They were civilian police, not Fleet, and it didn't occur to Lee at first that he was the one they were there for.
He was halfway down a bottle of ambrosia, halfway through the longest and worst day of his life, and when someone touched his shoulder and said, "Lee Adama?" he turned around and swung without looking. The cop was tough, but she was half his weight and she hadn't been expecting it, and he sent her to the floor without even meaning to.
And, as it happened, he was in a bar three blocks from the Academy, in the bad part of Caprica City, drinking in uniform, and almost all the other patrons were underage cadets with fake IDs. But the cop who was still standing tasered Lee even before he called for backup, and Lee missed most of the fighting, missed the MPs being called in, woke up in a cell by himself with a headache and bruises he didn't remember getting and the awful knowledge that his brother was dead.
It occurred to him, after a while, to wonder where he was, and why. He'd spent a few hours in the brig once when he was a cadet, and he didn't remember the heavy iron bars, or the reek of urine, or the distant screaming. He got up, and fell down, and got up again and staggered over to bang on the door.
Eventually a guard came, a heavy man with a club on his belt and a permanent sneer on his face.
"Look," Lee said to him. "I think there's been a mistake. I've had a little too much to drink. Maybe I could call my father, Commander Adama--." He could make the words come out clearly, if he concentrated. He just couldn't keep his eyes focused on the man's face.
"Oh, you'll get to make a call," the man told him. "But maybe you want to save it for your lawyer. I don't think daddy's going to be too quick to come to your rescue this time."
Lee stared at him, trying to make sense of the words. "I want to call my father," he said finally, icily, making it a command.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," the guard said, like he'd done Lee some kind of favor telling him that his father wouldn't want to hear from him. He turned and walked away, and Lee watched, him pressing his cheek against the cool metal and wondering why his ribs ached.
After a moment a uniformed police officer came through the door at the end of the hall and walked up to Lee's cell. "Lieutenant Adama," she said coolly, and when the light hit her face he saw the bruise that blackened her right eye, and then he recognized her.
"I'm sorry," he said tiredly. "About--." He gestured to his own face, which felt like hers looked. "You took me by surprise."
"Don't worry about it," she said, but she didn't smile. "You're hardly the first suspect to resist arrest. I shouldn't have mistaken you for a gentleman." She sighed. "You want to call your father?"
"Resist arrest?" Lee demanded. "Arrest for what? I'm a Fleet officer, I don't even fall under your jurisdiction."
"Capital crimes are under Colonial authority," she said. "Lieutenant, I would advise that you keep your mouth shut until your daddy can get a lawyer here, because you are going to be fracked if you keep talking."
"A lawyer for what?" Lee asked her, and only the pain in his head kept him from shouting. "Why the frak am I here?"
"You've been advised to wait for legal counsel, Lieutenant," she said again. "Do you acknowledge that?" She was very small, blond, pretty in a delicate way despite a fairly impressive set of muscles and the damage Lee had done her. She was not very much like Kara at all.
"Yeah," Lee said dully. "I acknowledge. Now tell me why you arrested me."
"You're under arrest for the murder of your brother, Zak Adama," the woman said, and there was more but Lee didn't hear it.
Later he called his parents' house and talked to his mother. She was drunk, and she started to cry as soon as she heard his voice. For once, Lee couldn't be angry with her. He wanted to cry, too, to press himself against her shoulder and feel her hand in his hair. She was his mother; he had loved her, once. She believed him, when he said he had not killed Zak.
His father was unreachable, on maneuvers with the Galactica. He knew his younger son was dead, but not that his older son was in prison for murder. He'd be back in time to bail Lee out for the funeral, and Lee almost wished that wasn't the case. He would almost rather spend the rest of his life in his cell, if it meant his father never found out.
Almost. After the first night, they kept asking him questions. Lee wanted to sleep, and they wouldn't let him. What had he and his brother argued about? What had he done to Zak's Viper? Had anyone helped him? Why had he resisted arrest?
Lee told them the truth over and over, until it started to sound like a lie, until he was no longer sure what he was saying. When he did shut his eyes he saw Zak's Viper burning, heard Zak screaming over the comm unit. He was glad, then, to be shaken awake by a stranger's hand, glad to be in an interrogation room and not on a flight deck. Glad that wherever Zak was, he was not screaming any longer.
The second day, maybe, because Lee was never sure what time it was, how fast time was passing—they brought him a copy of a letter from his CAG on Atlantia. She'd written in his defense, stating that he was an exemplary soldier and a gifted pilot. It was an extraordinary compliment from a commanding officer who gave praise only sparingly, and Lee could not bring himself to appreciate it.
The detectives in charge of his case appreciated it. "Daddy's little lieutenant," the man called him. "Looks like Daddy bought you the right commission."
Eventually Lee lost his temper. "When I applied for flight school," he said, "my father was another discharged Viper pilot with a drawerful of medals. He was flying cargo ships in the merchant marines because the Fleet wouldn't have him. I had to beg for recommendation letters like everyone else, and I graduated top of my class because I worked twice as hard as everyone else. Everything I have, I earned—War College and the slot on Atlantia included. How about you, Detective? Can you say the same thing?"
After that they put him in a bigger cell with a half a dozen other prisoners, all of them male, all of them under arrest for violent crimes. Lee sat on the concrete floor with his back against the wall and kept his eyes on the door. For the first time he was afraid, not only of what his father would say when he came, not only of seeing Kara again, not only of waking up and finding out that Zak was still dead and none of this was a dream. For the first time he was afraid for his life.
Sometimes the door opened and a prisoner was called out. Sometimes someone new came in. One of them, a blond man with tattoos spiraling up both arms, stared at Lee with an unnerving intensity. "You're pretty for a pilot," he said, "but that short hair makes you look like a man, sweetheart."
Lee didn't look up at him, didn't move, barely breathed. It felt like no one in the cell was breathing. The blond man wander closer, and Lee waited, ever muscle in his body tense. He stayed where he was until the other man was close enough to nudge him in the ankle with a booted toe and drawl, "Cat got your tongue, sweetheart? Let me give you some help with that."
Lee came off the ground fighting. He was outweighed, outclassed, and after the initial shock passed, outnumbered, but he slammed the blond man's head into the ground with enough force to shatter bone and then he fought like a cornered weasel until the guards came and knocked him unconscious.
It landed him in a cell of his own, one with no windows and a solid door. It was better than being raped. His head hurt again, so badly that he wondered if he had a concussion, and he could feel every one of the bruises that must be covering his body. He stayed on his bunk with an arm over his eyes to block out the harsh light and waited for his father to come.
By the time he heard a key turning in the lock he was beyond fear, or grief, or rage, in a hazy blur of exhaustion and pain. He got up, because he remembered it was important that they not realize he was hurt, even if he could no longer remember why.
It was his father, still in battledress and with a face as quiet as stone. It was his father standing behind the guards, and seeing him, knowing what he must be thinking, staggered Lee as nothing else had done. He was an Adama. He did not break, not where anyone could see him, but it was a close-run thing.
His father caught his elbow, steadied him. "Later," he said, and there was a promise in the word. "The funeral is in a few hours." He led Lee through the police station and pushed him into a car waiting at the curb.
Lee slid across to the furthest seat and leaned against the window. He was happy not to talk, if his father was. The driver wove expertly and silently through the crowded streets of Caprica City, and his father sat beside him and never turned his head.
When the car pulled into the drive of his parents' house, Lee got out as quickly as he could. It wasn't until he was standing that he realized he was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with blood down the front. He fumbled for the car door again, thinking he'd say something to his father, and then the front door of the house opened and his mother ran out.
Before he could stop her—and he was not even sure he wanted to stop her—she had her arms around him, and was sobbing into his neck. Over her shoulder Lee watched the driver get out of the car. It was his father's XO, of course; Adama rarely went anywhere without Tigh if he could help it.
His mother took his hands and drew him into the house, and Lee let her. He did not turn to see if Tigh and his father were following. Once they were inside he shook her off and walked unsteadily up the stairs. His things were still on the bed in his old room where he'd left them. It had been—he thought hard—only a week since he'd come home on leave, four days since he'd left this room. He had slept with Zak's fiancée, had watched his brother die, had been arrested for his murder.
Numbly he stripped off his clothing and crammed into the garbage can before he stepped into the bathroom and turned the water in the shower as hot as it would go. He was shivering, but maybe he had been all along. While he waited for the water to heat he dug through the medicine cabinet and found a bottle of painkillers. He shook four of them into his palm and swallowed them dry before he stepped into the shower.
After a half an hour the water began to run cold, and he got out. His headache had eased a little, but he felt as if his head were fragile, made of blown glass and empty. His face in the mirror was a stranger's, blue eyes cold and hard as a child's marbles, and he nearly cut his own throat shaving.
When he'd put on his dress uniform, there was nothing left to do but go downstairs. His mother and Tigh were in the living room, both well on their way to being drunk. He thought, in his mother's case, that that might be a kindness. She looked even more breakable than usual in her black dress, and far too young to have grown sons, or to be married to a man as old as his father.
Tigh was quieter than usual, out of kindness or tact, or even his own grief. He'd been a frequent visitor, almost an extra uncle, when Lee and Zak were small. He'd loved Zak--but then everyone had. He handed Lee a drink and clapped him hard on the shoulder, and his eyes were sober and appraising when they met Lee's over the rim of the glass.
Lee set the drink untouched on the sideboard and moved to stand beside the window. He'd gone months in space without a glimpse of the sun, but suddenly he was desperately grateful for the warmth and brightness of it. He stayed where he was, until his father came in and said it was time to go.
This time his father drove. Tigh sat beside him in the front seat, and Lee sat in the back with his mother. She was just the right side of drunk, he thought, listening to her make brittle conversation with his father about the weather. Drunk enough to dull the blow of Zak's death, but not so drunk that she'd make a scene. Though she was less likely to do that with his father present, anyway. He always brought out her best behavior.
The funeral was held at the temple on the Academy grounds, the temple where Lee's parents were married, where he and his father and Zak—and Kara—were sworn into Colonial service, sworn to give their lives if it were asked of them. They had gotten Zak's life.
Lee could still see the accident, replaying in full color and sound, every time he closed his eyes. The last thing he'd said to Zak had been both profane and cruel, and Zak had shoved him hard across the flight deck. Lee had turned to go, had been walking away as his brother entered the launch tube. Had turned back just in time to watch Zak die.
He had been falling asleep. Now he jerked awake, gasping for breath, Zak's name forming in his throat. His mother rubbed his arm gently, but looking up, Lee caught his father's eyes in the rearview mirror. There was no softness there, no kindness. There never had been.
He stood between his parents at the service. He did not recite the prayers with them, but he knelt when they knelt, and he held his mother's hand. His father—his father had wanted Zak to be a pilot. His father believed Zak's blood was on Lee's hands. He did not even see Kara until suddenly she stepped forward to give the eulogy.
She was very pale, as fragile as Kara could ever be. But her chin was up, and her eyes shone not with tears but with anger. That was when Lee knew that she believed Zak's death had been murder.
"He clipped his wing coming out of the launch tube," he whispered, not even realizing until he'd said them that he'd spoken the words out loud.
His father squeezed Lee's bicep painfully hard. "Not now," he hissed.
"My name is Kara Thrace," she said, and her voice carried easily, filled the room. "I was Zak Adama's flight instructor. But what many of you don't know is that I was also his fiancée. I have never met anyone I loved as much as Zak, anyone as kind, as generous, as funny. It made him a terrible student--."
There were laughs at that. Lee didn't smile. He couldn't take his eyes off her, even now, even knowing that he'd never have her now. He had fallen in love for the first time when he was eight years old, not with a woman but with a Viper. Kara had that same fierce grace. If it had not cost him Zak, it would have been worth it—that one night with her would have been worth any other price.
"But it made him a wonderful lover, and a better friend. Zak was the best friend I've ever had. I did some pretty terrible things to him, betrayed his trust in every way that a woman can betray a man. There's nothing that I've done that I regret more. Zak, wherever you are now, I want you to know that I'm sorry, that I love you--."
Lee shook off his father's grip and edged away. He could feel heads turning toward him, but all he could think about was getting out of the temple. He did not run, not quite, but it was close. And then he was out, free, blinking in the sun. He sat on the steps of the building, shuddering, horrified at himself, at Kara—at what they'd done, at what had come of it.
He had not murdered Zak, but he might as well have done. The things he had said to his brother, just before Zak had climbed into the cockpit—it was no wonder Zak had frakked up, no wonder he'd crashed, no wonder he was dead.
He heard the doors of the temple opening, and scrambled up just in time to fade into the shadows at the edge of the building and wait for his parents to emerge. His mother came out first, on the arm of an admiral. Lee fell in behind her, listening to her talk about everything but the son she had lost. He had forgotten how much he loved her, how brave she could be, how strong. He had spent most of his childhood hating her, and now all he could think of was how like Kara she was.
His father was beside him, face very grim. Lee looked over at him for a second and then turned his eyes back to the ground. He had been afraid of his father all his life, as much as he'd been desperate for approval. It was disheartening to realize that had not changed. "Dad," he said very quietly.
"Saul's gone to get the car," his father said wearily. "You're all right?"
"Of course," Lee answered. It was a lie, and not even a good lie. He was so far from being all right that he might as well be on a different planet entirely. He thought, by the look the Commander gave him, that his father knew. But neither of them were willing to discuss it. Even had they not had the burial to get through.
A part of him wondered how much of Zak there was left to bury. He stood beside the grave while the salute was fired, and tried not look at Kara, tried not to look at the gaping hole of his brother's grave. He had been to a funeral on Atlantia, and he thought that surely this quiet dark ground was no lonelier than being shot into space to float forever.
Afterward came the part he was truly dreading, the part where he went home with his parents. His mother went upstairs to lie down and Lee and his father stood in the hallway looking at one another, twenty-five years of hurt and anger and silence between them.
"In the kitchen," the Commander said, finally. "I need a drink, before we talk about this."
Lee followed him and sat down at the kitchen table. He was so tired that the familiar outlines of the cabinets, the refrigerator, had acquired hazy shadows. His father filled a glass with water and moved so that he was facing Lee across the table, one of them standing and one of them sitting: like a courtroom, with Lee as a witness.
"Tell me exactly what happened," his father said, and Lee flinched at the words.
"Thursday night," he answered. "I met Zak and Kara—Lieutenant Thrace—for a drink at a bar near the Academy to celebrate Zak's having gotten his pilot's certificate. We had a couple of drinks, and then Zak had to go, to be in before curfew. So—Lieutenant Thrace and I had a couple more drinks. It was late. I walked her home—she lives in bachelor quarters at the Academy—and she invited me in. For a nightcap." This was the most difficult part, and Lee said it as quickly as he could, keeping his eyes on the tabletop. "I slept with her, Dad. I knew it was wrong, but I just--."
He risked looking up. His father's face was frozen, expressionless, not at all surprised. He had known. He had already known. "I spent the night there," he said, hating himself. "And Zak came in, really early, because he'd left something in her place. He had a key."
Lee could feel his father's eyes on him as he said, "He was furious. We'd betrayed him, Gods, of course he was furious—but it was as if he'd been expecting it, like this was just confirmation. He kept saying that he'd known there was something between us, that he'd known I'd always wanted her. It was really, really ugly. And then he slammed out of there, and I went after him, and we had the whole damned fight again on the flight deck of the Academy with half the crew looking on."
Despite himself, Lee felt his voice crack. "He did his preflight check before he got in the plane. I was still standing there, still trying to apologize. He said he didn't ever want to see me again, and he shoved me. So I turned around. I was walking away when he went into the launch tube. I turned around to watch. He clipped his wing, Dad, and you know as well as I do he wasn't a good enough pilot to correct that. Starbuck—Kara--she might have been able to do it, maybe. If anyone could have."
"And then what?" his father asked. "You went home, told your mother Zak was dead, made your way to the nearest bar, and started drinking?"
He was angry. Lee could feel it, even with his eyes fixed on the tabletop. As a child he had lied, if he had to, to keep his father from growing angry. He wished that he still could, that all of it be explained, justified, by a couple of simple lies. He had been caught, then, no matter how hard he tried to postpone the inevitable. He was caught now.
"After I told Mom," he said, "I went to Kara's. I had to tell her, too. She was—broken. She just fell apart. And everything I did, everything I said, seemed to make it worse."
"So you left," his father said, heavily.
"And went to the bar, and started drinking," Lee agreed. "By then it was late afternoon, I think, or early evening. The cop who came to arrest me—she came up behind me and grabbed my arm. I didn't mean to hit her."
His father sat the glass down on the counter hard, too hard, and Lee winced. "If you had murdered your brother, Lee—if you had murdered your brother—it would have been better than what you did do. And to try to blame it on that little girl--. I wouldn't believe it, not until I heard it from you. Now that I have--." For the first time his voice faltered. "Now that I have, I can't look at you. I can't even bear the thought of being in the same room with you. I thought you were better than this. I thought you were an honorable man."
He started for the door. Lee said, very quickly, "Dad. I'm sorry."
His father paused, but he didn't turn around. "So am I," he said. "I'm going back to i Galactica /i . Tell your mother for me. I'll pay for your lawyer, for whatever you need, but I don't want to hear from you again, Lee. Gods help me, but I hope they shoot you for this."
"So do I," Lee whispered.
The next morning they arrested him for the murder of Zak Adama. This time they shipped him to the Colonial prison in Delphi. Lee sat in the transport, hands bound behind his back, and thought longingly of his sidearm, on the desk in his bedroom where he'd left it. While he was free, it had not even occurred to him to use it. Now it was all he could think of: the way it would taste in his mouth before he pulled the trigger, the relief it would be for his parents.
The lawyer his father had hired met him at Delphi and escorted him to his arraignment. Lee knew him, a little. He was younger than the Commander, the son of one of Lee's grandfather's law partners. He had an excellent reputation as a criminal lawyer, and Lee fired him after the hearing. "I don't want my father's help," he said to him.
The lawyer smiled at him, clearly used to family disagreements. "Do you really think that it's worth risking your life on that?" he asked.
"Yes," Lee said. He did. He had just been denied bail; he knew they thought he was guilty. He would manage with the court-appointed lawyer, or he wouldn't. A part of him thought it would easier to be shot for a crime he hadn't committed than to live with what he had done. Even if they set him free, he didn't know what he would do with the rest of his life.
Lee had thought that Caprica City was bad. The remand center of Delphi Prison was a thousand times worse, a dumping ground for all the Twelve Colonies. The men there were, almost without exception, awaiting trial for either murder or rape. Most of them did not seem adverse to committing one or the other while they were waiting. Lee was young, and better educated than most of them, Caprica-born and from a comfortably middle-class family.
If he had not gone through boot camp before his first year at the Academy, he would not have survived. He was an Adama, which counted for less than nothing, but he had been taught to fight both with a knife and hand-to-hand, and the training given to pilots was the most exacting in the Colonies. He had been prepared to fight Cylons, and he used those lessons now. He did not kill anyone, the six weeks he spent waiting for his trial—but that was more luck than judgment.
He learned something about himself in that time. He learned that he liked to fight. His father had taught him to box, but this was nothing like that. There was no science involved, no skill, nothing but viciousness and brute force. For the first time he wondered whether he would have liked being a soldier in war, as he had not liked it during the peace that had lasted all his life. By rights he ought to have spent most of his time in Delphi in solitary, but the guards seemed to enjoy placing bets on him.
After the first week his eyes were always black, swollen half shut, and he had a cut on his cheek that was going to scar. After the first week no one called him pretty anymore.
His lawyer, the Delphi public defender, was exactly what Lee deserved for the price he was paying. Lee met with her a handful of times, and at every one of them she was frazzled, nearly in tears. He wondered how she managed in court when she couldn't even look her clients in the face. He could have had Lampkin back with a single phone call—and the guards owed him that, they'd won so much money on him—but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He liked the idea of trusting fate to bring him through.
While he was in Delphi his discharge papers came. Conduct unbecoming an officer, which was fair enough. Lee signed them without reading them, and sent them back by return post. He was burning his bridges, not only burning them but blowing them up. He liked the way it felt, to be free. He did not want to become his father.
Not that there was much danger of that. His trial began badly, with his mother weeping in the gallery, and got worse very quickly. The members of Zak's ground crew testified that Zak and Lee had quarreled, and that he'd had an opportunity to sabotage Zak's Viper. An expert mechanic testified that the accident had been caused by mechanical failure, not pilot error. And Kara Thrace testified that she and Lee had frakked, and Zak had found out about it and been devastated.
That was just before Lee was called to the stand. He got up and made his way over. He could feel Kara watching him, and he knew that she thought he was a murderer. Not only a murderer, but the kind of man who would kill his own brother. His hands were shaking, and he clenched them on the arms of the chair. He had expected to be nervous; instead he felt sick.
They asked him questions, and he answered them. That was all he could remember, afterward. All he could think of was Kara's white, frozen face staring at him from across the courtroom. He knew even then that it was not going well, although he could not have said why. He was not being framed, or anything like that, but they were too confident of his guilt, moving too quickly. They had made their case out of small things: his father's absence, the broken security camera which should have filmed Zak's final flight. A good lawyer might have gotten the charges dismissed. Lee himself should have been able to cast doubt on their case. If he had been able to think.
After the prosecution finished, the defense began. It was a disaster from very early on. Lee's attorney was outclassed and underprepared. And the other side was gunning for Lee, determined to make an example of him. Once his brain started working again, he saw their agenda: they were arguing that the Colonial military was too big, too unwieldy, and too expensive, that it had become a repository for sociopaths and idiots. Men like Lee, who were willing to kill anyone in their way, over anything.
He was going to be convicted. That was a forgone conclusion. The only question was whether it would be for premeditated murder, which was punishable by death, or second degree murder, which meant life in prison. Lee did not think there was much to choose between them.
He gave up, because it was easiest. It was easier to sit with his eyes on the ground than it was to listen as his mother, his closest friends from the Academy and before, the officers he'd served under and with, speak about his character in terms better suited to praising the dead. Most of them probably thought of him as dead. He was grateful that at least the Military no longer required discharged officers to be publicly drummed out.
They spoke about him in court, but they did not come and see him in prison. Lee was grateful for that, too: that he did not have to make conversation with them, did not even have to make eye contact. He felt, increasingly, like something inhuman, a feral animal that knew nothing except the fight to survive.
The jury deliberated for three days and found him guilty of murder in the second degree, which meant an automatic life sentence, not in Delphi but on Gemenon, in the work camps where they sent terrorists and political prisoners and intractables. Lee had thought he was resigned to that, or worse; now he realized that he was not. Now, when it was too late to do anything about it.
That night they put him in Delphi proper, with the condemned, until there were enough prisoners to make interplanetary transport worthwhile. What Lee noticed most was the screaming. Someone was always screaming. He was there for almost a week, and it felt like a lifetime. He did not see their faces, not the ones that screamed and not the ones who made him scream, and he was grateful for that. He had enough ghosts.
He was glad to leave for Gemenon. His cell on the transport ship was no different than the bunk he'd had on Atlantia . Clearing Caprica's atmosphere was like going home. For the first time he thought he might miss serving on a battlestar, miss the bleakness of space, the regimented discipline of the military, the certainty of written orders.
And then he was stumbling off the transport into the red rock and white sun of the Gemenon desert. The work camp was nothing but a row of aluminum buildings in the shadow of the mountains, and an electric fence topped with barbed wire. "Welcome to Gemenon," the guard said, shoving him into the administration building. "This is the end of the line."