Title: Eris and Aurora, 1/5

Length: 6,000 words, roughly, this part.

Rating: PG, language and concepts. Will be M and NC-17 in later parts.

Characters: Kara, Lee, Adama as foci. Will be K/L later.

Notes: AU, begins during the mini-series. Occasional back story flashbacks. No spoilers for anything beyond the mini-series at this point. All time references refer to the Cylon Attack on the colonies as 0 hour; time will be referred to a positive or negative reference to that date.

Summary: "Godsdamn Kara Thrace. Who is this woman? Discord herself?" Three Adama men, and the woman at the heart of their conflicts.

-3 years

"Lieutenant Thrace: for what reason did you fail Cadet Adama during his basic flight qualifications test?"

"I failed him because he failed, sir."

"He failed? Could you be more specific?"

The pilot-instructor stood at attention, her eyes fixed on a spot on the wall. There were shadows under her eyes that spoke pain or lack of sleep or both, and with skin so fair as hers, they stood out, great bruised marks. Her hair, that eye-catching silver-blonde mop, was scraped back off her face, but curled, darker and dampened, at the back of her neck. "Yes, sir. He failed to correctly perform three of the five required maneuvers, sir. That's an automatic failure."

"Lieutenant, why were you romantically involved with one of your students?"

The pilot-instructor bit her lip, and for a moment, fire flashed in her gaze. "With all due respect, Colonel -"

"Answer the question, Starbuck."

She paused, swallowed. Her eyes went back to the wall. "We became involved more than fourteen months before he became one of my students, sir. It wasn't contrary to regulations."

"And when it became obvious that he would be one of your nuggets, you didn't end it?"

The young woman bit her lip. "It was too late for that, sir."

There was a little silence. Then finally the major drummed his fingers on the bench. "Lieutenant Thrace, was your relationship with Cadet Adama continuing, at the time of his flight test?"

She stared at the wall. Her body stiffened, and for a second, her eyes flicked to the audience, to where Lee Adama sat. The seat next to him was empty: Zak hadn't been able to bear this. Finally she spoke, her voice cracking. "No, sir. It was over, sir."

Lee let out a breath in relief and risked a look at the Commander. The old man's face was granite. Angry. But Zak would get a chance to test again, at least.

And then he looked at Kara, who had just been dismissed. Her face had the taut, glazed expression he'd come to learn was the last calm before the storm. She went out without looking at him, her posture military-correct but her stride too fast, too long. Nearly running, nearly crying.

"The panel finds there is sufficient conflict of interest to endorse the request of Commander Adama; Cadet Adama is entitled to retest immediately in Basic Flight. His examiner will be -"

The formalities droned on for a second, and Lee realised with a start that his father was standing, rose hurriedly beside him. "Thank you, Colonel Trevis. And Lieutenant Thrace?"

"Sir," the colonel responded, his eyes hard. "Thrace has been one of my best, and most effective instructors for three years. She's the best pilot I've ever seen. I certainly do not endorse her involvement with one of her students, but while it was a bad choice, it was not only her choice, was it? There is no evidence to support a claim of bias. Cadet Adama's previous flight records do not reassure me that he would have passed with a different instructor; just the opposite. But because there is verifiable conflict of interest, he'll get a second chance."

The officer closed his file, straightened his formal tunic. "It's only fair that my instructor fares similarly, isn't it?"

Lee winced, could almost feel the anger radiating off the man beside him. "She tried to ruin my son's career, Colonel."

"It's her job to do just that, Commander. It's her job to make sure that the people we send up in Vipers can cut it. It's her job to fail them now, so they don't get themselves killed later. It's his word against hers why she failed him, and he's got his chance to prove it. I'm determined to give Starbuck the same."

Commander Adama wasted no more time in argument, but turned on his heel and left. Lee watched the chief instructor of Sparta Military Academy, Picon, pick up his files, watched the expression on the older man's face, almost jumped when Trevis spoke to him. "Something I can do for you, Lieutenant Adama?"

He wanted to ask where he'd find Kara, but the man wouldn't know, most likely. He wanted to ask why Trevis had given in so readily to the old man's demands, if he believed Kara's word. He wanted to know what the man thought really happened between his brother and his friend, but the thoughts were too tangled to loose even one.

"Sir, no sir."

Two weeks later, back at his post aboard Atlantia, the word came through. Zak got his wings, and they killed him.

+6 hours

"Colonial Fleet recognition signals, Sir!"

Dee's voice jarred Colonel Tigh out of his reverie, and for a moment, he resented it. The end of the worlds, and he survived. Was that a good thing? Still half-abstracted, he didn't think, just let the automatic reply come to his lips. "Identify, Dee?"

"Not a battlestar, sir; they'd have signal boosters, and what I'm getting is being broken up by the electrostatic interference. But whatever it is, it's coming through that cloud, on the far side of Ragnar moon. And it's fast. Will be weapons range in three minutes."

"Through the cloud?" His fingers twitched towards the cup as he turned abruptly on Gaeta, clenched. No; no time for that now. No place for that now. Do your job, Saul. "Gaeta?"

"We're still only two-thirds through the rearmament sir, and Commander Adama's still aboard Ragnar, along with most of Tyrol's deck crew. DC Alpha crew are in full skin, out working on the hull damage. We can't decouple from the station."

"Kelly?"

The LSO put a hand over his headset's 'phone, "Five vipers out there, sir. I have them flying interdict between the cloud break and the civilian ships. I think I can get two more out."

"Do it, and move some of your watchdogs off the sheep and into this mix. Whatever that thing is, I want something between it and us. Jeren, lets prep the starboard guns, plot me an perimeter solution. And someone get word to Tyrol, see if we can't get the old man off the station before ..."

The resulting bustle was kind of soothing, reassuring. He leaned against the dradis console, watching the red dot marked unidentified fade in and out as it crawled across the screen towards them. "Frakkin' clouds," he snarled at the monitor. "Can't we filter this out somehow?"

"No sir - it's the signal that it's interfering with, not our equipment." Dee worked dials and switches in an attempt anyway. "Sir, Vipers in interdict position, Apollo's on the line."

It was tough to have to let Lee Adama go on alert status as a pilot, knowing it would be likely that they'd have to send him out almost immediately. His old man hadn't even been told Apollo was alive yet - there'd been no time. But knowing Lee was in a Viper somehow, conversely, made Tigh feel a little better, too: if the kid was anything like his father - and his record said he was, in the cockpit at least - he was a hell of a pilot. And that was precisely what he needed between Galactica and ... whatever this was. "Put him through. Apollo, you copy?"

"Yes sir. No visual yet, but Boomer's dradis is still reporting Fleet signals. It's too garbled to pick out the ID numbers, though, but the computer's recognizing too much for it to be a fake."

"Why'd they fly through the cloud, then? Ragnar gate is clearly marked on the charts."

"Got me, sir. But I wouldn't wanna fly through that murk. Whoever it is, they got balls."

"Or they're Cylons, and aren't afraid of dying."

"Copy that, sir."

"Galactica, Boomer. Signal strength increasing, should have visual any second -"

"Contact!" Apollo whooped. "Looks Colonial, sir - Archer-class. Setting up interdict."

"An Archer?" Tigh muttered. "What the frak is one of the reconnaissance fleet doing here? They were all supposed to have bought it with the Proteus battlegroup, near Picon - Boomer, hail them, tell them to turn their engines the frak off and keep their distance 'till we sort this out. And get me an ID!"

"Hailing us, sir." Dee replied, flicked a switch and the transmission seemed too loud in the sudden silence of CIC.

"Galactica, this is the Colonial Fleet Scout ship, Aurora, Captain Kara Thrace commanding. Not that we're not glad to see you, or anything, but I wouldn't send anybody out the gate right now. There's at least two full squadrons of Cylons out there, waiting... and a pair of BaseStars."

Tigh, his jaw still slack with surprise, felt it tighten with fear. Over the comms, he heard Apollo mutter 'frak'. Took the words right out of my mouth, kid. Your old man's gonna love this. He exhaled noisily, thumbed his com-button. "Aurora, this is Colonel Tigh, Galactica's XO. What's your status?"

"Sir, we took some damage; our port dorsal engine's fried, and I've got some compartments sealed off back there. Personnel count is down a few - we lost half-a-dozen vipers at Picon, and took a few hits, with a few more casualties. Other than that, we're flying."

"Both our slips are tied up at present, Captain, so get yourself into a steady orbit, then report to CIC over here. Do I need to send a raptor?"

"Sir, no thank you, sir. I'll manage." The woman's voice was steady. "Sir, my medical crew offers their assistance, if necessary."

"Good. Bring them with you. Tigh out."

"Starbuck out," she echoed. Galactica's XO stared at the wireless set, shaking his head. Thrace made it. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at that. It seemed the height of irony, under the circumstances; Bill Adama had spent more than two years trying to have Kara Thrace discharged or demoted or something - anything - in restitution for the death of his younger son. He hadn't quite succeeded, but then again, lead pilot of the flight contingent of a reconnaissance vessel was not a posting pilots dreamed of.

Then again, neither was a berth on Galactica - at least, it hadn't been, before today.

Still, she was here, and it was one more thing the Old Man would have to deal with. There was a very large question to be asked, though. Aurora survived: where was her CO? or her XO? Why was a mere captain, hot pilot or not, at the helm of the light attack ship? And how had she survived the battle at Picon, with the rest of the fleet destroyed?

It wasn't a question he could answer yet; and at any rate, it wasn't his question to ask. Lower rank or not, Thrace apparently commanded the ship, and there were certain courtesies involved, even in war. Besides, Bill - if Saul knew him at all - would want to be the one who asked those questions. And he'd want the answers, first hand.

"Dee, get me a status report on the rearmament and find out where the frak the commander is on that station." He tossed the command over his shoulder, heard her affirmatives. "Good. Mister Gaeta, it's your deck." The thought was a relief, even though he had tougher problems on his hands right now than standing a watch in CIC. Gods, he thought, what I wouldn't give for a drink.

+8 hours

Lee is alive.

He hadn't really heard the rest of it, hadn't cared. Knew there was more, knew about Thrace, the Aurora, the civilian fleet. The apparent President, waiting in the admiralty suite. The cylon, on its way to the morgue. It was a blur, because his son is alive and nothing else could drown out that chant in his head.

He'd been walking Galactica's corridors for ten years. They'd never seemed so long before. It was hard to keep his pace down, not to run, rank be damned. But he needed these few minutes, needed to be able to tune out whatever ire his son might spit at him, needed to be able to show him, even if the words wouldn't come. He could do that, couldn't he?

Not far to go, now, the door loomed, thirty steps maybe. He tried not to lengthen his stride, tried to tell his body that if Lee was in that room, if he really was there, then he wasn't going to disappear. Not like Zak.

Dignity be frakked. He let his pace match his heartbeat, pulled the hatch open and stopped dead on the threshold: Lee. Alive, breathing, his eyes locked on the photograph that had been on that spot on that desk for ten years. Lee, grieving.

He stepped up, didn't let his son stalk away. Not this time. And when Lee's form relaxed, when the answering embrace wrapped around him...

It was only a little later. They drank water, because neither of them could afford the distraction of alcohol. They spoke quietly, mostly about the ships, how many pilots, how Lee had fended off a Cylon missile. Finally, when the frequent pauses were growing uncomfortable, Lee brought up something that Commander Adama really didn't want to discuss. He felt his face smooth out into inscrutability, and harden there.

"I don't want to discuss Captain Thrace."

"No, sir. But I need to know what you want me to do about pilots. Aurora's contingent, along with ours, makes almost the two squadrons of a Battlestar's usual complement. And Aurora has damage to their launch and landing deck - looked to me like a missile strike, midships. It'll be a while before they can get back to full operational status." Lee paused, his mouth a tight line. "We're already penned in here. How long do you plan to stay at Ragnar after we've rearmed?"

"I want to be out of here as soon as possible. The longer we stay, the more entrenched the Cylons will be."

Lee paused again, didn't look at him. "And the civilians?"

"They'll be safe here, for the meantime. The Cylons don't cope well in this murk."

It was an ugly patch of space, alright, Adama acknowledged. Dirty, opaque cloud, shot through with sparks, jets, streams of static charge that could fry a ship, turn her systems into so much electronic junk. He could see it out the window, his small view port one of the privileges of command: a view of space. It was ugly, but it was, for the time being, his best defense. He'd hate to have to take a ship into that.

Almost on cue, the station's rotation - and Galactica's, while they were docked - brought the Aurora into view, the flattened wedge of the scout ship showing dreadful scars... yet it came through the cloud, apparently unscathed, at least from that encounter. "How in the seven hells did she do it?" he muttered at the view port.

"You can ask her, sir." Lee jerked his head in the general direction of CIC. "She reported in - flew a raptor over with her medstaff aboard, and a few casualties they thought would benefit from better facilities - and is currently in CIC, setting up crew listings and inventory with Gaeta. And something about Viper programming."

"I will." There were a few other things he'd like to ask Thrace, too. Only some of them were tactical. "But she can wait. First I have to deal with President Roslin."

"She is the president, sir."

"You're sure?"

"I was there. The automated message came through while I was on the flight deck of her ship." His son looked at the floor, then up at him, his jaw set. "I watched her listen to the Case Orange broadcast, watched her transmit her ID back. She's the only surviving member of the Colonial executive."

"For what that's worth," he couldn't help muttering. "She expects us to ride herd on her refugee ships. But she's a bureaucrat, not a soldier."

"Maybe. But she has a job to do, too."

"Then she can do it. But I have a war to fight." A war I've feared, I've expected for more than thirty years.

Lee's chin firmed again, his lips a flat line, but he dropped the issue. "At any rate, let me know what you want me to do about Aurora's pilots. I better get back to the deck. Thank you for your time, sir." He saluted, his posture stiff and formal. Ten minutes ago, he'd been a son again, and now he was a subordinate. A soldier. It made Bill proud. It made his chest ache.

He looked at his blood spattered tunic, the dress blues darkened along the epaulette, the grey trim brown around the collar, and got a fresh one for his meeting with the new president. The corridor didn't seem as long this time, but the thought struck him halfway down it that he'd spent more time waiting for a war than his son had been alive. He'd been right, when everyone had called him a fool. But the thought was too bitter. He'd rather have been wrong.

+9 hours

It wasn't what he hoped their first meeting in so long would be like.

Last time he'd seen her - two years ago, in a cell in Fleet Headquarters - she'd been close to crazy with grief. She was drunk, angry and still mourning; it had seemed to Lee as though the three months since Zak's death had eaten her from the inside. She was too thin, her eyes reddened, her muscles tense and flexing under skin that was simultaneously dull and paper-thin. Had she not been eating properly? Surviving on caffeine, nicotine, alcohol? Did she never sleep? She'd glared at him through the bars and gone back to her workout - gods only knew how she could do push ups with what must be the hangover from Hades itself.

And now?

Lee had recognized her before he could see more than the slant of her shoulders in the press of the maintenance bay; caught a glimpse of her hair, boyishly cut as always. As he ducked through the crowd, too new to Galactica to be recognizable at all, let alone acknowledged as CAG, he saw her duck, push herself under the Viper she'd been next to. She was still there, booted, flight-suited legs protruding from under the chassis as she worked.

She hadn't seen him. He contemplated kicking his toes into the sole of her boot, but he wasn't sure their old camaraderie existed now; she might deck him. She'd done it before. Instead, he let himself take her in: firm muscles under the tanks she'd worn beneath the flight suit, feminine curves with spare, graceful strength. Ivory skin - and a smear of grease across her jaw. He couldn't help but smile. "Hey."

Her hands stopped moving. Slowly her head turned, angling so she could see him around the curve of the Viper's hull. Then she pushed out from beneath it, wrapped strong (if grimy) fingers around his proffered hand and let him help her up. Her hand was warm. "Lee..." she said at last. "Thought you were dead."

"Thought you were, too," he said, a similar pause afflicting him before he could get his mouth to work.

"It's good to be wrong," she said, and smiled, and oh gods, it was Kara and suddenly years fell away and Lee found himself grinning back at her, the old flippant replies coming to his lips as automatic as breathing.

She grinned wider, and by the time he realized he still held her hand, he felt as though his face might ache. Their hands fell apart slowly, then, sinking down, drifting, before the last contact of skin faded away. "Repairs?" he said, and jerked his chin at the Viper without looking away from her.

"She'll be ready to launch in an hour." Kara reached for a rag, scrubbed her hands with it, and then grinning, offered it to him. "Of course, it's one of yours, not one of mine."

"You have these relics on Aurora?" he asked, eyebrows going up. The Mark-2 craft had been literally museum exhibits before the attacks. "What for?"

"EmCon effective. You can fly these with almost no avionics package, and no navigation suite, if you're good. We had six as training models, tweaked a bit, but still the basic systems. You can also launch 'em without the tubes." Her face went flat. "Most of our sevens never made it out, at Picon; systems shut down while they were in the tubes. The six that did..."

Lee nodded. He knew what had happened to pilots in the newer, computer-assisted Vipers.

"So," she said, switching tack with her old, familiar abruptness, "I hear you're a CAG now."

"So they tell me," he said. He grinned, but it was rueful.

"That's good. Though," and she looked at him through eyes suddenly wicked with humor, "it'd be the last thing I'd want. I'm not a big enough dipstick for the job."

Lee didn't realize how much he needed to laugh until it was pouring out of him, out of both of them, till they were leaning against the side of the viper, shoulders touching and shaking helplessly. It took a minute to slow, a minute more until they could breathe again, look each other in the face. It would be nice to stop there, in the familiar, comfortable place they'd had, once upon a time. "Congratulations on captain," he said at last, remembering the stab of pride he'd had when he heard her say her name and rank on the wireless. "When did that happen?"

"Four months ago. Rhys surprised me with it, the bastard. He knew I didn't want to rank up."

"Surprised he let you, with your record." It was a faux pas; her record was relatively clean. It was the things that weren't on it that had done all the damage.

Kara stiffened, but she covered it well. "Yeah, well. I think he just wanted another command rank aboard the ship to shuffle off his admin duties to."

"Wouldn't blame him if he had. Paperwork..."

She groaned. "Don't say that word to me."

"Can't have been that bad, on a scout ship. You guys wouldn't even have had mail call most of the time..."

"Mail would be easier than trying to keep thirty-two pilots from going stir-crazy for months at a stretch in a ship the size of a soup can!"

They both laughed a little, but it wasn't really funny. "You know, as Lead Pilot on your ship, you probably have more command experience than me, Kara."

"Keep your voice down," she drawled mockingly. "If you think I wanna do your job you need your head examined." More laughter, but her smile had a bitter twist to it. "Besides, I can think of likelier events than my being made CAG on your old man's ship, Lee. Like the Cylons deciding it was all a big mistake, and taking off again for wherever the frak they came from."

And that wasn't funny either. Not at all.

"Yeah. Well, I wish neither of us had to deal with him."

"Don't you think we've lost enough, Apollo? Be glad you've still got an old man."

Lee couldn't help laughing at that, a mockery of humor. "You're defending him? Gods, Kara, he nearly ruined your career. And Zak -"

"Same old Lee," she interrupted, shook her head slowly, "You haven't changed a bit, have you? Still holding your theories close and your grudges closer."

That stung. "Zak was my brother!"

"What was he to me, nothing?" The rejoinder was so fast, so whip-sharp, it cut him at the heart.

"You know that's not what I meant, Kara."

"I think I should go," she shrugged off the hand he had on her arm, began zipping herself back into the upper part of her flight-suit. "Not sure my record could stand it if I hit another Adama."

Her salute was crisp, but her eyes were miserable. Lee watched her walk away, across the hangar deck, and wondered again just why it was that they always left each other bruised deep under the skin.

+9 hours, forty minutes

It was the closest thing to an interrogation she'd ever seen outside the brig. Commander Adama, with his glare firmly fixed, flanked by his XO and the newly sworn President, didn't move from his seat, and didn't offer her one. Kara stood at parade rest, trying to keep a lid on the maelstrom of emotions and keep her answers clear and calm.

Lee stood at the side, at a distance, as always. Same old Lee.

"Under whose orders," Adama asked, slowly and clearly as though he considered her a moron, "did you retreat from the battle near Picon?"

"My own, sir."

"I see. Care to explain why that should convince me, Captain?"

She didn't much care about her rank, but that was the first time she'd ever heard it used as an insult.

"Sir, I was there, in my viper, when the cylons blew Proteus out of the sky. It was gone, sparks. Aurora was still flying, and there were a few other vipers, but most of them were just drifting, dead in the water. Nothing else, no battlestars, no cruisers, no other ships at all. Just us. My comms officer had just finished sending that information on the fleet channel when Aurora took a blast midships, a missile that made it through the perimeter fire, and then the channel went dead. The bridge was out, and I called the pilots back close to the ship, within the perimeter, to keep off any more fire. Next thing I heard, my CMO's on the channel, telling me Major Wiley was dead and Colonel Marrol was down."

"Down? Not dead?" The president queried, leaning forward in her seat. Kara flicked her eyes over the woman, not sure what to make of the inscrutable expression or the imperturbable calm. At least she wasn't an outright enemy, like the Commander. The thought hit her under the heart: Zak's father hates me. Zak's dead.

"No, Ma'am. I wasn't sure of that at the time, but he was unconscious, head injuries from the blast. XO was under the same gangway when it came down, but wasn't so lucky; it broke his neck." It cost her a pang to remember Jake Wiley; his curt manners and bluff humor so much like her own. "With both of them out, it was me or no-one. I got my people back aboard ship, along with a few other drifting pilots, and got us the hell out of there."

"Under enemy fire?" Adama was almost scoffing. "You were the only target, and you still had time to get away?"

"Aurora is a light attack ship, sir" she found herself snapping back. "Admiral Nagala had us and the Alekto on the very edge of the conflict, to outflank and harry any lighter Cylon ships. The Cylons didn't focus on us until the Battlestars were all gone. Yes, we had time. Four minutes before the base ships had us in range. Four minutes that cost me six pilots, sir. Up until then, it was just those frakkin' raiders and their missiles that we had to deal with."

"You said the bridge was out. How did you jump away after getting your fighters back aboard?"

He should know this, the smug bastard. "It's not a battlestar, sir. Helm and FTL are not in the command center, they're in the forward bow."

"But the navigational computers -"

"I didn't use them."

Silence reigned. It would have felt good, except she was tired, pissed off, itching to knock her superior officer's teeth down his raspy throat. She wanted five minutes alone, five minutes to remember Wicks and Checkers and Twotone and Lace, to say goodbye to Jake and Dessie before she had to mention their names again as statistics in a casualty report. But she had no chance of that, not yet.

"You jumped blind?"

"No, sir. I made the calculations by hand."

"You made them yourself."

"Yes, sir." It was fun to surprise the old bastard. "Look, sir, I may be a Viper pilot, but I've been aboard Aurora for two years. It's a small ship, with less than three hundred aboard including my pilots. There isn't that many officers of command rank, and all of us trained to handle her helm, if it became necessary." She tried to restrain her grin of malicious glee when she added, ostensibly offhand: "and surely, sir, you didn't think you were the only ship in the fleet reluctant to rely totally on your computers?"

For all the impact the statement made, Adama might have been made of granite. Tigh looked a little shell-shocked, however. The president had what might amount to a half-smile, but Lee (now carefully out of his father's line of sight) was biting his lip. Whether that was laughter or frustration, she couldn't tell. Yup. Same old Lee.

"You jumped to where?"

"Preset retreat co-ordinates. That was half the reason I was able to complete the calculations so quickly, only needed to factor in the start point on an inertial jump. A calculator and -"

"I asked where, Captain."

Kara felt her own teeth grinding. "Macedon sector, sir."

"Were there cylons there?"

"No, sir. That's where we picked up your rally signal."

"And you came straight here?"

"No, sir. Not enough fuel. The military refueling stations were blown - figured the Cylons blew them and left before we got there - so we made a pit stop at XH-441."

"That's a civilian facility," Tigh objected.

"It was closed a month ago, for repairs to the life-support systems." Gods, would the questions never end? "Sir."

"Captain Thrace," the president suggested quietly, "why don't you just tell us the rest of the story?"

Finally. Common frakking sense. "Thank you, Madam President." Adama didn't like it, but he shrugged as though it made little difference. Kara resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "In short, the cylons showed up as we finished refueling. There were a few civilian ships - the Hecuba and the Great Tauron - that were still tanking off the station. We covered them until they could jump, then jumped ourselves. Right before mark though my raptor support picked up a radiological alarm on one of the incoming raiders. I told them to jump, and put Aurora between the raider and the civvy ships. Our guns took out all but one of the nukes.

"'Rora's hull plating isn't heavy. I knew we couldn't take another blast midships, so I turned our ass to the blast, hoping the thicker stuff around the engine housings could hold most of it. It worked... fried the port ventral and left us leakier than a sieve in the aft engineering spaces, but it worked. We got to Ragnar Gate okay, sealed off our vented compartments, and got to work on getting the nav systems back online. I didn't want to run the Gate without better helm control. On three engines, she handles like a cow.

"We hadn't quite done with the quick fixes by the time the neighbors showed. We got away from the gate and out of sight behind the cloud, but when we couldn't raise you on wireless through the interference, there wasn't much choice but risk flying through."

"As simple as that? Just fly through?" Tigh sounded incredulous.

"Not simple, sir. We shut down all systems except life support and basic helm and engines. FTL and ordinance were completely offline. Dradis was useless anyway, but we turned that off too. Funnily enough, it was the frakked engine that made it possible. I had to fight the helm to keep her on course, and as long as I kept the same degree of yaw, I knew I was on track. If I'd just had her pointed nose to the needle, there'd have been no way to be sure we were going straight."

For a moment, Adama looked almost appreciative. "Quartering the wind?" he asked, his lip curling. The nautical expression wasn't so much traditional as clich├ęd, but it worked. Just an instant, a hint of kinship, of understanding, and it was gone again, his expression back to stony, eyes blue as ice and twice as cold. "So, then. Status report on your ship, Captain."

"Sir. Aurora lost five command crew, including the XO, seven pilots, seven vipers and twenty-four enlisted personnel during and after the battle near Picon, and seventeen more crew to the nuke at XH-441. We have fourteen injured, including Colonel Marrol and many of the communications staff, but my medics seem optimistic about them. Aurora's roster has twenty-two pilots fit for duty, including myself, and twenty-three vipers, though eighteen of those are mark-seven's, and vulnerable to whatever computer trick the toasters are using. The five others are adapted mark-two's. We have all six raptors and the full complement of our Raptor crew. Munitions are good, we have all eight tactical warheads still, though the ventral missile bay is fouled. The CMO reports medical stocks are good. You already have a full inventory and crew listing. Repairs are under way on both the engines and the hull breaches, though going is slow because the plating is still hot. The bridge was almost back online when I left for Galactica, sir."

That was the important stuff, twenty questions asked and answered, surely that was enough with the inquisition? Surely now, they could deal with sending her back to her ship? Gods, she'd give up her wings to sit down.

Almost.

"Very well. Have your people fill out their logs and send them over, Captain. In the meantime..."

Sleep. Please say it, sleep.

"... you're to work with Lt. Gaeta and Dr. Baltar on reprogramming our remaining Mark-seven vipers. I believe you have some experience with that?"

He was smug. The bastard was smug, it was pasted all over his scarred, supercilious face. Still, smug or not, bastard or not, he needed her. She failed one Adama. It wasn't the kind of experience she wanted to repeat. "Yes, sir. A little."

"Good. Dismissed."

Kara drew herself up, ignoring how much it hurt to force her muscles to attention, snapped a salute. Lee did likewise, but it surprised her not at all that the old man didn't release him. He didn't want Lee in the same room with her, probably didn't even want them on the same ship together.

Not that she could blame him for that.

In the end, Galactica herself intervened, the miles of causeways in the great old ship confusing and misleading her; Kara was too used to the smaller, cozier confines of the Aurora and her much more functional design. She was pretty sure she'd walked in a circle when Lee came out of a corridor on her right, his expression frosty. It thawed, just a little, when he saw her.

"Not that I am all that familiar with this can myself, Starbuck" he began, "but I think CIC's this way." He nodded back the way she'd come.

"Figures."

They walked in silence, letting the bustle of technicians and maintenance crew and sundry flow around them; a little space opened up just as they climbed the stairs that led to CIC. "For what it's worth" he said hesitantly, paused on the top step, "I suggested we let you rack out; you've had a busy day, and could probably use some sleep. But..." Lee shrugged slightly, helpless.

Kara couldn't help it, she smiled at him. Yeah, he was still the same old Lee. But that wasn't necessarily a totally bad thing. Adamas - even the original version - had a charm about them. Combined with Lee's looks - prettier than Zak, always was, the thought surfaced in her tired mind, and was quickly suppressed - he could have won over most women, if he tried.

Just then, Adama walked passed them, expressionless, but his posture tight with suspicion. Starbuck squared her shoulders, looked at the Commander's back so Lee wouldn't see how much it hurt that Zak's father ... cut it out, Thrace. "That's okay, Lee. I'll sleep when I'm dead."