"There is no such thing as justice, in or out of court." ~Clarence Darrow
The Commander knew how to make an entrance.
Lee watched, amused and just a little angry, as his father swept into the conference room, nodded regally to the judicial panel, and seated himself in the witness chair. He'd taken over the room without lifting a finger.
And Lee knew his chances of acquittal had decreased before his father even sat down.
Lee thought he was a decent public speaker. Most people agreed, despite his early fumbling attempts to brief his pilots after the Cylon Attack. If he was passionate about his subject, he was even better. But he didn't simply command attention entering a room.
Not like his father. Bill Adama had an innate command presence that demanded concentration and attention from his underlings.
Lee had never had that. Not ever. And it hadn't seemed to matter until a moment ago, when his entire life was on the line.
"Commander Adama." Captain Stanningfield seemed amused, as well, but Captain Celino was staring at his father in awe. Captain Littleton's face was still neutral. Lee didn't think he'd seen the expression on his face change during the entire court-martial.
Captain Celino's expression didn't bode well for Lee's fate, but he and his father both had to testify today. And Lee knew that Major Lamont was planning on throwing questions at the Commander as fast as he could.
"Captain Stanningfield." His father's voice sounded similar to hundreds of occasions over the years, when Lee had been waiting for punishments or praise-the former of which was more plentiful than the latter.
His father was sworn in and then Captain Stanningfield asked him to report the events from when he decided to send over the Marines to Colonial One. Lee's subsequent insurrection and escape weren't going to be remarked upon because the Commander had been unconscious for most of that time.
"President Roslin requested then-Lieutenant Thrace return to Caprica with a captured Cylon Raider to retrieve a religious artefact called the Arrow of Apollo. The President believed it would lead to a map to Earth and she'd discovered this information during a vision induced by the Chamalla extract she was taking for her cancer. I informed her she had overstepped her boundaries as the civilian leader of the Fleet and requested that she remove herself from her position. When the President refused, I ordered Colonel Tigh and Captain Adama to board Colonial One with a squad of Marines to forcibly remove her from office."
Bill stopped for a moment, and glanced at Lee. He couldn't read his father's expression, but then he'd never really been able to. He thought it might have been regret but he couldn't imagine either Commander Adama or Bill Adama, father, feeling it. Lee stared back, looking him straight in the eye. His father had to do this and Lee had to listen and hope everything worked out in his favour. It was that simple. And the uncharacteristic hesitation worried Lee.
It was a William Adama rule. Never hesitate.
Lee had never quite managed it. When not directly involved in combat, Lee tended to analyse events and predict possible outcomes-both of which created hesitation. Lee called it caution; his father had nothing but derision for it. Bill Adama decided, acted, and was done in less time than it took for Lee to think of consequences to his actions.
"…and Colonel Tigh reported that Captain Adama said 'he was following his instincts'. Captain Adama was brought to the CIC at the moment Lieutenants Edmondson and Valerii arrived from their successful mission to destroy the Cylon Basestar. And then Lieutenant Valerii-who we now know is a Cylon-shot me twice in the chest. I woke up two weeks later to discover Captain Adama and President Roslin had escaped from the brig."
"Thank you, Commander," Captain Littleton said, rubbing his forehead. "Are there any questions for the Commander from the panel?"
All three judges remained quiet, and Lee's stomach dropped. Frak. Frakking hell. They'd bought it. Lee recognised the truth in his father's words but he felt there were some details that didn't quite add up.
Suddenly wanting to pray to Gods he didn't even believe in, Lee watched as Major Lamont stood up to cross-examine his father.
"Commander Adama, under Colonial law, does the President of the Twelve Colonies serve as Commander in Chief of the Colonial Forces?"
"I believe that was a yes or no question, Commander." Major Lamont's voice was quiet but firm. "So, when President Roslin requested Lieutenant Thrace for this mission, it was a lawful order under Colonial Law?"
"If you could please explain to the court, then, how you decided it was necessary to remove the President from office by military force?" Major Lamont asked.
There was complete silence for a moment before his father huffed out a breath. Lee wondered what was upsetting his father more: his actions questioned or his son on trial. "In the first week after the Cylon Attack, President Roslin and myself made an agreement where she would be in charge of civilian matters and I would be in charge of military decisions. The use of the Cylon Raider-a piece of military technology-was a military decision. President Roslin overstepped her bounds according to our agreement."
Lee closed his eyes. If that turned out to be true-and Lee was fairly certain that, no matter what his father was, he wasn't a liar-his defence had taken a hit. A huge hit.
His father was allowed to step down pending further questioning of Laura Roslin, which Captain Stanningfield would undertake and report back to the court.
Lee quickly exited the room before his father could speak to him. He walked down the corridor to the nearest head and entered, relieved when it was empty. Standing in front of a sink, Lee stared at himself in the mirror.
He could do this. He had to. He had to avoid emotion and be as detached as possible. Lee knew he had to be clear, concise, and firm. And confident, secure in the knowledge that his actions had been right decision.
Though he didn't quite believe it at the moment.
He jerked his head toward the entrance hatch to find Racetrack and Kara standing there, both of them staring at him like he'd lost his mind.
Maybe he had.
"Racetrack. Kara," he acknowledged, nodding toward them. "What brings you here?"
"Gaeta informed Dee, who told Cally, who told Chief, who told me, that you guys were on a break," Racetrack said. "Just wanted to let you know we support you."
Lee looked at her. "Thanks, Racetrack."
Racetrack nodded, smiling slightly. He knew that she understood it wasn't just for the support at his court-martial, it was for helping them escape. And Lee also knew-thanks to an unusually talkative Kat on CAP the week before-that Racetrack had helped hold the pilots together when Lieutenant Birch started frakking everything up.
"Captain Adama." She stood straight at attention and performed a textbook-perfect salute, which he returned just as formally. Racetrack turned and exited through the hatch as Lee blinked rapidly, feeling moisture starting to collect in his eyes.
"No one likes a sissy, Lee."
He turned toward Kara, who had one hip propped against the edge of the row of sinks, arms crossed, smirk on her face. Lee attempted to smile, but couldn't quite manage it. Kara frowned and took one step forward.
"I talked Major Lamont into speaking to the judges to allow for one spectator during your testimony. They didn't agree."
"You mean you bullied Major Lamont?" Lee asked, touched that she'd tried but not too disappointed that she hadn't succeeded.
"Talked, bullied," Kara waved her hand in the air. "It's the same thing."
"If you say so."
"I do," she said. She moved forward and placed a hand on his arm. "You're going to be fine, Lee."
"Like frakking hell!" Lee snapped. "It's not going to be fine, Kara. I'm hours away from losing my commission! I just watched my father destroy my case. The father, by the way, who hasn't spoken to me in two days and not at all about anything personal since Kobol. And I know the only reason you're not getting a court-martial is because you're not his daughter!"
At Kara's dumbstruck look, Lee scrubbed a hand over his face, then slumped onto the floor and leaned against the wall. Frak, he was tired. Tired of pretending he didn't suspect Colonel Tigh and his father had taken this personally. Tired of pretending everything was fine, or ignoring the fact he'd spent a day and a half listening to his decisions being deconstructed and examined for flaws. He knew he'd done the right thing in disobeying the orders of the Commander and Colonel Tigh. Maybe his methods hadn't been the best but he'd felt he'd had no choice.
He just had to make the judicial panel believe it.
"Frak you, Lee," Kara's voice was quiet. "You're not the only person in the entire Fleet with problems!"
He looked up. Kara was radiating restrained fury. She was pissed, really pissed, and itching to explode. Lee just stared at her, saying nothing, waiting for it, feeling guilt sweep through him. She'd been through a lot these past few weeks, too, and didn't deserve his anger.
"I've been a horrible friend lately, Kara."
She sighed, scrubbed her hands over her face. Kara looked even more tired than she had yesterday and Lee wondered if she was sleeping properly or if the nightmares were still getting to her. She hadn't told him about it, of course, but he hadn't been able to sleep one night and had heard enough to know Caprica was still getting to her.
"You know, Lee," she said, smiling a little, "I think it's allowed. And I'm frakking relieved, Lee. I'd been a little worried about how calmly you were taking all this. I'd be frakking pissed, yelling and screaming. You just seemed to accept it. What the frak is that all about, Lee?"
She was gesturing wildly as she spoke, emphasising her point. She looked flushed and angry and so much like Starbuck, like the Kara he'd known before the worlds' end that he grinned at her, unable to help himself. Kara's face slipped from annoyance to confusion and he saw her rein in her emotions. She slid down the wall to sit next to him.
"Sorry," he said. "It's just…"
His voice trailed off as he tried to voice his thoughts, but Lee didn't quite know how to explain it. And he knew Kara wouldn't demand an explanation now that her anger had dissipated. He just sat there and stared at the wall. Kara placed her hand in his and he squeezed it in reassurance. They were fine. And it was almost over.
Major Lamont's voice floated into the room when the hatch creaked open. Lee sighed, gripped Kara's hand, and stood up.
"Right here, Major."
"Time to finish," Major Lamont said, still standing in the corridor outside the head.
"Good luck, Lee." Kara said and he nodded before walking through the hatch.
His lawyer was standing in the corridor, studiously ignoring the crew members who milled around the entrance to the conference room. He had his arms folded, brow furrowed slightly. "When we get back in there, tell the truth. Don't elaborate unless asked and, for frak's sake, get that defeated look off your face!"
Lee nodded and tried to smile. He wasn't sure he was successful but Major Lamont just huffed out what was either a laugh or a snort and pulled him back toward the room. Upon entering, he moved toward the defence table but Major Lamont pointed him toward the witness chair.
He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Sat down and waited for the judges prompting.
"Captain Adama, you've been sworn in before the court," Captain Stanningfield said. "Any statement in your testimony where you knowingly lie will result in further charges. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir." Lee replied, pleased when his voice was steady.
"Very well. Please recount the events from the disappearing of the Cylon Raider with Captain Thrace piloting to the shooting of Commander Adama," Captain Celino requested.
"Lieutenant Thrace was flying the Cylon Raider in a scheduled weapons test when she jumped to Caprica. She had a conversation with Commander Adama before leaving, on a separate closed channel. Upon my return to Galactica, Commander Adama ordered Colonel Tigh and myself to board Colonial One with a squad of Marines and remove President Roslin from office." Lee stopped for a moment to collect his thoughts.
How would he explain the actions he took next when he didn't quite understand them all himself? Lee worked through different explanations in his head but couldn't grasp one he felt comfortable with.
Lee started, and then glanced at Captain Littleton. "Sorry, sir. I was collecting my thoughts."
"Less thinking, more talking, please, Captain."
"Yes, sir," Lee said, wanting to shrink into his seat and simultaneously glad there were no witnesses. He cleared his throat and continued.
"President Roslin's security force was in front of her, and Colonel Tigh and myself were in front of the Marines. Colonel Tigh requested that the President relinquish her position and report to Galactica. The President refused and as the two groups stood there, weapons pointed at each other, I decided to act. I pulled my weapon and pointed it at Tigh. I said "we're not doing this" and moved toward the President. President Roslin then acquiesced to Colonel Tigh's request and we returned to Galactica, where I was escorted in handcuffs to the CIC." Lee's throat tightened and his chest suddenly felt heavy, pressure mounting. He drew in several deep breaths, trying to calm down.
The sound of the bullets whipped through his brain and he wanted to vomit. Lee could feel the blood on his hands and tried to surreptitiously scratch his hands, wanting them to be clean. His head was pounding and he couldn't breathe.
"Can my client have a moment, sirs?" Major Lamont asked when the silence stretched across the room, the only sound Lee's quick, slightly panicked breaths.
"Yes, of course," Captain Stanningfield said. "I am sure this is very difficult for him to discuss."
His head still tilted forward, Lee felt, more than saw, Major Lamont come up beside him. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I didn't realise it would be this hard."
"It's fine," Major Lamont reassured him. "Even tough military guys like yourself need to stop and have breakdowns."
A weak laugh and several deep breaths later, Lee felt steadier. The helpless feeling he'd had standing in the CIC when his father was shot, unable to do anything, had suddenly overwhelmed him. He pushed back the feelings-again-and raised his head.
"I'm ready," Lee announced as Major Lamont went back to his seat.
"Lieutenant Edmondson and the Cylon we'd known as Lieutenant Valerii entered the CIC. Racetrack—Lieutenant Edmondson—shook the Commander's hand and then Boomer—Lieutenant Valerii—pulled out her sidearm and shot Commander Adama in the chest twice."
"Thank you, Captain. Major, did you have any questions for your witness?"
"Not at this time, Captain Celino."
"Good. Captain, please detail the events leading to your escape from the Galactica with the President."
Lee tried not to fidget as the judicial panel looked at him, waiting for him to continue. This was the part of his testimony he was not looking forward to-he'd judged not one but two superior officers in the space of two weeks and had defied them both.
He wondered what it said about him, that he could do something like that.
"While Commander Adama was in sickbay, Colonel Tigh was in charge. The Air Group is barely large enough to hold a full CAP schedule even with everyone healthy, so Colonel Tigh let me resume my post during my duty hours, after which I'd report to the brig. After we defeated the Cylons that boarded Galactica I helped plan and execute the rescue mission for the crew and civilians stranded on Kobol. Colonel Tigh declared martial law and the civilian ships refused to re-supply Galactica until President Roslin was released. Colonel Tigh sent boarding parties to the Gideon to take the supplies by force, which resulted in several civilian casualties. The President and I decided we needed to escape the brig. Under duress, members of the Galactica crew provided help in accomplishing the objective."
"Captain Adama," Captain Littleton interrupted, "are you saying that none of the crew members who helped you did so willingly?"
"Yes, sir," Lee replied. "That is correct."
"It seems awfully hard to believe that, with everything else going on, the crew wouldn't be willing to help."
"None of the crew helped willingly," Lee repeated. And he'd keep saying it until they believed him. The crew didn't need to get in trouble for this-not that Tigh was interested in the rest of them. But Lee knew a little about loyalty—despite his current situation—and he also knew that, no matter what happened to him, the crew would still need to work with Tigh and his father. And if Tigh found out who'd helped, Lee was almost certain that Tigh would make them miserable. Lee wouldn't allow that if he had a chance.
"You expect us to believe that, Captain?" Captain Celino didn't look any more inclined to believe it than Littleton.
"They're good soldiers, sir. Not willing to go against the orders of a CO even if they didn't like what was happening." Lee didn't elaborate and silence stretched through the conference room.
Captain Stanningfield cleared her throat. "I think that's enough on that subject, Captain. How did you and the President escape Galactica?"
"I requested a shutdown of a section of one of Galactica's corridors for maintenance and slipped the request into a stack of papers for Colonel Tigh to sign. The corridor led from the brig to the Hangar Bay and I secured the help of the guards to secure the corridor and get the President to the Raptor. I ordered Racetrack-Lieutenant Edmondson-to inform myself and my guards that I was needed to fix a Raptor maintenance problem, remaining on duty and out of the cell. The Raptor that President Roslin, the priestess Elosha, and myself boarded had been cleared for a bogus medical mission and we left this ship and reached Cloud Nine safely."
"And then you spent the rest of the time until your jump to Kobol on the Astral Queen hiding in the Fleet?" Captain Celino asked.
"Yes, sir." Lee said, hoping they asked no further questions about his escape. There were holes, ones that wouldn't hold up if pressed. And he'd practically lied about Racetrack-he hadn't ordered her to say the Raptor had a problem-he'd only requested she come up with something to keep him out of his cell in the brig.
"Captain Adama, why did you break your parole agreement with Colonel Tigh?" That was Captain Stanningfield and it was the million-cubit question.
Lee took a deep breath.
"I believed Colonel Tigh to be an unfit commander. The Galactica crew was on edge waiting for news of Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh's orders were increasingly erratic and dangerous to the crew. I fully believed that if President Roslin could speak to the civilian fleet, more unrest could be avoided."
"Instead, the fleet split down the middle," Captain Stanningfield remarked. "It seems your faith in the fleet was misplaced."
"It was the right decision," Lee insisted. "It had to be done. Things couldn't continue how they were."
No one else had any more questions and Lee couldn't help but wonder what else he could have said so they could understand why he had to do it. They'd listen to Major Lamont's closing speech, of course, and then decide his fate. Nausea nearly overtook him as he walked back to the defence table.
Major Lamont stood up to address the panel for the final time before they retired to make their decision on Lee's fate. "Sirs, the actions of Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh were not in keeping with the Colonial Military Code and as such, Captain Adama was not required to follow those orders. It is also clear that there are personal feelings involved against Captain Adama from Colonel Tigh, since neither President Roslin nor Captain Thrace received any disciplinary actions after their return from Kobol for committing similar acts. For these reasons, it is a grave injustice to Captain Adama to convict him of crimes he has clearly not committed."
It took four hours.
Kara entered immediately after the judges left and sat down on the table, facing him. He'd scooted back his chair to allow her more room. He looked exhausted and relieved, she thought as she absently shuffled the Triad deck in her hands, but mostly anxious.
The small furrow in between his eyes told her that. If the judges decided against him, it would be the end of his career in the Colonial Fleet. He'd be on a completely different ship and they'd never see each other because she couldn't even imagine that Commander Adama would let her take a Raptor to visit Lee if he was in jail.
It was different, facing death and loss in the cockpit. Kara knew that she was viewed as reckless and dangerous in the air. But at least during a Cylon attack she had a chance. She understood Lee and how he thought. He'd been quiet since she entered and she knew he'd been running through the entire two days in his head, wondering if he could have done or said something differently.
"Lee," she said. "Stop thinking so much."
He glanced up at her, managed a small smirk. "Someone has to think around here."
She crossed her arms, flashed her best 'Starbuck' glare at him. "Are you implying I don't think?"
"Nope," Lee leaned forward, smirk still in place. "I'm saying it."
Kara smiled to herself, relieved he could still joke and tease. Amazed that he would do so, but then she knew that humour was a wonderful way to deflect worry and attention. She did it, too.
A cough at the open hatch caught her attention and she shifted to see Jammer and Cally lingering in the hallway. She reached out and tapped Lee-who'd turned to answer a question from Major Lamont-on the shoulder.
"Cally and Jammer," she said in a repeat of a scene they'd already played five times.
Lee smiled and waved his hand at them, letting them know he appreciated their support. Each time the crew members would get his attention—no one was technically allowed in the room during a court-martial, though the judges had allowed one person during deliberation-he'd wave and smile and pretend the ground underneath his feet wasn't crumbling.
"Did you know," Kara began after Cally and Jammer left and the smile had left Lee's face completely, "that Duck and Nora have a weird 'thing' going on?"
Kara could hear the emphasis he put on it. "Yes, a 'thing'. I heard it from Kat, who heard it from Cally, who heard it from Helo, who apparently heard it from Dee, who'd overheard when they'd discussed a date and/or a frak over a closed channel that Dee monitors." She sighed, loudly and dramatically. "The rumour mill wasn't too sure about whether it was a date or a frak, so…"
Lee laughed, and seemed surprised he still had it in him. "Knowing Duck, it's probably a date. Then a frak." He shook his head and added, "if it's up to Nora, it's a frak, then a date."
"Frak yeah," Kara said. "Poor Duck and his sweet romantic heart."
She was pleased when Lee's smile remained. It was well known among the Galactica pilots that Duck was a hopeless romantic. He'd often wake up in the morning with bouquets of flowers on his bunk from people had brought back from leave-usually as a joke-and he studied botany in his spare time to learn the meanings and significance of certain flowers.
If she was into romance, Kara thought, Duck would be perfect, grinning widely.
"If you were into romance, Duck would be a great boyfriend," Lee announced, startling her with how similar their thoughts had been.
"I'll let him know you're interested," Kara teased, completely unable to let the opportunity to slip by.
Lee had just opened his mouth to retort when the look of laughter on his face completely disappeared, replaced by what Kara termed his 'military mask'. The judicial panel had returned with the verdict
Kara slid off the table and into a seat at Lee's side, then glared at the judges, daring them to kick her out. All three of them pretended not to notice her so she gripped Lee's hand and squeezed it. It was cold and clammy. Kara's heart was pounding and she could only imagine how Lee must feel.
"Captain Adama," said Captain Stanningfield, who Kara remembered meeting on Colonial Day because she was tiny. "Could you please stand?"
Kara let her hand slip out of his as he stood, his eyes straight ahead and his posture rigid. She held her breath and, for a moment, it seemed as if all of Galactica waited, silent and still. Kara shook her head at the fanciful thought and focused on Captain Stanningfield.
"We find Captain Adama guilty of mutiny and insurrection. He is hereby stripped of rank and sent to the Astral Queen for a sentence of one year. Please report to the Astral Queen in two hours. Personal belongings may be picked up from the brig and taken with Mr. Adama. Dismissed."
He wasn't a Captain anymore, or even an officer.
Kara hugged him, tightly, and he patted her back, eyes still straight ahead.
Major Lamont shook his head, apologised, and Lee hoped he said something appropriate.
The judicial panel left quickly and Lee just stared, until one of the guards cleared his throat.
The word cut into him, deeper than he'd thought possible. He had to leave. Wasn't a sir anymore, wouldn't ever be one again.
He didn't know what to do, where to look as he followed the guards through the corridors of Galactica back to the brig. Words must have spread fast, he thought, as crew members whispered as he walked by.
They knew. They all knew.
Lee entered the brig after the guards, where he retrieved the duffle bag and packed up the belongings he'd spread out in his cell. Then he sat on the bed.
Stared into space, mind whirling.
His entire body felt numb. Even his face. Lee didn't think he could move. He'd gambled everything, his entire life, on one single moment. And he'd lost.
But he knew it'd been the right decision. And Lee also knew he'd do it again if he had to.
"Sir, it's time to go," Corporal Bennett said. "The Raptor is waiting for you."
"Thanks, Corporal," Lee said, surprised at how quickly the time had gone. He didn't bother to correct the man. He wasn't a 'sir' anymore, after all.
The corridors were strangely empty as he walked toward the Hangar Bay, especially considering the bustle earlier. Lee was a little relieved that no one would see him leave in disgrace.
His father hadn't come to see him. Kara had disappeared, too.
Lee sighed and hefted his duffle bag higher as he entered the hangar. He didn't want to see his father, anyway, Lee decided. It would only end badly.
As it always did.
But he would have liked to see Kara before he left.
"Attention on deck!"
Lee snapped to attention before he realised it was Kara who'd said it and that it was for him. The crew—nearly the entire crew—saluted him. He dropped his duffle and saluted back. He wondered for a moment whether she'd get in trouble but decided she would have done it anyway.
Kara walked up to him and, in an uncharacteristic move, wrapped him in a huge hug. "I'll see you around, Lee."
"Yeah," he murmured. "See you around."
After a few moments she let go and he shook hands and received hugs all the way to the Raptor. The crew milled and stood around, waiting for him to leave. Showing their support for him. Lee was touched and more than a little embarrassed as he walked through the Bay. He knew the crew had supported him but it had only hit him this moment how much he'd grown to love and respect them. The twinge of regret that hit him was surprising but he pushed it down.
His father stood at the bottom of the Raptor's wing, perfectly still. Lee stared at him, aware the crew were only pretending to work while they eavesdropped on the scene.
"Dad," he said.
His father flinched slightly, then straightened. "I'm sorry, Lee."
Lee looked at his father, then scanned the hangar bay. He'd started to feel at home here, with these strangers that became his pilots and his father, no matter how it appeared to anyone else. And now it was done. Gone.
"I'm sorry, too," he said, and boarded the Raptor.
"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." ~Maria Robinson