Ron Moore reimagined Glen A. Larson's original idea; but then again, most people who would be reading this already know that. My use is in no way meant to challenge any established copyrights. This piece is not intended for any profit on the part of the writer, nor is it meant to detract from the commercial viability of the aforementioned or any other copyright. Any similarity to any events or persons, either real or fictional, is unintended.
Author's Notes: I fear writing in this fandom. I consider fanfic a tricky thing – you have to write something entertaining and original, all the while following canon enough so that the characters don't become unrecognizable, and therefore unpalatable to fans reading the story. To accomplish this, I usually set my fics in the gaps in shows' narratives… but there aren't many of those gaps in BSG. So that leaves me with theorizing about future events, which will end up being wrong and AU to the extreme, so I don't like that. But I got encouragement from Brynn McK, so I'm giving it a try. Hope I don't disgrace myself.
As usual, I've done a bit of research for my fic. From a BSG standpoint, I found The Battlestar Galactica Wikipedia to be an invaluable resource for all things Battlestar Galactica.
Finally, I need to thank Brynn McK for her patient assistance as a beta reader. She can totally channel any of the BSG characters, and that's insanely helpful to a writer like me. I cannot stress enough how much better her assistance made this fic.
The Dark at the End of the Tunnel
I – Not Alone in the Night
"He's lucky to be alive," Starbuck muttered under her breath, immediately eliciting an icy stare from the C.A.G. Remembering Lee was the C.A.G. was something she still struggled with, especially when he still jogged over after every dogfight to brag about every one of his kills, adorably trying to be just as good a pilot as she was.
"Am I to take it you have something to add?" the Captain asked.
"Yes, sir," Starbuck retorted with a heavy sigh, abandoning any semblance of restraint as she accepted her superior officer's challenge of a stare-down. "Kingston is lucky to be alive," she growled with only a brief sideways glance at the man who had been her wingman during her C.A.P.
"That's not how I saw it," the Captain replied curtly.
"And how could you see anything from C.I.C.? Dradis console give you that clear a view?"
"Watch it, Lieutenant."
"One cylon raider, that's it… and an experienced pilot almost gets wasted. That seem strange to you?"
"I didn't almost get wasted," Kingston objected. Two virtually identical, withering stares – one from Starbuck and one from Apollo – immediately caused him to rethink his participation in the conversation.
"He did," Starbuck insisted, turning back to the C.A.G., once again ignoring the other pilot. "I'm the one who had the front row seat, sir. We've gotta change this up somehow. I've been saying it since Day One, and now maybe someone will start to listen."
"You're overreacting," the Captain stated evenly, in a tone that told Starbuck the debate was over. Not that she cared.
"Wake up, patrol, land, eat, sleep. Wake up, patrol, land, eat, sleep. Day in, day out. It's the same thing, all the time, and it's taking away our edge, Lee."
"Captain," he corrected.
"Captain," Starbuck said through gritted teeth. "That cylon was no better or worse than any other raider we've run into. They're all the same, all the time. They're just machines, and I haven't seen a raider yet that can match a human in creativity in the cockpit, that can somehow simulate the adrenaline rush we get when we realize our lives at stake. But they don't get tired, they don't get bored, and they don't become complacent in a stale routine. They never stop hunting us, and when it's time to fight, they all activate the same combat program and perform equally efficiently across the board. And they just keep coming…"
"I seems like you're the one who's tired," the Captain commented. "Luckily, that's something that can be fixed. You're grounded."
"Two days, Lieutenant."
"That's an order."
Kara was about to protest more; she knew that Lee would never give her more than three days, that he just couldn't afford to have her out of the rotation any longer than that, but Kingston had already grabbed her by the elbow and started leading her out of the debriefing room.
"You never know when to quit," Kingston muttered once they were a safe distance down the hall.
"You never know when to quit, sir," Starbuck corrected, eager to inflict her rank on someone. Anyone.
"Sir," Kingston added. Starbuck noted that he did not so much as roll his eyes; it was nice to know that he had been cowed by her greatness.
"Dradis contact," an announcement came over the ship's speakers.
"Launch the Alert Fighters," Colonel Tigh's voice added moments later.
"Let's go," Starbuck practically shouted, grabbing the front of Kingston's flight suit, pulling him back the way they had just come.
"You're grounded," Kingston reminded her.
"He didn't say starting when," Starbuck answered with a wickedly thrilled grin.
"Yes, sir," Kingston agreed with a smile, one step behind as they raced toward the flight deck.
"What do we got?" the commander asked, striding onto the deck with an air of authority that made every single person in the C.I.C. snap to attention. The casual observer would never have realized that Commander Adama had just left for his quarters twenty minutes earlier after a fifteen-hour shift.
"Not too big," Gaeta reported, "but definitely larger than a standard raider."
"One of those heavy raiders?" Tigh asked.
"Maybe… No sir, the silhouette is wrong," Gaeta clarified. "Looks like a light freighter of some sort, maybe a YT-1300. It's taken up position behind the fleet and holding there."
"Receiving a signal," Dualla said.
"On speaker," Adama ordered.
"This is the Battlestar Galactica," Dualla said, her voice ringing out clearly over the C.I.C. speakers. "Say again, unidentified ship."
"This is the Chimera," the small ship answered, "a private transport under the command of Robert Fetter. I'd like permission to join your fleet, Galactica."
Tigh glanced across at his commanding officer. "Cylon trick? Maybe get close enough to blow a nuke?"
"What are you getting on that thing?" Adama asked Gaeta.
"It's anything but a stock freighter," the Lieutenant reported. "It's definitely armed – looks like military-grade anti-aircraft cannon on the dorsal side, and something… else on the ventral side, with some ship-to-ship missiles on there, too. It's definitely got a Raptor tactical sensor array, and I'd be willing to bet a month's pay that they jury-rigged a Raptor FTL drive into their engines somehow."
"Nukes?" the colonel asked.
Of course, Adama knew, that means there could be several inactive nukes, all of them shielded against detection.
"I read five life signs," Gaeta said. "They all appear to be human."
"For what that's worth," Tigh grumbled. "Lieutenant Gaeta, get a firing solution on that ship." Adama glanced at the colonel. "Just in case," Tigh muttered under his breath.
"What's going on?" a new voice asked. Commander Adama turned to see his son walk into the C.I.C.
"Why aren't you out there?"
"Viper maintenance. Chief needed to mix and match parts again, and that left us one Viper short. I figured I could use the time to catch up on all my paperwork, but--"
"--that'll have to wait," the commander finished "Unknown armed vessel, pilot says his name is Robert Fetter."
"You know him?"
"Yeah… if it's really him. We went to flight school together."
"He's a pilot?"
"Was," Lee explained. "Got busted down in rank a few times, though… rubbed lots of people the wrong way. Damn good pilot, though."
"Like we need another pilot like that," Tigh grumbled. Both Adamas ignored him.
"Eventually he lost his wings," Lee continued. "I think there was actually a court martial or something, I really don't know anything specific. Just rumors. I do know they let him stay in the service, though. He went over to Special Ops, had a team of his own. That was a few years back… I haven't really heard from him – or about him – for a while."
"But he's a real person," the commander said, thinking out loud, omitting the obvious addendum – so it's likely he's not a cylon.
"Let me find out," Lee suggested. The commander nodded, and Lee was on the line moments later. "This is Captain Lee Adama, please repeat identification."
"Lee?" the freighter pilot asked. "Apollo?"
"Yeah," he answered with a smile. "What are you doing out here?"
"Delivery," Fetter answered, his deep voice rumbling over the com. "I'd like permission to dock with the Astral Queen."
"What for?" Apollo asked, casting a glance toward his father. The commander appeared just as curious about the request.
"I have a couple of prisoners to transfer to the Astral Queen," Fetter explained. "Names are Kylie Hanson and Simon Karr. Don't expect I'll be getting a bounty on them anymore, but I sure as hell want them off my ship."
"Great," the commander muttered as he reached over and muted the com line. "You didn't say anything about him being a bounty hunter."
"He must have left the service," Apollo answered. "Like I said, I knew him at the Academy and heard about him from time to time. We were tight for a while, but it's not like we were ever the best of friends."
"Find out more about his cargo before we let him dock anywhere."
"Violent criminals?" Apollo asked, opening the line to Fetter.
"One of them," he responded. "The other's just a white collar guy. But I'm tired of them eating my food and breathing my air."
"Same old Ares," Apollo said under his breath, a faint smile spreading across his face as he remembered flying with Fetter back at the Academy, his grin belying his insistence that he never knew Fetter very well.
"That's Ares?" the commander asked. He remembered a few stories he had heard about Lee back at the Academy. Ares, Apollo, and Athena. Three cadets with an overabundance of ability, and the inevitable, corresponding lack of restraint. At least until the accident. Lee had never spoken of it, but the commander had had plenty of friends at the Academy. He heard all about the fallout from Athena's crash, and he had not failed to notice his son's immediate attitude adjustment. If not for Athena, Apollo would probably have turned out just like Starbuck, he had thought several times. Now he had a chance to meet the final member of the terrible trio, the one he had heard went in the opposite direction. Those who embraced psychobabble would say Ares had survivor's guilt; the commander simply thought he lacked a proper sense of responsibility. "Put him in a holding pattern beyond the edge of the fleet," the commander ordered. "Send out a Raptor to link up with them and get blood samples to bring Dr. Baltar. Keep a Viper on them at all times until the results clear."
"And then?" Lee asked.
"If all's well, then clear them to land on the Astral Queen. But not until we know for sure they're not cylons."
"I'm surprised you remember me," Tabitha Donner commented, taking a hesitant sip of her tea, trying her best to make sure that she did not burn her tongue. "I'm even more surprised that you still remember what we talked about the one time we met."
"Believe it or not, it's not every day people stroll into my office and call me an ignorant, bureaucratic peon in thrall to a closed-minded cult of personality." President Roslin smiled warmly, unable to hide her amusement at the memory.
"I didn't exactly mean it like it sounded," Donner replied.
"Sure you did," Roslin said, her tone sounding like anything but a rebuke. "You just regret it now because you never expected me to make it to the presidency from my cozy seat in the Department of Education." To her credit, Tabitha Donner decided against any further denials. "The thing is," the president continued, "I thought about that meeting a lot after you left. I even eventually decided you might be right."
"About your book," Roslin clarified. "Not about President Adar's administration being a cult of personality." Again the warm smile. The thought occurred to Roslin that her guest might distrust so many smiles, given the heated exchange they had had last time. That concern reminded her of a conversation she had with Adar shortly after he was elected. He complained that he was forced into a prison of smiles, knowing that he was expected to portray a sunny disposition at all times, even when everyone knew it was a lie. It did not take long for everyone to arrive at the conclusion that his smiles were not to be trusted, that they were a sign of deceit, despite the fact that he could never dispense with his smiling demeanor, even if he wanted to.
"Great," Donner responded, nervously taking another sip of her tea, this time ignoring the burn she received, thinking it a small price to pay for the opportunity to give herself something to do.
"So what, exactly, can I do for you?"
"I'm a writer," Donner began. "But of course, you already know that."
"I figure everyone has to find a niche now, do something that they're good at."
"Yes," Roslin agreed. "We've been trying to figure out a way to put everyone to work, to find something to keep people busy. It doesn't do anyone any good to just sit around all day."
"An idle mind is the devil's workshop," Donner muttered.
"Nothing," Donner said. "Just an old proverb I remember reading. I don't even know where I saw it."
Donner did not know what to make of that, so she plunged ahead. "I want to write a book. About you."
"Yes, ma'am. A book about you, about the attack, about everything that's happened so far. Someday, people will want to know what happened. We should start making note of it all right now, with it all fresh in our minds, while it's all still going on."
"For the future," Roslin mused. Donner saw how the president liked the sound of that. She's all about helping morale, the author knew. Writing a book to make a record for our posterity sends the message that the president fully expects that posterity to survive. And thrive. And ask questions about what came before them. Donner knew the president had already decided to agree to her request; now it was only a matter of answering her questions. To her surprise, there was only one more question. "So when would you like to start?"
"Perhaps you haven't heard, but I am a bit busy," Baltar said with a heavy sigh as soon as Layne Ishay walked into his office. "New ship just arrived, have to test them all," Baltar continued with a dismissive wave.
"I have a few tests to run," the paramedic answered. "I'll stay out of your way."
"You need my equipment?"
"You have the best lab in the fleet, Doctor," she explained. "I'll be quick."
"Dr. Cottle has a lab of his own," Baltar pointed out. "I fail to see why you have to come in here and--"
"--Because we have to make sure," Ishay barked. "So back off, okay!"
"Fine," Baltar sighed, turning again to his own screen. Silently, he made note of the latest instance in which Galactica's crew did not give him the space he felt he deserved.
"Gee, she certainly seems wound up," Six's unwelcome voice purred. Baltar felt the cylon's warm breath against his ear – he still wondered how she did that; visual hallucinations were one thing, but it was downright creepy for her to be able to breathe on him, too – and he did his best to ignore her. "It must be something serious."
"Mmm-hmm," Baltar grunted, hoping Ishay would think he was just thinking out loud.
"And the words she chose," Six added. "We have to make sure… What do you think they have to make sure of, Gaius?" Despite his best efforts, he found himself drawn into conversation with the cylon once again.
"Sure, I guess I'll just ask her all about it," Baltar grumbled, his voice barely audible over the centrifuge Ishay started. "Yes, I'll walk over and strike up a conversation, just to have a quite stunning blonde hallucination stare me down for having the unmitigated gall to speak to another woman while in her presence."
"Did you say something?" Ishay asked.
"Just thinking," Baltar responded with a grin. Six's scowl worked where her innocent-sounding suggestions had not – he turned away from his screen and looked at the visiting paramedic. "Then again," he said to Six, leering at Ishay's figure while she was concentrating on her tests, "perhaps some nice conversation would be quite pleasant."
"Be careful, Gaius," Six said with a cold sneer. Baltar focused his efforts on ignoring the cylon. At least until her fingers rubbed up against his pants zipper.
"Well, isn't that interesting," Baltar exclaimed, practically leaping out of his chair as he cast a reproachful stare in Six's direction.
"What's interesting?" Ishay asked.
"Umm… nothing, actually," Baltar said with a grimace. "So, umm… what is it that has you traveling all the way down to my humble lab?" he asked in reply.
"Stop flirting, Gaius," Six growled. Baltar ignored her in favor of having some fun.
"Just some blood tests," Ishay answered. "We're a little backed up in medical. Cottle wanted me to bring them here."
"So casual and relaxed all of a sudden," Six said with a smile. "Methinks she's hiding something."
Probably, Baltar agreed silently, wondering – not for the first time – whether his cylon hallucination was capable of reading his thoughts. But I'm not playing Six's game this time. "Just make sure you power down the microscope before you go," Baltar warned. "I've had to repair the fracking capacitor twice already."
"You're not even the least bit curious?" Six asked. "Really?"
"I think I'm going to head down to the mess for some coffee," Baltar muttered. "Like I said – make sure you power that down before you go."
"Sure," Ishay said again.
Baltar practically raced out of his lab, irritated by Six once again. I was going to ask about Ishay's tests, he told himself. Really, I was. I'm not completely dim. But not if she tries to get me to do it, he decided. I'm not giving in. Not anymore. He chased from his mind the thought that he had made this same promise to himself countless times, and he had yet to keep it for more than two days at a time. It's my head. There's only room for one of us in here… it's past time she figure that out.To be continued…………………………