He and Giles sat in the office, avoiding each other’s eyes and not talking. Not talking to each other, that was: over the next few centares they had to tell the story of the watch’s events, and not just once, either. Apollo, as terse and grim as Starbuck had ever seen him – at least since Cimtar – demanded an equally terse briefing before the morning shift change; he’d have to report at the morning meeting, Starbuck realized.
That was the first time. Starbuck had started, stumbling a little in places and reaching for dry, plain words, words to leech the event of its meaning. He avoided anything that would have recalled the sensory memories; he said nothing about the smell of the burnt flesh, the sight of the ruined face, the sound of Rustam’s wracking grief, the feel of Glyn’s body under his hand that still seemed to cling to his fingers – all day he’d found himself rubbing his hand on his jacket or trouser leg as though they were dirty. Instead, he produced a dry as dust, utterly gray recounting, leaving out all the color. It wasn’t a story that color would improve. The only other thing he had avoided was why it had taken so long to get Apollo notified – and that proved to be easier than he’d feared. He’d realized there simply hadn’t been anything logged in anywhere – he was the one who’d have done it, if it had been – and now he could just not put times in. “And the Pegasans in the barracks came, and I let them in, I didn’t think I could keep them out. And then Sergeant Giles came back from his walk-through and I sent him to call you.”
Giles’s version was shorter even than Starbuck’s; he told it in a clipped voice taut with suppressed emotion. Anger, Starbuck thought, but maybe just because that was the emotion he most associated with the sergeant. Who knew, really, what he was feeling? He only elaborated one point. “The lieutenant ordered me to go back to the office and call you, report what had happened. I wasn’t sure if I should try to find Lieutenant Caspar, but Lieutenant Starbuck hadn’t told me to, so I didn’t. I wasn’t sure if there was a protocol, or if he hadn’t thought of it, or had and decided against it, so I didn’t. I knew you would, anyway.”
Apollo nodded. “It was better, I imagine, sergeant.”
Giles nodded, once, and finished. “That was it. You showed up, went down to the scene, and the lieutenant came back.”
“And then we waited for you. I have to admit,” Starbuck added untruthfully, “I didn’t think about calling Caspar.”
Apollo looked at him a bit sharply at that, but those lynyx eyes weren’t looking for lies, just emotional trouble. He didn’t think anything was off in the chronology, and he didn’t realize Bojay hadn’t been in the barracks… Once he’d got that settled in his mind, he wouldn’t lose it; anybody’s saying ‘it seemed like half a centare’ would be chalked up to just that – seeming. And he’d gone off to the morning meeting without speaking to them again.
That had been the first time he’d told it. It hadn’t been close to the last. Tigh had come, and Adama, and Salik. Some lieutenant from Fleet Security. Someone from the Council. Caspar. Sheba. Long before the last two the story had become as rote as a festival play, which left him able to watch them as he told it. He hadn’t expected grief from Caspar, and he didn’t see it. He saw anger and irritation and a certain amount of self-blame, all perfectly reasonable, just as it was reasonable not to see grief. But with Sheba he expected something more, and saw even less. He wasn’t sure if he was looking for more than was fair, because he wanted to get something on her, even if he would never do more with it than know it, or if he was really seeing a deficit. And after all, it wasn’t as though he had any reason to think that Sheba was close to Glyn – as far as he could tell, from what he’d see and heard, from Apollo but also what little Bojay had been willing to say about Silver Spar, and even Robin, Sheba hadn’t spent an enormous amount of off-duty time with her squadron. Perhaps she didn’t like them all.
Perhaps she didn’t like any of them, in fact. Bojay had said it, but Starbuck had known it before: you could work closely, and well, with someone without liking them. It was entirely possible that everyone Sheba had actually liked had been left behind, lost with the Pegasus and her father. The concept bothered him; he didn’t like feeling sorry for her. He supposed you could feel sorry for someone without liking them – well, of course you could. It didn’t mean you had to be willing to let them have your best friend, though.
Not that that was really under his control… or even should be, he supposed. Especially if he wasn’t going to let it go both ways, which he wasn’t.
And how self-centered are you anyway, Starbuck? he chided himself. This was not about him. Or Apollo, for that matter. Maybe it wasn’t about Sheba, for that matter; she either didn’t seem to think so or didn’t intend to let him see it. Fair enough. They both had other things to think about.
By the time someone – Boomer – told them to get lost, there were only a few centares left till shift began. Giles stretched and said he was going to fill them with sleep. “Three centares? Hardly worth it,” Starbuck said.
The sergeant shrugged. “Three is better than none; it’s enough to top you off. You should try it.”
Starbuck shook his head. “I’d be up almost half of it just trying to go off.”
“Yeah, you do have to learn how.” He looked like he was going to add something, but then he didn’t, shrugging instead.
“See you this afternoon.”
“Yeah. Good night,” Starbuck said.
Giles nodded and left, but the door stayed open long enough for Starbuck to see Robin waiting in the hall. The sergeant might not get as much sleep as he’d planned, but Starbuck doubted he’d regret it. Even if all they did was go someplace and talk. He wouldn’t have minded doing that himself, if he’d had someone around. Apollo was on duty, couldn’t be otherwise; Boomer wasn’t, but as Apollo’s wing second he’d stick around in case he was needed. And neither of had time to spare for him, not just at the moment. That pretty much did in Starbuck’s list of confidantes – well, Athena, at least once upon a time. Like a lot of other things, that was well in the past, and although it was a relationship he needed to fix, now wasn’t the right time, or way. Like Cassie – she’d probably come if he called her, but what was the point in that now?
So that left either the barracks, where he’d hope to be left alone while trying to fall asleep – and he hadn’t been kidding when he’d told Giles he didn’t have the knack for dropping off whenever he had a spare centon or ten – or the club, where he could only pray people would leave him alone while he drank, and while he could probably make that happen, drinking was pretty clearly not the right move, not with a duty shift coming up.
Which is why he ended up back in front of RC 6. Taking a deep breath, he opened the doors and made his way to the back, returning some greetings but not slowing his pace. When he got to the closet, he looked around and made sure he wasn’t being watched, and then pushed open the door and stepped inside. Our place, he remembered calling it to Bojay just a couple of days ago. He wasn’t expecting to find Bojay here now, and he didn’t, but there were traces left behind by his wingman when he’d been summoned. He knelt down and picked up the small book lying splayed on the floor, small enough he could close his hand over the whole thing. It was old, the paper yellowed and brown-edged, and the binding felt like leather. He couldn’t read it – it was in Cambrian, all the w’s and y’s and ng’s at the beginning of words – and he spent a few moments wondering how Bojay still had it before realizing it was so small it could easily be tucked into a uniform pocket. Then he wondered what it was; in his admittedly limited experience, books like this – little, leatherbound – were either romantic poetry (and this didn’t look like poetry) or religion. If he’d been reading it after Glyn had… after Glyn, religion would have made sense. Before, not so much – not surprisingly, Bo wasn’t a religious man. Starbuck looked at the book another moment, and then decided that Cambrian might not write poetry in lines. He tucked it into his own pocket and looked at the other two things.
Bojay had left so preciptously he hadn’t even capped the bottle of ambrosia. Starbuck had smelled it when he came in, and now he took a moment to wonder that no one had investigated the odor. RC6 must be the least frequented Rec Center on the battlestar, though to be fair this morning had not been the best for any of the few night shifters who might wind down before they slept instead of the other way around. Starbuck picked it up and hefted it; it was still about half full. Aidan had said Bojay was drinking hard, but unless this was a second bottle… although, frankly, drinking one on your own was too much. But if Bojay had had this much left, he’d probably not been going to finish it. Starbuck found himself staring at the remaning ambrosia while the aroma teased at him. Then he capped off the bottle and stuck it behind the pads on the middle shelf. If having a couple in the club with others around was a bad idea, having any alone was a worse – not to mention that if he was going to have any credibility telling Bo to stop drinking, at least on his own, he’d better not be doing it himself. Save it for later…
He settled down on the rounders pad Bo had left on the floor and picked up the third item. Bojay’s jacket – his jacket. They hadn’t ever discussed it – he’d mentioned it once but other things had come up and the topic had fallen by the wayside. Bojay had probably taken it partly in payback – he’d taken Bo’s after all – but since, unlike him, Bojay had known he was going away, it had to have been partly as a souvenir in the strictest sense. It still wamed Starbuck to know that, but he wasn’t that eager to bring it up because while Boj had kept his – although after Molecay that would have been out of necessity, there’d been a yahren to get rid of it – he’d gotten rid of Bojay’s a lot sooner than that. In fact, he’d left it someplace on Galsa, left it on purpose, and bought a new one at the skyyard’s quartermaster stores.
He leaned back against the wall and held the jacket close to him, breathing in the smell. Mostly just the leather smell, but a bit of Bojay as well… He didn’t want to think about it. Whatever it was. Anything at all. He closed his eyes, hoping the sight wouldn’t come back, and it didn’t. Instead, he slept.
His inernal chrono woke him up in time to report for his duty shift. He’d slept soundly, making up for the missing nap the night before, and he was relieved, and a bit grateful – and not just for the sleep. For the sound, unbroken-ness of it.
Half the reason he hadn’t wanted to go to the barracks was he’d thought he’d dream, but he hadn’t. Or – someone had told him once that everyone dreamed, that it was dreams you needed not sleep, and that scientists had proved that if people said they hadn’t dreamed they really just weren’t remembering – maybe he had dreamed but forgotten. If people did dream every night, most nights he forgot… Just as well, considering the ones he did remember, even though he didn’t remember them, most of them, very long, a few centons unless he made an effort… Of course, it would be funny, in that typically sarcastic way the universe had, if it was only his good dreams he completely forgot.
He shook himself as the turbo stopped on the Wing’s floor. Congratulating himself because his mind had decided not to bring Glyn’s dead face into his dreams was a bit on the self-centered side, but he couldn’t help it. He was glad, and, really, who wouldn’t be? Reform thyself, Starbuck, but don’t go overboard with it.
He looked around the ready room for Bojay but didn’t see him, nor any Pegasan, for that matter, though between them Red and Gold had four. He pushed that away for the moment, he’d find out soon enough where they all were, and ducked down the corridor to the barracks to put the jacket back into Bojay’s locker. His other jacket, the hand-me-down he’d gotten on the Galactica was still there. Hopefully, wherever they were it was someplace that wasn’t cold enough to make your bones ache.
He slid into a seat in the back row next to Raimi and Opal, who gave him a somber but welcoming nod while Raimi, beside him, patted his knee and asked if he was okay. He shrugged, but he didn’t have time to say anything before Apollo came in.
“You all know what happened,” Apollo began. “It won’t improve with gossip, so I’d prefer it if you didn’t, but does anyone have any questions? Or want to talk to a professional? They’re a bit busy at the moment, but you can make appointments for tomorrow if you do. Anything you want to ask me?”
Nobody took him up on that.
“We’re five down,” Apollo said matter of factly. “Extra hours for the rest of you, I’m sorry.” He handed out the assignments briskly, ending with “Starbuck, you and Giles are doing inventory in the maintenance bay, but stick around for a moment. That’s all, gentlemen and ladies.”
Giles decided to interpret that as a singular imperative and ducked outside. Starbuck was just as pleased to hear it, since he had several things he now wanted to say to the strike captain. “Five down?” he demanded as soon as the door shut. “How can we be five down?”
Apollo looked at him in surprise. “Jolly and Greenbean are on long patrol, remember? That actually makes us worse off than any other shift. You, Giles, and Bojay are all due for counseling. He’s there now – you two are scheduled to go later, after regular hours – nineteen and nineteen fifty.”
“Counseling?” Starbuck was thrown off track by that. “I don’t –”
“Want to go, of course not, you never do. But you will.”
“I don’t need counseling,” Starbuck protested. “It’s a waste of time.”
“If that’s true, they’ll send you off, like they have before.” Apollo paused, and Starbuck didn’t wait to hear what he was going to say next.
“What’s the point? I don’t need to talk anybody about this before I’m fit for duty. Are you going?”
“Yes,” Apollo said simply.
“Oh. Well, that makes no sense.”
Apollo blew out an annoyed breath. “One of my pilots just killed himself. It’s not unreasonable to presume it will bother me.”
“You didn’t do it.”
“I didn’t notice it, either.”
“No more did I,” Starbuck heard himself admitting.
Apollo looked at him appraisingly. “You shouldn’t have. He wasn’t in your squadron. Hells, he wasn’t even on your shift. Why should you have?”
Starbuck shrugged. “It wasn’t your idea to split them up,” he answered obliquely.
“You want part of the blame? That’s fair,” Apollo said, addressing the words and not the avoided issue. “Part of it’s yours, more than likely. But only part. You can’t shoulder it all, that won’t do anybody any good.”
“Nothing will do Glyn any good,” Starbuck said.
“No,” Apollo agreed somberly. “But that’s not the point, really –” He broke off. “I can’t do this today, Starbuck. I don’t have the time. This conversation is over.” He held up a hand to cut Starbuck’s response off. “I really don’t care whether you go or not, but if you don’t, don’t come back here. You can’t fly till they check you off, and that’s it.”
Starbuck opened his mouth but Apollo didn’t give him the chance to say anything. He was suddenly very much the strike captain. “You’re not flying today, either of you. And I know what you’re going to say, so don’t bother. The regulations are clear. You have to be cleared. End of discussion.”
“End. Of. Discussion. The two of you go do inventory, and report to the counselor’s offices at 18. That’ll give ‘em time to deal with the others. At least I don’t have to stand down a whole squadron…” He looked briefly like he wished that hadn’t come out aloud but didn’t add to it. “Go. I have a lot to do today; I don’t need you being obstreporous. Please,” he added, just as suddenly plain Apollo again, and Starbuck caved.
"All right," he said. "I'll go. There's no point, but it won't hurt."
“Thank you,” Apollo said, and was already buried in his files by the Starbuck got to the door. So he was able to take a long look, and to ask,
“Are you eating?”
Apollo looked up, but although there was annoyance in his eyes when he did, it faded quickly, and with it the sarcastic comment Starbuck could almost hear and had in fact expected. He held Starbuck’s gaze for a moment. “If you mean did I have breakfast, no. Too busy.” That was wry. “But if you mean just in general, then yes, Starbuck, I’m eating. I have to feed Boxey every day; that helps.”
“Well, good.” Starbuck hesitated. Once he would have pursued it, probably ended up with a dinner invitation. Now, he couldn’t do the one and he doubted the other was ever going to be on offer again. Before the pause became awkwkard he shrugged. “All right, then; I’m off.”
“Go to counseling.”
Starbuck shook his head, pointlessly since Apollo was already looking back down at his files, and left. Giles was waiting outside, leaning against the wall, one knee raised and boot sole against the panel. He straightened and raised an eyebrow. “We still on for inventory?”
“Yes,” Starbuck answered, heading for the lift.
The sergeant fell in beside him. “You do have to wonder at the lack of imagination our leaders have. Can’t they come up with something that’s not quite so obviously busy work? I mean, how many times can we count things, anyway?”
“You didn’t do that in the infantry?” Starbuck couldn’t imagine the service without busy work, and for other ranks it had to be worse.
“Nah. The infantry likes things a bit more … tactile? With more obvious results, anyway, something the brass can see when they look out a window or take a drive around a base. Painting rocks, that’s the infantry’s style.” He paused. “Was.”
“There’s a shortage of things to paint on a battlestar,” Starbuck said. “And I think the techs get to do it all, if ‘get’ is the right word. But it’s not the most annoying. Afterwards, guess what?”
“Counseling,” Giles said as though it were the most natural thing in the world.
“You guessed it.” He must have sounded surprised, because the sergeant shrugged and explained,
“It’s the way the service works. Traumatic or life-changing events, they always send you to counseling, and it doesn’t get much more of either than suicide.”
“You don’t sound put out. In fact,” he realized, “you sound bored.”
“Counseling does bore me. I suppose it helps some people but mostly service counselors just want to make sure you haven’t gone too far round the bend to be able to keep fighting. Especially ours now, I think – they’ve got to be overworked trying to handle the whole fleet with a battlestar’s staff. Plus, they’re gonna have their hands full with people like Rustam and Tyr and – ”
Giles broke off, but Starbuck wasn’t sure if that was because he’d thought better of what he was getting ready to say or because they’d arrived at the maintenance bay. Whichever it was, the silence suited him. He returned the tech sergeant’s greeting and accepted the inventory sheets. They were half filled in from the last detail, which Starbuck took as a sign that he needn’t spend too much effort on this afternoon’s work. As they left the office he flipped through the sheets and decided to head for the furthest part of the bay, out of sight unless someone needed something stored down there. He found the spot on the list and started. “What’s first?”
Giles dropped to his heels in front of the lower shelf and read the first stock number. “JG-425567-K2. 12 of them.”
Starbuck nodded, found the item in the list, and checked it off.
They were halfway up the first set of shelves when Giles added to his readout, so abruptly Starbuck almost couldn’t make sense of what he was saying, until he remembered the night before. “PG-989821-J0. 7. I transferred because I became … disturbed about how much I liked it.”
Starbuck’s mind raced while he bought himself a moment by repeating the number wrong. That was … uncalled for, but in the best way. It wasn’t the kind of thing you told a casual acquaintance. It was the kind of thing you told a friend, a real friend. What he wasn’t to Giles. At least he didn’t think he was. Maybe… no. Not yet. That’s what this was: friendship on offer. And if he didn’t respond in the right way, then … well, it would go back to how it had been, Giles an NCO it was good to have duty with, nothin more. And after everything he’d asked the sergeant to do, everything he’d done, that wasn’t on. You didn’t ask somebody to risk their career, especially over someone they didn’t like, you didn’t let them do it, without … well, Cassie was right: people needed to hear it. And he had to answer fast, and not just platitudes, either. “Eight two one. Combat?” he asked, then corrected himself. “I mean, the – the what, the immediacy of it?” Because it was ridiculous to imply Giles had a problem with killing Cylons…
“Yeah.” Giles shrugged. “I don’t mind killing tincans, but … bodies. You don’t see bodies in Starfighter Command, you know? Not really. In the infantry you see bodies all over the place, guys who didn’t make it back except you went and got them. If you were lucky – if we won, I mean. If we didn’t fall back and leave them… I don’t like bodies, and I really don’t like it when they’re some guy who took his own head off and you maybe …” He stopped abruptly and then said, “But I did like the fighting. I did like that.”
Starbuck thought about saying, you still do, but he didn’t. A bare-knuckle punch-up with stevedores who’d had too much ambrosia was a long way from a ground action that left bodies all over the place. He’d never really thought about it, but Starfighter Command’s war was, though deadly enough, pretty clean. That way, anyhow. “Yeah,” he said, inadequately. “I don’t like bodies either.”
“Nobody does, probably. Nobody sane. But it dawned on me that I did like what was causing them. Worse, I was starting to enjoy it. And I didn’t want to be that guy, the one that loves blood and death – ”
“Well, you’re not. You’re not that guy.” Starbuck could say that with authority.
“No,” Giles agreed. “But I didn’t want to be within shouting distance of him. Hells, I didn’t even want to be in the same postal delivery zone as him. Do you guys have postal delivery zones on Caprica?”
“Yes, we – ” he caught the verb before it escaped and hauled it back to change its tense – “had them.” He shook his head and looked down at the list. The conversation had still been punctuated by Giles reporting quantities, all of which had matched his list, but now when the sergeant said “AX-435667-Y2, 17,” that broke the rhythm. “Of course we – wait, what? 17?”
“There should be 24.”
Giles shook his head and recounted quickly. “Nope. 17. Glad I didn’t sign for them last time.”
Starbuck carefully annotated the list. “Me, too. Of course I guess they might have used them legitimately.”
“Without noting it? What are they, anyway? Nothing explosive, I hope?”
“I really doubt they'd store explosives out here,” he said. “They're retaining bolts.”
“Oh,” Giles lost interest. “Shouldn't break anybody, then. Though I doubt the captain’ll be very pleased.” He looked up. “Was it one of us?”
Starbuck had already flipped to the signing page. “Nope, don't think so. Balder? Isn't he a maintenance officer?”
“Oh, him. Yeah. Too bad it wasn't something more expensive.”
“It's not important. He's just a garden-variety jerk.”
Starbuck took a chance. “Like Rohan?”
“Lords, he's not half as bad as that snitrat.”
Starbuck realized he might need to tell Apollo about his very unpopular pilots. On the other hand, Apollo might already know. Well, couldn't hurt.
“Anyway, he's not in the Wing, so –” Giles made a somewhat rude dismissive gesture. Starbuck had noticed that before, with a lot of people; the service provided an alternative to tribal structure – he didn't think Balder was Libran, but for the sergeant it was 'not in the wing' that counted. It probably made more sense – look at how he'd felt kicked to find out he wasn't Caprican, but he could still say he was a lot of things, and people like Boomer meant more to him than, say, Tinia. Although maybe since he was Arian, all those Capricans he did like were just proof that tribal loyalties came second for him. He hadn't decided he needed to find others from Chameleon’s homeworld. And Bojay's being Piscon had never been a problem. Well, his not being Caprican – there were some definite problems with some things about Pisco.
He realized he'd sort of zoned out briefly, wondering who among his friends would find his being Arian problematic. Probably pretty much the same ones who were finding his love life problematic... Although maybe not. Apollo had never let somebody’s tribe carry much weight... He reined his straying mind back in and looked down to find Giles watching him with some concern.
“You okay, Starbuck?”
He produced a smile and nodded. “Yes. Not that last night was nothing, but,” he shrugged, “I was actually thinking about something else.”
Giles nodded, hesitated, and then said, “I bet. Anyway, you hungry?”
Starbuck checked his wristchrono. Almost 1550, he was surprised to see. “I could eat, yes,” he nodded.
They went to the pilots' mess, which was almost empty, and made a mostly silent meal out of the sandwiches that were what was available between the main shift mealtimes. Since Apollo had told them to be in the medcenter at 1800, they'd miss that meal like they'd missed the noontime one, which had been their own fault. Starbuck found himself annoyed at that reporting time. Yes, if the counselors finished with their real patients early, it would be good to already be there, but what were the odds on that? Some of the Pegasans were going to need a lot of work, he feared. He finished the ale he'd ordered, since after all he wasn't going to be flying today (not that Giles had complained; he'd ordered one himself), and leaned back in his seat, contemplating ordering another. He probably would have if he'd been by himself, but though Giles might well have gone along with it, and they might, all things considered, have gotten away with it, he reluctantly decided not to ask the sergeant to run another risk. “We'd better head back,” he said after a moment.
Giles nodded and drained his mug, then popped the last bit of his sandwich into his mouth and stood up.
“Let's take the long way,” Starbuck suggested. He picked up the inventory list. “I'm not dying to get back to this,” he said and then shook his head. “Sorry, bad choice of words.”
Giles shrugged. “Not to worry.” They walked in silence until they found themselves in an empty corridor, and then the sergeant spoke again. “Look.” He paused. “Can I give you some advice?”
“Yeah, sure you can.” Starbuck said, and then out of force of habit added, “as long as you don’t mind if I don’t take it.”
“I won’t.” But then he was quiet for too long.
“Look, Gi, I didn’t mean … you can give me advice.”
Giles heaved a sigh. “Yeah, okay. Look.” He paused again, but spoke before Starbuck did this time. “You’ll make yourself crazy, you know, and for nothing.”
“What do you mean, for nothing?”
Giles shrugged. “Not for free - pointlessly. To no purpose. For no good reason—”
“I know what it means,” Starbuck said. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh.” Giles paused, getting his thoughts together. “Okay, the way I see it, you’re torturing yourself wondering what would have happened if you and Apollo had still been sleeping togther when we found the Pegasus—”
“What makes you think—” Starbuck broke off his protest under the force of a raised eyebrow and an ironic look. He sighed. “How’d you know?”
“C’mon, Starbuck: you should know that very little gets past a sergeant, and almost nothing gets past all of us.”
“And you share?”
“If it concerns the strike captain, what do you think?”
“You share.” Starbuck shook his head. “Did everybody know?”
“No, not everybody. Hardly anybody. But that’s not the point.”
“No. Like I said, you’re wondering what you’d have done about Bojay if you’d still been with Apollo. But that’s crazy. Why pick that question? Why not ask what you’d have done when Apollo got here if Bojay hadn’t been transferred. Or what you’d have done if Apollo had dropped you for Serina. Or if you’d been transferred instead. Or if you’d never been sent here in the first place. Or...” He let that trail off into a shrug.
“Or if I’d died?”
Giles shrugged again. “Or one of them had. The point is, you know, shto bylo, to proshlo, what was is past. That’s why they call it the “past”. ‘Cause it did. Pass. Proshloe. Gone by. Done.”
“I get it.”
“Do you? ‘Cause you don’t act like it. The past is gone. But every decision you’ve made, everything you’ve done, everything anyone else has done: they’ve all made you what you are, who you are, where you are. Anything done different, and not just by you, and you’d be different.”
Starbuck thought about that for a moment. “So you’re saying... I’d have to be different?”
Giles had been briefly distracted by an old data disc on the floor; he picked it up and then, after running his fingertips along the scar marring one side, he tossed it down the corridor with a sidearm motion, watching it skip along the floor. “Seven,” he said with satisfaction. “Look, Starbuck, I’m not much for philosophizing. Nature versus nurture, pneuma and psuche, free will or predestination, the nature of choice... it’s all so much hot air. What I know is, you are who you are, and that’s the sum of your past experiences and decisions. Wasting time worrying over what you would do if you were someone else is pretty pointless, but nothing compared to the colossal waste of time obsessing over what you would have done if you had been someone else.”
They'd reached the maintenance bay by then, but neither were particulary eager to pick up on the inventory, so they were just standing back by the shelves.“I don’t know; that sounds pretty philosophical to me.”
“Well, don’t tell anyone.” Giles sounded alarmed, which was kind of funny. “Look, Starbuck, what I’m saying is, I don’t think there’s any use in your wondering what you’d have done if you’d still been with Apollo—and not just because he’d have had to make some very different decisions, making him a very different person, too. The past is a lesson, not a choice, you know? Decide you won’t make the same decision if the same circumstances come up, but you can’t decide to do it different yahrens ago.”
Starbuck had been struck by Giles’s throwaway line about Apollo having to be different but he didn’t want to show the sergeant that. Instead, he went back a couple of sentences. “When you went to the academy for flight training, you didn’t have any other classes, did you?”
“No,” Giles said as if it should have been obvious. “Tech training only, none of your gentleman’s classes. Why?”
“I was wondering if you’d heard Colonel Mora’s politics lecture.”
Giles laughed. “Politics? Other ranks don’t need to know politics. Why? What’d he say?”
“He used to say, all the time: Granted, Cadet: if things were different they wouldn’t be the same.”
“That’s a good old Libran saying, that is,” Giles nodded.
“Really? You know, somehow I find it comforting that it wasn’t original with him.”
Giles laughed, and Starbuck joined after a moment. It wasn't that it was so funny, it was that it was the first even mildly amusing thing that had happened since, since Glyn. They didn't laugh long, or loud, which was probably just as well since the tech sergeant came into the bay just then. “Lieutenant? Captain Apollo called to remind you of your appointments.”
“Thank you, sergeant,” Starbuck said, though it was still more than a centare before 18. “Here – you can have this,” he handed over the list. “And tell your officer there's a shortage at the end of where we got to.”
“Great,” the sergeant said and disappeared with the list.
“Did he think we'd forget?” Starbuck griped mildly as they headed for the turbolift.
“I expect so,” Giles said mildly. “He does know you.”
“Oh ha ha,” Starbuck rejoined without heat. The truth was he would have avoided it if he could have figured out how. Instead, he'd just have to scam his way out of the office. Shouldn't be all that hard.
In the med center they were directed to an intake room, empty except for a medtech who verified their service information before telling them to wait. Starbuck had, he realized now, hoped to see Bojay, but of course the counselors would make sure their patients had privacy. The fact that he and Giles were in the same intake room probably meant the staff agreed with them about the pro-forma nature of their sessions. He shook his head and pulled a deck of cards out of his pocket. “Two-hand to pass the time?” he offered.
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