Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Ronald D. Moore, Glen Larson, and a bunch of other people who aren't me.
Spoilers: The entire first season.
Thanks to: Kathy, for betareading
Author's note: Written for Christina Kammikar's "Common People" challenge.
STORY OF A LIFETIME
Covering some boring decommissioning ceremony wasn't Playa's idea of a good assignment. History, by and large, left her cold. Of course, her editor, who was as old as dirt, got misty-eyed as soon as somebody mentioned the Cylon war, but Playa was a here and now kind of girl. And it wasn't even as if anyone high profile or interesting was going to be there. The only vaguely prominent person was the secretary of education, and Laura Roslin was boring. Not a scandal to her name, and she didn't provide any snappy soundbites, either, unlike the secretary of defense. And he could be always relied upon to insult someone.
"I thought this was a battleship," Playa complained to her boyfriend when she packed her things. "You'd think he'd be there. But no, it's going to be all Laura the dull and some patriotic blah about Adama."
Her boyfriend thought she was whining, and they had an argument. Later she couldn't even remember what they had said, or why they hadn't even kissed goodbye. Later, after the world had ended. All the worlds.
At first, she was recording everything, trying to think about nothing but the fact she'd finally get her break at the Picon Star Tribune. No more ceremonies, not after this report; she'd be a first rank reporter. Then she realized that there was no more Star Tribune, no more Picon, and no more family, or boyfriend. She sat there, listening to her recording device humming ever so low, and suddenly had to make a run for the tiny bathroom of the transport. Throwing up didn't help. When she got out, she saw Laura Roslin going in, with that same sick expression her face. She thought of saying something, but didn't. What could you say in such a situation? Later, if she ever got to report the story, she'd find something. A good quote. Just not now. So Playa just nodded, slightly embarrassed, and slipped back to her seat.
The amazing thing was that when Roslin came back, she was on. Everyone was going not so slightly crazy about the news, and trying to get some kind of communication with anyone, and there was Roslin, telling them what to do. Getting them organized. Must be the school teacher experience, Playa thought, and then found herself collecting the names and places of origin of everyone on the ship so they could make a list because Laura Roslin had said she should do so. It did help to push the thought of Mom and Dad and Jimmy burning to cinders away, a bit. And it did come in handy, later.
When Playa had time to make her own personal inventory, she realized she was screwed. The end of the world might be the top story of all times, but her employer who'd have paid for it was gone, along with her family, friends, and everyone she had known except jerks like James MacMannis who had always treated her with the kind of patronizing attitude that made you want to slap a guy, just because he had earned some kind of award with his coverage of "The Hunt for Tom Zarek", as he called it. She had hated him ever since he had dubbed her "the blonde bimbo from Picon", and now his smug face was the first familiar one she saw when things had settled down enough for people to leave the newly christened Colonial One. Figured that MacMannis had managed to be on Galactica at the time of the attack. Bastard.
"So, Playa," he said. "Any intel on how Secretary Roslin reacted when she got the big news?"
That was when she realized that she had the advantage here, if she knew how to use it. He might have been with the Commander of the Fleet, but she basically was pals with the new President. Sort of. In a casual nod kind of way.
"Maybe," she replied. "But hey, nothing is free. I've been stuck with the same blouse for days here. I need another one."
He rolled his eyes. "Did it occur to you, child, that I am not in the clothes delivery department?"
"Frankly, Jim, yes," she said sweetly. "You'd be better dressed otherwise. But you're bound to have taken more credits along than I did."
"Well, it doesn't matter anyway. I can get other eye witness accounts."
She smiled at him. "Sure you can. But not from people who know how to phrase them. And definitely not from people who spent quality time with Madam President alone."
He wavered, obviously trying to decide whether she was bluffing. Playa put on her best I'm-not-paying-for-that-lipstick face. Warily, MacMannis asked:
"What do you really want, Playa?"
"To get something out of this completely fucked up situation," she said with complete sincerity. "It's awful, it's terrible, but it's news. And I'm a reporter. Who needs a newsservice to report to, and let's face it, yours is gone as well. We need to create our own."
He tilted his head. "Well, well, well. Little Playa has grown up."
Jerk, she thought, and knew he'd pay for her new blouse.
Organizing the wireless kept her busy in the next weeks, as did filtering the press briefings Roslin and her cute assistant held for interesting stuff. Roslin was a cagey one. After one of the Cylon attacks, things started to get seriously weird, because instead of making a jump like they always did in such a situation, the fleet spread out, and everyone got to twiddle their thumbs and wait. The word was that one of the pilots who fought off the attack was missing and a rescue operation was on the way, which looked like a great human interest story. Except that time passed, and more time passed, and the fleet still remained where it was. Playa was no military expert, but after she realized she might be living in space for years, she had familiarized herself with how long air supply lasted. That time was definitely over. The fleet was still holding position, and her stomach was slowly but surely getting twisted in knots.
Everyone else on Colonial One was nervous, too, and asked Roslin why they were still flying circles around some godsforsaken planet when the Cylons could come back any second. Roslin said Commander Adama had assured her there was no risk, but her flinty eyes weren't exactly confirming that explanation.
"Adama has gone nuts, if you ask me," MacMannis said to Playa. "Or senile. He was going to be a pensioner anyway. When I was on that ship, word was he wanted to get us all killed in some grand final stand against the Cylons at Ragnar Station. Looks like he's trying again."
Playa tried not to imagine Cylon Raiders bearing down on them, as they had done when the world had ended. She was a reporter, and now she'd prove she could be as tough and demanding as anyone. So she went after Billy the cutie and said:
"Look, why are we still here? That pilot must be dead by now."
He muttered something about this being really Commander Adama's decision about which he had no business to speak, and Playa shook her head.
"No way," she said. "The public has a right to know why the Commander is risking their lives, and why the President does likewise. Because if she doesn't order him to get our collective asses out of here, that's what she's doing."
Billy blushed, but amazingly remained tight lipped, and didn't tell her anything. And here she had figured he'd be an easy mark for female bullying. He was working for Roslin, after all.
Then the President ordered a shuttle towards the Galactica. She wouldn't allow any of the press to come with her, which was irksome, but still, Playa breathed a sigh of relief.
"See?" she said to MacMannis. "She's going to tell Adama what's what."
"No, she isn't. Let's face it, kid, he's holding all the guns. What's she going to do, ask nicely for him to hand them over? We're at the mercy of a school teacher and some military dotard who should have retired years ago. Gods help us."
It was very satisfying when the order to make the jump came not ten minutes after Roslin's shuttle had boarded Galactica.
"I'll vote for her in the next election", Playa said gratefully. MacMannis threw his hands up. "Okay, okay, so she's not a complete pushover. But come on, you don't really think she got Adama to back down all by herself? She's someone else's puppet, mark my words, and I'm going to find out whose."
When Playa heard the pilot had made it back to the fleet at the last minute all on her lonesome, her first thought was that the human interest angle could be played after all, and on her next visit to Galactica, she tried to get an interview with Lieutenant Thrace. Who turned out to be in sickbay, conveniently, with no ability to run away. Unfortunately, this didn't mean she was in a conversational mood.
"Come on," Playa pleaded. "It would be such a great inspiration for everybody. 'How I Survived Planet Hell – Starbuck Tells It All'. You'd be giving autographs in no times flat."
As Playa spotted the doctor moving in on her and as she was somewhat exasperated by Thrace's uncooperative attitude, she permitted herself one last shot, which at least might get her an interesting reaction.
"So is it true that Commander Adama and yourself have a thing going? Is that why he risked everyone's lives to save you?"
"OUT!" Kara Thrace yelled, and the cup of water next to her would have hit Playa's head if the Doctor hadn't moved between them just in that moment. As it was, it hit him instead, and Playa beat a hasty retreat. Not an hour later, she was busy compiling notes for her story. "Forbidden Love On Galactica" sounded like just the right title.
She never got to go on the wireless with her Thrace/Adama coup because the bombshell of a revelation about the Cylons looking like humans pushed all other stories away. Playa would have suspected the universe had it in for her, except at least she was in the front rows when Roslin told everyone, and thus got first time coverage.
"They've got a nerve, Roslin and Adama, to keep such a thing hidden from the public," MacMannis said. "Mark my words, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"Ever wonder whether he is a Cylon?" one of the other reporters asked Playa audibly, indicating MacMannis, whose insistence on being the best qualified reporter in the known universe did him no favours.
"Nah," she replied. "Too much of a jerk. I'm sure Cylon agents are more endearing."
Of course she was worried along with everyone else about this new human-looking Cylons angle, but it petered out somewhat because no new Cylon got identified, and she couldn't help resenting that all her work for the Thrace/Adama story had been in vain. Things were beginning to perk up, though, when the press was told an interim Quorum of Twelve would be assembled. This was a great opportunity to kickstart their new show, "Colonial Day". Only one thing bugged. Playa had been able to get some new dresses and blouses via trade and exchange of credits when making the interviewing tour through the fleet, but she was stuck with the same old underwear, which she had to handwash practically each day. By now, it looked that way, too. No way she was going to wear that at the very first event that had a vague sense of glamour about it, and which would attract the biggest variety of people since the great burial service at the start of the journey. She had been living like a celibate ever since the Cylons attacked, and it was starting to make her crazy. One way or the other, she would get laid on Cloud Nine. But not in that pathetic old underwear.
"Playa, this isn't some dating show," MacMannis hissed when they got wired for their very first broadcast and he realized she didn't wear a bra.
"Well, I'm sure I'll sound properly clothed," she returned, unimpressed, and he grimaced and told her she should have stuck to her human interest stories before going into his "only legitimate reporter in the galaxy" and "Wallace Gray, prince of darkness routine" again, only this time live.
The most colourful personality on the Quorum was of course Tom Zarek, and MacMannis, who had reported on him before, hovered around him like a chicken around its heck, pecking at everyone who attempted to get some quotes from the guy themselves. So much for cooperation and professional solidarity. After a while, Playa decided that there were other people worth interviewing as well, like the delicious representative of Caprica, Dr. Gaius Baltar. She had seen him on chat shows back in the day, and aside from being quite the dish, he had a swoonworthy accent and didn't give the impression of being stuck-up or humourless just because of the scientific genius rep.
MacMannis obviously took her more seriously as competition than he liked to admit, because she had hardly gotten five sentences out of Baltar before he abandoned Zarek and moved in as well. Fat chance, Jim, Playa thought. She had noticed Baltar giving her the eye. I'm going to get that exclusive.
She hadn't had sex with any man since her dead boyfriend, and she certainly wasn't looking for a relationship. You became attached to a guy now, and the next thing you knew was that he got left behind on some ship like the Olympic Carrier and blown out of the sky. Now way. But as quickies with side benefits went, Baltar turned out to be more than ideal. When she heard Roslin asking him to be her VP, she could hardly contain her glee.
Baltar was as good as his word, too, and when her very first solo portrait plus exclusive interview with the new VP went on the wireless, Playa felt like the queen of the galaxy. Of course, that was also the last time she spoke one to one with Gaius Baltar. She attended the Colonial Day party together with the rest of the press, but he was busy dancing with the bottle blonde Kara Thrace. Ah well. "New Veep Entangled With Adama's Cast-Off Mistress" made as good a headline as any.
As it turned out, she didn't get to make that scoop public, either. They found Kobol, and then things went to hell in a handbasket. Playa was on Colonial One together with the rest of the press corps when Roslin, more flinty-eyed than ever, had them listen to a conversation between her and Adama. This had never happened before, but as soon as Adama said "I'm going to have to ask for your resignation", Playa understood why. Adama had officially lost it. They were listening to a military coup in the making.
"Are you transmitting?" MacMannis hissed at her. "He's going to jam us in a minute."
She was. She had pressed the right button at the right time. If anyone had tuned in to the wireless early, they'd hear. Unfortunately, the conversation was terminated as soon as Roslin told Adama the press was around, and sure enough, their transmission was cut off.
"This was bound to happen sooner or later," MacMannis said with a shrug while Roslin talked with her aide. "They're both megalomaniacs, after all. I'm just not sure which of them is more dangerous. Did you hear that bit about the Cylon Raider? Where did she send it to?"
Playa wasn't interested in any Cylon Raiders. She stared at Roslin, who was now announcing to everyone that Adama was an honourable man who probably would not react in haste, but just in case, the civilians should go into the cargo hold where they would be out of harm's way if anyone tried to board the Colonial One. The room started to clear with amazing speed. There were concepts that were just unreal. Like the human race being nearly wiped out, like everyone you knew being gone, or like a military coup taking place with yourself in the firing line. Playa just couldn't get her mind around it, and kept looking at Roslin who looked as calm and determined as she had done on the day the world ended, save for that one moment on her way to the bathroom.
And here I thought the woman was dull.
"Right," MacMannis said. "I think it's my duty as a reporter to be objective. Get everyone's point of view, not be some kind of canon fodder for an unelected president. So… the cargo hold is probably the best option."
He was on his way out the door when amazingly enough he turned around and looked at Playa.
"Aren't you coming? This is not going to be some society bitchfest, Playa!"
That did it. Patronizing as ever. Well, it was his loss.
"Are you kidding?" she asked scornfully. "I'm staying here. This is going to be the story of a lifetime!"