Disclaimer: Not mine. Rating: Mature Audiences. Violence, Innuendo, Gross Stuff.
Set: This should be before the "To Be Continued" portion of 'Torn'. But certainly after the bulk of the episode.
Spoilers: As such, this contains spoilers up through 'Torn.
Pairings: Kara Thrace/Sam Anders, Cally/Chief, Roslin/Adama (hints), Dualla/Lee Adama (er, I think there are hints)
Genre: ...angst, drama, action/adventure, humor, episode insert.
Notes: This started as crack!fic and morphed into, well, something a little different. Mostly because I was joking and mocking my own tendencies with rhisilverflame. Grateful thanks are to be passed onto rhisilverflame, especially (she is totally to blame for a lot of this), and karmaaster and familyarchives for answering a Very Important Question. Title from the Boom Boom Satellites' song of the same name.
Words: 13,386 Summary: There's a lot of anger and sadness going around, and Chief Tyrol has had enough.

On the Painted Desert
by ALC Punk!

"They're going to pay, in one way or another."

"This isn't about vengeance. This is about justice."

--

Galen Tyrol was a kind man, a happy man, generally. Even with the end of the world and the fall of civilization as he knew it, he was happy. His life had purpose--especially now, with a wife and a son. That part actually made him happier than most. Because there was nothing like curling up with them and hearing them fall asleep first, and knowing that they were safe. His planes also made him happy--although he still sometimes missed his blackbird terribly. And he'd never quite forgiven Apollo for losing her.

So it really came as no surprise to anyone that he was doing a lot of glaring at Captain Thrace. After all, she'd succeeded in damaging one viper badly, and seemed not to care if she damaged another.

When it was announced she was back on flight status, Chief finally decided he'd have to do something--before she wrecked his vipers, and before Sam Anders drank his deck crew into earlier graves than the cylons were currently giving them.

The idea seemed perfectly sensible to him. Really, as he explained it to Cally when she was falling asleep (and not really paying attention, because his voice was just soothing and she was frakkin' tired and why the frak didn't he ever shut up when she wanted to sleep?), if Captain Thrace were happy, she wouldn't want to damage his vipers. If she were happy, she wouldn't be reckless and get other people in danger, either.

The bonus of keeping his deck crew's livers intact was just nice.

--

Seelix elected herself Chief's second in command for the op. Not that it was hard to take a little vengeance on Sam Anders for doing a little too much damage to her liver. She wasn't touching the part where she thought he'd wussed out on the circle.

Justice had nothing to do with getting the man to match her shot for shot until he couldn't see straight.

And it certainly had nothing to do with dragging him to a random storage room and dumping his nearly unconscious ass on the floor to sleep it off. She only kind of thought it was justice when she locked the hatch.

--

"Just a little further along here, Captain." Tyrol's plan was coming together. Just a few more minutes, and his vipers might be safe. Well, it could take them days to actually sort shit out--hence the supplies he'd left them. He'd considered trying to get them access to a head, but that would be too complicated. They'd survive. Besides, he was confident that they'd see reason. After all, they were in love. Love wasn't everything, but it helped a hell of a lot.

"Fine. Whatever."

Galen had considered drugging the captain or knocking her out physically. But given her incarceration by the cylons, that might not have been a good idea.

Still, her utter boredom and apathy with their destination worried him vaguely. He'd been non-specific about needing her help with something. Letting her think it was setting up a new still had been easy. Actually keeping an eye out for random crew who might stop them was less easy. But the room they were headed towards was in one of the few sections that still wasn't in the best shape--after the cylons crashed in the starboard landing pod, most of the storage rooms in the area had been in disarray. And there hadn't been a need for them to house people. Even now, most of the refugee civilians were housed in other parts of the ship. There was a lot of open deckspace, and he sometimes wondered if maybe they should fill it with more people.

Thankfully, the door he needed still had a lock on the outer side of the hatch. He pulled it open and waved, "After you, sir."

Starbuck rolled her eyes and stepped through without answering.

It couldn't have gone better if he'd shoved her. Tyrol slammed the hatch on her before she could notice the rest of the room. Then he spun the lock and stepped back.

There was a clunk as presumably, Starbuck threw herself against the solid metal.

He grinned and waved. "I'll let you out in a bit, sir." Not that she could hear him, of course. With happy thoughts for his somewhat safer planes, Galen turned and walked away, whistling.

--

"What the frak?!" Kara slammed her fist against the closed hatch again. "Chief!"

When it didn't open, she started cursing. She knew there'd been something about the way he'd been acting. Something secretive. Great. The great Starbuck had walked straight into a trap. What was it to be? She wondered, finally tiring with the door and turning to take in the rest of the room.

A snoring sound drew her attention to one wall.

"Oh, frak me." She muttered in irritation. As if she couldn't close that chapter of her life fast enough and without complication, here it was again. Sam Anders was stretched out on the floor, head lolling with every breath.

Given the scent of ambrosia in the room, Kara was willing to bet he'd had a lot before passing out. A quick search proved he hadn't brought it with him, however. "Bastard."

Kara resisted the urge to kick him and went back to the hatch.

Nope. Still locked.

And given her vague impression of the hallways around them, she didn't think anyone would be coming for a while. If ever. Kara kicked the door again and then turned to glare at Sam. "This is your fault."

The storage room itself was empty, except for a box. Kara almost didn't want to know what was in the box, but it would be nice to empty it and try battering the hatch with it. Her boots made hollow sounds on the metal floor as she stomped over to have a look. Bottles of water, two ration kits, and a blanket. Well, someone had been planning for the long haul. She scowled and dumped the contents on the floor, searching for anything useful.

A groan suddenly came from Sam, followed by pain-filled cursing as he rolled over. "Gods..."

"Yeah. Gods aren't here." Kara informed him, standing with the box and cursing herself when she decided the flimsy plastic wouldn't be any use.

"What the frak? Kara?"

"Yeah. I asked that, too."

Sam pushed himself up into a sitting position and paled slightly. "Oh, gods." He clapped a hand over his eyes and pulled his knees up. With careful movements, he folded his arms and dropped his head forward to rest on them. "Where the frak are we?" He sounded almost like he didn't care.

Fine. She could be civil. "Storage room. Great idea you had, Anders."

"Not mine." He replied, voice muffled.

"You mean you didn't put Chief up to locking me in here with you and all the comforts of home?" She asked, voice sarcastic.

"Seelix." Sam lifted his head, "I was... Seelix and alcohol." He winced again.

Given how hungover he looked, Kara was kind of leaning towards believing him. At least the part about the alcohol and Seelix. But the rest, she wouldn't put past him. Well, she would, but the small part of her that wasn't completely throttled of emotion and wanted to deal with shit thought Sam might do it just to try getting her back.

Angry, she paced to the hatch again and kicked it.

"Bet that accomplished a lot," Sam muttered from behind her.

"Shut up."

"Fine."

"Fine." Kara kicked the hatch again and wondered how long Chief was planning to leave them there. Knowing him, as long as he thought it would take.

Though take for what, she didn't know. Did he want them to kill each other?

"You cut your hair."

"What?" Kara turned and stared at him.

"It looks nice."

"Yeah, well, I didn't cut it for you." A horrible thought hit her, and she glared, "You set this up. You think a few little compliments is going to make me crawl back to you, Anders? 'Cause, I gotta tell you, the whole hangover doesn't really help. It just makes you pathetic."

"What? No!" Matching her glare with one of his own, he stood. "I don't want to be here anymore than you do!" Suiting actions to words, he walked over and poked at the hatch.

"Yeah. Right."

"Kara."

Suddenly tired, she turned away from him. "I don't have the time for this, Sam."

He didn't answer as he moved back to his wall and sat, closing his eyes. Kara eyed him for a moment before dropping to the floor herself.

She didn't close her eyes.

Because for just a moment, she remembered what it had been like to be locked into Leoben's apartment. And he'd thought it was for her own good, too.

--

"Chief!"

Tyrol looked up from the report he was paging through. "Seelix."

Something in her expression was agitated, "Hey, Chief." She shot a glance around, "You haven't seen Connors, have you?"

"Connors?" He frowned, trying to remember the last time he'd seen the ill-washed civilian. Probably about the same time he'd cut Gaeta free. "No idea."

Seelix nodded, "All right. If you see him, let me know, all right?"

"Yeah."

She was gone across the deck before he could ask her why. And then it didn't matter as he got distracted by the reports he was reading. They were already too low on extra metal for patches and repairs. He was going to have to see about scrounging some from the civilians. Just in case, of course.

--

The room was quiet, except for the sound of two people breathing and the occasional movement. Sam was a bit impressed that Kara had so far spent the time without another word or movement. She hadn't even gotten up and paced. If he'd wanted any sign that the woman he'd loved was gone for good, the fact that Kara--energetic, unable to stand still, Kara--hadn't even paced once would have done it.

Inactivity used to drive her insane.

He'd wisely not bothered saying a damned thing, though. She was convinced he'd set this all up. And while he had an inkling that it might really be a set-up, he was trying hard to believe it had been an accident.

Or maybe he was just lying to himself to escape the fact that, as much as he still wanted her, he'd given her up.

Or maybe it was just the gods-damned hangover talking.

He'd have to kill Seelix the next time he saw her.

It occurred to him that he didn't even know what he would say to Kara if she were speaking to him. The woman across from him was someone he didn't think he knew. For an instant, he'd thought she was--when she was angry and yelling at him. That had been familiar.

But then the woman who'd told him she wanted to scratch his eyes out had reappeared and she wasn't his anymore.

If he faced reality, she never really had been, either.

Kara shifted a moment before he heard something. He opened his eyes and mouth, "Kara--"

"Shut up." She scrambled to her feet.

Fine. He followed suit, grateful that Chief had apparently decided to let them out. Or maybe Seelix had.

The hatch clanked as it unlocked and then swung open.

"Chief!" Kara snapped, "You'd--"

A masked man with a gun pointed at them stepped into the room. "I'm afraid Galen Tyrol isn't here."

Sam blinked. What the frak?

"Now," the man continued, "You can either come peaceably, or, well, I suppose you could attempt to resist."

Four more men walked into the room, each as armed as the first.

Kara growled.

And Sam almost sighed. After all, with Kara, there was no easy way.

He should have remembered that.

"Frak you."

"We have the guns, Captain Thrace. Unless you want to be shot in the leg, I suggest you behave." The man smiled unpleasantly, "The knee, perhaps? I've heard that's a rather vulnerable spot, for you."

Sam moved when Kara did, throwing himself at the nearest man, hoping they'd both reach their targets in time. He didn't see Kara's fight, but the man he faced simply turned with his attack and slammed him against the wall before jamming the gun into his stomach. "Don't. Move."

"Ah. Not quietly, then. Incapacitate them," the man ordered.

"Yes, boss."

Sam didn't have time to brace himself before the man brought his arm up and smashed the butt of the gun against his temple. There was a moment of pain worse than his hangover and then everything went dark.

--

Lieutenant Dualla wasn't really paying attention when she sorted through the paper messages stacked in the Admiral's in-tray. Most of it was the usual stuff: reports signed by the Chief of the deck, a comm traffic report from Gaeta, and one summation of the wireless discussions the fleet civilians had been having. It gave her a strange sense of being home to sort it. As though she'd really never left Galactica, even as she was finding it difficult to step back into the rhythm of things. Too long as a deck officer instead of a communications technician.

Probably, she shouldn't let it get to her head, she reflected as she slit open the last missive.

There was something tacky on the paper, and she frowned, wondering if the Chief had forgotten something and sent it up coated in viper. But the smell was wrong. Not machine-like, though it was sharp and metallic. Sweet. Dee lifted her fingers to her nose and sniffed.

Dread filled her and she unfolded the note, eyes scanning it, catching the stains and words both. Not wanting to believe the sense.

Not until she'd scrubbed the blood from her fingers and stood.

It was with something almost mechanical that she headed for the Admiral, standing at the strategy table. "Sir."

"Dee." He nodded to her.

She swallowed. "You'll want to read this, sir."

Picking up on her stiffness, he straightened and received the letter with something approaching care. "This has to be a joke," he said after he'd scanned it.

"If it is, somebody went to a lot of trouble, sir."

Admiral Adama fingered one of the stains, finger coming away stained red. "So it would appear."

"Sir, are you...?" Dee found she couldn't finish the question. After all, the entire contents of the letter made no sense and seemed almost ludicrous.

"Mister Wilson!"

The comm tech snapped to attention, "Sir?"

"Get me the President on a secure channel."

The boy saluted, and Dee for a moment wondered if she'd ever been that young.

Adama picked up his phone, "I need to speak with the Chief." His conversation was brief, then he set the phone back down.

--

Karen Szarda had joined the New Caprican Police Force because she believed in the needs of peace. She'd believed that the cylons wanted the best for them. And, standing in one of the deserted storage rooms on Galactica, she still believed it.

Staring at the unconscious man they had bound to a chair, she felt the old hate rising. Two of her best friends had died in one of his suicide bombs. Samuel Anders had taken the law into his own hands and he'd ruined what had been a good life. What could have become something incredible. All because he was angry. All because he couldn't let go of the hate.

Giving in to her own anger would make her like him, although she ached to do so. Ached to kick him and punch him until he was bloody at her feet and unable to breathe.

Sean had died in her arms, coughing up his life's blood while his eyes went cold and dark.

That they had bound Kara Thrace to a similar chair, and placed her back to back with her husband didn't particularly interest Karen. Perhaps if she could be used against him, to cause him pain, it would matter.

But until he paid for his crimes--until she felt he had gotten the justice he deserved--she would follow along with what was required of her. She might think their great leader was full of shit and unlikely to get his demands, but Brother Marlon did have a way with words.

--

"Understood, sir," Galen hung up the phone and felt a moment of unease before he shook it off. "Great. Stupid jokes. Cally!"

"Yo, Chief." His wife grinned at him.

He found himself unable to fight the return grin before he turned serious, "I need to go check up on something, can you hold the fort while I'm gone?"

"Yessir."

"Thanks." He also fought the urge to kiss her--that wouldn't be very professional after all--and ended up reaching out to tap her nose before turning and walking off.

Figuring it was all just a hoax--maybe Captain Thrace was trying to pay him back already--he didn't bother telling anyone where he was going. Though he did look around for Seelix. Not finding her, he sighed and headed on his way.

It was almost eerie, how the people just trickled away, the closer he got to the room he'd stashed the warring pair in. The walls of Galactica felt that much closer.

Tyrol frowned and paused before he reached the corridor. There was no one, and hadn't been for at least three junctions. His instincts were telling him it was wrong. That there should have been one or two people. If nothing else, there should have been marines.

Maybe it wasn't some stupid prank.

With the hair on the nape of his neck rising, Tyrol turned and headed back down the corridor. Sergeant Hadrian's quarters weren't too far from where he was. And while he might not be fond of the woman, she wouldn't exactly talk, if this was just a prank.

Three corridors and one turning later, he tapped on the hatch before pushing it open and sticking his head in. "Sergeant?"

Several disinterested marines glanced at him. Hadrian, at the back of the room folding laundry blinked at him. "Chief."

"Could I speak to you for a moment, sir?"

Her eyebrows raised, but she seemed to get the hint that he didn't want an audience and came to him. "Yes, Chief?"

"Look, I... Let's just say that there might be a prank going on, and if so, I need your discretion. And if not... Then something very serious is happening."

She snorted, "That makes no sense whatsoever, Chief."

"I need backup."

"For a prank."

"Not exactly."

Hadrian looked at him for a moment, then shrugged, "Fine. Lead the way, Chief."

"Thank you, Sergeant." Hoping neither of them would regret this, he led the way back to the storage room. Approaching it, he felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck again. "Almost there."

When she didn't answer, he glanced back and found her watching their surroundings, hand lightly resting on her sidearm. Rather wishing he'd brought one of his own, Galen turned back and stepped around the corner. At the far end of the corridor, the hatch to the room he'd locked the Captain and her husband in hung open.

"Chief." Hadrian's softly-voiced comment was almost a command.

Tyrol froze where he stood, then moved into the scant cover on their side of the corridor. "See something?"

"No."

Listening, he couldn't hear a damned thing. "Fine... Just..." He shook his head and carefully continued the last few feet to the hatch. He peered in, easily ascertaining there was no one inside. "Looks clear."

Hadrian moved past him and stepped inside, scanning the room. "What the frak was this, Chief? Love nest?" She gestured at the piled foodstuffs and blanket.

Grimacing, Tyrol shrugged, "D'no, sir."

She shot him a look, but didn't press it as she continued her examination of the room.

Absently rubbing the back of his neck to calm the hairs there, he glanced down at the floor. And paused, noting the tiny dark drops scattered here and there. Without thinking about it, he stooped and swiped a finger through one. It came away sticky and red. One sniff was all he needed. Frak. "Sir."

Hadrian looked up from where she was inspecting another spatter of blood, "Whoever was in here, Chief, didn't leave quietly."

"No, sir." Damn. Damn damn damn. "I need to let the Admiral know."

"Know what, Chief?"

"Either Captain Thrace killed her husband, or they're both in serious danger."

--

"If this is just a hoax, I don't want a panic." Laura Roslin wondered if there would ever come a day when things went easy. Given the last two and a half years, she was going to have to go with a no on that one. Especially not where the cylons were concerned.

"Agreed." His voice sounded tinny, coming through the wireless. "And if it isn't."

"We don't deal with terrorists, Admiral." The knot of tension that had formed at the base of her skull when Tory informed her the admiral wanted to speak to her tightened.

"I'm going to have Doc Cottle run an analysis of the blood. I'll get back to you, Madame President."

"Good. In the meantime, I'll have my people look into things and find out if this group is legitimate." And if they were, and her people hadn't told her about them, she was going to be rather upset. This was the sort of shit she needed to know beforehand.

"Adama out."

Laura gave herself a moment to sigh internally as she set the phone down. And then she snapped into readiness and looked up at Tory, "I need everyone in here for a meeting. Now."

"Sir."

This was not shaping up to be a good day. Not at all. And she hadn't even gotten to the supply lists that needed to be inspected.

--

He called himself Brother Marlon, though if asked, he couldn't prove he was a priest of the Gods. Not that it mattered. He'd listened at the feet of Sister Elosha until her untimely death. And he'd followed her teachings, believing in the prophecy. Until Laura Roslin had stopped dying. Until she'd proved it all to be a sham to gain political sway.

And now he had his chance to enact justice. To stop the murderers in the military from furthering their plans of war.

For one year and four months, there had been peace. People had lived in harmony, even with the cylons. The problem had been the blind prejudice exhibited by the colonists, and the resistance's continual erosion of the foundations that should have made their society great. Brother Marlon had almost stayed on New Caprica, but the thought of gaining the whole of the fleet and turning them to his views. Of nurturing them until they realized that finding the cylons was the only solution, swayed him.

Without the cylons, there would be fewer children. The population would die out, and there would be nothing left. No one to prove that the Colonies had ever existed. The cylons, of course, would remember. But they would move on in their own plans and never consider the humans they had thought to live in peace with.

The young woman, Karen, was the one who had come up with their plan. Marlon was putting it into practice, but she suggested their targets. He'd thought them rather fitting.

Samuel Anders, the leader of the resistance under Colonel Tigh, and his wife, Kara Thrace. She who had led so many bombing raids against the cylon fleet. To everyone, they were symbols. People to respect, people to emulate. And the President and the Admiral would understand that. And then Chief Tyrol had practically gift-wrapped them for the cause.

That they had fought was even better, it had given them the added incentive on their message. Their blood had looked rather untidy on the white sheet, but it had conveyed their intent.

Contact the cylons and surrender, pleading peaceful co-existence, or we shall execute these traitors to peace. Kara Thrace. Samuel Anders.

And perhaps he would execute them, anyway.

Karen would certainly enjoy that.

"Brother Marlon."

He glanced up from the notations he was making on his copy of the scrolls. "Karen."

"I request..." she frowned, the anger in her eyes banked, but visible. "Sam Anders caused the deaths of my friends, sir. You told me I could have him."

"In due time, Karen."

"Now."

Marlon frowned at her, thoughtful; he understood her need for vengeance, after all. "You cannot kill him."

"I'll try not to, Marlon." A slight smile touched her lips. It wasn't echoed by the darkness in her eyes. She reached into a pocket and pulled out two pairs of brass knuckles. "I'll just bruise him a little."

A sigh almost escaped Marlon as she walked away. Really, this barbarism was going to have to be culled. Once her usefulness was gone, Karen might find herself unneeded by his people. He wouldn't enjoy throwing her to the wolves, although, perhaps they would be merciful.

Far more merciful than she herself was.

--

The day's courier run from Galactica was in, and Roslin sighed as she sorted out the letters. They were all probably high priority. Tory had once suggested she should deal with the letters, but Laura had refused. Billy could have dealt with them, but Tory was... less kind than he had been. Laura had a feeling a lot of them would have found their way into the trash, unanswered. At least, if she went through them, she could give the ones that had to be answered to Tory and deal with the rest, herself.

It made it better if she threw them away.

A box had come, too, and Tory had teased her about Adama sending her gifts. Since it wasn't in his hand-writing, Laura hadn't blushed. She also hadn't responded, setting it to the side and frowning at the weight. Perhaps someone was attempting to curry favor?

It couldn't be a bomb, as all boxes were checked by Galactica's people. In fact, she could see where the tape had been slit and then replaced.

Four letters in, she sighed and let her curiosity get the better of her. Standing, she reached for her letter opener. It was easy to slice the tape, and she had the top folded back for almost ten seconds before her brain finally acknowledged what she was seeing. Laura sucked in a breath.

"Tory. Get Commander Adama on the secure channel."

"Madame President?"

Carefully folding the box closed again, she looked up, knowing she was probably paler than before. "Has the courier left Colonial One?"

"No, the raptor pilot is still doing pre-flights, I think."

"Stop him and have him brought up here." Roslin swallowed, "And don't attract suspicion, if you can help it."

"What--" Tory reached for the box flap.

"No! You don't want to see what's in there."

Tory studied her for a moment, then nodded, "I'll see to it."

"Thank you."

Sitting back in her chair, Laura closed her eyes. And immediately re-opened them as the sight of Charlie Connors' head stared back at her, eyes glassy.

--

Kara woke up with her head on Sam's shoulder. It was an awkward angle, and she muffled a curse as she raised her head. Her arms were behind her back, tied tightly together. Thick cabling wrapped around her shoulders and seemed to be anchored to the metal chair she was sitting on. The same cabling immobilized her legs against the chair legs. She could feel--through the numbness that was spreading through her arms--Sam, behind her. At least, she was assuming it was Sam. He smelled the same.

"Oh, good. You're awake."

The shoulders behind her tensed and shifted.

"No need pretending, Anders. Your wife's awake, after all. Or maybe viper pilots just recover faster." The tone was bitter and angry.

Kara considered telling the woman they weren't exactly married anymore. But it seemed rather pointless--a lot of things seemed rather pointless, these days.

"Frak you." Sam sounded almost bored.

"Nah. I don't know where you've been." Metal clinked against metal, and Kara craned her neck and found that at a painful angle, she could see the woman sliding brass knuckles onto her fingers.

Facing front seemed easier.

A sick feeling slithered into her belly. The same one she'd had for four months, locked in a room with Leoben's constant prattle. Kara shoved it away. This wasn't a cylon trap, this was humans. She'd been right. Tigh had been right. Humans couldn't be trusted. And in some ways, they were no better than the cylons were.

The first blow came as a shock.

Kara found herself flashing back to half a dozen bar fights in an effort to ignore it.

Minutes passed, and the sound of metal hitting flesh, and the occasional grunt of pain, continued until the woman simply stopped. "Not so pretty anymore, Anders. Bet your wife'll be sad."

"She's not..."

"What?" The woman's voice drew nearer. Kara didn't look, guessing she'd bent closer to Sam. A hand grabbed her by the hair. "I could let you rest, Anders. I could go work on her for a little while. Let you recover."

"No." His voice thick, Sam continued. "Leave her alone. It's me you want, remember?"

The hand yanked once at Kara's head then let her go. "And how do you figure that, Anders? Maybe I just hate pyramid."

"Nah. This's personal." His head lolled back against Kara's shoulder for a minute, then lifted. "Who'd I kill, Karen?"

"You don't get to ask questions." The anger was tinged with rage and hatred.

The next blow slammed Sam back into Kara, and the chairs both scraped against the floor. He coughed wetly.

The sick feeling in Kara's stomach got worse. Where the frak were the marines? Where was Adama? Or were they just left on their own, thanks to Chief's little prank? When she got out of here, Cally was going to be a widower.

Flesh hit flesh, and Kara closed her eyes.

--

"It's human, same blood type as Starbuck," Cottle informed Adama, voice as gravelly as normal. He waved his cigarette, "The other appears to be the same blood type recorded for Mr. Anders. If you want DNA, that's going to take hours."

Adama nodded. "Thank you, doctor."

"Sir, Chief Tyrol is on the phone for you."

"Thank you, Wilson." Picking up the phone, he barked, "Chief, tell me good news."

Cottle blew out another mouthful of smoke and then left the CIC, muttering under his breath.

--

"Madame President, I've brought the courier, as requested. And Admiral Adama is apparently in a meeting."

Laura looked up from the letter she'd been perusing and blinked in surprise at just who the courier was. "Sharon Valerii."

"Agathon, sir." The cylon tried to smile, "We, ah, got married."

"Not a surprise. Sit down, Sharon."

The raptor pilot frowned, but sat. "Was there something wrong, sir?"

"This box." Laura gestured at it. Keep it simple, keep it friendly. No need to start accusing the cylon of duplicity just yet. "You brought it in your courier run. Were you there when they inspected it?"

"No. I--" The pilot ducked her head, then half-smiled, "Admiral Adama's standing orders are that I not leave Galactica--for my own protection. The civilians aren't as accepting as the crew over there."

"Then why are you here?"

"Captain Paladino was sick and there wasn't anyone else who could fly on short notice." She glanced at Tory, "That was why I didn't exit the raptor."

"So you didn't know what was in the box." Possibly a lie.

Guileless eyes looked at Laura, puzzled. "No, sir."

On a whim, Laura gestured, "I'd like you to take a look."

"All right." Still puzzled, but clearly willing to humor her, Sharon stood and moved to look inside the box. "Oh my gods." She paled and stepped back, hand coming up to her mouth. Meeting Laura's eyes, she whispered, "I swear to you, I didn't know that was in there, I wouldn't--"

Laura weighed things and nodded, "I believe you, Sharon. But I'm not so sure what to do about this. How sick was Captain Paladino?" For now. She believed her for now.

"He didn't say, I just assumed it was a random stomach thing." Sharon sank back into her chair and closed her eyes. "I knew of him, sir."

"Charlie Connors."

"Yes."

"Tory, get Admiral Adama on the line."

--

Sam ached from the beating Karen had given him. It had taken him a while to recognize her, but she'd been one of the women Jammer had flirted with for a short time. The kid had even brought her to one of the resistance meetings, but it hadn't panned out. Sam tried not to move, he wasn't sure she hadn't broken a rib or two. The violence didn't seem to have helped her at all, either. She was still pacing with restrained anger, still fingering her gun. Maybe if he made her angrier...

"What do you want out of this?"

She jerked to a halt and stared at him. "What do I want out of this, you piece of shit? Yeah, right. Like you even care."

"Maybe I do."

"Your suicide bombs killed innocent people and innocent cylons, and all they wanted to do was live in peace with us."

"Oh, yeah," said Kara from behind him, her tone derisive. "Those cylons. They're all about the peaceful co-existence. Right before they nuke you to hell."

"Please. You think they wanted to do that? It was a mistake."

Sam stared at her. A mistake? Was she nuts? "One which cost billions their lives."

"One which was perpetuated by the military and their endless need for war and glory." She snorted, "You know, if we'd just stopped running once and asked them why, they might have explained. They might have said, 'Hey. we're sorry'. Like they did when they found New Caprica."

"Tell that to the men and women who died on New Caprica."

"They were malcontents, dissidents."

"They were people! Men and women with families," Sam laughed derisively, "Hell, tell that to the people I lost when I was on Caprica. The few who survived the initial bombs and the radiation poisoning. Tell that to the women locked in the farms, strapped down and forced to have children all at the cylons' whim. Tell that to the men they harvested genetic samples and more from. Tell that to the dead planets we left back there, uninhabitable until the radiation fallout dies."

"Shut up." Her sidearm was pointed at him, her eyes angry.

"Tell that to Kara Thrace, Colonel Tigh, Tom Zarek and the hundreds who were thrown into faceless boxes," he continued, holding her gaze. "Tell them that the cylons just wanted peace, Karen."

"You don't--they were disturbing the peace!"

"Like Cally? Chief's wife? She has a baby, you know. And she was on a death list. But, hey, if you think that the cylons were right to round up all of those people, and right to send them to be shot by a firing squad, then, go ahead." Sam finished quietly, "Shoot me now. Because Adama is never going to deal with you."

"What?"

"Sam--"

He ignored Kara. "You want revenge for the bombings, you want to prove you're right and we're wrong? Then just do it and get it over with. Dragging it out is pointless."

Karen stared at him, gun pointed at his chest. Then she cursed and dropped her hand, angrier than before. "I can't kill you. Not until he's done with you. Not until we have what we want."

"You won't get it."

"Maybe. Maybe we will." Anger in her every movement, she shoved the gun back into its holster and stalked out of the room. The hatch slammed closed behind her.

--

"No, sir," Chief sighed and looked at Hadrian. "We've searched every store room along this deck and come up with nothing. Captain Thrace and Sam Anders aren't here."

The old man growled in frustration, "Just a moment, Chief."

A muffled conversation occurred and Tyrol took the moment to wipe a hand over his forehead. This little plan of his had backfired badly. So badly, he wasn't sure he could deal with the consequences. In some ways, this was worse than lying to himself about Sharon. He'd endangered the lives of two people he respected. Two people who were doing nothing but trying to live their own lives.

A snort escaped him. Obviously, a matchmaker he was not.

Maybe he could take up a life as a janitor once Adama got through with him. Cally could help support him--if she didn't leave him.

"Chief, get more people and start looking in any place you can think of."

Adama's order dragged him out of his thoughts. Tyrol nodded, then replied, "Yes, sir." He hung up before he could ask the Admiral if he wanted his resignation.

"Chief?"

"He says to get more men and organize a search."

Hadrian nodded, "Let's get started. There's two decks to search, not to mention countless storage areas where the civilians have taken over."

--

"What the frak was that all about?" Kara demanded.

Sam fought back a shrug, knowing it would hurt. "I thought... she might do something stupid."

"Well, it worked so well, Samuel. She could have shot you!"

"That was kind of the point."

"Gods, you're an idiot."

It made him smile. It was stupid and she was insulting him and pissed off at him, but it still made him smile. It made him stupid. "Yeah, well, you didn't marry me for my brains."

A sound escaped her, and then she growled, "We're not having this discussion."

"Nope. We're not." He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, fighting down a wave of dizziness. The blood was drying and crusting, moving pulled at the edges of the scrapes on his face. Kara's shoulder wasn't that far back. And he could blame it on the beating.

"Sam..."

Ignoring the warning in her voice, he sucked in a breath, taking in her scent and wondering if he had any right to feel like all was right with the world. They were tied up, slated for death, and he was feeling goofy about his wife (except she wasn't his wife, she'd dumped him). Yeah. Maybe he could blame it on his concussion. "Like the hair," he mumbled before he drifted back into unconsciousness.

--

Adama picked up the phone, "Madame President, I apologize for keeping you waiting, but this situation seems to be spiraling out of control."

"Yes." She sounded odd, "Admiral, I don't mean to overburden you, but a package was just received on Colonial One. It was delivered by Lt. Val--Agathon."

He frowned, "That's odd, Lieutenant Agathon is under orders not to leave this ship."

"No, what's odd is that your Captain Paladino is apparently sick."

Paladino was down sick, and no one had mentioned it? And the president had mentioned something. A package? "Not a bomb?"

"No. It's a little more grisly, Admiral. Charlie Connors' head."

She always did tend to cut to the chase when things were serious. It took him a moment to process. Then, "What?"

"Exactly what it sounds like, Admiral." She sounded impatient now. "I received a gift to prove this group is quite serious in their aims."

"I'll have Paladino investigated. I'll also find out who last talked to Charlie Connors, and where he might have been."

"You do that."

They were both silent a moment before he finally admitted, "Starbuck and Anders are indeed missing."

"Damn."

He knew that was the only thing she would say in anger.

"Admiral, I'm going to hang onto Lieutenant Agathon for now. She'll be of use over here. I'll also have Tory look into things, see if she can't get a bead on whether the press has any information."

"You do that," his mind was already going through things they needed to do before he continued, "I'll organize things over here."

"Good luck, Admiral."

--

Brother Marlon looked up as Karen entered the room he'd appropriated as an office. "I trust you left them both alive."

She jerked slightly and ducked her head. "I did."

Curious. Perhaps she had a guilty conscience. He smiled at her, "Very good, Karen, very good. Now, my source inside tells me that both messages have been received."

Her head came up again, and the banked anger in her eyes made him smile more. "I enjoyed it, you know."

Really, if there was one thing about her that he'd started to dislike, it was this obsession. But it was a useful obsession. "I thought you might. Are you ready for the next stage?"

"Certainly. You know he'll never cut a deal with the cylons."

"Just as I know that he regards Captain Thrace as a daughter." Marlon frowned thoughtfully. "I think we may have to try for something rather larger."

"A roomful of hostages wouldn't sway him."

No, regrettably, Sacia Abinell's failed attempt had proved that. Even the life of his own son hadn't been incentive enough to deal with what he considered terrorists. Still, if their second and third moves came off successfully, Admiral Adama might indeed have to negotiate.

--

"Chief!" Seelix shoved through the crowd of marines. She looked a little pale, "Chief, I think, I think I found Charlie."

"You think?" Trying to figure out what the hell Charlie had to do with the two missing people, he shook his head. "Seelix, that's great, but I don't have time for this."

"I can't tell because he's missing his frakking head!"

The entire group fell silent. Tyrol stared at her, "What did you just say?"

"You heard me." She shifted, eyeing them all. "I was looking for him, I'd gotten worried. And then I... You need to see, Chief. And we need to inform the Admiral that there's a murderer on board."

"Did you leave the body where you found it?"

"Yeah. I left Barolay watching it from down the corridor." Seelix looked uncertain. "I didn't think I should leave it alone, y'know?"

Right. Dead body. Right. He could deal with this. Chief moved to the phone on the wall and snapped into it, "I need to speak to the Admiral. Now."

The comm officer on the other end of the line said, pleasantly, "Just a moment, sir."

It was times like this that Galen missed Dee being on the board. Dee would have asked him what the problem was. Dee would have cared. Or maybe she would have chattered at him until the Old Man picked up.

--

Kara shifted her weight in the chair, trying to wake the nerves in her legs. They felt numb and dead. And her ass wasn't doing too good, either. Her shoulders had stopped registering the strain sometime after Sam had fallen asleep again (at least, she hoped he was asleep and not just passed out). It had occurred to her that maybe she should have kept him awake--wasn't that what you were supposed to do for concussion victims?

Maybe. She'd never been very good at the first aid courses--at least not past the "tie this, splint that" shit.

When they got out of here, though, she was going to kick his ass.

Even if it was a really nice ass.

She scowled, shoving the thought away. She'd dumped him and walked away, and he'd given her back the dog tag. Yeah, they both still had really ugly tattoos, and somewhere, her marriage was recorded on paper. But paper wasn't really something she'd paid much attention to, anyway.

And it really boiled down to one thing: he hadn't wanted to deal with her when she wasn't Starbuck. He'd finally seen what was under the facade and he'd run. Like any smart man should.

Shoving that thought to join the rest, she gritted her teeth and shifted in the chair, wondering if she could find enough give in the cables to get herself free. Or even just get to the god-damn knife strapped to her leg.

Really, when she got free, they were going to find out exactly how much she hated being stuck with nothing to do.

And possibly, Karen would find herself with broken ribs for what she'd done to Sam.

Kara figured it was only logical. After all, the woman was a fruitcake.

--

"Sir!"

Brother Marlon looked up as one of the men he'd assigned to watch CIC from a distance burst in. He was a civilian named Jared, and he'd seemed fairly useful. He liked to watch. "What is it?"

"They've found Connors' body, sir." The man jiggled from foot to foot. "And Admiral Adama is going down to view it. Looks like they've got about two marines with him, sir. We're not going to have a better chance."

Damn. He'd known they'd gound the body, but not the latter information. This would be the perfect opportunity for step four. Marlon frowned, considering. Then he nodded. "Take four men and see to it. He should fight, I imagine he's a man who values his life. If he does, try not to injure him too badly."

Jared nodded, grinning, "Yes, sir."

--

"Give me good news." Laura said as Tory stepped back into her office. From her seat, Sharon shifted a little straighter, unconsciously coming to attention.

Tory looked between them, "Madame President, I'm afraid I can't. The extremist group released a manifesto to the press, detailing their demands." She paused, then continued, "They're claiming the capture of Captain Thrace, Samuel Anders, and Admiral Adama."

"What?" Sharon was on her feet, "That can't be true--Madame President, if there's a threat to the Admiral, you have to warn him."

"I know, Lieutenant. Tory, get me the Admiral, now."

Tory shook her head, "I tried, they paged him, and he hasn't responded."

Shit. Laura could think that, in the privacy of her own brain. "Then get me the XO of Galactica. And see if you can't get the press to find a few survivors of the cylons' internment facilities. Get some people talking about the things they endured."

"On it."

"Gods..." Sharon sank back into her chair. "This is a nightmare."

"I know, Lieutenant."

--

The two marines Helo had detailed to go with him hadn't even stood a chance. Admiral Adama stared down at their corpses and cursed mentally. Five men in masks surrounded him. Obviously, the terrorists were upping the stakes.

"Come with us peaceably, or we kill you now."

He looked at the man, "Then kill me now."

Really, the thug had to be stupid to think he'd go with them, and if he was going to offer stupid ultimatums, Adama was going to call his bluff.

The man gestured impatiently, and he tensed, ducking under the blow that would have slammed into the back of his head. There was a curse from his assailants and then two of them launched themselves from either side. Adama wondered if they were just stupid or over-eager as he stepped back, letting them hit each other. Arms wrapped around him from behind, the forearm dragging tight across his throat, cutting off his air.

Incongruously, he noticed that the man had had onions at some point in the last day.

Unfortunately, before he could break the hold one of the others used the butt of his gun to cold-cock him.

It was enough to disorient him and they dragged him through several corridors before yanking open a hatch and shoving him into a storage room. Adama wasn't sure he knew exactly where they'd left him--the slamming had told him he wouldn't be getting out that way easily.

Leaning against the wall, he rubbed at his neck.

"Don't suppose you've got a knife handy, sir."

Starbuck's voice was casual and pulled him back into lucidity. Adama raised his head and blinked. He'd registered the view before him, but it hadn't sunk in. Sam Anders was battered and bloody, Starbuck behind him, both tied into chairs. She was craning her neck to look at him, apparently being careful not to dislodge Anders' head on her shoulder.

At least, he hoped Anders was alive. Bending down he unbuckled the knife at his ankle and then moved to begin working on the cables wrapped around the resistance leader.

"Hey, I'm the one who's conscious!"

"He's in worse shape."

The man stiffened, wincing as he jerked awake. "Sir?"

"Stay still, son."

"Yeah. Not gonna be a problem."

"Sitting on your ass is never a problem." Kara said, tone mocking.

"It is when it's numb."

Adama felt his lips twitch and fought down the reaction. He was not going to smile, damnit. Smiling while being locked up by terrorists was... well, ok, it was amusing. And might make the stay easier. He finished sawing Anders' arms free and moved to work on the ropes binding his wrists.

"Yeah, well, it's only numb when you want to play pyramid."

"I haven't played pyramid in..." Anders paused, tone suddenly rueful, "In about two weeks, actually."

They went faster than the cables had, and Adama was working on his legs in no time at all.

"Oooh. Two weeks. Must have been hard, giving it up to get rescued."

Adama glanced up to find Anders' jaw clenched. Either with pain or something else. But his reply was light. "Yeah. Hard to give it up. That pyramid court was the best place to stockpile weapons."

The cables snapped free and Adama moved, stepping back. "It's going to hurt in a moment."

"Hey! What about me?"

Adama met Anders' amused look, "I'm tempted to leave you like that, Starbuck. Makes a nice change."

She growled.

So he started with her hands, careful not to dislodge Anders from his chair as he worked between them. "Quit squirming, Starbuck."

For a moment, she obeyed. And then she started tugging her hands apart. The last rope snapped off and he had to yank the knife away before she cut herself on it. "Now my arms."

"No please?" He asked dryly as he moved to saw at the cables.

"Please is pointless."

It warmed his heart a little to hear some of the old Starbuck brat come back. He'd been glad she'd matured, but sometimes, he missed the kid who'd kick you just for saying she couldn't fly.

"Ah, Kara," Anders murmured, "You're all heart."

"Hey. Lemme get out of this chair, Anders, and I'll show you how much heart I have. And then I'll find Tyrol and introduce him to my fists."

Adama frowned, "Tyrol?"

"Yeah, didn't he tell you?" She snorted, "Of course not. Don't wanna disappoint the old man, would he?"

"Kara." Anders turned his head and looked at him. "From what I gather, sir, Tyrol and some of his deck gang--"

Starbuck interrupted him as she swung her arms a little to get the feeling back into them. "And Sam, though he claims he wasn't in on it."

"I wasn't. Let's just say, sir, that they seemed to be attempting to help our marriage."

"Yeah. Did a great job, didn't they?" Kara laughed derisively and waved a hand as Adama moved to work on her legs. "I'll do it myself, sir."

He considered, then handed over the knife and moved to investigate the rest of the cell.

"Anyway, Sam, I think you're full of shit."

"Yeah, I figured that out, Kara. Thanks."

Really, Adama was beginning to wonder if he should have let her go back to Caprica for the man. Of course, that thought was immediately followed by the knowledge that the man had done a hell of a job as the resistance leader on New Caprica. Maybe he could just use Chief's idea and lock them in a room until one of them killed the other. Except that he figured they still kind of needed both of them. Damn.

"There!" Kara sounded triumphant. "You can have your knife back, sir. Gods. My ass is numb and freezing."

He walked back over and silently took the knife as she tried to stand and failed, dropping back into the chair. "Give your legs time to recover, Starbuck."

"Yes, sir."

Adama absently checked the knife's edge as he moved to the wall, searching for the wall-panel all storage rooms were equipped with.

"Right. Let's have a look at you."

"Kara, I'm--ow--fine."

"Gods. Sam, you look like shit. You idiot."

"I feel like shit, too."

He glanced back to find Starbuck standing over the man, straddling his legs and poking at his chest.

"There."

"Ow."

"Stop being a baby, I'm just testing your ribs."

"OW."

"Two fractures, one broken."

Shaking his head , Adama used the knife to pop the panel open and inspected the wires. It hadn't been all that long since he'd had to rewire parts of Galactica's comm system. If he could just find the correct wire, he might be able to do something to attract attention down here. Or maybe he'd be in luck and there was an oxygen sensor he could tamper with.

"Thank you, Dr. Thrace."

"That's Captain, to you."

"Can you move so I can stand up now?"

"Sure you won't fall on your ass?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Fine."

Adama couldn't help checking on their progress. And so he watched in fascination as Anders got to his feet, swayed and had Starbuck catch him. For a moment, it looked like they'd both go down and then the man found his legs. But they didn't release each other for at least another thirty seconds. And then Kara turned away without a word and headed to the hatch.

--

Barolay was waiting for them in an alcove. She almost shot the first marine before she seemed to realize that they were the good guys. The reaction was for the marines to raise their own weapons and start yelling.

"Whoa!" Chief raised his hands. "Everyone stand down!"

For a moment, they all seemed ready to shoot. And then Barolay lowered her hand and pistol. "Seelix. I see you brought the cavalry."

"Yeah. Let's show 'em. Anyone been by?"

"Only you goons. And a priest. But he was heading the other direction."

"A priest?" Tyrol frowned, recalling his experience at the hands of Brother Cavill. He was a bit leary of priests now. Especially male ones.

"Yeah." Shoving her sidearm back into the holster she'd obviously stolen, just like she'd stolen the weapon, she gestured. "He went that way. Body's this way."

They trailed her like ducklings down the corridor to a closet that had once been used to house toilet paper, but had now been empty since before the attack. The hatch swung inwards and Chief hunkered down to eye the body of the man crumpled inside. He recognized the clothing and the boots--blood spattered though they were. Carefully avoiding looking at the bloody stump, he stood again. "Right. Fan out. Start checking the rooms on this corridor for anything suspicious. And be careful, people."

Seelix followed him as he moved to the nearest communication panel. "CIC, Tyrol. Get me the Admiral."

"I'm... I'm afraid I can't, sir." The tech sounded a little strange. "The Admiral was on his way to meet you, sir, and he just disappeared. We've tried paging him and he hasn't responded."

Damn.

Things were rapidly spiraling out of control. "What good news do you have, Wilson?"

"Talk Wireless is full of support for the military and Adama, sir."

Well. That was at least somewhat good. "All right, get me the XO, then."

--

Karl Agathon wondered if he could throw in the towel and stamp his feet and point out to everyone that he was not cut out for this. Except that he was. He'd been trained, and the old man trusted him to keep the ship running smoothly when he wasn't there to do it. But he'd already been worried about Kara--pissed at her he might be, but she was still Starbuck, and they still went way back. And he'd even been worried about Anders. And now the Admiral was missing, two marines were dead, and there were terrorists threatening the peace.

Trying to convince himself it was all in a day's work, he called to Wilson, "Have Major Adama paged to CIC. Now." Then he grabbed the phone. "Chief."

"Got good news and bad news, sir."

"Bad news first."

"There's a headless body that appears to belong to Charlie Connor."

"And the good news?"

"Barolay's still alive, and she saw a priest."

Helo frowned, "A priest?"

"Yeah. I'm not sure it means anything yet, sir."

Major Adama appeared across the strategy table. Helo sighed, "Chief, keep looking and call me with updates."

"Yessir."

Helo set the handset down and looked across at Apollo. "Walk with me, Major."

The other man moved jerkily, seeming surprised by the formality. "What's up, Helo?"

Casting a glance around CIC, Karl lowered his voice. "I'm afraid the Admiral may have been captured by the dissidents, Apollo."

"What?!"

Guessing the man had been busy with his paperwork, Helo explained. "Five hours ago, we received a message indicating that Starbuck and Anders were captives of a group demanding peace with the cylons. Since then, we've received confirmation that the two are missing--"

"Maybe they're off having sex." Apollo suggested dryly.

"Normally, I'd agree. Except that Kara and Sam haven't spoken since we got back to Galactica." He grimaced. "Why else do you think she's been a hardass?"

"Well. Great."

"The Admiral was going to rendezvous with the Chief and work on coordinating the search when he disappeared. I sent two marines with him. They were found dead." The bare facts were painful in their simplicity, and Helo damned himself for letting the old man go off without at least a half dozen marines armed to the teeth.

"Damnit." Apollo straightened, "What can I do to help, Helo?"

"Get down to the flight deck and organize more people to search. Also, make sure that other members of the New Caprica resistance haven't suddenly gone missing."

"You want me to grow coffee plants while I'm at it?" There was slight derision in the man's tone.

Helo cracked a grin, "If you can find the seeds, Major."

--

Carefully putting the last flourishes on his next missive, Brother Marlon tilted his head to one side. This would be the message that would make people stand up and listen. Not to the prattling of the current Talk Wireless crowd, but to him. To the Truth.

"Brother Marlon?"

He glanced up to find Dick Smith standing in the doorway, looking awkward in the priestly robes they'd shoved him into. "Yes?"

"I think we may have a problem, sir."

"Oh?"

"The chief of the deck and his band of marines are getting closer. Also, they found Connors' body." The man looked uncomfortable.

"Ah. Pity. Well," he stood with a sigh and began packing up his electronic equipment. "I suppose we'll have to move house. Have you checked on the prisoners recently?"

"Not since we shoved the old man in, sir."

Brother Marlon frowned. "Did you tie him up?"

Really, he reflected as the young man shook his head in confusion, he really should have gone with them to ensure that they dealt with them intelligently. "Then get the men who are still here and go round them up. And be careful, Adama will probably have freed the other two."

Dick smiled unpleasantly, "That resistance guy shouldn't be a problem, not after Karen's worked him over."

"You'd be surprised," Brother Marlon muttered as the man bounced out, suddenly over being stuck in his robes. "Injured men can fight surprisingly well." Then he bent to the task of securing his papers and equipment. If this all fell apart, he would be required to return himself to anonymity for a time.

--

"Sir?" Dee waited for Helo to look up from his paperwork and dropped her voice still further, "I've been... watching Wilson, sir. Just out of curiosity, and I think... I think," she plunged ahead, "someone's figured out a way to hack remotely into secure comm channels."

"Is that possible?"

"Yes. It wouldn't be easy, but I could do it. I'd just need the right type of transceiver. Especially with all the repairs they've been making due to the battle damage Galactica suffered."

"Sir!" Gaeta appeared, interrupting them. "I was running a diagnostic, hoping I'd catch something in the empty sections of the ship, and I found a malfunctioning oxygen sensor."

"Yeah, but we see those all the time."

"Not like this, sir. It took a bit of fiddling, but the sensor is, well, it's blinking, sir. In a very specific pattern. If it were sounds or light, it would be blinking SOS in the old naval code." Gaeta looked pleased. "And I've checked. It's in a room that Tyrol and his people haven't searched yet. I think it's the Admiral."

"Get me the location," Helo turned, "Wilson, page Tyrol and Hadrian, now!"

--

"Oh, yeah, like that's gonna do any good."

Kara had mocked. Adama had ignored her. Sam figured the man had a good idea and didn't bother saying anything else. He just sat in his chair and waited for the moment they'd need to act. Conserving his strength had seemed like a good idea. Especially after his one attempt at standing had ended up with him leaning against Kara. She still smelled fantastic. Really, he had to stop noticing shit like that.

"You awake?"

Sam looked up at her. "Yeah."

Her eyes were unreadable as she looked at him. "So."

"So?"

She shrugged, "You've been... never mind. I don't wanna know." She turned away.

And he grabbed her hand, stopping her. "Kara."

"Sam... I'm not." She snorted and looked away, something twisted and sad on her face for an instant. Then it was gone. "I'm not the same. This isn't..."

"Yeah. You kinda said that." Or he'd said it. Or intimated it. And she wasn't the same. She was harder-edged. Full of an anger she had nothing to break on, and full of the same hopelessness he recognized in himself from four months of not knowing. The sheer weight of that time had settled on her shoulders while he'd shrugged it off with the sight of her being alive.

"Yeah. Um..."

He waited. When she didn't continue, he carefully stood. "Kara, I think--"

"Quiet." Adama's voice was only a whisper, but it cut across his words and Sam clamped his lips closed.

The sound of feet approaching made him tense and bruises across his chest ached in reply--as did his abused ribs. Kara moved to the hatch, leaning against it, listening. A moment later, she propped her foot on the wall and unstrapped the knife at her ankle. Deciding he wasn't going to be the only one without a weapon, Sam bent and grabbed the back of his chair. One heft, and he discovered it was light enough for his purposes. Possibly too light, but anything heavier would probably not work anyway.

Moving to the wall on one side of the hatch, Sam placed himself at Kara's back.

With a wrench of metal on metal, the hatch swung open.

One man stepped into the room, gun up and ready. He was easy prey for Kara and her knife, and she had his gun in her hands before he could do more than yelp in surprise. "Sam!"

He came around her and threw the chair at the hatch as they tried to close it. It jammed into the opening giving Kara time enough to kick it and fire out into the corridor. The old man took her back and Sam paused to slam the dazed man against the wall, knocking him unconscious before he retrieved his chair on his way out of the hatch.

It was over in seconds, leaving Kara standing over the bodies of three men while the Admiral slammed another into a wall. Sam turned to watch the other way, just in case.

"Here." He reached back and grabbed the rifle Kara had pressed against his side before tossing the chair to the side.

Bullets were easier to control. "Think this is all of them?"

"There are at least two more. And the man leading them."

"And that bitch, Karen." added Kara, voice full of anger.

"Yeah." Sam looked back at Kara. "And her." He wondered if explaining to Kara that he'd kind of understood Karen's rage would be a good idea. Probably not.

--

Keeping Sharon Agathon on Colonial One had been as much so that Laura could observe her as it had been for the possible need to utilize the raptor she'd flown. Being married had apparently done wonders for the woman--cylon. It was hard to remember she was a cylon. There was a very human serenity to her, something the others had lacked. Except perhaps the Six they'd called Caprica, and even she had seemed to have her moments of inhumanity.

It was strange to think of her with a child, however. And the sadness she felt at Maya's death and Hera's loss probably couldn't begin to touch what Sharon had felt.

Although Roslin wasn't entirely convinced she 'felt' anything.

Tory stuck her head in, "The press are beginning to question the reasoning behind the interviews, did you want to give them anything?"

"Not yet." And never, if she could maneuver it that way. "I'm still awaiting word from Galactica."

"All right. I'll stall them for now."

--

It was all coming apart. The last of his equipment packed, Brother Marlon picked up his pistol and moved to the hatch. No sound in the corridor was good. Given the firefight he'd heard several minutes before, and the fact that it wasn't his people who'd won, now would be a good time for a strategic retreat.

Melt back into the population, mingle, and find more people to work with him. There were always malcontents just waiting for a cause to abuse.

'Twas a pity this one had gone south so quickly, but it had also proved how easy it would be to destroy the fleet and the hold Admiral Adama had. The man had been stupid and easy to capture. Brother Marlon half-smiled, if all he wanted was the man dead, he could accomplish that easily, at any time.

"You're running." Karen stepped out of the corner, and looked at him, contempt in her eyes.

"A wise man understands retreat, my dear."

"So do cowards. Now you see why you should have just let me kill them?"

He shook his head, "That wasn't what we needed. We needed them to see us as a threat, and they have."

"Oh, we're such a threat that you're running away, back to anonymity and plotting." Karen stepped closer to him, eyes angry. "You'll let them all get away with it."

"For the moment, Karen." Really, she was far too emotional for this. Perhaps he should have chosen better allies, but she was who he'd been left with. Most of the sheep were happy to be back in the fleet, happy to not be living in peace with the cylons. "We'll build our numbers back up and we'll strike again, and this time--"

"This time, nothing! You can't plan worth shit, Brother Marlon."

"I--"

The knife didn't even hurt. And he was still staring at her when she twisted it, eyes cold. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to relieve you of command, Brother Marlon. You talk a good game, but your follow-up is lousy."

The edge of the knife scraped along his ribs and he coughed, wondering why he could taste something sweet. He was drowning. Drowning in Karen's anger, in his perceived incompetence. The last thing he considered before his body folded in on itself was that he'd regret not seeing her kill Samuel Anders. And perhaps he should have let her.

--

Adama had led them to the nearest communications panel, Sam watching their backs. He was doing his best to keep up, but his chest had started feeling tight sometime after they'd started out. He couldn't exactly feel his ribs hurting anymore, and figured that might be a bad thing. For the moment, it was a gods-send, as it kept him from becoming a burden on the other two.

Movement at the end of the corridor caught his eyes and he raised the rifle, "Kara." He hissed, getting her attention.

The movement flickered again and Chief Tyrol stepped around the corner, staring at them. "Whoa! Friendlies!"

"I'm not so sure about that," Kara muttered.

Sergeant Hadrian and a squad of marines appeared as well. She eyed them, "It appears we're all friendlies here, sir."

Lowering his gun, Sam felt relief fill him. Marines would watch their back now. He sagged suddenly, wondering just when his body had decided it was time to sleep.

Reaching out, he grabbed Kara to steady himself.

In reflex, she elbowed him.

"Ow." He sucked in a breath and started coughing, losing his balance as he doubled over, pain shooting across his chest.

"Sam, you idiot--" Kara pivoted into him, holding him steady. "You're too heavy."

"Whoa, Anders." Chief appeared on his other side, propping him up. "No collapsing until we get you to Doc."

"Yeah," he wheezed, "I'll try."

"Sir?" The word was tossed over Chief's shoulder towards the Admiral.

"Hadrian, detail two men to go with them to medical. The rest come with me."

Sam closed his eyes as they started walking again, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. And not falling over. Falling over could be bad.

--

"Madame President."

"Admiral Adama." She felt herself relax, and hated it. "It's good to hear your voice."

"And yours. I'm calling to inform you that the situation has been dealt with."

How very formal of him. Laura half-smiled, "Thank you, Admiral. I've been considering what to tell the press about this--"

"Nothing."

She almost laughed. Suddenly, it was two years before, and he was the hard military man she didn't really understand who didn't understand her. Fine, though, if that's what he wanted. "Admiral, I'm afraid we can't keep this from the people. They need to know that there's a dangerous element that wants peace with the cylons."

"If you tell them, it will just allow more of them to identify with each other."

Laura rolled her eyes, and changed the subject. "Admiral, how are Sam Anders and Captain Thrace?"

"Recovering."

"From what?"

"I'm afraid that is classified, Madame President." He paused, "If you've no more use for Lieutenant Agathon, I could use her back here aboard Galactica."

"All right. I'll send her home. Goodbye." Hanging up on him gave her some measure of control.

It was petty, but it was better than letting him hang up on her.

"He's all right?"

Looking up at Sharon, she smiled at her, "All three appear to be fine. And he's requested your return."

Sharon bounced to her feet. "Thank you, Madame President." She turned and headed for the doorway.

"Wait, Lieutenant."

"Sir?"

"Take this box back with you. I'm sure they'll want to analyze it."

For a moment, Sharon looked like she wanted to refuse, her eyes drawn to the box and its contents. Then she seemed to shake herself, "Sorry, Madame President, I should have thought of that."

"It's all right." Laura could understand her reluctance to have it near her. "Be careful with it."

"Yes, sir." was her reply as she picked the box up carefully and then left.

--

"Explain yourself, Chief."

Galen almost wanted to pace. But he fought the action and met the Admiral's eyes. "Sir, it seems... Well, it seems stupid now. But I thought, if Captain Thrace were happy she wouldn't be so suicidal and my planes wouldn't come back bruised or broken, sir."

Gods, it sounded stupid. What the hell had he been thinking?

Adama blinked at him, then nodded. "You were doing what you could to improve the morale of a member of your crew."

"Something like that, sir," Tyrol could feel the slight flush in his cheeks. Damnit, he felt like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "I just thought... he went through so much, sir, and she's just shutting him out. It didn't seem right."

"You can't take personal matters into your own hands, Chief."

"I know, sir. There's no excuse." He dropped his gaze, unable to keep meeting the Admiral's eyes.

"Sir!" Gaeta was suddenly there, "marines report that Captain Paladino took his own life before they could question him."

"Damn."

"I should, ah, get back to the deck," suggested Tyrol, slightly hopeful. At least there, the old man couldn't glare at him.

"Chief." It was just one word, but it was more than enough. Warning and reprimand both.

Nodding, Galen saluted. "I'll get back to work, sir."

"You do that, Chief. And if you come up with any ideas on improving the morale of your fellow crew members, run them past me first."

"Yessir."

--

Karen had found it ridiculously easy to avoid the marines hunting for her. At least, she assumed they were looking for her. With Brother Marlon and most of his men dead, there really wasn't anyone else to find. It was even easier to get into the infirmary. Fading into the background, she'd watched for a while as they patched Sam Anders up. Taping his ribs, swabbing his cuts.

Through it all, his wife had remained, mocking him. Calling him an idiot and a dumbass and a moron. He'd mostly seemed to ignore her.

It was odd to think that this man who was so obviously loved was the man who'd allowed people to immolate themselves for his cause. Who'd sent suicide bombers against the New Caprican refugees and the cylons alike. But then, she had to remember that sometimes, evil could seem to be a great good.

Then everyone seemed done with their jobs and they all drifted away. The marines walked right by Karen without even noticing her, and she wondered how easy it would be to take them out. And didn't bother, since they weren't her target. Even Kara Thrace walked away from his bedside.

Karen waited another few minutes to be certain and then she left her hiding place and walked to the bed. Her knife was already out, the blood from Brother Marlon still staining it dark.

It would take only a moment. Shove the knife into his chest and twist, as she had with the man who'd proved to be a coward.

A hand fisted in her hair and jerked her backwards, another wrapped around her wrist and yanked her arm behind her back. The pain made her gasp.

"Didja think I'd forget?" Kara Thrace's voice was full of anger. "I was waiting for you, you stupid bitch."

Karen struggled, her own hatred making her stronger than the pilot expected. She broke free and turned, knife out. "I'll just do you both."

A chair smashed into her shoulder and head.

Starbuck grabbed her, knocking the knife from her hand and punching her in the gut. "Get back in bed, Samuel."

Throwing herself at Starbuck, Karen fought past the pain and grappled with the woman. She scratched and bit, trying to do as much damage before the other woman could subdue her.

"Ow! Shit!" The onslaught took Starbuck by surprise, and for an instant, Karen had the upper hand.

Then Starbuck smashed a fist into her jaw, and Karen's head whipped back. Another punch and another, and suddenly, she remembered the brass knuckles. But it was too late to put them on. Even getting her hands up to defend herself was futile as Starbuck battered away at her.

Next time, Karen thought fuzzily as Starbuck's hands swung her around and into the wall, she would remember the knuckles.

Everything went sideways and she fell into the dark to the sound of Sam Anders mocking his wife's boxing technique.

--

"Report, sergeant."

Hadrian almost clicked her heels together as she snapped to attention. Then she held out the carefully-tagged knife. "This is the knife which was used to kill both Brother Marlon and Charlie Connors. It was found on the woman who attempted to murder Samuel Anders and his wife. The woman's name is Karen Szarda. She was one of the people apparently suspected by the circle of being involved in cylon activities. Given the statements taken from Kara Thrace and Samuel Anders, she held a grudge against the resistance for the suicide bombings, one of which killed her lover, Sean McIntyre."

"And Brother Marlon?"

"From his notes, we've found that he blames Laura Roslin for the destruction of his faith in the gods. We've rounded up two more of his accomplices, but the last two are still eluding us."

"Paladino?"

"The note he left indicates that he still felt responsible for the civilians killed on his watch, and he thought this would make a difference. When he realized it hadn't, he took his own life rather than face court-martial."

Adama sighed. "Tell me good news, sergeant."

"Popular opinion is high for the military." Really, it was all she could offer.

--

Kara stood with her arms crossed over her chest and watched Sam sleep. It was stupid, sticking around. He'd made it clear he didn't love her anymore, and she'd pushed him away. And yet... It was easier to push him away. Easier to not deal with the complication of him. For four months, she'd expected him to come and save her and all of the time that she was stuck with Leoben, he'd been doing something far bigger than just trying to rescue his wife. It pissed her off that he wasn't as selfish as she was. That he could just walk away from what they'd had when things got rough.

Having to listen to him take that beating had been hard. She shoved the memories away, knowing they reminded her of sitting down to dinner with Leoben night after night. The same sense of futility that had her fingering fork tines had made Sam dare the woman to shoot him.

That she hadn't was something Kara wouldn't understand. In her position, with all of that anger, she would have pulled the trigger.

And Sam Anders would be dead.

A shiver worked its way through her and she yawned, irritated. Adama had posted several marines outside the infirmary in case more of the insurgents tried something. Sam would be safe. She could go back to her rack and work on putting him out of her life again.

It wouldn't be easy, but it was the safe route. The one that wouldn't hurt so much.

All she had to do was leave.

Her boots made heavy sounds when she finally moved, arms dropping to her sides. The side of the bed stopped her and she poked Sam. "Move over."

A groan escaped him and one eye opened. "Kara?" He sounded confused.

"Move over. I'm cold and tired."

He blinked and then said, "Take your boots off, first."

While he was wriggling over carefully, cursing every so often, Kara dealt with her boots, leaving them at the foot of the bed and wrinkling her nose at the socks on her feet. "Demanding man."

"Boots do not belong in bed," he replied firmly, raising the blankets for her.

Kara scrambled into the space he'd made, cursing the size of the bed. Her legs and feet ended up tangled with his, and for a moment she thought she'd fall off before his arm snaked around her, tucking her against his side. Then she couldn't figure out what to do with her own arm and ended up draping it over his chest.

"Ow."

"Wimp." But she moved the arm lower and settled her head on his shoulder.

He grunted.

Yeah. She could have taken the easy way and walked out. But since when had Starbuck ever taken the easy way?

-f-