Disclaimer and customary CYA: Universal and Gary Larson own them all. I'm just borrowing 'em for a spell without permission or hope of material profit. Blame the author Serrafina for what follows. Explanations at the end.
Vita Sine Victus
Two Years and Eight Months Since the Fall of the Twelve Colonies
There were days - frequent ones of late - that Lee Adama would wake and, as his first thought, wished he hadn't survived the holocaust. There was, thankfully, no-one around he might share such thoughts with. He lived alone, kept himself apart from his pilots, and drove himself like a Centurion to keep them alive.
The life of the CAG was a lonely one, but it was one of the few things that still worked right in his life.
So little had gone right for their rag-tag fleet since this exodus began, Lee couldn't help but wonder whether the gods weren't actually against them.
It seemed to have started from day one, when they'd escaped from Ragnar. What should have been a simple delaying action turned into a bit of a cluster-frak when his fighter was disabled early in the battle. He'd had just enough maneuverability to make it back to the barn, his father's barked orders he do exactly that drowning out nearly everything else., However, that had left the rest of their impromptu squadron momentarily confused and scrambling to cover him. The fact they'd done so without orders was a source of pride and puzzlement for him.
The battle had cost them ten irreplaceable pilots and Vipers, but they'd escaped and jumped beyond the Red Line.
He rose from his solitary bed and rubbed his dry face. The Galactica ran on a twenty-four hour schedule, with most of the crew working twelve-on/twelve-off. The notable exceptions to this were the CO, XO, and CAG, who were supposed to be reachable at all hours. This meant sleep rarely went uninterrupted by some small or large issue.
That night had been one of those rare times where nothing appeared to have needed his attention. This meant he had an entire seven hours of peace and quiet to catch up on his paperwork, reports -- and sleep.
Sleep, contrary to common sense, wasn't always welcome. It gave his mind too much time and space to remember -- everything.
Their problems only got worse from there. The Cylons hounded them for nearly a full week. He had to shoot down the Olympic Carrier. Someone sabotaged of Water Tank Two. The near-disaster aboard the Astral Queen. Baltar's false starts with his Cylon Detector. It was topped off with that Doral copy getting past security and nearly blowing his father and the President to ash.
Even the supposedly good stuff, like Flat Top's thousandth landing, somehow managed to turn to crap. Thankfully his riding the Chief about deck safety meant that stack of fuel drums was far enough aside that the explosion only knocked five Vipers out of commission, but killed no-one.
Still, that little incident had prompted an effort to increase the pool of pilots. Gods forbid another accident take out even one of his people. Unfortunately, as multi-talented as he was, Lee quickly realized flight instruction wasn't among them. Two more Vipers were knocked off rotation as these too-brave but untalented kids screwed up their landings.
Finding a qualified instructor among the civvies had taken a least a sliver of the burden off his own shoulders. It still ate at Lee, for reasons he wasn't sure he could ever articulate.
His morning routine was a run across Deck B and C, timed so to avoid the change in shifts. This meant not having to bark at any crowds and ensuring it finished in quick order.
The only span where he hastened his steps was the Memorial Corridor. Thankfully, it was nearly deserted that morning; there was nothing and no one who might otherwise give him pause.
No one whatsoever.
Lee managed to hold things together only through living his 'reputation' for by-the-book, steel-rod-up-the-ass tight-ass to the absolute hilt. He'd served as CAG, Squadron Leader, occasional security advisor to the President and the Quorum, mentor to his pilots, infrequent crying shoulder to the same, and blithe idealist for so long -- it was hard sometimes to remember ever being anything else. It had all been nonstop since the first bombs fell and the whole of Vigilante Squadron was wiped out, and Lee was left to wonder how much of himself was being lost with each launch, each battle.
While Ducks proved a competent deputy, there was only so much he could shoulder; too damned little, if Lee were brutally objective about it. The kid was trying his damnest though, and Lee passed on what he could. But Lee knew that, ultimately, it all came down to him.
There was literally no-one else left on Galactica who could be the CAG.
Returning to his cabin, Lee showered and changed into his dress blues. Gathering his paperwork, he left his nearly empty cabin/office and headed off to the early-morning meeting with the XO.
The crew knew well enough to not offer the CAG more than a passing nod of acknowledgement. He didn't do small talk well, if at all.
He had too many things on his mind for something like simple, human contact.
It hadn't been all bad news. The raid on the tyllium refinery had gone off well, although the execution was ultimately bollixed and cost them two pilots. Lee had made a point to visit Kara and thank her for the inspiration she'd provided in planning the op.
He'd also managed to keep his squadron together, even going so far as to tacitly approve of Valerii and Tyrol's relationship; his father's promoting Tyrol to Warrant Officer and the understanding Valerii wouldn't rise above Captain, effectively sealed the deal and won him the unquestioning loyalty of both. This had a second, unexpected benefit of Sharon trusting him enough to confide her blackouts to him. This worried Lee just enough that, when she and Racetrack made it back from their bombing run into that basestar, he successfully blocked her from putting a bullet into his father gut.
As it was, she merely winged him, as shocked as the rest of them at her actions. Boomer been quick to surrender herself and swore on a stack of scripture she hadn't been in control of herself. The Commander and Lee both believed her, and Lee himself had personally escorted her to her holding cell; just as well as Cally Henderson had temporarily lost it and tried to gut her with a screwdriver.
This all came atop their discovery of Kobol.
Lee knocked on the XO's cabin door once, and then pulled it open. The XO was sitting at his spare desk, sipping from his coffee mug with an ugly grimace. "Major," he nodded.
"Sir," Lee nodded in reply, handing over a handful of flimsies. "Maintenance logs and munitions stores updates."
The Colonel took them andcarelessly flipped open the topmost one.
There was a time when Lee would have looked down his nose at Saul Tigh. But that was back when the worlds and sane society existed. His breath rarely smelled clean of alcohol, his competence as an officer was questionable at best, and his social player of a wife was proving a damned menace to ship's morale.
"Any red flags, Apollo?"
"Nothing new, Sir."
Now? Lee recognized the man was simply dealing with the loss of everything that once defined them all. Even finding Ellen was still alive hadn't snapped him wholly back into line. He even found himself envying the older man a bit; he at least had someone waiting for him at the end of the day.
Even so, having an XO who was a barely functional drunk meant it was little surprise discipline problems kept showing up both aboard Galactica and more widely throughout the fleet. It helped he'd gotten Roslin to accept the presence of a black market, at least so long as the prohibitions he'd laid out on unacceptable merchandise were being adhered to. To date, it looked like they were.
Having a semi-functioning Quorum didn't hurt. It at least gave the civvies a sense of order and somewhere to focus their complaints to. The fact they had Tom Zarek as their unofficial speaker added irony to it all, almost to the point of making it all a farce.
Lee couldn't help but wonder sometimes if Tigh's infrequent suggestion that martial law be declared wasn't the way to go. It might have helped put a lid on those "Peace Now" idiots before they'd done any real damage.
Kobol constituted the only other good thing that had come their way. Initially, they'd planned nothing more than a short re-supply run, but that quickly changed when the President started having visions and insisting they find the Tomb of Athena. What purpose that served, never mind why his father went along with it, escaped Lee.
Then there was the sudden arrival of Agathon and his Sharon aboard a Heavy Raider, bringing with them the remnants of the Caprican Buccaneers and a few other refugees from Caprica -- and the Arrow of Apollo. Agathon's skin job seemed puzzled that Starbuck wasn't with them at the time, causing her flip from promising to lead them to the tomb, to stating there was no point to it. Ultimately she'd relented and led them along the appointed path, even saving his life when they'd encountered a Centurion ambush. If only they'd been as quick and saved Elosha.
The tomb had been a disappointment, at least at first. Roslin put the arrow in its appointed place -- only for nothing to happen. Lee had been about to retrieve the artifact when they were all taken -- well, to Earth. At least that was his guess, based on his limited readings of the legendary lost colony. At the time he'd read up what he could, simply so he wouldn't mistakenly reveal his father's supposed deception. Not for the first time, Lee wished with all his might that Starbuck could have been there, suspecting for some indefinable reason she could have identified the planet and location instantly.
Still, inspired guesswork gave them slender hope and some vague direction to their journey.
The morning briefing for the pilots was simple enough, so much so it could have easily been delivered by a tape-recorder.
"Okay, pilots. CAP schedule is up and ready, so double-check you're assignments. Racetrack and Narcho: you're on recon. Coordinates will be supplied by CIC.
"One thing you all should know. The refinery aboard the Darzu has suffered a delay in its latest tank clearing. We aren't short of fuel here, but keep the fancy flying to a minimum."
This was as close to a joke as he ever allowed himself.
"Last thing. Kat, Showboat, and Firefly are all in Life Station with the stomach flu. Any of you feel yourselves coming down with it, any aches or pains or runny noses, report to Cottle immediately. We don't need the entire squadron down if the Cylons find us again.
It had been a rare evening that had found him on the Rising Star, suffering through a forty-eight hour medical-order furlough. This made running into Dualla and Keiyaka there all the more awkward.
Billy was effusive that night, Dee having just accepted his proposal of marriage. Lee had heard there was a betting pool going around concerning them, but being the straight arrow he was, Lee never took part in it. He tried to share their cheer, but it was -- hard. Dee had become something of a confidante for him in recent months. Still, for Dee, he honestly tried to be happy for her.
Happiness was an increasingly unfamiliar state for him, so the best he could manage was a few smiles over half-hearted toasts to their future.
Then it all went pear-shaped when those gun-crazy "peace activists" took the bar hostage and demanded Sharon Valerii be turned over to them. Lee had no idea how seriously his father and the President considered the demand, nor would he have time to find out. Billy lost all good sense and managed to grab a gun. He actually managed to take out two of the terrorists, only to get killed himself. A Marine fire-team stormed in barely a minute later and finished it all.
The end result was the loss of not merely Billy Keiyaka, but of Anastasia Dualla. She took her dead husband's name – appealing to some obscure line in Gemonese law, their having been intimate constituted marriage – and subsequently his position as the President's aide. She thereafter refused to set foot on Galactica one minute longer than necessary and refused to acknowledge his (admittedly infrequent) entreaties to reconnect.
Why did he feel both relieved and saddened by this loss, coming as it did amongst so many others?
Following briefing his pilots, Lee was scheduled for a four-hour CAP. His usual wingman was down with a stomach ailment that was making the rounds through the fleet, leaving him with Costanza.
"Cap," the former washout, now seasoned stick nodded as he did his pre-flight walkaround.
"Honker," Lee replied. He only ever addressed his pilots by their call-signs or ranks; easier to keep an emotional distance and everything in line that way. Costanza had gotten his unfortunate title the first day of training, having spouted off the first few minutes in a way that grated Lee's nerves to the breaking point. The kid had snapped into shape quickly thereafter, but Lee didn't once consider reversing long-standing tradition; once gifted, a pilot lived with their call-sign until they died, no matter how bad it proved.
Lee completed his own pre-flight and climbed into his plane, feeling an unworthy stab of satisfaction seeing Costanza was still going through his own. Honker was a decent pilot, but tended towards the overly-methodical when it came to his aircraft, some aspects of avionics and engineering forever escaping him.
Still, Apollo couldn't fault him for that. Tyrol's not-so-secret project continued to puzzle the crap out of him, as much at the design chosen as who would ultimately pilot it. He'd volunteer himself in a heartbeat, although he knew his father was likely to veto the option --
"Apollo, Flight Control. Call status."
"LSO, Apollo. Green to go."
"Countdown to launch. 10 -- 9 -- 8 -- 7 --"
It had been awkward for awhile. Boomer had been a known quantity within the air group, someone the others had liked and trusted. To have her turn out to be one of the enemy, and worse, one who not only sabotaged them a many points but had tried to assassinate the Commander --
Lee wondered if he'd done her any favors saving her from Cally.
Strangely, the President made no move to remove Boxey from her legal custody. True, she shared it with Tyrol, who had been completely cleared of any suspicion of collusion or aiding her, and the boy was still bunking with the junior officers and visiting her in holding every other day. Lee could only conclude Roslin was keeping as much leverage as she could hold over the Cylon, likely trying to come up with some use for her.
She needn't have bothered. Valerii had offered no protest to anything demanded of her since her activation. Every medical test imaginable, some bordering on the unethical or needlessly invasive, had been performed on her to find some trace or some clue to her full origins. But nothing exotic or unnatural could be found within her.
It was over a month afterward when she unknowingly dropped a bombshell, telling Tyrol in passing that Baltar had personally informed her that her test had come up negative. Ever since her activation, the fabled Cylon Detector had been considered nothing but a joke. But Baltar speaking to her directly raised a few eyebrows.
This had prompted the Commander to have the doctor run the test again, this time in full view of himself, the President and Lee himself. Baltar had agreed, showing remarkably no surprise when the sample from Agathon's skin job came up positive -- as did Valerii's immediately thereafter. He admitted he had no easy answer, even offering a slightly stumbling theory that it was only because Valerii's programming had become activated that she was detectible now.
Roslin again surprised them by accepting Baltar's admission and directing him to continue his work. Once the scientist was out of earshot, she admitted she didn't believe a word of it, but preferred keeping him where he was. The Commander concurred. Lee's own agreement was merely pro forma but sincere all the same. The only difference being a Marine guard would now be posted at all times over his lab. There was too much irreplaceable equipment there to risk sabotage to, never mind the nuclear material powering his detector.
Lee actually felt reassured by these measures. Unfortunately Valerii's 'twin' was soon intruding on what little peace of mind he had, doing so in the strangest possible way.
CAP was quiet. Lee landed his bird and finished post-flight with little actual attention. His mind was already on the rest of the day: a shift in CIC, followed by a practicum on Viper instruments with some of the more promising trainees, then another round of paperwork before calling it a day.
Normally he could make it between the Flight Deck and his cabin without interruption. Someone however called out to as he was walking. "Apollo, wait up." Lee recognized the voice immediately, keeping his long-suffering sigh to himself.
"Lieutenant," he ultimately nodded as Karl Agathon jogged up to match pace with him.
"I was just downstairs --" Agathon began, pausing at Lee's loud snort. The ECO-turned-Admiral's Aide could be found in one of four places any given time of the day; Secure Holding, two decks down, always topped the list.
"Is she willing to talk yet?" was Lee's immediate question. Agathon's grimace told him all he needed.
There hadn't been any contact with the Cylons for a full two weeks, and that day was no different. The toasters were either keeping their distance or had lost their trail for the time being. None of their prisoners had been any help in determining which was the case; Doral was still comatose, Valerii professed complete ignorance (which Lee and the Commander both believed), and Agathon's wife claimed the same, albeit in the tight-lipped way that only convinced everyone it wasn't the full case.
Cottle had balked from conducting any especially invasive exams of the last one, once it was confirmed she was with child. He'd refused point-blank to do anything that would do more than bruise her, even going so far to throw his rank pins at the President and resign on the spot. Thankfully the Commander had backed his CMO and an unease truce existed concerning said prisoner.
Baltar had been making noise that the hybrid's blood might have some restorative properties, but so far, nothing concrete had come of that either. It did strengthen the Commander's and Agathon's hands, to the point where that particular cell was getting more comfortable furnishings and looser visitation restrictions. Lee didn't know what to think about this, and so held his peace, a stance he hadn't wavered from even though these measures hadn't made the Cylon woman any more inclined to talk. At least, not on any subject Lee considered relevant.
"She's asking to talk to you, Apollo."
"Same thing as before --"
Lee didn't wait to hear the rest of it, turning away and marching off without another word. It would take a joint directive from both the President and the Commander before he'd willing pick up the phone to talk with that skin job again.
Agathon's wife'– Lee steadfastly refused to use the name she originally claimed, given they were already holding one Sharon in an adjoining cell – had suddenly taken to requesting to talk to Lee directly. It was a request he had initially been happy enough to oblige, eagerly anticipating much-needed intel that would hopefully give their rag-tag fleet an edge.
To his surprise, she had only one thing to say to him. "We have to go back to Caprica."
He wasn't sure which was more the surprising; the suggestion itself, the destination, or the vehemence she put into the we. It took a few beats for him to recover enough to ask "Why?"
"I -- I --" was the extent of her oh-so-convincing answer. Lee had left in disgust at having his time wasted like this.
She'd passed on the same request the following day, but this time Lee had set the condition it be something of relevance and not some fool mission to a dead world. Agathon reported that his wife was insisting on the same, but again appeared unable to articulate a reason. Lee dismissed him and the request out of hand from there on.
The same entreaty came to him daily for the next week, then every other day the following week, then further and further apart. Each time, Lee refused it dead. The hundred and ten things otherwise consuming his attention every second of the day fast outweighed what little curiosity he might have harbored for the skin job's reasons in making such a request.
He had better things to do than plan his own suicide.
It was a quiet day all around. CIC was uneventful, the practicum seemed to help his nuggets, and he fast fell into a rhythm in filling out the days reports. This left him without easy distraction, which invariably left him restless and irritable.
Lee decided a short walk wouldn't hurt. He was too tired for a full-out jog, and he really didn't plan on going too far. His distraction was enough however, that he ended up the last place he'd wanted, the Memorial Corridor.
Damn it, he cursed himself silently. There was a reason he avoided this section.
His stoicism, the rigid professionalism he'd carried himself with since the worlds ended was a farce, a mask he kept up to hide what was underneath: the paralyzing fear every time he launched that he wouldn't return, the crushing certainty he wasn't enough and wasn't what they all needed, the wearing doubt in his ability to keep his pilots alive and his people safe. It was a wonder he could even get up each morning, with nothing but another day he and his might die waiting for him.
His father might have understood, perhaps the President as well, but the thought of burdening either with his multitude of doubts and fears and self-ascribed sins was -- well, everyone had their own trials, and he wasn't about to inflict his on another. Certainly not when they were all running for their lives and the slightest distraction could cost them all.
But here, surrounded by the dead and lost, that mask cracked and shattered to dust. He'd come here willingly once before, to pin up a single picture, and so rarely since. He'd found it in her locker while clearing it out, ostensibly for auction fodder. The instant his eyes fell on the photo she'd wedged into the inside of the locker door, he'd immediately boxed everything he found away and stowed it in his newly-assigned cabin. It was still there, hidden from sight and unopened -- save a picture over five years old at the time.
He had tacked it to the already crowded wall, feeling impossibly deprived and empty afterwards. Another reason he'd avoided going there; the memorial feeling too inadequate to what he felt there.
Right then, Lee could feel his eyes drawn to that one image out of the thousands surrounding it. Standing there, he could feel his entire self pulled towards it as surely as if it were a gravity well in space. Gazing at the simple image, he found himself remembering the moment perfectly, a silly afternoon on Picon, a moment of whimsy between his brother, himself -- and her.
It was the only one he'd found, and hadn't minded sharing it with the rest of the crew. They wouldn't see or understand the roiling stew of thoughts and emotions behind that moment, captured forever and forever irreplaceable.
"I miss you," Lee heard a voice that likely was his own, but colored in ways he'd fought to empty it of. His hand rose of its own accord. The fingertips reached and brushed the glossy paper, covering his brother's image to frame hers alone.
"I miss you, Kara," he repeated, saying her name for the first time in so very long. A low chuckle escaped him. "Damned if I know why. Any ideas there, Starbuck?"
But the image of Kara Thrace, shot down with the rest of Vigilante Squadron the first day of the attacks, held no answers to this.
Lee forced himself to step back, fingers tingling and ready to tear the picture off the wall. The temptation to do so was so frakking strong as to be a god-given imperative. But there were lines Lee refused to cross, and denying the dead their due was among them. What was his pain compared to the thousands here and the hundreds who came daily?
"See you later, Starbuck," he growled as he forced himself to turn and march off. He suddenly needed an outlet for the hot rage that rose to fever pitch with each step that carried him away, away from her. Rage at the toasters for killing their worlds (killing her!), rage at her dying (without him!), at himself for surviving (without her!).
Rage at the universe and all its gods for decreeing she die and that he live, and not able to understand why it all felt so very, very wrong.
Lee ran from the corridor, intent upon reaching the gym and reacquainting himself with the punching bag. The way he was feeling, he wouldn't likely stop to put on tape or gloves.
His guess proved correct, and the morning would find him ill-rested, aching in the arms and shoulders, and with knuckles scrapped raw. None of the squadron appeared to notice this, and Lee himself said nothing more than was needed. Indeed, he barely even noticed it.
He went through his daily routine, feeling less engaged than ever. At some point while in the CIC, a stray thought surfaced upon his consciousness: Is this was death feels like?
Lee Adama knew he had no answers to this.
And found he didn't frakking care in the slightest. Not about that, not about anything.
He just didn't care anymore.
Non Finis Fabula…
Why I wrote this:
Why I wrote this:First read Serrafina's recent offering at .net/s/4780651/1/A_Good_Day_for_Dying to get a sense of my inspiration. This all flew off he keyboard over the weekend and I decided to put it out there, if only so I could try to get back to my regular stories without further distraction.
However there is more to the story. So if there's interest in seeing more, please let me know. I might just learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. Or in this case, write three stories simultaneously. One can dream, eh?