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The Unblooded

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And, lo,
The Gods spoke,
Like wind
Through the trees,
And They said,
“Blood is All,
For without Blood,
There is nothing.”


Chapter 1, Psalm 6
The Book Of The Word
1663 B.C.E.
(Before Colonial Era)

“Why do you need so many utensils to eat?”

Apollo chuckled at Starbuck’s exasperation. “Tradition.”

“Hmph. A knife, fork, and spoon is all you need. One of each.”

Starbuck looked at the dining room table settings in despair. The silverware was actually gold, gleaming in the sunlight streaming in through the windows. The plates were also gold and painted with the House of Kobol crest while the golden goblets sparkled with precious gems. The tablecloth was snowy-white with gold trim. It was the most beautiful dinner table Starbuck had ever seen, and his stomach was in knots.

As Apollo’s Academy roommate and best friend, he had a standing invitation to come home every weekend. Sometimes a big pyramid game kept him close to the city, a short distance from the Academy, and other times he pretended he had something to do, afraid of wearing out his welcome. Lately, though, he had been succumbing to temptation on a more frequent basis, and here he was at the Adama family home.

I wish I hadn’t chose this weekend to come home with him, though.

Siress Ila, Commander Adama’s wife and Apollo’s mother, had been working all day in preparation for a special dinner she and her husband were hosting. Apollo was expected to attend, and Starbuck had been invited by Ila, making it impossible to refuse.

“Did you say some of the Council Of Twelve would be here?” Starbuck asked.

“That’s right.” Apollo set the last place. “Maybe some of the Colonial High Command, too.”

“Oil and water,” Starbuck muttered.

“You’re right about that,” Apollo said with a smile. “Bureauticians and military don’t mix. Be right back.”

Starbuck crossed his arms and stared at the table. “I wasn’t talking about them,” he said softly.

Sighing, he left the dining room and wandered into the living area.

Here he was greeted with a very pleasant sight: sixteen-yahren-old Athena arranging flowers in a marble vase. He watched in silence for a moment before clearing his throat.

Startled, Athena turned and Starbuck was struck once again by how green her eyes were, just like Apollo’s. Long, dark-brown hair and high cheekbones were also reminiscent of her brother.

She smiled and Starbuck felt his stomach flutter. He knew that she had a crush on him.

Oh, ‘Thena, it’s your brother I want, and that’s impossible.

“Mother’s all in a tizzy over tonight,” Athena said.

“Well, tizzy’s a good word for it,” Starbuck said lightly.

Athena giggled. “Well, the caterers will take a lot off her shoulders.” She tilted her head proudly. “I’m going to be her invaluable right hand.”

“You actually want to go to this snazzlefest?”

“Of course! This is an important dinner. Adults only,” she said loftily.

“Zac’s off the guest list?”

“He’s going over to his buddy Noren’s house.” Athena placed the vase carefully on the table. “You’re coming tonight, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Starbuck said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

Athena blissfully declared, “It’s going to be an event! The UCB might even have reporters out front.” She walked past Starbuck and into the dining room.

Starbuck noticed the changes in the living room to prepare for the party. Or was it a dinner? A formal banquet?

They even have several names for the same event!

Ila came in from the kitchen. She pushed back a lock of copper-colored hair, her green eyes distant. She suddenly realized that Starbuck was there.

“Oh, honey, could you help Apollo out on the patio?”

“Certainly.” Starbuck started to leave when Ila’s words stopped him.

“Are you all right, Starbuck?”

The young cadet turned back. “I’m fine, Ila.” He still felt a little funny not calling her ‘Siress’, but Ila had insisted he drop the title.

“Oh, good.” She smiled. “I’m glad you’ll be part of the festivities tonight. Apollo could use the companionship. Stuffy bureauticians, you know.” She winked.

Starbuck laughed. “Good description.”

Ila smiled again. Her wristcomm chimed. “Ah, the caterer.”

“I’ll join Apollo.” Starbuck went out to the patio where Apollo was already stringing up Gemonese paper lanterns while standing on a ladder. The view of Apollo’s backside was spectacular. “Hey, buddy, need help?”

“Oh, yeah.” Apollo glanced over his shoulder. “Could you hand me the lanterns?”

“You bet.”

Starbuck picked up a couple of lanterns and stood by the lightsteel ladder. The pink and white lanterns swayed gently in his grasp. He determinedly did not look at Apollo’s butt.

Impossible, Colonial society still isn’t keen on same-sex relationship, but even if they did, it’s still impossible.

Apollo reached out with the pink lantern that Starbuck handed him. “Just one more tug on this knot…uh, oh!”

Apollo began to fall off the ladder but Starbuck was there to catch him. He could smell Apollo’s cologne as he grabbed hold of his friend.

“Oh, wow, that was dumb,” Apollo said breathlessly.

“Huh?”

Apollo chuckled. “Reaching too far.” He put his feet on the patio. “Thanks, Starbuck. I could have taken a real nasty fall.”

Starbuck’s heart pounded. “Uh, yeah.” He smiled his dazzling smile. “Always handy.”

Apollo laughed and squeezed his friend’s shoulders. “Okay, let’s get this decorating done.” He climbed the ladder again.

Starbuck sighed. He picked up the white lantern.

“So, did you see the guest list?” asked Apollo.

“I glanced at it. Heavy hitters.”

“Very true.” Apollo tied off the pink lantern. “We might have to break up a few disputes.”

“Oh, joy.” Starbuck handed up the white lantern. “Cadets pulling generals off each other.”

“Admirals, too.”

“Oh, joy.”

Apollo chuckled. “We’ll be the security for the evening.”

“Listen, buddy, I don’t fancy being kicked out of the Academy.”

“Don’t worry, Father would never allow it.”

Starbuck went to get more lanterns off the picnic table. “Sire Uri is coming?”

“That’s right.”

“Didn’t he and your father have a falling-out?”

“Yep.”

Starbuck handed up a pink lantern. “So why is he invited?”

Apollo smiled fondly at his friend. “It’s politics. You always try and mend fences, or at the very least, keep your enemies close.”

Starbuck considered Apollo’s words. It made sense.

I’d rather be in the cockpit of a Viper than serving on the Council Of Twelve.

“Don’t be so gloomy, Starbuck. You’ll survive this little get-together.”

“Ha, I’m not too sure of that.”

“No problem.” Apollo smiled brightly. “I’ve got your back.”

Starbuck’s heart fluttered. “I know.” Just like I have yours.

& & & & & &

Lineage.

Starbuck worried about it, especially since he didn’t have it. Ironically, in a society with more people every generation losing knowledge of their bloodlines due to the War, blood was more important than ever before.

He had no knowledge of his lineage. Orphaned as a toddler, he knew only his name and his parents as ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’, no legal names. Hundreds of children had wandered around the Umbra Forest until being picked up the authorities and sent to overcrowded orphanages. Many had no knowledge of their family bloodline. They were the Unblooded, without a House or influence.

Starbuck knew it was close to miraculous that he was an Academy cadet. There were only a few slots for the Unblooded. Every other opening were for the sons of influential parents or friends who would sponsor them. Unblooded underwent rigorous testing, and the few survivors were grudgingly allowed in. They were given an embarrassingly-small stipend for food and clothing. In fact, if it wasn’t for Apollo’s generosity, Starbuck would have literally nothing to wear this evening.

Starbuck went to the room he shared with Apollo. When he had first visited his friend’s home, he had slept by himself in a guest room. He couldn’t remember when he had ever had a room to himself. The orphanage had used a barracks-like arrangement for sleeping, and even at the Academy he roomed with Apollo.

Soon after that first weekend, subsequent weekends required Starbuck to double up with Apollo, due to houseguests. Eventually Ila had left the second bed in Apollo’s room, and despite the loss of privacy, Starbuck didn’t complain. It was torture sleeping so close to what he wanted, but he felt at home in Apollo’s room. Besides, he had plenty of practice sharing a room with Apollo at the Academy and tortured longings.

Starbuck opened the closet door and looked at his collection of civilian clothes. Most were gifts from Apollo and his family, and he really needed their generosity to supplement his meager wardrobe. He sorted through the clothing, his eye caught by a dark-blue outfit threaded in gold. It was definitely a handsome outfit.

Apollo walked into the room. “That is a good choice.”

“You’re sure it’s not too shimmery? More suited to a nightclub?”

“You want to go conservative?” Apollo looked through the clothing. “How about this one?”

Starbuck regarded the forest-green outfit with gold piping around the lapels and cuffs.

“Okay.” He poked through Apollo’s side of the closet. “And this would do well for you.”

Apollo looked at the gold tunic with glittering black buttons and trim around the collar and cuffs. Black pants competed the outfit.

Apollo laughed. “You’re going to enjoy tonight.” At his friend’s skeptical expression, he said, “You’ll appreciate the battles going on. All verbal, of course.”

“Of course.”

& & & & & &

The pre-dinner cocktails were served by the catering company’s employees. Starbuck and Apollo mingled, Starbuck remembering Zac’s disgruntlement as Apollo’s younger brother was packed off to his friend’s house just as Adama came home.

Starbuck was always still a little nervous around the Commander. Adama was as out-of-sorts as his youngest son, complaining about the Council and the latest conflict when he got home and was ordered to dress for the party by Ila.

Starbuck watched the byplay between Sire Uri and Sire Geller. They were sparring like a couple of Star Knights from centuries past. A small audience was listening as they pretended not to.

Starbuck did his best to mingle. He could charm both ladies and gentlemen, speaking without really saying much at all.

I might have a knack for this political crap after all.

Buoyed with confidence, he spoke to a bejeweled matron who was on her third drink. Her long earrings jangled as she threw her head back and laughed at his witticisms.

“Oh, Starbuck, you are a jokester.” She gave his shoulder a shove.

Fortunately for the tipsy matron, the music was loud enough to cover her cackling. She ended up drifting toward a merry group by the fireplace after snagging another drink from a passing waiter.

Starbuck went in search of a waiter bearing hors d’oeuvres. His mission was successful, and he stood behind a Libran fern while enjoying savory canapés. As he ate and sipped sparkling Aquarian brandy, he heard a woman say on the other side of the fern, “What a disgrace.”

Another woman said, “Truly. Why such a person was invited here is beyond me.”

Starbuck felt sorry for the drunken woman catching all the scorn. He began to take another sip of brandy when the first woman said, “He’s one of those Unblooded, you know.”

“Really?”

“Yes, one of those charity cases the Academy is forced to take on every year.”

“Why on Caprica is he here?”

“Apparently he is the House Scion’s roommate at the Academy.”

“Horrors! Couldn’t they assign the poor boy a worthy roommate?”

“Apparently not.” The speaker’s voice lowered to a stage whisper. “The roommate often comes home with the Scion on weekends.”

“What is Ila thinking?”

Starbuck’s glass of brandy was frozen halfway to his lips. His face burned.

The reaction surprised him. He had heard worse things in his life. Why did he feel so humiliated?

I’m a Pisces out of water here, that’s why.

He took a long gulp of the brandy and let it burn down his throat.

“What should Ila think about?” a new voice asked.

“Oh, Arria, just talking about the Unblooded in our midst.”

Arria was Siress Uri’s first name. Great, Starbuck thought, what might she say?

“Well, dears, no one on the Council or on the Chiefs Of Staff are Unblooded, at least to my knowledge, so who are we talking about?”

“The young Scion has brought home his Houseless roommate,” said the first woman. Haughtiness dripped from her voice.

Starbuck finished his canapé, the light hors d’oeuvre settling like a leaden weight in the pit of his stomach.

“Oh, that charming fellow with the shining blond hair?”

“Charming?” said the second woman. “Arria, he's…

“…a young man training to defend us against the Cylons.”

Her voice was deliberately cheerful, but Starbuck could hear the steel girding it.

Go, Siress Arria!

The other two women had no chance to respond as Ila announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.”

The large dining room table gleamed with the gold silverware and place settings, handwritten place cards etched with elegant calligraphy to direct people to their seats. Starbuck sat next to Apollo, glumly regarding the numerous utensils.

The first course was served, a crispy collection of greens with baby vegetables. Starbuck nervously dropped the salad fork. At least he hoped it was the salad fork!

His mind was blanking on what he should use. He was certain someone was watching him. One of the gossips from behind the fern? Where they both watching?

He barely tasted the salad, nearly upending a cruet of dressing with shaky hands. Tall, curved cruets with glass stoppers were there on the table for the guests to choose their dressing. Starbuck regretted picking up the cruet as amused glances were shot his way.

Typical of the Unblooded ruffian, unable to even open a dressing cruet properly.

When the second course was served, a savory soup, Starbuck glanced at Apollo and watched him pick up the wide soup spoon. Easy choice. He should’ve known that.

He decided the best thing to do would be to watch Apollo and follow his lead.

Apollo’s presence was helping to calm him. He could rely on his best friend, whether in training simulations or choosing soup spoons.

By the time the fish course was served, Starbuck was enjoying the food and even smiled saucily at two matrons who were looking at him with disapproval. Whether or not they were the two gossips didn’t matter. With Apollo by his side, he did have family. Someone he loved, more than a brother if his luck worked for him, but for now he was content to be best friends and brothers.

He looked at Apollo, who turned his head and smiled. Starbuck felt a shiver go down his spine. He smiled back.

Best friends, brothers, lovers…and they said the Unblooded had no chance! As long as he had Apollo, Starbuck had all the lineage he needed.