Chapter 56

Kara listened to the soft hum of the ship as she lay in her bed, entwined with Lee who was sleeping soundly. Her head rested on his chest, rising and falling as he breathed slowly. There was nowhere else that felt safer, securer, than when she was curled up next to Lee. Not even insomnia could remove the warm smile that she held.

"I love you," she whispered, a sentiment that was so easy to say when he was asleep, but no matter how true the statement was, difficult to say to his open and gazing face.

Gently she stroked the top of her foot up his strong calf making him stir slightly. For hours that night they had made love, followed by an hour of rampant frakking, to make up for lost time. It was tempting to slide on top of him now, to wake him up with a soft kiss, but then she heard a gurgle coming from the radio next to the bed.

As carefully as she could, Kara rolled herself out of the bed and walked into the adjoining room. Lena was sleeping soundly but Joseph had awoken and was sitting up in his cot, holding on to the bars. He looked up at his mother as she approached and held his hands up to her.

"Hey there," said Kara with a smile and picked him up onto her hip. Joseph snuggled immediately into her shoulder and went quiet, sucking onto his thumb. "Just wanted me huh?"

Kara sat down on the small sofa inside the twins' room and settled back into the cushions. Joseph would undoubtedly wake up if she left him in his cot, so it was pointless making the attempt. She could feel his soft breath against her neck, and she stroked his back gently.

Every night when she finally fell asleep, she dreamt of the same things. Far away stars surrounding the nebula. Every so often she would see two vipers flying side by side in the swirling clouds of gas, just drifting together in tandem. The stars then streamed past, the nebula getting smaller and smaller, past a supernova and a brightly shining comet. And then she could see it...

Kara awoke with a start, unaware that she had even fallen asleep, Joseph stirring in her arms as she flung her head up from the cushions.

"Frak," she muttered, readjusting Joseph on her shoulder as he let out a small gurgle.

She had dreamt of stars and a faraway planet, its blue oceans glistening under a blanket of clouds. The skin on her forehead was clammy and she realised that she was shaking slightly, but then she had seen things clearly in the dream.

Stroking back the hair on Joseph's head she said, "I think your mom has finally gone completely crazy."

In one smooth movement Kara stood up from the sofa and went to place Joseph back in his crib, but when he began to stir she thought better of it. Instead she went into the main room and, holding onto him with one arm, she pulled on some slacks and then as quietly as she could, left the quarters.

The corridors at this time of night were dimly lit and nobody was milling about. The only people who were on duty were at their posts. Kara didn't stop until she reached her destination, running on automatic, striding ahead on pure instinct as if she was being driven by some eternal force.

Rounding a corner, Kara paused outside a storage locker, looked around to make sure no-one else was around, and then pushed open the door. Joseph was now awake and looking up at his mother expectantly.

"I've spent some fun hours in this room with your father kiddo," said Kara as she began to search, glad that he couldn't understand her yet. "If I remember, what I'm looking for is in one of these boxes. Lee's ass fell through it one time."

Joseph reached out as Kara fully opened a broken box and stowed a few items in her pockets. "Ma...ma," he said with a grin, his bright blue eyes staring up at her.

"Breaking the rules with your mom already kiddo? You know how to make me proud." She placed a kiss to his head and then peeked out of the storage locker before exiting. In a sort of trance she made her way back to their quarters, thoughts of stars and comets in her mind.

oooo

Lee reached out instinctively in his half-slumbered state, waking immediately when all he found was an empty bed next to him. The sheets on the bed clung to his naked body, reminding him fondly of the night before when their bodies had intertwined perfectly. Lee frowned at the empty bed, drifting his sleepy eyes around the empty room. Slipping out of bed, he pulled on his slacks and entered the adjoining bedroom.

"Kara...what?" he yawned, running a hand through his hair.

"Not right now Lee," replied Kara, dropping a paintbrush into a pot.

Joseph was sitting up in his cot, watching in wonder at his mother busy at work. There was paint everywhere and a mural developing on the wall.

"Kara its 0500 hours," said Lee looking at the clock on the wall. "Isn't it a bit earlier for decorating?"

"I said, not right now Lee," replied Kara as she crouched down and dipped another brush into a pot of bright yellow paint. "I've got to get this done."

"Sure, fine," replied Lee, "'cause it's completely normal to start painting the kids' bedroom in the middle of the night."

Kara paused, stepping back and looking up at the mural. "This is more than just a bit of interior design Lee." She moved her open hand down the wall, barely a centimetre away as if she was trying to stroke it, and then added a yellow dash in the middle.

Joseph pointed at the mural and said "Sta."

"I think you're right kiddo," replied Kara.

Lee frowned, "is this some sort of map?"

"I don't know, I just dreamt about it. It feels familiar, like I've been there before."

"Any idea where there is?" asked Lee, lifting Joseph out of his crib.

Kara looked at him seriously, "nope, do you think Fisk will mind?" She held his gaze for a few moments and then grinned, making Lee laugh.

"He might, especially when he has to keep coming down here to look for directions."

Kara shrugged, "it might make him lose a few pounds though."

Lee laughed again, "Perhaps that's how we should present it to him? A map to Earth and an exercise regime."

Kara dropped her paint brush into a pot and then sultrily walked up to Lee. "Still think I'm crazy?" she asked.

"Certifiable."

Kara reached up a finger and streaked red paint down Lee's nose, followed by a loud guffaw at the look of surprise on his face. Lee scrunched up his face, straining not to laugh.

"Shower?" he suggested, smudging the paint with his hand.

Kara turned back to the mural, picking her paintbrush back up. "I have to finish this first," she replied.

Lee didn't respond, and began walking to the small bathroom. He turned briefly to frown with concern as he watched his wife start painting again. Sensing him gaze, Kara turned to him and smiled.

"I'll follow with Lena in a minute," she said, holding his gaze for a few moments before turning back to the mural.

oooo

For Kara it seemed that she had been staring at the same star charts forever. She cricked her neck, the sleeves of her flightsuit tied around her waist. She pushed a few stray strands of hair that had fallen from its ponytail, behind her ears.

The CIC was busy as normal with various crew members manning their posts, Fisk stood beneath the dradis monitor. Kara chanced a quick glare at him when he wasn't looking, hating the fact that she was still on emergency duties only, meaning she had to sweat her ass off in her flightsuit and not make up for it with the joy of actually getting to sit in her viper.

She glanced away as he looked over, gripping onto her pencil as he walked over.

"Still trying to find a route?" he asked.

Kara gripped the pencil harder, "obviously...sir."

"Remember who you're talking to Major."

"As if I could forget that sir," replied Kara, laying down her pencil. She took a deep breath to quell her rising anger and then continued. "I'm not going to find the path to Earth by just staring at these charts all day."

"I hoped that when we reached the nebula you would know."

Privately Kara had hoped the same thing when they finally reached it, but nothing had happened. She had dreamt constantly of the nebula, but nothing had become clearer until this morning. She would be damned if she was going to tell Fisk straight away about her mural. If she was going to convince the man that she wasn't crazy, then keeping the mural a secret for now was for the best. "What, did you expect me to just start quoting directions as soon as we jumped?"

"I'd hoped for something more than just seeing you staring at star charts like before."

Kara glared at his retreating back as he walked away. She could feel that he too was glaring, fed up with the lack of progress. She picked up the pencil, one quick throw and she knew she'd be able to hit him squarely to the back of his head.

It was the shout that came from Shaw that broke through her irritation. Kara glanced over at her, her mind having failed to process what had actually been said. The way she was glancing up at the dradis monitor answered. Two large red blips had appeared, and they were close.

Throwing down her pencil Kara pushed back from the consol and ran towards the exit.

As she went she heard Fisk's booming voice, "where the frak did they come from? Action stations, set condition one throughout the ship. Thrace..." but then he stopped as he realised she was already gone.

Kara heard the claxons blaring mere seconds after she left the CIC. Shaw's voice then came over the comm, "action stations, actions stations, set condition one throughout the ship."

And then the lights in the corridor extinguished, blanketing everything in darkness. Kara paused, leaning up against the wall. The hum of the ship had halted and all that she could hear was the noise coming from her deep breaths. And then she could hear the throb of the ship as it powered back up, the lights coming back on.

Kara paused, her eyes looking up to the lights as they flickered slightly. Something wasn't right, the ship was not meant to power down like that. She had never been on board a Battlestar that had done this. And then she felt a shudder, a deep rumble through the walls of the ship. They had been hit. The cylons were on top of them and she had no idea if they were capable of jumping away. Pushing away from the wall, she continued to run down the corridor at full pelt.

The hangar deck was in chaos when she arrived, with deckhands rushing about everywhere. Vipers were already being pushed into the launch tubes, many had already gone out.

She saw her viper waiting ahead, ready with the steps pushed up to the cockpit, her helmet at the top.

"Chief, get my bird out into the black now!" she yelled as she sped down the steep stairs onto the deck.

"She's all set to go Major."

Kara wasted no time, pulling herself up into the cockpit as the deckhands began to tow her to the launch tubes.

"What the frak is going on Chief?"

"Beats me sir, we were getting the first vipers out when we were plunged into darkness. Apollo was stuck in the tube until we could boot everything back up."

"Is he out there now?" asked Kara as she pulled on her helmet.

"He is now sir, you're going to be the last to the dance."

"Excellent, I like playing catch up."

"Good hunting sir."

Kara pushed back the cockpit canopy, raising a thumb to say she was ready. She was hungry to get out into the fray. It seemed to take the deckhands a frustratingly long time to tow the viper towards the launch tubes. "Come on!" she yelled.

Finally she was towed into the claustrophobic tunnel. She felt the ship lurch as she was enclosed inside. They had been hit again.

"Come on!" she yelled again over the comm.

"Hang on sir, we're still having trouble with our systems," replied a voice.

Kara thumped her head back against the cockpit seat in frustration and then finally her ship rumbled to life. She raised her thumb up and then the g-forces hit, throwing her out into the black. The cylons were everywhere. Kara pulled hard on her stick to avoid a collision with a raider that was directly in front on her as she was expelled from the launch tube.

"Frak," she exclaimed as the raider glanced off her undercarriage, making her spin out of control. The raider collided with the side of the Pegasus.

As she brought her viper under control, another raider exploded in front of her.

"Looking a bit burnt up there Starbuck," shouting Kat over the comm, zooming through the wreckage of the raider with a whoop.

"Nice shooting Kat," replied Kara, getting her bearings in check. She twisted her viper in the air, shooting down the nearest raiders that came anywhere near her gun sights. "But I'm better," she whispered to herself as she took out another raider.

The comm system was alive with chatter, each pilot and the CIC shouting out updates. It was almost impossible to distinguish each individual voice. Kara pushed the noises away, focusing her sights forward. Nothing was going to stand in her way.

oooo

The hangar deck had erupted into chaos when the claxons had sounded. Lee had been checking over his viper at the time, getting ready for his CAP. Immediately he had thrown down his clipboard and had jumped up into the cockpit. Within seconds he was being towed into the launch tube, the hangar doors closing behind him, and then everything went black. The viper, which had been rumbling to life, went dead.

He had never felt so claustrophobic in his life until that moment. It was so dark that he couldn't even see the visor of his helmet. And then the booth next to him sprung to life and then the ship rocked.

"Everything alright Major?" asked a voice over the comm.

"Just get me the frak out there."

At last his viper sprung to life and he was thrown out into the battle. He was alone, with just the guns on his viper and the firing solution from the Pegasus. Raiders were bearing down on his position. He flipped his viper over, taking out the nearest one.

Shaw's voice came over the comm, "Apollo, Pegasus, we have five raiders going after the Tylium ship."

"Copy that Pegasus," he replied, flipping his viper he stayed close to the hull of the Pegasus until he could see the Tylium ship ahead. It was taking heavy hits from raiders that had swarmed around it.

Lee took out the first two with ease, twisting out of the way as shots from a third raider came from behind.

"Apollo, you have a raider on your six," said Showboat over the comm.

"I'm well aware of that" replied Lee, relieved that he was no longer alone. He saw the explosion from behind him. "Thanks Showboat," he said, setting his sights on the next raider.

The traffic over the comm system became more and more jumbled as more vipers were launched and then at last he could hear the sound of Kara's voice. Knowing she was fighting out here too made him feel somewhat safer.

The dark skies were alight with various explosions around him. They had destroyed numerous raiders, but still they kept coming. The Baseship was within firing distance, the Pegasus' battery only just able to hold them off. The shells of various destroyed vipers were scattered about, creating a debris field.

"Pegasus, Apollo, we need to get out of her now!" yelled Lee. "We can't hold them off for much longer."

He didn't get a response immediately.

"Come on Pegasus!" he shouted as a raider glanced a blow across his wing making him wince. "We're getting frakked hard out here." There was a raider in front of him, to the side and behind. He was surrounded. He spun his viper to the side to avoid the spray of bullets, feeling the shudder as something hit.

Another viper zoomed past in the opposite direction, seemingly at almost supersonic speed, followed by an explosion. Lee forced his viper over, end on end, seeing the same viper taking down another raider, the wreckage bouncing off the hull.

"Thought you could use some help Apollo!"

Kara's voice never failed to make Lee smile, even when they were flying for their survival.

More explosions surrounded him, with cries of panic and screams of death coming over the comm. A pull of dread hit Lee's stomach. They were dying one by one. When they had gone the Pegasus would be next.

And then the life line came as Shaw's voice came over on the comm. "Tylium ship jumping away, all birds come on home, all birds come on home."

Stinger's voice was next, "Well what are you all waiting for, a written invitation? Everyone back to the beast immediately, emergency landings."

Lee desperately tried to distinguish Kara's voice over the comm and looked out for her as he headed for the deck. He spun his viper to dodge the bullets from another raider and came in hot, not caring that it would take the Chief days to beat the landing gear back into alignment. His head jerked back sharply as he hit the deck and then he felt the tug of the FTL drive kicking in.

There was silence on the deck. Lee looked around the landing pod, trying to find Kara. All of the vipers looked the same, they were blackened, scorched and covered in cylon blood. He was also aware that too few vipers had managed to land.

He was impatient to get towed back into the hangar, restless to see Kara again. All of the vipers were towed in as quickly as possible, scattered erratically across the deck. Lee pushed back his canopy, removing his helmet. His hair and forehead were sodden with sweat. His viper, like all of the others was covered in damage. Two large scorch marks marred the wing from where he had been hit.

Everyone looked shell shocked, looking around at each other to see who had made it. And then Lee saw the last viper being towed in. He should have known that Kara would be the last to land. Her bird was covered in the most blood, with blackened scorch marks along the side.

Lee was walking over when she stood up in the cockpit. Like the others, her hair was damp, half falling out of his pony tail.

"What the frak did you do to your ship Major?" asked Laird, crouching down and looking at the belly of Kara's viper.

Kara shrugged, "toaster hit me." She descended the steps, ignoring the damage and looking straight at Lee. He embraced her tightly.

"Thanks for saving my ass again," he whispered into her hair.

"You're ass belongs to me Adama, remember?" she whispered back.

Lee pulled back and looked into Kara's eyes, but she looked suddenly pained. "You okay?"

"Just a headache," she replied.

"Hit the deck a little too hard?"

"No, that was you nearly landing nose first." She rubbed a hand to her forehead, but then seemed to shake away the pain.

They looked about the deck, wondering how many pilots they had lost. In the chaos no-one was sure who had made it. It was therefore an agonising task of checking off each pilot and seeing who was missing. Putting aside their need to be with each other, Kara and Lee helped the deckhands tow their vipers aside and assess the damage.

They had lost 9 pilots, 7 vipers and a raptor. There were minor casualties across the ship also, but no deaths. The ship itself was not breached but was probably in need of a serious paint job. Emotionally, everyone was exhausted.

Hours later Lee lay under his viper with various tools resting on top of his chest, trying to repair the damage that had been caused to the underbelly. Laird had spent hours trying to beat the landing gear back into place. Next to his viper was Kara's, which looked just as distressed.

"Did you even try and land gently?" asked Laird as he continued to hammer at the landing struts.

"Wasn't really thinking about it at the time to be honest," replied Lee as he tightened a cog with his spanner. "I just wanted to get to the deck."

"Well you certainly did that."

A loud noise of metal hitting metal drew his attention away from the Chief. Kara was smacking the underside of her viper.

"Kara?" asked Lee.

She smacked it a few more times before tossing aside her spanner in frustration, rubbing her fingers to her temples. Lee rolled out from under his viper and crouched down beside her.

"You still have a headache?"

She didn't answer, continuing to rub her temples in obvious pain.

"Kara?"

"The pain started as soon as we finished jumping," she said at last.

"You're just tired from lack of sleep."

"No," she replied, a look of dawning appearing on her face. "We've jumped the wrong way."

Without another word Kara pushed herself out from under her viper and strode off with purpose across the deck. Lee had given up a long time ago trying to understand his wife, it was an impossible task. Dutifully he followed after her.

oooo

Kara had lost count of the number of times Fisk had stared at her with a look of disbelief. Lee stood by her side, his arms folded in front of his chest, frowning.

"Let me get this straight..." began Fisk in way he had so many times before, so Kara knew what was coming.

"You gave me one job sir, to find a path to Earth. Reading maps over and over again is not going to help that." Kara shoved the charts away across the consol. "What I do know is that we're going the wrong the way, don't ask me how, but it's better than having nothing. Jumping again won't do us any harm."

Fisk clicked his jaw, "and where do you suppose we jump to?"

Lee stepped in, shifting through the star charts. He pointed to a sector, "well, we jumped here, if we stay on this course then we would end up in this sector." Kara looked confused as he poured through further start charts. She had never excelled at reading them back at the academy. "What if we head towards this sector instead?"

Fisk looked down at the charts and sighed, "I'm going to have some strong words with Admiral Adama when we get back to New Caprica, if we ever get back. I've started a separate ship's log just for you two." He rubbed his temples, "we'll start plotting a jump, you two get down to the hangar and continue helping with the clean up." He lowered his voice, "services for the dead will begin at 0900 hours tomorrow."

Kara felt a pang of guilt in her gut. She had so been so intent upon the mission that she had forgotten about the battle they had just faced.

"Frakking Fisk," she muttered as soon as they had left the CIC. She leant up against the wall, leaning her head back.

"If you were in his position would you believe us?" asked Lee. "One day he won't back down."

Kara muttered under her breath and they began to walk down the corridors, back down to the hangar deck to continue the clean up.

Two hours later and Lee was underneath his viper, Kara sitting on the steps to hers when Shaw's voice sounded over the comm. They were warned to brace for an imminent jump.

Kara looked over at Lee as the ship shrunk in on itself and then jumped. The pressure in her head eased as soon as the jump had finished. Closing her eyes she breathed a sigh of relief, opening them to see Lee looking up at her with his bright blue eyes. She nodded her head. He was just getting up to speak to her when Shaw's voice came out over the comm again.

"Majors Thrace and Adama report to the CIC immediately, Majors Thrace and Adama report to the CIC immediately."

Kara pushed herself up and off the steps to the viper. Lee joined her as she strode across the deck and started to walk towards the CIC.

"The pain's gone down hasn't it?" he asked.

"Something's different," replied Kara. "Don't ask me to try and explain it 'cause I can't."

Lee held up his hands in defeat, "Kara, I've come to accept sudden comas, artwork in the middle of the night... kinda makes a person have faith that there's another power out there turning the wheels."

"Wow Lee, never thought I'd hear you accept that the Gods exist."

"I never said that, what I meant is that there must be something out there."

Kara placed a hand to his arm, "that's enough."

"I'll always believe in you."

"Aw, that's sweet Lee, really."

They both laughed as they walked down the halls of the ship. Kara felt easier, she knew know that they were heading the right way, who knew what lay beyond, but somewhere in front of them was Earth.