Alec turned from his reading with a sympathetic glance. "Culling your memory allocation, Boss?"
"Yeaaah," Mayla blew the word out on a sigh. "It's like trying to decide which of your children to disown."
Mayla Coiros was a stillshot photographer. More precisely, she had been the foremost freelance photojournalist on Airilon and well known throughout the Twelve Colonies. Stillshots didn't have the cachet of video, but Mayla's work, imbued with her particular combination of journalistic integrity, human insight and pure artistry, had commanded high prices. Even now, after the Colonies' destruction at the hands of the Cylons, she continued working in her chosen medium, submitting shots of high-profile celebrities to news services and documenting as much as possible of daily life in the fleet.
She met Alec Badel, himself a photographer of considerable ability, soon after boarding the Shining Hand. He quietly appointed himself her aide-slash-apprentice, not so much for access to the cameras and equipment she'd wrangled on board, but to absorb as much as he could of her process and viewpoint, particularly where it concerned photographing people. They made an odd pair, the sandy-haired, preoccupied older woman and the dark young man with the warm smile, but a decidedly filial relationship had grown between them. And Mayla relied on Alec, both as a sounding board and to keep her organized.
Alec set his book down and joined Mayla, looking over her shoulder at the screen of the laptop into which she downloaded her digital pictures. Mayla's current dilemma stemmed from the fact that computer memory and storage, like everything else in the fleet, was at a premium. "Your portable's not full up yet."
"No, but it's getting there. I have to persuade someone to give me some space on one of the shipboard computers, damnit!"
Alec snorted, "Now there's an impossible dream. But you don't really have to toss them, do you? Can't you keep printing them out?"
She raked her hair back from her forehead. "I can print them, sure. But I'm already practically sleeping with my cameras; I just don't have much room for hard copies."
"You can stick them in my bunk for now." Alec was nothing if not loyal.
"Thanks," she grinned.
He watched the grin fade as she continued to scroll through her work. Following her eyes to the portable's screen, he saw that she was working her way back in time from her most recent shots. Most of the faces, young or old, military or civilian, were wearing the uncertainty caused by the breakdown in relations between the government and the military, the attempted assassination of Commander Adama and the power plays and machinations that had followed his near-fatal shooting. Mayla's photos vibrated with tension. Alec frowned at his shoes, wondering how much of her brilliance would ultimately be sacrificed to practicality.
He looked up. "What is--oh."
Though the photo on Mayla's screen was a close, chest-and-up shot of two people with background out of focus, Alec had no trouble placing the location or time: On board the Cloud Nine, during the Colonial Day celebrations following the Vice-Presidential Elections.
He knew this because the two people were Colonial President Laura Roslin and Commander William Adama, and they were dancing.
"You haven't shown me this one before."
"Yeah, well ... I wasn't going to submit it anywhere. I haven't had a chance to get back to it until now."
Fascinated, he studied the details, analyzing how Mayla captured the lines, the sense of graceful motion in a still photo. The President was smiling, while the Commander's lips were slightly parted. Mayla had probably caught him in the middle of saying something. Then sudden realization widened his eyes.
If you didn't know anything about these two, you would swear that the dark-eyed, rough-hewn man was leaning forward to kiss the elegantly lovely redhead in his arms, and she was turning to him with a smile of sweet anticipation.
"Damn," he echoed her unconsciously. "Why didn't you submit this one? The news services would have gone crazy for it."
"Precisely why I didn't submit it." At his raised eyebrows, she sighed again. "Look, Junior, the way I saw it there were only two possibilities. Either Nothing was going on between Adama and Roslin, or Something was going on. If it was Nothing, then this picture would only be an embarrassment to two people with enough in their lives to worry about. If it was Something ... then I figured that Something deserved a better chance than it would get being dissected by public speculation."
He smiled delightedly. "You're a romantic, Boss."
"Don't let it get around." She nibbled absently on the tip of an index finger. "I still have to figure out what to do with this shot."
"What to do with – Mayla, you can't be thinking of throwing this one away! It's beautiful!" Alec was outraged at the thought.
"I know, I know! But honestly, Alec, what would I use it for if I kept it? And is it a good idea to have it just lying around?"
He rested his chin on his hands and thought furiously for a minute. "Print it out," he said. As she opened her mouth, he held up a hand to forestall her. "Print out two copies," he said. "Send one to the Commander, and the other to the President. That way you'll be giving it to the people best able to decide what should happen to it."
Her jaw remained dropped open for long moments. "You want me ... to send this picture ... to the Commander and the President. As things stand between them now, after everything that's happened in the past month, you want me to send them – Junior, have you stood in the same room with both Roslin and Adama recently?"
"Well, of course not."
"I have. Liquid nitrogen would warm the atmosphere between them, believe me."
He grinned. "I do. But there are three points that you may not have considered."
He ticked them off on his fingers. "One. You don't have to tell either of them that you've sent a copy to the other. They may suspect, but they won't know. Two. As things stand between them now, they probably need a reminder of a time when things were better. And Three ... there is actually a third possibility."
He leaned forward and spoke in a near-whisper, "The possibility that Nothing is happening between them, but Something might."
She stared back at him for a time, then turned back to her portable. "Right, it's confirmed. You are certifiably insane. Go quietly when they come for you, okay?"
He laughed and returned to his book, leaving Mayla to her dilemma.
A few minutes later, he heard her printer start up, and he smiled.