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Episode 1-10 - "The Human Condition, Part 2"

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"Sir, I have weapon locks. Permission to fire?"

Angel's words pierced the heavy thoughts weighing down Meridina's heart. She remained standing for the moment near the rear of the bridge and close to Angel's place at tactical.

Meridina had never imagined it would come to this. She never thought that the darkness she had felt amongst the Colonials would manifest itself so terribly. Hatred, fear, pride, any combination of those sentiments could be seen in the fuel for the Colonial reaction to what she had done.

Not that she regretted the action itself. The Code was clear, and the Code was her belief. Sharon - the pregnant Cylon woman - had been facing the execution of her unborn child due to the prejudice and whim of a dying woman. Meridina could have never faced her mentor Mastrash Ledosh, let along her father Karesl, if she had not acted as she did. It would have been a disgrace to everything the swevyra'se believed in.

She did regret what came after that decision though. She had not made the right choices. Now others were in danger because of her actions, good as they were. The old warning about how even the most light-filled of paths could lead into dark places came to her mind.

She'd told that one to Lucy once, and explained its meaning to her. Lucy's reply had been a Human saying that Meridina found oddly appropriate.

No good deed goes unpunished.

She sensed Robert's momentary indecision. His anger at Adama's obstinate stand. And his determination not to yield. Meridina had grown to appreciation that determination in the face of evil. Whatever other issues Robert had as a person, when the moral decision was in front of him he was often decisive and fearless in pursuing it.

it would be an admirable quantity if he ever joined the ranks of her order.

But right now, she could see where this was going. She didn't need the future-sensing gift of Swenya to know it either. They would fire. Colonial pilots and crew would die. Jarod, Tom, Cat, and Lucy could be rescued, or some or all could end up victims of Colonial retribution before the shooting stopped.

All of those people were about to be hurt for her decision.

Meridina knew she had made the right choice.

Now she would have to accept the consequences of that choice, no matter the sacrifice.

"Fire."

The moment she felt Robert's order coming, Meridina was already using the console to make sure the order didn't go out over the open channel. She cried out "Wait!"

Angel's hand froze just above the control. Eyes on the bridge turned toward Meridina.

"There is a better way," she said to them, or specifically to Robert and Julia. "A way that will not lead to bloodshed. It could salvage our relationship with these people."

Julia looked from Meridina to Robert. He looked to Jupap at Ops. "Status of the Colonial forces?", he asked the Alakin.

The avian checked his boards. "They are on combat standby still. They have not fired."

Robert sighed and nodded to Meridina. "I'm listening."

"I acted in accordance with the Code I'm sworn to uphold. I will not allow others to endure the consequences of my actions on either side," Meridina explained. "Give me to them."

Robert blinked. "What?"

"Give me to them, put me in their custody," Meridina answered. "If someone is to stand trial for an offense, let it be me."

Robert's first reaction was going to be "Like hell I will". But he held his tongue. He kept his eyes fixed on Meridina, who returned the look. There was determination there. Not a bit of fear.

Get four of his people back, four of his best friends, at the cost of Meridina. Robert had no illusions that the Colonials would be kind to a sympathizer with the cyborg race that had exterminated their friends and loved ones on their homeworlds. Meridina was setting herself up as a sacrifice.

He looked to Julia. "There has to be a better way. There's got to be one."

"I can't think of one," she said. "At least this buys time, right? Time for negotiations? Maybe we can talk them out of being too harsh."

Robert bit into his lip.

"This is crap!", Angel shouted. "You can't trust them, they might just grab Meridina too!"

"Admiral Adama would not break that agreement," Meridina pointed out. "Not in his current situation."

"Like that matters," Angel guffawed. "He's clearly led around on a noose by that snooty President over there. She's the nut who caused this in the first place!"

Meridina looked at Angel. "You're allowing your anger and fear to drive you into paranoia, Lieutenant. I understand that you are afraid for your sister. This will ensure she is returned safely."

"You honestly believe that?", Robert asked her. "I'm beginning to realize there's more to these people than I knew."

"Their suffering has brought them into a dark place, yes. But we will not lead them out of it by embracing our dark impulses too." Meridina stepped up to him and to Julia. "This is the right way to do things. I am positive of that."

Julia let out a sigh. "I think she's got a point there."

Robert swallowed. "They might kill you," he pointed out. "Roslin could have you ejected into space when convicted. Or she might not even bother with a trial."

"Then I will die." Meridina drew in a breath, hoping to calm herself and the others by her example. "I knew I might face a terrible death the moment I swore to the Code, Robert. If that is my fate, then I will accept it, and you must as well."

Robert felt eyes boring into him as the crew looked at him. Everything about the situation stank. Not just the standoff, but here he was, having Meridina suddenly step into the situation to play the holy martyr. A part of him bristled at having his commands interfered with, even if he was happy for it.

"Hail the Galactica again," he ordered Jupap. When he received a nod in reply, Robert steadied himself by putting a hand on his chair and said, "Admiral Adama, I have a counter-proposal to end this standoff."

 

Undiscovered Frontier
The Human Condition, Part 2




In the Galactica CIC, Adama looked pensive. For the moment, this resumed conversation had at least prevented a shooting war he didn't think he could win. Every moment bought a chance at a solution. He eyed Tigh, who looked at him with defiant concern. "He's chickening out," the grizzled old XO muttered. "He doesn't have the..."

"Would you take that risk, Saul?", Adama asked carefully. "Would you risk the entirety of the Fleet like I did?"

"It worked," Tigh said.

"No, I don't think it did. I think we just got lucky." Adama held up the receiver again. "I'm listening, Captain."

There was a pause. "My security chief is willing to stand trial in Colonial court for removing the Cylon Sharon from your ship, if you return the officers you seized."

"I see." Adama breathed a silent prayer of thanks. He eyed Tigh and waved him off. Four hostages for one sounded like a sucker's bet. But if Adama was going to hang someone for this fiasco, better it be someone who was at least responsible. "I would need to take special measures to ensure she doesn't break out."

"I give you my oath as swevyra'se that I will not attempt escape," Meridina said.

"With all due respect, Commander, we don't know much about your people, and that oath doesn't mean a lot to me."

"If I swore on the essence of my mother and the honor of my father, then? On the Code I have sworn to uphold? I will not allow others to be punished for my actions, Admiral. Not my allies nor your people. If someone must suffer over this situation, let it be me."

"And what's to stop her from doing any more of that mind mumbo-jumbo to get her guards to unlock her cell?", Tigh demanded. "We're going to have to keep her locked up and chained down, and I'm not even sure that'll work. She yanked that heavy cell door off its hinges!"

As Adama thought it over in his head... it made sense. It was the best solution in a bad situation. Losing the Cylon was a small price to pay and any concerns about the Allied Systems bullying them would be dealt with by Meridina's offer to stand trial for her deeds. Roslin might not be entirely happy, and four prisoners for one seemed an unfair trade...

...but it was the right thing, regardless. It had already felt wrong to make prisoners of men and women who were offering aid to them. If someone was going to hang for this, if someone had to hang... the person who caused the situation was the one.

But Saul Tigh was right. The woman's strange power was something he had to take into account. Just blindly trusting her... he needed insurance.

"I'll return all but one of the prisoners in exchange for Commander Meridina," Adama answered. "The other will be kept under custody until the trial has ended. Once Commander Meridina is acquitted or her sentence is fulfilled, he or she will be returned."




Robert shook his head. "That's not good enough," he said.

"It's going to have to be. Commander Meridina is too powerful to keep as a prisoner without insurance, or harsh treatment."

"I will willingly accept whatever confinements you feel are necessary..."

"Sir!" Lieutenant Jupap, the avian Alakin officer at Ops, chirped the word with restrained excitement. "I'm picking up something on the other Battlestar, it's..."

"...what, Lieutenant?", Robert asked, keeping his irritation low.

"Explosions, sir."




The armed men from the Pegasus crew opened fire on Lucy. And they nearly killed her.

Nearly.

Meridina had taught Lucy quite a bit in the past couple of weeks. One thing was how to use the power that now swelled inside of her to know where someone would strike before they did. In the moment before the guns went off she felt that knowledge fill her and called on her body to drop low. The bullets whizzed over her head.

In the same movement she motioned upward with her arm. Kinetic force, the same power that Meridina called swevyra, answered her and directed itself at the armed men. They flew backward and out of the door with sufficient force that it stunned them all. Lucy jumped to her feet and brought her fist down on each of them. She ignored the pain in her knuckles from the blows that knocked out her attackers. She stripped the clips from their guns and took one of the sidearms before she ran on through the ship's corridor. She could feel Caterina's terror and pain in the distance. The Pegasus crew had siezed her as well, and Lucy could feel the chill of the dark forces Meridina had taught her to avoid. Hate, fear, and anger were now heightened across the ship.

Lucy brought up her multi-device while running and checked her functions. She nodded with satisfaction at seeing she could detect the proximity of Caterina's device, overlaying its positional data with the schematics of Pegasus she had used for her installation work.

She also noted her connection to the settings of the shield generator. That was the most important part of all. We have a chance to get out of here, then, Lucy thought to herself as she ran down the gray corridors, trying to evade confrontation and get to Cat.

Hopefully, she wouldn't be too late.




Pain exploded again across Caterina's face as another meaty fist slammed into it. She habitually spat out the wad she felt in her mouth and through her swollen eyes she could see the white tooth mixed with red blood now glistening on the deck.

Powerful hands seized her and held her up. "You frakking toaster-lovers," an angry voice rasped. "I lost my whole frakking family on Virgon! All of them! And you types think you can just turn on us, help out that toaster? Frak you." A knee slammed into her belly. Caterina doubled over in pain and felt the urge to vomit again.

"I-I-I didn't... didn't...", she tried to say. She took a foot to the ribs and hit the floor. "Plea-ease s-stop....!"

Hands grabbed the back of her uniform jacket and pulled her up. One of the larger men smirked and grabbed her by the throat. "That frakking weakling Adama doesn't know how to handle your kind. But we do. Oh we..."

Despite her swollen eyes Caterina made out the fist gripping a pistol that came in from nowhere and struck the man choking her. He let go of Caterina and stumbled backward. The savage pistol-whipping ruined his balance and caused him to fall. The others with him were equally shocked. Freed from the grip on her throat Caterina collapsed again, wheezing.

"Are you out of your frakking minds?!" Kara Thrace stepped between Caterina and her tormentors. "You were sent to arrest her, not beat her to death!"

"You heard the Colonel! They helped that toaster escape! They're all frakking toaser-lovers!"

"She's almost a kid!", Kara shouted in retort. "You're just looking for something to punch because you're pissed off. The Cylons killed your family, Kowal? They killed a lot of people I cared for too and you don't see me acting like a frakking thug! You don't get to just beat someone to death because you're pissed off! This is still the Colonial frakking Navy and you follow your Godsdamned orders!"

"The way I see it, Bucket, there's four of us and one of...."

Caterina looked up in time to see Kara's gun focus on the man who'd delivered the most punches to her. "You take one more frakking step and I put a bullet in your head! Stand down!"

The men all looked around. Each had a sidearm of their own, but they had ignored them while beating up on Cat and each knew that the first to draw would get shot, even if his buddies might get shots off. And nobody wanted to be the first to get shot.

That left them in stalemate.

"You okay, Cat", Kara asked, not looking back.

Caterina had trouble finding words to reply. She ended up sobbing a reply of "No".

"You people from Galactica don't have guts," one of the attackers protested. "You don't know how to deal with people! Admiral Cain knew! She showed us how it was done!"

"Admiral Cain isn't here anymore," Kara retorted. "She's gone! Get over it!"

"Not until the Old Man gets his head out of his..."

By now even Cat heard the pounding steps on the deck. From the floor she could see familiar boots coming down the opposite way. The crewmembers turned to face the intruder.

"Get away from her!" Lucy waved a hand. The man furthest to the left from Caterina's point of view suddenly flew and slammed into two of the others, all three hitting the bulkhead with such force that they were either unconscious or heavily dazed. Kowal let out a cry of challenge and went for his gun.

Suddenly he was lifted off his feet, sailing over Kara and Cat and hitting the wall. He let out a grunt and landed right beside Cat.

Kara looked back as Lucy came up to them. "What the frak...?"

Lucy made a grabbing motion. Kara jumped backward a bit as her gun flew from her hands. "Thank you, Captain Thrace, for helping her," Lucy said. "We'll be leaving now."

"I can't let you do that. You're both under arrest."

"There's no way I'm agreeing to be held against my will," Lucy said. "I've suffered that before. I'm not doing it again."

"You don't have much choice," Kara retorted. "Those shields are up. You can't be transported out. If you keep fighting you'll just get killed. Give up and I'll personally watch you two until the Old Man and your captain sort out this mess."

Lucy answered by bringing up her wrist. Her multidevice display activated and she pressed a button. "What are you doing?", Kara asked.

"Setting the shields to overload," Lucy answered.




Colonel Fisk felt a slight tremor in the deck and looked to Hoshi. "What the hell was that?"

"Explosion in one of the engineering spaces. Light blast, no major..." There was another tremor. "We just had another explosion. Sir... it's the shield generators."




"Pegasus shields are down," Jupap reported.

"We can get Cat and Lucy out!", Angel shouted.

"But not Jarod and Tom," Julia pointed out. "If we just snatch them..."

"I'm not leaving them," Robert said. "Lower the shields." He breathed in, knowing the risk he was taking by doing this. By all rights he shouldn't be lowering shields in this situation, not to retrieve just two people.

"Don't fire, Admiral, please," he murmured quietly.




"The Aurora's shields are going down. I mean, I think." Gaeta looked over the hard-light display's sensors. The sensors weren't quite installed entirely yet, but he was sure he was seeing a shift that showed the lowering of the big ship's defensive screens.

"He's going to get his people off Pegasus," Tigh said. "Bill." His voice lowered to a bare whisper, meaning only Adama could hear the use of his name. "We have the shot."

Adama nodded gently. "A shot."

"Pegasus is requesting orders, do they fire?"

"You're not going to give the order, are you?", Tigh asked.

Adama shook his head. "No. No, I'm not starting a shooting war we can't win."

"Galactica Actual, this is Pegasus Actual. They've removed our prisoners. Admiral, your orders?" There was a hint of disapproval in Fisk's voice, but only a hint, likely an unconscious one.

"Make sure that our prisoners are under watch and don't have those arm devices of their's," Adama said to Tigh. "I don't need them sabotaging us too."

Tigh nodded and went to give the orders. Adama turned his attention back to his receiver. "Captain?"




On the Aurora bridge, tense moments passed before Jupap gave confirmation. "We have them."

Robert and Julia looked at each other and nodded, exchanging a sigh of relief. At tactical Angel was visibly struggling to contain her relief. "Raise the shields again." Robert reached down and pressed the intercom button. "Mister Scott, any ideas on their shields? Can we get a transporter through it?"

"I dinnae think so, Captain. It's nae safe enough."

"I understand." So, right back where we started. But with things more even. "Meridina, are there any ways we can suppress your abilities? Drugs, that kind of thing? That way they don't have to fear you using them?"

"I am afraid such a thing is a very complicated issue," she answered. "Some drugs might reduce my ability to call upon my swevyra, but they would also alter my mind-state. I could become catatonic or violent."

"I see. Thank you." Robert put a hand on his forehead.

"Captain?"

"I'm still here, Admiral Adama."

"Did you get your people back safely?"

"We did, yes."

"That's good to hear." There was a breath on the other end and some silence. "Captain, this situation has to be resolved. I don't want a shooting war."

"Nor do I," Robert answered. He sighed and swallowed. "You want insurance against Meridina breaking free?"

"I must insist."

"Fine." Robert nodded. "As her Captain, I am responsible for her conduct. I'll stay on Galactica until this situation is resolved."

The rest of the crew stared at him in stunned silence.




Adama stared at nothing for a moment. He drew in a breath. "You would do that?"

"As I said. I'm responsible for the conduct of my officers and crew. If someone has to be a hostage to her good behavior, I'm the one who should do it. My command crew can run the ship in my absence. They'll be under strict orders to not interfere in the situation." Adama heard a dissenting voice in the background momentarily. It ended quickly. "Would that be enough?"

Adama considered it. It was gutsy as hell and he respected it. But there were other concerns in his mind.

"I don't like it," Tigh grumbled. "Those kids over there might get ideas in their heads no matter what he orders."

"I know. But it's a chance to get us out of this Godsdamned stand-off." Adama held the receiver up again. "I accept your terms, Captain. We'll arrange quarters for you while you're kept in custody. How do you intend to do this exchange?"

"We're going to fly an unarmed shuttle over. You meet us in your launch bay with Jarod and Tom. We do a standard exchange and they fly the shuttle out."

Adama nodded. "So long as the shuttle is in space within half an hour. Otherwise I won't let it land on Galactica."

"Half an hour. Agreed. Dale out."

There was a tone on the line that told Adama the channel was closed. He put the receiver back on its cradle and breathed in a sigh. "Get a small Marine team for the launch deck and have the rest ready in the adjacent compartments."

Tigh nodded. "We have a complication, actually."

Adama kept himself from sighing. "That would be?"

"The Marines shot Lieutenant Barnes."

A harsh breath came from Adama. "Perfect," he growled. "How bad?"

"Cottle's getting him stitched up. He says the kid'll make it."

There was a faint sigh of relief. If they had fatally shot the engineer.... No use thinking about that possibility now. Adama pushed those thoughts out of his head. "Let Cottle know we need him ready to board the shuttle in half an hour."

"Right away, sir."

Adama watched Tigh leave and turned back to the DRADIS screen. It was filled with contacts; Vipers and the Alliance Mongoose fighters plus the two combat ships from each side. He breathed a sigh of relief that they were still all there.

He'd taken a terrible gamble. And he'd failed. The fact that he hadn't gotten his people killed over it seemed a divine gift. This wasn't like facing down Cain or a Cylon, after all. This was different.

He could have overruled Roslin. Disobeyed her. He could have gone to Zarek or Baltar and had them declare her unfit. But he'd already betrayed her once, and look at where that had left the Fleet. They were lucky to have survived that division. Turning on Roslin to seemingly protect a Cylon infiltrator would have broken the Fleet again.

Adama found he needed a drink. But he held off for the moment. Not until the exchange.




"You're insane!"

Angel's shout caused heads to turn. Robert sighed and said, "It's for the best..."

"That's assuming you can trust them!", Angel continued. "And I don't! We gave them help and they turned on us, there's no telling..."

"Lieutenant!" There was authority in Julia's voice that superseded any personal friendships she felt. Angel stopped at hearing her rank shouted and fumed quietly. Julia sighed and looked to Robert. "Alright. We have half an hour. I'll ask Lucy to get to the shuttles and find something to use. A pattern enhancer or something else that would let us break through their shield to beam you all out."

"Have Lucy meet us in the shuttle bay," Robert said, heading toward the lift door with Meridina. He looked back and focused on Angel. Her eyes burned with anger and worry. "And see if you can get Jarke or Luneri to relieve Angel from tactical. She needs to be with her sister right now."

Julia nodded in agreement. A pensive look was in her green eyes, though, and Robert knew they would be having a conversation about it later.




They met Lucy in the launch bay. The combat-modified runabouts were still in position outside of the ship, clearing deckspace that had been used to bring out one of the smaller shuttles. The Type B was a sleek craft. Like most shuttles and runabouts the warp nacelles were built into the landing surface, reducing structural issues with supporting them in gravity or atmospheric flight. Dark windows of transparisteel provided the pilot a cockpit view without requiring technology. A lift mechanism was holding it above the floor, exposing the belly of the shuttle.

Lucy was already under it with one of the hanger technicians. She was reaching into the single defensive phaser emitter that was beneath the cockpit. "I'll have this out in another ten minutes," she promised.

Robert looked at his multi-device. "We have twenty before we have to get into space. Do you have time to do rig anything..."

"Robert." Meridina looked at him. "I told you, I don't want to trick them. That will destroy what we have achieved."

"Adama's not entirely in control over there," Robert reminded her. "In case they betray us, I want options. Lucy, can you expand the shuttle's transporter capacity?"

"Not in ten minutes," she answered, her head still inside of the compartment. "And I can't put a pattern enhancer or anything that would let it beat their shields."

"Damn," Robert sighed. "What about..."

"This takes time, sir," Lucy continued. "Anything done sloppy might not work, and might also be visible. And that would give the whole thing away, right?"

"So we just have to trust that there won't be any treachery?" Robert sighed at that.

"Pretty much." She ducked her head out of the compartment to look at his expression. "I can attach a pattern buffer that would let the transporter get three people at a time. That's the best I can do."

"That should suffice," Meridina answered before Robert could speak. "You would simply leave me behind."

Lucy frowned at that and directed a pensive look at Robert. "I'm the Captain, it's my..."

"It is your duty to command your crew," Meridina reminded him. "As security chief, your welfare is my responsibility. As a swevyra'se, your defense is my obligation. If there is treachery, I will be the one to suffer for it. I will not allow it any other way."

"I don't like leaving people behind," Robert growled.

"You must get over that, then." Meridina settled her posture. "Because it is not avoidable."

He couldn't help but glare in reply. Robert shifted the weight of his duffel bag and moved away.

Lucy was focused on removing a final piece from the phaser assembly when she peeked to see Meridina was still there and alone. "Are you sure about this?"

"I am."

"It's just..." Lucy swallowed. "I'm still learning how to control this. And you're the only one who can teach me."

"I have made arrangements," Meridina answered. "If I die, another instructor can be provided to you." She showed no emotion at bringing up that possibility. "It is possible you would have to leave the Aurora, however, and train on Gersal."

Lucy stopped for a moment and looked at her again. "I don't know if I want to do that," she admitted. "Just drop everything in my life and leave?"

"That is what our Order is about," Meridina replied. "We give of ourselves to benefit others. We serve." She bowed her head. "I understand if you do not wish to become swevyra'se. I simply wish you to be trained to control the power and restrain yourself from darkness."

"Then we should make sure you come back," Lucy answered. "Now give me a moment and we should be ready to go."




Adama waited with his Marines as the shuttle from the Aurora came to a landing. The tension in the air was thick, and it wasn't helped by the presence of the bed-ridden Lieutenant Barnes and Commander Jarod, who glowered angrily at everyone around him. Cottle remained nearby in case Barnes' condition worsened.

The door to the shuttle opened and Meridina walked out, wearing a set of brown robes and loose pants. Robert was in uniform with a duffel bag over his shoulder. He held it up and slid it to about halfway between the shuttle and Adama's party. Adama nodded to a Marine, who opened the bag and went through it carefully. Uniforms, clothes, and other essentials were pulled out onto the deck. A second Marine came up with what looked like a Geiger counter. He ran the sensor over the bag. "It's clean," the Marine said.

Adama nodded. "How do we do this?"

Robert was busy looking at Barnes in the stretcher and took an extra moment to respond. "We meet halfway," he said. "We continue on to you, the others go into the shuttle."

"Fair enough." Adama nodded to Jarod, who took control of the stretcher. He began wheeling it toward Robert and Meridina, who walked out to meet him in measured steps. Every step of the way Robert kept a close eye on the Marines. In this situation he wanted to reach for the weight of his multidevice on his right forearm, just to remember it wasn't there. All he had was the subcantenous transponder Leo had injected him with before coming over and an open channel to the shuttle's transporter should things turn violent. He fought to control his beating heart as he weighed the numbers and the likelihood of surviving if shooting began.

Robert and Meridina met Jarod and Barnes halfway. Jarod whispered, "What now?"

"Get back to the ship," Robert answered with his own whisper. "Key your device to the comms, if shooting starts you can activate the transporter and close the hatch. But otherwise don't do anything."

"You're really doing this?"

"We are," Meridina said before continuing on. Robert nodded and walked up as well. Jarod barely had time to register displeasure before they were out of mutual sight.

As he got closer he could see the tension in the room wasn't alleviating. Any movement that seemed suspicious, even if it was innocent, might trigger a violent reaction.

With measured and practiced steps, Robert and Meridina were within arm's reach of Adama and his Marine guard just as Jarod reached the shuttle. Jarod wheeled Barnes around and pushed him up into the shuttle. The rear hatch began to close behind them.

Meridina had already presented her wrists. Adama personally took out the cuffs and fixed them on while a subordinate fixed the ankle cuffs linked with the others by a chain. "By the authority of the President of the Colonies, you are under arrest. The charge is assistance to the enemy of the Colonies."

"I understand," Meridina answered, bowing her head.

"Captain." Adama looked at Robert. "You will be placed under guard in the VIP cabin. A line of communication to your ship is being set up and you will have monitored access to your people. Meals will be arranged."

"Of course," Robert said. "Will I be permitted to attend the trial?"

"That will be determined," Adama said. "I'd like you to follow us while we will escort the Commander to her cell. Private Larkins will hold your bag."

Robert nodded, seeing it as Adama keeping everything "above board", so to speak. He handed his duffel bag to the Marine that Adama had indicated. By that point the lead Marine squad had left the landing deck with Meridina amongst them. Adama and Robert took up the rear with the other Marines.




Julia waited until she had confirmation that the shuttle carrying Jarod and Tom was docking before she gave the official stand-down order. Fighters were recovered save for a defensive patrol. For the same reason the Koenig was not re-docked. Similarly, the two Battlestars were standing down.

That didn't mean peace was guaranteed, though. The situation was still tense. Their relationship with the Colonials was hanging on a razor's edge, and it was in everyone's hands to keep it from falling.

With that in mind, Julia motioned to Angel. LIeutenant Luneri, a Dorei woman from the Sindai nation of Hargano with dark purple skin and blue spotting, waited with disciplined patience for Angel to acquiese to standing down. She followed Julia into the conference room. The moment the door closed Angel started speaking. "I can't believe you let Rob go along with that! I can't even believe we're doing this!"

Julia looked at her angrily. "We're trying to keep people from shooting each other, Angel. Rob is doing what he has to, and something that will keep us from getting kicked off our ship when we get back."

"They can't blame him for..."

"They can and you know it! This crew is his responsibility and having his officer go behind his back like that... it would prove everything that Hawthorne and the others fear about Meridina's place in our crew. We have to salvage this."

"At what cost?! Is this what we signed up for, to get betrayed by the people we're trying to help? We should have stopped him, Julie! We..." Angel stopped speaking for a moment. "...if something happens to him, it'll be our fault."

"No, it'll be his. His choice, his responsibility," Julia pointed out.

Angel glared back. "I can't believe that. Don't you feel any worry for..."

"Of course I do!", Julia screamed. "I'm worried about both of them! Just as I'm worried about everything else around here because, Goddammit, it seems I'm the only one who bothers to worry! And now I have you undermining both of us on the damned bridge!"

"If you think I'd just stand by and watch while something like that happens, you're nuts! That's not me!"

"That's what you have to do, Angel!" Julia pointed to the bridge. "Remember that in there, or in here with others, we're not a bunch of close friends. We're a captain and his crew. We get orders, we follow them, and we don't undermine the chain of command by protesting every little thing in front of the whole crew! And I know you knew this when we all signed on."

Angel's lips thinned. Her hands clenched into fists. "Maybe I didn't think it would get this insane," she finally managed. "Maybe I think this military stuff is crap and that we ran things perfectly well back when we were doing things out of the Facility."

That drew a sigh from Julia. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I miss them too. But the past is the past. We decided to stay together and work for the benefit of the Alliance. That means making sacrifices and paying costs." With Angel clearly still on edge, Julia decided to switch to being supportive. "Why don't you go see Cat? She needs her big sister right now. And you need to see she's okay."

Angel nodded briskly. "Fine. I'll go do that. But I swear to God, if Robert gets hurt over there, or if something happens to him..." She seemed to be choking on the word. "Then I say we blow them all to hell. And I don't give a God damn what Hawthorne or Davies will say about it."

With that said Angel walked on to the turbolift door across from the bridge door. Julia watched her go and felt apprehension at what they were facing. And, she had to admit, more than a little agreement. If Robert died over there, if the Colonials killed him... Julia wasn't sure she wouldn't give the order to blow their Battlestars to little bits. She liked to think she wouldn't go that far, but if they were betrayed...

God, I hope you did the right thing Robert.