Rating: R (M)
Warnings: Some disturbing topics
Spoilers: Up to 2.08
Summary: There are no morals in war. Lee-centric, slight LeeKara
Disclaimer: I own them not, so sue me not.
Author's Note: Please. Review. I live off reviews. One of my 'big sisters' can tell you how much I love reviews. I bask in your reviews' glory. So review. Please.
Chapter 1: Orphan
And when Hera saw Minotaur's hideous form; she looked at him once in disgust and said "he is not worth it," before banishing the babe cruelly to the maze of which the child would never be free of...
"Lee? Lee, come on, wake up. Lee? Apollo!"
The young captain stirred at the sound of someone calling him. He slowly shook his head from side to side twice before finally lifting it to see who it was that had woken him up.
Kara Thrace grinned at the sleepy face of her commanding officer. He may technically be her boss, and the gods knew he acted like such a tightass sometimes, but times like these were when she caught a glimpse of the young man she had known those long years ago, back when the world was still going around and they did not shoulder the burdens of the lives of forty five thousand men and women. This was the Lee that she had come to be friends with.
"Rise and shine, sir," she said grinning impishly. Lee managed a sleepy grin back before he rubbed a hand over his face.
"What time is it?"
"Almost seventeen hundred."
"Frak." He'd been sleeping for over an hour. Kara shrugged and sat down on the desk next to him and the paperwork in front of him. She picked up the top packet and scanned the top.
"The Minotaur Incident. Jeez Lee, why are you still looking into this? The fire was over two months ago."
She was right, of course. It had been over two months since the nineteenth of February, when the fire broke out in the hospice of the Minotaur, one of the fleet's remaining civilian vessels, taking the lives of the twenty-seven patients who had been residing in that part of the ship. They had managed to put the fire out before it could consume the medical supplies, but by the time they had doused the last flame, not a single one of the patients had survived.
"I'm not still looking into it; I just never got around to looking at it in the first place. That thing's been backlogged ever since it came to rest on my desk."
"But why are you the one going through this? The President should be the one to deal with this kind of stuff," Kara pointed out as she set the paper back down on the desk. Lee shrugged.
"We need to see how much supplies will be required to fix that hospice wing. Better that we get over with this as soon as possible. No telling what might happen," he said, a tinge of weariness touching his voice as he murmured the last part. She nodded. He looked up at her once more, but this time confusion was etched on his features.
"Why are you here, Kara?"
"Crap, I nearly forgot. They found a leak in your Viper about an hour ago."
"How the hell did that happen?"
"Hey, I'm just the messenger, so don't go ragging on me," Kara replied, putting up two hands defensively. Lee muttered a single, dire curse under his breath before rising from his chair and tearing out of the room, with one amused Kara Thrace standing in his wake.
Lee sped down the corridors of the battlestar at breakneck speed. His Viper had been fine this afternoon when he had gone on his shift; he had done his preflight twice over and his post flight checkup the same amount as well, so how in hell did his Viper suddenly spring a leak?
"Captain," Cally saluted as she approached him.
"Specialist Cally," Lee saluted back before resuming his search for his Viper.
"Your Viper is over there, sir," the girl pointed to a far corner of the deck. Lee looked over to where his bird stood with a deckhand working diligently underneath the belly of the Viper. He looked on for a while, wondering just how long it would be until the technician fixed the leak in it, when the deckhand slid out from his place under the Viper. Upon closer look, the CAG realized he did not recognize the young face smudged with grease. He turned to inquire Cally about this new face, but she had already disappeared.
"Chief?" he called. Tyrol jogged up to him.
"Who is that?"
"Who is who?'
Galen turned his head to see who the CAG was pointing at.
"Oh, him. That's Crewman Polaris, sir."
"That's his name, sir. Don't know what his parents were thinking when they named their tyke, but he's bright enough, and he's a dependable kid, especially when one of us is lost about what's wrong with these birds."
"I don't think I've ever met him before."
"Probably not. He usually stays in a closet somewhere and puts parts together so that we can install them in the Vipers and Raptors."
Lee nodded and squinted to look at the technician better. He was small, and rather skinny, to a point where his already baggy coveralls seemed to practically hang of his thin frame. His dark hair seemed enhance the paleness of his skin.
"How old is he?"
"Well, he turned eighteen only a few months ago, sir. He's small and scrawny and doesn't have much upper body strength, well actually he has terrible upper body strength, but he sure is a devil when it comes to the small intricate stuff," Tyrol answered proudly.
"When did he come aboard?"
"I think sometime around two months ago. Shar-." He trailed off here, realization of what he had just said dawning upon him. The smile he wore slipped slightly, but he bravely managed to keep it somewhat in place. Lee decided to take pity on him.
"A Raptor pilot brought him over?"
Lee nodded and once again looked at the boy working on the Viper. His movements were slightly awkward, but from the way everyone left him to his work, it seemed they all trusted him to do the job. All in all, he did seem like a bright and dependable kid.
He also seemed young, so very young.
"He looks... young for a eighteen year old," he remarked. Tyrol shrugged, then nodded to Seelix, who was waving him over to look at some gadget or another.
"We're all forced to age beyond our years," he said wearily, before turning and hurrying off to finish his work on Hot Dog's Viper.
After one last long look at the boy, Lee turned and left as well, his previous reason for coming forgotten.
The rest of the evening passed by without much trouble, and by twenty hundred Lee found himself in his office staring at the stack of papers on the Minotaur once more. He really, really didn't want to work on this. And as unwilling minds always did, his thought began to drift off.
His mind wandered over to the young deckhand he had seen today.
Lee felt the familiar pang of guilt in his heart, the same pang he always felt when he saw people that should not be in such a position milling through the work on board a battlestar. Oh, he knew that times were desperate. He knew they needed all the help they could get. But knowing so did not help to ease the guilt within him any. It didn't matter how desperate they were. Involving children in war was wrong. They were making a bad decision. A wrong, immoral decision.
A knock on his open hatch brought him out of his reverie. He looked up to see his best friend leaning against the hatch. She seemed to be freshly out of the shower, as her hair was damp and her skin still pink. Normally he would have taken the time to secretly register the sheer beauty of the woman before him, clean and rosy, but right now he felt oddly detached.
"Hey, you," Kara greeted, making her way over to him.
"Hey," he mumbled back. Kara rolled her eyes.
"What's eating at you now?" She asked, plopping down on his desk. Lee shrugged.
"Nothing's eating at me."
"Please. I know that look. Now tell Mommy everything that's bothering you, dear."
Lee snorted and shook his head.
"Did it... did it ever occur to you that as time progresses on and on... the nuggets and deckhands we're receiving seem to get younger and younger?"
Kara gave him a blank look. Lee pressed a bit more. She was the one to initiate this conversation, after all.
"Frankly I don't care how old my nuggets are, as long as they can fly a Viper without getting killed. And it doesn't really matter to me how old the specialist is. If she can keep my Viper in the air then that's all that really matters, isn't it?"
"She?" Lee asked, slightly amused. Kara raised an eyebrow.
"Weren't you talking about Cally?"
"Among others, perhaps. I saw someone that looks even younger than Cally today though."
"I thought Cally was the youngest there?"
"So did I. Appears he just turned eighteen a few weeks ago."
"Oh. Is he any good?"
"According to the chief, he's great with putting together parts and wiring stuff."
"Then that's all that matters," Kara said offhandedly. Lee blanched.
"This doesn't bother you... at all?" he asked. Kara looked back at him, somewhat curiously.
"He's barely eighteen, Kara."
Lee opened his mouth to say something, then decided against it and shut it again. Kara sighed.
"What did you expect? This is wartime, Lee. We don't have many people. And we need all the help we can get."
"Come on, say something. I know you're dying to say something, so say it," Kara wheedled. Lee rolled his eyes.
"We're supposed to be protecting kids like him, Kara. Not drag them into this kind of frak with us."
"And just exactly what is 'this frak'?"
"This," Lee opened his arms out to indicate the situation they were in. "The bad food. The cold showers. Living quarters equivalent to a sardine can. All of it. Hell, the whole goddamn war. We enlisted to keep kids away from stuff like this. Now we're just dragging them into it."
"There's really nothing we can do about it, is there? And it's not like the civilian ships are much better off than we are. Though the living quarters part I think I can bring myself to envy."
"And the threat of death? There's hundreds of accidents that can happen on board the Galactica that would not be the case for any of the civilian ships."
Kara shrugged, and reached over to ruffle Lee's hair.
"You're overthinking the situation as usual, CAG. Get some sleep. You look like you need it."
"Look, I understand where you're coming from. I don't feel too hot about seeing kids going out there and risking their lives every single day either. But the fact is that we need them. We're desperate, and I honestly don't think the Cylons are going to give a damn if the next human they kill is a little boy or an old lady. This is war, Lee, and the old rules don't apply," she said. She had a feeling it wasn't going to work on Lee though. He tended to feel too much, and when he felt he was doing something "wrong," he let himself go on severe guilt trips.
Not that he showed it on the outside. It was years of knowing Lee Adama that allowed Kara to know just how much guilt ate away at him. It was definitely no advantage for someone who was the CAG of a battlestar.
Lee still looked frustrated, so in a last ditched effort, Kara did what she normally did not do - and by normally did not do, she meant almost never did - and leaned over to loosely hug Lee.
It worked like a charm. He didn't pull away, though she suspected that was out of shock more than anything else. She brushed the hair back away from his forehead before lifting his chin up a little to get him to look her square in the eyes.
"I know you feel guilty about letting children join the war. I do too, and not a day passes when I see my nuggets and wonder why the hell they are even here. But reality's reality, Lee. You can't change it. No one can, no matter how much they want to," she said softly. Lee blinked once. Twice. She could see him steadily gathering himself once more, so she released him and got off the desk.
"Get some sleep, Apollo. You have CAP in the morning."
Four days later, Lee found himself sitting in his office once more, glaring at the pile of neglected paperwork sitting innocently on his desk. He had gotten off shift a few hours ago, had showered, and grabbed a few bites to eat before returning here to wrestle with the ever hated stacks of The Second Greatest Evil Known to Mankind. The First being, of course, the Cylons themselves.
He would have preferred to stay on deck and watch the young crewman work on his Viper. Polaris had done an excellent job fixing the leak three days ago; apparently he had done some tuning as well, because Lee felt his Viper flying considerably smoother than it had before. Though she may have been a Cylon, Boomer sure did know to pick her technicians well.
Lee sighed as he sifted through the stack of papers. His desk was messy. He hated messy. It was a jumble of papers, really; there was a few packets dealing with the necessary repairs for various ships, a few on the distribution of water supplies, a handful on the medications needed by the doctors for their patients that he figured Doc Cottle would know how to work with better than he did. On the very top of the stack were profiles of the patients who died on board the Minotaur. Maybe he would sift through it later once more to look at the civilians lost, but right now he just wanted his desk a little bit neater. He let his eyes occasionally skim over the papers as he straightened his work space out.
He froze when his eyes took in the photo on the twelfth sheet.
Johnston Polaris Walker
Date of birth: 86.06.02.
Date of death: 03.02.19
The last date struck as something familiar in Lee's brain, but the picture next to it sent a jolt through his entire body. A boy. It was a picture of a boy. A boy Lee could have sworn he had just seen down in the flight deck not four hours ago, when he got off his shift. For a moment he thought he had found two people that looked amazingly alike - or at least hoped that that was what he had found. One quick scan of the name proved no such luck though.
Michael Johnston Polaris Walker.
He stormed out of his office, the profile still clutched tightly in one hand as he tore down the Galactica's corridors in search of one sixteen year old technician.
He found him in the exact same spot as he had last seen him; lying flat on his back under his Viper briskly working on the innards of the bird. The only difference was that he had a flashlight held between his teeth now, and that he had a considerably larger amount of black smudges on his face. Walking over, he reached down and in one fluid motion pulled the deckhand out from under the Viper by the collar of his coverall.
"Wha-?" the boy yelped when he felt hands dragging him up. His head hit the body of the Viper, making him yelp once more, but when he saw that it was the CAG who was holding him by his collar, he blinked, the pain momentarily forgotten. Lee could feel everyone on the whole deck going still to watch the scene unfurling before them, but he did not care. Instead, he turned to the boy.
"Come on, Michael," he said in a voice so soft that even the deckhand he was holding on to could barely hear, before he proceeded to haul the boy across the deck. He was already halfway there before the rest of the deck finally began to react.
Lee ignored the shouts of protest from the deckhands and dragged the boy by the scruff of his neck down the corridors of the Galactica. He put up little fight. When they reached his office, he threw Polaris into the room and locked the door behind him.
"What is this?" he hissed, shoving the sheet of Polaris's profile into the boy's face.
The deckhand didn't even flinch.
Polaris barely registered the folder, only looking at Lee with a resigned expression on his face. He made no movement. He made no sound. He merely stared.
They stood that way, Lee glaring and the boy simply staring, until at last the deckhand spoke up.
"So, what are you going to do now then, sir? Throw me out the airlock?" he asked, his voice tired and soft... and yet somehow still holding a hint of challenge.
"Don't frak with me," Lee all but snarled and threw the folder on his desk. Polaris didn't seem all too fazed. His expression was blank. Lee sighed and ran a palm over his face, sitting down on his chair carelessly.
"Look, I don't know how you're even aboard this ship, but trust me; this isn't a place for kids like you. You should be on a civilian ship. I know it might look cool and all, but..."
"Can I say something, sir?" the crewman broke in.
"I'm not going back."
Lee paused, then looked up. Polaris was still staring at him, but his gaze had changed.
Lee opened his mouth, then closed it again. Here he was, with a Raptor stowaway standing before him, a stowaway adamantly refusing to go back to wherever he came from. Yet for some reason he could not bring himself to send him directly to a civilian ship, as he had full intention of doing so only ten minutes ago. Polaris unconsciously rubbed the back of his neck. Lee winced to see the bruise forming there from his grip.
He decided to take a different approach.
"Don't you have any family members you need to get back to?" he asked. Polaris shook his head.
"My mom and dad never made it. I was attending school at Picon when the Cylons attacked, and was on my way home when our transport changed course. I didn't know about it until a long while after the attack. I was..." he paused, seemingly trying to collect himself. His expression was oddly grim when he opened his mouth once more.
"I was... placed on a ship with all the other parentless kids after a few weeks. An orphanage, or at least as close to one as could be managed, given the conditions we were in. The captains on the civilian vessels thought that it would be the best course of action... seeing as how there were so many kids, and no one who could properly take care of us. But the ship they placed us on wasn't as well stocked. There wasn't enough food. There wasn't enough water. There wasn't enough heat. Supplies were running low, and those of us who were sick had to go without medication for a while," Polaris's voice grew even softer.
Lee felt his eyes widen, his mind draw a blank. Orphan ships. Low supplies. But he knew for a fact that Galactica had been handing out the supplies evenly.
"I've never heard of-."
"You're not a civilian, are you, sir?" Polaris cut him off. He stared at Lee with unreadable eyes, a blank gaze so haunted and devoid of emotion that Lee could not help but stare back into them, a chill running down his spine. Those eyes did not belong to a boy of sixteen years.
Polaris smiled. It wasn't a happy smile.
"No, of course you wouldn't know. You're a soldier. You're the CAG. You're the great Apollo. You get three hots and a cot every single day. You get first dibs whenever the fleet is running low on supply, whether it be fuel, food, or water. But unfortunately there are people out there who don't share the same privileges as you, sir, especially orphans like us who no one cares about. We're a burden. We're expendable. We don't need as much as other people who still have their families. We're the pink elephant in the room that everyone knows of but no one wants to talk about."
The humorless smile was still there, even as Polaris picked up his profile from Lee's desk.
"Want to know why you never knew of that ship they made our dear little orphanage? Why no one reported the state we were in? 'Cause none of us were - are - still stupid enough to try and reach out for help from anyone. Not when there's no room for charity in people's hearts."
The grin became an almost sinister sneer.
"I was in bed with a broken shoulder when we ran out of supplies for the third time. Everyone… every kid there at least... was going hungry and thirsty. Angry because they never had enough. Fights broke out among the kids every day. It got so bad to the point where those men... those doctors... decided to shut down the life support systems for all the patients, whether they thought they had a chance or not. Those of us who didn't require any life support, those of us who were stable but just injured... they injected with... something. And those of us... those of us that managed to find out too late what was going on and tried to run away... they shot the minute we ran out the door, like they were shooting dogs. Two friends fell on top of me. The marines shooting at us thought I was dead like my friends were. When I got the chance I crawled away from them and I... watched... as they threw the bodies of my friends out of the airlock. I had to run away if I wanted to live. So I hid on board one of your Raptors when they came for supplies the next day after you heard about the 'accident' that happened. I was caught. Boom – the Cylon that was on board before the one we have right now and Crashdown found me. They didn't ask any questions when I said I had to get away from the ship, and the Cylon introduced me to the chief when she found out I could work with machines. They snuck me my medications ever since."
He drew in a shaky breath, then let it out, but his gaze never broke away from Lee's face after that first time.
"You might think you're defending humanity just by shooting down Cylons. But did you know? Sometimes, those very humans you're trying to protect are even worse than those Cylons you try so hard to shoot out of the sky. After all," his eyes gleamed.
"The Cylon who found me was the one who had saved me from the humans.
"Poetic irony, isn't it? That's why I can't go back. They'll kill me. So if I have to go back there to be treated like an animal... I'd rather you threw me out of the airlock right now."
They stayed that way, both staring each other down. Finally, Polaris sighed.
"Anything else, or may I go back now, sir? I still have to finish rewiring the communications in your Viper."
"Even if you began writing the papers to send me off somewhere it's still going to take you a couple of hours. I could finish rewiring in that time period. The deck gang needs a lot of hands. Sir."
"...You may go."
"Thank you, sir."
Polaris saluted him and was already out the door before the sudden intuition hit Lee and twisted his insides in sick trepidation. Thought came back to him, as did his senses - he was finally able to think again -
To Be Continued