NOTES: This may be a little scattered. I wrote it on the drive through Wolf Creek Pass, CO, and my thoughts were slightly fractured.

Who Dares, Wins

Artemis watches him with wary eyes as Apollo calls off the hounds.

Tom Zarek watches the way they move, with the familiarity of siblings - or lovers. He knows they're not the first and he doubts they're the second - young Apollo has too much honour in him to frak with the girl.

She's all restlessness and action, an open copy of the young man's hidden nature. Tom came up against that steel, kept carefully beneath the velvet veneer of a polite young man. This girl doesn't bother to hide her steel; she is far more open, clearly dangerous.

These two share a twinned passion and drive with Zeus their father; born of mortal woman, and testing their skills with breathtaking and deadly beauty.

He smiles at the girl, the glittering smile of the hungry wolf, and she narrows her gaze and draws her bow. A single word from Apollo and she'll shoot him through the heart with as much consideration as she would give a beast.

She sees him as a beast to be put down, nothing more.

At least Apollo granted him the rights of a man. For that much, Tom can be grateful, even if the young cub showed unexpected claws and unexpected strength. His father's son, indeed. A worthy opponent? That remains to be seen.

Tom has no doubt that the cub's decision is going to be very unpopular with Zeus and the lady calling herself the President. It will be educational to see how the cub defends his actions - and whether Zeus and the Lady-President agree to let his decision stand.

Tom looks over the bridge of the ship that is about to become his, and watches as Apollo waits for confirmation from the marines that all is in order. It's a satisfactory bargain, if not the exact one that Tom wanted.

Life is about taking the bad stuff with the good and weathering the storm. It's also about seizing opportunity when it comes knocking.

The Astral Queen was an opportunity. Tom took it.

And what the cub doesn't realise is that he is giving the most important part of what Tom wanted: legitimacy. A form of authority from the government: all sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean - just play nice.

Tom doesn't play nice and never has.

The girl turns her head as a marine comes into the control bridge, but her peripheral vision keeps every man in view. Artemis protecting her virtue - and the virtue of Apollo - as well she might. The little girl that the prisoner who tried to rape Cally tried to take was toothsome - although with an unexpected bite, but this is a goddess, a war-princess among women. A man would bed her with her willingness or not at all.

Tom remembers the legends of Actaeon, of Tiresias. Men and gods were not made to mingle.

"Mister Zarek," Apollo says. "Once the marines have left the ship, once my people are off it, you have the bridge. However, the comms will not respond to you until my ship has made it halfway back to Galactica, and the controls will not respond to you until we're back on the Galactica.

Selim Kanad spits on the floor. "And you expect us to believe that?"

Apollo's gaze doesn't turn from Tom's. He knows who his enemy is; he knows who is in charge. "I expect you to abide by it. You have my word."

"Your word?"

Now the young man turns. Economy of movement, brief grace, nothing more than a glance at the man, dismissive. "My word is good."

"Better than yours," Artemis flashes. Raw fire flares at her words, in the eyes of every man in the room - every eye but Apollo's, the marine's, and Tom's. Apollo's lip twitches slightly, the faintest hint of amusement in his expression. He knows his sister's temper well, and Tom looks and learns from them both.

Yes, they are twins; identical in thought and pattern, in belief and action, with the bearing of their father, and their only difference in how they present to the world.

"Thieves' honour," Tom murmurs, smiling - to himself, not them. He can be affable, although the insult stings a little. Slights and affronts are nothing new to him; he learned to let them go - store them up for later when they'll be more useful. "Take your people and go, son of Zeus. Leave the peasants to their labour."

The blue-green eyes flash at the comparison. Apollo doesn't like to think of the prisoners as peasants - he considers it demeaning. He has much to learn.

Pride means nothing when they take away your freedom.

Tom has spent twenty years behind bars, waiting. He need not wait any longer.

He watches them as they leave his ship. His ship.

They watch him as they leave his ship, and none watches him closer than Artemis.

Other than Apollo, she is the last to leave the ship. And even then she stands in the doorway of the raptor, her gun still out, her eyes still watching. She guards Apollo's back, and he doesn't even turn to check that she is there. Something in him knows that she is there; something in him trusts that she will distrust - and he likes it that way.

Tom salutes them both as the door closes. Mockingly, of course, but with a measure of respect. He looks forwards to crossing swords with the son of Zeus again. The father will grant him no quarter, but the son might yet slip and permit him more.

For a man who has been behind bars for twenty years, a prisoner of conscience, hope is a dangerous thing. Even the hope of a worthy opponent.

As he passes through the corridors of his ship, Tom allows himself a private satisfaction.

These men here have been his companions through the hard times and he will not forget it. But their visions are so small, their desires and lusts so basic. They are the wild horses on which he will ride to victory, but they will not share in his glory; they are in prison because their desires overcame their will. They are criminals, not visionaries.

Tom Zarek has a vision that will not be denied. And with The Astral Queen as his flagship, with the legitimacy granted him by the son of Zeus himself, with the ear of the people turned to his plight, he has more opportunities for that vision than he ever dreamed.

In the control room, his men - his men - move about the terminals with the uncertainty of people who are new to a job and a little afraid of making a mistake.

Tom has no fear of mistakes. He does not even fear retaliation. Not from Zeus, not from the President.

My word is good.

As Kanad turns from the communications system to report that they have control of the ship, Tom smiles.

Thank the gods, indeed.

He has done what no man dared - what no man thought could be done. He has stolen his fire from the gods: his freedom from the government who enslaved him for his beliefs.

He is free. Free.

Who dares, wins.

And a universe of stars beckons.

- fin -

NOTES: Zarek is one of those characters who both repulses and intrigues me. I loved the duality of him in 'Bastille Day' - the hint that he might yet regret his actions and where they have brought him. But by the time he appeared in 'Colonial Day', I was almost sorry to see him so clearly on the 'bad' side. Still, he's definitely a character with a lot of Potential. Even if I'd like to get at him with a knife and no consequences.