Title: Siren's Kiss
Genre: Adventure/Romance/Coming of Age
Warnings: Occasional mild profanity; occasional sexual situations
Spoilers: None. Story is AU
Characters: Lee/Kara, BSG ensemble, others of author's invention
Disclaimers: I do not own the BSG series characters; I have just borrowed them. The author-created characters are mine.
Image Credit: Detail of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
Dedication: For sci-fi fans everywhere who like an adventure story with a bit of realistic romance.
Coming of Age
When the old centurions left the Colonies at the end of the First Cylon War, they took with them a large number of working nuclear weapons. Upon their return during the short-lived Second Cylon War, these bombs and missiles were unleashed without mercy upon the humans who had created both the weapons and the machines.
-Bartell, History of the Second Cylon War
When the first of the Cylons' nuclear bombs fell on the colonies of the Helios Delta star system, Kara Thrace was just a few weeks past her thirteenth birthday.
What almost everyone noticed about her, even before they noticed her clear skin or blond hair, which she always wore in a ponytail, were her eyes. They were a smoky green, darker at the edge of the iris where they were flecked with brown, lighter green and flecked with blue-gray toward the pupil.
Everyone noticed her unusual eyes because from the time she was small, Kara never shied from looking directly at anyone. She had learned that people are able to lie very convincingly with words, but rarely with their eyes. Maybe her mother was at least partly responsible for that lesson.
How many times had she said to Kara, "Look me right in the eye and tell me that again"?
On the cusp of becoming a young woman, she was still unable to think of herself as anything other than a tomboy who could fight and play ball better than most of the boys she knew. She was already five feet five inches tall, taller than her mother by nearly three inches. Her father had left them when she was eight years old, but she remembered him as being taller than her mother so she knew she got her height from him. Her figure at the beginning of that summer was still boyish but that was beginning to change, too.
Kara was completely surprised, completely unprepared when her best friend Karl Agathon took her aside late in June and told her that she needed to wear something under her t-shirt when they all went swimming in the big creek behind the Marine base where she lived with her mother.
"You're getting boobs, Kara. The boys are looking at you and talking about it."
The other boys might have been looking, but he sure wasn't. His cheeks were ruddy and he was staring at something in the distance over her left shoulder as he told her. "So just go, uh…go talk to your mother or something…or go talk to my mother. She'll tell you what to do."
What to do meant starting to wear a bra. Karl's mother helped her pick out a sports bra and although it took a while to get used to wearing it, it was better than the boys looking at her. It seemed to pacify Karl, too. He was a year and two months older than she was, and from the time they had met when she was eight, he had been both the brother and best friend that she had always wanted.
Later that summer she took the next step toward womanhood. The sum of her maternal education on that subject was her mother pointing out a box in the bathroom cabinet and saying, "You know what to do with those. And don't let any of the boys mess with you. You can get pregnant now."
Her mother's warning was completely unnecessary. Thanks to the required health class, she understood what was happening to her. As for letting a boy mess with her as Socrata had put it, her mother had no worries there. Sex was totally gross. You had to do it to make a baby, but yuck. No girl could really want to do that with a boy. Double yuck.
She never told Karl about her mother's three-sentence coming-of-age speech. He was her best friend, but some things were just too personal. Besides, that summer he was having growing-up issues of his own. His voice was changing. One minute he still sounded like a boy and the next minute he sounded like a man. He'd grown taller, too. She had to look up at him now and that gave her a funny feeling since they had stood almost eye-to-eye since she was eight and he was nine.
She could still beat him and all the rest of the boys in video games, though. The one involving Vipers was her favorite, and she regularly shot Cylon Raiders out of an electronic sky better than anyone else. Every time she won a game, she would tell her opponent, "One of these days I'm going to do this for real. I'm going to fly a real Viper and shoot real Raiders."
That was her dream, to go to the Academy and become a Viper pilot.
Her mother laughed and said she'd have to do better in school if she wanted to go to the Academy. Sometimes she did try, but it wasn't like she was ever going to make the honor roll anyway. Mostly Bs, sometimes an A, and the rest Cs were just fine with her. Straight As meant actually studying and Kara usually had something better to do. There was camping with Karl and his family and playing ball and skateboarding and swinging on the long rope, way out over the creek to where the water was deep and letting go. It was the closest to flying that she could come, better even than going fast on her skateboard, and she loved it, that moment when she let go of the rope and for a split second defied gravity.
She might look more like a girl now, but she didn't have to act like one.
Over the summer, though, she grew another inch and a half. Her hips broadened slightly and her center of gravity underwent a subtle shift. She had to adjust her stance when she rode her skateboard. It took her a while and a nasty spill to get used to the change.
She decided that there were times during the summer she turned thirteen when being a girl just really sucked.
News about the bombings was sketchy at first because the destruction of the colonies in the systems of Helios Beta, Helios Gamma and Helios Delta was so complete. The Cylons still had the huge basestar that was the nuclear repository from which they armed all their Raiders and other basestars with nukes, both missiles and bombs. When the Cylons and their nightmare of a killing machine reached the Helios Alpha system, they visisted Tauron and Gemenon before they made their way to Picon where six battlestars took it out in what amounted to a suicide mission, the last option left to them. With only the Colony of Caprica remaining, it was their last chance to save the human race.
The basestar and its remaining nukes disintegrated in an explosion that filled the upper atmosphere with nuclear fire, took the battlestars and several of the Cylon's own basestars with it, and put a massive ring of radioactive debris into orbit around the planet, debris and radiation that would gradually come down, raining death for years to come, rendering the once beautiful planet a sterile wasteland.
Kara was at Karl's house the night after the destruction of the basestar when her mother drove up in a jeep and came running inside. Kara was surprised to see her because all the Marines including her mother were supposed to be on duty. Her mother grabbed Karl's mother's arm and pulled her outside.
"What do you think is going on?" Kara asked Karl.
He shook his head. "I don't know."
When the two women came back in five minutes later, Tricia Agathon's eyes were red and she hustled Karl and his sister Marie toward their rooms.
Socrata Thrace grabbed Kara and they drove three streets over and four blocks down to their own small house.
"Pack a few things," her mother ordered.
Kara was completely confused by that time. "Are we going somewhere?"
"You heard me. Start packing...a couple of sweaters, a jacket, some pants, underwear, socks, spare shoes. Put it all in your backpack. Now!"
"My school backpack won't hold all that."
"Here. Take this one." Her mother grabbed one of her own packs from where it sat propped against the kitchen wall and dumped everything out. "Put it in this."
"Where are we going?"
"Caprica. It's the only place left to go. The only place those metal bastards haven't gotten to yet. What's left of our air fleet, battlestars and all, is massing above Caprica to protect it. They stand a good chance now that those nukes are gone."
"Do you mean the Cylons? Is that who you're calling metal bastards?"
Her mother grabbed her upper arms and shook her. "There'll be plenty of time for questions later. Just pack. Do it! Now! We don't have much time."
Twenty minutes later they were on their way back to Karl's house. Karl, his mother and sister Marie managed to squeeze themselves and some similar packs into the jeep and they were off again, heading out of their neighborhood toward the base's airfield several miles away.
All the fighters and transport ships were gone. The field was deserted. There wasn't even a guard at the gate. The red and white striped wooden arms were standing upright keeping no one in or out. Her mother drove past several empty hangars and finally turned between two of them. There was one ship on the tarmac near the last hangar, a private craft slightly bigger than a Raptor, but cylindrical in shape with the stubby swept-back wings of a Viper. Her mother stopped the jeep and got out.
"Get those packs and come on. Move it!"
Kara grabbed hers and her mother got the one she had packed. They started toward the ship with Karl, his mother and Marie following.
The front hatch stood open. The pilot was silhouetted in the light from the interior. As they approached he flipped a cigarette out of the door onto the tarmac. Kara watched it arc through the night and land in a small shower of sparks. She also noticed he had a pistol in his left hand that had disappeared by the time they got on board.
The pilot stepped back and her mother pushed her up the three steps. "You and Karl and Marie, get on, get a seat and buckle yourselves in. Now!"
Kara experienced her first moment of fear. "You're coming, too, aren't you?"
"Just do as I said. Here, take my pack."
Kara's heart was pounding as she pulled the two packs into the ship.
She glanced at the pilot and saw he was wearing a uniform like the commercial pilots she had seen at the Picon Space Terminal, a long-sleeved white shirt and navy blue trousers with a darker stripe down the side. The shirt had navy epaulets with gold stripes at the shoulders and knotted around his neck was a navy blue tie. The standard silver wings were pinned above the button-down pocket over his heart.
His dark brown hair was cut short, but not too short and stuck up in a couple of places. He was so good-looking that Kara knew he would have made some of the boy-crazy girls she knew just drool even though he was way too old for them. He was at least as old as her mother.
Her main reaction, though, was oh great, not a military pilot, a commercial pilot. Karl had already told her about the debris they were going to have to go through above the planet before they made it into space. And they were going to trust their lives to this starched-shirt commercial pilot who looked like he'd forgotten to shave that morning. This was not looking good.
The pilot jerked his head in the direction of the back of the ship. "Stow the packs in those compartments. Make sure nothing's left loose. And shut the doors tight."
She liked his voice, though. It was deeper than her father's voice, but better than that he spoke with an air of authority, like a man used to giving orders…and having them obeyed.
On her way to the back she passed three rows of wide leather seats, two abreast on either side of the aisle, twelve seats in all. This was a classy, private ship. Kara wondered where it had come from.
Karl was behind her, bringing his and Marie's packs. His mother put hers down. "Take this one, too," she called to him.
Karl went back and got it. He put each one in a compartment as Kara handed them up to him and slammed the doors hard, shaking them to make sure the latches caught.
Marie, two years younger than Kara, was crying and clinging to her mother who couldn't get her to stop. Marie was crying so hard that she started having an asthma attack. Tricia Agathon had to get the inhaler out of her pocket and hold it for her. Marie finally started breathing better, but she wouldn't let go of her mother.
At the front the pilot was talking to Socrata. Kara started toward them, but her mother held up her hand and shook her head. Kara stopped. She could tell her mother and the pilot were arguing, but they were doing it in such hushed tones that she couldn't hear what they were saying over Marie's sobbing and begging to stay and her mother trying to comfort her.
Finally Socrata came over to where Kara stood. "I'm coming on the next ship. You've got to go ahead without me."
"No! There's plenty of seats. There's only five of us.
"I'll be along on the next ship. I've got to kill some chrome heads before I join you." Her mother took the dog tags from around her own neck and put them on Kara. "Keep these for me. You're my daughter. You will survive this."
Then she did something she hadn't done in years. She pulled Kara close and hugged her tightly before she pushed her toward the seats.
Karl had gone over to his mother and Marie and was trying unsuccessfully to coax Marie away from their mother.
By the time Kara looked back at Socrata and the pilot, her mother had reached up and put her arms around his neck. Kara hadn't seen her mother touch a man since her father had left five years earlier. And all she had seen Socrata do to him was an occasional punch, usually done in retaliation for something her father had started.
The pilot's arms encircled her mother like he couldn't pull her close enough and then they kissed…and not just a peck on the lips the way Karl's mom and dad were always doing. The pilot and her mother kissed in a way Kara had never seen two people kiss except in the movies. She simply stared at them, her mouth slightly open, not quite believing what she was seeing.
When her mother finally pushed herself away and turned her back to them, the pilot looked at Kara and spoke, his voice rough with emotion. "Get buckled in, you and the boy. Back row. Those seats are attached to the bulkhead. They're the strongest."
Her mother added, "Now!"
He turned to Tricia Agathon. "We've got to go. It's not the Cylons I'm worried about right now. The man that I, uh, borrowed this ship from is not a nice man. His private security force is on its way as we speak. I couldn't disable the transponder without taking out the whole communication system so they're able to track it. If they catch us here, one of them will put a gun to my head and tell me I've got to take it back to the guy who owns it. I'm not sure what they'll do with the rest of you, and I sure as hell don't want to find out. Is the girl coming or not?"
Karl's mother looked at him at the same time she struggled with her daughter whose arms were now locked around her. Marie's breathing was getting labored again.
"Go ahead, Karl. We'll be on the next ship. Go." She put her arms around her daughter. "It's okay, honey. You're staying with me."
Karl shook his head. "I'll wait, too."
"Suit yourself," the pilot said. "We're leaving. Now!"
"No!" Kara went over to Karl. "No, please. Don't make me go by myself. Please." She took his hand. "Please."
She could tell Karl was torn. He looked at her and then back at his mother.
"Go with Kara," Tricia said. "She's going to need you…until we get there." Karl hugged his mother and Marie. His mother kissed his cheek, her eyes bright with tears. "I love you. Always remember that. Your dad and I love you."
Karl turned without a word and went to the back of the ship.
Kara's mother looked at the pilot. The last thing she said before she started down the steps was, "I'm trusting her to you, Flyboy. You keep her safe."
"You know I will," he answered.
Kara looked up at the tall, handsome stranger her mother had just kissed the way people in the movies kissed. Across the few feet of space between them his eyes met hers. She knew it must be a trick of the light in the cabin, but it looked like he had green eyes.
He smiled at her. "Go buckle yourself in, Kara. We've got to go."
Tricia Agathon, with Marie still clinging to her, followed her mother down the steps. The pilot went to the door, activated the mechanism that retracted the steps and then closed it. The pressure seal engaged. Kara also saw where he had put the pistol. It was tucked into the waistband at the back of his trousers. Maybe it was her imagination, but it looked like he limped slightly.
He glanced at her again before he went into the cockpit. He must have misinterpreted the way she was looking at him because most of the smile was gone now.
"Don't let the uniform fool you. I used to fly a Viper before I lost my leg. I'll get us through. Now go get buckled in, you and the boy both. Tight! Until we get into space, this is going to be a rough ride."
She did as he said.
Karl was crying, his face turned away from her, trying not to let her see. She slipped her hand into his and squeezed. "They're coming on the next ship. We'll get there and we'll wait for them. We'll wait as long as we have to."
Karl didn't say anything as they taxied out to one of the runways. He looked out the window and strained to see the taillights of the jeep disappearing through the gate the way they had come in. The pilot revved the engines while holding the brakes. The sudden acceleration pushed her back against her seat as they lifted off and and began climbing skyward at a steep angle.
Finally Karl said, "There won't be any more ships leaving Picon. Didn't your mother tell you? This is it. She told my mother that this is the last ship left that can make it without everybody inside getting fried. It's shielded against the radiation we're going to have to go through. It belongs to a drug lord. Didn't you hear the pilot? He stole the guy's frakking ship to get us off Picon."
"Why would he do that?"
Karl looked away. "He's your mother's…your mother and him…they're good friends."
"What are you talking about?"
"Look, all I know is the air fleet has abandoned Picon, left it to the Cylons. Didn't you notice the airfield was deserted? Yesterday before that basestar got here, they were ordered to go protect Caprica because that's where the Colonial Government is. My mother won't leave my dad behind and your mother won't leave because she's a Marine just like my father. They'll fight to the last man. They'll fight those metal motherfrakkers to the last man. Don't you understand? If we make it to Caprica, we're on our own."
"No," Kara said stubbornly. "They'll be on the next ship. My mother wouldn't lie to me. She wouldn't!"
"And you think I would? We've always been straight with each other. Picon's a dead planet, Kara. It was the minute that basestar loaded with nukes blew up over it."
Slowly Kara sank back against the seat and found that her breath was coming in short gasps. This couldn't be real. This was really just a bad dream and she would wake up any minute safe in her bed. She'd see her skateboard in the corner and the stack of video games on her desk. She'd see her Viper pedal car sitting against the opposite wall, the one she'd had as a little girl and still couldn't part with. She'd see all the things that made her room so special to her. But that didn't happen.
Instead she was still staring at Karl's tear-streaked face. The hope that this was nothing but a bad dream faded. She realized that anything remaining of the life she had known on Picon, of ball games and skate boarding, of playing video games and swimming in the creek on lazy summer afternoons, had all been left behind her.
Ahead of her was nothing but the unknown.
The only good thing was that she had Karl with her. She had her best friend with her. And the pilot, too. He'd told her mother he would keep her safe.
That was the one tiny bright spot in this nightmare.
She wasn't alone.
Author's Note: I have chosen to tell the story of the battle between the humans and their Cylon creations in another of the cycles of time. The story begins when Kara has just turned thirteen and Lee is seventeen. Both are completely unprepared for what life is getting ready to throw at them. I have taken liberties with the time line and altered or eliminated many of the events of the television show such as the love/lust quadrangle and "head characters". I have shortened the time span between the first and second wars from forty years to twenty. The major difference, however, is that much of the story takes place on Caprica. This adventure story has a science fiction setting, but at its core, it is a love story on many levels, not only the love of man and woman, but the love of parent and child and the love between friends.
Although all of the major characters are younger at the beginning, with some very minor differences I have left the essence of their personalities unchanged. The story is gritty at times because it is set against a war and its aftermath. For those of you who have read my Academy fic, Every Time My Heart Beats, you will recognize a few of the author-created characters from that story, most notably Hugh Connelly, who is not in the military this time around. There are a few other new characters, one of whom takes an important role in Lee's and Kara's lives. It will take a while for Lee and Kara to meet so please be patient. I hope you will enjoy the story until they get together since there is much other character interaction and a few surprises.
Kara's mother, Socrata Thrace, is not physically abusive in this cycle of time, but rather she is emotionally distant, more focused on her career in the Marines than on raising Kara. Socrata is tough but is also a very attractive woman.
There are no Final Five. The characters are present but are humans.