"Crossroads" deleted scene.

A Racetrack Chronicles lacuna

Simon J. Dodd

Day 1,161.

"Galactica, Raptor 289." Racetrack pulled the Raptor around in a tight curve, letting its tail slide a little too far out before nudging the throttle to correct. The grav took a split-second to catch up, giving a satisfying sensation of acceleration as they sped past the flight-pod. You gotta make your own fun, she thought. "We're clear and positioning for rear-guard picket."

"Roger, two eight niner. Have fun watching our ass, Racetrack."

She grinned to herself. Hoshi's in a good mood. "Have fun watching Baltar's ass get nailed!" She flew toward the nearest asteroid, hauled the Raptor around through an elegant pirouette, nulled their relative velocity, and set the autopilot for station-keeping.

"Alright, get comfortable. Twelve hours and counting." Skulls leant back in his seat as she made her way back into the cabin. He arched an eyebrow sarcastically; "twelve hours hanging out here like bait on a hook."

She smiled, pulling a deck of cards from her pocket. "Just shut up and deal, okay?"

He moved to the other passenger-seat, shuffled the cards, and started dealing onto the ECO's chair. "What's the game? Pan's Ladder again?"

"Works for me."

"Alright. You're pretty chipper lately."

"Yeah?" She shrugged. "I guess. I just feel a bit… lighter? Like I got some closure on a couple of things. Having the bar's nice, too, and it's been quiet—like maybe we've finally slipped 'em."

"Nah. I've got a cubit that says they jump in right after we were supposed to be gone. 6-oh-5 tops."

"If you wanna lose money, we can play for stakes."

"C'mon, Racetrack. You really think we've lost 'em?"

"I don't know. But zero contact in, what, it's gotta be four months? Maybe we finally caught a break. Maybe."

"Maybe." He looked doubtful. "The hell are we gonna talk about for twelve hours, anyways?"

"How aboat," Racetrack bulged her eyes at him, "how obviously mama and daddy are hooking-up?"

"You what?"

"The old man and Roslin."

"No!" He rocked back and forth laughing silently. "No, no. No way."

"Can you imagine?" She giggled.

His smile vanished and he stared intently at his cards. "I'm tryin' to not."

§

"Look, you're in the wrong line of work if you can't have a hayroll and still be friends after."

"Depends." Racetrack shrugged. "Kat and Brendan were on-again off-again forever. But Lavell won't fly with Abi; he'll barely be in the same room."

"He feels, uh, how do you wanna say... Mistreated." Skulls chuckled.

"He knew what he was in for. Not like everyone didn't know her M.O."

"Everyone thought they were gonna be the one to put her in check."

"Guess Ronin won that lottery, huh?" She gathered up the cards; "my deal. I think it's been good for her. She seems more settled."

"What about you? You ever gonna do anything about Nightlight?"

"Oh, frak me..."

"I think that's the general idea, yeah."

"Shut up." She sucked her teeth. "I don't know."

He grinned at her and affected a sing-songy tone. "He's your type…"

"My 'type'? What does that mean?" She shook her head, irritated; that was not a path down which she wanted the conversation to go.

"Look, I don't think I met Speedway. Maybe I did back at Neptune, I dunno. But I've heard plenty about him. And I've known Helo for a while"—she winced—"and you go for that solid, stable, reliable type. You want a high boiling-point, you're not into flash or attitude. Couldn't be more a Raptor driver if you tried, skipper."

"I—." She clicked her tongue. "You know, I hadn't thought aboat it."

"Maybe you should. What's the sense in isolatin' yo'self? 'Specially when there's someone who wants you."

She rolled her eyes. "You can try to distract me all you like. It's not gonna change the cards in your hand, buddy."

"Ha! I'm just sayin'. I've known Gar four years, known you half that. I think it'd be a good fit." He waved a card and played it. "Just my opinion."

"It's not like he's asked and I've shot him down." She looked at the card-pile and nickered; "Prince of Swords? That's the best you got? You're screwed. I mean, what's his deal, anyway? Is he shy or something?"

"He's... Hmn." Skulls shrugged. "Aquarian."

"That's no help. I don't know anyone from Aquaria."

"Get some ambrosia in him and he opens up, but he's very cautious, very deliberate, wants every angle thought out before he does anything. And honestly, skipper? You're kind of intimidating."

"Frak off! I'm intimidating?!"

"You can do your soothing and placating routine all you like; your elbows are pretty sharp. Look, all I'm saying is—he's a nice guy. Seems happier on Galactica than he was on Pegasus. And totally into you."

"I know, Ham… I'm just… I don't know. I just don't want to deal with any of that right now."

"This after you slobbered over Helo for a year?"

"Um." She flushed slightly. "Yeah, I'm just…" She flicked her tongue through her lips and chuckled; shook her head. "I'm just over it, ya know?"

"Pretty sure you can't just turn off your libido."

Alright, that's enough. Turn it around. "Well that's got to suck for you, then. I mean, since you can't get girls."

"Hey, I do just fine, thanks. I'm a proper ladies' man."

"Ha!"

"Yeah, like you'd frakkin' know!"

"I know you wank it in your rack. 'Ladies man'!"

"See, that's called 'self-healing.'"

She shook her head. Gross. "Okay, time check."

As if on cue, the DRADIS warning erupted. No way.

"Oh, we got something." Skulls scrambled for the ECO seat, sending cards flying as Racetrack dove toward the cockpit. "Lots of company!"

"Spool it up!" She dropped into the seat looking around; this can't be happening. Where are they, I don't see—she looked up and the pit dropped out of her stomach. The nearest baseship was so close that she could almost have spat at it.

"Reading three, four… No, five baseships! Crap, they're right on top of us!"

No kidding! She caught the puff of a launch and the white trail of inbound ordnance. "Frak! Frak, incoming!"

"The FTL's still spinning up!"

"We gotta jump! Now, godsdamn it! Now!" Her left hand was frozen on the throttle. She couldn't move, her eyes locked on the fast-approaching missile. She was 24 again, helpless, crashing over Picon. Of all days to take the right seat! She pressed herself into the seat as if it could shield her. Terror gave way; it was too late. Over. They were done. She closed her eyes, and in the last seconds of her life, she didn't care. Free at last. Home at last; the cabin on Virgon, snow outside, the fire, safe and warm in his arms...

Not yet.

The jump barely registered with her. "Whew!" Skulls was elated. "That was close! You okay?"

She forced her eyes open. You frakkin' shithead; 'am I okay'?! "Yeah, just tryin' to remind myself to breathe! Yeah. Wow, okay. Are we where we're supposed to be?"

"Tally; 326 carom 115. We're here, just misaligned."

"Got it. Galactica, Racetrack! A ton of Cylons just jumped right on top of us; I don't know how they're tracking us, but they're still following, so get spooled-up RFN!" She exhaled and released XMIT. "Frak me! Can we not cut it that close next time? I may drown in my suit here!" She kept her tone sarcastic and light, but her heart had curdled, and the sweat was cold and clammy on her skin. Well, it was nice while it lasted. "Galactica, better page the CAG and have him meet us on the hangar-deck."

In a haze, she landed the plane, briefed Helo, and wandered toward the showers. The water did nothing for her. Another day, another escape. I guess the gods don't want to take me yet. She picked her way back to the duty-locker and crawled into her rack, pulling the curtain shut and curling up under the blanket. The adrenaline must have run out of her by now but she couldn't stop shaking; godsdamnit that was close.

She closed her eyes, the sun hot on her face. A warm breeze meandered off the fells that cradled Falstone's bucolic valley, and the millpond's water cooled her bare feet. Red and burnt-orange leaves crunched under her back. In the front of the car, Hank and daddy argued as she gazed out of the window; "ripped and ready," Abi leered from the left-hand seat—"you're gonna thank me. Tell me if you want me to stop." "It's gonna be okay," David said, squeezing her hand; "I promise." She practically jumped out of her skin as Boomer's sidearm went off a yard in front of her face, and Adama lurched backward. And the missile hurtled toward her, inches from the canopy.

"Mags, you awake?"

Abi. She blinked at the clock; she didn't remember dozing off, but it'd been three hours. "Hey. Yeah."

Spitfire slipped through the curtain and climbed into the rack, curling up behind her. Somewhere in Racetrack's mind, it registered that Spitfire hadn't paused even long enough to remove her flight-suit. That ought to matter more to me, but…

"Hey, Skulls said you guys had a close call. Sorry, I was on alert. You wanna talk about it?"

"No." Yes. Tell her.

"You okay?"

"Yeah." TELL HER, you moron! Tell her what? That you froze? That the reaper came for you and you welcomed it? What do you want to say? "I'm fine. They just jumped really close and got off a launch really quick. I'm just a bit shaken. It's fine."

"'Fine'? Uh huh. I'm not sold." She squeezed Racetrack's shoulder "But okay. If you're sure. Can I stay?"

Please. "Whatever."

They dozed together for an hour. Racetrack faded in and out of the cabin dream; the smell of the flight-suit's plastic and leather and an arm around her was all too familiar. Why'd you have to leave me… Why'd I let you go? I shoulda volunteered and gone with you. Sat on my ass on-deck in a SAR bird while you died in hard vacuum. Like I should of today.

She glanced at the clock and cursed softly. "Abi, I'm sorry, I've gotta go, I'm on duty."

"Mm? Hmn." Spitfire barely stirred.

Racetrack chuckled lightly and climbed over her. What did COB used to say? Falling asleep anywhere on cue's the indispensable talent for military life. She kissed her friend's head and pulled the curtain shut behind her. She reached into her locker and pulled on a pair of duty-blues, lapsing listlessly onto the deck. You're a long way from Falstone, Maggie. "A long long way," she said to no one in particular. She stared at her feet, thinking of the millpond; of David; 'I have, call it an icebreaker.' Hmn. What's the point. Can't dwell.

She walked to the CAG's office and found Helo hunting through folders.

"Hey, Racetrack. You get some rest? You okay?"

"Don't want to talk about it."

"You seem down is all."

"It's fine. I'm tired. Everyone is." She gazed at him; there had been a time she'd salivated at the thought of him; had contemplated stealing him from Athena; had fantasized about him… Vigorously. Trying to distract herself. Trying to move on. But now—nothing. That part of her soul had gone numb in the months between their retreat from New Caprica and the rescue, never really reviving.

"Hey." Helo interrupted her train of thought; "I'm asking as the CAG, not just your friend. I know it's—you have to talk to me."

"Look, I don't know. I was just feeling pretty happy, felt like I had some closure on some things." She inhaled sharply; "on my sister. And I guess this morning just shook me up. Frakkers just got closer than I should of let 'em. I got cocky. Should of had the FTL spooled. I just didn't…" She shrugged. "Won't happen again."

"No, I get it. Weeks, months without contact, it all runs together." He studied her for a moment. "Listen, don't take this the wrong way, but I need you to do some deck duty."

"You're benching me? Godsdamnit, Karl—"

"I'm not benching you!"

Liar.

"I'm just trying to juggle what I need done with what I've got. You ever do any instruction before?"

"No. Not really."

"Well, Apollo left me a roster of nuggets to bring up to speed. I need someone to walk them through some basic systems, and a Raptor seems a good place to start. And front seat and back, you've logged more hours than anyone I've got. You know these systems inside out; just walk them through it."

"Starbuck put Kat and Brendan straight in Vipers."

"Kat and Hot Dog had flight experience. These guys are starting from scratch."

She sighed. "Teach a bunch of babies to walk. Great."

"You'll do fine."

"Fine."