First of all, big thanks to my awesome betas WeAreCylons for proofreading this chapter.
Disclaimer: All these characters are property of Ron D. Moore, I own nothing. I just borrowed them for a little bit.
It's worth mentioning that even though this is an AU story I've used details up to Daybreak, so spoilers are to be expected. You've been warned ;) Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
People say you only live once, but people are as wrong about that as they are about everything.
When the speakers of Fleet Headquarters called his name, Captain Lee Adama groaned once more. It seemed like everybody wanted to chase him down lately: he left his girlfriend back in Caprica City after promising they'd talk about their future when he got back, before literally running away from her. The Fleet ordered him to attend his father's retirement ceremony as part of the decommissioning of the ship he was in command of, which was the last thing he wanted at the moment. And now there was something else, Lee knew it. Why couldn't he simply be left alone for a few hours?
The communications officer informed him of a pending personal call and offered him a receiver, along with the name of the caller. Fortunately for Lee, it was the only person he would've liked to speak to.
And so, he picked the receiver up with a grateful sigh. "Hi, Mom."
"Lee," she said. "How are you?"
"I'm... fine, Mom," he lied. He wasn't ready to tell her about the mess in his love life.
But she knew him too well not to pick up his doubt. "Are you, honey? Really?"
"Yes Mom, I'm okay," he assured her. "I'm sorry, but is there a particular reason for your call? You know we don't get much spare time around here."
There was a brief moment's pause, the only sound coming from the woman's breathing on the other side of the line.
"There is, actually. You'll be on Galactica's decommissioning tomorrow, right?" she asked.
"How do you know that?"
"I asked the Admiralty to let you go. As a favor. I want to see you." And I'd rather not deal with your father on my own if I can, she added in her mind.
"Wait, you're going? Why?" he asked, puzzled.
"Galactica is being turned into a museum by my ministry and as secretary, I have to attend the ceremony," she said. "Weren't you aware of that?"
Lee remained speechless for a couple of seconds, as if processing the news. Then a new, big question popped into his mind.
"Does Dad know?"
"Of course he does, honey. Which is why I'd prefer if you went as well."
"Yeah, Mom, I don't think me being there will change anything. You know I'm not exactly on speaking terms with him."
"Neither am I," she joked. "But at worst, we'll be uncomfortable together." She then stroke a more serious tone as she continued, "And it'll mean a lot to him to see you there."
"Okay..." he agreed. It wasn't like he had any say on the matter anyway.
"And Val is going too."
"Val?" A faint smirk appeared in Lee's features. "I should've guessed she wouldn't miss it."
His mother chuckled. "Of course she won't."
"Okay. See you in a few hours, Mom."
Lee could almost hear her grin on the other side of the line. "See you tomorrow, honey."
Commander William Adama had been counting down the days until the decommissioning for weeks. It was the most dreadful day in his entire calendar for all that it represented: saying goodbye to his career, his ship, his crew. The military life he'd been accustomed to for so long.
And being forced to speak with his ex-wife again only made it worse.
But as the day came, he had come to terms with it. It wasn't what he wanted but after the mission aboard the Valkyrie, it certainly was the best retirement he could have hoped for. His real objection was Galactica's final destiny— a museum, of all things; letting the Ministry of Education take control of the Old Girl was not what he wanted for his battlestar.
Still, there was nothing he could do against it. At least Galactica will not be scrapped apart, he kept reminding himself. CIC was eerily quiet this morning as he mentally practiced his speech one more time, and it wasn't until Dee received word of the arrival of the special guests that he moved out of his post. Not even when Lee came aboard just a solid half an hour before.
All Bill wanted was to drag his feet back to his quarters, but instead he purposefully strode along the way to the hangar bay: as the commander of the battlestar, he had to greet the secretary of education in person. He caught up with her and Doral —the man sent from Public Relations to mess up with his ship—, in a corridor, already talking about the retrofits implemented to meet the new purpose... And the very second he laid eyes on her, under the fluorescent light of the passageway, he had to stop dead on his track: she was exactly like Bill remembered.
Though, granted, he'd seen her on newspapers and TV news from time to time on his shore leaves, but it had been a while since meeting her in person.
Laura Roslin was a beautiful woman, as proper as one would expect from a member of the presidential cabinet, dressed up in a business suit both formal as to the occasion as well as not overdressed for the event. Adama distinguished the pair of creamy white legs he knew from memory and found himself staring at them for a couple of seconds before snapping back to reality; he had loved those legs long before loving their owner.
Still he also got a record of where they disappeared, a lavender —maybe purple— skirt with flowers in the hem, her curves around her hip and waist, her cleavage tucked behind the suit jacket, and her attractive face framed by short auburn curls. And again, those legs...
Laura stopped in front of him, followed by Doral, and she locked eyes with Bill as if challenging him to say anything out of place. He wouldn't of course, she didn't need to worry; instead, the commander offered his right hand to her before speaking. "Welcome aboard Galactica, Madam Secretary," he greeted her in the most professional manner he could muster.
Some part of him wished Laura would deny his gesture, but he knew well that wasn't an option. Laura was a professional. She shook his hand with little uncertainty but withdrew her own as soon as she could, a tiny detail he was sure only someone who had known her for years could have noticed.
"Thank you, Commander," she said. Bill also acknowledged Doral with a nod in his direction. "Can we go through some of the logistics before the ceremony?" she asked then.
"Of course," he agreed. "Though Mr. Doral here has been supervising the changes in person for two weeks, I'm sure his input will be much deeper than mine."
Bill was giving her an out, to make the procedure less awkward if she wanted to. But alas, she had a lot going through her head to even bother. "Actually, I want to talk to you about some... constraints Mr. Doral has found aboard this ship. He can accompany us," she determined.
Bill nodded and extended his arm toward the end of the hallway, inviting her to keep walking, which she did. He had an idea of what she was referring to.
He was correct.
When the secretary of education boarded Galactica in search of the commanding officer, a young girl followed the group for a few minutes and until they fell out from the hangar bay and unto the maze of corridors that composed the battlestar. She had no intention of losing time aboard the vessel because of formalities just yet.
So she found an officer in blue uniform and approached him while the rest of the retinue, guided by Doral, kept walking out of her view. "Hello," she said. "Do you happen to know where to find Captain Lee Adama? He must have arrived some time ago."
"Captain Adama?" the man repeated. He either had no idea who she was referring to, or thought her confused on the title and talking about the commander.
"Yes, Captain Adama. Commander Adama's son." Then added, "He's here for the ceremony."
The officer's eyes widened slightly in understanding. He nodded. "I don't know for sure, Miss, but he might be in the ready room with the rest of the pilots."
"Can you point me there?" she asked.
The man told her to follow the hallway to the second exit to her right, then turn and go straight ahead until a hatch with the words Ready Room printed on it came into view. She thanked the young officer and kept walking; the instructions were clear and she was close enough to her destiny not to get lost on the spaceship. But since the hatch was closed and the sound of voices came from inside, she had to wait until the air wing of Galactica finished the briefing.
She stayed by the entrance when most of the pilots left talking between themselves a few minutes later, until she found a pair of blue eyes remarkably similar to hers inside the emerging crowd.
"Hi, stranger," she said when he passed by, a smile on her face. At the sound of her voice, Lee turned around, took her in and grinned as well.
"Val!" He gave her a kiss on her cheek as he approached. "Mom told me you were coming."
Born four years after Lee, Val Adama had the same wavy, long, dark red hair as her mother, along with her nose, lips and white-ish skin, yet hers was tanned a tone darker. In contrast, Val had inherited her father's blue eyes, a rigid jawline that grew harsher whenever she got upset, his same posture and gaze. The girl irradiated a certain determination and stubbornness for her young age, no doubt learned from her parents.
"You know I wouldn't miss it. History being made, remember?" she joked. "Plus, it's Dad's retirement ceremony too. I haven't seen him in a while."
"Of course, Dad," he echoed.
Val saw the discomfort on her brother's eyes and rolled her own, incapable of understanding the strained relationship between the two. Sure, she didn't have the best relationship with her father either, but hers was a field trip compared to Lee's.
But she knew it was better to just let it slide, as always. "Anyhow, since all battlestars share their core design, mind giving your little sister a tour? If you have the time, that is," she added.
"Actually, can you wait on that and come with me to the brig? There's someone else I want to say hello to."
"To the brig?" Val asked and he nodded. "Okay, I'll take my tour there for now. Who is it?"
"You already know her," Lee admitted. "Kara Thrace."
Val blinked twice before speaking. "The Kara Thrace? Zak's Kara?"
"The one and only," Lee said. "She was assigned to Galactica a few weeks after the funeral."
"I didn't know that," she told him. "And speaking of things we don't know, a word of advice: be careful when you speak to Mom. She's... distracted. I suppose the teacher's strike worsened this morning." Val sighed. "I couldn't get any details out of her on the flight here."
Lee frowned. "And speaking with Dad won't help at all."
Val shook her head. "I guess not. Let's just hope there's no reason for them to disagree here."
"So you're still afraid of computers," Laura remarked wryly, a somewhat polite smile on her face.
Which was, at best, utterly exasperating for her. Bill had told her many times about his adventures during the Cylon War, but the Colonies had come a long way since then; surely networking the computers aboard the ship wouldn't be so bad, right? She understood his paranoia given what he had gone through, but Galactica was not going to be in service any longer. She was to be a museum now, nothing else!
Still, she had to admit this was the same stubborn Bill Adama she had married almost three decades ago. The stoic expression on his face, the wear and tear of his rough and manly features, his olive skin and what appeared to be the same firm muscles she had retraced with her fingertips many times, barely noticeable underneath the uniform— it was like talking to a living memory. The only change since then was the specs of grey in his hair.
But Laura's mind was in no position to reminisce about her failed marriage at the moment: The president wanted her resignation for her decision to take the citizens' side. She had been diagnosed with what could only be described as terminal cancer just before leaving Caprica, without any chance to come to terms with it yet. Her mind had spent the whole flight spinning around the tribulations her children ought to have ahead... and yet there she was, aboard an almost derelict battleship, trying to convince the stubborn soldier of her ex-husband to frakking link their computers together. Oh, Laura would've given a lot not to mind her tone and just tell him to shove it up his ass.
Instead, she tried to ease the building tension with a joke nothing close to ill-intended. And it was backfiring spectacularly, but she had to insist nonetheless: the teachers would appreciate to have a linked network to guide them and the tourists around a huge vessel as Galactica.
"Many men and women lost their lives aboard this ship because faster computers were created to 'make life easier'. It would be an insult to them to go through the same path instead of leaving everything as it is," he explained.
His argument was compelling, Laura had to admit that. She didn't agree with it —after all, what better way to honor the loss of lives than to ensure history be taught instead of forgotten?— but she knew already there was no way to change his mind, not when the Cylon War was involved. Bill Adama felt too strongly about the subject.
"I'm sorry that I'm inconveniencing you or your teachers, but I will not allow a network computerized system to be placed on this ship while I'm in command. Is that clear?" he said.
Well, that was it, wasn't it? The matter would have to wait for a while to be sorted out, until he was no longer in command. The transition would be harsh, of course, but once Galactica had served as a museum for several months, Laura was sure she would get her way with the network system: the ship would be effectively out of Adama's reach by then.
Her stomach shivered at the thought. By then. Maybe at that point it would be her successor's fight instead of hers: even if the cancer was gracious enough to let her go back to work several months from now, the president might not be so kind. The teacher's strike could be destined to claim someone's head, and if that was the case Laura knew it was hers. Adar always emerged from the political turmoil without even a scratch and that was no coincidence.
A good politician was prepared to let go of cannon fodder when necessary.
And one of the things she had learnt in her political career was that anyone could become cannon fodder when necessary.
One fight at a time, Laura reminded herself. There was no point in dwelling on it for now: once she was back on Caprica, she would have all the time in the world to think about how to get the president back to his senses. And if not... how to fight back with claws and teeth.
"Yes, sir," she said and with that, Bill excused himself and left.
"Perhaps you would like to see your guest quarters?" Doral asked a while after the commander had stormed out of view. Laura nodded and followed the man through the maze of corridors until he stopped at a particular hatch. "You can call the kitchen and have food delivered whenever you want to with the comm system inside. If that'll be all, I'll see you at the ceremony tomorrow. Unless you'd like a tour around first."
"I would like that," she agreed.
"Alright. I'll tell the... commander." Laura felt how uncomfortable he was about the last exchange between her and Galactica's CO, but there was nothing neither could do about it. As a member of the cabinet, protocol dictated that Adama should be the one accompanying her if available. "We have a press conference in fifteen minutes with him and his son, Captain Apollo, but I believe he'll be able to walk you around after that. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
She hoped the man didn't pick her blinking twice at the mention of Lee. The less people knowing hers and Bill's past, the better.
"Yes, two more things. It seems I've lost my aide," she said. The young man had gone missing a while ago, where was he?
Doral looked around in confusion, as if he was just then noticing the absence. "I'll tell the marines to look for him and bring him here," he agreed.
"Thank you. Could you also tell Captain Adama that I need to speak to him once you're done?" she asked. If Doral had been confused before, he seemed utterly lost now.
"Of... course," he said. He then told Laura he would be back in an hour or two with the commander for the tour, or even less if he happened to stumble upon her aide before the marines. With a few words of appreciation, she disappeared into her quarters as Doral closed the hatch behind her.
It wasn't the first time she'd been on a battlestar, not even the first time she'd been aboard Galactica, but it surely felt like it. She had seen from a hangar bay all the way to CIC four years after the Cylon War, when she was nothing but a student wanting to become a teacher and Galactica was Caprica's pride and joy. There was a certain irony involved, as Laura had a successful career now while the ship went into a loud retirement. Maybe it'll be the same for me when I get back. Full circle, she thought bitterly.
Any form of feedback is appreciated!
Like always, thanks to WeAreCylons for taking the time to be my betas ;) Enjoy!
Fate leads those who follow, and drags those who resist.
About an hour later, just as promised, there was a knock on the hatch. Laura had already spoken to Billy, who had finally settled in the adjacent quarters and explained how he had got lost in a few seconds, incapable of orienting himself on a ship. She had also seen Val a while ago, who had left once again to explore the battlestar and maybe find her father in the process to finally say hello.
Laura walked to the door —hatch, it was called hatch— and unlocked it. She didn't find Doral in the hallway but rather a very familiar face.
"I'm looking for Laura Roslin?" Her son smiled.
She threw her arms around his neck. "Lee!" she greeted him, and embraced him fiercely.
"Hi, Mom," he said, hugging her as well.
Laura let him go a few moments later, and then proceeded to rearrange the collar of his formal greys, more out of habit than anything else as she didn't see a wrinkle anywhere. "Look at you, Lee. Your captain pins suit you," she remarked, pride coating her voice. "My Captain Apollo."
Yet Lee grinned shyly before closing the hatch again and following her mother to the couch inside her quarters. As soon as he was next to her, she took one of his hands between hers and tried to suppress a sigh.
"How are things with the teacher's strike?" he asked with concern, remembering his sister's words.
"It's taking a toll on my team, but nothing we can't overcome," she lied. There was a certain irony in the severity of those secrets now coiling in her stomach, all of them concocted after her call the night before; in those few hours she'd been informed that she was dying, for the Lords of Kobol. But she decided this was not the place and she was in no condition to let her children know any of them yet. "I'm more concerned about you, however. Honey, if you don't feel as strongly about your place in the Fleet as your father does, it's time to start looking for something else," she admonished, mistakenly taking his doubtful gaze as a sign that his worries came from his service in the Colonial Fleet.
He threw a sharp breath. "Maybe, but not now. Speaking of Dad, I take it you've seen him already?"
"I have. And it went as well as you'd expect," she admitted. She offered a bittersweet smile along with her words.
Lee snorted, drawing a similar expression on his face. "Yeah, I know the feeling."
She pressed his hand gently.
"I wish you could forgive him, Lee. He's not responsible for what happened."
"He is, Mom. If he hadn't pulled his strings inside the Fleet, Zak would've never been admitted into flight school," he said.
But Laura merely shook her head. "If he hadn't helped him, Zak would've found another way to get in. He was the son of two very stubborn people, remember?" She sighed. "Your brother was determined to follow your father's steps, whatever the cost. It's not his fault."
"Do you really believe that?" Lee challenged. "What about his impossible-to-meet expectations about us being part of the Fleet, how it was the only career we could choose to make him proud?"
Laura took a few seconds to answer. She had also blamed Bill for filling her children's lives with an heroic figure they had been drawn to follow two years ago, for getting Zak into Fleet Academy when he had already been rejected, for not being able to disguise his disappointment when Val informed him of her university plans, for inadvertently convincing Lee to enlist on a future he didn't truly want in the first place. Her eldest had a tendency to over-intellectualize everything, and for some time Laura was convinced he would actually follow in her footsteps and become a teacher, or maybe his grandfather's and choose a career in Law. None of that had happened, of course, but in the time since Zak's death, the woman had made peace with most of it: she knew Bill had acted wrongly but in good faith, and she also knew he was as devastated as she was by their son's passing. Laura simply could not hold a grudge on a man as broken as her.
"That was not his intention, Lee," she finally remarked. "He learned to accept Val's History degree in the end, for instance."
"He always lets Val off the hook because she's the youngest," he interrupted.
"Whatever the case, he's trying. And he misses Zak as much as we do," Laura concluded.
As Lee was about to protest again, however, a new knock on the hatch stopped him in his tracks. Laura let go of her son, got up from the couch, smoothed down her skirt and went towards the exit to unlock it. She found herself standing across from the commander.
He was either over their discussion or had really improved at pretending when he said, "Doral mentioned you want a tour?" But he soon noticed Lee's form getting up as well and added, "I can come back later."
"No, I was just leaving. I have to check the illustrious Viper I'm flying anyway," Lee said. He then gave his mother's shoulder a gentle squeeze and walked out of the quarters without as much as a backward glance.
There was an awkward silence in the room.
"I tried," Laura informed him.
Bill nodded. "Thanks."
It was the first time she really took the time to notice this William Adama. Impeccable uniform, down to polished buttons and boots, military-standard short hair combed into place, his hands resting together in front of him in a relaxed but measured gesture. He wasn't smiling but his eyes —Laura never forgot that deep, blue gaze— were softer than before, a feature she had found most intriguing since she first met him. How could a man that appeared to be in control over every aspect of his life look at her as if trying to reach common ground, instead of simply putting some effort into overwhelming her?
Of course she knew: he was barely in control of anything. Heartbroken by one dead son and another refusing his reconciliation attempts, while his only constant, an old battlestar, was being taken away and slowly being turned into a derelict attraction.
By her. The woman he'd been married to, a union that had gone down in flames seventeen years ago. Not that she had any saying in the decommissioning itself as opposed to the museum, but still...
And just then, she noticed the wedding ring resting on the man's finger.
Laura bit her lip, not knowing what to make of that. Val mentioned Bill meeting a woman after Zak's death but nothing about him getting remarried. Was it the same one she'd given him? It certainly looked familiar, but it was no proof as most wedding rings were virtually indistinguishable. And if that was the case, why was he still wearing it?
She pushed those thoughts out of her mind. It was best to concentrate on their professional link instead of their personal lives during her visit, that path would only lead to chaos. They had a task at hand and after the ceremony, they would part ways once again and get back to their tacit arrangement: only reaching out for the other if Lee or Val were involved.
"Can we get on with the tour, Commander? I appreciate you taking the time to show me around," she said. And she meant it.
Except Bill didn't notice. The word Commander rang loudly in his ears, along with the fact that she had used his title even when they were alone. If that was the tone to be used between them, he would gladly oblige.
"Yes, Madam Secretary," he accepted, moving just enough to let her walk first.
Adama decided to start the tour over at CIC, also taking the chance to reintroduce her to Saul Tigh. She shook hands with the Executive Officer, who made very clear that he was not thrilled with her presence but was polite enough to not mention it aloud. Although the sentiment was echoed in several faces all over the place and Laura was not surprised, the crew did not want to say goodbye to their ship and she was the visible head of the government that was taking her away. But she showed no tint of remorse, guilt or apology in her expression: just as they had their jobs, so did she. In this particular topic, the secretary of education didn't call the shots.
"So this was the first ship you served on?" Laura asked a few minutes later, as they were walking down a hall towards their next destination. How on Kobol would the guides orientate themselves when each level —deck, she corrected herself— was remarkably similar? And without the network!
"Yes it was. Caprica's flagship back in the day," he confirmed. Yet Adama's tone had grown almost imperceptibly bitter as they approached the starboard launch pod; they were standing in front of the Vipers and Cylon's display, the biggest change the soon-to-be-museum ship had gone through. As expected he hated everything about it, down to the frakking gift shop.
She waited for him to elaborate, but the commander said nothing. Laura paced along the closest models of the exhibit.
"Did you fly this type of Vipers?" She asked, waving in the general direction of the spacecrafts.
"Yeah, they are Mark II's. Galactica is now fully equipped with Mark VII's, but these were top technology during the war. Lee is flying one of these for the ceremony."
"I see." She then looked to the robots encased in glass. "And these were the Cylons you fought?"
"They are." He was aware of her intentions of humoring him by asking things she already knew, as he told her about his service record years ago. She was trying to achieve some kind of mutual understanding, no doubt a vestige of her days as a teacher.
But he really had no intention of going through a charade like that. He had been the host protocol dictated and that was it, Bill certainly didn't want to play 'Getting reacquainted with your ex-wife' at this particular point in his life.
"You suddenly care about the military now?" he remarked sharply. "Or just when it suits you?"
She shot him an exasperated look. "I hardly think this is the best place to talk about us, Commander."
He knew she was right, of course. A couple of marines had accompanied them through the tour for safety reasons and while they were keeping a respectful distance and seemed out of earshot, he couldn't be completely sure of that. But he also knew there was no us to talk about in the first place and so, rather than agreeing with her, Bill said the stupidest thing he could think of.
He saw how Laura tensed her jaw before answering, catching his intention immediately: Bill was well aware of the extent of his ex-wife's relationship with the president. Was she going to deny it?
She didn't. Instead she raised her chin in a defying manner as she shot back, "How's Carolanne?"
Bill grunted. "Fair enough."
A new, awkward silence settled between them until the speakers required Bill's presence back in CIC. The commander was obviously relieved as he excused himself to deal with more last minute preparations for the next day, and Laura had to admit she felt the same. Her main intention with the tour was to get reacquainted with Galactica, but some part of her had hoped that Bill and she could reach common ground again so that he would agree that the network should be put in place. It wouldn't be the case, however, not now and apparently not in the near future.
The ceremony itself was of little interest to Laura. Had it taken place a few days ago she would have been more attentive than just pretending to be, of course, but she had never been fascinated by the military life. It was an emotional procedure for the ship's crew, but for her... she understood why, just didn't share the feeling.
At least that was until Bill's speech. Laura could not help but notice how his words hit close to home, and made her remember the one person who was not present but the soldier and herself had in common.
"The cost of wearing the uniform can be high, but—" he suddenly paused and removed his glasses. He wasn't going to read anymore. "Sometimes is too high. You know, when we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question, why? Why are we as a people worth saving? We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept the responsibility for anything that we've done. Like we did with the Cylons."
Laura searched her daughter's eyes, seated next to Billy on the second row of people in front of her. Val gave her a sideways glance before turning back to her father's features; she also seemed affected by the speech.
"We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn't our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you've created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can't hide from the things that you've done anymore."
It was clear that Adama was talking about Zak, the son he'd lost while in military uniform, and she felt pulled towards mutual grief. Yet Laura also thought of her father, her sisters, her beloved mother... even thought about that drunk driver that had obliterated her remaining family some years back. Did they actually deserve to survive, when there were so many irresponsible, reckless individuals such as that man? Was she running away, refusing to be held accountable for her actions? What was she doing to contribute to their redemption as a species?
She did have a new answer for that last question: fighting her own boss on behalf of the teachers’ union was a good start, she believed, well aware Richard Adar did not share her best interest on the subject. Maybe he never did and she was just discovering it.
Laura was the first one to break into applause, much to the commander's surprise. But his heartfelt words stroke a fiber deep inside of her as she finally saw again the person behind the mask; he still existed, even though Adama was not interested in letting her know any more for obvious reasons. But there he was, the man she had known once.
Not that it mattered anymore. The decommissioning was almost over and Laura was scheduled to return to Caprica immediately after.
When Adama escorted Laura back to her transport, docked inside the landing bay of the battlestar, he was certainly pleased to do so. While her gesture during the ceremony didn't go unnoticed, he wanted to be alone now; he had few days left as the Commanding Officer of Galactica and he certainly wanted to make the most of them.
"Thank you for coming, Madam Secretary," he said. And he couldn't stop himself from adding, "It was good to see you."
A surprised but soft smile crept into Laura's face. "Likewise, Commander. Good luck on your retirement."
Concluding with a handshake between the two, Laura boarded the Colonial Heavy 798 back to Caprica with her aide and the man from Public Relations. Val lingered a little longer just to give her father a farewell hug.
"My classes end in a couple of weeks," she informed him. "So I expect to spend a few days at your place once you've settled back in and I'm done with the exams."
Bill grinned. "Count on it."
Val gave him a kiss and boarded the spacecraft as well. Bill then tilted his head towards Lee as a form of goodbye, followed by the words 'Take care, son,' but made no attempt of physical contact. While he was aware the captain would not be coming back to Galactica, he also knew Lee would not let him get any closer than he already was. At least he had seen his elder son again, even if his attendance had been mandatory and not guided by free will.
The commander watched them leave the battlestar with a handful of emotions flowing through his heart. That was it, the end of the line.
His retirement was awaiting him... He took certain comfort in knowing that there would be no more political crap in his future, either coming from the secretary of education or not.
Surely, Bill Adama wouldn't have to deal with Laura Roslin again for a while.
Muggle life is a bitch sometimes, but I've finally managed to upload the next chapter! I have another one almost done now, so the next update won't take me this long ;) Enjoy!
Bear in mind that English is not my native language, which is why I'm so thankful for my beta Jules! All remaining mistakes are mine.
You get a wonderful view from the point of no return.
The commander's quarters were uncannily quiet when Bill went inside. Perhaps it was just his impression, an awful reminder his time on his ship was coming to a close. As he stood by the entrance with the hatch sealed, his eyes went from the painting by the sofa to his private quarters. There was a lot of packing to be done before leaving.
Bill sighed and unbuttoned his jacket as he crossed the room all the way to the desk, stopping just in front of it. The framed photograph his deck crew got him rested there— three small pairs of eyes plus his own looked back at him with his old Viper behind. The smiling, unabashed expressions of his kids was a vision he rarely saw these days.
He'd lost so much already. And he still had more to lose.
His last days on Galactica had brought Lee back to him, but a proper conversation between the two was out of the question for the time being. Zak... Well, Zak. He had even been faced with his pragmatic ex-wife a few hours ago, and she was taking the Old Girl from him. Bill had never fought for custody of his kids, accepting since the beginning that Laura had a more reasonable life to raise them; how exactly had he lost custody of his battlestar to her too?
But at least he was still on speaking terms with Val. He knew it was far from perfect, but he took comfort in the fact that his youngest wanted to spend time with him in the following weeks. And there was Kara, the girl he considered his own after Zak's death; he had some good memories from the past two years thanks to her.
He pinched his nose and as the hand came down, he caught a golden reflection in one of his fingers. Bill stared at his hand and cursed under his breath; he'd completely forgotten to remove his wedding band, as he always did when he saw Laura. He knew she might misunderstand it, as rational as she was, and he didn't even know how to explain what the ring truly meant to him. He could only hope she didn't notice it.
Bill inhaled deeply, slowly filling his lungs to their whole capacity before exhaling again. He should begin packing... but there was enough time in the next three days for that. Putting it on hold until the very last minute —even after the ship's farewell party, perhaps— was something Bill was perfectly happy to do so.
After all he knew what his immediate plans ensuing the disembarking would be: after leaving Galactica, Saul would drag him to Picon to find Ellen, most surely in someone else's bed. Bill would take his best friend to some sleazy bar to cool his heels off, and in the morning, Saul would accept Ellen back as if nothing had happened. He would then be free to return to Caprica and start his retirement for real by making his that old —but hopefully cozy— apartment he rented just a few days ago. Carolanne had helped him find a place similar to what his own quarters on the battlestar were, and while she described it as rustic and in dire need of remodeling, Bill found it close enough by the photos she had sent him.
Truth was, he wasn't ready to be back on a planet. Hell, he'd never leave Galactica if he wasn't ordered to. He had sacrificed so much for the Fleet to leave now— spending more time with his children as they grew up, for instance. His occasional visits on shore leaves could not make up for his prolonged absences.
But he would try his best to change it. Bill was not blind to the good side of retiring: living closer to his children and having more time to spend with them from now on.
He approached his bookshelf, took out a volume and walked back to his desk, where he turned the lamp on so it'd be easier for him to read. He opened the book by the first chapter as he sat down, but stared at the page a few moments before he began reading. He closed his eyes and some images from the ceremony came back— Laura Roslin's expression while he spoke, her eyes completely focused on his. There had been a time in his life when he would've given anything for Laura to take a tour aboard Galactica with him... just not anymore.
But it was the best moment to get through the end of Searider Falcon for the first time.
As he approached the third chapter, however, Gaeta’s voice came through the comm unit on the wall. "CIC to Commanding Officer."
Bill frowned. Even with the decommissioning taken care of, Galactica was supposed to have a couple more days of normal activities; nothing should be out of the ordinary as long as the CAP was out.
He laid the book on the table and picked up the receiver. "Adama. Go ahead."
The young officer spoke with a certain reluctance. "Sorry to disturb you, sir, but we've picked up a priority one alert message from Fleet Headquarters. It..." Bill felt a heavy sensation in his chest while Gaeta trailed off nervously. Lee was going back to Fleet Headquarters, but the flight to Caprica alone was more than five hours long, never mind to Picon. He shouldn't be there yet. "It was transmitted in the clear, sir."
"In the clear? What does it say?" he asked. The sensation turned into a knot at the base of Bill's stomach.
"It says... attention all Colonial units." Gaeta made another uneasy pause, and Bill held his breath. "Cylon attack underway. This is not a drill."
Bill stared ahead blankly for a moment, blood rushing to his head as he processed the news. Cylons. The message didn't say where, or how many. While all of his remaining family was still out in space. Lee. Val. His two kids trapped on a civilian ship with barely a Viper to protect them. And also... Laura. "I'm on my way."
Laura stared out the window as Billy talked, not really listening to her aide. Her gaze was locked on the Viper accompanying the transport, the old spacecraft flown by Lee.
She had to tell them.
"Excuse me," she interrupted the young man's monologue and headed to the washroom.
She saw her reflection in the mirror, pleased at how it didn't show how sick she was. She still looked like crap to her eyes, but neither Lee nor Bill had noticed... Val had spent more time with her but seemed unaware as well. She wanted to believe that was enough proof she could hide her illness for now.
Laura could not keep her children in the dark forever, though. She wanted to, to spare them the heartache that her decay would mean for them, but they both deserved to know. Once they set foot back on the Colonies... She pressed a hand to her left breast, her touch digging in deep until it hurt, until she felt it with her fingers. She caught her terrified gaze in the mirror as she choked down a sob. How could this have happened to her? She felt the foreign mass beneath her skin, a rock amongst the soft flesh surrounding it. She had been avoiding it for weeks now.
Lee and Val would notice eventually. They would know. Her eyes burned as she fought back tears, imagining how they would take the news. There was something poetic about being informed of her impending death shortly before a reunion with both her children and her ex, or maybe just a cruel irony from the Gods. The last time she had seen the three of them at the same time was at Zak's funeral; services like those have the tendency to bring people together.
So maybe that was it, maybe the timing was just perfect. With Bill's retirement, he was free to be there for their children during her own passing.
Laura was not extremely religious, but she caught herself praying for answers to the Lords of Kobol at that moment. It was a mixture of a petition, to give Lee and Val the strength to overcome her demise, and a request to either take her quickly or make it all disappear like a bad dream. Whatever happened to her now, she only wanted for her kids not to go through what she had experienced with her own mother's death.
There was no use in grieving inside the washroom at the moment, she'd have plenty of time for that after— whatever after she could get from that moment on. Gods. She closed her eyes to calm herself and steady her breathing before she gently unlocked the door and walked back to her seat. She found the captain of the ship addressing the passengers and Billy staring at him in concern. Even Val, who usually dozed off at some point during long interplanetary flights, was wide awake on the seat behind her aide.
"As we get more information I will pass it along to you. We appreciate your patience. Thank you."
"What's going on?" she whispered to Billy.
"I'm... not sure." A bolt of uncertainty flashed underneath her skin and she glanced out the window once more to make sure Lee was still out there. The back of the engines was all she could see but it was enough to reassure her, the white, blueish glow of burning tyllium framing the rear of the Viper. "There seem to be no communications coming from Caprica. But there should be, right? Is it a bad sign?"
"It might be a malfunction, Billy," she assured him, gently patting his arm as she tried to give him the assurance she didn't feel for entirely different reasons. "Don't worry about it. Captain Apollo and his Viper are still with us." The young man nodded, a glint of doubt still visible in his gaze. So Laura decided to let her new aide into her personal life in the hopes that the gesture would calm him. "I know he will keep us safe because Captain Lee Adama is Val's brother. He is my son too."
"I... thought it quite a coincidence when I heard your daughter's last name," he admitted shyly, having already filled the blanks. "It was weird that she was accompanying you to a standard ceremony for the Ministry."
Billy had learned about the extra guest just days before the decommissioning, when he had been assigned as her aide, and found it contradictory: The Laura Roslin he knew from the press didn't seemed the type to waste taxpayer money by dragging her offspring along on any occasion she got. And after meeting Val, he had realized she wasn't a spoiled brat either, so it finally made sense when he discovered she came with them for her father's sake and not her mother's. Billy was glad to be proven right, as he had the feeling he had gained a good boss.
"Then don't worry about it," Laura repeated. "I'm sure everything's fine."
As Gaeta called for Condition One throughout the ship, Bill became awfully aware most of his crew —all of his crew, except for him and Tigh— had never been in actual combat situation before. He saw a crowd full of terrified expressions looking back at him, expecting an answer he didn't have. Each report that came after the first got increasingly worse.
The Colonel arrived with a faint frown in his face, but evidently not yet briefed about the attack. "What've we got? Shipping accident?" he joked as he stood next to Bill. A decommissioned ship wouldn't be on alert for a shipping accident. Adama merely gave him the reports without a word.
"Condition One is set. All decks report ready for action, sir," Gaeta informed.
Tigh widened his eyes as he read each document. "They can't be serious. This is a joke. Fleet's playing a retirement prank on you. Come on."
Bill slowly stared back at him. "I don't think so."
He picked up the receiver as Tigh looked at him in disbelief, and pressed the speaker option to get his voice to the entire ship. "This is the Commander. Moments ago we received word that a Cylon attack against our homes is underway." He did what he did best: trying to appear calm, to get his crew concentrated on the task at hand and not on their potential loses. “We do not know the size, or the disposition, or the strength of the enemy forces, but all indications point to a massive assault against Colonial defenses."
No one in CIC moved or even breathed as they took in the news, and by Bill's stern look, they knew he wasn't done yet.
"Admiral Nagala has taken personal command of the Fleet aboard the battlestar Atlantia, following complete destruction of Picon Fleet Headquarters in the first wave of the attacks." He paused for a second time, and mentally thanked the admiralty for inadvertently getting Lee out of there. "How, why— doesn't really matter now. What does matter is that as of this moment, we are at war. You've trained for this. You’re ready for this. Stand to your duties, trust your fellow shipmates, and we'll all get through this." Give them as much confidence as possible. They're going to need it.
Even when Bill himself didn't feel he had much. "Further updates as we get them. Thank you." He dropped the handset back to its holding place and gave another look at the ocean of frightened faces around him. He needed to lead them now that he was sending them to war. Checking on Lee, Val and that spacecraft they were on would have to wait.
"Tactical: begin a plot on all military units in the system, friendly or otherwise." The way he delivered his orders didn't change, the composure masking the numbness inside. But at the same time, Bill felt the familiar rush of adrenaline from fear he'd been accustomed to during the Cylon War— the First Cylon War. It was like greeting an old friend, someone to remind him exactly what to do to give his crew the biggest chance of survival.
"Yes, sir!" Gaeta exclaimed, immediately moving away from his view to follow his instructions.
"XO: we’re in a shooting war. We need something to shoot.” Bill turned to Saul, who was still staring at him, his uniform unbuttoned and a lost look on his face.
He snapped right away. "I'll check ammunition depots."
"Dee: send a signal to our fighter squadron. I want a report on position and tactical status. And get Lieutenant Thrace out of the brig."
And just like that, the somber stillness of the room was lifted as people fell back into their duties, with sounds reappearing from footsteps, papers coming and going and voices fulfilling the orders given.
"Caprica has been nuked—"
"That can't be right—"
"He's got a wireless working, and they said—"
Laura ignored the deafening cacophony of dozens of voices speaking at the same time effortlessly, as her own worries —only enlarged by the proximity of her children— were the sole inhabitants of her mind, miles away from the here and now.
However, her relative peace did not last long. "Mom?" Val called behind her, her tone apprehensive. The voice brought her back to the spacecraft, and Laura blinked a couple of times as she registered the interruption. "Do you think... it's true?"
Laura's gaze fell once more unto the window and she sighed with relief: Lee's Viper was still out there. As she turned back to her daughter, her eyes found Billy's; a reflection of similar distress was painted all over his face.
"I'm going to see the captain and find out," she soothed them. "But it's probably a mistake."
She stood up and moved to the front of the ship. Her hands found the railing by the stairs and she paused for a second, her mind working as fast as it could. Caprica could not be nuked, right? If there was some sort of attack, all military spacecrafts would be called back on duty and Lee was still out there, escorting the ship. And if there was an attack... they were at war. Her son would be... could— die. Laura shook her head, as if that was enough to keep that particular chain of thoughts away from her.
She resumed her journey by lifting her hand from the railway, only then noticing her white knuckles due to the force in her grip. I'm supposed to go before Lee. I'm dying before Lee, she reminded herself. She wasn't going to be there long to survive another son.
Her footsteps slowly guided her to the cockpit door. Before she could knock, however, the captain appeared in front of her, his features pale as snow. Laura felt her own colors draining from her face. "Excuse me," she said politely, but didn't wait for a confirmation to step into the room. "One of the passengers has a shortwave wireless. They've heard a report that Caprica's been nuked," she continued.
The man met her eyes for the first time, fully acknowledging her presence at last. The blank expression on his face was all she needed as a response, even before he gestured towards the piece of printed paper on his hand, and her heart began pounding violently. "It has, hasn't it?"
He swallowed hard, trying to regain the ability to speak. "Caprica and other three colonies," he admitted. He then lowered his gaze back at the sheet of paper on his hand, now shaking without control; Laura tried to hold him steady before removing the paper. Her hand didn't leave his, clutching the other human being like her world had just been shattered.
And according to the report, it had.
"I guess I, uh, I should make an announcement," he spoke, but Laura didn't hear him. She had to read the printed message twice to accept what it said. We're at war with the Cylons, she thought. Gods, Lee. If Zak had died during peacetime, who was to assure her Lee would survive the war? "Or..." the captain continued, clearly asking her for advice.
"Huh?" She snapped out of her thoughts. "I'll do it. I'm a member of the political cabinet. It's my responsibility," she uttered, and the pilot seemed relieved. "While I'm doing that, I would ask that you contact the Ministry of Civil Defense and see what we can do to help."
He nodded and released her hand, leaving her free to go back the stairs. The escort Viper was not in range with the cockpit's window, and a new uneasy feeling settled just below her throat. She needed to see her son and make sure he was okay before... before she faced a group of terrified people just like her.
I don't have enough time to afford being scared, she told herself. With a deep breath, Laura made her way back to the passenger zone.
This is a Colonial One-centric episode. Bill and Galactica are having the same crisis we know already.
As always, thanks to my beta Jules ;) Enjoy!
Sometimes you move a million miles an hour— it doesn't catch up until you slow down again.
"Wait a minute, who put you in charge?" a voice questioned, and as he came forward Laura realized it was the man from Public Relations. She bit down her the first response that came to her mind, reminding herself how useful Doral had been on Galactica.
"The answer is no one," she agreed, "but this is a government vessel and I am the senior government official on board, so that puts me in charge. So how about you help me out and go down to the cargo area and see about setting it up as a living space."
Doral stared at her for a few seconds with incredulity, and soon enough opened his mouth to protest again. With a quick glance, Val made her way to the man before he said anything. "I'll help you," she offered, along with a polite smile as her gaze traveled to the end of the hallway and back to him in an inviting manner.
Laura gave her a grateful nod before turning her back on them to face the other passengers. "Everyone else, please: try and stay calm. Thank you."
She moved away from the crowd, with Billy walking behind her. When she got a satisfying amount of privacy, she turned and handed him the sheet of paper she had received from one of the stewards. "Alright, this is the passenger manifest," she informed him, but Billy stared at the document blankly. "Are you alright?" she asked.
"Yeah, yeah. My parents moved out to Picon two months ago, to be closer to my sisters and their families, and their grandkids and— um..." She nodded in understanding, feeling a sharp surge of sadness for him. She knew how hard it was to lose their siblings all at once.
"Madam Secretary?" the pilot interrupted before she could figure out how to comfort her aide. The man was still by the doorway, expecting her to follow. "We've got your comm link."
Laura ignored the mixture of relief and terror threatening to make her legs falter and nodded, shooting Billy a quick smile and a single pat on his sleeve before walking after the pilot. She was once again guided to the cockpit, where the co-pilot stood at her presence and offered her his seat. Laura accepted without question; whatever she was to hear would certainly need her seated. He then gave her the headset and she took it, her heart pounding loudly in her ears.
"This is Laura Roslin."
"Thank the Gods you're not here, Laura. Thank the Gods," a male voice answered, and she sank in her seat in despair. Jack. Jack Nordstrom, the subsecretary of civil defense. One of her friends in the cabinet. "Dust in the air, thousands of people wandering the streets."
She did her best to maintain an even tone as she spoke. "Jack." He didn't hear her over the rest of his mumblings. "Where is the president? Where is the president, Jack? Is he alive?" Please, Gods. We need Richard right now.
"I don't know," he admitted, but before she had any sort of reaction, he added, "I think so. We hear all kinds of things."
Thank the Gods for small mercies. The people in the Colonies needed their leader. "Have the Cylons made any demands? Do we know what they want?" she asked next. She wasn't even sure if Jack was finally quiet or the signal was lost, so she held her breath as she waited.
"No, no contact. I'm pretty sure of that." It was a reach, Laura knew. Making demands after bombing one planet was logical, it showed what they were capable of, but four of them... the Cylons were aiming for something entirely different.
Her throat clenched. "Has anyone discussed... has anyone discussed surrender?" Richard Adar was a pragmatist; he would be fully aware there was no alternative at this point.
"After Picon was nuked, the president offered a complete, unconditional surrender. The Cylons didn't even respond," he said. Laura's hands felt numb in her lap. This is no war, this is annihilation.
She had a realization then: wherever they were, they had to leave. Now. Run and never set foot on the Colonies again. Her heart sank; there was nothing she could do for Jack, or Richard, or any of the people currently alive on Caprica.
There was a sharp alarm coming from the monitor in front of the pilot and he suddenly stiffed at her side. Laura immediately turned to him in an unspoken question.
"Where? Uh, copy that," he muttered. "The Cylons have found us, there's an inbound missile." She didn't wait for the frightened expression of the man to feel her insides coil in an almost painful way— Lee was there to protect them, which also meant he would give his life for them if it came to that.
"Where the hell is our escort?" she asked as she leaned toward the windows. The dark, unyielding vastness of space showed no clue of her son's ship from where she was. And then to her left, out of nowhere— a cylinder-like object plunging in their direction, leaving a smoky trail on its wake; Laura blinked and when she stared again, Lee's Viper was upside down in between her field of view and the missile. It changed its trajectory to follow the Viper, who flew past them at ramming speed. "Oh my Gods," she whispered.
They didn't see the explosion nor felt it, the empty vacuum around them swallowing the event. Laura closed her eyes in anguish, but threw an urgent glance at the comm line when it came to life. "Kryptor, kryptor, kryptor. This is Apollo to Colonial Heavy 798, I am declaring an emergency. Flight systems are offline. Need assistance."
"What do we do?" said the pilot. He stared blankly at the window, perhaps expecting some other ship to jump at that same time and help.
Are you frakking serious? she thought. "We go get him," ordered Laura.
When Lee came out of the Viper, Val was already waiting for him near its wing with Doral by her side. She hugged him close and desperate, too worried about her brother's well-being to notice the lack of damage on his ship.
"Are you alright? I was afraid when word came from upstairs, that you were being brought into the cargo bay," she explained. "What happened?"
Lee snorted. "I'm fine. A Cylon missile fried my systems. This museum piece can't handle anything as good as my Mark VII." As they separated, he also frowned. "Why were you here and not in the passenger area?"
"Oh." Val blinked. "I was helping Mr. Doral get as much free space here as we can."
"I wanted to talk to you about that, Captain," Doral interrupted. "Thank the Gods you're here. We could use you."
"Is there something wrong with the ship?"
Doral shot Val a sideways glance. "No, that's not it. Just, the more... professionals we have on board, the better."
Lee did not catch his sister's sour look, but rather strode to where he supposed were the stairs. Val rushed to his side to point him in the right direction, fully conscious the man from Public Relations was still by her toes. She didn't have any problem with him tagging along... if he kept his opinions for himself.
Lee stopped briefly by some massive piece of equipment Val didn't recognize. "I didn't know Galactica was getting stripped of these today," he admitted.
"Stripped of what, exactly?"
"Its electric pulse generators... that battlestar really is a museum now," he explained as he resumed his pace.
When the little group returned to the passenger cabin, they found Laura sitting on a sofa and wearing a blanket instead of her jacket, with Billy nearby and the pilot by her side discussing over the ship's blueprints.
"Thanks for the lift," Lee said. He shook hands with the pilot then.
"I'm glad to see you're okay, Captain," Laura answered, and he gave her a thankful nod for still treating him like an officer given the situation. "Billy, can you start the cargo transfer and prep bay three— is bay three ready, Val?"
"It is, Mom."
"Good. Bay three for survivors, then?" Billy wrote down her instructions, nodded and stood up right away.
"I'm sorry, survivors?" Lee asked.
"As soon as the attacks began, the government ordered a full stop on all civilian vessels. So now we've got hundreds of stranded ships in the solar system; some are lost, some are damaged, some are losing power. We have enough space on this ship to accommodate up to five hundred people and we are going to need every bit of it." She stood as she spoke, and Lee nodded when he understood his mother's intentions.
"But we don't even know what the tactical situation is out there,” Doral protested, and she stared at him incredulously for a moment.
"The tactical situation is that we're losing, right, Captain?"
Lee didn't know what to say exactly, as the reports he got back in the Viper were severely fragmented at best. He would have had a better assessment of the information if there happened to be a battlestar in the vicinity, but that was not the case. So he slowly nodded again, this time reluctantly. "Right."
"So we pick up as many people as we can and try to find a safe haven to put down." Laura moved toward the cockpit, resolute to use the comm systems to raise as many stranded ships in the area, but as she got to the door frame she turned around looking at Lee. "I'd like you to look over the navigational charts for a likely place to hide from the Cylons." She then couldn't restrain herself and retraced her steps until she hugged each of her children with one arm, letting the blanket fall on the floor. "I'm so glad you're both here," she whispered. If they hadn't attended the ceremony... She let them go, trying to ignore her useless thoughts. "That's all."
As soon as they arrived back in the cockpit, the radio started beeping again. Laura took the seat behind the co-pilot this time as she stared out the window; the last alarm had been a missile after all. "What is it?" she asked when she didn't see anything outside, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.
"That bandwidth is reserved for extreme emergencies," Lee muttered, leaning towards it as the pilot opened the system to receive the message. They could all agree this was a time of extreme emergency.
"...official notification broadcast as per section 35, article 17 of the Emergency Continuity of Government Act. All ministers, department secretaries, and division heads now go to Case Orange. Repeat. This is an official notification broadcast..." The pilot turned the volume down as the message began again, and Laura stared at the speaker feeling a chunk of ice in her gut. But— she had just talked to Jack, back on Caprica. She had just communicated with Caprica...
"It's an automated message," she finally explained. "It’s designed to be sent out in case the president, vice president and most of the cabinet are dead or incapacitated." Her voice lowered as she thought back to the people she had worked with for the past years; all gone now. The pilots exchanged an overwhelmed look and Lee glanced at her with his mouth opened in shock. "I need you to send my I.D. code back on the exact same frequency."
"D as in dog, dash, four-five-six, dash, three-four-five, dash, A as in apple." She stood slowly when she finished and nodded to the pilots. "Thank you." She walked to the exit but Lee stopped her for a short time, pressing his hand affectionately on her arm. Laura fought the burning in her eyes and offered him a small smile before resuming her way, Lee following along. She had been in deep discussion with the teachers' union barely two days ago, and there was this event with the Quorum on Canceron last week that all her colleagues had attended as well. Richard... she had disagreed with the guy on a frequent basis lately, but this?
Laura didn't notice when she started shivering, moving through the passenger cabin almost absentmindedly. She hugged herself as she spotted her daughter, who jumped from her seat when she saw the distress in their faces. Val handed her back the blanket and Laura wrapped herself in it.
"What happened?" She looked repeatedly between them as her mother fell onto the seat in front of her and Lee took the one next to hers. Laura was incapable of answering.
"The rest of the government... appears to be dead," Lee said. Val opened her mouth but said nothing, processing the news with silent understanding. He then turned to Laura. "Mom..." he began, dreading to even ask. "How far down?"
"Forty-third in line of succession," she stated as a matter-of-fact. She was having trouble keeping her voice even. "I know all forty-two ahead of me, from the president down." Even her children knew several of them, for Gods' sake. "Remember when I first joined Richard's mayor campaign?" she asked and they both nodded, a sad smile on her lips. She sniffed as she pulled the blanket tighter around her.
"You just couldn't say no," Val said, repeating the words her mother often used to explain why she was in politics in the first place.
"Yes," she agreed. They were both aware Laura considered Richard Adar a close friend after little over thirteen years working together, but she had been very careful of not giving them any suspicion of her affair. "He had this way about him. I really thought I was, at last, going to get out after the first presidential term."
The pilot approached them and held out a small sheet of paper. "Thank you." She took it and as soon as she read it, her hand shook twice before she could stop herself. While the message was longer than that, she could only concentrate on two single lines:
I.D. code D-456-345-A received. Highest ranking cabinet member acknowledged.
Confirming stand-by, waiting for President Roslin's orders.
"We'll need a priest," she mumbled, as calmly as she could. She took the blanket off in favor of her coat as the words President Roslin kept ringing in her mind: she shouldn't be inheriting the presidency, not now when she was given just a few months to live while everyone else —her coworkers, her friends— were dead. Laura never wanted this. She never really liked politics. Besides the people— whomever was left needed more than a leader who would be gone soon, they needed more stability than that. But then again, what other option was there?
"Yes, ma'am." The pilot left and Laura exchanged glances with Lee and Val, thinking about the best way to ease the tension they were surely feeling on her behalf. But her thoughts came back empty.
There was another thing on her mind, however. "Lee," she said softly. "Do you have any reports on the Fleet's casualties?" He knew exactly what she was asking about, or rather which particular battlestar she was interested in. He shook his head.
"We lost thirty ships in the first wave, the ones docked in Headquarters," he explained. "That's all I know. But—"
"But Galactica has no functional weapons, so if the Cylons found them..." Val finished for him, and Lee nodded gravely.
"They still have their Viper squadrons, but what chance do those Vipers have when the other battlestars were decimated so quickly?" Neither had any answer to Lee's retort. Val bit her lip in worry and Laura stared blankly at the floor between them. Her last talk with William Adama —she didn't want to call it last, but maybe it was— had been mostly civil, as always, with only some batches here and there. But he couldn't be dead for their children's sake, and also... for hers. She just couldn't think about it now.
"We’re ready, Madam Sec— Madam President." The pilot's voice brought them back from their individual thoughts, and Laura took a deep breath before following him. The adjacent area, originally designed for first class, was now full of the same reporters that had accompanied her to the decommissioning with recorders in hand, framing the priest who had also conducted the ceremony. She held the scrolls in her hands and compelled a short-lived smile as a greeting.
"Please raise your right hand and repeat after me," the woman instructed.
The reporters closed in around her, and Laura forced herself to concentrate in Lee and Val's presences by her right shoulder instead. She raised her hand and spread her fingers in the air, and it shook slightly as she fought to push away the stream of thoughts that suddenly overwhelmed her. She barely registered when the priest began reciting what she was supposed to repeat.
“I, Laura Roslin,”
I'm afraid the tests are positive; the mass is malignant.
“I, Laura Roslin—”
While there are treatments that can prolong your condition, the mass is too big for surgery...
“Do now avow and affirm,”
Ma'am, I regret to inform you there was an accident at Fleet Academy this morning...
“Do now avow and affirm—”
Lieutenant Zachary Adama lost control of his Viper. He didn't survive the crash.
“That I take the office of the president of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol,”
Laura, you've put me in a very awkward position...
"That I accept the office of the president of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol—”
You can stay on an advisory capacity; Gods know we need your ideas...
“And that I will protect and defend the sovereignty of the Colonies,”
I love you, Laura. Marry me?
“And that I will protect and defend the sovereignty of the Colonies—”
But Galactica has no functional weapons, if the Cylons found them...
“With every fiber of my being.”
Thank you for coming, Madam Secretary.
It was good to see you.
“With every... fiber of my being.”
Okay, so the house cleaning stuff first: I'll try getting the next chapter before the 12th, as I'm going on vacation that day. If I don't make it happen, expect to hear from me only after the 23rd. And who knows, I might have enough inspiration to writewritewrite during my long flights! :P
This chapter marks the first half of the miniseries, whohoo! I'm dying to get to the conflicts season 1 already ;) For now, enjoy!
The things that we’re afraid of tend to show us what we’re made of.
Bent over the navigation table to see the maps Gaeta provided him, Bill studied the plan ahead. Tigh approached him and he raised his eyes to stare at his XO; he had never seen him that pale, but otherwise his composure still intact. Chief Tyrol had already debriefed Bill of the venting in rather colorful terms— the final count listed eighty-five of his men lost to the fire against just twenty-six survivors. That was enough to take a toll on anyone, but Bill was sure they both knew it was the right call and he would have given the same order.
"Munitions depot confirmed, the inventory books say Ragnar Anchorage is our safest bet to get weapon coils. Thought the whole station was scrapped," Tigh said.
"Too expensive. Simply abandoning it served the same purpose."
Tigh scoffed. "Nice to see bureaucracy helping us for a change," he joked wryly. "The storm will make anchoring there a pain in the ass, though."
"One of the reasons they decided to abandon it," Bill added. Everything about Ragnar was inconvenient for a colonial government bound by decades of peace; the distance (in the outskirts of the system) and atmosphere of the gas giant seemed enough to keep colonials away.
"But, we have two problems," Saul continued. "One: Ragnar is at least three days away at best speed. Two, the entire Cylon fleet is between here and there."
Bill considered their options as he returned to the maps in search for answers, and then looked intently at his XO. There was only one solution, only one possible way to get to the station in time without alerting the enemy. Tigh stared back blankly until he realized what his friend had in mind.
"You don't want to do this," he warned.
"You know I don't."
"Because any sane man wouldn’t. It’s been, what? Twenty, twenty-two years?" Tigh's voice was still incredulous, but softer than before.
"We've trained for this," Bill reminded him.
"Training is one thing, but if we're off in our calculations we could end up in the middle of a sun. And even if we get them right, when was the last time the FTL relays got tested?"
"No choice. Colonel Tigh, please plot a hyperlight jump from our position to the orbit of Ragnar."
The man straightened up and nodded. "Yes, sir." He then moved to bark out orders in several points of CIC, and Bill couldn't help but let a small grin at the thought of having Galactica back into a combat jump.
Yet his excitement was short lived as Dee approached him, visibly shaken by the printed document she handed him. "Priority message, sir," she informed, her voice broken. Bill eyed her for an instant before he scanned the message's contents quickly, and the ever-present knot at the base of his stomach pulled down on him.
"Admiral Nagala is dead," he read aloud, and all activity in CIC stopped once more as he stared at the paper in his hand. "Battlestar Atlantia has been destroyed. So is the Triton, the Solaria, the Columbia... the list goes on." The air in CIC turned dense as every officer could do nothing else but stare at their commander, and a new sensation of helplessness settled in. Were they all that was left? A decommissioned battlestar against the entire Cylon forces?
It was Tigh who finally spoke, focusing on Bill. "Who’s the senior officer? Who’s in command?" His questions carried his usual lack of tact. Bill stared at him for a beat, and Tigh’s eyes widened as he looked back. "So much for retirement."
Bill took his glasses off and turned to Dee with a neutral expression on his face. "Send a message to all the colonial military units, use priority channel one. Then try to raise Apollo's Viper." The officer nodded in acknowledgement. "Message begins: Am taking command of fleet."
"Gemenon Liner 1701, this is Colonial Heavy 978— no, strike that." The pilot gave Laura a glance, while she and Lee watched the spacecraft's approach through the window, and turned back to the comm system. "This is Colonial One." He smirked to himself as he seamlessly renamed the ship and Laura tried not to roll her eyes, half-bothered, half-embarrassed by it. It was hardly the time, but... well yes, she was— it made sense. "We have you in sight. Will approach your starboard docking hatch."
While the latest acquisition to their fleet responded to the pilot's words, something buzzed to Laura's right and caused her to turn around with curiosity. A printed piece of paper came out of the machine with a hiss, Lee took it and Laura's jaw tensed as she waited for him to read it aloud. So far, none of the messages they had received could be catalogued as good news.
But he didn't. Instead, Lee remained silent with an enigmatic expression on his face, and Laura narrowed her eyes as she asked, "What is it?"
"To all Colonial units: Am taking command of fleet. All units ordered to rendezvous at Ragnar Anchorage for regroup and counterattack. Acknowledge by same encryption protocol." Lee paused for a moment and raised his eyes to meet his mother's. "Adama."
Laura forgot how to breathe for an instant. Her first thought was of relief— Bill Adama was still alive. There was a battlestar still out there that could protect them, never mind the fact that it was completely weaponless; still, one less than appropriate warship was better than none at all. But that also meant Galactica was the last surviving battlestar, if Bill had taken command of fleet... oh, Gods. The admiralty was, much like the government, gone. She and Bill were all that was left of their respective worlds, it seemed.
She took the sheet of paper from Lee to read it for herself, and four words caught her attention. Adama. She could remember well when she used to sign with that same last name, a lifetime ago. But also— Regroup and counterattack. He wanted to counterattack. With what? Was he out of his frakking mind? How would that help? To fight back of course, was what any soldier was trained to do, but going out in a blaze of glory would barely serve anyone at the moment.
Her relief gave way to a surge of exasperation. She would not let him be a frakking idiot if she had any say on the matter— which was ironically what she had now. Bill Adama had a couple of kids to be alive for, and Laura needed to keep him that way. "Captain Apollo," she said, while her face remained impassive. It was a miracle that the four of them had survived, and nobody was going on a suicide mission. End of story. "Please inform Galactica we are engaged in rescue operations and require their assistance. Ask how many hospital beds does the ship have and how long it will take for it to get here," she continued, carefully not mentioning the commander by name. This wasn't personal— well it was, but not in that way. This was beyond their personal history, the remains of humanity were at stake.
Lee looked nervous and didn't move. "I— you know he's not going to respond very well to that request." Laura almost laughed; she found this whole situation ridiculous. Of course, of course Bill wasn't going to take it for what it was, maybe even less coming from her.
"I'm well aware," she accepted. "Which is why it's not a request." She could deal with an angry Bill Adama, Gods knew she had done it before. "Tell him this comes directly from the president of the Twelve Colonies." And if he had a problem with it... well, he was in his right to disagree with her.
"Commander, priority message from Colonial One," Dee informed him, and Bill frowned. Colonial One? His first thought was that he should have expected to run out of luck, and get stuck with Adar of all possible survivors. But he blinked twice when Dee continued, "Signed by Captain Apollo."
"What?" Bill muttered under his breath. He received the paper the young officer handed him and to his surprise —and disgust—, his message was answered by an order of its own: Colonial One made requirements for its rescue operations— under direct instruction of President Roslin. Whatever feeling gave him the realization that enough people were dead for Laura to become president was quickly replaced by sharp anger. She had never liked the military and she had no knowledge of real combat situation to be the commander-in-chief now. By dismissing his order to regroup in Ragnar, it was clear to Bill that she had no clue of what to do.
"Is this a joke?" he asked, evidently talking to himself. And then turned to Dee. "Are they within voice range?"
"Yes, sir." The officer proceeded to patch the call through to the other ship. "Colonial One, Galactica. Galactica actual wishes to speak to Apollo."
In the cockpit of Colonial One, Lee exchanged a glance with the pilot. "Here he comes," he said, thinking out loud. He adjusted the headset provided to him and nodded to the pilot, who in turn pressed a button to let Lee's microphone be heard through the line. "This is Apollo. Go ahead, actual."
There was a brief silence before Bill spoke. "Are you— is your ship alright?"
Lee drew a sour smile on his face. "We're both fine, thanks for asking. We're all fine," he added, in reference to his sister. Why was it so hard for his father to care and ask, at least?
"Is your ship's FTL functioning?" Bill asked next. He felt a rush of relief pulsing through his veins— at least they were safe. For now.
A small pause on Lee's side. "That's affirmative."
"Then you're ordered to bring yourself and all your passengers to the rendezvous point. Acknowledge?"
A longer pause. "Acknowledge... receive of message," Lee murmured.
"What the hell does that mean?" Bill asked. His anger was boiling back to the surface.
"It means I heard you."
"You have to do a lot better than that, Captain. Proceed to Ragnar," Bill ordered again. "Immediately."
Laura stepped back into the cockpit at that moment to get a report from the pilot, and she noticed Lee talking through the wireless. "The president has given me a direct order—" he was protesting, and she tilted her head with interest after she closed the door behind her.
This is not the time to be a sentimentalist, Bill thought. "You're talking about the secretary of education," he corrected him sharply, the grave voice filling the small cabin. "We're in the middle of a war, and you're taking orders from your mother, the schoolteacher?"
Laura stared at Lee for a moment without blinking. Then a slow, sad smile crept to her features; from the few exchanges over the years she was aware that Bill didn't agree with her incursion into politics, or maybe her incursion into Adar's government specifically, but she had never expected him to undervalue her job as a teacher too. He had never mentioned it before. But this... had they ever agreed on anything?
The captain turned to her and shot her an apologetic look, but Laura shook her head. She didn't want Lee's pity. He sighed and parted his lips to talk again, but the panels in front of him began buzzing and everyone in the room tensed once more. More bad news, no doubt.
"Inbound Cylon fighters," the pilot informed them, taking the comm with Galactica out of the speakers to avoid the distraction. Laura moved forward, pulled her glasses on and leaned against the pilot's seat while trying to ignore the horrified look painted on his face. She couldn't see them outside— and she didn't know if that made it better, or worse.
"How long till they get here?" she asked rapidly.
"ETA two minutes."
Lee's gaze was fixed on the red blinking dots on the DRADIS screen. "He's right. We have to go. Now."
She didn't need to ask who he was. "No," she blurted out, and Lee looked at her incredulously.
"Madam President, we can't defend this ship against—"
"We're not going to abandon all these people," she hissed. And do what exactly, she wasn't sure. The pounding of her heart expanded through her chest all the way to her head as she stared at the screen in a desperate attempt of finding something, anything that could help them. Two dots, meaning just two fighters... but not even Lee's Viper was an option. And no other ship had weapons of any sort...
"But, sir—" Lee kept protesting, but Laura shook her head.
"I've made my decision, Captain," she warned him.
Lee stood up angrily from his seat and faced her. Laura did her best to keep her focus on the DRADIS in front of her, but her instincts betrayed her as soon as he spoke. "Mom, please— we can't save them."
"Just because we can't save them doesn't mean we should abandon them. And we won't," she said stubbornly. She'd rather perish than leave... even if it meant... her children...
"Permission to go below?" Lee asked with his teeth clenched, interrupting her thoughts. She nodded right away, praying he had a plan when she didn't. For all their sakes.
Bill stared ahead blankly while he waited for Lee to speak to him again. He could hear voices on the other side of the line, but couldn't distinguish what they were saying— Laura was there, that much he could tell. The frakking president. Unbelievable. He wondered what she was feeling; perhaps she was overwhelmed, if she was giving such ridiculous orders about rescue operations. Rescue operations inside a war zone —and she didn't get the whole system was one— without proper escort would get them killed. He could hardly expect a civilian to understand it.
Suddenly, Gaeta talked and he looked up to catch his words. "Sir, we have a remote sensor telemetry at Captain Apollo's location, and two enemy fighters are closing in on their coordinates!" Bill turned towards the DRADIS screen and on cue, the information displayed on it was replaced by the long-range sensors of Lee's Viper.
Frak. Bill clutched the handset near his mouth. "Colonial One, Galactica. Apollo, you've got two inbound fighters heading toward you!" he practically shouted, while staring in horror at the two red dots approaching the green friendly units in the screen above him. There was no acknowledgement on the other side of the comm. Lee and Laura's voices could be heard, though farther than before. "Get the hell out of there. Apollo!" he tried again, this time yelling in full. The people in CIC around him stopped their activities to follow his one-sided, desperate conversation. "Apollo!" The line fell silent once more and Bill felt completely helpless. Jump now! "Lee!"
Then, for an instant, Laura's voice became clearer and Bill managed to catch her fear-colored tone. "Lee—"
The line was cut off before she said anything else. And then, nothing.
Bill waited for a heartbeat, then another, then a third. The DRADIS screen became distorted, failing to pick the Viper's signal up, and he knew what it meant. Must be a malfunction, he tried to convince himself, as the other possible explanation involved something he refused to accept.
"Fifty kiloton thermo-nuclear detonation," Gaeta informed quietly. Bill barely blinked as he kept staring at the screen, waiting, hoping— a miracle was out of his reach. His family, his family was— he was truly alone now. He forced his body to breathe again as he took the headset off and placed it back on the table, barely conscious that the whole crew in CIC was still staring at him. If he had only listened— she had asked him for Galactica's help— if they had just frakking jumped.
Laura, Lee and Val. All at once. He felt Saul's hands on his shoulders in sympathy, but he didn't really register the gesture. He couldn't process any thought at that moment and his limbs felt hollow but heavy, unsteady. After a few seconds that seemed to go on forever, the pain and acceptance set in; sudden, overpowering, it was a physical ache.
There wasn't anything he could do, except blowing the bastards out of the sky. It felt easier to channel his pain into anger for now. Even if it was the last thing he did, he knew his purpose was to take as many frakkers out as he could.
But in order to do that, Galactica needed new weapon coils.
"Resume jump prep," he slowly ordered. Yet nobody moved, still processing what had happened.
In less than a beat, Tigh remembered his duties as second in command and shouted, "You heard the man, resume jump prep!" At his harsh words, the CIC jumped back to life as Bill stared at the star charts in front of him, glaring at the dots indicating the Cylon fleet.
Suicidal and desperate as it may be, he could only think one thing as he saw the considerable size of his enemy.
He was out for Cylon blood.
Heeey, I'm back; thank you for waiting on me because this chapter was not easy to finish. Between my vacation and the cold I caught as soon as I was back... Anyway, I hope you like this one too. There's more necessary world-building.
Also, thank you all for your comments and kudos! <3 And a special mention to xbleeple for being so awesome when we met!
Last but not least, all my gratitude to Jules from WeAreCylons for betaing and getting me through the last bits of this chapter. Enjoy!
There is peace knowing that though the universe is beyond our understanding, it doesn't need our understanding to function.
Her frakking head hurt.
She felt the cockpit floor against her shoulder, and instinctively placed a hand on it to stabilize herself. How had she ended up on the floor? Laura opened her eyes to notice everything in her line of sight spinning around in an unnatural way— her glasses weren’t aligned properly. She took them off, yet the spins and swirls failed to subside at the same velocity, and she had to put a hand on her head to still the pounding inside. What had happened?
She groaned and two other voices echoed her feeling, causing her to look up and see the pilots coming to in their chairs. "What was—" she said, her voice hoarse. She had to swallow first to keep talking; it felt as if she had just eaten sandpaper. "What was that?" She forced her mind into cooperation, above the major discomfort of feeling like her head had been split in two: The last thing she remembered was Lee going below, after the Cylon fighters—
"Cylons?" she asked, her voice more hectic than she wanted to.
"Gone, ma'am," answered a pilot, as he pressed some buttons and switches from the panel in front of him and the screens regained power. "I don’t know what in the hell he did, but whatever it was made the fighters leave."
That should have calmed her down, but instead raised another concern in Laura’s mind. "Lee— get a first aid kit. We need to check on him." She wasted no time by ignoring her impressive headache as she got up, smoothed down her skirt, and moved toward the stairs. She had some trouble in keeping her pace into a straight line, but by the time she reached the bowels of the ship, she was already in control of her body again to afford running the remaining distance in heels. As soon as she got by Lee's side, she crouched next to him and lifted his head to cradle his face in between her hands, while the pilot laid down the medical kit and opened it.
"That was fun," he joked, barely opening his eyes and blinking lazily. He gave the impression of being drunk or just at the edge of sobering up and Laura giggled hysterically, driven by the relief that her son was disoriented but otherwise okay. The pilot chuckled as well. "I think it worked," Lee added. He tried to get up but Laura pushed him down gently, not willing to risk him falling over due to his dizziness yet.
"What exactly did you do?" she asked instead. Lee looked at her and tried to focus on her eyes while he attempted to explain.
"I basically just used the hyper drive to manipulate the energy coils. I p-put out a big pulse of electro... mag-magnetic energy that must have disabled the warheads." He frowned, forcing himself to concentrate on his words to regain steadiness. It seemed like his thoughts were in a better shape than his body. "I’m hoping it looked like a nuclear explosion," he finished nervously and tried to stand again. This time Laura and the pilot took him each by an arm and Lee placed his weight on them as he was raised onto his feet, slowly but steadily, until he could do it on his own. Laura let go as the pilot kept Lee uptight, and she shot him a grateful smile.
"So that's what it was. Did it fool the Cylons?"
"Well, we're not dead yet," he pointed out. Laura laughed out loud sincerely for the first time since her diagnosis and nodded, the force of her voice echoing against the walls.
"Does the rest of the fleet know about this trick?" The pilot finally spoke. He exchanged a glance with Lee and then with Laura; they obviously couldn't contact Galactica for fear of Cylons picking up their transmission and realizing the truth. Laura's outburst faded rapidly. Though she hadn't spoken with anyone about it —not Billy, the pilots or even Lee—, she knew exactly where they were going once the remaining ships had been gathered: To Bill. To Galactica, a safe haven where she was sure she could convince her ex-husband to take them in. Question was, when would he be able to learn they were still alive.
"I doubt it, it was just a theory we toyed with in War College. But it never used to work during war games, the Cylons saw right through it," Lee explained, his sight still confused and blinking oddly.
The important bit, for now, was prolonging their survival. So Laura shook her head slightly as she smiled and said, "The lesson here is not to ask follow-up questions, but simply to say thank you, Captain Apollo, for saving our collective asses."
"You're welcome, Mo— Madam President." Lee smiled and blinked several times again until he regained a normal stance. "Now if I could suggest—"
"Evacuate the passenger liners and get the hell out of here before the Cylons realize their mistake?" Laura knew better than to push their luck, even if it meant admitting she was wrong. "I am right there with you, Lee."
"Attention all decks, set Condition Two throughout the ship. Repeat, attention all decks, set Condition Two throughout the ship," Gaeta informed several times over the PA.
Tigh got reports from the stations along the ship as he stood in his post across from Bill in CIC. The expressions surrounding them were tense, filled with anticipation and a certain hesitation for the jump in light of the blows they had dealt with during the day. Bill watched in silence as each station reported back and when finished, Tigh turned to him, his hands on his back.
"Board is green. Ship reports ready to jump, sir," he announced.
"Very well. Take us to Ragnar, Colonel," Bill ordered, in a less commanding voice than usual. His thoughts, his heart were elsewhere; they were leaving behind the remains of his children, of Laura... he felt awful for giving the order. What else is left to do? he reminded himself. He then closed his eyes as Gaeta counted down the jump and clasped his hands together in front of him. As the familiar squeeze of the jump kicked in, the air compressed around him and pushed a stream of memories together: Laura's red hair, Laura's laugh, Laura's perfume... perhaps he should have reminded her how much she had meant to him before letting her depart the ship.
Emerging from the flash, Bill was left in the empty space with an even emptier soul. He knew better than to dwell on regrets. "Report."
Gaeta jumped at the commander's words and moved swiftly across the deck to the nav station; eyes followed him and breaths were held.
"Taking readings now..." he said, staring at the screen. The officer read the reports and turned around as he tried to conceal the grin on his face. "We appear to be in geosynchronous orbit directly above the Ragnar Anchorage." The entire CIC broke into an applause and even Bill somehow managed to put on a taut smile.
"Colonel Tigh, please update your charts for the course down into the eye of the storm," he instructed, yet Saul had begun moving before he heard the order. He took one chart off the command console and replaced it with the new one.
"Yes, sir." Both men leaned forward to see the charts and Tigh chuckled as he looked across at Bill. "Never doubted the Old Girl could do it, did you?"
The temporary indisposition of the people aboard Colonial One had subsided surprisingly quickly, perhaps because the crew was well aware of how lucky they were in the aftermath of Lee’s miraculous plan. People came and went with purposeful strides and new tasks ahead, leaving Val with no other mission than to stare absentmindedly out the window, without much thought of the movement back and forth the corridor. She remained alone until Billy came back from the lower decks of the ship, stopping to a halt as he registered her.
"Nasty headache, right?" He smiled.
She turned to see him and put on a smile of her own, as much of a reflex as due to politeness. "Very," she agreed.
"Are you okay?" he asked, and she nodded.
"Yeah, just thinking. Lee's girlfriend was on Caprica," she said. "Everyone lost family— except for me."
"Really?" he said, encouraging her to continue. He slowly took the seat next to her as she nodded again.
"My grandparents died at some point or another, one before I was born, the rest as I grew up. I was lucky enough to have my mother and brother here. And my father— my father is either furious with us or believes we're dead, but he's out there too."
"But— what about friends?" She remained in silence for a moment. "Do you want to talk about them?" he added quickly. "It might help you." Val felt a pang of guilt over Billy’s kindness; even though he had lost much more than her, like his parents and sisters, he was still talking to her.
And so, she complied. "I skipped class to come to the ceremony. The University of Delphi has— had, I suppose," she swiftly corrected herself, "the best history college in the Colonies. And my parents had the means to afford it— after all, my brothers' tuition was covered by their service in the Colonial Fleet."
"Wait, brothers?" he repeated.
"Yeah, Zak— he was a pilot too. Had an accident two years ago." Billy gave her a sympathetic look. "Anyway, I wasn't popular or anything, but I had friends. Lived on Delphi with my best friend; we'd been roommates almost since we met the first day. We were thinking of getting a cat after the exams..." Her voice lowered. "My friends— my friends were at class. All of them..."
"I’m sorry," Billy said and Val gave him a thankful nod. There was something else on her mind, though she didn't mention it: she had been a semester away from getting her degree, a possibility that was no longer there. Maybe she had lost her fair share too, just not family. She had barely met her extended family to begin with.
One of the pilots rushed past their seats, which propelled Val to look around. "Am I keeping you? You must be busy. Might not be the time to worry about me?" she joked.
"Well, yes," he conceded, "but... I don’t know. I mean, the fact that you were lucky doesn't make your loss any less real."
Val stared at him in surprise, yet remained speechless. He was right, of course, and she hadn't thought of it that way; she was so focused on everyone else aboard to complain about her personal pain. She inhaled deeply. "Thank you."
"Anytime," he said softly, smiling anew.
A comfortable silence fell upon them, accompanied only by the footsteps of the crew. A few moments later Lee walked through the corridor in a strong pace, but stopped just by their seats; Billy jumped to his feet instantly.
"We found one of Galactica's Raptors. Full with refugees from Caprica," he added. "I'm going below to meet them."
Val stared at her brother in shock. "Oh my Gods, those poor people... Can I help?"
"I could use a hand." He then turned to Billy. "Please inform the president about the Raptor. Also, Doctor Gaius Baltar seems to be among the refugees."
"Right away, Captain." Billy nodded, and left for the cockpit.
Val stood up as well and followed Lee to the bowels of the ship. A steward got her a pad and a pen for her new task, updating the ship's manifest with the names of those who came aboard, and also word from the cockpit: President Roslin expected to see Baltar as soon as possible. The Raptor was transported to the interior of the cargo bay, where a young woman wearing a pilot suit awaited as well. As soon as Lee came closer, she saluted him.
"Captain Apollo. Boomer, sir," she greeted him, and gave Val a short nod after Lee saluted her back.
"I remember you," he said. "Have you had contact with any other ship?"
"No, sir, incoming only since the attack. I've got two communication pods left, that's it. No jiggers, no drones, no markers, nothing."
Lee fought hard not to roll his eyes. "Well, at least you've still got your electronics working. That old crate of mine can barely navigate from A to B."
"That old crane may have saved your life, sir," she told him. "The Cylons shut the Viper Mark VII's like they threw a switch or something. And I've been hearing reports like that from all over. The only fighters that are been having any success at all are either old or in need of major overhaul."
Lee felt a pressure against his arm and found Val's hand clutching him tightly; that also meant Galactica, the oldest battlestar in the Fleet, was probably the safest place for their father to be. Still, he ignored his sister as he saw a figure emerging from the Raptor, his long hair and handsome appearance unmistakable for those who had seen him before. "Is that him?" Lee asked.
Boomer nodded. "Yeah. Hope he's worth it!" she snapped. Then looked back at Lee. "Sorry, sir."
"Don't be. I hope he's worth it too." Lee walked to him with Val closely behind, until they were both standing before a man who has all but a composed mess. He appeared to have a cut on his cheek, but apart from it and the layer of dust over his skin, hair and clothes, the man was completely unharmed. "Doctor Baltar, Captain Lee Adama. The president's asked to see you, sir."
"President Adar is alive?"
"No, I'm afraid Adar is dead. President Laura Roslin was sworn in a couple of hours ago."
"Oh." Baltar looked around as he tried to register the name. When he couldn’t, he added, "Who?"
"Doctor Baltar, I just need your colony for the passenger manifest. Caprica, right?" Val interrupted.
He seemed nervous for a blink and then nodded, which she assumed had to do with the trauma of those last hours on the planet. "Caprica, yes."
"Thank you. Now if you please go with Captain Adama..." She spoke softly and Lee guided the man over to the stairs, while Val moved back to the Raptor. A group of children and three more adults waited for her— rescuing kids from a dying planet is just wrong, she thought. But everything about the Cylons' attack was wrong. "Could I have your attention, please," she said, raising her voice. "I need you to exit the Raptor one at a time, and tell me your name and colony. Then stay close the crew members behind me as I tend to the next one. We will find you accommodations aboard Colonial One as soon as possible."
The group of children who had already exited the Raptor formed a line in front of her, silently glancing at their new surroundings. Each one gave Val their name and colony of birth —some stammering, some unusually quiet, and who could blame them—, and then stood by the staff who helped them get out of the spacecraft. Every once in a while an adult chimed in, throwing questions none had real answers for and leaving them with a deeper feeling of helplessness.
The last person to exit the Raptor was a blond, tall woman with short hair, her disheveled appearance just like the rest. As soon as she approached Val, she spoke. "Do you have any news about the Colonial Fleet?"
"Only a little. We're trying to get more but, honestly, it's not good," she admitted, and the woman nodded grimly. "Could I have your name and colony?"
"Caprica," the woman said. Val waited for her to continue. "My name is Carolanne. Carolanne Lynch."
Val froze for an instant. She glanced at her companion, studying her with an unmasked interest that Carolanne didn't fail to notice. She was close to her father's age, at least. Could she be...? The woman stirred uncomfortably in her spot as she waited for Val to make use of the information she had just given her.
"Anything else?" she asked after a while.
She shook her head. "No. But— does my name mean anything to you? I'm Val Adama."
The woman's features brightened up immediately. "You're Bill's girl," she acknowledged. "Have you heard from him? Do you know if...?"
"He's okay. I'm sure he'll be happy to know you are too," Val assured her.
The woman smiled fondly. After a few more words, most of them implying they would catch up later, now that they had met at last, Carolanne left with the crew members and the rest of the survivors. Val glanced at her until she was out of her view, only then writing her name and colony down. In the meantime, she wondered if their Gods truly existed— and if they did, what kind of game were they playing now.
Many, many thanks to Jules for the editing and the suggestions for the final scene of this chapter.
You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.
Ragnar Anchorage was as neglected as advertised. The massive station lay suspended over the planet's upper atmosphere, rotating on its own axis by three rings, one of them already scrapped for parts. Bill had never been there before but he knew the station's history, built during their original conflict with the Cylons to keep the ammunition depots away from their enemy.
He was also aware of the hostile environment for machinery, and had instructed Tyrol on using as much manual labor as possible. The last thing they needed was a malfunction driven by the gas giant's radiation.
What he never expected, though, was going into the station himself— it was supposed to be a grab & go mission, and his crew wasn't supposed to find an arms dealer there.
"Commander, sir; we've loaded almost thirty-five percent of the ammunition we need," the Chief greeted him, once he arrived past the airlock door and into the supply storage bay. "A lot of this has seen better days, but it definitely works."
They walked deeper into the station as Tyrol's deck crew worked around them, moving equipment manually and by automated trolleys. "He over there?" Bill asked, and the man nodded as he led his commander over to a stranger under a marine watch. The first thing he caught was how sick their prisoner looked: the man's skin was pale and waxy, and sweating profusely. He eyed Bill in a nervous matter, just like he had done with the rest.
"He said there was a fight—" the man began, pointing at the Chief. "A war, I mean. I didn't know. I was just—"
"Cylons," Bill confirmed calmly, and the man widened his eyes in shock. "Nuked all twelve colonies. We're loading up to get back into the fight. Your name?" he asked.
Bill ordered his marines to lower their weapons and waved the man to come closer. "You probably know this place better than we do." He then signaled two marines to walk behind them and moved over to inspect some crates, Conoy trailing after him, while the crew resumed their duties in their vicinity. "We don’t know much more than that. It’s just imperative that we get our equipment and get out of here," he explained. The group slowed as Bill approached a sealed hatch that peaked his interest. "What's in there?"
Conoy gave it a look, and quickly shrugged as he said, "Stuff."
Bill glanced at him, his suspicions raised. He couldn't pinpoint what, but something didn't sit right with him. "Let's take a look," he ordered. Conoy's nonchalant expression gave him reason to be curious, as if he didn't want Bill to look behind that door.
But instead, Conoy helped the marines push the hatch and while his suspicions dropped a little, they were far from gone. It took them several minutes, the metal squeaking in protest as the object was finally out of the way to reveal the pitch black interior. "Get a light," he instructed the marines. One of them got him a flashlight and he moved forward to peer into the dark. Conoy twitched nervously by the door, clearing his throat and sniffing constantly, and Bill's sensation of disquiet was instantly back. "Where's your spaceship?" he asked, looking inside the hatch but seeing nothing of interest.
"Docked on the other side of the station", Conoy answered quickly— too quickly for Bill's taste. Yes, there was something wrong about him— how would he transport the stolen cargo on his own? If he had ventured to Ragnar already, it would make no sense for him to leave his ship on the other side without trying to re-dock first or giving up altogether. Or, he wasn't there to get ammo at all.
Tyrol yelled on the back and Conoy turned to see the exchange, smiling widely all of a sudden, and looking paler in contrast to his white teeth. "Okay, those warheads over there; here’s the deal," he said, his manner much more confident than before and setting off yet another alarm inside Bill's head as he watched him. "They would have brought a nice price on the open market."
Except there were places all over the colonies, easier to travel to, where someone could get weapons of this nature. If not, given the decades Ragnar had laid abandoned by the military, there would be nothing left. "So you're an arms dealer, huh?" Bill inquired, looking for something to prove his skepticism correct.
"People have a right to protect themselves; I just supply the means." Conoy spread his arms as he spoke, the grin on his face almost suppressed, but not quite. If it wasn't for that, Bill would have been inclined to think his sweating was due to nervousness. It seemed worse now, but the man remained as calmed as before.
He shone the flashlight up in Conoy's face, expecting him to pull away and get the brightness away from his eyes— yet he didn't even blink. "You don’t look too good," Bill began, but the rest of his sentence was carried away by Tyrol's yells and a loud crash as a trolley carrying shells fell onto the floor, letting one out. It started beeping and a red light flashed several times out of the head. "It's hot!" Bill shouted, and instinctively grabbed Conoy by his clothes, pushing the man and himself through the open hatch and the explosion went off— shutting the door behind them.
Bill fell against his side, his shoulder taking the worst part while Conoy fell next to him with a loud thud. Both men rolled on to their backs as smoke filled the small room, and after a few seconds to catch his breath back, Conoy laughed. Bill coughed as he tried to get up, ignoring his company's curious —if not disturbing— reaction to it all. He finally stood on his feet when Tyrol's voice on the other side of what used to be the hatch called him, "Commander Adama!"
"Yeah!" he shouted back and moved closer to the sealed entrance. "Anybody hurt out there?"
"No, sir! We got some equipment coming, sir. We’re going to get you out of there right away," Tyrol informed.
"No!" Bill's throat burned at the word, filled with smoke, and he stopped talking for an instant as he registered that Conoy was finally done giggling. "No. Get all the bullets and equipment into the ship. Don’t waste anybody on anything else." He glanced behind him to see the man leaning casually against a pipeline, silent but grinning ominously in the dim environment. "Is there another way out of here?" This wasn't the road trip he would've wanted either, being trapped with an unbalanced man in an unknown place, but it wasn't up for debate. No, yet, he wished to have pushed Conoy towards the blast instead.
"Yeah," he answered, smiling like a mad man, explaining nothing else. This gave Bill the impression of walking into a trap, but the corridor ahead was the only plan they had to work with.
"Listen, uh, we’re going to go out another way," he shouted through the hatch as he resisted the urge to cough again.
The reply came muffled by the soft crackling of the flames between them. "Sir, I don't think that's a wise idea."
"You got your orders," Bill insisted with his usual strong voice. "Tell Colonel Tigh he’s in command until I return." He moved away from the hatch without waiting for his officer's acknowledgment and turned toward Conoy. "Let's go." He gestured down the smoke-filled corridor with the flashlight as he waited for Conoy to go ahead. The man paused but reluctantly moved first, walking down the hall and Bill wiped the dust from his face before following him.
When Lee followed Baltar into the passenger area, Laura was dismissing the last of her Ministry personnel to assume their new duties. She turned towards the retinue and smiled at the newcomer, who seemed effectively like a nervous fish out of the water next to Lee.
"Doctor Baltar, a pleasure to meet you again." She held out her hand and he shook it right away, but from the somewhat lost expression in his look, it was clear he didn't recognize her. He then lowered his eyes for barely an instant, as if some part of her body other than her face would help him remember her— not even in his dreams. Still, Laura kept her smile steady and professional as she filled in the blanks for him. "We met at last year’s Caprica City Symposium."
He left his hand in the air after she retracted hers while he tried to bring his memories of the event. "Oh— yeah. You'll have to forgive me, I'm bad with faces." Laura clutched her glasses on her left hand a little tighter to restrain herself— yes, she noticed. Instead, she decided to focus on the poor man's situation; now that she wasn't interesting at all, his eyes darted to their surroundings, as if he expected something to jump at him from anywhere in the room. Given what he had gone through, it was completely understandable.
"No, no! Don't worry about it, I'm sure I wouldn't remember me either," she joked, keeping her voice light before she dug into serious matters. She then paused for a second. "Doctor, I'd need you to serve as my chief scientific consultant and analyst, regarding the Cylons and their technology."
Baltar dropped his sight to the floor and his face had an odd, almost remorseful grimace; but soon enough looked her back in the eye as if nothing happened. "I'd be honored, Madam President."
"Good." She smiled again briefly before moving on to the officer standing just behind her son. "Lieutenant Valerii— is it Valerii?"
Time to put what she had learned from having married a military man to the test. "I understand your ship has a limited faster-than-light capability?" She asked.
"Ah, yes, sir. The Raptor was designed to make short jumps ahead of the fleet, scout for enemy ships and jump back to report." Laura nodded as she listened to the officer's explanation, but she noticed Baltar in the corner of her eye, glancing around nervously. Poor man.
In any case, she opened her mouth to speak again, having already made up her mind about what to do next but taking her time to phrase it in a way the lieutenant would understand her. She was the president, but that didn't necessarily give her authority over the military if the military didn't recognize her as such. "I want you to go out and find as many survivors as you can, lead them back to this position. We will then form a convoy; we will guide them out of the combat zone and into safety." She exchanged glances with Valerii and Lee as she spoke.
"Yes, sir," she said again, and she excused herself to get back to her Raptor and make the necessary adjustments before resuming flight. That left Laura with Lee; she could read his reluctant expression like an open book.
"I am fully aware we don't know where the combat zone ends, or even if it ends," she told him, drawing him closer. "But Lee— this is it. All that is left of humanity is on these ships, stranded in the middle of space. This is a risky operation, I know that, but we must look beyond our immediate survival and ensure our survival as a species. In order to do that, we need as many people as we can get— what?" She brought her speech to a halt as, without warning, Lee drew a grin on his face.
"Sorry— but you're already seeing your new job in its whole width," he admitted. Laura echoed his smile as she accepted the unexpected compliment. "And I agree, Mom. But realistically, we cannot protect an entire convoy of ships with one old Viper and a Raptor."
"Well, how lucky that we happen to know where to find a battlestar, hmm?" She raised her brows as she hummed. "Ragnar Station."
But Lee frowned instead. "My father will not want to take the entire civilian population left when there's a war to be fought."
"You leave him to me, okay?" she said, crossing her arms. Bill might not want to hear it— but the war was already lost. The only thing they could do was to lead these people out of here, even if it may be the last thing she did. And she would make sure Bill Adama helped her with the only goal her presidency had time to achieve.
They had been walking for hours now through the narrow corridor that twisted and turned, and sometimes opened only to go back to a cramped passageway like before. Conoy had accused him of keeping him in front, and Bill had decided to comply and go first for a while as the man seemed sick enough to be taken down if needed. Indeed, Conoy was worse by the minute, and by blaming the station for his allergies, he had all but confirmed Bill's theory. Ragnar had a hostile environment for humans, but not at the same level as for machines: Conoy had to be a Cylon.
They finally reached a set of stairs that led into a large room filled with steam and debris. Bill took a mental note of the pipes and pieces of scrap metal on the floor as he went down, before turning to watch Conoy follow him. His face now bore a nauseating grey color, gleaming unnaturally by the thick layer of sweat, and his lifeless eyes shrank inside his sockets. As he came by the last steps of the stairs, he crouched and groaned in pain.
"What is it about this place, what's it doing to me?" he asked, even his tone coated with a sickened whisper.
"Must be your allergies," Bill pointed out in irony, lacking any sympathy. Had Conoy been human— but he wasn't, he was one of the same machines that had killed his children and ex-wife. Bill had no use caring for a thing like that.
Conoy blinked slowly and for a minute, he almost smiled as he shook his head. "I don't have allergies," he finally admitted, having already realized Bill knew so too. They were both aware of what was about to happen— only one of them would leave this place on his feet.
"I didn't think so." He paused, and Conoy nodded once with a smug expression plastered on his face. "What you've got is silicon pathways to the brain, or whatever it is you call that thing you pretend to think with. It's decomposing as we speak," he continued as adrenaline filled his veins in anticipation. Bill felt no surprise, not even fear; his thoughts went directly into an overloading rage as he looked directly into the Cylon's face. It hadn't killed his family directly, that part was obvious, but one toaster was as good as any other.
"It's the storm, isn't it? It puts out something. Something you discovered has an effect on Cylon technology. That's it, isn't it? This is a refuge— that's why you put a fleet out here. Last ditch effort to hide from a Cylon attack." Conoy smirked as he spoke. "Right... well, that's not going to be enough. I've been here for hours. Once they find you, it won't take them that long to destroy you. They'll be in and out before they even get a headache."
That was enough for Bill to act. "Maybe," he conceded, and then lifted Conoy and slammed it into a nearby wall. Disturbingly, the noise it made as it came into contact with the hard surface was the same as a real human would have made. "But you won't find out because you'll be dead in a few minutes. How does that make you feel, if you can feel?"
"Oh, I can feel. I can feel more than you could ever conceive, Adama. But I won't die. When this body dies, my consciousness will be transferred to another one. And when that happens..." The rest was left unsaid, as the Cylon gasped weakly and Bill let it slip to the floor. It took it long enough to open its eyes again. "I think I'll tell the others exactly where you are, and I think that they'll come here. And they'll kill all of you. And I'll be there watching it happen."
"You know what I think?" Bill leaned over it as it struggled to catch a breath with its artificial lungs. "I think if you could have transferred out of here, you would have done it long before now." He kept his expression even, waiting for the Cylon to reply, but it didn't. "I think the storms radiation really clogged up your connection. You're not going anywhere; you're stuck in that body."
"Doesn't matter. Sooner or later," Conoy drew a sinister smile, "the day comes when you can't hide from the things you've done." Bill's face fell as his own words came back to him from the mouth of a machine that by all visual accounts looked human— there had to be at least one Cylon on Galactica during the ceremony. Conoy's head fell to the side as it closed its eyes and stood motionless. It was the only way—
Suddenly its hand reached out, grabbing Bill by the throat, and he grasped for air. Conoy rose back on its feet, smiling again, taking him along with ease driven by its non-human strength. Bill tried to breathe as its hand squeezed harder; he didn't really have any reason to fight back. His family was gone— his blood family was gone, he corrected himself. He had yet a second family, his crew. He did, after all, had his people waiting for him out there.
The commander slammed the flashlight into Conoy's face, but the Cylon struck back with its free hand, the other one still constricting his throat tighter. Bill's feet left the ground and he was lifted upwards, and it punched him in the gut, sending him flying through the air before landing on the floor.
Bill groaned in pain, inhaling a lungful of air as the Cylon approached him. He rose to his knees while Conoy broke a pipe, bending the metal loose in seconds and lifting it over its head to strike. But as it swung it down, Bill managed to move out of the way swiftly and instead punched it with the flashlight again, knocking it off balance to get it twice in the gut. He then could push it backwards into the jet of steam let open by the broken piping, the revolting sound of sizzling flesh —that wasn't human, he had to remember that— muffled by the steam. Conoy struggled to move away, and it was successful, only to have the flashlight shoved in its face once more. Bill slammed his weapon again— and again. Blood poured out incessantly, red and bright and so-very-real it only fueled his rage. He hit it several more times even after there was no longer any resistance, widening the pool of blood around him until his adrenaline-induced strength finally faltered.
Bill was left alone, breathing heavily and covered in blood. He dropped the light before falling himself onto the ground next to the body, exhausted.
There was still path for him to cover back to his crew, and it would be harder now that he had to carry the Cylon. But it didn't matter in that instant— as Bill gathered himself on the floor by leaning his back against the pipeline, he couldn't bear it anymore. His whole being shuddered as he began crying, the type of body wailing that can only happen when you come to terms with having well and truly lost something so precious to your soul. He had lost Zak two years ago and now Lee and Val had followed their brother, leaving Bill behind with broken spirits and an empty space inside his chest. He had expected to see them grow older and happier, maybe with kids of their own to call him Grandpa Bill.
Instead, the Cylons had taken everything from him, and what had he taken in return? One humanoid soldier amongst how many, dozens? Hundreds? He didn't give a frak. No amount of toasters had the same value as his children.
But he needed to get back to Galactica with his now vital information, and find out if the Cylon —or Cylons— present during the ceremony were still aboard his ship. If they managed to flush them out before resuming the fight, they still had a chance. If not...
Bill composed himself when the tears subsided, focusing on the mission ahead. He was a trained soldier first. He got up, grabbed the flashlight and stared down at the still-bleeding corpse near him. He was still alive, and had killed the Cylon.
No, not killed— shut down. That thing had never been alive in the first place.
I'm way too excited today not to post this. Hope you like it!
Beta credits to Jules ;)
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
She could not remember the last time she had been this tired. Not only physically —she had toured a ship to meet the captains and assess their situation—, but she was also emotionally drained. Each ship came with its own problems, and worst of all, even orphans. Orphans would be a common occurrence now, like that little girl in the botanical ship— Cami, dreaming of chicken pie on Caprica City. If her grandmother didn't make it...
Laura closed her eyes, and indulged herself in what was the first quiet moment she had had since the attacks. Lee was busy rounding up his engineering survey and had taken Val to assist him, though she wondered if it was to make her daughter feel useful for the time being rather than him needing actual help. She smiled at the thought— her children had grown so much. They were adults now, both of them— which would make it easier for her to leave. Her own soon-to-be orphans, like many in these ships...
She swallowed heavily and blinked several times to push the tears away. She should be grateful to get these months with them, when most of humanity didn't—
"Uhm..." Lee cleared his throat, and Laura smiled in greeting when he came into her line of view and got seated in front of her, focusing on the distraction instead of her morbid thoughts. "Message from Lieutenant Valerii, she found a fuel refinery ship. Filled with tyllium." He grinned as he finished reading the paper and looked up.
"Oh, good. About time we caught a break. So that brings us up to what? Eighty ships so far? Not bad for a few hours work."
Lee chuckled. "No, sir. But only about sixty of those ships have faster-than-light capabilities." She nodded as he spoke and leaned her weight over the armrest of her seat. "We should start transferring people off the sub-light's and onto the FTL’s as soon as possible."
"Alright," she agreed. She was eager to go to Ragnar as quickly as they could, as the longer they stayed without a battlestar nearby, the longer the ships were like sitting ducks for the Cylons. Her discussion with Commander Adama was something she didn't look forward to— but it was a necessity. "We can start right away, the Cylons could be back at any time. Make it happen, Captain," she ordered.
Lee got up, nodded in her direction and left for the comm system in the cockpit. Laura closed her eyes again, only for an instant— and shot them open at the sound of anxious movements; her son was barely at the passageway when one of the pilots, Billy and Doral came through the door. Given the paleness staining her aide's face, Laura's mind was on alert immediately and she moved towards them as well, her arms tightly crossed in front of her.
"Madam President, a Cylon raider jumped in!" The pilot spoke quickly, icing her insides at the prospect. "Lieutenant Valerii tried to jam the signal, but it definitely scanned us before it jumped." Laura's face fell as she stared at the man, taking the words in. She then looked at Lee.
"We have to go. Now. Cylons will be here any minute." Lee's voice was resolute as he looked back at her, evidently asking her to follow his advice this time. Laura took a deep breath, feeling sick all of a sudden— twenty ships couldn't make the jump.
"Will they be able to track us through a jump?" she asked as calmly as she could muster, even though she already knew the answer. Twenty ships—
"No, sir; it's impossible."
"Theoretically impossible," she corrected automatically; Bill Adama had taught her that. If they led the Cylons to Galactica... they could all die. But if they jumped to somewhere else besides Ragnar to fool them, they could all die as well. Either way, at least the battlestar would put up a fight, and some protection was better than none. Her dreadful conversation with her ex-husband would be coming sooner than expected.
"Theoretically." Lee nodded, his eyes meeting hers in silent communication. It was obvious they were thinking the same thing—
"Madam President, there are still thousands of people aboard the sub-light ships," Doral interrupted, propelling himself into the conversation. Laura gave him a hard look; did he think she wasn't aware of that? And what did he expect her to do? "We can’t just leave them."
"I agree," the captain said, and Laura resisted the urge to smack them both. The choice to save them all was non-existent; it was either saving some ships, or none at all. Last time had been a miracle— and they were out of them. She looked at Lee and his face confirmed her suspicions. "We can transfer as many people as we can. Wait to jump until we detect a Cylon strike force or—"
"Nuh-uh, we're easy targets. They're gonna jump right in the middle of our ships with a handful of nukes and wipe us out before we have the chance to react," Lee argued, and Laura had to nod this time.
"You can't just leave them all behind; you'll be sacrificing thousands of people!" Doral protested rather loudly, as he looked from her to Lee and back. He was effectively blaming them both for something that was out of their control— the decision to leave them behind was hers, but she had no control over what happened afterwards. And thank the Gods neither did Doral, since he was so hell bent on killing them all.
"We'll be saving tens of thousands," Lee reminded him sternly as he walked away to pace near the windows. "I'm sorry to make it a numbers game, but we are talking about the survival of our race here. We don’t have the luxury of taking risks and hoping for the best, because if we lose, we lose everything. And Madam President— this is a decision that needs to be made right now." His eyes darted to her, as did everyone else's in the room.
She was silent for a moment, gathering up the courage to give the order. She knew what had to be done, and she agreed wholeheartedly with her son; but saying the words that condemned all those ships was beyond difficult. Her heart raced as she stared back at Lee. "Order the fleet to jump to Ragnar immediately." Lee nodded, exiting the room with the pilot, and Doral left in frustration in the other direction. Soon, she was left alone with Billy.
Her aide stood nervously at her side as he spoke. "Madam President, there’s something else you should be aware of," he began, but didn't elaborate as she didn't look at him.
She was feeling an ache inside her heart and it threatened to tear her apart; she knew she couldn't bear with everything on her own. Even with her whole family with her, the burden she was carrying made her feel alone.
"I have cancer," she confessed quietly. She didn't want to get Billy into her mess, but it felt good saying it out loud. To share the news with her aide— better than her children.
Billy gazed uncomfortably at the floor for a few seconds. "I know," he finally answered, and Laura stared at him in shock. "Little things, a couple comments you made." He spoke softly, and she nodded as she glanced back at the window in front of her at the end of the room. So much for discretion— she had met him a few days ago, and she was already an open book to him. But he really had no one, no one besides herself; an orphan like her children would be...
"My prognosis is doubtful," she continued, this time in an overwhelmed, monotone voice. She felt better for sharing the news she was so sure she wouldn't tell anyone with Billy, but as he looked her back with sadness in his eyes, she also felt awful for placing it so suddenly on him. "I wish I could say it was the least of my worries, but the world is coming to an end and all I can think about is that I have cancer, I'm probably going to die and leave Lee and Val alone." A heavy silence followed her words. There were tens of thousands of people out in those ships depending on her, but she only truly cared about two. "How selfish is that?"
"It's not selfish, it's human," he said, shrugging. Laura wanted to smile at him, to show some gratitude at the sincerity and simplicity of his answer, but nothing came out. "Madam President, you're not alone in this. You have them—" Billy began, but Laura shook her head.
"No. Billy, you can't say a word to my children," she instructed, and grabbed one of his hands between hers tightly as she stared at him directly. "Not here, not now. They have to learn it from me." She took a deep breath, trying to steady her voice. "The world is ending, Billy. They can't be worried about me until they have the support from their father. I— I'll tell him first," she promised, and the words felt hollow to her ears. She had to worry about Bill too, but— "But not right now," she finished, silently pleased on how Billy couldn't see through her lie after all.
"Okay." He squeezed her hands back and after a moment, she let go of them. "Not a word." He nodded and finally, Laura expressed her gratitude with a smile. Billy echoed her gesture before moving on to the exit.
But soon she frowned again. "Is there something you wanted to say to me?" she asked, stopping Billy to a halt. He didn't turn right away, giving Laura the answer before he even spoke.
"Well, I just thought you should know: that little girl you met earlier, Cami. Her ship can't make the jump."
Laura stared at him in quiet defeat. She could only hope for Cami to see her parents again soon— painlessly, if possible. "Thank you."
When Galactica came into view, Laura let go a sigh of relief. She had a lot to deal with now, in the form and face of Bill Adama, but with the battlestar on their side, they finally had a chance.
Billy, Val, Baltar and Doral walked behind her as she went down the stairs and into the cargo bay, where Lee and Valerii awaited them. Colonial One would not be docking inside Galactica's hangar deck, meaning they would be using the lieutenant's Raptor. Laura exchanged a grave glance with her son; convincing Commander Adama of what had to be done was the biggest issue of her first presidential visit. And she knew Bill would not be easy.
Valerii climbed inside first, and Lee extended his arm to help Laura. As she placed her foot on the first step of the wing, however, a very hurried set of footsteps coming from the stairs caught her attention; she was expecting yet another crisis thrown her way. But it wasn't one of those times, as a woman she had never seen before, probably in her fifties and wearing somewhat ragged clothes, rushed to meet them before the little group left. She must have been a survivor from Caprica, the poor woman.
"Wait!" she pleaded, and Laura agreed with curiosity. She did not notice Val's eyes widening at the sight. "Please. Let me go with you. I need to see Bill." She spoke quickly, not waiting for her breath to catch.
Laura narrowed her eyes. Why? How did she know Bill Adama?
"Galactica is in no condition to accept civilians." It was Val who spoke first. "Besides the president and the doctor, of course. There will be time later, though. For us to go," she concluded.
Her reaction got Laura even more curious. "I don't think we've been introduced yet," she said politely. She then looked directly at Val, as she clearly knew the woman.
"Right. Mom, this is—"
"'Mom'?" Carolanne interrupted. "Oh, so you're Bill's ex."
Laura crossed her arms defensively at her condescending tone. "Yes. And you are?" she tried again, this time exasperated. It wasn't so hard to give her answers, wasn't it? The stranger seemed to know everything about her, and she didn't like it. She was a lot more than just 'Bill's ex'.
When Val spoke again, she was obviously uncomfortable. "Mom, this is Carolanne Lynch. Dad's... girlfriend," she said, not without a certain doubt. She wasn't sure if that was how they described the relationship, but Carolanne didn't seem to mind. "Lieutenant Valerii rescued by complete coincidence from Caprica."
Lee opened his mouth in surprise and Billy suddenly felt like he was intruding into the private life of his boss, deciding then to focus his gaze on the Raptor as if looking for any place to hide in. Baltar and Doral glanced at each other, quietly bonding over their ignorance on the matter and Laura stared at her for a beat, evaluating her like a teacher would evaluate a new student with a particular ego. But soon enough a smile broke on her lips, a smile Val could swear was forced. "I'm glad to hear that," she said, offering her hand to Carolanne, who shook it quickly. And she agreed, better to drop the pretenses and get the formalities out of the way. "Laura Roslin. I see you've already met Val, and this is Lee, my son."
"Bill speaks a lot about you," she informed Lee, shaking his hand as well when he came forward. "About you both. He's proud of you two." Laura's smile grew fonder, that was the thing she could agree with Bill without doubt: they had raised their kids right.
She thought about Val's idea of staying behind with Carolanne, but discarded it swiftly. It would have been politically incorrect to deny her the possibility of visiting the battlestar, given how she was Bill's ex while the woman was Bill's current. And besides, she would never: Bill didn't deserve to not see her, after all. "I don't see why you should stay on Colonial One. We're in a very dire situation," she said, and she couldn't stress that enough, "but I'm sure the commander will appreciate seeing you. You're welcome to join us." Carolanne nodded her appreciation and Laura resumed her earlier motion by climbing onto the Raptor.
She took her seat as Val followed her, not willing to meet her eyes for the moment when she made herself comfortable in the seat across Laura. Carolanne, Billy, Baltar and Doral came in next and Lee was the last one inside before the door was closed, taking the co-pilot seat next to Valerii. The Raptor left Colonial One's cargo bay shortly after.
Laura could not help to steal more than a couple of glances towards Carolanne during their silent flight.
Marines awaited for her this time, leading her and her group through the now familiar but confusing halls until they reached the Ward Room. It was the first clue that told Laura something was wrong. There was no way Bill would have sent marines to greet his presumed dead children instead of doing so himself.
As they walked, Lee slowed his pace just enough to close the entourage, signaling Val to do the same. While she eyed him with curiosity, she did the same and soon, they were walking at a short distance behind the rest. "You don't like her," he whispered. It wasn't a question. "Because she's dating Dad?"
"Of course not," she said in a similar tone. "I'm just... cautious. Dad's been seeing her for a year and a half, he has been very open about it. Yet he never tried to introduce her to me. Not even once." Lee frowned. That didn't sound like their father at all; Bill Adama was the type of person who relished in having his family as closely knit as he could. "Why, what's wrong with her? What's so wrong with her he felt the need to hide her?"
He glanced ahead at the back of Carolanne's head instead of answering. She seemed like any other Caprican woman— though what they had gone through barely helped in observing anyone's character. Val raised an eyebrow at him, as if challenging Lee to come up with a reasonable explanation, but he merely closed the topic with a shrug.
Once they arrived, Laura's feeling of dread intensified as she noticed the emptiness of the room. She had expected Bill would be waiting, what the frak was going on? The group waited for more than ten minutes until Saul came into the room, and Laura stopped herself from jumping instinctively at the man to get some answers. "Colonel Tigh, thank the Gods you're alright. Where's the commander?" she questioned rapidly.
"Overseeing munitions transfer." He spoke shortly, throwing a glance at her. "Word has been given, that you two are here," he said, gesturing at the Adamas, "and he'll be back when he can." He then raised both brows at Carolanne with recognition in his eyes when she waved at him, but made no attempt to greet her properly.
"He can't come to see his children now?" she asked, not buying it for an instant. He was either not where Tigh said, or nobody had informed him of their arrival.
"We're in the middle of repairing and rearming this ship," Tigh continued, annoyance shining in his voice. "We can’t afford to lose a single man off the line to start caring for refugees."
Laura clutched her hands tightly as she looked away and smiled with incredulity at the ridiculousness of it all. What the hell was wrong with these people? They only cared about throwing sticks and stones at the Cylons, when a few bunch of nukes would hardly give them any advantage. "We have fifty thousand people out there, and some of them are hurt. Our priority has to be caring for—"
"My priority is preparing this ship for combat," Tigh interrupted. The disdain in which he addressed her had the rest of the room completely silent, giving Laura the desire to shake him until he snapped out those bloodthirsty ideas. "In case you haven't heard, there's a war on," he finished sarcastically.
"Colonel." She stepped closer, trying to get through to him. "The war is over," she said softly. "And we lost."
"We'll see about that."
"Oh, yes, we will." She straightened her posture, because she would not let them get away with this— lead them all to their deaths. Not after what she had already sacrificed to get to Ragnar. "In the meantime, however, as President of the Colonies I am giving you a direct order—"
"You don't give orders on this ship!" Tigh spoke over her, propelling Laura to raise her voice too.
"...to provide men and equipment..."
"Hold on, Colonel," Lee chimed in, shouting to be heard above them as Laura looked at Saul in disbelief. Some part of her had been warning her over and over again, ever since she heard Adama's words in the cockpit of Colonial One. A schoolteacher. Neither of them, Bill or Saul, trusted her for this job. A military dictatorship was a very distinct possibility, even when she wouldn't have thought Bill capable of that... "At least give us a few disaster pods."
"Us," Tigh snorted. "Don't forget your place, Captain. Running below mommy's skirt when you're a senior pilot now..."
A spurt of anger erupted in Laura as she was about to protest, but Lee spoke first. "Sir, we have fifty thousand people out there. Fifty thousand. Some of them are sick, some are wounded. Two disaster pods, Colonel, you can do that." He even smiled as he ignored what Tigh just threw at him, just repeating her words in a less aggressive tone.
"Because you're the old man’s son and because he's so damned happy you're alive, okay. Two pods, but no personnel." He walked around the desk, heading towards the exit. "You get them yourselves and you distribute them yourselves. And you are all off this ship before we jump back. Report to the flight deck, Captain."
They both saluted in agreement and the colonel left, Lee following him out the door with one last glance and smile at Laura.
As she watched her son leave, she could only think about how Galactica seemed less of a safe haven than before.
Thank you all for the kudos and comments! I can't express just how happy they make me!
This chapter contains the first flashback, which is actually one of the first bits I wrote for this fic. So yes, this whole idea came from here. And I'm finally able to show it!
And thanks to Jules again for helping with the edits ;) Enjoy!
When you love someone, you open yourself up to suffering. That's the sad truth. Maybe they'll break your heart, maybe you'll break their heart and never be able to look at yourself in the same way. Those are the risks. The thought of losing so much control over personal happiness is unbearable. That's the burden.
Bill could not believe his ears when Saul told him the news —his children were alive— and carrying sixty-three ships with them. As the colonel said he would find Lee in his quarters, he could only rush to find the hatch open, and as he entered he found Lee staring at the picture previously left on his desk: his siblings, Bill and himself standing outside the Viper, grinning. Lee looked up as he got close.
Bill was too overwhelmed to say anything, the relief he felt to see tangible proof his blood and bone was back on Galactica overlapped everything else.
Lee placed the frame back on the table, his father's hesitation cue enough to plot his exit. "I, um, gotta go." He moved towards the hatch, passing by him and Bill reached out, pulling his son into a tight embrace. He was alive and Val too; it was a miracle if he had ever seen one. Lee's arms came around him as Bill swallowed down tears. He pulled away after a while, looking at Lee as he cleared his throat.
"What— what about your sister? And your mother?"
"Do you really care? You called her a schoolteacher," he accused. "We're alive because of her. That's no way to treat her, for frak's sake!" Lee had raised his voice in frustration and turned around, only to find his face on his graduation photo and again by a lake with Val on a sunny day. Sitting nearby was one of Laura and Zak when he was about seven years old, taken some months prior to the divorce. He picked it up with incredulity. "She heard you. She was standing right there!"
"She is a schoolteacher, Lee. She hasn't been at war. Your ship knew very little of what was happening inside the combat zone." Bill wasn't surprised at Lee's reaction but he needed him to understand that even a secretary of education was widely different from the secretary of defense. "It doesn't matter," he finished. The last thing he wanted was to get into an argument, after all.
But Lee kept staring at the photo. "I'll never understand how you got her to marry you." He shook his head and finally met Bill's eyes. "Mom rescued fifty thousand civilians and brought them with us, you know. So you better remember to treat her better, because she's not the naive little schoolteacher you seem to remember. Has bigger balls than most men I've flown with." Lee shoved the picture into his father's hands, walked to the hatch and halted as he got there. "Get that cut looked at. You look like hell," he stated without a backward glance.
Bill's tiredness gave way to an ache as he watched Lee leave, only then inspecting the frame he held. He kept telling himself the picture belonged in his quarters because of Zak and not because of Laura, but he had to admit that after believing her dead for several hours, he was looking forward to seeing her again.
Almost three hours, one meeting with Tigh and an insufferable Baltar, eight stitches from Cottle, one accused Cylon and one Cylon device inside his CIC later, Bill finally headed towards the ward room. When he arrived, it was to find Laura seated behind a desk, listening to her aide in front of her as Val took notes by his side; he didn't bother to hide the smile appearing on his face by the presence of his family. "Medical supplies are running low again," Billy was saying as Laura looked up to meet his eyes— and Bill was sure he saw relief in them for barely a second before she turned back to her aide. "Three—"
"Oh my Gods, Bill!" He suddenly found himself locked inside a tight hug around his neck that rendered him out of air. "It was horrible, Bill, you should have seen Caprica. If your pilot hadn't found me..." The woman against him spoke rapidly, and he blinked twice when he finally recognized her.
"Carolanne?" He felt instantly guilty— his thoughts had gone towards his children and even Laura, completely forgetting about the other woman in those hours. "You mean Lieutenant Valerii?" he asked as she pulled back to nod and smile— and then noticed her watery eyes.
Carolanne gave him a quick kiss before she spoke again. "I'm so happy to see you. When she told me you were alive..." she trailed off, gesturing behind her and Bill realized she meant Laura. That's when he also became aware of the lack of Billy's voice— Laura, Billy and Val were completely silent, watching their exchange. "What happened to you?" Carolanne continued as she raised a hand to the cut in his forehead, and he stopped her gently in midair.
"We'll talk later," he promised.
"What? No," she said, and Bill was about to speak again when Laura cleared her throat. Carolanne turned her head just enough to finally realize they were interrupting. "Oh, you're busy. Okay. But I'm not leaving Galactica, Bill."
"This is no place for civilians." But Carolanne answered nothing and Bill sighed before calling on one of the marines stationed outside of the room. "Escort her to the available guest quarters, and get her some clothes."
The marine nodded, but she didn't move. "But, I thought..." she began.
Laura rolled her eyes. She had assumed Bill would have her sharing his quarters with him. Lovely.
Apparently Bill caught her meaning too, as he shot Laura an awkward glance. "We'll talk later," he repeated. Carolanne accepted he wasn't going to cave on the matter and finally left with the marine. "My apologies," Bill said, crossing his hands in front of him.
"Apologies accepted, I'll be with you in a minute. Keep going, Billy," she urged with some indignation and Bill cringed; he remembered very well that the calmer she seemed the more pissed she was, she was making him wait for Carolanne's interruption. And Bill was fine with that, with the situation at hand it was only fair.
"Um..." The aide went through his notes, trying to remember where he left off until Val pointed at a particular spot in them. "Thanks. Three ships have reported engine trouble and wanted to know when they would receive engineering assistance from Galactica."
"That's a good question," she mused. She then tilted her head in Bill's direction as if expecting him to answer, but he simply stared back at her. Two could play her game. When she noticed his intentions, she gave him the faintest trace of a bitter smile and looked back at Billy. "What else?"
"The captain of the Astral Queen wanted you to know he has over fifteen hundred convicted criminals in his cargo hold. They were being transported to a penal station when the attacks happened."
"Oh, great," Laura sighed. Bill didn't like it either, the resources she would want to waste on them...
"He wants to know what to do with them."
"What to do with them?" she repeated, frowning in confusion.
"Well, with food and medical supplies being what they are, I think he's considering just..." He left the rest unsaid, it was not like he had the stomach to say it out loud anyway.
"No, no. No, we're not going to start that," Laura was protesting, entwining her fingers on the table. "They're still human beings. Tell the captain I expect daily reports on the well-being of his prisoners, and if there are any mysterious deaths the Astral Queen may find herself on her own, without Galactica’s protection." She looked at Bill again and he got the message: she had gathered these people and now expected him to help her keep them safe. If only she understood he needed to get back out there and fight, dammit.
"Yes, Madam President."
"Tell Wally to keep an eye on the reports coming from the Astral Queen. Thank you," she dismissed them as they stood up. Billy exited the room as fast as he could, but Val walked over to her father and gave him a long-deserved hug.
"I'm glad you're safe," she said, and Bill echoed her words by pressing his lips against her forehead, fighting tears once again. When he released her, Val followed Billy and the hatch was shut close behind her.
Even alone at last, Bill still didn't move. Laura blinked slowly, waiting for him to sit down, but grew restless as he didn't. "Please, have a seat," she offered, feeling odd for making such a suggestion aboard his ship. But Bill said nothing as he complied, his instincts warning him against whatever his ex-wife was about to say.
She toyed with her pen as they exchanged looks, and Bill suddenly understood why he felt that way. He remembered the last time he had been across a table from Laura like this— and the decision she had made that day.
17 years before the Fall
A rushed redhead passed by the restaurant window where Bill waited, having already picked a table for two. It was the place they usually chose when it was possible to have lunch together, as it was barely two blocks away from Laura's school. Once inside, she found him quickly and smiled, greeting him with a kiss and taking the seat in front of him.
"I have exactly one hour before I have to be back," she explained. "What are this news you have for me?"
The man took a deep breath. He would have wished to order before getting into the heart of the matter, but Laura was never one to wait. "I've been offered a position on Picon. Fleet Headquarters."
"Bill..." she began.
"Yes, I know, you don't want to move away from Caprica again. Your family is here, my family is here, I know," he said. "But it's the best position I can get without being assigned off planet."
She took a few seconds to choose her next words. "Maybe you should take a ship assignment."
"You were happier aboard a ship, weren't you? It isn't just about the Fleet; it's about being surrounded by stars too."
He shook his head vehemently. "No, Laura. I don't want the kids to grow up without me."
"That's exactly what's already happening, Bill," she admonished. "You barely see us because you barely come home, and when you do come home you're still thinking about the Fleet instead of us. That's going to be true on Caprica, or Picon, or any other planet. I don't want to go anywhere not only because my dad and sisters live here, or because I already have a job, but because that won't change at all."
"That's not true," he said.
"Really? Do you remember when Zak lost his first tooth? You can't, you were on the shipyards in Scorpia. Are you even aware he lost another one yesterday?"
He wasn't, but he lied anyway. "Of course I knew."
Laura squinted. "Uh-huh. What about when Lee was on probation three months ago for pushing that kid that kept harassing his friend, who went to see the principal? I did. You were on Delphi."
"You are a teacher too, Laura, you didn't need me to deal with him."
She exhaled a worn out sigh. "It's not about me needing your help, Bill. I've never needed your help, and I certainly didn't marry you for that."
"Why did you marry me, then?" he asked.
"Because you made me happy," she said, and her expression changed as soon as the words came out of her mouth. A new realization shone in her eyes. "I'm not happy anymore," she announced, her voice much lower.
There it was. The sad truth.
"Neither am I," he agreed. "But we can still fix this."
"Can we? You don't agree with my decisions," she questioned.
His silence was short but enough of an answer in itself. "You don't agree with mine either."
"I don't," she accepted. "What are we doing, Bill? Two people that can't maintain a life together shouldn't be married."
Her words punctured like needles through his heart. The risk. She was absolutely right, and deep down he knew so too.
Bill sighed. "How did this happen? How did we get here?"
"I don't know, but it did happen," she determined. Bill realized where she was going and tried to hold her hands, but she recoiled them immediately.
"I'm gonna—" she made a small pause, as if suddenly out of air, "go."
She adjusted her glasses, grabbed her purse in her arm and got up. Once out of her chair, her gaze returned to Bill.
"You know, all you had to do was not put the Fleet before me."
They both knew he could have said anything at that point, anything at all to justify himself, but the words never came out. It would feel even more painful, even more real if they did.
What hurt the most, however, was that Laura was giving up. He held her stare as he said, "Hey, you're the one that's leaving."
Her smile was sad. "You're the one that's not stopping me."
Bill didn't move from his chair. He didn't blink but his eyes dropped to his empty plate.
After a couple of seconds that felt like an eternity, she gave a tiny nod. "Yeah," she murmured, and stormed out of the restaurant.
Bill took his first ship assignment since his reinstatement aboard the Atlantia soon after their divorce was finalized, two months later.
"Are you planning on staging a military coup?" she asked calmly.
Bill, still lost inside his memories, didn't register the question. "What?"
"Do you plan to declare Martial Law? Take over the government?" She was more specific this time, and he felt a pang of anger at the thought. How could she even consider he would?
"Of course not," he objected quickly— was it related to their history? Did she honestly think him capable of that? It was completely absurd.
"Then you do acknowledge my position as president as duly constituted under the articles of colonization."
He had no issue with her position, since he could hardly run a government from a war zone and didn't want to give it a try anyway. He had no interest in taking the civilian presidency for himself. Besides, the people she had gathered needed someone else when Galactica left. "Laura," he began, using her name instead of her title deliberately, "what you need to understand is that my primary objective is to repair the Galactica and continue to fight."
"And what you need to understand is that we have fifty thousand refugees out there who don't stand a chance without your ship to protect them, Bill." She spoke in a determined yet soft manner, as if trying to reach him.
"We're aware of the tactical situation, and I'm sure that you'll all be safe here on Ragnar after we leave."
"After you leave," she repeated in disbelief. But rather than questioning it, she gathered her patience, straightened in her seat and asked, "Where are you going?"
"To find the enemy. We're at war— that's my mission," he stated simply. It was a concept she had never sympathized with, but Bill hoped that maybe now, with the attacks, it would be different.
She stared at him for a while instead, finally letting a mirthless smile appear on her face. The same stubborn soldier she knew, who didn't know when to quit. "I really don't know why I have to keep telling you this, but the war is over."
"It hasn't begun yet," he said evenly, forcing the irritation away from his voice.
"That's insane," she pointed out. Gods, this conversation was insane.
"You'd rather that we run?"
"Yes, absolutely," she answered back without hesitation. "That is the only sane thing to do here. Exactly that, run. We leave this solar system and we don't look back."
"And we go where?" he countered.
"I don't know." Laura had to get up— she took a step away from him to regain her composure, because she could not believe Bill wasn't even considering it. She placed her hands on her hips as she paced, not looking at him. "Another star system. Another planet. Somewhere where the Cylons won't find us."
"You can run if you like. This ship will stand, and she will fight."
She turned back and leaned over the table, spreading her fingers over the surface. "I'm gonna be straight with you here," she said, masking her frustration behind a condescending tone and he noticed she was talking like a teacher explaining something basic to a small child. "The human race is about to be wiped out. We have fifty thousand people left and that's it. Now, you don't have the might of the Colonial Fleet at your disposal, Commander. Not even a quarter of the Fleet. You have one battlestar, one!" Though she wasn't yelling, Laura raised her voice as she spoke. "This isn't war— it's survival. If we are even going to survive as a species, then we need to get the hell out of here and we need our children to start having babies!"
She was sure neither Lee nor Val would appreciate being volunteered for the task of repopulating their civilization, but realistically speaking— their generation was to be in charge of their numbers in the near future. Maybe not them personally, but soon...
Bill stood as well, slowly, forcing her to back away and straighten again to avoid a collision. He was on her face, so close her breath caught a little— his eyes were so blue she felt them piercing into her soul. "Get back to your ship before we jump," Bill murmured, but the tone didn't make it less than an order. "Excuse me," he finished, walked to the hatch and focused on nothing else than his footsteps as he strode down the corridor leading to CIC.
Laura was all alone once more, her heart furious and sinking when she watched him leave, their last chance of survival leaving with him.
Big thanks to L_E_HAHA for reminding me I was due to post this ;)
Also, my beta Jules was awesome as always when she got to beta this chapter. All remaining mistakes are mine, I own them completely.
Thank you for the kudos! They always make my day. Enjoy!
Just when you think it can't get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can't get any better, it can.
"How the hell did they find us?" Tigh growled, and Bill stared at the nav chart in front of him as Starbuck's words resonated through his mind. An entire Cylon fleet outside the storm. You don't have the might of the Colonial Fleet at your disposal, Commander. Not even a quarter of the Fleet. You have one battlestar, one! Zero room for movement.
"Doesn't really matter," he answered, glancing back at his XO. "They've got us."
"Why aren't they coming after us, sir?" Gaeta chimed in, and Tigh snorted before Bill could reply.
"Why should they? They can just sit out there and wait us out. What difference does it make to them, they're machines. We're the ones who need food, medicine, fuel..." Bill turned at Saul's words, thinking; as much as he wanted to go out there, guns blazing, it was a poor tactical move. He would rather roll the hard six: attempt the unexpected.
"I'm not going to play their game. Not gonna go out there and try to fight them." Lee and Tigh looked at him in surprise, but neither said anything. Bill glanced at Gaeta. "Can we plot a jump from inside the storm?"
"With all this EM interference mucking up the FTL fix?" It was Saul who spoke, his tone incredulous, and Gaeta nodded slightly.
"I tend to agree, sir. I don't think we should even attempt a jump until we've cleared the storm's threshold." The young officer waved at the nav chart behind him and Lee stepped a little closer to the table.
"We'll have to be quick about it though— they'll launch everything they have, first glimpse they get." He spoke exchanging looks with Tigh and Gaeta, and Bill suppressed a sigh; his son was clearly still stung by their conversation back at his quarters and the way he had spoken to Laura. And as if the mere thought of her could conjure her aide, Billy appeared and walked over to Dee at the comm station. Bill followed their conversation despite not being able to hear their voices, while the others still argued on how to attempt the jump; these kids had their lives in front of them and were marching to war.
This isn't war— it's survival. If we are even going to survive as a species, then we need to get the hell out of here and we need our children to start having babies! He couldn't risk leaving Val and Laura behind, as without Galactica, they wouldn't survive. They wouldn't, he knew. Laura would never abandon her people now, despite the circumstances in which she found them thrust upon her, and Val wouldn't leave her mother. And he had lost them once—
Then something inside him clicked. Frak that woman, she's right. "They better start having babies." Bill spoke his thoughts aloud, effectively shutting up the buzz of angry voices around him.
Tigh stared at him quietly, clearly amused behind his also apparent confusion. "Is that an order?" he asked.
No, it wasn't. Not yet anyway. But it was a realization that the former secretary of education —the new president, his own ex-wife—, was right all along. What good would it do for what was left of humanity, to lose the only protection they had now? Galactica needed to remain with them and that meant running away, leaving the Colonies behind. "Maybe before too long," he admitted. "Okay, we're going to take the civilians with us. We're going to leave this solar system and we're not going to come back."
"We're running?" Tigh questioned with disbelief.
"This war is over." He looked directly at the colonel as he spoke. "We lost." There was a brief pause and Lee nodded.
"My father's right." Bill's eyes shot to Lee's and they exchanged a look, both of them silently acknowledging who was actually right there, even when she wasn't present. "It's time for us to get out of here." Bill found himself suppressing a smile— it was so much like Lee to support his mother when he believed she was right. And that, at least for this particular conundrum, was a good thing.
"So where are we going, Commander?" Tigh addressed him, and Bill was grateful for his XO— not debating his order even when he didn't really agree with it.
"The Prolmar sector," he answered promptly. Where the tribes had supposedly come through before finding the Colonies, it was the closest thing they had to a familiar zone out of the system.
"That's way past the red line," Saul pointed out, and Bill ignored the obvious statement. Of course it was past the red line. That was the whole point.
"Can you plot that jump?" he asked Gaeta, though it wasn't really a question.
"I've never plotted a jump that far, sir."
"No one has, can you plot that jump?" he repeated, mustering a calm tone in his voice to keep him that way. He trusted his officer's skills.
Gaeta nodded after a beat. "Yes, sir." His voiced sounded somewhat more confident than before and Bill nodded proudly.
"Do it. By yourself." He couldn't stress that last bit enough, and Gaeta nodded once more as he left. Bill then exchanged a last glance with Tigh before turning over to the nav chart. "This is a bad tactical position," he acknowledged. "We'll pull Galactica out five clicks." He traced the chart with his hand as he spoke. "The civilians will come out behind us, cross the threshold and make the jump, while we hold off the Cylons," he finished gravely. The whole purpose of the military was to protect the Colonies under any circumstance, except the Colonies were not planets any more, they were back to their core— the people. Those sixty-three ships, inside their hulls, carried everything they had left, and their duty was not to protect them until there was another Colony to defend.
"Once the civilians have made the jump, every fighter is to make an immediate combat landing. We don't have much time," he continued, this time speaking to Lee. His son would be among the pilots risking their lives, making it the first time Bill was ordering him into a fight— and unable to find anything to say. And even if he could find the words, saying them now, in the middle of CIC for what could possibly be the last battle they ever fought, just wasn't safe. It could be a distraction for both him and Lee.
"I'll tell them," Lee said, taking his new position as CAG seamlessly.
"I want all my pilots to return. Do you understand?" Bill knew people under his command would not be coming back today, but he wanted them fighting until the very end. For a chance of a future— all together.
Lee nodded. "Yes, sir, I do." He then walked away to attend to his duties, and Bill watched him go with a sigh.
"Can I ask what changed your mind?" Saul leaned on the table and raised an eyebrow, already knowing the answer.
"You can ask," he replied. He wasn't in the mood to explain why he was now inclined to agree with the incredibly stubborn president, and he couldn't explain it in any case. He was aware she still didn't stand him, and he still hated her guts.
Tigh merely shook his head in silent amusement. "Frakking woman," he said and Bill almost smiled, his friend's words were incredibly close to his own thoughts. "But you have to admit— she's crazy. We're fighting for our lives and she wants us to stop for a moment and try the old, 'make love, not war' philosophy? Does she even understand the concept of war? Or did she skip that part during her lessons?"
"Insane as she may be, ignorant as she may be, she has a point, Saul. And she's the boss now," Bill reminded him.
"So the lady just strolls in here, tells you to start frakking like bunnies, and you're back under her spell like a lap dog? Frak, Bill, I know you loved her, but if that's all it takes... better inform Carolanne she's got competition now," he joked.
"Saul," Bill warned. It wasn't the time to take on Tigh's retorts on his love life.
The colonel shrugged slightly and started laughing, but swallowed it quickly at Bill's glare. "Sir. What do we do about our prisoner?" he asked, back to business.
Bill was silent for a moment, before running a palm over his face. He didn't like the idea, but it was the only way. "Have the marines bring him to the airlock. We're not taking him with us."
They had made it. Barely.
Laura counted the ships she saw outside as they blinked into view, filling the empty space that lay between them and the army of stars outside her window. Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine... not including those to the left of Colonial One, where she couldn't see them at the moment. But she had to keep herself busy— the image of dozens of Vipers flying out of Galactica, to take on three Cylon basestars, haunted her mind; Lee was on one of those and she might not see him again. Her hands gripped the armrests, her nails digging into the soft leather of the liner's seats.
No more blinks came through and her heart picked up its pace as she waited. She exchanged looks with Val, seated in front of her, her pursed lips proof enough of her own worries. Laura wanted to calm her down, but she found no words for that purpose as they resumed their silent watch out the window.
"They'll be here any minute now, ma'am." It was Billy who spoke next to her in a whisper, meant to reassure them. Such a sweet young man... Laura had to smile at his attempt; she marveled at the irony that of course she had found the perfect aide at the end of the world, when she wouldn't need one soon.
"Mom!" Val exclaimed, and Laura turned to her excited voice to find Galactica out the window, her impressive size taking up most of the view. The battlestar appeared more bruised and battered than before, practically hissing her irritation as steam was propelled from the several ducts and airlocks from stern to stem. Laura exhaled heavily, as if finally allowing herself to feel tired.
"Billy, can you go tell the pilot—"
"I'll ask him to dock inside Galactica right away, ma'am," he said as he got up.
Laura shot him another grateful smile. "Thank you, Billy." She then returned her gaze to the ship, to watch as the giant got even closer when the hangar deck engulfed Colonial One again.
The battle was over, but there was still a lot to be done: dispatching the emergency repair teams, paying a visit to Doc Cottle to hear the final toll of injuries and deaths; getting Galactica back into Condition Two but ready for an unexpected attack.
As he finished his duties, a marine awaiting outside Life Station informed him the president was on board and on her way to his quarters, eliciting an exhausted sigh from him. Tigh had the watch back on CIC... he wanted to rest for a while before meeting anyone again. In any case, he walked to meet her and found another two marines outside his hatch, their presence informing him Laura was already inside.
After returning their salutes, he crossed the threshold to see Laura and her aide waiting for him near the entrance, the former seemingly interested in his quarters. Perhaps she was comparing what she saw with the stuff she recalled, Bill guessed, as her glance at the bookcase was accompanied by a modest smile.
"Commander—" She took a step towards him as soon as she noticed his arrival.
"Lee's fine," he assured her, and she nodded her gratitude. "What can I do for you?" he added as he took a seat on his couch and gestured for them to do the same. He was simply too tired to deal with protocol. Laura accepted the invitation and Billy followed, staying by her side as he shifted uncomfortably on his spot.
"I thought you'd want to honor those who didn't make it— a memorial service, of sorts." Laura explained. "You might remember Elosha, she's is aboard Colonial One. The priestess you met at the ceremony. Which honestly, seems like a lifetime ago."
He frowned slightly; priests and priestess had always made him uncomfortable, like they knew all the answers for questions any person should barely understand in the first place. Still, that was the kind of thing his crew needed at the moment. "That's a good idea," he accepted, nodding. "We can use the starboard hangar, half the crap from the decommissioning is still there."
"Billy, can you arrange that? In a few hours, of course. I'm sure the commander and his crew need to rest."
"Absolutely, Madam President." Billy nodded as he scribbled his notes quickly.
"Thank you. And I have to admit my main reason for being here was getting news of Lee, but since I already did..." She stood up as she spoke and Billy mirrored her movements, efficient as ever.
Yet the commander sank into the couch. He was unmistakably tired, but as Laura was already there, he might as well catch her up on the recent developments. "There's something else we need to discuss, Madam President." She got the hint when he didn't elaborate: discuss alone.
She wore a neutral expression as she addressed her aide, but Bill could tell she was wary. "I'll go back to Colonial One on my own, Billy," she ordered. He nodded and left through the hatch, and Laura sat down again. "I suppose this is where I thank you for deciding to bring us—"
"Listen. You were right, I was wrong," he began. He would rather get it out of the way first, since that was hardly what anyone would have liked to admit to their ex.
"I didn't come for that."
"I know; let's just leave it at that." He wasn't going to say it again, that much he knew.
She nodded slowly. "Alright." She then waited for him to explain while gazing at his neutral expression.
"You should know that the Cylons... they look like us now. Human. Right down to the blood." He glanced down at his hands, remembering the unsettling but familiar liquid dripping from his fingers just hours before.
"What— what are you talking about?"
"I had an encounter with one of them in Ragnar, before you came," he explained, and Laura's thoughts went from a little self-indulgence —the colonel had lied to her and something had happened to Bill at the station, which meant she was right twice— to genuine worry. "With what I thought was a man."
Laura remained silent, frowning slightly as her mind processed the information. But then, cautious as always, she asked, "How did you know?"
"A hunch, at first. He was sick. The storm at Ragnar does that to synthetics— and he got a lot worse quickly." Conoy's words replayed inside his mind, along with the unnerving honesty in them. "He admitted it."
"What did you do with him— it?"
"Killed it," he stated simply. Laura pursed her lips and nodded. "I also had reason to believe Galactica had a Cylon on board, so we ran tests on the body. Then Baltar took samples from those on board, extrapolated something from the tests on the Cylon corpse —which frankly, I can't follow the process—, and found out one was synthetic."
Laura closed her eyes as she took the news, her dismay painted clearly across her features. This was how the Colonies had fallen, then. If the nearly retired Galactica had been infiltrated, the Cylons must have sent agents to every ship in the Fleet. "Which one?" she pressed.
"Aaron Doral's." She felt an indescribable relief at his answer, she had an explanation for her distrust against him. But also, they were talking about an outsider— what would happen to the morale of the crew if one of them was a Cylon? And to the commander himself? "He also led us to a device nobody recognized from before the ceremony— Cylon too." Bill decided to leave the part about where they had found it —his CIC, of all places— out for now.
"I didn't like him," she admitted. "Where is he?"
"Ragnar," he repeated sternly, and Laura took it as a refusal to let his decision be questioned. Military men were always like that, so caught in their ways that civilians seemed to know nothing in comparison. "He was a danger to this ship."
"But you had no proof beyond the doctor's word," she refuted. "You said so yourself— you don't even understand the tests."
"I'm aware of that." He spoke evenly, knowing very well that he had left something —Cylon, human—, to die at the Anchorage. It wasn't the first time his orders led to a death.
Laura glanced at him for a beat, and to his surprise, nodded in approval. "Good," she said. She should have been present during the decision-making process given her position, but she agreed with it. A Cylon —even suspected, as was the case— was more of a danger than an asset at this time. If the machines were able to build humanoid bodies, they could also device a way to communicate with each other that the Colonials didn't know— and expose the fleet's current location.
They remained in silence for a moment, until Laura cleared her throat. "I appreciate what you told me, Commander. I think we both need to rest." She got on her feet and Bill did the same to see her off, and she pondered over the news as the marines escorted her back to Colonial One. She felt frustrated; he had shared the information on humanoid Cylons, but was still willing to step over her presidency if he saw fit. After all, she was just a schoolteacher in his eyes, and that meant that her promise to Billy was to remain a complete lie— Commander Adama would not be learning about her cancer. She would not give him any excuse to doubt her.
This chapter marks the end of the miniseries, at last! I've had so much fun writing this :D I'm not planning to take a break for the time being, so you can expect the beginning of season 1 in a few weeks, as usual.
Thanks again for the kudos and comments!
And thanks to Jules for my lovely beta. Enjoy!
You may not end up where you thought you were going, but you will always end up where you were meant to be.
By the time Laura stepped back onto the deck with Billy and Val, most of the attendants were already there. They had saved a spot for her between the commander and the colonel, while her aide and daughter gathered with the press behind the rows of officers, and the sudden lack of civilian company made her feel uneasy. This was his ship. His crew. His people. Mourning their losses in front of a president not many knew had been married to William Adama once. She felt like an intruder.
Lee had found Kara and they had settled together a row behind, waiting for the service to begin without striking a conversation. But as Laura made her entrance, Kara's gaze followed her walk with interest; she couldn't pinpoint why that woman was so familiar to her. She had already been briefed— the secretary of education turned president by being on Galactica at the right time, but that wasn't it. Lee noticed her unrest from the corner of his eyes and was about to ask her when she said, "I've seen her before."
Lee frowned. "Of course you have. At Zak's funeral," he replied, barely glancing at her before standing back to attention and looking straight ahead. "She's Laura Roslin, my mother."
Kara's face went blank as she connected the dots; she kind of recalled Zak telling her once about his mother being a secretary for Adar's government. He had never introduced them, though. And now that Lee mentioned it— she did remember seeing her fiance's mom at the service, clutching a colonial flag in her arms with a faraway look in her eyes, perhaps lost in a memory as she stared down at the coffin without looking. She tried to take a second glimpse at the woman from where she stood and failed, but the color of her hair brought back memories... She forced herself to snap out of it.
"So, Mamma Adama is president now?" she whispered after a beat. "Guess the Old Man's not thrilled about it, huh."
Lee shook his head. "To put it mildly."
Starbuck's sardonic expression was short-lived, as she realized it was yet another person that had been part of Zak's life and therefore, another person she was keeping the truth from. What she had done for him. Lee sensed her tensing and gently bumped his shoulder against hers in reassurance, making Kara nod her agreement. She knew it wasn't as bad as not telling the commander. She was frakked either way, that wasn't new.
Elosha began the rites by addressing the crowd, and the pilots straightened back on their spots just like the rest of the crew. The service went on and the somber mood settled in, and that was enough for Kara to shove the president back into the least of her worries; the priestess' prayer washed over her like a much needed balm.
"With heavy hearts, we lift up their bodies to you, oh Lords of Kobol, in the knowledge that you will take from them their burdens and give them life eternal. We also pray that you look upon us now with mercy and love just as you did upon our forefathers many years ago." The priestess spoke calmly, soothing the wounded crew with her words with the reassurance that this, Gods willing, was not the end. "Just as you led us from Kobol and found the twelve worlds, so now we hope and pray that you will lead to a new home, where we may begin life anew. So say we all."
"So say we all," the crowd echoed. Yet Bill's voice was louder than anyone else's, and Laura looked at him in surprise as he took a step forward, turning to face them all right in front of her. She saw determination in his eyes, a feeling that was so familiar but also very different from their earlier argument about leaving Ragnar. "So say we all," he repeated, this time even louder. The crew mumbled a response and he paced a couple of steps before shouting at them again, eliciting a proper response from them in true military fashion. Laura didn't take part in it, choosing instead to watch the commander as he repeated a prayer for the Gods he didn't even believe in.
"Are they the lucky ones? That's what you're thinking, isn't it?" he asked as he walked over to the platform, his deep voice being carried through the room. His stern appearance and strong expression gave the audience a sense of awe as they stared at him. "We're a long way from home. We've jumped way beyond the red line, into uncharted space. Limited supplies. Limited fuel. No allies. And now, no hope?" He questioned her, his, and their fears aloud and the crowd stilled, standing uncomfortably under Bill's scrutinizing gaze; nobody seemed willing to admit the reality of their situation besides him.
"Maybe it would have been better if we'd all died quickly, back in the Colonies with our families, instead of dying out here slowly in the emptiness of dark space." Laura squinted slightly, the rest of her face impassive as she heard him but wondering inside what the frak was he doing exactly. Still, she knew Bill was a soldier at heart and every action he chose had a purpose, she just couldn't see it yet. "Where shall we go? What shall we do?" The crowd remained silent, shocked by the hard, brutal truth he spoke of and Laura supposed more than one had to thank their military training for not breaking down and weeping right there.
"'Life here began out there.' Those are the first words of the sacred scrolls. And they were told to us by the Lords of Kobol, many countless centuries ago. And they made it perfectly clear that we are not alone in the universe," he continued, giving one last glance across the hangar before turning to the priestess. Again, nobody dared to move. "Elosha. There's a thirteenth colony of humankind, is there not?"
"Yes, the scrolls tell us a thirteenth tribe left Kobol in the early days. They travelled far and made their home upon a planet called Earth, which circled a distant and unknown star," Elosha answered in a calm tone, yet her confusion was clear by the way she gazed at him.
And suddenly Laura knew. She understood what he was about to do and almost grinned as she recognized the brilliant tactical move he was about to lay in front of them.
"It's not unknown. I know where it is! Earth." He savored the word triumphantly. "The most guarded secret we have. The location was only known by the senior commanders of the Fleet, and we dare not share it with the public. Not while there was a Cylon threat upon us. For now we have a refuge to go to, a refuge that the Cylons know nothing about!" Whispers grew behind her ears, among the officers full of disbelief and wonder. And Laura merely stood there, her eyes fixed on him and her composure unyielding as she heard the words she knew were far from true.
"It won't be an easy journey. It will be long and arduous. But I promise you one thing: on the memory of those lying before you, we shall find it. And Earth will become our new home. So say we all!" Bill walked back as he chanted, and this time his officers followed accordingly one, two, three times; the fourth time being answered by the priestess alone. "Dismissed."
Then, applause erupted everywhere— the crowd celebrated the unbelievable turn of events as fear and hopelessness were shoved aside. Laura had never seen them as cheerful as then in the time since the decommissioning ceremony, so she stood on her spot, forcing a well-practiced politician's smile as she clenched her hands together even tighter while the commander walked past her and into the crowd.
Once he was out of her view, she licked her lips and crossed her arms as she looked ahead, intent on finding a place on the wall where she couldn't figure out a single face of those besides her. She dared not to look at the people cheering behind her— and hoped for her own sanity that her children's voices were not among the ones she heard. It was wrong on many levels, but it was also imperative; giving hope, false or not, would keep them away from despair. And so, she just chose to take part of the burden in the gigantic lie the crew now held inside their hearts without question, well aware Bill wasn't the only one sugar-coating the harsh future ahead of them.
The galley had sent his request —noodles, of course— promptly, and the feeling of warm food in his mouth elicited a growl of approval from deep inside his chest. Little over a full day had elapsed since the decommissioning ceremony, but it seemed an eternity longer.
So he finally had some time to eat a proper meal after the service and clean up his quarters for a bit. Several books were out of his bookcase, which was no longer needed as he wasn't leaving Galactica anymore; Bill marveled at the irony that he had been delaying the packing of his quarters for days, and now he didn't need to reorganize it all again.
But he barely had sat down and gotten a mouthful of noodles when he heard a knock at the hatch, and he tried to chew it down quickly to grant access. The entrance opened before that, though, yet Laura still didn't make her way inside. "Come in," he said at last and she did— slowly and looking at her surroundings, as if expecting something else entirely. It took Bill a couple of seconds to realize she had anticipated to see Carolanne there with him, and took a deep, awkward breath. He was indeed due to visit her, now that the danger had passed.
Laura took a seat at the other end of the couch, not waiting for an invitation this time. And knew her instincts were correct —she didn't need one— when Bill flashed a fleeting smile towards her before finishing the bite.
She studied him in the meantime, finally tilting her head at his gaze full of curiosity. "You made it all up," she said simply. Her tone held no accusation as she quirked the corners of her mouth into a discreet smirk. "There is no Earth." She waited for his answer but he merely stared back, so it was her who conceded as she elaborated, "President Adar and I once spoke about the legends surrounding Earth. He knew nothing about a secret location regarding Earth, and if the president knew nothing about it, what are the chances you do?"
He bit down a remark about how of course she had spoken to Adar before admitting, "You're right. There is no Earth." He had seen it in her eyes, from the moment he had opened his mouth: Laura had been aware of the lie since then. "It's all a legend."
"Because," he sighed as he took a couple of books from the table and placed them on top of a third one, resigning himself not to eat the rest of the meal soon. "It's not enough to live, you have to have something to live for." He then looked back at Laura. "Let it be Earth."
She hummed. How long could they keep that charade? Whatever the answer, it was worth trying. "They'll never forgive us," she pointed out calmly, and Bill's heart beat louder inside his chest as he heard the word 'we'. They hadn't been a we in so long, that the idea that this was not his burden alone, that Laura was willing to share it despite everything, that she'd keep his secret from the fleet made him more grateful than words could say.
"Maybe," he agreed in a low tone, watching the slight changes in her features. He remembered the lovely smile he used to elicit from her and for a moment, illuminated by the dim light of his quarters, he wanted nothing more than to have that again. To have her again. "But in the meantime, I've given all of us a fighting chance to survive. And isn't that what you said was the most important thing, the survival of the human race?" he said, and her eyes went soft as she heard him.
"And there I was, thinking you didn't listen to me," she teased him, a gentle smile now dancing on her lips. Bill felt a shiver run down his spine; it was so close to his memories that, if only...
But he settled for a glance towards her and flashed a sheepish grin as he confessed, "Not that I wanted to, but I did."
Laura hummed again and shook her head as she lowered her sight to the table, clearly not surprised but still amused. She had been down all possible roads with Bill Adama, and yet life had found a way to create a new one now. One that, she was sure, would not be easy... She raised her eyes again and found him staring back, the blueness of his gaze behind his glasses completely mesmerizing. She inhaled deeply and licked her lips without noticing, her teeth sinking for a fleeting second against her lower lip as she lost herself in the comfortable sensation of his company. But as soon as she caught him lowering his gaze to her mouth, Laura got on her feet and crossed her arms uncomfortably as Bill cleared his throat, letting whatever that was pass by.
"Who else knows?" she asked then, her voice reverting into a more professional tone.
"Not a soul," he confirmed.
"Alright, I'll keep your secret. We should work together," she stated, and then took a slow breath as she chose her next words carefully. "There's a whole, breathing city out there, encased in a collection of ships. There are children, families, hospitals, refineries, botanical cruises, luxury liners, transport freighters... everything left of our civilization."
"And they need a government," Bill finished for her. He had said some things —believed her unable to carry on with the task—, but his doubts came from a logical place. He knew Laura had been capable of dealing with many things in her past, but, who would have been ready for any of this? Bill had been at war before, and while it didn't give him full understanding of their new situation, it had to count for something.
"A civilian government run by the president of the colonies, yes," she agreed with caution.
Yet during the last war, the colonies had come together under the articles of colonization and a single president, and Bill had to remember that. Furthermore, she was probably the most qualified person left. "We should work together," he repeated her words as he nodded, and Laura knew it was as much of an acknowledgment of her presidency as she was going to get for the time being. "Military decisions stay with me, though," he added as he stood up as well and began placing the buttons from his jacket back into their holes.
She froze at his words. It would be unprecedented for her to agree, but she had no one else to replace him with if she didn't; she doubted Saul Tigh had left his drinking problem behind, and the commander's crew was nothing if not loyal to him. Besides, she didn't want to replace him— she knew most of Bill's qualities and flaws, which gave her clues about how to deal with him. If she was to cede to a balance of power, he was the best choice for it. So she mirrored his gesture by nodding too, sealing the deal.
There was just one last detail she needed to address after the truce they had settled for, then: the press was going to have a field trip once they learned about their marriage. She knew she was better at compartmentalization than he was, a fact she had proven to herself daily when she worked for a man she had been having an affair with for years. Laura had never let Adar personalize their working relationship, and she prayed for the same clarity with Bill in the tenuous balance they were about to embark into. "We can't let work get personal. We'll need to separate the president and the commander from our children's parents."
"We will," he assured her. The calmness in his tone gave her pause— he knew the stakes. He knew the risks. She was not alone in her worries.
"Alright." Bill offered his hand and the gesture felt like a reminder of their goodbye after the decommissioning, except it now meant the exact opposite: an agreement in order to deal with the problems ahead of them— the Cylon threat, fifty thousand humans out there, Lee, Val, all that was left.
She uncrossed her arms and took it as she looked into his eyes— and found understanding in them. Laura did not retract her hand, nor did Bill; the contact lingered longer than usual, the warm skin second only to the warmth in their gazes. The future promised to bring more challenges, but they would face them head on.