The Lieutenant's Daughter

part five


Starbuck was supposed to take the cadets out on the first flights. But at the last minute, somebody, Tigh or Adama or Apollo or somebody, decided he shouldn't take Zeff on hers. It had annoyed him, to be honest. There would be three other cadets in that shuttle, did they think he had all of them eating out of his hand so much they'd let him cheat for her? Wouldn't that be nice? Or did they think she'd do something crazy to impress him? That was less annoying, but not by much.

He knew it wasn't because they thought he wanted her to get marks she hadn't earned in flight, for lords' sake. Flying mattered; it wasn't history or something like that. She wouldn't get herself killed because she forgot the date of something... He was complaining all the way to the top about this. If he was the Flight Instructor, then by all the gods he was the Flight Instructor. If not, well, he had enough to blackmail Apollo into sending somebody else here.

He was in a pretty bad mood. He looked at his students—he was taking Farrell's history class while that man, who probably hadn't flown anything but a shuttle in a decade—took the cadets out. It wasn't fair to the students, and he decided, on the spur of the moment, to let them go. He'd assign the reading and send them to do it somewhere else. Like he could have answered questions they had, anyway...

They all took off before he had a chance to change his mind and he had a couple of centares to kill. So he wandered down to the childcare center to look in on Athena's boys.

They recognized him of course—they were very nearly as intelligent as Zeff had been—and came running to greet him. Well, as much as kids just over two yahrens old could come running, anyway. Kairos wanted to be picked up, he always did, so Starbuck obliged him, while Lykos grabbed his knee and demanded to be read to. Starbuck ruffled their brown hair, one after the other, and—Lykos standing on his foot and giggling—made his way to the book nook, lurching exaggeratedly. He sat down on the floor—that was harder than it used to be, never mind getting up—and Kairos snuggled in his lap. He was a loving little boy, happiest when being held. Lykos was rambunctious. They both looked like their father, but Starbuck had a hard time picturing Omega as a rambunctious child. He was affectionate enough with 'Theni, after a slowish start, but still Starbuck figured the kids had more their mother's personality. Although Lykos reminded him even more of Zac.

He'd said that to 'Theni, just a couple of sectons ago. She'd agreed with him. She could still get all teary on Zac's birthday, but she'd laughed, and made him and Omega laugh too, recounting the things Zac had done as a little boy that she hoped Lykos would never think of doing. It had been a bit odd, because there were flashes of Zeff in those stories. It really startled him anymore to think of her as Zac's. He'd said a silent prayer to Zac that evening, hoping he didn't mind that Starbuck forgot so often. He was pretty sure Zac didn't; Zeff had needed a father not a keeper, and anyway, it was Zac's fault for siring such a totally irresistible girl...

Now Lykos dragged up a big picture book about farm animals. Gods, Starbuck hoped he wasn't going to have to explain animals to these kids. Let alone farms. Too bad Athena had told Apollo, with a perfectly straight face that had fooled no one, that she'd have loved to take Muffet for the boys but unfortunately Omega was too old-fashioned to believe in drones or robots of any kind... Handy to have an excuse like that, Starbuck had thought. He'd been forced to say he wouldn't have that thing in his quarters to win a bet. It had helped that when the offer was made, Djan was still Boxey, and only ten... However, it soon became apparent that neither Lykos nor Kairos were really interested in the book, only in the attention.

And Starbuck didn't mind giving them that. Athena, as anyone who'd seen her with Boxey or Zeffie could have predicted, was a wonderful mother. And this was Omega's second set of kids, and he was a terrific father. And they had a doting uncle and cousin and a grandfather who had apparently been only practicing his spoiling ways on the children he'd had access to before the twins. Nonetheless, something Starbuck had heard Boomer tell Apollo, yahrens ago in the academy, something he wasn't supposed to have overheard, had stuck in his mind, surfacing when he held Zeff for the first time: you can hurt a child as much by what you don't do as what you do do: don't hold him, don't say you love him, don't make him feel wanted...

No chance these two wouldn't feel like that, of course, but Starbuck wasn't holding back because of that.

When Athena came into the center, he realized immediately that something was wrong. His heart lurched... Let it be Omega, he thought and was immediately guilt-stricken. But...Gods, please, not Zeffie. Not Apollo. And, please, not Djan. That would kill Apollo... Not Adama, either. Other names didn't occur to him; Athena wouldn't have looked like that for anyone else. He put Kairos on the floor and stood up.

"Starbuck, thank the Lords of Kobol," she said. "You've got to come to the Life Center."

Oh, gods, he thought, watching Athena fend off her boys. "'Theni—what's wrong?"

She set off for the nearest turbolift, matching her stride to his as he, barely realizing it, began to hurry. "Starbuck," she said, "it's not critical, but Zeff—"

"What happened?" he demanded.

"We're not sure. Something went wrong with the shuttle engines, one blew up somehow, the control panel blew... Farrell was killed. One of the other cadets was hurt, too—"

"Too?" he said sharply, hardly waiting for the lift doors to open before jumping inside. "What happened to Zeffie?"

"Starbuck, she's okay," she reassured him. "Or she will be, anyway. Some burns. And she lost a lot of blood, her leg was cut. They're bringing her up from the shuttle bay now."

"How could that happen? Didn't somebody run a maintenance check on the shuttle?"

"I don't know," she said. "Farrell would have, I suppose. The other two cadets may be able to tell us."

The lift stopped and Starbuck was out as soon as there was enough clearance. A medtech tried to get in his way; Starbuck went through him like he wasn't even there and pushed open the door. Cassie looked up in annoyance, which modulated to concern when she recognized him.

"Zeffie?" He spoke first.

"Daddy?" Her voice was thin, thready with pain.

He dropped to his heels beside the table, putting a hand on her head. He couldn't touch her hands; one was wrapped and Cassie was working on the other; it was red and raw looking. "I'm here, sweetheart," he said. "You take it easy, now, let Cassie fix you up."

An IV was replacing blood; her leg was bandaged from knee almost to hip, and a medtech was preparing a suture kit—he recognized those from his own occasional mishap. Cassie said, not ungently, "Stay out of our way, Starbuck, and you can stay. She'll be asleep soon, though."


"I'm not going anywhere," he reassured her.

"Flight Officer Farrell?" she asked.

"No, Zeffie. He didn't make it." Honesty first.

"And Clarsarc?"

Starbuck looked at Cassie. She said, "He's going to be fine, Zeffie. He's in better shape than you, as far as that goes. You did very well. Now just relax."

"Daddy?" She looked at him, her brown eyes asking if that was true.

He didn't know what had happened, but it didn't matter. It was true. It couldn't be otherwise. "That's right, Zeffie," he said. "You did good. And you're going to be fine. Just relax now."

He stayed like that until the sedatives finally kicked in. Then he stood up, determined to get some answers. He started with Cassie, who responded to his look before he could get any words out.

"She'll be fine, Starbuck. Her hands are burnt, but not badly. They'll regenerate fine. And she might have a scar on her thigh, but that's all. A secton out of school, no more... you can spoil her all you want."

"What the frack happened?"

"Now that I don't know," said Cassie. "Ask someone else. We're just the doctors, all we do is patch them up. As you know."

"Thanks," he said, only mildly repentant. "When will she wake up?"

"In about five centares," she said. "Hands hurt; we want to make sure she's out."

"Thanks," he said again. "I'll be back."

"How is she?" Apollo was standing in the waiting area with Athena. He took hold of Starbuck's shoulder supportively.

"What the frack happened?" Starbuck demanded.

"She's going to be all right?" Athena asked.

"Yes, she will be," Starbuck answered. "What happened?"

Apollo squeezed his shoulder and then said, "We're not sure yet. I've got mechs going over the shuttle... one of the engines and the control panel blew. Farrell was apparently killed outright; he was piloting. Zeff was in the co-pilot's position. The other injured cadet was apparently standing between them, watching Farrell..." His green eyes were very dark, and he reached out and grabbed Starbuck's shoulder again. "Starbuck, I swear to you we'll find out what happened."

Athena hugged him. "Starbuck," she said, "weren't you supposed to be taking them? I thought we'd lost you..."

Frack, Apollo had, too, Starbuck realized suddenly. Keep it light. Don't push... "So, I guess this means I have to bitch to Tigh instead of you," he said to Apollo, adding to Athena, "I got pulled at the last minute."

"Thank the gods," Apollo said.

"What? You don't think I'd have spotted it?"

"Farrell didn't. And he was a careful man, if not half the pilot you are," Apollo said seriously. "Starbuck," he added, "you should know, the other cadets... I think they sort of panicked. Zeff brought the shuttle in."

"With her hands like that?" Starbuck winced. Then he smiled. "That's my girl."

If Starbuck had been startled (which he had been) to discover that Athena wore her death-in-the-family face for him, he was more startled to discover how many of the cadets (maybe he could start thinking of them as "his cadets" without feeling guilty about it) had been as worried about him as they had about Zeffie, Clarsarc, and the other two... who'd come to see him that afternoon as soon as they could track him down, mostly to apologize for not knowing "what to do, Captain. I've never flown for real—"

"Me, either, and I know the simulator is good, but—"

"I'm so sorry about Zephyr's hands, one of us should have been flying—"

"We didn't both need to look after Clarsarc—"

"I guess we screwed up, huh?"

Starbuck waited a minute to make sure they'd actually run down, and then he said, "There's a reason you're cadets. You have to learn how to react in emergencies. You did fine. You didn't panic destructively, you kept Clarsarc from bleeding to death, and you kept out of Zeff's way while she worked. By the time you graduate, you'll be able to work while you're terrified. Don't expect to get there early."

"But, sir—"

"Look," he put a hand on each one's shoulder. "Some people are born with symphonies in their heads, or the ability to bank a shot off four walls into the goal, or to spin stories that will keep a roomful of drunks hanging on the next word. Most aren't. But they can learn to write music, play Triad, write fiction. Or play keyboards or pyramid or paint or whatever. Like fly. Everybody has their strengths, and their weaknesses. Nobody's good at everything. Don't compare yourself to genius... catching lightning in a bottle is a helluva ride but most of the time it's not necessary. You'll do just fine if you work your butts off and never quit. Some ways, you'll do better, because you'll be used to thinking about how you're gonna get it done. You won't be surprised when you're in over your heads 'cause you'll sort of be used to it. And, how it counts, three metrons of water is no different from three metrics... staying on top is what counts. Do you understand what I mean?"

"I think so, sir," Keili said. "Thanks."

"Yes, sir," Scotti added. "I hope Zeff's gonna be back soon."

"She will be," he said. "A secton off... why don't you two bring her class assignments around?"

Scotti nodded eagerly. "Yes, sir; we can do that. Thanks, sir."

But the other cadets had, like the Bridge crew and the ready squadron pilots, heard that the cadet training shuttle had been damaged, come in with the flight instructor dead and two cadets injured... and they'd all thought it was him. Except Farrell's history class, one of whom—his girlfriend worked as a medical tech—had told Athena, who'd come in the Life Center to be with Zeff, that "no, ma'am, Captain Starbuck didn't take that flight. He was just in class with us, I saw him heading down towards the instructional center. The little kids, ma'am?"

Those others were the ones who kept stopping him in the corridors, or dropping in on his classes over the next couple of days, telling him how glad they were he was all right, trying to not actually say that they'd swap Farrell for him any day of the secton and twice on firstday... The more he'd been scheduled to teach, the more he'd kind of resented it, even though he'd found himself enjoying it. But apparently he was popular... maybe that meant he was good at it.

But by all seven hells, he was taking the flight training or he'd know why.

And he meant to be more successful at that than they were, so far at least, at figuring out exactly what had happened to the training shuttle...

Oh, sure, what had happened was easy enough: somebody had stuck a solenite packet into the starboard engine and rigged it to the pilot's console. First time he hit something, probably for a banking maneuver, boom. Which sent some chills down Starbuck's spine, because assuming he'd missed it during preflight, he'd have been banking a lot closer to the Galactica than Farrell had. They'd probably have slammed right into her side, taking out the whole crew. Farrell's more conservative flying had meant the shuttle's initial out-of-control spinning had been far enough away from the rest of the fleet that they hadn't hit anything, and given Zeffie time to regain control of the crippled vessel. Thank the gods she'd pestered him for sim time as a teenager. Thank the gods for those Adaman reflexes Zac had given her, that hand-eye coordination they all had. Thank the gods she was level-headed in crisis...

It was almost enough to send a man to chapel. Of course, if they'd found the solenite in time, that would have been better. Farrell was a good man who didn't deserve to die. Zeff and Clarsarc didn't deserve to be injured, and Keili and Scotti didn't deserve to be scared out of their wits, or have their confidence in themselves shaken. And none of the kids deserved to die, either, as they oh-so-easily might have.

Tigh was investigating personally. But whoever had done it had worn gloves, leaving no fingerprints or DNA traces behind. Clearly he'd had to know more than a bit about shuttles, but that didn't eliminate many on a warship. And there was no hint of a motive. No bragging or satisfied notes anywhere, no threats uncovered. Farrell's wife was devastated, not pleased. There wasn't anything more than usual cadet-stuff with the four who'd been at risk—they were good kids, not trouble-makers. At least, not the kind of trouble this was a reasonable reaction to. Keili and Scotti were lovers, which might irritate some, though whoever had put together the class roster hadn't apparently been bothered by it. Clarsarc was the cadet-colonel, a straight-five student with no apparent sense of humor, but surely nobody blew you up because you couldn't take a joke... And Zeff was highly popular with her peers, most of them anyway, and the ones who didn't much care for her did like Clarsarc...

Tigh was baffled. So was Security, but that hardly surprised Starbuck. He nosed around the bay himself, but none of the mechanics had noticed anyone out of place. It wouldn't have taken long, Jenny told Starbuck, in a white fury, for someone who knew what he was doing to rig the shuttle, and most of the time he'd be inside, out of sight... "One thing is for damned sure," she finished, putting her hand on his arm briefly, "two of my people are checking every shuttle with a cadet on it from now till the Endtimes. Or you, for that matter, sir."

Which was good, as well as heart-warming, but it wasn't getting them any nearer the answers.

Tigh couldn't even find out who'd pulled Starbuck from the flight at the last minute. Farrell had shown up to take the flight, with a computer-logged order, but when Omega tried to trace it, he ran into nothing. Not just skips and anonymity, nothing. It didn't seem to have come from anywhere. He'd put his best crackers on it, but they didn't have any better luck than he had. Either this was some bizarre suicide and Farrell had written the orders himself—which made no sense no matter how you looked at it—or "Divine intervention," Tigh suggested half-seriously.

Starbuck figured the gods could have found a better way to kill Farrell if that's what they wanted to do.

After only two days Zeff was going crazy. "Cassie said you stay in bed," Starbuck said. "You stay in bed. I find you out again I'm sending you to the Life Center and they'll fracking well strap you down."

"Dad," she said. "I'm fine."

"You damned near died on me," he said. "You're staying in bed."

She rolled martyred brown eyes at him. But that night he heard her wake up—he'd been waiting for it—and when he went to her, she clung to him and cried. For Farrell. For Clarsarc. For him. For what almost happened and what could have happened. And he held her and cried, too.

Boomer was waiting in Apollo's office the morning after the incident.

"What are you doing here?" Apollo asked. "You just pulled a ten-centare patrol. You ought to be home asleep."

Boomer shook his head. "I missed all the excitement yesterday, but I made up for it when Cassie got home. She hasn't told anybody, but..."

"Why do I not feel like I want to hear this?" Apollo asked rhetorically. "Spill it."

"Starbuck's not Zephyr's father," Boomer said with his customary bluntness.

"What?" Apollo stared at him. "What the frack do you mean?"

Boomer shrugged. "Frankly, I don't think he needs to be told. Or her, for that matter. Cassie thinks he does... says he has a right to know. I can't see where it'll do anybody any good."

"So Cassie thinks this?"

"Well, I mean," Boomer said, "she's right. He's not. I doubt, from what I've heard, that he was paying any attention yesterday and I don't know if Zeff told him, but it's pretty obvious."

"Boomer, it's not obvious to me."

"Oh. Sorry. When she was in the Life Center, Cassie found out her blood type. She's a 3."

That didn't mean anything to Apollo, obvious or obscure. He must have looked blank, because Boomer shook his head again.

"Apollo, Starbuck's a 0. You know that."

Yes. He had known that. He was a 1. Boomer was a 2. And Starbuck was a 0. He'd given blood to both of them, and they couldn't return the favor... But you needed a 1 and a 2 to make a 3... "Gods," he said. Then, "Wait a centon, don't they get their blood typed in school any more?"

"Cassie said there was a notation on her records that she'd been incorrectly typed as a 1, and it was changed when she started training. She may not have felt there was any reason to mention it to him, or he'd have known a couple of years ago. Maybe he did... can't say it would make any difference to me if I found out that Callie or Corrie or Bren wasn't mine." He paused. "I mean, in circumstances like Starbuck's."

Apollo chuckled. "Yeah, Starbuck never thought Zeff's mother was faithful... Why does Cassie think he should know? What's it going to accomplish? He won't love her any less."

Boomer shrugged. "She thinks the woman roped him into something he'd never have done on his own. What she thinks he's going to do after eighteen yahrens, I don't think she knows either. She just thinks he has the right."

Apollo tried to assimilate it. "Boom-Boom," he said after a centon. "I think it would rip him up."

"It would to lose her," Boomer said. "But she's an adult now. That's not going to happen. Besides, it's not like Sire Bigcubits is standing there saying she's his."

"I don't know..."

"Me, either," Boomer admitted. "But that's why I told you. Cassie promised not to say anything. The problem is, it won't be hard for anybody else to figure it out." He yawned. "I think I'm going after that sleep now. Is Zeff going home this afternoon?"

"Home?" Apollo grinned. "Yeah, she is."

"I'll stop by and see her when I'm awake."

Apollo worried it over in his mind for centares. Once he'd have been sure he had all the answers when it concerned Starbuck. But that one conversation, so many yahrens ago, had knocked him so off-balance he still wasn't sure where he stood or if the ground was going to be steady under his feet... He kept seeing things in Starbuck's eyes that made him shy.

Shy. Not an emotion he was familiar with.

So now he thought maybe he'd better talk to his sister about this.

Athena came in from the twins' room and sat on the sofa next to Apollo. "Of course, I don't know," she said, "but I always felt there was something just a little bit off about the whole thing. Not like you mean, though."

Apollo looked at her puzzledly. "What, then?"

"Well, you and Cassie, both of you, checked that woman's background out, right? I remember Cassie calling her a 'twenty-cubit whore' when she let Starbuck have it that day..."


"And, doesn't that seem odd to you? It always did to me." She shook her head at his obtuseness. "I couldn't see Starbuck paying somebody twenty cubits to sleep with him. I mean, really, I can barely see him paying anybody anything. Especially not back then, not when he was young and gorgeous and people practically queued up for him."

"Athena," Apollo tried to cut her off. He hadn't forgotten her quiet husband was in the room, even if she had.

She went right on. "I mean, okay, I can see him paying a whole hell of a lot more than that, say, four or five hundred, if he was at the tail-end of a furlon and flush and intoxicated with gambling success and topped off with alcohol and somebody offered him something really, really exotic, like, I don't know, identical triplets. With special toys or something," she made a vague gesture with her hands. "I could see that. But just plain sex? Which is all you get for twenty cubits? No. Not Starbuck. The whole idea that he couldn't get laid in Caprica City is just, well, ludicrous."

Apollo couldn't think what to answer. Put like that, it was, well, irrefutable.

Another thing occurred to his sister. "It's not the money, either; he never grudged money. But he wouldn't have just bought it. Gods know, it was never a commercial transaction with him. It was a game, it was," she paused, looking upward as she remembered, a small smile quirking her lips, "exciting and fun and, well, it was a game. He spent money as part of it, not... not it itself. I know he spent more than twenty lots of times when we were dating, and sometimes we didn't even end up in bed. But lots of times he didn't spend so much as a decicubit and we did. There were even times, more than once, when I grabbed him by his shirtfront and hauled him off to the nearest horizontal surface before he could say 'hi', let alone bring up money. Starbuck and a twenty-cubit hooker? It just doesn't scan."

Apollo really hadn't wanted that image in his head, his sister and Starbuck. Starbuck had always considerately not talked about her, at least not where Apollo might hear it... leave it to 'Theni. Worse, though, in a way—he'd snuck a glance at Omega while she was talking, and the man had looked more amused, even proud, at her forwardness than anything else, and now Apollo had the image of his sister grabbing him... He shook his head to clear it.

Athena misunderstood. "Did you ever hear him talk about hookers?"

"No, no, you're probably right. But, you mean you think he knew all along?"

"Well, sure. Unless Dr. Salik was in on it with the woman," she said reasonably. "After all, who in the Fleet would think of genetic testing for kinship faster than Starbuck? That whole thing with that man claiming to be his father."

"Why, by the Lords of Kobol, would he take some hooker's baby?"

Omega spoke for the first time. "Perhaps he knew her? From the Orphanage, I mean... I imagine there are not a lot of career choices for those who didn't get inducted."

"Yes," said Athena. "Or he knew the baby's father. From the service... some dead pilot he liked. How many died in the Destruction, Apollo? With no family saved? Forty? Fifty? That he knew, I mean."

"Lots," Apollo said. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"If I was right," she said simply, "Starbuck felt an obligation. Who was I to stop him acting like a grown-up for once? And anyway, she's been the best thing that ever happened to him. And he was certainly the best thing that could have happened to her."

"However," Omega said, and Apollo was amused to see how attentively Athena turned to him. "If he doesn't know, it would be a kindness to warn him. If it's as simple as blood type, it could hit him in the face at any moment."

"That's true," Apollo said, and Athena nodded. "I'll tell him," he said.

"Well," Athena said, "don't do it till she's back in school. Give him a chance to get over nearly losing her. And vice versa, for that matter."

Apollo nodded. He'd probably never forget hearing that cadet's voice saying, "The flight instructor, he's dead!" It had shaken him...

So he waited a few days. Then he stopped by Starbuck's academy office, waiting patiently while three cadets, all of whom tried to let him go first, went in to talk. One of them stayed a good half-centare and came out looking happier than he had when he went in.

"Hi," Starbuck said when he went in. "Do you know how glad I am you're not a cadet with problems?"

"I don't know; you seem to be awfully good at it."

"Who'd have guessed?" Starbuck grinned slightly. "Imagine Colonel Survan's face."

Apollo laughed.

"So, what's up?" Starbuck leaned back in his chair.

Apollo suddenly wished he'd let Athena do this. You still could, a little voice said. He shook it off. "I've got something to tell you. I don't know, maybe you already know it. And it probably doesn't matter... anyway, it's awkward."

"I can see that," Starbuck said, a trifle warily. "You find out something about that explosion? Like who did it? And you're not going to let me kill him?"

"No," Apollo said. "If I knew who did it, he'd be in Security's tender clutches already."

"What, then?"

"Starbuck... when Zeff's mother told you you were her father, did you actually check on that?"

"Oh." Starbuck relaxed. "To tell the truth, Apollo, I didn't have to check on it. I probably broke at least a couple of laws, so I'll deny it, but Aline never tried to make me think Zeffie was mine. It wouldn't have worked if she had; I'd never met her before."

"Never?" Apollo could remember everything he'd said. Of course, Starbuck hadn't been denying it... but he still felt pretty low.

"Nope," Starbuck grinned ruefully. "Didn't have much trouble convincing people otherwise. But I wanted her."

Apollo wasn't sure what his face was showing. Starbuck had known from micron one? Hadn't even needed Salik to tell him? What he asked was, "Why did she come to you, then?"

"I knew her father," Starbuck said simply. "I owed him."

"Who was he?"

"That doesn't matter. He was dead. A long time already... at Cimtar. So what was I supposed to do? If I hadn't taken her, she'd have gone to the Orphan Ship. I didn't have any standing to get her—single fighter pilots aren't good risks. Unless I say she's mine. And it wasn't like almost anybody had any trouble believing it."


"No. I counted on that."

"You let everybody think—"

"It wasn't important, Apollo. What was important was Zeffie, keeping her safe. Giving her a home. You know what I mean—you had Djan."

Apollo couldn't think of anything to say. He could either sound like he thought Starbuck was insane or noble, and neither of those was right. Besides, it was entirely obvious that Starbuck and Zeffie had been happy together.

"Yeah," he finally said. "You probably did break a handful of laws... so I guess I know why you never said anything. Does Zeffie know?"

"I told her a few years ago," Starbuck said. "After she found out. I mean," he replayed that and grinned slightly, "she found out, when she got her blood typed in school? And it upset her, so I told her I'd known all along."

Apollo thought of something. "Starbuck, is there any chance anybody else knows? I mean, maybe a pissed-off wife or something?"

"The saboteur?" Starbuck said. "No way. Trust me, Apollo."

"No family?"

Starbuck shook his head.

Apollo nodded. "Of course not... you'd have told them back then."

"So, what are you going to do?"

"Do?" Apollo blinked. "Nothing. She's almost an adult. I just didn't want you getting blindsided."

Starbuck smiled at him. "Thanks."

Apollo smiled back. Divine Intervention, Tigh says... Maybe. Whatever it was, thank the gods.

Cassie looked reflectively at the sample she'd taken from Zeffie while she was unconscious the sectare before. She had taken it impulsively, and had not yet done anything with it, but neither had she gotten rid of it. Boomer was so insistent that it didn't matter, but the truth was it did.

It had mattered back then. So he'd turned out to be a good parent; the fact was that the rules existed for reasons, and Starbuck had been a bad risk. Not only because he had been so very likely to be killed, leaving the child orphaned yet again, and this time possibly old enough to notice, but because he had no skills. But somehow, as always, Starbuck's lies were transmuted into virtue. Boomer, Apollo, Athena... they all seemed to think he'd done something wonderful. He was just exactly like the fairy tale character, the one who could fall into a pile of felgarcarb and come up with a diamond.

She had to admit that it didn't matter now. The girl was nineteen. Even if Starbuck had been a bad parent, someone you'd want to take a child away from—and he hadn't been, she admitted that—Zephyr was of age. No one could come between her and Starbuck. Assuming that he was telling the truth now.

That was something she'd never really been able to understand about people—and she had to include herself in there: why did they keep believing him? She'd heard an old song once, a novelty number, with lyrics of "why did you believe me when I said I loved you when you know I've been a liar all my life?" That was Starbuck. And you did believe him, over and over, and when you caught him in a lie he got all wide-eyed and innocent and forgiven... until next time, when it happened all over again. So why were they all so quick to believe him now, when he said Zephyr's father was dead?

Cassie didn't see Starbuck—not the Starbuck he'd been eighteen years ago—doing something for a dead man. Not something like this, taking responsibility for a child. Losing his whole lifestyle. Granted he'd apparently not regretted it, but in her opinion, and maybe she hadn't known him for more than a decade, but she'd been this close to sealing with him, he hadn't been the kind of man to be that altruistic. To feel that kind of obligation. He'd been too hedonistic. Too careless. Too concerned with himself.

There was only one person she could think of that he'd lie for like that. And he wasn't dead.

Well, maybe two. But Zephyr wasn't Boomer's, anybody could see that without going into arguments about whether Boomer would have patronized a whore (which he wouldn't have).

So only one man. And he was still alive. And still stood to lose an enormous amount if it came out. He was such a paragon of righteousness, and always had been... she hadn't known him back then, either, but she'd heard what people said when she came on board. His father would have been horrified—still would be. And he'd lose his wife, which might not be such a bad thing, though Cassie liked Sheba. And it might affect his career... one thing about Starbuck, he had been very nearly on the bottom then, nowhere to go but up in people's opinions as far as his morals had been. Actually taking on his bastard daughter by a whore had been a step to higher ground.

For Apollo, it would have been a disaster. And for him to have ignored it for eighteen yahrens... yes.

A Sub-Colonelcy might just open up.

And if it turned out she was wrong, well, she'd be the first to admit it.

But it was unlikely. Still, no one needed to know what she was doing. She could run her searches on her own time, when no one was around. And she could cover her motive by starting with all the pilots who'd been stationed with Starbuck, which would include Apollo. It would take a while to screen, though she could write her program to eliminate all the incompatible blood types. Since some 40% of the general population was 0... in fact, if she went back and found the woman's records, she might be able to eliminate either the 1s or 2s, which would help...

Bojay understood his error. He had trusted to machines. This needed the personal touch.

This needed to be done so there could be no mistakes. No interference. And no trying to do too much.

Farrell... Bojay didn't know what Farrell had thought was going on. He knew the man had discovered that the roster had been altered slightly to put that pair of perverts on the flight when the one of them didn't have the scores to justify it... He didn't know if Farrell had hoped or feared, had wanted to be part of whatever he thought might be going to happen or rather had wanted to put an end to it. But the result was that only Farrell had died. Farrell, a non-entity. It should have been the Worm and his spawn, and the two he'd led astray. And Clarsarc: the innocent. There had to be an innocent... it was too bad, of course, but he was perfect. Of good Caprican blood, upright and pure... he'd have been happy to die if he'd known he was saving the people with his blood.

But not even the whore's daughter, the spawn of Starbuck, had died. Instead, she was hailed as a hero by these deluded people.

He knew now it would have to be done in person. He would have to actually spill their blood in ritual sacrifice. They would have to be purified. Purged. Made clean and then killed...

Only then would the way be clear to sacrifice Adama's son, who would have to die to set the people on the right course. Adama's grandsons would lead them into the shining planet. Adama of course would not live to see it; like those who had led the people from Kobol, he would be taken beforehand, unworthy to set foot on the new land, though his eyes would behold it. But his son was not worthy even of that... corrupted by the worm, he would have to die.

Bojay knew he would have to be careful in cleansing the worm and his spawn, because he would have to live long enough to kill Apollo. That death could be open; he'd be taken into Heaven to be with Cain after he had performed the final sacrifice if it pleased the gods not to protect him. He, too, though he strove to be a faithful servant, was not worthy of the new planet. But he didn't fear his death, only the untimeliness of it. The purging of the worm and his spawn was not his last task.

And the Serpent protected His own. That was clear after this disaster. That did not excuse his failings, and he had known he had had to atone with much prayer, fasting, and punishment. But the Serpent was more subtle than any other beast, and He did protect Starbuck. The Serpent had slid into Farrell, tempting him to interfere. Bojay was forgiven that now. He knew it.

For now the visions were coming again. He had been entrusted once more with the fate of the whole people.

Soon he would be granted the opportunity to purge the great evil coiled at the heart of the House of Adama. Of the noble Caprican line. Of the Galactica and the True People of Kobol. Soon.

Then with his own hands he would rip away the unwholesome growth and the evil.

He, Bojay, would complete the work of Cain. He would open the way through the wilderness and deliver those who wandered in darkness.

The time was not ripe. It would come. He would know it when it did.

Apollo was at Starbuck's, talking over a grog—Sheba and her squadron were on long-range patrol and Djan was with his squadronmates on the Star, and he was openly cadging a meal. The door opened, and Zeff's voice rang through the front room. "Daddy!" She ran into their quarters like a twelve-yahren-old instead of a senior cadet. "Daddy! I got my scores today! Guess what?"

"What?" He smiled at her enthusiasm. "You passed?"

"Passed?" She exaggerated her reaction. "Passed? Of course I passed! What kind of question is that? Oh," she noticed the other man. "Hi, Uncle Apollo, how're you? I did more than pass, Dad."

"Beat Djan's score on the flight test, did you?"

"Djan's score, pooh," she said. "I beat yours!"

"You never," he said, smiling proudly.

"Did so," she grinned at him. "By .02, but any win's a win, right?"

"You know it's because you're a girl," he said, pretending disparagement. "Girls have marginally better reflexes. If I was a girl—"

"Oh, gods, the loss to the world!" she cried dramatically.

"You mean you?"

"Well, that too," her grin matched his and she hugged him. "First in my class! Dad, I'm so happy I can't stand it! I want to take you to dinner on the Star. Dancing under the stars... you can come too, Uncle Apollo," she added generously, in charity with the whole universe.

"I wouldn't dream of intruding," he said. "But tomorrow you have to celebrate with us, me and 'Theni and Omega, and Father."

"You're on," said Starbuck. "You're sure you'll be all right on your own tonight?"

"I'll go annoy my sister," Apollo said.

Zeff hugged him when he stood up. "Thanks, Uncle Apollo," she said. She let him go and bounced on her toes like the teenager she was. Like someone he almost but not quite was reminded of... probably Djan when he graduated, though normally he wasn't so exuberant. Maybe Starbuck... she acted like him, even though they weren't related. But remembering all the way back to graduation wasn't as easy as it had been once, and anyway, he'd been pretty caught up in his own accomplishments. He grinned at her and left them to their celebration.

"Hey," Starbuck walked into Apollo's office. "Your brother-in-law tells me we're sending a bunch of agro techs to that planet Boomer's boys found yesterday?"

"Why, yes, Starbuck, I do happen to have a few centons free, come on in."

Starbuck ignored that with the ease of yahrens. "Mind if I sit in on the meeting with Tigh?"

Apollo gave up, shaking his head. He stood, picking up a stack of pads. "Nope, I don't mind. Tigh might."

"Tigh loves me," Starbuck said insouciantly.

"Is that what you mean by 'love'? Should have told me twenty yahrens ago."

Apollo must be in a good mood, Starbuck thought. Of course, ever since the shuttle explosion six sectares ago he'd been, well, more like the early yahrens of their friendship. More apt to drop by unannounced, to lean against him, to tease... Starbuck wasn't sure what was going on and he wasn't even completely sure he liked it. It had made him break up with Morag's brother—it wasn't fair to Calum to be looking at him across the table or the bed and wishing he were Apollo—and Calum had been the closest thing he'd had to a real relationship in a very long time, even if he secretly suspected that they'd have burnt out in less than a yahren, having nothing at all in common. But Apollo's sudden reversion to their old, easy relationship had caused Starbuck to break off with the "Tribal Legends" host long before that had happened. Damn, he'd told himself at the time, you are such a complete pushover.

"You coming?" Apollo had teleported to the hallway, that was the only explanation. Starbuck trotted to catch up.

At the meeting he sat and listened while Apollo, Omega, and Tigh hashed out all the details of sending an away team of agro techs to harvest new grains to supplement the fleet's supplies and hybridize their stocks while keeping the main body of the fleet moving. Like a sharkon, Starbuck thought idly. As if if we stop moving, we die. Finally Tigh turned to him. "Is there something you'd like to add, Starbuck?"

He wondered what they'd say if he said that he thought they should stop and colonize this planet, given it was an empty delta-class. But he didn't, having had that argument as many times as he cared to. "Let me take some of the cadets along," he said.

"Cadets?" asked Tigh.

"A pre-graduation field trip," Starbuck elaborated. "It's a nothing planet, right? No trouble anywhere in sight, nobody to bother. They need to learn atmospheric flying, at least some of them. For real, not in the sims. We take the agrotechs down, they play with their grasses and whatever, and I teach the kids how to fly in air."

"Well, I don't see why not," Apollo said, looking at Tigh. "There's certainly no sign of any advanced civilization down there."

"I have no objections," the colonel agreed. "As long as the students are up to it. Final year only, I'd say."

"Sure," Starbuck nodded.

"Who did you want to take?" Tigh asked.

"Top four pilots," Starbuck said. "A reward for their hard work."

"More work," Apollo grinned.

"They would be—?" Tigh asked.

"Cadets Clarsarc, Keili, Rounder, and Zephyr."

The other men grinned at him. "Just make sure they all get flying time," Apollo said.

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


Original Fantasy:
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