The Lieutenant's Daughter

part four


Bojay sat in the O Club, alone, and drank. He preferred being alone. It got harder every secton to pay attention to other people. Especially since they were all sinful.

All of them.

All of the ones who counted now, anyway, and the others were followers, either blind or deluded.

The only possible exception to that was Adama. He wasn't sinful, though he clearly counted for something. But he was deluded.

Adama believed himself anointed by the Lords of Kobol to lead his people through the starry wilderness to the promised land, the shining planet. There was so much wrong with that Bojay despaired of even knowing where to start. But one thing was certain: Adama was not the Chosen of the Lords of Kobol. Who it was had chosen him, Bojay didn't know. But Adama wasn't half the man that Cain had been.

Cain who had saved them all. Twice. And offered himself and those who believed in him as the sacrifice to save the others. A sacrifice accepted. Proving him righteous.

It had been hard, knowing he'd been left behind, unwanted. Until he'd understood. Until he'd realized that only those capable of volunteering then could be taken. The willing. Not the presumed willing, but those who could say so. Cain had had to leave them all in case even one of them would have spoiled the sacrifice. It was no reflection on him.

Not as it was on Sheba, who'd been left conscious and able to say what she wanted. Oh, sure, she'd been wounded, but not so badly. Bojay had heard that Cain had ordered her to stay, but she could have disobeyed. Had often enough in the past. Could have done the right thing. The righteous thing. But she hadn't, and now she was married to Apollo. And perhaps that had been an attempt to save him. But perhaps it had not... Given the failure of it. That she had borne Cain no grandsons...

He'd heard what these Galacticans said about Cain... that he was a coward, or a glory-hunter, or a fool. Bojay snarled into his glass, startling an ensign who changed her mind about asking if the seat was free. Bojay didn't even notice her. Women were beneath his notice any more.

Starbuck. Starbuck was one of the worst about Cain. He'd heard that Starbuck had offered to go with Cain. Even if it were true, which he doubted, look what Cain had decided. He knew what Starbuck was. He didn't want that sort of person polluting the Pegasus. Rendering the sacrificial offering invalid.

Starbuck. Captain. What kind of commander made a man like Starbuck a captain? A slut, a whore-monger, a bastard (undoubtedly) who fathered bastards... Who even knew where he was from? Who'd been there when Apollo was allegedly killed and brought back to life? Sheba, who had failed her father and been rejected by him, who was besotted by Apollo and his position, by worldly power. And Starbuck. If that had actually happened, which Bojay frankly doubted, who'd gotten him killed? Who'd bought his life back? And at what price?

And who had wormed his way into the heart of the once-great House of Adama... Adama the deluded, the misled, the misleading. Losing his wife and son should have been a warning to him.

Bojay signaled for another drink and stared at the table on the other side of the room. Apollo. Prince. Prince of Darkness, most likely. Struck down by Iblis and restored again to work his will. Boomer. A blind follower, like all Leonids, courageous but not smart. Never a thought of his own. And Starbuck. Starbuck... symbol of everything wrong on this ship. In this fleet. This people.

Bojay watched as Boomer rose and went on his way, leaving the other two sitting and drinking. Starbuck. Sitting there at his ease, a bastard nobody, presuming to be the equal of the son of one of Caprica's Great Houses. Bojay knew how he'd done it. With his body. His beauty and his carnality. His sinful lasciviousness. His perversions. With Adama's son, doubtless. With Adama's daughter certainly...

Bojay had been granted visions since the day he'd seen the truth of things, on the blessed Pegasus. He'd seen things hidden from those not chosen. Sometimes he didn't understand the reason at first, sometimes the visions were torment. Such were the visions of Starbuck and Apollo, that deceptively beautiful body leading the prince astray, blinding his eyes and drowning his senses. Sometimes he wasn't sure if the visions were real or if his body was still impure, reacting wrongly... were the images that sometimes filled his mind of Starbuck and the brother and sister real? Or were they false? They didn't come often, and she'd Sealed with another prince of Caprican glory... the next after Apollo, now tied to the House of Adama, the worm-eaten House of Adama... Starbuck and Adama's sons, that was another vision he had, often, that golden flesh between the two darker men...

Starbuck. It always came back to him. He was the Worm. He was the Serpent... he was the evil at the heart of Galactica's exile. And he didn't even try to hide his sinfulness. That daughter walked the corridors of the ship, scarlet whore's daughter... they even talked of letting her be a Warrior. Nameless daughter of a nameless man, wormspawn at the heart of the people.

Look at this whole situation... allegedly handed the map to Earth, and yet still they traveled. When would they realize that you couldn't come through the wilderness until you had been purged?

Bojay drank.

She climbed into his lap as she had when she was six, and had a scraped knee. He wished scraped hearts were as easy to fix.

"Boys are jerks," she said into his shirtfront. "I hate them all. I'm going to be flit."

"Women are nice," he agreed. "Usually nicer than boys... but men have their advantages."

"Huh. I hate them. I hate them all..."

He rubbed her back. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart. Can I kill someone for you?" He was only half kidding.

"No..." she sniffled a couple more times, and then sighed. "He's not worth the prison barge. He's not worth spitting at. If he was on fire."

He tucked her head into the hollow of his throat and wished he knew what to say.

"Dad," she said after a while, "you were a boy. Why are they like that?"

Oh, boy... the emotional talk. He'd made sure the facts she got in school were facts... well, he'd actually covered things with her a bit earlier than the school had. But the emotional stuff... He sighed. "Sex is fun," he said. "Boys are hardwired to want it. I slept around a lot. And boys your age don't really think about how girls feel."

"Did you lie to girls?"

He made a mental note to find this particular boy and bounce him off a wall. Or out an airlock. "I'll tell you, Zeffie," he said. "I lied. But only as part of the game; only inside the rules."

"What do you mean?"

"I never lied about things that mattered. I never told lies they didn't, really, know were lies. And I never, ever told anyone I loved them to get them into bed."

She was quiet a centon or two and then, as usual, went where he didn't expect her to go. "Did you ever tell anyone you loved them at all?"

"Huh," he said, startled. "Well... I did. Actually. I told Cassie several times at least."


"Um-hm," he said, remembering. "I actually contemplated the possibility of sealing with her."

She chuckled; he could feel her smile against his throat. "Contemplated the possibility? Wow. That was serious."

"Yes, it was," he said. "I was..."

"Is this Dr. Cassiopeia? What happened?"

"Oh, this and that," he said, "no one thing, just a lot of things. Like water on a stone... that doesn't mean anything to you, does it? To anybody your age?"

"It means 'little bit by little bit'," she said.

"But you've never seen it." That struck him quite suddenly as sad.

"Oh, don't get all planet-side nostalgic," she said. "Tell me about Dr. Cassie."

"Well," he said, remembering back sixteen yahrens, "she never really shook the idea I was dating her because she used to be a socialator. And I guess I never really shook the idea she was dating me because I didn't care about that. And then I was accused of murder, and she thought I might have done it—"

Zephyr muttered something that sounded uncomplimentary.

"And then somebody from my past showed up, and things got sticky, and then somebody from her past showed up and she went back to him—"

"Instead of you?" Unlike most daughters he'd heard, she sounded sincere.

"Well," he said, "I wasn't exactly a legend—"

"Oh, you are."

"I wasn't Commander Cain."

"The guy who ran away from Molecay?"

"That's my girl," he said with satisfaction. "Yes, him. She loved him."

"Wait a centon. He's Captain Sheba's father, isn't he? Oh, that's icky."

"Yes, well..." he shrugged. "Anyway, then you showed up and that was pretty much it. Cassie was annoyed I'd never mentioned your mom."

"Wait a minute," she said again. "I thought I was supposed to be a surprise."

"You were," he said, hugging her close for a moment. "The best one I ever got."

"Well, I mean," she pursued her thought, "how were you supposed to know you were supposed to mention Mom? Or how would you have been supposed to know, I mean. If... you know."

"Don't ask me, sweetheart. I think she was looking for a reason to break it off, and that was a good one."

"Humph. You're better off without her."

"Probably. Anyway, she and Boomer have been very happy. I'm pleased about that."

"I'm never getting sealed. Unless to another woman."

"Whatever makes you happy," Starbuck said, "makes me happy."

"I wish I could meet a boy like you."

I don't, he thought involuntarily. They sat quietly for a few centons, and then Starbuck said, "Zeffie?"

"Yes, Dad?"

"I want you to know something. I never told your mom I loved her. We didn't have that kind of a relationship—"

"I know, Dad."

"—but," he went on, "if she'd lived, I think I would have. I didn't know her well, but it's the truth. I learned more about her the night she died than you usually learn about a person in a lifetime. She had courage, tremendous courage. And grace. And love—she loved you so much. She died so well. Thinking about you."

"I love you, Daddy," she said, and hugged him.

Starbuck walked into the room and stood by the podium, looking at the dozen cadets who were looking back at him, their conversations dying away. "Hi," he said. "I'm Captain Starbuck, for those of you who don't know me... are there any of you who don't?"

Nobody raised a hand. It didn't surprise him. None of them were as old as Djan, by several yahrens, and most were only one or two older than Zeff. He'd been seeing them around the childcare center, the instructional center, the rejuvenation center, the courts and fields for... gods. Sixteen yahrens. He wasn't sure of all their names, but he knew most of their faces.

"Okay, that's kind of embarrassing unless I think of myself as a legend, so I think I will. You're encouraged to, too." That got him a laugh. He relaxed a little. If they could laugh this might go all right. "So, since I'm sure you're wondering what I'm doing here instead of Farrell, he appears to have done something fairly stupid to himself and won't be here. Good," he looked around the small room. "No one seems upset to hear that. I'm not replacing your favorite teacher... I know how that is."

He decided against using the podium; it wasn't like he had notes, after all. That's what happened when you got dragooned into substituting on no notice at all. He perched on the corner of the desk and said, "They told me this was a class in Tactics. They also told me someone would be happy to tell me what particular battle you're supposed to be going over today. I hope they weren't lying..."

"Cimtar, sir," several voices answered.

"Cimtar?" he repeated. He looked around again. It was a name to them. An important name, to be sure, like Molecay, Hasara, Semtek, Cosmora, Polon... but just a name. Nothing had ever made him feel so old in his life. "None of you remember Cimtar, do you?"

"No, sir," a couple of them answered.

"Of course not," he said, and looked at his boots for a moment. When he looked up, they were all waiting for him to speak. He shook his head helplessly. "The thing is, I really don't know what I'm supposed to teach you about tactics from Cimtar. About the only thing I can think of that we learned at Cimtar that ought to be passed on... and this is probably one of the most important things you'll ever learn. Take notes. It might not be on the final, but it'll save your life some day."

He was serious and apparently they could tell. The three in the back opened their notepads.

"Okay. Why did the Galactica survive Cimtar?" He looked around the room. "You." He gestured at the dark-haired kid he thought belonged to Athena's friend Altair.

"Because we got warning from the Viper patrol—" he stopped talking as Starbuck shook his head.

"Nope. In your defense, that's the basic story. But it's wrong. Or rather, it's not right enough. By the time then Captain Apollo got here with the warning, there was no time left to do anything. Which is why almost no other ships, and no battlestars, survived. Why did we? Because we were already on full alert... because Ops had a hunch. And that's your lesson."

"Sir, I don't think I understand." He did know that kid, her name was... Morag. Morag with the cute brother who hosted that children's show on IFB and had made eyes at Starbuck the last time he'd picked Zeff up from instruction... Not now, Starbuck, he shook the memory away.

"Okay," he said. "It's simple, but it's different. It goes like this: Ops had a hunch. The commander, the colonel, the bridge officer—Sub-Colonel Omega, by the way—they had a hunch. And they ran battle stations. Personally, I was sitting in the ready room, playing pyramid—yes, I was winning, in fact I was holding a perfect pyramid in purple with a capstone—and suddenly, out of the blue, they scrambled us. We bitched all the way to the launch bays, and we strapped in and sat and bitched some more, and then we got the word and we launched. Because we were already ready. Very nearly no one else launched. Just the one ready squadron off the other battlestars. That's it. And the other ships weren't at battle stations, ready to fight, laser cannons primed and so on and so forth. Ops got a hunch." He looked around. "The lesson of Cimtar is: trust Ops. When the folks in blue get hunches, listen to them. It's what they do... see the big picture, spot the details that just don't match up. It's not Tactics. But it births Tactics. Bitch if you want, and know sometimes they'll make you waste centares cramped up and uncomfortable and trying to remember when was the last time you hit the turboflush. But never lose sight of the fact that when they're right, it's all the warning you're going to get."

"Sir?" Another familiar face without a name, a blonde this time. "What about the actual battle?"

"Battle? Cimtar wasn't a battle," he said. "Cimtar was a rout. It was a ruin, a debacle, an overthrow, a disaster, a complete and total loss, an overwhelming and utter defeat. It was not a battle. If you look "self-inflicted wounds" up in the dictionary, it refers you to Cimtar. There are no lessons from Cimtar. Unless you want to learn the Cylon side... first sucker your opponents by telling them what they want to hear. Then get them to bring their entire force to one place, leaving their home unguarded. Then send overwhelming numbers against both them and their homes, unexpectedly. Then chase them when they run... It's nice if you can do it. We didn't learn any lessons at Cimtar we shouldn't already have known. Baby lessons. Don't trust a Cylon half as far as you can throw one. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't throw away your weapons until you can see your enemy's doing the same thing. Don't leave your home unguarded just because the barbarians say they've decided to play nice... Nothing there we didn't already know. We just got tired. We wanted it to be over, and we thought if we just wanted it hard enough it would be true. We bought the lies. We let ourselves get seduced. And we got fracked over. And we're lucky we escaped with as much as we did. And we can't go home again because home's not there any more."

The class was silent. Starbuck had a feeling he'd gone way off the lesson plan. He hadn't done it on purpose, but he wasn't about to apologize for it, either. He looked around at the grave young faces and sighed to himself. Frack, they're going to be Warriors; they deserve the truth. He looked at his wristchrono. "Okay, we seem to have most of the period left. What's on tap for next time?"

"Semtek," one of them said. There was always one who read ahead...

"Semtek?" He perked up. "Oh, now there was a battle. There's a lot I can tell you about Tactics from Semtek. Given that "tactics" basically means "making it up as you go along"—and who knows why?"

"No plan survives contact with the enemy, sir," Altair's kid said.

"Absolute truth," he nodded, and jumped to his feet and grabbed a marker. "The Semtek system," he said, drawing on the board, "a delta-class world, three alphas and one ringed gamma..."

After class, two of the cadets approached a bit diffidently. "Sir," one of them said, "I wanted to say, my dad won't talk about Cimtar. At all. I never understood it... Thanks for telling us what it really meant." She blushed slightly. "And for talking to us like we're grownups."

"You're in that uniform," Starbuck said. "You're grown. And you're welcome."

She blushed again and fled. The other, Altair's kid, said, "Me, too, sir. I mean, my dad sometimes talks about Cimtar. Just generally... he was on the bridge that day, long-range scanners. He had nightmares about it... used to, anyhow. It means a lot that the pilots understand."

"Most of us do, anyway," Starbuck said. The kid's name came, suddenly. "Musa, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir," he seemed surprised to be recognized. "One other thing, sir..."


"I was hoping you'd let me take Zephyr to the Triad championships next secton. My dad says there'll never be another team like you and Sub-Colonel Apollo, but—"

"Flattery will get you a lot of things, Musa, but not my daughter." Starbuck grinned at him.

"Oh, no sir... I mean, that just sort of slipped in there, involuntarily, it wasn't part of my actual plan... I mean..."

Starbuck took pity on him. "You may ask her. She's of the opinion that Triad is overrated, but she might go to the championships. Just be aware of one thing—if you offer her any kind of insult, I'll have to rip your arm off and beat you to death with it." He smiled to show he wasn't serious. But they both knew he was.

"Oh, yes, sir. I mean, no, sir. I mean, I wouldn't—"

"You and I might not agree on what an insult was. And if we did, she might not. But I'll know if she comes home hurt. And you'll know."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"You're going to be late, Musa," Starbuck pointed out. The boy scurried out.

Zephyr went to the championships. Musa, she said, was 'nice enough.' Starbuck stopped worrying about him, even though he asked her out on a couple of other occasions.

Two sectares later Apollo was telling him, "I'm serious, Starbuck. The cadets said your two substitute tactics classes were the most useful classes they had all semester."

"That doesn't speak well for the quality of their instructors."

"Maybe not. Tigh thinks you should join the staff—"

"Are you serious?"

"I am. And so's Tigh, more to the point. Not full time, you'll still be the squadron leader. But three classes a secton, Tactics."

"I'm not academy material, Apollo."

"We have to take what we can get," Apollo teased and then got serious again. "Look, Starbuck, you're a good teacher. You're the best with the new kids when they start patrols, and clearly you impressed the hell out of those cadets in the classroom. Nobody's suggesting you teach math or engineering, but you're a past master at 'making it up as you go along', which incidentally is a very good definition."

Starbuck hesitated. He'd enjoyed teaching those two classes, he couldn't deny it. "Okay," he capitulated. "Tactics. But I still say you've lost your mind. Both of you."

Starbuck lay awake in his bed, looking up at the ceiling. He didn't look at the chrono, but he was guessing it was a centare before the alarm was due to go off... Purple was on early shifts this secton, but he wasn't exactly staying up late nights. He blew out a breath and listened to the silence. He couldn't believe how quiet the quarters were now that Zephyr was in the cadet barracks. Even though the sleeping rooms were fairly well soundproofed, Zeff pretty much permeated the place when she was home.

He had to grin to himself at that thought. Apollo and Boomer had said the same thing about him back at the academy. Zac had been pretty quiet, he'd thought; compared to Apollo, though, maybe he'd been bouncy. He'd sure been bouncy that last day... Was Zeff what Adama's kids would have been like raised to express themselves? Or was she the product of her upbringing more than her genes, exuberant in self-defense? He didn't know. What he did know was, the place was very quiet with her gone.

And not likely to get much livelier, either. He scrunched the extra pillow up a bit and thought about the last time somebody had been in bed with him. That young man who worked at the field... field. Starbuck snorted. It wasn't a field, it was a empty bay that the commander had decided a dozen yahrens ago to give over to outdoor sports... another term that made him laugh. Outdoors... kids Zeff's age and younger, they didn't know what "outdoors" was. Outdoors to them was vacuum and cold and death.

But be that as it may, that's where he'd worked, that young man... Theas. Starbuck remembered his name; he always remembered their names, until the next one came and displaced them at any rate. Which meant he might well be remembering 'Theas' for a long time. He'd met him at one of Zeff's fieldball games, a fairly attractive dark-haired young man who'd noticed himself being noticed and made a dead set at Starbuck. That hadn't happened in a while, not that persistently, not from someone so much younger than him; it had been incredibly flattering, and he'd let the young man succeed. Zeff had been spending the night with some of her team-mates and Starbuck had brought Theas home. He could remember the feel of the firm, lithe body in his arms, the exhilaration of someone working very hard to drive him out of his mind and the intoxication of returning the favor... he'd enjoyed every centon of it. But it hadn't happened again. There'd been no real connection. There hadn't been one since...

He gave that some serious thought. Cassie? Gods, had it been that long? Not that he hadn't had bed-partners between Cassie and Theas; though it was true that, especially when she was little, Zeff had made logistics awkward, Starbuck had specialized in 'awkward schedules' at the academy. Finding the time had never been a problem. But anyone he'd felt more than a physical attraction to?

Cassie. That was it. Not counting the couple of times he and 'Theni had helped each other through a bad patch... and those were easy to not count because both he and she had known they weren't falling in love.

In a moment of ruthless self-examination—something he tried to do every couple of yahrens whether he needed it or not—he'd realized that having Apollo turn him down so completely had not in the slightest affected his feelings for the other man. He had apparently never really had any hopes—just what he'd said to Boomer and to 'Theni, believing it to be a lie—and he still loved Apollo just as he had before. That emotion had even survived a six-sectare deep-freeze; never once had he been anything close to angry at Apollo. He'd been angry at, oh say Cassie, lots. Lots and lots. He hadn't been sure what that realization actually meant. It surely hadn't meant he didn't want Apollo in his bed: he did. Still. Maybe it just meant that he'd always known he wasn't being unfaithful to his one love by having lovers... and maybe it had meant that he could actually think about settling down with someone. Assuming he could find someone. Which was the stumbling block to date.

And maybe—most likely—it had been the reason why he'd pretty much stopped going after anyone who caught his eye. Because if he wasn't killing time waiting for things to "work out", then, well...

He sighed. Then he should, in 'Theni's favorite phrase, 'grow up, Starbuck.' But there just wasn't anybody out there like Apollo.

Screw growing up, he thought. I'm okay as I am.

Several corridors away, Athena, too, lay awake, unable to get back to sleep. She'd slipped out of bed to go to the turboflush a centare ago, at least, and had been lying there ever since. She wasn't sure why... she hated to chalk things up to hormones but she supposed there was a reason such an excuse existed. She knew when you couldn't sleep you weren't supposed to stay in bed, you were supposed to go someplace else so your mind wouldn't start associating your bed with not sleeping. But, quite frankly, she couldn't see any attraction at all to being awake in the front room, even watching IFB, instead of being awake in bed watching her husband sleep.

She listened to Omega breathing in the darkness next to her, feeling the warmth of his body. She wondered how their mother had tolerated those yahrens-long separations from their father. Not that she wanted, particularly, to think of her parents as sexual beings, though she supposed they must have gone at it pretty good to get three kids under such time constraints. But she liked just having Omega around, liked someone else in the quarters, in the bed... she missed him when they were just on different shifts. Perhaps their mother was more of Apollo's temperament, she mused. He didn't seem to mind when duty kept him and Sheba apart.

Of course, part of that might be because it was Sheba... Athena slapped herself mentally. That was too unkind. She hadn't expected it to last this long, but it was over fifteen yahrens now. And Apollo seemed content.

Of course, Apollo got a great deal of emotional sustenance from others. Father, her, Djan. And of course Starbuck. Athena sighed softly into the night. Starbuck was always there for Apollo. She remembered when Djan had graduated from the Academy. Sheba hadn't been there. She and most of Silver Spar had been on a long-range patrol... she'd volunteered, saying, reasonably, that somebody had to and they were good at it, and this way Apollo didn't have to detail anyone.

All so reasonable, on the surface. All so... so Sheba. You couldn't argue with it. You just couldn't feel like it was ... well, nice. Djan was her stepson, after all. She'd just said it wasn't as though she and Djan had ever been really close, which was true but shouldn't have been, and that he'd understand a lot more if she were gone than if, say, Boomer or Jolly couldn't be there. Or Starbuck, she'd added as if it were an afterthought.

Athena had gone to her brother's quarters to make sure he was presentable (somebody had to) and not found him, and then he'd shown up, perfectly put together, with Starbuck and Zephyr. Athena had thought then, how like Apollo to go there. How like Starbuck to dress him... And how like Apollo not to think of how Starbuck felt about it all. It wasn't that Apollo didn't know. He just couldn't identify with it, and he didn't think about it. And poor Starbuck just went on loving him. She did so wish he'd meet someone new, but not only didn't he want to, who was there?

She wondered how he was getting along now with Zeffie gone. It wasn't as if they didn't see each other, but, she realized, this would be the first time in his life, probably, that Starbuck was living by himself. Even after the academy he'd always been in a Viper unit, which meant a barracks, even if it was a Bachelor Officers' Barracks, with shared rooms instead of open bays like enlisted personnel got. It would be an adjustment for him.

Beside her, Omega turned restlessly in his sleep. She reached out and rubbed the back of his neck gently, moving her hand down to stroke his back and shoulder. He quieted; she hoped he was shifting into a better dream. She had wondered once if she was just attracted to men who had nightmares, but a little thought had convinced her that it was far more likely that most men, most people, her age, especially Warriors whether in brown or blue or grey, had nightmares. Cimtar, The Destruction... how not? Especially men who were so much in control during their waking moments. Like Omega. Like, though she didn't sleep with him, Apollo. Like Starbuck.

Moving her hand soothingly on Omega's back she wondered how Starbuck coped with his nightmares, alone. She could remember him coming awake in the early hours, sweating and gasping for breath, needing to be grounded, held, loved back to calm. Like Omega still did sometimes... but he'd been much too long alone. She smiled at him and wished Starbuck could be half as happy as she was.

Or Apollo, though that brought her back full circle. Was Apollo happy at all? With Sheba? He seemed to be, but he was so good at seeming... He had always been. Found out what you wanted him to be and showed it to you. Not like Starbuck did, as protective coloring, but because you—Father, instructors, colonels, commanders, Father again—must know best what he ought to be. Warrior, Sub-Colonel (Strike), dutiful son, faithful husband, good father... where was Apollo in all that? Elder brother. And of course, when he's the indulgent elder brother, she got lost at the fair, and Zac got killed... She was surprised Djan had ever had any fun. Apollo had certainly climbed walls over the latitude Zeffie had been allowed.

"Athena?" Omega was awake.

She looked at him. He blinked sleepily at her and asked, "Is everything all right?"

She smiled. "Everything's fine."

"Did I wake you?"

She made it a habit to mostly tell him the truth, so when she felt she had to lie he wasn't expecting it. But she didn't have to lie this time. She shook her head. "No, not at all. I'm just lying here thinking."

"What about?"

"This and that. Nothing so important I wouldn't rather be asleep. I'm just awake."

"Wakeful nights are a part of it," he said softly, putting his hand gently on her belly. "And not the worst."

"You're so encouraging," she said, putting her hand on top of his.

"Want me to rub your back?" he offered.

"Ummm," she said. "Yes, love. That would be so nice." She rolled over and rested her head on her hands.

He sat up and leaned over her, pulling her sleeping shift out of the way and taking her shoulders in his strong hands. He was so good at this, easing all the tensions out of her, even when she didn't think she had any. He kneaded her neck and worked his way to her ribs. She sighed and relaxed, enjoying it. After a few moments she heard him singing almost under his breath and probably not aware he was—he sang a lot around the place, songs she'd never heard, secular and maybe heretical and very old. She liked them. Usually.

"The White Stag goes running, the forest is dim," he sang softly, "The White Stag goes running and who follows him? O run through the shadows that lie 'neath the moon! Who follows the White Stag will not come back soon."

She turned over, catching his hands and holding them against her breasts. "That's such a sad song," she said.

"What was I singing?" He replayed it and smiled a bit sadly at her. "Sorry, dearheart."

"Don't be," she said. She raised one of her hands to his face for a moment, and then pulled his head down to hers.

He took his weight on one arm and leaned into the kiss, making it long and slow and very, very thorough. She forgot her brother, her friend, her family... everything but this man and this moment. And after, when he cradled her in his arms against his heart, pulling the blankets around them, she slept.

Bojay sat in the small chapel, having lit every candle there. Every yahren it got worse. One had to trust the gods knew what they were doing, but... How could anyone have put that slut Starbuck in a position of authority over children? How could he be made a teacher of the new generation? Didn't anybody realize that if that generation became as wicked as this one, it would only mean another forty yahrens' wandering in this starry wilderness?

Bad enough that they had let the whore's daughter become a cadet.

But that the Serpent, the Whoremonger, the Worm Incarnate was instructing the youth, seducing them with honeyed lies, luring them away from the true path, the road to righteousness? How could that be permitted to continue?

Was it not clear to everyone what he was? Was it not clear what he'd done to Apollo? Look at him—sixteen yahrens married and no child. No child of the Blood. Just that boy... half-Libran and unworthy to follow even this corrupted House.

Though at least born in wedlock, of known lineage. His mother had been Caprican, and his father at least a well-born Libran... and he was a dutiful son to his step-father. But not of the Blood. Could they not see that he had been displaced by the twin sons Adama's daughter had borne her Caprican lord? True Princes of the Blood, heirs of the glory that was Caprica. They must be protected against the corruption that festered in their House, their uncle and his unnatural ways...

Something had to be done. This was obvious.

Bojay prayed for guidance. Every day.

Soon, he knew, soon he would be told what to do.

"Oh, my gods," said Jolly. "Look at that... does that take you back or what, Boomer?"

Boomer looked. A group of brand-new third year cadets were taking advantage of their newly granted privilege to use the O Club (twice a secton, set hours). They all looked impossibly young. Maybe he'd been that young once, but he doubted it... still he thought he knew what Jolly was talking about. Or who, rather. Because Cadet Zephyr was at the front of the group, scanning the room for a table.

Boomer narrowed his eyes at her. There was something, he couldn't quite put his finger on it, something familiar about her stance. He knew Apollo and Jolly and most people found echoes of Starbuck in her, but he never had. Not physically, anyway. She acted like him, yes, but she didn't look like him. It was something else...

It was the hair throwing them off, he thought. That thick mane of dark red hair spilling across the shoulders of her new jacket with the shiny cadet-captain's rank insignia was so very much unlike her father's that you worked harder to see him in the rest of her. But Boomer remembered Starbuck at that age, and Zephyr wasn't like him. At all.

He supposed she was like her mother, whom he'd never seen. Nobody had but Sheba. Well, and Salik, but he was no help. Neither was Sheba, for that matter. She hadn't cared. When pressed, she said, "She wasn't very tall. And she had dark hair. And I thought she looked old but I suppose she really just looked sick..." Sheba couldn't even remember what color eyes the woman had had. "I thought they were blue but they must have been brown. I wasn't really paying any attention to her. She asked for Starbuck, after all. Not me."

Not Apollo, you mean, Boomer had always thought. But it was odd all the same. Because Zephyr was tall, as tall as Starbuck. And if she looked like her mother then the woman hadn't been what Boomer had privately thought of as Starbuck's type.

Most people would have laughed at the notion of Starbuck having a type... he could hear Sheba now, for instance: "What would that be? Breathing?" But if you were willing to be a little liberal with the meaning of 'type', Boomer thought one had existed right enough. He'd be willing to bet that if you'd kept track over the yahrens you'd find that Starbuck leaned towards long hair, blondes, and blue eyes. Certainly if you were talking with him and suddenly lost a chunk of his attention, it was odds-on that she was blonde... But that was a preference, and easily discarded. Boomer had seen him with women as dark as Boomer himself, with close-cropped caps of hair, and with eyes as dark as night. Starbuck's type was fairly well-defined and nothing to do with coloring or hairstyles. His type was shorter than him and, well, willowy. Graceful. Delicate. Feminine. Funny, given what he liked in men, but then again Boomer didn't get that whole 'liking in men' thing in the first place. Physically, Cassie had been Starbuck's perfect woman. Probably, Boomer figured, why he'd tried so hard to make it work out with her, even though they weren't compatible. They both needed someone to steady them, someone plain and down-to-ground to hold them in orbit, someone they could dazzle but not fool... Like him. Like Apollo. Not like themselves.

But if Zephyr looked anything like her mother, Boomer was very surprised she'd kept Starbuck's eye. Let alone got money out of him. There wasn't the slightest bit of willow about her. Graceful, yes, but it was a powerful, athletic grace. She strode instead of tripping. She lounged instead of draping. She was rangy and strong and striking, and not a bit delicate. But she was naggingly familiar... and right now at this moment more so than she'd ever been before. Something about her eyes, about the air of controlled excitement, and the way she was standing...

And then she moved, grinning at her companions and tossing a line off over her shoulder as she headed purposefully toward a corner table and it was gone. That attitude was purest Starbuck, especially when she dropped carelessly into a chair, leaned back and signaled a servitor, and then surveyed the room like she was waiting to be entertained.

Who knew? Boomer thought. Maybe Starbuck had lost a bet. Or been drunk. Or even had gotten a freebie...

They were sitting close enough to hear the orders: grog all around except Zephyr, who ordered ade instead. Her friends immediately started razzing her, but she just leaned back with that smug Starbuck expression and reminded them that she was flying the next day.

"Now, her dad wouldn't have come here if he couldn't drink," said Jolly.

"Sure he would have," said Boomer. "If we'd been allowed into a bar with real Warriors when we were cadets we'd have been there every micron allowable. And you know it. And flying the next day—he'd have made sure everybody knew he was the first in his class to get the controls."

"I suppose you're right," he admitted. "But, please—'real' Warriors?"

"You know we are," Boomer said. "We're their role models. They're our future. It's all incredibly depressing, isn't it?"

"So depressing," said Giles, joining them, "Bojay can't stand to be in the same room with them. Which I think is a good argument for letting them in every night."

The other two turned to watch Red Squadron's commander stalk out of the Club, disapproval in every line of his body.

"So what's got up his butt tonight?" ask Boomer. As if I don't know her name already.

"Who knows?" said Giles. "Damn if I don't wish the gods would tell him to go start a mission somewhere. I purely hate getting three-centare sermons every time we go on patrol."

"File a complaint," said Jolly. "You don't have to listen to that."

"Yeah. Complain my squadron leader is too religious? That'll go over well. Anyway, we only have to listen every eleventh time... We take turns listening to him and the rest of us go on the reserve freq. Whoever's listening has to tell us if he says something we need to hear."

"I didn't hear that," said Boomer. As Wing-Second, he didn't want to know Red Squadron was not on the ops freq; as Boomer, he wondered why somebody hadn't accidentally fried Bojay yahrens ago...

Jolly hadn't been paying attention. "Now tell me that doesn't take you back, Boom-Boom," he said.

Boomer looked; Zephyr was shuffling a pyramid deck, and two of Red Squadron's other pilots had joined the cadets' table. He grinned, remembering Starbuck telling him, in an unguarded moment, "I never really thought about it before, but women have little hands. Tall as Zeff's getting, she still has a little trouble palming a deck."

Boomer had asked if that meant she'd be safer to play cards with.

Starbuck had looked wounded. "Safer? Just what do you mean by that?"

Boomer had just laughed. Now he shook his head and said, "Gods preserve us all. Two of them."

Farrell still looked at the flight rosters out of habit. Maybe out of pique. After all, that had been his job for a long time, and just because somebody up the chain of command thought it was important to keep Starbuck happy... Farrell knew the combat veteran was a better pilot than he was—hell, he was the best pilot the Fleet had had, pre-Cimtar—he just didn't think that mattered. Or rather, he thought that didn't make him a better teacher. Farrell thought the gifted ones were bad teachers, because they hadn't had to learn it themselves, and they couldn't explain it. Not well. Not usually.

And he'd been keeping an eye on Starbuck since they gave him the position of flight instructor at the beginning of the semester. Farrell wasn't stupid: he could see the writing on the wall. First Starbuck got the tactics course, now flight... what was next? Military Theory and History? And Farrell's out the door with a nice desk-chrono with a well-worded gold plaque on its base?

Not this tactician. So he still checked up on everything Starbuck did as flight instructor. And it finally seemed to be paying off. If he could only figure out what this meant.

The first four students were going out for actual hands-on outside-in-real-space training. They should have been the four with the best scores in the simulators, which would be, in top-down order of their skills, Cadets Zephyr (who'd inherited her old man's hands as well as his attitude, it seemed), Clarsarc (now there was a nice boy), Rounder (a uncertain quantity, not the hottest jet in the array but a good pilot), and Keili (a snip of a girl who needed a boyfriend, but also a good pilot). However, there'd been a change made in the roster: instead of Rounder, Cadet Scotti was going instead. And Scotti was, in the first place, not a good pilot. Oh, she wasn't a bad one, but there were several others as good if not better than her. And in the second place, she was the reason Keili needed a boyfriend.

Farrell pondered that for a few centons. He didn't have many classes with the third-yahren cadets any more—Starbuck had most of his—but he did have Senior Theory. And he did have eyes, and he'd seen that Cadets Clarsarc and Zephyr spent time together. He wasn't sure he believed that a man would connive at getting cadets some what he'd call quality time in a shuttle if one of them was his daughter, but then again, that man was Starbuck... Of course, it could have been Scotti who'd done it: she wasn't much of a pilot but he'd seen her comp scores; she could have hacked in and changed the roster easily enough.

He reached for his keyboard to change it back, and then paused. It would be more salutary for them all if he left it like it was and they turned around to watch him coming on board instead of Captain Popularity... Yes, indeed. One good look at Scotti and he'd know if she'd done it. If she had, it was an internal Academy problem. If she hadn't, well, he could challenge Starbuck about it afterwards.

And he could always say he just felt the captain shouldn't be on his daughter's first flight, for several reasons. If he needed a fall-back position.

He pulled up the roster and changed his and Starbuck's duty assignments for the day and fired off a memo to Starbuck. Then he headed for the shuttle bay to run a pre-flight and watch the cadets arrive.

And head off Starbuck in case the man didn't check his inbox.

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4
part 5 part 6 part 7 part 8


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