The Colonial transport Deliverance touched down on the far side of the hanger deck, her landing struts pinging softly as it settled firmly into position.
"Galactica, Deliverance we are down and locked firm." I spoke into the comm. trying desperately to keep my voice steady and as neutral as possible.
"Roger that, Deliverance. Glad to have you aboard" with that the comm. went dead and I let out a sigh of relief. Now all I needed to do was keep my head on straight and keep my cool.
I wished with every single fibre of my being that I didn't have to be here, didn't have the hated ache in my chest as I thought about the upcoming few days. Having to deal with the emotional trauma, which came with meeting any member of my family left a nasty taste in my mouth.
The fight I'd had not three days ago with my brother was proof enough of that, this was not going to be a pleasant trip. I focused instead on powering down all systems and placing the ship into standby mode. It was a secure transport, designed to prevent any unauthorised access, not that I was complaining as at present it held the culmination of four years of painstaking work in its small hold.
Finally, I grabbed my overnight bag and exited the ship, straightening my pilot uniform as I went. Taking a deep breath I stepped out on to the deck of the Galactica and breathed a contented all be it quick sigh of relief. I loved this ship; I had memories of running up and down these halls, as a child. Pestering the flight deck crew to show me how things worked, sneaking into an unoccupied Viper while my brother stood watch.
I caught sight of a familiar sight just as I began walking towards the Duty desk. The cocky grin and devil may care tilt of a blonde head; brought with it a fresh wave of memories I fought to keep under control.
"So Arti what do you hear?"
"Nothing but the rain Buck, you know that!" dropping my bag at my feet quickly before I was enveloped in a hug that quickly turned into a headlock.
"Come on Kara cut it out," I whined playfully shoving her away and straightening my uniform in mock irritation.
"Woo look at you the big bad Lieutenant, when did this happen huh?" Her grin was contagious and I couldn't stop myself from returning it.
"Just before this mission, Admiral Nagala was impressed with my latest project, slapped a promotion on my ass and sent me packing to Picon to set up the beginning of the production line"
"You mean to tell me that you precious baby is onboard? And you weren't even going to let me take a look? I'm hurt short stuff," I laughed at her and straightened up to my full height, I could easily see the top of her head being almost four inches taller then her.
"Ahahah Starbuck, I think we proved that you can't get away with calling me that anymore, especially since the top of your head looks kinda lonely from up here."
"Funny, but seriously you weren't going to let me take a look?" she said while punching my in the arm before slinging her own arm around my neck. She even grabbed my overnight bag before she began dragging me off the deck.
"Maybe if you can keep your ass out of the brig before the ceremony I'll let you actually stand in the presence of the greatest engineering marvel in the fleet." I grinned at her as she began dragging me towards the pilots bunk room.
"I thought I already was in the presence of the fleets greatest engineering marvel?" she replied cheekily as she let go briefly to undog the hatch to the pilots bunkroom. "Come on, get changed and I'll show you to the old man."
My smile dipped a little for a moment before I managed to correct it, but I knew she's noticed. She shot me a sympathetic look but didn't push for answers. She never did and neither did I. We where quite happy to simply except each other the way we were without all the emotional crap heaped on everything.
Flinging the bunkroom door open with an almighty bang in typical Starbuck fashion, she stood hands on hips as the pilots off duty glared at her some with the playful acceptance of that that was Starbuck, others with annoyance at the same thing.
"Listen up, frak-wits you are about to be in the presence of a god among pilots, therefore you are to show the appropriate appreciation, namely by not being your usual frak-wit selves while she is residing in our hallowed halls"
"Starbuck, will you shut the frak up, if anyone is the frak-wit here it's you," I said rolling my eyes as I grabbed my bag with one hand and shoved Kara across the doorway with the other. She sent a mock glare at me before snapping round to glare at some of the Viper pilots sniggering behind her back.
"Alright, I was trying to get you some respect, but I see how it is. The big bag Artemis can take care of herself and all that, best get changed so we can head to the CIC and let the old man know your on board" murmurs went round the bunkroom as the pilot began to realise who I was but I just rolled my eyes. "You can have the bunk above mine, for some reason nobody else would take it," she said, her attempt at innocence lost in the mischievous look she shot me.
"What you scare them all away again, you can't do that you know the poor puppies will eventually band together and rebel against your reign of terror"
"They can only dream" she answered her grin firmly in place, as she grabbed the nearest chair and spun it around before straddling the seat, watching as I dumped my over night bag on the empty bunk before opening it a lifting my folded uniform out. I was stripping out of my flight suit when a hesitant voice asked a question.
"Are you really Artemis? The one who designed the Mark VII engines?" I turned so that my eyes met Kara's and sent her an answering grin.
"That would be me…"
"Ensign Philip Glenn, call sign Fliptop sir" I had to struggle to suppress the snigger at his pure earnest expression, meeting Kara's eyes I noticed her raised eyebrow in challenge. I knew she wanted me to string the poor sap along but I didn't have the heart to do that to him.
"Well Fliptop, the answer is yes. I did redesign the Mark VII engines, while I was in flight school" I was out of my flight suit and slipping on my duty uniform pants over my shorts, when Kara chimed in.
"Yeah, only nugget I ever met who got away with ignoring me during class. Did I ever say thank you by the way? That was some sweet piece design work as I remember it" the shock on the ensigns face shifted towards awe along with many of the other junior pilots. The Vets just rolled their eyes at the obvious display of hero worship.
"You where impressed by that? You should see the new and improved model; the Mark IIX will be out in service by the end of the year, they make the Mark VII look obsolete. I can't wait till I get to see your face when you pull a flip 360 in .28 it will blow your mind" I grinned, at the shocked look on Kara's face and the echoed looks on the CAG and the other senior pilots.
"Please tell me your not fraking with me" Kara's voice was softer then normal and I swear I saw some of the other pilots wipe drool from their chins. I had finished pulling my duty uniform jacket on over my double tanks, pausing briefly before fastening up to shoot her a returned raised eyebrow.
"You know I never frak around over my ship Starbuck. Not to worry I already have your name down on the list. They should be out in the fleet by winter solstice. The Mark IX now they are a real work of art, though I'm sure you understand that I can't go into details" I smirked at her as her eyes went wide and she nearly fell off the chair. After she collected herself and I'd finished getting into my uniform she came over and rubbed my head a huge grin on her face.
"Did I ever tell you that you're the best pilot I've ever trained? Give it a few years and you may even be up to my standards" I shoved her off again and tried to straighten my hair out, I frowned in mild annoyance at her as I finger combed my short hair back into place.
"Yes you did actually, just after you got out of the Mark VII for the first time, I think you only like me for my ships" I sulked pouting slightly as I fought to get my hair under some control. It was shorter then Kara's the ends barely brushing my ears. Her playful rub had left half my fringe sticking up at odd angles, which I was trying desperately to flatten back down.
"Hey wait a minute how come Starbuck gets first shot at the Mark IIX's don't you think that they should go to the better pilots first" the CAG growled, his face a mask of irritation at the perceived slight.
"Of course I do, that's why Starbuck is in line for one of the first, oh don't get your panties in a bunch. You may be CAG you may even be a Captain but she can out fly ninety five percent of the fleet half-drunk and half-dead and you know it. I wouldn't put anyone without her skill inside one without retraining. Wouldn't want a bunch of hotshots who think they're much better then they really are to frak themselves into oblivion"
"You little shit" I saw in that moment I may have gone just a step further then I should have as he slammed his chair back and stood up, his previous frown now a snarl.
"Actually that would be Lieutenant Shit, or to be completely formal Lt. Adama. And since you aren't test pilot certified you really shouldn't be offended" I placated however mildly as I sauntered to the sink and twisted the tap. Running my hands underneath the cool water cupping both hands, then using the water to wash my face. Using my still damp hands, I ran them through my hair damping it down before finger combing it back into place in the single mirror.
"Well if that's all boys, I believe I have a prior engagement" I sent them a cheeky grin, which effectively diffused the situation. I watched Kara send an equally cheeky grin my way before the two of us sauntered out of the bunkroom together.
"Alright it's official. You have spent way to much time around me if you can piss off and impress people in the same minute" she hooked her arm through mine and started to drag me towards the CIC.
"What can I say Kara, I learnt from the master" although the words were still light hearted they had a tense overtone that she obviously picked up on. The sense of dread that had lifted so slightly on the hanger deck when I first saw her face, had settled back over me like a cloud of doom.
"Don't worry about it, you know he isn't going to say anything" she tried to sound reassuring but it sounded hollow even to my ears.
"That would be the point Kara, he never says anything. For once I just wish that… well you know he might notice I actually exist"
"He notices, he just doesn't let on"
"He never has Kara; I'd like to be on speaking terms with at least one member of my family" I sighed in regret. We where just outside the CIC now and I took a moment to collect my thoughts before I straightened out my jacket and made sure all my insignia was showing in the right place. Taking a deep breath and squaring my shoulders, I walked through the doors behind Kara.
As usual on any Battlestar the CIC was busy, officers and enlisted stood or sat at their designated stations. Each working with quiet efficiency, the general constant of noise kept to a low level was almost comforting. Almost because the second she began to feel that comfort she caught sight of the imposing figure stood with the XO at the command and control station, the display was oddly empty with the overhead screens retracted upwards.
Kara gave me a reassuring smile before she made her way forward. I followed behind trying to keep my racing heart calm.
"Commander Adama, our guest has arrived sir" Kara spoke, gaining the attention of both men.
"Lt. Thrace, what guest? There are no scheduled guest arrivals until 0700 tomorrow" The Commander asked a slightly puzzled frown on his usually stoic face. I spotted the slight smirk of Colonel Tigh's lips at having pulled one over on the old man.
"That would be me Commander, Lt. Adama reporting sir" I finally spoke snapping a sharp salute, before coming to an at ease position.
"Alexandra what are you doing here?" I could here the frown in his voice and forced my rolling emotions to settle before answering.
"That would be Admiral Nagala's doing sir. I was on my way to Picon when he requested I make a detour via the Galactica. He requested I give a private showing of the new approved Cobra class fighter, for select members of the crew sir"
"Cobra class? Never heard of that before, it's not gonna be like those Python's a few years back is it? They where a fraking disaster" Colonel Tigh mussed coming to stand beside the Commander. "Why don't you head to your office Bill, I'll keep an eye on things for now" The Commander looked like he was going to argue but gave in, in the end when he caught the smile on Kara's face.
"Very well, Saul you have the comm." he spoke before he began to move away. I snapped of another quick salute to the Colonel.
"It was a pleasure to meet you again Colonel" he nodded back returning the salute though his was obviously less sharp.
"You too Lieutenant" with that he turned away and so did I following the Commander and Kara out of the CIC and the brief walk to the Commanders office. The Marine guard opened the door after saluting and we all stepped inside. The Commander crossed his office to his desk and poured a glass of water before offering both Kara and me the same, which we both refused. Then turning to face us, he leaned against his deck, and I couldn't help but feel the assessment in his gaze as he took in my appearance. His eyes lingered for a moment over my senior pilot wings before coming to rest on my face.
"So, you're a Lieutenant? When did that happen?" He asked, before taking a brief drink from his glass.
"About twenty eight hours ago sir. Admiral Nagala has placed me in charge of the final testing and production on the Viper Mark IIX's along with the final development of the Cobra sir"
"Really? He must have a lot of faith in your abilities then" he mused and I felt my heart clench at the implication that he didn't have that kind of faith in me. Ignoring it however I was about to reply when Kara interrupted.
"Apparently the new Mark IIX's will do a flip 360 in .28, and smarty pants over there has my name down for one of the first models" she grinned that happy grin that was obviously trying to cover the tension in the room with false cheer.
"Really? Don't you think that's against protocol, showing favouritism like that?" his eyes bore into my own his obvious disapproval heavy in the air.
"No sir, I don't. The top five percent of viper pilots across the fleet will receive them for a three-month trial. Kara just happens to be well above about ninety-eight percent of pilots in the fleet. We need to determine if they'll be usable without any extra training, only those test pilot certified are even eligible" I watched Kara's eyes widen again like they had in the bunkroom and fought to keep a grin off my face. She however gave in a started grinning like a loon.
"Did you hear that sir? Better then ninety-eight percent of the fleet. I think that calls for some celebrating" I watched as he turned to look at her and the faint light of humour in his gaze sent another crushing weigh to settle in my stomach.
"So where are you station at the moment Lt.?" he asked and I forced the feeling to the back of my mind.
"I was stationed at the R&D test centre in Delphi, but for the next six months I'll be working out of Picon until we have the production and final testing completed. After that, Admiral Nagala has asked me to work on the development of the Cobra's at the Hephaestus R&D facility"
"The space station? Isn't that a high security facility?" he asked for once his eyes holding slight surprise.
"Yes sir, he believes that the technology should be kept to as limited a number as possible, if all goes well with the Mark IIX's and the development of the Cobra's he believes I'll make Captain with in the next two years. He's hoping to place me as the head of the Fighter development team by then as well" Kara gave a whistle of admiration.
"You keep going like that kid you'll be my superior in no time" she joking laugh helped relieve some of the tension left by the Commanders silence.
"If the Admiral is so concerned by security of this new fighter why is he allowing you to give a showing?" he spoke before taking another drink of water.
"I'm not sure sir; you'd have to take it up with him. Though I do believe he wanted to give the Galactica his own send off" nodding he stood and straightened his jacket much like I was prone to do before he moved forward and extended his hand. I shook it firmly, pitifully grateful that he accepted me even that much.
"Very well Lt. I take it you're to remain until after the decommissioning ceremony?"
"Yes sir, I have a week before I have to report to the test centre on Picon. The Admiral encouraged me to remain hear for a few days before I continue on" he nodded briefly in acceptance.
"Very well Lt. Adama, Lt. Thrace your dismissed" sending him a tentative smile which I knew wouldn't be returned I snapped off a salute, while Kara gave her own sloppier version. Before we made it outside the hatch, I could feel the suppressed anxiety and emotional turmoil churning away in my stomach. We moved quickly away from the Commanders office and CIC, for the most part we moved in silence though I noticed the concerned looks Kara was sending me.
Eventually we made it near the bunkroom when I felt a wave of dizziness, followed by a sudden drop in my stomach that indicated an urgent need to reach the nearest head. Kara went to open the hatch to the bunkroom but I forced myself to keep going the ten or so feet to the washroom.
"Lexa? Are you alright you look a little pale there kiddo" Kara finally asked catching up to me, but I didn't slow. I had to keep my pace even and steady or I was going to hurl all over the entire hall. When I finally reached the hatch for the washroom and opened the door as quickly as I could, and noticed with blessed relief that it was empty. Whatever control I'd had to get down here deserted me in one fell swoop and I raced across the room to the nearest toilet. Flinging the door open and dropping to my knees, before emptying everything I'd eaten for the last three days into its cool porcelain embrace.
I don't know how long I spent upchucking but by the time I noticed someone brushing my hair out of my way with a damp cloth I was ready to collapse.
"Gods kid, you always manage to get yourself so wound up over stuff like this" Kara's voice was sympathetic, but slightly humorous at my predicament.
"Shut up Starbuck, this has very little to do with the Commander actually" I muttered, as I allowed her to pull me to my feet. I was about to step away when she gripped my shoulders tightly, forcing me to look at her.
"Please tell me the reason your puking your guts out is not what I think it is" She kept her voice low and I could see from her eyes that she was serious. I shrugged out of her hold and stumbled my way to the sink, turning the taps on with a quick sharp twist. I caught her gaze in the mirror and knew that she wasn't just going to let this go.
"Don't worry so much Kara. This may not have been planned but I'm not upset over it, we're not upset over it. In fact very little will change over all, the next six months I'll be in the lab and overseeing production of the Mark IIX's. After that I'll be on maternity leave for three months before transferring to the Hephaestus, Jace is already due to join the design team. So you can stop worrying, I'm not about to ruin my life, if I was it'd be a little too late don't you think?" I sent her a shaky smile, which she didn't return.
"Are you ever gonna tell him?" she asked he voice tight with what passed for worry with Kara.
"Why would I do that? Look Kara we both know he doesn't want to be involved in my life. He never did, I mean I sent him an invitation and he never even bother to reply. I expected it from my mother; she still refuses to speak to me because I turned down that full ride scholarship to Olympia Arts. But I expected to at least get a congratulations, Hades even a card from him is that really too much to ask"
"What about Lee, have to told him anything yet?" I laughed at her question; a harsh, bitter sound that actually caused Kara to flinch.
"Are you kidding me, why would I do something like that? He can't stand me, wants nothing to do with me at all. In fact he would have been quiet happy if I'd never been born"
"Don't say that" Kara ground out between clenched teeth. My eldest brother had always been one of the only things we ever disagreed over.
"I'm not lying Kara; he admitted to my face not three days ago that if I could take Zack's place he'd be more then happy" I knew I shouldn't have said it, and I regretted it the moment it slipped out of my mouth. As I watched her, entire face drain of any sign of life. "I'm sorry Kara; you know I didn't mean to bring up bad memories, please don't shut me out"
"He really said that? How could even think something so… I don't understand how he could ever say something so cruel" her voice was quiet, angry but controlled. The restrained side of Kara showing through, in the only aspect of her self that she let it, her feelings.
"You know what he's like Kara; he never thinks things all the way through when his emotions are high. Always lashing out with anger trying to place blame anywhere he can. Why do you think he hasn't spoken to dad since Zack died? He needs to place the blame on someone's shoulders. An I wasn't entirely blameless in making him that mad" she frowned at me and stood waiting while I rinsed my face with the running water.
"What did you say?" he voice was still quiet and I could tell this was pushing at the wall she'd built around her emotions in the wake of Zack's accident.
"He was bitching about being forced to attend the decommissioning ceremony, that Admiral Nagala wanted him flying in the formation. Apparently, the Commander had sent him an invite weeks earlier, which Lee being well Lee he had ignored. I was just so angry; I mean dad actually sends him an invite and he refuses to go has to be ordered by the Admiral to attend. I'm stood there trying desperately not to smack him, he starts on about how dare the Commander attempt to speak to him after what he'd done, and I just lost it. Accused him of being blind and stupid, that dad was never to blame for pressuring Zack into flight school. That his opinion meant very little when it came to actually choosing his career. That Zack hadn't hero-worshipped the old man the way Lee had, had in fact worshipped Lee. Had wanted to be like Lee, and follow him. That the only reason he was blaming the commander so much was because he couldn't bare to recognise the truth. I mean was it too much to ask to be invited? I just want him to notice he even has a daughter but he never does, and there Lee is bemoaning the very thing I've only dreamed of" by now my eyes where watering and I was trying desperately to stop the tears over flowing. So was I was surprised when I felt Kara pull me into a hug, it was fierce and brief yet managed to convey her understanding and acceptance.
"He didn't mean it Lexa, you have to believe that" her voice is soft in my ear before she pulls back and gives me a quick soft smile. "Now come on, I've been waiting for pictures of my favourite god child" her soft grin transformed in that instant to her typical rakish.
"Come on Starbuck, she's your only god child. No one else is insane enough to trust you with a child" she laughed and began pulling me towards the hatch.
"Move it kiddo, those pics aren't going to show themselves"
"I think it's slightly disturbing that your one of the biggest stabilising factors in my life" I mussed to my self she slammed the hatch shut behind us.
"Well I always did say you where nuts kiddo, good to know my opinion still hold huh?" she began laughing again as she pulled me back towards the bunkroom.
We spent a few hours sat going over the collection of photo's I took with me wherever I went. Kara gave particular attention to the more recent additions, tracing her fingers over the smiling face of the toddler grinning up from the photo.
"She looks more and more like you every day doesn't she" She mused her eyes lifting from the image to look at me. I felt a soft smile on my lips at her words.
"That's what Jace says; she's the image of me with his temperament, which I can say can only be a good thing. She did get more then her fair share of Adama stubbornness though" Kara let out a bark of laughter, attracting brief looks from the other off duty pilots.
"Every Adama has more then their fair share of stubbornness, it just tend to be about different things" rolling my eyes at her, I couldn't help but silently agree. I mean that was the main reasons we didn't get along with each other. I felt the sudden urge to yawn as a wave of tiredness washed over me.
"I almost wish I could have spent my leave with the two of them. It'll be a few weeks before Jace can get everything together for the trip to Picon. I miss my baby already"
"You'll see her soon enough, though you look like you could do with some rack time. Why don't you grab some sleep and I'll wake you for dinner. We're having a Triad game tonight so you can watch me wipe the floor with everyone else, what do you say?" she asked just as another yawn escaped me.
"Sound good actually. And maybe if you manage to get through the game without landing in hack I'll let you help me convince the crew chief to lend a hand with a special project for the ceremony" her eyes glittered with mischief which echoed the lop sided grin she flashed me.
"I make no promises but I'll see what I can do" with that she stood from her rack and pulled me to my feet, before helping me collect the photos together before handing them to me with care. "Now get some shut eye, kiddo. You and the little parasite probably need it" I huffed in annoyance as I climbed the ladder to the top bunk sitting down on the mattress I unfastened my jacket and slipped out of my pants before laying back and looking Kara right in the eye.
"Don't think you can get away with calling my son that you know. I might decide to reconsider making him your second god-child" I left her gapping like a fish before grabbing the curtain and dragging it across the side of the bunk effectively cutting off the loud laughter Kara had burst into with my last words. It wasn't much time before I drifted into blissful sleep.
-thanks frreadng pleaselet me knowwhat you think and review :)