She is usually pretty meticulous about naming all parties involved, either giving credit or blame where it's due."
"And you know what else?"
"I'm almost afraid to ask."
"Then ask yourself why they actually risked giving her air time. I don't know Roslin personally, but I kinda doubt she'd do this with a gun to her head. She must believe there's a very real and imminent reason for it."
Revolt. That was the only thing Jezzie could come up with. The civs must be organizing, planning to storm Galactica the way Galactica stormed Colonial One. "Can they do anything? The civs? Do they even have weapons?"
"A little this and that. They certainly have enough equipment to cut a hull. The Sagittarian riots the civs had little more than rocks, and look how much damage they did. Plus now they have hostages."
"The guys on Libron 854," she concluded, slumping. "Tigh won't negotiate. This gives him even more of a reason to dig in his heels." It just got worse and worse. She glanced over her shoulder at the ruined Checkit game. "Hey, that Rogers guy isn't in for it, is he?"
Plethers grinned. "I think the author just didn't know how to spell "Dick". Though who knows? He might just be a cylon. Or worse, a slumming officer."
She looked at him in disgust. "Geez, what a rotten thing to say. You don't even know the guy." The address had ended and someone put a vid in. Porn masquerading as the classics. Oddly enough, the actual history was probably just that smutty. She couldn't help wondering how this was all going to be set down in the history books- if there WAS such a thing as history books in the future. For all they knew, humans might become nothing more than an annoying footnote in the cylon memory banks.
Not too long ago Jezzie was thinking any change would be good. She still felt that way, but the process of changing was a frakin' pain in the ass- a process they might not survive. Roslin claimed all this had been foretold in scripture. That may be true, but Roslin was silent about how it was supposed to all come out, and Jezzie was too lazy to look it up.
She'd once told an officer (in a stupidly candid moment) that maybe the Great Unwashed wouldn't be so damn unwashed if they got a better grade of soap and more of it, like officers did. The officer had just gotten pissy and put her on report. THAT was a fun week. But maybe she was missing the point. Obviously, it wasn't all about the soap. Obviously it was more about that laziness she recognized in herself. Not that she felt it was a trait only the lower class shared, no. Upper crust frackers had it too. They lazily went for the quick and easy answers so they didn't have to spend the time and effort it took to find out what was REALLY going on, and what might be done to fix it. The difference was, the uppers had the power and the money to be comfortable in their laziness.
Roslin wasn't lazy. Adama wasn't lazy either. Both may be misguided, but you couldn't accuse them of taking the easy way out of anything. Zarek wasn't lazy either. Oh, she could practically FEEL him in his busy work, never wasting a MOMENT. Even his quote- unquote offhanded-comments were carefully planned and specially calculated to get a certain effect. She felt you had to admire that kind of dedication, at least a little.
Jezzie got up. When Plethers asked her where she was going, she replied "The chapel. Think I'll spend a little time with the scriptures."
Five days of this. I haven't been this strung out since jump school. They had us in EVA gear today, something about Zarek's boys trying to get in through the flight pod. Hell, I didn't care much anymore. We knew Galactica inside and out by now. Amazing what you could do in forty days of this shit. I blinked, trying to get the grit out of my eyes. We'd been out here for hours now, nothing but the hiss of the suit in our ears, not transmissions. Breny had shouted through the helmet once, hell I didn't even remember what that had been about.
There's a lot of time to think when you're stuck to the side of the hull just waiting for something to happen. Pulling an EVA watch drove some guys nuts, which I guess is why we were detailed to take this one. The normal Marines and Fleeties were starting to go a little bonkers, not that I blamed 'em.
I heard two clicks on the circuit and looked over my shoulder, as well as I could in the gear to see a light appear as the hatch opened. Our relief was here. We clanked back into the safety of the ship and pulled our helmets off.
"What a bunch of..."
"Don't say it Breny. Just don't say it okay?" I said. I'd kinda gotten used to the quiet. Breny's voice was almost shrill in comparison. Oh hell who am I kidding? Brenny's voice was always shrill. It was just getting on my nerves more than usual.
"Hey, someone's gotta," he said, pulling more of his gear off. I sympathized for the next guy who had to wear his suit.
"Yeah, so why is it always you Bren? Secure that shit." The LT said. We'd been with the LT for a little over two years now, ever since Lt. Flavius had gotten promoted to Fleet. He was gone now. Lotta people were gone. I tried not to think about it, kinda hard when you came in after six hours outside.
"Stand down guys, get a shower, sack out. We'll be back in the situation room at 04:30," The LT said. It was damn near routine anymore. I rubbed at my eyes, there was a permanent grit in them that wouldn't come out. I reached in my gear for a bottle. Just two left. I popped 'em and swallowed without thinking about it. They took the edge off, after being wound up for hours, hell it was days at this point. These ones got you up, these ones got you down. I don't know that it mattered much anymore. I was numb.
"LT," I said, walking over. "Hey, we got any idea when..."
"No," he said. "Get with the Doc, get us resupplied." He said. I hadn't really expected to know when we were gonna be done with this. We were just mushrooms. In light of the chase from Caprica it really wasn't anything. Not that we'd had a lot to do in that fight. We were still wearing down though. 18 hour shifts waiting. We didn't wait. It wasn't us.
"Yeah, okay," I said. I checked the suit for rips before hanging it up, twice. It was too easy to make mistakes when we ran ops like this, even if they weren't 'real' ops.
"Hey, you headin' down to the mess?" Leora asked. I rubbed the back of my neck, wishing there was a way to get the crud off the back of it.
"No, I got stuff to do. Eat for me 'eh?" I should have taken her up on the offer. These were some of the first real ops we'd run since we'd hooked up with Galactica. I needed to eat I knew. I told myself I'd get a sandwich, something sugary to drink.
"You take care of yourself Jase. I need someone who's on his toes watchin' my ass," She said. It should have been funny, but I didn't feel like laughin'. It didn't even come across as funny, more like paying lip service to being funny. She did have a great ass though.
"Need a re-fill Doc," I said in the medical bay. Did they call them that in the fleet? Hell I didn't know. Before Galactica I'd hardly been on fleet ships. A few deployments before I was in Recon, but nothing like a Battlestar, nothing in the Navy proper, not just the Gators.
"Your squad sure went through those fast," He said, with a skeptical eye.
"Yeah, double shifts. They didn't stand us down for the first few days.' I said.
"Don't you think you should take some time off?" He asked.
"No complaints from me Doc. Get 'em to say it down from on-high and I'll sack out for a few days."
"Yeah, I'll see what I can do," He said handing me two boxes, one with a red stripe, one with a blue.
I headed back to the squad bay via my usual haunt. The rest of the guys found their own little places to get away from us. Leora hung with the Chiefs, she liked the gear heads. Breny was always lookin' to score with the nurses, not that any of them would have much to do with him. Well, sometimes.
Me, I hung with the crew, the sloggers. The kids that pushed mops and kept the little things going on the ship. Maybe it felt like home, I don't know. It was better than tempting fate in officer's country. I couldn't deal with fleet officers. Thankfully the LT and the Sarge took care to keep that buffer in place.
"Frak me," I said looking at the Crackit board. What the hell? That was great. I bent down and started picking the pieces up, resetting it. It didn't take long, but the downers were definitely working now. I'd get that shower when I woke up, all I wanted to do now was flop out for a few hours. I pulled the paper with my name scrawled on it down and crumpled it. Cylon 'eh? Cylons don't get this frakin' tired.
Jezebel Drake wandered in a daze, thinking hard about what she'd read. She never saw Ronk, not even when he slammed her into the wall. She just sorta bounced off, recovered, and kept on walking.
"Hey, I'm talking to you!" he roared.
Jezzie paused, turned, and blinked at him. "What?" she asked quietly. "What did you want?"
"You in an airlock, and my finger on the button!"
"Maybe later," she said. She understood he was pissed off, probably leftover aggression from the little debate they'd had about Tom Zarek, but she just didn't feel like dealing with that right now. Not with everything turned upside down. Not until she decided whether she should be happy or scared shitless, or if she should just shrug it all off entirely.
"I say NOW!"
He'd grabbed her shoulder to spin her around, but in her addled state her balance was way off. She waved her arms (too late) to balance herself as she fell to the deck.
He looked disgusted. "You're DRUNK!" he accused, then grabbed her by the collar and started to drag her down the hall.
She wasn't drunk, of course. She hadn't even used mouthwash in hours. She could have said this, but it seemed so much easier to let Ronk drag her to the Chief and report her. When the Chief dismissed him and asked her to speak up (already halfway into the preamble to an award-winning ass-chewing), she simply asked to be tested for alcohol. He accused her of getting smart with him, but pulled the infamous Stinger from his desk. Jezzie calmly put her finger in the box and let the thing extract blood.
Chief looked at the result, then slammed the Stinger down on his desk. "Why the frak did you make me waste a needle on that? You know I can't just order more!"
"What could I have said that would convince you?" she shrugged. "Plus it saves us a lot of wasted time."
He glared at her a little longer, then sat down. "Now tell me what all this is about. Staggering? Are you sick? Are you cracking up? What the frak is up with you?"
"I've been to the chapel."
"And what? You had a vision?"
She gave him a disparaging look. "I've been reading the scriptures."
"There's this section about a leader who will guide us to Earth."
"Right, right, I remember that from school."
"A DYING leader."
He stared at her for a long while and she stared right back, almost WILLING him to get it. Finally he whispered "Oh, frak."
"Yeah," she agreed. "Chief, the civs HAVE to know. If they know about the scripture, and about how Adama got shot, they'll see he's the leader who'll take us to Earth! Then all this crap can come to an end!"
He frowned. "We have a priestess, you know. If this were true she would have said something."
"Do we know for sure the priestess even knows the old man got shot? Hell, WE'RE not supposed to know! Chief, ya gotta do something. Tell SOMEONE. I can't sit on this. It's bugging the crap outta me."
After a while he nodded. "OK, sure. I'll... tell someone. Once I figure out how to do it without sounding crazy."
"Chief, ya gotta-"
"At ease, troop," he said casually. "You're dismissed." He turned away and buried his nose in some paperwork.
Jezzie had the distinct feeling the Chief would never tell a damn soul. And why should he? Who was she to interpret the scriptures? She saw a coincidence, and now all of the sudden she was a prophet?
She wasn't on duty for almost ten hours. Might as well get some rack time. Maybe with rest she'd feel better. Maybe she'd feel good enough to plant her boot squarely in Ronk's ass. She passed the lounge on her way, briefly looking in. Someone had covered the graffiti and set up a new game, but she couldn't get into it. Then she had an idea. She'd give the Chief a day. If nothing happened, she'd post the key passage herself right here in the lounge- even though the scriptures had a lot to say about a dying leader, but nothing about a soon to be busted crewman.
It wasn't much of a scene. It was dark, cold, silent. Nothing but my own breathing. Again. I'd seen it a hundred times now. There were only ten of them, maybe a dozen, getting smaller, running. It played out in slow motion. I knew them, had been friends with them. They bounced ungainly on the surface of Picon Bravo, the little nothing of a moon that orbited the little nothing of a planet that was the location of fleet headquarters.
Out Raptor lifted of, leaving them behind. There was nothing I could do, nothing any of us could do. My own EVA supply was dying, thus why I couldn't hear their screams over the radio. It was getting hard to breathe, hard to stay awake. Someone closed the hatch and they were gone. Just like that. The hatch closed and they were gone, left to whatever fate awaited them. I passed out.
I gasped and bolted up in my rack. I'd woken up like this at least once a week since... well since it had happened. This was not a good week. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and swung my feet out onto the deck.
"What's wrong Rogers? Late night?" Brenny asked in that grating squeeky voice of his. I just rubbed my eyes. They were still gritty, like someone had poured sand into them, behind them. I looked at my watch. Four hours. That was about right.
"Brenny, so help me, you say one more frakin' word..." I said between clenched teeth.
"You'll what?" The gunner asked. I don't know why he asked for it. We'd never gotten along, but most guys that didn't get along kept their distance, learned to make the best of it. Not Brenny. I was at him in a shot, jabbing him with my thumb in the ribs. I don't know if it was just waking up, the long days, the nightmare, I just don't know. I never saw his left, maybe a blur. It connected with a satisfying thud on my eyebrow.
"What the frak is goin' on in here?!" The LT's voice boomed. I staggered up to my feet, didn't even try to check my forehead.
"Nothin' Sir," I said.
"Nothing Lieutenant," Brenny said. Not a good thing to let the Old Man catch you doin' 'nothin'.
"Nothing 'eh?" He asked, looking at my eye swell up. It was hot, I had to squint a little bit.
"Nothin' Sir," I repeated.
"I don't wanna see nothin' again, you git me?"
"Yes sir," I said. It was my own fault. I was the one that lost it. The work wasn't an excuse. Brenny shot me a look of satisfied superiority as we walked off to our respective corners. He thought he'd won. Maybe he had. I grabbed my bottle of go pills and choked two of 'em down, chased with four pain pills.
"You've been hittin' those pretty hard lately," Leora said, back from her jog. I never understood how she could run in the confined spaces on a ship. I needed the open air, or open airless, or I ended up on the treadmill.
"Been havin' headaches," I said, which was true enough. The Stims did that. High blood pressure, low pressure from EVA, who the hell knew. I'd always had migraines, always kept a bottle of painkillers close by, it had been getting worse though lately. Stress, that's what the Doc'd say.
"Uh huh. I meant the stims," she said. Where was this goin'? She wasn't our Mom. That was the sarge's job.
"Hey, we all gotta stay frosty, ya know?" I said, with mock enthusiasm. It was lost on her.
"Rogers! What the FRAK are you doin' in my squadbay?" THAT was a voice I didn't need to hear. I could already feel the pain starting behind my eyes.
"Stinkin', Top," I said.
"No shit smartass," She looked furious. She knew what the score was with Brenny, but I knew the Old Man wasn't supposed to know too. What would it be this time? Running the ship twenty laps in EVA gear? On the outside?
"I don't have time to properly beat that smirk off your face," She handed me a chit. Orders.
"Report to Dr. Baltar's lab, post haste."
"What?" I let escape from my mouth. I winced.
"Don't make me repeat myself!" She damn near shouted. So much for my shower.
The Lab was on the complete other end of the ship. Galactica had shoe-horned us into crew's quarters usually reserved for her deck crew. She didn't have a full deck crew embarked. Whoever had laid the old girl out must have thought that the engines emitted some dangerous radiation, they were nicely buffered with enlisted rates.
I lost count of how many times I had to say 'sir' on my way up to the lab. This didn't make any frakin' sense. It wasn't like Doc Baltar was back anyway. They still hadn't completed the SAR from Kobol yet. Why the hell was I trudging through officer's company to see someone who wasn't even here.
Oh, I knew, but I don't think that I'd admitted it to myself. Everyone was on edge, not just because of the fancy footwork that Zarek was playing with Tieh. Adama was laid up somewhere, no one knew why or how. Amazing that it hadn't gotten out yet. Not even the Medical staff were saying anything. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to put two and two together though. They looked like us. Someone had accused me of being one. It was something that I didn't admit to myself though.
"Excuse me," someone said from behind me. Had I stopped in the corridor? I looked around to see who it was. It was a narrow corridor, not one of the mains. She was small, not that I was overly large mind you, but she just seemed...
"Wha?" I asked a bit dimmly. "Oh, sorry," I said. No brass on her collar, at least I wasn't being an idiot in front of an officer.
"You lost?" She asked. I blinked a few times, rubbed my eyes.
"Uh. No. No, I was just..."
"Yeah, just kinda spaced out there for a second. Haven't been getting much sleep, ya know?" I said.
"Yeah, I know," She said and skittered off to wherever she was going. The lab was just a few steps away.
"Hello?" I asked looking around. Just as I'd thought, no one around. My eye was really starting to swell, it was probably half-closed and burned like a mother. I sighed. Just another reminder of how well my day had gone. Hell, I hadn't even been awake an hour yet.
"Hello? Who's there?" Someone asked. He looked like an orderly, tall, thin, a little swishy.
"Rogers, Specialist Jason. I was told to report."
"Ah yes, the Crackit playin' Cylon. Come on in," he said, a little twitter in his voice. He pointed to a chair off in a corner. "Just need a little blood, some hair, the usual stuff."
"I thought Dr. Baltar was gone," I said as he got his instruments of torture ready.
"I wouldn't know," He said knowingly. The ship wasn't the only thing that was compartmentalized.
"So do you come here often?" I asked, trying to lighten the moment. He cackled. Not laughed, not guffawed, but outright cackled. It wasn't a funny cackle either, but something that made you seriously wonder about his sanity. He must get on famously with Doc Baltar. I hadn't really thought of it before, but Baltar did seem a bit fruity. Maybe....
"No," He said deadpan, jabbing a needle into my arm. I winced a bit, tensed. "Only been here a few days really. Just collecting samples. It's better than the infirmary." He shrugged, grabbed at my hair and yanked a few strands out.
"Hey!" I yelled. I didn't keep the typical Marine buzz, nowhere near. They let Recon get away with murder on that score. We'd been hearing grumblings from the Galactica Marines about it already. Maybe I'd get out of cutting it long enough for the barbers to run out of spare scissors.
"What? You wanted me to warn you? We need the root." He said.
I just sat there and stared at him for a moment.
"What? That's it. You're done. Get out." He said.
What a frakin' morning.
"Whad I miss?" I whispered to Leora as I slunk into the situation room. The LT was going over some plan, a deck plan laid out on the main board. We'd acquired our situation room from the non-existent starboard Fighter Wing. I had to hand it to the fly boys (and girls) they had schwag down to a science. The chairs were about as plush as I'd come across and the AV equipment while a little old was leaps and bounds ahead of what we were used to.
"I'll tell you after," She whispered.
"After Raptor 438 sets down here, Bravo team will insert via EVA on the hull and make their way to the bridge on the exterior of the hull while Alpha team cuts through the hull here," The LT said. Wait a minute. Cut through the hull? That didn't sound like the standard, 'protect Galactica from Saggitaron Terrorists drill'.
"Rogers, you're heading the EVA team with Riggs and Leora," LT said seeing I'd made it back. Ah shit. This wasn't a drill. LT just picked our best EVA operators for that. He also kept Brenny and Top for himself. We were a distraction.
He zipped through the op now that everyone was here. It really wasn't too difficult of an op. We trained to deal with toasters, handling a few civilians with guns wouldn't be too terribly difficult.
"Sir, do we know where the President's bodyguards ended up?" I asked when it came around to questions.
"No, and they have been shuttling around out there for the better part of a week. It is entirely possible we'll be facing some of our own in addition to whatever Mr. Zarek can pull together," the LT said. I knew guys who had accepted slots on the President's detail. Not well mind you, but I'd seen enough to know they were born again hard, well as hard as your typical Marine got.
"Air cover?" I asked.
"Detailed before you were here, check your packet."
"Starboard Flight Pod has been allocated for pre-mission drills. Take 30 for chow and be down there to lay this all out. Sergeant, pull our weapons from the armory, no ammo."
"We're taking Zarek?" I asked.
"Sounds like," Leora said. "You gonna get that chow now?" She asked. I really wasn't all that hungry, even though I couldn't really remember the last time I'd ate.
"Yeah, sure," I said. The crew's mess on this side of the ship was an odd mixture of fleet, Marines and civilians, probably split almost even. I hadn't bumped into many civilians here yet, but they mostly filled contractor roles, well except they weren't gettin' paid.
"You doin' alright Jase?" Leora asked as we stood in line. The smell of the chow almost churned my stomache, but I had to eat something. The standard issues grease just wasn't doing it for me for the last few days. Spending all day in an EVA suit yesterday hadn't helped. I tended to forgo much of anything when you had to open the ship with a can-opener to find the head.
"Yeah, just long days ya know?" I said filing through the line. Thankfully they weren't serving anything overly greesy this morning. It was more of a semi-solid brown goo. I guess the old joke about flushing twice was true.
"It isn't just long days," She said as we looked for a table.
"You two out on a date?" a shrill male voice asked us from behind. I didn't think there could be a mor annoying voice than Brenny's, or if there had that it belonged to one of the 15 billion people that the Cylons had killed. Apparently my luck on the score hadn't changed. We both turned around to see a Lieutenant giving us the eye. He looked like a console cowboy, thin, gaunt, sunken eyes.
"No sir," I said before Leora could get anything out. It was a nice straight, neutral response. I hated officers. Hated them. Someone told me one time that it was my disrespect for authority that made me a good Specialist, and that's all that I'd ever be.
"Well see that it doesn't look like you're out on one," Lt. Sunken Eyes said. Who pissed in his oatmeal? We found a table filled with 'contractors' and settled in. My eye was had swollen about half closed from my earlier fight with Brenny. I'd had worse.
"It ain't the long days. I've seen you walk in off Picon Bravo after a week in an EVA suit looking better than this," She said, ignoring the civilians.
Michelle Leora and I had been friends since before we were in Recon together. Our kids has played triad together, when I had kids. She had a good head on her shoulders, and was a dead shot with an assault rifle, but she pried too much. She never pried this much on Brenny, I had a special place in her universe for being picked apart. Maybe she thought I deserved it after leaving my wife, I don't know. I always kinda felt like a bug being dissected when she got like this though.
"I ah.. haven't been sleeping well, when we get to sleep that is," I said, picking at what passed for breakfast.
"Yeah, have you thought about..."
"No," I cut her off. "Just.. leave it alone 'Chelle, okay?" I asked.
She put the brown goo away like a real trooper, but I couldn't stomach it. It should have been a warning sign, hell there were plenty of warning signs, but I wasn't reading them. Who was 50 days out from the end of the world?
"How was Doc Baltar's?" She asked.
"Blood, hair. They poke ya, they yank a few strands. Nothing much," I said. I guess to took a while for that to sink in. Did people look at me differently? Did they see me walking through the corridors and wonder? If what was left of the human race purged the exceptional in fear of an unknown foe could the mediocre save themselves? Heh, I was exceptional? So I had the high score on Crackit in the crew's lounge. It wasn't that big of a feat to trounce those deck monkeys.
"You ever wonder though?" She asked as the 'contractors' got up to head out to whatever work they were apparently qualified to do on Galactica.
"Somehow I kinda doubt it. If the Cylons wanted to plant someone they would have given them a happier past than me," I said. It kinda made you wonder, but I tended to keep ideas of philosophy to myself. There wasn't any place for that in the Corps. Go here. Do this. Kill that. That was about all you needed to know. Well...
"Yeah, some Cylon agent would certianly last longer than your tired old ass," she said.
"Hey! I'll have you know I can stay in the saddle all night!" I said defending my manhood.
"That ain't what your old lady said," She shot back at me.
"That frigid bitch? Hell no man could last more than five minutes with that sub zero cootchie."
"Uh huh," Loera said. "Come on Flash, We gotta lay out those deck plans."
"What about the part about the snakes?"
Jezzie had just put the prophecy pages up on the board next to the Crackit scores. She hadn't failed to notice Rogers wasn't on the new score list. "Vipers," she answered the crewman quietly. "Another name for snakes is Vipers. Even that part fits. He brought us to Kobol, and now he's dying. All we need is the Arrow of Apollo and we're going to Earth."
"What if this arrow isn't literally an arrow either?" another guy asked. "What if it has something to do with baby Adama? His call sign is Apollo, you know."
Jezebel Drake shrugged. "There literally is an item called the Arrow of Apollo. It's back on Caprica in a museum. The reference could be metaphoric, sure, but unless you wanna ask baby Adama to hoist out a projectile-like portion of his anatomy..."
This drew a few chuckles. Nervous steam to be blown off.
"Hey," a new guy shouldered his way in. "I was at chow and I heard some jar heads. Something's getting ready to go down."
"They're going after the arrow?" another asked.
"More like they're going after Zarek."
"Frak," Jezzie swore quietly. "That's frakin' Tigh, all over. You think the civs are restless now, just wait till they find out we tried to silence their precious spokesman."
"Zarek hasn't been elected to SHIT," one spat.
"In case you haven't been keeping score, the list of candidates for representative of the people has been whittled down to one. By us. He wins by default."
"She frakin' loves Zarek," Ronk's voice was easy to pick out.
"No, Ronk," she replied coolly, "that was your mother."
"Bitch! I'll rip your lungs out and feed 'em to ya!"
Everyone recognized the chief's hoarse bark, and everyone settled down instantly. A path opened up and he walked up to the Crackit game, flipping through the pages there. "You?" he turned to Jezzie.
"Aye," she saw no reason to delay the inevitable, lifting her chin.
"I should put your ass in the brig for this," he hissed, then looked around. "DISPERSE! Last I looked, you all had jobs to do! And if you don't, then rest assured I WILL find you one, and you WILL not like it!"
Chief really knew how to empty a room.
He turned to Jezzie once they were alone. "Didn't I tell you I would take care of this?"
"I know Chief, but-"
"But nothing! Do you have any idea what you're fraking with here? You think I don't know that each and every one of those numb nuts has picked a favorite god and keeps an icon in his locker where he can kiss it each day without anyone seeing? This shit-" he fluttered the pages, then tore them down. "This shit MEANS something to them!"
"That's why I put it up there, Chief."
"Don't get smart with me!"
"Chief, if anything this renews their faith in the old man!"
"Who is at this time incapacitated, and who's "will" is anyone's guess. Not to mention, if Zarek got hold of this he'd spin it all kinds of ways to make himself look even better. The way he might tell it is Adama only meant to take Roslin into protective custody, and Tigh was the one to slam her in the brig."
"You know," she couldn't resist. "If everyone was straight with us from the get go, this kind of crap wouldn't happen."
"That's your opinion, crewman. You are not PAID to have an opinion. You are here for one thing and one thing only: to do your job and follow orders. That is IT."
"Oh, so basically we should be Cylons."
He drew his fist back, but froze it there before letting his hand drop. "You really need to watch your mouth. Trust me on this one, crewman, it is the source of all your woes."
"We're soldiers, true, but we're also colonists Chief. We shouldn't ever forget that."
He fumed for a few moments. "Keep it up, and you're gonna get shipped over to the Astral Queen. And if you think Zarek's boys are gonna welcome you with loving arms, yer sadly mistaken. They're still sore about the last two times we mixed it up with them. They wanna rip out the ass of every Galactica uniform they see. And now they're not alone. We're vastly outnumbered, crewman. Your prophecy say anything about that?"
"Shut up! I hope you got a good stash of porn to jack off to, because you are hereby restricted to your bunk for the foreseeable future. Didja see that one coming, prophet?"
"I never said I was-"
Jezzie stiffened and rendered a crisp salute, then marched out of the lounge. Yeah, she was pissy about being restricted, but she was more concerned about what the one guy said. Jar heads going after Zarek? What the frak was Tigh thinking? He had to know this was gonna be all over the news, and it could only mean grief. And then... gods, what if he heard about her little stunt? She could be executed for sedition. All she meant to do was rally support for the old man. But the chief was right, any cheeser with imagination could put a twist on things and say it was the way the old man wanted it to be. But going after Zarek? That just lent credence to everything he said. And once they got him, what did they plan on doing with him? Just holding him till... when? They damn sure couldn't kill him.
This was wrong. All wrong. And she had no idea how to make it right.
Disclaimer: I have created none of what is here (aside from a few stories here and there) ... I am merely sharing what I have found with others. I am making no money, I own neither the characters nor the stories, and I place it here with the very best of intentions. All due credit goes to SciFi Channel, Glen Larson, and whoever else gets paid for these things.