*Author's Note: This is a companion piece to "She Knows". It didn't quite turn out the way I wanted it to but hopefully it still works. Again, it's unbetaed. Enjoy.
She stood in front of the gathered group, the first wave of potential Pegasus draftees. Boots polished to a mirrored shine, dress uniform freshly pressed despite the chaos surrounding her.
Discipline and immaculate deployment inspired confidence. Those that couldn't be inspired would find themselves… otherwise convinced.
"You're all here because you have the potential to contribute something of value to the continued operation of the Pegasus," she said from her makeshift stage. She had no podium. Podiums were for lazy politicians who couldn't stand on their feet long enough for a debate. Or for idiotic professors who couldn't remember their lectures and were forced to consult their notes. Podiums were a physical crutch, an imaginary shield between speaker and audience. She needed no shield. Podiums were for leaning and no good soldier leaned.
"I'm offering you a chance, but do not misunderstand me. You are all expendable assets. If you frak with me or my ship the consequences will be swift and certain." She turned her head slightly to the side nodding at her XO who in turn signalled two armed marines at the door. They snapped to attention, pulling open the cargo bay doors. Two of their fellows stepped into the room dragging the body of a man behind them.
Parallel streaks of blood trailed where his bare feet drug along the ground. Coming to a stop in front to the Admiral, they unceremoniously dropped the man his head landing against the metal deck of the ship with a 'clunk'.
"This…man," she said, without looking at his broken from, "was found sabotaging my ship. If you so much as think of frakking with me you will share his fate." She turned to her XO. "Commander, read off the names."
"Sipco, chemical engineer," he barked at the crowd, waiting for the chosen man to step forward. Keen, hazel eyes scanned the milling group, searching for anyone making a move towards the front. "Sipco, engineer. Front and center!" The XO called again, more forcefully.
"Frak this." She didn't have to time to coddle these reluctant nuggets. She stepped down from the stage, unconsciously tugging her uniform back into position. Holding a hand out to one of the marines standing next to the corpse, she spoke. "Your pistol."
A flash of confusion crossed his young face before training took over and he unholstered his weapon, handing it to her butt first. She walked past the dead man, cocking and removing the safety on the sidearm as she went.
"Sipco. Engineer," she called out. Still there was no movement. With a fluid motion, borne of years of training, she raised the weapon and fired at a random person in the group.
The woman's head snapped back as the bullet landed precisely between her eyes. Those closest to her flinched as the blood dispersed, spattering them.
She could sense the roar of protest that built around her and she motioned to her marines. Each made a show of releasing the safety on their rifles and turning them on the crowd The roar turned to a whimper.
"Sipco, engineer. Front and frakking center." She lifted the pistol again. "Sooner or later I'm going to be pointing this at you or someone who knows you, Sipco. Step forward now and save a lot of lives."
A short bespectacled man in rumpled clothing stepped forward, two equally dishevelled children tightly clasping his thighs.
"Sipco, Chemical Engineer, First class," he said quietly, his eyes cast down at the ground rather than meeting the Admiral's.
"Say it like you've got a pair, tack on 'Sir' and I might not kill you for the stunt." She used the muzzle of the pistol to life his chin, forcing his eyes to meet hers.
"Sipco, Chemical Engineer, First class, Sir!"
She turned to her XO with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. He shrugged in return. "Alright, get over there." She motioned to a small corral station where a second set of marines waited to escort those chosen on to the Pegasus. He moved in the indicated direction, the children clinging to him tightly.
"Not them." She pointed to the children. "I'm running a warship not a daycare." A gesture to one of her men and the marine pushed the children back toward the crowd.
"B… Bu… They're my children, they're all I have left." Sipco's eyes pleading with her to understand.
"I don't give a good gods damn if they're the reincarnations of Artemis and Apollo. They're not going."
"Then… Neither am I." He brushed past her settling himself next to the remainder of his family. She sucked her teeth, a minute display of her irritation. Frakking civvies.
"Very well." Three quick bullets settled the argument and she turned back to her XO. "We have another C.E.?"
With a curt nod, he turned back to his list.
"Cassiopeia, Chemical Engineer," he barked out. A woman stepped forward, alone, coming to attention in front of the XO.
"Chemical Engineer, Second Class, Cassiopeia, Sir!" The Admiral almost smiled. The woman was former Fleet. It could be told in the way she stood. It was a stance that came from standing on the parade square for hours under the sun, nothing a true civilian could replicate. She had probably mustered out to make the higher wages in the civilian world. She would do.
"Go get a rack and bedgear." She hitched her thumb towards the corral. Cassiopeia gave a curt nod and walked purposefully toward the corral. The Admiral turned to the crowd, her voice carrying easily through the ship's cargo bay.
"Follow the example set before you. When your name is called, step forward. You and only you." She looked down meaningfully at the bodies of the engineer and his children. "I deplore the idea of helping the enemy but if you frak with me, I'll do the Cylons jobs' for them and kill you all."
She turned to see a young woman, a tall blonde, walk past the security check unhindered and in to the CIC. She came to a stop in front of the Admiral who held up a hand before the woman could open her mouth to speak. Stalking past the blonde and out to the security detail she became a blur of motion. Pulling the sidearm from the hip of the surprised marine on her left, she pumped a round into his kneecap and that of his fellow.
Both men dropped instantly, blood pooling on the metal decking as they moaned their pain. She threw the pistol on to the chest of the downed marine, flicking her hands to rid them of the blood that caught her in the spray.
"Get them to medical and send me some competent replacements." Her order was directed to a Sub-Lieutenant who had stopped to watch. Motioning to three other crewmen for aid, the young officer removed the downed marines from the door of CIC. "Someone clean up this mess."
Pulling a handkerchief from her pocket, Cain wiped her hands clean as she resumed her post in CIC. Her XO looked at her with an expression she couldn't quite pin down. A cross between disgust and something else.
"This is war. I can't have unknown civilians traipsing around this frakking ship without escorts or questions asked," she explained. Not that she needed an explanation. It was her ship, her command. Their survival was on her hands and she would get said hands as bloody as necessary if it meant keeping her troops alive. The price of command.
"Be sure word spreads across the ship, incompetence will not be tolerated. They got off easy because they were the first. The next frakkup will enjoy downtime in the airlock."
"Sir." He nodded and turned away. She glanced over at the blonde who seemed to be taking in the organized chaos of the CIC. Tossing the bloodied cloth on to the command table she approached the woman who turned to look at her.
"You're the civilian dockworker." A statement not a question. The woman nodded. "I assume you know how to operate supply lines, coordinate cargo movement and the like." Another nod. "Good. My grunts are all either dead or glowing with radiation by now. You're my new Supply Tech until you die or I find someone better."
The woman nodded again and the Admiral lifted an eyebrow quizzically. "Do you speak? You're not a mute are you?" She needed someone capable of barking orders and instructions. If her XO had brought her some gods be damned mute, someone was going to die.
"I can speak."
"Good, then start talking to me. When can you get my supply lines operational and up to spec?" They needed to start shifting cargo to accommodate for the extra bodies but first she had to know what was still salvageable of the Pegasus cargo and what exactly it was that had been stripped from the civilian ships. The scope had been for fuel, FTL drives for spare parts later, food and anything else 'usuable'. She was certain a few kegs from the Piconian Brewery Freighter had managed to find themselves aboard as well.
Normally she would have taken a more critical eye but between planning FTL jumps, scouting for possible hiding places and keeping the civilians in check, she had deferred to the sometimes questionable expertise of her XO. He was a man who would become trouble later and she would tolerate him only as long as it took to find a suitable replacement. He had been groomed for theoretical battle planning not for intense, bloody operations.
Somewhat belatedly realizing the woman still hadn't answered her, Cain turned up the force of her gaze, levelling a glare at the blonde.
"Um…" The woman stuttered.
Oh fer frak sake. Rooks were bad enough under normal circumstances, now she had a ship full of them in the middle of a war.
"'Um' is not an answer civie. Speak to my 2IC, get reports and keep me updated. This is the fate of the Colonies we're dealing with so move like you've got a purpose." Assuming the woman would take it for the dismissal it was, she turned to the Lieutenant who had planned the last jump. He was an off duty officer from the Atlantia that she had pulled from a luxury liner. Her usual Jump tech had been on leave on Picon when the attack had begun. The new guy hadn't put them in a sun or a blackhole yet so he would keep the job for now.
"Take us out," she instructed.
"Where, Sir?" He asked looking at the star chart in front of him.
"Where's the nearest source of Tyllium?"
He consulted his manual, checking their current co-ordinates against the known fuel locations.
"Here, Sir." He pointed to a section on the star map. "Three quick jumps, but we're already carrying all the fuel we can."
"Yes, we are. But I bet the Cylons are squatting on all the closest sources waiting for survivors to make a go of fuelling up. Plot the coordinates, Lieutenant."
The Admiral let a small smirk grace her lips. He probably thought she was crazier than one of those Earth fanatics.
"Time for a little slash and dash, Lieutenant. These frakkers want to run us out of our homes, they're damn well going to work for it. We'll jump in, lob some nukes at the Tyllium, blow the frakkers to Hades and jump out."
His wolfish smile showed his approval. "Yes Sir."
"You do good work," the Admiral said, eyes raking over the form of the lean blonde. Gina.
"I'm the best."
The Admiral smirked taking a puff from her cigar. There was something to be said about arrogance on a woman. Especially when it was warranted. "You certainly are… skilled." Pouring from the decanter, she used her index finger to push the glass over to her companion. "Makes me wonder what you were doing on a backwater freighter in the first place."
A flash of surprise crossed Gina's face and she smiled inwardly. She never went in to a game without knowing everything about the other players.
"An unfortunate accident," the blonde answered, taking a sip from her glass. "The transport I was scheduled for suffered system malfunctions. I practically had to trade my first born just to get on that gods forsaken barge you found me on."
"Not so unfortunate," Cain countered. "Otherwise you may have been planet side during the attack." She thought she saw a fleeting moment regret pass through the woman's eyes before Gina nodded, conceding the point. Interesting. Perhaps there had been someone on her homeworld that she was missing.
"You know, Admiral," Gina leaned forward, her shirt shifting low to highlight enticing cleavage to full effect, "if it weren't for you, I would've died on that freighter."
"Yes, you would've."
Gina smiled at her, a feral grin that Cain recognized. Finishing her ambrosia with a zealous gulp, she dropped the glass back to the table and stood. Lean fingers trailed up the rough cotton of Cain's tunic.
"Perhaps I can… repay that favour," Gina suggested, tugging lightly on the collar of the Admiral's uniform. Returning the woman's grin with one of her own, Cain doused her cigar.
"Saving a life is a hard debt to repay," Cain said, rising from her chair to advance on the woman. "But you are certainly welcome to try."
The ringing of the comms system woke her from sleep, or at least the closest approximation to sleep that she's been capable of. Three months on the run haven't been kind to her temperament. It doesn't help that the Cylons look human and that anyone, Fleet or civilian, is suspect. Restless nights are just one more consequence of the whole gods be damned situation.
She slipped out of bed careful not to disturb her companion. At least one of them should be rested. The last thing she needed was Gina putting a forklift through the hull because of sleep deprivation.
"This had better be good," she barked into the comms hand set.
"Sir, we've experienced a security breech."
"Engineering, Sir. It appears someone tried to tamper with the FTL charting system."
"I'm on my way, lock it down." It wouldn't make a difference, the saboteur was long gone no doubt.
She hung up the handset and walked to the closet, pulling out a fresh uniform. Her boots were next, polished, as always, to a mirrored shine. The routine of preparing her uniform was one of the few moments of calm within her day. Where others found comfort in the bottle she found hers in immaculate deportment and occasionally in the arms of the blonde lying in her bed.
Nodding at her appearance in the small mirror, she made her way out of the door, locking it behind herself. There was no telling who made an appealing Cylon target and she didn't relish the idea of having to find a replacement supply tech if the toasters decided Gina was a good mark.
She made her way to the security area, nodding at the marines who saluted her as she walked through the door. The security chief stood from his chair coming to a razored attention.
"At ease," she said dismissively as she picked up the sheaf of papers that reported the incident. "Speak to me."
"We've managed to find the viral software that was installed." He handed her another clipboard. "It was some sort of scrambler, short of it is that the damn bug would have totally frakked our guidance system. On our next FTL jump it would've altered the set co-ordinates and our star charts. We wouldn't have been able to tell the difference when we set up points of reference on the other side."
She took a deep breath, looking down at the co-ordinates of the viral program that had been uploaded to their FTL computer. "And just where, pray tell, would these co-ordinates have taken us?"
"Within fourteen jumps we would have been back in the heart of the Colonial system, Sir."
She snorted throwing the clipboard on to the desk. "Assuming we made it that far."
"Toasters probably have Basestars at each jump location to ambush us."
"Frakking wonderful. I've got to hand it to them, they're crafty sons of Hades. Repairs?"
"Being made as we speak. The original program has already been removed, we're looking for any copycats hidden within other functions."
"Good. What about our would be saboteur? Surveillance in engineering is supposed to be airtight." It was here that the security chief coughed, looking away from the Admiral. She wasn't going to like what he had to say.
"It appears that the intruder was able to instruct the computer to run a feedback loop of the footage in the surveillance cameras. All that's on the video is a view of an empty FTL room. "
"You're telling me someone infiltrated MY engineering deck and you have no idea who the frak it is?"
"Um…" He faltered, instinctively leaning away from his superior officer.
"Speak to me," she ordered, stepping forward.
"Not quite. One of the technicians was running a system test, to check for bugs in the surveillance program. He caught the loop and diverted the live video stream to a separate, secured box. It was complete coincidence and the only reason we even found the bug in the first place."
"Upload the footage."
"Yes, Sir." He turned back to the computer console, typing in commands to bring up the footage of a woman slipping into the room which contained the FTL drive and its command computer. Since the CIC was networked to the FTL computer, there was no reason for a tech to operate within the room unless problems with either the drive itself or the CIC computer arose.
She watched as the fair haired woman typed in rapid commands to the computer, prompting it into its diagnostic mode before inserting a data stick into the hardware port. It took less then two minutes before the woman was retrieving the data stick and headed out of the supposedly secure room.
"She never shows her face." The security chief looked over at the Admiral who nodded.
She didn't have to.
That walk was one she would recognize anywhere, arrogant with long purposeful strides. Her mind fell back to the blonde lying asleep in her bed. The one she locked the door for.
"Send four of your best men to my quarters. Arrest the dockworker and take her to a cell. Do it quietly." With that command, she was out the door, a hand rubbing the bridge of her nose to ward off the headache she could feel coming. It wasn't bad enough that she had been blindsided by the attack, now this.
It would have to be kept as quiet as possible. Letting it get out that She, the leader of humanity, couldn't discern who was a Cylon would mean a plummet in morale and faith in her leadership abilities. That could lead to so many things. Disorder. Witch hunting. Mutiny. She would have to get what she could from Gina, the Cylon, she mentally corrected, and get rid of her. The sooner she was gone the sooner she would fade from the memories of the other Pegasus crewmembers.
And Kobol be damned if She didn't make the toaster pay for her treachery.
"How many more are there?" She asks taking the chin of her former lover in her hand. The smooth skin reminds her of touches before, when she caressed the blonde's face in passion, not in anger. The memory brings the feelings of betrayal to the fore and She tightens her grip, feeling the soft skin bruise beneath her fingertips. She has to hand it to the toasters, these upgraded flesh models are spot on.
There is no answer and She shoves the blonde aside, turning her back on the Cylon. After two weeks of constant harassment, food deprivation and breaking bones, the blonde is unable or unwilling to fight back. Though she refuses to talk, the arrogance Gina once sported has long since disappeared.
She grabs a wrench from the worktable, hefting the weight in her hands before walking over to the kneeling form and bringing the improvised weapon down hard across her back. The back She has scratched in moments of feral passion and massaged in a few rare moments of sensual companionship. It is the memories of these moments that bother her most. Frakking a Cylon is one thing, a mistake easily made. Making small concessions to one. Going out of her way to ensure a toaster's comfort, that was a hard pill to swallow.
The Cylon covers her head to shield herself from the wrench and She growls, kicking the woman on to her side.
"How many more are on the ship?" The expected silence is her answer and She drives the boot in to her captive's chin, sending the woman into a leg of the table. She looks down at the toe of her boot, disgruntled with the blood marring its shine. Disgruntled that She has to be here, in this room, in sweat soaked pants and her issued tank tops. Disgruntled that this woman, this… Cylon, has forced her to be something less than perfection when even the destruction of the Colonies could not manage to do so.
She had hoped, had thought, that Gina would talk. She could have killed her then, made things easier on everyone involved. Instead, the woman held on to her stoic silence. So long as the Cylon had useful information, She couldn't justify killing her and destroying a military asset. Even if it would put them both out of their misery.
There's a knock on the door and She growls irritated at the interruption. She throws the wrench to the side hearing as it hits the deck and skitters along the floor. She opens the door and waits as the man She requested steps inside. Fisk.
She doesn't care for him. Point of fact, as a woman She despises him. But the soldier, the survivor, knows he is a man who gets results. She hadn't wanted to use him but now, when knowledge is key, She can't afford to let morality or personal feelings get in the way.
"Get me what I need." She says. He nods at her. She looks at the form of her former lover and nods slightly.
While the woman is broken, She knows there is still a stubborn streak that even Fisk will probably not break.
She knows Gina will never reveal who the other Cylons are or what their plans are.
She knows that the Cylons still aboard will try to take revenge for what has been and what is about to be done to their comrade.
She knows She will bear the responsibility for the lives that will be lost when the tide of vengeance breaks across the ship.
She knows, as She always has, that is the price of command.