Apollo hadn't said anything when they'd arrived for the briefing, a bit breathless but with a good centon to spare. He'd barely even glanced at them... barely, unless you were the recipient of that glance. If you were, as Starbuck was, and if you knew him, as Starbuck did, you knew better. For green eyes, they could be very cold.
Starbuck almost wished Apollo had said something.
But only almost. He had no particular desire to actually hear what Apollo was probably thinking; and although Apollo was wrong (this time), the truth about where they'd been was no better. He very much didn't want to discuss Chameleon with Apollo. Funny thing, he thought, letting the briefing wash over him trusting that Bojay would be getting all they needed; lately he was doing a lot of things he didn't want to talk about. Not that he didn't want to do them, but talking about them had, lately, been a big problem.
He was going to have to get over that.
Doing was important - maybe the most important thing - but, he'd realized, not talking about things just made them, as Bojay had said, unsaid. And what wasn't said couldn't be argued about, yes, but it couldn't be dealt with at all. Even in good ways. Unsaid things slipped away and were lost...
His mind focused on Apollo's voice saying his name. That was accompanied by two nudges, one from Bojay on his right and the other from Jolly on his left; a glance down showed him two hands both giving him the hand signal for, "Yes, sir. Of course." Which he said while he mind ran off on another tangent altogether.
Jolly had never said much about what he'd yesterday called "that stuff with the fuel." But he could have. Starbuck hadn't been there, but Jolly had. And yet, Jolly not only didn't talk much about it, yesterday he had basically said it wasn't very important. And he'd sat with Starbuck... Oh, sure; you could read too much into that. Jolly really wouldn't know a grudge if he was introduced to one, but still. Apollo and Boomer got all cold and talked about treason; Jolly just said "that stuff." "That stuff" hardly squared with "he would have killed us" or "mutinous dagget," did it?
Starbuck slid a sideways look at Jolly. The big man was focused on Apollo, so he let the look linger while he thought about the disconnect. Maybe he needed to put ‘talk with Jolly' on his to-do list. Pretty high up, at that. At the very least it would give him another perspective before he raised the incident with Boj... which he was going to have to do, like it or not, which he knew he wasn't. But that conversation could wait till later.
Later... And later was so very nearly now. He sighed to himself. Despite all his good resolutions – frack, just yesterday! – he really didn't want later to ever come. But that was the problem, wasn't it? Just drifting and pretending, it was easy and pleasant ... until suddenly it wasn't any more. It was time to stop drifting and take control.
He looked at the front of the room as his subconcious told him Apollo was winding up and heard "All right, you have your schedules. Bojay and Brie, if you'll wait behind a centon." As much control as a rank-and-file pilot could take, anyway.
He stood up and put out a hand to tug at Jolly. The big man fell into step beside him. "So, what did I say ‘yes' to back there?"
Starbuck groaned exaggeratedly, though he was wondering which NCO he'd been stuck with – hopefully not one of those pious twits from Green. Or a ticked-off tech sergeant.
Jolly laughed. "Yeah, I feel your pain – not one bit. You want to take my long patrol instead? I'd be happy to switch."
"No, thanks. Done that." He shook his head. "Can't believe he forgot to mention it yesterday."
"He did post it."
"Yeah? After briefing, maybe. I didn't have time to look at the board yesterday."
"Or this morning?" Jolly raised an eyebrow, and then wiggled both of them suggestively.
"No," Starbuck said with a little annoyance. "I had somewhere else to go... look, when do you actually leave?"
"Couple of centares. Why?"
"I need to ask you something – come by the office, would you?"
Jolly shrugged. "Sure. I can give you ten, fifteen centons."
Starbuck paused to look at the board. Bojay was flying picket with Brie today – oh, that would be interesting – and he was in fact down for Officer of the Day. With Giles, he was relieved to note. The sergeant was an entertaining companion in the middle of the night watches, unlike some he'd had duty with before. Plus, he was actually talking to Starbuck, unlike some...
When they got into the side office, Giles was already there, parked behind the NCOD desk with his armband on, reading what looked like the notes from last night's shift. Another nice thing about him: he tended to take most of the work on himself, leaving his OOD free to amuse himself. Not all of them did. That was especially true when it wasn't a pilot, which a lesser man would have seen as a reason to forget that notion he'd had before, about promoting the flying NCOs. Starbuck preened himself for a moment on not feeling that way and then said, "Hey, Giles, why don't you take a walk-through?"
The sergeant shook his head even as he stood up. "I can take a hint."
"Good. Take it somewhere else."
Giles snorted, but left. Jolly spun a chair around and sat down, resting his chin on his arms on the chair's back. "What's up?"
"Listen, I wanted to ask you something."
Starbuck paused, uncertain exactly how to start. Hoping to think of something, or maybe to cover the thinking, he wasn't sure which, he picked up the OOD armband on the desk and put it on, and then sat down. When he looked up, Jolly was looking at him a little warily. "I hope you're not going to ask about your love life."
"No." Starbuck was forceful.
"Good ... Or mine," Jolly added suddenly.
Now Starbuck was confused, until he suddenly remembered Brie making that oblique pass at Jol back before the Reorg, and him accepting it... Sagan, were they actually an item? Was he that out of touch? It was, he had to admit, entirely possible. But all he said was another "No."
"Then what's up?" Jolly repeated.
Starbuck took a breath and plunged in. "You remember when the commander sent you guys over to get the Pegasus' fuel?"
"Uh, yeah," Jolly said, clearly finding the question ridiculous.
"Tell me about it," he settled on. No leading questions.
"What's to tell?" He sounded sincere. "We went, the Cylons came, things went to hell." He shrugged. "As they do."
Not even Jolly could really be that sanguine about near mutiny. "It was worse than that, from what I heard. On their flight deck, I mean. Got nasty, didn't it?"
He shrugged again. "It wasn't good," he admitted. "But nasty's strong. I mean, nothing happened. The Cylons attacked and the Pegasus guys jumped right to it, even though Apollo was pretty much ready to shoot Bojay just before then."
"Don't you have that backwards?"
Jolly wrinkled his nose and shook his head. "No. Not saying Boj wasn't ready to deck the captain, not saying he wasn't mad as hell and all serious with it - but he's not the one who had his gun out."
"He's not?" Starbuck hoped he sounded less confused than he felt.
"No." Jolly shook his head. "Apollo drew on him - guess he saw something in Bojay's eyes. Wouldn't surprise me, really; he could get crazy in the old days. I mean, you know."
"Apollo drew first?" And he knew exactly how confused he was sounding now, but he didn't care. He was hearing yesterday's "Shooting at us—" "He didn't fracking shoot at you!" "He meant to."
Jolly made a puzzled face. "That's what I said. I couldn't hear everything they were saying, but I heard enough. Sheba was all about how Adama had humiliated Cain, and Apollo was pretending nobody meant that, and she was ‘It's a bit late for that' and Bojay ‘She's right, Cain saved everyone here's life and we're defending him now', and then Apollo said something like ‘for better or worse there can only be one leader' and Bojay said ‘we've got the wrong one' and Apollo said ‘I'm only going to say this once: Adama doesn't want the fleet sitting helpless while we attack, and I support that decision, so stand aside.' And then he and Boomer had their guns out." He shook his head. "Bojay and Sheba didn't even have their hands on theirs. They were kind of ... I don't know, dumbfounded. But they weren't backing down, even when Boomer asked them what it was going to be... And then the Cylons. So in the end it wasn't anything, except we used up all the fuel. Why are you asking about this? Bojay have a different story?"
"We haven't talked about it... Boomer, too?" And now he was hearing, for the second time in two days, Boomer saying "They're humans. I don't know if I could kill them. He could have killed us. Apollo wouldn't have killed him and he would have killed us. He would have." Oh, would he, Boom-Boom? And wouldn't he?
Jolly was continuing. "Oh, yeah. Both of them. Smooth as if they'd rehearsed it before we left. ‘What's it going to be?' Boomer says, and I don't think they knew. Frack, Bucko, they obviously didn't expect to be staring at drawn blasters. Bojay even had his hands behind his back... I don't know what would have happened if the Cylons hadn't come along." He shrugged once more. "Next time we see them their blasters are over their shoulders, they're taking no chances. And I've always wondered if that wasn't in the back of Bojay's mind all the time."
"It might have been at the front of mine," Starbuck said, still trying to picture it, trying to match Jolly's account with the fragmentary and emotional ones he'd gotten from the other two.
"Yeah, no kidding. Might make you a bit stand-offish. There weren't that many there, I don't know how many of them we got, but they've all got to know about it... But no harm done, right? I mean, nobody shot anybody, and nobody actually had to back down..." His voice trailed off as something occurred to him. "Haven't you and Apollo talked about this?"
"Actually, no," Starbuck said, wondering why he was even as he did so. "Apollo doesn't talk about it. Says the commander put it off limits."
"Yeah, he did. But I figured... Look, Bucko, don't tell him I told you, then."
"I won't." Though he probably would. But Apollo wouldn't get angry at Jolly (assuming that was even possible). He'd be too busy being angry at Starbuck, in self-defense. "Thanks, Jolly."
"Yeah... You know what? I think I'm glad I'm gonna be gone for three days." He stood up, but didn't go anywhere.
"You just might be." Abruptly he remembered this morning. Jolly didn't need lots, but he did need the smile and the thank you. He deserved them. "Thank you, Jol. Seriously. This has filled in some holes for me." He got up and slapped the big man's shoulder. "Have a good patrol – nice and boring."
"From your lips to the gods' ears," Jolly grinned. "You have a quiet night."
Giles came in as Jolly left; he'd probably been loitering in the hallway, waiting. He didn't say anything, though, just sat down and picked up the log.
Starbuck pulled himself together and sat down, asking casually as he did, "Anything I should know?"
"Nah," Giles shook that dark chestnut head. Starbuck could see what Robin was attracted to, and probably the sergeant wasn't as chip-on-his-shoulder when he was on a date. Before the Destruction he hadn't socialized with enlisted men, fraternization regs were dead against it, though the awkward hybrid of non-com pilots meant they had to rub shoulders a lot, neither really happy about it. But since then things had been different – of course – and that was part of it. Actually since the first sectare or so, most if not all of the ways they were kept apart had fallen away, and mostly the two sets of pilots kept company without distinction. Of course, the fraternization regs were still there, but the colonel seemed to be limiting those to romance. Or sex, anyway. Most pilots were willing to turn a blind eye, but Giles's chances of a lasting romance with Robin weren't good... Starbuck was abruptly saddened by that, but he knew better than to show it. "So," he said chattily, "did you have any plans for tonight?"
"Nothing as settled as ‘plans'," the sergeant said, leaning back in his chair. "You? Or is that a stupid question?"
"Same," Starbuck said. "Not real plans, but something. And it's probably too early for that to be a stupid question."
Giles raised an eyebrow but didn't comment.
"You can have pick of supper times," Starbuck said. "If you want to try to firm something up."
Giles gave him a jaundiced look and Starbuck replayed his words, and then couldn't help laughing. "You know what I mean," he said. "Plans."
Giles joined in the laughter, but when he'd finished he just shook his head. "Maybe. Thanks, though. I'll see."
Starbuck nodded and picked up the binder the last OOD had left on the desk. Might as well browse through the recent memos, see what was going on. The worst thing about duty during the nominal day shift was that you had to at least look like you were paying attention. Fortunately faking it wasn't hard, and while you pretending to read you could think about anything. Usually of course that ‘anything' was a lot more enjoyable than this, but... on the other hand, he realized, it was actually good news.
Yes. It was ... He didn't have to talk with Boj about mutiny. One whole huge, ugly thing he hadn't wanted to do at all and now he didn't have to. Crossed right off the later list... And he didn't have to keep trying to justify his own reactions, either. He'd kept wishing he'd been there – kept insisting to himself that Bojay wouldn't have drawn on him. Now he knew Bojay hadn't drawn on anybody. His gut instinct, that that was not something Bo would have done, was right; he wasn't deluding himself. Boj had been insubordinate, sure, like all the Pegasans had been from Cain down. But he hadn't been ready to shoot another Colonial Warrior.
Bojay hadn't been. Maybe Boomer had been right when he'd said Apollo couldn't have actually shot, maybe it would have turned nasty. But Bojay hadn't been the one to push it. Or Sheba, for that matter...
What had Jolly just said? "Next time we see them their blasters are over their shoulders, they're taking no chances." And Starbuck'd been right there in that locker room and he should have known. Oh, not everything, of course, not then; he hadn't been on that flight deck. But enough. Because Apollo and Boomer had been too accepting. All their talk about mutiny, that had come later. And – he could have kicked himself – it had never been directed at Sheba. But he'd seen it with his own eyes, Bojay followed her not the other way around. So whatever had gone down had been with her blessing if not instigation, even if Bojay had pushed himself forward into the metaphorical line of fire that had suddenly gotten very real. But the talk at first at just been insubordination; it wasn't until later that mutiny and death had come into it... He should have seen it; he should have known what was going on the first time they started saying it.
Starbuck had no problem with people rewriting the past. Sagan knew he'd done it plenty of times himself. Practically everything from his earliest memories had been redone, after all, and there was a lot since then, too. It was how you lived with yourself, wasn't it? And since the Destruction he'd seen almost everyone do it; wives and children and siblings that had been annoyances or worse had become saints (or worse). And Apollo, and Boomer, were making their actions more acceptable to themselves. That was okay, if that was as far as it went. So he'd let it go, until he had to deal with it.
Next time somebody said ‘mutiny' he'd just look at them. And the next time somebody said ‘Apollo wouldn't have shot them, but he'd have shot us' he'd just point out that that would have been a bit difficult, since Apollo had been the one with the weapon... Well, no. Next time somebody said something like that he'd probably lash back. But he wouldn't bring it up; it could wait. The important thing was that he knew the truth now, he knew Bojay, and the rest of them – and yes, Sheba, too – weren't and hadn't ever been willing to shoot Apollo. And that made things so much better.
So unbelievably much better. He hadn't even realized what a load it had been until it vanished. Bless Jolly. Bless his sane little levelheaded heart.
The afternoon dragged, as they always did. Starbuck read quite a bit of the accumulated paperwork and remembered why he didn't usually bother. And although Giles was generally chatty and amusing, today he seemed to sense that Starbuck wanted to mull over whatever he'd brought Jolly in for, and kept himself occupied, including a pointless (but required) walk-through, until supper-time, when he disappeared for just over a centare. As Starbuck ate his own solitary meal he wondered if Aidan was a more lenient squadron leader than Apollo, or if the sergeant had just abused his duty officer's good nature and killed time waiting for Robin to show up. Not that it mattered; Giles was entitled to take a little me time now and then. After all, he was the kind of NCOD whose officer could relax, even nap. You didn't want to come down hard on him.
He was just leaving when Brie and a couple of Green's pilots came in. "Hi, Bucko," they greeted him. Brie gestured at his armband and added, "Better you than me. Especially with Giles. He's obnoxious."
Carla didn't look convinced, Starbuck noted, but she didn't say anything. It wasn't worth getting into an argument with Brie, though, especially if she was going to part of Jolly's life even for a while, so he just shrugged. "I'm used to him."
"I don't think he likes women," Brie said and then blushed "I mean, I don't mean –"
"I don't think he likes women officers," Lydia said, cutting off Brie's stammer.
"I don't think he likes us," Carla said. "He doesn't have a problem with tech officers or whatever."
"Maybe he doesn't think women should be in combat," Lydia offered.
"Whatever," said Brie. "I'm just glad I'm not on duty with him. Good luck, Starbuck."
"Yeah, quiet night," Carla added as they passed.
"Thanks," he said, but he was pretty sure, listening to them laughing at something, they'd forgotten him before they got to the line. But he thought about them all the way back to the duty office. It wasn't exactly news that Brie didn't get along with an NCO, or that Giles was prickly, but it sounded a bit more widespread than he'd realized. Although, remembering listening to a few of his friends complaining, Starbuck had to reconsider: maybe Giles was that kind of NCOD when he was on with Starbuck. Maybe it was one of those give-and-take things, in which case he certainly didn't want to stop it.
But it did give him a lead in to a conversation that might have been tricky otherwise. After all, Starbuck was pretty far from the circles where promotions were considered. Greenbean had gotten one, and other sergeants... And while Greenbean was a heckuva nice guy, he wasn't half the pilot Giles was. But who knew? Maybe half a yahren ago Giles had turned it down and maybe he was regretting it now and who knew?
So, as he sat down behind the desk he said, "I ran into Brie."
Giles rolled his eyes, and Starbuck laughed. "Yeah, she's not a big fan of yours, either."
"That won't lose me any sleep," Giles said, with one of those odd Libran pronoun things that Starbuck had never really noticed until Bojay made language so important to him.
"I didn't think it would. But it did make me wonder," Starbuck said, resisting the linguistic bait. "Do you resent them?"
"Who?" Giles looked sideways at him.
"You know who."
Giles snorted. "Galactica Academy Class of This Yahren?" He shrugged. "Yeah. Well, some of them. The ones like Dietra, that were part of the service before, just not Viper pilots, they're okay. I've got nothing against them. But the others – Brie, or Serina – yeah. Swanning into a lieutenancy when they hadn't even been out of school as long as some had been in service, and all for propriety ... But that's a rant you don't really want to hear."
There was a lot to react to, and Starbuck surprised to hear what he actually said. "Rant? You have a rant?"
"Several... They're very useful. You don't have to think about what you're going to say, and," he grinned, "someone might hear one twice, but nobody invites one more than that, once they've figured out what brings one on."
"I've never heard them."
"You don't ask for them. You're hardly sire-class. I mean, Apollo hasn't exactly hurt your career, but he didn't make it for you. Unlike some."
"Apollo didn't make them lieutenants," Starbuck was almost surprised at how quickly he jumped to the other man's defense. "He didn't have anything to do with that decision."
"Maybe not, but those that did had him in mind. They had their ideas about what rank the Strike Captain, who just happened to be Sire Adama's only surviving son,'s betrothed ought to be. And just a hint: non-commissioned wasn't going to be it."
"And once she got it they all had to, because it would have been kind of blatant othewise."
"That never occurred to me."
"Of course not. That's why you don't get the rants." Giles shrugged. "So. They're all lieutenants? Screw them. And ‘respect the rank pin, not the person wearing it'? It's pretty hard to find any respect for them, and so it devalues the whole system." He stopped abruptly. "But you don't want to hear the whole rant."
"I never did. Hear it, I mean. Any of them."
"Well, no. You don't ask for it. And the others don't fit."
"What are the others?" he asked curiously.
"Sire-class." Giles shrugged. "You know. Like I said. And Capricans. Which you are, but –"
"Not? I thought you were."
"So did I. Until this morning."
"Huh. So what are you?"
"Arian. I don't think I even know any Arians."
"No. Not many in the First Fleet – case in point – and not many in the Fleet now."
"So what does that do to your theory?"
"Nothing, I hope. I mean, I hope the theory was mortally wounded at Cimtar, just taking a long time to die, you know?"
Starbuck did. Like a lot things, the class system was something the Fleet didn't need to perpetuate. But he wasn't overly hopeful – or any hopeful, really. He paused, and then said, "I haven't told anyone yet. I was actually not planning to." He shook his head. "I guess I should."
"Up to you..." Giles shrugged. "It's not like it'll take you out of line for commander or anything."
Starbuck had to laugh. "I don't think I'm exactly in line for that now."
Giles grinned. "Maybe not." He sobered. "Probably no one is."
"I hope not. We need him in charge."
"Rank pin, not the man?"
"Times have changed, you were just pointing out, weren't you?"
"I suppose so." Giles shrugged. "Maybe... Anyway, also: the infantry."
"Oh, gods. That one I have heard."
"You think you have."
"I have. I've been on patrols with you."
"You haven't really," Giles said. "I have much more than you've ever heard."
"Really?" He raised his eyebrows. "So why, if the infantry really is so much better, why'd you leave?"
Giles paused long enough that Starbuck almost regretted asking. "The promotion, mainly."
Starbuck really wanted to ask what else, but he knew when he'd gotten too close to a line. So instead he just said, "Good to know you don't mind promotions."
"Nobody's actually against them, are they?"
"Well, I admit I was wondering... I mean, Bean used to be a sergeant and he used to say –" He didn't get to finish.
"Sure, they offered him a commission, and he took it, ‘cause the way things are now who wouldn't? But Bean went to a school with a name, not a number, and actually finished, and even went on to a collegium. Maybe not a great one, but he can write letters after his name if he wants, and maybe they're the most common ones, but he can. I didn't even finish secondary school."
"Seriously?" Starbuck was genuinely surprised.
Giles shrugged, answering a bit obliquely. "I enlisted at sixteen."
"Seriously?" he repeated. "I'm not sure I was capable of making decisions that young."
"You could have if you'd had to. You chose the academy, didn't you?" Giles leaned back, his brown eyes a little narrowed. "Say – what's with the interrogation, anyway? Something I should be worried about?"
"Lords, no. I didn't mean it to come off as an interrogation." Starbuck was genuninely upset. And especially so since he really wasn't part of the decision-making process in the Fleet. "It's just that recently I realized that I spend a lot more time talking than listening."
Giles laughed. "That's true enough. So you're going to have long conversations with everyone now?"
"Maybe. But if everybody thinks I'm interrogating them, it won't work out very well for me, will it?"
"No, it won't. Not everybody is as patient as I am. Some of them might deck you. What?"
"Sorry ... just picturing you as ‘patient'," Starbuck said through laughter.
"Hey, I can be patient. 90% of the service is waiting for something to happen. And anyway, they taught me in basic that punching officers is counter-indicated."
"I would hope so. I do hope so." He sat up straight. "So, cards?"
"It's either that or gossip about the medical staff."
If he could have been sure he'd hear about Tara or somebody he didn't know, he might have gone for that. But it was likely to be about Cass, and for some reason, despite the way she'd gone for him that morning – and the last few sectares, for that matter – he didn't feel like talking about her. So he pulled out his old deck. "Two-handed pyramid?"
"Sounds good." Giles moved his chair over.
They played for a sectare or so and then Giles got up to do a walkthrough as the last remnants of Yellow and Silver Spar headed onto duty. Starbuck didn't expect to see many of Blue or Green back for a while since no one had time to go off the battlestar, and in fact it was a couple of sectares before any did show up, except Robin, who stuck her head to say goodnight before heading off to bed. By half past midnight, most of them were back – half of Green, all but two of Blue's seven. All but Bojay. And Boomer.
Who was (like Bojay) supposed to be in quarters, technically, but nobody had enforced that rule for a yahren and Starbuck, who'd benefitted more than most, wasn't going to be the first. Boomer was still on board – he'd better be anyway; he was probably either with Tara, being some of that gossip Giles had offered up earlier, or with Apollo. Talking about Starbuck. Maybe he should have accepted the gossip offer... Nah. Not after Jolly. It wouldn't have been smart.
The rest of Green trickled in slowly in twos and threes. The last couple came in at one, in a pretty good mood, followed by Aidan, their squadron leader. He was soberer than they were – not a great feat, actually – and gave Starbuck a pleasant enough nod. He took the chance and said, "Did you see Lt Bojay, sir?"
"I did. I hope not to again tonight."
That didn't sound personal so Starbuck ventured to ask why.
"Because when I ran across him he was sitting in the Club with a bottle he pretty obviously intended to kill."
Dammit, Bo, Starbuck thought.
Aidan was still talking. "In fact, he was already pretty well hammered. I took him up on it and he asked me what business it was of mine. I just pointed out Tigh's apt to shut the bar if we make a habit of being drunk instead of drinking, so he shrugged and left, but he took the bottle. Don't know where he is now; with luck he went to get a room and will show up sober tomorrow afternoon."
"Yeah, okay. Thanks."
The redheaded lieutenant shrugged. "Have a good night. A quiet night."
Dammit, Bo, he thought again. Maybe I don't have to talk about mutiny, but we are going to talk about drink. Later, he added and had to laugh. Giles raised an eyebrow over his cards. "A quiet night is funny?"
Starbuck just shook his head and asked how many cards the other man wanted. Things were quiet now, and they'd stay that way until Red and Gold got up and started their day. They played a few more hands in a desultory manner until Giles dropped his losing cards on the table as Starbuck revealed his capstone and shook his head with the snap that was meant to wake him up. He blinked and stood up, stretched, and said, "I'm going on a walkthrough. Maybe it'll wake me up," he said. "Some of us have to stay up," he added as he made for the door. "Dead of night like this..."
"Take your time – grab a snack if you want," Starbuck said.
"I think I will."
Starbuck grinned and then laid out a solitaire hand to kill the time and thought about the phrase. Dead of night... It had always struck Starbuck odd that the battlestar ran on a regular day; almost nobody was up and around at this time, only the duty shifts on the bridge and down in the wing, a few techs sitting around watching life support and engines. Ops actually ran a permanent night shift, staffed by volunteers. There was sense to that, he supposed – hell, a lot of people had a hard time with the constantly shifting schedule the wing used. The older you got, the harder it got ... somebody might want to look into that. Assuming of course that nobody already was.
He yawned deeply and blinked at the layout on the desktop, looking forward to a nap when the sergeant got back. He was just laying a bridge between four roads, after which winning was almost though not quite a sure thing when he heard it, echoing through the hall, a sound to waken nightmares. A blaster shot.
Since Giles was out prowling, technically Starbuck should have stayed right where he was and started calling people. But he was out the door and halfway down the hall before that occurred to him. Only the one shot, he thought, that was good. No. It wasn't good, it was just better than a firefight. Better could be very bad... Why me? Who? What exactly? Dear gods, who?
A few pilots were standing near the weapons locker, half dressed at most, only one with his blaster in his hand – Keshon, one of Orange's flight corporals, who was, bizarrely, to Starbuck anyway, actually in the barracks early on his break – and him not any more eager to go inside than the rest. They were all visibly relieved to see Starbuck come pelting up, but the darkened entry to the locker room pulled their eyes away from him almost at once.
He took a deep breath. So much for the quiet night. He was pretty sure he wasn't going to need his blaster but he didn't holster it, just in case. "Stay out here," he issued the most unnecessary order he'd ever given.
He didn't know what he expected to see (actually he did) but he knew what he hoped: nothing except a blaster-scarred storage locker and a space vacated by an embarrassed pilot who'd lost his temper. But the room wasn't empty. The pilot hadn't left. Or rather, had left in the most profound way.
He holstered his unneeded blaster and approached the body, unsure who he was looking at, afraid to find out, unable to resist.
"Starbuck?" That was Keshon, probably hoping he didn't have to shoot at anybody."What... what is it?"
"Hold on a centon." He was amazed at how steady his voice sounded.
A slender body in Starfighter tan. Male. Fair-haired. Each detail narrowed it down, eliminated names, made it easier to take – relief which somehow made it harder to take.... Gods, the smell. That unmistakable smell of seared flesh and hair. He shoved memories aside and knelt by the body, shaken. The half of the face turned up was unrecognizable. This was going to come back of a night... He swallowed and reached out to touch the jaw on the other side and turn the face towards him.
Oh, gods. Starbuck remembered the last time he'd seen Glyn, earlier that day, standing alone with his arms wrapped around his chest, looking at nobody. How quickly he'd forgotten, moved on to his own concerns. And how many times in the last sectares had he told himself he didn't care about the old Pegasans, whether they adapted or went away ... it was all one to him? He hadn't meant this. He'd never meant ...and that was the problem, wasn't it? He hadn't meant anything. He hadn't thought anything.
He looked behind him. Several pilots had come closer, peering in the door. Instinctively he shifted slightly, hiding the worst visual. Nothing could hide the smell, though, or the utterly and unmistakeably dead body.
"My gods. Is that –" Rustam's voice was raw enough to make Starbuck flinch. The Pegasan, in Red, was on duty in a few hours, and he'd clearly been sound asleep; he was wearing only a pair of uniform pants, his dark hair hanging in his eyes.
There wasn't any point in lying. And there had to be a lot of pilots back there whose minds would be set at ease, too. "It's Glyn."
At the back of the group voices picked up and people began dispersing, but Starbuck was fully occupied with Rustam, who closed the distance between them in a couple of quick strides and stood there for a centon, just staring. Lu shouldered his way through the growing crowd and stood beside his ex-squadron mate. For a moment Starbuck wished they'd known Rustam had been a squadron leader before; Apollo would most likely not have put him in a squadron with Nokio and on the same shift as two others. But in the next micron he was glad they hadn't known. Rustam dropped to his knees, reaching for Glyn's body, his face twisted with raw emotion. Starbuck leaned across, getting in his way, and met a pair of velvet-brown eyes filled with grief, and rage, and guilt.
"You can't move him," he said as gently as he could. "He has to stay here until..." He couldn't finish, couldn't find the right words, but he didn't have to.
"Damn you," Rustam said, but he didn't follow through. Instead he leaned over Glyn's body, tears spilling over, one hand resting on Glyn's shoulder. Lu crouched beside him, his arm wrapped around Rustam's shoulders, his pale face stricken.
Starbuck knelt there a moment more, and then turned to look at the people crowding behind him. "Come on, dammit, people," he said. "A little room here. A little decency. Somebody's dead."
They backed up, the few who'd been angling for a look, abashed. Behind them, others stood irresolutely. Nobody was exactly sure what to do. Why Nokio and Tyr weren't here, or any of the others – damn.
Another pair of footsteps interrupted his thoughts. But this time it was Giles, back from his walkthrough. He wasn't registering any emotion, just a bit of quick breathing that could have been from running. Or not – his voice was a bit sharp when he said, "Gods. Did you call the captain yet?"
"No." Frack. He hadn't even thought that far into the problem.
Giles shook his head, a trace of impatience crossing his face. "I'll do it. And the bridge." He cut his eyes at Rustam and Lu and looked back a bit more understandingly. "You keep this under control." He started to turn.
"Giles." Starbuck reached up and grabbed his jacket, pulling him down to eye level. "You have to do something, you have to do it now, and then you have to forget you ever did it."
The sergeant looked at him, brown eyes gone cold and his expression still and shuttered.
"You have to find Bojay – No, I know where he is. Go to Rejuv Center 6," Starbuck almost paused but he didn't have time; this had to be done, he couldn't let Rustam be here and not Boj. "There's a closet in the back, where they keep rounders equipment. He'll be there. Tell him what happened. Then go for the captain, so you have to be fast, Giles. You have to be fast."
Giles was still and silent for a couple of microns, no more, and then he was up and running, his boots echoing through the still-stunned silence. Starbuck watched him, hoping he was fast enough. Not that he intended to let the sergeant take the fall if he wasn't. It was an impossible run, really, though if anybody could do it, Giles could, he was always first in those ‘comms are out' drills where you were running messages. He was fast, if anyone could he could; but if Tigh – or worse, Apollo – showed up before they were called, well, Starbuck would have to be sorry he'd been so shaken up he hadn't remembered to give all the right orders... Probably he ought to be more shaken up than he was, but it would come later.
He should be calling people. Apollo, the bridge, Tigh, the Med Center, Caspar. Sheba. Instead he was kneeling here, watching two men he'd thought about only to dislike – he wasn't even sure he'd ever actually given Lu a centon's consideration as an individual, come to that – grieve over a third, one whose pain he'd actually noticed and then dismissed. And putting off doing anything he should be doing until Bojay got here. He couldn't even call anybody else who might care because if he started calling people, they'd wonder why he hadn't called the ones he should have.
And somebody might get there before Bojay. And that was still the most important thing. Even now, with a dead man under his hand and two bereaved ones close enough to touch ... There is something seriously wrong with you, Starbuck, he thought. He flexed his fingers, feeling the material under them. Seriously wrong.
He'd lost track of time. He seemed to have been kneeling on that floor, with the body and the smell and the sound of Rustam's guilty, angry sorrow, for ever, yet he was startled when he heard footsteps approaching. These he knew, these he'd know anywhere, any time. He didn't need to hear the "Fy nwiau" to know.
He rose and turned to meet Bojay as he pushed in through crowd, but Bojay pushed right past him, ambrosia-colored eyes dark and looking beyond him, to drop to his knees in the place Starbuck had vacated. Remembering the last time Rustam and Bojay had confronted each other – was it just yesterday? – Starbuck was almost surprised that sparks didn't fly. But only almost; he'd seen shared grief reunite feuding ex-friends before. It was one reason he'd been nervous about sending for Boj, though he'd known he had no other choice.
He didn't have much time to dwell on it, though. People kept, he guessed, waking up and trying to see what was happening. So he had to keep telling people to stay back, have some respect, especially after he let Nokio through. Fortunately for that problem, Apollo wasn't far behind. He halted just inside the door and took a deep breath, his eyes becoming bleak; clearly, he'd at least hoped Giles had somehow got it wrong.
"Couldn't you keep them out?" he asked, glancing at the living ex-Pegasans huddled beside the body.
"Honestly, I didn't even try."
Apollo paused, and then nodded. "That was probably a smart idea." Somebody crowded a little too closely and he turned and barked, "Get back. In fact, everybody to the barracks. This isn't a spectacle or an entertainment. Red and Gold, you're on duty in less than three centares. You'd better be rested enough. And the rest of you? There's no reason to be standing here like you bought ducats to a show."
The crowd melted away pretty quickly. Apollo watched them go and then turned back to Starbuck. "Sergeant Giles was to call Tigh, and the Life Center. They should be here soon."
Starbuck wasn't sure if there was a question in that, but he answered it anyway, protecting Giles. "He was on a walkthrough when it happened. I sent him to call you as soon as he got here. I didn't feel I could leave, maybe –"
"No, probably not," Apollo. "I think you handled it well. It's not like this was in the manual."
Starbuck shrugged. "I could have practiced it a thousand times and not been ready."
Apollo looked at him, really, for the first time since he'd been there, those green eyes focusing suddenly. Starbuck had the feeling that wasn't good, that he should say something flippant in a hurry, but he couldn't think of anything and then the moment was gone. "You okay?" Apollo asked.
"Yes, I'm fine."
Apollo nodded but didn't look terribly convinced. He was letting it go though; there was too much else on his plate at the moment. Instead he asked, "I suppose there's no doubt it is ..." he lowered his voice even more, "well, no doubt?"
Starbuck shook his head. "Not that I'm an investigator or anything, but no. It seemed pretty clear to me."
"Investigator..." Apollo's voice trailed off. "Do you think we should call Security?"
He didn't want to, that was clear. But if he was looking for someone to convince him he should he was looking at the wrong person. Starbuck yielded to no one in his distrust and distaste for security in any form, council or fleet it didn't matter. "Why? What in the worlds could they accomplish but make everybody angry?"
Apollo nodded a bit wryly.
"It was pretty clear to me," Starbuck repeated. "There didn't seem to be any question about it."
"I believe you." He looked around. "I think you'd better get back to the offices, Starbuck. Someone should be there. In case."
Starbuck hesitated. Half of him wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else, but the other half wanted to stay, in case Bojay – or Apollo or anybody, really, needed him. But he could tell Apollo didn't, and Bojay? He was afraid, actually, he realized, that Bojay wouldn't even notice him, and it wasn't the place to try to wrest him away from Rustam and the others... The place, nor the time. This had to have hit him even harder ... "Yeah, okay," he said.
The rest of the shift was something of a blur.
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