Word Count: 2,113
I walk through the devastated forward flight pod. Eighty-five lives alone lost in this one area, not to mention the other pilots and crew who died in our escape from Ragnar. I sigh; the greatest crime of war is that it takes the young, who have every reason to live and not old war-hardened daggits like me.
I can't sleep, still thinking of our perilous escape. Thank the Lords Galactica was built to last. Old she may be, but no other battlestar has withstood more over so many years and still come out in fighting shape. My own voice sounds loud in the quiet, "You're a tough old girl, but we make a good pair. We're both a little banged up," and now I touch the stitches along my temple, "but still tough in a fight." And my hand returns to the burned wall as I smile. My contemplation is cut short by the distant sound of someone crying.
I walk further down the charred corridor until I can locate the crying coming from a small storage closet. Inside is a young female in a flight suit. Her long dark hair is matted, and it's obvious that she's among the viper pilots lucky enough pull off a combat landing under fire and live to tell about it. From her uniform and arm patch, I can tell she's a Lieutenant, and originally assigned to the Colombia.
Ship shoes are notoriously quiet so she doesn't hear me until I'm in the room and speak, "Lieutenant is there anything wrong?"
She starts, and then bolts to her feet, looking around for a way out, yet mindful of my authority. Quickly she comes to attention and gives me a crisp salute while saying, "Commander, I was… Sir, I'm sorry to be…"
"At ease Lieutenant…?" I question because I don't recognize her. In the back of my mind I know it will take me a while to get use to all the new faces on Galactica, although I would have been more than happy to relearn an entire fleet of battlestars crews' names and faces if more of us would have survived.
She relaxes slightly and replies, "Lieutenant Eve White, Sir."
"Lieutenant White, it's been a rough few days for all of us. Again I'll ask, is there anything wrong? And Lieutenant, don't bother trying to say `nothing', because I've been around a long time and know that isn't true."
She stands and stares at me like a daggit in the speeder headlights.
I sigh. "Walk with me, Lieutenant White." And I wave my hand in the direction of the door. When she still remains in place I hide my smile and say, "That's an order Lieutenant"
Her eyes widen in fear and she quickly moves forward to comply. As we walk the burned out passageway I observe. "You're from the Colombia. She was the first battlestar to go fully automated. You must be a pretty good pilot to pull off a hands on combat landing under enemy fire. Congratulations."
She stops and looks directly at me blurting out, "I don't deserve them, Sir. I landed, but it was a near thing. I almost took out three other vipers. I was fine with the automated landing but.."
Was I ever so young? Galactica was fortunate to pick up several vipers and their pilots that were unaffected by the Cylon computer virus. Unfortunately, Galactica was also the only ship aside from the Pegasus to require `hands on' landings, or at least routinely practice them. I'm sure there were several pilots who said a prayer to the Holy Lords before they landed while we were at Ragnor. She's probably only the tip of the iceberg. I will need to address this with Lee, but I'll deal with this problem right now. "Follow me Lieutenant, and before you say anything, it's an order."
Her "Yes Sir" sounds resigned.
I keep a stern expression while hiding a smile and say, "I promise this won't hurt a bit, or only very little."
She follows me thorough the quiet passageways until the viper simulation room is in sight.
Lt. White stops, looks at me, and questions, "Sir?"
I speak, "This may be hard to believe, but I once flew vipers. Now I know it was long ago and they were Mark II's not Mark VII's, but I learned a thing or two when I was in the cockpit. Get into the sim Lieutenant White." The order is implicit in my tone.
While she enters the viper sim, I walk over to the control panel and turn on the computers and screen while picking up a head set and putting on my glasses. I set the program to "hands on viper landing" and watched as Lt. White begins her approach.
She's repeated the landing about three times when I stop the sim saying, "Ok, Lt White I see your problem. There's a trick to landing a viper `hands on', and it's the same no matter if you do a controlled landing or a combat one. What you need to remember is when you look at the landing computer screen image, there is another 4 feet of landing gear to account for so you need to keep your nose up and make sure your wing-span is a bit above the horizontal line. I know it's stupid, but this first became a problem when pilots tried `hands on' landings using the automated guidance system. It was never corrected. Most LSOs (landing signal officers) know to correct for it but some don't or assume the pilots know. Get set for another go round Lt. White."
I repeat the landing exercise with her about 25 more times, and finally call an end to the session, "Enough for tonight Lieutenant."
Her reply is almost a whine, "But Sir!! I was just getting the hang of it. Can I practice a few more, Sir?"
I shake my head and smile saying, "No, Lieutenant. Right now you need to rest. I order you to go to quarters and get some sleep. However, you have my permission to use the sims anytime off hours to practice. I'll be speaking to the CAG about getting Lieutenant Thrace to instruct you on `hands on' landing procedures once you feel comfortable with the simulation."
She has already removed the flight helmet and smiles while saying, "Really, sir? The sims? Anytime?" Then her face falls and she gives a gasp, as my final words settle in. Lt. White forgets military protocol again saying, "No! Not Lt. Thrace! I mean she's the best, aside from the CAG and…"
She falls quiet as I look at her over my glasses implying that this is not open to negotiations. Her response of "Yes, Sir." is quiet but there is an undercurrent of excitement.
I leave her in the simulation room and go to my berth never looking back. Being a battlestar Commander as long as I have, you get a good feel for crew who will disobey orders, and Lt. White isn't one of them.
The next morning I'm talking to Lee. "Oh, and Captain, I want any pilots not originally from Galactica or personally cleared for `hands on' landing by you to undergo simulation training and personal instruction. We've acquired quite a few pilots who can launch a viper but know squat about landing a viper without a computer."
Lee looks at me and suddenly I know he was going to bring up the same issue. I smile. He has the makings of an excellent CAG. I'm turning to leave when I remember, "Captain, I want Lt. White, formerly of the Colombia, to be assigned Lt. Thrace as her instructor."
If he has any problems with my unusual request he keeps them to himself. Later he comes up and sits down beside me in the officers' mess saying, "Commander, I have no record of a Lt. White formerly of the Colombia in my records."
I look at Lee. "Captain, I met her last night. She has to be here. Check into it, maybe there was a paperwork snafu." As we are looking over current pilot records, Starbuck enters the mess hall grabs a coffee and comes over to our table. She gives a quick peak over Lee's shoulder at the paper in his hand, then sits down with a quick "With your permission, Sir." I almost snort but nod. She sits and asks, "What are you looking for?"
"I ran into a pilot late last night. A Lieutenant White formerly of…" I stop as Starbuck suddenly pales and stares at me with wide eyes.
Now I'm curious. "What?"
"You met the ghost, Sir." Starbuck sits back in her seat and continues to stare at me.
It's my turn to be surprised. "A ghost? On my ship? How come I never heard of this before?"
"Well sir she only appears to pilots. I think Joker said he once saw her. The story goes that she was a young rookie fresh transferred from Colombia and having problems with hands on landings. She supposedly talked to her superior, but nothing happened and on her next patrol she died in a landing accident. The investigation concluded pilot error caused her crash. She usually appears in the pilot ready room."
Starbuck stops and looks at me with horror in her eyes.
"Spill it Lieutenant."
"Well the pilots say to see her is bad luck."
I'm not one to believe in ghosts, nor in luck. You make your own luck, but Kara looks so frightened for me and I can see even Lee has concern in his eyes. So I just chuckle and say, "Well I didn't see her in the ready room, and it's unlikely I'll be flying a viper anytime soon, so I think I'm safe."
Kara still looks concerned and presses the issue. "What happened when you met her? I mean I've never seen her but usually she just stands there in the ready room crying, then disappears."
So I relate my interaction with our supposed resident ghost. Lee is smiling at the end, but Kara is looking astonished.
She then says, "I never heard of anyone talking to her. Maybe it was a Galactica enlisted who stole or borrowed a flight suit, got scared to be found by the Commander and then lucked out on some sim time."
"See, no supernatural involvement at all. I'm off to finish some work. Captain, you'll see to those arrangements? Lieutenant."
Their "Sir." is lost as I walk away.
It's later in the day after my shift when I finally enter my quarters. I have looked in the current crew database and found no Lt. White, nor anyone resembling her image. So I go into past records. I start to turn away to give the computer time to search but haven't even left my seat before the computer beeps to signify the search is done.
On the screen is a face I remember from the other night. Lieutenant Eve White stares back at me from the computer. As I scan her file, the room seems colder and a shiver runs down my spine when I read the final few sentences.
Lieutenant Eve White killed while attempting a hands on landing. Investigation results: pilot error.
I get the feeling I'm not alone and turn to see Lt. White standing across my quarters staring at me. This time she's not crying and has a smile on her face. I'm speechless, and just stare back at her. Then she says, "Sorry to intrude, Sir. But I wanted to thank you for teaching me the other night, and for giving me permission to use the simulator. I wish I had an instructor like you, Sir."
What does one say to a ghost, especially since you never believed in them? I give it my best shot. "You would have made an excellent pilot Lieutenant. It was my honor. The sim offer still stands."
Her smile grows wider and then she nods and salutes me. As I return it she fades before my eyes and the room temperature seems to rise. What do you know, Galactica has her own ghost. I go back to the berth area and get ready for sleep.
It's third watch and a deck hand is frustrated. It's the fourth time this week that he has heard sounds from the viper simulation room but when he goes in all he finds is the system fully on but no pilot in the simulator cockpit. If he ever finds out the pilot yanking his chain, heads are going to roll.