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.
---------------------------------------------------------------------XIII – It Can't Rain All the Time
"Billy Keikeya," a young man said, walking up and joining him at the bar.
"You are?" Billy prompted. He could only describe the other man's attitude as smarmy, and he was definitely not in the mood for that.
"Deacon Connor," Deaq replied with a grin. "You were the president's lapdog."
"Say again?" Billy asked. The only thing that kept him from throwing a punch was the expression he imagined on Dee's face when she eventually showed up to visit him in the brig.
"You were Roslin's assistant."
"President Roslin's assistant," Billy corrected.
"Of course," Deaq said with a smile. He seemed intent on irritating Billy, and he was clearly amused by the fact that he was succeeding. "So you poundin' the pavement now, so to speak, or does the new guy plan on keeping you around?"
"Why don't you just say whatever the frak it is you have to say and take off?"
"I'm here to give you a message," Deaq responded, taking a seat next to Billy. "My boss has been very impressed by your abilities in the political arena."
"Your boss," Billy responded. "Who's that?"
"Tom Zarek. He said you actually played him like a violin when the president sneaked off."
The bartender had already placed an iced Delphi Sunset in front of Deaq without him asking for it. That chased away any suspicions that Billy might have had about Deaq lying about having an employer with influence. If the bartenders on Cloud Nine know your favorite drink, you're either wealthy or connected. He looked Deaq over closely, noting fraying cuffs on his shirt and pants. He didn't have money before the attack, Billy decided. Whatever he has he got after we came out here.
"I'm not interested," Billy said.
"That's it?" Deaq asked. "You don't even give me some song and dance about how you're flattered by Mr. Zarek's offer but you'd like to pursue other opportunities?"
"Not very diplomatic."
"The president wasn't just my boss – she was my friend," Billy said. "So if you don't mind, I'd like to be alone right now."
"The boss thought you might say something like that," Deaq responded glibly, emptying his glass with a few gulps. "If you change your mind, all you have to do is call him."
"I'll keep that in mind," Billy answered as graciously as possible. I probably should be a bit more diplomatic, he admitted silently. Damn whoremonger was right about that, anyway.
"Make sure you do," Deaq said, rising to his feet and surveying the formerly wealthy elite who now held court with each other in Cloud Nine's lounge. "Like I said, Mr. Zarek was impressed. I heard you're going to get married – you'd do well to look out for your own future."
Billy was about to abandon all restraint and lay Deaq out on the floor – consequences with Dee be damned – but Zarek's messenger was already walking away quickly, well aware that he'd likely crossed some unspoken line of etiquette with his last comment. Billy remained at the bar for several more minutes, tossing the offer around in his head. Work for Tom Zarek, he wondered. Would it really be all that bad? People said bad things about President Roslin all the time, but being near her I knew perfectly well that they were all untrue. Maybe it's much the same for Tom Zarek…
By the time Apollo found her, she was well and truly drunk, curled up in a fetal position in a dark corner of an off-limits corridor, an empty ambrosia bottle on the floor next to her, the unlit stub of a cigar still clenched between her teeth, keeping her mouth open so that she was drooling on her shirt. "Oh, Kara," Apollo muttered, unable to take his eyes from the scene, transfixed like a witness to a train wreck.
When he got close, he was relieved that the only things he smelled were sweat, ambrosia, and cigar smoke. It was far from pleasant, but it was better than vomit. Apollo was definitely not in the mood to deal with vomit, too, when he was already on the hook for carrying Starbuck all the way back to her bunk and getting her into bed without anyone realizing just how far-gone she was. The other pilots might laugh, but that isn't really appropriate anymore, even if Kara would be fine with it. It's time for her to grow up; I need a pilot I can count on to do everything that I just can't get to.
"What's going on?" Starbuck asked as Lee picked her up. Her head moved from side to side, as though she was looking around, but her eyes remained shut. "Ares, check life support," Starbuck muttered, her words barely intelligible. "I can't see anything… I think we've lost power."
"You awake?" Apollo asked.
"Lee? Where did Ares go?"
"I haven't found him yet," Apollo answered truthfully. Last he had seen, Ares was wandering off with a flight specialist Apollo was certain was named Susan. He doubted he would see either of them again anytime soon.
"I thought he was just here," Starbuck said. Her left eye opened, and her head started to bob back and forth again. "Lee…"
"I think I'm drunk."
"Definite officer material," Apollo said with a sigh, placing her back on the hard, metal floor. "Figured that out all by yourself, did you?"
"I screwed up," Starbuck said, practically launching her face forward into her hands, hiding herself from Apollo's gaze.
"You were ambushed. It was a trap."
"I got the president killed."
"No." Part of him wanted to indulge in some self-destructive misery right along with her, but this was not the time; now he had to take care of Kara. Apollo knelt down and pried Starbuck's hands away from her face and touched her softly on the chin, drawing her gaze up to meet his. "Starbuck, look at me."
"No," she answered, an exaggerated shaking of her head knocking Apollo's hand away.
"Look at me, Lieutenant." Starbuck opened her eyes and wrinkled her face into a scowl that looked more like an insolent pout. "The president knew the danger," Lee said. "She knew the risks, and she accepted them. You walked into a very carefully set ambush; what happened is not your fault. It's to your credit that you only lost the few people you did."
"Not a big comfort, given that one of them was the president," Starbuck countered. "She was supposed to lead us. Pythia said so."
"Pythia said the leader would die before we reach Earth," Apollo pointed out.
"From a wasting disease," Starbuck answered. "I don't remember anything about the leader getting whacked by cylons."
"Whacked by cylons?" Apollo asked, unable to stop himself from laughing. "Remind me never to send you away on a mission with Ares again; the last thing I need is you talking like him."
"Am I grounded again?"
"No, Kara. I told you – you did a good job out there. And you came back alive, just like I told you to."
"I don't want to be grounded, Lee," Starbuck answered. "I love to fly."
"And you're very good at it."
"Hey, Lee," Kara said, forcing herself up into a seated position against the bulkhead. "Remember when you said you love me?"
"Yeah, I remember," Lee answered awkwardly. That had not been one of his finer moments.
"You're not very good at it," Kara laughed.
"I'm way better," she said.
"What did you say?" Apollo asked.
"When?" Starbuck's attempts to remain in an upright, seated position were failing miserably as she slowly began listing toward her right. She was almost down on the floor by the time Lee had propped her back up. "You know what, Captain?"
"That was mean, sending me out there like that. I wouldn't have done that to you."
"You seemed like you wanted to go," Lee pointed out.
"Some would say that's clear evidence it was a bad idea," Starbuck mumbled. "Lee…"
"I think I'm gonna throw up."
Tabitha Donner sighed heavily as she sat back in her chair, sifting through the haphazardly organized pages in her hand. It had been less than twelve hours – not even half a day – since the Myrmidon returned without President Roslin, but Donner found, to her surprise, that that was more than enough time for her to lose all semblance of sanity.
Sure, we agreed that I wouldn't publish my book – in whole or in part – until she died, Donner remembered. But implicit in that agreement was our mutual belief that she would be around for at least a few more months. How the hell am I supposed to put together a book without having more to work with?
She had already been visited by Commander Adama, Vice-President – no, he's the president now – Baltar, and some snot-nosed punk who claimed to be Tom Zarek's personal assistant. Donner was surprised that so many people already knew about her book, but she was not exactly shocked that everyone who knew seemed eager to offer input or, at the very least, get some sort of an advance copy. Not that I know what we're going to publish it on, Donner thought. It'll have to be a completely digital release – available only to those who have datapads – because there just don't seem to be any printing presses anywhere in the fleet. She smiled at the fact that that was something she had never considered before.
She spread the pages out on the floor and stared at them again, trying to think of a way to organize pages into chapters, and chapters into a book. I don't even have the whole story, she finally decided. How am I supposed to write the book I planned to write when my only primary source of information is lost?
"I could really use a drink," she muttered, lamenting the fact that she was not one of the people who had enough influence to secure some type of alcohol, even some of the stuff that random refugees were mixing up in stills cobbled together from random components scavenged from across the fleet. She began to wonder at the fact that no one had as of yet built any machinery to manufacture weapons, but there were reportedly no fewer than fifteen stills scattered across nine different ships. Gotta love human priorities.
A soft tapping on her door knocked her out her amused reverie. When she opened the door, her eyes settled on an unfamiliar face. "Yes?"
"Hi, I'm Dr. Noah Drake," her visitor explained.
"I'm not sick."
"I'm not a medical doctor," he replied with a grin that implied amusement at some unspoken joke. "I'm an engineer. I'd like to talk to you about your book."
"You and everyone else."
"Trust me, I may have some information – or at least some theories – that may interest you."
"Is that right?" Donner asked.
"It is. I only ask five minutes of your time, Ms. Donner. If you like what you hear, we can continue our discussion for as long as you'd like. If not, you can kick me out of your quarters and rest assured that you will never see me again."
"Five minutes," Donner said impatiently. She glanced back at the mess on her floor and shrugged her shoulders. Not like I can make a full book out of that, she reminded herself. "Sure, five minutes. What do I have to lose?"
William Adama finally grew impatient with the silence and decided to begin the debriefing. He had hoped that Tigh would start off by offering something, anything – regret at losing the president, pride in successfully retrieving the necessary medication, even a sneeze or a cough to indicate that he was still alive – but there was nothing but silence.
"Why don't you explain how it all went wrong," Adama suggested. He had already read the operation report, and Tigh knew it. Now Adama wanted to hear what wasn't in the report – he wanted to know the reactions that people had, the emotions that were involved, all of the subtext that has no place in an official tactical file.
"Everything was going fine," Tigh explained. "But it was in that way that you know something's wrong. You just know it."
Adama nodded, knowing exactly what his XO was saying. Commander Shelby, Adama's first commanding officer, had referred to it as a nose for trouble, though Adama had always just thought of it as instinct. Shelby's own XO had had it, and eventually Adama got a nose for trouble, too. The best combat officers all had it, and Tigh was no exception.
"We loaded the Raptors and they delivered the first of their two cargo runs," Tigh continued. "The president was getting her scans, with Ishay and Dr. Hobber running the equipment. Ishay came into the cargo bay and told us that Roslin and Hobber were wrapping up, that he was going to discuss her options with her. Our people had started to fall behind schedule, but it was nothing all that bad."
"But it was another little thing that was just not right," Adama commented. He was suddenly reminded of Admiral Cartwright. He may have had the best instincts – the best nose for trouble – of anyone I've ever met, Adama decided. Ironically, Cartwright was always the last person to speak of instinct. He always claimed his gut reaction was right because it was anything but a gut reaction – there were always little clues one could think of if they thought hard enough, tiny details that were always wrong – that the subconscious always picked up on in high-stress situations. Cartwright claimed that he had a set of scales buried deep in his mind; when the little things added up too much, the scales tilted and Cartwright knew it was time to go.
"Yeah, another thing," Tigh agreed. "Like Dr. Frost getting that migraine. He complained of the headache and left. I didn't think to put a guard on him. I don't know what the hell I was doing…"
"Hobber was in our troops' sight the whole time," Adama pointed out. "If they were up to anything, we would have seen it."
"Only as long as Hobber was in on it," Tigh countered. "I screwed up, Bill; we both know it. We've served together for years, and been friends much longer than that. Don't start insulting my intelligence now."
"Fine," Adama muttered.
"Starbuck's warning came first," Tigh continued. "My men froze – all except for Rutger and his team – so I ordered them to grab what they could board the Raptors. All those green soldiers were only to get in the way, anyway. I gave the order to evacuate the president, and Rutger and I took position to defend the cargo bay. The president came running in with Hobber, and they were pinned down. They decided to make a run for it just a split second before Rutger and I were ready. Hobber went down almost immediately--"
"Dead?" Adama interrupted.
"Absolutely," Tigh assured him. "He was dead before he his body hit the deck. The president got caught in mid-stride."
"She survived her wounds?"
"I don't know," Tigh admitted, easily recalling the scene that had haunted his dreams every time he had tried to sleep since then. "I thought she was dead at the time, but… I don't know…"
"Your memory's playing tricks on you," Adama said. "You've probably thought about it so many times that you've seen every possible way in your mind's eye. Tell me the best you can – was she dead?"
"I don't think I'll ever be able to say one way or the other," Tigh answered. "Like I said, I thought she was dead. I was sure of it. Or maybe I just told myself that because it made it easier to leave her, to get out of there, to save my own hide."
"Don't," Adama growled. "If I'm not allowed to insult your intelligence, you're not allowed to sit there and feel sorry for yourself and consider the possibility that maybe, out of nowhere, you suddenly developed a fear of battle. No bullshit in here."
"Again – was she dead?"
"Honestly, Bill, I don't know," Tigh responded with a frustrated shrug. "She was at least ten meters away, I couldn't tell for sure. Her wounds were bad, and I'm reasonably certain she never would have survived the trip back to the fleet. But to say she was dead when we left, I can't be sure."
"And you left her." It wasn't a question.
Tigh nodded, his eyes unreadable.
"Would you do it again?"
"I don't know," Tigh replied. "I couldn't have gotten to her, I know that," Tigh explained. "There were more centurions coming in; they would have gotten me. We were outmaneuvered and outgunned, with no chance of success, but we both know that doesn't excuse me not even trying. I don't know what I was thinking." Tigh leaned forward, placing his face in his hands as he sighed heavily.
Adama was surprised at how tired his friend sounded. There was a momentary flutter of a thought, something about Tigh's real age, but Adama chased it away. The commander would not think about that; if Tigh was old, then so was he. And I have too much to do to be old right now.
"What's done is done," Adama finally said. "We have to focus on what comes next. I want you to take the Myrmidon."
"Where?" Tigh asked.
"Nowhere," Adama replied. "I'm giving you the command."
"I respectfully decline," Tigh said evenly.
"I'm not giving you a choice in the matter."
"Maybe you should," Tigh suggested. "But either way, you should reconsider your decision."
"You couldn't have handled the situation differently on Chiron," Adama countered. "Like you told me, it wasn't a battle you could win. The cylons had inside help, and they set us up. There's no sense beating yourself up over this."
"I'm not beating myself up," Tigh objected. "And I'm not at all influenced by the fact that some people will doubtlessly object to me getting a command after I may have left Roslin to die, perhaps because of what happened between us when I declared martial law. I'm just thinking through this rationally. The Myrmidon is a light support vessel, really little more than a special forces operations ship. Its role will be limited. XO on the last surviving battlestar is a more important post than captain on an expendable support ship."
Adama nodded, considering Tigh's argument. He's right, the commander decided. No two ways about it. There are two or three other officers who could command the Myrmidon, and none of them would make half the XO that Tigh is. No matter how badly he screwed the pooch last time command fell to him, I don't even want to imagine what anyone else in the fleet might have done. He felt an uncomfortable surge of emotion for just a moment as another thought occurred to him. With Laura dead and Baltar president, we can be sure Zarek will start being more brazen in his attempts to gain power. If something were to happen to me, only Tigh has the balls to stand up to Zarek. He has to remain my second.
"Fine," Adama said with a nod. "You've made your point. That just leaves us with the matter of who gets the Myrmidon."
"It's got to be Kelly," Tigh commented without a moment's hesitation. "Ellen mentioned she ran into him the other day, and that got me thinking. As Galactica's LSO, he's the most qualified officer we have to organize combat landings on that old harvester. Let me tell you, Bill, that was a real bitch. We were two jumps away before I let myself believe that all our pilots actually pulled it off. That was a real one-in-a-thousand shot there."
"Captain Kelly," Adama said, considering the suggestion. He hated the fact that Kelly's name had been mentioned in the same sentence as Ellen's – that can't be anything but bad, Adama decided – but Saul was right; Kelly was probably the ideal choice.
"President Gaius Baltar," Six cooed, sidling up so close that Baltar was certain he could feel the heat of the hallucination's skin against him. It almost made up for the fact that she had woken him out of a very sound sleep.
"Say it again," Baltar prompted.
"President Gaius Baltar," Six repeated, whispering in his ear, raising goose bumps all the way down his left side. "You're now the most powerful man in the fleet, Gaius."
"So long as no one counts Commander Adama," Baltar replied, finding that he was unexpectedly bothered by the fact that he might have to play second fiddle to the commander. It was not the kind of thing that would have bothered him just a few months earlier.
"No, you're more powerful," Six assured him. "You have to be, Gaius. To protect our child."
Baltar had a flash of memory – Adama taking his child and drowning her – and shook it off. It was only a dream, he told himself, though he knew better. He doubted he'd had an honest to goodness dream in months. Sleep is just a time for her to get at me when my defenses are down, he reminded himself. Prime time for cylon propaganda, all of it deposited straight into my subconscious.
"What is it?" Six asked, gazing at Baltar's face. "You look… suspicious."
"I'm a little tired," Baltar lied. "I've had a lot to do, and I don't think it's going to get easier." He felt a wave of stress and panic build up in his gut, and his best efforts did little to calm his nerves. President Gaius Baltar, he thought. Just what the hell am I supposed to do now?
"I can help with whatever you need," Six assured him. "We can do this together."
"And what about Zarek?" Baltar asked. "He's not going to be satisfied being a member of the Quorum of Twelve. I'm going to have to nominate a candidate for vice-president, and I don't know that I can produce anyone who can beat him."
"We'll figure something out," Six said, stroking Baltar's arm calmly.
"And what about the cylons?" Baltar asked. "Sooner or later, they're going to show up on our doorstep. I can't imagine they'd be willing to pass up a chance to wipe us out just because you and I are expecting a child."
"Everything will become clear," Six assured him. "All you need is patience, Gaius. Patience and faith."
"Faith," Baltar repeated dubiously. "In what? In whom?"
"Everything will become clear," Six told him again. "Trust me. I've never steered you wrong. Why would I start now?"
Author's Endnote: Well, that's the end of The Dark at the End of the Tunnel. Hope you liked it. There will, of course, be a sequel. (I don't remember if I mentioned this in an earlier note, but this story is the first part of a trilogy.) Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing. At the risk of offending those who reviewed, but less often, I'd like to specially thank ozma914, Evilclone, and darkfinder, whose multiple reviews helped inspire me to keep plugging away at this thing.
The second story is in progress, and I hope to have the first chapter up by the end of the month. (Due to concerns with developing three simultaneous plot threads, I have to be several chapters into writing before I can safely start posting, so that's the reason for the delay.) It's still untitled, so if you want to read it, you'll just have to keep an eye out. Thanks again.