Disclaimer – Neither of these universes belong to me.
Acknowledgements – Nukular Winter, Baja B, and Perspicacity for the beta work. Kokopelli and Aaran St. Vines for the beta work. The Works by Author section at Darklordpotter for their input.
The Next Lord of Kobol
Chapter 12 – The Caprica Cowhenge
(Exactly nine years before the fall of the Twelve Colonies)
"Harry! They're coming in on your right, high side!"
"Okay," he said and pivoted his turret engaging the pair of Cylon Raiders as soon as they entered his firing arc. Maggie seemed to enjoy all the military lingo. From his point of view, he was just happy that he could follow her shouts. Since she graduated, Maggie seemed to be hell bent on finishing this game. Considering he was stuck here for the time being, Harry welcomed the company.
Still, he knew it would be only a matter of time before she was packing up and heading to Caprica City. She was the closest thing he had to a friend, other than his elves and he didn't want to admit how much he would miss Maggie Edmondson.
Through his viewport, the Atlantia and the Olympia continued to burn as they traded fire with four of the toaster base ships. It was visually distracting and made it difficult to pick out the shapes moving against the fiery background.
Maggie's job wasn't much easier. She had to stay out of the engagement zones of all six capital vessels, destroy as many Raiders as she can, and get close enough so they deliver their nuclear payload to the targeted Basestar. In the distance, the planet Kobol loomed...as it had on the previous six missions where they'd died. The final mission was to break the Cylon blockade over Kobol to uncover the location of the Thirteenth Tribe. Thus far, the blockade had resisted their best efforts.
"Harry, I'm going to try something," she yelled.
Harry recognized this as "Maggiespeak" and that the "something" was implied to be marginally insane.
The Raptor pivoted and dove headlong for the hailstorm of gun and missile fire being traded by The Atlantia and the target Basestar. Meanwhile, Harry did his best to destroy their pursuers.
Maggie pulled out of the path of certain death and skirted the edge of the free fire zone, looping around it and making pursuit more difficult. Between the warning klaxons and the ship being buffeted by nearby collisions Harry was strangely reminded of the time he'd ridden Buckbeak over the lake.
Her insane maneuver cut down on the angle the raiders could come at them and made Harry's job that much easier. It was like a Keeper having to only guard two rings instead of three. The only downside was, there were no ammo packets in this area. He would have to make each burst count.
"Time to target, sixty seconds! Arming the missile! Radiological master alarm clear."
The high pitched warble cut out as she silenced it. Their nuke wouldn't destroy a Basestar by itself, but a surface detonation would fry the sensitive electronics. Without precise battery coordination, that third of the Cylon ship would be vulnerable to the Battlesar's fury.
Of course, every Cylon raider in the vicinity also knew there was a live nuke on their ship. Harry's DRADIS screen showed over a dozen breaking contact and thrusting in their direction.
"Two raiders moving to intercept at carum eleven by zero four five."
Harry did his best to decipher what she'd just said. He looked in the sector of space he believed she indicated and caught sight of the toasters.
"I see them!" He answered. "Can you flip us over?"
Maggie barrel rolled the Raptor to give Harry a better shot and Harry rotated the turret. From what he'd seen of the new generation that replaced this model of Raptor, they'd gotten rid of the turret and ammo bay altogether in return for giving it a FTL drive and a big electronic warfare package.
Somehow, he didn't think the new ones were as much fun to fly in reality.
Now in his twelve o'clock position, he could see the non-stop torrent of gunfire and streaks of missiles. The raiders were now comfortably in his four o'clock position and he sent a quick three second burst from the cannons that helped him gauge the distance and see their reactions.
Harry realized that he didn't have to destroy them, but just had to keep them occupied until Maggie could fire the nuke.
"Thirty seconds, Harry! Don't you dare get us killed."
He expended a pair of ECM drones when the closest raider fired missiles. The signal scrambling affected a few of the nearby heavy missiles and they were rocked by a series of detonations. The good news was that the explosions had forced the pair of raiders to make a detour, but it also sent them careening away from the edge of the engagement zone.
"Go fast, Maggie!" he said, seeing more Raiders fast approaching.
She yanked the throttle all the way back and the Raptor lurched forward in response.
"Just keep them off our six for a few more seconds and leave the rest to me," she shouted.
Harry did his best to disrupt the Raiders as Maggie lined up her shot. Even so, the armor indicator began trickling away much faster than he would like.
"Track one! Missile away!"
Harry released his last two ECM drones, not wanting to be killed before the missile hit. Posthumous victory didn't sound near as good as seeing the end credits.
He fired an extended burst from his guns and looked over his shoulder as the nearest part of the Cylon mothership was engulfed in an atomic blast.
The Basestar slowly began to rotate as the coordinated fire diminished, but a wall of munitions from the Atlantia smashed through the defenses and triggered a series of cascading secondary explosions.
Maggie broke hard to port and did her best to angle away from the shockwave as the vessel exploded. The entire craft shook with the strength of the detonation.
Almost immediately, two additional Battlestars - The Hyperion and The Galactica jumped into the battle and began launching vipers practically on top of their location. With the Raiders around them vaporized in a hail of point defense fire, the LSO on the Galactica sent them their landing signal. Inside the Raptor, the Colonial Anthem began to blare through the speakers as another Basestar broke apart under the sustained firepower of the new arrivals.
With nothing left to do, Harry scrambled from his tail gunner seat and ran up to jump into the co-pilot's chair and enjoy the ride onto the Galactica's starboard side landing pod.
Over top of the Anthem, came Admiral Nash's actual speech that he'd given on tenth anniversary of the Armistice. Harry listened to the words of congratulations laced with those of caution about their enemies lurking out in space somewhere.
"Never forget the price paid to ensure our survival as a race. Savor each moment in the light as a reward from the Gods for overcoming our own mistakes and hubris. Do these things with the knowledge that our enemies could one day return to begin the struggle anew."
Harry thought the man sounded quite a bit like Dumbledore as a gleeful Maggie brought them down on a landing pad and the elevator began lowering them into the pressurized bay full of cheering virtual deckhands.
"We did it!" Maggie said, bouncing in her chair. Her enthusiasm spread like a cheering charm throughout the cabin.
"When did you think of flying beside the fire from Atlantia?" Harry asked, referring to her unique strategy.
"I saw a biopic about a viper pilot who did something like that during the war," she answered unbuckling her harness and standing. "I just can't believe we finally finished it!"
A pair of badges materialized and each reached out to grab them. The code was woven onto the skin of their avatars to indicate they'd completed this game. The fact that hardly anyone ever finished this game seemed really important to the female next to him.
Maggie's avatar threw her arms around him and crushed him into a tight embrace. It ranked up there with some of Hermione's, even if it was in a virtual world.
After about five seconds, Harry pulled his head back and looked at her. She was still beaming and smiling at him. He saw her expression change and she leaned in and gave him a kiss.
There was something more behind it than that embarrassing instance in front of Aphrodite's statue. Even though it wasn't completely real, it felt very real. He could feel her hands wrapping around his head and pulling him tighter and taste of her tongue sliding through the gap in his lips.
He'd never been snogged before, but he was pretty sure that it went like this. He liked Maggie. She had this way about her. He wasn't sure if it was the "good girl" hidden under her "hellion" exterior or that he was attracted to her wild side. Either way, it wasn't as important as enjoying the moment. Harry searched his mind for the answer to the question of, "How would Sirius Black or James Potter handle this?"
When no immediate answer came, Harry went with his gut and pulled off his grid glasses. They'd been playing in his room, after being interrupted in the lounge twice earlier. Sitting cross-legged on the end of his bed was the real Maggie Edmondson. She had a confused look on her face, probably from him de-resing in the middle of snogging.
She was in the process of removing her glasses when he stretched over the gridbox and put his lips on hers.
He sensed a moment of surprise followed by the clatter of her glasses hitting the floor. She made a "mmmph" sound, but didn't immediately push him away. She didn't lace her fingers behind his head, but did place her hand against his cheek and cup it. This time she seemed more uncertain and when his tongue slipped inside her mouth, she slowly backed her head away.
Opening his eyes, he saw she was flushed and looking at him. "Why'd you leave the game? What are you doing?" she asked almost whispering it.
"Wanted to kiss the real Maggie," he fumbled his reply. "Like you better."
Harry saw the look of surprise, heard a quick intake of breath, and hoped he hadn't mucked things up. He leaned further toward her and went to kiss her again.
"I don't know if we should..." Maggie said and trailed off. Her eyes closed and she met him.
Truth be told, Harry didn't know if they should be doing this either, but he was tired of pretending to be something he wasn't...tired of all the secrets. Maggie was the closest thing he'd had to a friend his age since Umbridge caught the DA. Maybe that was the source of his intensity. He wasn't sure.
After perhaps another thirty seconds of snogging, Maggie slid off his lips and down to his neck. It tickled him something fierce and he couldn't help but laugh.
His laughter broke the spell between them and she backed away for the second time. He wasn't ready to give up so easily, but she stopped his forward momentum with her open palms.
"I think that's enough for tonight," she said. "I'd better get back to my room before bed check."
Harry looked at the clock and knew they had another twenty minutes, but Maggie was already collecting her gridbox. She climbed off his bed and started to the door. Halfway there, she stopped and turned around. Walking back to him, she touched his cheek and kissed him.
"Goodnight Harry, I'll see you tomorrow."
He watched her walk away, wondering if he should've done something else, but happily noted that neither of them were crying and his soul was intact.
That alone counted as a win in his book. For a change, it was good to be him.
After shutting her bedroom door, Maggie allowed her weight to fall back against it and stared down at the gridbox and glasses in her hands.
"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" she said and tapped the back of her head against the door to punctuate each word. She cursed Cyrus for planting the idea that Harry was some kind of replacement for him. All this time she'd been spending around him had left her feeling comfortable, and look what she'd done.
"Oh, what am I going to do?" she asked no one in particular. Kissing Harry threw her for a loop. She was the one in control…or at least she was supposed to be. Maggie didn't know which would be worse – breaking his heart or really liking him. She certainly hadn't intended for that to happen.
She stopped on her way to the bed and put the items in her hands on her nightstand. They'd gotten her into enough trouble this evening.
Needing some advice, she first thought of her mother, but discarded that notion as making things worse. Instead, Maggie grabbed her vidphone and called Kelsey.
It took a minute, but her sister answered. Kelsey was in sweats and looked like she was in the middle of a casual night in.
"Hey sis," she said. "To what do I owe this honor?"
"I need some help, Kel."
"What did you do this time?" The girl answered and crossed her arms.
"I kissed Harry."
"Harry? That kid Sue threw up all over? Isn't he a patient there?"
"Yes to both. I wasn't thinking."
"That's kind of the story of your life, Mags."
"Sorry, just getting a laugh. You did interrupt my hot date with a vid. You're just lucky Sue isn't here. So how'd it happen?"
Maggie frowned and replied, "We've been spending a lot of time together since I finished school and just finished a game on my gridbox. We'd died something like six times on the last level and I was really excited about finishing it, so I kind of pounced on him in the V world."
"Okay, nothing too wrong with a little V action. If things don't pick up by the time you get here, I'm probably going to go on the grid and get my freak on."
"I seriously did not need to know that, Kel."
"I'm sorry. Go on with your story of corrupting an innocent boy."
"It's not like that!" she protested.
"Well what's it like then?"
Maggie grunted. Kelsey was frakking with her and having a laugh at her predicament. "So we were kissing in the V world and he slips his glasses off and starts kissing me for real."
"Was he any good?"
Her sister's question stopped her in her tracks. "Uh, kinda. Well, he wasn't really that good, but it was really intense."
"Intense you say. Tell me what happened to 'What goes on in the grid stays in the grid?' You're violating the rules, Mags."
"I know! I didn't think he'd go all real world on me and then like an idiot I ask him what he's doing."
"Oh, what'd he say?"
"That he liked kissing the real me better."
"That's sweet. Is he cute?"
"Yes, which clearly doesn't help matters."
It was Kelsey's turn to frown. "Alright, maybe I'm a little slow, but so far I'm hearing that you kissed a cute guy in the grid and he started kissing you in the real world. He says he likes you better than your avatar. Considering my last dinner date spent a full hour griping about how Sam Anders should have been rookie of the year and got robbed in the voting, I'm not seeing the problem so far."
"He's a patient here. His verbal skills are getting better and we can talk, but he can barely read and write. I broke up with Cyrus because we were headed in different directions. Fast forward a few weeks later I'm swapping spit with a different boy that I'm going to leave behind in a little over a month. Are you seeing the problem yet?"
"Okay you've got a problem. Are you worried about breaking his heart? Is he immature or just illiterate?"
Maggie had to think about that one. "I don't think he's immature or at least any more than any other guy our age. He's illiterate, but he's learning."
"Okay, so you shouldn't be expecting any love notes or him composing epic poems in the foreseeable future. Was that something you were counting on?"
"Maggie, you're blowing this way out of proportion," Kelsey said. "You kissed a guy. I've seen you kiss lots of guys. It's sort of disgusting if you ask me, but it's just kissing. Just play it by ear when you see him next. If you still want to kiss him that might be a good sign. Have a summer fling. Who knows? Maybe keeping the home fires burning for Harry will keep you focused when you get here. If you don't want him, just write it off as another one of your misadventures and try not to break his heart too badly."
The way her sister put things made a tremendous amount of sense. Both Kelsey and Sue accused her of being a drama queen. Maybe there was something to that.
They continued talking and Kelsey made her send a picture of Harry to her and listened as she dissected the young man's attributes. After another hour, Maggie felt better and her sister thanked her for an evening of entertainment and promised not to tell Sue about this.
Maggie didn't believe her for a second. Her sister would spill her guts the moment Sue entered the room. As for Harry, she'd sort him out in the morning…or the afternoon considering this was probably going to cost her a good night's rest.
Harry's good feelings waned and turned to nervousness when he didn't see Maggie at breakfast. He went to the groundskeeper's shed and stared at the mower while cursing his teenaged self. There was a brief moment when he toyed with the idea of going into the chapel and saying a quick prayer to Aphrodite.
"This is beyond stupid. I've killed a Dark Lord. I've fought Death Eaters. Sirius would be giving me no end of shit if he saw me right now! He's probably watching and laughing his arse off right now."
Since the mower wasn't going to give him any answers or mow the grass by itself, Harry grabbed the fuel can and started filling it up. Finishing, he began pulling it out of the shed only to see an uncertain Maggie standing in doorway watching him. He knew precious little about the grooming rituals of Colonial females, but it looked like she had taken a little extra time with her appearance today.
Hopefully, it was a good sign.
"Hi," she said, looking every bit as nervous as he was. Strangely enough, her anxiety made him feel better.
"Morning," he said and smiled. "You look pretty."
"Thank you," she answered and paused before continuing, "So...this is awkward."
It was – very much in fact. Harry thought about being sick in before Quidditch matches or the panic when he saw the horntail. He realized this girl was no dragon. This wasn't life or death. It was just life.
Harry frowned, gathered his famed Gryffindor courage, and said, "It doesn't have to be."
"No," he said firmly.
"Why not?" she demanded.
He paused, trying to make sure he got the words right. "I liked kissing you, last day. I mean last night! I think I'll like kissing you again today."
She rolled her eyes and said, "Someone sounds sure of himself."
Harry noted she was smiling. That was definitely a good sign.
"You know I'm going to Cap City to start college in a few weeks?"
He nodded. Some of the boys at Hogwarts used to talk about leaving their Muggle girlfriends home and wondering if they'd still be there when the term ended. In an odd way, he was about to turn into one of those girls.
"Just a train ride," he dismissed. "They're okay. You'll come back to visit."
"You remember riding on trains?" she asked.
"I think so," he lied. He doubted the trains here were anything like the Hogwarts Express.
Pulling the mower next to her, he stopped and gave her a lopsided smile.
"Alright," she said. "I guess we should see if there is anything to this."
Maggie stepped in and kissed him. He let her lead. After a few seconds of nuzzling, he felt things picking up. She had some kind of sweet tasting lip gloss on. Clearly, she'd put some thought into this as well. He also smelled a hint of fresh perfume.
He was glad he at least showered and brushed his teeth that morning. Suddenly he wished he had put more effort into his appearance.
Breaking away after what Harry considered a rather jolly way to spend a minute; she brushed her lips with her index finger and said, "Okay. Maybe there is something to this after all, but we still might crash and burn."
Harry shrugged and replied. "We blew up over twenty times trying to get to Kobol in the last three days."
"This isn't a game," she said.
"You're wrong, Maggie," Harry said. "It's the best game around."
"You're a strange one, Harry Potter." There was no malice in her words and she wrapped her arms around his waist. They stayed like that for a moment before she continued, "I should've known you were trouble the moment I saw you."
Harry chuckled and replied, "I knew you were trouble."
There was a sharp clearing of someone's throat and they saw the actual groundskeeper. They jumped apart so fast it was like they had burst into flames.
"Harry," the older woman said. "Mrs. Edmondson wants to see you. You can mow when you get back."
"Okay," he answered. Casting a look at Maggie he said, "I'll see you later today."
"Maggie? Do I want to know what's going on between you and one of my patients?"
She'd known this conversation was coming ever since that crotchety old bitch caught them in the shed. Maggie half-hoped the woman wouldn't say anything that might jeopardize all the free labor she was getting out of Harry, but her hopes were dashed the moment Maggie saw the look on the groundskeeper's face.
Sure they'd never gotten along, but she thought the bitch liked Harry.
Maggie opted for the truth for this instance. "We kissed last night. It caught both of us off guard. I spent awhile talking to Kel about it and she recommended I kiss him again to see if it was just a onetime thing or whether I was really attracted to him."
Her mom interlaced her fingers and rested her chin on her connected hands. "What did you decide?"
"I'm attracted to him."
"I'm not certain he's emotionally ready for something like that, Margret."
Flushing, Maggie felt the need to defend Harry. She toyed with commenting on how his tongue would disagree with her mother's professional opinion, but instead said, "I've been spending time with him. He's more mature than you give him credit for. What did you want with him today anyway?"
"I needed him to sign some paperwork. We're petitioning the Magistrate to get him an identity card and the other records, since his are nowhere to be found."
Maggie breathed out the air she didn't know she was holding. They were making official records for him. "Did you ask him about us? You didn't interrogate him did you?"
"No, I didn't hear about that until after he'd left. Although, it does explain why he seemed rather nervous when he first showed up. This does complicate things."
"I'm not on staff here," Maggie replied.
"Yes, but it does leave me in an uncomfortable position. I don't want to see him suffer a setback. He's made tremendous progress."
"Nice way of saying your daughter is a problem, Mom."
"He's not a toy."
"I know that! I'm trying to keep things casual and I certainly don't want to make him suffer." Maggie stopped and saw a hint of a smile in the corner of her mother's mouth. "What?"
"I just remember apologizing to Harry for the names you called him back when you had your brush with the law. Now, you're standing in front of me coming to his defense. Just let me enjoy the irony for a moment."
Maggie sighed and said, "You were right. He is sweet…probably too sweet for someone like me."
"Now I've heard everything!" her mother exclaimed. "Alright, I won't try and stop you two. All I will say is take it very slow and use your best judgment. I know how things get in the Virtual World and Harry may not be adept at differentiating the two, so take it slow in there too."
After bed check, Harry asked Dobby to stay and watch the room, while he Apparated to the greenhouse. Maggie's insistence that they keep things "casual" gave him the distinct impression that she wouldn't be dropping by unannounced. When they met up, she said that her mom wasn't going to cause them problems. Harry had been around enough people who say one thing and then do the opposite to wonder how things would really be, but for now, he took it at face value. Besides, Nancy was no Severus Snape. She had much better hair.
Considering the relationship between the two, he wondered if Maggie had somehow learned to cast a Confundus charm on her sole parent.
Nancy had finally gotten through the bureaucratic red tape and, assuming a judge agrees that Harry's "memory loss" is permanent, he'd finally get some kind of proof that he was a living being. It was almost impossible traveling anywhere without one of those cards. Even that daytime trip to the museum raised a few eyebrows when he didn't have any identification.
"How are things Winky?" Harry asked the recuperating elf. She was hovering a water can, taking care of a row of plants. The elf was having difficulties walking or standing for greater than thirty minutes, so Harry had repaired and then animated an old wheelchair he'd found in a storeroom and equipped it with a cushioning charm. Winky mastered its operation in two days. Now, she moved about like she'd been using one all her life.
"I'm getting better, Master Harry. Dobby tells Winky that you are kissing the Maggie girl."
Realization dawned on Harry that it might actually be the elves and not the students who were the source of Hogwart's legendary gossip network.
"Yes, he's right."
"Good. Master Harry is needing female companionship."
He was about to protest, but on some level, she was right. He wasn't going to let this get him down. "You're probably right."
"Are you going out to practice your magic?"
"Yes, this wand takes some getting used to."
"Here I was worried that my magic was going to get weaker," he thought. "My old wand was a precise tool. This bloody thing is a sledgehammer!"
He tried a Muggle repeller on the first night and everyone left that wing of the building. The Reducio he cast shrank his dresser practically out of sight. Harry concluded that casting spells with the Elder Wand shouldn't be done on the grounds of Amanda's Open Arms. A simple spell might cause thousands of cubits in electrical damage.
"Dobby says he is trying to find you a proper cauldron."
"Considering I was never that good at the subject and I'll be swapping out ingredients, he'll probably have to find me several. If nothing turns up, I might have to work on my transfiguration and conjuration."
Harry knew this was a bad idea. Transfigured cauldrons were only for emergency situations. The residual magic can have unpredictable effects on anything brewed inside. Looking around the greenhouse, it was still rather Spartan. Most of Harry's stuff had been relocated here when Maggie started coming to his room. He didn't want to take any chances. His furniture conjurations were utilitarian at best. The few "nice" bits of furniture were the result of Dobby and him visiting the nearby city dump and recovering some items. Reparo and Scourgify made a fearsome combination. He might be able to augment his income by fixing things and reselling them until he could actually get a paying job or whenever he could start selling the crops growing in the greenhouse.
Magic was, of course, bringing in the crops quicker. Dobby had severely understated his farming skills. The elf's abilities far outstripped everything Harry knew about the subject either from school or his time in Petunia's yard.
Glancing at his other elf, Harry still felt bad over Winky's injuries and had made more of an effort to get to know her better. The female was considerably more level headed than Dobby. Not that he wanted to know, but he had her tell him about raising Barty Crouch, Junior because it was important to her. She asked him about the things Dobby had told her about Harry's time at the Dursley's.
Dobby had some bizarre ideas about his time with the "nasty, nasty Muggles." Sure they were pretty miserable excuses for human beings, but the elf's distorted imagination dreamed up a few things that most certainly did not happen.
"Winky needs to heal physically, but the more I hear…the more I think Dobby needs to heal mentally."
After keeping her company for the better part of two hours, Harry Apparated to a spot where he could overlook the city of Delphi and work on his magic. This area was outside of the park boundaries, so he didn't have to worry about the cameras that caught his Animagus form. He cast a strong Muggle repeller to ensure that if there were any campers in the area that they wouldn't travel in this direction. The airbase was north, about fifteen kilometers on the other side of the city. From what Harry could gather, the airbase was a training command and they didn't fly over the city at night because of the civilian populace.
Starting with a decent sized rock, Harry animated it and made it grow four legs. By the time he was finished with it, the construct looked like a stone cow. The budding prankster in him considered making ten of these statues and leaving them in a circle next to a hiking trail.
"It could be the Caprica Cowhenge!"
He decided to go the full way and transfigure it from stone to bovine. When he finished, he immobilized it just like Dumbledore and Sirius would and gave it a thorough inspection. The definition around the legs looked real enough, but the whole area around the udders was a certifiable mess. He'd screwed that up completely.
Switching to his holly wand, Harry redid the transfiguration with what seemed like considerably more effort and checked the work again. It wasn't perfect, but it was much closer.
Disappointed that fine control using the Elder Wand eluded him, he returned the cow to the original base material and wondered how best to correct this. If he were being honest with himself, he wasn't in the mood to keep casting spells.
"Maybe this thing with Maggie has me all worked up?" he thought, and looked out at the city. Up until now, he'd resisted the urge to go exploring beyond his invisible trips to the dump, but he figured his language skills were now good enough to where he could function in a conversation.
Thinking back, he'd never really been exploring in a big city. It wasn't like the Dursleys had taken him anywhere. The few times he'd gone to London were either to get to King's Cross, Diagon Alley, or the Ministry. Even his time "on the run" with Sirius and Dumbledore kept them away from the large cities.
Exhaling slowly, Harry realized that his days of at the Open Arms weren't really doing him as much good as they used to. It was time to get out and see this society. There was only so much he could learn by looking at broadcasts, talking to the staff and patients, and using Maggie's gridbox. Bolstered by his first time kissing someone that ended in mutual enjoyment, Harry made his decision. It was time to take in a few sights.
Delphi was nowhere near the size of Caprica City. The pictures he had seen on the videos were somewhat intimidating. From the statistics on it, Harry suspected that the population of England's top five cities could be contained within. Delphi was probably closer to London's size.
Going back into the greenhouse, he let Winky know that he was going exploring and grabbed the few Colonial coins he'd either found or been given since his arrival. It was a paltry sum, but he took it anyway.
Using his cloak, he Apparated toward the lights of the city. Other than the museum where he arch was located and a couple of instances where Nancy Edmondson had taken him into Delphi, this was all unfamiliar territory.
He found the areas around the skyscrapers to be mostly empty this time of night. A few windows were illuminated and he could see an occasional person at a desk or cleaning staff.
"Right now, that's probably one of the few jobs I could actually get when I finally have an ID."
Growing bored, he decided to Apparate to the top of a building and look for someplace more interesting. He saw lights and vehicles a few streets over. With a quick crack, Harry appeared closer to that area.
"Looks like a nightclub district," Harry thought. Through the window of the club across the street from the building he now stood on top of, he saw a topless waitress bringing a tray of drinks around. Like the unisex bathroom, this took some getting used to. From the couple of times he'd been out on the grid with Maggie as his only supervision, he knew that the society tolerated a greater level of nudity than where he came from. People, especially in the Virtual world, behaved like none of their actions carried any type of consequence.
Of course when Maggie's avatar got uninhibited, it ended with Harry getting his first meaningful kiss. It amused him to no end to contrast her grid behavior with the considerably more restrained real world version.
Using his old wand, Harry cast a glamor charm to make him appear like Sirius Black. Harry certainly didn't want to be recognized.
Another apparition and he was walking down the sidewalk and trying to feel like a normal person out and enjoying the nightlife. Harry was certain that he couldn't look more out of place if he tried. Still he managed to enter some kind of pub and gaming hall filled with loud noise, music, and laughter. The most "out of control" party experience Harry had to this point had been the parties Fred and George Weasley put together after a Quidditch match.
The scene in front of him made that look like a bloody tea party.
"Can I get you anything?" a voice asked. Harry turned to find the topless waitress he'd seen from the other side of the street. He tried his best not to stare…or drool.
"Something sweet," he said. In his confusion the first thing that came to mind was a butterbeer.
She smiled and replied, "Okay, how about a glass of Scorpion Green?"
Having no clue what that was, Harry nodded. He sincerely doubted that anything in the Cyrannus system would knock him on his arse the way Fire-whiskey did. There was the added bonus that if he did like it, he could have Hufflepuff's cup make a glass or two for him.
"I win again!" Harry heard a shout and it was emphasized with a thump on the table.
Turning, he spotted the source. It was a woman wearing a military leather jacket ,waving a bottle of alcohol in one hand and using the other to nudge the pile of cubits on the table into her pile. It looked like she'd just won a decent sized pot. She tilted the bottle and sloshed more down.
"Slow down there, Kara," the man sitting next to her said. He was a tall and lean man who also wore the same type of jacket. Obviously, they were from the nearby base. Looking around the room, he saw several others and wondered whether this was a regular occurrence or if a class had just graduated.
She dismissed his concerns with a wave of her hand. "I got this, Helo. The drunker I get, the easier it is for me to take their money. I can do this all night!"
Harry knew the card game was called pyramid. He'd seen some of the more coherent patients and even a few of the staff play, but he hadn't learned much beyond the basics. Back on Earth, Vernon Dursley liked to spend a few pounds on the races now and then, but the Colonials appeared to really enjoy their gambling. Others at the edge of the table made side bets on which of the five players would take the next hand.
Watching the cards being dealt, Harry concentrated on Kara's eyes. They seemed to move quickly about; drinking in her opponents faster than her mouth consumed the beverage. She offered only a small token bet and Harry could tell that the woman knew she wasn't going to win the hand. He turned to study the "side action," but realized that you could only bet on who would win the hand, not who wouldn't.
The waitress returned with his neon green beverage and told him that it would be four cubits. Harry added two more for a tip and hoped that it was enough. She gave him a smile and sauntered away. He had ten more in his pocket, but hoped the woman at the table would help him increase that number shortly. The glass of Scorpia Green was sweet and rather potent when Harry tested it. It had a fruity aftertaste, but was acceptable.
Sure enough, the ensign lost the hand. Harry watched her eyes again on the next hand and saw the fleeting hint of a predatory gleam in them. It was good enough for Harry. He bet his five cubits on Kara to win.
A minute later, Harry had an additional five cubits. Twenty minutes later, he'd turned his ten cubits into thirty. There was a brief moment where Harry caught Kara's eyes and he felt something similar to the featherlight touch of Legilimency that reminded him of Dumbledore, but much weaker. Even with his meager training, Harry brushed it aside with ease.
It definitely shocked Harry and Kara frowned at him. During his instruction in the mental arts, Dumbledore had mentioned that extremely perceptive and those who trained as duelists were capable of a passive form of Legilimency that he called skimming. It wasn't intrusive and could only pick up just a hint of information. This Kara woman seemed able to skim. It was probably why she was able to easily best the other players at the table, despite her obviously intoxicated state.
She shook her head, clearing the cobwebs in her mind and returned her attention to the game, but Harry had disrupted whatever mojo she had and Kara lost the next two hands and appeared less certain. Harry stopped betting on her while he still had twenty-five cubits and finished the drink he'd been nursing. He left and wanted to get back outside. Encountering even a weak form of magic here on Caprica wasn't something he'd expected. He'd seen some history programs about the accuracy of various oracles and knew that latent talents might exist. Poking around the grid there had been some legends of a group of semi-tribal warriors called the Borellian Nomen who swore by an ancient chieftain who reportedly could take the form of an animal.
There was also anecdotal and even some captured evidence of people who claimed to be "touched by the gods" and given great strength in a time of need or incredible bursts of speed that saved them from certain death. These miracles were attributed to the blessings of the gods, but to Harry they sounded more like bouts of accidental magic.
He Apparated back to the roof and waited for Kara and her friend called Helo to exit. He wanted to follow her and perhaps learn if there was something he was missing. Twenty minutes passed before he saw a familiar pair in green military flight jackets staggering out of the gaming hall and down the sidewalk nearby. The blonde, short-haired female seemed to be the either pretending to be more drunk than she'd let on, or the alcohol had finally taken its toll on her.
"Come on Kara," the male said. "Let's get a cab back to the base."
"Frak that Karl!" She slurred her reply. "We graduated and earned our wings tonight! Don't you get it? We're the real deal now! No more trainee Thrace or trainee Agathon. Never again gonna be a nugget! Nothing's going to stop us now and I'm not going to stop partying as long as I can still stand!"
The male named Karl laughed and said, "Well considering you're not doing so hot right now, I think we're about done."
The woman made a clumsy dismissive gesture with her left hand and then grabbed a lamppost. She tugged jacket open and looked at her shirt. "Did I wear a bra tonight?"
Her only slightly more sober partner answered, "I don't remember dressing you, Kara."
Pulling her shirt up allowed Harry to confirm that she in fact wasn't wearing a bra. A couple of guys walking on the other side of the street shouted their approval. Kara threw them a crude hand gesture.
"I could have sworn I had one when we left the barracks."
Harry popped over to the next roof as the duo started walking again. Their antics were amusing.
"You were in the bathroom back there for a long time," Karl said. "Did you make a new friend?"
"Why? Are you jealous? Don't worry, Helo. You're my best friend."
"I think you meant to say, 'only friend,'" he said.
"I can't help it if the rest of those wannabees aren't fit to polish my boots. Good thing you are, even if you're gonna fly a Craptor instead of a real ship."
Karl laughed and said, "Real ships have a FTL drive, Starbuck. I've seen you try to calculate a jump. You have the same look on your face when you're passing gas."
"What the hell is a Starbuck?" Harry wondered as the female protested that she doesn't break wind. "Wait what's that?"
He saw four men walking in their direction. Two of them were the ones he'd been betting with and the other two had been at the table with Kara. They knew good and well how many cubits she carried. The men moved casually, but one of them kept looking to the sides of the street to see if anyone was watching. Harry got a bad feeling and didn't like where this was headed. The duo turned the corner and started down a sparsely populated side street.
As the four men continued their leisurely pursuit and separated from each other. Harry switched made sure the wand in his hand was his old wand and not the Deathstick. If he had to intervene, he needed his magic under control. A ridiculously overpowered stunner might stop a person's heart.
Harry ran through his lists of spells and started with the ones that would be hardest to see. The red light of a stunner was far too noticeable, but a tripping jinx is a thin ribbon of pale blue color that could blend in easily. He spotted an alley where he could conduct his little ambush, but Kara spun around and saw the quartet.
"Hey!" she shouted. "I know you guys. Karl, these were the guys who gave me all their cubits at the card table. You frakkers suck!"
Kara degenerated into a fit of hysterical laughter, while Karl gave the appearance of a man who knew they were in trouble.
"Let's just take it easy," Karl said.
Harry interpreted the words one way, but the others took that as an invitation to charge. Agathon was larger and in much better shape, but they had the numbers. Kara threw a couple of wild punches, one of which landed, before the man assaulting her threw her up against the side of the building. As she slid to the ground, Harry decided he'd seen enough. Apparating a couple of feet behind the man towering over Kara, he sent a stunner into the man's back at point blank range.
One of the goons holding Karl's arms got a clear Confundus charm while the other took a tripping jinx and fell into the street, releasing the pilot's arm.
Karl spun the confused man in between him and the one who had been working over his gut and mashed his fist into the nearest face.
The one in the street turned and saw Harry. He scrambled to his feet and came running. Harry let him get close enough before whispering, "Stupefy."
The red jet hit the man in the stomach and Harry caught the man as he fell and made a show of doing a fake punch using his wand hand. Pulling back for a second "punch," Harry slid his wand up his sleeve.
Harry dumped the man onto the sidewalk and saw that the fourth had run off. Karl looked at him, over to Kara, and then at the two bodies on the ground.
"Nice moves," Karl said.
"Lightweights," Harry replied. "You didn't need my help. Are you calling the police?"
The man rubbed his cheek and spit a little blood out of his mouth. "No, we're flying off planet tomorrow and I have no desire to spend my last night here filling out paperwork. I say leave we leave 'em. Besides, she's in no shape to be around any authority figures. Of course the same could be said even if she wasn't drunk."
His plan seemed reasonable enough to Harry.
"I don't want to sound like I'm an ingrate, but you look a little young to be out and about at this time of night."
Harry suddenly realized his glamor charm must have worn off. Trying to hide his surprise and cursing himself for not renewing it, he shrugged and said, "Boyish good looks. It's a blessing and a curse."
Karl didn't look entirely convinced, perhaps even a bit wary, and Harry decided to change the topic. "Do you need help with your friend?"
His words came out broken and uneven as his nerves began getting the better of him. Internally, Harry grimaced, knowing he'd overestimated his verbal skills and there was more work to do.
The man eyed him curiously before walking over and bending down on one knee. Harry followed as Karl asked, "Starbuck? Are you okay?"
"My head hurts, but I saw pretty colors," she slurred. "Can we go back to the base now?"
He helped her up and as he did so, Harry cast a quick sobering charm on both of them. Karl immediately shook his head. From Kara's face, Harry thought it might take several minutes to set in.
"Thanks again. I didn't catch your name," Karl said, still looking at him oddly.
"No problem. I didn't give it. Safe travels," Harry replied and started crossing the street.
"Hey, wait!" Karl said, but Harry was certain he'd overstayed his welcome.
Stepping into an alley, Harry disappeared with a soft crack, returning to the rooftop where he'd left his cloak, and watched them. Karl stared into the alley for a moment before helping Kara walk back to the relative safety of the bar district. The muggers seemed like they'd been just looking to rob the two pilots and rough them up, so he hadn't saved any lives tonight, but it did give him a good feeling knowing that he'd done something more than just mow the grass, magically repair broken glass, or a crack in the wall. It balanced the books for those extra cubits in Harry's pocket.
Actually encountering a person with even the smallest amount of magical talent made Harry feel less isolated and alone. It wasn't much, but even so, he'd take a pinch of positive karma where he could get it. Too bad that female pilot was leaving Caprica, but maybe he'd find others out there.
Either way, he would be interacting with this new world on a regular basis, and this wasn't a bad start at all.
Author's Notes – Sorry about the delay in posting. Things have been busy with the "start" of convention season and several other real life things. I'd like to thank the people who showed up at ShevaCon specifically because I'd mentioned that I was being there. Hope you enjoy the new books! I've got chapter 13 started, but I'm not too far into it at the moment. Progress should be made over the weekend.