A Brave New World
Category- Very AU, L/K romance, action.
Archiving- Would be an honor, just ask.
Warnings- Violence/consensual sex
Disclaimers- I don't own this, no money, yadda yadda. Sue me,
it's not like I have any money anyways.
What if things had taken a very different turn
after they returned from Kobol? What if instead of finding
the Peg they found Earth? Or if Earth found them?
Notes: A.S. After Settlement
A.O. After Occupation
Chapter 24 "Resistance"
"I've traveled the nearly infinite distance between stars, further than any man in our planet's history. I've seen things there are not words to describe, places so different from anything in our experience that they leave the mind blank with their imprint. Some can't handle it, succumbing to what we call the 'black shakes' and catching the first transport back to terra-firma. I've often wondered who is worse off in the end; those who can't fathom the darkness around them, or those who delve too deeply into the darkness within. Either way, there is no going back."
- Major Tyler Kinkaid
Letter to Senator Marcus Kinkaid
------------------------------------4 days A.O.---------------------------------------------
"I should beat your ass for this Kinkaid." Helo's voice was low and menacing, and if it hadn't been the eleventh time Tyler had heard those words in the last few hours, he might have been more worried.
Elbows resting on the fallen tree before him as he peered through a pair of Terran night-vision goggles across the cluttered forest floor, Kinkaid wished their need for stealth didn't preclude him from a cigar break. "She knows what she's doing Karl. In case you've forgotten, this was her idea."
"With all due respect sir, you could have said no. Or 'frak no'. Even 'i'll think about it'. But you said yes; so I blame you." Helo noticed for what might be the first time that the Major had been using his first name for months now. When had he started letting him do that? Returning his attention to his own set of binoculars, Helo could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing at full attention. Whether it was a result of the cool summer breeze, or the panic threatening to overwhelm his better judgment was debatable at this point. Sharon was nearly an hour late.
"It's 'fuck', Karl. 'Fuck no'." Checking his rifle sights for the third time in an hour, the Major tried his best to keep his tone light and conversational. After all, he wouldn't pretend he would be any better off is he had found himself in his friend's shoes. "We need intel, and that means prisoners. If ya had a better notion how we could accomplish this, you had more than enough opportunities to speak your mind."
A deep breath didn't help drive away the horrific scenarios running through Helo's head, but he couldn't fault the older man's logic. That still didn't mean he had to be happy about it though. "I can't really be mad at her while she's risking her life, so just let me have this. Alright?"
Slapping a reassuring hand on Karl's shoulder, the whites of Kinkaid's teeth glinted in the moonlight to highlight the man's smirk. "Understood. Now get your game face on, we wouldn't want to have to try this twice."
Twenty minutes passed by in uncomfortable silence, both men attempting to keep themselves alert with equipment checks and constant mental reviews of their battle-plan. Positioned on a small hill a hundred meters in front of their - now abandoned - supply bunker, they could only pray that Sharon had managed to find a way to pull off their deception. Tyler was right, they were only going to get one shot at this. Clouds had rolled in to obscure the moonlight blanketing the mountainside and a cold rain was starting to chill the waiting soldiers to the core.
Helo was just about to bring his threats of bodily harm up to an even dozen when noises from their nine-o'clock had both of them hunkering down as far as they could under the cover of the moss-infested log. His body flush with the damp earth, Karl pulled himself arm over arm until he was in a better position to observe their visitors. Outlined in the eerie green glow of his goggles, two human figures moved through the darkness, ducking every few meters to avoid low branches as they headed in the direction of the Colonial bunker.
Familiarity allowed the Lieutenant to identify Sharon as one of the two, but between the rain and their awkward angle he was unable to recognize the other skin-job from his vantage point. It would have been impossible to miss the rest of their 'raiding party' though, as they plowed through the underbrush with all the subtlety of a nuclear blast. From his count, thirty centurions were flanking the two women in marching lines of fifteen to a side.
Their plan had worked. It had worked too frakking well! Rolling back behind the cover of the log, Helo suddenly felt less than safe with a piece of rotting wood as his only defense against a full platoon of toasters. A rapid succession of hand signals confirmed that Kinkaid not only recognized the dire turn their plan had taken, but the man intended to make a go at it anyways! He sincerely hoped that his vision was playing tricks on him, and that had not in fact been a gleam of pleasure in his CO's eyes at the size of the enemy force. Cursing under his breath, Karl did the only thing he could do: he watched and waited.
Due to the distance separating them, the two soldiers were unable to make out the words passing between the women standing at the lip of the concrete building. A tense moment lagged on as they seemed to debate their plan of attack. If something went wrong at this point, they were all frakked. Seriously frakked. Right now, Sharon should be arguing for a full-scale assault on the compound to crush the human occupants - prisoners were a secondary concern.
With every passing second Helo's heart picked up speed, his fight or flight alarms ringing so loud he was surprised he hadn't alerted the enemy to their presence. A bitter thought picked that moment to cross his mind before he had a chance to squash it completely. When exactly had he made the shift from Raptor ECO to suicidal freedom fighter? His inability to pinpoint the exact moment of his transformation was more disconcerting than he had expected it to be. Glancing over at his commanding officer, another thought raced after it's friend to put the pieces together. This man, this Terran, had managed to earn not only his loyalty, but his friendship. Starbuck was right, his choice of friends was questionable to say the least. Then again, when it came to the Major, she had very little room to talk.
A motioning hand from the focus of his wandering thoughts had his attention back on the front of the bunker just in time to see the two women moving away while their mechanical commando's arranged themselves for maximum efficiency. Even Karl had to give the Cylons that much, they were always efficient. A muffled explosion echoed through the valley, followed by a metallic clang as the blast door seperating the bunker from the outside world clattered to the floor of the interior hallway. Swarming in under a hail of cover fire, the majority of the centurions waded through the doorway and down into the branching passages below.
Still, that left six of the frakkers and one hostile skin job for the two them - odds that Helo could have lived without. They had to move quickly though, it wouldn't take long before even toasters realized the building was empty. The rat-tat-tat of the strategically positioned Terran automated defense cannons should provide enough of a distraction to mask their approach for now. Glancing up for orders, Karl was shocked to find Kinkaid already vaulting over the log in front of him, rifle gripped firmly in one hand as he hit a dead sprint to close the distance between himself and the enemy.
"Frakking showboat." Ignoring the pain that lanced through his broken arm at the sudden movement, Helo fell into place a few steps behind Tyler in his mad dash across the small valley. As they reached the halfway point, he fell back slightly and slipped the small remote nestled in his cargo pocket into the open before flicking the guard off of the activation switch. Keeping as low as he could on the downward grade, Helo's eyes stayed glued on the uneven terrain. Now would not be a good time to trip.
At twenty meters Kinkaid launched himself forward into a prone position, thumbed the safety on his weapon, and opened fire. Depleted uranium slugs slammed into the two closest centurions before they even had a chance to turn around, slicing through their armored bodies like a surgical laser. Sparks spraying in all directions the two machines collapsed into each other in what could only be described as a grotesque mockery of a loving embrace. Adjusting his aim quickly, Tyler put down a thick wave of suppressive fire on the remaining toasters turning to face them with cannons ablaze.
Sharon took her cue and slammed into the skin-job beside her, ostensibly to protect the other model from harm as they darted behind a nearby rock formation and out of the way of what was to come. Karl collapsed beside his CO just in time to hear return fire lancing close enough to part his hair. Rolling onto his side and locking eyes with the man next to him, Helo couldn't begin to fathom what he was seeing - Tyler was laughing. The frakker was actually laughing! "I think I got their attention!"
"Yeah, great idea!" Sliding his fingers over the cool plastic of the remote in his hand, Helo chanced one last look to make sure Sharon was clear of the blast radius.
Taking his friend's inaction for hesitation, the impatience in the Major's tone was clear even over the ensuing firefight. "What are you waiting for!? Light that bitch up!"
Hunkering down as far as he could and muttering a soft prayer, Karl's finger smashed the detonation switch that would unleash their 'surprise'. Demolition packs placed before their withdrawal ignited in a chain reaction throughout the bunker, the incinerating fire setting off thousands of pounds of fuel and ammunition in the process. A massive gout of white-hot flame blasted free of the open doorway, slagging two of the centurions along the way before the outward momentum of the explosion gave way to a crushing vacuum and the entire building collapsed inwards on itself with a thunderous crash.
Knowing any order he tried to shout would go unheard until their ears stopped ringing, Kinkaid lead by example. With chunks of flaming concrete still raining down around them, Tyler hit a knee as he yanked a pulse-grenade from his belt. In one smooth motion he slapped the activation button and launched the device into the air between the two remaining toasters. With an explosion dwarfed by it's predecessor, the grenade popped mid-air. Invisible, but undeniable effective, the unleashed EMP slammed into it's metallic targets full force. Blue-white lightning danced along their carapaces, frying every artificial synapse in their bodies. A sudden and violent spasm tore through the centurions a second before their optic lights fell dark forever.
Reloading and shouldering his rifle, the Major flinched visibly as the strap ground into his wounded shoulder. He was going to have to get that bullet removed eventually, but the surgery would most likely rob him of his arm for a few weeks. At the moment, that was an unacceptable loss. Focusing on the fact that most of the personal affects he had accumulated over the course of his career were now vaporized particles helped drive him along his mission. Turning pain to anger was a tactic Tyler had taken a masters course in over the last decade, and it was sure to get him through at least a little longer. Until then, alcohol and adrenaline seemed a potent enough mixture to keep his body and thoughts in firm check.
Catching Karl's eyes, both men rose from behind their cover and made the short walk to where they'd last seen Sharon hunkered down before the explosion. Thick black smoke hung low to the ground highlighted by pieces of flaming debris blotting nearly every surface in sight. Light from burning trees was bathing the area in a hellish glow that seemed oddly fitting considering their situation. Stepping over one of the centurions crushed by falling concrete in the initial blast, Tyler was about to round the rock outcropping when a disheveled figure lunged up with a pistol gleaming in the fiery light. "Don't frakking move!"
Kinkaid felt more than saw Helo raising his weapon from his position at the Cylon's flank. This action wasn't lost on the bloody woman between the two soldiers, and she took a step closer to the Major while addressing Agathon. "Drop your weapon or i'll kill him."
A bitter laugh tore free of Tyler's chest, locking eyes with the skin-job before him. "Lady, have you got the wrong dog in this fight! He was just threatening to do the same thing." Turning his head slightly, he actually sounded amused. "Try not to kill her Helo, i've got plans for this one."
Eyes darting back and forth between her assailants, desperation began to set in. Closing the last of the distance between herself and the Kinkaid, she shoved the barrel of her pistol into his solar plexus. "You of all people know that I can kill you before his finger gets anywhere near that trigger."
Without the slightest hesitation, Tyler's fingers wrapped around the woman's wrist with the force of a steel vice. Leaning forward slightly to even their heights, he pushed her hand up until the tip of the pistol rested in the center of his forehead. The fires dancing around them gave his grin a demonic quality that made even Helo uneasy. "Why wait?"
A sinking feeling stole through the Cylon at the sudden realization; she had absolutely no leverage. Kinkaid obviously didn't care if she killed him, and even with her enhanced reflexes, there was no way she could take both of them before the burly Lieutenant finished her. With the first Resurrection Ship still days away from being within range, that didn't leave her with many options. The personnel dossiers they had been provided after the invasion had apparently left out one crucial detail about the man leading the resistance. She decided to voice that observation in a shaky timbre as she let her weapon clatter to the ground. "You've gone completely insane."
Kicking the pistol out of range, Tyler shook his head. Typical Cylon, all brains - no balls. In her position, any of his men would have gladly sacrificed themselves to remove such a high level enemy operative. "I prefer to think of it as a pleasant and necessary detachment from reality. Where's Agathon?"
Giving the man making his way around her a withering glare, the Cylon snapped back through gritted teeth. "Right beside you."
Rolling his eyes in clear frustration, the Major dug into his pocket for the restraints he'd brought with him. This was going to get old really quick, but he only had himself to blame. After all, he'd agreed to preside over the rushed ceremony the day before. "Not him, the other one. "
"Right here, Major." Crawling out from under a chunk of aluminum paneling a few meters away, Sharon had one hand pinned to her forehead to stem the flow of blood from a deep gash. "It would have been nice to know you were going to use enough G4 to blow a moon."
"My bad, was my first time using the stuff. While we're on the subject of undisclosed information though, is this who I think it is?" Kinkaid went about slapping a reinforced set of handcuffs on his prisoner while Helo tended to his wife. He had to stop grouping these two together, their little 'displays' always found a way under his skin. The Cylon part of the equation had stopped bothering him a long time ago, much to his own astonishment, and he readily acknowledged all these two had been through for each other. He just wasn't in a place where he could handle such frequent reminders of his own failure as a father and protector.
After giving Karl a kiss and a reassuring squeeze on one of the massive trunks he referred to as arms, Sharon addressed her commanding officer. "The very same. I thought you might enjoy the irony of interrogating this one."
Grinning from ear to ear, Tyler locked a hand on the Cylon's forearm and started marching her away from the smoldering bunker and up the mountain. Against his better judgment and years of prejudice, he was really starting to like Karl's new bride. Motioning for the small group to fall in behind him, they set off for the cave complex containing the rest of their forces. It wouldn't be long until the machines sent someone to figure out what had just blown a chunk out of the hillside, and they weren't prepared to take this fight to the next step - yet.
Leaning close enough for his breath to ruffle the stray hairs hanging near her ear, Kinkaid attempted his best impression of the annoying reporter. "I was just hoping you could answer a few questions for me, Ms. Biers."
He couldn't think. He couldn't feel. He could barely breath - so he fought. Muscles that hadn't been properly used in months were screaming out for relief, but he wasn't going to stop until he worked his body beyond the point of physical exhaustion. He could only hope his mind would follow suit, allowing him to grab a few hours of much needed sleep.
At times Lee envied their enemies. While capable of incredible strength at times, human beings were so very fragile. A point that had been driven home with startling clarity in the hour he'd managed to spend at Kara's bedside earlier that day. Seated between the constant noise of her monitors and the oddly serene form of her still unnamed daughter in the incubator at his side, Apollo had struggled to make some sense of the events that had brought them to this point.
Over the last week as jump after jump carried them deeper into the Terran Confederacy and ever further from the nightmare of New Caprica, he'd spent what little free time he had been able to scrounge up in this room. Often his father wound join him, though conversation was sparse and generally unwelcome. Communication seemed to be limited to comments about Lee's lapse in hygiene or half-hearted digs at the mustache Bill had been growing out since his arrival. Neither of them wanted to face the reality that they had no idea where to go from here. It was irony in it's purest form that these men, usually so decisive, could be brought to a screeching halt by a six pound infant.
After getting over his initial embarrassment, Apollo had relented to the nurse's suggestion and started talking to Starbuck's unresponsive form. Though for the life of him he couldn't decide if she had recommended it more for Kara's benefit or his own peace of mind. The next person who asked him 'what's wrong, sir?' or any variation thereof, would be cleaning launch tubes with their tongue.
With eyes closed, her hand clutched between both of his, he would discuss anything and everything. After relaying the events of his day, no matter how mundane, he would move on to the ship's gossip that most people assumed flew well under their Commander's radar. At times he could almost picture her on the other side of a table from him, laughing as he relayed Costanza's latest stunt or snorting in indignation at Kat's attempts to keep morale up. It was those moments that hurt the most, but only when he came crashing back to reality.
He would tell her how relaxed everyone had grown at the triad tables without Starbuck dashing through the waters like a hungry shark catching the welcoming scent of blood a mile off. Insisting that she could walk away with half of the ship's supplies if only she would 'get off her lazy ass and make it to a game'. Lee made a point of letting her know what a horrible example she was setting for the rest of the pilots still under his command. If Starbuck was laying down on the job, what hope was there for the rest of them? If ever they needed the kick in the ass only a pissed off Kara Thrace could provide, it was now.
After a few days, he began to resort to flat out bribery for even the smallest sign of life. It was not Lee's proudest moment. His last bottle of ambrosia for just a second's view of those eyes she was keeping locked firmly away from them all. Attending a staff meeting in that God's-awful 'hawaiian' shirt she'd given him after winning it from one of Kinkaid's pilots in a poker game, if only she would grace him with a smile. In his weakest moment, fighting tears laced with frustration and fear, he'd offered to let her take his refurbished Mark VII out for a joy ride for the very reasonable price of a single laugh. Frak, she could force it for all he cared.
Their time together would always end the same way. Small, piercing sounds would echo across life-station and jolt him from his thoughts. Krista would exit her office and make her way to the small wailing bundle, bottle in hand and a sad smile on her face. That was the moment Apollo's resolve would break, and he found himself retreating to his office to deal with supply requisitions or sign off on Kat's CAP schedule.
Not that he actually managed to get anything done - from the time he walked out of that room his mind was completely frakked for the day. His father had been right, the crew needed him to be their rock now more than ever, but he just didn't have it in him anymore. How were you supposed to motivate others to their best when you could barely motivate yourself to get out of your rack in the morning? Before he'd always managed to convince himself that there was something to fight for, a cause worthy of his life and struggle. What was there to stand for now?
Two nights before he had attempted to remind himself, something he hadn't done since a few weeks after the worlds had ended. He sat in his office for hours, reading and re-reading the Articles of Colonization, searching for the inspiration he'd always managed to glean from the document in the past - but nothing came. Staring down at the tattered book that had been his constant companion since the Academy, he finally saw it for what it was: a frakking piece of paper. Nothing more.
It wasn't the words on that paper that made them who they were, that guided them to better themselves in an unforgiving universe. It was the people who fought for them, who defended those very rights with their lives. People like Kara Thrace. That thought had sent waves of guilt and self-disgust cascading through him with enough force to make him physically ill. What would she think of him right now? Wallowing in his misery while the world came tumbling down around him? If they were going to have a future, any future, someone was going to have to keep up the fight.
Tossing aside a stack of disciplinary reports Tigh had pawned off on him, Lee rose from his desk so quickly he sent his chair colliding back into the wall. Running a hand through his disheveled hair Apollo headed straight for his locker. Taking a page from Starbuck's holy tome, 'How to Deal', he decided any action was better than standing still. Snagging a pair of shorts and tennis shoes, he'd set off for the gym.
Lee should have been surprised how easily he had found a sparring partner at this time of night with everyone pulling double shifts to cover the crew shortage, but there were perks to commanding a battlestar. People didn't say no to you. After making short work of his first two opponents, most of the bystanders in the gym had possessed the good sense to bolt for the exits before Apollo had the opportunity to 'invite' them into the ring.
After handing off a very disoriented Costanza to his CAG, Lee returned to his corner to grab a slug from his water bottle and started scanning the room for fresh meat. The sound of feet hitting the canvas behind him had a feral smile tugging at the edges of his mouth. Someone obviously hadn't been paying attention. Turning on his heel, Lee could actually feel his eyebrows meet his hair-line. "No."
"What's the matter? Afraid you've found someone who might punch back?" Bill Adama rolled his shoulders, working out the day's tension in preparation for what was to come. The look in his eyes told Lee exactly what was coming - he wouldn't be getting out of this one.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to find his voice, Apollo decided he didn't feel like fighting after all. "The Doc..."
"Cottle says I need more cardio, this seems like as good an opportunity as any, Lee." Suddenly aware of the small crowd gathering around the ring, Adama showed the first signs of the fire simmering under his carefully constructed facade as he snapped. "Give us the room!"
There were obviously perks to being the Admiral too - Lee had never seen a room clear that quickly. Approaching the center of the ring he tried to stifle the frustration tearing through him at the smirk his father was tossing his direction. "What are you doing, sir?"
Shaking his head at the careful tone of his son's voice, Bill closed the distance between them. "No ranks. This is you and me, and we've got a few things to straighten out."
"Fine dad, message received. Lets head back to your office and talk this out, man to man." Lee could feel desperation setting in, this was quickly spiraling out of control. The idea of where it might end up had cold beads of sweat pooling at the base of his neck.
"Man to man, that's exactly what I had in mind. I don't see the problem Lee. Anything worth taking out on that poor kid should be more than enough to motivate you now." The Admiral's control was quickly slipping away, adding to Apollo's apprehension. It seems he had underestimated the effect all of this must be having on his father, much to his detriment.
Nodding slowly, Lee couldn't meet the other man's gaze. He had been out of line and he knew it. That didn't change the fact that his father wasn't in any condition to be taking this to a physical level. Steeling his jaw and finally raising his eyes to the Admiral's, Lee shook his head. "I'm not fighting you."
"That will certainly make things easier." Without warning Bill fired off a right hook that carried behind it a lot more power than a man of his age should have been capable of. Lee's ears were ringing as his neck snapped back sharply, leaving him stumbling back across the ring.
Too shocked to do much else, Lee swiped a gloved hand under his nose, not surprised to find a healthy amount of blood pooling there. "What the frak!?"
Never slowing down, the Admiral drove a gloved hand into Apollo's exposed midsection, bending him at the waist and leaving him open for another hard right. Unprepared for the ferocity of the assault, Lee suddenly found himself flat on his ass and gasping for breath. Dancing back a few steps, Bill allowed his son to start picking himself up from the canvas.
"You want to keep beating yourself up, Lee? I just thought you might appreciate a hand!" No sooner had the younger man started to find his feet than he was being knocked off them again, pain tearing through the side of his face.
Lee couldn't remember a time he'd seen his father this angry. He was sure there had been a time, but at the moment his brain wasn't functioning well enough to pull it from his memory for inspection. Drawing on every ounce of self control he still had within him, Apollo snagged onto the ropes at his back and started leveraging himself off the ground again. He was not going to let his father push him over the edge.
"Why bother getting up at all? You've given up, everyone on this ship can see it in your eyes!" Shoving Lee back into the corner, Bill waded in with fists flying. Every punch was an accusation, driving home his profound disappointment. Why the frak wouldn't he fight back!? Had he really convinced himself he deserved this?
Lee was doing his best just to stay upright under the constant barrage pounding his head and body. Using his arms he was able to deflect most of the blows, but the ones that got through were more than enough. Where the frak had this come from? A few hours ago his father would barely speak to him, now he was ripping into him like a man possessed! A sharp blow to the jaw had blood rushing to fill his mouth and throat, Lee hit his knees hard as a coughing fit tore through him.
Sputtering around the blood dripping from between his lips, Apollo met his father's eyes, surprised to see pain warring with the still very present anger there. Well at least he wasn't enjoying this. "What the frak do you want from me?"
Thrusting gloved hands under his son's shoulders, Bill leveraged him back onto his feet and against the ropes. His voice was low and desperate, Lee had to strain to hear despite he fact they were only inches apart. "I want my son back. Not this... this shell! You're not the same man I left to care for these people."
Taking a step back, the Admiral mustered all of the disdain he could and funneled it directly into his voice. "I'm ashamed you carry my name. And make no mistake, she would be ashamed of you too."
That was it. A red haze blocked out everything but the rage boiling up from inside. Firing off the ropes without warning, Lee's fist connected with the target of his anger full force. A quick combination had his father back on his heels, and left a large enough opening for his uppercut to send the man sprawling back onto the canvas.
Still unable to see straight, Lee stood gasping over his fallen opponent, trying desperately not to let it go any further. "Frak you! You have no right!"
Impossibly, after shaking the cobwebs from his shell-shocked brain, Bill smiled up at him with quickly swelling lips. The grin only seemed to push Lee further into the rage he'd managed to drive his son into. "How does it feel?"
Eyes widening in anger, Apollo glowered at the man still laying prone at his feet. Had his father gone insane!? It seemed a distinct possibility at the moment. "How does what feel?"
"The pounding of your heart. The pain in your hands. The satisfaction of laying out a superior asshole who rightfully deserved it." Pulling himself back onto shaky legs, Bill rested a hand on his son's shoulder. "How does it feel to know you're alive, Lee? Because I can assure you this is the first time i've seen a single spark since Kara fell into her coma."
Sputtering with indignation, Apollo could feel his hands itching to finish the job he'd stopped so abruptly. Forcing down thoughts of patricide, he focused on that still infuriatingly present smirk before him. "You did this on purpose? I'm supposed to believe you pushed me to the breaking point for 'my own good'!?"
"Not for you, Lee. For them. We're headed for the belly of the beast son, and it's only going to get worse. Giving up is not an option for any of us. Especially the Commander." Yanking off his gloves to examine hands Bill was pretty sure he wouldn't be using come morning, the Admiral decided to push past his personal discomfort and go for broke. "I won't claim to understand everything that's transpired between you and Kara. But whatever else she might have become to you recently, at one time she was going to be your sister and my daughter. That may have changed for you - evolved. But it will never change for me.
It breaks my heart to see the most vibrant person i've ever met confined to a bed by her own body. But we owe her more than our pity Lee, a lot more. We have to face the very real possibility that we'll never make it back to New Caprica." The second part of that statement hung heavily in the air between them, though neither would ever voice it. The very real possibility that Kara might never wake up. "But whatever happens, I intend to do what's right for our girl - our girls. If the worst is realized, that child will never be without a family that loves and protects her. Is that understood? Don't make the mistakes I did, son. Don't let this..," Bill motioned to Galactica's bulkheads with a wistful expression, "don't let this become the most important part of your life. It's not our genes, but what we love that makes us who we are."
Feeling the anger drain out of himself as quickly as it had arrived, Lee let his gloves drop to the canvas with a slow nod. Looking at his father he suddenly saw the man in a new light. That was the burden of command, you didn't have the luxury of breaking down. People were depending on him. Wincing slightly, he tossed an arm around the Admiral's shoulders. "Yeah dad, I get it. But next time you want a heart-to-heart, lets try it over drinks first. If all else fails we can still come down here afterwards, and it least then it won't hurt this much."
Running a hand over his jaw with a cringe, Lee couldn't help but laugh. "That fresh air did you some good old man, I think you loosened a tooth."
Smirking over his shoulder Bill climbed out of the ring and down to the floor with only a slight groan of discomfort. "I'm as strong as I ever was, Lee. You've just let command make you soft. Which is why i'll be taking your morning shift in CIC from now on."
Snagging his towel from it's resting place on the ropes, Lee's brow quirked as far as the swelling in his eye would allow. "Sir?"
Stopping at the hatch, Bill pulled on his most infuriating smile - the one that told Lee he was about to be very pleased, or very angry with his father. "It's the only way to free you up for CAP. Haven't you heard Commander? We're short on pilots."
It took a full ten seconds before Lee stopped staring at the hatch the Admiral had just vacated. A bone-deep weariness seemed to overtake him in that instant, providing the first hope for real sleep he'd had in weeks. His father had managed to give him everything he needed at that moment in time, every tool necessary to keep moving forward. There were times he wondered if he would ever truly understand what made that man tick. He was sure however, that if he could find a way to know his mind, he might just make a leader of himself yet.
Gathering up his supplies and checking his watch, Lee knew he had better hit his rack if he was going to be flying a couple tons of steel in less than five hours. But there was one very important task he had to see to first.
Helo had never seen anything like that interrogation before, and vehemently hoped he never would again. The looks of shock and disgust he'd seen on the faces of the guards outside told the entire story, none of them would be getting any sleep tonight. Kinkaid's warning before they'd set about the interrogation now seemed eerily prophetic. "The trick is to make it look like you're enjoying yourself, without letting the monster into the open. One step too far, and you'll become as ruthless as them."
After another stern warning about following his friend's lead, no matter what happened, Tyler's face had become completely devoid of emotion as he parted the curtain and stepped inside. Removing his uniform jacket slowly and setting it on the small table between them, the Major had taken his seat, eyes never once leaving the prisoner occupying the room. Without a word he'd leaned his chair back against the rough rock wall and kicked his heels up onto the table, enjoying a cigar scrounged from a cargo pocket.
It was amazing and terrifying to watch the stages of transformation going on under Kinkaid's piercing gaze as he leisurely puffed his stogie. The angry and openly defiant Cylon had slipped first into visible uncertainty, followed quickly by a feral apprehension. Visions of a frightened animal gnawing off it's own limb to escape a trap swam unbidden through Karl's mind at the sight - and Tyler hadn't even opened his mouth yet.
Aside from cursing their names, threatening their families, and some rather colorful remarks regarding which orifices would most effectively house various appendages, the prisoner had remained silent for the first six hours. Helo was sure the Major's knuckles would give out long before they garnered any useful information from this one. Apparently deciding the same thing, Tyler told his XO to take a lunch break with his family. He'd also been insistent that afterwards Sharon should take their daughter to the farthest section of the caverns, 'where they'll be safe'.
Doing his best to push down the uneasiness that had flooded him at Tyler's cryptic smile, he somehow managed to enjoy the downtime with his wife and daughter. A quick feast of Terran MRE's in the bowels of a dank cave; it wasn't exactly the honeymoon he'd always imagined for them. Karl had even invited his CO along for a little company, assuming that a return to 'normalcy' might do the man a world of good, but Kinkaid had disappeared into the storage catacombs in search of something he assured Karl would speed up the interrogation process.
After fighting the urge to make his lunch break slightly more honeymoon-like, Helo had arrived just as Kinkaid began setting up a shoe box sized device on the table between himself and the prisoner. Without glancing up from his work the Major had explained the machine's operation with the detachment one would expect from a man covering a new model of automobile.
"This my dear, is an X4-L1 bio-phasic generator. A towering monument to exactly why it's a bad idea to kill a human engineer's family." Snapping a few more wires into the unit, Kinkaid ran a length of cable down to a small portable generator. "A few months into the war, we stumbled across a very interesting flaw in your design. It seems one of our prisoners was left in a cell a few feet away from a leaking energy conduit. No one paid much attention, as it was completely harmless to humans, but i'll be damned if that radiation didn't have some pretty fucked up side-effects on Cylon neural pathways."
Smirking at the woman they'd all known as D'Anna Biers, Tyler let his finger hover over the activation switch while leaning across the table and into her personal space. "We were fighting for our lives at the time, so the screams coming from the brig were ignored for days. By the time we sent someone to investigate, she was dead."
Lowering his voice to a stage whisper, Kinkaid feigned a reassuring smile as he rested a hand on the Cylon's shoulder. "Oh don't worry your pretty little head honey, the radiation didn't kill her. Shit doesn't cause any permanent damage, which is what makes it perfect for our purposes here. It does however stimulate the pain receptors in that semi-organic lump you call a brain. Starts out like an itch you can't scratch - ya know? Before long though, it's gonna feel like your entire body is being dipped into hot coals. I've heard it described as burning needles being driven into every nerve ending at the same time."
Pulling himself back into an upright position, he flicked the switch almost as an afterthought. Though he turned his attention to his XO, Tyler was pleased to see Ms. Biers already starting to twitch slightly from the corner of his vision. "Little trivia for ya Karl. You know what killed that prisoner?"
The Major's question shocked Helo back from his own inner-monologue. He finally understood why Kinkaid had sent his wife and daughter to the other end of he facility. Helo just hoped it really was far enough away to keep them safe. Trying to force a neutral expression onto his features, Karl found that the subject hit a little too close to home for him to just shrug off. He really wasn't cut out for this kind of thing. "No. How did she die, sir?"
Casting his voice in the direction of it's intended audience, Tyler's eyes glinted with just a hint too much pleasure for it to all be a part of the act. "Ripped herself to shreds. Clawed most of her skin off... what a way to go. The worst part was the eyes," Kinkaid leaned back against the wall, cupping a hand over his right eye and imitating a loud 'pop' with his mouth, "both of 'em, clean out of their sockets! Can't imagine the pain she had to be going through to get both out before she lost consciousness."
Glancing back to the woman across the table, who now seemed to be on the verge of a convulsive fit, Tyler continued in a conversational tone. "Hey, maybe you can tell me?"
"Frak you!" Her reply was more growl than coherent words, but the men opposite her got the general idea.
"Well if you don't want to discuss that, I can think of a few more questions you can answer for me instead." Pulling his chair back to the table and taking a seat, the Major prepared himself for the long haul.
Helo only remembered bits and pieces after that. The woman had soon grown semi-delusional under the constant onslaught tearing through her body. Ranting and raving about destiny and prophecy - typical Cylon bullshit. It was what came between the words that would haunt his dreams for weeks to come. Feral screams he'd never imagined could come from a human mouth, or even a mouth designed to resemble a human's. The sounds of gnashing teeth when Kinkaid got tired of listening to the myriad ways she was going to remove his intestines and cranked up the power.
He would always remember the moment she had finally broken under the strain. A piercing cry exploded from deep in her chest, sending even the Major back a few steps in shock. Her pain-fogged eyes had filled with startling clarity as she glared at the man across the table from her. Karl had never imagined someone could cram that much hate into a single look. "I'll tell you what you want to know," an incongruous smile played across her features despite the pain still tearing through her body, "it's not like it matters anyways."
Rubbing his temples in a vain attempt to stifle the migraine the woman's screams had brought about hours ago, Tyler turned the device off and retook his seat. "And why's that?"
Suddenly overcome by a laughter that bordered on the maniacal, Biers leaned forward as far as her restraints would allow. "Because you're already dead Kinkaid - all of you. He's coming for you," D'Anna's voice took on an almost sing-song quality, "you've been a veeeery bad boy. You claimed his prize, and what he's going to do to you will make this look like a Delphi spa treatment! God may fear you, but he doesn't. When the fire falls and this world burns, you'll have no choice but to face him!"
Smirking around the cigar he'd been chewing on for the last two hours, the Major tried to keep his composure despite the sleep deprivation he was currently experiencing. "And just who might this boogeyman be?"
"Wouldn't you like to know? Well we'd all like to know! No one knows! Shhhhhhh ... it's a secret! What makes you think you're so special anyways?"
Tyler leaned close to Karl as the woman erupted into yet another uncontrollable fit of laughter. "Shit. You think I broke her?"
Rolling his eyes in frustration, Karl glowered at his CO. They'd all been awake for nearly two days now, and his own head was far from immune to the sounds their prisoner had been making. "Do I look like a frakking owner's manual? What did you expect was going to happen?"
Slamming a fist onto the table to bring the barely-there D'Anna's focus back to the task at hand, Kinkaid snapped. "Fine, i'm a dead man! It really doesn't matter what you tell me then, does it? So let's cut through the bullshit and tell uncle Tyler exactly what your friends are planning, or I swear to God I will turn this fucker on and go to bed for the next twelve hours!"
That got her attention.
"You believe her?" Helo cast a sideways glance at his CO as they made their way out of the make-shift interrogation room. After more than twenty hours of the Major's mind-games, Karl wasn't sure he would have believed Ms. Biers if she'd told them water was wet.
Running a stained towel over the cuts and gashes criss-crossing his knuckles, Tyler's nod was grave. He pointedly ignored the looks he received from the guards outside the cloth curtain separating the alcove from the rest of the cave complex. Knowing they couldn't have avoided hearing the noises from inside, Kinkaid tossed the bloody towel onto the floor between them without comment. Now was not the time to be getting soft with the machines, and they had to understand that. "Every word Lieutenant. I've seen that look in hundreds of eyes over the years. She would have handed me her own mother on a silver platter... if she had a mother."
Forcing a reassuring smile onto his face, the Major slapped Helo on the back. "Get some sleep, grab a meal, have a little fun with the wife for God's sake!" Laughing to himself, Kinkaid rounded the corner to his own quarters, his voice ringing out behind him. "And don't worry Lieutenant, i've got a plan!"
A sense of dread settled deep in Karl's stomach at the thought. He couldn't decide which he was more afraid of at the moment, the idea that the Cylons were planning to extort the location of Earth from the president by means of mass murder, or what Kinkaid might be planning in order to 'solve' the problem. After what he'd just witnessed, Helo didn't doubt the man might just kill Roslin to protect the secret. The Major was hanging on by a thread, and it appeared to be unraveling quickly.
After grabbing a quick shower and donning a fresh uniform, Apollo made the trip to life-station from his office. Since becoming Commander, he had found that he enjoyed strolling through the halls of his ship at odd hours. No one bothered him with mundane requests or shoved papers in his face that only he could deal with. He didn't have to dodge crewman on their daily runs or force himself to ignore the more obvious signs of frat reg. violations.
Oddly enough, it was when most of the crew was asleep for the night that his battlestar seemed to truly come alive. Lee could slip through her corridors unnoticed, just listening to her 'breathe'. It had taken a long time, but he had finally reached a level of comfort where he could pinpoint the smallest abnormality by sound alone. He sometimes wondered about the reactions some of his memo's to the repair staff must have garnered. 'Deck four, section twelve, bulkhead thirteen - sounds like our girl's coming down with a cold, get on that. - Adama ' The problem was always promptly fixed though, so he decided not to dwell on what he hoped the crew just saw as another one of his eccentricities.
These little walks were more than inspections though, they provided him a much needed chance to clear his thoughts in an otherwise cluttered life. That was one facet of command he'd never examined until it had been thrust on his shoulders - a contradiction really. The further you progressed in the hierarchy, the more decisions you were expected to make. Conversely, the more decisions you were expected to make, the less time you had to deal with each individual choice. This made any time you could scrounge up to truly think a terribly valuable commodity.
As a pilot, sleep had been the most highly prized of all his resources. These days he found himself lying in bed for hours, foregoing sleep in order to go over the next day's business. The idea of flying again had him floored, but in that respect it only added to his problems.
Rounding the final corner before his destination, Lee tried to let those thoughts fade away as per his father's earlier advice. If he was going to pull this off, he needed to leave his baggage at the door. No sooner had he cycled the hatch and stepped into life-station than he was assaulted by a piercing cry intermingled with grumbling crewman.
The room was still half-full with crewman and pilots wounded in the Cylon attack on New Caprica, and none seemed very happy to have their sleep interrupted by a howling newborn. If there had been any doubt that child was Kara's, it had been quickly dismissed the first time he'd heard that cry. The kid had her mother's lungs.
Closing the distance to Kara's bed, Lee pulled back to privacy curtain separating her space from the rest of the infirmary and stepped inside. The sight that greeted him would have been comical if his heart hadn't gone out to the poor woman doing laps around the bed trying frantically to calm the howling infant. "Krista?"
"I'm doing my frakking best here, alright!? Just lay down and i'll see what I can do about getting you a sedative!" Her temporary lapse in composure only seemed to further exacerbate the situation, and the piercing cry jumped a few octaves. "Shhhhh, i'm sorry! It's not you, it's these frakking pilots! Figures that they can handle Cylons, but a crying baby? Well that's just too much!"
Choking down a laugh that would most likely have resulted in his untimely demise, Lee rounded the bed and caught the frazzled nurse's eyes. "To be fair, if they sounded like that, I would have surrendered a long time ago."
Eyes widening in surprise, Krista looked torn between the humor of the situation and the realization that she'd just snapped at one of the few people on this ship that outranked her. "Commander! I'm sorry, I thought..," finally making eye contact with Lee, she exclaimed, "what the frak happened to you?"
Having nearly forgotten about his run-in with his father, Lee just shrugged. "Don't worry about it. You don't look so hot yourself. When was the last time you got any sleep?"
Struggling with mental math that was obviously beyond her current operating capacity, Krista finally returned his shrug. "What day is it?"
Rolling his eyes, Apollo tossed himself into his customary chair at Kara's side. He didn't really need sleep anyways. "Wrong answer Horten. Go get some rest, i've got this covered."
Giving the man before her a reluctant once over, she seemed to weigh the possibility of him screwing this up versus her own physical exhaustion. "Sir, with all due respect, this isn't a Viper you can just turn off. This child wants her mother, and I don't think she's going to settle down until she gets her."
"I used to be a CAG, Krista. If I can handle a whole roster of screaming children, I think I can handle one especially loud one." Thrusting his hands out, Lee waited for the wailing bundle to be deposited into his arms.
Realizing she wasn't going to win this battle, Krista made her way over to where the Commander was seated. After using her free hand to adjust his arms to the proper position, she checked the blankets wrapped around the child one last time. "Diapers and wipes are in the drawer there. She's still got half a bottle on the table, and if she'll quiet down long enough there's a pacifier somewhere around here."
"Diaper, bottle, pacifier. Gotcha." Lee tried to smile as reassuringly as he could, if only to cover the terror he was experiencing at the thought of having to deal with a raging Thrace - even a pint-sized one.
Giving Lee a final appraising look, Krista lowered the child into his waiting arms slowly. "Support her head... there you go. You can try rocking her, but it sure hasn't worked for me."
Leaning back into the chair, Apollo adjusted the bundle against his chest carefully. It still shocked him how small this person really was, she was completely engulfed in his arms. Forcing down a yawn, he was more than a little frustrated to see Krista still standing in front of him. It took a moment to register that her apprehension had disappeared, only to be replaced by a look of complete shock and disbelief.
"You little... how did you?" The nurse's sputtering indignance was his first clue that something was up. The second was the blissful silence now stretching across life-station. "Wait - I don't care how. She's all yours."
Shaking his head slowly, Lee smiled down at the child now sleeping peacefully in his arms. He didn't really see what all the fuss was about, this didn't seem hard at all.
He sat there for a long time just staring at that perfect little face, eyes dancing behind closed lids in fitful slumber. The picture of innocence, untouched by any of the horrors this world had to offer. Lee knew in that moment he had his answer. What he couldn't find in those dusty books cluttering his desk, or even within himself, he found in that face.
Leaning down, he dropped a soft kiss on the infant's hairline. "You kid... you're something worth fighting for."
As always, thanks to everyone for offering such wonderful feedback and support. I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. I really made an effort to mix the dark with the light for once, so hopefully this was a little easier to stomach than some of the recent chapters.