Site Themes:  ColonialViperCylon
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Flight of Bellerophon

By Scooter Kitty

Word Count: 31,087
Date: 10/29/04
Series: Mini
Rating: T
Category: Action
Pairing/Focus: Lee, Kara
Warnings:
Summary:
Spoilers/Disclaimers:


Chapter 1

“Sir, short range scanners indicate a Cylon scout ship bearing down on us... We’re being scanned, sir!”

“Damn, how do they keep finding us?”

Bridget “Sheba” Cain, the commander of the Battlestar Pegasus stalked the length of the CIC like a caged lioness. For nearly a month now, she and her ship had been hounded by a Cylon basestar that had somehow managed to follow them, regardless of the number of hyperlight jumps they made. The theory was that hyperlight jumps were untraceable. So, either the Cylons had found a way to prove this theory wrong or they were tracking her ship by some other means. Some means that Cain wasn’t sure she wanted to contemplate.

“As soon as that bastard gets in range, shoot him down!” She barked. “I do not want him reporting back to his basestar. Weapons grid to full power... Starboard batteries standby... Commence firing!”

The Pegasus’ starboard side batteries blazed out and within minutes the Cylon drone ship was destroyed. Cain released the breath that she hadn’t even realized that she had been holding. It was a victory, a small one, a temporary one, but a victory all the same. There had been so precious few of those these past few weeks that she would take whatever she could get. She joined in with the rest of the bridge crew as they gave a short round of applause.

It would buy them a little more time before that basestar found them again. They would need to jump again, and soon. Moving to examine the navigational charts laid out on the lighted console, she looked for a place to hide her ship. She had already poured over these charts a hundred times and had found nothing.

Four weeks ago, they had responded to a fleet-wide request for all FTL-capable military ships to report to the Armistice Station. They had responded along with about 30 other battlestars. That request had turned out to be a Cylon ambush. Only the Pegasus had survived. The other ships that had responded had been newer, state-of-the-art models and they had all reported massive systems failures and malfunctions. While the Pegasus, one of the oldest ships in the fleet, second only to the Galactica, had experienced only minor troubles. Even with her marginally networked computers and her perpetually malfunctioning navigational system, she had survived while the others had not. It made no sense.

The one thing the Pegasus did have that was state-of-the-art, were her Mark 7 Vipers, but, ironically, it was the Vipers that had failed. Their systems had either shut down completely or had seized up and Cain had lost almost all of her Vipers in that initial attack.

Seeing what was happening and watching helplessly as one by one, the battlestars were picked off, Cain had curbed her natural impulse to stand and fight. Instead of sending out the last of her Vipers, she had pulled in as many as she could and had made the jump back to the Colonies. Unfortunately a Cylon basestar had made the jump immediately after her. Seeing the devastation already done to the Colonies and realizing that no help would be coming from that quarter, she did the only thing she could, she jumped again. She could not even hope to take on the basestar without Viper support. She had hoped to lose the basestar and be able to return to the Colonies later, but that had yet to happen. They were too busy trying to stay alive themselves, trying to stay one jump ahead of their Cylon pursuers.

Gesturing to Lt. Atlan, the navigations officer, Cain beckoned the young man closer. Speaking softly to avoid being overheard, she asked, “What’s the furthest point you can plot a jump from the Colonies?”

“Away from the Colonies, sir? But I thought-.”

“It’s been almost a month,” Cain interrupted. “After what we saw, do you really think there’s anything left of the Colonies by now?”

The young man swallowed with difficulty. “No, sir,” he whispered.

“Exactly. We need to lose these Cylons once and for all. I’m getting sick of playing tag. I think, we need to put as much distance between us and the Colonies as possible. How far can you take us?”

“Well, the Red Line marks the edge of known, charted space, beyond that is the Prolmar Sector. I can get us that far, but I don’t dare try to plot a jump any further until we have a better idea of what’s out there.”

“So, you can get us to the Prolmar Sector?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Plot the jump, but do it quickly and do it quietly. Don’t let anyone know what you’re doing.”

“Sir?”

“Just don’t tell anyone.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cain understood the lieutenant’s hesitation. It was unlike her to order secrecy. She generally liked to keep her crews informed about her plans and ideas. She had always found that openness and honesty made for a more relaxed ship. The crews knew what was going on and what was going to be expected of them. She felt that it also cut down on a lot of the rigid separations between the various crews, between the officers and the enlisted, and that was the way she like it. She was not a big stickler on the military formalities. She liked her ship to be one big, happy family. She knew that this style did not sit well with many other commanders, but as the first, and only, female battlestar commander and, at 46, one of the youngest, it was only to be expected that she would have her own unique style.

Despite all the achievements of women during the wars, and the hard- fought acceptances that they had won, the Colonial Fleet was still, by and large, a man’s world. Women, especially those who wanted to be combat Viper pilots, still had to prove themselves daily. They still had to work just a little bit harder than their male counterparts simply to earn a fraction of their respect. It was a reality that Bridget Cain was long familiar with. Like so many other battlestar commanders, she had begun her career flying Vipers. Although unlike many of the others, she was too young to have flown against the Cylons, a fact they all loved to remind her of. Well, they had all come face to face with the Cylons four weeks ago and all of those self- righteous old men were dead, while Bridget Cain and her outdated battlestar were still alive.

As much as she had grown to love the Pegasus, her assignment to the aging battlestar was still a sore point with Cain. It had been Admiral Negalla’s predecessor who had promoted Cain. Admiral Paris had always been a great supporter of Cain’s and it had been his last request before retiring four year ago, that Bridget Cain should be given command of a battlestar. The fleet had just commissioned five, state-of-the-art battlestars to be built, but unfortunately Paris had not specified which ship Cain was to get command of. Paris had left that decision to his replacement Admiral Negalla, and Negalla did not like Cain.

Instead of giving her one of the new battlestars, Negalla had moved Commander Valdez from the Pegasus to the new Colombia and had given the nearly obsolete Pegasus to Cain. It had been a deliberate slight to Cain and she knew it. The only way it could have been more insulting would be if he had given her the Galactica, but for some reason that antique had been given to William Adama. Cain wasn’t sure who Adama had pissed off to have earned that assignment, but then again, knowing what a traditionalist he was, he had probably requested it. Hell, he had probably even thought of it as an honor.

Cain had served under Adama when he had been in command of the Battle- cruiser Camelot and her opinion of the man was a bit conflicted. While she respected his experience and his accomplishments, no one could deny that in his prime, he had been a hero, those days were long past. Bridget could remember well, chafing under the man’s cautious, by-the-book method of command. His glory days had been in the past and he had never managed to change with the times. No wonder Negalla had given him the Galactica, she thought, they were a perfect match. Both were relics of a by-gone era.

But there was one thing for which she could not find fault with the man, and that was that he had somehow sired Lee Adama. The elder of Adama’s two sons was possibly the finest pilot she had ever seen. He had served on the Pegasus for a year right after he had finished with his Viper Training Program. She had eventually lost him to a transfer to the Solaria, but she remembered his one year of service quite fondly. Of course, none of that mattered now. She had seen that last report from the fleet, listing which ships had been confirmed destroyed. The Solaria had been on that list. Lee Adama was dead, as, most likely, was his father...

Cain gave her head a shake. She didn’t have the time to be dwelling on dead comrades. Perhaps later, when they had finally given the Cylons the slip, she would have the time and luxury to properly grieve for those she had lost, but not right now. She had a ship and a crew to get to safety first. Everything else would have to wait until later.

~*~*~*~

The jump into the Prolmar Sector had been successful. That had been a little over a month ago and there had been no sign of the Cylons since then. Nor had there been any sign of anything else. No other ships, no habitable planets, nothing. For the first time in her life, Bridget Cain was at a complete loss as to what she should do. For all she knew, she and her crew were the only surviving members of the human race. A humbling thought if ever there was one. And Cain did not like feeling humbled.

To be perfectly honest, she was frightened and lost. The men and women of the Pegasus were all looking to her to get them through this alive. The problem was, she didn’t know what ‘this’ was. She had no idea where to take her people. They couldn’t return to the Colonies, that much was obvious. So, where did they go now? She had no answer to this question, so, for now, they simply flew in a straight path from the point at which they had emerged from their jump. It was all she could think to do. She knew that she could not do this indefinitely. Eventually the ship would run out of fuel and they would be dead in space.

She knew that she needed to consult with her officers and try to come up with a plan of action. She knew that she owed that to them and that they were waiting for this, but she just couldn’t seem to do it. To go to them and ask for help would mean that she had to admit that she had no idea what she was doing and she just couldn’t do that. So, she hid away in her quarters and spent hours staring at navigational charts, looking for hidden meanings in the patterns of the stars. Wasn’t that what the ancient ones had done? They had looked up and seen their futures mapped out in the mysterious twinkling lights of the night sky. Well, Bridget Cain was traveling among those twinkling lights and they were telling her nothing. She was not a religious woman, but right now, she was desperate enough to offer up a silent prayer to the Lords of Kobol to give her some kind of guidance.

A soft buzz interrupted her thoughts and Cain turned to pick up the old-fashioned phone attached to the wall beside her desk. The phone was cumbersome and inconvenient and she hated it, but the Fleet had denied all of her requests to have the Pegasus refitted with a new communications system. She suspected it was because they didn’t want to spend the money on a ship they were already considering for decommissioning. The Pegasus was of a unique design. She had been intended to be a transition between the original battlestars, like the Galactica and the newer, fully integrated models. But for some reason, the Pegasus had been the only ship of that design that had been built.

“Yes,” Cain said into the receiver.

“Sir, short range scanners are picking up a small ship.” The voice was that of Petty Officer Rome, one of the communications technicians.

“Cylon?”

“No, sir, scanners indicate that it’s Colonial. A Raptor, sir.”

“Have they responded to the proper signal protocols?”

“Yes, sir, they say they’re from the Galactica.”

The Galactica! The Galactica still survives! Was this the sign she had just asked the Lords for? Relief, such as she had never felt before, flooded her being. They weren’t alone!

“W-well, welcome them aboard, Mr. Rome, welcome them aboard! We, evidently, have much to discuss.”

“Yes, sir!”

~*~*~*~

By the time Cain arrived at the port side hangar deck, the two pilots from the Galactica were standing beside their ship and looking around with dazed expressions. They were both female, one with long, black hair pulled back in a ponytail, the other with short, blonde hair. The two women turned to face Cain as she and her XO, Col. Tolan, approached.

“Well, it’s certainly good to see you ladies. Welcome aboard the Pegasus. I’m Commander Bridget Cain and this is Col. Michael Tolan.”

She extended her hand to the nearest pilot, the dark-haired one. The young woman immediately stepped up to shake the offered hand.

“How do you do, sir? I’m Lt. Sharon Valerii, Boomer. It is such an honor to meet you, sir. I’ve been following your career ever since I was a little girl.”

Cain smiled. She was accustomed to being greeted that way by young pilots, especially young female pilots. And while it did remind her of her age, it was still quite gratifying to her ego. Disengaging her hand from Valerii, Cain turned to the blonde pilot.

“Lt. Kara Thrace, Starbuck.”

Both the woman’s eyes and her tone were cool and she deliberately did not shake the offered hand. Thrace... Starbuck... both the name and the call sign sounded familiar to Cain, but she couldn’t quite place where she had heard them. Then she remembered that she had heard about this young woman when she had been in flight school. She was supposed to be some hotshot pilot whom people had been comparing to Cain in her younger days. Cain had even gone to see the young woman during her training sessions, but had not been terribly impressed. Cain also remembered that Lee Adama had mentioned her a number of times. Cain had not been impressed with this Thrace before, she was even less impressed with her now.

“So, I assume from your presence and from what you told Mr. Rome, that the Galactica somehow managed to survive the Cylon attack as well?” Cain asked.

“Yes, sir. We were involved with the decommissioning ceremony, so we weren’t there for the initial attack,” Kara said. “Some of our Mark 7 Vipers tried to engage, but they were all destroyed. The Galactica had no warheads or missiles in her magazines, so we had to jump to the Ragnar Anchorage to arm up. By the time we had finished with that, it was too late to help the Colonies, so we jumped to the Prolmar Sector.”

“So, that’s it? Our two battlestars are all that’s left of the Colonies, of the entire Human race?”

“Oh, no!” Sharon spoke up. “We managed to save quite a few civilian ships. The Galactica has an entire fleet of ships with her and some 50,000 refugees.”

“Thank the Lords! Well, that’s good news at least. How far out is the Galactica? I must speak to Adama at once!”

“Of course. I can give you the coordinates for the Galactica’s position and you can follow us back as soon as you want,” Sharon said.

“Excellent! I don’t mean to rush you ladies, but if you could relay the coordinates to the CIC as soon as possible, we can make the jump just as soon as our computers are warmed up. Thank you. I hope we’ll speak again on board the Galactica.”

The two pilots watched as the tall, broad-shouldered woman strode from the deck. Her stride was long and confident; the walk of a predator in its element. It was that very walk that had earned her the nickname of the “Lioness of Leon” on her home Colony. With a disinterested shrug, Kara turned away to climb back on board the Raptor. Sharon followed a moment or two after her. As the two women went through the pre-launch procedures, Sharon was practically bouncing in her seat in her excitement.

“Oh, man, Starbuck, isn’t this incredible? Commander Cain! One of the first, and probably the greatest, female Viper pilots ever! She’s a living legend!”

“Yeah, it’s great to find another battlestar,” Kara said neutrally. “We’ll be able to protect the fleet so much better now.”

“Uh, yeah.”

After relaying her jump coordinates to the Pegasus’ CIC and receiving launch clearance, Sharon launched the Raptor back into space.

“You don’t seem very excited about meeting Commander Cain,” Sharon commented casually.

“Nope. Don’t like her.”

“Had you met her before? She didn’t seem to know you.”

“No, I’ve never met her. I do know that when I was in flight school, she and several other high-ranking officers stopped in to watch my class run through our training exercises, but I never actually met her that day.”

“So, obviously she didn’t offer you a commission on the Pegasus.”

“Nope. Evidently she was much more impressed with Apollo. He was in my class, too. She offered him a commission.”

“Capt. Apollo served on the Pegasus? I thought he’d been assigned to the Solaria?”

“He was. He only served on the Pegasus for his rookie year, then he asked to be transferred. He was moved to the Solaria.”

“Why did he ask to be transferred?”

“You’d have to ask him that.”

“Because you don’t know or because you’re not telling?”

“Because it’s not my story to tell.”

“Fair enough.”

The two women fell silent for a moment as they made the hyperlight jump. Coming out of the jump, Sharon made minute adjustments to the controls without even thinking. She had flown so many patrols, in so many different conditions, over the past few months that what had once caused her so much stress and anxiety, was now second nature.

“So, is the reason that Capt. Apollo asked for a transfer, the same reason that you don’t like Commander Cain?” Sharon asked carefully.

Kara was spared from having to answer that question by Duella’s voice crackling over the wireless. “Raptor 312, this is Galactica, welcome back, Boomer. Did you and Starbuck have a good flight?”

“That is a definite affirmative, Galactica. We found a friendly who should be joining us momentarily. I repeat, tell command to hold their fire, friendly coming in!”

~*~*~*~

The sound of the knock on the hatch to his quarters brought William Adama to his feet. He was surprised to find that his hands were shaking and his heart was racing.

“Come in,” he called out.

As the hatch swung open and Bridget Cain entered the room, Adama felt an overwhelming sense of relief. He had been on the bridge when Lt. Valerii’s message had come through and he had seen, with his own eyes, as the Pegasus had emerged from her jump and had sidled up alongside the Galactica. He had heard the cheers and applause of the bridge crew, but it had all seemed like a dream, until now. Somehow seeing this tall, imposing woman in person made it all real. She was as beautiful and impressive as he remembered her. Standing close to two meters (~6’3”) in height, she was taller than Adama, with an equally impressive build to go along with that height. Her skin was the color of the finest Tauron chocolate and her trademark mane of black curls, as yet untouched by gray, was bound back in a tight bun, as it always was while she was on duty. As ever, she looked every inch the ancient warrior queen to which her call sign referred.

For a long moment the two commanders simply stared at each other. Cain stepped further into the room and closed the hatch behind her. Adama took a step toward her, his hand extended, but Cain pushed it aside and pulled the older man into a rib-crushing hug. Chuckling, he returned the gesture. After a long moment they stepped back from each other. Adama gestured to the leather couch and the two of them sat.

“You look as good as ever, Sheba,” he said.

“And you’ve got a few more gray hairs, Old Man.”

He smiled at that. “I’m sure I do. There’s nothing like trying to deal with 50-some-odd civilian ships to age a man prematurely. But, thank the Lords, you’re here, now we don’t have to be responsible for the entire fleet alone.”

“How is this even possible?” Cain asked in amazement. “How did you all survive? I’m not even sure how we managed to.”

“It will all be explained soon. I’ve called a number of my people together for a formal debriefing in about an hour. If you could bring some of your people over as well, we could answer all of each other’s questions at the same time.”

“Yes, an excellent idea. I’ll contact the Pegasus in a moment.” She looked down at her hands for a moment and took a deep breath. “Lords, Husher, this must be hell for you. You’ve lost everything. I was never all that close to my family, but I know that you and your ex-wife still were. And I never married or had children, so I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for a father to lose both of his sons.”

“Both?”

“Yes, I got that last report from the Fleet that confirmed the destruction of the Solaria. I am so sorry. Lee was a damn good pilot. I was sorry to lose him from the Pegasus.”

“Wh-...Oh, of course, you wouldn’t know... Lee wasn’t on the Solaria. Admiral Negalla thought it would be a good idea for him to take part in the Galactica’s decommissioning ceremony. He was on the Galactica at the time of the Cylon attacks... He’s alive.”

“L-Lee’s alive?” Cain asked, her voice catching slightly. “Well, where is he? Uh, I’d like to see him.”

~*~*~*~

Lee stared at the screen of his small, desktop computer in frustration. He hated doing schedules. He didn’t have enough pilots to cover all the duty shifts and the patrols. And after he had worked himself into illness, only a few weeks back, the commander had flatly forbidden him from trying to pick up the slack. His father was still occasionally asking blunt and, in Lee’s opinion, intrusive questions about his son’s sleeping and eating habits. Lee was unaccustomed to having his personal habits examined and, although he knew his father was only trying to demonstrate paternal concern, it still rankled. Someone was going to have to pick up those extra shifts and Lee was not willing to ask his pilots to do something that he himself could not do.

Since he was off duty, he was wearing only a pair of loose, dark green, work pants and the two regulation tanks. He had been sitting at his desk for well over an hour and had solved none of his problems. The only thing he had accomplished was giving himself a headache from staring at the screen and a lower backache from sitting in the uncomfortable chair for so long.

His frustrated concentration was abruptly interrupted by the sounds of loud voices outside the door to his office, in the pilots’ general quarters. He wasn’t terribly concerned, as the voices sounded excited as opposed to upset, but he was curious. He was just getting up to go investigate, when the hatch burst open and several pilots, including Starbuck and Boomer, spilled into the room. They all seemed so happy and excited that he decided not to point out that no one had bothered to knock before entering the room.

“Sir, have you heard the news?” Lt. Caspan asked eagerly.

“Uh, no, what news?”

“Boomer and Starbuck found another battlestar!”

“What?!” Lee immediately looked to Kara for confirmation. Her expression seemed a bit more sober than the others, but she nodded to him.

“Yes, sir, it’s true!” Sharon said, beaming at him. “We found the Pegasus! Isn’t that fantastic? Starbuck told me that you had served on the Pegasus. Is that true?”

“Uh, yeah, I did, for a short time,” He said, uncomfortably aware that the room had quieted considerably at his words and several of the pilots were now looking at him expectantly.

“So, then you’ve met Commander Cain?” Lt. Sorrel prompted.

“Yes.”

“Well, what’s she like?”

“Uh...tall,” Lee said, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.

The others laughed and, to his relief, began talking among themselves again. He was aware of Kara moving to stand beside him. The others were deeply involved in the their own conversations and no one was paying attention to them.

“You know, she’s probably on board the Galactica right now,” Kara said quietly.

Lee nodded, but said nothing.

“Are you going to be alright?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” he said, a little too quickly.

“Lee...”

Kara was never able to finish her thought, as they heard several soft gasps and the room fell silent. They both looked over to see Commander Adama and Commander Cain standing just inside the doorway of the crowded room.

“Well, well, Lt.- no, I’m sorry, it’s Capt. Adama now, isn’t it?” Cain said, smiling broadly. She gestured to the name plaque on the door. “And CAG, I see. Congratulations.”

“Uh, thank you, sir.”

The tall woman gave her head a shake and sighed happily. “By the Lords of Kobol, Boy, I thought you were dead.”

“No, sir.”

A strained silence followed these words and after a moment, Cain turned to Adama and said, “William, do you think I could have a few minutes alone with the captain. We haven’t seen each other in a while. I’d like to do some catching up.”

“Of course,” Adama said and gestured to the gathered pilots to leave the room. After he had watched them all file out, he was surprised to note that Kara had remained at Lee’s side.

“Starbuck,” the commander called to her.

He was surprised again when she did not immediately respond to the implied command, but instead turned to look at Lee. It was only after the captain had given her a slight nod that she seemed to consent to leave the room. What was all that about? Adama thought as he watched the pilot walk past him out the door.

Turning back to Cain, Adama said, “So, I’ll see both of you in the wardroom in about an hour?”

“We’ll be there.”

Lee was about to ask Cain what his father had meant by that statement, but he never got the chance. As soon as the hatch had clicked shut behind the commander, Cain had stalked purposefully across the room and had pulled Lee into her arms. Wrapping one arm around his waist and grasping the back of his head with the other, she crushed his body to hers. Her mouth was hot and demanding against his, as she forced his lips to part, allowing her tongue to invade his mouth. Such was the almost frantic nature of the kiss, that for a moment Lee feared for the safety of his tonsils. But luckily, oxygen soon became an issue and Cain was forced to relax her grip on him.

Looking down at him and breathing heavily, she whispered, “Damn, I missed you.”

Chapter 2

 

Noticing for the first time that Lee’s body was rigid and unresponsive in her arms, Cain finally released him. He quickly took a step back from her.

She gave him an exaggerated pout. “Didn’t you miss me?”

“Sorry, been too busy trying to forget you,” he responded coolly.

“Oh, so then I have been on your mind?”

Damn, I walked right into that one, he thought.

“You’re not even a little happy to see me?” she pushed.

“I’m glad you’re not dead,” he conceded. “And I’m very glad to see your ship. We need all the firepower we can get.”

“Mmhmm, tell me about your friend,” she said, ignoring his attempt to steer the conversation away from personal topics.

“My friend?”

“The little blonde. What’s her name...Starbuck? She’s certainly a protective one, isn’t she?”

“She’s a good friend.”

“Mmm, is that all she is?”

“That’s not really any of your business, is it?”

“It used to be my business.”

“That’s debatable.”

Moving closer, she put her hands on his hips and pulled him to her again.

“Where is all this anger coming from?” she asked.

Her voice was soft and quite low, and it seemed to vibrate strangely in her throat, like the purr of a cat. Standing with their hips pressed together as they were, those vibrations seemed to travel straight to his groin. Lee knew that he should pull away from this embrace, but somehow, he seemed rooted to the spot.

“I know we didn’t part on the best of terms,” she continued. “But considering that it was you who went over my head to get your transfer, shouldn’t I be the one who’s angry?”

“You wouldn’t give me the transfer.”

“I didn’t want you to leave,” she whispered, leaning in to kiss him again.

At that, he did manage to step away. And he continued to move away until he had backed out of her considerable arm’s reach. When she tried to close the distance, he backed away again. She stopped. She wasn’t going to chase him around the room. She had more pride than that.

“Why do you keep doing this?” she asked.

“I’m just trying to establish some boundaries. This relationship is over and has been for three years. You need to accept that.”

“Why should I accept something that I never agreed to?”

“No one asked if you agreed.”

“Yes, I noticed. Why did you leave the Pegasus? Who did you talk to?”

“Ronin.”

“Of course, I should’ve known.”

“He told me about all your lovers. All those other cadets you offered commissions to, simply because you liked the way they looked in their flight suits.”

“That is a gross exaggeration. There were only a couple and I can’t believe you would listen to anything that Ronin said.”

“He was a good CAG. He was looking out for me.”

“Is that what he told you? Please! Lee, he was threatened by you. He would have told you anything to get you off the Pegasus.”

“Tell me the truth, did you offer me that commission just because you wanted to sleep with me?”

She moved to stand in front of him and, perhaps because of the intensity of the conversation, he forgot to move away. Before he could remember to, Cain reached out and cupped his face in both her hands. Like a drug addict faced with the temptation of a fix, Lee felt his body react automatically to her touch. He was only just able to stifle the moan at the back of his throat.

“You and Ronin both underestimate my standards, Lee,” Cain said in that incredible purring voice. “Yes, it is true that I demand my lovers be very good-looking, but I also demand that they be very good pilots. And let’s face it, you fulfill both of those requirements quite nicely.”

“So, you are admitting that you did have every intention of sleeping with me at the time you offered me that commission?”

“Oh, absolutely.”

The second kiss was much less desperate and frenzied than the earlier one. This was soft and tender, yet still confident and knowing, and to Lee, far more devastating. With the first kiss, it had simply been a matter of withstanding the onslaught of teeth and tongue, but this took significantly more willpower to pull away from.

“Uh, di-didn’t...um, my father say something about...um, a meeting or something?” Lee stammered, trying to get his brain to function properly and desperate to change the subject.

“Yes, he’s called for a formal debriefing in your wardroom at about 16:00. That way all the parties from both ships can get all their questions answered at once. You and I have both been requested to attend, but, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time.”

“I don’t think so. I need to shower and change into a proper uniform,” he said pointedly, beginning to recover his balance.

“I’ll wait. I don’t mind,” she purred.

“I mind. You need to leave.”

“But how will I find the wardroom?”

“The Galactica has the same basic layout as the Pegasus, I’m sure you’ll manage. And if you can’t, I’m willing to bet that any one of those pilots out there would be more than happy to show you the way,” he said, gesturing towards the door and the general quarters beyond.

Even from across the room, he could feel the heat of her gaze, like a physical thing. It felt almost like being violated as her eyes slowly slid down his body to rest at his groin.

“You might want to make sure that shower you take is a cold one,” she said with a smug smile, as she turned and left the room.

Lee glanced down and, to his horror, saw the all-too-obvious bulge in his pants. Damn her! How does she do this to me? Every damn time I’m alone with her, she manages to play me like a virgin schoolboy.

Looking down, in disgust, at his crotch again, he said, “Oh, knock it off, she’s gone!”

~*~*~*~

A half hour, and one very cold shower, later, Lee entered the Galactica’s wardroom, which had been converted into the president’s office. He found President Roslin deep in conversation with Commander Cain. There were two other officers standing nearby that he didn’t recognize and assumed they were also from the Pegasus. After a few minutes, Lee was aware of Cain’s gaze falling on him and he turned in her direction. He saw her nod and say something to the president, then turn and begin walking towards him. But before she could reach him, Commander Adama and Col. Tigh entered and Lee quickly moved to stand beside his father.

“Did you and Commander Cain have a nice chat?” the elder Adama asked as his son approached.

“Oh, uh, yeah, it was fine.”

“Good, that’s good,” the commander said absently, his mind already moving on to the matter of the upcoming meeting.

He looked around, checking to see if everyone whose presence he had requested had arrived. There were only two missing. Lt. Gaeta, he knew, was on his way from CIC. Adama had no idea where Dr. Baltar was. The man had agreed to attend the meeting, but he had been so oddly distracted at the time, that perhaps he had forgotten.

“Commander Cain?” Adama called to her. “I have two people who aren’t here yet, but are your people all here?”

“We’re ready when you are.”

Adama gestured for everyone to be seated at the long, narrow conference table and he began the introductions. The only people Cain had brought were her XO, Col. Tolan, and her navigations officer, Lt. Atlan. She explained that her CAG had been killed during the Cylon ambush and since she had not been using her Vipers for the last month, she had not brought any other pilot. As the last of the introductions had been made, Lt. Gaeta slipped into the room, apologizing profusely for his tardiness.

“It’s all right, Lieutenant, we understand,” Adama said. “Say, you didn’t happen to see Dr. Baltar wandering around, did you?”

“Uh, no sir.”

Adama nodded. It was amazing to him that a man, who was supposed to be a genius, like Dr. Baltar, still managed to get himself lost on the Galactica, despite having lived on the ship for over two months now. Even the president’s young aide was now able to navigate the corridors with ease. With a sigh, Adama was about to start the meeting, when Dr. Baltar finally arrived. The man looked somewhat out of sorts. He mumbled something about getting lost and quickly sat down.

“Well, now that we’re all here, let’s begin,” Adama said. “You will all, please, note that there is no person or device recording this meeting. That is because there may very well be some things said here that must not be repeated outside this room. Your utmost discretion is hereby ordered... For now, Commander Cain, if you would please tell us how you and your ship managed to survive.”

Cain described the Cylon ambush at the Armistice Station and the Pegasus’ subsequent flight. “We haven’t seen that basestar for almost a month now, but I don’t think we’ve lost it. I don’t know how it keeps finding us, but I think it’ll be back. In fact, we’ve probably led it right to you.”

“That may have been the intent all along,” Adama mused.

“You make it sound as though the Cylons have been deliberately manipulating us.”

“It’s possible they have been... I believe there may be Cylon spies on board either, or both, ships.”

A general outburst of consternation followed these words. As Lee looked around the table, he noted that only Col. Tigh and Dr. Baltar did not seem particularly shocked. Even Pres. Roslin appeared taken by surprise. Lee found it interesting that his father had evidently trusted Baltar with this sensitive information, but not Roslin. After a moment, Adama raised his hands for silence.

He proceeded to relate the Galactica’s story to Commander Cain. He also relayed everything that they had been able to learn about the Cylons, the corrupted navigation systems, the planted Cylon device, and the very frightening reality that the Cylons could now pass as human.

“Lords,” Cain breathed, “for some reason that navigation system never worked properly for us. We had nothing but problems with it from the day it was installed. It sounds like that’s the only thing that saved our lives. Never thought I’d be happy that a vital piece of equipment on my ship didn’t work. But I gather from what you’ve said that we can get it off our Mark 7s and be able to use them again?”

“Yes sir,” Lt. Gaeta spoke up. “We’ve had complete success with refitting our Mark 7s.”

“Well, that’s something, at least. Well, Husher, what now? If I’ve got Cylons on board my ship, how do I find them?” Cain asked.

“First thing we need to do is have your ship searched for any Cylon devices. Lt. Gaeta and Dr. Baltar can take the lead there. They have a pretty good idea of what to look for. Has your ship undergone any repairs recently?”

“There had been someone over from the Fleet every few months for the past year, trying to get that navigational system to work.”

“I would start my search there,” Adama said. “That could be how they’re tracking you.”

“I’ll contact my chief science officer, Lt. Athens. You and Dr. Baltar can coordinate with her,” Cain said to Lt. Gaeta. “She’s good. I trust her completely.”

“Yes sir,” Gaeta responded.

“Now, what about these possible spies?”

“That will also be Dr. Baltar’s territory,” Col. Tigh said, gesturing to the man. “The good doctor has developed a program for detecting Cylons.”

As all eyes turned toward the man sitting at the end of the long table, he looked up nervously. It almost appeared as if he had been interrupted in the middle of a private conversation, but there was no one sitting near him.

“Oh, uh, yes,” he stammered, “I have developed a, uh, clinical computer subroutine which can screen hair samples for syn-synthetic chemical combinations. Y-you see, it works by-.”

“Yes, yes, that’s very nice,” Cain said, interrupting. “I’ll ask Lt. Athens to assist you with your tests as well.”

“Oh, t-that’s not necessary,” Baltar said quickly. “I’m sure, I can manage on my own.”

“It’s quite all right, Doctor. I insist. If you’re going to be testing my crew for a traitor, I want someone I trust standing nearby to verify your findings.”

“Y-yes, of course,” he said meekly.

“Good, now that that’s taken care of, what are we going to do about that basestar?” Cain said, turning her attention back to Adama.

“Do? We’re going to run. It’s all we can do,” Pres. Roslin spoke up for the first time.

“With all do respect, Madam President, we have two battlestars, and between our two ships, a nearly full complement of Vipers. One Cylon basestar should be no match for two battlestars,” Cain said.

“And what about the civilian ships? How do we protect ourselves?” Roslin asked.

“The civilian ships could jump to a specified spot away from the combat zone and wait for us there.”

“And while you are fighting the Cylons, and possibly getting destroyed, we’re sitting ducks. If there is a spy on board one, or both ships, the Cylons may know that we’re sitting unprotected.”

“We could give you a small contingent of Vipers to provide protection.”

“Sir, even a full squadron of Vipers can’t adequately protect 50-some ships,” Lee pointed out. “Besides, the two battlestars would need all the Viper support they could get.”

“What about that planet that Lt. Valerii found?” Gaeta spoke up.

“Yes, that’s right,” Col. Tigh agreed. Turning back to the others, he explained, “On one of her recent scouting missions, Lt. Valerii discovered a planet. We had her fly in closer to take a look for possible habitation. She discovered that the planet had incredibly high levels of radiation in the exosphere and powerful electrical storms in the ionosphere. The planet was completely uninhabitable, but it could offer temporary shelter for the civilian ships. The radiation levels on the planet are even higher than at the Ragnar Anchorage and we already know that the Cylons were very reluctant to follow us in there.”

“There, problem solved,” Cain said, smiling. “We move the civilian ships to the planet. The Pegasus and the Galactica engage the Cylons. Once the basestar is destroyed, we all jump to a new location.”

“You make it all sound so easy,” Roslin said. “But, I’m sorry, I’m not comfortable with this.”

“Neither am I,” Adama agreed.

“All right, the Pegasus could take the lead position in the engagement, along with all the Vipers,” Cain said. “The Galactica could take up a defensive position in front of the fleet and provide back up and suppression fire for the Pegasus.”

Adama said nothing for several minutes, obviously weighing his options. Turning to address his son, he said, “Captain, what is the status of the repairs on the Vipers?”

“As of yesterday, Chief Tyrol reported that all Vipers were operational and combat ready. I imagine it would only take a matter of hours for the Pegasus’ Vipers to be retrofitted and made ready as well.”

The elder Adama nodded his head, still musing on his decision. He glanced up at Pres. Roslin. She held his gaze steadily. Watching them, Lee had the impression that there was a great deal of silent communication going on between the two leaders. Perhaps sensing this as well, Cain leaned forward to press her position with the commander.

Even though Cain and Adama were of the same rank, Adama had held his rank longer and was therefore the senior commander. And while it stung her considerable pride, Cain was military to the core and would not do anything to upset the chain of command. She would abide by whatever decision Adama made, but she would be damned if she was going to give up her cause without a fight.

“Husher, if we don’t deal with that basestar, we’re going to be constantly looking over our shoulders, wondering where it is and when it’s going to drop in on us,” she said intently. “I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of running scared. It’s time we struck back, got, at least, a little revenge for what they did to the Colonies. We need to let them know that we aren’t completely defeated, that there’s still some fight left in us. Remind them that they need to treat us with a little caution. We need to make a stand, for our own self-respect, as well as our safety.

“Now, I don’t know how far out that basestar is. It could be hours away or it could be days before we see them again, I don’t know. Hell, maybe we even lost them, but somehow, I don’t think so. We need to be ready and waiting for them. It’s about time, we gave them a little taste of their own medicine.”

Lee had almost forgotten how charismatic Bridget Cain could be and he knew from first-hand experience that when she wanted something, she could be very persuasive. He glanced over at his father, to see how the older man was dealing with a full dose of the Cain charm. Somewhat to Lee’s surprise, Adama seemed to have been moved by the impassioned speech. Or perhaps, like Cain, Adama also yearned for a little revenge.

“Let’s do it,” he said softly.

Chapter 3

 

“Welcome to the Pegasus, Dr. Baltar. I’m Lt. Minerva Athens. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Oh, uh, yes, thank you,” Baltar said, smiling and shaking hands with the young woman.

In the past few hours since the Pegasus had made her appearance, there had been shuttles running back and forth between the two ships almost non-stop. Baltar had just arrived on the Pegasus on the most recent shuttle. As the young lieutenant had approached him, Gaius couldn’t help but notice that she was very attractive. She was tall and slender, with long, dark red hair, worn in a single braid, and pale green eyes.

“Don’t even think about it,” a low, sultry voice dripped into his right ear like honey.

Baltar glanced to his side, where the beautiful statuesque blonde, that only he could see, was currently hovering near his right elbow. He gave her a quick look of quizzical innocence, as if he had no idea what she had meant by that statement.

“Oh, don’t even try the innocent act with me. I’m in your head, Gaius. Not that it would require a mental link to figure out what you were thinking.”

The young lieutenant, who had been chattering away the entire time, oblivious to the man’s inattentiveness, now turned and started to walk off the flight deck. Assuming that he was supposed to follow her, Baltar trailed along, a step or two behind her.

“I mean, she certainly is a pretty little thing, isn’t she?” the blonde said, falling into step beside him.

“R-really? I hadn’t noticed,” Baltar whispered.

The young woman in question immediately stopped and turned to him. “I’m sorry, sir. Did you say something?”

“No, no, I didn’t say anything.”

The woman nodded, turned and resumed her walk. Baltar followed. He glanced to his side again, but the blonde was gone. He was not surprised. Sometimes she was there and sometimes she wasn’t. It was quite nerve- wracking, really. He had no idea when she was going to appear or disappear. He had no idea where she went when she was gone, or even if she ever was truly there to begin with. For all he really knew, she was simply an extended hallucination. She claimed to be an image implanted in his brain, but how did he know that was true? At this point, he preferred to believe that there was a Cylon device implanted in his brain, rather than that he was going insane. But, then again, wasn’t the whole idea of a Cylon brain implant, a fairly paranoid thought all by itself?

She also claimed to be privy to his every thought, but he didn’t know whether or not to believe that either. It was certainly a disquieting thought, to be spied upon, even in one’s own head. Wasn’t the mind supposed to be everyone’s final refuge? If one couldn’t hide even there, what was left?

Realizing that they had reached their destination, Baltar looked up. They were standing before a hatch door with a plaque that read ‘Science Lab’. And other than this identifying plaque, the door looked exactly like a hundred others they had passed on the way here, or like a hundred others on board the Galactica. The corridor looked exactly like every other and Baltar realized with a sinking feeling, that if he were ever to have to find his way back here on his own, he wouldn’t be able to.

Wonderful, he thought wearily, now I can get myself lost on two ships. Learning to navigate the maze-like corridors of a battlestar must be something that’s taught in basic training. He truly didn’t know how all the others managed it.

Following Lt. Athens into a large, but non-descript and sterile- looking, lab he gazed around. The lab was well equipped and well organized. Everything he might need was right at his fingertips. Seeing that Athens was watching him rather expectantly, he went through the obligatory social niceties.

“It’s a very nice lab,” he said. “Very well equipped.”

Athens smiled in obvious relief. “Thank you, sir. We’re very proud of it. We’re one of the few ships to have a fully equipped science lab. So, is there anything that you’ll be needing that isn’t here?”

“No, no, this is more than adequate for my needs,” he assured her. Especially since I’m not really going to be doing anything, he thought.

“Your Lt. Gaeta and some of our people have already made a preliminary sweep of the ship. They turned up one mysterious piece of equipment up in CIC. It’s right there,” Athens said, pointing to a small, white device, identical to the one found on the Galactica.

“Oh, yes, it’s a Cylon device, all right,” Baltar said, knowingly.

“Oh, wow,” the woman breathed, staring at the innocuous-looking device with something like fascinated horror. “Well, Lt. Gaeta said that you would know what to do with it.”

“Yes, yes, I’ll take care of it.”

“Yes, sir. We’ve also started collecting hair samples from the crew. Those there, are from CIC. We’ll have more for you later. So, if you want to get started, you can show me how your program works and I can help you with the testing. When we’re finished, we can double-check each other’s work. That would probably be the most efficient way of dealing with this, don’t you think?”

She’s lovely and efficient, Baltar thought dismally, wonderful.

“Oh that’s quite alright, Lt. Athens...Uh, may I call you Minerva? Or is that against some military protocol or something?”

His rather blatant efforts at seduction were rewarded with a quick blush and a shy smile. Frankly, he was relieved that he’d managed to remember her first name at all. Of course, how did one forget a name like Minerva...yikes. Pretty girl, ugly name.

“Oh, that’s all right, sir. You can call me Minerva.”

“And, please, feel free to call me Gaius. There’s no need to address me as sir all the time. After all, I’m not an officer.”

“As you like, sir- uh, I mean, Gaius,” she said softly and actually giggled.

Oh, this is too easy, he thought, smiling smugly at the girl, entirely too easy.

“As I was saying, Minerva, I think I can handle this by myself. I’m sure you have much more interesting things to do than help some old man with a boring program.”

“Oh, you’re not that old! And I’m sure your program is quite fascinating. Besides, I have my orders, so really, I don’t have anything else to do.”

His ego already reeling from the “that” old comment, Baltar took another blow below the belt when the girl failed to respond to his charms and do as he had suggested. All in all, Lt. Athens was starting to become rather irritating.

“Alright, tell you what, why don’t you go and find Lt. Gaeta and get the rest of the samples from him. I’ll get everything set up and started here. When you get back, I can show you what I’m doing. How’s that?”

“Well, I suppose that would be alright,” she said. “Well then, I guess, I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

Baltar took a moment to watch the way the girl’s hips swayed enticingly as she walked out of the lab. He gave a soft sigh as the hatch closed behind her.

“She’s going to be a problem,” the honeyed voice said, close to his ear.

He turned to find that his blonde phantom was back.

“Don’t worry, I can handle Lt. Athens,” he said.

“Oh, really? You didn’t put her off. You just delayed her. Eventually she’s going to want to see your program. And what are you going to do then? Show her the complete drivel that you showed to the Galactica’s colonel? She’ll see right through it. What then?”

“I can handle her,” he repeated. “It’s just going to take a little time.”

“You don’t have enough time. Not even you could charm her into disobeying her orders.”

As she spoke the woman ran her fingers through his dark hair. It was most distracting. As she had pointed out, he didn’t have time for this. Gently, but firmly, disengaging her hands, he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out the printed version of the bogus program he had devised to fool the Galactica’s senior officer. It had worked like a charm on the man. He was older and obviously not well acquainted with computers. He had barely even glanced at the program. But Athens was another story. She knew computers and would know immediately that the program was useless. And while she did seem to be flattered by his attentions, she did not seem to be distracted or influenced by them.

“Perhaps you could help me rewrite the program so that it looked more authentic?” He suggested, looking up at the taller woman, his eyes hopeful, pleading.

“In an hour? It can’t be done, Gaius.”

With a sigh, he flung the pages down on a nearby table and sank down on the stool beside it. He was so tired. He didn’t think he had had a single full night’s sleep since the attack. He constantly had to lie, and then lie again to cover his previous lies, and he was living in constant fear that someone would discover the truth and the part he had unwittingly played in the Cylon attack. Frequently, in his dreams, he saw the faces of all those people that had been left behind on Caprica. He wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take.

“What am I going to do?” he moaned, laying his head down on the table in despair.

“Oh, my poor baby,” the blonde woman cooed, caressing his head. “Tell me, Gaius, what were you originally planning to do? Just randomly pick a crew member to label as a Cylon spy?”

“Well, yes, that was the original idea, but n-,” he stopped speaking, and with a sudden gasp, sat up. “Athens! I’ll implicate her. They’d believe me over her, wouldn’t they?”

The blonde shrugged elegantly. “I doubt Cain would. I don’t think she trusts you.”

“But Adama would. He trusts me. He’d believe me and he’s the one in command.”

“Well, then, there you are. Problem solved.”

“Yes,” Baltar whispered. He was suddenly completely drained. He never would have guessed that it would be so exhausting just to maintain a few lies. He understood now why so many people advocated the truth. He needed to sleep. Just for a few minutes. He laid his head back down and on the table and closed his eyes...

Almost three-quarters of an hour later, Athens returned to the lab to find the doctor, slumped over one of the tables, sound asleep. She called his name softly, but he didn’t wake. Wow, he must really be exhausted, she thought, in concern. Glancing around, she noted that nothing appeared to have been done. None of the hair samples had been touched, the program had not been loaded onto the computer, nothing.

Feeling sorry for the obviously worn out man, Athens retrieved the papers with the program printed on it and decided to get started by herself. She was an intelligent person. Surely she could figure it out without the doctor’s help. Taking the pages over to the computer, she sat down to enter in the commands. But as she flipped through the pages, she realized that the program was useless. If run on a computer, it was designed to create colorful images on the screen, but those images would mean nothing. The program wouldn’t actually analyze anything, but it would look like it was. It was a fake.

Athens turned to look at the sleeping man. You bastard! She wanted to scream at him, but she didn’t. She was too shocked to do anything except sit and stare at the man in amazement. She had heard about what with this “Cylon detector” had been used for. You sent a potentially innocent man to die, just so you could look like the hero in front of Commander Adama, she fumed silently. And you were going to do it again to one of our people! You bastard! And I actually felt sorry for you!

I have to show this to Commander Cain. I have to tell her what this son-of-a-bitch has done. Standing, the young woman folded the program and tucked it into the chest pocket of her uniform. She left the room quietly, hoping the man would continue to sleep for the next few hours. She headed down to the flight deck at a run, hoping there was another shuttle to the Galactica leaving soon.

~*~*~*~

“So, we’re going to try to take out a Cylon basestar?” Kara asked, in an attempt to start a conversation.

“That’s the plan,” Lee said.

The two were alone in Lee’s office. He had just made the announcement of the mission to the pilots assembled in general quarters. He had told them that they still had a few hours before the formal briefing for the mission and had suggested they all try to get some sleep before then. He had excused everyone from any non-essential duties until further notice. Afterward Kara had followed him into his office and now she was pacing restlessly in front of his desk, where he sat doing paperwork.

“So, who’s brilliant idea was this?” she asked.

“Cain’s.”

“Of course... Speaking of her, do you want to talk about it?”

“About what?” he asked absently. Engrossed in his work, he was only peripherally following the conversation. He hadn’t even looked up at her.

Kara stopped and leaned across his desk, placing her hands in the middle of his work, forcing him to look up.

“You know, earlier... You, Cain, alone in this room together...”

“Oh, that... No, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Okay,” she said and backed off, allowing him to return to his work. “So, did she try anything?”

“Kara, what did I just say?”

“Sorry,” she said and resumed her pacing. After she had made two or three passes by the desk, she stopped in front of him again. “Okay. So, it is over between you two, right?”

“I am not discussing this with you.”

“Why not?”

“Kara...!”

“Okay, okay,” she said quickly, holding her hands up defensively.

She knew that she was annoying him, but she also knew him well enough to know that she hadn’t yet crossed the line far enough to truly piss him off. But if she were going to get any information out of him, as she was determined to do, she would need to proceed very carefully. As she was planning her next mode of attack, she heard a noise behind her and turned to see Bridget Cain standing in the open doorway. Kara quickly turned back to Lee, giving him a significant look.

“Be nice,” he ordered quietly as he stood to attention.

“Oh, can’t I just hit her?” Kara whispered.

“No!”

“Please...” As soon as the word was out of her mouth, she regretted saying it. She had only been joking about hitting Cain, but it was obvious from Lee’s expression that he was not amused. Damn, as usual, she had taken that one little step too far. Maybe Tigh was right, she thought, I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut.

“Am I interrupting something?” Cain called from where she still stood in the doorway.

“No, sir,” Lee said, glaring at Kara, “Lt. Thrace was just leaving.”

With a sigh, she started towards the door, but stopped halfway there and turned back to him.

“I’m just going to be in general quarters,” she said, gesturing over her shoulder. “So, if you need anything, just give me a shout.”

“Fine,” he said tightly.

“Right,” she sighed as she turned back to the door.

“Lieutenant,” Cain said, with a smug smile as Kara passed her.

“Commander,” Kara said, deliberately not saluting.

“You know, I’m beginning to get the distinct impression that she doesn’t like me,” Cain commented dryly, after Kara had left.

“Can’t imagine what gave you that idea. I’m sorry about her behavior, sir. She can be a little single-minded sometimes.”

“It’s quite all right. I seem to remember a few times in my life when I behaved a little single-mindedly, Cain said, staring at the captain intently. When he looked away, pointedly ignoring the comment, she stepped into the room, holding out a sheet of paper. “A list of all my surviving pilots,” she explained. “Adama asked me to give it to you.”

“Thank you,” Lee said, accepting the page.

When he continued to stand at attention, Cain gave an exasperated sigh. “At ease, Captain. You may sit.” After he had done so, she perched herself on the edge of the desk and gazed down at him. “Lee, do you think we could, please, dispense with all these wearisome military formalities?”

As there were no other chairs in the room, Lee did not bother to protest her choice of seats, but he did choose to ignore her question and instead, concentrated on the short list of names she had just given him. “There aren’t very many,” he commented.

“No, there aren’t,” she agreed sadly.

“Well, they can bolster our ranks. They’ll be welcome additions.”

“You know, Lee, I’m no longer your commanding officer. There would be nothing wrong with us having a relationship now. Hell, I don’t even think it would matter now, if I were still your CO. From what I’ve seen around here, the rules against fraternization seem to have been relaxed a bit.”

“Could we, please, stick to the topic at hand?” Lee asked.

“Wasn’t that why you wanted a transfer off the Pegasus? You were concerned about what would happen to your career if someone found out about us? A valid concern, I will admit, but one that no longer applies.”

“That wasn’t the only reason and you know it... Now, tell me about these pilots. What kind of experience do they have? I need to know how I can integrate them in with my squadrons.”

“They’re almost all rookies. That’s why they weren’t out with the initial group.”

“Oh, great, more rookies. Already got plenty of them... So, how many of them have you slept with?”

“Oh, did I just detect emotion peeking through that icy exterior? A note of jealousy, perhaps?” Cain asked, smiling.

“No!” he said quickly, but was forced to look down to hide his rising blush. It was one of the things he hated about being so fair-skinned; even a slight blush was blatantly obvious on him.

“I assure you, Lee, my bed has been empty since you left the Pegasus.”

“I very much doubt that.”

“It’s true, Lee.”

Looking into her eyes, he saw that she was telling the truth and immediately, he regretted the tactless comment.

“There were a couple of others before you,” Cain continued, moving around the desk so that she was now facing him. “But there was no one else while we were together and there has been no one else since you left. Is that what the problem was? Surely you weren’t thinking that I was a virgin?”

“Uh, no! ...It’s just that Ronin said-.”

“We’ve been through this, Lee,” Cain interrupted. “Ronin was jealous of you. He wanted you off the Pegasus.”

“Why would he be jealous of me? Because he wanted you?”

“Because he knew that you could do his job better than he could.”

“Yeah, well, none of that changes the fact that you admitted that the only reason you offered me a commission was because you wanted to sleep with me. How the hell do you think that made me feel?”

“I never said that was the only reason. I offered you a commission because you were a damn good pilot. The fact that you were also damn good- looking and damn desirable simply meant that I also offered you my bed. But I would never offer a commission to an incompetent pilot regardless of how attractive he was.”

“So, you would have made me the offer, even if I was... the ugliest man alive, even if I was... a woman?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

“If all you were interested in was ‘damn good’ pilots, why didn’t you offer a commission to Kara Thrace?” Lee asked, gesturing vaguely towards the general quarters.

“For the same reason that no one else offered her one. She had already established herself as a discipline problem. I don’t care how good that pilot is, no commander wants a discipline problem on his ship.”

With a sigh, Lee nodded. He couldn’t argue with that. It was true. The only offers Kara had received upon completing her Viper training had been the offer to teach at Flight School and an offer from Adama. Kara had chosen the teaching position, claiming that it would allow her to stay close to Zac, which was true, but Lee had always suspected that it was more a matter of pride that had prevented her from accepting Adama’s offer.

“Lee, when this is over, when we’ve destroyed that basestar, I’m going to need to rebuild my squadron and I’m going to need a good CAG for that. I want you to come back to the Pegasus.”

“What? I can’t... What about the Galactica?”

“Well, you and your father both seem so impressed with this Lt. Thrace, she can take over. She is senior pilot after you, isn’t she?”

“Yes, but...” This was too much for Lee. There had already been too much emotionally charged information heaped on him in these last few minutes for him to try and assimilate this as well. Abruptly standing, he moved to the middle of the room, as if to physically distance himself from his conflicted feelings. “How do you know all this? Did you talk to my father about this?”

“No, not yet. I just asked a few questions, that’s all.”

“Well, don’t. I’m not leaving the Galactica.”

Cain stood and moved to join him. “Now that your father has you on board his ship, he’s got you under his thumb. Right where he’s always wanted you. How long do you think it’ll be before he starts trying to control your life, just like he did Zac’s? I mean, for the Lords’ sake, Lee, he’s got you flying his old Mark 2 Viper. Is this some egocentric way for him to relive his youth and glory days vicariously through you?”

“No, no, it’s not like that. The Viper-thing, that wasn’t his idea... It’s a long story.”

“Fine, whatever. Please, just think about my offer.”

“I don’t need to. I can’t leave him now. I’m all he has left and I’ve hurt him enough already. I won’t leave him.”

“You’ve hurt him?”

“Yes, I’ve hurt him badly and I don’t want to do that anymore. I won’t leave the Galactica.”

“You’ve changed,” she said, reaching out to lightly caress his face.

“Losing everything will do that to you.”

“Was it really so bad when we were together?”

He didn’t answer, but turned his face away.

“You have to admit the sex was pretty fantastic,” she said.

He had to smile at that and again, felt himself beginning to blush.

“Lords, you are so easy,” she whispered, sliding her hand to the back of his neck and drawing him into a deep kiss. After a moment, she let her hands drift down to rest on his hips and anchor him in place. She had him alone. She was not going to let him slip away again.

Lee knew he needed to stop this before it went any further. He had been down this path before and it wasn’t a healthy one. He needed to stop this. He raised his hands to her shoulders to push her away, but he didn’t. His hands just rested there, as if awaiting further instructions. His brain was screaming at his body to push her away. But it seemed that his body was no longer taking orders from his brain. It was now taking orders from her body. With only the slightest pressure from her, his lips willingly parted to allow her tongue access to his mouth. One of her hands snaked around to squeeze a firmly rounded buttock and Lee involuntarily rewarded her with a deep-throated moan.

It was supremely unfair, he decided, that women were able to have so much more control over their bodies than men. A woman could say no to sex and her body would not betray her, but there was very little Lee could do to disguise his obvious growing need. At some other point in his life, he probably could have maintained enough control to take charge of the situation. But not now, not after all the intense, emotional upheaval he had been experiencing these past months. His defenses were already weakened, leaving him vulnerable to this type of attack and he had no reserves to help him combat this. It had been so long and his body was so desperately craving this contact, this release. He was somewhat embarrassed to realize that he was trembling in anticipation.

Feeling that he needed to offer some sort of token resistance, he forced himself to break away from the kiss to, at least, verbally protest. Unfortunately, all he managed was to weakly gasp out, “No, Bridget, don’t, please...”

Cain gave a low, throaty chuckle, easily overriding this pathetic attempt at defiance. “Your lips may say no, Lee, but your body is definitely saying yes,” she purred, moving in for the kill.

Leaning in close, she pressed her mouth to his neck to suckle and lightly bite the tender flesh. She actually felt the exact moment when the last vestiges of his resistance crumbled away and his body surrendered and became pliant in her arms. He groaned softly and arched his body slightly into hers. Oh yes, her victory was close at hand. She had learned long ago, that when it came to this deeply repressed young man, sometimes one had to push the issue. Granted Cain knew that she had taken unfair advantage of her prior carnal knowledge of her conquest. She knew quite well that Lee’s highly sensitive neck was a primary erogenous target. Once that objective was achieved, the effects were immediate and satisfying. She had the young captain completely at her mercy now. He was no longer putting up the pretense of fighting her, but was returning her kisses in earnest. Lords, she had forgotten what a talented kisser he was.

Lee Adama could often come across as cold and unfeeling. Cain remembered that on the Pegasus he had often been referred to as the Human Cylon behind his back. He was as efficient, skilled and dependable as any machine, but also like a machine, he could be perceived as dispassionate and uncaring. But Cain had had the privilege of learning first hand that that exterior of cool reserve was just a façade. With patience and persistence, she had managed to ease past those defenses to discover a very conscientious, fiercely private, and surprisingly vulnerable, young man. And while he had been relatively inexperienced in the ways of men and women, he was quick to learn and eager to please, a most endearing combination in any lover.

Sliding one hand up to Lee’s chest, she undid the buttons of his black duty uniform. Pushing the shirt off his shoulders, she tugged the tails free from his pants and let the garment slip to the floor. Attacking the two regulation undershirts next, she pulled them off and was at last able to slide her hands over the bare skin of his flat stomach and firm chest. His flesh felt fever-hot and she pressed herself against him, wanting to be consumed by his heat.

She experienced a thrill of possessive dominance as she felt his body shiver at her touch. It had always delighted her, that for someone who took such pride in his rigid self-control, his body was amazingly responsive to tactile stimuli. She also found it incredibly erotic to see all that careful restraint come completely undone and to know that she was the cause of it.

His breath was coming in ragged pants now and she knew that it was time to move this seduction along. Once again grasping his hips, she began to maneuver him back towards the bed. When the backs of his legs come in contact with the bed, she pushed him down. Lying back, propped up on his elbows, Lee watched as she stepped back to undress.

Despite her age, Bridget Cain had a firm, well-toned body. The fact of the matter was, she enjoyed the company and attentions of much younger men and in order to hold those attentions, one had to look better than the competition and Bridget worked very hard to maintain her athletic figure. And from Lee’s appreciative half smile, she knew that her efforts had not been in vain. Climbing into the bed beside him, she finished divesting him of his uniform. As she did so, he reached out and withdrew the long pins from her hair, releasing the mane of black curls. Laughing as he buried his hands in those luxurious locks, she leaned in and began to seriously reacquaint herself with this body that she had so greatly missed and had thought lost forever...

Chap. 4

The Galactica’s landing bays were much more chaotic than those of the Pegasus, with shuttles coming and going from the port side bay and Vipers launching from the starboard side, to act as escorts for the civilian ships, which were being moved to the planet’s exosphere. The Pegasus’ Vipers were also being moved to the Galactica for retrofitting. But Lt. Athens spared little of her attention for these activities, as she made her way from the shuttle in the direction she assumed would take her to CIC. She had never been on the Galactica before, but assumed its design was similar to the Pegasus.

She had no idea where Commander Cain might be, but figured that CIC was the best place to start. As she made her way through the congested hallways, she kept peering at the people she passed, looking for a familiar face, but she saw no one who could help her. Arriving at the bridge, she again cast about, looking for someone from her ship. Commander Cain was not here, that was readily apparent. The tall, dark-skinned woman tended to stand out in any setting.

“Excuse me, can I help you, lieutenant?” a slight, pretty, female petty officer asked her.

“Uh, yes, I’m looking for Commander Cain.”

“I’m sorry, sir, she’s not here. I haven’t seen her for a while now. Is this something important, sir?”

“Yes, it is, actually.”

“Well, then you might want to try Commander Adama’s office. I think that’s where he is. Maybe they’re discussing the upcoming mission.”

“Yes, thank you, I’ll do that.”

Finding the commander’s office proved to be a bit more of a challenge. On the Pegasus, it was located on the starboard side of the ship, on the Galactica, it was on the port side. When she did find it, the hatch door was slightly ajar, so she knocked firmly as she pushed the door open. Inside, she found, not Commander Adama, but a dark-haired woman in a pale lavender, civilian suit, who was standing in front of the large desk. The woman turned to look at the lieutenant as she stepped nervously into the room.

“Oh, uh, excuse me, ma’am,” Athens said. “I was looking for Commander Adama.”

“Yes, so was I. I’m Pres. Roslin, by the way, and you are...?”

“Oh, uh, Lt. Athens, sir, f-from the Pegasus. You haven’t seen Commander Cain around, have you, sir?”

“No, actually, I haven’t seen Commander Cain in quite some time. But I do expect Commander Adama to return shortly, if you’d like to wait with me.” Roslin turned and seated herself on the long, leather couch that was built into one wall. She evidently felt quite at home in this office.

Athens did not. She continued to stand and fidget, wringing her hands together nervously. Her anxiety was only partly due to being in a superior’s office, alone in the presence of the president. She was also anxious to return to the Pegasus. She was not comfortable with the thought of Dr. Baltar being alone and unsupervised on the ship. There was no telling what sort of mischief he might be up to over there.

Seeing the younger woman’s obvious discomfort, Laura tried to draw her into a conversation, hoping to calm her. “So, Lieutenant, do you like serving under Commander Cain?”

“Oh, yes sir. It’s quite an honor to serve under her. I mean, she’s one of the main reasons I decided to join the military... She’s a legend.”

“Yes... She seems a little intense.”

“Yes, sir, she can be, but that’s part of what’s made her so great.”

“I see.”

“Uh, I’m sorry, sir, but I really do need to get back to my duties,” Athens said abruptly, unable to stand any more of the waiting. “I’m just going to leave this for Commander Adama.”

The young woman pulled a few sheets of folded paper from the pocket of her uniform. Unfolding the papers and walking to the desk, she grabbed a pen and scrawled a hasty note on the pages.

“If you could, please, give this to the commander, I would greatly appreciate it, sir,” Athens said, handing the sheets to the older woman.

“Absolutely, Lieutenant, I’ll make sure that he gets it.”

“Thank you, sir. I have to go now. It was nice to meet you.”

Laura watched the young woman leave, then turned her attention to the pages she had left behind. At the top of the first page, she had written, ‘Dr. Baltar’s Cylon detector program’. Laura scanned through the pages. She was by no means an expert computer programmer, but she did know how to read one and even she could see the obvious flaws in this. The program was completely useless. With a sigh, she folded the papers and tucked them into the waistband of her skirt. She was just straightening her long jacket over her hips again, when she heard the sounds of movement behind her. She turned to see Adama enter.

“Ah, there you are,” she said, smiling.

“Yes, here I am. I thought you’d be on your way to the planet by now,” he said, seating himself at his desk.

“Yes, Colonial One will be leaving within the hour. I just wanted to speak to you for a moment before I left... You’re still determined to go through with this, aren’t you?”

“Yes, we’ve been through this,” Adama said gravely. “And Cain’s right. It’s better to deal with this basestar now, rather than later. We have the advantage of surprise and right now, we still have plenty of ammunition in our magazines. Later, we may not.”

Roslin nodded, but said nothing for a long time. After several minutes, she spoke again, “There’s something I’d like you to do for me.”

“Yes?”

“Go and kick some Cylon ass for me, would you?” she said smiling.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said with a chuckle.

That woman will never cease to surprise me, he thought, still smiling as he watched her leave the office. With a sigh, he reached into the breast pocket of his uniform and pulled out his glasses. Slipping them on, he turned his attention to his paperwork.

~*~*~*~

The sound of movement awake Gaius Baltar with a start. He sat up quickly and looked around to find the young, dark-haired lieutenant, who’s name escaped him at the moment, who had previously helped him in the Galactica’s CIC. The young man was watching him expectantly.

“Uh, yes?” Baltar asked, self-consciously.

“Are you okay, sir?”

“Yes, yes...tired... just, uh, taking a little break, is all.”

The young man looked around, where it was obvious that no work had actually been done yet and asked, “Wasn’t Lt. Athens supposed to be helping you?”

“Yes, she was, but I sent her to find you, to get the rest of the hair samples.”

“I sent her back here over an hour ago, but maybe she got called away on another matter. Anyway, I have more samples for you to test. I have to get back to the Galactica now, but I’ve left Lt. Atlan in charge of getting the rest of the samples... Uh, sir, you might want to get started on those tests. I think Commander Adama and Commander Cain are expecting some answers here, soon....”

“Yes, yes, I am on it, really. Don’t worry, Lt. ...?”

“Gaeta, sir.”

“Gaeta, yes, sorry! Ter-terrible with names... So, you say that you sent Athens back here an hour ago?”

“Yes, sir, but she must have gotten side-tracked.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure that’s it. Well, thank you. You run along back to the Galactica and I’ll join you shortly with your answer.”

As soon as the hatch door had closed behind the younger man, Baltar began frantically searching the lab for the program. He couldn’t find it anywhere, but he did find more samples piled neatly beside the first set collected. Evidence that Athens had, in fact, returned to the lab. He could feel the beginnings of panic flare in the pit of his stomach. All of his careful lies, all of his work, all of it undone, simply because he had fallen asleep, it was so unfair.

“Face it, she has the program.” The blonde was back, voicing aloud the words that he had been too afraid to even think.

“Oh, my dear Lords, what am I going to do?” he whispered, unable to think clearly.

“First of all, we need to find out what she did with it.”

“I’m sure she’s already shown it to Cain or Adama.”

“Maybe, maybe not. There’s no point in panicking right now. We don’t have all the facts. Calm down, Gaius, and let’s just wait and see.”

“Calm down? How am I supposed to calm down w-?”

“Who are you talking to?”

At the sound of this new voice, Baltar whirled around to find Athens standing in the hatch doorway. She was looking at him in concern and even a little fear.

“N-no one,” Baltar whispered, unable to think of anything else to say.

“Okay...” she said as she stepped cautiously into the room and closed the hatch door.

“So, where did you go? Lt. Gaeta was just here and he said that he sent you here with more samples over an hour ago. I found them,” Baltar said, holding the samples up. “Where did you go after you dropped them off?”

“I went to the officer’s mess. I saw that you were sleeping and I didn’t want to disturb you. I figured you must be really exhausted, so I thought I’d give you an hour or so to sleep. I see we’re both ready to get started now.”

“Well, not quite. The program seems to be missing. You wouldn’t happen to know what happened to it, would you?”

“Uh, no. Missing? That’s terrible,” the girl said, but Baltar wasn’t fooled. She was a very bad liar. She was twisting her hands together in obvious nervousness.

“Well, I don’t know how we’re going to test all these samples without that program.”

“Maybe, you could write another one,” Athens said, slowly moving to stand beside him. She picked up one of the small plastic bags and gazed at it thoughtfully. Each sample bag was labeled with a number. Elsewhere, Lt. Gaeta had the master list with the names that matched those numbers.

“She read the program. She knows.” The blonde had moved to stand on Baltar’s other side.

“What did you do with the program?” he asked Athens, his voice very quiet.

She looked up at him quickly, her eyes very wide. At first he thought she was going to deny taking it, but then she said, “I went to the Galactica and left it in Commander Adama’s office.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, I did,” the girl said defiantly. “It was all a lie! The whole thing was a hoax. You let them leave that man to die and you knew he was innocent! Why?”

“Oh, there’s a very good possibility that he was guilty. He was up in CIC, for no apparent reason. He was acting suspiciously. He could very well have been a Cylon.”

“You don’t know that! You had no proof that he was guilty.”

“You know you’re going to have to deal with her.” That honey-sweet voice whispered in his ear. “If you eliminate her and get to the program before Adama does, no one would ever know that it was fake.”

Baltar turned to look at the blonde with a look of horror on his face. She couldn’t possibly be suggesting that he murder this girl in cold blood, could she? While it was true that his actions and his lies had sentenced Aaron Doral to die, Gaius himself had not performed the actual deed. And as for the destruction of the Colonies, that had been the unforeseen consequence of, what should have been, a simple indiscretion. He was a liar and a fool, yes, but he was not a murderer. His hands were clean of that crime.

“You know that I’m right, Gaius.”

He looked at her for a long moment. It was as if he was only now seeing her for what she truly was and he was amazed that he had never seen it before. She was so unspeakably beautiful and yet was utterly devoid of compassion and humanity. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was what it was like to look upon the face of a god.

Athens, who had been standing and watching the strange play of emotions on the man’s face, started to slowly back away. It was rapidly becoming apparent to her that this man was not stable. She had seen a few of the Pegasus’ officers lose it in the past few days and eat their service sidearms. Their eyes had held the same desperate look she was now seeing in the doctor’s eyes.

Looking over at her, he asked softly, “Where are you going, Minerva?”

“I-I have to go and check on the rest of the team and see how they’re coming with those samples.” She turned and started towards the hatch.

“She’s going to alert security, “the blonde said.

Panic, wild and desperate flared in his brain, threatening to choke off all coherent thought. It was almost as if his mind momentarily left his body. He was seeing himself act without any conscious thought or will involved. He saw himself grab one of the microscopes from the table. It wasn’t a particularly large piece of equipment, but its base was weighted so that it wouldn’t easily tip over if the ship were forced to abruptly change course. He saw himself move to intercept the girl, grab her arm and swing her around. He saw those lovely green eyes widen in fear as he swung the microscope down.

She never screamed, never cried out. She just made this small sound, almost like a sigh, as her body crumpled at his feet and lay still in an ever-widening pool of her own blood. And, like a jolt of lightening, Gaius seemed to return to his body and he stared down, appalled at what he had done. He jumped back quickly, horrified at the thought of that blood touching him, staining him, marking him forever as the murderer he was.

The blonde moved to stand beside him. She stared down at the dead girl in fascination. “It’s so amazing that you humans were able to survive for so long. You break so easily.”

“W-what did you do to me?” he whispered, terrified. “You made me do that. You controlled me. I would never kill anyone.”

She turned to face him and stroke his face and hair lightly with her graceful fingers. “Ssshhh. It’s all right. Whatever you need to tell yourself, that’s fine. You can believe whatever you want.”

“N-no, no, it’s true. You did this, not me.”

“That’s fine,” she said smiling benignly. “You’re still going to need to get rid of the body and the murder weapon. Your fingerprints are all over it.”

Looking down and seeing the blood covered microscope still clutched in his hand. Baltar dropped it with a strangled cry. As if to add insult to injury, it landed on the dead girl’s body with a soft thump. He felt the bile rising in the back of his throat and he pressed a hand over his mouth in an effort to maintain control of his stomach.

“There’s a toxic waste incinerator over there,” the blonde observed calmly. “I think it’s big enough to fit her body in.”

Later, Baltar would be amazed at how quick and easy it had been to clean up the mess. Athens had been a slender woman and it had not taxed him too much to carry her body and stuff it into the incinerator, along with the microscope and all the towels he had stolen from one of the shower areas and had used to clean up the blood. The incinerator was not large, so it was a tight fit, but once the door was closed and the red light that indicated the unit was operational was glowing, he found that he felt much better. The unit was small, but powerful, it would reduce the body to little more than ash within a few minutes.

“What now?” he asked his tall, blonde companion.

“Now, I suggest you make a hasty, but dignified, exit back to the Galactica, where you need to find some way to get into Adama’s office and find that program.”

“And if he’s already found it? What then?”

“One crisis at a time, Gaius, one crisis at a time.”

“You’re right. I need to stay calm.”

“And I highly doubt Adama would have had time to actually do anything with the program yet. So, if you can catch him alone, you may have to deal with him the same way you dealt with Athens.”

“What? I can’t just kill Adama!”

“Why not? You’re not afraid of him, are you?”

“That’s not the point! Athens was a nobody lieutenant that no on is going to miss, at least not for a while. Adama is the commander. I think he’ll be missed.”

“That just means we may have to be a little more creative. After all, accidents happen all the time...”

~*~*~*~

From where she was sitting, on edge of her bunk, Kara could see through the open doorway of the pilots’ quarters to the closed door of Lee’s room, directly across the hall. That door had remained closed since she had left the room over a half hour ago. She knew this, because she had been watching it the entire time. What are they doing in there? She asked herself for the hundredth time. And for the hundredth time, she immediately changed her mind and decided that she’d really rather not know. Her mind had been doing this flip flop-thing for a half hour now and it was starting to give her a headache.

“Hey, Starbuck! Me, Boomer, Saxon, and Crush are heading to the ready room for a game of pyramid. You in?”

Kara looked up to see David “Speed” Mercury standing beside her bunk. She had been so preoccupied with her thoughts that she hadn’t even heard him approach. It was so not a good sign when pilots allowed themselves to get distracted by things that were beyond their control.

“Uh, no thanks, Speed, not in the mood right now.”

“You sure? We’re playing for personal hygiene products...”

“Is that a hint?” she asked laughing. “Nah, thanks anyway. Maybe next time.”

“Alright...” he said with a shrug as he walked away.

What is the matter with me? She asked herself. You know it’s bad when I’m turning down pyramid so I can baby-sit Lee. And I really could use some more shampoo. And it’s not like he even knows, or cares, that I’m trying to keep him from making another very big mistake... If he hasn’t already, she thought uncomfortably.

What is it about the woman that gives her the power to turn a normally intelligent and deeply repressed man into a hormone-enslaved moron? Okay, so she’s beautiful, has all that hair, and legs up to her armpits, but it’s not like Lee hasn’t seen beautiful women before. And okay, so she’s sexually aggressive and some men really like that kind of thing. Kara wouldn’t have thought that Lee would, but she was beginning to realize that maybe she didn’t know him as well as she had thought.

Kara had known Lee and Zac since secondary school, when the Adama family had moved to Caprica from Scorpia when William Adama had been given command of the Battle-cruiser Camelot, which docked in Caprica City. As if somehow sensing some kindred spirits in the two new boys, Kara had instantly become fast friends with the brothers. Like many children who had parents who were authority figures, like priests, civilian peacekeepers, and prominent military officers, the Adama brothers had definite streaks of rebellion. But while Zac’s form of acting out consisted largely of childish, but harmless, pranks, Lee’s less frequent flashes of rebellion tended to have a more worrying self-destructive element that Kara had never quite understood. She wondered if his affair with Cain wasn’t somehow part of that.

It also occurred to her that considering how, almost obsessively, Lee tended to over-analyze everything, it was not surprising that he had had so few lovers. He was simply too uptight to make the first move. So, perhaps, that was where a woman like Cain would have the advantage. She would make the first move for him and perhaps that’s what he really wanted. Unfortunately that gave her even more power in an already unequal relationship. In a healthy relationship, both partners should be relative equals. This had never been the case with Lee and Cain. Because nothing changed the fact that she was his commanding officer. She held all the power. It had taken nearly a year for Lee to figure this out and almost another year for him to get over it. And now Cain was back and seemed intent on dragging him back into it. And Kara wasn’t sure that he even realized what was happening.

Why am I doing this? She asked herself, abruptly standing. This isn’t any of my business. Lee’s an adult. He can make his own mistakes. I’m not sure why I even care. Knowing there wasn’t much chance of getting any sleep any time soon, she decided to go for a run. That always helped to clear her head. Changing out of her duty uniform and into her exercise gear, she pulled on running shoes and headed out to pound the corridors.

It was hard to actually build up to a decent pace while dodging people and coordinating stairs and corners. There were a couple of long, unbroken, seldom used hallways where one could sprint for a good stretch, but most of the time it was just light jogging. It was better to run very early or very late when the halls were less congested. But, with so many extra people from the Pegasus milling around, it was even worse than usual. Finally she gave in and settled for a brisk walk.

As she approached the commander’s room, she noticed that his door was wide open. He often left it that way when he was in the room, to let his people know that he was open to interruption. Kara slowed her pace as she neared the doorway, but whether this was in the hopes that Adama would not notice her or that he would, she wasn’t quite sure. It was with an odd mixture of relief and dread that she heard him call out to her as she passed.

“Hey, Starbuck, what to you hear?”

Stopping and stepping back, she peered into the room. He was sitting at his desk, obviously reading through reports. The desk that, prior to the destruction of the Colonies, had always been neat and orderly, but was now perpetually in disarray and buried under a layer of paperwork.

“Hey, sir,” she said flatly, without her usual cheerful response to his customary greeting.

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” he asked.

“Oh, not tired, sir.”

“Come in and close the door behind you,” he ordered. When she had done so and had seated herself on the long couch, he asked, “Now what’s bothering you?”

“Nothing really, just a little worried about this mission,” she said evasively.

“About the mission or about Bridget Cain?”

How does he do that? She wondered for the thousandth time. How does he always seem to know exactly what’s going on in my mind? Kara had always prided herself on being difficult to read, and yet Adama seemed to do so with ease. Was he naturally psychic or did the Fleet give its higher-level officers intuition implants upon promotion? If it was a natural talent, it was not one that he had passed on to his eldest son. Lee could be downright clueless at times.

But, in fairness to Lee, she supposed that most of it had to do with maturity and experience. Lee had moved up the ranks fairly quickly, faster even than his father had. William Adama had not made captain until he was 33. Lee had done it at 28. But he had been promoted because of his hard work and talent, not his people skills, which were somewhat lacking.

Kara was quite sure that when Commander Westin of the Solaria had given Lee his promotion, it had been with the full knowledge that the young captain would not be assuming a CAG position any time in the immediate future. At that time all the battlestars had that position filled. Lee would have to wait for someone to be promoted, or retire, or die, for a position to open. And even when that happened, more than likely there would have been other captains with more seniority, waiting as well. They would get the job before him. And, in the meantime, Lee would be free to mature and grow into the role. It was only an unforeseen Cylon massacre that had pushed him into the job that he had the skills, if not yet the maturity, to handle.

Realizing that Adama was still waiting for a response to his question, she said, “Both, I guess.”

He nodded. “Yes, I couldn’t help but notice there was a lot of tension between you two earlier. You don’t trust her, do you?”

Kara looked up at him sharply. Did he know about Lee and Cain? How? She knew that Lee had never told his father. Had Zac? She realized that it didn’t matter how he knew. She was relieved that he did. Now, she had someone she could voice her fears to.

“No, sir, I don’t,” she said. “I’m really worried about Lee. I think he’s going to make another big mistake. I think he’s going to get involved with her again and that would be so b-...What?”

She stopped at the look of complete shock on his face.

“Lee involved with Cain? ...Again?!”

“But you said... I thought you...”

“I was asking whether or not you trusted Cain to lead the mission. What were you talking about?”

“Nothing...” she said in a small voice, sliding down in her seat, trying to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. Oh, frak! Oh frak! Oh, Lords of Kobol, please let the Cylons come and destroy us all, now! Oh, Lee is so gonna kill me.

“I suggest you start talking, Lieutenant.”

She gave a sigh of resignation. “Three years ago, when Lee was stationed on the Pegasus. He and Commander Cain had an affair.” She said it with as little emotion as she could, hoping to keep things calm.

“How long did this affair last?”

“Almost a year.”

“A year?! ...Lee told you about this affair?”

“No, he told Zac and Zac told me... So, I take it that you didn’t know anything about this?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry, sir. I wouldn’t have said anything, but you always seem to know what’s going on.”

“Yes,” he sighed, dismally. Like any good commander, he had his methods of knowing everything that went on, on board his ship. But when it came to knowing what was going on in his own son’s life, evidently, he was at a complete loss. How could this have been going on for an entire year, right under my nose, and I didn’t see it? He asked himself. Am I that blind? Or do I know my son so little?

“You said that you were worried about Lee?” he prompted, forcing his mind back to the young woman sitting across from him.

“Well, yeah. It really wasn’t a very healthy relationship for him. As I’m sure you know, she’s kind of a control freak and I just don’t want to see him get hurt again.”

“She was his commanding officer. Something like that could have destroyed his career. What was he thinking of?”

“You know, I’ve been trying to figure that one out for four years now. You’d have to ask him about that one.”

He nodded, his features set and determined. “Yes, I imagine I will.”

He stood abruptly and Kara’s heart skipped a beat.

“You’re going to ask him right now?” she asked.

“Yes. I think this conversation is long overdue and I think I’d like to deal with it while my blood is still up. Is that a problem?” he asked, seeing the panicked look on her face.

“Uh, no, sir.”

“Care to join me?”

“No, I think, I’ll just finish with my run,” she said. And stay out of the line of fire, she added silently.

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “Close the door behind you when you leave.”

She stared after him for a moment. Oh, yeah, Lee is definitely going to kill me.

~*~*~*~

Lee and Cain both lay on their sides, facing each other, on Lee’s narrow bed. Lying with his head pillowed on his arm, he watched her, his expression unreadable. She was running one hand over his bare shoulder and arm, enjoying the warmth of his skin and the feel of the firm muscle beneath her fingertips. She had always enjoyed the simple, but visually striking, contrasts of their two skin tones, hers so dark and his so fair.

She also loved the way he looked after sex. It was as if it was the only time he ever truly relaxed and let his defenses down. And despite the glow of post-coital satisfaction, he still somehow managed to look childlike and innocent at the same time. He had that sleepy, contented look of a child who has spent a busy day playing with his birthday presents. Feeling her body respond to that look, Cain slid her hand to his hip and leaned closer to kiss him. His entire body stiffened at this action and he turned his face toward the bed. She pulled back.

“Bridget, I’m sorry,” he said softly. “But I have a mission briefing to prepare for.”

“Thinking of duty first, as always,” Cain said with a smile. “See? Now that’s why I need you on the Pegasus. To keep me in line... You’re right, I suppose I should get back to the ship and check on my people.”

With a sigh, she slid out of the bed and began retrieving her uniform from the floor. Lee watched her in silence. He had never understood how it was that whenever he and Bridget had sex, no matter how willing and eager a participant he had been at the outset, afterwards he always felt somewhat used. He knew that he was not the most experienced person in the world when it came to sex, but somehow he didn’t think it was supposed to be like that, at least not every time. He had not felt that way with any of his few other sexual partners, only with Cain. He was sure that this was a significant indication of... something, but frankly, thinking about it too much, made him uncomfortable, so he didn’t. He just filed it away at the back of his mind along with all the other things in his life that were too uncomfortable to think about. He supposed that it was getting pretty crowded back there these days, but he just didn’t have time to worry about that right now.

Dressed now in her trousers and the two regulation tanks, Cain pulled her shirt on, but left it unbuttoned and untucked for the moment. Looking down at Lee, she couldn’t help herself. She moved to the bed to lean down and claim one last kiss.

~*~*~*~

William Adama stalked through the halls of the Galactica in something of a daze. He had just learned some rather distressing things about his son and he wasn’t really sure what to do with this information. Did he even have the right to confront his son about a three-year-old indiscretion? In his mind, hell yes. But he tended to think that Lee would disagree. He would probably argue that it was none of his father’s business at all and he would have a point. But in the father’s mind, all that was important at the moment, was making sure that the mistake was not repeated.

In his preoccupied state, Adama barely paid attention to where he was going. He was navigating the corridors more through habit than conscious thought. Luckily some part of his mind was evidently alert enough to guide him to his intended destination and it was with some surprise that he looked up to find himself standing outside the pilots’ general quarters. In all honesty, he really didn’t remember any part of the walk down here. This only added to his general state of confusion, which was such that, as he approached the door to his son’s office, he forgot himself and simply opened the door without knocking.

The scene, into which he walked, left very little to the imagination. Lee and Bridget Cain were sitting on the bed, kissing. It was quite obvious from the rumpled appearance of the bed, Lee’s apparent nudity, and Cain’s state of partial undress, what he had just missed walking in on. Adama was sincerely grateful for that small miracle, but he could still feel his anger rising.

“Am I interrupting something?” he asked.

The Flight of Bellerophon Chap. 5

“Am I interrupting something?”

Bridget Cain whispered something briefly to Lee, then looked over at her obviously seething counterpart and flashed him one of her most engaging smiles.

“Ah, Husher, how about doing us all a favor and step inside and close the door behind you. Unless, of course, you want to broadcast this little liaison to the entire squadron?” she asked calmly, seemingly oblivious to his anger.

Her cool logic did penetrate his chaotic thoughts and he hastily stepped further into the room, closing the door behind him. He glanced at Lee, but the younger man had his face turned away, studiously avoiding eye contact. Although what little of his son’s face that Adama could see was a brilliant shade of scarlet. The older man felt a pang of guilt for his son’s embarrassment. While he was actually not sorry that he had caught them in the act, as he now understood the situation perfectly without having to ask for an explanation, it had not been his intent to humiliate Lee. And Cain, it appeared, felt neither shame nor embarrassment. By all appearances, she wasn’t even flustered, simply amused. But, knowing how the woman loved to perform for an audience, she was probably enjoying this.

Now that he was here, Adama wasn’t entirely sure what he should do or say. He had not expected to find the two of them together and, while there were things that he definitely wished to say to each of them, he did not want to say them while they were both in the same room. So, he just stood awkwardly, trying to decide his next course of action.

Seeing that her superior was not going to immediately launch into his lecture, Cain gave an almost bored-sounding sigh, stood up and moved away from the bed to finish dressing. Ignoring Adama’s look of shock, she unbuttoned and unzipped her pants so that she could tuck the long tails of her shirt in. Abruptly he realized that she was deliberately baiting him. With some satisfaction, he recognized that he had surprised her. She had done an admirable job of hiding it and, in true Cain fashion, had immediately gone on the offensive, trying to even the playing field by throwing him off balance. A bit more reluctantly, he acknowledged that she was also deliberately keeping his attention focused on her and off of Lee, who had remained silent and very still since his father had entered the room. Had she told him to do so? The thought made him think slightly the better of her, but only slightly.

Now fully dressed and composed, Cain said, “Come, William, let’s take this conversation somewhere else.”

Stepping up to him, she took his arm and led him out of the room, never giving him a chance to even glance back toward the bed. Once they were in the wide corridor, which was, for the moment, deserted, she turned to face him, her hands on her hips in a blatantly aggressive posture.

Feeling his anger respond to her unspoken challenge, Adama said, “How dare you-?”

“How dare I what?” she interrupted, immediately pouncing. “How dare I enjoy a rare moment of pleasure? Is that what’s bothering you? The fact that I choose to embrace what’s left of our crumbling lives, rather than live like a monk, like you? Or is it the fact that I enjoyed myself with your son?”

“I object to you manipulating and taking advantage of a subordinate officer, any subordinate officer.”

“Mmm, yes, you’re a fine one to talk about manipulation. Let’s talk about how you manipulated both of your sons their entire lives. You manipulated both of them into the military, then into the Viper Training Program...”

For a moment Adama thought she was going to continue with that thought, but perhaps seeing the warning in his eyes, she wisely changed her tack. “Tell me something, William. Did you ever once even ask them what they wanted to do with their lives?”

Adama had to take a deep breath and several steps away from the woman to give himself the space he needed to calm down. He knew what she was doing. By constantly attacking him with such heavy emotional ammunition, she kept him reeling and he was unable to defend himself or launch an attack of his own. It was a standard military tactic. So, instead of playing her game, he opted for a strategic retreat.

After several minutes, he said, “We are not discussing how I raised my sons. We are discussing your conduct with regards to my CAG.”

“It’s not really any of your business, William.”

“He is an officer under my command, with whom you have acted inappropriately. Not to mention that he is my son. It damn well is my business, Bridget.”

“So what is it that bothers you more? The fact that he actually dared to do something that you didn’t approve of? Or the fact that you had no idea it was even going on?”

Before he could think of an adequate response to this, Adama heard the sound of someone clearing their throat noisily behind him. Both commanders turned to find a young blond man standing by looking very uncomfortable.

“Lt. Atlan, yes, what can I do for you?” Cain asked the young man.

“Um, I’m terribly sorry to disturb you, sir, but I can’t find Lt. Athens anywhere. I’ve got people looking for her on both ships. No one has seen her for a couple of hours now.”

“Wasn’t she working in the lab with Dr. Baltar?”

“Well, no one has seen him for a couple of hours either, sir.”

Turning back to Adama, Cain gave him an elaborate shrug, her hands spread wide. “Duty calls,” she said with a smug smile.

“We will continue this discussion later,” he said quietly, but firmly.

“And I shall be looking forward to it,” she said. “I’ll see you at the pilots’ briefing in a couple of hours, William.” Turning back to Lt. Atlan, she said, “Come, Lieutenant, let’s go and find our errant science officer.”

Adama watched the two Pegasus officers for a moment before he turned back toward the pilots’ quarters. He stood staring at the closed door for a long time. He and Lee needed to talk, but he had lost the edge to his self- righteous indignation, which was probably good, but it had left him with a splitting headache. He told himself that Lee was probably asleep by now and he would need to be rested and focused for the mission. With a sigh, Adama headed back to his office.

As he approached it, he noticed the door to his office was ajar. He had asked Kara to close it behind her. Had she forgotten? It wasn’t like her to be so forgetful. Drawing closer, he heard the sounds of movement from within. He distinctly heard papers being moved and shuffled about. Assuming that it was Tigh looking for some piece of paperwork he needed, Adama was quite surprised when he walked in and found Dr. Baltar rifling through the papers on his desk.

“Is there something I can help you find?” the commander asked.

With a sound that was disturbingly close to a squeal, Baltar whipped around. “Oh! Uh, I... Uh, I-I’m so s-sorry. I knocked, but you weren’t in... I’m looking for a... a report that Lt. Athens may have dropped off. It’s very important,” he stuttered.

Recognizing the name, Adama said, “Athens... There was just someone from the Pegasus looking for her. He was looking for you as well.”

“Oh? Yes, well, I imagine they want their report. But Lt. Athens’ report is false. You see, she is the Cylon spy. To cover for herself, she wrote a false report, implicating someone else. When I realized that, in fact, she was the spy, I knew I had to get that report back before any action could be taken against an innocent person.”

“I see,” Adama said, his tone and his expression both neutral.

Baltar had no idea whether the man was buying his story or not. He seemed a bit preoccupied; so perhaps, his mind wasn’t really following the conversation very closely, which would suit Baltar just fine.

“You haven’t seen the report lying about, have you?” he asked.

“No, I haven’t seen anything like that. So, did either of you report any of your findings to Cain or Col. Tolan?”

“Uh, no, I didn’t and I don’t think Athens did either. You’re the one in command, so you were the logical choice to go to first.”

“So, there’s still a Cylon running around and no one’s been alerted?”

“Uh, well, no. I wanted to get that report back and talk to you p- personally. I- I thought you should be the one to decide how to handle this.”

“You know, it’s all so convenient that the person assigned to work with you turns out to be the Cylon, don’t you agree?”

“C-convenient? In-in what way?” Baltar stuttered, his eyes blinking very rapidly.

“Convenient for the Cylons. They were able to spy on your actions without looking at all suspicious.”

“Oh... oh, yes, yes, very convenient. I’m sure it’s all part of some grand scheme of theirs.”

“I assume you have the proof of your findings for me?” Adama said, looking expectantly at the younger man.

“P-proof?”

“It’s not for me, of course, but I’m quite sure that Commander Cain will want to see some sort of proof. She seemed to have complete trust in this Athens person.”

“Uh, I don’t have anything on me at the moment. I left all my work over on the Pegasus, but I’m sure I could have something formal written up for you in a few hours.”

“That would be very nice. Commander Cain and I will both meet with you after we’ve dealt with our Cylon pursuers. In the meantime, I will deal with Lt. Athens.”

“Excellent. Well then, I’ll just go and prepare that report for you.”

There is definitely something not right about that man, Adama thought as he watched the doctor leave the office. With a sigh, he went to his desk and sat down heavily. Sometimes he truly hated his job.

~*~*~*~

Two hours later saw all the pilots of both ships assembled in the Galactica’s briefing room. All of the comfortable, leather chairs were occupied and more pilots were standing at the back and side aisles of the room. It was a tight fit, but the room was simply not designed to have this many people in it. Adama and Cain stood together at the front of the room. If Bridget felt any discomfort at standing next to the father of the man she had so recently been caught seducing, she gave no outward sign of it. And Adama had to grudgingly admire the woman’s mettle. They were all waiting for Lee to arrive to begin the mission briefing, as he would be leading it. Knowing his son’s habitual punctuality, Adama felt certain that Lee’s tardiness in this instance was due to a desire to avoid speaking to his father.

In confirmation of this theory, Lee made his entrance, only a few minutes late, and hurried past the two commanders without so much as a glance at either one. He stepped up to the room’s large podium and, once he had everyone’s attention, immediately began his briefing.

“You’ve all been informed of the mission, so you all know what’s coming. We’re going to be attacking a basestar,” he said, getting right down to business. “The Pegasus and Commander Cain will be leading the attack, along with all the Vipers. The Galactica will drop back, close to the planet to provide defensive cover for the civilian ships and back up for the Pegasus, as needed. The Galactica will be held in reserve. She will not engage the Cylons unless it proves necessary for her to do so. Hopefully, with all the E.M. interference from the planet, the Cylons won’t even know that the Galactica or the fleet are there.

“To further that deception, there will be no direct communications between the Galactica and the Pegasus. We still don’t know for sure whether or not the Cylons can monitor our transmissions, so we’re not taking any chances. Lt. Valerii, Boomer, and her Raptor, will be acting as messanger between the two ships,” he said, gesturing to the dark-haired woman, who was sitting in the front.

“You have all been divided up into two squadrons,” he continued. “I will be lead pilot for Red Squadron. Lt. Thrace, Starbuck, will act as lead for Blue Squadron. You should already have your assignments. Now, since we have integrated the squadrons of both battlestars, some of you will be flying with unfamiliar wingmen or unfamiliar leaders. Bear this in mind at all times. Don’t expect the other person to anticipate your moves. Keep everything simple and by-the-book. And talk to each other out there. Keep the chatter down, but don’t hesitate to communicate your plans. We need to know what each other is doing out there... Okay, any questions?”

A young male pilot standing at the back, whom Lee didn’t recognize, raised his hand. The captain gestured to him. “Yes?”

“I assume that since all the Vipers are here on the Galactica, we’ll all be launching from here?” the young man asked.

“That’s correct. As soon as Commander Cain rejoins the Pegasus, she will move to her offensive position, while the Galactica drops back. At Commander Cain’s signal, the Vipers will launch from here to join her... Anything else?”

“Yeah,” an anonymous male voice called out from among the chairs. “Do we have any idea where the basestar is or when they’re going to show up?”

“Sorry,” Lee said, spreading his hands wide in a helpless gesture. “The last word I got from CIC before coming down here, was that both long range and short range scanners show nothing. Sorry, but it looks like we get to wait.”

He paused for a moment to see if anyone else spoke up. As he did, he looked around at the assembled faces. Most looked anxious, a few, mostly the younger ones, looked downright scared. He knew he needed to say something to cut through some of the stifling tension in the room.

When it became apparent that there were no more questions, he said, “Alright, I want everyone to take a moment and just breathe. Inhale... exhale...” He smiled when, as a group, they followed his promptings. “Good. Now just try to remember to do that every once in a while when you’re out there.”

Smiles and a few chuckles greeted this advice. It had not been much, he knew, but it had helped. The tension was eased a little and it was the best he could manage at the moment. He was about to dismiss the pilots, when Commander Cain stepped forward.

“Excuse me, but may I address the pilots, Captain?” she asked.

“Uh, of course, sir,” he said, moving aside to give her the podium.

Stepping up to take Lee’s place, Cain stood for a moment, staring out at the expectant faces with a sudden, fierce look in her eyes. “I know many of you are rookies and don’t have much combat experience. I know you’re scared. I’m here to remind all of you just what it is that you’re fighting for. You are not simply defending a fleet of ships. A ship is nothing but a soulless hunk of metal. But these hunks of metal are your homes! And you are defending the remains of the entire human race! Never forget that.

“And never forget what you are. We are human beings. We are the ones who created the Cylons. We gave them life. That makes us their gods. We brought them into this world, and like gods, we can take them out!”

A rapturous cheer went up from the pilots and many stood clapping for several minutes. Cain raised a benevolent hand in acknowledgement as she moved to stand beside Adama again and watch the pilots as they filed past out the door.

“Was that display absolutely necessary?” he asked coolly, but quietly.

“Of course. You always have to stir up the troops before sending them into battle.”

He rolled his eyes and gave his head a shake as he turned to join the line of pilots filing out.

~*~*~*~

The call came over the ship’s loudspeakers, announcing the imminent departure of the final shuttle to the Pegasus. All Pegasus personnel, with the exception of the pilots, were ordered to return to their ship. A similar announcement would be made on board the other ship, ordering any of the Galactica’s personnel to return as well.

Lee stood on the starboard hangar deck watching the last of the Pegasus’ people board their shuttle. The pilots of his Red Squadron were all lounging around the deck, suited up and ready to go as soon as the signal came. Kara and her Blue Squadron were waiting on the port side hangar.

As Lee watched he saw Commander Cain and a couple of her people heading towards their shuttle. She stopped several times to say a word to or shake hands with some of the pilots, and not just ones from the Pegasus. She looked over at him and their eyes met. She gave him a slight smile and a nod before she turned away to board the shuttle. After a few minutes, the hydraulic platform raised the shuttle up to the landing deck where it would take off, as the shuttles did not launch from the tubes as the Vipers did.

Giving himself a mental shake to throw off the strange, heavy mood that had descended on him, Lee began slowly circulating among the pilots, giving encouraging smiles and generally making himself available to anyone who felt the need to talk to him. As he wandered about the deck, he noticed Chief Tyrol hovering off to the side, watching something intently. Turning to follow the man’s gaze, he saw Sharon leaning against her Raptor. She looked very tense. She was hugging her helmet to her chest and staring vaguely at something on the floor of the deck a few feet in front of her. She seemed to be oblivious to the young woman who stood chatting away next to her. Lt. Julia “Mouse” Reynolds, a rookie from the Pegasus, was acting as Sharon’s co-pilot.

Lee sincerely hoped there was a damn good story that went along with Lt. Reynolds’ rather disappointing call sign. He also hoped that she hadn’t gotten it in reference to her physical appearance, which was disconcertingly mouse-like. She was short and very petite, with rather pointed facial features and hair of an indeterminate color that fell somewhere between brown and blonde.

Glancing back at Tyrol, it was obvious from the man’s slightly pained expression that he wanted to go to Sharon, to offer her some comfort or encouragement, but he must have felt it was not his place to do so, as he didn’t move. Remembering how Cain had spoken to the pilots on her way to the shuttle, Lee thought, no, that’s my job. This was not something he was terribly comfortable with. He was fine with any of the pilots coming to him to talk, but it was the idea of having to approach one of them himself that was the trouble. He didn’t have a problem addressing them as a group. It was the one on one-thing that made him uncomfortable. But then he realized that if he was having trouble with the thought of approaching one of them, how much more difficult was it for them to come to him?

Sharon’s part in the mission was integral. He needed her sharp and focused. He couldn’t have her fall apart now. With a sigh, he squared his shoulders and walked over to the Raptor. As he approached, he could hear the incessant chatter of Lt. Reynolds. He wondered if the girl ever stopped to draw breath. She was one of those sunny, perpetually cheerful people, who never let anything get them down, including, it appeared, the possibility of impending death. Quite frankly, Lee found her annoying as hell and he suddenly felt guilty for trapping Sharon in a Raptor with this human chatterbox.

Julia turned to him as he approached, smiled and said brightly, “Hey, Apollo!”

He nodded to her in acknowledgement and said, “Uh, Mouse, do you think you could give me a minute with Boomer in private?”

“Oh, sure, no problem, sir,” the girl said and walked off to find someone else to irritate.

As soon as the other woman was out of earshot, Boomer said, “I’m sorry, sir, but if the Cylons don’t kill her, I will!”

Lee gave her a wry smile. “Yeah, sorry about that. I guess I owe you one.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Smiling at her comment, he wondered if perhaps he had simply mistaken her annoyance for nervousness.

“How are you holding up?” he asked.

“I’m good, sir.”

He could hear the tightness in her voice. Nope, he hadn’t been mistaken.

“You understand your main role in this mission, right?”

“Well, I understand what I’m supposed to do, but I don’t really understand the reason for it.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that, but I can’t give you any more of an explanation than I already have.”

“I know, sir. I understand.”

Upon successful completion of the mission, the fleet would jump to a new location. With the threat of a missing Cylon spy on board the Pegasus still a factor, it was decided by the commanders that no one on the Pegasus would have the coordinates for the jump until just before the jump was made. If the mission started to go badly and it became necessary for the fleet to jump during the battle, Adama would not risk transmitting the coordinates. So, it was up to Boomer and Mouse, as messengers, to deliver the coordinates to the Pegasus. But only Boomer knew the coordinates. In fact, Mouse knew nothing about this. And Boomer did not know the reason for this precaution, as Adama was still trying to keep the knowledge of possible Cylon spies a secret.

“Good,” Lee said, nodding and moving to lean against the Raptor next to her. “Nervous?”

For a moment, she looked as if she was going to deny it, but then said, “Yes, sir, I am. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. Raptors aren’t usually involved in these kinds of combat missions. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t apologize, Boomer. Everyone gets scared.”

“Not Starbuck.”

“Don’t let her fool you. She gets scared, she just hides it better than most.”

“Do you still... get that way, sir?”

“Of course. Hell, I’m scared right now.”

“Yeah, but have you ever been so scared that...” her voice trailed off, as if she couldn’t seem to find the words to convey how she felt.

“You wanted to puke?” Lee provided for her bluntly.

“Yeah,” Sharon said, wrinkling her nose and running a hand across her stomach.

“Been there, done that.”

“Oh?”

He looked around them for a moment, as if checking to see if they would be overheard. He paused for a moment, thinking. Ah, what the hell, he decided.

“You and Starbuck are pretty good friends, right?” he asked. When Sharon nodded, he continued, “So, I’m guessing she told you that she and I went through Viper Training together?”

“Yeah, she told me.”

“Did you go through the Viper program at all?”

“Uh, no, I didn’t bother. I knew I wouldn’t cut it,” she said self- consciously.

“Okay, well, in order to get your wings, you have to do a flight test, to demonstrate your skills to a panel of instructors. So, they put all of us in this room that’s just off the training deck and one by one they call our names. You go out and you have to launch your Viper, go through some specified maneuvers, and then land. The instructors are monitoring you the entire time and they score you. Now, frequently, during these tests, some of the battlestar commanders will drop by and watch. And, of course, for our test there were several commanders there to watch, most of whom were friends of my father. Several of them had been to our house for dinner on occasion, so they knew me. If I messed up, there was no way my father was not going to hear about it. So, yeah, I was terrified.”

“Oh, man...,” Sharon whispered sympathetically. Being an orphan, she had always envied the captain for his advantageous parentage. It had never occurred to her that there might actually be a downside to being the son of a prominent commander.

“So, there’s about 20 of us in this room waiting to be tested,” he continued. “And they’re calling our names randomly, so you have no idea when your turn is going to be. And if you’re not there when they call your name, that’s it, you don’t get another shot. So, you can’t leave the room. You’re stuck there, waiting. And of course, Starbuck and I are the last two called. So, it’s down to just the two of us. We know that one of us is going to be the next one called.

“Kara was sitting in one of the chairs, looking fairly calm and cool, but I can see that she’s bouncing one of her legs up and down like crazy, a sure sign that she’s nervous. Anytime she’s bouncing a leg or tapping a foot or a hand, she’s nervous. But other than bouncing her leg, she seemed to be holding up pretty well. I, on the other hand, was not doing so well. In fact, I knew that I was going to be sick. It was just a question of whether or not I was going to do it in front of all those instructors and commanders. I was hoping for not. But I couldn’t leave the room. There was no way I could make it to the nearest bathroom and back before one of us would get called.”

“What did you do?” Sharon asked, wide-eyed.

“I started looking around the room for a waste basket or anything, but the room empty. There’s just a bunch of chairs and, along one wall, a rack that holds everyone’s helmets. Well, by this time, Kara’s figured out that something’s wrong with me. So, I tell her that I know I’m going to be sick. Quick-thinking woman that she is, she goes over the rack, grabs a helmet, hands it to me and says, ‘Here, use this.’”

“No!” Sharon gaped. “You didn’t!”

“Oh, yes, I did. Definitely not one of my more stellar moments.”

“Well, what did you do then?”

“My name was called next, so I just handed the helmet back to Kara and went to do my flight test.”

“Well, what did she do with it?”

“You know, I never asked. I don’t think I really wanted to know, because, knowing Kara, she probably just put it back on the rack. I mean, I don’t really know what else she could have done.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” Sharon said, although, by now, she was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her cheeks.

“Yeah,” Lee agreed, chuckling along with her. “I can just imagine the look on the face of the next person that went to use that helmet.”

Wiping her face with the back of her hand, Sharon asked, “So, how did you do on the fight test?”

“Oh, I did fine. Not as good as Kara, of course, but I did alright... So, what have we learned from this story?”

“Um, everyone gets nervous?”

“No, no. Always check your helmet before you put it on!”

“Oh, right!” Sharon said, laughing.

“Feel better?” he asked. “Please, say yes. Please, tell me that I didn’t just relate the story of the most humiliating moment of my life for no reason.”

“Yes, sir, I feel better,” she said, still chuckling.

“Good, glad to hear it,” he said, straightening up.

“And thank you, sir.”

“No problem. Any time.” He gave her shoulder a quick squeeze as he turned to walk away.

As he was moving away from her, he caught sight of Tyrol still standing off to the side. The two men looked at each other for a moment and exchanged brief nods before each returned to his respective duties. In Lee’s case, reassuring his agitated pilots. Oddly, he found that he was feeling better, less nervous than he had a few minutes ago. Evidently, in trying to distract and reassure Sharon, he had calmed himself as well.

“Lee?”

Turning toward the sound of the voice addressing him, he found Kara standing a few meters away. Seeing her unusually serious expression, he moved quickly to her side.

“Kara, what is it? Why aren’t you with your squadron?”

“Oh, nothing’s wrong. I just needed to talk to you for a minute.”

“What, you’ve got another pre-mission confession to make?” he joked, hoping to lighten her mood. When her frown only deepened, his own spirits dropped. “Now what?” he asked flatly.

“I- I accidentally told your father about your affair with Commander Cain.”

“What do you mean, ‘accidentally’?”

“We were just talking and, I don’t know, it just came out. I’m sorry.”

Well, that explained his father’s ill-timed visit a few of hours ago, Lee thought, irritated. With an exasperated sigh, he turned away from her.

“Lee, I’m sorry, really, but... maybe it’s better that he knows...”

He whirled around to face her, his blue eyes electric with his anger. But before he could say anything, the emergency lights in the hangar deck began flashing.

A loud pulsing buzz and a voice came over the loud speakers. “Action stations! Action stations! Enemy scout ship sighted!”

“Get back to your squadron and get them ready!” he snapped to Kara and turning away, immediately dismissed her from his mind. Addressing his own squadron, he yelled, “Get to your Vipers. I want everyone ready to launch the second the signal comes!”

Chapter 6

 

Starbuck sat in her Viper impatiently waiting for the clearance from CIC for the launch. Resolutely she put Lee out of her mind. Now was not the time to be worrying about how badly she had pissed off her best friend. She would deal with him later, if they both lived through this.

 

At last, she heard Dee’s voice over her comm. link, clearing the Vipers for launch and Starbuck’s Viper was inched forward into position to line up with the catapult.

 

“Nav. con. green,” the launch officer, or shooter, called to her. “Interval check.”

 

She turned to look at him through the viewport and gave him a thumbs up signal.

 

“Nav. cat. ready,” he said, continuing his pre-launch checklist, as the catapult piston mechanism slid into place at the rear of the Viper. “Hangar door open. Thrusters positive... Good luck.”

 

She leaned back in the seat, bracing her head and back in preparation for the G-force thrust that pushed her back, as the catapult slid her forward, slowly at first, but gaining momentum rapidly as it built to speed in a matter of seconds. She felt the last slight jolt as the catapult piston reached the end of the launch tube and she was flung out into open space. Once she had cleared the Galactica’s perimeter, she slowed to await the rest of her squadron, who would be following immediately behind her.

 

Off to her right, she was aware of Apollo and his Red Squadron also beginning to form up. As soon as both squadrons were fully launched, they would proceed to join up with the Pegasus en masse. Glancing over at the other battlestar, just visible beyond the distorting radiation clouds of the planet’s exosphere, she could also see the huge, ominous shape of the Cylon basestar bearing down on her. The Cylon ship, with its strange, leg- like projections, looked like a vast, menacing spider moving in on its prey.

 

“All Vipers launched. Good luck,” Dee’s voice called over the wireless.

 

“Alright everyone, let’s go,” Apollo’s voice replaced Dee’s. “Standard combat spread. We’re flying tight. I want everyone holding hands.”

 

The two squadrons moved out in two wedge formations, with Starbuck and Apollo in the front positions. They were flying in an echelon right spread, where each wingman flies approximately 45 degrees behind and above his leader’s right wing line, so each V-shaped formation had a slight double-vision look to it. Starbuck’s wingman for the mission was Julian “Crush” Cromwell. She had flown with Crush many times and they were comfortable together, not as comfortable as she and Apollo were, but close enough.

 

Glancing over at the captain, who was flying parallel to her position, about 200 meters over, she felt a strange sense of uneasiness. One cause for this was the fact that Apollo had changed Vipers. Most pilots were very superstitious about their birds. Since he had already had success flying his father’s old Mark II, Starbuck had assumed that Apollo would continue to fly it. It had been repaired from the damage it had sustained during the fight outside the Ragnar Anchorage and their subsequent unorthodox landing. But instead, only hours before the mission, he had abruptly changed his mind and decided to return to flying his own Mark VII. Tyrol and his deck crew had had to scramble to get the Viper ready, which partly meant changing the tail numbering to 000. The triple zeros being an honorific that designated that the fighter belonged to the CAG. Starbuck didn’t understand why Apollo had suddenly switched planes and it made her unaccountably uneasy. While it was true that the Mark VII’s had a better targeting system and more power, and could therefore fly at faster speeds, what they gained in speed, they lost in maneuverability. The Mark II’s, with their smaller, lighter engines, were actually much more agile.

 

The other, more concrete, reason for Starbuck’s discomfort was the fact that Apollo had insisted on taking Trent “Phoenix” Warrick as his wingman. Phoenix was one of the Pegasus’ rookies and he was probably the least experienced pilot in either squadron. The only pilot with less experience was Mouse, but she was safely tucked away on the Raptor, where she could get into very little trouble with Boomer watching over her. Starbuck had tried to talk Apollo out of flying with Phoenix, but the captain had been unwilling to saddle anyone else with the rookie. Starbuck had already mentally written the young lieutenant off as an inevitable casualty. She only prayed that he wouldn’t take Apollo with him and she vowed to keep an eye on that situation. She knew that Apollo would most likely resent her trying to play mother hen to him, but she decided that she could live with his resentment, because she wasn’t sure she could live without him. She had always had precious few loved ones in her life and the Cylon massacre had wiped most of them out. She couldn’t afford to lose any more.

 

They were now rapidly approaching the Pegasus and could see the Cylon basestar beginning to deploy her own fighters. Within seconds they would be in the thick of it. Starbuck breathed a silent prayer for the Lords of Kobol to protect the Galactica and the Pegasus and all their people (yes, even Bridget Cain), but especially William and Lee Adama.

 

“Pegasus, this is Apollo,” Starbuck heard him call out. “We are inbound and will be approaching from your port side.”

 

“Roger that, Apollo. Welcome to the party.”

 

And then they were flying in to engage the Cylons and Starbuck lost much of her conscious thought processes. She simply felt and reacted. She and the Viper seemed to meld and become one. It wasn’t always this good. But sometimes she seemed to have flights or combat runs where everyone else seemed to be moving just a little bit slower than her and she could react to their movements so much faster than they could handle. She had always had excellent situational awareness, but sometimes it was like she was reacting to a script, all of her movements having been pre-determined. Today was one of those days and, damn, it felt good! She could feel the adrenaline coursing through her, sharpening her reactions and clearing her mind as she rolled and weaved her Viper, cutting a deadly swath through the oncoming Cylon ships.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“All engines ahead, full!” Cain called out, as she watched the radar screen before her in satisfaction. The fighter battle was going well. The Vipers were actually beginning to push the Cylon fighters back, allowing the Pegasus to move in closer for the kill.

 

“All batteries execute,” she ordered. “All batteries commence firing!”

 

The big guns flared to life, spewing nuclear warheads at the basestar with deadly efficiency. The Cylon ship seemed to be taking a massive amount of damage, but, so far, showed no visible signs of distress, as she continued with her own barrage of missiles.

 

“Sir, we have incoming ordinance, 100 meters and closing!” Lt. Atlan called out.

 

“Brace for impact!” Col. Tolan yelled, grabbing a hold of the console before him. A moment later the entire ship gave a violent jolt as the Cylon missile found its target. “Damage report!”

 

“Starboard side landing bay is reporting extensive damage, sir,” a technician responded. “There’s damage to the port side as well, but not as bad.”

 

“They’re targeting the landing bays, just as Adama said they would,” Tolan remarked.

 

“That’s fine, let them,” Cain said grimly. “We don’t need our landing bays. The Vipers can drop back to the Galactica when we’re finished. We need to get in closer, so we can take out her guns and finish her off.”

 

“Is that wise, sir?” Tolan asked. “We can’t go toe-to-toe with her. She’s got us out gunned.”

 

“Look at her, she’s in her death throes. She can’t possibly take that much damage and not be seriously hurting. Now, get me in closer.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Um, Boomer, I’m getting some weird readings on the radar here,” Mouse said, staring at her screen in confusion.

 

“What do you mean weird?”

 

The Raptor was flying a high surveillance pattern over the combat zone, monitoring the battle’s progress and occasionally calling down warnings or instructions to the Vipers below her. She was also standing by for the coded transmissions from either the Galactica or Pegasus that would indicate that there was a message to be delivered.

 

“Well, I don’t know if it’s just an echo from the Cylon basestar, or interference with our radar, but it looks like there’s another ship out there, a smaller one, tucked behind the basestar.”

 

“What? I’m going to move us in closer for a better look,” Boomer said, adjusting the controls to take the Raptor closer to the basestar, praying the whole time that with all the activity in the combat zone, the Cylons wouldn’t notice her relatively unobtrusive Raptor.

 

As they cleared the space above the basestar, they could easily see that indeed there was another, slightly smaller ship tucked in tight behind the larger ship. It was bristling with guns and appeared to have several tubes for launching more drone fighters.

 

“Oh, frak!” Boomer breathed. “That basestar is luring the Pegasus in close so that smaller ship can pounce. We’ve got to get to the Pegasus and warn Commander Cain.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

Starbuck smiled grimly as she bore down on the Cylon fighter ahead of her. Seeing its reverse thrusters engage as it slowed slightly and began a rolling turn to the left, she called out, “Lag roll!” to Crush and the two of them simultaneously rolled their Vipers to the right, so that they remained behind the drone ship. Firing her guns, she watched in satisfaction as it blew apart. Glancing around for her next kill, she spied a lone Viper being harassed by two drones. Apollo. His wingman was gone, probably dead, and he was on his own and in trouble. The attack geometry flashed through her mind and she realized that the Cylons were going to try to bracket him. Seeing another flash of movement off to her side, she noted that Horus was also alone.

 

“Crush, Horus, clear! I’ve got Apollo!” she barked, ordering the first two pilots to switch their roles. Crush would take over as lead and Horus would act as wingman.

 

“Apollo, I’ve got your back!” she called as she streaked in, destroying the trailing drone ship. As she did, Apollo activated his reverse and port side thrusters simultaneously, sending his ship into a controlled tumble, which ended with him facing the oncoming Cylon upside down. With desperate precision, he fired his guns and slammed the throttle forward to dive his ship under the debris field left by the drone ship as it exploded.

 

“All Vipers, be advised, you’ve got inbound enemy fighters!” the Pegasus’ communications technician reported over the wireless. “Repeat, inbound enemy fighters!”

 

“Starbuck, get back with your squadron,” Apollo ordered, recovering his position and bearings.

 

“Not a chance, I’m your winger now. Besides we’re too disorganized at this point.”

 

Quickly seeing that she was right, he called out, “Everyone, reform combat spread. If you don’t have a partner, just pick somebody.”

 

Starbuck turned her attention back toward the Cylon basestar where she saw several squadrons of drone ships emerging from somewhere behind the basestar to swarm towards them like angry, poisonous insects. Another, slightly smaller, basestar began to distinguish itself from behind its larger companion as well.

 

“Oh, frak me!” Starbuck moaned.

 

~*~*~*~

 

With nothing to do but wait, the technicians and petty officers on the Galactica’s CIC sat in tense silence, listening to the communications between the pilots, which was being broadcast over the bridge’s speakers. The radiated exosphere of the planet distorted the transmission horribly, but it was possible to get a general idea of the ongoing battle. William Adama stood staring down at the lighted console before him, but his eyes did not see it. In his mind, he saw the battle as it was unfolding. His right hand, which lay on the console, twitched unconsciously, as if itching to grasp the throttle of a Viper.

 

“Sir, we have a possible situation developing,” Lt. Gaeta reported, interrupting the commander’s thoughts. “It’s hard to get a clear radar picture through all the E.M. interference, but it appears that there may be a second basestar.”

 

Turning to face the Draedus console and its radar screens, the Galactica’s commander gave a heavy sigh. He should have known. It had all been going entirely too well.

 

“Engines all ahead, full,” he ordered. “Bring us out of the planet’s exosphere. We need to get a better look. I want a defensive perimeter established. Order the civilian fleet to standby by to begin jumping in sequence. Get our own computers ready for the jump as well. And send out the signal to Lt. Boomer.”

 

“Weapons grid to full power,” Tigh barked. “All batteries standby for enemy suppression fire.”

 

There was a chorus of “Aye, sir”’s as various technicians and officers responded to these orders.

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Sir, sensors show the Galactica has emerged from the planet’s exosphere and is providing back-up,” Lt. Atlan reported to Commander Cain.

 

“Good. Order all Vipers to disengage and return to the Galactica. Contact engineering and tell them to set the electric pulse generators to my exact specifications. Get the computers warmed up and readied for hyperlight jump. Mr. Rome, can you get me a link with the Galactica?”

 

“Negative, sir, they’re still too close to the planet. There’s too much radiation interference for a clear link.”

 

“Do we still have a secure link with Boomer?”

 

“Yes, sir,” the young man said, moving to her side and handing over his head set.

 

“Boomer, you still there?”

 

“Yes, sir, I’m here.”

 

“Good, I’ve ordered all the Vipers to drop back. I can’t reach the Galactica, but I have a plan to create a diversion that may buy us a little more time. I need you to relay the message to the Old Man. Tell him to begin jumping the fleet and to keep up the suppression fire, but tell him to keep his distance. Oh, and I’m going to need those jump coordinates.”

 

“I’m sorry, sir, I can’t relay the coordinates until I’m given the go- ahead by Galactica Actual.”

 

“That’s fine, just remember to get that when you talk to the Old Man. Carry on, Lieutenant.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

Moving her Raptor away from the Pegasus, Boomer flew in to join up with the Vipers as they were slowly working their way back to the Galactica. As she moved in closer to the battlestar, she heard Dee’s voice crackle over the wireless.

 

“Boomer, Galactica Actual orders you to return to the Pegasus and relay message to Pegasus Actual that fleet jump has begun and Pegasus is ordered to disengage and follow. You are ordered to transmit jump coordinates to Pegasus Actual. After you have delivered the coordinates, you and Mouse are to make your jump. You will rejoin Galactica at the meet coordinates.”

 

“Roger that, Galactica. I have a message from Pegasus Actual. Galactica is to continue with suppression fire and she is to keep her distance. Repeat keep your distance. Pegasus Actual has a plan.”

 

“Copy that, Boomer. See you on board shortly.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

Turning the Raptor, Boomer headed back toward the Pegasus. Her flight this time would be much more interesting. With all the Vipers leaving the combat zone, she would be left to face the remaining Cylons on her own, with virtually no weapons. The Raptor was a fairly maneuverable ship, but it was no match for the drone fighters. She hoped that she would be able to make it to the Pegasus in one piece.

 

“Boomer, where are you going?” she heard Apollo’s voice over the wireless.

 

“The Galactica can’t reach the Pegasus with all the radiation interference. I need to deliver the jump coordinates.”

 

“Starbuck, let’s clear her a path!”

 

“You read my mind, Apollo!”

 

The two Vipers executed flawless in place turns and headed back the way they had just come. Taking up escort positions just in front of the Raptor, they flew ahead, guns blazing, clearing a wide corridor of enemy ships in front of the Raptor. They escorted her past the heaviest concentration of fighters, within several hundred meters of the Pegasus. She was now flanked on either side by the two basestars, but neither Cylon ship seemed to notice, or care about the small Raptor and her two-Viper escort.

 

“You’re green dead ahead, Boomer,” Apollo called, as he and Starbuck rolled their Vipers away to either side. “Good luck.”

 

“See you in a few, Boomer,” Starbuck called.

 

“Thanks, guys, I’ll see you soon.”

 

She felt horribly alone and vulnerable without the two Vipers to keep her company. She had almost completely forgotten Mouse’s presence, until the other woman called out, “Boomer, that smaller basestar is sending out a full barrage of warheads! Oh, frak, so is the bigger one! Just send the coordinates to the Pegasus and let’s get the hell out of here!”

 

“Right,” she said, flipping her comm. switch. “Pegasus, this is Boomer. I’ve got your coordinates... Come in, Pegasus.”

 

There was no reply to her call.

 

“Frak! Are we not close enough?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Mouse replied. “We should be. We certainly can’t get any closer.”

 

“Pegasus? Come in, Pegasus.”

 

There was still no answer.

 

“Boomer, those fighters are turning back!”

 

“Frak! Pegasus, respond!”

 

As Boomer watched in horror, she saw the first three warheads strike the battlestar. Explosions and the warm flashes of internal fires erupted along the ship in several places. Then there was a sudden, blinding flash of light. Turning her face away from the unbearable glare, she activated the Raptor’s hyperlight system.

 

“Hang on, Mouse, we’re jumping!”

 

~*~*~*~

 

On the Galactica, Commander Adama watched the radar blips indicating the Cylon basestars, which had moved in to flank the Pegasus, open fire with all their guns. A moment or two later, the radar picture dissolved in heavy static.

 

“Sir, 70 kiloton, thermonuclear detonation,” Lt. Gaeta said softly. “Sensors indicate that all three ships were destroyed.”

 

“Any sign of the Raptor?”

 

“No, sir, but she may have managed to jump before the explosion.”

 

“Are all the Civilian ships away?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“All Vipers are back on board?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Duella answered.

 

Addressing Lt. Gaeta, Adama said, “Get us out of here, Lieutenant.”

 

 

Chapter 7

 

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t really see very much,” Sharon said sadly to Commander Adama. “I just saw this incredible flash of light. I didn’t actually see the Pegasus explode, but I didn’t see her jump either. But I don’t see how she could have survived. There was just too much firepower coming at her...Sorry, Mouse.”

 

The other woman nodded miserably. Julia had been noticeably subdued since they had returned to the Galactica. She had actually done surprisingly well during the mission, keeping her mind focused and speaking only when it was required of her. She had hardly said a word since they had witnessed the Pegasus’ apparent demise.

 

“Lt. Reynolds,” Adama said to her gently, “Do you have anything to add to Lt. Valerii’s report?”

 

“No, sir. I really didn’t see anything at all. I was too busy with my radar screen which had suddenly gone completely haywire.”

 

“Thoughts, gentlemen?” The commander asked, turning to address Col. Tigh, Lt. Gaeta, and Lee, who were also present for the debriefing.

 

“I’d say it’s pretty obvious that the Pegasus was hit by an intense barrage of thermonuclear warheads, which, when combined with the meltdown of the Pegasus’ own reactor, caused a massive explosion which destroyed the battlestar, but also took both basestars with it,” Tigh said matter-of- factly. “Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cain didn’t deliberately blow her own reactor, with that very thought in mind.”

 

The Pegasus, like the Galactica, was partly powered by its own nuclear reactor. The tyllium-based engines gave the ships their propulsion power, but the reactors powered most of the other ship systems, such as the computer systems, life support, etc.

 

“It’s also possible that Cain pulled the same trick with the electric pulse generators that I did on Colonial One,” Lee pointed out. “She knew the trick. We had discussed it a number of times. She could have activated the generators and the FTL at roughly the same time. I don’t know if that would have worked, but hell, theoretically, it shouldn’t have worked the first time.”

 

“No, I don’t think so,” Tigh said, dismissing the suggestion. “If her FTL systems were still operational, why didn’t she jump long before the Cylons flanked her?”

 

“By allowing the Cylons to flank her, she could then send out a brief pulse wave to confuse the inbound warheads, jump seconds later, and the Cylons destoy each other.”

 

“Its possible,” Lt. Gaeta said thoughtfully. “Our remote sensors picked up a definite debris field, but whether it was from two ships or three, there’s no way to tell, aside from actually sifting through all that debris. But we are fairly certain that the two basestars, at least, were destroyed.”

 

Tigh considered all this for a moment. “No, I don’t think that’s what happened,” he said, at last, addressing Lee, “The timing on a scheme like what you’re suggesting would be absolutely critical. And it would still be a hell of a gamble. No, I don’t think even Bridget Cain had the stones to attempt something like that. No, face it, Captain, the Pegasus is gone.”

 

Adama watched as Lee turned away from the older man seated beside him, the muscles of his jaw standing out sharply as he clenched his teeth, most likely working hard to bite back some bitter retort. The commander had to consciously force himself not to reach across the table and throttle his XO. While it was unfortunate, but understandable, that Tigh was oblivious to the pain his words and tone were causing the captain, surely the colonel was aware of the affect they would have on Lt. Reynolds, who was sitting at the end of the table, pale and shaken. One day soon, Adama thought, he would need to have a chat with his second about his lack of tact.

 

Heaving a heavy sigh, the commander said, as gently as he could, “I’m afraid that I must agree with Col. Tigh. It is highly unlikely that the Pegasus survived. I see no compelling evidence that would warrant attempting a search for her. If, by some miracle, she did survive, we shall simply have to hope that she can find us again.”

 

He looked down the table at Julia, who now had tears flowing freely down her cheeks. He saw Sharon put a comforting hand on the other woman’s arm. He turned to look at Lee, across the table, but the younger man still had his face turned away.

 

“Very well, I will be making a formal ship-wide statement within the hour,” Adama continued. “This briefing is finished. You are all dismissed.” He reached over and clicked off the recording device that had made the official record for the ship’s archival log. As they were all standing to leave, the commander called out to his son, “Captain, a moment of your time?”

 

Lee stopped, already halfway to the door, and turned back to his father. “Uh, I’m sorry, sir, but can it wait? I have a number of pilots who are anxiously waiting for the official word on the Pegasus. I’d like to address them before your announcement. They should hear this news from me, not the P.A. system.”

 

“Yes, of course, you’re right. We can talk later, after I’ve made the announcement.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Hello, ladies,” Dr. Baltar said, smiling at the two young female officers who passed him, dressed in their sport bras and sweat pants. They were obviously on their way to the Galactica’s small gym for a workout.

 

He was feeling pretty good at the moment. Adama had not seen the fake program. The Pegasus was gone, apparently blown up, so there was no chance of anyone questioning the disappearance of Lt. Athens. It appeared that all of his problems had taken care of themselves. Now, if he could just get the image of those lovely, green eyes out of his head, he might actually get some sleep sometime soon.

 

He was headed for the small room, with its attached bathroom, that was laughingly referred to as a guest suite, to which he had been assigned. At least, he hoped that he was headed that way. He stopped for a moment and looked around. Yes, this corridor looked familiar, but then again, they all looked familiar, because, they all looked essentially alike. He was about to continue on his way, when he heard someone call his name. Turning, he saw Billy Something-or-other, the president’s aide, approaching him.

 

“Dr. Baltar, the president would like to speak to you,” the young man said, a bit breathlessly, having run down the long corridor to catch up to the older man.

 

“Well, can’t it wait?” Gaius asked, a bit irritated. “It’s very late.”

 

“No, sir, I’m sorry, but the president insisted that she see you immediately. She would have summoned you earlier, but she only just now got back on board the Galactica.”

 

“Oh, very well,” Gaius said, reluctantly. “Lead on.”

 

Within fifteen minutes, they were standing outside the door to the president’s office. The two armed guards were once again stationed on either of the hatch. They allowed Billy and the doctor to enter unchallenged and unannounced, obviously expecting them. Inside the wardroom, Gaius found Pres. Roslin seated at the conference table, leafing through some papers. She set them aside, looked up at him and smiled warmly.

 

“Ah, Dr. Baltar. It’s nice to see you again,” she said, not standing. “I’m very sorry to keep you from your bed at such a late hour, but I thought it would be best if you and I had a discussion about a few things as soon as possible. Please, have a seat.” Turning to address Billy, she said, “You can go on to bed now, Billy. I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

Gaius pulled out a chair across the table from her and lowered himself into it. “So, what is it that we need to discuss at this ungodly hour?” he asked, after the younger man had left the room.

 

“Well, I’d like to discuss some of the surprising information that has been revealed these last few days. Revealed to me, at any rate. You didn’t seem very surprised during our little strategy meeting here, the other day, when Adama shared his secret about possible Cylon spies.”

 

“Uh, well, no, he had confided in me, so that I could help him find a way to detect those spies.”

 

“Oh, yes, your Cylon detector program.”

 

“Yes,” Gaius said, suddenly uncomfortable with the way she was smiling at him.

 

“You know, I must confess that it greatly distresses me that the commander would confide in you with something like that, but not to me. I am the president, shouldn’t I have been told about the possibility of Cylon spies?”

 

“Uh, yes, I-I suppose you should have, but it wasn’t my decision to make. I was sworn to secrecy. You really should be talking to the commander about this.”

 

“I would if I thought it would make the slightest difference.”

 

“You don’t trust Adama?”

 

“It’s not a matter of trusting or not. Adama seems to have this idea that I can’t handle certain things. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman or because I’m a civilian, or both. Regardless, I am the president. I don’t need to be patronized, I need to be informed.”

 

“Yes, well, I can certainly understand your frustration, but I’m not sure what it is that you want me to do about it.”

 

“It’s very simple, Doctor. The commander seems to confide in you, to consult you. All I ask, is that when he does, you pass any pertinent information along to me.”

 

“Y-you want me to s-spy on Commander Adama?” Gaius asked incredulously.

 

“Spy is such an ugly word, don’t you think? I prefer to think of it as... you keeping me in the loop. You agreed that I should be kept informed, didn’t you? How am I supposed to make the best decisions for our people, if I don’t have all the facts?”

 

“Yes, Madam President, I do agree with you,” Gaius said, not really caring one way or another about what the president wanted or needed, as he didn’t see how any of it affected him. “But I’m just a scientist. I really don’t see that it’s my place to get involved in your political machinations with the commander.”

 

“Mmm, I’m sorry you feel that way, Doctor, because I’m not giving you a choice. You will do as I ask.”

 

“Oh? I must tell you, Madam President, that I do not like being threatened. Nor do I think that you are in any position to do so. What little authority you have is granted to you only by the grace of Commander Adama. Without his battlestar, you would have no way to assert your authority. Now, as you have already stated, the commander confides in me. He trusts me. He obviously does not entirely trust you. So, what’s to stop me from simply telling him about this conversation?”

 

“This,” she said calmly, sliding the small stack of papers she had been flipping through earlier, across the table towards him. Picking them up, he saw, to his horror, that it was his fake Cylon detector program.

 

“I see that you recognize it. I thought you would,” Pres. Roslin continued. “Now, I may not be a computer programmer, but I do know a fake when I see one. You’ll note that it is not the original copy. I have that tucked safely away. In fact, you can keep this one, if you’d like. You see, Doctor, I understand completely the tenuous nature of my authority and that is why I am attempting to do something about it. And the first step toward achieving that end is making sure that I am fully informed about every crisis. And that is where you come in, Doctor.

 

“Now, I’m sorry that you don’t like being threatened, but I don’t like people who would allow, much less encourage, the use of potential innocents as scapegoats. And I’m guessing that Commander Adama would fee the same way... So, you have a choice. You can help me or I go and have a chat with the commander.”

 

“Where did you get it?” Gaius asked numbly.

 

“From Lt. Athens. She asked me to give it to Adama for her. Obviously, I didn’t... You know, it was awfully convenient for you that the Pegasus was destroyed, wasn’t it? Now Lt. Athens can’t blow the whistle on you, can she? Lucky for me, she was a smart girl, who planned ahead.”

 

Gaius didn’t say anything. He just continued to stare miserably at the table.

 

“I understand that this has probably come as a bit of a shock to you,” Roslin said. “Why don’t you take a few days to think about it? Take your time. Just so long as you let me know if you and the commander discuss anything of importance. That’s all. You can leave now.”

 

Once he was outside the wardroom and back in the corridor leading to his quarters, the tall, platinum blonde made her appearance at his side.

 

“Well, well, I never would have thought that the schoolteacher would prove to have so much mettle. Very interesting,” she purred.

 

“Oh, well, I’m so glad that one of us is enjoying this.”

 

“Relax, Gaius, think about it. You’re now in the perfect position to play them against each other. This could be downright fun.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

Lee sat on his bed, staring numbly into space. He really needed to get some sleep. He was completely exhausted, mentally, physically, emotionally, but somehow sleep just wouldn’t seem to come. Although it had only been a few hours, it felt like a lifetime ago, that he and Bridget had made lo-, no, had sex, in this very bed. Now she was gone, again. It was like she had never really been here at all. As if it had all been some bizarre wet dream. He didn’t feel sad, and he supposed that he probably should. He just felt numb and empty.

 

He tensed slightly at the sound of the knock on his door. “Come in,” he called out, after a moment’s hesitation.

 

He relaxed visibly as Kara cautiously entered the room. Seeing his reaction, she asked, “Did you think it was going to be your father?”

 

Lee gave her one of his wry half-smiles in answer.

 

“Okay, so, do you hate me now?” she asked bluntly, somewhat bothered by his silence.

 

“No, I don’t hate you,” he said, with a sigh. “It’s a little hard to hate someone who just saved your life. Again.”

 

“What, that thing with the two Cylons on your ass? That was nothing, just part of the job,” she said, waving a hand at him, dismissing his thanks. “We all look out for each other.”

 

He nodded. “Yeah, well, thank you for doing your job so well... So, is this what you’re going to do every time you piss me off? Save my life, so I can’t stay mad at you?”

 

“Well, hey, it works for me and it’s a hell of a lot easier than apologizing,” she said, moving to sit beside him on the bed. As she did, she deliberately bumped his shoulder with hers. “Besides, you know that you can never stay mad at me. You love me too much.”

 

“Yeah, lucky for you.”

 

“So, are you okay? I mean, you’re not going to pine away for her or anything, are you?”

 

“No, I didn’t pine for her before. I’m not going to start now. Besides, I don’t think she’s really dead. I think she pulled the same trick that I did on Colonial One and she jumped during the confusion. She’s still alive out there. We’ll see her again.”

 

“Do you really believe that?”

 

“Yes, I do. I have to, for my own sanity.”

 

“Okay. I just didn’t want to come in here and have to slap some sense into you or anything.”

 

“Right, thanks,” he said dryly. “There is something that is bothering me, though. I would really like to know where, the hell, you get off thinking that you have the right to interfere in my personal life?”

 

Despite the harshness of his words, his tone was conversational, so Kara also kept her tone light. “Look, Lee, it was a bad situation for you. We both know it, even if you don’t want to admit it. Remember, I was in the room for most of those phone calls that you had with Zac. You two used to talk for hours about her and I remember him repeatedly telling you that you needed to transfer off the Pegasus. It was an inappropriate relationship and she had no business putting you in that position...”

 

“Would that inappropriate relationship be anything like your relationship with Zac?” Lee interrupted her in mid-tirade, just as she was getting warmed up. “You know, him being a flight student and you being an instructor?”

 

That took the wind right out of her sails. “That was different, Lee, and you know it. Zac and I were together before I became an instructor and before he became a student. And he was never actually in any of my classes.”

 

“You tested him for his Basic Flight fitness and you admitted, yourself, that your relationship with him affected your decision. That would be why those kinds of relationships aren’t permitted. The only reason you two got away with it, was because of Zac’s last name and because you were such a good instructor.”

 

“Lee...”

 

“No, Kara, I’m not blaming you or trying to bring up painful memories,” he interrupted quickly. “I’m just making the point, that you are hardly in a position to judge me.”

 

After a moment of reflection, she said, “Okay, point taken, but, Lee, I wasn’t trying to judge you. Her, yes. You, no. I was just trying to watch your back. You seem to have this rather dangerous habit of putting yourself in these vulnerable positions, both in the cockpit and out of it. If you’re not going to protect that fine ass of yours, then I guess it’s up to me to.”

 

He raised his eyebrows as he stared at her for a moment. “That’s awfully presumptuous of you.”

 

“Yeah. Did you forget who you were talking to?”

 

“Hmm, good point.”

 

The two sat in comfortable silence for a long moment, before Kara asked, “So, are we good?”

 

“Yeah, we’re good.”

 

“Good... So, I take it that you and your father haven’t talked about it yet?”

 

“No, but I’m sure that’s coming.”

 

“Yeah, he was pretty stunned when I let that little time bomb about you and Cain slip. I am really sorry about that, by the way.”

 

“Good, you should be,” Lee said lightly. “Your timing certainly couldn’t have been any worse.”

 

“Oh? What, did he interrupt while you guys were in the middle of doing it or something?” Kara asked jokingly.

 

When he cast her a steady, sidelong glance, she began to realize just how close to the mark her comment had hit.

 

“Oh, my Lords, he came to your door while you two were having sex?”

 

“Well, we were done, but close enough,” Lee said, his cheeks beginning to redden. “The problem is, that he didn’t knock. He just walked in.”

 

Kara gasped and clapped her hands over her mouth in a vain attempt to stifle her laugh.

 

“That’s not funny, Kara,” he said, although he was starting to smile as well. “That’s so not funny. I almost had heart failure.”

 

After a few seconds, she could no longer contain herself and she burst out laughing. He quickly joined her and they were soon both breathless and crying. Several minutes later, her sides aching and still snickering slightly, Kara wiped at the tears streaming down her cheeks and tried to regain her breath. Looking over at Lee, who was doing the same thing, she realized that she couldn’t remember when she had last heard him laugh. She’d heard him chuckle a bit, or more often, he’d just flash that trademark wry, half-smile of his, but she hadn’t heard him laugh, truly laugh, since before Zac had died. She’d forgotten what a nice sound it was.

 

He looked up at her and, as it so often happens, as soon as they made eye contact, they were off again, laughing uncontrollably. Their laughter was audible even outside the room as Adama approached his son’s closed door. He recognized the female laugh and had to smile to himself. He had been quite concerned that Lee might have taken Cain’s apparent death badly, but Adama should have known that Kara would not stand for that.

 

He knocked on the door, but there was no response besides the laughter. They probably couldn’t hear him. Although he was now quite reluctant to simply walk into Lee’s room without an invitation, this time, Adama was reasonably certain that nothing sexual was going on. He had to admit that he would have been much more comfortable with the thought of Lee sleeping with Kara than Bridget Cain, but he still wouldn’t want to walk in on it. Granted, he also didn’t want to stand around outside the door all evening, waiting for them to work through their laughter.

 

Reluctantly, he opened the hatch and stepped into the room. Seeing the two pilots sitting together on the bed, he couldn’t resist saying, “Well, this is the second time that I’ve caught you in bed with a beautiful woman.”

 

“Hello, Commander,” Kara said, smiling warmly at him. She turned to look back at Lee. “Well, I’d say that’s my cue to leave.”

 

“Oh, no, you can stay, Kara,” Lee said quickly, still chuckling slightly.

 

“No, she can’t,” Adama said softly.

 

Both younger officers sobered instantly. They exchanged glances and Kara gave Lee’s arm an encouraging squeeze as she stood to leave. She stopped beside the commander as she was heading out the door.

 

“Go easy on him, sir, he’s had a pretty emotionally rough couple of days,” she whispered.

 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, with a slight smile. “Have a good night, Starbuck. You did a damn fine job out there today.”

 

“Yeah, I know. Good night, sir.”

 

After she had gone, Adama walked over to Lee’s desk and pulled out the chair, turning it so that he could sit in it backwards and lean his forearms against the backrest while facing his son. Lee was sitting cross- legged on the bed, leaning his back against the wall and looking distinctly uncomfortable.

 

“We need to talk about you and Cain,” Adama said, breaking the long, uneasy silence.

 

Lee nodded, but said nothing.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Because it was over.”

 

“No, why didn’t you tell me then, when it was first happening?”

 

“Well, considering how you’re taking it now, three years after the fact, what would you have done if I had told you then?”

 

“I’d have brought her up on formal charges before a court martial!”

 

“Yeah, that would be why I didn’t tell you... Look, if it makes you feel any better, I never told Mom either.”

 

“Lee, I find out that you’ve done something like this and it makes me feel like I don’t really know you at all.”

 

“Maybe you never did!”

 

Lee took a deep breath. He hadn’t meant that to come out as harshly as it had. He and his father were getting along much better than they had in years and he didn’t want to mess things up now by slipping into his old habit of getting angry. It was a defensive mechanism he had with this father. Whenever a topic that Lee deemed too personal or painful to discuss with his father came up, he would get angry, say something hateful, and thus effectively end the discussion. Lee didn’t want to do that anymore. He was honestly making an effort to reconnect with his father, but sometimes it was just so hard.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean that to sound so harsh.”

 

“Lee, I know this is uncomfortable for you, but I need to understand how this could have happened. What were you thinking? How could you have been so irresponsible? An affair like that could have destroyed your career.”

 

“I know and I don’t really know how it happened. I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t... I don’t know, maybe on some level, I did it to spite you.”

 

“Who initiated this relationship?”

 

“Dad, don’t...”

 

“Who?”

 

Lee sighed. He knew where this line of questioning was headed and he didn’t like it, but neither was he going to lie to his father.

 

“She did.”

 

“Did she pressure you? Did she order you?”

 

“No! Dad, you can’t place all the blame on her for what happened. I understood the possible consequences of my actions and I still did it.”

 

“How could you truly have understood? Lee, you were a 24-year-old rookie, right out of Viper training. She was your commanding officer. Don’t tell me that she didn’t take advantage of you!”

 

“It wasn’t like that. I knew what I was doing.”

 

It was obvious from Adama’s expression that he wasn’t buying it. “Then why did you ask to be transferred off the Pegasus?”

 

Lee groaned. Lords, this interrogation was getting more painful by the minute. Why wouldn’t the man just let it drop? “Because I came to my senses... and ...because I found out that I wasn’t the only one she had slept with. I became concerned that her reasons for offering me a commission had nothing to do with my skills as a pilot...Dad, it’s over. Despite... what you walked in on, it was over three years ago. And now that she’s... gone. It’s definitely over. So, could we, please, just let it go?”

 

“I’m sorry, Lee, it’s just that Zac and I always talked about these things. I always knew what was going on in his love life.”

 

“Well, that’s not really fair. The only woman Zac was ever with, was Kara.”

 

“True, but all this has made me realize that, except for Bridget Cain, I have absolutely no idea who you have ever been with. I don’t even know who you’ve ever dated. Shouldn’t a father, at least, be aware of these things?”

 

“Are you asking me to relate my entire sexual history to you?”

 

“Yes- no! I mean... no... Oh, I don’t know...”

 

“Dad, what exactly is it that you want to know?”

 

Adama sighed heavily. “Your mother and I taught you and Zac to be responsible. We taught you to respect women, and yourselves, to not simply give yourselves away. Lee, you were always the mature one, the levelheaded one. It never occurred to me that you could ever behave so irresponsibly. But I see now, that I was wrong. Now, for my own sanity, I need to know what other mistakes are in your past. I’m sorry, Lee, but I need to know.”

 

At 28, Lee felt that a discussion with his father about his sex life, was wholly inappropriate and he greatly resented his father’s questions. Maybe if they had had this conversation when he was 16, it would have been all right. But, then again, considering that at 16, Lee had had no sex life to discuss, the topic had never come up. But now, it was entirely too late. But Lee wanted to keep the, sometimes strained, lines of communication open with his father, so with an effort, he kept his temper in check.

 

He was silent for a long time, digesting his father’s words. Eventually, he said, “All right, how about this... I didn’t lose my virginity until after I had left for the Officer’s Academy. The actual event did not occur under your roof and, including that person and Bridget Cain, I can count the number of women I have slept with, on one hand. Does that answer your question?”

 

“Yes, it does.” The relief was plain in Adama’s voice.

 

“Glad to hear it. Now, please, tell me that this conversation is over, because I don’t think I can take much more of this.”

 

“Yes, we’re done,” Adama said, chuckling. “Oh, there is one other thing. Did you really throw up in someone’s helmet just before your Viper flight trials?”

 

Oh, Lords, Lee groaned, dropping his face into his hands. Kill me now! Please, just kill me now!

 

~THE END~