SAGA OF GOLD SQUADRON
Dana Bell (Dragonlots)
The fires burning below on Gomoray briefly transported me back to the night the cylons came and bombarded Umbra. Hazily I remembered my mother pushing me out the door and into the dubious safely of the forest. The night had been filled with explosions, bright flashes, and crying children. Later, when the rescuers came, they shielded us from the massive deaths, taking us out of the small village and placing us in foster homes in the city.
"Rae, you awake?" Don's voice summoned me back to the present.
"Do we land or what?" his younger brother Jason asked.
First things first. "Any sign of the Pegasus?"
"No." Stacia answered. "But that doesn't mean anything. We all know our commander."
And well we did. Since the destruction of the Fifth Fleet, he'd kept us all alive. We've been out on strike runs constantly, destroying every scrambled-headed leader the Cylon Empire tried to send in and rededicate the base.
"We're going to need fuel first." Leave it to Karl to remind us of the practical.
"We set down. Keep an eye out for a good landing spot."
One of the fuel depots exploded and part of me wondered if we'd find one intact so we could refuel.
"There, on the edge of the city." Jerik had always been our most observant. At least, when he wasn't staring at Stacia. I kept wondering when or if he was going to make his move and let her know how he felt.
With practiced skill we landed. Climbing out of the cockpit I knew I could trust Karl and Don to get our vipers refueled. I walked to the edge of the smooth field, pulling off my helmet and wishing I could free my shoulder lenght black hair. I'd adopted Sheba's habit of putting my hair up when flying.
"Cylons seem all confused," Jason, commented. He tiptoed close to one that seemed to wandering aimlessly.
"Jason!" I called in warning.
He ignored me of course. The youngest member of our squadron figured he was destined to live a very long life, though I questioned his prediction when he was always so reckless. I noticed there was a crater not far from the cylon and Jason boldly pushed the tin can over into it. A metal grinding sound reached my ears as it tumbled down.
"Yahoo!" He clapped his hands over his head and jumped up and down like a little kid.
"Suppose he'll ever grow up?" Stacia asked. She absently ran her hand over her short blonde hair. Jerik stood beside her alternately watching Jason and admiring Stacia.
"No idea," I responded. "Don, Karl!" I turned to face the other two. "How's it coming?"
"Couple more centons and we can get back in the air."
"Good." I went back to my viper checking for any damage after our brief battle with a cylon patrol. I didn't expect to find any. We're the best warriors in the fleet.
Before long we were back in the cockpits and in space. I always felt more at home there than anywhere else. Even at Apollo's. I turned my mind away from the painful memory. I didn't want to remember, but sometimes, in the darkness and isolation, you do.
I'd only been at the academy a yahren when I met him. I'd been called out of class and into the CO's office. With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach I dreaded a confrontation about Starbuck's recent illegal gambling casino on grounds. We hadn't gotten caught of course, we never did. Yet, the CO knew, as did everyone else that the seven of us had grown up together. No doubt he wanted to know what I knew about the alleged incident.
As I walked into the stark military office, I rehearsed my story carefully. We'd all been in the sims practicing. I didn't know anything about the casino. With a secret smile on my thin lips we were covered. Don had broken the computer codes and set up a fake program.
"Cadet Raelene," the older man decked out in all black and silver, matching his gray hair, addressed me. "I'd like you to meet Apollo."
I'd been expecting an interrogation and hadn't been exactly sure how to respond to the turn of events. Maybe the young warrior was some sort of decoy "Hello," I answered warily.
"Apollo comes from a long line of warriors. In fact, he's one of the finest to ever graduated the academy."
The young dark haired man with hazel eyes had the good graces to blush.
"You are aware," the CO continued, "that there is a custom at the academy to allow families to sponsor a cadet."
I'd heard about the program. Many orphans, with no family support, were often sponsored by a warrior who had taken a personal interest in their well being.
"Yes," I wasn't comfortable with the idea. My fellow orphans were all the family I needed.
"Apollo has taken a interest in your well being. Though, by the Lords of Kobol, I don't know why." The fact the CO didn't like me much was well known.
"You're at the top of your class," Apollo put in with a glare at the CO. "You have potential. I'd like to see you excel and eventually land a spot on the Galactica."
The Galactica! I could but dream! Being placed aboard that battlestar would be a coveted position! The other cadets would envy me.
"You can decline." I think the CO really wanted me to turn down a chance more precious than a full pyramid in a game. For a micron, I considered it. Yet, could I really afford to turn down such an opportunity when the Lords had been so gracious to offer it?
"Why me?" I couldn't quite believe my possible good fortune.
"I already told you and my father, Commander Adama, agrees." Apollo had risen to his booted feet. I admired the way he looked in his tan uniform with dark brown jacket. I couldn't wait until I could one day don my own. He turned to leave. "Oh, you're invited to join us for dinner tomorrow night. I'll pick you up after classes."
I hadn't yet agreed. "You're assuming I accept," I threw back. The CO glowered at me. One doesn't address an officer in the fleet with such a tone. I waited for the warrior's reaction.
"Cadet," he said with practiced patience. "If you were a warrior in my squadron,"
"I'm not," I crossed my arms over the plain brown jumpsuit.
Apollo took a deep breath. Only later did I learn he'd grown up with a younger brother and was used to dealing with attitude. "Do you agree?" He waited for my answer.
Did I? When my heart raced like a viper thruster? I was being given a chance I would not have even dared dream of! "Yes," I'd said quietly.
He'd nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow then."
I'd returned to class and later shared my good luck with my friends. They'd all wished me well and I think, were a little envious. Not that they'd hold it against me. We'd all wanted to do well.
"Got something on my scanner," Don called out.
I pushed the past aside and concentrated on our current position. "Cylons?"
"No," he sounded uncertain. "Moving too slow for that."
"Isn't that a Gemmon freighter?" Stacia sounded confused.
"And look at that bucket of rusted parts," Karl pointed out. "Old thing shouldn't even be in space."
As we flew through the fleet of ships, their number and various conditions astounded me. But at the head, and very much to my surprise, was a battlestar.
"That isn't the Pegasus." Jerik stated the obvious.
"Gold squadron to…" I saw the name then and gulped, my feelings at seeing the ship again mixed. "Galactica."
"Galactica to, did you say Gold Squadron?" I recognized Athena's voice.
"Request permission to land."
There was a brief silence. "Granted. Upon your arrival report to Commander Adama."
"Understood." I felt both excited and terrified. Adama had been both commander and a father figure to me. I had no idea what his reaction would be upon seeing me again.
We lined up for landing and gently set our vipers down. The orange clad crew descended on us and soon we found ourselves escorted by Boomer, who'd greeted me with a smile, to the bridge.
The bridge hadn't changed since I'd last been there. Rows and rows of computers with blinking lights, the commander's perch and main com unit in the center. Along the back a huge star map decorated one wall.
"Captain Raelene, Gold Squadron," I briskly reported.
Commander Adama met my green eyes and scanned over my squadron. "Welcome aboard, Captain."
"Thank you, sir."
He took a step toward us and put his hands behind his back. "And just where was your squadron while we attacked Gomoray?"
I think he remembered our squadron had a reputation of going out on unauthorized patrols. Cain didn't like it, but he'd allowed us some freedom. He liked the fact we blasted more cylons out of existence than most of the others.
"Commander, the Pegasus," I just had to know. "Where is she?"
Adama took a deep breath and I noticed for the first time the lines around his eyes. "We don't know. Cain took on two basestars during the battle."
Two! Our commander had courage. I hoped he survived the battle and would rejoin us.
"Ah, Apollo," Adama faced his first born as the Captain walked up to us. I hastily looked away. I didn't want to see him right now. "Please, assist Gold Squadron in finding quarters. When you've rested," he looked directly at me, his lips spreading in a fatherly smile. "I'd like to hear more about what happened during your time on the Pegasus."
"Yes, sir," I replied, not sure if I really wanted to share our, or rather my, experiences.
We followed Apollo off the bridge and down gray corridors. He tried to catch my eyes, but I avoided obliging. I hadn't forgotten how we'd parted company. He finally stopped trying and paused before a doorway. "Women warriors have quarters here. There aren't many aboard so there should be plenty of room. The rest of you will bunk with Blue Squadron."
He was putting my warriors with his squadron. I didn't know if I should be delighted or angry. "Thank you, Captain," I acknowledged politely.
Stacia went through the door and I started to follow.
I didn't face him, though I sensed he'd extended his hand toward me.
Walking through the door I refused to answer him and so wouldn't see the hurt I'd caused him. Served him right after what he'd done to me!
I glanced around quarters assigned to the female warriors. The room was good sized. The same ugly gray walls and sparse bunks providing a place to rest between alerts. Stacia picked an unoccupied lower bunk and slouched into it. I took the one above tossing off my jacket.
"You from the Pegasus?" a young woman who asked. She had long dirty blonde brown hair.
"Yeah," I replied.
"I'm Brie. There are others from the Pegasus here."
"Really?" I hadn't considered that possibility.
"Yes. Sheba's in the life center and the rest of Silver Spar and some others, too."
Sheba! She was an excellent warrior and I couldn't conceive of her being injured. Nor could I see Cain leaving her behind unless, I didn't want to think about that. Surely he wouldn't have taken a suicide mission.
"Lot of new warriors here now," another woman told us.
"Haven't seen you before. Did you just arrive?" Brie wanted to know.
"We were out on patrol," I answered. "Saw all the damage and headed out. Found the fleet and the Galactica."
"You Do know about the colonies."
Oh, yes. We knew. I'd cried for several days after Cain had told us. I'd thought I'd lost everyone and would never get a chance to, I stopped my line of reasoning. I really didn't want to think about it.
"Look, not to impolite, but we haven't had any sleep for over twenty-four centaurs."
"I understand." Brie pointed to a door. "Showers are there."
"Thanks," Stacia acknowledged almost running to take advantage of the luxury.
After a quick shower I snuggled underneath the blankets and feel into a deep-exhausted sleep. Not so deep I wouldn't hear the battle klaxon if it went off. Too long had I lived with the threat of cylon attack to ignore it. But I'd learned to catch rest when I could and for a rarity, I actually managed to get a full nights sleep, although my dreams were filled with turbulent memories of the past.
"So tell me," Commander Adama prompted, sitting at his desk with his fingers steepled in his familiar pattern. "Did Cain know where you were?" He waited for my answer.
"Yes, sir, he did." I stood before his desk at attention. I'd been summoned to talk to the commander after I'd had breakfast. Behind me Apollo sat on one of seats along the wall and under the portholes.
"Was your mission successful?"
"Yes, sir." We'd destroyed the cylon patrol just like we'd set out to do.
"It must have been a shock. Returning and not finding the Pegasus."
"Not unusual for Cain not to be where we left him. Have lots of practice seeking the ship out."
"Interesting." Adama lifted his finger to touch his lips. I knew he was thinking about what I'd just told him.
"You're lucky you found us," Apollo added.
"Starbuck believes in luck. I don't." I bit my lip at that mistake.
"I know he does." Apollo came to stand beside me. Adama shifted his gaze from one to the other of us like he sensed something was wrong and couldn't quite figure it out what.
"I need my captains to work together," he half warned us.
"Not a problem, sir." I took a step away from Apollo.
"I'd heard you made Strike Commander," Adama continued. "Apollo holds that rank here."
"Then I stand aside and will allow him to continue to hold that position." Not much else I could do. I just hoped the warriors of the Pegasus would allow me to do so and follow Apollo's lead.
"Rae, you're record is impressive, if unconventional." Adama looked up at me. "You're experience will be invaluable to the survival of our people."
"Thank you, sir."
"There was a time you called me father." His tone sounded almost hurt.
I felt like I'd been stabbed. I took a quick breath. "That was many yahrens ago."
He gave me one of those unreadable looks. "I see."
Enough was enough. "If you'll excuse me, Commander. I need to see to the repair and refitting of our vipers."
I bolted for the door. I hadn't counted on Apollo following me.
"Rae," he caught my arm. ""We need to talk."
"Not now." I yanked free.
"I said not now, Captain." I stalked away.
Fortunately, since I'd been assigned here before I had no problems navigating my way to the hanger bay. I found our vipers and my squadron.
"Old man tough on you?" Don asked.
"About the same. I can handle Adama."
"What about Captain Apollo?" Sometimes, Don saw more than he should.
"He was promoted before I was. He's senior on this ship."
"Not by much," another voice stated.
Startled I whirled to face the new comer as the rest of my squadron rose to their feet.
She smiled at me. "Been a long time, Rae."
"Jenn!" Forgetting proper warrior protocol, I ran and embraced her. She hugged me back.
"But we'd heard," I began.
"As did we. By the Lords, it's good to see you."
My old friend disentangled herself and I blushed. "What about the rest of your squadron?" I asked.
"We…survived. Just in from patrol. The deck crew told us about vipers with the gold markings. I hoped it was you."
"What happened to…"
"The Solaria?" Jenn sighed, her pale green eyes deeply sad. "Destroyed, as was the rest of the fleet. If I hadn't disobeyed orders, we'd be dead too. Lost two in my squadron as it was."
"You!" I was shocked. Jenn had gained the reputation as the captain who never lost a warrior. Everyone always got back home.
"You have no idea what it was like." Her expression held a bleakness I couldn't fathom.
"Maybe." I agreed. "But I'm sure my situation was similar."
"No doubt." She weak smile held a deep sadness. "We can talk later. Right now," she waved at a warrior obviously waiting for her. "I have to make my report to the commander."
"Antares still flying as your wingman?" Apollo's cousin I'd met a couple times at family dinners.
"He is. Took a hit during the last battle and ended up in Life Center. Starbuck took his place on patrol. Speaking of which," she eyed me curiously. "I don't doubt he'll be glad to see you."
The prospect of seeing another childhood friend cheered me. I really hoped I'd get to see him again - soon. Still, I wondered about something and asked another question. "Daniel and Nona still flying with you?" She'd said she'd lost two and I held my breath as she answered.
"Yes. I kept my squadron at four, even over Adama's and Apollo's objections." She reached out and placed a hand on my shoulder. "I'm taking them to dinner tonight on the Rising Star. Why don't you," she inclined her head to include my squadron, "all of you, join us?"
"Sounds good," Don agreed.
Jerik and Stacia nodded, so did Karl and Jason grinned broadly.
"We'll see you then." It would be great to catch up with her.
"Good." Jenn offered us a warm smile and walked toward the lift.
"Who is that, Rae?" Don wanted to know.
"Captain Jenn of the Hawks." I heard their low whistles. I retook my place leaning against my viper. "Adama sponsored her through the academy. She was three yahrens ahead of us. I only met her when I attended various family functions with Apollo." Part of me missed those days.
"So like you," Karl said. "She started on the Galactica and took a promotion to another Battlestar."
Better they believe that as the truth and not what actually happened. "You could say that." I straightened up. "Starbuck is around here somewhere."
Jason grinned. "Bet we'd find him in the officer's club in the middle of a game of pyramid."
"I won't take that bet." We all knew our old friend too well.
As a group we left the bay and made our way to the officers club. It was much like the one of the Pegasus. Banners on the steel walls, tables and chairs set about in an attempt to make the atmosphere relaxing. The barmen nodded to us as we came in.
"There's Starbuck!" Jason dashed over to the table where a game was in progress.
Starbuck saw us and did a double take. He rose with the warning, "Don't look at my cards." He had his usual cigar hanging off his lower lip. "On what barren asteroid did we pick you up?"
"Very funny, Starbuck." I put my hands on my hips. "I'm surprised Adama doesn't have you locked in the brig."
"Naw. Best friend of his son and usually his wingmen."
That shocked me. I had no idea Apollo and Starbuck were friends, let along flying together. "Oh."
"Barkeep," Starbuck raised his voice. "A tankard of your best ambrosia for my long lost friends!"
"Careful he doesn't stick you with the tab," Boomer warned, lifting his mug in mock salute.
"Boomer," Starbuck began.
"He knows better," I informed the warrior.
Starbuck got a sheepish grin on his face. "We went the academy together."
"Uh, huh." I could tell Boomer wasn't really buying the story.
Don handed me my ambrosia.
"Still not letting Jason drink?" Starbuck pointed to Don's younger brother.
Don just shrugged. "He can't handle it. It's safer."
"Right." Starbuck smiled knowingly. "Look, I'd love to sit and catch up but,"
"Go ahead and finish your game." I grinned at him. "We're not going anywhere for awhile."
"Thanks." Starbuck rejoined the game.
We took seats in the back of the room. Jerik and Stacia sat together. Karl stared into his drink and Don took a place next to me. Jason sulked next to him.
"Rae!" Bojay dropped down in an empty chair. "Glad to see you made it back. Have you been to see Sheba yet? She's in the Life Center."
"What happened?" Sheba was one of Pegasus's best pilots. I couldn't believe she'd taken a hit bad enough to end up in Life Center.
Bojay shrugged uneasily. "She missed. The cylon didn't. Apollo escorted her in."
I took a sip of ambrosia. Apollo's actions didn't surprise me. Sheba missing did. As Bojay filled us in on the events of the past few days, I felt a sinking in my stomach. There would be no return to the Pegasus, something I'd secretly hoped for. Cain had sent all his warriors to the Galactica and had taken only those he needed to run the ship. I knew my commander well. He hadn't intended to return.
Starbuck's game ended and he joined us. He motioned for another drink and gave us one of his notorious winning smiles.
"Doesn't work on us," Stacia dryly informed him.
"Just practicing." His drink arrived and he took a drink. "So, what have you been up to?"
"I'd like to know as well." Apollo pulled up a chair, his tankard in hand.
There was no way I could leave without making it obvious I wanted to stay away from Galactica's strike commander. Uneasily I traced the edge of my mug.
"There will be plenty of time to find out," Jenn's quiet voice interjected. She threw me an understanding look as she pulled up another chair.
"Anything in the quadrant we're headed into?" Apollo asked.
Jenn shook her head, impatiently catching a bit of her straight auburn hair and pulling it back behind an ear where a faint greenish-blue earring glittered. I'd always envied the way she could be both a warrior and woman at the same time.
"Just more dead moons and uninviting planets," Starbuck put in. "Nice place to put down roots and build a home."
Everyone broke into laughter. Leave it to our friend to find the right witty comment.
"Any plans for tonight, Apollo?" Jenn inquired.
I tensed sensing what she was about to do.
"Promised Boxey I spend time some time with him. Why?"
Inwardly I sighed in relief. At least I wouldn't have to spend social time him. I really wasn't up to putting on a fake smile and pretending I was having a good time with him around.
Conversation ebbed and flowed like solar winds around the table. Apollo kept trying to get me talking and somehow, either Don or Jenn redirected his attempts to other subjects. A couple of centaurs passed and finally Starbuck and Apollo both left. Starbuck for a date with Cassie, whoever that was, and Apollo to spend time with Boxey. Jenn, Lords bless her, explained to us how the boy come to be Apollo's son, despite the flicker of pain I'd seen on the Captain's face.
As we left the officer's club, Jenn motioned me and Stacia aside. "I doubt you two have anything other than uniforms to wear to dinner." She didn't really ask. She knew we hadn't come aboard with anything else from the Pegasus. "I'll see what I can do about that," she commented with a mysterious smile. "Meet you two at our quarters."
Since all the women shared the same quarters, I knew I wouldn't have to figure out where she meant. Stacia and I went back there, grabbing a quick shower. It felt really good to have the luxury of bathing. I tossed on a robe one of the other women had given me. I'd seen her look when she had and understood it had once belonged to someone who had died.
Coming back into the main area I found Jenn waiting for us. "I managed to come up with a few dresses." She pointed at some bright clothing spread out on Stacia's bunk.
"Where'd you find them?" Stacia delightedly picked up a light pink shimmering gown.
"I have my ways." Jenn disappeared into the showers.
It had been a long time since I'd worn a dress. Carefully I rummaged through Jenn's finds and pulled out a dark blue, mid length dress, with a scooped neck- line and long sleeves. Slipping on the soft fabric I enjoyed the feel against my skin.
"Bets our uniforms any day," Stacia said with a bright smile. "Think Jerik will notice me in this?"
I chuckled. "He notices you no matter what you wear."
She sighed deeply. "Wish he'd show it."