Kara Thrace, better known as Starbuck, was a flight instructor at the Colonial Fleet base in Delphi on Caprica. Her favorite pastimes were flying vipers and tormenting her students.
One student in particular was fun to bother. His name was Zak, but she never called him that. Nothing gave Kara as much pleasure as ordering Zak around.
“Nugget! Stay late and polish my viper. I want to see my face shining in it by morning.”
“Sir, yes sir!”
‘Sir, yes sir’ was all Zak ever said to her.
“Nugget! Take these papers to the Major ...please.”
“Sir, yes sir.”
One day Kara was amazed to discover that when Zak was saying 'Sir, yes sir', what he meant was, 'I love you.' And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.
Because she was a teacher and Zak was her student, their relationship was forbidden. They made the best of it, sneaking around or hanging out with Zak’s older brother, Lee.
All Lee ever said to Kara was, “I don’t care.”
“I’m out of beer, Lee,” Kara would say.
“I don’t care,” he would respond with a smile before getting up to buy her another.
Kara wasn’t sure what to make of that.
Zak had no money for marriage, so he gave Kara a too-big ring and promised that once he got his wings they would be together forever.
Zak never got his wings. He wasn't a bad pilot, he just had no feel for flying and was killed in a crash before he and Kara could plan their wedding.
Kara stood stoically at his father’s side while Zak’s coffin was lowered into the ground. She couldn’t meet Lee’s eyes as he stood across from them.
Her guilt crushed Kara. She was his teacher, she should have taught Zak better, or washed him out when it became obvious that he wasn’t a pilot. She couldn’t imagine ever loving again.
Two years later, much had changed in the Twelve Colonies. A new president had just taken office and the streets of Caprica City were filled like never before to hear him make what he claimed would be a worlds-shattering announcement.
Leoben Conoy stood on a balcony overlooking the main square. His pale face was being televised all over the colonies.
“My people, a month from now, our colony will have its 2,000th anniversary. On that sundown, I shall marry. Would you like to meet my bride?”
The crowds on Caprica roared, whether it was with enthusiasm or outrage wasn’t entirely clear.
“My people, Starbuck!”
Kara stepped up beside Leoben wearing a dress that she had been persuaded to wear. She might have even liked the damned thing if it hadn’t been for the stupid ribbons binding her wrists.
Kara's emptiness consumed her. Although Leoben had convinced her to marry him, she did not love him. Despite his reassurances that she would grow to love him, the only joy she found was in her rare trips to the airfield to watch spacecraft launch. It was the closest to flying she was permitted to get, now that she was fiancee to the president.
One evening as she returned from the airfield, she stopped to assist three stranded motorists.
As Kara climbed out of her vehicle, one of the travelers stepped into the darkness.
The others, an extremely tall man and a woman of Aerilon complexion, approached her.
“A word, my lady,” the woman spoke oddly formally. This was happening to Kara more and more often lately. She supposed as wife-to-be of the president, she would have to get used to it, but it felt weird to a flight instructor from the seedy side of Caprica City. “We’re lost travellers. Is there a town nearby?”
Kara shrugged. “There’s nothing nearby. Not for miles.”
“Then there will be no one to hear you scream,” a familiar-sounding voice spoke up just before Kara was knocked unconscious.
Kara stirred to the sensation of breaking atmosphere. While she was pleased to be back in space, she was annoyed to discover that someone had dressed her in a flight suit. She recognized her location as an old-model raptor. Nearby, the familiar voice was speaking.
“We'll reach Libran before anyone notices she’s missing.”
Kara spoke up. “Despite what you think, you will be caught. And when you are, the president will see you all airlocked.”
The man who appeared to be in charge kept his back to Kara, but she knew his contemptuous voice, she was certain of it. “Of all the necks on this boat, Highness, the one you should be worrying about is your own.”
Kara was done with this bullshit. She was no useless princess to be kidnapped and rescued at people’s whims. Remembering that in this particular model of raptor all of the passenger seats had eject buttons, she leaned forward and pressed hers.
In an instant the ceiling above her had blown clear and Kara was launched into the black of space.
“Um, sir? I think we lost our passenger.”
“I. Don’t. Care!” The pilot gritted over the radio. Kara reeled. It was Lee! She had been kidnapped by her best friend! “Helo, grab a rope! Drag her back in!”
“Lee?” She asked.
“Hey, Kara,” he replied sheepishly.
“You kidnapped me? Why?”
“Can we talk about this once you’re inside? There’s only so much air in these flight suits and since you’ve managed to permanently depressurize the raptor we need to get moving. Sooner would be better.”
“No I will not come inside! You kidnapped me! I thought you were my friend!”
“Do I have to smack you in the mouth?” Lee grumbled. The radio crackled with the static equivalent of a sigh. “Think of it less as a kidnapping and more like SAR.”
“I don’t need rescuing!” Kara insisted. She realized she was drifting perilously far from the raptor and Lee had a point about life support not lasting forever. “Or at least I didn’t until you started helping!”
Suddenly something slipped around Kara’s throat and tightened.
As she choked, she felt herself being dragged towards the raptor, its door hanging open. Lee and his very large friend lifted Kara inside while she struggled with the rope around her neck.
“Worst. Rescuers. Ever.” she coughed out as she freed herself.
“Approaching Libran,” the woman piloting the raptor called.
“Why are we approaching Libran?” Kara asked. “Why did you kidnap me? What the frak is going on, Lee?”
But Lee ignored her and settled into the ECO seat. “Okay, Athena. You have the coordinates?”
Kara eyed the raptor’s destroyed passenger seat and missing ceiling panel. It was definitely a design flaw of this particular model that a safety precaution could so easily cause the deaths of everyone aboard. Still, if Kara could just make it into another seat and wait until they made it into Libran’s atmosphere...
“Uh-uh,” the man Lee had called Helo shook a gloved finger at Kara as she inched towards a seat. “You stay on the floor.”
Kara batted her eyes at this unknown man. “But the metal is so hard and cold.”
“Stop acting like a princess!” Lee snapped without glancing at Kara.
“You kidnapped me! Don’t I at least deserve the comfort of a seat?”
“The last time you got a seat you nearly got us all killed!” Lee exclaimed. Kara wondered how she possibly could have had trouble identifying that exasperated tone. “As it is we’re going to have to jump into Libran airspace, seeing as we don’t have a roof!”
“And whose fault is that?”
An earsplitting whistle cracked through the radio.
“Children!” The pilot, Athena, snapped. “Shut up and let mama fly.”
Helo snickered. “Don’t make her turn this raptor around.”
“Is that an option?” Kara asked.
“Can you - for once - just trust me?” Lee asked.
“I did trust you! I trusted you with my life right up until the day you disappeared! And then, even then I would have trusted you, Apollo, if you had just talked to me! But you had to go with kidnapping. So, no, at the current time I am not prepared to trust my kidnapper.”
Lee sighed. “Will you please stop saying that?”
“Yes. I assure you, your husband knows just where to find you.”
“Future husband, you mean. And, wait. He does?”
“We left a note,” Helo contributed.
“Jumping in 3... 2... 1... mark,” Sharon warned before the world briefly flashed white and still and silent.
Wind rushed through the missing roof panel, making atmosphere inside the raptor swirl like a tornado.
“Your husband will come for you,” Lee assured Kara. “And then we will kill him.”
“Excuse me,” Kara said calmly. “What?”
Finally Lee turned and met Kara’s eyes. He was as breathtaking as ever.
“Leoben Conoy is a Cylon, Kara.”
Kara rolled her eyes.
“Seriously. Cylons look like us now. Athena is one of them. And we have to stop Leoben before-”
“I know Leoben’s a Cylon.” Kara interrupted.
“Um, you do?” Helo asked. Lee said nothing, his jaw dropped in shock.
Kara ignored Helo and looked straight at Lee. “I loved Zak. His death destroyed me. Did you honestly think I’d just up and marry the first yahoo who asked without a damned good reason?”
Lee gaped at her.
“Coming for landing,” Athena called from the front. “Hey, Apollo, I could use an ECO for this.”
“Right. Of course. Sorry.”
Lee turned away, back to the computer monitors, leaving Kara to figure out if there was a way to keep them all alive and save the Twelve Colonies as well.
“Apollo,” Athena said a few minutes later, “we’ve got a problem. The raptor’s picking up the presidential flight code.”
“Frak!” Lee swore. “How could he have beaten us here?”
“Well we did have to stop for a brief SAR,” Helo pointed out wryly.
“Right, right. Okay. Let me think.” Lee sat silently for a moment. Kara could practically see the wheels in his brain turning. He met her eyes. “Your toaster fiance is too late. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Athena’s gonna land. We’re going to steal another ship. Athena’s going to try to distract the president until we’re off-world. We’ll change ships a few more times and then we’ll all meet back on Caprica.”
Kara opened her mouth to tell Lee what an absolutely stupid plan it was, that they should find a quiet little moon somewhere and absolutely never go back to Caprica, when she realized that Lee’s plan got her exactly what she wanted.
“Good plan, Lee,” she told him as the raptor landed bumpily on the tarmack of a neglected airfield.
“Come on!” Lee called, hurrying out of the raptor. Kara and Helo followed, Kara panting as she ran. Her new life as a pampered bride-to-be hadn’t left much room for workouts.
Lee tugged at the gangplank of a battered old phoenix model and looked just as surprised as Kara when it actually opened.
“Is this thing even space-worthy?” She wondered aloud.
“Only one way to find out,” Lee observed grimly. He stepped into the pre-war ship, Helo following.
Kara considered refusing to board. Leoben would find her here, he wouldn’t know who had captured her and things could go back to the way they’d been yesterday. Sure Kara would be miserable, but the worlds would be safe. She knew that Lee would keep coming back, though. He would never willingly let her go, not to a Cylon anyway.
“Kara!” He called from inside the ship. “Does Helo have to drag you aboard?”
“Coming!” Kara replied. She would just have to let this play itself out.
Apollo was seated in the pilot’s chair, Helo serving as ECO when Kara stepped aboard. “Sure you guys know how to fly this antique?”
“It’s the design raptors are based on,” Lee told her. “It should be pretty similar.”
Kara huffed her disagreement. “So, where are we headed?”
“I was thinking Aquaria.”
“The ice planet?” Kara groaned. “Why?”
“Somewhere else you’d prefer, princess?” Lee asked cooly.
“Home would be good. Or Virgon?” Kara suggested.
Lee flipped the series of switches that started the old craft’s engines. “I’m not going to fly you to the seat of Colonial government, Kara. I’m trying to rescue you. Why don’t you get that?”
“I get it just fine. But Lee, if I’d wanted to be rescued, I’d have rescued myself.”
“Kara. You’re engaged to a Cylon.” Lee was using his trying-to-be-patient voice. It irked Kara to no end. She had made her choices, her sacrifices, she had no intention of playing martyr for the sake of Lee Adama’s conscience.
“For good reason,” she told him, buckling herself into a seat. She checked for ejection seats. Even if she had no intention of using one, it would be nice to know they were there.
With a thud and a crackle of smoke they were airborne and Kara had the distinct impression that their takeoff wasn’t entirely intentional. She couldn’t ask though, because the old ship’s radio wasn’t compatible with modern flight suits and she didn’t trust this old bird’s life support enough to risk removing her helmet.
The silence made for a remarkably pleasant flight. Kara may have dozed off.
“...Steal one of those raptors and hide in one of the canyons we saw. When you see the president’s ship, blow it up.”
Kara sat up as she stirred.
“That’s a terrible plan,” she noted drowsily, taking off her helmet. Neither Lee or Helo had theirs on and they were still alive. “He’ll just download, come back, and murder every one of your relatives. And your relatives relatives.”
She noticed Helo sneaking off of the phoenix.
“Good luck!” Kara called. She hoped he was an orphan.
Lee turned to Kara. “Looks like it’s just us.”
She sighed. “Need an ECO?”
The flight from Aquaria back to Caprica was a long one and boring. ECOs didn’t have a lot to do on simple shuttle trips and with the radio non-functional, Kara had plenty of time to surreptitiously watch Lee and think.
Her life had changed so much since the last time she’d seen him. She’d gone from respected flight instructor to viper jock to burnout to fiancee of the president of the Twelve Colonies. She’d assumed that Lee had maintained his straight-and-narrow path, but he must have gone off the rails somewhere along the way to be in a stolen ship now.
Kara couldn’t help recalling the first time she met Leoben. How he had strolled into the hangar of Pan Galactic and found her elbows deep in a spaceliner.
“You have a destiny, Kara Thrace.”
She wasn’t interested then and she isn’t now. But Leoben had coaxed her out of the hanger and to a fancy meal. He brought her to his penthouse apartment and offered to take her away from her life of pain.
Kara had replied cynically, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
That was when Leoben told her everything.
Told her that his love for her was the only thing preventing him from voting to nuke the Twelve Colonies. That his vote was a tie-breaker. She didn’t have to love him right away, Leoben had assured her, just marry him.
Kara stabbed him in the throat. Leoben had just laughed, blood burbling out of his gaping wound and onto the cream colored carpet.
Two days later President Adar had resigned his position and his Vice President, one Leoben Conoy freshly downloaded, had been sworn in. Seeing his power, how truly dangerous Leoben was, Kara had accepted his proposal that very night.
And now she was stuck. She couldn’t risk leaving Leoben, that would cause the genocide of billions of people, and he couldn’t be killed. But Kara knew instinctively that Lee would never stop looking for her and he could be killed quite easily.
The only thing Kara knew for certain was that they couldn’t go back to Caprica. They had to confront one another in space. It was the only hope of preventing nuclear annihilation.
Against her better judgement, Kara took off her helmet and took a shaky breath.
The air tasted like rust and mildew, but she wasn’t suffocating or freezing to death. She tapped Lee on the shoulder and gestured to him to take off his helmet.
“Kara, what the frak were you thinking taking off your helmet you could have been ki-”
“Do you trust me?” Kara asked seriously.
“Of course,” Lee responded easily. “But that doesn’t mean you can just-”
“My turn, okay? Before your stupid noble heroism bullshit gets us killed.”
“You know that my fiance’s a Cylon,” Kara told Lee. His mouth shut with an audible click. “But what you don’t know is that I’m the only thing standing between the Twelve Colonies and nuclear holocaust.”
“You don’t think that’s a little-”
“I’m not being dramatic, Lee. I’m telling you the honest to gods truth.” She stared intently into his eyes, willing him to believe her and trying not to get lost in them.
“-I was going to say ‘unfair’.”
“Who says life is fair? Where is that written? Life isn't always fair,” Kara snapped, annoyed by Lee’s naivety but oddly touched by his concern.
Lee moved as if to speak but Kara held up a hand to stop him.
“We can’t go back to Caprica. We need to fake engine trouble and let Leoben capture us. Then we’ll trick him into revealing the location of the Cylon resurrection ship, destroy it, kill him, warn the Colonies, and live happily ever after.”
Lee’s eyes were wide but all he asked was, “Together?”
“Together,” Kara reached out and squeezed Lee’s hand. “Are you still immune to chamalla?”
A few hours later the phoenix lay in distress, giving out low level radiation emissions. Part of Kara felt bad about wounding the old bird, it had survived a lot and been good to them.
With a thud and a heavy clank, something gripped Kara and Lee’s spacecraft and dragged it.
“We'll never survive,” Lee warned. “Kara, I-”
“You're only saying that because no one ever has,” she cut him off before he could say something stupid and heroic. Or even worse, tell her that he loved her.
A few minutes later the door flopped open. They were inside something seemingly organic, with squashy red walls and floors that pulsed rhythmically.
“Okay, ew.” Kara had never been inside a basestar before and she felt no need to start now.
“Kara, my darling, I’m so relieved to find you safe,” Leoben stepped into what Kara supposed was the equivalent of a flight bay. “I’d begun to get concerned that you had run away.”
Kara scowled, annoyed as ever by Leoben’s games. “You know I wouldn’t.”
“And you must be Mr. Adama.”
Kara waited for Lee to correct him and introduce himself as ‘Captain Adama,’ but he merely nodded. Oh. Kara and Lee did have a lot to catch up on.
“Surrender,” Leoben ordered.
“You mean you wish to surrender to me?” Lee asked cockily. “Very well, I accept.”
“You seem to enjoy playing games with me, Mr. Adama,” Leoben continued. “I hope you don’t mind that I’ve taken the liberty of setting up a game of wits.”
Lee said nothing. Kara knew that would annoy Leoben, who very much liked having an audience.
He led them out of the hangar and down a hall to a room where a small table and two chairs were set up. He took one and indicated that Lee should take the other, leaving Kara to stand.
Leoben pulled out a small vial and uncorked it. “Inhale this, but do not touch.”
“I don’t smell anything.”
“What you do not smell is called chamalla. It is odorless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and in this potency is among the more deadly poisons known to man. It does have a terribly bitter taste, but by the time you notice that, you will be dead.”
Lee made no comment.
“To make this interesting, you’ll be the one to poison the goblets. But don’t cheat,” Leoben warned. “I’ll know and you’ll be punished.”
Lee accepted the vial of poison and handed the goblets to Kara. They both turned away from Leoben and Lee dumped the poison into both goblets.
Kara placed them both on the table and Lee rearranged them so that one cup sat in front of Leoben and the other sat in front of Lee.
Leoben rubbed his hands together eagerly. “All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits
has begun. It ends when I decide and we both drink, and find out who is right and who is dead!”
“That hardly seems fair,” Lee spoke up for the first time, “since for you death is only a temporary condition.”
Leoben shrugged. “That’s what happens when you try to match wits with a Cylon. Now, all I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”
“You've decided, then?” Lee asked
“You're stalling.” A twinge of impatience had entered Lee’s voice. Kara wondered if Leoben would notice it.
Leoben glanced at Kara. “What do you say, my darling? Shall we drink? Me from my glass and he from his?”
Kara shrugged, bluffing. “He’s going to die on this ship, one way or another. Quick and painless might be the best way to go. Lee -”
Her eyes met Lee’s and even though they both knew he would survive this, Kara couldn’t find it in herself to break eye contact. Out of her peripheral vision she saw Leoben move and the moment was ruined.
“Bottoms up!” Leoben called and both men drank.
“You guessed wrong,” Lee said calmly.
“You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when you were busy gazing at my bride-to-be! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Cylon when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha-” Leoben stopped suddenly and fell over, dead.
“Well,” Lee said standing up, “that was easy.”
“Thank the gods for the Adamas’ genetic resistance to chamalla.” Kara agreed, reaching for Lee’s hand.
“Now we’ve got to try to find the resurrection ship - which was supposed to be your job, by the way - destroy it, get out of here, and blow this place to Hades.”
Kara laughed at him. “Leoben just threw his life away on a whim. We already know where the resurrection ship is. It’s close. It’s damned close.”
Lee stepped into the hall and looked around, tugging Kara with him. The hallways all looked the same, winding this way and that in a nonsensical - and entirely impossible to navigate - pattern.
“I don’t suppose you know how to get to the CIC?” Lee asked hopefully.
“I’m pretty sure they don’t call it CIC, and no, I don’t,” Kara admitted.
“No need, my lady.” A man appeared at Kara’s shoulder flanked by six toasters. On Caprica he was Doral, the president’s public relations manager, she wasn’t entirely sure that this wasn’t another of his model. “I’m sure Leoben would want you to be made comfortable on our ship.”
He glanced into the room where Leoben’s body lay sprawled on the ground. “He’ll be joining us shortly.”
“And me?” Lee asked, fingers tightening around Kara’s.
“Ahh, Mr. Adama. We had... different accommodations in mind for you.”
“He’ll be staying with me,” Kara said, surprised at how coolly her orders came out. She guessed the lady lessons Leoben had advised her to attend were actually paying off.
Doral shrugged. “You can take that up with your fiance when he returns. For now I’ll be showing you to your room. The centurions will accompany your friend.”
Lee’s hand was ripped from Kara’s as the robots grabbed him.
‘Don’t worry,’ he mouthed. ‘Get help. I’ll be fine.’
Kara knew it was a lie as he said it.
“I don’t want him hurt,” Kara commanded. “If I find a single scratch on him when Leoben returns I will be... displeased.”
Doral just laughed at her, but he escorted her to the Cylon bridge nonetheless.
He explained the inner workings of the ship in the smug, superior tone Kara had grown accustomed to hearing from Cylons when they felt they’d surpassed their masters. She stopped listening once she learned that Cylon controls couldn’t be operated by humans, not even incredibly gifted human pilots. No wonder Leoben hadn’t been concerned about them strolling around this ship.
It meant that the only way of getting help would be to sneak back aboard the Phoenix and hope that Kara could rewire the radio and get some obscure message out.
Kara’s room was as light and airy as could possibly be designed in space. With its wide spaces and neutral palette, it could almost have been designed for her. When she spotted the paint set tucked away in a corner, she knew it had been.
Not for the first time she regretted accepting Leoben’s proposal, but what other choice did she have? Saying no would have not only cost her own life, but twenty billion other lives as well.
Kara couldn’t even pretend to enjoy herself in the beautiful room. There was plenty to occupy her - aside from the paints, the Cylons had provided books and vid discs and music - but despite the gilding Kara was entirely too aware of the cage. She was allowed to wander the basestar, but free reign on a space vessel was still aggravatingly close to trapped.
She hadn’t realized downloading took this long. Last time it had been nearly two days, but Kara had assumed that included travel time and overthrowing a democratic government. Judging by the determined stride of the toasters, she didn’t think Lee had two days to wait.
Kara would just have to get them out of this jam herself. As usual.
Wandering down to the phoenix was no trouble. Which really was shoddy security on the Cylons part. Sure she couldn’t leave, but she could easily mess around with the phoenix and try to send out a message. Which was exactly her plan, so, really, it was sweet of the Cylons to help.
The phoenix’ circuitry bore little resemblance to the vipers, raptors, and spaceliners Kara was used to taking apart. She wished she’d paid closer attention to Lee while he was flying - and later disabling - the bird. Still, Kara was good at puzzles, she could figure this out too.
A few hours later Kara had rewired the radio. She had just set it back in place when the Doral-shaped Cylon stepped into the phoenix.
“What are you doing down here?” He asked, his voice a combination of annoyed and mystified.
Kara shrugged. “I like it in here. Reminds me of home.”
“Well time’s up. Leoben is expected to return shortly and I’m sure there’s nothing he would like better than to see your shining face when he wakes up.”
“Okay.” Kara made no effort to move. “I’ll be up in a few.”
Doral huffed a sigh and left.
Quickly, Kara fiddled with the radio. She couldn’t tune it to audio frequencies, but there was a chance she might be able to get out a text-based cypher.
She just hoped that some commander out there was still paranoid enough to be checking wireless bands for messages in old Aerian merchant code. If they just trusted the code enough to jump out here and see the basestar, Kara would be set.
She hurried out of the phoenix and up to one of the main decks, where one of the freakishly beautiful model directed her to the download chamber.
The Doral was waiting for her at the door and guided her past many empty bathtubs to one that was ringed with lights. A D’Anna and an Athena were already there, crouched alongside the tub. Leoben, or, a model number two, Kara supposed, was lying submerged in some sort of gel.
“It should be any moment now,” the D’Anna looked up at Doral. He nodded back and gestured for Kara to kneel at the foot of the tub.
The naked body in the tub started twitching and thrashing as if it was having a seizure. The head broke the surface.
“-ha ha ha!” He choked dramatically and then opened his eyes. They immediately locked with Kara’s.
Next to him the Cylons were holding him and murmuring platitudes, but Kara knew Leoben was ignoring them just as surely as she was.
“You’re late.” Kara told her fiance.
He shrugged. “Death cannot stop True Love. All it can do is delay it for a while. It’s good to see you, Kara. How’s your friend?”
“You know, the humorless man with the chamalla resistance.”
“Oh, him,” Kara said lightly. “Haven’t seen him. You’d have to ask your buddy Doral here.”
“I’m not Doral,” Doral said at the same time Leoben told Kara, “He’s not Doral.”
“We should get married,” Leoben said, climbing out of the tub. “Immediately.”
“Okay,” Kara agreed easily. She was pretty sure that Cylon marriages weren’t legal and even if they were, she’d be a widow shortly.
“You can’t!” Not-Doral protested. “What about the anniversary celebration? All the plans you’ve made?”
Kara glared at him. “I thought you said you weren’t Doral.”
“Brothers look out for each other,” he grumbled.
“Send for Cavil,” Leoben ordered D’Anna and Athena. He turned to Kara. “Come, darling. We can’t be wed looking like this.”
Kara allowed herself to be groomed by a cluster of clacking D’Annas and taken to what was apparently the Cylon equivalent of a shipboard temple.
The room was filled with Cylons all wearing identical hooded robes. It was hideously creepy and exactly what Kara had imagined a Cylon wedding would be like.
“You don't seem excited, my little muffet,” Leoben greeted her with a toothy grin.
“Should I be?”
“Brides often are, I'm told.”
Kara was startled to see Brother Cavill in his robes at the altar. Of all people, the famous priest was the last she would have expected to be Cylon.
“Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage, that blessed arrangement, that dream within a dream...”
Kara tuned out as the priest droned on. Her thoughts landed on Lee. Gods, she hoped he was okay, that he would get here soon. That he wouldn’t hate her for going through with this unwanted marriage.
“...and love, true love, will follow you forever...”
She hoped someone had gotten her message and was on their way. It had only been a few hours and most battlestars hadn’t made a faster-than-light jump in 20 years. Still, it wasn’t entirely impossible. Kara liked the odds best when they were not-quite impossible.
“...so treasure your love...”
The basestar jolted violently.
Leoben glared at Kara, betrayed. She shrugged at him. “Skip to the end!”
“Have you the ring?”
“Of course I have the ring. In a beautiful handmade box in a drawer on Caprica! Man and wife! Say man and wife!”
Cavill glared at Leoben but repeated, “Man and wife.”
Kara noted that she had never said ‘I do,’ which was handy, as she most certainly did not.
The basestar lurched again, this time accompanied by an ominous tearing sound within the ship.
“Unless I am wrong, and I am never wrong, I believe we are under attack,” Leoben commented calmly.
Kara lept away from Leoben, racing to the hanger deck and hoping against hope that her tweaks had made the phoenix spaceworthy.
As she approached, she spotted Athena and Helo helping Lee into the bird.
“Lee!” Kara flung herself into the ship and wrapped her arms tight around him.
She scowled at him. “At a time like this, that's all you can think to say, ‘gently’?”
“Go easy on him, he’s been mostly dead all day,” Athena said from the cockpit. “How do you fly this thing?”
Kara eased her grip on Lee. “Sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure. You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.”
“Sure,” Lee said weakly. “What about you? Are you okay?”
“You're alive!” Kara exclaimed. “If you want I can fly!”
Lee chuckled shallowly. “Well, someone’s going to have to get us out of here.”
Outside the phoenix, the basestar was sparking and smoking. Impulsively kissing Lee’s cheek before letting go, Kara climbed into the cockpit and began flipping rewired switches.
She looked from Helo to Athena. “I don’t suppose either of you knows Aerian merchant code.”
“Bizarrely,” Helo spoke up, “I actually do.”
The ship was silent.
“What? I like puzzles.”
“Well then compose a message to the commander of that battlestar outside asking them not to shoot us and letting them know we’re gonna need a lift home.”
Helo got to work as Kara got used to the controls. After a minute they had a response from the battlestar. ‘All clear.’
The only way Kara could see out of the basestar was through the basestar.
“Everyone hold on to something,” she instructed and then fired the engines up as hot as they would go.
There was a jolt, a shudder, an awful ripping sound, and then the windscreen cleared to a vista of space.
Helo and Athena cheered. They were free!
Fast approaching on their port side was an older model battlestar. Kara reduced their speed.
“Helo, ask them how they want us to land with no radio contact. We’re familiar with the general layout of their flight bay.”
Helo composed the message much more quickly than Kara would have been able to and decoded the response nearly as fast. “Flight deck’s been cleared. Hands on approach, you have the ball.”
For half a second Kara considered relinquishing the controls to Athena or Helo, both of whom were more qualified to land this bird than she was. But this was Kara’s victory. She was free of the Cylons, the Twelve Colonies would be safe, she deserved a reward. “I have the ball.”
The phoenix thudded to an awkward stop, but Kara didn’t care. She was too busy pushing past Helo and Athena and falling into Lee.
“You did it,” he marveled at her.
“We did.” Kara tilted her face towards his.
Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.