Hidden Currents

part one

rule


Now

Boomer was sprawled on his stomach, blankets up to his shoulder blades and his arms outstretched, one of them over the ribs of his bedmate. Giles wasn't sure, but he thought his lover was in that twilight between dreams and waking, just lying and drifting in a delicious and easy haze; Boomer was the kind of lucky son-of-a-dagget who could stay there a long time. And the aud was playing one of his favorites: rain coming down in a soothing arrhythmic patter that reminded him of his lost home. Boomer had always loved rainy days, from gentle mists to the full-fledged thunderstorms that raged through Leontyne-on-the-Sea every summer. With his eyes closed, he could pretend he was back there...

Giles slid out from under his arm, carefully and quietly, hoping not to wake him if he was asleep, or disturb him if he wasn't. Padding into the turbowash, he dressed quickly. When he came back out, he found that Boomer wasn't asleep after all; as he picked up his blaster the dark man asked, "Where are you going?"

"Back to the barracks," Giles said. "Go back to sleep."

Boomer turned over. "Don't," he said.

"Come on, Boom," he said impatiently. "You know non-coms can't be trusted out all night like you young gentlemen."

Boomer sat up. "Gió" he started.

But Giles was already regretting the words. He reached out and touched Boomer's cheek briefly, saying, "Look, sorry. Nothing personal, you know that. I wouldn't have a commission for all the tea in lost Kitai; I just don't want to leave. But you got the room till morning; use it. Go back to sleep." He picked his jacket up off the chair. "I'll see you later."

The door shut softly behind him, leaving Boomer to listen to the sound of rain on a long-lost roof. With any luck, he'd sleep again.

I should be so lucky, Giles thought moodily, as he headed for the shuttle bay, hating like all the hells having to leave. Wishing he could stay all night whenever he wanted to, not just on break. And pissed off about it all.

By the time shuttle docked on the Galactica Giles could feel the anger in him running like one of those undersea currents Boomer had told him about, strong and waiting to snatch him off course. It was a familiar feeling by now, of course, one that had been with him nearly his entire life; he knew how to stay on top and not get carried away. What he didn't always know was how to want to do that.

He did wish he hadn't snapped at Boomer. Also a familiar feeling; he seemed to have spent a lot of his life wishing he hadn't said something. Usually too late. But it came with the territory, he'd always understood that. When you spent your life looking for trouble so it couldn't sneak up on you, that was the kind of thing that happened. And there hadn't been that many people around him who he didn't want to hurt, either.

Not if you didn't count just not wanting them to hurt him back.

Boomer didn't fall into that category. Hell, Boomer was his own category. He'd never known anyone like Boomer before. Though, as he'd come to realize, he hadn't exactly known a prize collection of people in his life. But Boomer had figured that out, too; Boomer wouldn't let being snapped at bother him.

In fact, Boomer didn't seem to let much bother him. Sometimes Giles envied him that. He spent most of his own life bothered, it seemed. Well, he probably wouldn't know how to live otherwise. Besides, it wasn't like things weren't bothersome.

When he turned into the pilot's quarters, Brie, who was Officer of the Day, looked up from her novel and then at the chrono on the wall. "You're late," she said.

Case in frackin' point. "Ten centons," he said. "Holdup in the shuttle bay."

"You should leave early," she said pointedly. "Give yourself plenty of time to cover these contingencies."

"Sagan," he said. Just what he needed, a lecture from Lieutenant Little-Miss-Schoolgirl.

"Look, sergeant," she read his tone accurately enough, he'd have to give her that. And so had Greenbean, her NCOD, who rolled his eyes but kept quiet. "You're late."

"Then put me on report, ma'am," he said. "Skip the lecture."

"You've got it, sergeant," she said.

"Thank you, ma'am." He headed into the barracks, seething. He was half-undressed when Greenbean came in. "I don't need to hear it, Bean," he said and pulled his rank pin off his tunic before tossing that into the laundry chute.

"Yes, you do. Brie's not bad, but you push her."

"I've been a Warrior a dozen yahrens. She wasn't out of basic school when I signed up," he said. "I don't need a lecture from her."

Greenbean bit his lower lip. "She's an officer, Giles. It's kind of what they do."

"Oh, felgarcarb. Look, you know as well as I, she's about as much an officer as Apollo's kid. At least those damned ensigns spent four yahrens learning stuff. What'd she spend? And she's telling me how to be a Warrior? Treating me like some teenager who overstayed his curfew?" Which reminded him of his original grievance. "And while we're on the subject, what the frack is this damned double policy, anyway?"

"Now, come on, Giles. That's not her; that's everywhere."

"Yeah? Maybe so. But at least grunt officers know the value of a good NCO. Starfighter command want things both ways: we're as good as officers when we're flying, but we go back to second-class citizens, other ranks that need to be baby-sat, the rest of the time... I've about had it."

The older sergeant shook his blond head. "You need to learn to relax."

"Lay back and enjoy it?" Giles shook his own head and shut his locker. "Not my style. You better get back before the lieutenant needs you."

Greenbean sighed, shrugged, and left. Giles stood in front of his locker for a minute, then, as the chill air shivered his bare skin, he climbed into his bunk where, having learned to take the chance for sleep when it arrived, he dropped off almost at once.

But he dreamed...


Then

"If you don't learn to contain yourself, boy, you're going to end up—"

"Yah, I know: fifth hell."

"I don't give a damn if you end up in Hades, boy. It's the graveyard I'm thinking of. Or jail."

Giles laughed. The Lippy sounded so sincere; he ought to go into vids. Catch anyone in the Colonies really caring what happened to throwaways: why'd they exist if people thought it was so bad. He cocked his head and said, as insolently as he knew how (which was very much indeed), "You endin' up in graveyard yourself, y'know. An' jail's not so bad."

"You haven't been in jail yet," the Libran Planetary Peace Enforcer said patiently. This one was different. Giles hadn't seen anybody able to provoke him yet. "A detention center's not the same, not by a long league."

Giles shrugged. He couldn't imagine much worse than the streets of Argo. At least they fed you in prison, and it was warm in the winter. Not that prison was his goal, but it wasn't something he worried about overly. Besides, he wasn't sixteen yet, as far as anyone knew; if he screwed up, lost his temper at the wrong time, got lost and wandered into something he couldn't handle... even if he was actually arrested, not just hauled in for being handy, the best the LPPE could manage was detention. Maybe in a center a little harder to get loose from than the one he'd been in and out of most of his life. But, well and so what? He didn't say anything, just looked sideways at the Lippy and waited.

The Lippy looked down at his file and then said, "You're in a lot of trouble right now, boy."

Giles shrugged. If it was true, it wasn't news. He really didn't know anything about the body they'd found under the Moskovoy bridge. He'd never even been across it, on the Moskva side of the river; he'd been sleeping up in the pilings on the eastern side. But somebody might have sold him to the LPPE, or they might just be looking for someone to hang something on; they did that a lot when the corpse wasn't a rico. He'd already said he didn't know anything and there wasn't much point in wasting his breath repeating it. If there was one place he needed to watch his temper, it was in a Lippy interrogation room. Detention was a lot more pleasant when you weren't beaten up first.

Most things were, he figured.

He must have grinned, because the Lippy slapped his hand down on the table between them and said, "Something funny here, boy? What part of 'you're in trouble' don't you understand?"

"Never been out," Giles said. "Take my humor where I find it."

The Lippy looked at him, but whatever the man might have said, he never got the chance. Another Lippy, the one that had laid his nightstick across Rupi's head when they were picked up, came in without knocking. Giles froze, every nerve on edge, ready to run or fight if he had to, but the man ignored him and beckoned to the other one. They left the room, closing the door behind them, locking him in.

Since he knew the mirror on the door wall was really a one-way window, he didn't do anything but sit there. He was much too old for making faces and much too smart to go for the files. He lounged back in the straight-backed chair and looked at himself in the mirror. His shirt had been torn in the pick-up; he tugged at it and wondered how to get a new one. The nights were a bit chilly still for ripped clothing to be comfortable. One blessing to being scrawny: pretty much anything you got hold of would go on, even if it didn't fit exactly.

The door opened; Giles looked up as if lazily, though his muscles were so tight they hurt. "Okay, boy," the Lippy said, "come on."

"Where to?" He didn't expect an answer but didn't fancy just tamely trotting along to wherever.

"Detention Center Seven," the man said. "I believe you're familiar with it?"

He certainly was, not that he wanted to improve his acquaintanceship. He might end up there for the moment, but he'd be leaving as soon as he could get out. In fact, if he could make a break before they got there, he meant to.

"You know," the man said suddenly, "you give them half a chance there, maybe they can do you some good."

Do me good? Do me well, you mean, Giles thought, looking out the tinted window of the LPPE hovermobile and remembering Lightfoot drilling him on grammar in the late white nights of Argo's high summer... He pushed that away so habitually it barely registered and said, "Do me, anyway."

"You have a complaint?"

Like you care. Though maybe this one did, in some weird way, because that hadn't sounded rote. But Giles hadn't lived this long without learning better than to answer a question like that. If what he was in now was trouble, then there wasn't a word to describe what he'd be in if he started down that road, stirring up a pack of sleeping attack daggets. He shook his head and kept quiet for the rest of the ride.

The Lippy didn't say anything either, not until the DC warder put his big hand between Giles's shoulder blades and pushed him in the direction of the inner door. Then he spoke, sounding almost reluctant. "Wait a minute." He crossed the anteroom and handed Giles a small white card. "You hang onto this. If you ever need..." That trailed off.

Giles glanced at the card. Yaroslav, Lt., LPPE Argo, Juvenile Division and a commnet number. He figured he'd keep it about three centons inside. He also figured calling this Lippy was about the last thing he'd ever want to do, though he knew his memory would hold the number whether he wanted it to or not. He didn't say anything.

"You watch yourself, boy," the Lippy said, like anybody else would watch him. "Watch that temper."

The DC warder laughed. "This one? No chance, lieutenant." And then they disappeared into DC7.

And five sectares later Giles was picked up again, in a sweep of the Riga district.

At the Riga district station, the Lippies performed a rough triage, separating the detainees into groups. Giles, his head aching from the blows that had loosened a tooth and closed an eye, realized he was about to be shoved into a holding cell with three Knights and two Lionets, giving the gang members something to be pissed off at besides each other. "Hey," he said to the man pushing him down the corridor. "I need to tell you something."

"Yeah, sure."

"A centon," Giles said desperately. "I'm serious."

The man hesitated, weighing the possibility of missing something, and then said, "If you're wasting my time, punk, you're gonna wish you'd never been born." He hauled Giles back down the hall into an interrogation room. "What?"

"You need to get in touch with Lieutenant Yaroslav," Giles said. He had no idea what this would accomplish, besides buying him time. But time was always good.

"Who?" The Lippy's skepticism was palpable.

"Yaroslav," Giles repeated. "Juvie... I've got his commnet number."

The Lippy hesitated a minute, and then thought he understood. "You a snitch of his?" He grinned, a bit unpleasantly. "You better pray he thinks you're good value, kid. What name?"

He left Giles locked in the interrogation room. The boy sat down carefully in one of the chairs and took inventory of his aches and pains, hoping the dull agony in his side wasn't anything more serious than a broken rib, hoping he wouldn't lose his tooth, hoping he could run on his bad ankle without damaging himself. He didn't hope Yaroslav would remember him, because he'd learned not to hope for the unattainable. The main thing he was hoping for was that the Knights and Lionets would cripple each other.

As the centons stretched out and nobody came and dragged him out, he began to relax simply because he couldn't stay tensed up any longer. When the door finally opened, he jerked upright. Yope, he thought as he realized he'd actually fallen asleep. But the man who came in was Yaroslav, and he stopped a metron or more away until Giles was on his feet. Then he spoke.

"Sweet Sagan, boy, what happened to you?"

"Your buddies out there," Giles jerked his head at the door and immediately wished he hadn't. His head spun and he had to grab the back of the chair, which was a display of weakness but metrons better than falling down would have been.

"You haven't gotten any smarter," Yaroslav sighed. "What's your goal, exactly? To earn getting beat up?" He didn't wait for an answer. "My buddies out there reluctantly agree that you probably just happened to be in the wrong place. They also seem to think you work for me..."

"I didn't tell them that."

"Now, why don't I believe that? Never mind. Come on."

Giles had no idea where they were going, but it beat staying where he was. And once he got onto the street, well who knew what might happen? He limped after the tall man through the station under the gaze of the other Lippies. Outside Yaroslav took hold of his arm and headed toward a parked hovermobile.

"Okay, boy. Here's your choice: in the back, locked in, or in the front like a person if you promise not to run on me."

Giles looked at him appraisingly. Was he serious? He seemed to be. He actually thought Giles would keep his promise. Idiot. "Where we goin'?"

"Ruheh Life Center."

A life center? Not a grudged room in the DC, or a drunken, struck-off trembler under an expressway, but an actual life center? His first reaction was figure the odds he's telling the truth but so far the man had been so out of the usual run of Giles's acquaintanceship that, well, who knew? Maybe he meant it. Give him a chance... "Okay."

At Ruheh a bored medtech ran the bonesetter over his ribs and his cheek and resettled his tooth. She also wrapped up his ankle and told him to be careful.

Again Yaroslav kept a hand on him, this time tighter. "Same choice," he said. "My place. Food, bath, bed..." he ran his eyes over him. "Something to wear."

Bed. Well, that wasn't much of a surprise. Made Yaroslav a lot more understandable. But for food, plus getting him out of stir and into the life center—plus a possible chance to nick something salable—well and why not?

A second appraising look outside the local Garnet's (Affordable All Day Every Day) and Yaroslav told him to wait in the hovermobile, adding, "Run and I'll find you. Hotwire this and I'll throw you in jail myself."

If they'd already eaten he might have run anyway, but as it was he just leaned back into the seat and waited. The Lippy dropped a bag in his lap when he came back and he involuntarily closed his fingers around it; it was the first thing he'd had new out of a store probably ever. Certainly since he could remember.

Yaroslav lived in a high-rise, on the third level of the pyramid. They rode up in the turbolift along with someone who'd punched for twelve and who looked askance at Giles. It was water off an anaseran's back to him but he was interested and amused at the way the Lippy's jaw clenched. Should've let me change in the hovermobile, he thought, grinning. And grinned even wider when Yaroslav's gaze fell on him and those blue eyes flashed with unspoken anger.

The apartment was small, probably, though as far as Giles was concerned it was palatial. But there were only three rooms—front, service, and sleeping—so he guessed it counted as small. And it was in the center of the building, no windows, so he supposed Yaroslav wasn't on the take in any big way. He stood in the middle of the front room after they came in, waiting to be told what to do first. Yaroslav put the latch on and looked at him. "Why don't you wash up and then we'll eat," he said. "It's late, but I expect you're hungrier than you are tired."

That was true, if irrelevant. Giles carried the bag into the turbowash and shut the door. All the hot water he could want, and not just in a sink, and real soap... He wanted to stay in a lot longer than he dared to, but when he came out he was clean, even his hair, though it was still tangled. He found a comb and dragged it ruthlessly through his russet mane until all the tangles were gone, even though his eyes teared up; at least he could wash his face again after. Then he opened the bag and pulled on the new clothes; Yaroslav hadn't gone overboard with it but everything fit, and the relief of not having to put the dirty things back onto his clean skin was tremendous. But thriftily he stuck them into the bag and carried that out with him, to be handy when he left, which would, he figured, probably be in a hurry when it happened.

Yaroslav called to him from the service room. He went in there and found warmed-over sliced meat, primaries, and bread waiting on the table. The man was standing by the fooder with a mildly perplexed look on his face. "I ought to give you milk, but I knew I don't have any, so I thought of juice. But it turns out I don't have that, either. If I give you ale, will I be corrupting you?"

"Is this a trick question?" The man's eyes looked confused so Giles let it go and said, "No. I've been drinking for yahrens." He wished it was ambrosa; the drunker you were the easier things were. But ale was good.

"I was afraid of that." He sighed but poured two glasses of ale and sat down. "Help yourself," he added.

Giles took him at his word and piled the plate high. He emptied the glass and got a refill, but surprisingly the man wouldn't give him a third. He shrugged and finished eating. He looked at Yaroslav, who was apparently startled at the amount of food Giles had put away, and waited. He'd been appraising the man while he ate. Tall, but not big, and he hadn't yet shown a mean streak; maybe it wouldn't be too bad. He'd stolen a couple of looks at the knife on the platter of meat, but had left it there finally. The man had spent a lot of money on him, after all... and he was a Lippy. He ended up dead, and those guys at Riga District knew. He didn't, which was more likely probably, and it could only make it worse. Giles would probably end up wishing he was, instead.

Still, he wished he'd had more to drink. It had been a long time. Lightfoot had kept people off him until—automatically he killed that thought. But by then he'd been quick enough, smart enough, mean enough to take care of himself. Mostly, anyhow. And when he couldn't get out of it, it was pretty much on his terms, as much as it could be anyhow... Any how, that's how you lived after all, any how you could. Three yahrens now on his own. Nothing lasts forever. Most things don't last at all. And who knew? Maybe he could get out of the apartment while the man was washing dishes or showering or something.

"These can wait," Yaroslav said, dumping them in the sink.

Giles got to his feet. "Okay. What do you want?"

"What?"

"What do you want? Suck, frack, both..." His voice trailed off as he saw enough anger in the man's face to shut him up fast.

Yaroslav took a couple of deep breaths and pointed at the front room. Giles went. The man followed and pointed at the couch. Giles sat down. Yaroslav didn't. Instead he paced the floor, taking a couple of deep breaths, and then turned to glare at Giles. "You hook, too?"

"No." A short answer seemed his best bet.

The Lippy stared at him. Then, "Why?"

"I thought you..." Not finishing that was probably safest.

Those blue eyes flashed again, and then they closed while he shook his head. He sat down on the couch, as far away as he could get, and said, "I don't. I don't intend to, I don't want to, and, Hades, boy, you're not even legal."

"Yes, I am," Giles corrected him.

"The hells."

"Well and probably," Giles said. "Not that that stops most—" He broke off, even though he'd about figured Yaroslav wasn't going to clip him.

"It would stop me. This whole situation would stop me."

"Then—" He stopped again before he went over the line, which, since he had no idea where it was, he might at any moment.

"Let me guess," Yaroslav sighed. "Why are you here? Because I gave you my card and you took me up on it. I'm obligated."

"Why'd you give me the card?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "You're a brat at best. It was an impulse... If I let you sleep on this couch," he jabbed a finger down into it, "are you going to rob me blind and take off in the middle of the night?"

"Depends on what's going to happen in the morning."

Yaroslav blew out a breath and shook his head. "I'll feed you again. After that, who knows?"

"No," Giles said. "I mean, no, I won't steal anything and leave," he elaborated.

"You going to leave without stealing?" The Lippy had a sense of humor, anyway.

Giles shook his head.

"All right. Because I think I need a full night's sleep to deal with you." He stood up. "Let me get you a sheet, blanket, pillow."

When he was alone in the front room, Giles stripped out of all of his new clothes and folded them carefully, and then wrapped himself in the sheet and blanket and lay awake for several centons, staring into the darkness and wondering what in the seven hells he'd gotten himself into. But, he thought, rolling over, whatever it is, it beats Riga District station. Especially with Knights and Lionets thrown in. Maybe you finally got lucky.

Smiling to himself, he closed his eyes and slept.

Lightfoot was ahead of him. The double moon breaking through the ragged clouds turned his hair to silver. Before them the dark wall rose, sheer and high. But Lightfoot leapt easily, catching the top and pulling himself up without effort. Giles stared upwards, knowing he'd never make it, and then Lightfoot lay down on the wall, hooking his foot over the far edge, and reached down. Giles jumped and their hands met, and Lightfoot pulled him up as though he weighed nothing. They sat on the wall, looking out over the lights of Argo...

Giles woke himself. His face was wet; he scrubbed it clean of the tears that never came when he was awake and quietly got off the couch. He paused a minute, pulled on his new trousers before padding quietly into the service room and finding a bottle of ale. He wasn't leaving so this wasn't covered by his promise—he blinked in startlement at himself. What was this? Worrying about promises? You'd better get the hells out of here in the morning, Giles, before you get sucked into something that... He shook his head, unwilling to pursue the thought. Even less willing to think about what had prompted it. The dream was something to forget as soon as he could, not dwell on. He drained the bottle in several long swallows and went back to the couch.

This time Lightfoot stayed out of his dreams.


Now

Giles sat up, the tatters of the dream still in his mind. Yope, he thought and then shook his head to clear it and rephrased into Standard. Frack. He'd gone nearly a decade without waking himself up like this and now it was back, screwing up his nights if nothing else. The recurring dream—nightmare—had faded like it always did; he barely remembered it. Moonlight, Argo... sounded like that old song. Somebody else in the darkness. And something that scared him so badly... He shook his head again and wrapped his arms around his knees, hugging them to his chest.

He'd had the dream pretty often as a kid. It had stopped soon after he'd signed up, and he'd thought it was gone for good. Even the Destruction hadn't triggered it again. But shortly after the first time he and Boomer had slept together he'd woken up in the middle of the night, sweating and trembling and not knowing why. Gods knew there was enough stuff buried in his memory to keep him awake every night, not just a couple of times a secton.

He so much didn't want it to be because of Boomer... It wasn't new, it couldn't be. He couldn't give Boomer up even if it was; Sagan, it was just messed up sleep... His heartbeat was returning to normal and he lay down again, missing his lover's warm embrace. The first time he'd woken them both up Boomer had refused to talk about it, just used the opportunity to make love again. But the second time he'd held Giles while he calmed down and listened to his apology, his offer to leave from now on. "Forget that, Gi," he'd said softly. "This way I get to fall asleep beside you twice in a night."

Giles closed his eyes and wished he had Boomer to snuggle up to tonight. This whole thing was really getting on his nerves. All of it: fraternization rules and curfews and those fracking jumped-up new lieutenants... Probably that was the cause of the nightmare's recurrence. He was angry all the time again. He hadn't been, in the infantry. There he'd had structure and belonging and value.

As he dropped back into sleep, the decision made itself.

Chain of command. The guys at the top could skip links going down but going up you'd better not miss one. So first thing in the morning Giles went to Lieutenant Bojay. He would sort of hate to leave Green Squadron, and one reason was the new squadron leader. He had a lot in common with the ex-Pegasus pilot: they both liked a solid structure, they both disliked a lot of policies in the Wing, and they both had a lot of anger. More than that, Bojay valued his non-coms' experience. But it wasn't Bojay who had the final word around the Wing.

"Sir?"

Bojay looked up from the desk. "Flight sergeant," he acknowledged; he was punctilious about using rank with his enlisted pilots. "What do you need?"

"I'd like to speak with Colonel Tigh, sir," he said. The phrasing was a formality; no one could prevent him, though the colonel would slaughter him ritually if he was bothered for a triviality, or something that could have been settled at a lower echelon. He didn't even have to say why, but Bojay would most likely ask; it was part of his job.

"Are you having a problem in the squadron, sergeant?"

"No, sir." Giles paused. "In the Wing, maybe. But the thing is, sir... I'm coming up on my re-up date. I want to transfer back to the infantry."

Bojay looked startled. "Are you sure, sergeant? You're an excellent pilot, and it'll be hard to replace you."

"Thank you, sir, but, yes. I'm certain. I've given it a lot of thought. I think I'm better suited to the infantry, I was six yahrens there, and they can always use someone who can fly ILVs."

The lieutenant looked a bit skeptical, but all he said was, "That will be the colonel's decision. I'll miss you in the squadron, but if it's what you want—good luck with it, sergeant. Go on up today, if you want; just stop by the captain first."

"Yes, sir." Giles saluted and left, heading for Apollo's office. In the corridor he ran into Boomer, coming down from the morning meeting.

"Hey," Boomer said with his quick smile. "Morning."

Giles smiled back at him. Just hearing that voice did funny things to his insides. "And good morning to you," he said.

Boomer took a quick look around and, seeing no one, leaned in for a quick kiss. Then he said, "So, you feeling better today?"

"Uh-oh," Giles said. "You heard about last night?"

"It came up." Another quick look around. "Gi, what possessed you?"

"I was angry," he said, shrugging.

Boomer shook his head. "We have to talk."

"I have to see the captain." He preferred to burn his bridges.

"That's true. But—did Bojay say anything to you?"

Giles shook his head. "Nope."

"Then he hasn't read the night logs yet. Look," he paused. "We have to talk. After shift? I got the room again."

"You're gonna go broke."

Boomer grinned and shrugged. "What else have I got to spend my money on but contributing to Starbuck's retirement fund? What do you say?"

"Yes, of course," he grinned. "Unless Apollo has me on extra duty."

Boomer shook his head. "Why'd I have to fall for a troublemaker?"

"Looking to put a little spice in your humdrum existence?"

"That must be it." Boomer looked at him and sighed. "You'd better go before I think of some excuse to get a little spice right now..."

"Later."

Giles walked down the corridor toward Apollo's office thinking about that night. The conversation might not be fun, but afterwards... And anyway, there wasn't much in this decision for Boomer to get annoyed about. It wasn't as if he were putting himself in danger of transfer off the battlestar, after all. And Boomer wouldn't be anywhere near his chain of command, which would help with the fraternization thing. Plus, despite what Bean had said last night, the Galactica's infantry sergeants had their own rooms.

Apollo saw him immediately. And the first thing he said after the door shut behind Giles was, "What the hell happened last night, Giles? Brie has you on report for being late and insolent."

"That's about right," Giles said. Apollo's personal style led to a lot fewer 'sirs' than some other officers drew. "Not very of either, in my opinion, but I was both."

Apollo leaned back in his chair. "And what am I supposed to do about it, you think?"

Giles caught himself before he shrugged. "Whatever you think best, I suppose. It doesn't much matter to me. I wanted to tell you I'm going to talk to Colonel Tigh today."

"About this?" Apollo said sharply.

"No, sir." It was time for one. "Whatever you decide about this is fine. I was ten centons late and I resented her lecturing me on it, so I was insolent. I want to talk to the colonel about something different."

Apollo relaxed a little, but not much. He wouldn't like the thought of the Iron Colonel mixing into the wing. "Are you having problems with Bojay?"

Giles shook his head. "Lieutenant Bojay is a fine squadron leader. I don't have any problems with him." He probably should warn Apollo, but being reminded of Brie had put him out of the mood. The anger was running in him again, and he needed to be as quiet as possible.

"All right," Apollo said. "If you don't want to tell me, you don't." He looked down at his desk and then back up. "You can expect to be pulling extra NCOD this secton."

"Tonight?"

"No. Tomorrow and fifthday."

"Yes, sir. Is that all?"

Apollo nodded. Those green eyes were a bit troubled still, but Giles figured he'd get over it on his own. He nodded back, almost saluted even though he knew Apollo didn't like it inside but didn't, and left.

Extra NCOD. No big thing, even if he didn't get the transfer right off. As long as he didn't have to pull it with Brie, which would be Apollo's idea of punishment fitting the crime. She wouldn't be scheduled for it again so soon, but Apollo let the officers swap it around. He'd check the roster.

But he could deal with her if he had to. Dismissing the problem from his mind, he headed for the turbolift. Unfortunately, the colonel wasn't on the bridge and Giles ended up waiting for nearly a centare in his outer office until he could get in.

At least he'd had plenty of time to refine his request down to the bare bones: just the way Tigh liked things. Once he was in front of the colonel, and had been invited to "tell me what it is you want, Sergeant Giles," he said,

"In two sectons I'll have been in for twelve yahrens, sir. I'm coming up on my third term—"

"You're intending to re-enlist, then?"

It was an interesting question. Giles wasn't sure what the new, post-Destruction policy on that topic was. New recruits had the same two-, four-, and six-yahren-term options, he knew, but it so happened that since Cimtar no one had tried for an end-of-term discharge. Tigh's question might have meant you could get one, but it might equally have been a lead-in to a firm description of just why that wasn't, at the moment, possible and an involuntary extension. It was academic, as far as Giles was concerned: he hadn't the faintest idea what would happen to him if he was turned loose in the Fleet and he had even less desire to find out.

"Yes, sir," he said; Tigh merited a 'sir' every utterance, at least. "I do. But I started in the infantry, sir, on the Ares. As a six-yahren man I got training to pilot the ILV, and then my career counselor recommended I transfer to Starfighter Command, especially since it came with an immediate promotion. So, I've been in fighters six yahrens now, sir, and I've decided I'd be better off back in the infantry."

Tigh looked at him, his dark face giving no clues as to what he was thinking. Giles found himself looking at the colonel's hair. It was nearly twice as long as Boomer's close crop. It looked soft; he wondered how hard it would be to talk Boomer into letting his grow some. Tigh's voice interrupted that train of thought, probably for the best. "A change of service option was probably in your last re-enlistment contract, wasn't it, sergeant?"

Wasn't it. Doesn't sound good. "Yes, sir, I was guaranteed the right to reversion."

"But the thing is, sergeant, the only infantry around at the moment is our half-company."

"It's a little understrength, isn't it, sir?"

"Yes. And will probably stay that way. We don't need infantry at the moment, sergeant. We're not planning on fighting any ground actions. Even sixty men is more than we need, let alone a full complement; I'm trying to get volunteers to change service out of the infantry now. We can certainly give you a first-call for when that changes, if it changes, but at present," Tigh shrugged, "what we need are experienced Viper pilots."

"I understand, sir."

"But you're not happy."

"Service never guaranteed me happiness, sir," he answered the tone.

Tigh laughed shortly. "I'm certainly glad to hear that. Are you having any specific problems in your squadron? We can certainly transfer you out of that."

Giles was hardly tempted. Letting sleeping daggets lie was too much a way of life. "No, sir. I'd just rather be infantry again."

"The time may come, sergeant," Tigh said. "But it's not here now. You'll be re-enlisting for Starfighter Command, not Ground Forces."

"Yes, sir," Giles agreed.

He had the turbolift to himself, and he leaned against the wall and cracked his head against it a couple of times. He'd actually started thinking about what he'd do after the transfer; he really ought to know better than that. At least he hadn't told Apollo; the captain probably knew the new policy, but seeing as how he wasn't leaving he was just as glad Apollo didn't know he'd wanted to. Bojay almost certainly didn't know it: 'That will be the colonel's decision' might have been a way to dodge answering, but that wasn't the Pegasan's style. There were those who said he enjoyed breaking bad news; maybe so, but at least he'd never lied to Giles. And he wouldn't gossip, either.

Nor would the colonel, though he might decide a generic memo was appropriate.

So that was okay. Nobody would know but Bojay and he wouldn't give Giles any grief over it.

What about Boomer? That thought came out of nowhere. His first impulse was, why tell him now? But, gods knew, his first impulses weren't always the best. See how the talk goes tonight. Find out how pissed off he already is.

Giles hesitated as the doors slid open. Regardless of who knew what, he wasn't in the mood to go to the ready room. Blue was flying picket today; Green had the onboard chores. If Bojay wanted him and he wasn't around, he'd call. As long as he wasn't obviously sloping off... range practice. And it would do wonders for his mood, too, shooting at things. Get rid of some of this anger he was carrying around. If he went to the ready room he might punch somebody, which would relieve the anger all right, but would just get him in more trouble...


Then

Shaking his head, Yaroslav put two more eggs on the plate in front of Giles. "Help yourself to the biscuits," he said.

Giles did. Never skip a chance to eat, or sleep was one of Lightfoot's maxims. He pushed that memory away by asking, "Is there any more of that sweet stuff?"

"Marmalade?" Yaroslav asked. "I'm sure there's something." He looked in the fooder and pulled out a jar of something so dark it was almost black.

Giles would rather have had the orange stuff, but he shrugged and spread this on the biscuit and tried it. It was pretty good, too. He stuffed the rest of the biscuit in his mouth and started cutting the eggs up.

"Do you always eat like this?"

He looked up briefly. "Is this a trick question?"

The man grunted in wry amusement. "I suppose it is. Never mind..." He sat down at the table and watched Giles demolish the rest of the biscuits. "What did you get picked up for? Yesterday."

Giles shrugged. "Being there."

"You were pretty knocked around for just being there."

"It happens like that," he said, "sometimes."

Yaroslav looked at him. "I can't decide if it doesn't bother you, or if you're bothered all the time."

That didn't seem to require an answer. Giles picked up the jar of black stuff and slid his fork into it. At the cough he looked up.

"Use a spoon," Yaroslav said, pushing one at him.

He licked the fork clean and dug in with the spoon. Maybe this blackberry stuff was actually better than the marmalade.

"You said you're sixteen?"

"Far's I know, yah," he nodded. "Close to it, anyhow. Autumn kid."

"Yahrology? You're basing your birthday on yahrology?"

"It's better than nothing," Giles shrugged. "So it's not always right. It's a place to start. Narrows it down to three sectares."

"And if I had a cubit for every red-head I knew who wasn't born in the autumn, I could... I could afford to feed you for a yahren."

Giles shrugged and looked into the jar. It was as empty as it was going to get unless he stuck his finger in, and he decided not to do that. He put the jar down on the table, licked the spoon clean and dropped it on his plate. Then he shook his hair out of his eyes and looked at Yaroslav, waiting to find out what was going to happen next.

"Go out and wait in the front room," Yaroslav said. "Amuse yourself. I'm going to take care of the dishes and then we'll talk."

Talk? Giles curled up into the corner of the couch and thought about that. Talk about what? After a few centons he decided the Lippy back at Riga had been close, after all: Yaroslav wanted him to be an informer. He could probably tell him a lot; he wasn't on the prowl or the grab anymore than he was on the game, but you didn't live in the streets without picking up this or that. And half Riga would probably think it was true anyway, the way the man had pulled him out of the station. Still, he could tell people he'd traded his astrum for that, and they'd believe it... he hoped. Being an informer was a short-lived career.

Which meant he was going to do it. He thought about that. Well and why not? There wasn't a single person in Riga district who'd ever done a thing for him, and a lot who'd done against and to... He shrugged. He could take care of himself, and he... owed Yaroslav. That was the word, he thought. Owed... Odd word. He hadn't owed anybody in, well, a long time.

Contemplating that was uncomfortable, so he picked up a magazine lying on the little table beside the couch and started leafing through it. He was puzzling his way through an article about some islands ricos went to for vacations when Yaroslav came out into the front room.

"You're reading!"

Giles immediately dropped the magazine back on the table. "I didn't hurt it—"

"No, no. Read it. I just thought—" he stopped abruptly.

"I can read," Giles said.

"That's good."

"Not stupid," Giles said shortly. "Just 'cause I live in the streets I'm not stupid." He glared at Yaroslav, wondering even as he did how stupid he was, antagonizing the man like this.

"I didn't think you were," the Lippy said, sounding as if he meant it. "Just the opposite, in fact. But reading's not a mark of intelligence, just education... How long did you go to school?"

That question was so ludicrous Giles couldn't help but laugh. "Every now and then, in a DC, before I got out. Never if you mean a real school."

"Well... Somebody must have taught you."

Somebody had... but Giles was not going to talk about him. Or think about him, for that matter. He shrugged and didn't answer, looking not at the man standing over him but down at the beige carpet, withdrawing as much as he could. The silence stretched out, charged with an intense, growing anger. He clenched his fingers in the nearest cushion for lack anything else to use...

"Did I call you a brat last night? That was being kind," Yaroslav said. "You're a provocative little twerp."

Giles looked up sharply. The man's tone had been wary, puzzled, a little irritated, but... not angry. Not really angry.

Yaroslav sat down in the chair cater-cornered from the end of the couch where Giles was. "Do you have any clue how much that makes people want to smack you into tomorrow? Do you practice it? Or does it come naturally?"

Giles blinked, relaxing almost against his will. He didn't say anything, just looked at Yaroslav through his lashes and the fall of his dark red hair, and felt the atmosphere in the room change slowly back to safe.

"I seem to have hit a sore spot. Sorry..." He sounded like he might mean that, too. "I'm just trying to find out how much you know, figure out what to do with you."

"Do with me?"

"Yes. With you, not to you. Or just you. Can't let you just keep on running wild, not now. But gods help me if I have any ideas."

He couldn't figure this man out. He didn't want to frack him, didn't want to shove him back into the streets after picking his brains, almost certainly didn't even want him to steal for him. He was confusing, like something out of a fantasy.

Yaroslav leaned back in the chair. "I ought to get you a job, I suppose, assuming you really are sixteen. I don't suppose you have any papers at all."

Giles had to laugh again. The gangs could get papers of a sort, some of them, but he'd never been in one. For all the place, the backup, they offered, all the safety—your life expectancy wasn't great, maybe, but whose was?—he hated them with every nerve in his body. And without that kind of structure, papers were out of the question.

Yaroslav sighed. "Every now and then Libran civil liberties are a bit of a nuisance."

"Lippy party line, that," Giles observed. "Heard on Sagitta everybody gets printed at birth; makes arrestin' someone a helluva lot easier than it already is."

"You do ask to get smacked, don't you?" he said wearily.

Giles subsided.

This silence wasn't so charged as the last one. After a few centons, Giles ventured, "I can read, not so well maybe, but I can. Numbers, and money. And I can drive." He thought about adding 'hotwire' but decided not to. "And I can fight."

"Fight?" Yaroslav's look pointed out that Giles was only just over one point six metrons tall, and scrawny with it.

The boy made an effort and reminded himself that if being short made him look like a target, it also let him be underestimated. With another effort, he shrugged and said, with only a tiny edge in his voice, "I'm sixteen and been in the streets for more'n a dozen yahrens. I can fight."

The expression that crossed the man's face was so unfamiliar that it took Giles a centon to place it. And when he had, he bristled up. "Look," he said, "I can take care of myself. I don't need anything from anybody."

"Everybody needs something," Yaroslav contradicted him. "But let that go. Fighting's not a skill much in demand in the job market."

Giles shrugged.

"Okay, brat," he said, his lips quirking in a reluctant smile. "Not the legitimate job market." His chrono beeped at him; he shot his cuff to look at it. "I've got to go to work now. Stay here. Inside the apartment," he clarified. "Read anything you want... eat anything that's left. We'll talk tonight about the future."

Giles nodded, not promising anything and wondering why he felt like that. Yaroslav went into his sleeping room and emerged with his jacket in his hand and a small, PPE-issue blaster on his belt. Giles went still and small as the man passed him and didn't relax again until he'd said, "I'll call if I'm held up," and left.

Then he picked up the magazine again and leafed through it, looking at the pictures, lingering on the beaches. The man would be gone for centares, nine or maybe ten. He had plenty of time to decide if he was going to be here when he got back. A job... Quite frankly, he couldn't imagine who'd hire him but it was a nice thought. He might even be able to afford a place like this some day—

He shook his head sharply. He knew better than that. Living on maybe was a short trip to Hades. But while it was never going to happen, that didn't mean he needed to leave just yet. As long as Yaroslav was willing to feed him and give him this couch to sleep on, he not only might as well stay, he'd better.

He lay down on his stomach, knees bent and ankles crossed in the air above him, and spread the magazine out on the cushion and began working his way through it, not even trying to guess at the way the foreign places should sound.

And trying not to wonder what it would be like to go there.

part 1 part 2 part 3

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