Five Seasons in Caprica City

by KNS

Disclsimer: What can I say? I like to play with other peoples' toys. No one here is mine.

Notes: Set adjacent to the scene in KLG part 2 where Thrace stands beside her raider and surveys the remains of Caprica City. Contains spoilers up through Season 2.

Country where I no longer live,

my outcast country,

from you I gained only a traveler's sails,

a banner ripped by daggers

and fugitive stars.

Saadi Youseff "Solos on the Oud"

Her parents fought all the time, but when she was five years old, they had their last fight.

The air is muggy, thick with the heat that stifles breathing and suppresses movement: Caprica City in the summer, where the sun and clouds fight for dominance. Inside the house, the little girl sits on the edge of her bed, staring through the small space of the open bedroom door. She sits very still, motionless – the thick air has suddenly become silent, the angry voices dead.

Footfalls approach her door, and her father comes in. She smiles at him hesitantly, and he wanly smiles back.

"Hey, pretty," he says, laying a hand on her head. Then he kneels down before her and blurts out, "I gotta go away for awhile, pretty. You be a good girl while I'm gone, okay?"

Her mother's voice echoes down the hallway. "For frak's sake, leave her alone! Get out if you're really going."

The girl's father sighs heavily and stands up. "Be a good girl, Kara."

The little girl is very afraid, although she doesn't know why. Seizing her father's hand, she says, "Can I go, too? Daddy, I'm your best girl."

Her father's long-fingered hand is gentle on her arm. "Not this time, pretty. Wait for me like a good girl."

"Get the frak out already!" the girl's mother shouts.

The little girl watches through the window as her father drives away. She waves to him, and he waves back. Her mother walks around the house slamming doors against the thick heat.

She waits patiently, a day, two, more. She misses her daddy. One day she goes out to the road to wait for him. She stands under a tree and watches up and down the road and waits like a good girl.

She broke the rules all the time, but when she was thirteen years old, she committed her first crime.

It's snowing, white puffs driven in careless circles as the wind blows the temperature from cold down to freezing. The sidewalks are iced over; pedestrians move at a snail's pace and huddle against buildings to shelter from the wind.

The girl with the bulky black jacket may be all arms and legs, but she has a cat's grace. Her blond hair is stuffed up under a cap pulled low over her ears. She slips into a commodities shop without a backwards glance at Caprica City in the winter.

Apparently everyone has decided their cabinets are too empty: people crowd through the isles worse than roaches in a kitchen. Amongst the long coats and thick jackets, pushing and shoving, it's easy for the girl to survey the goods, produce to toys. She can have anything, take anything she wants, she knows she can. Today all she wants is chocolate candy.

The candy is off the display and in her pocket in an instant. She joins the sluggish flow exiting the shop, drifts into the cold street like one of the blowing snowflakes. The wind pushes her down the block, around one corner, then another; she takes shelter in a doorway, pulls out her prize.

She knew she could do it.

A couple of kids are playing in the snow not far from her. "Hey, come here," she calls to them. When they come, she divides the chocolate among them.

"Thanks," one particularly small boy says, his voice soft as the white dust falling from the sky. He isn't wearing a cap, so the thief takes off hers and pulls it low over his ears.

The piano sat in the corner of the room for as long as she could remember, but when she was nine years old, she touched it for the last time.

Her fingers are long for her age, and she can spread and flex them to hit almost all the keys like her dad had shown her. She can play a few little songs, rhymes and such, but what she really likes are the long, sad songs. She can't play anything fancy yet, but there's one particular melody she tries over and over, one her dad used to play. And every time she tries she gets it wrong, but she keeps trying anyway.

"For frak's sake, Kara, will you stop making that noise?" her mother demands, moving around the livingroom with the force of a spring wind. "Go outside for awhile. It's warm, the grass in the park is greening up, all that shit that you little brats love."

The girl on the bench just frowns and presses harder on the keys.

"Why don't you ever play anything happy?" the mother growls. "It's always that same damn sad song that your bastard father played. Over and over, and you still don't even get it right!"

"I'm practicing," the girl mutters. If only she could make her fingers stretch farther, then she might get it right. She briefly glances out the window. Caprica City really is pretty in the spring, when the birds come back and the sky is a dazzling blue between rain storms. The girl sees her mother's reflection appear in the glass as she approaches, and her eyes quickly shift back to the keys.

"You know why you can't play? Because you don't know what pain is, real pain," her mother says. "All kids know about is sunshine and kittens and having somebody take care of all your problems. Pain is what makes you real, makes you strong."

Her mother is standing behind her now, about to do something. Her fingers become still on the keys.

In the emergency room, the over-worked physician will easily accept the girl's story of hurting herself while playing pyramid.

"It's too dangerous a game for someone your age," he'll say, smiling tiredly at the scowling girl. "But I guess you'll remember that every time you look at those ten broken fingers."

The brig became a familiar place a half year after enlistment, but she hated hack with a black passion until her twenty-first birthday.

"I'm going already," the blond soldier snarls at the MP. The guard shoves her into the cell anyway, grins as he slams shut the grate.

"Bastard," the woman grumbles. She casts a disgruntled look around the cell: there are four other soldiers in various stages of drunkenness, all men, one on the bunk and three on the deck. She rolls her eyes and goes to the bunk, shoves the man's boots out of her way and slouches against the wall.

"Well, hello, sunshine," the soldier on the bunk grumbles, pulling himself into a half-upright position. "What's your frakin' problem?"

"Besides being locked in here with you?" the woman returns. "I was just having a quiet drink with a few friends when this bastard opens his mouth, talking shit about stuff he doesn't know a damn thing about – and the next thing I know, the MPs are hauling me down here."

"That's real sad, sunshine," the soldier says, grinning. "But if not for that bastard, we never would've met. I'm Stopshort. Pleased to meet you."

The blond takes one look at the half drunk soldier, all bright smile and short hair and sculpted muscle – and she bursts into laughter. "Fraking Lords of Kobol – are you flirting with me? Here, in hack?"

"There's no better place, sunshine," he tells her, pulling himself up and moving to sit beside her. "It's a beautiful autumn night, here in the brig. Can't see the colorful leaves or smell the have colai fruit roasting down the street, but we've all seen Caprica City in the fall. Now, do you have a name?"

"Starbuck," the woman answers. "And it's not just any night – it's my birthday. I don't want to be here."

Stopshort mock-clutches at his heart. "Careless words! Oh, my poor heart! Let me entertain you – we pilots are a lively bunch, y'know."

"Pilot, huh?" the woman says. "Okay, flyboy. Entertain me."

So Stopshort wakes up his buddies, and soon the five are having a good time swapping stories of brawls and bootcamp. The guards warn them to quiet down but are ignored by all. An hour turns into two, then three. And then someone posts parol for the men, and the woman finds herself alone in the cell.

"See you around, Starbuck," Stopshort calls on his way out. "Happy birthday."

The woman lays down on the bunk, scowling at the ceiling.

She's genuinely surprised when the four pilots are hauled back to the cell less than an hour later. "What'd you do now?"

"Couldn't leave a girl alone on her birthday," Stopshort answers brightly. After casting a glance around to verify the MPs are gone, he presses a cigar into her hands.

She'd always thought she never really liked Caprica City, but when she climbed out of the raider and stood there looking at the pieces of yesterday, she realized it wasn't about liking or disliking the place.

The sky, once so blue it dazzled the eye, is now an off-white beige. The air, once thick with humidity, is now desert-dry. No plant survived in this area; but then, no animal did, either.

Half the planet was in darkness when the attack came. Children went to bed and never woke up. Old people fell asleep watching the view-cube. Some had to stay late at work; some lucky few went home early.

Caprica City was on her feet when the end came. The pilot isn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

All the street musicians are dead, and the pick-pockets, the screeching children and the quiet quiet thieves. Her father and mother, the many soldiers she'd met in brigs and brawls. The little boy with whom she'd shared stolen chocolate (how old would he be now?) And Zak's mother, and Lee's aunts, and all her former trainees, the ones who'd been so damn proud she always showed up to their graduations.

But here she is, still standing, and so is Caprica City. They've both seen better days. If she plays this right, she'll fly away and never set foot in the city again, this place she's seen in all five seasons: summer, winter, spring, fall, and holocaust.

The pilot isn't sure if that's a good thing or not. Maybe it'd be a good thing, one day. The she looks up at the once-blue, now beige sky and thinks, maybe it wouldn't.